Sunday, 19 July 2015

An Avoidable Disaster

The unfortunate coincidence of the G20 Conference falling to London in 2008 during the even more unfortunate Brown premiership just as the world went to hell in a handcart (the last two being perhaps more than coincidence) continues to cascade down the years.  Germany and France, unable to stomach the style in which perfectly sensible policy choices were made (and claimed) held separate press conferences in which they asserted not just the rejection of the manner  of presentation  but its content.

Saving the world required very basic economic understanding; it was accompanied by policy rough edges and inadequacies equally well known, understood and correctable.  The prime-ministerial bombast displayed in the inevitable recovery of those economies practising keynesian responses became insufferable, driven by political need to hide responsibility for the disaster that had been wrought on the UK economy by  poor grasp of powerful economic understandings; thus more primitive economic policies from which flowed different political necessities were adopted and reinforced in Europe.

It is a banal observation that economic policies interact with political objectives in their implementation.  It is erroneous to associate economic policy schools of thought with particular political outcomes.  The use of keynesian growth/demand management policies should never have been associated with brownian political virtue or that of social democratic progressivism.  The use of Hayek-Friedman employment/wage-level policies should never have been associated with Merkozy commonsense centre-rightism.  Without  political exhibitionism growth and recovery could have been achieved by now.

When the President of the European Central Bank responded to questions about the German Finance Minister's aims during the latest round of the Greek crisis he remarked that his job was to secure the euro not to respond to politicians' current objectives.  Quite right.  The sooner politicians learn what is their area of expertise (we hope) and that they cannot allocate to themselves the achievements of distinguished academics and technicians the sooner inappropriate over-reactions to events might stop causing unnecessary havoc.       

Monday, 13 July 2015

Greek Free for All

Greece is now to be given 90 billion euros of which 16 billion will come from the IMF. (Tass at 8.15 this morning)  As Greece is defaulting on payments to the IMF in a matter of days - it's already 'in arrears' for billions - the 'how can this be?' sensation grows by the passing hour.  No country can be permitted to default on IMF repayments and gain access to further loans,  yet accepting IMF further involvement in the management of 'Greek' debt is now a major part of the undertakings to which Greece is required to submit in return for the release of its banks from being taken hostage.

Whatever reality these negotiations  are taking place in, it is not the reality of laws and practice, treaty and rule that we are led to believe govern our world.

The question put in the New York Times seems central now.

"Can Greece pull off a successful exit? Will Germany try to block a recovery?" 

Sunday, 12 July 2015

EU Collapsing Into Incoherence and Illegality

The Greece/Europe (Europe, that is, of various internal bodies, both eurozone and EU hierarchy) negotiations are almost unintelligible at this point.  Wildly undeliverable proposals - Greece to leave the Eurozone for 5 years,  Greece to accept administration from Brussels, Greece to alienate state property to a 50 billion eurotune called by some EU nation states, Greece to pass 'restructuring' laws dictated by some eurozone states within 72 hours before any talks can continue, Greece to receive 85 billion euro bailout........ 

There are national parliamentary consents to negotiate, laws and treaties to comply with for all and any of these.

The latest report appears in Tass at 20.45 today.

'BRUSSELS, July 12. /TASS/. The Eurogroup has recommended the EU summit to endorse the allocation of an aid programme to Greece worth from 82 to 86 billion euro or temporarily exclude it from the Eurozone, according to draft agreement between Greece and its creditors.
If efforts to reach an agreement with the Greeks fail, the Eurogroup says it would be expedient to exclude Greece from the Eurozone for a term of up to five years.
The third aid programme is to include up to 25 billion euro from the European Stability Mechanism and financing from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The Eurogroup has ruled out possible writing off Greece’s debts.'

At least when Russia announces direct energy supplies to Greece that is at least deliverable and is within Russia's remit.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Not Enough Information

Naming the nation-state of any EU person quoted in the news would be enormously helpful.  Then it's easier to understand where they're coming from.  At the moment readers are having to guess, from the name, or be bothered to google the speaker, to find out who they are.  If the national press can give the age, and house-value of everyone mentioned in the news so that we're all oriented, failing to provide the nationality of an EU speaker seems part of an orchestrated 'approach' to presenting the official, EU progressive stance.

Identifying the Greeks is relatively easy, with their extraordinarily beautiful names, but Italians, Spaniards and Portuguese (to name the larger nation-states with those kinds of surnames) are difficult, and the Baltics, the Balkans, eastern European nations, the Irish and Scottish names all  present irritating  effort to work out who these people are.  It isn't helpful to be told that Merkel is  German - we know that - and at a pinch we can probably manage Holland not being Dutch; but the unspeakable (unspellable?) real Dutchman who sounds like a German, the bastard from the Baltic who keeps creeping to powerful northern European countries' leaders and condemning Greece's 'attitude',  most of the Austro-Hungarians who can sound anything from Venetian to Russian?

Readers need name, gender (given or adopted), age, nationality and (where appropriate) where you were  and what were you doing before 1989, or 1956, or 1945.  The value and whereabouts of main (or highest value) residence would be interesting too.

Thank you.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Beware Europeans Bearing Gifts

Almost exactly two years ago this letter was printed in Le Monde.

'Dear Nicolas, very briefly and respectfully,
1) I am by your side to serve you and serve your plans for France.
2) I tried my best and might have failed occasionally. I implore your forgiveness.
3) I have no personal political ambitions and I have no desire to become a servile status seeker, like many of the people around you whose loyalty is recent and short-lived.
4) Use me for as long as it suits you and suits your plans and casting call.
5) If you decide to use me, I need you as a guide and a supporter: without a guide, I may be ineffective and without your support I may lack credibility.
With my great admiration, Christine L.' *

This, by the woman who called Tsipris and Varoufakis children and demanded that decisions on Greece be taken by grown-ups?  Further: the repeated recognition by the IMF (the latest published a couple of days ago) that Greek debt is unsustainable and that entirely incorrect policies have been pursued by the IMF (as well as the ECB and the EU); the loading of 32 billion euros of debt onto Greece by Dominique Strauss-Kahn (when he was head of the IMF); the billions and billions of Greek bonds bought by Jean-Claude Trichet when  President of the ECB - and all this passed via the Greek banks (with various skimmings en route) to pay off the exposure of French and German banks.  The socialisation of debt onto the Greek people. How much more of 'Greek' debt has less well-known sources and uses, none of which are to do with the Greek economy, or with any improper consumption by Greeks of an 'unearned' welfare state.

At the time of his 32 billion euro payment  Strauss-Kahn had the presidency of France to gain; how much of a driver behind the actions of an IMF head is once again the seeking of office? At least he didn't call others children and consider writing cringe-worthy begging letters to be grown up.  Others' insistences  on forcing cuts to public expenditures rather than cutting the deficit by raising and collecting taxes are motivated by political forces within Greek society and by a general ideological desire to enforce a particularly hyper-liberal economic view emanating from their backers within the EU. 

The barely-legal, if that, show-of-force and thus self-revelation displayed in the treatment of Greece by the EU is notable.  To some extent it is happening by default [sorry, ed.]  insofar as  Greek elites and hyper-liberal EU ideologists have been needled into exposing their self interest by the democratic weight and the democratic consistency of support for the current Greek government.  Evaluations of the various means of,  and prospects for  regime change must be taking place.  The standard, antidemocratic usages of swamping electoral choice and its representatives with laws, regulation and procedures governed by courts and treaties rather than by parliaments and elected governments, are failing. And the spectacle, as they are repeatedly and fruitlessly applied to Greek debt negotiation, is undermining the EU as currently constituted.  The EU is extraordinarily old-fashioned, steeped in 20th century power relations and their expression,  in a repellent social-democratic, progressive Shirley Williamsy dress.

As Greece considers its (surprisingly many and bright) options in the face of intransigence from past time, much of  what held true even at the beginning of this crisis no longer holds. There are new and re-emerging geopolitical areas of pressure and common interest.  There are the SCO, the BRICS bank, China, Orthodoxy.  The biblical scale of   Balkan and Mediterranean migration from Asia and Africa is altering demands from the European receiving countries on the EU and its currency zone, and its moulding by the 'Institutions'.

Greek 'debt' and EU membership status-change is no longer the greatest threat to Greece and its economy and people (indeed to the Balkans in general): once an economy freezes - when normal economic activity ceases - to start it up again takes, bluntly, central planning, particularly where there is under-development (whatever the cause).  Greece will be, perhaps already is, in a sort of transition economy condition.  Think Poland in the 1990s.  And the low level  economic and fiscal bullying of the Balkan states (post outright war-making under Blair and progressive Labour) of both Balkan EU members and Balkan applicants  is part of the creation of an arc of unnecessary underdevelopment in Europe.

Transition central economic planning is, of its very appropriateness and modern recently-developed competence and technical skills, an extremely attractive option for poor Europe, with its fairly standard problems and requirements.  Objections about the role of the state, authoritarianism, the abandonment of the benefits of (hyper-liberal) capitalism are answered by the EU display of authoritarianism and ideological rigidity resulting in economic underachievement, collapse, and social failure.  A serious case can be made for the use of central planning and delivery to produce economic growth and acceptable social consumption levels in such countries.  With its behaviour towards Greece and the Balkans the EU and the IMF is making it powerfully.

"1) Je suis à tes côtés pour te servir et servir tes projets pour la France.
2) J'ai fait de mon mieux et j'ai pu échouer périodiquement. Je t'en demande pardon.
3) Je n'ai pas d'ambitions politiques personnelles et je n'ai pas le désir de devenir une ambitieuse servile comme nombre de ceux qui t'entourent dont la loyauté est parfois récente et parfois peu durable.
4) Utilise-moi pendant le temps qui te convient et convient à ton action et à ton casting.
5) Si tu m'utilises, j'ai besoin de toi comme guide et comme soutien : sans guide, je risque d'être inefficace, sans soutien je risque d'être peu crédible. Avec mon immense admiration. Christine L. "

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

There is Nothing for Greece and its People in the Ostensible Objectives of the European Union

Socialism failed.  It failed in every variety of realised socialism  enacted.  It failed in the central, rugged, soviet format; it failed in worker-controlled (various forms) of Balkan socialism;  it failed after the arrival of the market-mimicking wonders of computer modelling so beloved of the Poles.  It failed even as it improved and began to deliver goods and growth to consumers.

It failed because capitalism, quite simply, delivered  better.   Market socialism could never respond fast enough, just plain smartly enough, to human desires.  It is first rate in providing food, shelter, education and amelioration of health collapses, at a basic, everyone-in, level.  Once that threshold has been passed it becomes irrelevant.  Someone somewhere is suffering from the lack of this basic provision?  Then they'd better get their skates on and start insisting to their rulers that this lack is the result of non-socialist, 'capitalist' selfishness.   Which may be true but is more an argument for economic migrants to stand up for themselves rather than run away to greener pastures. 

Most of us have reached the point that we want what we want when we want it.  Not the point that we'll be 'disadvantaged'.  Necessarily this requires that providers are amazingly fast at providing; which only comes from their profit in doing so.  Not some kind of moral satisfaction (though moral claims may well be satisfied by the provision) but by a satisfactory exchange.  You want this?  Pay that, we accept you are a satisfactory exchange partner (or we wouldn't be dealing with you at all) and there may even be an excess generated by these transactions to cope with failed transactions and their victims.

We cannot go on with  the nonsense propaganda that it is co-operation that provides for humanity.  Exchange, and forcibly asserting its relevant (to the moment)  ownership, moves the world.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Italy's Shame in Once Again Attacking the Greek People

Matteo Renzi had a long meeting with the former president of Italy, Napolitano, yesterday.  Then out come all the unacceptable criticisms of the Greek people and their government 'threatening' the eurozone and the European Union project. 

Italy's behaviour in Greece  (and the rest of the Balkans) is a blood-soaked, vicious, deliberately hidden under the myth of 'the good Italian', horror story of torture and cold-blooded murder.    Born in 1925, Napolitano (and a Fascist before he chose the other authoritarianism of communism) is well aware that Italy should keep its opinions on the choices the Greek people make next Sunday to itself. 

Italy will never recover the right to any say about anything whatsoever in Greece.   

Tuesday, 23 June 2015


THE isles of Greece! the isles of Greece 
  Where burning Sappho loved and sung, 
Where grew the arts of war and peace, 
  Where Delos rose, and Phoebus sprung! 
Eternal summer gilds them yet,        
But all, except their sun, is set. 
The Scian and the Teian muse, 
  The hero's harp, the lover's lute, 
Have found the fame your shores refuse: 
  Their place of birth alone is mute 
To sounds which echo further west 
Than your sires' 'Islands of the Blest. 
The mountains look on Marathon— 
  And Marathon looks on the sea; 
And musing there an hour alone, 
  I dream'd that Greece might still be free; 
For standing on the Persians' grave, 
I could not deem myself a slave. 
A king sate on the rocky brow 
  Which looks o'er sea-born Salamis; 
And ships, by thousands, lay below, 
  And men in nations;—all were his! 
He counted them at break of day— 
And when the sun set, where were they? 
And where are they? and where art thou, 
  My country? On thy voiceless shore 
The heroic lay is tuneless now— 
  The heroic bosom beats no more! 
And must thy lyre, so long divine, 
Degenerate into hands like mine? 
'Tis something in the dearth of fame, 
  Though link'd among a fetter'd race, 
To feel at least a patriot's shame, 
  Even as I sing, suffuse my face; 
For what is left the poet here? 
For Greeks a blush—for Greece a tear. 
Must we but weep o'er days more blest? 
  Must we but blush?—Our fathers bled. 
Earth! render back from out thy breast 
  A remnant of our Spartan dead! 
Of the three hundred grant but three, 
To make a new Thermopylæ! 
What, silent still? and silent all? 
  Ah! no;—the voices of the dead 
Sound like a distant torrent's fall, 
  And answer, 'Let one living head, 
But one, arise,—we come, we come!' 
'Tis but the living who are dumb. 
In vain—in vain: strike other chords; 
  Fill high the cup with Samian wine! 
Leave battles to the Turkish hordes, 
  And shed the blood of Scio's vine: 
Hark! rising to the ignoble call— 
How answers each bold Bacchanal! 
You have the Pyrrhic dance as yet; 
  Where is the Pyrrhic phalanx gone? 
Of two such lessons, why forget 
  The nobler and the manlier one? 
You have the letters Cadmus gave— 
Think ye he meant them for a slave? 
Fill high the bowl with Samian wine! 
  We will not think of themes like these! 
It made Anacreon's song divine: 
  He served—but served Polycrates— 
A tyrant; but our masters then 
Were still, at least, our countrymen. 
The tyrant of the Chersonese 
  Was freedom's best and bravest friend; 
That tyrant was Miltiades! 
  O that the present hour would lend 
Another despot of the kind! 
Such chains as his were sure to bind. 
Fill high the bowl with Samian wine! 
  On Suli's rock, and Parga's shore, 
Exists the remnant of a line 
  Such as the Doric mothers bore; 
And there, perhaps, some seed is sown, 
The Heracleidan blood might own. 
Trust not for freedom to the Franks— 
  They have a king who buys and sells; 
In native swords and native ranks 
  The only hope of courage dwells: 
But Turkish force and Latin fraud 
Would break your shield, however broad. 
Fill high the bowl with Samian wine! 
  Our virgins dance beneath the shade— 
I see their glorious black eyes shine; 
  But gazing on each glowing maid, 
My own the burning tear-drop laves, 
To think such breasts must suckle slaves. 
Place me on Sunium's marbled steep, 
  Where nothing, save the waves and I, 
May hear our mutual murmurs sweep; 
  There, swan-like, let me sing and die: 
A land of slaves shall ne'er be mine— 
Dash down yon cup of Samian wine!

Pick a European Ellis Island

The identification and classification of migrants is not going well in Italy, Greece, Malta or the Balkans.  The EU Dublin Convention, now known as the Dublin III Regulation, states EU (and some other European countries') rules for identifying migrants.  Avoiding and evading this identification is a primary goal of migrants to Europe as it determines rights to place of settlement, or even settlement at all.  Taken to reception  centres on the European mainland after rescue in the Mediterranean, the migrants run away as fast as they can once they've grabbed a change of clothes and a meal.

The proposal of an Ellis Island was always waiting but has been precipitated by the closing of nation state borders to migrants, shutting them off from their settlement objectives, and rendering transit countries' city public spaces, transit hubs, and countryside bordering migrant routes simply squalid.  None of the Mediterranean EU member-states is noted for bureaucratic efficiency and some are  plagued by corrupt bureaucratic practices.   Their islands are particularly lovely, often set in national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty (even those that have served as penal colonies in the past; not a happy association for a migrant reception and identification centre).  Pianosa, 13 kilometres off Elba is all of these things.  As such it shouldn't even be contemplated for reception centre use.  The suggestion of Pianosa made in the Corriere della Sera is presumably just a way of getting the policy ball rolling.

So where (see list)  should Europe have its Ellis Island, to meet its own Regulations and end the hurried piecemeal imposition  (with all its appalling side-effects) of checks  here and there across the continent?

Monday, 22 June 2015

Migration and Settlement

One of the disasters of the 20th century Cold War, the Iron Curtain, did two things: it kept the people of eastern Europe from migrating to the West; it taught how to build a wall (or fence, or other frontier control) that is marked by its efficiency, second only to its cruelty.  So when those traipsing through Serbia meet the construct being realised by the Hungarian government they are in for a shock.

Hungary has decades of experience on which to draw to make their physical defence of their country effective.  So has Germany (at least the former GDR), not to mention the Balkans.  Walls are social structures too, and the societies that were once shut in have not lost the capacity to run an effective barrier to shut people out - this time with brio rather than the resignation of just doing a job.

The UK gave up on its moat, its coastguard, its navy and its long-standing policy opposition to mass immigration under the 1997 and later governments.  Other Western European states had large migratory flows as well - Italians to Belgium, to Germany, for instance and, while the Turks to Germany wasn't exactly European, guest workers were useful and temporary.  Temporary was the key word.  All these European kinds of migrations were reversible as soon as work disappeared, and when out of work benefits were so unenticing.  The UK, however, experienced a very different kind of migration; a migration of permanent settlement (as did France, though for different reasons, and earlier).  So awful were their countries of origin in terms of opportunity, democracy, cultural normality, that the entrants never return - not permanently.  All Italians go home.  You would, wouldn't you?  Turks didn't even have the choice until fairly recently.  But what happened to the UK and France is now threatening to be the norm for Europe.

Those who know how to build a wall (in its full meaning)  are going to do so.  And maintain it.  Meanwhile the transit states, like Italy and Serbia, are joined with the migrants from elsewhere in pushing relatively undefended or inexperienced countries, or countries with large, extant extra European culture settlements  to cease even attempting to reinstate border controls against not temporary and desired labour resources but against permanent and unskilled settlers wholly inappropriate to European needs or wishes.  Eastern Europe knows what to do, and has perfectly reasonable and acceptable migration patterns for its east European nationals.  It's no good trying to turn transit countries into  lagers either; these transit countries too have reasonable, settled migration patterns and no provision for settlement of extra-European migrants. 

Hence the scenes at Calais,  Menton, the Alpine crossing points into Austria and Germany: no experience of keeping people out in continental Europe, and the poor choices made in 1997 in the UK, have now to be remedied. 

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

John F Kennedy's Demand Needs a Response From Migrants

"Ask not what our countries can do for you - ask what you can do for our countries."

Europe faces nothing but insistence on admittance from African migrants.  We are asked "Where is your humanity?"  We are told "We must be allowed to pass."  We face aggression and insults to our magistrates and their officers when  after (in our humanity) fishing them out of the sea, they are offered shelter in 'unsatisfactory' asylum.

And the "...what can you do  for our countries"?   is never answered.

Six Hours of the Italian Exams Today.

The examination in Italian is this morning.  490,000 eighteen-year olds have six hours to: analyse and comment on a set text; or  write a  journalistic-style consideration of a given current topic; or write an essay on a historical given subject; or write an essay chosen on a general  subject offered by the examiners [this last is for the truly desperate who can't form an opinion or summon any knowledge of the other questions, ed.]

Six hours.  That demands clarity, understanding, organisation of material and of thought, relevance of reference and quotation,  elegance of expression...  Gosh.
The set text is Italo Calvino's "Il sentiero dei nidi di ragno"  (1947) - not an easy work to assess considering Calvino's limpid simplicity in writing which is so sophisticated;  offering a young boy's view of an adult world at (second world) war (and a boy in such circumstances) it is distant from  any 2015 experience as well.

There are four topics offered for the journalistic piece: 'literature as life experience'; or 'the challenges of the 21st century and citizen's rights and needs in economic and social life'; or  'the Mediterranean geopolitical atlante of Europe'; or 'scientific and technological developments in electronic and information technology that have transformed communication'.  

The historical essay asks for a reflection on the [Italian] Resistance.

A quote from Malala Yousafzai on the right to education provides the lead-in for the general essay.

Writing on 'literature as life experience' is easily the safest -  and gives the best opportunity to use all those years of study.  It might even be fun to write (and the examiners have attached verses from Inferno canto V, out of the kindness of their hearts).


Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Migrants Must Be Accepted in European Areas Where Their Communities Are Already Settled

With the closure of the Swiss/Italian borders (hundreds are being removed daily from the international trains at Briga and returned to Domodossola - over 1,700 in recent weeks) non-European Union  migrants can no longer traverse Switzerland then try to enter France.  The Swiss will not permit a build-up of the kind of trouble afflicting Italian border crossing points where France (and Austria) are preventing entry for those who have been landed in Italy.

For the many people who work across the Swiss/Italian borders, commuting daily, all this kerfuffle is causing serious disruption in one of the most high-tech, economically  vibrant and important areas of the EU.  Obviously it has to stop; as well international, cross-European trains cannot be held up for hours, nor the Alpine tunnels and passes closed by anonymous threats of explosions and other damage to the trains and the railway infrastructure.  The migrants cannot stop where there is no work for unskilled, transient people without even minimal knowledge let alone command of the languages spoken.  They are on their way to the large settled communities of relatives and friends in France, the UK, Sweden and the Low Countries, where there is  hope of finding work and assistance.   It seems heartless for such European countries to deny the refugees access to their own people who have achieved some security and acceptance.  Once there is a community of settled migrants there should be recognition that they remain linked to their place of origin by complex ties of kinship and affection and duty.  Italy's problem with these migrants is not just the numbers and the depressed state of much of the Italian economy;  there is the reality of assimilation having taken place elsewhere, not in Italy, and where naturally the migrants expect to find work and welcome.  The migrants are holding placards saying 'we must be allowed to pass' for good reason.  There is nothing for them held at border points.

The Italian government has decided  on three policies to ameliorate the migrant impact as they journey through the physical and political bottlenecks of the EU.  First the ships that are picking them up out of the Mediterranean will not be able to disembark them at Italian ports: the rescue ships are considered as part of the national territory of their registration.  Second the Prefects are to be authorised by the Italian Home Office to issue temporary laissez-passer  to migrants so that they can move about the EU.  Third the migrants will be  housed temporarily in disused military barracks which are hurriedly being readied, rather than at international railway stations.

None of these measures  are optimal but all are necessary.  In refusing to acknowledge the scale of this migratory emergency and the iron conditions that must be met - the migrants must be rescued, the migrants cannot be returned, the migrants must reach their settled communities to have a hope  - some countries of the EU, particularly France, have precipitated an emergency towards a disaster.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Italy's Government Wobbles As the North Votes for the Right and Separatism

The photographs published by the Corriere della Sera, of trafficked Africans on the summer  beaches, and the videos of the French police charging the Africans at Ponte Ludovico in the south of France, driving them onto the rocks, picture a world  collapsing.  Not just the Africans' world - they're well into the nightmare -  but our world.  Our world where we drive along the Aurelia with glorious glimpses of the Mediterranean blue and smiling, heading for France and its gardens in spring bloom, for the Balzi Rossi, for lunch at Garavan with its pretty harbour below us.  A large part of summer has just gone; and with it a very English culture and history.

It's not just the seaside either; travelling to Milan for an exhibition, a recital, is suddenly a fraught experience struggling from the Freccia Rossa to even leave the station, overwhelmed as it is by others who are travelling nowhere.   Rome?  Rome has always been an edgy city but recent advances in orderliness, ease, enjoyment of its grandeurs have collapsed  into a frightening sense of threat, certainly in the underground and even just walking in some central parts of the city.

The final sets of vote-offs were completed in Italy yesterday.  Again the turn-out was very low, well under 50%, and again the ruling coalition of Democratic Party and New Centre Right lost heavily.  Notable gains were made by Forza Italia, by the Lega Nord, by 5-Stelle, and by various civic lists.  Venice voted centre-right for the first time in almost quarter of a century, joining swathes of the North rising against Roman central government and  its noxious combination (over and above corruption) of economic austerity plus migrant-imposition in communities already without work and resources for far too long and for no good reason. 

Renzi's government is under severe threat generated by externally imposed, wrong economic and fiscal policies, and external refusal to help with the migrants.  For the latter he has stated Italy will supply short term settlement papers to them all, thus allowing travel anywhere in Europe, unless the frontiers are opened and they can be settled in an orderly and decent fashion.  For the former the idiocies and rigidities of eurozone policies and its malformed, misconceived currency are beyond Italian solution alone.  Greece (and the Africans) will be as nothing if the two trillion* Euro debts of Italy come pouring out with the collapse of the Italian government.

UDATE:  Figures issued this evening set Italian public debt at 2 trillion, 194 billion euros.   Greek debt?  That's just the billions at the end of that immense sum.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Greeks? the EU Has More to Fear From Romans

 The convulsions in Italian governance, both political and of the State itself, continue growing and are now interacting to increase its fragility.  After the regional elections and the abandonment of the ruling Democratic Party by the electorate,  the governors of northern Italy  have told the government in Rome where to put its attempts to distribute and settle African refugees  landed in the South. In Lombardy, Liguria, the Veneto, and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia regional governors, and more local mayors, want no more 'refugees' from Africa, not when the frontiers to France, Austria and Germany are closing.  Passing through on their way to greener pastures is one thing: stopping in northern Italy is not allowed.  The Italians have pulled them out of the waters upon which they so unwisely cast themselves but there are limits to saving other people from adversity.  Adversity has been visiting Italy and Italians for years  and its import has to be confronted for them first.

Unfortunately the Italian Home Office, faced with northern intransigence, ordered the northern Prefects to impose the Africans on the North.  The Prefects  are now in conflict with the elected governors and mayors - elected to prevent just what the Prefects have been ordered to do.  The Northern politicians have cut off all funds to any northern community accepting Africans;  after all, it was Roman corruption via the oh so socially just Democratic Party government that had realised most of the profit on the funding of the trafficked Africans anyway.   Little could make the trafficked more unattractive, but no funding even has succeeded.  Northern, newly-elected leaders are urging their electors to protest the attempts of the Prefects to impose their authority and place the Africans; the Prefects are protesting to Rome that  their  authority  and hence their capacity to meet their (extensive) civil duties is being rapidly undermined by this single issue.

Renzi's Executive, already badly damaged by the tide of filth brought upon it by the Roman  Democratic party and Mafia corruption (even though it was the Left faction, prior to Renzi's clear-out of what is known as the Ditta, the Firm, that is mafia-involved) is now facing the break-down of the civil power across the whole of northern Italy and, perhaps worse in the longer term, a major conflict between the political and State powers within a profoundly authoritarian state.

What has never been settled in Italy, constitutionally, is Who Rules?  Given that the 1946 Constitution was written by old Fascists and old Communists in an unholy authoritarian alliance (indeed often embodied in the same persons -  consider the former president Giorgio Napolitano in both Fascist and Communist hats) now is a really, really  bad time to choose to find out.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Renzi Loses Ground As Italy Displays Multi-Party Corruption at Regional Levels

The low turnouts fell even lower as the electors abandoned the ballottaggi during last week.  Consequently the  more disciplined factions of the Partito Democratico, the old-style party cadres were able to take more of the contested seats in regional elections than might have been expected.  That doesn't mean anything much in  terms of national elections, or balance of power  within the PD - over-excited claims of confining the Florentines to the banks of the Arno or at least within Tuscany came from mistaking Party commitment as the defeat of the more fluid, Movement-style support available to Renzi when it matters in national elections.

However, the flood of arrests, helping-the-police-with-enquiries, and revelations of the scale of involvement of the PD in 'social' funding expenditures, from the mass subsidy of the 'red' co-operatives, the provision of social housing, to the profits to be made from migrant handling using EU funds, has been horrific to read about.  The abandonment of any commitment to the ostensible social justice goals of the PD at local and regional level, particularly in Rome and the South in favour of the mafia-isation,  the self-enrichment,  and the entrenching  of compliant personnel in local, and regional structures still surprises.  The Right is supposed to do this sort of thing, and indeed it is through the allies on his right in the current Italian  government coalition that Renzi has been bathed in this sewage.  But it is his own Party, the Democratic Party in all its miserable compliance with the worst mafia undertakings and practices, that has put his government in question.  Not a shift to the Left in the PD but  the revelation that while none of them are worth voting for only the Left in the PD can still stomach doing so.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

The Italian Elections Lose the Electorate

The voting in the regional elections in Italy is not yet over: the ballottaggio, the stand-off between any  two leading candidates without a sufficient vote for a majority at the first round,  takes place this week.  However, in broad terms, the assault upon Matteo Renzi's leadership of the Partito Democratico by an entrenched, furious faction of junked senior Party members (located upon various parts of the PD political spectrum but mostly former communists and trade unionists)  has failed.  The man who junked them, the rottamatore Renzi, increased the number of regions held by the PD (though losing Liguria to the centre right.)  Unfortunately lost too was 50% of the electorate.

Italy usually votes, but not this time.  So bitter is the resentment of the Bersani-led faction within the PD (the prime- minister-who-never-was after the 2013 elections because he dared not face down the then president Napolitano)  it is clear that they have gone much too far.  The working-classes are not voting, not least because their party has within it a gelid, old-style authoritarian Left that will do whatever it takes to 'get their party back', ie.,  back to the economics and politics of the last century.  Their central tactic this time was to use their chairmanship of the Anti-Mafia Commission to publish a list of those under investigation for Mafia activities.  This list included the names of a number of PD candidates in the regional elections.  Not unnaturally, the Chairman - woman actually - who blurted out that restricted list at a press conference only hours before pre-electoral silence fell on the media, thus denying those listed any chance of reply before the vote, is being sued by a number of candidates (successful and unsuccessful) for the obvious - damaged constitutional rights, public reputation.....

Even the current President of Italy has spoken of the damage to the conduct of politics, to electoral involvement, to civic commitment that this overspill of over the top factional fighting has caused.   The Prime Minister has been remarkably contained in his expressions of contempt for the destructive behaviours of old men and women, but unforgiving in his condemnation of the instrumentalisation of state and parliamentary bodies for party, factional ends.

The trouble is that, as in the UK, there are the younger Deluded, and the bag-carriers for these old politics; what might be called the  'new' politics of Milibandistas.  Fascism is never far away in Italy. Nor is its threat under 'socialist' ideals;  it never was the first time round either.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Vote 5 Star Movement in Italy Tomorrow

Italian regional elections are tomorrow.  They aren't really like UK local elections because regional governance is extremely powerful; Italy is deeply embedded in the European Union model of governance, of the the state, with regions holding direct and important relations with the EU.   So, Italian passport and electoral registration certificate in hand, I will cast my vote for who rules Tuscany tomorrow.

As ever, the political confusion is -well - confusing.  The national political parties all have candidates standing, as does the Movimento 5 Stelle, but the statuses of various candidates has been called into question both by the Anti-Mafia Commission and by the conflict between laws and the (remarkably slow) delivery of justice.  A recent law made it impossible for those under anti-Mafia investigation and/or convicted at various stages of the judicial process, to serve, if elected. More particularly the Anti-Mafia Commission is required to publish the names of those at various stages in the judicial process.  You might think such people would not be put forward for election, considering the inability to serve if elected but No, the Partito Democratico has allowed names on the list to compete in the primaries and, democracy being what it is, some candidates have been 'chosen' in the primaries and are therefore standing.

The PD candidate for Campania (listed, indeed convicted in the first degree but appealing) declared that to stop him standing he would have to be shot in the head.  Be careful what you ask for might be the response to that but his view is that he 'won' the Campania PD primary and stands even though  if elected he cannot serve.  Unless the PD national  Executive, Renzi's government, enacts some law by decree altering the current status quo, thus allowing a convicted (in the first degree) contravenor of the Anti-Mafia laws, to take office.  Forza Italia has candidates with the same defect.

So, as well as my Italian passport and my electoral registration certificate I shall have to have my conscience with me as well.  As far as I can see, only the electors can break through this unholy mess of: judicial slowness; ill-drafted legislation;  the instrumentalisation of what should be a super parties anti-Mafia undertaking by a faction of the PD (the old Left faction who want to derail Renzi's government);  and the mass corruption of the democratic process in some parts of the country during the primaries.

Any coalition or party with one of these iffy candidates ought to  be avoided.  So that's the Partito Democratico (centre left), Forza Italia (centre right) and all their bits and pieces unvotable.

Which leaves 5 Stelle,  (mass, anti political party movement),  Lega Nord,  (Italian UKIP), and SEL (Sinistra, Ecologia, Liberta', sort of Greens).  There are lots and lots of issues  here but only three coalitions meeting the primary requirement that all their candidates are eligible to stand and to serve.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Referendum: British Empire 1 - Roman Empire (Holy or Ancient) 0

British citizens, resident Commonwealth citizens and the Irish will be voting in the referendum on UK continued membership of the EU.  The protests from people living in the UK with various European nationalities, on discovering there is no such thing as a European passport, were many. 

My favourite was the Italians:  we're paying taxes in the UK they cried (but tribute never conferred Roman citizenship);  had they paid taxes in Italy perhaps they would have been able to stay and work in their paradise of a country and contest the failures of the European Union's economic and political rigidities from there.

As the EU unravels, starting from the fundamentally ill-conceived Eurozone, and continuing through the necessary reassertions of political realities it was supposed to supersede, the limits of 'extend and pretend' are reached.  The EU's democratic deficits are exposed in elections in Greece, Spain, the UK and now Poland; its wobbles over migration and settlement mark profound fault lines.

We have Renzi's Partito Democratico, Cameron's Conservatives, Tsipras' Syriza,  Iglesias' Podemos, and the new Polish President all calling for a new Europe.  But no forum.  The European parliament is a fake. 

The 'European' electorate does not exist.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Schenghen Suspended by Germany for the G7

"The imperative requirements of security measures have forced me to replace the frontier controls at Germany's borders from 26 May to 15 June 2015 in view of the G7 meeting."*  (at Elmau castle in Bavaria.) 

On 14 April 2015 Karl Ernst Thomas de Maizière, the German Interior Minister, sent this announcement to the EU, suspending the Schenghen Agreement while the great and the good of Europe were exposed to the threats of uncontrolled movements of peoples.

What a pity their concerns about their own security refer only to themselves and not to the populations of European countries stripped of their frontiers (and so many other democratic defences of their nation states.)  Recently Bolzano has been transformed into a major centre for the transfer of migrants landed on the Italian peninsula into Austria and Germany  - as has Ventimiglia for transfer into southern France.  

Attendees at the G7 can hardly consider themselves as threatened economically by these waves of migrants.  Perhaps they might care to recognise that resident European populations too are afraid for their  personal (never mind economic and cultural)  safety.

*"Le impellenti necessità di misure di sicurezza in vista del G7 mi hanno indotto a ripristinare i controlli ai confini con la Germania nel periodo compreso fra il 26 maggio e il 15 giugno 2015"

Friday, 22 May 2015

Voting in General Elections and Nation State Citizenship Statuses in the EU

The opening of the UK labour market to any EU citizen (indeed the opening of settlement rights to any EU citizen) has expanded greatly the presence of  people working in unskilled categories D, E or not working at all. It is these categories that slipped most in the Labour vote,  though C2s disappeared too. 

Much hand-wringing has gone on in Labour discussions of why-we-lost about the turning away of the WWC vote. It is worth noting that voting rights in a UK general election are not conferred by EU citizenship and that there are reservations by many EU nation states on their citizens holding the citizenships of other nation states without losing their own (though not on their EU citizenship statuses).

Lots of potentially Labour voters cannot vote in a general election in the UK in spite of Labour's brechtian efforts in dissolving the people.  Labour needs to  sort that and get all those C2,D,Es on the register asap.  Unfortunately (for Labour) doing so would open voter registration in the UK to further unwanted scrutiny and might even lead to a European-wide standard for electoral registration that would take more from Labour than it gives.

Identity cards would make an unwelcome policy return as well.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Goodwoman? Or Slithy Toviness?

An Italian citizen writing as Paola Buonadonna and married to a UK citizen has attempted to assert that she has every right to vote in a Brexit referendum.  Such a vote would affect her 26-year-long residence in the UK she claims.  She further claims that she has studied and worked in England.  I bet she has.  It's infinitely more valuable (and so much more rewarding, not to mention free before 1992) to study in  some UK universities than in some Italian universities.  It is what she doesn't say that marks her claim to a vote as tendentious.

Italian citizens put their citizenship at risk, or at least under query, if they adopt the citizenship of another nation state (except in very narrowly defined circumstances; marriage to a citizen of another state is not necessarily one of them). Conversely, someone 'marrying-in' had (though that too has shifted) Italian citizenship conferred upon them regardless.  The status of a married-in Italian is one of the very few dual citizenship types recognised by the Italian state as acceptable.  Mr HG has never taken married-in UK citizenship, so trikki is the interpretation of what's what.

Ms Buonadonna does not mention this inconvenience for her native citizenship status (has she children?) in her article in the Telegraph.   It is, after all, a propaganda piece, riding on the outrage bus  attempting to perform the usual progressive, common purpose trick of reaching beyond conferred statuses or powers.  She can have UK citizenship and vote: of course she can.  Someone might just denounce her though and her retirement choice of her own little bit of Italian paradise might  go up in a puff of smoke should the UK choose Brexit and 'European' citizenship be shown to be non existent, or not quite as existent as hoped, after all. Jus sanguinis is so past time, so incorrect, after all.  Except we're all beginning to look rather harder at citizenship conferral in these migratory days.

Englishwomen marrying Italians have greater privileges conferred by marriage than Italian women marrying Englishmen.  Perhaps she'd like to take it up under 'uman-rights'?  

Saturday, 9 May 2015

The Seduction of Reductionism

Understanding the 'why' of the UK election results has become, in itself, a vast political propaganda battle;  as has the 'why' of the political polling failure.  It may be wiser to map and then consider the facts on the ground, the extant politico/social realities that the election expressed and the indicators for economic, social, political and diplomatic policies it gave.

Europe is on the back foot now.  We have had vivid, grecian demonstrations of the absolute priority of preventing the loss of any member of the European Union - let alone an EU member of the importance of the UK.  Unlike the impertinences offered to long-gone UK governments until a sufficiently grovelling Heath was installed, the EU is going to beg to prevent Brexit.  It can't accommodate treaty change (or the whole thing will come to bits) so watching with interest the contortions that will circumvent the Treaties and satisfy UK requirements of return of powers to nation states or else might become a national sport.

The electorate is well able to protect its requirement for a decent place to live, a decent wage and a chance for the kids even if its formally available opportunities to do so have been limited to once every five years rather than whenever we get cross enough in less than that time.  The London green belt will be turned into a vast Garden City  (London Garden City sounds rather well) in the next five years, just as was the Lee Valley under various administrations in the middle of the 20th century.

Having returned only yesterday from Welwyn Hatfield I can think of no better outcome for the scruffy 'agricultural' land ringing London then parks, manufacturing industry, sports facilities, and manicured landscape for public enjoyment, with extensive transport and communications, offering decent housing and excellent schools and local clinics.  It may be a 'realised socialist' dream but in truth it was realised by political visions very different from those of Ed Miliband and his ilk.

Economic policy, the proper domain of the state, seems to be in competent and remarkably flexible hands.  Economics has been called the dismal science; it has some claim to be called the dead science.  We know how economics works; we know how to respond to economic requirements and emergencies.   Economic disaster is almost always now political disaster.

Thank Goodness the UK electorate has seized their once-in-five-years' opportunity and rejected the political twerpishness of Ed Miliband.     

Sunday, 26 April 2015


"Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads."

Which might be interpreted in our post-baroque world as 

"Save those fleeing from terrorism before dealing definitively with the terrorists."

Pietro da Cortona,  in his

Gli angeli segnano la fronte di coloro che devono restare illesi, [Angels mark the forehead of those who are to remain unharmed]

speaks with la muta eloquentia delle arti e dei loro generi di scrittura Capolavori antichi alla mostra "Il Visibile Narrare", dedicata all'antiquario Pietro Cantore Eventi a Cesena
as clearly in modern Rome as  he did in the 17th century.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Italy Protects Itself From Islamic Low-Level Warfare That Uses Human Weapons

The Tripoli insurrectionist islamic "government" is demanding that any response (to thousands of people being launched onto the sea to take their chances in return for millions of dollars mulcted from them and their (extended) families) should be negotiated with Tripoli first.  Such public attempts to legitimise their status as worthwhile interlocutors is ignored by the Italian government.

It is the Italian government that makes all decisions on the defence of its borders.  National security is within the remit of individual member states of the European Union and Italian decision-taking  includes, but is not be bound by, its ties with Brussels; and with the United Nations.  Acts of war such as instituting a naval blockade (which would alter the relationships with the EU or the UN) are not envisioned among the Italians' reactions to the use of migrants as islamic attack-weapons upon Italy.

Italy has now ascertained that European states will resist any formal reallocation (of the unfortunate human weapons used by islamicists)  to the entire EU membership.  The informal reallocation will continue apace,  with the steady transfer northwards of these modern-day slaves.  Unfortunately there being no European demand for slaves these days,  there is little to be done but pull these people from the water;  after which there is nothing for them except reliance upon our Christian and human duty, insofar as we are able, to support them in their powerlessness.

The movement northwards is now being put onto a more organised footing: instead of the patchy and often criminal and exploitative transfer systems via France, government collection centres are being established further and further north where processing can take place and the necessary settlement -rights papers issued for on-goers to other countries.  Most want to continue their migration; there is little  scope for welfare-driven settlement in Italy (or Greece, for that matter).  The state welfare systems are in the north of Europe, not here; and what is here in the South is being dismantled under  'troika'-style debt repayment obligations and demand for 'restructuring'.   North European nations wanted less welfare in the South?  Then their human and Christian  (the words are interchangeable in Italian - Human is Christian, as once it was in English) responsibility to these rescued people is to provide what they have stripped, in their 'debt'-repayments policies, from Southern European member-states.

Italy is already protecting its moral, economic and security statuses along the north African coasts,  rescuing, sifting through the boatloads that it rescues, and arresting the threats to internal security,  monitoring,  disrupting and prohibiting  extant links between organised crime (Italian) and slavers (islamic); (the latest arrests are of the master and mate of the boat from which islamics threw dozens of Christians to their deaths  before they were rescued.  These people were taken from a migrants' collection zone in Foiano della Chiana, near Arezzo, yesterday and charged).  Italian security services'  networks in their north African former colonies are excellent and large numbers of those involved in this 'weaponisation' of people are being picked up and dealt with.

Europe might think itself clever in refusing  to help, indeed hindering attempts to officialise European-level resistance to low-level islamic warfare but, frankly, Italy can see to its interests much more efficiently than when it is hampered by the politics of others with wholly different political and social goals and needs.  In the end they will have what Italy needs - the relocation of the rescued - imposed upon them.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Death in Rhodes

200 shipwrecked on Rhodes beaches today, some pulled ashore by local people and tourists but many feared drowned.

Italian Local Resistance to Permanent Settlement for the Trafficked Grows

Once Italy has fished the survivors from the sea, arrested those people-traffickers it can identify (and reach; 19 arrest orders, some of them international, were issued by the Palermo magistrates yesterday for  the usual, historic slaver suspects: north African Arabs,  West Africans, particularly Ghanaians) the country finds determined resistance to any provision of settlement here, led by local and regional  representatives.

The Ministry of the Interior issued peremptory demands [read in English, ed.] to Prefects, Regional Presidents,  Mayors which have been met with every mode of expression of refusal to co-operate: from flat 'No',  through excuses, expressions of regret 'We are full up', to total silence. Consequently barracks are being prepared, tents readied -  and clear local lines of 'Not here' drawn up.

Until now there has been a reasonably rapid pass-through rate to other parts of Europe (accompanied by further criminal exploitation of the need for some kind of papers to obtain settlement in other EU states) but numbers are now so great - 10,000 landed last week alone - that that system cannot cope.

Bitterly the Italians recognise that only the threatened mass arrivals in France, Germany, the UK have levered an emergency discussion out of the EU Foreign Ministers meeting in Brussels today.  Locally, they are determined to keep up the pressure to share the burden of misery that sweeps towards us.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

700 Migrants Drown Today (so far)

700 migrants are feared drowned 40 miles off the Libyan coast after an overloaded boat capsized early this morning.  A Portuguese merchant ship was directed to the scene (as the nearest vessel) but has succeeded in rescuing only 20 people.  Other ships are now there searching for survivors but there is little hope.   The merchant ship reported it had done everything it could but is not equipped for such a huge rescue operation.


The first refugees to reach Italy have said there were 950 people aboard the lost boat of which 200 were women and 50 children.  Many had been locked into the hold.  So far only 40 people have been saved.  Prime Minister Matteo Renzi returned to Rome early this morning from campaigning in local elections to organise help but stated this afternoon that the rescue ships reaching the scene were now "searching for the living among the floating corpses".  Only now is their some kind of response from other European governments; some expressions of the need to help Italy cope, after such a long term, disgraceful disregard of the situation here.

The migrants were from:  Algeria, Egypt, Somalia, Nigeria, Senegal, Mali, Zambia, Bangladesh, Ghana.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Italian Navy to the Rescue of Sicilian Fishing Boat

This is the Airone, a fishing boat from Mazara del Vallo, in Sicily.  It was boarded by armed militias early this morning in international waters and taken in tow towards a Libyan port (probably Maserata).  The crew were resisting being towed and attempting to free the boat when the Italian navy turned up after the Italian department of Fisheries had protested to its counterpart in Libya but had been told the Libyan government knew nothing of the taking of the Airone.

A number of prisoners have been secured and the fishing boat is now under escort on its way to Lampedusa.  The fishermen were determined not to be taken by Libyan militias whose reputation ranges from vicious to murderous.

This incident follows yesterday's arrest by the carabinieri of just-landed islamic 'migrants' who had thrown Christian refugees into the sea, where they drowned.


The evening RAI news reports that the first Italian military resource to arrive at the beleaguered Airone  was a helicopter of the Italian Marines, rapidly followed by a small, fast boat full of marines arriving from the Italian naval intervention vessel (so useful these helicopter- troop-carrying, fast, naval resources compared with aircraft carriers).   The fishermen then finished off overpowering the islamic whatever they ares -government (denied) or terrorist - with a bit of help from their friends, and sailed for home and civilisation.

UPDATE Sunday morning

There are reports that the boarding party was of the official Libyan government.   On being contacted by the Italian government about the Airone the Libyan government said it knew nothing of the occurrence.  On which the Italian navy was dispatched to the scene and arrived with wholly admirable speed.

Frankly, I wouldn't have waited to find out; would you?  The master of the Italian fishing boat stated,  "I was determined to do anything necessary to get my men and my boat out of their hands and home."  Bravo, bravissimo .  Libyan 'government' has no credibility and cannot be trusted any more than Libyan 'insurgents'.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Opposing Islam and the Genocide Tendency

The Italian state response to fundamentalist islam showing its ugly face so close to  mainland Italy,  within Italy's Near Abroad, has been a physical blockade of some of its north African coast.  Particular protection has been given to energy supply installations both on-land and off-shore (as well, Italy is still scooping desperate refugees from islamic horror from watery graves: 1500 last week alone). *    This has been done with little fuss and great speed.  And has left  international organisations and the international Great and Good  to scurry about having talks and consultations and all the rest of it with whomsoever they choose.  In the meantime, while the UN et al. faff about,  islamics have taken their attentions and threats off  to the cultural vandalism of undefended human heritage in which they so excel.  Rome, it seems, might need a little longer after all.

Rome  is gathering other forces: not the State's naval and air coverage operating in the Mediterranean -  but Voice.   Politics and religion being the same thing,  opposing political primitives vested in religious garb is best undertaken by the religiously experienced.  The Christian Church  knows what has to be dealt with - it moves  its own religious primitives on into a more modern world after all.   In naming the three 20th century genocides for what they were -  the slaughter of peoples for primitive politico/ideological beliefs and goals - Pope Francis has placed fundamentalist islam within its proper modern category, the category of imperialism, nazism, and stalinism.

A Jesuit pope is just what is needed to take on islam's imams in the religious end of this political spectrum.  Rome has some experience in the assertion of imperial power too. 

UPDATE 14 April 2015

8,400 refugees have been saved from drowning in the last four days by the Italian navy and the Italian coastguard (RAI News at lunchtime).


Another  400 souls are feared drowned this afternoon (14 April).  The evening RAI news reports some people have been rescued from sinking, unseaworthy boats but there were just too many of them to save them all in time in the winter sea.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Pope Francis Seems to Be Right

The Synagogue in central Florence, standing in its pretty gardens, all lit up like the Pontevecchio ( as they say here) had its usual pair of soldiers at the main gates inside their glass sentry-box as we walked home after dinner.  There are always sentries at the Synagogue.

What made me jump was a whole patrol of troops rounding the corner of piazza d'Azeglio, carrying submachine guns - in Firenze per bene, patrolling the elegant streets and palazzi of the bourgeoisie.
 The Prefect has authorised patrolling by the regular army in central Florence at 'points of particular vulnerability': so that'll be the entire city within the viali then.  But what about Poggio Imperiale, the Certosa, San Domenico.....better make that the Province.  The Prefects of Siena, Arezzo, Pisa .....will have to look to their own cities, provinces. There aren't going to be enough soldiers to go round though. The Florentine patrols are from the 187th Fanteria based in Livorno (at least they're not from Pisa).   All the Italian marines, sailors and airmen are patrolling the Mediterranean. This country is at war with barbarians

Thursday, 19 March 2015

The President of Italy Speaks Truth to Islamic Gunpower

"un gesto vile e odioso, commesso ai danni di persone inermi, in spregio alle piu' elementari norme di convivenza civile e rispetto della vita umana" *

*"a defiled and hateful act, carried out against undefended people, contemptuous of the most elementary rules of civilised existence and respect for human life"

Friday, 13 March 2015

Panga Politics and the Rule of Law

The ruling party in Zambia, the Patriotic Front  (PF)  'yesterday issued a strong warning against High Court judge Chitabo of grave consequences if he does not reverse the decision to stay the tribunal appointed to probe Mutembo Nchito',   (Nichito is the Director of Public Prosecutions, ed.).  The PF has also instructed these PF Youth Cadres       

to prevent the reinstated DPP from reaching his offices (reports the Zambian Watchdog).   Last night a PF 'delegation' also visited the house of the High Court judge who issued the order to suspend the tribunal while its constitutionality was considered.  

The judge has promised to reconsider the matter this morning.

The  President of Zambia, on whose instruction the tribunal was instituted and who set its terms of reference and membership, as well as suspending the DPP  during its enquiries -  not to mention appointing another DPP, perhaps more 'sympathetic' to his Executive - is  currently  hospitalised in Johannesburg after collapsing at a women's gala march-past in Lusaka.

Having reconsidered his suspension of the tribunal of enquiry into the Zambian DPP, this morning the judge reinstated it and reinstated the suspension of the DPP.  Well, he would, wouldn't he.   

Meanwhile the President of Zambia is to be discharged from the clinic in Pretoria to which he had been transferred from hospital in Johannesburg, and advised to proceed to Pakistan should he wish to undertake any further treatment, or to return home.  While the US ambassador to Zambia has denied that he has referred to the President having health issues the media is reporting serious concerns on the president's condition.

So Zambia has a newly elected president already hospitalized and out of the country, a vice-president out of the country on a jaunt to the UN and Japan (Japan?), and an acting president  in Lusaka swearing in high officers of the state, the executive, and the civil service.  Sata's demise in late 2014 is beginning to look positively plain sailing in comparison.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Watching African Democracy in Action

To lose one president may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness.  To lose three might turn thoughts to witchcraft.

Edgar Lungu, the newly 'elected' Zambian president is being exported for medical treatment unavailable in his own country, having collapsed at a Women's Day march past.  Frankly a legion of Angels probably would collapse during a Wimmin's Day march past: but he'd been standing there for only an hour before the legs gave way.  Perhaps he's a wimp needing the training Elizabeth II can call upon; even in advanced age there's no collapsing on parade from her. The instant  way in which Zambians are wishing him well and offering their sympathy to his relatives and affines (there's something about African politics that makes for an onset of anthropological accuracy) is courteous, patriotic even, but displays faint irritation, doubtless brought on by a considerable history in Zambian politics of presidents dying in office.

Those following the goings-on in Zambia since President Sata died in office last year (he too had been exported, in his case first to the US and then to London for medical treatment unavailable in his own country) will be aware that the vice-President is constitutionally expected to take over when the President can't manage the job.  But the vice President is at the Wimmin's Day knees-up in New York.   Mrs Lungu, First Lady of Zambia,  cancelled her flight to the same freebie at the last minute, after the incident at the march past; she cannot fulfil her speaking engagements at the UN.  The question is will Inonge Wina be persuaded to take Ms Lungu's place in New York or insist on rushing back to Lusaka to take up her constitutional role as acting president while Edgar is indisposed and out of the country?    The Zambian constitution is in the throes of reform, not least in ending the requirement for an election within 90 days of a new president for the residue of the fixed term of office of the deceased.  What a pity there has been so little sense of urgency, particularly with the swathe being cut through sitting presidents. And what a pity the Zambians couldn't leave Guy Scott to  act as president until the scheduled presidential elections in 2016.

Apart from the collapse in copper prices, the outburst of borrowing since Lungu got his hands on the presidency, the fall in the Zambian currency,  the dam could burst.  Meanwhile Zambian Watchdog offers a fine, blow by blow account of every-day politics in southern Africa.


Zambian vice-president Inonge Wina cuts short  her New York shindig to get back to Zambia.  But will the Instruments of Power have been handed to someone else before she gets there?


She didn't make it back soon enough:
President of Zambia Edgar Chagwa Lungu has with immediate effect appointed Hon. Ngosa Simbyakula to act as President during his absence; Hon. Simbyakula will also act as Minister of Defence and Minister of Justice.   That sounds like everything is covered, particularly as the Director of Public Prosecutions has also just been suspended with immediate effect and is now the subject of a tribunal enquiry under various sections of the Zambian constitution.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

A European Army Would Need to Walk on Water

The call by the Luxembourgeois  Juncker for  a European Union army to 'defend European values' is so offensive at so many levels that perhaps it's simplest to stop at the first: what is needed is a not an army but a navy.  An army  will be useful later but right now ruling the waves (and by modern extension the airspace over the waves and nearby coastal strips) has priority.  As a comment on the FT noted most  European armies are well-armed pension funds.

That the Italian prime minister has more political sense than most presidents has been demonstrated amply over the last couple of years in his own country but his evaluation of what is needed in the Mediterranean and who can offer it is a lesson in realpolitik.  The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation yearning for lumbering about in tanks on the central and eastern European plains and being rude to Russia is just so  20th century; an exemplar of the well-armed pension fund.  If President Juncker (lots of presidents these days) wants  to 'defend European values'  he needs to stop playing eastern front 1940s games and build some ships and helicopters.  Otherwise Europe will just have to hope Russia can provide.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Obviously From Central Casting

Breedlove (honestly, that is what he's called, I could hardly credit it reading Der Spiegel this morning) and Nuland (another name from some orwellian nomenklatura) better-known for her use of 'language') have faces to match, and doubtless minds to match their faces, seem to have a programme.   In Eastern Europe war is seriously raised.  Thus:  lots and lots of (outdated) arms can be  sold profitably; Ukraine can be partitioned (seeing as it couldn't quite be managed all in one gulp it'll be tried slice by slice); most of all, we all look away to the east.  We, Europeans and European Russia, look away from the Mediterranean.

President Putin and President Renzi (Italian prime ministers are also called 'president') had a three-hour discussion this week (after Renzi had made appropriate gestures in Kiev)  on setting up a naval blockade of the North African coast.  The Italian gunships had been sent earlier and are 'exercising' close to the more important oil ports and off-shore oil and gas infrastructures.  However, Italy couldn't manage more on its own; certainly it can't manage any land operations (though, in all honesty, it has its advantages).  Now, who is bestest friends with Egypt?  Who has  lots of tanks?  And military training links, and Mediterranean and energy interests?

The Mediterranean sea is becoming to Russia (in the older sense of 'becoming').  All those fleets with ports in Greece, ports in Cyprus, ports and facilities in those vulnerable smaller countries of the EU being abused to save private, non-state creditors and threatened because they try to save their populations from the collapse of health, education, housing, energy provision,  employment levels:  in the name of austerity.  Furthermore, and notably, the government in Athens continues to support the Orthodox Church.

So while Central Casting conducts a deadly propaganda war in the east, this
jihad of human misery spearheads the battle for the control of Africa's energy resources and calls into being a Russian conquest of Mediterranean bases and power sought since - oooh, I don't know when.

Between half a million and a million people in the boats of the desperate are waiting to be launched into Europe this Spring.  Those who make it to land (and the Italians are and will be doing their best to get them there) won't stop here.  Only international intervention has the resources to meet their kinds of needs and Italy offers not even state-level help; private charity does what it can but it cannot meet state-level assaults.

Soon all this will reach the Security Council of the UN.  There will be Europe and Russia pointing at the obvious and the desperate need to act, while Central Casting put NATO and the United States in Ukraine.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Giving another Meaning to Mare Nostrum

These are FREMM Italian navy frigates.  Along with a San Giorgio LPD and one (or perhaps two, the Defence Minister was unspecific) other ships with characteristics that also seem really useful  - admittedly aircraft carriers have a certain grandeur but sometimes grandeur is not what is needed - they have set off towards Libya.

The Sabratha platform and Greenstream  are attracting more commitment to  "un ruolo di sicurezza, deterrenza " e di  "dissuasione" in General Claudio Graziano's words, than the migrants being trafficked in rubber boats.

Monday, 23 February 2015


'Constructive ambiguity' is a prerequisite of political utterance.  Changing your tune is rarely politically  advantageous.  For the German ruling parties it was essential to maintain their stance towards 'Greek' debt or suffer a major shift in strength between the right of the grand coalition and the social democrats (with behind them their potential coalition allies in any administration of the centre-left).  But the world of 2010 and its political needs  is long gone; the  language that 2010 world needed for German interests and coping with German fears is rigidly inappropriate; to get that language toned-down has taken too much and far too long -  from the exit of inadequate political actors (the members of the IMF 'team' were hopelessly under-qualified for what they were doing, indeed even for what they thought they were doing) to the  exit of governments.

Any competent economist can state how to deal with 'Greek' debt, within a eurozone framework and without disturbing treaties;  indeed a whole range of means can be offered (and are readily available within the gloriously constructive ambiguities of those treaties.)  It's not the economics of it all that's defective: it's over-defined political statement masquerading as  (under-defined) political  stance and objectives.  Still, austerity and its associated utterances  has been gagged if not yet bound at last Friday's meeting, of itself a considerable achievement.