Naomi Klein: We’ve Entered a Frightening New Era of Capitalism

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Jacob Sugarman.

When Nikki Haley resigned this week as the United States’ ambassador to the U.N., seemingly the political press’ first question was whether Donald Trump would name his daughter, Ivanka, as her replacement. Trump did little to discourage this speculation. “[It’s] nothing to do with nepotism,” he said, barely concealing a smile. “But I want to tell you that the people that know, know that Ivanka would be dynamite.”

For “The Shock Doctrine” and “No Is Not Enough” author Naomi Klein, that the president’s offspring would even be considered for such a post is evidence enough that we’ve entered a frightening new era of capitalism—one in which the 1 percent so dominate our institutions that they consider political power to be their natural birthright. In her latest essay for The Intercept, she dubs it the “Age of the Pampered Princeling”:

The Koch brothers were raised in luxury and inherited Koch Industries from their father (who built his fortune constructing refineries under Stalin and Hitler). [Richaed Mellon] Scaife was an heir to the Gulf Oil, Alcoa Aluminum, and Mellon Banks fortunes and grew up in an estate so lavish it was populated with pet penguins. Olin took over his father’s weapons and chemicals company.

And so it goes, right down to Betsy DeVos, who was raised by billionaire Edgar Prince and married into the Amway fortune — and who has devoted her life to dismantling public education, now from inside the Trump administration. And let’s not forget Rupert Murdoch, who inherited a chain of newspapers from his father and is in the process of handing over his media empire to his sons. Or relative newcomer Rebekah Mercer, who has chipped off a chunk of her father Robert’s hedge fund fortune to bankroll Breitbart News, among other pet projects. In short, these people are Downton Abbey lords and masters, playacting as Ayn Rand heroes.

Klein urges her readers to consider the mental gymnastics required for our nation’s scions to convince themselves not just that they’re self-made, but that their attacks on the social safety net are inherently righteous. Whether implicit or explicit, she concludes, it comes down to a belief in their own fundamental superiority: “better values, better breeding, a better religion, or as Trump so often claims, ‘good genes.'”

“And of course the even darker side is the often unspoken conviction that the people who do not share in this kind of good fortune must possess the opposite traits — they must be defective in both body and mind,” Klein continues. “This is where the Republican Party’s increasingly savage racial and gender politics merge seamlessly with its radical wealth-stratifying economic project. Convinced that people belong where they are on the economic and social ladder, the party can keep redistributing wealth upward to the dynastic families that fund their movement, while kicking the ladder out of the way for those reaching for the lower rungs.”

Alarmingly, money and influence are only growing more entrenched. As part of the Trump administration’s latest tax plan, the mega rich will be able to pass up to $22.4 million to their children without paying a cent in taxes, effectively guaranteeing another generation of dynastic wealth. The consequences will be grave for the health of our society and the planet at large, especially as climate change threatens civilizational collapse.

“This is an intensely hierarchical worldview that is completely comfortable with a minority making decisions for a majority in a rigged electoral system, just as it feels no need to reconcile two totally different visions of justice—’innocent until proven guilty’ when it comes to Brett Kavanaugh’s job application and, as Trump told a gathering of police chiefs on Monday, ‘stop and frisk’ for anyone seen as a possible criminal in Chicago (obvious code for a black person walking down the street),” Klein concludes. “This is not seen as a contradiction: There are simply two classes of people—us and them, winners and losers, people deserving of rights and everyone else.”

Read Klein’s piece in its entirety at The Intercept.

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Kanye West Makes Bizarre Appearance at Oval Office

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WASHINGTON — Live from the Oval Office, it’s Kanye West with a jaw-dropping performance.

The rapper didn’t rap. But, seated across from President Donald Trump at the Resolute Desk, the musician delivered a rambling, multipart monologue Thursday that touched on social issues, hydrogen planes, mental health, endorsement deals, politics and oh so much more.

Seizing the spotlight from the typically center-stage president, West dropped the F-word, floated policy proposals and even went in for a hug.

“They tried to scare me to not wear this hat,” West said of his red “Make America Great Again” cap. But, he said, “This hat, it gives me power in a way.”

“You made a Superman cape for me,” he told Trump.

It was a surreal scene even by the standards of a nonconventional White House. The unlikely allies spoke to reporters before a closed-door lunch that had been billed as a forum to discuss policy issues including manufacturing, gangs, prison reform and violence in Chicago, where West grew up. Spectators at the show included Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser, Jared Kushner, former NFL star Jim Brown, the attorney for a gang leader serving time in federal prison, and a gaggle of reporters.

During one pause, Trump seemed to acknowledge the oddness of the moment, saying, “That was quite something.”

West’s mental health has been a question of speculation since he was hospitalized in 2016. In a bizarre performance last month on “Saturday Night Live” he delivered an unscripted pro-Trump message after the credits rolled.

Addressing the topic Thursday, West said he had at one point been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but was later told by a neuropsychologist he’d been misdiagnosed.

“So he said that I actually wasn’t bipolar; I had sleep deprivation, which could cause dementia 10 to 20 years from now, where I wouldn’t even remember my son’s name,” he said.

The conversation began with an exchange on North Korea among Trump, Brown and West. Trump said the region was headed for war before he took over, and West commended him for stopping it. Brown said he liked North Korea; Trump agreed.

From there, West discussed prison reform and violence in inner-city Chicago. He brought up Larry Hoover, the leader of the Gangster Disciples who is serving a life sentence for murder, claiming: “The reason why they imprisoned him is because he started doing positive for the community. He started showing that he actually had power, he wasn’t just one of a monolithic voice, that he could wrap people around.”

West said he “loved Hillary” Clinton, Trump’s 2016 Democratic rival, because he loves everyone, but said he connected with Trump’s “male energy.” He also criticized the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, calling it a “trap door.”

Holding out his phone, West showed Trump a picture of a hydrogen-powered plane that he thought should replace Air Force One.

“This right here is the iPlane 1,” he said. “This is what our president should be flying.”

Added West: “If he don’t look good, we don’t look good. This is our president. He has to be the freshest, the flyest” and have “the flyest planes.”

West also had a sartorial suggestion for Trump, proposing a hat that says just “Make America Great”—dropping the “again.”

At the end of West’s lengthy, sometimes-hard-to-follow dialogue, even Trump seemed at a loss.

“I tell you what: That was pretty impressive,” the president said.

“It was from the soul,” West replied. “I just channeled it.”

West later told reporters of his verbal stylings: “You are tasting a fine wine that has multiple notes to it. You better play 4D chess with me. … It’s complex.”

Taking questions from reporters, the rapper also voiced concern about stop-and-frisk policing. Trump this week called on Chicago to embrace the tactic, which allowed police to detain, question and search civilians without probable cause, though it was deemed unconstitutional in New York City because of its overwhelming impact on minority residents.

Trump said they’d discuss the matter and he’d keep an open mind.

Asked about his comments in 2005 that President George W. Bush didn’t “care about black people” after Hurricane Katrina, West said that “We need to care about all people” and that he “was programed to think in a victimized mentality.”

Trump and West previously appeared together shortly after Trump’s 2016 election in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York.

Asked what the two had talked about during their December meeting, West responded briefly that time: “Life. We discussed life.”

While Trump has been shunned by much of the Hollywood establishment, he has a fan in West, who tweeted earlier this year that the two share “dragon energy.”

“You don’t have to agree with trump but the mob can’t make me not love him. We are both dragon energy. He is my brother,” West wrote.

West is married to reality television star Kim Kardashian West, who successfully pushed Trump to grant a pardon to a drug offender earlier this year.

West himself has suggested he might be open to wading into politics, including a run for president in 2020.

Asked if West could be a future presidential candidate, Trump said, “Could very well be.” West shot back, “Only after 2024.”

After all that, the president brought the show to a close by suggesting, “Let’s go have some lunch, OK?”

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Historian Howard Zinn Warned Us About the Supreme Court

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These are the facts. The Senate majority, which the Republican Party currently holds with 51 seats, presently represents 18 percent of the country’s population. Following Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation, four of the Supreme Court’s nine justices have been appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote. Two of those justices attended the same D.C. area prep school.

If the United States government faces a legitimacy crisis, it’s one that has been building for 18 years, if not longer than that. In 2000’s Bush v. Gore decision, five conservative justices determined that Florida could not conduct a recount of its heavily disputed election results—a decision that effectively handed the presidency to the Republican candidate. “Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear,” John Paul Stevens, who was appointed by Richard Nixon, wrote in his dissent. “It is the Nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.”

The naked politicization of the judiciary did not escape historian Howard Zinn. In 2005, after another former member of the Federalist Society, John Roberts, became the 17th chief justice of the United States, the activist and professor issued a warning to progressives about the power of the High Court—one they might be wise to revisit on the heels of Kavanaugh’s ascension.

“It would be naive to depend on the Supreme Court to defend the rights of poor people, women, people of color, dissenters of all kinds,” he wrote. “Those rights only come alive when citizens organize, protest, demonstrate, strike, boycott, rebel, and violate the law in order to uphold justice.”

Zinn also took aim at Democrats and Republicans’ collective fetishization of the “rule of law,” a phrase that Kavanaugh invoked more than once while rebutting multiple allegations of sexual assault before the Senate Judiciary Committee. As America’s own history reveals, no law is inherently just, nor is it deserving of the divine right of kings.

“The Constitution gave no rights to working people: no right to work less than twelve hours a day, no right to a living wage, no right to safe working conditions,” he continued. “Workers had to organize, go on strike, defy the law, the courts, the police, create a great movement which won the eight-hour day, and caused such commotion that Congress was forced to pass a minimum wage law, and Social Security, and unemployment insurance.”

The piece concludes with a call to action, one entirely true to Zinn’s canonical “A People’s History of the United States.” The legal system cannot determine our country’s trajectory, and we have more power than either we realize or acknowledge.

“The courts have never been on the side of justice, only moving a few degrees one way or the other, unless pushed by the people,” he observed. “Those words engraved in the marble of the Supreme Court, ‘Equal Justice Before the Law,’ have always been a sham.”

“No Supreme Court, liberal or conservative, will stop the war in Iraq, or redistribute the wealth of this country, or establish free medical care for every human being. Such fundamental change will depend, the experience of the past suggests, on the actions of an aroused citizenry, demanding that the promise of the Declaration of Independence—an equal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—be fulfilled.”

Read Zinn’s piece in its entirety at The Progressive.

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Noam Chomsky: Facebook and Google Pose a Manifest Danger

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Jacob Sugarman.

In “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media” (1988), authors Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky identified what they called the “five filters of editorial bias”: Size, Ownership and Profit Orientation; the Advertising License to do Business; Sourcing Mass Media News; Flak and the Enforcers; and Anti-Communism.

While the Soviet Union has since been relegated to the dustbin of history, Herman and Chomsky’s text has proved indispensable, with multinationals like Google, Amazon and Facebook tightening their stranglehold on the news industry and the economy at large. As Chomsky warns, these corporations’ eagerness to appease their advertisers and manipulate their users’ behavior has “very serious distorting effects” on the stories we consume. “I don’t think that’s a healthy development, but it is happening,” he says. “And that means essentially dividing much of the population … into cocoons [or] bubbles, into which they receive the information conducive [only] to their own interests and commitments.”

Last week, Chomsky explored this topic and more in an exhaustive interview (“American Dissident) with The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill. What follows are just a few of the activist author’s more trenchant observations and digressions.

On the Republican White House

There’s an authentic constituency of corporate power and private wealth, and they’re being served magnificently by the executive orders [and] legislative programs that are being pushed through. [These] represent the more savage wing of the traditional Republican policies catering to private interests, private wealth, and dismissing the rest as irrelevant and easily disposed of.

At the same time, [Trump] is managing to maintain the voting constituency by pretending, very effectively, to be the one person in the world who stands up for them against the hated elites. And this is quite an impressive con job. How long he can carry it off? I don’t know.

On Trump’s handling of North Korea

He’s being lambasted for taking positions which, in my view, are pretty reasonable. So, for example, in the case of Korea: The two Koreas, last April 27th came out with a historic declaration, in which they laid out fairly explicit plans for moving towards reconciliation, integration, and denuclearization of the peninsula.

They pretty much pleaded with outsiders—that means the United States—to permit them to proceed, as they put it, on their own accord. And so far Trump has not interfered with this very much, calling off temporarily at least the military exercises, which he has correctly said are highly provocative. He’s been lambasted for that, but it’s exactly the right position I think. Right now, President Moon is in North Korea, [and] if they can make positive moves on their own accord—as they’ve requested—that should be beneficial.

On the continued existence of NATO

Raising questions about NATO, for example, is quite a reasonable thing to do. One might certainly ask why NATO even exists after the collapse of the Soviet Union—not that there weren’t questions before, there were—but the official story was that NATO was in place to defend the West against the Russian hordes, which, putting aside the validity of that claim, was the official stand.

What is true is that after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, 1991, there was a period under Yeltsin in which the United States pretty much dominated what was happening in Russia and the region around Russia. NATO was expanded. The Russian economy totally collapsed under the imposed harsh market reforms. There was a radical collapse of the economy, sharp increase in the mortality rate. Russia was really devastated. … I would not like to have dinner with [Putin], but you can understand his policies. His policies were to try to restore some role for Russia at least in its own region of the world. … We might recall the traditional invasion routes through which Russia was attacked [were] virtually destroyed several times in the last century.

On the Syrian Civil War

Well, the first point to bear in mind … is that Assad is a horrible war criminal. The bulk of the atrocities, which are enormous, are his responsibility. There’s no justifying Assad. On the other hand, the fact of the matter is that he is essentially in control of Syria now, thanks largely to Russian [and] partially to Iranian support.

The Russians actually entered Syria extensively after the CIA had provided the rebel forces, which are mostly run by Jihadi elements, with advanced anti-tank missiles which were stymieing the Syrian Army, at which point the Russians came in with air power and overwhelmed the opposition. The current situation is that Assad has pretty much won the war. Like it or not. There was in the early stages a Democratic, secular, quite respectable opposition, but they were very quickly overwhelmed by the Jihadi elements, supported from the outside — Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United States, and others.

The United States, like other great powers, does not pursue humanitarian objectives. It pursues objectives determined by power considerations, and they lead to different positions with regard to the Kurds or others at different times.

On the imminent dangers of Big Tech

If you read a major newspaper, say the New York Times, you get a certain range of opinion. It’s narrow. It’s basically centrist to far right, but at least it’s a range of opinion. Those who are more addicted to social media tend to turn directly to what supports their own views, not to hear other things, that’s not a good thing. Google, Facebook and the rest, those are commercial institutions. Their constituency is basically advertisers, and they would like to establish the kinds of controls over their consumers that will be beneficial to [a] business model that enabled them to get advertising. That has very serious distorting effects. And we know that they provide massive information to the corporate system, which they use in their own efforts to try to shape and control behavior and opinion. All of these are dangerous developments. The power of these private corporations to direct people in particular [is] a serious problem which requires considerable thought and attention.

Listen to the interview on the Intercepted podcast or read a copy of its transcript here.

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The Trump Administration Has Resigned Itself to Climate Catastrophe

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Jacob Sugarman.

If the earth’s temperature climbs 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), sea levels are expected to rise 40 cm and the availability of fresh water could decrease as much as 9 percent, according to a 2016 study from the scientific journal Earth System Dynamics. An increase of 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) would be catastrophic; whole swaths of Africa, South America and Asia would see dramatic reductions in their crop yields, and 98 percent of the planet’s coral reefs would be at risk.

By the Trump administration’s latest estimations, the planet will warm as much as 4 degrees C (7.2 degrees F) by 2100—this despite the president’s claim that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese government. But not only is it unwilling to address this impending cataclysm, it appears eager to accelerate the earth’s demise.

“The administration did not offer this dire forecast as part of an argument to combat climate change,” write the Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin, Brady Dennis and Chris Mooney of last month’s environmental impact statement. “Just the opposite: The analysis assumes the planet’s fate is already sealed.”

Issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as a rationalization for the president’s proposal to eliminate fuel efficiency standards for cars and select trucks built after 2020, the statement acknowledges that only radical cuts in carbon emissions can alter our present trajectory. Such cuts, it notes, “would require substantial increases in technology innovation and adoption compared to today’s levels … which is not currently technologically feasible or economically feasible.”

The NHTSA’s findings are broadly consistent with recent studies indicating a global climate crisis has increased the frequency of extreme weather events, and that accelerated arctic warming has prolonged summer weather in North America, potentially leading to “very-extreme extremes.” A report from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in August raised the possibility of a “Hothouse Earth” in which warming oceans and climbing temperatures create a feedback loop that endangers the very future of humanity. Such models remain theoretical, but U.N. Secretary General António Guterres recently declared that “climate change is moving faster than we are” and that “we face a direct existential threat.”

What ultimately distinguishes the NHTSA’s statement is its nihilism. “The amazing thing they’re saying is human activities are going to lead to this rise of carbon dioxide that is disastrous for the environment and society,” Michael McCracken, a former scientist at the U.S. Global Change Research Program, tells the Post. “And then they’re saying they’re not going to do anything about it.”

In 2017, President Trump withdrew from the Paris Climate Accords, a largely symbolic agreement that nonetheless aims to curb greenhouse gas emissions and keep the planet’s temperature within 1.5 degrees C of pre-industrial levels. It may have been buried in a 500-page document, but the administration’s message is clear: If we as a species are to survive the Anthropocene, the rest of the world cannot put its faith in the United States.

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Brazilian Artists and Intellectuals Warn of Impending Dictatorship

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Jair Bolsonaro is a former military officer and current member of Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies who has told a fellow congresswoman that she’s not attractive enough to be sexually assaulted, claimed that “no father would like to have a gay son,” and called for the execution of his political opponents. (In 2016, during the impeachment hearings of then-President Dilma Rousseff, he dedicated his vote to Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra—the colonel who oversaw her torture as a political dissident in the early ’70s). With a presidential election less than two weeks away, Bolsonaro is currently leading the polls with 28 percent of the vote, and Brazil’s intelligentsia are sounding the alarm.

In an online manifesto titled “Democracia sim,” or “yes to democracy,” over 150 musicians, writers, filmmakers and public intellectuals have denounced the Social Liberal Party leader as a “clear threat to our civilisational heritage.” Names range from “City of God” director Fernando Meirelles and novelist Milton Hatoum, to composers Caetano Veloso, Chico Buarque and Gilberto Gil, each of whom spent time in exile during the country’s military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985.

“We have known 20 years of shadows under the dictatorship, initiated with the backing of not a few actors in society,” the document reads. “It’s never unwarranted to remember how throughout history and to this day fascist, Nazi leaders and many other autocratic regimes were first elected with the promise of rescuing the self-esteem and credibility of their nations, before submitting them to the most varied authoritarian excesses.”

More than 190,000 Brazilians have added their names to the manifesto since it was published on Monday.

As Telesur reports, women have spearheaded a social media campaign against the far-right candidate’s rank misogyny under the hashtag #EleÑao, or #NotHim. Upwards of 2.9 million have joined a Facebook group titled “Women United Against Bolsonaro,” and demonstrations are planned across the country for Sept. 29.

Bolsonaro, whose son has consulted with former Breitbart chair and White House adviser Steve Bannon, was stabbed during a campaign rally in Juiz de Fora earlier this month. He underwent emergency surgery but is expected to make a full recovery.

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Glenn Greenwald Makes the Case for Michael Moore’s ‘Fahrenheit 11/9’

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In July of 2016, with Hillary Clinton narrowly leading in the polls, documentarian Michael Moore issued a dire prophecy. “I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I gave it to you straight last summer when I told you that Donald Trump would be the Republican nominee for president,” he wrote on his website. “And now I have even more awful, depressing news for you: Donald J. Trump is going to win in November.”

For that reason alone, his newest film, exploring an American democracy on the brink, likely demands a wide viewership. But as Glenn Greenwald reveals in “The Intercept,” “Fahrenheit 11/9″—a play on his Bush-focused “Fahrenheit 9/11” and a reference to the date of Trump’s election—offers much more than a facile #Resistance polemic. Instead, he argues that Moore has pinpointed the social and political pathologies that enabled a real estate mogul cum reality show host’s rise to power, even if the director occasionally succumbs to gimmickry and lurid speculation. And while the administration bears the brunt of his invective, no institution or party goes unscathed. From Greenwald:

Grifters exploit fears of Trump to build massive social media followings that are easily converted into profit from well-meaning, manipulated dupes. One rickety, unhinged, rant-filled, speculation-driven Trump book after the next dominates the best-seller lists, enriching charlatans and publishing companies alike: the more conspiratorial, the better. Anti-Trump mania is big business, and – as the record-shattering first-week sales of Bob Woodward’s new Trump book demonstrates – there is no end in sight to this profiteering.

All of this is historical revisionism in its crudest and most malevolent form. It’s intended to heap most if not all blame for systemic, enduring, entrenched suffering across the country onto a single personality who wielded no political power until 18 months ago. In doing so, it averts everyone’s eyes away from the real culprits: the governors, both titled and untitled, of the establishment ruling class, who for decades have exercised largely unchecked power – immune even from election outcomes – and, in many senses, still do

The message is as clear as the beneficial outcomes: Just look only at Trump. Keep your eyes fixated on him. Direct all your suffering, deprivations, fears, resentments, anger and energy to him and him alone. By doing so, you’ll forget about us – except that we’ll join you in your Trump-centered crusade, even lead you in it, and you will learn again to love us: the real authors of your misery…

The overriding value of “Fahrenheit 9/11” is that it avoids – in fact, aggressively rejects – this ahistorical manipulation. Moore dutifully devotes a few minutes at the start of his film to Trump’s rise, and then asks the question that dominates the rest of it, the one the political and media establishment has steadfastly avoided examining except in the most superficial and self-protective ways: “how the fuck did this happen”?

Read the review in its entirety at The Intercept.

 

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Brazil’s da Silva Names Successor, but Will Voters Follow?

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In a letter from his jail cell, former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has called on tens of millions of supporters to vote for the man he named to replace on the Workers’ Party ticket in October’s presidential election.

“I want everyone who would vote for me to vote for Fernando Haddad for president of Brazil,” da Silva, who Brazilians universally call Lula, said on Tuesday, the deadline for the party to pick another candidate after da Silva’s candidacy was barred. “From now on he will be Lula for millions of Brazilians.”

While long anticipated, the formal designation of Haddad both settled one question and launched another: Will supporters of da Silva — who has held a clear lead in all polls — actually listen and back Haddad, who until now had relatively little appeal?

The two men are close in their political views and said to be friends, but for many voters in Latin America’s largest nation they are also very different.

Workers’ Party presidential candidate Fernando Haddad waves to the crowd during a campaign rally outside federal police headquarters where former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is in jail for corruption in Curitiba, Brazil, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

While da Silva is easily the country’s most recognizable politician after being president between 2003 and 2010, Haddad is largely unknown outside of Sao Paulo, where he was he was mayor four years. While da Silva is charismatic and has an everyman touch, Haddad is a political science teacher turned education minister who comes off as professorial. He also got trounced in his re-election bid as mayor in 2016.

Haddad, 55, also is only beginning his campaign less than four weeks before the election. On Wednesday, he was scheduled to meet with party executives in Sao Paulo in the morning and then host an event with university students in the afternoon.

Carlos Melo, a political science professor at Insper university, believes the strength of the party and da Silva’s endorsement will be enough to push Haddad to a second round of voting. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent on Oct. 7, as expected, the top two finishers will meet in an Oct. 28 runoff.

“He was introduced as the candidate very late. We have to see if there is time for him to get all the votes he needs,” Melo said.

Before running for mayor in 2012, Haddad served as education minister under da Silva and his predecessor, President Dilma Rousseff.

He was confirmed as the replacement to da Silva on Tuesday after a meeting of his party’s executive committee in the southern city of Curitiba, where the former president is jailed for a corruption conviction that led the top electoral court to bar him from running.

Haddad will be joined on the ticket by Manuela D’Avila, a member of Brazil’s Communist Party.

A Datafolha poll published on Monday shows Haddad in fourth place, favored by just 9 percent of those surveyed. That was a rise of 5 percentage points in just a few weeks, but still behind rightist congressman Jair Bolsonaro’s 24 percent, left-leaning Ciro Gomes’ 13 percent, centrist Marina Silva’s 11 percent and right-leaning Geraldo Alckmin’s 10 percent.

The poll had a margin of error of 2 percentage points. All the 2,804 voters sampled were interviewed on Monday, days after da Silva’s candidacy was barred by the electoral court and Bolsonaro was stabbed in an incident that might put him in hospital until election day.

Haddad met with da Silva after the party decision, then delivered his first speech as the candidate in front the federal police building where da Silva is jailed.

“I feel the pain of many Brazilians who won’t be able to vote for who they want,” he said, standing next to D’Avila. “But now is not the time to have your head down.”

Da Silva is serving a 12-year sentence for trading favors with construction company Grupo OAS for the promise of a beachfront apartment. The former president has always denied wrongdoing, arguing this case and several others pending against him are meant to keep him off the ballot.

The strategy of holding on to da Silva’s candidacy until the last minute caused internal fighting within the party. Many believed it was risky to leave Haddad so little time to present his case to voters, while others thought it was best to keep da Silva front and center as long as possible.

Since the beginning of the year, the Workers’ Party hinted Haddad could be the candidate. When he was named candidate for vice president in mid-August the choice became obvious.

“Haddad and I are like Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez,” da Silva once said, referring to superstar teammates on FC Barcelona’s soccer club. “We play together and we don’t even need to look at each other to know what the other is doing.”

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When Timothy Geithner Defied Barack Obama

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Less than a week after The New York Times ran an op-ed by an anonymous Trump administration official openly challenging the president’s fitness for office, the question of who wrote the piece continues to vex Beltway pundits and the White House alike. But Trump is hardly the first commander in chief to face insubordination, potentially from somebody in his inner circle. As The New Republic’s David Dayen reminds us, Timothy Geithner’s “refusal to obey his boss” altered the course of the Great Recession—and likely set us on a path toward Trump’s election.

In March 2009, the U.S. economy was imploding. Citigroup had reported losses in excess of $8 billion the previous quarter, and two government bailouts totaling $45 billion, along with an additional $306 billion in loan guarantees, had proven insufficient to right the ship. While Barack Obama had publicly dismissed nationalizing the country’s most distressed banks, Larry Summer—then National Economic Council director—was intrigued by the idea, so the president ordered the Treasury Department to explore a radical restructuring of Citigroup.

“Geithner simply didn’t follow the request,” writes Dayen, citing “Confidence Men” author Ron Suskind. “It was a classic Washington move: When your boss asks for something you don’t like, just ignore it and hope that the request isn’t necessary when the boss follows up.”

Geithner adamantly rejected this account, telling Suskind, “I don’t slow-walk the president on anything.” But as Dayen notes, Obama tacitly admitted that was what happened, expressing his frustration with “the speed with which the bureaucracy could exercise my decision.”

“The Citibank incident, and others like it, reflected a more pernicious and personal dilemma emerging from inside the administration,” Suskind wrote at the time, “that the young president’s authority was being systematically undermined or hedged by his seasoned advisers.”

The rest is history. Using guarantees and Federal Reserve loans, Geithner helped orchestrate a third bailout for Citigroup, and the bank avoided anything even resembling a downsizing. Today, the former Treasury secretary heads a private equity firm that appears to specialize in scamming the poor. From The New Republic:

Any objective look at Geithner’s actions in response to the financial crisis confirms that he would maximize his power on behalf of big banks, even if it meant going around his colleagues and his president. That included paying off AIG’s investment bank counter-parties at 100 percent instead of forcing a discount, or blocking [Sheila] Bair, the FDIC chair, from forcing higher capital rules on banks. Every action fit Geithner’s worldview: The financial system must be stabilized at all costs, as the only way to heal the economy so real people benefit.

Since the Great Recession kicked off 10 years ago this week, upward of $33 trillion in wealth has flowed to the top 10 percent, while the average net worth of the bottom half of the country has dipped from $11,000 to $8,000. A new report released by Public Citizen on Tuesday finds that the country’s five largest banks have raked in more than $580 billion during that time, beneficiaries of a taxpayer-funded bailout, a trillion-dollar tax cut and industrywide deregulation.

Overseeing it all is a far-right demagogue—an established birther and an alleged sexual abuser whose political campaign centered on a pledge to “drain the swamp.”

Happy anniversary.

Read more at The New Republic.

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Could This Unknown Academic Help Break Up Amazon?

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Jacob Sugarman.

No one can accuse Bernie Sanders of not knowing his audience. Last week, alongside Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., the Vermont senator unveiled the Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies Act, better known as Stop BEZOS—an ambitious piece of legislation that aims, in its sponsors’ words, to kick billionaires off federal welfare.

With an unabashedly corporatist Republican Party in control of Congress and the White House, the bill is all but dead on arrival. Still, it nonetheless represents a bold if imperfect attempt to rein in runaway corporate power, a trend perhaps best exemplified by the recent trillion-dollar valuation of Amazon.

Until recently, legislators have largely overlooked the anti-competitive tendencies of the online retailer, at least in part due to its competitive pricing. Enter Lina Khan, an obscure law student who, in the words of The New York Times’ David Streitfeld, aims to “reframe decades of monopoly law.”

Khan first captured the legal community’s attention, if not its imagination, last year with “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox”—a 93-page treatise in the Yale Law Journal that earned 146,255 hits, or citations. The paper’s thesis was simple: Amazon’s influence over the U.S. economy has far outpaced its market share. In this way, she contends, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has come to resemble John D. Rockefeller, who presided over the greatest oil monopoly the country has ever known.

“The issue Ms. Khan’s article really brought to the fore is this,” Streitfeld writes. “Do we trust Amazon, or any large company, to create our future?”

More than a year after its publication, the paper continues to reverberate across American academia. At the University of Pennsylvania Law School, antitrust expert Herbert Hovenkamp has written that breaking up corporations like Amazon would “quickly drive the economy back into the Stone Age, imposing hysterical costs on everyone.” Konstantin Medvedovsky, an antitrust lawyer in New York, has called Khan’s thesis “antitrust hipsterism,” as though trustbusting were a charming practice of yore.

Perhaps more tellingly, Khan’s research has earned the dismissal of Timothy Muris and Jonathan Nuechterlein, who served as Federal Trade Commission chairman and general counsel respectively. In June, the pair challenged Khan’s findings in a paper for the Social Science Research Network, arguing that Amazon has “added hundreds of billions of dollars of value to the U.S. economy” and that its innovations have provided “great benefit [to] consumers.”

Amazon couldn’t have asked for a more favorable analysis, and perhaps it didn’t. As the Times notes, both Muris and Nuechterlein acknowledge that they sought funding from the corporation for their research, and that they have advised Amazon on “a variety of antitrust issues.”

But Khan’s work has also caught the attention Rohit Chopra, the new Democratic commissioner at the FTC. In July, he asked her to be a temporary adviser to the commission ahead of hearings this fall, the first since 1995, to help determine the scope of its antitrust pursuits in an evolving economy. With Khan’s assistance, Chopra filed an official comment urging the FTC to “make rules and regulations” in order to better fulfill its mission.

“This is a moment in time that invites a movement,” Khan tells the Times. “It’s bigger than antitrust, bigger than Big Tech. It’s about whether the laws serve democratic ends.”

Slowly but surely, the Democratic Party appears to be getting the message.

 

 

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