June 30, 2009

Iran: this is no time for hesitation

Former prime minister of Spain José Maria Aznar in today’s Wall Street Journal: (thanks: Teresa Gomez)

If there hadn't been dissidents in the Soviet Union, the Communist regime never would have crumbled. And if the West hadn't been concerned about their fate, Soviet leaders would have ruthlessly done away with them. They didn't because the Kremlin feared the response of the Free World.
Just like the Soviet dissidents who resisted communism, those who dare to march through the streets of Tehran and stand up against the Islamic regime founded by the Ayatollah Khomeini 30 years ago represent the greatest hope for change in a country built on the repression of its people. At stake is nothing less than the legitimacy of a system incompatible with respect for individual rights.
This is no time for hesitation on the part of the West. If, as part of an attempt to reach an agreement on the Iranian nuclear program, the leaders of democratic nations turn their backs on the dissidents they will be making a terrible mistake.
President Obama has said he refuses to "meddle" in Iran's internal affairs, but this is a poor excuse for passivity. If the international community is not able to stop, or at least set limits on, the repressive violence of the Islamic regime, the protesters will end up as so many have in the past -- in exile, in prison, or in the cemetery. And with them, all hope for change will be gone.
To be clear: Nobody in the circles of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei or Ahmadinejad is going to reward us for silence or inaction. On the contrary, failing to support the regime's critics will leave us with an emboldened Ahmadinejad, an atomic Iran, and dissidents that are disenchanted and critical of us. We cannot talk about freedom and democracy if we abandon our own principles.

Sudarsan Raghavan in last Sunday’s Washington Post: (via normblog)

As Iran's theocracy appears on the verge of silencing the biggest challenge to its authority since it was established in 1979, female activists in the region say they are inspired by the prominent role women are playing in the country's opposition movement. Many hope it will have a crossover effect on the struggle for women's rights in their own countries and help shatter Western perceptions of Middle Eastern women as subjugated in a male-dominated culture.
In a region that reveres men who die in battle, some of the major icons to emerge from the Iranian demonstrations have been women. Neda Agha Soltan, the music student whose bloody death on June 20 was videotaped and broadcast around the world, became an instant symbol of the opposition movement and sparked widespread outrage. Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi 's wife, Zahra Rahnavard, has also taken on a prominent role as she accompanied her husband on the campaign trail and more recently spoke out against an election result that the opposition says was fraudulent.
"This is our time, women's time," said Khoulod Al Fahed, a Saudi businesswoman and blogger. "It is the time for women to speak up and demand the rights that have been stolen from us in the name of religion and culture."

The “necessary” blog

The “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks. Glenn Reynolds asks whether there is one for inappropriate apostrophes, too—ah the “human insatiability”!

June 29, 2009

Rainbow alphabet doggerel (I,J)

I is for Immodest

Inside, outside
Up and down,
The inane King
Can't find his gown.
His courtesans
Have no right to frown
Because he wears
His royal crown.


J is for Jump

Jack was a judicious man
And just the job as a judge,
Although he joked and jumped
About at each trial,
His wig never seemed to budge.

Mother made a jelly,
Jimmy jumped for joy.
Mother, jolted
Dropped the jelly.
Jimmy is a clumsy boy.

Text & images © Mirino
(PW) image © Binta. June, 2009

K and L

G and H

June 28, 2009

UK Embassy workers arrested in Iran


— Staff working at the British embassy in Iran have been arrested:

Iran “must free UK embassy staff.” EU ministers meeting in Greece warned that “harassment or intimidation” of embassy staff would be met with a “strong and collective” response (BBC).

— Riot police clashed with up to 3,000 protesters..

Riot police clashed with up to 3,000 protesters near a mosque in north Tehran on Sunday, using tear gas and truncheons to break up Iran's first post-election demonstration in five days, witnesses said.
Witnesses told The Associated Press that some protesters fought back, chanting: "Where is my vote?" They said others described scenes of brutality including the alleged police beating of an elderly woman in the clashes around the Ghoba Mosque.

Read the full story

June 27, 2009

'Killing Me Softly'

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

“Killing Me Softly” was a hit song popularized by Roberta Flack back in the ‘70’s. It can now be the theme song for what the Democrat Party and Barack Obama is doing to Liberty in America.

This past Friday, June 26, 2009, the soft tyranny of Statists was strengthened. Even though there was no public support for it, and massive opposition (tens of thousands of phone calls crashed the Capitol Hill phone system), the Cap and Trade Bill was passed 219 – 212. Eight Republicans voted for it, and Forty-four Democrats against it. If the eight Republicans in Name Only (RINO’s) had voted with their party, it would not have passed. Kudos to the Democrats that voted against this. There is already a movement within the Party to gin up a campaign against them this next election cycle.

From the testimony before the Senate Republican Conference June 22, 2009 by Ben Lieberman, the Senior Policy Analyst for Energy and Environment in the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation:
"...analysis we conducted at The Heritage Foundation, which is attached to my written statement, the higher energy costs kick in as soon as the bill's provisions take effect in 2012. For a household of four, energy costs go up $436 that year, and they eventually reach $1,241 in 2035 and average $829 annually over that span. Electricity costs go up 90 percent by 2035, gasoline by 58 percent, and natural gas by 55 percent by 2035. The cumulative higher energy costs for a family of four by then will be nearly $20,000."

"But direct energy costs are only part of the consumer impact. Nearly everything goes up, since higher energy costs raise production costs. If you look at the total cost of Waxman-Markey, it works out to an average of $2,979 annually from 2012-2035 for a household of four. By 2035 alone, the total cost is over $4,600."

We estimate job losses averaging 1,145,000 at any given time from 2012-2035."

Of course the Democrats deny all that, even after the January 2008 video of Obama stating, "Under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket." "Coal-powered plants, you know, natural gas, you name it, whatever the plants were, whatever the industry was, they would have to retrofit their operations. That will cost money. They will pass that money on to consumers."

When it’s pointed out that this will drive companies overseas to where Cap and Trade doesn’t exist, we’re told we have to go first with this to provide leadership. Anyone really think China will follow? Russia? India? If companies stay and pay the costs, those millions of dollars will be passed on to the consumer. This bill is supposed to create “green” jobs as well. Spain has tried this, and 2.2 jobs are lost for every green job created; Spain’s unemployment is hovering about 18%.

Just how intrusive is the Cap and Tax Bill? There’s even a law that specifies where in the garage of a new house an outlet will be placed, and the size of the outlet, for your new Obamamobile.

Not one person in Congress has read this bill. It’s over 1200 pages. Three hundred pages of amendments were delivered at 4 AM the morning of the debate and vote. Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” is about that long, and certainly makes a lot more sense. By the way, TARP, the Omnibus Bill, and no amendments to anything have been read entirely by any member of this Congress. (Polls show that the American people were against all those bills too, and Congress passed them anyway.) [During his campaign, Obama said all pending legislation would be posted on Recovery.gov for five days before debate and vote, and not once has this happened. I’m a political geek, and I watch.] Hopefully this massive move to deny the Liberty of the American people will not make it through the Senate.

In less than two hundred days, this Statist President and his Statist party have gained control or have nearly gained control of the automotive industry, financial industry, and insurance industry; is about to take control of the energy industry, and in the next couple weeks the healthcare industry. Where is that plug supposed to go again?

Killing me softly. Soft tyranny is still tyranny.

Italy's Dolomites a new World Heritage site

Well, of course I’m not neutral about this particular issue, and therefore I feel like I am not responsible for any exaggeration I might be guilty of in dealing with the decision taken yesterday in Seville, Spain, by the United Nations agency’s World Heritage Committee: Italy’s Dolomite mountains have been added to the World Heritage list!

I think it’s simply great that one of the most beautiful mountain landscapes anywhere was awarded with this prestigious acknowledgement. One moment, you may say this is my first exaggeration.., well not exactly, those words are not mine, but rather they come from the panel itself!

The truth is that the Dolomites are completely unique—they cannot be compared to any other mountain range in the world. Their beauty derives from the contrast between the green of the meadows and the vertical rock faces and the composition of the rock itself, which changes color throughout the day. It also comes from the fact that each mountain in the range has its own unique, recognizable face and its own peculiar characteristics.

Yet another exaggeration? Well, it may be so, but, once again, I have intentionally omitted the inverted commas, since it was Reinhold Messner, the famed mountaineer who has been climbing in the Dolomites for six decades, who spoke those words. But, er, I can understand his enthusiasm, because the Dolomites are.. beyond human description, and furthermore—to say it à la Thomas Carlyle—“they are my own mountains!”

June 26, 2009

Ahmadinejad, a dreadful video

In his Facebook page French philosopher and writer Bernard-Henri Lévy has a video, which was clandestinely shot and brought out of Iran, showing “president-non-elect” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad—as Lévy himself calls the Iranian despot—while announcing to his most loyal followers and in the presence of his mentor and spiritual adviser, ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi, “un grand bouleversement sur la planète” (a great bouleversement on the planet). The speech was delivered on June 13, 2009. This is what BHL himself says about the video (in French):

Ce document vidéo est tout à fait extraordinaire. Filmé à l’insu de ses acteurs, sorti clandestinement d’Iran, il représente Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, à Qom, en compagnie de son mentor, l’Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, ainsi que d’un cénacle d’élèves et de fidèles. La vidéo est sortie d’Iran via internet. Elle daterait du 13 juin 2009 soit le lendemain de la victoire supposée de Mahmoud Ahmadinéjad (datation que tendraient à corroborer tant les remerciements réitérés que le programme annoncé « d’islamisation radicale » ). On ignore qui a capturé ces images, puis a choisi de les diffuser, mais il s’agit, à l’évidence, de personnes issues de ce cénacle même (peut-être un téléphone portable ?). C’est une réunion privée, et en petit comité, dont le contenu ne s’adressait visiblement pas à la foule, mais à des initiés auxquels on s’adresse, parfois, en langage codé. On va y voir le « Président non élu » remercier son mentor et ses invités pour leur soutien et les services rendus (lesquels ?). Il leur assure, que grâce à leur aide, la « grande victoire » (laquelle ?) est proche. Le tout sur un ton et dans une terminologie dont la teneur messianique est particulièrement accusée. Voyez.
Fariba Hachtroudi et Bernard-Henri Lévy

Via Liberation
Thanks: Marina Valensise

June 25, 2009

Who is shaking the Iranian regime?

Not Obama, nor Bush, nor Twitter, nor Facebook. It’s women who are shaking the regime, wrote Anne Applebaum in last Tuesday’s Washington Post. Years of work and effort lie behind this public display of defiance, as much as “there is a connection between the violence in Iran over the past week and the women’s rights movement that has slowly gained strength in Iran over the past several years.” That’s why Neda, the 26 year-old philosophy student—whose name means “voice” in Farsi—shot dead on the streets of Teheran while attending a protest against vote-rigging in the presidential election, has become this revolution’s symbolic martyr.

As so many martyrs have in the past, Neda has been buried in secret and her family is being persecuted. Neighbours said government officials warned them not to discuss Neda’s death or to protest, and ordered them to leave their apartment in east Tehran. The government also banned mourning ceremonies

Arash Hejazi, the doctor who tried to save Neda, spoke to the BBC’s Rachel Harvey about the incident and the girl’s final moments. Here is the video.

In the meantime, Iranian authorities briefly have arrested dozens of university professors who met with opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, who from his web site has just said that he is vowing to persevere with his election challenge despite the apparent attempt to isolate him from his supporters. This seems to be the best way to honor the memory of those who have died for Iran’s freedom.

Good luck mediating, Mr Pottering!

—Hans-Gert Pottering, president of the European Parliament, has offered to lead a mission of EU lawmakers to Iran. “We are willing to offer our support and mediation to bring about a peaceful solution,” he says. Meanwhile, eye witness reports from Tehran indicate that the Police are assailing unarmed protestors with axes. As Emanuele Ottolenghi puts it, “Good luck mediating, Mr Pottering!”

—An email from a normblog reader in Iran.

—Theocratic crowd control: (via Michael J. Totten)

June 24, 2009

How to win elections while losing them

Just a quick update on the results of Italian local election runoffs at the weekend (30 cities and 62 provinces), with both the government and the opposition claiming good results—a classic case, no doubt, but this time it should have been much harder than usual for one of the two sides (the center-left) to do so, given that the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that the winner is, once again, the ruling center-right coalition. In fact, what actually happened is that Berlusconi’s People of Freedom and its ally the Northern League won 34 provinces, an increase of 22, while the opposition Democratic Party (PD) won 28, a decrease of 22. Furthermore, in city elections, the center-right took 14 cities, an increase of 10, while the center-left took 16, a decrease of 10.

That’s why, when PD leader Dario Franceschini spoke of a “positive result” for his party and hailed the start of the ”decline of the right,” after the PD held onto the cities of Bologna, Florence and Bari and was beaten by only a narrow margin in the former cener-left provinces of Milan and Venice, one can’t help but assume that there is no limit to what you can say if you are a politician.. Of course Berlusconi—who has his own troubles, though—slammed Francheschini’s remarks, saying: “If the opposition considers this a victory, we'll always want to lose like this.” With that said I don’t think there is much more I can add. But if you want to learn more about the subject here (and here) is where you can find what you need to know.

P.S. Please, don't let yourdelf be deceived: despite the similarities (and the title) this is a wholly different post from that one..

June 23, 2009

Rainbow alphabet doggerel (G,H)

G is for Ghost

I once played host
To a ghastly ghost
And offered him some tea.
With a gruesome voice
He refused my choice
Preferring eau-de-vie.


H is for Heavy

Hoggish Harris
Had heaps of pasta
On his holidays
In Rome
And became
So huge and heavy
He had a hard time
Getting home.


Text & image © Mirino
(PW) image © Claire. June, 2009

I and J

E and F

June 22, 2009

Do you know the land where the lemon trees flower?

“See Italy and Die” (Voir l'Italie et mourir. Photographie et peinture dans l'Italie du XIXe siècle), Musée d'Orsay (Exhibition hall), Paris, April 7th through July 19th, 2009.

Images of Italy based around several recurring themes and fantasies: archaeological and antique remains, major sites of European culture and the continued presence of the ancient world among today’s population.

What the title seems to suggest is not exactly what visitors would wish for if they had three wishes, but fortunately what the title expresses is merely that everyone should see Italy at least once before dying..

From the official presentation:

The "Grand Tour" did not disappear at the end of the French Age of Enlightenment, nor with the emergence of aesthetic models other than those from Italy. Its popularity with artists and ordinary tourists was such that, even after 1850, there was a considerable boom, promoted by advances in communications and in photography.

The nostalgia inextricably linked with the land of Virgil, and the attraction of its still remaining sights encouraged many more images to be produced. The exhibition sets these out around a number of recurrent themes and fantasies which circulated from one medium to another: archaeological and ancient remains, major cultural sites of Europe and the resilience of the ancient world amongst the present day population.
It is Italy of our heart's desire, that no-one ever really leaves.

Read the rest.

The Iranian Tempest

By an artist friend of mine, the petition that only needs one signatory.

June 21, 2009

Letters from America - 1

I had thought there could be no one more self obsessed and camera hungry than Bill Clinton; or a Press that could be so supportive and such apologists. Was I wrong. We now live in the “Age of Obama”. All Obama all the time. This guy is in every news story all day every day. He infects every aspect of our lives.

ABC news has been dubbed the ‘All Barack Channel’. It’ll be doing a special from the White House with Obama to promote his single payer healthcare program. That will be followed by an hour long infomercial promoting it. He denies its single payer, but he’s made several statements in the past stating he wants a single payer program. Health here is close to 20% of the economy, so that would be a boon to even more government control of our lives. In less than two hundred days in office, he’s taken over much of the auto industry, financial institutions, and insurance institutions. The press for all practical purposes is now state run. You’ll only find media criticism on Fox News and in the blogosphere.

The Republican Party and the group ‘Conservatives for Patients Rights’ ask to present an opposing view and was denied. They said they would pay for it, and ABC said no. A couple weeks ago NBC News with anchor Brian Williams did a fawning special, in the White House, that was all fluff and praise. Brian Williams even bowed to him! Thank goodness for bloggers or nothing this guy does to overthrow the Constitution would get reported.

About the funniest thing, and so indicative of the swooning slobbering press here, is when he swatted a fly. It was breaking news, and made headlines!
David Gregory on the "Today" show: "You just have to appreciate the, the concentration and the precision! Just a few things going on in the world but it's as if everything was stopped and at a standstill for the President to lower the boom."
Chris Wragge on "The Early Show": "We've also just confirmed the President is a Ninja."
Chris Cuomo on "Good Morning America" describing the event on a telestrator: "You see? He stares at the fly. How many times have each of us tried to do this? Look at the hand coming up. The poise. The cupping. And the quick slap...Just knocked it away, very rare."

All this following the statement from Newsweek Magazine editor Evan Thomas: "I mean, in a way, Obama's standing above the country, above -- above the world, he's sort of God."

Journalism in America is dead except for bloggers.

One last thing not being reported or Obama being criticized for in the Main Stream Media (MSM), is his cowardly, spineless response to what’s going on in Iran. He should have, at the jump, said he supports the People, supports free speech and supports Liberty.
Instead he made vacuous statements meaning nothing. Then again, free speech, justice and liberty he doesn’t even support in America.

~The Metaphysical Peregrine

June 20, 2009

Rainbow alphabet doggerel (E,F)

E is for Empty

Empty, full
Early, late
Easy, hard
Love or hate

East or West
Beginning, end
Odds or evens
Break or mend

Ever, never
Dislike, enjoy
Enter, exit
Girl or boy

Expand, retract
Enemy, friend
Ease, discomfort
Earn or spend


F is for Find

Fat, thin
Future, past
Front, back
First or last

True or false
Foolish, wise
Fact or fiction
Fall or rise

Lost, found
Friend or foe
Succeed or fail
Fast or slow

Strong or frail
Tied or free
Without its opposite
Can it be?


There is always

A way to find out
If there is any doubt
Of what one wants
To know about


Text © Mirino
(PW) image © Lisa. June, 2009

G and H

C and D

June 19, 2009

An Age of words

An education in things is not. We are all involved in the condemnation of words, an age of words. We are shut up in schools and college recitation rooms for ten or fifteen years & come out at last with a bellyful of words & do not know a thing. We cannot use our hands, or our legs, or our eyes, or our arms. We do not know an edible root in the woods. We cannot tell our course by the stars, nor the hour of the day by the sun. It is well if we can swim & skate. We are afraid of a horse, of a cow, of a dog, of a cat, of a spider. Far better was the Roman rule to teach a boy nothing that he could not learn standing.
Now here are my wise young neighbors who instead of getting like the wordmen into a railroad-car where they have not even the activity of holding the reins, have got into a boat which they have built with their own hands, with sails which they have contrived to serve as a tent, & gone up the river Merrimack to live by their wits on the fish of the stream & the berries of the wood. My worthy neighbor Dr. Bartlett expressed a true parental instinct when he desired to send his boy with them to learn something.
The farm, the farm is the right school. The reason of my deep respect for the farmer is that he is a realist & not a dictionary. The farm is a piece of the world, the School house is not. The farm by training the physical rectifies & invigorates the metaphysical & moral nature.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson [from his journals, Sept. 14, 1839], in EMERSON IN HIS JOURNALS, selected and edited by Joel Porte, Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Massachusetts) - London (England), 1982.

Hope and Change -- but Not for Iran

Charles Krauthammer in today’s Washington Post (also here):

Millions of Iranians take to the streets to defy a theocratic dictatorship that, among its other finer qualities, is a self-declared enemy of America and the tolerance and liberties it represents. The demonstrators are fighting on their own, but they await just a word that America is on their side.

And what do they hear from the president of the United States? Silence. Then, worse. Three days in, the president makes clear his policy: continued "dialogue" with their clerical masters.

Dialogue with a regime that is breaking heads, shooting demonstrators, expelling journalists, arresting activists. Engagement with -- which inevitably confers legitimacy upon -- leaders elected in a process that begins as a sham (only four handpicked candidates permitted out of 476) and ends in overt rigging.
And where is our president? Afraid of "meddling." Afraid to take sides between the head-breaking, women-shackling exporters of terror -- and the people in the street yearning to breathe free. This from a president who fancies himself the restorer of America's moral standing in the world.

Thanks: Sandra Kennedy

June 18, 2009


Volunteers at work (Photo courtesy: www.ana.it)

I am not an expert on voluntary service, unless I consider what I’m doing a service, and I must admit that I am often tempted to do so. I am a blogger, and blogging is not only a voluntary form of self-expression, it may also be a voluntary form of service, a way of contributing to the common good. But that’s not what I want to talk about this time. I’ll talk about “service” in the strict sense of the word, instead, referring to a recent casual meeting with a group of volunteers.

It was a Friday night and we (my family and I) were stopping at a highway rest area, more than 150 miles far from home. We were going south for the weekend with our camper. At a certain moment the rest area was invaded by about twenty yellow and green cars, minibuses and small trucks. Each and every one of the vehicles of the convoy had an inscription on it: Protezione Civile, ANA, that is Civil Protection, National Alpini Association. The Alpini (English: the Alpines) are the elite mountain warfare soldiers of the Italian Army, while the ANA is a registered society representing the former members of the Alpini corps. Those former soldiers usually see themselves as merely “on leave” rather than veterans, which makes them possibly the most gigantic and best oiled “solidarity machine” in Italy. Where there is an earthquake or whatever calamity, they go. An army of carpenters, masons, electricians, plumbers, farmers (but also some physicians, school teachers, engineers..), a two weeks shift. Some twenty or thirty of them are able to set up a relief camp and a field hospital for quake victims in a few hours and in a completely autonomous way.

There were few doubts that the convoy was headed to L’Aquila, which only a few days earlier, on April 6, 2009, had been struck by a devastating earthquake. But what initially made me curious about the “invasion” was that some of those people had the typical accent of my father’s native village, which lies just at the foot of the Alps, at the border between Veneto and Friuli, in Northern Italy. So we went out and buttonholed some of them. Both my wife and I were willing to have a chat, but above all we wanted our thirteen year old daughter to have a chance to listen to those people, to pay attention to them.

And it was worth while. It was a long conversation, because some parts of the convoy were still absent because of heavy traffic along the highway, so all those who were present had to wait for the rest of the convoy.

Well, I can’t express how enriching that talk was for us, the incredible generosity of those rough-mannered but large-hearted men, their abnegation, their sense of duty and discipline.

When they realized that both my wife an I are school teachers, they strongly expressed their concern about the way young people are brought up nowadays, and asked us a lot of questions about our school system and both its lack of severity and its ethical weakness and spiritual mediocrity, if not its spiritual bankruptcy—almost as if they had read in advance the quote by Tagore I posted a few days ago..

One more thing. I would never have thought I would have found among them someone somehow related to my parents. As a matter of fact, one was the plumber who had been working at my parent’s house some twenty years ago (he was able to remember both the house and my parents once I had explained to him where the house is sited), another said his grandfather and mine were bosom friends. But who surprised me most during that night’s talk was a man of about 65 years who was somehow familiar to me, although I didn't know why, nor could I remember when and where we might have met before. It was my wife who recognized him as the man who had been working to carve a tombstone on my father’s grave, about three years ago. Actually, while I couldn’t remember his face, I had a vivid recollection of him, of that “country philosopher” who had words of wisdom to my mother and my then ten year old daughter. He quoted old proverbs, most of them in the local dialect—a gold mine of folk wisdom, tact and sensitiveness hidden behind a rough and tough exterior.

That night he also told us the story of the years when he was an emigrant in Canada, how he won the respect of his Canadian hosts, by working hard and conforming himself to the laws, standards and customs of the nation to where he had immigrated.

I thought that it would be great to bring volunteers into schools. Long life to the Alpini!


First written for The Greatest Among You

June 17, 2009

The fresh breeze of change..

Witnessing the unfolding of events such as those of Iran. Having this increasingly sophisticated access of information, one is aware of the velocity in which the world is changing.
To try to block this access as part of a futile attempt to perpetuate unsubtle myths such as the clumsy scenario of 'Iranian democracy' only increases one's awareness of this fresh breeze of change. Naturally it also increases the determination of well informed people to reject the lies or exaggerations of those who pretend to represent them.

One sees that the young Iranian students, despite the efforts of the Iranian regime to insulate Iran from Western influence, and despite religious diversity, are really no different from the young students of Europe and the USA.
They too are the inheritors of fabulous history, and theirs is far more ancient than that of European civilisation. Their history is also their guaranty, that no one, especially those who are not worthy of them, can deprive them from the freedom they have every right to. The freedom of choice that is the essence of democracy.

The claim of this freedom, as well as international awareness, are superbly revealed by the placards on which one can read English and French inscriptions- "Where's my vote", "Solidarité nationale, Iran est dans le sang", "A bas le dictateur", etc.

This resemblance thus indicates a remarkable increase in international awareness through the sharing of information and culture via Internet. It's truly revolutionary.

The rabid efforts of fundamentalists who consider freedom to be a direct threat to their obsolete cause, the pathetic masquerade of democracy in Iran and elsewhere, the dated, military, ambitions of die-hard junta in countries such as North Korea, Burma, and still to an extent in Libya, China and Russia, can never control the elements, the tides, the winds, nor even these little, fresh breezes.

Naturally this process, the sharing of information, cannot be controlled, prohibited or censored for any great length of time. It would be like forcing a family to live locked up in a house without windows..Windows that would otherwise be open to let in this fresh breeze of change.
This little breeze can really be felt, and it's an exhilarating feeling.

When the economical crisis seriously began in the USA in 2008, most of the world including Europe, smugly supposed that it was 'their problem', and that it was 'inevitable', etc. Some even seemed delighted about it, predicting the end of 'Western capitalism' and the reign of the dollar as a world currency. They never considered the domino effect. It had never occurred to them that the world is like Noah's Ark and if it leaks in one place, we are all going to eventually get wet. So we've all got to help repair the Ark and bail it out to prevent it from sinking.

Naturally ecological problems are parallel. If China or any country believes it can abuse nature, waste and pollute her resources by continuing to churn out far more products than are necessary, and this with impunity, it's on a disaster course, possibly dragging a good part of the world in its wake.

Today in Europe there is more intercontinental exchange of view points and sharing of information than ever. There is a need to establish a European identity, not as a mere 'common market' identity, but as Europeans who defend European values, have a common objective, a reason of being, an ideal and aspirations. Europeans, and proud of being so.

Perhaps this is another reason why there seems to be a disorientation of national political polarity. There is no longer a right wing or a left wing way of governing. There is only the best way possible. And this is determined by international, economical and environmental constraints and considerations, 'geopolitics' and international security.

European identity is gradually developing into an ideal that may eventually dwarf national political tendencies. If this is so, it can only be a natural and positive process.

We are all together on this small planet, our Noah's Ark, and it's the only one we have. Whatever one's religion there is no doubt that we all share the same dream of freedom, simply because it's human nature.
It's not 'Western corruption' or an American invention or dream. It's the aspiration of every human being who merits the freedom of being him or herself, to realise his or her full potential. The dream of all men and women who want the best for their families.
The freedom to open the window, to see the sun rise again, to smile and take a deep breath of fresh air.


First written for Viewfinder
(Click main title for Italian version).

Image by courtesy of Boston Globe
. Text © Mirino (PW) June, 2009

When Left is right & Right is left

Roger L. Simon on President Obama’s reaction to the current situation in Iran:

What Obama wants more than anything is not to be seen as treading in the path of George W. Bush. Democracy promotion is not his game. That’s neocon stuff. Barack’s not going there, no how, no way, as he made clear in his Cairo speech. It would undermine everything he pretends to stand for, everything he proclaimed in his campaign.

But wait. I’m confused. Back when I identified as a liberal, democracy promotion was very much what we stood for. We would have done anything to get rid of the likes of Pinochet and Somoza. When Pinochet was up against it in Chile, every liberal I knew was jumping for joy, cheering on Salvador Allende. Why not the Iranian demonstrators against Ahmadinejad and the mullahs who, in many ways, are worse even than Pinochet? The Chilean dictator didn’t oppress women and gays to anywhere near the extent of the Islamists. He also wasn’t building a nuclear weapon and denying the Holocaust. Is everything standing on its head? What’s going on here? Left is right. Right is left. Liberal is… reactionary?

June 16, 2009

Rainbow alphabet doggerel (C,D)

C is for Cucumber

The crazy cook would prepare
His favourite dish with great care-
Curried crab with cold custard,
Crumble cake with Colman's Mustard,
Chocolate and cheese with cod
And sliced cucumber (which seems odd)
All clumped together with clammy rice,
The taste of which he claims is nice.


D is for Do

The little riddle of example

If I do
What you do
And he does
The same

Then they do
What we do
Who first is
To blame?


Text © Mirino
(PW) image © Lisa. June, 2009

And ‘The Doctor’ said ‘mamma mia!’

Okay, I’m 24 hours late here, but it’s just for those who might have lost it.


Of course there will be people who say otherwise, but, honestly, after that race, and that incredible performance by Rossi, can anyone seriously argue against Rossi being the greatest ever?
That last lap had me jumping up and down screaming. My heart rate went into the red. Utterly fantastic.

The Times:

“In Italy, for a race like this we say, ‘mamma mia!’,” Rossi said. “I have dreamed that overtake for one week. I knew I had to fight and it was a great battle to the end.” Lorenzo, eight years Rossi’s junior at 22, said: “I wasn’t expecting him to take me at that point. He was more courageous and deserved the win.”

Those last two laps (Moto Gp - CATALUNYA, June 14, 2009):

June 15, 2009

Breaking (good) news from Iran

Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader and the man who has the final say on all strategic matters, has reversed his earlier decree that the disputed election result was fair—urging the country to unite behind Ahmadinejad—by ordering the powerful Guardians Council an investigation into the vote count, thus carrying out Mousavi’s (the defeated candidate) allegations of vote-rigging.

In the meantime tens of thousands of Iranian opposition activists have taken to the streets of Iran for a third day protesting against the presidential election (see the video below), defying a ban by the Interior Ministry, and European Union foreign ministers heve expressed “serious concern” about Iran’s use of force against post-election demonstrators, raising the prospect of a harder E.U. line against the country.

Michael Totten has an extensive set of key links, as does Andrew Sullivan who has comprehensive coverage, videos and photos of the demonstrations. Via Hugh Hewitt.

Iran. And yet something has changed

Notwithstanding the doubts and concerns the United States and other Western governments expressed, and in spite of the fact that several leading reformists have been arrested on Saturday night, after violent clashes following the disputed election result, les jeux sont faits in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This was not, of course, the result the West was hoping for: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won election with 62.6 percent of the vote, against 33.7 percent for challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi. But that’s what happened, better still that’s what the government says happened, which in that country is just the same as to say that we will probably never know what really happened..

Just as it was not enough, according to unconfirmed reports, Moussavi may have been detained by intelligence agents as he travelled to the Supreme Leader’s residence to meet with him. “It appears that a coup has taken place in Iran overnight to force the results on other parties. These elections cannot be considered fair by any measure under such circumstances,” said Hadi Ghaemi, spokesperson for the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

In the meantime, Zahra Rahnavard, Mousavi’s wife, accused Ahmadinejad of “dictatorship.” She said: “The Iranian people voted to change Ahmadinejad, but this vote became a vote to solidify Ahmadinejad.”

What a pity! I know, it’s not a great comment, but my disappointment is overwhelming, and honestly I have no words. However, to see the cup half full instead of half empty, the aftermath of the election seems to have shown one important difference from the past: it is harder than ever for the authorities to clamp down on dissent, and this for the simple reason that something has changed in Iran. That’s why, at this point, I wouldn’t say rien ne va plus.

June 12, 2009

Mirino's Rainbow alphabet doggerel

Alphabet poems written for young French children to widen their vocabulary and help them with their English pronunciation. Young Italians might also be interested to use them to practice their English, provided their English teacher is with them to listen and correct them when necessary.

(Click on the above titles to go to the next two letters, or use the links below)

is for Anagram

An Anagram
Could be
A Ganaram.
It might even be
A Nagaram.
But if it isn't
A Magaram
Then it can only be
A Ragaman.


is for Bagpipes

Mc Tavish blew his bagpipes
As his kilt flapped in the wind
Standing nobly on the hillside,
Bonnier sight ye ne'er would find.

Both his blue knees they did tremble
With emotion and with cold,
But he tunelessly kept playing
Being deaf as well as bold.


'Bonnier sight ye ne'er' would find: 'A more beautiful sight you would never find'. (Scottish dialect)


Text & image © Mirino (PW) June, 2009


Scuola d'inglese

Con il prossimo post Mirino inaugura la sua collaborazione con questo blog. Si tratta di una doppia novità, in effetti, essendo la prima volta che la firma non è quella del sottoscritto, e poi la finalità, e soprattutto il target, cioè, rispettivamente: insegnare l’inglese e i bambini (ma non esclusivamente, perché se degli adulti si vogliono aggregare non sarò certo io a vietarlo, anzi, direi esattamente il contrario).

Quando Mirino mi ha proposto la cosa la mia reazione è stata entusiastica. Le novità mi fanno spesso questo effetto, soprattutto quando sono all’insegna della poesia e della creatività. Abbiamo bisogno tutti sia dell’una sia dell’altra. Soprattutto della prima, perché, come disse il mio amatissimo Friedrich Hölderlin, “poeticamente abita l’uomo su questa Terra.”

A Mirino va tutta la mia gratitudine per il contributo che si accinge a dare. Tra l’altro, va detto che il suo apporto non si limiterà all’aspetto linguistico e poetico, essendo egli una persona intellettualmente molto curiosa e, detto en passant, avendo la ventura di essere un artista anglo-scozzese che vive in Francia e che per giunta conosce bene l’Italia e quasi altrettanto bene l’italiano.

A lui un caloroso benvenuto a bordo!

"Italy's Obama"

“To tolerate illegal immigration above all harms those who enter our country with the desire to work and integrate themselves and to have a normal life.”

“The problem is that these people don’t have papers, they are very poor, so either they must steal to eat or they are exploited by employers who give them very little money and don’t care if they die.”

The person who spoke those words is Sandy Cane, a 47-year-old Italian-American who has been elected mayor of the small Italian town of Viggiu, close to the Swiss border. Predictably, she was backed by one of the two “anti-immigrant” parties of Italy. To be precise she was backed by the most “anti” of the two: the Northern League. But she is not a racist at all, for the simple reason that she is a black woman, being the daughter of a black American soldier and an Italian woman from Viggiu. And she told the press that the Northern League had “welcomed her warmly,” to the point that Umberto Bossi, the head of the party, is told to have had discussions with Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National Party, which does not accept non-whites as members.

Needless to say, Sandy supports Italy’s newly adopted policy of intercepting boatloads of immigrants as they try to cross the Mediterranean and forcing them back to Libya, where most of the boats originate. And her argument is not at all insignificant:

“The problem is far too big for Italy to handle on its own. I think the United Nations should have a much bigger presence in countries like Libya so that they can process people there. In any case, how many are really refugees, rather than economic migrants?”

What else? This for instance:

“People think the League is racist but now it is much stronger and more mature than it once was. It is not racist to be against illegal immigration.”

“In America I voted for Obama, in Italy for Bossi.”

Sandy is being hailed as “Italy’s Obama.”

June 10, 2009

'We're understanding what Obama is...'

“I mean in a way Obama’s standing above the country, above – above the world, he’s sort of God.”
—Evan Thomas, editor of Newsweek

Imagine for a moment that Limbaugh or O’Reilly or Malkin had uttered these little bits of adoration about Dubya. And now guess what the New York Times and CNN (or the Guardian if you are a Brit, or la Repubblica if you are an Italian, etc.) would do…

June 9, 2009

How to lose elections while winning them (and how to win them while losing them)

This time the lefty Guardian is right about Italy: in any other country the fact that the prime minister’s Freedom People movement took just over 35 per cent of the vote—only a couple of points below the party’s showing at the last general election and nine points ahead of the main opposition group, the Democratic Party (while in other countries the governments lost their consensus)—might be considered as a pretty satisfactory result. “But Italy is not just any other country. And what counts here today are the expectations that had been aroused.”

Actually, it seems that prime minister Silvio Berlusconi had hoped that his party would attract up to 45 per cent of the vote, to say nothing about some of his most trusted aides, who are thought to have been expecting the complete rout of the enemy and their consequent withdrawal from the world…, even though nobody could bear direct and explicit witness to such immoderate expectations. Evidently both the prime minister and his closest aides have been very effective in disguising their true intentions, as much as the Italian newspapers have been wondrously effective in unmasking them.

As a result of the above mentioned expectations, Dario Franceschini, the head of the Democratic Party, instead of being dejected by the severe defeat suffered by his party (7 per cent less than one year ago, while Antonio Di Pietro’s Italy of Values, the other opposition party, nearly doubled its vote to 7.9 per cent), is exulting at the incontrovertible fact that “these elections have debunked the myth of Berlusconi’s invincibility.” “An unstoppable advance—he said—had been announced, with the PDL [Popolo delle libertà, People of Freedom] between 40 and 45pct. This has not been the case, the PDL has remained 10 points below expectations. […] And therefore thanks to the Italian votes the risk for which I had warned, that the country would wake up under an absolute boss, has been warded off!”

However, sadly for Franceschini, for us normal people & men of little faith, results of the European parliamentary elections showed Italians remaining broadly supportive of the ruling coalition, despite controversy over the prime minister’s colourful and high-spending life-style, and allegations of corruption made by some—high politicized, according to Berlusconi and several millions of Italian citizens—Milan judges.

As it was not enough results of local elections have changed the political map in favor of the ruling coalition in many city and provincial councils, which had always been dominated by the left.

Nevertheless it must be said that the main winner is the anti-immigration Northern League, the main ally of Berlusconi, which achieved its best result ever, garnering 10 per cent of votes compared with 8.3 per cent in last year’s general election. But, unlike Di Pietro’s Italy of Values towards the Democratic Party, the Northern League has showed itself to be a loyal ally to Berlusconi’s People of Freedom movement. That is why Berlusconi can now rightfully thank

the millions of men and women who voted on Saturday and Sunday and confirmed their faith in the People of Freedom party and in me. I know that it was not easy to do this after an election campaign which was determined to strike me with a lot of slander. For this I thank you from my heart, because, in a democratic way, aside from my own personal comfort, you have ratified our victory both in the European elections and the local ones.
With your vote you have confirmed that the People of Freedom party is the main party in Italy in all five European territories, with a majority which is more than double that of one year ago over the biggest opposition party.
This is a result which makes us proud, because it confirms one more time that our government understood how to tackle the economic crisis better than others in Europe. In other countries the governments lost their consensus, while we have confirmed and consolidated our consensus and the stability of the government is strengthened as a result. Our government is committed to leaving nobody alone in this crisis. We will carry on doing this, and we will move ahead at an even quicker pace to carry out the reforms needed to modernize Italy.

June 6, 2009

Born Again American

Born Again American, which started at the beginning of this year, is “committed to the rebirth and re-expression of citizenship through informed and thoughtful activism.” Through its interactive website it offers visitors the opportunity to pledge themselves to be “their country’s keeper” and to reaffirm their belief in American values that hark back to the Declaration of Independence.

The Born Again American campaign also includes a specially commissioned song, written by Keith Carradine. Performed by singers and musicians from around the country, the song has become a music video. Here it is… enjoy!

(Thanks: Chris Janelli)

The Greatest Among You

“But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.” This famous statement by Jesus has been adopted by Steven Dexter, a longtime friend of this blog, as the leitmotif of his new blog, whose title echoes the motto itself: The Greatest Among You. In fact the new blog is about Service.

“My intention—wrote Steven in the first post—is to create an environment that will be used by organizations that use volunteers, the volunteers themselves, charities, churches, or anyone that is reaching out to help people that are distressed. […] I want this to also be a place where organizations that need some help can post what they do and what they need.”

My best wishes to Steven, and may God bless this praiseworthy initiative.

June 5, 2009

Sharks (and other underwater creatures)

I must admit that I was not pleasantly surprised, but rather quite disappointed, when I heard that Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini, with reference to the muckraking campaign orchestrated by some British newspapers (the Guardian, Times and Independent) against Silvio Berlusconi, had said the country could not ”leave the last word to the network of those who hate Italy.” It was, in my opinion, what is called in Italian una caduta di stile, a lapse of style. I don’t really believe there is an actual “conspiracy,” nor do I think we are surrounded by people who “hate” Italy. I would rather think that some of our fellow-countrymen—some of them actually very influential—hate Berlusconi to the point that they usually make their best to persuade the rest of the world to do the same. In some cases they succeed. Particularly when the haters are acting out of political motivations, or of personal interests. In both cases, however, it’s Berlusconi himself who gives them some good opportunities.

In the case of the Times, as I sketched in a previous post, it’s almost sure that the personal interests of Mr Murdoch have been crucial (here is an interesting update). As for the Guardian and Independent the political motivations must have been a decisive factor. In all cases “the network of those who hate Italy” has nothing to do with both the reality and the common sense.

June 4, 2009

When life was simple...

The object of education is to give man the unity of truth. Formerly, when life was simple, all the different elements of man were in complete harmony. But when there came the separation of the intellect from the spiritual and the physical, the school education put entire emphasis on the intellect and the physical side of man. We devote our sole attention to giving children information, not knowing that by this emphasis we are accentuating a break between the intellectual, physical and the spiritual life.

I believe in a spiritual world, not as anything separate from this world, but as its innermost truth. With the breath we draw, we must always feel this truth, that we are living in God. Born in this great world, full of the mystery of the infinite, we cannot accept our existence as a momentary outburst of chance, drifting on the current of matter towards an eternal nowhere. We cannot look upon our lives as dreams of a dreamer who has no awakening in all time. We have a personality to which matter and force are unmeaning unless related to something infinitely personal, whose nature we have discovered, in some measure, in human love, in the greatness of the good, in the martyrdom of heroic souls, in the ineffable beauty of nature, which can never be a mere physical fact, nor anything but an expression of personality.

Experience of this spiritual world, whose reality we miss by our incessant habit of ignoring it from childhood, has to be gained by children by fully living in it and not through the medium of theo logical instruction. But how this is to be done is a problem difficult of solution in the present age. For nowadays men have managed so fully to occupy their time that they do not find leisure to know that their activities have only movement but very little truth, that their soul has not found its world. 

—Rabindranath Tagore, “My School” (lecture delivered in America, published in Personality, London: MacMillan, 1933)

June 3, 2009

The vengeance of the Shark

Just a quick update on the Berlusconi-Noemi Letizia issue. Not that I have any wish to look after this, and besides I think I said everything I had to say about this subject, but, you know, The Times is the Times, even under Mr. Rupert Murdoch, isn’t it? Er, actually, I am not that sure anymore, but who cares? What matters is the substance of their comments, and the substance is a shower of abuse on a carefully chosen target…

Then again, not that I feel like I have to answer back. Besides, someone else, more entitled than me, already did it: the Milan newspaper Il Giornale, owned by il Cavaliere. What would be more appropriate than “a frank dialogue” between the two respective owners? Unfortunately Il Giornale still has not provided an English-language version of the full editorial, titled Murdoch lo squalo addenta Berlusconi per salvare Sky (“Shark” Murdoch Catches Berlusconi To Save Sky). It’s a pity indeed. But if you stick to essentials, there is an interesting piece by Dennis Redmont, in February 18, 2009 issue of Time Magazine, well worth reading: Berlusconi vs. Murdoch: Italy’s Real Reality TV. Very informative and enlightening! (Thanks: Alex)

June 2, 2009

Il Berlusca e il mentecatto

Dove eravamo rimasti? Con i post in italiano, intendo dire…, dall’ultimo essendo passata tanta di quell’acqua sotto i ponti che quasi non riesco a capacitarmi di come abbia potuto lasciar passare tutto questo tempo. Il fatto è che è più difficile di quel che pensassi tenere in piedi un blog bilingue: questione di atteggiamento mentale, di frequentazione e reperimento delle fonti online, di personali idiosincrasie e di chissà quanti altri fattori, circostanze, pulsioni, interessi, ecc.

Ma oggi è la festa della Repubblica. Il momento adatto per una blogosferica rimpatriata, ancorché tardiva, ancorché poco entusiasmante, data la particolarissima congiuntura “politica” (con le virgolette più o meno obbligatorie). Perché è chiaro che qui non si può parlare che del “caso” di cui tutti scrivono—se ne parlano pure non saprei dire, ma ho la sensazione che no, alla gente non gliene possa fregare di meno, con licenza parlando.

E allora, vediamo un po’ come la possiamo mettere. Dunque, ad uno lo stile di vita del Berlusca può piacere o non piacere, e a me personalmente non piace, e questo non da un punto di vista moralistico (come hanno giustamente detto i vescovi: ognuno se la deve vedere con la propria coscienza, punto e basta), bensì da quello del buon gusto, del senso di ciò che opportuno e di ciò che non lo è, ed anche, se posso dirlo, dell’intelligenza. Però la politica è un’altra cosa. Così uno può non essere un “berlusconiano” e ciononostante essere un elettore più o meno senza tante incertezze dell’attuale capo del governo. Si vota innanzitutto una politica, se poi la persona che la incarna ci convince, tanto meglio. Non viceversa. Ma si può star certi che, quanto a persone, se uno stravede per Franceschini o per Di Pietro, beh, allora qualche problema c’è. Quelli come Franceschini possono andare a genio a chi, non avendo mai fatto politica attiva e non sapendo nulla di come funziona, non immagina neppure lontanamente come un politico di professione abbia potuto far carriera: avete idea di quanta “eleganza e nobiltà d’animo” debba essere capace, o più prosaicamente di quanto “pelo sullo stomaco” debba avere solo per diventare assessore di un comune medio-piccolo? E allora, per favore, lasciamo perdere quel piglio di “superiorità morale” … D’altra parte, se uno non è un po’ sospettoso di un capo partito con la passione per il palcoscenico di un Di Pietro, che si vede lontano un miglio che la politica (o quella che a lui sembra tale) era il suo sogno anche quando faceva il pm, Ok, non ci siamo. Non ho nulla da dire a chi tifa per quei due: se li merita, se li goda.

Detto questo, non voglio sfuggire all’aspetto più spinoso della questione: credo che Berlusconi sia innocente, che non sia, cioè, l’uomo descritto dalla moglie (sulla cui buona fede non mi permetto di avanzare dubbi, ma non sono neppure disposto a prender tutto per oro colato). Il ragionamento di Berlusconi, in sostanza, mi sembra convincente oltre ogni ragionevole dubbio: se avessi avuto qualcosa da nascondere non sarei stato così stupido da farmi scoprire. E detto da uno degli uomini più ricchi del mondo, e che per giunta è partito da zero, c’è da credergli.

Certo la Repubblica ha tutto il diritto di fare la sua campagna, più copie vendute non sono bruscolini e il resto sono chiacchiere. Quel che non è accettabile è questa sinistra mentecatta che cerca di cavar fuori qualche vantaggio elettorale dallo scoop di Repubblica. Forse se si preoccupassero di meno della propria presunta (e contestabile, contestabilissima) “superiorità morale” e di più dei più bassi salari d’Europa percepiti dai loro ex elettori operai perderebbero con dignità e con onore le prossime elezioni e quelle successive, e invece perderanno e basta. E meritatamente, sul piano politico—se anche su quello morale, è una questione che, come si è detto, riguarda le coscienze individuali.