May 29, 2010

Memorial Day

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

"With hearts fortified with these animating reflections, we most solemnly, before God and the world, declare, that, exerting the utmost energy of those powers, which our beneficent Creator hath graciously bestowed upon us, the arms we have compelled by our enemies to assume, we will, in defiance of every hazard, with unabating firmness and perseverance employ for the preservation of our liberties; being with one mind resolved to die freemen rather than to live as slaves." ~~Declaration of the Cause and Necessity of Taking up Arms, July 6, 1775

This coming Monday is our Memorial Day, to honor our fallen. I’m a combat veteran (Vietnam), and each year this Day becomes more and more personal; I’m reminded of men I knew that actually fell. With God’s grace I survived.

The last line of our Declaration of Independance: "For the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor."

The oath we (enlisted) take when we join the military: "I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."

Officers’ Oath: "I, _____ (SSAN), having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of _____ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God."

Since the American Revolution 1.2 million servicemen and servicewomen have died fulfilling this oath, and 1.4 million have been wounded. We have extended that oath beyond our shores, for the cause of liberty of all humanity. Benjamin Franklin: "Our cause is the cause of all mankind, and that we are fighting for their liberty in defending our own."

Honor. Duty. Country.

In Memoriam.

May 28, 2010

All gave some, some gave all

Memorial Day Weekend 2010.
In honor of the Fallen Heroes of the US Army, Navy, Air Force,
Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Reserves.
Let us remember where our freedom has come from and honor those who have given their lives for it.

May 27, 2010

If Cameron is so much more than Blair reincarnated

Simon Jenkins in yesterday's Guardian:

The bond formed by David Cameron and Nick Clegg on May 11 produced an almost surreal moment in British politics, not so much a coalition as a fusion. Two lookalikes have become feelalikes, and it is hard to see how they can ever part. A cynic can add: fine so far … wait and see. But something remarkable has happened. It is time to take stock.
The government's ideological ambitions are almost identical to Blair's in 1997, which is why Cameron was so deftly able to fashion a centre-right coalition out of the ruins of New Labour's centre-left one. But he is a cleverer, deeper politician than Blair, with whom he once compared himself. Blair was hobbled by his obsession with headlines and his failure to understand how government worked. He surrounded himself not with doers but cronies.
Cameron suffers some of the same handicaps. But he seems a more original political personality. He is less blinded by the glamour of office. He walks to work and has dictated an ascetic administration. He seems to care about civil freedom, unlike Blair, and to be thinking afresh in areas of foreign policy.

Read the rest.

Since there are no cynics here, let’s put it this way: Fine so far ... keep up the good work, Mr. Cameron and Mr. Clegg!

May 26, 2010

'How Great Thou Art'

I love this one! Especially in Spring ...

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: "My God, how great Thou art!"

So spoke Tremonti, and Brunetta answered...

As two of Berlusconi’s most-trusted aides, Paolo Bonaiuti and Gianni Letta, had announced it a couple of days ago, “The time has come for sacrifices,” and they will be “very heavy, very hard and let’s hope temporary.” And yesterday, in an effort to comply with the International Monetary Fund calling on Italy not to relax fiscal discipline, to reduce the public debt and boost its long-term growth rate, the government of Silvio Berlusconi approved budget cuts of up to €24 billion ($29.7 billion) over the next two years. The austerity package is the most stringent put in place since Italy tightened its belt in the late 1990s to enter the euro.

This should hopefully bring the deficit back below 3% of GDP (3.9% in 2011 and 2.7% in 2012) from last year’s 5.3%—which is, after all, relatively modest compared with other EU countries—and offer reassurance about the country’s accounts to financial markets.

“This is not a classical budget law. It is an intense discontinuity for the system that all of us must understand,” said Finance minister Giulio Tremonti. “What we did last night is a change of direction,” Berlusconi’s Public administration minister, Renato Brunetta, said on Sky Italia. “Enough uncontrolled costs of the state.” And, perhaps, they both are right. Why? Well, first of all because the government will carry out half of the cuts by reducing the amount of funds that Italy’s central government allocates to regions and cities. This means that major regions running large deficits (Lazio, Campania and Calabria) will be forced to raise business and income taxes. And it was time for this to happen, in my humble opinion. After all, as Stefano Manzocchi, international economics professor at Rome’s Luiss university, puts it, ”Italy is like a microcosm of Europe,” and just as Brussels labors to impose fiscal discipline on Athens, so Italy’s central government has (always had) to fight a desperate battle to control the debt-laden finances of its own wayward regions, and that’s perhaps the most serious challenge that the country is facing today. Furthermore, provincial governments with less than 220,000 inhabitants and some publicly funded think-tanks will be abolished. This is what one might  call “structural cuts,” or at least this is how, in my deep ignorance (this is the plain truth, believe it or not…), I understand it. But “structural cuts” is exactly what everyone was hoping for from the government …

Other key measures in the plan include a crackdown on tax evasion and false benefit claims (100,000 checks per year in 2010-2012 on claims for invalidity pensions, and a ban on cash payments for sums above 5,000 or 7,000 euros). The rest, so to speak, is just routine.

However, analysts say the plan is an encouraging first step, though probably not enough, in the long run. “We feel this should be a forerunner of a prolonged period of better fiscal management,” said Raj Badiani, of IHS Global Insight. And I personally couldn’t agree more, if this may be of any interest to you readers.

May 25, 2010

Ahmadinejad was in Khorramshahr to commemorate a victory, but ...

And to think that it was meant to be a rousing speech of national pride, a speech to commemorate the liberation of the south-western city of Khorramshahr after an 18-month occupation, at the time of the Iraq-Iran war. But the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, experienced a very different atmosphere: instead of the usual government-approved cries of God is Great, and Death to America, he was greeted by hundreds shouting at the top of their voices, “Unemployment! Unemployment!”

Iran’s economy, in fact, is suffering double-digit inflation and the official jobless rate stands at 11 percent. But the actual number of people looking for jobs is believed to be almost two times larger.

May 21, 2010

Why Rome is not Athens

National debt. Pourquoi Rome n’est pas Athènes? And at what price will the comparison between Rome and Athens remain a subject of debate for lovers of ancient history?

Le Monde answers as follow …

'The Face of God'

Roger Scruton’s series of Gifford lectures on “The Face of God” are available for listening online. Five of the six lectures have been presented so far. Listeners may leave comments and a recording session is planned in which Scruton can respond to some of them.

Science has a unique authority among thinking people today, and its popularizers have presented a picture of the human condition from which God is absent. Yet, according to Scruton, by understanding the world in this way we fortify those destructive tendencies in our culture which are wiping away the face of the world. These lectures are devoted to showing that this is so, and to pointing to the remedy.

Roger Scruton is currently Research Professor for the Institute for the Psychological Sciences, where he teaches philosophy at their graduate school in both Washington and Oxford. He is one of Britain’s best known and most distinguished philosophers and public intellectuals. He engages in contemporary political and cultural debates from the standpoint of a conservative thinker and is well known as a powerful polemicist.

His publications include Art and Imagination (1974), The Aesthetics of Architecture (1979), The Politics of Culture (1981), The Aesthetic Understanding (1983), Kant (1983), Sexual Desire (1986), Spinoza (1987), The Philosopher on Dover Beach (1989), Modern Philosophy(1994), Animal Rights and Wrongs (1996), The Aesthetics of Music (1999), Death Devoted Heart (2004), Culture Counts (2007), Beauty (2009), Understanding Music (2009) and a volume of autobiography, Gentle Regrets (2006).

Roger Scruton's blog. Via botblog.

May 20, 2010

Yvonne Loriod

Paul Griffitths in the May 18, 2010, New York Times:

Yvonne Loriod, the French pianist whose musical exactitude and intensity inspired numerous masterpieces by her husband, the composer Olivier Messiaen, died on Monday at a retirement home in Saint-Denis, on the edge of Paris. She was 86.
In Ms. Loriod he [Messianen] found a musician who could provide avian qualities of agility and spectacle. “I have,” he once said, “an extraordinary, marvelous, inspired interpreter whose brilliant technique and playing — in turn powerful, light, moving and colored — suit my works exactly.”

Read the rest.

The “historic” and pretty funny video below is highly descriptive of what that story is all about.

May 19, 2010

American Heart

They say that we need changin’
As if all the Founding Fathers
seem to get it wrong
But I say I still believe in
The greatest Liberator, Innovator, Cultivator
Freedom knows

Sarah Palin called the tune “an amazing love song for America.” Former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton recommends it to foreigners “who want to know how the real America feels.” And after hearing the song one woman said, “We are so used to hearing the entertainment industry bash our country and bash us regular folks. It was amazing to hear someone put into words how so many of us feel about our Nation. It gave me chills.”

So no wonder if “American Heart” is becoming the default theme song at Tea Parties across the USA. And it’s really an amazing song, a hymn to America and to Freedom.

Although known as “Jon David,” his real name is Jonathan Kahn, a Hollywood screenwriter/director and singer/songwriter. Using the same pseudonym, he also authors a popular series of articles at Big Hollywood, “My Weekly Date with a Liberal.” Why the pseudonym? Why the baseball cap and the sunglasses he wears when performing in public? It’s to protect himself, he says, from the overt liberal bias toward conservatives in Hollywood, where, in his own words, “being a conservative is the kiss of death.” Yeah, because “the industry responsible for setting the cultural tone in America, which keeps itself warm under the expansive blanket of free speech, has no issue attempting to silence the conservative voice within its ranks,” as it can be read on the song’s page. Hmm… that sounds familiar here in Europe…

But I’m American made
I got American parts
Got American faith
In America’s heart
Go on raise the flag
I got stars in my eyes
I’m in love with her
And I won’t apologize.

May 17, 2010

The Polanski case: prosecution vs. persecution

Several film directors attending the Cannes film festival have signed a petition in support of their colleague Roman Polanski, currently under house arrest  in his Alpine Swiss chalet, asking the Swiss government to refuse an extradition request from California, just a few days after a California judge denied Polanski’s request to unseal testimony in the 33-year-old case (but Hollywood star Michael Douglas—in Cannes to promote Oliver Stone’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps—said he would not sign the petition).

The signatories include the Franco-Swiss director Jean-Luc Godard, and French directors Mathieu Amalric, Bernard Tavernier and Xavier Beauvois. What Polanski advocates think is that, also in the light of what the Franco-Polish film director himself has recently maintained, he is unjustly persecuted. “The United States continue to demand my extradition,” he said, “more to deliver me as fodder to the media of the entire world than to pronounce a judgment on which an agreement was made 33 years ago.” The essence of Polanski’s claim is that he was led to believe that his time in a state facility in Chino would constitute his full sentence, and has been frustrated for the past three decades as US authorities have maintained otherwise.

That’s why, as one who is against any form of persecution, even by judicial means, based on race, nationality, political opinion, personal beliefs, habits, cultural mores, etc., and even though I have to admit that I don’t like Roman Polanski as a person—for what he did, not for what his private views may have been or still be, and apart from my own personal beliefs, habits and cultural mores—I have felt morally obliged to wonder whether he might actually be a victim of persecution because of what he represents. But in all honesty, after reading everything I could get my hands on about the subject, I have come to the conclusion that there is no persecution, just prosecution.

And this even without considering the new allegations by British actress Charlotte Lewis, who on Friday accused Polanski of abusing her just after her 16th birthday. If anything, what is most surprising—and very similar to a persecution—are some reactions to Charlotte Lewis’s allegations. France’s culture minister Frederic Mitterrand, who admitted to paying “young boys” for sexual acts while on holiday in Thailand, referred to them as “pseudo-accusations.” Without the least doubt or hesitation. “I got into the habit of paying for boys,” he wrote in his 2005 autobiography The Bad Life, “[…] All these rituals of the market for youths, the slave market excite me enormously. One could judge this abominable spectacle from a moral standpoint but it pleases me beyond the reasonable.” It’s the world turned upside down.

May 16, 2010

Climategate - How the science of global warming was compromised

It was James Delingpole who, on his Telegraph blog, coined the term “Climategate” to describe the scandal revealed by the leaked emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit, namely, the conspiracy behind the Anthropogenic Global Warming myth, and the greatest scientific scandal of our age. “The reason why even the Guardian's George Monbiot has expressed total shock and dismay at the picture revealed by the documents,” he said, “is that their authors are not just any old bunch of academics. Their importance cannot be overestimated, What we are looking at here is the small group of scientists who have for years been more influential in driving the worldwide alarm over global warming than any others, not least through the role they play at the heart of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).”

To refresh everyone’s memory on what this whole thing is all about, here is the accurate reconstruction of what happened provided by Spiegel Online International, the English edition of the German news magazine Der Spiegel: How the Science of Global Warming Was Compromised (and how the conflict between climate researchers and climate skeptics could be resolved).

One more tip for those looking for a different perspective on the climate debate than the MSM gives you: be sure to tune in to LIVE coverage of the Heartland Institute’s 4th Annual International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC-4)—a worldwide gathering of global warming “realists”—on May 16-18 (direct interviews with participants and live streaming the keynote speakers).

First written for The Metaphysical Peregrine

May 14, 2010

Meanwhile, gold is rising ...

Will the euro bailout work? No, the bailout has slowed the euro’s slip, but it hasn’t solved the problem. That’s what the gold market seems to think, in fact the price of gold is rising against every major currency, not just the embattled euro. This, according to Royal Bank of Scotland foreign exchange strategist Greg Gibbs, is because the market sees the true scale of the sovereign risk problem, the solution and fallout:

If the market won’t buy the government bonds, the central banks have to. There is no other choice. The alternative is just too damaging for the economy to contemplate. If the central banks don’t buy the debt, then governments are forced into a budget surplus (a surplus is required to cover interest payments on existing debt). Imagine the carnage if major economies were forced from double digit deficits to surplus, you are talking Great Depression type scenario or worse.

Even getting close to that outcome is too bad to consider, so when borrowing costs start to rise, as they did recently in the Eurozone periphery, making borrowing difficult, the contagion spreads to equities and global asset markets. This forced the Eurozone governments to promise to throw money at the problem. The US$ 1 trillion bailout package only has some credibility because it involves core countries and the IMF which still have relatively low borrowing costs. However, the package would have little bite if the ECB were not involved. The ECB’s purchase of government bonds (monetization) is critical. It is the most credible source of funds since it creates the money.

It is undoubtedly true that the actions of the ECB this week make it clearer than ever what the real threat of the sovereign debt problem globally is. All countries, not just the Eurozone, when push comes to shove, when bond yields start to rise because of sovereign default risks, will force their central banks to buy the bonds (monetize). You can talk all you like about sterilization, but when the central bank is forced into this path, you can be sure they will not be raising cash rates. They will aim for negative real rates, and until the fiscal house is put back into order, they will aim for nominal GDP growth. Whether this arises from higher inflation or real growth will be of second order importance.

Even though inflation is yet to break out, the price of gold is telling us that this threat is very real over the longer term. People rightly so do not trust fiat money anymore.

Via Chicago Blog.

May 12, 2010

'Scandals were part of the Third Mystery of Fatima'

It has become more and more clear in the past few weeks, to all fair-minded observers, that the attempts to pin dirt on Pope Benedict have failed, and that Benedict’s tougher stance against abusers started in the latter years of his tenure at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It has also become clear that then Cardinal Ratzinger had been thwarted in his efforts to pursue a church trial against Rev. Marcial Maciel (the founder of the powerful religious order the Legion of Christ), involved in child sex abuse, and that upon assuming the papacy, Benedict moved against Maciel, ordering him to live a life of reserved prayer while also launching an investigation into the order itself.

At the same time, this doesn’t mean, by any means, that sexual abuse by Catholic clergy is not a reality and a real problem. On the contrary, the truth is that the Church is facing its greatest crisis in modern times. And that’s what pope Benedict basically said yesterday, speaking to reporters accompanying him on a flight to Portugal. In fact, striking a markedly different tone from other church leaders, Pope Benedict issued his strongest condemnation of the sex abuse scandals rocking the Catholic Church (far more harsh than his March letter to the Catholics of Ireland). Unlike cardinal Sodano, for instance (at the start of the Easter Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square last month), instead of attempting to “minimize” controversy over pedophile priests as hostile press coverage and/or “petty gossip,” he said: “Attacks on the pope and the church come not only from outside the church, but the suffering of the church comes from inside the church, from sins that exist inside the church. This we have always known but today we see it in a really terrifying way.”

As it was not enough, Pope Benedict, who is expected to travel to the pilgrim shrine of Fatima where Catholics believe that Mary appeared to three young shepherd children in 1917, described how the sex abuse scandals were part of the so-called Third Mystery of Fatima. “Besides the suffering of Pope John Paul II in the Third Message,” he said, “there was also indications as to the future of the Church. It is true that it speaks of the passion of the Church. That the Church will suffer. The Lord said that the Church would suffer until the end of the world. Today we are seeing this in a particular way.” “The answers that the Church must give,” he added, “are penance, prayer, acceptance, forgiveness and also justice because forgiveness cannot replace justice.”

In other words, one might think that, as the archbishop of Vienna Cardinal Schönborn put it in a highly unusual attack on a fellow cardinal (Angelo Sodano), “The days of cover up are over.” And it was time for this to happen. There’s a time for everything, they say, even though there shouldn’t have been any time for cover-ups. But what’s done is over with, and the future began yesterday. Perhaps the Latin adage, Oportet ut scandala eveniant (it’s good that scandals happen), has never been more appropriate to describe a particular historical period, although at times one would be tempted to question its wisdom.

The Austrian School of economics: its Italian roots

Several early Italian economists influenced the development of continental European economic thought in the centuries before Carl Menger, the founder of the Austrian School of economics: Gian Francesco Lottini (1512–1572), Bernardo Davanzati (1529–1606), Geminiano Montanari (1633–1687), and Ferdinando Galiani (1728–1787). Galiani, in particular, with his contributions to value theory, interest theory, and economic policy, had a great influence on the Austrian School of economics itself. Read this article at the Ludwig von Mises Institute website to learn more. Here is an excerpt:

Galiani believed that government generally should not interfere in the natural workings of the economy. A government that attempts to stimulate all sectors of the economy, agricultural and industrial, stimulates nothing. Stimulation means that a particular sector is given preference over the other sectors, and how can one sector be given preference over another if all sectors are stimulated?

Quite interesting, indeed. It’s also interesting to note that Friedrich Nietzsche, who was an expert in matters of intellectual excellence, in his Beyond Good and Evil pointed out his “friend” Ferdinando Galiani as an example of Cynic of genius and described him as “the most profound, sharp-sighted, and perhaps also the foulest man of his century” (please note that foul, in Nietzsche’s vocabulary, is perhaps the greatest compliment…). He also wrote that Galiani “was far profounder than Voltaire and consequently also a good deal more taciturn.”

Furthermore, Galiani’s 1769 Dialogues sur le commerce des blés, written in French with vivacious wit and a light and pleasing style (you can read it here), delighted Voltaire, who in his Dictionnaire philosophique (“BLÉ ou BLED”) spoke of it as a book in the production of which Plato and Moliere might have been combined  (“[Galiani] trouva le secret de faire, même en français, des dialogues aussi amusants que nos meilleurs romans, et aussi instructives que nos meilleurs livres sérieux”). What is surprising is that Galiani is still relatively little known.

[Thanks: The Commentator]

May 11, 2010

One can't solve a crisis of debt by increasing the debt

A postcard from France              By Mirino

In view of the last post, this interview from Le Monde seems suitable.

Thorsten Polleit is the head economist of Barclays Capital in Germany. He is very critical of the massive rescue loan of the euro zone States.

'How do you judge the rescue plan of 750 billion euros for the euro zone?

'One cannot solve the problem by additional debt. To support certain countries suffering from a debt crisis, the governments will still have to borrow. It's not a solution. The urgency for the euro zone today, is to announce a credible strategy of reduction of deficits. If the pressure of the markets have become so strong, if the investors are losing confidence, it's precisely because such a concept doesn't exist. It's time to clarify this.

'What should be done?'

'The decisions are the recourse of each government, at national level. One should decide how to reduce expenditure, to reduce the deficits as soon as possible, to engrave these objectives in marble as we did in Germany by establishing a mechanism in our constitution to reduce the debt... One must remember that from the very beginning, had the stability pact been fully respected, this situation would never have occurred.

'Thanks to this plan, wasn't the risk of contagion of the Greek crisis nevertheless countered?'

Yes, with regard to the countries threatened in the immediate future. But it's the quality of credit of notable States which will cause them to suffer from the consequences. The conditions of loan of the lending countries will undoubtedly be degraded. In fact the problem only shifts itself, and in the long term it's likely to worsen.

'Does the decision of the European Central bank (ECB) to buy national debt threaten its credibility?'

'It's clear that if the ECB acts in this way, it's because the European governments wish it. There's an instrument of monetary policy which doesn't seem to be decided in total independence. This decision is very problematic: in the long term such a program is likely to create inflation as well as a lack of confidence of investors.

'What is the situation regarding the long term stability of the euro?'

'If the States don't find the means of reducing their debt which often reaches intolerable levels, the euro is seriously threatened. The creation of the single currency has been a vast experiment of which the result is now uncertain. Especially if things continue in such a way, with certain countries condemned to pay again and again sums increasingly more important.

'Do you believe that Germany will recover the money of the loans made in Greece?'

No, on the contrary, I don't believe that the sums will ever be reimbursed.

(Remarks put together by Marie de Vergès)


May 9, 2010

Why the West’s economic prosperity can no longer be taken for granted

As the Times of London put it, Stephen King writes scary stories, but Stephen D. King writes scarier ones. He is the chief economist of the London-based HSBC, one of the largest banking and financial services organizations in the world, and Losing Control: The Emerging Threats to Western Prosperity is his first book. And a scary book indeed, according to the reviews I’ve read so far (I’ve never been an avid reader of economics, and that’s why I don’t really know if I will read the book, though according to the Times “You don’t have to understand the carry trade or know what a Gini coefficient is to read this book, but it helps”—what terrifies me is that but it helps…).

What is it about this book that is so scary? To put it up very simply, the thesis is the following: The international financial crisis that began in 2007 is but one result of the emerging nations’ increased gravitational pull. In other words, the baton of economic progress is passing to states such as China and India. This suggests that the decades ahead will see a major redistribution of wealth and power across the globe that will force consumers in the United States and Europe to stop living beyond their means.

Or, put more simply, “Be prepared, the worst is yet to come.” Yet, Stephen D. King also offer us a few possible ways out of this unpleasant situation. The main one is the creation of three big monetary unions—an expanded euro zone along with currency unions in Asia and the Americas. But, as The Economist puts it, “Mr King fails to make a convincing case for why such a reform would ever happen or why it would lead to a more stable global monetary system.” That’s also why, according to The Economist, the book “is more a series of provocative comments than a convincing argument.”

Another way out of the bind, with regard to the UK, is that, instead of limiting immigration, Britain should dismiss border controls and protectionism and welcome immigrants, and, painful though it may be in the short term, open ourselves up to the full force of global competition.

At a symposium in Trinity College Dublin last month to promote his book, just to make it clear what the whole thing is all about, King provided some curious information and a series of thought-provoking data. Very interesting reading indeed.

He also quoted the response of the UK economics profession when the queen asked why no one had seen the bank crisis coming: “Your majesty, the failure to foresee the timing, extent and severity of the crisis and to head it off, while it had many causes, was principally a failure of the collective imagination of many bright people, both in this country and internationally, to understand the risks to the system as a whole.”

Failure of imagination: term used to describe circumstances wherein something that was possible to predict or foresee was, in fact, not predicted or foreseen. Hope you got the hint.

May 8, 2010


“For this reason,” the abbot continued, “I consider that any case involving the error of a shepherd can be entrusted only to men like you, who can distinguish not only good from evil, but also what is expedient from what is not. I like to think you pronounced a sentence of guilty only when ...”
“... the accused were guilty of criminal acts, of poisoning, of the corruption of innocent youths, or other abominations my mouth dares not utter …”
“… that you pronounced sentence only when,” the abbot continued, not heeding the interruption, “the presence of the Devil was so evident to all eyes that it was impossible to act otherwise without the clemency’s being more scandalous than the crime itself.”
“When I found someone guilty,” William explained, “he had really committed crimes of such gravity that in all conscience I could hand him over to the secular arm.”

—Umberto Eco, THE NAME OF THE ROSE, translated from the Italian by William Weaver, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc and Martin Secker & Warburg, 1983. Originally published in Italy in 1980 under the title Il nome della rosa by Gruppo Editoriale Fabbri-Bompiani, Sonzogno, Etas SpA.

It’s almost as if he could indifferently look into the past and the future, and anticipate the issues of the present time while recalling those of a remote past...

I love re-reading my favorite books, and this time it’s The Name of the Rose’s turn. Generally speaking, it’s a wonderful adventure, always new and always different, because every time we re-read a book, we ourselves are new men and women, having been made such by the vicissitudes of life, by our personal experiences and achievements, both spiritual and intellectual. No one is the same person they were even as long ago as yesterday. That’s why re-reading great works of literature is such a wonderful experience: the more you read them, the more you fall in love with them. To say nothing about a book such as the Bible, the book of the books—I’ve lost count of the times I’ve re-read it…

May 7, 2010

UK set for hung Parliament

The BBC predicts a hung Parliament with David Cameron's Conservatives as the largest party (with more than 500 general election results in out of 650). And who will move into the famous address on the right may not be obvious.

PS: Britain Wakes Up Speaking Italian (Best Wishes!)

May 6, 2010

A postcard from France

By Mirino
Maybe the idea of  'A postcard from France', will encourage a flagging contributor to send the odd one, based on selected news items from the French press, to Wind Rose Hotel more regularly. Hopefully it will also incite readers to make constructive comments.
To begin with, and as the Polanski case was alluded to here before, it might be  appropriate to refer to a recent article on him from Le Figaro.
Polanski had just published a text confided to 'La Règle du Jeu', a site directed by Bernard-Henri Levy, stating that he can no longer remain silent. He considers that he is the victim of lies. According to him, the threat of extradition and legal proceedings in the USA for what he had done so long ago, are based on trumped up charges.
The Franco-Polish actor, writer and film producer maintains that his sentence of 42 days in a Californian prison in 1977 per 'having had sexual relations that year with a 13 year old adolescent', correspond with the sentence for which he was condemned and which he had thus already endured.

"I am accused of having avoided US justice, but in the 'pleading guilty' procedure I had recognised the facts and had returned to the USA to purge my sentence".

Roman Polanski (76) was arrested the 26th September last year in Switzerland and has been assigned to residence since the 4th December.
"I can no longer remain silent when the victim has been dismissed by the Court of California after having asked several times to stop the proceedings of my case", he also underlines.

"I can no longer remain silent because the United States continue to demand my extradition, more to deliver me as fodder to the media of the entire world than to pronounce a judgement on which an agreement was made 33 years ago".

My own view is that justice can hardly prevail if it chooses to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the actual victim of the crime and her repeated demands. I also have the impression that Polanski has never been overly appreciated in the USA, and suspect that the atrocious Manson killings may also have something to do with it. (If one remembers, whilst Polanski was working in Europe, his then pregnant wife, the actress Sharon Tate, was brutally stabbed to death in the Polanski residence in California with several other, horribly murdered victims. This was in August 1969, and carried out by members of the Manson gang. Manson (74) is still alive, seemingly without any regrets, and is even a 'cultural' source of influence in America).
Whilst there doesn't appear to be any rabid witch hunts going on in the States for real pedophiles, especially the ecclesiastic kind, Polanski, on the other hand, seems to incite a great deal of suspicion and hate, and this perhaps even more so in the State of California.


May 5, 2010

Athens burns

Many feared this would happen, and it has. Three people were killed and four were seriously injured when an Athens bank went up in flames as an estimated 100,000 people took to the streets to protest against harsh austerity measures aimed at saving the country from bankruptcy. Here is a video of the protests (see other videos  here):

And here is a france24english TV report:

Forget about soccer for a moment...

Italy’s national soccer coach Marcello Lippi, speaking at the start of a two-day training camp on Tuesday:

Italy is never the favorite for the World Cup and that helps. But look at our history. We’ve won four times and lost once to Brazil on penalties. If we had won that shootout we would have five World Cups now and Brazil would have four. […] They say a lot of things in the rest of the world, but Italy has always been a protagonist at the World Cup and I’m extremely confident that this group is going to do great as well.

True. Absolutely. Never the favorite, but … There is something weird in this. But this is not just a soccer issue, this is a much wider one. Forget about soccer for a moment and think of other fields—such as the economy, to give an example—to which the above “rule” may be applied. But this theory can be easily turned upside down: if recent Italian political history teaches us anything, it is that (here) bad things happen when you less expect. That’s also why Italy is a mystery to most people, including the Italians. No way to escape.

PS: Speaking of “bad things” and bad news, this—whether unexpected or not…—could be a perfect example of how not to behave in politics (unlike the second act of the play).

May 4, 2010

But the Greek bailout won’t work, says Cassandra

Perhaps it’s because of our fond memories of childhood school days, when we learned about Homer’s Iliad and the beloved heroes and legends of the Trojan War, that, in the present days of economic turmoil, when you say Greece you say Cassandra, the prophetess of doom. It’s almost inevitable, or that’s what seems to be the case. However, if you are an incurable optimist, just keep away from stuff like this

'The Sun Behind the Clouds'

“The Sun Behind the Clouds: Tibet’s Struggle for Freedom,” the documentary film by Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam (check out the trailer below), has been greeted by some critics as “a potent update” on Tibetans‘ 50-year struggle for justice and recognition, and “an essential viewing” for anyone who cares about the fate of Tibet and the legacy of the Dalai Lama, while others (this one, for instance) have pointed out that the filmmakers lurch awkwardly between reverence for the Dalai Lama and hints that he has become, politically, irrelevant or an obstacle. As a matter of fact, as noted by another reviewer, the film incorporates several approaches, and perhaps not all are really worth your time…

For all its worthiness politically, “The Sun Behind the Clouds’’ is a lackluster film. That changes whenever the Dalai Lama is on screen. We see him at his residence in the northern Indian city of Dharamsala, as well as making public appearances in the United States and Western Europe. To watch his meet-and-greet with Prince Charles is truly to see worlds colliding — those worlds being humanity at its most impressive and Madame Tussauds at its most animated (relatively speaking). The Dalai Lama also gives interviews to the filmmakers. He’s the most prominent of several talking-head subjects, nearly all of them Tibetan activists.

The closest thing to debate in the movie is over the Dalai Lama’s “middle way’’ policy, which seeks Tibetan autonomy under Chinese rule rather than outright independence. Several activists criticize the Dalai Lama for what they see as self-defeating moderation. It’s hard to imagine what alternative the Dalai Lama has. “The only thing we know is that empires rise and fall,’’ says Lhadon Tethong, former executive director of Students for a Free Tibet. That’s certainly true. But as another Tibetan activist notes, the situation of his people recalls that of Native Americans and Native Australians in the 19th century. More Chinese than Tibetans now live in Lhasa. Cultures fall, too, especially when they’re shoved.

Be it as it may, I stand with the Dalai Lama and always will. The only thing I know is that, to quote one of my favorite authors ever, “The strongest of all warriors are these two—Time and Patience” (Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoi). Long life to His Holiness!

May 2, 2010

America's Illegal Immigration Fight

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

Illegal immigration. The President and his political party, and their propaganda section, the Main Stream Media, would have everyone believe that the legislation passed in Arizona is blatantly racist legislation and against the Constitution. The hard cold fact is that all it does is enforce Federal law that’s already on the books, but the Federal Government, controlled by the Democrats, has not enforced it. True too is that the Republican Party when they were in power, refused to enforce the law, leaving Arizonians no choice but to protect themselves.

What they are protecting themselves from is rampant drug and gun running, murder, rape and robbery. On average three Border Patrol agents per day are assaulted. Phoenix is the kidnap capital of the country. On average every 35 hours, or about three people a day are kidnapped. How safe would you feel? One in five Arizona teenagers are doing drugs smuggled in from Mexico. Would you want your child exposed to this? Arizona has become a dangerous place to live, and its citizens live in fear.

Our director of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, denies there’s a problem. She said, “I say this again as someone who has walked that border.” “I’ve ridden that border. I’ve flown it. I’ve driven it. I know that border I think as well as anyone, and I will tell you it is as secure now as it has ever been.” The President of the US said it’s a racist issue, that the legislation, SB 1070 is unconstitutional, and has sent a legion of lawyers to begin Federal Lawsuits against the citizens of that State. Much of the wording in the Bill, by the way, is exactly the same that is in Federal Immigration Law.

The President of Mexico, Felipe Calderón, also has chimed in condemning Arizona. "Criminalizing immigration, which is a social and economic phenomenon, this way opens the door to intolerance, hate, discrimination and abuse in law enforcement." He added: "My government cannot and will not remain indifferent when these kinds of policies go against human rights."

Can you say ‘hypocrisy’? How does Mexico treat people without the proper papers in their own country? (Actually, even if you are properly documented, police will shake you down and have to be paid off.) The Mexican government bars foreigners if they upset “the equilibrium of the national demographics.” Racial profiling anyone? If you’re from another country and do not enhance the country’s “economic or national interests” or are “not found to be physically or mentally healthy,” then you’re not welcome. Make sure too you don’t show “contempt against national sovereignty or security.” (Mexicans in America have mass protests flying the American flag upside down, wave Mexican flags, chant anti-American slogans, and advocate the overthrow of the US government.) [ In Mexico noncitizens cannot “in any way participate in the political affairs of the country.”] If you apply for Mexican citizenship you must show a birth certificate, provide a bank statement proving economic independence, pass an exam and prove you can provide your own health care. Here, the Democrats and many Republicans just want to call amnesty and make all illegal’s citizens. A majority of those here illegally will vote Democrat, hence the term calling them “undocumented Democrats”. Illegal entry into Mexico is equivalent to a felony punishable by two years’ imprisonment. Document fraud is subject to fine and imprisonment; so is alien marriage fraud. Evading deportation is a serious crime; illegal re-entry after deportation is punishable by ten years’ imprisonment.

Law enforcement officials at all levels must enforce immigration laws, including illegal alien arrests and deportations. The Mexican military is also required to assist in immigration enforcement operations. Native-born Mexicans are empowered to make citizens’ arrests of illegal aliens and turn them in to authorities. Here, the Democrats and Obama administration say the local and state officials can’t enforce federal law, which is just stupid because all enforcement officials in all states enforce federal law all the time.

I could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture. One other thing, there are a large number of Central and South Americans rotting in Mexican prisons without due process because they were caught in Mexico without proper documentation.

We have a foreign President condemning a US State, and our own President and political party embracing that condemnation. These American officials swore to uphold the Constitution and laws of the United States and have refused to do so. Arizonians have decided to protect themselves as a result, and have gotten attacked by their own Federal government.

If you want to travel, pick Arizona. I lived there for a decade and it’s a beautiful place. Info here. There’s also a ‘buycott’ on FaceBook to counteract the boycott the Leftists have started. (Good grief, even Leftist elected officials in Arizona are advocating the boycott of their own state.)

An email going around here in the States:

Dear President Obama:
I'm planning to move my family and extended family into Mexico for my health, and I would like to ask you to assist me.
We're planning to simply walk across the border from the U.S. into Mexico , and we'll need your help to make a few arrangements.
We plan to skip all the legal stuff like visas, passports, immigration quotas and laws.
I'm sure they handle those things the same way you do here. So, would you mind telling your buddy, President Calderon, that I'm on my way over?

Please let him know that I will be expecting the following:
1. Free medical care for my entire family.
2. English-speaking government bureaucrats for all services I might need, whether I use them or not.
3. Please print all Mexican Government forms in English.
4. I want my grandkids to be taught Spanish by English-speaking (bi-lingual) teachers.
5. Tell their schools they need to include classes on American culture and history.
6. I want my grandkids to see the American flag on one of the flag poles at their school.
7. Please plan to feed my grandkids at school for both breakfast and lunch.
8. I will need a local Mexican driver's license so I can get easy access to government services.
9. I do plan to get a car and drive in Mexico , but I don't plan to purchase car insurance, and I probably won't make any special effort to learn local traffic laws.
10. In case one of the Mexican police officers does not get the memo from their president to leave me alone, please be sure that every patrol car has at least one English-speaking officer.
11. I plan to fly the U.S. flag from my housetop, put U S. flag decals on my car, and have a gigantic celebration on July 4th. I do not want any complaints or negative comments from the locals.
12. I would also like to have a nice job without paying any taxes, or have any labor or tax laws enforced on any business I may start.
13. Please have the president tell all the Mexican people to be extremely nice and never say critical things about me or my family, or about the strain we might place on their economy.
14. I want to receive free food stamps.
15. Naturally, I'll expect free rent subsidies.
16. I'll need income tax credits so that although I don't pay Mexican taxes, I'll receive money from the government.
17. Please arrange it so that the Mexican Government pays $4,500.00 to help me buy a new car.
18. Oh yes, I almost forgot, please enroll me free into the Mexican Social Security program so that I'll get a monthly income in retirement.

I know this is an easy request because you already do all these things for all his people who walk over to the U.S. from Mexico .. I am sure that President Calderon won't mind returning the favor if you ask him nicely.

Thank you so much for your kind help.

You're the man!!!