Purity of Essence: The Chorus of Hysterical Virgins Swells to a Roar


“Cut to: int. Burleson AFB, Ripper’s office. Mandrake examines a notepad on Ripper’s desk. It is covered with doodles and an interlocking pattern of the words Peace On Earth, and Purity Of Essence.”

This is a time of purification for our nation. And this purification depends, in legislative terms, on political reform. This is the fundamental reform we need in order to see better days. –Marco Aurélio Mello, March 2, 2006

Ever since Justice Mello of the Brazilian Supreme Court, who also presides over the federal elections authority, declared that the “mountain of money” scandal was “worse than Watergate,” I have been compiling a little red book of the man’s public statements.

I am something of a field collector of fleurs du mal from the jungles of public discourse, as you know.

I also have it in mind to base a literary character on the Alagoan jurist and his clangorous Gongoristics.

See, for example, Mello Mans the Moral Megaphone, where we find the Alagoan savant defending his administration of electoral justice against an IBOPE study showing that attempted vote-buying was one the rise in the following terms:

“We acted with an iron hand, but with kid gloves.”

Or Mello Still Life of the Ex Parte Party in Alagoas Algorithmic Anarchy Case.

This most recent addition to the collection strongly reminds me of something I read before, in fact. For, according to the theory of revisionary ratios, the meaning of a given [discourse unit] is always another [discourse unit.]

It is Fascism which has refashioned the character of the Italians, removing impurity from our souls, tempering us to all sacrifices, restoring the true aspect of strength and beauty to our Italian face. — Benito Mussolini, 1932.

Today from the Folhapress newswire:

O presidente do TSE (Tribunal Superior Eleitoral), Marco Aurélio Mello, cobrou ontem do Congresso Nacional pressa para a votação da reforma política que, na sua opinião, deve entrar em vigor antes de 2008. Segundo Marco Aurélio, os parlamentares precisam aprovar mudanças profundas no sistema político nacional, sem concentrar a discussão em apenas alguns pontos da reforma.

The president of the federal elections tribunal, Justice Mello, called upon the national legislature to vote quickly on political reform, which, in his opinion, must take effect before 2008. According to Mello, legislators need to approve profound changes in the national political system without focusing debate on a few spot reforms.

My sense of the situation, looking at the program outlined by the Ministry of Justice — Mr. Genro of Institutional Relations is a leading candidate to take over there, it seems, though much noise is being made about Justice Pertence as well — is that a higher priority may be judicial reform, however.

Or that this is, at least, a co-equal priority in the context of a broader consolidation of the Constitution of 1988 and the Novo Código Civil.

It seems like a classic case of “Do we pass new laws or do we just try to enforce the ones we already have?” See also Managing Knowledge Without A License: Retro-Ditadura is the Fashion in Brazil.

The case involves conflicting notions of freedom of the press as defined in the Constitution of 1946, the Constitution of 1988, Article 222, and a 1967 Press Law that is still on the books.

For a more general discussion of the mentality at work in such cases, see Generalissimos or Constitutional Democracy: ‘A Partisan Political Issue’.

Mello disse que a reforma terá capacidade de “purificar” o sistema político nacional. “O período nacional é de purificação. E a purificação passa, em termos de reforma da legislação, pela reforma política. É a reforma básica para que nós tenhamos dias melhores”, afirmou.

Mello said that the reform should be capable of “purifying” the national political system. “This is a time of purification for our nation. And this purification depends, in legislative terms, on political reform. This is the fundamental reform we need in order to see better days.”

Esta semana, o ministro Tarso Genro (Relações Institucionais) defendeu a aprovação de uma espécie de minirreforma para agilizar a tramitação do texto no Congresso. O governo elegeu três pontos para serem apreciados pelo Congresso: a fidelidade partidária, a votação em listas fechadas e o financiamento público de campanhas. O ministro disse acreditar na votação da minirreforma no prazo de 30 a 60 dias pela Câmara.

This week, institutional relations minister Tarso Genro defended passage of a sort of mini-reform in order to streamline the bill’s course through Congress. The government has settled on three points for Congress to deliberate on: Party loyalty, voting for closed lists of candidates, and public financing of campaigns. Genro said he believes this minireform can be voted on by the lower house in the next 30 to 60 days.

Personally — and this is my one undergrad course talking — I think that if you did away with proportional representation in favor of direct representation, you could let the voters punish legislators who got elected on one party platform and then switched over to another.

Ditto for doing away with the secret ballot in floor votes. I believe that Mr. Chinaglia, the newly elected “speaker of the house” type guy, has promised to push for that. Acreditar so vendo.

Compounding the political uncertainty here at the moment is a highly publiciized — which does not mean it actually matters, mind you — bid by former Supreme Court chief justice Nelson Jobim to reassert control over the PMDB political party. The PMDB is currently part of the government coalition in Congresss.

Jobim presided over the party as a senator before one of several revolving door stint in the Judiciary.

The Brazilians call it fisiologia and loteamento. The PMDB has an unfortunate reputation for being past masters of this style of politics. It’s a hell of a way to run a country.

See also Banana Republicanism in Anatel Hell.

On a competing mini-reform authored by Mello and Sen. Jorge Bornhausen — and the peculiar, to the eyes of an innocent gringo raised as an Army brat by “show me” Missourians, spectacle of Supreme Court justices lobbying the Congress on laws they drafted themselves — see The Wild and Wooly Saga of Brazil’s Election “Mini-Reform” and “The Blind Virtual Voting Act of 2003″

Justice Mello also received the OAB’s input on political reform this week from the national bar association’s new president, Mr. Cezar Britto — described as a “progressive,” and the son of one of Mello’s colleagues on the Supreme Court, Justice Carlos Britto.

I was just reading Cezar Britto’s inaugural speech as national OAB president. Very interesting.

I should translate that for you.

In the meantime, see also Brazilian Judges, Lawyers in Corruption Dustup and Move On: Gel-in-the-Hairs Out at Brazilian ABA?

This is not a facetious point I am making here.

The wholesale cribbing of fascist rhetorical flourishes and ideological items of faith by contemporary Latin American “conservatives” is also visible, for example, in the patented fist-pump of Felipe Calderón — who denied publicly the other day that he is a mano duro.

See Mexican Ombudsmen: A Black Year For Transparency, Press, Human Rights for the context, and Militarizing Mapacheria for the background.

“I am not a
mano dura”: Calderón, the frequent fister.

Mussolini, 1932:

Fascism attacks the whole complex of democratic ideologies and rejects them both in their theoretical premises and in their applications or practical manifestations. Fascism denies that the majority, through the mere fact of being a majority, can rule human societies; it denies that this majority can govern by means of a periodical consultation; it affirms the irremediable, fruitful and beneficent inequality of men, who cannot be leveled bysuch a mechanical and extrinsic fact as universal suffrage. . . . Democracy is a regime without a king, but with very many kings, perhaps more exclusive, tyrannical and violent than one king even though a tyrant. . . .

Rousseau, On the Origin of Inequality (1754).

An unbroken horse erects his mane, paws the ground and starts back impetuously at the sight of the bridle; while one which is properly trained suffers patiently even whip and spur: so savage man will not bend his neck to the yoke to which civilised man submits without a murmur, but prefers the most turbulent state of liberty to the most peaceful slavery. We cannot therefore, from the servility of nations already enslaved, judge of the natural disposition of mankind for or against slavery; we should go by the prodigious efforts of every free people to save itself from oppression.

Mussolini again.

Fascism, in short, is not only the giver of laws and the founder of institutions, but the educator and promoter of spiritual life. It wants to remake, not the forms of human life, but its content, man, character, faith. And to this end it requires discipline and authority that can enter into the spirits of men and there govern unopposed. Its sign, therefore, is the Lictors’ rods, the symbol of unity, of strength and justice.


The Roman Lictor: “The lictor’s main task was to attend as bodyguards to magistrates who held imperium.” Wikipedia factoid: “Lictors are the ‘prisonkeepers of humanity’ in the roleplaying game KULT.” The Brazilian folkloric equivalents for imperium and lictor would be coronel and capanga, I think.

Yes, Virginia: There are Brazilian magistrates who seem grimly determined to hang on to their imperium.

Strange as it may seem, given the Constitution of 1988.

But remember, Toto: We’re not in Eisenhower country anymore.

The PFL, meanwhile — the ARENA-descended party of Bornhausen and of Cesar “The Naked” Maia, which underwent a visible split over the Sader case in the aftermath of the PSDB-PFL campaign that backed Alckmin — is catching a lot of flak these days over the decision to change its name from “the party of the liberal front” to “the democratic party.”

Lots of bitter history goes into the prevailing suspicion on the left end of the spectrum that the tiger cannot change his nature by changing his stripes, or that the move is an opportunistic one, a crass spreading of sails before the prevailing political winds.

But, hey, so what if politicians change their talk and their votes according to which way the winds are blowing? But so long as the voters are doing the blowing, in the final analysis, why does it matter?

They aren’t saints. Quite the contrary: most of them are freaking lawyers. They are negotiators we send up to the state house to get us the best deal possible, and protect us from getting hosed by other people’s freaking lawyers.

The point is to maneuver the violent conflict onto the purely symbolic plane and then keep it there.

I actually think — idly; all my thoughts on politics are idle, and probably useless, you should remember — that the Great PFL Rebranding Campaign of 2007 — tempest in a teapot though it may be in the larger scheme of things — is a good sign for Brazil in general, if it pans out.

I mean, isn’t this what we are starting to get nostalgic for back home?

I may well publicly stick it to that conservative SOB who is running for dog catcher, because I happen prefer the hippy dippy dog-catcher who wants to put stray coyotes through rebirthing and macrobiotic diets.

But that does not mean I refuse to go bowling with the guy, or let my daughter date his son..

It takes all kinds. Politics is not war. Neither is business. The Hobbesian state of nature is a bad thing. The gummint should stay the hell out of my private business, and not make war on its own citizens.

My grandpa risked his neck fighting fascism, and now this? Redneck political commonplaces like that, from flyover country and the back streets of Brooklyn.

I personally believe there is a huge untapped market for this type of papo furado in the Brazilian market. You can hold me to that: I am guardedly bullish on the pefelista conversion on the road to Tarsus, as a sign that the hog heaven of the hard men has its days numbered.

On faith-based reengineering of human nature, see also A Psychedelic Reagan Revolution in the Concrete Jungle.


Alessandra Mussolini, Europarliamentarian: “Non è un problema di destra e di sinistra. I voltagabbana vanno dove c’è il potere.” (“It is not a question of right and left. Turncoats always go where the power is.”)

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