Brazil

Bolsonaro Wins Big In Brazil

Monday, 29 October, 2018

How can we explain Jair Bolsonaro? Simply put, he represents a desire for radical change. Given the inability of political systems unable to provide it, radical change will increasingly come from outside the political system and be directed against it. It’s happened in the USA; it’s happened in Italy and it’s happening in Germany.

Richard Fernandez nails it: “Events like this pose a real intellectual challenge for the Third Way crowd. It can’t just be Trump that’s causing this, can it? There must be some unacknowledged problem with the old global world that is driving this. Whether you are for or against the obvious revolt, perhaps more urgently if you are against it, there is the necessity to understand the causes of the crisis beyond the explanations offered by late night comedians.”

The MSM is at a loss to understand what’s happening and is unwilling to face the facts. The BBC is typical, and seems to think that the its totemic labels like “far right”, “fascist” and “racist” will return things to the status quo ante. But the spell has been broken. It doesn’t work anymore. Sure, some members of the elite may sense that Trump and Bolsonaro and Salvini are symptoms, not a cause, but they refuse to admit that each one is a symptom of their own abject failures.


A cheery Spectator and a glum Prospect

Monday, 22 August, 2016 0 Comments

At the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Great Britain won 15 medals, including a solitary gold. Team GB finished 36th in the medal table that year. This year, Great Britain finished second in the table, ahead of China, with 67 medals, 27 of which were gold. The greatest credit for this achievement is due to the athletes, but Sir John Major, whose Conservative government set up the National Lottery in 1994, is central to their success. The Lottery started funding athletes in 1997, the so they could train full-time and, by 2004, Team GB’s medal tally had doubled to 30, doubling again at London in 2012.

Andrew Marr credits John Major in his Spectator diary entry written in sunny Dubrovnik amid crowds of contented Croats and tourists. “Team GB is a near-perfect post-Brexit idea” says Marr, inspired by it all and hoping for happy days:

“Imagine a Britain which had seriously invested for the long term, focusing only on industries and technologies where we were likely to be world-class; and where ‘company’ was used in the old sense of being a tight, committed team of friends and allies working together for a goal many years in the future. It would be a Britain shorn of short-term political lurches in funding and direction, whose corporate leaders had a lively sense of how much they owed to their teams and didn’t treat themselves as Medici princelings.”

Prospect But all that is gold does not glisten. Well, not for the “remoaners”, anyway. With a most unfortunate sense of timing, Prospect depicts Team GB stuck on a self-imposed, starting line in its race for a place in the world. Jay Elwes, Deputy Editor of Prospect, argues: “…there is a strong case that Britain’s new settlement with the EU should be put to a further vote. As the economic threat posed by Brexit grows ever more apparent, so the need for parliamentary intervention will increase. Britain needs a new plan — in the end, a decision by the Commons not to proceed with Brexit might turn out to be the best plan of all.”

After a summer of gold for spectators, disgruntled remoaners are hoping for the prospect of a winter of discontent and an un-Brexit.


Google’s toothbrush test in Brazil

Tuesday, 17 June, 2014 0 Comments

When Larry Page returned to being Google’s CEO in 2011, he said he wanted to develop more services that people would use at least twice a day, like a toothbrush. Now that football is in the air, so to speak, the search engine giant has launched its Project Loon balloons in Northeast Brazil to connect an isolated school, Linoca Gayoso, to the internet for the first time. Interestingly, the Loon trial is using LTE technologies, which allow Google’s stratospheric balloons to link directly to smartphones and tablets.

It’s all to play for.


Italy 2 : England 1

Sunday, 15 June, 2014 0 Comments

For commentary on the after-match inquest, let’s turn to Britain’s poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy.

The Shirt

Afterwards, I found him alone at the bar
and asked him what went wrong. It’s the shirt,
he said. When I pull it on it hangs on my back

like a shroud, or a poisoned jerkin from Grimm
seeping its curse onto my skin, the worst tattoo.

I shower and shave before I shrug on the shirt,
smell like a dream; but the shirt sours my scent

with the sweat and stink of fear. It’s got my number.
I poured him another shot. Speak on, my son. He did.
I’ve wanted to sport the shirt since I was a kid,

but now when I do it makes me sick, weak, paranoid.

All night above the team hotel, the moon is the ball

in a penalty kick. Tens of thousands of fierce stars

are booing me. A screech owl is the referee.

The wind’s a crowd, forty years long, bawling a filthy song

about my Wag. It’s the bloody shirt! He started to blub
like a big girl’s blouse and I felt a fleeting pity.
Don’t cry, I said, at the end of the day you’ll be back

on 100K a week and playing for City.


Kicking off the World Cup with an exoskeleton

Thursday, 12 June, 2014 0 Comments

This evening in Sao Paulo, a paralyzed teenager wearing an exoskeleton will walk onto a football field and kick a ball to ceremonially mark the beginning of the World Cup. The technology has been developed the Walk Again project, which is run by a group of scientists and engineers drawn from research institutes throughout the world — the Duke University Center for Neuroengineering, the Technical University of Munich, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, the University of California, Davis, the University of Kentucky, and the Duke immersive Virtual Environment — and led by the Brazilian neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis.

The goal is a brain-machine interface controlled by a person’s thoughts. The vision is of a world without wheelchairs in which the quality of life for the disabled would grow dramatically. Let the World Cup begin!

World Cup kick off


Gli Azzurri and Il Canto degli Italiani

Wednesday, 11 June, 2014 0 Comments

Marco Verratti, Andrea Pirlo, Mario Balotelli, Gigi Buffon, Lorenzo Insigne… Italy fans work the national squad into the lyrics of the country’s national anthem: Il Canto degli Italiani. Next stop: The Arena da Amazonia in Manaus.


The algorithm and the Three Lions

Tuesday, 10 June, 2014 0 Comments

FiveThirtyEight has launched an interactive thingy that calculates every team’s chances of advancing past the group stage in the World Cup and eventually winning the trophy. The forecasts are based on the Soccer Power Index (SPI), an algorithm Nate Silver developed in conjunction with ESPN. For England, SPI predicts unrosy tournament prospects:

“Betting markets see England, Italy and Uruguay as about equally likely to advance while Costa Rica is in a distant fourth place. SPI, by contrast, has England and Uruguay ahead of Italy and views the group as middling enough that Costa Rica could pull off a huge upset…

…It also might not matter much in the end. England, Italy and Uruguay are the sort of teams that might be able to entertain championship dreams in a World Cup with more parity, but not in one where they would have to overcome Brazil, Argentina, Germany or Spain at some point.”

Group D


The World Cup of Everything Else

Monday, 9 June, 2014 0 Comments

Most Nobel Prizes Per Capita: Switzerland. Biggest Drinkers: Russia. Most Women in Government: Costa Rica. Most Protestants: Ghana. The World Cup of Everything Else created by the Wall Street Journal is excellent pre-tournament data journalism.

The World Cup of Everything Else


Follow the bouncing ball

Saturday, 7 June, 2014 0 Comments

The World Cup kicks off next week so now’s the time to get into the mood. We’re getting an assist today from Guillaume Blanchet, a French filmmaker based in Montreal.


World Cup ad does not mention World Cup

Friday, 4 April, 2014 0 Comments

Starring Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, England’s Wayne Rooney and Brazil’s Neymar, this video ad from Nike shows each of its sponsorees getting into the flow for the main event, which starts 69 days from today. But why is there no mention of the World Cup itself? Because up there with Coca Cola, Visa, Sony and Emirates is the name of Adidas, one of the top-line sponsors of Brasilia 2014 and one of Nike’s main rivals. Great clip, though.


Brazil is over

Tuesday, 7 January, 2014 0 Comments

For the Arsenal and England forward Theo Walcott, Brazil is very over. He’ll miss the rest of the season and the World Cup with a ruptured knee ligament. And it’s not looking so sunny, either, for the host country. “More than six years later, the outlook for Brazil’s oil industry, much like the Brazilian economy itself, is more sobering. Oil production is stagnant, the state-controlled oil company, Petrobras, is hobbled by debt, and foreign oil companies are wary of investing here.” So reports the Washington Post today in a piece titled “Brazil’s oil euphoria hits reality hard.”

And the Wall Street Journal piles it on: “Even Brazil, which has had far more responsible economic management than Venezuela or Argentina, is starting to struggle with rising prices and a boom in credit that is starting to turn. Last year, one Brazilian summed up the Atlantic bloc harshly: ‘Brazil is becoming Argentina, Argentina is becoming Venezuela, and Venezuela is becoming Zimbabwe.'”

Everything that seemed to be going so brilliantly for Brazil has started to go sour of late. The preparations for the World Cup have been marred by delays, deaths, and demonstrations against the diversion of resources from social spending to football stadiums and, in the bigger arena, Mexico’s economic revival has checked Brazil’s hopes of leading a renascent Latin America in the global power game. Last year was horrible for all the BRICs but the home of Pele was especially hard-hit. This year, US Fed tightening could spark a run on Brazilian assets. With the hosting of the World Cup and the Olympics, Brasilia dreamed of taking a leading place on the world stage. Now, the swagger is less assured and the talk is filled with the familiar complaints about a big country that never quite lives up to its promise and remains uncertain about its role.

Indicative of the doubt, is Brazil’s attitude to the American data thief, Edward Snowden. He wrote an open letter last month saying that he would assist the Brazilian government in its investigations into NSA spying in exchange for asylum. Publicly, the foreign ministry has hedged, saying it has not received a formal asylum request and therefore isn’t considering it, but it was the risk involved in angering Washington that prevented President Dilma Rousseff’s leftist government from easing Snowden’s passage from the grimness of Putin’s icy realm to the warmth of the Copacabana.

When it came to making the challenge, Brazil blinked. Not a good omen for the Seleção, that, this year.