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Sunday, Dec 20, 2015 - 22:43 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

A Few Reviews

"He is a very outstanding man, unquestionably talented.
He is the absolute leader of the presidential race.

- Putin on Trump

A fairly outgoing week of laksa, Game of Thrones (Baratheon snuck a seventh castle from Martell) and Bang!, as well as finally purchasing the Brave New World expansion from Xapo, which offers hefty discounts over the Steam store for purchases with our favourite crypto (US$27 for Fallout 4 to US$56 official, and US$11 for BNW to US$21 official). Snagged Small World 2 Complete Pack too, because what the heck. One Pedro II Cultural Victory in the bag, so far.

This samba's goin' down, comprende?

Also, Mourinho's gotten the sack, while Van Gaal has one foot out of the door after yet another insipid defeat, this time to the mighty Norwich City. Could it be fated?

And autoball made it big. Eh, I suppose there's only so many iterations of Madden one can plow through before it gets old...

One Last Trump Comment For Now

It may be immodest to blow one's own trump-et, but a couple of weeks after being foreshadowed here, no less than Vladimir Putin has come out and anointed the Donald Trump as a fellow Real Man Alpha Dog. Trump for his part has wasted no time in cosying up to his new bro, acknowledging him as "a leader", and standing up for dear Put-put's minor peccadilloes (the U.S. leadership can be endearingly familiar) by dismissively acknowledging that "our country does plenty of killing too".

Whatever else might be said about him, Trump may be the only broadly-honest candidate in the entire field.

And, after a mostly-inconclusive Republican debate, his lagging rivals have been forced on the offensive. Former Chosen One Jeb Bush (rebranded yet again) got one good sound bite out of it, which promptly found its way into a super PAC ad; unfortunately, this has further solidified perception of Bush the Third as being "whiny and desperate". It may bear repeating that while Bush may definitely be more adult, this is not necessarily synonymous with being seen as a leader.

Khorne, Tzeentch, Nurgle, Slaanesh... bow to the Master.
(Source: jeb2016.com)

Not that campaigning as a whole has been particularly mature, with John Kasich's super PAC superimposing Trump on a hippo, and calling him a... Hippo-Crit. This might sound at least superficially smart, until one considers that the candidate's supporters paid for an ad that gave over 80% of the air time to Trump, with a pittance left for... erm, who was it again?

[N.B. A short explanation on "super PACs". Modern democracies in general have electoral campaign spending rules, so that the richest candidates can't simply flood the media with their message. America being America, they neatly sidestepped this no-good secret socialist malarkey by declaring that if an organization doesn't officially associate with a campaign (*wink wink nudge nudge*), it can then raise and spend as much as it wants. Go USA! USA! USA!]

To the consternation of the squarer set, The Trump That Keeps On Giving has, after extending his Mexican Border Wall initiative to the Internet (which may attract Mr. Xi as another new bro, who knows?), only pulled further ahead in the polling, closing in on 40%, with Cruz next at 18%. And to top it all off, Trump has gotten a doctor's note stating that he "would be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency", a stark contrast to Hillary's well-documented health issues.

It's good that Americans love horror movies - they might just be in for a fantastic blockbuster treat in 2016...

But you gotta give it to the guy, he says it like it is

Freestyle Notes (Part I)

Having noticed that a number of recent happenings could stand to be discussed in parallel with several books that I've come across recently, I thought it fitting to settle them all at a go. Without further ado, and in no particular order:

  • Deeply Divided: Racial Politics and Social Movements in Postwar America, Doug McAdam & Karina Kloos
  • The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe, David I. Kertzer
  • Economic Warfare: Secrets of Wealth Creation in the Age of Welfare Politics, Ziad K. Abdelnour
  • Restless Empire: China and the World Since 1750, Odd Arne Westad
  • Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Jared Diamond
  • Bohemian Manifesto: A Field Guide to Living on the Edge, Laren Stover

[N.B. I had also searched high and low for Colon: How to Get Both a Short, Snappy Title and Shoehorn In Long Descriptions, but this is apparently standard practice nowadays]

And where can we begin? As yes, Trump and his election drama, sure. On this, the first two titles are the most relevant. We might begin with Il Duce, whose resemblance to Il Briscola has been observed by more than a few; reusing an expression employed here before with reference to Putin and Berlusconi, Trump quite unmistakably exudes that vibe: "our type".

Mussolini has, of course, been paired most often with his rather more infamous German counterpart Hitler, but it might not be common knowledge that Hitler was actually the junior partner in this duo act; as Kertzer explains, while Mussolini kept a bust of Napoleon in his study, Hitler kept a bust of... Mussolini, which was quite understandable in that Mussolini rose to ultimate power more than a decade ahead of him. Privately, Mussolini derided Hitler as "a dreamer", "a clown" and an "imitator" at various times, and had even more unflattering opinions of other highly-placed Nazis.

But the book is not about Hitler, and rather about Mussolini and his relations with the Catholic Church - mostly Pius XI, and later Pius XII. Given that Mussolini never had many religious pretentions, with his first known publication - under socialist/anarchist influence - entitled "God Does Not Exist", this was bound to be a marriage of convenience.

Not that the bride was entirely unwilling, though. True, Fascist thugs might have beaten priests and forced them to swallow castor oil, but Pius XI could look past that if Mussolini could deliver on the big picture - repel "modernism", restore obedience to proper authority (i.e. the Mother Church), and the return of Christ to schools and government halls. In return for that, he would deliver the Catholic vote. Mussolini graciously accepted, and reciprocated by being the first modern Italian prime minister to call upon God in his inaugural address to Parliament, to the Pope's delight.

As so often is the case, this was not a good sign.

The irony here was that Mussolini's actual knowledge of Catholicism was, by all accounts, next to zero. For one, he thought all Catholic holidays fell on Sundays, which however was at least an educated guess. Neither this nor his trademark cheap cologne stopped him from being irresistable to the fairer gender, though - he lost his first teaching job after an affair with a married woman, which was just a precursor to an unbroken string of mistresses and one-afternoon stands.

Despite all that, Mussolini's wife Rachele - like him, from poor peasant stock - steadfastly stood by her man throughout. Interestingly, Rachele possessed a deep distrust of the Church, and had to essentially be dragged to her baptism and religious wedding ceremony by Mussolini, both almost certainly politically motivated. In this, she was perhaps the most principled and level-headed character in the story.

Anyway, we all know how it ends for Il Duce: badly. While the Vatican did condemn Fascism and Nazism at times, Kertzer contends - with evidence - that they also made a secret deal with Mussolini to refrain from criticising anti-Semitic racial laws, in exchange for preferred treatment for Catholic organizations. Given Church history, this is hardly far-fetched.

As for Mussolini, he wound up being strung up by his feet by angry partisans after being shot, with his face soon literally beaten into a pulp (it ain't a pretty sight). And yet, he retained the devotion of his longtime mistress Clara Petacci, who all but volunteered to be executed alongside him. Offhand, to those who are counting on women voters to deny Trump... let's just say it might not pay to be overly optimistic.

A little postscript not in the book - in a manner of speaking, Mussolini did get one over Hitler after their similar passings. While Hitler's remains were disposed of so as not to become a shrine to loyalists, and his immediate family made a pact not to reproduce for his name to die out, Mussolini had his body recovered by his faithful wife, and interred in his ancestral tomb, where it draws multitudes of guestbook-signing visitors and supporters - including priests - even to this day.

Additionally, Mussolini's family line, even disregarding illegitimate children, is still going strong. One of his granddaughters has just been elected to the Italian Senate, after getting on Playboy in her youth, which her maternal aunt being Sophia Loren might have helped with. Other than that, a quick Google search informs us that one of his great-grandsons is a defence contractor in Abu Dhabi.

[To be continued...]

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