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Posts Tagged ‘Brazil’

Life in hell

Once again my family in Brazil was the victim of a crime. Not any crime… I am talking about a senseless, nightmarish situation that could have simply destroyed the lives of at least 3 people.

But hey, that’s life eh? Just another day, another little unlucky episode in this great country. Nothing to see here, folks. Carnaval is just around the corner! Get drunk! Have some sex! We have not time for worries here.

—x—

Now, the one thing that really surprised me in this whole situation was the reaction of people around this crime. Look, I understand that Brazil is now a lefty paradise and that its culture is corrupted and retarded beyond salvation. But still, I’ve never seen anything like it (or maybe I’ve just been away for too long?). It is not just the usual blaiming the victim: it is the total inversion of values. It is now accepted that criminals have the power in Brazil and that their power is so established, so unchallengeable, that regular citizens can only do two things: try to hide and avoid being a target, or if it comes down to it, to be a good, well behaved victim.

So the moral implication of any crime in Brazil nowadays is gone. Crimes have now become a judgement on the victim. If you behave well, you might live. If not, you die and that is just what one should expect. And that new norm is just the logical consequence of all ‘principles’ pushed by the left. After all, you have to remember that criminals are the victims of society’s oppression. They steal because they are shamed by your opulence. And by the way, you only have what you have because your forefathers oppressed someone.

It is time to pay up for your crimes, evil capitalistic middle class. Money or blood, it doesn’t really matter.

—x—

The unavoidable response I hear from people in Brazil when I show my revolt against what is happening there is: “Oh, so you think the US is heaven on earth? There is plenty of violence there too!”

That of course, is correct. There is violence here. There is violence in every single corner of the earth. The difference is always on the details. In the US people are still able to defend themselves for the most part. In the US criminals are still persecuted and sent to jail. In the US people don’t see themselves as victims, even though they do get victimized sometimes. So yes, the US is not heaven on earth. But is farther away from being hell.

—x—

I hated Brazil when I lived there and I hate it even more passionately now.

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Here is the game for my brazilian friends: try to find all the Kafkaesque insanities in this little article (I am copying it here just in case someone sane decides to take this offline soon – I added bold to my favorites)
Entidade diz que só mulher pode participar de concurso de baliza na BA

“Em reunião realizada na Câmara Municipal de Camaçari (região metropolitana de Salvador), a Afab (Associação de Fanfarras e Bandas) da Bahia anunciou a proibição homens nos concursos artísticos de baliza realizados em todo o Estado. A equipe que desrespeitar a determinação, de acordo com a entidade, será desclassificada. O presidente da entidade, Edmilson Castro de Oliveira, afirmou que a proibição não representa homofobia ou qualquer tipo de discriminação.

Comuns principalmente em cidades do interior, as balizas integram a “comissão de frente” das fanfarras. Seus integrantes normalmente utilizam arcos ou pedaços de madeira forrados e decorados para fazer apresentações cênicas durante os desfiles. “Os dicionários registram que baliza é uma palavra feminina e, portanto, deve ser feita por mulheres.” De acordo com Oliveira, a decisão refere-se exclusivamente aos concursos. “Nas festas cívicas não existe nenhuma restrição, homens e mulheres podem participar sem problemas”, acrescentou. O GGB (Grupo Gay da Bahia) informou que vai “tentar convencer” a Afab a mudar de opinião e permitir a participação de homens nos concursos de balizas. “Não queremos criar nenhum atrito entre gays e mulheres, mas não vamos descansar enquanto não conseguirmos reverter esta situação”, disse Marcelo Cerqueira, presidente da entidade.

De acordo com ele, o ideal seria que a Afab criasse uma “categoria exclusiva” para a disputa masculina. “Acho que todos estamos de acordo que os homens têm mais força física e poderiam participar das competições entre si. Agora, proibir a participação de pessoas do sexo masculino em concursos é um exagero.” Há uma semana, José Júlio Silva dos Santos, 29, encaminhou uma carta ao GGB denunciando a “discriminação da Associação de Fanfarras e Bandas. “Estou muito triste com este absurdo, é preciso uma mudança urgente no comportamento das pessoas que dirigem a entidade”, escreveu o baliza.

Marcelo Cerqueira acrescentou que o fato de muitos homens “carregarem na maquiagem” durante o concurso não significa que as balizas induzem ao homossexualismo. “É evidente que há muitos homossexuais nas competições, mas o problema está na discriminação. Se for dessa forma, daqui a pouco outras entidades vão se sentir no direito de barrar homossexuais do futebol, basquete ou vôlei, por exemplo.” Cerqueira acrescentou que encaminhou um ofício ao Ministério Público para saber se a decisão tomada pela Afab tem amparo legal.”

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I wouldn’t be surprised if this came from the folks at Crooked Timber or Daily Kos, but instead this insanity about ‘Brazil being a world leader’ comes from the Financial Times.

First of all, what is this thing about a country being ‘cuddly’ or its foreign policy being ‘rainbow’? Are we talking about a country or a woman?

Second, what do these people think ‘world leaders’ are? Are we talking about financial power? Military strength? Cultural influence?

This might sound like my usual anti-brazil bias but honestly, what is this? Brazil is a big economy just because it has a lot of people… Maybe John Paul Rathbone should visit the country and tell us whether a mess like that can ‘lead’ anything. It can barely lead itself!

But the most irritating point is about foreign policy. Brazil is not a ‘nice’ country in this aspect. It is a coward one. Lula and his gang are good ol’ pinkos who don’t even try to hide their love for Castro. But differently from Hugo The Clown, Lula is not willing to pay the price for his beliefs. So he plays ‘nice’ with Obama because he is dependent on the US. He plays ‘nice’ with Iran because he wants some more international trade going on (like in the 80s, where Iraq was a big ‘client’).

So why not be honest here and just say that Brazil is doing whatever it wants with no clear principle in mind but its own profit? One could even argue all countries are like this (which I disagree) but please, stop with the ‘friend of many nations’ talk.

Principles are hard to define and even harder to follow. Economically, philosophically, it is what forms a culture. If there is one thing that Brazilian culture doesn’t have a concept of is being a leader.

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Steve Jobs recusa loja da Apple no Brasil

“O secretário Washington Fajardo, da Secretaria do Patrimônio Cultural do Rio de Janeiro, teria oferecido espaço na região da Zona Portuária ou em prédio histórico do centro da cidade.

No entanto, Jobs respondeu que “Não podemos nem exportar os nosso produtos com a política maluca de taxação superalta do Brasil. Isso faz com que seja muito pouco atraente investir no país.” Ele teria dito ainda que “muitas companhias high-tech se sentem assim também”. “

I’ve been saying that for a long time. Can you imagine what this means? To completely give up a 200 million market because of how messed up it is?

And if you look at the Apple Store website, you see that they have stores in some other countries that are in theory much worse shape than Brazil:

That tells me that Brazil still has a looong way to go to get out of its backwardness state…

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A friend send me a link to this Charlie Rose interview with Eike Batista. He was very proud as a brazilian and was again chanting the old ‘We are the country of the future’ song.

I did have to send back this other not so pleasant video to him, and to sadly remind him that it is much more probable that he finds himself in a cockroach infested flood than in a plushy oil job from OGX.

No need to say that my number of brazilian friends is decreasing at an alarming rate.

—x—

Is it just me or do you also get very concerned when you hear a billionaire like Eike say something like ‘I am very nationalistic now – I want to help my country’ or that his assets are now ‘strategic assets’?

By the way, nice tie Eike!

—x—

I understand that there is a chance that somewhere in the future Brazil becomes a great country. There is also a chance that the US could decline to a third world banana Republic.

But Lincoln put it best when he said that ‘The best thing about the future is that it only comes one day at a time.’ I think I would start believe this brazilian hype when people actually stopped talking so much about grandiose futuristic plans and focused more on short terms problems, like you know, unclogging your street drains.

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I was thinking to myself on my way back from Brazil: I have to try my best and write a post that is not 100% negative about my last trip.

I could talk about the personal reasons that took me there in the first place, but that is not my style. So I need to try to find something political or economical that seemed positive to me.

The sense I get when I visit there is that progress occurs in little spurts, something almost random. Look, a new pretty office building there. Oh, that avenue is not flooding as it used to be. But there is never a big change happening… Something like ‘we have completely eliminated problem X’ or ‘the government plan for Y has changed completely’.

This happens again and again. Even though I see many positive signs here and there (I visited a beautiful new Shopping Mall in Vila Olympia, a neighborhood that is now a fancy spot and it used to be low/middle-class when I lived there 20 years ago), the impression is that the country as a whole is pretty much the same. Old wounds with prettier band-aids.

—x—

I find it funny (and scary) that when I called Dilma by her well deserved nickname (‘the terrorist’) some people thought I was joking.

—x—

I wonder what all the pseudo-lefties would say now that the PSDB’s president claimed that his party is the ‘true left-wing’ in Brazilian politics. It’s not even the case of trying to redefine labels… What surprises me is that everyone is fine with this. Being left-wing in Brazil became a given.

Maybe this happens in part because the Brazilian people in general have no big frame of reference. What comes to my mind is that what Brazil really lacks is some kind of mythology. You know, some sort of founding fathers (would people even recognize Dom João’s face?), heroic past wars, hard fought economic principles, anything that would some sense of unity and direction to the country. Besides soccer and samba, of course.

Oh well, I tried.

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So it looks like someone finally noticed what I have been crying about for years: the total and complete lack of a ‘liberal’ (aka American conservative) political option in Brazil.

However, I think that this goes beyond economic policy. I think that in Brazil we have a leftist culture that is totally ingrained and absorbed by the public in general. This culture is what ultimately makes a free-market/conservative option utterly impossible to appear and much less succeed in any way.

For instance: Fatalism rules in Brazil. You ask anyone on the streets or a politician or a computer programmer why they think Brazil is not a developed country they will definitely blame someone else. It is either Portugal’s fault (a very popular option when I was a kid in school), the IMF (also a very popular choice in the 80s – Brazil’s left used to say that the country’s inflation was directly connected to the IMF’s debt!), America, ‘politicians’ (as if the people who elected them had nothing to do with it), etc, etc.

Furthermore, the entrepreneurial spirit in Brazil is dwarfed by the power of government. It is not just that taxes are too high… The whole system is so convoluted and corrupt that in order to have a business people have to choose between operating outside of the law (at some level at least) or to buy out their way into the government’s arena (i.e., bribes and illicit favors). There is no incentive, neither from the people in power nor from people in the private sector, to completely dismantle this leviathan. It has become part of the system and it feeds from it.

So how can you expect the country to truly embrace capitalism with this frame of mind? Honestly, I am always truly surprised on how much Brazil has advanced despite all of this.

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A friend of mine sent me the link to this website: PE Body Count. It tracks the violent deaths occurred in Pernambuco, one of Brazil’s northeastern states.

I have no idea if their numbers are correct but if they are, it is a truly shocking situation. Even though this is a fairly small state (a little larger than Maine) with a population close to New York City’s (8 million) the website shows that between 300 and 400 murders occur in this state every month. Over 4000 deaths in 2009 alone. There were approximately 461 murders in NYC in 2009.

Is the situation in the other Brazilian states much different? How about unreported crimes? Can you imagine if this average holds throughout Brazil’s 200 million population? That’s over 100 thousand murders a year!

If that is not a civil war I don’t know what it is.

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Brazil Discussing Violent Game Ban

Weird, I thought politicians were all progressives in Brazil (at least according to their own President). And the funniest thing is this guy trying to justify a videogame ban law on the “principle of equality”. Does he mean equality to all backwards countries in the world who shun anything they don’t understand?

Meanwhile, the ‘conservative’ US continues to deal with this issue in a much more civilized (and obvious) way – ratings, just like we do for movies.

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The future:
Modern Warfare 2 five-day sales hit $550 million
Half a billion in 5 days. Who would have thought that a ‘kids’ toy’ industry would become so important? Well, I did. BTW, my original point about Brazil’s backward approach on videogames continues to be valid: MW2 will be selling for the amazing amount of 250 Reais (aprox. 140 US$) compared to US$ 59.99 in the US.

The Past:
Fat cat pay – Then and now
Among all the stupid arguments and lies being sold during this recession, this whole controversy on CEO pay has to be the worst. Pure media garbage and political populism.

The clouds!
Chavez asking Cubans to ‘bomb clouds’ amid drought
What a clown.

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Super Duper Funny!

Lula from 2000 makes a lot of sense! hehehehehehehehehehe

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I thought this one was funny (in a bad way).

So what I got from this new “strategy” around avoiding tax evasion here is (Brazilian friends please correct me if I am wrong):

Every time a consumer buys something, the store is obligated to offer a receipt that is assigned to the customer´s tax ID (CPF). Then, when customers declare their taxes at the end of a fiscal year they can receive a “rebate” based on the total amount of those receipts. So basically the government hopes that customers become a tax enforcer of sorts.

Amazingly, this crazy scheme seemed to make perfect sense for my fellow Brazilians. Why, some people are thriving on this! They ask for every single receipt, sometimes they even instruct other people (who don´t pay taxes) to use their tax Ids so to “maximize” the benefit.

My simples question was: has the government even considered lowering these taxes to decrease evasion? Has anyone thought of all the new costs associated with this new crazy policy?

This goes beyond not knowing Occam’s razor. This looks like a bunch of bureaucrats playing economists.

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I am visiting Brazil after quite a while and it´s been quite an interesting trip. I had a chance to meet some old friends, people I haven´t spoken to in 10, 15 years.

These meetings reminded me of a Borges´ short story called “The Other” where two Borges, one young and other old, meet. They know they are the same but yet can barely communicate. All told in the usual smart and profound Borges way.

When I spoke with these friends I noticed how they are all in this weird state of despair and resignation about Brazil´s situation. Most of them pretty much decided to ignore politics all together. It´s a mix of a “nothing can be done” attitude with a feeling that things at least are improving a little bit at the time (I bet there are many worse places in the world! They would tell me). Every single one of them hates Lula and all he represents, but in the end there is no alternative in the horizon.

It reminds me the way I was when I lived here. It was one of the main reasons why I decided that there was no alternative besides just getting out of here.

I could see how they got annoyed at me when I started to tell them everything I thought needed to be changed and how in the US things are always in flux and alternatives to issues are always being debated. People sometimes (maybe most times) don´t like to be reminded of certain things. Ignorance may not be bliss, but sometimes seems to be a necessary survival tool.

At the end I felt exactly like old Borges in the end of the short story. Our talks felt like a wasted effort in all fronts. My friends will probably forget quickly everything we talked about, and will only remember the fact that an old friend came to visit after so many years with some pretty crazy right wing theories of how to change the world. And I will keep the memory of seeing how things are still the same here, and how all my smart and nice friends continue to live in hopelessness and are ultimately lost when the subject is trying to fix the humongous mess called Brazil.

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Another great idea that comes from the new world power: The government will pay a salary to a criminal’s family.

That’s right folks. You go to jail; your family gets a check at the end of the month.

Now that is what I call the definite solution to unemployment. Pure genius.

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Crazy world

There must be something wrong with me.

You see, I have this crazy principle that people/groups/countries should be rewarded when they do things right. It is not so much a matter of what is just or not, but mostly a question of being rational and trying to push people to behave correctly.

But society nowadays doesn’t seem to understand this rule. It seems that the rule has been reversed, and we should actually give things to people who are failing on the hope that they can improve after being rewarded. When I say people, I really mean the left.

You can find this everywhere: The UN choosing Libya to chair the Human Rights Commission. FIFA choosing South Africa to host the soccer world cup. And now the IOC favoring Rio (over Madrid, Tokyo and Chicago) to be the host of the 2016 Olympics.

Seriously, what is the rationale here? Rio is a total mess. It cannot control its urban violence (more than 8 thousand violent deaths per year according to this – it is probably much worse since many deaths go unreported). Public transportation is a nightmare. Sport facilities are a joke.

Yet, a lot of Brazilian friends are celebrating as if this was great news. Why I don’t know. Do they think the city will transform itself because of a sports competition? Why would that be the trigger? If anything, funds that should be used to things like education and health will be diverted to stupid new stadiums.

But even more important, don’t they know how wrong this choice is?

Why reward incompetence?

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Brazil and the Battle of Ideas

Lula diz que eleição presidencial não terá candidato de direita

“Pela primeira vez não vamos ter um candidato de direita na campanha. Vocês querem conquista melhor do que não ter um candidato de direita?“, perguntou Lula durante evento de comemoração dos 45 anos da criação do Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada (Ipea).

“Uns podem não ser tão de esquerda quanto eram. Não tem problema. Era inimaginável outro dia que chegássemos a esse momento no Brasil. Não tem um candidato que represente a direita. É fantástico isso.”

Fantastic, indeed. What an idiot. How can this even be called Democracy?

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No wonder! He does love all kinds of plants, leaves, etc. Happy times!

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According to the CIA Factbook, these are the top 15 oil producer countries in the world:

1 Russia 9,980,000 2007 est.
2 Saudi Arabia 9,200,000 2008 est.
3 United States 8,457,000 2007 est.
4 Iran 4,700,000 2007 est.
5 China 3,725,000 2008 est.
6 Mexico 3,501,000 2007 est.
7 Canada 3,425,000 2007 est.
8 United Arab Emirates 2,948,000 2007 est.
9 European Union 2,676,000 2007 est.
10 Venezuela 2,667,000 2007 est.
11 Kuwait 2,613,000 2007 est.
12 Norway 2,565,000 2007 est.
13 Iraq 2,420,000 2008 est.
14 Nigeria 2,352,000 2007 est.
15 Brazil 2,277,000 2007 est.

So from the 15, we have 4 developed countries (US, Canada, EU and Norway), 4 ‘developing’ countries (Russia, China, Mexico and Brazil) and 7 basket-case messes (Saudi Arabia, Iran, UAE, Venezuela, Kuwait, Iraq and Nigeria). One could even argue that Russia should be on the bottom group, and it is hard to ignore that they are going down that route lately.

Now that Brazil will probably jump up on this list with its new pre-sal fields, the question is: will it move to the developed group or descend into the hopeless crazy bunch?

For the developed countries, oil is hugely important as an enabler but not as a revenue source. US and EU import a bunch of oil, and Canada is in a real special situation due to its proximity of the US. I would say that the only exception is Norway, which depends big time on oil revenue and apparently has done a good job on keeping the other parts of its economy going (and avoiding the ‘Dutch disease’ syndrome). This article for instance says that the main reasons Norway was successful here were clearly defined ownership and sharing rules, and its strong democratic foundation… Can anyone say that Brazil has a history of defining bureaucratic rules well and a ‘very strong’ democratic foundation at this point?

I don’t want to be too cynical but it is hard for me to believe that Lula and his gang of lefties will be wise enough to play this card right. Especially with everything else that has been going on in Latin America, it seems to be that all things considered, Brazil is still much more similar to Venezuela than it is to Norway.

Wait and see I guess.

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Stupidity Has No Color

I thought Lula had topped the scale with his comment on “white blue-eyed man” causing the crisis. But yet again, I was wrong. Alex explains to us all that Lula didn’t really mean that our current crisis was created by white blue-eyed individuals but by “white blue-eyed nations”.

First of all, even though it is plausible that Lula really meant to generalize his racist rant, he was pretty specific with his words when he said that “I do not know any black or indigenous bankers”. So, before getting to the main point, let’s introduce Mr.Squid to some nice “black bankers”, many of them who had their fair share on the current mess:

Stan O’Neal – Currently serves on the board of Alcoa Inc. and is the former President, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Merrill Lynch & Co.
Richard Dean Parson – Citigroup Inc. Chairman
Franklin Delano Raines – Former Fannie Mae CEO
Kenneth I. Chenault – American Express Chairman and CEO
Ephren Taylor – CEO of City Capital Corporation

Clearly, the fact that these powerful people are black is completely unrelated to the financial crisis. After all, we have many other black people commanding companies of other kinds, like:

Don Thompson – McDonald’s USA President
John W. Thompson – Symantec Corporation Chairman and CEO
Ursula M Burns – Xerox Corporation President
Ronald A. Williams – Aetna Inc. President and CEO

And many, many more.

Now, if we do have blacks CEOs, a black President, black Supreme Court judges, generals, governors, mayors, etc, how can we really still be a “white blue-eyed nation”?

Of course Alex will tell me that the problem is that we don’t have enough powerful black people! That the proportion of poor black people is way high, and that Obama is just an exception.

Isn’t that’s a nice copout? I mean, no matter how many times we break a stereotype, how much we advance as a society, anything but perfection (which would mean what? The exact same proportion on every single aspect across all races?) we are a white nation and that is it.

I can understand Lula’s ignorance. After all, he is an uneducated person who speaks what he has been told all his life. He probably doesn’t have a clue of what the American people look like besides what he sees on TV and the few top politicians who come to visit him. It makes sense that he has never seen a “black banker”, or a black doctor, or a black lawyer, etc. It is also very easy to prove Lula wrong. Nothing more than a 15 minute Google search on black CEOs.

Now Alex’s rationalization is much, much worse. First because it is impossible to prove right or wrong. But most importantly, because it shows the kind of crap that is being fed to American teenagers who pay thousands of dollars to go to universities to supposedly be educated and understand better the world. The kind of crap that goes from theory to practice really quickly, and with the help of our media, becomes the unchallengeable truth. I mean, Maureen Dowd even thinks white brown-eyed people suffer with the blue eye discrimination.

Am I saying that the US is a perfect nation? Of course not. But stupid myths like this one actually makes progress harder, not easier.

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