Curtain Raiser

Far From Season Finale, Colltalers

Nukes are not the only way to blast us all back to the past; climate change could do it too. And rich Republican white males, going after a woman’s right to choose. Their hide is doomed, though: half of humankind is coming for them for some serious spanking.
But if in the U.S., all (pothole-filled) roads lead to Nov. 2020, in Brazil the opposition to Jair ‘Model T as in Trump’ Bolsonaro has gained a powerful focus: Brazilians are back in the streets, this time for saving something actually real, access to education.
Back to these in a few, but first two interesting developments last week: Austria’s far-right government resigned over charges of corruption – something to do with the Russians -, and San Francisco’s banned facial recognition technology by law enforcement.
It’s a big win for civil and privacy rights, and California’s capital Oakland, along other American cities may follow the Fog City’s lead. As for so-called rise of rightwing politics, the Austrians just proved that it’s neither doing that well, nor it’s above some old- fashion collusion. Nevertheless, populist demagogues are anxious to score big on this week’s European parliamentary elections.
Thursday and Friday vote may indeed consolidate their momentum, or leverage a curb on their grow. Some expect Brexit to be set by it, and for an increasing majority opposing the U.K.’s exit from the European Union, it’s the moment to seize the narrative.
If they do, it’s likely that British nationalists like Nigel Farange will follow P.M. Teresa May on their own way out, and a new referendum, or general elections, will be set. In many ways, though, the Brexit frenzy has ran its course and fulfilled its goals, seemingly, to demolish Britons’ confidence, and boost the U.K.’s irrelevance in the world. Thanks, Boris Johnson & friends.
No thanks to the Trump administration, though, for promoting the most brutal attack on women’s reproductive rights since a 1973 Supreme Court decision made abortion legal. To reverse Roe v Wade has been a common objective by both the GOP and the religious Continue reading

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 Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Regulations Went Up in Smoke, Colltalers

As the attempt coup in Venezuela has all but fizzled, its main instigator, the U.S., is scaring the world with disturbing threats of military action if things don’t go its way. Ironic how America went so quickly, from ‘world’s police’ to deranged wounded beast.
A couple of troubling decisions by U.S. agencies will also have a global impact: the approval for Bayer-Monsanto’s herb killer Roundup, banned by the European Union, and Phillip Morris’ iQOS dry tobacco vaporizer, both proven carcinogenic products.
A presidential election in Panama, even with the Venezuelan crisis on the background, is unlikely to move the needle either way; climate change and start of Ramadan usher us into the new week. Plus the return of Halley’s Comet, and we’re off to the races.
Which, in the case of Venezuela, most Latinos hope to be aborted. Despite support to the coup against Maduro, from Brazil, Colombia, even Panama itself, and others, – happy to oblige to war delusions of U.S. V.P. Mike Pence, State Sec. Mike Pompeo, Security Adviser John Bolton, and special envoy Elliott Abrahams – Venezuelan democracy will see the light of another day.
As the foursome have all been accused of xenophobia, corruption, torture, solely or combined, and profess the ‘my-way-or-the-highway,-or-at-least-the-Trump’s-way’ brand of diplomacy, they’ll get some of what they want, or may be oust by their sponsor. Either way, Venezuelans, in particular, Latino Americans em general, or world citizens as a whole may brace for a possible hit.
The biggest news, though, is and will remain being, climate change, or lack of action to counter its catastrophic effects there-of.
Mozambique, which haven’t even recovered from Cyclone Idaí, six weeks ago, was battered again, by an even bigger storm, Kenneth, the most powerful to ever hit the country. It exponentially boost Mozambican misery, while showing us why there’s no coming back from such disasters, no matter where you live, Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Turn Back the Right Tide, Colltalers

Unemployment; corruption; politics. These are priorities to most of the estimated 30-million-plus Spaniards who voted yesterday for a new Spanish parliament. But to the media, it’s Catalonia’s aim to split up from Spain, along immigration, what tops that list.
Meanwhile, the brutal assassination of Northern Ireland journalist Lyra McKee, on the 18th, wound up shaking the foundations of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. The Brexit fiasco notwithstanding, however, Protestants and Catholics must resume talks.
The rise of Vox, Spain’s far right party, will strengthen forces contrary to social equality and political autonomy in Europe, but that’s not this week’s most despondent endorsement of Steve Bannon’s international playbook. Italy ran away with the prize: on the 74th anniversary of Liberation Day, last Thursday, it was dictator Benito Mussolini’s name what was invoked with… pride!
Bannon, the most visible global reactionary since his woeful tenure delivering Trump to the White House, – or political hacks who eagerly emulate his tactics – keeps pushing all the red buttons of hate and intolerance, either in Europe or South America.
A lot of Americans got transfixed with two issues, this waning end of April: the massive body count of entertainment franchises The Avengers, and Game of Thrones, and Beyoncé’s latest chart-breaking CD-film combo. Others had something else in mind.
Has the Robert Mueller Report’s failure to paint a clear picture of the U.S. president’s malfeasances got him reelected next year?
As Trump openly challenges Congress’ authority to subpoena him, or key figures of his organization, naturally counting on a biased Supreme Court to back him up if needed, many wonder if he’ll now act, rather than just speak, as if he’s above the law.
He sure seems ready to do just as such. In over two years, he’s destroyed U.S.’s credibility in a vast array of issues the world’s entrusted to America, from leadership against climate change, to defense of civil rights, free press, and fair immigration Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Short-Changing the Earth, Colltalers

Many question having a date to focus on the environment, giving the catastrophic state of the planet, and world leaders’ lack of action on the climate crisis. But a year short of its half-century mark, let’s use the day to demand change, not simply dismiss it.
Specially as we remembered last Saturday, nine years of the worst oil spill in history, the BP-run Gulf of Mexico rig disaster, and the Columbine High School massacre, 20 years before. Sadly, there’s still no real good news about neither of those tragedies.
On that note, Easter started horrifically for Sri Lanka, with multiple terrorist attacks that murdered almost 300 people. Some fear the 3.000-year-old nation, and oldest Asian democracy, may be too vulnerable to politically and religiously-driven bloodshed.
The attacks may be out of some deranged jealousy, others insist, over the global outpouring of support to Catholics, following last Monday’s fire at 800-year-plus Notre Dame Cathedral, in Paris. But terrorism doesn’t have religion, so what’s their point?
In other, seemingly lighter, news, Volodymyr Zelensky, who plays the president of Ukraine on a TV sitcom, just won the election to become the real thing. To supporters, he’s a fresh start, even without expressing his take on any of the country’s hairier issues, such as Russia, and civil liberties. But they sure hope that the comedian is aware that being a president is no laughing matter.
Back in the not so old U.S., Trump, the president who plays a con-artist in real life, seems to have beaten yet another attempt to expose his misdeeds. The Mueller Report, for all its scope and solid investigative approach, has so far not fulfilled its purpose. Even as a fact-full road map to restore truth and dignity to the office of the presidency, a thousand redactions notwithstanding, it didn’t pack enough punch to knock common sense into his political basis, or boost hopes for a new president coming 2020.
Around this time for two decades, we’ve been forced to go back to a terrible Tuesday when two teenagers killed 13 of their mates and school staff, in what was then, history’s worst school mass shooting. Hardly we knew then that Columbine wouldn’t be the worst for long. Not just many more, and deadlier, followed it, but its bottomless grief hasn’t moved congress to pass laws to prevent new ones. Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Tyranny Hates Journalists, Colltalers

The disturbing sight of Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange being dragged out of the Ecuador embassy in London by the British police, last week, sent shock waves through the dwindling democracies around the world. This time, it was him; the next, us?
But democracy isn’t done yet: 800 million Indians vote till May for a new government; 190 million Indonesians choose theirs on Wednesday; and Finland already has a new, leftist, Parliament. Sadly, Democrats in the U.S. Congress haven’t got it together yet.
In 2018, more than 250 journalists were imprisoned, half of them in China, Turkey, and Egypt, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Worse, 53 got murdered, including Saudi Arabia’s Jamal Khashoggi, allegedly killed by his own government.
Like Assange, most of the persecuted is accused of, well, doing their job: uncovering inconvenient facts, cross-referencing them, protecting sources, and reporting about the front lines of the fight between institutional oppression, and those who oppose it.
The arrest, a U.K. gift to the U.S., culminated a truculent campaign to dislodge the Australian activist, and jail him over the 2010 leak of a large but ultimately tame trove of cables exchanged by American officials. Although he may be charged as a hacker, a technicality, the aim is clear: to silence dissent. A shocking difference this time, though, is having the U.S. as leading prosecutor.
To be sure, the British have played a less than dignified role in all this. And so has, arguably, Sweden, set to reopen rape charges against Assange. A shameless, misleading establishment media has also been a factor, as has his own, flawed, moral compass.
Nothing justifies, though, going after a publisher whose revelations showed what a powerful government feels entitled to do, when its people are not looking. The case also produced one conscientious hero, Chelsea Manning, who leaked the cables Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Israel & the Plastic Quagmire, Colltalers

In the 1960s, it seemed like a good idea: plastic bags to carry stuff. And to pack, ship, roll into a straw, and wrap food and drinks. It was hygienic, versatile, and eternal. A brave new world miracle. Now it’s what it’s stuffing to death the stomachs of whales.
The global right wing wave hijacking democracies, and promoting a populism of oppression, has a major date tomorrow, with the Israeli elections. A win by prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu may dash for good the Palestinians’ dream of a homeland.
Reversing the impact of our toxic lifestyle on the environment, and preventing the expansion of authoritarian regimes, are in fact related issues. For it’s unlikely that a government used to annex territories by force, would also protect its people from pollution and climate change. Netanyahu, who’s played masterfully the ‘fear-your-neighbor’ trump card, has no time for such ‘distractions.’
The demise of the long fought-for two-state solution, sabotaged by everyone but the almost two million living in Gaza strip, has opened the doors for an exceptionally bleak time for Israeli-Palestinian relations. If before, peace negotiations stalled on minutia, but were still on, now, bullets aimed at the protesters’ limbs, and the occasional bomb from beyond the walls, are doing the talk.
For a time, a young, urban generation of Israelis, and their stated foes, Iranians, fed up with the fear of terrorism and external aggression, had represented the world’s biggest hope to a less militarized, more commonwealth-like Middle East. That, and the international pressure for peace in the region. After all, citizens of both nations have been equally victimized by the status quo.
Those hopes began to fade by a spectacular string of bad decisions taken in the past 20 years by the U.S. and its allies, starting by the invasion and destruction on false premises of Iraq. Rhetoric by George W. Bush and his war-mongering cabinet have Continue reading