Hit the Streets

Protest to Keep Access to
the Web Free & Democratic

Today, step out and make yourself heard. Don’t let anyone take the right to access the World Wide Web away from Americans and citizens of the world. Fight to keep Net Neutrality and don’t allow the Federal Communications Commission or anyone to hand the Internet to media and cable companies to act as gate keepers.


The Ungiven

A Year in the Life of
a Turncoat Saying No

I did it. Or rather, I did not. First, let’s take exception and write this post in the first person, lest no one else take the fall for my unspeakable acts of omission, negligence, and absolute lack of empathy: I have refused to make end-of-the-year donations.
I don’t mean once, or twice, or heaven forbid, three times, but have deleted all desperate emails, coming from all corners of the world, for my urgent help saving individuals, communities, natural resources, ideas, or for Ebenezer Scrooge’s sake, the whole planet.
Worst: not so secretly, I actually enjoy receiving these last-minute solicitations from such noble causes, vainly nursing the obnoxious idea that, somehow, just having been chosen to receive them is a sign of my superior humanitarian condition, and public acknowledgement of my dutifully celebrated goodness.
Feeling so overwhelmed by such displays of goodwill towards my potential to add a savior’s hand to a worthy fight or effort, towards the betterment of mankind, I go to self-centered lengths of congratulating the face in the mirror, for being so gifted and touched by, no question about, a divine inspiration.
Except that I didn’t. Methodically and systematically, I’ve treated them like spam, and as requests intensified by the end of the year, December being the apex of the marathon of sign-ins and petitions, I matched their insistence by shredding it all without even opening.
Never mind what came in through regular mail, tons of envelopes loaded with free addresses and chances to win duffel bags, stuffed animals, bumper stickers, badges to be displayed showing my allegiance, that I judiciously took care of, tearing it all apart with bare hands or scissors.

I did it without a second thought, and even now, I’m not sure I regret having done it so. After all, they all seemed to be addressed to someone with way deeper pockets than mine, and a bigger heart too, willing to go out of the way and having finger cramps just signing checks or providing credit card numbers.
It all did look as if they were not talking to me, but someone higher up in the big hierarchy of the good giving and the well willing. So, fine, I did feel a bit pressured to perform my very best, and obviously, failed miserably, for otherwise there wouldn’t be reasons for a post like this.
So, I said no, and now I’m saying, I’m sorry, ACLU, AFSC, Alaska Wilderness League, America’s Wolves, Amnesty, AnimalHaven, ASPCA, Audubon, Bird’s Nest, Care, ColorOfChange, Common Dreams, Covenant House, Earthjustice, EEF, FoodBank, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Heifer, and HOPE.
I sincerely apologize League of Women Voters, LGBT, MADRE, Media Matters, Mercy Corps, Mother Jones, Native Americans, Nature Conservancy, Oceana, OpenSecrets, OWS, Oxfam, PETA, PFAW, Pro-Publica, RootsAction, Save the Rainforest, Sierra Club, Smithsonian, Solar & Wind Power, Truth Out, UNICEF, UN Refugee Fund, Union of Concerned Scientists, Utne Reader, WIN, Working Families, and WWF.

Plus, my deepest regrets for not having heeded the appeals of an assortment of local charities, housing organizations, hunger programs,(more)
Read Also:
* Trick or Truce
* Sleight of News

Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Our World Is for Sale, Colltalers

The recent push by the world’s richest 1% to consolidate its power, despite already owning half of all global resources, is not only scary and morally despicable. It also poises a serious challenge to the rest of us: have we got what it takes to push it back or it’s really game over for us?
For it’s a global game, alright. It’s not just the U.S. Republicans’ recent tax overhaul, one of the greatest transfers of wealth in modern times, but it’s also elites in Brazil, Honduras, France, Germany, and elsewhere, that are saying, hey, we’re entitled to more and we’re taking it.
That the mega rich could count on congressional enablers to do their bidding has been always a given. But it’s puzzling that they’ve chosen the cover of the night, like robbers, to pass a measure which is certain to enrich not just them, but an administration already fully engaged in helping its own cause. The bewilderment is, of course, rhetorical; the end result is that those at the top believe they won’t be challenged.
Are they right? Is the American people sufficiently aware of what just happened on Capitol Hill, and prepared to put up a fight against it? The plan seems tilted toward corporations and the wealthy, according to estimates by Congress’ own bipartisan Join Committee on Taxation, with token concessions to middle and low income, already set to expire in a few years? So, neither get too discouraged nor hold your breath.
A note on the few assumptions implied above: most of the text of the bill was kept under wraps, and undemocratically prevented from being discussed publicly. But a few points did get scrutinize by reputed economists, such as Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, scholar institutions, and others. And three of them do prove the overall assumptions: the plan favors top earners, guts Medicare, and explodes the federal budget.
It’ll raise taxes in families earning $10,000 to $75,000 over a decade, according to the JCT. It’ll cut $25 billion from Medicare in fiscal 2018, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. And it adds $1 trillion to the budget over a decade, NYTimes economists found.
But as mentioned, it’s a global drive by the super rich, and it’s been enforced across the board, and borders, by governments and enablers. Take Brazil, for instance, where unelected, and unpopular leader, Michel Temer is pushing for an outrageous social security and labor laws reform, with little opposition, while ducking a number of attempts to hold him accountable for embezzlement and abuse of power.
The reform, with its radical reduction of benefits Continue reading

And the Band-AIDS Played On

A Day to Recast Our Vows
& Commitment to Healing

When the AIDS epidemic broke free from the gates of hell, in the early 1980s, those who believe in gates of hell thanked their cruel invisible gods. Some hoped the ‘plague’ would wipe out a certain love they work so hard to convince themselves it’s there only to torment them.
This Dec 1 AIDS Day is a triumph for such an unjustly stigmatized disease. It proves, for the 29th year in a row, that intolerance has no place in human experience, and that in many ways, the crisis has turned a corner, as it may be finally on its way to oblivion.
The initial killer onslaught of AIDS did slaughter scores but, unlike what those who sided with it expected, it also reawakened that most selfless of human feelings: compassion. By the end of the decade, it was those haters who were being considered cursed, while the afflicted became heroes to be emulated.
The fatal group of infections caused by the HIV virus has ended the lives of some 35 million people worldwide. Slightly more are living with it, under intense control. And even if there’s no great merit in dying, those left behind, who’ve lost dear and close ones, did become better people.
There’s a new dangerous complacency towards AIDS, however, and while a minority can’t put up with the meds that’d keep them healthy, a great many simply assumed, irresponsibly, that a cure exists. That may explain the spike in new cases, despite an almost universal awareness about how the virus strikes.
AIDS is no longer considered a ‘lifestyle’ disease. Class-wise, it’s steadily moved on from a young, male, and relatively well-to-do urban crowd – the majority of early casualties in this devilish war – to multi-gender generations in mostly impoverished nations. Down to the very young.
In fact, 400 babies are born every year already HIV-positive. They may not be AIDS victims per se, but are still falling through the gargantuan income gap, that keeps on widening and swallowing ever more lives everyday. In 40 years, HIV infection never ceased to track a harsh class disparity.
The day also serves as a checkpoint reminder. It’s a refresher for global awareness, a spotlight on its current stats, rosy or dark, a review of strategies employed to address it, progresses on therapy (more)
Read Also:
* Vis-a-Virus
* Fading HIV
Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Spinning Words Hurt First, Colltalers

A lie told once remains a lie, but told a thousand times, becomes the truth. The quote, attributed to Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, was never uttered in public but became, if not the truth, then the Nazis’ self-evident motto. They all wound up believing in it.
What’s particularly infuriating about the latest offensive by the Trump administration against a variety of hard-won citizen achievements is the hypocritical rhetoric. Affordable healthcare, fair taxes, free Internet access, even the news, have all been rebranded to suit their interests.
The term ‘fake news,’ for one, came up when it became evident that what passed for information in America, circa 2016, could be, and most certainly was, manipulated, either by economics of media coverage, or by hackers. The bottom line was, the news were almost never about informing people, but to mold their opinion. Enter then the architects of the Trump campaign who appropriated the meaning of the term.
From then on, fake news was anything that the president to be, and his inner circle, did not like, and reversing its aim, they effectively turned the genuine denunciation implied by it to annihilate dissent. Suddenly, it was CNN, or the NYTimes, with their platoons of hard-working journalists – and granted, a flawed truth-reporting track – that were fake. Not the custom-made propaganda used by the Trump campaign.
To be sure, Republicans in particular, and politicians in general, have always used spin words and expressions to gloss over parts of bills they want to pass, deemed unpalatable to the public if they were to become aware of them. It becomes more crucial when such bills are frontally against the interests of those who need to support them. Customized propaganda, and spinning content, are thus not what it’s new here.
It’s the cynicism of calling ending the Affordable Care Act, a ‘freedom of choice,’ when it’d take health insurance away from 20 million plus Americans. It’s the unvarnished falsehood of saying that a new tax revamp will ‘support the middle class,’ when it’s actually a blatant wealth transfer, from the poor to the rich. Or it’s calling the plan to end the current open and democratic online access, ‘Restoring Internet Freedom.’
More about that in a minute, but there’s no shortage of examples of words manipulated to create a space of pseudo-normality, through which nightmarish initiatives are put to the test. They usually come out strong and raw on purpose, to provoke a reaction. Later, they are then minimized, with help from an abiding media. Continue reading

No, Thanks

Uh-Oh. I Think I’ve Burned
the Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie

Too late to start a new one now. I thought I’d followed the directions of the recipe. Taste is what matters, right? Not really. It looks good in the picture but the real thing is considerably darker. What a fiasco. I should’ve known better but not even a Beatles song will help me now.
I’ll tell them it fell on the floor. No, gas power was shut off on my block. Maybe I’ll Trump them: ‘I never said I was bringing a pie.’ I could pick one up at the corner deli but what if they’re all gone? No, I’ll say I gave it away to a Soup Kitchen. That’ll make me look real good.
Read Also:
* A Nation of Thanks
* Cold Turkey
* Meatless Time

Curtain Raiser

Twin Stealth Mass Killers, Colltalers

If a Jeopardy contestant would pick Law Enforcement for $100, and get, What kills as many people as car crashes, diabetes and AIDS combined every year?, the answer could be larceny, auto theft, or perhaps, robbery. But few would pick, What’s opioid prescriptions?
Similarly, to ask most people whether they know of any fatalities directly linked to climate change, is likely to draw a blank stare, an upfront denial that any has already occurred, or the admission that, if they did, they’d still be very few. But there’s been 4.6 million deaths each year.
There’s no shame in not knowing this sort of data, whether someone has chosen to follow only what’s covered by their favorite news outlet – even if they’re not on Facebook or a Fox News subscriber – or have decided to skip the (depressing) news altogether. It’s understandable.
Then again, not to sound grim (and depressing), but they may stand for a rude awakening when casualties start to creep up among family and friends. The jury may have gone out for a long time, as to whether is better to know or not, but all bets have been off for some time now. And many have simply lost the luxury of even having a choice. Knowledge may be a better medicine than to be left behind. Who likes surprises?
What triggered the opioid addiction epidemic in the U.S. was a lethal combo: pharma companies pushed painkillers like drug dealers, – you know, the first sample is free, but after that, we take your home in lieu of payment – as a cure-for-all solution, not as a last dangerous resource. And healthcare insurance became an enterprise to mostly enrich shareholders, not exactly to provide coverage at affordable rates.
Former insured but not yet cured, the afflicted with chronic or terminal pain diseases had no choice: hit the streets for alternatives. A black market for prescription pills developed and, when that also failed to meet the demand, a catastrophic revival of the ‘dark horse’ itself: heroine.
As for air pollution, it was one of the first signs that the Industrial Revolution, while radically changing for the best mankind’s quality of life, it also had a sinister side: it could sicken to death the very people to whom it was envisioned to be an agent of progress. Continue reading