“Only Freedom Will Defeat Corruption”: Glittering Generality of the Day

Several organizations – including the World Bank, Transparency International (TI), and Pricewaterhouse Coopers Foundation – have attempted to develop corruption indicators; all of them depend on aggregate surveys of citizens, businesses or experts and therefore base their results on perceptions of the problem as opposed to more objective data. … these measurement approaches have acknowledged reliability and validity problems … “Second generation” governance indicators currently under development may resolve some of the measurement and methodological issues. –Chetwynd, Chetwynd and Spector, “Corruption and Poverty: A Review of Current Literature.” Management Systems International, January 2003.

Media coverage of published corruption rankings may influence people’s perception of corruption in the country. Also, perceived corruption may “overweight” well-publicised corruption scandals compared to more colloquial cases of bribery (“headline bias”). This is true even if the respondents have significant personal exposure to corruption. For instance, in constructing their Bribe Payers’ Index, Transparency International asked business leaders what their main sources of information on corruption, unfair competition and anticorruption treaties were. “The press media” was the preferred response, chosen by 79% of respondents. “Personal experience” was only third at 59%. –Erlend Berg, “How Should Corruption be Measured?” London School of Economics, May 2001

Glittering generalities are emotionally appealing words so closely associated with highly valued concepts and beliefs that they carry conviction without supporting information or reason.

Porfirio Cristaldo Ayala of Spain’s Libertad Digital — “ETA could too have done 11-M!” — comments on the problem of corruption and poverty.

“Only freedom will defeat corruption”

The logic employed is sophomoricallly tortured and all too familiar. It’s that standard Opinion Journal noise-achine editorial No. 1(b), based on the same old gambit that assumes that Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index is an actual “measure of corruption,” with all conclusions, based on fuzzy, meaningless numbers, proceeding from that premise.

Which is widely recognized as a bogus premise. Transparency International does not even make that claim. But then again, it does not write a lot of letters to the editor correcting this common assumption, either.

The same goes for the World Bank, whose survey along similar lines comes with a red herring warning you that these numbers are not meaningful enough for the World Bank to rely on them in its decision-making. Which makes you wonder why they spend money churning them out in the first place … unless they churn out supplementary numbers that allow you to check perception against realilty, that is. Gallup International has done some interesting studies in that regard, I have that here somewhere … I am collecting literature on the problem of defining, and measuring the actual incidence of, “corruption.”

The problem, argues Porfirio, is that government officials in poor countries tend to be more susceptible to bribery, as witnessed by a supposed correlation, he says, between the “poverty” of a nation and its position on the “corruption index.”

That, he tells us, is because poor countries tend to be “statist,” while rich countries tend to have open economies that do not burden the private sector with undue regulation.

The solution, therefore, is for poor countries to stop regulating the private sector.

No regulation, no regulators to bribe.

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Spain: “ETA Did Not Do 11-M”

Noticias en Libertad 1ª Edición (Spain): “ETA Did Not Do 11-M” seems to the principal angle taken in reporting on today’s verdict in the March 11, 2004 terrorist attacks in Madrid, in the highest-circulation metro dailies of Spain’s fractious print media: El País, El Mundo, and ABC.

Some sources point to the acquittal of “The Egyptian” — a man who has maintained, as I understand it, that he knew the bombers, knew  they were up to no good, but was not aware of or part of their plan — as a surprise.

ABC runs a section on international reporting of the case, where the angle of coverage varies from “7 acquitted” and “mastermind acquitted” (or “no masterminds convicted”) to “21 found guilty.”

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Estadão: “Billions” Pilfered in the Thick Jungles of the South!

Daniel Piza of the Estado de São Paulo notes another case of alleged misappropriation of public funds through the use of outsourced publicity contracts.

In such schemes — the most famous of which is the so-called valerioduto — money is allegedly paid for services not actually rendered, then siphoned off into political slush funds known generically as caixa dois.

In the case currently pending, from Minas Gerais, the scheme allegedly pushed funds into the campaign coffers of 17 political parties. See, for example

The teaser to the article on the front page of the Estadão Web site at this hour (I cut and paste):

MP aponta que Zeca desviou R$ 30 bilhões para mensalão de petistas em MS

That is to say, former governor “Zeca of the PT” is accused of misappropriating R$30 billion to feed the campaign coffers of the PT political party

This number, according to the actual news report, is off by three orders of (base-ten) magnitude.

The correct figure, as alleged by the state prosecutor, is R$30 million.

Which is roughly equivalent to the difference between an earthquake measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale (a “moderate” earthquake) and an earthquake measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale (a “great” earthquake, which is one degree of apocalyptic disaster worse than a “major” earthquake, such as the recent temblor in Peru.).

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Where’s the Beef? The Battle of the Boi Zebu

The cow is of the bovine ilk
One end is moo, the other, milk
–Ogden Nash

Zebu é boi, sim, diz pesquisador: The Estado de S. Paulo notes another of those international nomenclature disputes that dot the landscape of the global intellectual property crusades like gibbering absurdities from the right-hand panel of Hieronymous Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights.

The Irish, it claims, are questioning whether Brazilian herds of bos indicus, known locally as the (noble) boi zebu (above) — the preferred species of cattle for meat production here — are really bovine at all.

If not, the Irish are reportedly claiming, then its flesh cannot be marketed as “beef.”

In a previous note on the alleged dispute, the Estadão noted the hiring of a PR firm to combat the alleged campaign. It nows appears to be offering that PR campaign a monopoly on the gazillion-jigawatt megaphone on this subject.

The thing is that this all seems to be something of a secondary or tertiary issue, at best — if not wholly fictious. Something of a tempest in a teapot.

The serious ink on a proposed EU ban on Brazilian beef exports seems to be getting spilled on another issue entirely. As The Scotsman reported on October 11, 2007:

TWO years ago to this very day a major outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease was, after weeks of suspicion, confirmed in three provinces in Brazil, one of the world’s leading beef-producing countries, with a cattle population of more than 200 million — Scotland has just 1.9 million head.

Indeed, I have yet to be able to confirm that the Irish or anyone else are actually making the claim that the Estado de S. Paulo reports they are making.

Brazilian beef exports have been the subject of protests by Irish cattlemen, who claim Brazilian export beef fails to meet EU standards of food safety. But the genus and species question does not seem to be chief among them. I have not yet even found a mention of it, and the reporting in the Brazilian source does not cite any sources containing such statements.

The Irish Times:

The Brazilian government and the country’s farming industry deny the claims of use of illegal growth hormones and say Brazil is implementing the recommendations of EU animal health officials who visited the country in March.

Unless I am missing something, I suspect that “straw man” argumentation — “filibustering while changing the subject” — is going on here.

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“Media And Violence: New Trends In the Coverage of Crime and Security In Brazil”

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In some cases the sensationalist press wound up simply fabricating supposedly dangerous bandits to be duly pursued by police. Among innumerable examples, we can cite David Nasser of the program “Diary of a Reporter,” who called members of the death squad “… the missionaries of General Franca” (then state public security secretary), the “public-works contractors of God.”Red Rosa, the PR representative of the Rio death squad, once phoned a newsroom in order to announce the weekly death toll and confessed as follows: “I get an almost sexual pleasure from watching the bullets pierce the bodies of the criminals and the blood flowing like a red rose flowering out of the earth.” —“A History of Death Squads in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo”

The articles analyzed in the study on which this book was based reveal coverage that focuses closely on specific incidents, very few of which represent initiative on the part of the press itself. Add to that the observations that analytic articles, which treat the issue of public security in Brazil more comprehensively, are still a minority in the print media. —Paulo Vannuchi

The Observatório de Favelas do Rio de Janeiro announces

Dia 29 de outubro será lançado, no CESeC, no Rio de Janeiro, o livro Mídia e Violência: Novas tendências na cobertura de criminalidade e segurança no Brasil. O livro é resultado de três anos de monitoramento de diversos jornais brasileiros, análise de mais de 5 mil textos e a realização de 90 entrevistas – 64 com jornalistas e 26 com especialistas da área de segurança pública.

On October 20, at CESeC in Rio, the book “Media And Violence: New Trends In the Coverage of Crime and Security In Brazil” will be launched. The book is the result of three years of monitoring a number of Brazilian newspapers, analysis of more than 5,000+ articles, and 90 interviews — 64 with journalists and 26 with specialists in the area of public security.

What, no readers or subjects of coverage? Police? Criminal defendants? Public defenders? Prosecutors? Victims of crimes that become hysterical causes célèbres? Residents of off-the-grid communities? Only Brazilian journalists are competent to debate whether the product they offer the public is actually useful to the public or not? The end user gets no say? The paternalistic elitism of these people really needs taking down a peg or two, I tend to think.

Apresentado pela cientista social Silvia Ramos e pela jornalista Anabela Paiva, o livro discute a cobertura jornalística da criminalidade e da segurança pública, apresentam soluções adotadas pela imprensa ao lidar com as dificuldades cotidianas e contam os bastidores de grandes reportagens.

Presented by social scientist Silvia Ramos and journalist Anabela Paiva, the books discusses journalistic coverage on crime and public safety, presents solutions adopted by the press to deal with day to day challenges, and provides “behind the scenes” accounts of major stories.

I personally have not noted much of a decrease, if any, in the tendency of the Brazilian press to refer to every alleged criminal suspect as a “bandit” or a “marginal.”

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Caught in Audit of The Mexican Political Spot: Squat

Mexico’s IFE — the national elections commission — hired AC Nielsen — yes, the media audience measurement firm — to generate fear, uncertainty doubt over the charge that the PREP results published live on July 2 presented “systematic statistical anomalies”

Sólo 30% de emisoras de radio y tv han respondido al instituto: La Jornada (Mexico) reports that the federal elections commission (IFE) has only been able to account for 30 percent of 281,000 ads which political parties and coalitions failed to report.

Technically, IFE regulates TV advertising — in theory, political advertising cannot lie to the viewer, for example — but in practice it does not.

The question here is who pumped money into political advertising. One of the most astonishing cases was the post-election media blitz paid for, reportedly, by COPARMEX, through front groups, to defend IFE against charges that it had presided over a deeply flawed, likely fraudulent election.

That is to say, in a certain sense, IFE benefited from the kind of misconduct it was set up to regulate.

In the end, it did not help IFE president Ugalde, however. He was resoundingly borked.

To help count the spots before Mexican eyeballs, IFE hired Brazil’s IBOPE — much as it hired A.C. Nielsen to help defend it against the proposition that the PREP quick count numbers in the 2006 national election were as thoroughly cooked as a counterfeiter in the lowest circle of Dante’s Inferno.

IBOPE reportedly failed to find the eight things wrong with the second picture. See

The election reform bill recently ratified simply out and out bans paid political advertising. See

A más de dos meses que el Instituto Federal Electoral (IFE) remitiera los primeros oficios a consorcios de radio y televisión, solicitándoles información relacionada con 281 mil espots no reportados por partidos y coaliciones políticas, solamente se ha recibido 30 por ciento de la documentación. Por ello, la Comisión de Fiscalización enviará nuevos “oficios de insistencia”, como paso previo a una solicitud de apoyo al Tribunal Electoral del Poder Judicial de la Federación (TEPJF) para que ordene a las empresas hacer entrega de los datos requeridos.

More than two months after IFE solicited information from radio and TV broadcasters about 281,000 advertisings spots that went unreported by parties and political coalitions, it has only received 30% of the requested documentation. For that reason, IFE’s oversight committee will issue new [orders] as a preliminary step before asking the federal elections tribunal [TEPJF, or “TRIFE”] to order the companies to hand over the data.

Durante una reunión de la citada comisión, también se dejó entrever la inviabilidad que por ahora tiene la solicitud de confronta pública de la información relacionada con los promocionales no reportados por la coalición Por el Bien de Todos, misma que fue solicitada por el Partido de la Revolución Democrática. El presidente de la comisión, Andrés Albo, comentó que esta imposibilidad obedece al procedimiento que se lleva en ese órgano electoral y a la etapa en que se encuentra.

During the meeting of said committee, it was also given to understand, between the lines, that it is not possible at the moment to honor the PRD’s request to publicly audit the information relating to the ad spending of the coalition promoting the candidacy of López Obrador. Committee chair Albo said this was due to IFE procedure and the stage that work is currently in.

La reunión de este lunes evidenció la tensiones existentes en el IFE, reflejadas en una intensa discusión entre el propio Albo y el consejero Marco Antonio Gómez Alcántar, quien le había reclamado al primero sus comparaciones recientes entre los casos Amigos de Fox y Pemexgate, con los espots no reportados y los montos presuntamente involucrados.

The Monday meeting laid bare the tensions within IFE, as reflected by an intense exchange between Albo and Commissioner Gómez Alcántar, who had complained of the former’s comparing the problem of the uncounted spots, and the sums of money presumably spent on them, with the “Friends of Fox” and “Pemexgate” scandals. Continue reading

IstoÉ Dinheiro on the Risco Cisco: Apocalyptic Scenarios And Anonymous Buzz

“Nahas takes on the market
.” This quacking biz weekly’s prognostications tend not to come true. See also Brazil: Attuch’s Book of Revelations and Brazil: Reviewing IstoÉ’s “The Spy Who Bugged Me”

When Ripper was arrested, one of his rivals, 3Com, sent an opportunistic message to its distributors, signed by country manager Antônio Gaudêncio. “Based on recent events in the market, we place ourselves at your service to help you conclude your projects,” it read.

Our policy on anonymous sources is a good one, and bears repeating. It begins: “We resist granting anonymity except as a last resort to obtain information that we believe to be newsworthy and reliable.” The information should be of compelling interest, and unobtainable by other means. We resist granting anonymity for opinion, speculation or personal attacks. –Bill Keller, New York Times, “Assuring Our Credibility”

The Ministry of Planning clips coverage of the Cisco affair from IstoÉ Dinheiro, that colorful and creative little glossy business weekly with the full-time state “business astrologer.”

The teaser on the article appears to state nonexistent facts, first of all. True to form.

Acusada de sonegar R$ 1,5 bilhão, a empresa perde clientes, fica impedida de participar de licitações e uma auditoria interna decidirá o futuro da filial brasileira

Accused of avoiding R$1.5 billion [in taxes and penalties], the company is losing clients, is prevented from participating in competitive contract bids, and an internal audit will decide the future of the Brazilian subsidiary.

(By the way, I think it is inaccurate to say that the company “evaded” that amount in fiscal renderings unto Caesar. The estimate, if Cisco is found liable for evasion of a certain amount, is that the amount owed, plus applicable penalties, if any, could reach that neighborhood.

It cannot have “evaded” the penalty portion of that lump sum if the penalties have not yet been assessed, after due process of law.)

The body of the article reports, however, that the head of the CGU — the federal controller, I guess you could call it, a GAO-like audit office attached to the executive branch of government — has “promised to study the case and take action, if appropriate, up to and including barring the firm from competing government contracts.”

Actually, the CGU sources cited say only that they will “pay close attention to” the case. The dire consequences are an imaginative add-on, unsourced.

The risk that it may be so prevented is a completely different proposition than that the firm fica impedida — “is being prevented” — from competitive bidding. The latter statement materially misrepresents the facts as reported.

I translate some excerpts.

As always with this publication, boil before consuming.

The article basically lays out a series of worst-case scenarios without providing a shred of solid information that would be useful in evaluating the actual extent of the risco Cisco.

Count for yourself the number of anonymously sourced instances of opinion and speculation here.

Because I happen to agree firmly with Bill Keller on this point: The more there are, the less credible the reporting is likely to be.

The little we do learn here, about steps being taken by corporate HQ to exert message control and clean house, are interesting enough, but are sketchy. I could have learned more just subscribing to the press release wire. I would pay a good magazine to inform me more fully on that subject.

As always with IED — as I like to call it — we begin with the narrative lede.

Anonymously sourced, of course.

“It was a dark and stormy night …”

A meia-noite do domingo 21, o executivo Pedro Ripper, presidente da Cisco no Brasil, deixou a cela da Polinter, no Rio de Janeiro, e entrou num Corolla prata de vidros escuros. Depois de passar cinco dias preso, Ripper pretendia falar. Estava indignado e pronto para fazer um desabafo. Aos amigos mais próximos, ele foi enfático. “Estou sendo apedrejado por coisas que não fiz e nem sabia que existiam”, disse a um deles. Ripper, que se considera injustiçado, também queria retomar a rotina normal de trabalho na Cisco, em São Paulo.

At midnight on Sunday, October 21, Pedro Ripper, president of Cisco in Brasil …

The company, incorporated in Brazil, is Cisco do Brasil, Ltda. “Cisco in Brazil” is a very loose way of describing it. Strunk & White: “Prefer the concrete over the abstract.”

… left his cell at the Polinter prison in Rio and got into a silver-colored Toyota Corolla with darkened window glass. After spending five days in prison, Ripper was ready to speak out. He was indignant and ready to get some things off his chest. To close personal friends*, he was emphatic. “I am being flagellated over things I did not do and never knew existed,” he told one of them*. Ripper, who considers himself to have suffered an injustice, also wanted to resume his normal work routine at Cisco in São Paulo.

Ele, porém, foi surpreendido pelas decisões da matriz. Contra a sua vontade, ficou impedido de conceder qualquer entrevista e surpreso com as notícias de que a Cisco americana mandou instaurar uma auditoria interna na filial brasileira. Além disso, a empresa enviou um interventor de fora. Era o brasileiro Rodrigo Abreu, que morava nos Estados Unidos e atuava como diretor da multinacional na América Latina, em Miami. Abreu chegou a ser treinado para atuar como porta-voz e assumir a gestão da crise, mas sua estréia foi adiada. Aparentemente desnorteada com a Operação Persona, da Polícia Federal, que a acusou de sonegar até R$ 1,5 bilhão, a Cisco comunicou-se apenas por meio de notas oficiais. Numa delas, a empresa informou que Ripper reassumiria o trabalho. No entanto, o executivo, que passou pela Promon e vinha tendo uma carreira brilhante, passou a última semana em casa. Abatido, chegou a emagrecer três quilos e, a pessoas próximas, teria dito que a filial brasileira foi “abandonada”

He was surprised, however, [WS?] to learn of decisions taken by the parent corporation. Against his will, he was prevented from giving any interviews, and was surprised by the news that Cisco in the U.S. had ordered an internal audit of its Brazilian affiliate [WS?]. What’s more, the firm sent in an outside overseer — the Brazilian Rodrigo Abreu, who was living in the U.S., working as Cisco’s top executive for Latin America out of Miami.

No sourcing statement for any of this.

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