A new report finds law enforcement databases nationwide have collected facial recognition information for 117 million Americans—meaning about half of all adults in the United States now have their faces and other biometrics information recorded… More
Inequality and the rise of an African American elite
Judging by many accounts in the media and from the statements of leading US politicians, race is a central issue in the 2016 elections.
At a point when the American people are more tolerant in their social views than at any previous time in history, they are informed on a daily basis that the US seethes with racial and ethnic hatreds, along with violent misogyny and homophobia.
The Democratic Party, supported by all of the various left-liberal and pseudo-left trends, is particularly aggressive and vociferous on this score. Identity politics, the self-centered, upper-middle-class obsession with race, gender and sexual identity, has become one of that party’s principal pillars.
As opposed to earlier periods, today the question of race is not associated with civil rights, with a major program of social reform, with improvements in the social conditions of the working class as a whole and certainly not with socialism. The debate on race is largely built around demands for the allocation of greater economic resources to sections of the black petty bourgeoisie. There is a marked and noticeable absence of democratic demands and sentiments within the leadership of these upper-middle-class movements.
The character of the present campaigns, including the narrow and vicious tone of much of the rhetoric about race, can be explained if one examines a singular fact: the sharp growth of social inequality within the African American population.
The data suggests that while African Americans still play a very limited role at the heights of the corporate hierarchy, there is a highly significant and influential section that has benefited enormously over the past several decades. These people live in another universe and are deeply estranged from the broad layers of the black working-class population, which has suffered continual impoverishment.
From the administration of Richard Nixon onward, US ruling-class policy has been to cultivate a black upper-middle class that would be loyal to the status quo. In return, this layer abandoned any connection to mass struggle, social protest and opposition to capitalism. This helps explain why there is no leading African American figure, in any field, who today speaks for and to the broad masses of the people.
The facts and figures are striking.
Nielsen, the global information and measurement company, produced a report in 2015, “Increasingly Affluent, Educated and Diverse,” which “focused specifically on a segment of African-Americans who are often overlooked, those with annual household incomes of $75,000 or more. Their size and influence is growing faster than non-Hispanic Whites across all income segments above $60,000.” (The data comes from the US Census, American Community Survey, 2014.)
In fact, black households earning more than $75,000 are the fastest growing income group in the country. According to Nielsen, “In the years from 2005-2013, the income bracket with the largest increase for Black households occurred in the number of households earning over $200,000, with an increase of 138 percent, compared to an increase of 74 percent for the total population.”
In 1960, around the time E. Franklin Frazier wrote his pioneering work, The Black Bourgeoisie, there were an estimated 25 black millionaires in the US. That number has grown 1,400 times. Today there are an estimated 35,000 black millionaires.
The concentration of wealth among African Americans is extreme. According to the Pew Research Study, 35 percent of black households have negative or no net worth. Another 15 percent have less than $6,000 in total household worth. Nearly 7 million of the total of 14 million black households have little or nothing.
Commentator Antonio Moore in the Huffington Post this past May noted that the wealth difference between an American black household in the top 1 percent and the average black household was several times larger than that among comparable white households.
“[T]he median net worth of the few black households in the top 1 percent was $1.2 million dollars, while according to the Census, median net worth for all black households was about $6,000 in total. A black family in the 1 percent is worth a staggering 200 times that of an average black family. If black America were a country, we would be among the most wealth stratified in the world.”
“Income segregation,” i.e., the tendency of people to live in either poor or affluent neighborhoods, has increased sharply among black families since 1970. “Segregation by income among black families was lower than among white families in 1970, but grew four times as much between 1970 and 2009. By 2009, income segregation among black families was 65 percent greater than among white families.” (Residential Segregation by Income, 1970-2009, by Kendra Bischoff of Cornell University and Sean F. Reardon of Stanford)
According to the Washington Post in 2013, the black middle class, measured by the number of families earning at least $100,000 a year, has grown fivefold in the past 50 years. About one in 10 black households are now in that income category. Between 1970 and 1990, the percentage of black physicians, lawyers and engineers doubled. From 1990 to 2013, there was a 30 percent increase in the proportion of black managers and executives and a 38 percent increase in the proportion of black lawyers and engineers.
Decades of “black capitalism” and affirmative action have benefited a narrow but still substantial layer of the African American population. This is the social element that is most aggressively pursuing wealth and economic advantage today. It cannot be mere coincidence that the central figure in the University of Missouri protests in November 2015, hunger striker Jonathan Butler, came from this milieu. His father, Eric Butler, is executive vice president for marketing and sales at Union Pacific Corp. and raked in $2.9 million in total compensation in 2015.
Importantly, African Americans have gained virtual parity with whites in the professional upper echelons. By 2004, blacks with a doctorate had a median income of $74,207, slightly higher than the median income of whites with doctoral degrees ($73,993). (The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education)
As a recent report (“Closing the Race Gap: Alleviating Young African American Unemployment Through Education”) argued, “African Americans and whites have nearly equal probabilities of employment at high degrees of education.”
What are the implications of this relative parity?
The obsession with race and gender involves the striving for privileges by a layer of black and female professionals, determined to carve out careers and incomes—under conditions of an intensely competitive “marketplace”—at the expense of their white or male counterparts. The shrillness and falsity of the current campaigns on race and sexual violence has much to do with the need, in the face of the fact that there is no significant racial or gender pay gap for these already affluent layers, to leverage past crimes and injustice, and exaggerate the present conditions, to justify continued or greater privileges. This is a bitter conflict taking place within the richest 5 to 10 percent (approximately $190,000 to $130,000 in annual income) of the population.
There is nothing “progressive” or “left-wing” about these campaigns and conflicts. Whether or not the president of the United States is a man or woman or the CEO of a bank or major corporation is white or black is of no possible interest to the working class. E. Franklin Frazier noted half a century ago that black business and political interests had “exploited the Negro masses as ruthlessly as have whites.”
Socialists reject racialist politics in whatever form it appears. In the context of the 2016 elections, this means repudiating the racialist and nationalist filth promulgated by both the Democrats and Republicans and all those who orbit around bourgeois politics. The election campaign of the Socialist Equality Party alone represents the independent political and historical interests of the working class.
— source wsws.org
The pharmaceutical giant Mylan has announced it will launch a cheaper generic version of its life-saving allergy shot EpiPen amidst public outcry over its alleged price gouging. The company increased the price of its allergy injector by some 400 percent in less than a decade, sparking a national conversation about the monopoly power of drug companies.
Across the United States, millions of children and adults rely on the pocket-sized EpiPen to counteract fatal allergic reactions from common occurrences such as bee stings and peanut consumption.
On Monday, the manufacturer of the EpiPen, Mylan, announced it will essentially sell the same product under two brands at separate price points, in competition with each other. However, consumer advocates say the cost of the generic drug is still prohibitively expensive and triple the price of what EpiPen cost in 2007 when Mylan acquired the product. In 2007, the wholesale price of the life-saving drug in the U.S. was $57. Less than a decade later, it now costs over $300. Each EpiPen reportedly contains only $1 worth of medicine. Mylan has a near monopoly in the U.S., and the company has seen its profits from the EpiPen alone skyrocket to $1 billion a year.
Meanwhile, Mylan CEO Heather Bresch’s total compensation has spiked from around $2.5 million in 2007 to almost $19 million today. Bresch is the daughter of Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Last week, Bresch appeared on CNBC and said her company is committed to making the EpiPen accessible to everyone.
Mylan’s decision to exponentially increase the cost of EpiPen has ignited a firestorm on both social media and Capitol Hill. On Monday, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent a letter to Bresch seeking documents on EpiPen pricing, including those relating to revenue from EpiPen sales since 2007, manufacturing costs and the amount of money the company receives from federal government healthcare programs. Minnesota Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar and Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner have both published statements criticizing the price hike, noting they both have children who suffer from severe allergies and rely on the EpiPen. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton tweeted, “EpiPens can be the difference between life and death. There’s no justification for these price hikes,” unquote. Today, the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen and its allies will deliver a petition signed by approximately 600,000 people to Mylan’s headquarters in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, demanding further price cuts.
Ashley Alteman talking:
I have a now-eight-year-old daughter. We found out about her life-threatening egg allergy at about nine months old and were introduced to the EpiPen back in, roughly, 2008. We were shown how it works and, you know, the ease and the simplicity of the EpiPen. And yeah, it’s a life-saving drug. When your child goes into anaphylaxis, you direct it right into the thigh of your child, yeah.
I’ve looked at a lot of things. I went, obviously, to pick up my daughter’s prescription, and her prescription used to cost me about $25—I have commercial insurance—used to cost me about $25 for a prescription. A prescription includes two EpiPens. That prescription now costs me about $300. Mind you, I also pay about $1,000 a month in commercial insurance. And then, all of a sudden, this drug has just absolutely skyrocketed. I went to pick it up, and it completely blindsided me.
And in my open letter, I was very honest. I said, at the time, I didn’t have the amount of money that it costs for my copay to pay for these EpiPens at the time. You know, you’re thinking you’re going to spend $25, maybe $50. A lot of people don’t take into consideration the fact that it’s not just one EpiPen that you need. You need EpiPens for your home. The school requires that you have EpiPens on stock at the school. They only allow brand-new, unopened prescriptions, which means two EpiPens in a box. That’s four EpiPens between my house and my daughter’s school, meaning two copays right there. Grandparents, summer camps—that adds up very quickly. And now with this cost of a $300 copay, who can afford to pay that?
I passed the last prescription, which—this isn’t the first hike since 2007. Last year, I passed; we took our chances, because, at the time, we could not afford to spend the money on refilling the EpiPens for our home and for the school. So, I know that because that is me. You know, from one mother to another, I don’t make $19 million year, as Heather Bresch does. So, you know, I kind of look at it as—you know, I directed a letter at her, like you said, as one mother to another, as, you know, these are our children, and our children’s lives depend on this drug. Without this drug, our children, in a certain instance, running into a life-threatening allergen, can die. And the price increase of 400 percent is a huge problem.
Peter Maybarduk talking:
the drug companies want to point fingers at the insurers, and the insurers want to point fingers at the drug companies. But it’s all convoluted mechanisms to avoid plain talk about price. This is a 100-year-old drug in a 40-year-old injection technology that was invented in connection with Department of Defense projects, meaning that taxpayers already paid for a considerable amount of the research associated with this—with this product. It hit the market. When Mylan acquired the rights, the product cost $100. Now it’s up to $600. The increases in EpiPen prices have more or less tracked the increases in the Mylan CEO’s pay, executive compensation, over that period of time. There haven’t been significant improvements to that product, as was mentioned, in the time, so we’re not paying for—we’re not paying for innovation. We’re paying for price gouging. We’re paying for Mylan’s shameful greed.
And today, Public Citizen will deliver—I think the number is increasing—closer to 1 million signatures, hopefully, if you help us out, to Mylan’s corporate headquarters outside Pittsburgh, demanding that that price be reduced. In other words, we can talk—Mylan wants to talk about coupons and patient assistance programs and this new, absolutely bizarre move of introducing a generic version of its essentially generic own product. And—but what—the one thing it won’t do, the one thing Mylan refuses to do, is have plain talk about price and just reduce the price. That would be the simplest, most effective thing to do to ensure that everyone who needs an EpiPen can get one and that the cost burden that we all share, paying into our healthcare system, is reduced.
yesterday, Mylan announced that it was going to introduce what it called a generic EpiPen. Now, this is a little strange, as the drug isn’t patented, and it’s not patents that are keeping competitors primarily off the market. What they mean is, they’ll have—they’ve built a big brand reputation through very aggressive marketing around EpiPen, and they intend to retain a premium market, wherein they can sell for this $600 for the branded EpiPen. But at the same time, they’re going to introduce an identical product, doing the exact same thing in the exact same way, no differences between the product, except it won’t have the EpiPen brand. And they’re going to sell that for $300. And that’s their solution, so-called, to the criticism, rather than simply reducing the price of the EpiPen in the first place down to a more reasonable level, say $100, which is still a very profitable price. It’s the price that many other wealthy countries pay, and was the price at which the product hit the market a decade ago.
They’re also talking about coupons that people can get. if a patient figures out how to use the coupon, they can reduce their copay at the pharmacy. And Mylan says it’s going to enroll more people in patient assistance programs to reduce the price, in theory, that consumers are paying at the counter. But not everyone will use the programs, and it doesn’t do anything—those methods don’t do anything to reduce the cost that we’re all paying into the system for the $600 EpiPen. If you don’t have insurance or if you have a high copay, you still may wind up paying very high prices for these EpiPens.
– Mylan did find one prominent defender: Martin Shkreli. Last [year], you might remember, the former hedge fund manager sparked national outrage after he hiked the price of a life-saving drug by more than 5,000 percent. Prosecutors also accused Martin Shkreli of orchestrating a Ponzi-like scheme at his former hedge fund and his startup drug company, Turing Pharmaceuticals. Well, Shkreli is back in the news weighing in on the EpiPen controversy.
– Last week, Martin Shkreli tweeted, “With 8% margins, Mylan is close to breaking even. Do we want them to lose $? Sole supplier of a life-saving drug should have a better margin.” Shkreli later tweeted, quote, “Mylan: 9% net margin (life saving drugs) Viacom: 15%, (Reality TV) Altria (Cigarettes): 21%.”
Mylan’s primary contribution to this product is simply aggressive marketing. They’re not the ones who really invented the technology behind this, and any investments made in the chain are long since expired. And this is a price that keeps going up without justification. Mylan is taking advantage of their monopolistic position in the market. And that’s the broader—that’s the systemic problem that we all face. It’s the number one reason that drug prices are so high in the United States, is that we have government-granted monopolies in many areas, de facto monopolies or individuals like Shkreli and companies like Mylan that have figured out how to corner a market, and they charge as much as we and our health system collectively will pay to care for our—care for our loved ones. And that’s the business model, right? It’s profit maximizing.
today, Public Citizen is going to deliver a petition to Mylan corporate headquarters demanding that Mylan simply cut the price, cut the obfuscation, cut the convoluted talk about all these alternative mechanisms, and simply cut the price of EpiPens so that we can all afford it and our healthcare bills ultimately go down.
director of Public Citizen’s Global Access to Medicines Program.
contributor to The Huffington Post and several parenting blogs, including ScaryMommy.com. She runs a website called SmashleyAshley.com, where she has just posted an open letter to Mylan CEO Heather Bresch.
— source democracynow.org
Two weeks ago, I presented a young Palestinian, Mohammed Omer, with the 2008 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism. Awarded in memory of the great American war correspondent, the prize goes to journalists who expose establishment propaganda, or official drivel, as Martha called it. Mohammed shares the prize of £5,000 with the fine war reporter Dahr Jamail. At 24, Mohammed is the youngest ever winner. His citation reads: Every day, he reports from a war zone, where he is also a prisoner. His homeland, Gaza, is surrounded, starved, attacked, forgotten. He is a profoundly humane witness to one of the great injustices of our time. He is the voice of the voiceless. The eldest of eight children, Mohammed has seen most of his siblings killed or wounded or maimed. An Israeli bulldozer crushed his home while the family were inside, seriously injuring his mother. And yet, says a former Dutch ambassador, Jan Wijenberg, he is a moderating voice, urging Palestinian youth not to court hatred but seek peace with Israel.
Getting Mohammed to London to receive his prize was a major diplomatic operation. Israel has perfidious control over Gazas borders, and only with a Dutch embassy escort was he allowed out. Last Thursday, on his return journey, he was met at the Allenby Bridge crossing from Jordan by a Dutch official, who waited outside the Israeli building, unaware that Mohammed had been seized by Shin Bet, Israels infamous security organisation. Mohammed was told to turn off his cell phone and remove the battery. He asked if he could call his Dutch embassy escort and was told forcefully he could not. A man referred to as Avi stood over his luggage, picking through his documents. Wheres the money? he demanded. Mohammed produced some US dollars.
Wheres is the English pound you have?
I realised, said Mohammed, he was after the award stipend for the Martha Gellhorn Prize. I told him I didnt have it with me. You are lying, he said. I was now surrounded by eight Shin Bet officers, all armed. The man called Avi ordered me to take off my clothes. I had already been through an x-ray machine. I stripped down to my underwear and was told to take off everything. When I refused, Avi put his hand on his gun. I began to cry: Why are you treating me this way? I am human being. He said, This is nothing compared with what you will see now. He took his gun out, pressing it to my head and with his full body weight pinning me on my side, he forcibly removed my underwear. He then made me do a concocted sort of dance. Another man, who was laughing, said, Why are you bringing perfumes? I replied, They are gifts for the people I love. He said, Oh, do you have love in your culture?
As they ridiculed me, they took delight most in mocking letters I had received from readers in England. I had now been without food and water and the toilet for twelve hours, and having been made to stand, my legs buckled. I vomited and passed out. All I remember is one of them gouging, scraping and clawing with his nails at the tender flesh beneath my eyes. He scooped my head and dug his fingers in near the auditory nerves between my head and eardrum. The pain became sharper as he dug in two fingers at a time. Another man had his combat boot on my neck, pressing into the hard floor. I lay there for over an hour. The room became a menagerie of pain, sound and terror.
An ambulance was called and told to take Mohammed to a hospital, but only after he had signed a statement indemnifying the Israelis from his suffering in their custody. The Palestinian medic refused, courageously, and said he would contact the Dutch embassy escort. Alarmed, the Israelis let the ambulance go. The Israeli line, as reported by Reuters, is familiar; it is that Mohammed was suspected of smuggling and lost his balance during a fair interrogation.
Israeli human rights groups have documented the routine torture of Palestinians by Shin Bet agents with beatings, painful binding, back bending, body stretching and prolonged sleep deprivation. Amnesty has long reported the widespread use of torture by Israel, whose victims emerge as mere shadows of their former selves. Some never return. Israel is high in an international league table for its intimidation and murder of journalists, especially Palestinian journalists who receive barely a fraction of the kind of coverage given to the hostage-taking of the BBCs Alan Johnston.
The Dutch government says it is shocked by Mohammed Omers treatment. Former ambassador Jan Wijenberg said, This is by no means an isolated incident, but part of a long term strategy to demolish Palestinian social, economic and cultural life… I am aware of the possibility that Mohammed Omer might be murdered by Israeli snipers or bomb attack in the near future.
While Mohammed was receiving his prize in London, the new Israeli ambassador to Britain, Ron Proser, was publicly complaining that many Britons no longer appreciated the uniqueness of Israels democracy. Perhaps they do now.
— source johnpilger.com
Have you expressed disapproval of your government? Called for more democratic decision-making in your country? Criticised prison conditions or criticised a country allied with your government? Retweeted a comment that included #opinionsarenotcrimes?
You are a criminal. You could be facing up to 15 years in prison for simply expressing your point of view, if you lived in Bahrain.
Nabeel Rajab, just like you, thinks his country could be better. And he has made those views public. He speaks out against poor prison conditions, and argues for more freedom of speech in Bahrain.
On 5 September Rajab is due in court accused of spreading “false or malicious news, statements, or rumours”, evidence of which includes a retweet of an Index tweet; “offending a foreign country” through tweeted criticism of Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Yemen; and “offending a statutory body” by condemning conditions in the country’s notorious Jau prison.
What’s worse, it’s just the latest in a long line of actions taken by the Bahraini government against Rajab, one of the Middle East’s most prominent human rights defenders.
Rajab has been subjected to ongoing judicial harassment, physical intimidation and imprisonment for his non-violent advocacy of democracy and for his calls for an end to endemic corruption. Police officers have beat him up, the country’s press have published the government’s accusations against without his side of the story. He has been imprisoned, pardoned, banned from travelling, rearrested and held in solitary confinement.
Despite the huge personal cost to himself and his family, Rajab continues to speak out.
His activism began during protests in the 1990s and grew with his involvement with the Bahrain Human Rights Society, which he helped found in 2000.
In 2002 he partnered with Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who is now serving a life sentence for his human rights work, and others to launch the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, which was awarded an Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award in 2012. BCHR has consistently spoken out for non-violent resistance and the peaceful struggle for social justice, democracy and human rights.
Rajab has also been outspoken in working for the protection of the Gulf’s migrant workers, founding, in 2003, one of the first committees in the region to advocate improved conditions for them.
When the Arab Spring swept across the Middle East in 2011, Rajab participated in the pro-democracy protests that were focused on the Pearl Roundabout in the country’s capital Manana. His vocal criticism of human rights violations and outspokenness — even after the government issued a state of emergency and invited foreign intervention to help maintain control — brought him into frequent conflict with security forces.
Born 1 September 1964 — yes, he will be spending his birthday in detention — to a middle-class family, he went to university in India to study politics, before returning to work in Bahrain. Rajab is married and has two children. He is a nephew of Mohamed Hasan Jawad, one of the “Bahrain 13” — political figures imprisoned for participating in the Arab Spring protests, and a cousin of Hussain Jawad, a prominent human rights activist arrested in February 2015.
What can you do to help?
Silenced temporarily by the Bahraini government, Rajab needs you to use your voice. Speak out in support of free speech and human rights.
Tweet and Facebook a statement of solidarity using #ReleaseNabeel on his birthday, 1 September, and the days running up to the trial on 5 September.
Call on your nation’s leaders to pressure Bahrain to respect freedom of expression and #FreeNabeel.
Join the @IFEX ThunderClap to tell Bahrain to #ReleaseNabeel
Retweet the following “criminal” tweet
— source indexoncensorship.org
Days of Revolt 034
Michael Hanes, Rory Fanning, Veterans for Peace, Chris Hedges
Embattled Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is slated to testify today at her impeachment trial—a trial that many are calling a coup by her right-wing political rivals. Rousseff has denounced the proceedings and called for early elections to unite the country. Rousseff’s impeachment stems from accusations she tampered with government accounts to hide a budget deficit. She was suspended earlier this year and has maintained her innocence, accusing her political opponents of spearheading the proceedings to shield themselves from prosecution and undo years of progressive policies. The Brazilian group Transparency Brazil says 60 percent of Brazilian lawmakers are currently under criminal investigation or have already been convicted of crimes ranging from corruption to election fraud. Rousseff’s opponents now need 54 votes, or two-thirds of the 81-seat Senate, to convict her of violating budget laws. Her impeachment would end 13 years of left-wing Workers’ Party rule in Brazil and bring to power interim President Michel Temer for the remaining two years of Rousseff’s term. Temer is also deeply unpopular and currently under investigation himself, accused of receiving illegal campaign contributions linked to the state oil company Petrobras.
Glenn Greenwald talking:
the majority of the Senate, just as was true of the majority in the House that impeached her, the majority of the Senate sitting in judgment of her are people who themselves are extremely corrupt, if not outright criminals. They are either people who are convicted of crimes or who are under multiple investigations, including the president of the Senate, who in 2007 had to leave his position over a serious scandal involving lobbyist money to pay off his mistress, is now under multiple investigations, just like the president of the House that impeached her was found with millions of dollars in Swiss bank accounts hidden away. So you have a band of criminals removing this woman who became twice the elected president of her country, in a country that had never previously elected a woman, only 19, 20 months ago with 54 million votes. It’s really extraordinary to watch it unfold, given what a young and vibrant democracy Brazil is and how this group of people in Brasília are literally trifling with the fundamentals of democracies before our eyes.
the formal charge against her that they’re using to justify impeachment in Portuguese is called pedaladas, which really means pedaling. It refers to a budgetary maneuver where the government borrows money from a state bank and then delays repayment in order to make it appear that the government owes less money. So she’s essentially accused of using budgetary tricks to make the state of the government budget look better in order to win re-election—something that when you talk to Europeans or Americans, they react with befuddlement that something like that could justify the removal of a democratically elected president, given that that’s extremely common for political leaders around the world to do, and, in fact, prior Brazilian presidents have used this same—this same method. And, in fact, when the House actually impeached her, as a lot of people watched around the world, one after the other stood up to justify their impeachment vote, and virtually none of them even referenced fleetingly this charge against her regarding these budgetary maneuvers, because it’s so plainly not the reason she’s being removed. That is the pretext for the reason that she’s being removed.
The reason she’s being removed is because she is an unpopular president. The economy of Brazil is weak and is—a lot of people are suffering because of it. And as you indicated earlier in the opening package, the party to which she belongs, the Workers’ Party, has been in power for 13 years, and the reason they’ve been in power for 13 years is because they’ve won four consecutive national elections. And there is no way that the opposition, which is composed of oligarchs and business interests and media barons and conservatives and uber-nationalists—this opposition faction has concluded that they are incapable of defeating this party in the ballot box, meaning within the democratic process, and so they are opportunistically using her unpopularity and the serious mistakes she’s made to remove her undemocratically.
And I think the most important thing to realize about this process, Brazilian media elites, who are almost uniformly behind impeachment, and have been from the beginning, constantly say, “Oh, look, in the United States you have impeachment; in Europe there’s impeachment. This is a constitutional means of removing a president.” But the big difference is that in the United States, if you impeach the president, if you had impeached Bill Clinton in 1997 or 1998, Al Gore would have become president, the Democratic Party would have continued to remain in power, and the agenda and ideology that the American people ratified would have been the same. In Brazil, it’s exactly the opposite. The vice president, who has now become the interim president, who’s about to become the president, is not part of the Workers’ Party. He’s part of the centrist party and has aligned himself with this right-wing party, the PSDB, that has continuously lost at the ballot box. Their candidates have been rejected. And yet, as a result of this impeachment process, the very party and the very ideology that the Brazilian people have over and over rejected, when asked to vote, when asked to consider their candidates, is now ascending to power. And their agenda of privatization and cutting social programs and keeping taxes low to benefit the oligarchs is now gradually being imposed, as is their foreign policy of moving away from BRICS and regional alliances, and becoming once again extremely subservient to the United States and to Wall Street and to international capital. And so, you can call it a coup, you can debate whether that word applies, but what it is is a complete reversal of democracy in a way that is ushering in an agenda that benefits a small number of people that the Brazilian citizens have never accepted and, in fact, have continuously rejected.
And the process now is that the Senate is nearing the end of its trial. It will likely vote within the next week to 10 days. There is almost no doubt that they have the votes in order to convict her. Already 52 senators have said they intend to vote yes, and only 54 are needed. And so, once this conviction happens, Dilma will be permanently removed from office, and the interim president, Michel Temer, will then serve out the remainder of her term through 2018, even though he is under far more investigation and implicated in far more corruption than she is, and even though the Supreme Court has said that you can’t divide them when it comes to impeachment—you have to essentially consider the impeachment of both, because they both participated in the same transactions. All of that law, all of those corruption issues are being completely ignored, for one reason and one reason only. And that is that the most powerful people in this country want this right-wing agenda. They know they can’t make it happen through the ballot box, and so they’re making it happen through brute force, which is exactly what’s taking place.
Lula is involved in several very serious scandals, including allegations of criminality. The most recent case is one where the federal police, who investigated, have recommended that he be indicted on claims that he received many, many hundreds of thousands of dollars in improvements to a triplex apartment that the police say that he owned, and that this was intended to be a gift from a large construction giant here in Brazil that has been close to the Workers’ Party, that has received a lot of contracts, lucrative contracts, from the Workers’ Party, and that they claim is illegal, that he intended to hide these assets, that they were intended essentially to constitute bribes. He vehemently denies that he ever owned the apartment, that it’s not—that it’s his. He has not been convicted. But those allegations should play themselves out. They should be investigated, and the process should be permitted to run its course.
I think that one really important thing to note is that a lot of people in Brazil, including people who have favored impeachment, including the nation’s largest newspaper, Folha of São Paulo, have long said that you should remove Dilma, but you should also remove Temer and have new elections, which is the obvious thing to do. If the vice president and the president are both implicated in wrongdoing, if there’s serious unpopularity that they both share, which they do, why let the people in Brasília, who are corrupt, choose the leader? Why not have new elections, as lots of people have called for? And the reason is, is that they’re petrified that if they have new elections, the person who’s going to win is Lula. He leads in all polls, when polls show—when ask people who their preference is in new elections. They’re also petrified that even if they wait until 2018, he’ll run again. And so, there’s a lot of people who believe that these investigations are about rendering him incapable of running, by charging him with crimes, by convicting him of something, not trying to put him in jail, just making it so that he can’t become president again, so they don’t go through this whole process of removing Dilma only to end up with Lula again.
But, you know, look, he’s somebody who is involved in lots of possible scandals. And he’s subject to the law like anybody else, and these processes should be allowed to take their course. The problem is that there are lots of people in Brasília who are also implicated in very serious corruption allegations, who are currently being protected in all sorts of ways by virtue of the fact that they hold political office, including people extremely close to the interim president himself. And one of the things that you played in that clip of my interview with Lula was him talking about how this is a coup. And only two months ago, there were recordings released, secret recordings that were made by a police informant with one of the closest senators to the current president, Temer, who was originally one of his ministers, who had to resign after this tape was revealed, in which he said that the reason that Dilma was being impeached and the motive for doing this was to shut down the investigation against the officeholders in Brasília, and that the Supreme Court and the media and the military of Brazil were all on board, that he had spoken to all of those institutions, and they were all on board. So, when you look at that tape, which, to me, is the most significant evidence about what’s taking place in Brazil, you have the leading institutions of Brazil, including the court and the military, secretly conspiring to remove the elected president as a means of protecting all of the other officeholders in Brasília from ongoing corruption investigations. And I think that really bolsters the claim that Lula made in that interview, regardless of whether he’s also guilty of wrongdoing.
originally the perception of this process was shaped by Brazil’s domestic media, which is an oligarchic media. They’re owned by a tiny number of extremely rich families, all of whom are united against the Workers’ Party and in favor of impeachment. Reporters Without Borders, the global media group, said that these media organizations were not acting as journalists; they were agitating against democracy in pursuit of the interests of their owners. And so, the perception originally was that this was the people rising up against a corrupt government. But as more people started looking at what was happening in Brazil, as more international journalists who aren’t beholden to these domestic interests started reporting on it, international opinion started radically changing. Just this weekend, Le Monde, the largest and most influential paper in France, one of the most influential in the world, denounced impeachment. They said if it’s not a coup, it’s a farce. You have international transparency groups, as you referenced earlier, denouncing it; the Organization of American States, members of the European Parliament, the British Parliament, and now Senator Sanders. So you see this growing awareness of what’s actually taking place in Brazil, this attack on democracy.
I do think it’s a little disturbing because, unfortunately, throughout the campaign that he ran, foreign policy was a very, you could say, ignored, but certainly deprioritized, part of Bernie Sanders’ challenge to Hillary Clinton. Even though her foreign policy needed so many objections and questions and attacks, he seemed to have very little interest in it. Now that he’s done, he’s willing, I guess, to be a little bit freer about commenting on foreign policy. And so it’s kind of a case of better late than never, but I wish that statement had been issued a lot earlier.
The United States government has been remarkably silent about what’s taking place in Brazil, for the obvious reason that they got caught in the 1960s having participated in and helping to plan the coup against the left-wing, democratically elected government. After vehemently denying for years that they were involved, documents surfaced showing that they were critical participants in that coup and in also supporting the military dictatorship that followed. And so, Brazilians are very sensitive about whatever role the United States might be playing in their internal affairs. And so, the president and the State Department have been very kind of muted about what it is they’re willing to say. But the United States government, for decades, has always preferred right-wing governments to left-wing governments in Latin America. They’ve certainly proven that over and over. As I said earlier, the right-wing faction that is now taking power in Brasília wants to become subservient again to the United States. And so I think it stands to reason that President Obama, Hillary Clinton and the rest of the State Department and Pentagon, to the extent they care, are pretty happy about the developments that have taken place here in Brazil, in terms of a government that wasn’t elected but that is much more favorable to American interests.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and one of the founding editors of The Intercept.
— source democracynow.org