No Laughing Matter

Brazilians Elect Clown to Congress,
Now Fidget With His Politician Wages

When the illiterate entertainer Tiririca decided to run for a seat as a federal deputy of Sao Paulo Congress, many laughed. But as his 1,300 million votes have guaranteed him at least four years of living comfortably as a Brazilian politician, very few are still amused.
A recent increase of his wages as a public servant, along with all political rookies taking the oath of office this January, has exacerbated public frustration with the way Brazil rewards its political classes. And some Continue reading

Difficult Conversations – Special Edition

Earthquake, Oil Spill &
Dangerous War Secrets


A Short List of What Have Kept Us Awake in 2010,

and What We May Need to Awake From in the New Year.


1) July 26, December 19. The biggest story of the year, the two-punch WikiLeaks revelations about our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with the startlingly dispirited diplomacy used to achieve them, had all the limitations of an attack led by drones: all fire, no eyesight.
What was far more revealing was the swift counter punch by the U.S. and its allies in reaction to them. Within days, a case of free speech was turned into a terrorist witch-hunt of the organization’s founder, Julian Assange, the Interpol was brought in and a personal misdeed in Sweden was quickly rolled in for good measure.
The effort to punish the messenger was enough to temporarily derail the essence of the allegations, force Assange to fight expatriation and jail term threats, and land Pvt Bradley Manning, his supposedly source, into an insalubrious location Continue reading

Torture 101

Less Protesters at the Gates of
School That Trained Dictators

In the 1960s and 1970s, no South or Central American military dictator worth his boots lacked a diploma from the School of the Americas, a U.S. Department of Defense center that, human rights activists say, provided training for military leaders who went on to become infamous tyrants, led regimes of terror and indiscriminately ordered abductions, torture and killings of political enemies to achieve their goals.
Among the school’s alumni, there were scores of uniformed officers who sat and learned their illegal craft on its benches and went on to help stage violent coups all over the continent, provide the muscle to subjugate and crush millions of frightened Continue reading

Difficult Conversations


Regulate Them, Certainly; Breaking Them Up, Possibly. Borrow from Them? Unlikely

Will Reform Finally Send Banks Back to Their Rightful Role?

* What fraud? Goldman’s $4.36 billion earnings report follows JPMorgan’s, which reported a $3.3 billion profit, Bank of America, $3.2 billion, and Citigroup, $4.4 billion. “We appreciate the support of our clients and shareholders.” Lloyd Blankfein

* JPMorgan Chase, Merrill Lynch (now part of Bank of America), Citigroup, Deutsche Bank and UBS “marketed and sold the CDOs to investors without disclosing Magnetar’s role or the hedge fund’s interests.” ProPublica’s Marian Wang

* “Reform better include language that would (…) block the creation of ‘synthetic C.D.O.s,’ cocktails of credit default swaps that let investores take big bets on assets without actually owning them.” Paul Krugman

* “After even a cursory examination of the treatment of the American middle class by the Wall Street/Washington class over the past few decades, one should also wonder why anyone would ever do business with that crowd again. And yet, there they are, still running things at the Treasury, the Fed, and the National Economic Council.” Arianna Huffington

* “Lefty campaigners can be cranky about business elites. And the suspicion is mutual. Worldwide. Civil society as a rule sees business as, well, a little uncivil. Business tends to see activists as, well, a little too active. But in Africa, at least from what I’ve just seen, this is starting to change.” Bono

* “The American tradition of expanding opportunity from one generation to the next is at risk because we are failing to make the necessary investments in human, physical, and environmental capital.” Irony-free Hamilton Project research paper by Robert Rubin and others

* Presidential scandal: the New York Society Library is accusing George Washington of failing to return two books borrowed in 1789. If the allegations are true, Washington owes about $100,000 in late fees. The library’s ledger also shows that John Adams checked out one book that hasn’t been returned. Neither President or Vice President could be reached for comment. Lowering the Bar

New Continuity Leader

Dilma Rousseff Becomes First

Woman to Preside Over Brazil

There was no spooky surprise and 190 million Brazilians elected President Lula da Silva’s protegee from the Workers’ Party, Dilma Rousseff, as the country’s first female president, in today’s runnoff. She won with an estimated 56% of the votes, beating Social Democrat José Serra without the endorsement of Green Party’s Marina Silva, who came in third place in the first round, a month ago.



Rousseff, a first generation Brazilian who survived cancer, and a Continue reading

NY State of Never Mind

Governor Race Trades Fresh
Ideas for Predictable Outcome

The race for governor of New York may unofficially be between Democrat Andrew Cuomo, the state’s Attorney General, and Buffalo real estate developer Carl Paladino. But for the equally willing five other candidates, the position is a perfect fit to no one but them.
Anti-Prohibition’s Kristin Davis and Rent is Too Damn High’s Jimmy McMillan, in special, really seem to live up to their self-assigned billing. No offense but Green Party’s Howie Hawkins, Libertarian Warren Redlich and Freedom Party’s Charles Barron just lack that certain je nes sais quoi quality these two have plenty of.
Remember Ms. Davis (no, not that Kristin Davis)? This one is the madam convicted for providing “Client #9,”aka former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, with a G-string of sex professionals that ultimately caused his political crash and burn. As a motto, she’d take a pair of handcuffs upstate to teach a thing or two to any nasty lawbreaker – and quite possibly, any naughty lawmaker too. After all, well, you know.
– “Most politicians wait until they get elected to get indicted. I’m saving voters time and money.
And McMillan is the long time serial candidate who’s vowed to employ his lethal Karate skills to deal with the intricacies of Albany politics. At Monday night’s governor race debate, he also sported a pair of menacing black gloves, which he explained had Continue reading

Brand New Day

Military Junta Grants Freedom
to Myanmar’s Opposition Leader

Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who single-handedly personified the struggle of thousands of Myanmar citizens against the country’s military junta, has been released from her seven and a half years of house arrest.
The Oxford-educated daughter of General Aung San, an independence hero assassinated in 1947, she’s been incarcerated for 15 of the past 21 years, since her return to the country that used to be called Burma.
But although as politically articulated as her father was, there’s Continue reading

Walk Backwards

Republicans Foreclose on Democrats
& Vow to Go After Obama’s Policies

So the expected happened and the Democrats lost the majority in the House. A red-faced John Boehner, poised to be the next Speaker, celebrated the Republicans’ biggest achievement of the night: to temporarily erase the recent past from the voters’ minds, and win on a message of change in Washington, stolen from candidate Barack Obama.
Also expected is a two-year battle to preserve the tax cuts for Continue reading