February 27, 2009

March 10, 2009: Display the Tibetan flag

Next March 10 will mark a double anniversary for Tibet: 50 years since Tibetans rose up to protest China’s illegal invasion of their homeland, and one year since unprecedented protests broke out across the Land of Snow showing China and the world that Tibetans are determined to be free. The images in March 2008 of Tibetans in Tibet bravely displaying Tibetan flags is an image that none, among those who love freedom and justice, will ever forget.

That’s why the Students For Tibet web site is inviting people to display a Tibetan flag on March 10, 2009. And that’s also why I am linking here to their site.

There are many places where a Tibetan flag can be raised or displayed. Here are just a few of the suggested places that could fly a flag:

> Schools
> Shops
> Libraries
> Pubs/bars
> Sports grounds
> Village/Public Halls
> Offices
> Local landmarks
> Your home
> On cars

Moreover, in taking that a step further, as the “Dalai Lama blog” suggests, it would be great that all bloggers and webmasters displayed an image of the Tibetan flag on their blogs and web sites during the entire month of March. And that’s what I’ll be doing next week.

February 25, 2009

Moving backwards?

Moving backwards on the foreign policy front with Barack Obama in charge? Perhaps they forgot Machiavelli's lesson …

From this arises an argument: whether it is better to be loved than feared. I reply that one should like to be both one and the other; but since it is difficult to join them together, it is much safer to be feared than to be loved when one of the two must be lacking.

Slaying Leviathan

Slaying Leviathan envisions an approach to tax policy rooted in natural justice. To achieve this goal, Ms. Carbone first traces the historical evolution of U.S. tax policy, from the 1765 Stamp Act to the 1997 tax cut. She then assesses the current American tax burden and former president George W. Bush’s tax cuts and explores the fundamental problems with U.S. tax policy. After providing a historical analysis of federal spending and of expanding governmental expectations, she offers a set of over-arching principles and instructions on how to apply them to tax policy proposals. Anyone interested in restoring justice and raising prosperity in America will find Slaying Leviathan a valuable resource.”

Slaying Leviathan: The Moral Case for Tax Reform, by Leslie Carbone. To be published on June 30, 2009, by Potomac Books Inc. Pre-ordering the book is possible through amazon.com

'It is written . . .'

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, which occurs forty-six days (forty days not counting Sundays) before Easter. I thought these “few provisions for your Lenten trek,” by Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP, might be a very appropriate way to celebrate this day.

P.S. Ah, don’t worry about the title of the post to which I linked ... a thorough reading and understanding of this piece is required and highly recommended. As for “thanking the devil,” well, for the moment I limit myself to only send the Author a BIG thank you for this awesome post. After all, if Heaven Can Wait, then the devil can wait at least twice as long before I thank him ... notwithstanding the fact that Fr. Philip Neri Powell is absolutely right! ;-)

February 24, 2009

Carnival of Venice

I don’t have any particular feeling for or against this period of the year, but I generally refrain from going to Venice during these days, when the Carnival—the famous Carnevale di Venezia, first recorded in 1268—is whooping it up in the streets (my misanthropic side’s fault?). But nothing prevents me from enjoying these beautiful pictures.

February 23, 2009

Geert Wilders in the US (updated)

“Oriana has always been my idol, my point of reference, and I am proud to receive this award,” Geert Wilders said in an interview with Il Giornale (in Italian) the day before receiving the “Premio Oriana Fallaci” (Oriana Fallaci Award, see here his acceptance speech). Asked how he felt about the UK government’s decision to ban him from entering the country, he said: “It was a scandalous event and Gordon Brown is the greatest [ “*” … what follows is a “compliment” with reference to the presumed lack of courage by the UK Prime minister] of Europe. This is what I was expecting from Jordan and Indonesia, where I am persecuted because of Fitna, not from England.”

Now, Geert Wilders is about to fly to the United States from Rome. He is scheduled to make public appearances in Washington this week, including a Feb. 27 press conference at the National Press Club. The chief sponsor of the event, reports Newsweek magazine, is Frank Gaffney, the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., a prominent neoconservative think tank.

Geert Wilders, writes the National Review, “is the latest victim” of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), an “enormous world machinery,” a unique organization with no equivalent in the world, which unites the religious, economic, military, and political strength of 56 states and whose aim is to punish and suppress any alleged Islamophobia, around the world but particularly in Europe :

In its efforts to defend the “true image” of Islam and combat its defamation, the organization has requested the UN and the Western countries to punish “Islamophobia” and blasphemy. Among the manifestations of Islamophobia, in the OIC’s view, are European opposition to illegal immigration, anti-terrorist measures, criticism of multiculturalism, and indeed any efforts to defend Western cultural and national identities. The OIC has massive funding from oil sources, which it lavishly spends on the Western media and academia and in countless “dialogues.” It influences Western policy, laws, and even textbooks through pressures brought by Muslim immigrants and by the Western nations’ own leftist parties. Hence, we have seen Kristallnacht-like incitements of hate and murder against European Jews and Israel conducted with impunity in the cities of Europe — where respect for human rights is supposed to be one of the highest values.

This reminds me of a dialogue I had some days ago with one of my readers. The subject, which is very much to the point, was Oriana Fallaci. “Rob, isn’t Fallaci a tad, shall we say, excessive if not distasteful? I’m all for being vigilant but ... there are limits, no?” he told me. I answered him that, in my view, Oriana was a kind of lay prophet who turned out to have been right on all fronts. She was never a right-wing hawk, nor a “fanatic Christian fundamentalist.” On the contrary, she was an agnostic and secularist journalist, trained, so to speak, in the school of facts and objectivity. Of course she was very provocative, and her latest writings—actually a very peculiar “literary genre”—were imbued with a sense of urgency that makes them both disturbing and enlightening. If she was “excessive,” I argued, it was because of the “excessiveness” of our times. Well, actually I find that what happened to Wilders in his own Country and in the UK is “excessive,” as much as what happened in Milan and in Bologna on January 3 was “exaggerated.” And if so many people—here in Italy, as well as in other European countries—who, to speak frankly, are not and have never been extremists, who have always been respectful of other’s religious beliefs, political views, and opinions on life and the world, have become or are becoming aware that it’s time to wake up and to start facing facts, does this mean that they have suddenly become crazed fanatics and extremists?

Geert Wilders is maintaining that Europe's is rooted in the values of Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, and not in Mecca? What is wrong with it? Is this a crime? It would seem so, if we pay attention to some European governments, or the mainstream Western media and their grotesque mischaracterization of Wilders’ unequivocal defense of free speech. “Demonizing Wilders, and imposing de facto limitations on his free speech criticism of Islam—not matter how reasonable his concerns may be—is a task for which our craven, lemming-like media elites are far better suited,” writes Andrew G. Bostom on American Thinker.

Last but not least, to those who pretend that Wilders is an insignificant personality who makes “provocative” statements only in search of fame, along with the above mentioned National Review’s article we can answer that “if his motivation were self-interest, he could do far better by courting the OIC’s favors — as so many Europeans are doing, consciously or unconsciously — rather than risking his freedom and indeed his life.”


Cassandra has interesting updates on Geert Wilders. Here is the clip of Wilders’ interview with Bill O’Reilly on Fox News (the one which Steven mentioned in the comments):

The Wager

While browsing my Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, I found an effective synthesis of the famous Pascal’s wager, so I thought it might be useful—above all for my younger readers—to share at least a portion of the item. Here it goes:

The ancient and popular (or vulgar) view that belief in God is the ‘best bet’, given its classic formulation in the Pensées of Pascal. Suppose that metaphysical argument leaves us knowing nothing about divine matters. Nevertheless, we can ask if it is better for us to believe in God. If God exists then it is clearly better: infinitely better, given the prospect of eternal bliss for believers, and eternal damnation for non-believers. If God does not exist, then we lose nothing, and may even gain in this life by losing ‘poisonous pleasures’. So belief is the dominant strategy. It can win, and cannot lose. The wager is ‘infini-rien’: infinity to nothing.

Pascal knew that you could not just chose to believe because of this kind of consideration, but thought, perceptively, that beliefs are contagious, and you could deliberately deaden you’re your intelligence by choosing to associate with people who would pass their belief to you. You would thus end up believing, and the argument has shown that this is the most desirable strategy.

And to complete the job, here is how the wager is described by Pascal himself in the Pensées (from Wikipedia):

If there is a God, He is infinitely incomprehensible, since, having neither parts nor limits, He has no affinity to us. We are then incapable of knowing either what He is or if He is [...].
[..] "God is, or He is not." But to which side shall we incline? Reason can decide nothing here. There is an infinite chaos which separated us. A game is being played at the extremity of this infinite distance where heads or tails will turn up. What will you wager? According to reason, you can do neither the one thing nor the other; according to reason, you can defend neither of the propositions.
Do not, then, reprove for error those who have made a choice; for you know nothing about it. "No, but I blame them for having made, not this choice, but a choice; for again both he who chooses heads and he who chooses tails are equally at fault, they are both in the wrong. The true course is not to wager at all."
Yes; but you must wager. It is not optional. You are embarked. Which will you choose then? Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. You have two things to lose, the true and the good; and two things to stake, your reason and your will, your knowledge and your happiness; and your nature has two things to shun, error and misery. Your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other, since you must of necessity choose. This is one point settled. But your happiness? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is.
"That is very fine. Yes, I must wager; but I may perhaps wager too much." Let us see. Since there is an equal risk of gain and of loss, if you had only to gain two lives, instead of one, you might still wager. But if there were three lives to gain, you would have to play (since you are under the necessity of playing), and you would be imprudent, when you are forced to play, not to chance your life to gain three at a game where there is an equal risk of loss and gain. But there is an eternity of life and happiness. And this being so, if there were an infinity of chances, of which one only would be for you, you would still be right in wagering one to win two, and you would act stupidly, being obliged to play, by refusing to stake one life against three at a game in which out of an infinity of chances there is one for you, if there were an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain. But there is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite.

February 21, 2009

'Giotto and the 14th Century'

Giotto, Crucifixion - Cappella degli Scrovegni, Padua
“Giotto e il Trecento” (Giotto and the 14th Century), the major exhibition opening on March 6 at the Vittoriano in Rome and running through June 29, will be the first ever realized outside of Florence—the latest one was at the Uffizi Gallery in 1937—and one of the artistic highlights of the year.

An event not to be missed by anyone who loves art. Ok, I’m not what you’d call a neutral witness, because I have a passion for Giotto, and have loved him since the first time I saw his frescoes of the St. Francis cycle in the upper Basilica in Assisi, when I was little more than a child—but it is authoritatively said that Medieval art came to an end and the modern era began with Giotto’s frescoes of the life of Christ and the Virgin in the Cappella degli Scrovegni (Padua). He made “a decisive break with the Byzantine style,” and “brought to life the great art of painting as we know it today,” wrote the later 16th century biographer Giorgio Vasari in his Lives of the Artists:

One day Cimabue was on his way from Florence to Vespignano, where he had some business to attend to, when he came across Giotto who, while the sheep were grazing near by, was drawing one of them by scratching with a slightly pointed stone on a smooth clean piece of rock. And this was before he had received any instruction except for what he saw in nature itself. Cimabue stopped in astonishment to watch him, and then he asked the boy whether he would like to come and live with him. Giotto answered that if his father agreed he would love to do so. So Cimabue approached Bondone, who was delighted to grant his request and allowed him to take the boy to Florence. After he had gone to live there, helped by his natural talent and instructed by Cimabue, in a very short space of time Giotto not only captured his master's own style but also began to draw so ably from life that he made a decisive break with the crude traditional Byzantine style and brought to life the great art of painting as we know it today, introducing the technique of drawing accurately from life, which had been neglected for more than two hundred years. Although […] one or two people had tried to do this, no one succeeded as completely and as immediately as Giotto.

Giotto, Stigmata - Cappella degli Scrovegni, Padua
But his greatness was also acknowledged during his lifetime, to the point that his contemporary Giovanni Villani— the famous Florentine chronicler who wrote the Nuova Cronica on the history of Florence—wrote that Giotto was “the most sovereign master of painting in his time, who drew all his figures and their postures according to nature.”

”This event will not simply commemorate Giotto’s work, it aims to approach the master from a fresh point of view,” said Architectural Heritage Superintendent Roberto Cecchi at the presentation of the event. ”There are so many aspects to Giotto that we still know little about, such as his interest in architecture, and the exhibition will contain some appealing ideas for future studies,” he added.

Yet, as Culture minister Sandro Bondi pointed out, this won’t be only a cultural event, but also “a civic and democratic one,” in fact, “discussing Giotto is trying to find again the deepest sources of our society.” Well said, but it seems to be a very hard search, given the times in which we live ...

Over 150 masterpieces will give an idea of Giotto not only as a painter but also as “a European artist who transmits a serene message of gratifying Christianity,” says Louis Godart, a member of the Artistic Heritage Conservation Board for the Italian Presidency of the Republic.

This is enough to make me want to go and to recommend that you do the same, if you can.

Giotto, Raising of Lazarus - Cappella degli Scrovegni, Padua

February 18, 2009

'I need a beachfront condo, Mr. President!'

Some hundred people protesting against the the $787 billion stimulus package, signed by President Obama Tuesday in Denver, gathered outside Dobson High School in Mesa (Az) at 10 a.m. and expressed their frustration with signs. Nice pics of the event at Michelle Malkin’s blog.

All books are equal!

Librarians are being told to move the Bible to the top shelf to avoid giving offence to followers of Islam.
Muslims have complained of finding the Koran on lower shelves, saying it should be put above commonplace things.
So officials have responded with guidance, backed by ministers, that all holy books should be treated equally and go on the top shelf together.
This means that Christian works, which also have immense historical and literary value, will be kept out of the reach and sight of many readers.
The guidance was published by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, a quango answering to Culture Secretary Andy Burnham.

I must confess that, while reading through this news story—and thinking to myself that each and every one of those “honourable men” who had such a brilliant idea should be graciously thanked by every one that takes an interest and pride in the history of Europe—, I couldn’t help but wonder, ‘How about transferring Westminster cathedral, Duomo di Milano and Notre-Dame de Paris from their respective center cities to the suburbs to avoid giving offence to followers of Islam, or, alternatively, placing new shining mosques just in front of those old-fashioned buildings, nothing more than an embarrassing legacy of the days of Crusades and knights in bloody armor?’
(Thanks: Sandra K. S.)

February 17, 2009

The debacle of the Italian left

So, now that most of the ballots have been counted, there is no doubt that the center-right candidate Ugo Cappellacci has won—with about 52 percent of the vote against 43 percent—regional elections in Sardinia against a left-wing coalition led by the outgoing governor and Tiscali internet company-founder, Renato Soru.

It’s quite a surprising result, since most pre-election surveys had predicted a narrow victory for Soru, and also a terrible blow for the Democratic party (PD) and its secretary Walter Veltroni, who in fact offered his resignation this morning, and this afternoon confirmed it despite his party’s (weak) rejection. As a matter of fact Sardinia is the second region (after Abruzzo last December) the center-right have captured from the center-left since its victory in April 2008’s national elections.

The center-left’s defeat is confirmation that last year’s electoral win by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is “a watershed event,” and that “Silvio Berlusconi’s adversaries are incapable of analysis and of facing a new political era,” writes Corriere della Sera newspaper in his today’s editorial (in Italian), titled “The roller.” But, in his j’accuse, Massimo Franco, the author of the editorial, should have included some other people in the bunch, for example most of the mainstream Italian media … er, by the way, what about  Corriere itself, Massimo?

Is the flag of Shariah already waving over the US?

When the hard part of what you are trying to do or to understand or to investigate is in the many small details, you can say, along with the old saying, “the devil is in the details.” So, it may happen that an apparently minor news might turned out to be much less insignificant than anyone thought.

Take, for instance, the case of the beheading of a woman whose husband, Muzzammil Hassan, an influential member of the local Muslim community of Orchard Park (a town south of Buffalo, New York), has been charged with second-degree murder after he himself reported her death to police Thursday. Hassan is the founder and chief executive officer of a broadcasting station, Bridges TV, aimed to help portray Muslims in a more positive light.

What would be interesting to know is why this Muslim leader, should he be found guilty, chose beheading as a means to murder his wife. Furthermore, what do Qur’an and Hadith say about beheading enemies? And which relation is there between honor killings, beheadings, and Shariah law? Of course, finding the answers to these questions would help us understand whether or not the flag of Shariah is already waving over the US. Will the mainstream media investigate all of this, or will political correctness trump investigative journalism? (Thanks: ACT! for America)

February 16, 2009

Under the Tuscan stars

This is great: Filmed in Cortona, with the Tuscan city setting the background for a romantic evening, and the outdoor atmosphere matching the charm of violin virtuoso André Rieu and his Johann Strauss Orchestra … “La donna è mobile,” “The Carnival of Venice,” La Traviata (the drinking song), Carmen, Aida, Nabucco (“Va pensiero,” which is almost a national Italian anthem) and more. Un-for-get-table! (thanks: Holger Schimmelpfennig)

February 15, 2009

But they should never have banned Geert Wilders

About the UK government’s decision to ban the anti-Islamist Dutch MP Geert Wilders from entering the country (see my two previous posts on this) there is an interesting piece up at Pajamas Media by Mike McNally, a British journalist who blogs at Monkey Tennis Centre. He says he recently changed his mind about the war against the extremist Islamists, a war which he believed his country could never lose. The Islamists “could never defeat us with terrorism.” That was the way he used to think … “but defeat us they have,” and “not by destroying buildings and subjugating the British people—but by destroying our values and subjugating our freedoms.”

Here are some excerpts from his post:

Although they won’t admit as much, government ministers banned Wilders not because they thought he would incite violence, but because they feared that Muslims enraged by Wilders’ views on Islam might react violently to his presence. And like the jittery saloon owner in countless Westerns, they don’t want no trouble, mister.
The proper response to these threats would have been for the government to put measures in place to ensure Wilders’ safety, and to deal firmly with anyone who attempted to cause trouble. However, as this government has proved time and again, faced with the prospect of lawlessness, it prefers to take the easy way out by eliminating all risk of an offense being committed rather than dealing with criminals.
No one even pretends that a person expressing views similar to Wilders’ with regard to Christianity or Judaism would be banned from entering the UK. That’s because the people who might take issue with such sentiments tend to write angry letters, rather than blowing themselves up on buses. While the government has banned some of the more outrageous purveyors of Islamist ideology, others, such as Hezbollah spokesman Ibrahim Mousawi, have been allowed to enter Britain. And Lord Ahmed himself has, in the past, had no problem with inviting extremists to speak at the House of Lords — just so long as they’re his kind of extremist.
Meanwhile, on the streets of London and elsewhere, radical Muslims routinely call for Jews and British soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan to be murdered, while the once respected British bobby stands there twiddling his thumbs. The double standard is clear and the implications for free speech and other liberties are chilling: If you threaten violence, you will be appeased. If you call attention to extremism, you will be silenced. If you practice tolerance, you will be trampled on.

That “double standard” is just one of the many self-loathing attitudes shown by most Western governments, mainstream media, and academics, but our sorry pligh couldn’t be better summed up than by McNally’s words. And I suppose we must be grateful to him for taking the civic courage to conclude his argument with these words: “The country that exported democracy to much of the world has given up the fight to preserve its own freedoms […].” Needless to say, but said anyway, “the manner of its capitulation should serve as a warning to American and other civilized nations.”

P.S. Cassandra has a post with more info about the subject and helpful links.

February 13, 2009

A crime against God and humanity

The hatred and contempt for men, women and children that was manifested in the Shoah was ”a crime against God and humanity” and it was “intolerable” for anyone to deny it, said Thursday Pope Benedict speaking to American Jewish leaders at the Vatican. “How can we begin to understand the enormity of what happened in those terrible prisons? The whole of humanity feels deep shame for the savage brutality shown towards your people,” and the Catholic Church is “profoundly and irrevocably engaged in rejecting all anti-Semitism,” he added.

This was Pope Benedict’s first meeting with Jews since the controversy over traditionalist bishop Richard Williamson—who denies the full extent of the Holocaust and maintains there were no gas chambers—began on January 24, when the Pope revoked the excommunication of the four bishops illegitimately ordained by Marcel Lefebvre in 1988.

On February 5 the Vatican stated that bishop Williamson must recant “in an absolutely unequivocal and public way” his positions regarding the Shoah. Which was in my opinion a very good news, but perhaps not the best way to settle the whole question, as Norm Geras pointed out at the time: “[T]he Catholic Church could simply state that Williamson’s beliefs about the Shoah aren’t compatible with membership.” This time, Pope Benedict went further: not only is denying or minimizing the Holocaust not compatible with being a bishop, but also with being a Catholic, as ”unacceptable and intolerable” in itself.

However, it is to be recalled that the lifting of the excommunication did not by any means heal the schism between Rome and Lefebvrists, as much as the lifting of the excommunications between Rome and patriarchate of Constantinople ( December 7, 1965) did not mark a return to unity between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches. In both cases, as Sandro Magister pointed out on his website, the lifting of the excommunication was intended to be the first step toward a possible reversing of the schism. Which means that there are still two separated and independent entities, and therefore Williamson couldn’t in any way be expelled from the Catholic Church, for the simple fact that he is not a member of it (which is not that bad, in my own personal view).

By the way, traditionalist bishop Bernard Fellay—one of those whose excommunication was lifted last month—said in an interview on Wednesday that his movement could not fully accept landmark 20th century Church reforms. He said his Society of Saint Pius X did not agree with a key document of the Second Vatican Council on respecting other religions. Which means that a healing of the schism is theoretically possible but not anywhere near probable.

As for the Jewish reaction to the Pope’s comments, Elan Steinberg, vice-president of American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, said that “the crisis is over ... the dialogue between Jews and Catholics can now move forward with confidence.” Malcolm Hoenlein, vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said: “We came here with heavy hearts because of recent events, but we came away pleased and honored by the words of His Holiness.”


PS: Here is the complete text of the Pope's speech to members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, received at the Vatican on February 12, 2009.

February 11, 2009

Huckabee: Stimulus is 'anti-religious'

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee warned his supporters Tuesday in an email which was also posted on his blog against the $828 billion stimulus package. “The dust is settling on the ‘bipartisan’ stimulus bill and one thing is clear: it is anti-religious,” he wrote.
(Thanks: Sandra Kennedy Schimmelpfennig)

Yes, both the House and Senate bills have a provision that prohibits federal dollars for higher education construction grants to be used for:
“…modernization, renovation, or repair of facilities--used for sectarian instruction, religious worship…or a school or department of divinity; or in which a substantial portion of the functions of the facilities are subsumed in a religious mission.”
You would think the ACLU drafted this bill …
I urge you to try and answer one question: Why would Democrats add this provision into a spending bill that they say is “urgently needed” to help our economy?
The answer is troubling and predictable. For all of the talk about bipartisanship, this Congress is blatantly liberal.

Rome and Venice honor the Dalai Lama

One day after being made a citizen of Rome, His Holiness the Dalai Lama was yesterday in Venice, where he was made an honorary citizen by Mayor Massimo Cacciari.

It was a Tibetan lama who persuaded the Grand Khan to suspend the executions of 100,000 people who were thrown into the river each year; the lama was a friend of Marco Polo, […] but the past is the past and today the communist Chinese authorities have an extremely restrictive and short-sighted view,

said the Tibetan spiritual leader, accusing China of ”deliberately seeking to eliminate Tibetan people, culture and religion.” “In such a difficult period,” he added, “receiving your sympathy and feeling it passed from heart to heart encourages me and makes me happy.”

On Monday, during the citizenship ceremony in Rome, His Holiness said that “this honor of becoming a citizen of Rome is a further encouragement for me to support non-violent action. I will remain committed to non-violence to my dying day.” “I believe that the Tibetan people,” he added, “knowing that I am here in Rome to receive this honorary citizenship, will feel less alone and know that they have not been abandoned.” In welcoming the Dalai Lama to city hall, Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno said: ”Your presence here is our moral revolt against injustice, violence and oppression. A moral revolt in favor of the identity of a people and the right of each and every one of us to express their won spirituality and culture.”

Wilders denied entrance to UK

Dutch MP and leader of the Freedom Party Geert Wilders has come once again into the limelight. But this time it is not because of the low esteem in which he is held by the Dutch court which three weeks ago ordered his criminal prosecution for his “anti-Islamic hate speech,” that is for his statements against Islamofascism, considered “insulting” by the Court itself. This time, in fact, scheduled to attend the screening of his film Fitna in the House of Lords on Thursday, he has been denied access to the United Kingdom, because his presence might threaten civil order and “civil harmony.”

This would be in itself an absolutely unbelievable story. Yet, since I couldn’t say that I’ve never seen anything like this in our old, decadent Europe, I must admit that this is practically the rule, not the exception. Take the case, for example, of commentator and author Douglas Murray, who was due to chair “Islam or Liberalism: Which is the Way Forward?” at the London School of Economics on January 23, but the LSE asked him not to attend in the interest of “public safety” as his presence could provoke unrest … How sad!

See here and here for further details.

February 9, 2009

She has gone

She has gone, but she will not be forgotten, nor will those whose acts, conduct and omissions cut short her life.

Eluana: a race against time

This time, I wrote last Tuesday, nothing, but a miracle, will stop Eluana Englaro’s “execution.” Now only one of two things is possible: either I was wrong or a miracle is happening. In fact, the Cabinet of ministers on Friday unanimously approved an emergency decree, which was drafted Thursday, to stop doctors carrying out the Supreme Court ruling authorizing the death by starvation and dehydration of Eluana.

This, despite open opposition—on the ground that the decree was unconstitutional—from President (and Head of State) Giorgio Napolitano, who according to the Italian Constitution must approve the decree before it becomes effective.

”We can’t allow responsibility for Eluana’s death to fall on us,” said Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. Eluana, he added, “is not brain dead but breathes in an autonomous way. Her brain cells are alive and send electrical signals and she is a person who could in theory have a child, […] she is in a vegetative state that could change, as has been seen several times.”

But Napolitano’s refusal, as clearly explained in this LifeSiteNews.com article, “has ‘frozen’ the measure and although there is a procedure in place in Parliament to override his decision, it will take 20 days to implement, by which time Eluana will have been successfully dehydrated to death.”

In turn, the Englaro family lawyer, Vittorio Angiolini, said ”There’s no discussion: we’re going ahead,” that is to say that doctors will proceed as planned with the progressive reduction of Eluana’s feeding and hydrating, which they began Friday morning.

Practically, it will be a race against time for the Parliament to try to save the life of Eluana Englaro, and perhaps a further miracle is what is needed to succeed. Pope Benedict, though without referring directly to the case of Eluana, reaffirmed yesterday “the absolute and supreme dignity of every human being,” and asked the faithful to pray “for those who are gravely ill but cannot in any way provide for themselves and are totally dependent on the care of others.”

As it is well known the Englaro case has drawn comparisons with that of Terri Schiavo. Now it seems that even the latest events in the Eluana case have many similarities to the last days of the American woman whose feeding tube was removed in March 2005: the US Congress passed a bill to allow a federal court to review the case, and George W. Bush returned from his Texas ranch to sign the bill into law, but a federal judge refused to order the tube reinserted, a decision upheld by a federal appeals court and the Supreme Court.

The decree provoked shrill, even hysterical reactions by the opposition. Antonio Di Pietro, for instance, described the decree as ”an extremely serious danger for democracy,” which is frankly a bit silly. They often seem to have not the slightest idea of what they’re talking about, or rather they are attempting to make people forget the real issue … But I don’t want to spend too many words on the subject here. Rather, I would draw the attention to what Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, referring to the case of Eluana Englaro, said in his homily given on February 1, 2009, at the cathedral in Bologna:

The spiritual event of the West has come to the end of the line: If the life of man does not belong to man but to God, no one has control over it for any reason, [but] if the life of man belongs to man, it is consistent to hypothesize circumstances in which everyone can do what he wants with his life or ask others to put an end to it.

The bishop of Bologna also said that

the illusion of building a human home ‘as if God did not exist’ must at some moment bring us to this point. […] In the body of this woman, and in her fate, there is an image of the fate of the West.

Those very thoughtful and inspired words immediately reminded me of the famous statement contained in the tale of The Grand Inquisitor, told by Ivan to Alyosha in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel, The Brothers Karamazov: “If God doesn’t exist, then everything is permitted.”

Are we witnessing the fulfilment of what was predicted by Dostoevsky, if not by someone else ... long before him?

February 8, 2009

The State is a poor good beast ...

Emerson in His Journals (Amazon.com) The State is a poor, good beast who means the best: it means friendly. A poor cow who does well by you—do not grudge it its hay. It cannot eat bread as you can; let it have without grudge a little grass for its four stomachs. It will not stint to yield you milk from its teat. You, who are a man walking cleanly on two feet, will not pick a quarrel with a poor cow. Take this handful of clover and welcome. But if you go to hook me when I walk in the fields, then, poor cow, I will cut your throat.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson [from his journals, June-July 1846], in EMERSON IN HIS JOURNALS, selected and edited by Joel Porte, Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Massachusetts) - London (England), 1982.

February 5, 2009

Vatican-Lefebvrists affair: who is to blame?

Bishop Williamson, in order to be admitted to the episcopal functions of the Church, must in an absolutely unequivocal and public way distance himself from his positions regarding the Shoah.

That’s the statement the Vatican issued a few hours ago with regard to the traditionalist bishop who denies the Holocaust. It’s a good news, a very good news—welcomed by Germany’s Central Council of Jews—as much as German chancellor Angela Merkel’s call upon Pope Benedict XVI to issue a clear statement of opposition to Holocaust denial was, in my view, fully justified.

But, at this point, a question comes naturally: who is to blame for what went wrong in the whole thing? Both within and outside of the Curia, says Italian vaticanist Sandro Magister, many have been blaming the pope for everything, but they are wrong. Ok, it was his decision to offer the Lefebvrist bishops a gesture of benevolence, and it is also certain that the lifting of excommunication followed other previous gestures of openness, such as the motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum,” dated July 7, 2007, with the liberalization of the ancient rite of the Mass. But it’s also true that, for one thing,

[t]he lifting of this excommunication […] did not by any means heal the schism between Rome and the Lefebvrists, just as the lifting of the excommunications between Rome and patriarchate of Constantinople – agreed on December 7, 1965, by Paul VI and Athenagoras – did not by any means mark a return to unity between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches of the East. In both cases, the dropping of the excommunication was intended to be simply a first step toward reversing the schism, which remains.

But little or nothing of this, complains Magister, was stated in the decree issued on January 24 by the Holy See. At the point that, “in the “vulgata” diffused by the media, with this decree the Church of Rome was simply clasping the Lefebvrists to its bosom.” Which is simply false.

Benedict XVI was left practically alone, and the curia was abandoned to disorder 

As it was not enough, eventually there came the uproar over the shameful interview with bishop Richard Williamson. But the interview, argues Sandro Magister, even though recorded on November 1, 2008, was broadcast on January 21, that is to say the same day on which the decree was signed revoking the excommunication of the four Lefebvrist bishops, Williamson included.

So, in the media all over the world, “the news read as follows: the pope clears a Holocaust denier bishop from excommunication, and welcomes him into the Church.” What followed—the tremendous tempest which scattered the Church—is well known. Well, Magister asks, “was all of this really inevitable? […] Or was the disaster produced by the errors and omissions of the men who are supposed to implement the pope's decisions?” What follows in the article is a very harsh critique of “the offices of the curia from which the Vatican press office and its director, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi receive their orders. These offices of the curia converge in the secretariat of state.”

A thorough reading of the entire article is highly recommended.

February 4, 2009

Iraq's winning vote

If Iraq’s first postwar election four years ago was mostly “a procedural victory,” last weekend’s vote was a “political triumph.” So says today’s Washington Post.

Though results are still preliminary, they show that voters strongly rewarded Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for his forceful action against extremist militias and his secular nationalist agenda -- and punished religious parties perceived as too sectarian or too close to Iran. The nonsectarian alliance of former prime minister Ayad Allawi also appears to have done well, and nationalist Sunnis gained influence in areas where they had lacked it because of previous election boycotts. In short, Iraq appears to have taken a step toward becoming the moderate Arab democracy that the Bush administration long hoped for.

As we say in Italy, “Time is a gentleman,” or “Truth is the daughter of time,” as an old English proverb goes. But

[o]ddly, the biggest beneficiary of the election other than Mr. Maliki may be President Obama, who has been a skeptic both of progress in Iraq and the value of elections in unstable states.

That’s how the world goes …

February 3, 2009

Eluana is just one step from the end

About two months ago the Corte di Cassazione, Italy’s top appeals court, authorized the father of 37-year-old Eluana Englaro to remove the feeding tube which had kept his comatose daughter alive for nearly seventeen years. It was then that the last legal obstacle in a landmark “right-to-die” case, which has been also called “Italy’s Terri Schiavo case,” was removed once and for all : Eluana would be sentenced to die an atrocious death by being deprived of water and nutrition, thus paving the way for legalized euthanasia in Italy.

Eventually the transfer was temporarily halted by Italy’s health minister Maurizio Sacconi, who issued an official guideline stating that the suspension of treatment for patients in a vegetative state in public health institutions would be “illegal.” But that last-minute attempt to bypass Supreme Court ruling was overruled in turn by a court in Milan on January 21. As a result last night Eluana Englaro was transferred by ambulance to a clinic in the northern city of Udine, where she will be allowed to die. And this time nothing, but a miracle, will stop her “execution” (I know, it’s a terrible word, but I don’t have a better one).

What is upsetting, apart from the two rulings in themselves, is that the nuns of the Misericordine Order, under whose care Eluana has been surviving for 14 years, had repeatedly declared their availability, “today and into the future, to continue to serve Eluana,” and in a letter published in the November 15 2008 Avvenire, the daily newspaper of the Italian Bishops Conference, they launched a moving appeal :

If there are those who consider her dead, let Eluana remain with us who feel she is alive. We don’t ask anything but the silence and the liberty to love and to devote ourselves to those who are weak, poor and little in return.

The Vatican’s “health minister,” Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, described the decision to move Eluana as “abominable.” “Stop this murder!” he told La Repubblica daily newspaper two days after Pope Benedict XVI rejected euthanasia as a “false” answer to suffering. The bishop of Udine, Msgr. Pietro Brollo, has called on Catholics in the area to gather outside the clinic to stage a prayer vigil in favor of keeping Eluana alive. Yet, as I said before, this time … well, miracles sometimes happen.

February 2, 2009

Logorare stanca

“Logorare stanca,” recita il titolo dell’editoriale di Angelo Panebianco sul Corriere di oggi. Un titolo che quasi certamente non ha proposto l’autore, ma che sembra azzeccato nella sua ambiguità, e quasi quasi più perfido del contenuto. Con ordine: logorare chi? Il leader del Pd, qui non ci piove. Ad opera di chi? Dei capicorrente del Pd, anche qui nessun dubbio. Ma stancare? Chi stanca chi? I capicorrente (i logoranti) stancano il capo? Mah, sarebbe una ripetizione: se logori qualcuno vuol dire che lo stanchi. Dunque niente. Ma non dovrebbero esserci dubbi che i logoratori (variante interessante dell’obsoleto “lavoratori”) sono sempre gli stessi. Chi viene stancato, allora? Se non il logorato, direi, il partito nel suo complesso. Ma questa è solo una delle due (almeno) possibili letture, l’altra essendo quello che Trilussa chiamava affettuosamente “er popolo,” (che ovviamente “se gratta - E er resto? - Va da sé... –”). Confesso che io personalmente propenderei per questa seconda interpretazione. Con una coda problematica (ebbene sì, un’altra!): er popolo tout-court oppure er popolo de sinistra e basta? Mah, io non riesco a venirne fuori. E’ un genio, Panebianco, e questo già lo si sapeva, ma pure er titolista der Coriere non è che scherzi … Chapeau!