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The Brazilian Brahma | A Beat Built


Dawn breaks over a bucolic landscape. The Web site is folksy, almost amateurish, and poses as a news service broken down by different sorts of rural production.

All references to CNA.org.br, the Web site of Brazil’s most important agrobusiness lobby in Brazil, are redirected to the news service, called O Canal do Produtor.

Under all the folksiness, however, purrs the Rolls Royce jet engine of the best propaganda machine money can buy.  It is a fascinating apparent contradiction — until you notice, for example, that two-thirds of subsidies for heavy-duty wheeled vehicles this year have been set aside for tractors and other agricultural machinery.

Brazil is still an economy in which the freeholdings of the father — sometimes of dubious title — pay the Harvard B-School tuition of the son. For everyone in the middle, social mobility means simply crossing the road to get to the other side, which is the same as this one.

It is no accident that many of the deals attracting the attention of outsider investors are Big Beef or Big Sugar deals, much as the RR today dishes on a meeting between the Marfrig slaughterhouse company and the federal development bank.

When JBS Friboi bought Swift & Co., I think everyone woke up to the fact that tomorrow’s hamburgers are more likely to com from bos taurus indicus — the Nelore variety preferred here and in Argentina — than from the old reliable bos taurus taurus.

The central element in the graph of networked institutions has as its central element the BM&F — the Sambodian NYBOT, recently merged with the Bovespa stock exchange with the participation of those fascinating folk at the Chicago Merantile Exchange.

Almost as central, statistically, is ABAG, the Brazilian Agribusiness Association, and the principal Web site for dairy farmers, Terraviva — “the enlightened latifúndio of today is the responsible steward of tomorrow.”

Knowtec is a premier business intelligence consultancy whose principal client is SEBRAE, the federal assistance program for small and microbusinesses — including family farmers settled through the process of agrarian reform, a matter that arouses some ugly political passions here.

Another big client: the CNA itself, explaining the proximity of the two points on the graph. This could be filled into a topicmap of the structure: “is a client of” ….

Above, the Ministry of the Environment.

The Ministry consults academic experts from USP and other elite universities, while ABCSem — the industry association for seed and slip producers — serves as a counter-think tank.

In an overall “neighborhood” view, the CNA appears close with foreign lobbyists such as Cargill and Monsanto, as does ABAG, to a lesser degree. We will see in a moment that it goes to great lengths indeed to promote an alignment of the U.S.- Brazilian balance of trade that it considers favorable to itself.

Some notes on procedure first: I ran a preliminary crawl on the Ministry of Agriculture and some industry sources I know of to create a set of seeds for a crawl of what are becoming the usual dimensions: 5 million documents from 50,000 Web sites.

Titling each node is an exercise in social interpretation, but I am finding that the theory of the “star” and “market” alliances — representing escalating degrees of outsourcing and culminating in the “co-alliance”

The co-alliance is very like the Collaborative Networked Organization we have discussed — well, discussed mostly in Portuguese.

Promotion of the industry is sophisticated and using social advertising methods, which always interest me. It might have been better, however, had the Meat Information Service not spelled out SIC in its Portuguese translation.

Anyway, to resume: This crawl can be completed to a satisfactory degree overnight, after which it is a matter of 10 minutes’ work getting the data into shape for analysis.

Monsanto is a powerful and not uncontroversial presence, along with the big software house it tends to be associated with.

What I wanted to show before closing was how well the tool — in this case, yEd, a Java-based diagram editor — captures layered relationships.

If it were only easier to annotate such maps fully, as in CMapTools, and including live data scraping from public sources, we would have the Open-Source Bloomberg Box in hand!

Above is from a quick peek at the network supporting the final push that made the Tools semantic. It seems Microsoft and Apple were forced to chip in.

Ideologically, the CNA party youth are closely aligned with a libertarian agenda also promoted by the Creative Commons movement, the EFF and the Berkman Center. The nexus Harvard-FGV Law has created sort of a weird echo effect over the years, as Brazilian graduate students trot out the same arguments, only in Portuguese.

Click to enlarge.

A certain neoconservative discourse on tax-cutting as an end in itself has also been s touchstone of opposition politics here — anyone remember the CMPF?

The party youth are WordPress.commers all.

SENAR is a sort of student affiliate of the CNA, an association of agronomy students.

The program shown led to a very informative exchange of the activities of the groups involved. The INESC blogger writes, and I translate

SENAR selected 170 college students to accompany its second Rondon expedition, whose ostensive aim was to visit rural settlements in ten muniicipalities in Goiás, Minas Gerais, Bahia and Tocantins. Thanks to the filters in place at this institution, it was very unlikely the son or daughter of a settler was selected. Senar,also failed to publish the list of universities eligible to participate, nor even the selection criteria for expedition members..

I am not against SENAR visiting agrarian reform settlements. It is important for these students to learn about the precarious conditions of settlers. Students of education, social work, agronomy, veterinary medicine, microbiology, nursing, dentristry, physical therapy and education all come into direct contact with the settler — an experience rich in humanity.

What bothers one is that the Ministry of Agricultural Development | MDA ought to be involving trade union and organized popular movements in the democratization and deconcentration of land that leads to these settlements, so that students can get a more complete picture of the issue.

Never happen, so long as a Magalhães owns a single share of TV Bahia. That is to say, Globo, Brazil’s largest network, largely controls rural news, and colors it at will.

The program is closely supervised by the umbrella organization, the CNA — president: Katia Abreu. Again, this is a bit like Senator Jack Abramoff lobbying himself, but they do things different here.

Here, Intel and Visa sponsor a Data Privacy Day that is given strong play in a rural news channel called MFRural — which the Data Privacy push has the effect of promoting on Orkut.

The Web site of the service is so similar in design to that of the CNA that I believe we can assume there are a number of redundant clones wandering the network disseminating the same message.

The sites even serve to be serving from the same stock of banner ads. If you want to, you can pin down the ad servers used in the network. The information is that detailed.

I am guessing, but I believe it likely these agencies worked on campaigns themed around security of online payments for media outlets in this network.

In short, the elite minority of Brazilians employs cutting-edge technology but uses them to disseminate messages not of its own devising — usually USAID has just run it through Google Translate.

This youth tends to be massively aligned with U.S. trade policy, to point of being an embarrassment.

I remember a YouTube interview for the opposition candidate from 2006 in which  young law student says “she wishes she was born in the U.S.” where “the people have sensibly scaled back their government.”

The Department of Homeland Security had just been created. Where was she getting her news?

I bet you I have spent infinitely more time in the Northeast than this student, too.

You have not done Brazil until you have survived  Recife — murder rate 60 per 100,000 per year.

Anyway, of course, my point was that I was easily able to identify key points of congregation where I could mine data about firms, create unorthodox listings according to original criteria — not just the old “listed on the Bovespa” — and generally mine for offbeat, creative reporting than otherwise.