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: (Athena of Pireus)
This is without a doubt the most horrifying piece of news yet to come out of the Western side of the Cold War.
it seems that the American military had effectively worked to remove the supposed control over nuclear weapon from the President, and effectively allow any four officers who wished to to launch a missile. The considerations behind this piece of total insanity were purely military: suppose the C-in-C were disabled or otherwise unable to react, there could be no effective response to any kind of Soviet aggression. Well, DUH!! If the President had been taken out of the equation, then the war leadership would be probably gone, and all that would be left would be stupid, uncoordinated slaughter. Besides, the point with atomic weapon was not to use them, but to avoid using them, and above all to prevent the other side using them. Say what you will about mutual assured destruction, but it kept two power groups that hated each other's guts from replying the horrible, destructive folly of the two world wars.

But never mind the "Dr.Strangelove" option with four junior officers just deciding to go off and fire a Minuteman rocket on their own. Do you have the least idea what would have happened if this piece of idiocy by US armed forces had ever got out? NATO would have been finished, that's what. Are any of you old enough to remember the huge pacifist demonstrations of 1980-1982? I was there, and I can tell you what they were about. They were not Communist-led or pro-Russian; almost everyone who took part despised Soviet Russia as a backward, vicious tyranny. They were about the feeling that the USA were playing dice with the lives and future of Europeans. If WWIII ever came, it would have been fought in Europe. Every one of us was aware of that; many had been through military service - most European armies at the time were still conscript - and we were all aware that we were constantly staring down a lot of Russian barrels. We hated the idea that the American forces could essentially use our countries as a nuclear chessboard. That being the case, I can tell you with absolute certainty that if the European public had known that the armed aliens in their midst could launch nuclear strikes virtually at will, and that they had deliberately cut out both the US civilian leadership AND the European governments, there would have been a political earthquake. No country from Norway to Turkey and from West Germany to Portugal would have allowed a single American soldier to remain on its territory. It would have been the end of the alliance. And for that alone one has to say that the generals who had this bright idea were stupid beyond criminality.

Yet more evidence that "war is too important a matter to leave to generals" (Georges Clemenceau said that, and he knew a thing or two about it). It is an ugly thought that, today, an army that was capable of such folly remains the most respected - or at least least despised - institution in America. A few generations of corrupt and incompetent politicians have salted the fields of democratic institutions, making half the population hate one half of government and the other half the other. Let us just hope that we don't pay for this collective loss of faith.


Jul. 21st, 2014 10:48 am
fpb: (Athena of Pireus)
The narrow defeat of the Obama administration in the Hobby Lobby case has sent its supporters into ecstases of rage and hate that have to be seen to be believed, and that in some cases can only be described as murderous. I am glad I don't live in the USA. But this fury, that bewilders many conservatives and independents, does not bewilder me. The Mandate was criminal from the beginning, criminal in its prehistory. Remember how deliberately the President lied to poor Bart Stupak and destroyed his career. And the Mandate is really much more basic to the Obama project than people realize, because they can't see its actual purpose. Le me draw a historical parallel.

Ireland has one of the saddest modern histories of any country in the world. Repeatedly invaded and devastated by the larger neighbouring island, its Catholic majority was reduced to a pulverized peasantry, paying tax they could not afford to Protestant landlords and being tithed for Protestant parsons; a miserable swarm of penniless, ignorant and leaderless grubbers of the soil, fed by potatoes, with no middle class or aristocracy or any consistency. But what you have to realize is that, the destruction of the Irish educated classes, in spite of the frightful massacres and repeated wars, were not the result of military oppression or even of mass murder; they were, in the main, the result of laws. England wrote dozens, indeed hundreds,of laws, to destroy the Irish nation as elaborately and as legally as possible. As the Irish Protestant Edmund Burke said, the English laws against Irish Catholics - or "penal laws", as they are shamefully called - were "a complete system, full of coherence and consistency, well digested and well composed in all its parts. It was a machine of wise and deliberate contrivance, as well fitted for the oppression, impoverishment and degradation of a people, and the debasement of human nature itself, as ever proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of man.”

The Mass, of course, could not be said: to have it said or to say it meant life imprisonment. But neither could Catholics be educated: to set up a Catholic school was equally a matter of life imprisonment. And Catholics were to be robbed by law: "Every Roman Catholic was... to forfeit his estate to his nearest Protestant relation, until, through a profession of what he did not believe, he redeemed by his hypocrisy what the law had transferred to the kinsman as the recompense of his profligacy." The law encouraged Protestants to steal from their Catholic relations, or even pretended relations; and not just large amounts, but everything - every bit of property they had. "When thus turned out of doors from his paternal estate, he was disabled from acquiring any other by any industry, donation, or charity; but was rendered a foreigner in his native land, only because he retained the religion, along with the property, handed down to him from those who had been the old inhabitants of that land before him."

"....Catholics, condemned to beggary and to ignorance in their native land, have been obliged to learn the principles of letters, at the hazard of all their other principles, from the charity of your enemies. They have been taxed to their ruin at the pleasure of necessitous and profligate relations, and according to the measure of their necessity and profligacy,"

"Examples of this are many and affecting. Some of them are known by a friend who stands near me in this hall. It is but six or seven years since a clergyman, of the name of Malony, a man of morals, neither guilty nor accused of anything noxious to the state, was condemned to perpetual imprisonment for exercising the functions of his religion; and after lying in jail two or three years, was relieved by the mercy of government from perpetual imprisonment, on condition of perpetual banishment. A brother of the Earl of Shrewsbury, a Talbot, a name respectable in this country whilst its glory is any part of its concern, was hauled to the bar of the Old Bailey, among common felons, and only escaped the same doom, either by some error in the process, or that the wretch who brought him there could not correctly describe his person,—I now forget which. In short, the persecution would never have relented for a moment, if the judges, superseding (though with an ambiguous example) the strict rule of their artificial duty by the higher obligation of their conscience, did not constantly throw every difficulty in the way of such informers. But so ineffectual is the power of legal evasion against legal iniquity, that it was but the other day that a lady of condition, beyond the middle of life, was on the point of being stripped of her whole fortune by a near relation to whom she had been a friend and benefactor; and she must have been totally ruined, without a power of redress or mitigation from the courts of law, had not the legislature itself rushed in, and by a special act of Parliament rescued her from the injustice of its own statutes..."

It says enough about the power of brute prejudice, of a kind we see in the highest places today, that this unanswerable attack on a disgraceful law lost Burke an election he should have won. The English had been taught to hate Catholics so much that they evidently thought that nothing done to them could be wrong or unjust.

What the Mandate is designed to do, mutatis mutandis, is exactly this. This is why the political and media leadership of your country has fought for it so obstinately, so savagely, and so underhandedly; this is why it took even a narrow defeat with murderous rage. It is because the real purpose of this abomination is to exclude Christians and especially Catholics from economic life. In a world in which money is the only power that can really affect politics - as Obama and his people know all too well - it is intolerable to them that there should be a number, however small, of rich people and of company owners who take their Christianity seriously. In this day and age it is not yet possible to make it legal for a man of the government's party to simply steal the property of his dissenting relatives; and besides, there is not - or not yet - a simple test of identity to separate the government's friends from its enemies, as membership in the "Protestant" church was in Burke's time. But they can impose a tax for a purpose that no Christian can accept, and then savagely penalize them - not by jailing them, which is not what they want, but by fining them into ruin.

Look at it in this light, and the whole mechanism becomes lucid, clear, rational and perfectly designed for its purpose. It is intended to make it impossible for Christians to have any independent economic activity in the USA, by making sure that they either have to resign their principles or be taxed into bankruptcy for them. Of course, they could not possibly declare their purpose; of course they lied from beginning to end. But that, and nothing else, is what this Mandate does.

Incidentally, this also gives you an insight into the real view that Obama and his henchmen have of the political process in your country, and of the nature of political power. This law is not meant to strike at Catholic or Christian faith. It does not try to obtain conversions. It does not set up anything like the imposing apparatus by which republican France, after 1875, worked tirelessly to break the ancestral Catholicism of its masses. The only thing that matters, the thing for which they have fought, the thing for which they have lied, the thing for which they ruined Bart Stupak and compromised the word of the President of the United States of America, was to be sure that no rich Catholics or Christians should exist. Wealth had to remain exclusively among people who had no problem with paying tax to distribute IUDs and abortifacients with a shovel. Because in the eyes of Obama and his crowd, only the very rich are politically significant. This attempt to winnow the Christians from their numbers makes it perfectly clear.
fpb: (Default)
I have lived long enough - nearly to be fifty; more than many people do. And I have lived to see many great evils faced, thwarted, defeated. What I have learned from my life is not that evil is unconquerable and victorious; quite the contrary. I have seen the most wicked and corrupt state in the twentieth century, the Soviet Union, borne down by its own wickedness. I have seen the Sicilian Mafia, apparently invincible when I was young, battered and reeling under blow after blow. I have seen freedom spread across eastern Europe, Latin America, east Asia, mostly in countries that had never known it for long, and endure and take root. I have seen three indomitable countries - Eritrea, East Timor, and now South Sudan - fight their way to independence against all the odds, against overwhelming enemies and universal indifference. Until they won, there had been nobody who did anything to help them; they took all their weapons from their enemies. And if many things went wrong, from the sorry rise of left-wing populism across Latin America to the terrible tyranny that gripped Eritrea as soon as the foreign enemy had been driven out, I am still certain that those evils will not last for ever. Other evils will arise, some which we know, some which we can't even foresee. But I believe that individual evils will always, in the long run, lose.

Which is why I am not very surprised, though I am ecstatic, at the Murdoch scandal. There is one thing that must be understood: to me, finding out about the British popular press was one of the shocks of my adolescence. Coming from Italy, where the Press was generally respected and self-respecting, where the main business of the papers was to investigate organized criminality, terrorism, and public and private corruption, and where every now and then a journalist died because some villain had objected to being found out, the whole world of red-top taploids, sex obsession, huge titles and Page Three Girls was both alien and repulsive. Finding out that this, and not the famous and prestigious broadsheet titles whose names rang across the continent, was the standard British press and the standard reading of Britons, was a shock such as I cannot render to those who grew up with it and find such things natural.

Now Murdoch had invented nothing; before he bought the News of the World, both the graphic horrors of his mastheads and the brutality of its editorial contents had been patented by the Daily Mirror, and the salaciousness and hysteria were the daily fodder of cheaper papers across the board. Murdoch, however, refined it all like a criminal chemist refines coca into crack cocaine, leaving out anything that was wholesome and decent and pushing to extremes everything that was tasteless and addictive. One thing that struck me, for instance, was that while the DAily Express had the great Giles, and the Daily Mail had Mac, and while the Mirror had a wonderful comics page featuring Andy Capp, The Perishers and so on, the cartoons and comics in the Sun were so bad - bad in a technical sense, poorly drawn, poorly conceived, unfunny, forgettable - as to be incredible in what was supposed to be the most profitable newspaper in the country. The same goes for its columnists: the Daily Mirror had Beachcomber and Keith Waterhouse, but no Sun or NotW columnist has ever been worth re-reading, let alone reprinting. It was not only vulgar; it was coolly, deliberately stupid, always in search of the worst, not just in content, but in style.

I came to Britain just in time to watch Murdoch at the height of his power and success; and coming where I came from, it was, to me, a terrible shock. In Italy, at the time, press and pornography were two wholly separete things; in spite of a few timid efforts on state TV, broadcasting was incredibly decorous by today's standards - there was no Berlusconi yet - and in general sleaze was the one thing that the Italian media had not yet experienced. Something like The Sun was wholly impossible to imagine to me, from my background; I could not believe that the English press amounted to this. Of course, the English themselves had grown up with the slow evolution - or devolution - of their press, and were used to it to the point of not noticing it. They had become used to the monstrous in their daily lives. I have never yet managed to get one Briton to fully understand my revulsion at their media; not even when Berlusconi developed his own Italian counterpart formula, for TV rather than for newspapers.

But as I regarded the Murdoch and Maxwell press as a complete evil, I was sure, by my own beliefs, that they could not endure. Maxwell is long gone, and I have long wondered whether Rupert Murdoch would die like him - he is old enough - before the fruit of his crimes came back to destroy his creations. That sooner or later that fruit would ripen I had little doubt: Murdoch is and has always been the kind who makes scandals, like Richard Nixon or his old enemy Maxwell. His methods demand, not collaborators, but accomplices, and accomplices have to be paid off and protected. There never was any hope that what he had built would outlive the criminal methods used to build it.

Now his methods have caught up with him. The closure of the NotW is Rupert Murdoch's last desperate throw to avoid being personally involved in the scandal. In fact, nobody has any doubt that the moving power behind the illegality and corruption - as Peter Oborne called it, a criminal enterprise - was Murdoch himself. And if his former allies in Britain hope that the scandal can be controlled and kept away from the core of the company, they are deluding themselves. This is no longer restricted to Britain: Murdoch has mighty enemies abroad, especially in Italy and in America, and Berlusconi and the US networks are not going to miss the opportunity to trash Fox and Sky.

And finally, I have said that the Republicans would regret allowing Fox to effectively take the American conservative movement over (remember my article on the Glenn Beck rally?) and the time is coming even faster than I had foreseen. Nobody involved with Murdoch is going to come out of this with his hands clean. Or hers - alas for Sarah Palin and everyone who supported her.


fpb: (Default)

June 2017

    1 23
1112131415 1617


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 20th, 2017 09:08 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios