Monday, June 1, 2009

Oh, Papi!

Should we judge a nation by its leader? It seems logical in a democracy where leaders represent the elected will of a nation. After all, the world seemed to judge America as world opinion turned against the USA as her leaders terrorized the public, turning them from a quivering mass into a frothing, pre-emptive war seeking mob, while the fourth estate turned cheerleader and lost its bearings. The media's role can't be discounted as many see it as their duty to protect the public by keeping it informed. Dangers arise when the fourth estate becomes a mouthpiece for the government's agenda instead of its watchdog. Anti-Americanism may have passed it's apex, but the damage done will be long lasting to both the nation and the world. But what of other nations with leaders equally vile as Dubya? Robert Mugabe was once loved in Zimbabwe, Stephen Harper has received more votes in Canada than anyone else in the last two elections, or even Super Sarkhozy in France - do they reflect their people? Well, you'll find no uglier combination of evil, sleaze and corruption together with control over the media mind control machine than in today's Italy, personified by it's supreme narcissist, Silvio Berlusconi.

With the European Parliament (EP) elections coming this week, Il Caviliere, or Papi as he is known to 17-year old 'friends' and 'virgins', seems to have tired of simply playing the playboy-clown role that he has perfected over the years; his actions, statements and policies have taken a turn for the surreal, delusional with a little Lolita thrown in for good measure. In case you missed it, the EP is more than just every trans-national government conspiracists' nightmare. Besides providing perhaps the best parliamentary speech of the year, it is also has some real powers mostly revolving around passing, amending or rejecting European Commission legislation. It also exerts a large amount of indirect influence on foreign policy as it must pass all development grants. It's 736 MEPs serve the second largest democratic electorate in the world after India and are directly elected every five years. Well, I say directly, but truth be told, I still can't wrap my head around the whole system. Parties put up lists of candidates from which voters seem to randomly fill in some boxes and voila, magically some people get elected.

Well, in order to add some legitimacy to this arcane system, Berlusconi decided to sex up his party's (Partito della Liberta - PdL, The People of Freedom) ballot by throwing in some starlets and showgirls, including Angela Sozio, a former Big Brother contestant, Barbara Matera, a Miss Italy contestant and model, and TV starlets Camilla Ferranti and Eleonora Gaggiolo. Why not? Apparently the women had attended a crash course in politics ahead of the European elections. Problem is the course was not originally intended for candidates, but parliamentary assistants! Oh, and Papi's going to run as well, however that works?! Some may argue that he's doing all he can to weaken the legislative in order to empower the executive, while others might point out that Papi needs some younger babes to ogle. After all, it's been awhile since 2007, when his wife issued an open letter to a daily newspaper demanding a public apology from her husband for flirting with Mara Carfagna, an Italian topless model turned member of Parliament and currently equal opportunity minister in Berlusconi's cabinet. Ah yes, sex, it still sells, especially if there's a 17-year old involved...

Yes, perhaps it's the image of a 72-year old man and a 17-year old bombshell that will wake Italy from it's slumber. Berlusconi's wife of nearly 20 years, Veronica Lario, came out punching, demanding a divorce after learning that the great seducer had made a now 18-year old aspiring model his pet project, stating, "My marriage is over. I can't stay with someone who cavorts with minors." Well, maybe she was 17, but news didn't break until Berlusconi showed up at her 18th birthday bash bearing a diamond pendant, a little gift from the man whom the girl in question, Noemi Letizia, calls 'Papi'. Predictably, Silvio demanded an apology from his wife, denied any wrong doing and claimed, "I am friends with her father, that's all. I swear." Sure Papi, you happened to notice the girl while visiting a civil servant in Naples, not leafing through a 'fashion book' looking for your next prey.

Oh yes, I'm sure Papi brought Naomi to Rome last November so he could discuss politics with her father, but, maybe... Then, like manna from heaven word leaks of a New Year's Eve party, where as many as 40 girls, including Naomi and others under 18 like her, thrown at Papi's Sardinia island retreat. Topless cavorting, publication bans on pictures, rumours of a naked Czech president, all too good to be true. Hot 17-year old chicks and 18, maybe even 19... with a 72-year old PM $10 billionaire. Berlusconi's wife went ballistic, demanded a divorce, the opposition questioned his parenting skills, the world wonders how he gets away with it, then remembers, it's Italy, a macho image somehow convinces people to vote for you.

It's getting harder and harder to track Papi's transgressions. Having been charged numerous times for corruption, tax fraud and illegal party funding, he has always escaped conviction. Most egregious of all, facing the likelihood of finally being found guilty, last year he simply pushed an immunity bill through parliament. Now he can sleep easily, knowing he can't be charged for bribing lawyers to lie for him, or ordering hits on opponents. If you don't like being in opposition, (this is Silvio's 3rd time as PM) as he was in 2006, just get the church to lean on a swing block led by Clemente Mastella in the parliament, to force a no-confidence vote and the collapse of Italy's 60th government since WWII. Allies have been absorbed, Berlusconi's Forza Italia and the National Alliance, which grew out of the neo-fascist movement, united in a single entity, the People of Freedom. Only Lega Nord, the Northern League, Berlusconi's 'independent' fascist ally has the parliamentary clout to bring the government down. So they can call to segregate the Milan transit system without it really being Papi calling the shots, leaving him free to stir up hatred against more specific groups, like the Roma. His coronation as leader of the new party (there was no election) could make him a kingmaker in the EP if the conservative EPP-ED block gain control as expected. All part of his plan to torpedo the Polish/German hope for leading the European Parliament and to have his own man, Mario Mauro, installed.

So how does he get away with it? Time Magazine dubbed Italy Berlusconistan last week, but it seems they don't even know the half of it. This nation of 58 million is spiraling dangerously out of control. Having fallen 12 spots in the the least corrupt nation rankings of Transparency International, putting them between South Africa and the Seychelles, you'd think someone would start asking questions about whose steering the ship. Then you remember, it's Berlusconi who, along with his family, controls a string of television stations which command half the national viewing audience. He owns Italy's largest publishing company, its most glamorous football club, a booming financial services company, and some lucrative odds and ends in the property sector. As the prime minister of Italy, he has control over the Italian public service broadcaster RAI, as his government can approve allies to the positions of president and board of directors. Essentially, he has influence over 90 per cent of all national television broadcasting. In 2002, NGO Reporters Without Borders reported that Berlusconi's government pressured RAI to drop the political TV show, "Sciuscia" and fire two journalists, Michele Santoro and Enzo Biagi, after they criticized Berlusconi. During the 2006 Italian election, there were complaints of blanket coverage favourable to Berlusconi. He received three hours and 16 minutes of airtime in one 15-day period compared to just eight minutes for Mr. Prodi, his rival, a clear violation of Italian electoral laws, which stated candidates should have equal airtime. He can call up RAI's director and ask him to hire some actresses in exchange for political and financial favors, then get the judges to destroy the wiretaps.

The Financial Times claims that Italy isn't in danger of slipping back into fascism, but where else are they headed? Whatever you think of the man or country, we're talking about a G7 (or is it 8 still?) nation, one that sent troops to Iraq, was at the very least a complicit partner of the US led 'extraodinary rendition' program and was once convinced to throw its support behind Hitler. Berlusconi's three terms as PM have been disasters, the International Monetary Fund thinks Italy will be the only euro zone country to experience three consecutive years of recession, from 2008 to 2010. Italy's public debt is set to soar to 116 per cent of gross domestic product by 2010, according to the European Commission. There are now 24 Italian MPs, senators and European MPs who have received final convictions for crimes. Maybe the psycho dwarf's antics and quips are designed to divert attention from the real problems of the economy and the rise of xenophobia in his nation. A country led by a man who the pope called a racist, a man who said of Obama, "He's young, handsome, and even has a good tan." A man who has simply used the state as a means of securing his own interests and to keep himself out of jail will host the next G8 meeting in earthquake stricken Abruzzo, where according to Papi, the homeless were able to enjoy a "camping weekend" and where he's sure to come up with more comedy gaffes. By that time he could have decided who's running Europe, yippee!


Dead said...

Well, I always wonder how it's possible that such a guy gets elected all the time. Maybe he's not and there's something else going on?
The other thing is that I recently read about Berlusconi claiming that never in his career has he committed a gaffe...
That's a farce.

I like reading your posts, though :)

Troy said...

Berlusconi is actually a beacon for me here in Spain.

When I think that things couldn't get worse here, I just click over to some Italian news feeds, breath in deeply and think...It actually COULD be worse!

Shane said...

Dead - It's all about the media mind control idiot box sitting in everyone's living room, that and the fact that many Italians must actually approve of his actions.

Troy - Don't worry, it could be and will be worse if Papi has anything to say about it.

Troy said...

Speaking of Spain and Papi...seen the pics that El Pais just released?

Oh Papi! Is that a banana in your Czech friend's pocket? Wait...he isn't wearing pants!

Shane said...

Thanks for that Troy, I was debating whether or not to post an update or something to get the pics up, but you did it for me.

Goes along nicely with the next scandal involving using government jets to fly out his guests for the party.