Category Archives: Deep Politics

Tape proves Rousseff ouster really was a coup


Anyone with the slightest doubt that the impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is anything other than a coup should be disabused of their credulity by events coming out of that Latin American nation today.

The scenario unfolding in Brasilia has elements of the Nixonian [tapes], touched with good old-fashioned corruption.

We open with the Independent:

Brazil’s interim leader Michel Temer is facing his first full-blown political crisis following the release of tape recordings seemingly showing that the suspension two weeks ago of President Dilma Rousseff was the result less of legitimate constitutional complaints and more of a plot.

After a day of frantic speculation in the capital, Brasilia, the country’s barely installed planning minister and top Temer ally, Romero Juca, announced he was temporarily stepping aside after admitting earlier in the day that his was one of two voices heard on the tape.

>snip<

Mr Temer became interim president of Latin America’s largest economy earlier this month after the upper chamber of the National Congress voted to suspend Ms Rousseff and begin an impeachment trial against her on charges she fiddled the nation’s books to paper over a dire budget deficit.  She and her allies contended however that she was in fact a victim of a “coup”.

The bomb was dropped on the Temer team early Monday when one of Brazil’s leading papers, the Folha de São Paulo, released chunks of a 75-minute conversation from early March between Mr Juca, who was then a Senator, and Sergio Machado, also a former senator and the head of a state oil company.  Who made the tape and why is not clear.

Al Jazeera English examines the timing and identifies the suspected Taper, whose motivations weren’t exactly Nixonian:

The scandal threatens Temer only 11 days after taking power from Rousseff, whom the Senate suspended as president on May 12 at the start of an impeachment trial on charges of breaking government accounting rules.

The Folha newspaper released what it said were recordings of conversations in March between Juca and Sergio Machado, a former oil executive.

The recordings were allegedly made secretly by Machado who, like Juca, is the target of an investigation into massive embezzlement centred on state oil company Petrobras.

In the conversations, Juca is heard calling for a “national pact” that he appears to suggest would stop the investigation, known as Operation Car Wash, in which dozens of top-ranking politicians from a variety of parties, as well as business executives, have been charged or already convicted for involvement in the Petrobras scheme.

MercoPress covers embarrassment:

Juca’s decision to take a leave from his post to defend himself is a huge blow for Interim President Michel Temer, who counted on the experienced senator to secure legislative support for key economic measures and reforms.

The new scandal also raises fears of further political instability in Brazil less than two weeks after President Dilma Rousseff was suspended to stand trial in the Senate for allegedly breaking fiscal laws.

>snip<

In recorded comments made before Rousseff was suspended and published by newspaper Folha de S. Paulo on Monday, Juca told an ally he agreed on the need for a “national pact” to circumscribe the probe known as “Operation Car Wash.”

Asked for help by a friend and former senator under investigation in the probe, Jucá replied, “The government has to be changed in order to stop this bleeding.”

There’s a whole lot more after the jump. . . Continue reading

A fascinating conversation with Oliver Stone


Few American filmmakers arouse more controversy than Oliver Stone, both from his eclectic choice of subject matter to the content of the films themselves.

In his 1986 film Salvador, he explores a repressive regime through the eyes of a U.S. photojournalist drawn to Latin America in hopes resurrecting his fading career. In the much more financially successful Platoon, released in the same year, he captures the deep systemic corruption of a war that would tear two nations apart through the eyes of a naive young solider. In JFK he captures the dark uncertainty at the heart of an epochal event still shrouded in uncertainty.

Most of his other films are similar dissections of the American psyche and the contemporary Zeitgeist, ranging from with two Wall Street films, to Nixon, W, Natural Born Killers, The Doors, Any Given Sunday, and Talk Radio.

His newest film, slated for release 16 Star, is Snowden, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the title role.

In this, the latest episode of Conversations with History, Harry Kreisler, Executive Director of UC Berkeley’s Institute of International Studies, conducts a fascinating conversation with the director, with the topics ranging form Stone’s approach to the cinematic arts to his own views of the American system.

It’s well worth your time.

From University of California Television:

Movies, Politics and History with Oliver Stone — Conversations with History

Program notes:

Published on May 23, 2016

Conversations host Harry Kreisler welcomes filmmaker Oliver Stone for a discussion of his career as director, screenwriter, and producer. Stone describes formative experiences, talks about different aspects of the filmmaking process including working with actors, writing screenplays, and postproduction. He focuses on the themes that have drawn him, and emphasizes the distinction between a historian and dramatist who works with historical materials. He concludes with a discussion of recent works including Alexander and the 10-part documentary on The Untold History of the United States.

Pentagon whistleblowers face a stacked deck


John Crane, who investigated whistleblower complaints for the Pentagon for a quarter-century, and author Mark Hertsgaard talk with Democracy Now! about the stacked deck faced by would-be whistleblowers like Edward Snowden.

With Mark Hertsgaard, who details Crane’s allegations in a new book, Bravehearts: Whistle-Blowing in the Age of Snowden, Crane talks about the story of NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, and the Pentagon’s notoriously abysmal record of investigating abuses reported by employees.

Given such a record, Edward Snowden could realistically expect no action on his discovery of massive illegal surveillance of American citizens, leaving him only one sure out for exposing what he had found.

From Democracy Now!:

Part 1: Source Reveals How Pentagon Ruined Whistleblower’s Life and Set Stage for Snowden’s Leaks

Part 2: Source Reveals How Pentagon Ruined Whistleblower’s Life and Set Stage for Snowden’s Leaks

Part 3: Source Reveals How Pentagon Ruined Whistleblower’s Life and Set Stage for Snowden’s Leaks

From the transcript:

JOHN CRANE: Yes, yes. I think that in terms of when you think whether or not you should be a whistleblower, that you’re concerned about whether or not the system works. And there are various statistics out there, from the IG DOD semi-annual report, for instance, that in regard to the way the IG even investigates senior officials, over a two-and-a-half-year period, regarding senior officials in the Army, that the IG DOD received 482 allegations, accepted 10 allegations, substantiated one allegation.

AMY GOODMAN: Of 404, the Inspector General’s Office in the Pentagon, in the Department of Defense—

JOHN CRANE: Substantiated one, which is 0.2 percent. The Army, however, also investigating senior officials, under IG DOD oversight, they had 372 allegations. They investigated all 372 allegations. They had 102 substantiated. They had a 27 percent substantiation rate. So, this is a very major statistical anomaly. Why does the Army, looking at the same group of senior officials, have a 27 percent substantiation rate versus the IG with a 0.2 percent?

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to the case of Tom Drake.

JOHN CRANE: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: You allege documents were destroyed.

JOHN CRANE: I don’t allege that. Documents were destroyed. Because when the IG DOD—

AMY GOODMAN: You said you don’t allege that, that in fact you know that documents were destroyed.

JOHN CRANE: Because that is what the IG DOD said. Documents were destroyed according to a standard document destruction policy. And that was a statement that they made to the Department of Justice in regard to the Drake trial, because Drake’s attorneys wanted to find exculpatory information. The IG DOD response was, it just doesn’t exist.

AMY GOODMAN: It had existed.

JOHN CRANE: It had existed, and it should have existed.

MARK HERTSGAARD: Yeah, they made sure it didn’t exist.

Headline of the day: Winners declared in Iraq war


From Mint Press News:

After Iraq War, Monsanto, Cargill & Dow Chemical Took Over Iraqi Agriculture

According to one environmental activist, under U.S. diplomat Paul Bremer’s orders, ‘Iraqi farmers are not allowed to save seeds, they are not allowed to share seeds … and they are not allowed to replant harvested seeds.’

Greece surrenders to the troika, more austerity


As thousands of Greeks demonstrated in Syntagma Square outside the national legislature, the national parliament drank the Kool-Aid and passed the austerity measures demanded by the Troika of international lenders, a move that may foreshadow the end of the Syriza Party’s term at the helm of the national government.

Alexis Tsirpras and his party emerged as the victors last year on a promise to overwthrow the yoke of imposed austerity.

Instead, they have embraced it.

From eKathimerini:

Greek MPs approved on Sunday night a multi-bill containing a range of measures, including another 1.8 billion euros in tax hikes and the framework for a vast new privatization fund, paving the way for the Eurogroup to release more loans to Athens.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras saw 152 of his 153 MPs back the controversial package of legislation, meaning the government’s slim parliamentary majority was not put at risk.

Vassiliki Katrivanou voted for the legislation “in principle” but against the articles regarding the privatization fund and an automatic mechanism applying fiscal cuts if the primary surplus target is not met.

Eurozone finance ministers are due to meet in Brussels on Tuesday to decide whether Greece has done enough to complete the first review of its latest bailout program. If the green light is given, Athens is set to receive a minimum of 5.7 billion euros in fresh funding. However, there are still questions regarding whether the eurozone creditors and the International Monetary Fund will agree on how to reduce Greece’s debt or whether this will prove an obstacle to the next disbursement.

Some of the reaction to the vote and more on the measures embraced from the Guardian:

“They are with the exception of the Acropolis selling everything under the sun,” said Anna Asimakopoulou, the shadow minister for development and competitiveness. “We are giving up everything.”

The multi-bill, which also foresees VAT being raised from 23% to 24%, is part of a package of increases in tax and excise duties expected to yield an extra €1.8bn in revenue. Earlier this month, Tsipras’s leftist-led coalition endorsed pension cuts that were similarly part of an array reforms amounting to €5.4 bn, or 3% of GDP.

At the behest of the EU and International Monetary Fund, the government has agreed to adopt tighter austerity in the form of an automatic fiscal brake – referred to as “the cutter” in the Greek media – if fiscal targets are missed.

Despite official claims that goals will be achieved, there is a high degree of scepticism as to whether this is feasible. The Greek economy has seen a depression-era contraction of more than 25% since the outbreak of the debt crisis in late 2009, and with high taxes likely to repulse investment, economic fundamentals are also unlikely to improve.

The Associated Press examines the causes and more of the effects:

Greece now hopes the creditors will complete the first assessment of its third bailout program, freeing loan disbursements that will allow Greece to meet its obligations and avoid default.

>snip<

[I]t will have to navigate differences between the International Monetary Fund, which call for a generous debt cut albeit with more austerity measures, and the Europeans, chief among them German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who want no such cuts.

At the end of an acrimonious four-day debate, including in committee, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras blasted the main conservative opposition and other centrist parties for having supported last August’s third bailout deal, but not the laws that have been voted on as prerequisites for concluding the assessment.

Opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis countered that the bailout terms never included the superfund, which will expire in 2115. He said the precise terms were the results of Tsipras’ failure to negotiate reforms he and his leftist party have never believed in. He said he would prefer spending cuts to higher taxes and would negotiate with the creditors for lower annual levels of budget surpluses (2 percent of GDP instead of 3.5 percent) from 2018 onward.

The government majority was momentarily shaken Saturday when the junior partner, right-wing Independent Greeks, objected to freezes in pay hikes for so-called “special categories” of civil servants, including military, police, diplomats, judges, public health service doctors and university professors.

The pay cuts, which would have saved about 120 million euros ($135 million), were shelved and will be partly replaced by bringing forward taxes on Internet users and beer.

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Brazil’s acting president hews to neoliberal line


Michel Temer, Brazil’s acting president and chief neoliberal, is setting about the most ruthless privatization of the nation’s commons since the Portuguese colonialist first arrived.

And just as with the Portuguese, the nation’s indigenous peoples are shapping up to be the first victims of the relentless drive to turn everything public into a center of private profit.

From the Thomson Reuters Foundation:

Brazil’s interim government is moving ahead with plans for a constitutional amendment that would weaken indigenous land rights and pave the way for new plantations and dams to encroach on lands inhabited by native peoples, a United Nations official said.

Erika Yamada, a member of the U.N’s Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a human rights advisory body, said the proposed constitutional change would result in Brazil moving backwards on indigenous land rights.

The procedures used to identify and indigenous territories could be altered to give lawmakers more power to decide which territories belong to native peoples, she said.

>snip<

“They (lawmakers) will try and move forward with changes to the constitution that would make it much harder to defend indigenous rights,” Yamada told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview this week.

“I think they will also weaken the process of authorization for large development projects with great social and environmental impact for traditional communities.”

And it’s not just the land and water of the indigenous that are marked for the auction block

From Bloomberg:

Brazil’s Acting President Michel Temer is studying the sale of state assets to shore up public accounts, as well as an audit of the country’s largest savings bank, said a government official with direct knowledge of the matter.

A government task force will consider selling stakes in companies such as power utility Furnas Centrais Eletricas SA and BR Distribuidora, a unit of Petroleo Brasileiro SA, the oil producer known as Petrobras, said the official, who asked not to be named because the plans haven’t been made public. The intention is to help plug a near-record budget deficit and improve the efficiency of state-owned enterprises.

Petrobras’s preferred shares rallied as much as 1.6 per cent on the report, after posting losses during most of the morning.

The plans are the clearest sign yet of a policy shift since the Senate’s suspension last week of President Dilma Rousseff, who had increased the role of the government and state companies in the economy.

Temer has also take the first steps to privatizing the national public broadcaster, reports teleSUR English:

Michel Temer, head of the coup government in Brazil, fired the head of the Brazil Communications Company, the public firm that manages the country’s public media outlets.

The action was rejected by the firm’s board of directors on the grounds that the law that regulates the company prohibits political interference.

“The notion that the president-director of the company should have fixed term, that does not coincide with a presidential mandates, was enshrined precisely to ensure the independence, impartiality and guiding principles of public outlets,” read a statement by the board of the Brazil Communications Company.

“The aim is to ensure autonomy from the federal government and protect the right of Brazilian society to free and public communications, which ensures the expression of diversity and plurality — foundations of a modern and democratic society,” added the statement.

The head of the company, Ricardo Melo, was appointed by democratically elected President Dilma Rousseff for a four year term earlier this month.

The coup government, however, ignored the concerns of the board.

Melo was replaced by Laerte Rimoli, who served as spokesperson for Aecio Neves, the right-wing candidate defeated by Rousseff in the 2014 presidential election. He also previously served as press officer for Eduardo Cunha, the embattled former head of the Chamber of Deputies who was recently suspended by the Supreme Court.

There’s much more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Rallies across the world: March Against Monsanto


Narch agagaist Monstanto protesters in Mtubatuba, South Africa today.

March against Monsanto protesters in Mtubatuba, South Africa today.

Monsanto, the folks who brought you Roundup and all those patented Roundup Ready genetically modified crops they peddle, was the target and marches and rallies in more than 400 cities across the global today by folks angry at the firm’s control of so much of the world’s food supplies.

Big Agra’s been in a state of flux of late, with major mergers in the offing, as BBC News reported Thursday, when Bayer announced it wanted to buy the company:

There has been speculation for some months that Monsanto, the world’s biggest seed company, could become a target for either Bayer or BASF.

Bayer, which has a market value of about $90bn, is the second-largest producer of crop chemicals after Syngenta.

Monsanto, which has a market capitalisation of $42bn, attempted to buy Swiss rival Syngenta last year.

However, Syngenta ended up accepting a $43bn offer from ChemChina in February, although that deal is still being reviewed by regulators in the US.

Bayer’s acquisition of Monsanto is expected to be bigger in value than the ChemChina-Syngenta deal.

More from Reuters:

Deutsche Bank analysts said a deal could shift Bayer’s center of gravity to agriculture, accounting for about 55 percent of core earnings, up from roughly 28 percent last year excluding the Covestro chemicals business Bayer plans to sell.

That would have a negative impact on sentiment among Bayer’s healthcare-focused investor base, the bank said.

Bayer, which has a market value of $90 billion, said the merger would create “a leading integrated agriculture business”, referring to Bayer’s push to seek more synergies from combining the development and sale of seeds and crop protection chemicals.

Most of the major agrichemical companies are aiming to genetically engineer more robust plants and custom-build chemicals to go with them, selling them together to farmers who are struggling to contend with low commodity price.

And, just for the fun of it, some voideos from around the world and an image or two.

First, the march in Saarbrücken, Germany, from Heidi Schmitt:

March against Monsanto, 21.05.2016 in Saarbrücken

On to Paris, via Ruptly TV:

France: Parisians rally against Monsanto

Program notes:

Several thousand protesters took to the streets of Paris on Saturday for the ‘March against Monsanto,’ in a demonstration against multinational agrochemical corporation. Protesters held banners reading: “GMO/Pesticides = the next sanitary scandal” and “GMO no thanks.”

The activists are protesting against Monsanto’s Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) products and the alleged monopoly that Monsanto has in the food supply market.

Saturday’s march will mark the fourth annual ‘March against Monsanto.’ The march is set to take place in over 400 cities in more than 40 countries around the world.

Then off to Innsbruck, Austria with Klaus Schreiner:

2016 Monsanto Marsch Innsbruck

And then back to France and a march in Bordeaux from Gilbert Hanna:

Contre Monsanto and CO à Bordeaux marche internationale

Next, Amsterdam, via kafx:

March against Monsanto

And an image from Basel, Switzerland, via GM Watch:BLOG Monsanto Basel

Then to Toronto, via SupportLocalScene:

March Against Monsanto 2016 at Yonge & Dundas

Program notes:

Yonge and Dundas sees the Millions March Against Monsanto 2016 marching in downtown Toronto, Canada, May 21st 2016.

Next, an image form New York by Alex Beauchamp:

BLOG Monsanto NYC

Then to Japan with Ruptly TV:

Japan: Thousands protest against Monsanto in Tokyo

Program notes:

Several thousand protesters took to the streets of Tokyo for the ‘March against Monsanto’ on Saturday, in a demonstration against multinational agrochemical corporation.

Finally, via GM Watch, a scene from China:

BLOG Monsanto Taipei