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FOAF is going to Italy and Greece soon, and was wondering what the chances / consequences are if she gets caught bring in mush. She thinks it might be better to just go and see if she can get some there. As international arrest tend to be sucky and crappy.
-------------------- "Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody's going to die."
well I dont know about mushrooms but I would stear clear of italy or haven you heard????..........................
Old Italy, new facism by IGNACIO RAMONET
Of all the forms of hidden persuasion, the most implacable is that imposed by the way things are - Pierre Bourdieu
In Italy "the way things are" has persuaded a majority of voters, successfully and inconspicuously, that the days of the traditional political parties are gone. This has its roots in a simple fact: since the 1980s the political system has degenerated at an alarming rate. Some speak of gangrene and rot. The scale of and extent of corruption astounds. The system of backhanders has cost the country more than 75bn euros. The clandestine bankrolling of parties has created fabulously rich politicians, particularly socialists and Christian democrats. The independent editor, Indro Montanelli, points out that "anyone who had eyes could see that the lifestyles of certain party officials bore no relation to their declared incomes" (1).
Already in 1992 the mani pulite (clean hands) campaign and Judge Antonio di Pietro were uncovering a huge network of corruption among businessmen and politicians. The former prime minister and Socialist party leader, Bettino Craxi, was accused of having amassed a fortune illegally and resigned amid scenes of chaos, with a crowd abusing him, almost trying to lynch him. Next came Giulio Andreotti, the leader of the Christian Democrats, also a former prime minister. He was charged and publicly vilified, accused of collusion with the mafia and complicity in murder.
The toppling of these two giants sent shockwaves through the political system. In the space of a few months hundreds of deputies, senators and ex-ministers were pursued by scandals, investigated by judges and lampooned by the media. The cumulative effect of these accusations of financial misconduct was that the political class was effectively rejected by the public and discredited. As Eric Joszef describes it, "There is such a vacuum and such a strong sense of panic that some people fear a coup d'?tat" (2).
But instead of a coup, the population was collectively hypnotised by television. Silvio Berlusconi, already allied to the post-fascists of the National Alliance and the xenophobes of the Northern League, emerged to win his first elections, becoming prime minister from May to December 1994. His first premiership came to an abrupt end, but that did not discourage him. Although he too was accused of financial irregularities, dubious dealings and graft, factors combined to enable his comeback in May 2001.
What were these factors? First, his immense wealth. He is the 14th richest man in the world, and the wealthiest in Italy (3) - a fortune built from nothing, thanks to initial protection from his Socialist friend, Bettino Craxi. Through a series of intrigues he achieved success in property; then in supermarkets and distribution; then in insurance and advertising; and finally in cinema and TV. Together with the Bertelsmann group, Rupert Murdoch, Leo Kirsch and Jean-Marie Messier, he has become one of Europe's media moguls.
Berlusconi, with the wealth and the power that his TV channels confer in terms of symbolic violence (4), proves one of the truths of globalisation: when you have economic and media power, you acquire political power almost automatically (5). And triumphantly too, given that his party, Forza Italia, won about 30% of the vote in the May 2001 elections, making it Italy's main political party.
As a populist and demagogue, Silvio Berlusconi does not let scruples stand in his way. In choosing his political partners he had no hesitation in doing deals with the ex-fascist Gianfranco Fini and the racist Umberto Bossi. These three men are Europe's most grotesque and nauseating triumvirate. Before the May elections The Economist, commenting on the charges brought against Berlusconi, suggested that he was not fit to govern Italy and was a danger to democracy and a threat to the rule of law (6).
This gloomy prognostication has proved correct. After the pitiful debacle of the traditional parties Italian society - once a byword for sophistication - has watched supinely (only the film world has shown real resistance) as the political system founders and becomes further confused, outrageous, ridiculous and dangerous. With the air of a fairground huckster, and thanks to his TV monopoly, Berlusconi is setting up what Dario Fo describes as a "new fascism" (7). The question is to what extent this worrying Italian model is likely to spread to the rest of Europe.
(1) Quoted by Eric Joszef, Main basse sur l'Italie. La r?sistible ascension de Silvio Berlusconi, Grasset, Paris 2001, p 37.
(2) Ibid, p 41.
(3) America's Forbes magazine estimates Berlusconi's fortune at 14.5bn euros.
(4) "Symbolic violence is that form of violence which is exercised on a social agent with his complicity." Pierre Bourdieu (with Lo?c Wacquant), in R?ponses, Seuil, Paris, 1992.
(5) A proof also offered by Michael Bloomberg, the American millionaire owner of the Bloomberg TV round-the-clock financial news channel, who spent more than 77.5m euros on his electoral campaign to become mayor of New York on 1 December 2001.
(6) The Economist, London, 28 April 2001.
(7) Dario Fo, "Le nouveau fascisme est arrive", Le Monde, 11 January 2002.
Tony's new best friend
Silvio Berlusconi is the first popular plutocrat to take over a modern democracy. And he's our PM's latest ally.For optimists who retained the illusion that New Labour is a benign political force, Tony Blair's alliance with Silvio Berlusconi should provide an overdue education. If they can force themselves to see clearly - a huge 'if', I grant you - they will gawp as every good thing they thought they knew about their leader melts before their eyes.
Blair and, I regret to say, Gordon Brown are now at one with the heirs of Mussolini. Berlusconi's coalition includes the MSI, the direct descendent of Il Duce's fascist party. You can barely utter the word 'fascism' before diplomats and conventional academics start screaming that the MSI is really 'post-fascist'; a kinder and gentler version of the murderous past.
Its leaders prefer Armani to black leather, doubters are instructed, and require you to drink latte rather than castor oil. For all the temporising, the MSI's electoral success is built on the incitement of racial hatred and the provision of a home for undiluted fascists who show no signs of wanting to settle down in the post-modern world.
There is a large element of nostalgia for the Thirties behind the MSI. The Northern League, Berlusconi's other coalition partner, has a demented yearning to recreate Padania, a medieval Lombard state which never existed. Berlusconi is more frightening because he represents a possible future.
He is the first plutocratic populist to take over a democratic country. Quite where the opposition will present the argument for removing him from power at the next election is a delicate question. Berlusconi owns Italy's largest private television network, Mediaset, and his appointees are taking over the state-owned Rai. He will soon control 90 per cent of Italian TV. Meanwhile, his control of government has enabled him to stop in their tracks investigations into charges of attempting to bribe the police and magistrates, tax fraud and breaches of monopoly law. States and corporations are intertwining across the world. Berlusconi is a trail-blazer who shows his colleagues how profitable the merger can be.
On a visit to Italy in February and at the European Union summit in Barcelona yesterday, Blair cemented a coalition with the monopoly capitalist against the trade unionists who had, somewhat foolishly, helped him to power. The Foreign Office pretends that all Britain is doing is asking hidebound Europe to emulate our flexible labour market. Its soothing argument ignores the active malice of New Labour policy.
Blair and Berlusconi agreed in February that the EU should not give workers more rights. Left-wing Italians were astonished. Not once during his visit did he hint that he disagreed with a word Berlusconi said. The PM's behaviour was 'incredible, a political act of the gravest sort', said Pietro Folena, a Left Democrat MP, who went on to recommend that socialists in the European Parliament should consider expelling the Labour Party from their ranks. Cesare Salvi, the socialist vice-president of the Italian Senate, concluded that Blair 'was now the leader of the European Right'.
Signore Salvi was spot on. In any European election, New Labour, whose giddy intellectuals once announced that Britain was building a Third-Way Europe, must hope that the Right wins. By the Right I don't mean Christian Democrats or Gaullists who believe in social solidarity, but radical right-wingers who will on occasion combine nostalgia for fascism, enthusiasm for unconstrained capitalism and racism in equal measure.
The concordat - or should that be 'axis'? - between Labour London and post-fascist Rome pushed John Monks, the painfully moderate General Secretary of the TUC, to denounce Blair as 'bloody stupid' last week. He is indeed stupid, but restless with it. The TUC knows Blair wants to stop Europe extending employment law to protect temporary workers. It has been told he won't allow employees' representatives to restrict the downsizing effects of corporate restructuring. It fears he will destroy existing rights.
There is an abundance of evidence to support its suspicions. Patricia Hewitt, the Trade and Industry Secretary who learned the ways of the private sector at Arthur Andersen, is proposing to cut the number of industrial tribunal cases by about 40,000 a year. She will compel litigants to pay the costs of the victor. Most sacked workers can't risk losing thousands and therefore won't sue.
Labour peers tell me that the measure was all but drafted by the Confederation of British Industry and Blair won't allow the most modest of amendments to be considered. Judge John Prophet, a member of a judiciary which is not known for its devotion to the workers' cause, said the Government would 'humiliate employees who are simply seeking to have their rights established'.
The current issue of Tribune carries a piece fuelled with disillusion and disgust by Jon Cruddas, a former adviser to Blair. It deserved more attention than it received. Cruddas explains the apparent hatred of employees by revealing that Downing Street is the last place on the planet where you can still find believers in the 'New Economy'. Blair and Brown think the 'working-class is withering away', he writes. Britain's real prosperity is being built by world-wide-web wizards, who network in coffee bars, enjoy hectic portfolio careers and earn fortunes by manipulating symbols - and each other.
Protecting the rights of employees can only harm them and the economy. Workers don't need secure jobs. They must be freed from the shackles of protection and encouraged to join the expanding ranks of the dynamic self-employed.
If New Labour understood modernity, it would be hard to disagree with its leaders, even if you regretted the passing of the old world. But there is no evidence that the British are bouncing from job to job - the length of time staff spend with an employer hasn't changed in 20 years. The numbers of the self-employed aren't rising.
The fastest growing areas of employment are indeed in the service sector. However, the mass of service workers aren't web designers but clerks, nurses, cleaners, care assistants and call-centre drones. What wealth Britain has does not come from improvements in productivity and hipsters exploiting technological advances, but from a weary workforce which must put up with the longest hours in Europe.
Monks said Blair will find it 'very difficult to sell the euro' to trade unionists if he didn't stop undermining European social democracy and the employment rights that went with it. The General Secretary had a point.
Why should we vote for an Italianised Europe where accusations of corruption aren't investigated, cronies run state TV and workers are condemned to drudgery and insecurity? We can get all of that at home.
and another ..............
RISE AND FALL AND RISE OF SILVIO BERLUSCONI - Time Magazine, May 7, 2001
By Thomas Sancton, Rome
Rocco Buttiglione puffs on his toscano cigar and recalls the first time he ever met Silvio Berlusconi. "It was in 1978," says the philosophy professor and leader of the center-right Christian Democratic Union. "He was just moving into the TV business and thought he had to learn more about Italian society and politics. So he asked me to give him some classes on democracy and government. His approach surprised me, but it is the very image of Berlusconi ? he is a man capable of learning and eager to learn."
Since the billionaire business mogul first jumped into the political arena and won election as Prime Minister in 1994 he has learned a lot ? mostly from his own mistakes. Berlusconi came to power as a political dilettante and stuffed his cabinet with largely inexperienced cronies. He challenged the country's powerful judges and soon found himself in the cross hairs of numerous investigations. After only seven lackluster months, Berlusconi's government toppled when a key ally pulled out of the center-right coalition.
That could have been the end of Berlusconi's foray into politics. Yet today the so-called Il Cavaliere, 64, is poised to win his old job back in the May 13 face-off against former Rome Mayor Francesco Rutelli, 46, photogenic head of the ruling center-left Olive Tree coalition. In policy terms, there are no major differences between the two sides. Both call for lower taxes, better services, stronger economic growth, continued privatization, reinforced anticrime measures and tougher policies on illegal immigration.
More than anything, the campaign is shaping up into a battle of personalities between Berlusconi, the self-made entrepreneur, and Rutelli, the younger, smoother political pro. Or as the Italians like to say, the Rich against the Beautiful. Though the gap is narrowing the latest polls show Berlusconi leading by four points. But with more than 20% of the electorate still undecided, Rutelli pins his hopes on pulling these swing voters to his side.
The center-left can point to some real accomplishments since economist Romano Prodi led them to victory in 1996 ? not the least of which was to stay in power for a full parliamentary term, no mean feat in Italy. Prodi oversaw a heroic effort to bring down Italy's chronic deficits and qualify for entry into the E.U.'s single currency in 1998. More than $75 billion worth of state industries were privatized, inflation was slashed in half and the economy achieved healthy growth rates. But Italy still lags behind most of its European partners, with slower growth and higher unemployment than the E.U. average.
The government's most glaring failures came in the political arena. Born of the breakup of the old ruling class following the corruption probes of the early '90s, the Olive Tree was a heterogeneous collection of former Socialists, Christian Democrats and reformed ex-Communists, now known as the Left Democrats and headed by Massimo D'Alema. The coalition was held hostage by the tiny hard-line Communist Refoundation, whose votes it needed to stay in power. When Communist Refoundation withdrew its support in October 1998, D'Alema succeeded Prodi as Prime Minister only to pass the torch to Giuliano Amato, a centrist technocrat, following losses in last year's regional elections.
For a coalition that had promised a new kind of politics, the revolving-door turnover seemed all too familiar. "D'Alema made a fundamental mistake in eliminating Prodi as Prime Minister, because Prodi was the man with whom the center-left had gone to the polls," says Franco Pavoncello, professor of political science at Rome's John Cabot University. "His removal made the electorate lose their sense of contact with the government." D'Alema's other mistake was to resurrect Berlusconi by naming him to a government commission that was seeking to reform the electoral system and put an end to Italy's comic-opera political instability.
The aim was to replace proportional voting with a majority system that, it was hoped, would create a stable bipolar system. A partial reform in 1993 produced a hybrid arrangement, with three-quarters of the seats chosen by majority vote and the remainder proportionally. The result was to multiply the number of parties, currently more than two dozen, and make the system even more unwieldy. Last May, the government held a referendum to eliminate proportional voting entirely in national elections. But Berlusconi shrewdly turned it into a plebiscite against the government and called for abstention. His battle cry: "Stay at home and send them home." A majority of Italians heeded his advice.
Though the referendum was massively approved, it was ruled invalid because less than 50% of the electorate voted. Following strong center-right scores in the European elections of June 1999 and the regionals of April 2000, the failed referendum handed Berlusconi a third "victory" and made him the front runner for the Prime Minister's job. In what was widely seen as an act of desperation, last October the Olive Tree's chieftains decided to jettison the bland Amato, 62, in favor of the charismatic Rutelli as its standard bearer. "Strange way to choose a leader," says
Stefano Folli, political commentator for the Milan daily Corriere della Sera. "It was just an image operation, and the electorate perceives this. Rutelli is a good campaigner, but the people identify with Berlusconi as a man of success who can create wealth for everyone."
Berlusconi's position as a self-made business tycoon is both his greatest strength and greatest weakness as a politician. Through his $12 billion Fininvest holding company, the former cruise-ship crooner now controls Italy's three main private TV networks, its biggest publishing house (Mondadori), a major newspaper (Il Giornale) and a leading soccer team (AC Milan). Forbes magazine ranks him as the world's 14th-richest person, with a fortune estimated at $12.8 billion.
This concentration of financial and media power makes for a potential conflict of interest when combined with the country's supreme political power. "Do you find it normal," Italian author Antonio Tabucchi wrote in France's daily Le Monde, "that in a Western parliamentary democracy, not some South American country, a man who owns newspapers, publishing houses and television stations can act in the public interest and become Prime Minister? Doesn't it seem to you that this sort of power heralds a new form of totalitarianism?"
Berlusconi rejects such talk as political hyperventilation. He notes that he resigned as ceo of Fininvest in 1994, though he remains its owner, and talks vaguely of putting his assets in a blind trust if elected. "My enemies tried to destroy my companies by using judicial, tax and political pressure against me," he told Time in a 1997 interview. "It's political extortion and blackmail. That's the real conflict of interest. They want to influence my political action by attacking my companies."
Indeed, Berlusconi and his companies have come under attack in a dozen or so judicial probes into bribery, corruption and tax evasion charges. But, so far, none of them has stuck: some charges have been dismissed; others have resulted in convictions that were overturned on appeal; still others were struck down by the statute of limitations. None of this has much impact on Italian public opinion. A recent Corriere della Sera poll showed that 39% of the public is indifferent to the conflict of interest issue, while 23% feel that Berlusconi's business interests would help him govern better.
Probably Berlusconi's most serious liability is his alliance with the Northern League's Umberto Bossi. A gravel-voiced, acid-tongued rabble-rouser who once called for the prosperous north to secede from the rest of the country, Bossi spouts an anti-immigrant, anti-E.U. line. He has ceased to call Berlusconi "Berluskaiser," but he recently branded Amato a "Nazi dwarf," and referred to the European Union as "the Soviet Union of the West." Though Bossi is the one who pulled the plug on Berlusconi's first government, Il Cavaliere claims to have won assurances that the League will remain loyal this time. But the prospect of Bossi's participation in government does not leave Italy's European partners overjoyed. Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel has even raised the prospect of Austria-style E.U. sanctions against Italy.
Such worries are heightened by the fact that Berlusconi's Freedom Alliance is allied in Sicily with Luigi Caruso, a candidate from the far-right Italian Social Movement, heirs to the Fascist Party. And though Berlusconi's other main coalition partner, Gianfranco Fini's National Alliance, has moderated its stance and moved to the center, its roots in the fascist movement are unsettling to many. Berlusconi's forces counter that the left's alliance with communist groupings is equally unsavory. As for Bossi, Berlusconi's aides say privately that they expect to win big enough to get along without the League's backing. But Bossi has already left a big imprint on the center-right platform, extracting promises to work for a devolution of administrative powers to the regions, and for tougher anticrime and anti-immigrant policies.
Immigration is a recent but rising concern in Italy, where foreign residents officially account for only 2% of the population. In the past few years though, Italy has become a key entry point for immigrants from Albania, Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Turkey. Polls show that Italians now consider immigration to be the country's third-biggest problem, after unemployment and crime. These facts have not been lost on Rutelli, some of whose posters promise crackdowns on "the illegal immigration racket."
The real centerpiece of Berlusconi's platform is a promise to streamline state bureaucracy and slash taxes. Berlusconi's plan would cut income taxes across the board by between $25 billion and $35 billion a year. Rutelli is promising to cut taxes by up to $23 billion a year, although he would target them to help the lower income brackets. The problem with both proposals is that the lost revenue will have to be offset by extensive spending cuts to stay within the budgetary requirements of all eurozone countries. That means reining in Italy's profligate pension system, which gobbles up 30% of state spending and groans under the weight of an aging population.
But neither side is saying anything very precise about reforming pensions or loosening up the rigid labor market, which contributes largely to the country's 9.9% unemployment rate. And for good reason: they well know that union opposition could trigger crippling strikes. And as Berlusconi recently admitted to the New York Times, talking about such things during the campaign "doesn't bring us votes."
Berlusconi's candor speaks volumes about his approach to politics. Apart from his general free-market philosophy, the details don't really matter. He seeks power, not for its own sake, but as a matter of personal vindication. "Berlusconi needs love, that's a key motivation," says Giuliano Ferrara, editor of the daily Il Foglio and a former adviser to Berlusconi.
Berlusconi's supporters admit that he stumbled on his first try at governing, but they insist that he has matured as a politician. "He was a dilettante when he entered politics," says Berlusconi ally Pierferdinando Casini, leader of the Christian Democratic Center, "but today he is a pro. He won't make the same mistakes. He has finally understood that running a country is different from running a big company." Buttiglione agrees. "At first," he says, "Berlusconi was impatient with the intricacies of public life. Now he has learned that you can't cut every knot with a sword."
Corriere della Sera's Folli sees Berlusconi, for all his megalomania, as a "key factor" in modernizing Italian politics. "He's the man who has done the most to change the system in the last decade," says Folli. Berlusconi, he adds, has "proved his qualities as a political leader by forging his coalition and leading it with a strong hand. Whether he has the qualities of a statesman remains to be seen." Unless Rutelli pulls off a stunning upset ? and that is always a possibility in this volatile country ? Berlusconi will soon have a chance to answer that question at the helm of Italy's 59th postwar government. The world will be watching.
there are MUCH better articles that I have read but I cant find them right now
I wouldn't say that you should stay out of Italy because of that. Berlusconi is a big friend and supporter of Bush, which is a kind of rarity in Europe and that says everything. He was involved in some big corruption scandals, but he was able to change few laws to get immunity.
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