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The political fight in Brazil, from Greenwald’s view

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A very interesting article by Glenn Greenwald in The Intercept on the politics surround the impeachment of Brazil’s president:

What was the most powerful man in Brazil, the billionaire heir of the Globo empire, João Roberto Marinho (above), doing in the comment section of The Guardian? Granted: his comment received a coveted “Recommended” tag from Guardian editors – congratulations, João! – but still, it is not the place one expects to find a multi-billionaire plutocratic Brazilian heir.

On Friday, April 21, I published an op-ed in The Guardian, in which I posed numerous questions about the impeachment process against Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, as well as the role played by the dominant Brazilian media, led by Globo. João responded with anger – and with obvious falsehoods. As one can see, João criticized my article by calling me a liar in various ways in his response.

Look, João: like virtually all Brazilians, I had to battle a great deal to earn my place in life. I did not inherit a huge company and billions of dollars from my parents. The things I have had to overcome in my life are far more burdensome than your effort to discredit me with condescension, and it is thus not difficult to demonstrate that your response was filled with falsehoods.

In fact, João’s response deserves more attention than a mere comment because it is full of deceitful propaganda and pro-impeachment falsehoods – exactly what he tries to deny Globo has been spreading – and thus reveals a great deal (today, Guardian editors upgraded João’s comment into a full-fledged letter!).

Before addressing what João does say, let’s begin with something he neglects to mention: Globo’s long-standing role in Brazil. Under the rule of his father, Roberto Marinho, Globo cheered and glorified the 1964 military coup that removed Brazil’s democratically-elected left-wing government. Far worse, Globo, under the Marinho family, spent the next 20 years as the powerful propaganda arm of the brutal military dictatorship that tortured and killed dissidents and suppressed all dissent. In 1994, Globo simply and deliberately lied to the country when its on-air anchor described a massive pro-democracy protest on São Paulo as a celebration of the city’s birthday (they subsequently apologized for that as well). The Marinho family’s wealth and power grew as a direct result of their servitude to Brazil’s military dictators.

When anti-government protests erupted in 2013, by which time the military coup was widely despised by Brazilians, Globo’s history became a huge corporate embarrassment. So they did what all corporations do once their bad acts begin to hurt their brand: they finally acknowledged what they did and apologized for it. But they tried to dilute their responsibility by noting (accurately) that the other media outlets that still dominate Brazilian media and which have been as supportive of Dilma’s undemocratic exit (such as Estadão and Folha) also supported that coup, and they downplayed the role of Globo in supporting not only the coup but also the 20-year dictatorship that followed.

That is the ugly history of Globo and the Marinho family in Brazil, a major source of their wealth and power, and a reflection of the role they – and their highly-paid TV personalities – continue to play. It’s the same family running Globo now, governed by the same tactics and goals. That is not the conduct of a genuine media outlet. It is the conduct of an oligarchical family using its media outlet to shape and manipulate public opinion for its own purposes. Now, to João’s comment:

Mr. David Miranda’s article (“The real reason Dilma Rousseff’s enemies want her impeached,” from April 21, published by The Guardian) paints a completely false picture of what is happening in Brazil today. It fails to mention that everything began with an investigation (named Operation Carwash), which in turn revealed the largest bribery scheme and corruption scandal in the country’s history, involving leading members of the ruling Workers Party (PT), as well as leaders of other parties in the government coalition, public servants and business moguls.

What is “completely false” is João’s attempt to deceive readers into believing that Dilma’s impeachment is due to Lava Jato (Operation Car Wash). It is true that PT, like most of the major parties, has been revealed to be full of major corruption problems, and that many PT officials have been implicated by Lava Jato. But the case for Dilma’s impeachment is not based in any of that, but rather in claims that she manipulated the budget to make it look stronger than it was.

João’s misleading attempt to confuse a foreign audience by mixing the corruption and bribery scandals of Car Wash with Dilma’s impeachment exemplifies exactly the kind of pro-impeachment deceit and bias Globo has been institutionally disseminating for more than a year.

Beyond that, the political figures that Globo has been cheering and which impeachment will install – including Vice President Michel Temer andHouse Speaker Eduardo Cunha of the PMDB party – are, unlike Dilma, accused of serious personal corruption, proving that when people like João cite corruption to justify impeachment, that is merely the pretext for undemocratically removing the leader they dislike and installing the one they like.

The Brazilian press in general, and the Globo Group in particular, fulfilled their duty to inform about everything, as would have been the case in any other democracy in the world.

The suggestion that Globo is a neutral, unbiased news organization – rather than the leading propaganda arm of the Brazilian oligarchy – is laughable to anyone who has ever seen its programs. Indeed, the bias of Globo, and in particular its leading nightly news show Jornal Nacional, has been so extreme that it is now the source of regular mockery. There’s a reason pro-democracy street protesters choose Globo buildings as their target. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 April 2016 at 4:03 pm

Reporters Who Haven’t Noticed That Paul Ryan Has Called for Eliminating Most of Federal Government Go Nuts Over Bernie Sanders’ Lack of Specifics

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Dean Baker writes at Beat the Press:

The Washington press corps has gone into one of its great feeding frenzies over Bernie Sanders’ interview with New York Daily News. Sanders avoided specific answers to many of the questions posed, which the D.C. gang are convinced shows a lack of the knowledge necessary to be president.

Among the frenzied were the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, The Atlantic’s David Graham, and Vanity Fair’sTina Nguyen, and CNN’s Dylan Byers telling about it all. Having read the transcript of the interview I would say that I certainly would have liked to see more specificity in Sanders’ answers, but I’m an economist. And some of the complaints are just silly.

When asked how he would break up the big banks Sanders said he would leave that up to the banks. That’s exactly the right answer. The government doesn’t know the most efficient way to break up JP Morgan, JP Morgan does. If the point is to downsize the banks, the way to do it is to give them a size cap and let them figure out the best way to reconfigure themselves to get under it.

The same applies to Sanders not knowing the specific statute for prosecuting banks for their actions in the housing bubble. Knowingly passing off fraudulent mortgages in a mortgage backed security is fraud. Could the Justice Department prove this case against high level bank executives? Who knows, but they obviously didn’t try.

And the fact that Sanders didn’t know the specific statute, who cares? How many people know the specific statute for someone who puts a bullet in someone’s head? That’s murder, and if a candidate for office doesn’t know the exact title and specific’s of her state murder statute, it hardly seems like a big issue.


There is a very interesting contrast in media coverage of House Speaker Paul Ryan. In Washington policy circles Ryan is treated as a serious budget wonk. How many reporters have written about the fact this serious budget wonk has repeatedly proposed eliminating most of the federal government. This was not an offhand gaffe that Ryan made when caught in a bad moment, this was in his budgets that he pushed through as chair of the House Budget Committee.

This fact can be found in the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) analysis of Ryan’s budget (page 16, Table 2). The analysis shows Ryan’s budget shrinking everything other than Social Security and Medicare and other health care programs to 3.5 percent of GDP by 2050. This is roughly the current size of the military budget, which Ryan has indicated he wants to increase. That leaves zero for everything else.

Included in everything else is the Justice Department, the National Park System, the State Department, the Department of Education, the Food and Drug Administration, Food Stamps, the National Institutes of Health, and just about everything else that the government does. Just to be clear, CBO did this analysis under Ryan’s supervision. He never indicated any displeasure with its assessment. In fact he boasted about the fact that CBO showed his budget paying off the national debt. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 April 2016 at 8:59 am

Posted in Democrats, Election, Media

Our journalists are frequently an unperceptive lot

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Or maybe the corporations that own the media push them in that direction. In Salon Paul Rosenberg takes a look at media failures in reporting on Bernie Sanders:

The media are in an uproar over Bernie Sanders, following his double-digit landslide win in Wisconsin, which has raised the very real possibility that he might win the New York primary, a profound threat to Clinton’s credibility, even if her delegate lead were to remain prohibitive. Surrogate attacks questioning his fitness dovetailed with a media narrative fueled by an interview with the editorial board of the New York Daily News, which the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza called “pretty close to a disaster,” while the Atlantic’s David Graham wrote that “Throughout his interview, Sanders seemed taken aback when he was pressed on policy.” 

All this was bunk, as Ryan Grim explained at Huffington Post (more on this below), and besides, as Salon contributor Corey Robin noted, it wasn’t as if we hadn’t had seen decades of failed wonk politicians outmaneuvered by the likes of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

Nonetheless, the media narrative spread, in tandem with the Clinton campaign’s push, culminating in a Washington Post story, “Clinton questions whether Sanders is qualified to be president,” which said:

Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton on Wednesday questioned whether her rival in the Democratic presidential primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), is qualified to be president.

“I think he hadn’t done his homework and he’d been talking for more than a year about doing things that he obviously hadn’t really studied or understood,” Clinton said in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” just one day after losing the Wisconsin primary to Sanders, “and that does raise a lot of questions.”

Which in turn led Sanders to question Clinton’s qualifications, not in terms of character or intellectual capacity, but in terms of actual actions taken and policy positions spanning many years:

“I don’t believe that she is ‘qualified’ if she is, through her Super PAC, taking tens of millions of dollars in special interest money. I don’t think you are ‘qualified’ if you get $15 million from Wall Street through your Super PAC. I don’t think you are ‘qualified’ if you have voted for the disastrous war in Iraq. I don’t think you are ‘qualified’ if you have supported virtually every disastrous trade agreement which has cost us millions of decent-paying jobs. I don’t think you are ‘qualified’ if you have supported the Panama Free Trade Agreement, something I very strongly opposed and which, as all of you know has allowed corporations and wealthy people all over the world to avoid paying their taxes to their countries.”

This, in turn, led to a whole new round of political elite hand-wringing over Sanders’ supposed lack of manners, “crossing the line” with his specific language. But on Rachel Maddow’s show the next night, Sanders’ wife—a top campaign strategist in her own right and a former college president—presented a very different view of what was unfolding, in contrast to the style-over-substance media.

“Everybody keeps starting with what happened last night,” Jane Sanders began. “The fact is, for the previous—since Wisconsin—it was very clear, and it was spoken, very clearly that the strategy of the Clinton campaign was to disqualify, defeat, and then worry about uniting the party later. We heard that, we didn’t think much of it,” she said.

“But then, if we watch MSNBC, or other cable networks, all you saw every half hour was that action implemented by the surrogates. And Secretary Clinton herself said a number of things that, maybe not the word ‘unqualified,’ but certainly the intent. And that’s why reporters reported it that way, because they heard it that way,” she continued.

“What Bernie tried to do last night was to shift to ‘I’m qualified how’? ‘I’m qualified in the issues.’ That, if you’re going to talk about somebody not being qualified, then let’s talk about why. And what he did was say, okay, if I was going to say that she’s unqualified, it’s because of her support for trade deals that have been terrible for our country. It’s because she supported, and didn’t have the judgment for the Iraq War or Libya. He tried to switch it into a different venue: ‘Let’s talk about the issues.’ You know, that’s what Bernie always does.”

There’s nothing new in the fact that the establishment wants to view this clash as anything but a matter of substance, because the substance of the Sanders campaign is such a wide-ranging indictment of the establishment itself. As the media firestorm threatens to blow up even further, it’s more important than ever to remember what’s really at stake here–the core substance of the race–and not get distracted by a drama of manners, more full of deception than anything else.

Going back to that Daily News interview—the supposed proof of Sanders’ lack of seriousness—columnist Juan Gonzales, who participated, later reported on “Democracy Now!”, that he didn’t get the impression it was a disaster at all. “The editorial board is notorious, especially our editorial page editor, Arthur Browne, for his laser-like one question after another, and he bombarded, as several others of us also asked questions. I, overall, thought that Bernie Sanders handled the exchange very well. And I think that there were a few places where he stumbled, and—but I was amazed at his ability to parry the questions that were thrown at him…. I thought his performance was excellent.” That’s how it seemed to an insider who’d seen many such interviews over almost 30 years at the paper. So that’s one reference point to keep in mind.

Another reference point, mentioned above, comes from Ryan Grim at the Huffington Post pointing out that, “in several instances, it’s the Daily News editors who are bungling the facts in an interview designed to show that Sanders doesn’t understand the fine points of policy. In questions about breaking up big banks, the powers of the Treasury Department and drone strikes, the editors were simply wrong on details.” They even repeatedly confused the Federal Reserve with the Treasury Department—blaming Sanders himself for the confusion that resulted. Grim also focused on the interview exchange that got the most attention, Sanders’ supposed lack of clarity about how he would break up the biggest banks, which was actually perfectly accurate, “as economist Dean Baker, Peter Eavis at the New York Times, and HuffPost’s Zach Carter in a Twitter rant have all pointed out,” Grim wrote. “It’s also the position of Clinton herself.”

Toward the end of his devastating account of the editorial board’s own sloppiness, Grim summarized:

This wasn’t an interview about policy details. It was about who the media has decided is presidential and who isn’t, who is serious and who isn’t. The Daily News and much of the rest of the media don’t think Sanders is qualified to be president, and that’s the motivation for an interview meant to expose what the media have already decided is true….

Candidates the media deem to be serious do not get these policy pop quizzes, because it is believed (accurately) that they can hire experienced advisers who can work out the details. But if they were pressed, there’s no doubt a studied reporter could make them look silly.

Of course, it’s not just Sanders as an individual candidate they don’t like. Rather, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 April 2016 at 8:55 am

Posted in Democrats, Election, Media

Aiken SC newspaper squeals like a wounded pig when the story of the bad cop becomes public

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Because it turns out that it’s not just a bad cop, it’s also an incompetent and/or dysfunctional city government and a local newspaper that is so defensive that it’s painful. Radley Balko reports in the Washington Post:

About 10 days ago, I first reported about the traffic stop and apparent cavity search involving a black couple in Aiken, S.C. The story has since taken off and spurred some interesting reaction back in Aiken.

When I first asked Aiken Department of Public Safety Capt. David Turno about the incident, he told me that it had been investigated and that Officer Chris Medlin and the other officers remained on the police force.

After the story went viral, however, the city placed three of the four officers involved on “administrative reassignment” (the other officer has since retired), pending an investigation. The city also plans to hire an “outside group” to conduct that investigation. Additionally, the city announced that all officers in the department would be taking racial sensitivity training and city officials made a public commitment to making the police force more diverse.According to the Aiken Standard, the city also passed an emergency bill to set up a citizens review board to look at complaints against local police. The paper notes that the board was set up in direct response to the fallout from the story. The story was also the subject of a town hall meeting sponsored by state and local racial-justice groups.

Contrary to what Turno told me, city officials did not know about the lawsuit.Or if they did, they’re not admitting it.

Aiken City Manager John Klimm said Wednesday he was never made aware of the lawsuit service from a suit that says four Aiken police officers unconstitutionally searched two county residents on the side of the road in 2014.

An affidavit of service was hand delivered to the city on Oct. 22, 2015 at 2:59 p.m., court records show.

According to the affidavit, Sara Ridout, the city’s longtime clerk, who signed off on the service, is stated in the affidavit as authorized to accept the service.

On Wednesday, Klimm said he was never aware of the affidavit, and Ridout, who receives legal documents regularly, has no memory of the affidavit coming to the city.

Klimm added Ridout routinely passes legal documents on to the parties of interest, which Klimm said in this case could have been Aiken Public Safety Chief Charles Barranco or the staff member who handles the city’s insurance.

Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon says he first learned of the lawsuit on Facebook.

The city’s apparent ignorance of the lawsuit aside, the measures taken by the city council seem to be positive and productive. But at the same time that the city is investigating the officers, it’s also defending them. The Aiken Department of Public Safety continues to insist that the traffic stop and searches were all legal. And an unnamed source at the agency told the Aiken Daily Standard that it was Elijah Pontoon, not Officer Chris Medlin, who is heard on the recording saying, “You gonna pay for this one, boy.”

That seems unlikely. For one, it doesn’t sound like Pontoon. It sounds like Medlin. Of course, the audio isn’t all that great, so it’s difficult to say for sure. But there are other indicators. Pontoon is polite throughout the stop. He does at a couple points call the stop harassment. Given that neither he nor Lakeya Hicks had committed even a traffic violation, much less a crime, he had a point. It’s also just difficult to imagine a young black man who to that point had been polite referring to an armed, white cop as “boy.” Hicks and Pontoon also allege in their lawsuit that it was Medlin who made the comment. Given that the lawsuit itself doesn’t allege racial discrimination, it’s difficult to see why Pontoon would make that comment, then lie about it later. . .

Continue reading.

And do read the whole thing. The response from the local newspaper is astonishing.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 April 2016 at 10:45 am

Pro-TPP Op-Eds Remarkably Similar to Drafts By Foreign Government Lobbyists

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Lee Fang reports in The Intercept about a curious coincidence:

Opinion columns published in California newspapers over the last year in support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership use language nearly identical to drafts written and distributed by public relations professionals who were retained by the Japanese government to build U.S. support for the controversial trade agreement.

Take this column by former San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders, who now serves as the president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, in the San Diego Union-Tribune, titled: “Trans-Pacific trade pact benefits San Diego.”

Much of the language in Sanders’ op-ed also appears in a “San Diego Draft op-ed”distributed by Southwest Strategies, a consulting firm paid by the Japanese government to promote the TPP:

Jerry Sanders: “Notably, the TPP includes Japan, which is significant”
Southwest Strategies: “Notably, the TPP includes Japan, which is critical”

Jerry Sanders: “Trade is essential for sustaining America’s role as the most innovative economy in the world”
Southwest Strategies: “Trade is essential for sustaining America’s role as the most innovative economy in the world”

Jerry Sanders: “With more than 95 percent of the world’s consumers outside of our borders, and with more than one in five U.S. jobs dependent on trade, it is essential that the U.S. continue to open new markets for American goods and services, while creating and sustaining jobs for American workers.”
Southwest Strategies: “With more than 95 percent of the world’s consumers outside of our borders, and with more than one in five U.S. jobs dependent on trade, it is critical that the U.S. continue to open new markets for American goods, intellectual property rights and services, and create and sustain high-skilled, high-wage jobs for American workers.”

Or take this column, “TPP Will Strengthen California’s Economy,” by Pat Fong Kushida, the president and CEO of the CalAsian Chamber of Commerce, which was published in a Los Angeles daily newspaper called The Rafu Shimpo, with a truncated versionappearing in the Sacramento Business Journal.

Kushida’s pro-TPP column is word-for-word identical to a draft column distributed by Southwest Strategies. The only difference between the draft and the published op-ed are the verb tenses, such as changing “will be” to “was” and “addresses” to “addressed.”

Foreign lobbying records required by the Department of Justice show that Southwest Strategies was retained on March 12, 2015, for a contract of $10,000 per month, to promote trade policies favored by the Embassy of Japan. The relationship with Southwest Strategies, a San Diego-based company, was formed through KP Public Affairs, the highest grossing lobbying firm in Sacramento.

“We don’t have a policy on op-eds by third parties, but we do request that op-eds be exclusive to The San Diego Union-Tribune,” said Matthew Hall, the editorial and opinion director of the paper. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 April 2016 at 1:41 pm

More reports from the Center for Public Integrity about the Panama Papers

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Written by LeisureGuy

7 April 2016 at 1:31 pm

Donald Trump and Barack Obama on freedom of the press

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Peter Maass reports in The Intercept:

One of the intellectual gargoyles that has crawled out of Donald Trump’s brain is the idea that we should “open up” libel laws to make it easier to punish the media for negative or unfair stories. Trump also wants top officials to sign nondisclosure agreements, so they never write memoirs that upset the boss. Trump is so disdainful of free speech that he has even vowed to use the Espionage Act to imprison anyone who says or leaks anything to the media that displeases him.

Actually, that last bit is made up; Trump hasn’t talked about the Espionage Act. Instead, the Obama administration has used the draconian 1917 law to prosecute more leakers and whistleblowers than all previous administrations combined. Under the cover of the Espionage Act and other laws, the administration has secretly obtained the emails and phone recordsof various reporters, and declared one of them — James Rosen of Fox News — a potential “co-conspirator” with his government source. Another reporter, James Risen of the New York Times, faced a jail sentence unless he revealed a government source (which he refused to do).

Obama has warned of the imminent perils of a Trump presidency, but on the key issue of freedom of the press, which is intimately tied to the ability of officials to talk to journalists, his own administration has established a dangerous precedent for Trump — or any future occupant of the Oval Office — to use one of the most punitive laws of the land against some of the most courageous and necessary people we have. One section of the Espionage Act even allows for the death penalty.

Obama’s gift to Trump was unintentionally highlighted in a speech the president delivered last week at a ceremony to honor the winner of the Toner Prize for Excellence in Journalism. Obama lamented the financial challenges facing the journalism industry and lauded the assembled reporters and editors for the hard and vital work they do. He made no mention of the ways in which his administration is making that job even harder, however, and that omission prompted the winner of the prize,ProPublica’s Alec MacGillis, to gently note, “That does not get him off the hook for his administration taking so long to respond to our FOIAs.”

Two years ago, Eben Moglen, a law professor at Columbia University, gave a series of lectures in which he discussed the idea of “fastening the procedures of totalitarianism on the substance of democratic society.” Moglen’s lectures were mostly concerned with surveillance by the National Security Agency — the title of his talks was “Snowden and the Future” — but his idea applies to other procedures the U.S. government has recently become fond of. Few are more important than targeting whistleblowers and journalists, and Obama has begun the fastening process.

It’s a maddening situation that becomes all the more maddening when you think of the lives of the leakers and whistleblowers the Department of Justice has ruined. I have previously written at length about two of them,Jeffrey Sterling of the CIA and Stephen Kim of the State Department. A new documentary about Kim, directed by Steve Maing and released this week byField of Vision, the film division of The Intercept, powerfully shows the personal hell of living under Obama’s crackdown. After serving a prison sentence for discussing a classified report on North Korea with Fox’s James Rosen, Kim now finds it impossible to return to his old life. Although he has advanced degrees from Harvard and Yale, he cannot get a foreign policy job because of the taint of being a convicted leaker. Kim now describes himself as “homeless, penniless, family-less,” and adds, “I cannot go back to what I was. That person is gone.”

Leakers and whistleblowers are not just categories of people — they areactual people with names and careers and children and lives that have been unjustly crushed. David Petraeus, the former four-star general and CIA director, leaked far more classified data to his biographer-girlfriend than Sterling or Kim or John Kiriakou, and lied to the FBI about it. Petraeus, however, was let off with a misdemeanor plea bargain, because if you are powerful you can do as you like. That deal is another gift to Trump or any menace-in-waiting. The president has set a precedent that says it’s okay to literally give a get-out-of-jail card to your friends. . .

Continue reading.

Video at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 April 2016 at 11:23 am


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