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Birds of a feather…


Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. Sometimes a word is worth everything in describing a picture. Today, that word is “vaffanculo”.

You’ve no doubt heard by now about Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia flipping off a reporter shortly after communion while still in a cathedral and getting caught on camera doing it. So forgive me for repeating a thread that Pam’s already blogged, but I just can’t help myself.

(Boston Herald) Minutes after receiving the Eucharist at a special Mass for lawyers and politicians at Cathedral of the Holy Cross, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had a special blessing of his own for those who question his impartiality when it comes to matters of church and state.

“You know what I say to those people?” Scalia, 70, replied, making an obscene gesture, flicking his hand under his chin when asked by a Herald reporter if he fends off a lot of flak for publicly celebrating his conservative Roman Catholic beliefs.

“That’s Sicilian,” the Italian jurist said, interpreting for the “Sopranos” challenged.

Although one of his sworn duties is to uphold the freedom of the press, a jocular Scalia told the shutterbug, “Don’t publish that.”

Now you know and I know that the flick of the hand under the chin, erroneously reported earlier as “flipping the bird”, is not the most obscene gesture one could present in a church (that would be reserved for George W. Bush showing up to a funeral of a beloved civil rights icon just months after vacationing while black New Orleaneans drown). But it is certainly not a gesture that someone would use in a church.

Scalia, being the good hunting buddy of Dick “Go f*ck Yourself” Cheneyburton, attempted to spin his way out of it by, of course, blaming the media and claiming he’d been misinterpreted.

(Boston Herald) In a letter to the editor, an almost unheard-of step for a Supreme Court justice, Scalia said a reporter misinterpreted the gesture he made when she asked whether his participation in Sunday’s special Mass for lawyers might cause some people to question his impartiality in matters of church and state.

“Your reporter, an up-and-coming ‘gotcha’ star named Laurel J. Sweet, asked me (o-so-sweetly) what I said to those people. . .,” Scalia wrote to Executive Editor Kenneth A. Chandler. “I responded, jocularly, with a gesture that consisted of fanning the fingers of my right hand under my chin. Seeing that she did not understand, I said, ‘That’s Sicilian,’ and explained its meaning.”

In his letter, Scalia goes on to cite Luigi Barzini’s book, “The Italians”: “ ‘The extended fingers of one hand moving slowly back and forth under the raised chin means: “I couldn’t care less. It’s no business of mine. Count me out.” ’ ”

“From watching too many episodes of the Sopranos, your staff seems to have acquired the belief that any Sicilian gesture is obscene – especially when made by an ‘Italian jurist.’ (I am, by the way, an American jurist.)”

See, it was all just a mistake. Scalia’s gesture was twisted in a “gotcha” game by female cub reporter who doesn’t understand Sicilian hand gestures.

Well, except for the whole “vaffanculo” thing:

(Boston Herald) “It’s inaccurate and deceptive of him to say there was no vulgarity in the moment,” said Peter Smith, the Boston University assistant photojournalism professor who made the shot.

Despite Scalia’s insistence that the Sicilian gesture was not offensive and had been incorrectly characterized by the Herald as obscene, the photographer said the newspaper “got the story right.”

Smith said the jurist “immediately knew he’d made a mistake, and said, ‘You’re not going to print that, are you?’ ”

“The judge paused for a second, then looked directly into my lens and said, ‘To my critics, I say, ‘Vaffanculo,’ ” punctuating the comment by flicking his right hand out from under his chin, Smith said.

The Italian phrase means “(expletive) you.”

Well, not quite. According to the Urban Dictionary, it means, “go f*ck an ass” in Italian, or “go f*ck yourself in the ass”. Dick Cheneyburton should be so creative; he only told Senator Leahy to “go f*ck yourself”, but never suggested exactly where.

But since Scalia brought up The Sopranos, it was only natural for the Boston Herald to ask some of the Italian-American actors on the show to give their opinions:

You know that I’m not that offended by his gesture in a church. In fact, it is one of the more entertaining ways a member of the Cheney maladministration (a subsidiary of Halliburton, part of the Carlyle Group Family of Companies) has proven their hypocrisy and blasphemed their own sanctimonious celebration of their silly mythology.

The offensive part is not the gesture or the words, but the meaning which they convey. Flipping someone off, giving them the Bronx bird, gesturing a Sicilian salute, or just saying “go f*ck yourself” is the antithesis of reasoned debate among respectful equals. It says not only do I disagree with you, but your point and your standing are so insignificant as to earn total dismissal.

It’s the underlying theme behind everything this maladministration does. We’ll do what we want, and if you don’t like it, “go f*ck yourself”. Flipping someone off in a church is the least of the offense produced by these people.

[Cross-posted at Radical Writ, with a special finger-salute for Scalia. Don’t worry, Tony, it’s an Idahoan gesture that means “you’re number one.”]

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