Sunday, March 13, 2016

Last Call For Dilma's Brazil

There were massive protests across Brazil's major cities on Sunday calling for the impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff. Things just got real in Rio.

Hundreds of thousands of Brazilians gathered on Sunday to protest political corruption, a weak economy, and to call for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff on a day that could build momentum for efforts to oust her.

Demonstrators wearing shirts with the green and yellow colors of Brazil’s flag and carrying banners calling for Rousseff’s ouster filled the streets of cities across the country. They marched beside Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach, toward Congress in the capital Brasilia, and down Sao Paulo’s Avenida Paulista. The atmosphere in most cities was festive, though, and free of the violence that some feared if there were confrontations between opposing political groups.

Initial estimates indicated turnout was higher than in similar demonstrations in December, when about 100,000 took to the streets nationwide. On Sunday, about 100,000 people marched in Brasilia alone, according to the Military Police, with several thousand participating in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

Ronaldo Cappellesso, a 45-year-old store owner in Brasilia, said it feels like the country has reached a tipping point, with many of his friends protesting for the first time. “Finally I feel that impeachment is actually going to happen,” he said. “Anything is better than what we have now.”

Many Brazilians say they have had enough after enduring the worst recession in decades and a rolling corruption scandal known as Lava Jato, or Carwash in English, that has ensnared multiple politicians and business executives. The outpouring of public sentiment may be decisive for legislators debating whether to remain loyal to the president or join a swelling opposition seeking her ouster, as former allies begin to discuss political solutions for a post-Rousseff Brazil.

The political spectacle is playing out less than five months before the 2016 Olympic Games, the first awarded to a South American country, are due to start in Rio de Janeiro.

I honestly don't know if the Games will go on and I don't think they should, but that's another matter. Rouseff's government is thoroughly corrupt, Brazil's economy is in freefall and the cries for her ouster will only get louder.  Several administration officials are turning states' evidence and it looks like Rouseff will be gone sooner rather than later.

We'll see where this goes.

Zandar's Hometown Blues

To my everlasting shame, The Donald will be holding a rally in the city where I grew up tomorrow, and I'd like to think the people there would run him out of Hickory on a rail.  No such luck.

Donald Trump is scheduled to hold a campaign event at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory on Monday.

Trump’s campaign on Friday requested to use the university’s P.E. Monroe Auditorium at 10 a.m. Monday, the university said in a statement on its website.

The campaign added the appearance to its website on Saturday afternoon and said doors will open at 7 a.m to Monday’s event.Tickets are available online at

“Given appropriate assurances of security, LR will honor this request,” the university said.

“LR in no way endorses this or any other candidate,” Lenoir-Rhyne President Wayne Powell said in the statement. “However, as part of our commitment to the American political process, we welcome the event and hope it will inspire people to engage in dialog about the values that are so important to our nation. We also hope it will help inspire everyone to vote.”

Sure.  Look, if I'm Trump, I couldn't think of a better North Carolina rally location than Hickory. We make furniture and fiber optic cable, because the big GE electrical transformer plant moved to Mexico 15 years ago and the textile mills went to China before that.  The Germans moved in with tool and die gears and abrasives a while back, so the city has manufacturing, but unemployment here went from under two percent during the boom years in the late 90's to 15% ten years later.  It's gotten down to 6% now but things haven't been the same since.  People remember those times and then it got tough.

And they blame Obama.

Even though it's North Carolina, the place is 85% white.  These are exactly the voters Trump wants to reach, so I can't blame him for coming here.  The big tech industries went right on past here to Charlotte or Research Triangle Park.  We made number 5 in the most miserable cities in America last year.  Hell, I saw the writing on the wall and left ten years ago. The economy here is awful. Only one in six people in the area has a college degree.

These are Trump's people.  It just depresses me to be so starkly reminded of it.  They will love him here.

And I hate it.  Zandardad says he'll be there protesting.

Stay safe, pop.

Read more here:

When You've Lost Yggy...

Vox's Matthew Yglesias finally gets it through his thick head that Trump isn't "funny" or "delightfully chaotic" or "what the Republicans need in order to clean out the pool drain" but that he is truly dangerous and that his rhetoric is going to get someone hurt or killed.

I was a liberal Donald Trump apologist. Not a liberal enjoying the chaos Trump was sowing in the Republican Party, but someone who welcomed his ideological heterodoxy as a step away from the cliff of endless polarization that offered a more moderate substantive agenda than Marco Rubio's. I held on to that conviction through Friday's protest violence and Saturday's torrent of "enough is enough"takes.

I was wrong. Sunday morning, in the context of what he knew to be a growing controversy about violent behavior on the part of his supporters, Trump tweeted what can really only be interpreted as a threat to send goons to beat up Bernie Sanders supporters.


He then followed this up by suggesting that he would use the resources at his disposal to help his supporters obtain immunity from legal consequence for violent acts they undertook on his behalf.

There are those of us that had Trump pegged as a Father Charles Coughlin-style demagogue from the beginning, a vessel to make acceptable the rancor and the hatred that infests the Republican party and has been clearly on display nationally since Barack Obama became President and well before that regionally with the likes of assholes like GOP Sen. Jesse Helms, the national shame I grew up with as a North Carolinian.

I'm glad that Yggy here has finally seen the light.  But he should have been denouncing this jackass nine months ago, where Trump should have been run out of the party instead of being enabled by Yglesias and the Village because Trump somehow represented the "legitimate and very real grievances of working-class white men", with folks telling themselves that Trump would "moderate" in the general and couldn't possibly be as awful as his critics were warning us:

There have been clear signs all year that this was the direction the Trump phenomenon was heading, but I assumed that as he got closer to the Republican nomination Trump would tone down his extreme behavior in order to demonstrate his acceptability to mainstream voters. In fact, he has done the opposite. It's a surprising decision that has truly scary implications for how he might behave were he to actually win the presidency.

He was worse.  Now he may be President. Was it worth your professional reputation to say "Hey guys maybe he's not so bad", Matt? Because my question is if you're making judgment calls this badly, exactly why should we listen to you in the future?

Sunday Long Read: Obama Looks Back

Needless to say, your Sunday Long Read this week is Jeffrey Goldberg's tour de force interview with President Obama on foreign policy, aptly titled "The Obama Doctrine".

Obama, unlike liberal interventionists, is an admirer of the foreign-policy realism of President George H. W. Bush and, in particular, of Bush’s national-security adviser, Brent Scowcroft (“I love that guy,” Obama once told me). Bush and Scowcroft removed Saddam Hussein’s army from Kuwait in 1991, and they deftly managed the disintegration of the Soviet Union; Scowcroft also, on Bush’s behalf, toasted the leaders of China shortly after the slaughter in Tiananmen Square. As Obama was writing his campaign manifesto, The Audacity of Hope, in 2006, Susan Rice, then an informal adviser, felt it necessary to remind him to include at least one line of praise for the foreign policy of President Bill Clinton, to partially balance the praise he showered on Bush and Scowcroft. 
At the outset of the Syrian uprising, in early 2011, Power argued that the rebels, drawn from the ranks of ordinary citizens, deserved America’s enthusiastic support. Others noted that the rebels were farmers and doctors and carpenters, comparing these revolutionaries to the men who won America’s war for independence. 
Obama flipped this plea on its head. “When you have a professional army,” he once told me, “that is well armed and sponsored by two large states”—Iran and Russia—“who have huge stakes in this, and they are fighting against a farmer, a carpenter, an engineer who started out as protesters and suddenly now see themselves in the midst of a civil conflict …” He paused. “The notion that we could have—in a clean way that didn’t commit U.S. military forces—changed the equation on the ground there was never true.” The message Obama telegraphed in speeches and interviews was clear: He would not end up like the second President Bush—a president who became tragically overextended in the Middle East, whose decisions filled the wards of Walter Reed with grievously wounded soldiers, who was helpless to stop the obliteration of his reputation, even when he recalibrated his policies in his second term. Obama would say privately that the first task of an American president in the post-Bush international arena was “Don’t do stupid shit.”

Obama’s reticence frustrated Power and others on his national-security team who had a preference for action. Hillary Clinton, when she was Obama’s secretary of state, argued for an early and assertive response to Assad’s violence. In 2014, after she left office, Clinton told me that “the failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad … left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled.” When The Atlantic published this statement, and also published Clinton’s assessment that “great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle,” Obama became “rip-shit angry,” according to one of his senior advisers. The president did not understand how “Don’t do stupid shit” could be considered a controversial slogan. Ben Rhodes recalls that “the questions we were asking in the White House were ‘Who exactly is in the stupid-shit caucus? Who is pro–stupid shit?’ ” The Iraq invasion, Obama believed, should have taught Democratic interventionists like Clinton, who had voted for its authorization, the dangers of doing stupid shit. (Clinton quickly apologized to Obama for her comments, and a Clinton spokesman announced that the two would “hug it out” on Martha’s Vineyard when they crossed paths there later.)
Syria, for Obama, represented a slope potentially as slippery as Iraq. In his first term, he came to believe that only a handful of threats in the Middle East conceivably warranted direct U.S. military intervention. These included the threat posed by al‑Qaeda; threats to the continued existence of Israel (“It would be a moral failing for me as president of the United States” not to defend Israel, he once told me); and, not unrelated to Israel’s security, the threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran. The danger to the United States posed by the Assad regime did not rise to the level of these challenges. 
Given Obama’s reticence about intervention, the bright-red line he drew for Assad in the summer of 2012 was striking. Even his own advisers were surprised. “I didn’t know it was coming,” his secretary of defense at the time, Leon Panetta, told me. I was told that Vice President Joe Biden repeatedly warned Obama against drawing a red line on chemical weapons, fearing that it would one day have to be enforced.

It's a good piece, and as much as I would absolutely love an Obama third term, Goldberg reminds us that the president too is human and has made some pretty big mistakes as well as major victories. On the balance of the whole however, the Obama Doctrine is a major improvement over that of his predecessors, and I fear we'll learn to miss him at the helm rather early in 2017, one way or another.

But there are also some amazing shade being thrown here at both Israel and America's Arab world allies, and it's brilliant to see that Obama pegged both groups as untrustworthy and pretty awful.  It's amazing that he got as far as he did here given the truly terrible state of US foreign policy blowback.

Oh yeah, and Putin.
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