October 30, 2009


        Italian souvenirs by Mirino

In the 'old days' artists had a bound duty to defend their copyright more than might appear to be the case today- thanks to the generous miracle of Internet.

It was signalled to me on one of those 'old days' that someone in Verona was pirating my work in various forms of stationery. I was even given the address. So after writing several threatening letters that proved to be totally ineffective, I decided that the only possible way to resolve the affair would be to go to Verona and corner the culprit. So this I did.

Naively I imagined that it would only take a day, driving there and back, so I didn't take much money. In those days I didn't have much money to take, not that there's ever been any great change in the status quo.

Miraculously I found the place, a sort of prefabricated box building in a seedy suburb of Verona. The director however wasn't there. He was in Torino.
I didn't speak any Italian. I imagined then that everyone spoke French. I told the secretary and others that stared at me with expressions of curiosity and amusement, that I wouldn't leave until he returned. This was impractical because he wasn't due to return until the following day, if not the day after.

In the meantime I decided I should first go to the Chamber of Commerce of Verona in the Piazza delle Erbe. I wonder now how on earth I  managed that, but I did. I found myself opposite a huge man who, with impressive aplomb and weighty gestures, smilingly conveyed that nothing is ever that simple. 'One has to be flexible', etc. He telephoned the company and spoke to whoever was in charge in the boss's absence. At one point during the conversation he ponderingly nodded then gave me a conspiring wink. This indicated, I later discovered, that the person he spoke to had made a serious boob which would enable me to gain satisfaction. But I would have to wait a couple of days.

Fortunately I had a credit card with me so I was able to withdraw the amount of cash I thought I would need. I found a little, reasonable hotel and decided to make the most of my stay by visiting the sites of Verona. I walked miles in the mildness of the clear autumnal weather, visited the Giardino Giusti, strolled down the Via Giuseppe Mazzini to the old market in the Piazza delle Erbe once more, and took the time to admire the lofty tower Lamberti. I visited the famous balcony of Juliet Capuleti which adds even more credence and charm to Shakespeare's immortal Romeo and Juliet.

I ate on the terrace of a little restaurant not far from the Roman Amphitheatre. They may have suspected how skint I was from my appearance. I was convinced that they always gave me huge helpings of tagliatelle and allowed me to demolish all the grated parmesan in view of this. Maybe it was this attention, real or imagined, that contributed to my fondness of Italy.

The third day, after what was a short and most agreeable, surprise holiday, I met the fellow responsible for the pirating. He accepted his responsibility with sheepish grace.
We went to his bank. As the appropriate withdrawal that would secure the rights in question was made, his banker looked at me hatefully as if I were committing a hold up. The pirate's car was even more of a wreck than mine. I was even beginning to feel sorry for the poor guy..

With some of the money I haggled for and bought a Pavoni expresso coffee machine. One of those wonderful chrome beauties that necessitate the long and strenuous arm exercise to squeeze out the short expresso. I still have it and regard it proudly as a precious trophy. The element went years later but I was able to replace it in Milan. This cost me more than I originally paid for the coffee machine itself, but this, and Milano, is another story.

Text © Mirino (PW) October, 2009.

October 28, 2009

"The spirit of Ronald Reagan is alive and well in America"

Washington-based foreign affairs analyst Nile Gardiner in his blog for the Daily Telegraph:

Last November, liberal commentators wrote off conservatism in America as dead and buried. As the latest Gallup poll shows they were spectacularly wrong. It is no coincidence that the most watched news network, the top selling national newspaper, and the most listened to radio shows in the United States are now all conservative.

The success of Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and talk radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin, is a powerful symbol of a vigorous challenge to current liberal dominance of Washington. The vast conservative blogosphere is also an increasingly influential force, from National Review’s The Corner to The Drudge Report, as are leading conservative commentators such as Charles Krauthammer. Combine that with a huge rise in membership this year for grass roots conservative groups campaigning against higher taxes, socialized health care, increased government spending, and defence cuts, and you have the foundations of another conservative revolution.

The spirit of Ronald Reagan is alive and well in America, exemplified by strong public backing for the principles of limited government, free enterprise, individual responsibility and a strong defence. The White House should sit up and take note: it is liberalism, and not conservatism, that is in decline in the United States.

Thanks: Sandra Kennedy.

Not one of those evasive Christians..

They say that big surprises come in small packages, and that’s the plain truth. In this case the package is an article on Slate, written by a guy whose first name is Christopher, but you can bet that he would have preferred a different name—“Christopher,” as it is well known, is of Greek origin, and its meaning is “bearing Christ inside”—had he had the choice. Oh, sorry! I hate people who beat about the bush! But then again, as you probably already guessed, I am talking about “that” Christopher, to be precise the journalist/writer who was the only witness called by the Vatican to give evidence against Mother Teresa’s beatification and canonization process..

And this is what he has to say about Pastor Douglas Wilson :

Wilson isn’t one of those evasive Christians who mumble apologetically about how some of the Bible stories are really just “metaphors.” He is willing to maintain very staunchly that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and that his sacrifice redeems our state of sin, which in turn is the outcome of our rebellion against God. He doesn’t waffle when asked why God allows so much evil and suffering—of course he “allows” it since it is the inescapable state of rebellious sinners. I much prefer this sincerity to the vague and Python-esque witterings of the interfaith and ecumenical groups who barely respect their own traditions and who look upon faith as just another word for community organizing.

Absolutely nothing to add. Read the whole thing here. (Via Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP)

October 27, 2009

He who lives by the sword..

You’ll remember in Matthew 26 when the man who drew his sword and cut off the ear of a servant of the high priest was told by Jesus, “Converte gladium tuum in locum suum. Omnes enim, qui acceperint gladium, gladio peribunt” (“Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword”). Hence the famous proverb “He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword” (Latin: Qui gladio ferit, gladio perit). Well then, in a sense this is just what happened to the Italian Left, which tried to frame Silvio Berlusconi with a(n) (alleged) sex scandal and got itself in a big, embarrassing sex scandal.

What happened? Just as the Democratic Party was preparing to elect a new leader and relaunch its image in nationwide primary, Italy’s largest opposition party was last weekend rocked by a scandal involving Piero Marrazzo, the center-left Governor of Lazio. This is how things happened:

Last Saturday, former TV presenter Mr Marrazzo resigned his position following allegations that he had paid €80,000 to four carabinieri blackmailers in return for their silence about his regular frequenting of transsexual prostitutes in the Via Cassia area of Rome. The four policemen, who were arrested last Thursday, are also believed to have attempted to sell a short film, shot on a mobile phone, in which Mr Marrazzo is seen participating in “erotic games” with a viados, transsexual prostitute. […] Italian dailies yesterday carried interviews with various members of the Rome transsexual community who claimed that Mr Marazzo was a regular, much-prized client who would pay up to €3,000 for a “session”. All of the viados interviewed reported that their encounters with Mr Marrazzo also involved the consumption of cocaine. […] Furthermore, Via Gradoli [the street where is located the apartment in which many of Marrazzo’s encounters of the transsexual kind took place] residents claimed that Mr Marrazzo regularly used his auto blu (state car), complete with his police escort, when visiting the prostitutes.

Although at first Marrazzo denied everything (he was quoted in the daily newspaper La Repubblica saying that “the video is fake”), later on he acknowledged his fault: “It’s a personal case in which weaknesses that have to do with my private sphere have come into play.” Yet, he added, “The mistakes I have made have in no way interfered with my public activity.”

Last but not least, this is the latest sensational detail to emerge from investigations :

Three days before the arrest of the Carabinieri officers from the Trionfale company, Silvio Berlusconi warned Piero Marrazzo that Mondadori had been offered the video showing him with a transsexual. Mr Marrazzo then contacted the Photo Masi agency to try to get hold of the video. […] It turns out that, just as he had in July when he was surprised in the flat in Rome’s Via Gradoli, Mr Marrazzo declined to make a formal complaint and instead attempted to sort out things himself.

What shall I say about this except that, yeah, if you want to put it this way, they sowed the wind and reaped the whirlwind? And yet, in my view, this is not a reason for anyone in Italy to rejoice. Although it couldn’t be called “a bipartisan debacle” this is a sad moment for all those—whether they be right or left-wing—fighting the good fight for a better country.

Of course I don’t question Marrazzo’s sexual tastes, although I don’t certainly like them and even though, along with former prime minister—and senior Democratic Party figure—Massimo D’Alema, I think that “the private behaviour of a public figure has a public relevance.” No, I try to keep politics and my ethical convictions and religious beliefs separated. Marrazzo is to blame, above all, for giving in to blackmail, which is incompatible with the function or dignity of any public office. The rest is between him and his conscience, between Mr Marrazzo and his wife and family.

October 24, 2009


          Italian souvenirs by Mirino

My very first visit to Italy was from the North, travelling down from Munich to Bolzano. It was during the winter many years ago and I was with a girl friend. It was to be my initiation to skiing. She, a Bavarian, had helped me to buy second hand skis. Long, dark red 'Atomic' ones. Too long, too heavy and too fast for a total beginner who thought skiing would be a bit like roller-skating.

(My generation had 'Jacko-Skates'. Two pairs of wheels- front and back to each foot on an extensible chassis that was strapped to each shoe. As the wheels were made with hard, black rubber- far less noisy than the old metal ones, and as they rotated on ball-bearings and had a degree of 'torque', they were considered a revolutionary must. No one then would have ever come up with the single roller blade of wheels on special, dynamic, ankle protecting boots, knee and elbow protection pads and helmet. And an Ipod with ear phones would then have been considered even more alien. With 'Jacko-Skates' it was everyone for him or herself. We simply hoped to steer clear of little stones that tended to 'scrinch-jam' the wheels, and avoided, as best we could, from falling over).

Thus no doubt I was over confident, and so keen to ski that as soon as we arrived at the ski resort in the evening I went out in the dark, put them on to try them out on what I vaguely made out to be the nearest, gentle slope of deep, crisp snow.

This was a mistake of course. I took off, narrowly missed what I discovered the next day to be a car park on one side and a wood pile on the other, then eventually, fortunately, fell hard without breaking anything. It took me what seemed ages to wearily climb back up to the chalet in those black leather, lace up ski boots, heavily laden with my skis and smart chrome 'bâtons', yet unaccountably pleased with myself.

It's unlikely that there's a worst nor more irresponsible way of introducing oneself to the art of skiing, but it gave me even greater, totally unjustified, confidence for the following, sparkling, crystal clear morning when I could see where I was going. All I needed from then on was to learn how to turn and how to stop.

I no longer have those long, dark red skis, on which I learnt to ski, more out of necessity (the will to survive) than from any instruction or the mere pleasure of skiing, but I still have the very neat, and extremely reliable, Geze fixations. They'll work perfectly for generations, even though one would always have to attach leather straps to avoid losing the skis when having fallen, one is smartly ejected from them, as I so often was.

None of this has anything to do with Bolzano or Italy, but then I was very young, fool-hardy and one track minded- certainly in this particular case. I knew nothing of the local history or that if Benito Mussolini succeeded in accomplishing something positive, 'Italianizing' Bolzano (formally Bozen, the ethnic German city until the end of the first World War) might be considered an example.

I recall that, after a few days, still incredibly unscathed, I left my friend and my skis in her care, to take the train down to Genoa, then on to Monaco, France, to visit another friend. I vaguely remember having to change trains somewhere very early in the morning, maybe Genoa. In the cool, little waiting room there was a young soldier smoking, a priest reading, and old lady fast asleep. The stage was set. I remember thinking then, 'this is Italy'.

The train was packed when it eventually arrived, far too late, and it stopped at every single station from then on. I remember supporting someone who was sick, then at another moment sitting opposite, and far too near, a little, old, rural lady eating a black radish.
Then I remember the fresh sea air, the warm sunshine of the delightful morning, the Bougainvillea and the turquoise to deep blue sea as the little train puffed along the Mediterranean coast. It was the first time I had ever seen la Côte d'Azur.

It all now seems like a strange dream, and perhaps in a way it was.

Text © Mirino (PW) October, 2009. 
Modified image (with thanks to Google Images)

Italian life under Fascism

The only place where I’d really appreciate coming across something called (or similar to) Fascism is.. in a history book held in the Rare Books & Special Collections section of a library. Well, this online exhibition—maintained by the Fry Collection, which is based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA—of books, posters and other printed material relating to Mussolini’s regime from 1922 to 1945 is something very close to that. The site includes basic accompanying text about the history of the period. Good stuff for history teachers and scholars. Thanks : Mike Stajduhar.

October 23, 2009

Italian souvenirs

Rob made a recent suggestion that surprised me because I was musing about the exactly same thing. Recollections of visits to Italy, starting with an introduction, to kick off, of course.
The one that will begin this modest series, to be written in chronological order, could have taken place in any location where there was reasonable amount of snow and a good slope, but it was my first visit to Italy, and Italy was to make its impact.

What I omitted in this first account, was the initial drive that was supposed to be from Holland (Amsterdam) to Germany (Munich). For some unfathomable reason (and it's possible that reason never entered into it anyway) I had bought in the Amsterdam flee market (Waterloo-plein) a full grown crocodile skin, which included its head and teeth. My car broke down however in Arnhem and unfortunately it was to be a serious repair job. I had to leave the car, relying on the garage man to nurse it back to life in my absence, and continue the voyage by train. As I had, as always, a very limited budget, and as I could no longer travel easily with the crocodile, at least not without causing embarrassment or panic, I negotiated with the garage man that he accept the big reptile as part payment for the repairs. Surprisingly (or shrewdly) he accepted.

So, with some relief, though a little unsure of the wisdom of having been overly generous regarding what I since realise was a complete, rare and precious crocodile skin, I was able to continue my voyage to honour an important engagement for my initiation to skiing in Bolzano.
So the first of 'Italian souvenirs' (Bolzano) I hope to be able to post very soon.

Text © Mirino (PW) October, 2009. 
Satellite image, with thanks to NASA and Wikimedia Commons

October 21, 2009

What permits a democracy to survive? The Italian case

Beppe Grillo and Antonio Di Pietro
There are many ways to look at the main political issues—such as for instance the freedom of the press, which is very timely, both here in Italy and in the U.S.—as much as there are many ways to look at the social, economic and cultural ones, but only a few of them are compatible with democracy. Apart from the obvious need, for a democracy, of the dialectic confrontation between two or more political alliances, parties and individuals, that is, in other words, apart from the rules of the game itself, politics, as well as an open newspaper, should be a place of tolerance and reason where a frank exchange of ideas is directed at building up, not tearing down.

“Genuine debate—wrote the new editor of the Corriere della Sera newspaper in his first editorial—brings forth the best policies; insincere or incomplete debate only the most superficially viable policies, those that are apparently the least costly. In short, claques and spin doctors won’t get you very far.” And he has remained faithful to his principles since then, to the point that the Corriere della Sera recently got into a major verbal fight with the left-wing la Repubblica newspaper, whose antiberlusconian excesses—along with the cries of the European Left and the UK-based part of the international media group News Corporation, controlled by Rupert Murdoch—have become legend.

A couple of days ago, the Corriere published an editorial by Angelo Panebianco—one of the most prominent Italian scholars of political science—headlined “L’estremista, il settario e il pluralista” (“The extremist, the sectarian and the pluralist”), which is part of that war of words and ideas. Well, what I first thought when I finished reading it was that this article needed to be written. My second thought was, “This piece needs to be translated from Italian to English.” So, since I had not the time to “accomplish the mission,” I emailed Mirino and asked him whether he was willing to undertake the task. His answer was “Yes” (thank you so much, my friend!), and below is the result. I highly recommend a thorough reading of this article, which will help non-Italian readers gain a better understanding of what Italian politics are all about and what they are missing by not being allowed to get accurate information about Italy from their habitual sources of political news.

The extremist, the sectarian and the pluralist
(Corriere della Sera, October 19, 2009)

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

These are suitable moments to return to “fundamentals:” What permits a democracy to survive? With what virtues or qualities must democratic citizenship be endowed with? Democracy is a moderate regime. To be guided it always needs moderate forces of government, of right or left wing, and that the extremist components are kept at bay. But for this to happen it’s necessary that between the citizens prevail certain attitudes rather than others. In all democracies the majority of citizens have insufficient, sporadic, or no interest whatsoever in politics. It is always a minority, perhaps consistent but even so, still a minority, that follow political events with continuity. The prevailing attitudes of this minority dictate the tone and quality of the democracy.

There are three types of humans that meet more frequently in such a minority : the extremists, the sectarians and the pluralists. I list them in the order corresponding with the least to the most compatible with democracy. The real extremists as I refer to here are (fortunately) few, even though they are noisy, and often dangerous. Their presence depends on certain characteristics of politics, on the fact that politics, more than any other human activity, lends itself to be where one can unload one’s personal frustrations. For the extremists, politics represent a huge rubbish dump on which is thrown the worst part of themselves. Extremists are those who hate. They hate themselves in fact but they transform this self-hate into a “political enemy.” Given the competitive and conflictual nature of politics, they are ideal for this operation. The unfortunate youth who, on Facebook, wonders why Berlusconi hasn’t yet been shot in the head, is victim of the climate created by extremists (Incidentally, such an incident could be to his fortune : If he’s not stupid he will reflect and understand that a man is such only if he thinks with his head, he is otherwise commanded or influenced by the dominant climate of his environment).

Then there is the sectarian. With the exception of the extremist, the sectarian, as intended here, is not a psychiatric case. But the sectarian is terrified of opinions that differ from his or her own. Through means of communication the sectarian looks for confirmation of his or her own prejudices, rather than information or debates of ideas. The sectarian is reassured by the idea that exists, in matters of politics, the one and only, clear and incontestable “truth,” and that he or she, being honest and intelligent knows this. For the sectarian, those who don’t want to accept this established truth, are dishonest or stupid.

The sectarian fears the stress that would be created by acknowledging that the world is indeed complex and ambiguous, and needs to count on an image of certainties: good on one side, evil on the other. A great economist, Joseph Schumpeter, said that often excellent people, proficient in their work, are capable of speaking with competence and maturity about their professional problems, but regress to infancy when they start to talk politics: Good, Evil, fairies and ogres, sheriffs with white hats and bandits with black hats. Sectarians, often being anything but stupid, live with the suffering of their own contradiction: the internal coexistence of the horror of opinions that differ from theirs, and the acknowledgement of the necessity of pluralism of opinions in democracy.

Finally there is the pluralist. The pluralist accepts the fact that the world is complex, and thus there is not, based on contingent facts of politics, a permanently acquired Truth. The pluralist accepts the daily problem of (tediously) facing opinions and reflecting on facts in order to succeed in grasping that tiny, precarious “truth.” Without abdicating from his or her own deeper convictions, the pluralist can listen to diverse opinions without fear and thinks that one can be enriched by good and elegantly presented arguments.

The more the pluralist type prevails in the minority interested in politics, the more solid and sure is democracy. It’s not an issue of left or right, or actually of being berlusconian or antiberlusconian. There are sectarians and pluralists of every tendency. For example, the difference between a sectarian antiberlusconian and a pluralist antiberlusconian is that for the former, Berlusconi is the enemy whilst for the latter, he is simply the opponent.

There is then the question of the egg and the hen. There are phases in which, within the minority following politics, the pluralists find themselves in difficulty and seem to almost succumb from the overbearingness of the sectarians (always followed by an embarrassing long queue of extremists). It’s difficult to establish if, in these moments, the sectarians prevail because of being incited by the cries of the shrewd demagogues, or if, on the contrary, the shrewd demagogues have succeeded because of the existence of a large patrol of sectarians.
Angelo Panebianco *


* Angelo Panebianco is Professor of International Relations at the University of Bologna. He also teaches Political Theory at S. Raffaele University of Milan and writes commentary for the Corriere della Sera. Among his most important publications, Political parties : organization and power, Cambridge, [England] ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1988.

P.S. Ooops, I forgot to say that the picture above shows Beppe Grillo and Antonio Di Pietro. How do they come into it? Well, er ... can't you guess?

October 19, 2009

Against the great march of mental destruction

In the last few weeks I happened to quote a couple of thoughts of G.K. Chesterton, who is perhaps one of the most unjustly neglected writers of the 20th century—although his “common sense for the world’s uncommon nonsense” seems “more timely than ever here in the 21st century,” as the American Chesterton Society fairly puts it. In fact, it would be hard to deny that he was a prophet of the cultural disintegration of our times. “Vulgarity,” for instance, was the term he used to describe the abyss into which society was about to fall and the (ultimate?) result of “standardization at a lower standard.” Sounds familiar? Or the great march of mental destruction because of which “everything will be denied,” even that “leaves are green in summer” and “two and two make four” (ask Deconstructionalists, Postmodernists, etc. for further details about this and other brilliant “intellectual achievements”).

But, as Hölderlin’s famous verse goes, “Where peril grows, there also grows what saves.” And that’s why I will keep on quoting G.K. Chesterton & perusing the American Chesterton Society website and its weblog. And I suggest you to do the same, for your own edification. Have a good read!

October 18, 2009

Swords will be drawn

Truths turn into dogmas the instant that they are disputed. Thus every man who utters a doubt defines a religion. And the scepticism of our time does not really destroy the beliefs, rather it creates them; gives them their limits and their plain and defiant shape.

We who are Liberals once held Liberalism lightly as a truism. Now it has been disputed, and we hold it fiercely as a faith. We who believe in patriotism once thought patriotism to be reasonable, and thought little more about it. Now we know it to be unreasonable, and know it to be right. We who are Christians never knew the great philosophic common sense which inheres in that mystery until the anti-Christian writers pointed it out to us.

The great march of mental destruction will go on. Everything will be denied. Everything will become a creed. It is a reasonable position to deny the stones in the street; it will be a religious dogma to assert them. It is a rational thesis that we are all in a dream; it will be a mystical sanity to say that we are all awake.

Fires will be kindled to testify that two and two make four. Swords will be drawn to prove that leaves are green in summer. We shall be left defending, not only the incredible virtues and sanities of human life, but something more incredible still, this huge impossible universe which stares us in the face. We shall fight for visible prodigies as if they were invisible. We shall look on the impossible grass and the skies with a strange courage. We shall be of those who have seen and yet have believed.

~ Gilbert Keith Chesterton, Heretics, 1905

October 17, 2009

The Health Care Battle - Free Choice or Submission to the State?

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

Obama and Congress are making yet another push to force Americans onto Nationalized Health Care. This past week the Senate passed the Baucus bill. All Democrats and one Republican voted for it. The Republican, Olympia Snowe, is a RINO (Republican In Name Only) that votes most of the time with the Democrats. From that and the House bill, there will be a reconciliation bill that is supposed to be the bill that will finalize ultimate control of the people to the State.

Obama and the Dems are intent on getting control of health care in this country, because it would effectively place everyone in the country under the thumb of the State. What can’t be connected to health care and legislated to control behavior? What you eat, what you wear, the car you drive, how you raise your kids, what doctor you go to…everything is related to health care. The Statists have gained control of a huge chunk of the automotive industry, the banking and investment industry, education, and insurance industry. Of this last, they will be able to control completely with the enforcement of ObamaCare.

Over half of the American people want no part of ObamaCare, yet the Statists persist. All during August a huge movement and protests rose up against it. The result was if you’re against it you’re a racist and a whole bunch of other nasty and vile names. Right now in America, if you oppose anything Obama wants, you’re a racist; because you’re too stupid to understand policy, so that can be the only explanation.

The Statists are saying they can insure 47 million more people, cut costs, make it more affordable, eliminate waste and fraud, and provide even better health care. The waste and fraud part is especially a hoot; if that can be done, why hasn’t it already done so with existing government programs? If illegal aliens are taken out of the mix plus people that don’t want health insurance by choice, the number of people is closer to 12 million. They can address those specifically, but won’t because the intent is not helping people, but controlling them. What government program ever cost less over time and increased efficiency?

Not to bore anyone, but the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says this is going to be a huge unfunded mandate that will cost close to a trillion dollars. (In an ‘oops’ moment on the floor of the Senate, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid let slip that the cost would be closer to two trillion.) Only raised taxes, higher national debt and denied care can even begin to address that much cost. "The CBO provides 10- year projections of a bill's cost. But most provisions of the health bill don't take effect until 2014. So the '10-year' cost projection only includes six years of the bill. Plus, the costs ramp up slowly. In its first year, the House bill would only cost about $6 billion; in its first three, less than $100 billion. The big costs are in the final years of the 10-year budget window -- and beyond. In fact, over the first 10 years that the House bill would be in existence (2014 to 2024), its costs would be closer to $2.4 trillion." --Cato Institute
Investor's Business Daily: "The study (PricewaterhouseCoopers) estimates that the average family-coverage cost of about $12,300 [per year] could reach $17,200 in 2013 if these provisions were implemented, $21,300 in 2016 and $25,900 in 2019. Meanwhile, average single coverage -- $4,600 today -- could reach nearly $10,000 in 2019." (This is an additional cost to about a $4,000 per year increase in energy bills to families if “Cap and Trade" legislation gets passed.)

None of the ObamaCare bills (there are 4 or 5), House or Senate, have been printed. No one has read them. The Democrats can pass this legislation without one Republican voting for it, and have vowed to do so, even though most of Americans are against it. The Dems in Congress and Obama said all bills will be posted for a week before voting. No fiscal bill that has run us trillions more in debt were posted, but were voted on before printed; now they are doing the same with ObamaCare. Statists know better what’s good for you than you do. Welcome to Amerika.

Political Correctness Run Amuck in American Football

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

It’s frequently said that baseball is America’s pastime. That may have been true once, but the sport we truly have a passion for is football. One would like to be able to have a seat on weekends to watch, and during the week discuss the strategies and people of the teams, and get away from politics and political correctness. This week, Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh was under attack by the Left because he wanted to become a minor owner in the St Louis Rams. Limbaugh has the largest radio talk show in the nation, a nation currently overseen by Statists. If you’re not a Statist here, you are by definition a racist, bigot, homophobe. So much for sport for the sake of sport.

Limbaugh has been on the air for twenty one years, and has been vilified since day two. Without script he talks on air for fifteen hours a week; quite a skill. When it was announced that he was to be an investor in the Rams (which was supposed to be confidential and was leaked), the anti-diversity crowed started crowing. {Leftists promote diversity only if you belong to a group that supports them. Conservatives and Christians don’t count.} He was accused by racists and extortionists Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, CNN commentator Rick Sanchez, MSNBC News Analyst Chris Matthews and some ESPN sports commentators and a whole host of other leftist liars of making specific racist comments. What they were doing was blocking Limbaugh’s investment because he was a racist (because he’s a Conservative), and were primarily using two quotes attributed to him. Those were: "I mean, let's face it, we didn't have slavery in this country for over 100 years because it was a bad thing. Quite the opposite: Slavery built the South. I'm not saying we should bring it back; I'm just saying it had its merits. For one thing, the streets were safer after dark." and "You know who deserves a posthumous Medal of Honor? James Earl Ray. We miss you, James. Godspeed." (Ray assassinated Martin Luther King.)

These Leftist Liars ran into a huge problem. Limbaugh never said them. Everything he’s said for twenty one years is recorded, and no one can come up with the quotes. A few of these liars have retracted their charges; none have apologized for the slander and defamation. Limbaugh does have legal wheels in motion, and it wasn’t until he said he did that any retractions were offered. No apologies needed from their point of view though. If you’re a Republican or Conservative in this country, you are by definition a racist. For the race hustlers like Jackson and Sharpton, if you’re white you’re a racist by definition.

Several Conservative commentators, Limbaugh among them, said the election of Barack Obama to the Presidency of the United States would only heighten racial tensions, not lower them. So it has become. If one questions, let alone opposes, the fascist policies of Obama, of his hiring of communist “czars” to implement those policies, then you are a racist. If you are labeled so by the administration, his political party, or his lap dog supporters in the Main Stream Media, then you can’t even invest or spend your own money the way you want. Limbaugh was fired from the investment group. This is America?

Rainbow alphabet doggerel (Y,Z)

Y is for Yesterday

'Another year gone,'
The old yak yawned
As he combed his shaggy hair

He was not as young
As he used to be,
But he still had his hairy flair

He still had his horns
And enough teeth left
To chew the yellow hay

And as long as a yak
Has his memories,
He's as young as yesterday.



Z is for Zebra,

The zany, zoophobic zebra
Played a zither with great zeal.
He wore a striped, zippered zephyr
Much too tight for him I feel.



Text © Mirino (PW) images © Juliette, Madison & Mathias. October, 2009

W and X

A and B

October 16, 2009

Tony Blair for president!

I haven’t ever been an euro-enthusiast, and this not because of any prejudice against the thing-in-itself, but rather because of the ways and means of bringing about European political integration. Yet, among doubts and uncertainties, there is one thing I am certain about: Tony Blair is the perfect candidate for the role of president of the European Council as set in the Lisbon Treaty (the EU president is expected to chair EU summits, take on some of the functions of the current presidency of the Council of the European Union and represent the EU on common foreign and security policy).

The former UK prime minister (from 1997-2007) and leader of the Labour Party (from 1994-2007), is currently a Middle East peace envoy. He has the high-level experience of EU politics necessary for the new job. As the Italian daily newspaper Il Foglio—which is mounting a campaign in support of Blair—puts it, he is “a politician of great cultural leadership, of innovative mind and with the strength to lead important ideal and moral struggles,” the man who “has revitalized the international left and has become a model for the more moderate right.”

Yet, the prospect of Tony Blair becoming the first President of Europe dimmed a little last night after President Sarkozy, once one of his chief supporters, acknowledged that he faced strong opposition because of Britain’s Eurosceptic status. “Personally I believe in a Europe that is politically strong and embodied by a person. But the fact that Great Britain is not in the single currency remains a problem,” he told Le Figaro.

The candidacy of Blair is supported by eastern and southern Europe—with Italy at the top of the list—but opposed by the Netherlands and Belgium, and above all by the European Left in general for his support of the war in Iraq and his free market capitalism approach.

Not the best context.. Let me cross my fingers and hope for the best.

October 13, 2009

The new tyranny

Among its main contributors, L'Osservatore Romano, the newspaper of the Holy See, has a famous convert. He is the Spanish and former non-believer writer Juan Manuel de Prada, whose latest book collects the combative articles that he has been writing in recent years in defense of Catholicism and against the subtle and pervasive deception—the “progressive Matrix,” in Prada’s own words—which is at work in the mainstream European culture.

Entitled La nueva tiranía. El sentido común frente al Mátrix progre, the book went through five edition in just five months. Last October 2, L'Osservatore Romano translated and reprinted (on paper) the preface to his book, and now Sandro Magister has had the excellent idea of republishing it on his website. Undoubtedly a must read, in my view.

Here is an excerpt :

“How can one talk about a ‘new tyranny’ when never before have men enjoyed so much freedom and so many rights?” It’s a question the reader unfamiliar with the subject might well ask. The classical tyrannies, in effect, were characterized by the fact that they stifled freedom and denied rights. Men were aware of this usurpation because, deprived of something that belonged to them by nature, they felt diminished.

The new tyranny of which we are speaking, instead, exalts man to the point of adoration, giving him the opportunity to turn his interests and desires into freedoms and rights, which however are no longer inherent in him by nature, but become the “gracious concessions” of a power that legally ratifies them. And so, turned into a child who contemplates his own whims as these are maximized and satisfied, the man of our time is more than ever the hostage of the assertions of power that guarantee him the enjoyment of all-encompassing liberty and constantly expanding rights. In the classical tyrannies, the subject at least still had the consolation of knowing that he was oppressed by a power that was violating his nature; but those who are subjected to this new tyranny have no consolation other than the protection of the same power that has lifted them up to the altar of adoration. And so without even realizing it man has become a tool in the hands of those who tend to him with painstaking care, as ants tend to aphids before feeding on them.

In exchange for these “gracious concessions,” man accepts a hegemonic view of the world that is imposed on him and turns him into an object of social engineering. Let’s call this hegemonic view the "progressive Matrix": a mirage, a grand illusion or trompe-l’oeil that is accepted with a gregarious spirit. Those who dare to question the trompe-l’oeil are immediately the target of anathemas, they are considered reprobates or blasphemers, enemies of the worship of man. The progressive Matrix used by the left has also been assimilated by the right, which has declined to join the battle where the confrontation with the adversary would be dynamic and exciting: on the level of principles. In its capitulation, the right limits itself to introducing insignificant variations on the working of the grand machine, but does not dare to use its gears. It’s like plowing without oxen.

The progressive Matrix has thus become a sort of Messianic faith; it has instituted a new order, it has imposed unassailable cultural principles, it has established a new anthropology that, while promising ultimate liberation to man, holds nothing for him but future suicide. And standing against this new order is only the religious order, which restores to man his true nature and offers him a correct view of the world that undermines the foundations of the trompe-l’oeil on which the new tyranny is based, dispelling its falsehoods. A vision that power makes a great effort in combating, since the religious order is the only bulwark to be destroyed before its triumph is complete.

October 10, 2009

But that was not Obama's fault

“Let’s face it: this prize is premature to the point of ridiculousness” (Joe Klein, Time Magazine). Well, perhaps there would be little or nothing to add to this synthetic definition of the Nobel Committee’s decision to award President Obama the Nobel Peace Prize. Yet, I feel like saying more, and this for the simple reason that it seems to me that it would be unfair to be too negative towards Obama. After all, paraphrasing the subtitle of today’s Washington Post editorial, if he won the prize, that was not his fault.. Which is (obviously) not the case of the Committee itself—and to think that I didn’t suspect there could be, in all of the Western countries, anything stranger and/or more tedious than Italian politics: now, thanks to our Norwegian committeemen, I see that there’s no limit to what we can achieve. May God help us.

October 7, 2009

Italy’s top court rejects Prime minister’s immunity

Some weeks ago, a State legal service memorandum stated that if the Constitutional Court would throw out the so-called Lodo Alfano, namely, the law passed a few weeks after Berlusconi took power last year to block legal action against the four highest offices of State, then “there would be damage to elective functions, which could not be exercised with due dedication, and resignation from office could even ensue. […] There would in any case be damage, most of it irreparable.”

Well, a few minutes ago the 15-member panel of Italy’s top court ruled that the law was unconstitutional—because, besides having been passed by parliament as a normal law rather than a constitutional reform, it violated the constitutional guarantee of equality before the law—thus paving the way for two corruption trials to resume against Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

A spokesman for the Prime minister, Paolo Bonaiuti, called the court’s decision “politically motivated.” And perhaps he is right. At the moment, it’s difficult to foresee what the future holds in store. Let’s just recall that, while Berlusconi’s battles with the law have marked his public life since he burst onto the political scene in the mid-1990s, and although some initial judgments have gone against him, he has never been definitively convicted. What this may mean, it’s up to you, folks, to guess. Please, be nasty-minded and without blinkers, and you’ll have a chance to hit the mark..

Obama's paradox

It was Nathaniel Hawthorne who said that grand schemes have perverse effects: “We miss the good we sought, and do the good we little cared for.” And it is thanks to the current President of the United States, according to Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review, that the theory proves true. In fact, even though for Obama, proving that the US is a center-right country presumably isn’t a “good” at all, “he’s done it with a finality that the late sociologist Seymour Lipset—a student of America’s cussedly right-leaning attitudes—might envy.” Thus, he has turned out to be “the Right’s best community organizer.” Here is how the ‘miracle’ (or ‘heterogenesis of the ends’, if you prefer) happened:

In nine months, he has breathed life into the Republican party, boosted pro-lifers, tarnished the reputation of regulation, bolstered traditional values, increased the public’s desire for immigration restriction, and shifted independent voters rightward.
Obama’s liberal grandiosity has reminded people why they tend to be conservative, something they wanted to forget during the last four years of the Bush administration. Gallup’s surveys in recent months are a long catalog of the Obama snap-back.

Without a doubt, it’s Rich Lowry at his best. [Thanks: Andrea]

Power and Grace

“Power and Grace – The Patron Saints of Europe” (October 8 through January 10, 2010, at Rome’s Palazzo Venezia), as Italian Foreign minister Franco Frattini pointed out at the exhibition preview, offers an opportunity to “re-advance the theme of the Old Continent’s Christian roots,” which is made all the more topical by “the persistence of the Union’s crisis of identity.”

Promoted by the Italian government and the San Floriano Committee of Illegio (a small mountain village of 350 inhabitants in north-eastern Italy which has become a national case because of its magnificent initiatives on this field), this great exhibition will be the first dedicated to the fascinating and complex interplay between the history of Europe and its peoples with the Christian vicissitudes of Western civilization, namely, to the saga of the encounter and the conflict between power and religion, civitas and ecclesia, crowns and halos.

More than one hundred and twenty works—coming from the most prestigious museums of Europe—by artists such as Van Eyck, Memling, Mantegna, Del Sarto, van Dyck, Tiziano, Veronese, El Greco, Guercino, Caravaggio, Murillo and Tiepolo will be on display.

The basic focus of the exhibition are the biographies, in their iconographic version, of the patron saints of the different European states and the six saints who are the guardians of Europe itself: Benedict, Cyril and Methodius, Catherine of Siena, Bridget of Sweden, and Teresa Benedict of the Cross (Edith Stein). Of course, all is aimed to throw light on the society, politics, religion, and cultural context of the times in which they lived and played their important role. The Christian roots of Europe being the result of this role and of the dynamic interplay of civitas and ecclesia, politics and religion, liturgical and devotional phenomena and social and ethnic phenomena.

A very interesting and unique cultural operation. As Frattini also pointed out, Europe’s Christian roots include “the values of the person and his dignity” from which to “depart in giving Europe back its soul.” Which is not an easy task given the state-of-the-art in this field and our intellectually Christophobic elites, as one leading Catholic neoconservative philosopher, George Weigel, stressed in his excellent The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America, and Politics Without God.

It is to be hoped that this initiative will be crowned by success and soon followed by others of the same kind throughout the Western countries.


First written for The Metaphysical Peregrine

October 6, 2009

Rainbow alphabet doggerel (W,X)

W is for Wish

"I grant you three wishes,"
The wizard declared,
"Think wisely and note
That a wish can't be shared."

"I wish for peace for all people,
Their happiness and good health,
Then three more wishes,
Just for myself."


X is for Xenophobe

Alex was an xenophobe
Who never went abroad.
He was born in Sutton Coal Field
And so was his wife Maud.

Alex had an xylophone
A Xmas gift from Nell.
He never took it anywhere,
Which perhaps was just as well.


Text © Mirino
(PW) images © Mathias & Eddie. October, 2009

Y and Z

U and V

October 5, 2009

No time for the Dalai Lama

Who remembers how, on the last January 17th, the Dalai Lama greeted the outgoing President of the U.S., George W Bush? He chose these words: “I love President George W Bush.” Leaving the audience stunned—he was delivering the Madhavrao Scindia Memorial Lecture in New Delhi—the Tibetan spiritual leader recalled how he and the then US President instantly struck a chord in their first meeting. Of course he was well aware that in his most recent visit to Washington, in 2007, George W Bush was the first American president to meet him in public in a ceremony on Capitol Hill.

But times have changed, and much water has flowed under the bridge since then. In fact, now His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet, who is in Washington these days after a long tour through North America, for the first time since 1991 won’t be welcomed by the U.S. President. Why? Because the White House has preferred not to have Barack Obama meet him now in order not to damage relations between China and the U.S. ahead of Obama’s visit to China in November.

Well, this is precisely what is called “realpolitik” in international affairs. And yet, in my humble opinion, at this stage two questions, at least, arise spontaneously: “Is this the America that the Founding Fathers would have wanted?” And “Is this the America that Obama wants?” Or, more pragmatically, along with Frank Wolf, a Republican member of Congress involved in the fight for human rights, we might ask ourselves, “What would a Buddhist monk or Buddhist nun in Drapchi prison think when he heard that President Obama, the president of the United States, is not going to meet with the Dalai Lama?” In China, Wolf added, “It’s against the law to even have a picture of the Dalai Lama. I can almost hear the words of the Chinese guards saying to them that nobody cares about you in the United States.” Of course, this is an exaggeration, but..

October 4, 2009

Brother Sun, Sister Moon

Just don’t forget what day this is: October 4, St. Francis of Assisi Feast Day..

From Brother Sun, Sister Moon (1972), by Franco Zeffirelli:

October 2, 2009

“How Would You Introduce Jesus?”

I watched this video today—thanks to my FaceBook friends Kim and Alan—and loved it. It’s absolutely amazing. This is Steve Harvey, a secular comedian, actor and entertainer, addressing a secular audience on the subject of “How Would You Introduce Jesus Christ to a Room Full of People?”

As someone noted, “it’s hard to imagine that this is a comedian and not a preacher, and this is an audience and not a congregation.”

The next time you have opportunity to introduce Our Lord to someone, why not begin with this video?

October 1, 2009

The Polanski Case, or The Double Standard (Updated)

To prove that nowadays, in America and Europe, we can argue about anything, there is the heated debate over whether to prosecute a man who drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl. Ok, the crime occurred so long ago—more than 30 years ago—and the victim, now a 45-year-old mother of three, has asked authorities to drop charges against the man who sexually abused her.

“But seriously:” as Howard Kurtz put it in yesterday’s Washington Post, “some folks are saying that an adult can do this to a child, flee the country before sentencing and pay no price?” Well, it seems so. They say that the girl was willing and sexually experienced and, what is more, that she has forgiven him. They also say that the rapist has somehow suffered enough because he’s had to live outside the United States, and that he had a tragic childhood and life. But most of all they seem to think that perhaps he should not be punished “because” he is a great artiste. As a matter of fact, directors, actors and intellectuals have been signing a petition demanding Polanski’s immediate release.

What is almost certain is that, if Polanski were not an award-winning film director, we wouldn’t be having this debate. “The Hollywood elite,” Kurtz writes, “wouldn’t give Polanski the plumber the time of day if he had sexually assaulted an underage girl. And that suggests to me a stunning double standard.” Double standard? Fair point. I mean, all considered, it is difficult not to agree with him.

That’s why it’s hard to understand how French Foreign minister Bernard Kouchner—on the same wavelength with his Polish counterpart (they both have written to secretary of State Hillary Clinton about the issue)—could have declared the arrest was “a bit sinister … frankly, (arresting) a man of such talent recognised around the world, recognised in the country where he was arrested — that’s not very nice.” And how Culture minister Frédéric Mitterrand could have said “just as there is a generous America that we like, there’s also an America that scares us, and that’s the America that has just shown us its face.”

Fortunately for France (and Europe), one might argue, the Greens leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit made headlines by bucking the trend and saying he was “ill at ease” with the rush to absolve Polanski and the culture minister should have been more cautious in his comments.

Another “ill at ease” observer is Rev. Thomas J. Reese, a senior fellow at Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, who posted an item headlined, “Father Polanski Would Go to Jail,” at his Washington Post blog On Faith. Here is what he thinks about the above mentioned arguments against Polanski’s prosecution (and the “double standard”):

Such arguments from pedophile priests would be laughed out of court and lambasted by everyone, and rightly so. It makes no difference that the girl is willing and sexually experienced, it is a crime. It is the role of the court, not the victim, to decide who goes to jail and for how long.
It is not as if Polanski is the only Hollywood celebrity to be accused of child abuse. Woody Allen and Michael Jackson come to mind. I am sure that with a little research the media could come up with quite a list. The Catholic Church has rightly been put under a microscope when 4 percent of its priests were involved in abuse, but what about the film industry?
The world has truly changed. Entertainment is the new religion with sex, violence and money the new Trinity. The directors and stars are worshiped and quickly forgiven for any infraction as long as the PR agent is a skilled as a saintly confessor. Entertainment, not religion, is the new opiate of the people and we don't want our supply disturbed.
Is there a double standard here? You bet


UPDATE (October 4, 2009, 11:00 am) :

..Just wanted to let my readers know that this is worth reading (how it came that a rape turned out to not to be a rape anymore, etc.).