fpb: (Athena of Pireus)
For me, personally, the final evidence of the guilt of British criminal Hanratty, of anarchist Nicola Sacco. and of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg - however different the circumstances - have been a personal shock. They are the undeniable proof that people can lie even in the face of death and eternity, that claims of innocence from the scaffold are no more reliable than from any other point. The case of Sacco's fellow-accused Bartolomeo Vanzetti seems even darker: he was probably himself innocent, but he knew that Sacco was guilty as Hell, and he deliberately died with a lie on his lips, for the sake of his imagined revolution. (And to add a further taste of futility to his false sacrifice, the historical fact is that the only party who benefited from his and Sacco's executions were the Communists, who had organized all the protests against their executions, and who were sworn enemies of Vanzetti's Anarchists and would have murdered him a good deal more nastily if he had ever fallen into their hands.) But perhaps the most significant of these is the lie of Hanratty, because that had nothing of the ideological justifications of Vanzetti and the Rosenbergs. Hanratty was not fighting for any "cause", however bad: he was a rapist and murderer with no ulterior motives. And he declared his innocence right to the point of death with a passionate intensity that deceived generations of activists including myself.
fpb: (The credible Hulk)
Well, I suppose all my friends are right. We do need Zimmerman lynched. We are in need of a lynch mob unleashed by short and fraudulent media summaries to rip a man who has been judged innocent by a jury of his peers and hang him on a tree on the reports of MNBC and the rest. Because journalists never would lie and always understand everything that is going on, and are in fact fountains of virtue and sagacity, and we may confidently hate those whom they tell us to hate; whereas the jury that has spent weeks being exposed in detail to everything that could be retrieved of the facts are too stupid, ignorant and racist to make the right choice. We need more demos. We need more shouting. We need more threats.
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...There are two ways to be certain of the difference between a true and false right, a right in natural law and a right designed by some political entity to suit itself. The first is that the obverse of a right is a duty. A right is always a claim made on the rest of mankind. The obverse of the right to life is the duty not to lay violent hands on another man, however infuriating the person. (I am speaking of adults here, setting the issue of abortion aside.) The right to liberty is the obverse of the duty not to interfere with anyone except for specific and legal reason. The right to the pursuit of happiness is the obverse of the duty not to muck about in any way with the soul of another person for your own ideology or convenience. I have seen this right brutally violated in the case of a man who had fallen in with a particularly poisonous sect. The right to property is the obverse of the duty not to steal; the right to privacy, of the duty not to break into someone's private house and life without very good reason. As the wise old joke has it, the freedom of my fist's motion is limited by the position of my neighbour's nose. And when you try to define what is obverse of this supposed right to abortion, you have a problem. What is its obverse? Who owes you a duty in this respect? The doctor? Setting aside such matters the Hippocratic oath and the Ronald Thatcherite idea of the doctor as a provider of services to be paid in cash, the fact is that a doctor is not a necessary part of an abortion at all. I am not even thinking of unqualified practitioners and faiseuses d'anges; it is perfectly possible, if risky, to abort one's own child alone. The only two necessary terms to an abortion are the mother and the child; and it follows that if such a thing as a right to abortion exists, its obverse is the child's duty to die. At which point some of us can begin to see a problem.

The other way to identify a genuine right is that it will always have universally recognized exceptions. The right to life is abridged by such things as war, legitimate police activity, and individual self-defence. The right to liberty can be abridged by conscription or by conviction in a court of law. The right to pursuit of happiness, of course, falls aside in such cases, and is also curtailed if the "happiness" in question were that of a sadist or of a bandit. The right to property is limited by taxation and by any form of lawful confiscation; the right to privacy, by the public interest in investigating wrongdoing and defending persons at risk (an abusive parent loses the right to privacy, along with his/her parental rights, the moment the privacy of his/her house becomes an instrument of torment). But no such limitation can be identified in the "right" to abortion.
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Nearly every right-wing American commentator in the last two days has gone doolally about the guilty sentence against a terrorist involved in the infamous bombing of the US embassy in Tanzania. With all the grace and intellectual gravitas of a lynch mob, they all howl at the judge, yell at the jury (traditional legal rights such as being tried by a jury of your peers are only OK until they deliver the result you want, evidently, to these "conservatives"), and rage at the President and the Attorney General. Some demand Eric Holder's resignation. And none of them even mention the yelling, trumpeting elephant in the room: namely, evidence obtained by torture. Unless, of course, it is to describe the ACLU's call to prosecute George W.Bush, who has admitted in writing that he is responsible for authorizing torture, as some kind of perverse anti-Republican plot - rather than the least that any person who believes in the rule of law should do.

There are plenty of reasons to dislike the ACLU and Eric Holder - especially his reverse racism and his moral cowardice - but in this matter they are as innocent as newborn babes. The person who insured that most of the evidence against this murderous scum could not be heard in any court of law worth the name was the person who ordered that it should be taken from him by torture. That person was George W. Bush. He says so, and I believe him. And because he says so, he belongs in front of a court of law himself. If there is any legal reason why waterboarding, sleep deprivation and other such charming innovations in police work should not be classified as torture, let him prove it in a court of law; instead of just having it maintained by the conjoined squawking of all his partisan supporters.

The jury hearing the case were in a terrible dilemma, and came out of it honourably if not in a legally snow-white manner. They had a man in front of them who obviuously belonged behind bars for life. They knew that the evidence against him had been obtrained in ways that none of them would countenance for a minute, and that hundreds of pages of it had been struck down by the judge in open court for being tainted by torture. What they did was to find him guilty on a single charge - which still can deliver him to the delightful confines of an American jail for life, and at the very least for twenty long, ugly years - and reject all the others, thus sending a message that the man was a villain but that they were not disposed to uphold, just because of that, the villainy of their own government. That jury behaved far better than the politicians of both sides, and infinitely better than the "conservative" commentariat.
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Calabria is the Italian region most affected by organized crime. (There it is called, not Mafia, but 'Ndrangheta.) This has repercussions in all sorts of areas you would not imagine, such as the struggle for the rights of disabled persons. There has been an attempt on the lives of two disabled leaders, one of whom, Nunzia Coppede', noticed on time that the brake cables in her car had been severed. If she or the other (unnamed) person had taken their car, they would probably have suffered a grave accident as soon as they needed to brake. The reason seems to be that their voluntary group has been given the use of a building confiscated from local villains. Anyone who wanted to show support to these good and threatened people can write to one of these two e-mail addresses: fishcalabria@gmail.com, or info@superando.it.
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I said a prayer to the God of hosts to defend the right, protect those who are fighting for justice and for freedom, and strike the tyrants who blaspheme His name. This is language I would not ordinarily use, but this is no ordinary moment. From the struggle in Tehran depends much of our future.
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Italy's Court of Last Appeal (Corte di Cassazione) has already featured once or twice in these pages for its, shall we say, interpretative approach to the law. They seem to feature on the front pages of newspapers every third day, and rarely for their wisdom. Now a journalist has just made a collection of the most interesting sentences. Here are a few:

Are kindergarten children allowed to have a wee? Yes, and they do not even need adult supervision, so long as adults know where they are. (To be honest, the guilt for this falls largely on the idiot who pushed it as far as the country's highest court. The mind boggles at the thought of the expense and time; by now, the child in question is probably getting his PhD.)

A priest who says Mass at the wrong time must reimburse the faithful who turned up too early or too late. How, it is not clear.

It is permitted to lie to the Carabinieri if you are doing so to cover up for your lover and you yourself are married.

Calling someone pirla (Milanese for "dimwit") is criminal defamation. On the other hand, to call a defaulting colleague a "black moron", emphasis on "black", is not racist if there are sufficient reasons to be angry at him. That there could be sufficient reasons for calling someone a dimwit does not seem to come into play. And to make the labyrinth of the law on defamation more complete, it turns out that it is not permissible to call your wife a "whore" during a marital row, even if you happen to know that before your marriage that is exactly what she was. The bigger the truth, evidently, the bigger the libel. The court, the journalist observes, did not say whether the husband was allowed to hold out a fifty-euro note.

If an evicted tenant insists on not leaving, it is perfectly lawful for the landlord to throw stones at the flat till the windows break.

A married woman used to have her lover in the home and in her marital bed. Bad idea. The judges ruled that the husband had a right to "revoke the gift" of the furniture he had bought for her, including the bed, because specifically of the personal insult of taking the boyfriend there.

This one I rather like. An unnamed but immensely rich person found that people wanting to reach a public beach took a shortcut through his estate. The judges ruled that since the beach was public, and since the shortcut was in fact the only way there, the VIP had to allow the proles through and like it. This, by the way, is an absolute legal right: "No kind of private property, for any reason whatever, can prevent the community from reaching a certain beach, if that is the sole access to it."

If you have evidence on film that your employee has punched the clock and then left the premises to do whatever he pleased, not only can you not sack the bastard, but you are in danger of prosecution for violating the right to privacy.

To pat a woman's backside is sexual harassment - unless it is the boss who does so. The Court ruled that there was no evidence to ascribe a "motive of lust" to the boss. This one was directly contradicted by a later sentence on a similar matter. I have a feeling that the two different sentences may reflect different opinions among the learned judges as to the sexual attractiveness of the two plaintiffs.

The wife is a Jehova's Witness. The husband is not. They disagree about the education of their children. The disagreement turns physical. Very physical indeed - the evidence speaks of slaps and bites on both sides. The judges refuse to blame either party: religious disagreement, apparently, justifies violence on both sides. And if they had disagreed on the children's education without religion being involved?

To have sex in an elevator is not public obscenity, unless the elevator is the old-fashioned kind with glass walls.

A member of the military police, the Carabinieri, can be dismissed for being unfaithful to his wife - or, one supposes, husband. But that is specific to the Carabinieri, whose honourability is a special public patrimony. So, if you are a Carabiniere and tempted, get yourself reassigned to another branch of the armed forces or of the public administration. (To be fair, the accused was also guilty of breach of discipline - he had answered back pretty forcefully to his own sergeant who was advising him to put an end to an all too visible affair. In which case, speaking as an ex-forces person myself, I would say that the soldier should have been dismissed not for infidelity, but for insanity.)

To be called a Fascist is criminal defamation. To be called a Communist isn't.

A truly dreadful one, to show that this is not just about funny. A complaint of rape cannot be upheld, according to the learned judges, if the plaintiff wore tight jeans, since "experience shows" that women's tight jeans cannot be removed without cooperation by the wearer. I will let my female friends comment on this one.

And to prove that judicial dementia is not limited to Italy, here is a gem from the corresponding German Court. A Sardinian-born waiter who abducted, raped and tortured his former lover got his sentence reduced because "his cultural background had to be taken into account". Italians are rapists by nature, it seems, they cannot be blamed for it.
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An Italian appeals court awarded former actress Laura Antonelli (whom I mentioned elsewhere in this blog) the enormous sum of 108,000 euros in compensation for ten years of criminal and civil proceedings which had turned out to be vexatious and ill-grounded. In 1992, the police found some 50 grams of cocaine in the actress' villa by the sea, and charged her with dealing. Laura Antonelli never denied that she had been using the drug, but she rejected from the beginning the charge of dealing, and spent the next ten years trying to prove her innocence. In the meanwhile, she quite literally went insane - at the height of the struggle against the justice system, she was said to suffer from delusions and "mystical ideations". It was the testimony of a psychiatrist, who testified under oath that her mental collapse was due largely or wholly to the pressure of the agonizingly ongoing litigation, that eventually won her the huge award - which sounds big, but is not when you bear in mind the infamy of a conviction for dealing, ten years of agonized struggle, and the mental agony of being taken for a criminal. Miss Antonelli's life was blasted by this charge; apart from her mental breakdown, she has spent the last ten years alone and has not acted since the trial began.

Unjust charges and long trials are a curse of the law, especially in Italy. And while one does not like to see another opportunity offered for litigation, on the other hand I would say that it should become a constant practise to punish the State for vexatious or false charges and incompetently mounted, overlong trials - and not only when the victim has the resources and the determination (one has the impression that Miss Antonelli clung to her litigation like a drowning woman to an oar) to waste a huge slice of her life just trying to get "a little harle of justice".
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A few days ago I wrote an entry about the problems that my tendency to rage caused in my relationships with others. I have no doubt that a lot of people will have read the last entry - about the abomination that is Dutch law, especially on euthanasia, and about the atrocious behaviour of the Dutch government in the matter of Ayaan Hirsi Ali - and thought of that. Except that in this case, this does not apply.

Everything is right in proportion. It is wrong and silly to burst into fury over some fandom quarrel - such as the Blaise Zabini affair a while back - even though I may feel that I am in the right, or at least that I have a good argument that other people insist on refusing to understand. But when you are dealing with mass murder under the most obscene conditions and for the most obscene reasons, then exactly the opposite is the case. Then what is wrong is to yeld to the temptation of politeness; and speak and act as though mass murder were a reasonable, sensible, civilized alternative to be discussed in courteous tones - instead of a foul abomination whose very mention ought to make us shudder with disgust and wonder at a world where such things do not bring down fire from the sky.

A few days ago we celebrated Mother's Day. I have been particularly lucky in my mother - as beautiful as she is intelligent, as brave as she is unselfish, and so full of good things that it took me some time to realize that, like all other human beings, she had her flaws. To be sure, not everyone has my good luck - I could mention my mother's own sister, but I won't. There are indifferent or bad mothers. But having said that, everyone knows this: that only the greatest saints perform, in their lives, as many unselfish and helpful and loving things as a quite ordinary mother does in the ordinary course of her work. She is alwyas the one who takes the bad part of the chicken, who stays up late if the baby cannot sleep, who carves out time in her scarce timetable to take her child to school or to play - who is there a million times, too often to mention, until you realize that you have relied on her all your life and taken it quite for granted. After all, what is the one thing that no man will let pass, what is the one thing that nobody will ever allow to be said in his presence? We all know it: "Don't you dare touch my mother. You can say what you want about me, but, by God, don't you dare touch my mother." Thugs and criminals revere one thing in their filthy lives - their mother - when they revere nothing else. Sane men and women know it instinctively. It is for this reason, for this background of unselfish love that lies like a mountain wall all around the beginnings of our lives, the towering protection and help that has made us born and fed us and kept and helped us grow, that we Christians have come to see in the Blessed Virgin the highest of all saints: if that is what is our mother means to us, how much more - of the same, but how much more - must have been in the mother of the Saviour, in the mother of God in man? It is for this reason, just as any self-respecting man will fight for his mother's good name, that Christians going to war to save their nations and their people from oppression, have many, many times seen above the terror of the battlefield, warm and loving and peaceful in her blue mantle, Our Lady of Victories; and charged in Her name, through terror and pain and death, to victory and salvation.

This is what I, what any person, owes to his or her mother. The intensity of the love of the average person for his or her mother is not commonly realized, for the same reason why we do not stop to think that we look on the world from a walking six-foot tower; that it is fundamental to us. And as for our mother, so for our father. Our father is different - he is the person who comes in from outside, the voice of a strange stern world of work and fatigue and contact with little-known and unsympathetic beings, bosses, colleagues, clients. But he is the one who feeds us and looks after us; the one we go to in trouble or fear; the last bulwark in our need; and, on occasion, the extravagantly generous source of largesse - if mother is the one who will always give us a candy bar or a banana, father is the one who from time to time will slip us, from the apparently infinite resources of his labour and of his sometimes saturnine kindness, the unimagined wonder of a twenty-pound note or of a new bicycle or of a TV. As a rule, it will come as a surprise, and when you least expected it - and you realize that he has heard you talk about god knows how far back, and kept it in his mind. The average human's love for his/her father may not be as intense, as flesh-warm, as passionate, as that for the mother; but it is not less deep. He is the standard of value, the authority whose views are deferred to and whose statements are quoted. He is the first hero we look up to, and the first person in whom we have absolute confidence, even - strange mystery of the human soul - when we rebel against him.

Yes, there are men and women who fall short of this - even very far short. But this is what being a father, being a mother, means. And even those among fathers and mothers who fall far short of the ideal, still can call on us for a debt that cannot be repaid: they made us. Their will is the reason we are here. And in so far as they were father and mother at all, however little that may have been, to that extent they were those great and beloved figures. There is no other fatherhood or motherhood. And there is no human being who does not deserve one, or wish they had when they had not.

And in the course of normal, sane human life, the time comes when we can, if not repay them for what they have done for us - which is quite literally impossible - at least make manifest to them our gratitude and our love. It is when they are old; when they are weak; when they perhaps have regressed, and need - for the first time - our help. This is a privilege that life gives us: that in a forest of unpaid and unpayable obligations, of random events and people we meet once and never again, there are two people in the world to whom we can do something to repay what they have done for us. As a rule, we do not do enough. By the standards of what the average mother has done throughout her life, it would not be too much, when she is old and weak, to carry her around on your back, or, like Solon's two young men, pull her chariot like oxen. Luckily such shifts are rarely needed; but it certainly is our function, once our parents can no longer look after themselves, to look after them. What decent human being would think otherwise?

A Dutchman. A Dutchman would think otherwise. A Dutchman would think that the proper reward for the life his parents gave him is a bullet through the head, or rather, since that is what we are talking about, a lethal injection. A Dutchman would think that the proper reward is not to look after your father after his fourth heart attack, or your mother under advanced Parkinson's, but to let them die. Die with dignity, they call it.

Let us not even speak the base and disgusting reason behind ninety per cent of these displays of love - money; let us leave unmentioned the expense and time that it takes to look after a fragile old person who is never going to get better, because, truly, the only problem with him or her is old age - the weariness of years many of which were spent in your service. Let us assume that the Dutch really mean it, and do not lie like Dutchmen, when they say that what they really dread is the loss of dignity. Do you know what that means? Moral cowardice. It means not to be able to look at the horror of human life in the eye - the horror of illness, the horror of helplessness, the horror of dependency and exhaustion and pain and loss of control. It means taking death as an escape from these facts of life; and taking it, not for oneself, but for others - removing the object of horror from your sight, so that you do not have to be reminded that one day you, too, will be like this - trembling, helpless, weak, dribbling, blind, cold. It means killing people rather than be reminded that people must die. This is the noble, the elevated, the lofty principle of choice - that choice which begins when the doctor marks an old person down for the exit lounge, and ends when the old person, pestered and prodded by eager relatives and heartless medics, weary and sick and tired of life, or perhaps too far gone to understand, gives an extorted consent - and "dies with dignity."

As a Dutch citizen, [personal profile] dreamer_marie will, if her parents live long enough, be eventually asked to consent to their murder; this is certain. I hope that she has enough human left in her - to quote Hagrid - to tell the first, second and third person who make such a suggestion to go jump out the window; but what if she is so stuffed with the fraud of euthanasia to see what it is that she is consenting to? What if I am speaking with a person who, one day, will have her parents killed - because that is the way things are done where she comes from? Should I have been polite about it? Does anyone have such a vile idea of me as to expect me, for a minute, to be polite about it? Now that would be an insult.

And as for the horrendous cowardice of many Dutchmen in the matter of Hirsi Ali, I think it is directly connected. This nation has sold its soul. It has collectively signed its own death warrant, person by person. Each Dutchman or Dutchwoman who lives long enough will be eventually a candidate for the lethal injection. And it has done so on one promise, for one reason: for the promise of having, until the day it runs out, a "high quality of life" - life without stress, without chronic illness, without fear or trouble or hate. And just as those nations in which the relationship between parents and children is still sane will in fact fight for principles and justice and to defend the country, so, conversely, the intrusion of the violence and hatred of the outside world must seem, to the Dutch, the ultimate violation of their pact with the Devil. What, they have signed their own lives away - they have handed themselves body and soul to the State to decide how long they will live - and they cannot even be preserved from the intrusion of Islamic violence and the need to resist terrorism? No, no, no! Too horrible to contemplate. Drive out the cause of contention; drive out the person who draws the hatred with her; and let us hide away from other people's anger, and cradle the only thing that our Devil's pact has given us - that precious, all too precious quality of life.

This is what [personal profile] dreamer_marie defriended me rather than have to defend. Can you blame her? And do you see a pattern there?

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