Jobs for the Cavaliere

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

What a handsome, if somewhat aged gentlemen! Is there something he can do for you?

Cavaliere
As you can see, this is Silvio Berlusconi, better known in Italian circles (and beyond) as Il Cavaliere, the Knight.* Let me be clear, when I write that he “can do” things for you, I do not mean in the manner of a Mafia don, or even a leading Italian politician.

Berlusconi’s current job-title is better described as “convicted criminal,” convicted for fiscal fraud in connection with his media and broadcast company Mediaset. Verily did he struggle long and hard to avoid this fate – aided considerably by his repeated tenure as the Italian premier, which made him temporarily invulnerable to prosecution as well as even able to change the laws in order to protect himself – but the dreaded day finally came.

But by that time he was already in his late seventies, so he caught some breaks. He was originally sentenced to four years in prison, but it’s clear that was never more than for show. That was soon reduced to just one year, and to community service rather than any time behind bars.

So that is just it: what will be that community service?

In September 2013 the Cavaliere repeated that he would not submit to carrying out community service “like some common criminal who needs re-education,” but he finally accepted this option, that notably permits him to benefit from a further reduction of his sentence by three months [from the one year] in case of good behavior. Shelter for the homeless, retirement home, where will he carry out his community works?

That is just what a Milan court will start to decide today. There had been wild speculation that Berlusconi could find himself “cleaning the toilets at the main train station,” but it seems at least that is unlikely. Still, it’s sure to be spectacular in some way: working in a drug addict treatment center, at a retirement home and the like are real possibilities. That Milan court’s task is complicated extremely by considerations of personal security for Mr. Berlusconi and, of course, by the tremendous press interest that will ensue no matter what he finds himself doing.

One thing he won’t be doing, at least, is opening his mouth in any way: no speeches, no public statements are allowed under terms of his sentence. Then again, another option for him to “serve” his sentence is, in effect, house arrest. About that, this piece declares that “this scenario remains very improbable and concerns above all persons who are judged to be ‘dangerous.'” I sadly predict that is what the Milan judges will go for, turning that criterion on its head by citing the possible “danger” to Berlusconi himself if he actually has to carry out his community service in public.

* And as you perhaps can also see, this is a piece out of the French Huffington Post. There’s little doubt there is coverage of the issue out of the Italian edition as well, but I found this one expressed the dilemma best.

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We Are ALL Berlusconis!

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

Bad news from today’s L’Huffington Post (i.e. the Italian one).

You’re a puttana. Sorry.

I’m a puttana, too. (A rooty-toot-toot, rooty-toot tattoo, too!)

But that’s ‘cuz we’re all puttane!

HuffPoIT_puttane

Not that up with your Italian? Well, you probably would rather not know what this is, I mean, that we all are. (Click if you dare . . .)

More to the issue: Who is saying such nasty things? It’s a certain Giuliano Ferrara, who these days heads the minor Italian daily Il Foglio Quotidiano which he founded himself back in 1996.

But the point is: He has long been a supporter of Silvio Berlusconi, since the 1990s at the latest, and in fact served as MEP and government minister under him. And he was outragedOUTraged!! – by Monday’s court verdict that found his mentor (known popularly in Italy as Il Cavaliere, i.e. “the knight,” or even just Il Cav) guilty of paying for sex with the under-aged Karima El Mahroug (“Ruby the Heart Stealer”), and which sentenced him to seven years in prison. (Whether he will actually serve any time is quite another matter.)

So what Ferrara did yesterday was arrange a rally in support of Il Cavaliere, in Rome’s Piazza Farnese. Accompanied by a sound-system blaring the Rolling Stones’ Ruby Tuesday – classy, eh? – he harrangued the assembled crowd about Il Cav’s present plight, with his (own) wife at his side.* And the express name he gave the demonstration was in fact Siamo tutti puttane by which he meant, I suppose, that if Ruby was one – when, according to Ferrara, she merely enjoyed Il Cavaliere’s charm and conversation, and vice-versa – then we all are.

So that’s a relief, then. It’s not that ALL of us are puttane, just more-or-less those who agreed to turn up yesterday at Giuliano Ferrara’s Rome rally. If you want to click through, there’s even a photo-series on the page to help you identify just who these might be.

But maybe even not some of them: Also present there, according to the report, was Berlusconi’s own current main squeeze, 27-year-old Francesca Pascale, who afterwards took pains to declare Non sono una puttana! to surrounding journalists.

* Together with cardboard cut-outs of both Berlusconi and Hosni Mubarak (!) also on-stage, according to HuffPoIT journalist Andrea Punzo. Bizarre.

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Watch Ur Palle (revised post)!

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Those Italians! Gotta love ’em, but be careful about getting to know their language a little too well and then going out on the strada to practice it. You’ll get in trouble if you say things like Sei senza uova nei pantaloni! Literally “you have no eggs in your pants!”, this phrase “is not only vulgar but quite clearly has an insulting dimension.” That’s a quote from the ruling of an Italian judge, in a case in which one cousin was said to have uttered this phrase against another (presumably male) in public. So: Not allowed! The utterer will be hit with some type of legal sanction.

Now, where did this all take place? In Potenza! I kid you not – you can check out the by-line of the report in Der Spiegel yourself if you like!

Update: Ah, now feedback is starting to come in from true Italians, which is revealing the shaky nature of the alleged phrase – gained, after all, through translation by way of German! Why did I think that might not involve problems?

The definitive article is here. (But it’s in Italian – as you would hope! Thanks to my friend Barbara for the reference!) It now seems that non hai le palle (“you’ve got no balls!”) is the phrase we’re talking about – nothing about pants, or uova. That’s what will get you in trouble (or just writing about it, it seems). Nota bene!

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Politics Without Proper Politicians

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Don’t look now – but Italy is no longer at the center of Eurozone fears. Indeed, the interest rates the government there pays on its debt are now back down closer to the “normal” rates of old. And this all has to do with Mario Monti, installed as the “technocratic” prime minister only some four months ago:

Neuer Politikstil in Rom: Monti und die Millionäre mischen Italien auf… http://t.co/hd2d9zW6

@SPIEGEL_Politik

SPIEGEL Politik


Yes, the grand-daddy of German newsmagazines, Der Spiegel is impressed – or at least writer Hans-Jürgen Schlamp and his editors there are. Could it be that, somehow, Italy is turning itself around precisely by becoming a bit more “German”?

Not really – unless you’re referring to “German” as in “Third Reich” (and we know you are not). For the striking thing about this article is how undemocratic that country has come to be. It’s the politicians in the Senate and Chamber of Deputies who were elected, after all; neither Monti nor the rest of cabinet ever were. Yet these days, they get what they want. Schlamp’s piece leads off with the tale of this government’s current attempt to curtail workers’ protection against being fired. Since forever that has been out of the question – the Left there, always strong whether actually in power at the national level or not, would never allow any such thing. Yet now it’s the Labor Minister, Elsa Fornero, who is warning the unions “We can’t negotiate forever,” meaning that they better finally show some “give” on the issue or the government will just take the measure it wants passed to the legislature anyway – and probably get its way.

The basic problem is that, while it’s true that these legislators were elected, it was largely they who brought the country to the brink of default and economic collapse in the first place. Voters know that they messed things up with who they chose.

Which then also means that there is going to be a problem when this “technocratic phase” comes to an end, which will happen at the latest when the next national elections come around next year. How do you profile yourself to your voters when you’re just giving the unelected government everything they demand – because you know full well that’s what those voters now want? It would be no use refusing: the country’s in trouble, haven’t you heard?, so you would just get yourself irredeemably in their bad graces. But everyone else is simply deferring to the government as well.

Naturally, this situation is the worst of all for what is left of former premier Berlusconi’s party, considering the way he was driven from office in disgrace. According to Schlamp, those politicians are very confused: “Many see their political survival linked to the return of their former Leader [the article does actually use here the infamous term Führer]. Others consider that to be the worst of all [possible] variants.”

Nonetheless, decision-time will come, because Mario Monti and his Merry Men aren’t going to stick around forever. He has already made it clear that he’ll head back to his professorship at Bocconi University (Milan) after those 2013 elections. And anyway, Italy is a democracy: it’s supposed to have a proper, democratically legitimate government.

UPDATE: Whoops! Did Herr Schlamp – and, by extension, I – write too soon?

Italy’s largest trade union, the CGIL, says it will hold a general strike over plans to reform employment laws http://t.co/UWabccdF

@BBCBreaking

BBC Breaking News

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Krugman’s Frank Eurotalk

Monday, November 14th, 2011

Many of you reading this blog must surely also subscribe to, or at least read regularly, Paul Krugman’s NYT blog The Conscience of a Liberal. It admittedly blows this blog away in influence terms, as it is currently ranked #41 on the Technorati list. But is the Nobel prize-winning Princeton economist as ready to bring forward the often piquant opinions resulting from his economic analyses away from home, so to speak, i.e. when on some forum than his own blog?

Of course he is! Lately what has been dominating the economic front has been the Eurozone, especially Greece and Italy. Even when interviewed by a leading German newspaper, Krugman does not hold back, as we can see in the extended interview published on-line by Die Zeit last Friday: “The euro will mutate into an extended Deutschmark”. (more…)

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Eichengreen: Show Italy Tough Love

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

Here’s a bit of bald Twitter self-promotion for you:

If you weren’t alarmed enough yet by the European situation, try this interview on for size (use Google Translate): http://t.co/K6EyrTs

@B_Eichengreen

Barry Eichengreen


Turns out that the interview in question is of UC Berkeley Prof. Barry Eichengreen himself, conducted by Die Welt writer Tobias Kaiser. (That link in his tweet opens a PDF of the interview. Of course it is in German, but no need for Google Translate when you’ve got the EuroSavant!)

Well, who among us who publishes on the Net can ever be immune from such cross-posting temptation? Besides, he has some interesting things to say on the current transatlantic debt crises, and his piece was even retweeted, and so implicitly endorsed, by Doctor Doom himself.

Prof. Eichengreen emphasizes that, whatever else might be going on currently in the Eurozone, Italy and Spain must now be the focus of policy-makers’ attention. That is not so insightful per se – German Chancellor Angela Merkel is in Paris today to meet with President Sarkozy and presumably the public finances of those two ailing Mediterranean states will be high on their agenda. (Not that top-level officials from either will be present; that’s not always necessary when the EU’s two big powerhouse-states are having discussions.) (more…)

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A European Crisis Glossary

Saturday, August 6th, 2011

Amid all the brouhaha about S&P downgrading its rating for US Government debt, the parallel ongoing crisis in Europe should not be forgotten. “Crisis”? Take it away, Nouriel:

Definition of “crisis”: when officials need to huddle up on a weekend before Asia opening to take decisions & do statements a turmoil rages

@Nouriel

Nouriel Roubini


The Czech daily Mladá fronta dnes, as caught by the @Zpravy Twitter-feed, has the details on this particular edition:

iDnes: Lídři EU chtějí rychle realizovat závěry summitu. Uklidní tak trhy: Vlády musí urychleně dokončit dohody … http://bit.ly/oLaqvt

@Zpravy

Zpravy


Turns out, if you like, that you can blame everything on European vacation syndrome (e.g. “No one touches my August holiday!”): EU leaders want to quickly carry out changes from summit, that way they’ll calm markets is the headline here.

  • “Summit”? That’s the one they just had, of course, an extraordinary convening in Brussels on July 21 in reaction to the Italy/Spain funding troubles.
  • “Changes”? That has to do with the European Financia Stability Facility (EFSF), which leaders at that summit agreed would be beefed up to better be able to intervene to assist eurozone member-states in financial need, eventually even becoming a sort of European Monetary Fund.

(more…)

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Let Them Eat Yacht

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

Memo to Secretary of State Clinton: If you consider your squabble with the North Korean authorities as still unresolved and are just waiting to launch a new salvo, I’m glad to provide you with some more ammunition. According to a new report in the French weekly Le Point, you could accuse them of shelling out government funds for luxury yachts from abroad while their people starve back home. Italian authorities back on May 28 seized two luxury yachts with a combined value of €12.5 million, under construction at Viareggio on the coast of Tuscany. This was at the request of Austrian prosecutors in Vienna, as the order for these, along with several cars, had been placed by an Austrian national who thereupon transferred title to them all to a Chinese company suspected as acting as a front for the North Korean government. Naturally, the shipment of any sort of luxury goods to North Korea is prohibited, specifically by UN Security Council resolution 1718 of October, 2006, passed in the wake of that country’s first nuclear test.

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Wolf Back at the Door

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

Today we continue our impromptu series on “animals back in Europe that you wouldn’t expect” with an article by Helmut Luther from the German paper Die Zeit about the wolves that now roam in Italy, specifically in the northern reaches of the Apennine Mountains. Actually, Luther’s article (with the nearly-incomprehensible title “In a song with Isegrim” – it seems Isegrim/Isegrin is the name of a wolf-character out of German medieval fables) is located within Die Zeit’s Travel section, as it is oriented towards potential tourists interested in heading down to Northern Italy to try out the very limited wolf-searching commercial tours on offer there, and includes at its end practical information about the tours themselves, how to get there, and available hotel accommodation in the area.

But yes, wolves are back in Northern Italy, after all but completely dying out decades ago. They were officially made a protected species under Italian law back in the 1970s, but Luther writes that a more-helpful development was the economic development since then that prompted country-dwellers in that part of Italy to head away to the city for more lucrative jobs, and so opened the way for wild boars and deer – the wolves’ favorite snacks! – to spread and multiply, with the canines at the top of the local food-chain soon following. (more…)

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“Better Prison Than House-Arrest With My Wife!”

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

Ah, don’t we just know the feeling . . .

I picked up this story originally from the Dutch paper De Volkskrant (Rather in the cell than at home with spouse), but just a little work with Google News Italia brought me to an authentic Italian report of this case, with a bit more detail, in Il Messaggero (Better jail than wife. And he renounces house-arrest).

This 56-year-old guy in Viterbo, Italy, see, got himself arrested for standing on the railroad tracks at the station in the town of Orte. (This is in the Lazio region just north of Rome.) He was drunk at the time – and so compounded his original offence of interrupting a public service with resisting arrest and threatening a public official – and was sentenced by the judge to five months’ house-arrest. But he pleaded with the judge for mercy: “For me it would be impossible to spend such a long period with my wife. We constantly argue and I would not be able to leave the house to not have to hear her insults. I don’t know how I could make it to the end.”

The judge made a game attempt to convince the defendant of the merits of house-arrest, but quickly just gave in and let him serve his five months at the local prison. By the way, that facility is in Viterbo and is known as the Mammagialla prison. Mamma-GIAL-la!! – doesn’t that sound like it should be the name of a spaghetti or something?

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Stimulus Package – But Not Too Stimulating

Monday, December 1st, 2008

Uh oh, here we go with the Financial Times Deutschland again! I swear, when I go looking for interesting European news to pass along, it’s not as if I first head directly to the FTD’s site (or, more accurately, to its RSS feeds). On the contrary, I always do try to cast my nets wide. It’s just that today’s economic report from them has a certain . . . let’s say spice to it, that I’m sure it won’t take you long to pick out.

The article is entitled Italy shocks itself to health, by FTD Milan correspondent Andre Tauber, and no, it has nothing to do with any kind of electro-therapy. It is rather about the fiscal stimulus plan recently announced by Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi. You know: the UK, Germany, Spain, etc. have each announced their own such plans recently (the United States is a laggard for well-known “lame duck” reasons); not only do the perilous financial times require such an initiative nearly everywhere, but in fact that was one thing the parties agreed to at that “G20 summit” in Washington, DC back in mid-November, i.e. that they would each more-or-less at the same time come out with their own stimulus plans, since it is disturbing to currency- and various other world economic equilibria if some nations hold back.

So Italy, too, has climbed aboard this stimulus-plan bandwagon. But, as Tauber reports in his article, Belusconi’s proposal has a few unique characteristics of its own. (more…)

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Italian Legislators Ask Nader to Withdraw

Monday, July 26th, 2004

A devastating debate with Howard Dean live on TV hasn’t been enough; neither have been appeals from countless Americans, from the prominent to the obscure. But maybe a collective entreaty from some guys (mostly guys; actually, they’re uomini) with that notable “continental style” will do the trick and convince Ralph Nader to withdraw from the American presidential race. The French on-line newsmagazine Le Nouvel Observateur is reporting (Anti-Bush Action From Italian Deputies) that 116 members of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, “in a rare gesture,” sent a collective letter last Saturday (24 July) to presidential candidate Ralph Nader urging him to bow out. (more…)

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The Meaning of D-Day

Saturday, June 5th, 2004

The news may have been slow coming through the middle of this past week (as I complained in my previous entry – or maybe I was just manufacturing an excuse to go review the “Europa XL” entry on Italy), but that has quickly ceased to be the case, what with President Bush’s embarking on Air Force One to pay another visit over to Europe. Naturally, Iraq will be foremost in everyone’s minds, as he attempts to gain a little more assistance for that country from our European allies, perhaps with a view towards engineering formal NATO involvement at the upcoming Istanbul NATO summit. The ceremonial pretext, however, is the 60th anniversary of the Allied landings in Normandy during World War II – although, as we’ll see, the ceremonial and the practical political spheres have already impinged upon each other.

Looking at the on-line Dutch press for D-Day coverage, it’s almost totally absent, save treatment in the leading serious evening daily, the NRC Handelsblad. But there the coverage is extensive and truly multi-faceted. (more…)

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Bella Italia!

Thursday, June 3rd, 2004

This was not a particularly dense news day, meaning I find little interesting out there to choose from and to report on. But at least Dutch readers can catch up with the latest developments in both the Chalabi and the Valerie Plame cases in this comprehensive summary article by the NRC Handelsblad’s US correspondent Marc Chavannes. (For those needing help, Valerie Plame is the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who was revealed last July in a newspaper column by Robert Novak to be an undercover CIA agent. That’s against the law; Novak said his information came from administration officials. Probably not-so-coincidentally, Ambassador Wilson had embarrassed the Bush administration by pointing out that allegations that Saddam Hussein had tried to obtain uranium from Niger – an alleged event he had personally investigated – were false.) Chavannes even has the awareness to cite, from an analysis in Kevin Drum’s “Washington Monthly” weblog, the blatant illogic in President Bush’s recent statements about Ahmed Chalabi – i.e. that he didn’t have much to do with him, he was merely Laura Bush’s guest at the last State of the Union address – in light of the President’s earlier statement on Meet the Press that he had met with Chalabi in the Oval Office.

So much for this, that. Where’s the beef? Hey, we always have the option of taking up another country from Politikens’s “Europa XL” series of cultural portraits. Let’s go for Italy this time, analyzed by writer Stefano Benni; he does quite a good job indeed. (more…)

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An Interim IGC Evaluation: Buy Your Dollars Now!

Tuesday, October 21st, 2003

As varied as the individual details may have been, one theme clearly predominates the preceding accounts on this website, from the French, Dutch, and the Czech press, of the progress of the EU draft Constitution Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) so far. And that is, of course, that there has been virtually none – indeed, that there is even considerable dissatisfaction over the process currently being used to try to gain common agreement on an EU Constitution. (more…)

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Holland Takes Aim at Stability Pact Violators

Wednesday, September 17th, 2003

Today is “Holland Day”! (To read why, see my previous post for today, below.) And this time I have a fairly serious subject to treat, namely the seeming determination on the part of highest Dutch government officials that the Stability and Growth Pact (hereafter just “Stability Pact”), which was added to European law in 1997 and whose key provision is that governments are not allowed to run budget deficits of more than 3% of their GDP, be enforced. When governments violate this rule, they’re supposed to be fined millions of euros by the European Commission; Germany and France are about to violate it for the third year in a row (Italy is also apparently a violator), and, as we’ll see, the Dutch together with some of their friends within the EU want to see those fines applied, even if it happens to be the two most influential countries against which that would happen, the very “motor” of EU development. (more…)

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Reconciliation for Schröder and Berlusconi

Monday, August 25th, 2003

We’ve been following this story in EuroSavant: the war-of-words between Italy and Germany that sprung up shortly after Silvio Berlusconi took up the EU presidency at the beginning of June and, following his inaugural speech before the European Parliament, declared in the heat of accusation and counter-accusation that German MEP Martin Schulz would make a good Nazi concentration camp Kapo in an Italian film currently under production. Italian Minister for the Economy and Tourism Stefano Stefani followed this up with some unkind words about German tourists in Italy, whereupon German Bundeskanzler Gerhard Schröder decided not to join their ranks this summer, as he usually does. (Apparently he simply stayed home and vacationed in Hannover, where he is from – a particularly appropriate choice in light of the millions of his countrymen, and others across the EU, forced to do the same thing by financial considerations in this year-of-recession 2003.) (more…)

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Berlusconi Takes It da Kapo at the European Parliament

Thursday, July 3rd, 2003

I was hoping to move on to other subjects than the fitness of Silvio Berlusconi for the European Union presidency, but his insulting outburst yesterday while in the EU Parliament to present his president’s agenda naturally keeps me on this subject. And I was hoping to move on from reporting on the German press, which I’ve covered a bit disproportionally in the past several weeks, but it only seems logical and fair to report on reactions from the country whose MEP (Member of the European Parliament) was the target of Berlusconi’s insult, a defamation that touched on Germany’s sensitive Nazi past.

The incident took place in the debate after Berlusconi had made his “inaugural” address to Parliament. (more…)

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The “Godfather” Takes Up the EU Presidency

Tuesday, July 1st, 2003

It’s July 1, so the half-yearly presidency of the European Union changes hands again (for possibly the second-to-the-last time, if the EU Constitution, which changes this system, is ratified within the first half of 2004 as planned). Good-bye to Greece; ciao to Italy, specifically to Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minster. (more…)

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