Democracy is overrated: Francis Underwood would turn pale in front of Italian politics.

Francis Underwood would not survive half an hour Italian politics.

His manipulative skills would be worth less than nothing in modern Italy, the Terza Repubblica of Machiavellian cons, fearless fights for power and silent slaughters for the premiership.

Amid economic turbulences, industrial stagnation and sky-rocketing unemployment, Rome’s politics is mainly focused in appointing the third Prime minister in a row that hasn’t undergone a democratic election.

Earlier in 2011, Italy had super Mario Monti to reduce deficit and keep the country away from the bull’s eye of economic disaster after years of Berlusconi’s dubious laissez-faire ; then Enrico Letta was the only hope for a government of national unity. For inexplicable reasons, Letta resigned last Friday to allow the mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi, to step in as the new Prime minister.

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Matteo Renzi
new Italian PM
aka the Fonz

Renzi, also known as the Fonz for his easy smile and leather jackets, is a 39 year old ruthless politician that had previously pledged to seek power via an election, but last week engineered the removal of the sitting Prime Minister Letta by calling a vote for his removal at a meeting of their Democratic Party.

Of course Renzi, who will be sworn in as PM in the next 48 hours, adopted the Machiavellian quote “I am not interested in preserving the status quo. I want to overthrow it” but it seems he’s been perpetuating the same perfidious strategy of his predecessors during the darkest age of the Republic.

Democracy is overrated, but please wake us up from this nightmare that resembles too much the Italian version of House of Cards.

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What happened to the questions? The twilight of Italian journalism.

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“To the moon”. Italian PM Enrico Letta
courtesy of Il Giorno

Every year around Christmas the Italian Prime Minister sits down with all the political correspondents for the traditional end-of-year press conference.

The PM in charge, Enrico Letta, faced yesterday twenty-three questions from Italian reporters who tried to sum up a peculiar year that started with an uncertain electoral result and ended with the final gasps of Berlusconism and the angered protests of the Pitchfork riots.

So we sat down on our sofa, grabbed a fresh made parmigiana and we tuned in to see what the Italian prime minister had to say about the state of the country after twelve, troubled months made of a tragic shipwreck in Lampedusa, the rise of Beppe Grillo’s quasi-fascist populism and the NSA scandal on which the Italian Government remained silent for a suspiciously long time.

“I’m proud, this is the year of a generational turn-over”

“Employment must be good employment”

“We’ll pass the electoral reform before the European elections”.

These are some of the answers Mr. Letta gave to the correspondents gathered yesterday at Montecitorio palace in Rome: answers that my grandma could recite with nonchalance while cooking Christmas dinner.

Mr. Letta was so vague in picturing the executive’s agenda and the plans he wants to put in place to save Italy from the economic disaster that I started wondering what the reporters were asking while waiting for the free buffet offered by the Government.

So we put aside the parmigiana and started listening more carefully.

“What is the relationship with Germany?”

“What is the relationship with Iran?”

“Is it better to have more deregulated jobs or less jobs that comply with the current law?”

“Will Italians pay more or less taxes in 2014?”.

And Mr. Letta was smiling and nodding. Just like a contestant on a special episode of “Who wants to be a millionaire” hosted by a herd of performing chimpanzee.

“Mr. Letta, do you prefer: a. more jobs; b. great jobs; c. less jobs; d. an ice cream?”

In the midst, there is my grandma and I, staring at the TV set and speechless in front of this kind of detachment from reality: there’s no need to be a professional football player to see that the team is losing the match in center field. There’s no need to be a professional journalist to see that no compelling questions were asked or even intended to be posed.

Journalists may have forgotten how to ask but there are normal families, workers, housewives or simply uneducated grandmas like mine that, in the secrecy of their homes, have a bunch of questions that have been waiting for an answer for the last twenty years and won’t let a prime minister walk away after his hazy and indeterminate monologue.

“Aren’t you a journalist?” my grandma asked me. “I’m not sure I’m going to live for that long but, next year, get me a pass to go to this annual press conference – I’d like to ask a couple of things”.

Next year, nana. And merry Christmas to you.

Bye Bye, Silvio.

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Silvio Berlusconi dealing with State deficit. Courtesy of ansa.it

Silvio Berlusconi, the media tycoon that monopolized Italian politics for the last 20 years with his personal problems, is now out of the Parliament.

Not because he decided to spontaneously step down as any public figure would do if facing tax fraud convictions, sex with minors accusations, bribery and close ties with mafia charges.

The Italian Senate had to spend four months arguing whether he was eligible or not for a parliamentarian seat when the economic situation in the old country doesn’t seem to be that bright at the moment (at least Italians are not self-injecting HIV virus to get State benefits as it is happening in other parts of Europe).

Now that Berlusconi is out, and his resuscitated Forza Italia party will threaten elections every single hour of the day from here to March, what it is going to happen to the sexy Italian politics we were used to?

What will the masterminds in Rome produce in order to entertain Italians and distract them from the very problems that afflict the country? Chronic public debt, corruption, increasing taxation and linear cuts on public services among others.

Given that every Italian, tomorrow morning at the café, would swear they have never voted for Berlusconi in their lives (everything accompanied by, of course, a disgusted grim on their faces and a slow, dismissive movement of their hands) I’m pretty sure that tonight, in the secrecy of their bedrooms, Italians will recollect bits and pieces of these past 20 years: all the Berlusconi’s gaffes during international meetings, his inappropriate comments on gays and girls, his coup de theatre and his judiciary problems treated as State priorities and they will smile.

In the end, we all had fun.

Is Jazz Dead? A Dispenser’s recap.

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Technical problems? We did experience them. But nothing can stop Dispenser from going on air. This week we had to broadcast at 5:30pm because the show was so good we couldn’t wait until 6pm.

What happened today? Are you not listening to the show yet again? Man oh man, we had guests that not even the London Jazz Festival was able to book.

Since the LJF is now over, we wanted to check how jazz was doing on the British scene with a special episode on this hearth-warming music that made us fall in love, mended our wounds, accompanied us through the night and shown us how cool it was to be a musician. And we did all this with a special parterre of guests.

Steve Rubie, the owner of the historic 606 Jazz Club in London gave us an insight of how jazz clubs and the jazz audience had changed through the years.

“Jazz in the 70’s was struggling, but now it has to compete with a whole variety of music. Nevertheless, jazz is young and most certainly our audience in not old at all”.

Then, the adorable Flick Walker revealed who was the most underrated jazz musician of the twentieth century – Louis Prima

Our third segment, as you know, is dedicated to very important people. This week it was Andrew from the London Jazz Collector, one of the most popular jazz websites you’ll find on the internet. Unlike us, he has a real audience that is keen to listen to what he says on modern jazz and vinyls.

“I don’t feel the need to spread jazz, you know? It doesn’t bother me that 95 per cent of the people out there have never listened to jazz before. Jazz is listening for 40 minutes to a song, doing nothing else in the multi-tasking world.” 

Let me tell you, assembling a whole episode on jazz wasn’t that easy. Mostly because when you ask “what is jazz?” you’ll get a huge variety of answers. All correct of course, but nothing would reach a consensus.

Tune in next week for a whole new episode of Dispenser at 6pm on Smoke Radio. Topic? Working in hostile environments. Aloha!

This week’s soundtrack:

Onwards&Upwards – Andy Mastroddi;

Twilight in Arabia – the Four Season Band;

When You’re Smiling – Louis Prima;

Autumn Leaves – Miles Davis and Cannonball Adderley.

Why we are not all sexists – an open letter to Laura Bates.

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Gli Italiani si voltano, Mario de Biasi, Milano 1954

Dear Laura Bates,

I’m glad you keep on fighting for equal rights and how media sometimes portray a distort role of women in society. I do have a problem, though. Not all men are brutal monsters that salivate when there’s a girl around.

I’m Italian and I know that at some point you have a misconception on how we relate with our female counterparts in the old country. But still, I do not think it is sexist.  On the other hand, it is my feeling we’ve been raised, from a very young age, to adore women: to rush and offer the palm of our hands when they are climbing the steep stairs in Piazza di Spagna in Rome; to keep the heavy doors open when they’re exiting the Uffizi in Florence; or to give up our seats on public transportation even if they’re not aged or pregnant.

And yes, we do leer. Mostly because we are humans and, second, because it is always a pleasure to see somebody not as hairy and as clumsy as we are crossing our way. We do feel ecstatic when a girl is around because we feel like little children, trying to grab a piece of her attention for the whole purpose of winning her a smile, steal a kind word from her that doesn’t make us feel so miserable  on this meaningless planet.

Honking the horn of the car, stalking and harassing a lady goes beyond my comprehension, because most of us were raised gentle. But I cannot understand why turning my head and stare at pure beauty when I’m in the middle of the street would make me a sexist. I’ll keep on paying dinner for two on my first dates, bringing flowers to my second and open the car door for her as long as we date, and you know why? Because it amazes me, each and every day, that there are human beings so perfect and charming, so infinitely kind and adorable, and I feel the urge of doing something nice to them in return for their sole existence on earth.

Ciao,

MP

5 guest speakers University of Westminster should consider inviting.

Following our news story on Islam extremist Haithim Al-Haddad, and the benefit  of having him delivering a lecture within the University of Westminster campus, we received a new statement from the university PR office.

“If someone should fail to abide by the University code of practice on tolerance of other religions  after having signed up, we would not permit them to speak at the University again in the future. If upon investigation this had been the case with Dr. Al-Haddad we would have been in contact but this is not our understanding”. 

Basically they’re dismissing the case, avoiding the questions we asked and they do not seem to care about the background of the people allowed inside an educational building.

If this is the case, here you go a list of five people we would suggest to University of Westminster as next guest speakers during Students’ group meetings.

brievik

Anders Breivik, trainer at the Hiking group. Anders is not that much of a talker, he prefers the action: his hobbies include out-door activities, field trips to small islands and military training simulations. Extremely talented in planning field exercises, Anders has a passion for graffiti and hip-hop.

 

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Silvio Berlusconi, volunteer at the Feminist Group. Silvio is an old-fashioned Italian gentleman with a natural charming attitude. Each week, Silvio organizes charity parties at his mansion to help young ladies in need to get off the street, supporting them both spiritually and financially.

 

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Pablo Escobar, guest speaker at the Business society. One of the wealthiest man on the planet, Pablo became a multimillionaire at a young age. Known for his “nose” for business, Pablito always fought with all his energy and strength to keep his company competitive and vibrant on the market.

 

Kim-Jong-Un2(R)Kim Jong Un, lecturer at the Amnesty International Group. Young political idealist, Kim is a keen supporter of peace in the Korean region. As an ambitious activist, he is determined in ameliorating his fellow citizens’ life condition by improving their standard of living. Great Risk player, Kim adores American basketball.

 

GeneralZodForPresident20084The three Kryptonians, guest speakers at the Graduation ceremony. Noticeable trio of distinguished charisma, they were just a step away from winning a Peace Noble prize. The leader of the group, General Zod, is an affable man with appreciable language skills and knowledge. They can fly and open aluminum cans with their heat vision.

What went wrong: female genital mutilation and terrorism supporter delivers a speech at University of Westminster.

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Haitham al-Haddad, Islamic scholar and guest speaker at University of Westminster
(photo credit: EJPress)

Islamist scholar Haitham Al-Haddad has a history of homophobia, misogyny, religious intolerance and rhetorical support for violent groups. Nevertheless, University of Westminster granted him a stage last Monday to speak to the Islamic Society student group (ISoc).

On November 3rd, ISoc organized a fundraising dinner with a guest speaker who, originally, was supposed to be Imam Wasim Kempson, a moderate scholar that would have delivered a speech on Syria and Palestine.

wasim kempson

Twenty-four hours before the event, on the ISoc Facebook page appeared a new post, highlighting that the guest speaker had change. The replacement was Dr. Al-Haddad.

alHaddad

It needs a basic internet search to find out who Al-Haddad is and what his main ideas are on topics like homosexuality, “a criminal act”, the role of women in society, “a man should not be questioned why he hit his wife, because this is something between them” and Jews, “descendants of apes and pigs”.

The person who oversees and approves guest speakers at University of Westminster, in particular those who deal with religious topic, is Mr. Yusuf Kaplan, the Interfaith Advisor of college. We phoned him yesterday afternoon and he said he granted authorization for Mr. Al-Haddad as guest speaker on University premises but he did not want to comment furthermore.

As we learned during the afternoon, an emergency meeting of the Students’ Union was held behind closed doors to discuss this very topic and, since we were around, we popped in the Regent street campus where we met vice president of the SU, Muaz Mahmoud.

He was having an early dinner in the cafeteria with some senior member of the Islamic society and, as we approached him, he politely told us he was “instructed not to talk” to the press. Funny, since he’s paid something around £23.000 each year by the University and he’s expected, at least, to explain this to whom signs his paycheck: his fellow students.

Then again, we turned to the ISoc member and he replied “everyone is entitled to their own opinion”.

And we are pretty sure Al-Haddad has a bunch of opinions that don’t need further clarification.

So the Students’ Union bounced us saying that this is a matter the University has to deal with but, as we were walking back to the newsroom, we received the University’s official statement:

“The Islamic Society is an organization under the administration of the Students’ Union which does not fall directly under the governance of the university and concerned students should approach the Students’ Union in the first instance. Providing a safe environment for our students is a top priority. All speakers on University premises are required to give their agreement to abide by our code of practice on tolerance of other religions and beliefs. Those speakers that do not comply with this policy would not be permitted to speak at the University.  The University will always speak to the Students’ Union if there are concerns.”

In other words, the University is denying any responsibility for the invitation of a guest that defended the anti-Semitic militant group of Hamas, proscribed as a terrorist organization in the UK.

University of Westminster doesn’t seem to be new to controversy involving radical Islamic movements. No later than last September, Muslim students at the University of Westminster have been found to be disseminating literature and propaganda on behalf of the Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HT) group that is banned from campuses by the National Union of Students.

Identified as a fascist organization, Hizb-ut-Tahrir (party of liberation) has been halted from appearing at university campuses across the United Kingdom. Westminster itself has had numerous altercations with Hizb-ut-Tahrir speakers and their sympathizers, some of which took over the student union in 2011.

Even the Telegraph decided to cover the disputed Students’ Union election at Westminster in 2011 when Tarik Mahri, 23 was elected as president of the union despite his links to the group Hizb ut-Tahrir which advocates the establishment of an Islamic state.

So if this is not the University’s responsibility nor the Students’ Union’s, who oversees the process? And on which basis guests are invited to speak on the University premises?

Even though the speaker abides by the University’s code of conduct, isn’t it reasonable to think that students being exposed to someone with such views reflects badly on the University?

 

It’s not what it looks like! European phone conversations are pretty boring.

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Mr. Obama enjoys the view on Europe. photo courtesy El Jueves

This week it came out the American government has been listening extensively to our phone calls, reading our emails and finishing the toilet paper in European bathrooms without replacing the roll.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel didn’t take it well and she has made clear that “Friends don’t spy on each other”. Friends are only allowed to switch girlfriends every once in a while – not spy, though.

The US government released a statement saying that “Merkel’s phone conversations were boring anyhow”, in fact a couple of NSA agents committed suicide after spending the last three years listening to the German Chancellor calling the local wurstel and sauerkraut delivery place across the street to get lunch.

Plenty of other NSA agents quitted their job a couple of years ago: they are now running a well-known brothel on the outskirts of Milan, providing girls to former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi. After spending years and years listening to Berlusconi’s conversations, they had their phone book filled with call-girls and escorts cell phone numbers so they decided to undertake a more lucrative business.

Even Spain was targeted by the NSA but for a whole other reason: the US wanted to know how a country can sustain itself while taking so many siestas. NSA, Nasa and Stephen Hawking are still busy doing the math and it seems they haven’t come up with a solution just yet. NSA tried to ask physicist Peter Higgs to solve this incomprehensible paradox but he replied that discovering God’s particle was surely easier.

“Please, invade our country”.

I honestly wanted to start this blog discussing other topics. For instance: Spaniards are considering switching to the Western European time-zone because they feel the European +1 hour make them jetlagged all the time. I would suggest reducing the sangria pro capita might work just as well.
Instead, I’SB_popm here still dealing with the most popular Italian Prime Minister of all time. You heard it right, Silvio Berlusconi has strike again withdrawing his support from what it seems an already failed grand coalition experiment leaded by PM Enrico Letta.
Despite his criminal conviction for tax fraud (and false testimony, external relationship in mafia association, illegal financing of political parties, bribe, false accounting, embezzlement, corruption and accused of having paid for sex with a teenage prostitute), mister B. has the ability to firmly dictate the Italian political agenda. And today, for his seventy-seventh birthday, he decided to plunge Italy into chaos as a gift to himself.

He’s come to an age when Bunga Bunga parties don’t seem that appealing anymore.

Nevertheless, Berlusconi contributed heavily in feeding Italian journalists for decades with his gaffes, court trials and appeals at the European Court for Human Rights against Italian judges who were trying to bring him to court for child prostitution. Entire journalistic careers were built around his persona and I can tell you I’m one of the beneficiaries of his misconducts although not every Italian is a reporter and many of them, when abroad, prefer to be considered French Spanish rather than being mocked.

“In asylums, you can find two types of patients: the ones who think they are Napoleon, and the other half who think they can govern Italy”.

(Giulio Andreotti, seven times Italian prime minister)

This is not exactly true. Instead of repeating obsessively “Please, visit our country” (as Francesco Rutelli, former mayor of Rome, does in this video below) we can ask, with the same desperate tone, to “Please, invade our country”.

We got villages, of course. Countryside, as Rutelli oddly underlines several times. At some point we got the ocean – a nice one. Quite a decent country, I would say. So, why bother with politics? Let’s hold Italian elections in Germany, for instance: they’re pretty precise with numbers and percentages, right? Or Austria. Italians kicked them out of the country in the 19th century but I’m pretty sure they would gladly outsource their politics to them in return of some fine chocolate. Or political stability, which would represent a brand new condiment on the Italian meatloaf.

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