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Reporters Sans Limites?

Reporters Without Borders denies reports that it was “excluded” from UNESCO during this UN body’s most recent executive council session for a supposed “lack of ethics.” False reports to this effect have been circulated by certain media, especially in Latin America, without any attempt at verification.

Rogério  Christofoletti of objEthos, writing in the Observatório da Imprensa, is among the commentators assessing the reputational blow suffered by Reporters Without Borders recently — even as it was touting its award-winning governance — when UNESCO reportedly decertified it as a partner in media development programs. RSF denies the charge. I translate.

Historically speaking, many — though not all — «worldwide champions of freedom of expression» commanded by media management are loath to submit murky episode involving them to the light of day: Internal turmoil; the excessive influence of advertisers; partnerships with figures from other areas of the economy who gain a seat on boards; political, economic and ideological pressures.

The removal of Reporters Without Borders broadens this debate, however. Who will investigate the journalist? Who will investigate private media firms which benefit from deals with governments or other centers of power, including the military-industrial complex?

Should an organization like the RSF, which prepares rankings on violence, crime and censorship against reporters the world over, be financed by the U.S. Department of State , which is to say, the  CIA?

Of course not. Demanding, but not practicing, transparency; defining countries as anti-civil liberties while passing over cases of censorship … and persecution of journalists, as happens in the U.S., where radio stations are closed, articles spked, and the very legitimacy of journalistic information and the identity of the profession are called into question.

Where business interests intersect with the public interest, it is all too easy to claim that everyone can be a journalist or that the profession is on its last legs. The NGO Repórteres Sem Fronteiras has contributed to the undermining of the profession and damage the credibility of press freedom rankings the world over.

Gianni Carta of the Incredible Army of Blogoleone adds,

It comes as no surprise that UNESCO delisted Repórteres Sem Fronteiras (RSF) on March 8.

The agency found RSF’s methods incompatible with the professional ethics of journalism.

It is also not worth the trouble of feigning shock at the fact that the yellow press has preferred not to report on a topic that was covered thoroughly by the European press.


Because RSF, since its founded by French “journalist” Robert Ménard in 1985, is financed, among others by the U.S. State Department.

It has been the job of RSF, headquartered in Paris, to produce propaganda, mainly targeting progressive governments in Latin America.

The CIA, obviously, is among the agencies that have infiltrated RSF, as CartaCapital reported  in an article by me entitled “The Cash Stash of  the NGOs”. …

I do not know how self-evident it is, but it does seem clear that USAID, State and the National Endowment for Democracy continue to tag team on projects such as CIMA@NED’s PROMEDIA program — media policy lobbying in the guise of «democracy promotion».

As to the «delisting», it seems that what occurred was a failure to qualify for an increase in status.

We keenly regret that we were not promoted to the rank of ‘associate NGO’ because of the ill will that certain delegations have long felt towards us. We will continue to actively work with UNESCO on behalf of freedom of information.”

Yes, but absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence, as Rumsfeld was wont to say.  You can still get pretty far, down South American way, on invoking the faceless men who man the Farm.

If I were to put on my paranoid thinking cap, I might say that sub rosa lobbying and not affairs of state is where the counter-intelligence work is the principle line of work, although in the instance of public-private partnerships it is hard to divorce foreign policy from private shareholder value.

All those spooks left out in the cold by Clinton’s budget cuts have found their private-sector niche, much as the post-dictatorship ABIN in Brazil apparently has.

The blogging-industrial think-tank complex fare poorly at overcoming this unfavorable impression. When Egypt’s generals began looking for an excuse to shut down pro-democracy rallies, they found plenty of verisimilitude in the role played by the National Endowment for Democracy and its «nonpartisan» offshoots IRI, NDI, CIMA and Solidarity.

Relative to the biconnected component of a Web crawl seeded with democracy exporters on the Web, Dem Digest is the champion in terms of frequency of  citation.

Globo Global Voices Online has proven itself to be an enduring source of churnalistic factoid flow in support of various advocacy projects in concert with the Knight and Gates Foundations, Soros, and others.

The publication has the profile what I describe as a «newsstand» or «content brokerage» role — an impressively comprehensive out-degree, a mash-up of content from ideological fellow-travelers. A Christian Science reading room. A gallimaufry, as my Scottish ancestors called it.

A centrality analysis of its strong component strongly suggests that all roads lead to K Street — …

New —  to me — auxiliary VOs and VTs — virtual organizations and teams, found while crawling the alphabet soup:

  1. GMFUS — German Marshall Foundation
  2. ICRW — International Center for Research on Women
  3. ICNL — International Center for Non-Profit Law
  4. FPRI — Foreign Policy Research Institute
  6. SERVIR.NET — «Monitoreo de Mesoamérica»
  7. FSNAU — Food Security, Somalia
  8. NYUDRI — New York University Development Research
  9. AZADFIKIR — «Free Thought» University, Azerbaijan
  10. CDRSEE — «Democracy and Reconiliation in Southern Europe»
  11. Kabul Innovation Lab

A focused analysis of SERVIR.NET turns up a cohesive Linked In network along with a roster of activist centered on the Web site iRevolution, maintained by Patrick Maier,

… an internationally recognized thought leader on the application of new technologies for crisis early warning, humanitarian response, human rights and civil resistance. He currently serves as Director of Crisis Mapping at Ushahidi and previously co-directed Harvard’s Program on Crisis Mapping and Early Warning.

UShAhaAIDi is an open source content management system with geodata mapping capabilities. (Drupal has similar capabilities, I mapped mapped some of my favorite beaches once on a Drupal site I was playing around with.)


Demóstenes Torres | Numbers Are Up?


Senator Torres, of the DEM, or Democrats, is heard on 300 wiretaps conversing with a numbers racketeer and political power broker in his home state of Goiás, which surrounds the federal district of Brasilia.

The former governor of the federal district, also a DEMocrat, José Roberto Arruda, fell suddenly from grace for similar reasons.

I confess that I dislike the DEM, despite my general rule about opining on political matters — I do pay tax here, however.

No, it is more the distasteful sensation of hearing the discourse of my hometown neocons being machine-translated into Portuguese and blasted at full volume, night and day. What, I moved to another hemisphere for this? The  party is known for its McCarthyite rhetoric and gestures of extreme moral indignation, but leads the current governing party, the PT, by a margin of 6 to 1 in politicians relieved of office over corruption charges — and 12 to 1 when the PSDB-DEM slate in the last elections is factored in.

If hometown papers like the New York Times really wanted to present a picture of a deep-rooted and colorful cultural tradition here in Brazil, they would take this case on as an opportunity to explain Carlismo — the political machine of Bahia, run with an iron grip by Antônio Carlos Magalhães. This was a man of legendary brutality and stupidity who is nevertheless treated with a note of adulation in Larry Rohter’s obituary — sickening as it was.

And now, at any rate, another one bites the dust, in a story broken by Leandro Fortes of Carta Capital magazine which has managed to bubble up despite the general silence of the MSM on the topic.

Senator Torres is the focus of a political crisis brought about by the federal police operation dubbed Monte Carlo, which last month dismantled a scheme of corruption and money-laundering in the underworld of illicit slot machines.

The alleged kingpin of the scheme, Carlinhos “Waterfall,” is a personal friend of Torres and exchanged 300 telephone calls with him on a line tapped by the police.

Torres was said to have been of assistance to Mr. “Waterfall” in a bid to legalize illegal bingo pools and slot machines. The law was passed, but later, in 2007, was struck down by the Supreme Court, which recognized federal jurisdiction. These are the sort of Federal Societeers we see here in Sambodia, where sociopathy is sometimes confused with «freedom-loving». Continue reading

Red Bull | The Way of Karma Cola

Meio & Mensagem:

Brazil’s federal advertising regulator bans a commercial for Red Bull involving the image of Jesus. News sites linking to the YouTube upload of the spot are advised that the company has blocked the video on intellectual property grounds.

I translate.

After receiving hundreds of protests, Conar today — [March 27] — decided to   pela bar airing of the Red Bull commerce that portrays an animated Christ figure walking on water. Conar ruled that the spot was disrespectful to religion.

The ban was passed by a simple majority of the 15 commissions assembled at Conar’s ethics body in São Paulo to vote.

The commercial is a foreign production, created by the Austrian agency Kastner & Partners, and generated a great deal of controversy in Brazil, particularly on religious Web sites and blogs. In Brazil, the Red Bull account is managed by Loducca, which imported the spot and brokered the air time.

Continue reading

Civita Dei | Notes on The Brazilian Education Lobby

Brasil Escola — an educational publication of Brazil’s Record media group — observes, correctly, a major source of difficulty in trying to cover, in any comprehensive way, the actions of corporate, private and third-sector lobbies, and combinations thereof.

The trouble is that the lobbying industry here is just about as unregulated as Liberty Valence. I translate:

The term “lobby” is frequently heard in the political milieu. Sadly, however, most people hold an incorrect view of the term’s meaning.

First of all, we should understand that lobbying is nothing more than the bringing of political pressure by groups seeking to influence official policy for their own ends, whether openly or in secret.

Lobbying is a very natural activity, something we all do. Examples include a son trying to get his father to increase his allowance, or a union debating improved working conditions.  In the U.S., lobbying is openly recognized  and even regulated by law. Lobbying is acknowledged as an important part of the political process.

Some experts believe that lobbying should not sneak in  through the back door, which only supports accusations of improprieties.  According to Maria Coeli Simões Pires, secretary of regional development and urban policy for the government of Minas Gerais, there are no angels in the political world, and no demons as well, merely interests, chief of which are economic interests. Viewed this way, lobbying must unlink itself from illegalities, since defending special interests is not only not illegal but rather a fundamental right.

First of all, in the case of «edutainment» policy, what groups seek to influence federal, state and local education policy in Brazil, and what are their respective agenda and tactics? The answer involves sophisticated governance structures set up to facilitate private- and third-sector collaboration with municipal, state, and federal bodies and private enterprise.

«Program, get your program, you can’t tell the players without a program!”

Selecting key-man nodes in publicly available social networks and traversing their relationships — above, aa chain leading to international philanthropy by Sylvan Laureate — is a legitimate method, but also very labor-intensive.

I propose using automated «beat-building» techniques to obrain an overview of the sector.

First, relevant and useful Web sites are selected and crawled, breadth-firt — using NaviCrawler or WIRE, in my case — and a link ecology analysis is performed, using Pajek, Gephi and yEd.

Then, using yEd, basic social network characteristics can be diagrammed and pondered visually.

Continue reading

TV PSDB? | The Padre Anchieta PPP

They might be better off I think.
The way it seems to me
Making up their own shows,
Which might be better than TV …
–Talking Heads

Recent developments at São Paulo’s PBS quasi-equivalent, TV Cultura, continues to draw flack from the Ford Foundation-funded Observatório da Imprensa and other local observers.

As Wikipedia notes, and I translate

The adminstrative council of the Padre Anchieta Foundation comprises 47 members. The appointment of life-time and elected members are, in large part, influenced by the São Paulo state government.  The state’s role in the foundation’s decision-making process — said to violate its founding principles – has led to criticism by media analysts.

This is true: elected and appointed city and state officials share the dais with tenured professors at state-run universities, which do themselves no favors by playing along. I cannot bear to watch it, although I used to enjoy Roda Viva.

The naked truth is that the ruling PSDB has followed in the footsteps of its ideological twin in Mexico, the PAN: founded as a moralizing antidote to the machine politics of the PMDB and PFL — the PRI, in PAN’s case — it has slipped the very leash it sought to place on public immorality.

Heading this partial llist, Goldman and Matarazzo are one of the PSDB’s federal senators and the power behind the throne of São Paulo’s municipal government, respectively. Is he one of those Matarazzos? Yes, he is: a scion of the coffee barons, a sort of tropical Lorenzo de Medici.

Added to the mix most recently is commercially produced programming by the Folha de S. Paulo and the Editora Abril, both of them credibly — they are incredibly guilty, really — denounced as part of the political machine.

I find that a preliminary «link ecology» of TV Cultura’s Web presence neatly confirms this diagnosis. I have pruned the network of most redundant «social code» — Twitter, Facebook and other echo chambers …

Continue reading

«Clean Slate» Law | The Decline and Fall of Senator Torres?

Leandro Fortes of Carta Capital magazine breaks an astonishing story.

In 2006 the federal police obtained evidence of ties between gambling racketeer Carlos August “Charlie Waterfall” Ramos and Senator Demóstenes Torres (DEM-Goiás). Three reports signed by Deuselino Valadares dos Santos, head of the financial crimes bureau in Goiânia, reveal that Torres received 30% of the gross from illegal gambling, estimated at BRL 170 million over the last six years. At the time, Charlie Waterfall’s empire included 8,000 slot machines and 1,500 lottery offices. Given that this scheme was dismantled just last month, with Operation Monte Carlo, the accounting provided by police  indicates that the lawmaker’s share must have been some BRL 50 million. Police say the money was destined for Torres’ campaign for the governorship of Goiás and was paid out using a «caixa dois» scheme of off-the-books cash payments.

Continue reading

Foundations of Movementarianism | Transnational NGO Strategy

 It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. –Winston Churchill, on Cold War Russia

Foundations of networks of alliances of movements and federations of local chapters of state and national communities of practice of …

Trying to make good, clean sense of international philanthropic actors requires some kremlinological guesswork of its own, as I have been pointing out now and again in these virtual pages.

Today, let me start with an example blogged last year for my Portuguese-language readers, in an attempt to interest them in the machinery of foreign lobbying and influence brokerage in their own backyard.

Following the classification of virtual organizations by Lethbridge, in terms of ECOLEAD’s  concept of the CNO and its prime component, the Virtual Organization Breeding Environment — «incubator» in the idiom of our VC friends — I say this scenario presents us with explicit, textbook cases of the VOBE and the Market Alliance approaches to flexible — the buzzword is «agile» — value chain-based «plug ‘n’ play» organizational strategy.

We start with the concept of the Virtual Organization Breeding Environment,

… an association (also known as cluster) or pool of organizations and their related supporting institutions that have both the potential and the will to cooperate with each other through the establishment of a “base” long-term cooperation agreement and interoperable infrastructure” [Camarinha-Matos and Afsarmanesh 2005].

And now for some examples.

Like the Atlas Foundation, above, Movements.org — aka the «Alliance for» — not «of», take note — Youth Movements» — publishes a toolbox  of software and open social media strategies for NGOs and individual grant seekers, providing guidelines on how to apply to open calls for funding opportunities. For that reason, we classify it as a VBE Support Institution, like other resource pools that abound in this ecosystem — IFEX and IREX, for example.

The toolbox is meant to enable interoperability and rapid adaptability; in practice, it facilitates a mutually reinforcing set of thematically cohesive communicative actions by nominally independent bodies.

This relative openness — similar to the open call at PRX.org, an exchange for public radio content back home — is what qualifies the network as a market alliance, co-alliance, or value-chain alliance.

[… say  more ] …

Performing a link ecology of networked nodes is capable of creating a clearer picture of top-level collaboration schemes and strategies.

Which, however, are the top-level organizations in these flexible chains of interaction, said to be «unmanaged» and «emergent» in the absence of centralized control and command?

Well, Movements, for one, partners with IYFNet — a network maintained by the International Youth Foundation. It has also partnered with the U.S. State Department and the like — USAID, CIMA@Ned — at signficant industry events in the recent years. The Camp movement, e.g. …

Unlike Movements, on the other hand,

IYF Global Partner Network is by invitation only

There may be efficiencies to be gained from replacing active scouting with open bid solicitations using the global exchange model. In any cases, this policy difference may be seen as marking the difference between a Market Alliance and a Co-Alliance between core and non-core alliances.

In Brazil, IYF also cooperates with

  1. Associação Hope Unlimited do Brasil
  2. Blumenau Pólo de Software — Software Free Zone
  3. Comitê para Democratização da Informática Brazil — democratizing access to IT
  4. Fundação Abrinq — children’s rights
  5. São Paulo Rotaries
  6. Instituto Aliança com o Adolescente Brazil  — teen services
  7. Instituto de Hospitalidade Brazil
  8. Rede Cidadã Brazil

There are the usual interlocks among these. Brazilian NGOs tend to be somewhat in-bred even by K Street standards, and there is little interaction between the grassroots ABONG and the billionaire netroots of GIFE.

In all, meanwhile, IYF reports supporting 200 projects in 73 countries.

Among these, in partnership with IYF, Sylvan Laureate International sponsors the grant marketplaces and breeding environments of Youth Action Net, among whose projects is the iAM social entrepreneurship program at Sylvan’s Anhembi-Morumbi University.

Anhembi has been the locus of lobbying activities targeting federal, state and municipal lawmakers with proposals for the reform of Brazilian education law, which tends to the nationalist and state-interventionist.

Exemplary student voices — poster children — are selected under the iAM branding strategy to carry water for specific policy options, and public funding is provided for this purpose.

The political significance of this state of things may be demonstrated by this year’s mayoral race in São Paulo, which looks like it will pit Haddad, the current federal education minister, against the incumbent adminstration of Kassab — two Lebano-Brazilians, yes — which is likely to be contested by a past minister of health in José Serra.

Patrons of the Tax-Free Arts

Now, the International Youth Foundation’s board member for Brazil is Evelyn Berg Ioschpe,

co-founder and chair of the Group of Institutes, Foundations and Enterprises (GIFE), a national association of 123 private organizations that invest in social programs across the country. … In 2005, honored at the Brazil Foundation’s Annual Gala in New York for her education work in Brazil.

GIFE is one of two major communities of Brazilian NGOs,along with ABONG.

It  maintains an alliance with the — U.S. taxpayer funded —  IAF.gov, known as RedeAmerica

I am looking into this relationship based on publicly available sources … It could make a good chapter for SourceWatch, which has a blind spot when it comes to transnational collaborations


New York-based Hélio Mattar is a key man in the Brazil Foundation network, although the data normally dished up in a quick google seems lacking. Ah, here we go: He is a former federral development minister, as we know …

… In business, he was Vice President of planning for the food conglomerate CICA and its parent holding company the Bonfiglioli Group, and later served as President of GE Appliances in Brazil. Mr. Mattar founded several NGOs, including the Ethos Institute for Business and Social Responsibility and the Akatu Institute. He was also a board member of the Brazilian Association for the Development of Leaders and the Abrinq Foundation. …

The Akatu Web site boasts an extraordinary number of institutional supporters — making it a useful target for a focused crawl …

GIFE will shortly hold its annual congress, with appearances by executives of foreign donors such as the Aspen Institute. It will feature Mattar’s old boss, presidential candidate and governor and mayoral «wannabe again», José Serra, as its keynote speaker.

But back to the Collaborative Networked Organization and its working parts. We want to be able to select each piece of the car — its drive train, its motor, its chassis, its interior, its safety features — and sort out related «interentities» according to their function.

Youth Action Net, for example, appears to count on the PR strategizing of Porter Novelli …


This in addition to the …

… Advertisers of youth-oriented products — such as Skoll beer and Nokia smartphones — are major contributors.

A problem that interests me is how to track coordinated viral campaigning by opaque value chains of virtual teams, often working at several degrees of separation from the principal PR agency on the account in question.

Innovation Media Consulting remains a textbook case in this regard. […]

Here we see a reflection of the agency’s advogacy for ADSML, an XML-based advertising standard, as well as itsapplication of topic-focused blogospheres — and especially blogs of the blogs.newspaper.com variety — which echo its Web content.

Several of the consultancy’s partners founded the World Association of Newspapers — actually an international association of associations —  which sponsors a variety of content and services for its subscribers. In this virtual ecology, SND.org — the Society of News Designers — stands out on account of its structural centrality.

If all this analysis sounds odd or abstract to you, I submit that it has already been shown on TV.

For instance, when “Eli Gold” of The Good Wife hears of a political smear campaign that might backfire on his candidate — the opposing candidate’s plastic surgery was medical, not cosmetic — he turns to a roomful of cubicles — the campaign «click farm» — and orders the assembled clicktivists to stop linking to the video in question.

TV shows nowadays bombard their audiences with cool uses of high-end mobile communications devices — pure, shameless merchandising — but some make intelligent use of the theme, as here.

For Edelman, read «long-time Microsoft propaganda machine». I am sorry to sound disgruntled, but the Redmond-based zaibatsu really cheeses me … In Brazil, MTV is a valuable piece — a rook, perhaps — in the content syndication wars among the major portals: UOL, Terra, iG, and Globo G1.

Among the donors behind Movements are the firms created by the founders of the ORG —

  1. Jared Cohen | Google Ideas
  2. Roman Tsunder | Access 360, GenNext
  3. Jacob Liebman | Howcast Media

Having plowed through hundreds, if not thousands, of virtual organizations, I believe I am getting a feel for the behind the scenes renegotiation of social contracts this strategy appeals to and applies wherever it can.

There is simple indicator for scouting out persons and institutions — taking into account the proliferation of  institutions of one person only,as well as individuals legally equivalent to corporations, after which a Brazilina business mag is named: Você S/A.

Instead of I, Robot, there is I, the Corporation.

Persons of interest will generally have passed through several sectors — private, goverment, and non-governmental quase-private-public — and maintains ties with these, formal or informal. This is, after all, what is meant by the metaphor of incubation.

Chairing the Brazil Foundation, for example, is Leona Foreman, whose personal network demonstrate a savvy approach to making good on her ties to Harvard.

Founding President and CEO of the Brazil Foundation, an organization that generates resources for programs that promote social change in Brazil. It mobilizes donations from individuals and socially responsible corporations in the United States and directs them to projects in the fields of education, health, human rights, citizenship and culture.

Before entering upon a 20-year career in Information Services at the UN, Forman was a journalist for the Globo network and Realidade magazine. (There tends to be less of a Chinese wall separating hacks from flacks here in Brazil. A diploma in journalism is acceptable as preparation for going over to the dark side, as my own wife has done plenty in her career.)

The foundation’s general counsel is from the firm of Jones Day,

And we continue on in the same way, slotting entities into their proper pigeonholes … identifying breeding environments, virtual organizations and virtual teams, with many examples of entities playing multiple VBE roles …

Brazil is reprented by two publishing powerhouses, Globo — RBS is a Globo television rebroadcaster as well as a publisher and radio producer — and Editora Abril, which recently rolled out its first foray into television with a program for the local PBS equivalent, TV Cultura. Several of the founding partners of I-MC were Abril executives, if I am not mistaken.

What does Microsoft Belgium care about world newspapers, anyway?

And what is Rafael Fernandez-MacGregor doing on the board of the Inter-American Foundation? Seeking a seat at the policy debate?

Not that Redmond would not be within its rights to seek to influence policy; I just wonder about the synergies between its corporate, philanthropic and lobbying goals.

The pissed-off Indian guys I met at the World Social Forum said it, and would likely say it again today: Microsoft seeks to hook young users on its products to the point where the option of another operating system become moot. This is why I, not an incredibly tech-savvy, nevertheless keep on using Debian.