Brazil. This Time It’s For Real — And Here’s Why

By , April 20, 2011 9:14 pm

Brazil has experienced so many failed coming out parties, that many people in the know are wary that the economic boom currently taking place in Central and South America’s largest country and strongest economy–and one of the four BRICs–will fail as well.

I don’t think so. This time it’s for real. I could point to all kinds of economic indicators to support my position. Instead, I’ll direct you to a YouTube video. But first, a little background.

Three years ago–February 2008 to be exact–my wife and I traveled to Brazil, her for the first time, me for my first visit since my two-year mission to that beautiful country back in 1971-73. I spent most of my time in Rio, though I also served in Vitoria, Espirito Santo, and in Joao Pessoa, Permanbuco. Janet and I spent 10 days in Rio. Among other things, we toured the Theatro Municipal, a beautiful building inspired by the Paris Opera of Charles Garnier. Though its previous beauty was obvious, the Theatro was in terrible condition due to years of neglect.

Today I was on the phone with Pedro Casotti of Rio Negocios, Rio’s business development agency. I asked him about the Theatro. “Were they ever going to refurbish it?”

They had already, he told me. I’d wondered about that ever since I’d read that President Obama gave a speech in the Theatro earlier this month. After we hung up, I searched YouTube for a video of the Theatro. What I discovered tells me that this time Brazil’s resurgence is for real. Watch the video. I think you’ll agree.

They’ve Got Rhythm!

By , April 19, 2011 10:59 am

Brigham Young University’s Cougarettes surprised the competition and walked off with the National Hip Hop Championship. The Hip Hop Championship!

Who knows. Maybe the Jazz belong in Utah after all.

Baghdad Bobbette

By , April 18, 2011 10:19 am

Standard & Poor’s just shot a big gun across the bow of our ship of state, warning of

a “material risk” the nation’s leaders will fail to deal with rising budget deficits and debt.

At least one player in the government bond market agrees:

“It’s truly a shot across the bow and a message to Washington, which has been clowning around on this and playing politics when they should toss ideology aside and focus on achievement,” said David Ader, head of government bond strategy at CRT Capital Group LLC in Stamford, Connecticut. “The bond market is still trying to find out what to make of it. People don’t know what to do. If you sell Treasuries, what do you go in to? No one knows.”

So what’s Treasury’s response?

Treasury Assistant Secretary Mary Miller said today that S&P’s outlook on the U.S. credit rating “underestimates” U.S. leadership.

We believe S&P’s negative outlook underestimates the ability of America’s leaders to come together to address the difficult fiscal challenges facing the nation,” Miller [NKA Baghdad Bobbette] said in a statement. (emphasis supplied)

Our debt may becoming more expensive, but this response is priceless.

UPDATE: As Barry Ritholtz’s post at The Big Picture reminded me, the S&P is very late with its take on this party, a party Bill Gross walked out of over a month ago.

He’s Baaaaack! And So Is His Cheer Squad!

By , April 17, 2011 6:07 pm

Barack Obama is back, and the press–in the person of Jonathan Alter–is carrying his water, again. In a column titled Republican Horror Movie Sequel Hits Theaters Alter breathlessly warns Republicans to

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

And why? Because of that speech BO gave last this week at George Washington University. You know, the one universally panned as not serious, awful, presidential politicking at its worst? Yeah, that one.

So why is Alter experiencing that special tingle? Well, for one, BO’ s a great story teller. I agree, but then I’m thinking of story in the sense that the man says whatever is to hand, whether it’s true or not. When his lips move, well, my antennae go up. I don’t think that’s what Alter meant.

The other think that’s ginned up the good columnist is that idea that

Most important, the president stressed the fundamental American values of fairness and compassion.

In other words, we’re back to Joe the Plumber talk–redistribution.

A highlight of Alter’s piece for me was his admission that Democrats are given to demagoguery. In taking his swipes at Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan, Alter writes,

Older, independent voters that Republicans won in 2010 will despise the Ryan plan once it filters down to them. A Democratic war cry of “They’re killing Medicare!” isn’t demagoguery this time. It’s true.

No, in fact it’s not true and Democratic talk like this continues to be demagoguery, especially given the fact that they refuse to offer a plan of their own with any specifics in it. Exactly how would they deal with Medicaid and Medicare, plans that Alter in one breathe says are “wildly popular” yet “must be reformed”?

As he admits, we’ll get no help from the Annointed One.

The president offered few specifics about how to save $4 trillion over 12 years beyond letting the tax cuts for wealthy expire in late 2012. That won’t be enough. But teeing up tax cuts for the rich as a campaign issue will clearly help the Democrats, as it did in 2008.

Yeah, that should scare Republicans. Drag out the hoary ghost of campaigns past, the “tax cuts for the wealthy” meme. If this is BO’s game, it brings to mind this game:

He’ll not win this time, not throwing like that. I’m not sure our fawning press will manage to carry that ball over the plate.

That Sound You Hear South of Panama? It’s More Than The Samba.

By , April 16, 2011 10:10 am

Walter Russell Mead writes in The American Interest that the relationship between the U.S. and Brazil have changed, for the better.

The new US-Brazilian relationship does not quite live up to [the US-India relationship], but the ramifications of the changing relations between the two dominant powers in the western hemisphere will nevertheless make waves. It is likely in the 21st century that Brazil will join the group of countries Americans listen to and rely on the most, and the countries whose interests Americans take the greatest care to address.

With the fall of the Soviety Union, Mead argues, the U.S. no longer has a reason to meddle in South American affairs. And for Brazil?

On the Brazilian side, something even more important has happened: Brazil has begun to believe that the world economic system might just work to Brazil’s advantage. . . . Brazil’s success in a range of industries, like aviation, and the success of Brazilian companies that have become fully-fledged multinational players (a Brazilian firm now owns Anheuser-Busch, for example) make more and more Brazilians feel that on a level playing field, Brazil can win.

That’s certainly the feeling I get as I read the Brazilian press. That was the feeling I had yesterday when I spoke to Roberto Garibe, Special Advisor of the Executive Office of the Presidency of Brazil. I was calling to interview him for an article I’m writing about foreign investment in Brazil in preparation for the upcoming World Cup and Olympics. I asked him about the Reuter’s story I posted about the other day, the one critical about PAC, Brazil’s accelerated growth program. He acknowledge that they might not meet the people’s expectations, but thought those expectations might not have been realistic to begin with. That said, he reminded me, PAC is much more than the Word Cup and the Olympics. Long after those sporting events have turned off the lights, Brazil would be busy improving its infrastructure and the standard of living of its people. He sounded like someone intent on making sure that would happen. And if my experience with him is indicative of the work ethic of the people working with him, Brazil will meet its development goals.

More on Brazilian Airports and the World Cup

By , April 15, 2011 6:14 pm

According to O Globo, Brazil’s Civil Aviation Secretary, Walter Bittencourt, guarantees that his people are working so that the nation’s airports can handle the influx of people attending the World Cup in 2014.

We’re discussing the exact strategies we can use to accelerate the work on the airports . . .

Of course, promising that you’re working hard is different than promising that the airports will be ready. I’m hoping they will be.

Cutting It Close

By , April 14, 2011 3:44 pm

Nine of the 12 airport projects underway in Brazil won’t be ready until the World Cup in 2014. In other words, they won’t be ready until after the last goal has been scored and the last fan has flown out of the yet-unfinished airports.

Obrigado Hollywood

By , April 12, 2011 10:59 pm

The movie “Fast and Furious 5 Paints a Corrupt Image of Rio.”

Barbie Grows Up . . . and Up and Up and . . . Out

By , April 11, 2011 8:28 am

Without any comment by me, though Ann Althouse has an interesting take:

The Men (Women and Children) Behind the Curtain

By , April 11, 2011 8:10 am

Or as Pogo might say,

Today in The Washington Post,
Robert Samuelson writes,

We in America have [elected a] suicidal [president]; the threatened federal shutdown and stubborn budget deficits are but symptoms. By suicidal, I mean that [president] has promised more than [he] can realistically deliver and, as a result, repeatedly disappoints by providing less than people expect or jeopardizing what they already have.

Okay, so I changed a few things, the word president for the word government, for example. Or the word elected for the word created. But Samuelson could have written what I’ve posted and still have been right. Right?

Anyway, he actually says that our suicidal government is so in part because

[We] depend on it for so much that any effort to change the status arouses a firestorm of opposition that virtually ensures defeat.

Why is that? Surprise of surprises, because

The Census Bureau reports that in 2009 almost half (46.2 percent) of the 300 million Americans received at least one federal benefit: 46.5 million, Social Security; 42.6 million, Medicare; 42.4 million, Medicaid; 36.1 million, food stamps; 3.2 million, veterans’ benefits; 12.4 million, housing subsidies. The census list doesn’t include tax breaks. Counting those, perhaps three-quarters or more of Americans receive some sizable government benefit. For example, about 22 percent of taxpayers benefit from the home mortgage interest deduction and 43 percent from the preferential treatment of employer-provided health insurance, says the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

Kind of makes you lose hope that things are going to change.

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