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30 Oct 22:49

Os brasileiros ficaram mais politizados do que os argentinos?

by Gustavo Chacra

Quando eu era mais novo e mesmo depois quando eu vivi na Argentina, em 2000, já como correspondente da Folha em Buenos Aires, diziam que os argentinos eram politizados e nós, brasileiros, apáticos. Hoje virou o inverso. Nós brasileiros somos politizados e os argentinos, apáticos. Independentemente da posição, hoje os brasileiros debatem política, falam de política, brigam e leem sobre política.

Alguns dos blogs mais populares do Brasil são de política. São mais lidos do que os de futebol. Impressionante. Já os argentinos desistiram. Espero que os brasileiros não desistam também. Embora discorde de muitos amigos, ache que alguns tenham adotado posturas extremas, isso é bem melhor do que a apatia. Apesar de tudo, os brasileiros avançaram nesta questão.

26 Oct 06:15

Alcoholics Anonymous: Much More Than You Wanted To Know

Adam Victor Brandizzi

O maluco resolveu mergulhar na literatura sobre AA e encontrou um caos.

[EDIT 10/27: Slight changes in response to feedback; correcting some definitions. I am not an expert in this field and will continue to make changes as I learn about them. There is a critique of this post here and other worse critiques elsewhere. My only excuse for doing this is that I am failing less spectacularly than other online sources writing about the same topic.]

I’ve worked with doctors who think Alcoholics Anonymous is so important for the treatment of alcoholism that anyone who refuses to go at least three times a week is in denial about their problem and can’t benefit from further treatment.

I’ve also worked with doctors who are so against the organization that they describe it as a “cult” and say that a physician who recommends it is no better than one who recommends crystal healing or dianetics.

I finally got so exasperated that I put on my Research Cap and started looking through the evidence base.

My conclusion, after several hours of study, is that now I understand why most people don’t do this.

The studies surrounding Alcoholics Anonymous are some of the most convoluted, hilariously screwed-up research I have ever seen. They go wrong in ways I didn’t even realize research could go wrong before. Just to give some examples:

– In several studies, subjects in the “not attending Alcoholics Anonymous” condition attended Alcoholics Anonymous more than subjects in the “attending Alcoholics Anonymous” condition.

– Almost everyone’s belief about AA’s retention rate is off by a factor of five because one person long ago misread a really confusing graph and everyone else copied them without double-checking.

– The largest study ever in the field, a $30 million effort over 8 years following thousands of patients, had no untreated control group.

Not only are the studies poor, but the people interpreting them are heavily politicized. The entire field of addiction medicine has gotten stuck in the middle of some of the most divisive issues in our culture, like whether addiction is a biological disease or a failure of willpower, whether problems should be solved by community and peer groups or by highly trained professionals, and whether there’s a role for appealing to a higher power in any public organization. AA’s supporters see it as a scruffy grassroots organization of real people willing to get their hands dirty, who can cure addicts failed time and time again by a system of glitzy rehabs run by arrogant doctors who think their medical degrees make them better than people who have personally fought their own battles. Opponents see it as this awful cult that doesn’t provide any real treatment and just tells addicts that they’re terrible people who will never get better unless they sacrifice their identity to the collective.

As a result, the few sparks of light the research kindles are ignored, taken out of context, or misinterpreted.

The entire situation is complicated by a bigger question. We will soon find that AA usually does not work better or worse than various other substance abuse interventions. That leaves the sort of question that all those fancy-shmancy people with control groups in their studies don’t have to worry about – does anything work at all?


We can start by just taking a big survey of people in Alcoholics Anonymous and seeing how they’re doing. On the one hand, we don’t have a control group. On the other hand…well, there really is no other hand, but people keep doing it.

According to AA’s own surveys, one-third of new members drop out by the end of their first month, half by the end of their third month, and three-quarters by the end of their first year. “Drop out” means they don’t go to AA meetings anymore, which could be for any reason including (if we’re feeling optimistic) them being so completely cured they no longer feel they need it.

There is an alternate reference going around that only 5% (rather than 25%) of AA members remain after their first year. This is a mistake caused by misinterpreting a graph showing that only five percent of members in their first year were in their twelfth month of membership, which is obviously completely different. Nevertheless, a large number of AA hate sites (and large rehabs!) cite the incorrect interpretation, for example the Orange Papers and RationalWiki’s page on Alcoholics Anonymous. In fact, just to keep things short, assume RationalWiki’s AA page makes every single mistake I warn against in the rest of this article, then use that to judge them in general. On the other hand, Wikipedia gets it right and I continue to encourage everyone to use it as one of the most reliable sources of medical information available to the public (I wish I was joking).

This retention information isn’t very helpful, since people can remain in AA without successfully quitting drinking, and people may successfully quit drinking without being in AA. However, various different sources suggest that, of people who stay in AA a reasonable amount of time, about half stop being alcoholic. These numbers can change wildly depending on how you define “reasonable amount of time” and “stop being alcoholic”. Here is a table, which I have cited on this blog before and will probably cite again:

Behold. Treatments that look very impressive (80% improved after six months!) turn out to be the same or worse as the control group. And comparing control group to control group, you can find that “no treatment” can appear to give wildly different outcomes (from 20% to 80% “recovery”) depending on what population you’re looking at and how you define “recovery”.

Twenty years ago, it was extremely edgy and taboo for a reputable scientist to claim that alcoholics could recover on their own. This has given way to the current status quo, in which pretty much everyone in the field writes journal articles all the time about how alcoholics can recover on their own, but make sure to harp upon how edgy and taboo they are for doing so. From these sorts of articles, we learn that about 80% of recovered alcoholics have gotten better without treatment, and many of them are currently able to drink moderately without immediately relapsing (something else it used to be extremely taboo to mention). Kate recently shared an good article about this: Most People With Addiction Simply Grow Out Of It: Why Is This Widely Denied?

Anyway, all this stuff about not being able to compare different populations, and the possibility of spontaneous recovery, just mean that we need controlled experiments. The largest number of these take a group of alcoholics, follow them closely, and then evaluate all of them – the AA-attending and the non-AA-attending – according to the same criteria. For example Morgenstern et al (1997), Humphreys et al (1997) and Moos (2006). Emrick et al (1993) is a meta-analyses of a hundred seventy three of these. All of these find that the alcoholics who end up going to AA meetings are much more likely to get better than those who don’t. So that’s good evidence the group is effective, right?

Bzzzt! No! Wrong! Selection bias!

People who want to quit drinking are more likely to go to AA than people who don’t want to quit drinking. People who want to quit drinking are more likely to actually quit drinking than those who don’t want to. This is a serious problem. Imagine if it is common wisdom that AA is the best, maybe the only, way to quit drinking. Then 100% of people who really want to quit would attend compared to 0% of people who didn’t want to quit. And suppose everyone who wants to quit succeeds, because secretly, quitting alcohol is really easy. Then 100% of AA members would quit, compared to 0% of non-members – the most striking result it is mathematically possible to have. And yet AA would not have made a smidgeon of difference.

But it’s worse than this, because attending AA isn’t just about wanting to quit. It’s also about having the resources to make it to AA. That is, wealthier people are more likely to hear about AA (better information networks, more likely to go to doctor or counselor who can recommend) and more likely to be able to attend AA (better access to transportation, more flexible job schedules). But wealthier people are also known to be better at quitting alcohol than poor people – either because the same positive personal qualities that helped them achieve success elsewhere help them in this battle as well, or just because they have fewer other stressors going on in their lives driving them to drink.

Finally, perseverance is a confounder. To go to AA, and to keep going for months and months, means you’ve got the willpower to drag yourself off the couch to do a potentially unpleasant thing. That’s probably the same willpower that helps you stay away from the bar.

And then there’s a confounder going the opposite direction. The worse your alcoholism is, the more likely you are to, as the organization itself puts it, “admit you have a problem”.

These sorts of longitudinal studies are almost useless and the field has mostly moved away from them. Nevertheless, if you look on the pro-AA sites, you will find them in droves, and all of them “prove” the organization’s effectiveness.


It looks like we need randomized controlled trials. And we have them. Sort of.

Brandsma (1980) is the study beloved of the AA hate groups, since it purports to show that people in Alcoholics Anonymous not only don’t get better, but are nine times more likely to binge drink than people who don’t go into AA at all.

There are a number of problems with this conclusion. First of all, if you actually look at the study, this is one of about fifty different findings. The other findings are things like “88% of treated subjects reported a reduction in drinking, compared to 50% of the untreated control group”.

Second of all, the increased binge drinking was significant at the 6 month followup period. It was not significant at the end of treatment, the 3 month followup period, the 9 month followup period, or the 12 month followup period. Remember, taking a single followup result out of the context of the other followup results is a classic piece of Dark Side Statistics and will send you to Science Hell.

Of multiple different endpoints, Alcoholics Anonymous did better than no treatment on almost all of them. It did worse than other treatments on some of them (dropout rates, binge drinking, MMPI scale) and the same as other treatments on others (abstinent days, total abstinence).

If you are pro-AA, you can say “Brandsma study proves AA works!”. If you are anti-AA, you can say “Brandsma study proves AA works worse than other treatments!”, although in practice most of these people prefer to quote extremely selective endpoints out of context.

However, most of the patients in the Brandsma study were people convicted of alcohol-related crimes ordered to attend treatment as part of their sentence. Advocates of AA make a good point that this population might be a bad fit for AA. They may not feel any personal motivation to treatment, which might be okay if you’re going to listen to a psychologist do therapy with you, but fatal for a self-help group. Since the whole point of AA is being in a community of like-minded individuals, if you don’t actually feel any personal connection to the project of quitting alcohol, it will just make you feel uncomfortable and out of place.

Also, uh, this just in, Brandsma didn’t use a real AA group, because the real AA groups make people be anonymous which makes it inconvenient to research stuff. He just sort of started his own non-anonymous group, let’s call it A, with no help from the rest of the fellowship, and had it do Alcoholics Anonymous-like stuff. On the other hand, many members of his control group went out into the community and…attended a real Alcoholics Anonymous, because Brandsma can’t exactly ethically tell them not to. So technically, there were more people in AA in the no-AA group than in the AA group. Without knowing more about Alcoholics Anonymous, I can’t know whether this objection is valid and whether Brandsma’s group did or didn’t capture the essence of the organization. Still, not the sort of thing you want to hear about a study.

Walsh et al (1991) is a similar study with similar confounders and similar results. Workers in an industrial plant who were in trouble for coming in drunk were randomly assigned either to an inpatient treatment program or to Alcoholics Anonymous. After a year of followup, 60% of the inpatient-treated workers had stayed sober, but only 30% of the AA-treated workers had.

The pro-AA side made three objections to this study, of which one is bad and two are good.

The bad objection was that AA is cheaper than hospitalization, so even if hospitalization is good, AA might be more efficient – after all, we can’t afford to hospitalize everyone. It’s a bad objection because the authors of the study did the math and found out that hospitalization was so much better than AA that it decreased the level of further medical treatment needed and saved the health system more money than it cost.

The first good objection: like the Brandsma study, this study uses people under coercion – in this case, workers who would lose their job if they refused. Fine.

The second good objection, and this one is really interesting: a lot of inpatient hospital rehab is AA. That is, when you go to an hospital for inpatient drug treatment, you attend AA groups every day, and when you leave, they make you keep going to the AA groups. In fact, the study says that “at the 12 month and 24 month assessments, the rates of AA affiliation and attendance in the past 6 months did not differ significantly among the groups.” Given that the hospital patients got hospital AA + regular AA, they were actually getting more AA than the AA group!

So all that this study proves is that AA + more AA + other things is better than AA. There was no “no AA” group, which makes it impossible to discuss how well AA does or doesn’t work. Frick.

Timko (2006) is the only study I can hesitantly half-endorse. This one has a sort of clever methodological trick to get around the limitation that doctors can’t ethically refuse to refer alcoholics to treatment. In this study, researchers at a Veterans’ Affairs hospital randomly assigned alcoholic patients to “referral” or “intensive referral”. In “referral”, the staff asked the patients to go to AA. In “intensive referral”, the researchers asked REALLY NICELY for the patients to go to AA, and gave them nice glossy brochures on how great AA was, and wouldn’t shut up about it, and arranged for them to meet people at their first AA meeting so they could have friends in AA, et cetera, et cetera. The hope was that more people in the “intensive referral” group would end out in AA, and that indeed happened scratch that, I just re-read the study and the same number of people in both groups went to AA and the intensive group actually completed a lower number of the 12 Steps on average, have I mentioned I hate all research and this entire field is terrible? But the intensive referral people were more likely to have “had a spiritual awakening” and “have a sponsor”, so it was decided the study wasn’t a complete loss and when it was found the intensive referral condition had slightly less alcohol use the authors decided to declare victory.

So, whereas before we found that AA + More AA was better than AA, and that proved AA didn’t work, in this study we find that AA + More AA was better than AA, and that proves AA does work. You know, did I say I hesitantly half-endorsed this study? Scratch that. I hate this study too.


All right, @#%^ this $@!&*. We need a real study, everything all lined up in a row, none of this garbage. Let’s just hire half the substance abuse scientists in the country, throw a gigantic wad of money at them, give them as many patients as they need, let them take as long as they want, but barricade the doors of their office and not let them out until they’ve proven something important beyond a shadow of a doubt.

This was about how the scientific community felt in 1989, when they launched Project MATCH. This eight-year, $30 million dollar, multi-thousand patient trial was supposed to solve everything.

The people going into Project MATCH might have been a little overconfident. Maybe “not even Zeus could prevent this study from determining the optimal treatment for alcohol addiction” overconfident. This might have been a mistake.

The study was designed with three arms, one for each of the popular alcoholism treatments of the day. The first arm would be “twelve step facilitation”, a form of therapy based off of Alcoholics Anonymous. The second arm would be cognitive behavioral therapy, the most bog-standard psychotherapy in the world and one which by ancient tradition must be included in any kind of study like this. The third arm would be motivational enhancement therapy, which is a very short intervention where your doctor tells you all the reasons you should quit alcohol and tries to get you to convince yourself.

There wasn’t a “no treatment” arm. This is where the overconfidence might have come in. Everyone knew alcohol treatment worked. Surely you couldn’t dispute that. They just wanted to see which treatment worked best for which people. So you would enroll a bunch of different people – rich, poor, black, white, married, single, chronic alcoholic, new alcoholic, highly motivated, unmotivated – and see which of these people did best in which therapy. The result would be an algorithm for deciding where to send each of your patients. Rich black single chronic unmotivated alcoholic? We’ve found with p < 0.00001 that the best place for someone like that is in motivational enhancement therapy. Such was the dream.

So, eight years and thirty million dollars and the careers of several prestigious researchers later, the results come in, and - yeah, everyone does exactly the same on every kind of therapy (with one minor, possibly coincidental exception). Awkward.

“Everybody has won and all must have prizes!”. If you’re an optimist, you can say all treatments work and everyone can keep doing whatever they like best. If you’re a pessimist, you might start wondering whether anything works at all.

By my understanding this is also the confusing conclusion of Ferri, Amato & Davoli (2006), the Cochrane Collaboration’s attempt to get in on the AA action. Like all Cochrane Collaboration studies since the beginning of time, they find there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate the effectiveness of the intervention being investigated. This has been oft-quoted in the anti-AA literature. But by my reading, they had no control groups and were comparing AA to different types of treatment:

Three studies compared AA combined with other interventions against other treatments and found few differences in the amount of drinks and percentage of drinking days. Severity of addiction and drinking consequence did not seem to be differentially influenced by TSF versus comparison treatment interventions, and no conclusive differences in treatment drop out rates were reported.

So the two best sources we have – Project MATCH and Cochrane – don’t find any significant differences between AA and other types of therapy. Now, to be fair, the inpatient treatment mentioned in Walsh et al wasn’t included, and inpatient treatment might be the gold standard here. But sticking to various forms of outpatient intervention, they all seem to be about the same.

So, the $64,000 question: do all of them work well, or do all of them work poorly?


Alcoholism studies avoid control groups like they are on fire, presumably because it’s unethical not to give alcoholics treatment or something. However, there is one class of studies that doesn’t have that problem. These are the ones on “brief opportunistic intervention”, which is much like a turbocharged even shorter version of “motivational enhancement therapy”. Your doctor tells you ‘HELLO HAVE YOU CONSIDERED QUITTING ALCOHOL??!!’ and sees what happens.

Brief opportunistic intervention is the most trollish medical intervention ever, because here are all these brilliant psychologists and counselors trying to unravel the deepest mysteries of the human psyche in order to convince people to stop drinking, and then someone comes along and asks “Hey, have you tried just asking them politely?”. And it works.

Not consistently. But it works for about one in eight people. And the theory is that since it only takes a minute or two of a doctor’s time, it scales a lot faster than some sort of hideously complex hospital-based program that takes thousands of dollars and dozens of hours from everyone involved. If doctors would just spend five minutes with each alcoholic patient reminding them that no, really, alcoholism is really bad, we could cut the alcoholism rate by 1/8.

(this also works for smoking, by the way. I do this with every single one of my outpatients who smoke, and most of the time they roll their eyes, because their doctor is giving them that speech, but every so often one of them tells me that yeah, I’m right, they know they really should quit smoking and they’ll give it another try. I have never saved anyone’s life by dramatically removing their appendix at the last possible moment, but I have gotten enough patients to promise me they’ll try quitting smoking that I think I’ve saved at least one life just by obsessively doing brief interventions every chance I get. This is probably the most effective life-saving thing you can do as a doctor, enough so that if you understand it you may be licensed to ignore 80,000 Hours’ arguments on doctor replaceability)

Anyway, for some reason, it’s okay to do these studies with control groups. And they are so fast and easy to study that everyone studies them all the time. A meta-analysis of 19 studies is unequivocal that they definitely work.

Why do these work? My guess is that they do two things. First, they hit people who honestly didn’t realize they had a problem, and inform them that they do. Second, the doctor usually says they’ll “follow up on how they’re doing” the next appointment. This means that a respected authority figure is suddenly monitoring their drinking and will glare at them if they stay they’re still alcoholic. As someone who has gone into a panic because he has a dentist’s appointment in a week and he hasn’t been flossing enough – and then flossed until his teeth were bloody so the dentist wouldn’t be disappointed – I can sympathize with this.

But for our purposes, the brief opportunistic intervention sets a lower bound. It says “Here’s a really minimal thing that seems to work. Do other things work better than this?”

The “brief treatment” is the next step up from brief intervention. It’s an hour-or-so-long session (or sometimes a couple such sessions) with a doctor or counselor where they tell you some tips for staying off alcohol. I bring it up here because the brief treatment research community spends its time doing studies that show that brief treatments are just as good as much more intense treatments. This might be most comparable to the “motivational enhancement therapy” in the MATCH study.

Chapman and Huygens (1988) find that a single interview with a health professional is just as good as six weeks of inpatient treatment (I don’t know about their hospital in New Zealand, but for reference six weeks of inpatient treatment in my hospital costs about $40,000.)

Edwards (1977) finds that in a trial comparing “conventional inpatient or outpatient treatment complete with the full panoply of services available at a leading psychiatric institution and lasting several months” versus an hour with a doc, both groups do the same at one and two year followup.

And so on.

All of this is starting to make my head hurt, but it’s a familiar sort of hurt. It’s the way my head hurts when Scott Aaronson talks about complexity classes. We have all of these different categories of things, and some of them are the same as others and others are bigger than others but we’re not sure exactly where all of them stand.

We have classes “no treatment”, “brief opportunistic intervention”, “brief treatment”, “Alcoholics Anonymous”, “psychotherapy”, and “inpatient”.

We can prove that BOI > NT, and that AA = PT. Also that BT = IP = PT. We also have that IP > AA, which unfortunately we can use to prove a contradiction, so let’s throw it out for now.

So the hierarchy of classes seems to be (NT) < (BOI) ? (BT, IP, AA, PT) - in other words, no treatment is the worst, brief opportunistic intervention is better, and then somewhere in there we have this class of everything else that is the same.

Can we prove that BOI = BT?

We have some good evidence for this, once again from our Handbook. A study in Edinburgh finds that five minutes of psychiatrist advice (brief opportunistic intervention) does the same as sixty minutes of advice plus motivational interviewing (brief treatment).

So if we take all this seriously, then it looks like every psychosocial treatment (including brief opportunistic intervention) is the same, and all are better than no treatment. This is a common finding in psychiatry and psychology – for example, all common antidepressants are better than no treatment but work about equally well; all psychotherapies are better than no treatment but work about equally well, et cetera. It’s still an open question what this says about our science and our medicine.

The strongest counterexample to this is Walsh et al which finds the inpatient hospital stay works better than the AA referral, but this study looks kind of lonely compared to the evidence on the other side. And even the authors admit they were surprised by the effectiveness of the hospital there.

And let’s go back to Project MATCH. There wasn’t a control group. But there were the people who dropped out of the study, who said they’d go to AA or psychotherapy but never got around to it. Cutter and Fishbain (2005) take a look at what happened to these folks. They find that the dropouts did 75% as well as the people in any of the therapy groups, and that most of the effect of the therapy groups occurred in the first week (ie people dropped out after one week did about 95% as well as people who stayed in).

To me this suggests two things. First, therapy is only a little helpful over most people quitting on their own. Second, insofar as therapy is helpful, the tiniest brush with therapy is enough to make someone think “Okay, I’ve had some therapy, I’ll be better now”. Just like with the brief opportunistic interventions, five minutes of almost anything is enough.

This is a weird conclusion, but I think it’s the one supported by the data.


I should include a brief word about this giant table.

I see it everywhere. It looks very authoritative and impressive and, of course, giant. I believe the source is Miller’s Handbook of Alcoholism Treatment Approaches: Effective Alternatives, 3rd Edition, the author of which is known as a very careful scholar whom I cannot help but respect.

And the table does a good thing in discussing medications like acamprosate and naltrexone, which are very important and effective interventions but which will not otherwise be showing up in this post.

However, the therapy part of the table looks really wrong to me.

First of all, I notice acupuncture is ranked 17 out of 48, putting in a much, much better showing than treatments like psychotherapy, counseling, or education. Seems fishy.

Second of all, I notice that motivational enhancement (#2), cognitive therapy (#13), and twelve-step (#37) are all about as far apart as could be, but the largest and most powerful trial ever, Project MATCH, found all three to be about equal in effectiveness.

Third of all, I notice that cognitive therapy is at #13, but psychotherapy is at #46. But cognitive therapy is a kind of psychotherapy.

Fourth of all, I notice that brief interventions, motivational enhancement, confrontational counseling, psychotherapy, general alcoholism counseling, and education are all over. But a lot of these are hard to differentiate from one another.

The table seems messed up to me. Part of it is because it is about evidence base rather than effectiveness (consider that handguns have a stronger evidence base than the atomic bomb, since they have been used many more times in much better controlled conditions, but the atomic bomb is more effective) and therefore acupuncture, which is poorly studied, can rank quite high compared to things which have even one negative study.

But part of it just seems wrong. I haven’t read the full book, but I blame the tendency to conflate studies showing “X does not work better than anything else” with “X does not work”.

Remember, whenever there are meta-analyses that contradict single very large well-run studies, go with the single very large well-run study, especially when the meta-analysis is as weird as this one. Project MATCH is the single very large well-run study, and it says this is balderdash. I’m guessing it’s trying to use some weird algorithmic methodology to automatically rate and judge each study, but that’s no substitute for careful human review.


In conclusion, as best I can tell – and it is not very well, because the studies that could really prove anything robustly haven’t been done – most alcoholics get better on their own. All treatments for alcoholism, including Alcoholics Anonymous, psychotherapy, and just a few minutes with a doctor explaining why she thinks you need to quit, increase this already-high chance of recovery a small but nonzero amount. Furthermore, they are equally effective after only a tiny dose: your first couple of meetings, your first therapy session. Some studies suggest that inpatient treatment with outpatient followup may be better than outpatient treatment alone, but other studies contradict this and I am not confident in the assumption.

So does Alcoholics Anonymous work? Though I cannot say anything authoritatively, my impression is: Yes, but only a tiny bit, and for many people five minutes with a doctor may work just as well as years completing the twelve steps. As such, individual alcoholics may want to consider attending if they don’t have easier options; doctors might be better off just talking to their patients themselves.

If this is true – and right now I don’t have much confidence that it is, it’s just a direction that weak and contradictory data are pointing – it would be really awkward for the multibazillion-dollar treatment industry.

More worrying, I am afraid of what it would do to the War On Drugs. Right now one of the rallying cries for the anti-Drug-War movement is “treatment, not prison”. And although I haven’t looked seriously at the data for any drug besides alcohol. I think some data there are similar. There’s very good medication for drugs – for example methadone and suboxone for opiate abuse – but in terms of psychotherapy it’s mostly the same stuff you get for alcohol. Rehabs, whether they work or not, seem to serve an important sort of ritual function, where if you can send a drug abuser to a rehab you at least feel like something has been done. Deny people that ritual, and it might make prison the only politically acceptable option.

In terms of things to actually treat alcoholism, I remain enamoured of the Sinclair Method, which has done crazy outrageous stuff like conduct an experiment with an actual control group. But I haven’t investigated enough to know whether my early excitement about them looks likely to pan out or not.

I would not recommend quitting any form of alcohol treatment that works for you, or refusing to try a form of treatment your doctor recommends, based on any of this information.

30 Oct 12:37

In Brazilian city, homeless face ‘extermination’ | Al Jazeera America


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Attempts to turn the investigation of at least 50 deaths over to federal authorities have stalled

October 25, 2014 5:00AM ET

The graves of homeless murder victims are among the thousands of newly dug plots in the Vale da Paz (Valley of Peace) cemetery a few miles outside Goiânia, Brazil, October, 2014.Rafael Fabres / Global Assignments by Getty Images for Al Jazeera America

GOIÂNIA, Brazil — Marcos Aurélio Nunes da Cruz, the boy who was like a little bird, died in his sleep. His cardboard deathbed sat under the concrete awning of a discount supermarket.

His killer had approached at 3 a.m. The man, who wore a black helmet, glanced around, paused for a few seconds, pulled out a handgun and shot Cruz once in the left side of his forehead.

In a sense, Cruz was lucky. Dozens of others who, like him, slept on the streets of Goiânia, a disregarded city of 1.3 million in Brazil’s agricultural heartland, have been stoned, stabbed, clubbed or burned alive. Others have simply disappeared.

The memory of the 57 killed since August 2012 is preserved with a list kept by human-rights campaigners — some by full name, others by their street monikers: Hummingbird, Woodpecker, Cinnamon. The youngest was 13, the oldest 52.

The deaths have equaled about one in 20 of the city's homeless population. In the two-year period, homeless people in Goiânia were murdered at a rate roughly ten times higher than in the rest of Brazil, although experts warned of the difficulty of gathering complete data.

After midnight on the streets of the city’s industrial core, outside its ubiquitous rodeo bars and shopping malls, the homeless stumble down the sidewalks with ripped clothes, bruised skin and panic in their eyes.

Many who live on the streets sleep during the day and walk at night. It is safer that way. In Goiânia, a city where, as one drifter put it, “no one sees and no one knows,” only the bravest dare to ask who is doing the killing and why.

An encampment of homeless people who live under a bridge in Goiânia, Brazil, includes mattresses and a stove, September, 2014.Rafael Fabres / Global Assignments by Getty Images for Al Jazeera America

Newspaper headlines last week seemed to have a partial answer: a serial killer who gunned down victims as he cruised the streets on his motorbike. On Oct. 15, police said Tiago Henrique Gomes da Rocha, a 26-year-old hospital security guard, had confessed to 39 murders in Goiânia.

The victims included 15 young women and eight homeless people, police said. Less than two weeks before the second round of gubernatorial elections in the state of Goiás on Sunday, Gov. Marconi Perillo’s investigators said they had found their man.

Except, far from Brazil’s coastal metropolises, in this backwater where political corruption and police violence are endemic, religious leaders and federal human-rights officials said they worry that the state’s military-police officers may be to blame for some of the 57 killings.

A federal human-rights commission first suggested this after a visit to the city in April 2013. But the commission’s attempt to get the police investigation federalized has stalled, and in the meantime, the killings have continued. Local police, meanwhile, have attributed the deaths to violence among the homeless and drug gangs. So far, one police officer has been arrested for three murders, but not convicted. The campaigners, who say they are themselves targets of death threats, fear the murders are another chapter in a long story of extrajudicial killings, violence against homeless and police impunity in Brazil.

The site next to the Madri supermarket in Goiânia, Brazil, where Marcos Aurélio Nunes da Cruz was murdered in 2012. Rafael Fabres / Global Assignments by Getty Images for Al Jazeera America

The police say the killings began on Aug. 12, 2012, nearly three months before Cruz died. On that humid night, Bianca, a 22-year-old who had been on the streets for nine years, says she witnessed a murder that police later said was the first. (Her name has been changed for her protection). It was Zinca who did it, she says, the thug who controlled the drug market in a square called the Praça do Trabalhador.

Zinca was not homeless, but sometimes, when he turned up to collect his dirty money, he would wear old clothes and feign a limp. He’d been arrested a few years before, accused of killing as many as 10 people, newspapers wrote. But he was allowed to return to the streets as the investigation of him continued. Sometimes he wouldn’t bother with the disguise and would just turn up in his khaki uniform: In addition to his work with drug gangs, Zinca is a member of the military police force, which is tasked with maintaining order and preventing crimes.

A dreaded presence on the streets of Goiânia, Zinca is said to carry two handguns — his official police-issue weapon on his left hip, one for extrajudicial killings on his right. This August night, Mateus Stefany Rodrigues Carvalho Souza, 22, did not have the money Zinca wanted. A crack addict, Souza had taken the drugs he was supposed to sell. So Zinca shot him six times, at close range, Bianca later said.

Souza’s name became the first on the human-rights campaigners’ macabre list, which would soon swell to 47, according to the civil police, or 57, according to Goiânia’s leading human-rights institute. Another homeless man, Eduardo Alves Gouveia, 29, was the second name on the list, stabbed to death in a different part of the city on the same night.

Ondina Gonzaga Coelho, 58, the mother of Marcos Aurélio Nunes da Cruz, stands next to his photograph in her home. Rafael Fabres / Global Assignments by Getty Images for Al Jazeera America

Two more people were killed before the Day of the Dead, Nov. 2, when Cruz spoke to his mother, Ondina Gonzaga Coelho, for the last time. “Marcos was like a little bird: He just wanted to be free,” she says of her son, who’d left home 20 years earlier, at age 16.

When they spoke that evening, his mother says Cruz only had enough phone credit for two minutes. He had almost lost hope, was aggressive and clearly on drugs.

“I cannot live without crack,” Cruz told her. “Please send me 150 reals.”

“I will not send you money,” she replied. “I have already given you too much.”

“You will send me money,” he said. “My life is worth nothing. You do not like me.”

“It’s because I love you that I will not send money,” she said.

Then, the line went dead. Zinca was accused of her son’s murder as well.

Two others were killed on the same night, Nov. 5, all within a radius of one mile. By early April 2013, when 13-year-old Natanael Moura da Silva was clubbed to death, the number had reached 29.

A homeless man and his possessions in Goiânia.Rafael Fabres / Global Assignments by Getty Images for Al Jazeera America

Even in a country as nonchalant about violence as Brazil, the case started to attract notice. Brazil’s federal human-rights secretariat sent a team to Goiânia to investigate. Court documents obtained by Al Jazeera America show that the secretariat identified a culture of “institutional violence” within the military police and suspicion over a series of cases that included deaths dating from 2005.

“The situation in Goiás has been alarming for years,” says Marcelo Murteira de Salles, a spokesman for the secretariat. “With the apparent involvement of military police and the delay in an effective response, it could be concluded that the state has not fulfilled its role.”

Citing the “extermination of the homeless population in Goiânia,” Brazil’s then general prosecutor, Roberto Gurgel, petitioned the Superior Court of Justice to have the investigation taken from the local detectives of the civil police, who concentrate on criminal investigations, and given to the federal police, whose officers fulfill a role similar to the FBI’s.

But 17 months later, a decision by the judge in the case, Jorge Mussi, is still pending. In the meantime, more people were killed, including four in April of last year. Then, according to records kept by the civil police, the number of murders sharply declined to 11 the rest of that year and four so far in 2014.

“The authorities began to say that some of the people who were dying, who did not have identity documents and appeared to be homeless, were in fact not homeless,” says Eduardo Mota, director of the João Bosco Burnier Center for the Defense of Human Rights, in Goiânia, which is named after a local priest who was murdered by the military police in 1976. “They were crack addicts who, by chance, died on the streets. So they solved the problem of the high numbers of homeless people being murdered, statistically. They stopped counting.”

But Mota and his group have continued to keep track. Although his official tabulation, which now includes information from media reports as well as the police, is 57, he believes the truth to be closer to 70. Others who work with the homeless in the city estimate that once those who simply disappear without a trace are included, the true number may be as high as 100.

Goiania Brazil homeless deaths

The grave of a murdered homeless person in the Vale da Paz (Valley of Peace) cemetery. Rafael Fabres / Global Assignments by Getty Images for Al Jazeera America

Of those killed, the lucky ones are identified and given a private burial by their families. Cruz is buried in a cemetery in the city of Jaraguá, amid the soybean fields of central Goiás, where their parents and three siblings live.

Unidentified bodies are held for 45 days at the city’s forensic institute before being given a pauper’s burial in hand-dug graves in the Valley of Peace municipal cemetery in the countryside five miles outside Goiânia.

Here, the bodies of the poor arrive 5 or 10 at a time and are lowered into graves as heavy trucks roar past on the nearby freeway. It is rare for any family to be present, says Osmar Lacerda Xavier, a gravedigger. “There is no ceremony, no one says any words.”

Reginaldo, a 51-year-old man who was beaten the night before by an unknown assailant. Rafael Fabres / Global Assignments by Getty Images for Al Jazeera America

Of more than a dozen homeless people interviewed by Al Jazeera America in Goiânia last month, nearly all had a story to tell about police violence. On the streets, ROTAM, the black-clothed special-ops unit of the Goiás military police, is especially feared.

Reginaldo, 51, nursed a head wound on the steps of a church after being beaten with a stick the previous night. It is unknown whether the attacker was a civilian or a police offer. But Reginaldo said he once saw a friend die after police kicked him repeatedly in the stomach.

“Most of my friends from the street are now dead,” he added. “Nobody knows for sure why all of the killings are happening. But we know they are. Someone is coming to kill people as they sleep.”

Said Reginaldo, who now helps church volunteers distribute food, “It seems that there are people in Goiânia who take pleasure in violence.”

Ananias, 55, has a better home than most. Living under the supports of a bridge, he can wash, drink and clean his teeth with the passing water and maintain a home of sorts for himself, his friends and his six cats. But when the river floods, he sees bodies floating past. ROTAM has a favorite spot nearby for beating its victims, he said.

He has lost three or four friends in the past couple of years due to police beatings, he said. “Where are the missing?” he asked. “No one sees and no one knows. You say nothing; otherwise you’ll be the next victim.”

Maria Madalena, 56, a longtime campaigner for the rights of the homeless who has recently become scared for her safety.Rafael Fabres / Global Assignments by Getty Images for Al Jazeera America

No one knows the homeless here better than Maria Madalena, 56. She has helped those living on the city’s streets for 33 years with the Pastoral dos Povos da Rua, a Catholic outreach program.

When two boys believed the police were about to execute them, she is the one they called. “Auntie, we don’t think you’ll see us alive again,” they said. That night, she said, they died.

And when up to 60 homeless people spent a night deep in the city’s sewer system, surrounded by rats, to hide from a police operation, she was with them. But lately, some strange things have been happening to her.

First, there were the phone calls, she said. “Are you still alive?” a male voice would ask. “Where are you right now?” Then the call would cut off. A few months ago, early in the morning, she noticed a black car outside her house. It was the same day, she said, that federal judges were in Goiânia to investigate the deaths of the homeless.

As she stepped into the street, the car accelerated toward her, she said, but she managed to escape. Now she is scared. She refuses to meet at her own home. When the homeless reach out to her for help, she returns the calls using a different phone. She believes she is being targeted, as she was the first to call for the investigation of the killings to be taken over by federal police.

The registry of bodies at the Vale da Paz (Valley of Peace) cemetery, where many of the homeless victims are buried. Rafael Fabres / Global Assignments by Getty Images for Al Jazeera America

She is not the only one to have been threatened. A priest, Geraldo Marcos Labarrère, 73, who denounced police violence against street children several years ago, received a call at his office in 2011 from someone who asked for his height. “I’m making a coffin for him and I need to know the size of it,” the caller said.

Others, including key witnesses, have just disappeared. Bianca, the girl who saw the first killing, gave a statement against Zinca, whose real name is Rogério Moreira da Silva. In it, she said she and her boyfriend, Rodrigo, were dragged off the street soon afterward the first killing and taken to GT3, the elite paramilitary unit of the civil police.

They were handcuffed, gagged and tied to a post, where they continued to hug each other while they were stunned with a Taser gun, she said. Then a policeman shot Rodrigo in the head, with the bullet only missing her by inches, she added.

Bianca recalled being bundled into the trunk of a black car and subsequently dragged into a building and raped by the same officer who had killed her boyfriend. “If you say anything to anyone, we will kill your family,” she said she was told before being dumped at the side of the road.

The civil police did not respond to a request to comment on the allegations.

Testimony from Bianca and several others led to three murder charges against Zinca. However, his trial for the first murder has collapsed three times — the first because a key witness could not be found; the second because the trial was arranged for a day Brazil was playing in the World Cup; the third because of a missing expert report. No other police were arrested or are sought over the other killings. Zinca, who is in jail awaiting trial, has denied wrongdoing.

After becoming one of very few to dare to testify against the police, Bianca was accepted into a witness-protection program. But she fled, and has since disappeared.

“She is a strong candidate to die,” Madalena said. “Goiás is a state without law and without respect for human rights. … Jesus would not have been born in Goiânia, but he would die here. Such is the rate of violence against the homeless.”

Murilo Polati, head of the homicide squad of the civil police in Goiânia.Rafael Fabres / Global Assignments by Getty Images for Al Jazeera America

Until the arrest of Rocha last week, police were adamant that there was no serial killer or death squad behind the killings of the homeless or of the 15 young women shot by an assassin over the past year. (Those cases had previously been treated as unrelated.) “It was not the military police,” said civil-police homicide chief, Murilo Polati, about the Zinca case. “It was a military-police officer.”

In an emailed statement, a spokesman for the military police denied any role of its officers in the killings. “There is no formal proof of the involvement of military police officers of Goiás in death squads,” the spokesman wrote. “The military police does not condone illegal behavior and is strict when it catches officers in breach of professional ethics. It is not in our interests to maintain officers who do not respect dignity or human rights.”

The vast majority of the deaths are due to drug gangs or fights between the homeless, according to the civil police. “As many as 80 percent,” Polati said. “A dead drug addict. Another dead drug addict. The motivation: the use and trafficking of narcotics.”

Polati said he had identified 18 other suspects; one, Maria de Lourdes Medeiros Lira, confessed and was convicted of one of the murders. None of the 18 are police officers. Of those who have had judicial proceedings started against them, many, including Lira, were once homeless themselves.

In another case that did make it to court, against Ronailson Santos Costa, a homeless man accused of the second of the murders, the prosecutor requested an acquittal because of the “flimsy” nature of the evidence. “It is no use to refer to the judiciary an inquiry with frail investigation just for the statistics,” Judge Jesseir Coelho de Alcântara told the court. “This is very dangerous, because it can lead to injustice.”

Then, last week, the civil police announced they had arrested Rocha, the hospital security guard who they said had confessed to killing 39, including eight of the homeless. But his lawyer, Thiago Vidal, then told reporters his client had been coerced into the confessions, without giving further details.

Two days later, following another interrogation, Vidal changed his mind. “At first I thought the police may have coerced him into confessing to a crime he didn’t commit, but he told the story of each death with such detail,” Vidal said.

Then, on Oct. 23, the civil police announced that Rocha had withdrawn his confessions in 10 of the killings. He was still admitting to killing the 15 women, the police said, but did not respond to a request to comment on how many of the remaining confessions related to the homeless.

The implications of Rocha’s arrest for the investigation of the killings of homeless remain unclear. Whatever happens, recent history in Goiânia suggests justice may be elusive.

In 2009, prosecutors in Goiâs became so concerned over a pattern of suspicious deaths involving military police that they requested an investigation by federal police. On that occasion, the request was granted.

Wiretaps were set up that shed light on the force’s inner workings. For instance, they revealed one policeman, Ederson Trindade, talking to his sergeant. “Let me tell you something, boss!” he says. “I kill. I kill for pleasure and satisfaction.”

Goiania Brazil homeless deaths

An election poster riddled with mock bullet holes at the headquarters of Carlos Cézar Macário, a former subcommander of the military police once accused of running a death squad. Rafael Fabres / Global Assignments by Getty Images for Al Jazeera America

Another recording is of Col. Carlos Cézar Macário, then the subcommander of the military police in Goiás and a former commander of ROTAM. Talking to a colleague about a thief who had been apprehended and allegedly killed by police, he said, “If we don’t kill a guy like that, we would become demoralized.”

The investigators concluded that Macário had led a death squad that had been active for a decade and had buried dozens of victims in secret graveyards. He was among 19 officers arrested by the federal police in 2011. Nearly four years on, however, only two have been tried in court, and both of those were cleared.

The others, including Macário, are still waiting for their court dates to be set, thanks to Brazil’s notoriously laborious judicial process. Macário is accused of murder, concealment of a corpse, conspiracy, torture, dereliction of duty, procedural fraud and illegal possession of a firearm with a restricted gauge. He has denied the allegations.

Macário, who did not respond to interview requests for this article, has since retired from the military police. When Al Jazeera America visited Goiânia, he was running for a deputy position in the Goiás state government, with the support of the governor. His election poster featured two fake bullet holes and bore the slogan “Against banditry, in defense of the family.”

A homeless man who told of being attacked, stands in the Matriz de Campinas church in Goiânia. He hid his face out of fear of revealing his identity. Rafael Fabres / Global Assignments by Getty Images for Al Jazeera America

On the streets of Goiânia, the homeless gathered by the Matriz de Campinas church, where, on a secluded porch, an array of candles swayed in the wind. Paulo, 38, was there. He had a long memory. Thirteen years ago, he was shot at by police in Goiânia, he said. He fled, but three of his friends died.

Killings by police have always happened, he said. “There have always been death squads. But Goiânia now feels like checkmate for the homeless. “People are scared, very scared.”

After a short service on the steps of the church, priest Welinton Silva and his volunteers headed out to distribute the food they had prepared.

Down a deserted side street, where citrine street lamps illuminated piles of debris, Márcio, 38, sat alone. On a disintegrating mattress next to walls blackened by fire, he shivered in the evening heat. “Father, you brought trousers for me?” he begged. “I am cold.”

Priest Welinton Silva consoles Marcio, 38, a homeless, paralyzed man.Rafael Fabres / Global Assignments by Getty Images for Al Jazeera America

He had drunk cachaça and taken “a little” crack, but nothing could cloak the childlike trepidation in his eyes. Paralyzed from the waist down, he could not walk or run.

“What do you want in life?” Father Welinton asked.

“I want not to die on the street,” Márcio replied.

Kneeling, the priest reached out to touch Márcio’s bedraggled hair fondly and began to sing a song, an echo of Christian childhood, and slowly Márcio began to sing too:

“It seemed impossible
“It seemed there was no way out
“It seemed to be my death
“But Jesus changed my luck
“I am a miracle and I am here…”

As the volunteers began to drive off, Márcio continued to murmur the tune in the darkness.

Mauro Graeff Júnior contributed reporting to this story.

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30 Oct 12:49

Scientists find traces of sea plankton on ISS surface

KOROLEV (Moscow region), August 19. /ITAR-TASS/. An experiment of taking samples from illuminators and the ISS surface has brought unique results, as scientists had found traces of sea plankton there, the chief of an orbital mission on Russia’s ISS segment told reporters.

Results of the scope of scientific experiments which had been conducted for a quite long time were summed up in the previous year, confirming that some organisms can live on the surface of the International Space Station (ISS) for years amid factors of a space flight, such as zero gravity, temperature conditions and hard cosmic radiation. Several surveys proved that these organisms can even develop.

Microorganisms could be found on the ISS surface thanks to high-precision equipment. “Results of the experiment are absolutely unique. We have found traces of sea plankton and microscopic particles on the illuminator surface. This should be studied further,” chief of the Russian ISS orbital mission Vladimir Solovyev said.

He noted that it was not quite clear how these microscopic particles could have appeared on the surface of the space station.

In reply to a question on how the ISS surface is contaminated now, the space specialist said that the ISS surface was polluted very strongly due to operation of space engines and other factors. “We are conducting special works to polish somehow and put illuminators in order. This is particularly needed during long space flights,” Solovyev added.

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31 Jul 11:47

Desmontando un horno microondas para crear un arma

by Sergio Parra

Internet puede usarse para el bien o para el mal. Por ejemplo, en Internet podemos encontrar instrucciones precisas para construir armas (lo cual alcanzará cotas verdaderamente preocupantes cuando se desarrollen las impresoras 3D). Luego hay personas que cogen cachivaches de casa, los desmontan y con sus piezas forjan armas delirantes, como es el caso del ucraniano Kreosan con el magnetrón de un horno microondas (lo que genera las ondas electromagnéticas con las que calentamos nuestra comida), que ha sujetado a un palo, usando una lata de café como antena direccional.

Con esta rudimentaria (y hasta cierto punto ridícula arma), sin embargo, no solo consigue crear interferencias en una radio o encender luces a distancias. También hace explotar alguna cosa. Lo cual es toda una proeza, porque recordad que los microondas no suelen explotar aunque les metas objetos metálicos (tal y como aparece en alguna película): podéis leer la explicación en ¿Es buena idea encender el microondas si no hay nada dentro de él?.

Vía | NeoTeo

La noticia Desmontando un horno microondas para crear un arma fue publicada originalmente en Xatakaciencia por Sergio Parra.

29 Oct 19:21

Eleita a melhor eleição

by (Pabel, a dupla)
Vôdzeumacoisaprocês, viu. Nosso exuviante doutor nunca havia passado tão prazerosamente um período de eleições. Foi pràticamente uma gargalhada só de cabo à rabo. E, como todos sabem, tanto melhor é o riso qdo vem sem aviso. Ele achava q os petista iriam dizer as maior bobagem –pois os dilmo-votante sofrem duma hipoplausibilose galopante talvez incurável–, mas qual não foi a surpresa doutoral qdo, ao dar mais atenção aos aècio-votante, deparou-se com uma enxurrada, uma caudalosa inundação, uma chuva torrencial (êpa) de sintomas hipoplausibilético num tom bombástico e apocalíptico q äs vez levou o Dr Plausível à levantar-se de madrugada pra ir até o quintal gargalhar. É esplendorosamente assobroso como a língua portuguesa se presta à manipular os sentido e desviar o raciocínio. Esta língua de camponeses e comerciantes é absolutamente fascinada com enganação, enrolação, dissimulação e roubo. Como resultado, pràticamente tudo q se fala em política no Brasil é sobre isso. E sai uma gororoba atrás da outra, instigada por três ou quatro articulistas fascinado pelo Foro de São Paulo, estarrecidos ao descobrir q não são só os país rico, os grande empreiteiro, os torcedor do Curíntia e os fabricante de marmelada q se juntam pra definir padrões de conduta, metas e estratégias. Dentre as tonteria disseminada por esse punhado de jornalistas e repetida por milhões de aécio-votantes, tem umas impagável pérola de hipoplausibilose:

• O PT tá há DOZE anos usufruindo das benesse de ter um presidente no Planalto… mas SÓ AGORA vai *realmente* tentar um “golpe totalitário”.

Ué, ‘agora’ já passou. Ah não, não. Não era aquele ‘agora’, é ESTE ‘agora’; o de antes foi só preparação. Ué, mas esse ‘agora’ já passou. Ah não, peraí. Errei. Não é ESSE ‘agora’, será o *próximo* ‘agora’.


• Tipo assim, os petista querem chegar ao controle absoluto de TUDO, da economia, das força armada, da indústria, da moralidade… mas é uma arrastadinha de cada vez. Um decretinho aqui, outro ali, à passo de lesma, pra no fim abocanhar TUDO.


• Querem dar um “golpe” fascista… mas é, tipo assim, um golpe como somatória de centenas de afagos cumulativo e cirúrgico, exposto à votações ao longo de décadas à fio.

• E não só isso. A esperteza e malevolência dos petista é tão grande q… q… q eles planejam alcançar isso através de eleições em pleno gozo duma democracia representativa e equilibrada.

• Tipo assim, os petista querem implantar um regime TOTALITÁRIO… mas… mas… paulatinamente.


Pau-la-ti-na-men-te. Nada de revolução, viu, pois revolução é marxismo antiquado, tipo marxismo do PRÓPRIO Marx, o criador do marxismo. Entenderam?

• Eles têm um projeto totalitarista… mas não é pra ser um totalitarismo escancarado, não, q seria óbvio demais. Escancarada é a Coréia do Norte, onde o Kim-Jong-un abocanha 100% dos votos. Não, não. Pro PT, 51% já basta, pois ele quer é implantar um regime de exceção usando a eleição democrática de voto pleno e o congresso multipartidário como fachada.


• Insistem em sua sanha pra instaurar uma tirania de fato no Brasil… mas viu, não se enganem, pois muito mais perniciosa q uma tirania aberta é uma tirania velada, aquela em q só PARECE q é tudo livre. Mas é pura enrolação. Vc pode votar, não é preso por discordar, pode sair do país e entrar qdo quiser, pode chamar a presidente de filha-da-puta, pode até mandar petista prä cadeia… mas na verdade, viu, é tudo disfarçado, é tudo feito na calada do dia, nos bastidor do palco democrático e nas intriga do debate livre.


• Pois eles são uma quadrilha… mas uma quadrilha com 1,6 milhão de criminosos filiado trabalhando em perfeita sincronia, viu. Todos eles. TODOS. Recebem ordens expressa da cúpula petista e obedecem como máquinas, viu, como as máquina sem opiniões própria, sem individualidades, sem sectarismos em q a cúpula pretende transformar toda a população brasileira através de técnicas de engenharia social. Viu?


• Eles são tão espertos q querem fazer um plebiscito pra q o povo ignorante q não sabe nada-de-nada tenha mais poder do q o próprio congresso nacional neste nosso glorioso sistema representativo… mas os opositor do PT são muito mais esperto: eles tão aventando um OUTRO plebiscito, viu, pra dividir o país em DOIS, formando um país ao sul de população 100% pura, TOTALMENTE de anti-petistas, e outro ao norte com 100% da população TOTALMENTE petista. E o norte vai ficar com jazidas de minérios, petróleo, riquezas sem fim, e o sul vai ficar com as sede dos banco, as fábrica e as plantação de tomate.


• São umas raposa, esses petista, viu. Pois olha só. Eles fazem a maldade TÃO disfarçadamente q só alguns jornalista genial conseguem perceber, viu. Gênios. Os próprios gênios q propalam essas idéia. E os petista vêm dando o golpe TÃO paulatinamente, q qdo o Lula foi presidente (Lula, hem, com todo aquele carisma e apoio popular), o PT preferiu ir beeeem devagarzinho, quase não aprovou nada socialista, ficou só na moita maquinando, maquinando, pra poder dar o lance GE-NI-AL de só colocar na sucessão, OITO anos depois, uma presidente tecnocrata sem charme, sem carisma e sem oratória. Mas ¡que esperteza, não? Ô vilania. Si ninguém se opuser à essa máquina de intrigas, à esse plano macabro de sujeição paulatina total à passo de lesma do povo brasileiro de joelhos aos pé dos maléfico desígnio do totalitarismo fascista do socialismo comunista autoritário tirano da esquerdização total num regime de exceção, então não haverá outra escapatória exceto baixar abjetamente os olho e o rabo e obedecer caninamente à toda e qqer ordem q emanar dessa toda-poderosa quadrilha de mestres manipulador q controlará minuciosamente todo ato, toda palavra e todo pensamento de cada um de seus 200 milhões de escravos pra todo o sempre e mais três dia.

Ou então, vc pode apenas gargalhar.

30 Oct 06:12

Iridescent Cloud Edge Over Colorado

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2014 October 29
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

Iridescent Cloud Edge Over Colorado
Image Credit & Copyright: Phil Plait (Bad Astronomy Blog, Slate)

Explanation: Sometimes your eclipse viewing goes bad in an interesting way. While watching and photographing last Thursday's partial solar eclipse, a popular astronomy blogger suffered through long periods of clouds blocking the Sun. Unexpectedly, however, a nearby cloud began to show a rare effect: iridescence. Frequently part of a more familiar solar corona effect, iridescence is the diffraction of sunlight around a thin screen of nearly uniformly-sized water droplets. Different colors of the sunlight become deflected by slightly different angles and so come to the observer from slightly different directions. This display, featured here, was quite bright and exhibited an unusually broad range of colors. On the right, the contrails of an airplane are also visible.

APOD Wall Calendar: Weather and Volcanoes
Tomorrow's picture: spooky sky < | Archive | Index | Search | Calendar | RSS | Education | About APOD | Discuss | >

Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
NASA Official: Phillip Newman Specific rights apply.
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& Michigan Tech. U.

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29 Oct 23:41

Face Of The Day

by Andrew Sullivan


Members of some 30 families who live under a bridge rest amid candlelight after the illegal electric supply they were using was cut in Manila on October 29, 2014. Some earn money by selling flowers and collecting plastic bottles, earring an average of four US dollars a day. The Philippines announced in April plans to spend more on infrastructure and introduce other reforms to try to lift millions out of poverty. The revised Philippine Development Plan sets more ambitious economic targets to address persistent concerns that poor Filipinos are not enjoying the benefits of the country’s recent dramatic economic growth. By Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images.

29 Oct 19:40



17 Oct 19:48

Orphaned Baby Rhino Seems To Think He's A Fuzzy Little Lamb

by Sarah Barness
This orphaned rhino has made an unexpected friend.

Gertjie (aka Little G) is apparently bosom buddies with a lamb named Lammie. The two play together at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Center, an organization that rehabilitates orphaned and injured animals.

The rhino seems to mimic the lamb's prancing as the two frolic happily on the grounds of their South African home.

Gertjie did not come from such happy beginnings, however. He was brought to the HESC after being found next to his dead mother, a victim of poachers.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, poaching has increased dramatically in the past few years, and hundreds of African rhinos are killed every year for their horns.

Fortunately, Gertjie has been thriving under the care of his human keepers, who have posted footage online to document his journey. These YouTube videos have helped make Gertjie an Internet star; they've also raised awareness about rhino poaching.

Now, watch Gertjie and Lammie run off into the sunset. Ah, bliss. Adorable, adorable bliss.

H/T Tastefully Offensive

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30 Sep 04:00


And if clicking on any word pops up a site-search for articles about that word, I will close all windows in a panic and never come back.
03 Jul 10:00

Predator Riding an Alien? Star Wars Samurai? Now, This Is Cool.

by Brian Ashcraft

Predator Riding an Alien? Star Wars Samurai? Now, This Is Cool.

Takayuki Takeya is one of Japan's most talented—and unusual figure sculptors. His work is sometimes dark and even disturbing, but it's always interesting and often very cool.

Recently in Tokyo, Takeya's work was on display at 3331 Arts Chiyoda. This was his first exhibit in over a decade. Have a look:

Predator Riding an Alien? Star Wars Samurai? Now, This Is Cool. Predator Riding an Alien? Star Wars Samurai? Now, This Is Cool. Predator Riding an Alien? Star Wars Samurai? Now, This Is Cool. Predator Riding an Alien? Star Wars Samurai? Now, This Is Cool. Predator Riding an Alien? Star Wars Samurai? Now, This Is Cool. Predator Riding an Alien? Star Wars Samurai? Now, This Is Cool. Predator Riding an Alien? Star Wars Samurai? Now, This Is Cool. Predator Riding an Alien? Star Wars Samurai? Now, This Is Cool. Predator Riding an Alien? Star Wars Samurai? Now, This Is Cool. Predator Riding an Alien? Star Wars Samurai? Now, This Is Cool. Predator Riding an Alien? Star Wars Samurai? Now, This Is Cool. Predator Riding an Alien? Star Wars Samurai? Now, This Is Cool. Predator Riding an Alien? Star Wars Samurai? Now, This Is Cool. Predator Riding an Alien? Star Wars Samurai? Now, This Is Cool. Predator Riding an Alien? Star Wars Samurai? Now, This Is Cool. Predator Riding an Alien? Star Wars Samurai? Now, This Is Cool. Predator Riding an Alien? Star Wars Samurai? Now, This Is Cool. Predator Riding an Alien? Star Wars Samurai? Now, This Is Cool. Predator Riding an Alien? Star Wars Samurai? Now, This Is Cool. Predator Riding an Alien? Star Wars Samurai? Now, This Is Cool. Predator Riding an Alien? Star Wars Samurai? Now, This Is Cool. Predator Riding an Alien? Star Wars Samurai? Now, This Is Cool. Predator Riding an Alien? Star Wars Samurai? Now, This Is Cool. Predator Riding an Alien? Star Wars Samurai? Now, This Is Cool. Predator Riding an Alien? Star Wars Samurai? Now, This Is Cool. Predator Riding an Alien? Star Wars Samurai? Now, This Is Cool.

Takeya might be best known for his work on Bandai's Super Imaginative Chogokin line of figurines. That, or his Revoltech Takeya series of Buddhist statues. Takeya has also done video game work, such as overseeing the Yoshimitsu design on Tekken Tag Tournament 2.

Photos: ohiko2000 , yamane02, jigokuRider, yokotamamoru, motomemodayo, オタクな一口馬主, Chiyoda, f_lisp, Ahiru Douraku

To contact the author of this post, write to or find him on Twitter @Brian_Ashcraft.

Kotaku East is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.

28 Jul 16:46

Crow asks for water

29 Oct 12:29

Multa por desvios no governo Maluf vira creche com Haddad

Adam Victor Brandizzi

Meu haddadismo está se agravando.


O Deutsche Bank terá de pagar multa de 20 milhões de dólares por facilitar desvios de Maluf nas obras do túnel Ayrton Senna e avenida Jornalista Roberto Marinho

por Redação — publicado 28/10/2014 18:25


Arte: CartaCapital

A Justiça aprovou o acordo selado entre a Prefeitura de São Paulo e o Ministério Público Estadual para o alemão Deutsche Bank repassar aos cofres públicos 20 milhões de dólares. O valor é referente à indenização imposta à instituição por ter movimentado recursos oriundos de desvios praticados pelo ex-prefeito Paulo Maluf nas obras do Túnel Ayrton Senna e da Avenida Jornalista Roberto Marinho, entre 1993 e 1996. Em troca da garantia de não ser alvo da ação judicial, o banco deverá pagar a multa nos próximos 45 dias.

A maior parte da quantia, 18 milhões de dólares, irá direto para os cofres da prefeitura. Segundo o prefeito Fernando Haddad, o dinheiro será utilizado na construção de creches na cidade. Outro 1,5 milhão de dólares vai para o governo estadual e 200 mil dólares serão utilizados pelo Ministério Público para o pagamento de perícias e despesas das ações de improbidade em andamento contra Maluf.

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29 Oct 12:53

Justiça proíbe PM de usar bala de borracha em manifestação

  • Caio Guatelli - 18.mai.2000/Folha Imagem

    Fotógrafo do jornal Agora S.Paulo, Alex Silveira foi atingido no olho por bala de borracha durante protesto de funcionários da rede publica de ensino, saúde e transportes em SP

A Justiça de São Paulo concedeu na última sexta-feira (24) liminar (decisão provisória) que proíbe a PM (Polícia Militar) de utilizar armas e balas de borracha para dispersar manifestações.

Agora, a PM paulista tem 30 dias para informar publicamente um plano de ação em protestos de rua, que não inclua o uso deste tipo de equipamento, sob o risco de multa diária no valor de R$ 100 mil, que devem ser imputados ao governo do Estado em caso de descumprimento. Como a medida é liminar, há possibilidade de o governo recorrer.

De acordo com a decisão, há pontos obrigatórios que devem estar inclusos no plano de ação da PM. Além da proibição do uso balas de borracha, todos os envolvidos nas ações de policiamento deverão ter a identificação dos nomes dos policiais afixada na farda de forma visível.O plano de ação das tropas, em caso de necessidade de dispersão, deverá também indicar o nome de quem o ordenou.

A liminar foi concedida pelo juiz Valentino Aparecido de Andrade da 10ª Vara da Fazenda Pública que atendeu as medidas de ação movida pela Defensoria Pública e proposta pela Conectas, uma ONG de defesa de direitos humanos.

 "O objetivo foi reivindicar que a PM aja de forma preventiva e não repressora. Queremos que a polícia garanta esse direito de manifestação de forma inteligente", declarou o defensor público Fabrício Viana.

O documento diz, ainda, que "sprays de pimenta e gases podem eventualmente ser utilizados, mas em casos extremos".


"É uma decisão extremamente positiva e de importância dentro da questão dos direitos humanos. Da legitimidade do direito da manifestação pacífica, um ganho para a sociedade toda", disse o fotógrafo Sérgio Silva, vítima de uma bala de borracha no olho esquerdo, durante uma manifestação no dia 13 de junho do ano passado, em São Paulo.

Devido ao acidente, Silva perdeu o olho esquerdo e hoje usa uma prótese estética no local. "O uso desse tipo de arma tem de obedecer um tipo de regulamento, que na prática não ocorre", disse ele.

Neste ano, o fotógrafo entregou um abaixo-assinado ao secretário de Segurança Pública de São Paulo, Fernando Grella Vieira, que pedia o fim do uso desse tipo de armamento.

"As assinaturas foram recolhidas pela sociedade civil, em um momento em que eu ainda recuperava a minha saúde", disse ele, que segue fazendo acompanhamento médico.

Em nota enviada ao UOL na manhã desta quarta-feira (29), a Secretaria de Segurança Pública do Estado informou que irá recorrer da decisão. "A Polícia Militar de São Paulo atua dentro dos estritos limites da lei e segundo padrões reconhecidos internacionalmente. A decisão judicial é provisória e será enfrentada por recurso próprio", diz a nota.

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29 Oct 15:11

ISIS On The Rio Grande?

by Andrew Sullivan
Adam Victor Brandizzi

Olha, nem duvido não...

Musa al-Gharbi argues that Mexico’s drug cartels are in every last respect more violent and dangerous than the Islamic State, from their body count (16,000 killed last year) to their use of child soldiers, kidnapping, torture, rape, and slavery:

Some may argue that despite the asymmetries, the cartels are less of a threat than ISIL because ISIL is unified around an ideology, which is antithetical to the prevailing international order, while the cartels are concerned primarily with money. This is not true.

A good deal of the cartels’ violence is perpetrated ritualistically as part of their religion, which is centered, quite literally, on the worship of death. The narcos build and support churches all across Mexico to perpetuate their eschatology. One of the cartels, the Knights Templar (whose name evokes religious warfare), even boasts about its leader’s death and resurrection. When cartel members are killed, they are buried in lavish mausoleums, regarded as martyrs and commemorated in popular songs glorifying their exploits in all their brutality. Many of their members view the “martyrs” as heroes who died resisting an international order that exploits Latin America and fighting the feckless governments that enable it. The cartels see their role as compensating for state failures in governance. The narco gospel, which derives from Catholicism, is swiftly making inroads in the United States and Central America.

In short, the cartels’ ideological disposition is no less pronounced than ISIL’s, if not worse.

29 Oct 04:00


Anyway, that's a common misconception. Geese live for a long time; all the ones we can see will probably keep flying around for billions of years before they explode.
29 Oct 16:00

skt4ng: Jamie Bochert Photographed by Willy Vanderperre and...


Jamie Bochert Photographed by Willy Vanderperre and styled by Charlotte Stockdale for GARAGE Magazine FALL/WINTER 2014

25 Oct 13:06

“The Goldilocks Principle Of Grading”

by Andrew Sullivan

Heidi Tworek proposes a fix for grade inflation in the US:

Why not simply have fewer grades and accept that the majority of students might receive the same mark? The United Kingdom’s system only has three classes of grades: first, second, and third (although second is split into 2:1 and 2:2). A first denotes work of outstanding quality. In 2012 to 2013, 19 percent of students graduated with a first. An overwhelming 76 percent of students received a second-class degree (51 percent earned a 2:1, 25 percent a 2:2). Only 5 percent were given a third.

The U.K. is not immune to disputes about grade inflation. But it’s telling that the most common grade by far is still a second, not a first. When employers all accept that a second-class degree already provides a stamp of quality, it removes the narcissism inherent in minor differences. There are also fewer incentives for professors to assign higher grades if students recognize that the majority of them will receive the same mark.

28 Oct 05:31

Plane, Clouds, Moon, Spots, Sun

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2014 October 27
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

Plane, Clouds, Moon, Spots, Sun
Image Credit & Copyright: Doyle Slifer

Explanation: What's that in front of the Sun? The closest object is an airplane, visible just below the Sun's center and caught purely by chance. Next out are numerous clouds in Earth's atmosphere, creating a series of darkened horizontal streaks. Farther out is Earth's Moon, seen as the large dark circular bite on the upper right. Just above the airplane and just below the Sun's surface are sunspots. The main sunspot group captured here, AR 2192, is one of the largest ever recorded and has been crackling and bursting with flares since it came around the edge of the Sun early last week. Taken last Thursday, this show of solar silhouettes was unfortunately short-lived. Within a few seconds the plane flew away. Within a few minutes the clouds drifted off. Within a few hours the partial solar eclipse of the Sun by the Moon was over. Only the sunspot group remains, but within a few more days even AR 2192 will disappear around the edge of the Sun. Fortunately, when it comes to the Sun, even unexpected alignments are surprisingly frequent.

Gallery: Last Thursday's Partial Solar Eclipse
Tomorrow's picture: mars, backwards < | Archive | Index | Search | Calendar | RSS | Education | About APOD | Discuss | >

Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
NASA Official: Phillip Newman Specific rights apply.
NASA Web Privacy Policy and Important Notices
A service of: ASD at NASA / GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.

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25 Oct 13:28

Why Women Belong On Mars

by Andrew Sullivan


Last year, Kate Greene and five teammates simulated living conditions on Mars for a NASA-funded project (the experiment actually took place on a volcano in Hawaii). What she noticed while collecting and managing data:

Week in and week out, the three female crew members expended less than half the calories of the three male crew members. Less than half! We were all exercising roughly the same amount—at least 45 minutes a day for five consecutive days a week—but our metabolic furnaces were calibrated in radically different ways. During one week, the most metabolically active male burned an average of 3,450 calories per day, while the least metabolically active female expended 1,475 calories per day. It was rare for a woman on crew to burn 2,000 calories in a day and common for male crew members to exceed 3,000.

Female astronauts, Greene suggests, may simply be more cost-effective than male ones:

The more food a person needs to maintain her weight on a long space journey, the more food should launch with her. The more food launched, the heavier the payload. The heavier the payload, the more fuel required to blast it into orbit and beyond. The more fuel required, the heavier the rocket becomes, which it in turn requires more fuel to launch.

Rachel Nuwer adds:

Greene is not alone in this thinking. Alan Drysdale, a systems analyst in advanced life support and a former contractor with NASA, supports the idea of selecting for astronauts with smaller body sizes, including women. According to some figures Drysdale crunched, the smallest women in the NASA program require half the resources of the largest men, Greene reports. “There’s no reason to choose larger people for a flight crew when it’s brain power you want,” he told Greene.

(Computer-generated image of Mars at the boundary between darkness and daylight via NASA/JPL-Caltech)

24 Oct 06:12

More Madan

by Greg Ross
Adam Victor Brandizzi

haha, que singelo.

Further excerpts from the notebooks of Geoffrey Madan:

“Curious how much more room dirty clothes take up than clean ones, when you’re packing — quite out of proportion to the amount of dirt they contain.” — Claud Russell

Sworded/sordid: an absurd homonym.

“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which has to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.” — F.H. Bradley

Hua [French master at Eton] and Warre could neither pronounce the other’s name, but each made the same sound in the attempt.

The fascination, to a crowd, of anything going up the side of a building on a rope or lift: exceedingly primitive.

“A hamper is undoubtedly requisite under the present circumstances. It must contain several pots of superior jam.” — Lord Curzon, aged 9, writing from school

NO ROAD BEYOND THE CEMETERY — Opinion of the Slough Borough Council, placed on a notice-board near Bourne End Church

See Observations.

28 Oct 14:35

Romance Denied

by Greg Ross

James Bosworth survived the Charge of the Light Brigade in 1854 and went on to become a railway stationmaster in Southampton, England, where he died in an accident at age 70. His epitaph reads:

Though shot and shell flew around fast,
On Balaclava’s plain,
Unscathed he passed, to fall at last,
Run over by a train.

(Thanks, Doug.)

28 Oct 16:31

The big-eyed children: the extraordinary story of an epic art fraud

There’s a sweet, small suburban house in the vineyards of Napa, northern California. Inside, a family of devout Jehovah Witnesses bustles around, offering me a cheese plate. A Siamese cat weaves in and out of my legs. Everything is lovely. Sitting unobtrusively in the corner is 87-year-old Margaret Keane. “Would you like some macadamia nuts?” she asks. She hands me Jehovah Witness pamphlets too. “Jehovah looks after me every day,” she says. “I really feel it.”She is the last person you’d expect to be a participant in one of the great art frauds of the 20th century.

This story begins in Berlin in 1946. A young American named Walter Keane was in Europe to learn how to be a painter. And there he was, staring heartbroken at the big-eyed children fighting over scraps of food in the rubbish. As he would later write: “As if goaded by a kind of frantic despair, I sketched these dirty, ragged little victims of the war with their bruised, lacerated minds and bodies, their matted hair and runny noses. Here my life as a painter began in earnest.”

Fifteen years laterand Keane was an art sensation. The American suburb had just been invented and millions of people suddenly had a lot of wall space to fill. Some of them – those who wanted their homes to express upbeat whimsy – opted for paintings of dogs playing pool or dogs playing poker. But a great number of others, who wanted something more melancholic, went for Walter’s sad, big-eyed children. Some of the children held sad, big-eyed poodles in their arms. Others sat lonely in fields of flowers. They were dressed as harlequins and ballerinas. They just seemed so innocent and searching.

Walter himself was not a melancholic man. According to his biographers, Adam Parfrey and Cletus Nelson, he was a drinker and a lover – of women and of himself. This, for instance, is how he describes his first meeting with Margaret, the woman now sitting opposite me in Napa. It’s from his 1983 memoir, The World of Keane: “I love your paintings,” she told me. “You are the greatest artist I have ever seen. You are also the most handsome. The children in your paintings are so sad. It hurts my eyes to see them. Your perspective and the sadness you portray in the faces of the children make me want to touch them.”

“No,” I said. “Never touch any of my paintings.”

Walter and Margaret Keane work side by side in 1961. Walter and Margaret Keane work side by side in 1961. Photograph: Bettmann/Corbis

This conversation apparently took place at an outdoor art exhibition in San Francisco in 1955. Walter was still an unknown artist. He wouldn’t become a phenomenon for another few years. Later that night, his memoir continues, Margaret told him: “You are the greatest lover in the world.” They married.

Margaret’s memory of their first meeting is quite different.

The centre of Walter’s universe in the mid-1950s was a San Francisco beatnik club, The Hungry i. While comedians such as Lenny Bruce and Bill Cosby performed onstage, out at the front, Walter sold his big-eyed-children paintings. One night Margaret decided to go to the club with him.

“He had me sitting in a corner,” she tells me, “and he was over there, talking, selling paintings, when somebody walked over to me and said: ‘Do you paint too?’ And I suddenly thought – just horrible shock – ‘Is he taking credit for my paintings?’”

He was. He had been telling his patrons a giant lie. Margaret was the painter of the big eyes – every one of them. Walter might well have seen sad children in postwar Berlin, but he hadn’t painted them, because he couldn’t paint to save his life.

Margaret was furious. Back home she confronted him. She told him to stop. But something unexpected happened instead. During the decade that followed, Margaret would nod in respectful admiration as Walter told interviewers that he was the best painter of eyes since El Greco. She said nothing. Why did she go along with it? What was happening inside the Keane marriage?

Margaret takes me back to the beginning. It’s true that he charmed her at that art exhibition in 1955, she says. “He was just oozing with charm. He could charm anyone.” But the rest of the conversation didn’t happen. How could it have?

Their first two years were happy, but all that changed the night of the Hungry i. “Back home he tried to explain it away,” she says. “He said: ‘We need the money. People are more likely to buy a painting if they think they’re talking to the artist. People don’t want to think I can’t paint and need to have my wife paint. People already think I painted the big eyes and if I suddenly say it was you, it’ll be confusing and people will start suing us.’ He was telling me all these horrible problems.”

Walter offered Margaret a solution: “Teach me how to paint the big-eyed children.” So she tried. “And when he couldn’t do it, it was my fault. ‘You’re not teaching me right. I could do it if you had more patience.’ I was really trying, but it was just impossible.”

Margaret and Walter pose with a selection of paintings in 1965. Margaret and Walter pose with a selection of paintings in 1965. Photograph: Bill Ray/The LIFE Picture Collection/Gett

Margaret felt trapped. She wanted to leave, but she didn’t know how. How would she support herself and her daughter? “So finally I went along with it,” she says. “And it was just tearing me apart.”

By the early 1960s, Keane prints and postcards were selling in the millions. You couldn’t walk into a Woolworths without seeing racks of them. Luminaries including Natalie Wood, Joan Crawford, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis and Kim Novak were buying the originals.

“Did you see any of the money?” I ask Margaret.

“No,” she says. “I just painted. But we moved to a nice house. There was a swimming pool. Gated. Servants. So I didn’t need to do anything except paint.” She smiles, ruefully. Outside in the sun, Walter was living the high life. “There was always three or four people swimming nude in the pool,” he wrote in his memoir. “Everybody was screwing everybody. Sometimes I’d be going to bed and there’d be three girls in the bed.” The Beach Boys would visit, and Maurice Chevalier, and Howard Keel. But Margaret rarely saw them, because she was painting 16 hours a day.

“Did the servants know what was going on?”

“No, the door was always locked,” she says. “The curtains closed.”

“You spent all those years with the curtains closed?”

“When he wasn’t home he’d usually call every hour to make sure I hadn’t gone out,” she says. “I was in jail.”

“Did you know about the affairs?”

She shrugged. “I didn’t care what he did by then.”

“It must have been lonely.”

“Yes, because he wouldn’t allow me to have any friends. If I tried to slip away from him, he’d follow me. We had a chihuahua and because I loved that little dog so much, he kicked it, and so finally I had to give the dog away. He was very jealous and domineering. And all along he said: ‘If you ever tell anyone I’m going to have you knocked off.’ I knew he knew a lot of mafia people. He really scared me. He tried to hit me once. But I said, ‘Where I come from men don’t hit women. If you ever do that again I’ll leave.’” She pauses. “But I let him do everything else, which was even worse probably.”

“Would he come home from his partying and demand you show him what you’d painted?” I ask.

“He was always pressuring me to do more,” she says. “‘Do one with a clown costume.’ Or: ‘Do two children on a rocking horse.’ One day he had this idea that I’d do this huge painting, his masterwork, to hang in the United Nations or somewhere. I had a month to do that.”

The “masterwork” was called Tomorrow Forever. It depicted a hundred sad-looking, big-eyed children of all creeds standing in a line that stretches to the horizon. The organisers of the 1964 World’s Fair hung it in their Pavilion of Education. Walter felt deeply proud of the achievement. He wrote in his memoir that his dead grandmother told him in a vision that “Michelangelo has put your name up for nomination as a member of our inner circle saying that your masterwork Tomorrow Forever will live in the hearts and minds of men as has his work on the Sistine chapel.”

The art critic John Canaday reviewed Tomorrow Forever for the New York Times: “This tasteless hack work contains about 100 children and hence it is about 100 times as bad as the average Keane.” Stung by the review, the World’s Fair took down the painting.

“Walter was furious,” Margaret says. “I felt hurt that they didn’t want it and were saying nasty things. When people said it was just sentimental stuff it really hurt my feelings. Some people couldn’t stand to even look at them. I don’t know why - just a violent reaction. But so many people really love them. Little children love them. Even babies. So eventually I thought: ‘I don’t care. I’m just going to paint what I want to paint.’”

If you’d asked Margaret back then about her inspiration – which you never would have, of course – she would have shrugged and said she didn’t know. The paintings just flowed out of her. But now, she says, she thinks she understands: “Those sad children were really my own deep feelings that I couldn’t express in any other way. Their eyes were searching. Asking why. Why is there so much sadness? Why do we have to get sick and die? Why do people shoot each other?”

“Why is my husband so crazy?” I suggest. “Why did I get into this mess?” Margaret nods.

After 10 years of marriage, eight of them horrific, they divorced. Margaret promised Walter that she’d keep on secretly painting for him. And she did for a while. But after she’d delivered maybe 20 or 30 big eyes to him, she suddenly thought: “No more lies. From now on, I will only ever tell the truth.”

Which is why, in October 1970, Margaret told a reporter from the UPI everything. “He wanted to learn to paint,” she revealed, “and I tried to teach him to paint when he was home, which wasn’t often. He couldn’t even learn to paint.”

And so on. Walter went on the offensive, swearing that the big eyes were his and calling Margaret a “boozing, sex-starved psychopath” who he once discovered having sex with several parking-lot attendants.

“He was really nuts,” Margaret says. “I couldn’t believe he had so much hate for me.”

Margaret became a Jehovah’s Witness. She moved to Hawaii and started painting big-eyed children swimming in azure seas with tropical fish. In these Hawaii paintings you can see small, cautious smiles begin to form on the faces of the children. Walter’s life wasn’t so happy. He moved to a fisherman’s shack in La Jolla, California, and began to drink from morning until night. He told the few reporters still interested in him that Margaret was in league with the Jehovah’s Witnesses to defraud him. One reporter, from USA Today, believed every word, and they ran a story on Walter’s plight: “Thinking he was dead [Margaret] claimed to have done some of the Keane paintings. The claim, vehemently denied by a very much alive Keane, is in litigation.”

Margaret sued Walter. The judge challenged them both to paint a child with big eyes, right there in court, in front of everyone. Margaret painted hers in 53 minutes. Walter said he couldn’t because he had a sore shoulder.

“And there it is,” she tells me. She points to a framed portrait on the wall of a little girl with absolutely huge eyes, peering out nervously from behind a fence. “I painted it in Honolulu federal court. It has the exhibit number on the back.”

In fact the walls of Margaret’s home are filled with big-eye paintings – children, poodles, kittens. There’s barely an inch of empty wall space.

“That painting is symbolic of her triumph over the lies,” Margaret’s son-in-law tells me as he walks past us towards the kitchen.

Amy Adam plays Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's film Big Eyes. Amy Adam plays Margaret Keane in Tim Burton’s film Big Eyes. Photograph: The Weinstein Company/Allstar/Allstar/The Weinstein Company

Margaret won the court case, of course. She was awarded $4m, but she never saw a penny of it because Walter had drunk his fortune away. A court psychologist diagnosed him with a rare mental condition called delusional disorder. I ask Margaret if she knows anything about delusional disorder. She shakes her head and says she can’t even remember Walter being diagnosed with it.

“It’s when a person who is otherwise completely normal has a particular delusion they’re absolutely convinced of,” I say. “Quite often it’s a jealous husband convinced his wife is cheating on him. Sometimes the person is convinced that some impostor is taking credit for their genius.”

“I didn’t know that,” Margaret says.

“If you have the disorder it means you truly believe it,” I say.

Margaret thinks. “For a long time I felt very guilty about it,” she says.

“Why guilty?” I ask.

“If I hadn’t allowed him to take credit for the paintings, he wouldn’t have got as sick as he got.”

Walter died in 2000. He gave up drinking towards the end, but you get the sense that he missed those days, writing in his memoir that sobriety was his “new awakening, away from the drinking world of exciting sexy beautiful women, parties and art buyers”. By the 1970s, the big eyes had fallen from favour. Woody Allen mocked them in Sleeper, imagining a ridiculous future where they were revered.

But now, suddenly, there is a kind of renaissance. A Tim Burton biopic, Big Eyes, is about to be released, starring Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz. Margaret has a cameo: “I’m a little old lady sitting on a park bench.”

“Was the film distressing to watch?” I ask her.

“It was really traumatic,” she says. “I really think I was in shock for a couple of days. Christoph Waltz – he looks like Walter, sounds like him, acts like him. And to see Amy going through what I went through … It’s very accurate. Then it started to dawn on me how fantastic the movie is.”

Margaret smiles, looking thrilled, and I realise that sometimes a wrong is so great it needs something as dramatic as a major biopic in which you’re the hero to heal the wounds.

Big Eyes will be released in the UK on 26 December.

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19 Oct 21:05

Facebook apagando perfis de índios por causa de “nomes inventados”

by Carlos Cardoso

Screenshot - 17_10_2014 , 18_10_59

Há consenso entre historiadores: sempre que uma cultura tecnologicamente mais avançada faz contato com uma que esteja mais atrasada, ela tende a tomar no roscofe. Foi assim com os incas, astecas e os espanhóis, com nossos índios e portugueses, com os povos nativos norte-americanos e os ingleses, e com Brasil × Alemanha em 08/7/2014.

No caso dos índios americanos por mais malvados que fossem (dica: não, não eram) hoje basicamente todo mundo que não é um racista total reconhece que foram tungados. O Governo dos EUA repetidas vezes ignorou tratados de paz quando descobriam ouro em terras indígenas, e era comum e oficial oferecer recompensa por escalpos. Nesse tempo todo a única vingança dos índios tem sido mandar fuzileiros pras áreas com mais soldados japoneses, tirar dinheiro de brancos idiotas nos cassinos e não avisar aos compradores do terreno que ali havia um cemitério indígena. 

Não é de hoje que de um jeito ou de outro os índios são sacaneados no Grande Irmão do Norte. Sabe aquele comercial clássico dos Anos 70, com um índio chorando diante da poluição? É lindo, tocante, mas o tal índio se chamava Cody Olhos-De-Ferro, era um ator 100% descendente de italianos.

Agora, mais uma pequena humilhação pra esses povos outrora orgulhosos, hoje vítimas do alcoolismo: em pleno Columbus Day, um dia em que os EUA comemoram seu descobridor e os índios são forçados e ouvir calados gente celebrando um sujeito que se dividia entre estuprar meninas índias e cortar mãos de nativos que não concordavam com a primeira atividade.

Vários índios descobriram que suas contas no Facebook foram sumariamente apagadas.


Dois deles são Shane Creepingbear e sua esposa, Jacqui. Funcionário de uma universidade local, Shane é diretor-assistente de Admissão e Recrutamento Multicultural, o que é um nome bonito pra bela causa de de facilitar o acesso à educação para minorias.

Aparentemente há gente que não gosta disso, e perseguem Shane. O problema é que o Facebook, como todo serviço online, deixa a ponta do atendimento na mão dos estagiários Ipsilon semi-aleijões, incapazes de pensamento próprio. Entre uma dose ou outra de Soma, eles respondem aos formulários em suas telas de forma totalmente mecânica.

Uma denúncia de que Shane Creepinbear não era um nome real fez com que um desses estagiários olhasse, seus 3 neurônios ativos decidiram que o nome era estranho e pronto, DELETE, adeus conta de Shane e da esposa.

Por sorte as interwebs fizeram um escarcéu, e alguns dias depois as contas deles voltaram, mas nada garante que outra bobagem dessas aconteça. As ferramentas de denúncia de abuso estão sendo sumariamente abusadas, seja por puro racismo seja por interesse político.

Uma pena que enquanto tantos Snowdens, EFFs e Assanges gritem alertando contra o Big Brother ninguém peceba que a maior ameaça aos direitos individuais na internet são os próprios internautas. O lado bom é que vendo a hagada que fez o Facebook voltou atrás e Shane Creepinbear recebeu sua conta de volta.

Hoje o próprio Governo reconhece a importância da comunidade indígena e seus serviços prestados durante a Segunda Guerra Mundial ao ceder suas línguas nativas como criptografia invulnerável aos esforços dos especialistas japoneses. Os sobreviventes e as famílias dos já falecidos foram agraciados em 2001 com a Medalha de Honra do Congresso, a maior condecoração dos EUA, entregue pessoalmente, com agradecimentos, pelo Presidente dos EUA.


É pedir demais que o Facebook adestre seus estagiários pra pensar duas vezes antes de apagar um perfil?

Fonte: CC.

The post Facebook apagando perfis de índios por causa de “nomes inventados” appeared first on Meio Bit.

28 Oct 10:04

You’re powered by quantum mechanics. No, really…

Adam Victor Brandizzi

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A European robin in flight According to quantum biology, the European robin has a 'sixth sense' in the form of a protein in its eye sensitive to the orientation of the Earth's magnetic field, allowing it to 'see' which way to migrate. Photograph: Helmut Heintges/ Helmut Heintges/Corbis

Every year, around about this time, thousands of European robins escape the oncoming harsh Scandinavian winter and head south to the warmer Mediterranean coasts. How they find their way unerringly on this 2,000-mile journey is one of the true wonders of the natural world. For unlike many other species of migratory birds, marine animals and even insects, they do not rely on landmarks, ocean currents, the position of the sun or a built-in star map. Instead, they are among a select group of animals that use a remarkable navigation sense – remarkable for two reasons. The first is that they are able to detect tiny variations in the direction of the Earth’s magnetic field – astonishing in itself, given that this magnetic field is 100 times weaker than even that of a measly fridge magnet. The second is that robins seem to be able to “see” the Earth’s magnetic field via a process that even Albert Einstein referred to as “spooky”. The birds’ in-built compass appears to make use of one of the strangest features of quantum mechanics.

Over the past few years, the European robin, and its quantum “sixth sense”, has emerged as the pin-up for a new field of research, one that brings together the wonderfully complex and messy living world and the counterintuitive, ethereal but strangely orderly world of atoms and elementary particles in a collision of disciplines that is as astonishing and unexpected as it is exciting. Welcome to the new science of quantum biology.

Most people have probably heard of quantum mechanics, even if they don’t really know what it is about. Certainly, the idea that it is a baffling and difficult scientific theory understood by just a tiny minority of smart physicists and chemists has become part of popular culture. Quantum mechanics describes a reality on the tiniest scales that is, famously, very weird indeed; a world in which particles can exist in two or more places at once, spread themselves out like ghostly waves, tunnel through impenetrable barriers and even possess instantaneous connections that stretch across vast distances.

But despite this bizarre description of the basic building blocks of the universe, quantum mechanics has been part of all our lives for a century. Its mathematical formulation was completed in the mid-1920s and has given us a remarkably complete account of the world of atoms and their even smaller constituents, the fundamental particles that make up our physical reality. For example, the ability of quantum mechanics to describe the way that electrons arrange themselves within atoms underpins the whole of chemistry, material science and electronics; and is at the very heart of most of the technological advances of the past half-century. Without the success of the equations of quantum mechanics in describing how electrons move through materials such as semiconductors we would not have developed the silicon transistor and, later, the microchip and the modern computer.

However, if quantum mechanics can so beautifully and accurately describe the behaviour of atoms with all their accompanying weirdness, then why aren’t all the objects we see around us, including us – which are after all only made up of these atoms – also able to be in two place at once, pass through impenetrable barriers or communicate instantaneously across space? One obvious difference is that the quantum rules apply to single particles or systems consisting of just a handful of atoms, whereas much larger objects consist of trillions of atoms bound together in mindboggling variety and complexity. Somehow, in ways we are only now beginning to understand, most of the quantum weirdness washes away ever more quickly the bigger the system is, until we end up with the everyday objects that obey the familiar rules of what physicists call the “classical world”. In fact, when we want to detect the delicate quantum effects in everyday-size objects we have to go to extraordinary lengths to do so – freezing them to within a whisker of absolute zero and performing experiments in near-perfect vacuums.

Quantum effects were certainly not expected to play any role inside the warm, wet and messy world of living cells, so most biologists have thus far ignored quantum mechanics completely, preferring their traditional ball-and-stick models of the molecular structures of life. Meanwhile, physicists have been reluctant to venture into the messy and complex world of the living cell; why should they when they can test their theories far more cleanly in the controlled environment of the lab where they at least feel they have a chance of understanding what is going on?

Erwin Schrödinger, whose book What is Life? suggested that the macroscopic order of life was based on order at its quantum level. Erwin Schrödinger, whose book What is Life? suggested that the macroscopic order of life was based on order at its quantum level. Photograph: Bettmann/CORBIS

Yet, 70 years ago, the Austrian Nobel prize-winning physicist and quantum pioneer, Erwin Schrödinger, suggested in his famous book, What is Life?, that, deep down, some aspects of biology must be based on the rules and orderly world of quantum mechanics. His book inspired a generation of scientists, including the discoverers of the double-helix structure of DNA, Francis Crick and James Watson. Schrödinger proposed that there was something unique about life that distinguishes it from the rest of the non-living world. He suggested that, unlike inanimate matter, living organisms can somehow reach down to the quantum domain and utilise its strange properties in order to operate the extraordinary machinery within living cells.

Schrödinger’s argument was based on the paradoxical fact that the laws of classical physics, such as those of Newtonian mechanics and thermodynamics, are ultimately based on disorder. Consider a balloon. It is filled with trillions of molecules of air all moving entirely randomly, bumping into one another and the inside wall of the balloon. Each molecule is governed by orderly quantum laws, but when you add up the random motions of all the molecules and average them out, their individual quantum behaviour washes out and you are left with the gas laws that predict, for example, that the balloon will expand by a precise amount when heated. This is because heat energy makes the air molecules move a little bit faster, so that they bump into the walls of the balloon with a bit more force, pushing the walls outward a little bit further. Schrödinger called this kind of law “order from disorder” to reflect the fact that this apparent macroscopic regularity depends on random motion at the level of individual particles.

But what about life? Schrödinger pointed out that many of life’s properties, such as heredity, depend of molecules made of comparatively few particles – certainly too few to benefit from the order-from-disorder rules of thermodynamics. But life was clearly orderly. Where did this orderliness come from? Schrödinger suggested that life was based on a novel physical principle whereby its macroscopic order is a reflection of quantum-level order, rather than the molecular disorder that characterises the inanimate world. He called this new principle “order from order”. But was he right?

Up until a decade or so ago, most biologists would have said no. But as 21st-century biology probes the dynamics of ever-smaller systems – even individual atoms and molecules inside living cells – the signs of quantum mechanical behaviour in the building blocks of life are becoming increasingly apparent. Recent research indicates that some of life’s most fundamental processes do indeed depend on weirdness welling up from the quantum undercurrent of reality. Here are a few of the most exciting examples.

Enzymes are the workhorses of life. They speed up chemical reactions so that processes that would otherwise take thousands of years proceed in seconds inside living cells. Life would be impossible without them. But how they accelerate chemical reactions by such enormous factors, often more than a trillion-fold, has been an enigma. Experiments over the past few decades, however, have shown that enzymes make use of a remarkable trick called quantum tunnelling to accelerate biochemical reactions. Essentially, the enzyme encourages electrons and protons to vanish from one position in a biomolecule and instantly rematerialise in another, without passing through the gap in between – a kind of quantum teleportation.

And before you throw your hands up in incredulity, it should be stressed that quantum tunnelling is a very familiar process in the subatomic world and is responsible for such processes as radioactive decay of atoms and even the reason the sun shines (by turning hydrogen into helium through the process of nuclear fusion). Enzymes have made every single biomolecule in your cells and every cell of every living creature on the planet, so they are essential ingredients of life. And they dip into the quantum world to help keep us alive.

Another vital process in biology is of course photosynthesis. Indeed, many would argue that it is the most important biochemical reaction on the planet, responsible for turning light, air, water and a few minerals into grass, trees, grain, apples, forests and, ultimately, the rest of us who eat either the plants or the plant-eaters.

The initiating event is the capture of light energy by a chlorophyll molecule and its conversion into chemical energy that is harnessed to fix carbon dioxide and turn it into plant matter. The process whereby this light energy is transported through the cell has long been a puzzle because it can be so efficient – close to 100% and higher than any artificial energy transport process.

Sunlight shines through chestnut tree leaves. Quantum biology can explain why photosynthesis in plants is so efficient. Sunlight shines through chestnut tree leaves. Quantum biology can explain why photosynthesis in plants is so efficient. Photograph: Getty Images/Visuals Unlimited

The first step in photosynthesis is the capture of a tiny packet of energy from sunlight that then has to hop through a forest of chlorophyll molecules to makes its way to a structure called the reaction centre where its energy is stored. The problem is understanding how the packet of energy appears to so unerringly find the quickest route through the forest. An ingenious experiment, first carried out in 2007 in Berkley, California, probed what was going on by firing short bursts of laser light at photosynthetic complexes. The research revealed that the energy packet was not hopping haphazardly about, but performing a neat quantum trick. Instead of behaving like a localised particle travelling along a single route, it behaves quantum mechanically, like a spread-out wave, and samples all possible routes at once to find the quickest way.

A third example of quantum trickery in biology – the one we introduced in our opening paragraph – is the mechanism by which birds and other animals make use of the Earth’s magnetic field for navigation. Studies of the European robin suggest that it has an internal chemical compass that utilises an astonishing quantum concept called entanglement, which Einstein dismissed as “spooky action at a distance”. This phenomenon describes how two separated particles can remain instantaneously connected via a weird quantum link. The current best guess is that this takes place inside a protein in the bird’s eye, where quantum entanglement makes a pair of electrons highly sensitive to the angle of orientation of the Earth’s magnetic field, allowing the bird to “see” which way it needs to fly.

All these quantum effects have come as a big surprise to most scientists who believed that the quantum laws only applied in the microscopic world. All delicate quantum behaviour was thought to be washed away very quickly in bigger objects, such as living cells, containing the turbulent motion of trillions of randomly moving particles. So how does life manage its quantum trickery? Recent research suggests that rather than avoiding molecular storms, life embraces them, rather like the captain of a ship who harnesses turbulent gusts and squalls to maintain his ship upright and on course.

Just as Schrödinger predicted, life seems to be balanced on the boundary between the sensible everyday world of the large and the weird and wonderful quantum world, a discovery that is opening up an exciting new field of 21st-century science.

Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology by Jim Al-Khalili and Johnjoe McFadden will be published by Bantam Press on 6 November. Click here to buy it for £15

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27 Oct 17:06

The Worst Act of Terrorism in San Francisco History

A victim of San Francisco’s Preparedness Day Parade bombing; Online Archive of California

On the afternoon of July 22, 1916, thousands of San Franciscans gathered along Market Street for what was advertised as the “grandest parade of the century.”

Nearly 100,000 people from all across the western states came to see the impressive procession of 51,329 marchers, 2,134 participating organizations, and 52 bands. Giddy, balloon-clutching children jumped with joy, parents bantered about the war raging overseas, and vendors slithered through the masses, peddling commemorative pins for a nickel. As fog horns bellowed from the bay, cheers and whistles echoed down Market Street. On this Saturday afternoon, spirits were high.

Then, a bomb exploded.

Hoards of concerned citizens scrambled for safety, children shrieked -- not with joy, but terror -- and the cavalcade came to an unceremonious halt. By the time the chaos had subsided, 10 lay dead. More than 40 others were left gravely wounded, including one young girl who “had her legs blown clear off.”

The incident would prove to be the deadliest act of terrorism in San Francisco history. Unbeknownst to the city’s residents, it would also result in a decades-long miscarriage of justice by police, prosecutors, and political figureheads.

This is the story of the Preparedness Day Bombing -- a cautionary tale of not only terrorism, but the complete suspension of civil rights.

The Preparedness Movement

A U.S. Preparedness ad, 1916

Shortly after the outbreak of World War I, the United States made an effort to bolster its army. In 1915, ex-President Theodore Roosevelt launched the “Preparedness Movement,” a campaign that called for the “need to immediately build up strong naval and land forces for defensive purposes.” Backed by the nation’s most elite bankers, industrialists, and lawyers, it quickly gained steam.

On June 3, 1916 -- a mere seven weeks prior to the San Francisco bombing -- President Woodrow Wilson enacted the National Defense Act of 1916, authorizing the expansion of the Army by 175,000 men, and the National Guard by 450,000. Proponents of the act championed “economic strength and military muscle” over the myriad of national concerns that needed to be addressed; it soon became patently clear that the nation was bracing itself to enter the war.

To support these efforts and mobilize citizens, cities across the United States staged grand parades. In San Francisco, most people were anti-preparedness and isolationists (against foreign involvement); nonetheless, the city decided to participate.

In the midst of this, San Francisco also faced intense unrest. A small but potent minority of labor leaders and organizations strongly opposed the emerging war effort, and were none too pleased with the news of the parade. Throughout June of 1916, they disseminated eerily foreboding pamphlets to potential parade-goers, warning of their intentions to attack:

"We are going to use a little direct action on the 22nd [at the parade] to show that militarism can't be forced on us and our children without a violent protest." 

To combat these threats, the city’s Chamber of Commerce organized a special Law and Order Committee -- but in a time where terrorism wasn’t taken too seriously, plans for the parade moved forward.

Tragedy Strikes

Morale was high and patriotism abundant as the day of the parade approached. 

A week before the event, the San Francisco Chronicle published a full-page picture of the “Goddess of Preparedness,” including a set of unintentionally foreboding instructions; in them, it was declared that the festivities would commence with the blasting of a “bomb” (likely, just a firecracker):

“San Francisco will shout a full-throated salute during the preparedness parade when the second bomb is fired, which will be the signal for the bands to play ‘Star Spangled Banner.’ When this signal is given, every whistle in the city will open its valve and shriek patriotically.”

San Francisco Chronicle, June 20, 1916 (two days before the bombing); LHM

According to plan, ceremonies commenced just after the “bomb” sound, at 1:40 PM on Saturday, July 22, 1916. Set to last 3.5 hours, it was, by all accounts, the largest parade the city had ever organized -- and one of the largest in United States history. 

But at 2:06 PM -- less than 30 minutes into the parade -- an unknown assailant left a suitcase packed with timed explosives and steel slugs on the sidewalk at the intersection of Steuart and Market streets, just minutes from the city’s famous Ferry Building. 

Moments later, an actual bomb exploded.

Eight people close to the explosion were killed instantly; two more died of grave shrapnel wounds en route to the hospital. The sidewalk was “littered with bodies,” according to one recount -- some 40 lay wounded in various states. And as the masses panicked and cleared Market Street, investigators frantically embarked on a hunt for the perpetrator.

Crowds of San Franciscans gather around the site of the explosion

Investigators survey the scene of the bomb

Over the next four days, authorities honed their search to known San Francisco labor radicals -- those who were anti-war and championed the Marxist belief that violence may be necessary to invoke social change.

The media joined in, encouraging citizens to be on the hunt for such “socialists.” Hearst-Pathe News, which had a stronghold on San Francisco’s media at the time, produced a brief, propaganda-esque film, insinuating that anarchists or communists were to blame. “Wake up San Francisco,” it beckoned, “and save our city from further disgrace!” Interposed with images of Labor party meetings, the words “anarchy,” “sedition,” and “lawlessness” flashed across the screen:

Almost instantly, two radicals -- Thomas J. Mooney and his assistant, Warren Billings -- were targeted for questioning. Both had long been tracked by the police for their involvement in various “socialist shenanigans:” Mooney for “conspiring to dynamite power lines” at a 1913 strike, and Billings for bringing dynamite on a train. Both had previously been cleared of all charges for lack of evidence, but investigators were constantly looking for a way to imprison them. They were, as described by one publication, “San Francisco’s most hunted radicals.”

Mooney was especially hated by police. The son of Irish immigrants, had spent a few years as an industrial worker before traveling to Europe and becoming an self-proclaimed socialist and labor leader. He eventually returned, settled in San Francisco, and published The Revolt, a widely-disseminated socialist paper; soon he’d become known for his radical tendencies. By the early 1900s, The Chicago Tribune had described him as “the foremost labor radical in San Francisco -- an energetic organizer, an anarchist, a strike leader...and a militant pacifist.”

On what would turn out to be very little evidence, the city’s District Attorney, Charles Fickert, pegged them as the culprits. 

On July 26 and 27, he had Mooney and Billings arrested, along with Mooney’s wife and two fellow trade-unionists -- Israel Weinberg (a taxi driver by trade), and  Edward Nolan, then-President of the Machinists’ Lodge. 

San Francisco’s Sacco and Vanzetti

From the start, the process was horribly misconducted.

All five were arrested without warrants. Offered no explanation for their detainment, the suspects’ homes were then raided by Swanson and his task force. When a trace amount of powder was discovered in Nolan’s basement, it was instantly identified, with no ballistic testing, as saltpeter used to craft the parade bomb (later, it would be revealed that it was merely bath salt). The suspects were placed in solitary confinement, where they were denied all access to counsel for nearly a week.

Thomas Mooney, the radical labor leader, was treated to an especially hostile examination. Over the course of six days, he was interrogated relentlessly -- despite asking for his attorney some forty-one times.

Meanwhile, a lynch mob mentality permeated San Francisco. For a long while, shop owners has resented the labor unionizers, who they claimed interfered with their ability to maintain “open shop,” or freedom from unions. When they caught news that Mooney -- their worst enemy -- was a suspect, they were more than eager to go along for the ride.

Mooney and his wife, Billings, Weinberg, and Nolan were corralled to a swift sentencing on August 1, 1916. They were not permitted to “clean themselves up,” and arrived, haggard, unshaven, and foul-smelling. 

Still left without the right to counsel, they refused to testify on their own behalf.

Crowds gather for Mooney's pre-trial

Though hundreds of people had been at the intersection of Steuart and Market streets when the bomb exploded, the only witness the prosecutor could conjure to speak before the Grand Jury was a “ne’er-do-well waiter and drug addict” named John McDonald, whose recollections of the event were so garbled and inaccurate that he was called off the stand after only a few questions. Somehow, this was enough to convince the Grand Jury of the suspects’ involvement: each of the five were indicted with ten counts of murder.

Soon afterward, the cases against Mooney’s wife, Weinberg, and Nolan were dismissed: it became clear that the prosecutors were solely interested in taking down Mooney and Billings.

District Attorney Fickert, who led prosecution, soon formulated a theory of the bombing’s events: Mooney and Billings had met at Mooney’s residence, 721 Market Street (nearly a mile from the scene of the crime), and initially planned to drop the bomb from the building’s roof, but had changed their minds at the last minute; they then drove to down Market Street, and planted the bomb on the sidewalk. Any testimonies from witnesses that did not fit into this unfounded sequence of events were flat out ignored or dismissed by prosecutors.

Finally provided city-appointed defense attorneys, the two proceeded to separate trials.

Billings’ trial came first. In September 1916, following a very brief deliberation by the jury, he was found guilty of murder in the second degree and sentenced to life in prison. A motion for retrial was curtly dismissed, and with little publicity, he was sent to Folsom -- the state’s most notorious prison.

Mooney’s initial trial, over the course of January and February of 1916, was a much grander affair. During the trial, many witnesses were called -- all of whom were disreputable characters: a “tramp waiter,” a felon, a prostitute, and a cattle rancher from Oregon named Frank C. Oxman. Oxman, the “star witness,” claimed to have seen Mooney at the scene of the crime; quickly, it was declared that the entire trial “hinged on his statements.” 

Though all of these testimonies were full of contradictions and didn’t seem to line up with one another, District Attorney Fickert championed them as the truth. 

Just before the trial, the prosecutors had obtained a photograph supposedly showing Mooney on his roof at the time of the crime; fearing it would discredit their argument, they attempted to hide it. When the defense team learned of the photo’s existence, the prosecutors did everything in their power to deny access. A case study from the American Civil Liberties Union elaborates:

“When the defense demanded the photo, the prosecution claimed it was unable to produce it and furnished blurred enlargements. A large jeweler’s street clock appeared in the picture, but the time could not be read from the enlargement the prosecution furnished.”

A photo showing the figure of Mooney (red circle) atop his residence at 2:10 PM -- five minutes before the bombing. The original, of much higher quality, was only released by prosecutors 30 years after the trial.

During Mooney’s trial, the photo was analyzed by experts and it was determined to have been taken at 2:01 PM -- just five minutes prior to the bombing. As Market street was clogged with traffic on the day of the parade, it would’ve been impossible for Mooney to plant the bomb and make it back to his place that quickly. In light of this evidence, the prosecutors’ witnesses began flip-flopping their testimonies, claiming they’d seen Mooney earlier than previously stated.

Despite all of these inconsistencies, Mooney was convicted with first-degree murder and sentenced to death by hanging.

When a “Star Witness” is a Perjurer

Initially, Frank Oxman, the prosecution's “star” witness, had donned the impression of a trusted witness in the courtroom, as noted by Judge Griffin, who presided over the case:

“His testimony was unshaken on cross examination, and his very appearance...was of a reputable and prosperous cattle dealer and landowner. This is no question but that he made a sound impression upon the jury and upon all those who listened to his story on the witness stand. He was the pivot around which all other evidence in the case revolved.”

But in April, two months after Mooney’s trial, it became startlingly clear that Oxman was a shady character. In a letter he’d written just before the initial proceedings, he’d bribed his friend from Illinois -- a man he hadn’t seen in some twenty years -- to travel out west and act as a witness (note: printed here in original form, including atrocious grammar and spelling):

“Cum to San Frico as a expurt wittness in a very important case. You will only hafto answer 3 or 4 questiones and I will post you on them. You will get mileage and all that a witness can draw -- probly 100 in cleare so if you will come ans me quick in care of this hotel I will manage a balance.”

When the man heeded Oxman’s call and came to California, he soon discovered that Oxman wanted him to “perjure himself to convict an innocent man.” He refused, and in turn turned the letters over the Mooney’s lawyers, he swiftly appealed the convict’s sentence and demanded a retrial. The appeal was accepted, and a new case opened -- this time to be tried before California’s Supreme Court.

Soon after, Oxman’s testimony that he’d seen Mooney commit the crime came under fire again. A couple from Sacramento, California - nearly 90 miles from San Francisco -- came forward that they’d had Oxman as a guest in their home. On the day of the explosion, he’d left the capital on a train at 2:15 PM, and hadn’t arrived in Bay Area until 5:21 PM -- three hours after the bombing. According to hospitality records, he’d then checked into a hotel at 5:30. The “star” witness apparently had never even been at the scene of the crime!

Frank C. Oxman, the prosecutors' "star witness"

When Judge Griffin (who’d presided over the initial case) learned that Oxman had not only bribed witnesses, but flat-out lied under oath, he became enraged, and sent a letter to the state Attorney General: “Had these letters been before me at the time of the trial,” he wrote, “I would have unhesitantly [exonerated] Mooney.” In turn, the Attorney General assured Griffin that “justice would be subserved.”

But the State Supreme Court, limited by technicalities, made it clear they did not agree. “Manifestly, the court has no authority to consider these matters,” they responded. “There is no provision of law by which newly discovered evidence may be presented to this court in the first instance.” Mooney’s lawyers were also tied up: “statutory restrictions” required that new evidence be presented within a “short time period” -- and that had expired.

Only the Governor could pardon Mooney, and he was wholly uninterested in doing so.

In the midst of Mooney’s legal battle, Oxman faced his own trial -- for both subordination and perjury -- and was embraced much more favorably by the court. District Attorney Fickert, who’d reigned over the Mooney trial and had commandeered Oxman and other witnesses, paid for the man’s defense. In court, Oxman argued there had been another page in the letter in which he’d told his friend not to come up unless he’d actually been at the bombing (ostensibly another lie under oath). 

By all accounts, Fickert had “whitewashed” and bribed the jury: Oxman was promptly acquitted, and Fickert himself was commended by the jury for his “exceptional ability to bring justice to light.”

Despite evidence of a clearly tainted trial, Mooney still faced death. Labor radicals around the United States grew increasingly agitated, and organized a series of protests demanding his release:

Labor protestors line the streets of San Francisco in defense of Mooney and Billings.

The Iron Molders’ Union of Seattle protests Mooney’s imprisonment

Throughout the summer of 1917, hundreds of mass meetings, protests were organized. Major unions -- the Machinists’ Lodge, the Iron Molders’ Association, and United Steelworkers -- chose to strike, halting a large sector of the economy. Of 240 big unions outside of industrial centers, 220 participated in Mooney’s cause.

In San Francisco, citizens became aware of District Attorney Fickert’s shady involvement -- both in the trials of Mooney and Oxman -- and began to petition for his removal from office. The efforts did not pay off; in December of 1917, Fickert was re-elected. When several non-lethal explosions were detonated in protest, Mooney delivered a directive from his San Quentin prison cell: “Bombs will NOT benefit my cause,” he told labor activists, “but hurt it beyond measure.”

The case even spread internationally. Russia, at the time going through a period of revolution under the leadership of socialist Alexander Kerensky, took great pity on Mooney’s plight. Before the Russian U.S. Embassy, mass demonstrations took place, and the case made headlines across the world.  

At this point, sensing a dangerous uprising, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson took matters into his own hands. Toward the tail end of 1917, he formed what he called a “Mediation Commission,” headed by Secretary of Labor William B. Wilson, and sent the team to San Francisco to investigate the case.

“There can be no doubt that Mooney was registered as a labor agitator of malevolence by the public officials of San Francisco,” reported Wilson, “and that they undoubtedly ‘sought’ to get him.” Wilson continued, noting “the dubious character of the witnesses,” and the overall lack of justice in the trial. In light of this report, President Wilson ordered that California’s Governor, WIlliam Stephens, postpone Mooney’s execution.

For nearly a year, Stephens dilly-dallied, and Mooney’s execution grew more imminent. Finally, on November 28, 1918, after multiple curt telegrams directly  from the President, Stephens upheld his “duty of justice” of Governor -- but Mooney’s sentence was merely commuted from death to life imprisonment, and his impending Supreme Court case was dismissed.

The Terror of Injustice

Thomas Mooney being interviewed by a reporter in a staged photo, late 1930s

For the next 22 years, Thomas Mooney and his assistant, Warren Billings -- both innocent men -- sat rotting in prison.

Over two decades, Mooney submitted dozens of petitions for a retrial, but they were of no use: under legal constraints, the only means by which he could be cleared of his sentence was a pardon from the Governor, or the President. Governor Stephens, who was reluctant to merely commute the man’s sentence in the first place -- even with orders from the POTUS -- wholly ignored his requests.

In 1919, John B. Densmore, a special agent of the Department of Labor, decided to take the case into his own hands. Without the authorities’ permission, he conducted a secret investigation of the case by placing a dictaphone (early recording device) in the office of District Attorney Fickert. What he revealed, in an interview with the Times, was appalling: 

“The plain truth is there is nothing about the case to produce a feeling of confidence that the dignity and majesty of the law have been upheld. There is nowhere anything resembling consistency...manipulation and perjury are rampant. This is a total absence of anything that looks like a genuine effort.”

The new evidence did not entice Governor Stephens to act. Friend Richardson, who succeeded Stephens in 1923, likewise had no sympathy for Mooney -- even when incredibly shady information regarding Mooney’s trial came to light.

In a 1926 report, it was revealed that another witness in the case, Mrs. Kidwell, had cut a deal with police: she’d testified against Mooney (with no knowledge of the day’s events), in exchange for a promise to release her imprisoned husband. “You know I am needed as a witness,” she’d written in a letter to her lover, “and they are helping me by getting you out.” Estelle Smith, another witness, admitted that she’d been ordered to “rehearse” her perjury by prosecutors under the threat of imprisonment for prostitution. A third witness, Mrs. Edeau,  later admitted that only her “astral,” or spiritual, body had been present at the parade; she was later deemed mentally unstable by the state.

Evidence of perjury was so abundant and obvious, that Judge Griffin, who’d presided over the initial case nearly a decade prior, called it “the worst abuse of justice” he’d ever seen. In a statement, he discredited every single witness’s testimony:

“Damned near every witness who testified [against Mooney] before me was perjurious or mistaken. Estelle Smith has admitted her testimony was false. The Edeaus were completely discredited. Oxman [the ‘star witness’] is completely out of the case. John McDonald has since sworn...that he knew nothing about the crime.”

Still, Governor Richardson did not act, and Mooney continued to serve his life sentence.

Justice -- 22 Years Late

Thomas Mooney smiles upon his release

By 1937, a succession of five California Governors had refused to review Mooney’s case. He was at the end of his wits.  It was a “Dickensian nightmare,” the San Francisco Chronicle wroteof his plight, “one of the lowest points in the history of California law.” 

Finally, When Governor Culbert Olson assumed office in January 1939, Mooney was granted justice. 

“I am impressed by the fact that many thousands of Californians still believe Mooney is guilty,” Olson told reporters. “I am also impressed by the fact that five of my predecessors have not pardoned him. A hearing was ordered for Mooney’s pardon. Before a packed court of nearly 500 people, the Governor asked if anyone objected. For a full thirty seconds, he stood in silence, scanning the quieted room: no one spoke. The state officials and prosecutors who’d tirelessly -- and unjustly -- fought against Mooney for more than twenty years were nowhere to be seen. (Charles Fickert, the District Attorney who’d so inappropriately fought for Mooney’s near life-long detention, had devolved into a drunken gambler, lost his savings, and passed away in a few years prior.)

Thomas Mooney’s family and supporters await the result of his pardoning

“I now hand to you, Tom Mooney,” said the Governor, “this full pardon.” Cheers erupted: for two minutes, the room presented Mooney with a standing ovation. As flashbulbs popped, Mooney’s  wife, who’d been acquitted of the same charge decades before and had stood by her husband’s side all the while, burst into tears, and the two embraced. 

Lifting his hand to the crowd, he addressed the court:

“Governor, I shall dedicate the rest of my life to work for the common good in the bond of democracy. Dark and sinister forces of Fascist reactionism are destroying the world. The present economics system is in a state of decay -- not just here ,but throughout the world. I pledge my efforts to the work of the common good.”

Mooney, declared the New York Times, “was free at last.”

Lasting Significance

A mural at San Francisco’s Rincon Center depicts the bombing and Mooney’s unjust imprisonment (far right); painted by Anton Refregier

The first thing Thomas Mooney did was visit the grave of his mother, who’d passed away while he was imprisoned. 

Then, wasting no time, Mooney turned his efforts to freeing his friend, Warren Billings, who’d also been wrongly imprisoned the whole time, but with less attention. After 22 years of unsuccessful appeals, this proved shockingly easy: since Mooney was pardoned, there was no longer any justification for holding Billings and he was released 10 months later.

In a symbolic gesture, Mooney then organized a parade up Market Street -- the spot in San Francisco that the bombing had occurred decades before. He was accompanied by a fleet of a hundred longshoremen, as well as a troupe of labor unions; police and politicians were strictly forbidden from participating. As he trotted through the streets, he “thumbed his nose” at the Hearst building -- the media corporation that had denigrated him relentlessly at the onset of his trial. 

But Mooney’s time in prison had taken a toll on him. Now 59 years old, he suffered from jaundice, ulcers, and diabetes. While on a lecture tour around the city, he fainted and was carted to a San Francisco hospital. As his politics were too radical, the California Federation of Labor refused to raise funds for his medical bills, and he quietly passed away in March 1942, just 3 years out of prison.


The real culprit of the Preparedness Day Bombing is lost to time -- but many speculate that the true culprit was Alexander Berkman, a radical who’d been responsible for several prior bombings, had once laid out a plot to “blow up California,” and who’d fled to his home city of New York a day after the parade.

But one thing is certain: it wasn’t Thomas Mooney.

To many, Mooney was a martyr for social justice -- a symbol of “class persecution,” a man who constantly pursued justice. His case -- one of the first in the United States to determine that a verdict resulting from feigned evidence violates due process under the 14th Amendment -- gave other who were wrongly accused hope.

“All I wanted,” he said, just before his death, “was to lift California of its shame.”

This post was written by Zachary Crockett; you can follow him on Twitter here.

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27 Oct 13:20

Críticos gastronômicos provam McDonald's sem saber e aprovam comida

Todo mundo sabe que comida orgânica é muito mais saudável e gostosa que McDonald's. Certo?

Mais ou menos... Os apresentadores do canal do YouTube Life Hunters foram a uma feira de amantes de comida que acontece todo ano na Holanda. Eles ofereceram a alguns participantes e críticos gastronômicos uma "nova alternativa orgânica ao fast food" para experimentar.

Até aí, tudo dentro do previsto. Só que a tal "nova alternativa" era o bom e velho cardápio cheio de sódio e gordura trans do McDonalds apresentado sob a forma de delicados canapés.

"É delicioso!", disse um. "Fresquinho", disse outro. "Muito saboroso".

"Muito bom. A estrutura é boa. Isso, não muito grudenta", arrematou outro. "Ele rola na língua muito bem, se fosse vinho diria que é um vinho fino."

A uma das pessoas que provaram, eles perguntaram: "Se você tivesse de comparar isso com a comida do McDonald's, qual seria a maior diferença?". Ela respondeu: "Definitivamente o sabor é muito melhor, e o fato de ser orgânico é definitivamente uma coisa ótima."

Moral da história: a apresentação é a alma do negócio.

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27 Oct 17:16

Lugar mais frio do universo é enigma para astrônomos

Nebulosa de Bumerangue é uma das descobertas mais singulares da astronomia

O espaço é um lugar muito frio. A temperatura certa no vácuo e longe de qualquer astro é de cerca de -270 graus C.

Essa temperatura seria suficiente para congelar o hidrogênio na Terra - mas ainda está alguns poucos graus acima do que é considerado o "zero absoluto" - o ponto mais frio possível.

O motivo pelo qual a temperatura ainda se mantém acima deste ponto de zero absoluto é a constante presença de algo chamado radiação cósmica de fundo em micro-ondas, uma energia originada no "Big Bang" e que preenche todo o cosmo.

Por isso, em quase todo o universo, -270 é a temperatura mais baixa possível.

Mas não em todo ele.

Morte de estrelas é fenômeno comum no universo

A Nebulosa de Bumerangue fica a 5 mil anos-luz da constelação de Centaurus. Lá, uma nuvem de gás está sendo expelida por uma estrela que está morrendo.

Esta nuvem é um dos objetos mais misteriosos do universo. Os astrônomos acreditam que a temperatura cai para algo apenas meio grau acima do zero absoluto. Até onde sabemos, este é o ponto mais frio do universo.

Justamente por isso, muitos astrônomos se debruçam sobre esse tema. Alguns acreditam que ele pode ajudar a explicar várias dúvidas - como sobre a formação de galáxias e explosões cósmicas.

Morte das estrelas, nascimento da vida

A morte de estrelas é um fenômeno comum no universo. Daqui a alguns anos, o nosso Sol também vai esgotar seu combustível nuclear, se esfriar e expandir - ao ponto de absorver Mercúrio, Vênus e talvez até mesmo a Terra.

Após uma série de processos, o Sol vai virar uma anã-branca, diminuindo até atingir aproximadamente o tamanho da Terra.

A morte das estrelas tem um papel fundamental no surgimento da vida. Astrônomos já sabem há bastante tempo que elementos como carbono, oxigênio e ferro são fundidos dentro do núcleo das estrelas. Quando elas morrem, esses elementos são distribuídos pela galáxia.

Essa distribuição de elementos - sobretudo da morte de estrelas muito maiores do que o Sol - é que ajuda a formar rochas, planetas e até mesmo a vida.

Nebulosa especial

O processo acontece em vários lugares do universo. Mas a Nebulosa de Bumerangue é especial. Cientistas estão conseguindo observá-la em fase anterior ao de se tornar uma "nebulosa planetária" - que é um dos estágios da morte das estrelas.

Os astrônomos Raghvendra Sahai, da Nasa, e Lars-Ake Nyman, do telescópio ALMA, no Chile, descobriram que o gás que é liberado pela nebulosa flui a uma velocidade de 164 quilômetros por segundo - dez vezes maior do que o normal observado até hoje - e 4 mil vezes mais rápida que um trem-bala.

Essa velocidade de liberação de energia explica porque a Nebulosa de Bumerangue é tão fria.

A velocidade de liberação é tão alta que fica difícil até mesmo para a radiação cósmica de fundo de microondas conseguir esquentar um pouco o ambiente. Com a exceção de algumas condições criadas especialmente em laboratórios na Terra, não existe nenhum lugar mais frio em todo o universo.

Por que a Bumerangue libera gás tão rápido? Cientistas não entendem ainda

Sahai já havia teorizado sobre essa possibilidade antes mesmo da descoberta empírica. Ao analisar osdados da Bumerangue, ele descobriu que suas previsões feitas há 20 anos estavam se materializando.

"Fiquei todo arrepiado. Foi um dos momentos mais emocionantes da minha carreira", conta.

Mas mesmo observado o fenômeno, os astronomos ainda não sabem explicá-lo.

O que ninguém consegue explicar é o porquê da velocidade extrema de 164 quilômetros por segundo. A estrela dentro da Bumerangue não é brilhante o suficiente para produzir esta quantidade de energia.

Pontos azul mostram lugares mais frios da Nebulosa de Bumerangue

Muitos outros mistérios persistem.

Sahai e seus colegas ainda vão realizar novas observações ainda este ano. Em algumas regiões, o gás expelido flui a 35 quilometros por segundo. Os astrônomos querem mapear em detalhes por que o gás flui a velocidades diferentes em pontos distintos.

"Esses objetos não são apenas bonitos. Eles são cheios de segredos", diz Soker.

Leia a versão original desta reportagem em inglês no site BBC Earth.

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27 Oct 18:22

Pirro no Capão

by Tiago de Thuin
O PT ganhou - por pouco - a eleição presidencial. Mas, além de perder cadeiras no Congresso, além de ficar cada vez mais claro que perde no imenso e crescente Brasil do agronegócio, que vai do Rio Grande do Sul ao Acre, perdeu - é verdade, também por pouco - no Capão Redondo. É difícil enfatizar o bastante o quanto esse é um resultado horrível em termos simbólicos, para o PT e para o Brasil. O Capão Redondo é um distrito da periferia de São Paulo que virou sinônimo de lugar barra-pesada, graças em parte às estatísticas criminais, mas mais ainda à produção de rappers, musical e em outras linguagens artísticas. Foi do Capão Redondo que saíram Ferréz, Mano Brown, Fuzzil, com obras que descrevem e contestam uma realidade opressora, de discriminação social e racial, de violência estatal e internecina. É um bairro cinza, apesar do nome inspirado num capão de pinheiros (os solos ácidos do rio de mesmo nome afugentam outras árvores); dos mais cinzas, abafados, e quentes de São Paulo. É, também, dos mais pobres, ocupando o 79º lugar no IDH entre os 96 distritos do município de São Paulo, e violentos, sendo o 4º distrito com mais homicídios neste ano. (Um homicídio para cada 10.000 habitantes, facilmente batendo, ainda em setembro, a média da cidade.) Se o PT perde para o partido da polícia no cenário de Negro Drama, vai mal.

Resumindo: é um lugar que é ao mesmo tempo pobre e com uma produção nativa de um discurso contestatário. É o tipo de lugar em que o PT deveria ter ganho de lavada, mas perdeu. Perdeu, também, ainda dentro da metrópole paulistana, em São Bernardo do Campo, berço do partido, cidade ainda marcada pela forte presença de operários, muitos ainda filiados a sindicatos e com tradições e identidades proletárias marcantes. De novo, por pouco, mas a questão é que o PT não poderia perder nesses lugares. Que perca acachapantemente nos Jardins, Nada mais natural (Dilma teve, no 1º turno, 8,6% de votos contra 2,8 de Luciana Genro). Mais do que a derrota do PT, o impressionante é a vitória de Aécio, com um discurso francamente de direita, por mais que preservasse nele o bolsa-família, em duas áreas que seriam consideradas por qualquer um bastiões naturais da esquerda. A pobreza politizada pelo rap, o proletariado industrial, votaram maciçamente na direita, depois de 12 anos do PT na presidência. Algo está errado.

Calma, tem mais más notícias. Dilma perdeu para Aécio entre os jovens, os eleitores com 16 a 24 anos. De novo, foi por pouco - 52 a 48%. Mas de novo, é aonde não podia perder. Afinal, como dizia (?) Churchill, quem não é de esquerda aos 20 é um insenssível, quem não é de direita aos 40 é um idiota. E isso, pra lembrar, num contexto em que os "fundamentos" econômicos e sociais deveriam dar uma vitória folgada ao PT. Desemprego baixíssimo, no ou perto do vale histórico mesmo depois de corrigido pela PEA. Aumento do número de vagas nas faculdades, diminuição da mortalidade. As contas nacionais estão cagadas, sem dúvida, mas com certeza contas nacionais não são preocupação prioritária da grande massa da população. O crescimento de renda dos 20% mais pobres foi mais que chinês na última década. Que a classe média que votava na UDN de macacão tenha abandonado o PT após as denúncias de corrupção faz sentido, mas e os pobres e trabalhadores? Será que é só o canto da sereia dos Olavos de Carvalho e outras cepas do Instituto Millenium que seduz os jovens?

Petistas gostam de invocar o poderio da mídia, ou dizer que os jovens não se lembram de como era ruim antes. As duas desculpas não deixam de ter seu quinhão de verdade. A mídia é um oligopólio, abertamente antipetista (se não assumidamente, fora o Estadão), como é amplamente reconhecido; os Repórteres Sem Fronteira, ONG internacional que advoga pela liberdade de imprensa, recomendam a sua regulamentação e quebra de monopólios; os lugares em que o PT perdeu são aqueles com maior alfabetização, o que é diferente de uma ilustração Goetheana e expõe mais as pessoas à influência de órgãos de mídia. Os tempos tucanos eram mesmo mais bicudos, e a maioria petista no Nordeste se justifica inclusive pela diferença de evolução relativa da região, como dá pra ver nessa tabelinha do crescimento da renda domiciliar per capita:

2003-2012                                                       1995-2002

Nordeste: +74,45%                                           Centro-Oeste +2,44%
Centro-Oeste: +67,09%                                     Sul +0,14%
Sul: +47,91%                                                    Nordeste -3,57%
Sudeste: +44,69%                                             Sudeste -9,79%
Norte: +44,28%                                                 Norte -18,49%

Mas quinhões de verdade não adiantam de nada quando desprovidos de ação, são apenas choro de (futuro) perdedor a gritar "ingratos! Súcia de ingratos!." De UDN de macacão a FHC de macacão... E pior: enganam quando são apresentados como a verdade inteira, tornam complacentes aqueles que neles crêem. Não explicam as situações do Capão e de São Bernardo. Pelo contrário, se houve aumento espetacular da renda das classes mais baixas, elas deveriam votar em peso no PT. O estereótipo petista de que playboys coxinhas e dentistas leitores da Veja são os únicos que votam contra o partido não funciona, a não ser que haja muito mais ricos e dentistas do que se imagina. 150.000 playboys num bairro pobre de São Paulo. Tamos bem, então. Aliás, no Centro-Oeste, que também teve aumento muito acima da média nacional na renda, o PT sofreu derrotas inequívocas; é a região mais antipetista depois de SP. 

Parte da resposta talvez seja que, ocupado na tarefa administrativa-burocrática de construir um estado de bem-estar social à européia, o PT largou mão dos fundamentos políticos que permitiram essa construção do estado de bem-estar. Sem nem tocar aqui nos fundamentos econômicos, largamente fora do controle de qualquer partido ou governo, que permitiram que ele fosse feito nos Trinta Gloriosos anos de crescimento do pós-guerra. O aumento da renda da classe trabalhadora, por exemplo, é propalado pelo PT como "ascensão à classe média." Ora, classe média não vota em partido de esquerda. Ao contrário do que muita gente pensa, o conceito de classe média em questão não é do PT, mas da ONU, foi adotado apenas por aquele. Mas é um enorme tiro no pé. Acelerou a guinada conservadora que ocorreu nos países em que foram criados estados de bem-estar em trinta, quarenta anos, para muito antes desse estado ficar pronto.  O PT deixou de ser identificado como partido dos trabalhadores pela enorme maioria dos trabalhadores. Mais pernicioso ainda do que se recusar a regulamentar a mídia, talvez, seja a recusa ou incapacidade em reforçar os movimentos de trabalhadores, preferindo antes usá-los para reforçar o governo. O "T" no nome precisa fazer mais sentido do que o "SD" que curiosamente orna nosso maior partido liberal.

Outra observação, mais palpite que qualquer outra coisa: no início do ano, fui dos muitos que viram um potencial transformador enorme nos rolezinhos dos jovens de subúrbio, que ao frequentar shoppings em massa foram vistos com pânico pelos administradores. O movimento, como se sabe, não deu em nada; antes mesmo que a esquerda tentasse cooptá-lo, com o rolezinho marcado no shopping Leblon, já tinha perdido força. O jovem de subúrbio, o jovem de classe trabalhadora e pobre, não sonha com o avanço coletivo de sua classe, ou sequer pela melhoria de suas condições materiais (que aliás são cada vez mais razoáveis). Ele sonha, numa sociedade altamente marcada pela hierarquia e pelo status, em avançar naquela grande rat race imaginária. Sonha em estar do lado de dentro, não em que não haja um muro dividindo os lados. Será? É, como disse, um palpite, sem nada que lhe respalde.

Haverá outras razões, que não consigo nem imaginar, mas uma coisa é clara: o PT tem que ganhar o Capão e São Bernardo.  Por sorte, por um triz, por uma diferença do tamanho do eleitorado da Luciana Genro, ainda tem quatro anos para tentar. Se não fizer nada de diferente, daqui a quatro anos acaba a breve experiência de esquerda no país. (E, quiçá, sonha o Department of State, na América do Sul.)