May 30, 2012

Keeping Central Park Safe

John Podhoretz in the New York Post:

The most important transformation of New York City over the past 20 years has come in the worst neighborhoods, where the crime drop has made an astonishing difference. As many as 10,000 people may be alive today who would’ve been killed had the policies of 1992 remained in place.
But the most visible public example of the transformation has been the salvation and revitalization of Central Park, whose 843 acres had grown positively fearsome in the 25 years before the crime drop.

Well, all of this, says Podhoretz, was the result of conscious, deliberate choices made by people in positions of authority. But those choices can be, and are, in danger of being unmade when Mayor Bloomberg leaves office at the beginning of 2014...

May 29, 2012

Troubles Never Come Alone

A man walks in front of a collapsed church in Mirandola (AP Photo/Marco Vasini)

Troubles never come alone. As if an economy on life support (in many respects) was not bad enough, 9 days after a magnitude 6.1 earthquake hit northern Italy, another powerful earthquake (magnitude 5.8) killed at least 15 people and left 200 injured this morning in the same area.

Factories, warehouses and churches collapsed, dealing a second blow to a region where thousands are still homeless from another temblor just nine days ago.
The 5.8 magnitude quake left 14,000 people homeless in the Emilia Romagna region north of Bologna, one of Italy's most agriculturally and industrially productive areas.
It was felt from Piedmont in northwestern Italy to Venice in the northeast and as far north as Austria. Dozens of aftershocks hit the area, some registering more than 5.0 in magnitude.

Continue reading for further detailed information. May God protect the people of Emilia and keep them safe from further disasters.

May 26, 2012

And the Editor Said...

You all know what Thomas Jefferson said of the press— that given the choice of a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, he wouldn’t hesitate for a second to choose the latter. Of course, Jefferson said that before he became President.
You know, it reminds me of a particular editor who just wouldn’t admit to any mistakes ever in his paper. Everything in his paper had the weight of Scripture. And then early one morning he received a call from an outraged subscriber who protested that his name was listed in that morning’s obituary section as having died the previous day. And the editor said, ‘And where did you say you were calling from?’  

~ Ronald Reagan, Address before the American Newspaper Publishers Association at Ellis Island, New York, on May 3, 1987.

Yet another example of President Reagan’s sense of humor. Does the above editor remind you of someone in paticular? Oops, sorry, it’s not a very valuable question—I know, it’s not about someone in particular...

May 25, 2012

Brits Abroad

There are lots of British expats in southern Europe, especially in France. What do they miss most from home? And how does an expat feel when a neighbor calls him from the small village in south-western France where he owns a house while he is, say, in London to break the news that his rural idyll has been ransacked by burglars? Well, you’ll find the answers to both questions in The Telegraph:

  1. What do you miss from home?
  2. Thieves have spoilt my expat dream

Have a good read, and, above all if you are expat Brits (or Americans), best wishes from Venice, Italy!

May 23, 2012

Coincidence or Causal Connection?

Okay, I know, I know, after reading this and this (in chronological order) you might think that there is some sort of tacit agreement between the NYT and your’s truly, but I can assure you it’s just a coincidence. Well, as far as I know, but I could be wrong of course…

Beppe Grillo's Cultural Revolution

Beppe Grillo and Federico Pizzarotti
Despite claims of victory by Pierluigi Bersani and his Democratic Party, after the second round of local elections in Italy, there is no doubt that, once again, the big winners are Beppe Grillo and his Five Star Movement: Grillo’s 39-year-old candidate Federico Pizzarotti—who pulled in 60.22% of the vote against 40.1% for the Center-left’s Vincenzo Bernazzoli—will be the new mayor of Parma.

Beppe Grillo, with obvious reference to Hitler’s decisive World War II defeat, had earlier described Parma as the “Stalingrad” of Italian politics. Now he speaks of next spring’s general election as “Berlin.”

According to some Italian observers, the message from this round of elections is the triumph of “anti-politics,” but this is a bit too simplistic, and the Five Star Movement rightly rejects the tag and sees itself as a genuine response to voters’ rejection of the traditional party system. “My victory reflects Italians’ desire for change,” Federico Pizzarotti said. And that’s the plain truth. As Stefano Folli puts it in today’s Il Sole 24 Ore newspaper,

the recent electoral results represent a turning point. If it were only a matter of local elections, the issue wouldn’t be a big deal, and Pierluigi Bersani, the leader of the Democratic Party, would be right in rebuking his critics, since left-wing coalitions, which his party was part of, won in 92 or 93 cities. “Don’t steal our victory,” he said of the results. However, such tremendously precise accounting doesn’t take into account what’s behind the vote. This round, Italians pointed the finger in an unprecedented way at a chronically ill political system that’s constantly shying away from reforms. They did so either by choosing to vote, but casting the ballot for comedian Beppe Grillo, or by ignoring the polls in an effort to show their indifference. It’s not a coincidence, then, that abstention reached 50 percent in the second-round elections, with the exception of Parma, where it was at 39 percent. Taken together, abstention and protest votes indicate that the political system has partially lost its legitimacy.

Of course there are other collateral factors, such as, for instance, a protest vote against Premier Mario Monti’s austerity measures, but they are not the main reasons behind the electoral results. Well, it’s true that Grillo doesn’t like Monti—whom he calls “Rigor Montis”—and that he harshly criticizes the austerity-linked tax rises, arguing that Italy would be better off out of the euro rather than trying to save it, but portraying the election results as an anti-austerity vote would be as reductive and unconvincing as explaining them as the outcome of an anti-politics sentiment.

The real issue is a political system “that’s constantly shying away from reforms.” But then again, to really change things requires no less (and no more) than a “cultural revolution.” Just what Beppe Grillo is talking about: “Who knows where we’ll end up? I don’t know, this is direct democracy. We’re not a political movement; this is a cultural revolution that’s going to change society.” But that’s also what a lot of people seem to be thinking of (and looking for). Time will tell.

[Italian Politics Updates - 5]

  1. Caustic Comedian Alters Italy’s Political Map | The New York Times
  2. Grillo Wins in Parma | Corriere della Sera
  3. People of Freedom and Northern League Fall Further Than Expected | Il Sole 24 ORE
  4. Parma elects anti-austerity 'comedy' candidate as mayor | The Guardian
  5. Italy set to stay in recession until late 2013, says OECD | Ansa

May 17, 2012

The Art of Plucking the Feathers without Killing the Bird?

I’ve been told that some Members of Congress disagree with my tax cut proposal. Well, you know it’s been said that taxation is the art of plucking the feathers without killing the bird. It’s time they realized that the bird just doesn’t have any feathers left. Maybe some of you heard me put it a different way on several occasions when I’ve said that robbing Peter to pay Paul won’t work anymore, because Peter’s been bankrupt for some time now.

~ Ronald Reagan, Remarks at National League of Cities Congressional City Conference. Washington, D.C., March 2, 1981.

1981... Wow, it seems like it was just yesterday, doesn’t it?

Switching to English

News like this are exactly what makes me hope for the best for the future of Italy: one of the country’s leading universities, the Politecnico di Milano, has announced that from 2014 most of its degree courses—including all its graduate courses—will be taught and assessed entirely in English rather than Italian. “Universities are in a more competitive world, if you want to stay with the other global universities—you have no other choice,” says the university’s rector, Giovanni Azzone. Read the full BBC article.

After all, let’s not forget that the idea of a “global language” is older than English itself, and Italy has more than something to do with it; this for the simple reason that Latin was the world’s first recorded global language, or lingua franca. So, to some extent, this could be described as a case of going back to the future—or at least the present!

May 15, 2012

The Failure of Arab Liberals

AP  Photo
Everybody knows what happened soon after the heady first days of the Arab Spring. The first omen of what was to come was when, on February 18, 2011 (the Egyptian revolution’s “Victory Day”), the people filling Tahrir Square looked very different than those that had been seen in that very square at the height of the uprising.

 Sohrab Ahmari in Commentary Magazine:

Islamist activists, with their distinctive Salafi-style beards and stern expressions, were the ones dominating Tahrir, not smartphone-wielding young dissidents in Western outfits. They listened intently as Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s beloved televangelist, back in Egypt after years spent in exile, called on Egyptians to “liberate” occupied al-Quds (Arabic for Jerusalem). Wael Ghonim, the Google executive who came to embody the revolution for Western audiences, was barred from addressing the Square that day.

Islamist forces have since scored one triumph after another. In Egypt, the Islamist bloc composed of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi al-Nour party has won overwhelming control of both houses of parliament. The rise of Islamist parties has been accompanied by ever worsening violence against Coptic Christians, assaults on the Israeli embassy, and threats to nullify Anwar Sadat’s peace. In Tunisia, the Brotherhood-linked Ennahda party has won a decisive plurality, a once tolerated gay and lesbian community has come under severe attack, and the country’s robust secularist and feminist traditions have been on the retreat amid growing anti-Western sentiment. In Libya, some rebel forces have traded their NATO flags for al-Qaeda’s black banner; others have targeted the country’s vulnerable black African and Amazigh minorities. Torture is reportedly rampant in the prisons of free Libya.

Clearly something went wrong with the Arab Spring: basically what went wrong was the Arab liberalism, the moral and cultural crisis of which, says Sohrab Ahmari, is serious:

It threatens nothing less than the future of freedom in the Middle East. Yet, as daunting as it may seem in light of recent developments, there really is no other path than the freedom agenda as far as U.S. policy should be concerned. After the Arab Spring, the U.S.-led order in the region is frayed, but it still stands. If it is to persist and thrive, that order must be decoupled from classical Arab authoritarianism.

Our liberal allies in this fight are deeply flawed. Disengaging from the region and adopting a “humble” posture, however, will only leave them more vulnerable to the Islamists—and to their own worst urges. As a number of writers have already suggested, the Middle East today is desperately in need of an ideological plan similar to the Marshall Plan deployed in postwar Europe. But to make the investment worth its while, the United States should not hesitate to assume the role of the democratic teacher, as it did in Europe, to shape and articulate a Middle East liberalism that is at peace with Israel, that refrains from anti-Western rhetoric and prioritizes individual and minority rights over the whims of demagogic mobs. There is no other cure for the Algiers syndrome.

Sohrab Ahmari is an Iranian-American journalist and nonresident associate research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society. He is also co-editor of Arab Spring Dreams, a new anthology of essays by young Mideast dissidents (Palgrave Macmillan). H/T John Podhoretz.

May 12, 2012

Game On

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

The game is on. The Leftist Lie and Hate, Chicago/Alinsky style political campaign swung into the official campaign for Obama’s re-election last Saturday. For those not into the who’s who of American politics, Alinsky (RIP) is the source of political organization for the Left. The holy text for Leftists, and most especially Obama, is his book Rules for Radicals (dedicated to Satan). I was a big fan of Alinsky in my Marxist days. At the core of the rules, is to separate, target, and personally attack the opponent, along with anyone associated with him\her.

The Democrat Party, since the election of Barack Obama, for example, has been incessantly attacking the Koch brothers. They are, quite simply, wealthy Conservative contributors to the Republican Party and associated Conservative candidates and causes. The attacks are scurrilous, vile, and carry not one bit of truth. Their major crime of course, is they are rich. Which is itself rich, since a couple nights ago Obama had a $40,000 a plate fund raising dinner, attended by his Leftist Hollywood groupthink multimillionaire friends and sycophants. So far that dinner has raised $15 million. They hate the rich while hiring legions of accountants and lawyers to shelter their investments and income. Obama hates the rich while taking their money along with Wall Street fat cat’s cash, and Leftist billionaires like Gates and Soros.

An example of the lengths to which the Democrat campaign machine will go utilizing the Alinsky model of personal attack, is the story released about three days ago of Romney in high school, 1965, being a bully. In a breathless exposé, the Leftist Washington Post said Romney bullied some kid, cutting his hair, and something about making anti-homosexual comments. The main source of the story it later turns out, wasn’t even at the alleged event. The man is dead, recently passed, so can’t be interviewed, and his surviving family has no recollection of the event. They’ve asked the re-elect Obama press to stop, there’s no truth to the story, and they don’t want this used as a political weapon. Three days later the story is still front and center.

Meanwhile, Our Dear Leader gets a pass. Here’s what he was doing in high school from his book Dreams of My Father:
"I blew a few smoke rings, remembering those years.  Pot had helped, and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it.  Not smack, though.  ..."  … "Junkie.  Pothead.  That's where I'd been headed: the final, fatal role of the young would-be black man."

Obama wrote:

"Except the highs hadn't been about that, me trying to prove what a down brother I was.  Not by then, anyway.  I got high for just the opposite effect, something that could push questions of who I was out of my mind, something that could flatten out the landscape of my heart, blur the edges of my memory.  I had discovered that it didn't make any difference whether you smoked reefer in the white classmate's sparkling new van, or in the dorm room of some brother you'd met down at the gym, or on the beach with a couple of Hawaiian kids who had dropped out of school and now spent most of their time looking for an excuse to brawl.  ...  You might just be bored, or alone.  Everybody was welcome into the club of disaffection." 

Also from the book, Obama relates an incident pushing and shouting at a girl. What a bully! And to a girl! Couldn't even pick on someone his own size! All this gets a pass, that he relates himself, yet an unsubstantiated story from nearly 50 years ago about teenager Romney is still top of the fold after three days in the Jurassic Press.

The Obama administration has zero successes. His “morning in America” commercial talks up his successes such as green energy investment, but $billions have been lost and $millions sent overseas. His commercial says otherwise, but the names of the companies that took taxpayer money and went overseas are public record, as are the names of green companies that have failed. The commercial talks about millions of jobs created and there is zero evidence of this. He touts last month’s drop in unemployment to 8.1%. That’s accounted for by an increase of 522,000 people dropping out of the labor force so far this year. Unemployment benefits were increased to 99 weeks, and the number of jobless citizens keeps increasing. Even illegal’s from Mexico are leaving the job market is so bad. When a person runs out of benefits, they’re not longer counted among the unemployed. There are 88,419,000 unemployed people now. This is the lowest job participation rate since 1981 after Leftist President Carter, doing the same thing Obama is now, tanked the economy.

This whole thing is all about distractions, because this president and his political party have caused the cost of gas and other energy to increase, unemployment to increase, debt to increase, wages to stagnate, investments to stay in a holding pattern. So far the distractions have included gay marriage, Osama bin Laden, student loan interest rates, the Buffett Rule, Trayvon Martin, contraception, right to healthcare, and Romney’s high school pranks. 

I was glad to see Romney respond to a pro-Obama alleged reporter’s questions about all the social issues listed above with, “Aren’t there issues of significance that you’d like to talk about?” Good for him! He must stay on economic and employment issues.

One last thing. About Obama’s “brave” and “historic” coming out in favor of gay marriage. He said in 1996 he was in favor of gay marriage. When he began running for office, especially president, he affirmed the Defense of Marriage Act and the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. Now he has “evolved”. When a Republican changes his/her position it’s a flip flop and hypocrisy. When His Divine Majesty does it, he “evolves”. There’s cynical political opportunism here too. His announcement was made just before the big Clooney fundraiser, obviously to suck more money out of the groupthink anti-heterosexual marriage/family Leftists (taking advantage here of a Leftist labeling tactic). It’ll be interesting too how this slap in the face to Christians pans out, and how his Islamofacist fellow travelers in Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood respond. (To show how much Obama is in bed with them, he’s appointed a member of the Muslim Brotherhood to Homeland Security; kinda like FDR appointing a Nazi to the Dept of War.)

This is just the start of the battle between the totalitarian objectives of Obama, Democrat Party and other Leftists, and Conservatives and a few leaders in the Republican Party wanting to reassert the US being a free constitutional republic. Romney hasn’t been nominated yet, but PAC’s and SuperPacs are doing okay with the counter attacks to the distractions, personal attacks and lies of the Left.

This may go down as the meanest nastiest presidential election in US history. 

A Journey of Malavasie

A map of the island fortress of Monemvasia in the 17th century
Malvasia, have you ever heard this before? If so, not many words are needed, if not take the time to check Wikipedia, where the history of this family of wines is told. But if you are in Venice these days—for the America’s Cup World Series or any other reason—take the time to pay a visit to “A Journey of Malavasie, the Wine of Kings, From Karst to Sicily” (Il Viaggio delle Malvasie, Vino dei Re, dal Carso alla Sicilia). Stories, exhibitions, 100 wines from 30 producers, and traditional Venetian food await you next Monday. I’ll do my best to join the… party!

May 14, 2012, from 11:00AM to 7:00PM, Venice, Giardini (the city’s park which usually hosts the Venice Biennale Art Festival).

The event is organized by the Associazione dei Ristoranti della Buona Accoglienza.
Via Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog.

May 9, 2012

Beppe Grillo? Lost in Translation...

Beppe Grillo
Beppe Grillo emerged as the big winner from yesterday’s local elections in Italy. The list of articles below should help you get an idea about what is going on. If anyone is interested in my opinion, I’d say that’s okay, I’m not worried about that. On the contrary, I think this might turn out to be a good thing. But that’s not what I wanted to talk about here. There’s something a bit more curious—and less binding…

I’ve always thought that Italian politics is often “lost in translation,” I mean, it’s difficult enough, for us Italian speaking people, to understand it, I can imagine how abstruse it may be to non-Italian speaking readers and commentators, who don’t have access, so to speak, to “first-hand referrals.” There’s an old Italian saying that goes “Traduttore, traditore” (the translator is a traitor), but this is perhaps not the biggest problem, except in the case of today’s Il Sole 24 ORE article titled “A Clear Message to the Political Forces” (see below), in which the translator/traitor felt like adding sua sponte an “explanation” to the term “Grillini,” which the author of the original Italian version, Stefano Folli, had used in his article. The translator added (into brackets) that Grillini means “the followers of gay rights activist Franco Grillini.” Unfortunately though, Grillini is the nickname to the members of Movimento5 Stelle, leaded by Beppe Grillo, who has nothing to do with journalist and cofounder of the gay rights movement Arcigay Franco Grillini ... Poor Stefano Folli (a very good man), and poor Sole 24 ORE!

[Italian Politics Updates - 4]

  1. PDL and League Routed as Grillo Movement Advances in Administrative Elections | Corriere della Sera
  2. A Vacuum in the Moderate Voting Bloc | Il Sole 24 ORE
  3. A Clear Message to the Political Forces | Il Sole 24 ORE
  4. Italy's political outsiders have their day in the absence of Berlusconi | The Guardian
  5. Left-wing, grassroots candidates lead local Italian vote | Ansa
  6. Italy local election sees gains for left and grassroots | BBC
  7. Napolitano calls on parties to reflect after local elections | Ansa

May 3, 2012

For Many or for All?

Cod. Bruchsal 1, Bl. 28r - Manuscript in the Badische
Landesbibliothek, Karlsruhe, Germany

“For many” or “for all”? Well, the right answer is the first, says Benedict XVI, who wants the whole Catholic Church to respect the words of Jesus at the last supper. Obviously, we are talking about the words of the consecration of the chalice in the Mass—words which were taken verbatim from the Gospels and had been in use for centuries, though in recent years have been replaced almost everywhere with a different translation. As a matter of fact, while the traditional Latin text says, “Hic est enim calix sanguinis mei […] qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur,” the new postconciliar formulas have read into “pro multis” an imaginary “pro omnibus.” And instead of “for many,” they have translated “for all.”

In some parts of the world, such as in the United States, in Spain and in the Latin American countries, even though with disagreement and disobedience, they are returning to the use of “for many,” but in many other countries, such as, for instance, Italy and Austria, this is not the case. And that’s why the Pope has written a letter to the German bishops. Read here, at Sandro Magister’s website, the complete English translation of the letter along with a few guidelines in order to understand the context thoroughly.