Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Election Fever is Over

OK, it's time to get it over with, and stop bitching about how people IMO misused their vote. Now it is time to hope that Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva learned that he is being closely watched by the opposition; but more importantly, it is time for us to think about new strategies on how to educate the people.

I got some very interesting responses about my yesterday's post on how uneducated people should not be allowed to vote, and now I think that this really isn't the best choice after all. The clearly best choice would be to do what the government doesn't want to: teach them.

According to journalist Lourival Sant'Anna, the government spends 12.7 times more in the college education than in primary and high schools. It's no surprise then that only those who pay for they early tuition can classify to a college position.

And even worse than that, children now don't even have a stimulus to go to school. In the past, a program called "Bolsa Escola" (school grant) benefited children that went to school and successfully completed primary and high school. This program was then substituted by another one, called "Bolsa Familia" (family grant), that does not require the children to go through the education system.

While "Bolsa Escola" was a powerful tool, that could in the end raise the social condition of these children, "Bolsa Familia" is a tool to bind these families into poverty. But "Bolsa Familia" certainly wins elections!

If you want to help, please take a look at this "Adopt a Student" campaign from Solidarity in Literacy Organization. This NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) is recognized by UNESCO and won some prizes for its projects.

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Global Warming: Cheaper to Solve than to Ignore It

Today I came across this very interesting article about Global Warming, and how it's cheaper to solve it now (around 1% of global GDP), than to ignore it and have to deal with it's consequences in the future:

"A report by economist Sir Nicholas Stern suggests that global warming could shrink the global economy by 20%."

Very interesting to Brazil, economically speaking. We have large areas of destroyed native forest that is in great need of being recovered. And that's exactly what it takes to enter the Carbon Market.

You see, if you have a grown tree, it's doing its job of cleaning the air, serving as habitat, etc. But if you plant a new tree, it needs carbon to grow, and this carbon is taken from the atmosphere and locked-up in the tree's trunk. Therefore, by recovering destroyed forest, we are not only creating a better environment, but also being able to make some money out of it.

Perhaps this will be the green-gold era, with Brazil as a top player!

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Two Brazils == Two Presidents?

Today we got to the end of this presidential run. As expected, Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva won the election by a large margin. But it is foolish to think that he was, indeed, re-elected through a democratic process.

While Lula got a crushing amount of ballots in the North and North-East regions, in South and South-East states (Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, Paraná and São Paulo), Geraldo Alkmin won the election.

What we see here is a clear division of the country. The South and South-East states are the top states economically, and have the greatest interest in the country's economy and welfare. But they didn't get to elect the president they needed.

On the other hand, North and North-East states, which are the least educated, least politically informed and on the receiving end of the government's misleading helping actions (we may as well call them bribe), get to elect a president that is deeply involved in corruption and murder plots.

How can we call it a democratic exercise, if the majority of the people are making uninformed choices? If they don't have the knowledge or the interest to understand politics, economy and the global conjuncture, should they be allowed to vote at all?

Maybe the country really needs to be split up. Or maybe we have to re-define who is allowed to vote. Or even easier than that, I believe that if we simply remove the obligation to vote (that's right, we are required by LAW to vote... democracy, you know?!), this uneducated parcel of the population would refrain from hindering what should be a responsible act.

For the Portuguese speaking among you, please listen to this wonderful commentary from Carlos Heitor Cony and Arthur Xexéo (WMA!) about this division.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The flawed racist policy

If someone wants to go to college or be a public employee in Brazil, s/he usually needs to take a tough test. For college admittance we call this test "Vestibular".

Everyone has to get through this test, and score enough to be in the top. But a federal law, that is up for some years now, has been giving African-Brazilians an unfair edge in this competition. About 20% of every public college's seat and every government job position is saved to African-Brazilians.

Let me explain why that isn't fair. The argument is that most of the poor people is African-Brazilian, and the government says that we must give them a chance to educate themselves or have a good-paying job. So far, so good. What they fail to say is that not ALL poor people is African-Brazilian, specially in the Southern regions.

If they want to help the poor, they should not come up with racist laws. It would be simpler (and a lot less controversial) if they saved these positions to poor people alone. Why does the color of the skin matter?

Also, this quota idea is flawed from the beginning: the reason poor people don't get through the "Vestibular" is simply because they didn't have a good education as a child. The largest part of the government education fund goes to universities and not to schools, and this is worsening the problem.

Conspiracy theorists say that the government doesn't want to educate the masses, that it is easier to manipulate them if they are stupid uneducated people. I'm tending to agree with this theory!

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Radio that was not meant to be

It seems that contact-less communication is the hot tech that every government and company wants to be using. RFID tags in passports and merchandise, no-swipe credit cards and pet identification are the new monitoring wave.

In Brazil at least we are not yet moving to RFID passports, and while it may be a good thing from the privacy perspective, it may become a hurdle when asking for Visas for countries like US. Eventually, people will want the faster treatment on visa requests that countries with RFID passports get, and will pressure the Brazilian government to start issuing them.

And it will be a major security fiasco. Or maybe not... maybe we'll learn from the US process and somehow better protect our data.

But there will always be other vulnerable radio waves to be attacked. The ability to read no-swipe credit card and copying its data will be a big deal in places like, shopping centers, conventions and fairs.

As the amount of fraudulent abuses rise, there will also be an opportunity to legitimate users to flag legitimate purchases as fraudulent. Since both cases would be very hard to defend against, hardly the credit company will have the chance of proving that a reported purchase was indeed a legitimate use of its card.

Do we really want to have the ability of being followed, monitored and have our data stolen without our knowledge?

Take this radio emitter away from me!

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Brazilian Presidential Election

The presidential election is fast coming to its end in Brazil. Oct 29th will be the day in which the ballots will be counted. Are we going to accept all this dirty to continue?

It is odd to correlate all the political scandals with the numbers of this presidential run. The more we find about Lula's dirty secrets and the corrupt acts that his administration has been performing, the larger is the difference between Lula and Geraldo Alckmin. What I find odd, is that in this difference, Lula is leading the run.

What could be seen in the first round of this election is that the numbers were also incredibly favorable to Lula, but it ended up not being so. In the ballot counting he won by a small margin, which led to a second round against the opposition's candidate, Geraldo Alckmin. I think the main statistics institutes are in the Government's pocket, because they are either lying or their mathematicians don't know how to multiply!

For a short list of recent scandals, I can enumerate:
  1. Buying members of the House of Representatives with money not accounted;
  2. Lula's son selling his small, unprofitable, unknown company for a large sum of money to a federal company;
  3. Most of his directly appointed ministers (close friends) being involved with fraud, power abuse and prevarication;
  4. Forging a dossier against his rivals, and after being caught with the money that would be used to buy it, lie about its origin.

Now, of course the opposition isn't flawless, but come on! He's lying through his teeth, since day one! But one thing he does: hypocritical populist actions, that look good for the poorer uneducated part of society, but that in the long term is worsening their condition. Oh, and don't forget about media manipulation and censorship...

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