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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


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.

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The Assassination of a Brazilian Elliot Ness (Luis Nassif)

Spy x SpyThe Untouchables

I offer another in an irregular set of translations from a series that could be translated as “The VEJA Files,” by Brazilian economic commentator and journalist Luis Nassif.

At some point I will try to pull all these together, edit them properly, and present them as a gift to Nassif. Nassif attempts to demonstrate that VEJA magazine (Editora Abril) is a disgrace to the journalistic profession. I have arrived at that conclusion myself. These people are literally unbelievable.

In this, the last installment so far, from September 2008, Nassif narrates how Brazil’s top federal cop, Paulo Lacerda, came to be publicly accused (falsely) of maintaining bribe-stuffed offshore bank accounts. See also

Some added context: Since that time, Lacerda was transferred to the directorship of ABIN, the Brazilian CIA — where his promise to promote a housecleaning similar to that undergone by the federal police caused visible friction — then was removed from that post in the wake of questions about the propriety of that agency’s purported loan of manpower to a federal police investigation into banker Daniel Dantas. He now serves as a police liaison in Brazil’s diplomatic mission to Portugal.

In plain English, the man, despite his unequivocal record of  measurable efficiency, was royally borked. A recent poll of Brazilian city dwellers showed that public safety, law and order, and impunity in white-collar and political corruption cases remain top concerns.

Meanwhile, the federal police delegado in charge of the Dantas case was replaced, and the judge hearing the case has been temporarily suspended pending a hearing on his impartiality. At the same time, a federal court issued an order freezing any further action in the case until that issue is decided in February — including execution of Dantas’ 10-year sentence for attempted bribery of a federal agent.

Translation — in haste, draft-quality — follows:

In its edition of October 20, 2004, VEJA magazine featured a bombastic cover story: “The Untouchables: A group of elite federal agents battle organized crime and corruption inside the federal police.”

In its edition of August 13, 2008, VEJA ran a cover story entitled “Spies Out of Control,” dealing with the very same federal police and the very same methods it had previously praised, only now launching vicious attacks on the agency.

What changed? — who changed? — between the publication dates of these two cover stories? The federal police? Federal police director-general Paulo Lacerda? Or VEJA itself? What led the magazine to mount one of its patented character assassination schemes in recent weeks against a federal officer whom it had praised to the skies not long before? What led VEJA to describe as an assault on individual liberties what it had not long before described as an unavoidable war on corruption?

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Relief for Nassif: Permission to Say That Veja Sucks

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Luis Nassif gave Veja grief.

Brazilian online journalist and multimedia economics pundit Luis Nassif is being sued by the editors of Veja magazine (Editora Abril) for having argued — not to put too fine a point on it — that the magazine’s journalism sucks outrageously.

I believe he may have referred to it as a “journalistic sewer,” in one of the more purple passages from his series on the quality of journalism at the glossy neo-Lacerdist weekly.

A careful argument, based on case studies and generally accepted standards and practices, and a persuasive one. I, for one, from experience, have long been convinced that Veja sucks big-time. Nassif’s series really only reinforced that belief.

Selected chapters from Nassif’s “Veja Dossier” that I have translated:

I should gather those together and produce a unified translation. One of these days. Then again, I am a lazy sod.

Reproduced in the Observatório da Imprensa is the following report by the Agência Carta Maior on Nassif’s recent victory in a SLAPP suit filed by Veja‘s editors. There are many more such SLAPP suits to come, one hears.

I translate, in haste, pra inglês ver.

Algo importante aconteceu na blogosfera brasileira quando o jornalista Luis Nassif começou a publicar reportagens a respeito da revista Veja: o debate mudou de plano. O que Nassif batizou de dossiê analisa, com farto material, o jornalismo praticado pela publicação semanal. Nesta semana, o juiz Carlos Henrique Abrão, da 42ª Vara Cível do Foro Central de São Paulo, julgou improcedente a ação de danos morais movida pelo e diretor de redação Eurípides Alcântara contra Nassif.

Something important happened in the Brazilian blogosphere when journo Luis Nassif began publishing articles about Veja magazine: the debate moved to another level. In what Nassif calls his Veja “dossier,” he analyzes, with plenty of examples, the kind of journalism practiced by the glossy newsweekly. This week, Judge Abrão of the 42nd São Paulo Civil Bar threw out a defamation lawsuit filed against Nassif by Veja editor in chief Eurípides Alcântara.

“O maior fenômeno de anti-jornalismo dos últimos anos foi o que ocorreu com a revista Veja. Gradativamente, o maior semanário brasileiro foi se transformando em um pasquim sem compromisso com o jornalismo, recorrendo a ataques desqualificadores contra quem atravessasse seu caminho, envolvendo-se em guerras comerciais e aceitando que suas páginas e sites abrigassem matérias e colunas do mais puro esgoto jornalístico”, é o que se lê logo no primeiro parágrafo do visualmente simples blog de Luis Nassif.

“The greatest example of antijournalism in recent years has been what has happened with Veja magazine. Brazil’s biggest weekly has gradually devolved into a libelous rag without the slighest commitment to journalism, launching personal attacks against anyone who crosses it, involving itself in commercial disputes and allowing its pages and Web sites to harbor articles and columns containing pure journalistic sewage,” Nassif wrote in the first paragraph of his visually unsophisticated blog.

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Dantas’ Inferno and Veja’s Source: Fortes on the Chief Justice’s Private Spy Shop

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OCULAR PROOF OF THE IMPENDING APOCALYPSE: “They are watching us. Even the Presidency and the Supreme Court suspect they have been targeted for espionage. No one is safe. This is the end of privacy in Brazil.” The principal basis for this hysterical Veja magazine report, dated 13 August 2008, is a bug-sweep report from the office of security of the Supreme Court. Now there is a question about whether or not a military officer serving in that office might have been recruited to help the cause of Daniel Dantas, through contacts with a Dantas henchman just convicted of bribing a federal agent. Hmmmm. Very odd.

Cirillo says that handing the report over to Veja was agreed on in a meeting among Gonçalves, Special Operations chief Ailton de Queiroz and press officer Renato Parente. They agreed to give Veja the report on the condition that the document not be reproduced, so that the signatures on it could not be identified.

“Who or What Is Bugging Gilmar Mendes?”

A fascinating conundrum upon which oceans of ink have been spilled here in Brazil.

Luis Nassif went out and bought CartaCapital magazine — I should just break down and subscrbe — before I did today.

Reporter Leandro Fortes follows up in detail on an intriguing detail contained in the ruling this week that found Daniel Dantas and two co-conspirators guilty of bribing a federal police agent:

That one of Dantas’ co-conspirators was in contact with a military intelligence specialist hired to provide security to the Brazilian Supreme Court.


Among the many interesting features of this established fact is that this very same office leaked a document to Veja magazine supposedly “confirming” that the Chief Justice had been bugged — allegedly, according to the Chief Justice himself, at the behest of the lower-court judge in the Dantas case.

The story appeared in the August 13 edition of the magazine (above) and included a facsimile of a bug-sweep report from the office where this friend and colleague of the convicted cop-briber worked.

The two had worked together at the Instituto Sagres, an NGO (an OSCIP, in local parlance) set up by former military men and offering strategy and intelligence services. Sort of a local version of STRATFOR, I guess.

Fortes reports on the dealings with Veja over the leaking of the document, providing some insight into how this neo-Lacerdist fountain of disinformation goes about its dirty business.

I translate Nassif’s paraphrase for the record. It will have to do for the time being.

A Carta Capital desta semana traz matéria de Leandro Fortes com Sérgio de Souza Cirillo, o ex-assessor de segurança do Supremo Tribunal Federal que mantinha contatos com Hugo Chicarone – o lobista que tentou subornar o delegado da Polícia Federal.

CartaCapital this week has a report by Leandro Fortes on Sérgio de Souza Cirillo, the former security aide to the Supreme Court who maintained contacts with Hugo Chicaroni, the lobbyist who tried to bribe a federal police investigator.

Segundo a matéria, antes de Mendes assumir a presidência do Supremo, em 23 de abril de 2008, a segurança dos Ministros e do Tribunal dependia da Coordenadoria de Segurança e Transportes, ligada à Diretoria Geral da casa. Mendes desfez à estrutura e criou a Secretaria de Segurança, diretamente subordinada à presidência. “Ou seja, criou seu próprio grupo de arapongas”, diz a matéria.

According to Fortes, before Mendes became Chief Justice, on 23 April 2008, court security was handled by the Security and Transport Coordinator, part of the court’s general administration office. Mendes undid that arrangement and created a Secretary of Security, directly subordinated to the Chief Justice’s office. “That is to say, he created his own group of intelligence officers,” the article says.

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Mainardi: “Obama is an American Collor!”

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Diogo Mainardi of Veja magazine (Brazil), in his most recent podcast, cites a column by Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell — “An Obama Tilt in Campaign Coverage” — in support of a familiar excuse for the viciously slanted and disinformation-plagued news coverage purveyed by his employer: They call us viciously slanted, but the U.S. press is no better!

See also

In his paraphrase of Howell’s conclusions, Mainardi uses highly selective quotation and distorts Howell’s analysis in order to describe coverage by U.S. media as chapa-branca — a hysterically exaggerated conclusion not supported by a full reading of Howell’s analysis of the paper’s coverage.

He also cites The Economist as rebuking the “dirty game” played by the U.S. news media to get Obama elected.

He seems — although he is not specific on this point — to be referring to A biased market: Skewed news reporting is taken as a sign of a dysfunctional media. In fact, it may be a sign of healthy competition (October 30 2008). That article makes no such moral judgment about any “dirty game” played by the U.S. press in a supposed conspiracy to elect Obama.

Chapa-branca, a metaphor for “bought and sold” or biased coverage, comes from a Brazilian expression meaning

a public service car, with a white license plate

The metaphor is outdated, as all newly-issued Brazilian license plates are now white (there are still some old orange ones circulating. Anyone remember when California license plates were black with orange lettering?).

In other words, then, a press that is chapa-branca is one that simply uncritically parrots the government line, that serves as an extension of political and private interest groups, lacking critical independence.

For Mainardi to characterize the U.S. media in this way is for the pot to call the kettle black.

Howell, for example, explains the apparent pro-Obama bias in her paper as an artifact of the unfortunate predominance of “horse-race” campaign coverage over issues coverage.

She endorses the findings of a broader study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) (summary of analysis shown above):

One question likely to be posed is whether these findings provide evidence that the news media are pro-Obama. Is there some element in these numbers that reflects a rooting by journalists for Obama and against McCain, unconscious or otherwise? The data do not provide conclusive answers. They do offer a strong suggestion that winning in politics begat winning coverage, thanks in part to the relentless tendency of the press to frame its coverage of national elections as running narratives about the relative position of the candidates in the polls and internal tactical maneuvering to alter those positions. Obama’s coverage was negative in tone when he was dropping in the polls, and became positive when he began to rise, and it was just so for McCain as well. Nor are these numbers different than what we have seen before. Obama’s numbers are similar to what we saw for John Kerry four years ago as he began rising in the polls, and McCain’s numbers are almost identical to what we saw eight years ago for Democrat Al Gore.

This analysis is too subtle for Mainardi, however, who presents us with a conspiratorial narrative according to which Obama is the American Fernando Collor — notoriously elected to the Brazilian presidency thanks in large part to a massive propaganda campaign mounted by the (monopolistic) Globo network.
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Dantas’ Inferno: Investigating the Investigation; TV Globo in Nextel Hell

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Daniel Valente Dantas. Graphic: Veja magazine, May 2006, when it reported: “Daniel Dantas has a list that may show illegal offshore bank accounts controlled by the president and party bigwigs.” Veja had plenty of evidence that “almost certainly does not” was the word to use instead of “may.” Ecce Veja

In all four locations, teams of TV Globo journalists were present even before the federal police arrived to serve the warrants.

Há mais investigações sobre policiais da Satiagraha do que sobre o próprio Dantas: There are more investigations into police who conducted investigations in the Satiagraha case than into Daniel Valente Dantas, its principal suspect, reports Rubens Valente of the Folha de S. Paulo today.

If you have read Misha Glenny’s McMafia, you will already be somewhat familiar with the figure of Brazilian police investigator Protógenes Queiroz, who is featured prominently in the book as the courageous and dedicated Brazilian cop who (more or less) took down the Sino-Paraguayan smuggling king Law Kin Chong.

I say more or less because, although the King of the 25 de Março was convicted and sentenced — for attempted bribery of a congressional investigator into smuggling and product piracy — his sentence was later reduced, and he apparently continues to operate.


Brazilian federal police, I think it is fair to say — I follow the Web site of the professional association of delegados — tend to get very angry when they arrest someone and then the superior instances of the federal courts let them go, whereupon they flee the jurisdiction.

(Like Salvatore Cacciola, for example, or judges accused of selling verdicts to the mafia in the so-called Hurricane case in Rio.)

Passados quatro meses da prisão e soltura do banqueiro Daniel Dantas na Operação Satiagraha, já existem mais apurações federais a respeito da própria operação do que investigações contrárias aos executivos do Opportunity.

Four months since the arrest and release of banker Daniel Dantas in Operation Satiagraha, there now exist more federal investigations of the investigation of Dantas than investigations into Opportunity executives.

A Satiagraha, deflagrada em 8 de julho passado, resultou até agora em dois inquéritos relatados pelo delegado Protógenes Queiroz: um trata de corrupção ativa (Dantas teria tentado subornar um delegado por US$ 1 milhão) e outro de suposta gestão fraudulenta do banco.

Satiagraha, conducted on July 8 of this year, has to date led to two charges on the recommendation of federal police investigator Protógenes Queiroz: One for active corruption (Dantas allegedly tried to bribe a federal police agent with US$1 million) and another for alleged banking fraud.

O primeiro inquérito deu origem a uma denúncia formulada pela Procuradoria da República e acolhida pelo juiz da 6ª Vara Federal Criminal, Fausto Martin De Sanctis. O segundo inquérito está sob avaliação na procuradoria e na 6ª Vara.

The first charge led to an indictment by the federal prosecutor, accepted by Judge de Sancits of the 6th Federal Criminal Bar. The second is still under evaluation by the court and the federal prosecutors.

Em contrapartida, há pelo menos três apurações em andamento contra os investigadores da Satiagraha. Ao deixar o comando da operação, Queiroz denunciou que integrantes da cúpula da PF, em Brasília, boicotaram seu trabalho, ao negarem o envio do reforço pedido de 50 policiais. Depois disso, Queiroz passou a ter de dar explicações à PF e hoje é alvo de pelo menos dois inquéritos.

On the other hand, there are at least three investigations underway into the Satiagraha investigators. Upon leaving command of the investigation, Queiroz charged that top leadership of the federal police in Brasilia boycotted his work by denying his request for 50 police agents as reinforcements. After making this charge, Queiroz was forced to explain himself to federal police leadership and is now the target of at least two investigations.

O primeiro foi aberto pela PF de Brasília, por ordem da direção-geral do órgão a partir de uma reportagem da revista “Veja” que afirmou ter havido suposto grampo ilegal contra o presidente do STF, Gilmar Mendes, o senador Demóstenes Torres (DEM-GO) e integrantes do governo Lula.

The first is being conducted by the federal police in Brasilia by order of the head of the agency, based on a report in Veja magazine that stated there was alleged [sic] illegal wiretapping of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Senator Torres of Goias, and members of the Lula government.

“Alleged,” nothing. Veja stated it as an established fact, based on (an anonymous source) who is (allegedly) an insider at the Brazilian National Intelligence Agency (ABIN). It has never identified the source and claims the audio that would prove bugging actually took place got “lost.” Quack.

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