Anti-Choice Activists Flank Trump as He Delivers Final Blow to Family Planning Safeguards April 15, 2017Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Poverty, Race, Right Wing, Sexuality, Trump, Uncategorized, Women.
Tags: anti-choice, birth control, christine gfrimaldi, family planning, kellyanne conway, mike pence, planned parenthood, pro choice, roger hollander, title x patients, trump presidency, women's health, women's rights, womens healthcare
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Roger’s note: in addition to its radically increasing war making and killing abroad, and its dismantling of environmental protections, the Trump presidency is creating untold harm domestically, and, naturally, to those most vulnerable: immigrants, refugees, poor people, racial minorities, women, children, seniors, etc. This is an unmitigated disaster.
President Trump on Thursday signed off on congressional Republicans’ push to shred family planning safeguards enacted under the Obama administration.
With the stroke of his pen, Trump officially withdrew an Obama-era rule intended to stop state-level interference in federal funding for family planning clinics, including Planned Parenthood affiliates—the real target of the GOP’s ire over the fact that the health-care organization provides abortion care with its own funds. Withdrawing the rule, however, hinders the ability of four million Title X patients, including 1.5 million Planned Parenthood patients, to access quality, affordable health care.
Doing so disproportionately impacts people of color. Of the four million Title X patients in 2015, 30 percent self-identified as Black or African American, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, or American Indian or Alaska Native; 32 percent self-identified as Hispanic or Latino; and 13 percent had limited English proficiency.
Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate wielded an arcane procedural tool known as the Congressional Review Act to undo the Title X rule and other key regulations enacted in the last six months of Obama’s presidency. Vice President Mike Pence cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate to send the resolution of disapproval (HJ Res. 43) targeting the rule to the president’s desk over the objections of Democrats in the chamber.
Trump signed the bill with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma and Rep. Diane Black (R-TN), the sponsor of the resolution of disapproval, by his side, according to a White House pool report and an Instagram post from Concerned Women for America President Penny Young Nance. Anti-choice Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser was pictured in another photo with Black and Nance at the White House and also witnessed the signing, per the pool report. The press was not allowed to watch Trump sign the bill.
Rewire‘s Ally Boguhn reported this week on how White House counselor Kellyanne Conway’s connections have given anti-choice groups “ready access” to Trump.
Eliminating Title X protections represents the GOP’s latest strike to women’s health-care services that transgender and gender nonconforming people rely on too.
Trump expanded the global gag rule prohibiting foreign nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs, that receive U.S. family planning aid from providing abortion care or information about the medical procedure using their own funds. And Trump picked up on congressional Republicans’ failed quest to repeal Obamacare, preparing a regulatory war against women’s health-care benefits and a thousand cuts to benefits for vulnerable populations, specifically transgender people, pregnant people, and those with low incomes.
“We should build on the tremendous progress made in this country with expanded access to birth control, instead of enacting policies that take us backward,” Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. “Too many women still face barriers to health care, especially young women, women of color, those who live in rural areas, and women with low incomes.”
Ecuador Election: No Good Option for the Amazon March 31, 2017Posted by rogerhollander in Ecuador, Latin America, Right Wing, Uncategorized.
Tags: alianza pais, amazon rainforest, democracy, Ecuador, Ecuador Election, ecuador oil, guillermo lasso, indigenous, kevin koenig, lenin moreno, Rafael Correa, roger hollander, yasuni
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Roger’s note: This is a good, if limited, analysis of the Ecuadorian presidential run-off election that takes place this Sunday. In the first round of voting, the Government candidate, Lenin Moreno, needed 40% of the vote to avoid a second round. He won by a large amount against the rest of the field, but with 39.3% of the vote, he fell short of election.
Ten years of the Correa government has left the Ecuadorian left in shambles. The coalition that brought Correa to power — the Indigenous and campesino communities, the environmentalists, most of the social movements and labor unions — have been shut out and for the most part are considered “enemies” by Correa, and not only to him personally, but to the Ecuadorian state.
Watching the Indigenous organizations and most of the political lefts coming out in support of the Banker, Guillermo Lasso, is almost surreal. Lasso was the chief economic advisor (Superminister of Economy and Energy) to Jamil Mahuad, whose presidency was responsible for the infamous “banking holiday” in 1999 where thousands of Ecuadorians lost their life savings. Mahuad had to flee the country and landed at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, where he lectures on economics in spite of the fact that he is on INTERPOL’s wanted list (I am not making this up).
Candidate Lasso is connected to right wing governments throughout the region and to the alt-right Roman Catholic Opus Dei. Regardless of what he has told the Amazonian Indigenous in order to gain their support (a la Trump), his election would certainly mean a return to the pre-Correa belt-tightening neo-Liberal corruption that plagued the country for decades. For these reasons it is mind-boggling to see much of the left behind his candidacy.
Whether he wins or loses on Sunday, the Lasso phenomenon is another example of that notion that presidential elections in our so-called democracies do not give genuine options for social justice, that voters get fed up with existing governments and vote in whatever opposition option they are given, even those oppositions that are contrary to the self interest of those who vote them in (again, a la Trump).
Photo credit: Amazon Watch
By KEVIN KOENIG
All over the capital city of Quito and throughout the small towns in the countryside, campaign propaganda is everywhere. Posters choke telephone poles, flags hang from windows, awnings, and corner stores, entire houses are painted with the respective colors of Alianza PAIS – Ecuador’s governing party of the last ten years – and those of the opposition CREO party, which is running on the promise of change. This Sunday, Ecuadorians will take to the polls and vote again for president, and the stakes couldn’t be higher for the country’s Amazon rainforest and its indigenous inhabitants.
The April 2nd run-off election pits Guillermo Lasso, a right-wing former banker against the former vice president of the outgoing and controversial current president, Rafael Correa. It will be the first time in recent memory that Correa, the country’s longest-standing elected president, won’t be on the ballot. The Alianza PAIS ticket is led by both vice presidents who served under Correa: Lenin Moreno and Jorge Glas.
Ten years ago, Correa embarked on what he dubbed a “Citizens’ Revolution,” the largest expansion of public sector spending in the country’s history, which included investments in schools, hospitals, roads and other infrastructure development like port expansions and hydroelectric dams. The administration also greatly expanded subsidy programs for housing and monthly cash payments to the country’s poor.
But it has all come at a price. To implement these popular measures, and to maintain the national economy after being shut out of the finance world due to a debt default, Correa borrowed heavily from China, amassing loans for more than US $15 billion. But many of these loans must be paid in oil, committing the majority of the crude the country extracts to China through 2024. As oil prices have dropped, the quantity of oil needed to repay those loans has increased, essentially guaranteeing new oil drilling in Ecuador’s pristine, indigenous rainforest territories in the Amazon.
In other words, Correa made poverty reduction depend upon the exploitation of natural resources in one of the most ecologically and culturally important places on the planet. Correa once promised to “drill every drop of oil” in the Amazon, ignoring the ecological and cultural harm this would cause as well as the “resource curse” and likelihood of corruption (which has occurred in Ecuador) resulting from relying heavily on oil, gas, or mineral extraction as the mainstay of a country’s economy.
For his part, opposition leader Guillermo Lasso, a former banker from the port city of Guayaquil, promises a return to U.S.-aligned, right-wing policies and reliance upon traditional lending institutions like the IMF and World Bank. However, these very same institutions deserve much of the blame for the country’s historic natural resource dependence and austerity policies favoring export-led development and “free trade,” and these policies provoked a full-fledged banking collapse that forced the country to dollarize its economy in 2000. The backlash against these neoliberal policies by civil society and the indigenous movement led to the ousting of several presidents and a period of great political instability that set the stage for the ascendancy of Correa and his self-described “revolutionary” agenda.
Despite this history, in this campaign Lasso has endorsed the platform of CONFENAIE, the indigenous Amazonian confederation, which calls for an end to new oil and mining concessions, an amnesty for indigenous leaders currently facing charges of terrorism for leading anti-government protests, respect for the right to Free, Prior, Informed Consent (FPIC), and several other legal reforms affecting indigenous rights. This endorsement came after direct pressure on all the candidates from CONFENAIEand Yasunidos, an active environmental coalition that made a series of viral videos pressuring them to take strong stances on environmental protection and indigenous rights, especially in Yasuní National Park in the Amazon.
How he would implement such policies while also fulfilling his neoliberal campaign promises is an open question. If Ecuador elects him, it risks a return to past policies that were historically hostile to indigenous rights, including a likely re-opening to multinational companies that have run roughshod over the environment and human rights, as exemplified by the notorious Chevron-Texaco case.
Moreno, for the most part, has been largely silent on these issues, and so Ecuadorians and observers are left to expect a continuation of Correa’s extractivist policies.
In the first round, most Amazonian provinces chose Lasso, in a clear rejection of Correa’s efforts to expand oil and mining projects on indigenous lands, his crackdown on indigenous rights that has seen several leaders jailed and persecuted, and a state of emergency that lasted 60 days in the ongoing conflict between the Shuar, the government, and the Chinese mining conglomerate Explorcobres.
Nationally, the polls for the run-off election currently show a statistical dead heat, with Moreno at 52.4% and Lasso at 47.6%, with a margin of error of 3.4% and roughly 16% of voters undecided. Moreno’s lead is surprising, given that first-round voting split the conservative vote among several candidates who were predicted to coalesce around Lasso for the run-off. Each side has accused the other of dirty tricks: Lasso has accused the governing party of using state-run media and coffers to support its campaign, and Alianza PAIS has promoted allegations made public last week that Lasso has suspicious investments in several offshore businesses and properties. Each side has warned of possible fraud and both predict widespread protests after Sunday’s vote.
Regardless of who wins, the response to the escalated social conflicts over extractive industry projects, rollback of indigenous rights, and criminalization of civil society protest will be an early and pressing challenge for the incoming administration. Further oil and mineral development will only make the country’s economy more vulnerable to fluctuations in the world oil market, whose recent crash has Ecuador reeling. This, combined with the country’s extreme wealth disparity, means that further income from oil alone will not solve the problems of poverty in Ecuador. The country must create a diverse economy that addresses wealth inequality in order to reduce poverty.
How the new president responds will serve as an indicator of whether Ecuador can transition to a post-petroleum economy, save what remains of its pristine rainforests, and respect the rights of its indigenous inhabitants, or whether it will continue to see the Amazon and the indigenous peoples there as solely a source of short-term financial gain.
As Domingo Peas, an Achuar leader, told me today, “No matter who wins, our agenda is the same: a platform based on indigenous rights, territorial protection and defense, and solutions that maintain our forests intact, keep the oil in the ground, and show the world how frontline indigenous peoples have been protecting the sacred for millennia.”
The future of Ecuador’s Amazon – one of the most ecologically and culturally important places on the planet – hangs in the balance.
(Canadian) CSIS’s alternative facts universe March 16, 2017Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Right Wing, Surveillance, Uncategorized, War on Terror.
Tags: anti-terrorism, Canada, canada c-51, canada security, canadian national security, csis, matthew berrens, quebec city mosque, right wing extremism
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Roger’s note: people round the world, including many Canadians, like to think that there is a substantial difference between Canada and the United States when it comes to things like the military and national security. Of course, the U.S. is the imperial giant and Canada a minor but important satellite. Nonetheless, Canada has just emerged from the ten year reign of Stephen Harper’s ultra-right government, one that could teach the likes of Paul Ryan and Donald Trump a thing or two. The current Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, presents a kinder gentler image, but behind the haircut and bedroom eyes lies a man who rules with limits set basically by the military, the security apparatus and the corporate world. U.S. lite, if you will. Trudeau is already playing footsie with Trump, inviting the entrepreneurial daughter to sit with him at a Broadway show, for instance. Don’t expect any substantial challenge to the U.S. imperial and economic adventures coming from the neighbour to the North.
Spy agency’s first public report in two years on the threat posed by terrorism in Canada has a slippery relationship with reality
Screen cap from CSIS video released with annual report recently. CSIS prefers to stick with the tired trope that all terrorism springs from internecine bloodletting in the Syrian and Iraqi deserts.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Canada’s spy agency, penned a marvellous multimedia love letter to itself with the release late last month of its first public report in two years.
But beyond its self-admiring gaze, fancy charts and awkward introductory video by spy chief Michel Coulombe (who announced his retirement this week), the agency’s report to Parliament is most notable for its alternative facts and timing. The report’s incendiary language invokes an “immediate threat” and “paths to radicalization,” and its release coincides with the agency’s lobbying for increased funding in 2017 as well as efforts to prevent abolition or amendments to the infamous Anti-terrorism Act (C-51).
Notably absent from the report is the spy agency’s take on the Quebec City mosque shootings or a nuanced analysis of the rise of white nationalist extremism in Canada. Instead, CSIS stresses the notion that Canadians are under “constant threat” from forces associated with Daesh, al Qaeda and their distant offshoots, even though the claim is not borne out by the supporting evidence offered.
Indeed, the report’s formidable-looking “terrorism timeline” graphic cheats on the numbers.
Of the nine attacks listed, six occurred overseas, where Canadians were not directly targeted but tragically died as a result of happenstance. Two attacks in 2014 were already addressed in the previous public report. With nothing to report for all of 2015, that left one remaining 2016 incident in which three soldiers suffered minor stab wounds at a North York military recruiting centre, a crime committed by a man found unfit for trial “due to the ongoing psychotic symptoms of a major mental illness.”
Remarkably, the most deadly terrorist attack to occur in Canada in the last decade – January’s Quebec City mosque massacre, carried out by a shooter with white nationalist leanings – goes unmentioned, even though Prime Minister Trudeau explicitly described it as “a terrorist attack against Muslims.” The 2014 murder of three New Brunswick RCMP officers by anti-government gun fanatic Justin Bourque is also nowhere to be found in CSIS’s report.
Despite the agency’s internal documents acknowledging the growing threat of right-wing extremism and the emergence of a homegrown anti-Islam movement, Canada’s spies prefer to surveil and demonize those who are more likely to be victims of terrorist attacks, conflating refugees with “threats to Canada and its interests.” The report claims “right-wing extremism has not been as significant a problem in Canada in recent years,” despite the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society’s widely reported finding that between 1990 and 2014, 59 per cent of lone wolf terror attacks in Canada were committed by white supremacists.
Indeed, the Network (whose research partners include CSIS and Public Safety Canada) published in September 2015 a rigorous academic study by Barbara Perry and Ryan Scrivens concluding that the right-wing extremist movement in Canada is “more extensive and more active than public rhetoric would suggest.”
Their report notes the existence of more than 100 such groups in Canada, some of which “were actively engaged in brutal acts of violence directed at an array of targets” that included Muslims, Jews, Indigenous people, LGBTQ community members and “people of colour such as Afro-Canadians, Asians and South Asians.”
Significantly, their research confirms that “a key factor enabling the emergence and sustainability of right-wing groups was a weak law enforcement response.
“Typically, activities of the far-right have not been monitored or taken seriously,” the report says, and “there was a tendency for officials to deny or trivialize the presence and threat.”
CSIS prefers to stick with the tired trope that all terrorism springs from internecine bloodletting in the Syrian and Iraqi deserts and Middle Eastern-based groups intent on undermining “Canadian values.”
The spectre of Muslim youth “radicalized” in Canada by online beheading videos remains CSIS’s top priority. The agency claims that “approximately 180 individuals with a nexus to Canada” have been suspected of engaging in terrorism-related activities, of whom 60 were “extremist travellers who had returned to Canada.”
But even here, the numbers present a distorted picture. By failing to differentiate between front-line fighters and those engaged in non-combat activities, from medical assistance to food preparation, CSIS creates the false impression that those who returned to Canada are all in sleeper cells waiting to be activated.
Public Safety concedes that some 20 per cent of “extremist travellers” are women (unlikely to be assigned combat duty), and that children have gone abroad with parents as well.
The spy agency has also remained mum on whether the numbers include non-Muslim Canadian fighters who very publicly fundraise and volunteer to fight for non-Daesh actors like the Kurdish Peshmerga, who have been accused by Amnesty International of committing war crimes in the razing of northern Iraq Arab villages.
The slippery relationship with reality that marks CSIS’s report is also reflected in Coulombe’s recognition of “the importance of openness and transparency with the Federal Court.” This noble sentiment fails to address numerous Federal Court decisions, including one as recent as October 2016 that criticized “a breach of the CSIS’s duty of candour” to the court. In that case, CSIS had failed to fully inform judges of a decade-long program illegally collecting and retaining information on Canadians who posed no threat.
There is no indication that anyone behind the walls of the secretive east-end Ottawa edifice that houses CSIS headquarters has been held accountable for illegally obtaining confidential taxpayer information, spying on Canadians held in foreign prisons or trading and receiving information that may lead to or has been gleaned from torture.
The lack of accountability structures for such misbehaviour enables and emboldens CSIS to continue operating with impunity.
But those looking to rein in Canada’s spies are not hopeful.
The Liberals’ Bill C-22, to create a Parliamentary committee to oversee national security, has been criticized by the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG), which last week raised concerns about the “broad powers granted to ministers to block investigations, limitations on committee members’ access to information, and the committee being responsible solely to the Prime Minister [leading the committee to become] a figurehead, unable to adequately carry out the oversight it is mandated to do.”
While the ICLMG adds that any such committee “must be complemented by an independent, expert review body [that] would encompass all of Canada’s national security activities,” CSIS head Coulombe is sanguine about maintaining the status quo, ending his report by stating: “Canadians can rest assured that we undertake this work with the utmost respect for the fundamental rights and freedoms that we seek to protect.”
Warning: Canada Is Not What You Think It Is February 21, 2017Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Immigration, Racism, Right Wing, Uncategorized.
Tags: andrew mitrovica, Canada, canadian conservative, canadian politics, Conservative Party, fear mongering, iqra khalid, islamophobia, kellie leitch, muslim canadians, nccm, racism, right wing, roger hollander, Stephen Harper
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Roger’s note: I have read some journalism with the theme: can the Trump phenomenon happen in Canada. Well, my friends, it already has, and it is called “Stephen Harper.” Just as I refer to current Toronto Mayor John Tory as “Rob Ford minus the crack cocaine,” I would characterise the now departed Canadian Prime Minister (Harper) as Donald Trump without the Tweets (but with hair). Although the Harper government was soundly defeated in the last election, Harper’s fear mongering legacy lives on in the Conservative Party, which as spawned a gaggle of would-be leaders, who are counting on the Trump effect to further inspire Canadian bigotry.
If you assume Canada is a welcoming haven from the bile and divisiveness in the age of Trump, you may be mistaken.
By Andrew Mitrovica
February 20, 2017 “Information Clearing House” – “Al Jazeera” – Warning: if you believe Canada is a pretty, picture-postcard Islamophobia-free zone, then I recommend you stop reading this column. You’re about to be profoundly disappointed, shocked, or both.
Scratch its inviting surface and you will discover quickly that, as in most other Western democracies, Islamophobia is not only alive and rampant in Canada, but it has long been a defining characteristic of at least one of its major political parties and large swaths of the country’s corporate media.
The most recent evidence of this unassailable fact has been on unsavoury display in the still raw residue of the massacre of six Muslim Canadians at prayer in a Quebec City mosque earlier this month.
Immediately after the terrorist attack, politicians went about the ritual of decrying the murders, while praying for the victims and their grieving families and urging their countrymen to rally around the Muslim community as a sign of unity and support.
Meanwhile, after a burst of attention to blunt any criticism that it took a terrorist attack on Muslims in Canada by a white, reactionary male as seriously as attacks in Paris, Brussels or London, much of the establishment media promptly went on its way, as the carnage in a mosque receded comfortably into the rearview mirror.
But difficult questions remained unanswered. Chief among them: What to do about the Islamophobia that was stoked into a raging bonfire by some of the very politicians and media that were pleading – with all the faux solemnity they could muster – for harmony and understanding?
Wisely sceptical of the flowery rhetoric, the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) – a prominent voice for Canada’s Muslim community – has written an open letter to politicians of all persuasions, urging them to take concrete steps to confront Islamophobia and racism and discrimination that exists plainly in their midst.
Harper and Leitch, the dynamic duo of Canadian racism, source: email@example.com
Finally, the NCCM threw its powerful backing behind a largely symbolic, non-binding motion sponsored by a governing Liberal MP, Iqra Khalid, that calls on the House of Commons to condemn Islamophobia and all religious discrimination in the aftermath of the Quebec city attack.
For context, it’s important to note that after a few hours of perfunctory debate, Canadian parliamentarians unanimously adopted another Liberal MP’s motion in 2015 condemning the “rise of anti-Semitism around the world”.
Not surprisingly, Khalid’s motion has faced a much more different, tumultuous and instructive fate.
Rather than be approved swiftly and unanimously, Motion 103 has morphed into a running spectacle that has not only dominated Canada’s political agenda but has also exposed the pus of Islamophobia still oozing from Canadian politicians and media that only a few weeks ago were expressing sympathy for men murdered during evening prayers because they were Muslims.
Leading the hysterical charge in opposing the motion is Canada’s Conservative Party and the bevy of candidates who are vying to lead it. All but one of the leadership candidates have signalled their vehement opposition to the motion, claiming that, among other phantom horrors, it would stifle freedom of speech and possibly act as a precursor to the invocation of “Sharia Law”.
This is, of course, lunacy. But it is lunacy that has coursed its malevolent way through the core of the Conservative Party for a long time and not, as some have suggested, emerged only lately from the swamp of Islamophobia to take up residence at the party’s radical “fringes”.
|Harper not only stocked his cabinet with ministers who shared his embrace of what amounted to hate politics, but also plucked them from obscurity, gave them a national profile, all the while defending and championing them.|
This is a revisionist lie. Former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper spent much of his tenure fuelling and satisfying the not-so-latent Islamophobia that was politically appealing to his legion of supporters by making the niqab a racist dog-whistle and lauding “old-stock Canadians”.
Harper not only stocked his cabinet with ministers who shared his embrace of what amounted to hate politics, but also plucked them from obscurity, gave them a national profile, all the while defending and championing them.
Perhaps Harper’s signature legacy in this sorry regard was first encouraging, and then promoting, the political career of Kellie Leitch – who, in turn, repaid her patron’s largesse with unrivalled zealotry and loyalty.
During last year’s election campaign, Leitch fronted the unveiling of a Harper-approved “tip line” for reporting so-called “barbaric cultural practices” – a thinly disguised, bureaucratic euphemism for Islam.
And, today, as a prominent and popular Conservative leadership candidate, Leitch keeps channelling her former boss’s odious modus operandi while attending a “freedom rally” stuffed with avowed Islamophobes who are convinced Motion 103 is an Islam-inspired plot to undermine Canadians’ rights and freedoms.
“It’s great to be in a room full of severely normal people tonight,” Leitch told the adoring crowd. “Canadian values are not fringe, and together, I know, we are going to fight for them.”
Leitch is Harper without the filter.
Cheering her on is an equally hysterical mob of largely right-wing journalists who have pounced on Khalid and her motion, chomping at the bit of Islamophobia while insisting, unconvincingly, that their objections to Motion 103 are motivated solely by their oh-so-sincere concern that it would grant one religion “special status” over all others.
Khalid put an emphatic lie to this transparently spurious reasoning after rising in the House of Commons to read out a sampling of the relentless torrent of hate, death threats and Islamophobia she has endured in the days since proffering her motion.
She has been called a “terrorist” and a “camel humping” “scumbag” who should be shot by a “Canadian patriot” or deported “like a disgusting piece of trash.” She has advised her staff not to answer the phone and to lock the office door behind them.
Undeterred, Khalid rightly excoriated the remnants of Harper’s Conservative caucus for its “cynical, divisive tactics … to try to start a fake frenzy around the word Islamophobia, instead of tackling the issue at hand.”
So, the next time you’re inclined to praise or even consider moving to Canada because it’s allegedly a welcoming haven from the bile and divisiveness in the age of Donald Trump, it might be best to remember these obscenities before you act on your impulses.
Andrew Mitrovica is an award-winning investigative reporter and journalism instructor.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.
AS TENSIONS RISE, STEVE BANNON AND ISIS GET CLOSER TO THEIR COMMON GOAL: CIVILIZATIONAL WAR February 16, 2017Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, ISIS/ISIL, Nazi / Fascist, Republicans, Right Wing, Trump, Uncategorized, War, War on Terror.
Tags: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, al-Qaeda, apocalyptic theories, church militant, fourth turning, isis, murtaza hussain, muslim ban, Nawar al-Awlaki, Stefan Zweig, steve bannon, trump administratrion
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Roger’s note: when Sarah Palin was selected by McCain as as his vice presidential nominee, we shuddered that someone with an apocalyptic vision had come so close to real armed-to-the-teeth political power. With the election of Trump and the ascension of Bannon and others, we have now reached that point in history where those in control of the US nuclear arsenal could very well see a nuclear conflagration in a positive light. The Trump presidency is no joke, SNL notwithstanding.
THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION has taken sweeping, drastic measures that it says are necessary to protect Americans from the threat of terrorism, including its executive order halting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. But the radical policies and beliefs of this administration could just as easily end up fueling the narratives of extremist groups fighting the United States. When Trump ran a campaign built on promises to destroy ISIS, how can one explain the fact that supporters of the group in Mosul were reportedly celebrating his Muslim ban?
The order was based on plainly dubious claims about national security, targeting for scrutiny some of the most heavily vetted visitors to the United States. But the tangible purpose it did serve, before being at least temporarily frozen by the courts, was to divide Americans from millions of people in the Muslim world by sending the latter a message of gratuitous insult and contempt — and emboldening the very extremist movements the order was ostensibly directed against.
That kind of polarization may be exactly what some members of the White House want. High-ranking members of the current administration — most notably its chief strategist, Steve Bannon — have publicly espoused apocalyptic theories of history that center on a forthcoming clash between Western countries and the Muslim world, a conflict that many of them seem to perceive as both inevitable and desirable.
There are striking parallels between Bannon’s worldview and the perspective of terrorist groups like the Islamic State, which see the world divided in similarly binary terms — hence their reported enthusiasm for the executive order that Bannon helped author.
A proponent of pseudoscientific theories of history like the “Fourth Turning,” Bannon has predicted the coming of another major U.S. war in the Middle East and a military conflict with what he calls an “expansionist China.” In interviews during the election campaign, Bannon openly described Trump as a “blunt instrument” for his ideological goals.
A 2014 speech that Bannon delivered to an audience at the Vatican provides a hint of what kind of program he might want to use Trump to achieve. In that address, delivered via teleconference, Bannon called for a revival of the tradition of the “church militant,” describing a vague yet apocalyptic threat he claims that Western countries face from both “Islamic jihadist fascism” and their own loss of religious faith.
We’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict … to fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that’s starting, that will completely eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years.
Now consider how Bannon’s hysterical view of history was echoed that same year in a speech by Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who issued a similarly vague, yet no less frenzied call to arms:
So let the world know that we are living today in a new era. Whoever was heedless must now be alert. Whoever was sleeping must now awaken. … You will face tribulation and fierce battle. … So prepare your arms, and supply yourselves with piety.
Nowhere are these types of ideas particularly popular. While the Islamic State is held up by anti-Muslim activists in the United States as the quintessential expression of Muslim beliefs, in reality the group is deeply loathed in Muslim-majority countries. In the United States, though Trump won the election, his voter base comprised a distinct minority of the electorate. Even among those who did vote for him, few appear to have done so in enthusiasm for the apocalyptic theories of history held by advisers like Bannon. Huge numbers of people have also taken to the streets in opposition to Trump’s executive orders, which has helped to counteract the administration’s anti-Muslim message to the world, showing that it does not represent the views of all Americans.
But it doesn’t take much for a highly motivated minority to spark a broader conflict.
ISIS attacks have been deliberately calibrated to shock and offend the sensibilities of Western publics, a strategy that the group openly refers to as “eliminating the grayzone” of coexistence between societies. Many 19th- and 20th-century revolutionary movements were also led by small, militant vanguards that used violence and provocation to help advance their political programs. In their time, these movements achieved real tactical successes. And even today, despite widespread public war-weariness in the United States, ISIS has accomplished its goal of dragging American troops back into armed conflicts in Iraq and Syria that show little sign of abating.
After a series of improbable successes, the radical right-wing vanguard of U.S. politics has now taken control of the government, along with the most powerful military on the planet. In its enthusiasm for civilizational war, it is just the enemy that a group like the Islamic State needs to help validate its desperate and fanatical narrative.
An early example of the kind of harm that the Trump administration can do came in the form of the first special operations forces raid authorized by Trump after his inauguration. In that operation — reportedly promoted to him over dinner with his advisers — a total of 25 civilians were reportedly killed, including nine children under the age of 13. Among those killed was an 8-year-old U.S. citizen, Nawar al-Awlaki, the daughter of deceased al Qaeda proselytizer Anwar al-Awlaki. Images of Awlaki’s daughter and other victims of the raid were broadcast around the world, fueling widespread outrage.
Days later, the Yemeni branch of al Qaeda publicly denounced Trump for carrying out a “massacre” of civilians. The group promised vengeance, saying that global outrage over the deaths meant that “the flame of jihad has ignited and reached all over the world.”
While that may be an overstatement, it is not hard to see how a cycle of tit-for-tat violence, already tacitly established since the start of the war on terror, could accelerate dramatically under an administration that actively seeks to escalate conflict. Where President Obama sought to calm public fears in the aftermath of ISIS attacks, Trump and his administration will undoubtedly seek to inflame them for political gain. It’s only a matter of time before such an attack occurs, and Trump’s reaction could have consequences that quickly spiral out of control.
In his memoirs, published after his suicide in 1942, the exiled Austrian Jewish writer Stefan Zweig described his feelings of despair upon realizing that a “tiny but loud-mouthed party of German Nationalists” had succeeded in seizing power and dragging humanity into a global conflict it had neither wanted or expected. “The personal cause to which I had lent the force of my convictions, the peaceful union of Europe, had been wrecked,” Zweig lamented. “What I feared more than my own death, war waged by everyone against everyone else, had been unleashed for the second time.”
Seven decades after Zweig penned these words, small, well-organized groups of right-wing radicals are once again ascendant across the world. The best hope to stop them may be the popular opposition movements that have begun to stir in the United States. But most importantly, it will take a rejection of the logic of revenge and collective blame on both sides to prevent the apocalyptic visions of extremists from becoming reality.
“Right to Life” Taken to its Logical Conclusion May 16, 2016Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Religion, Republicans, Right Wing, Uncategorized, Women.
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Glenn Greenwald: Is It A Coup? What Is Happening in Brazil is Much Worse Than Donald Trump May 14, 2016Posted by rogerhollander in Brazil, Imperialism, Latin America, Right Wing, Uncategorized.
Tags: amy goodman, andres fishman, Brazil, brazil coup, brazil media, brazil right wing, bric, david miranda, dilma, fatima, glen greenwald, Lula, michel temer, nermeen shaikh, petrobras, roger hollander, rousseff impeachment, wikileaks, workers party
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Roger’s note: here is an alternative view on the Brazil political crisis that you are not likely to see in the mainstream media. What is happening in Brazil is complex, but bottom line: a right wing US supported coup d’etat. After the Glen Greenwald interview on Democracy Now!, which foreshadows last weeks Impeachment against President Dilma Rouseff; an article outlining the not surprising evidence of US complicity unearthed by Wikileaks. Finally, the most recent interviews on Democracy Now!
Democracy Now!MARCH 24, 2016
NERMEEN SHAIKH: We begin in Brazil, which is facing its worst political crisis in over two decades as opponents of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff attempt to impeach her on corruption charges. But Rouseff is refusing calls to resign, saying the impeachment proceedings against her amount to undemocratic attempts by the right-wing opposition to oust her from power. On Wednesday, former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva called the impeachment proceedings against Rousseff an attempted coup d’état. Lula, who was indicted last month on corruption charges, spoke Tuesday at a trade union event in São Paulo.
LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: [translated] The current attempt against Dilma is a coup. There’s no other word for it. It is a coup. And this country cannot accept a coup against Dilma. If there was one last thing I could do in my life, it would be to help Dilma turn this country around, with the decency that the Brazilian public deserves.
AMY GOODMAN: Last week, a judge suspended President Rousseff’s appointment of Lula da Silva to a Cabinet post. Rousseff says Lula will help strengthen her government, but critics see his appointment as a bid to protect him from what Lula says are politically motivated charges of money laundering. The judge who blocked Lula’s appointment had recently posted photos of himself on social media marching in an anti-government protest. Lula and President Rousseff are both members of the left-leaning Workers’ Party. On Tuesday, Brazil’s president, Rousseff, said she would not resign under any circumstances.
PRESIDENT DILMA ROUSSEFF: [translated] Those who call me to resign show the fragility of their conviction of the process of impeachment, because, above all, they are trying to instate a coup d’état against our democracy. I can assure you that I will not cooperate with this. I will not resign for any reason whatsoever. … I have not committed any crime under the constitution and law to justify an interruption to my mandate. To condemn someone for a crime that they did not commit is the greatest violence that can be committed against any person. It is a brutal injustice. It is illegal. I was victim to this injustice once, under the dictatorship, and I fought to never be a victim again, under democracy.
AMY GOODMAN: In recent weeks, mass protests have occurred in Brazil calling for President Rousseff to resign.
PROTESTER: [translated] The people are tired. The people don’t want this president, this Workers’ Party, this gang in power, anymore, this gang which only steals and conceals its illicit actions. The people are tired. Lula deserves to be in jail. That’s what he deserves.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we’re joined by Glenn Greenwald, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist based in Brazil. He’s been covering Brazil closely for The Intercept. His recent piece is headlined “Brazil Is Engulfed by Ruling Class Corruption—and a Dangerous Subversion of Democracy.” In it, Glenn Greenwald writes, quote, “this is a campaign to subvert Brazil’s democratic outcomes by monied factions that have long hated the results of democratic elections, deceitfully marching under an anti-corruption banner: quite similar to the 1964 coup.”
In a moment, we’re going to be talking with Glenn Greenwald about the attacks in Brussels, as well as the presidential elections here in the United States and the battle between Apple and the U.S. government over encryption. But right now we’re starting with Brazil.
Glenn, there is very little attention in the United States in the mainstream media about what’s taking place in Brazil. President Obama is right next door in Argentina, but can you talk about what is happening in the country you live in, in Brazil?
GLENN GREENWALD: Definitely. It is a little odd that such extreme levels of political instability have received relatively little attention, given that Brazil is the fifth most populous country in the world, it’s the eighth largest economy, and whatever happens there will have reverberations for all sorts of markets and countries, including the United States. The situation in Brazil is actually fairly complicated, much more so than the small amount of media attention devoted to it in the U.S. has suggested. The media attention in the U.S. has suggested that it’s the people, by the millions, rising up against a corrupt government, and sort of depicting it as the heroic population against a corrupt left-wing, virtually tyrannical regime. And in a lot of ways, that’s an oversimplification; in a lot of ways, it’s simply inaccurate. So let me just make a couple of key points.
First of all, it is the case that the Brazilian political class and its—the highest levels of its economic class are rife with very radical corruption. That has been true for a really long time. And what has happened is that Brazil’s judicial institutions and police agencies have matured. Remember, Brazil is a very young democracy. It only exited military dictatorship in 1985. And so you finally have the maturation of these institutions applying the rule of law. And so, for the first time, political and economic elites are being held accountable for very serious political and economic corruption. The corruption is pervasive in essentially every influential political faction in Brazil, including all of its political parties. That includes the Workers’ Party, the left-wing party of Lula and Dilma, the current president, but also, even to a greater extent, the opposition parties on the center and the right that are trying to replace it. So corruption is very real. There is a very—there’s been a—what has been, until recently, an impressive judicial investigation that has resulted in the arrest and prosecution of some of the country’s richest and most powerful figures—something that you would never see in the United States—billionaires being hauled off to jail for bribery and money laundering and tax evasion and corruption, and sentenced to many years in prison. And virtually every political opponent of President Rousseff is implicated by this corruption, and many of the people in her party are, as well.
The irony of this widespread corruption is that President Rousseff herself is really the only significant politician, or one of the only significant politicians, in Brazil not to be implicated in any sort of corruption scheme for the—with the objective of personal enrichment. Everyone around her, virtually, including those trying to bring her government down and accuse her of corruption and impeach her, is implicated very seriously in schemes of corruption for personal enrichment. She’s essentially one of the only people who isn’t implicated that way.
The problem is that there—at the same time as you have this massive corruption investigation, you also have an extremely severe economic recession, as the result of lowering gas prices and contraction in China and a variety of other factors. And up until very recently, up until 2008, 2010, Brazil’s economy was booming. The people of that country, including its poorest, have been—thought that their prospects were finally improving, that the promise of Brazil, the long-heralded promise of Brazil, to become this developed power in the world was finally coming to fruition. Millions of people were being lifted out of poverty. And what this recession has done has been essentially to reverse all of that and to reimpose huge amounts of suffering, borne primarily by Brazil’s lower and working classes. And so there’s an enormous amount of discontent and anger towards President Rousseff and towards her Workers’ Party over the suffering that the people in Brazil are experiencing. And so, what you have is this corruption scheme and corruption investigation and scandal at the same time as great economic suffering.
And in Brazil, there are really rich and powerful factions, who have long hated Lula and Dilma and the left-wing Workers’ Party, who haven’t been able to defeat them at the ballot box. The Workers’ Party has won four straight national elections, going back to 2002 when Lula was first elected. And so, what they are doing—and they’re using their extremely powerful media institutions, beginning with Globo, which is by far and away the dominant, most powerful media institution in Brazil, run by, like all Brazil’s significant media outlets, extremely concentrated wealthy families—are using this corruption scandal to—or using the anger towards the government to try and rile up people and essentially remove the Workers’ Party and President Dilma Rousseff from power, really because they can’t beat her at the ballot box. But they’re trying to latch on this corruption scandal to the discontent that people feel because of the economic suffering. And so there is a validity to the corruption scandal and to the investigation, even aimed at the Workers’ Party, but at the same time what you’re now seeing is, unfortunately, the judiciary, which has been pretty scrupulous until now about being apolitical, working with the plutocrats of Brazil to try and achieve a result that really is a subversion of democracy, which is exploiting the scandal to remove President Rousseff from power through impeachment, even though there really are no grounds of impeachment that would be legal or valid as a means of removing her from office.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, one of the points that you make, Glenn, in that article is that—and I’m quoting you here—”Brazil’s extraordinary political upheaval shares some similarities with the Trump-led political chaos in the U.S.” Could you explain what you mean by that?
GLENN GREENWALD: Well, what I essentially mean by that is that in the U.S. there is political upheaval, in the sense that the political order has been largely overturned. The people who have been in control of and running the Republican Party, which are largely monied interests, have completely lost control of their political apparatus. They poured huge amounts of money first into Jeb Bush and then into Marco Rubio. And typically, those factions get their way. And in this particular instance, they haven’t. And you have this kind of political outsider who has been rejecting all kinds of political orthodoxies, breaking every political rule, who is looking closer and closer to becoming the nominee of the Republican Party and potentially, after that, the president of the United States, and has done so in a way that has unleashed all kinds of instability and very dangerous and dark sentiments in the United States.
In Brazil, the instability is far greater. I was just writing for an American audience, trying to get them to understand the level of instability by saying that, actually, what’s happening in Brazil is much greater in terms of the disruption than what’s happening as a result of Donald Trump’s successful candidacy, because it pervades almost every economic and political institution. And what you really see is this young democracy in Brazil that is now being threatened as a result of this really opportunistic and exploitative attack on the part of the country’s richest media outlets and richest factions to essentially undo the result of four consecutive democratic elections by trying to remove a democratically elected president—she was just re-elected in 2014—on totally fictitious grounds of pretext. And it’s really quite dangerous once you start, you know, sort of undermining the fundamentals of democracy in the way that’s currently taking place in Brazil.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, this is interesting that today President Obama is in Argentina, and it was Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, who won the Nobel Prize, Peace Prize, who said he welcomed Obama but thought that the American president should not be going to Argentina on March 24th, because that day, in 1976, 40 years ago, the military staged a coup. Human rights groups estimate something like 30,000 people were killed or disappeared in that coup that followed for the next seven or so years. Esquivel said, “I’m a survivor of that era, of the flights of death, of the torture, of the prisons, of the exiles. And,” he said, “when you analyze the situation in depth, the United States was responsible for the coups in Latin America.” What parallels, if any, do you see? And also talk about Petrobras and the role that it’s playing in all of this, the state oil company in Brazil.
GLENN GREENWALD: You can’t really understand Latin American politics, in general, and the ongoing instabilities and difficulties that almost every country in South America is still plagued by without talking about the central role that the United States has continuously played for decades in trying to control that part of the hemisphere.
In Brazil, like in so many countries, they had a democratically elected government in early 1960s, which the United States disliked because it was a left-wing government—not a communist government, but a left-wing government—that was devoted to the distribution of wealth for the social welfare, for opposing United States’ capitalistic interests and attempts to interfere in Brazil. And the Brazilian military, in 1964, staged a coup that overthrew that democratically elected government, and proceeded to impose on Brazil a really brutal military dictatorship that served the interests of the United States, was allied to the United States for the next 21 years. Of course, at the time, the United States government, U.S. officials, before Congress and in the public eye, vehemently denied that they played any role in that coup. And as happened so many times in the past, documents ultimately emerged years later that showed that not only was the U.S. supportive of that coup, but played a direct role in helping to plot it and plan it and stage it and then prop up that dictatorship for 21 years. That dictatorship used very extreme torture techniques on the nation’s dissidents, on the Brazilian citizens who were working to undermine that right-wing military dictatorship, among whom was the current president, Dilma Rousseff, who in the 1970s was a guerrilla, essentially, working against the U.S.-supported military dictatorship. She was detained and imprisoned without trial and then tortured rather severely. And the documents have revealed that it was the U.S. and the U.K. that actually taught the military leaders the best types of torture techniques to use.
And so, what you have now is not really a repeat of the 1964 coup. It’s not really responsible to say it’s identical to what’s taking place, because the impeachment against Dilma is proceeding under the constitution, which actually does provide for impeachment. There’s an independent judiciary that’s involved in the proceedings. But at the same time, if you go back and look at what happened in 1964 with that coup, the leading media outlets in Brazil, that also hated the left-wing government because it was against their oligarchical interests, justified and supported that coup. They depicted it as necessary to uproot corruption in this left-wing government. You had the same media factions—Globo, and the families who own it, and other media outlets that still persist to today—agitating in favor of the coup and then ultimately supporting the military dictatorship. And so you have similarities in terms of the anti-democratic processes at work that prevailed in 1964 and throughout Latin America in so many other years, where the United States was at the center of.
As far as Petrobras is concerned, Petrobras is the Brazilian-owned oil company, and it has become crucial to Brazil’s economic growth, because as oil prices increased and as Brazil found huge amounts of oil reserve, it was anticipated that Petrobras would essentially be the engine of Brazil’s future economic growth. And it started being drowned, essentially, in profits. And the scandal, the corruption scandal, has Petrobras at the center because it largely involves Petrobras paying bribes to various construction companies, that they would essentially hire private construction companies to build various platforms and other infrastructure for Petrobras for oil exploration, and they would essentially pay far more than what the contract really called for, and there would then be kickbacks to the head of the construction company, but also to Petrobras and to the politicians who control Petrobras. And that really is what this corruption scandal was triggered by, was the discovery of huge numbers, huge amounts—you’re talking about millions and millions of dollars in kickbacks and bribes to the politicians, in virtually every significant party in Brazil, that control Petrobras. Virtually nobody is unaffected by it. And the more they’ve investigated, the more people have turned state’s evidence, the more corruption has been discovered, to the point where even if you now do impeach Dilma, it’s almost impossible to envision somebody who could take her place who isn’t far more implicated in that corruption than she is.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Glenn Greenwald, we are going to break, and then, when we come back, we’re going to move from Brazil to Brussels, to the attacks there and the response by the U.S. presidential candidates. We’re talking to the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, co-founder of The Intercept. And we’ll link to hispiece in this segment, “Brazil Is Engulfed by Ruling Class Corruption—and a Dangerous Subversion of Democracy.” We’ll be back with him in a moment.
WikiLeaks Reveal Brazil’s New Coup President Is ‘US Informant’
Whistleblower website WikiLeaks described the Senate-imposed President of Brazil Michel Temer as a “U.S. Embassy informant” in a tweet and provided two links where Temer’s candid thoughts on Brazilian politics serve as the basis for a report by the U.S. embassy in Brazil.
The cable from Jan. 11, 2006, states that Temer met with embassy officials on Jan. 9, 2006 to give his assessment of Brazil’s political landscape ahead of the 2006 general election that saw Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva reelected to the presidency.
Temer became interim president after the Brazilian Senate voted to proceed with an impeachment trial against President Dilma Rousseff, forcing her to step down for a period of 180 days.
Temer has been criticized for making clear his intention of pursuing a pro-business, neoliberal program as president, despite the fact that Rousseff and her Workers’ Party were reelected on the basis of a progressive program of social investment and wealth redistribution.
The leaked cable indicates that Temer has always held a neoliberal outlook.
“Temer criticized Lula’s narrow vision and his excessive focus on social safety net programs that don’t promote growth or economic development,” reads the cable from Jan 11, 2006.
The cable also reveals that in 2006 Temer’s party, the PMDB, was considering an alliance with both the leftist Workers’ Party and the right-wing PSDB.
The PMDB’s tendency to switch sides would later prove to be a critical element in efforts by Brazilian elites to oust Rousseff.
Despite having been elected vice president alongside Rousseff, Temer betrayed his former allies and joined in efforts to oust the president via impeachment.
A June 21, 2006 cable shows Temer held a second meeting with U.S. embassy staff to once again appraise them on the political situation in Brazil.
In that cable Temer laments the lack of power given to PMDB ministers during the Lula government.
“Temer spoke caustically of the Lula administration’s miserly rewards for its allies in the PMDB,” reads the cable.
Temer’s bitterness over being left out of Rousseff’s governance decisions was said to be one of the factors that motivated his eventual support for her impeachment.
With Rousseff Out, Brazil’s Interim President Installs Conservative All-White, All-Male Cabinet
Democracy Now! May 13, 2016
NERMEEN SHAIKH: We begin today’s show with the political turmoil engulfing Brazil. On Thursday, the country’s former vice president, Michel Temer, assumed power as interim president after the Senate voted to suspend President Dilma Rousseff and begin impeachment proceedings. She is accused of tampering with accounts in order to hide a budget shortfall. The 55-to-22 vote followed more than 20 hours of debate. One politician described it as, quote, “the saddest day for Brazil’s young democracy.” Rousseff called it a coup. She gave a defiant speech before leaving the presidential palace, where she was greeted and hugged by former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. She vowed to fight the impeachment.
PRESIDENT DILMA ROUSSEFF: [translated] It isn’t an impeachment; it’s a coup. I did not commit high crimes and misdemeanors. There is no justification for an impeachment charge. I don’t have bank accounts abroad. I never received bribes. I never condoned corruption. The trial against me is fragile, legally inconsistent, unjust, unleashed against an honest and innocent person. The greatest brutality that can be committed against any person is to punish them for a crime they did not commit. No injustice is more devastating than condemning an innocent. What is at stake is respect for the ballot box, the sovereign desires of the Brazilian people and the Constitution. What is at stake are the achievements of the last 13 years.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: President Dilma Rousseff has been suspended for up to 180 days or until her Senate trial is concluded. Attorney General José Eduardo Cardozo called the Senate vote a, quote, “historic injustice.”
JOSÉ EDUARDO CARDOZO: [translated] An honest and innocent woman is, right at this moment, being condemned. A judicial pretense is being used to oust a legitimately elected president over acts which have been practiced by all previous governments. A historic injustice is being committed; an innocent person is being condemned.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: The new interim president is not part of Rousseff’s Workers’ Party, but a member of the opposition PMDB party. Temer has been implicated in Brazil’s massive corruption scandal involving state-owned oil company Petrobras. Several of his top advisers are also under investigation, and just last week he was ordered to pay a fine for violating campaign finance limits. After Thursday’s vote, he vowed to, quote, “restore respect” to Brazil’s government.
INTERIM PRESIDENT MICHEL TEMER: [translated] My first word to the Brazilian people is the word “trust”—trust in the values that form the character of our people, the vitality of our democracy; trust in the recuperation of our country’s economy, our country’s potential and its social and political institutions.
AMY GOODMAN: Michel Temer was sworn in Thursday along with a new Cabinet that is all white and all male, making this the first time since 1979 no women have been in the Cabinet. The New York Times reports Temer attempted to appoint a woman to oversee human rights policies, but faced blowback after it became clear she had voted in favor of legislation to make it difficult for women who are raped to get abortions. Temer also offered the Science Ministry to an evangelical pastor who does not believe in evolution, and, when he faced opposition, made him trade minister instead. On Thursday, dozens of women chained themselves to the gates of Brasília’s Planalto presidential palace to support suspended Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.
FATIMA: [translated] The coup leaders in Brazil are trying to get President Dilma out and are usurping our democracy. They will only get us out of here by force, because we are defending democracy and the elected mandate for more than half of Brazilians.
AMY GOODMAN: All of this comes as Brazil is set to host the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in early August, and parts of the country are facing a Zika outbreak.
For more, we go directly to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where we’re joined by Andrew Fishman, a researcher and reporter for The Intercept, where he’s covered Brazil extensively along with his co-authors Glenn Greenwald and David Miranda.
Andrew Fishman, welcome back to Democracy Now! Talk about what’s happened.
ANDREW FISHMAN: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: The president, or I should say at this point the suspended president, Dilma Rousseff, has called what’s happening in Brazil a coup.
ANDREW FISHMAN: Yes, there’s been a concerted action to remove her from office by the leaders of the opposition in Congress and also by the media. The current interim president, Michel Temer, was, before, her vice president. They ran together twice. And he was, until very recently, her ally. And so, she’s had very strong words against him for being one of the leaders to remove her from power. The Workers’ Party was—has been in power. They’ve won four straight elections. They had—they have great popular support, or they had, at least until recently, once the economy started going sour. And as is the case in basically any country, once the economy goes south, so does the approval rating of the president.
The opposition, seeing a chance to finally take advantage of this moment and get into—get into a position of power, decided that this is the moment, and they started pushing this case for impeachment, which, even though a lot of the coverage that you’ve seen, and especially down here in Brazil, has been based on corruption, corruption, corruption, and the corruption case in Petrobras, the state oil company, this has nothing to do with her corruption—with her impeachment proceedings. She’s being impeached on a technicality of some financial accounting measures, where she used some state-sponsored banks to cover some short-term deficits, which were all paid back in the end. Basically, any jurist says that this is not—does not rise to the level of an impeachable offense, although the opposition has run with it. But in the discussion that they’ve had going forward, they’ve always focused on the impeachment angle—or, the corruption angle, because it’s much more powerful. And the Brazilian people are really fed up with corruption.
One thing that’s really noteworthy is that while the majority of the Brazilian population does support President Rousseff’s—or, former President Rousseff’s removal from office, the majority all support, in similar margin—want President Temer impeached, because they think that he’s also—that he is involved in corruption, unlike Dilma, where there’s no proof that she is. It’s very possible that she is involved and she knew about the schemes, but there’s no evidence to that nature, whereas there is much greater evidence that Temer and his allies are involved actively in corruption and illicit enrichment. Only 8 percent of the population wants Temer as president, which is shocking. In a most—in a recent poll, 2 percent of the population said that they would vote for him. If it weren’t for this impeachment, which they call a coup, it would have been impossible for someone like Michel Temer to become the president of Brazil.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Andrew Fishman, you mentioned that what Dilma Rousseff is charged with is not in fact an impeachable offense, and many jurists agree on that. So how is it that she’s been impeached?
ANDREW FISHMAN: Yeah, and, of course, I mean, there are people—there are jurists aligned with the opposition that say that it certainly is, it certainly does rise to the level. But, you know, international observers far and wide, from international organizations to the press, to diplomats, to a Nobel Peace Prize winner in Argentina who fought against the military dictatorship there, have all agreed that this is not an impeachable offense, and therefore some call it a coup. Others say, at the very least, it is certainly an antidemocratic, undemocratic action to remove her from power.
AMY GOODMAN: On Thursday, Marcelo Ninio, from the Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo, questioned U.S. State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau about the situation in Brazil.
MARCELO NINIO: I wanted to ask about Brazil first. It’s—what the State Department and the U.S. government expect about the relationship with the interim government? And has there been any communication yet with the new government?
ELIZABETH TRUDEAU: Well, I can’t speak to our embassy communication there. You know, as you know, we maintain a strong bilateral relationship between our two countries. As the two largest democracies in the hemisphere, Brazil and the United States are committed partners. You know, we cooperate with Brazil on a number of issues—you know, trade, security, environment. We expect that’ll continue.
AMY GOODMAN: So that’s the U.S. State Department, Andrew Fishman. And Pravda, an article in Pravda, explained that over the last few years the BRICS nations—you know, that’s Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—have become a significant geopolitical threat to the interests of the United States. And again, this is Pravda, the Russian paper, said it’s quite possible the CIA is involved in the plan to stage riots in Brazil nationwide, that U.S. intelligence agencies are involved with this coup. Is there any evidence of this?
ANDREW FISHMAN: I mean, there has been plenty of speculation about this. Obviously, the CIA operates in secrecy, so it’s difficult to say one way or another. Dilma herself has said that there’s absolutely no proof to that nature. I have not seen anything that convinces me that that’s the case. Again, who knows what the actual situation is?
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Andrew Fishman, even though—
ANDREW FISHMAN: But also, the State Department spokesman also said that she’s not sure if the—if anyone from the United States has reached out to President Temer to congratulate him. They referred to the White House. Josh Earnest, the spokesperson for the White House, then said, “You should speak to the State Department.” So it’s not clear that even any foreign leaders have gone out to congratulate President Temer, although the statement that the State Department spokesman made, saying that they believe that Brazil will continue to function within democratic means and the democratic systems and will be strengthened, it’s a tacit show of support. I mean, they haven’t come out strongly one way or another in public saying that they’re for or against impeachment, because really that’s—the implication of that would be so strong. It would be—if it were in fact that the United States wanted this, wanted the Temer administration above Dilma’s administration—and I believe that is the case, that they much prefer, as the foreign investors much prefer, having Temer—at least that’s what they’ve shown, based on his statements. Just making that statement that—reaffirming the democratic nature of this movement, which is clearly antidemocratic, that says a lot, even though it’s done quite in diplomatic terms.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Dilma Rousseff’s suspension is temporary, but some are saying that it seems all but certain that she’ll be permanently removed from office. Is that correct?
ANDREW FISHMAN: Yeah. It would take some sort of miracle or massive change in the political landscape for her not to be—for the vote to not go through. You need a two-thirds vote in the Senate for her to be impeached after the trial. They already had that number, and then a few more, voting for the—this initial vote the other day. So, I mean, unless something massive were to change, it seems quite clear.
And the—I mean, the only people that could really intervene right now would be the Supreme Court. They’ve shown that they also prefer the Temer presidency. They want this. They think that Temer is the quickest path to resolve the political crisis and to move forward from the chaos that’s currently going on. And they’ve said—they said so quite explicitly in some statements that they’ve given to the press, which, as an American coming from the U.S. context, where at least the Supreme Court in the United States tries to maintain the appearance of impartiality in maintaining pure judicial decisions, in this case they’ve made statements that show that they’re making very political calculations in their decisions, as has the prosecutor general.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you, Andrew, about an article by Greg Grandin about who’s profiting from this coup, as Dilma Rousseff has called it. Grandin wrote in The Nation, a piece that was headlined, “A Slavers’ Coup in Brazil?: Among the many groups pushing for the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, one is seldom discussed: companies that profit from slavery.” In the article, Grandin notes Rousseff’s Workers’ Party creates a—created a “dirty list” of “hundreds of companies and individual employers who were investigated by labor prosecutors and found to be using slaves.” Grandin goes on to write that one of the members of the opposition that’s pushed for Rousseff’s impeachment directly profits from slave labor. According to Grandin, Congressman Beto Mansur is, quote, “charged with keeping 46 workers at his soybean farms in Goiás State in conditions so deplorable that investigators say the laborers were treated like modern-day slaves.” Andrew Fishman, what business interests have aligned themselves against Dilma Rousseff? And what about this congressman?
ANDREW FISHMAN: Yeah, and going one step further even, I mean, Greg’s article was about a week ago, and just yesterday, President Temer installed his Cabinet, his ministers. The agricultural minister is a massive soybean farmer who has huge tracts of land, they’ve—responsible for massive deforestation, and he’s been personally linked to slavery. His time in Congress, he actually introduced a bill to try and limit the definition of what slavery actually is, to try and help himself and his partners and his business interests. Slavery is a massive problem in Brazil. Brazil has plenty of social problems. This, slavery, is obviously one that should not exist in the modern world; however, it clearly does here and around the world. If you go out into the interior of the country, which is massive tracts of wilderness, it’s basically wild, wild West out there. There’s very little law. Journalists, activists, anyone who tries to push back against these massive corporate interests, who have benefited greatly under the PT government time in the last 10, 12 years, they are all—they’re all able to use this sort of slavery, because they have no—there’s basically no rule of law to stop them from doing so.
So, yeah, the massive agribusiness has aligned themselves against Dilma and have actually said that they want—wanted her to be impeached, as has big industrialist groups and as has the media, which is also a huge industry here, obviously. But all these groups benefited greatly under President Rousseff and President Lula da Silva. Just last year, they’ve had hundreds of millions of reais, you know, over the time—hundreds and billions of dollars in subsidies that have gone to these groups and these industries, and they’ve gotten really rich off of it, much more money than has gone to the social distribution programs, which President Temer has now indicated that he probably will be cutting or reducing. So, it’s an interesting moment. I think that they never really were entirely aligned with the PT, but it was a pact of political convenience: They saw a way to get a deal, a way to get their interests met. Now that the economy has gone down slightly and her popularity has gone down dramatically, it seemed like a good opportunity for them to push back with their more conventional allies, which are the PSDB and the PMDB.
AMY GOODMAN: Andrew Fishman, thanks for joining us, researcher, reporter for The Intercept, has covered Brazil extensively, along with Glenn Greenwald and David Miranda, speaking to us from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Trump Is a Symptom Not the Disease December 16, 2015Posted by rogerhollander in Right Wing, Trump, Uncategorized.
Tags: donald trump, fasscism, hamid dabashi, islamophobia, muslim, racism, roger hollander, trump, zionism
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Jeb ‘Put Me Through Hell’ February 27, 2015Posted by rogerhollander in Constitution, Criminal Justice, Jeb Bush, Right Wing.
Tags: 2016 election, bob schindler, jeb bush, jeff nguyen, michael kruse, michael schiavo, right to life, right wing, roger hollander, roman catholic, terri schiavo, terri's law
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Roger’s note: I post this article so that you can get an idea of what kind of man is the very possible next US president. This is a well researched piece of investigative journalism, and the apparent reason for this labor is to warn of us of a possible future president who is an uncompromising ideologue who puts himself above the law. Now, I have no love for Jeb Bush, but I find something ironic in this.
Most presidents do in fact put themselves above the law and usually get away with it. Poor Dick Nixon put himself so far above the law that he ended up hoisted on his own petard. He is the exception. The current and penultimate president have taken this putting themselves above the law to new heights (including but not limited to brutal torture, drone missile mass murder and presidential kill lists). Tricky Dick would be envious. Irony number one, you can warn us all you want about Jeb Bush, but you can bet on the fact that whomever becomes the next president — from super-hawk Democrat Hillary Clinton to the wackiest of the Republican menagerie — will continue in this honored tradition.
Irony number two: as you will see, in the end Bush did in fact respect the law when all political channels had been exhausted, and, as you will also see, the nut case murderous pro-lifers (sic) saw him thus as a traitor to the cause.
Finally, thanks to Jeff Nguyen for posting this on his excellent Blog (www.deconstructingmyths.com).
Posted on January 19, 2015by Jeff Nguyen
Once in a while I come across an article that, in my not-so-humble opinion, is so outstanding, I want to share it with anyone who will listen. I especially enjoy long-form articles which can provide a venue for deep dives into genres such as creative nonfiction or narrative journalism. I would now like to present the Longform series…
Jeb ‘Put Me Through Hell’
By Michael Kruse
CLEARWATER, Fla.—Sitting recently on his brick back patio here, Michael Schiavo called Jeb Bush a vindictive, untrustworthy coward.
For years, the self-described “average Joe” felt harassed, targeted and tormented by the most important person in the state.
“It was a living hell,” he said, “and I blame him.”
Michael Schiavo was the husband of Terri Schiavo, the brain-dead woman from the Tampa Bay area who ended up at the center of one of the most contentious, drawn-out conflicts in the history of America’s culture wars. The fight over her death lasted almost a decade. It started as a private legal back-and-forth between her husband and her parents. Before it ended, it moved from circuit courts to district courts to state courts to federal courts, to the U.S. Supreme Court, from the state legislature in Tallahassee to Congress in Washington. The president got involved. So did the pope.
But it never would have become what it became if not for the dogged intervention of the governor of Florida at the time, the second son of the 41st president, the younger brother of the 43rd, the man who sits near the top of the extended early list of likely 2016 Republican presidential candidates. On sustained, concentrated display, seen in thousands of pages of court records and hundreds of emails he sent, was Jeb the converted Catholic, Jeb the pro-life conservative, Jeb the hands-on workaholic, Jeb the all-hours emailer—confident, competitive, powerful, obstinate Jeb. Longtime watchers of John Ellis Bush say what he did throughout the Terri Schiavo case demonstrates how he would operate in the Oval Office. They say it’s the Jebbest thing Jeb’s ever done.
The case showed he “will pursue whatever he thinks is right, virtually forever,” said Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida. “It’s a theme of Jeb’s governorship: He really pushed executive power to the limits.”
“If you want to understand Jeb Bush, he’s guided by principle over convenience,” said Dennis Baxley, a Republican member of the Florida House of Representatives during Bush’s governorship and still. “He may be wrong about something, but he knows what he believes.”
And what he believed in this case, and what he did, said Miami’s Dan Gelber, a Democratic member of the state House during Bush’s governorship, “probably was more defining than I suspect Jeb would like.”
For Michael Schiavo, though, the importance of the episode—Bush’s involvement from 2003 to 2005, and what it might mean now for his almost certain candidacy—is even more viscerally obvious.
Jeb Bush speaks to reporters during a news conference about Terri Schiavo on March 18, 2005. | AP Photo
“He should be ashamed,” he said. “And I think people really need to know what type of person he is. To bring as much pain as he did, to me and my family, that should be an issue.”
November 10, 1984, is when they got married; February 25, 1990, is when she collapsed, early in the morning, in their apartment in St. Petersburg, for reasons that never were determined with specificity but had something to do with a potassium imbalance probably caused by aggressive dieting. Michael Schiavo woke up when he heard her fall. She was facedown, feet in the bathroom, head in the hall. He called 911. Police noted in their report “no signs of trauma to her head or face.” The ambulance raced to the closest hospital, but her heart had stopped, robbing her brain of oxygen, and the damage was catastrophic. A court named her husband her guardian that June. Her parents didn’t object. All of this was before Bush was elected. And after years of rehabilitation, of waiting for any sign of improvement and seeing none, Michael Schiavo decided to remove the feeding tube that kept his wife alive, saying she had told him and others she never would’ve wanted to be this way.
To this, Terri Schiavo’s parents objected. Bob and Mary Schindler, Catholics, argued that their daughter, also Catholic, would want to live, even so debilitated.
She had left no will. No written instructions. She was 26. To try to determine what she would have wanted, there was a trial, in the Pinellas County courtroom of circuit judge George Greer, in which Michael Schiavo relayed what she had told him in passing about what her wishes would be in this sort of scenario. Others did, too. She also had next to no chance of recovery, according to doctors’ testimony. Greer cited “overwhelming credible evidence” that Terri Schiavo was “totally unresponsive” with “severe structural brain damage” and that “to a large extent her brain has been replaced by spinal fluid.” His judgment was that she would not have wanted to live in her “persistent vegetative state” and that Michael Schiavo, her husband and her legal guardian, was allowed to remove her feeding tube.
“DONE AND ORDERED,” he wrote on February 11, 2000.
The St. Petersburg Times had covered the trial. Bush, a year and a month into his first term, started hearing about it almost immediately. Staffers replied at first with a variety of form responses.
“The Florida Constitution prohibits the Governor’s intervention in matters that should be resolved through the court system,” read one. But here’s what else it said: “As a concerned citizen, you have the opportunity to influence legislation pertaining to guardianship matters in cases similar to Terri’s. By contacting your local legislative delegation, such as your senator or representative, new legislation can be introduced. If such a bill ever comes before the Governor for signature, he will certainly remember your views.”
Bush couldn’t do anything. Laws didn’t let him. But that didn’t mean he didn’t want to. He did.
He heard from Terri Schiavo’s father in April 2001. “Allow me to introduce myself,” Bob Schindler wrote in an email. He told the governor his daughter had been “falsely depicted” as a “hopeless vegetable.” He told the governor she was indeed “responsive to family and friends.” “I desperately need your help,” he said, adding that “Terri’s case may be beyond your realm of authority”—Schindler knew it, too—“but I sincerely believe you could be helpful.”
Staffers didn’t respond to Bob Schindler’s email. The governor did.
Mr. Schindler, thank you for writing. I am asking that Charles Canady look into your daughter’s case.
Canady had been a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives. He later would be an appellate judge in Florida. He is now a state Supreme Court judge. At the time, though, he was Bush’s top staff attorney.
Meanwhile, the Schindlers appealed, asking for new trials, asking for delays, asking for Greer to recuse himself, asking to remove Michael Schiavo as her guardian based on unproven allegations of abuse and neglect and because he now was living with another woman with whom he had children, asking for new doctors who might make new diagnoses—and they were sufficiently successful to stretch the case into the summer of 2003. Media coverage had intensified, especially on conservative talk radio and websites, and activists convinced the Schindlers to violate a court order and post on the Internet snippets of videos of their daughter appearing to respond to what was going on around her. They also continued their zealous email campaign to attempt to prevent what they saw as imminent court-dictated murder. The top target of their efforts? Bush.
“I’m really limited on what I can do,” the governor reiterated to the conservative online publication World Net Daily in August. A judge had made a decision. Other judges had upheld the decision.
The emails flooded the governor’s inbox.
Bush responded by sending a letter to Greer. He acknowledged it was out of the ordinary. “I normally would not address a letter to the judge in a pending legal proceeding,” Bush wrote. “However, my office has received over 27,000 emails reflecting understandable concern for the well-being of Terri Schiavo.”
Greer said he respected the governor’s position. Then he put the letter with everything else in the already massive file.
“This isn’t his concern,” Michael Schiavo told reporters, “and he should stay out of it.”
He didn’t. Bush filed a federal court brief on October 7 supporting the Schindlers’ efforts. A judge said his court lacked the jurisdiction to do anything.
The feeding tube was to come out on October 15.
Bush met with the Schindlers. He told them his staff attorneys were conferring with experts on the Florida Constitution to see if he could intervene. “He does not have the authority to overrule a court order,” his spokesman told reporters.
The emails didn’t stop.
They came from all over the country. They begged him. They used capital letters. They used exclamation points. They told him to talk to God. They told him there were laws higher than man’s laws and that he, as a Catholic like Terri Schiavo, like her parents, should know that and should act on it and that he had to. “DO NOT LET HER DIE!!!” said a man from Michigan. “Let’s see what kind of compassionate conservative you really are,” said a man from Jacksonville. “If you have any aspirations for a higher office,” said a man from California, “don’t let this be the rallying cry for those who would oppose you.”
To most of them, he didn’t respond—to many, though, he did.
“It is very sad,” he wrote.
“I cannot issue an executive order when there is a court order upheld at every level in the judiciary. … I wish I could but I have no legal authority to do so,” he wrote.
“I am sickened by this situation and pray for her family. We have looked at every angle, every legal possibility, and will continue to do so,” he wrote.
The emails kept coming.
“I hope George W. Bush is president some day,” former Republican Party chairman Rich Bond told the late Marjorie Williams, writing for Talk magazine in September 2000. “I know Jeb will be.”
“I want to be able to look my father in the eye and say, ‘I continued the legacy,’” he told the Miami Herald in 1994.
That year, he ran for governor of Florida—as an ultra-conservative, a “head-banging conservative,” as he put it—and lost. In 1998, he ran again, sanding those hard-right edges—and won.
But one constant from the first campaign to the next and beyond: what Bush said he believed was the right role of government. “Government needs to be constrained,” he said in speeches in 1994. “We should be finding practical solutions where we provide incentives for people to take care of themselves.” “Our lack of self-governance is the single biggest reason we’ve seen the growth of government,” he said in 1995. “Good government,” he wrote that year in his book Profiles in Character, “is grounded in its limitations.”
In 1999, in his first inaugural address, he said, “let state government give families and individuals greater freedom”—also, though, “let state government touch the spiritual face of Florida.” In the speech, he mentioned “our Creator” and “the Divine Giver” and said “state government can draw much from these reservoirs of faith.” He was raised as an Episcopalian but became a Catholic because that’s how his Mexican wife grew up. It also suited his disposition. He wrote in Profiles in Character that he believed in the need for a “renewal of virtue” and “passing moral judgments.” He once said “the conservative side” of an issue is “the correct one” because “it just is.”
Bush, 6-foot-4 and stout, quickly established himself as the most powerful governor in Florida history, according to University of North Florida political science professor Matthew Corrigan and others. His ascension coincided with both houses of the state legislature being Republican majorities for the first time since Reconstruction. Voters also opted to alter the state constitution to shrink the size of the cabinet, leaving the governor, the position itself, with more executive power. Bush did a lot with it. He was reelected in 2002, easily, winning 61 of the state’s 67 counties. By this time, of course, his brother was the president.
“He didn’t get told no very often,” Corrigan said.
“My gift, perhaps,” Bush would say toward the end of his two-term tenure, in an interview with the Tampa Tribune, “is that with this office now, we’ve shown that governors can be activist …”
So on October 15, 2003, Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube came out. Judge’s orders. She would die within two weeks. This stage of the case looks in retrospect like the start of a test. Just how much power did Jeb Bush have?
HB 35E was filed after 8 at night on October 20. Many lawmakers already were gone for the day. Gelber, the state representative from Miami, put his suit back on at his apartment in Tallahassee and hustled back to the Capitol. Fellow Democrats gathered around as the attorney and former prosecutor began to read the bill one of Bush’s staff attorneys had helped to write.
“Authority for the Governor to Issue a One-time Stay …”
Gelber looked up.
“I don’t have to read anymore,” he said. “It’s clearly unconstitutional.”
“The governor can’t just change an order of the court,” Gelber explained this month. “It’s one of the most elemental concepts of democracy: The governor is not a king.”
The rest of the language described a situation involving a patient with no written will, in a persistent vegetative state, with a family conflict, whose feeding tube had been removed. Terri Schiavo. It gave the governor a 15-day window to step in.
“The courts have listened to sworn testimony and they have determined, court after court, one way,” said state Senator Alex Villalobos, a Republican from Miami.
But it passed in the House, and it passed in the Senate.
Bush signed it, and Chapter No. 2003-418, “Terri’s Law,” as it came to be known, was official less than 22 hours after it had been introduced. He then issued Executive Order 03-201. “The Florida Department of Law Enforcement shall serve a copy of this Executive Order upon the medical facility currently providing care for Theresa Schiavo,” it stated. A police-escorted ambulance whisked her from her hospice in Pinellas Park to a nearby hospital to have her feeding tube put back in.
“The citizens of Florida should be alarmed by what is happening,” George Felos, one of Michael Schiavo’s attorneys, told reporters. “This is not the former Soviet Bloc, where you don’t have the liberty to control your own body.”
Even one of the law’s architects up in Tallahassee expressed unease.
“I hope, I really do hope, we’ve done the right thing,” Republican state Senate president Jim King said. “I keep thinking, ‘What if Terri Schiavo really didn’t want this at all?’ May God have mercy on us all.”
Bush had no such qualms.
“I honestly believe we did the right thing,” the governor wrote to one emailer.
The emails poured in. Some chided him. More praised him.
One arrived with the subject line “Oh Great One!!” Another woman wondered: “How does it feel to be not only a child of God’s, but to actually feel His Hand guiding you and using you as an instrument to do His work on earth?” A husband and wife wrote to him from near Philadelphia: “I wish we lived in Florida and could support you directly—maybe you’ll run for President one day??”
“Yes,” said President George W. Bush, in late October, at a news conference in the Rose Garden, “I believe my brother made the right decision.”
“Terri’s Law” had mandated the appointment of a guardian ad litem, and Jay Wolfson, a respected lawyer and professor of public health at the Stetson University College of Law and the University of South Florida, issued his report in December. Wolfson had spent a month reading the court records, observing Terri Schiavo, meeting with Michael Schiavo and the Schindlers and their attorneys, and also the governor, who struck him as “a very intense, highly committed, very informed, faith-driven person who believed in doing the right thing, and doing so through the governor’s office.”
Left: A supporter of Terri Schiavo keeps vigil outside the hospice where she was being held in Pinellas Park, Florida. Right: Mary Porta prays for Terri Schiavo in Pinellas Park, Florida. | Getty Images
None of this was “easy stuff,” Wolfson noted in his report, “and should not be.” Nonetheless, he wrote, Terri Schiavo was in “a persistent vegetative state with no likelihood of improvement” and “cannot take oral nutrition or hydration and cannot consciously interact with her environment.” He wrote that the practically unprecedented amount of litigation consisted of “competent, well-documented information” and was “firmly grounded within Florida statutory and case law.”
In parts, too, Wolfson was prescient: “The Governor’s involvement has added a new and unexpected dimension to the litigation. It is reasonable to expect that the exquisite lawyering will continue, and the greatly enhanced public visibility of the case may increase the probability of more litigation, more parties entering as interveners, and efforts to expand the case into federal jurisdiction.”
Soon after that, the pope weighed in.
Without using the name Terri Schiavo, but clearly referring to her, John Paul II said “the administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act. Its use, furthermore, should be considered in principle, ordinary and proportionate, and as such morally obligatory …”
Back in Florida, though, the courts were focused not so much on what was “morally obligatory” but more on what was legally mandatory.
A circuit judge ruled Bush’s “Terri’s Law” unconstitutional.
“The court must assume that this extraordinary legislation was enacted with the best intentions and prompted by sincere motives,” W. Douglas Baird wrote in his ruling. He then quoted Daniel Webster, a lawyer and senator, who died in 1852: “It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.”
The Schindlers’ attorneys appealed. The Florida Supreme Court was up next.
Bob Destro, an attorney and professor at the law school at the Catholic University of America in Washington, joined Bush’s legal team and emerged from meetings with the governor thinking “this was something he felt very deeply about … that this was a decision that he made, personally, and that he saw this as a question of an injustice being done.”
The state supreme court judges listened to arguments the last day of August.
After the hearing was over, outside the courthouse in Tallahassee, Michael Schiavo angrily asked reporters about the whereabouts of Bush.
“If this was so important to the governor, where is he?” he said. He then got personal, referring to Bush’s daughter, Noelle, who had been arrested in 2002 after trying to buy Xanax with a forged prescription and then relapsed in rehab. “I can remember you sitting here in front of every one of these reporters with tears in your eyes when your daughter had problems,” he raged, “and you asked for privacy and you got it. Why aren’t you giving me my privacy and Terri her privacy?”
The seven state supreme court judges took less than a month to dismiss unanimously “Terri’s Law.”
“If the Legislature with the assent of the Governor can do what was attempted here,” chief justice Barbara Pariente wrote in her ruling, “the judicial branch would be subordinated to the final directive of the other branches. Also subordinated would be the rights of individuals, including the well-established privacy right to self-determination. No court judgment could ever be considered truly final and no constitutional right truly secure, because the precedent of this case would hold to the contrary. Vested rights could be stripped away based on popular clamor. The essential core of what the Founding Fathers sought to change from their experience with English rule would be lost …”
Bush told reporters he was “disappointed, not for any political reasons, but for the moral reasons.” He said he didn’t think it had been “a full hearing.” Legal analysts disagreed. They called the ruling a categorical rebuke of what Bush had done.
The governor responded by petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision.
The words at the top of the docket of the country’s highest court were black-and-white blunt about what this had become: JEB BUSH, Governor of the State of Florida, v. MICHAEL SCHIAVO, Guardian: Theresa Schiavo.
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review it.
“It means that the governor’s interference in this case has ended,” said Felos, Michael Schiavo’s attorney.
“This matter is now at an end for the governor,” said Ken Connor, another one of Bush’s attorneys.
It did not. It was not.
That week, Connor, the Bush attorney, sent an email to two of Bush’s staff attorneys. “Here is an op-ed I drafted for Dan Webster,” Connor wrote. Connor was active in social conservative causes and organizations. Webster was a Florida state senator, and this Dan Webster, not the lawyer and senator from the 1800s, had beliefs that couldn’t have been more different than those of his namesake.
The op-ed Connor had written ran under Webster’s name on Page 10A of USA Today on January 27, 2005. “By any definition, Terri Schiavo is alive,” the op-ed said. “She has now been issued a death sentence by the courts.” Serial killers, like Ted Bundy, it said, had more rights on death row than Terri Schiavo did at her hospice.
Connor talked on the phone with Dave Weldon, a Republican Congressman from Florida who also was a doctor. Weldon says Connor called him; Connor says it was the other way around—either way, it led to Weldon meeting with the Schindlers in Washington.
At left, Bobby Schindler attends a special session in Congress to express his sentiments before a right-to-die debate among senators and representatives. At right, activists pray in front of the U.S. Supreme Court for Terri Schiavo on March 24, 2005. | Getty Images
“They showed me some videos of them walking into her room and calling her name and her face lit up and she smiled,” Weldon, no longer in Congress, said this month. “They said, ‘She does that all the time, she’s not a vegetable,’ and they said a bunch of stuff about the husband and were very critical of him, that he had a new girlfriend or something like that. And I felt very compelled.” That, he said, is when he “got Mel Martinez involved.”
Martinez, then a Republican from Florida in the U.S. Senate, talked with Bush. “He’s been saying, ‘I’m not sure we can get it done here in Florida,’” Martinez told the Palm Beach Post. Martinez told Bush he and Bill Frist, at the time the Senate majority leader, were ready to do what they could in Washington but that it wouldn’t be easy.
On March 14, a woman from Clearwater named Pamela Hennessy, who had helped stoke the email onslaught that spurred “Terri’s Law,” emailed Bush, too. She attached a letter she had addressed to the hospice saying she intended to “file formal complaints” to the state Department of Children and Families. The hope was that the agency charged with protecting mainly kids and the elderly might intervene in this case.
Bush wrote back: “thank you Pamela.”
On March 18, in Pinellas Park, Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube was removed again.
“If she dies, I will kill Michael Schiavo and the judge,” a woman in California wrote on an AOL message board. “This is real!” She was arrested.
On a different message board, at blogsforterri.com, an anonymous poster called The Coming Conflict declared, “FL gun owners, it’s in your hands.”
Michael Schiavo and the mother of his two kids got letters addressed to their “Illegitimate Bastard Children” talking about how sometimes kids disappear.
Up in Washington, Congress debated the case of Terri Schiavo, searching for possible methods of federal intervention—with Frist and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, both of whom now say they don’t want to talk about it, vowing to work together through the weekend of Palm Sunday if necessary. A memo that came from Martinez’s office called it “a great political issue” for Republicans. Frist, a surgeon from Tennessee, said on the Senate floor that Schiavo didn’t seem to him to be in a vegetative state, based on his viewing of the Schindlers’ video snippets. Senator Rick Santorum from Pennsylvania called the removal of the feeding tube “a sentence that would not be placed on the worst criminal.” Majority Leader Tom DeLay led the way in the House. Santorum and Frist did in the Senate. Few members of Congress spoke against it. South Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was one. “There is no room for the federal government in this most personal of private angst-ridden family members,” she said. Republican John Warner from Virginia was the only senator to speak against it. Hillary Clinton from New York didn’t. Neither did Barack Obama from Illinois. A bill emerged from the Senate after midnight on March 21 that would let the Schindlers ask the federal courts to take another look at the decision made by the state courts.
President Bush flew on Air Force One from vacation in Crawford, Texas, back to Washington to sign it into law just after 1 in the morning.
“Our society, our laws and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life,” he said in a statement.
His brother issued a statement of his own: “I thank the Congress for its swift action allowing Terri’s parents to seek a federal review of the case.” He echoed the op-ed that had run in USA Today. “Certainly, an incapacitated person deserves at least the same protection afforded criminals sentenced to death.”
Michael Schiavo called the federal legislation “outrageous.” If politicians are allowed to meddle with him like this, he said, “they’ll do it to every person in this country.”
A federal judge in Tampa heard attorneys’ arguments for the justification of the relitigation of a case that had been up and down the judicial ladder for the better part of a decade. He said no. The federal legislation had failed. The feeding tube stayed out, and Terri Schiavo neared death.
Bush’s last-ditch effort involved the Department of Children and Families. Attorneys for the state agency made motions to intervene based on thousands of anonymous allegations of abuse against Terri Schiavo. Bush ordered the mobilization of officers from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement—in essence his own police force—and they readied to seize Terri Schiavo if a court order allowed it. “I requested that FDLE in concert with the Department of Children and Families be prepared to enter,” Bush told reporters, “if that was going to be the option available to us”—which it wasn’t, because judges said no. “We were ready to go,” a Bush spokesman told the Miami Herald. “We didn’t want to break the law.”
“I cannot violate a court order,” Bush told CNN on March 27.
People in his email inbox continued to plead with him to do exactly that.
“I do not have the authority that you suggest I have,” Bush responded to one of them. “Under your thesis of executive authority, should I shut down abortion clinics since I abhor abortion?”
On March 30, meanwhile, Bush called a woman in Tampa named Dawn Armstrong, whose husband, Staff Sgt. Robert Armstrong, had died of a heart attack two days before in Camp Shelby, Mississippi, while readying for deployment to Afghanistan. She emailed him later that night, thanking him for “the time you took out of your busy day to express your sorrow for the loss of my husband.”
On March 31, at 6:29 a.m., Bush responded. “Bless you Dawn,” he wrote. “Please let me know if I can be of assistance to you.”
Two and a half hours later, across the bay from Tampa, at the hospice in Pinellas Park, Terri Schiavo died.
Shortly after 12:30, Bush got another email from Dawn Armstrong. “I will be deriving strength from many sources—one source of strength is from you, Governor,” she wrote. “We have witnessed your steadfastness in the face of many challenges for a very long time now …” She continued: “May God grant us all the peace we so long for, in His perfect timing. Take care. I’ll be praying for you and your administration.”
Later that night, just before 9, Bush wrote back.
you are making me cry. Maybe it is the day with Terri’s death. I don’t know but the fact that you would write what you did given your loss, makes me thank God Almighty that there are people like yourself. I am nothing.
Let me know how I can ever be of help to you and your family.
Terri Schiavo’s death did not spell the end of the governor’s intervention in her case.
One email suggested the firing of Greer.
“I will look into this,” the governor responded.
In an email to one of his staff attorneys, less than 48 hours after the death, Bush asked about her autopsy. “We need to get the details of the autopsy,” he wrote, “meaning what was done if possible.”
The staff attorney responded: “I got an update this morning from FDLE. Six board certified examiners participated. They were attuned to the issues involved. Are working on their reports.” She added: “Santorum’s office called me yesterday …”
In early May, Bush gave a speech in Savannah, Georgia, at the state’s Republican convention, in which he stressed that the party had to be uncompromising in what he saw as “a time of moral ambivalence.”
“There is such a thing as right and wrong,” he said. “Republicans cannot continue to win unless we talk with compassion and passion about absolute truth.”
Saxby Chambliss, then a senator from Georgia, followed by telling the crowd he wanted this Bush to be the next Bush in the White House. He asked the people what they thought. They hollered their approval.
In June, the medical examiner released Terri Schiavo’s autopsy, which confirmed what the judges had ruled for years based on the testimony from doctors concerning her prognosis. Her limbs had atrophied, and her hands had clenched into claws, and her brain had started to disappear. It weighed barely more than a pound and a third, less than half the size it would have been under normal circumstances. “No remaining discernible neurons,” the autopsy said. She couldn’t see. She couldn’t feel, not even pain. Forty-one years after her birth, 15 years after her collapse, Terri Schiavo was literally a shell of who she had been.
Bush read the autopsy—then wrote a letter to the top prosecutor in Pinellas County. He raised questions about Michael Schiavo’s involvement in her collapse and about the quickness of his response calling 911. “I urge you,” the governor wrote to Bernie McCabe, “to take a fresh look at this case without any preconceptions as to the outcome.”
McCabe, a Republican, responded less than two weeks later, saying he and his staff “have attempted to follow this sound advice”—without any preconceptions—“unlike some pundits, some ‘experts,’ some email and Web-based correspondents, and even some institutions of government that have, in my view, reached conclusions regarding the controversy …” McCabe’s assessment: “all available records” were “not indicative of criminal activity.”
Bush relented. “I will follow your recommendation,” he wrote to McCabe, “that the inquiry by the state be closed.”
Michael Schiavo buried the ashes of his wife in a cemetery not far from his house.
Today, looking back, what makes Felos, the attorney for Michael Schiavo, angriest about the case is Bush’s letter to McCabe. Even after 18 months of legal wrangling, even after her death, even after the autopsy—after all that—the governor asked a prosecutor to initiate a retroactive criminal investigation of his client. It struck Felos as “odd,” “bizarre”—“personal.”
Michael Schiavo at home. “He should be ashamed,” Schiavo said of Jeb Bush. “To bring as much pain as he did, to me and my family, that should be an issue.” | Maggie Steber/Redux for POLITICO Magazine
“It was such an abuse of authority,” Felos said. “I think that really raises red flags about his character and his fitness to be president. Jeb didn’t get his way in the Schiavo case. I think he tried to take it out on Michael.”
That, Michael Schiavo said this month, is what makes Jeb Bush “vindictive.” “Knowing that he had no standing in this, he made it worse for everybody,” he said. “He made life, for a lot of people—the nursing home people, the local police, lawyers—he made everybody miserable.”
What makes him “untrustworthy,” he said, is that he fought the courts as long as he did just because he didn’t like the decisions they kept making. “I wouldn’t trust him in any type of political office,” he said.
But for the now former governor of Florida, the second son of the 41st president, the younger brother of the 43rd, the man who sits near the top of the extended early list of likely 2016 Republican presidential candidates — what makes him a “coward,” Michael Schiavo said, sitting on his brick back patio, is that they’ve still never talked.
Bush has never said he’s sorry. He wasn’t. What he was sorry about is how it turned out. “I wish I could have done more,” he told reporters the day of the death.
Other politicians have said they’re sorry, though, Michael Schiavo said. “I’ve had politicians come to my home and apologize to me for what they did to me.” Names? “No names.” But he mentioned Barack Obama and something he said during a debate in Cleveland with Hillary Clinton during the Democratic presidential primaries in early 2008. The question was about what he’d like to have back.
“Well, you know, when I first arrived in the Senate that first year,” Obama said, “we had a situation surrounding Terri Schiavo. And I remember how we adjourned with a unanimous agreement that eventually allowed Congress to interject itself into that decision-making process of the families.
“It wasn’t something I was comfortable with, but it was not something I stood on the floor and stopped. And I think that was a mistake, and I think the American people understood that was a mistake. And as a constitutional law professor, I knew better.”
Did Obama apologize to Michael Schiavo? In a call? At his house? “I can’t comment on that,” Schiavo said with a smile.
“But I never heard from Jeb,” he said.
What would Jeb Bush say to Michael Schiavo now? Nothing. He didn’t want to talk about the Schiavo case for this story.
What would Michael Schiavo, though, say to Jeb Bush?
“Bring it on,” he said. “Come visit me. I’m asking you. Almost 10 years later and I still haven’t heard from you.
“Was he afraid to meet with me? To see me? Why? That’s what burns me. You got so much to say—but where are you? You lost against this little ordinary man from Philadelphia. You lost. And then to continue on? Unspeakable.
“Why? Give me an answer. Why? Why? What was Terri Schiavo to you? Why? Tell me why. Why do you think you had the right to be involved? Why would you put me and my family through hell? And what did you gain from that? And after you lost, why did you pursue it? What did you gain from that?”
The emails didn’t stop.
“Please do not run for President of the United States,” a man from Goshen, Connecticut, wrote. “If you cannot protect the life of an innocent woman in Florida, how can I expect you to protect the United States of America as Commander in Chief?”
The governor also heard from people like Rick Warren. “On behalf of everyone who truly understood the issues, thank you for doing all you could for Terri Schiavo,” the evangelical megachurch pastor and author of the bestselling book The Purpose Driven Life wrote to Bush in an email. “It’s a sad ending but you lead the right side with courage and conviction. I’m proud to call you my friend.”
“Thank you so much,” Bush responded. “You have lifted my spirits.”
Bobby Schindler, Terri Schiavo’s brother, emailed to say that “in time everyone in my family will understand your situation and that you were doing your best …” “I think he probably did as much as possible within his jurisdiction at the time,” he added this month.
“I found him to be a person of principles, and I hold his actions in the Schiavo case in esteem,” said David Gibbs III, one of the Schindlers’ attorneys. Gibbs said that as “a devout Catholic,” Bush was “very personally bothered” by the case and that the governor felt what he did “was the right thing to do.”
Polls showed majorities of people in Florida and around the country disagreed. They objected to his intervention as well as the ensuing flurry of federal involvement. Some of the most fervent believers in what he had done turned on him because of what he had not. They said he “blinked.” “He failed us miserably with Terri Schiavo,” Troy Newman, president of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, said this month. “If Jeb had acted, Terri Schiavo would be alive today.”
Still, said Connor, the Bush attorney, “I never, ever heard Jeb Bush waver in the midst of the political fallout. He was steadfast.”
That’s what bothers his critics.
Maggie Steber/Redux for POLITICO Magazine
“He doesn’t accept loss. He doesn’t accept that the answer is no. He couldn’t possibly consider that he may be wrong,” Wasserman Schultz said this month. “If he had the chance to be president, he’ll do what he’s always done—he’ll do everything he can to implement his very rigid, ideological view of how the world should be. Voters are going to have to ask: Do you want a president who thinks the executive, the president, is supreme, above all else? It’s frightening to think about what he could do with that kind of power as president.”
“Trying to write laws that clearly are outside the constitutionality of his state, trying to override the entire judicial system, that’s very, very dangerous,” said Arthur Caplan, a New York University bioethicist who edited a book about the Schiavo case. “When you’re willing to do that, you’re willing to break the back of the country.”
“It was appalling,” said Jon Eisenberg, one of Michael Schiavo’s attorneys and the author of The Right vs. the Right to Die. “And I think it’s important for people to understand what Jeb Bush is willing to do. It’s important for people to know who Jeb Bush is, and the Terri Schiavo case tells us a great deal about who Jeb Bush is.”
The Jebbest thing Jeb’s ever done hasn’t been an issue so far in Bush’s pre-campaign because it won’t help his potential opponents in the primaries. They’re trying to paint him as a moderate. This demonstrates the opposite.
“People who agree he’s a conservative point to the Schiavo case,” Florida International University political science professor Dario Moreno said this month.
So most of the talk has touched on his more measured stances on immigration and Common Core. He’s been portrayed as a cerebral policy wonk in contrast to his father, the solicitous writer of thank you notes, and his brother, the clownin’-around worker of rooms. This bloodless depiction, though, ignores the intensity, the vehemence, the practically gladiatorial certitude with which he pursued what he wanted in the Schiavo case, and more generally the fervid way in which he believes in what he believes—that “absolute truth” he talked about in his speech in Savannah, two months after the death of Terri Schiavo, and one month before he asked the prosecutor to investigate her husband.
(Source: POLITICO Magazine)