Headsup: The first 8 episodes of the RAI/HBO production "My Brilliant Friend" about a supreme alpha-girl and her "moon" of a best friend airing in 60-plus countries are proving amazingly endearing. So many colorful elements of evolving post WWII Italy on display. Yes, some violence too, but peanuts compared to say New York in that era. A real must-see.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A New Book Explains The Unfruitful Emergence Of More And More Conspiracy Theories

Posted by Peter Quennell


Conspiracy theorists have dismally failed to come up with a plausible alternative theory of how Meredith died.

However, they do keep trying. So do the proponents of literally hundreds of other conspiracy theories, constituting vast amounts of effort probably better spent elsewhere - conspiracy theorists very rarely achieve very much, or do well economically, or rise to the top jobs.

The articles here and here look with skepticism on the 9/11 conspiracy theories which on the tenth anniversary of the twin towers coming down have been pushed hard by the various factions.

Now a new book “The Believing Brain” explains the mental makeup that disposes people to so eagerly believe the worst of our fellow man or our governments: One review in the Wall Street Journal..

In Mr. Shermer’s view, the brain is a belief engine, predisposed to see patterns where none exist and to attribute them to knowing agents rather than to chance—the better to make sense of the world. Then, having formed a belief, each of us tends to seek out evidence that confirms it, thus reinforcing the belief.

This is why, on the foundation of some tiny flaw in the evidence—the supposed lack of roof holes to admit poison-gas cans in one of the Auschwitz-Birkenau gas chambers for Holocaust deniers, the expectant faces on the grassy knoll for JFK plotters, the melting point of steel for 9/11 truthers—we go on to build a great edifice of mistaken conviction….

Mr. Shermer offers a handy guide for those who are confused. Conspiracy theories are usually bunk when they are too complex, require too many people to be involved, ratchet up from small events to grand effects, assign portentous meanings to innocuous events, express strong suspicion of either governments or companies, attribute too much power to individuals or generate no further evidence as time goes by.

The increasingly shrill posts appearing daily on the website Ground Report seem to mark pretty high against that list. Could the Evil Mignini have engineered even this?

Oops. Another conspiracy theory in play.

Posted on 09/14/11 at 10:05 AM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: News media & moviesMedia newsThe psychologyKnox-Mellas teamSollecito teamMore hoaxers
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Monday, September 12, 2011

As We Long Predicted Knox Will Not Face Cross Examination When It Really Matters

Posted by Peter Quennell


Majority opinion in Perugia has long inclined to the view that the right perps were convicted back in December 2009.

It is very hard to see the six jury members (the lay judges) bucking that trend without being given a great deal more red meat for them to convince their friends and neighbors (and for that matter most of Italy) than they have now.

And Judge Hellman has a reputation similar to Judge Massei’s for making sure all the bases are covered and for not arriving at trial or appeal outcomes based on a few outlying contradictory “facts” or a mere whim. He too has been given very little that is new.

Putting Knox and Sollecito on the stand now would seem the last best shot at taking care of that.

But there is no sign that either defense team has been eager to see their clients speak out at any time, and Knox was even publicly warned early on not to do so.

The teams quite possibly winced now and then (along with many others) at Knox’s performances in past spontaneous declarations and in her stint on the stand in July 2009 which did not really go over at all well.

See here and here and here.

Kermit in this December 2010 post explained the risks Knox would face on the stand. Kermit helpfully included 150 cross-examination questions to drive home the stark point.

So. Knox and Sollecito. Trapped by poor legal and PR strategy between the devil and the deep blue sea.

Posted on 09/12/11 at 09:18 AM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: The officially involvedAppeals 2009-2015Hellmann 2011+Amanda KnoxKnox-Mellas team
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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Conspicuous By Their Absence Now: Legal Commentators For Sollecito And Knox

Posted by Peter Quennell


There is a marked sharp contrast now between how various reporters without legal backgrounds and various real lawyers are seeing the state of play in the appeal.

The post below shows how flavor-of-the-month reporters like Nick Pisa are still reporting happy talk from Knox and her entourage, while, within their professional constraints, we see more and more lawyers realisng Sollecito and Knox really are cooked.

Half a dozen of the main posters on TJMK who are lawyers (they identify themselves as such when they post) have explained how tough is the real case. Various Italian lawyers continue to offer us insights and tips from Perugia and Rome.  And we continue to see maybe half a dozen lawyers a week getting in touch by email or signing up, a trend that shows no sign of fading out.

In contrast all of the lawyers and legal commentators who were once suggesting the process in Perugia had taken a wrong turn have gone quiet, and no new legal voices for Solllecito and Knox are speaking up. The CNN legal shows devote almost no air time to the appeal, and Geraldo Rivera, Dan Abrams, John Q Kelly, Lis Wiehl and others have wound down their commentaries to brief equivocations or nothing at all. 

Ted Simon who is believed to be still on the Mellas-Knox payroll seems be operating only from very deep cover. Knox’s own lawyers pass on the (to us sad) happy talk from Capanne while themselves sounding very cautious and down.

And the former lawyer and political commentator Ann Coulter who does us the peculiar favor of including us in her definition of right wing is starkly declaring that the increasingly small number of increasingly shrill non-lawyers for Sollecito and Knox really should get a life.

By now, the only people who believe Knox and Sollecito are the usual criminal apologists and their friends in the American media.

Serial smearer and evidence incompetent Steve Moore as one of the usual criminal apologists?! That has to hurt.


Thursday, September 08, 2011

Fourteenth Appeal Session: Judge Hellmann Consults Jury And Concludes They Have Enough To Wrap Up

Posted by Peter Quennell


Judge Hellman took the jury into chambers for half an hour yesterday and they decided not to delay matters for a further DNA review.

Final arguments will therefore take place later this month (dates in our right column) and a verdict on the appeal could be announced by the end of the month.

Defenses didn’t ask yesterday to put their clients on the stand, no further impromptu remarks from the defendants were made, and no defense request for review of the very damning mixed blood traces was advanced.

Our Italian lawyers are not rating chances of a full acquittal above one or two percent. They believe the groundwork for that has simply not been laid.  The judges and jury dont have what is needed to upend the detailed outcomes of two trials and two other appeals. And the Italian system is nothing if not very cautious and lacking in surprise. 

The Supreme Court has accepted that THREE attackers had to have been present on the night. Not the slightest evidence of any perps other than the three put on trial has been advanced. No scenario has been offered in court for Guede having committed the crime on Meredith alone - in fact Guede accused the other two of being there right to their faces in court.

Free-lance reporter Nick Pisa (image above) who we often quote on the occasions when we think he’s got it right reported yesterday in the Daily Mail that Prosecutor Comodi expressed frustration with the judge and predicted an acquittal due to bias.

This is not confirmed by any Italian source and Ms Comodi is simply reported there as saying she had expected the request for further tests to be turned down and the defendants COULD still walk. Nothing more.

TJMK main poster Will Savive offered this explanation for Nick Pisa’s apparent serious mistake in a comment on our previous post.

ABC News is also reporting that they spoke to Comodi after the session and it is a big difference than what Pisa wrote.

In fact, it is ABC who has claimed that they interviewed her. According to ABC, Comodi informed them that there is “a possibility” that Knox and Sollecito could win the appeal. There is also a possibility that the sun will fall from the sky, so it is all in the context and translation of how she said it. Then ABC quoted her as saying, “I would find it very serious if they were set free.”

FOX News also reported Comodi speaking out. Sheppard Smith put Comodi’s alleged quote on the screen and it read word for word what Pisa wrote. FOX has been decent, in my opinion, thus far on reporting on the case, but Sheppard and his two cronies today were amateur at best and clearly not educated on the case.

It is very likely that Pisa twisted her quote to fit his agenda and make news; I wouldn’t be surprised!

HOWEVER…

The Seattle Times has the best piece on it I think.  In their article they write the interview as going like this:

COMODI: We did our job. I am convinced by what I have said. I am fully convinced of their guilt and I would find it very serious if they were set free. Today’s decision could lead one to think that there is more of a possibility that they be set freed.

So in essence, she never said that there is a possibility, in her opinion. She said that the hearing today “could lead one to think that there is more of a possibility that they be set freed.” It seems as though only Pisa is reporting it the way he did.

The Seattle Times included this: “Knox’s lawyer Luciano Ghirga warned that the court’s rejection of new DNA testing was not equal to a positive outcome of the whole appeals trial.”

As discussed at length on PMF (link just below) the present Knox PR hype is very reminiscent of the hype just before Judge Massei’s blunt and unequivocal verdict was read out.

Posted on 09/08/11 at 08:41 AM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: Evidence & witnessesDNA and luminolAppeals 2009-2015Hellmann 2011+
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Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Thirteenth Appeal Session:  It Looks Like The Defenses’ Last Best Shot Might Have Fallen Short

Posted by Peter Quennell


Tuesday’s was an abbreviated court session because of a strike in Perugia.

It emerged in the time remaining that the DNA that was remaining on both the bra clasp AND the knife might have been re-tested if Carla Vecchioti and Stefano Conti had not come up with some contentious quibbles for not proceeding.

The prosecution may now call for those tests to actually be done, by a new set of independent experts. Hard to see this amounting to pivotal either way any more, and Judge Hellman might simply move the court on.

Seemingly no grounds left now for Judge Hellman to live up to the PR-instilled rumor that he is about to deny Meredith her justice.

The Italian reporting today as usual leaves the English reporting in the dust. It conveys a picture of more of the same tough rebuttal that we were seeing yesterday. There are some quick translations on PMF via the PMF link at the bottom of this post. .

Amanda Knox looked increasingly down today as she absorbed the trend in the testimony, and at one point she slumped on the table seemingly asleep. Serial over-promising by her suffocating entourage hasn’t done her any good.

Mr Mignini believes that at several points Amanda Knox wanted to confess and to pay her dues. Surely better this than a Caysey Anthony or OJ Simpson situation with their attendant huge overtones of illegitimacy.

Posted on 09/06/11 at 11:06 PM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: The officially involvedThe defensesAppeals 2009-2015Hellmann 2011+
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Monday, September 05, 2011

Twelfth Appeal Session: Prosecution Start To Undermine The Independent Experts’ More Tenuous Claims

Posted by Peter Quennell



[Above: Dr Stefanoni head of the Scientific Police’s Rome DNA labs with her prosecution interrogator Ms Comodi]


Monday’s Italian reporting suggests that Dr Stefanoni is coming across as highly competent and very objective.

Her team’s DNA handling and testing seems to have cut no corners. Her testimony will spill over into Tuesday.  The AGI News Service describes Dr Stefanoni on Monday running through her procedures and precuaions and denying that contamination could have taken place.

She hit point by point on all the complaints made by the consultants of the Assize Court of Appeal at Perugia about the police work in the context of scientific investigations into the murder of Meredith Kercher. She strongly defended the specialist work done by her laboratory. Stefanoni has categorically ruled out a possible contamination of the findings, pointing out that “the contamination is not ‘a thing that comes out of something abstract.”

The expert then recalled that the DNA of each operator that operates within the laboratories of the scientific police is ‘duly filed and that any possibility of contamination, whether by a person or from sample to sample, is tested on a regular basis. Dr Stefanoni also described how the “wet samples” collected on the first day of the murder investigation were kept in the refrigerator of the house and then brought to Rome.

And La Nazione in describing the same testimony adds that the defenses are taking quite a gamble in their all-or-nothing approach where a full acquittal seems increasingly unlikely and where the prosecution are asking for tougher sentences for Knox and Sollecito based on a waiver of Judge Massei’s mitigating circumstances.

The huge volume of evidence not being re-examined in the current appeal (about 95% of all evidence including a majority of the forensic evidence) is highlighted in many of the reports. Rudy Guede’s direct accusation of Knox and Sollecito to their faces in one appeal session is also recalled.

No mention of the position of the no-nonsense Supreme Court of Cassation position but that gorilla has to loom large in Judge Hellman’s mind. Judge Hellman does not have the final word on this appeal in Italian law, and a final outcome may take another 18 months. And if there is any funny business suspected, appeals can always be made to Cassation instantly.

In light of these two circumstances, the defense teams are still much more pussyfooting in Italian in the appeal court than the shrill PR claims in English-language media, while still not making the smartest move in Italian courts when defendants seem cooked and evoking some sympathy for them.

Knox’s best chances seem to be falling between those two stools.

Posted on 09/05/11 at 11:00 PM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: Evidence & witnessesDNA and luminolAppeals 2009-2015Hellmann 2011+More hoaxers
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In Good Italian Meredith’s Family Remind Italy Of Who Is The Real Victim Here

Posted by Peter Quennell

Stephanie Kercher writes an open letter (two of Meredith’s family are conversant in Italian, and Meredith had been fluent on arrival in Perugia) to Judge Hellman.

She questions the very strange slant of the DNA report in which Greg Hampikian seems to have had a suspect role.

The letter is very widely quoted from in the Italian media which has been highly sympathetic to Meredith and generally left cold by the antics of Knox, Sollecito, and their entourages.

CNN carries one of the few English-language reports. Generally a good one though it omits that Rudy Guede accused Knox and Sollecito to their faces in appeal court.

No English version was issued to our knowledge, and this is our main poster Tiziano’s translation, from TGCom.

In the last week we have been anxiously awaiting and in great agitation at the opinions being spread around about the original DNA tests.  It is extremely difficult to understand how the evidence which had been acquired with care and presented at the first grade trial as valid can now risk becoming irrelevant.

How can a quantity of DNA evidence be considered of little importance when the same experts do not give precise answers on the quantity which ought to be taken into consideration?

Furthermore, it should be remembered that both the parties, the prosecution and the defence, engaged their own respective teams of scientific experts in the first level trial, in addition to the consultants of the Scientific [Police] in Rome.

The [representatives of the] defence seem to be focussed on and to base themselves heavily on these two pieces of DNA evidence, but we want to remember for a moment who this case is about: my sister, a daughter brutally taken away from us almost four years ago and still not a day goes by when we can find a little peace or to put an end to all this.

All those who read this document or who are following this case, please remember our beautiful Meredith.  Her blood mixed with other samples spread around the bathroom, along the corridor and in Filomena’s room, and also so many other bloody prints.  Remember too all the other evidence which has been presented up till today in this trial, 10,000 pages of evidence.

We still have confidence in the Perugia police and all our trust in all those people from the court and the investigations.

We ask that Appeal Court weigh up every single piece of evidence, scientific and circumstantial, together with every witness heard and that [the court] do this independently of every other source of information and [independently] of the media.

In the midst of all the frenzy created by the media, Meredith has been forgotten, she is no longer with us, yet everything that should be for her and [done] in order to understand what really happened that tragic night. 

We have not forgotten her, and we will continue our struggle in order that justice be done with the continuing support of our lawyer Francesco Maresca and of his colleagues, the Police, the Public Prosecutor, the prosecution and all those taking part in this in Italy and also all those who in all the world still think of us and of Mez.

We would like to have the possibilty of working with Universty of Perugia on a project which would offer an annual place to a student in memory of Meredith.  Meredith loved Italy and its people and wanted to immerse herself in Italian culture.  We are well aware of the impact that all this has had on the city and we think that this is an appropriate way to commemorate Meredith in the beautiful place for which she left us to come and study.

Please do not let it be that Meredith died in vain, her courage and her strength continue to struggle and we shall look for justice so that she may rest in peace.  She did not stop struggling that November 1st, and we shall not stop now.

Stephy Kercher

 

Posted on 09/05/11 at 08:12 AM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: Concerning MeredithHer memoryHer familyThe officially involvedVictims familyNews media & moviesMedia news
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Saturday, September 03, 2011

An Overview Of Modern Thinking On The Criminal Mind

Posted by Ergon



[Above: an image of the influential researcher Dr Abram Hoffer]
l

Introduction:

The question of criminality has been much in the news lately, as wild gangs of youth rampaged through British cities, and wild gangs of feral financial speculators rampaged through the world’s economies.

As a scientist I wonder about the pathologies involved, and as a spiritual person I wonder about root causes.

So this is about where we are going as a society. Are we descending into criminality, and is the problem getting worse? I also wonder about the connection between criminality and mental illness.

In the course of trying to find a treatment for my own children’s Autism, I came to the following conclusion: conventional medical science has no clue about the causes or effective treatment of mental illness.

Therefore I had to range further into alternative medicine to find solutions, and serendipitously, I did. Yet, when my son’s autism reversal was confirmed by psychologists, no one seemed to want to know how. Neither the media, nor the conventional establishment.

Never mind. My findings were presented, for free, to various alternative medical doctors and clinics, reported in journals and books, and confirmed by them. The protocol has great possibilities in the treatment of other neurological illnesses. It is possible to reverse brain disease.

At my clinic in Toronto as well as other countries, I treated hundreds of young people with Autism, ADHD, Aspergers, and other psychological disorders, using holistic medical methods alone. Many of them went on to have normal lives; most improved significantly. And, when I have the time, I will write a book about this journey, and share it with everyone.

Which I already did in fact.  See here. But this is by way of background. I do not claim to have cures, or answers; I’m a searcher for knowledge, which I wish to share with others.

The question:

So: Is there such a thing as a criminal mind? This was a question much pondered as the new field of psychology came into being. In opposition to religious belief that crimes were caused by man’s original state of sin, and provoked by deadly sins like avarice and lust etc., it tried to define abnormal behaviour as a function of upbringing and environment.

It was only later as research into the nature of the brain emerged that new theories were formed; could neurological deficits explain criminal acts? Along with other suppositions of nurture and nature, addictions and abuse?

The answer:

According to these studies yes there is..

The release today of a study by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) showing than 64 percent of local jail inmates, 56 percent of state prisoners and 45 percent of federal prisoners have symptoms of serious mental illnesses is an indictment of the nation’s mental health care system. It is both a scandal and a national tragedy.

The figures are worse than those generally believed in the past, in which estimates of the total number of inmates with mental illnesses have been approximately 20 percent. The study reveals that the problem is two to three times greater than anyone imagined. What is even more disturbing is the number of these inmates that have served prior sentences, committed violent offenses, or engaged in substance abuse.

This is not an ideological statement, nor is it an attempt to avoid the serious problem of crimes in society. We have to have a system of laws and justice, and we have to protect the innocent. But the present system of crime and punishment doesn’t work, either.

So, how do we measure the criminal mind? Could there possibly be genetic, neurological, behavioral or even, physiognomic markers? I was 10 years old when a gentleman took one look at certain bumps on my head and said I “was very perceptive; could look at a scene and see what others could not"Cool, and this was my introduction to phrenology.

This was where 18-19th century researchers sought to determine racial and emotional differences through the study of skull size, shape and protuberances. And yes, they did believe the criminal’s head was different than that of normal people. This later became the field of craniology and craniometry as scientists tried to avoid making unsavory determinations.

The scars left after World War II by these atrocious programmes of research meant that the study of human skull shape and size fell into disrepute. Human variation, the core subject of anthropology, was increasingly explored through genetics and other biological markers, and became functional and adaptive in orientation rather than a search for racial affinities.

In recent years, however, the introduction of new computer-based techniques of measurement, and the greatly enhanced power of statistical analysis, has meant that there has been a resurgence of interest in this subject, and, stripped of its non-Darwinian and racist past, the study of the human head remains a topic of major importance.

So now, scientists are using cranial measurements to determine mental illness as shown here:

Recently, Harvard researchers reported that children with autism have a wide range of genetic defects, making it nearly impossible to develop a simple genetic test to identify the disorder. Now, University of Missouri researchers are studying 3-D imaging to reveal correlations in the facial features and brain structures of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which will enable them to develop a formula for earlier detection of the disorder…

When you compare the faces and head shapes of children with specific types of autism to other children, it is obvious there are variations. Currently, autism diagnosis is purely behavior based and doctors use tape measurements to check for facial and brain dissimilarities. We are developing a quantitative method that will accurately measure these differences and allow for earlier, more precise detection of specific types of the disorder,” said Ye Duan, assistant computer science professor in the MU College of Engineering.

Then you have “The Criminal Brain-Understanding Biological Theories of Crime”, by author Nicole Hahn Rafter, New York University Press (October 2008)

What is the relationship between criminality and biology? Nineteenth-century phrenologists insisted that criminality was innate, a trait inherent in the offender’s brain matter. While they were eventually repudiated as pseudo-scientists and self-deluded charlatans, today the pendulum has swung back.

Both criminologists and biologists have begun to speak of a tantalizing but disturbing possibility: that criminality may be inherited as a set of genetic deficits that place one at risk for theft, violence, and sexual deviance.

If that is so, we may soon confront proposals for genetically modifying “at risk” foetuses or doctoring up criminals so their brains operate like those of law-abiding citizens.

Wow. Now this really frightens me, to see scientists, once again, barking up the wrong genetic tree, but there you go any way.

Brain Injury as a factor in crime:

Alternative physician Dr. Russell L. Blaylock:  Vaccines, Depression and Neurodegeneration After Age 50

Previously, it was thought that major depression was secondary to a deficiency in certain neurotransmitters in the brain, particularly the monoamines, which include serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. While alterations in these important mood-related neurotransmitters is found with major depression, growing evidence indicates that the primary culprit is low-grade, chronic brain inflammation.

In addition, we now know that inflammatory cytokines can lower serotonin significantly and for long periods by a number of different mechanisms.

I would agree with him there, since it has been my observation that mental illness is often accompanied by inflammatory disorders or auto-immune illness. I also believe the changes in vaccine schedules may have led to increased neurological deficits and genetic damage passed on to subsequent generations, but that is an argument for a separate article. I do not blame vaccines alone, as I will explain here.

There is research that shows criminal minds and behavior issues are often accompanied by brain damage.

Brain injury is a condition that involves microscopic damage to brain tissue that can only be seen in life through the lens of the patterns of the injured person’s life. Chris Henry, the former NFL wide receiver whose autopsy results confirmed he was living with brain damage, may have finally made that clear.

“Limbic Abnormalities in Affective Processing by Criminal Psychopaths as Revealed by Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging” by Kiehl, et al, (PDF)

Results: Compared with criminal nonpsychopaths and noncriminal control participants, criminal psychopaths showed significantly less affect-related activity in the amygdala/hippocampal formation, parahippocampal gyrus, ventral striatum, and in the anterior and posterior cingulate gyri. Psychopathic criminals also showed evidence of overactivation in the bilateral fronto-temporal cortex for processing affective stimuli

The brains of autistic individuals show similar defects:

The two research teams have noticed an intriguing abnormality in the brains of the small group of autistics they have examined: The cerebellum, a portion of the brain involved with muscle coordination and the regulation of incoming sensations, contains fewer neurons known as Purkinje cells. There are also preliminary indications that growth in parts of the limbic system, which oversees emotion and memory, is arrested while autistics are still in the womb

Likewise in schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder.

New research shows for the first time that both have a common genetic basis that leads people to develop one or other of the two illnesses..find that thousands of tiny genetic mutations – known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) – are operating in raising the risk of developing the illness.

“Early Signs of Psychopathy” argues that signs can show at an early age.

A twenty-five year study, published this month in The Journal of Abnormal Psychology, demonstrates that, as early as the age of three, there are temperamental and physiological difference between those who show psychopathic tendencies as adults and those who don’t.

Not only do psychopaths lack emotions of conscience and empathy, but research has shown that these individuals consistently display certain aspects of temperament including a lack of fear, lack of inhibition and stimulus seeking behavior.

A lack of a hormone that affects empathy:

We’ve long accepted that hormones can make you amorous, aggressive, or erratic. But lately neuroscience has been abuzz with evidence that the hormone oxytocin—which also acts as a neuromodulator—can enhance at least one cognitive power: the ability to understand the gist of what others are thinking. In this week’s Mind Matters, Jennifer Bartz and Eric Hollander, two leading researchers in this area, review the many and surprising ways in which oxytocin seems to influence both our openness to others and our understanding of them.

For inherently social creatures such as humans, the ability to identify the motives, intentions, goals, desires, beliefs and feelings of others is not a nicety but an essential skill. We must understand “where others are coming from” not only to pursue our individual goals but also to facilitate social harmony more generally. Specifically, we need to recognize that other people can have thoughts, beliefs, desires and feelings that differ from our own…

And it may be this that drives psychopathy, or the criminal mind.

Cleckley in Psychopathy: Two lengthy checklists of psychopathic, or anti-social personality disorder:

Cleckley’s original list of symptoms of a psychopath:

1. Considerable superficial charm and average or above average intelligence.
2. Absence of delusions and other signs of irrational thinking
3. Absence of anxiety or other “neurotic” symptoms considerable poise, calmness, and verbal facility.
4. Unreliability, disregard for obligations no sense of responsibility, in matters of little and great import.
5. Untruthfulness and insincerity
6. Antisocial behavior which is inadequately motivated and poorly planned, seeming to stem from an inexplicable impulsiveness.
7. Inadequately motivated antisocial behavior
8. Poor judgment and failure to learn from experience
9. Pathological egocentricity. Total self-centeredness incapacity for real love and attachment.
10. General poverty of deep and lasting emotions.
11. Lack of any true insight, inability to see oneself as others do.
12. Ingratitude for any special considerations, kindness, and trust.
13. Fantastic and objectionable behavior, after drinking and sometimes even when not drinking—vulgarity, rudeness, quick mood shifts, pranks.
14. No history of genuine suicide attempts.
15. An impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated sex life.
16. Failure to have a life plan and to live in any ordered way, unless it be one promoting self-defeat.

Hare in The Psychopathic Personality:

A psychopath can have high verbal intelligence, but they typically lack “emotional intelligence”. They can be expert in manipulating others by playing to their emotions. There is a shallow quality to the emotional aspect of their stories (i.e., how they felt, why they felt that way, or how others may have felt and why).

The lack of emotional intelligence is the first good sign you may be dealing with a psychopath. A history of criminal behavior in which they do not seem to learn from their experience, but merely think about ways to not get caught is the second best sign.

The following is a list of items based on the research of Robert Hare, Ph.D. which is derived from the “The Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised, .1991, Toronto: Multi-Health Systems.” These are the most highly researched and recognized characteristics of psychopathic personality and behavior”:

1. glibness/superficial charm
2. grandiose sense of self worth
3. need for stimulation/prone to boredom
4. pathological lying
5. conning/manipulative
6. lack of remorse or guilt
7. shallow emotional response
8. callous/lack of empathy
9. parasitic lifestyle
10. poor behavioral controls
11. promiscuous sexual behavior
12. early behavioral problems
13. lack of realistic long term goals
14. impulsivity
15. irresponsibility
16. failure to accept responsibility for their own actions
17. many short term relationships
18. juvenile delinquency
19. revocation of conditional release
20. criminal versatility

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Is it becoming a rare quality among young people? It certainly seems to be declining in society.

Emotional intelligence “is a type of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use the information to guide one’s thinking and actions” (Mayer & Salovey, 1993: 433). According to Salovey & Mayer (1990), EI subsumes Gardner’s inter- and intrapersonal intelligences, and involves abilities that may be categorized into five domains:

Self-awareness: Observing yourself and recognizing a feeling as it happens.

Managing emotions: Handling feelings so that they are appropriate; realizing what is behind a feeling; finding ways to handle fears and anxieties, anger, and sadness.

Motivating oneself: Channeling emotions in the service of a goal; emotional self control; delaying gratification and stifling impulses.

Empathy: Sensitivity to others’ feelings and concerns and taking their perspective; appreciating the differences in how people feel about things.

Handling relationships: Managing emotions in others; social competence and social skills.

And according to Goleman (1995: 160), “Emotional intelligence, the skills that help people harmonize, should become increasingly valued as a workplace asset in the years to come.”

The last words belong to the educators, of course.

Howard Gardner (July 11, 1943 - ) American Psychologist and Educator

Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences (1983) proposes that intelligent behavior does not arise from a single unitary quality of the mind, as the g -based theories profiled on this Web site suggest, but rather that different kinds of intelligence are generated from separate metaphorical pools of mental energy.

Gardner derived this conceptualization of intelligence in part from his experiences working with members (of) extreme populations, in which certain cognitive abilities are preserved (often to a remarkable degree) even in the absence of other, very basic abilities. For example, some autistic savants display extraordinary musical or mathematical abilities despite severely impaired language development and social awareness. Likewise, individuals with localized brain damage often demonstrate severe deficits that are circumscribed to a single cognitive domain (Gardner, 1983/2003).

And Piaget, who inspired me many years ago: Jean Piaget (August 9, 1896-September 16, 1980) Swiss Biologist and Child Psychologist

Definition of Intelligence:  Intelligence is an adaptation…To say that intelligence is a particular instance of biological adaptation is thus to suppose that it is essentially an organization and that its function is to structure the universe just as the organism structures its immediate environment” (Piaget, 1963, pp. 3-4).

Intelligence is assimilation to the extent that it incorporates all the given data of experience within its framework…There can be no doubt either, that mental life is also accommodation to the environment. Assimilation can never be pure because by incorporating new elements into its earlier schemata the intelligence constantly modifies the latter in order to adjust them to new elements” (Piaget, 1963, p. 6-7) (Including, imo, ‘criminal intelligence’)

Major Contributions:

The Theory of Genetic Epistemology.  Piaget also believed that intellectual development occurs in four distinct stages.

The sensorimotor stage begins at birth, and lasts until the child is approximately two years old. At this stage, the child cannot form mental representations of objects that are outside his immediate view, so his intelligence develops through his motor interactions with his environment.

The preoperational stage typically lasts until the child is 6 or 7. According to Piaget, this is the stage where true “thought” emerges. Preoperational children are able to make mental representations of unseen objects, but they cannot use deductive reasoning.

The concrete operations stage follows, and lasts until the child is 11 or 12. Concrete operational children are able to use deductive reasoning, demonstrate conservation of number, and can differentiate their perspective from that of other people.

Formal operations is the final stage. Its most salient feature is the ability to think abstractly.

It is my opinion that emotional intelligence development also follows these four distinct phases. This is where nurture and nature come into play, and any trauma, abuse, neglect, that occurs during these phases can lead to an emotional stunting where the child is unable to progress to the next stage of development.

In the same way, a positive home and school environment can help children grow to be more harmonious members of society, once you adjust for any biological and neurological deficits. Early recognition and treatment is key…

Having worked as a volunteer in the public school system, I can tell you what teachers and educators have been telling me for years: the number of learning disabled and emotionally disturbed children is increasing exponentially..

Is it just me, or does it seem like the world has become an increasingly disharmonious place lately?

But the last word might well come from a book written by a Norwegian judge, Jens Jacob-Sander:  The Criminal Brain: A View from the Bench…  Exploring the Criminal Mind

What goes on in the minds of criminals? This question raises perennial philosophical issues about human behavior in general and criminal conduct in particular. Do criminals act the way they do because of how and what they think and feel? And, are these internal forces of thought and feeling caused by the states of their brains, which in turn are predetermined by biology, chemistry, and genetics? Is the problem, in short, what used to be called bad blood?

Or, are the thoughts, feelings, and actions of criminals caused by external factors such as parents, education, and other influences in the environment that mold and shape malleable brains, which, in turn, give rise to the criminal personality? In other words, is the real culprit for criminal behavior what used to be called society?

With the emergence of brain science over the past 50 years, including brain imaging technologies and the study of brain chemistry, perhaps we can return to these profound questions with new hope of making progress toward answers.

At the present time, although some scholars of brain science lean heavily toward a reductionistic biological determinism, others call attention to the plasticity of the brain and its capacity for change. Even if we cannot ever uncover a single satisfactory answer to how the criminal mind works, perhaps we can begin to diminish the devastation caused by criminal behavior.

An exploration of the criminal mind might yield insights, ideas, and innovative hypotheses worthy of serious consideration and further study. It might also provoke us to reconsider how we think about the questions we ask about the causes of criminal behavior. Instead of polarizing the discussion by pitting determinism (biological or social) against free will as mutually exclusive explanations of criminal conduct, we might discover that biological predispositions and habits of thought can be influenced by education, cognitive retraining, and behavior modification. Whatever our current state of knowledge, isn’t it worth our effort to try to formulate better theories and more effective forms of intervention?

That daunting task has been undertaken in a new e-book titled Exploring the Criminal Mind and subtitled Advances of Brainscience and Mental Procedures of the Criminal Personality: A Unified Brain-Mind Theory. The author and publisher, Jens-Jacob Sander, is a judge in the Norwegian Courts of Justice, located west of the city of Oslo. Judge Sander tells us in the foreword to his book that it grew out of his frustration with trying to understand the criminal mind while he was engaged in a major international fraud-hunt in 1989 that, although successful, was apparently hampered by the lack of adequate information and insights about criminal minds.

Perhaps we can return to these profound questions with new hope of making progress toward answers, indeed.

Posted on 09/03/11 at 11:01 PM by ErgonClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: Crime hypothesesThe psychology
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Friday, September 02, 2011

Nina Burleigh: View From A Broad Who Doesn’t Seem To Like Broads Or Being Abroad

Posted by Peggy Ganong





In Burleigh’s shoddy book on the murder of Meredith Kercher, she gets the victim’s birthday wrong. But that’s not all she gets wrong. From what I can tell, Burleigh simply skips over much of the key evidence in favor of gossiping about and criticizing other journalists who have covered the case.

She is particularly hard on female journalists, which is odd given that she prides herself on being a modern feminist. I find it very telling, for example, that she indicates what Barbie Nadeau and Andrea Vogt’s husbands do for a living (one works for the UN and one is a university professor), but does not see fit to provide us with any information on what the wives of any of the male journalists do.

The implication is clear: these two “females” took up writing as a sort of hobby after trailing behind their menfolk to Europe. Worse, Burleigh notes that though they are both American born, they are more European in “style” and “craft” which, aside from being absolute nonsense, remains unsubstantiated by any analysis whatsoever. It amounts to saying “they’re sooooo European”. What does that mean?

Well, once you know that Burleigh is a relentless and mindless cheerleader for the superiority of all things American, it becomes clear that what she means is that they are inferior journalists because all things European are inferior to all things American. Burleigh also claims that what she calls Nadeau’s “cosmopolitan speech affect” is an attempt to hide her Middle American roots (in Burleigh’s words, her “rural South Dakota accent”). She says the “statuesque redhead” Vogt looks like she could play the role of Brenda Starr.

In other words, Burleigh is trying to suggest that these two are imposters, merely playing at journalism by dressing up like a cartoon journalist or putting on airs and trying to talk like a big city slicker instead of a sharecropper.

In fact, Vogt has been a working reporter for fifteen years, was awarded a Fulbright scholarship in journalism, is trilingual and has published in English, German and Italian. I don’t know much about Nadeau’s academic training, but she currently writes on a variety of topics for both Newsweek and the Daily Beast. And the excellent Christopher Dickey thinks quite highly of her.

Meanwhile, back to Burleigh and her seemingly endless supply of sour grapes. At one point in her book, she mentions an Italian female reporter, but only to comment on her boots! One starts to wonder what she has against women, especially her professional peers.

Her male peers do not get a free pass, either, at least those who work in that dreadful country Italy where, according to Burleigh, freedom of speech does not exist. She criticizes foreign journalists based in Italy, basically calling them a bunch of cowards, so fearful of the Mafia that they confine themselves to writing about la dolce vita—food, wine and bunga bunga. This is absolute bollocks, of course.

John Follain, who has covered the case for the Times, has written two books about Italy in the fifteen or so years he has lived there: one is about the Mafia, while the other takes on the Vatican. Vogt investigated the White Supremacy movement in Idaho and has written an excellent book about it, not without exposing herself to danger. As for Nadeau, she has covered Italy’s garbage crisis, and in one gritty, unforgettable article for Newsweek describes walking through some of the most dangerous Mafia neighborhoods.

All three have been viciously attacked by Knox supporters. Meanwhile, Nina Burleigh is happy to fixate on what her fellow journalists are wearing and eating and drinking. Come to think of it, when she was a correspondent in France, she was obsessed with complaining about and criticizing French women, probably for not instantly recognizing her innate superiority.

It is too bad Burleigh opted to focus on this kind of crap instead of actually discussing much of the real evidence against Knox and Sollecito. Frankly, hers is the most disappointing and surely the nastiest book on the tragic murder of Meredith Kercher that has been published to date. After reading what Burleigh wrote about Nadeau and Vogt, I was left wondering why she has such an ax to grind with them.

Is it because they are at least a decade younger than she is? Is it because they live in Europe and she doesn’t? Is it because they are fluent in foreign languages and she isn’t? I really don’t know, but the book sure has a bitter stench to it.

The good news is I didn’t even have to buy it. In fact, I don’t want to be seen reading it in public. Thanks to Google books, I was able to find many of the offending passages on line. In addition, I can discreetly skim at my local bookseller’s. All in all, I have found it a pretty dull exercise. The book is glib, superficial and gossipy. One walks away feeling dirty and sad, wondering where one would be placed within Burleigh’s social and class hierarchy. Hopefully at least a hair above middle class.

I almost forgot to mention the pièce de résistance in Burleigh’s sliming of the two female journalists who did not roll over for the Knox family PR supertanker. Burleigh also asserts that these two small-town American imposters, after acquiring their polished “style” and “craft” by living in Europe, were “appalled” by the way AK and her family “flouted” Italian mores, implying that this snobbery tainted their reporting.

While I recall both journalists providing good analysis of how and why some of the antics of AK and her family were not good strategy under the circumstances – for example, AK’s decision to turn up in court one day wearing an over-sized “all you need is love” t-shirt or her sister Deanna’s choice of courtroom attire on July 4 (red-white-and-blue hotpants outfit) – I have never read anything suggesting they personally disapproved of or were appalled by the American and her family.

Since this snide and non-sourced aside appears on the same page as Burleigh’s claim that Nadeau tried to hide her “rural” accent with a “cosmopolitan speech affect”, it is fair to say that Burleigh’s real goal is to discredit them as objective reporters. It is almost as if she - Burleigh - were taking dictation from Doug Preston! And if Burleigh finds this to be a sexist remark, then I suggest she take a long, hard look in the mirror.

In the same section of the book, Burleigh describes John Kercher as a tabloid reporter and notes that neither he nor his family even “attempted” to learn Italian, relying instead on their lawyer to tell them what was going on.

Yes, you read that right: Burleigh thinks that the grieving Kercher family should have set aside their grief and contacted Berlitz straight away! And she implies that it is a mistake to rely on their legal counsel for information or advice. (At least Italy gives the victim’s family a legal voice.) I guess Burleigh would prefer that the Kercher family turn to people like Amanda’s stepfather Chris Mellas, or the various profiteers riding the PR supertanker: David Marriott and Doug Preston to name just two. This is apparently what Burleigh did.

It is clear from what I have read that Burleigh is not concerned with the victim Meredith Kercher or her family. She seems more interested in passing judgement on those she considers inferior in station to herself (just about everyone),complaining about life in Italy and taking pot shots at other journalists. My guess is that deep down she likes Italy about as much as she liked France, which is to say not much, maybe not at all. Burleigh is that quintessential Ugly American. I saw early signs of it in her reporting on this case for Time.

Incidentally, she did not begin until June of 2009, when the trial was well under way and almost two years after the murder itself. I had never heard of Burleigh, so I decided to have a look at her earlier work, especially that on life in France. I truly was flabbergasted by her utter inability to cope in a strange land.

She took an instant dislike to the French in general and was unable to understand the culture, in part because she was unable or unwilling to learn the language. I find it ironic – and appalling – that she faults the Kerchers, of all people, for not learning the language of the country where their daughter/sister was murdered when she herself could or would not learn the language of the country she was residing in under happy circumstances.

Is it class or gender or nationality that Burleigh most has a problem with?

Hard to say, since she seems to have a sense of superiority that encompasses all three. Speaking of disapproval, Burleigh treats the Knox women and Meredith’s British friends in the same haughty, catty manner as she treats her professional peers. In fact, she refers to the Knox clan collectively as “a hair on the low side of middle class”. I guess from the throne upon which she has placed herself, Burleigh is able to make these fine distinctions and, in addition, finds it necessary.

And how about this fine value judgement on page 33? “Amanda was the sole member of the gaggle of menstruating, jealous, bitchy, angry, loving, needy females around Curt who could keep her emotions in check”. I’m not making this up; Burleigh actually wrote those words. One pictures hapless Curt surrounded by the seven dwarves (Jealous, Bitchy, Angry, Loving, Needy, Bloody and Amanda).

While I believe that Amanda Knox was rightly convicted for her role in Meredith Kercher’s death, and though I have been critical of her family’s decision to hire a PR firm that has attempted to manipulate public opinion, I certainly think they are entitled to a little more respect and empathy than this. Speaking of entitled, that is how Burleigh herself comes off throughout this book.

Moving on to Meredith’s British friends, Burleigh dismisses them en masse with this tightly packed bundle of sexism and stereotyping: “tweedy peaches-and-cream complected sylphs who moved as a pack”. How Burleigh would even know how they moved is beyond me, since she was not covering the case in the days or even months that followed this brutal murder. Perhaps, if they did stick together, it was for mutual comfort. That’s what the little people do, Nina.

Italian women are not spared either. In addition to her fixation on a local reporter’s boots (perhaps because she could not read her work?), Burleigh describes Police Chief Monica Napoleoni’s style as “part dominatrix, part donatella Versace with a badge” and another Italian policewoman as a “thick-bodied woman”. Nina’s motto: When in Rome and unable to follow what’s going on, focus instead on making disparaging comments about the way other women look.

Burleigh pretentiously dedicates her book to the victims of sexual violence, an odd choice since she does little more here than perpetuate the sexist and sexual stereotypes that underlie this phenomenon. I am all for supporting the victims of sexual violence and will do so by not buying Burleigh’s nasty piece of work, which adds nothing to our knowledge of the case anyway.

Anyone who really wants to read a good book on the murder of Meredith Kercher should try Darkness Descending and/or Angel Face, both out for some time now. In addition to these works, John Follain, who has lived in Italy since the mid-90’s and covered the case from the outset, has a book coming out soon. I seriously doubt he will be focusing on women’s boots.


Thursday, September 01, 2011

Perugia Prosecutors In Italian News Daily For Formidable Investigations Into National Government

Posted by Peter Quennell


The apartment one down from the top in the above shot belongs to Claudio Scola.

Very expensive property. It has a prize view of Rome’s colosseum especially (image at bottom) at night. Up to a couple of months ago Claudio Scola (first image below) was the economic development minister in Silvio Berlusconi’s hard-pressed national Italian government.

He then had to resign.

He is under investigation for apparently accepting major renovations to that apartment as a freebie after he purchased it several years ago. Various parties on the giving end of this seeming large bribe for political favors are being investigated. The one most in the Italian national news is Diego Anemone (second image below).

Perugia prosecutors were handed the case by Rome prosecutors because Rome prosecutors choose not to handle cases involving national parliamentarians. They prefer that political investigations do not get slimed, demonized, or otherwise leaned-upon.

This is not something that ever seems to bother the formidable Perugia prosecutors, who have a good national reputation for never blinking.

The Claudio Scola case is tangentially connected to their ongoing investigations into political bribes at the national level for construction contracts related to the 2006 winter Olympics and the city partly leveled in the 2010 earthquake in the Appenine mountains.

In fact Perugia prosecutors are presently the most high-profile of those of any provincial capital in Italy. Their investigations are being reported upon almost daily in this case that could see PM Berlusconi’s grip on power relinquished.

They also have an outstanding record of non-reversals of their convictions by the Italian Supreme Court. The Knox and Sollecito defense teams are fully aware of this and have been ultra-careful never to raise questions about the prosecution.

And they have been spinning their wheels on the hard evidence. Unlikely they’d take bets on their winning the appeal. Signs are they realize they are cooked.




Posted on 09/01/11 at 10:05 AM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
Right-column links: The officially involvedThe prosecutorsThe judiciaryThe wider contextsPerugia context
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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Brunello Cucinelli Perhaps The Most Globally Prominent Of Perugia’s Highly Successful Industrialists

Posted by Peter Quennell


The wealthy town of Perugia has not only a widely respected mayor, city administration, and justice system.

Its large main university houses some of the most advanced research and brightest academics in Europe. And the Perugia area is the home to some of Italy’s most successful industrialists.

The wildly successful fashion designer Brunello Cucinelli owns a worldwide chain of fashion stores, including a number in the United States. He has two stores in Manhattan and has just opened a new store in Las Vegas (images of the interior and his designs below).

His main factory is in Solomeo (image below) which is a stone’s throw to the west of Perugia, and just to the north of Capanne where Knox and Sollecito spend their days and nights The factory is in a converted castle (image below) and employs about 500 highly skilled and very well paid garment workers.

Mr Cucinelli has the reputation of being a really kind, decent, humane man. This description of him is from the Radio Netherlands Worldwide website.

Brunello Cucinelli’s business empire is doing very well thank you.

His range of luxury cashmere clothing has made him a wealthy man.  But, going against the grain of the image of the heartless industrialist, Mr Cucinelli believes in a new form of capitalism “where profit is used to improve the condition of human life.”

With that goal in mind, he is determined that his 500 workers should count themselves amongst the happiest factory workers in Europe.  They work not in a soulless factory building, but in a beautifully restored village nestled in the Umbrian hills in Italy.

The village of Solomeo has a 14th century castle at its heart, and its here that Cucinelli’s factory workers come, unimpeded by time clocks or mean bosses.  They eat a 3 course home cooked Italian lunch for a couple of euros, they’re paid an average of 20% than their counterparts in other factories, and a percentage of the business profits go to community arts and culture.

As a child, Cucinelli lived in a harmonious home, but saw his father ground down by his bosses at work, and determined that when he became a boss, he would never lose sight of his employees’ humanity.  And he’s kept that promise.

“I think this moment is the economic, moral and civil result of how we’ve behaved in the past 25 years. So I’m quite happy about this major change in humanity. I think we’ve had 25 years of universal economy in which we have all too often only worried about profit. I think that now something new is coming.”

Mr Cucinelli is again in the national news in Italy because he is contributing over one million dollars to restoring the fourth century Etruscan arch in Perugia (image at bottom) very close to what was once Meredith’s home. The arch is right across the street from Meredith’s language university, and she must have passed through it a number of times.

Some of Perugia’s lively discotheques are up through there, and the buses for discotheque goers that the witness Curatolo saw on the night head right up there. 

Meredith really admired personal qualities of hard work, caring, humaneness and diligent application. Mr Cucinelli is certainly an epitome of all of those.






Posted on 08/25/11 at 09:53 AM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
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Monday, August 22, 2011

Near End To The Libyan Civil War Is Welcome Good News In Italy

Posted by Peter Quennell


Stocks surged over three percent today on the Milan Stock Exchange as Italy’s former colony once again seems set for political change.

As Reuters explains Italy is one of the largest foreign investors in Libya. If the war for control of Libya is indeed over, this promises cheaper oil in Italy and throughout the world.

Also an end to the refugee influx in to the south of Italy, the financial coping for which has been a sore point with France. At one point thousands of desperate Libyans a day were crossing over, and quite a few died.

Italian aid is expected to play a large role in moving the new Libyan government and civil society forward. 


Posted on 08/22/11 at 12:11 PM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Donald Trump Seems To Have Moved On After Fleetingly Fervent On Italy Framing Knox

Posted by Peter Quennell


Twenty months ago Donald Trump was sounding very very very anti-Italy.

His strident beef with Italy (his former wife Ivana Trump who he ditched for a showgirl lives there) seemed the real reason for his brief fling with the pro-Knox bandwagon, rather than any deep knowledge of the case.

Recently he made a contribution of a golf-related freebie to the Knox campaign.  Otherwise he seems to have retreated to the sideline.

Normally he is seen as aimiable enough, if something of a lightweight having fun. His very successful father bankrolled him into property development. His properties and casino businesses fell on hard times several times. He lost control of all his casinos in Atlantic City and a very large development on Manhattan’s Upper West Side - even though all still bear his name.

He briefly thought of running for president as a Republican in 2012, but it seems the financial disclosures and fiery competition would have been altogether too much. Hollywood notables, who overall tend to be liberal, revealed for the occasion how much they hate him. 

He still continues to snipe at President Obama from the sidelines and the latest is that he may run as a Ross Perot style independent for president in 2012.

To his credit, he has just done one thing that the country really needs.

He has joined billionaire Warren Buffet in saying that billionaires need to pay more taxes. Watch Harvard professor Robert Reich in the video below for the reasoning behind this.  Robert Reich and Donald Trump may not start a billionaire’s stampede, but Trump should win some popular respect.

He may win more votes this way than by bashing Italy for murky reasons that most simply dont understand.

Posted on 08/18/11 at 01:57 PM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Messing With The Justice Process In Perugia Does Not Seem At Front And Center In Politicians’ Minds

Posted by Peter Quennell


Is it arrivederci Mr Berlusconi?

The Italian prime minister is now reported to be downbeat and disempowered in the face of 80-percent-plus negative ratings, a mere shadow of his former self. 

Berlusconi himself appeared a shadow of his former ebullient self on Friday as he announced Italy’s second austerity budget in as many months, blaming the global economic crisis….

For Italian daily La Stampa, the cuts and tax increases, which must now be approved by parliament, are another nail in the coffin of the scandal-weakened prime minister. “A funeral has been celebrated where the man officiating and the man buried were one and the same – Silvio Berlusconi,” it wrote…

Analysts say the latest spending squeeze could prevent the economy from expanding for the next two years. “The budget cuts are likely to have quite negative effects on [the] short-term GDP-dynamic, given the already-fragile situation of private sector’s financial balances. We expect Italian GDP growth to slow to close to zero in 2012 and 2013,” said Giada Giani, of Citigroup.

The Italian electorate goes to the polls in 2013. Chances of Mr Berlusconi’s party regaining popularity are remote in the face of his hugely expensive and decididly unpopular cave to the European Central Bank and his lack of compelling insights for bumping Italian growth.

Mr Berlusconi faces four personal lawsuits in Milan and all the magistrates overseeing the cases so far have been taking a hard line.

Sollecito lawyer Giulia Bongiorno seems very frustrated with Sollecito’s appeal which is doing her no good politically. With the bizarre claims of “superwitnesses” Alessi and Aviello on the stand and thereafter (one of which is that the Sollecito family offered Aviello a bribe, not yet rebutted) and an “independent” DNA report seemingly channeling Greg Hampikian and already partly discredited, she seems far short of landing a knockout blow.

And the junior Berlusconi-party MP Rocco Girlanda, who sits on Giulia Bongiorno’s Justice Committee, seems to have been very quiet about Amanda Knox since the President of the Italian Republic failed to even acknowledge his petition to intervene.

In what might seem a cynical move to gain favor with his party leaders, he is now reported as seeking to whittle away at the Italian justice system, specifically police wiretaps, which he wants to reduce or eliminate “for budgetary reasons”.

“In 2010 the cost of wiretapping by the prosecution amounted to 270 million euros, helping to increase the debt of the Ministry of Justice, where the deficit amounted to 360 million, which is why I asked the Minister of Justice to quantify, in economic terms and sentences, the effects of using this tool….

In a time of crisis like the current one, which requires a careful review of public spending and prudent management of resources allocated to various departments, including that of justice, which is one of the most sensitive from the point of view of the need for investments, almost half of the total debt is caused by increasing appropriations obtained by prosecutors, like Milan and Palermo, for wiretaps.”

Milan and Palermo? Hmmm. Mr Berlusconi’s four trials will take place in Milan, and Ms Bongiorno has been invited to run for mayor of Palermo. But no connection. Of course.

Posted on 08/16/11 at 08:25 AM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
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Friday, August 12, 2011

Austerity Fever In Europe And The US And The Discreet Fuelling Of Public Anger

Posted by Peter Quennell


There have been mass demonstrations and riots in a number of European countries and Italy may soon be seeing some too.

Here is one cynical but amusing Canadian take on austerity fever, the current UK riots, and the UK Establishment’s outraged reaction.

I was shocked when some young acquaintances riding the bulls on Bay Street first explained to me the theory of government that prevailed among their set, based on something they called the Riot Index.

Too many riots were bad for business, they allowed, but so were too few - a sign that government had become soft and inefficient. Prudent government squeezed until the mob rebelled, then increased spending just enough to prevent extensive property damage. Optimal social policy was a matter of dialling in the appropriate frequency of riots…

In light of the impotent moral outrage that has welled up in the wake of this week’s events in England, the cynicism of the Riot Index now seems downright refreshing. It is surely more informative than the theories about bad parenting, “over-entitlement” and psychotic consumerism that many Britons are advancing to explain the disorder.

Actually the cynics and the rioters may have something of a point. Getting it right on the gut causes of slow growth seems to have gone out of the window as austerity fever takes over and the great race to the bottom is on.

The western economies essentially muddled their way over many, many years to the heights they are at right now, interspersed by some spectacular crashes. Is their only stark choice now really to muddle their way down again?

Two things worth reading up about in this context. First, the Washington Consensus which was strongly promoted by the US and World Bank and IMF worldwide and which resulted in disastrous waves of austerity throughout the developing world.

And second the sudden sharp emergence of the Asian tiger economies which gave officials in the US and World Bank and IMF the shocks of their life. Those pesky Asians just did not understand… but they sure ended up eating everyone’s lunch.

Like Apple, now the most valuable company in the world, the Asian model consists of smart spotting of high-value opportunities, and putting in the smart systems and people to realise them.

It involves close co-operation between the population in general and the economic producers and the components of the institutional infrastructure. Research and training tend to be targeted and the governments invest - invest - but are careful not to over-capitalize. .

A while back I was involved with the introduction of rolling planning in the big Federal departments of Washington. These were two of the learning experiences.

First, the Federal Government does not seem to have been given a development and growth role in the Constitution, and many in Washington officialdom were uncertain as to how much if at all the Feds should be involved.

And second, there is no separate Federal capital or investment budget, as there is now in a majority of other governments, so all of the money pouring out and all of the national deficit and debt accumulating are for… what?

For investment or for consumption? Nobody really knows.

Right now, a Supercommittee has been created in Washington to wind back the US national debt, which tripled in the past decade. A parallel Supercommitee on jobs and growth is now being lobbied for by some of the brighter sparks in the Congress.

Perhaps that second comittee should really have come first? Austerity was what the Asians turned their backs on - and look where they are now.

*******

In tribute to Meredith who, according to her father, seems to have been setting her sites on this universe.

Posted on 08/12/11 at 09:52 PM by Peter QuennellClick here & then top left for all my posts;
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