Thursday, 28 February 2013

Benedetto Leaves Rome for Castelgandolfo

Pure Fellini.

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The Dead Who Speak

The brush-off to Bersani and his faction of the Democratic Party by the Five Star Movement's Beppe Grillo is being widely and wildly misrepresented in the media.  Grillo's real politik assessment of Bersani's position - loser of the general election who should by now have resigned and cleared at least one path to reaching agreement for installing a government - is a total no-no for  some parts of the proto-communist Democratic Party leadership but recognised as required by another, ie the faction itself has now split.  Split on the best course to follow to instal an administration acceptable to the Italian  euro-communists, still so very much alive and well, if denied their victory by Bersani's political incompetence and personal lack of leadership qualities.

Grillo's assessment of Bersani is quite correct.  He may have had himself "coronated" (to borrow the word used so often of Gordon Brown's ill-fated seizure of the Labour Party) but  he's lost the general election, and for very much the same reasons as did Brown when he was finally forced to face the electorate.  The Democratic Party is learning the bitter lesson that fake democratic procedures result in exposure when put to the test by the real thing. 

Again with parallels to what happened to Brown, Party loyalty almost delivered and there can be heard the  obsessive muttering of "It isn't over yet."  But it is over, for Bersani and his bullies, and all they are doing is damaging the Party.  Berlusconi is being given the opportunity to look positively statesmanlike and the electorate of the largest single party in the Chamber of Deputies is being villified and insulted (many of us for the second time since the Democratic primaries last November by these bully boys.)

Yes, many of the Five Star voters are Democrat voters if the Party is democratically led, and many of us will want to offer confidence to the Democrats when Bersani gives up the Party leadership.  But the desperate re-affirmations by his cronies that he is 'the Candidate Premier' only underline the nonsense that he should stay after losing.  There's no such thing as a candidate premier outside the horrors of last century's Eastern Europe.  In Italy's democracy the Head of State invites the person most likely to command both Houses on the advice of the Speakers of those Houses and after consulting the Parties themselves.  The Party cannot impose that choice if it does not coincide with electoral reality.  In this we are not the Labour party with its anti-democratic Rule Book of central control.

Bersani must step down in the end.  And the Democratic Party and its media needs to display a very different attitude to those who defeated it.  Or we may decide we prefer a movement where we can make our voices and choices heard online.   

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Italy is not Ungovernable But Has Given the Wrong Answer to Europe's Elites

The scale and  complexity of the crisis Italy is sinking into is being underestimated both for Italy itself and for the European Union.  This is illuminated by the absence of President Napolitano on a visit to Germany that had been arranged when elections were expected next May, and was not cancelled because so great was the conviction that the Monti-Bersani axis would win comfortably.

Yesterday Mario Monti was still prime minister and was holding unscheduled meetings with the Governor of the Bank of Italy, the Minister of Finance, the Cabinet and, it is reasonable to presume, spoke to Mario Draghi.  The Head of State, interviewed in Munich, said he was still considering the results of the elections  and looking forward to listening to the Parties' reflections on the results. He added that it was not part of his duties to comment on electoral results.

Considering that the capitalisation of the Italian stock exchange fell by 17 billion euros yesterday, the spread is now over 350, yields on ten year bonds are over 490* [see update] we might expect to have someone   appointed Prime Minister and beginning negotiations with other parties to obtain votes of confidence in both Houses when the new Parliament meets.  It is astounding that even the lists of those elected are not yet confirmed.

Italy has voted perfectly clearly: no more austerity, lower taxes, the drastic reduction of the size of the state at every level of governance and, vehemently, for the removal of Mario Monti from office.  And what have we got?  Mario Monti still prime minister, the Head of State out of the country, and a proto-communist pretending to being a negotiator of first resort with neither mandate nor electorally-conferred authority.

When the markets wake up fully to the levels of conflict between the elites and the vote of the people, and the unmarked routes to any resolution of these conflicts, Italy's debt and her borrowing costs will result in Germany going towards elections with Italy going towards default.

4 billion euros of ten year bonds taken this morning at 4.83%; risen from 4.17% in January, and the highest since last October. 

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Bersani an Unacceptable Prime Minister for Any Italian Coalition Government

There could well be a grand coalition in Italy to push forward the election of the President of the Republic, alter the Porcellum electoral rules and then send Italy to the polls again after the new President has dissolved this Parliament, the unfortunate child of too early a general election.

The sticking point is Pierluigi Bersani.  His  continued leadership of the Democratic Party or any suggestion of his installation as even a stop-gap prime minister results in the instant withdrawal of all offers of co-operation from all sides (other than his own Democratic Party faction) even from within the Democratic Party.  There are bitter regrets that last November the Bersani faction got away with fixing the leadership elections against Matteo Renzi and failed to scrap the old communist guard.

Unfortunately Bersani is absolutely desperate to become prime minister, choosing to ignore that he has lost the elections and blaming everyone and everything for the 'ungovernability' of Italy.  Sigh.  We've seen this type before.


Comrade Bersani has finally faced the media after a notable (and welcome) absence ever since it became clear early yesterday that he had lost.

He refuses to resign as leader of the Democratic Party.  The captain does not desert the ship, he is reported to have said.  Sink or swim then.

The Ides of March

The Italian Constitution is not capable of responding to current political events.  President Napolitano cannot dissolve this newly elected Parliament because he is at the end of his term of office.   The constitutional provision that allowed President Napolitano to dissolve the last Parliament, because there was an overlap between  the end of the Parliamentary term and the end of the Presidency term, does not apply now; the terms of this Parliament and of the Presidency do not overlap and the 'white semester'  rule by  which an outgoing President cannot dissolve the Parliament in his last six months of office applies.

When the new Parliament meets on 15 March (a Friday  to make the auguries worse)  the stalemate will generate an impossible institutional and political conflict: the Senate will have almost zero chances of choosing a Speaker  but the timetable for the electoral process for the new President is inexorable.  The Speaker of the Senate and the Speaker of the Lower House are the second and third highest offices of the State after the Presidency and,  by 20 March,  these two are required to open consultations with the President on who to call on to form an administration.  As can be imagined, these negotiations are going to be difficult and drawn-out even if the Senate has managed to elect a Speaker.  But on 15 April the timetable for the procedures for the election of the new President opens, one month before Napolitano leaves office on 15 May.  It may well be that attempts are still being made to command confidence in both Houses by various coalitions and Leaders.  

The only clarity in the murk created by inadequacies  in the Constitution and, even more, created by the political results of the calling of an election  before the end of the term of the last Parliament, by an outgoing President acting on the strength of a constitutional quirk, is that it is this Parliament that must choose the new President.  And must do this after the current President has overtly politicized that office by his repeated manipulation of under-determined aspects of the Italian Constitution in the interests of his own political commitments and agenda.   From now on there will be no concurrence,  pretence, that the office of President is merely ceremonial and part of the dignity of the State.  Napolitano has changed that for ever. 

Monday, 25 February 2013

Comrade Bersani Does it Again: Proto Communists Let down the Centre and the Left

No-one could call David Cameron a Communist but he has in common with Pierluigi Bersani the utter incompetence of missing an open goal.  Unfortunately for comrade Bersani there is no party with whom he can usefully ally post-election - all the eligible nasties are already in his coalition.  And the leading Party in the Lower House is the 5 Star Movement, who are in alliance with no-one and least of all would touch an authoritarian statist with a barge pole.

Already the comrades are calling for another election.  So is Angels but only on the scrapping of the rotten old Leninists imposed upon us by democratic centralism last November.  We'll vote Centre and even Left but not Communist.  Had Matteo Renzi led the Democratic Party we would have a new government in Italy.

Voting Today

The Italian electorate continues to decline to vote in numbers greater than at any general election  since the Second World War.  At 10pm the polling stations closed for the night; figures were over 7% down on those for 2008 when, at the close of polling on the Monday, over 80% of those entitled to vote had voted.  Polling is usually stronger on the Sunday than on a working day and the polls close at 3pm not 10pm on the second day of voting, so that percentage may well rise.

The vote is down more in the South than in the North which could suggest that snow and poor conditions are not the major factor affecting the poll.  The South usually votes more heavily to the Right so abstentions may be theirs disproportionately; however the fact that the Veneto, which votes Right, has not lost voters, undermines that conclusion too.

There were still over 15% of the voters undecided as the polls opened yesterday morning.  Angels are going into Florence to vote this morning;  perhaps reading the papers on the train will help make up my mind.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

A Filthy Election

Brazen-faced fraud seems to be the order of the day.  An electoral returning officer at Anzio, challenged by the scrutineer from the Five Star Movement was found to have in her bag blank ballots.  When required to explain she first stated they were 'deteriorated' and she had removed them so that they would not be used  then, on being pressed further by the scrutineers of other parties, had a fit of hysterics and tore the ballots to pieces in an attempt to hide her actions.  At this point she was arrested.  Another returning officer has been appointed.

The woman is a well known cadre of the Bersani faction of the 'Democratic' Party.


The Ministry of the Interior has announced that based on the returns from 8,092 comune out of 8,092 the turn out is 46.80% at 7 pm., compared with a turn out of 49.21% in 2008 (when the Democratic Party led by the former communist Walter Veltroni lost to Silvio Berlusconi's People of Liberty Party.  It is noteworthy that only when the Democratic Party has been led by the Christian Democrat Romano Prodi has it won an election; the only former communist to hold the office of prime minister  as leader of the Democratic Party was Massimo d'Alema when he took over from Romano Prodi after - on dit -  engineering his downfall by arranging the withdrawal of support by a communist splinter group; like Gordon Brown in the United Kingdom, d'Alema held power with someone else's majority.)

Watching the news this evening there is a very low tone expressed by the usual right-on Bersani suspects, which suggests that unpublished (and forbidden) exit polls are not looking like those in 1997 for Blair.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

United States Power and Italy's Choices

President Obama sent for the president of Italy last week.  Dressed up as a farewell visit at the end of Napolitano's remit and an expression of esteem, the discussions will have been centred on two obvious matters: the conviction and condemnation to prison terms of 27 Americans who, as members of the CIA arranged and carried out the rendition of a man from the streets of Milan for torture, who are now subject to immediate arrest and imprisonment if they set foot anywhere in Europe; and the status of the Italian peninsula as one of the most important US bases in the world outside of the United States itself.

We know President Obama asked President Napolitano to pardon the CIA men and women.  This was a particularly disgusting group of CIA operatives because they treated the entire 'operation' as an opportunity for taking their various squeezes at public expense on a holiday to Italy with delivering-up their victim to torture as a convenient justification for their free frolics.  To our shame Napolitano said he had to think about it.  What does he need to think about?  "No." is the only clean reply.

On the second subject of discussion a more vivid demonstration of the centrality of the Italian Peninsula for war in the Middle East, Asia and North Africa  could not be imagined than the ousting of Gadaffi.  The RAF was flying (some of the time) from England and the French flew some sorties direct, but almost everything was really based in Italy at the strategic US bases here. 

President Obama  would be derelict in his duties if he wasn't putting in place arrangements, indeed confirming arrangements already in place and prioritising them, for any electoral outcome.  But Obama's duty is not necessarily our interest.  It can be made our interest, of course.    Italy has a fine tourist industry that can accommodate even the armed forces of the United States.  We expect to be paid.  And not in the devalued, over printed dollars of the Obama presidency.  The problem is that what President Napolitano wants and what the people of Italy want are no longer the same thing.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Italy Must Default Under Whatever Polite Term Chosen

Two Italian political leaders have called for Italy to default on its $2.3 trillion debt:  Silvio Berlusconi, for default and reversion to the Lira;  and Beppe Grillo , for default inside the Euro and renegotiation of Italy's relations with the European Union at large, not just the Eurozone.

Italy has the highest primary surplus in the Eurozone, indeed in Europe;  it has a positive trade surplus;  60% of its trade is extra-European Union.  Italy can pay government expenditures out of current government revenue, and have resources left over, if it does not have to pay interest on historical debt.  Italy can import what it needs and pay for it with its exports when it does not have to pay interest on historic debt held abroad.  It is not dependent for trade on the good will of the European Union. Italy, with an advanced and diversified  economy slightly larger than that of the United Kingdom, is no Greece.

It is time to require forgiveness of a large part of Italy's historic debt and acceptance of rescheduling of debt maturities  - that is if the Eurozone wants to keep going at all - unless the European Central Bank is  willing to intervene on a larger scale without penalty conditions of any kind in support of Italy's refunding its debt.  It is time  for Germany to pull its head in and recognise that there is a general election in November that will go badly for their elites if Italy stamps its foot on Sunday and rejects the Bersani-Monti axis.

Looking at the  extraordinary, overwhelming  rally in San Giovanni for Grillo this evening, and the huge numbers in Naples for Berlusconi, it looks as if Italian voters understand all this and are determined to end an 11% unemployment rate, a lack of growth, a wrecking of life chances for the young, and the impoverishment of the old in the name of an economic policy wholly concentrated on the furtherance of German and other European  elites' interests.  We don't need any of the current economic and social destruction. What we need is a different Europe. 
The Five Star Movement Rally Addressed By Grillo This Evening


We Cannot Forgive Them. Italian Political Elites Must Go

Tonight Beppe Grillo addresses the Five Star Movement in piazza San Giovanni in Rome.  This enormous piazza is the venue of the Left.  Here the Left has celebrated every victory, whipped up enthusiasm for every challenge, re-affirmed itself to strains of Bella Ciao and Bandiera Rossa, waved its trades union banners, marched in serried ranks of grim-faced 'workers' for the last 60 years.  Tonight it will be packed with those of us who want, at almost any cost, to bury the Left and all it stands for in its own estimation.

Their Left is bad news.  Authoritarian, statist, exploitative of the poor, globalist, exponents of managed democracy, it dresses in the grave clothes of the 19th and 20th centuries to give cover for its determination to plan our lives and our hopes while it feasts off our labour, our entrepreneurship, our creativity and, inevitably, our joie de vivre.

They had to hold their rally yesterday, in Naples.  Nobody came.  2000 people bussed in from all over Campania huddled in the centre of piazza del Plebiscito (some irony there) waving Party-issue  flags on the order of their commissars but even last year's Durham Miners' Gala could have done better on the banners front.  A   grim-faced  Bersani hectored them with his usual vulgar hand gestures.  And then they were bussed back to Campania sperduta.  Tonight the great Leader will address selected cadres in a tits and bums Rome music hall while the people flock to San Giovanni  and those dismissed as  comedians.  Dario Fo, Adriano Celentano, have joined with Grillo:

"Surrender!  You are surrounded by the Italian people!  Go home and we will let you pass." they, and we,  have told the corrupt political establishment of left and right.

And Mario Monti?  Blown away by his own hand.  He would not or could not reassure us that he wasn't, in the end, an ally of the proto-communists holding the Democratic party  (and, inter alia with every intention of paying off the debts of the Communist Party of Italy and its successor the Democratic Socialists with tax-payers' money - hundreds of millions Bersani will meet with our cash.  He even saved the Monti dei Paschi, a story that becomes more disgusting by the hour.)

$2.3 trillion of public debt (ah, remarked Mr HG, it's fallen a bit) and we turn to Dario Fo.  And we are right to do so.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Italy's Independence Day

The Italian general election is less the 72 hours away and still the polls are returning astonishingly high numbers for undecided.  We may be undecided but our numbers are the determinant in this election so crucial for the European Project. 

Mario Monti has failed in his effort to unite the centre and the Right.  He has at best 15% of voters.  The imposition of the proto-communist leadership on the centre and the Left has caused the steady decline of the mainstream left of centre vote from almost 50% three months ago to hovering on the 30% mark now.  The impossibility of introducing electoral reform during the Monti administration resulting from obdurate defence of the Porcellum by the hidebound extant political parties has reduced us to a proportional representation system with a strong element of first past the post (from the winner's premium).  This is provoking (as it would) strong polarisation that of itself causes voters to recoil in disgust at some of the bed-fellows of their preferred party.

Except for Grillo.  Grillo and his internet/local community  based movement has broken through the barrage of first disparagement and then terrified aggression unleashed by the propaganda machines of the established parties  and the European Project.  Now over 20% in the defective, poorly circulated and highly politicised polls available, the Five Star Movement may well be convincing, at the ultimate, the voters who are undeclared.

There are two explanations for this: first, a Five Star predominance (there can be no talk of victory in this election) will lead to new elections in short order: second, voting for the Five Star movement enables us, the voters, to enact the scrapping of the old leaderships, the old communists and old criminals, that Matteo Renzi was prevented from achieving by the disgraceful exercise in democratic centralism practiced last November by the Democratic Party (and, further back, the deposition of the Berlusconi government by another old communist using the under-determined provisions of the Italian constitution in order to protect the European Project from collateral damage via the Euro.)

We want two elections.  We want to get rid of Bersani as leader of the left of centre and we want to get rid of Berlusconi as the leader of the right of centre.  Were these two groupings led by Matteo Renzi and Mario Monti this would be a most straightforward of choices.  Instead personal ambition, ideological corruption and  contempt for the voters has led to unacceptable coalition blocs led by unacceptable elites seriously expecting us to take them seriously.  They and their media shriek at us that Grillo is a comedian:  he replies that they smell of mothballs.  19th and 20th century mothballed politics that we can put away for ever when we vote on Sunday.

There must be two elections however, for so radical are Grillo's European policies - rapidly summed-up they require the re-founding of the European Union as an association of independent nation states with all that implies for 'ever-deeper union' - that we need to choose first to scrap the zombie political system on offer, and then vote again on whether we want a United States of Europe or our country back.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Ratzinger's Retreat

A pope emeritus is a creature  unknown.  Others have stepped down before death but, pace the Church's rules, were forced, and then imprisoned.  Then they died.  Benedict is going into a kind of perpetual retreat, a life of prayer, thought and - somewhat ominously or promisingly (depending on stance) - writing.

Cracow's cardinal has recalled John Paul II's dictum: you don't get down from the cross.  Ratzinger was at Wojtyla's side until the end, forming, implementing, interpreting, assisting.  Is this the role in which he excels and to which he aspires again?  Many have sought a way to survive their own death, control their own succession and temper their successor.  The spiritual (or intellectual, in academic and ideological terms) force of a revered but now reclusive leader is evidenced through history.

Ratzinger has used the powers of the papacy before its assumption.  Might he exercise them after he has laid it down?  Throwing doves out of windows and waving to every badante in Italy on a visit to St Peter's isn't really his metier.    And anyone who has ever been in  retreat will know that even a few days of contemplation on themes of power and action in life make for a certainty of view and how to achieve it. 



Florence is celebrating the cat in art.  Many will recognize friends among the portraits. 

Monday, 11 February 2013

For the Record

Always best to have the original language.   Here is what Benedict said.

Italians are a profoundly Catholic people; believers and non believers in God, all are Catholic.  There is none of the cultural heterogeneity found elsewhere.  Citizenship conferred by descent (give or take a few acquisitors by affinity)  and civil and political expression reserved to citizens consolidates and preserves this.  The historic resignation of the central cultural leader will have huge political repercussions on this bitter and divisive general election less than two weeks away.  

What is the Pope saying?  That he washes his hands of us all?  That he refuses us the guidance traditionally offered by the Church in temporal choices?  That the Church intends to put its weight behind a political choice with which he cannot in conscience agree?  That leaving us to our own devices will bring home to us our own responsibilities  in the choices that we make?  That so deeply is he immersed (as are other, more overtly political leaders) in the choices of the last century and its aftermath that he cannot take part in the choices being made now for the future?

On balance, and there are many more readings into this rarest of actions (surely not by chance, or force majeure, taken now) Catholic Christian Italy is being made very aware of itself and given  an understandable desire to assert its continued cultural identity.  Intentionally or no a  politico-religious and conservative impetus has been delivered to the electorate.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

On the Returns from Being Ungovernable

Voting to keep the Bersani-led faction of the Democratic Party out of power is being denounced as irresponsible and risky for Italy, the Eurozone and the European project itself.  Gosh.

There is another prize within our grasp as well.  If the hobbled, limping campaign led by Bersani that has caused the collapse of the centre-left vote causes, too, the hung Parliament widely expected the comrades can hardly  remain as Leader and leading cadres when we all go back for a second try to get it Right.

Even Gordon Brown resigned eventually (admittedly it took 5 days) after a disaster of a campaign, taking with him the unpleasant and under-powered faction with whom he had held power.  It's the way, these days.  Fail to gain enough votes to command the Parliament (and in Italy that's both Houses)?  Resign the party leadership and let someone more attractive have a try.

So who might we like to lead the  Partito Democratico?  Matteo Renzi for the right of the Democrats or Fabrizio Barca for the left -  though the 'leftness' of Barca is chiefly in the name   (an economist who studied at Cambridge and worked with Tremonti for years is hardly likely to burst out in  Bandiera Rossa.)  Either would be fine.

Why is the Democratic Party  saddled with an elderly incoherent loser?  Even those who are voting for it are doing so with gritted teeth and hangdog excuses about loyalty, always have voted to the left, etc.   Voter enthusiasm is marked by its absence.

There's a lot going for populism and ungovernability.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Censoring the Media During the Italian Elections

 The law on political polling states:

In the 15 days prior to the vote it is forbidden to publish [or to make public] or, by any means, spread the results of polling on the outcome of the elections and on the political leanings and voting intentions of the electors, even if such polls have been taken in a period previous to the prohibition.*

That's very clear.  Couldn't be clearer.  No polling to be published on voting intentions or political stance, not even old polls.  Not no further polling at all, note.  No polling to be published.  But publication is going to occur, despite the law.  Publication is to be restricted. So called 'private'  polling and its results will be made available to party leaders and apparatchiks in the greatest of detail.  Polls will be undertaken and published like there's no tomorrow -  until there is no tomorrow and we have arrived at 24 February.  Because what this law is aiming for is censorship.  Censorship of polling information to all the voters and its reservation to those who pay for it and only too often consider themselves above the law.

Be that as it may, political polling during this election has displayed so many technical defects that it's best, probably, to consider trends.  Universally the trends display a steady decline of the Democratic Party and, most clearly, a decline in any coalition grouping or party besmirched by the suggestion that it might ally with a minority Democratic Party after the elections.  Monti and the associated coalition for the Chamber of Deputies - down;  Ingroia and Civic Revolution - down;  Vendola's SEL (already in formal coalition with the Democratic Party since the great push to defeat Matteo Renzi's centrist leadership in the Democratic Party) - down.  Trending steadily up are the People of Freedom coalition (despite Berlusca, or perhaps because of his political presence - and presence of mind- during the campaign) and his political common sense; trending up extraordinarily fast  and now in third position, Beppe Grillo and the Five Star anti-political elites movement.

At the start of this (blessedly short) campaign Comrade Bersani made a spectacularly stupid claim (something he has continued to do over the weeks with remarkable staying power).  He pointed to an over 40% lead for his ill-gotten Party and said

"I am the hare, so far in front as to be  uncatchable."  He did, he really did.  Angels  were saucer-eyed. 

For there is one other group of voters trending upwards after beginning to decline last week - the undeclared who are once again more than a third of the electorate, having fallen to a quarter.  We will vote; historically Italians do, in the end, despite saying they won't.  The turnout is a known, with  a tortoise-shaped  unknown of outcome-changing size, and a fortnight to go.

* “Nei quindici giorni precedenti la data delle votazioni è vietato rendere pubblici o, comunque, diffondere i risultati di sondaggi demoscopici sull’esito delle elezioni e sugli orientamenti politici e di voto degli elettori, anche se tali sondaggi sono stati effettuati in un periodo precedente a quello del divieto”.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Carry On Up the Bank

The Monte dei Paschi had a board of directors meeting yesterday.  Their managing director Fabrizio Viola had these reassuring words for depositors:

"There is no run..." [on MPS] admitting however  that  in the first  days, as the scandal emerged  "obviously, especially for the more volatile components of funding, such as investment funds and institutional investors, there were outflows."* whose size he left untold.  So that's alright then.

The President of the Republic Napolitano, addressing journalists last week,  requested  restraint  in reporting the Monte dei Paschi  événements as such ongoing scandals could impact on the general election. 

The magistrates' auditors are now being sent into the Siena town hall (incestuously intertwined with the Bank and the national Partito Democratico) to examine their accounts. 

* "non c'è fuga di depositi....  come è logico, soprattutto nella componente piu volatile della raccolta, come fondi e istituzionali, ci sono stati dei movimenti in uscita".

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Monti Won't Ally with Bersani's Allies

The Italian media are running with accounts of negotiations between, and takings-of-position  by, the Bersani Democratic Party and Prime Minister Monti.  All of it in terms of what is to be done by the Bersani faction with their extreme Left allies who helped defeat the Centre vote in the so-called democratic primaries for the leadership of the Party. 

Monti is reported to have given an aut aut (I could wish the Italians less ready to fall into Latin and save me having to check I've understood) to Bersani but Angels doubts it is really about the Solidarity  Ecology Liberty party, despite the media attempting to lead us in that direction.

The Bersani faction is in alliance with the communist  CGIL federation of unions and, more particularly, the hard left FIOM (the metal bashers union led by the Italian Red Robbo.)    This is the alliance up with which Monti will not put.

"Il mio polo è il mio polo e che nessuno lo tocchi." declared Bersani.  (For English language speakers this sentence might have them reaching for the mind bleach but it translates as 'My alliance is my alliance and no-one touches it.')  The spread is 295 and rising, after falling back substantially when Berlin ordered a grand coalition during Bersani's daytrip to Berlin yesterday. 

We're being ungovernable again.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Italy already has Provision for Tax Amnesties Denounced by the Left as Irresponsible Populism

The tax amnesties proffered by the People of Liberty party have produced further paroxysms of outrage from the Democratic party and from Monti. 'No amnesties, never under the Democratic party' thundered Bersani, thumping the table like a true comrade.  Irresponsible, populism gone wild,  'You're driving up the spread' chorused the progressive elites.

"There are intuitive and well-founded reasons" for tax amnesties said the Procurator of the Court of Auditors, pulling out the righteousness rug from under them, included among which are a reduction in law suits and the possibility of gaining returns  quickly that can only be reached with difficulty.  Of course there are negative effects but these are often out-weighed.  Furthermore there are already norms and provisions for the offering of tax amnesties.

Salvatore Nottola, speaking at a press conference after the opening of the judicial year said he didn't want to get drawn into political controversies and had nothing to say about amnesties on illegal building.   So the round of condemnation from the Left and the Monti right presumably implies that the provisions for tax amnesties extant will be removed under either or both  administrations if they succeed in forming a government.

No wonder their vote is falling in the polls.  Still, if they can hang on until Saturday without further downturns the publication of polls will be forbidden under electoral law and they will be able to say what they like without a handy measure of their increasing unpopularity being all over the media.

The Mayor of Florence Supports Berlusconi's Call for the Abolition of Property Taxes on Houses

Matteo Renzi, the man who should be leading a truly Democratic Party in Italy, welcomed the abolition of property taxes on people's homes.  

"The idea of removing tax from first homes is not stupid and it's perfectly do-able. Berlusconi's claim that taxes are too high is correct. The problem is his credibility, which is not high enough for the proposal's merits to be properly considered.  But the proposal itself is worthwhile.  There's no call for all the irony and its dismissal out of hand."
[“Non bisogna ironizzare” sulle proposte dell’avversario, sottolinea. “L’idea di togliere l’Imu sulla prima casa non è stupida, è anche fattibile. Berlusconi – continua il sindaco – dice che c’è una pressione fiscale troppo alta: è un tema vero. Il problema è la sua credibilità, che non è all’altezza della proposta, ma la proposta è seria”]

Here opens for all to see the abyss that separates the authoritarian big-statist faction that has seized Prodi's party and the mass of the electorate who readily would have voted a Renzi Democratic party into power.   To make it worse, that electorate is now seeing that a vote for Monti might be an enabling vote for the proto-communists of Bersani's 'Democratic' coalition.  Such a corrupt alliance is being openly canvassed among the chattering classes (well, it would be, wouldn't it?  The chatclass always likes the big state, the Third Sector, the tax-funded jobs for the ageing boys and girls).

'If this election goes off the rails definitively we will call you ungovernable', they warn in their bossy elite-y way.  Look,  they say (why do they always preface their admonitions with 'Look'?   It's very rude.) 'Look, the spread is already close to 290'.  So it is, and perhaps this is where we dig in our heels and face them down.

Italy's economy, our economy, is sophisticated, innovative, highly integrated into the European economy and the third largest in the eurozone. This is not Spain with its building boom gone bad.  Germany has been unhelpful and economically aggressive; the Euro is too high for our exports; we are being dumped with all the costs of maintaining geopolitical stances in the Mediterranean which drain so much treasure from the north of Italy and should be a charge on the whole EU.  Perhaps the European Union has over-reached its democratic mandate when it furthers the interests of proto-communists in the West. 

If the people of the East could fight tanks in Budapest, in Prague, face down all the threats in Gdansk and Warsaw,  die at the Wall in Berlin till they could tear it down with their bare hands, cope with the economic consequences of the  Transition from realised socialism to the modern world, then perhaps we can stand up to the exponents of that defeated system in the West who are sneaking back to power under the false banners of Fairness, and Governing the Market in the interests of Social Justice. 

By confiscating cash from every household in the country within weeks of handing 4 billion euros to the treasury of the hard Left a vivid political lesson has been taught about the EU through its local representative.  We wanted to vote Renzi, and capitalism with a human face (to borrow an old slogan).  We are still willing to do so if such a offer can be put together by Monti in the next two weeks.  Otherwise some of us will vote for the real Left, the Civic Revolution of Ingroia, the rest will vote for the populist Right, the  People of Liberty, Berlusconi or no.  And if that brings down the wrath of God, or the markets, then too bad for the euro and too bad for Merkel's election chances in November.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Progressive Berlusconi Does Krugman and Stiglitz Proud

Silvio Berlusconi's offer to give us back the 4 billion euros removed by the Save Italy decrees of the Monti administration is causing ructions.  Reactions range from vulgar abuse (Bersani)  Can you believe him?, (Monti) to detailed analyses of why it isn't possible to return us our money (Il Fatto Quotidiano and various other media).

Assorted keynesians -  neo-keynesians  have told us that austerity in the face of recession makes it worse, makes depression inevitable, is folly, is 'unfair', and that Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz have Nobel prizes so there we are.

Curbing demand causes depression.  Curbing consumer demand does it quicker.

So why is the Left not celebrating Berlusca giving every household in Italy its billions of euros back?  This is accurately targeted helicoptering  on every household in the country.  We will spend it, we promise.  We are going hungry, and bankrupt because it was taken from us in the first place - just like Stiglitz and Krugman  said we would.

Monti is in a slightly better position with "Can you believe him?'  Time will tell is the only answer to that.

The last argument 'there isn't any money to give it back'   we know is unfounded because the government is even as we write pushing 4 billion euros at the Monte dei Paschi bank.  That'll do, we'll use that. Let the Bank sink or swim.   (We've been here before with Northern Rock and Mervyn King made the wrong choice.  Under capitalism there is an order:wages, secured creditors, unsecured creditors, shareholders (if there's anything left by then).

Either we're all progressive keynesians now and Krugman is our guide, and money grows on trees , or the Left in all its motley is being disingenuous.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

An Offer We Can't Refuse?

Silvio Berlusconi has been all over the media this morning with a game-changer in the Italian general elections.  The People of Liberty party undertakes as its first act to abolish taxes on our main residence and to repay the tax we have all had to cough up under the Monti administration.

The reinstatement of the rates, which had been abolished by the ousted Berlusconi administration, was one of the first actions of the Monti government in 2011.  The justification was the desperate need to staunch not the debt but the rate at which it was rising and the consequent collapse of international confidence that was making it cost more by the minute.  Not for nothing is Prime Minister Monti greatly disliked as a tax-raising scourge of the evaders and avoiders.  It's very hard to get out of the rates.

The tax has been a disaster.  It has caused blatant defiance - always something to avoid between the state and its citizens - in refusal to pay, refusal for all sorts of wholly forseeable reasons that cluster under the heading 'we haven't the money'.  Apart from bankrupting families and small businesses  it is  regressive; even the European Union declared it unfair.  You can't slap the rates onto a country without warning, onto every family in the country when their budgets are creaking under the cruelties of recession.

Worse, the justifications were false.  'See, the spread is falling' they cried.  The spread was falling in Spain too and they weren't being clobbered with this particular purgatory.  'You can't let the evaders get away with it and they can't evade this one' they preened.  The tax burden is as high as it is in Italy because the culture of discreet tax 'management' shall we say is widespread and wholly accepted.  People have been ruined unnecessarily by inappropriate cultural game-shifts from the playbook of the politics of envy playing to a nasty progressive audience.

Angels have had 5000 euros a year confiscated.  The People of Liberty Party are offering to stop that and give us our money back.  Every householder in the country is considering the offer. 

Friday, 1 February 2013

A Florentine Lesson in Giving the Cold Shoulder

La spalla fiorentina is an art form.  And a finer example than this evening's political rally in which Matteo Renzi, Mayor of Florence welcomes Pier Luigi Bersani, candidate premier of the Democratic party, to our city is hard to remember or imagine.

For a start Bersani isn't even going to enter the city.  If he comes by road he leaves the autostrada at Firenze Sud, turns left at the first set of traffic lights on the feeder road and into via Fabrizio Dè Andre.  Where? I asked.  Forgive me as a foreigner, but where?  Varlungo.  How do you get to Varlungo?  No 14.  It takes half an hour from the central station.  Might I drive?  There are a couple of hundred parking places along the feeder route out to the autostrada but they're bussing people in from all over Tuscany so there'll be a lot of tourist buses.  (Angels wondered if anyone at all will be coming from Siena).
What time is this rally?  Six o'clock.  Six o'clock! It might as well be held at six o'clock in the morning.  What about dinner, out there in the dark and cold?  (It's a very pretty place to walk or cycle to along the banks of the Arno of a summer evening and have a pizza in the tented trattorie looking at the river, but it's February, for goodness sake.)
What's the matter with the Salone dei Cinquecento in the Palazzo Vecchio with big screens in piazza della Signoria for us hoi polloi?  Or the opera house - they could get well over a thousand in there?  Or the Fiorentina football stadium with all its transport links?  (If he comes by train he doesn't come into the city either but leaves for the outskirts from the suburban station of Campo di Marte, but that would be handy for the Stadio.)

"We are demonstrating the power and cohesion of the Democratic Party," declared the secretary of the Florence PD.
" We are a united Democratic party facing the elections, and present ourselves to citizens as standing for the reconstruction of this country.  Our Candidate Premier appearing on the same platform as Matteo Renzi is a very significant message," intoned the secretary of the Tuscan Democratic party. 
Perhaps Bersani plans to do a walkabout in the city later, or even get some dinner, and have his piccy taken (he could do with a bit of cultural backdrop, or even any cultural input at all, though it looks as if it won't be willingly lent to him by Florence).  Or perhaps he's frit.
La Nazione reports that this is the only joint political event by the two contenders for the Democratic party leadership scheduled for the elections.  After this Matteo Renzi campaigns for his party, our party, but not with comrade Bersani and his local apparatchiks, and not in our city.

New Investigations Opened Now by Rome Magistrates into Monte Dei Paschi

The number of investigations into the Monte dei Paschi continues to mount.  Two new probes into the Bank and its doings  over the years join those ongoing.  So far, then, we have:

Siena magistrates investigating various transactions and kick-backs but most importantly the acquisition of another regional bank, Antonveneta, for over 3 billion euros more than had been paid for it by other banks only 6 months before.

Puglia magistrates investigating banking supervision of the Bank by both the Bank of Italy and CONSOB (the Italian equivalent of the Securities and Exchange Commission)

Rome magistrates investigating market manipulation (and manipulation of the Euribor) and insider trading.

The attacks on the media's attempts to open up what has been going on and who is involved continue from the Democratic party.  Pierluigi Bersani, Leader of the hard left faction controlling the Democratic party, has announced that  the Party's lawyers have been instructed to start proceedings against those who link the Partito Democratico and the Monte dei Paschi Foundation (controlled for decades by the Left)  to the conduct of the Bank.  In a vicious response to Prime Minister Monti's statement that there must be clear  separation of political parties from bank activities he pretended that it is  bank interference in political party behaviour that should be under investigation.

The polling lead of the Leftist coalition is falling steadily and there is now a 5-point gap between the People of Liberty coalition and the Democratic Party coalition, down from 12-15 points only 10 days ago.  In part this may be due to the finalising of the formal coalitions and their party lists, in part to the numbers of voters declining to state their intentions falling from 40% of the electorate to the current 30%  still undeclared.  But the sheer incredulity with which the electorate, particularly the Tuscan electorate, once a stronghold of the Left, has watched the laying bare of the Left's illicit grasp upon the region's economy and post-War culture and evolution, is taking its toll.

The President of Italy has told us all to look away now and fix our attention on 'the future'. Jam tomorrow, then?  We'd rather have truth and justice today.