Some Datapoints on Global Political Risk

By lambert strether of Corrente.

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Here’s another in my series of quote dumps on protests by country; this time, I thought I’d focus on Brazil, China, and the United States. Much of this material comes from official media, and I’m not making any representations as to accuracy of the report or the justification of the protest. There’s no particular method behind the selection, beyond crowd size, interesting tactics, concrete detail, or thoughtfulness. As always, more sources and protests welcome in comments. In the section in the United States, I was concerned I’d have to filter for events sponsored or manipulated by the legacy party apparatus, but very fortunately, my concern was not warranted.


Belo Horizonte, June 26 – Bizarre scene, blurry photos From Brazil, 2013-06-26

I was at the Brazil-Uruguay game on Wednesday, which was surrounded by protests marked by an especially large amount of property destruction and clashes with police. I left the game, and walked past a line of Police Shock Troops (I was wearing a big Fifa press badge, so they let me) into a bizarre world. I left a tightly organized sports mega-spectacle into what felt like a post-apocalyptic movie, with street fires, smashed windows, terrifying (though polite) police, and journalists and residents wandering aimlessly among the wreckage.  Above, some motorcycles on fire in the street.

Brazil’s Great Moment of Hope: Interview with Paulo Sotero Global Observatory, 2013-06-28

[SOTERO:] Now, what would have to happen in turn of actual proposals that would quiet the streets; I think it has to do, first and foremost, with issues related to political representation. There is actually one already being worked on that would, through direct action by the people, the Brazilian constitution allows this, you collect one and a half million signatures, which represents about one percent of the voters in Brazil. And you mandate Congress to vote on a proposal. The proposal is about political system reform. It would, one: ban companies corporate donations to politicians. Secondly, it would create a two-phased system of elections in Brazil, by which you would first vote on political platforms of parties and once those platforms are voted on, and the number of slots that each party will have in Congress is determined, you will chose the politicians that will advance that platform.

The idea here is to, one, reduce the number of political parties –we have almost 30, they represent nothing. And also to reduce the number of politicians in Brazil. So, to re-establish the connection between the people and it representatives; that connection has been lost. Other proposals, Warren, affecting public transportation, health, education–they have been all under the table. They obvious take a while to be worked on. But, in order for them to be worked on in a consequential way, I think there is a consensus here that you have to re-establish the connection between the government and the governed.

Brazil’s civil society has become self-aware. We must make it last A load of Selkie, 2013-06-30

For the first time in my 30 years as a born-and-bred Brazilian, with great satisfaction, I have seen my fellow countrymen and women avidly discuss bill proposals, angrily dispute excesses by money-grabbing politicians and openly challenge the vile military police on the streets without any fear. … Brazil has a long record of relying on the third sector to bridge the gap between the shortcomings of the state and its poorer, disenfranchised people. Several non-governmental organisations (ONGs in Portuguese) have been set up since the 70s to complement a poor educational system, poor public health system, to make up for societal inequalities and an absent state.

This same gap allowed for extremely politicised criminal factions to take on the role of the state in the 70s, establishing themselves as providers of services and security in poorer communities (remember City of God?). In the past decade or so, it also allowed for the creation of militias – which took on the role of the military police in expelling drug dealers from favelas.

Even though we have several NGOs doing a fantastic job giving young people the opportunity get to where they want in life and many others operating in similar, charitable ways, we lack groups carrying out fundamental activities for the maintenance of democracy: the scrutiny of politicians, public finances, decision-making, and the holding of Brazilian municipal, state and federal authorities to account.

Brazil 2013 – a political Big Bang From Brazil, 2013-06-30

Less than a month ago, the Confederations Cup was already looming large, but the idea of there being protests associated with it was nowhere near the agenda. ‘Imagina na Copa‘ (meaning ‘if it’s this bad now, imagine what it will be like in the World Cup’), a catch-all phrase for structural problems large and small, was little more than a collective, anxious fretting over the World Cup, and the likelihood of Brazil’s infrastructure being ready for it. But it is now linked to protests and skirmishes outside the stadiums, and to discontent with what’s perceived as massive over-spending as well as bad planning for the Cup.

As I write this, in the streets of Fortaleza, North-East Brazil, where the Confederations Cup match between Italy and Spain is underway, a ‘sonic cannon’ crowd-control weapon has just been switched on for the first time by police, and protests have turned to tyre-burning on the parts of protestors, and tear-gassing and shooting on the part of the police. Witness this Storify of the days’ events in Fortaleza, which shows protesters with a FIFA GO HOME banner, police firing smoke bombs and teargas, and protesters scattering, their faces covered. One tweet by @KetyDC, whose feed is a tireless, compelling ticker-tape covering protests all over Brazil, reads ‘Palestine? No, Fortaleza. #ProtestoCE #VemPraRua #ChangeBrazil (AFP) ‘.

Brazil indigenous protest blocks major iron ore railway BBC, 2013-07-10

Brazilian indigenous people in the Amazon region have blocked one of the country’s most important railways in a protest for better public services.

Workers at Brazil port end protest; to resume strike Thursday Reuters 2013-07-10

Dock workers at Brazil’s key shipping port of Santos, the largest in South America, stopped a strike over port reform [privatization] early on Wednesday but plan to walk off the job again on Thursday in support of a broader union protest. … The National Stevedores Association in Brasilia said workers at other ports had decided against a July 10 strike and would instead join other industrial unions planning a nationwide walkout on Thursday, July 11.

Brasil for Beginners Adventures in the Recent Past, 07-11-2013

Indeed, for a country of almost 200 million, Brazilian media is very narrowly controlled, shockingly so to outsiders, by a couple of elite families, as described in the BBC documentary from the early 1990s called “Beyond Citizen Kane”  about the powerful Globo TV Network (which they successfully suppressed until the invention of YouTube). It deals with how the first election since democracy was restored, in 1989, was manipulated by the channel, leading to that disastrous and short lived presidency of Fernando Collor.

One of the widespread memes during the protests, and still growing, is the call to ‘Ocupe a Mídia’, and break the shared monopoly of Globo & Grupo Abril.

Brazil’s Workers Take to Streets in One-Day Strike Times, 2013-07-11

A one-day nationwide general strike, meant to capitalize on a wave of mass demonstrations across Brazil last month, produced mixed results on Thursday, with some cities and states disrupted severely and others largely unaffected.  … In contrast to last month’s mass protests, which began spontaneously, relied on social media to spread a broad-ranging message and had few identifiable leaders, the “National Day of Struggle” on Thursday was called by Brazil’s eight main labor union federations and was heavily scripted. The unions, which have a combined membership of six million, even met in advance with the authorities to work out the rules of the protest.

Brazil’s precarious new middle class demands more BBC, 2013-07-14

Brazil’s so-called “new middle class” gained recognition worldwide as a symbol of upward mobility. But the wave of demonstrations that brought millions out on to the streets in June has exposed the thin line that separates this group from slipping back into poverty.

Brazil’s “Other” Protesters Truthout 2013-07-14

Rio De Janeiro – The young people who have been protesting in Brazil over the last few weeks, who say they are apolitical and who have organised over the social networking sites, were not entirely pleased with Thursday’s demonstrations by the country’s trade unions and social and popular movements. … The demands of the new and more organised protests included better wages, a reduction of the work week to 40 hours, job security and an end to outsourcing, higher pensions, 10 percent of GDP for education, higher spending on public health, and improved public transport.

According to the organisers, 100,000 demonstrators came out on the streets nationwide. …  But the student protests, initially triggered by bus fare hikes and organised over Facebook and other sites, were much bigger, reaching one million people countrywide.

How I missed Brazil’s revolution Al Jazeera, 2013-07-15

As the tear gas canisters careening through the streets of Brazil finally roll to a stop near the curb and the nationwide protests subside, I now find myself reflecting on a simple question: “How did I not see this coming?”

Violence breaks out in Brazilian favelas ahead of Pope Francis visit El Pais, 2013-07-15

On Saturday night, in an operation dubbed Paz armada (Armed peace), dozens of police officers went up into the hillside slum with 58 arrest warrants against alleged drug traffickers still operating in Rocinha. There were 30 arrests and the police also uncovered as many as 100 drug sale points scattered all over the favela. Using surveillance cameras that were installed in Rocinha following its “pacification,” as well as information gleaned from social networks, the police were able to locate suspects in alleyways that do not even show up on Google Maps.

The Mass Protests in Brazil in June-July 2013 Global Research, 2013-07-15

The MPL returned in larger numbers in the following days, and the police responded with increasing brutality, beating up demonstrators and passers-by indiscriminately, and wounding several journalists.

In two weeks, the demonstrations had exploded in size while also spreading across the country. They attracted well over one million people in hundreds of cities, and movements are still taking place almost every day, including a large national mobilization led by the left on 11 July. They involve mainly young workers, students and the middle class, and localized movements of poor communities and categories of workers with demands that may be more or less specific to their circumstances (bus drivers, lorry drivers, health sector workers, and so on).

In mid-June, the mainstream press and TV networks suddenly changed sides, and started supporting the movement. They immediately engaged in a full-scale attempt to lead the movement, offering blanket coverage, effectively calling people to the streets, and – very importantly – sponsoring the multiplication and de-radicalization of demands, toward a cacophony focusing on broad citizenship issues and, especially, state inefficiency and corruption, in order to drown out the left and delegitimize the federal government.

From this moment on, the demonstrations became much more white and middle-class in composition. They included banners about a whole range of issues, among them public services (for); FIFA, the 2013 Confederations Cup and the 2014 World Cup (against); gay rights and the legalization of drugs (mainly for, but most churches are against); … Anyone could come up with their own demand, and if they were individualist and anti-political this was even better TV. It was especially paradoxical to see middle class people expressing indignation over public services that they do not currently use, and have no intention of using any time soon.

Renewal of Democracy in Brazil’s Protests Economic and Political Weekly, 2013-07-20

The protests have produced important responses from the regional and central governments as well as from public sector undertakings—urban bus fares have been lowered; construction for the automobile sector has been cancelled; the congress has speeded up voting on some proposals that were stalled for years; it has also rejected a project that was intended to change a constitutional provision and was seen as a possible loophole for political corruption; it has passed a bill that severely punishes work similar to slavery, which was previously paralysed by the agricultural business lobby; the supreme court has ordered the arrest of a congressman convicted of corruption; and most important of all, President Rousseff has proposed a national referendum on reforming the country’s political system. These actions in such a short period of time are extraordinary. They indicate that the new “protagonism” of citizens, even though diffuse, had led deaf governors and political parties to finally make some important concessions.


Occupy ‘hearts and minds’ Global Times, 2013-06-25

As the Occupy Wall Street movement spread around the world almost two years ago, Hong Kong residents occupied Central, the city’s central business district, to show support for the campaign against the excesses of capitalism.

Now some are proposing another “Occupy Central” campaign with at least 10,000 people flooding the main roads of Central on July 1, 2014. Organizers say this act of civil disobedience would be their last resort to push for universal suffrage in future Hong Kong elections.

While some might scoff at revealing the details of such a protest so far in advance, organizers said they did so because they still hope the situation won’t come to that.

The central government has technically approved universal suffrage for the 2017 chief executive election and has also stressed that the chief executive must be a patriot, which some people argue would invalidate “real” universal suffrage.

Questions on PLA role in Occupy push The Standard, 2013-07-14

Leung Chun-ying sidestepped the question of whether he would call in the People’s Liberation Army to handle Occupy Central protesters, saying he has full confidence in the ability of the local police.

The question was posed by pro-Beijing lawmaker Christopher Cheung Wah-fung, who said he was merely testing to see whether Leung would stick to the “one country, two systems” principle.

Sensitive Words: Hong Kong Protests, Xinjiang & More China Digital Times, 2013-07-15. 

As of July 1, the following search terms are blocked on Sina Weibo:

  • Central (): The area of Hong Kong where the rally ended.
  • seven one+take a walk (七一+散步): The numbers refer to July 1. “Taking a walk” is a euphemism for publicly protesting.
  • march (游行): Retested.
  • xing: The first character and the pinyin romanization of the second character in the word ”march.”
  • you: The pinyin romanization of the first character in the word “march,” followed by the second character in the same word. Retested.
  • youxing: The pinyin romanization of “march.” Retested.

Thousands brave typhoon rains demanding China honour Hong Kong democracy pledge The Star, 2013-07-01

Tens of thousands braved typhoon rains on Monday to demand China live up to its promise to allow fully democratic elections in Hong Kong in 2017 amid mounting fears of increased meddling by Beijing’s Communist Party leaders.

The former British colony returned to Chinese rule on July 1, 1997, with the promise of universal suffrage as an “ultimate aim” in its mini-constitution, making it potentially the first place on Chinese soil to enjoy fully democratic elections.

Younger activists have become increasingly politicized. Surveys show they identify themselves more as Hong Kong citizens than Chinese nationals – a trend that alarms Beijing, which is eager for the city to show more “patriotism” to the motherland.

Despite China’s pledge to allow a direct poll for the city’s leader in 2017, recent signs from senior Chinese officials have raised concern Beijing may somehow try to rig the rules to screen out opposition candidates from taking part.

My big day out at Hong Kong’s annual July 1 protest stroll Shanghai-ist, 2013-07-05

Aside from the occasional government-astroturfed xenophobic anti-Japan protest, there isn’t much opportunity to join a demonstration in Shanghai, especially one that doesn’t pose a real risk of being arrested for any foreigners who happen to catch the eye of the security services. So, finding myself in Hong Kong this July 1st, I decided to follow Jackie Chan’s lead and join in the favourite activity of the “city of protest

The march, which drew crowds of over 400,000 according to organisers, was beset both by Tropical Storm Rumbia and a nakedly desperate (and hugely cynical) free concert put on by pro-Beijing groups in an attempt to lure young Hong Kongers away from exercising their right to protest. Nevertheless, from a street level at least, the demonstration was well attended by a diverse selection of Hong Kong society.

Protesters win environmental battle in China USA Today, 2013-07-15

They were just “taking a stroll,” said organizers of an environmental protest in south China’s Guangdong province, using a widely understood term necessary in a nation whose Communist Party rulers ban most protests and unofficial public gatherings.

More than 1,000 people gathered at Jiangmen City Hall last week to demand authorities stop a planned uranium-processing facility that protesters feared would affect their health — and the health of future generations.

As the protest continued over the weekend, officials quickly announced the state-run project’s cancellation.

Activist protests China’s forced evictions by tagging DC embassy France 24, 2013-07-15

As the fifth round of US-China economic talks got underway in Washington, DC last week, one intrepid protester decided to leave his or her mark on the Chinese embassy. Under cover of darkness, the person spray-painted the Chinese character for “chai”, which means “dismantle”, on the embassy’s outer wall – right underneath security cameras.

Though it was quickly wiped away, photos of the graffiti have gone viral on Chinese social media networks, with some commenter calling the person who painted it “a national hero”. The character “chai” is fraught with meaning: in China, it is often painted on homes from which occupants have been forcibly evicted by the authorities, and which are slated for demolition to make way for massive development projects. Since the start of China’s economic boom, between 50 and 60 million Chinese citizens have lost their property in such seizures. Sometimes, residents receive some compensation, but not always.

Land rights campaigners strike at second embassy South China Morning Post, 2013-07-16

The Chinese embassy in Canada has become the second mission targeted with graffiti as part of a protest campaign by a US-based land rights group.

The Washington-based Sparrow Initiative confirmed yesterday its members were responsible for fixing a board with the Chinese character chai – meaning demolish or dismantle – to the gates of the embassy in Ottawa on Sunday.

“Eventually we will extend the meaning of the character to mean ‘demolish this dictatorship’,” [yhe group’s founder, Yang Jianli] added.

10,000 join protest against Guangzhou refuse incinerator South China Morning Post, 2013-07-16

About 10,000 people gathered yesterday in a township under Huadu district, Guangzhou, to demonstrate against plans to build a refuse incinerator in the national hub for leather-goods manufacturing.

The demonstration, approved by Shiling township officials, began at around 3pm at the Qianjin village committee office, with about 3,000 participants.

More people joined as protesters marched along main roads in Shiling to the local government offices. Some witnesses put the total number of protesters at between 8,000 and 20,000, while the organiser said at least 10,000 people showed up.

Nearly 1,000 armed police officers were seen clearing the way for demonstrators, many of whom carried colourful flags and large banners criticising the incinerator plan. The sea of people appeared to stretch about a kilometre along the roads.

Streaking on the rise in China: nudity for social change? Rocket News 2013-07-24

According to the news site News Post Seven, the number of young people arrested in Beijing for streaking suddenly jumped in May and the numbers continue to rise. On June 14, there was even an incident at Beijing University, known as China’s most prestigious and exclusive university.

United States

‘We Are Not Trayvon Martin’ Campaign Turns Protest Meme on Its Head Gawker, 2013-07-14

But a counter-movement of sorts has formed in the aftermath of George Zimmerman’s trial, and their rallying cry stands diametrically opposed to the original slogan. And here’s [Bob Seay’s] manifesto that inspired the others:

I am not Trayvon Martin. I am a middle-aged, middle class, overweight white guy. I am also a teacher, and in 20 years of teaching, I have seen plenty of Trayvon Martins. More accurately, I have seen plenty of young men who fit the caricatured image that is being portrayed of this kid in the media, Left and Right. Fox News and MSNBC. I’m guessing that neither portrayal – saint or thug – is accurate. People are more complex than that.

None of the Trayvon Martins that I know deserve to die. They may arouse suspicion, but your paranoia is not their crime. If they do commit a crime, they deserve to have a trial. Trayvon Martin’s jury consisted of one person. That is not how we are supposed to do things in America. Unfortunately, that is our reality.

Zimmerman Protesters March in D.C. CBS 2013-07-14 (photo gallery)

Hundreds gathered at Malcolm X Park and marched to Howard University to rally for Trayvon Martin, a day after George Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges, Sunday, July 14

In Tallahassee, 200 protest Zimmerman acquittal Miami Herald 2013-07-14

Some 200 protesters disappointed with the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial marched early Sunday in downtown Tallahassee. … Some in the group wore hoodies. Others carried signs that said “Racism is Not Dead” and “Who’s Next?” … Tallahassee police cleared the road to the Capitol complex to accommodate the marchers.

Trayvon Martin Protest Miami: South Floridians Hold Downtown Vigil After Verdict (PHOTOS)  HuffPo, 2013-07-14

“Don’t worry about more riots,” read a sign. “Worry about more Zimmermans.”

It was one of many pointed poster messages as roughly 200 people gathered at a rally in Downtown Miami Sunday evening in response [the Zimmerman verdict].

Though rain dampened demonstration Saturday night, the verdict was addressed at churches across the city Sunday morning.

After the Verdict: The Zimmerman Non-Riots The New Yorker, 2013-07-15

The prediction of violence was not simply wrong. It was wrong for all the wrong reasons, in an echo of the way responsibility in the case was shifted onto Martin’s shoulders. There’s a sly inversion at work in the references to lynch mobs and riots, one that takes Zimmerman’s acquittal and expands it to all of American history. This country has a long history of lynchings, but not one in which non-black defendants needed to fear the fury of black mobs. Amplifying the irony is the fact that the verdict was announced on July 13, 2013—the hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary of the Civil War draft riots in New York City, in which white mobs pursued and killed blacks on the streets and burned a black orphanage to the ground.

Salt Lake crowd decries not guilty verdict in George Zimmerman case Deseret News, 2013-07-15

The crowd was diverse, with faces of all ages and colors rallying under the same message. “Justice for Trayvon,” they shouted. “No justice, no peace.”

Word about the rally spread on social media and from friends, and the crowd lined the sidewalk and cheered as many drivers on State Street honked, waved and shouted support out their car windows. …

Prominent Utah activist Tim DeChristopher was also in attendance, walking with the group as they circled the courthouse and blocked three lanes of traffic in their march down 400 South.

Marchers Protesting Zimmerman Verdict Block Traffic on Crenshaw Blvd. KTLA, 2013-07-15. (The “storm Walmart” headlines I’m seeing are grossly sensationalistic. Pic of Crenshaw.)

Demonstrators protesting the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial were marching down Crenshaw Boulevard on Monday night. Aerials of the street showed the demonstrators walking in large groups, at times blocking traffic. A number of protesters were riding bikes, others carried signs protesting the verdict. At one point a group of marchers ran past security guards into a Walmart store at the Crenshaw Mall.

News photographers roughed up during Zimmerman protest in Oakland LA Times, 2013-07-15. (Pic of blocked traffic.)

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in San Francisco and Oakland on Sunday night to express outrage at the Florida acquittal of George Zimmerman, who admitted to shooting unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin but claimed he had feared for his life.

Both protests were largely peaceful but a small number of Oakland demonstrators — some hiding their faces with bandanas, as demonstrators did during the Occupy Oakland melees — turned violent late Sunday, setting upon an Oakland Tribune photographer and KTVU cameraman with kicks and punches.

Hundreds in Seattle protest Zimmerman acquittal Seattle Times, 2013-07-15

At least 400 people took to the streets of Seattle on Sunday night to peacefully protest the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood-watch volunteer who said he was acting in self-defense when he fatally shot Trayvon Martin in Florida last year. … Chanting in anger over the verdict, they rallied for an hour with signs and speeches at Westlake Park, then marched several blocks in the street to the steps of the federal courthouse for more speeches.

Hundreds in Philly Protest Zimmerman Verdict NBC10, 2013-07-15

Hundreds of people marched peacefully through Center City Sunday to protest the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the February 2012 shooting death of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. … The rally grew through social media with little official organization apart from the frustration of its participants.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. MB

    God helps us all if Brazil succeeds in mowing down the rainforest in the race for riches. Our oxygen factory for the planet will be extinguished..and they can spend those riches very quickly, accelerating their own and everyone else’s demise. But the good news ~ the rich and their children and grandchildren will go down seated at the front of the plane. That should please them.

    1. Massinissa

      Oxygen factory?

      I dont mean to be rude but you sort of give the rainforests too much credit, since over half the worlds oxygen comes from Phytoplankton in the oceans. If anything should be considered the worlds ‘oxygen factory’, it should go to the oceans.

      Lets hope phytoplankton can survive ocean acidification and human pollution. If they cant, we are pretty screwed.

      Not, of course, that destroying the rainforests would not be an immense tragedy. Im just saying, I dont think you can really call it ‘the’ oxygen factory. Maybe ‘an’ oxygen factory, but certainly not ‘the’.

  2. Banger

    I like your snippets on Brazil particularly. The contrast with the U.S. “protests” is fascinating. They’re trying to deal with real issues while the Americans are still floundering in media-driven racial issues which the ruling elites have used since the old populist movement to divide us. The Martin/Zimmerman tragedy is just the most foolish issue to be pursuing.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      There is a clear narrative arc to the Brazil snippets.

      By contrast, the China snippets are (a) biased toward Hong Kong and (b) exhibit no clear pattern. I’m guessing there’s no pattern because I’m not looking at the right scale (which is bigger than Brazil…).

      1. Banger

        Since I believe most of what we do comes from the unconscious even seemingly random choices or events have a deeper patern.

      2. Nathanael

        The pattern to the mainland China (not Hong Kong) protests is an interesting combination of *environmentalism* and *small landowner rights*. In China these two movements both have to fight government policy and they have become *aligned* with each other. This nexus of interests appears to be one which the people in power in China are actually afraid of.

  3. from Mexico

    @ “Brazil’s civil society has become self-aware. We must make it last”

    For the first time in my 30 years as a born-and-bred Brazilian, with great satisfaction, I have seen my fellow countrymen and women avidly discuss bill proposals, angrily dispute excesses by money-grabbing politicians and openly challenge the vile military police on the streets without any fear. …

    This is the difference between Brazil and the United States, or Brazil and Portugal. Brazil is politically alive, and the US and Portugal are politically dead. Brazil is one of a small group of countries in South America trying to wiggle out from under the US’s neoliberal jackboot.

    When one reads through the excepts above, one sees that Brazil suffers from the same problems the US does, including a so-called democracy bought and beholden to money, a brutal and unforgiving security state that selectively enforces the laws, a fourth estate monopolized by a handful of unabashedly self-serving corporations, and a state captured by narrow special interests.

    In the US the propaganda has been so successful and the brainwashing so complete that most people aren’t even aware of these problems. Consciousness raising is the first step towards any political action, and the US still hasn’t taken this first step. Maju I thought did a good job of explaining the situation in the US:

    Also one thing in which both Mexico and Spain have advantage over the USA is that in general the people distrust the system, while in the USA there is a large fraction of “patriots” (hardcore imperial-nationalists and religious fanatics) who will essentially shallow almost anything that the government and media tells them. In Mexico and Spain most people simply (and rightfully) distrust the government systematically, making these societies somewhat healthier and much harder to govern.


    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I’d like to see numbers on “consciousness raising” in Spain and Portugal. Here, I’d estimate “the National Religous Party” as under 30%, taking as a proxy for that Bush’s hard core support in 2008 (22% in July). I’d estimate “the left” at around 20%, taking as a proxy (no polling to hand) the percentage of the population that thinks ObamaCare isn’t liberal enough. We might also remember that polling IMNSHO tends to overestimate the strength of the right, and underestimate the polling strength of the left. Of course the feral right is well-funded by billionaires, and the left can’t get out of its own way, partly owing to the infiltration of apparatchiks of the political and national security classes.

      Meanwhile, in Spain, whether suspicion of the political class is general or not, they elected Rajoy, so it’s not clear what their raised consciousness means operationally. It would be interesting to know what percentage would like to return to the days of Franco, and what percentage would like to abolish the king.

      FWIW, I think it’s all TINA — the real issue is the inability of the left to articulate and propagate an the alternative to the (rentier-driven, globalist) status quo, and until that is achieved, we’re all trapped. I include myself in this in this indictment.

      Hence the easy diversion or rechanneling of the Brazilian protests into a “middle class” movement, which dovetails awfully neatly with British and American domestic politics (see Elizabeth Warren).

      1. Banger

        I think you are right on about the over count of the right. In fact, as you indicate if we had a left that could articulate a real alternative vision that can move away from interest group and culture war politics the American political scene would look very different. I’m with Chris Hedges and his fundamental analysis of the death of the liberal class and then some. As Hedges noted, the right inherited the loyalty of the white working class by default after the D partybcompletely bailed on them. I talk to such people all the time and they could be turned around if leftists started to speak plainly and honestly and, above all, listen to their concerns. At this point imagine a full scale Belushi rant if we were in conversation–hey, I like performing.

      2. from Mexico

        TINA definitely describes the political reality in Mexico, and for this reason Mexico remains a neoliberal wet dream. So you are correct in that consciousness raising and self-awareness do not automatically translate to progressive political action. The unfortunate reality is that the epiphany that “Houston, we have a problem” can have two very different political outcomes. It can just as easily translate to TINA — a pervasive sense of defeatism, surrender and paralysis — as it can to being the first step towards political insurgency. I think you hit the nail on the head when you noted that the articulation and propagation of a theoretical alternative in which to interpret the facts is what makes the difference.

        Putting Brazil in the same category as Mexico or Spain, however, I believe to be a mistake. Whereas Mexico is 24 kt. neoliberalism, Brazil under Lula and Dilma tried something different, though they still have a long way to go to arrive at anything we would call truly radical. I would encourage you to look at two factors that distinguish Brazil from a neoliberal haven like Mexico: Brazil’s minimum wage and Brazil’s industrial investment. The minimum wage in Brazil is three times what it is in Mexico. And Brazil has invested heavily in order to increase industrial output. Both of these defy the very definition of neoliberal political economy.

        In comparing Mexico to Brazil, one must also keep in mind three powerful economic safety valves which Mexico has that Brazil doesn’t:

        1. A narcotics trade that brings Mexico something like $50 billion a year in FOREX,

        2. 12 million Mexican-born immigrants working in the US that send back about $20 billion a year in FOREX, and

        3. Oil exports that bring Mexico over $10 billion a year in FOREX.

        1. from Mexico

          From some of the polling information Maju has furnished, it looks to me like Spain is farther along in articulating and propagating a theoretical alternative to neoliberalism than what Mexico is.

          I would not be at all surprised to see Spain be the next country, and the first European country, to bolt from the neoliberal faithful. My reading (again relying on the information Maju furnished) is that Spain is ahead of Chile, Peru and Columbia, and certainly Mexico, in this regard.

      3. nonclassical

        …not terribly difficult to “articulate THE alternative”…

        which begins with ending ALL $$$$ political campaign influence of “the people’s government”…

  4. Jim Haygood

    ‘I can now get some new glasses and do what I need to do around the house, including … pest (woodchuck) control.’

    Glasses: definitely recommended when plinking with the varmint rifle, just in case that furry thing in the yard turns out to be the neighbor’s shih-tzu instead of a woodchuck.

    1. ambrit

      Jim, you are the dickens. Sly dog you. (By varmint rifle I do hope you meant .22. A .22-250 would be way too much. Then, we don’t have woodchucks down here in the Deep South. They anything like coyotes? If they are, maybe a .303 would be more useful.)

        1. ambrit

          Dear Lambert;
          All snark aside, the process of ‘liquidating’ varmints isn’t all sparkly unicorns for me either. An alternative method, used by a friend of ours in the long ago to protect his, umm, gentleman farmer crop from bunnies and deer, was to get a big bucket of tiger or lion scat from the local zoo and spread it, thinly at that, around the growing area. Anything that crosses that line is way too dangerous to fool with. The ‘crops’ did just fine subsequently.

        2. Nathanael

          Critters are awfully lovely little critters.

          I could probably shoot them if I were planning to eat them — we all need to eat — but not otherwise.

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