Sunday, 31 March 2013

Time to Ignore the President of Italy and Assert the Sovereignty of Parliament

'In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed.'  Angels hold no brief for the Italian Democratic Party or its erstwhile candidate premier. Nonetheless, Pierluigi Bersani has been most seriously wronged, as has the Democratic Party and its voters.  It was not for President Napolitano  to act as he has.  Bersani should meet Parliament and see of he can muster a vote of confidence in both Houses, not have Parliament second-guessed by Napolitano.  Italy is not the France of the Fifth Republic (yet).

Bersani has an absolute majority in the Chamber of Deputies (the Lower House).  He can table and carry a motion of no confidence in the Monti administration as soon as he likes.  At that point Napolitano will be forced to get out of the way, together with his ten Dead White Men, and Bersani will face the Parliament, to be accepted or rejected by the proper body.  Bersani has not returned to Napolitano (to Napolitano's reported extreme irritation) the mandate he has held since the President's earlier consultations.  With Monti voted out he is freed and, almost certainly, would be able to find the dozen votes he needs in the Senate.

So why doesn't Bersani act?  Yes his party is split but for this power-taking operation it might well reunite.  Yes a great wound would open in Italian institutions of governance between the Parliament and the Presidency but, frankly, Napolitano has asked for it by putting himself into such a position, and will be gone within weeks anyway.  Parliamentary sovereignty should not have been encroached  like this.  The real reason Bersani won't do it is because he hasn't got the guts Napolitano has, and he's backed down.  If Bersani wants office he's got the mandate and the votes but he has to take it.

Ten DWMs

Dead White Males, ten of them have been put in place, personally (as he remarked) by President Napolitano to 'find a solution' to our irresponsible voting at the general election now over a month ago.  Actually some of them might not be quite dead but who can tell amongst such an undistinguished cluster of state beneficiaries and eurocrats.  No industrialists, no workers, no musicians, no painters, no poets, no sailors, no soldiers, no young, no women - an all-Italian crony-group of an 87 year old man at the end of his powers.

Here they are.  Angels can't be bothered to give their individual names.  The nomenklatura.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Anti-democratic Constitutional Garbage

The President of Italy has just got off the telly.  He says that the Monti government is remaining because it has never been subject to a vote of no confidence.  Monti has offered his resignation but he, Napolitano, has not accepted it.  Monti therefore retains the confidence of Parliament and can remain conducting the business of the Italian state.

Unfortunately the Parliament that voted confidence in Senator Monti no longer exists.  On 25 February 2013 we elected a new Parliament.   Senator Monti does not enjoy the confidence either of this Parliament or of the electorate (who voted him down in droves, he got less than 10% of the vote).

Napolitano is not just off the telly - there are other things he's off as well.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Italian Democratic Party May Split in Two and Its Coalition Group Collapse

It was always an uneasy amassing of the Italian Communist Party, the remnants of the Italian Socialist Party, the liberals of the Christian Democrats and various odds and sods left over from debacles in the Italian politics of the last century.  Romano Prodi (Christian Democrat) could hold it all together by offering external goals, European agendas that were acceptable to the motley crew.  He could attract, too, the votes of the real Centre, the gente perbene of the middle classes repelled by Berlusconi and his behaviours.

Not Bersani:  nor could such a grouping be held together by imposition of Communist party discipline, although it could be usurped by Communist party political action and activists - and it has been.  The Partito Democratico has never won an election other than under Prodi's leadership and, on Prodi's departure, has lost every time to Berlusconi.  Only a minority of Italians are Communist voters.  The Communist-faction led PD has lost again this time.  This time they kept out the leader who could have given Italy a government over a month ago with their rigged primaries last November.   Bersani has argued falsely that only he can keep the PD together.  The truth is that only by keeping the PD under its organisational, democratic-centralist thumb can the old Communist Party of Italy survive at all.  Since the collapse of the Soviet Union it has had to fund itself via 'foundations' controlling regional banks - notably the Monte dei Paschi, itself now under blanket investigation by the magistrates.  Any government installed in Italy other than a Bersani government means the end for the PCI, few followers, no money.

They should be extruded from any party calling itself democratic.  They should, together with their  'social forces' - the communist-dominated unions,  the third sector, swathes of regional and local government and administration -  be finally extinguished as any part of the Left. They put themselves and their survival before country, party, national and local need.  They are disloyal to all of these.

Bersani has just said:
"Whoever may come after me.....must first of all win the votes of 480 MPs  of our coalition. [because the PD-SEL (far left eco/rainbow party) coalition got 0.4 of the vote more than the Right coalition they received the majority premium in the Lower House, ed.] votes that I have now.  So don't come and propose grand coalition government, even disguised behind another name because my "No" is a given already.  Half the PD will not vote ever for a sort of new version of the Monti government and does not want to split with the SEL,   because SEL will not agree to follow such a path..." [Secretary Bersani often slips into Communist Party-school speech  it would be quite funny if it wasn't so vile, ed., emphasis added]

So the other half of the PD will vote how, exactly?  For a grand coalition?  And how will the SEL then vote once there is nothing to be gained from alliance with the CP rump?   By his own admission Bersni can no more hold together Prodi's Democratic Party than fly.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Bersani Told to Go Home But He Still Doesn't Understand He Lost the Election

Comrade Bersani has been told by the Head of State that as his proposals for government are not able to command a majority in the Parliament, even on paper, he can't be prime minister.  The prime minister remains Mario Monti and the Monti administration remains in office.  The President of Italy has stated that he will personally begin consultations to put together a post-Monti administration.  Neither the Bersani faction of the Democratic Party nor Bersani himself will accept this  and have declared that the Leader will continue in his negotiations for a majority in both Houses of the Italian Parliament.

Bersani doesn't seem to have a proper grasp on how to put together a coalition.  It is not done by barking orders at the largest single Party represented in the Lower House, and holding the vital votes in the Upper House, to get back in line or we'll have to have another election.  We are quite willing to have another election  - after the new President has been elected; the Bersani Democratic faction's attempts to portray the 5 Star Movement as disaffected lefties has just been time-wasting but as the new elections cannot be until June at the earliest  (what with one thing and another) it doesn't really matter.  Now they understand,  5 Stars is not just an outbreak of indiscipline from the Democrat Party line.  Nor is it made up of political innocents or fools.  We have an agenda, oh yes.

We were told in a press conference an hour ago that to form a coalition Bersani 'would have had to accept proposals and conditions unacceptable to him.'  Poor lamb;  he told us what we had to agree to, perfectly plainly.  He even wrote it all down for us in eight points but we kept changing them,  and requiring so much more - like not financing his party out of tax-payers' money (that was one of the unacceptable conditions).  He's demanding to meet Parliament, so clearly he's failed to grasp as well that Italy actually  has got a government (admittedly not very popular but wholly efficient) and the President hasn't accepted Monti's resignation (even though he's had it since January) so there isn't a vacancy.

Berlusca's condition for support was himself as the next president of Italy or, if that were thought a touch risque' then his principal political advisor, Gianni Letta, would do it.  The Northern Leagues want all taxes raised in northern Italy spent in northern Italy and an autonomous North.  You can see that Napolitano had a point, telling Bersani to go home;  and it took over an hour to get Bersani out of the Quirinale.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Poor Cyprus

Cyprus, being unable to assert its claims to the gas fields around it, has been taken apart.  Any state wishing to exploit its natural resources had better have the defence resources to do so,  international law and treaties being always a cover story for powerful states, not a  guarantee for weak ones.  This is true as well for claims by EU bureaucrats that Cyprus is a template for dealing with  member states' sovereign debt  rule-breaking.  Small or weak states will be brought to euro-heel, the others will reshape the euro-structures.  Those determined that the euro should succeed  must hope for confidence in its flexibility to respond to political change within and between powerful member-states.

Even Spain is too poor, too under-resourced, too under-developed to exert Euro-reformatting.  The people there can riot in the streets for all the effect it will have on changing the euro structures or enabling the Spanish government  to alter their relationship with the eurozone.   In contrast, the United Kingdom, although formally equally bound by euro rules,  is big enough and rich enough to ignore them when it chooses.  And does. This independence of action is usually attributed to retaining a national currency -  undoubtedly a help - but the real source of capacity for self-assertion is the usual: too big and complex an economy and a state too powerful to push around.  No EU Projecteers are going to tell France and Germany what to do either.  The euro structures will certainly respond to their requirements.

Which leaves Italy.  The idea that the treatment of Cyprus could be used as a template for Italy is far-fetched, unless such a template is self-administered.  While there can be no Troikerenes flying into Rome to lay down the law, the pitched political battle here is precisely over whether Monti's imposition of the current shape of euro requirements continues, or euro-structures flex to  Italian politico-economic  pressures.   Monti is still prime minister; Napolitano is determined to push the constitution into any shape it takes to keep the current administration - under another name,  whatever name  -   to do from within what weaker states have had forced upon them from without.  There is, at the moment, a kind of shadow template that has been introduced by the Monti government.  We can all do as we please but every move we make will be reported by various bodies and institutions and subsequently attract investigation that amounts to little more than fiscal and financial harrassment.   The President of the Republic and the Prime Minster (who was so humiliatingly rejected at the general election last February) are still trying to leave the current euro-structures alone and warp Italy.

The electorate, disinclined to be impoverished at every level and their economy reduced to, at best, stasis have voted for the re-structuring of the euro and the Union.  What happens here should be of much greater interest to the citizens of large,  powerful European states than anywhere that has been in the sovereign-debt news so far.  

Thursday, 21 March 2013

No-one Blinking in Berlin, Moscow or Nicosia

The established Russian financial base in Cyprus is under very serious threat from Berlin masked as the EU and from the US masked as the IMF.   It is not credible that the Russian government regards the Russian resources in Cyprus as illegal or borderline legal - their size and the entities involved are part of Russian policy even if there are some Russian and non-Russian money laundering advantage-takers in the mix.

The European Central Bank continues to provide liquidity to Cyprus banks.   EU rules require it to provide such liquidity only to solvent banks;  Cyprus banks are being kept solvent only by the funding that requires their solvency for such funding to be extended.  Obviously the ECB is holding the banks in suspension while the political stand-off is resolved (in itself a highly politicised act from an ostensibly 'technical' institution, but then it has its own axe to grind about eurozone member states departing the zone).

Cyprus government (which includes the whole political and cultural spectrum, as do other  Mediterranean states, it's the constitutional model used in this part of the world) is entertaining the Troika  while its minister of  Finance  is in Moscow and, he says, intends to stay there  until discussions are satisfactorily completed, though what form finalisation will take is under consideration.  Meanwhile in Cyprus the parliamentary draftsmen are blamed for no legislation being available for bank resolution and a parliamentary session to debate this is cancelled.  The chances of this being true are challenged by Cyprus having perfectly well drafted (by the English) bank resolution legislation, have had since long ago.

The RAF has had to fly out a plane load of euro bank notes because the eurozone seems unable to perform even that most basic of monetary operations, run a retail cash banking system.

Every, perfectly reasonable, alternative to mulcting the Russians out of their deposits and out of such a geo-politically important piece of real estate is met with vetos from the Troikerenes in Nicosia.  Pips are going to be made to squeak, right down to the last euro to teach all of us Southern wastrels to mind ourselves as well.

The Archbishop of Cyprus, who owns the third largest bank there, and large pieces of the island,  has been seen kissing the new Jesuit Pope in Rome, (Dearest brother) which is giving a decided Umberto Eco-ish twist to these events.  The Italian President, occupying Rome's magnificent former papal palace, is failing meanwhile  to put together a democratic pro-European administration while the largest single party in the Italian Parliament calls for  re-negotiating the euro and, indeed the entire European Project.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Greece Considers Re-Opening Close Contacts With Putin

A map of the Mediterranean to hand is useful when reading the news on the Cyprus stand-off.  Now it is reported in the Fatto Quotidiano that the Cypriot Finance minister is no longer talking just to his Russian counterpart, and  that talks which were originally about extending the Russian loan and reducing its interest rate have now moved to another venue and onto "other matters'.  What these might be can be readily guessed and their importance and generality intuited  if the further suggestion that Mr Putin has asked the President of Cyprus to come to Moscow is correct.

Meanwhile the Church has intervened to offer its full support to the Cyprus government and  points out that it is the largest land owner on the island and wholly disposed to making land available to the state.  It suggests also development bonds for the land that would be subscribed down to parish level throughout the island.

Greece too is now wondering if it should seek renewed close contacts with Mr Putin via former Conservative prime minister Costas Karamanlis, whose vision of Greece as an energy hub dovetails with Russian gas delivery via South Stream into Europe and particularly to Italy.

Northern European Union moral hazard nerds are uniting a Southern European community of interest  they do not seem  to have fully grasped.

Italian Democratic Party Splits in the Lower House

The Italian President finally opens negotiations for the next administration today, a month after the general election.  Unfortunately for the self-seeking Bersani, the Democratic Party has split. In the voting for the Party leadership in the Lower House  (the equivalent in the UK would be, more or less, the chief whip) Bersani attempted to foist a candidate onto the assembled Democrat MPs by demanding his candidate be elected 'by acclamation'.  As the candidate is a full time, full working life, Bersani faction, Party creep this attempt to close ranks round Bersani himself was met with silence, followed by a request for a secret ballot.  Trade union MPs then tried to insist on no ballot.  MPs insisted right back.  The vote split the Party with a third denying support; as there was only one candidate (nice, democratic, Bersani-ites) ballot papers had to be left blank.

So we now have a third of the Lower House majority Party voting en bloc against the imposed leadership.   The comrades tried to explain this unfortunate and very public demonstration of their smaller than they pretend support by claiming the bloc to be supporters of Matteo Renzi but the evidence is that those 87 votes against the leadership came from across the Party political spectrum, united only by their antipathy to the organised proto-communist and trade union faction.

The Head of State is today to be presented by Bersani with 'a unanimously agreed Party programme' and a claim on the premiership.  The Democratic Party has no majority in the Upper House and, as has just been shown, no control over all its own members in the Lower.    

How Are We Defining Wealth?

The widely accepted  heist on savings over a hundred thousand euros - it's the heist on sums lower than that which mostly  is causing the outrage - is unnerving.  Wealth taxes should be on wealth not bog standard savings.

Everyone would have their threshold for 'wealth',   but  a hundred thousand euros? You couldn't buy a studio flat in South Hatfield for a £100,000 (never mind euros.)

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Whatever It Takes?

Italy is an existential threat to the Euro and to the Union.  Just for starters between 71 and 79 billion euros is owed by the Italian state, at national and local levels, to small, medium and even larger businesses.  Obviously there will be, and there is, a cascade effect and, as  during the Transition of the eastern bloc (with the complicity of the IMF)  we have the beginning of the de-monetisation of the Italian economy.

Last week the Prime Minister went to Brussels to obtain authorisation for unblocking  at least this disaster, whose cause is not principally lack of funds: regional and  local authorities are forbidden to release the funds they have because they are bound by the rules of the Stability and Growth pact.  Italy needs to live under fiscal sovereignty.   It is also the third largest economy in the EU.  Something has got to give.  Simply demonising Italians as ne'er-do-well, sun-tanned, ice-cream eaters is beyond good and evil (as the saying goes here). 

We tried.  We voted.  The moment we - finally - got our hands on a ballot (which event was so improperly delayed for 15 months by a President claiming dictatorial powers under constitutional guise)  we voted for a re-negotiation, or out of the Euro.  Since winning a month ago, no government at all has been  installed;  the Monti administration is  forcibly (though again under constitutional guise) kept in office.  Even Mario Monti himself is protesting against his slaving to European Union imperatives.  His use of Garibaldi's "Obbedisco"  is  hardly a full-hearted expression of consent, or of agreement with the Head of State's  understanding of our situation,  and  his objectives for Italy.  Napolitano had to swallow Monti's scathing consent because Monti's government is the only possible Italian counter-party for any international bailing - in or out - and there is no possibility of stable democratic governance (for instance, Comrade Bersani has just accused us all of being Leninists, which is a remarkable exposition of his mindset.  Angels are not at all sure what a Leninist is, but it must be better than being a Bersani Stalinist. Whatever - it gives an idea of where they are coming from).

Now the Cyprus experiment has made plain the full content of Mario Draghi's  'Do whatever it takes' euro speech.  What the euro-zealots intend to take is a sitting duck in the nation's bank accounts.  Well, it's a sitting duck  at the moment but it's getting under cover fast, despite 15 months of Monti trying to close down escape routes (which attempts,  both Monti's and our defensive manoeuvres, of themselves have had adverse effects for investment in a time of broken monetary transmission mechanisms.   How pathetic to have driven the country's savers into gold.)

Meanwhile in another part of the forest Silvio Berlusconi, whose coalition received only 100,000 fewer votes than the dominant Bersani-ite Democratic Party, has said plainly that any further constitutional warping of the higher offices of the state will be met with obdurate opposition in Parliament and Piazza (constitutionally Italian government rests upon continuous and cross-party consent much more than the oppositional model of, say, the UK).   The Five Stars, who definitely hold 25%  (but even 30% according to Italy's latest iffy political polls) of the electorate, are joined at least in the requirement for fresh elections, with Berlusconi.  The pro-European elites publish dream teams of 'civic', imposed governance in their media.  The Northern Leagues want an end not just to the EU in its present form but to Italy in its present form as well; and these anti-Europe anti- united Italy separatists are the chosen target coalition group Bersani hopes to use to shoe-horn himself into power.

In its current figuration and future goals Europe cannot afford Italy.  Indeed Angels are unsure whether Europe can even afford itself.  Italy can afford Italy, but we can't afford Europe; not the awful Austrians again, or the Germans either (the Dutch and the Finns are just gloomy coat-tailers from soggy seasides, and frozen wastes at the edge of Russia).  If 'Whatever It Takes' means the destruction of Italian manufacturing industry,  bankruptcy, the mass unemployment of the young, the denial of the concept of property, and the dismemberment of Italy, this is not for Mario Draghi or President Napolitano to offer.  Not for their idea of Europe.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Cyprus Achieves Full Communism

In the good old Soviet days goods' prices were held down artificially but the goods were not there.  The population accumulated useless cash unwillingly.   The government tried to capture these involuntary savings by making obligatory the purchase of government bonds.  Those were not savings but a form of taxation.  However the Soviet government never got round to actually confiscating excess cash except a couple of times in the 1950s by enforcing a currency conversion at progressively more punitive rates for prices, bank accounts, and cash.   As they used to say,  under full Communism there would still be money  for some but not for others. 

The European Union has succeeded in reconstructing Soviet-type confiscation of hard-earned savings because  setting limits to cash withdrawals  have turned part of household savings into forced involuntary savings.  In Cyprus, by then skimming depositors' accounts at a very high rate, they have been recognised by Medvedev (not unnaturally) for what they are. There is no difference between Soviet practice then and European Union practice today. 

Gold Rush

Just running down to the bank - irrational not to, as Mervyn King remarked.  It opens at 8.30 but it might be best to get a head start on the rest of the village.  Fortunately the bank at the bottom of the hill sells gold bars.  It's supposed to be for the local factories but mostly they'll be selling to most of us today.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Five Stars 1: Berlusca/Bersani 0

The Five Stars promised to rip open the corrupt Parties and their Parliament like a tin of tuna.  They have. 

It has cost them tears of blood but they have blocked-off so many strategies with the Revolt of the Sicilians (who voted for the anti-Mafia Senate Speaker Grasso, otherwise they couldn't go home) and thus ensured the defeat of both Comrade Bersani's chosen candidate, the scrap-heap-worthy Finocchiaro, and Berlusconi's investigated-for-Mafia-involvement candidate, Schifani.  In the process they have demonstrated that they are not Grillo's zombies - one of the principal disdainful attributions of the elites and their media, and discovered the joys of flexing our political muscle.

They have blocked-off the rising Monti-for-President  tide; they have lopped-off  a Wimmin-for-President  Hydra-head and put Finocchiaro back in the scrap; they have cornered the 'Democratic' Party with two purely nominally Democratic institutional posts leaving the Presidency almost unattainable for a third  'Democrat' (there is constitutionally an expectation that senior state positions should be shared across the political spectrum);   they have honoured their commitment to vote piece by piece for what their electors want.

The elites and progressive media are screaming that the Five Stars have been split.  Rather, at their first passage of arms, they could hardly have done more.

Sadly, Italy has run out of time.

Italy Now Merely Going Through the Motions

Italy's debt has reached the highest level ever: 2,022.7 billion euros (having risen 34 billion euros since December).   The Prime Minister has been ordered not to resign by the President; the powers to do this are non-existent so we must assume that  force was applied via the usual 'offer you can't refuse' means, though what this consisted in is not (yet) known publicly.

The Parliament has finally met and Speakers for both Houses have been chosen - for the Lower House a member of the Solidarity, Ecology, Liberty party (who took 3% of the -  mad Left - vote) and for the Upper House an anti-Mafia former magistrate (because the other candidate was  the previous, Berlusconi,  Parliament's Speaker whose anti-mafia credentials leave much to be desired).  Both were elected on the fourth, simple majority, ballot;  neither have the least idea how they got there and are as surprised as the rest of us by their sudden elevation to the second and third highest offices of the Italian state.

Almost a month since the general election Italy has no government.  It's not good enough the President pretending that Mario Monti is in charge, as patently he is not.  Senator Monti told the President last week that with the Brussels meeting  his term was complete, as are his duties and his competencies.  So the only government we have is President Napolitano with most of his presidential powers removed, or in precipitous decline a month before he leaves office, and a protesting Monti  who argues (and he argued for over an hour in the presidential palace, with precedents to hand for substitutes and notable vehemence for such a mild-mannered man) that he is not a caretaker, nor a lightning conductor for the raging storm that is all that is left of Italian governance. 

Italy is  in a constitutional, political and economic catastrophe suspended only by our old friend 'Too Big to Fail'. 

Friday, 15 March 2013

Authoritarian Rule in Italy

The  authoritarianism  of Italian governance is not attracting as much comment as it might  if current goings-on were going on in, say, England.  Starting from the top, the President is out of his constitutional cage and rampaging across the democratic terrain wiping out the independence of Judiciary from Executive, refusing reasonable progress in the forming of an administration conforming to the parameters of the last general election, enabling to the bitter end the continuance of the administration he installed (Monti has now been kept in office - control might be a more accurate choice of word - for 16 months) and asserting for himself complete powers to 'resolve' the problem of our 'ungovernability'.   Behind the facade of technical or caretaker government there is presidential government ruling by decree and freed now from even the minimal restraint imposed by parliamentary vote.

Moving down, we have the caretaker government itself.  Monti is in Brussels at the moment, reporting in on the control of any livelier responses to internal deflation,  and the centralised coverage of lapses in systemically important bank/political administration practices.

The disciplining of regional and local level population, business and contracts is suffering too from the advance of 'irresponsible' voting at local level which has been generated  by too much troughing by local administrations, their associated institutions, and their personnel. Attention is to be directed to this problem once our hash has been settled at the centre.  However the steady attrition resulting from investigation,  charge and arrest of local bankers,  institutional administrators various, revelations of hospitals, universities, etc., with big black holes in their institutional fabric - and in the case of schools, roads, entire towns and even cities, their physical fabric too -  has been noted as both disruptive of smooth rule and encouraging of our uppity tendencies. There are to be  fewer occasions of voting (sinful, voting is) once the response to the outcome of the general election - and here it is arguable that the general election in question is that of 2008 and its presidential subversion -  has been settled into place permanently; then  the reform of local governance can be decreed once more (the previous decrees fell with the arrival of the national quinquennial requirement to let us out of our boxes).

The media generally are under control, distracted by individual stories of iniquity and exploitation of the public purse,   and in any case mostly committed to the bog standard systems of political control currently being finalised at European level.  In Italy of course they  have especially the mythology of fascism (as well as its realities) to attack in all its 20th century wickedness, leaving its 21st century form, shape-shifting and viciously efficient, free run at our lives, culture and, inter alia, our standard of living and our security (both of which last might reasonably be agreed to be part of the state's remit but not the first two).

Pan-European attempts to portray the Five Stars as clowns, innocents, ignoramuses, have given way to defamation and demonisation.  We can expect the first criminalisations shortly, extending beyond the media and into the institutions of our dying democracy.  Angels doubt we'll be allowed near a ballot box again any time soon, whatever particular form taken by the 'crisis' justifications being put forward by the Euro-regime (the war on terror now being rather old hat and never awfully popular in Europe).

The next group of decent people who are going to get a ballot paper in their hands are the Germans. The German media are already describing Grillo as the most dangerous man in Europe, as a Fascist, as a populist (what is the matter with populism? [ that is for another post, keep to the point. ed.])  Grillo remarked that the Movement is the French revolution without the guillotine.  Angels fear the guillotine is here: that the elites will try to use it -  in the end; the independence of the magistrates is already compromised. 


Thursday, 14 March 2013


A Jesuit robed in white.  Who dances the tango. And opens his papacy with the words 'Good evening'.  Who reads Hölderlin.  And calls himself Francis.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

The Papacy is not for Encouraging Diversity

Angelo Scola, Archbishop of Milan and sometime Patriarch of Venice, is a philosopher, anthropologist and theologian as well as cardinal of the one, holy,  catholic and apostolic Church. Cardinal Scola comes from that most fortunate of generations when merit could take the son of a lorry driver  to fulfilment of his promise and abilities.    Note, the fulfilment of promise and abilities: there are many priests at every level yet to achieve their promise, but the papacy is not for those who are still under-qualified.  Such office is not for  for them because it is not for demonstrating that we are all equal.  We aren't.  Show who and what you are and then seek our "unconditional reverence and obedience."

How many of us (including some of those who are put forward by themselves and others for the papacy) can  even begin to speak like this ?

Black smoke.

Black again

BIANCA [as in fumata, not fumo, ed.]

Monday, 11 March 2013

Berlusconi Still in Hospital Despite Legal Efforts to Force Him to Court

The sometime prime minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi is 76 years old.  The recovery of the political position of his political alliance in the last general election to within 0.4 of a percentage point of Pierluigi Bersani's  'winning' alliance 'Common Good' (or 'Common Purpose', as the Italian Bene Comune could readily be translated, and made up of the Democratic Party plus various leftist and Rainbow Alliance splinter groups) was extraordinary.  Extraordinary too was Berlusconi's input.  Angelo Alfano, the Secretary of the People of Liberty, spoke gracefully and truly when he said  that without Berlusconi their defeat would have been far greater than the difficulties Berlsuconi brings along together with his political abilities and near-victory.

Now Angels watches with increasing distaste and democratic concern the legal hounding of Berlusconi.  Certainly he has been tried and sentenced in the first instance for tax evasion, and has appealed.  But the other crimes of which he is accused fall much closer to the line between criminality and criminalisation.  Enticing members of Parliament to cross the floor, even with large cash bungs, is a standard political act;  entertaining girls one month from their 18th birthday may be inappropriate for a man of his age but hardly deserving of the montatura of criminal behaviour concocted round his 'tasteful' dinner parties.

There are two horrid aspects to what is going on: an old man hospitalised with health difficulties indicative of much more serious problems, following on his political tour de force, is being examined by judicial order when wholly respectable, indeed distinguished clinicians have certified to the Court that he must stay in hospital: shades of USSR medical and judicial practice;  the other horrid aspect is the blind refusal, particularly by sections of the media and so-called intelligentsia, to accept that Silvio Berlusconi is the elected representative of a huge section of the electorate who might reasonably expect their choices to be nurtured at a time of such political tension, rather than the man who carries those choices to be harried by court actions, and even fresh charges that are as tenuously criminal as the older subjects of Berlusconi's trials. 

Friday, 8 March 2013

Berlusconi Admitted to Hospital

Silvio Berlusconi's admission to hospital with uveitis has led to requests to delay the closing arguments of the Ruby trial once more.  Folk beliefs about the causes of blindness are being widely and unkindly noted in the Italian media.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

The Defenestration of Siena

The death of David Rossi, the Monte dei Paschi head of communications found on the ground beneath the window of his office at the palazzo Salimbeni yesterday has ended the propaganda push by the Bersani faction of the Democratic Party to involve the Five Stars Movement in any kind of support for a Bersani-led  government.   That death, however brought about, speaks to the intricacies of the Democratic Party's involvement in the practices at the Bank that have led to a 4 billion euro bail-out by the taxpayer.  Five Stars is absolutely justified in wanting nothing to do with the Democratic Party of Italy.

The grip of former members of the Communist Party of Italy on the Democratic Party has been played-down persistently by the media - 'pragmatic', 'former', 'reasonable', 'left of centre' ...on they go pretending that there isn't a problem with this Party.  After the ousting of Romano Prodi the problem with the Democratic Party has become the defining problem for the development of any normal left of centre party in Italy.  But the European elites will swallow anything provided their project retains support in Member States  (and even the in-house journal of the Democratic Party is called Europa).  This leads to large-scale misinterpretation of the Five Stars' attitude to forming a government for Italy. The proto-communist Democrats persist in the falsity of pretending to a government coalition with a party whose anti-Europeanism is so marked that the President of the Republic would rather exit office with no elected government formed than call upon Five Stars to form an administration and face the Parliament.

The Democratic central committee and its fellow travellers were both amazed and enraged to find that after their defeat of our attempts to cleanse the Party last November we deserted them in an election they could not fix.  They then have  tried to smear us as irresponsible and wilfully unco-operative.  In everything they say and do they reveal themselves as what they are.  Any cover has now been stripped away.   

Death in Siena

The body of David Rossi, head of marketing and communications, was found yesterday evening beneath the window of his office at the  headquarters of the Monte dei Paschi in the centre of Siena.  The window of his office overlooked a little-used, difficult to access side street  beside the famous palazzo.

Shortly after half past eight yesterday evening his secretary entered his office and,  seeing the open window, looked out to see him lying on the ground  some thirty feet below.  In the office  his computer was turned on, his jacket on his chair.  All papers in his office have been sequestered by the investigating magistrate, including a crumpled note, discarded in the wastepaper basket, containing the words "Ho fatto una cavolata"  ["I have goofed-up"]. 

Mr Rossi, a Sienese, had been a close associate of the former President of the Bank, Giuseppe Mussari but was not, himself, under investigation.  He had worked with Mussari since the early 1990s and had come with him to the Bank from  working with the former mayor of Siena, Pier Luigi Picinni for whom, at that time, Mussari maintained relations between the administration of Siena and the then predominant political party the Democratic Socialists [successors of the recently defunct Communist Party of Italy and now dominant faction in the national Democratic Party led by Bersani.ed.]

Colleagues stated that Rossi was his usual urbane and efficient self in the last days.  The Italian media are referring to the death as suicide.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Unnecessary Uncertainty

Never have Angels missed so sorely the words:

I,  ...... the Acting Returning Officer for   Welwyn Hatfield, hereby give notice that the total number of votes given for each candidate at the election of ......was as follows,  ...... And that  Grant David Shapps has been duly elected as Member of Parliament for the  Welwyn Hatfield Constituency.

It's not so much the Hatfieldyness of it (though most of us keep an interested eye on the constituencies in which we grew up) but the immediate, assured certainty of the make up of the Commons, and all that carries in its train, within 24 hours of the ballot. Here, a full week after the count, the composition of Chamber of Deputies and Senate has still  to be certified by the electoral court,  the President of the Republic denies that he has had any discussions with interested parties and, until the Parliament is confirmed, meets, and elects its Speakers, presumably will retain that stance (which none of us believe is real.)

The Five Stars determinedly refuse to touch pitch: 'renew your strange alliances of the last destructive, betraying 14 months (and more); don't try to cleanse the electorate's palate with a draught of 5Star', is the caustic reply to all 'Democratic' advances.  As for the People of 'Liberty' they haven't even made an attempt; they just wait patiently for Bersani to recognise where his objective, existential Party interests lie - where they have always been -  and that Democratic Party ethical left claptrap is also a lid covering long term collaboration in corrupt plundering by all political parties which has been "ripped off as from a tin of tuna" to borrow Grillo's words.

The Right don't mind being seen to be in it for themselves, their voters are (straightforwardly or bent) voting for themselves and their families;  the Left must come to terms with who and what they are.  The political, constitutional and institutional dishonesty is breathtaking, as is the media pretence of disinterested reporting.  The opinion pieces are venomously partisan, which is only fair, though the moral tone and condescension could be eased-back to the relief of the repelled reader.

We may not get what we voted for out of all this but the image of the Left, in all its institutional and politically ethical fancy dress, as a ripped-open tin of tuna  will still be there when we go to vote again.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Excluding the Five Star Movement from Being the Opposition

It's quite obvious that a majority for a government exists in the newly-elected Italian parliament.  All the Democratic Party coalition has to do is agree a legislative programme and a division of ministries with the coalition of the People of Liberty and the government is formed.  The Five Star Movement becomes the official Opposition.  So why this pressure on the Five Stars to accept Bersani and his repellent coalition party partner Vendola?  Particularly when the People of Liberty coalition has offered from the get-go a coalition with the Democrats (terms to be negotiated).  It's not as if Five Stars is a particularly left-wing movement: eclectic, libertarian, anti-austerity, technological, innovative - all of these, but not Left.

Of course, as the official Opposition, the chairmanship of COPASIR (the parliamentary body that oversees and controls the Italian secret services and various clandestine arms of government and belongs to various EU clandestine-style bodies) passes, by law, to the Five Star Movement's nominee in the Parliament.  Now that would be unpopular with the United States of America in its major European base.  And a particularly sensitive matter when all those CIA torture rendition operatives have just been condemned to years and years in prison if they ever come here again (or even to the European Union, there are warrants out for them all over, they have confirmed jail terms to serve);  never mind all the rest that's been going on.

Might it be that all this fuss is about denying the various official roles (and powers and knowledge) enjoyed by the Opposition under Italian Parliamentary arrangements to our Five Star deputies and senators who are so very removed from, indeed immune to, the pressures and 'responsibilities' the old Party members work under?  After all, Bersani's take it or leave it Eight Point programme (what is it about Bersani, and Brown with his specious Five point programmes and tests?) can easily be enacted with Five Star support from the Opposition; it's not unheard of for Oppositions to support agreeable Government legislation.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Ultra Vires: Reaching for Power Beyond Office

After talks with President Obama, Chancellor Merkel, and after Monti's trip to Brussels, the President of Italy is back in Rome and making some remarkable assertions on his role in the formation of a government for Italy.

Giorgio Napoliano claims his autonomous capacity, as President, to determine who is the person to be nominated as prime minister.  While he has done this once already, in appointing Mario Monti (so he's had a practice run on building a confidence vote for his nominee, with who knows what settlements, and built, too, a precedent) there are constitutionalists who might argue that the settled  role of the President is to act as a sort of neutral clearing-house for the views and interpretations of well-defined categories of informants: Speakers of both houses of Parliament, senior Party figures, Regional elected governors, voices from industry and finance, the Church, the voluntary and civic sector, former presidents, and appropriately distinguished academics.  The President, on this interpretation and for much of past practice, acts with no agenda but conformity to constitutional and national requirement.

Well that's not what's happening.  Napolitano has already ruled out minority government supported on a confidence and supply basis - on the face of it the most likely government to succeed in forming at all given the intransigent characteristics of the three, evenly balanced, parties elected (two of them coalitions and one the largest single party in the Lower House).  Given his constitutionally questionable presidential stance, the President must be intent on one of two possible outcomes:

yet another 'technical' imposition (difficult immediately after a general election);

the breaking up of one of the coalition parties ( or the dispersion of the unitary party) and the creation of a governing coalition in a form not offered to, or chosen by, the electorate.

This is not a proper role of the President of Italy.  This 'restructuring' of the allegiances of deputies and senators is, quintessentially, the role of the Prime Minister designate, using two wholly political tools - the offer of office, and the legislative programme.  Both of these tools are being taken up to himself by President Napolitano in this repeat perfomance of his intervention in parliamentary politics 14 months ago.  That was just about justifiable considering the state the government had brought the country to - an uncontrolled and thus catastrophic bankruptcy which would  be suffered and accompanied by institutional changes in which the people had no say.

This time the people have spoken but crucially President Napolitano, and all he regards as central to any national agenda, cannot  accept the verdict.  He has also had his say, and it is that nothing must threaten or interrupt the ongoing ever-closer union of Europe.  Not just an ever-closer  union but a particular, anti-democratic, managed,  social democratic (once called euro-communist) progressive  United States of Europe.   Italy is to be a geographical  expression albeit infused with cultural pride and italianita' but  not a self-determining nation state.  The ideological imperatives of 'fairness', of 'equality', of 'redistribution', require the managed, even the centrally-planned,  economy and its associated (pan-European) administrative  structures and  administrative class.

Without this 'vision' Parliament would meet on 15 March, the Speakers of the two Houses would be elected (with some particularly distasteful political argy-bargy) the 'candidate premier' of the Democrats would be handed the mandate to try and form a government by the President, would fail to gain a vote of confidence in the Senate, would be followed by some secondary figure who would fail again, possibly losing in the Lower House as well, and the Parliament then move on to electing the new President (which would be a long drawn-out series of votes finally reduced to a simple majority which   then produces a victor).   And the new President will call a general election.   (We should have had a general election when Berlusconi's last government fell but instead we got Napolitano's 'intervention' and fourteen Monti-months of the slow destruction of the Italian economy and standard of living with a Bersani-led Democratic Party backing this all the way, to the hilt, on the deal that it would be his turn in 2013.).

At which point , in May, we will all go and vote our socks off again  for: renegotiating the debt, lowering taxes, ending 'austerity' and regaining Italy from Clemens von Metternich's contemptuous dismissal.  The stumbling block is not really Bersani, he's lost anyway and continues to lose face as well, in his attempts to find support where we have denied it to him.  The real holder of the euro-communist pass is Napolitano and under the infinite courtesy, charm, intelligence he is capable of almost anything.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

What I Really Really Want

I am so jealous.  Benedict's representation of his feelings as "of profound serenity' provides an occasion of sin.  Who would not like to helicopter off to Castel Gandolfo and devote their time to reading, writing, contemplation, and walking in the garden (and what a garden) dressed in an intricately buttoned and embroidered, long, white dress, and fur-lined velvet cape against any lakeside chill.

Benedict XVI has chosen to begin his reading with von Balthasar

Oh well, shopping to unpack, lunch to cook, plants to water at the ecohouse, firewood to bring up, load of washing to run.....

Friday, 1 March 2013

Democrats Abandoning Bersani Faction in Italy

Former Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema stated bluntly, on the telly last night, that if Bersani is the stumbling block to forming a stable government in Italy he must resign.  Meanwhile the Stumbling Block, the Dead who Speaks, was putting out his 'eight-point plan'  for minority government.

Limited, unstable, short term, minority government is not what we want nor is it what we voted for.   There are stable and long-term government solutions with complete political programmes available - but not to Bersani.

Which part of the injunction vaffanculo   (and not just from the Five Star electorate) does he not understand?