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A Reply Concerning the Noble and Vertuous Artes of Rhetoryke and Logike

by de Gondi Sun Mar 3rd, 2013 at 03:13:05 AM EST

[The full title is actually "A Reply to Some Considerations by Mr. Welch Concerning the Noble and Vertuous Artes of Rhetoryke and Logike". It refers to Ted's recent diary Discovering dialectic and the place of philosophy]

Dear Ted,

I always look forward to your diaries as a source of pleasure and controversy, often through unexpected themes. Little did I imagine that I- or rather my brash opinions and harsh appraisals-  would in some small measure play a role in one of them. Whether this will draw me to govern my tongue in the future is unlikely. Invariably you will argue your case down to the sound of  splintering bones. So I was surprised that you let your Philo-café diary enjoy an interminable silence.

In the meantime I delighted in pulling various texts on rhetoric and argumentation off the shelf and chasing down that evil noun, Dialectics. You may imagine my trepidation as I nervously searched the index of For and Against Method by Imre Lakatos and Paul Feyerabend. It was the closest thing I could imagine to the Standard Classic Model of Dialectics. After all, here are two fairly brilliant individuals having a go at some sort of understanding. Much to my relief the accursed word appears but a half dozen times in no role of consequence. The discussion between the two is healthily referred to as a "dialogue" or "debate" and the editor, Matteo Monterlini, does an excellent job in condensing the material into a brief dialogue as an introduction to all the fun.

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Italian Political Elections Special

by de Gondi Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 01:38:38 AM EST

General elections are underway in Italy on February 24 and 25. Both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies will be completely renewed while Regional elections are also being held in Lombardy, Lazio and Molise. With booths closed at 10 PM Sunday evening, turnout has decreased by more than 6 % nationally compared to the previous general elections (Update- final data: -7,38%). However in the three regions where regional elections are being held, turnout has been markedly superior to past elections, nearly 10% higher.

Italian elections open thread - afew

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Fact, frame-up, or fiction? - Litvinenko's `deathbed testimony'.

by de Gondi Wed Dec 19th, 2012 at 06:33:33 AM EST

By David Habakkuk in London and David Loepp in Rome.

In our previous diary on the resumption of the inquest into the death of Alexander Litvinenko, we noted that prior to the fourth pre-inquest review the `interested persons' at the inquest would have available the transcript or transcripts of the interviews the police carried out with him.  

At the review, which took place last Thursday, Ben Emmerson QC, counsel for his widow Marina, gave a description of the testimony from Litvinenko which has been made available - given, supposedly, on 20 November 2006, `when he was dying.'  And - as is evident from the transcript of the proceedings - Mr Emmerson QC made deft use of the fact that it incriminates both the Russian state and, it seems clear, Andrei Lugovoi, the figure whose extradition to face charges of having deliberately murdered Litvinenko has been requested by the Crown Prosecution Service.

Rather than disposing of the problems with the conventional wisdom about how Litvinenko died which we have raised in previous diaries on this site, however, the claims which are now being made compound them.  The fact that Litvinenko incriminated the Russian state is hardly new.  When the story of his poisoning was first broken on 11 November 2006, on obscure websites associated with the Chechen insurgents, however, the clear suggestion was that the `hit man' employed by Russian intelligence had been Litvinenko's Italian associate Mario Scaramella.  This sinister Italian, it was suggested, had used promises of information about the murder of the journalist Anna Politkovskaya as a baited hook to lure Litvinenko to the Itsu sushi bar in Piccadilly - and there slipped poison into his sushi.

The conclusion to which the British investigators supposedly came, however, was that Lugovoi and/or Kovtun slipped the rare radioactive isotope polonium-210 into Litvinenko's tea, when the three met in the Pine Bar of the Millennium Hotel in Grosvenor Square, following the meeting at the Itsu.  However, as was brought out in diaries on this site in May and in December 2008, at the time Litvinenko's associates emphatically did not claim that the testimony he gave on 20 November incriminating Lugovoi pointed to the Pine Bar meeting.  

Moreover, two of his closest collaborators, Alex Goldfarb and Yuri Shvets, quite explicitly ruled out the possibility that he could have been poisoned at a meeting having the characteristics of that in the Pine Bar. Set in context, the claims made by counsel for Litvinenko's widow do not provide compelling evidence in support of the conventional wisdom about how Litvinenko died - indeed, they may provide just the reverse.

the next episode - afew

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Litvinenko's final frame-up?

by de Gondi Tue Dec 11th, 2012 at 04:40:04 AM EST

By David Habakkuk in London and David Loepp in Rome.

In London on 13-14 December preparations for the inquest into the death of Alexander Litvinenko reach a crucial stage, when the key question of which of the claims about how he came to ingest the rare radiological isotope polonium-210 should be deemed worthy of investigation will be confronted at the fourth pre-inquest review.  Among the candidates for consideration is the 'possible involvement' of Litvinenko's Italian associate Mario Scaramella, whose conviction in Rimini on charges of 'aggravated calumny' last month we discussed in our previous diary.

In an interview on the BBC Russian Service on 11 November 2006 Litvinenko endorsed suggestions made on obscure websites linked to the Chechen insurgents when they broke the story of his poisoning earlier the same day, that the likely culprit was Scaramella1.  A diary in December 2008 exposed as disinformation an attempt by an associate of Litvinenko to explain away the incrimination of Scaramella, and to claim that he actually pointed the finger of suspicion at Andrei Lugovoi, the figure whom the British police have accused of committing the supposed murder.  This is only one of a whole series of attempts by the dead man's associates to claim that he incriminated Lugovoi, none of which has been supported by anything more than uncorroborated hearsay2.

This makes it of particular interest that the various 'interested persons' at the inquest - among them Lugovoi - will by now be in possession of a transcript of what, supposedly, Litvinenko told the police.  Without wanting to give hostages to fortune, it seems to us highly unlikely that it will show him incriminating Scaramella.  However, that does not make what Litvinenko claimed when the story of his poisoning was broken irrelevant.  The evidence from the recently concluded aggravated calumny case against Scaramella, together with other evidence discussed in our previous diary, establishes that he and Litvinenko had a record of framing people with bogus accusations of involvement in nefarious plots orchestrated by the Russian security services.

In the initial reports incriminating Scaramella, it was suggested that he had been the instrument of just such a plot.  Particularly given the peculiar implausibility of the notion of his Italian associate as a Russian hit man, it seems overwhelmingly probable that this was the last, and most bizarre of Litvinenko's frame-ups.  If however one asks why one partner in crime might have chosen to frame another, a natural possible interpretation is that he did not want to be candid about what he thought had have happened to him.  And this, of course, would fit in quite well with the claim made by Lugovoi's lawyers that Litvinenko might not have been murdered at all - that his death might have been either an accident or suicide.

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Scaramella Condemned for Aggravated Calumny in Rimini

by de Gondi Wed Dec 5th, 2012 at 03:24:15 AM EST

By David Loepp in Rome and Rimini, and David Habakkuk in London

Last Friday Mario Scaramella was found guilty of the criminal offence of aggravated calumny in a Rimini court. He was the Italian associate of the late Alexander Litvinenko, who died in a London hospital on 23 November 2006, apparently as a result of ingesting the rare radioactive isotope polonium-210.

Mr. Scaramella has been sentenced to three and a half years imprisonment, and his victim, Alvaro Selva, a prominent public figure in the Republic of San Marino, awarded damages of €40,000. In 2005 Scaramella denounced Selva to judicial authorities in Rimini, claiming that he was a key player in an international nuclear smuggling operation, allegations he repeated in January 2006 to authorities in Bologna.

The verdict in Rimini follows a similar verdict in an earlier aggravated calumny case, in relation to the supposed involvement of a former FSB-operative called Oleksandr Talik in what proved to be a fabricated assassination plot, in relation to which Scaramella was sentenced to four years in 2008, after making a plea bargain.  

It comes as preparations for the resumption of the inquest into the death of Litvinenko move towards a critical stage in London.  At the fourth pre-inquest review, to be held on 13-14 December, the question of which of the many claims and counter-claims about how he died are to be considered worthy of investigation is to be confronted.  

Both in making the accusations against Selva, and those against Talik, Scaramella drew heavily on material supplied by his Russian associate - who was also actively involved in disseminating the claims against Talik. Given the nature of the accusations involved, the evidence from the two cases would appear extremely relevant to the inquest into Litvinenko's death.

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Recent Italian Scandals for Dummies

by de Gondi Sat Sep 17th, 2011 at 02:44:39 AM EST

From today's Salon:

   Prosecutors say an Italian businessman recruited about 30 girls to attend parties at Premier Silvio Berlusconi's homes, selecting them for their looks and age and paying some of them to have sex with the Italian leader.

    They allege that between September 2008 and May 2009 Gianpaolo Tarantini recruited women of "young age, slender frame," and told them what to wear and how to behave at the parties, according to a newly filed court document.

Preferably not tall, no high heels.

Actually, this AP blurb hardly reveals the enormity of the case. It will frontpage throughout the world once it gets rolling. Nor is it possible to even detail the revelations, as they come out by the minute, all major Italian news sources vying to rush out the sordid details of over a thousand published wiretaps that represent only one percent of the wiretaps made in the past two years on the case.

The recent case of Tarantini's arrest by the Procura of Naples on charges of extortion was meant to sidetrack the Bari case which has finally been made public.

I'll try to explain this.

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Berlusconi to Stand Immediate Trial

by de Gondi Tue Feb 15th, 2011 at 10:06:22 AM EST

The judge for the preliminary investigation, Cristina Di Censo, has just ruled that Silvio Berlusconi is to go on trial immediately on charges of abuse of power for personal interests and prostitution with minors. The judge found that the evidence gathered, practically in flagrancy for the charge of concussion, warranted an immediate trial. The defense had argued that Milan was not the proper venue for the trial since Berlusconi had committed the alleged crime in the quality of Council President, thus warranting judgement by the Tribune of Ministers. Judge Di Censo accepted the Milan Procura's argument that the pressure that Berlusconi had sought to exert, successfully, on the police to release an underage prostitute, detained on suspicion of theft, was an abuse of the notoriety of his position as Council President to obtain an illegal advantage. In this sense Berlusconi had not committed an illegal act within his state functions which would have justified proceedings before the Tribune of Ministers.

The subsequent charge of frequenting underage prostitutes stems from this initial investigation. Contrary to press reports, neither Berlusconi nor his residences were ever put under surveillance. According to the so-called "Boato law" members of parliament and the government cannot be wiretapped or be object of search warrants without prior consent from parliament. A law that is greatly at odds with common sense.

The trial date is set for April 6th.

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Italian Regional Report

by de Gondi Sat Mar 13th, 2010 at 02:30:56 AM EST

In the past days hardly an hour passes in Italy without a dramatic turn of events. Just in the past hour the Court of Appeals rejected the plea to readmit Berlusconi's personal political entity in the Rome electoral contest while the Procura of Trani finally confirmed the indiscretions that have circulated throughout the day: Berlusconi is under investigation for extortion in public office, along with Augusto Minzolini, director of the banner state news program RAI 1, and the director of Agcom, Giancarlo Innocenzi, an ex-Fininvest sanfedista.

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Chaos in Italian Regional Elections

by de Gondi Tue Mar 9th, 2010 at 01:43:47 AM EST

The political situation in Italy continues to be critical. Despite his talking points repeated ad nauseam, Berlusconi's decree has caused a backlash against his personal political entity, the PdL, throughout Italy. It is perceived as a measure to save his party- and only his party- in key electoral contests in Lombardy and Rome, while other parties had been excluded already on similar grounds both in the past and in the present regional elections. Moreover, the general public is accustomed to paying heavy fines for personal errors and late payments to local and national agencies. It is no wonder that Berlusconi's party has plummeted in the polls 17 points to an all time low. The PdL party strategists estimate that at best they may win only five regions.

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Spatuzza, the Gravianos and the State of Exception

by de Gondi Fri Dec 11th, 2009 at 05:16:45 AM EST

Today, December 11th, judges will interrogate the Graviano brothers in the appeal to Senator Dell'Utri's nine year prison sentence for external association with the mafia. The Gravianos were the bosses of the Brancaccio mandamento during the Mafia terror season of 1992-1994. Recent testimony by Gaspare Spatuzza, the self-accused principal organizer of  most of the bombings and assassination hits during that period, has caused the reopening of legal cases throughout Italy and has tentatively worsened Dell'Utri's position. Gaspare Spatuzza was  the Gravianos' top hitman and became the proxy boss of the Brancaccio mandamento when the Gravianos were arrested in 1994. While the Gravianos preferred to live in Milan while at large in the late eighties until their arrest, Spatuzza acted as their plenipotentiary in Palermo. Spatuzza's unconditioned devotion to the Gravianos remains unchanged to this day. For him, Giuseppe Graviano is Madre Natura, Mother Nature.

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Silenzio stampa

by de Gondi Mon Oct 5th, 2009 at 07:08:21 AM EST

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Yet Another False Document

by de Gondi Wed Sep 2nd, 2009 at 03:12:45 AM EST

Berlusconi's unprecedented attack on the independent press in Italy has received worldwide attention, most often on the front page of major dailies, all severely critical. The libel suit was to coincide with Berlusconi's attendance of the annual celebration of Perdonanza in the city of Aquila, an event all the more solemn for the tragic earthquake that struck the city this spring. It also coincided with the 715th year celebration of the bollo of Pope Celestine V which instituted the rite of indulgence for the poor. For the occasion the mortal remains of the Pope were carried in procession for the first time.

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Adventures in Paranoia- Berlusconi Sues Reality

by de Gondi Mon Aug 31st, 2009 at 07:54:16 AM EST

Silvio Berlusconi has sued la Repubblica for having mounted a defamatory campaign against his person. The lawsuit focuses on the 10 + 10 questions that la Repubblica publishes daily for the past two months, alleging that they are rhetorical questions designed to induce false impressions of guilt in the reader. Berlusconi declares that the entire campaign is based on falsehoods, a claim that can easily be discounted by simply reading the twenty questions- or reading the foreign press.

The initiative has brought nearly unanimous outrage, often colourfully ironic, by opposition and civic leaders. A petition by three of Italy's most prominent jurists stigmatizes the action as a grave attack on the Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They further call attention to the fact that Berlusconi's suit is being ignored by Italy's media and regret that lawyers and judges would have ever gone to such lengths to give a legal veneer to a blatantly arbitrary act.   The petition now on line has gathered well over 16000 signatures in hardly three hours.

Feel free to adhere.

from the diaries with minor edit - Nomad

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Berlusconi Said To Be Client of Prostitution Rings

by de Gondi Thu Jun 18th, 2009 at 02:45:53 AM EST

An investigation in Bari broke today after a witness declared she had been paid to attend two evenings at Berlusconi's Rome residence recently. Patrizia D'Addario declares that she has proof of both encounters. She alleges that the first time she arrived at Palazzo Grazioli she found another twenty women in waiting and was not chosen that time to participate. The second party coincided with Barack Obama's election, a limper at the time for Mr. Berlusconi's fortunes.

On the second occasion she alleges having passed the entire night in Mr. Berlusconi's services and was paid € 2000 by the man who organized the encounter. Ms. D'Addario had been hired by a company allegedly involved in attempts at corruption over hospital and building contracts. According to D'Addario, Berlusconi greeted her by associating her with a construction project that her good graces represented.

Breaking news, promoted by Sassafras

Editor's note: de Gondi provides regular coverage of Berlusconi's tragic shenanigans on eurotrib - on an almost daily basis

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Berlusconi wiretap bill to curtail press freedom

by de Gondi Thu Jun 11th, 2009 at 04:10:09 AM EST

Immediately following the elections, Berlusconi saw fit that the first act of his rubber stamp parliament would be a vote of confidence on his wiretap bill. The bill's amendment, 1415-A, passed the House this evening by  325 votes against 246. It will now go to the Senate for final approval.

The National Association of Magistrates issued a harsh note declaring that the law spells "the death of criminal justice in Italy." The law drastically limits the possibility for investigative judges to resort to wiretaps. Whereas wiretaps could be authorized on the basis of "compelling evidence of a crime" it may now only be requested on "compelling evidence of guilt" and only if "absolutely indispensable." A request for wiretaps must be approved by three judges rather than one. This has prompted the wry comment that to condemn a person to life imprisonment one judge is enough while to listen to a mafia boss three are needed.

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Berlusconi and Noemi- Five Questions Answered

by de Gondi Sun May 24th, 2009 at 02:06:44 PM EST

La Repubblica published today a lengthy investigation into Berlusconi's affair with Noemi Letizia. In previous articles La Repubblica had investigated Berlusconi's numerous assertions concerning his presence at Noemi's 18th birthday party, concluding that they were largely false or misleading. La Repubblica pressed the point with a multimedia campaign that summarized the obscure points of the affair in ten questions.

The media campaign found sympathetic ears in the English press, accustomed to plurality and a degree of independence uncommon by Italian standards. The Times ran several articles as well as an editorial calling Berlusconi to account for both the Noemi affair and the motivations for the guilty verdict in the Mills' case. The Guardian followed suit yesterday in an editorial. Today The Observer also called Mr. Berlusconi to account, concluding however that la Repubblica may have to wait a long time for answers. Today la Repubblica claims to have answered five of the questions on their own merit.

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The Englaro Case and Political Manipulation

by de Gondi Mon Feb 9th, 2009 at 07:43:41 AM EST

The article (posted in today's Salon, thanks to Fran) does not explain what the "constitutional row" is all about. In fact it is misleading as it only discusses the fact that President Napolitano did not sign a government decree that he judged unconstitutional and not in compliance with Article 77 of the Constitution which states that decrees may be adopted only in extraordinary cases of necessity and urgency. It's perfectly within his powers since a government cannot emit a decree to overturn a Supreme Court sentence. It would be tantamount to evoking a "constitutional row" if the President of the U.S. vetoed a bill.

The row is over Berlusconi and his government that use the pretext of the Englaro case to verbally assault the President and the Constitution. Berlusconi forced his ministers to take a unanimous decision to make a three line decree. When Napolitano declined to sign it, Berlusconi attacked him alleging that the president is obliged to sign it, which is categorically false, a deliberate public misrepresentation of the division of powers enshrined in the Constitution. Berlusconi then attacked the Constitution declaring that it was written by philo-Soviet ideologues and that he would do away with it for that. His rant was that the present Constitution does not allow him to govern. Apparently- at this point- one may conclude that he hasn't the ability since he controls all the media, the executive and a grovelling rubberstamp parliament.

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Somber Thoughts on Mass Demonstrations

by de Gondi Thu Nov 13th, 2008 at 06:59:19 PM EST

May 2, 1968 Paris

At the Sorbonne right wing militants ransack and destroy the classrooms occupied by the student movement.

May 3, 1968 Paris

A student demonstration against the rightwing incursion at the Sorbonne degenerates into a four-hour pitched battle in the Quartier Latin against police forces. The students tear up cobblestones and improvise barricades.

 

These are but two small news items, perhaps crucial, that triggered what was to be known as May 1968. But May 68 began long before, throughout the world. Berkeley `64. Trento `66. Germany, Spain, Poland, Algeria, Mexico, student movements most often were countered with state violence.

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L'Onda

by de Gondi Mon Nov 3rd, 2008 at 04:39:19 AM EST

The Wave hits Italy. The number of students that converge on Rome is beyond expectations. The demonstrations are so vast that they spill over the city. There are no longer two processions as authorized by authorities but three since the official itineraries cannot hold the crowds of people. Numerous rivulets break off into the side streets and flow down towards Piazza del Popolo. Buses are blocked outside the city and the students and teachers began to march along the beltway. One of the most impressive marches flows towards the Minister of "Public Instruction" (si fa per dire).

Mariastella Gelmini as Beatified Ignorance
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Sign for Roberto Saviano- with update

by de Gondi Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 05:26:08 AM EST

An appeal for Roberto Saviano has been made by several Nobel winners. Roberto Saviano has declared his desire to leave Italy after repeated death threats and tentative evidence to carry out the threat with the use of explosives by the end of the year.

Roberto Saviano is under death threats for denouncing the criminal deeds of the Camorra in his book Gomorra, translated and read all over the world. His freedom is under threat as well as his autonomy as a writer, his chances to meet his family, to enjoy a social life, to take part in public life, to travel in his own country.

A young writer, guilty of having investigated organized crime, revealing its methods and its structure, is forced to live a hidden, underground life, while the Camorra bosses send him death threats from prison ordering him to stop writing for his newspaper, La Repubblica, and to keep silent.

The State must make every effort to protect Saviano and to defeat the Camorra. But this is not a mere police case. It's a problem of democracy. Saviano's freedom and safety concerns everyone of us as citizens.

Signing this appeal we intend to take charge of it, as a personal commitment, urging the State at the same time to assume its responsibilities because it's intolerable that something like this can happen in Europe in 2008.

DARIO FO
MIKHAIL GORBACIOV
GUNTHER GRASS
RITA LEVI MONTALCINI
ORHAN PAMUK
DESMOND TUTU

You can sign the letter here.

(More beneath the fold...)

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