Archive for the ‘Things that are funny’ Category
In the last 12 years, a new word has entered te international vocabulary as a synonym of ‘Italy’: after pizza, mandolino, mafia, now we also have “bunga bunga”.
For a quick review of the words’ meaning, click here (yes, it’s even got its own Wikipedia page. And doing a google search on it can keep you busy for a good 10 minutes). So much is the folklore attached to this expression, that people have tried to use it for business purposes. Here and here are examples.
Enters Nicole Minetti:
These two pictures refer to her before and after meeting Berlusconi.
After much ado, and in the effort to clear her own image from the allegation that she was organising the infamous bunga bunga parties, and providing ladies for the ex-PM’s pleasure (more on this here), Minetti has made plans to re-establish her image once (if) she will leave politics. She has just deposited the trademark for a new line of condoms.
The condoms’ brand? Bunga Bunga, of course.
A couple of days ago, I posted on Facebook some vague ranting about the Italian Government’s last performances. Some people commented on that post, loosely sharing my feelings, but a friend of mine wrote something that caused some puzzlement in my bald head. Now, having spent the last 48hours dealing with World Cup flu (the famous infection that keeps you in bed with headache, while all your friends gather to watch the Football World Cup), I have had the chance to ponder a bit more over that comment.
My friend wrote: “It was just an effective example of how one can apply marketing to politics”.
For an Italian, this comment does not sound new. If anything, in fact, it sounds like an old advertisement. Supporters of the Italian PM have often repeated (over the past sixteen years) that Berlusconi is a self-made man, who created an empire from nothing, who runs the country as he runs his business, that is, successfully. Thus, the argument goes, when someone feels unpleased by Italy’s legal enactments, it is because they lack an understanding of the principles of economy. Enough, therefore, with being astonished/depressed about people still voting for Berlusconi: in fact, it turns out they are the ones who really understand how the market runs.
I confess, my knowledge of the market is scarce, to say the least. The friend who made the comment on Facebook recently turned from philosophy to human resources (is that really a change? mah..), so she probably has a more profit-oriented approach than I do. I know something about political theory though, and know that often in politics “the end justifies the means”. But that hasn’t helped me grasp the economic principles in action in Italy’s choices – given it is not clear what the end of most Italian policies would be.
So, I went and look on the Web for specialised articles, to find discussions about how Berlusconi applies effectively marketing to politics. The big guys of finance will tell me! – I thought, while sneezing and coughing. So I looked at the Financial Times, which gave me some confusing insight. Actually, seriously confusing.
A longer and more in-depth analysis told me that “the Italian economy continued to contract sharply in the third quarter of 2008 as exports fell sharply – declining at the fastest rate in three years – under the impact of a global slump which weighed down on foreign demand for Italian products, and pushed the Italian economy into its worst recession since at least 1975. Sales of Italian goods abroad fell 1.6 percent from the previous quarter, their biggest decline since 2005.” This is probably communist press, though.
I eventually looked into one of the most well-known liberal magazines in the market economy, The Economist. They will tell me why we should rejoice at Berlusconi’s capacity to apply effectively the market to politics. The Economist seems to have, in fact, a strong position regarding this point:
Why is it so hard to grasp the magic behind the PM’s policies? Why can’t we, backward-looking critics of Berlusconi’s rule, have the same financial understanding of his electorate? This makes me suffer, and my flu go worse. Especially because I want to give a strong reply to those who say that Berlusconi is not what he looks like. And to the allegation that he, at times, seems not really concerned with the common good. Is there any market expert out there who can help? Because, to be honest, Berlusconi is effectively applying something to politics, but I am not sure it is the market.
In September this year, the Pope Benedict XVI will pay an official visit to UK. Everyone is waiting for this event with trepidation: both intellectuals and normal citizens discuss what should be done to give Ratzinger the best welcome. The Vatican itself does not hide its excitement about the visit.
Unfortunately, today things got a bit shaky. Courtesy of the Sunday Telegraph, it transpired that the UK Home Office may not be taking this visit too seriously. The issue hinges around a memo written after a brainstorming over the Ideal Pope’s visit. The whole story is here.
Surprisingly, this accident is receiving much more attention in UK than in Italy. The Italian websites mention this accident just in passing. This is partly justified by the fact that today, 25th April, is an important date in Italy: it is the anniversary of the defeat of Fascism in 1945. The media attention has therefore focused on the celebrations taking place around the Belpaese. Among these, there has been a speech on TV by the Italian Prime Minister.
Now that elections are gone and that the TV can go back to talk politics, Berlusconi appeared on TV to tell citizens about the value of freedom, democracy, and…. the necessity to change the Italian Constitution. His argument highlighted the obvious strong connection between freedom, democracy, and himself becoming more and more powerful.
Thus, little room is left, on Italian websites, to the Pope accident. The few articles I have found loosely refer to an incompetent with-collar in the Home Office, who has been ‘removed’ already. It also seems to me that words have often been translated in a vaguely instrumental way (“silly” became “idiot”, “far-fetched” became “hard-core”, etc.). All they seem to do is to highlight that something very stupid, thus not worth discussing, happened somewehere in England..
Catholics may well feel upset by this memo: how can the British ask the Pope to do something against child abuse? And what’s this crazy thing, blessing gay couples! Gay people have no rights; in fact, they are a threat to society. Nonetheless, I think Catholics would have an interest in having the issue discussed on the Italian media. Actually, they may even ask the Pope to change plans and cancel the visit to UK. This would throw many academics and common people into dismal, true: yet, respect is respect.
Instead, the Italian media have remained quite silent on the Pope memo. No one wants to talk about it. Let’s forget it all happened, and let’s focus on freedom and democracy.
(Posters appeared today in the streets of Rome, celebrating Mussolini: “An idea vanishes, when no one is able to defend it anymore” . The phrase was meant to criticise the celebrations for the 25th of April)
Both national and international news are reporting a decision of the European Court of Human Rights against crucifixes in public schools in Italy. The ruling has caused an immediate outcry of anger and disdain towards what, for many, is a threat to Italy’s cultural foundations. TheECHR specifies that the presence of the crucifix, “which is impossible not to notice in classroom,could be easily interpreted by students of any age as a religious symbol”; and this would make them feel they are being educated in an environment carrying the mark of a specific religion. This, in turn, would violate “the right of the parents to educate children as to their own wishes”, and also the liberty of religions of pupils. More details of this story can be found here, here and here.
Italian politicians have joined their voices in joining the Vatican’s voice in condemning the ECHR’s decision. The Vatican has commented that the ruling is “myopic and misled”. A full version (in italian) can be found on the CEI website. Politicians have followed suit.
Here’s a brief selection of these comments. While reading them, keep in mind Italy is ruled by Berlusconi. The italian magazine Oggi published last year some pictures of the italian PM discussing catholic values with the young generations, warning them of the risk of losing our cultural foundations.
Yes, that’s him.
Gabriella Carlucci, from PDL, the right-wing coalition, underlines that “the crucifix is a symbol of Italy’s history and culture, hence of our country’s identity, and it constitutes the symbol of principles of equality, tolerance, and our State’s secularism”. Someone might spot a contradiction in the appeal to secularism to defend the crucifix. But she has made her point. For those of you who don’t know her, here’s a picture of Carlucci:
Alessandra Mussolini, the granddaughter of the more popular Benito (the one on the left in this picture), has commented that the ECHR’s decision tends to “cancel our Christian roots, and to block a process of real integration. We are creating an identity-less Europe. Therefore, it is now urgent to insert the principles of Christianity in our Constitution”. One might point out that if those principles are not in the Constitution, there must be a reason. But she has made her point too. Here’s a picture of a younger Alessandra campaigning for European identity:
Next comes Mara Carfagna, Italy’s charming Minister for Equal Opportunities: “The crucifix is not only a religious symbol, but it’s also a testimony of a thousand-year tradition, of values shared but the entire Italian population.” She then adds: ” Others, and surely not the presence of a crucifix in classrooms, are the real limitations to individual liberty. I am thinking of the burqa and the niqab.” Well said, Minister of Equal Opportunities. It’s hard to find a picture that gives the right credit to the values we all share, and that she embodies. I try this one anyway:
Davide Boni, from the Northern League, warns that ” people who cancel their own history are doomed to lose themselves, selling themselves to cultures which are stranger to them. [These cultures] share nothing with those who took part in building and raising not only our own country but Europe itself. But now, that very Europe expects to wipe the slate clean.”
Boni has always been committed to the idea of preserving the values of our people: he is the mind behind the Northern Leagues’ proposal to ban kebab and foreign food from italian cities. This is Davide, the polenta supporter:
As his t-shirt points out, “Women from the Northern League are the best”.
Faced with the ECHR’s ruling, Maurizio Gasparri wonders: “What kind of Europe is this? Surely it is not by denying the identity or history of an entire people that minorities’ rights are guaranteed . We are faced with a lay drift that has nothing to do with religious freedom. Italy is a country that bases, and recognizes, itself in the values of Christianity. The crucifix is a symbol of all that. We reclaim its presence in the schools as in all the institutional places.” He concludes, “We will consider the issue of whether to maintain those institutions [the European Union?] that cost us so much.” This is Gasparri:
Ups, I got confused, sorry. I mean, this is Gasparri:
When Italy declared illegal immigration to be a crime, Gasparri said he was proud of that decision. However, the Vatican criticised the Government’s decision as being against the values of Christianity. To make things even, Gasparri probably suggested that every boat shipping immigrants to Italy should have its crucifix. (He didn’t, actually.)
Hard times, then, for our traditions. A Facebook group was born immediately after the ECHR’s decision became public. The group’s name is “You take the crucifix off the wall? I’ll cut your hands off!”. (“Tu stacchi il crocifisso dal muro? E io ti stacco le mani!”). An updated version of the Christian value, in which we all recognise ourselves, “if a man slaps your cheek, offer him the other cheek to slap”.
Giulio Tremonti (see previous post) is having some argument with Silvio Berlusconi. The two have been arguing for a long time: the last issue arose two days ago, when the Prime Minister, aiming to reignite popular support after some bad publicity in the last months, publicly announced the Government’s intention to suppress the IRAP, the Italian Regional tax on Productive activities. Giulio, the heroic Minister of Economy, has apparently reacted angrily to the PM’s remark. Tremonti supports an ‘austherity’ approach to the stagnated italian economy: Berlusconi’s indulgent stand towards the Italians sits a bit at odd with this trend, and (some say) it betrays a mere propagandistic bias to avoid some current problem of Silvio’s.
The interesting part of this domestic quarrel is that Berlusconi was due to return from Russia yesterday, to meet members of the executive to clarify the Government’s next steps in economic policy. He went to Russia for an unpublicized meeting with Vladimir Putin. It is well known that the two are best-mates: it has been recently discovered, for example, that Putin has his special bed in Berlusconi’s Grazioli Palace in Rome.
Rumours about this meeting in Moscow had it that there was a video-conference with Turkey’s Prime Minister RT Erdogan. What they had to talk about, we are not allowed to know.
Suddenly, Berlusconi cancelled his afternoon return from Moscow, hence postponing the (already postponed) meeting with Tremonti in Rome, which for some would have been more of a showdown. The official reason was that a big snowstorm had hit Russia, and the Italian PM’s helicopter could not take off. Berlusconi returned eventually yesterday and is due to meet his fellow ministers today. The funny thing is that no flight from/to Russia was cancelled, on that day, due to bad weather. Nor has any webcam in and around Moscow showed any sign of this autumn snowstorm.. Instead, what has been shown are pics of Silvio and Vladimir driving a powerful boat, having a good time and enjoying their never ending support for freedom of the press. This is how Berlusconi famously addressed a russian journalist who was pressing him on one of the scandals in which he is involved, shortly after the murder of Anna Politkovskaja:
Look at Vladimnir’s bemused face.
Why did Berlusconi make up this snowstorm deal then? Some say he was trying to avoid the showdown with the executive, or at least to postpone it. Tremonti, informed of Berlusconi’s delayed return from Russia due to the snowstorm, commented: “I don’t think this is due to snow. I rather think it is due to ‘fog’ “. Metaphors we live by.