planetoplano

planetoplano

Sunday, August 10, 2014

One Hand Always Points to the Truth



The Clock of Palazzo Vecchio
and the Florentine Detective.
By Roberto Vacca.


To everyone he was VP, not as in Vice President, but as in Vice Padrino. He was very self-confident. He was feared from Vegas to Miami, from Como to Capo Passero. Everyone obeyed him. He said:
“Special agent Patrick O’Cuillenain followed me all the way here to Italy. That Irish son-of-a-bitch is going around saying he’s here just as a tourist. But he’s really sticking his nose where he’s not supposed to. I am gonna waste him myself.”
His cousin objected:
“VP, no. Do not expose yourself. We can send one of the boys.”
“No, I’m gonna do it myself. This is personal.”
Agent O’Cuillenain was pleased with his escort. Jack Ryan was an old friend. He was also Irish and spoke Italian well. O’Cuillenain had also hit it off with the Italian Florentine Carabinier Carlo Guarducci. He had sized the Italian up right away as smart, confident and reliable.
The three of them had eaten in a very good restaurant in Trastevere, then Ryan and Guarducci had taken O’Cuillenain to Saint Peter’s Square.
The Irish detective’s eyes panned over the vast colonnade. He was looking for the spot from which all the pillars appeared to be lined up, as if there was only one of them. He froze. VP was standing in front of the colonnade, smiling at him from thirty feet away.
The huge hand of the gangster was wrapped around a large .45 caliber semi-automatic gun. The grips of prized wood had been carved especially for him. VP fired two shots in rapid sequence. The 154 grains of each slug pierced O’Cuillenain’s chest, killing him on the spot.



Ryan and Guarducci stared at VP’s face for a moment. They were about to return fire, but a large grey SUV drove up at high speed and stopped in front of them, blocking their view. Then the car bolted, taking away VP who had jumped aboard.
Ryan and Guarducci shot at the car, but it quickly disappeared in the direction of the Aurelia. Then they saw that the Irish agent was dead. Guarducci called headquarters, relayed what had just happened and reported the SUV’s license plate number.
While they were running to their Alfa Romeo service car, Guarducci asked:
“Did you recognize him?”
“Sure!” answered Ryan, “VP is very well known. Patrick had chased him all the way here. I have his picture. Circulate it, and let’s block airports, train stations and border crossings.”
Guarducci took the American’s cell-phone and transmitted the photograph. Then he turned on the siren and, with a screech of tires, he and Ryan took off in the Alfa Romeo.
“Let’s go to Fiumicino!. We’ve got to catch him!”
“This time he’s got no defense. We caught him red-handed, with the smoking gun. He’s going to be extradited to Texas, where they’ve still got capital punishment. With our testimony, he’s finished. Fix this time in your memory: 3:50 PM. What do you say in Italy? 15:50, on June 21.
But VP did not show up at any airport or railroad station. He was arrested several hours later in a nice Florence hotel in Santa Maria Novella Square. He was in the company of his famous attorney.
Ryan got to the Florence prison first and gave his testimony. Guarducci’s train was late. When the Carabinier arrived at the Sollicciano detention center, Ryan ran towards him before he got in.  
“Carlo! This is not possible! VP’s lawyer’s here. He testified that yesterday afternoon VP was in Florence with him. He even has a picture of the two of them, in front of Palazzo Vecchio. The clock is visible, and it’s marking the exact time VP shot O’Cuillenain, at three fifty. There’s even a lady going by with yesterday’s paper in her hands. What’s going on? Did they find a double of VP, here in Italy?” Ryan was overcome with grief.
Guarducci took the large photograph, and looked at it carefully. Then he smiled.
“These gangsters of yours are really dumb! How did they think they could get away with it here in Florence? Don’t you know the story?
“What story? It seems to me VP’s got an ironclad alibi.”
Guarducci shook his head.
“Not at all! Read your Michelin guide! The clock in this picture is marking ten in the morning! It’s one of those rare ancient clocks with only one hand: the long one; and it’s marking the hours. To figure out the minutes you have to estimate tehm, based on where the hand is, between one hour and the next.
“The short hand is just a counterweight, and it stays always opposite the long one, on the same diameter. Every foreigner believes the clock is broken. Not so. In this case the short hand is indicating four, but it doesn’t count.
“That idiot VP took his picture yesterday morning at 10, and he was sure he was going to fool us; but he didn’t take into account that there could be a Florentine in the Italian police.”
Ryan smiled too, he was relieved.
“Good. He’s not getting away now. But what kind of clocks do you make here? Aren’t you embarrassed?” 
“Maybe we should change it; but change here happens at a very slow pace. However,  the clock was built in the 1600’s by a German.”





This short story was written for the June 2014 issue of the Italian magazine L'Orologio
Roberto Vacca by training is an engineer and a computer scientist. He has taught at universities in Rome and Milan, but has achieved fame in Italy and abroad as a science writer and as a fiction author. Probably his most famous novel is "Death of Megalopolis" (1974), and it can be found (with most of his other very interesting and very readable books), both in Italian and in English, on Dr. Vacca's site: printandread.com.
On this blog there are several other articles by Dr. Vacca, which I translated into English. This is about total war. This one is about the mechanics of free falling, and this is about writing and blogging, basically. Check them out, I'm sure you will find them interesting. 
The picture of the clock tower, reflecting in the puddle, is by Miguel Duarte.
I'd like to thank J.J.P. for reviewing the English text, and to thank you in advance for your comments.
Leonardo Pavese

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Maggiolino nel senso di Bolide


Tanto per sdrammatizzare un po' (dopo guerre e maomettani), parliamo di automobili, design e marketing. O meglio, lasciamo parlare Eric Peters , che lo fa di professione, ed è più al corrente di me, per quel che riguarda il mercato dell'auto. Per quanto mi riguarda, è solo un'occasione per guardare vecchie foto e belle illustrazioni, ma spero che il pezzo che ho tradotto vi interesserà. I vostri commenti saranno molto graditi. Grazie,
L. Pavese

The Beetle as a Speedster.
di Eric Peters.
(Tradotto da Leonardo Pavese)

Negli Stati Uniti, la Volkswagen ha cambiato di nuovo il nome del Maggiolino, da New Beetle a semplicemente Beetle. Ma un appellativo molto più adatto sarebbe stato Speedster. ( In Italia si direbbe Spider, da speeder, se non volesse ormai dire decapottabile; anche se, io ho una mia teoria, qualche sapientone lo ha mutato in spyder credendo che fosse scritto male ndt ). Magari anche New Speedster. Ma non Beetle, per piacere, che sia nuovo o no. E questa non intende essere una critica del nuovo Maggiolino; solo una chiarificazione. Mi è venuta in mente mentre contemplavo la Turbo Beetle S che la VW mi ha inviato da guidare per una settimana. Quest’auto, negli Stati Uniti, ha un motore a quattro cilindri da 200 hp (kW 149), a iniezione diretta e raffreddato a liquido, che aziona l’avantreno. È molto rapida: da 0 a 60 miglia orarie (circa km/h 95) in poco più di 6 secondi. E veloce: è in grado di viaggiare tutto il giorno a più di km/h 160. Gli sbirri potrebbero causarvi dei problemi, ma l’auto di sicuro no.

Molto bene, anzi fantastico, direte voi. Ma che cosa ha in comune con il Maggiolino? Cioè con la volkswagen, l’auto delle masse? La parentela è molto remota, tenue, a essere generosi. Il Maggiolino originale era soprattutto un mezzo molto semplice di viaggiare da A a B. Era tutt’altro che una spider, ma era molto economica, nell’acquisto e nel mantenimento. Il prezzo base negli Stati Uniti, nel 1970, era di $ 1980, equivalente a poco più di 12000 Baracks di valuta inflazionata corrente, e a circa la metà del prezzo di una Beetle turbo-compressa del 2014. Il motore raffreddato ad aria, nel bagagliaio del Maggiolino originale (che un bagagliaio non lo aveva), sedeva sopra le ruote posteriori e le azionava. Il motore aveva un solo accessorio: l’alternatore, trascinato da una cinghia. Niente servo-sterzo. Non ne aveva bisogno, perché la parte anteriore dell’auto era leggerissima. Se è per quello, l’intera auto pesava solo circa 1600 libbre ( kg 725 ).

La Beetle del 2014 pesa il doppio, e del servo-sterzo ne ha proprio bisogno. E anche dei servo-freni. La nuova Beetle dispone anche di controllo climatico ad aria condizionata. Anche alcune delle vecchie Beetle (negli Stati Uniti) avevano l’aria condizionata, installata dalla concessionaria; ma era un’idea antitetica rispetto al concetto originario dell’auto; e una stupidaggine in tutti i sensi. Lo stesso vale per il cambio automatico (anche se nel caso della vecchia Beetle si dovrebbe parlare di cambio semi-automatico). La quasi totalità dei vecchi Maggiolini avevano il cambio manuale, naturalmente; e senza la frizione ad azionamento idraulico; non era necessaria: un cavetto funzionava benissimo.



Il classico motore boxer del Maggiolino originario poteva essere mantenuto e riparato da chiunque (be’, quasi chiunque), con qualche cacciavite, una chiave inglese e un po’ di pazienza. E il Maggiolino classico era pure “carino”, naturalmente. Ma per puro caso. Il designer (Ferdinando Porsche) aveva voluto massimizzare lo spazio interiore di un’auto che dal di fuori era relativamente molto piccola. Ora, questo Nuovo Maggiolino è un’auto molto più grande, molto più costosa  e di gran lunga più complessa. La sua “graziosità” (viene in mente l’antigrazioso di Umberto Boccioni), e la “sportività” sono le sue principali e intenzionali attrattive. Il che la rende molto diversa dalla sua progenitrice, e ci riporta indietro alla faccenda della Speedster. La primogenita della famiglia Porsche era di profilo ribassato, con una linea del tettuccio “tagliata” e fatta, per l’appunto, per correre.


356

Era anche molto attraente. La vita e la morte di James Dean sarebbero state meno affascinanti, se si fosse ammazzato su un Maggiolino invece che con la sua Porsche, battezzata Little Bastard. Anzi, probabilmente, non sarebbe neanche morto; perché se fosse stato alla guida di una Beetle non sarebbe mai riuscito a far andare l’auto abbastanza veloce da farsi male: i Maggiolini originari impiegavano circa trenta secondi a raggiungere i km/h 95, e non andavano oltre i km/h 120, con un po’ di vento in coda. Ma date un’occhiata alla Beetle del 2014, e paragonatela all’immortale Porsche 356, e poi ditemi, a chi assomiglia ‘sto bambino? La Volkswagen dovrebbe meditarci un po’.




Le Porsche odierne sono giocattoli per ricconi, ma quelle del passato non lo erano. Infatti, una volta, (per “una volta” s’intende gli anni 1950, ‘60 e anche gli inizi degli anni 70) vi era persino una certa sovrapposizione di segmenti fra le Porsche e le Volkswagen; anche se quelli della Porsche, oggi, preferirebbero non parlarne. Un acquirente medio, che poteva permettersi un Maggiolino (negli Stati Uniti) poteva anche permettersi una Porsche. Erano auto diverse, ovviamente: una ideata per la guida sportiva, l’altra per la guida economica.


Il Maggiolino dei giorni nostri è velocissimo, ma non è un’auto a buon mercato. Detto questo, rimane pur sempre molto meno costoso della più economica delle Porsche (la Boxster, nella sua versione base, costa $51400). Ma (consiglio alla Volkswagen), immaginatevi una VW Speedster Turbo. Prezzo sempre nell’orbita del Signor Rossi (l’acquirente medio, tanto per capirci). Accentuatene l’aspetto delle prestazioni, l’attrattiva. Battete sul prezzo la Porsche. O meglio, riconducete la Porsche alle sue radici. Basta non chiamarla Porsche. Toglietevi dalla testa quest’idea di legare il Maggiolino del 2014 con quello di una volta. Non ha senso, e non funziona. In un certo senso, la Volkswagen lo ha già riconosciuto, dando un taglio più "mascolino" alla nuova Beetle; la quale non assomiglia affatto all'innocuo Maggiolino dell'antichità; ma assomiglia moltissimo a una classica Porsche 356, anche nella guida. E allora perché non renderlo ufficiale?


356 by Alain Levesque


Eric Peters scrive su un popolarissimo blog (ericpetersauto.com), di auto, motociclette e questioni di libertà individuale. Su questo blog ci sono altri interessanti articoli di Eric che ho tradotto in italiano: uno è sull'eliminazione del motore a otto cilindri a V, decretata dal governo statunitense. Un altro è sui problemi che i cuscini salvavita (le airbag), e l'obbligo d'installarle, potrebbero causarvi; e infine uno sui sussidi del governo degli Stati Uniti alle auto elettriche.
Sono stati tutti tradotti e pubblicati qui col suo permesso.
Leonardo Pavese






  

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Drones of Hamas


The most important part of this July 16 article (while the war in Gaza is raging), which I translated from the Italian on-line defense magazine Analisi Difesa, are the last two lines. They reveal what should be clear to anyone who can count, and possesses a little knowledge of military technology; that is, the fact that the terrorist organization Hamas, that controls Gaza (hopefully not for long), actually has a certain strategic advantage over Israel.
Hamas is capable of producing large quantities of inexpensive low-technology rocket projectiles (or modifying existing ones), and now also simple unmanned aircraft, that can be launched into Israeli territory.
The Israeli military is forced to respond to the threat by developing and fielding anti-missiles systems (like Iron Dome and Patriot), which are much more expensive, and can be "saturated," for example by salvos of multiple rockets, fired simultaneously. A system like Iron Dome won't be able to follow and intercept all the rockets; and even if it did, the cost ratio between a Tamir missile (used by Iron Dome) and a ballistic unguided rocket is probably around 50 to 1. Not to mention the very high cost of the Patriot missiles (more than $ 1,000,000 each), used to shoot down cheap unmanned aircraft that cost less than an economy automobile. That is not sustainable, in the long term.
The only solution is to destroy the rockets and the drones where they are kept, before they are even launched; and that's another reason why Israel needs to regain control of the Gaza Strip.
You comments will be very appreciated. Thank you,
L. Pavese



THE DRONES OF HAMAS
Translated by Leonardo Pavese

After the long-range M-302 rockets, capable of reaching the whole Israeli territory, Hamas fielded the remote-controlled unmanned aircraft derived from the Iranian Ababil, built or modified in the Gaza strip; on July 14, 2014, at least one of them was shot down by an Israeli Patriot missile, from a launcher based near Ashod.
The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades announced the launch of several drones from Gaza for “special missions,” and they stated that the flights “will continue for the next few days.”
According to the Islamic fundamentalist militia, the drones reached “the Israeli ministry of Defense, in Tel Aviv”. The announcement was met with jubilation from the minarets of Gaza, while al-Aqsa, Hamas’s TV continued to broadcast this new development all morning.



The fact that Hamas possessed unmanned aircraft was not really a surprise for the Israelis. During the past few days, the military broadcast service reported that, in the course of one of the Israeli air-strikes, several “kamikaze aircraft” had been destroyed; that is, aircraft that could have been fitted with a warhead and were meant to hit designated targets. On their part, the military wing of Hamas assured told the civilian population of Gaza that “that was only one of the many surprises they had in store for the enemy.”
Supposedly, Hamas’s drones are derivatives of the Iranian Ababil’s and Mohajer’s. They measure about three meters in length, and their wingspan is about three and one half meters. According to what Hamas declared, the engineers of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades have developed three basic models: one, equipped with a video-camera, is tasked with gathering intelligence-relevant imagery; one is designed to “attack the enemy,” launching weapons; and the third is the “suicide” version, which is meant to crash on selected targets, loaded with explosive.



According to Hamas, three waves of drones (each consisting of “more than one aircraft”) took off in three different directions. In the course of the operation, contact with one aircraft of wave no. 2, and one of wave no. 3 was lost. Nevertheless, the mission was deemed a success because the “drones,” as Hamas declared, “were able to reach the Kiryà, the Israeli Defense Ministry, and make a video of it” although the images, so far, have not been divulged.
“We doubt that very much,” said the spokesman of the Israeli Air Force to military radio. “In any case, it would have been just a wasted effort, because the “drone” would not have uncovered anything that is not already visible on Google.”
In Israel the episode did not cause particular apprehension. At dawn, a Patriot air-defense system, deployed near Ashod (south of Tel Aviv), detected an unidentified aircraft and shot it down.




The Ababil is not a novelty in the sky of Israel. Two years ago, the Lebanese Hezbollah used it gather intelligence. On that occasion, too, one Ababil was shot down as it headed for the Dimona nuclear power plant.
The Israeli Defense Minister, Moshe Yaalon, called the remote controlled aircraft employed by the Palestinians “another example of the continuous attempts to strike us in any possible way,” but its immediate downing constitutes an example “of the readiness of the Israeli armed forces.”
The flight of the Palestinian UAV triggered the highest level of air alarm over the southern city of Ashod, and the creation by the Israeli military of an off-limits area around the Kibbutz Mordechai (just north of the Gaza strip) could be related to that.





For some time now, the threat represented by the UAVs employed  as flying bombs by Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah militia has gotten the attention of the Israeli military command. In November 2012, a military spokesman divulged a video shot by an Israeli UAV in which a Palestinian remote-controlled could be seen taxiing on the runway of Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip. At that time, the armed forces of Jerusalem had announced they had quashed Hamas’s attempt to build a fleet of unmanned airplanes.  But, last March, General Shachar Shohat, the air defense chief, expressed anew the fear that Hamas and Hezbollah could add a fleet of UAVs to the arsenals of unguided rockets.
“We will have to face dozens of unmanned airplanes, on both the northern and the southern front,” said the general during a March 11 conference in Tel Aviv in which he prefigured the risk of mass attacks, intended to saturate the air defenses, with dozens of mini-drones armed with a few pounds of explosives as well as larger ones carrying a greater war load.
Since the end of the 2006 war, Hezbollah has employed many UAVs for reconnaissance missions over Galilee, that were lost when intercepted by fighters or hit by antiaircraft fire. The Israeli estimate that the  Hezbollah’s fleet consists of 200 Ababil and Mohajer remote controlled aircraft of Iranian origin; and, last March, the Saudi newspaper al-Watan reported that Hezbollah had 14 Iranian drones based at its new military airport in the region of Baalbek.  
Supposedly, several disassembled drones reached the Gaza Strip through clandestine channels; and they were reassembled in the hidden workshops of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, in which the relatively small Kassam rockets and the large M-302 rockets are also manufactured.



The UAVs are much slower and vulnerable than the rocket projectiles, but they are much more accurate because they can be remotely guided to the target, of which they can also transmit images up to moment from the impact. 
The Israeli air defense systems, like Iron Dome and Patriot, are capable of intercepting the drones, although at a very high cost. Within two years, Israel will also deploy a new laser-based air defense system, known as Iron Beam, which should be effective against rockets, artillery projectiles and small aircraft, at the cost of about $ 1,000 a shot, compared to the $ 20,000 of an Iron Dome’s Tamir missile and the $1,000,000, minimum, of a Patriot.


The images of the drones in the three-picture panel are from a video produced by Hamas. The image of the drone on the truck mounted launch rail depicts an Ababil UAV, and it's of Iranian origin. The last image shows Syrian vehicle launching unguided M-302's.
I'd like to thank J.J.P. for reviewing the English text.
L. Pavese  

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Homemade War of the Ukrainians





As if facing the aggressive pro-Russian secessionists were not enough, the Ukrainian armed forces have to deal also with the inefficiency of their government, which is failing them, even at the most basic level. To cope with the failures of the state institutions that are supposed to back them, the soldiers have to rely on civilian organizations that citizens have set up to gather and distribute what the troops need. 
But is it really just ineptitude, on the part of the Ukrainian state, or is this state of affairs intentional?


Di Valentina Cominetti
(Translated and edited by Leonardo Pavese)


From the outside the Donbas looks like hell. From Donetsk it is less frightening. One walks on eggshells, that’s for sure. The city is in the hands of the pro-Russian separatists, even though they took over just four buildings: two seats of the SBU (the Ukrainian Security Forces), the regional government building and the television headquarter.
To the north, south, and west are the points that secure the control of of the city because to the east it is not necessary.
The wisdom of this approach is not attributable to the pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists, who have often been even guilty of looting. For that reason, many supermarkets have closed, as well as all the automobile dealerships, which have very wisely stored their show cars in safer places.
The true strategists of the “separation” are the Russian, Ossetian but most of all Chechen fighters, who control the key points and very often have to restrain the pro-Russian Ukrainians.
We were present on June 2nd when the Vostok battalion had to clear a building occupied by the secessionists, taking away, to who knows where, in armored vehicles without markings, the Ukrainian militias that had taken over the Regional government seat.
According to father Vasily, of the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic cathedral of Donetsk, a change of leadership is taking place in the separatist forces, because dozens of Chechens keep coming to the occupied SBU seat, just fifty yards from the church. Many Chechens are also being buried in the Muslim cemetery behind the cathedral: on June 4, father Vasily counted twenty-six caskets.
The fighting takes place far from the inhabited areas, around the perimeter of the city. The pro-government forces surround the pro-Russians, but, to avoid civilian casualties, they do not attack them. This is the case in almost the entire war zone, with the exception of the tormented cities of Slavyansk and Luhansk, against which on June 16 an offensive was launched from many directions. But the problem remains, because the separatists concentrate in the residential areas.
The anti-terrorism operation (ATO), launched on April 13 by the Kiev government, to preserve the territorial integrity of the Ukraine, proceeds by fits and starts. On June 16, the Secretary of the National Security and Defense of the Ukraine, Andrij Parubiy, finally announced the creation of units of snipers within the DPSU (the equivalent of the U.S. Border Patrol), to enforce the control of the frontier with Russia: a measure that had been approved a long time ago.



The offensive operations of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the National Guard are sporadic and badly coordinated. The soldiers complain that the orders are not precise, when they’re not totally lacking.This is confirmed to us by a Captain from Crimea, who refused to join the Russian army and now lives in a refugee center in Kozubinski, near Kiev. The soldiers that returned home also confirm it, but especially many of the wounded we met at the military hospital in the capital: “We knew it wasn’t the right thing to do, but those were the orders,” they say, or “We had no idea about what we were supposed to do.”



They were not just lacking orders. The Ukrainian army is also being sent to fight without the proper equipment: the troops have guns, but they lack flak-jackets and even helmets. The kids who patrol the border zones have no logistical support. They are forced to spend weeks in the woods with no rotation, without sleeping bags or even a tent. Sometimes even food is scarce, which is the reason why many soldiers (but even the battalion commanders) have begun to ask their families and their friends for help.
Some, in the Ukrainian civil society, have organized to respond to the emergency. Many associations have been created to gather, purchase, and deliver supplies to the war zone. Armiya SOS is one of the largest ones, and they cooperate directly with the Ukrainian Department of Defense, whose bureaucratic procedures are too convoluted and rigid to face an emergency. The founder, Kostyantyn Ostrovskyy, has set up a Facebook page on which he posts a list of what is needed at the front-line and on which he collects the offers of assistance. The association’s contact in the combat zone is Yuri Kasyanov of the 1st Battalion, National Guard, who collects the requests of the various commanders and then delivers personally the material. Every day Kasyanov eludes the enemy check-points to take the packages to their destination, departing from the base in Izyum; which is a good sorting point, since it is situated right in the center of the combat zone, between Kharkiv, Donetsk, Luhansk and Slavyansk.



Even as far as taking care of casualties is concerned, the civil associations, more than the state, play a center stage role. Volonterska Sotnya (the Century of Volunteer Women) is an association that has taken under its supervision twenty hospitals in seven cities of the Ukraine, demanding adequate care for the wounded, sending eighty of the most serious cases to foreign hospitals, organizing legal and psychological assistance for the men, and finding and providing medications.
More than 1000 of the wounded have received assistance from this organization, which has also provided help to the troops at the front-line, where it sent more than 660 pounds of drugs, 400 first aid kits and 1500 flak jackets. “Because if we didn’t take care of it, many of the kids would die,” says the founder of the group, Natalia Sokolova.
The Ukrainian government does not even take care of the Reserve: the Defense Department can count on a small number of reservists, but it does not have the money to train them, let alone to train new members.
Therefore, the Ukrainian civil society is also getting more militarized, because the citizens are convinced that the national army is too weak, and they are afraid that, in the case of an invasion of other areas of the country, they would have to take up arms themselves. There are many newly created non-governmental courses that promise to instill military discipline in a short time; a few charge tuition, others do not.
We have spent two days at the Ukrainian Reserve Army, which is an association based in the countryside near Kiev. Regular people like white collar workers, students and small business owners, spend a weekend here to learn the fundamentals of military art, and they are charged only the price of ammunition (200 Hryvnias, about $ 12).



“Our goal is not to create a paramilitary militia, to be mobilized in case of a large scale invasion” explains Yura Gulei, one of the three founders. “We want communities that can react independently in case of attack. The Department of Defense authorized us but, unfortunately, that does not mean that they recognize the importance of having a well trained reserve.
We asked them for their help in designing a training program, but no one gave us any feedback, so we have to proceed on our own, imitating what they do in Switzerland, in America or in Israel. We do what we can, but we really feel let down by the government.”
The lack of confidence in the Government and Parliament is a very widespread feeling in the Ukraine, to the point of turning into distrust or even into suspicion. Many people, for example, think that a prolonged instability in the east of the country might even benefit the Ukrainian government. That is because, after the Maidan revolution, all the energy was focused on the renewal of the institutions. For example, many civil committees for the “Lustrazia” had been created, which were only waiting for a political legitimization through legislation introduced last March and never discussed in Parliament.
(The Lustrazia is a process of gradual rectification of the inefficiencies of the political system which create corruption. The promoters of Lustrazia also envision the expulsion from the administration of the people involved with the procedures that permitted the shooting in the crowd of protesters). But nothing has really changed, because the state and the society are bogged down, dealing with the contingency of warfare and counting their dead (135, on June 18). 
From this point of view, this “homemade” (in every sense) Ukrainian war has taken on the character of a diversion; at least according to many members of society that suspect that someone is trying to divert their attention from change, but at the same time cannot believe it, or, more simply, do not have time to even entertain the idea.

Valentina Cominetti is a young Italian reporter, who graduated from the Luiss Guido Carli University in Political Science and Communications and writes mainly about foreign affairs and geopolitical issues. Ms. Cominetti blogs at polemicafertile.
The article was first published on the Italian on-line magazine Analisi Difesa, and was translated and posted here with their permission. 
I'd like to thank J.J.P. for reviewing the English text. 
You comments will be greatly appreciated. Thank you,
L. Pavese  

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Green Monster to the Rescue




The Environmentalist Crusade recruits Godzilla.
by Stefano Magni
(Translated by L. Pavese)

Imagine an early summer afternoon, you go to see Godzilla, with the obvious intention to have fun, to see nice special effects and, most of all, to admire, on the big screen, a story about the great struggle of Man against Nature gone mad. But instead, what do you find? A movie that overflows with environmentalist rhetoric from beginning to end.
Now, that Godzilla was a green monster (and as tall as a mountain, in this latest American version) was already known for the last sixty years; but his recruiting by the Environmentalist Crusade is just the last piece of news from an increasingly ideologized Hollywood.
A hint to ecology, a criticism of destructive and not always creative science was already present in the original 1954 Gojira (anglicized in Godzilla), directed by Ishiro Honda. The first Godzilla was, in fact, the monstrous incarnation of the atomic bomb, nine years after the dropping of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was a new kind of monster; an unintentional product of the American nuclear tests in the Pacific, that had arisen to wipe out every human trace with its size, his radioactive breath and the fallout that trailed him like a deadly contrail.
It was a monstrous emblem of a science gone mad, into the hands of sorcerer’s apprentices that could no longer control it. Nevertheless, at the end Godzilla was killed by scientists; and precisely by a scientist who had managed to invent a new and equally destructive weapon, with which he killed the dragon and also himself: a Japanese sacrifice to take to the grave the secrets of the new weapon of mass destruction, and prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.             
Therefore, the original Godzilla was a bitter analysis of the relation between science and ethics: the 20th century was the first century in which the unethical use of science could have caused the extinction of mankind; still, it was a struggle within humankind, between a good and a bad idea of progress. And to make a great movie they could have just replicated the original Godzilla along the same storyline, with 2014 special effects.



After twenty-eight Japanese sequels, ranging from horrible to unbelievable, the first remake from Hollywood, in 1998, stood out for its superficiality: a “science-fiction” movie, not very well thought-out, with a sorry monster that gets killed by a couple of missiles launched by F-22’s fighters. Pretty disappointing stuff, in other words. But this totally ideological remake directed by Gareth Edwards, still in theaters, is even worse.
First of all, the viewers are distracted by a host of monsters. There are in fact two huge cockroaches, as tall as skyscrapers, that feed on radioactive material and emit electromagnetic impulses (capable of deactivating electric circuits over very large areas) which de facto play the role of the first and only true Godzilla. The characters in the movie, and the U.S. armed forces, prove totally inept against these monsters (called MUTO’s, the English acronym of unidentified land organisms).
Especially because the screenwriter, who obviously does not shine for his strategic abilities, makes them do one stupid thing after another. Who is going to save us from these new radioactive monsters, against which men are totally helpless? (Or too stupid to be able to compete with them?): Godzilla, who is depicted here as a primitive force of Nature, our true Savior.
And so, all these useless little men, with their useless tanks, their aircraft carriers and their nuclear bombs can’t do anything but watching the monsters fight, letting three places be destroyed (Oahu, Las Vegas and San Francisco) and listen to a lecture after another from a Japanese scientist, who is the true narrator of the picture: Man is arrogant and must let Nature follow her course; he must realize that he should just obey her, etcetera etcetera. Reminders of recent natural catastrophes abound.
At the beginning of the movie, we watch the destruction of a Japanese nuclear power plant (Fukushima), and in the middle of the picture, the Hawaii tsunami (the great tsunami of 2004). They are not casual references: in fact, for environmentalists those were catastrophes in which people played a part, and caused by “global warming,” that is, according to them, a product of human industrial activity and the source of every new anomaly. In the not-too-subtle metaphor of Godzilla, the cause of both disasters are the monsters generated by human arrogance, that only Nature can counterbalance. And at what price: three cities wiped out, but then they all lived happily everafter.
The disappointment of Godzilla was foreseeable: the 21st century is the Green era. Even the Bible was re-written in a vegan key: in Noah, by Darren Aronofsky, God punishes mankind through the flood because...Man ate meat; and because he was “industrious.”
But the new environmental manifesto was launched with a great feeling for new trends by James Cameron in 2009, with his Avatar: a planetary hit, that is already a classic. In  Avatar, Man is the greedy, ugly yankee colonizer of a planet inhabited by primitive aliens who, of course, live in harmony with the “eco-system”, and their Gaia, like Gianroberto Casaleggio would like.





The humans (in Avatar) wanted to extract a precious mineral, but they were pushed back by the extraterrestrials, even though they fought with spears and arrows, like the Indios of old; and the hero is the only human being that becomes like an alien, changing sides. Avatar was the compendium of the environmental way of thinking: anti-growth, collectivist and fundamentally anti-human.
Even in a movie that was apparently foreign to the environmentalist theme, like Gravity (that was also reviewed by Roberto Dal Bosco in these columns), green fear is more than evident: space ceases to  be the new frontier, and becomes a dark, empty and dangerous place. Better to remain with one’s feet on the ground (as in the last frames of the film), and live in harmony with Gaia. It is now a rule set in stone: between Man and Nature, Nature must prevail.
If today they were to shoot a remake of Armageddon (the movie in Bruce Willis saves the earth from the impact with a comet), the director and the screenwriter would let the comet win; just to extinguish this hateful human race.

The article was originally published on the Italian on-line daily La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana and was translated and published here by permission from the author.
Your comments will be very appreciated. Thank you,
L. Pavese