Sunday, 27 February 2011


Loyal Angelic supporters, of which there are a few, will know that coping with the building is an ever- pressing but constantly suppressed aspect of life here.  Now, in the WSJ no less, comes the word that it's such a  stylish way to live  people actually pay for the look.

Pictures propped against the walls as if the man hasn't yet come to hang them? Tick.

Distressed but once fine cloth upholstering the furniture?  Oh, see what Germans, cold, heat, and a Burman can do. Tick.

Walls scraped back to show how badly damaged are the once lovely, decorative affreschi?  It's 100 euros a square metre to get in the restorers so mostly it's me; anyway, I've grown to like the dappled look - and guests often pick at the edges of the over-painting to see what flower or bird is on the next bough, so it's a divertimento too. Tick.

Reading lights on the floor? Tick.

Cabinets and bookshelves dusty?  Tickety-boo.

Added to these signs of hidden wealth, the unwary here can enjoy the collapse of their chair  with the revelatory tunnelled-out-by-woodworm inner leg-workings and the pleasures of exculpation for confessing such a small sin - arrival of surprised person in big kitchen holding old  chair and pulverised leg(s):
 "Goodness, I'm sorry. What can I do?"
"Have a drink.  Are you alright?  Did you hurt yourself?  Perhaps you would take it down to the limonaia with you next time you're on the way to the garden - you'll find the others, waiting to go to the chair hospital."

The rich are missing a trick there - collapsing furniture.  But it's such a relief to know that every moment spent reading trashy novels,  looking out of the windows instead of washing them, or going out playing, has been contributing to status, not avoiding the housework.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Do Tanks Need Roads?

“The security presence now is all around the city which they have cordoned off to prevent any forces coming from outside.  They have stationed tanks and anti-aircraft guns on roads leading into the city. The other security cordon is around Bab al-Aziziah [Gaddafi residence] there of course he has a whole arsenal of weapons.  a Tripoli resident.
Road blocks?  Against Free Libya forces?  They've got tanks too.  I thought tanks just roared across the desert.  Perhaps it was all made to seem much too easy  long ago:


Donatella Versace said that the baroque aesthetic had been her inspiration for the collection.

"Baroque is a key element of the Versace history. And yet it is contemporary, and works for this moment in time. Baroque brings drama, but to make it modern I kept the line very clean, and used 'pop' colours,"

Apart from not quite grasping the thrust  of her arguments (and saluting the re-appearance of 'this moment in time' for 'now')  Angels hopes that,  as the world of cash-seeking fashion and  music continue to stain the 21st century cultural aesthetic perhaps, at last,  Bach, Couperin, Scarlatti (A. and D.), the great opera composers of the Florentine Camerata, even, dare it be said, Vivaldi - to name but a few of the detained -  can be released from the 'baroque' cultural prison into which they were thrust by vulgarian 20th century musicologists.

Buried Alive

One of the Italian civil engineers who built the Ghedaffi bunkers was on the television last night.  He wouldn't be drawn on any detail but said they are remarkable for the amounts of armour and defensive materials poured into their construction.  He thought it would be extraordinarily difficult to get the great socialist Leader out.

If he won't come out he can stay down there for good. As Mr HG remarked, what some think of as a bunker most will regard as a tomb.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Are They Nearly There Yet?

With Tripoli international airport in the hands of the anti-Gheddafi forces, the great socialist Leader is said to be only in control of his military bunker at Bab el Zizia.  Some 30,000 demonstrators are gathered at piazza Algeria from where they are heading towards the bunker 2 kilometres away. (Fatto Quotidiano)

Not a Good Idea

Few actions could be more provocative in Libya than a military intervention by Italy.  ANSA, the Italian news agency, is reporting  Minister of Defence La Russa as saying:

"We have news that in the south-east of Libya there are Italians who have finished their food supplies: we will retrieve them."  He continued on Sky News:

"We have already organised a military intervention to reach our nationals and are now only waiting for the go-ahead from the Foreign Office.  Actually, I don't want to decide this by myself. My first concern is the retrieval of all Italians in that area".

Let's hope the Italian Foreign Secretary has more sense than to invade Libya - particularly when a 'humanitarian aid corridor' has been opened to the Egyptian border by the  anti-Gedhaffi forces in control of the area.  

Plans Being Laid to Take Back Libya From the People

Barack Obama has been on the phone for hours with Cameron, Sarkozy and - wait for it - Berlusconi the Old Goat. According to reports in Il Fatto Quotidiano he's trying to work out how to intervene in Libya.

They've discussed no-fly zones (shades of Iraq), freezing of Gheddafi assets, (oooh Italy won't like that), and 'humanitarian assistance' with immediate access for such help assured (otherwise known as boots on the ground). Sanctions are also under discussion (those should create the conditions for the need for 'humanitarian assistance', shades of Iraq again). Strong concern has been expressed about the use of violence during the uprising (can't have the people intruding on the monopoly of violence-use now, can we?)

They're all agreed on the need to stop 'brutal repression, by the failing regime (they would be now the people have dealt with it, or almost), on the necessity of sending 'clear signals' to the Libyan leadership (and who might they be now, who are to receive these 'clear signals')? And the absolute necessity of co-ordinating 'eventual multilateral measures' (against whom?).

Come on the Revolution! You haven't much time left before your courage and its spoils will be placed under fresh imperial control.

University Behaviour Laid Bare

The intertwining relation of power and the university  doesn't need explaining. The setting up of Unileaks (Leiter) by some Australians (what is it about the Australian psyche that it wants to make everything plain?) should lead to fireworks, with any luck.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

The Last Charge: from the Telegraph Obituary for Mario Traverso

The Savoy Cavalry, in June 1942, "was shielding the southern flank of the German summer offensive. The fighting intensified as, approaching the River Don approximately 125 miles north of Stalingrad, the 600 men of the Savoy Cavalry arrived at Isbuschenskij.
There, on the evening of August 23, an Italian patrol encountered a Soviet rearguard of 2,000 men supported by mortars and machine-guns. The regiment’s monocled commanding officer, Count Alessandro Bettoni, winner of two Olympic golds in equestrianism, ordered his men to take defensive positions before settling down to dine off the regimental silver.  The following morning, after breakfast, Bettoni gave the order to attack across a plain thick with sunflowers. Officers, wearing red neck ties, slipped on white gloves for the occasion. They wielded captured Cossack swords, which were heavier, and thus more destructive, than Italian sabres.  Such was the thirst to take part in what was – even then – recognised as an unusual event, that Traverso’s commander rode off to join the four cavalry squadrons, each of 150 men, which formed the main thrust of the attack.  Traverso was left in charge of the fifth (machine-gun) squadron, which was the first to advance, laying a thick field of fire from the front and centre of the Italian position directly into two lines of the 812th Siberian Infantry Regiment.

Around Traverso, the other Italian squadrons formed up at a walk, before breaking into a trot, canter and finally an all-out gallop. As they set off the battle cry went up: 

“Sabres. To hand. Charge!”

What followed proved to be a textbook mounted attack. The second squadron broke right, before turning sharply to hammer through the Siberians’ left flank, and then wheeling around again to press the advantage from behind, hurling hand grenades into the disintegrating enemy line. Bettoni then ordered the fourth squadron to attack head on, and the battle wore down into brutal hand-to-hand fighting, with many of the Savoy having dismounted.

At this crucial point the third squadron launched a second diagonal attack, similar to that which had opened the battle, and Soviet resolve crumbled. As the smoke cleared, their losses stood at 150, with a further 500 captured. The Savoy Cavalry had lost fewer than 40 men.

“You were magnificent,” a German officer remarked to the Italians afterwards. “We no longer know how to do these things.”

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Envy: or, Had We but World Enough and Time

draft syllabus

Spring 2011
Michael Forster, Brian Leiter
University of Chicago

Moral psychology is a broad area of philosophical and empirical inquiry encompassing a range of issues in ethics, meta-ethics, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of action. Its questions include:
(1) What is the nature of moral judgment and what are its (emotional? rational?) sources?
(2) What role does moral judgment and motivation play in action?
(3) What role does conscious reflection play in action?
(4)Are agents morally responsible for what they do? If so, what must be true of their agency? Obviously Nietzsche has views on all these questions, and it will be our aim to try to understand his views and to assess, as much as possible, their plausibility. We will focus on questions (1) through (3), in particular, trying to get clear about the sources of moral motivation (in both action and judgment) and the character of the “will” on Nietzsche’s view. (The Spring 2012 seminar will focus on issues connected to [4], in both Nietzsche and contemporary philosophers. We will spend the most time on Books I and II and parts of III and V of Daybreak, and the first six chapters of Twilight of the Idols, with briefer selections from Books IV and V of The Gay Science, and Chapters I and V of Beyond Good and Evil. Jesse Prinz’s The Emotional Construction of Morals (OUP, 2007), an empirically
informed account of morals and moral judgment inspired by Hume and Nietzsche, will serve as our main contemporary interlocutor.

We will spend the first two weeks on the first four chapters (Part I) of Prinz’s book; Prinz will participate in the seminar on April 5 to discuss his views. We will then proceed largely, though not wholly, chronologically through the material from Daybreak, The Gay Science, Beyond Good and Evil and Twilight. In conjunction with the primary texts, there will also be secondary literature on Nietzsche and/or relevant psychological or philosophical literature by some or all of the following: M. Clark, J. Deigh, J. Haidt, P. Katsafanas, B. Leiter, P. Poellner, D. Rosenthal, D. Wegner, and B. Williams, among others.
Required texts:
Nietzsche, Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality, trans. Hollingdale, ed. Clark Leiter (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).
The Portable Nietzsche, edited by Walter Kaufmann (Viking/Penguin, 1954).
Jesse Prinz, The Emotional Construction of Morals (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
Translations of Nietzsche by Hollingdale, Kaufmann, or any of the CUP translators (e.g., Judith Norman) are quite acceptable.

Recommended texts:
Brian Leiter, Nietzsche on Morality (London: Routledge, 2002), esp. Chapters 1-4. This will be useful as background to the instructor’s views on a range of interpretive issues, and will allow us not to spend too much classtime on this.
Christopher Janaway, Beyond Selflessness (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), esp. Chapters 1, 3, 6-7. Purports to contest the “naturalist” reading of Nietzsche in Leiter and makes a number of interesting points about the role of “affective engagement” for Nietzsche.

Brian Leiter, “Nietzsche’s Naturalism Reconsidered,” in The Oxford Handbook of Nietzsche, ed. K. Gemes J. Richardson (Oxford, forthcoming 2011 or 2012). Available for free download at:
Responds to some of Janaway’s concerns, and refines the account of Nietzsche’s naturalism about morality. At a minimum, please read this paper before the start of the term.

Stealing Thoughts

Plagiarism (h/t Leiter Reports) is all the go these days.  The practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own (new Oxford Dictionary definition) is rife; but is it wrong?  Citing sources doesn't really get round the nub of what upsets some about drawing on the intellectual resources and property of others.  Whether there is accession to prestige or accession to wealth, and usually there is both resulting from unchallenged plagiarism,  we still have an  emotional response of offence unassuaged by  fuller citation or by payment.

Insofar as there are  patents to cover intellectual property of great commercial value, plagiarism would seem to be more about prestige and the conferring of statuses.  The world and his wife are writing dissertations these days -  a post-graduate degree is de rigueur  for academia, higher bureaucratic posts, access to research funds, and the accolades of networking  institutes.  Is the felt emotion jealousy? Or possessiveness?  Why should we care if our ideas are lifted wholesale and appositely reproduced?

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Thank Goodness for the Take-or-Pay Contracts

Libya has shut down the flow of gas to Italy.  Fortunately the contracts with Russian suppliers are there and very much more attractive than they seemed when signed.  Take is the order of the day and dinner is being cooked, showers taken and the lights are on.  And cheap too.

Denial of Any Italian Involvement Against Libyan Uprising

Palazzo Chigi,  Italy's Downing Street, has at last issued a statement that,  "Italy supports the Libyan people who are going through a tragic moment in their history." 
Palazzo Chigi sources also declared at 12.51:

"Rumours of supposed Italian military  assistance or any other form of action against demonstrators and damaging to civilians are wholly false, provocative, and without foundation."

Monday, 21 February 2011

Depraved Democracy

Berlusconi's  "We would not want to disturb Ghadaffi.",  is no one-off remark of a thug and criminal and dirty old man. Indeed the reach of criminal governance in the Mediterranean that is centred in Italy is displayed by  the stance of both the Italian Foreign Secretary Frattini and by permanent government officials.  It is not, they state,  for Italy, or for Europe, to press for a particular kind of democracy in north Africa. 

At least not for the kind of democracy that involves free elections, the separation of powers, and individual freedom under the rule of law.   As Berlusconi corrupts the legislature, assaults the constitution, bribes the judiciary and attempts to assert that he is above the law it begins to look as if the kind of democracy specific to north Africa is being cultivated and proposed for Italy too.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Higher Fees for Undergraduate Degrees Will Lessen the Waste of Resources in Front Rank Universities

Some prestigious tertiary education sector institutions have long wished to be freed of undergraduate teaching.  The London School of Economics comes at once to mind.  These universities' prestige rests upon their research output, and their training of post-graduate researchers.  Their international profile comes from their draw of First Class Honours graduate students from the whole world, not from just English school-leavers with predicted A-level grades.  To look at the great universities as undergraduate institutions is a mistake.  Even Cambridge and Oxford, with their idiosyncratic undergraduate teaching provision and long traditions of  networking opportunities, are  distinguished  intellectually by the research statuses of their staff and departments.

Now that many jobs require an undergraduate degree rather than school-level education we should not be surprised that our great universities are even less interested in providing these qualifications than they were in educating the intake from which they draw their potential researchers  and teachers.  Most in need of a minimal qualification will go to less expensive and local providers.  Those who are brilliant but poor will still enter the great institutions  (whose  capacity to identify the clever rather than the merely qualified must be acknowledged.)  Certainly some who are well-to-do and socially demanding will  continue to form their  groupings in particular institutions in the more desirable parts of the country.

But if higher fees relieve pressure on universities whose resources are more in keeping with learning and research than with issuing certificates, that  will only be of benefit to us all.  And those with their hearts set on Oxbridge will find entry much less difficult at post-graduate level, the field thinned by real academic achievement and  real academic enthusiasm for their subject.

Gott mit Uns

"We cannot claim that God is on our side:"  What a thing to say.  What a muddled, pompous, arrogant thing to say.  It is possible to say "I cannot claim that God is  on my side:" after all that would be a simple statement of the obvious for Gordon Brown to make - no-one from God downwards was on his side.

For those of us of robust and cheerful thought, God is  always on the side of  Angels.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Benigni's Lectio Magistralis Receives Standing Ovation

Here is Benigni on the state we are in. And watch the later sections too,   particularly when he sings the national anthem after analysing every line.  An extraordinary affirmation of italianita'.

[you'll need your Italian and your ears brushed-up, ed.]


"I hold that there are no reasonable grounds in domestic law for bringing a claim for damages or a declaration for being disenfranchised whilst a prisoner. Statute precludes it. Case law is against it. European authority is against the payment of compensatory damages in respect of it..."

So now you know.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Fire Exits Should Always Open

Checked-in, past security, latte in hand and chatting pleasantly with the lovely Japanese lady sitting eating raw carrot and celery at 8.45 in the morning, our London City idyll of air transport (they say 'good morning' and 'certainly madam you may carry your passport, boarding papers, purse,  and Kindle in that flat leather bag - no need to crush it into your carry-on Prada) suddenly collapsed.

I got up to look if the Florence flight  (thank you City Unslicker for highlighting the service) was going to the gate yet , caught a whiff of plastic-laden fumes, and the civilised airport erupted into sirens, orders (in English, French and German I noticed even as I tried to get my eye on the nearest exit - the rest of the EU knows its place now when it gets down to the bottom line of evacuating an airport) and stampeded.

Oh, there were lots of emergency exits - but they wouldn't open, not towards the aircraft side.  The only routes out were back: back to the non-checked-in, non security-guaranteed-by-all-manner-of-airport-measures, London bus stops, and taxi ranks, and DLR, and ordinary life.   What's the point of all that palaver - chaps holding up their beltless trousers over stockinged-feet,  carefully packed bags roughly pulled apart so that the Waitrose ginger cake arrives all squashed, 'wands' being poked at parts of  the plumper ladies, silk scarves arriving through the supposed x-ray machine with threads pulled by whatever vicious scanning creatures they keep in those tunnels for precious possessions dumped in plastic trays?  We were herded back and forth across the airport concourse from one locked 'security' exit 'door' to another, which is not funny in the company of a majority of alpha males determined to save themselves and whatever business deal they were travelling for.

Then the whole lot of us - alpha males included -  had to go through  security again to a background of furious muttering from the staff that they'd done us once and why couldn't we have been herded outside airside?   The one saving grace of all this is that there were no young children, and buggies, and mothers who eat alpha-males alive when it comes to a building evacuation.  When will the lessons be learned that when it comes to evacuating a building in a fire all exits must be open?  This time it was only  a small fire quickly dealt with.  It isn't always like that, and we   didn't panic under the smoke and the confusion.  But now I wonder that I took it all so meekly.  Why couldn't we open those doors?

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

A Look in the Attic

This is possibly too kind to the subject (h/t Fattoquotidiano)

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Ladies Go-Fast

 "The thing is, I'm generous, if someone tells me they can't buy a car I give them one. Usually I give them a Mini Cooper...."  lots and lots of Mini Coopers are reported to have been given by Berlusconi to his party guests.
Such a pretty car. Though you'd have to be getting on a bit to avoid the quizzical glance from passers-by (or the wave over by  Carabinieri on cocaine patrol).

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Phone Tap

'The prime ministers of Russia and Italy Vladimir Putin and Silvio Berlusconi had a telephone conversation on Friday to discuss current moments in the two countries’ trade and economic cooperation, the press secretary of the Russian prime minister Dmitry Peskov said.'   
A passing flight of Angels overheard:

"Pronto, pronto? Vlad?"

"Silvio!  Good to hear from you.  What can I do for  you this time?"

"Senti.  Remember April?  25 April? You had dinner, private dinner with me at Arcore, a casa mia?"

"Do I remember April!   Now I know why so many streets in your fine country are named for XXV Aprile. "

"No, Vlad, that's for the Liberation."

"It felt pretty liberated  - perhaps Russia should have a bunga bunga day, remember the liberation of Germany from Nazi oppression by our glorious army.  Silvio I invite you!"

"Discreet though, Vlad, discreet.  Terrible trouble here over who the other guests were and how old."

"We no longer have NKVD and Smersh my dear Silvio, but when I say we  talk of South Stream and denial of Russian gas to Italy by North Stream Germans, that is what will be in media."

"Va be', Vladi.  A presto." 

Friendly Printers Again

This was on Guido, it made me laugh so much I want it here too.

Friday, 4 February 2011

President Napolitano Takes Up His Role

The President of Italy (cf Angelic Heroes) didn't hesitate.  The failure by Berlusconi's remnant coalition to win the vote on federalism and taxes -  15-15 - was met by a presumptuous decision to send an administrative decree for signature to the President regardless: who declared the Decree 'not acceptable'.  (Oh the joys of a Constitution and a Constitutional Court: 'shan't' reinforced by  'can't').

That Decree was the price of the support of the Northern Leagues in the face of forthcoming indictments for  abuse of minors, and abuse of office in connection with the abuse of minors by the Italian Prime Minister (74).  Perhaps the Northern Leagues will recover now some semblance of decency (after all trial for the abuse of young girls by a 74 year old man is not the sort of thing any normal 74 year old man  faces) and put Berlusconi aside.

Who will be the new prime minister of Italy?

Certainly there can be no goings-on with Papi.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Divide and Rule: the Battles for Germany

Among the books I was reading at Christmas ( and thinking about while I prepared and cooked some very jolly meals -  Mr Quango, I wasn't making mince pies and reading at the same time) was Antony Beevor's  Berlin: the Downfall 1945, which was a great deal less funny than the skits.  It was difficult for someone wholly unprepared for reading battle plans, maps, responses and outcomes to keep going through the horrors, but one outstanding question, at the end of it all, was:  why did the Americans stop at the Elbe? And why did they prevent any of the rest of  the Allies from going forward and taking Berlin?  Germany was Berlin.

Just as the Russians sat on the Vistula and allowed the destruction of Warsaw and the despair of the putting down of the Uprising, so the United States facilitated the destruction of Berlin and the division of Germany.

Or perhaps my map-reading skills are iffier than I know.

Should Welfare Be Expressed as a Personal Debt?

The welfare state in the United Kingdom now rests upon the enormous borrowing of the Brown regime - either as chancellor  or as prime minister.  It is a debt. It is a debt so enormous and never-ending that it  cannot continue to be treated as if it were basic rights in a modern democracy that have somehow come to be expressed as a debt.

The allocation to individuals of social resources, rather than the provision of social resources to all, makes it fair to tie each welfare-consumer, as an individual, to what they take out of social provision.

The process of attributing  parts of the public debt to individual consumers has begun with the university students; this attribution has been associated with notions of privilege and of advantage to justify the practice of treating use of tax-payer resources for private consumption as private debt.   By the reasoning applied to the funding of university education any allocation of a non-universal welfare benefit should be treated as a debt of the welfare beneficiary.   Who can argue that welfare-funded housing in central London is a lesser privilege than  a degree?  That paying no council tax is worth less than the wage differential between graduate and non-graduate employment?

Tax-payer funded housing - debt. Council tax and local service provision tax-payer funded - debt.  Temporary worklessness alleviated by tax-payer support - debt.  The same conditions can be set in place: don't use the provision and you don't get into debt; use the provision but once you are on your feet again you must begin to return what you were given when you needed it.

No-one is worse off, as the university-fees-must-be-paid-by-the-undergraduates lobby endlessly asserts, except that  for long stretches of life there is an obligation to return what was taken in time of  need -  as has been required of so many of those young adults who are  allocated resources not on their own position in life  but on that of their parents.

Is it time to extend the practice of welfare as not social and universal - i.e., welfare that benefits society, not building a client voter-base -but as something that should be regarded as  a loan and carries private and real future obligations and present restrictions?  There has been a great deal of 'privatizing the profit, socializing the debt' argument  about the banks and their rescue.  Perhaps it is time to think in the same terms about the beneficiaries of the non-universal welfare state.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Pay Back When You Can but the Debt Must be Fairly Attributed

Post -18 year-olds' claims upon the tax-payer are diverging rapidly and unequally.  Those who gain a university place must find £27,000 in fees and just under 3 years' maintenance: shall we say a round £60,000?  Those seeking work (at 18 or, for the moment, 16) but failing to find it, or finding it at minimum wage levels, are entitled to subvention by the tax-payer. 

Angels do not argue that young people should not have claims upon the tax-payer; or that all claims to support should first be met by family.  Until adulthood every young person has a claim for support on the family, but families should perhaps have more recognition from government of the financial burden they carry in supporting their young people. 

What is patently unacceptable is that those who are undertaking a university education, having achieved a place against the current odds, pay for it for long stretches of their working lives when other young people are being supported in their idleness.  Public debt is public debt: if we must all be ready to pay off what brownian economics left us then the debt must be shouldered by all, including those on welfare.