Thursday, 24 March 2011


First light before 6, not dark till after 7, time to set up at the ecohouse,  look at  the spring flowers,  take the walks, read the books, eat the boar and venison (well, not me, but others can.)  Libya's over (bar the after-threats) and with any luck  Berlusconi will be too, by the time Angels comes back after the summer.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Technically Unskilled

Turn on the television and there is the Allied action against the Libyan regime, reported vividly in pictures and words.  Open the papers and the detail is even greater.  But for those of us unfamiliar with battle and with war, it is almost incomprehensible.  Which kinds of aircraft took off from which bases and were away for how long supported by how many refuelling craft clearly is information that should be processed.  Only it isn't, at least not by most of us, because we don't understand.  

A huge row broke out about intrusive media monitoring of this kind of data by the RAI (Berlusconi controls much of that, the Italian BBC) and other media stations (Berlusconi owns all of that).  Announcing the departure of radar-seeking planes, for instance,  leads to the radar being turned off and wastes their mission, lamented the Minister of Defence.   The coverage drew back, physically kept away from the bases, and informationally bereft.    Berlusconi's claims that the Italian jets were flying but not firing fell silent - if they are specialised in finding and destroying radar defences then the ending of announcements and filming of their departure must have profited their undertakings. 

Could it be that the Italian Prime Minister is now being kept out of the loop?  It's pretty clear whose side he's on, and it's not ours.

Criminal and Political Governance

The offensive propaganda  so unwisely adopted by last century's feminists - that politics is personal - has a reality that is far beyond their silliness.  Personal relations and networks among the powerful, (regardless of their mode of achieving power) as governance, is deeply opposed to democracy.

The stand-off between President and Parliament and the  Berlusconi/Bossi populist coalition is a casebook example of why we do not want power used without democratic control.  The people can choose to act in any way  they want, requiring that their representatives follow their choices and, sometimes, those choices, those policies, ape the policies and goals that are implemented also under mafia-style regimes.   But they are not the same thing. The policies resulting from democratic choice can be ended by the people while the policies pursued by criminal, inter-personal governance  cannot.

The Berlusconi-led  coalition is already falling apart under democratic pressures, as the personal/mafia connection diverges ever further from what the people choose and is frustrated by constitutional and democratic controls.   Berlusconi may be addolorato by what is happening to Gadaffi , his bunga-bunga best friend and  co-exploiter of the resources of their respective countries, but he will behave according to the rules and the wishes of the people, no matter how much he cries out against a politicized judiciary and personal persecution by the institutions of the democratic state.

The poor Libyans are being criminally ruled: criminally intimidated (in Tripoli)  and massacred (in Misurata).   They face much of what the people of the German Democratic Republic faced - the same 'socialist' elite, the same extensive culture of spies and apparatchik control, the same menace of interests and powers well beyond their own concerns to achieving some freedom in their lives. There may be pros and cons for the extent of intervention in Libya by Allied forces.  There are no pros for fudging clear political and institutional democratically controlled lines of authority and responsibility in the actions we are taking,  and everything against pretending there is confusion.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Nato Rules. OK

Everyone is agreed that the command structure of the Allied implementation of Resolution 1973 will be that of Nato according to the Italian media.  President Napolitano had stated that Nato command was essential and appropriate.  Italy was otherwise considering setting up its own command over its bases.

President Obama has squared the Turks, the French have backed down, the UK was in favour all along.  Germany has withdrawn its forces from Nato Mediterranean operations said the Ministry of Defence in Berlin - that's two frigates and 550 men plus another two ships.  The Note didn't say if they would leave the Mediterranean.

Libyan Interests

'Gaddafi threatened to replace western oil firms with companies from India and China in a March 2 speech and more than 10 days later discussed possible investments with the ambassadors of the two countries and Russia, state-run television reported.'   Bloomberg notes that as well as Rome-based Eni, foreign oil producers in Libya include France’s Total SA, Austria’s OMV AG  and Spain’s Repsoi YPF SA.    The U.K.’s largest oil companies Royal Dutch Shell  and BP  were exploring for oil and gas before suspending operations when the anti-government uprising started in the east of the country in mid-February. '  (Bloomberg)

Well he won't be acting on the outcome of any of those discussions now, will he?

Meanwhile the hyped-up 'row' about who commands the Allied intervention to protect civilians from the Regime's military is dressed in  Nato/not Nato clothes but is really about the administration of  post-'No-Fly' Libya.  Clearly humanitarian assistance is badly needed to restore electricity and water supplies, restock the hospitals,  rebuild damaged settlements and continue to hold off resurgent aggression at petty levels by Gadaffisti while the Transitional National Government establishes itself, and elections at national and local levels are held.

Humanitarian assistance comes armed and usually from military structures. Of necessity, warfare consisting in destroying humans and human support infrastructures, humanitarian assistance has to be equal to coping with it.  And Gadaffi promises to wage war on his people (and on the rest of us) for as long as he can.  Italy, from where what humanitarian assistance that has been  supplied has come, not unnaturally sees itself as a main provider, and recipient of the profits from all that provision of infrastructure and goods.  But now that the regime's international and local aggression and defence capabilities have been taken out (apart from terrorist attacks on their own and other state's civilians) the rest of the Alliance would like to offer humanitarian assistance as well, and for the same reasons as Italy.

In the meantime we can rely on the United States continuing to run the show until the humanitarian assistance allocations are sorted out.  After all, the No-Fly zone has now been extended enormously to the south and west; who knows what might be lurking, out there in the desert, that  demands further aerial intervention.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Italy Demands Nato Command for Next Phase. Italian Ship Still Sequestered

Article 5

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.
Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security .

Article 6 (1)

For the purpose of Article 5, an armed attack on one or more of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack:
  • on the territory of any of the Parties in Europe or North America, on the Algerian Departments of France (2), on the territory of or on the Islands under the jurisdiction of any of the Parties in the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer;
  • on the forces, vessels, or aircraft of any of the Parties, when in or over these territories or any other area in Europe in which occupation forces of any of the Parties were stationed on the date when the Treaty entered into force or the Mediterranean Sea or the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer.

Russia Divided

It's not just the Italian government that is creaking under the strain of events in Libya.  In Russia claims by the Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that some of the requirements of United Nations Resolution 1973 read like a Crusader call to arms have been rejected by President Medvedev.  Medvedev has declared that the Resolution reflects the Russian understanding of the situation in Libya and its provisions are reasonable, and have been put into effect reasonably. (Tass reports)

In the meantime the Russian Foreign Secretary Lavrov still has steam coming out of his ears about the Allied expression of their understanding of Resolution 1973, as he visits Egypt and continues (on Tuesday) to Algeria.  Expect more Allied interventions tonight, before he gets there.

Stalin Lives!

'Representatives of youth movements have staged pickets outside the embassies of the United States, Great Britain, France and the NATO mission in Moscow in [sic] Monday, demanding to end the encroachments on Libya’s sovereignty and end a military operation against that country. The pickets were holding slogans demanding to [sic] end bomb strikes on Libya.

Maria Kislitsina, the leader of the Nashi youth organization, told Itar-Tass that “in Libya we see a vivid manifestation of ‘humanistic’ aspirations of the western leaders who launched a military operation against the peaceful population. Formally, the aim of the troops’ campaign against Gaddafi is to defend the civilian population, while in reality they aim to overthrow the legitimate government of the still independent state,” Kislitsina said.

“We do not come out in support of  ['the' for heaven's sake; get some decent English-speaking copy editors! ed.] Gaddafi regime, but we want to remind everyone of the fact that those [sic; 'that', 'those' take your pick, how about 'some'? ed.] peaceful civilians have already fallen victim to this massacre. We demand to end ['the end of'  and delete the spurious 'the' before 'encroachments'.   Pull your professional editing selves together, ed.] the encroachments on Libyan sovereignty and ['an end to'  (you'd all be sacked if you worked for me) ed.] end strikes on its citizens,” Oleg Sokolov, the leader of the Stal (Steel) youth movement told Itar-Tass.

Ryanair Flights Transferred to Palermo Airport

Ryanair's passengers are noted for their stoicism but even they must have been alarmed in recent days as they disembarked at Trapani Airport.  However from midnight this morning all Ryanair flights have been transferred to the airport at Palermo.  Otherwise they might well have found themselves on missions along the Libyan coast. 

One of Gadaffi's Sons Assassinated?

It is rumoured that Khamis Gadaffi,  in charge of organising  African mercenaries (who are particularly resented by the Libyan people)  was killed by an aircraft pilot who had changed sides in the hostilities.  He opened fire on  Gadaffi's son in the Bab al-Aziziya bunker.  Fatto Quotidiano states the rumours, while persistent and widespread, have not been confirmed.


Italian media are showing videos of a man said to be Khamis Gadaffi meeting and greeting.  They say he may not be dead.

Communications Cease With Italian Ship

The Italian seagoing tug that was boarded by armed men in the harbour at Tripoli and then forced out to sea towards one of the oil platforms was met by an Alliance helicopter and has now turned back towards Tripoli.  Crewed by 8 Italians, 2 Ukranians and an Indian, the fate of both crew and ship are being closely monitored by the Italian government.

In March 2009 the Asso 22, which supplies the oil rigs,  rescued 350 refugees off the Libyan coast from a grossly over-loaded boat in serious difficulties; the crew are nominated for the award of the  Medaglia al Valor Civile.

The Italian Foreign Ministry has said that all communication with the ship has been broken off; there are fears that the action may be part of the threatened retaliations against civilian Italian targets by Gadaffi.


The Asso 22  has arrived in the harbour at Tripoli.  Communications with family members of the crew have been allowed; the crew have stated to their families that they are well.

Counted Back

"Mission completed and all our planes  returned safely," said Colonel Gabetta ,  commander of the 37th Stormo at Trapani; the Tornado Ecr of the 50th Stormo di Piacenza are back safely too, as well as the refuelling planes from the 6/o Stormo di Ghedi

Watching the military spokesperson for the British forces engaged in instituting the No-Fly zone and inhibiting military attacks on civilians in Libya,  I was quite struck by the lack of reaction on the part of the BBC interviewer when assured that all British planes had returned safely.  He just turned to a frowning woman in a bad coat and plastic necklace who tried to tell us what could have been explained so much better by the properly-qualified, and properly dressed, Major-General.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Off They Go

Sunday over (seeing as we are Christian forces, according to Gadaffi, that seems noteworthy)  it's all kicked-off again.   The Italian and Danish jets have set out, together with United Kingdom, French, and US forces, on the next stage of the suppression of attacks by Gadaffi's mercenaries on the people of Libya.

The Cypriots have been tapped sharply on the snout by Mr Cameron when trying to refuse the use of Cypriot bases, for UK planes are flying from Gioia del Colle  when they aren't flying from Norfolk, and were told we didn't need them anyway.

Russia is acting like a goad (or knout, I suppose would be a more appropriate Russian utensil) to further Allied action.  Every time the Russians get up to speed the Allies are already taking out the next means of Gadaffian oppression.  One wonders what action the Russians will precipitate next with their complaints and objections.

The Pope has told us all to pray for Libya, but he's a German and not on our side, so we're not sure what outcome he's asking us to pray for.  And the Arab Leagues have just had a sharp lesson in being careful what they ask for.  

Mare Nostrum

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov leaves for Egypt today.   The focus of the talks he will have in Egypt, and then Algeria, will be the military operations in Libya to protect civilians against  Gadaffi's regime.

 Egypt is a long-standing partner of Russia.  After the ousting of former-President Mubarak,  Lavrov would like to see what is happening now in Egypt and to establish contacts with the new leadership there.  During the visit to Cairo, "there will be meetings with the chairman of the Supreme Council of the armed forces, Hussein Tantawi, and consultations with the Foreign Minister of Egypt, Nabil al-Arabi", according to a Foreign Ministry spokesman.  

In what might be regarded as an understatement rather than a statement, he continued:
"....Focus will be [on] the recent developments in the Middle East and North African countries... The ministers will compare  assessments and are likely to work out some common approaches to this situation... In this context, of course, issues of international assistance to Egypt will be discussed".

Egypt wants to talk about tourism, on which the national economy and employment are largely dependent.   'The Egyptian Minister of Tourism recently held a large scale campaign in Moscow to attract Russians to Egyptian resorts. Observers hope that ...   during Lavrov's visit   the Foreign Ministry will announce that its advice to tourists not to visit Egypt is lifted.'

In Cairo Lavrov will also meet with the secretary-general of the League of Arab States 'to address key international and regional agenda issues'  [that's one way of putting it, ed.]  Russia has condemned the military operation undertaken by a number of NATO countries, and called for  'a dialogue of Libyans themselves to ensure a democratic future for the country.'

Lavrov will then go on to Algeria where he is scheduled to meet  President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and  Mourad Medelci, the Algerian Foreign Minister.  

"Algeria is one of   three countries, the others are India and China, with which Russia seriously develops military-technical cooperation...  We intend to continue to coordinate with Algeria on our approaches to key international problems.  ... as well as co-operation in the areas of energy,  infrastructure construction and advanced technologies. Algeria for the past several years has been among the three major partners of Russia on the African continent", the Russian Foreign Ministry ended.  (Tass)

Not for nothing, and since the time of the Roman Empire, has the Mediterranean been Mare Nostrum. There have been wars over Russia trying to muscle in.

Paying for Threatening the Mediterranean

The race is on to prevent the only real threat that the Gadaffi regime can proffer (other than the terroristic menaces to civilians in the Mediterranean already vomited once more  by Gadaffi in person - "the Mediterranean is now a battlefield") : burning the oil fields and causing an ecological catastrophe in the Mediterranean.

Objectives of attack from sea and air in an unremitting, night and day series of  rolling assaults are: radar installations, command centres, fortifications and bunkers, barracks, coastal defences,  mechanised and armoured units, missile-launch sites, fuel dumps, airfields.  As the chain of command, already strung-out and fragile, collapses there will be defections by Libyan troops, and many mercenaries will leave.

Although, as often pointed out, Gadaffi has had forty years to build his client state of supporters and the society is poisonously warped, and  riddled with apparatchiks, self-servers,  and creeps generally, the morality that animates them will readily serve to encourage a shift in allegiance to the Transition national government and hurry Gadaffi's isolation.  Nevertheless, it is the fanatics who make the terrorists: prefects throughout Italy have been ensuring a raising of the livello di guardia against terrorist infiltration and actions.

As for the fears played on by Bossi and his despicable Northern Leagues of mass immigration, arrangements can be made as well with  a transitional government as with a monster who uses the desperation of the poor of Africa to ensure his continued acceptance as a partner of our governments.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Turkish Support

The Turkish Foreign ministry has announced that Turkey is assessing and preparing actions, both civilian and military, in support of the UN Resolution 1973 and the states acting on its implementation.

German Support

The  Allied air-strikes on the Gadaffi  regime have been co-ordinated from an American base in Germany according to an anonymous French official. (reported in Fatto Quotidiano)

"This is a multilateral operation  under the American command for American forces in Europe, based in Stuttgart ...which  co-ordinates French air operations based in Lyons and the British base in Norwood."

So now we know what the German Chancellor meant when she stated that abstaining on the UN Resolution 1973 didn't mean that Germany did not support it.

Tomahawks for Gadaffi

(Corriere della Sera)

He Would Say That Wouldn't He

"Moscow regrets the armed action undertaken in Libya by a number of countries with reference to a hastily adopted U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973,” a spokesperson for the Russian Foreign minister  Lavrov said on Saturday 19 March.

“We strongly urge both all [sic] Libyan sides and the parties involved in the military operation to do everything possible in order to prevent the suffering of the civilian population and stop fire and violence as soon as possible...
....We demand that exhaustive measures be taken in order to ensure the safety of foreign diplomatic missions and their personnel. We especially insist on the inviolability of the Russian Embassy in Tripoli and of the Russian citizens in Libya,” he said.

“We are still convinced that it is necessary to stop the bloodshed immediately and begin a dialogue between the Libyans themselves in order to achieve an effective settlement of the Libyan conflict in the interests of stability and democratic future of that country."

Angels expects Germany regrets as well.  And Poland, even if they did say they would offer 'logistic support'. 

Defence Shields Moved in Italy

Elements of the  ground-to-air missile system Spada  have been moved from Udine to Trapani where the Italian Tornado and  Eurofighter jets have been flown from Brescia, Grosseto, and Piacenza.  Spada is designed to respond to airborne threats in Italian airspace.


The aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle is to sail tomorrow from Toulon.  There won't be room to move in the Mediterranean with all these aircraft carriers soon.

Cruise Missiles to be Used

 Military action may start with the use of Cruise missiles against sites in Libya, Italian reports suggest.  Danish jets have arrived at Sigonella.  Turkey is reported to have stated its support for the action against Gadaffi though it is not clear what form the support will take.

Headlines in the Italian press are the single word 'Guerra' [war]. 

United States Commands the Operations Against Gadaffi

Command of the operations against the Gadaffi regime is to be by the United States from their base in Naples, Italian media have reported.

Who is Commanding the Resolution Forces?

The threat to Italy from the Gadaffi regime in Libya is so great that effectively military action against it has already begun.  Should Regime fighters or missiles be launched outside Libyan territory there will be instant Italian response.  The Italian navy is patrolling  the Mediterranean, the US aircraft carrier Enterprise (wow) is no longer reporting its position nor has been for days and Italian media speculate it is her firepower that will be turned on the regime.  The Andrea Doria is in the Canale di Sicilia together with the Etna which currently holds the command of the Standing Nato Maritime Group.  The Garibaldi, which sailed yesterday, has on board men 'specialised in assault and anti-sabotage' from the reggimento San Marco.  (perhaps 'short of occupation' in the UN Resolution doesn't exclude the use of ground troops?)

At Gioia del Colle, in Puglia,  Eurofighter pilots are on stand by. At Trapani, apart from the F16s and the Awacs, the Sikorsky helicopter search and rescue teams are also on stand by.  As are the anti-submarine  forces stationed at Sigonella. Decimomannu, where the Nato Air Weapon Training Installation is based will probably be used by the English and the Americans, as well as Pantelleria.
Amendola, the base in Foggia, will provide the Predator drones.

(For a further, detailed breakdown of what is up and ready and what is being prepared see Corriere della Sera )

So who commands all this (and whatever else has been mobilised but not publicised)?  At the moment Italy and the United States.  There's no going back.  Leaving Gadaffi, any Gadaffi in power in Libya is far too dangerous for Italy  first, and for the Mediterranean and Europe next.  And for shame those in England who say it's nothing to do with them,  not worth a single soldier. Command of the Mediterranean always has been central to the British Navy: not now, of course, but only because the Navy's been dismembered.

No-fly zone Violated by Regime in Libya

From Corriere della Sera

Friday, 18 March 2011

Taking On Gadaffi, Not just Providing Bases

The bases at Amendola, Gioia del Colle, Sigonella, Aviano, Trapani, Decimomannu and Pantelleria have been put at the service of the allied imposition of a reinforced no-fly zone in Libya.  The Minister of Defence has also stated that Italy is making available men and military resources as well as the bases in conjunction with other countries acting to  implement the United Nations Resolution on Libya.  The announcement was made  after the emergency cabinet meeting this afternoon and in consultation with the Head of State.

A second Italian ship carrying relief supplies, medicines and other humanitarian aid is expected to arrive in Benghazi tomorrow morning.

According to the Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, the cease fire declared by the Gadaffi regime is not being observed and attacks are continuing on positions held by the Provisional Government forces.   He also stated that the Treaty of Friendship between Italy and Libya is no longer in force and its undertakings are now void.

The aircraft carrier Garibaldi sailed from Taranto at 2 o'clock this afternoon for Siracusa with aboard vertical and short  take-off jets ready for the defence of the naval operations required in the Libyan crisis.   So it's not just providing bases, then.

While France calls for no involvement by Nato in dealing with Libya, Italy is demanding a Nato shield against Gadaffi attacks, given its geopolitical role and position.   Both Frattini and D'Alema  (PD opposition ) are concerned at Italy's vulnerability to the Gadaffi regime's arms.

How Many More...

...before he is brought to justice?

Who Governs Libya?

The failing Gadaffi regime has attempted to call a cease-fire, a halt to all military action 'in accordance with the UN Resolution' and to protect civilians.  The Provisional Government of Libya in Benghazi has welcomed the UN Resolution and the imposition of a reinforced no-fly zone.

While the Libyans sort themselves out, it is clear that no member of the Gadaffi family can be treated as representative of anything but themselves and barbarity.   Whoever speaks for Libya it can never be them again.

Spain Joins Anti-Gadaffi UN Action

Always useful to know where you are:

 The Spanish parliament has agreed that Spain should provide forces to support the United Nations Resolution on a reinforced no-fly zone in Libya.  Norway is joining in too.  Meanwhile Italian media report the WSJ story that Egypt has been supplying arms to the Libyan rebels over the last few days, mainly small arms and military resources other than arms.

Into the Blue

The military resources that are being discussed in the Italian media are astonishing for those of us who think of Italy as  somewhere that  power has passed-by - beautiful, rich, infinitely diverting, but  not bellicose or interventionist.

The bases, particularly in Sicily, were always on offer for humanitarian use, but are now up for fighting.  The Defence Minister has said:

"Italy planned always to have a front line role",  and repeated, "We will not withdraw from our duty."

Military advisors are explaining that a no-fly zone requires "first the destruction of all means of enemy anti aircraft defence, that is radar and missile sites.  We have this capacity, the so-called SEAD, to suppress enemy air defences..:we did it in Kosovo, using Tornados, with the Germans and after three days no Serbian planes were flying. "  (former head of the Italian airforce Leonardo Tricarico).

Naturally, the military continue, it's yet to be decided which air assets will be put at the disposition of effecting the UN Resolution together with the F16 fighters and the Eurofighters, which are ideal for patrolling and surveillance.  The Av8, aboard the aircraft carrier Cavour are also available, and the bases of the centre-south will be available too for aircraft from other countries.  There's Awacs at Trapani which is specifically designed for those type of aircraft, but all bases are ideal for fighters: from Grazzanise to Gioia del Colle.  Even Lampedusa or Pantelleria, if necesssary.

Then there's the Cosmo-Skymed satellite surveillance system which provides excellent intelligence and high definition photographs; and the drones, of course, for later interdiction - the Predators which can be used from their base in Puglia.

They're armed to the teeth!  And this is just what they're discussing in the papers.  What are they not mentioning?

The cloud sitting on our hilltop is lifting now.  As the fog retreats leaving only the  fluff delineating the Arno in the distance and the tops of the mountains reappear above the hills of oak and olives I'll be able to go onto the big terrace to watch the vapour trails, sharp white lines on blue, on their way to do their stuff.

War Zone

It all feels very close.  Here is the text of the United Nations resolution.  It seems to cover much more than a no-fly zone in Libya: overflying of adjacent states; stopping and searching of ships at sea and in ports; co-ordination of plans by various states and their notification to the UN; seizure of all Libyan resources considered to be those of the Libyan people, no matter in whose name they are held (as well as assets of the Central Bank of Libya, the Libyan Investment Authority, the Libyan Foreign Bank,  and the Libyan National Oil Company, according to Fatto Quotidiano) to mention just the most immediately noteworthy matters.

Close because Gadaffi has declared any  flight in the Mediterranean, civil or military, a legitimate target,  as well as the countries providing military action, or bases, or other facilities.  Italy has offered its bases and other facilities for the implementation of the Resolution.   No wonder the Italian government is in urgent, immediate and ongoing meetings with military leaders.  The Head of State met with the Minister of Defence and senior military last night - they were all at the gala performance of Nabucco in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy - which was both handy for an immediate get together the moment the resolution was passed, and somehow very appropriate.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Homes by Heroes

"I could buy this," excitedly.

"Why might you want it?"

"He's a Hero!  It's his own house!"

"And what would you do in Welwyn Garden City?  I don't want to live in Welwyn Garden City much as I admire it."

Long pause:

"I could grow up."


Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Sardinia for Italian Nuclear Power Stations

As any fule kno,  if the criminals governing Italy insist on their wages of sin, then all nuclear power stations should be on Sardinia.

 - low seismic threat.

 - high levels of unemployment.

 - high electricity consumption levels  -   all those showers and hair dryers creating extraordinary  demand peaks  at 7 in the evening.   The rest of us can surely manage on what's left over from the requirements for the presentation of self in summer.

And they can bury their stolen sheep underground and cook them whole with radioactive fall-out!

Drunk and Entitled and Weird

'Kathryn Emily Andrews, 26, the daughter of QC Bob Marshall-Andrews, was held by police early yesterday after a disturbance at the four-star Hotel Madison in Milan. ...   Police were put through to the Foreign Office in  London as the consulate was closed.  In the meantime, she phoned her father who called the Foreign Office. It confirmed that his daughter had been held but said there was nothing it could do and it was a matter for local police.  A police source said:

"She was in a pretty bad way and had certainly been drinking when we were called to the hotel because of a disturbance.  ...We took her to the police station as she was swearing and shouting and she was there for about three hours. While there she said that she was a British Cabinet minister's daughter and that we had no idea what we were doing.  She was processed and checked and then released without charge as she had a valid identity document. The matter is still under investigation and the prosecutor will decide if to press charges.'  (Evening Standard).

What comes over  people when they get to the Peninsula?   The best account, of course, is by Morgan Forster in Where Angels Fear to Tread, but story after story displays a sort of mental collapse by the English (indeed northern Europeans in general - the Germans tear off all their clothes and dig huge, defended pits and earthworks in every beach they set foot on)) in Italy.  It is as if there is a false image of Italians, generating an attitude contemptuous and patronising that runs, inevitably, into a reality of great wealth and imperturbable security of being.  And as the heirs of one of the greatest of Earthly empires, the collision is most marked with those heirs of other great empires who have more recently lost their standing and position. There is also the embodiment of the advice in my 1909 Baedeker which suggests  speaking loudly and slowly at Italians who do not understand  English in a northern accent.

Often have I been rousted from sleep by telephones with 'situations' on the other end.


"Signora, mi dispiace l'ora" (it's always the middle of the night) "I am the maresciallo of .....".

"Good Morning, Maresciallo" (never dis the Carabinieri)

"I have a black man here with wild hair who says he is a friend of your family and that his wife has been kidnapped."

"An Indian?"

"Quite possibly, Signora, he's not from Africa.  Will you speak to him?"  Pause,

"Hello..... where are you? Pisa.  Why aren't you in Florence, asleep in your hotel?  I see, ..... has probably been kidnapped  as you can't find her.  How did you lose her?  She was supposed to be at the station after going to see some place of miracles or something.  Which station?  There are two.  You didn't know that, mmmm. You are at Pisa Centrale now?  Look, take the next train to Florence and go to your hotel, she's probably there having missed you.  No, kidnap is very unlikely.  Why?  Well, forgive me but have you any money,  do you look as if you have any money?  In India you would look as if you have money.  I see.  Well, as beastly as it may seem, here you haven't and you don't.  And even if you did, you still would not be kidnapped in Pisa.

You called the hotel and they said she isn't there.  Perhaps she had gone out for her dinner?  What exactly did they say?  They said it in Italian but it meant she wasn't there.  Right.  No, I won't drive to Pisa, I have children to get to school in the -  actually this morning -  in clean pinafores, clean teeth, brushed hair, and with breakfast inside them and their correct textbooks and exercise books in their satchels, not to mention any gym kit, musical instruments, notes about missing bits of homework and begging letters to be allowed Saturday morning off. By 8.05, sharp.  You are at the station.  Get a train, any train, but for heavens' sake get out of the Maresciallo's office or he'll arrest you.  For reporting a kidnap in his city, that's why.  Can you imagine what level of paperwork that's able to produce?  At the very least you will share in his pain.  Nothing till 4 o'clock.  Well read a book, it's not cold, and stamp your ticket before you get on or you'll get fined.  Have you local currency?  Travellers' cheques, for a  taxi?  No, they won't.  Cash.  Don't get into a taxi without the money they tell you it will cost to Florence.  Just don't; they probably will want it before setting off but if not and it's not there when you arrive you'll be in the police station - again.  No, everyone is a professor here; yes, everyone is even  an LSE professor here.  Give me back the maresciallo and I'll persuade him to let you go and sit quietly at the station till the train comes.  Goodnight.

Never saw him again, not in person, thanks be.  What's with the sense of entitlement and all?

Monday, 14 March 2011

Perhaps the Cradle of Western Civilisation Should be Saved from Nuclear Power

Here is a map of Italian earthquake zones.  The Italian government, led by the Beast of Arcore, hand-kisser of Libyan tyrants and depraved sexual partner of minors (according to his wife and assorted Milanese prosecutors) has declared that nothing that has occurred after the Japanese earthquakes can be  regarded as indicative of anything that might happen in Italy when its nuclear-fuelled power option is fully up and running.

Somehow, as we're all going to be blown into outer space yet  looking good while it happens, when the earthquakes come, this seems so appropriate.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Standing Up to be Counted

The comments "were intended to highlight the broader, even strategic impact of discreet actions undertaken by national security agencies every day and their impact on our global standing and leadership. The exercise of power in today's challenging times and relentless media environment must be prudent and consistent with our laws and values."  P.J.Crowley after resigning, speaking of the 'no touch' torture being inflicted on Bradley Manning.

Once your formerly rock-solid staff start resigning in disgust, you're at the start of an unstoppable landslide.

Against Berlusconi and Criminal Governance

The second enormous demonstration in Italy against the corruption of the country's political system took place yesterday.  Over a million people descended into their beautiful streets and piazzas to declare their allegiance to their Constitution. No political banners, no trades union placards, no partisan declarations from any of the corrupt of 'left' and 'right': what was carried was the Tricolore and what was played was the Inno di Mameli (and bits of Nabucco, of course, complete with singing that would have put the Welsh to shame) accompanied by the orchestras of  regions, opera houses,  conservatori (except for the Maggio, who are caught in Japan).

The great advantage of a written constitution is that it can be carried (rather like the ten commandments though not carved on tablets of stone)  in its entirety, section by section, or by individual article, in the hands, on the person, and on the banners of the people as they demonstrate their support for what it says, and for the institutions of the state that give it life and force.

Article 3 -  “All citizens have equal social dignity and are equal before the law, without distinction of gender, race, language, belief, political opinion,  personal and social status.", was particularly popular, worn on tee shirts, and banners.  As was
Article 34  - "The school is open to all capable and those worthy even though they be without means may reach the  highest levels of study".   But everyone had their pet article, Angels were for the freedom of the press, but some were quite erudite and rarified.

Meanwhile the Beast of Arcore continues to rail against 'the dictatorship of the judiciary'  as he is slowly penned in and driven back towards the cage that will contain his attempt to use the powers of the people for his personal and private debauchery of democracy.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Australia Isn't Sweden

Turning to the Sydney Morning Herald to check the tsunami hadn't arrived I read there the most incorrect story since correctness became the vogue.  And surely size 12 jeans are vast.

Thursday, 10 March 2011


Underage?  Easy - change the date of birth!  Who knows how inaccurate these underdeveloped countries' registry of births, marriages and deaths can be.  Pity the official refused to discuss the 'accuracy' of the records.

As the leader of the 'Clean Hands' group in Parliament remarked:

 "Changing the date of birth of 'Mubarak's grandaughter' is useful to only one Italian, quite well known and accused of exploitation of minors in prostitution."

Berlusconi's lawyers have filed a complaint against Italian media for bringing his name into disrepute in reporting stories of approaches to Moroccan officials by Italian-speaking negotiators.

Guns or Words?

William Hague and  Guido Westerwelle have written to Catherine Ashton calling for 'a series of EU responses tailor-made for the circumstances of each country currently going through popular uprisings.'

There, that trio and their action  should sort things out in Libya.

Or perhaps the Berlusconi method is more effective?

Sold to Tripoli at the end of 2009 after Berlusconi welcomed the man whose hands he publicly kissed (shades of Andreotti) to Rome: made by  Beretta, "7.500 pistole, 1.900 carabine e 1.800 fucili" (Fatto Quotidiano) all in the hands of the head of Public Security of the Comitato Popolare - ie., in the hands of Ghadaffi's   janissaries.  Of course they were exported under licences for 'arms not specifically for military use ' together with 11,000 other weapons including hundreds and hundreds of M4 Super 80 - a weapon designed for use in war, produced in Urbino by  Berretta.

Fatto Quotidiano  reports too that included in the arms consignment were 'le pistole PX4 calibro 9 semiautomatiche, con un peso ridotto di soli 800 grammi e un caricatore di 10 colpi che con un elemento supplementare può arrivare a 15. E poi le carabine CX4, anche queste calibro 9, su cui possono essere montati sistemi di puntamento ottico e laser .' [you can all read that for yourselves,  not what you'd call hunting rifles are they? ed.]

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Hearing Secret Harmomies

Looking at this , the most remarkable statement*, made so serenely, is that were it possible for the composer to be  in an audience we must question whether he would  recognise his own work,  and   that this is a measure of how distant we are, in performance,  from the composer's intention.

Bruggen is not speaking only of early works - but of all music.  Most know: that scores are merely indicative; systems of notation imperfectly read, and read differently from time to time;  instrumentation often unspecified and certainly unfixed as instruments alter their technical characteristics;  pitch very up and down;   tempi  - I wouldn't dare go there.   Musical hierarchies used to settle these matters are a reflection of notions of hierarchy and importances within wider sociocultural constructs - not for nothing did the idea of the conductor as master, nay, hero of the technically perfect  but standardly-performing ensemble players, the welder of a single voice from disparate instrumental parts, establish itself in keeping with the idea of the hero leader in other facets of our culture and history.

Then there is us, the audience; not necessarily knowing much but knowing what we like; drawing on our responses, our feelings, on the effectiveness of the manipulation of our emotions to decide if a performance of a well-known work is 'true'.  As well as being alive - slow to change at times -  but shifting with styles and re-interpreted 'expositions' to impose new versions of 'true'.

Being alive, as the composer, conducting or performing oneself wouldn't  make 'true' easier to reach, or only very rarely, and only for the very few performer-masters: just think of those dreadful recordings of poets declaiming their own works, and the capacity to speak words springs to life as a wholly other art-form from the capacity to write them.   

Only the artists, it would seem, can enjoy their art to the full, as they experienced it - interpretation muffles our perception of what they do so that in attempting its reproduction we render it unrecognisable to its originator.

Perhaps it's for the best, for all of them are walking close to madness.  Except for Bach, of course.

Oh, and readers may like to listen here .

*[the translation is poor, 'righteous' should be translated as 'true']

Sunday, 6 March 2011

By Their Friends Shall You Know Them

'David Held, a professor of political science at the LSE and Saif Gaddafi's tutor when he was taking a PhD at the university, [supervised by Held, examined by Desai, plagiarised from anything that came to hand, ed.]  was appointed to the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation on 28 June 2009, almost a month [or, 'just a month', ed.] before the LSE announced that it would accept the donation.The foundation's minutes reveal that Held was appointed to its board along with luminaries including Giulio Andreotti, the former prime minister of Italy.'

You couldn't make it up.

David Held - ghost-writer and intellectual advisor to the Leader of the Labour party; and Giulio Andreotti - where do you start?

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Desai - an Example to Us All

"It is now also claimed that the PhD was not only plagiarised but that some people at the LSE knew that it was so. As one of the two external examiners of the thesis, I can only say that we were never informed of this by his supervisors or anyone else. " Lord Desai

There is a line by line demonstration of plagiarism in this dissertation. Any sane academic has been looking, never mind the academic who accepted to be an external examiner for this 'work' when so closely associated with both the research centre and the university of its provenance.

All PhDs are examined by those who, at least apparently, are equipped. Academics working in a particular field exchange papers, published and unpublished, attend conferences together, comment on each others' work, are trusted partners in exchanges of ideas and exploratory work-in-progress. They meet socially, their conversations often turn on the work that absorbs them - otherwise they would not be colleagues; and nor would they ever become senior enough and distinguished enough to be invited to examine a thesis. It may be an unpaid burden, but it is a bounden duty and an honour, to review the best work of younger scholars.

Desai bares himself in this disgraceful attempt to deny culpability:  either he is a fake who knows nothing and is wholly unconnected to the ongoing work in his field, expecting the candidate's supervisor or unspecified 'others' to draw plagiarism to his attention; or he failed in his duty as an examiner and was unfit for such a position.  As for the candidate's supervisor, all of this applies to him too, except that he should have been the first in line to stop plagiarism and question the candidate's suitability for continuance.  At least the Director of the London School of Economics had the decency to resign.  Pity the Council didn't follow his example.  As for Desai - it's another yuk.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

What is the Point of Barnsley?

'In 2002, Barnsley Council and partners launched a major consultation exercise called "Rethinking Barnsley". This led to a regeneration programme centred on Barnsley Town Centre called "Remaking Barnsley". Developments include a new transport interchange, a new cultural centre in the old Civic Hall, a Digital Media Centre (opened August 2007), and new offices and apartments throughout the Town Centre.' Wikipedia

Once the pits closed Barnsley should have been allowed to return to its 200-strong population and most of the rest bulldozed. Its population would have done so much better being re-sited to where there was modern industry and new housing on the model of the Garden Cities.

So many of the old, industrial settlements have been preserved and refused natural death and decay, just to maintain Labour 'strongholds'. The generations since the mining cultures that existed, necessarily, where workforces to dig coal were required, have been trapped with a completely nonsense narrative of their cultural importance and worth. Better was deserved, could have been provided and has been wilfully refused, with an immense waste of resources and destruction of life-chances and hopes.

Unreadable, Unspeakable

A list of books Angels would rather be shot than read:

To Kill a Mockingbird
Wuthering Heights
Aesop's Fables
The Catcher in the Rye
If This Is a Man
Romeo and Juliet
Letters from Prison
The Plague

No wonder Very Hungry Caterpillar is preferable.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Oh Yuk, Yuk, Yuk

It's not just LSE either; nor is it just Libya.

This one has happened to spill its guts all over the media.  Academe is filled with people like this, after all, that is where they are bred.


Worse and worse