Brazil: “Journalism Does Not Live by Payola Alone!”

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FIESP: vulnerable to an attack on a ventilation shaft the size of a Tatooine womp rat.

If editors do not set foot outside the newsroom, looking for knowledge wherever it is to be found, we will continue to be subjected to superficial reporting based on superstitions and prejudices.

Journalism does not live by payola alone.

Luciano Martins Costa, writing for the Observatório da Imprensa, notes an issue that you hear debated a lot lately by sources identified with the World Bank: Legal certainty and equal access to justice.

Durante debate realizado na sede da Fiesp, na sexta-feira (30/11), o ministro Ricardo Lewandowski, do Supremo Tribunal Federal, observou que existiam pendentes de julgamento no Brasil, em 2005, 40.225.320 processos, para um total de 14.602 magistrados.

During a debate held at FIESP (The Industrial Federation of the State of São Paulo) on November 30, Justice Lewandowski of the Supreme Court observed that in 2005, Brazil had 40,225,320 pending lawsuits being looked after by 14,602 judges.

And I think I read also that maybe half of those are in São Paulo courts. About 20% of the population live in the state.

Trata-se de um número absurdo, que define a real impossibilidade de aplicação da justiça em larga escala e num padrão de acerto compatível com o regime democrático.

This absurd number defines the practical possibility of universal justice, applied according to standards compatible with democratic government.

A imprensa fez registros burocráticos do evento. Deveria ter oferecido mais. Não que o ministro ou os demais participantes do debate, como os professores Gustavo Franco e Maria Tereza Sadek, tenham conseguido cobrir toda a abrangência da questão. Mas, por se tratar de reflexões sobre a eficiência da Justiça e sua eficácia na economia, o tema merecia ser levado para muito além do portentoso edifício da Federação das Indústrias no Estado de São Paulo.

The press gave the event only token coverage. They should have offered more. Not that the justice or the other participants in the debates, such as Profs. Franco and Sadek, managed to cover the entire range of implications of this issue, but still, their reflections on the efficiency of Justice and its effect on the economy deserved to be heard well beyond the portentous FIESP building.

I privately think of it as the Death Star Building. [Cue John Williams-orchestrated trombones.]

As conclusões dos estudos apresentados indicam que a ineficiência do sistema judiciário brasileiro representa um dos mais graves riscos para o desenvolvimento da nossa jovem democracia. Os números do fracasso em fazer Justiça são também um reflexo do tamanho da ambição regulatória que toma conta dos demais poderes – o Legislativo e o Executivo, autarquias e outras instituições, em todas as instâncias – pródigos em produzir leis e normas em geral. O ordenamento legal do Brasil é composto por 3.600.000 leis, o que torna impossível a aplicação equânime das regras e abre uma vantagem desmedida para aqueles que podem pagar os melhores serviços advocatícios.

The conclusions of the studies presented show that the inefficiency of the Brazilian legal system represents one of the most serious risks to the development of our young democracy. The number on the failure to provide justice also reflect the extent of regulatory ambition that grips the other branches of government — legislatures and executives, independent agencies and other institutions, municipal, state and federal — which produce prodigious numbers of laws and regulations. Brazilian legislation comprises 3,600,000 laws, which makes it impossible to apply the rules in an equitable manner and provides an undue advantage to those who can afford the best legal services.

As grandes questões

The big picture

Assim, numa demanda entre uma pequena empresa que fornece para uma multinacional, a primeira perde logo na largada: por mais justa que seja sua posição, o poder de fogo do oponente, atuando diretamente na ação ou através dos poderosos lobbies que cercam o ambiente dos tribunais, torna o jogo absolutamente desigual.

Thus, in a legal dispute between a small firm and a multinational, the former is lost from the get-go: No matter how just its argument, the firepower of the opposing team, in the courtroom and in the powerful lobbies that surround the courthouse, make the playing field completely uneven.

Por que a imprensa deveria estar prestando atenção a oportunidades como essa, em que um ministro do Supremo Tribunal Federal aceita se submeter publicamente a questionamentos de economistas, como os dirigentes do Instituto Brasileiro de Ética Concorrencial (ETCO), pesquisadores como Maria Tereza Sadek e companheiros de magistratura como a desembargadora Marli Ferreira, presidente do Tribunal Regional Federal da 3ª Região? Porque ali estava o conhecimento que a imprensa deve aplicar quando trata, por exemplo, da sensação de impunidade que os brasileiros demonstram em pesquisas sobre a questão da Justiça.

The press really ought to pay more attention to debates like this, in which a Supreme Court justice is available to be questioned publicly by economists, such as the directors of ETCO, researchers like Sadek, and fellow judges like Marli Ferreira. It is there that the press will find the knowledge it needs when it covers, for example, the sense of impunity that Brazilians express in opinion polls on the subject of law enforcement.

Se os editores não movem seus corpinhos para fora das redações, em busca do conhecimento onde ele se manifesta, seguiremos tendo que encarar reportagens levianas, embasadas em crendices e preconceitos.

If editors do not set foot outside the newsroom, looking for knowledge wherever it is to be found, we will continue to be subjected to shallow reporting based on sacred cows and prejudices.

Any favorite examples?

I read what I think are the major legal industry publications — Consultor Jurídico, Correio Forense, and Última Instância — and am finding I prefer the latter, I think.

Ocorrem regularmente, nas grandes cidades brasileiras, encontros e debates sobre as mais importantes questões que recheiam as páginas de jornais e revistas. Mas raramente são vistos nas platéias aqueles profissionais que determinam a orientação das reportagens ou definem a pauta da imprensa. No caso do evento citado, as trocas de conhecimento entre os participantes permitiriam a qualquer jornalista atento fundamentar pelo menos três ou quatro das grandes questões que freqüentam a mídia recentemente, como as concessões de liberdade provisória para acusados de crimes contra a economia popular, a proposta de prorrogação da CPMF, as vulnerabilidades do sistema representativo, a reforma tributária e a própria natureza do sistema judiciário brasileiro.

Debates and conferences go on all the time in big Brazilian cities, dealing with the issues that fill the pages of the newspapers and magazines. But you rarely see those professionals who set the news agenda in the audience. At the event cited, the knowledge swapped among the participants would have given any alert journalist a foundation for dealing with at least three or four major issues in the media recently, since as parole for economic crimes, the proposed extension of the [check tax], the frailties of political representation, tax reform and the very nature of the judicial system here.

Limitados ao trajeto entre suas casas e as redações, os editores ficam longe dos lugares onde a inteligência se manifesta. Como se tivessem que carregar um fardo pesado nos glúteos, preferem o conforto de suas cadeiras às platéias dos eventos onde o Brasil ainda se pensa. Sempre se pode dizer que a agenda dos editores é complicada, que falta tempo até para conciliar a vida profissional com a necessidade de dar atenção à família. Mas a agenda se torna mais flexível em outras ocasiões, muito especialmente no final do ano, quando as grandes empresas promovem jantares e almoços regados a vinho de qualidade, com direito ao tradicional jabaculê na saída.

Stuck in a rut between home and the office, editors stay away from places where intelligence manifests itself. They prefer the comfort of their desk chairs, as though [snide remark about excessive anxiety about the health of editorial posteriors]. It can always be argued that editors have busy schedules, that they lack even the time they need to juggle work and family. But at other times their schedules open up, especially at year end, when the big companies throw dinners and lunches washed down with fine wine, and the traditional [payola] is handed out as they are leaving.

Jabaculê = payola.

Na mesma semana em que se realizava o debate na Fiesp, muitos editores e colunistas foram vistos em alegres confraternizações com executivos de empresas anunciantes, onde tinham que suportar algumas maçantes apresentações sobre resultados financeiros e ações filantrópicas, em nome do bom relacionamento. Claro que relacionamento faz parte, mas não é tudo. Nem só de jabá viverá o jornalismo.

The same week the Fiesp held the debate, many editors and columnists were seen chumming it up with executives from their advertisers, from whom they had to endure some dull presentations on financial results and philanthropic activities, in the name of “relationship management.” Sure, relationships are important. But they are not everything.

Journalism does not live by payola alone.

Ouch.

I guess this guy does not like wine that much — or getting on those special Christmas card lists.

At any rate, I lean a new word: jabaculê.

… dinheiro com que se compra um jogador para que se deixe vencer; suborno; dinheiro ou qualquer coisa us. para corromper alguém; qualquer dinheiro recebido ou a receber; gorjeta, gratificação … orig.duv.; segundo Nei Lopes, de possível orig. banta; o autor lembra a existência do rad. baku, presente no quimb. bakula ‘pagar, tributar’ e remete tb. ao quicg. nza-báaku ‘sabão’ e cp. a expressão ‘molhar a mão, subornar’, levantando a hipótese de ter havido uma convergência das duas noções

Money you pay a player to throw a match; bribe; by extension, any money used to corrupt someone, or any money one is owed; tip, gratuity … origin doubtful; Nei Lopes speculates Bantu origin … the root bakula in [the principal Angolan Bantu dialect], meaning “pay, pay tribute” and also nza-báaku “soap.” Compare the expression “wet his hand, bribe” and you have the hypothesis of a convergence among the two notions.”

I have my doubts about Houaiss as an etymologist.

Today the Brazilian Senate voted on the second impeachment trial of the “sex Senator,’ Calheiros of Alagoas — and exonerated him. He resigned the presidency, meanwhile.

The Observátorio is mainly exercised by that case today as well.

And for a valid reason, mind you, given that one of its main affiliated projects is lobbying against “electronic colonelism” — lack of enforcement of laws and Constitutional against political control of public broadcast concessions. Also known as the great Magalhães television fire sale of 1988, was it?

Which is what the sex Senator was up on charges of. Accused by the losing candidate in that extremely weird gubernatorial election in Alagoas last year.

Which does tend to contribute mightily to making the Brazilian electromagnetic spectrum the insane freak show that it so often degenerates into.

The Brazilian Congress at least seems to spend an amazing amount of time deliberating on just this sort of nonsense. With the press, and particularly the boob tube, egging them on and focusing exclusively on the circus.

Rather than, say, passing tax reform (promised) and judicial reform (resisted tooth and nail by elements of the judiciary as a Communist plot) and the like.

There are plenty of very fundamental bills in the pipeline, it seems, while the press wallows in photos of lawmakers ogling the tattoo on Mônica Veloso’s ass and otherwise selling the idea that Congress is useless and ought to be shut down for good by heavily armed, hereditary Nietzschean philosopher-kings.

Democracy does not work. The democratic experiment has failed.

I assure you I am not exaggerating that much.

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G1/Globo photo feature, October 10: Lawmaker reads Playboy Brasil (Grupo Abril) with Mônica Veloso at his desk on the House floor. We all now know what Monica has tattooed on her ass.

It tends to come down to this: “We oppose, and will filibuster by screaming endless nonsense into the gazillion-jigawatt megaphone of the media cartels, who owe us big-time, any and all debureaucratization proposals that are not our debureaucratization measures.”

“Your not allowing me to pack the court with my cousins to the bench is nepotism, patronage, clientelism — you just want to put your Communist (alternatively, Fascist) buddies in there. My packing the court with my cousins (fellow Masons, or what have you), on the other hand, is meritocracy in its purest form.”

“These Communist terrorists are not morally worthy to simplify the tax code and reform the judiciary.” It reminds me of why the GOP hated Bubba so much: “The guy is stealing our core issues!” (and the services of Dick “Dicking Democracy” Morris.)

And I am not just talking about the federal government, either, or the hated forces of Lulism. The state governor of São Paulo, from the hated forces of Toucanism (some of whom seem to hate the other Bald Toucan as a traitor the Toucan old school tie, too) has floated a proposal to implement direct, rather than proportional, representation in the state.

How much do you read about that in the paper?

My wife cannot go bitch to our councilmember about our need for a traffic signal on the Rua Natingui. In Brooklyn, I know exactly where I can go and at least harrass a staffer for Tish James or Major Owens.

Each city council member represents the city as a whole and no district in particular. You either vote the party or the candidate, and the votes that are left up to the party to spend are spent on whoever they feel like putting in that seat.

So while everyone vies to be responsible for everything in general, no one has any incentive to be responsible for anything in particular.

“For our friends, anything; for our enemies, the law.”

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