January 30, 2012

Scotland: Moving towards Independence?

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond  (Photo: Getty Images, The Telegraph)

According to an exclusive poll for the Sunday Express a clear majority of people in Scotland (51 per cent) now back independence. It’s the first such result since the Scottish National Party came to power in 2007.

If such a dramatic result were repeated in the autumn of 2014, the First Minister would have an absolute mandate to negotiate an end to the Union with England.
[...]
Angus Robertson, campaign director for the SNP, said the poll result came as a “huge boost”. He added: “It shows that voters understand the Scottish Government policy is for an independent Scotland with the Queen as head of state.

“Scotland and England would become united kingdoms – equal friends and neighbours – rather than the United Kingdom.

“Support is growing for Scotland gaining the full range of job-creating powers we need to boost jobs and recovery, and becoming an equal and independent country.”

Read the rest. See also here to learn about discussions over the referendum question.



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The EU Is Dead, Long Live the Euro?

What a fine mess we are in! It seems that Greeks have reacted furiously to a German proposal—made after mounting speculation that international lenders will have to stump up yet more money for Greece—of appointing a European “budget commissioner” with veto powers over Greece’s spending, which would partially suspend the country’s national sovereignty over its budget.

As far as I can tell, even though being no expert in the field (but then again, isn’t it true that the crisis, and the failure of the so-called experts, made us all a lot more “aware” of financial issues?), it seems to me that there is something seriously wrong with this whole bailouts/no bailouts thing. Perhaps the Germans are a bit out of control, so to speak, but, at the same time, it would be unfair to say that they have no excuse. And yet they are the target of criticism from all sides, almost as if they were the main cause of the crisis, which is definitely untrue, even though they have their part of responsibility in the eurozone debt crisis, as this BBC article shows (a very interesting read indeed).

OK, reading news such as that which provoked the above mentioned anger and indignation of the Greeks, one cannot but wonder, “What is left of the European project?” But, to be honest, how many Europeans still believe in “the European project?” As for myself, I have never liked “this” Europe: a-Christian, if not anti-Christian, in tendency, “libertarian” in ethical issues, bureaucratic in its approach to a number of issues and operational schemes, slightly, if not blatantly, anti-American. Well, I loved the Europe the Founding Fathers—Adenauer, De Gasperi, Schuman, Monnet…—wanted to build, but let’s be honest with ourselves, what is left of that dream? The Euro?

That being said, let me just say that I, and I know I’m going against the mainstream, as a citizen of a country named Italy, am … slightly grateful to those EU countries whose stubbornness contributed to paving the way for a new era of Italian politics. It was exactly what Italy—a country with enormous potentialities—needed. Of course, it would have been better if there would have been no need for that, but in life you have to make the most of what you have got. In today’s EU leaders summit in Brussels, discussions over Greece and the permanent rescue fund will dominate the talks. I hope the results won’t be frustrating with regard to the actual, not the “perceived” needs of EU countries.



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January 28, 2012

And Super-Mario Became "The Iron Monti"

“Most Italians regard their government as something that’s not going to help them, and as something that is to be avoided as much as possible,” said David Gilmour—a British biographer and historian, and the author of The Pursuit of Italy: A History of a Land, Its Regions, and Their Peoples—in a “cultural conversation” with him, published in the Wall Street Journal on November 25, 2011.

Of course, this is absolutely true, although perhaps in a slightly different sense than he might have meant it: is it that bad to distrust the government? Europeans, and Italians in particular, unlike Americans, had good reason to distrust the state in the course of their history. And yet, notwithstanding the differences between American and European history, it was one of the greatest U.S. presidents, Ronald Reagan, who said “The government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

Well, to be honest and straightforward, both senses of Gilmour’s statement are actually applicable to Italy: one—the latter—is good (at least in my view) the other is bad. But what would you say if you were told that things are quickly changing in Italy, and that what was true yesterday is no longer true today? Yes, Italians do trust the new government, despite the magnitude of the sacrifices they are being asked to make, they trust the “technocratic” government leaded by Super-Mario Monti. And so do the vast majority of international observers and media. “Europe rests on Monti’s shoulders,” as the Financial Times title declares—but let’s hope there are also other people on whose shoulders the future of Europe might well rest, even though, as the Economist puts it, the Italian Prime minister—“The Iron Monti”—is set fair to become his country’s Margaret Thatcher.

Be it as it may, Monti is doing well. At the moment he is in full liberalization swing, even though he does not like the term “liberalization” applied to what he is trying to do, “normalization” would be a much better term: what Monti is attempting to do is to lead Italy in the direction which countries like the UK and USA have been following for years.

Of course, there is no guarantee that Monti will succeed (But then again, who knows anything about anything these days? Oops, sorry, I forgot the rating agencies...):

Big spending cuts and tax increases are one thing. The real test will come in liberalising the economy. Here he confronts a honeycomb of closed shops, restrictive practices and rent-seeking cartels. This week Italian cities have been thrown into chaos by taxi drivers and truck operators. Lawyers, pharmacists and petrol-station operators are also up in arms at plans to strip away their privileges. This will not be easy.

The choices are unavoidable. The debate about the future of the eurozone is hopelessly polarised. On one side stand those who say the enterprise can be saved only if Catholic southern Europe absorbs the Protestant north’s culture of thrift and hard work. On the other side are those who say that all would be well if only the Germans were ready to spend and borrow more and underwrite the debts of their southern neighbours. Both sets of arguments are hopelessly naive.

The challenge facing Europe – one crystallised by the euro crisis – is to adapt to a world in which it can no longer dictate the terms of exchange. Policymakers and economists can argue all they like about the merits and demerits of devaluation or fine-tuning the balance between fiscal rectitude and support for demand. The big question is whether Europe can compete in a world over which the west no longer holds sway. That’s why what Mr Monti is doing in Italy really does matter. [FT]


P.S.: I said that “Italians do trust Mario Monti” and his new government. Here is an incontrovertible proof of it: according to an online poll published yesterday in the Radio Padania’s website—Radio Padania is the official radio of the Lega Nord, which is now the main opposition party—80 percent of the voters said they are “in favor” of Monti and his new government. One hour after the results were published, the page was removed from the website. (Corriere della Sera, in Italian)



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January 26, 2012

Burning for Freedom in Tibet

“No people should be forced to live in such desperate circumstances that they feel they must resort to desperate means like suicide,” writes the Christian Science Monitor commenting the tragic type of protest that has become popular in two different parts of the world in the past two years. The kind of protest in question is setting fire to oneself, and the two different parts of the world that the CSM is referring to are Tibet and some countries of the Arab world. Perhaps the major difference (among many others) between the two cases is that, generally speaking, as far as I know, what is happening in Tibet doesn’t seem to deserve being noticed, or at least it is not getting the coverage it deserves. With very few exceptions like this or this:

Another Tibetan in southwest China self-immolated Saturday in the latest in a series of apparent protests against Chinese rule, activist groups said.
The self-immolation in the town of Aba in Sichuan province was followed by clashes between security forces and local Tibetans, said the London-based group Free Tibet.t protests against Chinese rule, activist groups said.
At least 16 Buddhist monks, nuns and other Tibetans are now believed to have set themselves on fire in the past year — including four in the past week — mostly in traditionally Tibetan areas of Sichuan province. Most have chanted for Tibetan freedom and the return of their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who fled to India amid an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.

Yes, we are talking of Buddhist monks setting fire to themselves—of course in response to Beijing’s iron-fisted grip over Tibetan affairs—and this notwithstanding the fact that any form of suicide is widely seen as contrary to the teachings of their religion!

“You [the Chinese leadership] will never address the genuine grievances of Tibetans and restore stability in Tibet through violence and killing, the only way to resolve the Tibet issue and bring about lasting peace is by respecting the rights of the Tibetan people and through dialogue,” said Lobsang Sangay, the prime minister of Tibet’s government in exile in Dharamsala in India, who denounced the shooting by police on hundreds of Tibetan protesters in western Sichuan this week. Of course he is right, but at the same time it’s pretty easy to predict that, even though the Tibetans’ struggle for freedom will continue, whether the whole world is watching or not,

As the communist government in Beijing struggles with issues of reform and modernization, it has retained and even intensified its hard-line policies against the Tibetan people. Given China's growing importance as an economic power and a general sense of fatigue in the rest of the word for meaningful action in defense of human rights, the people in Tibet can expect little concrete support in their quest for political freedom and religious liberty.

Candlelight vigil in Dharmsala, India, after news reports of self-immolation by two Tibetan monks at the Kirti Monastery in Sichuan province's Aba prefectuture, Monday, Sept. 26, 2011. Pic:AP



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January 23, 2012

Roman Glories: Scipio Tombs Reopen in Rome

Not many remember who Consul Lucius Cornelius Scipio Barbato was. Yet there is a very good reason why we should remember him, in fact, besides being a member of the distinguished gens Cornelia, he was the founder of one of ancient Rome’s most illustrious clans, the father of Lucius Cornelius Scipio and Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Asina, and, what is most important, the great-grandfather of Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus (236–183 BC), also known as Scipio Africanus and Scipio the Elder, i.e. the man who defeated Hannibal at the final battle of the Second Punic War at Zama—a watershed event in the history of the world—and one of the finest commanders in military history.

History, however, is not the focus of this post. Rather, the focus is on archaeology and …tourism. In fact, a few days ago, for the first time in two decades, the tomb of the Scipios has been reopened to the public (Via di Porta San Sebastiano 9, Rome). It’s a great opportunity—among the Scipios entombed there were both Scipio the Elder and Scipio the Younger, who destroyed Carthage and ended the Third Punic War!—for those who live in Rome or are just visiting. To book a visit, call +39060608.

See here for some more info in English, and here for a thorough description and history of the site in Italian.

Photo courtesy of Sovraintendenza ai Beni Culturali, Rome

~ First written for The Metaphysical Peregrine ~



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Against the Myth of American Decline

“Is the United States in decline, as so many seem to believe these days? Or are Americans in danger of committing pre-emptive superpower suicide out of a misplaced fear of their own declining power? A great deal depends on the answer to these questions.”

American historian and foreign policy commentator Robert Kagan, the cofounder of the neocon central organ Weekly Standard and of the Project for the New American Century, tries to answer these and other provocative questions—such as this one: What would the world look like if America were to reduce its role as a global leader in order to focus all its energies on solving its problems at home?—in his new book, The World America Made, available on February 14, 2012.

I am sure it will be a worthy read. I say this for a couple of reasons. First Robert Kagan is one of the most influential strategists of our time,  and the best-selling author of many books, including The Return of History and the End of Dreams (2008), Dangerous Nation (2006), and Of Paradise and Power (2003). Second… I’ve already read “Not Fade Away: Against the Myth of American Decline,” an edited excerpt from the book in the February 2nd issue of The New Republic. That being said, I’ll let you know in a couple months. Have a good read!



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January 21, 2012

On Following a Crazy Person

Andrei Rublev, Christ the Redeemer  
 Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
Just a few posts ago, I was hinting at a subject that I have always been passionate about and that I believe to be at the core of my Christian faith: the “folly of God” which, in St Paul’s words, “is wiser than the wisdom of men.” Well, today Fr. Philip Neri Powell has something to say about “following a crazy person,” that crazy person being our Lord Jesus Christ. I’m sure my Christian readers (and not only them) will find it very insightful and interesting. “We,” in turn, says Fr. Philip Neri Powell, “may be out of our minds for following a crazy man, but [...].” Well, read the rest to find out what comes after the “but.”



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January 18, 2012

Stop SOPA & PIPA



Right now, the U.S. Congress is considering legislation that could fatally damage the free and open Internet. The two bills in question are known as the Protect IP Act, PIPA, in the Senate (“IP” stands for “intellectual property”), and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), in the House.
Both SOPA and PIPA would censor the Web and impose harmful regulations on American business. To raise awareness about this harmful legislation, the English Wikipedia, along with a dozen other major websites (including Google, Wordpress, Reddit, and Moveon) are protesting the PIPA/SOPA legislation by either completely blacking out their sites for 24 hours or by modifying their front pages. Read here to learn more. In my view, a very worthy cause to support. Needless to say, please spread the word!



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Ship Commander? This Guy... Not So Much (Updated)

Capt. Francesco Schettino and Capt. Gregorio De Falco
I really think there’s not much to be said about what happened that night, except that there are no words. However, here (and here) is a translation of the transcript of the conversation between Capt. Francesco Schettino, commander of the grounded Costa Concordia, and Capt. Gregorio De Falco of the Italian Coast Guard in Livorno. De Falco vehemently and repeatedly ordered Schettino to return to the ship to oversee the evacuation. Two opposite ways of understanding and practicing what  the duties of a Ship Commander are, one is honorable, the other is not…


UPDATE:  January 18, 2012, 9:15 pm

This piece by John Hooper in today’s online edition of The Guardian is definitely worth reading. The title says much about what’s inside the piece: “Costa Concordia shipwreck’s hero and villain lay bare two souls of Italy.”



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January 17, 2012

And the Markets Didn't Give a Damn What S&P Said

People demonstrate with "a" placards in front of the headquarters 
of Standard & Poor's in Paris.
First of all let me state that I generally don’t like people who say, “I knew it was going to be like that.” But now I’m going to contradict myself by saying, “And sure enough, the markets didn’t give a damn what Standard & Poor’s said.” In fact they shrugged off S&P decision to downgrade the credit ratings of nine euro-zone countries. Parallely, it was no surprise, too, that Standard & Poor’s axe took another swing at Europe Monday, this time stripping Europe’s bailout fund of its AAA status. Even in this case we could apply the same scheme as that applied above: Quod erat demonstrandum



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January 14, 2012

Downgrading the World

Hey, just kidding... 
Everybody knows he is an honourable man! 
(Image couretsy of iMaksim.com)
“In our view, the policy initiatives taken by European policymakers in recent weeks may be insufficient to fully address ongoing systemic stresses in the eurozone.”

One might say that Standard & Poor’s, which took away the United States’ AAA rating last summer and yesterday downgraded the government debt of France, Austria, Italy and Spain, is not the only credit rating firm in the Universe. It is actually not the biggest or most influential one. Moody’s is. So what? you might say, is there anyone—and by “anyone” I mean “anyone sane”—who still trusts Moody’s and any other rating agency? Well, who knows? You can expect everything and more. What is certain is that, back in 2008, S&P gave Lehman Brothers an AAA rating a month before it collapsed, but you know, no one is perfect… Apropos of positive attitudes of mind, take this authoritative and on-the-spur-of-the-moment comment:

However much the French government tries to brush it off, this was the biggy. The downgrade of France may well mark the beginning of the end for the eurozone. At the very least, the downgrade will result in more confusion, more delays and more problems for the bail-out of embattled eurozone economies.
The EFSF, the fund supporting the eurozone, is now itself in need of support. The EFSF's ability to support the eurozone has been brought into question, which brings the survival of the eurozone into question. Slowly but surely the weight of the entire eurozone is beginning to push down on Germany, which, over time, could result in the downgrade of Germany itself. [Ranvir Singh, chief executive at market analysts RANsquawk]

Wow, fortunately there are also people who think otherwise: “It’s going to create bad headlines for a day or two … But there’s no underlying new information ... This will be quickly forgotten.” (Jacob Funk Kirkegaard, research fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics)

So, perhaps there is no reason to take Friday’s Standard & Poor’s downgrade of nine European nations seriously, because, as someone much cleverer than me once said, “These are the last people whose judgment we should trust.”



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January 13, 2012

New Hampshire: the Bigger Winner Was Ron Paul

Charles Krauthammer
As a diligent but very prudent observer of U.S. politics, that is, the politics of a country that I don’t live in, I have always taken the liberty of maintaining these two basic convictions: a) Ron Paul is “a principled, somewhat wacky, highly engaging eccentric,” as Charles Krauthammer puts it, who may be (terribly) wrong on a couple or so issues—though rather important, to say the least—but he is dead right on many other things; b) the above mentioned Charles Krauthammer is a very bright Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist, political commentator, and physician who may sometimes be a bit too “straightforward,” so to speak, but who is almost always right, as this piece in today’s Washington Post shows ad abundantiam.

“There are two stories coming out of New Hampshire. The big story is Mitt Romney. The bigger one is Ron Paul.” Yet, Paul is less a candidate than a “cause.” And

after a quarter-century in the wilderness, he’s within reach of putting his cherished cause on the map. Libertarianism will have gone from the fringes — those hopeless, pathetic third-party runs — to a position of prominence in a major party.

He is 76, Krauthammer continues, and “he knows he’ll never enter the promised land,” but what he has already wrought is “a signal achievement, the biggest story yet of this presidential campaign.”

Believe me, it’s a must-read.



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January 11, 2012

Obama’s New Year’s Resolution

Cartoon by William Warren - Via NetRightDaily



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January 7, 2012

Elections, Corruption, Predictions

~ “LETTERS FROM AMERICA” - by The Metaphysical Peregrine


In his latest puff piece interview with Steve Croft on the program “60 Minutes”, President Obama claimed there were only three presidents greater than him, Lincoln, FDR and Johnson, i.e., he’s the forth greatest president ever. On the flip side, Jimmy Carter, who gave us double digit inflation and unemployment, may correctly say he’s no longer the worst president ever, that mantle has been assumed by Obama.

One would think it impossible, after noting the items mentioned below, that there’s no way Obama can get reelected. Traditionally, a president entering the election cycle with a positive rating under 50% (Obama between 43% and 47%) and employment over 6% (now 8.6%) is sure to loose. Obama has reported a $billion in his campaign war chest, and the Main Stream Media  will again actively campaign for him; 47% of citizens are not paying income tax, and 51% of American households are receiving some sort of largess from the government. They have a vested interest keeping the status quo. About 43% of citizens will vote for Obama and the Democrat Party ticket no matter what. He only needs 3% or 4% more to get enough electoral votes to win.

Hopefully, and it’s a great unfounded hope, the weak, stupid and cowardly Republican Party leadership will mount a campaign exposing the truth of this Marxist president that ignores the Constitution.

Since Obama became president, our national debt has increased by 4 $Trillion. He asked for, a couple weeks ago, to raise the debt limit again by another $Trillion (temporarily put on hold for political reasons). Every American citizen is in debt $48,705 as a result. The first two years of his administration, both houses of the legislature were controlled by his political party, and they got two of his major bits of legislation passed, the stimulus package and Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). Stimulus package money went primarily to State employees, which are unionized, which means a lot of that money went to the unions, which in turn went to the Democrat Party and Obama. A nice money laundering scheme paid for by the taxpayers. One would think such a thing illegal. Guess not. Obamacare was passed near midnight on Christmas Eve. Not one Republican, even RINO’s (Republican in Name Only) voted for it. Two of the three years Obama and his party controlled government, yet three years in they still blame Bush, Republicans and the TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Party for the financial and employment woes of this country. That's what weak leaders do, blame their predecessors rather than take responsibility for the results of their decisions. 

There have been a lot of scandals, especially this past year, perpetrated by this administration, barely or not mentioned by the Main Stream Press. Obama and the Democrats are hell bent on destroying the energy sector of our economy. Since the disaster in the Gulf, permits for new drilling have been denied; this is against the law and is un-Constitutional. All coastal oil production has been shut down. Mining for coal has been massively slowed down because new environmental regulations have made it too costly for many mining companies to continue. Domestic oil production on land has been shut down. We have more oil and gas reserves than Saudi Arabia; we can be mostly energy independent if we so choose. He denied the Keystone oil pipeline from Canada, which would reduce energy costs and create about 20,000 US jobs, plus support jobs to those. What few factories are still in production are shutting down because of new environmental regulations. Jobs moving offshore are increasing because of increasing costs. GE was paid $Millions to create jobs. They are. In China.

This is so Obama can pay off his paymasters and contributors in the “Green” industries. Solyndra, a "green" company received half a $billion even when it was known by Obama it wasn’t a viable company. They went bankrupt, and the American taxpayers are out half a $billion. This whole thing is under investigation by the FBI. At this point, I’ll just start listing a few scandals, because even mention of some of the particulars of each would take up thousands of words and hours of reading. A more comprehensive accounting here. There’s  LightSquared involving Administration pressure on a couple Generals to perjure themselves before Congress and $millions in payoffs. There’s Fast and Furious where the Obama Administration sold guns to Mexican cartels that have resulted in several hundred deaths of Mexican citizens and a US Border Patrolman. There are thousands of waivers to companies and States to not have to pay for ObamaCare; they are all political payoffs. The States that got waivers are all Democrat controlled. That's okay, Republican controlled states will cover the cost! We have a racist Black US Attorney General that refuses to prosecute African Americans. By the way, it's now politically incorrect to call Black people Black. Go figure. I'm a frequent visitor to an African American (Black) blog where it's okay to use the term "whitey" and say all Republicans are racists. Of course that's not a double standard. What are you thinking? 

Obama signed into law on New Year’s Eve the National Defense Authorization Act, allowing the government to detain US citizens without due process; approved by the knuckleheads that objected to the Patriot Act’s horrendous (they claimed) violation of civil liberties because the government could request from libraries what books someone checked out, or to follow the money of suspected terrorists, or trace overseas phone calls of suspected terrorists.  Also to start off the year he said he’s cutting the US military by half a million personnel, creating yet more unemployed people in a horrible economy he’s created while decimating the military he hates. He also started the year appointing four of his cronies that are supposed to be approved by the Senate. He claimed they were recessed and so he was making these as part of his Executive Powers. Problem is, Congress was not in recess. 

A note, no segue, about the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. It’s supported by Islamists, Communists, and Unions; was formed and is controlled top down. It’s supported and endorsed by Obama and the Democrat Party. When the TEA Party, a true grass roots movement was being effective, by organizing and voting, nonviolently, they were called violent and fascists. The “Occupy” knuckleheads want to control the media, confiscate the wealth of producers, imprison those that disagree with them, and have all debts absolved; that sounds like fascism to me. As to violence, none of which happened at any TEA Party meeting unless created by a union thug, here’s a brief summary of “Occupiers” rap sheet:
- 9 deaths, 5 found dead in tents, One found dead after 2 days
- 2 murders
- Tens of millions of dollars in damages, layoffs, vandalism, law breaking
- Multiple Rapes
- Thousands of arrests
- Public masturbation
- Feces
All pretty much ignored by the Democrats and their propaganda mouthpiece, the Main Stream Media.

The point of this is we have the most corrupt administration since FDR, a man that as a matter of principle and policy is set out to destroy this Constitutional Republic, a Marxist ideologue that hates free enterprise and entrepreneurship, the US Military, and the Constitution. He’s a full blown racist that has caused more racial tension than has been seen since the 1960’s. He did make a campaign promise, to “fundamentally” change America. He’s being successful.

Being a new year, some predictions. Romney will win the Republican nomination for President. He’s a RINO, but at worst is infinitely better than Marxist Racist anti-Semite Islamist Obama. Republicans will gain at least 3 seats in the Senate and gain control of it. The House will remain in the control of Republicans. Expect Obama and Democrats to play the race card massively during the campaign. This will be the meanest, most vile and disgusting presidential campaign in US history. Obama has no record of any success to run on, so he has no choice but to convince Citizens that the alternative is worse. That can only be accomplished by a campaign of hate, lies and corruption.

America is at a crossroads. Liberty or Tyranny. We’ll know November 7th.   



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January 6, 2012

Where Do the Ducks Go in the Winter?

You might well ask yourself, “What’s the use of Italian foreign correspondents in the U.S.?” Well, just ask them the famous Holden Caulfield question of where the Central Park ducks go when all the lakes are frozen over, and if you’re lucky—hey, just kidding…he’s a very good foreign correspondent!—you’ll know the answers to both of these questions.

Sara Cedar Miller, the Conservancy’s historian and official photographer for Central Park:

I have no idea what Salinger was thinking. I’ve worked for the Park for 27 years, and I’ve always seen the ducks in winter.



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Epiphany

Duccio di Buoninsegna, Adoration of the Magi
Museo dell'Opera del Duomo - Siena


Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of Jehovah is risen upon thee. For, behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the peoples; but Jehovah will arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And nations shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: they all gather themselves together, they come to thee; thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be carried in the arms. Then thou shalt see and be radiant, and thy heart shall thrill and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be turned unto thee, the wealth of the nations shall come unto thee.

~ Isaiah 60: 1-6



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January 4, 2012

The Folly of God-Denial

Giotto, The Kiss of Judas - Cappella degli Scrovegni, Padua

An anonymous follower of this blog emailed me this post (thanks!) by Matt Barber on Townhall.com, the title of which is eloquent enough: “The Folly of God-Denial.” I suppose it is neither philosophically expedient nor politically correct—even if we grant for the sake of argument that it was meant to be a political and/or philosophical discourse—but I am bound to say that I agree with the substance of its line of reasoning, even though I prefer to speak of the “folly of God” which, in St Paul’s words, “is wiser than the wisdom of men.” Good choice of quotations from the New and Old Testament, but also from Albert Einstein and C.S. Lewis.



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January 3, 2012

Those Overpaid Italian Parliamentarians


Enrico Giovannini
“In short,” writes today the Corriere della Sera newspaper, “Italy’s deputies and senators pocket 60% more than the European average.” That’s no surprise, of course. The big news, if anything, is that this is what has just been posted by the Giovannini Committee on the Civil Service ministry website (.pdf, in Italian). The working group chaired by Enrico Giovannini, the president of Italy’s ISTAT statistics institute, and made up of experts in the field including a representative from Eurostat, was required—by a rule introduced by former Economy minister Giulio Tremonti and adopted by the leaders of both houses—to conduct a study of the institutional and organisational structures of seven countries, included Italy, in a few months “to a level of detail never hitherto achieved in the literature.” Needless to say, the committee came up against some problems… As a result, in the committee’s own words, the data included—from which it emerges that Italy’s elected representatives cost from 20% to 400% (!!!)  more than their colleagues abroad—are to be considered “provisional and of insufficiently high quality for the purposes indicated by the law.” As the song suggests, “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.”



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Waiting for the 'Liberal' Revolution

“The pledge to liberalise Italy’s service industries has proved more often a campaign slogan than reality,” says the Financial Times. Yet Mario Monti’s new government has already chalked up one “revolution,” as the Corriere della Sera newspaper put it, “that puts the country ahead of much of Europe.” Read the rest to learn more about the whole thing. Meanwhile we are keeping our fingers crossed over here, because the liberal revolution—liberal in the classic sense of the word—has many powerful enemies in this country. After all, Mario Monti himself is the man who managed to bring to heel the U.S. software giant Microsoft, but was stopped in his tracks last month by Italian taxi drivers and pharmacists, as the FT rightly points out, and as all of us well know.



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