Europe/Americas update: September 28-30 2018



This was probably inevitable, but Vladimir Putin now has his own reality TV show:

To many Russians, Putin’s annual news conference and wildly popular question-and-answer program are “circus,” a mix of entertainment and politics. This month, Putin added another tool to his repertoire: a weekly prime time series following his daily activities. The hour-long “Moscow. Kremlin. Putin” program treats viewers to a week in the life of Vladimir Putin — on holiday in Siberia, visiting hospitals and speaking with teenagers.

Critics in and outside Russia accuse the show of trying to brainwash Russians to improve Putin’s ratings. Others criticize the programming as Putin’s attempt to build a Soviet-era personality cult.

It turns out Putin isn’t the first world leader to have his own television show: Former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez hosted a popular talk show, as did Bolivian President Evo Morales and former Ecuadoran president Rafael Correa.

But what is the purpose of these programs, and why do we care?

The purpose is propaganda, obviously, but in a deeper, more existential sense these programs exist because this is bar none the dumbest era in human history. If you ask me.


Three boys, aged 13 to 15, were killed on Sunday by a landmine in eastern Ukraine. A day earlier, four people were wounded by a bomb that struck a meeting of the Donetsk Communist Party. Maybe they’ll talk about these things on the next episode of Putting Up With Putin or whatever.


In what was probably the expected outcome, Sunday’s referendum on changing Macedonia’s name to the Republic of North Macedonia saw an overwhelming victory for the “yes” side in a vote whose turnout was too low to actually be considered official. At last count 91 percent of those who did vote voted in favor of the name change, but only 37 percent of Macedonian voters turned out, a full 13 percent below the threshold for legitimacy. The result then, in one of the most exciting possible outcomes of any exercise in democracy, was a tie. Both sides of the vote were able to claim victory, with the “no” side demanding that Prime Minister Zoran Zaev resign in disgrace and Zaev promising to keep pushing for the name change in parliament and to call early elections if necessary. The referendum was mostly superfluous anyway since it’s non-binding, but the result could have been useful in terms of swaying legislators had it been decisive in any way.


Norway’s centrist Christian Democratic Party may abandon its support for the ruling Conservative party to form a coalition with Norway’s Labour Party instead. That would probably collapse Norway’s current center-right government and bring about a center-left minority government in its place. Since Norway doesn’t allow for snap elections that government could be in power until 2021 barring any other shifts.


Warnings are coming in from all corners over the Italian government’s decision to set a deficit target of 2.4 percent of GDP next year, which might add to the country’s national debt depending on how the Italian economy grows (or doesn’t) next year. Italian President Sergio Mattarella and central bank head Ignazio Visco got in on the deficit scolding on Saturday, warning about increasing debt levels, but neither one of them can really do anything to influence fiscal policy.

European Union Economics Commissioner Pierre Moscovici warned on Friday that the deficit will add to Italy’s debt. But of course Italy ran up at least some of that debt under EU-recommended austerity, so one could argue that the EU might want to sit this one out. Italy does have a problematic debt-to-GDP ratio, and of course it has no control over its own monetary policy because it’s on the euro so that’s worrisome, but the notion that you can cut your way out of debt hasn’t, to put it mildly, been empirically demonstrated.


Pro- and anti-secession protests gripped Barcelona on Saturday to mark the anniversary of last year’s independence referendum. At least 14 people were injured and six people arrested as the pro-independence protesters in particular clashed with police.



Speaking of protests, thousands of people took to the streets of São Paulo on Sunday to show their support for far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro. Just a day earlier, “tens of thousands” of people, women in particular, demonstrated around the country against Bolsonaro, just around the time Bolsonaro was getting out of the hospital after his stabbing several weeks ago. Bolsonaro has a history of making, shall we say, offensive comments about women, hence the protests. But he’s also made himself the anti-corruption candidate and has a strong nationalist base of support on top of that, hence the other protests.

Polling continues to show Workers’ Party candidate Fernando Haddad ahead of Bolsonaro in a theoretical runoff. The latest survey from the Datafolha pollster has Haddad ahead of Bolsonaro 45-39 in a head-to-head matchup–still not a totally comfortable lead but getting there. Bolsonaro leads Haddad 28-22 in the first round, but Haddad is up six points from the previous Datafolha survey. Of course this might all be superfluous, since Bolsonaro is now telling people that he won’t accept defeat, in the sense that he literally will refuse to accept as legitimate any result other than his own victory. Which is extra troubling given that he probably has the army behind him:

Bolsonaro’s running mate, retired General Hamilton Mourão, has said the armed forces should carry out a coup if the country’s judiciary cannot end political corruption.

“I cannot speak for the Armed Forces commanders, but from the support I see in the streets, I will not accept an election result that is not my own victory,” Bolsonaro said in an interview with Band TV at a hospital where he is recovering from a near-fatal stabbing three weeks ago. He did not elaborate.

Bolsonaro has previously accused the Workers Party of plotting to rig the elections, which some Brazilians have interpreted as a warning intended to encourage a military coup if he did not win.

Enjoy your coup, I guess.


Finally, some good news on the climate front, folks–we did it! We’ve solved the climate change problem! Please feel free to go back to burning whatever the fuck you want, doing doughnuts in the parking lot, coal rolling your pick up, or whatever, because it’s all going to be just fine!

OK, that’s a little bit misleading. It’s not that everything’s going to be just fine so much as, according to the Trump administration, we’re already so beyond fucked that we might as well enjoy whatever time we have left before we cook ourselves into extinction:

Last month, deep in a 500-page environmental impact statement, the Trump administration made a startling assumption: On its current course, the planet will warm a disastrous seven degrees by the end of this century.

A rise of seven degrees Fahrenheit, or about four degrees Celsius, compared with preindustrial levels would be catastrophic, according to scientists. Many coral reefs would dissolve in increasingly acidic oceans. Parts of Manhattan and Miami would be underwater without costly coastal defenses. Extreme heat waves would routinely smother large parts of the globe.

But the administration did not offer this dire forecast, premised on the idea that the world will fail to cut its greenhouse gas emissions, as part of an argument to combat climate change. Just the opposite: The analysis assumes the planet’s fate is already sealed.

The draft statement, issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), was written to justify President Trump’s decision to freeze federal fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks built after 2020. While the proposal would increase greenhouse gas emissions, the impact statement says, that policy would add just a very small drop to a very big, hot bucket.

Uh, hooray? Honestly the balls on these people–to claim that runaway climate change, caused in no small part by their policies, is so runaway that it justifies saying “fuck it” and sticking with those same policies–just boggle the mind. Of course it’s not just the US–China is also employing the “fuck it” approach in building new coal-fired power plants, and that’s even worse than this fuel standard business. But the best part is that all the people who are saying “fuck it” when it comes to climate change are too old and/or rich to really feel its effects anyway. They get to say “fuck it” while the rest of us just get fucked.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.