Announcing The New World Lusophone Sousaphone

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First of all, generally speaking — and there are notable exceptions, mind you — blogging is a waste of time second only to relying on blogs as a source of reliable information with enough value-added to make them worth your time and attention.

Then again, it’s my life to waste.

That said, I come to the marketplace of half-baked ideas to announce that I will fulfill a New Year’s resolution by (1) transferring my blogging activity to The New World Lusophone Sousaphone, and (2) spend more time on O Bicho-Preguiça, where I promised myself I would publicly work to improve — or fail to improve — my abysmal New World Portuguese prose style.

Adjust your bookmarks accordingly. Or not.

It’s not like you blog-reading fools contribute to my household income, after all.

Some initial posts from the Sousaphone:

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Brazil: “Dynastic Succession Struggle at TV Bahia”

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PROJOR study: “Electronic Coronelismo of a New Kind (1999-2004): Broadcast licenses as medium of exchange in political bargaining.” Thorough.

Briga dos Magalhães atinge renovação de emissora: “Strife among the Magalhães clan affects renovation of broadcast concession.” Terra Magazine reports.

One of the more interesting stories to watch here in Brazil is the phenomenon known as “electronic coronelismo.”As the Colombian newspaper owner once said:

“Newspapers are like revolvers: You keep them around so you can pull them out when it’s time to open fire.” — Julio Mario Santo Domingo (El Espectador)

It’s a lot like Rupert Murdochism, only far more crude, grotesque and retrograde  in its antidemocratic perniciousness.

When the late Antônio Carlos Magalhães was the Minister of Communications under President Sarney, he tended to hand out broadcast concessions as political party favors. A legendary episode in a legendary life.
TV Bahia, for example, a Rede Globo retransmitter, is owned and operated by lots of people named Magalhães, as you will read. See also

Residents of Maranhão and Amapá tend to get their news from outlets controlled, directly or indirectly, by people named Sarney. As in the father-and-daughter senators Sarney. And so on.

I was recently working on a pauta (roughly, a story “pitch”) about consultancies here that specialize in helping family-controlled businesses deal with the ways in which the Freudian family romance can interfere with rational business planning and management. This would seem to be a case in point.

A briga dos herdeiros do ex-senador Antonio Carlos Magalhães atinge seu segundo impasse. Depois da derrota do dono da construtora OAS, César Mata Pires (casado com Tereza Helena, filha de ACM), na disputa pelo controle da Rede Bahia, a ausência de rubricas e assinaturas tumultuam a renovação do sinal da emissora TV Santa Cruz, em Itabuna, uma das principais cidades do interior baiano.

The quarrel among heirs to the late ACM has reached a second impasse. After the defeat suffered by the owner of the OAS construction company, César Mata Pires (married to a daughter of the late senator, Tereza Helena), in the dispute for control of the Rede Bahia network, the absence of the proper stamps and signatures is throwing a monkey wrench into the renovation of the concession for TV Santa Cruz in Itabuna, one of the main cities in the interior of Bahia.

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The Cardoso Room-Service Blackmail Dossier: “Veja’s Deep Throat Revealed!”

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Veja magazine, March 2002: “The Dossier Wars: Politicians and spies have set up a slander industry in Brazil.” Right: And Veja is that industry’s Yoyodyne. Ask Veja about the work that Jairo Martins later did for it (and testified to a congressional committee about).

Brazilian journalist Luis Nassif has mounted an incredible army of Internet Brancaleones to severely criticize the neo-Lacerdist style of journalism practiced at Veja magazine (Grupo Abril) — what Mr. Nassif has described, with good reason, as an attempt to import the “neocon style” into Brazilian journalism.

I personally think the neocons got their style from the kind of banana-republican fascists in whose footsteps Veja follows, but that is a subtle historical debate for another time.

One of the hallmarks of that journalism is the use of anonymous sourcing as the rule, rather than the very carefully pondered exception.

Anyone who has ever read a manual of good journalistic practice knows that you can save yourself the embarrassment of running gabbling, unsubstantiated rumors and vouching for nonsense (the “Jayson Blair-Judy Miller syndrome”) by observing a couple of simple rules of thumb: (1) think twice about granting anonymity to sources, explain why you granted it, and give as much information about the source as possible; and (2) in any event, always corroborate what your Deep Throat is telling you six ways from Sunday before running it, or else make it very explicit that the information you are presenting has not been corroborated.

Unless, of course, running unsubstantiated rumor does not embarrass you.

The case that always comes to mind — I have been doing a fair amount of reading up on the history of this sort of thing here in Brazil — is that of an accusatory scandal story about a politician whom Veja reported had US$1 million in a (bribe-stuffed, allegedly) bank account.

At the last minute, those snotty little know-it-alls in the fact-checking department discovered that the account actually only contained R$1,000.

So Veja, which already had the scandalous cover printed up, started calling around to try to get a source to “confirm” the US$1 million figure.

It found one in a bitter political adversary of the target. So it ran with the US$1 million figure, even though it had information to the contrary. And did not identify the source of the US$1 million figure, to boot.

It later apologized — sort of — for getting the story wrong. See

It also later abolished its fact-checking department.

In a related story, I wish very much not to owe any taxes this year. So I shop around for an accountant who will sign off on the proposition that my taxable income last year was, not $1 gazillion (would that it were), but $0.

So who was Veja‘s source on the rumor that a government minister “rigged up a blackmail dossier” against former President Cardoso?

A member of the Brancaleones writes in to say we now know. It is not quite crystal-clear to me that we do, but it does seem that Veja has some explaining to do.

A fonte da Veja

Veja‘s source

De Flávio Cantu

By Flávio Cantu


Dear Nassif,

Me desculpe o “off-topic”, mas o Senador Alvaro Dias confirmou que foi a fonte da Revista Veja.

Pardon my “off-topic” posting, but Senator Dias has confirmed being the source of that report in Veja magazine.

Sort of. Current reports are that he has denied publicly that he passed along the documents facsimiles of which were printed in the magazine, but admits that he himself was passed copies from a source he says he cannot reveal.

Um amigo de uma emissora de TV me disse no domingo que o serviço de inteligência do Governo sabia quem estava com cópias dos três falsos dossiês e que sua emissora estava no encalço destas pessoas.

A friend of mine at a TV channel told me Sunday that the government’s intelligence service knew who had copies of three phony dossiers, and that his news organization was on the trail of these persons.

Mas me parece que o “furo” do Noblat também furou a emissora que estava pronta para dar a notícia do vazamento do “dossiê” pelo Senador do PSDB.

But it seems that Noblat’s “scoop” also scooped this TV channel, which was ready to put the story on the air about the leaking of the “dossier” by the PSDB senator.

Foi uma maneira de manter aquela máxima do jornalismo:

It was a way of observing that maxim of journalism:

“Vamos dar primeiro a notícia para não sermos furados pela concorrência”

“Let us run the story first so as not to be scooped by the competition.”

Do Terra Magazine

From Terra Magazine:

O senhor admitiu que viu as informações antes de elas serem tornadas públicas. Em que circunstâncias isso aconteceu?

You have admitted that you saw this information before it was made public. In what circumstances did this occur?

Álvaro Dias – Olha, o jornalismo investigativo tem prestado um grande serviço ao País, seria muito pior a degradação das instituições, não fosse a competência e a ousadia do nosso jornalismo de investigação. E isso se dá em razão de fontes. O jornalistas se utiliza de muitas fontes. Uma revista do porte da Veja, que só no escândalo do mensalão divulgou, se não me falha a memória, matérias de capa 17 vezes, não contou com apenas uma fonte. Certamente valeu-se de muitas fontes de informação. Eu tenho sido ouvido por muitos jornalistas, do Terra, de outros sites, de jornais, emissoras de TV e certamente outros parlamentares da mesma forma. Esse é o caminho para se produzir a informação.

Álvaro Dias: Look here, investigative journalism has done this country a great service, the degradation of its would be much worse if it were not for the competence and daring of our investigative journalists.

He is changing the subject while filibustering, note.

And this is because of sources. Journalists use many sources. A magazine of Veja‘s stature, which on the “big monthly allowance” affair ran, if memory serves, 17 cover stories, does not use just one source.

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“Someone Found a Chicken Bone and Sold It to the Press as a Dinosaur Bone”: Further Notes on the Cardoso Room-Service Blackmail Dossier

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Veja magazine, March 2002: “The Dossier Wars: Politicians and spies have set up a slander industry in Brazil.” Right: And Veja is that industry’s Yoyodyne. Ask Veja about the work that Jairo Martins later did for it (and testified to a congressional committee about).

“The impression I have is that someone found a chicken bone and tried to sell it to the press as a dinosaur bone.” –President Squid on the Cardoso Room Service Blackmail Dossier

Para Lula, Dilma foi vítima de ´leviandade clandestina´: Dilma “Comrade Wanda” Rousseff, midwife to the mother of all economic stimulus packages,  is said to be the victim of, what?

“Shadowy disingenousness?” “Sneaky nonsense”? A “dark and unspeakable gabbling ratfink?”

Who leaked the lunch and room service tabs of Fernando Henrique Cardoso to Veja magazine? The name of an opposition senator is floating around now, but who knows? Does it really matter? Probably not.
See also

Leviandade, according to the fine Michaelis PT-EN dictionary:

sf 1 levity, thoughtlessness, imprudence. 2 frivolity, folly, flippancy.

Dilma Rousseff, the successor to Zé Dirceu as the Brazilian minister of the Casa Civil, and midwife to the government’s “economic growth acceleration plan” (PAC), has been the target of recent accusations by Veja magazine and the Folha de S. Paulo that she presided over the ginning up of a “blackmail dossier” against former President Cardoso.

I read Carta Capital, Valor and the Estado de S. Paulo myself (although the reportagem local and some other journalists at the Folha are worth keeping up with.)

Defenders of the government charge that the “scandal of the blackmail dossier” is just a phony tempest in a teapot designed to cut down the number of column inches dedicated to the success of the program presided over by the former Comrade Wanda, around whom swirl rumors of a presidential candidacy in 2010.

They may have a point. I mostly note it as a student of artificial South American media frenzies and the journalism of “moral panic.” This is, I expect, most likely another one of those. Long live the restless ghost of Carlos Lacerda.

BRASÍLIA – A elaboração e divulgação de um dossiê com dados sigilosos sobre gastos feitos pelo presidente Fernando Henrique Cardoso e sua mulher, dona Ruth, foi uma ” leviandade clandestina ” e ” chantagem política ” contra a ministra da Casa Civil, Dilma Rousseff, disse o presidente Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, ao comentar o envolvimento da ministra na polêmica criada com a revelação das informações da Presidência protegidas por sigilo.

The preparation and publication [by Veja magazine] of a dossier containing confidential data on the expense accounts of former president Cardoso and his wife, Ruth, was a [“bunch of cloak-and-dagger nonsense”] and a “political blackmail tactic” used against Rousseff, said President Lula da Silva, commenting on the controversy over the publication of confidential data on presidential expense accounts.

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Viral Political Marketing Notes: “The Naked Mayor Blogs While Rio Burns With Fever”
Reported cases of dengue, by month, in Rio de Janeiro. The darker the area, the greater the number of reported cases. This year: 206.8 cases/100,000 inhabitants in Rio. Reported cases this year: 31,552, compared with 10,464 last year. Source: Estado de S. Paulo today.

… we need a communications policy and an ongoing dialogue with the mass media that will guarantee that the sense of risk is proportionate to the actual risk. –César Maia, from the ex-blog

The Brazilian Ministério do Planejamento carries the following angry editorial today from the Jornal do Brasil about the dengue outbreak in Rio de Janeiro and the city’s outgoing mayor, Cesar “The Naked” Maia.

If you live here in Brazil, you have already survived the apocalyptic yellow fever epidemic of 2008 that really wasn’t — unless you panicked, overdosed on the vaccine when you really had no need of taking it in the first place, and died from that. As a few people did.

Now, courtesy of the same mosquito, here is the great dengue outbreak of 2008 — which by all accounts really is quite a serious public health problem.

See also

There is one thing that I do not quite understand about the current crisis, however, which is getting coverage worthy of the OJ Simpson trial here.

Dengue outbreaks, which are concentrated in the rainy season (January to March) — like yellow fever outbreaks — seem to be cyclical, spiking up every few years or so.

And the outbreak in 2002, with 155,242 cases, was much worse, was it not?

This would not excuse lack of preparation, planning and proper response during this outbreak, of course — responsibility for which is quite the political hot potato.

The fear of death aside, then, it is interesting, as a watcher of other people’s C-SPAN in a strange land, during a municipal election year, to see this outbreak being treated as something like Chairman’s Maia’s Hurricane Katrina.

Here in São Paulo, the government media blitz regarding “here is how to prevent dengue” was very visible (and well done, we thought.)

Me and the Mrs. even made sure we did not leave any stagnant water around for the mosquito to breed in, even though our neighborhood is probably not at great risk.

We are not too worried about dengue, that is, but we are much more worried about it than we were about yellow fever, despite the boob tube’s attempt to make us very, very, very afraid. See

The JB editorializes. I do not necessarily endorse the sentiment. I merely translate pra inglês ver.

Enquanto pacientes com dengue aguardavam ontem três horas por socorro em hospitais sem médicos, e doentes lotavam as tendas de campanha, o prefeito César Maia continuava escondido na internet e nas amenidades de sua agenda. Só saiu do gabinete para o Palácio da Cidade, onde recebeu vereadores e almoçou com oficiais do Exército. O JB o procurou para saber o que foi discutido, mas a resposta veio por e-mail. Maia voltou a negar a epidemia, que já matou 44 pessoas no Rio este ano: “Há um surto epidêmico em Jacarepaguá”. Disse ter visitado os mesmos hospitais municipais onde ninguém o vê. Irritado, o governador Sérgio Cabral cobrou a abertura dos 100 postos de saúde do município que o prefeito insiste em manter fechados nos fins de semana.

While patients with dengue waited three hours for treatment at hospitals without doctors, and sick people crowded into the tents of the [Air Force] field hospitals, mayor César Maia continued hiding out on the Internet and in events on his ceremonial calendar.

Mayor Maia blogs. Blogs copiously, in fact, as I know from subscribing to his daily “ex-blog” newsletter. I have often wondered myself how he finds the time to do anything else.

He only left his office to go to City Hall to meet with aldermen and lunch with Army officers. The JB tried to find out what they discussed, but the response came back by e-mail. Maia once again denied that an epidemic, which has killed 44 so far this year, exists: “There is an epidemic outbreak in Jacarepaguá.” He said he visited the same city hospitals where no one reports having seen him. Irritated, Governor Cabral demanded that the city open 100 clinics that the mayor insisted remain closed during the weekend.

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São Paulo Diary: “Panic in Rio Preto”

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S. José de Rio Preto (450 km from São Paulo, population 415,000). The midsize Brazlian city-dweller is the demographic of the future, local marketers say. 

BOM DIA (São Jose de Rio Preto, São Paulo, Brazil) is one of those small regional newspapers that are interesting to keep up on when you run across them.

Some local press observers attribute the diminishing influence of the Six Families over public opinion to the emergence of sustainable local and regional media businesses like this. They may have something there, too.

As a supplement to my standing Google news alert on the term “glitch” — I have a general interest in the the Second Law of Thermodynamics (and Murphy’s Law) as it applies to complex technical systems — I also have a standing Google Brasil news alert on the term pane (outage, blackout, system failure, glitch) to catch Lusophone newsflow on the same topic.

In this case, the story of how Rio Preto dropped out of the Information Age for some five long hours.

Por 5 horas e 15 minutos, Rio Preto ficou sem comunicação. A pane nos telefones durou das 8h45 às 14h. A causa foi o rompimento de dois cabos de fibra óptica que atendem a Telefônica, a Embratel e a NET.

For 5 hours and 15 minutes, all communications ceased in Rio Preto. The telephone outage lasted fro 8:45 am to 2:00 p.m. The cause was the breaking of two fiber optic cables that serve Telefónica, Embratel and NET [cable TV and Internet].

Na região, 467 mil telefones ficaram mudos. Sem eles, sistemas de comunicação de bancos, lotéricas, comércio, polícia e até do Samu ficaram fora do ar. Pagamentos com cartões eletrônicos, que dependem de linha telefônica, não puderam ser realizados no comércio. Operadoras de celular também foram afetadas nas ligações de longa distância e para o serviço de call center.

Some 467,000 telephones in the area went dead. Without them, the communications systems of banks, lottery agencies, businesses, police agencies and even Samu [police, fire and medical emergency call center] went off the air. Electronic payments, which depend on telephone services, could not be made in local businesses. Cellular operators also experienced difficulties with long-distance calls and call center service.

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Exame: “Who Is To Blame For The Imminent Apocalypse?”

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If you are driving on the Greater São Paulo Viaduct … don’t ask why. Just duck. Note
favelas in the background. On the teettering-tottering Tiradentes busway, see São Paulo Diary: “Things Fall Apart. The Fura-Fila Cannot Hold”

They shouted out, “Who killed the Kennedys?”
When after all, it was you and me.
–Jagger-Richards, “Sympathy For the D-vil”

If anything characterizes our times, it is a sense of pervading chaos. In every field of human endeavor, the windstorms of change are fast altering the ways we live. Contemporary man is no longer anchored in certainties and thus has lost sight of who he is, where he comes from and where he is going. — The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, quoted in my Spinning the World Backwards.

Item: De quem é a culpa?

Who is to blame for the imminent and inevitable collapse of Paulista civilization?

The business newsweekly Exame (Editora Abril, Brazil) weighs in on the question.

Editora Abril publications routinely adopt an analytical perspective that is (1) moralistic (“who is to blame?”); (2) apocalyptic (“the sky is falling!”); (3) long on belaboring of the obvious; and (4) shot through with hoary, reheated factoids and fuzzy numbers.

Não é do crescimento. Não é das montadoras. O colapso do trânsito em São Paulo é uma mostra de um país que não se preparou para o progresso

Growth is not to blame. Automakers are not to blame. The collapse of traffic in São Paulo is one more sign that Brazil has failed to prepare the way for progress.

By Fabiane Stefano

A cidade de São Paulo coleciona recordes. Alguns louváveis, outros desalentadores. A maior metrópole do país acabou de conquistar uma marca que é um misto das duas coisas. Hoje, nas ruas paulistanas, 6 milhões de carros brigam por espaço nos 15 000 quilômetros de vias asfaltadas. Trata-se de um recorde que a cidade renova a cada dia, com o registro de 800 novos veículos. Por um lado, o dado mostra a pujança econômica da metrópole e reflete, em boa medida, o bom desempenho do PIB brasileiro, que em 2007 fechou em alta de 5,4%. Por outro, denota o caos que virou a vida de quem precisa se deslocar por São Paulo. Dia após dia, a velocidade nos principais corredores da cidade diminui e os congestionamentos aumentam — na noite de quinta-feira, dia 13, 221 quilômetros de vias estavam abarrotados de veículos virtualmente parados, a maior marca já registrada até o fechamento desta edição. À medida que ruas e avenidas ficam progressivamente bloqueadas, cada vez mais gente se pergunta: de quem é a culpa pelo trânsito congestionado? “Falhamos todos: a sociedade, que se acomodou com o automóvel, e, sobretudo, o governo, que não fez a lição de casa e não investiu em transporte público”, diz Jaime Waisman, professor da Universidade de São Paulo. “Agora, temos transporte privado de Primeiro Mundo e público de Quinto — estamos todos parados.”

The city of São Paulo continues to set records. Some of them admirable, some disheartening. The biggest city in Brazil recently set a mark that is a mixture of the two. Today, some 6 million cars vie for space on the city’s 15,000 km of paved streets and roadways. It is a record that is superceded every day, with the registration of 800 new vehicles. On one hand, this figure reflects the city’s economic dynamism and favorable GDP trends in Brazil, with 5.4% growth in 2007. On the other hand, it denotes that chaos that trying to get around the city has become. Day after day, the average speed of traffic along the principal corridors decreases and congestion increases. On the night of March 13, 221 km were clogged with stop-and-go traffic, an all-time high. As streets and thoroughfares grow increasingly congested, more and more people are asking: Who is to blame for traffic congestion?

CartaCapital magazine ran an editorial package several issues ago, for example, based on the same observations.

Its coverage, however, was oriented toward the question, “What ought to be done about this problem?”

The magazine drew up a list of concrete policy proposals of various kinds and talked to a diverse selection of traffic pundits about the viability and efficacy of the same. It was very informative and thorough.

(I remember being interested to read about a PSDB city councilmember whose proposal to restrict curbside parking on major thoroughfares died stillborn thanks to the forces of NIMBYism, for example.)

Which kind of summarizes why I personally tend to spend my weekly budget for newsmagazines on CartaCapital and not the publications of the House of Civita.

The House of Civita tends to waste time preaching doom and wagging a moralistic finger rather than trying to discover ways of reducing the bagunça to a manageable level in the short term and chipping away at it in the long term.

I mean it. Its constant theme is Chicken Little’s refrain: “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”

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