Guilty As Charged

World Indicts 2016 For
Crimes Against Humanity

We found it. For a while, it was as if another year would’ve gone by and we’d be still at lost finding the source of the world’s ills. Not this time. 2016 has been universally named the evilest on record. Now we can all go back to our business of turning it all worst that it ever was.
It started deceivingly like any other year, but not for long. Looking back, by March it was clear that there wouldn’t be a contest, but some were still hesitant to make such an early call. Now there’s hardly anyone disagreeing about the choice. Well done everybody.
Here are, in no particular order, the Top 10 Counts brought forth against 2016, whose powerful punch has managed to beat to a pulp some of history’s most notoriously perverse, and blood-thirsty, years:
1. Failure to interrupt and/or reverse rising global temperatures, and resulting increased glacier melting, wildfires, and extreme weather.
2. Neglect to interrupt, minimize, or do away with the harrowing intensity of the era’s ever more numerous wars, carnage, and mayhem.
3. Criminal extermination of countless animal and plant species, some of which we may never have even known they existed.
4. Inability to promote a healthy, all-inclusive, comprehensive worldwide discussion of ways to improve the well being of humankind.
5. Incompetence to prioritize the fight against inequality, boosting instead the prospect of a parasitic minority to grow even wealthier.
6. All-time record for excessive casualties of well known, excellent human beings, whose lives have made the world a better place.
7. Creating conditions that conspired and befell female world leaders from positions of power, replacing them with corrupted males.
8. Relentless persecution of races, social strata, and ethnic groups, with special cruelty towards the poor, blacks, and non-white faiths.
9. Rehabilitation and promotion of hate speech and discriminatory ideologies, charged for past genocides, to the mainstream of society.
10. Shameless persecution of fact-based common truth and reality, and advancement of false theories and fake news for profit.

As we said, for a moment it seemed that we’re making the same mistake we’ve done over and over again: choosing the wrong scapegoat to blame for our disgraceful lot in life. But experts and analysts agree, all evidence does point to this malodorous 2016.
We’re so pleased to finally lift this burden off our shoulders that it’s now almost pointless to reveal the password to access this year: mankind.
Aren’t you glad that 2017’s on deck, ready to pounce? Happy New Year.

If You Want it

Merry Merry Xmas
(This Bird Is Gone)

Curtain Raiser

Of Loss & Regrouping, Colltalers

The periodically vilified Electoral College, a tenet of U.S. democracy, votes today to ratify the Nov. 8 election results. Few expect any of these 538 special voters to stray from their parties’ directive; barring a political cataclysm, they will confirm Donald Trump as the president.
More than their constitutional duty, though, they’ll be exercising a far less formal attribution of their position: loyalty to those who nominated them. They’re not accountable to Hillary Clinton’s popular vote win, and most likely will remain oblivious to it, and her. Because they can.
Sadly, accountability itself was another concept to leave this world in 2016. The election was neither the first nor the last example of it. For apart from the boastful and the graceless, jubilant with Trump’s win, no one else is claiming responsibility for anything, one way or another.
From Republicans’ embrace of a lying master they claimed to reject when he burst out of party’s bowels, to broadcast media’s profiting from Fake News and his diatribes, to highfalutin moralists, to whom Clinton was too indigestible, to a Democrat establishment that failed to heed to his populist skills, no one is taking responsibility for the rebirth of authoritarianism Trump’s set in motion, even before the inauguration.
The president-elect himself has already taken a number of U-turns on critical themes he defended on his campaign, and seems confident that he won’t be forced to own up to any of them. Assuming, with some reason, he’s above any serious questioning, he’s become the bastion of unaccountability, an unfortunate trend that may have already fatally infected large segments of this country’s political intelligentsia.
We’ll all come to regret this sorry state of affairs, of course. Specially those whose convictions about what public service should be about, and moral duty towards society, and paying your dues, are all grounded on a sense of being accountable, of standing up and be counted.
Those who can’t conceive that such a catastrophic collapse of social responsibility could’ve happened suddenly, Continue reading

Crappy Holidays

To Those Who’ll Get Coal
& Little Else to Cheer About

Many are piling up about how bad 2016 was. We agree. Almost nothing has gone our way, the world became considerably worst, even if some disagree, and unless our brains are fooling us, we’ve lost too many great humans, who used to make this place more bearable.
These are all good but arguable points, though. To millions, this wasn’t just a bad year, but their worse. Our kind thoughts to those broken hearts, to whom a cheerful season tastes like a bitter joke. For they survived not to feel any better but to endure even more of the same.
It’s our condition to mourn and grieve; to lose what we love most, and hold on to what murders our soul. We let go when we’d love to hang on to, and look after what will finally stab us. But there’s payback due even to the afflicted: when we pass away, our troubles are over.
We leave lovers and children behind; a legacy of shattered dreams and failed hopes. But as they cry, we settle; we no longer care even as they may despair. To ashes, as they say, our bodies, clothes, and deeds. But to the left over, misery is the keeper of another day.
There are many whose absence will make us scream. But to others, tomorrow comes out of screams. We may dutifully memorialize our dead, while they have the living wounded to care about. While we lay to rest and say goodbye to dear ones, to those still standing, we may offer are our deepest sentiments.

As we make plans and shop and get happily drunk for the holidays, civilians in Aleppo, Syria, face carnage, ethnic cleansing, random sniper fire, and air raids by government forces, many countries and assorted  militias, plus mercenaries, out waging war to make a buck or two.
Think 2016 was bad? Over 12,000 have already been killed in the country this year, and the survivors wonder whether they’ll be next, just as your sweet niece wonders if she’ll get a brand new phone, or you’ll finally get something decent this time around.
Of course, your family could be one of thousands making a living, and actually residing, in urban garbage heaps around the world. From Cambodia to India, from Brazil to the Philippines, they breathe and, often die, picking through our dejects. Merry, merry, merry.

Last year, it was the photo of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi, face down on a Turkish beach, that went viral. Now it was the bloodied but alive 5-year-old Mahmoud Raslan. Both Syrian boys unwittingly became symbols of our era’s biggest wound: the fate of millions of refugees.
They could’ve come from anywhere, as the state of permanent war keeps spreading to ever wider swaths of the world. While hawks and weapon makers profit, boys, girls, their families, relatives, friends and neighbors, flee or perish in the crossfire. Once in a while, an image floods our screens. But mostly, they shout but no one hears.
Meanwhile, hate is a booming business in the U.S., and like the Aleppo kids, the 49 shot dead at the Orlando nightclub in June didn’t deserve to stand in from all others still victimized for following their lot in life. To the ones they’ve left behind, this is a season in hell.

The police won’t keep track but over 200 black people were shot dead by cops in 2016. Most were unarmed, whose deaths won’t be vindicated in the court of law. Perhaps in a few years we’ll know how many more could’ve been killed too, if President Obama wasn’t in charge.
It may not seem so but the needle did move forward, and awareness has increased; not even a white supremacist-supported president will prevent the march to justice. We may suffer (more)
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Curtain Raiser

Change the Climate Channel, Colltalers

With 2016 likely to be called the hottest year on record, there was no need for president-elect Donald Trump to make the fight to reverse climate change any worse. But by nominating fuel industry insider Scott Pruitt for the Environmental Protection Agency he did just that.
So get ready to a new year of increased temperatures, melting polar caps, carbon and methane emissions, glacier cracks and lose icebergs, to be only half of the problem. The other will be a climate-change denying administration.
Practically every environmental organization has denounced Oklahoma Attorney General Pruitt’s many legal battles against the agency he’s now set to lead, President Obama’s Clean Power Plan and other environmental initiatives, such as those signed at the 2015 Paris Conference.
With other attorneys general, he joined in the infamous 2014 29-state lawsuit against the CPP, which is still pending and may advance to the Supreme Court, where a majority vote, potentially boosted by a future Trump nominee, may undermine years of efforts to control pollution.
But the biggest case for Pruitt’s unfitness to head the EPA is his links to the industry he’ll be in charge of regulating. For instance, he was accused of signing letters, dismissing the environmental impact of natural gas drilling in OK, that turned out to have been written by Devon Energy lawyers. Also, the co-chairman of his 2013 re-election campaign was Continental Energy CEO Harold G. Hamm.
If a GOP-led Congress confirms Pruitt, and there’s really no reason to expect that it won’t, and the possible appointment of Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, for Secretary of State, groups fighting for further environmental protection rules may have their job cut out for them.
It’s not just that one is a skilled litigator, and the other a wealthy executive, loyal for 40 years to one of the most profitable, and worst polluter, corporations on earth. But it’s the fact Continue reading

The Gifter’s Referral

A Few Choice Picks For
Those Who Have Something

Every year we come up empty; as hard as we try, we can’t say bad things about gifts. Thus our humble tradition, a list of the kooky and the odd, regardless of purpose, source, or price. Among this heap of out-there conversation starters, we’re sure you’ll find that special something to make it your own. Share it. Keep it. Give it all away.
Timing is everything so ’tis the season to call them presents. But even if Van Gogh had something else in mind on Christmas eve, 1888, there’s no need to lose an ear, or sleep, over what to give. From blood vials, to wine, to floatation tanks, there’s something for everyone on your list, including you. Except us; we take cash only, please.
It’s all a matter of perspective, of course, and reception, as that man who married his TV set used to say. To retailers, the best holiday season would start in July. And the best way to celebrate it is to compile a list of business that ‘do not honor Jesus’ enough, according to a Christian group.
While Christmas sales will likely start on the 7th month of 2100, based on the Quartz’s Oxford Street Creep Calculator, 2016 marks the 14th annual Naughty & Nice List, prepared by the ultra-right religious group Liberty Counsel. In other words, repent or we send you to hell.
It’s all in the spirit of the season, no doubt, one about forgiving and loving thy neighbor. Except when they’re not devout enough, or something. Complain as you may about even having to shop for other people’s gifts, but you may feel better considering that, at least, you’re not on their list. Not yet, anyway.
The following is not a list, by the way. In fact, it’s more like a selection of mind-twisting things to distract you away from what’s going on, or seriously, to inspire you to be nice and get that special sponge your Uncle Bob mentioned he wanted. Hey, he may cut you some slack and not grill you about Trump. Remember, has has four full years to do it.

Speaking of the season, let’s face it: it finds us all in a particularly sour mood. So why not put together a kit of toiletries to comfort body and mind, and getting a bit wasted on the side too? Ideal for the bathroom-geared: bandages, underwear, and toilet paper. And, yes, wine too.
Get ready to be complimented on your thoughtfulness, or just better fit to the after party. With Shakespeare-insults printed on the bandages, a pack of emergency underpants, and some rolls of the president-elect specialty paper, you, and the object of your gifting, are now ready to drink on a bottle-size wine glass. Salut.

Granted: this is not for the healthcare-cost busted budget, but once you clear that financial hump, the rewards are healing. Star with the Pavlok wristband, to reduce cheap cravings, then add two vials, to store a few ounces of blood, yours and of that lucky one you’ll invite to share a floatation tank bath, and you’re all set. Dream on, baby.
It’s simply luxurious. Don’t argue, you deserve it. Get extra points by going for broke and placing the whole bundle under somebody’s tree. Good for you. You may even top it with Sick Rose, a collection of Victorian illustrations of diseases nobody has anymore. Happy therapy.

Now, one the most bizarre links that come up when you Google ‘Hurricane Sandy,’ is a video of someone running in the rain, wearing a horse-head mask. People do those things, as you know. It was all over the news. The mask is also a hit in parties and, as we said, we won’t say anything negative about giving. If that’s your thing, by all means.
But that’s nothing compared to what Vincent did on that Christmas, upon learning of his brother’s engagement: he chopped up his right ear. Or at least that’s what new research seems to indicate as for why he did it. Vincent, of course, is Van Gogh, the Dutch grand master painter, and a certified tortured soul.
He appears here because for years, many believe that his crazy act was a gift to a lover, due to his er intense personality. Which (more)
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Curtain Raiser

The Dangerous Liaisons, Colltalers

Would it be possible that we’re already beyond George Orwell’s nightmarish view of the future? Two recent incidents signal that we may: a Website promoting a watch list of supposedly ‘leftists’ professors, and the verbal assault of a Muslim woman on a New York subway.
Both could be dismissed as product of fringe ideas, rejected by the mainstream of American society. But eerie similitudes with the 1930s Germany, and the fact that so many are choosing not to acknowledge that it’s even happening, may turn out to be the very reason it will.
After all, only in the first 10 days after the Nov. 8 presidential vote, some 900 episodes of hate were reported across the U.S. From black students insulted in classrooms, to swastikas and ‘Whites Only’ spray-painted on schools, churches, and synagogues, to Nazi flag appearances. If anything, Donald Trump election seems to be telling something terrible to a suddenly empowered group: it’s OK again to hate minorities.
Before going any further, though, we don’t yet believe that half a century of civil rights and progressive reforms toward racial and religious equality are in immediate threat to vanish overnight. But just like a thousand-mile trek starts with one step, well, you get the idea.
This is not a conspiracy, or the unfounded belief that a group of individuals are consciously planning our derailing as a nation. But this is a not unintentionally charged political climate, conducive to a witch hunt, in which the hunted is the majority, and the hunters are well armed.
One event, video of which surfaced last week, was particularly chilling, and took place not in some backwater town in the middle of nowhere but in Washington DC: a group of people cheering the president-elected with the Nazi salute. They actually said it: Hail Trump.
For those who have dismissed as sore losers millions of Americans concerned about a white nationalism resurgence, the gathering couldn’t have been more explicit. The historical parallel was unmistakable and the irony is that it could not happen in contemporary Germany either.
Even worse is the the established media’s adoption of the preferred term this group would like to call themselves, at least for now: alt-right. A title fully endorsed by the first openly white supremacist to have an official role in the U.S. federal government: Steve Bannon.
That not even during the arguably darkest times for racism in America – the biggest part of the 20th century until the 1960s -, there was such a blatant ‘Aryan nation’ apologist such as Bannon in the White House, at least not self declared, should be enough to raise the hair in the back of our necks.
But just as the thugs who patrolled the Berlin and Rome of the 1940s called themselves Hitler’s Youth and the Brown Shirts, only later being labeled for what they really were, murder squads in uniforms, the xenophobic of our times would rather be called something hip as ‘alt.’
Speaking of the president to be, as he starts a national ‘thank you tour,’ similar incidents of violent rhetoric and threats, Continue reading