Curtain Raiser

Trouble Forges Better Leaders, Colltalers

A society led by children is not attainable. But kids won’t wait for permission to lead: no action on climate, no life on the planet, they say. Seemingly, we don’t vote on gender or race. Yet, it’s women, people of color, and the young, who’re speaking the truth.
‘Our gun laws will change.’ New Zealand P.M. Jacinda Ardern’s response to the massacre of 50 Muslims by a white supremacist, was most appropriate; Parliament’s should quickly approve her plan. When will Americans see such resolve from their leaders?
It was supposed to be a beautiful Friday, with kids all over the world striking against climate change. They’re showing the kind of determination, which is what this juncture requires, that most adults in positions of power haven’t. Which makes one wonder, that they are either missing crucial brain cells, or have a financial stake invested by ignoring the public clamor. And also lack neurons.
But what makes the biggest difference, both from the part of the kids, and adults with a still functioning brain, is accountability.
Whereas the young is taking upon themselves to act as grownups, and defend a dwindling future they, more than anyone else, are likely to be around to live through, those in charge must be held accountable for sticking their heads in the sand rather than lead.
This is the second major issue, related to survival and assuring a future to everyone, that American kids are taking the initiative. The other is gun control. But despite spending 2018 rallying for change, officials and politicians remain oblivious to the public clamor.
The massacre at the Christchurch town mosque somehow merged the two issues and made it painfully clear who’s on the wrong side of history. Surprise, they’re the same. Those not ashamed of expressing racist views, and resorting to violence to back it up, are also defenders of the status quo, unwittingly supporting a privileged, and unrealistic, order of which they’re actually outcasts.
Neighbor Australia had proved that legislation does indeed stop mass killings, and it’d at least, cut drastically the inconceivable daily reality of gun shootings in the U.S., for instance. Since Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Bolsonaro’s Porn Tweet & Brexit, Colltalers

Tomorrow, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May faces another crucial Parliamentary vote on Brexit, the country’s planned exist from the European Union. Chances are, though, she’ll lose again, no deal will be reached, and Britons will enter a bleak two-year limbo.
Thursday it’ll be a year since the still unsolved murder of Rio councilwoman Marielle Franco. She’s likely the most distinguished among the staggering four thousand-plus women killed in Brazil in 2018. But President Bolsonaro is not too concerned about that.
The week starts grim in the aftermath of another fatal crash of a 747 Max 8 Boeing, this time in Ethiopia, and the second downing of such plane in the last six months. And it’ll probably have at least one new scandal involving the U.S. president, just as he files yet another multi-billion request to Congress to build his racist wall. Meanwhile, no resolution is expected to Venezuela’s crisis.
Bolsonaro, whose three-month presidency has been plagued by scandals and charges of corruption and nepotism, has become the first Brazilian president who not just dislikes Carnival, his country’s biggest party and arguably the biggest in the world, but also who tweets a pornographic video – supposedly to show his disgust about the LGBT community. It’s obviously backfired big time.
It’s not unusual for a right wing populist to become a national joke. Some simply can’t take it, unleashing their wrath on the backs of their already oppressed people. But the sense of incompetence surrounding Bolsonaro’s conduction of Brazil’s affairs so far, has all but paralyzed him, and he showed no hint that he understands his blunder (now blamed on one of his sons). Not unusual either.
What has caused anxiety to both his constituency and political allies alike, though, is that he’s been incapable Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

No-Deal Maker Loses Again, Colltalers

So the master of the deal has failed again. Another historical summit with North Korean Kim Jong-un got wasted because the U.S. president showed up ill prepared, flanked by two war mongers, and with no clue on how to set in course a safe path for peace.
Right on cue, India and Pakistan, nuke-ready nations, resumed hostilities. The failure was a blow to 70 million Koreans, plus more around the world, but Trump’s most likely focus, and concerns, was on his longtime personal lawyer spilling the beans to Congress.
The best thing about this week then may be a reminder: on Women’s Day this Friday, at least a record seven female candidates will be vowing to unseat the president next year. Maybe the time to have a mother in the White House is now, not as many expected, and still mourn, in Nov. 2016. But even if candidate ‘anyone-but-Trump’ wins, there’ll be a huge bag of broken deals to be fixed.
The thing is, a president doesn’t have to be a diplomat. Trump, specially, could’ve avoided to play such a bull in the china shop, if he’d considered years of talks with North Korea, the role of South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in, China’s influence, trust and all other factors that take time and effort to build into a common accord. Instead, he put Max Pompeo and John Bolton in charge.
Both the Sec. of State and the National Security Adviser follow the ideology that places the U.S. atop the world, with all the perks and full autonomy to intervene, invade, bomb, or otherwise threaten any country or organization that they may perceived as an enemy of American financial, military, and business interests. But neither would accept such rights for others, outside their terms.
Such a role, though, only exists in their war-forged, privileged-imbued, self-preserving, and deranged, minds. The world wants the U.S, to lead it to peace and prosperity, not to be its dictator. If these hawks want to pursue their delusions, they should put some skin in the game. As much as they’d love to send Americans to their grave, though, neither would allow their own kin to enlist.
Again, no one needs to wear combat fatigues to know about the potential carnage a U.S. intervention would cause in Venezuela, for instance, or even worse, Iran. Since being named Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Helping Children Save Their Future, Colltalers

Less than a month since the Trump administration decided to oust Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro, the country is in turmoil, clashing with neighbors, and facing civil war. What it’s farther from achieving, though, is the social stability Venezuelans want.
It’s another make-believe threat, to be sustained until or if this week’s North Korea summit produces a sliver of good news the president can boast about. It’ll further deplete the already poor climate change media coverage, the only war we should be fighting.
It’s inspiring to see the young, mostly children, in fact, jumping into the trenches for the climate fight, with the resolve and maturity rarely seen in our leaders. By pushing them hard, the kids are also exposing some pretty vexing realities about the adult world.
When members of the Sunrise Movement, middle and high school children advocating for climate action, visited California’s Sen. Dianne Feinstein, to plead her support for the New Green Deal, which calls for a (U.S.) ‘transition to 100% renewable energy by 2030,’ she all but dismissed them. As their encounter went viral, though, it showed why is so hard to get change in Washington.
Feinstein, one of the stalwart leaderships of Democratic Party’s moderates, is obviously annoyed, along many of her colleagues, by the ‘invasion’ of enthusiasm and bold ideas brought about to Congress by a new crop of politician, mostly women, elected last Nov.
The kids didn’t take long to reply to her paternalistic approach with pointed, science-backed arguments. And even political ones too, as when they correctly noted, when she dismissed the package’s chances of being voted, that to support it is still worth. Like clear-eyed politicians, they’ve lectured her on the importance of preparing appropriate laws for when change becomes reality.
But the good senator doesn’t seem too keen into supporting this new, daring, loud leadership voices, pushing to halt at least some impact from climate change. Perhaps it’d be instructive to ask her own grandchildren, whom she mentioned as if she cares, what do they think about their grandma’s views? Maybe not too adoringly, on hopes. Otherwise, she should be told to get out of the way.
As the party’s current star, the much maligned-by-the-right Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, said, ‘small, incremental policy solutions are not enough.’ We’ve all seen what ‘incremental policy’ has done to the planet in the past decade, including its string of hottest years ever. Even if science consensus, that we’ve got only 12 years to reverse this process, is flawed, we’re already in a Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Leader of the Precious Few, Colltalers

‘I’ll never let you down,’ Trump told a roomful of enthusiastic believers at the National Prayer Breakfast (er, club?) last week. It was another cue for the religious right to express approval for a morally broken leader, just because he can help carry their agenda.
Neither he nor them seem interested in the explosion of opioid overdoses throughout the country; the extreme weather created by climate change; or, heaven forbid, this Black History month. They want to outlaw abortion and he, a wall and maybe another war.
In a nutshell, that may characterize the priorities of a special interest group, and a president, who, despite representing a minority of the U.S. population, are highly invested on turning this country into their own image. Needless to say, they’re both bound to fail.
Not just that almost 30% of Americans are not religiously affiliated, or call themselves atheists – known as ‘nones’ -, according to Harris, the Pew Research, and other polls, but also that not even all Republicans are 100% behind the president’s stated priorities.
The estimated 36 million to 55 million nones are already a sizable percentage of the population, compared to Evangelicals, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, or Buddhists. In other words, a powerful voting contingent that is increasingly demanding to be heard.
The trend is even more pronounced globally. In 2016, the National Geographic proclaimed, rather exaggeratedly, that nones are already the world’s biggest ‘religious’ group. A closer read Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Beware the Snake Oil Pitch, Colltalers

President Barack Obama’s first State of the Union address, in 2009, was about a healthcare proposal that’d cover for at least a few years over 20 million of uninsured Americans, despite fierce opposition. It was also the first time he was called a liar in public.
Tomorrow’s SOTU, however, Trump’s second, is expected to be about at least three debunked lies: that there’s a border invasion; that immigration is our biggest problem; and a national emergency needs to be declared. No one may call him out on that though.
Whether Democrats should, is up to contention. What is not is whether Americans are given the full picture about what it really means to send even more money to turn our borders into war zones, and troops to try to top a foreign government as in Venezuela.
That at this point, in the third year of the Trump administration, we’re cherry picking which of his lies has the most impact on the future shows that these are pretty treacherous times. Whereas Obama was in fact telling the truth, and Obamacare did save lives, the current White House occupant is ready to send more Americans to die abroad, along the most valuable truths about this nation.
Ideals of solidarity among people, of self determination, and specially, the sacred concept of sovereignty, are being gutted by this president. But few see Republicans growing a spine and wrestling their party away from him. Instead, they’ll stand up and applaud.
The word ‘wall’ is also expected to be uttered a few too many times, and so is calls of innocence (the president never wastes a public forum without saying that ‘there’s no collusion’ with Russia). Plus any one out of his 2018 average of 15 daily false claims.
The 35-day, longest shutdown in U.S. history, which wound up costing $11 billion to the economy, ruined the holidays of almost a million public employees, while stiffing thousands of contractors, will also be missing from the teleprompter. Even more unlikely Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Buried By the Mud, Colltalers

The year is still new but the news have surely changed little. 2018 is on track to be history’s fourth hottest, and the Yemen carnage, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and Syria’s hell-for-all but Bashar al-Assad, are still going strong. Talk, as usual, remains cheap.
The Trump-induced government shutdown is on hold for now, though, and so is the U.K.’s mind-boggling Brexit wreck, and that’s probably good. But an environmental tragedy in Brazil, and a coup in Venezuela, will maintain world tensions steadily simmering.
As Russia and China warned the U.S. that an intervention in Venezuela won’t be tolerated, it now also feels like we’re back to Cold War geopolitical games: ‘don’t touch my back and I won’t touch yours.’ Using the same playbook, the ‘triumvirate of bigotry’ (ops), Trump, John Bolton, and Mike Pompeo, is already preparing a fresh conflict to divert focus at home and seize the narrative abroad.
No one expects a numeral change to automatically trigger a new direction to the world. Just as thoughts and prayers won’t make anyone more deserving of some ‘divine grace,’ than those who, without a thought, dive straight into the void to try saving a life.
One thing is understanding that every new day hits the ground running, though, and it’s up to us to turn it into a rewarding spin. Another is to come back from an almost drowning jump into the sea, only to be hit hard by tons of water from a massive wave.
We’re humans and need breathing breaks, or we don’t survive. It’s crucial to be aware of what’s going on around us, but let’s not lose sight of the horizon and its possibilities. Even die-hard pessimists have their moment of clarity, and confidence in the future.
It’s during these rare instants that we realize the amazing people who are now sharing the trenches with us. The U.S.’ youngest representative, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, ebullient in her quest for a big change in American politics, is certainly among them. And so is Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish activist, who’s become a seasoned champion for climate change awareness.
That’s the same arena where the Maldives’ former president, Mohamed Nasheed, has been battling for years. And, on the other side of the age spectrum, there’s also the brilliant linguist and activist Noam Chomsky, speaking truth to power for several decades now.
There are good news about the race to beat Trump in 2020, too: most candidates jumping in are women, empowered by a huge demographics with potential to do way more than breaking the glass ceiling. And there are many scientists, inventors, and even Continue reading