May 31, 2004

CIA & Chile 

One of the lefty mantras is "The USA supported Augusto Pinochet in his coup to overthrow democratically-elected Salvador Allende!". For years, being too lazy to look it up I accepted this fact. But recently I stumbled across this article of FrontPage Magazine, which brings evidence of a different story. In short, while President Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger did not like Allende at all, and tried to get rid of him, the USA did not support the coup.

First of all, Allende was yes democratically elected, but definitely not by a large majority. Indeed, the candidate of the Right obtained just a little less votes:

The starting point for the Chilean drama was a presidential election that took place in September 1970, three full years before the military coup whose anniversary was recently marked. There were several candidates. One--Salvador Allende, a socialist and avowed Marxist running in coalition with the Communist party--came in first, with 36.3 percent of the vote. Within a razor's edge behind him was former President Jorge Alessandri, the candidate of the Right, who received 34.9 percent. Radomiro Tomic, of the ruling Christian Democrats, came in third with 27.8 percent.

Such presidential elections, with no candidate receiving an absolute majority, were common in Chile. The constitutional procedures of the day specifically mandated that, instead of a runoff between the two leading candidates, the winner was to be selected by the Chilean congress, scheduled to meet several weeks hence. Although the legislature was not strictly required to opt for the frontrunner, firm custom suggested that it would do so. What raised the stakes in the 1970 race was the presence of Allende himself, a man with strong Soviet-bloc and Cuban connections and even more sinister associations within Chile's far Left. Consequently, between the election on September 4 and the congressional vote on October 24, Chile was awash in rumors and plots, most of them related to efforts to block Allende's accession to power.

In truth, Chile was already deeply unstable for internal reasons. Many people distrusted Allende's association with URSS and Cuba (I have read on other sources that Castro financed the Chilean lefty extremists... I wonder why no-one calls this a "war crime" or an "illegal intervention"), and his association with the revolutionary Left.

On November 4, 1970, Salvador Allende assumed the presidency in an atmosphere of euphoria and even good will almost unimaginable in retrospect. Apart from his own four-party coalition (Popular Unity) headed by the Socialist and Communist parties, the new president could count on the "critical support" of the Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR), which historically had questioned the possibility of social change in Chile through peaceful electoral means. [...] After his inauguration, Allende met with the Christian Democratic leadership in an atmosphere of good humor and camaraderie; the chief of the delegation even urged the president to "help us be good allendistas."
Instead, intoxicated by ideological triumphalism, Allende's people did everything they could to split the Christian Democrats, luring the party's left wing over to the governing coalition while wreaking political vengeance on the rest. As Allende supporters seized factories and farms throughout Chile, Christian Democratic workers were dismissed and their union leaders refused access to the premises.[...]

The net effect of these actions was, paradoxically, to discredit the "collaborationist" leadership of the Christian Democrats and bring about its replacement with more conservative figures. By 1973, the party had been pushed into a tactical electoral alliance with the Right, a development that would have been unthinkable three years earlier. In March 1973, in the last parliamentary election held under Allende, the combined Christian Democratic-Conservative list won a thumping 56 percent of the vote.

A coup was breeding in Chile from early 1973, and the USA was only marginally involved.
Kissinger's line of action was in fact to finance the Chilean democratic opposition:

The United States did play a role in Chile, though not precisely the one ascribed to it. It attempted--unsuccessfully--to forestall Allende's confirmation by the Chilean congress. But once he was in office, the thrust of U.S. policy shifted to sustaining a democratic opposition and an independent press until Allende could be defeated in the presidential elections scheduled for 1976. To the extent that this opposition was able to survive under extraordinarily difficult economic circumstances--winning control of the Chilean congress in March 1973--one might even credit the Nixon administration with preventing the consolidation of Allende's "totalitarian project" (to use the apt expression of Eduardo Frei).

What then followed--a right-wing dictatorship that crushed not merely the Allende regime but Chilean democracy itself--was not and could not have been predicted, partly because of the military's own apolitical traditions and partly because, by mid-1973, the opposition to Allende was dominated by forces of proved democratic provenance. To the contrary, Washington's presumption--that in the 1976 elections, if they were allowed to take place, the opposition would win decisively--was amply supported by the facts. It was only the savagery of the subsequent Pinochet dictatorship that in hindsight altered the historical picture.

Read the whole thing, and ponder the final paragraph:

Such are a few of the pesky but all-important details that "revisionists" like Hitchens and the makers of The Trials of Henry Kissinger are at pains to avoid, if indeed they were ever aware of them in the first place. Those who mourn the loss of a Marxist regime in Chile are free to denounce the adversarial efforts undertaken by Nixon, Kissinger, and the CIA, as are the legions of marchers with their placards equating American officials with Nazis and mass murderers. Those, like the editorialists of the New York Times, who are indifferent to the uses of anti-Americanism are likewise free to join the chorus. But anyone with a serious concern for historical truth--or for the long-term survival of democracy in Chile--or for the reputation of the United States and the policy it endeavored with honor to implement during the tortuous decades of the cold war--might well be moved to reexamine the record.

The basic reason of the anti-American bias in the lefty circles is that American society is, form its roots, strongly individualistic and capitalist: the nemesis of Marxism. Whoever the President is, America is the place where liberal democracy has found its best realization to date (that is, not perfect, sadly). But Marxists believe that capitalism is Evil, no matter what. Thus, the most capitalist country must be the incarnation of evil: actual Italian marxists will barely thank the USA for the defeat of Hitler and Mussolini. For certain people, there is no hope of redemption. Others, not so deeply immersed in ideology, might consider the true facts and take logic decisions.

Updated on 16 June to correct a few typos.

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Do you like the new counter? After reaching the amazing number of 100 visits (sic), I decided it was time to have a little more professional counter. I can also see my referrals, and here's the first funny surprise: my weblog shows up on Virgilio if searching "Hic sunt leones impero romano". Supercool!

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May 28, 2004

Moral Equivalence on BBC 

Last night I turned on my TV, and on BBC 2 I saw a disgusting piece of moral equivalence presented as a documentary.

They fucking lumped together the Colombian FARC and Colombian anti-terror police; another Marxist terrorist militia in the Philippines and the new Afghan National Army; a Sudanese Islamic militia and the regular US Army in Iraq.

Yes, all together, like they were all good or bad the same, without the faintest attempt at telling the different scopes and motivations of the various groups. Yes, they let people speak on their own, but without recapping, without a comment. A professional, well trained and disciplined US soldier and a recruit, barely capable of hitting her target but filled with ideology in a Philipino marxist militia? All the same.

Disgusting, really. I could not stand it for long. This coward, decadent moral relativism is the attitude that will bring self-destruction to our society.

UPDATE: Here's the link to that disgraced programme, One Day of War

A new series of This World begins with a unique television event, as BBC filmmakers follow 16 very different people on a single day to reveal the human stories behind the conflicts. Some of these battles are over disputed homelands, some are about deepest convictions, power or sheer survival.

No, no moral equivalence here, eh? Fuck.

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May 25, 2004

Cosa succede qui? 

Ho l'impressione che le cose in Italia stiano per precipitare: all'inizio di Giugno - in occasione della Festa della Repubblica Roma e della visita di George Bush - vedrá grandi manifestazioni di imbecillitá ed un grosso raduno di utili dioti.

"Hic sunt leones era scritto sulle antiche mappe dell'impero romano per indicare i luoghi ribelli, bene - spiegano gli incappucciati - noi vogliamo che anche Roma venga segnata sulle mappe dell'Impero con un Hic sunt leones". Per raggiungere l'obiettivo il movimento si prepara ad una giornata lunga di contestazioni che ogni spezzone del movimento organizzerà con le forme che sceglierà. Previsti blocchi a sorpresa in diversi luoghi della città fin dal mattino e per questo il movimento fa "appello agli studenti, ai precari, ai cittadini a bloccare la mobilità della città per rovesciare la zona rossa". Ingorgare Bush e rendere ingestibile la città. "Far capire che Roma rifiuta Bush e la militarizzazione. Rifuggiamo - dicono gli incappucciati - un confronto diretto con le forze dell'ordine come è stato fatto in altre occasioni". Il modello G8 di Genova sembra dunque superato.

Certo... ribellione, blocchi stradali: proprio il modo giusto per evitare il confronto diretto con la polizia. Poi forse mi sbaglio, ma la dicitura "Hic sunt leones" stava ad indicare le aree selvagge ed inesplorate.

Poteva mancare il cocomero sulla torta, ovvero il campione dell'avversione irrazionale a Bush, Michael Moore? No di certo.

[...]e questo per dire che la nascita della Repubblica non si può festeggiare con Bush". Lì ci sarà la kermesse conclusiva alla quale dovrebbe partecipare Michael Moore, le trattative sono in fase avanzata.

Quanto incasserá Moore da questa apparizione, se andrá in porto la trattativa? Non credo che l'argomento verrá indagato a fondo...
Se non con Bush, con chi si potrebbe festeggiare la Repubblica? Saddam Hussein forse? Yasser Arafat?
O Kim Il Sung, il dittatore nord-coreano con manie di onnipotenza?
Gli USA hanno spesso usato metodi aggressivi - ed a volte crudeli - per fare i loro interessi, questo é evidente. Ma chi mette sullo stesso piano Bush ed Hitler, o Hussein, puó essere soltanto uno distaccato dalla realtá... oppure in enorme malafede. A forza di vivere in una societá ampiamente libera, ci si dimentica di cosa sia un vero regime.

E concludiamo con la perla: i pacifisti dichiarano l'intento di iniziare per primi scontri di piazza:

Ma prima del 4 giugno ci sarà la prova del 2, la festa della Repubblica. Per le 9.30 i pacifisti si danno appuntamento all'incrocio tra via Labicana e via dei Normanni con l'intento di bloccare la parata militare dei Fori imperiali. "Faremo sentire - dicono - la nostra indignazione per la festa della Repubblica trasformata in uno sfoggio di potenza bellica. Fermeremo la parata con i nostri corpi". Ovvero: proveranno a sfondare i cordoni.

Ma posso prevedere che se qualcuno dei No-global e compagnia prenderá un sacco di botte, allora sará solo colpa della repressione e della violenza di stato, dei "Robocop" servi dei padroni e blah blah blah...

Intanto, in Campania i rifiuti continuano ad accumularsi per le strade. Io non ho idea di come si sia arrivati a questa tragica situazione, ma di certo é il risultato di anni di incompetenza, inazione e corruzione, a tutti i livelli. Ma come sia puó risolvere la situazione? Con i termovalorizzatori:

Sul versante politico il presidente della giunta regionale della Campania, Antonio Bassolino, ha parlato dell'emergenza rifiuti durante la seconda conferenza nazionale dei siti iscritti all'Unesco a Paestum. "La strada da seguire - ha detto Bassolino - è quella di un percorso integrato fatto anche da un aumento della raccolta differenziata". Bassolino ha però aggiunto che in Campania sono già stati completati i sette impianti di Cdr (combustibile da rifiuti), ma "ora per ultimare il ciclo occorre avere impianti di termovalorizzazione. Questa - ha aggiunto - a mio giudizio era, è e sarà la strada da seguire".

Cosa puó essere questa strana creatura, il termovalorizzatore? Una strana bestia senza dubbio, un termine che puzza di incrocio fra linguaggio tecnologico e correttezza politica all'italiana.

In realtá si tratta di una centrale elettrica fatta per bruciare combustibile da rifiuti (ovvero, la frazione di plastica e carta presente nei rifiuti solidi urbani, che ha un notevole potere calorifico). Penso che questo orribile termine sia stato inventato per ragioni d'immagine: ormai l'inceneritore é tabú; solo nominarlo provoca convulsioni ed attacchi isterici - di peggio puó accadere solo quandi si parla di "nucleare". Anche centrale elettrica é rischioso.
Comunque, terminologia patetica a parte, questo é l'unico sistema per affrontare lo smaltimento dei rifiuti: il riciclaggio funziona bene in teoria, ma ci sono tanti problemi pratici che lo rendono poco efficiente. Il combustibile da rifiuti, invece, permette allo stesso tempo di smaltire rifiuti in modo poco inquinante (le ceneri saranno una quantitá minima, mentre le emissioni gassose si possono controllare facilmente) e produrre energia elettrica.

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May 16, 2004


The first and simplest way to harm an enemy at distance is to throw an object at him/it.
Probably the first projectiles were naturally occurring stones, but soon humans figured out several ways to impart more speed to projectiles, because more speed means more lethality and increased range. These first weapons were slings, bows and sort of levers used to impert more speed to spears. Also the projectiles evolved, becoming accurately shpaed stones or pellets, arrows, spears, and later incendiary mixtures, like tar and saltpeter.
For many centuries, the situation remained the same: same kind of projectiles, same kind of machines to launch them (only the Chinese developed long ago propellants and rockets to be used as weapons and signals). Only the size increased: the Middle Age siege catapults were monster capable of throwing stones of some hundred kilos at a distance of several hundred of meters; crossbow flechettes could pierce the heaviest body armor at considerable distance.

The most basic equation to know about projectiles and bullets is this: the kinetic energy of a moving body is proportional to its mass and to the square of its speed. In short:

Ek = 1/2 * m * v^2

If we express mass in kg and speed in m/s, the resulting energy is in Joules.
It's clear that increasing speed is the best way to increase energy; but there is a limit to the speed obtainable with mechanical propulsion methods.

When finally firearms were invented, things come to an abrupt change: even clumsy as they were at the time, firearms rapidly surpassed any other weapon in terms of range and lethality. The performance of today's firearms are stunning: sniper rifles have an effective range of almost 1000 m - if fired by a properly trained shooter, of course. Machine guns have fire rate of hundred of shots per minute and effective range of 3000 m.
A firearm is a device used to transform the chemical energy of the propellant (a substance or mixture capable of very fast combustion) in kinetic energy of the projectile - called bullet in case of small arms, but also slug or ball, depending from the kind of firearm and characteristics of the projectile. Shell usually indicates a large caliber projectile (from 20-25 mm upwards) loaded with explosive, incendiary mixtures or other substances.
The great quantity of hot gases produced by the burning propellant expand in the gun's barrel and thus exert a force on the bullet, accelerating it through the barrel. The initial speed varies from 250-300 m/s for handguns and shotguns, to 900 m/s for precision rifles. Cannons (from 20mm upwards) can have even higher muzzle speed. Nowadays, usually bullet, propellant and primer are combined in a single piece called cartridge: cartridge cases can be made of plastic (for shotguns and military combustible cases), carboard (hunting rifles), or brass - the most common option.
Shotguns have a smooth barrel (or barrels), and they usually fire a cartridge containing a number of small, spherical, lead bullets: these weapons are mostly used to hunt birds and other small animals at relatively close range (50 m); shotguns loaded with heavy shots are very effective against personnel in close combat situations.
Other guns have rifled barrels, which have twiststing grooves on the inner surface: the scope of these grooves is to impart to the bullet a rotation around its longitudinal axis, in order to have a more stable trajectory.

Bullets are usually made of lead, because it's a dense metal, cheap and easy to cast and machine; high-performance ammunitions need a brass-jacketed bullet (Remember Full Metal Jacket, the movie?) because lead is too soft and it would be sheared off by the rifling grooves while accelerating through the barrell.

Bullets come in many different styles, but basically they are optimized either for penetration or stopping/killing power. To achieve the maximum effectiveness, in fact, a bullet should transfer all of its kinetic energy to the target, but a very strong bullet, optimized for penetration, is very likely to pierce the target from side to side (the "target" in this discussion is usually assumed to be a human body) and reatin some energy. In military apllications, this usually is not a big problem: a wounded man is more a burden for an army than a dead man (a wounded needs to be evacuated and treated); international treaties impose some regulations on the bullets to use etc. Jacketed bullets also offer a good penetration against body armor and thin metal barriers (think of a car's door, that unlike we see in movies, gives only a minimal protection), and special bullets with a dense core (usually tungsten carbide) can be effective even against ligthly armored vehicles.

In the field of law enforcement, personal defense and hunting (the worst possible outcome for a hunter is to have a wounded prey fleeing and getting lost), on the other hand, it is required to kill or incapacitate the target in the most effective way, possibly with a single shot. But range and accuracy are still important. For this reason, a variety of deformable balls has been developed. These bullets are explicitly designed to expand upon impact, in order to cause deep and extended wounds, transfer more energy and produce a shockwave in the target's tissue: the shockwave alone is enough to damage vital organs.

What's in the future for bullets? Electromagnetic guns have the potential to fire bullets at speeds of kilometes per second, but they're still in development phase. They might be fielded in a ten years, I suppose.
For the moment, respect firearms, and learn about them, because a gun is no joke: it's built to kill.

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Light Posting 

Here I am again.

I posted nothing in the last teo weeks, because I've been under very strong work pressure (Did I mention that I work in the field of high pressure reactions? Ah, that's fun...)
I also had personal difficulties which did not help me to concentrate.
But now, my bread is baking in the oven, my nice lunch is in front of me, the sun is shining (negative note: the jerk upstairs is listening to some shitty techno music too loud), and I feel inspired to write something.

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May 02, 2004

Il poker degli ostaggi 

Come prevedibile, le manifestazioni in Italia ci sono state - anche se diversamente da quanto pensavo, si è trattato principalmente di parenti ed amici dei sequestrati, che sono scesi in piazza in buona fede - ma riposta male.

Tuttavia, cosa pensate che abbiano fatto i sequestratori? Hanno forse liberato gli ostaggio dicendo "Italia Iraq una faccia una razza"?
Nemmeno per idea: hanno visto le manifestazioni, ed hanno rilanciato con la richiesta che il nostro governo faccia pressione per liberare certi iracheni detenuti in Kurdistan. I curdi, dovrebbe essere noto, hanno forse sofferto il peggio della repressione di Hussein, e finalmente sono riusciti a costruire uno stato decente approfittando della zona di non sorvolo. Quindi a questa richiesta delle Brigate Verdi hanno risposto con la versione educata di "Una bella merda".

E quindi la partita va avanti... quando arriverà il momento di vedere le carte?
Ma nel frattempo l'Italia sta facendo la figura della troietta delle Brigate Verdi. Dov'è il leader forte quando ne serve davvero uno??

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