Friday, 13 September 2013

Italian Meltdown

Prime Minister Enrico Letta, the Uriah Heep of Italian politics, has admonished us all for our persistent lack of respect for and acceptance of his administration.   We are costing the country billions of euros which could be invested in economic recovery if only we would settle down under the informally installed Troika-style arrangements agreed and steadily installed, over every political democratic resistance, since 2011.

Looking out over the smouldering ruins of the country's institutions, with the only edifice left standing being that of  the president of Italy, now almost 90,  attention is caught by the  new front opening in the real economy.  Entrepreneurs have been shutting down plant for years and shifting to production in Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Poland and even the United States - shifting production to China is a decades-old practice - but the abandonment of factory and plant without hope of any further subsidy-farming is now being replaced by the abandonment of work-forces without provision for their welfare support.  Not to mention the physical trucking of machinery and key-skills workers to new, extra-Italian sites.  The Italian workforces have no redress; if they want to take up their jobs in Poland, for example, they can.  Only they can't really, can they?  For obvious reasons. Czy Pan mowi po Polsku?

Fiat has been the first example of a major industry exporting itself out of Italy, leaving only a fig-leaf structure behind but now the Italian steel industry seems to be taking its chance to shut down here.  Following the sequestration of its assets throughout Italy over a dispute in a southern Italian steel plant (whoever thought making basic steel is a clean and non-polluting undertaking?) about environmental conditions around the plant, the company has closed its sophisticated northern Italian production and research and logistics companies and sacked the workforce.  1500 highly-skilled workers in northern Italy are now out of work and (after a frantic meeting of Enrico Letta's government) on welfare benefits wholly funded by the tax-payer (no contribution from their erstwhile employer; after all, their industry has had its assets sequestered). 

No government truly running an advanced capitalist European country would find itself scrambling to contain the actions of a magistrate in a mean little town in a depressed area acting off their own bat to affect industrial policy and sophisticated output for export in the productive sectors of the national economy.  

It wouldn't really matter for most of us what Italy does, except, these  repellent incompetents are sliming round European capitals being ever so 'umble,  pushing their agenda for their 'presidency' of the European Union after the New Year.  

Their agenda consists of mutualising their debt, allocating European tax-payers' resources to their elitist local expenditures, demanding we take their banks and themselves at their own estimate, maintaining  themselves in national power at any cost,  and insinuating themselves into European power whenever and wherever they can.   If Italy is taken seriously in its claims to being a worthy counterparty to anyone or anything we will have only ourselves to blame for losses.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Rather Here Than There

The government so ardently desired and forcibly installed by Napolitano is now beyond description revolting.  The Deputy Speaker of the Senate has called the Minister for equality of opportunity an orangutan.  Leading members of his party have called for apologies not to the minister but to orangutans.  Napolitano, in an attempt to discard responsibility for the imposition of this coalition protested at the unheard of and degrading insults and was told to be quiet and mind his own business as this is the administration he engineered and sustains.

Napolitano has tried to assert that F35s and their worth and purchase is a decision for him and his puppet Executive, and to push aside Parliament's central decisional importance on expenditure;  he has been sharply put in place by constitutional analysts and even his own 'Commission' of constitutional experts but continues to insist that he and his army can do as they choose with their yet-another-special 'Commission', meeting in the presidential palace.

This corruption of politicians posing as an elected government has rendered the wife and daughter of a refugee to Kazahkstan  after informal meetings in Sardinia between the Kazahkstan dictator and Berlusconi.  Insult was then added to injury by the Italian state declaring the rendition shouldn't have taken place and the wife and daughter are welcome to return to Italy.  They have neither passports nor means or permission to go, and who would willingly return, considering the manner of their leaving? 

At what level of political and moral degradation  any member of the Letta government will resign is a source of speculation.  Economic failure, mass unemployment, social repression, law-breaking, state officials' and ministers' racial abuse (it's not just the Minister for Equalities, the illegally rendered wife was attacked by Ministry of the Interior paramilitaries screaming 'Russian whore' as they dragged her out of her house); and the suspension of Parliament for two days in protest at Berlusconi's final appeal being brought forward to deny the statute of limitations cancelling his conviction and condemnation - a suspension supported and voted for by the Democratic party and minor members of Napolitano's coalition administration - has not been enough.

In an appalling way it's technically interesting to watch how a fascist regime is put in place.  From London, that is.  Even the weather is better here than there.

Friday, 5 July 2013

La Miseria

The grocer in the village has stopped selling bread unless you have an order.  He explained the bakers have stopped taking back unsold bread and reduced the kinds of bread and other bakery products on offer.  It's a classic.  You can now order un pane once more, like all those years ago, and get what you're given.  It'll be un chilo di ciccia next and a lump of unidentified meat will be wrapped and handed.

The Italian statistical office has just issued its latest household consumption data [in English, should you care to look at the miserable collapse into ever-lower living standards and widespread poverty in all its detail, ed.]  Italian household consumption has fallen by the most since records began. 

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Bailing In

Italy's economic distress is matched by its political and institutional debacle.  Starting from the top Italy has a head of state arguably unconstitutional in that second terms of office while not specifically forbidden are excluded by every provision noted within the constitution: by the fixed  length of term of office, 7 years, which implies no repeat -14 years is far too long for a non-hereditary system; by the characteristics sought of candidates,  extensive senior civic and  political experience which of itself implies  relatively advanced age in any candidate; by there existing no precedent for any re-election.

Next Italy has a prime minister wholly unsupported by the electorate's votes.  The election was held with entirely other candidates for office - none of whom was asked to form a government by a then out-going president, who positively precipitated governmental crisis by refusing to invite any Party leader to face Parliament, and then acted extra-constitutionally in appointing a committee to delineate the characteristics of both premier and policies regardless of expressed electoral choices.

The Parliament itself has been elected under  rules that have been rejected as unlawful by the supreme court but its decision, though available on line, has not been officially transmitted to the constitutional court - some half a kilometre away - because various official  practices required for its transmission have not yet been carried out in the last 8 weeks. 

The iffy Parliament is now altering the articles of the Italian constitution that set out the regulation of changes to the Constitution.  The finalisation of the removal of safeguards to the integrity of the Constitution will be during August, while no-one is around and looking. 

The reform of the Constitution will include altering the role and powers of the head of state (retrospective cover there, then) but excludes specifically any alteration to the sections of the  Constitution dealing with the judiciary and its independence -  while the newly and increasingly empowered head of state will remain as head of the judiciary.

The imposed prime minister is ruling ad hoc and  by decree, such decrees to be voted eventually by the Parliament, without normal legislative initiation procedures from parliament, and without any publicly discussed programme, let alone voted-upon manifesto. 

The Democratic party, of whom the Prime Minster is a member, delays electing a leader (having installed a temporary leader who is not the prime minister, in the interim, by appointment not election) and flouts every aspect of its own rule book (for, like the Labour party, when in office the party Leader is prime minister) to prevent any disturbance of the imposed prime minister's tenure.  A Party congress to choose a leader by election is repeatedly deferred and next year (sometime) is now being mooted.   

The minority Coalition partner in government has just seen its leader convicted repeatedly, at various levels for various crimes, and the People of Liberty party is to re-form with most of it in a newly founded Forza Italia party whose self-selected Leader will once more be Berlusconi (what happens to the remnants is not clear).

The third largest grouping within the ruling Coalition, Monti's Civic Choice party, is at last (and at least) demanding a  setting out and agreement of Coalition policies, on the German grand coalition model -  which demand has been refused, dismissed, by the Head of State (not even bothering to have the fig-leaf prime minister make the statement) as not serious, 'not a threat'.  Threat that is to the  novel administration being inflicted on the country.

Meanwhile unemployment is at its highest since 1977 and to say just that there's no money left would be positively reassuring given the state the country's economy is in.   Italy is far too big to bail out using the procedures applied to Greece, Cyprus and Ireland - even Spain, by Troika or the EU currency union alone.  The Cyprus template for financial response to currency union weakness  may not be the only template being trialled by determined europhiliacs. 

Italy is a template, a trying out of a total bail-in: not just in failing banks and financial areas but of the entire country's democratic institutions and procedures, including financial.  Every means of response short of unacceptable gestures in a civil society is being blocked-off and the country delivered hog-tied for whatever-it-takes financial and economic, institutional and political measures that will preserve the Project. 

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

It's Not Just Berlusca Who Can Embarrass For Italy

Silvio may have said out loud his assessment of the German Chancellor's bottom but there are public figures in Italy who display worse forms of vulgarity.  Consider these profound economic assessments delivered oh so sententiously in that washing-the-words-round-the-palate, plummy tones of the President of the Republic; he is addressing Confindustria (whose members enjoy  a certain entrepreneurial capacity).

Napolitano feels the need  for removal of "normative and administrative inadequacies which  prevent Italy from acquiring such significant potential resources [inward foreign investment].... "Today",  we are told by the Head of State, no less, "the flow of foreign investment is crucial to give an innovative stimulus to  production and employment recovery: not just to  provide fresh capital, but contributions from people, and ideas, of production and organisational models, of new technologies and systems."*

Who would ever have thought this?  Such innovative freshness of economic thought  from our 88 year old.  Take us away, Giorgio!

At least Berlusca knows what he's talking about.

* [only fair to put in the rotund phrases, the jejeune advice, as offered in the original, ed.]
".....rimuovere le inadeguatezze normative ed amministrative che impediscono di acquisire all'Italia così significative potenziali risorse». ..."Oggi l'afflusso di investimenti dall'estero in Italia é cruciale per dare uno stimolo innovativo alla ripresa produttiva e all'occupazione: non solo per l'apporto di capitali freschi, ma il contributo di persone e di idee, di modelli produttivi e organizzativi, di nuove tecnologie e sistemi".

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Opening the European Treaties; The Union Needs Refounding

David Cameron (with more than a little help from the Germans)  has also done more than is obvious at first glance in pressing a north European take onto the European Union.  Between his efforts last February and his efforts in the last week he has reduced the EU budget (for the first time ever) and resisted attempts to alter the basis upon which budget calculations are made (and not just for calculating the UK rebate) as well as using the threat of a veto (but not a veto itself) to ensure that the budget is put in place for the full period and there is no reversion to a much more expansive year by year fall-back if the full term budget had not been approved.

France and particularly Italy are making the best of a bad job by talking up the allocations from the budget for alleviating youth unemployment and the further direction of resources to this end from the European Investment Bank (though this last is purely speculative and has no German assent) but the sums are trivial and need support from unspent and unallocated budget resources every year.  All in all the main objective, to make nebulous the basis for budgetary calculations co-opting the unpopularity of the UK's rebate as a vehicle, has failed.

Germany has seen off any advance in centralising  bank resolution,  direct EU bank recapitalisation and the use of these means for  legacy debt redistribution which is sought by the debtor member states (again particularly Italy).  The cover explanation is that the German elections preclude any threats to German taxpayers for the moment, but the underlying obstacle is Germany's insistence on re-opening the treaties if a redistributive Union, by any means, is to be installed; at the very least their insistence that legacy debt must be cleared up at a national level before any progress in bank supervision, recapitalisation, and resolution is really installed.

If threat of veto-use is a powerful weapon, threat of treaty-opening is nuclear.  Mutatis mutandis opening the treaties is like holding a general election.  Difficult as it may be to achieve against vested interests  these occasions (and it could be argued these occasions alone) can inflict a sea change  on embedded elites, ideologies and interest.  Both Germany and the UK now have limited any further use of the under-definition of treaty provisions to achieve meta-policy ends. 

Doubt is creeping in that the German elections will end German determination to re-open the treaties, to recast the European Union and free it from its 20th century objectives;  that the UK too is not going away but means to reopen the treaties, change the existing Union template, and then vote on what is put in its place has just  been demonstrated vividly.  And this policy may well be more to the UK and Europe's advantage than a simple In or Out UKIP-style referendum and abandonment of the field by the UK.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Furious Italian Left Media Denounces Cameron

David Cameron has stopped the painstakingly constructed European Union budget in its tracks this evening.  The Italian media are beside themselves at his insistence that Europe should live within its means and, most importantly, not seek to redirect some of the United Kingdom's rebate, negotiated (if that is quite the word) by Margaret Thatcher in 1984, to European agriculture and alleviating European youth unemployment.

The Italian prime minister, his own and his Party's reputation sullied  by association with his administration's coalition partners and their Leader (among other things) had intended to make a splash in Brussels by leading the discussions on policies for work and youth; clean up his image after last night's dinner with Berlusca.  Instead all the careful choreographing  of the responsible, pragmatic progressive, social democratic  leader caring for the fair society and its means within the European framework has gone for a burton under withering English fire.

'Not with our rebate,' Letta has been told sharply.  David Cameron has forced Van Rompuy to explain to the other 27 heads of government precisely the terms of the agreement reached this morning on the EU budget that must be agreed by all heads of state as well as the EU Parliament.  Where it departs from what was agreed last February, particularly on the UK rebate, it must be renegotiated.

Letta's government looks ever more distasteful at home and  ineffective in Europe.


The United Kingdom rebate has been maintained, after David Cameron's rejection of any change to what had been agreed in February. Angela Merkel also noted that "In February we reached agreement that there would be no alteration in the basis of calculation".  The budget then went through. 

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Alla Deriva

At the end of the last century derivatives were used by  national Europhiliacs to bring the ratio of deficit to GDP below 3% in Italy.  This was known quite widely then, and since as a practice used by others (Greece for example) and shrugged off in the over-riding interest of setting up the currency union as a mechanism for driving ever-closer European Union.

Unfortunately some of these contracts dating back to the 1990s were renegotiated last year   which once again brought them to wider attention when the renegotiated contracts attracted losses of 8 billion euros - not good considering the state of Italian public debt. 

Much worse, however, is that La Repubblica  writes that Italian total derivatives exposure is of the order of 160 billion euros; this, at the same rate of loss, would involve an additional 32 billion euros. The scale of irresponsibility is such that we are running out of directions in which to look where nothing disastrous is happening: political, institutional, economic, ethical, all areas are desolations.  

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

A Coalition Government With a Party Leader Currently Condemned to 11 Years in Prison

There's something very seriously the matter with Italian politicians.  I recognise that politicians and elites in many countries display scant regard for the ethical stances of others - and call it real politique - but the Leader of one half of the coalition governing Italy has just been condemned to seven years for involvement in under-age prostitution and abuse of office, while over 30 of the witnesses at the trial have been referred by the judge for investigation for perjury during the trial. 

Giorgio Napolitano, President of Italy, has called for maintenance of the Coalition government and a period of governmental stability.   The People of Liberty, whose Leader has been condemned, are crying 'foul' and 'persecution'.  The other Coalition party, the Democratic Party, has stated  it respects the judgment and the court.  That's it.

No suggestion that there be a vote of confidence in the Coalition government in the Parliament, seeing as offering the resignation of the Executive hasn't crossed anyone's mind, let alone lips.   No suggestion that perhaps Prime Minister Letta is now maintained in office by a Party led by a man with not one but two current convictions, and such a conviction, and is currently condemned to a total of eleven years; a Party who supplies the Minister of the Interior who denounces the judiciary in simply outrageous terms.

Letta gets up in Parliament and announces he has a very important European meeting in Brussels tomorrow.  What's he going to say there?  Hope no-one mentions this petty embarrassment to his government?  He's meeting Silvio Berlusconi this evening.  Let's hope that after the meeting Prime Minister Letta will go to the President and offer his resignation, and that it will be accepted. 

There's no need for fresh elections (not a need, in the first instance, though a clean slate would be nice)  but certainly another form of coalition must be sought and if not found then elections would be required.  Required in a normal, decent democracy with a normal decent head of state that is.

Delusional Italy

The Italian Parliament (such as it is and if it sees out the day) is to vote today on whether to proceed with Italy's purchase of 90 F35 fighter bombers. 
In Italy's current situation - economic, political, institutional, constitutional, ethical - existential might be the word,  it would be best to put such an aircraft purchase  on hold and rethink. 

After all, there are iffy government coalition partners to reconsider,   Constitutions to rewrite in groups of 75 talking heads plus Napolitano (88)   (not least because constitutionally Italy is bound not to make war and the F35 is indubitably an attack aircraft)  taxes to lower and rescind, and a 2.03 trillion euro public debt. There are the fabled  youth unemployed (and all the other unemployed who aren't even consoled by their youth) in need of being 'kick-started' into work  - though why  use imagery from getting your motor scooter going when imagery from flying your F35 would be so much more  blue sky thinking in our modern Italy?  And are we sure that the state automatically accessing and monitoring all bank account activity is going to stop (rather than merely confirm the turn of speed now displayed in) the great Italian wealth exodus?

Even the hope of dragging some sort of administration on over the summer (which isn't here and everyone is too poor to go the seaside anyway)  until the currency union can get its rescue mechanism ducks in a row  and then try rescuing one of its largest participant economies, is collapsing. 

All a vote to commit to the F35 will bring is more debt in the shape of penalty  clauses, not sleek fighter bombers like Turkey will have.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Should Judges Take Away Electorates' Rights by Banning Candidates Found Guilty of Crimes

Exclusion from public office in perpetuity seems a bit hard, and not just on Silvio Berlusconi.  It's one thing to strip  convicted criminals of their right to vote while serving their sentences, and the European Court  says we are not to.  It's quite another to  strip away such civil rights in perpetuity.

And entirely another to strip electorates of the leadership and the possibility of returning to office a popular leader playing a charismatic role in the leadership of a political party. 

Berlusconi Condemned

Seven years for abuse of office and prostitution of a minor. (6 + 1).  A long list of witnesses have also been referred for investigation on the evidence given during Berlusconi's trial.  Berlusconi has been excluded from public office in perpetuity.

Lawyers for Silvio Berlusconi have announced he will appeal and used the word 'hallucinatory" to describe the proceedings.

The spread has risen to 300 with the  yield at 4.82. 

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Bringing Down Berlusconi

Conviction for  tax and fraud  in business activities offences, in a state noted for its poor international ratings as a country in which to do business, is a danger on a purely technical front. Clear indications that  "the problem is as much about how the laws are interpreted by the bureaucracy and the judiciary, as it is about the laws themselves.", make the situation worse.    Malcolm Barr and David Mackie point out this problem, with specific reference to Italy, in their piece on sorting out national legacy problems, both economic and politico-institutional, before an EMU 2 steady state can be achieved.

It can be argued that the judicial pursuit of a popular political leader is both commonplace and dangerous in authoritarian states, and that Italy's current reversion to its default mode authoritarianism is now causing any impartial observer to take Silvio Berlusconi's assertions that he is the victim of judicial persecution seriously. 

Anyone attempting to conduct business in an institutional, socio-economic and structural environment like Italy's  is always going to be vulnerable to a state or political assault (or both as at the moment in Italy the first is being subjugated to the second).    But if our popular, elected politician then compounds his right-wing, economic liberalism with a spicy anti-European contempt, and a robust rejection of the received national myth 'fascism bad / communism good', then the Unspeakable are after the Inedible (or rather the indigestible for Italy's leftist hypocrite occupants of the ethical high ground) with a vengeance.  And if fraud, tax or political activity accusation doesn't do it for criminalisation there's always the Strauss-Kahn moral-assassination-by-sexual-slur option.

Nevertheless the vecchio, glorioso comunista Napolitano (88) requires and expects that  there should be no impact on the present peculiar government (which is having its strings jerked by Brussels and Germany via his office)  if former Prime Minister Berlusconi is stripped of immunities, dignity, condemned, and excluded from Parliament.   

Napolitano may wish all he likes that we would all, like him,  put the European Union first, last and always in our actions and our justifications; but most of us regard much of the 20th century, and particularly Italy's 20th century, as no excuse  for anything at all, never mind for an EU political mindset as outdated as it is outrageous.   Further, quite a lot of us, having had our faith in electoral democracy undermined recently, are now looking askance at the Judiciary, the Executive, and the Presidency (our view of the Italian bureaucracy  rests undisturbed).

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Rules and Their Making

All contracts, treaties, agreements are under-determined.  Why would there be courts, if not for lack of clarity?  Whether the under-determined nature of arrangements backed by law in general is inherent or deliberate is worth thinking about.  But we can be quite sure that the under-determined nature of the European Union Treaties is  their modus operandi.  They were written thus to cover  objection from just about any direction to anything within them we care to think of.

So when the Bundesbank's Jens Weidmann calls into question the precise mandate of the ECB, by questioning the German constitutionality of OMT,   a great fissure opens in the  common front of europhile argument that the Treaties set out the rules.  And not just for Article 123 where, as he amiably admits,

"...there are few countries in the currency union which place such a high worth on article 123 as Germany."   However, as he goes on, "There would be a very wide discussion on what else could be changed, apart from the mandate of the [European] Central Bank."

Any EU member-state choosing to determine the constitutionality of European requirements under their own constitution and before their own constitutional court without, as Germany never has (and Hell would freeze over before it did), referring to the ECJ,  has means to resolve deliberately under-determined EU Treaty statements, and  in conformity with their own constitutional requirements.

For the United Kingdom, whose whole approach to constitutional determination is flexible to the point of idiosyncrasy,  the German challenge to the EU treaty-drafters cunning plan may yet facilitate the growth of a UK constitutional spine. 

Monday, 10 June 2013

Not "Whatever it Takes to Save the Euro"

Central bankers described the process as "containment."  The European Central Bank has commissioned legal opinion on how much and what can be involved in OMT.  This is an attempt to influence the German Constitutional Court as it considers the use of OMT to rescue European Member States - and particularly Italy -  drowning in sovereign debt.

Often described as 'Eurobonds by any other name'  OMT runs counter to both the laws governing the European Central Bank (pace Draghi's opinion) and  the German Constitution.  Furthermore, telling the markets that the rule is 'whatever it takes',  and the German Constitutional Court that effectively OMT is capped at 524 billion euros because of the maturities of the bonds it would purchase isn't reassuring either.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Berlusconi All Mouth and No Trousers

"We face  a straight choice: either the economic motor is decisively activated within the Eurozone, including  expansionary policies in the financial sector,  abandoning the paralysing emphasis on public debt or  the strategic foundations of European solidarity, from banking union to  all the rest, shrink and ultimately vanish, ending in the collapse of the current set-up."* 

Sounds like such clear-minded common sense, doesn't it?  Berlusca does it again, cutting through to the heart of Italy's difficulties and expressing so succinctly what we all feel.
C'mon Germany!

But what is involved?

First of all, Silvio ignores all the things that can be done by Italy within the current set-up.

 - pay off state debt to enterprises (the EU has given permission for a bit of an overspend for this).
 - end Italian intervention in foreign wars
 - stop the purchase of the F35s
 - a modest wealth tax based on all wealth-forms, not on housing regardless of actual market values and  outstanding mortgages
 - ensure the Church pays taxes like everybody else
 - auction tv frequencies properly.
 - end all state political funding - parties, newspapers, other media, internet.

Say 70 to 100 billion euros.  As long as the state put that into the hands of enterprises that should do a great deal of good.  Not to Silvio though so he proposes none of the above.  He has suggested:

 - cut taxes  on hiring workers
  - cut VAT, cut income tax
but without proposals on how, other than "abandoning the paralysing emphasis on public debt" - perhaps if we don't look all those trillions won't frighten anyone anymore.

What could, indeed must,  be read into his remarks (if they are to be taken with the seriousness the media are reporting them as 'plain speaking') is:

 - monetary expansion - after all, in 2011 he thought Italy could just print its own Euros.   That's what led to his defenestration by Napolitano (88) and substitution with Monti.

 - lower  the interest rate - even to a negative interest rate.

 - buy government debt (they'd have to change the law brought in to control inflation but who needs law when Italy has Napolitano (88).

 - reschedule debt  and reduce debt interest.

-  nationalize under-capitalised banks

- re-organise learning and research

 - migration controls  (filling only high and missing skills categories, though a nod to genuine asylum for political reasons might help those being rendered currently.)

- an industrial policy setting out criteria for enterprise support: ie exports, high value-added, environmentally sound initiatives (very important in Italy - no more steel works in the South, no more chemical plants in Venice etc.)

 - devalue 10-15% .  Well,  leaving the Euro will deal with that; the devaluation will be 20 -25%.

 - Concert the exit otherwise Italy will be victimised worse than  Greece and Spain and Portugal have been already and, as it's best to leave with friends, Cyprus and France had better come too.

Not unnaturally, after that lot,  a robust foreign  and defence policy (other than buying F35s) will be necessary.

- introduce national service and military training on the Swiss model.
- enlarge the Italian navy for a lot more welly in the Mediterranean.

Finally, institutional reforms applicable in our out of the Eurozone

 - Abolition of provincial levels of government.  All regions to become autonomous.  Parliament made up of a federal Senate and a  national lower house.  Constitutional reform on the lines of Germany except for a directly elected president but, as in Germany, whose powers are residual and ceremonial.

That'd do it, or a lot of it. But it isn't what he wants at all, never mind what Europe (and Napolitano (88) intends to have.

* "siamo di fronte a una alternativa secca: o si rimette in moto in forma decisamente espansiva il motore dell'economia, compreso quello finanziario legato alla moneta unica, uscendo dalla paralizzante enfatizzazione della crisi da debito pubblico, oppure le ragioni strategiche della solidarietà nella costruzione europea, dall'unione bancaria a tutto il resto, si esauriscono e si illanguidiscono fino alla rottura dell'equilibrio attuale".

Thursday, 6 June 2013

The Eurozone's Third Largest Economy: An Overview

Any European recovery will exclude Italy.  Data on the economy are so bad it is clear that  Italy would be unable to respond. 

55,000 manufacturing companies closed down between  2009 and 2012.

Numbers employed in manufacturing have fallen by 10% since 2007, with 539,000 manufacturing jobs lost for good.

Confindustria reports that 15% of Italian manufacturing capacity has been destroyed  (and you wouldn't turn to Italy for anything else would you?  Well, perhaps an outing to Venice or something, but no primary products, no financial, or legal services anyone in their right mind would want to use, no research and development or tertiary sector educational attractions, no institutional solidity or even propriety.

32,000 fewer firms.

Credit cuts of between 50 and 60 billion euros (that's Confindustria) from 2012; S&P  says Italian banks in 2012 cut 44 billion euros of credit to  companies in Italy.

Mass unemployment.

Welfare funds running on empty.

Government debt at 134% of GDP by the end of 2013 -  some 2.03 trillion euros.

Italy's democracy  is a shell.  Its economy is hollowed-out and dying where it stands.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Italy Renders Woman and Child While Oiling Up to Kazakhstan

If staying indoors might be thought  to preclude being beaten bloody by state police for publicly questioning  EU and global policy, think again.  You can be sitting quietly in your villa in the Rome countryside when 50 armed state police arrive, and take you off forthwith to the nearest expulsion centre.  Whereupon both the Italian minister of the Interior and the Italian minister of Justice  declare all the rules to have been followed, all the papers are in order, and the jet that has just arrived at Ciampino from Kazakhstan can take you away in under 48 hours from your seizure.  Oh, yes, and remember to go back to the villa and get the six-year-old daughter for rendition to Kazakhstan too, otherwise her presence in Italy might disturb the rendition of the mother, they add thoughtfully.

And if you thought the 'pardon' granted by out-going president Napolitano (before he had fully organised his incoming once more) last February to a United States officer tried and condemned, confirmed through all appeals, to seven years for rendition of another unfortunate kidnapped in Milan and sent for torture in Egypt, was a constitutional stretch too far, now you know.  Rules are for wimps.  Women and little girls are for Kazakhstan and its mercies.

The United Kingdom granted political asylum to Mukhtar Ablyazov, whose wife and daughter have been rendered to Nazarbayev, in 2011 (not that the UK didn't fine him for various financial sins but they didn't and haven't handed him over).   There's the difference, you see. The United Kingdom has a default freedoms and rights history and culture, no matter how infuriated we get with lapses, collapses and downright failures in its implementation.  In Italy Berlusca goes for the weekend to visit Putin and jets are landing at Ciampino for little girls. 

Knocking European and Global Sense into the Workers of Italy

This is the Mayor of the city of Terni (Umbria) beaten with truncheons by police during a workers' demonstration this morning against the multinational Finnish Outokumpu AST steelworks' refusal to discuss wages and conditions and the role of the works in the Umbrian and national economy.

De facto the constitution of Italy has  been suspended since the 'election' of Napolitano as head of state for a second term, and all that has come in its wake.  Now we seem to be getting down to brass tacks, and local and regional heads.


The state police declare the mayor was hit on the head accidentally by an umbrella.   Good thing he wasn't on Waterloo Bridge or he'd be dead.  Dangerous things umbrellas. 

Thursday, 30 May 2013

The Dangers of Over-riding Democratic Voting Outcomes in Europe

Many of the countries of continental Europe suffer from a disgraceful 20th century political history and a default political position which is authoritarian:  either communist collectivist or fascist corporatist.  In this they are unlike the United Kingdom, whose default political position is representative parliamentary democracy expounding conservative,  liberal, or social democratic  views through its political parties;  the installation of a dictatorship in the UK is neither likely nor facilitated by its mind set, constitutional form or institutions.

Italy provides a specific case of this broad-brush assessment.  Italy's governance was dominated overtly by fascist corporatism between 1922 and 1943, and it has been branded ever since by a self-righteous and self-justifying communist collectivism from 1943 to the present day.  Anti-communism has been made up of externally applied encouragement, a subterranean fascism under various other names, and governmental co-operation with organised criminality that derives from even before the 20th century and which,  as a cultural rather than political phenomenon, is ineradicable.   The collectivism wing of authoritarianism has flourished too with the considerable regional independence enjoyed within the Peninsula's weak central state and, in the second half of the 20th and in this century, with  total commitment to a 'progressivist' European Union.

As a topping to this authoritarian mish-mash there is false history and consciousness actively reinforced by laws, schooling, media, and acceptable expression of opinion that fascist corporatism is 'bad' and communist collectivism is 'good' (though kept from national power by shadowy 'right-wing' forces).  That both are disreputable and murderous destroyers of life chances and living standards and on a par with one another is a stance unacceptable to both.   When the last elections returned as the largest parliamentary group  a direct democracy,  participatory movement,  the rampage through the institutions and through the Italian Constitution by the collectivist, corporatist and criminal factions was visceral and immediate.  Led by the outgoing head of state, a noted, historical collectivist-authoritarian, power was guided into  the  hands of a progressivist, European Union-acceptable leader.

Unfortunately today's reality (so often referred to by Rajoy of Spain) requires that Italy's economic depression be alleviated immediately. Not next year, not in the medium term, not with the expansion of employment 'opportunities' for the 'young', not by a continued credit denial to the SME, backbone of Italian industry,  not by declarations from the European Central Bank about whatever it takes to defend the destructive disciplines of internal devaluation.  And the default governance option in Italy as a continental European state is not voting Conservative instead of Liberal or Labour.   The default option is Popular, its demise regretted by many more than are permitted by political correctness-speak to say so,  demonstrably effective in instigating economic growth and, more worryingly, in arousing loyalty; its voters and its leaders are already in situ, as are its policies and its targets. The default option is fascism. 

At the recent local elections half of those eligible to vote did not.  This is not a stable-state in Italian political behaviour  (and the assumption by the collectivist authoritarians that they have recouped their voters lost at the last general elections, and that the 50% absentee count is made up entirely of others,   is as dishonest as it is silly.  We didn't vote because the Five Stars didn't meet - or more accurately  was prevented from meeting -  our policy requirements and political demands.  We had already deserted a communist-led Democratic party. ) The collapse of the PD vote was confirmed, not reversed.   

Those missing actors in the democratic process have had their democratic faith savagely destroyed as the democratic process itself has been destroyed.  There will now be a short intermission (to borrow a phrase) but the profound political instability in Italy, coupled with wilfully induced economic depression  threatens the EU and Eurozone elites more now than  before our election of a direct democracy movement instigated a collectivist  coup.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Germany Protests to Italy Over Granting Refugee Status and 500 euros to Sub-Saharans Provided They Head for Hamburg

Granting refugee statuses and rights to remain to non-EU citizens by individual EU member states  but applicable across the European Union  is causing growing tensions within the Schengen area now, but will affect non-Schengen member states too.

Italy was flooded with refugees from the war in Libya, many of them sub-saharan Africans who worked in North Africa until the war.  They fled, particularly the West Africans, not back to their own countries,  but across the Mediterranean where they were landed (or were picked out of the water by the Italians) by the people traffickers,  and went into reception centres.  Many absconded (mostly the North Africans) making their way via Ventimiglia and across the French border to communities of fellow countrymen in France, and other European countries.  Some 13,000 Sub-Saharans remain in the reception centres and Germany has now officially complained that Italy is granting a three-month leave to remain in the EU and sending them on their way to Hamburg with a ticket and 500 euros.  The German Interior ministry notes that these migrants have no claim to settle in Germany, nor  access to any welfare provision or occupation.  Their countries - Nigeria, Ghana, Togo are democratic and at peace.

Well, say the Italians, you can send them back when the the 3-month leave to remain is up.  We are in the front line for receiving African migrants because we're nearest to Africa but the whole of Europe must be involved in responding to African migration.

The appointment of a minister in the Letta government whose principal aim is the immediate introduction of the right to Italian (and thus EU) citizenship conferred simply by being born in Italy compounds the complexity.  At the moment Italian migration controls are internal - without citizenship access to the social state is severely limited, even for education, health and what social housing there is; so while it's relatively easy to get into Italy it's very hard, attractive as Italy is,  to live here or even stay here on support.  Accordingly most migrants move on immediately to other states,  if they come here at all.  If the Democratic party (which has just benefitted enormously from migrants'   votes in local elections) does alter the citizenship laws  so that descent is no longer the main criterion for citizenship, the other constitutionally-imposed rights and duties of an Italian citizen will kick-in  (mostly concerned with inter-generational claims to support and residence).  Although Italy will remain a relatively unattractive stopping-place for migrants, however.  Its  Italian-by-descent citizens receive little in direct welfare payments, social housing, or payments to the unemployed in comparison with northern European EU member-states.  And it is in the deepest recession since 1945 with high and stable unemployment rates.

The migrants to Germany are clustering at Hamburg - it is the state of Hamburg which is making the immediate representations  demanding that encouraging the transfer of migrants by Italy should stop and, not least, that Italy should stop issuing right to remain permits to people from peaceful democratic countries; as well, the German Federal Government has issued a confidential circular to all German states warning  that Italy is exporting migrants who cannot qualify as refugees.

Refugee status, leave to remain, let alone citizenship of an EU member state are very valuable and, for welfare providers, very costly entities.  Perhaps they should not be left within the grasp of political parties manoeuvering for votes in single states of the EU.


We haven't done anything! -  the Italians are denying breaking any rules.  The Germans point to the website of the Italian ministry of the Interior which states that 5,700  extra-communitari  have now left the reception centres with their 500 euros,  permissions to remain in the Schengen area, and tickets (where-to not stated).  Hamburg says 300 migrants are living on the streets in Hamburg right now.


Monday, 27 May 2013

Crisis of Democracy in Italy Worsens

The imposed government of Italy now states openly its intention of any democratic vote being ignored.

"Whatever is the result of  local elections the government must go forward as if nothing has happened."*

The prime minister from the Democratic party and the deputy prime minister from Berlusconi's People of Liberty party have a signed agreement to circumvent from the centre any effects of their respective parties loss of influence locally after the elections.  The vote is to be ignored.   Voting closes today for the elections for the mayor of Rome and for the mayor of Siena (to name the most significant - Rome because it is the capital and its mayor has extensive power and political importance,  Siena because it is the heartland, and was the financial, banking-driven power house, of the Democratic party after funding ceased from the USSR in 1992 until the scandals engulfing the Monti dei Paschi and  its Foundation this year and ongoing).

Voters are deserting the elections en masse.  In Rome there is a 20% fall in votes cast on the first day of the ballot, which closes at 3pm today.  Across the country double-digit falls in voter numbers are being recorded.  Presumably most of the deserting electorate are former Democratic party supporters who have been betrayed  by their elected representatives both in the elections to the presidency of the Republic with the refusal to support either Romano Prodi or Stefano Rodota' for the presidency and the reimposition of Napolitano,  and in the acceptance of a regime then imposed by Napolitano and sustained in office by deals between extra-parliamentary as well as parliamentary minorities to maintain an EU-sanctioned status quo.

Meanwhile we are now back to standards of living last seen 40 years ago as a direct result of  obsessional adherence to European Union  agendas and priorities.


Only 1 out of 2 voted in Rome.

In this photograph packages of unused ballots wait to be returned to the electoral returning officer for Pisa where the same unheard-of turnout was registered.

* "Qualunque sia il risultato delle amministrative, il governo dovrà andare avanti come se nulla fosse".

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Motherhood and Gay Marriage

In most societies, in most of time,  the status of women is defined by their unique ability to bear children.  That ability extends beyond conception and childbirth.  Bearing children doesn't begin to be encompassed wholly in those two acts; socially, and probably biologically,  motherhood rests with us for life.  And our children's lives too will embody our motherhood, whatever form it has taken.  Including our absence.

Men who choose life partners in marriage who are men choose also relationships with the mother for any children born into such marriages.  There are cultures where the inability to bear children (including those where no female is available in the correct marriage kinship category) is met with various solutions, concubinage being the most common and, once, widely accepted.   Now even concubinage is displaced by an outright denial of any special natural link between mother and child in surrogacy.  Surrogacy does not have the minimal social elaborations and protections afforded to concubinage.

Gay marriage strips away the socially-constructed but naturally-generated statuses that motherhood confers on women.  Usually, and in all current same-sex marriage institutional arrangements,  surrogate-birth women are denied any social role engendered by natural requirements.  If surrogate-birth women do have any social statuses proffered to them these are entirely within the gift of the gay spouses.  Payment extinguishes any rights in motherhood for both mother and child in gay marriage even if, occasionally and entirely one-sidedly, other arrangements are set up.

The proponents of gay marriage are not demanding equal status with marriage.   They are seeking the cancellation of what many would see as the  purpose of marriage: the procreation of children and the social affirmation of the status of women as equal partners in their creation and upbringing.  

Friday, 24 May 2013

Pressure to Re-think the European Union Still Coming from Italy's Largest Single Parliamentary Gouping

"The European Union should be re-thought.  We are planning an  information year [on the current European Union] and then instigating a referendum on Yes or No to the Euro and Yes or No to the European Union.  The English are teaching us democracy.  No party may arrogate the right to decide for 60 million people."*

The Five Star Movement has taken up again its central electoral campaign policy of  putting the destruction of Italy's economy and democracy by the European Union's elites to direct democratic vote.  This, of course, is the cause of the savage exclusion - at any constitutional and  ethical cost - of the largest, single, elected group in the Italian Parliament from power.

Expect the amputation of the ability to impose a binding referendum by the submission of half a million peoples' signatures;  either by  the extra-Parliamentary committee of appointed  constitutional 'experts' acting through the Constitutional Court, or a declaratory law from the presidentially-imposed Executive, in the near future.

*L’Europa va ripensata. Noi consideriamo di fare un anno di informazione e poi di indire un referendum per dire sì o no all’Euro e sì o no all’Europa».     «Sull’Euro e sull’Europa gli inglesi ci insegnano la democrazia. Nessun partito può arrogarsi il diritto di decidere per 60 milioni di persone». 

Thursday, 23 May 2013

On Returning to Italy and Leaving Democratic Civilisation

It's barely worth writing about the installation of dictatorship in Italy; all the usual suspects from the highest to the lowest, all the ususal excuses about emergency and temporary and experts and technicians and Europe.  So take it as read that Italy is a representative democracy only in name, as were the countries of the East, and the countries of the past under Fascism and Communism.

Never and then never will direct popular democracy be permitted to operate the levers of power, no matter how large our group in Parliament nor how formally constitutionally guaranteed.  The sensation of wanting to vomit reading and listening to the usual suspects' mellifluous self- righteousness  or peremptory condemnation of populism and non-party movements is longstanding and widespread.  "You haven't understood" charming and capable Italians of various backgrounds and sophisticated skills and statuses would tell me as I enthused over formally democratic rights and obligations.  I have now.

Just as an example in a multitude of repressive measures being introduced, no political grouping not formally composed into a political party conforming to hierarchical organisational structures  and with a juridical personality will be permitted to stand for Parliament; nor will such a grouping be able to access  any state political funding for propaganda or for election expenses (it is a source of distaste that any grouping, party or no, should have access to tax-payer funding, but let that pass, as the scandal of the intertwined banks and parties must be allowed to pass).

The internet is now policed and condemnation of people and policies is defined as insult: criticism is permitted,  the definition of which is left open to the complainant or the authorities.  Behaviour during the 20th century is not to be  considered relevant - re-opening old wounds not being conducive to the imposition of the national peace.

Unemployment is described as youth unemployment though what is youthful about being 40 and without work?  Never worked?  This is infantilisation and policy-driven removal of basic economic and social activities.  Of a piece with the destruction of political and civic claims and deriving from the same source - European policies and governance structures.

Any threat to these last will be met with a response that breaks any rule, denies any choices, permits any authoritarian outrage.  The images of demonstrators from the Milan social centres being beaten with truncheons are up there with the squadristi.

The response of civilised Italians is as it has ever been: the rientro nel privato  - the withdrawal into private worlds mediated by networks of friendship and kinship - of the established, the carefully orchestrated emigration of the younger generation to education and work in the rest of the world until return is needed by this private world.

"We told you," say those from the prestigious English and American universities,  from international institutions, from well-to-do lifestyles of unblemished propriety, from firms and industries insulated from the economic disaster by a kind of economic version of this self-defence against pillaging elites.

After three weeks in London the engulfing criminality and pseudo-justification of democratic perversion on coming back here makes England's equivocating with a continued membership of the European Union look irresponsible.  There is nothing  for England in membership of the European Union.  There is no reform, no return of powers, nothing to be renegotiated.  The kind of renegotiation outlined by David Cameron denies the foundation and purpose of the European Union.

Leave.  Leave while your sins and failures are still, just, your own.  You don't want what we've got.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Blogger Persecution Underway in Italy

22 commenters on Beppo Grillo's blog have been charged with “Offesa all’onore e al prestigio del Presidente della Repubblica".   The comments, which are described as extremely damaging to the honour and prestige of Giorgio Napolitano, were posted a year ago and have been the object of investigation by the Polizia Postale* and involve bloggers throughout Italy as well as those using servers abroad. 

The minister of Justice in the Letta/Berlusconi/Napolitano administration  (formerly minister of the Interior in the Monti/Napolitano administration)  gave the go-ahead for the charges reports Il Fatto Quotidiano Prosecutors  in an evenly spread net across Italy will now be taking forward the proceedings, doubtless aided by their postal collaborators.

*Postal Police?  How many kinds of police does Italy have?  They must have the ten o'clock police and even the eleven o'clock police who come and get you if you're still in your jamas.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Democracy Denied in Major European Union States

That the European Union has no further historic purpose is an understanding whose time has come.  Germany is reunited - which was the primary objective of the immediate post-War original institutions - and, more importantly, no Europeans are going to permit the use of their terrain as battle fields again.

The European Projecteers are engaged in a wholly different and now collapsing plan.  Where 'plan' is the operative word - they want a centrally planned federal state, redistributive and 'fair' with  all the disastrous incompetencies that brought down the last attempt, under realised socialism, to be resolved by informational and technological innovation.  None of which  has anything to do with the unification of Germany except insofar as unification brought a definitive end to the failed attempt in the East.

When Nigel Lawson acknowledges that whatever European unity might have been it is now utterly inappropriate for the United Kingdom to subject itself to  its present and future intentions he does not even bring into the argument the sheer unpleasantness of some of its  Member States.  Current and developing unpleasantness, that is, never mind their pasts. 

Italy's new status as a presidential dictatorship is a malignant sore on the face of a  democratic Europe.  Its democratic political system has collapsed under the assault of an authoritarian statist egomaniac who still believes; whose  age and acculturation,  coupled with obdurate persistence in ideological and ethical wrongdoing has brought corruption of the soul.  The United Kingdom cannot continue in any kind of political association with a Europe accepting Member-States like Italy. 

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Roses and Young Girls

The European Central Bank, under Mario Draghi, is  looking  like the Italian Constitution under  Giorgio Napolitano - malleable.  Germany swapped the Deutschmark for the euro in return for German reunification and the setting-up of a European central bank modelled on the Bundesbank; indeed the ECB was to be the Bundesbank writ large.  What was not to like in the founding pillar of the West German state becoming the founding pillar of a united Germany, and of the European Union as a whole? 

No, the Germans said,  the ECB would not be answerable to Ecofin.   "the single currency, under the authority of the Central Bank would complete monetary union, while economic union would merely consist of national policies, coordinated by the Council of Economic and Finance Ministers. "   The Delors Report would not be implemented. 

Well, it's looking as if the Italians are going to have a sly try.  Not the whole thing, of course, out of the question.  But this 'austerity is not enough, Europe needs fiscal measures and debt-sharing and common economic policies and  growth, and so say all of us except you Germans and your selfish northern goody-goodies'  mantra is  accompanied by the ECB's Mario Draghi pushing the mandate of the ECB as out of shape as his country's poor Constitution.  European Central Bank independence is becoming a double-edged sword.  Germany et al.,  needs to assert not just independence but the religious observance by the ECB of its mandate under the treaties; which brings us to Charles de Gaulle's  assessment of treaties - they last while they last.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Germany Has Outgrown the Project as Italy Scrambles to Get the European Central Bank Up and Running with OMT

It is crucial for the European Project to get an Italian administration in place, an interlocutor for the European Central Bank, before the Bundesbank puts the boot into Mario Draghi.  The ins and outs of democratic impropriety being explored by the Italian nomenklatura are of interest  only to the nerds of political imposition and its means, idiosyncratic to each state system, and no longer matter anyway

As the Italian administration members are announced 2.3 trillion euros of Italian sovereign debt  remains, as it always has  been,  the reef for the euro, and for the European Union that has tried to fix its own particular form for ever, via a common currency.   All the other eurozone states in sovereign debt crisis  are a nuisance but not a systemic threat to the single currency and thus to the European Project - the 'tying-down-Germany-into-the-Europe-that-suits-us-the-victors'  Europe.  Of course, Italy has always been a problem for Germany: it has a long, long tail of criminal, pre-modern governance attached to the continental north by nationalist concerns and, perhaps as importantly, it has a deep-rooted refusal to confront its 20th century history and confess, as Germany has done.   So it's quite a cheek for Italy to be still attempting a holier than thou attitude to Germany (it was an outrage during the last century) and try to use the Project to shove its debt onto German (and other member-states') taxpayers.  This administration is probably too late to activate OMT.

On balance Italy does not bring enough to a German-dominated European Union which is bound together by a common currency that is acceptable to modern Germany.  Indeed Italy and the aging Project is a constant threat to Germany's complex relations to the East and the Balkans and a threat, via its debt, to the central pillar and the political consensus  of the German state.  

Germany has sloughed-off the Project and is now building another Europe. Hence the closing-down of German acceptance of the European Central Bank and its variously-clothed attempts to saddle Germany with the debt, and all the corruption that debt represents, of others;  particularly Italian others (most of whom have no claim to ethical or political superiority over the Germany of either the last century or this.  It's no good Italy going about singing Bella Ciao at the tops of their voices, they were all at it, and many of them still are - 88 indeed).

So  while Italy's current (and in some cases erstwhile) elites are in part trying to justify their  present behaviour by a long out-dated need to cage a long-ago Germany, modern Germany is going to cut them and their Central Bank Italian off at the knees.  Frankly, Germany has bigger fish to fry and other roles to play.  Italy has allowed its  elites from the past, and its myths and self justifications of the past  to dominate its present and its people.  It's looking as if we're going to be left to stew in our own debt.  And the euro, its zone, and it's outdated Project are only for peripheral people.

Giorgio Napolitano hasn't noticed, but he's out of time, imposed administration or no.

One Last Heave for Napolitano

As the Italian collaborators stitch-up an administration they are, also and inevitably, creating the Opposition.  And the Opposition in Italy has constitutional roles (not that constitutional guarantees exist any more, of course, but they do have to go through the motions to obliterate them and that does take time).  Among those roles is the chair of the state broadcasting company, the RAI, and the chair of the state security commission, COPASIR.

If the Opposition is made up of more than one party then the chair is elected by a simple majority of the Opposition MPs.  The Five Stars have an enormous, absolute majority in the Opposition.  It doesn't matter that minor parties of the collaborationists are declaring themselves as part of the Opposition - Five Stars has 163 MPs.  It has been obvious since the election last February that if the Democratic Party could not split Five Stars and assimilate a large enough part of the Stellar Movement into an administration-supporting role then there was a huge threat to not just the Italian political elites. 

Accessing the files (and horrors) of COPASIR state intelligence by a political Movement based on internet and local association, entirely without party structures to act as gate-keepers to  political information and power,  would pale Wikileaks and the publication of the secret intelligence files of the German Democratic Republic into insignificance (and the GDR has been abolished, unlike Italy and its local, European, and gobal elites). 

Imagine - the state intelligence authority and the state broadcasting authority in Five Stars' irreverent hands.  Come on Giorgio Napolitano!  You're the vecchio, glorioso comunista - Italy and the world needs the smack of firm, authoritarian governance in this above all else.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Not Going to Prison is Not Enough

Silvio Berlusconi wants his conviction, and his possible conviction overturned and stopped.  Then he wants a constitutional revolution in which the Head of State is directly elected to be the political leader of the country, as in the  French Fifth Republic.  And he wants it now because convicted criminals are excluded from political office, and because he's old, though not as old as our current Head of State (who he plans to succeed and who could fall off the twig anytime.)

In the recent ructions  he's managed, as part of their settling down, to have the hearing confirming his conviction and four-year prison sentence halted while earlier parts of the conduct of the case are reviewed and, he hopes, a ruling sets aside the  conviction, after which  the statute of limitations will once more ride to his rescue as any fresh trial is cut off mid stride.  As for Bunga-Bunga and under-age prostitution, well that's already halted as he's too important and busy a politician to be disturbed by having to go to court while he's fixing up his future (there's some high falutin' legal language for this but effectively it's 'not going to court because too busy').

So,  he gets what he wants now and, to keep us all quiet we  get our property taxes back and are promised never again - or he pulls the plug on Wormtongue and we all vote on the beaches - when the offer of our property taxes back and a promise never to do it again will beckon (even now the polls are very much in favour).

It's either Berlusca is let off the hook and given a presidency to stand for or the Stability and Growth Pact.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Italy Precipitating Towards a General Election

The "vecchio, glorioso comunista"  (88) who admonished us all in mouth-filling Togliatti-speak while swearing at the Italian Parliament has now told the media to be quiet and do its bit for the stitch-up under Silvio Berlusconi's right-hand-man's nephew -  or he will resign. 

So it's as we were, really.  No government -  because Bersani's deputy is no more use than Bersani in delivering a united governing party; and  no Head of State because he's on the brink of resignation twenty-four hours into a seven year mandate he is wholly unequipped to fulfil; and with the outgoing prime minister, Mario Monti, having just altered the wording of his final decree to embed irreversibly a property tax demanded by the European Union to bring Italy into line with pan-eurozone  (and EU) tax measures, despite the abolition of taxes on wealth, particularly main residence wealth, being the cornerstone of Berlusconi's policies.

The newly-elected governor of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia  (Renzi-party) has arrived in Rome to confront the Democratic Party with their refusal to vote for Rodota' as President even as they agreed to vote for Berlusconi in government (or at least part of the Party did).

We are all going to the seaside shortly, until September, so the general election will have to be in October.  That will coincide nicely with general elections in Germany.    

Wormtongue Appointed in Italy

Giuliano Amato, arriving in Rome to open a new exhibition he has curated on Niccolo' Machiavelli, has expressed his satisfaction at the appointment of Enrico Letta, stand-in leader of the Democratic Party after Pierluigi Bersani's resignation, as Prime Minister-elect.

Letta requires a vote of confidence in both Houses of Parliament to confirm his administration.

 'Meglio un morto in casa che un Pisano all'uscio' as they say in Florence.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Looking on the Bright Side in Italy

We had received such a tongue-lashing for the last 17 months - public debt over 130% of GDP, tax take far too low,  punishment by the markets, irresponsible behaviour and  lack of civic  pride, international scorn, private selfishness over-riding the public good.....on and on went the elites and the political establishment to the point we were getting sheepish and even considering owning up to these charges.

Napolitano II has saved the day.  All the media say he has saved the day, both here and abroad.  We must draw lessons from his behaviour:  no need to follow the rules, rules have been set aside because of the crisis; our ethical and political stances must embrace the ethical and political stances of those who look to Berlusconi as their embodiment; pragmatic agreement and implementation of compromise on, well, almost everything really, is the act of the good citizen.  We must consider our situation and act accordingly, regardless of rules, codes, higher things.

Italians have been returned to our existential comfort zone. 

Monday, 22 April 2013

Rome Empty as Napolitano II Parades Through the City

Napolitano II progressed through a Rome  totally silent apart from occasional performances of the better-known parts of the national anthem by various military bands.  Not a soul turned up to acclaim his presidency.  Monumental Rome treated the military ceremonial with contempt, and Napolitano II was accompanied only by his European Union catspaw Mario Monti and the heavy security guard, after delivering an ill-tempered, ill-mannered harangue before  Parliament after being sworn-in. 

Better than being sworn at, presumably, but that will come after the courtesy of silence extended to the office he has occupied today.

Who Would Want Office in Napolitano's Puppet Government?

Giuliano Amato has publicly expressed his distaste at the instrumentalisation of his name by various political factions within the political parties that make up the Italian political establishment during the run-up to the elections for head of state. 

Professor Amato is  quintessentially a European statesman. How much more distasteful must he find, then, the persistent association of his name - as potential appointee of the disgraceful Napolitano stitch-up - with prime minister in the puppet government about to be imposed.

Angels cannot believe that such an esteemed political scientist, jurist and constitutionalist would touch such 'office', such a presidency, with a barge-pole. 

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Grabbing Power

The Italian Constitutional Court should have ruled on the validity of a renewed candidature to the presidency of Italy.  The Italian Constitution rests on more than one pillar:  there is the codification in the text;  there is precedent; there are court rulings; there is interpretation by distinguished scholars incorporated in re-castings of the code;  there is the history of the constitution itself which brings with it the precedent and rulings and interpretations of the constitution/s on which it draws or has been modelled; then there is the influence of supra-national law and many other influences that any constitutionalist will list.  

Suffice it to say that the Italian Constitution does not exist  solely in a text .  Even less so does it exist  in a vacuum - it  is, and must be, part of democracy which derives from many and deeply-rooted sources, both in time and in space.

Thus to watch the democratic charade enacted yesterday in the Italian Parliament was very painful.  Certainly the democratic procedures of voting were pompously observed - but the doubtful legitimacy of the candidature remained unaddressed.  Only the Constitutional Court is constitutionally and technically equipped to address the legitimacy of the candidature of a sitting president to his own succession.

For a start Napolitano 1 is in office until 15 May, his powers constitutionally  and deliberately weakened in the last 6 months of that office.  Napolitano 2 is over-riding that constitutional provision by taking office tomorrow.  Has Napolitano 1 resigned?  Or are we to have two presidents as we have two popes?  The fact that the man is the same person does not extinguish the provisions made to prevent the inappropriate use of presidential powers at the end of a presidency.  Nor does the fact that the code is silent imply that other constitutional resources do not forbid a candidature we are expected to endorse in the name of some greater good.

Rules matter.  Without them there is no democracy.


It has just been announced that Napolitano has 'formally resigned' from the presidency prior to the swearing-in ceremony this afternoon.  So if Italy means to declare war anytime between now and half past five this evening it'll be the Speaker of the Senate who does it.   More important matters, such as reaching for power outside the constitutional mandate are, however, continuing apace  under Napolitano's own steam.


    Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm 94?

Negotiations Underway

Meetings are now underway in Rome to impose an administration after the Italian general election in February got out of hand.  Congratulations on his election by the majority cross-coalition Elites Party in Parliament were expected to open the discussions, after the Party Congress yesterday gave a standing ovation  to President Napolitano (88).

[Isn't that Berlin?  Never mind, same old...., ed.]

Game, Set, Match Berlusconi

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory the majority party from last February's general election has: resuscitated Berlusca's political power; saved him from judicial retribution; restored his status as Leader of the Right; failed to form a government and, indeed, facilitated the installation of  a government of the european political elites; failed to stand up for working people in Italy, silencing the trades unions in the process with undelivered and now undeliverable pacts on wages and conditions;  and put in office an eighty-eight-year-old man [eighty-seven and three-quarters,  ed.]  with the institutional bit between his teeth, for a seven-year term.

Silvio Berlusconi has also broken the centre-left with a vivid, televised  demonstration  of how  many of the Democratic Party are actually his MPs - the former Leader of the Democratic Party put the number at one in four of those MPs elected as Democrats and then resigned.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

A Frightening Prospect Emerges

To press Giorgio Napolitano to stand for re-election, as factions within the Democratic Party are now doing is to open Pandora's box.  The words being used, 'Continue in office at least until the institutional and political crisis is resolved...' ignore constitutional and political reality.

There is no provision for 'extending' a president's seven-year term.  A president can stand for election again but none have done so, none have been encouraged to do so, despite willingness on the part of various presidents in the past.  The reason is made plain by the shennanigans of the past few days (months?, years?)  Every president is elected in, shall we say idiosyncratic circumstances, capable of unexpected outcomes.  Ask Romano Prodi.  Giorgio Napolitano's election was by means distasteful to many and by a narrow simple majority on the fourth ballot.

Were he to stand again and fail, as Prodi failed, the delegitimisation of his time in office would be immediate.  It is bad enough already; despite media attempts at beatification Napolitano is widely disliked for his politicization of the Presidency and is now recognised as a profoundly polarising  head of state. A united Europe and the unity of Italy based on the state redistribution of wealth and power to the South from the North are not uncontentious goals.

Napolitano needs to get out of the kitchen.

After Berlusconi's coalition refused to vote at all in the elections to the Presidency of Italy both today and yesterday, and the Democratic party voted blank, at the fifth attempt to elect a head of state, Giorgio Napolitano has agreed to stand again.  Unsurprisingly there is insistence on the secrecy of the ballot being waived and the Democratic Party electors will have their votes traced.  Unsurprisingly but disgracefully, that is.  We are watching the formalisation of dictatorship here.

Further UPDATE
The coalition of Berlusconi,  Bersani,  Monti, and Moroni has elected  Giorgio Napolitano  as Head of State in Italy.  President Napolitano is 88.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Secretary of Italian Democratic Party Resigns: Pierluigi Bersani Out After Romano Prodi Defeated

The Secretary of the Partito Democratico and 'candidate premier', Pierluigi Bersani,   has resigned, as has the President of the Democratic Party, Rosy Bindi.  A meeting of the Grand Electors of the centre-left this evening is trying to decide what to do after inflicting a major humiliation on the founder of the Party, the former European Union Commission President Romano Prodi,  in failing to deliver enough votes for a simple majority in the elections to  the Italian Presidency (over 100 too few).  Prodi is reported to be livid.

Italy now has no President and no elected government.  Good thing it's the weekend.  Tomorrow morning at 10am there is the fifth ballot for the Presidency and half the electorate has no candidate.  Silvio Berlusconi has offered to provide a short list from which the Left can choose. 

Prodi Fails To Be Elected By Over 100 Votes

Despite the Grand Electors of the centre-right - the Berlusconi coalition and the Regions of the Right,  withdrawing from the Chamber without voting, Romano Prodi has been humbled by the Bersani faction of the Democratic Party acting as if they are the Communist Party of Italy using all the tactics that belonged with that Party.

While the Five Star Movement and Monti's Scelta Civica voted for their nominees in disciplined fashion, over 50 Democrats broke ranks, voting for Rodota', Cancellieri, and D'Alema as well.

Will Pierluigi Bersani finally resign after his second imposed candidate fails even to get a simple majority?


Romano Prodi has withdrawn his candidacy for the Presidency.

Further UPDATE

Romano Prodi has now called for the resignation of Bersani, reports La Repubblica:

"Chi mi ha portato a questa decisione deve farsi carico delle sue responsabilità." ["Those who brought me to this decision must bear their responsibilities."]  
Romano Prodi was the founder of the centre-left Partito Democratico.

A Prodi Presidency Would be a Disaster for Italy and Its Working People

Romano Prodi must be an unacceptable candidate for President of Italy to any Grand Elector of the real Left i.e, the Left that represents working people, not the intellectual bourgeois Left that amuses itself playing cultural politics.

The European Union's economic policies are the ruin of working people in many Member States.  These policies require internal devaluation, certainly in all those States that are inside the Eurozone and in others that are still, by their rules of accession, candidate Eurozone members.

Internal devaluation is the polite term for lowering the standard of living of working people. Specifically it targets working people rather than rentiers.  It lowers real wages, raises indirect taxes, reduces the social wage, produces unemployment as a means of labour discipline.  It is being applied across Europe.  It  makes Angels weep,  never mind the representatives of working people.  Prodi is on record as saying that the European Stability and Growth pact is "stupid", but never has he acted to limit the damage it does to working people's lives.

So why is the Democratic Party, repository of the hopes for defence against all this, supported by the organisations of the working people (even corrupted as they are by ideologies and idiocies of centuries past) trying to get an architect of working people's misery made President? 

Parliamentary Rinascimento

The presidency of Italy has a fixed seven-year term.  Elections for the next president now can hardly have come as a surprise to the Politburo of the Democratic Party, yet it presses for putting-off the vote today to allow time for reflection.  Meanwhile  regional offices of the Party are being occupied by infuriated Party members from one end of the Peninsula to the  other, and Party cards are burning in front of the Parliament's Lower House.

Yesterday's two votes left Politburo plans in ruins as the Democratic Party Grand Electors to the presidency defected en masse to vote for Rodota', the Five Star Movement's candidate.  The Democrats lost their coalition partners and almost half their own MPs - not a loss that could be dismissed as 'dissidents' though, pathetically, some tried.

Notable in yesterday's two votes was the compact, disciplined voting of Berlusconi's People of Liberty and their coalition parties, the Lega Nord particularly.  Berlusconi always delivers (though we often disapprove of what). What he delivered yesterday was the demolition of the Left.

This morning's vote is the last requiring a two thirds majority for victory (this is supposed to be a co-operative and conciliatory procedure choosing an institutional office-holder who represents the unity of Italy and guaranteeing the system of governance, but the malevolence and viciousness of the political infighting - a fascination of itself - reveals 'victory' is what is being sought) after which a simple majority will suffice.

The expected candidates for this afternoon's vote are:

Franco Marini (who refuses to stand down despite failing at both ballots yesterday, with his 'supporters' polling blank ballots in vote number 2 after he was over 150 votes short in the first vote);

Massimo D'Alema (former leader of the Communist Party of Italy);

Romano Prodi (for the European Union);

Stefano Rodota'  (5 Star Movement and Democratic Party rank and file candidate)

The television pictures of the  Chamber of the Lower House are mesmerising.   To vote the electors worm their way through polished wooden Anderson shelters, emerging from the curtains at the end looking as if they've been through one of those re-birthing experiences used in alternative therapy procedures.   Angels suspect it is affecting their voting behaviour.


Franco Marini has withdrawn

Anna Maria Cancellieri, the Monti government's Home Secretary, has been nominated by Monti in the name of a policy of widest possible agreement on candidates.  Berlusconi's coalition is evaluating their response.

Massimo D'Alema hasn't said a word on his candidature.

Romano Prodi is reported to be coming back from Africa tomorrow.

Stefano Rodota' is still the candidate of 5 Stars and Solidarity at least for the 3rd ballot (now counting).


Thursday, 18 April 2013

Terms of the Italian Stitch-Up?

The suggestion that the only way to give Berlusconi a 'safe conduct' from his various legal difficulties is that he should be made a senator for life has been mooted.  To match this breath-taking impertinence, Romano Prodi will also be appointed a life senator.  All this, of course, if the 'approved' candidate of the Democratic party and the People of Liberty Party is elected to the Presidency and Bersani is given the premiership (or at least a try at it).  The President appoints senators for life.  There are, conveniently, two vacancies.

Former Prime Minister Prodi's view on all this is not known.

An Insult to Italy

An 80 year old, white, male, former trade union leader whose prosecution for corruption during the 1990s was halted only by a refusal of the parliamentary commission of the day to lift his parliamentary immunity has been nominated by the Democratic Party leadership politburo as the candidate agreed between Bersani and Silvio Berlusconi  for the office of Head of State in Italy.

Angels assume this proposal is a means of discovering just how bad is the collapse of discipline within the Democratic Party and between the Party's coalition members.  Unfortunately the patent inappropriateness of the nomination has shattered the loyalty even of those who were hanging in there with the Bersani leadership through  thick (and thick is the word for him and them) and thin (and there are even fewer of them now).  A cornered Bersani has made this the vote of confidence in his leadership without regard to the cost it imposes on the country.   "I have matters of my own to deal with," he is reported as saying.  A triumphant Berlusconi  has heaped mealy-mouthed praise upon the candidature he has forced upon Bersani.  So far the only thing he hasn't praised Franco Marini for  is that he too is a victim of 'politicized justice'.

The Democratic Party's principal ally - Solidarity, Ecology, Liberty - is voting for the candidate of the Five Stars.  Chosen after on-line primaries, Stefano Rodota' is a jurist of outstanding competence and  a noted defender of civil liberties - though he too is white, male and eighty years old.  Originally we had chosen a fearlessly investigative, female journalist in her fifties but she refused the nomination, saying despite the honour her skills were not those needed in the Presidency - an honesty and self-awareness that only confirmed what a great woman she is.  So the Five Stars went with the jurist who came in third; second, a wholly estimable surgeon working in theatres of war to help victims of minefields and drone-strikes, asked too that the nomination go to Rodota' as the better qualified for the role of president.

The Mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi,  who leads the sane wing of the Democratic Party has called the Bersani politburo's nomination an insult to the country.  Voting starts in Parliament at 10am.


Franco Marini is now unable to achieve two thirds of the vote at the first count.

The People of Liberty party are calling for a change of tactics by Berlusconi.

The Lega Nord agreed to vote for Marini only on the first ballot.

Almost certainly other blocs of votes for Marini, such as the Monti Civic List will start to fragment at the second ballot, which also requires a two thirds majority.

As the dirty details of the stitch-up between Berlusconi and Bersani emerge the Democratic Party is breaking up.

Further UPDATE after the second ballot.

No-one elected.  Marini now abandoned although he has not withdrawn his candidature.

The coalition Berlusconi/Bersani/Monti vote blank ballots.  The expectation is the same tactic will be used at the next ballot then, when a simple majority suffices, a new candidate will be wheeled out. 

The Democratic Party has split in two. 

Cold loathing seems to be the order of the day.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Electing a Head of State Italian Style

The Italian Constitution dedicates 8 articles (83-91) to the election, duties and removal of the head of state.  The paucity of powers conferred  reflects the negative experiences of Fascist government.

The head of state electorate is summoned by the Speaker of the Lower House.  The electorate consists of both Houses of Parliament sitting in common session together with 3 representatives from each of the Italian Regions with the exception of the Val d'Aosta which has one.  Regional representatives are elected by Regional Councils, normally 2 from the ruling group and one from the opposition, although other 'Grand Electors' are not excluded formally.

Voting Rules
Of those present and voting a two thirds majority is required for election on the first few ballots.  After that a simple majority will suffice.  Only two heads of state have succeeded on one of the first two ballots since the Second world war.  Some elections have dragged on for up to two weeks.

Candidates must be over 50 years old, Italian citizens,  and in full possession of their civil and political rights.  It is possible to be re-elected but no-one ever has been despite lots of former heads of state being only too eager to stay on.  No other post, public or private, may be held by the head of state, nor may the head of state undertake any other professional activity.

Taking Office
Office begins at the swearing-in ceremony immediately after the term of the previous office-holder expires, and lasts for seven years.

No vice-presidential office exists.  Should the head of state be unable to function for whatever temporary reason  the president of the Senate steps in.

Threaten, or even make rude remarks about the honourability of the head of state,  and the high jump awaits.  In instances of the head of state's high treason or assault upon the Italian Constitution Parliament will bring accusations after a joint sitting and then  bring the head of state before the  Constitutional Court.  This has never happened despite sore provocation on various occasions.  The head of state cannot be tried for decisions taken during office pertaining to official duties.

Every act of office by the head of state must be counter-signed by either the appropriate minister responsible in the government of the day or by the prime minister, except when the head of state acts in the the three duties specifically indicated by the Constitution:
- that of President of the Supreme Defence Council
- that of President of the Superior Council of Magistrates
- that of representing national unity [lot of room there, ed.]

The head of state can send back to Parliament legislation which raises doubts on its constitutional propriety or which has no financial cover.  [Eyebrows raised at this point may attract the penalties mentioned above on honour and rude remarks, which certainly includes gestures. ed.]

The head of state nominates Life Senators of which there seems to be a general agreement that half a dozen or so is the limit, at least no head of state has yet tried making so many as to alter the balance of political power in a perfectly bi-cameral Parliament.  The head of state can send warning messages to the Parliament that it is misbehaving; nominates constitutional judges, which last power is at the crux of Silvio Berlusconi's current political operations.  The head of state can dissolve the Parliament  within the parliamentary five-year term when no-one is able to command a majority, except when in the last six months of  the seven-year presidential  office [in which Napolitano has been since November. ed.]

The head of state nominates the prime minister, either after a general election or when an administration falls to votes of no confidence in Parliament, after consultations with the speakers of both Houses of Parliament and the political parties.

The current Head of State has nominated no-one to face the Parliament since the general election last February.  On any actions the current Head of State has undertaken since that election, other than those noted above,  the Italian Constitution is silent.