Monday, August 28, 2006

Beirut 2006

Io non chiesi il buio –
mi ci trovai senza capire
il perché dell’oscuramento
di ogni luce. Non sapevo
da dove venisse quell’onda
di tenebre, né capivo le parole
urlate dalle donne in lacrime
che si strappavano le vesti
di fronte alle case distrutte.

No, a noi non fu chiesto
proprio nulla - e nessuno
ci fece domande. Persino i teschi
strappati a fatica dalle macerie
rimasero muti.

Buio e polvere, pietre
paura e fuoco – solo ora
il giallo delle bandiere
accende le rovine.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Slaughter update:

240 human beings killed in Lebanon by Israel's bombings so far. Up-to-date breakdown (from "La Repubblica"):

- 212 civilians
- 23 Lebanese Army soldiers
- 5 (five) Hizbollah militants.


Our Country is a Graveyard

Gentlemen, you have transformed
our country into a graveyard
You have planted bullets in our heads,
and organized massacres
Gentlemen, nothing passes like that
without account
All that you have done
to our people is
registered in notebooks

(by Mahmud Darwish -- translated by As’ad AbuKhalil)


Another poem by this great Palestinian poet:

A soldier dreams of white lilies

(... as the bombs rain down all I can do in my powerlessness is read poetry and weep... )

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The "Da Vinci Code" doesn't travel well..?

I've actually been reading the DV code thingy (my daughter got the book on loan) - must admit it's kinda-fun in its video-game way but historically off the wall. What most surprised me, as I've never read anyone pointing out this particular aspect of the book, is that it also contains a whole series of rabidly anti-French US-chauvinist assertions. For instance, France is known throughout the world for what in DB's american-provincial gothic view? For "the shortness of its rulers from Pepin le Bref to Napoleon, and mistresses" !! Ah yeah...?? Not in Italy it ain't, nor elsewhere in Europe... let alone in Asia, Africa or the ME, far as I know?. Some like France, some don't - but those who don't mostly pigeonhole it as the most politically artful of the neocolonialist "big guys", not in terms of an alleged image-stereotype of "short rulers and mistresses"... which in the "real world" can only have been originally derived from a mixture of sexual jealously and imperialist rivalry on the part of maritally-frustrated UK/US puritan traders some time back in the late 18-somethings? Fascinating query, someone should check it out. Re Napoleon, DB also appears unaware that he was Corsican ergo ethnic-Italian (Genoese/Pisan stock) not French-proper. And De Gaulle was of course notoriously pintsized no less than Chirac, and so were all crowned french heads from Charlemagne to Sun King and Louis XVI??? ... ..

More seriously, re "what France is best known for" - guess wherever DB comes from they've never even heard of the French revolution that destroyed feudalism and asserted the principles of liberté egalité fraternité, of which his vision of history appears entirely ignorant?? Not altogether surprising however, seeing as the preceding US rev-thingy stuck at "liberté", never took the next steps towards "égalité" and "fraternité" as those principles aren't/weren't exactly where the US elite is/was "at" -so in the US anyone asserting the principles of "egalitarianism" and "brotherhood" gets marginalized, asserting that kind of "idealism" being left to the likes of the Reverend Jackson??

DB's other US-chauvinist anti-French grotesqueries include imagining a Paris police-chief who apparently spends his time and energies - this in a major world capital with a population of around 10 million not exceptionally law-abiding people!!! - trying, of all things, to keep in jail the occasional US tourists who get arrested for minor offences (disorderly drunks etc) and preventing the almighty US Embassy (whose extraterritoriality evokes peans of US-exceptionalism-worship from the poor guy as he appears to believe extraterritoriality is an imperial boon enjoyed uniquely by the US's diplomatic missions, not a right enjoyed by all embassies of all nations, all over the world...) from assisting their return to their country of origin by providing the usual legal assistance all embassies/consolates give - or are supposed to give - to their nationals when in difficulties overseas.. ...

And he also states the French system of justice is designed to "protect the POLICE" whereas the US one is ... "designed to protect citizens from the police" [sic]... LOL!! the EU justice and human rights commissions must be hysterical with laughter, ditto the US's own human rights organisations...!!... and guess DB must have kinda-missed the US's recent Patriot Acts???

Plus on the Catholic church in the Renaissance and Leonardo's relations with it he seems to think renaissance popes and cardinals were as theologically straitlaced, as fundamentalist and scandalized by pagan imagery and symbolism as the US bible-bashers in his down-home suburb??

Someone should take him on a tour of the Vatican (the apartments of Alexander VI are adorned with multiple images of Isis, Osiris, Apis and Hermes Trismegistus) and the villas of Italy's renaissance cardinals - foir instance, the gardens of Villa d'Este , built by Cardinal Ippolito II d'Este in Tivoli, on the outskirts of Rome, include all kinds of esoteric renaissance imagery, including the most startling goddess image I have ever seen: the Diana of Ephesus.

The crypto-hokum about the name "Mona Lisa" being Leonardo da Vinci's secret anagram for "Amon l'Isa" (Amon and Isis) is at least as off the wall as the rest. Leonardo himself named his painting - executed between 1503 and 1506 - not "Mona Lisa" but "La Gioconda" - simply because the woman depicted (née Lisa Gherardini, married name Lisa Del Giocondo) was the wife of a minor rural aristo called Francesco Del Giocondo... "La Gioconda" being a familiar way of calling her the "Giocondo Lady" (literal meaning of the surname is "jocund" = merry, mirthful). The picture got nicknamed "Monna Lisa" much later - by art historian Vasari in 1550, a full 30 years after Leonardo's death! "Monna" being short for "madonna" meaning My Lady i.e. simply means Madame, the courteous form of address for married ladies of good social standing. "Mona" instead of "Monna" is a spelling-mistake introduced by foreign art-fanciers - NO Italian would spell it that way as with that spelling it becomes a very rude word: a well-known sexual obscenity in Venetian and some other Northern Italian dialects, that is also widely used as an insult to indicate that the person concerned is totally moronic. So pop goes the great Da Vinci cryptogram!...

I won't even go into DB's fantasizings on the Council of Nicea and its theological/historical context as I'd be here until tomorrow straightening out his errors/ignorance of pre-Nicean sources - ditto on his "highly selective" quotes from the gnostic "Gospel of Mary Magdalen", of which I just happen to have a copy - full text - along with that of all the Nag Hammadi "gospels", whose version of Christ is in fact far less "human" than that of the canonical gospels ... but have to stop somewhere.

'Course all that won't bother his fans... ... including a cretinous, pig-ignorant American "college professor" no less (but dunno in what field? - at that general-knowledge level I'd guess it must be business studies??) whom the Italian press reports has suddenly, at the last moment, broken off his engagement with an Italian graduate research-student because after seeing the film he "discovered he didn't feel good about Catholicism" and she's a devout Catholic. So she's suing him for her down-payments on the wedding banquet etc. But I think breaking off such a mésaillance is cheap at the price, she should be down on her knees lighting candles to thank all the merciful Madonnas and benevolent female saints in the Catholic pantheon for ridding her of such an idiot.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Ahh... voting's on 9th-10th April... and about time too! Smile Smile Smile

So... who/what is Silvio Berlusconi - and why am I so against him? Just because he backed Bush's Iraq war?

Nah... there's a LOT more than that to it. So much it's hard to know where to start. Thankfully, the Observer provides a great rundown on his
"here and now".

And - seeing as "hatred" has become such a common word in US political invective - I want to make it clear I'm strongly against him for what I consider a series of exellent national-interest and general-ethical reasons... but 'course I don't actually-personally hate the guy... Rolling Eyes

...The best quip of the Italian election campaign so far has come from the exotically named Vladimir Luxuria, a transsexual candidate for one of the far-left parties. 'Why do you hate Silvio Berlusconi?' a television interviewer asked. 'I don't hate him at all,' Vladimir replied. 'On the contrary, we're rather alike. Both of us wear make-up and put on high heels for public occasions.'

... Laughing

... but his career really got off the ground several decades
further back... just guess in what kind of company?

P2 is the common name for the Italian Freemasonic lodge Propaganda Due (Italian: Propaganda Two). P2 came to public light with Michele Sindona's inculpation and the Banco Ambrosiano scandal, in which the Vatican Bank had many shares. P2 has been involved in Gladio's strategy of tension - Gladio was the name of the secret "stay-behind" NATO paramilitary organizations. Between 1965 and 1981, it tried to condition the Italian political process through the penetration of persons of confidence to the inside of the magistracy, the Parliament, the army and the press [also by bombings, murders, kidnappings... ].

Beside Italy, P2 was also active in Uruguay, Brazil and especially in Argentina's "Dirty War" [aka Operation Condor]. (...) A list of adherents was found by the police in Gelli's house in Arezzo in March 1981, containing over 900 names, among which were very important state officers, a few politicians (4 ministers or former ministers, and 44 deputies), and a number of military officers, many of them enrolled in the Italian secret services. Notably, the current Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was on the list, although he had not yet entered elective politics at the time.


As though that little lot wasn't enough in itself, he also has
Mafia ties.

Clear enough?

Anyway, for balance - just in case anyone's interested? -
here are the basics on the far less picturesque Romano Prodi, who heads the opposition coalition.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The "Cartoon riot" massacre in Libya

Almost too shocked and saddened just now to write rationally - weeping Crying or Very sad at the Benghazi riot massacre... death-toll figures range from 9 shot by police to 11 ... to 15. According to a direct telephone call between Italian TV and a consulate employee still in the building (a Libyan) there are a further 55 people seriously wounded (shot) plus several hundred have been beaten . He sounds shell-shocked, says he can't understand what's happening... nothing like this had ever happened there before.

Calderoli came up with his teeshirt provocation a couple of days ago, must have been peeved because despite all the Northern League paper's provocations, Italian racism hadn't been getting as much "attention" as Denmark's?

Well now he's got exactly what he wanted: piles of muslim corpses.

The Italian ambassador to Libya - a very experienced ME hand so he should know- says that the intensity of the Libya street-reaction was not due "solely" to the cartoons - or even to their ultra-provocative "relaunching" by the Italian Northern League minister (who 2 days ago had flashed a cartoon-teeshirt from under his jacket in a kind of "striptease" on TV - and offered to provide thousands and thousands of them free of charge to whoever writes in to request them!!.. NOT much reported on "international MSM" but not necessary as so many Libyans speak Italian - and watch Italian TV via satellite) - but were fuelled synergically by "revelations in the last few days regarding the treatment of muslim detainees by other western nations" - since the Italian consulate was the only "western" potential-symbol in Benghasi. Translation from diplomat-speak: the intensity of the demonstrators' fury, in normally very calm very provincial Benghasi, was fuelled also by the impact of the last few days' revelations of Abu Ghraib murder-torture-and-defilements.


Calderoli had previously said "Islam should be outlawed" and called for "new crusades" against it. Here's a Trade Union statement issued in Libya, dating from the day before the riot that gives an idea how recent and past events and present-day fears all get woven together in fuelling the protests - which are by no means purely religious - other pre-riot Libyan protest-statements I've seen also focussed on "calls for violence against muslims", not blasphemy.

Tripoli, Libya, 02/16 - The Workers trade Union of the Community of Sahelo-Saharan States (CEN-SAD) has criticised recent statements by Italian Minister on Constitutional Reforms, Roberto Calderoli, who called for new crusades against Muslims.

In a communiqué, the Union also decried the cartoons on prophet Muhammad published in a Danish newspaper, condemning the absence of reaction from the Danish government and its persistence will not to offer apologies to Muslims.

The communiqué thinks that this attitude proves the existence of a conspiracy against Muslims, and confirms the return of crusaders to drive a wedge between peoples.

The Union calls for the unity of Muslims throughout the world and invites Muslim countries to follow the example of Libya, which closed its embassy in the Danish capital, Copenhagen.

So in this particular case, they seem to be reacting to the cartoons as a western call for pogroms/crusades both in Europe and elsewhere - and knowing Calderoli, the Northern League and what they preach ... plus their thuggish gangs of supporters...who can say they're wrong?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The cartoons that shook the world

Shock-waves still reverberating, crowds still demonstrating all over the ME, Danish embassy-embers still smouldering amidst cartoon-refreshed sectarian tensions in Lebanon, NATO-shot demonstrators' corpses piling up in Afghanistan...

So what is/was it really "all about"? Some say it's about the Western "core-value" of freedom of speech vs. Muslim religious fanaticism and obscurantism, others - including me - see it more as a politically-inspired "clash of civilizations" provocation that "succeeded" beyond its promoters' wildest dreams... although somewhat to the detriment of Denmark's balance of trade.

First, is it true that the Danish newspaper that commissioned and published the cartoons did so to assert - in good faith - their belief in the need for an "uncompromising stand" on "preserving" the kind of no-holds-barred attitude to artistic and journalistic freedom of expression that they say is an essential part of European civilisation?

* Ahem *:

Danish paper rejected Jesus cartoons

Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that first published the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that have caused a storm of protest throughout the Islamic world, refused to run drawings lampooning Jesus Christ, it has emerged today. (...)

In April 2003, Danish illustrator Christoffer Zieler submitted a series of unsolicited cartoons dealing with the resurrection of Christ to Jyllands-Posten. Zieler received an email back from the paper's Sunday editor, Jens Kaiser, which said: "I don't think Jyllands-Posten's readers will enjoy the drawings. As a matter of fact, I think that they will provoke an outcry. Therefore, I will not use them."

Doesn't look like it, does it?

On the other hand, no doubt that some of the support for the Danish mag. and other publications that have splashed these cartoons on their front pages is due to genuine love of freedom of speech, but here again, there are more disquieting overtones.

For instance, Italy's La Repubblica, in its "latest news" column, says that a minister representing Italy's Northern League in the current govt. wants to offer the France Soir editor fired for publishing the cartoons a job as French correspondent for the League's party newspaper "La Padania"...
both the League and its paper have won themselves a nazi-style reputation for all kinds of abuse - including physical violence - against muslim immigrants:

While the League leadership dismiss charges of racism, there have been instances of speeches, interviews and banners pointing to that. Umberto Bossi himself said that African immigrants, whom he called Bingo-bongos, should not receive popular housing with the same rights of ethnic Italians.[4] Erminio Boso proposed to segregate immigrants in train cars different than for Italians. [5] Umberto Bossi, in an interview, suggested opening fire on the boats of immigrants who would disembark in Italy [6], but after widespread criticism he declared he meant the empty boats. The former mayor of Treviso, Giancarlo Gentilini, talking about those he called immigrant slackers, said that "We should dress them up like hares and bang-bang-bang"[7]. In June 2005, at a festival organised by the League, a banner inciting to "rape Pecoraro", (Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, secretary of the Federation of the Greens and openly bisexual) was exposed; the banner caused outcry, and was condemned by the League's leadership[8].

In 2005, Mario Borghezio, MP for the League at the European Parliament, was found guilty of arson, for having set on fire the belongings of some immigrants sleeping under a bridge in Turin in 2000[9]...

But thankfully, in Italy the Northern League polls only a small percentage of votes (some 5% nationwide, seldom more than 12-15% even in the 2 northern regions where it is strongest).

In Denmark, however, despite the relative smallness of its immigrant population - around 3% - the level of intolerance amongst the population as a whole appears alarmingly high. In a recent article on Denmark's attitude towards immigrants, European Muslim human rights activist Bashy Quraishy makes some interesting points, accompanied by some striking figures:

The press, the politicians and the populations constitute an unholy alliance. In my opinion, the media carry the main responsibility for the fact that Denmark tops the list of the most xenophobic countries in the EU - according to surveys made by the EU itself.

In Aktuelt on 22.12.97 we can read that Denmark is the most racist country in the EU - 43% of the Danes characterize themselves as »rather or very racist« and 40% as »a little racist«. The question of where the negative attitude comes from when as much as 82% of the Danes - according to an inquiry made by Lise Togeby from the University of Aarhus - have never met an immigrant, neither in private or at work.

And in contrast with what one might assume from reading most of the press coverage on this issue, it's simply not true that most "Western" countries set no limits on satirical treatment of religious doctrines and sacred figures. In many places in Europe (UK, Eire, Netherlands, Italy, Greece...) blasphemy - in one form or another - is still on the books as a crime.