Curtain Raiser

The Calamities & the Dream, Colltalers

With the precision of well-timed tragedies, Hurricane Ida’s hit New Orleans just about 15 years since Katrina had done the same. Will the levees hold? In Afghanistan, it looks like more U.S. troops than we were told will stay on even as a resurgent ISIS wants to take over the fight against the Taliban.
Covid has become the pandemic that came to stay, as cases rise worldwide, dozens of countries still haven’t got vaccines, and an influential minority continues to scare the unvaccinated. And Brazilians worry President Bolsonaro plans a Trump Jan. 6-style rampage on Sept 7, Brazil’s national day.
Let’s start with a local irony about penalizing 7.5 million Americans who lost their jobs because of the coronavirus: the “Emergency Unemployment Program” is set to expire on Labor Day! Another sign that this business-created fake holiday has nothing to do with the First of May celebrated all over the world but here. The irony is even crueler as the economy is far from firing on all cylinders and, wouldn’t they know it? Covid is getting stronger.
It’s also a sign that U.S. labor policies are fully dictated by corporate needs. And for that, they can always count on the invaluable help of the Supreme Court, which has just overturned a moratorium on evictions. For unless their goal was to increase the number of unhoused people living in the streets, itself a record now, or to make it particularly harder for them to get a new job, it’s a case for asking, what do they mean to accomplish with this ruling?
In Zimbabwe, Mapone, a 12-year-old lion was cowardly ambushed and executed by a “pleasure” hunter. Remember Cecil, killed with an arrow by a wealthy dentist in 2015 and left to agonize for 24 hours? It happened again. Nothing has changed: Zimbabwe officials defend the practice of granting $30K licenses to kill big cats because they claim to need the money for preservation efforts, while animal activists call it as it is: institutional murder.
The 2021 Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence was given to former Air Force analyst Daniel Hale, who was sentenced in July to 45 months in jail for exposing the 2012 U.S. targeted assassination program in Afghanistan – “We kill people based on metadata,” said ex-CIA & NSA Director Michael Hayden. In a 5-month span, 90% of “enemies killed in action” by drones were bystanders. The leaked docs were published in 2015 by The Intercept.
Afghan stories are hardly inspiring but this one stands out: a Royal Marine has arrived in the U.K. with a cargo of almost 200 rescued dogs and cats. What’s unusual is that 2016 veteran Paul “Pen” Farthing had to leave behind the staff of his charity and their dependents. What happens now is unclear but the episode triggered a national debate over the morality of choosing to save animals over human lives. But we already know what we’d choose.
Staying with Afghan foes, U.S. Marine Stuart Scheller was “relieved of his functions” after posting a critical video of the American war campaign on Facebook and LinkedIn. By coincidence, 13 U.S. service members and almost 200 Afghans were killed on that day by a suicide bomber at Kabul’s airport. Although his was a mild criticism, armed forces everywhere hate dissent with a passion and it’s unlike Scheller still has a future there.
Few will if the situation on the ground goes from chaos to uncontrolled civil war, what with the refurbished Daesh, now called ISIS-K as in Korashan (don’t ask) openly challenging the Taliban and millions of civilians caught in the crossfire. It won’t get any better if Biden confirms that American troops will stay on for now. On the contrary, the U.S. may still inflict more damage to an already horrific situation. Fight for peace now.
The Cat 4 Ida has barreled the Big Easy just like Katrina did in Aug. 2004. The president then took days before flying over the wrecked city and his handling of the disaster was a textbook case of incompetence. Many died as a result. If we’d learned our lesson then, we’d now be ready for such a re-visit. As we haven’t, don’t hold your breath. Despite widespread gentrification, poor areas of New Orleans remain vulnerable to storms.
The concept of “perpetual war” is what’s been fueling modern conflicts. In the past two decades, the military-industrial complex has spent $2.5 billion on lobbying “to influence defense policy,” and $285 million to war-friendly political candidates. The business of war supersedes patriotism as nations no longer win or lose conflicts. New ones get started every day but it’s only weapon makers and contractors that come out as winners.
Covid Delta variant has surged globally and some nations that had considered the pandemics over had to revise their decision. The overwhelming majority of new cases, including all obits, are of unvaccinated people. A negligible number had medical complications with the shot but no one died in this group. To date, we lost 4.5 million people to this virus but it’s unknown how many are gone due to misinformation and ignorance.
The Brazilian Republic will turn 199 on Sept. 7.  Brazilians worry that Bolsonaro will use the date to emulate the Capitol Hill rampage of Jan. 6, when Trump thugs tried to prevent a democratically-elected president from being certified. The president’s right-wing supporters are busy spreading rumors of riots on social media and many expect the military to go along as it did in the past. Even without a crystal ball, it’s safe to say it’ll fail.
“America has defaulted on its promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked insufficient funds.” The “today” is Aug. 28, 1963, and the “I Had a Dream” speech solidified Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as the voice for race equality and justice in the U.S. Less than five years later he was killed, which is probably why at least in part we must still re-publish his speech as many times as needed. Because it still holds true.
The hurricane, made it worse with climate change; Covid, worsen by vaccine hesitancy and corporate monopoly; the war, aggravated by bottom-line greed; are all man-made catastrophes. Racism is borne out of choice, though, of self-granting privileges denied to others. The good doctor knew it well.As he said, “We refuse to believe (…) that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.” I still have a dream. Do you? WC


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