September 30, 2008

Avevate dimenticato il "conservatorismo compassionevole" di Bush?

A quanto pare sì, come giustamente Christian Rocca fa notare oggi sul Foglio. Niente male, insomma, per uno che

è stato criticato dai suoi compagni conservatori per aver creato un nuovo Leviatano di destra, per aver ampliato a dismisura il programma federale Medicare (500 miliardi di dollari per le medicine gratuite agli anziani), per aver istituito un nuovo ministero, quello della Sicurezza del territorio nazionale, che era una vecchia idea della sinistra liberal. E per aver moltiplicato il peso di quello dell’Istruzione, che i conservatori avrebbero voluto cancellare. Bush, invece, s’è battuto assieme a Ted Kennedy per il “No child left behind Act”, il gigantesco programma di recupero scolastico finanziato da Washington.

September 29, 2008

Se Bush salva Ferrara in corner

Con Giuliano Ferrara lo scrivente ha un conto aperto. E questo è un fatto—di cui al mio prossimo non potrà importare di meno, d’accordissimo, ma se permettete per me conta eccome. No, io non gli perdonerò mai, dico mai, di aver mollato Otto e mezzo, l’unico appuntamento quasi fisso con la tv nazionale, consegnandomi in teoria alla noia di tutti gli altri anchormen, e lasciandomi in pratica orfano della politica in scena sul piccolo schermo.

Se poi penso che gli avevo già perdonato la svolta a pagamento sul Foglio in pdf, devo ritenere che, avendo appunto già dato, la scorta è esaurita e per lui non ce n’è più—di attenuanti, di giustificazioni ex ante ed ex post, in una parola, anzi due, di benevola condiscendenza.

Epperò, direbbe Massimo Bordin, epperò essere schiavi di una questione di principio non è né laico né ragionevole, e dunque un’eccezione nella linea di comportamento così stabilita nei confronti del Nostro, che nel frattempo incredibilmente continua a scrivere—sì, a quanto pare ne è ancora capace—, un’eccezione, dicevo, quando ci sta, bisogna poterla fare. Ed oggi è per l’appunto il caso di farla. Il suo editoriale su Bush e sui voltagabbana che ora maramaldeggiano sul presidente incamminato sul viale del tramonto è sacrosanto. E per quanto sulla guerra in Iraq io sia sempre stato su posizioni più blairiane che bushiane, gli do ragione su tutto il fronte. Tanto gli dovevo, e adesso posso fare di nuovo l’offeso—et pour cause!

September 26, 2008

In memory of Burma’s Saffron Revolution (one year ago today)

If Burma is to achieve genuine democracy—said once Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace laureate—the result of the elections of 1990 must be recognized.

It must be recognized by the military regime, as it has been recognized by the people, and by the world at large. It is through this recognition that we will be able to make genuine progress in Burma. The results of the 1990 General Elections must be implemented is a resolution already taken by the United Nations. We already know that the General Assembly of the United Nations has accepted the notion that the will of the people has been expressed in the 1990 General Elections. This is something we cannot abandon. It will be to the detriment of our country if after an election has been held the results are not honoured and we do not resist attempts to trivialise it.

The world cannot ignore the lives of people scarified in 1988 mass uprising when more than 3000 people were gunned down, nor 2007 Saffron revolution when soldiers and riot police beaten and opened fire on Buddhist monks and peaceful demonstrators. A tremendous responsibility rests upon the United Nations Organisation.

That is why I signed the following petition,

We the undersigned petition the United Nations Secretary General to implement 1990 Elections result so as to restore peace, stability and national reconciliation in Burma.

Click here to sign petition.

September 24, 2008

And Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is an honourable man

I heard what he said, but I cannot repeat it to you. The words of a powerful oppressor pierce the heart and fly away. He can rage at you for showing suspicion of him, and at the same moment make it clear that what you suspect is true; and he can insult you and claim that you have insulted him, mock you and demand satisfaction, threaten and complain at the same time. He can be both shameless and irreproachable. Do not ask me to repeat what he said.

A couple of recent events reminded me of the above quote by Alessandro Manzoni (The Bethroted, Chapter 7). Both of them deal with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It’s up to the reader to judge whether or not the reminiscence was appropriate.

Yesterday, in his blistering speech before the United Nations General Assembly, the little man of Teheran remained faithful to himself, as four prestigious personalities of American diplomacy and intelligence had easily foreseen in an open (and worried) letter to the Wall Street Journal published a couple of days ago. As expected, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insisted Iran's nuclear activities are for peaceful uses only, but these claims clearly exceed the boundaries of credibility and science, as the four authors of the above mentioned article recall:

Iran's enrichment program is far larger than reasonably necessary for an energy program. In past inspections of Iranian nuclear sites, U.N. inspectors found rare elements that only have utility in nuclear weapons and not in a peaceful nuclear energy program.
Tehran's continual refusal to answer questions from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about this troublesome part of its nuclear program suggests that it has something to hide.

At the same time Ahmadinejad blamed “a few bullying powers” for creating the world’s problems, and said—in a vaguely threatening way—the “American empire in the world is reaching the end of its road.” As for the Palestinian issue, even though he stopped short of calling for Israel to be “wiped off the map,” as he has in the past (2005), he said Zionists in Israel “have forged a regime through collecting people from various parts of the world and bringing them to other people's land, by displacing, detaining and killing the true owners of that land,” while the Security Council “cannot do anything, and sometimes under pressure from a few bullying powers, even paves the way for supporting these Zionist murders.”

Almost a Buddhist philosopher, a true peacemaker/peacebuilder, n’est pas? Yet, apparently not everybody agrees. Last week, for instance, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi told a Jewish organisation in Paris, in reference to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that “we must pay the utmost attention to the lunacy of someone who says, perhaps for internal reasons, that Israel must be wiped off the map. […] We don't believe such things are real, but there has already been a certain gentleman who started off as a democrat but who went on to do what he did.”

Berlusconi is likely to remember that Ahmadinejad, visiting Rome earlier this year for a UN summit, also said Israel would vanish with or without the involvement of Tehran. Besides, he must have heard that just last Friday, in a telephone conversation with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, Ahmadinejad expressed his hope for a victory celebration “after the disappearance of Zionists from Palestine and from the world.” He also added that “the Palestinian nation is fighting against the most despicable people on the face of this earth.” A propos of Buddhist philosophers & true peacemakers/peacebuilders.

But, since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is an honourable man, Silvio Berlusconi’s accusation against the Iranian president caused serious protest in Tehran, which sent official note to the Italian Foreign Ministry protesting against the comparison of Iranian President and Adolf Hitler. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi described the Italian premier's comments as “absurd,” and “lacking of any logic and the high values of the Italian people and culture.” Of course he also criticised Berlusconi for “defending the Zionist criminals whose hands bear the blood of thousands of Palestinian children, women and people.”

I guess the reader thus is enabled to judge whether or not the quote has something to deal with the little man of Teheran.

September 17, 2008

Architecture is not building. International exhibition in Venice

Are you in Venice during this time? Are you interested in architecture? Should your answers be “yes” to both these questions, then you shouldn’t reasonably miss the 11th International Exhibition of Architecture, entitled OUT THERE: Architecture Beyond Building. But if you trust, as I do, Cat Bauer, an American author living in Venice, then, just one “yes”—to the first question—should be binding enough: you have got to come! And this is why I decided I will overcome my laziness and go (well, it won’t be too big a sacrifice: it takes me only 30 minutes by train to get there …).

Started on Sunday, September 14, through Sunday, November 23, 2008, this year’s exhibition, directed by Aaron Betsky—for six years director of the Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAI) in Rotterdam, and since last year director of the Cincinnati Art Museum—, faces the fundamental changes taking place in contemporary architecture, and, as can be read in the official website of La Biennale, “turns to architecture beyond building to address the central issues of our society.” Instead of buildings, the festival presents installations made by architects who have responded to the impulse offered by Aaron Betsky, and accepted his challenge.

This challenge reverberates onto us, encourages our capacity for interpretation, and relies on emotion to give us the chance to make sense of the world and feel at home in it. Betsky points out “what should be an obvious fact: architecture is not building. Architecture must go beyond buildings because buildings are not enough. They are big and wasteful accumulations of natural resources that are difficult to adapt to the continually changing conditions of modern life”.
“Most buildings are ugly, useless and wasteful. Yet architecture is beautiful—says Betsky—it can place us in the world in a way no other art can. It can make us at home in modern reality. It offers and shapes that most precious and luxurious of all phenomena in the modern world: space. The exhibition seeks is to collect and encourage experimentation in architecture. Such experimentation can take the form of momentary constructions, visions of other worlds, or the building blocks of a better world. It does not want to present buildings that are already in existence and can be enjoyed in real life. It does not want to propose abstract solutions to social problems, but wants to see if architecture, by experimenting in and on the real world, can offer some concrete forms or seductive images.”

The exhibition presents two venues: Arsenale and Padiglione Italia at the Giardini. The Padiglione Italia is a survey of experimental work by young designers and five Masters. And over two dozen works of architecture are on display in the Arsenale.

Last, but not least, as Cat rightly points out, the image up there,

is the first thing you see when you walk into Arsenale. You can make all the points of light connect and change and move if you dance around and flash your energy up at the screen through your fingertips, just like a god. Any architecture exhibit that opens with something like that has got to be a window into the big brain, n'est pas?

September 12, 2008

Dreaming about Sarah Palin

It’s curious how politics worldwide is ever more often mass psychology by another name, and how politicians, political analysts, and even activists of any kind are so often victim of their own obsessions. Here in Italy we know the symptom, or, still better, we are very familiar with it—we have Silvio Berlusconi in power now, along with the conservative, religious and anti-immigrants right, but even when the Cavaliere was the leader of opposition he was the most hated man in the country, accused of almost anything, from the time of Caesar’s assassination downwards.

Sometimes there are solid reasons why this happens. Not only the faults, but also the good qualities of men, leaders, parties, etc., when the latter are clearly overwhelming and humiliating for the opponents. To make an example, take the words Arturo Parisi—a prominent leader of the left-wing Democratic party—used a few days ago to attack the general secretary of his party, Walter Veltroni: “He should have learned from Berlusconi, who is a great politician and leader, able to learn from both his own mistakes and victories.” [Il Giornale, in Italian]

Perhaps something quite similar is happening in the U.S., where GOP vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin, as David Plotz puts it in Slate [hat tip: Norm], “has gripped the American imagination in a way that seems designed to burrow into our dream lives.” “One Obama-supporting colleague,” he relates,

dreamed she had urged her young son to kill Palin with a string bean. Another dreamed she was at a fashion show and Palin served her crème fraîche on little scooped corn chips. A third says, “In the Sarah Palin dream I keep having, she has superhuman powers but is not really a person at all. In fact, she is more like the weather with glasses and an up-do, pushing clouds around and pitching lightning bolts.”

“Palin's supermom abilities,” he goes on,

provoke envy and anxiety in women, especially other working mothers. Her instant celebrity and dazzling speech have panicked Obama supporters who thought they had the election in the bag. And then there's her sex appeal. […]”

Definitely an interesting case. Much, much better than Berlusconi, in my view …

September 11, 2008

American by birth, hero by choice

There is a hero who saved lives on September 11, 2001. No one knew who he was and what he had done for several years after the events of that day. Read about him and see photos and a video here.


“Yeha-Noah” is the song which catapulted Sacred Spirit—a musical project by German musician Claus Zundel—into the limelight. It was the first single released off the album Chants and Dances of the Native Americans (1994). The aim of this music is to convey the stories, legends and plight of the Native Americans. It combines sampled chants of the Navajo, Pueblo and Sioux tribes and Sami people “yoik” with synthesiser backings, all driven forth by a combination of traditional drumming and electronic dance-beats. The Sami—for those who don’t know anything, or much about the subject (myself included!)—are an indigenous people of northern Europe inhabiting Sápmi, which today encompasses parts of northern Sweden, Norway, Finland and the Kola Peninsula of Russia, while the yoik is a traditional Sami form of song, whose sound is comparable to the traditional chanting of some Native American peoples.

Since the single reached the number 1 position in a number of countries, while the album garnered sales of more than 7 million units worldwide, at the time I was in good company among those who were enjoying the song. But since then, fourteen years have gone by, and in the meanwhile I happened to forget the song. Until yesterday, when a FaceBook friend of mine (thank you Katharine!) unexpectedly reminded me of it. I thought that “Yeha-Noah” (Wishes Of Happiness And Prosperity) was a very well-wishing way to say goodbye to the lazy days of summer and to greet the upcoming arrival of autumn. Enjoy it!