The Intercept

The New Yorker’s Big Cover Story Reveals Five Uncomfortable Truths About U.S. and Russia

28 February 2017 - 9:14am

The New Yorker is aggressively touting its 13,000-word cover story on Russia and Trump that was bylined by three writers, including the magazine’s editor-in-chief, David Remnick. Beginning with its cover image menacingly featuring Putin, Trump and the magazine’s title in Cyrillic letters, along with its lead cartoon dystopically depicting a UFO-like Red Square hovering over and phallically invading the White House, a large bulk of the article is devoted to what has now become standard – and very profitable – fare among East Coast news magazines: feeding Democrats the often-xenophobic, hysterical Russia-phobia for which they have a seemingly insatiable craving. Democratic media outlets have thus predictably cheered this opus for exposing “Russian President Vladimir Putin’s influence on the presidential election.”

But featured within the article are several interesting, uncomfortable, and often-overlooked facts about Putin, Trump and Democrats. Given that these points are made here by a liberal media organ that is vehemently anti-Trump, within an article dispensing what has become the conventional Democratic wisdom on Russia, it is well worth highlighting them:


1. Obama and Clinton have radically different views on Russia.

A major irony in the Democrats’ current obsession with depicting Putin as the world’s Grave Threat – and equating efforts to forge better relations with Moscow as some type of treason – is that it was Barack Obama who spent eight years accommodating the Russian leader and scorning the idea that Russia should be confronted and challenged. Indeed, Obama – after Russia annexed Crimea – rejected bipartisan demands to arm anti-Russian factions in Ukraine, and actively sought a partnership with Putin to bomb Syria. And, of course, in 2012 – years after Russia invaded Georgia and numerous domestic dissidents and journalists were imprisoned or killed – the Obama-led Democrats mercilessly mocked Mitt Romney as an obsolete, ignorant Cold War relic for his arguments about the threat posed by the Kremlin.

Clinton, however, had a much different view of all this. She was often critical of Obama’s refusal to pursue aggression and belligerence in his foreign policy, particularly in Syria, where she and her closest allies wanted to impose a no-fly zone, be more active in facilitating regime change, and risk confrontation with Russia there. The New Yorker article describes the plight of Evelyn Farkas, the Obama Pentagon’s senior Russia advisor who became extremely frustrated by Obama’s refusal to stand up to Putin over Ukraine, but was so relieved to learn that Clinton, as President, would do so:

The Russian experts heralded by the article also feared that Clinton – in contrast to Obama – was so eager for escalated U.S. military action in Syria to remove Assad that a military conflict with Russia was a real possibility:

It’s impossible to overstate how serious of a risk this was. Recall that one of Clinton’s most vocal surrogates, former acting CIA chief Michael Morell, explicitly said – in a Dr-Strangelove-level creepy video – that he wanted to kill not only Iranians and Syrians but also Russians in Syria:

There’s a reason that those who were so eager for U.S. military intervention in both Syria and Ukraine were so passionately supportive of Clinton. They knew there was a high likelihood that she would do what Obama refused to do: risk war with Russia in pursuit of these foreign policy goals.

One can, of course, side with the Clinton wing on the ground that the U.S. has been too soft on Russia, but what should not be suppressed – and what the New Yorker article makes clear – is that the hawkish views on Russia now dominant (even obligatory) in the Democratic Party were exactly what Obama resisted up until the last day that he left office.

That’s why people like John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio, along with various neocon organs, relentlessly attacked Obama on the ground that he was too accommodating of Putin in Syria, Ukraine and beyond. The post-election Democratic Party orthodoxy on Russia has deliberately obscured the fact that the leading accommodationist of Putin was named Barack Obama, and in that, he had a radically different approach than Clinton advocated.


2. The risk of a new Cold War is very real and very dangerous.

The most astonishing aspect of the post-election discourse on Russia is how little attention is paid to the risks of fueling a new Cold War, let alone of military confrontation between the two nuclear-armed powers. A different New Yorker article in December, by Eric Schlosser, described how many times the two countries came quite close to nuclear annihilation in the past, and how easy it is now to trigger a nuclear exchange merely by miscommunication or misperception, let alone active belligerence:

Today, the odds of a nuclear war being started by mistake are low—and yet the risk is growing, as the United States and Russia drift toward a new cold war. . . . The harsh rhetoric on both sides increases the danger of miscalculations and mistakes, as do other factors. Close encounters between the military aircraft of the United States and Russia have become routine, creating the potential for an unintended conflict.

Constantly ratcheting up aggressive rhetoric and tension between Washington and Moscow is not a game. And yet it’s one that establishment Democrats – and their new allies in the war-loving wing of the GOP – are playing with reckless abandon, and with little to no apparent concern about the risks. They have re-created a climate in the U.S. where a desire for better relations with Russia triggers suspicions about one’s loyalties.

The New Yorker article is rife with warnings about how close the two countries are to returning to full-blown Cold War animosity, with all the costs and horrors the prior one entailed. This harrowing passage is typical:

Some old foreign policy hands in the Clinton circle believe the U.S. and Russia are already in a second Cold War, and are angry that Trump is not doing enough to win it (and, even though they are loath to say it, they believed the same about Obama):

There are, as usual, numerous highly influential factions in Washington that would stand to benefit enormously from the resurrection of the Cold War. They’re the same groups that benefitted so much the first time around: weapons manufacturers, the think tanks they fund, the public/private axis of the Pentagon and intelligence community, etc. And the people who exert the greatest influence over U.S. discourse continue to be the spokespeople for those very interests. When all of that is combined with the Democratic Party’s massive self-interest in inflating the Russia threat – it gives them a way to explain away their crushing 2016 defeat – it is completely unsurprising that the orthodoxy on Russia has become hawkish and pro-confrontation.

One can debate whose fault it is that the two nations are so close to re-starting the Cold War. A primary obligation of Good Patriotism is to insist that it’s always the other side’s fault. But for those who would like to hear the other side of this equation, as a tonic to the singular message of the U.S. Patriotic Media, here’s Noam Chomsky speaking last year to German journalist Tilo Jung:

But regardless of where one wants to pin blame for these heightened tensions, the risks of heightening them further are incredibly high – one could plausibly say: incomparably high. Yet in the name of being “tough” on Putin, those risks are virtually never discussed, and anyone who attempts to raise them in the context of advocating better relations will almost instantly be accused of being a Kremlin stooge, or worse.


3. The U.S. media refuses to say if the U.S. interferes in Russia’s domestic politics.

U.S. media accounts often note that “Putin believes” that the U.S. Government has repeatedly interfered in Russia’s political process. Given how often Putin publicly makes this claim, that’s hard to suppress. But what they almost never comment on is the rather significant question of whether Putin’s claims are true: does the U.S., in fact, try to manipulate Russian politics the way Russia now stands accused of interfering in the U.S. election?

The New Yorker article demonstrates how steadfastly this question is ignored. Here’s a classic formulation of it:

So, the New Yorker notes, Putin claims Clinton’s State Department supported and promoted anti-Kremlin protests during Russia’s parliamentary elections, yet offers no evidence. But is that true? Did that happen? As most media outlets typically do, the New Yorker simply does not say. Here’s another classic example from this genre:

Is it true, as Putin claims, that the U.S., in fact, “has long funded media outlets and civil-society groups that meddle in Russian affairs”? Again, the article believes it’s significant enough to note that Putin claims this, but never bothers to tell its readers whether it is actually true, or even if evidence exists for it.

What makes this steadfast silence so bizarre is that there’s virtually no question that it is true. Some have noted the 1996 Time Magazine cover boasting of how U.S. advisors helped the U.S.’s preferred candidate, Boris Yeltsin, win Russia’s presidency. And, of course, the U.S. has continually and repeatedly interfered in the domestic political processes, including democratic elections, of more countries than one can count.

But far more relevant, and more recent, are the very active efforts on the part of the U.S. Government to alter Russian civic society more to its liking. Many of these efforts, needless to say, are covert, but many are not. Here’s the National Endowment for Democracy – funded by the U.S. Congress through the State Department – openly touting the dozens of Russian political groups it funds.

In response to all this, one can offer the same cliché that is invoked when it’s pointed out after a terrorist attack that the U.S. has killed countless innocent people all over the world: it doesn’t matter because two wrongs don’t make a right. That may well be true, but just as it’s difficult to actually fight terrorism if one refuses to grapple with its causes or if one objects only when one’s own side is the victim but not the perpetrator, it’s very difficult to credibly object to – let alone prevent – other countries from interfering in U.S. politics if you make no effort to object to U.S. interference in theirs.

And at the very least, U.S. journalists who discuss Putin’s claims in this regard should not just summarize those claims but report on whether they are valid. The refusal to do so is as conspicuous as it is troubling.


4. The U.S. Government still has provided no evidence of its theories about Russian hacking.

That Putin ordered Russian hacking of the DNC’s and John Podesta’s emails in order to help Trump win is now such consecrated orthodoxy that it’s barely acceptable in Decent Company to question it. But that obscures, by design, the rather important fact that the U.S. Government, while repeatedly issuing new reports making these claims, has still never offered any actual evidence for them. Even the New Yorker article, which clearly views the theory as valid, acknowledges this fact:

Recall that even hardened Putin critics and western journalists in Moscow were aghast at how evidence-free these government reports have been. The lack of evidence for these theories does not, of course, prove their falsity. But, given the stakes, it’s certainly worth keeping in mind.

And it further underscores the reasons why no conclusions should be reached absent a structured investigation with the evidence and findings made publicly available. Anonymous claims from agenda-driven, disinformation-dispensing intelligence community officials are about the least reliable way to form judgments about anything, let alone the nature of the threats posed by the governments they want Americans to view as their adversaries.


5. Fixating on Russia continues to be used to distract from systemic failures of U.S. elites.

Denouncing the autocratic abuses of foreign adversaries such as Putin has long been the go-to tactic to distract attention from the failures and evils of U.S. actions — including the unpleasant fact that support for the world’s worst despots has long been, and continues to be, a central precept of U.S. policy. Or, as then-Secretary-of-State Hillary Clinton put it in 2009 about the decades-ruling Egyptian tyrant: “I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family. So I hope to see him often here in Egypt and in the United States.”

That Putin abuses the civic freedoms of Russians plainly answers none of the policy debates over Russia, given how ready and eager the U.S. is to align with the planet’s worst monsters. It’s instead designed to encourage Americans to fix their gaze on bad acts by people thousands of miles away in order to obfuscate the corruption of their own society and savagery by their own leaders. In several places, the New Yorker article warns against exploiting and inflating claims about Putin as a means of ignoring that the real causes of America’s problems reside not in Moscow but at home:

It is true that Putin is used to avoid confronting the fact that Trump is “a phenomenon of America’s own making.” It’s also true that it’s used to avoid confronting the fact that Trump is a by-product of the extraordinary and systemic failure of the Democratic Party. As long as the Russia story enables pervasive avoidance of self-critique – one of the things humans least like to do – it will continue to resonate no matter its actual substance and value.

And this avoidance of self-examination extends to the west generally:

As Even The New Yorker Admits™, the primary reason for Trump, for Brexit, and for growing right-wing über-nationalism throughout Europe is that prevailing neoliberal policies have destroyed the economic security and future of hundreds of millions of people, rendering them highly susceptible to scapegoating and desperate, in a nothing-to-lose sort of way, for any type of radical change, no matter how risky or harmful that change might be. But all of that gets to be ignored, all of the self-reckoning is avoided, as long we get ourselves to believe that some omnipotent foreign power is behind it all.

Using Russia – yet again – to whitewash our own sins and systemic failures is bad enough. Let’s just hope it doesn’t lead the two countries back into a protracted and devastating Cold War or, worse still, direct military confrontation. With tensions rising and rhetoric becoming harsher and more manipulative, both of those outcomes are more likely than they’ve been in many years.

Top photo: Russian soldiers march along Red Square during a Victory Day parade May 9, 2013.

The post The New Yorker’s Big Cover Story Reveals Five Uncomfortable Truths About U.S. and Russia appeared first on The Intercept.

Trump’s Proposed Increase in U.S. Defense Spending Would Be 80 Percent of Russia’s Entire Military Budget

27 February 2017 - 5:34pm

The U.S. government already spends $600 billion dollars a year on its military — more money than the next seven biggest spenders combined, including China and Russia.

On Monday, the White House said it would request $54 billion more in military spending for next year. That increase alone is roughly the size of the entire annual military budget of the United Kingdom, the fifth-largest spending country, and it’s more than 80 percent of Russia’s entire military budget in 2015.

If Congress were to follow Trump’s blueprint, the U.S. military budget could account for nearly 40 percent of global military spending next year. The U.S. would be outspending Russia by a margin of greater than 9 to 1.

At a meeting of U.S. governors on Monday, Trump described his forthcoming budget proposal as “a public safety and national security budget.”

The share of world military expenditure of the 15 states with the highest expenditure in 2015.

Graphic: SIRPI

U.S. military spending has been at permanent wartime levels since the 2001 terror attacks, despite the significant drawdowns in Afghanistan and Iraq under President Obama. Spending has declined since the wars were at their peak in 2010, but U.S. military spending in 2015 remains at 190 percent of what it was before 9/11, according to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, or SIPRI, a leading tracker of weapons and defense spending.

Throughout his campaign, Trump criticized bloated weapons contracts and the overall cost of wars in the Middle East. But he also promised to make the military “strong again,” pledging to build 70 new warships and increase the number of troops in the Army to the same high levels as during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Trump has also called for the U.S. to “greatly expand” its nuclear weapons capabilities, signaling a potential willingness to expand a $1 trillion modernization effort Obama started that was already widely criticized by budget critics as unaffordable.

The White House did not elaborate on how the Pentagon would spend the extra money. CNN reported that the White House was planning dramatic cuts to the EPA and foreign aid budgets. Both are tiny components of the federal budget and are unlikely to add up to anywhere near $54 billion.

Top photo: Members of the U.S. Army Drill Team perform in New York’s Times Square in honor of the Army’s 240th birthday on June 12, 2015.

The post Trump’s Proposed Increase in U.S. Defense Spending Would Be 80 Percent of Russia’s Entire Military Budget appeared first on The Intercept.

After ICE Stakes Out a Church Homeless Shelter, Charities Worry Immigrants Will Fear Getting Help

27 February 2017 - 12:46pm

Two dozen homeless men and women filed out of Rising Hope United Methodist Church, where they had found sanctuary the night before from the wind and brutal cold.

Each winter for more than 15 years, the church has acted as an overnight homeless shelter along the decaying Route 1 corridor in Alexandria, Virginia. Volunteers serve the visitors a hot meal and unroll sleeping bags for them on the church floor.  The visitors have to leave the next morning by 7, when the church starts its daytime operations.

That morning in early February, as the men and women gathered in the church parking lot, a few of them noticed three unmarked cars parked across the street. Then a group of seven or eight Latino men split off from the group and headed for the shopping center across the street.

As soon as the men stepped onto the opposite sidewalk, a dozen federal agents burst out of the cars, forced them up against a wall, handcuffed them, and interrogated them for at least half an hour.

Multiple witnesses described the events to The Intercept. “They just jumped out,” said Ralph, one of the homeless men had spent the night in the church. “Then [the men] were lined up on the wall.”

“They just looked like regular cars,” said Ashley, who witnessed the raid from across the street. “Then the agents just jumped out. It looked like regular police, but the vests said ICE.” Ashley and Ralph both said they were afraid to give their last names.

A sign is displayed on a brick wall on Feb. 26, where ICE allegedly waited before detaining men as they left a shelter at Rising Hope Mission Church, in Alexandria, Va. during a Feb. 8 raid.

Photo: Greg Kahn/GRAIN for The Intercept

Oscar Ramirez, one of the men who was interrogated, was released after he convinced agents he had a green card. He told the community newspaper that the agents used portable fingerprint scanners on his hands, then let him go.

Witnesses said the other six or seven Latino men were taken away and shoved into in a van, already half-full with other arrestees.

A spokeswoman for ICE told The Intercept that the ICE agents had “conducted consensual interviews,” and “identified two criminal aliens.” She refused to say how many people were arrested, or explain why agents were waiting across the street from a church.

But to the longtime pastor of Rising Hope, the message was chilling: His church is now a target.

“They were not here because they were doing a routine community sweep. They were clearly targeting,” said Rev. Keary Kincannon. “They were waiting until the Hispanic men came out of the church. And they rounded them all up. They didn’t question the blacks. They didn’t question the whites. They were clearly going after folks that were Latino.”

Members of the community gather for a soup kitchen at Rising Hope Mission Church in Alexandria, Va. on Feb. 26, 2017.

Photo: Greg Kahn/GRAIN for The Intercept

“I don’t know their names. I don’t know where they’re being held. I don’t even know how many there are,” immigration attorney Nick Marritz told me. “That does make it very hard for us to put a case together.”

Marritz works for the Legal Aid Justice Center, which serves low income communities in Northern Virginia. Two weeks after the church stakeout, Marritz was still working with witnesses to figure out who was taken and where they are – information he needs to legally challenge the arrests.

To members of the church community, the men have effectively been disappeared, and ICE officials are still refusing to provide them with any answers.

ICE maintains a public database online that allows anyone to search detainees by name, date of birth, and an alien — or “A” — number. But the database is often crippled by processing delays and clerical errors, and is useless to searchers who don’t know exactly who they are looking for.

It can also be difficult for homeless and low-income people to contact someone on the outside. “In the case of people who are experiencing homelessness like this, it’s hard for us to say how big the support network is,” said Marritz. “Who they know to contact? Whoever might know about [them], they haven’t let me know.”

Marritz, Kincannon and other United Methodist Church leaders walked into ICE’s regional office in Fairfax on Feb. 17th and demanded the names and whereabouts of the people arrested. “We went to have a vigil and to try with talk with them to find who did they ask, who did they take, what were their charges. Not only would they not meet with us, they wouldn’t tell us the names of anybody,” said Kincannon.

“They just said: ‘We’re not going to meet with you, we’re not going to give you the names. Please leave,” said Marritz.

It is not uncommon for homeless and low-income immigrants to virtually disappear into the U.S.’s immigration detention system. Prisoners are frequently shuffled around between more than 200 detention facilities, the majority of which are run by private companies.

Lawyers and families members often face obstacles in reaching detainees. Audits by the Government Accountability Office have found that officers in immigration prisons frequently deny detainees phone calls, or prevent them from making phone calls during business hours. Some detainees have reported that prison phones drop calls before they can leave voicemails. In many Customs and Border Protection facilities, prisoners have to purchase calling cards to use the phone – which puts a call beyond the financial means of many.

A week after the arrests, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and Sen. Tim Kaine, D.-Va, both sent letters to ICE inquiring about the raid and their enforcement policies near churches. ICE has not publicly responded to either one.

Pastor Keary Kincannon delivers a sermon at Rising Hope Mission Church in Alexandria, Va. on Feb 26.

Photo: Greg Kahn/GRAIN for The Intercept

Rising Hope was chartered in 1996 as a mission church to serve homeless people, and to this day between 70 and 80 percent of its congregation is homeless. It occupies a modest, two-story building right off the Route 1 corridor, an impoverished area just south of a wealthy D.C.-area suburb. There’s a tattoo parlor around the corner, and a Goodwill and payday loan agency a few blocks away.

According to Rev. Jeff Mickle, the Alexandria district superintendent for the United Methodist Church, ICE hasn’t targeted any other churches in his district. There are 54 – all far more affluent than Rising Hope.

Kincannon founded Rising Hope out of his car more than 20 years ago, and since then the church has grown into one of Northern Virginia’s most effective charities. Last year, the church’s pantry gave out $1.2 million worth of food, and its soup kitchen served 16,000 hot meals. Its winter shelter program opens every night from December to March.

“Think about it: they’re coming here to keep from freezing to death. They’re coming here to find support and help. By sweeping them up after they left here, [ICE is] putting fear into other people. There may be folks now that may be afraid to come in out of the cold,” Kincannon told me in his office. “It’s real cruelty.”

Parishioners at Rising Hope are afraid the church will be targeted again. Bulletin boards advertised free “know your rights” trainings in English and Spanish. Volunteers have noticed a marked decrease in the number of Latino men and women coming to the winter shelter.

During a Sunday sermon 11 days after the raid, Kincannon told the congregation about a Latino woman and U.S. citizen who frequents the church food pantry. “She is so frightened she will be picked up and deported before she can prove her citizenship,” he said, “she has started carrying her birth certificate with her.”

Members of Rising Hope Mission Church in Alexandria, Va. wish peace upon one another on Feb. 26.

Photo: Greg Kahn/GRAIN for The Intercept

In 2011, ICE adopted a “sensitive locations” policy that is meant to prevent agents from terrorizing important community sites. It prevents ICE agents from making arrests “focused on” schools, churches, or hospitals without an emergency or prior approval from a high-level department official.

ICE released a statement following the Rising Hope arrests saying it complied with the policy. “The Department of Homeland Security is committed to ensuring that people seeking to… utilize services provided at any sensitive location are free to do so without fear or hesitation,” it read.

But the raid not only impacted the church’s mission, it sent shockwaves throughout the area. After Mickle sent a letter notifying local clergy about the raid, many have reported back about seeing fear in their own communities. “I have already received phone calls from people who are very upset about the situation,” said Rev. Ileana Rosario, a United Methodist pastor who works with Hispanic and immigrant communities. “We have no guarantees that this will not happen again.”

Rosario founded a predominantly Hispanic church in Arlington in 2001, and later that year, President Bush invited her to the White House and recognized her for her ministry. In 2007, she became the United Methodists’ director of Hispanic and Latino ministries for Virginia.

“What is so troubling for them is that it can happen at any time and at any moment,” said Rosario. “Church for them was the sanctuary. It was the safe place. For them, in their culture, church is the place that no one can touch. Where are we going to go if we cannot go to the House of the Lord?”

Francisco Alvarado waits for the soup kitchen at Rising Hope Mission Church. Alvarado, who was born in the U.S., says he has been stopped by police officers and asked to show his papers despite being a citizen.

Photo: Greg Kahn/GRAIN for The Intercept

Churches are playing a big role in resisting emboldened immigration enforcement across the country. Church leaders have trained volunteers, led demonstrations, and even offered sanctuary to people with outstanding deportation orders. Their resolve could signal a coming showdown with a president who already has the tools to dramatically accelerate deportations.

Trump inherited a deportation machine of enormous power: President Obama pumped billions of additional dollars into immigration enforcement, and deported more people than any of his predecessors. During the final months of Obama’s presidency, administration lawyers argued before the Supreme Court that the federal agents should be able to imprison immigrants for years on end without a bond hearing.

In his first weeks in office, Trump has begun to unleash the full force of that deportation system. The Department of Homeland Security released memos on February 18 that outline Trump’s vision: They call for hiring thousands of agents, building new detention facilities, deputizing state and local law enforcement, and expanding the categories of people who are “priorities for removal” to possibly include millions of immigrants.

While ICE’s “sensitive locations” policy on targeting churches technically remains in place, it could be modified or revoked. In his letter to district clergy, Mickle asked them to “keep this matter in your prayers,” and “be prepared to stand up when the time comes.”

Paraphrasing the remarks of a United Methodist theologian, Mickle wrote: “If the choice is between honoring a president’s campaign promise, or honoring the commands of Jesus, the Church has no choice but to follow Jesus, even if it leads us to stand up against the actions of the government.”

“They’re not coming in unless they have a warrant,” Kincannon said. “If they try and come in without a warrant, I’ll stand in the way.”


Top photo: Members of Rising Hope Mission Church in Alexandria, Va. pray for their pastor, Keary Kincannon, during Sunday service on Feb 26. Kincannon will be present during President Trump’s next address to the session of congress, a guest of Virginia Senator Mark Warner.

The post After ICE Stakes Out a Church Homeless Shelter, Charities Worry Immigrants Will Fear Getting Help appeared first on The Intercept.

Los Angeles Mayor Flirts With Sanctuary Movement While Collaborating With ICE

27 February 2017 - 8:04am

On February 2, the American Civil Liberties Union held a press conference at the Terminal 2 arrivals gate of Los Angeles International Airport. The occasion for the press conference was the return of Ali Vayeghan, an Iranian lawful permanent resident of the United States who had been deported a few days before as a result of President Trump’s Muslim ban, to American soil. The ACLU had secured a court order that rejected the ban and called for Vayegahn to be allowed back into the country. It was a moment of triumph for advocates of immigrant rights.

Earlier that day, the ACLU had received a call from the office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. The mayor, they had been told, wished to participate in the press conference. Hector Villagra, the executive director of the ACLU of Southern California, stepped up to the bevy of microphones to introduce the mayor. “We need to know that this city will be a sanctuary city,” he said, with Garcetti standing at his side. “That’s right,” said someone in the audience. “Thank you,” said another. Garcetti himself gave the remark a few hearty claps.

When Garcetti stepped up to the podium, he echoed the “sanctuary city” line. “We are a city of sanctuary, of refuge,” he said, “and also of defense of our Constitution.”

The next speaker was Ameena Qazi, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild of Los Angeles. Wearing a sweater and a hijab, her short stature barely exceeding that of the podium, she blasted Customs and Border Protection, comparing their conduct to CIA black sites. Then she praised the mayor, or, perhaps, damned him with faint praise.

“I’d also like to thank Mayor Garcetti for being here today,” Qazi told the crowd of reporters and demonstrators, “and for finally declaring that Los Angeles is a sanctuary city for all people.” Cheers broke out; it was one of the biggest applause lines of the event.

“This is a bit overdue,” she went on, “but as we say, ‘better late than never.’”

Since Trump’s election, Garcetti has resisted the term “sanctuary city” as an appellation for Los Angeles, a city with one of the largest undocumented populations in the country. In an interview with National Public Radio a week after the inauguration, he said, “We’ve never declared ourself a sanctuary city; I’m still not sure what one is.”

It has become a routine line for the mayor. He sometimes follows it by explaining that the police do, in fact, routinely cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement — when it’s done constitutionally, he emphasizes, with a warrant from a judge.

The common understanding of a “sanctuary city” is one in which local police are prohibited from collaborating with immigration authorities. By that definition, technically, Garcetti is correct: Los Angeles is not a sanctuary city. Throughout the Obama administration, the Los Angeles Police Department routinely engaged in joint operations with ICE. LAPD officers have historically shared intelligence with ICE through the CalGang database system, and ICE agents are in the county jails on a near-daily basis.

L.A.’s main qualification as a sanctuary city is Special Order 40, an LAPD directive from 1979 that prohibits officers from detaining or questioning people solely on the basis of their immigration status. Special Order 40 sets a floor for the separation of local law enforcement from federal immigration enforcement. But it’s a pretty low standard. It was under Special Order 40 that all of the aforementioned direct collaboration with ICE took place.

Defensible though his position may be, Garcetti’s casual disregard nevertheless irks immigrant rights activists. That’s because “sanctuary city” isn’t just a term to describe existing policy; it’s meant to articulate a moral aspiration.

“When he says things like, ‘I don’t even know what a sanctuary city means,’ we’re upset by his refusal to share that aspiration with us,” Qazi told me.

“I would hope that for a city as terrified as it is now, that he would just say it’s a sanctuary city,” said Villagra. “That’s the language people understand; that’s what would give comfort at this moment.”

Hossein Vayeghan raises his arms with his brother Ali Vayeghan, an Iranian national and U.S. lawful permanent resident, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti at Los Angeles International Airport on Feb. 2, 2017.

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Other mayors have gone much further than Garcetti in openly confronting the president’s attacks on immigrants. Martin Walsh, the mayor of Boston, invited immigrants to move into his office. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has shown none of Garcetti’s squeamishness over using the term “sanctuary city.” San Francisco, which has done more than possibly any other city to enforce its noncooperation policy with ICE, has sued the Trump administration over its threats to sanctuary cities. Immigration hardliners, including the president, have made San Francisco the whipping boy of their campaign against sanctuary cities ever since the high-profile killing of Kate Steinle in 2015 by an undocumented immigrant. That didn’t stop Mayor Ed Lee from asserting, “Our city is still a sanctuary city and we are going to remain a sanctuary city” in response to Trump’s executive order.

Qazi said she was genuinely excited that day at the airport when Garcetti pronounced the phrase — or a close variation of it — in public. A few days later, however, he backtracked.

Julia Wick, editor-in-chief of the LAist, followed up with the mayor’s office after the LAX press conference, asking what he meant by “city of sanctuary” and whether it constituted an official designation of L.A. as a sanctuary city. She received a statement in response that argued that “our city’s commitment to immigrants is measured by our actions, not labels.” It pointed out that the mayor had opened a new Office of Immigrant Affairs and pledged that L.A. would “continue to be a city of protection and refuge.” The statement included the word “sanctuary” nowhere within it. (When I asked the mayor’s office about his avoidance of the term, I was sent the exact same statement.)

Wick passed the mayor’s statement along to the ACLU for their comment. They were taken aback by the about-face.

“He’s been doing this dance between refusing to call the city a sanctuary city, because he says he doesn’t know what it means, because he worries it might expose the city to legal liability,” Villagra told me. “But on the other hand, he’s running around calling the city ‘a city of sanctuary.’ By that he intends to draw some distinction. I don’t know what it is.”

Garcetti’s rhetoric around sanctuary cities isn’t the only thing that has left immigrant advocates in Los Angeles frustrated and disappointed in his leadership since Trump took office. They also complain that he is in the process of watering down a major local initiative to provide due process to the targets of Trump’s deportation regime, and in the process, reinforcing a “good immigrant” versus “bad immigrant” worldview that they are eager to leave behind.

Last December, the city established a $10 million legal defense fund to provide attorneys to indigent defendants in immigration courts (unlike in criminal courts, there is no right to a court-appointed public defender in immigration proceedings). The coalition of community groups that championed the effort (and its statewide counterpart) conceived of the L.A. Justice Fund as a way to provide universal representation to immigrants in removal proceedings, and to move beyond the policy framework that characterized much of Obama’s second term.

In 2014, President Obama made a major address to the nation on his immigration policy. He pledged to “keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security. Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mom who’s working hard to provide for her kids.”

Following that speech, “felons, not families” became the guiding principle of his administration’s immigration bureaucracy, at least rhetorically. But “felons” turned out to be a remarkably malleable label. About two years after the president’s speech, an investigation by the Marshall Project showed that out of 300,000 deportations that had occurred since the new policy was announced, about 60 percent of them involved immigrants “with no criminal conviction or whose only crime was immigration-related, such as illegal entry or re-entry.” Immigrants with convictions for violent crimes comprised less than a fifth of the total. Under “felons, not families,” immigrants have been deported for decades-old drug charges for which they’d already served time, or for baseless allegations of gang membership.

The criminal label, advocates argue, has been more effective as a rhetorical cover for indiscriminate deportations than as a tool for separating those who threaten public safety from those who do not. Those advocates are eager to see California, as the nation’s epicenter of anti-Trumpism, abandon the “felons, not families” dichotomy in favor of guaranteed due process for anyone swept up by ICE.

But Mayor Garcetti, along with City Attorney Mike Feuer, has been pushing in the opposite direction. Immigrant rights advocates believe that City Hall is devising “carve-outs” from the fund — exemptions from eligibility for those who have run afoul of the criminal justice system at any point in their tenure in the United States.

“He’s been apparently advocating for this carve-out,” Villagra said. “We’re very concerned about any effort to dole out fairness that decides that some are deserving of it and some are not. Fair is fair and doesn’t recognize any exception.”

Villagra continued: “It’s also really disturbing for a progressive leader in a progressive city to essentially be reinforcing the Trump frame of good and bad immigrants, and buying into that rhetoric.”

When I asked the mayor’s office if they were planning to exclude people with prior felony convictions from accessing the L.A. Justice Fund, I was told that “the city council is still reviewing the process for using these public funds.”

“The purpose of the L.A. Justice Fund is to assist immigrants who are facing deportation proceedings without a lawyer,” George Kivork, the mayor’s press secretary, emailed me. “The mayor believes very strongly that people who have built their lives in America deserve all of the protections that our judicial system provides.”

At an immigrant rights march earlier this month, thousands of protesters swarmed the steps of City Hall, filling up the street and the park behind it. One speaker after another took the stage and expressed their fury and defiance against the ICE raids that have swept through Southern California in recent weeks. This wasn’t the first immigration rally in Los Angeles since the election, but this time, Trump was not the only object of the protesters’ scorn.

The first speaker to take the stage asked the crowd to help her make a new hashtag trend: #OneTermGarcetti. After a dozen other speeches, many of them littered with derision of the mayor, Andrés Kwon, an ACLU attorney who is also an Argentine immigrant of Korean ancestry, took the microphone.

“To all those politicians, and Garcetti in particular,” he hollered to the crowd, “let us say: Just be real, dude, be honest. When you say you don’t want us to represent bad immigrants, you might as well come out and say you don’t want us to represent ‘bad hombres.’”

After sitting through close to an hour of speeches, the audience exploded at the sly comparison between the mayor and Donald Trump. Among this crowd of hard-core pro-immigrant activists, the mayor’s name had become a line for booing and hissing.

On Tuesday, March 7, Garcetti will face the voters in an election for a second term. Nobody expects him to lose. He faces no real opposition, and voters in L.A. are barely aware the election is happening at all. He will coast into City Hall in spite of the growing anger from his adversaries in the immigrant rights movement. So far, he has not had to pay a steep political price for sidelining their demands. The political path he has taken has been bumpy, but safe.

Villagra suspects that may not last. “They haven’t realized just how strong the feeling is among their constituents that they need to be doing more,” he told me. “The frustration is widespread, and growing. I think that people are getting fed up.”

“He has had so many opportunities to step forward and be a real leader, and he has just refused to,” Ameena Qasi said. “He seems to be more in it for his political career. That’s what he’s been showing us so far.”

Top photo: Marjan K. Vayghan, left, gives a kiss to her uncle Ali Vayeghan as he arrives at the international terminal at Los Angeles International Airport on Feb. 2, 2017.

The post Los Angeles Mayor Flirts With Sanctuary Movement While Collaborating With ICE appeared first on The Intercept.

The Long History of Deportation Scare Tactics at the U.S.-Mexico Border

26 February 2017 - 9:00am

The Trump administration’s first moves on immigration enforcement represent an unprecedented hardline position, envisioning thousands of new agents, enlisting local police as immigration enforcers, making virtually anyone a priority for deportation, bypassing immigration courts, and, of course, ordering the construction of the infamous wall along the Mexican border. And then there is the president’s own rhetoric equating immigrants with criminals — after campaign talk characterizing Mexicans as rapists, this week he referred to his immigration policy as a “military operation” against gang members, “drug lords” and “bad dudes.”

Despite the emotionally charged rollout of these policies, it remains to be seen whether they will be fully implemented; the money and manpower required to do so would be extraordinary. There are parallels between Trump’s efforts and previous U.S. immigration crackdowns, when rhetoric about “criminal aliens,” hyped-up raids, and inflated deportation numbers created what was essentially a “terror campaign” in Mexican immigrant communities, says Kelly Lytle Hernandez, a historian at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“I think it would serve us to do our best to fight back against the scare campaign” promoting Trump’s enforcement operations, she said. “I don’t want to suggest that the terror isn’t real. But we don’t want to inflate it. I don’t want to fulfill Trump’s vision of mass deportation by fueling the panic and fear.”

The Intercept spoke with Hernandez last week about what we can learn from the history of the United States Border Patrol, which she documented in her 2010 book “Migra!” using archival records and recollections from both the U.S. and Mexico. The Border Patrol began with an act of Congress in 1924, just after the passage of legislation that outright banned immigration from Asia and put quotas on many other nationalities. Initially a scattered couple hundred patrolmen, it was responsible for enforcing immigration law at ports of entry and up to 100 miles into the interior of the country. After the 9/11 attacks, the organization became part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, under the newly created Department of Homeland Security. (Another new DHS entity, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was given responsibility for arrests, detentions, and removals away from the border.) The Border Patrol is now a 20,000-strong force that emblematizes the nation’s obsession with “securing” the U.S.-Mexico border and policing Mexican and Central American communities.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Members of the Texas Border Patrol guard Mexican immigrants apprehended near the border in June 1948.

Photo: Harry Pennington/Keystone Features/Getty Images

How did the Border Patrol begin, and how has its authority changed over the years?

The history of the organization is quite a bit more complex than suggested by its mandate. Very early on, the United States Border Patrol focused its resources and its discretionary power upon policing one singular population: unauthorized Mexican immigrants. And that’s really been a consistent practice since 1924.

The early officers didn’t come from the Texas Rangers, they didn’t come from military backgrounds; they were largely unemployed or underemployed and landless white men from the border region. These men take the broad mandate of U.S. immigration law enforcement and make it a narrow practice of policing unsanctioned Mexican immigrants. In the U.S.-Mexico border region in the 1920s and ’30s and ’40s, if you don’t have land, you don’t have power. And so one way in which these men were able to lift up their own levels of authority and respectability in their hometown communities was by directing the force of U.S. immigration law enforcement against the region’s principal labor force, and that’s Mexican immigrants. Imagine the power of a young man who came of age in the borderlands and who had been disparaged as white trash in his youth, when he’s able to show up at the gates of a big farmer and say, “Guess what? I’m here to take away your workers.” So it’s this very local politics of race, and land and labor that is used to narrow down U.S. immigration law into U.S. immigration practice, with its specific focus on policing Mexican immigrants.

Today’s Border Patrol, especially through their union, is associated with some of the most hardline anti-immigration voices. In “Migra!” you show a much more nuanced relationship between officers and border communities. How has that political stance on immigration evolved?

I think that this is a new moment. Thinking about the Border Patrol historically, by and large the officers were not hardliners. They were people who were looking for a good job, and who found federal employment with a pension and a high wage with the Border Patrol. They then followed the often violent practices established in the 1930s and 1940s by the local guys. [In “Migra!” Hernandez describes revenge killings and gunfights with smugglers that formed Border Patrol lore. In later decades, she writes, officers by and large rejected such raw brutality but substituted other means of coercion.] But they were not rabid anti-immigration officers. There’s something different happening in this political and cultural moment, where the Border Patrol and ICE unions have come out with strong support for some of President Trump’s most extreme measures and orders.

The Trump administration is proposing a massive surge in border enforcement. A drastic increase in the number of agents, big, well-publicized raids — when have we seen this before? And how much does it relate to the reality of what is actually happening at the border?

Let’s talk about Operation Wetback of 1954, something that on the campaign trail President Trump said he was going to resurrect. The way in which Operation Wetback was sold to the U.S. public was that there was a crisis of unlawful Mexican immigration and that what we needed was a mass display of force and deportations to clear out nearly one million people and to secure the border from future unlawful entry. And so with that rhetoric, in the summer of 1954 the U.S. Border Patrol launched a series of very well-coordinated and well-publicized raids that fueled panic within immigrant populations and many employers in the borderlands. It gave the sense that there was a mass deportation campaign underway. However, on the ground, mass deportation is not what happened. At most, 250,000 were deported that summer; it was nowhere near the one million people that’s been cited by President Trump and by many scholars.

So the summer of 1954 was not a real deportation campaign. It was a terror campaign, and it was actually about legalization. The publicity campaign was a few spectacular raids designed to scare immigrants out of the country. And beneath the radar, without the press following behind, the U.S. Border Patrol and Immigration and Naturalization Service [INS] visited with employers in the borderlands, mostly agricultural employers, and insisted that they use a watered-down version of the bracero program to legalize their undocumented workforce — what they called “drying out the wetback.” And the employers did get on board. So what really happened was scare tactics and mass amnesty. What we’re getting today is just the scare tactics. And depending on how Congress funds Trump’s orders and the memos we’re seeing from the Department of Homeland Security, we may get the raids as well.

I want to be very clear and precise on one thing — Operation Wetback was not about all undocumented immigrants. It targeted Mexican immigrants. It was a specifically racial campaign. When we summon Operation Wetback, we are summoning a racial history, and we have to be very clear about what is happening through that kind of dog whistle.

You write about how the Border Patrol made an intentional change in the language it used to describe immigrants. One regional supervisor in 1956 issued a directive saying that they wanted to avoid “a picture in the minds of the public and the courts of a poor, emaciated, Mexican worker,” and replace it with “criminal alien” or “border violator,” conjuring “criminals, often vicious in type,” and “hardened and defiant.” How was the Border Patrol involved in turning immigration enforcement into a criminal issue?

Operation Wetback was followed up by a change in the logic of why we do immigration law enforcement. The logic was: we had mass deportations, we cleared out a lot of the so-called bad hombres, the bad guys, and now we’re going to focus on the criminal alien. The Border Patrol changed the language of what they do and why they do it. Leading up to 1954, they had been policing unsanctioned laborers, primarily. After 1954, they made a very conscious shift to policing the so-called “criminal alien.” They found very few of them — that is, immigrants convicted of a crime — and yet they insisted on using this language to create a new logic for why the Border Patrol has invested so many of its resources on policing unsanctioned migration in the borderlands.

There’s a lot of resonance with what is happening now. As many people know, President Obama deported more people than any president in U.S. history. There has been a ramping up of deportation in the last eight years, which used the language of the criminal alien, but in a more limited way. We now are seeing an expansion of the notion of the criminal alien to include all persons that have been not just convicted but charged or simply suspected of any kind of crime, including any misdemeanor, or simply unlawful entry into the United States.

People apprehended by Border Patrol await questioning in Brownsville, Texas, in September 1984.

Photo: Stan Grossfeld/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

Last week a leaked memo proposed deploying the National Guard for immigration enforcement. There was once a plan called Operation Cloudburst which contemplated something similar. What happened to that idea?

The year preceding Operation Wetback, the Border Patrol, INS, and President Eisenhower considered deploying the National Guard to round up undocumented Mexican immigrants. They did not follow through on it, because of the ban on using the military within the United States for domestic law enforcement, but what they did was to try to approximate a militarized campaign — so the Border Patrol was able to gain access to military trucks, organize themselves in rapid response task forces, use planes, trains, trucks and buses to conduct a series of mass raids during 1954. So using military-style tactics and equipment, but not troops.

You’ve written about how the Border Patrol acted differently when it was a matter of policing migrant laborers — men, primarily— and women and children. You unearthed archives showing how these officers were often uncomfortable with the idea of policing families, especially when they encountered resistance from women. How did the conception of what’s acceptable and moral in immigration enforcement change over time?

Between 1942 and 1965, the U.S. and Mexican governments had a labor program called the Bracero Program, under which several million Mexican immigrants were able to work legally in the United States. It was limited to rural workers, agricultural laborers, and most importantly, to men. That kind of gender exclusion from the labor program almost guaranteed that women and children would not have access to legal routes of migration. So at the same time as you have the Bracero Program, you have the rise of unlawful migration by Mexican women and Mexican children, many of whom were coming to accompany men in the bracero program, or simply because they needed work too. You end up with a bifurcated labor system: one is legal and its male; and the other is unlawful and it’s female and it’s full of young people. So during this time period, the Border Patrol would run into large numbers of women crossing the border, and the confrontations that they would have with women and children — who would often fight back, holler or scream or protest their arrest — was something that made the Border Patrol officers very uncomfortable, especially as winter tourists were coming down to the border and watching how they did their work. These were really spectacles of state violence on display at the border, and it was armed officers wrestling with women and children. And so one of the ways that they reconciled this tension for border officers was that they invested in building a border wall. A large expansion of the border wall happened in the 1940s and 50s, which was in part an effort to push women and children into crossing into the backlands where tourists and community members could not see them. Border Patrol officers could make their arrests out in the desert, or women and children would have to submit to much more dangerous crossings. This is one of the untold histories of the U.S.-Mexico border wall: that it is inflected with gender, and with young people, and the efforts of the U.S. to hide the violence of border enforcement.

And you saw that again with Operation Hold The Line in the early 1990s, when the Border Patrol concentrated its efforts on blockading a particularly busy and visible section of the border. Many people have criticized this strategy as leading to many more migrants dying while attempting to cross the harsh, remote, desert portions of the border.

Yes, do you remember the infamous border crossing signs with the image of a family running, pulling a child behind them? Operation Hold the Line was a response to that dynamic, of Border Patrol agents having to confront impoverished and many times desperate migrants trying to cross in search of work, and that confrontation became embarrassing and untenable. Using an operation like Hold the Line to push all of that into the backlands is a consistent dynamic.

The Department of Homeland Security has also indicated that it will deport even people who are not Mexican citizens to Mexico, and expect Central American asylum applicants to wait in Mexico until they get a hearing. Can you talk about the history of cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico on border enforcement, and previous crises in the relationship?

There was a long period of time, certainly right through the 1960s, where the U.S. and Mexican federal governments were largely aligned on the issue of controlling Mexican migration along the border. From the U.S. perspective, yes, employers desperately wanted access to an unfettered labor population, and they hoped Mexicans would face no restrictions on entering and exiting the United States. However, there was another impulse within the United States that worried that Mexicans were racially unfit, unsuitable for citizenship. And that very powerful cohort — what today we might call ethno-nationalists but then were known as nativists — wanted there to be little to no Mexican immigration. And so within this debate between the employers and the nativists we came to a sort of compromise allowing managed Mexican migration to the United States, with a great degree of border control.

From the Mexican government’s perspective, certainly from the 1920s to the 1960s, there was concern that so many Mexican nationals were leaving Mexico and taking their laboring power to the United States at a time when Mexico was trying to reconstitute itself politically, culturally, and economically after the Mexican Revolution. So there were interests within the Mexican federal government and Mexican employers that wanted to see Mexican immigration whenever possible, curbed, in order to keep Mexican labor in Mexico. 

So there’s a long history of periods where the United States and Mexico working together to control Mexican migration. It is quite new to see the Mexican government so vocally opposing U.S. plans for deportations.

There is this precedent of Chinese immigrants during the 1930s. In the United States there was a strong anti-Chinese, anti-Asian sentiment that was actually written into law so that by 1924, all persons of Asian origin were prohibited from entering the United States. There was a similar sentiment in Mexico in the 1930s, and there were a series of riots and massacres that happened. So when it came to the issue of Chinese immigration, the federal governments of the United States and Mexico both did their best to keep Chinese immigrants out of their country, and sometimes that erupted right on the borderline, where you would see U.S. and Mexican agents literally pushing Chinese workers through the fence into one country and out of the other. In terms of Central American immigrants — this is a population that has been vilified in Mexico. We should have no expectation of their being welcomed to await their asylum hearings in Mexico, and we may see conditions that are more akin to what happened to Chinese immigrants on the borderline in the 1930s.

The post The Long History of Deportation Scare Tactics at the U.S.-Mexico Border appeared first on The Intercept.

Keith Ellison Loses DNC Race After Heated Campaign Targeting Him for His Views on Palestine

25 February 2017 - 5:27pm

Minnesota Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison lost his bid to become the chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) on Saturday after  a scorched-earth smear campaign targeting  his religious faith, his affinity for the Nation of Islam in his youth, and his support for Palestinian rights alongside a secure Israel.

Instead, the majority of the DNC’s voting members chose former labor secretary Tom Perez to lead the party. After two rounds of voting in Atlanta, Perez netted 235 votes to Ellison’s 200.

Perez was widely perceived as being brought into the race by allies of President Obama, former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and other members of the party establishment. One of the speakers who introduced his nomination, South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Jamie Harrison, also works as a corporate lobbyist for the D.C.-based Podesta Group. After neither candidate reached a majority of votes in the first round of voting, Harrison was on the floor, whipping votes for Perez.

Ellison — a black man, a Bernie Sanders supporter, and the first Muslim elected to Congress — earned initial support from many Democrats until a strong backlash from the Obama and Clinton camps and prominent pro-Israeli activists.

Haim Saban, the entertainment tycoon who is one of the Democratic Party’s largest donors, called Ellison both “anti-Israel” and anti-Semitic. The Anti-Defamation League called on Democrats to reject him.  On the eve of the vote, prominent Democrat Alan Dershowitz proclaimed that he would leave the party if Ellison were elected chair; Jack Rosen, who leads the American Jewish Congress, emailed DNC members the day before the vote decrying Ellison’s views on the Middle East, concluding that he threatened the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Perez, on the other hand, courted pro-Israel activists during the course of the contest.

Shortly after his victory, Perez offered the newly created position of “deputy chair” to Ellison, which Ellison accepted. This is not an official position in the DNC’s bylaws so it is unclear what this position would entail. It is also unclear whether Ellison will still leave Congress, which he announced he would do if he won the chair position.

Many prominent Muslim Americans expressed disappointment in Ellison’s defeat, saying that his treatment during the course of the campaign was emblematic of how Muslims fare in public life.

The Brookings Institution’s Shadi Hamid, former Al Jazeera host Wajahat Ali, and prominent Muslim New Yorker Linda Sarsour reacted on Twitter:

Sadly, this is the sort of thing that's done to any Muslim who runs for office. Apparently, this DNC race wasn't enough to put an end to it

— Shadi Hamid (@shadihamid) February 25, 2017

Ellison 4 2 state solution, voted to give $$ to Israel, against BDS, gets backing of respected Jewish Ams = still not enough to remove smear

— Wajahat Ali (@WajahatAli) February 25, 2017

Not going to lie. I am disappointed. I get solace knowing @keithellison keeps his seat in Congress. Hope he runs for Senate. #DNCChair

— Linda Sarsour (@lsarsour) February 25, 2017

Top photo: Ellison at a news conference denouncing President Trump’s travel ban on Capitol Hill on February 1.

The post Keith Ellison Loses DNC Race After Heated Campaign Targeting Him for His Views on Palestine appeared first on The Intercept.

Fox News Interview With Fake Expert on Sweden Further Baffles Swedes

25 February 2017 - 11:10am

A man interviewed by Bill O’Reilly of Fox News this week, who was identified in an on-screen caption as a “Swedish Defense and National Security Advisor,” turns out to be entirely unknown in his native country, with no connections to either the nation’s defense or security services.

As the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter reported on Friday, Nils Bildt, who echoed President Donald Trump’s debunked claim that immigrants from Muslim majority nations had driven a rise in violent crime in Sweden, has no known expertise in national security, and has not lived in his homeland since 1994. Officials at the Swedish Defense Ministry and Foreign Office told the newspaper they have never heard of this “unknown Bildt.”

Fake Sweden expert on Fox News – has criminal convictions in US, no connection to Swedish security.

— Dagens Nyheter (@dagensnyheter) February 24, 2017

His only claim to fame appears to be the fact that his father, Sven Tolling, is “well know in Swedish equestrian circles,” according to Dagens Nyheter. How he came to be presented by Fox News as an expert in a segment broadcast on Thursday night remains a mystery — as does why he changed his name from Tolling to Bildt after he emigrated the United States.

Nevertheless, when Bildt was asked by O’Reilly to respond to comments from Anne-Sofie Näslund, a U.S. correspondent for the newspaper Expressen who disputed the Fox News host’s claim that a recent rise in violent crime in Sweden was caused by an “influx” of refugees from Muslim nations, he confidently dismissed her fact-driven argument.

Tweet 2/2
Nils Bildt (inte en aning om vem snubben är) svarar på Ann Sofie Näslunds påståenden.#svpol

— Darko Crncevic (@daccraft) February 24, 2017

Bildt, whose adopted last name is the same as that of Sweden’s former prime minister, Carl Bildt, a relentless critic of Donald Trump, told Dagens Nyheter by email that he is “an independent analyst based in the USA.”

We should be grateful that we haven't had a terrorist attack in Sweden since the Baader Meinhof gang blew up West German embassy in 1975.

— Carl Bildt (@carlbildt) February 22, 2017

It was a Fox News producer, Nils Bildt said, who made the decision to give him the official-sounding title of Swedish Defense and National Security Advisor. “I had no personal control over what title they chose,” Bildt wrote.

Näslund, who had been forced to listen to Bildt dismiss her fact-based argument out of hand, pointed out on Twitter that the Swedish immigrant to the United States who claimed that immigrants to Sweden are violent, was reportedly arrested in Virginia for committing a violent crime in 2014.

Nils Bildt – the seem to be fake "Swedish defensive & national security adviser" – is convicted of a violent offence

— Anne-Sofie Näslund (@annesofieNYC) February 25, 2017

In his remarks to the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, Trump reiterated his claim that immigration from Muslim-majority countries had compromised security in Sweden, even though the Fox News segment that he cited as evidence earlier in the week was widely debunked as inaccurate in the Swedish media.

Donald Trump: Folk i Sverige förstår att jag har rätt

— Dagens Nyheter (@dagensnyheter) February 24, 2017

The post Fox News Interview With Fake Expert on Sweden Further Baffles Swedes appeared first on The Intercept.

Video: A Closing Prayer for Standing Rock’s Oceti Sakowin

25 February 2017 - 8:15am

It was an emotional closing prayer in front of the sacred fire at Oceti Sakowin camp, near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, ground zero of the movement to stop the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

For hundreds of people who lived here, Oceti Sakowin had become home. Equipped with medical facilities, kitchens, security posts, prayer lodges, a building supply depot, a school, and a town hall, Oceti was a Native-led community built by the NoDAPL movement.

On Wednesday, as many walked out of Oceti for the last time, smoke filled the air. Spiritual leaders chose to burn Native religious structures instead of allowing the police to bulldoze them.

The North Dakota police had given water protectors a 2 p.m. deadline to leave the camp. But more than 100 stayed behind, refusing to leave land they consider theirs.

At 4 p.m., the police advanced, targeting both water protectors and journalists. At least two journalists were arrested, charged with obstruction of a government function. As dusk approached, the police retreated, promising to return in the morning to finish the eviction.

The following day, a militarized force moved into Oceti. Dozens of military vehicles, armored personnel carriers, and Humvees were accompanied by national guard soldiers armed with automatic rifles.

Some water protectors were pulled out of ceremony as they were praying.

“This hurts,” said one Oceti resident. “It hurts to see everything gone. It hurts to be pushed back. This is treaty land. This is our life. This is how we live as Native people. And nothing has changed. It’s just gotten worse. They have bigger weapons to kill us with. And here we are, unarmed, facing an army in our own land.”

As the camp invasion was taking place, water protectors sang and prayed from the opposite side of the frozen Cannonball River. Some crossed the river in a final act of defiance. “You took us from our homes,” shouted a young woman. “Took children from their mothers and fathers. This is my home, this is my mother.”

Authorities said 46 people were arrested.

“To me, it looks like 1890, Wounded Knee,” said an elder. “They were all probably standing there like that before they started slaughtering our people.”

Now dispersed, the water protectors removed from Oceti Sakowin are regrouping in other protest camps near the pipeline. Meanwhile, court documents just filed by Energy Transfer Partners indicate that oil could be flowing in less than two weeks.

The post Video: A Closing Prayer for Standing Rock’s Oceti Sakowin appeared first on The Intercept.

While War on Media Escalates, CBS Chief Praises Trump’s Deregulatory Agenda

24 February 2017 - 6:50pm

While the Washington press corps is expressing ever-greater alarm over President Donald Trump’s mounting attacks on journalists — culminating in Friday’s banning of some leading outlets from a White House press briefing — the media executives who sign their paychecks are praising the new administration for a deregulatory agenda that would likely boost company profits.

Les Moonves, the chief executive and chairman of CBS Corporation, told investors recently that he is “looking forward to not having as much regulation and having the ability to do more.”

Moonves specifically celebrated the appointment of Trump’s new FCC chairman, former Verizon attorney Ajit Pai, calling him “very beneficial to our business.”

The media industry arguably helped Trump enormously in the early presidential campaign with extensive coverage that drowned out his competitors and left little room for discussion of the substantive policy issues facing voters. Now it has a lot to gain if the FCC begins a new wave of ownership deregulation and relaxes certain limits that currently prevent media conglomerates from controlling a large swath of local television stations, and prevent firms from owning television stations and newspapers in the same media market.

Responding to David Miller, a stock analyst with Loop Capital on the CBS investor call last week, Moonves noted that Pai is “very interested in the cap moving up,” a reference to the station cap rule.

“I can tell you in the right circumstance if the cap is lifted we would strategically want to buy some more stations because we think it is important,” Moonves said. He added that political advertising has made local markets “extremely good for us.”

Listen to Moonves’s comments below:

Current FCC rules limit the number of television stations a single company may own so that a single broadcaster can’t reach beyond 39 percent of households nationwide. Industry analysts have predicted that a Republican-controlled FCC will move the cap up to 49 percent. Lobbyists for CBS, 21st Century Fox, and the National Association of Broadcasterss fought efforts by the previous administration’s FCC to tighten the station cap rule.

Trump, meanwhile, has long maintained a symbiotic relationship with corporate broadcasters, starting with his with his break-out success with NBC’s The Apprentice, a show that rebranded Trump from a failed businessman into a symbol of capitalist success, and continuing on with wall-to-wall stenographic coverage during his presidential campaign.

The Tyndall Report, a trade outlet that tracks the broadcast networks’ weekday nightly newscasts, estimated that in 2015 Trump received more coverage than the entire Democratic contest combined, and far more than his Republican opponents. Bernie Sanders, for instance, only received 20 minutes of coverage compared to 326 minutes for Trump.

The New York Times estimated that through March 2016, Trump received $2 billion worth of free media coverage.

Moonves in particular has cheered the Trump phenomenon, telling investors last year that Trump campaign “may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”

Moonves explained that a negative presidential campaign is good for business because candidates were focused on political attacks, including buying television advertisements, instead of “talking about issues.” Trump also attracted record ratings, making him “good for us economically,” Moonves said.

In recent decades, media corporations have whittled away at regulations that limit media consolidation. In 2003, lobbyists for large media companies convinced Congress to increase the station cap rule from 35 to 39 percent. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 lifted the cap on radio station ownership, leading  firms such as Clear Channel (now known as iHeartMedia) to purchase dozens of local stations and imposing massive layoffs to local news staff.

Top photo: Leslie Moonves, President and CEO of CBS Corporation in New York, on May 18, 2016.

The post While War on Media Escalates, CBS Chief Praises Trump’s Deregulatory Agenda appeared first on The Intercept.

Declarações de Trump indicam possível início de nova corrida nuclear

24 February 2017 - 3:52pm

A declaração de Donald Trump na última quinta-feira defendendo que “se outros países também terão armas nucleares, nós seremos os primeiros” contradiz décadas de negociações mútuas e cautelosas pela redução dos arsenais nucleares em todo o mundo.

Os comentários de Trump publicados pela Reuters basicamente serviram de convite para que outras potências nucleares aumentem sua capacidade, e podem desencadear uma nova corrida armamentista.

“O Sr. Trump deve tomar cuidado para que não arruine décadas de esforços bem-sucedidos pela redução de arsenais nucleares excessivos”, disse Daryl Kimball, diretor-executivo da Associação de Controle Armamentício (Arms Control Association). “Todos os cinco últimos presidentes dos EUA, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush e Ronald Reagan, negociaram acordos com a Rússia pela redução de seus arsenais nucleares.”

O Tratado de Não Proliferação de Armas Nucleares, ratificado pelo Congresso em 1970, exige que os EUA busquem a “cessação” da corrida armamentista nuclear entre superpotências e tomem medidas visando o desarmamento mútuo. O objetivo era interromper a corrida armamentista para sempre.

Trump já havia causado temor quanto a uma nova corrida armamentista no passado. Ao ser pressionado em dezembro a explicar em detalhes sua política nuclear, ele declarou no programa Morning Joe da MSNBC: “que haja uma corrida armamentista”. Depois publicou um tweet defendendo que os EUA “reforcem e expandam consideravelmente sua capacidade nuclear na expectativa de que o mundo abra os olhos para a ameaça das armas nucleares”.

O porta-voz de Trump passou o dia tentando esclarecer esses comentários. Mas Trump explicou em seguida sua opinião quanto à redução de armamentos nucleares, dizendo ao presidente Vladimir Putin que considerava o New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty – Tratado de Redução Armamentista Estratégica) da era Obama um mau negócio. O tratado exige que ambos os países reduzam o número de ogivas nucleares estrategicamente posicionadas a menos de 1.550, o que representaria o mais baixo nível das últimas décadas.

Os russos têm um pouco mais de ogivas nucleares do que os EUA atualmente — mas, em contrapartida, os EUA possuem mais lançadores estratégicos de ogiva, segundo os dados mais recentes.

“É certo que os EUA não ‘ficaram para trás’ com relação à sua capacidade nuclear”, disse Hans Kristensen, especialista em armas nucleares da Federação de Cientistas Americanos, por e-mail para The Intercept. “Já estão no ‘topo do ranking’ e têm as forças nucleares mais poderosas do mundo, contando ainda com contundentes forças militares convencionais.”

Em 2013, oficiais da segurança nacional da Casa Branca de Obama estabeleceram que os EUA poderiam reduzir suas forças nucleares em um terço, sem maiores riscos. Outros especialistas disseram que esse número poderia ser ainda mais reduzido.

Mas, em vez de buscar as reduções que poderiam economizar centenas de bilhões de dólares, o governo Obama começou a investir US$ 1 trilhão na modernização do arsenal, o que os críticos do orçamento dos EUA consideraram ser inacessível.

Foto principal: Marinha dos EUA lançando um míssil Trident II, D-5. Litoral da Flórida, 4 de dezembro de 1989.

The post Declarações de Trump indicam possível início de nova corrida nuclear appeared first on The Intercept.

America’s Greatest Political Rhetoric Rewritten Using Paul Ryan’s Definition of Freedom

24 February 2017 - 3:40pm

From its founding, the United States has been about one thing: freedom. But what is freedom, exactly? Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and many others jabbered on about it without defining what they were talking about. But finally a great American politician has explained exactly what freedom is:

Freedom is the ability to buy what you want to fit what you need. Obamacare is Washington telling you what to buy regardless of your needs.

— Paul Ryan (@PRyan) February 21, 2017

So with Paul Ryan’s help, we now can go back and reread great American political rhetoric and at last understand what it means.

The First Amendment to the Constitution, 1789:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the ability to buy what you want to fit what you need of speech.

Thomas Jefferson on the founding of the University of Virginia, 1820:

This institution will be based on the illimitable ability to buy what you want to fit what you need of the human mind.

Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, 1863:

From these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of the ability to buy what you want to fit what you need.

Franklin D. Roosevelt in his “Four Freedoms” address to Congress, 1941:

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human abilities to buy what you want to fit what you need.

Ronald Reagan, “Message on the Observance of Afghanistan Day,” 1983:

To watch the courageous Afghan ability-to-buy-what-you-want-to-fit-what-you-need-fighters battle modern arsenals with simple handheld weapons is an inspiration to those who love the ability to buy what you want to fit what you need. Their courage teaches us a great lesson — that there are things in this world worth defending.

Top photo from left to right: Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Paul Ryan, Ronald Reagan, and Thomas Jefferson.

The post America’s Greatest Political Rhetoric Rewritten Using Paul Ryan’s Definition of Freedom appeared first on The Intercept.

Mayor of Paris Trolls Donald Trump and His Friend Jim

24 February 2017 - 2:17pm

Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, poked fun at Donald Trump on Friday, after the American president claimed that “Paris is no longer Paris,” because, he said, lax border security had permitted “foreign terrorists” to infiltrate the French capital and change its character.

Speaking to a gathering of conservative political activists in Maryland, Trump argued that terror attacks and violent crime in Europe stemmed from a failure to acknowledge that “national security begins with border security.”

“Foreign terrorists will not be able to strike America if they cannot get into our country,” Trump said. He then contrasted this with violence in Sweden, Germany and France he attributed to the migration of “radical Islamic terrorists” to those nations. The president seemed unaware of the fact that terrorist attacks in Europe have mainly been carried out by native-born extremists, not immigrants.

To reinforce his claim about the supposed harm to French society, Trump cited a friend he identified only as “Jim,” who told the president he stopped making annual trips to the French capital four or five years ago because “Paris is no longer Paris.”

“No matter the issue, Trump knows a guy”

Meet Jim, “a very, very substantial guy” who says Paris is no longer Paris

— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) February 24, 2017

The remark came as Trump sought to justify is executive order banning travelers from seven Muslim-majority nations that have no association with deadly terrorist attacks in the U.S. It also seemed to echo the racist rhetoric of French nationalists who claim that immigrants from the country’s former colonies have changed its character.

Trump’s decision to cite his friend Jim as an expert on Paris set off a round of trans-Atlantic mockery which the city’s mayor quickly joined in on.

Please, help Donald Trump's friend "Jim," who can't go to Paris anymore. Give generously. #IStandWithThatSubstantialGuyJim

— Tom the Dancing Bug (@RubenBolling) February 24, 2017

Hidalgo was at the Eiffel Tower for the launch of a tourism campaign in association with Disneyland Paris when Trump made his remarks. In response, she addressed a tweet to the American president “and his friend Jim” showing herself and a Disney executive “celebrating the attractiveness of Paris with Mickey and Minnie.”

À Donald et son ami Jim, depuis @LaTourEiffel nous célébrons l'attractivité de #Paris avec Mickey et Minnie.

— Anne Hidalgo (@Anne_Hidalgo) February 24, 2017

Hidalgo also pointed out that reservations by American tourists for 2017 were up by 30 percent from a year ago.

Au 1er semestre 2017, les réservations de touristes américains à #Paris sont en hausse de 30% par rapport à 2016. #Donald&Jim??

— Anne Hidalgo (@Anne_Hidalgo) February 24, 2017

That statistic contrasts sharply with a reported drop in foreign tourism to the United States, which by the travel writer Arthur Frommer attributed to Trump’s attempt to ban travelers from seven Muslim-majority nations.

#Trump's policies could have a negative impact on tourism to the U.S. #ThursdayThoughts

— Frommer's (@Frommers) February 23, 2017

The founder of Frommer’s Travel Guides wrote on the company’s website Thursday:

Though they may differ as to the wisdom of the move, the travel press and most travel experts are of one mind: They are currently drawing attention to an unintended consequence of the Trump-led efforts to stop many Muslims from coming to the U.S., pointing to a sharp drop in foreign tourism to our nation that imperils jobs and touristic income.

It’s known as the “Trump Slump.” And I know of no reputable travel publication to deny it.

Thus, the prestigious Travel Weekly magazine (as close to an “official” travel publication as they come) has set the decline in foreign tourism at 6.8%. And the fall-off is not limited to Muslim travelers, but also extends to all incoming foreign tourists. Apparently, an attack on one group of tourists is regarded as an assault on all.

“A drop of that magnitude, if continued, would reduce the value of foreign travel within the U.S. by billions of dollars,” Frommer observed. “And the number of jobs supported by foreign tourists and their expenditures in the United States — and thus lost — would easily exceed hundreds of thousands of workers in hotels, restaurants, transportation, stores, tour operations, travel agencies, and the like.”

Later on Friday, the French foreign minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, noted on Twitter that, even without Trump’s friend Jim, 3.5 million American tourists had visited France last year.

"3.5 million American tourists visited France in 2016, they'll always be welcome. #Trump #Paris #Nice #SurvivorTree"

— France Diplomacy???????? (@francediplo_EN) February 24, 2017

Earlier in the day, Ayrault and Uzra Zeya, the Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Paris, had attended the ceremonial planting of a tree donated to the French nation by the September 11 Museum in New York, to commemorate victims of terrorism in both countries.

Planting ceremony of the #SurvivorTree donated to ???????? by @Sept11Memorial, in solidarity with all victims of terror.

— France Diplomacy???????? (@francediplo_EN) February 23, 2017

Top photo: Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo at a news conference in the French capital on Nov. 21, 2016

The post Mayor of Paris Trolls Donald Trump and His Friend Jim appeared first on The Intercept.

Retórica leviana anti-Rússia vem da antiga cartilha do macartismo

24 February 2017 - 1:53pm

Para aspirantes a jornalistas, historiadores e cidadãos politicamente engajados, não há nada melhor que investir seu tempo na leitura aleatória dos boletins informativos de I.F. Stone, jornalista destemido e independente da época da Guerra Fria que se tornou, a meu ver, o primeiro “blogueiro” dos EUA, mesmo tendo morrido antes do advento da internet. Frustrado com o ambiente corporativo e opressivo da grande mídia e com seu modelo propagandístico em favor do governo e, por fim, banido dos meios de comunicação dominantes por conta de suas objeções à narrativa anti-Rússia, Stone criou sua própria newsletter bimestral, mantida exclusivamente por assinantes, e passou 18 anos desmascarando incansavelmente as propagandas do governo americano e de seus parceiros na mídia.

O que torna a produção de Stone tão valiosa não é sua elucidação da história, mas a elucidação do presente. O aspecto mais impressionante de seus boletins é observar como pouco mudou na propaganda e no militarismo do governo dos EUA e no papel desempenhado pela mídia americana em sua sustentação. De fato, ao ler suas reportagens, tem-se a impressão de que a política americana reproduz eternamente os mesmos debates, conflitos e táticas.

Grande parte dos escritos de Stone, particularmente durante os anos 50 e começo dos anos 60, se concentraram nas técnicas para manter os americanos em um estado de medo exagerado do Kremlin. Uma passagem específica de agosto de 54 chama atenção em particular. Nela, Stone explica por que é impossível deter o macartismo nos EUA quando líderes do Kremlin são caracterizados constantemente como ameaças sérias e onipotentes, com o intuito de defender as guerras e o militarismo americano. Fora a mudança na ideologia de Moscou — algo que muitos dos mais nocivos macartistas atuais negam solenemente —, as observações de Stone poderiam ser aplicadas aos dias de hoje com a mesma precisão.

Se comunistas são uma raça sobrenatural de seres humanos, liderados por um mentor no Kremlin, envolvidos em uma conspiração satânica para dominar o mundo e escravizar a humanidade — essa é a tese defendida incansavelmente tanto por progressistas quanto conservadores americanos, repetida noite e dia por todas as estações de rádio e jornais — a tese de que nenhum americano se atreverá novamente a contestar nada sem que se torne suspeito —, como então combater [o senador] McCarthy?

Se a opinião pública deve ser condicionada à guerra, se está sendo adestrada para considerar natural a destruição de milhões de seres humanos, alguns deles contaminados por esse terrível vírus ideológico, todos supostamente implorando por liberdade, como podemos alegar que seria grave se alguns homens, possivelmente inocentes, perdessem seu empregos ou tivessem suas reputações manchadas por causa de McCarthy?

Dois pontos fundamentais a serem destacados: 1) o segredo para manter a população com medo de adversários externos é representá-los como se fossem poderosos e onipresentes; e 2) uma vez enraizada a caracterização, poucos estarão dispostos a questionar a propaganda por medo de serem acusados de defender o Mal Externo: “a tese de que nenhum americano se atreverá novamente a contestar nada sem que se torne suspeito”.

Essa tática – que caracteriza adversários como supervilões onipotentes – foi fundamental para a guerra ao terrorismo. Muçulmanos radicais não representavam apenas ameaças violentas, eram ameaças extraordinárias, como vilões em um filme de James Bond.

Quando emergiram as fotos mostrando como o governo americano transportou o suspeito de terrorismo José Padilha para seu julgamento, com os olhos vendados e ouvidos tapados, um comentarista político americano justificou a cena explicando que isso era necessário para evitar que o suspeito “piscasse códigos” para que seus camaradas iniciassem atentados. Ao ser questionado sobre por que suspeitos de terrorismo eram algemados e amordaçados durante os voos intercontinentais para Guantánamo, um oficial do exército americano disse se tratar de “pessoas que cortariam um cabo hidráulico com os dentes para derrubar um [Boeing] C-17”. Detinham poderes de magia negra e se espreitavam por toda parte, mesmo quando não podiam ser vistos. Por esse motivo, devem ser temidos a ponto de justificar qualquer pretexto ou política em nome de aniquilá-los.

Poucos vilões estrangeiros foram investidos de tanta onipotência e onipresença quanto Vladimir Putin — pelo menos, desde que o Partido Democrata descobriu (o que equivocadamente acreditavam ser) sua utilidade política no papel de bicho-papão. Há pouquíssimos acontecimentos negativos no mundo que não acabam com o líder russo sendo responsabilizado e pouquíssimos críticos do Partido Democrata que não são, em algum momento, classificados como colaboradores de Putin ou espiões do Kremlin:

Has there even been a more ubiquitous and omnipotent villain in history?

— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) July 24, 2016

Tradução: “Já existiu um vilão mais onipresente e onipotente na história?”

Tradução: “Howard Dean: Seria interessante descobrir se The Intercept recebe dinheiro da Rússia ou do Irã.”

“Corine Marasco: Anúncio de utilidade pública: Culpa por associação é a especialidade de Lee Fang [repórter do The Intercept] porque ele se considera um “jornalista investigativo.”

Tradução: Rachel Maddow: Por que Jill Stein não disse nada sobre o escândalo Trump-Rússia?
Em destaque: Maddow levanta suspeita sobre o silêncio de Stein quanto às tentativas russas de interferir nas eleições e beneficiar Donald Trump.
Em destaque: “Não sei, Jill – não sei pronunciar isso em russo”.

Putin, assim como os terroristas da al Qaeda e, antes deles, os comunistas soviéticos, está por toda parte. A Rússia está por trás de todos os males e, principalmente, é claro, por trás da derrota de Hillary Clinton. Quem se atreve a questionar essa premissa se mostra um traidor, possivelmente, parte da folha de pagamento de Putin.

Conforme a repórter do The Nation, Katrina vanden Heuvel escreveu na terça-feira (21) no Washington Post: “Nos ataques a Trump, muitos progressistas se juntaram ao furor neomacartista, criticando aqueles que buscam reduzir as tensões entre os EUA e a Rússia, e classificando como apologistas de Putin quem expressa dúvidas quanto às acusações de hackeamento e conluio. … Não precisamos de uma reprodução da histeria da Guerra Fria que paralise o debate, difame céticos e prejudique os esforços em explorar áreas de concordância com a Rússia em nome do nosso próprio interesse nacional”. Isso reflete exatamente o que Stone observou há 62 anos: a alegação de infiltração e onipresença russa é a “tese de que nenhum americano se atreverá novamente a contestar nada sem que se torne suspeito” (Stone não foi apenas considerado um colaborador do Kremlin durante sua vida, mas também foi chamado de agente stalinista depois de sua morte).

Escrevi exaustivamente sobre isso durante o ano passado à medida que a Febre Russa chegava ao seu ápice, ou para ser mais preciso, seu zênite. Não vou repetir tudo aqui.


Mas gostaria de chamar a atenção para um excelente artigo no Guardian do jornalista americano, nascido na Rússia, Keith Gessen, em que examina — e refuta — de forma cirúrgica todas as alegações histéricas, ignorantes, alarmistas e manipulativas predominantes no discurso político americano sobre a Rússia, Putin e o Kremlin.

O artigo começa dizendo: “Vladimir Putin, você deve ter notado, está por toda a parte.” Por consequência, ele ressalta, a “Putinologia”, que define como “a produção de análises e comentários sobre Putin e suas motivações, baseados em informações necessariamente parciais, incompletas e, por vezes, completamente falsas”, tem tido muito destaque atualmente, mesmo que “tenha existido como um ramo intelectual distinto por mais de uma década”. Em síntese, ele escreve: “Em nenhum momento da história tantas pessoas com tão pouco conhecimento, e tamanha indignação, opinaram a respeito do presidente da Rússia.”

Não é exatamente raro que a mídia americana e seus comentaristas políticos opinem sobre adversários estrangeiros com uma mistura de ignorância e paranoia. Mas o papel desempenhado por Putin, acima de tudo, diz o autor, é o de estabelecer que os problemas americanos não são responsabilidade dos EUA, mas culpa de estrangeiros e, principalmente, eximir o Partido Democrata da necessidade de encarar seus próprios erros e fracassos.

Segundo uma pesquisa recente, Hillary Clinton e seu comitê de campanha ainda culpam os russos — e, por associação, Barack Obama, por não ter feito um drama sobre o hackeamento até novembro — por seu fracasso eleitoral. Nesse caso, pensar em Putin ajuda a não pensar em tudo que deu errado e no que precisa consertado.

Mas, enquanto o desencargo de consciência pode ser uma motivação importante, o grande perigo é o quanto essa obsessão distrai e deturpa a corrupção generalizada da classe dominante americana. Como diz Gessen:

Se Donald Trump sofrer um impeachment e for preso por conspirar com uma potência estrangeira visando prejudicar a democracia americana, vou comemorar tanto quanto qualquer americano. No entanto, no longo prazo, o argumento da [interferência da] Rússia não é apenas política de baixa qualidade, é falência moral e intelectual. É uma tentativa de culpar uma potência estrangeira por seus próprios, profundos e persistentes problemas. Conforme destacaram alguns comentaristas, é uma página da cartilha do próprio Putin.

Conforme explicou em detalhes Adam Johnson no Los Angeles Times na semana passada, o esforço constante em atribuir [a vitória de] Trump à dinâmica política externa visa ignorar a realidade de que foram a política e a cultura americanas que levaram à ascensão de Trump. Nada cumpre essa tarefa melhor do que continuar atribuindo Trump — e quaisquer outros resultados negativos — ao trabalho secreto de líderes do Kremlin.

O jogo dos democratas tradicionais e seus aliados não é apenas vulgar; é perigoso. As classes política, midiática, militar e os serviços de inteligência americanos ainda estão repletos de pessoas buscando um confronto com a Rússia; inclusive oficiais militares indicados por Trump para cargos importantes.

Conforme observou Stone nos anos 50, de um lado, a agressão e o alarmismo quanto ao Kremlin e, do outro, a acusação de deslealdade aos críticos domésticos dessa abordagem estão intrinsecamente vinculados. Quando um é enraizado, se torna muito difícil evitar o outro. Não é possível reproduzir a retórica de demonização de um adversário estrangeiro por muito tempo sem que sejam desencadeados, consciente ou inconscientemente, confrontos perigosos entre os dois.

Foto principal: Retrato do jornalista I. F. Stone em seu escritório. Washington, 1966.

The post Retórica leviana anti-Rússia vem da antiga cartilha do macartismo appeared first on The Intercept.

GOP Lawmakers Duck Town Halls, But Still Make Time to Meet with Campaign Donors

24 February 2017 - 1:13pm

Many of the same congressional Republicans who are ducking their constituents by refusing to hold town hall events during this week’s recess are actively offering to meet with donors — for a fee.

The Intercept and the Center for Media and Democracy have obtained fundraiser invitations for a number of GOP lawmakers who rejected calls to meet with constituents.

The President’s Day congressional recess is a period with no official work and designed for reconnecting with the folks back home. But after some early town halls drew hostile crowds, particularly inflamed by Trump administration policies on immigration and health care, more than 200 GOP lawmakers are skipping them instead.

Speaker Paul Ryan’s constituents in Wisconsin asked him for a town hall meeting during recess, but Ryan’s staff remained cagey about his whereabouts. The real reason he wasn’t hanging out back home in Janesville? Ryan prioritized meeting with wealthy contributors over constituents.

Ryan began the recess with a “Winter PAC Retreat” last weekend at the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne in Miami, an event that welcomed donors who have given “a minimum contribution of $10,000″ to the Team Ryan joint fundraising committee. That’s Ryan’s special PAC that can raise as much as $244,200 per person.

Since the event in Miami, the speaker has toured Texas and California hosting events for the PAC in Corpus Christi, Fort Worth, Dallas, Houston, and Menlo Park.

Wyoming residents asked Sen. John Barrasso to attend a town hall meeting with them this week while Congress is out of session, but his press secretary demurred, telling reporters that the senator already has community events on his schedule.

What the press secretary didn’t say was that Barrasso this week has a ski resort fundraiser, held Friday and Saturday in Jackson Hole. He’s asking donors to provide $5,000 per political action committee or $1,500 per individual.

After videos of his fellow Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton being dressed down by a 7-year old named Toby at a town hall on Wednesday made national headlines, Sen. John Boozman canceled his in-person town hall, scheduled for Friday. He said on Thursday that he will now hold a town hall on Monday — but over the phone, and only for people who sign up ahead of time.

Constituents who insist on seeing Boozman in person will have to pay. Also on Monday, Boozman is hosting a fundraiser that costs $500 per attendee.

Boozman was out of state for at least part of the congressional recess — attending two fundraisers at a resort in Palm Beach. The Florida event invitation shows attendees were asked to pay $1,000 per ticket.

Protesters hold signs outside of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office on Main Street in downtown Janesville, Wis. on Feb. 22, 2017.

Photo: Angela Major/The Janesville Gazette/AP

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, who won office in 2010 by drawing attention to town-hall anger directed at his Democratic opponent, has refused repeated requests by constituents to schedule a town hall — but has found time to schedule a $1,000 per person fundraiser this coming Tuesday at Acqua Al, a pricey Italian eatery on Capitol Hill.

Sens. John Thune of South Dakota and John Cornyn of Texas held town halls during the congressional recess in previous years, but not this year.

Cornyn, however, is hosting a $500 per person fundraiser on Monday at Nopa Kitchen + Bar, a trendy D.C. brasserie, while Thune is offering individuals who pay $1,000 or more the pleasure of watching the Washington Wizards v. Golden State Warriors basketball game with him on Tuesday.

What are they so afraid of? GOP candidates have run on pledges to repeal President Obama’s signature health insurance reform law for the last four federal election cycles. But at a recent town hall, when one constituent asked Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., how she could afford medical coverage for her daughter if ACA subsidies are repealed, the congressman had no answer. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., left his town hall early under mounting questions about his position on Obamacare repeal, leading to a viral video of him fleeing the building.

By contrast, the fundraising events underscore the immutable reality in a money-driven Congress that donors have priority over regular constituents. A 2015 study by academics Joshua Kalla and David Broockman found that members of Congress are 231% more likely to hold meetings with individuals who have contributed money to their campaigns than those that have not.

Top photo: House Speaker Paul Ryan.

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Former Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort Took Out $19 Million in Puzzling Real Estate Loans

24 February 2017 - 11:48am

Paul Manafort, the former Donald Trump campaign manager who resigned over his lobbying work in the Ukraine for pro-Russian government, has taken out over $19 million in home equity loans in New York City in the past five years, in an escalating series of transactions that include one particularly large and unusual loan from a banker on Trump’s Economic Advisory Council.

The loan data was compiled from public sources by two New York attorneys, Julian Russo and Matthew Termine, who published it on a blog. It’s not clear what Manafort is up to, but it’s almost certainly not what home equity loans are designed for, which is home improvement. “It feels like we’re seeing a small piece of the bigger picture here,” Russo told The Intercept.

The raw facts stand out for their strangeness. Since 2012, Manafort has taken out seven home equity loans worth approximately $19.2 million on three separate New York-area properties he owns through holding companies registered to him and his son-in-law Jeffrey Yohai, a real estate investor. They include a condo on 27 Howard Street in Manhattan, a condo in Trump Tower, and a four-story, two-unit brownstone in Brooklyn, at 377 Union Street.

In 2012, Manafort took out a $1.5 million home equity loan on 27 Howard Street from First Republic Bank, through his limited liability company MC Soho Holdings. Four years later, Manafort paid off that loan and got another, even bigger one – for $2.73 million, from Citizens Bank.

Manafort got a $3 million mortgage loan against the Trump Tower property in 2015, issued by UBS Bank USA, that comes due in 2040.

And in March 2016, Manafort and his son-in-law Yohai purchased a pair of short-term mortgage loans on the 377 Union Street brownstone, worth a total of $5.3 million. The brownstone was listed in the name of MC Brooklyn Holdings, a limited liability company.

By June 1, the lender, Genesis Capital, had filed for foreclosure, alleging a missed payment. In January 2017, MC Brooklyn Holdings transferred the property to Manafort, and two weeks later, Federal Savings Bank, a small lender that normally caters to low and moderate-income military veterans, issued Manafort’s wife Kathleen a $5.3 million loan, evidently to cover the prior Genesis Capital mortgage, and an additional $1.3 million loan. The loan is also short-term, due in January 2018.

This $6.6 million in loans to one customer represents roughly 2.2 percent of Federal Savings Bank’s overall assets, and nearly 11 percent of the bank’s total shareholder equity. The total borrowing cost appears to exceed the equivalent market value of a property of that size in the neighborhood, and it’s also unusual from a risk management standpoint to loan millions of dollars for a home already in default by the same owner.

Adding to the intrigue is the identity of Federal Savings Bank’s founder, CEO and chairman: Steve Calk, a Trump campaign supporter and member of the president’s Economic Advisory Council. Neither Federal Savings Bank nor Calk has responded to a request for comment. Through a spokesman, Genesis Capital stated that they “do not release information to third parties about the status of our loans.”

MC Brooklyn Holdings bought the 377 Union building for $2.9 million in late 2012, according to local Brooklyn blog Pardon Me for Asking. In 2013, the New York Department of Buildings approved a permit to turn the two-unit brownstone into a single-family home. That application lists the owner as Paul Manafort. But the home has been empty since the purchase.

Though work initially started, none has been performed in the last year and a half; cinderblocks and steel beams line the front yard. A stop-work order on the project is dated February 1, after Manafort secured the new loan. Neighbors have complained about Manafort’s “eyesore” of a project. Manafort told the New York Post that he hired a new architect and plans to complete the conversion by the end of this year.

Regardless, the $6.6 million the Manaforts have borrowed on the house is well more than it is worth. Add this to the outstanding indebtedness on the Trump Tower and Howard Street properties and Manafort has $12.33 million in home equity loans outstanding, less any principal payments made since they were issued.

Manafort did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Russo and Termine wonder if the transactions resulted in available cash for Manafort and his family, with successive loans paying off prior ones.

“You’ve got lots of LLCs, lots of properties, lots of transfers to Manafort, his wife, and his kids,” said Termine. “It didn’t smell good, and then added together it really doesn’t.”

As it happens, Manafort’s son-in-law and occasional business partner, Jeffrey Yohai, was recently sued in federal court for taking money from a real estate partnership for personal use. Celebrity photographer Guy Aroch accused Yohai of selling him stakes in a real-estate partnership over a two-year period but then using “most or all of the funds for personal travel; lavish purchases; and/or speculative ventures outside the investment mandates,” according to the lawsuit. Aroch further alleges that Yohai uses his relationship with Manafort to meet wealthy people and sell them on investing in his real estate business.

“Typically, Yohai promises his investors a quick and large return on their investments. When this promised financial performance fails to materialize and investors express their concern, Yohai simply recruits new investors to newly established LLCs – with the same claims of quick success – and repays his earlier investors with these incoming funds,” the lawsuit states.

Yohai recently declared bankruptcy on LLCs tied to four properties in California, all of which are in some stage of foreclosure. Manafort was tied to at least one of those properties as a creditor. Yohai’s lawyer, Marc Forsythe, did not respond to a request for comment.

Manafort has also been accused of misusing investor funds. In 2008, a Russian aluminum magnate named Oleg Deripaska sued Manafort in a Cayman Islands court for taking $19 million for investments and failing to explain how the money was used. For at least part of that legal dispute, Manafort could not be found.

A longtime Republican strategist, Manafort’s removal from the Trump campaign last summer came amid reports that a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine gave him $12.7 million in off-the-books payments. He has re-emerged in the news because of leaked intelligence reports suggesting his ongoing contacts with Russian government officials during the Trump campaign. Manafort has denied all of these allegations.

During the time Manafort worked for the Ukrainian government, from 2007 to 2012, he purchased four homes worth $11 million, according to public records acquired by Fusion. This includes the Trump Tower condo and the 27 Howard Street loft. He also owns a 5,600 square foot mansion in the Hamptons, a luxury condo in Alexandria, Virginia, a residence in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, and two 5-acre horse farms in Florida and Virginia.

It’s unclear whether these are for family use or investment properties. They are typically routed through shell companies and LLCs, consistent with Manafort’s history of murky financial dealmaking with foreign billionaires, often involving real estate, the business of his father.

On Thursday, Politico reported that Manafort was the victim of a blackmail attempt. A note attached to a text from a Ukrainian politician to Manafort’s daughter (and Jeffrey Yohai’s wife) references “bulletproof facts” regarding Manafort’s financial relationship with former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich, who was favored by Russia.

“Considering all the facts and evidence that are in my possession, and before possible decision whether to pass this to [the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine] or FBI I would like to get your opinion on this and maybe your way to work things out that will persuade me to do otherwise,” the note reads.

Manafort confirmed the authenticity of the text to Politico but said he never responded “directly” to them. The text came in days before the revelation of the $12.7 million Ukrainian payment.

The post Former Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort Took Out $19 Million in Puzzling Real Estate Loans appeared first on The Intercept.

Com PMDB envolvido na Lava Jato, Temer escolhe ex-aliado de Cunha para Ministério da Justiça

24 February 2017 - 11:10am

Em meio ao caos na segurança pública dos estados e a iminência do fim do sigilo das delações da Odebrecht na Lava Jato, o presidente Michel Temer definiu um ex-aliado de Eduardo Cunha (PMDB/RJ) para o Ministério da Justiça. A escolha do também pmedebista Osmar Serraglio (RS) evidencia uma vitória do PMDB na Câmara – que reivindicava o posto a qualquer custo – em uma queda de braço com a bancada mineira do partido, encabeçada por Fábio Ramalho, vice-presidente da Casa.

A Polícia Federal está subordinada ao Ministério da Justiça. Ainda que ela tenha autonomia de atuação, o ministro da Justiça pode, por exemplo, recomendar a troca de cargos da órgão. Por isso, investigadores da Lava Jato manifestaram receio de que possíveis mudanças de comando tenham impacto nas investigações em curso. Às pressas para seu nome não cair na fritura, Serraglio se apressou em dizer que a Lava Jato é intocável.

Michel Temer durante reunião com o ministro-chefe da Casa Civil Eliseu Padilha.

Foto: Marcos Correa/PR

O PMDB, como a maioria dos partidos no Congresso, já tem diversos integrantes entre os citados e investigados na Lava Jato e, ao que tudo indica, aparece de forma ainda mais ampla nas delações de executivos da Odebrecht. O mais recente caso noticiado envolve dois nomes próximos a Michel Temer. Em depoimento à Procuradoria-Geral da República, o ex-assessor presidencial e amigo do presidente José Yunes contou que recebeu um pacote a pedido de Eliseu Padilha (PMDB/RS), ministro da Casa Civil e braço-direito de Temer. Segundo Yunes, Lucio Funaro, tido como operador de propinas de Eduardo Cunha, teria aparecido em seu escritório, em São Paulo, e deixado a encomenda para Padilha.

A Procuradoria deve abrir um inquérito para investigar Padilha, que pediu esta semana uma licença do governo para tratar um problema de saúde. A essa altura, não se sabe mais se ele volta ao cargo palaciano. Começa a fazer mais sentido a preocupação do PMDB para emplacar um novo ministro da Justiça?

Cunha de retaguarda

O escolhido por Temer para o ministério foi relator, entre 2005 e 2006, da CPI dos Correios. Recentemente, Serraglio também foi presidente da Comissão de Constituição e Justiça (CCJ) na Câmara dos Deputados. Até então, o parlamentar era visto como integrante da tropa de choque do deputado cassado Eduardo Cunha, que hoje ocupa uma minúscula cela em Curitiba. Cunha, à época, bancou a indicação de Serraglio para a CCJ. Com a força política que tinha, conseguiu o que queria.

A comissão é a última instância da Câmara para se recorrer em casos de irregularidades no descumprimento do regimento da Casa antes que as votações sejam remetidas para o plenário. Após o Conselho de Ética recomendar a cassação de Cunha e o deputado perder por unanimidade no STF, ele viu na CCJ a última trincheira de sobrevivência, antes que seu processo de cassação fosse enviado para votação.

Sob o comando de Serraglio, a CCJ também foi palco de diversas polêmicas ano passado, como trocas de integrantes com objetivo de favorecer Eduardo Cunha. Acusado por parlamentares de proteger o então presidente da Casa, Serraglio viu a ira dos colegas em julho do ano passado. Veja no vídeo abaixo o momento da confusão:

Aliado de Eduardo Cunha, presidente da CCJ Osmar Serraglio foge da CCJ para não enfrentar protestos

— George Marques (@GeorgMarques) July 13, 2016

A cobiça

Desde que o então ministro da Justiça Alexandre de Moraes foi indicado por Temer para o Supremo, o PMDB da Câmara reivindicava o posto. O principal entusiasta da campanha era o atual vice-presidente da Câmara, Fábio Ramalho (PMDB/MG). O desejo dele era que a vaga fosse entregue a algum nome que privilegiasse a bancada mineira. Deputados têm manifestado a Temer que Minas estaria subaproveitada no governo. Não por acaso, o nome do mineiro Rodrigo Pacheco (MG) despontava como favorito.

Também cotado para o Ministério da Justiça, o ex-ministro do STF Carlos Velloso rejeitou o convite. O desdém de Velloso, que chegou a afirmar que o presidente buscava alguém “para salvar o Brasil“, teve como justificativa cláusulas de exclusividade que seu escritório de advocacia e seus clientes impuseram.

Apesar da aparente sinergia do PMDB em torno do nome de Serraglio, a definição já começa a produzir sequelas. Inconformado com a derrota de Minas, Fábio Ramalho anunciou rompimento formal com Temer, após a escolha de Serraglio para o cargo. Pela vontade dele, agora é a hora de impor derrotas ao Planalto em votações. “Parece que o governo tem ódio de Minas”, disse.

Tudo que o Palácio do Planalto menos espera neste momento é que sua base política no Congresso entre em ebulição. Até porque, motivos de sobra para desorganizar o tabuleiro político estão pré-arranjados para depois do Carnaval, como as reformas em discussão (Trabalhista e Previdenciária) e também as delações da Odebrecht.

A cada nomeação para cargos na Esplanada o governo emite sinais. A escolha de Moraes para o STF, um político de carteirinha, é um sinal. Ao sugerir um deputado do PMDB ao invés de um nome técnico para o Ministério da Justiça, Temer demonstra que sua atuação está em manter a sua base aliada no Congresso coesa, como questão de sobrevivência política mesmo. Para isso, os cargos viram moedas de troca.

The post Com PMDB envolvido na Lava Jato, Temer escolhe ex-aliado de Cunha para Ministério da Justiça appeared first on The Intercept.

Someone Please Ask Donald Trump This Simple Question About Russia

24 February 2017 - 10:34am

In the maelstrom of anonymous accusations that Donald Trump’s associates were in touch with Russian officials during the 2016 election, one simple point has gotten lost:

As president, Trump has the power to declassify anything — which means he could order all the government’s intelligence agencies to make public whatever intercepts and other records exist involving Russia and people in his orbit.

Moreover, if any contacts between Trump’s people and Russia were innocuous — if the whole thing is “a ruse” or “complete garbage” as Trump himself and his chief of staff have called it — Trump has every incentive to prove that as quickly as possible.

So will Trump use his declassification power?

The administration should be asked this question until they answer it fully. I’m going to try to make that happen.

I personally find it completely plausible that there’s an innocent explanation to whatever contacts there were. I also find it completely plausible that there isn’t. But one thing I’m sure of: The current war of unverifiable leaks from anonymous officials on one side, and unverifiable claims by the Trump administration on the other, is poisonous. We have the right to see the evidence for ourselves, and Trump has the power to show it to us.

I’ve started by asking the White House press office myself. So far they have not responded, but I’ll keep trying and I’ll make a list of my attempts public. You can see the current list at the end of this article.

However, it’s far more likely that Trump or members of his administration will respond to this question from television reporters or those from outlets like the New York Times and Washington Post. So I’m going to lobby the most likely journalist candidates to ask it. I don’t care whether I get the answer, just that someone does.

Members of Congress, particularly on the House and Senate intelligence committees, can and should ask Trump to make the evidence public. In fact, all of the Democrats on the Senate intelligence committee already wrote to Barack Obama in December, saying that “there is additional information concerning the Russian government and the U.S. election that should be declassified.” I’m going to ask if they’ll make a similar push with Trump.

Speaking of Obama, he should be asked why he did not use his declassification power while he had it. So I’m going to do so.

I’ll be writing updates about this as long as it takes. Because this is such a ferociously partisan subject, with almost everyone’s beliefs based on what political team they’re on, I’ll do my best to keep it calm and fact-based.

In the meantime, if you have suggestions about other avenues to pursue, please get in touch.

Here are my unsuccessful attempts to get an answer so far:

Wednesday, February 15: Email to Lindsay Walters, White House deputy press secretary, asking for comment for this article. Walters did not respond.

Friday, February 17: Phone call to White House press assistant Giovanna Coia, who directed me to email Walters and principal deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders.

Friday, February 17: Email to Walters and Sanders specifically requesting an interview with Trump or anyone else available. Sanders responded with email cc’ing senior assistant press secretary Michael Short and asking him “to handle.” Short did not respond.

Sunday, February 19: Follow up email to Short. He did not respond.

Tuesday, February 21: Follow up email, call and text to Short. He did not respond.

Friday, February 24: Follow up email to Short. He did not respond.

Top photo: President Donald Trump takes questions from reporters during a news conference in the East Room at the White House on Feb. 16, 2017 in Washington.

The post Someone Please Ask Donald Trump This Simple Question About Russia appeared first on The Intercept.

Key Question About DNC Race: Why Did Obama White House Recruit Perez to Run Against Ellison?

24 February 2017 - 9:23am

Members of the Democratic National Committee will meet on Saturday to choose their new Chair, replacing the disgraced interim Chair Donna Brazile, who replaced the disgraced five-year Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Even though the outcome is extremely unlikely to change the (failed) fundamentals of the party, the race has become something of an impassioned proxy war replicating the 2016 primary fight: between the Clinton/Obama establishment wing (which largely backs Obama Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who vehemently supported Clinton) and the insurgent Sanders wing (which backs Keith Ellison, the first Muslim ever elected to the U.S. Congress and who was an early Sanders supporter).

The New Republic’s Clio Chang has a great, detailed analysis of the contest. She asks the key question about Perez’s candidacy that has long hovered and yet has never been answered. As Chang correctly notes, supporters of Perez insist, not unreasonably, that he is materially indistinguishable from Ellison in terms of ideology (despite his support for TPP, seemingly grounded in loyalty to Obama). This, she argues, is “why the case for Tom Perez makes no sense”: after all, “if Perez is like Ellison—in both his politics and ideology—why bother fielding him in the first place?”

The time-line here is critical. Ellison announced his candidacy on November 15, armed with endorsements that spanned the range of the party: Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Raúl Grijalva and various unions on the left, along with establishment stalwarts such as Chuck Schumer, Amy Klobuchar and Harry Reid. He looked to be the clear front-runner.

But as Ellison’s momentum built, the Obama White House worked to recruit Perez to run against Ellison. They succeeded, and Perez announced his candidacy on December 15 – a full month after Ellison announced. Why did the White House work to recruit someone to sink Ellison? If Perez and Ellison are so ideologically indistinguishable, why was it so important to the Obama circle – and the Clinton circle – to find someone capable of preventing Ellison’s election? What’s the rationale? None has ever been provided.

I can’t recommend Chang’s analysis highly enough on one key aspect of what motivated the recruitment of Perez: to ensure that the Democratic establishment maintains its fatal grip on the party and, in particular, prevent Sanders followers from having any say in the party’s direction and identity:

There is one real difference between the two: Ellison has captured the support of the left wing. . . . It appears that the underlying reason some Democrats prefer Perez over Ellison has nothing to do with ideology, but rather his loyalty to the Obama wing. As the head of the DNC, Perez would allow that wing to retain more control, even if Obama-ites are loath to admit it. . . .

And it’s not just Obama- and Clinton-ites that could see some power slip away with an Ellison-headed DNC. Paid DNC consultants also have a vested interest in maintaining the DNC status quo. Nomiki Konst, who has extensively covered the nuts and bolts of the DNC race, asked Perez how he felt about conflicts of interest within the committee—specifically, DNC members who also have contracts with the committee. Perez dodged the issue, advocating for a “big tent.” In contrast, in a forum last month, Ellison firmly stated, “We are battling the consultant-ocracy.”

In other words, Perez, despite his progressive credentials, is viewed – with good reason – as a reliable functionary and trustworthy loyalist by those who have controlled the party and run it into the ground, whereas Ellison is viewed as an outsider who may not be as controllable and, worse, may lead the Sanders contingent to perceive that they have been integrated into and empowered within the party.


But there’s an uglier and tawdrier aspect to this. Just over two weeks after Ellison announced, the largest single funder of both the Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign – the Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban – launched an incredibly toxic attack on Ellison, designed to signal his veto. “He is clearly an anti-Semite and anti-Israel individual,” pronounced Saban about the African-American Muslim Congressman, adding: “Keith Ellison would be a disaster for the relationship between the Jewish community and the Democratic Party.”

Saban has a long history not only of fanatical support for Israel – “I’m a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel,” he told The New York Times in 2004 about himself – but also an ugly track record of animus toward Muslims. As The Forward gently put it, he is prone to “a bit of anti-Muslim bigotry,” including when he said Muslims deserve “more scrutiny,” and “also called for profiling and broader surveillance.” In 2014, he teamed up with right-wing billionaire Sheldon Adelson to push a pro-Israel agenda. In that notorious NYT profile, he attacked the ACLU for opposing Bush/Cheney civil liberties assaults and said: “On the issues of security and terrorism I am a total hawk.”

There’s no evidence that Saban’s attack on Ellison is what motivated the White House to recruit an opponent. But one would have to be indescribably naïve about the ways of Washington to believe that such a vicious denunciation by one of the party’s most influential billionaire funders had no effect at all.

The DNC headquarters was built with Saban’s largesse: he donated $7 million to build that building, and he previously served as chairman of the Party’s capital-expenditure campaign. Here’s how Mother Jones’ Andy Kroll, in a November profile, described the influence Saban wields within elite Democratic circles:

No single political patron has done more for the Clintons over the span of their careers. In the past 20 years, Saban and his wife have donated $2.4 million to the Clintons’ various campaigns and at least $15 million to the Clinton Foundation, where Cheryl Saban serves as a board member. Haim Saban prides himself on his top-giver status: “If I’m not No. 1, I’m going to cut my balls off,” he once remarked on the eve of a Hillary fundraiser. The Sabans have given more than $10 million to Priorities USA, making them among the largest funders of the pro-Hillary super-PAC. In the lead-up to the 2016 presidential campaign, he vowed to spend “whatever it takes” to elect her. . . .

The ties go beyond money. The Clintons have flown on the Sabans’ private jet, stayed at their LA home, and vacationed at their Acapulco estate. The two families watched the 2004 election results together at the Clintons’ home, and Bill Clinton gave the final toast at one of Cheryl Saban’s birthday parties. Haim Saban is chummy enough with Hillary that he felt comfortable telling her that she sounded too shrill on the stump. “Why are you shouting all the time?” he says he told her. “It’s drilling a hole in my head.” Clinton campaign emails released by WikiLeaks in October contain dozens of messages to, from, and referencing Saban. And they show that he has no qualms about pressing Clinton and her aides on her position toward Israel. “She needs to differentiate herself from Obama on Israel,” he wrote in June 2015 to Clinton’s top aides.

When Clinton, during the campaign, denounced the boycott movement devoted to defeating Israeli occupation, she did it in the form of public letter to Saban. To believe that Democrats assign no weight to Saban’s adamantly stated veto of Ellison is to believe in the tooth fairy.

Saban’s attack predictably spawned media reports that Jewish groups had grown “uncomfortable” with Ellison’s candidacy (the ADL pronounced his past criticisms of Israel “disqualifying”), while whispers arose that the last thing the Democratic Party needs to win back Rust Belt voters is a black Muslim as the face of the party (even though the Detroit-born Ellison himself is from the Rust Belt).

Defeated Dems could've tapped Rust Belt populist to head party. Instead, black, Muslim progressive from Minneapolis?

— Jonathan Weisman (@jonathanweisman) November 11, 2016

As both Chang and Vox’s Jeff Stein have argued, the fact that DNC Chair is a largely functionary position, with little real power over party policy or messaging, is all the more reason to throw Sanders supporters a symbolic bone. If Democrats were smart, this would be the perfect opportunity to capture that energized left-wing movement without having to make any real concessions on what matters most to them: loyalty to their corporate donor base.

But it’s hard to conclude that a party that has navigated itself into such collapse, and which deliberately and knowingly chose the weakest candidate who managed to lose to Donald J. Trump, is one that is thinking wisely and strategically. As Chang persuasively argues, it seems Democratic leaders prioritize ensuring that the left has no influence in their party over strengthening itself to beat the Trump-led Republicans:

The same could be said of today’s battle over the DNC and the push to install a loyal technocrat like Perez. This reluctance to cede control comes despite the fact that Democrats have lost over 1,000 state legislature seats since 2009. There is no case for Perez that cannot be made for Ellison, while Ellison is able to energize progressives in ways that Perez cannot. The question that will be answered on Saturday is whether Democrats have more urgent priorities than denying power to the left.

That view, one must grant, is deeply cynical of Democratic leaders. But – besides fearing the wrath of Saban – what else can explain why they were so eager to recruit someone to block Keith Ellison?

If the plan to sink Ellison succeeds, the message that will be heard – fairly or not – is that the Democratic Party continues to venerate loyalty to its oligarchical donors above all else, and that preventing left-wing influence is a critical goal. In other words, the message will be that the Party – which to date has refused to engage in any form of self-reckoning – is steadfastly committed to following exactly the same course, led by the same factions, that has ushered in such disaster.

Top photo: U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison shows his frustration along with other community members as they brought forward concerns about the continued presence of protesters at the Minneapolis Police Department’s 4th Police Precinct, during a press conference at the Farview Recreation Center in Minneapolis, Minn., Monday, Nov. 30, 2015.

The post Key Question About DNC Race: Why Did Obama White House Recruit Perez to Run Against Ellison? appeared first on The Intercept.

Apesar dos spoilers, O Grande Acordo Nacional segue causando espanto

24 February 2017 - 9:00am

Eu era um noveleiro de mão cheia na adolescência. Tinha doze anos quando Mulheres de Areia, um clássico da teledramaturgia brasileira, estreou na Globo. Nas revistas de fofoca que minha avó comprava, era possível saber o que ia acontecer nos capítulos da semana. Naquela época, o spoiler ainda não era criminalizado, todo mundo adorava saber com antecedência quais as sacanagens que a Raquel aprontaria pra cima da irmã boa, a Ruthinha. Mesmo sabendo o que ia acontecer, as maldades de Raquel sempre nos espantavam quando apareciam na telinha.

Acontece o mesmo com a nova novela da pós-verdade brasileira, O Grande Acordo Nacional, cujo spoiler completo foi dado por Jucá dias antes da estréia. A gente já sabe tudo o que vai acontecer, mas fica espantado mesmo assim. No penúltimo capítulo, os amigos de Moraes o convidaram para um passeio na chalana de um senador ligado ao bicheiro Carlinhos Cachoeira. Apesar do bafafá em torno do encontro, parece que não houve nada de mais ali, nem a “suruba” especulada por Jucá rolou. Segundo Moraes, a visita à chalana – conhecida pelos nomes de Champagne e Love Boat –  foi apenas um “gesto de respeito aos senadores”.

No capítulo seguinte, Alexandre e amigos protagonizaram um espetáculo teatral na CCJ. Com boa parte da imprensa encarando com muita compreensão a indicação de um homem de ligações estreitíssimas com envolvidos na Lava Jato, o clima foi de muita serenidade e companheirismo. O cenário estava montado, os diálogos ensaiados, dificilmente alguma coisa daria errado. E não deu. Parecia até aquele bate-papo gostoso que Temer teve com jornalistas no Roda Viva – que, aliás, poderia muito bem ter sido gravado no Love Boat, uma locação perfeita para aquele episódio.

Peemedebistas e tucanos não disfarçavam a satisfação com a chegada do amigo ao STF. As gravíssimas acusações de plágio acadêmico, de abuso de poder, de gestão violenta na segurança pública em São Paulo, e outras tenebrosas transações não constrangeram Moraes nem os demais protagonistas de O Grande Acordo Nacional.

Marcos Oliveira/Agência Senado

Quando perguntaram se iria se considerar impedido de julgar a Lava Jato por sua ligação com vários delatados na operação, o ex-tucano fez um auto-julgamento brilhante:

“Eu me julgo absolutamente capaz de atuar com absoluta imparcialidade, absoluta neutralidade, dentro do que determina a Constituição”

Falou isso com absoluta desenvoltura, sem canastrice. Foi uma atuação de gala, parecia até estar falando a verdade. O companheiro Gilmar Mendes deve ter ficado orgulhoso do companheiro.

Aécio Neves (PSDB/MG), amigo, ex-cliente e presidente do partido de Moraes, gastou mais de 12 minutos para fazer o seu afago em forma de pergunta. Diferente do futuro juiz do STF, sua atuação foi péssima, digna dos grandes canastrões da teledramaturgia brasileira. O Mineirinho não parecia acreditar no que estava falando. Lembrou Francisco Cuoco em Pecado Capital.

Mas o mais interessante são os screenshots da novela. Vamos tentar interpretá-los.

Marcos Oliveira/Agência Senado

Perceba o clima de confraternização entre amigos. Enquanto o ultradeletado Mineirinho tentava conter as covinhas de felicidade, Eduardo Braga (PMDB/AM), acusado de ser “jogo duro” na cobrança de propinas, exibe um sorriso de alívio.  A felicidade estava estampada no rosto de todos os envolvidos na Lava Jato. Não é para menos, agora eles têm um novo parça no STF. A sabatina foi só um jogo de cena para preencher a novela, todos já sabiam o final daquele capítulo.

Marcos Oliveira/Agência Senado

Vanessa Graziottin (PCdoB/AM), senadora da oposição, segura carinhosamente a mão de Lobão (PMDB/MA) –  o presidente da CCJ comandou a sabatina e é alvo de dois inquéritos na Lava Jato. É bonito de ver o republicanismo da senadora em tempos de golpe. O amor é importante.

A piscadela do ministro para Lobão (a quem lhe caberá julgar) foi capturada pelo super premiado @Didasampaioo

— Jose Roberto Toledo (@zerotoledo) 21 de fevereiro de 2017

Aqui temos um futuro ministro do STF piscando para o homem que comandou sua sabatina e que, futuramente, será julgado por ele. Uma novela nunca será boa sem um casalzinho safado, descarado, enfim, o famoso amor cara-de-pau. A cena combina demais com a trilha sonora do momento: a sinfonia silenciosa das panelas.

A fila de peemedebistas delatados na Lava Jato era enorme. Renan, conhecido nas planilhas de propinas da Odebrecht como “Justiça”, e Eunício de Oliveira, conhecido como “Índio”, não deixaram de parabenizar o novo aliado do STF. Jucá, o Caju da suruba, também foi lá dar o seu “chêro”.

Os pilares do grande acordo nacional foram reforçados com muito amor e carinho. O romance entre os poderes esquentou no Love Boat, se solidificou no Senado e pode durar até 2043, quando termina o mandato de Moraes no STF. O placar da votação (55 x 13) foi bastante parecido com o do impeachment (61 x 20), provando que o pacto continua firme e forte.

No dia seguinte, os delatados na Lava Jato foram trabalhar mais felizes que pinto no lixo. Mais uma etapa do Grande Acordo Nacional havia sido alcançada:

Lula Marques

O Globo – do mesmo grupo da TV que transmite o novelão –, além de considerar a indicação de Temer para o STF muito “natural”, se deu ao luxo de noticiar assim o clima de descontração da sabatina:

Agora, a mais alta corte do país pode se orgulhar em ter entre seus integrantes um plagiador acadêmico que sonhava em erradicar a maconha no continente. Um homem do PSDB que antecipava operações da Polícia Federal em comícios de seus correligionários. Um homem que ganhou o coração dos delatados na Lava Jato.  Lá vai o Brasil descendo a ladeira. Na bola, no samba, na sola, no salto, com Supremo, com Globo, com tudo. E daí? O importante é que hoje somos um país livre de pedaladas fiscais. O resto é trololó.

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Escolas de samba sempre deram jeitinho na crise econômica

24 February 2017 - 7:02am

A crise econômica reduziu o número de enredos patrocinados e fez minguar a receita de várias escolas de samba do Rio de Janeiro para o Carnaval de 2017. No entanto, mesmo com a carência de patrocínios, enredos autorais como os da Mangueira, Beija-Flor, Vila Isabel, Portela, Salgueiro, União da Ilha e São Clemente geraram bons sambas e prometem ótimos desfiles. As agremiações já são experientes na inovação diante da diminuição de recursos e sobrevivem com controversas formas de financiamento – o que ficou evidente quando as verbas advindas do jogo do bicho, abundantes desde a década de 1970, encolheram com a prisão da alta cúpula de contraventores na década de 90.

As primeiras escolas de samba do Rio de Janeiro foram criadas entre o final da década de 1920 e o início dos anos de 1930. Ao invés de aparecerem como instituições de resistência direta das comunidades afrodescendentes ao contexto de exclusão em que se encontravam, elas surgiram a partir de um processo sutil de negociação. De um lado, os pretos cariocas tentavam desbravar caminhos de aceitação social em um ambiente francamente hostil; do outro lado, havia um Estado empenhado em controlar e disciplinar as manifestações culturais das “classes perigosas”, que se expressavam com especial contundência no período do carnaval.

A história das escolas de samba foi marcada por circunstâncias de negociação.

O desejo de aceitação social de alguns setores subalternizados das camadas populares urbanas – e a vontade legítima de expressar elementos de sua cultura fora do alcance da repressão – e o interesse disciplinador do Estado convergem para a criação das agremiações carnavalescas.

Desde então, a história das escolas de samba foi marcada por circunstâncias de negociação, resistência, adesão, conflito, mediação e adequação aos interesses de patrocinadores que possam bancar a festa, sejam eles o Estado, a indústria do turismo ou mesmo a contravenção.

Expansão do jogo do bicho

Anisio Abraão David, patrono da Beija-Flor de Nilópolis, é apontado pela polícia como banqueiro do jogo do bicho

Foto: Divulgação SEAP

Especialmente a partir da década de 1970, as relações estabelecidas entre as escolas de samba e os três elementos externos acima citados (Estado, indústria turística e contravenção) passam a ganhar contornos cada vez mais fortes.

Naquela década ocorreu uma reconfiguração na estrutura de comando do jogo do bicho no Rio de Janeiro, a partir da formação de uma cúpula que expandiu definitivamente os negócios da contravenção para além do jogo inventado pelo Barão de Drummond. Foram estabelecidas conexões com o aparelho de repressão da ditadura militar, que, aos poucos, migraram dos porões do regime autoritário para os subterrâneos da contravenção, e se aproximaram das escolas de samba cariocas, que já realizavam um carnaval importante para a economia e a cultura da cidade. Em busca da legitimidade social, Pade demarcação de território e de um setor propício para o investimento de parcela do capital ilícito, o bicho se apropriou do negócio do carnaval.

Vem desta ligação com o bicho a ascensão de escolas como a Beija-Flor de Nilópolis, a Imperatriz Leopoldinense e a Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel. A presença do bicho no comando das grandes escolas de samba virou a regra confirmada pelas poucas exceções.

Financiamentos controversos

A década de 1990 trouxe novidades para este quadro. Os comandantes do bicho se viram envolvidos nas malhas da justiça, sobretudo com a prisão dos 14 maiores banqueiros do jogo no Rio de Janeiro, ordenada pela juíza Denise Frossard. Naquele momento, os desfiles das escolas de samba se caracterizavam cada vez mais pelo apelo visual e se tornavam mais caros de forma vertiginosa.

O revés da cúpula do bicho – que da cadeia continuava entranhada nas escolas, mas ia paulatinamente restringindo o investimento direto de capital – exigiu uma reconfiguração das fontes de financiamento das escolas de samba.

O dinheiro que patrocina desfiles das agremiações, de lá pra cá, é oriundo de diversas fontes: subvenção pública via Prefeitura do Rio (garantida em 2017 pelo atual prefeito), possível subvenção do governo federal via Petrobrás (em 2015 a empresa entregou R$ 12 milhões à Liesa), direitos de transmissão televisiva, arrecadação de bilheteria, e patrocínios que podem vir de empresas, cidades, governos do exterior e doações de benfeitores (os patronos).

A prestação de contas dessa dinheirama é um mistério. Em 2012, o Ministério Público investigou a emissão de notas fiscais para escolas de samba emitidas por empresas de fachada ou desativadas. A investigação se debruçou sobre a emissão de 43 notas fiscais de alto valor por empresas do Espírito Santo, do Rio de Janeiro e de Minas Gerais.

Segundo os investigadores, as escolas de samba compram, ao longo do ano, material com dinheiro não declarado. Quando recebem o repasse da prefeitura, emitem notas frias para justificar os gastos, limpando o dinheiro.

O Rock in Rio foi tema de um dos enredos patrocinados que passaram pela avenida

Foto Tata Barreto/Riotur

As agremiações, por sua vez, alegam que o repasse da prefeitura sai muito perto do carnaval, quando o desfile já tem que estar todo montado. Desta forma, o dinheiro da subvenção para o carnaval de um determinado ano terá que ser, a rigor, usado ao longo do ano para a preparação do carnaval seguinte, alimentando a suspeita ciranda do capital justificado por notas frias.

O ano de 2013, logo depois dessa investigação, foi marcado por uma série de enredos patrocinados: a cidade de Cuiabá, o cavalo Mangalarga, as novelas da TV Globo, o mundo de uma revista de celebridades, o estado do Pará, a Coréia do Sul, o Rock in Rio e a Alemanha passaram pelo Sambódromo. Ficou explícito ali um modelo de desfile das escolas de samba como espetáculo condicionado pela possibilidade de captação de recursos através da propaganda. Em 2015, a polêmica envolveu o patrocínio que a Beija-Flor recebeu do governo ditatorial da Guiné-Equatorial. Do próprio mundo do samba, todavia, articulam-se críticas a este modelo.

Grande parte da verba da prefeitura para os desfiles de fevereiro de 2017 foi repassada às escolas em dezembro, no final do mandato do prefeito Eduardo Paes. Naquela altura, os trabalhos nos barracões da Cidade do Samba, mesmo sem a verba pública, já estavam bastante adiantados.

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