The Once and Future Minister of the Future Is History Again!


Pragmatism without boundaries: Brazil’s official political philosophy?

“This is a done deal. Why do you ask? Have you heard something?” Vice-President Alencar asked journalists.Folha de S. Paulo on the Mangabeira Unger nomination process, June 15, 2007

Cidade Biz (Brazil) reports:

Ontem, o Senado rejeitou por 46 votos a 22, a Medida Provisória 377/07 , que criava a pasta. Com a decisão, também ficam anuladas as contratações de cerca de 600 funcionários para a estrutura da secretaria. Foi uma derrota imposta pelo PMDB ao governo.

Yesterday, the Brazilian Senate rejected Provisional Measure 377/07, which created the office of Secretary of Long-Term Planning of the Presidency. With that, 660 civil service jobs destined for the office were also wiped out. The defeat of the measure was imposed by the PMDB.

On what Cidade Biz editorialized — acidly, but coherently enough, I thought — on the eve of the government’s appointment of the former Harvard Law professor and heir to Deweyean constructivism, see also

Lesson for the day: I understand absolutely nothing about contemporary Brazilian reinventing of the wheelmaking and political dealmaking.

I probably never will. And it may be that the mental contortions that would be required for that not to be the case aare something I would not even want to subject my brain to.

As a preliminary experiment in seeing if I could understand which way the wind was blowing, you may recall, I had predicted that the derisvely nicknamed “Minister of the Future” — the original title of the post was Secretary of Long-Term Activities, but was downgraded from doing to mere intending to do — would be borked.

But Lula sucked it up and named him to the (redefined) post. See

And I was left wondering if I had lost my bet with myself or not.

Given that I had predicted that Mangabeira Unger would not be named to Long-Term Practical Activities, but then did see him named — albeit to something now called Options in Long-Term Ambitious Pretensions, with Fancy Graphs.

Confusing, isn’t it?

The rest of the news brief:

Agora, o Senado criará uma comissão mista de deputados e senadores para elaborar projeto de decreto legislativo para disciplinar as relações jurídicas decorrentes da MP enquanto ela esteve em vigor.

Now the Senate will create mixed House-Senate commission to draft a bill to regulate the provisions of the Provisional Measure when it comes into force.

The MP, as a lawmaking instrument — a vestige of generalissimo-style strong presidentialism that the current government says it wants to do away with, in fact — is controversial as well.

Mangabeira Unger, que para assumir a pasta deixou uma cadeira de professor em Harvard, não deverá falar sobre o assunto.

Mangabeira Unger, who left a chair at Harvard to accept the post, is not expected to comment on the matter.

It seems the salary they were going to pay him, if I am reading this right, was some R$1.97 million a year. That was the top salary quoted, and he was to be the top guy, right?

I think Lula makes like R$180,000 or something.

The government is said to be angry over being crossed by its allies, the PMDB (who were also allies of the previous government, now the opposition), over the confirmation of the nomination.

But for the life of me I cannot understand why.

Is it one of those deals where politicians pretend to be shocked! shocked! but are secretly relieved?

(One theory being floated is that yesterday’s vote to finally end the secret ballot in Congress — which will affect the ethics cases involving the “sex Senator,” Calheiros (PMDB-Alagoas) — prompted the “revolt.”

The sex Senator having calculated that making this reform before, rather than after, his next bout with the ethics panel decreases his chances of winning through.

And as I always say: Imagine that Hillary Clinton told you she did not vote to authorize the Iraq War — or, I don’t know, that she had voted FOR that stoplight you wanted put in, say — and YOU HAD NO WAY OF KNOWING WHETHER THAT WAS TRUE OR NOT.

Now try to make an intelligent choice about who to vote for.

Welcome to Brazil. Until yesterday, anyway.)

But seriously: I am a total babe in the woods on the whole political aspect of the issue. I should just stick to Romance philology, the economics of open source software, and methods for the modern cavaco.

Still, it did strike me throughout the convoluted episode that what you had here was a man tapped to head a big government think-tank full of the best academic brains in Brazil — and there are same very big Brazilian brains, mind you.

And yet this man, shepherd of big academic brains and egos, seems to have displayed extravagant signs of deep intellectual (a) laziness, or (b) dishonesty — and in any event an amazing lack of tact, diplomacy and rhetorical restraint — throughout the entire episode.

See also

And my personal favorite:

The prize for the most interesting analysis of this convoluted storyline goes to the Estadão, for pointing out an interesting literary fact: that the infamous “Lula’s is the most corrupt regime in Brazilian history” op-ed Unger published in the Folha in late 2005 mimicked the structure and language of Victor Hugo’s famous Dreyfus Letter.

“Afirmo que o governo Lula é o mais corrupto de nossa história nacional. Corrupção tanto mais nefasta por servir à compra de congressistas, à politização da Polícia Federal e das agências reguladoras, ao achincalhamento dos partidos políticos e à tentativa de dobrar qualquer instituição do Estado capaz de se contrapor a seus desmandos.

J’accuse: That the Lula government is the most corrupt in our national history. Corruption that is all the more vile because it buys congressmembers, politicizes the Federal Police and regulatory agencies, makes a mockery of the political parties and tries to bend to its will all institutions of the State capable of providing a counterweight to its excesses.

Achincalhar is an especially expressive word, I thought.

On the federal police as “politicized Gestapo,” see also

Afirmo ser obrigação do Congresso Nacional declarar prontamente o impedimento do presidente. As provas acumuladas de seu envolvimento em crimes de responsabilidade podem ainda não bastar para assegurar sua condenação em juízo. Já são, porém, mais do que suficientes para atender ao critério constitucional do impedimento. Desde o primeiro dia de seu mandato o presidente desrespeitou as instituições republicanas”.

J’accuse: that it is the obligation of the Congress to promptly declare the impeachment of the President. The accumulated evidence of his involvement in high crimes and misdemeanors may not yet be enough to assure his conviction. But they are more than enough to meet the constitutional test of impeachment. Since the first day of his mandate, the president has disrespected republican institutions.

The Estado later reported that the text of that op-ed had suddenly gone missing from a Harvard Law Web site — one containing, purportedly, the complete pensamentos of this superbrain of tropical Pragmatism.

If it can’t be googled, it never happened?

Is that the thinking of the Future?

What is it about Harvard — “Veritas!” — University, anyway, that it has come to harbor so many monstrosities of this kind in it tenure-bestowing bosom over the years?

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