Category Archives: fini

Life among the Lowly

Only one god allowed at Duomo, gents

Journalist-cum-politican Magdi Cristiano Allam loves Italy, he tells us. The Egyptian-born Italian, who made a publicized conversion to Catholicism, seems quick to absorb Italian values — if rampant, no-holds-barred race baiting is an Italian value.  Going far beyond provocative and into offensive, his images of Muslims praying in Milan’s piazza Duomo, Chinese rioting against shop closings on via Sarpi, and of a Roma family on a riverbank near a resettlement camp with the legend NEVER AGAIN in Italian above them can be found all over Milan, especially near its Arab and Chinese neighborhoods.  I’m not sure, especially in the Chinese case, what the ‘never again’ refers to — cheap labor, goods, shops, and an entrepreneurial spirit and work ethic that the Italians seem to have left in the 1950s?



No more work on Sunday

Mere meters away from the Chinese consulate and from via Sarpi, the Chinese-themed posted shows up. On Corso Sempione, not far from the Egyptian quarter around viale Jenner, the Arab poster shows up. Roma wash windows nearby on via Procaccini. (The perverseness of ‘never again’ is especially offensive in the Roma case.)

The message is clear, and it’s not a tolerant one. The posters assure us that he loves Milan (presumably one in which immigrants make their contribution to the economy and then shut up and stay out of sight) and that he loves Italy (a monoethnic one with silent workers).

"Never again" and a Roma family


If an obvious nutjob like Allam were to be relegated to political sidelines, he would be easy to ignore.  But what is disturbing is that he is heartily endorsing incumbent Letizia Moratti in her bid for mayor. Moratti also has the hearty support of the prime minister. That such a mainstream candidate in the financial, industrial and supposed ‘moral’ capital of Italy (an old horse now picked up to flog by PdL, Berlusconi’s party) is anywhere but on the fringes along with the neo-Nazi Forza Nuova where he belongs is incredible. What if David Duke or Nick Griffin actively campaigned for Michael Bloomberg or Ken Livingston? (Such an analogue is, of course, happily unthinkable in Washington, DC.)

Back from where? Hajech is home to the prestigious art academy of Brera

But perhaps such sentiments are to be expected in a country where the Lega Nord is in the ruling coaltion, and where Gianfranco Fini is seen as a viable and sane alternative to Berlusconi or Bossi.

Until the opposition is able to do more than make commuting hell on Friday afternoons and mobilize a few columns of art school students to march around Duomo, who carry banners announcing that they are ‘back’ (I presume to the barricades, of which there were none) and nothing more, expect more of the same.

The promise of the Expo: a cosmopolitan Milan?

Further down the street, a series of flags of all nations put up for the Expo 2015 showcases Milan’s cosmpolitan nature and promises of worldliness.  At the end of one encounters Lega’s tent, where a woman curses the students as delinquents.  One wonders what her take on the flags and what they represent is.  Among them I note Egypt and Turkey.  I half expect Allam or the Lega’s next posters to show off this morning’s tragic crash off of Lampedusa, where another rickety boat spilled 500 migrants into the sea [update: 400 rescued].  That is truly something that should never happen again, but I think that point would be lost on Allam and his backers.

...not when the Lega's racists enjoy pride of place.

Perhaps they will next celebrate the death of Osama, if they are even that tuned into happenings beyond Italy’s borders.  With Lega’s 2009 Indian poster in mind and bizarre violence that it did to notions of race, hegmony and power in the West, one almost hopes that they are not.  Geronimo indeed.

BREAKING: The pope in Venice has told Catholics “not to fear others.” Given pious Veneto’s strong LN base, one hopes that this won’t fall on deaf ears. Maybe even Allam will listen.


150 Years of Unity?

And the rockets' red glare?

Italy’s political situation, overshadowed lately by events in Middle East, is grim.  Berlusconi’s coalition totters.  Fini’s breakaway group seems waiting for the right moment.  Indeed this fall March was bandied about as the right time for a vote.  More power has flowed to Lega Nord’s Bossi, whose ministers voted again making the 17th a holiday, and Berlusconi even showed up tot he vote with a handkerchief in green — breakaway Lega’s color.

As the case was in WW2 and the anni di piombo, the north is again the battleground for Italy’s future.  Lega parliamentarians are in the middle of passing aggressive decentralization reforms that could be completed as early as May.  If so, Berlusconi will lose ground as Bossi’s secessionists take Italy back to a past of campanilismo and freedom from taxation.

With typical Italian flair for a big show, Turin is prepped for an unlikely show of Italian nationalism.  Italian’s lukewarm sentiments towards their nation are legendary.  The political crisis going on for the better part of a year highlights this, especially when a member of the ruling coalitions regularly insists that unification is not worth celebrating.  It leads one to ask, what’s all the fuss about?

Friday AM briefs


There’s way too much news this week, from the Libya to the milleproroghe, from Macedonia’s electoral crisis to the role of social media in the events that have shaken the Arab world.   Fini’s proclamation that the PM was not ‘anointed by the lord’ may hint at the beginning of the end on this side of the Mediterranean as well.

Look for a more thorough weekend update as your chronicler has other deadlines to meet this mild Friday morning.

For those who’ve spent time east of Apennines, ponder this bit from the Economist’s review of David Gilmour’s The Pursuit of Italy: A History of a Land, its Regions and their Peoples.

Italy’s north-south divide remains gaping, too (though, as the author says, there is a less well known east-west divide either side of the Apennines).

More Zungu Zungu, less Bunga Bunga

This site isn’t meant to break news. But there’s been a near-perfect storm of events — so much excellent newsworthy material on Italy, the Balkans and international relations in general, and not nearly enough time to bang out a coherent thought with me being swamped with both typical and atypical end-of-year responsibilities. Some points: Berlusconi’s survival may well lead Italy into a speculative attack on the order of 1976’s run on the lira, the WSJ has a better handle on Lega Nord than the NYT, Thaci might actually be extremely bad for Kosovo, and Wikileaks will change a lot of things. More germane to my task, blogs like Aaron Bady’s show how good analysis can get one noticed.

With an eye towards the skies, I leave you with this video from the brilliant Taiwanese animators NMA. Merry merry. (Although with what’s going on in London and Paris, it seems that the weather is far greater cause for concern than security.)

If it had been in Italy…

But it wasn't; it was in Chile. Grazie dio.

A student passed me this joke on the Chilean mine disaster, which also plays on a lot of other recent Italian news (Sarah Scazzi, Giancarlo Tulliani‘s house, the Naples trash crisis, the electoral crisis).  Mainly it’s funny, if you get it all.  Deep Italian current events, knowledge, sure, but enjoy:

If it had happened in an Italian mine, things would have gone like this.

Day 1: everyone’s together in an effort to save the miners. Live TV 24/7, Bertolaso on the scene.

Day 2: on Bruno Vespa’s show, a model of the mine, with Barbara Palombelli, Belen and Lele Mora co-hosting.

Day 3:  at the first signs of difficulty, the hunt for guilty and responsible parties begins.

BERLUSCONI: It’s the communists’ fault!

DI PIETRO: It’s because of conflicts of interest!

BERSANI: Uh… what happened?

BOSSI: they’re all hicks; leave them there!

CAPEZZONE: It’s not a tragedy, is a great opportunity, and deserving of this government and this prime minister!

FINI: My brother-in-law has nothing to do with this.

Day 4: TOTTI: I’ll dedicate a goal to the miners.

Day 5: THE POPE: Let us pray for zee miners who are in deez day wery close to the devil!

Day 6: With ratings falling, Chi l’ha Visto (Italy’s version of Unsolved Mysteries) does an episode.  Hostess Barbara D’Urso interviews the children of the miners: “Tell me, do you miss your daddy?”

Day 7-Day 30: All attempts fail.  Bertolaso is named worldwide head of civil protection. After a month, the miners get out by digging with their hands.

A year later, the 33 miners, fired long before,  are prosecuted for damage to the mine site.

Original, albeit slightly different, here.

Quick Roundup

ENEL is getting pretty interesting.  Check out their Green Power.  Back when in 2008 I was impressed by their solar generation, tracked by the minute, at their headquarters near Largo Cairoli in Milan.

As was predicted in the Italian press years ago — and in these pages a few weeks back when people were naive enough to think that Fini could bring down the PM — Bossi’s Lega Nord stands to win big from the continued political incoherency. Hit the north?

Hilary in that place where maybe she was shot at, once… not terribly impressive.  But good words on the hate and hooliganism, probably by Tim Judah, I’m guessing.

Yes, these are all from one source.  But one ignores that source at a very deep peril, although it can be mocked humorously.

And last but not least, here’s a fine one from Gotham’s rag on rising income inequality, the reality of which we really all have to confront.  It’s something my Italian students complain about a lot, but the numbers show that Europe has less to worry about than the US in this regard.  As Leonardo DiCaprio mock-quotes Hawthorn in The Departed, “Families are always rising or falling in America.”

Of New Princes

Not anymore...

I realize how remiss I’ve been to have a blog on Italian politics without addressing, at least directly, the very acute crisis that Italian politics is going through right now. Angelo Panebianco’s front-page editorial in yesterday’s Corriere directly assigned the problem to factionalism. The following quote jumped out at me:

In the early ’60s, in the years of DC, Italian politics was judged incomprehensible by then-American Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Things have not changed much. Why are Italian politics so opaque for voters? Because, in a democracy, transparency and the comprehensibility of politics is inversely proportional to the number of factions present in the game.

Well, I’d never heard that rule before, but I suppose it fits here. While not uniquely Italian by any means, it does encourage one to look back at one’s Machiavelli. I cribbed the following quote from Bufacchi and Burgess’s excellent Italy Since 1989 (in case those of you following my Twitter feed have been wondering):

Having carefully considered the subject of the above discourses, and wondering within myself whether the present times were propitious to a new prince, and whether there were elements that would give an opportunity to a wise and virtuous one to introduce a new order of things which would do honour to him and good to the people of this country, it appears to me that so many things concur to favour a new prince that I never knew a time more fit than the present.

What was true in 1513 and 1989 still rings true today. It is clearly time for a new prince, and how this unfolds will be interesting. What it will change, of course, remains to be seen, though — in many ways I feel that Berlusconi has become a sort of bugbear for the left (as evidenced by films like Videocracy, which is not bad in and of itself but which seems to ascribe far more sinister powers to the prime minister’s lowbrow TV shows). Will Fini as PM wake Italy up? He does at least boast a book and a think tank to his name — as well as, of course, the oft-cited fascist roots. We shall see.