Crime

Horripilation: Like quills upon the fretful porpentine

Monday, 31 March, 2014 0 Comments

Each week brings with it dreadful stories that would make one’s hair stand on end. Take the one about the four princesses who say that they have been trapped in the Saudi Arabian royal compound in Jeddah for the last 13 years. The mother of the four girls was married off to King Abdullah at the age of 15, and she claims that they have been subject to constant abuse and are effectively being held under house arrest. Sadly, such tales about court intrigue are not new and Shakespeare captured the horror of it all some four centuries ago in Hamlet, where the ghost addresses the young prince:

But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison-house,
I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combined locks to part
And each particular hair to stand on end,
Like quills upon the fretful porpentine

Language note: Shakespeare’s “porpentine” is better known today as the porcupine, and the idiom of hair standing on end refers to the sensation of hairs, especially those on the neck, standing upright when the skin contracts due to fear. This phenomenon was once called “horripilation” and was defined in 1656 as “the standing up of the hair for fear… a sudden quaking, shuddering or shivering,” by Thomas Blount in his splendidly named Glossographia, or a dictionary interpreting such hard words as are now used.


BHL: The bloodied Games of Putin the Terrible

Friday, 21 February, 2014 0 Comments

“For those who care about democracy, can we, by pulling out of Sochi — or at least by boycotting the closing ceremony on Sunday — ensure that the XXII Winter Olympics will not go down in history as the Games that were the shame and defeat of Europe?” Bernard-Henri Lévy

That’s the plea of Bernard-Henri Lévy, often referred to simply as BHL, the French intellectual and author. Il faut quitter Sotchi! is how he put in Le Monde. In the translated version, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal, he pointed the finger at the Russian President: “At these Games, where the flame symbolizing the Olympic ideal has been purloined by a thug, when the winning athletes playfully bite their medals, this time will not the gold, silver and bronze have the metallic taste of blood?” And then he hammers the nail home:

“Do you not see the absurdity — not to say the obscenity — of pretending to believe, up to the last minute of the last day of this ruined Olympiad, that there might be two Putins: Putin the Terrible, who earlier this week issued $2 billion to prop up the regime of his valet Viktor Yanukovych, the Ukrainian president who then unleashed his forces on the Maidan protesters; and the other Putin, strutting across the stage and through the stands, greeting you with the munificence due those who used to be called the gods of the stadium?”

Talking of Yanukovych, why is the Kremlin propping him up? Simple. If he were to fall, the risk of contagion would reach Russia and its power base would be vulnerable. In Putin’s eyes, the Ukraine is Russia’s barricade against the West. From the perspective of the West, however, and Poland, in particular, a pro-Western Ukraine is a vital cordon sanitaire against an increasingly belligerent Russia. Paweł Świeboda, the president of demosEUROPA, a Warsaw-based think tank, used the conciseness of Twitter to put it all in perspective:

When the Sochi Winter Games end, the Great Game for the future of Eastern Europe will fill the gap in the TV schedules. The West would be well advised not to bring a baguette to this knife fight.


The Genghis Khan way: Russia’s neo-imperialism

Wednesday, 22 January, 2014 0 Comments

On Monday, in a Neue Zürcher Zeitung article titled “The Third Empire,” Ulrich Schmid looked at how the Russian culture scene is being exploited by Putin’s authoritarian state for its imperialistic propaganda goals. “Largely unnoticed by the world press, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad was awarded the ‘Imperial Culture’ prize in January 2012 for his ‘resistance to Western expansion’. The patrons of the honour were the Russian writer’s guild, the Russian literature foundation and several Orthodox organizations.”

Schmid notes as well that the steppes of Russian cinema have been experiencing something of a Mongolian invasion of late. Films such as Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan (2007), The Secret of Genghis Khan (2009) and The Horde (2012) have been big hits. All of them portray the image of strong ruler who created a gigantic empire thanks to his unconditional demand for discipline. The not-so-subtle message is that Mongolian harshness and the Russian capacity to endure suffering are the perfect platform for empire building. This interpretation of history, writes Schmid, hews close to the ideology of Eurasianism. Seen through that prism, the Western model of the market economy plus representative democracy appears alien to a Russia that was, in parts, dominated by the Mongols for more than 300 years. Eurasianism claims that Russian culture is different its European counterpart due to this Asian impact and that Russia, therefore, must follow a separate path. The popular enthusiasm for all things Mongol plays into Putin’s hands as he’d like to create a Eurasian Union, which in terms of economic power and political weight, would act as a counterbalance to the European Union.

He’s got big dreams, that Vlad.

The Horde


Mao, the mass murderer, and his supporters

Thursday, 26 December, 2013 1 Comment

In 1968, John Lennon was asked about Mao Zedong. “It sounds like he’s doing a good job,” said the Beatle, who once sang, “Imagine no possessions.” In the same ballad, the idiotic Lennon continued, “No need for greed or hunger / A brotherhood of man / Imagine all the people / Sharing all the world.” Mao would have liked that. Regarding the bit about “No need for greed or hunger,” it is estimated that at least 45 million people died of starvation during Mao’s “Great Leap Forward.” When a boy stole a handful of grain in a Hunan village, the local Communist boss, Xiong Dechang, forced his father to bury his son alive on the spot. Imagine.

Today, China “celebrates” the 120th anniversary of the birth of the monster Mao and in a piece that John Lennon would have been proud of, the BBC eulogizes the mass murderer claiming that “Unlike Stalin, Mao sentenced no-one and certainly did not intend to create a terrible famine.” Time for someone there to read Mao’s Great Famine.

Maoism lives at the BBC, the Guardian and similar outposts. There, it has turned itself into a nonsense on a Lennonist scale, but, then, Maoism made no sense. The worst famine in human history was caused by policies that made no sense, such as forcing farmers to melt all their metal tools in backyard furnaces, but those who used to be Maoists no have retained their commitment to following the latest madness with absolute faith. José Manuel Barroso, the current President of the European Commission, was a Maoist and Ireland’s political establisment has offered a comfortable home to a collective of former Maoists. The unrepentant (and now very fashionable) Maoist Alain Badiou has a new object of hatred these days: Israel and the Jews.

Badiou and his ilk would benefit greatly from reading Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang, who survived the nightmare of Maoism. Snippet:

“In the days after Mao’s death, I did a lot of thinking. I knew he was considered a philosopher, and I tried to think what his ‘philosophy’ really was. It seemed to me that its central principle was the need or the desire for perpetual conflict. The core of his thinking seemed to be that human struggles were the motivating force of history and that in order to make history ‘class enemies’ had to be continuously created en masse. I wondered whether there were any other philosophers whose theories had led to the suffering and death of so many. I thought of the terror and misery to which the Chinese population had been subjected. For what?

But Mao’s theory might just be the extension of his personality. He was, it seemed to me, really a restless fight promoter by nature, and good at it. He understood ugly human instincts such as envy and resentment, and knew how to mobilize them for his ends. He ruled by getting people to hate each other. In doing so, he got ordinary Chinese to carry out many of the tasks undertaken in other dictatorships by professional elites. Mao had managed to turn the people into the ultimate weapon of dictatorship.

That was why under him there was no real equivalent of the KGB in China. There was no need. In bringing out and nourishing the worst in people, Mao had created a moral wasteland and a land of hatred. But how much individual responsibility ordinary people should share, I could not decide.

The other hallmark of Maoism, it seemed to me, was the reign of ignorance. Because of his calculation that the cultured class were an easy target for a population that was largely illiterate, because of his own deep resentment of formal education and the educated, because of his megalomania, which led to his scorn for the great figures of Chinese culture, and because of his contempt for the areas of Chinese civilization that he did not understand, such as architecture, art, and music, Mao destroyed much of the country’s cultural heritage. He left behind not only a brutalized nation, but also an ugly land with little of its past glory remaining or appreciated.”

Mao was a monster.

Mao


Rotten Russia: Snowden in; Altunin out

Thursday, 29 August, 2013 0 Comments

In his devastating New Yorker takedown of the traitorous Edward Snowden on 10 June, Jeffrey Toobin wrote: “Snowden fled to Hong Kong when he knew publication of his leaks was imminent… As a result, all of Snowden’s secrets may wind up in the hands of the Chinese government — which has no commitment at all to free speech or the right to political dissent. And that makes Snowden a hero?” But worse was to come. Snowden went from one ghastly tyranny to another: Russia. And there he found asylum at the hands of the tender Vladimir Putin.

That’s the same Putin who was depicted this week by the Russian artist Konstantin Altunin wearing women’s undies and fondly arranging the hair of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. For this “crime”, the Russian authorities removed four of Altunin’s satirical depictions of Russian politicians from St Petersburg’s Museum of Power and shut down the exhibition. Konstantin Altunin has fled Russia and is said to be seeking asylum in France. Meanwhile, in a perverse gesture of solidarity with the quisling Snowden, a group of cretinous German academics, the Vereinigung Deutscher Wissenschaftler, has decided to award him its “Whistleblower 2013” prize and €3,000. The real hero in this rotten Russia-centred drama, however, is Konstantin Altunin.

Putin on the style


Questions for the scam-artist @arusbridger at the @Guardian

Friday, 23 August, 2013 9 Comments

Louise Mensch has them, and they’re good. For example:

You state

The Guardian paid for Miranda’s flights. Miranda is not an employee of the Guardian. As Greenwald’s partner, he often assists him in his work and the Guardian normally reimburses the expenses of someone aiding a reporter in such circumstances

You paid for David Miranda’s flights and expenses because, you claim, he was “assisting Glenn Greenwald” in his work.

But how was he assisting Glenn Greenwald? If he was transporting purely “journalistic materials” why did Greenwald not use FedEx? If the data needed to be secure, why not use a P2P fileshare site? Why did the Guardian approve paying Miranda’s expenses when there are direct flights from Berlin to Rio that Poitras and Greenwald could have used?

Is it because Glenn Greenwald explained to you that as a US citizen he could not email, transport, or securely share stolen information about US and UK intelligence operations against foreign regimes without committing a serious felony and needed to use his husband as a mule?

In that case is not Guardian Media Group corporately responsible for abetting espionage against the United States and United Kingdom?

Yes, it is.


The hidden cost of BMWs, Ferraris, Porsches and Volkswagens

Tuesday, 13 August, 2013 0 Comments

“One company that buys and processes Colombian wolframite, or tungsten ore, supplies some of the world’s leading multinational corporations — including the makers of BMWs, Ferraris, Porsches and Volkswagens as well as Siemens AG (SIE) and the producer of BIC pens, these companies say.”

Brilliant reporting by Michael Smith for Bloomberg Markets Magazine in an article titled “How Colombian FARC Terrorists Mining Tungsten Are Linked to Your BMW Sedan.” But lots of other well-known companies are connected to this dirty trade: “Apple Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) and Samsung Electronics Co. purchase parts from a firm that buys from the company that imports tungsten ore from Colombia, company records show.”

What Smith documents about the tungsten market is disturbing in the extreme, but some end users give the impression that all is well: “Munich-based BMW Group spokesman Frank Wienstroth says his company works hard to avoid purchasing anything from tainted suppliers. ‘These few grams out of the billions of tons of raw materials passing through the BMW supply chain are of no practical relevance,’ he says.”

Smith’s sobering conclusion: “Sixty-one hundred kilometers away from the glistening buildings of Silicon Valley, miners in Colombia’s Guainia province dig for tungsten ore on FARC-controlled land. The minerals they extract from the red earth help feed the world’s voracious appetite for luxury cars, smartphones and computers. Neither the Colombian government nor the world’s most powerful corporations have been able to stop a trade that has helped fund a half-century-long war.”


Snowden and the Venezuelan gangsters

Thursday, 11 July, 2013 0 Comments

The economy of Venezuela has been ruined by the Hugo Chavez/Nicolas Maduro regime, under the tutelage of the Castro brothers. Detailing their crimes, Gustavo Coronel writes:

“They have stripped the Venezuelan Central Bank of much of its international reserves and Petroleos de Venezuela of its oil income, in order to place the money in a non-transparent parallel fund called FONDEN. According to Economist Pedro Palma this fund has received up to $105 billion from these institutions. The money has been managed very discretionally, with no accountability by four persons: H. Chavez/N. Maduro, Jorge Giordani, Rafaél Ramírez and Nelson Merentes. Much of the money has been utilized for partisan political purposes.”

Into the arms of these thieves and ruffians, Edward Snowden is said to be determined to flee.

When the British traitor Kim Philby fled Beirut in January 1963 for Moscow, the chattering classes praised his heroic defection from the decadent West. On 30 July Soviet officials announced that they had granted him political asylum in the USSR, along with Soviet citizenship. We know how that “paradise” ended.


Claude Monet and the Syrian connection

Wednesday, 19 June, 2013 0 Comments

This evening in London, Sotheby’s will auction 72 lots of Impressionist and modern art in one of the most anticipated sales of the year. When all the bidding’s done, Sotheby’s expects to have raked in more than £75 million. Undoubtedly, the star of show is Claude Monet’s gorgeous depiction of The Palazzo Contarini in Venice, which he painted during a three-month stay in the city in 1908. But it’s complicated.

Monet

What the Sotheby’s auction catalogue does not mention is that this particular Monet is from the collection of Helly Nahmad, a character for whom the adjective “colourful” was coined. The Nahmad family hails from Aleppo in Syria and its members operate art galleries in New York and London. Their collection of 3,000 works, including 200 oil paintings by Picasso, is valued at $5 billion by Skate’s Art Market Review.

Much to the surprise of its posh patrons, however, the Helly Nahmad Gallery in Manhattan was forced to shut its doors earlier this year after it was raided by US agents on the grounds that its owner was running a high-stakes gambling ring that catered to celebrities and the very wealthy. On 16 April, Helly Nahmad was charged with racketeering and money-laundering conspiracy. According to the indictment, Nahmad ran an operation that used illegal gambling websites to generate tens of millions of dollars in bets each year. The gambling ring was supported, in part, by the gallery, states the indictment. After such unpleasantness, it is a relief to lovers of modern art, no doubt, that the Helly Nahmad Gallery is open for business once more. The proceeds from this evening’s sale of The Palazzo Contarini painting, which should be spectacular, surely will comfort the proprietor during his difficulties.


They eat horses, don’t they?

Friday, 15 February, 2013 0 Comments

In the magazine business, the less-is-more pivot is executed when the jovial publisher cuts the number of pages but keeps the cover price as it is. The consumers won’t notice the difference, is the theory. The gangsters behind the horse-meat lasagna scandal have borrowed this page, as it were, and European supermarkets are now filling up with products whose ingredients have been cheapened to maintain the price. As with the magazine with fewer pages, nobody noticed a difference in the taste when horse replaced beef in frozen lasagna.

This is a huge story involving a continent-wide web of slaughter houses in Romania, traders in Cyprus and the Netherlands, companies in France, including a subcontractor of Findus, which shipped the horsemeat to Luxembourg where it was turned into the lasagna that then filled freezers across Europe. But what started as a beef-burger scandal in Ireland and then became a lasagna outrage in Britain is now expanding exponentially. In France, cannelloni, spaghetti bolognese, moussaka and hachis parmentier have been pulled from shelves at six supermarket chains. On Wednesday, the French brand, Picard, found horse meat in its chili con carne.

Findus is full of surprises

Catherine Brown, chief executive of the Foods Standards Agency in the UK, called for retailers to test their dishes containing ‘pork,’ ‘chicken’ and other meats. Retailers are currently focusing on ‘comminuted‘ beef, she said, calling it ‘the stuff where meat is ground up to the point that it is not readily recognizable.’

Because horsemeat is cheap, the gangsters in the food industry decided to mince it up, stuff it in the lasagna, call it ‘beef’, freeze it and then laugh all the way to the bank, safe in the knowledge that the consumers sticking it in the microwave will never taste the difference. Findus and lots of other companies in the food industry are now playing the “It wasn’t me guv” card, but it won’t work. If they had wanted to know what that cheap meat was and where it was coming from they could have found out and refused to use it. They didn’t want to, of course. What mattered was keeping those profit margins up.

Yesterday’s news that Greek unemployment had hit a new record of 27 percent in November means that price pressure is becoming unbearable for consumer product companies in the EU and some of them are responding to this pauperization by producing food that is being debased constantly. This just in: “Irish food group Greencore became the latest company to become embroiled in the horse meat scandal when it confirmed it manufactured bolognese sauce that British retailer Asda has withdrawn from the shelves after it was found to contain horse meat.”

This one is going to run and run.


Klaus Kinski joins Roman Polanksi in the perv Hall of Shame

Friday, 11 January, 2013 0 Comments

“The terrible thing is that he once told me that it was completely natural, that fathers all over the world did that with their daughters.” So spoke Pola Kinski, elder daughter of the late actor Klaus Kinski, who starred in some of the most famous German films of the 1970s and early 1980s, directed by […]

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