Monday, 31 December 2012

Happy New Year

       A happy and prosperous New Year for 2013

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Few Taking Part in Italian Democratic Party Propaganda Exercise

The aparatchiks of the Partito Comunista Italiano, embodying the remnants of the Italian Democratic Party, are holding primaries this weekend to choose that small section of the Party lists not reserved to the Party Secretary for the February general elections.  Of those conferred with a ballot (these are not democratic elections, merely a propaganda gesture and only those who got under the wire to vote in choosing the party leader are eligible at this day's fiasco)  over 70% have declined to be instrumentalised in this way.  Matteo Renzi's voters are saving their breath to cool their porridge for a genuinely democratic ballot on 24 February.

The communist faithful have duly turned out to select the ideologues and the dead wood that Renzi  sought to consign to the past and the political cemetery.  These numbers are devastating  for Bersani's hopes of coming to power in alliance with his even lefter allies.  Those of us who would have voted for a Renzi-led Democratic party freed of  just the influences on display now will be voting for Monti.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Italy Is of Interest to Us All, Not Just a Another Continental European Election

Prime Minister Monti* is reconstructing the centre-right.  Not a Christian Democrat Right that, post-War, covered a multitude of Fascist sins but a lay, civic, gangster-free Right: a right Right.  Early polls suggested derisory levels of support - after all populist-right parties alla Berlusconi exist by catering to personal interest and lack of propriety in civic action, and voting against instinctive self-interest requires ethical effort.  An effort Monti is calling for.

On the well known Italian principle, "First God makes them and then He pairs them," the Democratic Party is the centre-left pair of the Berlusconi right.  The old Communist party personnel, party management and control delivered a party Leader and even further left alliances that most of us wouldn't touch with a barge-pole.  And for the more politically innocent amongst us, a brutal lesson in real, live socialist practice.  Both of the pair are now hopping with rage that Monti is upsetting their applecart.

On 24 February we are to vote not for self-interest, or an ideology, but for an agenda - a clear set of polices that might reasonably be expected to lead to growth in the Italian economic sector and to stability in the eurozone.    Berlusconi attempts to dominate the media (well he would, wouldn't he, owning lots of it?) while the Democratic leader Bersani attempts to paint Monti as a man who should be above party politics and serving his country in some unspecified and rarefied sphere (with the pretence that the last thirteen months of Italian governance was merely technical rather than profoundly political and driven by a centre-right agenda whole-heartedly supported by the Democratic Party itself.)

Both so-called Right and so called Left are utterly discredited and utterly dishonest: also they are incompetent, economically and politically.  The opinion polls are dated and slow to respond to political movement and have yet to show greater preference for Monti than 20%, although 12-15% was quoted long after the political ground had shifted.  At the same time and undeniably much of the Italian electorate is set in its ways.  However this time truth and right and justice is on the side of the Angels.  Should it be otherwise then the importance of Italy to the European Union  will be reflected in  the downgrading of the importance of Member-State elections and a swift and notable shift of power to European Union institutions.

Monti will win at home or Europe will win over nation states.  The elections in Italy are of wider significance than our local concerns.

* Mario Monti  now is a caretaker prime minister in Italy until the general election in February 2013.  This status underlines just how false was the pretence that the previous thirteen months were apolitical, technical governance.   It is worth  thinking also about  just how much power he has for the next eight weeks with no requirement to answer to Parliament, the Parliament having been dissolved.  He and President Napolitano could be surprisingly constitutionally innovative.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

For Shame, Italia, For Shame

Professor Monti has handed Italy back into the hands of President Napolitano.  It is in a far, far better state than it was a 13 months ago.  Whether or not Monti will decide to take a far, far better rest and return to the Bocconi is yet to be revealed, despite the media elaborations over the last few weeks.

Mario Monti was not alone in what was achieved.  The list of ministers and technical advisors is long and distinguished, though not part of the Italian political world.  Work, and earnings, were put aside in the huge effort to salvage the country from Berlusconi and the gangsters', and Bersani and the unions', wreckage.  Lawyers, accountants, scientists, academics at the levels Monti was able to call upon do not work for government wages.  But they did, for Italy.

There has been not one word of thanks, nor acknowledgement of the extraordinary effort that was put in by all these people as well as the officers of the administration, the carabinieri, the police, the doctors and teachers, the mass of workers in the private and state sectors.  Nothing.  As the ministers formally thanked Parliament  for any support that has been given they were met with empty benches or, in some cases, abuse. 

Already the politicians are hurrying to heap rebuke and accusations of intellectual incompetence if not falsity on those who have saved their bacon.  No wonder Monti himself is considering most carefully if he even wants to know such people as the brute-faced woman Camusso roaring from the trade union deadlands about workers spontaneously applauding our former prime minister when he visited the Fiat factories at Melfi; the  economic idiocies being emitted by the 'Democratic' Party hack Fassina  who would fail to be even admitted as a student of the Professore yet pretends to the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer; the ranting Northern Leagues placeman resenting the loss of regional client-jobs who caused the out-going Minister of Labour to physically block her ears at his insults in the Lower House.  Some of these people and their ministers risked a lot -  in the case of the Home Secretary you can imagine hauling off all those mafiosi to prison, the Minister of Justice charging and trying all those corrupt 'untouchables'.  It was very noticeable that, apart from Monti himself, some of the hottest seats were being sat in by women - learned, brave women not trade union time-servers -  who did what needed to be done.

Italy could have done a far, far better figura than to let them leave the stage to indifference and worse.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Monti Spells it Out at the Weekend

The Italian general election is now fixed for 24 February 2013 (there were problems with the overseas vote).  Also fixed, or at least much clearer, is who are the serious contenders:  Mario Monti and his Memorandum for Italy (which we know as a manifesto but the word carries unfortunate connotations in political Italy);  Silvio Berlusconi and whatever he can hold together of the People of Liberty party (think total populism, anti-euro, anti-German); Pierluigi Bersani and the hard-Left controlled Democratic Party backed by  extreme Left and eco-parties (no trade union reform, no economic recovery policies, depending on 'they have nowhere else to go' for support from anyone other than their control centre and leftist loonies).

Italy is now two trillion euros in debt.  The cost of that debt has been reduced by half since Monti took over.  Berlusconi and Bersani couldn't care less - they are in this for the gaining of power for whatever ends they have in mind (they aren't sharing their thoughts with the rest of us).  Power is draining from the presidency of Italy as the President's term of office ends and as the reassertion of political gain above all else's dreary steeples of corruption and statist authoritarianism emerge once again.

As goes Italy so goes the Euro - and the world economy with it.   When the Prime Minister addresses the nation at the weekend let's hope that those professorial tones, and complexities, will be enough to communicate, to a perfectly ordinary and very disgruntled electorate, that we need him for another couple of years and by then our impoverishment will have been rewarded with growth and stability.  

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

President Napolitano Not Stepping Down Early

President Napolitano has confirmed that he will proffer the invitation to form Italy's next administration.  He had expected to leave the task to his successor but it falls to him, much to his regret.  So he's not stepping down early with the early demise of the current Monti administration, but squaring up to the complex political choices and soundings he must undertake in the next couple of months.

He stressed that the influences upon his choices will be political, not the institutional pressures that he responded to in November 2011 when Berlusconi's administration fell and the President appointed senator Monti to  a 'save Italy'  role.

Profumo di Sinistra

When the leader of the Solidarity Ecology Liberty Party lost in the first round of the Italian Democratic party primaries (thank God) he endorsed Pierluigi Bersani (former communist) for the leadership vote in the second round against Matteo Renzi (who is for scrapping the old guard in the Democratic party.)

"There is a scent of the true Left about Bersani, a profumo di sinistra",  eulogised the greenery-yallery primitive socialist from away across the rainbow.

Here is the list of those  yesterday guaranteed seats in the next Italian Parliament by the scented Left:

Mauro Agostini, Rosy Bindi, Gianclaudio Bressa, Anna Finocchiaro, Giuseppe Fioroni, Maria Pia Garavaglia, Giuseppe Lumia, Franco Marini, Cesare Marini, Giorgio Merlo.

The scent of an open sewer drifts across the Italian Peninsula.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Voting in Italy

Italian electoral rules in general elections (il Porcellum) are such that  55% of the seats in the Lower House will be assigned to the coalition party that comes in first, regardless of the number of votes obtained.

At the moment polls are giving the Democratic Party/Solidarity, Ecology&Liberty coalition some 34%, 10 points and more ahead of nearest rivals Beppe Grillo's anti-party 5 Stars movement, followed by Berlusconi's People of Liberty at 15%.  A notional Monti party is at 15%.  There is a long tail of also-runnings but Angels don't do nerdy.

It should be all done and dusted.  But it's not despite frantic appeals for calm, steady as she goes, we are serene in our expectations, from the Left and extreme Left  (to the point of insanity) PD-SEL.  Il Corriere notes this morning that almost half the  electorate of the Democratic Party, 44%, intend to vote for a Monti coalition if  available.  There are unmeasured numbers of voters stumbling about in the electoral fog without the least idea of what to do and the Church is standing ready to direct them to Monti. Both the People of Liberty party and the Future and Liberty party are tainted by their leader (Berlusconi) in the first, and by their origins (the former Fascist party Alleanza Nazionale) in the second.

Italians vote:they don't chicken-out and abstain.  60-70% of them loathe what progressive Comrade Bersani and his apparatchiks are, still, against all the evidence of the 20th century; and when it comes to the wilder shores of  Solidarity, Ecology and Liberty they might well be inclined to take up arms.  The North has had more than enough of the Mezzogiorno,  nor will they accept alliance with Berlusconi's morals, political or otherwise.  

Somehow Monti must find a container for the thing contained, in this Thurberesque tale, for which a hugely diverse coalition of the electorate  can vote without any sense of abandonment of principle or political or ethical shame.

Friday, 14 December 2012

The European People's Party Develops its Italian Constituency

The European People's Party welcome to Mario Monti yesterday was remarkable, if something of a shock to Silvio Berlusconi who had gone to Brussels thinking himself the recognised leader of the Italian Centre and Right.  Prime Minister Monti expounded Italy's current economic position and the means his government had used to recover it from the near disaster a year ago.  The confirmation that  his decision to resign once his budget is passed next week was due to the withdrawal of support for his administration by a part of the centre right under Berlusconi only reinforced the alienation of the EPP leaders from any acceptance of a Berlusconi candidature as leader of the centre right in Italy at the general elections there in February next year.

It is novel and most interesting to see a cross-European political party playing such a role in a member-state general election.   Berlusconi's leadership of the centre and right in Italy is at an end, as he well recognises; his calls for Monti to formally take on this leadership are an attempt to retain some influence and a bit of face where once he led the majority in the coalition.  In Rome on Sunday there will be a convention of politicians of the centre right to form a differently composed coalition which, they hope, will attract Monti's leadership.

Meanwhile the progressive and hard left minority party coalition that has gained control of what was once Romano Prodi's Democratic party are on the anti-Monti offensive, particularly after the socialist President of France joined in the chorus of support for Monti from the European People's Party.  Massimo d'Alema, once Leader of the Italian Communist Party but now sent for political scrap by Matteo Renzi's onslaught on the dinosoaurs dominating the partito Democratico   told the Corriere della Sera in an interview that Monti's position would be 'morally questionable' if he allowed his name to go forward at the general election.  He continued to offer barely veiled threats that candidature for the Presidency of the Council (the office of prime minister) would destroy Monti's usefulness to the country and, in particular any eventual candidature for the Presidency of Italy.

It seems that if Monti dares to peel off the centrists (identified by Renzi's valiant stand) from the 'progressives' in control of the PD then there will be no support from the Left and its placemen in the new Parliament in the election of the new President of Italy.  So he'd better watch himself.

Tomorrow is the global meeting of various 'progressive forces' from Europe and the world in the Acquarium in Rome.  Sunday it's the refuseniks of the Right who've dumped Berlusca cheering along in a Roman theatre.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Bersani Shows Global Progressive Politics at Work

The politburo of the Italian Democratic Party has issued the regulations for choosing Democratic Party candidates for the Italian general election (which is to be held on 17 February 2013).

 - Some 25% of candidacies will be at the disposal of the Party Secretary.   (Leading cadres subjected even to Party voting would be detrimental to discipline and balance within the Party structures).
 - For the rest, voting will take place on 29 and 30 December.  (What do you mean that's the middle of the Christmas holidays? Of course the Party expects an outstanding effort and response in the name of democracy from Party activists).
 - Those eligible to vote in these 'open' primaries are those who voted on 25 November for the election of the Secretary of the Party. (No there was nothing improper or exclusionary about the eligibility of that electorate.  Evidence to the contrary is merely rightist propaganda).
 - Regional Party executives may restrict this electorate further. (The regions of Tuscany, Marche, Umbria, and Lombardy displayed  levels of false consciousness on 25 November that will require local adjustment to national Party standards as expressed in the South and some correct urban areas of the North).

This system is proclaimed as an extraordinary and innovative democratic renewal of Italian politics, and an example to us all of global progressive politics in action.  (Mind you, the UK Labour party is just as progressive).

Above are the requirements for qualifying as a voter; all will be revealed on meeting the Party rules for becoming a candidate  after the Politburo's further deliberations.  Their edict will be issued next Monday.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Browned Off by Bersani

On Thursday the Leader of the Partito Democratico,  Pierluigi Bersani, will present details to foreign press assembled in Rome,  of the International Conference of the Progressive Alliance which will be held on Saturday as the opening event for his advance upon the premiership.

So who is gracing this get-together in the Casa dell'Architettura

Pascal Lamy, director general of the World Trade Organisation;
Jose Graziano da Silva, director general of the Food and Agriculture Organisation;
Harlem Désir, Leader of the French Socialist party;
Peter Shumlin, president of the US association of Democratic governors;
Sigmar Gabriel, Leader of the German SPD.

These are the A-list of this gathering in the former Rome Aquarium.  We are promised Progressives not just from elsewhere in Europe but from Asia and Africa as well as the US and Latin America.  It will, it is trumpeted, be the first time Italy has been host to such a gathering.

'For the economic crisis is a global crisis and requires global governance, national governments are not enough any more '.

Now where have we heard that before?   The array of 'international' figures doesn't quite match that of London immediately after the financial collapse in 2008 but we'll just listen to the echo.

In the meantime the freshly 'elected' Leader of the Partito Democratico Bersani continues to advise the Prime Minister of Italy to 'keep himself out of political competition, and not to be the leadership candidate of a political list of the Centre in case he doesn't get many votes which would reduce his value and would make it difficult for him  be used as a resource by Bersani and for the country'.

Monday, 10 December 2012

The Real Enemy is not the European Union or its Currency

The 30%  of Italians who are lower-middle and working class people are frightened of the economic constraints they are living under.  The next 30% fear they too will be degraded by a sort of 'proletariatisation'  (una sorta di proletarizzazione Scalfari calls it in La Repubblica) with the continued declines in some older sectors  of the Italian economy, reports  the Italian Socioeconomic Research Institute, Censis.  It states further that this fear should lift gradually in the next few months as the Italian economy displays consistent improvement and growth.

Monti's administration has stabilised the outlook for growth in the region, reduced  the capital outflows, attracted inward investment again,  and advanced the shift in European policies from austerity and debt reduction to investment and growth in the modern economy.  Berlusconi saw his chances of re-establishing himself slipping away, particularly when there was the chance that the centre Left might also be led by a reasonable and centrist politician. 

However, with the reassertion of the Left as defender of worn-out industries, worn-out ideologies and the   entrenched and privileged groups of unionised workers and pensioners (the very proletariat working people feared they might fall back into) he has taken his chance and chosen aggressively  anti-Europe, anti-Euro, anti-taxes, anti-institutional reform, anti-Napolitano, anti-Monti and everything he stands for, policies to appeal to the people delineated by the Censis.

These are not moderate positions that Berlusconi adopts, nor could they remotely be described as centrist or of the majority of the electorate.   They are the views of the disaffected, the poorly informed,  the disenchanted  clustered round Beppe Grillo and his 5 Star no-parties party.  But they are so more dangerous in Berlusconi''s hands because of his resources and outstanding political skills. 

Matteo Renzi, the Florence mayor whose attempt to drag the 'Democratic' party into the 21st century and democratic relevance was destroyed last week is now a man with an electorate but without a party (Berlusconi's invitation to join him at any time in his political last fling -' la porta e sempre aperta' -  has been met with  a flat, if elegantly phrased, rejection).   Mario Monti is another with an electorate but no party.  So we are in the faintly ridiculous position, though none the less dangerous for that, of Berlusconi  and Bersani claiming to be the leadership contestants for Right and Left,  and Monti and Renzi commanding the votes of Right and (non-communist) Left.

Those who think to use this stand-off in Italian politics as an argument for dismantling the Euro or even the European Union, have misunderstood its essential political nature.  What is at stake here is the rejection of the West's largest communist survivor movement, and equally the rejection of the bedrock of Europe's grey and black criminal economies.   Before welcoming the success of either as a means to beat on a European Union that, for all its faults, is less loathsome than either 'progessivism' or 'gangsterism ' they might consider the weapons with which it is legitimate to pursue their anti-Europeanism. 

The spread is now at 360, the yield at 4.87.   

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Italian Political Earthquake Damage: Will President Napolitano Step Down Early Too?

The President of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, has  stated repeatedly that  he does not wish to be the person who invites the post-election party leader, whoever he may be, to form an administration in the new legislature.  The President's term of office is drawing to a close and he will not stand again.

After Prime Minister Monti's resignation we are expecting now to go to the polls in mid February, not in April.  Italy must expect President Napolitano, too, to leave office early and not in May 2013.

Tomorrow's market reactions to  Berlusconi's resurgence, after the Democratic Party's leadership primaries installed an old communist as the PD candidate for prime minister, may well be much more severe than the fall of Monti's government alone creates.

Friday, 7 December 2012


The Prime Minister of Italy is in Milan for the Opening at La Scala.  He has left Rome and behind him all the revolting scrabbling by dead politicians of Right and Left for shreds of nation-state power and party/personal profit - reminiscent rather of John Major on his way to the Oval to watch the cricket, mutatis mutandis.

He cannot hear this tonight (as once did a  very small Hatfield Girl).  But he will be listening to Lohengrin with an extraordinary cast of singers;  Jonas Kaufmann sings this evening if you prefer a more 'modern' interpretation under Barenboim.

Berlusconi's Response to Renzi's Defeat

The spread is now 332 the yield 4.60 having reached 336 earlier this morning.

Matteo Renzi, the man who should be leading the Democratic party (he received 1,096,000 votes against the 1,706,000 of the man who was hoisted into the PD leadership by the communist apparatus  dominant in the Party denying  a vote to up to a million centrist and leftish voters) is administering our beautiful city but wholly ignored by the Party.  Perhaps the crypto-communists should remember that they lost the last general election under the leadership of  'former' communist Walter Veltroni, and  lost badly, to Silvio Berlusconi and the centre right.

That legislature is still sitting: it has lent its support to Mario Monti's government because the markets would no longer lend to Italy at bearable rates.  But it has a centre right majority and if Monti loses a vote of confidence - at the moment the centre right is merely abstaining in the Lower House (it is abstaining in the Senate too but abstention there is counted as a vote against) - the President of Italy has little room for manoeuvre.

Napolitano can  invite Senator Monti to try again for a vote of confidence in his administration; he can invite the leader of the majority party in the Parliament to form an administration, ie Silvio Berlusconi; he can end the legislature and a general election will be held.   In truth he can delay a bit but he will eventually have to bring the legislature to a premature close and we will go to vote early next year.

How many million votes of the Centre and the anti-Berlusconi Right the Democratic party has so wilfully lost last week is difficult to estimate because the  schiaffo [slap in the face, ed.] delivered  to so many voters was two-handed: first the refusal of the vote to those who would not sign an intolerable declaration in favour of  all the primary candidates; then the refusal of the vote at the second round to all who had not voted in the first.   So voters were denied the right to vote for differing reasons in the two ballots.  But one thing is certain: those denied a vote by the Party will not forgive or forget their treatment, often delivered personally and rudely at the polling stations.  The communist comeuppance is arriving sooner than they wanted and too soon for any attempts to mend their fences.  They haven't even begun trying yet - too busy saluting their 'victory' with further inappropriate hand gestures offensive to many of their once potential voters.  A measure of the political and technical incapacity of their man is his announcement, off the cuff, in the media  that he would introduce a regular tax on wealth.  That an economic measure of such extensive effect upon an economy, any economy, should have been confirmed as a concession to extreme left populism  without consultation, and with  a demonstrated  lack of understanding of its economic content, shocked more than the democratic denial that preceded it.

The Italian media are advancing diverse reasons for Berlusconi's return to the fray and reassertion of his authority over his parliamentary majority.  The plain truth is that the Democratic Party has lost its internal battle for democracy and renewal of its policies and personnel and has lost the general election.  Of course Berlusconi is back. 

The euro is now falling steadily against the US dollar, the Pound and the Swiss franc . 

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Political Commedia

The political abyss into which Italy is falling was created last week.  The Partito Comunista Italiano redux drove through their candidate to lead the Partito Democratico.  That this was done by the crudest of exclusionary and  brutally confrontational-towards-eligible-voters tactics is undeniable.  Now we face the results of their clenched fists.

The spread is 324 and rising (from under 300 only days ago) as markets react more quickly than Bersani's henchmen to the fact that there is an enormous part of the Italian electorate now looking to the Right for an administration after the general election.

Most would vote for a Monti government again but there is no institutional or constitutional mechanism to deliver such an administration.  Nothing would induce most of the electorate, Right, Left or Centre, to vote for the Partito Comunista currently posing as the Democratic Party.  The Centre and Right is also trying to cope with a Berlusconi redux, not least because he is giving off a faint air of being gaga.  So while it is politically the case that a clear call from the Right will attract a majority, Berlusconi is now unable to make that call.

Perhaps there is a constitutional solution to keeping Monti in power but it's hard to think what it might be.  The President of the Republic has used his democratic powers to their limits  enabling a Monti administration during the current legislature which ends in April 2013; as does Napolitano's presidency in May.  Italy has: an indecent electoral system; an embedded, elderly nomenklatura  of both Left and Right fighting for their lives and life-styles; a potential prime minister of the centre right denied leadership of his Party by communist apparatchiks (of all ages); and a highly competent administration about to be driven from office early by this destruction of democracy within Italian political parties spreading to the entire body politic.

 The Mayor of Florence is sooooo right: to the scrapyard with old men and their old politics.   Otherwise it's only reasonable that a comedian should lead the country.  

Wednesday, 5 December 2012


 Eviva il Communismo e la liberta'

Forty percent of the  Partito Democratico electorate voted against this destructive world view.
These people have beaten open the door to Berlusconi's return with their clenched-fists.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Defeat in the Italian Primaries for the Leadership of the Centre Left

 We lost.  39% to 61% we lost.  We lost  on the technical, infighting, no-holds-barred voting mechanisms, and we lost the referendum on the question: Do you want to abandon your myths and redefine the identity of the Left?

And they answered No

The results that really mattered were  Emilia Romagna, Toscana, Umbria and  Marche.  It is in these four regions,   the regioni rosse, the red regions,  that the Democratic Party must bring out the vote in any general election; it is here that the Democratic Party has its electoral roots and its electoral force.  As Sole 24 Ore notes  this is the political core , the more general interest, of  the last week's Democratic primaries.  For at a general election the southern end of Italy will be voting for other parties entirely and in the North there are powerful alternatives to the Partito Democratico.

It is no surprise, really, that the old Left and its organisation defeated us.  What sort of communist  worth his salt can't deliver an election?  Elections were delivered from 1917 till 1992 in the heartlands of democratic centralism, and from 1946 till 1989 in the conquered territories of realised socialism,  when the people gave up voting and tore down the Wall with their bare hands.  But  in a general election, how can a Bersani-led Party win?   Why ever should it, mired in its old, corrupting, dead form.  Indeed the rules of the game for the general election haven't even been settled yet and, until they are,  it's almost impossible to work out what government Italy will have in the springtime of 2013, but the centre and Left is now in as much disarray as the centre and Right.

The voters who gave Renzi Tuscany and, at the first round, even Umbria and the Marche and took almost half the Party vote in the regioni rosse will not have their ideas of a capitalist, liberal, caring, small state changed by the charge of the communist heavy brigades.  Nor will they simply abstain: Italian voters do not abstain, Italian voters vote -  and with a clear idea of their own interests well to the fore. Berlusconi knows this better than any other politician.  He is circling the anti communist voters of the PD in his beastly way, working out what needs to be done to remove their principled stand against his last administration.  Bersani can do little to regain them because his victory was delivered by those we want removed from office and from influence.

Does all this matter in the wider world?  Probably yes.  In the West we have not had the cathartic experience of the East that removed utopian pretensions of socialism, having been fortunate enough not to live under  its fully realised version.  We still need our velvet revolutions (let's hope they are velvet and not blood-stained) and our Transition though,  and if the Coalition efforts in the United Kingdom are any kind of exemplar we are going to need trench warfare.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

They Can't Stop Us Voting With Our Money

The Italian media reports this morning that some 130,000 people have registered to vote in the second round Democratic primaries tomorrow via the facilitating proforma published in yesterday's newspapers, and that twice that number have applied directly to the Partito Democratico  site.  Renzi is asking all those who have signalled their requirement for a vote to go to the polling stations with their documentation and insist on voting.  Bersani has called for the vote to be denied to anyone who didn't vote last week and cannot produce eg. a medical certificate to explain their absence. 
Angels have been told by the village PD representatives that those who didn't vote in the first round,

".. will be stopped by the Provincial  Committees.  After all that's what they are there for, to make sure there is no infiltration from the Right." 

Disenfranchising up to 300,000 supporters is 'preventing infiltration from the Right'.

'Partito Democratico secretary Pier Luigi Bersani told Rai2 radio that he wants to introduce a personal wealth tax on large fortunes in Italy: not a one-off tax, but a structured tax on higher incomes .... Italy is facing huge challenges, and needs more fairness in its fiscal system. ' (Eurointelligence Newsbriefing)

'The Italian central bank reported a constant outflow of money from Italian to foreign banks which was at €200bn at the end of December 2011, and is expected to have reached €274bn at the end of March.
Data included all payments, imports and foreign investments completed within the Italian economic region and intermediated by domestic banks through the Bank of Italy.
According to the Bank, since the onset of the financial crisis, the European interbank payment system Target 2 has recorded a strong capital outflow from Italy to safe- haven countries.'

Friday, 30 November 2012

Bersani Weeps on Television

The appearance of his mother and father in a short video on the telly last night reduced the current leader of the Italian Democratic Party to tears.  And well it might.  Over a  picture of the boy Bersani at his first holy communion his mother stated:

Yes he's communist but in those days it was perfectly respectable, like being a Christian Democrat.

No it's not respectable, Signora Bersani, nor was it ever; you should know (and I think you do know) that in most  Italian families  communism is not thought respectable - not just wrongheaded and incompetent at delivering its ostensible aims but irreligious and deliberately destructive of family and society.  More people, millions and millions of people have died at the hands of communists and socialists than you can count.  More misery and dishonesty has been brought into the world by people like your son (who regard themselves as 'good' people, occupying the moral high ground, entitled to live at the expense of others, ruin the lives of others because they can deliver 'fairness' and 'equality'  denied by 'the rich') than has been brought happiness or a good and fulfilling life for most.  Ask the people of the former Soviet Union, of the former German Democratic Republic, of Poland, Hungary, ask the Czechs; ask the peoples of the Balkans whose modern factories and modern workers are now undermining the entire life chances of the working people in Italy upon whose lives your oh-so-respectable son has leached for his entire adult life with the false consciousness and broken economic analyses of workers' power.

Now we are told Bersani is not a communist but a 'proper' social democrat,  a European social democrat, a progressive social democrat (what used to be called a eurocommunist till the 1980s) and that he seeks and enables - yes, you've guessed it - fairness, equality, the protection of the weak, the stripping of the rich..... except the rich in the eurocommunist playbook are the people who are making their own way in life, and don't expect the entire state to be slaved to the needs and demands of the entitled and their clients on the 'moral high ground'. 

So, cry your eyes out, remembering the millions, and their families, destroyed and still being destroyed  by communism.  Cry for them Compagno Bersani.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Leaving Gracefully: Bersani Should Step Back in the Democratic Party Elections in Italy

Matteo Renzi, challenger for the leadership of the Italian Democratic Party, and Pierluigi Bersani, current Leader, had a set-to on the television last night.  For well over an hour in front of an invited studio audience and an enormous public at home they presented their reasons for leading the political party most likely to be elected in March next year.  At Angels' Towers shouting at the telly made an unexpected return.

It is hard to think these men are from the same party, indeed from the same century.  Renzi was elegantly dressed, elegantly spoken and outstandingly straightforward and extensive in his statements and his answers to questions; it is his good fortune to have the beautiful, formal yet intimate Italian of the Florentines at their best - carrying allusions, inclusions, examples, jokes, cruel teases, and great amounts of complex information in  economical and telling phrases, a mode of speaking that is best exemplified today by Benigni [yes, I know, but he's an honorary citizen of Florence, ed.] expounding Dante on present-day politics - but it wasn't just his rhetorical gifts that made Bersani look and sound so old and slow.  Bersani is old and slow.

The patent contrast between the two was vivid: one positively bouncing with vitality, ideas, analyses, commitment, willingness to salute but then set aside ancient shibboleths and commanding hights of the Left; the other fending off past failure with all the empty words and blocky hand gestures we know so well.  When the cameras panned to Bersani while Renzi was speaking, Bersani would be copiously drinking water (at least I hope it was water, otherwise his slowness might have other explanation) peering through his halfmoons at  acres of notes, wiping his face with his hankie, putting his hand under his voluminously cut soviet gents' suiting  to massage his aching back; his every remark was preceded by 'In my opinion.... let me say here..... I remember meeting a little child who's hope was for a dolly for Christmas and her mother's job returned.....'  Meanwhile Renzi was saying:

'Cut taxes,  end the state funding of political parties, stop demonising debt reduction measures, recognise the claims of our children not to pay for our self indulgence, realise we cannot retire early and have the longest life expectancy in the world,  modernise representation in the workplace, reform the institutions of the European Union so that we can be democratically in control of decisions there - proud to be  Europeans and proud to be Italians, aid the needy but not by feeding corruption and corrupted elites, .......And  then, addressing Bersani directly as 'Compagno Bersani' [compagno -  the correct form of address for an Italian communist, ed.] Renzi stated the requirement for the older party members, those who Rosy Bindi has, unforgivably, called 'indispensible', to retire from the Parliament and from Party office.  Despite years and years in power they have never brought tax evasion, criminality and corruption  to book and now they seek alliances with politicians and parties marked by involvement in the prolungation of these evils.

The other highlight  came in the section on foreign affairs in which Renzi stated flatly that the treatment of women in Mediterranean countries, particularly the north African Mediterranean countries and their particular cultures, was no longer tolerable.  It is bad enough in Italy where more than 100 women have been killed by those in their domestic circle since the beginning of this year; but the ending of cultural violence inflicted on women must  be a central part of Italian and, thus European, foreign policy.

At the end Bersani did not move from his podium but Renzi bounded across to him, offered his hand and gave him a big hug.  Bersani should take a step back this week, ask his aging supporters to vote Renzi on Sunday, and receive the credit and respect that will only be his with a last act in favour of ensuring the election next year of a respectable, reformed democratic Party.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Excluding the Younger Voters

The rules drawn up for participation in the Italian Democratic Party primaries were devised by the  the supporters of the current party Leader, Bersani, to make voting difficult for the general population of voters.  It has now emerged that there was a particular targetting of young potential voters, the 16-18 year olds, even if they were enrolled in the Party.  From 16 onwards people can join the Party, work for the Party, pay dues to the Party, vote in primaries for the regional elections but they have been excluded from voting in this primary.  Of course many of them will be 18 by the time the country goes to the general elections next March so it is particularly egregious that they should be so feared by the apparatchiks that they cannot vote now under Party rules to choose the new Leader.

So far there has been success in excluding centrist, non-Party voters, eg civic list voters; voters with a principled opposition to signing vaguely worded, tax and spend pseudo manifestos; those who have no wish to hand their personal details to the apparatchiks; those abroad who found themselves excluded days before the vote by the early cut-off dates for registration;  those who couldn't queue for hours and hours; young people who display a marked aversion to voting for bald-headed old communists with a nasty-line in tub-thumping, patronising rhetoric; and perhaps those who can't take time from work to go to the capital cities of their provinces to have their justifications backed-by-documentation ruled on by apparatchik election commissioners.

We need registration to vote for the run-off next Sunday available  document free, and  on line or available in person at the polling stations up to and including next Sunday.

Party But Not Democratic

The primaries for the leadership of the Democratic Party in Italy have decapitated the regional and provincial elites in the North. Swathes of cities and towns in the North have voted against the Bersani-supporting party organisers by enormous margins.  (In Arezzo it reached over 60% for Renzi: Florence, Siena, Prato Pistoia, Lucca, Sansepolcro - from the Casentino to the sea Renzi has taken the Party's vote.  And this has happened all over the North.)  In a desperate attempt to claim democratic authority Pierluigi Bersani's  apparatchiks, and Bersani himself, are accusing us of  lack of solidarity and failure to recognise the real enemy.

'We are the Democratic Party', they shout from the television screens, from La Repubblica (Italy's Guardian) from council chambers, regional authorities, from their offices and jobs for the boys and girls. 'They' are the Right, the evil people who have voted for Berlusconi, not 'Us' the occupants of the moral high ground and keepers of the flame of 'fairness'.'

"No' the voters have roared back.  'You people are the reason for Berlusconi's years in power, elected as a result of the desperate dash from your grasping, authoritarian, taxing, transferring, regulating, clientalist, dead ideological hands.'

'And if, next Sunday, you rig the vote as you have up to now by excluding the electorate, limiting access to the poll,  turning away qualified voters on the whim of your  polling officials and all the other dishonest tricks of corrupted party elites the world over, we will vote for Berlusconi again.  Better a gangster, or to have our government commissariato under Monti than a 'former' communist chosen only by the South, the dispossessed, and the political dead.'

Monday, 26 November 2012

Turning the Other Cheek

Italy has divided itself in two in the Partito Democratico primaries.  For the former communists' and socialists' Tendency led by Pierluigi Bersani - the South.  A south ravaged by underdevelopment resulting from corruption and criminality deeply rooted in the last century since the Second World War, and even earlier.  A South the recipient of enormous transfers of wealth and resources from the economically and culturo-politically successful North.   For the young, centrist, 21st century politician Matteo Renzi - the North.  A North that has dug in its heels and refuses to accept any further transfer of its wealth and resources when dealing with a recession on the current scale, and regards its taxation levels as wholly unacceptable, never mind economically inefficient as well as morally deficient.

'You must support your fellow workers and disadvantaged southern citizens ' cry the Usual Suspects.

'Not for more than 60 years we won't, and not when we're feeling the pinch ourselves,' comes the northern reply.

Bersani has done so badly in the North that there is now an official, point blank refusal to publish the complete results of the voting in the North.  At a guess (and with the refusal to publish the results of more than half the polling stations in the North  that 's all we can do)  Bersani can claim only Emilia Romagna, his own back yard.  All the rest of Italy's Red Belt has voted Renzi  (in areas of Tuscany Renzi has touched 75-80%) as has further north - Piedmont, the Veneto, the Italian advanced manufacturing heartlands.   Which leaves a nastier problem than democratic centralist behaviour in the interests of perverting democratic expression.  How can the Bersani Tendency maintain any access to power in the general elections in March 2013?

The Monti government of the last year could be regarded as a grand coalition, with Monti maintaining his democratic legitimacy by consistently receiving majority votes in the Parliament for his policies.  To do this he has had to conform to much of the resistance to labour reforms expressed through the Bersani-led PD in the Parliament.  In 2013 a PD with Bersani as its leader cannot win any kind of majority, not least because the moderate centre, with whom he would have to ally, is receiving a disgraceful lesson in precisely what he and his henchmen are.  Bersani's faction would be leading a PD in opposition. The best he can hope for is another Monti administration which relied in part on accommodating his demands.

Renzi could unite the non-communist, non-socialist and non-trade union left  with the centre, and large sections of the soft centre right and the Northern leagues.  Everyone, that is, but Bersani's paymasters, diehard ex-Berlusconi rightwingers, and the Fascists (whatever they are calling themselves these days).   And Bersani's goose would be cooked.  A rump Left to match the Berlusconi Right, with a true Partito Democratico in power under prime minister Renzi. 

Renzi has turned the page on the cheek of vote suppression and misrepresentation in last Sunday's poll and is concentrating on the run-off next Sunday.  He is calling on Bersani voters to reconsider their position, on the runners-up voters to switch to a PD with a chance of actually winning the general election next March, and has told the leader of the CGIL union (the biggest, and fiercely demanding that Bersani be confirmed in the PD leadership by any means) that if she wants to play politics she should stand for election by everyone, not just the employed and entitled of her union.


Apparatchiks Offensive

Extraordinarily, the former communist and socialist Left and their supporters in the trade unions are attempting to deny a right to vote in  next Sunday's Partito Democratico primary run-off to anyone who did not vote last Sunday.  Renzi's supporters have asked what is going to happen next week when voters present themselves armed with the extensive and intrusive documentation already imposed by the Partito Democratico elites.  Will we be turned away, as were properly documented voters at the last round who were identified by PD officials as 'of the Right'? (these last were mostly supporters of civic lists, ie not Party-aligned, in comunes up and down the country.  And very nasty too are some of the videos of Party stalwarts, hands on hips and wall to wall aggression, denying voters a vote).

The results of last Sunday's voting are still not being posted on the results site village by village, town by town, city by city but only aggregated at regional, or at best provincial level.  The former Soviet Union would be proud of its descendents.  We need a Transition in the West just as much as it was needed in the East of Europe.

These are the Men, the Very Fat Men (and Women) Who Water the Workers' Beer

   Anna Finocchiaro, Enrico Letta, Pierluigi Bersani, Rosy Bindi

and this is the man who's scrapping them, Matteo Renzi, mayor of Florence.
Yesterday more than 4 million queued for hours to vote in the Partito Democratico primaries.  Today the PD official in charge of the vote has announced that continuing the count is of little importance as there is to be a vote-off next Sunday and the figures are not going to change much; and that Bersani is 9% ahead of Renzi.

Renzi's people say their returns are:over 4 million votes cast, with Renzi within 5% of Bersani, despite a gross under-provision of polling centres in likely Renzi areas (such as Florence citta', where we waited up to two and a half hours to register and vote).

Bersani supporters sneer that Renzi is the candidate of the centre right.   Renzi took Tuscany with over 55% of the vote - in the province of Arezzo he took over 60% - sweeping up Siena, Grosseto as well.  Umbria is one of the regions they're trying not to count.  And in Milan counting has slowed to a stop.

For a measure of the scale of Renzi's achievement here are the detailed results, comune by comune, for the province and city of Siena (chosen both because it is usually deepest red and because it is well-known to readers in England).


Renzi has won in red Umbria taking: Perugia, Foligno, Città di Castello, Assisi , Spoleto,  Spello, Sellano, Sigillo, Montefalco, Panicale, Castel Ritaldi.  

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Voting Against the Official Line in Italy

Amazing scenes throughout Italy as people flock to vote in the Partito Democratico primaries.  Matteo Renzi, mayor of Florence, is challenging 'former' Communist Pierluigi Bersani for the leadership of the party that Romano Prodi put together all those years ago to take Italy into the euro.  Since then the trade union and 'former' communist and socialist Left have steadily eroded the Party's public support, spectacularly causing the fall of the Prodi government and the return of Berlusconi's gangsteristic corruption, when Rifondazione Communista voted against trade union reforms.  (though they did get punched in the mouth in the train home by furious citizens).

Matteo Renzi, a sensible man of impeccable centrist credentials, has been busy scrapping the 'former' Tendency's leading lights with great success: Massimo D'Alema, Walter Veltroni are the two biggest scalps who will not be standing again (thank Goodness) but his assault upon the dregs of Italy's degraded Left have done much to bring younger, centrist voters to the PD.    It should be remembered that Prodi was, probably still is, a Christian Democrat and by no means of the Left.

The 'Former' Tendency has done all it can to disrupt the primaries, demanding: pre-registration (an electoral voting certificate is not enough); the signing of a public declaration of intent on equality, solidarity, fairness (blah di blah di blah); a 'voluntary' contribution to the PD; submission of name, address, email - a quite extraordinary intrusion into voter privacy that had to be sanctioned by a state tribunal which ruled that this data be destroyed after the vote; and the need to have voted in the first round should any second round voting be necessary.

The on-line registration, particularly for Italians abroad, was near impossible to follow and the cut off for pre-registration was 20 November.  Registration at the polling booths has led to queues of up to 2 hours as voters doggedly formed third-world length lines to vote down the 'Formers'.  Renzi was made to wait an hour and a half at the the piazza Ciompi polling station in central Florence as PD stalwarts dawdled over the registrations of thousands of voters.

There is one consolation as we face down this democratic centralist performance.  If Bersani 's henchmen do hand him a 'win' then none of those who have turned out today in such numbers for Renzi will be voting Partito Democratico next March.   And the President of Italy will once again be forced to use those powers so presciently written into the Italian Constitution to prevent the perversion of democracy from communist and socialist, or from criminal, corruption.

We go to vote again next Sunday.  After one third of the votes are counted we have Bersani 44.6: Renzi 36.9: Vendola 14.4.


Toscana has voted for Renzi; Emilia has voted for Bersani.  Red Italy has split.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Galileo Galilei, Pisa, 15 February 1564 – Arcetri, 8 January 1642

The Guardian and its readership are scary.  In a discussion of the Church of England's refusal to make women bishops we read:

"Galileo was around 2000 years ago."

This is not a figure of speech to reinforce an idea of being out of date.  The reader appears to carry this notion as knowledge and  part of argument.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012


Last night

This morning

at least it's stopped raining

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Monies for Mantova and the North to be Released After All

 David Cameron met Mario Monti in Rome today (the cycle of visits by various heads of government has started up again - Merkel to London, Merkel to Lisbon, Cameron to Rome...).  Afterwards Senator Monti said he would like to "take the opportunity to express satisfaction with the final go-ahead for EU funds to be used for work in Emilia-Romagna that we have been examining intensively over the last days".

The Economic and Financial Affairs Council (Ecofin), made up of EU finance ministers,  announced today  that 670 million euros in assistance for northern  Italy,  severely damaged by  earthquakes last spring, is to  be released.  The two prime ministers were on the Eight O'Clock News  enthusiastically shaking hands and patting each other on the back despite the Italian prime minister regretting the poor fit of the two countries' plans for the EU budget.

'Italy and France issued a joint call last week to abolish the rebate system which grants Britain - and to a lesser extent other countries - a reduction in contributions to the European Union budget.' reports Ansa, the Italian news agency; perhaps a sensible compromise was reached.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Feeding Stories to the BBC

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism.  That's a name that George Orwell would have been pleased to invent.  As for its claims that investigative journalism is not playing a sufficiently prominent role in the media and the need for  Bureau  to fill this perceived lack, this fulfils all the promise of its orwellian title.

Some of its funding and resources can be found here.  Quite a lot of Third Sectorishness about it.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Very Well, Alone

Great Britain has led four other European Union countries in refusing to make available some £600 million from the European Solidarity Fund  that had been allocated to making good the earthquake damage to Modena, Ferrara, Mantova, and the iconic landscapes of the north of Italy and its smaller settlements by the  earthquakes earlier this year.

It seems that the demographic shift so eagerly rewarded in the United States has also taken place in the United Kingdom  and we no longer even recognise, let alone treasure, our European cultural heritage.  Finland, Sweden have always been icy northern wastes; the Netherlands below sea level on any measure; Germany capable of anything.  But England?  To be so eaten with loathing of Brussels it refuses help to Mantova? Out of spite?

Every flake of paint, every gilded ceiling, every column, every glorious instrument, library, place of Christian worship, court of princes, and cultural cradle  will be restored; but England slips ever further away from being part of that European heritage.  Burning down Croydon and Tottenham is the level of cultural achievement now.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Losing to Obama

Mr Obama's apologists have claimed throughout this election campaign that much of the reason for Obama's failure to achieve his vaunted 'change'  has been resistance and obstruction in Congress to many of his economic and social measures.

If this is so, and the emptiness of the last four years is indeed due to a reassertion of the Congress over the presidency, then those who  argued that 'much of Congress's power to manage the budget has been lost when the welfare state expanded since "entitlements were institutionally detached from Congress's ordinary legislative routine and rhythm. [and]"Another factor leading to less control over the budget was a keynesian belief that balanced budgets were unnecessary.', are now out-dated.

Either Obama has presided over a massive diminishing of the influence and power  of the office he has been holding (which on Angels' take on the United States constitution would be a welcome development) or the wasting of all that 2008 hope and good will  is a measure of the policy void of the last four years. 

Insofar as Obama's re-election for the second half of the usual term of office for a United States president would lead to a further growth in the power of a resurgent Congress, it is to be welcomed;  as is an economic policy that permits considerable free-riding, particularly by the Europeans while they repair their own economies.  But it does seem a bit hard on all those voters who sought economic growth and social and cultural reconciliation.   Those are not ever going to be delivered by a man like Obama, who acted in the first 4 years as if winning meant riding roughshod over principled opposition and well-founded misgiving in everything that he has manged to do.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Berlusconi's Fury

The markets have opened above 340;  Mediaset, Berlusconi's holding company, has fallen 3.11; the euro is down slightly against the dollar and the pound.

It's the severity of the magistrates' condemnation of Berlusconi, the attribution of criminal tendencies, that rips into the man's standing, as much as the sentencing  to four years (and the condoning of three of those years  plus the fact that he will not serve time in prison does not reduce the sentence, it's still a condemnation to four years and exclusion from any public office for five) that has caused the Fury.

Parliament is discussing currently the exclusion of anybody with a criminal record from standing for political office, indeed anyone even indicted for serious criminal offences; we have moved on from reforming labour relations and taxation to tackling the levels of corruption and criminality in Italian political life.  Yes, there is a stability pact going through the legislature but it has the same relationship to a serious effect upon the Italian economy as George Osborne's austerity measures have in cutting government expenditure in the UK.  It has already been absorbed by the markets and its upset, unlikely anyway to be within Berlusconi's waning direct political reach, is unlikely and unimportant.

The anti-European, anti-German, anti-tax, anti-rule of law, anti-democratic institutions, anti-constitution, anti-migrant populism that his considerable propaganda machine will now broadcast, and that will be propagated by other means, is what is really troubling.  But that is the trouble with populism - it's popular.

Certainly we need  a  Germany that accepts that it doesn't just set the rules but is bound by them just as much as other member-states,  we need lower taxes, democratic and constitutional reform, migration policies that enable assimilation not confrontation;  we don't want them Berlusconi's way.   

Friday, 26 October 2012


Sentence is read out on Silvio Berlusconi: four years imprisonment, exclusion from holding public office for five years, and 10 million euros to be deposited with the tax collector - l'Agenzia delle Entrate -  while the appeals are heardThe mills of God, that's what the  Agenzia delle Entrate are.  Tax fraud - gets them all in the end.

17.5  billion lire in 2000, 6.6  million euro  in 2001,  some 4  million in 2002  and around another 2  million in 2003:  that's a great deal of money, as Mervyn King remarked of the £28 billion  handed over to Northern Rock - though that was in another country and no-one will be condemned.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Vote Prices

At 50 euros a vote it's clear an organisation is needed to market them for a meaningful return.  Individual vote-selling wouldn't be worthwhile.  Step forward the Mafia, more specifically the 'Ndrangheta which has exported itself to northern Italy (or quite possibly gone global) from its historical haunts in Calabria (that's Bari, and its hinterland, as the Ryanair announcement "Welcome to Bari, Mafia city, please ensure you have all your belongings from the overhead lockers with you." noted.)

It used to be that votes were bartered-for individually - right shoe before the election, left shoe once the candidate was returned - so more or less the price is holding steady as the exchange becomes more sophisticated.  The price of shoes once determined vote prices in Naples (and now Lombardy) rather as the price of a gramme of gold determined the price of a decent lunch in Florence.

Berlusconi's PdL rightist party executive councillor Domenico Zambetti is accused of  giving 200,000 euros for 4,000 votes to the criminal organisation for the Lombardy regional elections in 2010,  and now joins 13 other councillors of the Lombardy regional Executive and Assembly under criminal investigation.  This includes their leader Roberto Formigoni , a crucial Berlusconi ally, who is accused of health contracts' corruption  and is expected to resign later today. 

It does cross the mind that the manner of compiling electoral registers in the UK lends itself very well to vote bundling and sale; who needs the Mafia when registration is done by household?  Yes there will be IER in 2014 but it's neither comprehensive nor effective.

The price of a vote in England used to be expressed in beer so it's quite hard to establish where UK vote-prices are  now, both because of the variability in how much beer is needed to get a voter dead drunk and the teetotal habits of many of the bundled voters.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Holding Them Off

Italian Tax police on Friday found snakes guarding the accounts of a northern Italian company they had come to inspect. (ANSA)

Boa constrictors and a python were among the reptiles watching over a "parallel" set of books in the storehouse of a metal-working company near the city of Belluno.

"There were splendid examples of empire boa constrictors, some of them about three metres long, a royal python and another 10 reptiles" in glass cases placed on top of the allegedly falsified accounts, police said.  Forest Rangers and a snake expert were called out from Belluno to remove the snakes so that the tax police could get at the books and carry out their inspection.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Asserting the One-Party State

No Labour Leader, old or new enough to be wet behind the ears, can ever lay claim to Disraeli, and his heir Macmillan's mantle.  Yet it seems distasteful -  so Ken Livingstone-ish -  to exemplify Ed Miliband's  'One' speech, and his political claims, with the National Socialist 

'eine Volk, eine Partei,  ein Fuhrer!'

It is more on the Miliband scale as well to identify his demand for the one-party state (not one nation, not one nation at all) with

'One people one country! One country one party! One party one leader! One leader -  Kaunda! '

though 'one leader -  Miliband'  doesn't have quite the rhythmic force of the African cry.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Look here upon this picture and on this,...

Piero Sraffa, economist, Ricardian,  5 August 1898 – 3 September 1983.  Author of  The Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities, sometime fellow of Trinity College Cambridge, interlocutor of Wittgenstein, who personally faced down Mussolini's demands upon him and subsequently was given refuge in Cambridge at the instigation of John Maynard Keynes.

Angels are not neo-Ricardians but Sraffa's contributions to economic thought and his intellectual importance in the history of economic theory can only be saluted.  A man Cambridge can be proud to own as an outstanding intellectual of infinite courtesy and great, if retiring, charm.

Eric Hobsbawm, Communist, dead this week. Sometime fellow of King's College Cambridge.  Refused a lectureship by Cambridge he obtained one from Birkbeck, University of London and then complained he wasn't promoted because of his political ideology.  Never resigned from the Communist Party of Great Britain.  never flinched in the face of the tens of millions of deaths and the even greater numbers of lives ruined under realised socialism in Europe.  A man Cambridge can be proud to have refused (though King's might feel discomfort in accommodating him) and whose maltreatment of the English language is among the many things hard to forgive.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

A Surprising Supporter

Angels were delightd, if extremely surprised, to read that the leader of the union Unite, Len McCluskey declared:

"Trade unions have always been on the side of the angels."

And there we were thinking that trades unions were on the side of   insider/outsider politics and economic hysteresis.

Monday, 1 October 2012

The Party of the Dead

The Labour conference rewarded the shadow chancellor with a standing ovation after he pledged to rekindle the spirit of the "even greater summer" of 1945 to "rebuild Britain anew" (gushes the Guardian).

Considering Ed Balls thought it amusing to dress as a Nazi once we might have expected him not to mention the War.  And is there anyone left alive who experienced the Attlee government?   What is it about the dead past that makes socialists and sub-keynesians hark on and on about Weimar and 1940s England?

By all accounts those were utterly horrible times and both, in their different ways, a dreadful threat to civil society.  But it's all so long ago.  We might as well consider the Bolsheviks and their post-putsch policies' relevance to 21st century economics as view current economic circumstance through a 1930s and 40s prism.  They're all dead - at least Keynes got the long run right.  Labour politics is like watching a costume drama (perhaps that's why the BBC is so keen on it.)


They've given their last concert, sob, but it's a chance to listen to this again.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Guess Book

A Musician sent a note to Angels:

This week is international book week. There is a game going round in internet:

take the book nearest to you, open it at p.52 and post the 5th sentence, without indicating author or title. (if you google international book week 2012 you'll see)
I would add, can anyone guess what the books are?

I got:
He gave himself utterly to whichever composer happened to have made the most powerful impact on him at any given moment, sometimes getting under the skin of his model to such an extent that it is virtually impossible to distinguish the work of the pupil from that of the master.

Also, from my current story book:
Sometimes the isle was thick with savages, with whom we fought; sometimes full of dangerous animals that hunted us; but in all my fancies nothing occurred to me so strange and tragic as our actual adventures.

My friends have guessed the first, but not the second (which is easier!)

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Political Elites and the Crisis in Democracy

'Palermo prosecutors are to examine the budget of the Sicilian regional assembly and documents pertaining to spending by party caucuses as part of a probe opened on Tuesday. The investigation comes in the wake of funding scandals involving parties from both sides of the political fence in Milan, Rome and other cities.', reports the Italian news agency Ansa.

Italian prosecutors have extensive powers -  to open investigations, search for evidence, require witnesses to testify, and require co-operation from public bodies and private individuals -  equally, the Sicilian mafia has a long record of murdering them, and officers of the police and Carabinieri, if they try to use them.

The extent of the corruption and misuse of public funds by political parties and by political elites, laid bare in current, similar investigations in the regions and nationally,  has rendered political parties in Italy  almost paralysed by their inability to explain themselves to the general public.

Despite very high levels of public approval of his leadership during his premiership,  Mario Monti consistently states he will not stand at the general elections in May next year.  He has not said he would refuse any invitation to form an administration and,  as he himself has pointed out, he doesn't need to be elected to Parliament: he is a senator for life. 


Chief Inspector Jason Tingley said: “What is being played out is a romantic contact. There is nothing to say we or her family should be concerned about the level of safety from him.” (reported in the Sun).

Imagine being 15 years old, in a country where you cannot speak the language, with a man you barely know (despite whatever relationship he has imposed upon you) without money or contact with any part of your family and everyday life support system.  You are completely dependent for your well being on someone who has removed you from every means of support and protection.

This is not 'a romantic contact' and there is everything to say and 'be concerned about  the level of safety from him', and the circumstances  this child is in.  If the local authority, the school, and the police view are represented by Tingley's understanding of the seriousness of all this perhaps parents might consider if they want to send their children to school at all.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Good-Looking Gucci

Isn' it lovely?  She looks like a provocative cardinal.

And this is the  everlasting outfit.  Years and years of happy wearing here. I wouldn't give it up until it fell into holes.

The others at Milan  are OTT but Gucci, without chains or initials,  was  covetable beyond dreams. 

Friday, 21 September 2012

Watching Them Putting Themselves About a Bit

Face to face meetings seem to be fashionable.  European member-state prime ministers and presidents are popping in to talk to one another with an assiduity rarely seen before.  Merkel, Monti and Hollande are visiting or being visited by Greece, Spain, the UK,  Ireland, various high-ranking ECB and Brussels figures - and  the impression is that it is Germany, France, Italy who are initiating all the activity.

The American Ambassador to Italy remarked last week that President Obama calls Monti regularly for updates on the EU and Eurozone affairs; the President regards Mr Monti as a reliable and expert source, according to the Ambassador.  They - the Italian prime minister and the US president - are to meet on the margins of the upcoming UN General Assembly it has been announced (which is not to say that the Italian prime minister intends to pursue the American president through the UN building till he has him cornered in the kitchens, as did the United Kingdom prime minister a couple of years ago).

None of these discussions seem to be possible by phone or some other remote link.  One wonders who they think will be listening. Of course all states have deviant sectors and services - Italian post-War history is riddled with them and their terrible doings - so there's no reason not to assume other nation states are not equally heterogeneous in their power structures.

Thursday, 20 September 2012


'Female soldiers should take pregnancy tests before heading to war, military experts said tonight, as a British servicewoman who unknowingly gave birth prepared to fly home from Afghanistan'

Short of being unconscious, no woman has unknowingly given birth.  Ever.

The inability to spell, punctuate, place words in the correct order and the lack of command of standard English generally is rendering English language media laughable. 

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Supreme Court Judgment

Italy's Supreme Court has confirmed the convictions of dozens of US and Italian officials who were tried, in Milan in 2009, for the abduction and rendition of Abu Omar, a Muslim cleric, shortly before the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The victim was kidnapped in the street in broad daylight, bundled into a van, taken to Aviano airforce base where he was brutalised, then rendered to Egypt where he was tortured in various disgusting ways.

Twenty-three US officials were convicted, the most high-profile being former CIA officers Robert Seldon Lady and Sabrina de Sousa, as well as Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Romano. Lady was given the heaviest sentence of nine years imprisonment, while de Sousa, Romano, and the other Americans—Monica Adler, Gregory Asherleigh, Lorenza Carrera, Drew Channing, John Duffin, Vincent Faldo, Raymond Harbaough, James Harbison, Ben Amar Harty, Cynthia Logan, George Purvis, Pilar Rueda, Joseph Sofin, Michalis Vasiluou, Eliana Castaldo, Victor Castellano, John Gurley, Brenda Ibanez, Anne Lidia Jenkins, and James Kirkland—got seven years. The agents' terms were lengthened from 5-8 years to 7-9 years in December 2010.

 The  court found three US officials not guilty because they had diplomatic immunity: the CIA’s former Rome station chief Jeff Castelli ( the abduction and rendition was his “brainchild”) the former first secretary at the US embassy in Rome Ralph Russomando, and former second secretary Betnie Medero.

Some agents of the Italian military intelligence service SISMI were not convicted. The officials, including the former head of SISMI Nicolo Pollari, had evidence against them suppressed on the grounds of state secrecy.  Their retrial was ordered.  More junior officers had their convictions confirmed.

The CIA agents were tried in contumacia. Their defence lawyers argued that they were not guilty as they were only obeying orders.

Should they be found in Europe again they will be arrested under European Arrest Warrants that have been issued for them all. The convicted have been ordered to pay over a million euros of damages to the victim of the extraordinary rendition. Properties in Italy of those convicted have been ordered to be confiscated.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Judging for Ourselves

Here is what the German Constitutional Court actually said.  Levels of bad faith/ignorance/misrepresentation/lies in the media and its representations of the European Central Bank's actions/ intentions/hubris etc.,  can be measured directly.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Starting to Froth at the Mouth

The media, particularly the English-speaking media, are becoming faintly insulting in their repeated suggestions that only the German Constitutional Court ruling on the ESM has prevented the European Central Bank from overstepping its mandate.

As Mr Schaeuble (reported in Bloomberg) remarked:  the German court’s decision has not limited the ECB’s power to buy bonds,  its mandate does that. “There is no doubt” the ECB is holding to its independent mandate and there is no reason to assume it will overstep that. 

Brush Up Your German

The German Parliament must have access to all information feeding into decisions by the ESM on bail outs.  The Deputies must sanction such bail outs and thus need all the information covered by Article 34 of the ESM treaty; Article 34  defines what are the  'professional secrets' of the negotiators and  constrains  ministers, ex-ministers, present and past members of the ESM to uniformly keep mum.  The Court finds this  unacceptable. So we can all go to the Bundestag website and have a look at what went on.   That is if the Bundestag chooses to vote to reveal what it learns.  And they do, so far.

They published details on Ireland's bail outs, and on Spain's banks,  that both countries' political elites were hiding from their electorates.  As the Corriere della Sera notes, the Constitutional Court underlines that this is  the people's money, not governmental largesse, and its uses must be open to scrutiny.

Sooooo attractive, a codified constitution and a constitutional court to interpret and enforce it.  They were looking good in red, too.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

What will the Constitutional Court's "But' entail?

Second-guessing the German constitutional court, or discussing what they 'ought' to rule is a scary thought.  Much of the discussion in the English-speaking  media has been very down on a ruling that finds the ESM in keeping with the German constitution.  At best there seems to be a demand for an overbearing 'But' added to a grudging 'It just squeaks by'.

Angels would like to hear proposals for constitutional changes, both in the EU and in Germany.  That would be much more constructive.

The German Consitutional Court has given a 'Yes' to the ESM.

The German constitutional court has reserved the right  to an assessment of the implications of OMTs at a later, unspecified date.  Much more important than exceeding the 190 billion euros needing a vote in the German parliament.  At 191 billion euros Angels would want oversight and voting too.  

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

I Don't Want to be Saved

What is it we are supposed to being saved from?  The climate?  It's truly marvellous: cool evenings, hot, sunny days, occasional outbursts of heavy rain that bring out the mushrooms of every kind of deliciousness.  Which brings us to the food.  Any complainants about Italian food are seriously under-informed about what is on offer.  The state education system?  Students flocked back to their clean classrooms, well under thirty to a class, equipped with the latest fashion in satchels, digital diaries, carefully chosen exercise books and folders with this year's designs, text books available in either printed format or online with hyper links and constant updating, with highly qualified teachers in one of the most sought-after jobs in the country (despite their endemic complaints about wages). The health service is running production lines for the most in-demand operations like heart bypasses and other conditions resulting from widespread smoking in the over 60s (now avoided without any of the elf'n'safety bullying that goes on in the UK) and is otherwise keeping us all ticking along nicely.   Everyone has come back from the sea or the mountains remarking that they've had a great time and thank Goodness they didn't have to go to Thailand or Timbuctu this year because there is greater charm and restfulness in  villeggiatura than in white-water rafting or conquering Everest.  Young Italians are leaving for their gap year in London before taking up their place in some of the best universities in Europe (despite the rankings handed out by the Chinese - yet another example of ill-informed rating  agencies -  La Sapienza and the Bocconi are delivering world movers and shakers more than most).  [New paragraph? ed.] Takes another deep breath.

The bank at the bottom of the hill has even made the Sole 24 Ore for its helpful lending policies  to middle-sized and family businesses and rings up to offer advice on what to do with the reinvestment of funds from maturing bonds - and the profits, there is a good side to high returns.  The whole place has lumpy mattresses from the gold bars tucked under.  And, purely anecdotally, the factories re-opened in July and we've lost the gardener and the drystone wall builder which is nice for them but what about my garden?  Rebuilding the terraces is going at a snail's pace now and I haven't got enough pickers recruited for the harvest. 

Factories that should have closed years ago have closed, but new ones are opening and new markets recruited for in-place skills and machinery.  Where once they manufactured gold chains for eastern markets now they manufacture baser chains for every kind of fashion use.  You'd be surprised at how much worked metal there is on cutting edge fashion items from hats to boots.

And it was packed in Siena cathedral when we went to look at the floors; wisely a booking had been made for lunch or we'd have been outside on the pavement with the strolling guitar-players encouraging us to sing Volare.

So what exactly is this Utopia we are being denied, this nightmare of economic and social degradation and collapse from which we need rescue?

Friday, 7 September 2012

The Only Way is Monti if Italy Takes a Bailout

Italy will need  a bailout argue the doomsayers and superficial analysts of the economic media. Actually Italy has always had debts.  Large debts, but stable.  After all, it has to carry the under-developed South and it can hardly divest itself of half its own terrain - that would be geopolitical madness even if it would instantly get rid of the debt problem.  Same with Greece vis a vis Europe.  Debt is the cost of territory, essential territory for European security.
Italy doesn't really need a bailout but it would be a political game-changer if it used these superficial economic arguments to take one.  The conditionality demanded by the European Central Bank would wipe out the entire political programme of the Partito Democratico, that unpleasant alliance of aging communists and their trade union masters,  socialists and  Shirley-Williamsy former Christian Democrats, LGBT activists, and social pressure groups with partial and idiosyncratic agendas.

After the bailout there would be no anti austerity programme, no alternative route to growth, no going back to the berlusconian free for all  and no holds barred (sorry, didn't mean to be vulgar).  Italy has already been given an outline of what is required, in August 2011, by Trichet,  countersigned by the incoming ECB president.  Monti has concentrated on putting public finances in some sort of order.  He has already said that next must come the 'social forces' and the reconciliation of their demands with economic necessity.  A bailout would be the ideal backdrop to dealing with 'the social forces'.

Angels expects the advancing of the German model of the Grand Coalition, in Italy as well as in Germany, for  next year's parliamentary elections.   And the German model integration of trade unions into business and government; but if so, it's the death knell for the wilder shores of Italian politics and practise. 

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Childhood's End

Karellen has stepped out of the European Central Bank, the mother ship and, despite the webbed wings, cloven hooves, tail and horns,  his analysis of, and actions in, the eurozone have been accepted.  (Italian spread is now below 380.)

Article 18 of the founding treaty of the European Central Bank permits the purchase of the bonds of sovereign states;  such purchases will be unlimited, at the discretion of the ECB; the ECB will require the application of fiscal constraint in states seeking bond purchases; and any back-sliding on state undertakings will lead to no more bond purchases.  What happens then was not spelled-out but, as Karellen remarked:

Even before the Overlords came to Earth, the sovereign state was dying. They have merely hastened its end: no one can save it now--and no one should try.

In order to restore confidence, policymakers in the euro area need to push ahead with great determination with fiscal consolidation, structural reforms to enhance competitiveness and European institution building. 

Earthly, global institutions such as the IMF are more than welcome to join the ECB in its guidance of sovereign, member-states of the eurozone.

In the meanwhile growth will be slow to non-existent, inflation rising but contained.  It is up to the earthly [ie member-states, ed.]  powers to adjust their economies, and economic and financial institutions  to avoid the need for, or meet the requirements for, a bailout.

As You Were

Nothing unexpected will come from the press conference on measures to halt unjustified (by the underlying condition of their economies) spreads.  As the Bank of Italy has noted, the spread should be 200 not 400 (or worse).  Spain?  a bit shakier but not a lot.

It was settled at the beginning of August: the objectives are to end speculative frenzy centred on the collapse of the euro - it really is irreversible in terms of institutions, political settlements and contracts, it's not going to go away short of wholesale meltdown far beyond financial,  and economic, sectors in its effects -  and to deliver the ECB's monetary policy to all parts of the eurozone in something approaching equal measure.

Italian spread at under 400 now; the Euro rising strongly.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Real Conservatives

The Member of Parliament for Welwyn and Hatfield has been appointed chairman of the Conservative Party. 

Grant Shapps, who enjoys a well over 17,000 majority in a working people's constituency, represents the aspirational, meritocratic conservatism that is the answer to the sanctimonious authoritarianism of the modern Labour party.

Monday, 3 September 2012

It's the Politics, Stupid - not the Economics

At a closed session of the European Parliament Mario Draghi has stated that ECB bond purchases of 3 year bonds do not count as direct government assistance.

'Gli acquisti di titoli di Stato "fino a tre anni non costituiscono un finanziamento monetario agli stati", perché si tratta di un finanziamento "troppo breve per essere classificato come creazione di moneta"' (La Repubblica )

Draghi also underlined that "gli acquisti dei titoli di Stato sul mercato secondario da parte della Bce rispettano "interpretazioni dei trattati". [the acquisitions of bonds on the secondary market by the ECB respect interpretations of the treaties.]

It has been remarkably unusual to hear the slightest gossip about the work that has been going on in the ECB this summer.  Part of the reason is that what is to be announced is already provided for in the Treaties, as has been repeatedly pointed out.  Media assertions that there would need to be fresh treaty provision which would be subject to member-state veto has been impervious to this reality and wholly falsely-based expectations of what might be going to be  attempted have been  raised.

The only comment heard here has been that we are in the hands of a remarkable politician and highly skilled diplomat: this is not really a financial problem but a political and sequencing problem. Mr Draghi is a fine economist but those are not the skills currently in use as the Eurozone negotiates the recession.


A winter reading list

Angels will start with:

Thomas Nagel (1974) ‘What is it Like to be a Bat?’

Not the faintest what it might deal with but the title is irresistible; followed by - if Nagel doesn't take all winter:

Wiggins  'Truth, Invention, and the Meaning of Life'

which would seem to cover just about everything. 

Of course, they might be making up all these titles.  Here on Angels,  we have a list of books waiting to be written.  Two of the better titles are:

'My Body as an Envelope and Other Stories'

 which falls under philosophy, and:

'Leave My Tears Alone'  a novel.