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Reflections of a stormy petrel
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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Fabio Paolo Barbieri's LiveJournal:

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Thursday, March 2nd, 2017
1:47 pm
Thursday, February 23rd, 2017
5:30 pm
The appointment of Cressida Dick to lead London's Metropolitan Police - the body known across the world as Scotland Yard - is an apalling scandal. It is scandalous enough that the lady should still be working at the upper levels of a police force; to place her at the most senior post in all British policing is an outrage.

Cressida Dick is the woman responsible for the slaughter of Jean Charles de Menezes. In case you had forgotten, or never heard (though a couple of hundred million Brazilians certainly have, and I assume they will be making their views known), this young Brazilian electrician working in London was butchered by eleven police bullets while sitting in an underground train. His only fault was to have a rather dark complexion, like many Brazilians, and to live next to a terrorism suspect. Now no matter how blundering and wrong the actual policemen who shot de Menezes were, they were only the executors of a disastrously misconceived and misperformed plan. The commander was Cressida Dick; and the commander is responsible when something goes wrong.

But Commander Dick had long since been singled out for high promotion - probably since she enlisted, with an Oxford degree to smooth the way. I am an alumnus and I love Oxford, but there are two Oxfords. One is the great research university, respected across the world, with a couple of dozen Nobel prizewinners and umpteen top scholars; and the other is the pons asinorum intended to licence people for political careers, which produces most of England's ministers and Prime Ministers. If you are studying a science subject, or a humanities research subject, you are probably part of the former; if you are reading English, Theology, or, God help us, PPE - Philosophy Politics and Economics, the course for budding politicians - you belong to the latter. I suspect Commander Dick was. She was certainly slated for the top before she got de Menezes killed. And in any country but England it would be incredible that she could survive such a disaster; in England it's not even surprising - though it is deeply disgusting - that she did.

Above and beyond any design to promote a woman to the top spot, which was indubitably part of the issue, you have to remember that the English suffer to a quite extraordinary extent from the syndrome called doubling down. To become obstinate in the defence of something just because you suspect you might be wrong is a universal humain failing; but in England, it's a national bad habit. The English are ALWAYS at their most obstinate when they are in the wrong. And so it is not at all surprising that a woman who should have been drummed out of the force for homicidal incompetence is now being put at its head.

Current Mood: angry
Saturday, February 18th, 2017
10:21 pm
An attempt at prophecy: where is Europe going?
It occurred to me that in several European countries, politics are going in a direction that leads to a scenario that is very similar to that of Italy from 1946 to 1994. During that period, a large Communist opposition and a much smaller Fascist one remained permanently in opposition, because by their nature they could not be allowed into government. This forced a number of widely different parties - the secular conservative Liberal party, the non-socialist, left-of-centre Republicans, the Social Democrats and Socialists - all representing long and individual traditions, to form majorities together with the confessional alliance Christian Democracy, which was more a grouping of parties than a party in itself and went from near-Fascist to Christian Socialist. The secular parties despised the confessional nature of the Christian Democrats, especially since Catholics had been effectively kept out of the government of Italy since independence, and their rise to dominance in the elections of 1945 and 1948 was something like a revolution. This was the reason for the famous frailty of Italian governments: the priorities, views and values of the majority parties were by no means always compatible, and sometimes one of them - most often the Liberals or the Socialists - went into opposition. That is why government crises and elections used to be frequent in Italy, even though majority and opposition never really changed.

Now what is happening in the Netherlands, in Sweden, and to some extent in France and Germany too, is that an opposition is forming that is really not fit to govern, but is strong enough that, in the long run,only a great coalition of the more respectable forces can keep them out of power. Certainly neither the Sweden Democrats, with their notorious Nazi origins, nor Geert Wilders' Freedom Party, who make Trump look steady and polite, nor Alternativ fuer Deutschland or the Front National are either ready or fit to govern; but they are increasingly becoming the real opposition in their own countries, crowding the more respectable and old-fashioned parties together, and forcing alliances that, though increasingly inevitable and necessary, will not be comfortable for anyone involved. The countries that laughed at Italy's revolving door cabinets are soon going to be experiencing them.

Current Mood: thoughtful
Tuesday, January 31st, 2017
5:35 pm
A sad moment
One of the worst things about Trump is that he is bringing out the worst in his enemies. He is so ghastly that they feel entitled to vomit out the worst of their vanity, group hate, racism and narrow-mindedness, in the unacknowledged certainty that any stick is good enough to beat Trump and Trumpies with, that hate for Trump validates itself and is obviously right. People are saying things that would have been beyond the pale (or only said in the presence of ideological partners) two years ago.

I have had to defriend and block one of the great of comics art, Bill Sienkiewicz. The reason why is behind the LJ-cut, except for what are to me the key words, which are in plain view:

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It's scientifically proven ( I'm not going out to post links- they re everywhere for anyone who wants to stray from their comfort of the FOX/ breitbart bubble) --- that conservatives are genetically wired, and innately predisposed to being afraid-- fearful- of new experiences ,and also that a vast majority of people who voted for him are equally stunted and lacking ithe ability for scrutiny and follow factual evidence. I'm not saying they're all stupid, but evidence supports the case that many cannot process information, lack critical thinking, relying instead reactionary responses, emotions and solutions based on fear and anger.Read more...Collapse )

Bill Sienkiewicz made himself responsible, in a public post, for this kind of outburst. After that, breaking contact with him was the only way I could keep my self-respect.
Friday, January 27th, 2017
6:36 pm
Faith and gullibility
It occurred to me that two enormous obstacles have been placed in the way of Christian belief. The first is the monstrous ignorance of history of most contemporaries, that makes it next to impossible to explain that the New Testament is a collection of contemporary, reliable historical documents; and second, the very concept of "belief system", which makes any religion so labelled into a mere matter of arranging "beliefs", as opposed to understanding facts. No wonder that crooks are everywhere busy inventing "religions" from wicca to scientology, with no basis in fact, and for the sole purpose of flattering their customers' minds and make money at their expense.

The two obstacles are related. If people are not allowed to understand that the narrative of John is as much a matter of experienced fact as that of Julius Caesar, and that both must be taken prima facie as eyewitness material, there is no matter of fact to be considered, only belief.

The point with Christian belief is rather different. It is that there are reliable, credible historical documents that make an incredible claim, namely that a man cured leprosy, insanity and blindness by command, raised the dead two or three times, calmed a sea storm, twice fed thousands from food barely sufficient for one person, and, having been very publicly and demonstrably killed, was soon after alive again. Obviously the point is whether you believe this account or not. That is why faith is accounted a virtue for Christians; NOT because you are supposed to believe IN DEFAULT of evidence or INDEPENDENTLY of any evidence.
Sunday, January 22nd, 2017
6:49 pm
Roland and Baldr
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Saturday, January 21st, 2017
8:29 am
To me, the repulsive clashes between "protesters," police and "deplorables" are an ugly sign of things to come. People on both sides have lost, or rather have never had, the ability to live with defeat. Trump is a detestable creature, but he is largely the creation of a political culture that no longer allows dissent or difference, because it is genuinely convinced that it contains all legitimate "diversity" - that diversity it always demands that we should celebrate - and that is therefore incapable of recognizing real diversity. Half the free world feels despised, limited and squashed by the pressure of this diversity without difference, and has for a long time now been trying to find a way to react. Trump has given them the perfect vehicle to do so.

There are ladies and gentlemen and people of sterling honesty in the diversity party, people like my friend Michael Rosenblum, who would go out in the rain to pay a penny debt, or Anna Maria Ballester Bohn, kindness incarnate with a funny face, or Carla Speed McNeil, artistic genius and good person, or half a dozen others, the kind of people who brighten the lives of their friends and leave a clean smell when they leave. I do not doubt their sincerity, but I doubt their knowledge of the world. Time and again they make remarks that just don't agree with my experience of the opponents. The effect of the views they follow is ultimately oppressive and aggressive. Firmly convinced that they are righting injustices and setting up new rights, they are in fact - not personally, never in a million years personally - trampling on established rights and working to silence and persecute truth. And there is a streak of persecution complex that is set to do a lot of damage. They are sincerely convinced that Trumpies are coming to brutalize and rape them. In this mood, even understanding the enemy is experienced as a kind of temptation: why should you try to understand a bunch of vicious, misogynistic racists?

I have never been of the enemy party either. My loathing of Ayn Randism and my contempt for gun "rights" make it impossible for many of them to even speak with me. The gun nuts especially reason with the logic of addicts. As with the rainbow party, understanding the enemy is not something to do but a temptation to be avoided, because anything that might undermine your precious hold on your piece of murdering iron would expose you naked and helpless to a terrible, homicidal universe. You cannot reason with a man who has willingly made himself an addict to his own fears. Like the rainbow nut's vision of the Trumpies, an undifferentiated mob existing in an ecstasy of rape and murder, the gun nut's world is one huge threat from which only his murder implements protect him.

I don't want to go further. I think you can imagine what I fear in a country where two opposing forces have many members in this state of mind.
Friday, January 20th, 2017
1:15 am
The mills of God grind slowly - and now we are about to get the bran
Donald Trump is the end result of every subversive tendency in the Sexual Revolution. He is Justice Kennedy's "at the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life" incarnate and personified. That concept, of course, has nothing to with liberty: quite to the contrary, it is the installation of a tyrannical, uncontrolled ego at the centre of each human being's universe - the invention of a world of a million million tyrants. To "define one's own concept of meaning, of the universe" is to impose it on external reality. It is to say "that is what I want, that is what I order" to the world at large. Now the child of that thought walks into the White House.
Wednesday, January 18th, 2017
8:09 pm
A sketch of ideas for sociology of knowledge
When the study of law as a school subject began in the twelfth century, it did not begin with the active common law that at the time dominated Europe, including Italy. It began with Roman law, with the Theodosian and Justinianic codes, preserved in libraries. That was simply what the scholars of the time regarded as true learning, worthy of study. It was from the schools that Roman law poured out across the landscape to dominate most of the European continent, except for England. And yet Roman law had considerable flaws as compared with common law.
This is parallel with the way that "comics" fandom has developed out of superhero fandom and is still largely dominated by it. IN the sixties and seventies, superheroes were irrelevant to most adults and in a definite commercial retreat. But the number of fans who became professionals not only in comics but across the media, in movies, in advertising, in television, in publishing, means that the genre became influential far beyond its apparent reach. Meanwhile, "Comics" fandom continued to be focused on superheroes and associated fields (science fiction, horror, fantasy), even though most comics across the world don't really pertain to them.

So the idea of what is important in the fields of knowledge depends mostly by the social processes within the area. Those fields that have an organizational advance on the rest - superhero fandom among comics, like twelfth-century Roman law experts in the field of law - tend to set the rules for the whole field.
Tuesday, January 10th, 2017
7:43 pm
Friday, January 6th, 2017
1:59 pm
Trump sits and sniggers
And these people call the Trump electors stupid.

I can say very sincerely that I don't have much of an opinion of the brains, far-sightedness, or cunning, of the average modern politician. As far as I am concerned the breed of Bismarck and Disraeli, never mind Cavour and Lincoln, is extinct. But for sheer insanity of stupidity, for self-destructive inability to see the nose on your face, for doing the wrong thing at the wrong time in the wrong way and for the wrong motives, absolutely nothing compares with the pursuit of Russian hacking of Democrat computers. The Democrats should forget about those damned e-mails. They should forget about Russian intrusion, Putin, Assange, the FSB, Russian hackers and everything else. They are doing, quite literally, every wrong thing they possibly could. And if they have any influence on the CIA and the FBI at all, they should tell these bodies to shut up about them, too.

Consider, first and foremost, what a disastrous scene is playing out right now. Leaders of America's “intelligence community”, as they call them these days, are going to the President-elect to, in effect, beg him to show some public support for their position. This places Trump in the position of the receiver of supplications, and the arch-spies in the position supplicants. Now, if they think that Trump will ever give in on the issue in any public way, they are so politically stupid that to remove them from their positions would be a relief: nobody who puts himself in such a humiliating and destructive position should be in a position to advise the most powerful man in the world. What the Hell are they thinking? Even if Trump were a good man, he would not have the least incentive to give in to their demands. He has called their credibility into question; to go back on that would be a setback, and also an open sign of creeping compromise with the hated DC establishment he has been elected to trash. And what does he have to lose if he doesn't? Precisely nothing. The half of his supporters who admire him regard his behaviour as all-American, and the half who voted for him in horror at the idea of a third Democrat term had such a low idea of him anyway that nothing could lower it. His core supporters would probably not think of being shocked at nations interfering in each other's internal affairs; as far as they are concerned, that is what they do. And indeed there is something about this that the Democrats, in particular, ought not to be doing, since the idea of American politicians complaining about foreign countries interfering in their elections would make a lot of the traditional left in foreign countries gag. American interference in other countries' politics is part of the hereditary folklore of exactly those forces who ought to be the Democrats' natural allies on the international stage, and to have the CIA of all agencies be the bearer of protests on this subject would rouse the bitter laughter of hundreds of millions from Santiago to Berlin. There are instruments of power that the Democrats should not be seen to be using.

But if the tactics are demented, the strategy is suicidal. The Democrats should have killed talk about those damned hacked e-mails. They should have made sure that everyone forgot that they had ever been published. Because whether or not it was the Russians who hacked them, there is one thing that no Democrat has been able to say: that they are not true. And so long as they are, and so long as they are in public, they show that everything that Catholics and Christians believe about the Democrat leadership and their attitude to them is absolutely true. The ignorance, the brutality, the contempt, the assumption that Catholicism is a remnant to be swept into the trash-can of history, are all there in black and white. And that is exactly what the Democrats should try to make people forget.

Trump has not been elected by the hard-core of unfocussed anger he expresses. He has been elected because millions of Catholics and Evangelicals had become convinced that another term such as the last two would mean the beginning of persecution in earnest, a legal and extra-legal assault on the churches that would lead them to have to make the dreadful choice between apostasy and second-rate citizenship. The split in the Christian communities ran between those who, like me, Catherine Alexander, or Rachel Hamilton, thought that Trump was so bad that he would pollute every cause he touched, and those, like Tony Esolen or Jonathon van Maren, thought that the prospect of a Rodham Clinton presidency had to be avoided even at the price of touching the foul thing. The idea of a widespread Christian enthusiasm for the orange adulterer is grossly overstated. Many people, as Barbara Ehrenreich observed, voted in advance, as if to get the damned thing over with.

But if that is the case, and if the Christian vote made the difference, then, if the Democrats cannot wean themselves of their addiction to abortion and rainbow causes, they should at least do their best not to have it talked about. And that means silence, silence, silence. And if personal documents fall into enemy hands to show what your real attitude is, be superior, ignore them, treat them with contempt. The madder you get, the more you prove that it's all true, and that the enemy has shown you as you are.
Thursday, January 5th, 2017
10:12 pm
Translators like me work mostly from internet contacts, which means we can have clients across the world. I have a link with an agency in the Palestinian Territory, no less, with whom I haven't done a lot of work - and the story that happened today will tell you why.

Morning, I get an urgent request for revision for a death certificate. The job is easy, and the certificate tells a heartbreaking story - a girl of twelve, dead in a foreign country, probably in a holiday, from what sounds like an undiagnosed brain aneurism. The fee offered is tiny but adequate, if hardly generous. It's easy work, and I do the best I can - because I always do, and because in this case I am moved.

A few hours later I get another e-mail from the same source. Another bit of the job needs doing fast, the consul is waiting, the body needs to be released. I open the attachment - and immediately fire off a response.

"Are you having me on? This is not a bit of additional revision, this is the translation of a whole, sizeable, official letter. This is a full new job and I will charge for it separately and at my minimum rate."

Immediate answer. Sorry and all, it was a mistake, it IS a separate job - offered at a fee two-thirds of what I'd required.

Me: sorry, but that was my absolute minimum, and I've already done you a favour by reckoning it in dollars instead of British pounds.

I did not hear from them again.
Wednesday, December 21st, 2016
1:13 pm
I'm off to see the Wizard.... well, Shezan, actually
Tickets for Paris on the seventh bought and paid for. Considering that I live in London and have lived in Rome, Oxford and Milan, it might be surprising how excited I am about this, but I've only ever been in Paris once before, and that was (like this time) for a few hours only. I reckon I'll do it again pretty soon. And I might want to visit Edinburgh and York, who knows?
Friday, November 11th, 2016
11:02 pm
Pas d'ennemis à gauche, Pas d'ennemis à droite
The most shocking part of the Trump triumph has been the open and unresisted entrance of the hard right, from the Ku Klux Klan to Stormfront, into the ranks of Trump supporters.

I imagine most Trump supporters don't want to argue on this, and that most would say that it has nothing to do with them and that it does not affect them. But that would be wrong. It marks a serious change in political attitudes, with Trump adopting, like Berlusconi before him, the old and bad motto of the left: "No enemies to the left". I have seen it happen before. When Berlusconi set up his new centre-left gathering, he deliberately let in the fascist party - MSI-DN - which had been excluded from all previous parliamentary alliances. Part of this party, which tended to win four or five per cent of votes, was made of decent citizens with a stupid attitude to the Fascist past; but a considerable minority were outright thugs waiting for a chance.

It's not as though those people had lots of votes to offer (if they had, we'd have long been in trouble): it's a kind of perverse principle, which I have already observed at work among American conservatives, that says "It's impossible that right-wingers might be wicked or totalitarian", just like the old socialists found it impossible to say that people who mouthed the word "socialism" might be tyrants and monsters. The stupidest and yet most widespread instance of this refusal to accept that right-wingers might be villains is the idiotic and universal American conservative belief that Hitler and Mussolini were socialists. This is the same as our old socialist friends asserting that, ultimately, Stalin and Mao were nationalists and fascists. When confronted with the facts, they stuttered and changed the subject.
Sunday, October 9th, 2016
3:44 am
Friday, September 23rd, 2016
7:04 am
A tragedy
I don't know how to say this. Sometimes life just leaves you bewildered at the injustice of brute chance, and tempted to curse, were it not that you know how useless it would be.

My older friends will know that I am fond of fanfic and that I have sometimes found, among the many merely lively and interesting products, a few that have, in my view, the dignity of great literature and that stand a good chance of immortality. You may remember what I had to say about Hijja or Inverarity.

This week I came across another of the same level, on the site Twisting The Hellmouth: someone who signed himself "becuzitswrong", and whose story, "Life's Ending, Life's Beginning," was simply magnificent, broad in conception and moving across the whole range of expression from heart-rending tragedy and loss to heroic brilliance to sweet, affecting teen-age romance.

And on the very morning after I had been kept up half the night reading this remarkable story (and had only got a third of the way through), I read on Twisting The Hellmouth that he had died, just keeling over one day as he was mowing the lawn.
Sunday, August 28th, 2016
12:32 pm
Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016
11:10 am
A prostitute
I wrote this essay in the early nineties, and some of the references are dated. But I don't think the basic contention is.

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7:19 am
Two NOT classics
It's my belief that Miller's Dark Knight Returns and Moore's Watchmen are long overdue for a re-evaluation, downwards. All the most unpleasant trends we see in modern pseudo-super-hero rubbish celebrate their triumph in these two series: the body-count element, the bitchy cynicism, the re-visitation of hoary old super-hero cliches with the addition of graphic violence, arise from the influence of Miller and Moore. What Miller, especially did, was to add some largely reactionary social references and a quite astounding degree of violence; his mass-murdering Joker is the prototype of every later grinning ghoul used to show on-panel slaughter and disembowelment by dim-witted Image clones. What real insights do we gain from Dark Knight Returns? None: it is all of it really about that most stock of all contemporary Marvel/Image stock cliches, obsession. Miller's admittedly stylish (too stylish) and energetic (too energetic) approach, simply drives us into forgetting the realities and subtleties of human life, casting us into a simplified world of guns, very few roses, and a lot of poses. It is powerful, dynamic, attention-grabbing - like a mugging, or a ÂSunÀ headline. And now we find that his latest offering has a big-gun-toting black woman (there's the poltical correctness bit taken care of) indulge in scenes of extraordinary violence in a war waged by the U.S. Governement against, of all things, a burger corporation. (Oh, how novel: an Evil Corporation!) What insights about the reality of human life this pap has to offer, I simply don't know - but it has big guns and loadsanloadsanloadsa style. Whoopee! No wonder Frank Miller is Todd MacFarlane's artistic hero.

My estimate of Watchmen is just as bad. It is the most classic case of missing the wood for the trees it has ever been my misfortune to see. We positively don't want, and certainly don't need, to be told that super-heroes in the real world would be vicious gits like the Comedian, obsessional lunatics like Rohrschach, or ineffective wimps like Owlman (whose love story, by the way, is painfully sentimental and incredible: what woman of any sense would go for such a nerd? - but then, sentimentality is always the obverse side of cynicism). The point is, 1), that realistic super-heroes are a contradiction in terms and 2), that even in realistic terms, this kind of cynicism is not true to life. No sir, "good" people are not always ineffective wimps; I object most strongly to the cynical view that it is the most ruthless who are the most effective. It is quite simply wrong in terms of daily experience - or is it your experience that to trample, abuse, and antagonize people, is in the long run an effective way to act? If ruthlessness won wars, Hitler would have won his. End of argument.
Monday, August 22nd, 2016
9:25 am

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