Bobby says …

Bobby says …
You can run a land with armies
You can rule a sea with boats
But I prefer democracy
Where you run a land with votes.

You can run a land with bullets
You can crush dissent with sticks
But I prefer democracy
Where you run a land with ticks.

You can run a land with slogans
You can dominate with voice
But I prefer democracy
Where you run a land with choice.

You can run a land with torture
You can keep control with fights
But I prefer democracy
Where you run a land with rights.

You can run a land with freedom
You can find a people’s heart
But if this is democracy
You have to play your part.

You can run a land that dances
You can run a land that rocks
By voting for democracy
With your condom inside a box.

Bobby Nitro after Steve Turner 2015

Bobby Nitro's photo.


Anyone for a Brazilian?

From giant factory farm for Europeans to modern BRIC economy, the story of Brazil’s transformation is captured in an excellent BBC Radio 4 programme centering on the life of Getulio Vargas – moderniser, dictator, and finally democratically elected president. In the final part of the Invention of Brazil, Misha Glenny explores the life of Vargas, the man who changed Brazil.

Vargas came to power in 1930 and proved an expert at keeping himself in power. Initially he styled himself on Mussolini – the story of why he took Brazil into the Second World War on the side of the Allies is central here. As also are the events leading up to his suicide while still in power. With contributions from anthropologist Lilia Schwarz, Professor David Brookshaw, Peter Fry, and author Ana Maria Machado whose father was arrested by Vargas several times.

Getúlio Dornelles Vargas, 19 April 1882 – 24 August 1954) served as President of Brazil, first as dictator, from 1930 to 1945, and in a democratically elected term from 1951 until his suicide in 1954. Vargas led Brazil for 18 years, the most for any President, and second in Brazilian history only to Emperor Pedro II among heads of government. He favored nationalism, industrialization, centralization, social welfare and populism – for the latter, Vargas won the nickname “O Pai dos Pobres” (Portuguese for “The Father of the Poor”). He was both a proponent of workers’ rights and a staunch anti-communist.


Getúlio Vargas appointed his ministers on November 3, 1930, after being brought to power by political outsiders and the rank and file of the Armed Forces in the Revolution of 1930, a reaction to his loss in elections earlier that year. His ascent marked the end of the Brazilian oligarchic Old Republic and states’ dominated café com leite (“coffee with milk”) politics. He successfully influenced the outcome of the Brazilian presidential election of 1934, and instituted an authoritarian corporatist regime in 1937 known as the Estado Novo (“New State”), prolonging his hold onto power. Vargas went on to appease and eventually dominate his supporters, and pushed his political agenda as he built a propaganda machine around his figure.

With the global rise of democracy in the aftermath of World War II, Vargas agreed to cede power in free elections, thus ending the Vargas Era. His popularity earned him a late presidential term, but mounting pressure and political strife over his methods led him to suicide. He was the first president in the country to draw widespread support from the masses and is regarded as the most influential Brazilian politician of the twentieth century. He was also a lawyer and landowner and occupied the 37th chair of the Brazilian Academy of Letters from 1943 until his death in 1954.

All rights reserved © 2015 Andrew Hutchinson

When Democracy Goes Up in Smoke

Europe goes to the polls next week, but election fever sometimes seems in short supply. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Author Jeremy Clay tells the tale of a 19th Century election rally and the drunken inventor who fired a torpedo down his own High Street.

The man they came to know as “Wild” Cunningham gazed ruefully down the main street of his home town at a scene of devastation. Wrecked buildings. A flattened shop. Debris littered all around. And a smoke trail, like an accusing finger, leading right back to where he stood.

Perhaps, on reflection, he had gone too far.  Patrick Cunningham was an inventor who had built a torpedo for the US Navy. It was 17ft long, and packed with enough explosive to do serious damage to a ship. Or, as it turned out, a High Street.  The damage was done at the tail end of October 1896, on the cusp of the presidential election, as the political hoopla came rolling into the Massachusetts whaling town of New Bedford. Crowds crammed the streets. The buildings were festooned with thousands of flags. There were bands and parades and tub-thumping speeches. And after it all, a display of fireworks.

Perhaps it was the pyrotechnics that gave Patrick the lightbulb moment he came to regret. The pyrotechnics, or the booze. Possibly a combination of the two. With the flamboyant stupidity of a man who knew it all, except when to stop, Cunningham hurried to his workshop and loaded the invention that came to be known as the Flying Devil on to a wagon and brought it to a suitably unsuitable spot.  “Placing the torpedo in the middle of the street he lighted it, and the machine at once started down the street at a terrific pace,” reported the Worcestershire Chronicle.

Tearing along a foot off the ground, following the haphazard flight path of a drunken wasp, the hissing torpedo rebounded off a tree, veered across the road and smashed sideways into a shop. Some reports say it was a grocery. Some say it was a butcher’s shop. Some say it was the market hall. All agree on the upshot. “The building at once collapsed,” said the Chronicle. “The torpedo then exploded, shattering several blocks of houses in the vicinity.”

The fearsome blast was heard several miles away.  “Fortunately no-one was killed,” the paper continued, “but four persons who were in the market place at the time were thrown violently upon a heap of debris, while others were injured by flying pieces of stone and timber.”

Later, a chunk of shrapnel weighing 75lb was found in the next street, where it had been flung over the rooftops. Things looked grim for the soon-to-be-arrested Mr Cunningham, but as he contemplated the chaos he’d created, there was one minor consolation. That invention of his – it worked.

Jeremy Clay is the author of The Burglar Caught By A Skeleton

Published by BBC Magazine, BBC © 2014