Curtain Raiser

Support Your Local Mona Lisa, Colltalers

It’s scary when war hawks digress on bombing another nation. Even scarier is when their dishonest arguments gain unwarranted currency. The same false pretense that led us to the Iraq invasion is now being used against Iran. What can possibly go wrong?
Also scary is the U.S. spending more in fossil-fuel subsidies than even with its defense budget, according to an I.M.F. report. But the U.K.’s first four days without coal-powered electricity, and the Cloud Peak’s bankruptcy, are both great climate change news.
There’s a constitutional crisis caused by President Trump, who’s all but declared himself and his gang above the law. And there’s a fresh round of saber-rattling and missile-launching by North Korea, aimed at us, but frightening the bejesus out of the world.
Naturally, the Big Tweetor is using his baseless trade war to divert attention from such important issues. And the media is blindly following him accordingly. It also helps that few have a grasp as to what trade war really means. Starting with the man himself.
Just in case, though, Trump spent Saturday tweeting like a deranged toddler, if only toddlers could be so mad. He blasted over 60 attacks on the Russian investigation, Don Jr.’s subpoena, assorted politicians, and Counsel Robert Mueller. Oh, and jobs too.
Trying to manipulate the nation by tweet, however, pales compared to the president’s biggest damage so far inflicted on America: the depletion of our trust on institutions. By counting on the Supreme Court to bail him out – and being probably right about that kind of assumption -, more than the lying, this president is setting the stage for a potential democracy-killing autocratic regime.
As Congress, which has the power to prevent that and has refused to do so, Americans must step up and safeguard the country that the Founding Fathers foresaw. No one else will. Mainly

because the world’s indeed fearful and expects nothing less from us.
It’s nearly impossible to see Sec. of State Mike Pompeo accusing Iran of being a ‘major destabilizing influence in the Middle East, and we aim to fix that,’ and not to think about the Iraq invasion, in 2003. Based on the half a million deaths, including of 4,400 Americans, it’s also easy to estimate the number of casualties in Iran in case the U.S. bombs the twice-as-populous nation.
The defense budget may not beat fossil-fuel subsidies but it’s still big enough to afford sending an aircraft carrier, a cruiser, four destroyers, bombers, fighters, a warship, and a surface-to-air missile battery, to the region. If that is not ‘destabilizing,’ then their rhetoric is.
The same blanket of approval by media and congress, and sick anticipation by war profiteers, is being revived again, just as it was when George Bush and his cabinet lied about Saddam Hussein’s supposed secret mass destruction weapon stockpiles. They hung Hussein, destroyed the country, and walked away richer, leaving soldiers and mercenaries to deal with the tragic fallout.
It wasn’t Iran that broke the nuclear accord, nor any other signatory nation; it was the U.S. that unilaterally ‘decided’ Iran had done it, and this time, won’t even present fake evidence supporting their planned adventure. Are we to stand down about that?
Another Middle East intervention will benefit no one but Israel and Saudi Arabia. Why on earth should the U.S. assert even more its reputation as the ‘world’s bully,’ and be the enforcer, not for the ‘tired,’ the poor, and ‘the huddled masses yearning to breathe free,’ but to two powerhouse countries with scores to settle with Iran? No, the American people won’t be had again. Or will it?
Of course, funding for yet more firepower always means cutting down social programs, and divert resources for fighting climate change. In fact, coal, oil and gas subsidies are higher than what would be used to burn Iran, according to the I.M.F. report.
Never mind the industry’s indefensible tax exemptions, the spurious nature of both budgets, and a U.N. study about an ongoing, catastrophic man-made extinction of a million biodiverse species. Those against protecting the planet are getting rich out of it.
Thankfully, that chockfull of bad news report is partly offset by two factors: the coal giant Cloud Peak’s bankruptcy, signaling an endgame is close for fossil fuels, despite investments by right-wing billionaires with skin in the game. And that’s a good thing.
And so is the U.K.’s efforts to move its national grid of electricity to renewables. It’s just too bad Americans are not that lucky.
But it wasn’t luck what finally freed Chelsea Manning from jail after over a month; it was her dignified defiance, standing tall against the Trump administration. But she’s still at risk of going back, if Democrats keep failing to challenge the president.
Lastly, a grievous note: the assassination of Mena Mangal, an Afghan journalist and cultural adviser to parliament, gunned down Saturday in Kabul. A former TV presenter, she too was defiant and challenged the status quo by advocating for the rights of young girls to go to school. Although it’s unclear whether she had any children, hers is one of the world’s saddest mother today.
To declare this the age when rationality died may be reasonable, but it doesn’t help much. At the end of the day, we still have to carry on with our lives, and protect our loved ones, and stand for what’s right. Slim pickings rewards notwithstanding, we do it so to leave this world a bit better, even when nothing reassures us what we do can change reality. We do it just because. Period.
‘There are those who see, those who can see if they’re shown, and those who don’t see.’ Five centuries ago this May, Leonardo da Vinci, to whom this quote is attributed, left us an incredibly diverse legacy of art and ingenuity, and at least one masterpiece: Mona Lisa, the portrait of Lisa Gherardini, a mother of five whose enigmatic smile graces the world’s most famous painting.
Now at the Louvre in Paris, the work still speaks to us 500 years later, and after Mother’s Day, it’s also a powerful reminder to American voters: it’s time to elect the first Madam President to live in the White House. It’s overdue, and now, the only choice radical enough to shake American politics at its foundations, and scare the hell out of war hawks. Let the majority rule. Cheers. WC


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