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Thursday, July 14, 2016

An efficient lecture

Knowing very well, by now, the preferences of most readers of this Great blog, I am aware videos (and a long one at that) of discredited sources (Al Jazeera!) would hardly make it past their clicking threshold.

So why would I make my first post here at Great Guys such a flop?

Well, because in three weeks my country will be the source of nearly 4 billion question marks around the globe. And I can answer most of the awkward political questions that may follow with one single 10 minutes video. 

Fernando Henrique Cardoso (FHC) was our President from 1995 to 2003. He was very cozy with Bill Clinton back then. He is hailed as modernizing and introducing Brazil to then so called (and now forgotten) ’Washington consensus’. He is, to many people out there, the opposite of the ‘socialists’ we’ve got since he left office. Or so they suppose. Because all you need to know about our politics, past, present and future, is condensed in those short 10 minutes. Really.

When I watched it, my first thought was "Hey, in my 20+ years of watching FHC on TV, I never saw an interview where he was treated like that. I mean, not even 10% like that. What a cheap media we have in this Banana Republic!"

But then I tried to remember Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton ever getting such treatment, and disavowed myself of that notion.

35 comments:

erp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
erp said...

Am I correct in taking from the video that FHC and the administrations before and after him are equally corrupt and at the present time, there is no help in sight?

The interviewer wasn't fawning as are those in our media toward their heroes like Obama and Hillary, but he was civil, if determined to get a damming statement from FHC. He was in fact far more polite than the msm toward conservatives foolish enough to get into their clutches.

What I learned about Brazilian politics is nothing changes except the names and faces of the perps -- pretty much the same as politics around the world and even sadly here in the U.S.

Clovis e Adri said...

Yep, Erp, as I promised, you just learned everything you needed to understand our politics.

Hey Skipper said...

Perfect, just perfect. I'm going to be mostly out of internets for the next couple weeks.

Clovis e Adri said...

Good luck out there in the wild, Skipper.

Bret said...

I finally watched it. I wasn't sure what information I was supposed to get out of it, so thank you erp for deciphering it for me.

If I had to look for a positive viewpoint, I'd say (from what I got out of watching the clip) that the Brazilian people are finally fed up with bribes and corruption and now are trying to do something about it. Sure, it's a forever process and they may never succeed, but perhaps it's better than the complacent acceptance of corruption which is so commonplace in much of the world.

The United States is going in the opposite direction, I think. The attitude here is that who cares in Clinton is corrupt? It's worth accepting corruption to get the candidate who will do the things desired by her constituents.

Perhaps it will be that Brazil becomes the superpower of the Americas and the United States becomes the banana republic.

Oh well, the Olympics should be interesting. Hopefully, there won't be any violence.

Harry Eagar said...

Clinton is corrupt? I understand that is the rightwing belief, but what is her corruption?

To me, the most interesting part (which seems to have been alJazeera's take, too) was FHC's distinction between a political crime and a statutory crime. We dealt with that in our Constitution (Article I, sections 9 & 10).

So, yeah, it's a coup.

Still, I don't think Clinton should have murdered that nice Foster boy.

erp said...

Harry, if you only read the papers you would know that Foster committed suicide after walking through wet woods in brand new shoes and not even getting them wet, then he laid himself down neatly flat on his back and he used his right hand to pull the trigger even though he was left-handed. Ya gotta admire the bubba and bubbette, they pick very talented toadies.

As far as Hillary's corruption (as an aside, Harry perhaps you can explain why suddenly Hillary is being referred to as Clinton??? -- my take is that the word "Hillary" focus-groups very poorly) a whole industry has arisen around it, so again, if you read the papers, even the leftwing media, you'll find no end of information about her almost other-worldly accumulation of money, money, money -- you know what the left's all about.

Bret said...

Yes Harry, Clinton is corrupt.

Here's the Atlantic which is left leaning and should be working hard to downplay corruption and this is the best they can do: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/07/tracking-the-clinton-controversies-from-whitewater-to-benghazi/396182/

Here's the Weekly Standard which does, of course, upplay everything: http://www.weeklystandard.com/yup-shes-crooked/article/2003312

The single scariest bit of corruption is the Clinton Foundation which has accepted large amounts of money from foreign entities. Can you say beholden?

The single scariest bit of non-corruption is the email thang. I'm pretty certain the Russians and other foreign governments have gotten those emails and have the means to blackmail her.

Harry Eagar said...

Blackmail? For what? Hot nights with Huma?

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

---
Oh well, the Olympics should be interesting. Hopefully, there won't be any violence.
---

Oh, don't worry, it is not like we had a problem with ISIS or Islamists right now.

As I see it, the only reason for Brazilians to convert to ISIS is that some people desperately look for evil ways to draw attention. I wonder how much of Islamic terrorism, even in Muslim countries, has to do with that narcissistic need for those 15 minutes of fame.



Harry,

In our books down here, the Clintons would be pretty low on corruption marks, but they would definitely be considered so.

Bret mentions the Clinton Foundation and foreign money. Up to this day, I am aghast at the use the Russians made of it in order to pursue and conquer Uranium markets. I guess the Rosenbergs would probably be alive and well if they were named Clinton back then.

Hey Skipper said...

[Clovis:] Good luck out there in the wild, Skipper.

Well, I don't know if I'd exactly classify Switzerland as the wild, but I was with family the whole time, so it might just as well have been.

--

I watched the video, but with the shouty back and forth (particularly from the interviewer), it was a bit hard to keep track. I did notice Cardoso had to remind the interviewer of the seemingly commonsense distinction between a legal crime and a political crime, and it is the latter that Rouseff is charged with.

But if it is corruption all the way down, what to do?

In the US, legislators are paid enough (never mind whether they earn a dime of that) to at least attenuate the temptation towards corruption. Or, at least that is the justification.

How well are legislators paid in Brazil?

And how complicated is the Brazilian constitution? In Rouseff's regard, is it clear what she violated, and to what extent? Are her asserted violations uniquely bad, or just more of the same?


Hey Skipper said...

[Bret:] The single scariest bit of non-corruption is the email thang. I'm pretty certain the Russians and other foreign governments have gotten those emails and have the means to blackmail her.

[harry:] Blackmail? For what? Hot nights with Huma?


Bret — I think there is an aspect to this that is far worse than what the Russians and others may have. Hillary! use of a private server (not a private email account, a huge distinction which journalists can't seem to take on board) ended up, in a very foreseeable way, corrupting the FBI. Why? Because her stunning lack of judgment put the FBI in a position where it was damned if it did, and damned if it didn't. Consequently, she singlehandedly seriously undermined respect for the rule of law: Martha Stewart gets two years in prison for lying to the FBI. Hillary goes scot free for something orders of magnitude worse.

Harry — see if you can rustle your mind just long enough to wonder why, oh why, Hillary would knowingly violate all security rules in setting up her own server. (P.S., to save yourself time, do not hang yourself up on over-classification, and ex post facto classification. Indeed, these things exist; however, that provides no legal relief, and only a drooling idiot, or someone with something to hide, would pretend ignorance.)

You may have heard of the Clinton Foundation? Perhaps, maybe, just maybe, she wanted to avoid FOIA?

Of course, we Americans, who were paying her salary, have no idea what she had deleted from the server. (Harry, can we add obstruction of justice to her list of particulars?)

Which means that she has made herself a hostage to the Russians, et al, or can never escape the appearance that she is.

Helluva a mess she's gotten herself into.

[harry:] To me, the most interesting part (which seems to have been alJazeera's take, too) was FHC's distinction between a political crime and a statutory crime. We dealt with that in our Constitution (Article I, sections 9 & 10).

So, yeah, it's a coup.


If the impeachment has been carried out with respect to the Brazilian constitution, how can it possibly be a coup?

Clovis e Adri said...

Skipper,

---
But if it is corruption all the way down, what to do?
---
That's the $70 billion dollar question (that's the amount of money Brazil loses to corruption per year, roughly).

Of course, the amount lost to consequences of bad management coming from corrupt institutions are probably way higher.


---
How well are legislators paid in Brazil?
---
Pretty well.

We have the fifth best paid legislators of the World, and in terms of salary-to-GDP, the sixth place.

Australy, Niger, Italy and the USA pay their legislators a bit better than us, but that's probably a muddy comparation since it is hard to keep track of all the benefits other than direct salary.


A similar picture happens with the Judicial System. Among the best salaries of the world, they even make the feat of producing the most expensive (per ratio to GDP) judicial system of the entire world. They consume 1,8% of our whole GDP, producing pitiful results, marked by corruption too.

I often laugh when people point out that judges and politicians need to be well paid in order to not be tempted by corruption. It is one of the best jokes I've ever heard.



---
And how complicated is the Brazilian constitution? In Rouseff's regard, is it clear what she violated, and to what extent? Are her asserted violations uniquely bad, or just more of the same?
---
Of course it is complicated, how a country spending 1,8% of its GDP on the Judiciary would have a simple Constitution? It would absolutely run counter their salary and job growth targets!


More to the point, and being as succint as possible, her impeachment is a twisted and evil joke on many levels.

Her first government (20010-2014) practiced subtle fiscal frauds in the years 2013 and 2014. She was reelected and started anew, owning the previous frauds (by stopping the practices and paying up the debts) in 2015.

In short, her first government flaunted the law, but her second term did not. The catch is that our Consitution - written when reelections were forbidden - do not allow for the President to be prosecuted by things done prior to his/her term.

After they changed the law to allow for reelection (FHC did it to benefit himself, reportedly with large use of bribes by the way), they did not care to make it consistently, so that - if you take the law as it is - Roussef could not be prosecuted in 2015 by something she did in 2014, which was another government.

So the fact they are impeaching her nonetheless means both that (i) she is having what she deserves even though she shouldn't and (ii) that Braazil is a Banana Republic indeed, for they are impeaching her against what the laws themselves should allow.

You can't complain life here is boring, though, like it is in Switzerland.

erp said...

Clovis, thanks for clearing that up. ;-{

Hey Skipper said...

[Clovis:] In short, her first government flaunted the law, but her second term did not. The catch is that our Consitution - written when reelections were forbidden - do not allow for the President to be prosecuted by things done prior to his/her term.

I get that: in order to get politicians to relinquish power peacefully, there has to be some pretty rigorous assurances that they won't be hounded after leaving office for what they did while in office.

However, is that the case here?

Rouseff is still in power, and her exercise of power wasn't interrupted. If an election provided a legal wall, rather than an arbitrary date for those remaining in office, then governments could call for frequent elections, thereby putting anything done prior off limits.

That doesn't sound like the right result.

Clovis e Adri said...

Skipper,

---
I get that: in order to get politicians to relinquish power peacefully, there has to be some pretty rigorous assurances that they won't be hounded after leaving office for what they did while in office.
---
Sorry, you got it backwards.

What the law says is that, *while in office*, the President can not be impeached for administrative actions done *before office*.

They can be hounded after office, but while in office they supposedly should be impeached only for actions pertaining to the present administration they are in.

For this reason, I believe we have a coup indeed. A parliamentary and judicial coup, for the Supreme Court is watching silently this blatant disregard for the law.


---
Rouseff is still in power, and her exercise of power wasn't interrupted.
---
Sorry, wrong again. She now holds the presidency just formally - all the powers are being exercized by the Vice-President, who has been using all the govt machine to make sure she is impeached.

Once Congress approves the impeachment proceedings to begin (it did in April), the President is suspended for six months, which is the time the Senate must use to make a final judgment after installing a comission to judge it.

Meanwhile, the Vice-President added our deficit in almost 50% in order to add all kinds of spendings necessary to buy political support to impeach her. You should notice the rich irony here, since she is being impeached for fiscal excesses.


---
If an election provided a legal wall, rather than an arbitrary date for those remaining in office, then governments could call for frequent elections, thereby putting anything done prior off limits.
---
Doesn't make sense in our system, where the govt has no power to call new elections.

Clovis e Adri said...

Actually, if the video wasn't enough - and attending Erp, who much prefer written stuf, I offer this one:

Can Brazil Be Saved?

Colossal corruption. Political chaos. The worst recession in its history. The Olympics won’t rescue the once-booming nation. But all is not lost.

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/cover_story/2016/08/how_once_booming_brazil_was_brought_low_and_how_it_can_save_itself.html


It is Slate, but it got much right. I guess is the most informative piece of the whole mess I've seen in English up to now.

Clovis e Adri said...

By the way, the gas stations (Posto da Torre) they cite, which gave the name "Lava Jato" (car wash) to our Brazilian version of Mani Pulite, used to have a decent döner (kebab) a few years ago in a side store at the gas station itself.

Since I came to Brasilia from Germany, I was happy to pay a visit there once in a while to get a taste of this Turkish piece of fast food that is so ubiquitous in Deutschland.

I was grabbing that food a few meters from the office of this great money launderer they refer to in the Slate piece.

The gas price at this station was the cheapest you could find for miles. Most cab drivers refueled there for this reason. Now I know: the gas station profit was the least of their objectives.

Sad thing is, they don't sell the kebab there anymore.

Bret said...

Clovis,

Thanks for the Slate article. I learned more than in the Cardoso video.

Kudos (I think) to Moro for his determination to clean up corruption. The libertarian ideologue in me (currently standing on my left shoulder whispering in my ear :-) wonders if his task is impossible in the long run simply because corruption is the natural outcome (from a libertarian perspective) of having a government funnel huge amount of funding into gigantic development projects (desenvolvimentismo). Perhaps a strong state can build a strong economy and perhaps with Brazil's social structure it's the only way to a big economy, but the price will always be significant corruption.

On the other hand, the article says the corruption is on the order of 1% of GDP. That doesn't seem so horrible to me and that once Brazil recovers from the oil price shock, perhaps y'all will rebound fairly quickly?

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

It is hard to believe how far Moro could go, since he is only a first instance judge. And that's the reason I don't place much faith his Mani Puliti will end any different than Italy's: the higher our courts, more they are kidnapped by Big Corruption.

The proof of that already shows itself in the impeachment: they ignore the law to throw out Dilma and keep her corrupt VP on such shaky grounds, while by now there is much better evidence their 2014 political campaign received illegal money (kickbacks from Petrobras scandal, the same one under Moro jurisdiction).

Under our law, that is enough to cancel their election and call for new ones, so we could get rid of both Dilma and her VP at once, and following the law! But the supreme court judge assigned to the case is notoriously connected to the political establishment, and has been seen in secretive meetings with the Vice President quite a few times. He sat down over the case and won't move any soon.


---
Perhaps a strong state can build a strong economy and perhaps with Brazil's social structure it's the only way to a big economy, but the price will always be significant corruption.
---
In other words, perhaps our society only allows for Crony Capitalism?

Maybe that's the least of evils for us. It surely could be worse, as our neighbor Venezuela reminds us. But then, we look up there to the North America, and see how better it also could be. Only if...

Hey Skipper said...

[Clovis:] It is Slate, but it got much right. I guess is the most informative piece of the whole mess I've seen in English up to now.

Slate does put out a lot of rubbish, but roughly 10% is worth reading, and occasionally excellent (like this).

Besides giving a lot of detailed history, there seemed to be an unacknowledged elephant standing right in the middle of the whole thing: collectivism/socialism always fails, often epically.

Doesn't make sense in our system, where the govt has no power to call new elections.

And my first clue should have been President, not Prime Minister , Rouseff.

What the law says is that, *while in office*, the President can not be impeached for administrative actions done *before office*.

That still isn't clear to me. She is being impeached for political, not criminal, offenses. They took place in her previous administration. And while she may not any longer be exercising any political power (apologies for confusing wording), she remains in office. She is losing political power because of abuse and/or tragically inept use of political power. That there was an election in there doesn't seem particularly germane.



I love döner kebab.

Bret said...

Hey Skipper wrote: "...there seemed to be an unacknowledged elephant standing right in the middle of the whole thing: collectivism/socialism always fails, often epically."

Except in this case, it was less the socialism that failed than the crony capitalism that failed. And to the extent that both of those weren't efficient, most of the pain of the contraction is due to the collapse in oil prices which was providing the gravy train for both the government and the crony capitalists. Once Brazil gets used to the new oil price reality, it looks to me like it'll be back to business as usual (complete with corruption and crony capitalism but with at least some growth).

Clovis e Adri said...

Skipper,

---
She is losing political power because of abuse and/or tragically inept use of political power. That there was an election in there doesn't seem particularly germane.
---
I would agree with you, if there weren't a whole article in the Constitution forbidding so. And the article makes even less sense now that reelections are allowed. She should be made to pay for her errors.

Yet, written it is. What to do? I take the legalist position because the alternative - to use laws as the faction in power sees better - will prove to be worse.

We are a country and a people prone to ignore contracts and cut corners. It is part of our underdevelopment. Short terms gains (like kicking her out in favor of a less stupid vice-president, even if a more corrupt one) are sometimes detrimental to long term gains, and it is what Brazil has been doing throughout history.


Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

---
Once Brazil gets used to the new oil price reality, it looks to me like it'll be back to business as usual (complete with corruption and crony capitalism but with at least some growth).
---

I guess it is not that simple, we are not Russia. It was not so much oil prices but generally higher commodities prices that made our boom (they are a bit correlated but not the same).

If Oil goes up again, but our other main commodities don't, we are poised to low growth rates IMO.

Hey Skipper said...

[Clovis:] I would agree with you, if there weren't a whole article in the Constitution forbidding so.

Ooops. Sorry, missed that. Seems like an odd thing to forbid, but that's as may be. I agree with your legalistic position; as you say, the alternative is worse.

[Bret:] Except in this case, it was less the socialism that failed than the crony capitalism that failed.

Now that you mention it, I'm having a very difficult time coming up with a meaningful distinction between the two.

(I'll add more in a couple days; gotta run.)

[Clovis:] I guess it is not that simple, we are not Russia. It was not so much oil prices but generally higher commodities prices that made our boom (they are a bit correlated but not the same).

What's the name for that, the "resource curse"?

erp said...

Bret, crony capitalism is fascism by a different name to put the blame on evil capitalism and not where is belongs on evil socialism.

Clovis e Adri said...

Skipper,

---
What's the name for that, the "resource curse"?
---
Or the 'Dutch disease'.

Though that's not exatcly the case with Brazil either. The six main commodities (accounting for more than 40% of our exports) were oil, iron ore, soy, meat, sugar and coffee. Only the first two are resources you just dig for and sell, its supply being inherited, mirroring the Dutch disease case.

We also export industrial products, but mainly to South America, one main exception being those heavy machines you know well, airplanes, which we do export to the world. But as the countries in South America are also commodity dependent, they too got hit by the bust, hence are buying less from us.

Bret said...

erp wrote: "crony capitalism is fascism by a different name..."

I agree, but I find myself wondering more and more if free markets tend to evolve towards crony capitalism/fascism; and centralized means of production (socialism) tends to evolve towards serfdom (per Hayek). It seems that all of these systems are so wonderful until you get people involved and then everything goes to hillary in a hand basket.

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

Ultimately, there are many degrees of freedom, which means you can take freedom away from people in many different combinations.

To the extent fascism and crony capitalism take freedom from people, you have a point by saying they are the same thing under different names.

But more to the point, they aren't really the same. They take freedom away in different ways.

Bret said...

Fascism is many things, but as far as the economic portion of it, it really sort of is a formalized crony-capitalism. The crony-capitalism of the United States doesn't have the ideological underpinnings of fascism, but it sure does resemble fascist economics.

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

I don't quite agree.

Fascism takes away competition by decree, while crony capitalism by providing different conditions for the set of privileged players.

It does make a difference: it means that, in crony capitalism, small to medium players can still coexist with the establishment, while in facism they are outlawed from the begin. As small and medium companies make up for a sizeable part of the economy, the implications are noticeable.

Bret said...

Clovis,

I don't quite disagree. :-)

Just note that job growth in small and medium size companies has been dismal as crony-capitalism has increased in the US, so the end effect may not be all that different.

Peter said...

If I disagree that crony capitalism is fascism or anything even close to it, will I be believed if I say it's still a really, really, really, really bad thing?

erp said...

Yes, Peter, if you explain your position.

Fascism is socialism where the state colludes with industries to to its dirty work work using copious amount of public money. In socialism, the state runs the industries and every other aspect of life ala Venezuela for a current example.

Anything wrong with those statements?