March 30, 2011

Why Obama’s Libyan Adventure Is Already a Failure

Well, you may agree or disagree with the core argument of this article—it is high time to replace the U.N. Charter (and its obsolete procedures), in whose eyes North Korea, the most brutal totalitarian government in the world, is the equal of the United States, which has done more than any country in the postwar period to protect freedom and democracy, with international rules that encourage countries to end human rights abuses, fix failed states, and oppose rogue nations and terrorist groups, etc. But it’s worth reading anyway, in my opinion. In any case just let me know and we’ll fix it…


While Obama might claim success early on, given the vague mission of protecting civilians, we should not be fooled into thinking that an ongoing civil war represents a victory for American arms.Indeed, a prolonged stalemate would be a disaster. Wounded, vengeful, but undefeated, Qaddafi would pose a greater danger than ever. He could resume his practice of terrorist attacks on Western targets, working perhaps through jihadi elements such as the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, hundreds of whose members he has released from prison.
A protracted civil war in Libya could have effects beyond its borders. It could lead competing outside powers -- France, Turkey, or even China -- to back different Libyan factions. U.S. forces and resources would be tied down even as the United States seeks to wind down in Iraq and defeat a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan. On the other hand, a premature exit would undermine American credibility in a region that already doubts Obama's steadfastness. Just as the administration's mishandling of last year's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico revealed its ineptitude in domestic matters, its mismanagement of the Libya intervention may become emblematic of its haplessness in foreign affairs.
The Obama administration's most glaring mistake in its approach to Libya is the central weight it has given to the United Nations. Hanging America's hat on U.N. approval has caused a mismatch between Obama's stated policy goal -- that Qaddafi must "go" -- and the limited means provided by U.N. approval for economic sanctions and civilian protections. Even at this early stage of the conflict, Obama's policy has created a large gap between U.S. strategic ends and U.N.-authorized means

[...]

The one positive in all this? If Libya at least brings about a rude awakening for the Obama administration on the follies of multilateralism and leads to the emergence of a new international security system, it will have done far more good than simply dragging the United States into a civil war.

Found the Original King James Bible

CNN

A little English village church has just made a remarkable discovery, a rare 400-year-old book...

“Courtyard of the Gentiles”

Photo courtesy of  radiovaticana.org
Both the idea and the name—“Courtyard of the Gentiles”—came from Benedict XVI himself, the Pope-philosopher. The meeting, promoted by the Pontifical Council for Culture and launched with major international participation on Thursday at the Paris headquarters of UNESCO, was aimed at recovering a broad cultural dialogue between believers and non-believers, because, as the Pope said in his Christmas greetings to the Roman curia on December 21, 2009, “To the dialogue with the religions must be added today the dialogue with those to whom God is unknown.”

Photo courtesy of cathnewsusa.com
The initiative took its name from the space in the area of the great Temple at Jerusalem, in which Jews and gentiles met and engaged each other. And the choice of Paris as the venue for the conference was no accident: la Ville Lumière, with its symbolic status as the home of the Enlightenment and with its modernist La Grande Arche de la Défense, the monument to what the French call laïcité which is almost a perfect cube and which inspired the provocative title of George Weigel’s The Cube and the Cathedral.

With the promotion of the “Courtyard of the Gentiles” Benedict XVI created “a new starting point for dialogue between believers and nonbelievers,” the Vatican spokesman said. And I think we can believe him. So here are a couple of reading suggestions for those who want to learn more about the whole thing:


  1. The full text of Pope Benedict XVI’s video message to participants at the meeting.
  2. An initial assessment of the initiative, on the part of Cardinal Ravasi, and a conversation with a French intellectual of Bulgarian origin, Julia Kristeva, who has been one of the most dedicated participants in the meeting. Both of the interviews were published in Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian Episcopal conference.


And here is a video introduction to the initiative from Rome Reports:



~ First written for The Metaphysical Peregrine ~

March 28, 2011

Trees Have no Dogmas

The vice of the modern notion of mental progress is that it is always something concerned with the breaking of bonds, the effacing of boundaries, the casting away of dogmas. But if there be such a thing as mental growth, it must mean the growth into more and more definite convictions, into more and more dogmas. The human brain is a machine for coming to conclusions; if it cannot come to conclusions it is rusty. When we hear of a man too clever to believe, we are hearing of something having almost the character of a contradiction in terms. It is like hearing of a nail that was too good to hold down a carpet; or a bolt that was too strong to keep a door shut. Man can hardly be defined, after the fashion of Carlyle, as an animal who makes tools; ants and beavers and many other animals make tools, in the sense that they make an apparatus. Man can be defined as an animal that makes dogmas. As he piles doctrine on doctrine and conclusion on conclusion in the formation of some tremendous scheme of philosophy and religion, he is, in the only legitimate sense of which the expression is capable, becoming more and more human. When he drops one doctrine after another in a refined scepticism, when he declines to tie himself to a system, when he says that he has outgrown definitions, when he says that he disbelieves in finality, when, in his own imagination, he sits as God, holding no form of creed but contemplating all, then he is by that very process sinking slowly backwards into the vagueness of the vagrant animals and the unconsciousness of the grass. Trees have no dogmas. Turnips are singularly broad-minded.

~ Gilbert Keith Chesterton, Heretics, 1905

March 24, 2011

Don’t Give to France What Is not France’s

The story may be told in different ways. One (and the most likely, in my opinion) is that French President Nicolas Sarkozy, with his popularity languishing at a record low and facing a presidential election next year and a revived National Front, the far right party led by Ms Le Pen, was in need of a political boost. And on Saturday—when the Operation “Odyssey Dawn” started—he got it. Yet, even before the allied forces attacked Libya on March 19, he had said that France had “decided to assume its role, its role before history” in stopping Gaddafi and his “killing spree” against his own people.

Another, which does not exclude the first, is that Nicolas Sarkozy is seeking to secure oil contracts with a future Libyan government and to increase French influence in that strategically vital area.

Yet another is very flattering for the French president: as Lt. Col. Oliver North told Fox News’ Sean Hannity Monday, “What you now have is very clearly an effort now to support the rebel movement in a civil war to get to Tripoli and unseat Moammar Gadhafi—this brutal despot—who has ruled the country for 40 years and killed thousands of people. Nicolas Sarkozy has no doubt about the mission—he is now the leader of the free world. It doesn’t bother him what Putin says or anybody else for that matter. In fact, I’m told that the message he delivered, very straightforward, was: We’re going with you or without you.”

Unfortunately for Lt. Col. North (and the French president), barely more than three years ago, Sarkozy welcomed Gaddafi on the red carpet in Paris, and allowed him to pitch an air-conditioned Bedouin tent near the Elysee. And this is how he used to approach the whole Gaddafi thing at the time:

Mr. Sarkozy also replied to his critics, saying, “It is rather beautiful the principle that consists in not getting yourself wet, not taking risks,” he said, and “being so certain of everything you think while you’re having your latte on the Boulevard Saint-Germain.”
[…]
“If we don’t welcome countries that are starting to take the path of respectability, what can we say to those that leave that path?” Mr. Sarkozy said at a news conference in Lisbon over the weekend.
Jean-David Levitte, Mr. Sarkozy’s diplomatic adviser, recently said that a country like Libya had a “right to redemption.”

But then again, Nicolas Sarkozy, too, has a right to redemption—and many others with him, including Silvio Berlusconi… Yet, one might ask why Sarkozy did not express much support, unlike in the case of Libya, for the recent uprisings which started in Tunisia and spread to Egypt. In other words, why Libya? Some think that this is because the winds of change that swept through Tunisia and Egypt have slowed, and need invigoration, which may be provided by a regime change in Libya. Others think that oil is what makes the difference. I myself, for what it’s worth, wouldn’t want to be too cynical here, but I guess the oil thing is by far the best explanation. This doesn’t necessarily mean that what has been done so far is bad. Not at all. Quite the contrary: something had to be done to stop Gaddafi killing more of his own people. Just please don’t give to France what is not France’s.

On the other hand, and here is something else to consider, as Norman Geras notes, it’s very important to remember that the doctrine of “a responsibility to protect,” which UN resolution 1973 refers to, includes the constraint of right intention (see 4.33 here):

The primary purpose of the intervention must be to halt or avert human suffering. Any use of military force that aims from the outset, for example, for the alteration of borders or the advancement of a particular combatant group's claim to self-determination, cannot be justified. Overthrow of regimes is not, as such, a legitimate objective, although disabling that regime's capacity to harm its own people may be essential to discharging the mandate of protection…

He who has ears to hear, let him hear…

March 21, 2011

Spring

Primula (Primrose), messenger of Spring. Courtesy: Stelvio Nat. Park

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.


~ Charles Dickens, Great Expectations, first published in serial form in the publication All the Year Round from December 1860 to August 1861 (Chapter 54).

A Farewell to Knut, the Polar Bear Who Charmed the World


Knut, Berlin’s world-famous polar bear who died on Saturday, wasn't just a product of the age of celebrity, he had charisma, and will be very sorely missed. David Crossland in Spiegel Online International:

Knut was a special bear because he had real character. That spring and summer of 2007, he entertained as many as 15,000 visitors a day by biting Dörflein's backside, hiding under a green blankie and chasing after a ball.
Later on, as he grew, he would stand on his hind legs with his front paws up, seemingly waving to visitors. He would even play with them, grabbing his ball with his snout and tossing it over the moat for them to throw back. He would lay on a veritable Knut Show. It may seem banal, but he had a very friendly face, far too friendly for the lethal predator he was supposed to be. That was the essence of his charm.
[…]
What remains? Berlin Zoo has said it may have Knut stuffed, but his supporters find that idea unbearable.
There has never been an animal burial at Berlin Zoo, and simply incinerating him like any other animal would seem deeply inappropriate [...].
Whatever happens to Knut's remains, the city should put up a monument in his honor, large and prominent, to remind visitors for decades to come of the bittersweet tale of an innocent bear who enchanted millions.

March 20, 2011

A Rare Encore

A couple of quick updates to my previous post on the 150th Anniverary of Italy’s Unification.

  1. Valerie, at 2 Baci in a Pinon Tree, has a good post and interesting links to other bloggers’ views—including my own (grazie!)—of the same event.
  2. Rome Opera House. It is very rare that a conductor concedes an encore for an opera chorus, and even rarer is asking the audience to sing it, but this is exactly what Riccardo Muti did on March 17, 2011 with the famous “Va, pensiero” chorus sung in the third act of Verdi’s Nabucco. Here is the video (the quality is not that great but it gives you an idea):


March 19, 2011

Does Soccer Really Need Characters Like Balotelli?

"Super Mario" Balotelli at work 
It was Roberto Mancini who wanted the so-called Super Mario to join Manchester City, now he has finally figured out who the former Inter Milan striker really is, and not just who he wanted him to be.

Yet, it seems that there are still those who think otherwise, one of them is former Chelsea and Italy legend Gianfranco Zola, who insists Mario Balotelli “has the potential to become as good as he wants in football—if he learns some self-discipline.” Self-discipline? Really? And how many decades will it take before he even knows the meaning of that word? But then again, does soccer really need characters like Balotelli? And if so, with all due respect for Gianfranco Zola and those who think like him, is this still a sport?

March 17, 2011

Happy Birthday, Italy!

Italy is a long country—about 745 miles from the northern to the southern border—running from the mountainous north down to the sunny south “kissed by the Mediterranean,” and so on. Ok, it’s an old refrain, but, as Denis Mack Smith puts it, “it is with geography that any history of this country must begin” (Modern Italy. A Political History). Almost everybody knows that regional differences in per capita income are large in Italy: the north is as rich as central and northern Europe (if not richer), while the south is much poorer. Statistics—if ever were needed—showing the differences in mentality, living standards and lifestyles between the-prosperous-north and the-poor-south became available in the mid-19th century. Well, these differences persist to the present day. If in 1861 per capita incomes were about 15-20 percent higher in the north than in the south, by 1911 the north-south gap had widened to 50 percent. And this difference has persisted into the twenty-first century.

And yet, this strange country—perhaps a “non-nation,” under a certain point of view—not only industrialized, but also became the sixth industrial power in the world. And (would you ever believe it?) Italy has regularly been among the countries that have won the highest number of medals in the Olympic Games… Strange country! Perhaps it’s just because the Bel Paese, as again Mack Smith puts it (great book!), was a territorial unit many centuries before she became a national state—unlike the Netherlands which was politically a state before it was either a nation or a geographical entity. Or perhaps not. Who knows?

Giuseppe Garibaldi
Be it as it may, 150 years ago, Italy became a unique state (or, if one prefers, reunified), and it was a very good day. But don’t expect the Italians to celebrate too much, because their patriotism, as the Neapolitan historian Luigi Blanch wrote back in 1859 or so, “is like that of the ancient Greeks, and is love of a single town, not of a country; it is the feeling of a tribe, not of a nation. Only by foreign conquest have they ever been united. Leave them to themselves and they split into fragments.” And after all, we must admit that Italy is quite a recent invention. In fact, even in the times of ancient Rome, while enjoying political, linguistic, and cultural unity, it was more of a geographic than a political expression, since the boundaries of the Roman Empire (and Republic before it) stretched far beyond the Alps and across the Mediterranean. And therefore, Prince Metternich was not that wrong when he wrote in a letter to Austrian ambassador to France of April 1847, “The word ‘Italy’ is a geographical expression, a description which is useful shorthand, but has none of the political significance the efforts of the revolutionary ideologues try to put on it, and which is full of dangers for the very existence of the states which make up the peninsula.” But never ever think that because of this the Italians are not a people: they simply are united by what divides them—and divided by what unites them, but let’s not overreach here...

Now it’s time to celebrate. But if you want to read something more detailed and elaborate about the subject, I suggest you to have a look at this article by Tony Barber. It’s worth your time. Happy Birthday, Italy!

March 16, 2011

The Obama Doctrine

Notable Presidential Rhetoric (c) Jack Ohman
“The problem with Obama’s Middle East policy is that there is no policy...” Victor Davis Hanson at The Corner (National Review). Thanks: Sandra Kennedy Schimmelpfennig.

WikiLeaks: Japan Was Warned by the International Atomic Energy Agency

 Photo: AP 
It’s sad to say it, and this for several (and quite obvious) reasons, but the news cannot be ignored or simply swept under the carpet: WikiLeaks reveals that Japan was warned more than two years ago by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that its nuclear power plants were not capable of withstanding powerful earthquakes. Read the full story in the Telegraph here.

O'Reilly Factor - Is The Nuclear Threat Growing In Japan?

Is the worldwide media hyping the nuke situation in Japan a bit too much? The truth is no one knows how bad things are.

Nero Has Nothing on This Guy

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

The Middle East is in chaos. Libyan dictator Khadafy is murdering his people. An American female reporter is beaten and ganged raped by Egyptian thugs. Saudi’s are moving into Bahrain. Lebanese again clashing with their oppressors the Syrians. Pirates are capturing ships and killing American citizens.  Obama mouths empty platitudes and does nothing.

Japan is in serious serious trouble. Obama mouths empty platitudes and does nothing.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers are getting murdered in Mexico. They travel there unarmed. This time he doesn't  mouth empty platitudes, he sends 20 more unarmed ICE agents to Mexico. (It’s against Mexican law for foreign law officers to have guns.)

Mexican drug cartels control huge swaths of the US\Mexican border. Signs are put up warning US citizens to stay out of those areas. US citizens along the border are being beaten, murdered, raped and their property is being stolen and destroyed. Obama mouths empty platitudes and does nothing, other than sue Arizona for enforcing Federal immigration laws he refuses to.

Union and Democrat Party thugs are sent to Wisconsin to protest what the Governor is doing to balance the state budget. Obama’s campaign organization, “Organizing for America” is sent there to bully and intimate. People get hurt, there’s vile foul language, the State Capitol Building is invaded by these people Obama supports. He’s spoken in favor of their behavior. Democrat elected officials flee the state to avoid voting on the budget, and Obama approves.  The protesters, when they left after nearly four weeks, left behind $7.6 million worth of damage and trash cleanup and repair.

Obama’s Black Attorney General refuses to prosecute Blacks and focuses prosecutions on Whites. People have quit the Justice Department in protest. 

Obama took an oath to uphold the laws of the land, and abide by the Constitution. He has instructed his racist attorney general to not support the "Defense of Marriage Act", which is federal law. It states marriage is between a man and a woman. 

Obama has stopped oil production in the Gulf since the oil explosion last year. Leases have not been renewed; no new leases have been made. Oil production has plummeted. Then he says about off shore oil production, “So any notion that my administration has shut down oil production might make for a good political sound bite, but it doesn’t match up with reality. We are encouraging offshore exploration and production.”  Federal judges rule the moratorium is unconstitutional. He forges ahead. Gas prices are skyrocketing.

His healthcare program has been ruled unconstitutional because the commerce clause doesn’t include forcing citizens to buy a private sector product, in this case insurance, and he ignores the ruling. He said health care prices will be reduced by his program; heathcare costs are skyrocketing.

His economic plan has added $trillions to our national debt. He continues to borrow and print money. The “stimulus” money that was supposed to go to the private business sector went mostly to state and local governments, whose employees are union members and got paid with that money. Then the union dues where deducted, and the unions sent the money back to the Democrat Party. Federally funded money laundering. The balance of the "stimulus" money went to Wall Street fat cats and their bankers.

Unemployment hovers around 10%. That’s the official number. People that have used up their unemployment benefits are no longer counted. People with low paying part time jobs that used to have well paying full time jobs, are not counted. The real number of unemployed is between 17% and 20%.

These are the most glaring examples of his uncaring incompetence. Most of the time regular citizens don’t pay much attention to politics and policy in off election years, but this year citizens are beginning to take notice.

He has played more rounds of golf than any other president. He hosts weekly parties at the White House. Today he took time to fill in his NCAA Basketball playoff predictions and will be on television tomorrow with them.

Even members of his own political party are starting to grumble the he needs to show some leadership. He’s nowhere to be found during the current budget negotiations.   

From a Rasmussen poll: His approval rating is going in the tank.

The world is catching fire. Obama sits. The US is on the brink of economic, social and political meltdown. I'm nervous for the world. I'm nervous for my country. 

March 13, 2011

Italy’s top 15 cultural exports

Petrarch, by Andrea del Castagno
(Uffizi Gallery, Florence)
I must confess that debating on what is typically English or French or Italian, etc., is something I like less and less as time goes by and I get older. And this for the simple reason that I like to think of the West (or “Western Civilization”) more as a whole, as a single and, somehow, complete entity, than as the sum of its parts. This, of course, without smoothing down or denying the peculiarities of each nation and its peoples.

But perhaps it’s me who is missing something here. The fact is, in my view, that one cannot think of Shakespeare, to make an example, without thinking of the ancient Rome and the Italian cities of Venice and Verona. Or, to make another example, one cannot think of the American Revolution without thinking of the marquis de Lafayette and the French Revolution, and vice versa. And even the American exceptionalism, which, besides being at the heart of American conservatism, is also real and true per se, would be inconceivable without referring to, say, its Puritan roots, that is, its deep English roots. It was one Puritan leader, John Winthrop, who first expressed the idea that the Puritan community of New England should serve as a model community—the “City upon a Hill”—for the rest of the world!

But the above said is only a preamble for the real issue of this post, that is, what the Independent says about Italy and its contribution to the world. It’s a list of fifteen Italian cultural typicalities (“Italy’s top 15 cultural exports”), including Dante and Leonardo da Vinci, the sonnet, and, why not, beautiful women, great soccer players, and fast cars. The choices are questionable in some cases, but nonetheless arguable. In any case, it’s a loving tribute to Italy from a British newspaper, or, as I would prefer to say, a gracious homage to an Italian speaking Western country from an English speaking Western newspaper. In other words, a tribute to the West itself, and a must read piece.

As for the sonnet, however, more precise information is necessary. The article says that “the 14-line, strictly rhyming poem so loved by Shakespeare derives from a 14th-century scholar called Francesco Petrarca, aka Petrarch.” Well, I’m bound to say that it is Giacomo da Lentini (1210 circa – 1260 circa), head of the Sicilian School under Frederick II, who is traditionally credited with the invention of the sonnet. Moreover, other Italian poets, including Dante and Guido Cavalcanti, wrote sonnets some decades before Petrarch (1304-1374). But then again, it was Petrarch who polished and perfected the sonnet form (the vast majority of his 366 poems collected in the Canzoniere were sonnets). Not by chance the Petrarchan sonnet still bears his name...

March 12, 2011

Pope Benedict's New Book

Benedict XVI’s new book, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection—published in English by Ignatius Press—is the sequel volume to Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration, the highly acclaimed work which attracted praise from Catholic and non-Catholic Christians alike. The part II of this fascinating interweaving of history and theology draws the reader deeper and deeper into the mysteries of Jesus’ mission, life, death, and resurrection.

In his new book, Benedict XVI clarifies five disputed questions on the life of Christ that still spark heated debates among theologians and others, said Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, presenting the Pope’s book in the Vatican press office last Thursday.

According to the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, the five questions the book clarifies are the following:

  1. the historical foundation of Christianity
  2. Jesus’ messianism
  3. redemption and the place that the expiation of sins occupies in it
  4. Christ’s priesthood
  5. the Resurrection

Three excerpts from the book (“The mistery of the betrayer,” “The dating of the Last Supper,” “Jesus before Pilate”) can be read here. They are presented at length, entire sections lifted from the chapters of the full book.

And below is the book trailer for Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week.

March 8, 2011

March 5, 2011

Meanwhile, Lebanon Is Already Lost

Hezbollah
Do you remember the famous quote by Titus Livius, “Dum Romae consulitur, Saguntum expugnatur” (Ab Urbe Condita, XXI, 7)? This could be translated in a much updated version as While Washington (and Rome, London, Paris, etc.) debates what to do with Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, Lebanon falls. Hezbollah has won there, with the support of Iran and Syria. In brief, this is a must read article.

March 2, 2011

Venice: It's Carnival Time!



Photo courtesy of www.carnevale.venezia.it
Though not a huge fan of Carnival at large and the Carnival of Venice in particular (I hate crowded places where you're always bumping into people…), I certainly love Venice—how could it be otherwise?—and beautiful pictures. That’s why I recommend you to drop by at Mirino’s blog, where you’ll find both the flavor of Venice and the magic of photography.

Gaddafi Between History and Chronicle

Oriana Fallaci interviewing Gaddafi
It’s always difficult to find wide-ranging, truthful and reliable information on the major issues of today’s world. Generally speaking, the information provided by mainstream media is almost always inaccurate and incomplete. That’s what so often makes reading newspapers and magazines a frustrating experience. Or at least that’s my experience. But this doesn’t apply—and I am glad to acknowledge it—to a report by the German magazine Der Spiegel that I came across yesterday (available in English version here). It’s about Muammar Gaddafi and what’s going on in Libya, but it also provides “an overview of a changed world,” with a special emphasis on countries with revolutionary potential. It’s rather a long piece, but believe me, it’s worth the time you’ll spend reading it.

One more suggestion (whether you were a fan of the late, great Oriana Fallaci or not): A few days ago the Corriere della Sera published a summary of Oriana Fallaci’s interview with Colonel Gaddafi (in English), which appeared in the same newspaper (and in the Times Magazione) on December 2, 1979. Almost a historical document and a great piece of journalism. The text comes from the second part of their conversation, in which Gaddafi talks about his policies and replies to charges of supporting terrorism that were being leveled at him.

In the meantime the Libyan air force is bombing the oil refinery and port town of Marsa El Brega as battles between forces loyal and against Gaddafi—who vows to fight to the “last man and woman”—raged in several towns across the country. The story is not yet ended.