September 28, 2009

September 26, 2009

Rainbow alphabet doggerel (U,V)


U is for Unicorn

I once saw a unicorn
Quite unexpectedly.
It stood upon a mountain side
Under a eucalyptus tree.

Unable to contain myself
I uttered words of joy,
Aware of the enchantment
That I was once more a little boy.

The unicorn looked at me
And seemed to understand.
The dream was unforgettable,
A utopian wonderland.

___




V is for Vision

The vulgar vulture
Was very vain
Until he viewed
His reflection
In a puddle of rain.

"What a vile vision",
He vociferated,
Then vexed by the verity,
Flew off exasperated.

___


Text & image © Mirino
(PW) image © Eva. September, 2009
___

W and X

S and T

September 25, 2009

'A Great Good Man'

Irving Kristol, who died one week ago at the age of 89, was undoubtedly one of the most important American political thinkers of the second half of the twentieth century. Yet, for me, as well as for most of my fellow countrymen who have been following American politics for years and happened to follow a similar political path—from liberal to (neo-)conservative, to tell it in a few words—he was far more than that: he was a major point of reference, a guiding star. I have read many of his writings and watched some of his interviews on TV. Of course I have learned a lot from him, and then again, I must say that most of all I have admired his moral and intellectual personality. That’s why, amongst all the tributes paid to him after his death, the one that I love most is this piece by Charles Krauthammer :

The wonder of Irving was that he combined this lack of sentimentality with a genuine generosity of spirit. He was a deeply good man who disdained shows of goodness, deflecting expressions of gratitude or admiration with a disarming charm and an irresistible smile. That's because he possessed what might be called a moral humility. For Irving, doing good -- witness the posthumous flood of grateful e-mails, letters and other testimonies from often young and uncelebrated beneficiaries of that goodness -- was as natural and unremarkable as breathing.
Kristol's biography has been rehearsed in a hundred places. He was one of the great public intellectuals of our time, father of a movement, founder of magazines, nurturer of two generations of thinkers -- seeding our intellectual and political life for well over half a century.
Having had the undeserved good fortune of knowing him during his 21-year sojourn in Washington, I can testify to something lesser known: his extraordinary equanimity. His temperament was marked by a total lack of rancor. Angst, bitterness and anguish were alien to him. That, of course, made him unusual among the fraternity of conservatives because we believe that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. That makes us cranky. But not Irving. Never Irving. He retained steadiness, serenity and grace that expressed themselves in a courtliness couched in a calm quiet humor.

September 23, 2009

One or two good reasons for supporting The Green Children

As the old proverb goes, “Tell me whom you associate with, and I will tell you who you are.” That is also why I think The Green Children are worth encouraging and supporting. In fact, they work in association with 2006 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus, the father of microcredit, namely the extension of very small loans (microloans) to those in poverty—too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans—designed to spur entrepreneurship and by consequence to give those people the chance to bring themselves out of poverty.

Such financial innovation originated with the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, and was marked by considerable success. The Grameen Bank currently serves over 7 million families. As it was not enough, due to the success of microcredit, many in the mainstream finance industry have begun to realize that those microcredit borrowers should more correctly be categorized as pre-bankable. As a result a lot of traditional large finance organizations are now contemplating microcredit projects as a source of future growth.. An egg of Columbus!

Well, when Milla Sunde—who is one of my most cherished Facebook friends—and Tom Bevan established The Green Children Foundation what they exactly wanted to do was to support such a great idea. Because they “believe in promoting positive stories that highlight the solution, not the problem.” And I must say that I love their cause almost as much as their attitude of mind..

Milla is a professional singer and songwriter who from a young age, as she herself tells it on the Foundation’s website, hoped to channel her creativity “in a way that could positively influence the world.” Hence “Hear Me Now.” Enjoy this beautiful song (by the way, 50% of the iTunes proceeds will go to a new lending project for the poor of India), and please spread the word and help Milla and Tom raise awareness by sharing the video below.

September 21, 2009

Autumn Equinox


O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stained

With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit

Beneath my shady roof; there thou may’st rest,

And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe;

And all the daughters of the year shall dance!

Sing now the lusty song of fruit and flowers.


—William Blake, “To Autumn,” 1783


Tomorrow is September 22nd, the first day of Fall.
I wish you all, dear readers, a pleasant and enjoyable Autumn Equinox!

Apostasy in Islam

The American Thinker has a piece today about the issue of apostasy in Islam. According to Andrew G. Bostom, both the preamble and concluding articles of the Cairo Declaration, or so-called “Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Islam,” which was drafted and subsequently ratified by all the Muslim member nations of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), make plain that that document is “designed to supersede Western conceptions of human rights as enunciated, for example, in the US Bill of Rights, and the UN's 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Andrew G. Bostom is the author of The Legacy of Jihad. Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims, which is widely considered the first comprehensive collection of the major documents on the theory and practice of jihad, from Mohammed until today. Thanks: Sandra Kennedy.

September 19, 2009

Neo-Racism, The Left, and Opposition to Obama

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

Political discourse has reached a vile and disgusting low. The view from Conservatives is that Obama and the Democrats are fully ramped up to have the government take over every aspect of the lives of American citizens. In just a few hundred days, huge segments of the insurance sector are now controlled by the government, including the auto industry and banks. The last piece of the puzzle for total control is health care. A majority of Americans don't want nationalized heath care, or nationalized anything.

A battle raged over the summer, especially in August. The Democrats tried to push through HR 3200 which would totally usurp all individual health resources, before their August recess. (They of course deny it would do any such thing.) The reason is because they knew there would be hell to pay when congressmen went back to their districts. They were right. Town hall meetings were packed. Apparently these elected politicians forgot they are the employees of the people. They began yelling back at them and insulting them (attendees only started yelling and booing when the politician told a blatant lie). People would read directly from the bill about some usurpation of choice and freedom, and the politician would still deny it was in the bill.

Now it’s come to this. If you oppose Obama on any issue you’re a racist. Some of the other things people opposing him have been called are ‘domestic terrorists’ and ‘Nazi’. These are being hurled at the political opposition by all the Main Stream Media (MSM) and the leaders of the Democrat Party. So much for objective reporting and good leadership qualities.

There have been “Tea Parties” since about April of this year. They started as anti-tax increase rallies, and grew in size every month until there are millions. They have been called ‘teabaggers’ which we learned was a homosexual sex act. Who knew? Then the terrorist, Nazi, and the rest.

It comes down to this. If you oppose the nationalization of health care, “ObamaCare”, you are a racist. If you oppose the nationalization of the banks, you are a racist. If you oppose the nationalization of car companies, you are a racist. If you oppose the nationalization of the insurance industry, you are a racist. If you oppose his decision to not provide missile defense in Central Europe, you are a racist. From a personal attack on me for defending myself from the charge of being a racist, it turns out that if you say you have friends and family of many races and love them, and had friends of many races that died in combat at your side, then you are using “race credentials” and shows that you’re even a bigger racist. Charles Krauthammer has a great observation about all this here. (He's a psychiatrist as well as a columnist.)

Obama said with his election, we will live in a post racial America. He has not said one thing to stop these vile, hateful attacks on his political opposition. Sure glad to live in a post racial Amerika.

Speaking Ill of the Dead

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

Traditionally it shows poor form to speak ill of the dead. In the case of Ted Kennedy, it’s necessary. Statists of course love him. This is the guy that was born into wealth and privilege and spent his life legislating taking money from some people to give to others. He started his career being drunk, driving off a bridge and killing a woman; then running away and hiding for about ten hours. No punishment. He was a drunk all his adult life until he was too sick. He was expelled from Harvard for cheating (allowed to return later). He claimed to be a Catholic yet supported state financed abortion, and promoted homosexual behavior. My view is that if you don’t agree with the position of an institution or organization, why belong to it?

When Robert Bork, one of the most brilliant jurists of the late 20th Century was nominated, Kennedy had this to say, "Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens." That and other vile things were said about and to Judge Bork, so we now have the adjective, ‘borking’. Since then every Republican judicial nominee to any level has to some degree been borked. The idea is to destroy both the life and career of the nominee. Nice.

In 1983 he worked with the Soviet Union, at the height of the Cold War, to undermine and defeat Ronald Reagan. This information is from letters released when the KGB opened its archives. In the letters he blamed the Reagan Administration, not the Soviet Union, for increasing hostilities. Nice.

He passed legislation that benefited him and friends. He’s for wind energy, but not off the coast of his beach front mansion, so he stopped offshore windmills even though they were over the horizon and couldn’t be seen. He used legislation to cramp major oil companies while making millions from small oil companies protected by his legislation.

He did not personally sacrifice for the poor, time or money. He never curtailed his conspicuous consumption.

I’m sad for the family and loved ones that will miss him. We do miss those we love when they die.

America though, is better off without him. As the magazine “National Review” noted: “The bad news for Ted Kennedy is that it’s not the press that will be judging him now.”
(They are still praising him in the Main Stream Media here.) RIP

Against Anti-Americanism

“Ours is a better world because of America. The world is safer because of the American soldier. The world is wealthier because of American enterprise. The world is healthier because of American technology. No nation is perfect, but imagine the world without America. I reject anti-Americanism. I declare myself a friend of the United States of America.”

That’s what is stated in the Global Declaration Against Anti-Americanism, issued by AmericaInTheWorld.com, the website of the London Centre for the Study of Anti-Americanism, a cross-party organization—which was launched and funded in October 2008 by “supporters of America”—aimed to “increase understanding of America, to debunk some of the leading myths about the United States, and to make a positive case for a continuing leading role for America in the world.”

The Declaration can be signed here.

“Anti-Americanism,” as the organization’s manifesto states, “is not just America’s problem.” And that is undoubtedly true. I have just signed up.

September 18, 2009

Honor to the fallen


Lieutenant Antonio Fortunato, 35; Corporal Matteo Mureddu, 26; Corporal Gian Domenico Pistonami, 26; Corporal Davide Ricchiuto, 26; Sergeant Major Roberto Valente, 37; and Corporal Massimiliano Randino, 32. They were paratroopers of the “Folgore” brigade.

Thursday’s suicide attack in Kabul was the single heaviest loss of life to be suffered by Italy since two car bombs in Nassiriya, Iraq, killed twelve Carabinieri military police, five army soldiers and two civilians on November 12, 2003.

They died supporting the cause of freedom in Afghanistan and served their country. How should we honor them? They gave their lives for what they believed in, as their parents, wives and fiancées are witnessing in these hours. So, let’s honor them by never forgetting them and what they believed in and fought for. That’s also why, along with Ignazio La Russa, the Italian defense minister, and foreign minister Franco Frattini, I think that the best answer is that ”these cowardly killers will not stop us,” and that such attacks “will not deter us from helping the Afghan people consolidate its democratic aspirations.”

September 15, 2009

Rainbow alphabet doggerel (S,T)

S is for Simple

Sailor Simon went to sea
In a ship with a single sail.
When a salty storm shook the ship
The sail was slit by the gale.

So when all seemed lost
And the squall shrieked on
He was seized by a shylock squid,
'If I take you to shore and save your soul,
It would only cost you a quid.'

(When sailor Simon went to sea
He only took sixpence
He surmised that if he offered that
The squid would take offence)

So as the ship sunk slowly
The squid squeezed out some ink,
'Just sign upon the dotted line,
Or else you're sure to sink.'

So sailor Simon's soul was saved
And so should suit his story
But since he's sadly still in debt
Such seems to shame his glory.
___

Sailor Simon went to sea
In a ship with a single sale
As he sailed the seas in search of the squid
His ship shook from the shock of a whale.

'I'm so sorry,' Simon said,
'I didn't see you there.'
The whale simply softly sighed
Then said he didn't care.

'Another scar upon my side
Seems no surprise to me,
But tell me Sir, why sail a ship
So blindly upon the sea?'

'I'm searching for the shylock squid
Who threatens me to sue.
I still owe him six shillings,
A sum sadly overdue.'

With a smart squirt from his spout
The whale spoke then slowly sank,
'I saw the squid on Saturday,
Stranded on a bank.'

'He hid his savings in the sand
And missed the final tide.
It seems that since from sunstroke
The shylock squid has died.'

So sailor Simon's soul was saved
And so were his six shillings,
For tides may serve as nature's way
Of settling final billings.

___


T is for Time

The toad shed a tear
As he sat on his stool
Thinking of old times
When he once went to school.

Such a tiny tadpole
Would much rather play
Than tediously try
To learn lessons each day.

'There's always tomorrow,'
The small tadpole thought,
'Always tons of time
For me to be taught.'

The toad blinked and sighed
Twitching his old toes.
One lesson he'd learnt
Was how quickly time goes.

___


Text & image © Mirino
(PW) image © Chiara. September, 2009
___

U and V

Q and R

September 13, 2009

'Your "allegria," the true one, has just begun!'


Mike Bongiorno has passed away. An American-born Italian television host, he was undoubtedly one of Italy’s most enduring and beloved TV personalities, the man who popularized quiz shows for generations of Italians. He was also known by the nickname il Re del Quiz (The Quiz King), and his gaffes—real or presumed—were legendary almost as his trademark greeting to viewers—“Allegria!” (“Cheers!”).

As most of my fellow countrymen, I am mourning his loss, though I have never been a follower of that kind of TV show. What I most liked about him was his professionalism and, at the same time, his “ingenuousness,” that is to say, the extraordinary way he performed his job, though I was not a lover of it.. And this in a country much less ingenuous—at least as it was supposed to be, because of its history and culture—than he himself was. But evidently his audience was made up of very ordinary people, the new Italians, less “subtle” and more pragmatic than their ancestors (and perhaps also more sensitive upon the subject of money and “success”). The Italians who made up the wealth of the country, after centuries of poverty and emigration.

Mike also happened to became so popular that the lefty Umberto Eco wrote a learned and ironic essay called the “Phenomenology of Mike Bongiorno.” Here is an excerpt from the essay:


Mike Bongiorno is not particularly good-looking, not athletic, courageous, or intelligent. Biologically speaking, he represents a modest level of adaptation to the environment. The hysterical love he arouses in teenage girls must be attributed partly to the maternal feelings he arouses in a female adolescent, and partly to the glimpse he allows her of an ideal lover, meek and vulnerable, gentle and considerate. Mike Bongiorno is not ashamed of being ignorant and feels no need to educate himself. He comes into contact with the most dazzling areas of knowledge and remains virgin, intact, a consolation to others in their natural tendencies to apathy and mental sloth. He takes great care not to awe the spectator, demonstrating not only his lack of knowledge but also his firm determination to learn nothing.
On the other hand, Mike Bongiorno displays a sincere and primitive admiration for those who do know things. He emphasizes, however, their physical qualities, their dogged application, their power of memory, their obvious, elementary methodology. A man becomes cultivated by reading many books and retaining what they say. Mike Bongiorno hasn't the slightest inkling that culture has a critical and creative function. For him, its only criterion is quantitative. In this sense (having to read many books in order to be cultured), the man with no natural gifts in that direction simply renounces the attempt.
Mike Bongiorno professes a boundless faith in the expert. A professor is a man of learning, a representative of official culture; he is the technician in the field. The question goes to him, to his authority. . But true admiration of culture is found only when, through culture, money is earned. Then culture proves to be of some use. The mediocre man refuses to learn, but he decides to make his son study. Mike Bongiorno's notion of money and its value is petit bourgeois: "You've now won a hundred thousand lire! A tidy sum, eh?"
Mike Bongiorno thus expresses to the contestant the merciless reflections that the viewers will be making at home: "You must be very happy with all this money, considering the monthly salary you earn. Have you ever put your hands on so much money before?"
[…]
Mike Bongiorno accepts all the myths of the society in which he lives. When Signora Balbiano d'Aramengo appears as a contestant, he kisses her hand, saying that he is doing this because she is a countess (sic).
With society's myths he accepts also society's conventions. He is paternal and condescending with the humble, deferential with the socially distinguished.
Handing out money, he instinctively thinks, without explicitly saying so, more in terms of alms than of deserved rewards. He indicates his belief that in the dialectic of the classes the one route of upward mobility is represented by Providence (which, on occasion, can assume the guise of Television).
Mike Bongiorno speaks a basic Italian. His speech achieves the maximum of simplicity. He abolishes the subjunctive, and subordinate clauses; he manages to make syntax almost invisible. He shuns pronouns, repeating always the whole subject. He employs an unusually large number of full stops. He never ventures into parentheses, does not use elliptical expressions or allusions. His only metaphors are those that now belong to the commonplace lexicon. His language is strictly referential and would delight a neo-positivist. No effort is required in order to understand him. Any viewer senses that he himself, if called upon, could be more talkative than Mike Bongiorno.

Mike Bongiorno rejects the idea that a question can have more than one answer. He regards all variants with suspicion. Nabucco and Nabuccodonosor are not the same thing. Confronted by data, he reacts like a computer, firmly convinced that A equals A and tertium non datur. An inadvertent Aristotelian, he is consequently a conservative pedagogue, paternalistic, reactionary.
Mike Bongiorno has no sense of humor. He laughs because he is happy with reality, not because he is capable of distorting reality. The nature of paradox eludes him; if someone uses a paradox in speaking to him, he repeats it with an amused look and shakes his head, implying that his interlocutor is pleasantly eccentric. He refuses to suspect that behind the paradox a truth is concealed, and in any case he does not consider paradox an authorized vehicle of expression.


Perhaps a bit harsh? Yes and no, in my view—I wonder whether I (to say nothing about the vast majority of the public) could have tolerated the kind of hosts Umberto Eco would have presumably liked in the days when he wrote his essay, back in 1963..

However, I suspect that Umberto Eco would have never be able to invent such a nice way to say goodbye to a friend: “Your allegria, the true one, has just begun. And will never end!” (Adriano Celentano, singer, songwriter and TV host). Luigi Accattoli is right: this was the best comment. Quite similar, in a sense (and equally nice), to the one another singer and songwriter, Lucio Dalla, made for Luciano Pavarotti back in September 2007: “His absence will be a temporary one, because I consider death as the end of the first half of an individual’s life.”

September 11, 2009

'Standardization by a low standard'

To put it shortly, the evil I am trying to warn you of is not excessive democracy, it is not excessive ugliness, it is not excessive anarchy. It might be stated thus: It is standardisation by a low standard.

~ Gilbert Keith Chesterton, “Culture and the Coming Peril” (lecture delivered at the University of London, reprinted in the “Chesterton Review,” Vol. 18, No. 2, August, 1992).

September 4, 2009

Dino Boffo steps down

Epicureans showed little interest in participating in politics, since doing so leads to trouble. So they preferred to live without pursuing glory or wealth or power, but anonymously, enjoying little things like food, the company of friends, etc. Now one might think that their favorite saying, Lathe biōsas (λάθε βιώσας, meaning “live secretly,” “get through life without drawing attention to yourself”), would apply to Dino Boffo, the editor of Avvenire—the Italian Bishops Conference’s daily—who criticized Silvio Berlusconi’s flamboyant lifestyle but just a few hours ago resigned after another newspaper, Il Giornale, owned by Berlusconi’s family, reported last week that Boffo had accepted a plea bargain and paid a fine in 2004 after being accused of harassing the girlfriend of a man with whom he was in a relationship. And that is why Vittorio Feltri, the editor of Il Giornale, had an easy time with Boffo when he called him a hypocritical moralist who should not criticize Berlusconi’s lifestyle because he had sexual skeletons in his own closet.

Yet, I myself have never liked Epicureans, I’ve always preferred Stoics, like Marcus Aurelius, who once wrote “Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one” (this seems to fit well into the whole story, doesn’t it? But ok, I can’t stand moralists—no one is perfect..). However, apart from quotations, that’s a very serious (and sad) story, and I am very sorry for Dino Boffo and his family, even though, at the same time, I can’t entirely blame Vittorio Feltri, who did his own (dirty) job, exactly the way the editor of la Repubblica did with Berlusconi (and that's why il Cavaliere is suing la Repubblica for defamation, asking for one million euros in damages for the newspaper’s recent coverage of the premier’s personal life).

But, honestly, what I regret most is the damage suffered by the Church, which however is not entirely innocent.. As Vittorio Messori put it (see yesterday’s Corriere della Sera, in Italian), after the conviction in the 2004 trial,

traditional prudence would have suggested to ask the “convicted” to step down, assuming less prominent roles, less exposed to blackmail and scandal news. And this even if the whole story had been a misunderstanding, a revenge, a miscarriage of justice.
[…]
The oblivion of the virtue of prudence costs dear.


Vittorio Messori is one of the most popular Catholic writers, and the author of Jesus Hypothesis (1976). He is also the first journalist in history to publish a book-length interview with a Pope, the best-selling Crossing the Threshold of Hope (1994). And I generally trust his opinion (as well as his knowledge on such matters).