Curtain Raiser

The 12-Year Countdown Is On, Colltalers

2019 is upon us, and retrospectives and best-of, or worst-of, lists flood the media waves. Somehow, this has been a wake-up-call year for mankind. The fate of the planet, and that of 7 billion-plus, taken as a whole, may have finally come to focus. Or has it?
For despite unprecedented efforts to take climate change, for one, as the potentially civilization killer that it is, and global uproar against social inequality, racial hatred, xenophobia, sex discrimination, gun violence, and all that, we’re still ending the year losing.
Taking the U.S. as a starting point, protests, indignation, legal battles, and the overwhelming election of fresh faces for Congress, committed to new policies, haven’t prevent the thousands of immigrant children from being locked up at sinister tent camps being built all over the country. And last week’s brutal death of a 7-year-old migrant, under Patrol Border custody, will haunt us forever.
Jakelin Caal Maquim came from Guatemala, and got detained along her father and a group of 160, but two days later, was dead, likely from exposure, in a cell within a facility with not even minimal medical resources. No official agency’s taken responsibility.
Even though the Valentine Day’s massacre of 17 at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas HS, in Florida, triggered a national movement for gun legislation, led by the survivors, the issue was successfully muted by the NRA, the Republican Party, and many a Democratic leadership. The students, and millions of supporters, stood tall, and yet, over 13 thousands were killed by guns in the U.S. this year.
Some hope may be on the horizon. But given that most people killed everyday by gun violence in this country is black, any changes in gun regulations, and prison sentencing, need to carefully consider one of the tenets of imprisonment in the U.S.: race.
It’s an interrelated issue that seems to resist all efforts to address it: prison overcrowding. Roughly 57% of a staggering 2.3 million U.S. inmates are people of color, mostly African-Americans, Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Salvaging the Wreck of 2016, Colltalers

Brexit, the referendum that’s put the U.K. on the verge of leaving the European Union, and Trump’s election as U.S. president, the two biggest politically disruptive events of 2016, were only possible due to similar, dishonest strategies of those who backed them.
After two years, both may be coming to a head, and many say, not a day too soon. Or rather late, since turmoil they’ve caused has already undermined efforts to counter global climate change. Or the rise of extreme white supremacy. So, yes, good riddance.
Since most ‘architects’ of Brexit have since jumped ship, in coward fashion, no less, British P.M. Theresa May is the one left to push through Parliament the latest, and still unsatisfying, deal with the E.U. She’s bound to fail, according to an almost consensus.
That’d throw her government, and 66 million Brits, in disarray, a fact that’s both lamented, for the human costs involved, and also cherished. That’s by those who woke up June 24, 2016, sure that they’d been sold a bag of rotten goods, with no returns accepted.
Something similar happened the following November in the U.S., and last month, heavy loses by the Republican party may also signal that these now former-losing majorities, from both sides of the pond, may win their due rematches. It won’t be soon enough.
It’s appalling that many of those who fought hard to severe the U.K.’s long-lasting ties to Europe – former London Mayor Boris Johnson, Niger Farage, others, plus a variety of unpopular politicians and ‘strategists,’ – who quit when most needed, to pursue their true ambitions, remain unapologetic about the chaos they sowed. Such lack of empathy reminds Americans of someone they know.
Speaking of whom, here’s a dude who had a terrible few days last week. Reports that the Robert Mueller probe has a strong hold on many of his once trusted operatives, who apparently turned on him by the dozen, have truly riled Trump. Among plenty of denials and false accusations, even a superficial analysis of his body language throughout the crisis show that, yes, it’s been bad, indeed.
As it becomes ever more clear that he did collude with Russians to win the White House, some wonder who he’ll throw under the bus in order to save his skin. As the ex-reality TV star turned Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

The Age of Flawed Presidents, Colltalers

There’s America, the myth. The land of the free, a country built by immigrants, founded on values of equality and justice for all. Even as it has hardly realized in full the dreams on which it was found, this is the America-in-progress that’s still attainable.
Then there’s present day U.S.A., still the world’s richest nation but now also quickly becoming the cradle of inequality. A place where over a hundred million simply gave up and don’t even vote, led by a president who’s a constant source of embarrassment.
Take the G-20 in Argentina, for instance. Another high-level world-leaders meeting, another series of photo-ops displaying Trump as the ugly American at its worst. In just a few hours, he’s managed to insult the host, get cozy with Putin, and brag about a deal.
By now, the 18 nations plus the European Union that make up the bloc are not just acquainted with him, but rather act like enablers to his diatribes. They’re falling under his braggadocio, and won’t confront him even over an universal issue such as climate change.
The former reality TV star turned leader of the free world had at the G20, another less than great moment on camera, adding to an already long list: he walked away from Argentina’s Mauricio Macri, who was left standing, arm still stretched, on the stage. Then, despite denials, he met with the Russian president. And lastly, he boasted about an accord with China that, in fact, changes little.
It’s not that other participants didn’t have their own awkward, and revealing, weak moments. There was Germany’s Angela Merkel, who got plane troubles and arrived in Buenos Aires via commercial flight. And France’s Emmanuel Macron, caught on camera pleading, ‘you never listen to me,’ to suspect murderous Saudi Arabian crown prince Muhammed bin Salman. Truly cringe worthy.
Macron, whose new taxation on gas has ignited violent protests by French union workers, never looked more unfit to the crucial leadership role that may be reserved to France, in case Germany turns into a far-right regime, following Merkel’s announced exit.
After all, he was speaking on an intimate tone with someone who the world’s intelligence community is convinced has ordered the murder and dismemberment of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate. Someone who Macron must help bring to justice, and deserves not whispers that sound like lovers talk, but the harsh admonition due to a rogue leader in need of reckoning.
As for trade tariffs, and the accord with China that Trump bragged about, it sounds a lot like what we’ve heard Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

A Question Begs to be Asked, Colltalers

Climate has delivered another sobering alert to mankind, with a new report on its impact on the world’s economic outlook. Regardless that we do anything about it, it reaches a chilling conclusion: some of its dire effects are inexorable and will last long.
It comes just as another U.N. environmental conference starts in a week, at that coal-loving country of Poland. Results may be less than promising but still strong enough to upstage the U.K. signing off from the E.U., and another probe set to reach Mars.
But the question that rarely makes it to the headlines, to be asked the top 0.001% of the population is: why most of you are not fully engaged on the quest for our survival on this planet? On the contrary, by not being part of the solution, even a reduced number of the wealthy and most powerful individuals and organizations, is in fact, aggravating the problem of climate change.
Such slimiest of percentage, made of top political leaders, the U.S. president, multinational corporations, billionaires, and global institutions, owns over 90% of the world’s resources and power. The remainder 99% seems helpless to hold them accountable.
There may be some eluding reason as to why the follow up to the Paris Agreement on climate change is being held in Poland for the second time in five years. But other than by chance, that nation along many others in Europe has been a hot bed for the right wing resurgence spreading out everywhere, and a likely result of a global ‘franchising’ of the Trump’s ‘wreaking havoc’ doctrine.
Not that he has a discernible one. But his racist and divisive rhetoric did unlock the gates of hell, unleashing hordes of previously curbed fascists, who became an unfortunate feature today in any urban center. Their scary rallies and propensity to brutality to prove a supremacist point hasn’t changed since the Nazis ruling days; it’s happening even in once liberal Latin American nations.
It’s growing in Brazil, which has elected a defender of torture (and admirer of Trump), to high office, and it now became part of the Mexican reality too: an anti-immigrant protest in Tijuana may be among the first ever staged south of the border. On Friday, Trump had tweeted about an agreement with Mexico, to keep asylum seekers there, but it may be just another one of his lies too.
While the media may distract itself rebroadcasting a few times that claim, before declaring it false, the administration Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

The Burning Season Is On, Colltalers

There are some fair assumptions we may now make about the catastrophic wild fires in California: they came to stay; they’ll get worse; they are, indeed, direct result of climate change. Oh, and that we’re behind the curve and still unprepared to control them.
Apart from that, last week’s headlines belonged to two other man-made disasters, whose impact we’re beginning to grasp, even if not that startled by either of them: proof that Facebook is politically biased (shock!); and that Brexit won’t work (double shock!).
Unlike what some accused The Beatles of once pretending to be, Facebook is now more popular than that famous Dec. birthday boy. So the NYTimes exposé about how the mammoth social media concern was, all along, concerned only about maintaining its sheer dominance, never mind Russia’s attacks on the U.S. 2016 elections and democracy, came as a surprise to absolutely no one.
It’s been said, hackers did not have to hack voting machines, even as they may’ve tried, or even bribe too many Trump associates. They simply used the system. But Mark Zuckerberg’s repeated appearances and lies, to congressional committees composed mainly of either Internet-challenged or downright dimwitted politicians, have all but confirmed his total lack of a moral compass.
His unbound greed, and the sophomoric culture of highly specialized spoiled brats he inspired, has been for far too long out of reach of any accountability. He built a corporation more powerful than many nations, and it needs to be regulated just like any other is, or should. Thankfully, the U.S. elections held two weeks ago raised new hopes for change. More about that in a minute.
As for Brexit, and the political imbroglio it represented to the U.K., again, few can say they didn’t see it coming. The whole idea of leaving the European Union was sold on false pretenses, by the same snake oil mentality that took over the White House on a delusion of making the U.S. as big as it never was. As reality sets in, here and there, more are realizing that they’ve been had.
Europe needs what’s left of democracy the U.K. has to offer, as the British depend of staying with the union in order Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

No Time to Call it a Day, Colltalers

Gun massacres and wild fires have taken over the headlines, with another batch of dozens of preventable deaths to their account. As these tragedies turn into daily events, they may have already become normalized. Have we lost the will to produce change?
For haven’t we just had a major election? Weren’t these and other issues supposed to have been addressed last Tuesday? Let’s check on the priorities listed here last week, and see whether voters’ choices reflected how concerned we really are about them.
Starting by last Newsletter’s title, we did get an almost great turnout. The best of midterm elections since 1966, with 47% of able to vote electors casting a ballot. Wow, some would say. As for us, though, let’s face it: we’ve got to climb over that 50% hump.
We know, there’s been rampant voter suppression, extreme GOP gerrymandering, hate speech, raw lies, unbound spending and spineless sycophancy, by a party whose members’ top priority is to please the leader. Or be publicly scorned by him, if they lose.
Down the Florida way, it’s 2000 all over again, and Republican bigwigs are landing in droves so recounts of hanging chads may drag long enough for the Supreme Court to be called on and close shop. With few revisions, that old script will be applied again.
Now the issues. We picked climate change, immigration and asylum rights, healthcare, women’s choice, racial and sexual rights, gun control, wage and labor reform, voting rights, plus whatever pet projects you may have, as this nation’s most obvious woes.
Along their enthusiasm, most Democratic and independent new comers have won on commitment to fight climate change and support wind and solar power projects. Pity we still can’t get a majority in such an obvious bad-for-everyone-but-big-oil issue.
The retaking of the House by the Democrats means more than a mere hard-fought comeback, for it’s a game we’re still losing: 1×2. But it was a score all the same and we’ve still got some time. Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

We Need a Record Turnout, Colltalers

Climate change, immigration and asylum rights, healthcare, women’s choice, racial and sexual rights, gun control, wage and labor reform, voting rights, plus your own picks. By now, most Americans should have this down. Now let’s go voting them on Tuesday.
Before anything, billions around the world believe we’ll do the right thing. Sharing values of solidarity, independence of mind, and compassion, they’ll stand with us when we say no. And the suddenly global-relevant U.S. midterm elections can deliver just that.
The diminished importance implied on the title has nothing on the reality of these massive election, though. All 435 House seats are technically up for grabs, along 35 of the 100 Senate seats, 39 governorships, and an onslaught of measures and initiatives – pot expanding legalization, freedom of religion, and animal rights, among them – to be decided by federal, state or local communities.
Not everyone will agree with the above list of ‘issues for distracted voters,’ but they’re still among the most immediate. And unlike other times, let’s vote on ideas and on individuals, too; words count, but only people can be held accountable for invoking them.
Also, it’s no wonder that a record-breaking election in the U.S., of any kind, could have a global impact. In fact, people are already holding their breath in some places: for the results, and also for the toxic air. They need us to recommit to the Paris Agreement.
The world expects us to re-embrace universal principles of immigration and the inalienable rights for asylum from hardship. Which is largely caused by our own attacking forces, and sent by those who, make no mistake, will vote too on Nov. 6. Not on anything remotely related to our list, though. As in the past, they’ll show up, because they’re minority. And us, the majority, usually don’t.
The universality of these American elections is that it can point to a new direction to improve the world. They may disable the gears leading us to intolerance, and put on focus billions of people. Most of whom will never even have a path to such a change.
The old saying, those who send us to war for profit are not fit to lead, may not even exist. But it’s certainly been quoted in as many tongues as the soldiers killed by serving them. The military mind only invokes History when it has survived it. No aggrandizing combat rhyme, though, has the resonance, heard from time immemorial and always uttered by the majority of, we want peace.
We could go down on that list, finding commonality with each cause pulsating within different cultures and places. Continue reading