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Trump despreza a mais importante tradição democrática

The Intercept -

Os Estados Unidos são únicos em muitos aspectos, mas o mais importante deles é que temos mais de 240 anos ininterruptos de transições de poder democráticas e pacíficas. As forças armadas seguem ordens de civis e, por isso, nunca tivemos um golpe. Presidentes que perdem eleições deixam o cargo, de forma que nunca tivemos uma revolução armada.

Nenhum outro país no mundo chega perto dos EUA nesse sentido. É, de longe, a mais valiosa herança política do povo americano.

Portanto, não deve ser uma surpresa que alguém com o caráter de Donald Trump se declare satisfeito por jogar a tradição no lixo, como um casino que dá prejuízo ou uma primeira esposa de 40 anos.

Ao ser questionado pelo moderador Chris Wallace se “aceitaria o resultado da eleição inquestionavelmente”, Trump respondeu “vou ver quando a hora chegar” e seguiu com uma longa bravata sobre como a eleição está sendo fraudada em seu detrimento.

O chilique de Trump tem de ser analisado no contexto da história americana: Quase todas as revoluções terminam com os vencedores se agarrando ao poder até serem removidos à força. O aspecto mais impressionante da Revolução Americana não é que George Washington tenha chegado ao poder, mas o fato de ele ter saído do cargo voluntariamente depois de dois mandatos. Os EUA cultivam uma tradição de aceitar o resultado de eleições mesmo sob as condições mais questionáveis. Por exemplo, no final da corrida presidencial de 1968 entre Richard Nixon e Hubert Humphrey, o presidente Johnson descobriu que Nixon vinha negociando secretamente com o governo do Vietnã do Sul para garantir o prolongamento da guerra e impedir o acordo de paz que ajudaria Humphrey.

Johnson pensou em tornar esse fato público. Porém, seu assessor, Clark Clifford, o confidenciou que “alguns elementos da história têm uma natureza tão chocante que estou me perguntando se a revelação da história seria positiva para o país e, possivelmente, acabar elegendo [Nixon]. Isso poderia colocar toda a sua administração sob tamanha dúvida que acho que seria prejudicial aos interesses de nosso país”.

No ano 2000, Al Gore concedeu a vitória a George W. Bush, mesmo que Gore tenha vencido no voto popular, ainda que a recontagem de votos na Flórida tenha ocorrido em um estado governado pelo irmão de Bush, Jeb, e mesmo que os cinco juízes do Supremo Tribunal que votaram pela interrupção da recontagem tenham sido indicados pelo pai de Bush.

Veja o que Gore disse após ligar para Bush:

Stephen Douglas disse a Abraham Lincoln, que havia acabado de derrotá-lo na eleição presidencial, “O sentimento partidário precisa se render ao patriotismo. Estou com você, Senhor Presidente, e Deus o abençoe”.

Bem, nesse mesmo espírito, digo ao Presidente eleito Bush que o que resta de rancor partidário deve ser deixado de lado, e que Deus abençoe sua administração do país.

Muitas coisas e pessoas são denominadas de “não-americanas” e quase nunca isso é verdade. Mas Donald Trump é verdadeiramente “não-americano”.

The post Trump despreza a mais importante tradição democrática appeared first on The Intercept.

Debate Moderators Under the Spell of Deficit-Obsessed Billionaire Pete Peterson

The Intercept -

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, an organization that is virtually unknown outside of Washington, was nonetheless cited in four different questions during this year’s presidential and vice-presidential debates.

Moderators Elaine Quijano and Chris Wallace, seemingly unable to string together an intelligent thought about domestic policy on their own, outsourced their questions to a cabal of self-styled serious grown-ups who believe that advocating for cutting Social Security and Medicare makes them look like paragons of virtue.

But members of Washington’s media elite are virtually the only people left in America still buying the well-funded nonsense CRFB and its Wall Street backers have been selling for decades. Every time their ideas get exposed to the public, they are rejected wholesale. While the D.C. cocktail-party circuit sees deficit scare tactics as steely-eyed wisdom, the national constituency for such monomania could fit in a mid-sized sedan.

The CRFB is part of a circus of vanity projects run by former Nixon cabinet official and private equity billionaire Pete Peterson, who has been demanding cuts to programs he’s too rich to rely upon since the early 1980s.

The scaremongering about the debt masks an ideological agenda to stop any federal programs that commit the mortal sin of helping people, because the country sits on the precipice of becoming a Weimar Germany hyperinflation failed state. If rolling back those programs means preventing tax increases on rich people like Pete Peterson and his progeny, all the better.

Back on planet Earth, inflation hasn’t hit the Federal Reserve’s skinny 2 percent target in four years, and the real scandal is that America is blowing a huge opportunity to borrow at historically low interest rates and fulfill public needs. Experts across the political spectrum agree that the deficit is not a problem right now.

But, like a Halloween shop trying to come up with variations on the “sexy cat” costume, Peterson continues to dress up his efforts with different names and formats, seeking to energize a massive grassroots push for impoverishing the elderly.

Pete Peterson, chairman of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, speaks at the 2012 Fiscal Summit on May 15, 2012 in Washington, DC.

Photo: Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

For example, there was America Speaks, a kind of open-mic night for budgetary cruelty that held town hall meetings across the country in 2010. This $1 billion exercise in inducing panic presented scare videos about the debt looming like a colossus, and asked participants to devise blueprints for the future that were heavily tilted toward cutting Social Security and Medicare.

The joke was on America Speaks, however; at some point they had to let Americans speak — and they preferred taxes on millionaires and Wall Street over austerity.

Peterson shifted to the Campaign to Fix the Debt, a 2012 front group for Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles to salvage the wreckage of their failed budget-cutting commission. In true grassroots fashion, Fix the Debt assembled a “CEO Council” of 150 corporate titans, from Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Citigroup and the like. But somehow, allying themselves with Wall Street didn’t inspire credibility.

To “get down” with the kids and their Friendsters and MySpaces, Fix the Debt created a student affiliate group called The Can Kicks Back. Its most memorable moment was when an activist in a pirate suit crashed their campus tour and fought it out with someone dressed as a can.

Peterson’s biggest problem is that the darned public seemed to keep getting in the way of his dream of gutting social spending. When Fix the Debt held a video contest, first prize went to a short opposing Social Security cuts.

When Fix the Debt tried to set up a flash mob, the dancers it hired ended up telling reporters they were against Social Security cuts. The group tried a live chat on Twitter; virtually every response mocked them. (Sample: “Can’t we just solve all these problems by eating Irish children?” full disclosure: that was from me.)

Op-eds from The Can Kicks Back college students started appearing across the country; it turned out that Peterson PR flaks ghost-wrote them. The Can Kicks Back then announced a tin can drive — just the thing to attract millennials. They amassed 800 cans in an effort that cost $2.4 million. Maybe fiscal responsibility wasn’t their strong suit.

Perhaps the biggest fail from the deficit scolds came when an unassuming man named David Walker, former comptroller general of the United States (I don’t really know what that means either) who sits on the CRFB board and once ran the Peterson Foundation, started making loud hints that he would run for president in 2012.

Walker, a fan of debtor’s prisons, touted a “draft movement” urging him to run on the ticket of Americans Elect, a third-party group that vowed to support a presidential hopeful if they received 10,000 “clicks” at their online convention.

Americans Elect enjoyed massive publicity from Beltway pundits (“A wild card for the internet age”!) and also Beltway pundits (“Make way for the radical center”!), and was awash with millions of dollars in undisclosed money (“serious hedge fund money,” to be precise). The group got ballot access in 29 states. But when it came time for human beings to get involved, nobody, including Walker, could even manage to acquire anything close to the 10,000 clicks, something a blog about lint can probably manage in a week. Americans Elect folded up.

Every time Peterson’s coterie of deficit-mongers tries to inspire a national movement, they find out there’s no interest in their ideas. But debate moderators lap up their simplistic rendering of the economy. The only difference between planting a debate question about the looming national debt and one about an imminent alien invasion is that at least some people believe in aliens.

Top photo: Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence speaks as debate moderator Elaine Quijano listens during the Vice Presidential Debate with Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine at Longwood University on Oct. 4, 2016, in Farmville, Virginia.

The post Debate Moderators Under the Spell of Deficit-Obsessed Billionaire Pete Peterson appeared first on The Intercept.

Donald Trump, o Jair Bolsonaro Americano, não sabe o que é um aborto mas ainda quer proibi-lo

The Intercept -

No último debate da interminável eleição presidencial americana, nesta quarta-feira, Donald Trump demonstrou que é ignorante demais para ser o presidente de qualquer país — e, em particular, de um com armas nucleares suficientes para destruir o mundo. Porém, seu intelecto brilhou quando ele se posicionou contra o aborto.

TRUMP: “Eu acharia terrível se você aceitasse o que HIllary está dizendo: que, no nono mês [de gravidez], você pode tirar o bebê e arrancá-lo do útero da mãe imediatamente antes do nascimento do bebê. Bom, você pode dizer que isso é aceitável, e Hillary pode dizer que isso é aceitável, tirar o bebê e arrancá-lo do útero da mãe no nono mês, no último dia [de gravidez]. Mas isso não é aceitável.”

Segundo a lógica de Trump, eu e 32,2% dos Americanos nascidos em 2014, na verdade, fomos abortados. O que sua justificativa descreveu, afinal, é um parto cesariano.

Como a obstetra americana Jennifer Gunter twitou, “Não existe aborto no nono mês — eu sou uma médica treinada em aborto tardio”.

There is no such thing as a ninth month abortion – I'm a doctor who trained in late term abortions #debate2016

— Jennifer Gunter (@DrJenGunter) October 20, 2016

Antes desse comentário, Trump já estava perdendo por uma média de 15 pontos entre mulheres nas pesquisas de opinião pública, e parece que está caminhando para uma derrota sólida no dia 8 de novembro. Não faltam motivos para o resultado. Este mês, foi vazado um vídeo em que ele fala que, porque é poderoso e famoso, pode “pegar mulheres pela buceta”. Desde o segundo debate, no dia 9 de outubro, várias mulheres apresentaram novas acusações de agressão sexual e/ou assédio sexual. Trump também já foi processado por uma acusação de estupro de uma menina de 13 anos, em 1994, na casa de um bilionário pedófilo convicto. O processo consta que ele amarrou a menor de idade na cama e cometeu um “ataque sexual selvagem”.

Trump nega todas as acusações. Em um discurso, respondendo à acusação de uma jornalista que o acusa de forçar-se sobre ela em sua casa na Flórida (corroborada por seis testemunhas), ele insinuou que não a assediaria porque não é suficientemente bonita: “Olha aí. Olha ela. Olha as palavras dela. Me fala o que você pensa. Eu acho que não.”

Trump é um político machista, arrogante, racista, xenofóbico, homofóbico, ofensivo, demagógico, perigoso e com tendências fascistas que comanda a fidelidade intensa de uma crescente onda de fãs. Os brasileiros, acompanhando o acidente de trem em câmera lenta que é sua campanha, talvez se lembrem de um político doméstico com uma postura parecida. Um político que levou sua colega, a deputada Maria do Rosário (PT-RS), às lágrimas quando interrompeu uma entrevista na televisão para chamá-la de “vagabunda” e dizer que ela “não merece” ser estuprada por ele.

E repetiu em sessão da Câmara dos Deputados:

Depois, gabou-se dos “incidentes” em seu Twitter oficial, orgulhoso de tê-la colocado “em seu devido lugar”:

E dedicou seu voto em favor de impeachment “pela memória do Coronel Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, o pavor da Dilma Rousseff”. Brilhante Ustra comandou o infame grupo do DOI-Codi que torturou brutalmente presos políticos durante a ditadura. O uso de tortura sexual e estupro pelo grupo foi bem documentada

Antes da chuva de acusações de assédio sexual, Trump se defendeu dizendo que seus comentários eram apenas “papo de vestiário” entre homens — uma defesa fraca que está se esfarela a cada nova mulher que encontra a coragem para tornar seus casos públicos. Nesse sentido, talvez — apesar deu seu discurso e sua visão de mundo deplorável — Bolsonaro seja uma centelha menos objecionável que Trump, já que não existe nenhuma acusação parecida contra ele.

Porém, os dois sujeitos são semelhantes demais para meu gosto, e o apoio a ambos é alimentado por setores da população e forças sociais análogas. Intelectuais da esquerda muitas vezes tentam desqualificar os apoiadores do BolsoTrump como ignorantes, mal-educados, odiosos e pobres, mas pesquisas nos dois países mostram que eles têm renda e escolaridade bem acima da média.

Fonte: Piauí/Datafolha

O ódio é potente, mas outros fatores estão em jogo – inclusive uma rejeição a políticos manchadas por sua associação à velha guarda, que fica rica e prega bom senso e estabilidade sem que os resultados cheguem ao povo, a política identitária que Hillary e os partidos da esquerda brasileira abraçaram efusivamente e o movimento “politicamente correto” que tenta criminalizar ideias e falas repreensíveis na esfera privada.

Trump é um fanfarrão, mas a sociedade brasileira não deveria rir dele (ok, pode rir um pouco). Melhor seria estudar sua ascendência e contemplar como pode desarmar a energia que sustenta políticos trumpianos. Se não, talvez o mundo ria e ranja seus dentes contigo quando assistir ao candidato Jair Bolsonaro nos debates do segundo turno à presidência.

The post Donald Trump, o Jair Bolsonaro Americano, não sabe o que é um aborto mas ainda quer proibi-lo appeared first on The Intercept.

Hard-Line Prosecutors Face Rejection From Voters in Elections Across the U.S.

The Intercept -

Campaigning this summer and into the fall, Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed that crime is plaguing American cities and what the country needs is a return to law and order — more cops, and consequently, more prosecutions. Aside from the fact that crime in most American cities remains at historic lows, voters in jurisdictions across the country seem to have something different in mind — a shift toward more progressive leadership within the criminal justice system, judging from recent district attorney elections.

In Chicago, a city Trump has repeatedly pointed to in his speeches, two-term incumbent Cook County prosecutor Anita Alvarez lost her March primary battle to Democratic challenger Kim Foxx. Alvarez was excoriated for her inaction in the wake of the Laquan McDonald shooting and has been criticized for her defiance and foot-dragging in wrongful conviction cases. “Our criminal justice system is profoundly broken,” Foxx said during a debate. And Alvarez “doesn’t even realize that it’s broken.”

In August, notorious Florida prosecutor Angela Corey — known for unsuccessfully prosecuting George Zimmerman for the death of Trayvon Martin; pursuing criminal charges against Marissa Alexander, who fired a gunshot into a wall as a warning to an abusive husband who had threatened to kill her; and prosecuting a 12-year-old as an adult, among other career lows — was toppled by an “unknown corporate lawyer” named Melissa Nelson.

These elections are part of a small but growing trend in district attorney races across the country in which voters are eschewing the traditional tough-on-crime narrative that has dominated prosecutor elections for decades in favor of more reform-minded candidates whose platforms include holding police more accountable and taking more seriously cases of wrongful conviction.

In November, it appears that at least one additional name could be added to the list of incumbent prosecutors ousted amid growing public attention on the excesses of the criminal justice system: Devon Anderson, Houston’s district attorney. Anderson won her first election for the Harris County seat in 2014 after framing herself as tough on crime while also trying to position herself as a change agent.

But the promise to reform an office long dominated by hard-nosed leaders has gone unfulfilled, with Anderson’s tenure as top law enforcer in the nation’s fourth-largest city punctuated by a series of scandals — including her office’s treatment of an emotionally vulnerable victim of sexual assault.

When Jane Doe took the witness stand in a Houston courtroom on December 8, 2015, she was emotionally unprepared to confront Keith Hendricks, a serial rapist who had violently attacked her two years earlier. She had a mental breakdown while testifying, fled the courtroom, and was found wandering in traffic. Doe — whose identity has not been made public — has bipolar disorder and symptoms of schizophrenia. She was admitted to a local hospital and the trial was recessed until January.

After she was discharged days later, the Harris County district attorney’s office had her arrested and jailed for more than a month — a move they said was necessary to ensure she would return to finish her testimony, and one that Doe’s attorneys argue in a federal lawsuit violated Texas law. And although the county’s jail has a mental health unit, Doe was housed in the general population where she was denied psychiatric care, viciously attacked by another inmate, and punched in the face by a guard.

News of Doe’s arrest made headlines this summer, and Devon Anderson went on the offensive, posting a video statement online against the advice of her general counsel. Jailing Doe was necessary, she said. How else could prosecutors be sure that a “homeless, mentally ill victim of an aggravated sexual assault would return to testify at the trial of her rapist when that victim was going through a life-threatening mental health crisis?” Unless she testified, Anderson said, the man would go free and Doe would be vulnerable on the streets.

The statement did not help. Mental health advocates noted that while Anderson acknowledged that Doe was in mental distress, she and her underlings did nothing to ensure that Doe would actually receive any mental health care while locked up. Victim advocates complained that prosecutors had only re-victimized Doe and worried that jailing a rape victim might deter others from reporting sexual assault. Still others noted that Anderson didn’t even have her facts straight: Doe had been homeless at the time of her attack, but she was now living with family in another county.

It was not the first time that Anderson seemed flat-footed in response to criticism. “If you have two doors right now, and number one is the right one and number two is the wrong one, she has a real knack for choosing number two, the wrong door,” said Tyler Flood, president of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association. “There’s been so many bombs that have been falling and they keep exploding in her lap.”

Anderson has also come under fire for declining to initiate an investigation or file a state bar grievance against a former prosecutor who withheld critical alibi evidence from lawyers defending Alfred Dewayne Brown, who spent more than 10 years behind bars — most of them on death row — for the killing of a police officer before finally being freed last year. She has been lambasted for declining to allow a new sentencing hearing for another death row inmate, Duane Buck, whose original hearing was tainted by racially charged testimony. And, amid an ongoing scandal involving the destruction of some 21,000 pieces of evidence — potentially impacting more than 1,000 criminal cases — came the revelation that Anderson had known about the problem for months but failed to tell prosecutors handling the affected cases — allowing them to continue to secure plea deals with individuals in cases where there was no evidence to support the charges. “It’s a big problem; a big problem,” said Flood.

Anderson was appointed DA in 2013 by then-Gov. Rick Perry to fill the vacancy caused by the unexpected death of the sitting, elected DA, who happened to be Anderson’s husband. In 2014, in a special election to cover her husband’s unexpired term, Anderson won handily in the Republican-leaning county with 53 percent of the vote over her Democratic challenger, former prosecutor Kim Ogg. With the 2016 regular election now less than a month away, however, Anderson’s future in the office is uncertain, and Ogg, who is again running against her on a reform-minded platform, appears poised to win.

Unchecked Power and No Transparency

Elected prosecutors enjoy unparalleled power in the criminal justice system, while facing little oversight outside the electoral process — and even there, it appears they scarcely face real scrutiny. “You basically have unchecked power and no transparency,” said Daniel Medwed, a professor at Northeastern University School of Law who studies wrongful convictions.

Prosecutors generally have great job security. Overall, 63 percent have been on the job for five years or more — in larger offices, that number is 70 percent, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ 2007 report on the nation’s prosecutors. And when seeking re-election, incumbent prosecutors win 95 percent of the time, according to research done by Wake Forest University School of Law professor Ronald Wright, who tracked electoral outcomes from 1996-2006. “This evidence shows that voters rarely vote against incumbent prosecutors; more importantly, incumbents face a challenge far less often than incumbents in legislative races,” Wright wrote in a 2009 article for the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law. “In such a setting, prosecutors have little reason to expect that they will have to explain their choices and priorities to the voters. The outcomes, in sum, demonstrate that elections produce low turnover and few challenges.”

But recent elections suggest that may be changing, said Medwed and David Alan Sklansky, a professor at Stanford Law School. A former prosecutor himself, Sklansky notes that traditionally there have been two lines of thinking about prosecutor elections. The first is that they’re “totally useless” and “superficial.” The second is that “they’re just a terrible idea … because why would you ever want prosecutors elected? You don’t want prosecutors thinking about politics, you want them thinking about justice.” But the recent spate of high-profile ousters of prosecutors from office may be “casting both of those old stories about prosecutor elections into doubt,” he said. “And that also provided fuel for the hope that prosecutors could be the engines of criminal justice reform.”

Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson speaks at a news conference concerning charges in the alleged killing of Akai Gurley by a New York City police officer on February 11, 2015, in New York.

Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

While advocates for reform have long believed that prosecutors hold enough sway to move the needle on reform, recent elections suggest that shift may finally be happening — a shift that, arguably, began with the 2013 election of Ken Thompson, Brooklyn’s first black district attorney, who died suddenly of cancer this month.

Thompson readily defeated incumbent Charles Hynes, who had enjoyed a more than two-decade run as the Kings County DA. This was no small feat, considering that no one had unseated an incumbent DA in Brooklyn for more than a century, as Sklansky notes in a paper to be published next year.

While it’s true that Hynes himself had once been considered fairly progressive — he set up the office’s conviction integrity unit to review and consider possible cases of wrongful conviction — he was eventually embroiled in controversy. Accusations of cronyism, prosecutorial misconduct, and preferential treatment dogged him. Thompson ran on a platform focused on equity, telling a reporter, “I’m going to make sure that the people who work for me know that the fundamental role of the DA is to do justice and we cannot have innocent people going to prison for murders that they did not commit.”

A Trend, Not a Blueprint

In his recent paper, Sklansky analyzes eight recent races where DAs have lost their re-election bids. He sees a trend — but not one political blueprint for victory.

For example, 26-year veteran Mississippi prosecutor Forrest Allgood (a perfervid defender of an infamous medical examiner and discredited bite-mark evidence) was ousted last fall by Scott Colom, a young attorney who ran a campaign centered on reforming the system. Voters have also unseated Tim McGinty, the Ohio prosecutor whose jurisdiction includes Cleveland. McGinty was elected as a reformer in 2012, Sklansky notes, and his undoing seems almost entirely attributable to his failure to indict the police officer who killed Tamir Rice in a city park in November 2014.

Holding police accountable was also a factor in prosecutor races in New Mexico and Baltimore, where Marilyn Mosby ran on a more traditional tough-on-crime platform, but also criticized the incumbent for being too closely aligned with the police department and for failing to indict officers after their fatal encounter with Tyrone West. Mosby has since been criticized for her handling of the prosecution of officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray.

Several races have focused more closely on prosecutorial misconduct, or on failings in the death penalty system, and some have been fueled by out-of-state campaign donations, notably by the billionaire George Soros. In other words, behind each victory there is a unique and myriad assortment of issues at play.

Still, notes Sklansky, the recent upsets are not geographically pigeonholed or confined to larger jurisdictions. And although they represent a fraction of the 2,500 prosecutor offices across the country, the fact that incumbent prosecutors generally enjoy such great job security suggests they are significant. “This is a small trend, but it is a trend. Maybe a dozen or so over the last few years, and it is steadily growing,” Sklansky said. “I think that suggests that there is a possibility [for reform] that 15 years ago didn’t seem to exist.”

In Houston, it isn’t clear what will happen on November 8. Major publications in the state have highlighted Anderson’s missteps, including the Houston Chronicle, which has strongly urged its readers to vote for Ogg. “Why should Kim Ogg replace Devon Anderson as district attorney?” the editorial board began its endorsement. “Let us count the ways.” In addition to jailing Jane Doe and stonewalling in the Alfred Dewayne Brown case, the paper noted instances of prosecutorial misconduct and Anderson’s “stoking” of “racial tension” in the aftermath of the killing of a local sheriff’s deputy by a mentally ill man.

Tyler Flood, the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association president, says it is clearly time for a change in the Houston DA’s office. In fact, he said, his organization is currently in the process of preparing a state bar grievance against Anderson, citing her conduct in connection with the evidence destruction scandal.

Top photo: Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson speaks during a news conference regarding the shooting death of Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Darren Goforth on Aug. 29, 2015, in Houston.

The post Hard-Line Prosecutors Face Rejection From Voters in Elections Across the U.S. appeared first on The Intercept.

Sadism in Poland

Public Seminar -

Since the beginning of Law and Justice Party (PiS) rule in Poland, the right-wing government has accustomed Poles to regulations ...

Debate Recap: Donald Trump’s Grand Finale Ends With a Cliff-Hanger

The Intercept -

The third and final presidential debate was what we have come to expect in head-to-head confrontations between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump: 90 minutes full of vicious insults, dark accusations of sexual misconduct and allegiance to foreign powers, and attempts by both candidates to steer policy questions back to mudslinging.

While this debate showcased a slightly more subdued Trump for the first 30 minutes, the reality television star then pivoted back to his freewheeling, abrasive style. He repeatedly interrupted Clinton, calling her a liar and a “nasty woman,” and managed to top even himself with the shocking suggestion that he may not accept the election results if he loses. “I will keep you in suspense, okay?

No, not okay.

Clinton used the beginning of the debate to channel some core progressive values, declaring during the first question about Supreme Court justices that her choice would uphold rights for marginalized groups and take aim at the Citizens United decision. Then, while she made passing references to expanding the social safety net and adopting Bernie Sanders’s ideas on higher education, she also emphasized her dedication to reducing the national debt. And later still, she tacked right, reiterating her support for a no-fly zone in Syria, a policy that would by definition entail potentially shooting down Syrian and Russian warplanes and sparking a dangerous escalation of the war.

By most accounts, Fox News’s Chris Wallace kept the debate grounded, deftly steering from one topic to the next, and he at times pushed back on obvious falsehoods repeated by Trump, including his refusal to acknowledge that his foundation had used charity funds to settle Trump’s legal bills.

But his questions were from a reliably right-of-center perspective. He demanded answers on reducing the national debt and the importance of keeping U.S. troops in Iraq “to make sure that ISIS does not come back or is even replaced by something even worse?” Out of all the Wikileaks revelations, Wallace avoided pertinent questions about financial regulations or fracking, and instead focused on the disclosure of a paid speech in which Clinton hoped for open borders within the hemisphere.

Economist Justin Wolfer aptly observed: “Wallace did a good job managing this debate, but many of his questions (to both) have been: Why aren’t you promising Republican orthodoxy?”

The Intercept’s team covered the debate on our liveblog, and we couldn’t help thinking about the much bigger topics that could have been tackled, including climate change and racial justice.

The debate was largely a parade of opposition research and put-downs, with little in-depth discussion of the problems the country faces.

But it did have its moments of unintended comic relief, as when Trump seemed to confuse a c-section procedure with an abortion, described his meeting with “high Indian representatives,” and tried to talk about military strategy.

See below for what we posted, categorized by topic. Did the debate go as you expected? What did we miss? Tell us in the comments.

Confidence in the election

Foreign policy



Debate questions


Reproductive rights

Top photo: Republican nominee Donald Trump looks on as Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during the final presidential debate at the Thomas and Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Nevada.

The post Debate Recap: Donald Trump’s Grand Finale Ends With a Cliff-Hanger appeared first on The Intercept.

Eles mentem – e nós sabemos que eles mentem

The Intercept -

Sabemos que a versão da realidade apresentada pela grande imprensa e pelo governo é mentirosa. Sabemos que os políticos estão perdidos, mais preocupados em livrar a cara de escândalos de corrupção e gerenciar a percepção do público sobre eles que em governar. Sabemos que a imprensa troca jornalismo por proselitismo. Sabemos que o sistema judiciário é corrupto e tendencioso. Sabemos que a política econômica “apolítica” é pautada por financistas desconectados da nossa realidade.

Sabemos que nada está funcionando e que não tem a menor chance de funcionar – mas para a grande maioria a saída é aceitar isso como normal: não poderia ser de outro jeito.

O escritor russo Alexei Yurchak criou um termo para definir o discurso que sustenta esse estado de coisas: a hipernormalização. A introdução deste texto parece descrever o que vivemos hoje no Brasil e no mundo, mas Yurchak cria o termo no contexto da decadente União Soviética dos anos 1970/80, onde todos sabiam que a versão da realidade presente nas declarações de altos burocratas e mostrada pela mídia era completamente falsa.

No entanto, por ser impossível imaginar outra alternativa, todos fingiam que aquilo era real. E todos sabiam que todos estavam fingindo que aquilo era real. Assim como os governantes sabiam que o povo sabia que eles mentiam. Mas como a mentira estava em toda a parte, aceitá-la como normal não era exatamente uma opção.

Narrativas  construídas para desinformar

A hipernormalização do discurso permite que um mundo falso e simplificado seja criado por corporações e governos para nos manipular, minando assim a nossa percepção dele–  e é este o tema central do espetacular novo documentário do britânico Adam Curtis (autor de “The Century of the Self” e “The Power of Nightmares”) lançado domingo passado em streaming pela BBC.

HyperNormalization” traça um ambicioso panorama de 40 anos da geopolítica mundial, dissecando a ambiguidade construtiva de Henry Kissinger, o uso político do Coronel Gaddafi pelas potências ocidentais, o esquema teatral que mantém Putin no poder e também a utopia libertária da internet, mas principalmente concentra-se em dois eixos, hoje na ordem do dia: o clã dos Assad na Síria, central para entender a crise do Oriente Médio e seus reflexos planetários, e a ascensão de Donald Trump, da direita e do controle do mercado financeiro sobre a política econômica.

O épico de 165 minutos traz o já conhecido estilo de Curtis, uma narrativa sensorial construída por imagens de arquivo, muita música eletrônica, letreiros na tela e um voice-over distópico que não se preocupa em amarrar todas as pontas. Pois o grande compromisso desse ensaio-documentário é justamente oferecer uma versão da verdade – uma montagem da verdade – num mundo onde narrativas são comumente construídas com o objetivo de desinformar.

O fato de que as relações conspiratórias presentes no filme façam enorme sentido acaba por provar que a premissa do seu título funciona. Afinal, num mundo hipernormalizado ninguém nunca sabe realmente o que está acontecendo. Curtis usa parte das ferramentas do inimigo para, ele mesmo, nos manipular. E nós sabemos disso – e sabemos que ele sabe que sabemos disso.

A câmara de eco das redes sociais

A partir do experimento de inteligência artificial “Elisa”, criado no MIT em 1966, Curtis explora os efeitos políticos dos algoritmos que nos aprisionam na câmara de eco das redes sociais na internet, onde cada vez mais só temos acesso a opiniões e produtos que nos agradem, como um espelho de nós mesmos. Nessa bolha, mercado de gente, produtos e opiniões, nada pode nos desafiar ou contradizer, nós, os hipernormalizados.

Daí explica-se o susto quando a realidade se mostra a alguns. O isolamento na bolha nos leva a ser politicamente mimados, interdita o centro do debate, estimula sectarismos, alimenta o medo de mudanças e asfalta o caminho para a pós-política – um cenário cujas nefastas consequências conhecemos.

Para muitos, a saída passa por criticar o poder constituído em textos como esse ou nos nossos perfis virtuais. Precisamos acreditar que nossa fala tem algum valor, que talvez mude qualquer coisa. Mas ela só serve, e esta é a maior pancada do filme para uma geração inteira, para canalizar a raiva gerada pela política em clicks que alimentam o crescente poder e riqueza das corporações por trás de redes sociais e mídias eletrônicas. Nossa expressão é apenas um componente num sistema que absorverá toda a oposição. Não há saída aparente – até porque não conseguimos enxergar nada fora dele.

Como Curtis diz: “Somos levados a nos ver como indivíduos livres e independentes, não controlados por ninguém, e desprezamos políticos como corruptos e vazios de ideias. Mas o poder está ao nosso redor. Ele apenas mudou de lugar, transformou-se num sistema massivo de gestão e controle, cujos tentáculos alcançam todas as partes das nossas vidas. Mas não podemos vê-lo porque ainda pensamos no poder em termos antigos – de políticos nos mandando o que fazer.”

O Brexit, a ameaça Trump, o voto contra a paz na Colombia, a complexidade da guerra na Síria e um governo de cleptocratas posto no poder para hipocritamente “limpar” o Brasil da corrupção – esses eventos imprevisíveis e caóticos provam que analistas e políticos hoje em dia são incapazes de prever cenários ou mesmo compreender o que acontece. O mundo estável e seguro, prometido a nós até ontem pelas nações onde vivemos, parece cada vez mais distante.

Longe de apontar soluções, “HyperNormalization” sugere uma fuga desse mundo fabricado, que nos impede de ver a realidade lá fora. Como? Talvez começando a reconhecer os muros ao nosso redor.

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A Peek Into the Clinton Campaign in Damage Control Mode, From the Podesta Emails

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When Hillary Clinton came under attack last February for her 2001 vote in favor of a bankruptcy bill that made it more difficult for poor people to discharge their debts, she defended herself by saying she did it for women and children.

During an appearance on ABC News’s “This Week”, Clinton was confronted with a 2004 Bill Moyers video interview with then-consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren, in which she explained that she had personally briefed Clinton on the bankruptcy bill but that large financial contributions from the credit card industry had helped sway the senator in favor of it.

Clinton responded by saying her vote was part of a process of strengthening the bill for women and children. “I faced a tough decision and I stood up for women and children,”she said.

“I was deluged by women’s groups and children’s advocates groups to do everything I could to make sure that child support and women’s precarious financial situation in case of divorce or not being able to get the kind of funding they needed from a partner or a spouse in bankruptcy would not be endangered,”she said. “So I did go to work on behalf of all these women’s groups and children’s groups because they needed a champion. And I got that bill changed.”

But behind the scenes, her campaign soon discovered they had a problem on their hands: They couldn’t find evidence of pressure from women’s and childrens’ groups in favor of the bill — because there was none. Those groups were in fact ferociously opposed. So the Clinton team went into damage control mode, trying to back the candidate up — without compounding the mistake, but without admitting it, either.

The emails that describe their response are among thousands of emails posted by Wikileaks over the past week from Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s Gmail account. U.S. intelligence officials maintain that the emails were hacked on orders of the Russian government, in an attempt to interfere with the U.S. elections. Wikileaks is in the process of publishing all of them, even though some have no legitimate public-interest value.

Shortly after the interview, Clinton public-relations consultant Mandy Grunwald suggested that the campaign enlist women’s advocates to back up Clinton’s story. “Since HRC spent so much time on 2001 bankruptcy bill today, should we get [women’s rights attorneys] Marcia Greenberger and Judy Lichtman and other women’s group advocates to put out statements backing up her story and attacking BS?” she asked.

Other senior Clinton aides concurred with Grunwald’s opinion, and policy advisor Ann O’Leary said she would reach out to women’s groups to get their supporting statements.

Hours later, O’Leary returned with bad news. “We have a problem. HRC overstayed [sic] her case this morning in a pretty big way,” she wrote. The advocates they were thinking of going to had all attacked the bill at the time. “Marcia, Judy and I have been figuring out what we could say that doesn’t contradict their 2001 statement.” In a follow-up email, she explained, “She said women groups were all pressuring her to vote for it. Evidence does not support that statement.”

O’Leary then came up with another approach: “But my other idea is to have women Senators who all voted for it to put out statement.”

Later that day, O’Leary provided an update, explaining that she had enlisted the help of the chiefs of staff to Democratic Sens Patty Murray, Barbara Mikulski, and Barbara Boxer, to come to Clinton’s aid.

With respect to the women’s groups, O’Leary noted that “we cannot put something out proactive here b/c the record just isn’t good” but that “Judy and Marcia are also prepared to say that Hillary fought really hard for changes, was with the other women Senators, and committed to keep working with them to strengthen the bill.”

She then linked to a 2001 statements from the National Women’s Law Center — where Greenberger serves as a co-president — condemning the vote.  “This bill puts the interests of credit card companies ahead of the needs of women and children owed child support and other families struggling to cope with family breakup, job loss, or catastrophic medical expenses,” Joan Entmacher a senior NWLC staffer, is quoted as saying.

Late in the day, Grunwald sent a panicked email slamming the brakes on the entire initiative.

“One IMPORTANT caution,” she wrote. “I just spoke with Elizabeth Warren’s [Chief of Staff] COS and he’s worried that statements from Mikulski, Murray et al may be salt in the wound. She is quite angry. I can explain if anyone wants details.”

Top photo: John Podesta, Clinton Campaign Chairman, reads over notes on board Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s plane at Westchester County Airport on Sept. 27, 2016, in White Plains, New York.

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ACLU Wants 23 Secret Surveillance Laws Made Public

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The ACLU has identified 23 legal opinions that contain new or significant interpretations of surveillance law — affecting the government’s use of malware, its attempts to compel technology companies to circumvent encryption, and the CIA’s bulk collection of financial records under the Patriot Act — all of which remain secret to this day, despite an ostensible push for greater transparency following Edward Snowden’s disclosures.

The opinions were written by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. On Wednesday, the ACLU and the Yale Law School Media Freedom Clinic filed a motion with the court requesting that those opinions be released.

“The people of this country can’t hold the government accountable for its surveillance activities unless they know what our laws allow,” said Patrick Toomey, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project. “These secret court opinions define the limits of the government’s spying powers. Their disclosure is essential for meaningful public oversight in our democracy.”

Some of the opinions identified by the ACLU offer interpretations of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a controversial provision that allows the government to conduct mass surveillance on American’s transnational communications. The authority is set to expire in December 2017.

Disclosure of the opinions would shed light on how the government understands the boundaries of its spying power. Earlier this month, for example, after Reuters reported that Yahoo is secretly scanning every customer’s incoming email, anonymous officials told the New York Times that that action was based on an individualized order from the secret court. Disclosure of the order would offer insight into why the government thinks that is legal. Yahoo, for its part, on Wednesday urged the Director of National Intelligence to release and explain the court order in question.

The ACLU identified the 23 still-secret opinions by combing through press clippings and publicly released opinions. A report released Tuesday by the Brennan Center for Justice, which was based on documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, similarly found that the government has kept classified 25 to 30 significant court opinions and orders dating from 2003 to 2013.

Congress established the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) in 1978 to approve warrants against foreign agents and spies. But after the attacks of September 11, 2001, it took on a dramatically expanded role, secretly interpreting surveillance laws for law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

The court meets in secret, and until the recent inclusion of specially designated “friends of the court,” only the government was represented before it. Critics of the FISC argue that its opinions amount to “secret law” that is not approved by Congress, and cannot be appealed.

In 2013, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the FISC had authorized the bulk collection of American’s phone records, despite the fact that the law only allowed the collection of records “relevant to an authorized investigation.”

Calls for transparency in the wake of the Snowden disclosures prompted the government to undertake a declassification review of past FISC opinions; a process they say is still ongoing.

The Snowden disclosures also prompted Congress to pass the USA Freedom Act, which requires the government to disclose legally significant FISC opinions going forward, but the government maintains that the legal requirement does not apply to past opinions.

Top photo: The E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse in Washington D.C.

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Cunha sai, centenas de Cunhas ficam — e o jogo continua o mesmo

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O ex-deputado federal Eduardo Cunha finalmente foi preso pela Polícia Federal nesta quarta-feira, dia 19, e teve sua casa revirada por agentes em busca de provas que liguem o então homem forte com o esquema de propinas na Caixa Econômica Federal. Levando em consideração a notícia de que a Justiça Federal bloqueou mais de R$ 220 MILHÕES dos seus bens, parece inegável que o montante de acusações justifiquem sua prisão. A dúvida é se essa ação representa justiça sendo feita ou uma ovelha sendo oferecida em sacrifício para as massas. Para quem carrega as bandeiras de “Fora Cunha” e “Fora Temer”, parece um momento mais adequado à vigilância que à celebração.

O desprezo a Cunha por grande parte da população atingiu níveis estratosféricos com seu papel chave na articulação da expulsão de Dilma Rousseff. O ódio e desespero sobre tudo o que tramitou injustamente em Brasília ficou focado nas figuras de Eduardo Cunha e Michel Temer. (São farinha do mesmo saco, afinal. “Michel é Cunha”, assegurou o aliado Jucá.)

Além da imagem de usurpador escorregadio que Temer representa na consciência coletiva da oposição, não existe uma figura que melhor desminta a promessa de “impeachment para livrar o país de corrupção” do que um líder do partido-parceiro mais próximo ao PT nos esquemas de corrupção: ele mesmo é acusado de embolsar dezenas de milhões de reais através de contratos corruptos. Já a palavra “Cunha” virou quase um xingamento para milhões de brasileiros. Ele é tão odiado que nem consegue andar em aeroportos sem apanhar de tiazinhas sob uma trilha sonora de vaias.

Os caciques do PMDB não são iniciantes na política e entenderam que Cunha parou de ser o instrumento incisivo de antes e virou uma pesada cruz para seus aliados carregarem. Deixaram-no para os lobos. O juiz Sérgio Moro, que abertamente articula uma estratégia midiática, também consegue reconhecer o valor de pegar um peixe peemedebista deste tamanho — especialmente neste momento, com seu poder e respeito em declínio por ter ultrapassado limites constitucionais e ignorado o mandato de imparcialidade. Apoiadores de outrora, como Brian Winter, editor-chefe da revista Americas Quarterly, reconhecem a politização do Lava Jato:

“Diria que a politização do caso é exatamente o que permitiu que ele progredisse até onde foi sem ser interrompida por seus inimigos. Perversamente, também é o que vai começar a levar a investigação a seu fim, provavelmente nos próximos meses.”

Foto: Agência Brasil

A prisão de Cunha serve a muitos interesses, ainda que deixe várias sanguessugas de Brasília estendendo a mão para a garrafa de uísque. Cunha preso, como no caso de Marcelo Odebrecht, é pão e circo para o povo. A ideia de vê-lo encarcerado desencadeia uma catarse coletiva. Pegaram o ladrão. Mas esse alívio pode até ser um fator desmobilizante da oposição, com o “Fora Cunha” cumprido. Ao mesmo tempo, Moro consegue usá-lo como um exemplo de sua imparcialidade sem cuspir diretamente no olho dos novos donos de Brasília, que estão salivando para fechar sua investigação interminável (quase todos são implicados) e voltar para o negócio de sempre. Sem dúvida, será uma potente ferramenta retórica no esperado dia em que Moro pedir que a PF volte com a cabeça de Lula.

Rapidamente, oponentes do impeachment esqueceram suas críticas a Moro e estão saboreando o momento:

AO VIVO no #Periscope: Cunha em cana!

— Chico Alencar (@depChicoAlencar) October 19, 2016

E, previsivelmente, alguns porta-vozes da direita usaram a prisão de Cunha como uma oportunidade para demonstrar quão simplista é seu pensamento e ridicularizar a ideia de que Moro possa pedir a prisão de um peemedebista e, ao mesmo tempo, ser parcial.

Enquanto os treteiros tretam, todos os danos infligidos pelo ex-deputado durante seu reinado ficam de lado, por exemplo:


A prisão é a última de uma longa sequência de más notícias para o peemdebista. Em maio, o ministro Teori Zavascki do Supremo Tribunal Federal o afastou de seu mandato de presidente da Câmara. Em junho, o procurador-geral da República, Rodrigo Janot, pediu sua prisão. Em julho, sob pressão insuperável,   renunciou à presidência da Câmara às lágrimas de crocodilo. Em setembro, a Câmara o expulsou de suas fileiras, o que fez com que perdesse o sagrado direito do político brasileiro: o foro privilegiado. Foi um longo caminho até o inevitável: a prisão. Ainda está em jogo se o mestre das artes políticas conseguirá se livrar por alguma lacuna da lei ou se a ficha realmente caiu.

Foto: Fotos Públicas

Vale lembrar que Cunha é acusado de ter seu dedo em quase todos os potes e responde a muitas acusações de crimes milionários. Ele é a definição de rabo preso e já ameaçou publicamente que vai queimar o filme de todos seus ex-colegas: “vou contar tudo que aconteceu, diálogo com todos os personagens que participaram de diálogos comigo. Eles serão tornados públicos, na sua integralidade. Todo mundo que conversou comigo, todos, todos.”

O fato de que uma possível delação premiada sua ainda esteja preocupando a Brasília é prova suficiente de que mesmo que Eduardo Cunha deixe a cena política, seu legado, sua essência e seus aliados de pensamento permanecem. Cunha sai, mas centenas de Cunhas ficam.

Foto de topo: Brasília — O ex-presidente da Câmara dos Deputados, Eduardo Cunha, embarca para Curitiba após ser preso pela Polícia Federal.

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When the Genius Men of Silicon Valley Suddenly Don’t Seem So Smart

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Last week, a variety of women accused Donald Trump of a litany of vile acts across many years. He chose to defend himself by saying his accusers were too unattractive to sexually assault, at which point venture capitalist Peter Thiel decided to write a $1.25 million check to Trump’s presidential campaign — among the strongest ways possible to say I condone this person’s actions. This is, to use a non-loaded word, deplorable. But to some of Thiel’s colleagues in Silicon Valley, it’s political “diversity” in action.

Thiel’s fresh embrace of Trump has been particularly awkward for Sam Altman and Paul Graham, both founders of successful tech firms and both now associated with Y Combinator (Graham is YC’s co-founder), the most prestigious startup incubator in the Valley and perhaps the world; Thiel is a “part-time partner” at Y Combinator. Until now, the incubator’s reputation has been sterling. To be selected by YC is to obtain cachet, recognition, and $120,000. Part of the draw is access to wealthy startup luminaries, who impart their expertise and values in the hope that their mentees will themselves become wealthy. One of these mentors is Thiel, who joined Y Combinator last year with great fanfare — “Peter is one of the two people (along with [Paul Graham]) who has taught me the most about how to invest in startups,” gushed Altman, YC’s young leader.

Paul Graham speaks with Charlie Rose during TechCrunch Disrupt New York on May 24, 2011, in New York.

Photo: Joe Corrigan/Getty Images

Together this week, Altman and Graham have presented a unified front against the many people who are both aghast at Thiel’s support of Trump and dismayed that he’s in a position to impart values on young people at YC and reap the reputational benefits that mentorship provides him. For all his eccentricities and fringe beliefs — seasteading, libertarianism, and a reportedly keen interest in receiving the blood of younger men — Thiel remains very much a member of the Silicon Valley mainstream, serving on the board at Facebook, as chairman of government contractor Palantir, and as an executive at three venture capital funds, all of which he was involved in creating. His enduring ability to forge and exploit valuable relationships in the Valley is due in no small part to his softer ties to groups like Y Combinator. (As a disclosure, I must add that Thiel destroyed the company through which I first covered these relationships as a journalist, Gawker Media, by covertly funding lawsuits. Those suits continue to affect people I know personally, who face financial ruin, and two more cases, brought by the lawyer Thiel used against Gawker, continue against me.)

What possible justification is there, critics are asking, for Y Combinator to retain as a partner a person who not only served as a delegate and Republic National Convention speaker for a presidential candidate associated with white supremacy, misogyny, xenophobia, and fascism, but who is willing to donate over a million bucks to that candidate at his nadir? What kind of message does that send to, say, the women and racial minorities who are already so often ignored in Silicon Valley? Why not replace Thiel with someone who at the very least is a political conservative but refrains from funding the campaign of a man who said he’d be dating his daughter if they weren’t related and encouraged the beating of protestors at his rallies?

It’s easy to understand their criticism — and anger:

Fuck you, Peter Thiel. I swear on my mother's grave I'll never take money from you or your fund.

— laura i. gómez (@laura) October 16, 2016

Hey @peterthiel, nice @nytimes piece about your $1.5 million donation to Trump. Is that to fund more of these stickers?

— Chris Sacca (@sacca) October 16, 2016

How you know Facebook isn't serious about diversity and inclusion: Peter Thiel is still on their board.

— Catherine Bracy (@cbracy) October 16, 2016

Let no person who claims to give a damn about diversity and inclusion in one breath even begin to support & apologize for Thiel in another.

— EricaJoy (@EricaJoy) October 16, 2016

Ellen Pao, the former CEO of Reddit who was effectively ousted by the site’s users because she’s an Asian American woman (and wanted to delete communities like the expressly racist “CoonTown” subreddit), published a post on Monday severing ties between her new inclusion-advocacy organization and Y Combinator:

We saw an opportunity to work with YC companies interested in building vibrant and diverse organizations, and we actively invited YC as a contributor to our VC Include program to gain access to its nearly 1,000 companies and CEOs, who are greatly admired and emulated.

But Thiel’s actions are in direct conflict with our values at Project Include. Because of his continued connection to YC, we are compelled to break off our relationship with YC. We hope this situation changes, and that we are both willing to move forward together in the future. Today it is clear to us that our values are not aligned.

In spite of all this, Altman and Graham have insisted that it would be unfair, un-American, and irresponsible to end their relationship with Thiel. Their arguments are a wild ride of attempted reasoning:

1. YC will not fire someone because of their political views:

1) I am voting against Trump because I believe the principles he stands for represent an unacceptable threat to America.

— Sam Altman (@sama) October 17, 2016

3) Thiel is a high profile supporter of Trump. I disagree with this. YC is not going to fire someone for supporting a major party nominee.

— Sam Altman (@sama) October 17, 2016

2. Trump is a figure comparable to Hitler, Altman still believes, presenting an existential threat to the United States:

To make my own views on Trump clear, here is my post from early this summer. I feel even more strongly now.

— Sam Altman (@sama) October 16, 2016

3. Thiel is worth keeping around because of the “diversity of opinion” he offers:

6) Diversity of opinion is painful but critical to the health of a democratic society. We can't start purging people for political support.

— Sam Altman (@sama) October 17, 2016

@esacrosa cutting off viewpoints is what got us to a candidate that supports open racism and and abuse of women in the first place.

— Sam Altman (@sama) October 17, 2016

4. Peter Thiel barely works for YC, so who cares, anyway?

@dhh @paulg he is not a partner. he is what we call a part-time partner, which shares a word but is legally totally different. no votes, etc

— Sam Altman (@sama) October 16, 2016

In a blog post published Monday, Altman repeated his belief that Trump represents a catastrophic threat to the national fabric (“Trump shows little respect for the Constitution, the Republic, or for human decency, and I fear for national security if he becomes our president”) and his assertion that Thiel’s role at YC is minimal (“Peter is a part-time partner at YC, meaning he spends a small fraction of his time advising YC companies, does not have a vote in how YC is run, and in his case waives the equity part-time partners normally get”).

It’s not hard to see how all of the above is contradictory. Altman is adamant that he can’t “fire” Thiel because that would be “unprecedented,” but then concedes that “Donald Trump represents an unprecedented threat to America.” And from his description of Thiel’s “part-time partnership,” ending the relationship would be in no way comparable to firing an employee. Altman attempts to hold as true simultaneously the arguments that Trump’s beliefs are horrendous and unacceptable and that Thiel, who necessarily believes that these very same things are good and fine, represents valuable “diversity of opinion.” This is akin to arguing that having Pamela Geller in your office every other Thursday would be a boon — just imagine being able to pop in and get her take on the global Islamist conspiracy! What a unique perspective!

Moderator Kim-Mai Cutler speaks with Sam Altman of Y Combinator at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2015 on Sept. 23, 2015, in San Francisco, California.

Photo: Steve Jennings/Getty Images

But where Altman’s rhetoric veers furthest off track is when he floats the notion that dissolving the YC-Thiel connection would be the start of “[purging] people for supporting the wrong political candidate.” Altman is absolutely right that Trump is unprecedented as a nominee, but it’s not because he’s a political figure; Trump is an ideological figure with very few actual political views. His popularity is due almost entirely to his cultivation of American hate. To endorse Trump is, then, to endorse this hatred — not a political affiliation at all. Perhaps the most self-damning sentence in Altman’s post comes in a parenthetical toward the end, when he admits that “of course, if Peter said some of the things Trump says himself, he would no longer be part of Y Combinator.”

Reached by phone, Altman immediately came across as thoughtful and troubled by the situation, but defended his inaction: The “members of our community … that have said anything to me have said, ‘I really hate Trump and I think it would be really crazy if YC fired Peter over this.’” He said that even though he considers Trump “a monster,” he doesn’t think Thiel should be punished for his support: “I am not willing to believe the 43 percent of the electorate that supports Trump supports the awful things about him,” and, quoting Nietzsche, he added, “I don’t want to become a monster” by ending Thiel’s admittedly minor relationship with YC. Still, Altman says he understands why so many people are upset by his decision so far to keep an in-house Trump surrogate: “I would definitely feel uncomfortable talking to this guy because of his support of Trump if I were a Latina woman, I think that’s totally reasonable.” But despite realizing the ugliness of the dilemma, Altman still seems to consider it one that can’t be resolved and maintains that Thiel is entitled to the protections of any ordinary, full-time employee: “I don’t think you lose your right to fairness if you’re a billionaire.”

(One cynical explanation for all this reluctance comes courtesy of Altman’s recent New Yorker profile, wherein he describes his disaster-preparation hobby and his fear of a global viral outbreak: “If the pandemic does come, Altman’s backup plan is to fly with his friend Peter Thiel, the billionaire venture capitalist, to Thiel’s house in New Zealand.”)

Paul Graham too has chimed in with his personal brand of TED Talk aphorism and false equivalency:

@dhh How would you feel if companies run by Republicans did the same and fired employees who were big Hillary supporters?

— Paul Graham (@paulg) October 16, 2016

Sorry about the image, but this is too important to rewrite to fit in 140 characters:

— Paul Graham (@paulg) October 18, 2016

Few have done more than Sam Altman to defeat Trump.

— Paul Graham (@paulg) October 18, 2016

This should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Graham’s recent history, filled with confusion about how culture and society operate when they’re not inside a conference room signing a venture capital fundraising agreement. When the New York Times infamously quoted Graham saying he could be tricked into funding any startup founded by someone who “looks like Mark Zuckerberg,” he defended his very unintentionally revealing remark by saying that it had merely been a joke about, uh, pattern recognition? His point is still unclear: “Could anyone be so naive as to think that resembling Zuck would be enough to make a founder succeed?” Graham asked in a self-posted apologia. “And is it plausible that we, of all people, who’d interviewed thousands of founders, would think such a thing?” Yes!

Graham had to blog about the taste of his own foot again in 2014, when in an interview with The Information he said hiring women at technology firms was difficult because they don’t think like men (“We can’t make these women look at the world through hacker eyes and start Facebook because they haven’t been hacking for the past 10 years”). His explanation this time was that we, the public, were only upset with this answer because we weren’t dealing with the same subset of data that Graham was referencing:

The mystery was cleared up when I got a copy of the raw transcript. Big chunks of the original conversation have been edited out, including a word from within that sentence that completely changes its meaning. What I actually said was:

“We can’t make these women look at the world through hacker eyes and start Facebook because they haven’t been hacking for the past 10 years.” I.e. I’m not making a statement about women in general. I’m talking about a specific subset of them. So which women am I saying haven’t been hacking for the past 10 years? This will seem anticlimactic, but the ones who aren’t programmers.

(Emphasis added.)

Graham did not return a request for comment.

Mark Zuckerberg too subscribes, somehow, to the notion that Trump support is just another form of valuable diversity, according to a photo of a post in an employee-only Facebook forum that appears to have been taken from someone’s computer screen:

The screenshot was confirmed by Facebook as authentic to David McCabe of The Hill. As Cory Doctorow pointed out on Boing Boing, “presumably, they feel the same way about the millions who believe in the ideology of Osama bin Laden,” though inviting Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and David Duke to join the board of Facebook would be more contemporary picks to increase the political diversity of Facebook’s board.

Dismaying and impossible though they may be, these responses shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with the Silicon Valley ethos that any problem can be solved with a sufficient amount of technology. Rather than saying Damn, that was a shitty thing to say, but you know what, I’ve identified that I’m part of the problem and now I’m going to take specific steps to fix the problem (32 words), Graham wrote two longwinded posts attempting to debug The Information’s reporting and explaining why his personal status quo is fine (3,476 words). Sound familiar?

Paul Graham and Sam Altman are not dumb. They are both well-educated, hyper-competent, and most of all, two of the most important living figures in Silicon Valley. But like so many of their colleagues, they seem to trip over themselves whenever they step beyond the world of apps and org charts and address messier, more obviously human problems in realms like politics. Maybe we should be easier on people whose entire lives involve thinking and talking about software — maybe we should expect less. And in fact, I’m fine with expecting much, much less than I already do. But arguing from six sides of your mouth about why Peter Thiel is at once vulnerable, valuable, despicable, crucial, unimportant, mistaken, and righteous seems like a perfectly fine place to draw a line.

Top photo: Peter Thiel delivers a speech on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016, at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.

The post When the Genius Men of Silicon Valley Suddenly Don’t Seem So Smart appeared first on The Intercept.

Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer Says Top Priority for Next Year Is Giant Corporate Tax Cut

The Intercept -

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, likely to be majority leader next year if Democrats take back the Senate, told CNBC Tuesday that one of his top two 2017 priorities would be an enormous corporate tax cut.

Speaking of himself in the third person, Schumer said that “we’ve got to get things done. … The two things that come, that pop to mind — because Schumer, Clinton, and Ryan have all said they support these — are immigration and some kind of international tax reform tied to a large infrastructure program.”

American multinational corporations are now holding a staggering $2.5 trillion in profits overseas, refusing to bring the money back at the current tax rates until they get a special deal.

Revenue-starved Democratic leaders have broadly hinted they are prepared to cave, either for a “holiday” period or permanently.

In an exchange with CNBC’s John Harwood, Schumer confirmed that the latter is in fact in the works. When Harwood asked Schumer if “it would be a permanent lower rate, not a holiday rate,” Schumer replied, “Yes, you can’t do a one-shot deal.”

Schumer said he envisions “international tax reform” as providing funding for an infrastructure bank.

Hillary Clinton has not publicly supported such a plan. However, during a private October 13, 2014, speech to the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers, Clinton told the audience that “A number of business leaders have been talking to my husband and me about an idea that would allow the repatriation of the couple trillion dollars that are out there. And you would get a lower rate — a really low rate — if you were willing to invest a percentage in an infrastructure bank.”

For his part, Schumer has long been negotiating with Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman to lay the groundwork for such a corporate-friendly deal.

While Massachusetts Democrat Sen. Elizabeth Warren has called such a scheme “a giant wet kiss for the tax dodgers,” Schumer told CNBC that he’d have no trouble getting her on board. “She’s going to surprise everybody,” Schumer said. “She’s going to be both a progressive and a constructive force.”

Top photo: Sen. Chuck Schumer speaks about social security, during a news conference on Capitol Hill.

The post Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer Says Top Priority for Next Year Is Giant Corporate Tax Cut appeared first on The Intercept.


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