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Archive for March 2010

Nessun dorma

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After a (very long) series of adventures (see previous post), regional elections finally took place in Italy over the last two days. Reports can be found here, here and here.

Some will celebrate the charismatic leaders  who have won this exciting political contest. Others will mourn the sinking of Italy’s opposition against a coalition that makes every effort to be defeated. Others, and I am among them, will nonetehless be positively surprised by some results. That’s life.

The PM, in the meantime, remains vigilant over Italy, keen to defend its image both at home and abroad:

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Written by TheItalianist

30/03/2010 at 19:34

Come on Minister, Light My Fire

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The flame of democracy and freedom still burns in Italy. Against those who stay sceptical of Italy’s democratic level, today the Italian Minister Roberto Calderoli has poured fuel over the fire of liberty, a testimony of how well the Italian Government is doing.

This is Roberto Calderoli (on the left):

Calderoli plays a fundamental role in the Italian Government: he is the Minister for Legislative Simplification. His job consists in looking at the legal system and removing the ‘useless’ laws. A key function. What would happen without him? How many useless laws would Italians have to deal with, otherwise? Thank God there is Calderoli. I’m surprised no other country recognises a similar figure in their administrative body.

Clearly, not everyone can be Minister of Simplification. Calderoli has been the winner of a harsh selection, thanks to those qualities that make him stand out in the political scene. One can imagine him spending his days over the legal code, looking for the clogs in the mechanism that make the machine run less smoothly.

Today, his value was finally duly celebrated, through a solemn rite which, however, did not take place in the Parliament but  in a fire station. The ceremony consisted in the Minister burning a bunch of cardboard boxes, symbolising the 375.000 laws that allegedly the Minister has carefully and relentlessly removed from the Italian legal code. This the Minister getting ready for the service:

 

The attentive reader will notice that he is wielding a flame-thrower and an axe. He’s so attached to his work that he takes his tools with him always, even on official ceremonies. The boxes say “375.000 Useless Laws”. Can anyhting be more postmodern?

In pure ministerial fashion, Calderoli set the useless boxes on fire. Witness allege that Jim Morrison’s voice was heard coming from the flames:

The fire dissolved the burdens of the Italian Legal System. People clapped hands. The Gods were probably pleased.

(Pictures from Affaritaliani.it)

The Minister waved his thumb, reassuring the country about the safety of our legal system.

Thanks to this purifying fire, then: a fire that finally sweeps away all the little nuisances of our everyday life, about which we should stop worrying.

Written by TheItalianist

24/03/2010 at 23:59

Italian Drama on a Remote Island

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A large part of today’s news focuses on one of Italy’s current main concerns, the reality Tv-show Isola dei Famosi. It is true that Italy is also worried about the possibility of a coup d’état. However, for many democratically-aware Italian citizens, the Isola is more important. After that, Italians care about their own values.

Imagine what  happens, then, when these two key elements of Italian life get head-to-head. This, apparently, occurred two days ago in L’Isola dei Famosi. I have to underline ‘apparently’, because I did not actually watch it, though I was able to read about it profusely, thanks to the almighty Italian media.

A reminder of what the Isola is about can be found here. Basically, a group of VIP persons are placed on some island, and they have to survive. The fun bit seems to be that they, being VIP, are used to a certain level of facilities and cosmetics that, we assume, will not be available on the remote island on which they are cast together with their TV troupe. The dramatic images of famous VIP actresses/models/dancers deprived of their make-up, and of VIP muscular men who can’t shave their chests, keep over 4.5 million people in front of the TV. Apparently, the Isola has the magic effect of making the VIP women look like this:

 

These VIP ladies are Loredana Lecciso and Tracy Fraddosio, btw.

A couple of days ago, one of the VIPs on the island allegedly freaked out. Nothing strange, that happens quite often, and in fact it’s probably in the script (ops, did I say that?) The deranged hero is Aldo Busi, a VIP writer who, for some reasons, is not as famous for his books as much as for his provocative behaviour on TV, where he abundantly appears. This may not be surprising, given that one of his last literary achievements is a VIP pamphlet titled One needs balls to get it in his ass (Bisogna avere I coglioni per prenderlo in culo). This the Aldo:

 

As with the ladies above, the Isola turned him into something else:

Yesterday, Busi said “enough!” with the Isola, and clearly stated -in front of 4.5 million devoted citizens– that he was tired of being the scapegoat of the group, and probably sick of being sourrounded by progressively uglier VIP people. It is not known (to me, at least) what brought the VIP rage on the island.  Yet, in declaring that he was going to quit the Isola, Busi criticised homophobia. May homophobia  be the cause of this unshaved breakdown?? – we all wonder.

Busi is a declared homosexual, and the title of the pamphlet above might suggest he is quite open about it. He might have felt targeted by offensive comments by other VIPs on the island:  this might have led him, understandably, to the extreme act. I have found his final speech on the internet, which reveals Aldo’s literary value (my translation, free but faithful):

My contract is finished, exhausted. There is no story anymore. I am afraid that, if I were to stay here, I would win. I have taken part in this for a sort of resigned melancholy. I want to offer the example of the old man who steps aside. I would find it humiliating, for me, to win this little race. (…) I am not part of the kind of people who are on this island.”

So far, so good. High drama, strong emotions, unshaved people – it’s the Isola at its best. Yet, Busi then moved on to a different level when he focused on one person in particular, one who has ascended to the status of VIP by being the adopted son of a gay-icon, the singer Renato Zero. This is Renato Zero:

 

Zero is not married (gays don’t really get a chance in Italy, do they), yet he has somewhat managed to adopt the guy in question, some dude called Roberto. Again, I miss some crucial details about how this could have happened. Nevertheless, the presence of Roberto onthe island triggered  Busi’s attack against Italy’s homophobia: “The reason why I am attacked is because I am anticlerical. Because I say that the real problem of our society is not the homosexual, is the homophobe. Those are the sick, the perverted ones, whether they are politicians or priests. (ouch.. careful Aldo..) But one cannot say these things on TV. In a few moments, this camera will switch off, and I’ll disappear.” Cool stuff, probably better than his books. 

Yet, at some point Aldo got carried away, and pointed at the Pope as the main homophobe.

This is the Pope:

 

“Don’t say that, Aldo!”- you can see him gesture..

That was the end of the story. In fact, as we all know no one fucks with the Jesus. Thus, today the RAI, the National TV channel that proudly broadcasts the Isola, issued a statement, condemning Busi to yet another exile, this time not on TV but from TV. Busi has been banned by all RAI programmes, forever, due to “breach of contract”.

How did he breach thye contract? Given that Busi has a tendency to yell, swear, smash things and offend anyone anytime he goes on TV, (and that this is probably the reason why they put him on the island), he must have said something particular, on this occasion, to ‘breach the contract’.

Any hint?

Politicians followed quickly to support RAI’s decision mainly from the Right. The Right, as we know, is the one more attached to moral values. Apparently lots from the Right fall within those 4.5 million people mentioned above. They all promptly expressed anything from “despise” to “disconcert”at Busi’s immoral attack to the Holy Father (see above). Not even  VIPs can offend the Pope!

Ah, Aldo.. How can you offend the Pope? How can you call him homophobe?? The Pope is the symbol of morality. He loves everyone. Everyone loves the Pope.

 Go back to your VIP pamphlets, Aldo. And write them in silence

Written by TheItalianist

19/03/2010 at 00:53

Minzolini, The Halved Editor

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Augusto Minzolini is the editor of the news on the Italian channel RAI 1,the principal channel on Italian TV. Hence, the principal TV news programme. TG1 is what families always watch during dinner: back home after a hard day at work, they can finally relax and enjoy a good home-made meal, while being informed on what happens in the world. It is the main channel of TV information in Italy, at least in terms of audience size.

Minzolini was elected for this role on 20th May 2009, after a career in journalism and cinema. The latter reveals he is at ease when appearing on the TV screen: as we will see, that has turned out to be the key quality in his role as editor. Regarding the former, Minzolini is famous for having  introduced a new journalistic style, allegedly labelled ‘minzolinismo’

Minzolinismo relies on “collecting ‘informal’ statements from politicians without checking over their validity”. One may be slightly reluctant to define this ‘a journalistic style’: it would be a bit like introducing a style of cooking that relies on throwing random stuff in a pot, and boiling it for a certain amount of time, then serving it into leather shoes.

Anyway, one should not ask too many questions. Furthermore, this may well be a case of a genius, one who revolutionizes an entrenched tradition by violating the accepted rules. Actually, it must be so: otherwise, why would they elect him director of the main TV News programme?

This is Augusto Minzolini:

Once he became editor of TG1, he exported his minzolinistic approch also to the world of editing. As applied to TV journalism,  minzolinism is characterised by the use of direct-to-camera editorials. What happens is that at some point during the TV news, the flashy head of Minzolini appears on the screen and takes over. For about 2-3 minutes, the director expresses his thoughts about one the central issues in the Italian news. This raises a couple of questions: 1) How can his head be so flashy? What is it made of? 2) Why the editorial? Why does the director of the public news channel need to step in and tell the audience what he thinks the right answer is?

Rather, it seems appropriate for him to remain in the background, to define the editorial line –for sure- yet not acting himself as a journalist. He can certainly express his views, but he may well do that on other occasions than on the news he directs. News programmes are to report facts, not to tell people how to understand the facts. Hence, here is Mizolini’s innovative contribution: minzolinismo means that the deus ex machina can also appear and talk.

On the day he took office at the TG1, Minzolini made his first appearance on the screen to explain his manifesto. His goal -he stated- would have been ‘to deal with the real life of the people’, and ‘to make the audience not just an audience, but also a co-editor’. Rightly so. Unfortunately, he then pushed the ‘real life of the people’ line too far, by claimed that the accusations against the Italian PM, that so much spice gave to our last summer, were pathetic. This immediately posed problems to the minzolinic directing style.

In fact, as it happens to all the geniuses, the world was not ready yet to receive minzolinismo. So a few days later, the TG1 was widely criticised for not reporting anything at all regarding the aforementioned scandals: the news were all about football, sun, and holidays. Minzolini gave his explanation, in one of his direct-to-camera editorials, by confirming that what he intended to do was to talk about what really is important, not the stupid gossip of journalists that enjoy throwing mud at respectable people.

In October, a huge protest took place in Rome in defence of press freedom, after Governamental decisions against some overly-critical journalists. During TG1, an even flashier Minzolini appeared on the screen, to make it clear that he found that protest ‘incomprehensible’, and that Italy enjoyed the highest level of freedom of expression. The fact that he was expressing himself freely on TV was the sign of this.

Pure art.

Nevertheless, criticisms of his style increased. Bu so did also the frequency with which he flashily defended his mission. On 11th December, during a trial, the mafia turncoat Gaspare Spatuzza mentioned alleged connections between the Mafia and the actual Government. On the same day, Minzolini appeared on the news (again, the public news), just to clarify that Spatuzza’s claims were “bullshit which contributed to damaging the image of Italy”.

A few days later, on the 14th, Berlusconi was hit in the face by an object thrown at him by a protester. Minzolini commented, in one of his stylish editorials, that criticisms of the PM had created a ‘climate of hatred that is leading to civil war.’ It was time to stop, once and for all, to criticise the PM. Enjoy your meal.

The new year did not bring better luck to Minzolini’s attempt to innovate the art of directing the news. A big polemic followed the decision of Milan’s mayor, LetiziaMoratti, to entitle a street to Bettino Craxi, as part of a broader attempt to rehabilitate the memory of one of the most corrupted politicians of the 80-90s. Minzolini then performed again. In one of his editorials, he defined Craxi “a great statesman”. According to Minzo, Craxi had been turned into the scapegoat of a system that had resisted after the Cold War. He had been a great statesman, and it was now time to look at him “with history’s eyes”. Unfortunately, once again the world was not ready for this, and Minzolini was accused of serving the PM’s desire to rehabilitate the image of a politician with whom he had shared so much. This is Bettino Craxi in an old picture (on the right, with a friend):

 

The story continues. In his effort to tell the audience/co-editor about the Government’s performance, the editor of the public news directed his team to show how well things are going in L’Aquila, the city in central Italy struck by a powerful earthquake in April 2009. The PM had made it clear from the beginning that the Government would have made every effort to help the population of L’Aquila: together with the Head of the Civil Protection, Guido Bertolaso, he set out to rebuild central Italy. Thus, the TG1 regularly showed reports of happy people, new houses, politicians’ promising/accomplishing things, order returning, etc.

Sadly, that did not seem to have captured entirely what is happening in L’Aquila. When, later, a troupe of TG1 went to L’Aquila again, an angry mob attacked them and sent them away, yelling “Go away, scondinzolini!” The term ‘scodinzolini’ seems to be a mixture of the aforementioned ‘minzolini’, and of the verb ‘scodinzolare’, wagging. Look where the attempt to make his audience also co-editor took him: the angry mob had clearly misunderstood Minzo’s attempt to report on ‘what people really care about’, for him wagging the tail at the PM.

There have been many more episodes, in which Minzolini has employed his style towards a precise and efficient News service. Even more, though, has been the ostracism he’s had to face from those who are against his pioneering approach. In fact, a few days ago, phone tappings have been revealed in which, allegedly, the Italian PM calls Minzolini to tell him what he has to say in the TG1. It is alleged that in these phone calls, the PM calls Minzolini “direttorissimo” (“super-editor”).  

 

Faithful to his style, Minzolini reacted to this attack to his style yesterday, during the news on the public channel, claiming “they (who?) want to shut my mouth. They want a ‘halved editor. But I will not be a halved-editor”.

However, his head looked vaguely less flashy.

Written by TheItalianist

15/03/2010 at 00:56

I’m Unemployed – Get Me Out of Here!

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A group of workers, for long at risk of being made redundant, have decided to occupy the building of a dismissed jail in Sardinia, on the Asinara Island, to draw public attention to their situation. For the last 4 months, workers at Vylnis, a chemical industry in Porto Torres, have been receiving redundancy payments. Agreements are still sought to sell Vylnis to (potential) international buyers. Yet, talks towards a deal are still a long way from being concluded. The workers, in the meantime, have been left with never-ending uncertainties about their future, and an overall salary of 800 euros over the last 3 months.

Thus, in a desperate attempt to bring public attention over their dramatic situation, 15 workers have spent the last 2 weeks ‘in exile’ on the Asinara Island, occupying the site of the dismissed prison that used to host mafia bosses.

“On TV L’Isola dei Famosi  (the Italian version of I’m a celebrity Get my Out of Here) is starting just now. Here, on the Asinara Island, we are starting L’Isola dei Cassintegrati (‘The Isle of the Redundant Workers‘), and we won’t leave until we’ll hear something about our future” – said one of the workers.

It is hard to get attention from the media, especially over such a long time as this case seems to require. These workers must also have been aware that, the now that L’Isola dei Famosi has started, the media will not be concerned with anything but which one, of the booby sluts taking part in the reality showm, will start crying because she does not like eating her own poo.  It is true, reality shows are made to absorb people’s minds as much as possible and to divert them from reality. So the workers on the Asinara Island are going to offer us the first real reality show. The message is clear: while, on TV, famous people go to exotic places, out there in the real world, the redundant workers go to prison islands:

A group on Facebook supports the workers’ case:  “Unfortunately, the only real reality show”

Written by TheItalianist

10/03/2010 at 17:10

Ego Te Absolvo

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Something quite serious happened yesterday in Italy, but it seems to have gone unnoticed. To be more precise, the event has received partial coverage on the media, but I think a very superficial and slightly instrumental one.

The Pope received yesterday, in the Vatican, a delegation of members of the Italian Civil Protection. The event was meant to celebrate the Civil Protection’s work, particularly in the recent earthquake in L’Aquila on 6th April 2009.

During the meeting, the Pope addressed especially Guido Bertolaso, the head of the Civil Protection. Bertolaso is currently at the centre of a massive scandal hinging on corruption and prostitution. The Pope stated “I thank [Bertolaso] for all he does for civil society and for us”. The Pope also praised all the volunteers of the Civil Protection for their effort in helping the relief operations after the earthquake that hit L’Aquila 11 months ago.

The praise to the volunteers is deserved, even necessary. The work they have been doing to help the affected population of L’Aquila is truly admirable. It is important that the institutions, and the Vatican, acknowledge the country’s gratitude and appreciation for this work. What I think is somewhat shocking is the presence of Bertolaso at this event.

Guido Bertolaso, who has been mentioned in this blog before, is at the moment one of the dodgiest persons on the Italian scene (and this says already a lot.) An inquiry over the way he used to award  contracts for relief operations, for important events such as the G8 and for the Swimming World Championship in Rome two years ago, revealed a system based on pure corruption. There is evidence that one of the ways in which Bertolaso used to award contracts involved being offered prostitutes in health centres in Rome. In phone tapping records, Bertolaso is heard calling the manager of the health centre to ask whether Francesca, a girl to which he would “like to give a ripassata (a good going-over)”, was available that evening.

Another key individual in this sleazy affair is Angelo Balducci, the head of the state public works office, who is actually under arrest in connection with this story. Balducci was the person Bertolaso appointed to realise the G8 in Sardinia, then in L’Aquila, last year. It has emerged in the last few days that he (Balducci) is allegedly involved in yet another scandal at the Vatican. Balducci has worked as an usher since the 90s at the Apostolic Palace in Rome, being a member of an elite group within the Vatican called The Gentlemen of His Holiness. You can read about this story here.

Back to the Pope. How on Earth can the Pope welcome a person like Bertolaso? It is certainly true that one is innocent until proven guilty, and I am not hereby condemning Bertolaso. But he might be guilty. He might have gone with prostitutes, sold contracts to incompetent people, accepted bribes, etc. Though it is important, as I said already, that volunteers of the Civil Protection be thanked, isn’t it at least inappropriate to celebrate a person involved in such a massive scandal?

At the end of the day, we are talking of the Church. Catholic values, the values that no one can touch because they are the values that define our identity, our history! Pope Ratzinger has even written a book about Values!

Yet, at the same time in which the veil may be lifted over a system relying on bribery, greed (especially about the earthquake in L’Aquila), and sexual exploitation, one of the biggest suspects is welcome by the Pope in the Vatican!

Ratzinger did the same thing last year, when he met the Italian PM while the latter was at the centre of a very similar scandal. How can a religious leader let individuals who are publicly under inquiry for immoral behaviour inside a place that is meant to be the sanctuary of morality?

What surprises me most is that no one is pointing out how strange this is. Italian Catholics jump from their chairs as soon as someone mentions  removing crucifixes from public schools, or allowing homosexuals to get married. No one dare criticise a religious leader who not only meets publicly with a person of seriously dubious morality, but also celebrates him for “the good things he has done for us”. The Pope has basically absolved Bertolaso publicly, in spite of the serious evidence against the latter’s innocence. “It’s time to stop talking about scandals” – an emotional Bertolaso commented after meeting the Pope.

One might find this slightly revolting. Where are the Catholics now? Do they all agree that it’s time to stop talking about scandals?

Read this for a suggestion of why the Pope may be interested in forgiving “some” Italian sinners.

Written by TheItalianist

07/03/2010 at 16:21

The Authentic Interpretation

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The Italian Government has made an important contribution to the field of jurisprudence, by emanating a decree that aims to clarify how the law is to be interpreted. That is correct: as the Home Secretary, Roberto Maroni, explained last night, the Government has not changed any law but simply specified how the law is to be interpreted. This follows a typically Italian mess in the build-up towards the regional elections, to be held in Italy at the end of March. In two regions, Lazio and Lombardia, the PDL (the Party actually in charge of the Government) did not present the official lists of candidates within the official deadline. In the case of Lazio, the list led by Renata Polverini simply missed the deadline because the person in charge went for lunch. In the case of Roberto Formigoni, in Lombardia, the list contained names of dead people, illegible names, and was missing official stamps. This is Renata Polverini:

And this is Formigoni:

 

Missing ther deadline for lst submision meant the PDL was excluded from particiating in the elections both in Lazio and Lombarida. The Prime Minister was not happy. Neither were lots of the candidates in his Party’s list, whose hopes of a (quite likely) electoral success were suddenly quashed. Among them, Nicole Minetti, the dentist who took care of Silvio Berlusconi’s face after the famous attack in Milan last December. She was ready to join Berlusconi’s Government, and was now disappointed at her quashed political aspirations, as the CosmeticDentistryGuide explains.
A long debate followed in Italy in the past days. It appeared clear that the exclusion of the PDL from the elections in two of Italy’s most important regions was unacceptable. The anger of the PM towards his Party’s inefficiency soon turned into something else, and a new interpreattion of what was happening cameto light: once again, the communists were trying to block the PM’s party from governing. Though polls at the moment say that the Government’s approval ratings are wavering, it also seems unlikely that the actual opposition Party could get voters’ support. A clear emergency occurred, and the Government –as usual- responded to it promptly.
So, they created –almost overnight- a decree meant “to defend the rules of democracy and guarantee the right of active and passive electorate”. I have to admit: I tried to understand what active/passive electorate is. Can anyone who happens to read this please explain it to me?

Maroni clarified what the decree’s aims are: “We did not change the electoral rules (which is always good to know, given the elections are in 3 weeks – thank you, Roberto). The current laws have not been modified, but what it has been offered through the decree is an authentic interpretation” of them. Basically, the Government has told the judges what to do. One could ask “What is the point of having judges then?” It seems that the Government makes the law, and also says how it has to be interpreted. That’s it. A fuller account of the story, and of the polemics it has generated, can be found here, and here.

Without asking other questions, I  want to quote a couple of passages from the decree. The translation is sometimes literal, sometimes not, but I promise it is faithful. The official document (in Italian) can be found on Repubblica.it.

1.    “When the law says that the lists have to be handed in at time X on day Y, that does not mean that the lists have to be handed by time X on day Y. What it means is that the persons in charge of handing in the lists enter the area of the office for lists submission, having the lists with them, by time X on day Y. Their presence in the building can be assessed by any appropriate means.”

My interpretation: This means that if you go out for lunch without handing in the lists, you’ve met the deadline anyway. The word deadline, we all agree, can be very deceptive, so it’s good this decree made things clearer.
 

2.    “The signatures on the list are considered valid even if they are not fully authentic, insofar as their validity overall can be deduced by other elements within the documentation provided. In particular, the authenticity of the signatures is not compromised by a merely formal irregularity, such as the absence or non-readability of the authenticating stamp, or of the specification of where the authentication was made, or of an indication of what qualifies the authenticator to authenticate, insofar as s/he has been authorized. (My emphasis).”

My interpretation: the fact that the names on your list cannot be read does not mean you do not have a list. The fact that where you say “Mario Bianchi” there appears to be a stain does not make that name on your list invalid. The fact that no one has recognized your list as valid does not mean it is not valid. Your accidental spilling coffee over the paper which makes anything unreadable is not necessarily a reason against accepting that piece of paper as a valid list. At the end of the day, it is just an election, for God’s sake! Shut up and bring me another coffee.

3.    This applies also to the next regional elections.

Comments are very welcome.