Good morning everyone and welcome to the first edition of my new column, Politiclips. Jury is still out on the name and how I’m going to structure this going forward. The goal of this column is to give you a source of news, commentary and links that diverge from the mainstream nonsense as well as the junk that floats around on partisan websites or social media. Hopefully, this might help you be informed and also keep you in the know on a variety of topics that go beyond the news cycle. I’ll try and post these every Friday morning so it acts as a recap of our blistering news cycle. I will be touching on politics, elections, public policy, sports, and really anything that I want because…well it’s my column and I get the final say.
The Big Headline: The Brazilian Trump
Brazil held its presidential election last Sunday resulting in a runoff between Jair Bolsonaro, Fernando Haddad. Bolsonaro is the leading candidate from the Social Liberal Party, Brazil’s conservative political party. Ironically founded as a socially liberal party in 1994, the liberal wing left earlier this year leaving SLP as Brazil’s premier conservative party and the Brazilian version of the popular-conservative parties sweeping the globe. Bolsonaro has a military background and has been in the Brazilian Congress since 1990. Bolsonaro and SLP are campaigning in opposition to the Workers’ Party and Haddad. Haddad is an economist, longtime agency head for Brazilian social entities, and former Mayor of Sao Paulo (his reelection campaign failed in 2016). His unlikely presidential campaign began when he was announced to be the running mate of embattled former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva whom the Brazilian Superior Electoral Court ruled ineligible due to his being a convicted criminal (we will get to that in a second). With Lula out, the PT boosted Haddad to the front man and Communist Party legislator Manuela d’Avila became his running mate.
The Workers’ Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores or “PT”) is Brazil’s liberal party with a broad tent that includes elements of democratic socialism, Christian leftism, laborism, socialism, and communism. The PT has a colorful history; born in opposition to Brazil’s long-time military dictatorship, the PT burst onto the national scene in 2002 when its leading politician, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, surpassed Ronald Reagan as the most voted president in history (since surpassed by George W. Bush in 2004 and both Obama elections). The PT held power in Brazil from 2002 to 2016 with Lula ending his presidency with tremendous popularity and his successor, Dilma Rousseff, holding the presidency from 2011 to 2016. During much of this reign the Brazilian economy grew and Brazil entered the world stage winning and hosting international spotlight events like the World Cup and Olympics. However the luster started to come off in the mid-2010’s as the PT suffered a number scandals culminating in the 2015 Brazilian protests over gross corruption involving Rousseff, Lula, a number of other officials and the semi-public Brazilian national oil company, Petrobras (a multi-billion dollar Fortune Global 100 company). In 2016 the Brazilian Senate voted to impeach Rousseff placing the current president, Michael Temer, in office similar to how the U.S. Vice President succeeds the U.S. President during a successful impeachment process. At the same time prosecutors filed corruption charges against Lula and in the summer of 2017 Lula was found guilty of accepting $1.2M in bribes (in the form of improvements to his personal property) from the construction company Grupo OAS who then received lucrative contracts from Petrobras. In the midst of the start of his 12-year prison sentence Lula made a run to be the PT’s presidential candidate that was backed by his supporters before the Electoral Court nixed the campaign as Brazil does not allow convicted criminals who have exhausted their appeals to run.
The 2018 campaign has been contentious in that it is focused on the rhetoric and personal campaign of Bolsonaro as well as the national referendum on the PT and the corruption scandals of its recent leadership. In addition to the obvious politics surrounding the scandals of the PT, Bolsonaro has captured international headlines as the “Brazilian Trump”, the latest of the right-wing populist candidates like Hungary’s Viktor Orban or France’s Marine le Pen. Like Trump’s campaign here in the U.S., Bolsonaro’s campaign has polarized Brazil. Bolsonaro has campaigned on cutting taxes (particularly corporate and inheritance taxes similar to the controversial cuts seen in the U.S. in 2017), promoting traditional family values, and cuts to government spending. Bolsonaro is a vocal opponent to liberal social policies like same-sex marriage, abortion, affirmative action and immigration (Brazil has significant immigration from Haiti, Africa and the Middle East). In 2017 a Brazilian court upheld a $2,500 fine against Bolsonaro for remarks he made on the floor of Brazilian Congress where he stated Congresswoman Maria do Rosario was “not worthy of being raped” in response to her calling him a rapist (Bolsonaro was arguing that minors committing heinous crimes like murder or rape should be tried as adults). He routinely praises the 1964-1985 military dictatorship including stating in 2008 that “the error of the dictatorship was that it tortured, but did not kill.” Interestingly, unlike Trump’s campaign, Bolsonaro’s supporters are markedly different than the demographics of 2016-2018 Republican voters. Polling indicates his supporters are younger, middle and upper class, college graduates, and centrists (similarities between the two include the support of long-time conservatives and conservative Christians).
The election occurred on October 7. Because Brazil is a multiparty democracy it is typical that presidential elections proceed to a runoff and this cycle is no different. Bolsonaro receieved 46 percent of the vote with Haddad taking 29.28 percent (the remaining eleven candidates split 24.69 percent). The runoff will occur on October 28. Recent polling (October 8-10 results) show Bolsonaro in the lead 48-51 percent to Haddad’s 36-41 percent with 11-14 percent of respondents undecided.
How does this impact the United States? His victory would be the biggest victory for the global populist-conservative movement since Trump’s election. With Petrobras in the center of the corruption scandals plaguing the PT and Bolsonaro being a known advocate for privatizing nationally owned industries, there is a chance his victory might see some privatization efforts. Beyond the presidential election, the 2018 elections saw sweeping gains for conservatives in the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies (equivalent of the House of Representatives) and the Brazilian Senate. Only eight senators retained their seats out of 54 up for grabs and over 250 of the 513 Chamber seats will see new deputies. The SLP jumped from one seat to 52 in the Chamber. The nature of the Brazilian Chamber and Senate require governing coalitions as the party system is so fractured that no one party can hold the reigns of power as happens in America. That being said a conservative legislature should empower Bolsonaro to pursue his goals which will likely mirror the agenda of the U.S. Republican Party: deregulation, tax cuts, anti-immigration, promotion of traditional social values, and increased police and military spending. Lastly, Bolsonaro might be the most pro-American candidate in modern Brazilian political history. Whereas Lula and Rousseff sought trade ties with Europe, Bolsonaro wants to pivot to the U.S. He has directly stated that he wants to mirror American firearms policies as a template for deregulation efforts in Brazil among other policies the average U.S. conservative would endorse.
In Other Major International Election News
Sunday also saw a referendum vote to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage in Romania fail. The vote to amend the constitution to change “between spouses” to “between a man and a woman” needed to obtain the participation of at least 30 percent of the electorate to be valid; only 20 percent of the electorate participated. Interestingly, same-sex marriage is already banned in Romania under the civil code but concerns of EU interference prompted the push to amend the country’s constitution. Doubly interesting, it looks like the campaign to oppose same-sex marriage was instigated, or at least supported, by the U.S. based Liberty Counsel (who even flew former Kentucky clerk Kim Davis all the way to Romania to support the referendum).
Washington Post Columnist Jamal Khashhoggi (a Saudi citizen living in the U.S.) entered the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul last week and hasn’t been seen since. Speculation is he was killed on the orders of the Saudi Royal Court. A new report from the Washington Post claims that a source knows that U.S. intelligence had intercepted communications that the Saudis intended to capture him. Here is a link to some of his articles for the Post. Even a casual skim explains why the Saudi Royal family might not be too thrilled with him.
Bosnia utilizes a tripartite presidency and one of its new presidents supports the break up of his own country .
The Centers for Disease Control estimate that 100,000 young children have not had a vaccination against any of the 14 diseases for which shots are recommended.
The chief of Interpol has vanished on a personal trip to China.
Singapore is scrapping education rankings with the education minister stating that learning is not a competition.
Brian Kemp, Georgia’s Secretary of State who runs elections in the state, is facing thee lawsuits for discrimination in his office’s voter registration policies.
Trust in Vladimir Putin has plummeted in Russia following a brutal legislative battle over pension reform. This week, 39% of Russians listed Putin as trustworthy, a 20 percent decrease from last November when 59 percent of Russians claimed they trusted the Russian president.
Trump’s tariffs now cost Americans more than Affordable Care Act taxes. Per the article:
“The National Taxpayers Union Foundation now estimates the total annual cost of enacted tariffs to be $41.65 billion. That easily outpaces the tax bill from the Affordable Care Act for next year ($34.6 billion) after accounting for recent changes to the ACA.”
If it’s on the internet it’s gotta be true! Clip of the week
This viral video of a Russian feminist pouring bleach on “manspreaders” has been debunked as state-backed Russian propaganda.
Game(s) of the Week
This might be the best sports weekend we’ve had all year. The Dodgers and Brewers kickoff the NLCS tonight followed by a Saturday slate that includes the start of the Red Sox-Astros ALCS, #2 Georgia vs. #13 LSU, a trap game for #8 Penn State against a cornered Michigan State team, #7 Washington vs. #17 Oregon in the first meaningful game in that rivalry in years, and #15 Wisconsin vs. #12 Michigan. We’ll also see trap games for undefeated #6 West Virginia (on the road against Iowa State where dreams go to die) and #19 Colorado (on the road at USC). Sunday gives us key match ups like Chargers vs. Browns, Steelers vs. Bengals, Ravens vs. Titans, and capped off with Chiefs vs. Patriots in what could be a preview of the AFC Championship. On top of that add in several great matchups in the early NHL season and UEFA League games including England vs. Croatia, Belgium vs. Switzerland and Netherlands vs. Germany. Oh yeah, the NBA starts Tuesday.
We’re All Gonna Die News of the Week
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released an alarming report written by 62 scientists from 27 countries. The basic finding is that global emissions need to reduce by 45 percent between 2010 and 2030 and hit net zero by 2050 to limit warming to 1.5°C and failures to do so could risk warming to 2°C which could cause deep adverse impacts. Quoted directly from their report:
“Human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels, with a likely range of 0.8°C to 1.2°C. Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate.”
“Climate models project robust differences in regional climate characteristics between present-day and global warming of 1.5°C, and between 1.5°C and 2°C. These differences include increases in: mean temperature in most land and ocean regions (high confidence), hot extremes in most inhabited regions (high confidence), heavy precipitation in several regions (medium confidence), and the probability of drought and precipitation deficits in some regions (medium confidence).”
“By 2100, global mean sea level rise is projected to be around 0.1 metre lower with global warming of 1.5°C compared to 2°C (medium confidence). Sea level will continue to rise well beyond 2100 (high confidence), and the magnitude and rate of this rise depends on future emission pathways.”
The report basically states that we need to cut CO2 emissions by about 45 percent by 2030 to limit warming to 1.5°C and then hit net zero around 2050. To limit warming to below 2°C we would need to decline emissions by 20 percent by 2030 and reach net zero around 2075.
“Pathways limiting global warming to 1.5°C with no or limited overshoot would require rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, urban and infrastructure (including transport and buildings), and industrial systems (high confidence). These systems transitions are unprecedented in terms of scale, but not necessarily in terms of speed, and imply deep emissions reductions in all sectors, a wide portfolio of mitigation options and a significant upscaling of investments in those options (medium confidence).”
So we essentially have 30 years to change the global economy and the consumption patterns of billions of people and thousands of cultures. Easy peasy.
But its Okay Because the Danes Will Save Us All
The world’s largest offshore wind developer, the Copenhagen based Orsted announced a $510 million purchase of U.S.-based Deepwater Wind LLC. Deepwater Wind owns the only offshore wind farm operating off the U.S. coast and owns rights to develop windfarms in Connecticut, New York, and Rhode Island.
Awesome News of the Week
Chile is opening a 1,700-mile trail to connect 17 national parks across Patagonia
In all the hype about polling, national trends, news cycles, blue waves and GOP resurgence…we often forget that the races are about people and local opinion matters. In Florida, Democratic candidate Donna Shalala is now down in the polls 51-49 to her Republican challenger Maria Elvira Salazar. The catch? Trump lost this district by 20-points and it shouldn’t be competitive. Shalala is the former President of the University of Miami whereas Salazar is a local Spanish-language TV journalist running independent of Trump.
The Cost of Healthcare is too Damn High!
The American Journal of Medicine has released a study of 9.5 million estimated new diagnoses of cancer from 2000 to 2012. They found the average individual to be >50 years old, 51 percent retired, 54 percent married, and 56 percent on Medicare. After two years 42 percent of those studied had depleted their life’s assets with increasingly worse odds dependent on cancer type, socioeconomic status, insurance status, clinical characteristics (smoking, diabetes, etc.) and age. The average losses clocked in at a staggering $92,098/year and by the fourth year financial insolvency extended to 38.2 percent of those studies.
The Big Headline You Missed: Baseball Might Be Going To Jail
Sports Illustrated published a gigantic piece this week reporting that the Department of Justice is conducting a massive investigation into the recruitment of international players and potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In the piece SI reports that multiple potential victims of smuggling and human trafficking have given evidence to law enforcement or testified before a federal grand jury. The investigation is diving deep into the underworld of recruiting and bringing foreign players, especially Cuban players, to the United States and the level of knowledge and involvement that the MLB clubs themselves have of the shady operations. One of the more insane documents SI got ahold of includes a database the Los Angeles Dodgers made themselves to rank the criminality of their own employees in Latin America.
While this particular story is new, the intersection of criminal law and shady international recruitment of players is hardly new itself. The growing scope of the issue is what is concerning. Fan Graphs wrote up a report speculating “what is described in the SI piece also comes dangerously close to a violation of a law called the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), a law which allows for prosecution of an entire company or enterprise instead of each person involved individually.” Not only does RICO carry weightier criminal penalties than FCPA but it was deliberately created by Congress to allow prosecutors to take down criminal organizations. The SI report clearly indicates that the Dodgers are not the only organization under the microscope by the DOJ and an interesting quote from the article reads:
“When reached by SI, spokesman Pat Courtney said, “Major League Baseball has not been contacted by federal authorities regarding an investigation.” That will likely change soon.”
Fan Graph writer Sheryl Ring, a litigation attorney and General Counsel at Open Communities, a non-profit legal aid agency in the Chicago suburbs, speculates :
“That might well be no cause for alarm at all. On the other hand, it also means that MLB was probably not approached about cooperating, which may also indicate that MLB’s own front office is under investigation.”
It’s hard to see how, in a thorough investigation, the DOJ wouldn’t contact MLB at all in a serious investigation of one of its franchises. Yet the intentions and definitions of RICO give prosecutors wide latitude to prosecute any person in an enterprise that receives income, directly or indirectly, from racketeering activities. The definition of racketeering is itself intentionally broad and directly mentions kidnapping, bribery, extortion, fraud, obstruction of justice, and trafficking. All of these actions routinely occur in human trafficking enterprises whether it be sex trafficking of women and children or the trafficking of soon-to-be multi-millionaire Cuban baseball stars for labor purposes. Depending on the scope of the DOJ investigation and who knows what and profited from what in the many front offices across MLB, prosecution could be widespread across the league.
Kava-nashing of Teeth
If this first column seems international-heavy, you might be right. We have a massive hurricane hitting Florida and George literally right now and the U.S. news cycle and punditry seems stuck on the post-Kavanugh fall out. To the right, the left has apparently evolved into a bloodthirsty mob led by Taylor Swift hellbent on vengeance. To the left, the right is the tyranny of minority rule come to life thanks to the backdoor schemes of Mitch McConnell, the Russian mob, and Ted Nugent.
What meaningful take can I add onto such rhetoric? Quite frankly I think the best thing I can do is post two divergent pundit pieces (gross) and ask that you take the five minutes to read both with an open mind. If nothing else you might get a glimpse into seeing how the other team is thinking about your side:
Richard Wolffe: Brett Kavanuagh’s Confirmation Isn’t Democracy. It’s a Judicial Coup.
Speaking of Which…
The New Republic gives a good rundown about several abortion cases headed to the Supreme Court and how recent judicial activity on this issue is less about one sweeping challenge to abortion rights but rather many small chips as red states test the regulatory edges the Supreme Court will, and will not, allow on the issue.
Death to the Death Penalty (In Washington at least)
The Washington Supreme Court ruled the state’s death penalty unconstitutional Thursday in a unanimous decision. The decision removes eight people from death row and changes their sentence to life in prison. Five justice wrote in the majority opinion, with the crux of the holding stating:
“The death penalty is invalid because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner. While this particular case provides an opportunity to specifically address racial disproportionality, the underlying issues that underpin our holding are rooted in the arbitrary manner in which the death penalty is generally administered. As noted by appellant, the use of the death penalty is unequally applied—sometimes by where the crime took place, or the county of residence, or the available budgetary resources at any given point in time, or the race of the defendant. The death penalty, as administered in our state, fails to serve any legitimate penological goal; thus, it violates article I, section 14 of our [Washington] state constitution.”
Here is a link to the full opinion.
A concurring opinion (signed by the other four justices) states that the system is so flawed that it “constitutionally cannot stand.” Washington is the twentieth state in the U.S. to remove the death penalty joining Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
CBS Sports reported this week that discussions have occurred about the possibility of merging Major League Soccer and Mexico’s Liga MX sometime shortly after the 2026 World Cup (hosted by Canada, Mexico and the U.S.). How the mechanics and travel of this league would work is very much up in the air but the possibility of a 40+ team league spanning North America is intriguing. The move does make sense from a monetary perspective as LigaMX would markedly boost MLS TV ratings while access to the U.S. and Canadian markets would enrich the LigaMX teams.
She Said, Fed Said
The Dow took a tumble this week, seemingly in response to the Federal Reserve changing interest rates. Naturally, President Trump took aim at the Fed. Here are some interesting opinion pieces:
Voyager 2 could leave the Solar System and enter interstellar space any day now, following in the footsteps of Voyager 1 which left in 2012. The probe, launched in 1977, is 11 billion miles from Earth and is at the extreme edge of the heliopause, the boundary where the Sun’s solar wind gives way to cosmic space. In August researchers noticed a five percent increase in cosmic ray detection, essentially blasts of protons, electrons and atomic nuclei thrown from supernovae into deep space at the speed of light. Voygaer 1 experienced a similar reading before crossing into interstellar space three months after.
One Final Thing
Mix in a salad you’re breaking the donkeys. Greece bans obese tourists from riding donkeys.