Curtain Raiser

Done With the Double Talk, Colltalers

With all the pomp of a country club outing, the world’s 20 richest economies won’t fund some new coal projects and may get to net-zero emissions “by or around mid-century.” Keep your shirts on yet for the thrilling COP26 climate meeting. Big Oil is not worried though, and the Supreme may help it.
The murderous big white thug rampage of Jan 6 at Capitol Hill also had help but from members of Congress and White House? Shocking. Minnesota may dissolve its police department? Tantalizing. But Brazil Senate’s call to indict President Bolsonaro for crimes against humanity? A bit unsurprising.
We open in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with the devastating testimony of Majid Khan about the torture and sexual abuse he endured since the 2003 Iraq and Afghanistan invasions. It’s the first time an al-Qaeda operative speaks out about what went on in the many U.S.-run “black sites” around the world and his testimony shows how far goes the divide between what Americans like to think of themselves and what those they delegate do in their behalf.
The graphic descriptions of torture by Khan led some military officers in the sentencing team to ask the war court to grant him clemency, and call the treatment of the ex-Baltimore high school teen “a stain in the moral fiber of America.” With that being said, they sentenced him to 26 years in prison.
In Saudi Arabia, there’s jubilation for the newest $500 million military contract with the Biden administration. As the president boarded Air Force One to Rome and Glasgow he took a step that contradicts what he preaches and undermines the credibility of his commitment to fighting climate change.
It’s clear that the fleet of attack helicopters will be used to further ethnically cleanse the Houthis minority in war-ravaged Yemen. Rather than focusing on the famine and Covid running rampant and sending a generation of children to death or stunted mental and physical development, he chose a sale.
In Sudan, two years of a dream of re-democratization went up in flames as a military group staged a coup and imprisoned Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and members of his government. They were on track to free elections in 2023, which would reposition the country into a path of normality since the 2019 overthrow of Omar al-Bashir’s 10-year rule. Given what’s happening in Burma, without outside help, Sudan simply has not a prayer.
In Italy, the Senate killed a bill that would protect members of the LBGTQ+ community, women, and people with disabilities against violence. It was a disappointing ending to what the Italian Chamber of Deputies had already approved and led to ill-advised celebratory cheers by right-wing politicians.
In China, the harassment and persecution of Muslims reach into cultural defacement too. This time, Beijing wants domes and minarets from mosques and temples to be removed so to “sinify” the country (don’t ask). Another ridiculous attempt to crush religious freedom for sure but also a downright authoritarian move, akin to killing Hong Kong democracy and threatening Taiwan. But many wonder how strong is China’s iron grip on its society.
“Keeping 1.5 degrees within reach will require meaningful and effective actions and commitment by all countries, taking into account different approaches.” The G20’s final communique is as full of promises as lacking any concrete measures. It’s astonishing that leaders of the world’s most powerful countries can’t offer a single actionable climate plan. In the end, Greta Thunberg is absolutely right: it’s all a big “Blah Blah Blah.”
If before the U.N. Climate Change Conference got underway in Scotland, hopes for meaningful action were already dwindling, the G20’s wimpy performance and the business-as-usual approach by powers-that-be may lead us to miss our last chance to change direction and save the planet.
It’s not just that big industrial economies keep burning fossil fuels, sending tons of greenhouse gases up to the atmosphere, and warming oceans beyond a breaking point. But it’s also that attempts at passing legislation to slow down the catastrophe, which has overwhelming support in the U.S. and abroad, have met a soul-crushing lobbying power and co-opted elected officials and representatives. Nothing’s going to change this way.
Especially if the U.S. Supreme Court undermines the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to curb emissions. Despite the proven role of fossil-fuel industries in our current predicament, justices want to be sure the Clean Air Act really gives the agency power to go after pollutants.
That, plus the watered-down Build Back Better Act being stripped of climate provisions that coal-sponsored Sen. Manchin didn’t like may render our entire climate change fight toothless. Any way one puts it, though the alternative is much worse. When storms, floods, and fires begin to chain reaction, it’ll be too late. Yes, the Supreme is partisan and right-wing at it; but Biden knew that half measures wouldn’t do it. What now, Joe?
Know who else knew it too? Big Oil. In 1959, scientist Edward Teller told a petroleum summit that if we keep using fossil fuels, “ice caps would melt, raising sea levels.” Six years later, American Petroleum Institute’s Frank Ikard said: “Carbon dioxide is being added to the atmosphere by the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas at such rate” that by 2000, heat unbalances will “cause marked changes in climate.” Ditto.
The murderous Jan. 6 invasion of Capitol Hill was neither spontaneous nor devoid of assurances from the former president, his cabinet, and Republicans in Congress, multiple investigations have determined. Now as the FBI advances its case against 700 or so rioters, the real job will be to kick conspiracists out of the walls of power. Because what they stand for is treason, and we, the people who elected them, can also fire them.
It was in the Black Lives Matter movement rallies of two years ago that the novel idea of diverting millions of dollars in funds to arm local police departments into community initiatives was introduced into the national conversation. “Defund the Police” brought attention to the needs of poor communities of color that get overlooked while local police departments get multimillion-dollar weapons that ultimately are used against them.
Minnesota is now the official test-tube for the idea: tomorrow voters will decide whether to dismantle the Minneapolis P.D. and create the Public Safety Department for its place. It’s fitting for the city where in 2020 a Black father, George Floyd, was choked for 9min29sec until he died under the knees of a police officer. White supremacists may be freaking out about it of course but compassionate citizens may find sense in the idea.
When the Brazilian Senate voted to back charges against Bolsonaro for his conduction, or lack thereof, of the country’s fight against Covid, the president as usual responded that he is “guilty of absolutely nothing.” To him, blame for over 600,000 deaths should be assigned elsewhere, but the number of Brazilians who agree with him has shrunk steadily. The indictment vote though is no guarantee that it’ll lead to criminal charges.
“The media must hold the people in power accountable for their actions, or inactions.” That’s from an open letter written by Thunberg and Vanessa Nakate, two on the forefront of a movement that unfortunately while gathering support, also seems to be losing its power to shock us and our representatives into action. Their indignant focus on the established media is correct as we watch daily how poorly climate crisis is relayed to us.
“You have the resources and possibilities to change the story overnight.” We do need help, from the media, world leaders, but mainly from you and you and you. Whether or not it’ll “rise to the challenge is up to you,” they write. “Either way, history will judge you.” And us. So long. WC


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