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

Curtain Raiser

Hate Won’t Tear Us Apart, Colltalers

A series of deadly nightmares has visited Americans once again in the past days. And some have progressed exactly as the script of racial violence and hate President Trump has been reciting at his rallies. Will he honorably own them? Don’t hold your breath.
Meanwhile, surprising no one, Brazil’s bid farewell to its young democracy yesterday. A sound majority put Jair Bolsonaro, an ex-army captain, in charge of leading it back to the past, with carte blanche to turn this vibrant nation into a gun-happy backwater.
The cold-blooded execution of two black people in Kentucky, and the horrific mass murder at a Pittsburgh synagogue: the two sinister bookends to the arrest in Florida of yet another home-grown terrorist, who’d sent explosive packages to top Democrats.
Three perpetrators, all anti-Semites and ardent president supporters, with devilish intent: to silence his critics, intimidate the press, and target a racial minority. Whether these tragedies will impact the Nov. 6 elections is unclear. But progressive forces can’t wait for the Democratic Party to lead: Americans must call them for what they really are: hate rhetoric turned into action.
These loyal fools with a lot in common felt empowered to do the president’s bidding. They may have acted alone but rather than isolated, they’ve responded to a call, repeated by Trump on Twitter and at his public speeches. They felt encouraged to wage holy war against fellow Americans, who dare to disagree with the moral downward spiral the U.S. has taken since 2016.
The man and woman shot to death while being black at a grocery store, the 11 members of the Tree of Life Congregation, killed while being Jewish, and the 14 prominent leaders and politicians who could have been assassinated along an unknown number of circumstantial victims, compose a terrifying portrait of life in America, circa 2018. Race and social liberalism are in mortal risk.
It’s also stomach churning to see once again guns, including an assault rifle, used for racial violence. They were present at the temple massacre and at the store shooting, while the bomb-maker fanatic has demonstrated another level of rage and obsession.
Failing to link White House’s hate speech and the violence of the supremacist movement it has inspired all but equals condoning the barbarism of our current state of affairs. It also misjudges the potential for even more horror and loss of political autonomy.
Naturally, republicans and conservatives have jumped to the administration’s aid. They will shamefully attempt to minimize the attacks, and quickly switch to their hypocritical ‘thoughts and prayers’ default mode for dealing with national grief at crisis time.
As for those who can’t quite believe the disturbingly warped reality hateful words often lead to, a check on history books is most advisable. For rage and death get easily loosened up when the national discourse is polarized into the ‘us versus them’ quagmire. Tyrants often take advantage of ancient ethnic and tribal conflicts to seize and consolidate power, and we’re way passed the time to be shocked, shocked by how come this is actually happening in America. Such mode of domination, prone to displays of bloody ‘loyalty’ by deranged bottom feeders and sycophants, has happened many times before. It’s also a exports-ready model.
Which brings us once more to Brazil, before we too close the book and subscribe to the lowest form of self-sabotaging Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Choices We’re Born to Make, Colltalers

We may be approaching the most pivotal U.S. election of our times, as you may’ve heard. Americans of all ages, notably women, Latinos, and first-time voters, are putting on a remarkable effort to get people to vote. Except, of course, the Democratic Party.
Just as party minions dream of a blue wave, hopes for even a House turnaround got fairly dim. And it’s no wonder: some of the most crucial issues at stake, gun violence, reproductive rights, wages and the climate, have all had little if any Democrat support.
So, last week when an Eugene, Oregon, judge let a climate change lawsuit against the federal government to proceed, staging a rare win against the administration-revived fossil fuel industry, cheers and optimism were in order. Specially for the 21 children and young adults, and their progressive supporters, who for three years, have been pursuing the suit. Absent: elected Democrats.
They’re still missed as the ‘new’ Supreme Court and its Chief Justice John Roberts, halted it before giving it an expected hearing, on Oct. 29. In the move, perceived as a nod to the administration’s merit less objections, some see a sign of bad things to come.
Also, orphan of support from the party that should be leading every single progressive issue of our times, is Newsweek reporter Jeffrey Stein, who since Jan. wages a legal battle for transparency in the Trump administration’s vetting of the president’s closest advisers. He’s suing multiple federal agencies over the opaque and ultimately flawed approval process of 15 Trump’s nominees.
That’s a record the president won’t boast about: average turnover within the most senior level of White House members – a group he once called the best and the brightest, or something to that effect, probably stolen from somewhere else – is an unprecedented 83%. Of this undesirable bunch, Steve Bannon is likely the busiest: he’s now engaging in destroying democracy in Brazil too.
It’s inexplicable that the Democratic Party is not the least engaged in these two, and many other issues affecting Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

The Only News Fit to Print, Colltalers

A journalist was murdered by rulers of his own country. A toddler, separated from relatives by immigration, showed up in court alone. A torture apologist got to lead the presidential race of the world’s fifth-largest nation. These were breaking news last week.
And yet, in the U.S., news was the 10-minute rant-and-praise the president performed at the White House by a mentally unsound superstar. That’s the absolutely unintended truth hidden in Trump’s, and every would-be dictator’s, motto: ‘the press is the enemy.’
It is not, of course, and besides all it means for a healthy democracy, the most consequential role of a free press is to present facts as they actually are, and reality as it unfolds. That requires courage, expedience and trust that the reader doesn’t need help sorting out the content. And yet, if a news organization is driven by ratings and not by its constitutional duty to inform, we’re in trouble.
There are many ways a democracy can and will be undermined: corrupt leaders, an oblivious electorate, massive amounts of money in politics, and most of us are very much used to all three. But a free press restores accountability and transparency, and lends legitimacy to any government. Along the well-informed citizens it serves, it’s a formidable deterrent to abuses of power.
That’s why the likely assassination of Saudi Arabia’s Jamal Kashoggi, a journalist long targeted by the royal family ruling his country, is so disturbing, besides being cruel. He was last seen on Oct. 2, caught by surveillance cameras, walking into the Saudi embassy in Istanbul. Turkey, itself often accused of repressing its press, has released ghastly details about his supposed murder.
Saudi Arabia is a brutal dictatorship, whose oil-generated power and wealth has caused terrible consequences to Middle East stability. But what matters is that its Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman, is also ‘best friends’ and partner in crime with Trump. With the president’s help, the Saudis have been conducting a heart-shattering strangling of Yemen, an ethnic cleansing that’s already killed 50,000 civilians – a grim average of 130 children a day – and caused the biggest modern outbreak of cholera.
The U.S. has been supplying weapons, air power, logistics and, helped by its media, total block of free journalistic coverage.
None of the major American broadcast corporations has reporters on the ground there, or dedicates more than a few soundbites per week to this carnage. All so U.S. weapon makers can keep up the $350 billion, 10-year sales contract Trump signed in May.
Another omission by these entertainment concerns that call themselves news organizations is exactly that: among the president’s Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Time For the Other Half Rule, Colltalers

There are an estimated 2.5 million homeless children living in the streets of America today. Many once belonged to the thousands of families with no place to crash. They may be joined by millions of immigrant kids and babies born each year out of teen moms.
And yet, the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court may add even more, given the two main tasks he was assigned to handle as a Justice. To scratch Roe v Wade, arguably the biggest deterrent against child pregnancy, may be the first one of them.
The other, of course, is to help pardon in the near or far future a possibly indicted, or impeached, president. The GOP and Co. have decided that only an accused rapist and ill-tempered drunk is fit to tackle such dirty work and, by the looks of it, he’s fully up to it.
We can’t say that his being all but shoved down the throat of the American people, to rule on matters great and small of their lives, was a rude awakening about the limitations of the power of protesting and moral indignation. That old gang of angry, rich, white misogynistic men, has shown once and again what they’re mainly after: more power. And now, to look good to the president too.
That they did it, assuring that another one of their very own got endowed with the powers of the country’s highest court to fulfill their agenda. Which includes keeping a tight grip on women’s reproductive organs and insulating Trump from any crime probes.
But for millions of women, rattled by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s courageous and heart-breaking public testimony about her worst private moment, the Kavanaugh confirmation was indeed a nauseating theater of horrors, capped by a big sucker punch in the gut.
The sight of a sprawling tent city growing in some isolated patch of America may not be easily associated with that staged drama broadcast from Capitol Hill though. But such a Draconian approach to immigration is a defining component of the Trump regime.
Morality and reason are certainly not. Because Continue reading