Sunday, November 24

The Decadenza of Berlusconi's Decadence

Silvio Berlusconi's most recent claim that should he be forced to serve time (doing community service) for his financial crimes is tantamount to a "Coup".  If you hadn't reached yet the outer bounds to this man's narcissism, well, this would be a good place to start.  This statement speaks volumes about what the richest man in Italy thinks of his country: He runs it like a Zimbabwean Overlord.  He also is threatening again to pull the plug whenever he sees fit - which, according to his weekend saber-rattling, is scheduled to align with the vote to oust him from parliament.  His buddy, Putin, is rumored to be en route to provide the elusive Get out of jail free card: A diplomatic passport to whisk him out of the country.
But in Silvio's defense, I must say, he's a modern-day Robin Hood Despot Dictator.  He didn't really rob from the rich to pay the poor; he didn't even use the government as his personal piggy-bank -- although both he and his companies certainly reaped benefits from many of the ad personam laws that were passed to favor his oligarchy.  But this happens in many countries; The USA no. 01 amongst them.  Unlike Putin, Silvio is big-hearted: he never jailed his opposition, preferring to buy them off.  He would use his media empire to publicly humiliate the nay-sayers, raking them through the coals.  One could say, Silvio is like Santa; making a list and checking it twice.
Instead, Berlusconi deprived the poor taxpayers of Italy of their hard-earned funds, in order to deviate them to his lesser paesani orbiting his inner circles: like childhood buddy and IBM Director, Stanca, getting millions to build a national brand website and later a choice job posting in charge of the World Expo in Milan after being disgraced for having built the horrific $3.99 site.  But Silvio's hardly the only one to do this:  Just last week, the new Prime Minister rewarded bonuses of $30,000 to his $270,000/year salaried managers (there are hundreds just on his staff alone) for increasing productivity [e.g., employing email and other means to streamline communications -- as if they weren't already spending their days on porn sites, facebook and twitter].  That bonus is more than the average salary of two-income families with unemployed offspring wasting away in Italy.
While the politicians pretend that the public money suddenly at their fingertips is for their own private distribution of these types of perks, salaries and backroom rewards, Silvio instead dipped into his own deep pockets to give money to those less fortunate.  He doesn't do this the honorable way, say, like Bill Gates, or The Kresge Foundation or heck, the thousands who donate their money to universities, museums and foundations.  Instead, Berlusconi simply put most of his call girls on his payroll, put other PYTs into choice government "jobs" that pay more than what Barack Obama makes, even as they push pencils in city government offices or in the European parliament.  He even goes as far to house women in his apartments lest they be forced to return to the streets - and beat the pavement for new Johns who most certainly won't be as generous.  He gave millions of his own funds to friends and agents who could ply him with hookers; some disgraced and in jail today.
So, where to next? Parliament will vote on whether this convicted criminal (and we haven't even finished the trial of his abetting prostitution and sex with an underaged hooker) should remain in politics.  (The official term, decadenza or forfeiture which, delightfully, just so happens to be the same word for decadence).  Silvio, in his defense, states his family is being treated like the Jews under Hitler -- clearly in the dark as to the reason for his supposedly being shipped to a concentration camp (he's allowed free movement around Italy, to each of his villas & playgrounds) and ultimately gassed (being told to go home & stop playing politics with people's lives and livelihoods).  He then reiterated his claim that any community service would be an insult to his dignity [Clearly neglecting to think of the irony of that statement for two reasons: 1) A dirty old pervert who is practically running a prostitution ring day & night from his high office is dignified?  And 2) Serving the public was what he should have been doing in the first place.]
So, we're now at the 11th hour.  He has thrown down his last card, demanding a Presidential Pardon for his multimillion euro payoffs, errr  piccadilloes.  I can't help but think where Italy might be today if he and his cronies had employed the same fervor in propping up Silvio so he can get it on in Arcore, and put it into saving Italy from slipping further into debt and impotence.  The Ace up his sleeve?  Taking all the flaccid politicians down with him - thus putting a (temporary) end to their orgies of massive paychecks & perks, chauffer-driven cars & backroom bribes.  The ones that don't return get to ride out their dismay in lavish villas with huge retirement checks that will go to their wives and kids one day.
In the end, Silvio Berlusconi will always remain a role model and symbol of Italy: He's the poster boy for corruption, the narcissistic playboy who many wish they were, the monied bon vivant who everyone wants to be around, the jokester who laughs while the rest of the country falls into oblivion, the pathological liar who blames it all on the Commies.  Sadly, what Italy won't get from Silvio is an impressive university chair, a thinktank, a museum trust, or any investment in his supposed beloved country.  Just like the worst of the Ancient Emperors, we'll be left with just a few rotting columns one day in the heart of Rome in his name.
And the final irony? For all his communist-bashing, his savior may just be the man who heads up Russia; a country that has all the natural resources, corruption and whores galore to whet the appetite of any Despot Dictator.

Tuesday, November 19

Life in Italy - A Day in Pictures

In my eternal conquest to douse a bucket of water on the hoards of wanderers and day dreamers who wont for a life in Bell'Italia...I say, of course, who wouldn't?  But lately, I see more and more bloggers and articles doing their own versions of Burnt by the Tuscan Sun 'Reality Checks' - Many of whom express my sentiments exactly, which I carefully outline in the epilogue of my book:  Italy is wonderful - but does not come without its own hassles.  And of course, this sentiment can be applied to every place on earth.  So, it's good to settle down in the place that gives you - for whatever your needs are - the best life to lead.
Having said that, here's my antidote of the day for that Quality of Life that everyone thinks they get in Italy.  These are pictures purloined from facebook and the web in just a single hour of checking my Feed.   You can chalk this post up to my being in a very bad mood, ever since Rome's Mayor Marino closed off the road to traffic rounding the Colosseum.  I no longer find joy sitting in traffic in Rome - when I could, on a nightly basis, whiz by the Colosseum and get thrilled down to my tippy-toes and recall, just how fabulous Italy truly is.  What a guasta-festa that Mayor here I am, to party-poop myself:

A friend called this 'Hit&Run Party'
Sadly, it's a fairly typical feature come Saturday evenings in Italy
After all...someone else will clean it up later.
Fortunately for the photographer, Milan probably takes better care of their parks than Rome
(which is blessed with many many more, and far larger...but still)

A fellow blogger posted this from her old town center on the outskirts of Rome.
Guests (who have been arriving for months), cannot for the life of them
figure out why this trash can laden with cement has not been removed
from one of the ancient sites in her town.

Okay, I lied.  This is a picture taken in the park near my house about 24 hrs. after Rome's
Servizi Giardini came and cleaned up.  And every weekend, it's the same routine.
Even when their services are in play, in a matter of minutes, the place becomes someone's living room

I add this photo of this gorgeous building near my house that took upwards of 8 yrs
to build and, along with its sister skyscraper next door, remains unoccupied due to
nefarious business dealings by the owners [basically, the land is seemingly owned by someone else].
Across Italy, empty or half-finished concrete monstrosities are the norm. The result of people
simply running out of funds or having built on eco-zoned or residential land.
This photo is remarkable for two reasons:  One, the immigrants are now ripping the place apart - windows, doors,
electrical wiring, you name it.  I'm surprised squatters haven't simply moved straight in (doors have all been removed).
And two, on the same day I found these other photos posted, I read in the newspapers that
the City had - incredibly - given permission to build a third skyscraper on the very spot.
You can't make this stuff up.

I've seen this photo make the rounds on facebook before, but here it is again.
Made in Italy.

Taken this morning in Florence by talented sculptor - artist - blogger - author
 - teacher and best yet, Madonnara street painter (the title of her book) -- Kelly Borsheim
Reminding us why, of course, Italy still rocks.

Tuesday, November 5

The Mediterranean Diet...All it's cracked up to be?

Check out my latest blogpost from Irreverent Italy on the news of our day.
This one, about why this advert is causing a maelstrom of controversy in Italy...

A picture worth mille words...Where their tomatoes come from...
Not from down south...