Category Archives: Politics

That’s it. We’re officially on a brief hiatus. . .


This will be our last post until we get settled in our new digs in Los Angeles. Or maybe Redondo Beach. Or wherever.

We hope to be back up in a week or so, but until then, a little something for your amusement from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert:

Hungry For Power Games: Democratic National Convention Edition

Program notes:

Julius Flickerman and his pet weasel Caligula are back, descending into the belly of the beast to report from the DNC in Philadelphia.

Jeff Danziger: Headless


A fitting image of the departure of Fox News boss Roger Ailes, the victim of a flurry of sexual harassment allegations from a brilliant syndicated editorial cartoonist:

BLOG Danziger

The latest development in the story from the Los Angeles Times:

Roger Ailes has stepped down as chairman of Fox News, but the fallout from his controversial tenure won’t end anytime soon.

The swift action to oust Ailes may bring a speedy conclusion to a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by former anchor Gretchen Carlson against the former Fox News chairman.

But the move could embolden other women to file complaints against Ailes and expose Fox News to lawsuits over the conduct of the once powerful TV executive, legal experts said.

Employment law experts say a settlement or resolution in the Carlson case appears more likely since Ailes resigned last Thursday, although he did so without acknowledging the claims against him.

His departure came after an internal investigation by Fox News parent 21st Century Fox turned up other instances of harassment by Ailes from other employees, including star anchor Megyn Kelly.  Just two weeks earlier, Carlson had filed a lawsuit against Ailes alleging that he had sabotaged her career in retaliation for rebuffing his sexual advances and complaining about a hostile work environment.

Brazil wants elections, but not Dilma Rousseff


Brazil is the world’s sixth most populous country, trailing only China, India, the United States, and Indonesia. In terms of land area, Brazil is the fifth largest country in total land area, after Russia, Canada, the U.S., and China.

But for some strange reason, U.S. media largely ignore events in Brazil, save for the occasional Olympics and that titillating footage from Samba festivals and that Dionysian Carnival.

But Brazil is a major market for U,S. multinationals, especially Big Agra and its patented seeds.

So we’ve been regularly following events in the biggest neighbor to the South.

Dilma Rousseff, the former rebel who won election to the Brazilian presidency and took office on 1 January 2011, then was ousted in a legislative coup 12 May 2016, replaced by the opposing party’s Michel Temer, who had been serving as vice president.
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, her popular presidential predecessor, has already indicated he’s seriously contemplating an electoral curtain call, while Temer and his colleagues find themselves implicated in a whole welter of sandals of their own.

And now Brazilians want to hit reset.

From teleSUR English:

More than half of Brazil supports holding presidential elections this year, which contrasts with the findings from a recent controversial poll carried out by the Datafolha institute.

The Ipsos data, which was released by BBC Brasil on Tuesday, indicated that among the 52 percent of Brazilians who support holding presidential elections, 38 percent of respondents said that interim President Michael Temer should stay in office before early elections. Meanwhile, 14 percent stated that they would prefer seeing Dilma Rousseff return as their country’s leader before an early vote is held.

According to the Brazilian constitution, early elections cannot take place without receiving the approval from three-fifths of the country’s Congress or in the case of a joint resignation by Temer and Rousseff.

Meanwhile, opposition to Temer’s government, which began on May 12 when Brazil’s Senate suspended Dilma Rousseff for breaking budget laws, remained high with 68 percent of respondents saying that they either totally or somewhat disapproved of the interim president.

A string of recent scandals has weakened Temer as he seeks to build support in the Senate to definitively remove Rousseff, who has described her impeachment as a coup.

esnl favorite Abby Martin arrested in Philly


First, the event:

Abby Martin arrested in Philadelphia for “disorderly conduct.” Tweeted by her colleague, Mike Prysner.

Abby Martin arrested in Philadelphia for “disorderly conduct.” Tweeted by her colleague, Mike Prysner.

We’ve been following the career of teleSUR English journalist Abby Martin ever since she hosted her own show of Berkeley Community Television, the city’s public access channel.

She moved on to RT America, hosting Breaking the Set, a weekly half-hour show we often included in esnl posts, then moved on to teleSUR where she hosts The Empire Files, also featured frequently here at esnl.

And now she’s been initiated into a rite of passage that sometimes comes to reporters out to cover a story: Folks with badges denying you access and threatening arrest.

What hapopened next, from teleSUR English:

Abby Martin, host of “Empire Files,” was released by police on Monday after a violent arrest while covering DNC protests for teleSUR, but says that many more wait to be processed after “mass marches, mass protests and mass arrests and detentions,” despite police reports that no arrests have been made at the DNC.

Martin was on her way to a “Democracy Spring” event where there were reports of civil disobedience and arrests being made. The police had closed off all streets surrounding the action.

The police stopped them and told them to leave the area. As they were complying and leaving the area, another police officer grabbed Martin, twisted her arm, tore her dress and arrested her for “disorderly conduct.” Three cops “aggressively manhandled me,” she said, before throwing her in a police van and driving her to an elementary school to be processed alongside many protesters that had participated in the Democracy Spring action and others.

“I was just trying to accept my fate and how unreal what was happening was,” said Martin. “I just kept thinking about what people go through” in aggressive arrests every day in the U.S.

“It’s just really stunning to go through that experience and to know that this is what police do to people every day in this country.”

Democracy Now! has more on the event she was covering:

Outside the convention center, protests continued for a second day. At least 50 people were briefly taken into custody by police during a mass sit-in outside the convention center Monday. The demonstration dubbed “Democracy Spring” was protesting against the big influence of corporate money in politics. At least one journalist was arrested attempting to cover the protest. Police arrested TeleSUR journalist Abby Martin as she tried to access the blocked-off area.

Finally, another Mike Prysner Tweet with Martin after her release:

Graphic representation: Case of severe mail ego


What should’ve been Hillary Clinton’s victory lap at the Democratic National Convention has been clouded by the Wikileaks release of a massive cache of Democratic National Committee emails, confirmed that the party was actively working against Bernie Sanders.

Also included in the cache were emails disparaging a black committee staffer’s name, homophobic slurs, and much more.

Needless to say, it’s all fodder for editorial cartoonists [as in today’s earlier post].

We begin with an offering from the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

Steve Sack: Hillary’s pillory

BLOG H Sacks

A similar take from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Mike Luckovich: Confetti?

BLOG H Lucko

The FBI suspects Russian hackers were involved, as in this offering from the Arizona Republic:

Steven Benson: Hillary’s Red State bombshell

BLOG H Benson

But Edward Snowden remains agnostic, tweeting that “If Russia hacked the #DNC, they should be condemned for it. But during the #Sony hack, the FBI presented evidence.”

The Philadelphia Daily News editorial cartoonist portrayed the first casualty of the attack in the forced resignation of the Democratic National Committee chair:

Signe Wilkinson: A fall from great heights

BLOG H. Debbie

From the San Diego Union-Tribune, evidence in the emails depicted the former chair as actively working against Clinton’s rival, with a decisive result:

Steve Breen: Delivering an ass-kicking

BLOG H Breen

But Donna Brazile, her replacement as DNC chair, has been just as adamant in her opposition to Sanders, as revealed in an email Snowden Tweeted, with the message “Did the #DNC seriously just swap the Chair fired for anti-Sanders bias with a different anti-Sanders official?”:

BLOG Bernies

Moving to curtail rights abuses by companies


When it comes to power, think transnational corporations.

Back in March Foreign Policy published an excellent report on the power of the 21st Century corporation, including these observations:

Already, the cash that Apple has on hand exceeds the GDPs of two-thirds of the world’s countries. Firms are also setting the pace vis-à-vis government regulators in a perennial game of cat-and-mouse. After the 2008 financial crisis, the U.S. Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Act to discourage banks from growing excessively big and catastrophe-prone. Yet while the law crushed some smaller financial institutions, the largest banks — with operations spread across many countries — actually became even larger, amassing more capital and lending less. Today, the 10 biggest banks still control almost 50 percent of assets under management worldwide. Meanwhile, some European Union officials, including Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, are pushing for a common tax-base policy among member states to prevent corporations from taking advantage of preferential rates. But if that happened (and it’s a very big if), firms would just look beyond the continent for metanational opportunities.

The world is entering an era in which the most powerful law is not that of sovereignty but that of supply and demand. As scholar Gary Gereffi of Duke University has argued, denationalization now involves companies assembling the capacities of various locations into their global value chains. This has birthed success for companies, such as commodities trader Glencore and logistics firm Archer Daniels Midland, that don’t focus primarily on manufacturing goods, but are experts at getting the physical ingredients of what metanationals make wherever they’re needed.

Could businesses go a step further, shifting from stateless to virtual? Some people think so. In 2013, Balaji Srinivasan, now a partner at the venture-capital company Andreessen Horowitz, gave a much debated talk in which he claimed Silicon Valley is becoming more powerful than Wall Street and the U.S. government. He described “Silicon Valley’s ultimate exit,” or the creation of “an opt-in society, ultimately outside the U.S., run by technology.” The idea is that because social communities increasingly exist online, businesses and their operations might move entirely into the cloud.

The U.N. ponders a move

Two years ago, the United Nations Human Rights Council voted to begin the process of regulating the way transnational corporations impact human rights.

Here’s how the vote went:

  • In favor: Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Cuba, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Morocco, Namibia, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Venezuela, and Vietnam
  • Opposed: Austria, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Montenegro, South Korea, Romania, Macedonia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America
  • Abstained: Argentina, Botswana, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Gabon, Kuwait, Maldives, Mexico, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, and the United Arab Emirates

The idea has won the support of more than 80 countries, though Obama’s America remains firmly opposed.

The work continues.

From the latest report from the Working Group on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations of the United Nations Human Rights Council:

The most egregious business-related human rights abuses take place in conflict-affected areas and other situations of widespread violence. Human rights abuses may spark or intensify conflict, and conflict may in turn lead to further human rights abuses. The gravity of the human rights abuses demands a response, yet in conflict zones the international human rights regime cannot possibly be expected to function as intended. Such situations require that States take action as a matter of urgency, but there remains a lack of clarity among States with regard to what innovative, proactive and, above all, practical policies and tools have the greatest potential for preventing or mitigating business-related abuses in situations of conflict. In the present report, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises outlines a range of policy options that home, host and neighbouring States have, or could develop, to prevent and deter corporate-related human rights abuses in conflict contexts.

>snip<

States should warn business enterprises of the heightened risk of being involved with gross abuses of human rights in conflict-affected areas and clearly communicate their expectations with regard to business respect for human rights, even in such challenging environments. With few exceptions, States have yet to convey their expectations of business behaviour in situations of conflicts. Normally, States would convey such expectations through policies, laws and regulations. For example, in the area of anti-corruption, States in recent years have agreed upon and communicated their expectations regarding standards of business conduct with respect to bribery through international conventions and domestic policies and regulations. However, unlike anti-corruption, the existing legal and policy framework relevant to conflict-affected regions does not have a component that is specifically designed to deal with the problems of business involvement.

This lack of regulatory clarity limits the ability of States to engage or advise business enterprises regarding acceptable conduct in or connected to conflict-affected regions. Therefore, states should review whether their policies, legislation, regulations and enforcement measures effectively address the heightened risk of businesses operating in conflict situations being involved in gross human rights abuses, including through provisions for human rights due diligence by business. They should ensure that their regulatory frameworks are adequate, the applicability to business entities is clarified and, for the most extreme situation, make sure that the relevant agencies are properly resourced to address the problem of business involvement in international or transnational crimes, such as corruption, war crimes or crimes against humanity.

Abby Martin interviews one of the measure’s architects

In this, the latest episode of Abby Martin’s series for teleSUR English, the San Francisco Bay Area native interviews a diplomat who played a seminal role in shaping the UN panel’s mandate.

From teleSUR English:

The Empire Files: Bringing Corporations to Justice with Ecuador’s UN Rep

Program notes:

For the first time ever, progress is being made at the United Nations for a binding legal instrument that would hold corporations accountable for human rights violations. Transnational corporations — many with larger economies than the countries they operate in — have enjoyed immunity from charges for destroying the environment and taking human lives. But Ecuador is leading a fight in the UN to create an international treaty and standards that can change this equation. At teleSUR’s studios in Quito, Abby Martin interviews Ecuador’s Permanent Representative to the UN and Chair of the negotiations for the binding instrument, María Fernanda Espinosa, about the need for this step.

John Oliver takes on on Trump, music pilferage


He’s back from hiatus, offering his take on the Mistake by the Lake.

From Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Republican National Convention

Program notes:

John Oliver discusses last week’s unsurprisingly surprising Republican convention.

And in another segment, Oliver teamed up with some well-known recording artists concerned about the appropriation of their work by candidates, including The Donald.

Featured artists include Usher, Josh Groban, Michael Bolton, Dan Reynolds, Ann Wilson and Nancy Wilson from Heart, Cyndi Lauper, Sheryl Crow, John Mellencamp, and Imagine Dragons singer Dan Reynold:

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Campaign Songs

Program notes:

John Oliver and some of America’s favorite recording artists remind politicians not to use their songs without permission on the campaign trail.