Curtain Raiser

All That We’ll Ever Need, Colltalers

Another week, another member of the Trump administration gets in trouble with the law. But Steve Bannon, the president’s former chief strategist who makes a living advising would-be despots, is arguably the greatest grifter to be caught. Given his influence, though, it’s unlike that he’s down and out.
130° F. That may’ve been the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth if it’s confirmed. The scorching heat in Death Valley, CA, was the opening salvo of yet another season in hell for the state, courtesy of the climate emergency. Wildfires and the deadly coronavirus: 2020 is not nearly done yet.
But before having another crack at those two headlines, let’s get going with the newest episode of poisoning in Russia suffered by a political opponent of Vladimir Putin. Despite his denials, the dissenting voice of Alexei Navalny was muted by strong symptoms of poisoning; he’s now in a coma em Germany, where he’d been flown to. He’s the sixth well-known foe of the Putin regime to suddenly experience a devastating, likely lethal intoxication.
Now, there’s a demonization of Russia spoused by most of the Western media, after it’s been reported that it did interfere in the 2016 election and may be at it again as we speak. Such heavy-handed coverage all but clouds facts and drive us to unwittingly fall prey to conspiracies, for lacking the tools to make the right call. Putin may deny it but these poisoning incidents, if Navalny’s indeed another one, have the clear purpose of silencing his critics.
The armed forces of Mali staged a coup d’etat Tuesday that ousted President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, in office since 2013. EcoWas, a group of West African nations, and the United

Nations are negotiating with the mutineers to end the mostly bloodless coup. The military blamed the president for bad economic decisions and corruption as their reasons to intervene, and promised to hold elections sometime ‘soon,’ but most of us have heard that before.
In Iraq, Reham Yacoub, a feminist doctor and activist, was shot dead in a country where political and journalist assassinations have become routine. The murder of Yacoub, 29, who organized women’s marches and protests, and that of Tasheen Osama a week before may’ve started a new grim cycle.
And then a rapid rundown of what’s happening in Belarus, Lebanon, and Hong Kong. In Minsky and other cities, government troops have clashed with protesters over a presidential vote largely perceived as rigged. In Beirut, the Lebanese face the gargantuan task of rebuilding after an Aug. 4 blast razed the city’s port and economy and killed a still undetermined number of people. As for Hong Kong, it’s being discretely crushed by China as we speak.
The Republican Convention that starts today is bound to ignore it but the biggest Trump-related news is the arrest of Bannon, arguably the world’s most recognizable white supremacist. Accused of fraud, he was yanked out of a blissful sunbath on the deck of a Chinese billionaire’s yacht by the ‘lowly’ Postal Police (yes, there is one). Apparently, he and other grifters pocketed $25 million in donations for a Trump’s wall at the Mexican border.
Whether he saw it coming, and above all, that he’ll be convicted remains to be seen; he was freed on a $5 million bail. That the under-attack USPO was involved is nothing less than a bit ironic, since its attackers are people of Bannon’s ilk, including the president. The convention could do us all a favor explaining how come so many in this administration, from top to bottom, have been accused, arrested, often convicted, and in jail for breaking the law?
Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, Rick Gates, and George Papadopoulos, to name just the most notorious bunch, all have been accused, some confessed, and a few are doing time for lying and abetting on the president’s behalf. The difference with Bannon is that he’s also ‘helping,’ under not too shabby fees, governments around the world to squash dissent and take as much personal advantage of public office as they can.
Marco and Laura. Perhaps it’s the climate emergency, but hurricanes now may come in pairs, and these two are slated to landfall in Gulf Coast states, Louisiana included, just in case we missed them too much. As warnings have been issued, one wonders how communities still recovering from past storms, and now struggling with wildfires and floods, will fare in a nation of 40 million unemployed and an economy grinding to a near-total halt?
Hopefully, not the way New Orleans was forced to cope with an incompetent president when Hurricane Katrine struck 15 years ago this week. When thousands drowned in their own homes and a Bush crony left international donations of trailers and supplies rotting unused in ports of call, Americans suddenly had a first glimpse of what it means having no government help when it’s the most needed: people die and wealth is redistributed upwards.
5,874 million cases, 181,000 deaths. That’s another thing you probably won’t hear talked much at the GOP convention: Covid-19. The disproportionate toll exacted on Blacks, the poor, and minorities, and that we have no uniformed testing system, as claims of a vaccine have been greatly exaggerated. Or worst, we may actually hear hypocrites and sycophants praise the U.S., based of course, on no proof whatsoever. And then there’s the vaccine.
In two months, we’re likely to see an onslaught of claims about a new vaccine, even knowing that trials should not be abbreviated for the sake of rights to brag, or that it will even be effective. Trump, of course, will claim victory and tide himself up nicely for Nov. 3. After all, he and his friends are all set to profit from it, even if it proves ineffective. And then, as a deranged twist, there are the anti-vaxxers, who are mounting a campaign to reject it.
As the most unusual summer of despondency draws to a close, humanity wonders whether we’re up to what’s coming: will the coronavirus finally be tamed? will this election be the turning point towards planetary healing? will any of those Lotto tickets stuck in a drawer for so long hold the winning numbers to lift us out of such overspread misery? The fact is, it’s irrelevant. Just a look at your loved ones is enough to get all the answers you crave.
We’re not following an agenda, no one has a roadmap for the future, few even believe they’ll stick around much longer. We do what’s being asked from us because there’s no longer a choice; we choose to be kind because not to be is to cast yourself askew. Yes, we have a pandemic that keeps punching back, an economy for the ultra-rich only, a raging climate set to burn the Earth to smithereens. But we have ourselves, and that’s all we need. Rock on. WC

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