Combat-Veteran Congresswoman and Army Major Tulsi Gabbard appeared on Joe Rogan this week to confirm her candidacy for President of America, proving to be the only candidate articulating the vociferous anti-war sentiments of war-fatigued American soldiers. During her 16 years in military service, Major Gabbard has deployed twice to the Middle East as a combat medic, and today continues to serve in the Hawaii National Guard. Unlike virtually everyone else running for the Oval Office in 2020, Tulsi understands from first-hand experience and sacrifice what it actually means to be in war. She has also served for over 6 years on the Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees, working intimately on issues related to National Security and Foreign Policy. It seems only logical that anyone tasked with the responsibility of serving as Commander-In-Chief of the most powerful military in the world should be required to be a veteran of the military they command.
Hope has two beautiful daughters: Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are and the Courage to change them. Whether it be the looting and pillaging of Wall Street, the war profiteering of the arms industry, or the corruption of health care and educational institutions, it is time for the oppressed to build movements that are unrepentingly antagonistic to every aspect of corporate power. Every action must be directed to dismantling the structures that oppress us, and that will come only by building movements that grasp that it is not our job to take power. Power is the problem. The question is not, “How do you get good people to rule?” Most people attracted to power are at best mediocre or venal. The question is, “How do you make the powerful frightened of you?” That is the only question, and as Fredrick Douglass understood, that is the only way power responds. Every leap toward justice and equality throughout American history was made by movements that frightened the powerful.
Until now, the Justice Department has always distinguished between government employees who leak classified information and outlets that publish it, due to protections guaranteed by the First Amendment. The purpose of the First Amendment was never to lionize The Press into a privileged institution. It protects all persons in their right to print, speak, write, report and publish what they will. But the DOJ’s unprecedented decision to indict Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange for violating the Espionage Act seeks to penalize Assange for simply “Encouraging and Inducing” Chelsea Manning’s disclosures. Despite rampant innuendo from the corporate media, the charges against Assange have nothing to do with Wikileaks’ publication of Emails from the DNC and Hillary’s private server, but for revealing the war crimes of the Bush Administration. The Espionage Act has always been used as a weapon used to attack free speech and dissent, but now threatens to finally bring about Orwellian censorship.
Words have the power to shape thought. They form the basis of society from everyday interactions to our highest ideals. Since our ability to think and communicate clearly is what most directly separates egalitarian nations from totalitarian dictatorships, attacks on language always constitute attempts toward authoritarian overreach. The Corporate mercenaries running our world get away with their pillaging by burying their crimes in euphemism and convoluted sentence structures, thereby making terrible atrocities sound acceptable. The word “Torture” becomes “Enhanced Interrogation”; Theft becomes Civil Asset Forfeiture; Genocide becomes Ethnic Cleansing. Such deliberate irony corrupts the very ideas our words refer to, leaving us in a hypnotic state of cognitive dissonance in which we are compelled to disregard our own perception in place of the officially dictated version of events. The result is a world in which even the privacy of one’s own thought process is violated.
How is it possible that amid a $94-Trillion economy, median wages are in decline? America’s economic policy constitutes a kind of structural genocide, killing 18 million people annually worldwide through the violence of poverty and socioeconomic inequality. Economic “busts” are good for the rich because they create cheap labor and allow banks to seize properties the poor can’t pay for anymore. All that wealth consolidates at the top to the point where 70% of the population can no longer generate enough income to afford basic necessities without taking on ever-increasing levels of debt that they will never be able to pay back under current economic policy because the financial opportunities necessary to generate the income do not exist. Our entire economy is based on unnecessary consumption that relies on advertising to create artificial demand, and rewards manufactured scarcity, be it arbitrarily priced pharmaceuticals or polluting watersheds to increase bottled water sales.
In his classic, A River Runs Through It, Norman Maclean writes, “The world is full of bastards, the number increasing rapidly the further one gets from Missoula, Montana.” Though historians don’t agree unanimously on the exact translation of the word “Missoula”, the trading post that started out as the “Hellgate Village” has come to be known by many names over the decades, including the City-with-Soul, Zootown, the Hub of Five Valleys, and the Garden City. It’s also been referred to as the Little Bigtown, not only in reference to the Custer Battleground in eastern Montana, but because Missoula is the best of both worlds. It’s a bustling urban area with deer frolicking in the streets and Osprey hovering over Missoula’s many rivers, all teaming with fish. This emerald of the Rockies is the Golden Mean between urban and rural; progressive and classical. Missoula’s modern influence is world renowned, attracting worldwide attention from a wide range of audiences for it’s university, biodiversity, artistic relevance, outdoor enthusiasm, cultural tolerance, community focus, and stunning beauty. And while the community has been compared to places like Berkeley and Amsterdam, there really is nowhere quite as weird or as free as Missoula, Montana.
As the corporate media focuses their attention on the 50-year anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, our knowledge of modern technological limitations forces us to ask how a live television broadcast was possible from 240,000 miles away in 1969. We’ve all seen live broadcasts where parties experience significant delay time between question and response as the live signal crawls thousands of miles between them, then back to viewers. Yet, we’re expected to believe that CBS was capable of broadcasting live footage from the moon, fifty years ago, without any delay whatsoever. Unfortunately most who question the official narrative of the Apollo program insist that the image alteration and obviously faked television footage are evidence enough to prove NASA never went to the moon. Is it possible that NASA did successfully complete its mission, but concealed the truth with the magic of the silver screen by showing the world staged movie sets instead of the authentic mission footage?
Among its many other meanings, the word “hack” tends to signify the act of digital trespassing. But modern hackers don’t just break into computer systems. Hackers also employ creative genius to invent radically new methods of solving problems by thinking in unorthodox ways. Reducing malaria and increasing the efficiency of nuclear power plants are realities both made possible by today’s clever innovators, or hackers. While corporate talking heads conflate hackers with terrorists, the hatred of authoritarian surveillance regimes validates hackers as modern heroes, boldly resisting the tyranny of Empire. The term “hacker” has come to be misappropriated in recent months and years, especially as the mainstream media struggles to determine whether Julian Assange is a journalist or not. The media’s constant and repeated accusations of “Russian hacking” became problematic when key intelligence officials demonstrate again and again the critical difference between a hack and a leak.
It seems that the operating system of the universe can be changed and hacked. But to manifest with precision we must ask ourselves what it is we are really trying to bring about in the world. To do that, we must explore the fundamental philosophical question: Who are we and where are we going? Along the way we eventually learn about the industries who rule over our minds. The ownership class keeps humanity divided against itself by perpetuating the illusion of separation. This is done primarily through fear. The same fear that props up the pharmaceutical industry and the insurance companies feeds the military-industrial-complex and mainstream media. If we don’t want the entire world to transform into the technocratic nightmares of corporate criminals, we must work to form our own cultures like our lives depend on it. It is up to us to accept our role in the universe as co-creators of our own destinies. And if we don’t have sovereignty over our own minds then we cannot claim to be free.
Albert Einstein once declared that imagination is more important than knowledge. He also suggested reading fairy tales to children as a means of enhancing their intelligence. Our ability to navigate the turbulent seas of life requires of us more than memorizing facts or recounting stories of other adventurers. The ever-transforming mess of this rapidly-evolving world demands a constant flow of creative solutions to the barrage of new problems that constantly bubble to the surface of our experience. But for us to be able to realize our full creative potential, we must first have free access to information. Innovation depends on creative individuals borrowing other people’s hunches and combining them with fresh perspectives to create something new. In a world desperate for innovations and creative solutions, there is no room for copyright laws that directly stifle creativity and contribute to inefficiency.
Duncan Trussell’s rich comedic tirades invite us all to explore the philosophic absurdity that lies beyond everything we take for granted as real. Merging the infinite wonder of the psychedelic experience with the timeless wisdom of Tibetan Buddhism, Duncan applies these tools and teachings to the here and now of a world gone crazy. As everything we see “out there” continues to transform at greater speed and our lives become ever-more complex, Duncan reminds us to tend to the part of the garden we can actually touch. Such ancient wisdom espoused by a modernist comedic magician encourages us of the need to increasingly seek out the Kingdom of Heaven that lies within, and to ask ourselves, “Who am I?” “What is the circumference of my identity?” And, “To gain the moral high ground, must we also forfeit the strategic high ground?” No one said navigating the multiverse would be easy, but perspectives like Trussell’s remind us how to relax and keep our focus trained in the right places.
Investigative journalist Annie Jacobsen has authored six books addressing a military-industrial complex gone berserk and desperate to cover up its actions. But her book on Area 51 seems to have made the biggest splash, expressing a very different and far more disturbing story of the infamous Top Secret base. The consensus history regarding the 1947 crash in Roswell, NM indicates an extraterrestrial mishap seized and covered up by government agents who stashed all the evidence in the Nevada desert. But Jacobsen’s investigation leads into a far darker territory, demonstrating how far government bureaucracies are willing to go to preserve their supremacy in military and intelligence operations. The overall thrust of her work encourages us all to sharpen our own media literacy and learn how to better read between the lines of disinformation and doublespeak.
21 year-old Matty Roberts didn’t think his “Storm Area 51” facebook page would result in a visit from the FBI, but 2 million online RSVP’s prompted an emergency response from authorities. Though the organizers of Alienstock announced the cancellation of the festival, curiosity regarding Deep Underground Military Bases (DUMBs) continues to grow. Well-known installations like Area 51 are only the tip of a monumental iceberg. At least 129 DUMBs occupy the United States, constituting a subterranean empire that costs trillions of dollars per year, reaches miles below the earth’s surface, and employs an army of contractors, soldiers and intelligence personnel. What is taking place at these bases that is so secretive it must be kept underground? Researcher Richard Dolan describes the level of technological inequality enjoyed by the military-industrial-complex as a “runaway civilization” so far ahead of known industrialized capabilities as to be unrecognizable by most American citizens today.
Oppressed cultures always see through the illusions of their authoritarian masters eventually and upon realizing their enslavement, revolt. But clever oligarchs all too often maintain their power by anticipating rebellions and controlling their flow. Ineffectual protests that fail to inconvenience the levers of power have become the norm, as have the “protest permits” that accompany them. With hundreds of competing ideologies, it is clear that everyone has a different idea of what the next world should look like. But we risk repeating history if we continue to impose individual utopian ideals onto each other by force. No system will work for everyone, which is why returning to an Iroquois Nation model of harmoniously coexistent factions can only manifest in the absence of centralized authority. The only unacceptable outcome would be for present trends to continue. Let us resist the temptations that ruined the Baby Boomers who bailed on the revolution for houses, cars and stair-masters.
With more incarcerated citizens per capita than any other country on the face of the planet, America’s prisons depend on draconian drug laws to maintain a steady stream of cheap labor for the world’s most powerful corporations. While altering your own perceptions and perspectives seems like a human birthright, such experiences also stand in direct threat of the careful programming our masters have spent billions instilling into our nervous systems through decades of obligatory advertising, television propaganda, and public school indoctrination. The corporate forces who took our social systems hostage don’t want you thinking too much. To control orthodox thought they legally mandate what drugs are allowed to influence consciousness. In this way the Drug War has become a war of religious suppression. Meanwhile, government agents repeatedly smuggle hundreds of tons of cocaine and opiates into America while major banking institutions like HSBC launder the profits of major drug cartels.
It seems the controversial Riverfront Triangle decision was fast-tracked this week by Missoula Mayor John Engen, who precipitated the vote nearly a week early of its scheduled time. Engen’s decision effectively raids Missoula’s public coffers for Nick Checota’s private gain. $16.5 million of Missoula’s tax money will be diverted to constructing yet another downtown hotel as well as yet another concert venue, owned by the same entertainment monopoly that owns most of the others: Logjam Presents, owned by Wisconsin millionaire Nick Checota. Railroading public meetings to deliberately exclude taxpayers who pay for these monstrosities smacks of the despicable crony-capitalism Americans have grown to hate. Engen and Checota succeed in turning an already controversial project into a scandal. As Checota attempts to Jam the Log of his monopoly down our ear holes and into our pocketbooks, many wonder if the city really has workers best interests in mind. Can’t that money be better spent?
Desperate to retain capital investment, cities now entice developers with “geobribes” like Tax Increment Financing (TIF); a development incentive wherein cities designate areas “blighted” and issue bonds to pay for upgrades before handing it all over to private developers to build condos and theaters. Missoula awarded $1.5 million to Stockman Bank in TIF money. But since Missoula didn’t have the money in hand, Stockman Bank loaned Missoula the $1.5 million at 3.8% interest, to be given back to Stockman Bank as a subsidy they didn’t need at taxpayer expense. Now Mayor Engen threatens to further line the pockets of Wisconsin millionaire Nick Checota with more than $16 million in TIF. It turns out that all the controversial TIF developments have one thing in common – their owners contributed to Mayor Engen’s campaign. Just pay John and you can screw the taxpayers all you want. If we can afford to give Nick Checota $16 million, we can afford to fix our potholes and address poverty.
The sudden closure of the Old Post American Legion Hall this past Thursday illustrates the heartbreaking reality of our desperate economic climate. Dozens of other Missoula staples including the Uptown Diner, Palace Lounge and Stage 112 have been forced to close their businesses in recent years, but so too has it gone with homeowners who could no longer afford their property taxes. A huge proportion of these local establishments and citizens are squeezed out of neighborhoods they grew up in, while wealthy, out-of-state developers take advantage of our generosity and dramatically gentrify entire districts of the city at our expense. Controversial TIF projects have exploded the cost of housing in Missoula, pricing locals out of their own neighborhoods and saddling the City under decades of debt. Tax monies are being used to subsidize the rich while our schools and roads deteriorate. All this has contributed to one of the most heated City Council elections in the city’s history.
Monday the 11th of November 2019 marks the centennial of Armistice Day. The observance originates with the close of the First World War, which ended after a cease-fire, or armistice, between Germany and the Allied Nations that eventually paved the way for the formal peace negotiations at Versailles. The initial cease-fire that started it all was affected on the 11th of November, 1918. One year later President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11th 1919 as the very first official commemoration of Armistice Day. So at 11 am on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the nation halted all business activities and transactions for two minutes in a symbolic gesture to acknowledge the fallen and honor veterans. Former Air Force drone pilot Sergeant Brandon Bryant joins us alongside Army Sergeant Lee Adler, who serves now as part of a special team working directly under Montana’s adjutant general, tasked with outreach and support to prevent veteran suicides.
Experimental evidence from UC Berkeley strongly confirms that rich people are more likely to break the law while driving, cheat in a game of chance, lie during negotiations and endorse unethical behavior, including stealing at work. Conversely, take someone who is rich and make them feel poor, and they become more generous. But clever fat cats merely exploit the window dressing of charity to further enrich and empower themselves. Nick Checota’s LogJam Foundation is a good case in point. While Checota’s $50,000 Public Library wealth transfer is being framed as a “donation”, the real incentives for parking money in foundations involve huge tax benefits. And despite Logjam’s claim that they are “committed to the sustainability of the community”, they demonstrate an utter contempt for said community by depleting the Missoula Redevelopment Agency piggy bank by $16.5 million. This week’s $50k “donation” seems little more than a public relations smokescreen to obfuscate the biggest taxpayer giveaway in Montana State history.
While panhandlers and “transients” rapidly become a more common site on our streets, many municipalities nationwide are vying to criminalize homelessness altogether. They forget that while today its “them” tomorrow it could be us. 70% of Americans are just one paycheck away from becoming homeless. 20% of American children live in poverty. And 1 out of every 6 Americans now depends on anti-poverty programs like SNAP. There are now more than half-a-million homeless Americans wandering our streets everyday. But wealthy business owners continue to propose punishments for being poor in a system with ever-fewer income opportunities. How long do we need to travel down this road before we see where it leads? With human labor becoming increasingly obsolete, it is only a matter of time before the rest of us find ourselves unemployed and in-turn homeless. Our system has deteriorated into a ruthless game of musical chairs, lending itself to the mentalities upon which concentration-camps are born.
America is plagued by an array of pathologies that arise from hopelessness, despair, and the seizure of civil society. The suicide epidemic is a direct manifestation of a society ravaged by corporate pillaging. Neither of the two corporate-owned political parties address our systemic problems, and the obscene concentration of resources in an incredibly small number of hands reveals America’s greatest hypocrisy. Competition disappears before our eyes as Amazon secures total monopoly over online commerce and distribution. If Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods and the Washington Post didn’t frighten us, their wider move into the global business of law enforcement and security certainly should. Our antitrust commissions abdicate their responsibilities by allowing this level of consolidation of power to continue when 70% of the population can no longer generate enough income to afford basic necessities. Until our corporate coup d’état is reversed these diseases will only grow.
The influx of suburbanites into the Rocky Mountain region has created a process of rural gentrification in which long-term residents are increasingly being displaced. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s 2019 report, the average worker in Montana needs to make at least $16 an hour, working 75 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, just to be able to afford a modest, 2-bedroom apartment. A University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research study from 2018 reported that when median wages are compared to median home prices, Missoula housing is already less affordable than Denver, Seattle, Portland and Miami. Missoula’s housing crisis is now so nationally recognized that WBUR Boston featured it as part of their coverage on western cities struggling with housing. Missoula is even ranked 33rd in the US for income disparity. Is this the kind of Missoula we want to leave for our children? A technocratic utopia where the wealthy spit on the locals who built this town?
Western society has only recently begun to accept the merit of indigenous wisdom that stretches back to time immemorial concerning psychedelic plant medicines. And though psychedelics have become trendy throughout pop culture in recent years, the psychedelic experience itself remains a mystery still for society at large. But the psychedelic experience is as central to understanding our humanness as having sex or birthing children or accepting responsibilities. And yet it is illegal. This prohibition deliberately thwarts our collective potential, renders the citizenry infantile and undermines America’s freedom of religious expression. Our culturally immature empire allows its inhabitants to wander the sanctioned playpen of ordinary consciousness, but boundary-dissolving hallucinogens that provide a sense of unity with our fellow humans are somehow forbidden. If we are not sovereign to make free choices over our own consciousness then we are not free in any sense of the word.