A blog which may appeal to those who enjoy stories about people, politics, economics, sports, and travel. In and around Argentina and the USA.


The Brazilian Miracle

Americans have been slow to notice a major developing nation in their own backyard. We all know what's going on in China and India, but how many think of Brazil as a major economic force?

Colin Powell called Brazil an "agricultural superpower" and the country could soon overtake the United States as the world's largest exporter of foodstuffs. Author Michael Reid says that if China is the world's workshop and India its back office, Brazil is it's farm. Roger Cohen points out that Brazil is already the world's largest exporter of commodities such as coffee, beef, sugar and orange juice.

Brazil's cerrado is the endless savannah which was written off for centuries as useless, but is now being brought online thanks to advancements made by the Brazil science agency Embrapa. Embrapa found that the cerrado's soils could be made fertile with an optimal mixture of phosphorous and lime. And Brazil has developed 40 tropical varieties of soybean for the region. Brazil also produces cotton and is now turning its attention to wheat. Embrapa is recognized globally for the importance of it's work, which can be applied to countries in Africa with this type of terrain.

But food is not the whole story. Brazil is a big player in two other product categories the world wants most: natural resources and energy. Two years ago Brazil achieved its goal of energy self-sufficiency. An now Brazil has surplus "oil, gas, biomass and hydro power" all which it will need to manage and develop carefully going forward. If it's successful, it will couple its ethanol program with the recent discovery of an immense deep-ocean oil field to turn itself into a very significant energy exporter for the future.

Brazil is actually already a world leader in biofuel. Brazil makes ethanol from sugar cane which generates eight times more energy per hectare than corn. As far back as 2005, more than 50% of the cars sold domestically were "flex-fuel" - capable of running on any combination of ethanol and gasoline.


Where will George W Bush be Ranked

When George W Bush finally retires to the ranch, he will end up near the top of at least one list of United States Presidents. At the end of his second term, he will end up tied for 2nd with 2922 days served in office.

Joining him in second place are the prior presidents who also served two full terms: Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Jackson, Grant, Cleveland, Wilson, Eisenhower, Reagan and Clinton. FDR served 3+ terms and is easily #1 all time with 4,422 days served. George Washington also served two terms but his inauguration was postponed and he ended up spending 2,865 days as the new nation's leader. Four Vice Presidents, Truman, Teddy Roosevelt, Coolidge and Lyndon Johnson, took over upon the death of their bosses and were subsequently reelected as the top man. This quartet served between 1800 to 2800 days. Richard Nixon managed 2027 before resigning.

Of the presidents named here, many are also ranked in the top 10 for presidential achievement and leadership qualities. At the other end of the table are those whose failures and faults got them in trouble. Coolidge, Grant and Nixon are three that fit this category. With about 13 months to go before inauguration day on January 20, 2009, it's time to start thinking about which of these groups George W Bush will join.

In a Quinnipac University poll of voters conducted in May 2006, Bush was named far and away the worst of the eleven chief executives since WWII. And in a Rasmussen Report poll taken in June 2007, only two presidents were viewed unfavorably by at least 50% of respondents: Nixon and George W. Bush.

If historians rank Bush below Nixon, which seems likely, he will find himself knocking on the door of the bottom ten. The current basement dwellers are (counting down): James Garfield, Zachary Taylor, John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Ulysses Grant, William Henry Harrison, Andrew Johnson, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, and Warren G Harding. Behavioral and ethical problems such as corruption, laziness and drinking are a common feature here.

The man on the bubble is James A. Garfield. Poor Garfield served only 199 days and 80 of these on his death bed following an assassination attempt. In happier times Garfield could simultaneously write Latin with one hand and Greek with the other. It's also notable that Johnny Cash wrote a song about him and Clint Eastwood mentioned him in a movie. So yes, Garfield moves up and Bush locks up a spot in the bottom ten.

The only question remaining is: how far down the list does he fall ? In 2006 historians voted Buchanan's failure to deal with secession the worst presidential mistake ever made. Has that blunder been replaced by the 2003 invasion of Iraq? If so, Bush could join Buchanan and Harding as one of the worst three presidents of all time.

No matter where he ends up historically, George W is guaranteed a memorial in one of his least favorite place on earth: Northern California. San Francisco has the unusual but proud tradition of naming streets after terrible presidents. Always ahead of the game, the city already has a Bush Street up and running. Long after George departs, liberals will be strolling down Fillmore, Taylor, Buchanan, Pierce, Harrison, Grant and Bush. For those keeping score, Warren G. Harding died at the Palace Hotel and has a golf course in San Francisco named after him. John Tyler and Andrew Johnson were unfortunately never honored in the city on the hill. I don't know how Johnson missed out, but Tyler may have been penalized for annexing the Republic of Texas and subsequently admitting Florida as a state in 1845.