December 30, 2009

Iran: what should the West think & do?

What’s going on in Iran isn’t that different from what happened in Eastern Europe just before the wall fell. It also reminds us what happened in South Africa just before P.W. Botha decided that he must cede power to avoid a civil war and national bloodbath, or 1992 and Boris Yeltsin facing down the tanks prepared to overthrow the regime. Yet, at the same time, it could also be China just before the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

What should the West (especially the US) think & do? There are those—especially among the neoconservatives—who do not believe there is any difference between radical leaders and reformers in Iran. According to them it is foolish to make a distinction or to modulate policy to benefit one side or the other. I respect their opinion, but I’m not sure they are right. What I’m quite sure about is that it would be ineffective and possibly counterproductive for the US and its Western allies to take punitive actions against Iran (new sanctions would just hit the people and, by consequence, would throw a lifeline to Khamenei and further enrich the Iranian regime and the Revolutionary Guards), while supporting human rights and civil liberties, and denouncing those violations that have occurred would speak louder about what the Western true priorities are than any threats of punitive action.

December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Imagine a snowy Christmas Eve, a small church in a little mountain village, deep inside a pine forest. Inside the church a kids choir is singing an unknown but amazing song … It might just have been better if I hadn’t already told my readers the wonderful story of Silent Night, because I could still have the chance to tell it right now! Yet, there is still something to be done to complete the good work: if you haven’t already heard it sung by the Thomanerchor, one of the oldest cultural entity in Europe (founded in 1212!), may I take the liberty of suggesting that you do so right now:

One more suggestion: in order to understand better the significance of the Nativity of the Lord, here are some brief remarks by Pope Benedict XVI on the historical origin of this solemnity.



December 24, 2009

The winter of our discontent? No, it's Christmas time...

It has been snowing these last few days in North-Eastern Italy, and Christmas is a-coming. And to be sincere I would have no wish to talk about politics, but, just like nature, politics has its own times and seasons, and these are special and challenging times—no way to escape from the battlefield (believe me, you people who don’t like war movies, the term is not exaggerated!), nor would I wish this, neither should anyone else in my opinion. So here I am with an end-of-year thought.

While I was reading what Steven (The Metaphysical Peregrine) had to say right here in this very blog last Friday about the US at the end of the year 2009, sometimes I wondered whether he was talking about America or Italy. He denounced what he calls the Obama tyranny, but that’s just the way the Italian and European leftists talk about Berlusconi, the media tycoon who owns or controls most of Italy’s major national newspapers and magazines, TV stations and radio…, which is only partially true, but it doesn’t matter because nobody listens, except for the usual haters.., masters in the art of lying and deceiving, proscribing and despoiling, under a cloak of legality. And that’s what both makes Berlusconi stronger, beyond his real merits, and “the haters” more and more unreliable, beyond their faults (which aren’t exactly child’s play, though). It’s the Nemesis, or, as the old proverb goes, “The devil makes the saucepans, but not the lids.”

What is certain is that both Obama and Berlusconi are not uniters but dividers. Which makes life difficult for us moderates of both trenches (I mean, I consider myself a conservative on many issues, and a liberal on a few, but overall I support conservative parties around the world). In fact, moderates dislike the way some people tend to extremize their views, which often leads them, in the worst cases, to what I would call the intellectualization of political hatred (you know, it’s always the same story: never concede an inch to your opponents, whom must be seen as inherently “evil” or “stupid,” whatever they think, say and do, etc.). But I concede that both in Obama’s case and in that of Berlusconi a certain Manichaeism is somehow more understandable. They are symbols, “representative men,” and that’s what can make them automatically worthy of love or hatred, without half-measures.

Yet, there is a difference between those who target Obama as an American traitor and a “tyrant,” and those who have a similar attitude towards Berlusconi: while the formers fight a political war (which I believe to be well-founded, by the way), the latter prefer ad hominem attacks to serious analysis and a sensible discussion of the issues, which is something I cannot stand, nor do I believe such a “political” approach should ever be acceptable in a civilized country.

So if my American conservative friends have the right to be furious, there are even more reason why their Italian counterparts should be so. That’s why I might say, along with the Poet, “Now is the winter of our discontent,” if it were not that Christmas is so close, and Christmas time
comes once a year… a time to be joyful and happy. So Merry Christmas everyone, conservatives and liberals alike! May God bless you and keep you from harm’s way!

December 20, 2009

Changing how we view Islam

How sad! The civilized world is exposed to the truth of the brutality of Islam. Meanwhile many Muslim converts in the West are finding it more and more difficult to find excuses for the actions of their fellow Muslims. Well, never say die! Here is a handy reference for our Western Muslim readers to help them deflect the charges leveled against Muslims and to help convince others that Islam is the religion of peace.

(From the series “And Brutus is an honourable man,” which is much in the spirit of this blog… though I have lost some friends along the way because of my passion for William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar—my great admiration for the bifurcated tongue of Marc Antony included. But then again, if you don’t want to take any risks, just don’t blog about Islam and other sensible phenomena, such as Climategate, Obama, Berlusconi, etc...)

December 18, 2009

The US at the End of the Year 2009

~ “LETTERS FROM AMERICA” - by The Metaphysical Peregrine ~

This has been a mean and combative year in the US.

It didn’t get into full meanness until late summer. The House of Representatives tried to ram their takeover of the health insurance and health care industries before their summer recess, and failed. The reason they wanted to hurry up and get it done was because the American people were overwhelmingly against it. People jammed into Town Hall meetings with their Representatives and made it clear they didn’t want this legislation passed. These “representatives” of the people then denounced and called these citizens
names: Nazis, stupid, fascists, racists (you’re a racist if you oppose the polices of Obama) etc. Many of these Citizens are part of the “Tea Party” movement against high taxes, Cap and Trade legislation, and the government take over of the health industry. That we have government officials, elected representatives, insulting the citizens of this country is an outrage. They should all be fired.

All this week the Senate, which was designed to slow the political process, by reviewing the potential consequences of legislation, are doing exactly the same thing. About 60% of the American people, shown in several polls, do not want this legislation. Last night Senate Majority leader Harry Reid kept Senators until after midnight. Even if this government take over succeeds, it won’t go into effect until 2014, so what’s the rush? It hasn’t even been released out of committee; no one has read it expect for Harry Reid and his oligarchy. We do know this is part of it; if you don’t buy health insurance you will be fined and or imprisoned. If you change insurance companies or coverage, you will be forced to buy government insurance. Insurance companies to stay in business will have to comply with government mandates, ultimately making all insurance government insurance. Taxpayers’ money will be used to finance the elective procedure, abortion.

This has been the primary battle since May of this year.

The secondary battle is Cap and Trade. It’ll raise energy costs for the average American family of four by $1500-$4500. In an interview prior to his election, Obama said energy costs under his proposal will “necessarily skyrocket”. Nearly 60% of the American people are against this legislation.

This ties into climate change, which had its name changed from global warming because the earth has been cooling for over a decade. Plus lots of people have pointed out the year 1000 CE was warmer than it is now, and there was no industry; and that Greenland was once green. Copenhagen comes to a close today, I think. Worst storms there in decades, and I’m laughing. They should have held it in August! Duh. I didn’t hear any scientists’ speeches; just government functionaries from socialist countries demanding money from the US; then Communist dictators denouncing the US and capitalism, which got the loudest and most extended applause. Nothing was agreed on, except, baby it’s cold outside, the US is evil, and give us money.

Our president went to Cairo and softly denounced Christianity and strongly praised Islam. No effect on foreign relations there. Bowed to a Saudi king. No effect on foreign relations there. Went to Europe and talked about something not memorable at all on economics and climate. No effect on foreign relations there. Went to Asia, bowed before the Emperor of Japan with no effect on foreign relations there. In China couldn’t get help controlling North Korea, no human rights issues were addressed, no trade agreements, couldn’t get them to stop cheating on the valuation of their currency. Obama sided with dictators Chavez, Castro, and Ahmadinejad with the overthrow of the Constitutional government of Honduras by a dictator.

Meanwhile, no new businesses were started in the US. Unemployment is at 17%. The value of the dollar is plummeting. Tax revenues are way down. The number of government jobs is up, as is their pay, while pay in the private sector is frozen or reduced.

An Islamofacist yelling ‘Allah Akbar’ slaughters people in Fort Hood, Texas, and gets a pass, with excuses made by the Administration and the Main Stream Press. Three Navy Seals are facing Court Martial because a murdering terrorist claims he got roughed up when captured. This terrorist is the guy that captured American civilian workers in Falujah, dragged their dead bodies through the streets, burned their bodies, and hung them from the bridge over the Euphrates River. Meanwhile, the murderer Kalid Mohmmed and his fellows that planned 9/11 and killed 3,000 Americans are getting full US citizen’s legal rights. Not so our brave Seals. The primary job of President of the US is Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. He’s letting the Seals be unjustly prosecuted, sending men and women into combat in Afghanistan without the goal of Victory. Also against the will of the American people he’s closing Gitmo, putting them in a prison in his home state, and giving them all full US Citizen’s judicial rights.

Everything this president and his Democrat Party have done this year is against the will of the Citizens. This is the definition of tyranny. It has not been a good year for the American Citizen. Fortunately his approval rating has dropped from the high sixties about nine months ago to about 47%. Congress’s approval has dropped to the twenty percentile.

We have a huge national election next November. We can turn this dismal performance around, and stop tyranny in its tracks. The Republican Party though, is the Party of Stupid, so any optimism is cautious.

This year end report is sad; sad for my country, and by extension the rest of the world. America until now has been the engine for the world economy, the ‘city on the hill’ for freedom. Everyone on the planet that wants fiscal strength and Liberty, had best pray and hope, that the Citizens of the United States stand up against Tyranny this coming November.

December 17, 2009

What spiritual freedom is all about

I have a great story to share with you today, dear readers. It’s a simple quote, but it truly speaks volumes about what freedom, in a spiritual sense, is all about. But please allow me a few lines to introduce the Source and Author (both not very well-known).

The Book of Ecclesiasticus, also known as The Book of Sirach or Wisdom of Jesus son of Sirach, or the Wisdom of Ben Sira, is a work from the early second century BC, originally written in Hebrew (but afterwards translated into Greek, by another Jesus, the grandson of the author). It is not in the Jewish canon, but is received as canonical and divine by Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and most Oriental Orthodox, but not by most Protestants.

Ecclesiasticus is a collection of ethical teachings. Thus it closely resembles Proverbs, except that, unlike the latter, it is the work of a single author, not an anthology of maxims drawn from various sources. Many of the teachings are advices and instructions as to the duties of man toward himself and others, as well as toward society and the state, and most of all toward God. One of them is the one I have chosen for today. I love it for its essentiality and effectiveness:

Do not say, ‘The Lord was responsible for my sinning,’ for he does not do what he hates. Do not say, ‘It was he who led me astray,’ for he has no use for a sinner. The Lord hates all that is foul, and no one who fears him will love it either. He himself made human beings in the beginning, and then left them free to make their own decisions. If you choose, you will keep the commandments and so be faithful to his will. He has set fire and water before you; put out your hand to whichever you prefer. A human being has life and death before him; whichever he prefers will be given him. For vast is the wisdom of the Lord; he is almighty and all-seeing. His eyes are on those who fear him, he notes every human action. He never commanded anyone to be godless, he has given no one permission to sin.
[Ecclesiasticus: 15, 11-20]


First written for The Metaphysical Peregrine


December 16, 2009

La Toscana

        Italian souvenirs by Mirino

I alluded to the spontaneously generous way we were welcomed on our second day in Tuscany (Lavane) on Viewfinder. Such natural trust and generosity reinforces one's own believe in the essential goodness of human nature, hopefully still of the majority.

Such 'random meetings', that in reality can never be qualified as such, are more often than not the instigators of a chain of positive effects that endlessly continue to determine others. Interwoven circumstances in an endless, positive evolution. The 'one good turn determines another' effect.
In history these are far less recorded than the negative evolutions. As a rule the 'one bad turn determines another' monopolises the world's history books of humanity. 

But maybe it's thought that I'm digressing. What has all this got to do with Italian souvenirs?

Perhaps this allusion is especially pertinent regarding Italy, because of Italian generosity. This is not simply a reference to generous servings of pasta Veronese, or, to an introductory Milanese welcome, generously serving oneself to someone else's property. I'm referring to Italian history, magnificent, Italian art and architecture, Italian traditions such as the Palio, the Carnival of Venice, and Italian food and wines of course. Italian hospitality.
Italian generosity is not necessarily in terms of quantity, it's of quality. It's the giving of one's best which is essential to all art, and why Italy will always be an international reference for art and architecture.
Where else in the world can one appreciate a carnival that is more elegant, magical and imaginative than that of Venice? Where else can one be moved by the colourful tradition and the courage and zeal of the Palio horse riders of Siena and of similar events that take place in other cities in Tuscany?

Yet despite such events, mid summer may not be the ideal period to go there. Perhaps Florence is not at it's best when the Arno is low and sluggish. And when one has already heard so much about this fabulous city, seeing it then for the first time might even cause some disappointed. But this was certainly not the case regarding Siena. Walking up the little, shaded lanes one is suddenly taken aback by the surprise view of huge, sun-lit piazzas of fabulous edifices, and there is that same, wonderful contrast of finely, interposed, architectural styles that one also admires so much in la piazza San Marco of Venice.

Another memorable city of Tuscany is Arezzo, one of the important Etruscan capitals (Dodecapolis) famous for many sites including its medieval square- la Piazza Grande, and the recently restored Piero della Francesca frescoes that one can see in the church of San Francesco di Arezzo.

Then the less grandiose Vinci, more to visit the museum there to admire the numerous inventions and innovations of Leonardo. So incredibly in advance of his time, that he was far less appreciated during his lifetime than he should have been. Perhaps the timelessness of his work is due to his devoted study and appreciation of the fine workings of nature, natural science, human and animal anatomy. These in turn seem to have been an inexhaustible source of information and inspiration for his engineering feats, which might also explain why the results of his work are endlessly applicable.

Another souvenir is the most picturesque drive from Arezzo to Bagno di Romagna, from Bibbiena through the majestic forests up to the passo di Mandrioli. We were less taken by what little we saw of the Adriatic side of Italy, preferring the Mediterranean coast where the sea is far more inviting, and in this case the Promontorio dell'Argentario springs once more to mind.

Then to return to other pleasures, a visit to the medieval Castello di Montozzi in the same Commune of Arezzo (Pergine Valdarno) is recommended, not only for the views down across the Valle d'Arno, but to taste their fine wines and their superb extra virgin olive oil, and maybe buy a few bottles, including their excellent Grappa del Chianti. (In the village of Pergine Valdarno there is also a first rate butcher, who specialises in curing and treating delicious hams).

To end this little series, briefly returning to the first paragraph and Lavane, Montevarchi, raising my glass of grappa (anche invitando un segnale d'amicizia a Carla, a Arnaldo, a Nicoletta ed a suo fratello- buon fine d'anno e buon Natale!) I should add that Nicoletta has been accepted to expose her work for a month in the New Year in a large and well lit gallery in les Alpes Maritimes, France... There's a reason for everything.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 

Text and photo- La Piazza Grande, Arezzo © Mirino (PW) December, 2009.

Something’s rotten in Denmark (but also in East Anglia, Asheville, and New York City)

“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” So spoke Marcellus in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, first performed between 1600 and 1601, at the start of the Little Ice Age. Four centuries later things haven’t changed that much, according to Joseph D’Aleo, who is Executive Director of ICECAP, a former professor of meteorology and climatology, the First Director of Meteorology at the Weather Channel, and a fellow of the American Meteorology Society. The focus belongs not just on CRU, but on all of the organizations which gather temperature data, he says. And all now show evidence of fraud:
Climategate: Something’s Rotten in Denmark … and East Anglia, Asheville, and New York City

It's A Climategate Christmas

“Oh Climategate Oh Climategate those hacked emails have sealed your fate

Oh Climategate Oh Climategate micheals trick was really great

Medieval Warming now is done, Also the Maunder Minimum

Oh Climategate Oh Climategate maybe now we can debate. […]”

Minnesotans For Global Warming announces their new Christmas Album “It’s A Climategate Christmas.” Actually there is no album: all they have is the commercial.., but it’s very cool all the same, and it’s worth a smile—well, one can smile out of happiness, joy, kindness, hypocrisy, and sometimes to hide disappointment, frustration, sadness.. you decide!

Hat tip: Cambidistagione

A glorious Revolution?

Can you read French? Mirino has a thought-provoking piece on the (glorious?) French Revolution. Personally, if you ask me what I think about it, I’d say that my favorite revolution is the American one… Sounds like I’m dodging the question? Nah, I never do that, I’m just taking my time (terrible question, you know…).

December 15, 2009

And science became a casualty of politics

Cathy Young has a fair and balanced piece on Climategate:

There is no doubt that refusal to accept human-made climate change is often self-serving. But the other side has blinders and selfish motives of its own. "Going green" has turned into a vast industry in its own right—as well as a religion with its own brand of zealotry. For many, global warming is the secular equivalent of a biblical disaster sent by God to punish humankind for its errant (capitalist) ways. Those who embrace environmentalism as a faith have no interest in scientific and technological solutions to climate change—such as nuclear power—that do not include imposing drastic regulations on markets and curbs on consumption.

In theory, science should be above such motives. Yet, at the very least, the scientists who back strong measures against global warming have not objected to the alarmism, the political fanaticism, or the pseudo-spiritual drivel promoted by many of the crusaders in this cause.

Public trust is something scientists must work hard to maintain. When it comes to science and public policy, the average citizen usually has to trust scientists—whose word he or she has to take on faith almost as much as a religious believer takes the word of a priest. Once that trust is undermined, as it has been in recent years, science becomes a casualty of politics.

[Via Glenn Reynolds]

December 14, 2009

Berlusconi attacked. The day after

Rosi BindiYesterday, along with many other commentators, I argued that what happened to Berlusconi in Milan was strictly correlated to the political hatred which is intoxicating the public debate in Italy. (Silvio Berlusconi himself, reportedly, had a premonition that he would be attacked: In fact, he confided to Paolo Bonaiuti, his spokesman, on the way to Piazza del Duomo that he feared “something might happen” because of the “climate of hate” against him.)

I also mentioned a shameful comment made by Antonio Di Pietro, the head of a small opposition party (Italy of Values), soon after the attack. Fortunately Pierluigi Bersani, head of the main opposition party (PD), said the attack was an “unspeakable gesture” that must be firmly condemned, without ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’. And the same was the case with Pier Ferdinando Casini, leader of another opposition party, the centrist Union of Christian Democrats. But there was no doubt about their political balance, personal integrity, and good taste, too.

Unfortunately, the number two of Bersani’s party, Rosi Bindi, in an interview (in Italian) with the newspaper La Stampa suggested that “while these violent acts should always be condemned, sometimes they can be explained […]. The fact remains that one of the architects of this political climate is Berlusconi: he cannot play the victim.” This woman, for those who don’t know her yet (don’t worry, you didn’t miss anything), is a former Catholic activist, with decades of experience in the late DC (Christian Democratic party). In other words she embodies the kind of Italian Catholic towards whom the late Communist Party—from which Bersani’s Democratic Party descends—always showed great respect and a fatal attraction (often reciprocal).

As it was not enough, to get an idea of the political climate, Monday afternoon in Italy—less than 24 hours after the attack—more than 63,000 people had registered as fans of a Facebook page created for Massimo Tartaglia, the insane man (he has received treatment for mental health issues for the last ten years) who hit Berlusconi. While I am writing the number of fans has increased to 78,879.

This is the state-of-the-art in Italy. Of course the leftists try to justify themselves by saying that “democracy is in danger in Italy,” but this is a huge hoax, as Angelo Panebianco—one of the most prominent Italian scholars of political science—wrote in his October 19, 2009, memorable editorial in the Corriere della Sera newspaper which was made available here in English translation. “We are immersed in a virtual civil war,” he wrote…

We are, even with our faults, a democracy, yet a considerable amount of thinkers from other countries, provoked by our demagogues, need to explain to us that we are subject to a dictatorship. We have completely open public debate, yet there are others who say that the freedom of the press is threatened. Some even speak of Italy as though it were Iran or Burma. We have free and regular elections but a large proportion of electors of the defeated alliance don’t recognize the legitimacy of the government in office (but certain electors of the actual majority did the same thing when the opposition was governing).

These are suitable moments to return to “fundamentals:” What permits a democracy to survive? With what virtues or qualities must democratic citizenship be endowed with? Democracy is a moderate regime. To be guided it always needs moderate forces of government, of right or left wing, and that the extremist components are kept at bay.

Yes, we need “that the extremist components are kept at bay.” And that’s the main problem with the left in this country. A problem of “leadership” and, perhaps, above all a problem of the “people of the left.”

Where democracy ends and non-democracy begins

He was just leaving a political rally in Milan when his assailant got through security and hit him in the face. Then he was seen looking dazed and bloodied with what appeared to be a number of cuts. The attacker—a 42-year-old man who has received treatment for mental health issues for the last ten years—was holding a small statue of the Duomo, the city’s world-famous cathedral, in his hand.

One would think that the above incident was bad enough for our democracy, but it actually got worse. In fact, Antonio Di Pietro, the former judge turned politician—the man “who ensured that many corrupt politicians and businessmen were brought to justice in the 1990s,” as he himself described himself—let out things he should not have said, such as this: “I never want violence, but with his behavior and his couldn’t-care-less attitude Berlusconi instigates violence.”

Now, if it’s true that Berlusconi is a divisive figure who attracts intense loyalty from some and utter disdain from others, it’s also true that there’s nothing that can justify violence. And that’s exactly what Di Pietro did. And to think that the man who uttered those words is the leader of a party whose name is Italy of Values! By the way, a propos of “values,” Di Pietro had his own troubles one year ago, but this is not what matters most at the moment.

Perhaps, that’s also why the vast majority of Italians trust Silvio Berlusconi (I mean, if this is the opposition…). “What I can tell you is that there has been such a buildup of hatred toward the premier, and this is not good,” Berlusconi spokesman Paolo Buonaiuti told CNN. “This campaign of hatred has been building quite rapidly recently, and I am not surprised that what happened tonight took place,” he added. And Umberto Bossi, leader of the Northern League (an ally of Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party) is absolutely right when he says that “This was an act of terrorism. We have had a heavy climate for some time now and this is the first worrying sign. After what has happened today we need to raise our guard.”

However it’s almost certain that the bleeding face of Berlusconi and the words uttered by Di Pietro will be a real eye-opener for those who still have doubts about where democracy ends and non-democracy begins.

December 12, 2009

Apologizing to God and the world

Pope Benedict XVI has expressed “outrage, betrayal and shame” over the sexual abuse of children by priests in Ireland, and the Irish bishops have apologized as a group for the same. As a human being and an “observer of life” I can’t even imagine how they must feel, as a Christian and especially as a Catholic, well, I have no words for this. That’s why I call upon the apostle Paul to speak—a passage (Rom. 1:18-32) I came across just yesterday (by pure chance), and of particular relevance to the present context. I am tempted to wonder if there might be any bishop of pastor who has never heard of it at all…

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hinder the truth in unrighteousness; because that which is known of God is manifest in them; for God manifested it unto them. For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse: because that, knowing God, they glorified him not as God, neither gave thanks; but became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.
Wherefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts unto uncleanness, that their bodies should be dishonored among themselves: for that they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
For this cause God gave them up unto vile passions: for their women changed the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another, men with men working unseemliness, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was due. And even as they refused to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up unto a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, hateful to God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, unmerciful: who, knowing the ordinance of God, that they that practise such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but also consent with them that practise them.

December 10, 2009

Denmark: a farewell to Tibet

Do you remember what Barack Obama said soon after his meeting with China’s president Hu Jintao some three weeks ago? “We did note that while we recognize that Tibet is part of the People’s Republic of China, the United States supports the early resumption of dialogue between the Dalai Lama’s representatives and Beijing.” Well, now the “recognition” is running the risk of becoming a very popular motto in the language of international relations. And this is of course no surprise, because the U.S. is still the leading country in almost everything—except perhaps the fight for human rights, since the time that Barack Obama took office as President of the United States of America…

What I’m trying to say is that in a diplomatic note to Beijing issued by the Danish government it is said that Denmark—ruled by a center-right coalition—will oppose Tibetan independence and carefully consider China’s reaction before inviting the Dalai Lama again:

Denmark is fully aware of the importance and sensitivity of Tibet-related issues and attaches great importance to the view of the Chinese government on these issues. […]
Denmark takes very seriously the Chinese opposition to meetings between members of the Danish Government and the Dalai Lama, and has duly noted Chinese views that such meetings are against the core interest of China, and will handle such issues prudently.
In this regard, Denmark reaffirms its One-China Policy and its unchanged position that Tibet is an integral part of China. Denmark recognises China’s sovereignty over Tibet and accordingly opposes the independence of Tibet.

What shall I say about that? What about this (along with Soeren Espersen, spokesman of the far-right Danish People’s Party)? The Danish government “is going on bended knee before China.” Or this: “The government has given in to Chinese pressure” to “preserve the interests of its companies,” as political analyst Hans Engell told the TV2 News television channel. In both cases it’s a sad scenario, isn’t it?

Look to the Star...

Madonna di Fiesole, particolareThis post comes with a delay of one day (and some hours), in fact it was scheduled for the feast day of Immaculate Conception, which occurs on December 8. But yesterday something went wrong with my time management skills.., so I had to postpone the publication of this note. I hope She will forgive me for this as well as for my laziness in everything has something to do with my “contemplative life,” which is often sacrificed—in spite of what the Martha and Mary episode in Luke (10:38-42) teaches us—to the “religion of doing.”

But as they say, better late than never. So, I would like to share with you an inspiring sermon “In Praise of the Blessed Virgin Mary” by St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

After recalling the evangelist’s statement, “And the virgin’s name was Mary” (Lk 1:26-7), the founder of the Cistercian Order of monks continues explaining that “Mary” means “Star of the Sea,” which “seems to have a wonderful fitness to the Virgin Mother.” And then he says:

Whosoever you are who know yourself to be tossed among the storms and tempests of this troubled world rather than to be walking peacefully upon the shore, turn not your eyes away from the shining of this star, if you would not be overwhelmed with the tempest. If the winds of temptations arise, if you are driving upon the rocks of tribulation, look to the star, invoke Mary!

If you are tossed upon the waves of pride, ambition, envy, rivalry, look to the star, invoke Mary! If wrath, avarice, temptations of the flesh assail the frail skiff of your mind, look to Mary!

If you are troubled by the greatness of your crimes, confused by the foulness of your conscience and, desperate with horror of judgement, you feel yourself drawn into the abyss of despair; in dangers, in difficulties, in perplexities: invoke and think of Mary! Let not the name depart from heart and from lips; and that you may obtain a part in the petitions of her prayer, do not desert the example of her life.

If you think of and follow her, you will not go wrong, nor despair if you beg of her. With her help you will not fall or be fatigued; with her protection you will not fear; if she favorable, you will be sure to arrive; and thus you will learn by your own experience how right it is said: “And the Virgin’s Name was Mary!”

[From The Office of Our Lady, Vol. 2 (Summer) by the Monks of Encalcat Abbey. London: Darton, Longman, and Todd, 1962.
The picture above shows the early 14th-century
Madonna di Fiesole, a polychrome terracotta statue by Filippo Brunelleschi, discovered by chance by the restorers of the Museo dell’Opificio delle Pietre Dure, Florence, some three years ago. The statue was presented on December 12, 2008, after being under restoration for two years.]

December 6, 2009

Beyond any reasonable doubt?

As (almost) everyone already knows, Amanda Knox, the 22-year-old American college student who had been accused of murdering her British roommate Meredith Kercher in 2007 in the medieval town of Perugia, Italy, was found guilty of the crime in question and sentenced to 26 years in prison by an Italian jury. The trial took nearly a year. The court also convicted Knox’s co-defendant and former boyfriend, Italian Raffaele Sollecito (25 years sentence). A third man, Rudy Guede, had already been convicted and sentenced to 30 years.

Though I must admit that I didn’t follow the trial that closely, I feel like saying something about what I consider to be the most important aspect of the whole thing, with all due respect for the strictly human aspects of the story. In fact, as the New York Times puts it, “for many in Britain and the United States, what was on trial here was Italian justice.” “I have serious questions about the Italian justice,” Senator Maria Cantwell, Democrat of Washington, said in a statement after the verdict. “The prosecution did not present enough evidence for an impartial jury to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Ms. Knox was guilty,” she added.

According to Pulitzer Prize-winner Timothy Egan, Amanda has spent two years in prison because of her inappropriate behaviour, such as kissing her boyfriend after Meredith’s body was found or doing cartwheels in the police station, but there is no proof against her. And a couple of days before the verdict he wrote, “As with the American system, the Italian jury will be asked to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt this week. […] If they simply apply the standard that the law calls for, the verdict will be obvious.”

“Beyond a reasonable doubt,” that’s the main problem with Italian justice, in my humble opinion.

But there is something else. Peter Popham in November 24, 2009, Independent:

One of the great virtues of the British judicial system is that, whatever ideas a detective or prosecutor may have about a case, he is not allowed to voice them until the case comes to court. And a very good thing too...

This is the plain truth.

…They manage these things differently in Italy, where prosecutors regularly leak their theories to the newspapers, often in extraordinary detail. Reporters compete for the juiciest tit-bits. As a result, by the time the trial comes around, the public already know what they think about a case, and why. This makes miscarriages of justice horribly likely.

True, sadly true. And that’s another major problem.

But never forget that this is the same “justice” which has been holding the whole political system in check in this country since about 20 years, amidst much international fanfare and celebration. Not that I want to accuse the New York Times & Co. of anything, but …

December 5, 2009


          Italian souvenirs by Mirino

It's revealing how memories are so often 'punctuated by the palate'. Or is this limited to only those more orientated by their stomachs? Whatever, quite a few places spring to mind and make me close my eyes and smile blissfully again. 'Fisherman's wharf' in San Francisco, for example, where we ate lobster and 'sour bread' (as good as Parisian bread) with superb Californian wine, all served without any fuss in a homely atmosphere. Unforgettably good. Then I also remember the little restaurant del Lago di Garda, Italy. After driving up from Bologna we had found a hotel and I had asked the manager where we could eat reasonably well for lunch. He directed us towards a big lake side place that on closer inspection I wasn't too enthusiastic about. I suspected that between the hotel and the restaurant there was some sort of reciprocal back scratching arrangement. But just behind the hotel there was a bistro that looked cosy and far more inviting. So that's where we went for lunch. When we arrived, the young owners, the wife clutching the baby, were having a full blown row. We were the only ones there and felt somewhat drawn into this typical, Italian, family intimacy. The only time they stopped arguing was briefly when they served us, smiling charmingly as though everything was perfectly normal and sublime peace reigned. In a way this must have been so, because we were served with two, open grilled, different kind of trout from the lake which were absolutely delicious.

A favourite restaurant in Sanremo, always springs to mind. Another family trattoria in the old, covered gallery part of the town that one climbs the steps to. I always ordered the same dish because it was so good. Spaghetti ai frutti di mare.

It was decided that we should go there on one of my birthdays. My girl friend and I, my daughter, one of my sisters and her companion. I was in great spirits, even though we were blocked in traffic jams most of the time going. My sister's companion wanted to pee and as we had decided to follow the coastal road, there was little opportunity for him. Being endowed with a black sense of humour, this added to the hilarity of the occasion for me. He was understandably less amused, but when we eventually got to the restaurant he was fully rewarded for his commendable patience and control. Having done the necessary, finally relaxed with the glass of cool, red wine in his hand, his face shone with relief. Real contentment is always relative to the extent of discomfort one is previously subject to.

I ordered my favourite dish and we had a very splendid evening meal together. A little too much of the cool red wine perhaps, which helped me drive back like a champion. (My sister remarked on how safe she felt with me driving, whilst my companion, laughing hysterically, was completely terrorised).

Sanremo has an excellent market. A huge choice of fresh Mediterranean fish and everything else you could ask for. There's nothing nicer than to buy a few 'cuore di bue' (oxen heart) tomatoes and basilica, slicing and dressing them with a 'filet' of olive oil and pepper. Even without the Mozzarella, it's a treat of a meal. Summer in the south is that. The smell of basilica and tomatoes. Glorious salad days.

Apparently much of the original, well preserved village dating from the 16th century still remains (Pigra Hill). I also recently discovered that it was the famous Sanremo Musical Festival that inspired the Eurovision Song Contest which began in 1956. That this would be considered one of its more positive accomplishments is perhaps a matter of opinion, yet it's a good indication of its influence clout.

The last time we decided to go to the little restaurant in the old gallery of Sanremo, we were most disappointed to find that it was no longer there. A Moroccan restaurant was there instead. Yet another sign of the times?

When a place seems to become a small part of one's life, a sort of haven one identifies with, it's always sad to lose it. But then one always retains the essential, the good moments. Those very special memories, 'punctuated by the palate'.


Text and photo 'un petit coin de Sanremo' © Mirino (PW) December, 2009.

December 2, 2009

The white cross and the minarets

Voters in Switzerland passed on Sunday with 57.5% of the vote a referendum banning the construction of minarets on mosques. Of course the referendum could have repercussions throughout the continent. In Italy, for instance, the anti-immigrant Northern League celebrated the surprising result with glee. “The forest of minarets, a dangerous symbol more of the threat of Islamic terrorism than a place of prayer, won’t change the countryside of the ancient fatherland of federalism and of freedom,” exulted Mario Borghezio, an exuberant Northern League member of the European Parliament. “Switzerland forever white and Christian,” he added.

As such extemporaneous comments show, along with some of the posters that were used to promote the ban (see here to get an idea), although the vote no doubt reflects fears of extremism, it also seems to be intended to be a rejection of the Muslim community, religion or culture. But the issue is more complex and involves a lot more than what all the European Borghezios could ever imagine.

That’s why, soon after reading a superb piece by Vittorio Messori—the first journalist in history to publish a book-length interview with a Pope, the best-selling Crossing the Threshold of Hope (1994), and the author of Jesus Hypothesis (1976)—in last Monday’s Corriere della Sera, I thought it was better to call upon him to speak here, too. So, once again I emailed Mirino and asked him whether he was willing to undertake the task to translate the article from Italian into English. His answer was “Yes” (thank you so much, my friend!), and below is the result.

[By Vittorio Messori, Corriere della Sera, November 30, 2009]

The white cross against the red background of the flag (square, like that of the Vatican, not rectangular) is seen everywhere in Switzerland. It’s an omnipresent landmark, an unrenounceable sign of identity of the 26 states, subdivided in 23 cantons, where there are four official languages, where the Catholics cohabit with the Protestants of many churches and confessions, and where being non-conform with the majority is traditional.

The cohabitation has not been always idyllic, and even during the “papist” mid XIX century, Calvinists, Zwinglians and Lutherans were up in arms against each other. Serious affairs, even between Christians who pray to the same God and read from the same Bible. Priests against Pastors: a war, but within the family. Thus, the cross of the flag has been able to continue to represent the whole of that which—to integrate the diversity of language- on postage stamps and currency—defines itself in Latin as “Confederatio Helvetica.” And the bell towers of the Catholic churches as those of the Protestants, have always marked the urban scenes as romantic, mountain landscapes.

Also because of this the outcome of the referendum—called not so much against the Islamic places of cult as against the manarah, the “beacon” in Arabian, the minaret that signals the places of Muslim prayer—is a meaningful statement. Borrowed from the Christians, replacing the belfry-stage with the little balcony for the muezzin who five times a day psalms the Koran inviting Muslims to prayer, the minaret is an essential part of the mosque. It’s the sign of the Islamization: when the Turks captured the desired prey, the venerated Saint Sofia of Constantinople, making the revered place immediately “theirs” leaving the interiors almost intact, only removing the abhorred human images from the walls and the domes, but surrounding it with four, very high “beacons.”

It was really against this significance that the Helvetic Confederation seems to have voted, to the disappointment of Christian hierarchies. This sort of compendium, the synthesis of history and European culture, planted in the heart of the Continent, where the two great roots cohabit, Latin and Germanic, said No. No to the explicit cohabitation, already perceptible at a glance, of the cross with the crescent moon, of the bell tower with the minaret. The white mountains, the green valleys, the blue lakes have nothing to do with the deserts and the steppes where, held back at the sound of the sword, the Mohammedists broke through so many times. (And the Helvetic armies played their part). Now they move silently but implacably to gain new conquests, crossing frontiers often illicitly.

Switzerland only confirms the “the siege complex” which is spreading itself increasingly across Europe. Something like the alarm signaling the approach of the Barbarians that marked the last centuries of the Roman Empire. Perhaps there must be something positive in this, despite the disapproval of the bishops: above all, in the rediscovery of our civilization and culture, the refusal of that “inexplicable self-hatred that has characterized the West for so long,” to use the words of Joseph Ratzinger when he was still a Cardinal and reminded the Europeans that in their history, light, in spite of everything, prevails over shadow. But in this alarm there is also something unreasonable: it’s not realistic, in fact, to think that, diluted between us, Islam remains itself. We tirelessly repeat that the observance of the Koran is already corroded, and it will become increasingly so from our vices and our virtues, our venom and our grandeur. A new Lepanto won’t be necessary: our everyday life will be enough, for better or worse, in order to remove the strength from an archaic, legalist faith, incapable of facing the challenges not only of hedonism and of rationalism but also, it goes without saying, of the twenty centuries of Christianity that have permeated Europe.

Climategate - 5 (updated)

I - Derek Lowe offers a working scientist’s view (Via Glenn Reynolds):

I've been on long-running projects, especially some years ago, where people start to lose track of which numbers came from where (and when), where the underlying raw data are stored, and the history of various assumptions and corrections that were made along the way. That much is normal human behavior. But this goes beyond that.
Those of us who work in the drug industry know that we have to keep track of such things, because we're making decisions that could eventually run into the tens and hundreds of millions of dollars of our own money. And eventually we're going to be reviewed by regulatory agencies that are not staffed with our friends, and who are perfectly capable of telling us that they don't like our numbers and want us to go spend another couple of years (and another fifty or hundred million dollars) generating better ones for them. The regulatory-level lab and manufacturing protocols (GLP and GMP) generate a blizzard of paperwork for just these reasons.
But the stakes for climate research are even higher. The economic decisions involved make drug research programs look like roundoff errors. The data involved have to be very damned good and convincing, given the potential impact on the world economy, through both the possible effects of global warming itself and the effects of trying to ameliorate it. Looking inside the CRU does not make me confident that their data come anywhere close to that standard:
No matter what you think about climate change, if you respect the scientific endeavor, this is very bad news. Respect has to be earned. And it can be lost.

II - New York Times columnist Paul Krugman found “not a single smoking gun” in those e-mail messages. He also said that “there is tremendously more money in being a skeptic than there is in being a supporter.” Well, he must have missed this article in the Telegraph (titled “Al Gore could become world’s first carbon billionaire”):

Last year Mr Gore’s venture capital firm loaned a small California firm $75m to develop energy-saving technology.
The company, Silver Spring Networks, produces hardware and software to make the electricity grid more efficient.
The deal appeared to pay off in a big way last week, when the Energy Department announced $3.4 billion in smart grid grants, the New York Times reports. Of the total, more than $560 million went to utilities with which Silver Spring has contracts.
The move means that venture capital company Kleiner Perkins and its partners, including Mr Gore, could recoup their investment many times over in coming years.

And here are some more counter arguments.


UPDATE: Dec. 2, 2009, 4:45 pm

Yet another interesting piece, from the series “You don’t have to agree with the skeptics to be appalled…” (via Enzo Reale and The Boston Globe).

Eduardo Zorita:

By writing these lines I will just probably achieve that a few of my future studies will, again, not see the light of publication. […] The scientific debate has been in many instances hijacked to advance other agendas. These words do not mean that I think anthropogenic climate change is a hoax. On the contrary, it is a question which we have to be very well aware of. But I am also aware that in this thick atmosphere—and I am not speaking of greenhouse gases now—editors, reviewers and authors of alternative studies, analysis, interpretations, even based on the same data we have at our disposal, have been bullied and subtly blackmailed.” [Italics mine]

How to pronounce Italian wine

This is a recent discovery of mine—via my new Twitter friend Pina (@Vino_Italiano)—and very welcome because I am a lover of wine, especially the best red Italian ones (of course I also love their famous French competitors, I’m not a chauvinist after all, even though it seems that, for instance, more wine is currently exported to the U.S. from Italy than from any other country..), wines to be savored in a calm, reflective manner, and, which is very important, in a moderate way, at least if you are not a billionaire yet, given the current prices!

How to Pronounce Italian Wine identifies key wine types, from Barbera, Nebbiolo, Grignolino, and the champagne-like sparkling Prosecco (the Brunello and Barolo pages are still under construction), and provides extensive reference materials on Italy’s 300 growing zones, and 361 authorized grape varieties.

I recommend it to all those looking for a comprehensive and authoritative guide to the wines of Italy and willing to be initiated into the millenary culture of wine. Very well done, Pina!

December 1, 2009

And Berlusconi kept his promise to the earthquake victims

Sorry, I missed it, but it’s time to redress the omission:

When Silvio Berlusconi returns to L'Aquila tomorrow for the removal of the last of the tents put up to house the victims of the earthquake that struck the city on 6 April, he can expect a hero's welcome.
The Italian prime minister may be under pressure over his private life and his attacks on the judges trying him for corruption. But, though his administration is strapped for cash, he has fulfilled a promise to provide decent housing for the highest-priority cases before the winter.
In a society where cynicism about the state is ingrained, and where the victims of natural disasters have often been ignored, if not exploited, that is a novelty. It helps explain why, despite scandal and controversy, almost 50% of voters continue to back him.

Oops, I forgot to put the link in, but then again.. perhaps it was better so. Well, er, you won’t believe me if I tell you that it was they who wrote this…

November 30, 2009

Climategate - 4

There has been no particularly relevant news item in the last few days, except Christopher Booker’s superb summary of the Climategate story so far, and the fact that the reaction to the Climategate scandal has grown exponentially in the US, mainly thanks to Fox News, Barack Obama’s Nemesis, and the blogosphere. At the same time the silence of the MSM has been deafening.

Furthermore, James Delingpole wonders what is going on at Google:

I only ask because last night when I typed “Global Warming” into Google News the top item was Christopher Booker’s superb analysis of the Climategate scandal.
It’s still the most-read article of the Telegraph’s entire online operation – 430 comments and counting – yet mysteriously when you try the same search now it doesn’t even feature. Instead, the top-featured item is a blogger pushing Al Gore’s AGW agenda. Perhaps there’s nothing sinister in this. Perhaps some Google-savvy reader can enlighten me…..

Yes, perhaps there’s nothing sinister in this, though.. Enough, let’s look ahead, to be precise when Air Force One will head to Copenhagen for the climate summit (Dec. 9). Here is what Michael Barone has to say about it.

November 29, 2009

First Sunday of Advent

“Veni, veni, Emmanuel” is one of the most solemn Advent hymns, whose melody was quoted by Ottorino Respighi in “The Gift of the Magi” in his Trittico Botticelliano. It is believed that the traditional music stems from a 15th Century French processional for Franciscan nuns, but it may also have 8th Century Gregorian origins.

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. To live it properly, I thought the listening of this wonderful hymn, sang by the choir of Paderborn Cathedral (North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany), might be helpful.

The popular English version (“O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” see below) from the original Latin is by John Mason Neale (mid-19th century).

I wish you a blessed Advent season!

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times did'st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

November 27, 2009


  Italian souvenirs by Mirino

We arrived in Milan like lost babes in the wood, carefully driving the little, French number-plated Peugeot, crawling along, obviously unsure of where we were. My girl friend was engrossed in trying to understand the part of the inadequate map that didn't seem to correspond with reality. We were looking for the hotel where we had already made our reservation.

Suddenly, in a secluded, fairly wide, one way lane separated from the opposite lane by a wide expanse of trees and wasteland, I felt the back right tire go flat. It was hot and the driver side window was wide open.
I loosened the wheel bolts of the flat tire, and started to jack up the car, wondering uneasily why my girl friend was talking to a stranger backing away behind me. When suddenly the car shook a bit, I immediately knew that something was very wrong. I called my friend to have her check that everything was still in the car. There was the portable computer still on her seat, but her bag had gone. Credit cards, money, identity card, social security card, driving licence, the lot. Even precious family photographs. All gone in one foul swoop. Apparently they know exactly where women leave their bags in cars.

I finished putting on the spare, parked the car, then we started searching around the area vainly hoping at least to find the empty bag, but we found no trace of it.

We eventually found our hotel however, and gave the hotel manager a long account of our woes. We did all that was necessary informing banks, etc., of the theft to block any unauthorised use of the credit cards. The manager was extremely helpful.
We unloaded the car, then, for what it was worth, drove to the nearest posto di polizia. When it was finally our turn, the police listened with bored expressions. They had heard it all too often before.

Even more discouraged we left. Moments later, not even fifty yards from the commissaria, I felt the back tire go flat, same side, back right, same tactics. Welcome to Milan..

Without any spare I drove as best I could to the nearest garage. The guy who had knifed the tyre came along with us, on his scooter! He calmly mobile phoned his gang mates to let them know that they were too late, there was nothing left to take. There, right next to us!
As the tyres had been stabbed in their walls they were irreparable. So to boot, we would have to buy two new tyres. In the meantime we had no other choice but to leave the car there, at the garage, and wearily walk back to the hotel.

All this as a intro to this great, Lombardian city, but also to point out how marvellous my companion was, because despite everything she was determined it wouldn't spoil our week in Milan. And it didn't.

We admired the fabulous Duomo di Milano, Piazza Duomo, fourth largest Cathedral in the world, strolled down the magnificent Galleria Vittorio Emanuele and visited as many other sites as time allowed. But what was most memorable, at least to the palate, which has a curious way of according peace of mind and forgiveness to all such wrong doers who are a total discredit to Italy and tourism, was a restaurant where we ate the most wonderful pizzas.

The worst pizza I have ever eaten was this year in Sienna, strangely enough. One of the best was in Marco Polo's in New York many years ago. A certain Pizza restaurant in rue de France, Nice takes a lot of beating, as does Tonio who produces generous miracles every Saturday evening in his pizza van near where we live. But those we ate with fresh and delightful sparkling red wine on the terrace of that particular restaurant in Milan were absolutely superb.

I was also proud to have traced a remote specialist in spare parts for Pavoni coffee machines, and so pleased to be able to replace the dud element for my 'trophy'. The fact that it cost me more than I originally paid for the coffee machine itself was of no great importance. When I told him this he pretended that it wasn't possible, with a smile that clearly indicated beyond all doubt that it was.

Perhaps it comes down to, if you can take the rough with the smooth, you invariably come through such experiences winning, and even richer, certainly with such memories, than ever you were before. Maybe this was also part of the valuable lesson Milan, graciously and ungraciously, had to offer us.


Text © Mirino (PW) November, 2009. Modified Photo (from Markus Mark with thanks).

November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I have always believed that this anointed land was set apart in an uncommon way, that a divine plan placed this great continent here between the oceans to be found by people from every corner of the Earth who had a special love of faith and freedom. Our pioneers asked that He would work His will in our daily lives so America would be a land of morality, fairness, and freedom.
Today we have more to be thankful for than our pilgrim mothers and fathers who huddled on the edge of the New World that first Thanksgiving Day could ever dream.

~ Ronald Reagan, “Thanksgiving proclamation,” 1982

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends!

November 24, 2009

Climategate - 3 (updated)

Yet another update on Climategate. As we have already learned from the previous episodes of the series, CRU hacked emails reveal a pattern by prominent climate alarmist scientists of concealing evidence contradictory to the theory of man-made global warming, manipulating scientific data, preventing conflicting reports from being published in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment report, etc. Here is a couple of examples.

CRU head Phil Jones, in response to an article challenging global warming, writes that Climate Research, the journal which had published the article, needs to “rid themselves of this troublesome editor.” And here is Michael E. Mann’s reply (Mann is director of Pennsylvania State University’s Earth System Science Centre and a regular contributor to the popular climate science blog Real Climate):

I think we have to stop considering “Climate Research” as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal.

As Robert Tracinski points out in a very thoughtful post at Real Clear Politics, it is to be noted

the circular logic employed here. Skepticism about global warming is wrong because it is not supported by scientific articles in “legitimate peer-reviewed journals.” But if a journal actually publishes such an article, then it is by definition not “legitimate.”

But this scandal, says Tracinski, goes beyond strictly scientific journals and into other media.. for example,, a website which much of the mainstream media has relied on for climate science developments and which has been billed—at least until some time ago, in particular (I presume) until before this article by Roger Pielke Sr.—as an objective website and as a place where both global warming activists and skeptics can engage in an impartial debate. Yet, in another email, Michael E. Mann, on behalf of the CRU people, boasts that RealClimate is pretty well under control..

I wanted you guys to know that you’re free to use RC in any way you think would be helpful. Gavin and I are going to be careful about what comments we screen through […]. We can hold comments up in the queue and contact you about whether or not you think they should be screened through or not, and if so, any comments you’d like us to include. […]
You’re also welcome to do a followup guest post, etc. think of RC as a resource that is at your disposal to combat any disinformation put forward by the McIntyres of the world. Just let us know. We’ll use our best discretion to make sure the skeptics don’t’get to use the RC comments as a megaphone...

Well, I don’t really know what else to say about this, other than the pattern emerging is simple enough:

In any discussion of global warming, either in the scientific literature or in the mainstream media, the outcome is always predetermined. Just as the temperature graphs produced by the CRU are always tricked out to show an upward-sloping "hockey stick," every discussion of global warming has to show that it is occurring and that humans are responsible. And any data or any scientific paper that tends to disprove that conclusion is smeared as "unscientific" precisely because it threatens the established dogma.
For more than a decade, we've been told that there is a scientific "consensus" that humans are causing global warming, that "the debate is over" and all "legitimate" scientists acknowledge the truth of global warming. Now we know what this "consensus" really means. What it means is: the fix is in.

Needless to say, this has little to do, in itself, with one’s honest and sincere convictions about the “Anthropogenic Global Warming” doctrine, or about the opposite (and equally respectable) view according to which global warming is a natural phenomenon, correlated to solar flare activity. And no matter if in the 1300’s grapes were grown in the south of England and parts of Norway could cultivate wheat, and when they discovered Greenland, they called it Greenland because there wasn’t as much ice or snow as there is now.. But the fact remains that now the CRU people (if not all those arguing the case for man-made global warming) seem to be afraid of open and honest debate. Which makes them (at least) far less reliable than what was thought previously.


UPDATE: Nov. 25, 2009

Even British writer George Monbiot, a leading environmentalist and a columnist for The Guardian, has admitted to being “dismayed and deeply shaken” by some of the emails:

It’s no use pretending that this isn’t a major blow. The emails extracted by a hacker from the climatic research unit at the University of East Anglia could scarcely be more damaging. I am now convinced that they are genuine, and I’m dismayed and deeply shaken by them.
Yes, the messages were obtained illegally. Yes, all of us say things in emails that would be excruciating if made public. Yes, some of the comments have been taken out of context. But there are some messages that require no spin to make them look bad. There appears to be evidence here of attempts to prevent scientific data from being released, and even to destroy material that was subject to a freedom of information request.
Worse still, some of the emails suggest efforts to prevent the publication of work by climate sceptics, or to keep it out of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I believe that the head of the unit, Phil Jones, should now resign. Some of the data discussed in the emails should be re-analysed.
The hacked emails are a hard knock, but the science of global warming withstands much more than that.

Of course George Monbiot doesn’t think these revelations justify the sceptics’ claims that this is “the final nail in the coffin” of global warming theory. Yet, nobody was expecting him to suddenly change his mind about the whole matter. Intellectual honesty is enough of a reason, for me, to recommend a thorough reading of this article. Monbiot has taken an intellectually honest stance, and I really appreciate him for that.