Ecce Veja: “The Ultimate Factoid”

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FEAR AT THE SUPREME COURT. “It is intolerable, this atmosphere we live in, with the abusive conduct of federal agents or agencies deeply enmeshed with the machinery of the State. Generalized wiretapping is an indicator of, and an exercise in, authoritarian politics,” says Justice Celso de Mello. “Supreme Court justices react to the suspicion of wiretaps in the highest court in the land.” Another justice pictured here, Mendes, was roundly criticized for not recusing himself from a vote that would have resulted in the quashing of charges of administrative improbity against himself.

factoid (something resembling a fact; unverified (often invented) information that is given credibility because it appeared in print)

No, I have no reason to believe in wiretapping [of the Supreme Court] –Justice Pertence, to Terra Magazine

The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane. –Marcus Aurelius

O último factóide: Brazilian journalist Luis Nassif continues his series of case studies of the (mal)practice of journalism at Veja magazine.

I keep translating, as I have time, because this is something that I have noticed, too. And it really bothers me. Magazines are very expensive here. And these people want me to pay them good money to be crudely bullshitted, week in and week out? I don’t think so.

This installment, titled “the ultimate factoid,” looks at a case that was amply commented at the time (a fair amount of which commenary I translated): A bizarre cover story on “suspicions that Supreme Court justices are being wiretapped.”


What was so bizarre about it?

Among other things, one of the magazine’s principal sources, Justice Mello, went on the radio the next day and confirmed that these “suspicions” were based on a hoax e-mail that the federal police had already proven was a (crude and gabbling) fraud.

The author was charged with making false accusations.

Justice Mello had earlier charged that the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), over which he presides was being wiretapped. A private consultant hired by the TSE reported finding wiretaps.

The federal police checked their work, decided the private security consultant was lying, and indicted it for making false statements as well. Whatever happened to that case?

I was just reading in the Gazeta Mercantil, I think it was, that the Brazilian Supreme Court decides something like 150,000 cases a year. One justice reportedly got an ISO 9001 certification for his office’s methods of keeping track of the Jarndyce v. Jarndyce mountain paperwork.

Brazil is litigious to a Dickensian degree. (But another, more positive, stereotype has a lot of truth to it as well: Brazilian dentistry is amazingly good.)

No capítulo “O Estilo Veja de Jornalismo” mostrei os princípios de atuação ficcional da revista e algumas análises de caso – como a material fantasioso sobre o estouro do câmbio em 1999.

In my chapter “The Veja Way of Journalism,” I showed you the basic principles of the magazine’s fictional approach [to journalism] and some case studies — such as its fairy tale about the monetary crisis of 1999.

Não poucas vezes, a revista “criou” notícias meramente recorrendo a um recurso que, em jornalismo, se chama vulgarmente de “cozidão” – isto é, um apanhado de fatos velhos, já divulgados, mas apresentados como novidade.

On more than a few occasions, the magazine “created” news simply by using a technique known informally in the business as the “big cook” — that is, a grab bag of outworn facts, already made pubilc, but presented as something new.

Durante a campanha do “mensalão” e depois dela, poucas vezes se viu tamanha quantidade de factóides criados por uma única publicação. O surpreendente é que cada matéria, por mais inverossímil que fosse, acabava recebendo ampla repercussão dos demais veículos da grande mídia – com a irracionalidade e falta de critérios típicos do chamado “efeito-manada”.

During the “big monthly” campaign and afterwards, one has scarcely ever witnessed such an enormous quantity of factoids created by a single publication. What is surprising is that every article, no matter how implausible it was, wound up getting ample coverage by other media vehicles — with the irrationality and lack of standards typical of the so-called “herd effect.”

O último factóide da revista, aquele que aparentemente fez cair a ficha da mídia em relação ao festival de ficções, envolveu diretamente o Supremo Tribunal Federal (STF).

The magazine’s ultimate factoid, the one that apparently alerted the rest of the media to the festival of fictions at the magazine, directly involved the Brazilian Supreme Court.

Foi a matéria “A sombra do estado policial”, de Policarpo Júnior, capa da edição de 22 de agosto de 2007 (clique aqui), ainda dentro do clima conspiratório herdado da campanha eleitoral.

It was the article “The Shadow of the Police State,” by Policarpo Júnior, the cover story from the August 22, 2007 edition, perpetuating the climate of conspiracy inherited from the 2006 election campaign.

Como sempre, capa, manchete, submanchete, tudo recendia a conspiração:

As ever, the cover, the headline, and the subhed, all oozed conspiracy:

Medo no Supremo

Terror in the Supreme Court

Ministros do Supremo reagem à suspeita de grampo na mais alta corte de Justiça do país.

Supreme Court justices react to suspicions of wiretapping in the highest court in the land.

Ninguém mais na mídia tinha percebido qualquer sinal de “medo” do Supremo, ou de generalização das escutas atingindo os Ministros. Aliás, os últimos abusos contra juízes haviam partido da própria revista e do próprio autor da reportagem, no falso dossiê contra o então presidente do Superior Tribunal de Justiça Edson Vidigal – abordado no capítulo “O dossiê falso”. Veja sempre havia cultivado relações íntimas com produtores de dossiês, desde há muito anos.

No one else in the media had perceived any signs of “fear” at the Supreme Court, or of the generalized use of listening devices affected the justices. Moreover, the latest abuses against judges had been perpetrated by Veja itself and the same reporter who wrote this story, with the phony dossier against STJ presiding justice Vidigal — which I dealt with in my chapter on “The phony dossier.” Veja had always maintained close relations with producers of dossiers, for many years.

Não se sabia ao certo qual a intenção da matéria. Seguramente, uma tentativa canhestra de se aproximar do Supremo, utilizando a moeda de troca da qual a revista sempre usou e abusou: a visibilidade, a apologia, pegando no centro de uma das fraquezas humanas, a vaidade.

No one knew for sure what the article was meant to accomplish. Certainly, it was a clumsy attempt to [suck up to] the Supreme Court, using the same quid pro quo the magazine has always used and abused: the offer of visibility, self-justification, aimed at the heart of that common human weakness, vanity.

Que era um factóide, não havia dúvida.

That it was a mere factoid there was no doubt.

Na abertura, forçava um lide, dentro do estilo tatibitate-recitativo (“sim, beira o inacreditável”) de Mario Sabino, em cima dos “levantamentos” de Policarpo.

The coverage begins with a vacillating, litany-like [?] lede from Sabino (“Yes, it borders on the unbelievable”) leading in to the “discoveries” of Policarpo.

Tatibitate is my new vocabulary word of the day. I hereby pledge to use it in a sentence several times before dinner.

“É a primeira vez que, sob um regime democrático, os integrantes do Supremo Tribunal Federal se insurgem contra suspeitas de práticas típicas de regimes autoritários: as escutas telefônicas clandestinas. Sim, beira o inacreditável, mas os integrantes da mais alta corte judiciária do país suspeitam que seus telefones sejam monitorados ilegalmente”.

“This is the first time, under a democratic government, the members of the Supreme Court are reacting angrily to suspicions of practices typical of authoritarian regimes: secret wiretaps. Yes, it borders on the unbelievable, but the members of the highest court in the land suspect their phones are being monitored illegally.”

Aliás, um dos truques de retórica mais utilizados pela revista, quando pretende esquentar um tema, é a história do “nunca antes” – alvo de ironia quando dos discursos oficiais.

One of the rhetorical tricks the magazine uses most often, when it wants to “heat up” a given topic, is the topos “never before in the history of this nation” — the same figure of speech that is mocked official discourse.

To be fair, the political speechifying of President Squid does use “never before in the history of this nation” often enough that it is fair game for satire — although in same cases it happens to be true, you also have to admit from time to time. But one takes Mr. Nassif’s point.

Seguia-se o velho estratagema das estatísticas de fontes:

Next comes the old stratagem of giving you statistics on the number of sources consulted:

“Nas últimas semanas, VEJA ouviu sete dos onze ministros do Supremo – e cinco deles admitem publicamente a suspeita de que suas conversas são bisbilhotadas por terceiros. Pior: entre eles, três ministros não vacilam em declarar que o suspeito número 1 da bruxaria é a banda podre da Polícia Federal”.

“In recent weeks, VEJA interviewed seven of the 11 justices — and five of them admitted publicly that they suspect their conversations are listened in on by third parties. Worse: Among these, three do not hesitate to declare that Suspect No. 1 is the “rotten element” inside the Federal Police.”

Ia além

They would take it further.

“As suspeitas de grampos telefônicos estão intoxicando a atmosfera do tribunal”.

“Suspicions of telephone wiretaps are poisoning the atmosphere of the court.”

Uma capa de revista semanal é uma celebração. É tema relevante, quente, em que se colocam os melhores quadros para apurar os dados.

A cover story in a newsweekly is a celebration. It consists of a topical story, a hot story, to which you assign your best people to gather and check the facts.

Porém, de informações objetivas, a reportagem continha o seguinte:

But this cover story contained the following by way of objective information:

“A Polícia Federal se transformou num braço de coação e tornou-se um poder político que passou a afrontar os outros poderes”, afirma o ministro Gilmar Mendes, numa acusação dura e inequívoca”.

“The Federal Police has become a weapon of coercion and a political power that has begun to take on the other branches of government,” says Gilmar Mendes, in a harsh and unmistakable indictment.

Notícia de 24 de maio de 2007, na “Folha” (clique aqui).

Item from the Folha de S. Paulo, May 24, 2007 [URL]:

“O ministro (Sepúlveda Pertence) diz que as suspeitas de que a polícia manipula gravações telefônicas aceleraram sua disposição em se aposentar. “Divulgaram uma gravação para me constranger no momento em que fui sondado para chefiar o Ministério da Justiça, órgão ao qual a Polícia Federal está subordinada. Pode até ter sido coincidência, embora eu não acredite”, afirma”.

“Justice Pertence said the suspicions that police were manipulating recording phone conversations sped up his decision to retire. ‘They published a recording to embarrass me at a moment when I was being sounded out to head the Ministry of Justice, an agency to which the federal police is subordinated. It could have even been a coincidence, but I don’t believe,’ he says.”

Terra Magazine broke that story. In it, a gang of cheerful Paraguyan Marlboro merchants are boasting about their ability to buy Supreme Court decisions. The inference is clearly that it was a decision signed by Pertence that was being referred to (State Bank of Sergipe, tax credits, something something.)

But remember that each Justice processes tens of thousands of cases a year, most of the work being done by Santa’s helpers.

A notícia era de janeiro de 2007, conforme o Terra Magazine (clique aqui). Mais: o grampo da Polícia Federal não tinha sido em cima do Ministro, mas um lobista envolvido em uma transação em Sergipe, e que estava sob investigação da PF.

The news was from January 2007, TM reports [URL]. More: The federal wiretap was not of Pertence, but of a lobbyist involved in a deal in Sergipe who was under investigation [for Sino-Paraguayan smuggling activities, as I recall –Ed.]

Mas a matéria de Veja esquentava o recozido, sem nenhum respeito aos fatos:

But Veja reheated an already warmed-over story, without the slighest regard for the facts:

“Na quinta-feira passada, o ministro Sepúlveda Pertence pediu aposentadoria antecipada e encerrou seus dezoito anos de tribunal. Poderia ter ficado até novembro, quando completa 70 anos e teria de se aposentar compulsoriamente. Muito se especulou sobre as razões de sua aposentadoria precoce. Seus adversários insinuam que a antecipação foi uma forma de fugir das sessões sobre o escândalo do mensalão, que começam nesta semana, nas quais se discutirá o destino dos quadrilheiros – entre eles o ex-ministro José Dirceu, amigo de Pertence. A mulher do ministro, Suely, em entrevista ao blog do jornalista Ricardo Noblat, disse que a saída de seu marido deve-se a problemas de saúde. O ministro, no entanto, diz que as suspeitas de que a polícia manipula gravações telefônicas aceleraram sua disposição em se aposentar. “Divulgaram uma gravação para me constranger no momento em que fui sondado para chefiar o Ministério da Justiça, órgão ao qual a Polícia Federal está subordinada. Pode até ter sido coincidência, embora eu não acredite”, afirma”.

[Veja writes]: “Last Thursday, Justice Pertence took early retirement and closed out his 18-year career on the bench. He could have stayed until November, when he turns 70, the compulsory retirement age. Much has been speculated about the reason for his premature retirement. His adversaries insist it was a way of avoiding the sessions on the “big monthly allowance” scandal, which begin this week, in which the fate of the racketeers, including Dirceu, an old friend of Pertence’s, will be debted. The justice’s wife, Suely, in an interview with the blog of Ricardo Noblat, said her husband’s departure was due to health problems. The justice, however, said that the suspicion that police are manipulating wiretaps hastened his decision.”

And the rest of the quote you already have, above.

Tinha mais.

There was more:

“Os temores de grampo telefônico com patrocínio da banda podre da PF começaram a tomar forma em setembro de 2006, em plena campanha eleitoral. Na época, o ministro Cezar Peluso queixou-se de barulhos estranhos nas suas ligações e uma empresa especializada foi chamada para uma varredura”.

“Fears of a wiretap run by the ‘rotten element’ inside the federal police began to take shape in September 2006, during the election campaign. At the time, Justice Peluso complained of strange noises on his phone calls and a security specialist was summoned to sweep for bugs.”

Peluso of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), that is.

A notícia era de 17 de setembro de 2006 (clique aqui).

The news item was from September 17, 2006 [URL]:

“O ministro Marco Aurélio Mello recebeu uma mensagem eletrônica de um remetente anônimo. O missivista informava que os telefones do ministro estavam grampeados e que policiais ofereciam as gravações em Campo Grande.O caso foi investigado, mas a Polícia Federal – ela, de novo – concluiu que a mensagem era obra de estelionatários fazendo uma denúncia falsa”.

“Justice Mello got an e-mail from an anonymous correspodent. The sender informed him that his phones were tapped and that police were offering the recordings for sale in Campo Grande. The case was investigated, but the Federal Police — the PF, again — concluded that the message was the work of con men making phony charges.”

No decorrer da semana, Blogs e veículos da grande imprensa desmascararam a farsa. Praticamente todo leitor bem informado percebeu que estava diante de um “cozidão”.

During that week[, Nassif continues], blogs and commercial news organizations unmasked the farce. Nearly every  well informed reader realized they were dealing with a “cook-up.”

Os dois principais fatos da reportagem: as declarações de Sepúlveda Pertence e de Marco Aurélio de Mello foram colocadas nos devidos termos pelos próprios Ministros.

The two main facts in the report: The statements by Pertence and those by Mello were placed in the appropriate context by the two justices.

O desmentido de Sepúlveda

Pertence denies it

No dia 20 de agosto de 2007, o jornalista Bob Fernandes, da Terra Magazine, ouviu o Ministro Sepúlveda Pertence (clique aqui)

On August 20, 2007, journo Bob Fernandes of Terra Magazine interviewed Pertence [URL].

– Ministro, boa tarde. Estou ligando para falar sobre a denúncia, sobre a hipótese de grampo telefônico contra o senhor, contra ministros do Supremo, publicada na Veja desta semana.

BF: “Afternoon, Justice Pertence. I am calling to talk about the charge based on the theory that you were wiretapped, that justices were wiretapped, published in Veja this week.

– Sim, eu falei com a revista sobre o assunto.

“Yes, I spoke with Veja about that.”

– O senhor foi grampeado?

“Were you bugged, sir?”

– … falei sobre um assunto que aconteceu comigo (publicado neste Terra Magazine em janeiro, leia aqui).

“I spoke to them about something that happened to me (published by this TM in January, click [on URL]).”

– Sim, é um assunto que conhecemos. Mas, lhe faço uma pergunta: O senhor crê ter sido grampeado?

“Yes, we know about that. But let me ask you: Do you think you were bugged, sir?”

– Não…

“No …”

– O senhor acredita ter sido grampeado, ou seus colegas terem sido grampeados?

“Do you think you were bugged, sir, or that your colleagues were bugged?”

– Não, não creio em grampos contra mim.

“No, I do not believe in bugs against me.”

– Nem contra…

“Or against …”

– Não, não tenho nenhuma razão para crer em grampo telefônico…

“No, I have no reason to believe in wiretapping [of the Supreme Court]

– Mas…

“But …”

– … o que eu falei foi sobre aquele episódio… salvo aquele episódio, não tenho nada a dizer sobre este assunto.

“What I said on that episode … except for that episode, I have nothing else to say on teh subject.”

– O ministro Marco Aurélio Mello já desmentiu, nesta segunda, a existência de grampo, disse que falava por ele… O senhor acha que houve um engano?

“Justice Mello already denied today the existence of bugs, he said he spoke for himself … Do you, sir, think there was a mistake?”

– … um engano.

“… a mistake.”

O desmentido de Mello

Mello denies it

No domingo do próprio fim-de-semana em que a capa saiu, ouvido pelas rádios, Marco Aurélio Mello desmentiu o teor da matéria.

Nassif continues: On Sunday of the same weekend the cover story came out in Veja, interviewed on the radio, Mello repudiated the substance of the article. 

Denúncia de grampo no STF era falsa

[Quoted headline]: Charge of Supreme Court bug was false

O Globo; CBN (clique aqui)

Source: O Globo; CBN radio network

BRASÍLIA – A Polícia Federal afirma que era falsa a denúncia de que agentes federais estariam negociando escutas telefônicas com conversas de ministros do Supremo Tribunal Federal (STF). A investigação mostrou que os e-mails apócrifos recebidos pelo ministro Marco Aurélio de Mello, relatando o suposto grampo, faziam parte de uma vingança pessoal. Um funcionário do INSS exonerado por corrupção tentou incriminar o delegado da PF que o investigou.

Globo writes: The Federal Police say the charge that federal agents were trying to sell wiretaps of Supreme Court justices’ conversations. Their investigation showed that the phony e-mails received by Mello, relating the alleged bugging, were part of a personal revenge scheme. A social security administration employee fired for corruption tried to [ratfink] the federal investigation who investigted him.

Marco Aurélio recebeu o resultado da investigação do ministro da Justiça, Tarso Genro, e o encaminhou ao procurador-geral da República, Antonio Fernando de Souza

Mello received the report from the minister of Justice, Mr. Genro, and forwarded it to the federal attorney, Mr. Souza.

– O sujeito (funcionário do INSS) queria fustigar o delegado. Trata-se de retaliação. Foi satisfatória a apuração. Dei o episódio como suplantado – disse Marco Aurélio.

“The guy (the INSS employee) wanted to  [stick it to] the fed. It was retaliation. The investigation was satisfactory. I took the case to be closed,” said Mello.

Requentando o recozido

Reheating the rehashed cook-up

Sounds like my usual dinner plans when I am spending an evening “stag.”

Não adiantou. O amadorismo e a falta de sensibilidade jornalística impediram a direção de redação de ver que o modelo de criar factóides já tinha se esgotado.

It did not make any difference, [Nassif continues.] Amateurism and lack of journalistic judgement prevented Veja’s senior editors from  realizing that [their factoid machine had run out of steam.]

Na semana seguinte, a direção de redação recorreu aos mesmos estratagemas conhecidos, para dar sobrevida à falsificação.

The following week, senior editors returned to the same well-known gambits to try to breathe new life into the [phony story.]

Na seção de cartas, só foram publicadas aquelas a favor. Mais: recorreu-se à velha barganha para garantir a continuidade do tema. Em troca de visibilidade um deputado anunciava a intenção de abrir uma CPI. O contemplado foi o ex-Secretário de Segurança do Rio de Janeiro, Marcelo Itagiba, velha fonte de Lauro Jardim.

In the letters sections, only favorable letters were published. More: They [called in old markers] to keep the topic alive. In exchange for visibility in the magazine, a federal lawmaker announced his intention to start a CPI. The lawmaker in question was former Rio state security secretary Itagiba, an old source of Lauro Jardim’s.

Dizia a matéria (clique aqui):

According to the Veja story:

“Os grampos telefônicos, uma das principais ferramentas de investigação policial da atualidade, vão passar por uma devassa. Na semana passada, a Câmara dos Deputados recolheu 191 assinaturas para criar a CPI dos Grampos, que pretende investigar a suspeita de que ministros do Supremo Tribunal Federal (STF) tiveram seus telefones interceptados ilegalmente, conforme VEJA noticiou em sua edição passada. Cinco dos onze ministros do STF admitiram publicamente a suspeita de que suas conversas telefônicas podem estar sendo bisbilhotadas clandestinamente. A CPI, que terá prazo de 120 dias para concluir a investigação, deverá ser instalada já no início do próximo mês. “Quando a mais alta corte do país se sente ameaçada e intimidada, isso é uma coisa muita séria, que precisa de uma resposta urgente”, diz o deputado Marcelo Itagiba, do PMDB do Rio de Janeiro, delegado licenciado da Polícia Federal e autor do requerimento de criação da CPI”.

“Wiretaps, one of the main investigative tools of today’s police, are going to [get a strip-search.] Last week, the lower house of congress gathered 191 signatures in favor of created a parliamentary commission of inquiry on wiretaps, which means to look into the suspicion that Supreme Court justices had their phones illegally bugged, as VEJA reported last week. Five the 11 justices admitted publicly they suspected their conversations might be illegally listened in on. The CPI, which has 120 days to complete its investigation, should be installed at the beginning of next month. ‘When the highest court in the land is threatened and intimidated, this is a very serious thing, and requires an urgent response,’ said Itagiba (PMDB-Rio de Janeiro), a federal police delegado on extended leave and author of the petition to create the CPI.”

Era a mesma manobra do caso Edson Vidigal. Na ocasião soltou a matéria e informou que o Conselho Nacional de Justiça recebeu uma denúncia. Houve denúncia, de fato, mas depois da matéria ter sido publicada – e utilizando a própria matéria como elemento de prova. A armação era nítida, como era nítida a armação com Itagiba, para propor a CPI.

It was the same gambit[, Nassif argues,] as in the case of Judge Vidigal. At the time, Veja released the article and stated the National Justice Council [CNJ, independent self-regulatory body of the judicial branch] had received a formal charge. It did, in fact received a charge, but only after the article came out — and using the article itself as evidence of the charge. The set-up was glaringly obvious, as was the set-up employed by Itagiba in proposed the CPI. 

A drunk and despondent friend of ours, enmeshed in a Dickensian workman’s comp case for the last year or so, gave an inspired rant on the propensity of Brazilian legislatures to spend all their time on CPIs. “And what do they do? They start another CPI!” she was yelling. “CPIs! CPIs! Enough goddamn CPIs!”

And I said, well, yes, you know, back in gringoland, most of this sort of thing is covered in ordinary sessions of the committee.

The staff works it up, you have a hearing or two — tune it in on C-SPAN — and then it is on to the next thing. That Clinton impeachment thing was just an aberration, for us. Down here, though, it seems like business as usual.

O factóide da escuta no Supremo foi um marco importante, por ter sido o primeiro absurdo da Veja que não mereceu repercussão na mídia. Até então, todos os abusos eram repercutidos, por um efeito pavloviano que fez com que o esgoto que vazava da cobertura da revista acabasse contaminando o restante da mídia.

The factoid of the bugged Supremes was an important milestone, however, in that it was the first absurd nonsense from Veja that was not picked up and repeated by the media. To that point, all of its abuses were picked up and ballyhooed, thanks to a sort of Pavlovian reflex by which the sewage that leaked out of Veja wound up contaminated the rest of the news media. 

Mas, como resultado do factóide, o Congresso abriu uma CPI do Grampo, tendo como relator o próprio Marcelo Itagiba. Enquanto isto, a proposta da CPI da Veja não saiu do papel. Hoje em dia, são poucos os parlamentares com coragem de criticar a revista, por conta de seus métodos e chantagens. E a revista ainda conseguiu que até um Ministro do STF, Joaquim Barbosa, aceitasse participar de sua campanha publicitária.

Still, as a result of the factoid, Congress did open up a CPI, with Itagiba as the relator [reporting member, whip, plays the role of committee counsel, who is a staffer in our system.] In the meanwhile, the proposed CPI of Veja never got off the ground. These days, few lawmakers dare cross the magazine, because of its methods and its blackmail. And the magazine even got Justice Barbosa to agree to be in its ad campaign.

I noticed that. Did Barbosa really agree, or is that a public domain image they use?

Barbosa was the relator — reporting justice — on the case of the PT 4, who wound up being ordered to stand trial on some 7 counts apiece in the “big monthly allowance” case. Due to be tried during the election campaign of 2010, go figure.

Quite a few of the charges were not accepted, including some pretty key elements.

The ad man who ran the scheme and his codefendants face something like 730 counts among them.

And the president of the opposition party during the last election has now been indicted on exactly the same sorts of charges, stemming from his relationship with the same ad man. Will his trial coincide with the 2010 campaign as well?
Barbosa, meanwhile, has a certain gravitas, and seemed to conduct that case pretty wisely (I read his briefs) in the middle of an astonishing media circus — O Globo, for example, used telephoto lenses to capture the contents of IMs between the justices from off their laptop screens.

In that case, busting in on the private communications of the Supremes was a matter of freedom of the press!

That really blew my mind. The paparazzi of 8-1/2 have all the solemn discretion of high-end undertakers next to these freaks. (The O Globo photographer won an Esso Prize for his effort, I think.)

I keep reminding my friends here that it was thanks to just such shennanigans that photographic equipment has not been allowed in our gringo Supreme Court since 1965. And no one seems to be in any hurry to bring them back.

Barbosa, a Squid appointment,  is also deeply and markedly Afro-descended, which invites comparisons to Justice Thomas back home.


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