mercredi, janvier 11, 2006

Hogan's Heroes Again

Maltatoday has finally posted last Sunday's edition. I do not know why I keep hoping for this paper to do it's bit. In a way the rag run by Grumpy Balzan was a ray of light for those who awaited the politics of difference and change. Unfortunately it has not lived up to our expectations. It turns out to be more of an English version of a Labourite rant and groan with a lunge at Where's Everybody thrown in every now and then. Now of course the expectations were mine and it could very well be that Hogan had this kind of paper in mind all along.

What is missing from Maltatoday? Real opinion articles. The ones with constructive assessment and ideas. In their place we are regaled with Malta's version of pink journalism. Having no David Beckham's to haunt we stick to politicians (again). Maltatoday specialises in Minister's aides, Minister's cousins, friends of friends, speculations and conspiracies. A Labour mind for sure! It is more like Malta's Private Eye than anything else. Obviously my rant about their ranting is only just that ... a question of taste. Anybody would be justified to tell me to stop reading it if I do not like it. And I would agree. But it is such a pity. So much potential - so much space and so much GIGO.

This week we are regaled with the headliner about Notary Mangion. The poor man is guilty of having been the notary in the transaction that saw Pender Place being sold off. The very transaction that his own party criticised. Now everybody who reads this blog would know that I am not exactly a Labourite but I still find this criticism excessive. Notary Mangion has to be differentiated from Labour MP Mangion. A notary is a public officer and in the case of a sale performs his duty as such. He is supra partes and, unlike a lawyer, does not take a side in the transaction. He is the officer of government who records the transaction - representing the general public in the process. Forgive me but I do not see how Charles Mangion performing his duty (if not obligation) as a Notary could conflict with his political opinion about the sale. It is not a subtlety ... it is clear. But Maltatoday plays on the issue taking advantage of general misconceptions instead of helping to clear them. (Balzan actually misguides readers by claiming that Mangion served as notary for the buyers in the sale)

And then there is the Bondi chip. That Hogan Balzan does not like my compatriot (yep, another Gozitan) is not an unknown fact. That he takes any opportunity to hound Lou is also obvious. Now he berates Lou for accepting to host the Eurovision after spending years criticising it. For heaven's sake! I do not think that there could be anyone better than Lou (or anyone with a sense of humour and the right perspective on the competition) to host the damn show. By Hogan's reasoning Terry Wogan should have stopped commenting ages ago. But then it is not about the Eurovision is it? Surely it is another rant about Where's Everybody and the money that keeps rolling in.

Then there are his wonderful asides in editorials... look at this one about Magistrate Peralta...

"And in 1992, a protest at Ta’ Cenc hotel blocked His Excellency Richard Cachia Caruana from entering Ta’ Cenc and this led Magistrate Peralta, then just revealed in the press to be a freemason and now serving as a judge in Kosovo, to kick me off together with many others to Kordin for 24 hours."

Someone please tell me what the fact that Peralta was a freemason or that he serves as a judge in Kosovo have to do with his decision to jail protesters in 1992? Non sequitur? Or simply chips chips and more chips? Still having doubts that these are chips on the Hogan Shoulder? Read this comment about Joanna Drake...

"This time with Dr Joanna Drake who extols her dedication to the European Union cause and her consistency on Europe, as if the European Union were the equivalent of God and all the rest Beelzebub.What she does not say is that really and truly her decision to try her luck first as a member of parliament in Brussels on a Nationalist ticket, and later as the head of the European Commission’s delegation to Malta was first catalysed by the salary, then the salary and the lastly the salary."

So effing what Saviour? Where does that bring us? To understand that someone's motivation for getting a job is the salary it entails? Again, I am the last person to defend Nationalist MEPs (even potential ones) but a line has to be drawn. This kind of statement is the kind that makes me wonder where all the happy Maltese people are. This is more like it... "ara x'paga ghandu hey"... "ara kemm qed jaqla flus dak"... "dazgur u jien inhallas it-taxxi"... "ara x'ipappiha"..... Happy indeed.

Allow me to paraphrase Hogan himself to conclude:
"Dear Saviour, all the arguments that come to your mind are uttered under the false premise that the people listening to what you have to say are cretins. Welcome to the New Year folks! And guess what? This is just the beginning. "

14 commentaires:

Robert Micallef a dit…

Malta's Private Eye?! That's exactly the sort of thing we need!

Fausto Majistral a dit…

Hey, that 25% of the Maltese population who are unhappy need something to read!

vlad a dit…

If anything, Mangion is guilty of running with the fox and chasing with the hound. Though the story hardly merits a front page, these things do leave a bad taste mouth. Interestingly, he used the following argument in his own defence:

“It is the same position with MPs who are lawyers and who vote in harsher penalties against criminals which they themselves would have to one day defend in court.”

This came one day after his parliamentary colleague, Anglu Farrugia, successfully moved to have his client's murder trial dissolved on technical grounds.
Nonetheless, it seems a shame that with Labour crying corruption at every chance it gets that this as good as investigative journalism gets.

Matthew a dit…

Read your blog (actually I don't read your blog, someone informed me of it... ehh) about the story. Am commenting about this story on a pure point of principle.

Mangion the MP is indeed different from Mangion the notary. I am afraid you don't follow the news enough to reach back into the developmens of the story.

Mangion is believed to have known that he would be notary on the sale, after the buyers asked him to be notary, soon after the development brief for Pender Place was issued. We're talking early 2005 to mid-June.
At this time, Labour started criticising the sale. The big connection was with its own criticism of the Sea Malta sale ("inbieghhet bir-ribass"); the sale of SM was then compared with the failed venture at Brindisi, in which Malta forked out Lm4 million to keep it afloat to be able to sell it off - Labour knew, through a letter issued by MIMCOL, that the bank loan for Lm4 million tied to the sale of Mercury House and Pender Place.

Where does that put Mangion as an MP - since you and the other lawyers are only looking at it from the profession's point of view. This is not about Mangion's job: this is about Mangion's role as a politician.

What ethical ground exists for a politician who is expected to provide criticism or better direction on government policy, when this MP stands to gain financially from the policy he is criticising??

You are, unfortunately, totally misguided on the issue: as your yourself say, Mangion is supra partes, obligations.. notary... blah blah: its not about him being a Notary, it's about him being an MP.

(kumplament tal-blog kien entertaining daqs ic-chips ta' Balzan...)

Jacques René Zammit a dit…

A hero to the rescue.

1. Nice to hear from you again. Pity the bananazzur died out. I used to read it and got some pleasure out of it too.

2. There is no need for an excuse to comment on the blog. Whether you read it or do so out of point of principle is your business (and frankly, in the spirit of one of my favourite mottos... I don't mind and you... well you know)

3. Mangion. The fact remains that the role of Mangion is that of a Notary - a public officer. It is NOT comparable to that of a lawyer and... in this case the news events that (according to you) I have not been following have absolutely no bearing on the ultimate point. The ultimate point is in fact that he could criticise the policy and spirit of the sale as much as he likes but when acting as a Notary his role in the transaction neither condones nor condemns the transaction. In fact the transaction is not ILLEGAL but merely - in the eyes of labour - a wrong policy.

It would be more fishy if he ENCOURAGED the sale and then would be seen to getting profit out of it (were one to investigate and find that the only reason for the encouragement is the profit itself). I don't see why it can be so hard to understand. Again Notaries are above the parties in a contract... unlike what your editor claims in b&w in his editorial. They cannot act FOR buyers.

4. And now for the chips. Coming as it does from the pen of one of Hogan's Heroes, I cannot but imagine that the fact that my blog is as entertaining as Hogan's chips means that you liked it... so I look forward to further reading and comment from your part. If on the other hand it means that you too find Hogan's Chips mildly irritating and unentertaing then it's a sad sad world innit?

Will email you this comment just in case you decide that further reading of J'Accuse is gravely debilitating. (We do carry a warning sign after all.

So long.... and thanks for all the chips.

Matthew a dit…

Sorry, I will repeat my point again, because whilst you are technically correct, you are failing to understand the spirit of my reply. This is not a question of Mangion's profession, and that of other notaries and future notaries. It is about politics itself.

The nature of Mangion's profession - Notary public, supra partes, not acting for buyers, etc etc - does not objectify in any manner his profession vis-a-vis his role as a politician, as a public person who is there to offer constructive, or whatever form of criticism on government policy. Just because his profession happens to be that of the Notary Public, with all its legal ramifications, does not mean it is objectively unconnected to Mangion's extra-notarial actions, in this case politics.

Mangion is after all the same person, and conceptually splitting him into an MP and Notary, is only convenient for argument's sake.

Of course, the congested power network in such a small island of patronage makes so-called "conflicts of interests" hard to escape. An ethical sense of detachment however is not unheard of either, and neither impossible. Maybe that question came into Mangion's mind when Penderville asked him to act as Notary on the sale, whilst at the same time saying this sale was just a quick money spinner for government's Brindisi blunder.

So what was Mangion - a man who wants to be Deputy PM of Malta - thinking when he was informed he would be the notary of the Pender Place sale so many months beforehand when the MLP was in full swing in its criticism of the sale?
What about Alfred Sant, the man who (we suspect) wants to become PM, who allegedly gave Mangion the go-ahead on this contract?
Are we to believe that Mangion would have been still pleased if government said: "Ok, the MLP are right. We should keep the strategic investments we have in Pender Place and Mercury House for some public purpose."??

And what level of trust can we give to two MLP leaders who are leading the criticism of the sale of two government properties whilst fulling knowing that one of them is, ultimately, going to profit out of this sale (profit in its broadest sense... maybe charge a bill for services, but in the case of a Notary, the bill is relative to the value of a property, so which property is being sold is fundamental to the interests of the Notary)?

This is an episode of political uniqueness. It is the same as having some Labour MP defending Zeppi l-Hafi in court. That the Notary's public role sets its apart, is a mere technicality that serves legal aims.

What I cannot understand is the way you attribute unnecessary ramifications to the argument: who needs to speculate whether this was an illegal sale or not? That would have another story. Mangion's participation in this sale is perfectly legal, legally correct, professionally justifiable.

But what does Mangion think once he goes back to his voter: "They sold the properties, we told them not to. I for one, decided the best I could was to... grin and bear it, because once I turn into Notary Public Mangion suddenly I have to float over and above everything else I have said about one of the biggest property sales this year."

So you mean that just by virtue of Mangion's profession, he can switch from the political world to the objective by donning a pen and a contract? Is it that simple?

What about Mangion's own credibility? Does being a Notary mean that he can forgo a couple of ounces every now and then?

Jacques René Zammit a dit…


First of all I would appreciate it if you were to avoid the overused clichè of attacking an argument because it is a "legalism". We might have reached a dead end here. I acknowledge that it is frustrating that Mangion did what he did. We just have to see what is our concept of right or wrong.

In this sense it would be useless for us to argue from two different value points. There is the value which considers whether what Mangion did from a legal sense is right or wrong. There it would seem that we are agreeing that it is not.

Then there is the evaluation of what is politically right or wrong. Would you vote for someone who chose to wear the two hats? I would not. But then I knew I would never vote Mangion or this Labour anyway. (oops now we will have xifer coming down on us like a ton of bricks accusing us that we will NEVER vote labour).

The problem I have with the Maltatoday article is that it does not provide the full information. It still gives the impression that what Mangion did was wrong for the wrong reasons. Your explanation in the last post would go a long way in explaining the nuances. But it would also go a long way in stating that conflicts of interest should never exist in politics... and then who would we put in parliament? Hogan?

I think that Maltatoday has the luck to be one of the few papers outside the party circles (although not outside party politics) and is wasting this opportunity away with petty insinuations like Joannas payroll, Lou's musical tastes and Carol Peralta's freemason outfit. I know... if I think I can do it better I should be starting my own newspaper.

You think I wouldn't love to do so? Pity I do not have a bigdaddy to sponsor me. Meanwhile I have this blog. Where I can publish and be damned.

Mark Vella a dit…

No, Xifer, after visting Malta this Xmas period, will probably vote for NO-ONE come the next elections.

'Fuck them all!': Ruckly from Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Matthew a dit…

Forget anything else unconnected to the Mangion story; forget what role you believe or suspect is taken up by MT; forget your brave, sponsor-less blog.

To read the Mangion story on its own merits, is purely an account of the details concerning this episode. Mangion criticised a Lm10.6 million which he knew he would be acting as notary for, earning him circa Lm37,000 in fees. Politically he waged a battle against a sale he was set to gain money from. This was the full information on the Pender sale.

Whether or not you consider this to be a misguided, ethically wrong, or objective action by Mangion is the reason we are debating on your orphaned blog. It does not however divest the MT report of any merit.

Some nice raw nerve on the exhumation of the cliched legalism... a self-refuting argument always has a way out. For my part, I argued a point which is intimately a fact of Maltese politics. Its mediocrity. And that is what the Maltese newspapers write about. Including the risk of falling below the standards of quality broadsheets, of failing to intellectually levitate itself away from mediocrity itself.

(by the way of petty insinuations, you could always ask Patrick Spiteri to sponsor your new newspaper...)

Jacques René Zammit a dit…

To conclude an argument that has unsurprisingly taken a twist worthy of tabloid journalism (and not of "orphaned blogs")...

Regarding Patrick Spiteri, it is yet another example of the mediocrity you so proudly report. Yes I did work in the same law firm of a lawyer who would be later incarcerated for misappropriation of client funds. I have no qualms about it because I had nothing to do with the illegal activity. I was a Junior Lawyer setting up a European Department at the time. I never had anything to do with the incidents that involved his incarceration. As a young lawyer it was a shock to be in any way associated with his firm and thankfully I got the chance to leave and start my legal career on a better footing which has after all led me to the European Court of Justice without sponsors of any kind. A step up from mediocrity don't you think?

All the slander and sleaze you can throw in pink journo style only goes to reinforce the argument of mediocre journalism. What is an "orphaned blog" anyway?

And by the way. "Some nice raw nerve on the exhumation of the cliched legalism... a self-refuting argument always has a way out" Any connection with Lorna Vassallo?

At the end of the day it would seem to me that your aim is not to make any sense of the Mangion business but to attack this blog simply because it was critical of your paper. I have said this countless times before... I blog what I think and I do not have a blog to make friends.

Now you have every right to reply and comment and disagree - and I enjoy the argument. Try to keep it that way... a logical argument... it's hard I know... but after all that is what a leap away from mediocrity is all about.

Matthew a dit…

No,we've already had the logical argument. It was great. We arrived at two different conclusions, but then I got bored of you so I picked up an easy fight, you came out blazing, gave us your life story... you should have seen the smile on my face.

("I blog what I think and I do not have a blog to make friends"... a chi lo dici...!!!)

Matthew Vella

Jacques René Zammit a dit…

I see said the blind man. One more thing. I could not decide whether to clarify your Patrick Spiteri comment or not. I was sure it was what you intended me to do when you let it hang. Of course it was between letting the unexplained sleaze hang there or explain it. Don't know why that gives you a smile... but if it does... good for you.

I knew taht if you wanted you could get the whole info on the Spiteri story from your colleague at Maltatoday who worked in the same law firm (or maybe there are other masters in funny business with money at Hogan's raghouse) but readers who read the unexplained slur could not and I could not afford to keep silent and let them imagine god-knows what stories... which is what writers in papers like Maltatoday hope to achieve...

"Dear [fill in name as you please], all the arguments that come to your mind are uttered under the false premise that the people listening to what you have to say are cretins. Welcome to the New Year folks! And guess what? This is just the beginning."

Blazing once more...

Matthew a dit…

"I was sure it was what you intended me to do..."

U mhux ovvja... qed nitnejjek bik Jacques. Pipe down. Or blaze off, there.

Matthew a dit…

aw... "imagine god-knows-what-stories"... about you? Do you seriously think that? In-nies ghandhom izjed affarijiet importanti x'jaghmlu b'hajjithom. Kieku kont "Minister's aide, Minister's cousin, friends of friends, speculations and conspiracies", l-ahwa x'festa naghmlu :-) :-) :-)
Imma Jacques-Rene?? Luxembourger cheese?? Ma va cagare, dai.