The Intercept

If John McCain Was Telling the Truth in His Big Speech, He Can’t Vote for “Skinny Repeal”

27 July 2017 - 1:28pm

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain returned to the Capitol on Tuesday, just 11 days after brain surgery, and voted to open debate on the GOP’s health care bill. He then delivered a speech in which he made a specific pledge: “I have changes urged by my state’s governor that will have to be included to earn my support for final passage of any bill.”

McCain has previously made similar remarks, essentially giving his vote on health care to Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey:

I remain firmly behind @dougducey & will support whatever healthcare plan he believes is best for the people of #Arizona

— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) July 21, 2017

So what changes does Ducey want?

A month ago Ducey wrote a letter to McCain explaining his wishes in detail. Here’s how it began:

As you know, I have said for years that Obamacare is a policy disaster that must be repealed. It has devastated the commercial insurance market here in Arizona, eviscerating choice and creating double and triple digit increases year over year. This is unsustainable, indefensible, and must be addressed by Congress.

Obeying Ducey’s guidelines would therefore make it impossible for McCain to vote for the “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Care Act that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is rumored to be readying for a vote as soon as Thursday night. Ten governors, five Democrats and five Republicans, have written to the Senate declaring their opposition to skinny repeal, although Ducey is not among them. (Neither McCain nor Ducey immediately responded to requests for comment.)

McConnell refuses to make the bill public, so it’s impossible to be absolutely certain what’s in it, but people who’ve seen it say it would eliminate the ACA’s individual and employer mandate and some of its taxes, while leaving the rest of it, including its Medicaid expansion, in place.

Senate Democrats have asked the Congressional Budget Office to score these changes. According to the CBO, they would raise the cost of insurance policies in individual exchanges by 20 percent (as well as lead to 16 million fewer Americans having health insurance by 2026). This increase in costs is a logical outcome of dropping the requirement that individuals have insurance, since some healthy people would simply wait until they had a serious illness to get coverage — thereby creating a sicker, more expensive risk pool.

The rest of Ducey’s letter details his concerns about any bill’s treatment of Medicaid. McCain has in fact attempted to address these, introducing three amendments on Wednesday based directly on Ducey’s list of issues. Ducey’s worries, however, would be irrelevant for skinny repeal, since it would not change Medicaid.

Many Republicans have used premium increases on the individual market as a rationale for altering the ACA, but then nonetheless supported changes that would make insurance more expensive. The question now is whether McCain meant what he said in his celebrated speech — and whether Ducey actually meant what he said in the beginning of his letter and will hold McCain to it.

Top photo: This still frame from video provided by Senate Television shows Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., speaking on the floor of the Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday, July 25, 2017.

The post If John McCain Was Telling the Truth in His Big Speech, He Can’t Vote for “Skinny Repeal” appeared first on The Intercept.

Steve Bannon Wants Facebook and Google Regulated Like Utilities

27 July 2017 - 12:31pm

Facebook Inc. and Google Inc. logos are displayed on computer screens in this arranged photo made in 2012 in New York.

Photo: Peter Foley/Bloomberg News/Getty Images

Tech companies like Facebook and Google that have become essential elements of 21st century life should be regulated as utilities, top White House adviser Steve Bannon has argued, according to three people who’ve spoken to him about the issue.

Bannon’s push for treating essential tech platforms as utilities pre-dates the Democratic “Better Deal” that was released this week. “Better Deal,” the branding for Democrats’ political objectives, included planks aimed at breaking up monopolies in a variety of sectors, suggesting that anti-monopoly politics is on the rise on both the right and left.

Bannon’s basic argument, as he has outlined it to people who’ve spoken with him, is that Facebook and Google have become effectively a necessity in contemporary life. Indeed, there may be something about an online social network or a search engine that lends itself to becoming a natural monopoly, much like a cable company, a water and sewer system, or a railroad. The sources recounted the conversations on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to give the accounts on record, and could face repercussions for doing so.

Regulating a company as a utility does not mean that the government controls it, but rather that it is much more tightly regulated in what it is able to do and prices it is able to charge. And it doesn’t mean every element of the company would be regulated in that way. For Google — which now calls itself Alphabet and has already conveniently broken itself up into discrete elements — it may only be the search function that would be regulated like a utility.

Under the Obama administration, the Federal Communications Commission moved forward on a plan to regulate internet service providers as utilities, barring them from slowing down traffic to a site in order to pressure it into paying higher fees. The Trump administration is pushing to reverse that move, which complicates Bannon’s message.

Bannon’s argument is bolstered by an unlikely player: Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. For years, Zuckerberg routinely described Facebook as a “social utility.” In an interview in 2007 with Time magazine, he was asked to elaborate on what had become a central talking point.

TIME: Why do you describe Facebook as a “social utility” rather than a “social network?”

Zuckerberg: I think there’s confusion around what the point of social networks is. A lot of different companies characterized as social networks have different goals — some serve the function of business networking, some are media portals. What we’re trying to do is just make it really efficient for people to communicate, get information and share information. We always try to emphasize the utility component.

The emphasis on the utility component has disappeared now that Zuckerberg is surrounded by lawyers well versed in monopoly laws, but the argument is as resonant today — in fact, more so — than it was a decade ago.

Tech companies, meanwhile, have feuded publicly with the administration, particularly over its decision to back out of the Paris climate accord, a move driven by Bannon.

Silicon Valley’s liberal cultural politics puts it at odds occasionally with more conservative, rural Trump voters. Facebook was confronted by a backlash over its news curating during last year’s presidential campaign. With insiders claiming there was an anti-conservative bias, Facebook pulled its live team off the project. Instead the social media giant turned its curation over to an algorithm that had little ability to detect whether an article had been utterly fabricated, giving rise to the explosive growth of “fake news” (before the moniker morphed into a description of any news a reader objects to).

Silicon Valley caught on late to the Washington game. In 2011, Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt., then the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, complained that Google had waited too long to hire an armada of lobbyists. “Sometimes a company should pay attention early on, not just when matters happen,” he said. “But I can’t tell them, nor would I, who they should hire or not.”

Google was playing catch up at the time, and hiring every committee staffer who wasn’t nailed down. “I consider myself a public works project right here,” Leahy said of the antitrust investigation he was leading. “My colleagues call it the Leahy Full Employment Act.”

They have since caught up: In the first few months of the Trump administration, tech firms set new lobbying spending records in Washington.

 

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The post Steve Bannon Wants Facebook and Google Regulated Like Utilities appeared first on The Intercept.

Despite What the Press Says, “Maverick” McCain Has a Long and Distinguished Record of Horribleness

27 July 2017 - 10:19am

What sort of person takes a break from taxpayer-funded cancer treatment and flies 2,000 miles to cast a vote that could result in 22 million people losing their health insurance and tens of thousands of them also losing their lives, then makes a big speech about how messed up the whole process is?

Perhaps the same sort of person who relentlessly agitated for an invasion and occupation of Iraq that caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and led to millions of others being displaced from their homes?

Or maybe the same sort of person who put personal and party interests ahead of the national interest when he picked the know-nothing, far-right demagogue Sarah Palin, the ur-Trump, as his running mate in 2008?

Meet John Sidney McCain III: Veteran Republican senator from Arizona and former GOP presidential candidate, who endured horrific torture and abuse at the hands of the Vietcong between 1967 and 1973, and who was tragically diagnosed with brain cancer last week — and who has also been a loathsome human being for most of his eight decades on this planet.

McCain, whose nickname in high school was “McNasty,” has a long and well-documented history of temper tantrums and vicious bullying. The victims of his profanity-laden tirades range from his Democratic opponents and their children — “Do you know why Chelsea Clinton is so ugly? Because Janet Reno is her father,” he joked at a 1998 Republican fundraiser — to anti-war protesters (“low-life scum“) to fellow Republican Sens. Charles Grassley (“fucking jerk“) and Peter Domenici (“asshole“).

He once compared the president of Iran to a monkey and still insists on calling his Vietnamese captors “gooks” (the fact that they brutally tortured him does not excuse his repeated use of a crude racial epithet). Then there is his poor wife. As journalist Cliff Schecter recounts in his 2008 book “The Real McCain”:

In his 1992 Senate bid, McCain was joined on the campaign trail by his wife, Cindy, as well as campaign aide Doug Cole and consultant Wes Gullett. At one point, Cindy playfully twirled McCain’s hair and said, “You’re getting a little thin up there.” McCain’s face reddened, and he responded, “At least I don’t plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you cunt.”

None of this, however, seems to matter to his legion of fans and admirers in the press. “It is simply impossible to overestimate the love, bordering on worship, that reporters in Washington long had for McCain,” wrote the Washington Post’s Paul Waldman on Tuesday, “and to a great degree still do.”

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) answers questions from reporters as he walks to a meeting of Republican senators where a new version of their healthcare bill was scheduled to be released at the U.S. Capitol July 13, 2017 in Washington, D.C.

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

It is thanks to these friendly journalists — “my base,” as McCain dubbed them — that the Arizona senator has been able to cultivate his image as an independent, a rebel, a maverick. Yet the truth is that McCain has always been a card-carrying conservative.

The former GOP presidential candidate, who proudly calls himself pro-life and a “Reagan Republican,” spent his first decade in Congress voting for tax cuts and trying to block the creation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. He has earned a lifetime rating of 81.6 percent from the American Conservative Union and, according to a survey by FiveThirtyEight, has voted in line with President Donald Trump — a leader with whom he pretends to disagree — 90.7 percent of the time. (“Never Trump”? Well, I guess 9.3 percent of the time.)

McCain, to quote FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten, is a “MINO… or maverick in name only.” He is, perhaps above all else, a brazen hypocrite. Here is a Republican foreign policy hawk who sanctimoniously suggests support for human rights “must be an essential part of our foreign policy” while backing war after war that violates those very same rights. Here is a hero of the neocons who issues pious proclamations about the importance of promoting democracy and free elections while also cozying up to some of the world’s worst dictators.

As ever, his boosters in the media give him cover. In a fulsome if bizarre encomium to the former GOP presidential candidate last Saturday — headlined “What we can all learn from John McCain” — the Washington Post editorial board declared that “all over this world, Mr. McCain is associated with freedom and democracy” and claimed he had “championed human rights with verve and tirelessness — speaking out against repression and authoritarianism, and inviting… both Republicans and Democrats, to bear witness with him on trips abroad.”

This is pure fantasy. What was McCain bearing witness to in 2009 when he offered to sell weapons to Colonel Gaddafi at a private meeting with the Libyan dictator and his son Muatassim? According to a State Department cable released by WikiLeaks, “McCain assured Muatassim that the United States wanted to provide Libya with the equipment it needs for its security.” McCain would later support regime change in Libya but the 2009 cable does not make any mention of him raising the issue of human rights with Gaddafi in person — with or without any “verve.”

What was McCain bearing witness to on all those friendly trips to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where he glad-handed Saudi royals? And where was the championing of human rights last month, when he helped block a bipartisan attempt in the Senate to restrict the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia in order to try and reduce the number of civilian casualties in war-torn Yemen? Oh, and was it McCain’s association with “freedom and democracy” that prompted the Saudis to donate $1 million to the McCain Institute at Arizona State University?

The Post’s editorial also heaped praise on McCain for supporting “victims of repression” and offering them “succor and encouragement in the fight against tyranny.” This must have come as a surprise to the Palestinians, victims of the longest ongoing military occupation in the world. The former Republican presidential candidate is a strong defender of Israel and close ally of Benjamin Netanyahu. In 2014, he defended Israel’s murderous assault on Gaza and, in 2015, he said the U.S. government “shouldn’t be considering” supporting a Palestinian bid for statehood, warning that in the event of the United Nations recognizing a state of Palestine “the United States Congress would have to examine our funding for the United Nations.” Repressed Palestinians? Screw ‘em.

As FAIR.org media analyst Adam Johnson has observed, we have been fed a “childlike narrative of McCain as brave truth-teller, rather than predictable champion of war and empire who occasionally makes toothless references to human rights for the purposes of image curation.”

The “image curation” is in full swing these days — as are the repeated attempts to stifle any criticism of the Arizona senator’s awful political record. Yet those of us who heard McCain call for U.S. troops to occupy Iraq for “100 years”; who watched him laugh and sing “bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb” Iran; who listened to him call for an escalation of the unwinnable war in Afghanistan cannot — and should not have to — stay silent because he was diagnosed with cancer last week, or because of his undoubted bravery in Vietnam five decades ago.

We can wish McCain a speedy recovery while also acknowledging that he is nevertheless, to quote Jimmy Carter, an unrepentant “warmonger.” He has the blood of tens of thousands of innocents, in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Libya, on his hands. And with his vote to move the Republican healthcare push forward in the Senate this week, he may soon have the blood of tens of thousands of Americans on his hands as well.

Top photo: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., arrives at the Capitol for a briefing with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who is releasing the Republicans’ healthcare bill, on June 22, 2017, in Washington.

The post Despite What the Press Says, “Maverick” McCain Has a Long and Distinguished Record of Horribleness appeared first on The Intercept.

Steve Bannon Pushing For 44 Percent Marginal Tax Rate On The Very Rich

26 July 2017 - 4:25pm

Top White House adviser Steve Bannon is pushing for tax reform to include a new 44 percent top marginal tax rate, hitting people who earn more than $5 million a year, with the revenue paying for tax cuts for the rest, according to three people who’ve spoken to him recently.

The top rate is now 39.6 percent and most Republicans have been planning to lower it significantly as part of tax reform. The plan Trump put out previously would have only three brackets, with the top one brought down to 35 percent.

Raising taxes on the very rich has been a rare policy that President Donald Trump has publicly espoused throughout much of his life. On Tuesday, he told the Wall Street Journal, “if there’s upward revision it’s going to be on high-income people.”

“I have wealthy friends that say to me, ‘I don’t mind paying more tax,’” he said. White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders was pressed on Trump’s comment at a televised briefing Wednesday, and said that further specifics of the plan would be released shortly, with an emphasis on tax cuts for the middle class.

Axios previously reported that Bannon was looking to raise the top marginal rate to “something with a four in front of it,” but the 44 percent bracket for those making $5 million and above is a more fleshed out proposal. Bannon has described himself as an “economic nationalist” and has pushed a populist agenda both through his previous outlet Breitbart News and and as an adviser to Trump. That contrasts with what Bannon calls the “globalist” wing of the party, made up by people like economic adviser Gary Cohn (though both Cohn and Bannon come from Goldman Sachs).

When the broad outline of the tax hike was reported earlier, Breitbart covered it favorably. The hike on the very rich would face stiff opposition from congressional Republicans, but find favor with Democrats.

According to IRS data, just over 43,000 people filed tax returns for the year 2014 claiming income of at least $5 million, accounting for $600 billion in taxes, or 8.8 percent of the total taxes paid.

The new rate would only apply to about a third of that money, as the 44 percent kicks in at the $5 million level. Still, the hike would pull in around $18 billion per year, or $180 billion over 10 years.

Take a survey: should Democrats negotiate with Trump on tax reform?

Top photo: White House Senior Adviser Steve Bannon arrives ahead of a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington on April 20, 2017.

The post Steve Bannon Pushing For 44 Percent Marginal Tax Rate On The Very Rich appeared first on The Intercept.

Trump Bans Transgender Soldiers in Twitter Decree That Echoes Evangelical Meme

26 July 2017 - 2:44pm

Donald Trump’s Twitter decree banning transgender Americans from serving in the military because of the imaginary “tremendous medical costs” involved was framed by the president as the result of a deliberative process involving “consultation with my Generals and military experts.”

That seems to be far from the truth, given that a study conducted for the Department of Defense last year by the RAND Corporation showed that such costs would be minimal, and the announcement of the sweeping policy change, made while Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is on vacation, clearly caught the Pentagon by surprise.

Official Pentagon statement from spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis on Trump's Tweet-announced military transgender ban pic.twitter.com/8JaEBbEUjY

— Corey Dickstein (@CDicksteinDC) July 26, 2017

The decree also came just three weeks after Mattis had ordered the armed forces to undertake a six-month review of the potential impact on the services of opening up recruitment to transgender individuals.

One of the authors of the RAND study, the Princeton economist Radha Iyengar Plumb, pointed out on Wednesday that the president’s claim about medical costs was not born out by the evidence. Of an estimated 1,320 to 6,630 transgender personnel currently serving in the military, only a small subset — between 29 and 129 service members a year — would be likely to seek gender transition-related treatment that could disrupt their ability to deploy, Iyengar Plumb noted.

If the services were open to transgender recruits, the RAND study found, “health care costs would increase by between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually, representing a 0.04 to 0.13-percent increase” in spending from the Pentagon’s $6 billion annual budget for medical costs for active-duty service members.

As Matt Novak of Gizmodo noted, just five weeks ago, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, publicly acknowledged that that thousands of “transgender personnel are serving right now,” and reassured them that while the Pentagon was reviewing recruitment policy for the future, “there is no review ongoing that would affect the ability of those currently serving of serving.”

Here's the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on June 19, 2017 saying that there's no plan to change the policy on trans members serving pic.twitter.com/SQSiRyo9fV

— Matt Novak (@paleofuture) July 26, 2017

As recently as May, the Pentagon was still producing inspirational videos for LGBT Pride month about the struggle for acceptance by transgender personnel like Army Specialist Zane Alvarez.

Trump’s announced ban, however, went far beyond the question of new recruits, stating that “the United States Government will not accept or allow… Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.”

So, if the information underpinning his decision to ban transgender soldiers is not coming from either military leaders or experts, where did the commander-in-chief get the wrong-headed idea that associated medical costs could bankrupt the Pentagon?

It is hard to say for sure, but the false claim closely echoes a meme promoted recently on social networks and in political advertisements targeting Democrats — and paid for by the Family Research Council, an ultra-conservative evangelical Christian group. The ads falsely suggest that the cost of Chelsea Manning’s hormone therapy was somehow equivalent to the cost of a war plane.

We're running this ad in NY-23 to encourage people to tell @RepTomReed how they want the military to spend their tax $. Call 202-225-3161. pic.twitter.com/j6TjBVAXbC

— FRCAction (@FRCAction) July 20, 2017

In a gleeful statement, Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council and a former marine, applauded Trump’s decision to reverse the Pentagon’s decision last year to allow transgender members to serve openly, which he called “the social experimentation of the Obama era that has crippled our nation’s military.”

Without citing any source for the statistic, Perkins went on to claim that having the Pentagon pay for gender transition–related treatment would mean “diverting billions of dollars from mission-critical training.”

Earlier this month, the House narrowly rejected an amendment to a nearly $700 billion spending bill to fund the Pentagon proposed by Rep. Vicky Hartzler, a Republican from Missouri, that would have blocked any of the money from being spent on medical treatment related to gender transition.

After Hartzler’s amendment failed, the Family Research Council lobbied against passing any Pentagon appropriations bill that allowed for spending on gender transition therapy, which could be what prompted Trump’s sudden decision.

“Now that we are assured that the Defense Department has its fiscal priorities in order,” Perkins said on Wednesday, “the Family Research Council withdraws our opposition to increasing the budget of the Department of Defense.”

Oddly, when Trump was asked during last year’s campaign if he would reverse the policy on transgender soldiers, during a discussion with retired soldiers hosted by Tony Perkins and another Christian extremist on the Family Research Council board, retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, he insisted that he would leave the decision “to the generals, the admirals, the people on top… and your top enlisted people.”

“We’ll get our military people to come back and make recommendations to me,” Trump said, “and I will follow those recommendations.”

Given how much of Trump’s information seems to come from Fox News, it seems likely that the president’s confusion and anger over the Pentagon’s acceptance of its transgender personnel might also have been stoked by Tucker Carlson, who expresses outrage over transgender issues on an almost nightly basis.

In recent weeks, Carlson has focused specifically on attacking the acceptance of transgender soldiers, calling the policy “a massive social program designed to affirm different communities because they put political pressure on the White House.”

“Most taxpayers like to think that the money the military spends goes to expenses like submarines and ammunition,” Carlson said at the start of another segment two weeks ago. “Very few think of sex changes and transgender awareness training,” he added. “The question is, will that help us win wars?”

Closing the feedback loop, Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to appear on Carlson’s show on Wednesday night to discuss Trump’s decision to cancel the policy that so disturbed the pundit.

Looking forward to chatting with @TuckerCarlson about @POTUS' wins these first six months in office. pic.twitter.com/Wi8RUaa6Lo

— Vice President Pence (@VP) July 26, 2017

Top photo: President Donald Trump speaks to members of the U.S. military alongside Vice President Mike Pence following a meeting at the Pentagon in Washington on July 20, 2017.

The post Trump Bans Transgender Soldiers in Twitter Decree That Echoes Evangelical Meme appeared first on The Intercept.

Depois de 15 anos e muita pressão, FLIP finalmente abre espaço para mulheres e negros na programação

26 July 2017 - 1:22pm

São muitas as expectativas em relação à 15ª FLIP (Festa Literária Internacional de Paraty) que, nesta edição homenageia Lima Barreto e acontece de 26 a 30 de julho, no litoral do Rio de Janeiro. Já estive em cinco edições anteriores e acompanhei com grande interesse a primeira delas, em 2003, quando estava começando a escrever. Até então, nenhuma outra feira literária tinha recebido tanta atenção da imprensa, dando visibilidade a escritores e escritoras nacionais e trazendo nomes de destaque no cenário internacional, como Don DeLillo e o historiador Eric Hobsbawn. De lá pra cá, muito coisa mudou – principalmente o fato de ter partido de uma edição em que, entre os 25 convidados, nenhum era negro e apenas três eram mulheres.

Eu poderia estar não prestando atenção, mas não me lembro de grandes manifestações apontando para isso à época. É bom saber que a FLIP se repensou, ao mesmo tempo em que é triste que tenha levado 15 anos e apenas depois da pressões de ações como a do Leia Mulheres, que questionou o número de escritoras na FLIP 2014, e o evento “Vista nossa palavra, Flip 2016, do Grupo de Estudos e Pesquisas Intelectuais Negras-UFRJ, que lançou a carta da professora e pesquisadora Giovana Xavier, apontando a ausência de escritoras negras na FLIP 2016.

Grande parte da mudança deve ser creditada à nova curadora, a jornalista Josélia Aguiar, que assumiu reconhecendo a importância de, sendo o evento de referência, a FLIP ter a responsabilidade de acompanhar os debates e as pautas que são, não apenas brasileiras, mas mundiais. Resultado: a FLIP 2017 terá 46 convidados: 24 são mulheres e 30% são negros/as.

Para mudar, para buscar alternativas dentro de um mercado que está sempre discutindo a própria crise, é preciso querer e insistir.

Uma das principais justificativas, quando apontamos a ausência de mulheres, negros e indígenas em eventos literários é a meritocracia, como se não houvesse qualidade fora das esferas mais visíveis em que recaem as escolhas fáceis e midiáticas: “não olhamos cor, nem gênero, mas apenas a qualidade da obra dos convidados”.

Não é esse o questionamento, e meritocracia é palavra que, em tempos de lava-jatos e afins, deveria ser banida da cena brasileira, contaminada pelas relações de apadrinhamento e de negociatas com a finalidade de se manter o status quo.

Curadoria que se vale do conceito de meritocracia para justificar a ignorância frente ao novo, que na maioria das vezes nem novo é, mas apenas algo que esteve fora de seu radar, reconhece a própria incapacidade de acompanhar o mercado (e o mundo) como um todo.

Lembro-me, por exemplo, da curadoria da FLIP 2016 solicitando, em mesa realizada no Espaço Itaú Cultural de Literatura, “esta bibliografia de vocês”, como se a literatura produzida por escritores e escritoras negras fosse algo em separado da literatura brasileira, como se tivéssemos a obrigação de realizar um trabalho para o qual ele estava sendo pago para fazer.

Infelizmente, esta é uma situação bastante comum no mercado literário. Assim como uma outra ideia também bastante equivocada, também manifesta pela curadoria da FLIP 2016: “O país ainda está democratizando seu universo de leitura. A universidade brasileira, há pouco tempo, começou a ter uma nova cara, e acho que esse movimento vai chegar na Flip – na plateia da Flip. Mas é um processo em que temos de trabalhar juntos para que seja superado.”

O que se está tentando dizer aqui é que não há mercado para escritores e escritoras negras (novamente, considerando-o um mercado em separado) e que negros ainda não se interessam por literatura, e por isso, não frequentavam a FLIP. Ou que, pior ainda, leitores brancos não se interessariam pela literatura produzida por escritores ou escritoras negros/as. Me parece óbvio que essa é uma explicação bastante simplista, que desconsidera, por exemplo, o fator econômico, que impede muitos de frequentar Paraty na época do evento, com seus restaurantes e suas pousadas a preços quase proibitivos. Mas é ignorar também que o público negro, ao se sentir representado, ao ver reconhecido a trabalho e a produção de escritoras e escritores nos quais se sentem representados, comparecerão; não o contrário. Para mudar, para buscar alternativas dentro de um mercado que está sempre discutindo a própria crise, é preciso querer e insistir.

Outra justificativa simplista sempre usada por curadorias literárias Brasil afora é que convites foram feitos, mas não foram aceitos. É preciso saber que mulheres, em algumas situações, precisam pensar em algo mais do que apenas se prepararem para a uma viagem visando participar de um evento literário. Dizem que existe, embora eu não conheça, escritores homens que, antes de aceitarem um convite para viajar a trabalho, ausentando-se de casa por vários dias, consultem esposas para saber se elas podem ficar responsáveis, sozinhas, pelo cuidado com a casa e os filhos que pertencem a ambos. Conheço várias escritoras que, antes de poderem confirmar uma viagem, precisam pensar em arranjos e negociações com companheiros, ex-companheiros, familiares e empregadores e, muitas vezes, a possibilidade de aceitação não depende apenas delas.

Diante de uma recusa, o que a grande maioria das curadorias faz é substituí-las por convidados homens. Como a participação em eventos é completar ao trabalho da escrita, tanto em termos financeiros quanto de divulgação, o que fazem é contribuir para a perpetuação da situação de desigualdade das condições de trabalho oferecidas a uns e outras.

Estamos cansados de sermos convidados apenas para aquelas mesas nas quais são tratados assuntos de “militância negra”.

A justificativa de que escritores e escritoras negras também recusam certas participações também devem ser analisadas com mais atenção. Estamos cansados de sermos convidados apenas para aquelas mesas nas quais são tratados assuntos de “militância negra”, nas quais raramente temos a oportunidade de falar sobre o nosso trabalho, nas quais somos perguntados apenas sobre assuntos considerados “assuntos de negros”, como se tais assuntos não fizessem parte do que é simplesmente humano, sendo, portanto, parte do que deveria ser matéria de uma literatura universal.

Muitas vezes recusamos certos convites porque sabemos que estaremos uma mesa “à parte” da programação, sub-aproveitados e usados para que curadores e organizadores se protejam da acusação de não convidar negros ou mulheres. Queremos também que pensem em nós como entrevistadores, mediadores, curadores e afins, porque acreditamos que podemos colocar em debate assuntos e pontos de vista que, com certeza, enriqueceriam os eventos.

Portanto, minhas expectativas não são somente para um evento mais plural e interessante quanto aos convidados e ao público, mas também para que, como aconteceu logo no seu início, esta FLIP sirva de modelo e inspiração para os vários outros eventos literários Brasil afora. Que venham, cada vez mais, boas leituras, boas conversas, bons encontros e boas descobertas para todos nós! Axé!

Foto em destaque: Conceição Evaristo que encerra a Flip deste ano no domingo dia 30.

The post Depois de 15 anos e muita pressão, FLIP finalmente abre espaço para mulheres e negros na programação appeared first on The Intercept.

100,000 Pages of Chemical Industry Secrets Gathered Dust in an Oregon Barn for Decades — Until Now

26 July 2017 - 10:43am

For decades, some of the dirtiest, darkest secrets of the chemical industry have been kept in Carol Van Strum’s barn. Creaky, damp, and prowled by the occasional black bear, the listing, 80-year-old structure in rural Oregon housed more than 100,000 pages of documents obtained through legal discovery in lawsuits against Dow, Monsanto, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Forest Service, the Air Force, and pulp and paper companies, among others.

As of today, those documents and others that have been collected by environmental activists will be publicly available through a project called the Poison Papers. Together, the library contains more than 200,000 pages of information and “lays out a 40-year history of deceit and collusion involving the chemical industry and the regulatory agencies that were supposed to be protecting human health and the environment,” said Peter von Stackelberg, a journalist who along with the Center for Media and Democracy and the Bioscience Resource Project helped put the collection online.

Van Strum didn’t set out to be the repository for the people’s pushback against the chemical industry. She moved to a house in the Siuslaw National Forest in 1974 to live a simple life. But soon after she arrived, she realized the Forest Service was spraying her area with an herbicide called 2,4,5-T — on one occasion, directly dousing her four children with it as they fished by the river.

The chemical was one of two active ingredients in Agent Orange, which the U.S. military had stopped using in Vietnam after public outcry about the fact that it caused cancer, birth defects, and serious harms to people, animals, and the environment. But in the U.S., the Forest Service continued to use both 2,4,5-T and the other herbicide in Agent Orange, 2,4-D, to kill weeds. (Timber was — and in some places still is — harvested from the national forest and sold.) Between 1972 and 1977, the Forest Service sprayed 20,000 pounds of 2,4,5-T in the 1,600-square-mile area that included Van Strum’s house and the nearby town of Alsea.

A view of the Five Rivers valley in rural Oregon looking southwest from Carol Van Strum’s front door.

Photo: Risa Scott/RF Scott Imagery

As in Vietnam, the chemicals hurt people and animals in Oregon, as well as the plants that were their target. Immediately after they were sprayed, Van Strum’s children developed nosebleeds, bloody diarrhea, and headaches, and many of their neighbors fell sick, too. Several women who lived in the area had miscarriages shortly after incidents of spraying. Locals described finding animals that had died or had bizarre deformities — ducks with backward-facing feet, birds with misshapen beaks, and blinded elk; cats and dogs that had been exposed began bleeding from their eyes and ears. At a community meeting, residents decided to write to the Forest Service detailing the effects of the spraying they had witnessed.

“We thought that if they knew what had happened to us, they wouldn’t do it anymore,” Van Strum said recently, before erupting into one of the many bursts of laughter that punctuate her conversation. We were sitting not far from the river where her children played more than 40 years ago, and her property remained much as it was back when the Forest Service first sprayed them with the herbicide. A mountain covered with alder and maple trees rose up across from her home, just as it did then, and the same monkey puzzle tree that was there when she moved in still shaded her dirt driveway.

But Van Strum, now 76, is much changed from the young woman who politely asked that the federal agency stop spraying many years ago. After the Forest Service refused their request to stop using the herbicides, she and her neighbors filed a suit that led to a temporary ban on 2,4,5-T in their area in 1977 and, ultimately, to a total stop to the use of the chemical in 1983.

For Van Strum, the suit was also the beginning of lifetime of battling the chemical industry. The lawyer who had taken their case offered a reduced fee in exchange for Van Strum’s unpaid research assistance. And she found she had a knack for poring over and parsing documents and keeping track of huge volumes of information. Van Strum provided guidance to others filing suit over spraying in national forests and helped filed another case that pointed out that the EPA’s registration of 2,4-D and other pesticides was based on fraudulent data from a company called Industrial Bio-Test Laboratories. That case led to a decision, in 1983, to stop all aerial herbicide spraying by the Forest Service.

“We didn’t think of ourselves as environmentalists, that wasn’t even a word back then,” Van Strum said. “We just didn’t want to be poisoned.”

Still, Van Strum soon found herself helping with a string of suits filed by people who had been hurt by pesticides and other chemicals. “People would call up and say, ‘Do you have such and such?’ And I’d go clawing through my boxes,” said Van Strum, who often wound up acquiring new documents through these requests — and storing those, too, in her barn.

Some of the more than 100,000 pages of discovery material related to the chemical industry that were stored in Carol Van Strum’s barn in rural Oregon.

Photo: Risa Scott/RF Scott Imagery

Along the way, she amassed disturbing evidence about the dangers of industrial chemicals — and the practices of the companies that make them. Two documents, for instance, detailed experiments that Dow contracted a University of Pennsylvania dermatologist to conduct on prisoners in the 1960s to show the effects of TCDD, a particularly toxic contaminant found in 2,4,5-T. Another document, from 1985, showed that Monsanto had sold a chemical that was tainted with TCDD to the makers of Lysol, who, apparently unaware of its toxicity, used it as an ingredient in their disinfectant spray for 23 years. Yet another, from 1990, detailed the EPA policy of allowing the use of hazardous waste as inert ingredients in pesticides and other products under certain circumstances.

There were limits to what Van Strum could prove through her persistent data collection. The EPA had undertaken a study of the relationship between herbicide exposure and miscarriages and had taken tissue samples from water, animals, a miscarried fetus, and a baby born without a brain in the area. The EPA never released the full results of the “Alsea study,” as it was called, and insisted it had lost many of them. But a lab chemist provided Van Strum with what he said was the analysis of the test results he had been hired to do for the EPA, which showed the samples from water, various animals, and “products of conception” were significantly contaminated with TCDD.

When confronted, the EPA claimed there had been a mix-up and that the samples were from another area. Van Strum filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the results and, for years, battled in court to get to the bottom of what happened. Though the EPA provided more than 34,000 pages in response to her request (which Van Strum carefully numbered and stored in her barn), the agency never released all the results of the study or fully explained what had happened to them or where the contaminated samples had been taken. And eventually, Van Strum gave up. The EPA declined to comment for this story.

Carol Van Strum prepares to work on her property with her dogs Maybe and Mike at her side in May 2017.

Photo: Risa Scott/RF Scott Imagery

She had to make peace with not fully understanding a personal tragedy, too. In 1977, her house burned to the ground and her four children died in the fire. Firefighters who came to the scene said the fact that the whole house had burned so quickly pointed to the possibility of arson. But an investigation of the causes of the fire was never completed.

Van Strum suspected some of her opponents might have set the fire. It was a time of intense conflict between local activists and employees of timber companies, chemical manufacturers, and government agencies over the spraying of herbicides. A group of angry residents in the area near Van Strum’s home had destroyed a Forest Service helicopter that had been used for spraying. And, on one occasion, Van Strum had come home to find some of the defenders of the herbicides she was attacking in court on her property.

“I’ve accepted that I’ll never really know” what happened, said Van Strum, who never rebuilt her house and now lives in an outbuilding next to the cleared site where it once stood.

But her commitment to the battle against toxic chemicals survived the ordeal. “If it was intentional, it was the worst thing that ever happened to me,” she said. “After that, there was nothing that could make me stop.”

Still, after all these years, Van Strum felt it was time to pass on her collection of documents, some of which pertain to battles that are still being waged, so “others can take up the fight.” And the seeds of many of the fights over chemicals going on today can be tied to the documents that sat in her barn. The Industrial Bio-Test Laboratories scandal is central in litigation over the carcinogenicity of Monsanto’s Roundup, for instance. And 2,4-D, the other active ingredient in Agent Orange, is still in use.

Meanwhile, private timber companies continue to use both 2,4-D and Roundup widely, though not in the national forest. Van Strum has been part of an effort to ban aerial pesticide spraying in the county, and is speaking on behalf of the local ecosystem in a related lawsuit.

“I get to play the Lorax,” Van Strum said. “It’s going to be fun.”

Top photo: From left, Carol Van Strum and her neighbor Kathy clean and pull staples as Peter von Stackelberg, who covered Industrial Bio-Test Laboratories as a reporter for the Regina, Saskatchewan, Leader-Post, operates two scanners simultaneously, May 2017.

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Koch Brothers Orchestrate Grassroots Effort to Lower Corporate Taxes, Documents Show

26 July 2017 - 8:00am

The billionaire Koch brothers are well-prepared for the upcoming debate over tax reform, with allies arranging to plant questions at town hall meetings and efforts to orchestrate a grassroots army to demand lower corporate taxes.

A detailed timeline for the Koch strategy was laid out in a recent document prepared by a public relations firm that services the broad network of conservative advocacy groups controlled by the billionaire brothers’ political network. The plan calls for action to take advantage of President Donald Trump’s pledges to reform the tax code. Trump has called for cutting the corporate tax rate by as much as 50 percent, and eliminating the estate tax on inherited wealth, creating a unique opportunity to propose legislation that would benefit business owners such as the Koch brothers.

“Comprehensive tax reform has been a long-standing priority for our network, and the election of Donald Trump, coupled with pro-freedom majorities in the House and Senate, offers us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to restore prosperity by enacting reforms,” the document, obtained by the Intercept, declares.

The strategy memo lays out a five phase plan for passing a version of tax reform that is favorable to the Koch donor network. The Koch brothers make clear that their ideal tax reform legislation would exclude the idea of an import or carbon tax, while focusing on broad reductions in the corporate tax rate.

Although a portion of the strategy entails traditional lobbying and meetings with influential policymakers, along with paid advertising to pressure lawmakers, the memo also calls for substantial resources to be invested in grassroots advocacy.

During Phase 3 of the strategy, starting next month, the Koch network will use its grassroots advocacy arms, including Americans for Prosperity, to put pressure on member of Congress when they return home for town hall meetings during the August recess period. The Koch network will use constituent meetings to “drive the narrative” around the need for their tax reform ideas, the memo said.

Advancing Comprehensive Tax Reform document

The meta-data of the document shows that it was created by Avery Boggs, a former vice president at Freedom Partners, the umbrella group that oversees the Koch political network. Boggs now works as a vice president at In Pursuit Of, a public relations firm spun off from the Koch network designed to provide marketing services to the various groups that receive funding from Freedom Partners.

The Koch network includes a range of political advocacy organizations, each designed to play a particular role in advancing causes and candidates backed by the billionaire energy tycoons and their allies. Americans for Prosperity, for instance, has about 500 paid staffers, and plays a leading role in organizing broad grassroots campaigns. Another group, Concerned Veterans for Americans, focuses on mobilizing veterans. The network includes i360, a campaign data company that developed intricate profiles of voters.

Last week, Politico reported that Americans for Prosperity plans to kick off tax reform efforts on August 2 at an event at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., a conservative leader in Congress, will speak at the event.

The Koch network, a major importer of Canadian tar sands oil, has lobbied aggressively to ensure that any tax reform package does not include the import tax once favored by Trump. Recent disclosures show they have attempted to influence the “House Republican Tax Reform Blueprint Draft.”

The tax reform memo was distributed around the time of a Koch network retreat, held to collaborate with like-minded conservative business leaders and investors, last month in Colorado Springs, Colorado. At the event, the brothers pledged to raise $300 million for their network over the next year.

Top photo: Americans for Prosperity Foundation chairman and Koch Industries Executive Vice President David H. Koch applauds during the Defending the American Dream Summit at the Washington Convention Center Nov. 4, 2011 in Washington.

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Intercepted Podcast: Glenn Greenwald on the New Cold War

26 July 2017 - 6:01am

Subscribe to the Intercepted podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, and other platforms. New to podcasting? Click here.

 

With all the constant hype about Russia, you’d think we were living in a new Cold War. This week on Intercepted: Glenn Greenwald fills in for Jeremy Scahill, and we take a deep dive into the origins and evolution of the Trump-Russia story. Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and Glenn find something they can actually agree on (the Democratic establishment’s Russia hysteria), but diverge on Tucker’s coverage of immigration and crime. Glenn responds to stories by Peter Beinart and Jeet Heer. And Russian-American writer Masha Gessen explains how conspiracy thinking is a mirror of the leaders we put in power, and why it’s so tempting — and dangerous — to believe in simplistic reasons for Trump’s election.

Transcript coming soon.

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Don’t Be Fooled By This Senate Vote: The Road To Repealing Obamacare Is Just As Long As It Was Yesterday

25 July 2017 - 8:26pm

Driven forward by taunts and threats from President Donald Trump, 50 Republicans snapped to attention in the Senate on Tuesday and voted in dramatic fashion to proceed to a debate on repealing the Affordable Care Act.

The vote paves the way for Republicans to move forward — though the Senate seems unlikely to be able to carry out any of its most ambitious plans for undoing President Barack Obama’s signature health care reform law. Instead, Republicans appear poised to pass a limited repeal of several elements of the Affordable Care Act, if even that much.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., a member of leadership, suggested the GOP’s goal had been significantly scaled back. “I think it’s to try and get the best product we can out of the Senate, given the reality we have to deal with,” he told The Intercept when asked if the party’s aim was just to get something out of the upper chamber to reconcile with version passed by the House in May.

Tuesday’s drama was heightened by the return of an ailing Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the former Republican presidential candidate who was flown in on a private jet to cast a needed vote. McCain was greeted by a standing ovation from his colleagues on both sides of the aisle before he grinned and flashed two thumbs up, voting to move forward on a bill the Congressional Budget Office says would cost millions of people their health insurance.

He was then given special dispensation to address his colleagues, and delivered an Aaron Sorkin-esque speech about the decline of compromise, the rise of partisanship, and the need to overcome it. The distance between his speech and the vote he had just cast could hardly have been greater, but he attempted to fill it with a promise that the process he was voting to move forward today would fail, and he was very unlikely to vote for the end product.

McCain will stay for just a few days in Washington, he said, before he’ll return to Arizona to begin treatment for a type of brain cancer that is fatal in an overwhelming number of cases, and took the life of his friend and colleague Sen. Ted Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts.

While McCain begged the Senate to return to “regular order” — committee votes, thoughtful legislating, that sort of thing — the process his vote unleashed could make the last six months look downright deliberate. And, in the best case (legislative) scenario for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a conference committee will deliver a take-it-leave it bill that 50 of his colleagues will agree to take.

To get to this point, McConnell had to effectively take off the table the proposals that had been on it up until last week. The pomp and the circumstance served to obscure the reality that the only thing accomplished was an agreement to debate something — though that something is still itself obscured.

A straight repeal bill similar to what Congress passed in 2015, only to suffer Obama’s veto, does not have the 50 votes needed to pass. The “Better Care Reconciliation Act,” the repeal-and-replace bill that has confounded the Senate for months, also lacks support. And two key provisions to amend that bill — the “Cruz amendment” to allow non-compliant Obamacare plans to be sold, and an amendment from Rob Portman restoring some funding to Medicaid — will require 60 votes because they haven’t been scored by the Congressional Budget Office. So they will fail.

The new idea, per NBC News, is to come up with a “skinny repeal.” This would consist merely of eliminating the individual and employer mandates and, perhaps, the medical device tax on large non-retail medical equipment.

Would there even be 50 votes for a skinny repeal? “We’ll see. I don’t know. I think there are things we can get 50 votes for at the end of the process,” Thune said.

That “bill,” the lowest common denominator of relatively unpopular Obamacare items, would then go to a House-Senate conference to merge with the House-passed American Health Care Act. There it would be dramatically re-written.

“Each of these steps along the way gives you a little more clarity. If what we are able to pass in the Senate are items that all 50 Republicans — or at least 50 Republicans — agree on, that would get us to a conference with the House. But you’d still have to work out differences with the bill in the House that has a lot of features in it that may not end up being in whatever comes out of here,” said Thune.

Whatever came out of conference would then get an up-or-down vote in both chambers of Congress. “All the things you are trying to avoid will emerge from that conference,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., warned his moderate Republican colleagues.

Among Republicans, only Sens. Susan Collins, of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, voted against the motion to proceed. By moving forward on the motion, senators like Ohio’s Rob Portman, Nevada’s Dean Heller, and West Virginia’s Shelley Moore Capito risk being left with nothing but a take-it-or-leave-it bill at the end, under enormous pressure to cave.

“Make no mistake about it. There is no doubt — and we all know when the bill gets to conference — who’s going to call the shots,” Schumer said, pointing to the most conservative faction in the House. “The Freedom Caucus, which will be for full repeal or something even worse than what came from the House. And remember: On the House bill, a whole number of Republican senators said they wouldn’t vote for it.”

It’s an unsurprising turn of events for McConnell, who has catered mainly to his right flank throughout the deliberations on the health care bill. But it’s an embarrassment for senators who furrowed their brow and voted to proceed, stepping into a process where their role will be thoroughly silenced.

This upends the long-standing promise McConnell made these wavering senators over health care. He said repeatedly that they would have the opportunity to amend the bill to their liking on the floor, if they’d only pass a motion to proceed. Even in his floor speech before the vote, McConnell referred to an “open amendment” process, where Senators could “work their will.”

But what McConnell has set in motion would rob these Senators of that ability.

That’s because skinny repeal is just a vehicle to advance the process, as Thune articulated. What’s in it doesn’t really matter, and that includes any additional amendments senators manage to attach. The real action would occur in that House-Senate conference negotiation, where the leadership teams of both Republican caucuses would hash out the final bill. Portman, Murkowski, Heller and their colleagues would be as distant from that negotiation as they were from knowing what they would voted on today.

And then the so-called moderates, with no chance to pass an amendment, would be told to vote for the bill out of party solidarity, to keep the seven-year promise of repealing Obamacare. They would face enormous pressure to advance a bill they had no say on. It is the exact opposite of what McConnell promised.

In his statement explaining his support for moving forward, Heller said his vote “gives us the opportunity to fight… for commonsense solutions that could improve our health care system.” This is false; the vote to go down the skinny repeal road actually forecloses that opportunity. Heller, who publicly rejected a motion to proceed on the original repeal and replace bill in June, once understood that. Capito, who voted to proceed, says she will “continue to push for policies that will result in affordable health care coverage for West Virginians.”

Their ability to do that, though, requires credibility that they have the will to kill it in the end. Murkowski and Collins clearly do. McCain says he does, though he has spent his career straddling the same gap he did today, just never so openly. Capito, Heller, and Portman are wild cards. “I didn’t come to Washington to hurt people,” Capito famously said when declaring her opposition to a previous motion to proceed.

Yet the old dynamics that have made agreement elusive so far will remain. The more Capito and Portman can extract, the less attractive the bill becomes to the far right, and so on.

And then there are the likes of Jerry Moran of Kansas, Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, and Ted Cruz of Texas, who have all expressed opposition to versions of the bill that have been floated so far.

Johnson, on Tuesday, showed the power that each senator has, with each holding a deciding vote. He came late to the vote, and stood in front of McConnell’s desk, engaging him in an intense conversation that went longer than ten minutes. As it went on, McConnell’s face reddened and he gripped his desk with a force that seemed to test the strength of the centuries-old wood. With all eyes in the Senate on the pair, the conversation was finally broken by McCain’s entrance. After McCain voted aye, Johnson joined him.

McConnell, by all accounts, has long been ready to move on from Obamacare. It was a campaign tactic that had served its purpose. But Trump isn’t finished with his focus on undoing Obama’s legacy, and McConnell is finding ways to keep the repeal effort alive. At what cost to him, his colleagues, the Senate, and the American people remains to be seen.

Top photo: Republican Sens. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and John Thune, R-S.D., after a narrow GOP victory in a procedural vote on U.S. President Donald Trump’s effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

The post Don’t Be Fooled By This Senate Vote: The Road To Repealing Obamacare Is Just As Long As It Was Yesterday appeared first on The Intercept.

How A Democratic Senator Plans To Jam Up Repeal With Over 100 Amendments

25 July 2017 - 6:22pm

Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., has a stack of more than a hundred amendments ready to propose during the debate over repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, according to sources familiar with Merkley’s thinking.

The unusual Senate process that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is employing creates the opportunity for unusual situations on the Senate floor — allowing for maneuvers like the one planned by Merkley.

The first 20 hours of debate will be fairly normal, evenly divided between the two sides with major amendments offered and voted on. None of them are expected to pass, because McConnell does not have the votes for full repeal or for his replacement measure. Instead, he is focused on a “skinny repeal” targeting merely the individual and employer mandates for insurance, and the medical device tax.

Along the way, however, the Senate will have a period of time known as a vote-a-rama, where an unlimited number of amendments can be offered. Merkley plans to take advantage of that process and offer as many as physically possible.

Ultimately, McConnell could demand that the tactic be ruled dilatory and, even in the absence of such a ruling, could shut it down with a majority vote. But previously he and other majority leaders have preferred to try to wait it out, hoping that fatigue sets in.

The vote-a-rama will begin later this week. A spokeswoman for Merkley declined to comment.

Top photo: Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., speaks during a news conference on climate change, on Capitol Hill April 27, 2017 in Washington.

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Anthony Scaramucci Dreams of State-Run TV — Let’s See How That’s Working Out in Poland

25 July 2017 - 1:53pm

Before he landed his new job as White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci reportedly told fellow Republicans that the Trump administration should cut out the middleman and just produce its own television news show each morning.

The financier, who until recently produced and hosted his own show, “Wall Street Week,” on the Fox Business channel, said last month at Mitt Romney’s annual retreat in Deer Valley, Utah, that he might advise the president to set the day’s agenda by producing a morning news show from a desk on the White House lawn at 7 a.m.

According to the attendee who told the Washington Post about Scaramucci’s brain storm, he also suggested that the White House could even invite guests like Democratic Congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to appear on the in-house version of “Fox and Friends.”

“I like Anthony,” the unnamed attendee told the Post, “but Pelosi and Schumer aren’t going on his state-run morning show.”

Still, Scaramucci has experience with starting, and hosting, a television show. He bought the rights to the moribund “Wall Street Week” franchise in 2015 and paid to broadcast its first 39 episodes as, essentially, an infomercial for Wall Street, and himself, before the series was picked up by Fox.

That means that Scaramucci might just be serious about his idea to revive the fortunes of the reality TV star in the Oval Office by subjecting Americans to a daily, journalist-free news show designed to flatter his boss. (Given his new role in the White House, it is interesting to note that the trailer for “Wall Street Week” features video of Scaramucci confronting former President Barack Obama on television in 2010. The trailer does not, however, show Obama’s long and detailed answer, in which he essentially destroyed the premise of the question.)

For an idea of what Scaramucci’s state-run television might look like, consider what’s happened to Poland’s national broadcaster, TVP, since the far-right Law and Justice Party took power there in 2015, with less than 38 percent of the vote, and replaced more than 160 senior broadcast journalists with more compliant staffers.

Take, for instance, the state broadcaster’s coverage of the recent street protests across Poland that convinced Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, to veto two bills passed by his former colleagues in the Law and Justice Party that would have allowed them to appoint judges and fire the whole supreme court.

The impassioned, often witty protests were documented in dramatic images shared widely on social networks.

Tak by?o dzisiaj w #Warszawa pod S?dem Najwy?szym! ? Polacy, jeste?cie wielcy! ??#3xWeto#Obro?myDemokracj? pic.twitter.com/5NLU9bNYWw

— Piotr Ko?omycki (@MrKolomycki) July 22, 2017

#Krakow #PolandDefendsDemocracy pic.twitter.com/fbBqrUzAXI

— Ró?a Thun (@rozathun) July 20, 2017

WARSAW! pic.twitter.com/5gQdGnEsXQ

— Exen ?? (@Exen) July 23, 2017

Naprawd? dobra przeróbka "Another Brick in The Wall" :) #SN #ZamachLipcowy Chór TAK #Gdansk pic.twitter.com/meLRqgwjSs

— Katarzyna W?odkowska (@k_wlodkowska) July 20, 2017

Instead of simply broadcasting those images of the protests, however, TVP told its viewers that the protesters were enemies of the state, intent mainly on bringing Muslim immigrants to Poland, and had been hired by foreign public relations firms.

"The street revolts are an attempt to bring Muslim immigrants to Poland."

Poles don't need The Onion, because Poles have state television. pic.twitter.com/J9uosj3V79

— Piotr Zalewski (@p_zalewski) July 22, 2017

Polish state TV: Protests organised by foreign PR firms.
Foreign PR firms: Errrrr… you're the ones who hired us. pic.twitter.com/9K9522zwJF

— Christian Davies (@crsdavies) July 23, 2017

After the president announced that he would veto two of the three measures on judicial control passed by parliament, Poles shared a satirical news alert from an imagined North Korean version of their national broadcaster, TVP.

?PILNE pic.twitter.com/cry7iOcsJU

— TV? Korea (@tvpiKorea) July 24, 2017

That satirical report was based on the premise that the police had raided the presidential palace over suspicion that Poland’s president had been bribed by George Soros, the philanthropist whose support for democracy promotion is often distorted into something sinister by conspiracy theorists across the former Soviet bloc (and in the West Wing of the White House).

Night after night, as Poles who object to being brainwashed tune in to the evening news, they register their shock at the parade of alternative facts filling their screens.

Polish state TV news air 100% made-up story about crying woman at last returning to Poland from emigration in UK…
Goebbels would be proud. https://t.co/fpdgqA68P4

— ??Martin Mycielski (@mycielski) July 23, 2017

After Bartosz Wielinski, the foreign editor of Gazeta Wyborcza, a Polish newspaper started by the anti-communist opposition in 1989, decried the broadcaster’s descent into propaganda in the New York Times, his opinion piece was described on the evening news as the modern-day equivalent of collaboration with the Nazis.

Dzi?kuj? Bogu i @BeataSzyd?o, ?e TVPiS mnie tak rozpieszcza pic.twitter.com/RorNop9Drw

— Bartosz T. Wieli?ski (@Bart_Wielinski) July 5, 2017

Last week, as Wielinski pointed out on Twitter, TVP smeared lawyers who opposed the government as defenders of pedophiles.

Vile #propaganda in Poland: State TV @tvp_info accuses lawyers who oppose the govt of having been attorneys for paedophiles.#ZamachLipcowy pic.twitter.com/nb3abaBk56

— Bartosz T. Wieli?ski (@Bart_Wielinski) July 19, 2017

Before that, TVP incited hatred for Dorota Bawolek, the Brussels correspondent for Polsat, an independent Polish news channel, accusing her of trying “to harm Poland,” by asking a European Union diplomat about the government’s clash with the EU over its attempts to control the judiciary.

State-controlled Polish TV instigated hate against Brussels journalist @EURACTIV https://t.co/3d2Ua3Q6mY -//

— Brygida Biedron (@Brygida_Poland) July 18, 2017

As the news site Euractiv reported, Bawolek was quickly inundated with hundreds of slurs and threats on social networks calling her “anti-Polish” and “a snitch,” among other things.

Another news site focused on the European Union, EU Observer, reported in March that TVP had broadcast a report on a diplomatic setback for Poland as if it was a triumph. The same news report also falsely said that the EU “promoted Islamic Sharia law,” and featured a false claim by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the far-right head of Poland’s ruling party, that there were 54 “Sharia zones” in Sweden.

Polish TV airs alternative report on #EU summit https://t.co/gpvk9JVf9l

— EUobserver (@euobs) March 10, 2017

“Polish TV reports now trumpet [Law and Justice Party] successes on a daily basis, quoting economists or other experts who all sing the government’s praise,” the EU Observer explained. “TVP also promulgates the party’s right-wing values,” the site added, citing two recent reports in which the broadcaster had “attacked a gay mayor in the town of Slupsk over traveling to Berlin and accused people at a recent women’s day rally of hate speech.”

The broadcaster also used a racist image of former President Barack Obama as a slave in a New Year’s broadcast.

That's @BarackObama shown on Polish state TV's New Year's Eve as a cotton field worker. Yes, @POTUS as a black slave. #Poland welcomes 2017. pic.twitter.com/zYgOGWz7Rl

— ??Martin Mycielski (@mycielski) January 2, 2017

Unsurprisingly, Poland’s government-controlled main channel showed unbridled enthusiasm for the recent visit by Scaramucci’s boss, President Donald Trump, whose anti-Muslim rhetoric is identical to that of the ruling Law and Justice Party. Pulling out all the stops, TVP’s breakfast show even featured a bizarre English-language song in honor of the president, “Trumping and Jumping,” performed by Andrzej Rosiewicz, an elderly entertainer who once serenaded Mikhail Gorbachev during the communist era on the same state television channel.

In the song, Rosiewicz, who describes himself as “the Polish Fred Astaire,” lays his praise for Trump on quite thick. If, however, he hopes to perform it one day on Anthony Scaramucci’s breakfast show on the White House lawn, he might be asked to re-work some of the lyrics, like the one that goes: “Mr. President, they say you’re a hero/ of Robert De Niro.”

Top photo: After commuting to Washington by private jet on Monday morning, Anthony Scaramucci spent his first full day at The White House.

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Senators Promise to Amend Israel Boycott Bill After Backlash

25 July 2017 - 10:42am

The lead author of the controversial Israel Anti-Boycott Act, Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, is open to amending the legislation to address concerns raised by the American Civil Liberties Union, he told The Intercept Monday evening.

The ACLU warned last week that the measure, which targets the BDS movement, was unconstitutional and would have a chilling effect on free speech. In the wake of that warning, and a subsequent article by The Intercept, co-sponsors of the bill have begun to re-examine their support for it.

Cardin said that the ACLU had misinterpreted his legislation, but if it needed to be clarified, he would take the steps to do so. “A lot of the co-sponsors are pretty strongly committed to the freedom of speech,” Cardin said. “We’re certainly sensitive to the issues they raise. If we have to make it clearer, we’ll make it clearer.”

He and the ACLU, he said, disagreed about what the bill would do. “I respect greatly the ACLU. I think that many of their points are just not correct. We don’t want to do anything to infringe freedom of speech,” he said.

One issue of contention is whether criminal penalties such as a 20-year prison sentence would apply to those who violate the law. “I actually read it. Turns out, all of this is wrong,” offered the legal affairs correspondent for the Daily Beast in his hot take on the bill. “The ACLU misread the law.”

On Monday night, in an op-ed in the Washington Post, two top officials at the ACLU stood by their legal interpretation. “Violations would be punishable by civil and criminal penalties of up to $1 million and 20 years in prison,” write David Cole and Faiz Shakir, the ACLU’s legal and political directors, respectively.

“We thought we only dealt with civil penalties, not criminal penalties,” Cardin told The Intercept. “But if that’s not clear, we’re willing to deal with these issues.”

If the bill were amended to clarify that no criminal penalties could be applied, violators would still face a $250,000 civil fine or more.

Cardin also said that individual American citizens who backed a boycott of Israel would face no legal consequences, and made that point in a letter penned with co-sponsor Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, that was sent to colleagues on Friday.

But the text of the bill bans actions “which have the effect of furthering or supporting restrictive trade practices or boycotts fostered or imposed by any international governmental organization against Israel or requests to impose restrictive trade practices or boycotts by any international governmental organization against Israel.”

It’s not hard to see how the ACLU read that as a broad ban that criminalized speech.

Co-sponsors of the bill have faced pressure at home to explain support for a bill with such language in it. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass., is reviewing the bill in the light of the ACLU’s concerns, as are Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Maria Cantwell of Washington, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

Gillibrand was pressed on her support for the measure at a town hall in New York over the weekend, and said that she was reviewing it in the wake of the ACLU letter. She added criticism of Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu, whom she said had no vision for peace in the region. “I do share your concerns about the current government of Israel,” she told an activist with Jewish Voices for Peace. (The group said on Monday that five of its activists were barred from traveling to Israel at an American airport; supporting BDS in Israel is a civil offense.)

WATCH we urge @SenGillibrand not to support the S-720 attack on free speech & Palestinain rights. And she hears us! #right2boycott pic.twitter.com/sNm46s0BME

— JVP – New York City (@jvpliveNY) July 22, 2017

“We’re all looking at,” McCaskill told The Intercept. “They’ve registered a concern with all of us, as you know. The vast majority of Democrats signed the bill. We’re taking a look at it.” (That’s close enough for government work: 15 of the chamber’s 48 Democratic caucus members have sponsored it; 30 Republicans have put their names to it.)

Blumenthal said he’s open to changes. “They have some legitimate concerns and I want to sit down with them,” he said. “The bill may need to be amended.”

Wyden, a co-sponsor, said he was encouraged that Cardin and Portman had put out a letter “outlining how it protects the First Amendment,” he said. “Obviously, I feel very strongly about the First Amendment.”

Top photo: Demonstrators hold signs during a rally in the War Room at the New York state Capitol on June 15, 2016, in Albany, N.Y.

The post Senators Promise to Amend Israel Boycott Bill After Backlash appeared first on The Intercept.

Top Democrat Wonders if Pentagon Broke Procurement Laws Wasting Millions on Afghan Army Uniforms

24 July 2017 - 7:28pm

The top Democrat on the Senate’s Homeland Security Committee is demanding answers about a report that the Pentagon wasted $28 million buying uniforms with a forest camouflage pattern for the Afghan army — even though forests only cover 2 percent of the country.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., sent a letter to the Department of Defense asking for information about how it is investigating the waste internally and how the Pentagon plans to ensure its uniform choices are cost-effective in the future. What’s more, McCaskill questioned whether the process by which the uniforms were procured followed the laws governing the procedure.

“These failures raise the question of whether or not DOD properly abided by federal procurement law,” McCaskill wrote in her letter, referring to the Pentagon’s inability to justify the wasted expenditure to a congressionally mandated oversight body.

Last month, John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, issued a scathing report saying the Pentagon spent $93 million to purchase 1.3 million uniforms and 88,000 extra pairs of pants with a forest pattern, “without conducting any formal testing to determine the pattern’s effectiveness for use in Afghanistan.”

The report concluded that, in addition to providing a “more clearly visible target to the enemy,” the uniforms were unnecessarily expensive because they were chosen from a design owned by a private company instead of one of the dozens of designs the Pentagon owns and keeps on file.

“We had camouflage patterns. Dozens of them. For free,” Sopko said last month.

This image from a report by the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction shows Spec4ce camouflage pattern options.

Image: DOD and HyperStealth documentation

In response to the report, Jedidiah Royal, the acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for Central Asia, wrote a letter to Sopko announcing multiple internal reviews of the uniform procurement process.

The report came at a time when the Trump administration was looking to ramp up the U.S. military effort in the 16-year-long war. President Donald Trump has given the Pentagon the authority to set troop levels in the country, and it is expected to announce an increase of 3,000 to 4,000 American troops this summer.

As special inspector, Sopko has ruffled feathers in Washington by pursuing waste far more aggressively than many other inspectors general, uncovering hundreds of millions of dollars of waste over his five-year tenure.

In 2014, he found that the U.S. had spent $486 million on a fleet of barely used cargo planes, which were eventually sold for scrap metal. The following year, he found that the Pentagon spent $43 million on a single gas station, $36 million on a command-and-control facility that had never been used, and $150 million on private villas and luxury meals for “five to 10 employees” of a development task force. But aid money continues to flow — and the U.S. spends billions per year on aid to the Afghan government, which critics say is deeply corrupt. Some of the aid even ends up in Taliban hands.

On the uniforms issue, McCaskill demanded that the Pentagon respond to her inquiries by August 4.

Top photo: Afghan National Army soldiers patrol the Shah Wali Kot district of Kandahar province on May 23, 2017.

The post Top Democrat Wonders if Pentagon Broke Procurement Laws Wasting Millions on Afghan Army Uniforms appeared first on The Intercept.

Cantor na festa de um ano da gestão Temer, Sérgio Reis é o líder em emendas pagas pelo governo

24 July 2017 - 5:08pm

Quando o presidente Michel Temer comemorou um ano de gestão, no último 13 de maio, um grupo de políticos, entre eles deputados e ministros, festejou com ele em um refinado restaurante italiano de Brasília, o Trattoria do Rosário. Na ocasião, a voz rouca do cantor e deputado Sérgio Reis (PRB/SP) entoou o clássico sertanejo “O menino da porteira” para aplausos do presidente. Na Câmara, o deputado também anda tendo motivos para comemorar: ele foi o que mais teve emendas pagas este ano pelo governo. Foram R$ 8,4 milhões no total, segundo levantamento feito por The Intercept Brasil com base nos dados do site Siga Brasil.

Um ranking feito por TIB mostra que os dez deputados com mais emendas pagas em 2017 receberam um total de R$ 72,5 milhões. A maioria deles é intimamente alinhado às pautas do governo e defende categoricamente Temer pelos corredores do Congresso Nacional. Ainda de acordo com o levantamento, só em 2017 já foram liberados cerca de R$ 1,5 bilhão de reais a 737 deputados com e sem mandato.

Na liderança da lista, Sérgio Reis teve um total de sete emendas pagas pelo governo neste ano. Em fevereiro, houve um pagamento de R$ 252.607,99 destinado a apoio e manutenção de unidades de saúde para o estado de São Paulo. Para o mesmo fim, outras quatro emendas totalizando R$ 2.965.541,91 foram liberadas em março. Em junho, o valor das emendas do deputado cresce, e o governo paga mais duas que, somadas, chegam a R$ 5.188.383,49 também para a área da saúde. Ao todo, nos seis primeiros meses deste ano, o total foi de exatos R$ 8.406.533,39 executados.

O governo vem sofrendo duras críticas pela liberação desenfreada de grandes recursos no mês mais grave da crise política, quando o Planalto se via ameaçado: ou atendia aos interesses dos deputados ou poderia não conseguir maioria para rejeitar a denúncia de corrupção contra o presidente, com votação prevista para a próxima semana, em 2 de agosto.

As emendas parlamentares individuais são dotações inseridas no Orçamento da União que abastecem os redutos eleitorais dos parlamentares com recursos para obras públicas. Em ano pré-eleitoral, são essenciais para que os políticos beneficiem suas bases nos estados. TIB mostrou recentemente que até o ex-deputado Eduardo Cunha (PMDB-RJ), preso no complexo de Pinhais, em Curitiba, também foi agraciado com a liberação de recursos de mais de R$ 1,6 milhão.

Para quem a banda toca, afinal?

Apesar de todo o agrado por parte do governo e mesmo já tendo elogiado Temer num passado recente, o cantor tem se aproximado muito nos últimos tempos do aspirante ao Planalto Álvaro Dias (PV-PR), árduo crítico da atual gestão, que chegou a pedir a renúncia do presidente após a divulgação das gravações comprometedoras feitas pelo dono da JBS, Joesley Batista. Sérgio Reis figura como “indeciso” no site 342agora, criado para acompanhar o posicionamento dos congressistas sobre a continuidade da denúncia criminal contra Temer.

A reportagem entrou em contato com o deputado Sérgio Reis para entender a aplicação dos recursos, mas o deputado ainda não se manifestou.

Entre os dez deputados mais bem pagos com emendas parlamentares em 2017, a maioria faz parte da tropa de choque de Temer. Em segundo lugar, está o líder do PMDB na Câmara Baleia Rossi (SP), com R$ 7.660.534,74. Em seguida, Alexandre Serfiotis (PMDB-RJ), que recebeu R$ 7.553.345,51. Partiu de Rossi a iniciativa de que o PMDB fechasse questão contra a continuidade da denúncia contra Temer. Ele também sugeriu que Zveiter fosse retirado da CCJ após apresentação do parecer contra Temer.

Os deputados Laerte Bessa (PR/DF) e Paulo Maluf (PP/SP), membros da CCJ e que votaram contra o andamento da denúncia de corrupção contra Temer, receberam respectivamente R$ 7.039.886 e R$ 6.768.072, ocupando os sétimo e oitavo lugares do ranking. De acordo com o 342agora, todos se manifestaram contrários à continuidade da investigação contra Temer.

Coube a Paulo Maluf contar sobre as qualidades até então desconhecidas de Temer aos presentes que acompanham a sessão na CCJ.  “Conheço Temer há 35 anos e, em 35 anos de convivência, não dá para a gente se enganar. Temer é um homem honesto, probo, correto e decente que está sendo acusado de maneira absolutamente imprópria”, profetizou.

O deputado Paulo Maluf, que já foi condenado à prisão na França e figurou na lista da interpol, diz que Temer é homem "honesto e probo". pic.twitter.com/CytvXPLWn8

— The Intercept Brasil (@TheInterceptBr) July 12, 2017

O cargo que Bessa ocupou na CCJ era anteriormente de Jorginho Melo (PR/SC), retirado pelo partido por ter uma posição favorável à continuidade da denúncia. Manobras, promessa de cargos e liberação de emendas a aliados ajudaram o governo a garantir uma vitória montada na artificialidade parlamentar.

Bessa entrou na comissão sem nem sequer saber o nome dos colegas: se enrolou para citar o sobrenome do relator, Sérgio Zveiter, chamando-o de “Velter”, e do deputado Wadih Damous (PT/RJ) de “Uadi Vadus”. “Não é muito estranho uma denúncia nessa hora em que o Brasil começa a ver uma luz no fim do túnel?”, questionou, mostrando por que foi escalado para a CCJ.

Foto em destaque: Sérgio Reis canta ao lado de sua mulher Angela Marcia, durante sessão solene no plenário da Câmara em 2015.

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Single Payer, Meet All Payer: The Surprising State That Is Quietly Revolutionizing Health Care

24 July 2017 - 11:20am

One unheralded reason for Trumpcare’s many difficulties was a sea change in public opinion. A new Associated Press poll finds that 62 percent now agree the federal government has a responsibility to provide health coverage to all Americans, up from 52 percent in March. Republicans looking to take away coverage ran headlong into this wave of support for a bigger governmental role in health care.

“Once you get something for pre-existing conditions, etc., etc. — once you get something, it’s awfully tough to take it away,” President Trump concluded.

Indeed, when Kansas Republican Jerry Moran issued the statement that effectively killed the bill’s hopes, his opposition was described in the press as having come from a conservative direction. And while it was cloaked in right-wing rhetoric around choice, the politics of the statement leaned decidedly left. “We must now start fresh with an open legislative process to develop innovative solutions that provide greater personal choice, protections for pre-existing conditions, increased access and lower overall costs for Kansans,” said Moran, fully aware that protections for pre-existing conditions, couples with lower overall costs, require a robust government intervention in health care.

Capitalizing on the new politics, progressive groups have distributed a “People’s Platform” that includes a Medicare-for-All single-payer system. And in state capitols, activists have demanded single payer, hoping a demonstration project proving the concept will catch fire, the way a universal system in Saskatchewan in the 1940s migrated to the rest of Canada.

The movement has won some incremental victories, but has yet to get over the top. Vermont passed the framework legislatively and then abandoned it. Colorado’s quiet effort was crushed at the ballot box. California has spent 25 years trying to pass something without success, and this year’s effort is stalled. A Medicaid buy-in bill in Nevada this year drew a veto from its Republican governor. New York’s odd conservative control of the Senate seems to foreclose a solution there in the near term.

There is one state, however, where a combination of fewer institutional barriers and existing health care structures could make health-care-for-all an achievable reality: Maryland.

It will take a grassroots groundswell and electoral victories, especially in next year’s governor’s race. One prominent gubernatorial candidate, former NAACP president Ben Jealous, has ardently endorsed single payer. “We have the opportunity in this state to make sure that we don’t have any more neighbors burying loved ones because they didn’t have access to health care,” Jealous said at an event where Sen. Bernie Sanders endorsed him for governor.

If elected, Jealous would face fewer procedural obstacles than those that have dogged California in its long battle to establish a single-payer system. While Maryland, like California, has robust Democratic supermajorities in the legislature, there is no two-thirds requirement to raise taxes, and no budgeting straitjacket mandating certain percentages of state spending to education or other priorities.

And while states do need federal waivers to incorporate programs like Medicare into a state-run program, Maryland is the only state to already hold a Medicare waiver. It enables a unique system known as all-payer rate setting, which serves as the basis for universal health care in several industrialized nations. In other words, while other states would have to begin from scratch to overhaul their health care systems, Maryland has a head start.

 

Maryland is the only state in America where all hospitals must charge the same rate for services to patients, regardless of what insurance they carry. There’s some variance between hospitals, but every patient in a particular hospital pays the same. Other states experience huge, seemingly random differences in hospital costs, depending on the insurer (or lack thereof).

Maryland’s Health Services Cost Review Commission has set hospital reimbursement rates for over 40 years. The state obtained a federal waiver to include Medicaid and Medicare in its all-payer system, with the goal of keeping cost increases below Medicare growth. And it’s worked, creating the lowest rate of growth in hospital costs in America.

In 2014, to prevent hospitals from making up profit margins through volume, Maryland tweaked the system, adding global budgeting. “The traditional way it worked, every hospital got a rate card,” said Joshua Sharfstein, an associate dean at Johns Hopkins’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, and a former head of Maryland’s Health Department. “Now you get a number, which is the total revenue for the year.”

Because the global budget doesn’t change based on the number of admissions, this creates hospital incentives toward better outcomes. “It makes the health system focused on keeping people healthy rather than just treating illnesses,” said Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizen’s Health Initiative, a state advocacy group. That includes increased preventive treatment, using case managers to connect patients to primary care, eliminating unnecessary tests, and encouraging good health outside the hospital walls.

Three years into global budgeting, the state is “meeting or exceeding” its goals, according to a January Health Affairs study. Hospital revenue growth is well below counterparts nationwide, or the growth of Maryland’s economy. Plus, state hospitals have saved $429 million for Medicare, more in three years than it targeted for five. Most important, every state hospital (all of which are nonprofit) and every insurer in Maryland are on board with the system.

If a centralized rate-setter bands every insurer together to negotiate prices, all payer can functionally act like single payer in terms of bringing down costs. All payer reduces hospital and insurer overhead, since billing costs are known in advance. And because the Affordable Care Act caps the amounts insurers can take in as profits, lower hospital costs should flow back to the individual in the form of smaller premiums.

This is why five countries — France, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, and The Netherlands — use all-payer rate setting as the basis for their universal health care systems. These countries have been found to control costs far better than America’s fragmented system.

The system only applies to hospital payments, not primary care doctors or clinicians. However, last year Maryland submitted a “progression plan” to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, with the goal of expanding the system by January 2019. That would line up with the swearing in of Maryland’s next governor.

Other states have looked to Maryland as a model. Pennsylvania has adopted global budgeting for rural hospitals. And in the wake of its single-payer failure, Vermont moved to an all-payer accountable care organization, where providers are paid based on health outcomes for the population. “In some ways it’s more radical [than single payer] if you’re able to get the incentives right,” said Joshua Sharfstein. But the true test of Maryland-style all payer is whether it can support universal coverage for every resident.

 

Maryland has a discouraging history with single payer. Health Care is a Human Right Maryland, an affiliate of Physicians for a National Health Program, did push a bill for several years in the state legislature. “In 2012, we had the bill in the House of Delegates, we lined up what we thought were enough votes in committee,” said Dr. Eric Naumberg, a member of the group’s leadership council. “But the leadership said you can’t bring this to the floor, and then we had seven votes instead of 12.”

Naumberg’s group has since focused on rallying support at the national level. “There are a lot of roadblocks set up for state single payer,” he said, including waivers necessary to incorporate Medicare and Medicaid and potential challenges under federal law regarding employer-based coverage.

Indeed, local politicians aren’t getting pushed yet. “I am not hearing a groundswell of support for a single-payer system or radically re-doing what we currently do,” said Shelly Hettleman, a member of the House of Delegates from Baltimore. “My constituents want to fix the system rather than totally reinvent it.”

However, with Maryland’s novel all-payer structure, you could potentially reinvent health care outcomes by merely tweaking the system. For example, expanding all payer across the health care system, along with tight regulation of insurers to keep premiums low, could mimic some benefits of single payer. Even Vincent DeMarco, who flat-out rejected the notion of state-level single payer, agreed. “If we can do that, we can achieve the same goals in a way that’s doable,” DeMarco said.

Maryland has a relatively low number of uninsured, about 6.7 percent of the population as of 2015. With a cost control mechanism already in place, getting them covered could prove cheaper and easier than other states. “I think you can combine alternative payment approaches with single payer, but you don’t hear about that much,” said Joshua Sharfstein.

Dan Morhaim, a House of Delegates member and an emergency room physician, suggested that the state could offer a benefit package he likened to tiers of coverage in education. “There’s public school, and if you are well-off you pay more to get tutored or go to private school. And you try to bring up that floor broadly and consistently.”

It would obviously still be a huge lift. Entrenched interests still see their survival attached to the status quo. While all hospitals in Maryland are not-for-profit (which is no guarantee against profit-taking), insurers, drug companies, and doctors not currently under price regulation can be expected to put up a fight. And with state balanced budget requirements, you would have to finance a state-run health plan, opening up the tax wars even though individual out-of-pocket costs could drop.

Two things work in Maryland’s favor. First, there’s the renewed support for single payer generally, particularly among progressive activists. Morhaim said that a recent op-ed he wrote for the Baltimore Sun about de-linking health insurance from employment got a wider response than he’s ever seen. “My email box flooded,” Morhaim said.

Second, there’s the promise of the Ben Jealous campaign. He can be expected to put single payer at the top of his agenda for the next year, to a public growing more open to the idea. And Jealous is not a novice at getting the seemingly unattainable done in Maryland politics, mounting lobbying campaigns that helped legalize same-sex marriage, abolish the death penalty, and pass a state version of the DREAM Act. “We are not here simply to elect me governor,” Jealous said at a recent speech. “You do not elect politicians to make change happen, you elect politicians to make it a little easier for a movement to make change happen.”

Jealous’ boldness has already moved Democratic primary opponents in his direction, of which there could be as many as seven. Alec Ross, a Hillary Clinton adviser during the 2016 campaign, who has a controversial plan to have investors loan working mothers money for child care, says he supports a state-based public option. Liberal State Sen. Rich Madaleno endorsed a public option as well, and has said he would “treat health care as a human right.”

Madaleno’s website rejects the idea that states can manage a single-payer plan alone. “One of the cornerstones of single-payer is that the government can negotiate and enforce prices. States can’t do that, only the national government,” it reads. But Maryland actually does precisely this kind of negotiation for hospitals, and could expand it.

Jealous’s nomination, followed up by the defeat of incumbent Republican Larry Hogan in November, would at least put single payer on the agenda in a state with a lot of relative advantages to getting it done. He would have a lot of policy support, with a deep well of knowledge in leadership roles at nonprofit hospitals, as well as from the many members of the part-time legislature who work in the health care system when not in session.

Would Maryland politicians be willing to fight for single payer? “I think the political system would be willing to take that on if the person who argued for it won the election,” Morhaim said. “It’s up to the voters.”

Top photo: Ben Jealous, former president and CEO of the NAACP, announces his bid to be the Democratic party’s nominee to challenge Republican Gov. Larry Hogan on May 31, 2017, in West Baltimore.

The post Single Payer, Meet All Payer: The Surprising State That Is Quietly Revolutionizing Health Care appeared first on The Intercept.

Por trás da guerra entre Globo e Record

23 July 2017 - 10:08am

Historicamente, Globo e Record sempre usaram o jornalismo para desferir ataques entre si. A Globo mexia nos podres de Edir Macedo e, na semana seguinte, a Record tirava os esqueletos dos Marinho do armário. Depois de um período de trégua, a Record voltou a atacar a Rede Globo. Agora não se trata meramente de uma briga comercial, mas política. De um lado, temos o grupo de comunicação mais poderoso do país trabalhando nos bastidores ao lado de Rodrigo Maia para, mais uma vez, derrubar um presidente que ajudou a colocar no poder. Do outro, temos o conglomerado de comunicação do bilionário bispo Edir Macedo que, afinado com Aécio Neves, ataca a Globo tentando proteger Michel Temer

As empresas e os personagens citados acima foram protagonistas no processo que levou à derrubada da presidenta eleita no ano passado. Sacramentado o golpe, não houve final feliz. Diferente do que se imaginava, a economia não se recuperou, as notícias de corrupção envolvendo o governo aumentaram e a popularidade de Temer não parou de despencar. Toda essa tensão causou um racha no antes coeso bonde do golpe, que ficou dividido entre duas facções.

Em maio, as organizações Globo anunciaram o abandono do barco de Temer ao pedir sua renúncia em editorial. Desgastado pelas revelações do amigo falastrão Joesley, Temer talvez não fosse mais tão fundamental para aprovação das reformas, a grande prioridade do Grupo Globo. Apenas três dias após a declaração de guerra feita no editorial, Temer mandou seu braço direito Moreira Franco –  conhecido por ser discreto publicamente, mas uma salamandra escorregadia nos bastidores – tentar uma trégua com João Roberto Marinho.

Parece jornalismo, mas, para mim, soa como trombetas anunciando a chegada do cavalo de Troia do cavalo de Troia ou, como ficou conhecido popularmente, o golpe dentro do golpe.

O conteúdo completo da conversa não foi revelado, mas o que se sabe é que não houve hasteamento de bandeira branca. Moreira ouviu de Marinho que a Globo “irá continuar a fazer jornalismo”. Parece jornalismo, mas, para mim, soa como trombetas anunciando a chegada do cavalo de Troia do cavalo de Troia ou, como ficou conhecido popularmente, o golpe dentro do golpe.

Fracassado o armistício, o governo passou a “ordenar a execução de eventuais dívidas da emissora com a União, de impostos e de financiamentos no BNDES” , segundo o O Dia – jornal alinhado a Crivella (PRB), aliado de Michel Temer. Um enfrentamento pelo qual a emissora, que nasceu e cresceu com paparicos do Estado, nunca havia passado em nenhum outro governo.

De lá pra cá, a Globo vem aumentando a artilharia para cima do governo, poupando-o apenas quando o assunto é reforma. Isso ficou bastante claro na batalha das perícias e na crescente cobertura negativa que constrangem o presidente que, até pouco tempo, desfilava com tranquilidade pelo tapete vermelho estendido pela empresa. Acabou a lua de mel, começou a guerra.

No último dia 9, um repórter da Folha seguiu Rodrigo Maia, que saiu de uma curtíssima reunião com Temer e foi para local desconhecido em carro descaracterizado. O relato do jornal dá ares mafiosos à reunião: Enquanto a reunião de Maia com Temer durou menos de uma hora, o encontro secreto com a Globo durou pelo menos cinco. Parece que havia muito mais assunto para tratar com a emissora do que com o seu presidente. À noite, naquele mesmo dia, Maia reuniu aliados em sua casa para – não é piada! –  tomar sopa e comer pizza. Durante o jantar, o presidente da Câmara contou aos convidados que havia conversado com “gente importante” e, segundo a Folha, “vaticinou o fim do atual governo”.

Mas se as relações do governo com a Globo desandaram, as com a Record vão muito bem, obrigado.

Mas se as relações do governo com a Globo desandaram, com a Record elas vão muito bem, obrigado. Isso ficou claro nas conversas nada republicanas grampeadas pela Polícia Federal entre Aécio Neves, Moreira Franco e Douglas Tavolaro – biógrafo de Edir Macedo e vice-presidente de jornalismo do grupo.

O então presidente do PSDB, que já não contava mais com a costumeira blindagem global, aparece nos diálogos como o principal articulador de uma negociação que buscava atender antigas demandas da emissora na obtenção de um patrocínio da Caixa Econômica Federal em troca de uma entrevista com Temer. O negócio havia sido vetado pela área técnica do banco. Nas conversas, Aécio e Moreira garantiram ao biógrafo de Edir Macedo que o problema seria sanado, tudo com o aval de Michel Temer.

Edir Macedo não controla apenas a Igreja Universal e a Record, mas também o PRB, importante partido da base governista, que conta com 23 deputados e um ministro. Criado em 2005, o PRB é governista desde a origem e apoiou os governos Lula e Dilma, que também contaram com a benevolência jornalística da emissora do bispo durante um bom tempo. Apesar disso, o PRB foi o primeiro a abandonar o governo Dilma e a pular na barca do golpe de Temer e Cunha, mostrando a essência governista do partido.

 

Cenas dos próximos capítulos

Em reportagem exibida no Domingo Espetacular no último domingo, o jornalista Luiz Azenha, ex-Globo e atualmente na Record, apresentou uma série de denúncias contra a empresa dos Marinho: participação em um esquema de sonegação fiscal bilionária, criação de empresas de fachada no exterior e fraude na aquisição dos direitos de transmissão da Copa do Mundo de 2002. A maior parte dessas denúncias não é inédita e já havia sido publicada há muito tempo no Viomundo, site de Azenha, que nunca foi processado pela Globo por divulgar as informações que a incriminam. A novidade é o fato da Record decidir publicar as denúncias apenas agora e transmiti-las na televisão em rede nacional.

A reportagem lembra também do potencial explosivo que uma delação de Palocci pode ter contra a Globo. A informação bate com outras que já vinham circulando e que apontavam que o ex-ministro dos governos Lula e Dilma poderia revelar segredos sobre “questões fiscais” do grupo. Azenha afirma que os advogados de Palocci já revelaram o teor da delação contra a Globo para integrantes do Ministério Público e que integrantes da Lava Jato denunciam estar sendo pressionados para não aceitar a delação de Palocci sobre as falcatruas da empresa dos Marinho. Curiosamente, a revista Época e o jornal Valor Econômico, ambos da Globo, já publicaram matérias colocando dúvidas em torno da delação de Palocci.

Logo no dia seguinte à reportagem da Record, Mônica Bergamo publicou uma nota na Folha que mostra que a Globo não está mesmo para brincadeiras: Vamos aguardar os próximos capítulos dessa trama. O enredo é ruim como o de uma novela da Record, porém a atuação dos atores tem o padrão Globo de qualidade. Não há mocinhos, apenas vilões. Quanto mais podres dos dois lados dessa versão tropical de Game of Thrones vierem à tona, melhor para o Brasil.

 

The post Por trás da guerra entre Globo e Record appeared first on The Intercept.

With A Michigan City Fighting Back, DHS Pushes A Controversial Deportation Forward

23 July 2017 - 6:58am

Lourdes Salazar-Bautista of Ann Arbor speaks at a press conference on ICE policies in Michigan and for an update on the Sava’s raid in Liberty Plaza on Saturday, July 8, 2017.

Photo: Hunter Dyke/The Ann Arbor News

In the face of intense community opposition, immigration officials are vowing to push ahead with plans to deport a 20-year Ann Arbor, Michigan resident.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has ordered Lourdes Salazar-Bautista, 49, to leave the country by August 2. The local community and elected officials have rallied in support of the mother of three, but ICE spokesperson Khaalid Walls told The Intercept that the agency will not back down.

“In a current exercise of discretion, the agency has allowed her to remain free from custody while timely finalizing her departure plans,” Walls wrote in a statement. “ICE focuses its enforcement resources on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security. However, as Secretary Kelly has made clear, ICE will not exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.”

The Mexican native says she’s not done fighting.

“I’m not a threat to this country,” said Salazar-Bautista, choking back her tears during a vigil at St. Mary Student Parish in Ann Arbor on Tuesday evening, broadcast on Facebook live. “I want to have a chance to continue guiding [my children] and educating them so they can reach the future, since I come from a very humble environment, I wasn’t able to reach.”

Salazar-Bautista immigrated to the United States in 1997. An immigration judge ordered her deportation in absentia in 1998. She says she never received the notices from the immigration court regarding her deportation, and she continued to live her life, raising her children and performing odd jobs—cooking, cleaning, and ironing for people in her community—until ICE picked her up in 2010. She was detained for 23 days, she said in the speech in Ann Arbor, and was released on the condition that her husband return to Mexico and that she check in annually with the immigration agency.

Immigration officials have routinely granted Salazar-Bautista a stay of removal since then, she says. But a new president was in office when she checked in with ICE in March, and she became one of many immigrants nationwide targeted for deportation after years of being considered low priorities for removal by the Obama administration.

 

 

Protesters marched through the streets, demanding that Salazar-BautistaÕs deportation be stayed in Ann Arbor, Mich. on July 18, 2017.

Photo: The Lucha Por Lourdes campaign.

The president has broad authority over immigration enforcement efforts to remove individuals present in the country without legal status. Citing the Department of Homeland Security’s finite resources, President Barack Obama’s administration set priorities for removals in a 2014 memo. Former DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson laid out a three-part hierarchy, prioritizing the removals of national security threats, serious convicted criminals, and recent border crossers. The administration also listed factors to be considered for the exercise of prosecutorial discretion (a decision not to take action against an otherwise removable person), including strong community ties and length of time in the country.

That meant that immigration officials did not prioritize deporting people like Salazar-Bautista, who had no criminal history, contributed to her community, and had three American children. As such, ICE routinely granted stays of removal, temporary postponements that prevent DHS from executing a deportation.

In one of his first steps toward dismantling Obama’s legacy, President Donald Trump issued a January executive order on “enhancing public safety in the interior of the United States.” That document and a subsequent memo from DHS Secretary John Kelly explaining the directive rescinded all previous policy related to removal priorities. In effect, the White House chose to target a much broader group of unauthorized immigrants for removal and granted individual ICE agents with broad discretion over apprehending individuals suspected of being in violation of immigration law.

In other words, the new DHS enforcement guidelines make anyone present in the U.S. illegally equally fair game for deportation, including those charged, but not yet convicted, of “any criminal offense,” and those like Salazar-Bautista with final orders of removal.

Kelly’s memo “leveled the playing field” in terms of susceptibility to deportation, said Patricia Zapor, communications director at CLINIC, an immigration advocacy group.

“If they keep saying the focus is on the bad guys, the bad hombres, that’s not really the way it’s playing out,” she said. “The people who definitely feel at risk now are those with U.S. citizen kids, with families, with businesses. It’s really changed the level of fear.”

Salazar-Bautista bought one-way tickets to Mexico for herself and her children for August 1, according to Luz Meza, an organizer of the Ann Arbor campaign to support her, called Lucha Por Lourdes. Salazar-Bautista’s lawyer, David Newman, presented the tickets to ICE on Wednesday to show her intent to comply with the order, even as they continue to ask Detroit ICE Director Rebecca Adducci to stay the removal, Meza told The Intercept.

“Please if someone can talk against these authorities to be able to get a change not just for me, for so many people who are in the same situation as I am,” Salazar-Bautista said in a Facebook video recording of the Tuesday vigil, acknowledging that her case is one of many.

The southeast Michigan immigrant community, like many across the country, is feeling the burn of the recent changes in immigration enforcement, Meza said.

“We’ve seen a lot of raids that are separating families and causing emotional harm to children,” she added. “We think in the long run this is going to have a very terrible impact on the kids who will grow up without their parents here.”

The case has become a rallying cry for local activists and elected officials at odds with the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

As of Friday, more than 8,000 people had signed a petition asking the Detroit ICE Field Office to stop the deportation. The Ann Arbor City Council on Monday unanimously passed a resolution asking ICE to stay Salazar-Bautista’s deportation, describing her as a “lawful, positive, contributing resident and tax payer of Ann Arbor for close to twenty years.”

“Lourdes’s threatened deportation is a breach of faith and a disgrace,” said Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor on Tuesday in a speech delivered at a rally and broadcast on Facebook. “It won’t protect American jobs. All it will do is devastate an already separated family and impoverish a community that values her.”

American leadership “will not endure” if people like Salazar-Bautista are deported, Taylor added in the rally speech. “It is up to us to do everything we can to keep this family together, that we tell the administration that its fearful vision of immigrants and refugees is an affront to our history and our values, and, finally, that it is up to us to do everything we can to tell the world that Trump is not America.”

Michigan delivered its electoral college votes to Trump, as he edged out Clinton by just over 10,000 votes. Clinton, however, annihilated Trump in the liberal enclave of Ann Arbor, outpacing him by nearly 3-1.

 

The post With A Michigan City Fighting Back, DHS Pushes A Controversial Deportation Forward appeared first on The Intercept.

Donald Trump and the Coming Fall of American Empire

22 July 2017 - 10:50am

Even as President Donald Trump faces ever-intensifying investigations into the alleged connections between his top aides and family members and powerful Russian figures, he serves as commander in chief over a U.S. military that is killing an astonishing and growing number of civilians. Under Trump, the U.S. is re-escalating its war in Afghanistan, expanding its operations in Iraq and Syria, conducting covert raids in Somalia and Yemen, and openly facilitating the Saudi’s genocidal military destruction of Yemen.

Meanwhile, China has quietly and rapidly expanded its influence without deploying its military on foreign soil.

A new book by the famed historian Alfred McCoy predicts that China is set to surpass the influence of the U.S. globally, both militarily and economically, by the year 2030. At that point, McCoy asserts the United States Empire as we know it will be no more. He sees the Trump presidency as one of the clearest byproducts of the erosion of U.S. global dominance, but not its root cause. At the same time, he also believes Trump may accelerate the empire’s decline.

McCoy argues that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was the beginning of the end. McCoy is not some chicken little. He is a serious academic. And he has guts.

During the Vietnam war, McCoy was ambushed by CIA-backed paramilitaries as he investigated the swelling heroin trade. The CIA tried to stop the publication of his now classic book, “The Politics of Heroin.” His phone was tapped, he was audited by the IRS and he was investigated and spied on by the FBI. McCoy also wrote one of the earliest and most prescient books on the post 9-11 CIA torture program and he is one of the world’s foremost experts on U.S. covert action. His new book, which will be released in September, is called “In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power.”

“The American Century, proclaimed so triumphantly at the start of World War II, may already be tattered and fading by 2025 and, except for the finger pointing, could be over by 2030,” McCoy writes. Imagining the real-life impact on the U.S. economy, McCoy offers a dark prediction:

“For the majority of Americans, the 2020s will likely be remembered as a demoralizing decade of rising prices, stagnant wages, and fading international competitiveness. After years of swelling deficits fed by incessant warfare in distant lands, in 2030 the U.S. dollar eventually loses its special status as the world’s dominant reserve currency.

Suddenly, there are punitive price increases for American imports ranging from clothing to computers. And the costs for all overseas activity surges as well, making travel for both tourists and troops prohibitive. Unable to pay for swelling deficits by selling now-devalued Treasury notes abroad, Washington is finally forced to slash its bloated military budget. Under pressure at home and abroad, its forces begin to pull back from hundreds of overseas bases to a continental perimeter. Such a desperate move, however, comes too late.

Faced with a fading superpower incapable of paying its bills, China, India, Iran, Russia, and other powers provocatively challenge U.S. dominion over the oceans, space, and cyberspace.”

Alfred McCoy is the Harrington professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of the now-classic book “The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade.” His new book, out in September, is “In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power.”

This week, I interviewed McCoy for the Intercepted podcast. We broadcast an excerpt of the interview on the podcast. Below is an edited and slightly condensed version of the full interview. In this wide-ranging interview, we discuss Trump and Russia, the history of CIA interference in elections around the world, the Iran-Contra scandal, the CIA and the crack-cocaine epidemic, U.S. proxy wars, narcotrafficking in Afghanistan, and much more.

 

Jeremy Scahill: One of the things that you’re best known for is a book that continues to this day to be relevant when studying covert U.S. operations around the world, as well as the international narcotics trafficking industry, and of course you tie both of those together. We’re going to get into all of that in a moment but I wanted to begin by asking you to assess this current moment that we’re in with Donald Trump. How do you see him in a historical context, and what does his presidency represent about the American Empire?

Alfred McCoy: What I think right now is that, through some kind of malign design, Donald Trump has divined, has figured out what are the essential pillars of U.S. global power that have sustained Washington’s hegemony for the past seventy years and he seems to be setting out to demolish each one of those pillars one by one. He’s weakened the NATO alliance; he’s weakened our alliances with Asian allies along the Pacific littoral. He’s proposing to cut back on the scientific research which has given the United States — its military industrial complex — a cutting edge, a leading edge in critical new weapons systems since the early years of the Cold War. And he’s withdrawing the United States, almost willfully, from its international leadership, most spectacularly with the Paris Climate Accord but also very importantly with the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

And he seems to be setting out to systematically demolish US global hegemony. Now, it’s important to realize that the United States is no longer the preeminent global power we were, let’s say at the end of Eisenhower’s presidency, back in 1960. Our share of the global economy has declined substantially. We’re about to be eclipsed by 2030, by China, and become the world’s number two economic power. China’s making some breakthroughs in military technology. The world system is spreading its wealth and there are a number of second tier powers, the rise of the European Union, et cetera. It’s a more complex world, so United States can no longer dictate to the world, or at least much of the world, like we could back in the 1950s.

Having said that, the presidency is a weaker office internationally than it used to be. Nonetheless, there are presidents, and I say Barack Obama was one of them, George H.W. Bush was another, these presidents through skillful diplomacy, their knowledge of the international system, their geopolitical skills, they could maximize U.S. influence on the world stage. They could use U.S. military power strategically, deftly, they could lead international coalitions, they could set the international agenda. Trump is turning his back on all of that and I think he’s accelerating perhaps markedly, even precipitously, the U.S. decline.

JS: Since Trump became president, everyone is sort of wrapped up in the palace intrigue, and what did Trump know about Russia and when did he know it, and did he know about Don Jr’s meeting with this lawyer who is being described as “Kremlin-connected?” And I think all of that is a very important story because it could bring down his presidency, but at the same time my sense is that the CIA and the darkest elements of the U.S. military are actually in a pretty flexible position right now because Trump is so hands-off and, because as you say he’s not an effective manager of empire. What are your thoughts on that?

AM: That’s correct. Much of the military establishment and its links with the intelligence community is in place. Let’s say that some of the new initiatives— cyberwarfare—well the Trump Administration understands the importance of that and indeed he has advisors that do, so the continued evolution of that, the development, that will continue, space warfare is in a long-term trajectory. Weapons systems take as long as 10 years to go from design, prototype, testing, and either rejection or acceptance. So that transcends any administration, even a two-term administration. So there’s a long-term trajectory.

President Eisenhower, that famous phrase that he warned us about in his last address, the military industrial complex—he built a complex in which he integrated scientific research, basic research in the universities and private corporations, and then dozens of defense contractors who have more or less permanent contracts to maintain their research and production establishment—he integrated that with the U.S. military and that will survive any American president.

Unfortunately what Trump doesn’t seem to understand is that there’s a close relationship between basic research, like research in artificial intelligence, and your capacity to come up with the next new thing that will give the United States a leading edge in military technology. And that’s what he doesn’t understand, that’s the one way he’s damaging the whole complex. But otherwise, you’re right, it’s on a longer-term trajectory about ten, ten-year cycles of research, procurement, and deployment of new weapon systems and that transcends any single administration.

JS: We’ve seen this kind of convergence of the agendas of some neoconservatives who formed part of the core of the “Never Trump” movement of Republicans and then the liberal elites that host shows on MSNBC or are identified as “Democratic strategists.” And this line that we’ve seen repeated over and over is that, what they deride as people calling the “deep state”—in other words, the elements within the CIA in the military—that they’re actually secretly protecting the country from Trump. Given your scholarship on what people loosely call the deep state right now, what do you make of those claims that the CIA and certain elements within the Pentagon are actually the protectors of the Democratic republic?

AM:  A complex argument. One: the rapid growth of that state documented by The Washington Post, in a series about eight years ago, 2010, what they called the fourth branch of the U.S. government. That under the terms of the global war on terror, a massive infusion of nearly a trillion dollars into the Homeland Security. And all of the 17 agencies in the so-called intelligence community plus the considerable expansion of the Joint Special Operations Command, which is the military’s permanent integration with that security apparatus, that secret security apparatus, all of this has built a fourth branch of the U.S. government.

And I think that, just as Congress has proved independent from the Trump administration to a certain extent, and we’ll see about the Supreme Court, those are the classic three branches of executive, legislature, and judiciary—now we have this fourth branch. And, what you’re proposing is we need to take this very seriously when we look at the array of power in Washington, DC. And I agree, we need to. And like all of the other branches it will coordinate with the executive because the executive has a great deal of power, of funding, you can set priorities, but it has a ten year cycle—ultimately a much longer term cycle of preparation and responsibility.

A president is in office for eight or maybe four years. A military career, if successful, an intelligence career, is thirty years. So those professionals and the agencies they represent, have a much longer term viewpoint. You can see this, for example, in the periodic reports of the National Intelligence Council, that every four years when there’s a new administration coming in, they’re the one agency of the U.S. government that looks ahead twenty years. Not just four or eight or ten. But they actually look ahead twenty years and they try and see the shape of the world and then, set, through the intelligence community and through the national security establishment, priorities for coping with this fast changing world.

So at the apex of the intelligence community, there is this formal procedure for establishing a long range, or medium range, twenty-year perspective. So, yes, they look longer, they have their own policies, they have their contracts, their programs that are in many ways autonomous from the executive, and increasingly so. And depending on your point of view and how it plays out, that’s either a strength of the American system in the short term, when you have an executive that some people don’t like, like Donald Trump, over the longer term it could be seen as a threat to democracy, creating a bureaucratic apparatus that’s autonomous, even independent from both the executive and the legislative branch. So, it’s an open question but a good question.

CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade

JS: You’ve written this excellent book that will come out from Haymarket books in September called In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and the Decline of U.S. Global Power. But I want to ask you about a much earlier book that you wrote, The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade. And that details your investigation—and it really was what introduced you to this world of covert CIA operations, client states, mercenaries, local proxies, and you also found yourself in conflict with very powerful individuals in the CIA and the national security state because of what you were researching. Talk about that book and the process that led to writing it and how it was eventually published.

AM: Sure. Now, almost fifty years ago, looking back it was an extraordinary experience. In the space of eighteen months to two years, I acquired an amazing education. Up to that point I was a graduate student looking at the history of colonialism in Southeast Asia, writing articles that had lots of footnotes. I was a library rat.

And in 1970 and ’71, there were rumors that started coming back from Vietnam, particularly 1971, that heroin was spreading rapidly in the ranks of the U.S. forces fighting in South Vietnam. And in later research, done by the White House, [it was] determined that in 1971, 34 percent, one-third of all the American combat troops fighting in South Vietnam were heavy heroin users. There were, if that statistic is accurate, more addicts in the ranks of the U.S. Army in South Vietnam than there were in the United States.

And so what I did was I set out to investigate: Where was the opium coming from? Where was the heroin coming from? Who was trafficking it? How is it getting to the troops in their barracks and bunkers across the length and breadth of South Vietnam? Nobody was asking this question. Everyone was reporting on the high level of abuse, but nobody was figuring out where and who.

So I started interviewing. I went to Paris. I interviewed the head of the French equivalent of the CIA in Indochina, who was then head of a major French helicopter manufacturing company, and he explained to me how during the French Indochina war from 1946 to 1954, they were short of money for covert operations, so the hill tribes in Laos produced the opium, the aircraft picked it up, they turned it over to the netherworld, the gangsters that controlled Saigon and secured it for the French and that paid for their covert operations. And I said, “What about now?” And he said, “Well I don’t think the pattern’s changed. I think it’s still there. You should go and look.”

So I did. I went to Saigon. I got some top sources in the Vietnamese military. I went to Laos. I hiked into the mountains. I was ambushed by CIA mercenaries and what I discovered was that the CIA’s contract airline, Air America, was flying into the villages of the Hmong people in Northern Laos, whose main cash crop was opium and they were picking up the opium and flying it out of the hills and there were heroin labs — one of the heroin labs, the biggest heroin lab in the world, was run by the commander-in-chief of the Royal Laotian Army, a man whose military budget came entirely from the United States. And they were transforming, in those labs, the opium into heroin. It was being smuggled into South Vietnam by three cliques controlled by the president, the vice president, and the premier of South Vietnam, and their military allies and distributed to U.S. forces in South Vietnam.

And the CIA wasn’t directly involved, but they turned a blind eye to the role of their allies’ involvement in the traffic. And so this heroin epidemic swept the U.S. Army in Vietnam. The Defense Department invented mass urine analysis testing, so when those troops left they were tested and given treatment. And what I discovered was the complexities, the complicity, of the CIA in this traffic and that was a pattern that was repeated in Central America when the Contras became involved in the traffic. The CIA looked the other way as their aircraft and their allies were smuggling cocaine from Colombia through Central America to the United States. Same thing in the 1980s, during the secret war in Afghanistan, the Mujahideen turned to opium. The opium production in Afghanistan during that secret war increased from about 100 tons of opium per annum to 2000 tons, a massive increase. Afghanistan went from supplying zero percent of U.S. heroin supply — soared to sixty-five percent of the illicit heroin supply for the United States came out of Afghanistan. The CIA sent arms across the border through caravans to the Mujahideen fighters and those same caravans came out carrying opium. The CIA prevented the DEA, the Drug Enforcement Administration, from investigating. Again, complicity in the traffic.

So a clear pattern. The other thing was when I began to do that investigation and write up the book, I faced enormous pressures. My phone was tapped by the F.B.I., the I.R.S. investigated, I had an audit as a poverty-stricken graduate student. The Department of Education investigated my graduate fellowship. Friends of mine who had been serving in military intelligence were recruited to spy on me. In other words, what I found was the CIA penetrated every aspect of my life. The head of CIA covert operations, a very famous operative name Cord Meyer Jr., visited the offices of Harper and Row, my publisher, and tried to persuade the publisher to suppress the book, hold the contract, just don’t release the book, claiming that it was a threat to national security.

So what I discovered was not only CIA complicity, complex compromise relationships with covert allies far away in remote places like Southeast Asia, but also the incredible depth of the penetration of the CIA within US society under the conditions of the Cold War. I found my phone, my fellowship, my friends, my publisher, every aspect of my life was manipulated by the CIA. It was a fascinating discovery.

JS: And you write in your forthcoming book, In the Shadows of the American Century, “I had crafted a historical method that would prove over the next forty years of my career surprisingly useful in analyzing a diverse array of foreign policy controversies, CIA alliances with drug lords, the agency’s propagation of psychological torture, and our spreading state surveillance.” Part of the reason it seems that they were concerned about what you were investigating in Vietnam, Laos, and elsewhere was that you were tapping into something that was an emerging nexus that the CIA would rely on for decades to come.

AM: Indeed. All of those areas. The method I came up with was very simple. Start far back in the past, as far back as you can go, when the — let’s say the research on torture, although somewhat secret is not controversial because it hasn’t been applied. Go back to the U.S. colonial policy in the Philippines when we started surveillance circa 1898 to pacify the Philippines, and then track it forward step by step all the way to the present, keeping in mind the patterns, the structure of the operation. And then when you get to the present where it becomes secret, highly classified, and very controversial, you understand the structure, so you know where to look, what assumptions are likely to be sound, what hypotheses might work, how you can conduct your analysis and that can lead you to an insight.

For example, let’s take the case of torture, okay? I work on the Philippines as my main area in southeast Asia that I study, and I was very interested in the overthrow of the Marcos regime. I did some research that contributed to that overthrow. In the aftermath of the overthrow of the Marcos regime, there was this coterie of military colonels that had plotted an abortive coup, that had sparked a so-called People Power Revolution that put a million Filipinos on the streets of Manila calling for Marcos’ downfall, forcing Washington to provide him with aircraft that flew him out to exile in Hawaii and brought democracy. So I was very interested in who these colonels were.

And what I found when I investigated them is that they weren’t line officers, say combat officers, they weren’t even intelligence officers. They were internal security officers who’ve been personally involved in torture. And what I begin to realize is that torture was a transactional experience, that these officers who’ve been trained by the CIA on how to interrogate and use torture, that, as they broke down their victims, they empowered themselves and inspired themselves to this coup to overthrow Marcos.

Well, that also introduced me to the idea that the CIA was training torturers around the globe. And I figured this out in the 1980s, before it was common knowledge. There was some research in the 70s, people working on this, but we didn’t have the full picture. And what I began to figure out was also the nature of the methods that these colonels were using. Now, look, these are physical guys that were brutally, physically hazed at their military academy, as often happens in such organizations. And so instead of beating physically their victims, they use something counterintuitive. They didn’t touch their victims. They used psychological techniques. And so in 2004, when C.B.S. Television published those photographs from Abu Ghraib prison, and nobody knew what was going on. There was that famous photograph of the Iraqi detainee standing on a box with his arms outstretched with phony electrical wires attached to him, he’d been told that if he lowered his arms, he’d be shocked, and he had a bag on his head.

And I looked at that photo and I said, “Those are not bad apples. That is CIA doctrinal techniques. The bag is for sensory deprivation, the arms are for self-inflicted pain, those are the two fundamental techniques of CIA psychological torture.” I wrote a book, A Question of Torture, that made that argument. I participated in a documentary that won an Oscar, Taxi to the Dark Side, that interviewed me and also made that argument, and it would not be for another ten years until 2014, when the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee spent forty million dollars and reviewed six million CIA documents and came to a rather similar conclusions. So the method’s useful.

U.S. interference in elections
JS: I want to ask you how we ended up with national security state that we have today? What I mean is, the N.S.A. with its vast powers, which of course you document in the book. The CIA employing tactics under what you you’ve called “covert netherworld.” There is this sense, under someone like Barack Obama, that we’re not going to send massive troop deployments around the world, as much as we are going to depend on drones, discreet covert operations, escalated use of Special Operations Forces and CIA paramilitaries. But, talk about the post World War II growth of what now has come to be known as the national security state?

AM: Sure. I think the national security state is the instrument the United States used to build and exercise its global hegemony. Looking at the comparative history of empires in the modern age going back 500 years, the thing that distinguishes the U.S. empire from almost any other, is the reliance upon covert methods and it’s a result of an historical moment.

The U.S. empire coincided with the decolonization, the dissolution of half a dozen European empires that produced 100 new nations, more than half the independent nations on the planet today. And so US hegemony was being exercised, not over colonies, whose sovereignty was compromised, in fact had been transferred to the imperial power, but over independent nation states, who had sovereignty. So you had an empire under conditions that denied empire. So how do you exercise hegemony in non-hegemonic world? You have to do it covertly.

And in 1947, President Harry Truman, right after World War II, and Congress passed the National Security Act that laid down the bureaucratic apparatus for the U.S. national security state. That National Security Act created the Defense Department, the U.S. Air Force, the CIA, and the National Security Council—the key instruments of the US exercise of global power. And then when the next administration came in, under President Dwight Eisenhower, what he did is he realized that there were nations that were becoming independent across the world and that he had to be intervening in these independent nations and so the only way he could do it was through plausible deniability, you had to intervene in a way that could not be seen. You had to do it covertly. And so Eisenhower turned to the CIA, created by Harry Truman, and he transformed it from an organization that originally tried to penetrate the Iron Curtain, to send agents and operatives inside the Iron Curtain. It was a complete disaster. The operatives were captured, they were used to uncover the networks of opposition inside the Soviet Union, it was absolutely counterproductive. Eisenhower turned the CIA away from that misbegotten mission of penetrating the Iron Curtain and instead assigned them the mission of penetrating and controlling the three quarters of the globe that was on the U.S. side of the Iron Curtain, the free world.

And Eisenhower relied upon the CIA, and then the National Security Agency, to monitor signals. And we began to exercise our global hegemony, covertly, through the CIA and allied intelligence agencies. And that’s been a distinctive aspect of U.S. hegemony since the dawn of American global power in 1945. And that continues today, ever deepening, layer upon layer, through those processes you described. The drones, the surveillance, the cyber warfare—all of that is covert.

JS: It’s interesting because there’s a lot of talk now about foreign interference in the U.S. election with— exclusively the attention is being focused on: did Russia interfere in our election? And if so, were they successful in promoting Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton? And in your book, you cite this compilation from Carnegie Mellon University that says between 1946 and 2000, rival superpowers the United States and the Soviet Union, then Russia, intervened in 117 elections or 11 percent of all the competitive national level contests held worldwide via campaign cash and media disinformation. And then you write, “Significantly, the United States was responsible for 81 of those attempts, 70 percent of the total.”

This is not new, the idea that nations interfere in in the elections of others. Walk us through some of the greatest hits of the CIA and other intelligence agencies in election interference, since the 1940s.

AM: Sure—first of all, that was one of the central instruments of the U.S. exercise of global power covertly. We were promoting democracy worldwide, we stood very strongly for democracy over authoritarianism. On the other hand, we were exercising U.S. hegemony, which meant that somehow for those open free democratic contests to produce a leader who was our guy. And indeed, one of the key aspects of U.S. global power, as exercised by Eisenhower through, covertly, was the change. Look, under the colonial empires, Britain, France, Belgium all the rest, they had district officers and they worked with chiefs, maharajahs, emirs, local officials in colonial districts around the globe. And they controlled who was going to be the new emir, who was going to be the new sultan, who was going to be the new maharajah.

And then, when all of those nations decolonized and became independent, the fulcrum for the exercise of power shifted from the colonial district to the presidential palace. And so the United States paid a lot of attention in controlling who were the leaders in those presidential palaces. If you look at the 240,000 WikiLeaks cables from around the world that were leaked in 2011, you’ll find that much of what they’re concerned about is, who is in those presidential palaces around the country? So the U.S. did it through coups and, during the period of the 1950s to the 1970s, about a quarter of the sovereign states in the world changed government by coups, and they also did it by electoral manipulation.

One of the most famous ones, the one that actually established the capacity of the CIA to do that, was the 1948 elections in Italy when it looked like the communist and socialist parties were slated for capturing a majority of the seats in parliament, and then forming a government. And you could have on our side of the Iron Curtain, in a very important world power, Italy, a legally elected, democratic elected communist government. And so the CIA spent, bargain basement, one million dollars. Imagine: Buying Italy for a million dollars. Seems like a bargain.

They spent just a million dollars in very skillful, electoral manipulation, and they produced the electoral results of the Christian Democrats, a centrist government. And, throughout the Cold War, the U.S. deftly intervened in Italy at multiple levels overtly in bilateral aid and diplomacy, covertly, and electoral manipulation and something much deeper, Operation Gladio, where they had, if you will, an underground apparatus to seize power in Italy in the case of a communist takeover, by invasion. And the CIA would intervene, they pump money into the Liberal Democratic Party in Japan, they played electoral politics in the Philippines. They intervened in Korea politics, in South Korean politics, all around the globe. Any time that there was a serious electoral contest in which the outcome was critical to us, geopolitical interests, the U.S. was intervening.

Now, the difference between that and what we’ve seen with the 2016 elections in the United States, if you’re the global hegemon, you are manipulating, influencing other people’s elections. If you’re a global power like United States that stands for democracy, that’s the way we exercise that power. We did it sometimes crudely, sometimes deftly, but we didn’t invade countries, we didn’t bomb et cetera. We did it that way. And when we were manipulating other people’s elections, we’re the global power. And when we’re being manipulated, when other powers are penetrating our society and manipulating our elections, that’s a sign that we’re a declining power. And that’s very serious.

In order to maintain our position internationally, not only do we have to exercise our power skillfully, covertly through the operations we’ve been describing, surveillance and the rest and overtly through diplomacy and international leadership, treaties and trade and all that, okay? But we also have to make sure that our electoral process is impenetrable, is secure, that other powers cannot manipulate us because they’re going to try.

Reagan, Iran-Contra, the CIA and crack cocaine

JS: I often find myself, when I’m watching the news, or in some cases even reading very serious powerful newspapers like The New York Times or The Washington Post, as they cover Donald Trump and this issue of Russia, it seems as though we are totally detached from history. And in reading your book I was reminded of the rise of Mobutu to power in Kinshasa, and also you went into great depth about the CIA crack cocaine story that ultimately was broken wide open by Gary Webb in the San Jose Mercury News, and then attacked and major news organizations trying to discredit him. Walk us through the Contra War and the connection to the selling of embargoed weapons to Iran and the fact that you had eleven senior officials in Ronald Reagan’s administration actually convicted of selling Iran embargoed arms.

I mean we talk about scandals and then you look at Reagan, and it’s like 11 senior officials convicted of selling embargoed arms to finance the CIA’s death squad the Contras in Nicaragua?

AM: You know, in the Reagan administration the United States was at a low ebb in its global power. The Reagan administration launched the invasion of Grenada. It was the first time in nearly a decade that the US has been able to exercise its global power anywhere beyond the United States successfully, its military power. And then in Central America, the Reagan administration felt very threatened by the collapse of the Somoza regime, one of the US client regimes in Central America, and the Sandinista guerilla movement capturing the capital Managua in 1979.

And that occurred at the same time as the Soviet Red Army basically occupied Kabul, the capture of the capital of Afghanistan, so the Reagan administration felt threatened, on a kind of far periphery of U.S. power in Afghanistan, and close at home, kind of a gateway to America—in Central America. So the Reagan administration reacted by mounting two major covert operations: one, to push the Red Army out of Afghanistan and two, to overthrow the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. And both of these operations involved tolerating trafficking in opium in Afghanistan by the Mujahedeen Muslim guerrilla fighters, and tolerating the trafficking in cocaine in Central America by our Contra allies.

And there were basically two forms of support for the Contras. The one was the arms-for-money deal to provide black money to sustain the Contra revolt for the decade that it dragged on. And the other thing was a kind of hands-off approach. There was a DEA operative, a Drug Enforcement Administration operative, in Honduras that was reporting on the Honduran military complicity in the transit traffic of cocaine moving from Colombia through Central America to the United States. He was removed from the country. And then the CIA, because of Congress cutting off the arms shipments periodically for the CIA, the so-called Boland amendment that imposed a kind of embargo upon U.S. support for the Contras, they needed to periodically warehouse their arms. And what they found was that the Bay Islands off the coast of Honduras, particularly Roatan Island, was an ideal logistics point right off the coast—it was a major transshipment point for cocaine moving from Colombia across the Caribbean to the United States but it’s also an ideal place for the U.S. to warehouse and then ship its arms to the Contras on the border with Nicaragua and Honduras.

And so, the kingpin, the drug kingpin of the Bay Islands was a notorious international trafficker named Alan Hyde who had 35 ships on the high seas smuggling cocaine from Colombia into the United States. Every U.S. security agency involved, the Coast Guard, the CIA itself, the Drug Enforcement Administration, they all had reports about Alan Hyde being a Class A trafficker, arguably the biggest smuggler in the Caribbean. And to get access to his warehouses what the CIA did was they basically blocked any investigation of Alan Hyde from 1987 to 1992, during the peak of the crack-cocaine epidemic, and so the CIA got to ship their guns to his warehouses and then onward to the border post for the Contras. And Alan Hyde was given an immunity to investigation or prosecution for five years.

That’s—any criminal, that’s all they need, is an immunity to investigation. And this coincided with the flood of cocaine through Central America into the United States. This CIA inspector general in response to protests in South Central, Los Angeles, conducted an investigation also in response to Gary Webb’s inquiries and they released Report 1, they called “The California Connection.” They said that Gary Webb’s allegations that the CIA had protected the distributors, the deal of the Nicaraguan dealers who were brokering the sale of the import cocaine to the Crips and Bloods gangs in South Central, L.A., that that all that was false.

Then they issued, the inspector general in 1998, issued part two of that report, the executive summary said similarly: no case to answer, CIA relations with the Contras in Central America complex, but nothing about drugs. But if you actually read the report, all the way through, which is something historians tend to do, you get to paragraph 913 of that report and there are subsequently 40 of the most amazing revelations, forty paragraphs of the most amazing revelations stating explicitly in cables and verbatim quotes from interviews with CIA operatives about their compromised relationship with the biggest drug smuggler in the Caribbean, Alan Hyde.

And if you go on the CIA website and you look for that 1998 Inspector General Report, you’ll find a little black line that says paragraphs 913-960 have been excised. Those are those paragraphs. But you can find them on the Internet.

JS: One of the fascinating aspects of this— it’s a short part of your book, but I think it’s always important to point this out, the name Robert Gates pops up at the time that the CIA had this relationship with Hyde. Gates was the deputy director of the CIA, and of course now is one of the beloved figures in the bipartisan foreign policy consensus. He was defense secretary under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama. And Gates, his hands are all over this thing as well.

AM: Yeah, there’s, how am I going to put it? That illustrates the disparity between the formal rhetoric of politics and the geopolitics of the exercise of global power. And the difficulties, the demands, the moral and political compromises required to run, well let’s call it an empire. A global empire. And, from a pure realpolitik imperial perspective, that Contra operation, by seeking an effective complementation between the flow of drugs north, very powerful illicit economic force, and the Contra guerrilla operations, accomplish their objective. You know? After ten years of supporting the Contras, the Sandinistas lost power for a time in a democratic election. They were finally pushed out of office. The CIA accomplished its mission.

Now, if you compare that with where we are with drugs and covert operations and military operations in Afghanistan, it was very successful in the 1980s, as a result of the CIA’s alliance of the Mujahideen, provisioning of arms and tolerance for their trafficking and drugs, which provided the bulk of their finance. You know, in 1989, the Soviet Red Army left Kabul, they left Afghanistan, the CIA won. Well today, of course that drug traffic has been taken over by the Taliban and it funds the bulk of the Taliban’s guerrilla operations, pays for a new crop of teenage boys to become fighters every spring, and we’ve lost control of that. So from a realpolitik perspective, we can see a weakening of U.S. controls over these covert operations that are another manifestation of our, of the decline of the US hegemony.

Heroin and the worsening war in Afghanistan

JS: I want to ask you about Afghanistan given all of the work you’ve done on the intersection of covert operations on behalf of an empire and transnational narcotics trafficking. I think a lot of people who have followed the history of Afghanistan and U.S. involvement there find it hard to believe that the United States is not aware that its actions are fueling the heroin trade and fueling the insurgency there by having a Taliban that relies on it, as you just laid out. Given your historical, analytical work on past crises, what should we be looking for to see whether or not there is a direct U.S. role in facilitating narcotics flow out of Afghanistan?

AM: Sure. Good question. Look, during the 1980s, when that operation was successful, the CIA knew and in fact a man named Charles Cogan who was the head of the CIA operation in Afghanistan, and when he retired he gave an interview to Australian television, and he said, “Look, there was fallout from that operation. OK, yes there was fallout in terms of drugs”. But he said, “Let’s remember the Soviets left Afghanistan.” So the CIA was, and if Charles Cogan was any sign and I think he is, and he was the head of the operation for a while, they very well knew that the mujahideen fighters, the Muslim guerrillas they were arming and equipping, were getting the bulk of their finance and were sustaining their mass base among the farmers of southern Afghanistan through trafficking in opium and heroin. And that provided—I mean it provided 65 percent, the bulk of U.S. heroin supply, the bulk of the world’s supply.

Now, when the United States pulled out of Afghanistan in 1992, we turned our backs on it and the Taliban backed by Pakistan took power, and under the Taliban by 2000, by 1999-2000, the opium harvest more than doubled to 4500 tons. But then the Taliban became concerned about their pariah status and they decided that if they abolished opium they would no longer be a pariah state, they could get international recognition, they could strengthen their hold on power. And so they actually, in 2000-2001, completely wiped out opium, and it went down from 4600 tons to 180 tons, I mean like an incredible— the most, one of the most successful opium eradication programs anywhere on the planet.

They also completely weakened their state, so that when the U.S. began bombing in October 2001, after the 9/11 attacks, the Taliban quickly collapsed and then what happened was, of course, when the U.S. came back in, what we did was we worked through the CIA. And we put pallets of hundred dollar bills, we sent in 70 million dollars in cash, we mobilized the old warlord coalition in the far north, the warlords there were heavily involved in opium traffic. We mobilize the Pashtun warlords who were all opium traffickers, and when they swept across Afghanistan and captured the countryside in the provincial capitals, they began supervising over the replanting of opium. And, very quickly, the opium harvest began blooming and by 2006 it was up to 8000 tons of opium— the highest in a century providing well over 90 percent of the world’s opium and heroin supply, and a majority of the gross domestic product of Afghanistan.

And, at the local level, the Taliban took control of the cultivation, the processing and the smuggling and they used the profits to rebuild their apparatus. They were completely wiped out in October 2001, they steadily rebuilt and have launched this succession of offensives that now control over half the countryside, so there’s a very clear relationship between the opium crop, which is now beyond our control, we ignored it up to 2004, as it was booming and spreading again. So it’s one of those interesting exercises or instances in which the U.S. loses control over this complementation between the illicit traffic and the surrogate warfare, that complementation that worked so well in Central America. When you’ve lost control of it in Afghanistan, and it’s one more index of our waning control over the world, an ever more complex world.

The pillars of empire are starting to crumble

JS: One of the things that struck me as I read your book, In the Shadows of the American Century, was how often you predict, based on data, on historical example, that the United States as an empire is headed down a path of demise and you write about that with a nuance and you don’t pretend to know the exact scenario. One of the things you write in the book is, “Future historians are likely to identify George W. Bush’s rash invasion of Iraq, in 2003, as the start of America’s downfall. But instead of the bloodshed that marked the end of so many past empires with cities burning and civilians slaughtered, this 21st century imperial collapse could come relatively quietly through the invisible tendrils of economic contraction or cyber warfare.”

Why do you seem so convinced that this is inevitable, and how do you foresee the scenarios, potential scenarios for the demise of what we now understand as the American empire?

AM: There are, I think multiple factors, that lead to an imperial decline. If you look at the key aspects of the U.S. global power, you can see a waning of strength in every one of those. One of the key things that I think very few people understand, after World War II, the United States became the first world power, the first empire in a 1000 years to control both ends of the vast Eurasian continent. Now Eurasia, that enormous landmass, is the epicenter of world power. It’s got the resources, the people, the civilizations that—you’ve got to control that to control the world. And the United States, through the NATO alliance in Western Europe and a string of alliances along the Pacific littoral with Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Australia, controlled the axial ends of the Eurasian landmass.

And then we link that with layers of power, treaties multilateral defense treaties, starting with NATO in Europe, all the way to SETO and ANSIS with Australia, the Japan Mutual Security Treaty, the South Korea U.S. Mutual Security Treaty, the Philippine U.S. Mutual Security Treaty. And then we had fleets, we had the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean, the Seventh Fleet at Subic Bay Philippines, later the Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf. We had hundreds of military bases. By the end of the Cold War we have about 800 overseas military bases.

Most of those were arrayed around the Eurasian landmass. In the last ten years as drone technology has developed, we’ve laid the latest layer upon that, which are the drone bases. There are 60 US drone bases that stretch from Sicily all the way to Andersen air base on Guam, and that, given the range of the most powerful drones, the Global Hawk, it gives us surveillance and then with Predator and Reaper, strike capacity, all the way along that rim, and that has been, if you will, the key pillars in the global architecture of U.S. power.

And those pillars are starting to crumble. The NATO alliance is weakening under Trump, with the rise of Russian pressure on that alliance, but more particularly, our capacity to control those critical allies along the Pacific littoral is beginning to weaken. Jeremy, your organization The Intercept had, last April, a very important document that leaked out, the transcript of that phone conversation between President Trump and President Duterte of the Philippines, that should have had front page coverage all across the world, and every serious American newspaper. It got good coverage, but not the coverage it deserved.

If you read that transcript closely, you can see the waning of U.S. power along the Pacific littoral. Donald Trump is calling up, he’s got a fellow demagogue in the person of Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, who has killed about 8000 people in his so-called drug war— people blown away, bodies dumped in the streets of Manila and Cebu and elsewhere in the country, and he’s calling up and congratulating him and trying to bond with him, you know, autocrat to autocrat. And then Trump shifts the conversation and says, “Well, we got this problem in Korea. Kim Jong Un is unreliable.” And Duterte says, “I’m going to call China, I’ll talk to Xi Jinping about that.” And Trump says, “We’ve got some very powerful submarines, which we’re going to have in the area.” And Duterte says, “Yeah, I’m going to call,” he says, “Yeah, I’m gonna call Xi Jinping about that. I’ll be talking to China.”

And it’s clear that Trump is trying to court the man, trying to impress him with U.S. strength, and every time Trump tries to do it, Duterte responds, “I will call China.” It’s a clear indication of China’s rising power along that Pacific littoral. Also, China has been conducting a very skillful geopolitical strategy, so-called “One belt, One road” or “Silk Road” strategy and what China has been doing since about 2007 is they’ve spent a trillion dollars and they’re going to spend another trillion dollars in laying down a massive infrastructure of rails and gas and oil pipelines that will integrate the entire Eurasian landmass. Look, Europe and Asia, which we think of as— we’re learning in geography in elementary school that they’re two separate continents—they’re not. They were only separated by the vast distances, the steps in the desert that seem to divide them. Well China’s laid down, through a trillion dollars investment, a series of pipelines that are bringing energy from Central Asia across thousands of miles into China, from Siberia into China.

They’ve also built seven bases in the South China Sea and they’re taking control over these— spent over two hundred million dollars in transforming a fishing village on the Arabian Sea named Gwadar, in Pakistan, into a major modern port. They’ve also got port facilities in Africa. And through these port facilities they’re cutting those circles of steel that the United States laid down to kind of link and hold those two axial ends of Eurasia. So we are slowly, because of China’s investment, its development, some of our mismanagement of our relationships and long term trends, those axial ends of Eurasia they’re crumbling. Our power, our control over that critical continent is weakening, and China’s control is slowly inexorably increasing and that is going to be a major geopolitical shift. One that is going to weaken the United States and strengthen China.

JS: You write, “All available economic, educational, technological data indicate that when it comes to U.S. global power, negative trends are likely to aggregate rapidly by 2020, and could reach a critical mass no later than 2030. The American Century, proclaimed so triumphantly at the start of World War II, may already be tattered and fading by 2025, and, except for the finger pointing could be over by 2030.” How do you see that happening and what does that mean for the United States in the world, but also for ordinary Americans?

AM: Sure. How do I see it happening? There are the geopolitical shifts that I just described. The other thing of the long term trends, the issues of economic waning, U.S. economic strength. China is slowly, is steadily surpassing the United States as the number one economic power. That’s one long term trend. And China will therefore have the resources to invest in military technology.

The second thing is, we speak of crumbling U.S. infrastructure, one thing that nobody talks about very seriously in a sustained way is the intellectual infrastructure of the country. The OECD, the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, the rich countries club, conducts these tests every couple years, the PISA tests, and they test fifteen year-olds. In the latest rounds of tests, Shanghai students have come number one in math, science, and literacy.

U.S. students have been somewhere, in math and science, somewhere between twenty and thirty. And so you might say, “Who cares about a bunch of fifteen year-olds with braces, backpacks, and attitudes?” Well, by 2030, those fifteen year-olds are going to be in their 20s and 30s. They’re going to be the super smart scientists and engineers that are coming up with the cutting edge technology. Technology, for example, like photon communications. China is evidently going to lead in this, that means that China can communicate with its satellites and its entire cyber and space and military apparatus without fear of being compromised. We have not developed the same level of photon communications as China. We’re much more subject to being hijacked and manipulated.

So, those kinds of trends in raw military power. The sort of the erosion of U.S. educational standards within ten or fifteen years can have some very serious implications for our military technology. It means you just don’t have the scientists, the technology, the innovation that has been so central to U.S. global power for so many years. And so that waning, the geopolitical shifts, you know, those invisible movements of a power arrayed across the landscape. And then the technological and educational shifts coming together means that there are all kinds of ways for the U.S. to lose power. Either with a bang or a whimper. But by 2030, it’s pretty much over for our global dominion.

JS: And is that, is that in your opinion a bad thing?

AM: Well, yes it is, and I here, you know I speak, you could call me, you know a narrow American. But, okay, every empire—if you think we’ve had empires in the world for about four thousand years. Some have been more benign and beneficent, others have been absolutely brutal. If you want to go to the most brutal empire, I think in human history, the Nazi empire in Europe. It was an empire. It plundered. Much of that mobilization of labor was just raw exploitation. It was the most brutal empire in human history and it collapsed. The Japanese Empire in Asia, which was arguably the biggest empire in history, was a second runner-up for raw brutality, they collapsed. The British Empire was relatively benign. Yes, it was a global power, there were many excesses, many incidents, one can go on, but when it was all over, they left the Westminster system of parliament, they left the global language, they left a global economy, they left a culture of sports, they created artifacts like the B.B.C.

So the US empire has been, and we’ve had our excesses, Vietnam, we could go on. Afghanistan. There are many problems with the US exercise of its power but we have stood for human rights, the world has had 70 years of relative peace and lots of medium size wars but nothing like World War I and World War II. There has been an increase in global development, the growth of a global economy, with many inequities, but nonetheless, transnationally, a new middle class is appearing around the globe. We’ve stood for labor rights and environmental protection. Our successor powers, China and Russia, are authoritarian regimes. Russia’s autocratic, China’s a former communist regime. They stand for none of these liberal principles.

So you’ll have the realpolitik exercise of power, all the downsides with none of the upsides, with none of the positive development. I mean we’ve stood for women’s rights, for gay rights, for human progress, for democracy. You know we’ve been flawed in efficacy, but we’ve stood for those principles and we have advanced them. So we have been, on the scale of empires, comparatively benign and beneficent. And I don’t think the succeeding powers are going to be that way.

Moreover, there are going to be implications for the United States. Most visibly, I think that when the dollar is no longer the world’s unchallenged, preeminent, global reserve currency, the grand imperial game will be over. Look, what we’ve been able to do for the last twenty years is we send the world our brightly colored, our nicely printed paper, tea notes, and they give us oil and automobiles and computers and technology. We get real goods and they get brightly colored paper. Because of the position of the dollar. When the dollar is no longer the global reserve currency, the cost of goods in the United States is going to skyrocket.

We will not be able to travel the world as we do now. We won’t be able to enjoy the standard of living we do now. There will be lots of tensions that are going to occur in the society from what will be a major rewriting of the American social contract. This will not be pleasant. And arguably, I think it’s possible if we look back, we could see Trump’s election and all the problems of the Trump Administration as one manifestation of this imperial decline.

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A gritaria de Jair Bolsonaro e o avanço do “mito”

22 July 2017 - 7:07am

Militar de reserva , político de carreira (sete vezes deputado federal, uma vez vereador) e presidenciável, Jair Messias Bolsonaro tirou alguns dias fora de Brasília, reino dos memes da corrupção brasileira, para vir até Florianópolis (SC) em maio. Em seguida, sua turnê passaria por Joinville, Blumenau e Jaraguá do Sul. Pela primeira vez, de acordo com evento criado no Facebook, para uma palestra: 2,7 mil pessoas mostraram-se interessadas no encontro aberto ao público, sem cobrança de ingresso. Uma amostra dos 21% de eleitores brasileiros que dizem que, se a eleição fosse hoje, escolheriam Bolsonaro para comandar o país. Número que parece consolidar a direita mais radical como uma alternativa cada vez mais real de poder no Brasil.

A seu lado em Florianópolis estariam os deputados federais Eduardo “Mitinho” Bolsonaro e Rogério “Bancada-da-Bala” Peninha. Não havia muitos detalhes. A julgar pelo vídeo promocional, poderia muito bem ser um meet and greet com um desses YouTubers da moda que se veem internet adentro. A diferença é que era um político superstar e presidente do Brasil wannabe.

Mas sobre o que era a palestra? Nada constava. Teríamos de ir lá pra ver.

Para nós, não fazia sentido um homem com um discurso daqueles ser entendido como carismático. Também desconfiávamos de que a multidão agia ao seu redor como seguidores de um messias, com “m” minúsculo. Mas, principalmente, queríamos entender por que, para aquela fervorosa parcela de gente de bem, “político de estimação” não pode – mas mito, bem, aí são outros 200 mil.

#1. Os que não cansaram de esperar

Admirador faz selfie com Bolsonaro ao fundo no aeroporto de Florianópolis.

Gabriel D. Lourenço/Brio Lab

Bolsonaro chegaria ao aeroporto às 10h20. Chegamos às 9h, e, obviamente, não éramos os primeiros a esperar por ele.

Algumas voltas clicando os vinte e tantos presentes, um senhor de cinquenta e tantos ralhou que não autorizava fotos dele. Acalmou quando explicamos que atrás dele estava a recepção ao deputado, e nosso trabalho era cobrir a vinda.

“Pena meu vôo sair antes do Bolsonaro chegar,” lamentou. “Queria ver o cara. Um dos poucos honestos que ainda sobraram por aí.”

“Então, você votaria nele?”

“Claro. Nele ou no Dória, são candidatos fortes na minha opinião. O Bolsonaro porque tá caindo de pau no Lula, no PSDB, nesses caras aí. E o Dória porque é um gestor de verdade. Essa eleição ou vai dar um, ou vai dar outro. O problema é o Nordeste.”

“Mesmo? Mas por que você acha isso?”

“O Nordeste é o forte da esquerda, é onde eles ganham voto. Porque lá o povo depende de Bolsa Família, de esmola, são massa de manobra. Eu sou de Campinas, moro aqui na ilha [Florianópolis] tem 15 anos e aqui, onde é mais desenvolvido, esses caras não se criam. Por que o Lula não tá fazendo campanha aqui no Sul, e lá no Nordeste já tem até outdoor dele, candidato a presidente? É verdade, recebi as fotos no meu celular e tudo…”

“O Bolsonaro não é homofóbico, não é contra os gays. Só não quer o Estado mandando no sexo das criança, pô.”

Logo depois, pedi a dois trinta-e-tantos de moletom do Bolsonaro que deixassem eu fotografar as estampas. O primeiro deles, mais alto e o único cabeludo lá além de mim, disse, desconfortável, que não. Seu amigo, de cabeça raspada, cutucou mandando se levantar, que não era pra ficar de frescura.

Na hora das fotos, fizeram cara de mau. E enquanto o primeiro voltou a seu mundinho, o segundo dizia por que Bolsonaro era o cara.

“Ele defende muita coisa que eu acredito. É de direita, defende punição pra bandido, porte de arma, é contra a ideologia de gênero – especialmente a ideologia de gênero. Esse negócio aí do Estado ficar mandando no sexo do meu filho, do que ele vai ser. Isso é um absurdo. Na criação da minha criança, mando eu.”

Chequei as fotos enquanto balançava a cabeça. Ele prosseguiu:

“O Bolsonaro não é homofóbico, não é contra os gays. Só não quer o Estado mandando no sexo das crianças, pô. É a favor da família, de  Deus, a favor do cidadão de bem. E ainda tem gente com a cara de pau de dizer que ele é preconceituoso, racista, homofóbico. Se ser a favor disso tudo é ser homofóbico, então eu sou um baita de um homofóbico.”

#2. Peregrinos, devotos e mártires das santas causas políticas

Cartazes à espera do mito em Florianópolis

Gabriel D. Lourenço

Encontrei dois jovens, filiados ao Partido Social Cristão (PSC), que desceram os 68 km de Itapema até lá para ver o cara de perto. O mais falante deles vestia uma camiseta do político, autografada na semana anterior quando ele mesmo fora a Brasília. Era a terceira vez que estaria diante do ídolo.

Câmera no pescoço, me apresentei como repórter. Me olharam assustados, os dois, como se eu fosse um demônio saído das entranhas da Folha de S. Paulo. Cobraram meu alinhamento político. Respondi que não era aquilo que me faria deixar de ouvi-los nem de tentar entendê-los.

“Talvez vocês possam me responder uma coisa,” comentei. “Um amigo que trabalha na Câmara me contou que a sala do Bolsonaro é a única com uma cama. Isso é verdade?”

“Não. Não, não, não, não!”, protestava o de camiseta autografada. “Não tem, não!”

“É que faria sentido, afinal,” e joguei pela empatia. “Pensa comigo. Se você é um político e tem vários projetos para votar, passa a noite inteira votando…”

“Não é não, cara. O Bolsonaro é humilde, come marmita todo dia. Ele é que nem a gente, não tem isso, não.”

A comoção chamou a atenção de Leandro Chaplin, um simpático careca do Direita Santa Catarina e responsável pela organização. Expliquei a situação da mesma forma. Respondeu sorrindo.

“Deve ter. Faz sentido, afinal. Hoje mesmo mandou um vídeo pra gente, às 6h da manhã, direto no gabinete, teve de ficar votando projeto até mais tarde.”

Adiante, um trio comentava ter levantado cedíssimo para estar ali àquela hora. Era o casal Tayoana Schuller, 24 anos, e Gabriel Roberto, 23 anos, junto ao amigo Flávio Acquesta, 41 anos. Estavam lá desde as 7h. Tiveram de acordar às 3h da manhã para preparar tudo e encarar os 225 km de Lages até a capital.

“Esperança, cara. No meio de um país com tanta corrupção, com estes nossos políticos que só nos trazem vergonha,  vi nele uma esperança em si.”

Adiante, o professor de jiu-jitsu e medalhista mundial, Aron de Oliveira, 23 anos, tirava uma foto envolto na bandeira do Amapá – toda canetada por seus alunos. Planejou participar anteriormente de um campeonato em São Paulo só para facilitar a escala até Florianópolis, ver seu herói de perto. “Sem um puto no bolso, teria de pegar dinheiro emprestado dos amigos para se virar ali. Queria uma foto, um contato, e voltar pra casa com um autógrafo na bandeira para seus alunos do projeto social – privilégio para poucos de lá.

“Pra mostrar que lá no Norte também existem pessoas que o apoiam. Apesar de ser um povo meio esquecido, às vezes criticado por ignorante, no Norte também tem pessoas.”

“E o que significa pra você esse esforço de vir de tão longe só pra estar diante do Bolsonaro?”

“Esperança, cara. No meio de um país com tanta corrupção, com estes nossos políticos que só nos trazem vergonha, e quando eu comecei a pesquisar sobre ele – uns quatro, cinco anos atrás –, e mesmo ele sendo de outra cidade, vi nele uma esperança em si.”

“Senta a pua!”: o slogan dos ex-comabtentes da segunda guerra foi resgatado em apoio ao ídolo.

Gabriel D. Lourenço

A multidão se aglutinava no aeroporto. Mais de cem pessoas chegaram no local, e a tendência era continuar crescendo. Na movimentação, branco, preto e verde-e-amarelo eram as cores majoritárias nas camisetas. Um sem-número de estampas do político superstar me fez pensar que talvez a direita sectária tenha arranjado um Che Guevara (ou, vá lá, um Lula) pra chamar de seu. Jovens ostentando alegremente o amarelo de suas ideologias, grandalhões com placas PVC de Senta a Pua (o famoso grito de guerra de combatentes brasileiros na Segunda Guerra Mundial), um velho orgulhoso de vestir a camiseta com a Gadsden Flag na altura do peito – uma cascavel em riste voltada à esquerda, símbolo da bravura militar americana.

Dez e tanto, e a ensandecida entourage se direcionava para esperar a chegada do Bolsonaro na rua, pois desembarcaria no portão externo. Da organização, alguém disse que poderiam falar com ele, abraçá-lo, mas sem viadagem.

Risadas coletivas. Uma senhora gritou que queria beijar aquele homem maravilhoso. Em êxtase, aquelas duzentas e tantas pessoas gritavam “mito! mito!” do lado de fora.

#3. À espera do messias

A multidão à espera de Bolsonaro era feita de três-quartos êxtase e um-quarto de ansiedade.

Coros comuns e repetíveis, que iam de “Bolsonaro-Guerreiro-Orgulho-Brasileiro” a “Lula-ladrão-teu-lugar-é-na-prisão” eram mais do que um gesto de pertencimento. Era a prova freudiana de que o ser humano não é só um animal coletivo, mas um animal que precisa de liderança. Um líder que satisfaça o desejo de ser guiado, de dar sentido ao caos do mundo – e que afaste o medo da morte.

Ao se submeter a um líder, é como se magicamente você ganhasse os atributos que enxerga nele.

A isso é chamado de transferência, e quando é atendido, a sensação de poder, de sentido, de certeza é imensa. E desaparecem as ilusões, as ideias de que não podemos garantir nada, de que somos frágeis, de que talvez tudo o que façamos seja inútil frente à forças que não temos chance alguma de controlar. Ao se submeter a um líder, é como se magicamente você ganhasse os atributos que enxerga nele.

Medo e euforia, claro, não são exclusivos dos seguidores do político superstar, mas inerentes ao animal humano. E sabe qual a principal razão das massas serem perigosas? É que, nela, todos se afirmam coletivamente. Nada de ruim acontecerá consigo, quando em grupo – com os outros, talvez.

Pedi licença a um sujeito, um gordinho trintão de preto que se debruçava no muro, esperançoso de ver o desembarque do mito. Ao fundo, os coros continuavam. Cedeu espaço, e por algum tempo, nada do político. Quando agradeci e desci do muro, o sujeito gritou:

“Aqui, até a mídia é de Direita!”

Sem querem protagonizar debates profundos com meus observados, recorri ao manualzinho do jornalista padrão:

“Ei,” e fiz cara de indignado, “cê tá ciente que a imprensa tem que ser imparcial, né?”

“Caramba, velho,” e me respondeu sem graça, baixinho. “Desculpa. Eu me empolguei.”

Tentei negociar com a organização por um mínimo de espaço antes que aquele messias tempesteasse o mar de quase 300 pessoas que lhe aguardava. Talvez o corredor pudesse ser aberto, alguns minutinhos, só pra imprensa conseguir algumas fotos?

Não. Quando o fenômeno passou pelo portão, uma multidão de pessoas se acavalou. Eu e a câmera, dois náufragos no oceano de braços e celulares, diante do sessentão militarista, aclamado por eles como o futuro presidente do Brasil. Tanto faz se pelo PR, PRB, DEM, PSC ou PHS.

Cinco minutos depois, subiria a uma caminhonete com microfone para discursar. Foi recebido aos gritos de “mito”, “mas o que que é isso”, “dá que eu te dou outra”, dentre outras banalizações do mal – todas satisfazendo desejos difíceis de realizar sem punição.

Não nos deixaram subir para tirar fotos de seu ponto de vista superstar. Tivemos de ficar junto aos seguidores.

As vozes só cessaram com o hino nacional, cantado até a primeira metade.

#4. O rei fala tudo e abranda logo depois

Bolsonaro fala aos seus seguidores ainda no aeroporto de Florianópolis.

Gabriel D. Lourenço

As primeiras palavras do candidato para seus seguidores foram para fazer piada com gaúcho. Em seguida, afirmou depressa que era brincadeira. E logo mandou chamar o “negão” – Linston Souza, da organização – ao seu lado.

“Tá vendo esse cara aqui? Conheci esse cara agora, na descida do avião. Falei com ele e disse: ‘porra, no meu tempo de solteiro as loirona que eu queria não tavam nem aí pra mim. Naquele tempo, as loiras queriam tudo saber é do negão aqui, porra.

Hoje em dia a gente vive numa sociedade em que não se pode mais nem brincar um com o outro.”

E recebeu a primeira salva de palmas e urros.

“Isso aqui é uma brincadeira entre nós, claro. Hoje em dia a gente vive numa sociedade em que não se pode mais nem brincar um com o outro.”

Linston, no fim do dia, disse que considera Jair uma grande figura e nem um pouco preconceituoso. Ele mesmo é contra as cotas raciais, fez parte do movimento negro e considera a medida racista. “As cotas deveriam ser de classe, não de raça.”

Mas Jair Bolsonaro não é racista. Não se a sua concepção de racismo, claro, for algo entre “os negros são uma raça inferior” e “a escravidão não deveria ser abolida”.

Jacques Mick, doutor e professor do departamento de sociologia e ciência política da Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, disse, em entrevista à reportagem, que a razão para existir um fenômeno Bolsonaro é a grande transformação social por que o Brasil passou nos últimos 30 anos.

O primeiro elemento dessa transformação, segundo Mick, seria o maior acesso à educação – ocorrida em especial no período lulista, embora já iniciada por Fernando Henrique – , o que, num país que sempre foi “uma nação de ignorantes”, significa muito. O próximo é o fortalecimento do movimento feminista, muito beneficiado pela intensa conexão em rede. Por fim, o sistema de cotas e outros incentivos foram essenciais para que os negros começassem a assumir espaços aos quais antes não pertencia. Lugares banais, como um avião, exemplificou o professor.

Essa junção de elementos, ou seja, o maior acesso à educação, o maior destaque dos negros,  das mulheres, dos pobres, dos LGBTTI – as principais vítimas do preconceito – e a perda de hegemonia da esquerda nas últimas eleições fizeram com que a direita saísse do armário. Como disse Mick, num espaço em que nunca houve um negro, “o racista nunca teve que se manifestar”. Ou seja, a direita estava “escondida”, envergonhada por ter entregado um país em condições horríveis após o período ditatorial. Mas o avanço social desses grupos fez com que o segregacionismo se evidenciasse numa sociedade que sempre foi conservadora.

No momento da visita de Bolsonaro a Florianópolis, a gravação-bomba de Joesley Batista no Palácio do Jaburu ocupava o centro do noticiário e colocou o governo em suspenso. Foi a deixa pra Bolsonaro largar mais uma de suas piadas-bordão: “se continuar desse jeito, vou acabar sendo presidente por W.O.. ”

Não era a primeira vez que ouvia aquilo – alguém de sua legião já havia dito antes. Também afirmou que queria um país em que vagabundo não se criasse, porque não se negocia com patrão e reivindica direitos com “porfavor” e “comlicença”. E que chefe nenhum abusaria de empregado se o cidadão tivesse direito a arma.

O que talvez não fosse útil, já que a arma do meu patrão com certeza estaria alguns calibres à frente da minha.

A arma, segundo o Mito – e Carlos “Mitinho” Bolsonaro apenas reforçou – era mais do que o direito da autodefesa. Era, acima de tudo, o direito da liberdade individual. E essas e tantas outras mudanças viriam pela frente, “era melhor Jair se acostumando.”

#5. Se os militares fechassem o Congresso, Bolsonaro ficaria dentro ou fora?

Polícia Militar faz guarda

https://theintercept.com/preview/?p=138297&t=92843bc3de69c343d6fbf58201ad2ba7

O momento político em que Florianópolis recebeu Bolsonaro não poderia ser mais instável para o Brasil. Na noite anterior, o jornal “O Globo” revelou que áudios gravados por Joesley Batista, dono da JBS, mostravam o Presidente da República, Michel Temer, dando aval para a compra de silêncio do ex-deputado Eduardo Cunha, preso desde outubro de 2016. Essa informação faz parte da delação do empresário – a mesma que revelou que o senador Aécio Neves havia pedido R$ 2 milhões para pagar a sua defesa na Lava-Jato. A entrega desse dinheiro ao agora ex-presidente do PSDB foi filmada pela Polícia Federal.

Isso, pode-se dizer, nada tem a ver com o político superstar, porém, a semana também não estava sendo fácil para ele. Na segunda-feira, dia 15 de maio, a Folha de S. Paulo publicou uma reportagem mostrando que o deputado admitiu, em 1987, ter cometido atos de indisciplina e deslealdade no Exército. Foi considerado culpado por um conselho de justificação composto por três coronéis, mas absolvido em seguida pelo Superior Tribunal Militar. Quando procurado pelo jornal, na sexta-feira anterior à publicação, a assessoria do deputado disse que “a pauta é uma merda” e questionou “quem estava pagando”.

Em 16 de maio, foi publicado que superiores de Bolsonaro no Exército o julgavam possuidor de uma “excessiva ambição em realizar-se financeira e economicamente.” O político respondeu por telefone: “Publica essa porra de novo sem falar comigo. Eu só falo com vocês gravando”.

“Tudo fake news”

A Folha aceitou o convite – ou ameaça – e enviou dois repórteres para uma entrevista, que durou aproximadamente uma hora. No vídeo, vê-se o deputado contra a parede,  agressivo na postura, defensivo nas respostas. Não poupou nem os leitores: referiu-se ao público do jornal como “tudo fake news”. Ao final da entrevista, fez uma live no Facebook acompanhado de seu filho, Eduardo Bolsonaro – que contribuiu traduzindo “independência ou morte” para o inglês –, e ainda chamou o Jornal do Brasil de “jornaleco que fechou.” A transmissão teve 4 milhões e 200 mil curtidas.

Os atos de indisciplina aos quais o jornal se referiu envolvem um artigo em que escreveu para a revista Veja, chamado “O salário está baixo”, e a sua liderança num protesto contra o valor do soldo dos militares. Na época, Bolsonaro era capitão no 8º Grupo de Artilharia de Campanha e estava no Exército havia 12 anos, quando entrou na Academia Militar das Agulhas Negras.

O feito ajudou-o a se tornar conhecido e a ser eleito, em 1988, como vereador no Rio e, dois anos depois, deputado federal pelo Partido Democrata Cristão (PDC). Desde então, Bolsonaro passou por mais seis partidos e foi reeleito também mais seis vezes para o cargo, sempre vagando entre o baixo clero e breves relances de ascensão midiática baseados, invariavelmente, em declarações ultrajantes a ouvidos progressistas (embora, por muito tempo, tenha integrado os quadros do Partido Progressista…).

“matou foi pouco”

Se hoje seus clamores pela volta da Ditadura ou os elogios a Brilhante Ustra são o que, de certa forma, o impulsionam rumo à corrida presidencial, nos anos 1990 isso quase colocou em risco a sua carreira política. Em 1993, posicionou-se, na Câmara dos Deputados, a favor da Ditadura, crente que a irresponsável democracia não seria capaz de resolver problemas sérios da nação. O fechamento do Congresso acabaria com a corrupção e com a inflação. “Democracia de verdade é comida na mesa, a capacidade de planejar sua vida, a capacidade de caminhar na rua sem ser assaltado”, disse o deputado para o The New York Times à época.

Impressionado, o então presidente da Câmara, Inocêncio de Oliveira, até tentou cassar o mandato de Bolsonaro. Porém, os Bolsosmurfs enviaram cartas a vários jornais posicionando-se a favor do que o deputado havia dito, fazendo com que Inocêncio mudasse de ideia. Quem explica é Shawn C. Smallman. Como conta no livro “Fear & Memory in the Brazilian Army and Society, 1889-1954” (Medo e Memória no Exército e Sociedade Brasileiros, em tradução livre): “Os brasileiros de classe média escreveram cartas aos jornais brasileiros, enquanto os moradores de favelas publicaram banners dizendo ‘Forças Armadas, assumam’. O discurso de Bolsonaro certamente não representava os pontos de vista da maioria das autoridades brasileiras. Mas a resposta civil a seu discurso mostrou que o Exército ainda tinha alguma legitimidade.”

Bolsonaro ainda cometeria o mesmo “erro” em 1999. Em entrevista a um  programa da Band, disse que a ditadura militar “matou foi pouco” e que deveria ter fuzilado 30 mil corruptos, ‘‘a começar pelo presidente Fernando Henrique Cardoso’’. O então Presidente do Congresso, o nada-famoso Antônio Carlos Magalhães, chegou a dizer: “Se ele prega isso [fechamento do Congresso], deveriam cassar o mandato dele. Não vi a entrevista e não tenho que tomar conhecimento das loucuras de alguém que, evidentemente, está perdendo o senso e o juízo”.

“Se eu não peço o fuzilamento de Fernando Henrique Cardoso, ele [Jô] jamais estaria me entrevistando agora”.

Bolsonaro não estava, porém, perdendo a popularidade. Vários jornais receberam cartas de apoio ao que disse. E apesar do próprio FHC pedir que o deputado fosse punido, escapar foi fácil. O político superstar só teve de mandar uma carta de desculpas para o então presidente da Câmara à época, um político chamado Michel Temer.

Os anos 2000 não foram tão turbulentos para a estabilidade de Bolsonaro em seu cargo, mas, em entrevista ao Programa do Jô, resumiria a sua forma de propaganda: “Se eu não peço o fuzilamento de Fernando Henrique Cardoso, ele [Jô] jamais estaria me entrevistando agora”.

De polêmica em polêmica, o político enchia a própria bola. Cada vez mais visível, seus gritos militares e intolerantes começaram a ganhar eco nos anônimos silenciosos em tempos de internet – que encontraram nele um herói para chamar de seu – e reverberar virtualmente. Seja dizendo que: se pegasse filho fumando maconha, o torturaria; parlamentar não deve andar de ônibus, mulher deve ganhar salário menor porque engravida ou que nenhum pai tem orgulho de ter um filho gay. Assim, o político superstar começa a ver sinais de um público a atender. E que podia ouvir os gritos em Florianópolis.

Também virou celebridade. Deu entrevista à Playboy, apareceu na televisão e participou de game-show. Em 2014, foi o deputado federal mais votado no Rio de Janeiro, com 464 mil votos.

Essa popularidade e os quase 30 anos na política, no entanto, não garantem a ele relevância nos esquemas de poder em Brasília. Pouco consultado pelos colegas parlamentares, teve apenas quatro votos quando se candidatou a presidente da Câmara e não conquistou liderança pelos partidos em que passou. Logo, deve deixar o PSC, e entre os possíveis novos partidos já foram apontados o PR, PRB, DEM e PHS.

Para seu eleitorado, claro, isso não importa. Num esforço de revisionismo e boa vontade, serve até como prova mais de que não é “farinha do mesmo saco”.  

#6. Não era herói (mas era tipo isso)

“Bolsonaro”, interrompeu o garoto, invisível na multidão, “sem viadagem cara, mas tu é muito mais bonito pessoalmente, puta que pariu.”

O nome do garoto era William, tinha dezoito anos, era aluno de terceirão do Instituto Federal de Santa Catarina (IFSC). Foi recebido como herói entre os amigos pelo seu gesto.

Todos riram. O deputado protestou, jocoso, preferindo que fosse uma mulher, “mas eu não tenho problema nenhum com o que cada um faz da sua vida.” Depois mandou o garoto subir com ele. Hastearam juntos uma bandeira do Brasil.

Naquele momento, William era o único que havia se destacado da multidão, trocado palavras, abraços e sido alvo da atenção especial do político superstar. Seus amigos estavam admirados. Para um jovem que é o único de sua turma que contesta o “discurso homogêneo de esquerda” difundido numa organização pública – e se sente oprimido com as tréplicas –, é capaz de estar sonhando com esse dia até hoje.

Quando perguntei a ele se considerava Bolsonaro um herói, respondeu que “não exatamente, mas era tipo isso.”

Pensei nisso por um bom tempo durante o trajeto até o centro. Procurei por um restaurante em que pudesse assistir aos cinco minutos de entrevista do presidenciável no jornal local do meio-dia, no qual o comentarista da afiliada da Globo o atacaria violentamente com perguntas não tão agressivas assim.

Quatro mesas adiante, um casal de meninas almoçava junto. Trocavam palavras e beijos antes da refeição.

As respostas de Bolsonaro iam equilibradas até o momento em que o entrevistador perguntou sobre “o que não era tolerável, na opinião do deputado, em relação às questões LGBT.”

“Olha, que façam o movimento que bem entenderem. O que eu não tolero, não posso admitir, é que esse tipo de informação chegue pra criancinhas a partir de seis anos de idade na escola. Não podemos admitir esses ativismos [sic] gay a partir dessa… tão pequena idade em sala de aula.”

O casal à minha frente não deu a mínima para ele.

#7. A sarrada voadora que erradica o Mal

Manifestantes de esquerda à entrada do hotel em que aconteceria a palestra de Bolsonaro.

Gabriel D. Lourenço

Antes da palestra, um velhinho tentava, timidamente e por conta própria, arrecadar assinaturas para a fundação de um Partido Militar. Vendia seu peixe dizendo que, com essa fundação, Jair Bolsonaro seria o ícone e o candidato à presidência do novo partido.

Enquanto esperava lá fora, um sujeito trintão, de terno, gravata e credencial de imprensa veio falar comigo no saguão do hotel cinco estrelas onde Bolsonaro palestraria. Contou-me que tinha um sitezinho para cobrir festas e descolara aquelas credenciais só pra estar mais perto do político na coletiva de imprensa.

“Eu me identifico muito com ele, sabe?”

“Eu me identifico muito com ele, sabe? Em ideias, jeito, personalidade, pensamento… Mas eu não entendo essa da esquerda, de querer fazer baderna, fazer protesto. Por que tem que fazer bagunça?”

Ia dizer que não sabia, mas olhei para o lado e entendi as razões do assunto. Alguns sujeitos, uns trinta, no máximo, todos vestidos de preto, organizavam-se na rua. Um ato contra o deputado havia sido marcado para o momento de sua entrada no hotel. Quando cheguei, não havia ninguém.

Corri até a rua. A fila para os que queriam entrar para a palestra chegava a dobrar no quarteirão. A Polícia Militar logo formou um cordão de nove policiais equipados com cassetetes. Diantes deles, cartazes, músicas de protestos e gritos no megafone. Contrários a elas, uma massa de jovens de uniformes de escolas particulares, furiosos senhores nostálgicos e casais white-trash com a camiseta de seu político favorito.

Os manifestantes gritavam os discursos problemáticos do Bolsonaro que incitavam a violência. Os seguidores do político replicavam com os mesmos cantos do momento do aeroporto, num adicional de “vai comprar gilete”. Um adolescente negro batia no peito e no braço, agressivamente, bradando um eu sou Bolsonaro, eu sou brasileiro! Alguns musculosos, com penteados tão trabalhados quanto o corpo, faziam contagem regressiva para darem sarradas no ar e, depois, cumprimentos.

A chuva caía e obrigava os manifestantes a chegarem perto. A tensão era a mesma de um punhado de piranhas num balde d’água.

Durante a palestra, a dispersão dos manifestantes veio num estrondo só, numa bomba de efeito moral. Bolsonaro e os demais acharam graça.

#8. O que o deputado tinha a dizer

Eu já tinha visto aquela cena antes, algumas horas atrás. Com a diferença do número de pessoas (umas 600 lotando o pequeno auditório), todo o mais era igual. Foi recebido com a cantilena aplausos, uivos e gritos de mito. As considerações do seu filho, as piadas com Linston, o hino cantado até a primeira metade – se esticássemos a mão, ainda daria pra sentir o calor da receita pronta, aquecida quatro horas atrás.

A diferença dessa vez foi quem quebrou o silêncio antes do discurso. Tayoana Schuller, diante do político superstar, gritava freneticamente.

“Dá que eu te dou outra! Dá que eu te dou outra!” – uma referência a um arroubo de coragem, e clássico instantâneo do Bolsonaro way of life, quando o deputado respondeu a uma ameaça de bofetada da colega Maria do Rosário (PT-RS), que, segundo antes, havia recebido a seguinte gentileza do mito: “Jamais ia estuprar você porque você não merece”.

Bolsonaro, em Floripa, foi comedido o suficiente para, até onde eu acompanhei, em nenhum momento repetir referências ao incidente com Maria do Rosário. Sua seguidora, não.

“Dá que eu te dou outra! Dá que eu te dou outra!”

Enfim, sobre o quê ele falou?

Pode ser resumido em um parágrafo. Que o Brasil deveria ganhar dinheiro com as próprias terras, igual aos índios dos Estados Unidos que têm seus próprios cassinos. Que era um absurdo um livro com um buraco no meio para que se enfiasse o dedo e demonstrasse, a uma criança, como ocorre a penetração – e como a máfia do MEC faria de tudo para aquilo passar. Que nunca cogitou lançar candidatura com Aécio. E como a “Folha”, a mídia e tudo mais eram demônios por distorcer o que ele disse. Por muitas vezes falou que, no seu governo, levaria o país pra frente.

Mas Jair Bolsonaro não é candidato a presidente. Se fosse, aquilo seria campanha. E, se fosse campanha, estaria fora de época. Se fora de época, seria passível de punição por descumprir o Artigo 36 da Lei n.º 9.504/97, revisto em 2015. Da Propaganda Eleitoral em Geral: “A propaganda eleitoral somente é permitida após o dia 15 de agosto do ano da eleição.”

Bolsonaro veio para dizer que não era candidato à presidência, mas também para dizer tudo o que faria se fosse.

#9. O destino do ídolo é o mesmo que o nosso

Rogério Peninha, Jair Bolsonaro e Eduardo Bolsonaro cantam o hino no evento em Florinópolis.

Gabriel D. Lourenço

Em outras palavras, o antropólogo norte-americano Ernest Becker diz: o líder não é tão foda assim quanto parece. E isso precisa ser esclarecido.

Ele tem seu efeito na multidão, mas de maneira sugestiva. Não num sentido hipnótico, mas sim num condescendente. Diante de um coletivo, ele é a figura que estabelece até onde se pode ir, o que pode ser feito – e isso normalmente vai além do que os sujeitos se permitem.

As pessoas não atirariam tijolos em alguém só porque Bolsonaro mandou; mas se ele fosse o primeiro a jogar, seriam necessários vários dias para juntar o total dos cacos. As pessoas se utilizam da figura do líder para se dar a liberdade de agir. E o líder, sem a massa, não se sente seguro para quebrar seus limites pessoais.

Bolsonaro é muito limitado como político. Começa pelo fato de que ele representa apenas uma parte específica e conservadora da direita. Claro, ele cresce nas pesquisas, motivado pela crise política e pelo grande descontentamento do eleitorado com os candidatos tradicionais. Mas Jacques Mick não acredita que aguente o processo eleitoral.

Primeiro porque ele é tal qual Celso Russomano, que liderou as pesquisas para a prefeitura de São Paulo durante quase todo o períodos das eleições, mas perdeu no primeiro turno para João Dória. Segundo, porque o processo eleitoral é cruel e capaz de trucidar quem tem passado duvidoso, quem não consegue pagar a alta conta e não possui uma forte estrutura partidária (como é o caso do PSC de Bolsonaro).

“Num embate entre Bolsonaro, Lula e Dória, você tem dúvida de que o Bolsonaro vai ser destruído?”

A exceção talvez seja Fernando Collor, que conseguiu se eleger apesar de não ser muito influente ou estar em um grande partido (era membro do PRN). O seu trunfo, ao contrário de Bolsonaro, estava em ter o sistema ao seu lado e, em especial, pelo destaque dado pela Rede Globo, aponta Mick.

A sociedade se mobiliza para punir casos de racismo como nunca antes. Flagrar alguém na torcida chamando um jogador de “macaco”, algo que talvez ainda(!) seja apenas uma brincadeira para alguém, para a maior parte da sociedade, motivo de revolta nacional. Este é um período em que as novelas e outros programas abrem espaço para minorias e apresentam relacionamentos homoafetivos em suas tramas – propaganda gayzista, diriam alguns mais revoltosos contrários.

Se os grandes tubarões da mídia, de fato, decidirem escolher um candidato nas próximas eleições, quais as chances de ser um político superstar cuja fama é de cair matando contra o ativismo gay?   

Como a política está cada vez mais surpreendente a cada dia que passa, descartar qualquer candidato é arriscado. Até porque a esquerda à esquerda de Lula, por exemplo, ainda não achou o seu principal candidato – e pode enfrentar a sua mais difícil eleição na história recente. Mick, no entanto, opina de forma clara: “Num embate entre Bolsonaro, Lula e Dória, você tem dúvida de que o Bolsonaro vai ser destruído?”

Mas a fragilidade do político – política também, mas sobretudo a humana – não é vista pela multidão. Conforme Becker: por debaixo da figura do líder, além do cumprimento de seu papel, ainda existe, em essência, um ser humano. Um ser que treme diante do peso do mundo, que busca proteção e maneiras fáceis de afirmar sua ilusão de poder numa realidade.

A única chance de perceber isso diante de Bolsonaro foi durante sua coletiva de imprensa. Em determinado momento, disse que não saía mais para jantar, para churrasco ou pizzaria com sua família porque tinha medo de que algo acontecesse.

O mesmo sujeito que tinha medo da violência era o cara que, na pergunta seguinte, dizia que questões dos direitos humanos eram meros gastos da máquina estatal.

Algo não fazia sentido.

Em “A Negação da Morte”,  Ernest Becker diz que o medo de morrer é a maior angústia na vida do ser humano. A consequência disso é a busca por negar essa consequência inevitável, negar que, no fundo, apesar de nosso maior entendimento, a vida humana é tão insignificante quanto a de qualquer outro animal. Para provar que temos significância no mundo, buscamos e esforçamo-nos pelo heroísmo.

Com isso em mente, no fim da coletiva, quando Jair Bolsonaro dirigiru-se ao elevador para ser recebido em sua palestra, corri para alcançá-lo. Tínhamos dois andares e uma única pergunta a ser respondida.

“Fala, cabeludo,” disse, suspirando. “Qual é a sua pergunta?”

“Eu vejo que você fala bastante contra essas questões dos direitos humanos. Minha pergunta é: por um acaso você tem medo da morte?”

Deu de ombros. Num riso sem graça, antes de sair pela porta que abria, em direção à palestra cujo discurso seria a repetição do mesmo dito de manhã, no aeroporto, respondeu:

“Não. A morte é a única certeza que eu tenho.”

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