Saturday, September 17, 2005

Post Number Forty-Seven: Infamy Fell On Italy

Of Silvio Berlusconi.

Silvio Berlusconi, whom I consider my nemesis, the exact opposite of the kind of person I would esteem, and the ultimate evil to be eradicated if we want Italy to progress into the world of civilized countries, is the Prime Minister of Italy. I will hereby paste an excerpt from Wikipedia's entry about this person Berlusconi.

Silvio Berlusconi:


Berlusconi is a controversial figure at times. In one widely reported incident, upon being asked how he would have dealt with his conflict of interests by the German member of the European parliament Martin Schulz (SPD) during Italy's presidency, Berlusconi reacted with the words "Mr. Schulz, I know there is a producer in Italy who is making a film on the Nazi concentration camps. I will suggest you for the role of kapo. You'd be perfect." The reference to the Nazis caused an uproar in the 626-seat assembly and a short diplomatic crisis between Italy and Germany.
On another occasion, he stated that "Mussolini's regime hadn't killed a single person" and that Mussolini "just used to send opposers on holiday" thus apparently denying or dismissing a long series of fascist crimes, from the murder of Giacomo Matteotti to the infamous fascist concentration camps (Rab, Gonars, etc.). Berlusconi later claimed that he did not mean to white-wash Mussolini, that he only reacted to a comparison, which he felt unfair, between the fascist dictator and Saddam Hussein.
One of Berlusconi's strongest critics in the media outside Italy is the British weekly The Economist (nicknamed by Berlusconi "The Ecommunist"). The war of words between Berlusconi and the Economist has been infamous and widely reported, with Berlusconi taking the publication to court in Rome and the Economist publishing open letters against him
In any event, according to The Economist, Berlusconi, in his position as prime minister of Italy, now has effective control of 90% of all national television broadcasting. This figure includes stations he owns directly as well as those he has indirect control of through his position as Prime Minister and his ability to influence the choice of the management bodies of these stations.
Berlusconi's extensive control of the media has been linked to claims that Italy's media shows limited freedom of expression. The Freedom of the Press 2004 Global Survey, an annual study issued by the American organization Freedom House, downgraded Italy's ranking from 'Free' to 'Partly Free' on the basis of Berlusconi's influence over RAI, a ranking which, in "Western Europe" was shared only with Turkey (2005). Reporters Without Borders states that in 2004, "The conflict of interests involving prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and his vast media empire was still not resolved and continued to threaten news diversity". In April 2004, the International Federation of Journalists joined the criticism, objecting to the passage of a law vetoed by Carlo Azeglio Ciampi in 2003, which critics believe is designed to protect Berlusconi's alleged 90% control of national media.
Berlusconi's influence over RAI [The National Broadcasting Company of Italy] became evident when in Sofia he expressed his views on the journalists Enzo Biagi, Michele Santoro, and comedian Daniele Luttazzi after his satiric behaviour and his interview with journalist Marco Travaglio. The four never appeared in any TV shows since then. Left-winged politicians and media refers to this episode as the Sofia Diktat. The TV broadcasting of a satirical program called RAIOT was censored in November 2003 after the comedian Sabina Guzzanti made outspoken criticism of Berlusconi media empire Mediaset, one of Berlusconi's companies, sued the italian state broadcasting company RAI because of Guzzanti show asking 20 million Euro for "damages" and from novembre 2003 she was forced to appear only in theatres around Italy.
In response to such claims, Mediaset, Berlusconi's television group, has stated that it uses the same criteria as the public (state-owned) television RAI in assigning a proper visibility to all the most important political parties and movements (the so-called 'Par Condicio'). It is also true that while the distribution of newspapers in Italy is lower than most other European countries (100 copies per 1000 individuals compared to 500 per 1000 in Scandinavian countries, for example, the majority of national press, which includes the three italian largest printed dailies, La Repubblica, Il Corriere della Sera and La Stampa, tends to report independently of the Berlusconi government or (in the case of La Repubblica, among the three major newspapers cited above) to be very openly critic of it. Yet the resignations of the director of Corriere della Sera, Ferruccio de Bortoli, were seen as a grasp for more media control from the government. In fact the FNSI, the Trade Union for Italian Journalists, organized a three days long strike to show support to the former director of the newspaper.
The conflict of interest issues can be better understood in the context of the structure of control of the state media. The board of directors of RAI is appointed by both presidents of law-makers' chambers (Senate and Deputies). Although the presidents are chosen by the majority group, they are traditionally chosen in order to be acceptable by the opposition too. As of 2005 these positions are occupied by Marcello Pera and Pierferdinando Casini respectively. The Italian parliament established an oversight commission for radio and TV broadcasting services in 1975, including members of all parties. The chairman of this commission is traditionally a representative of the opposition (at the present time a member of DS-Ulivo party)

Legal investigations of Berlusconi

Silvio Berlusconi undoubtedly has a rather long record of judicial trials, as several crimes have been alleged to him or his firms (see also the following subsection on Berlusconi's trials), including false accounting, tax fraud, corruption and bribery of police officers and judges. Some of Berlusconi's close collaborators, friends and firm managers have been found guilty of related crimes, notably his younger brother, Paolo, who in 2002 accepted to pay 52 million euros as a plea bargain to local authorities for various charges including corruption and undue appropriation17. However, no definitive conviction sentence has ever been issued on Silvio Berlusconi himself for any of the trials which have concluded so far; in some cases he has been fully acquitted of the alleged charges, in others he has been acquitted with dubitative formula (not proven), or he was acquitted because the statute of limitations expired before a definitive sentence could be issued; in one case a previously granted amnesty extinguished the crime (perjury) before the sentence came into effect. The Italian legal system allows the statute of limitations to continue to run during the course of the trial. Consequently, the dilatory tactics adopted by Berlusconi's attorneys (including repeated motions for change of venue) served to nullify the pending charges. Some of the suspects on Berlusconi's person arise from real or perceived blank spots in his past. Notably, in 1981 a scandal arose on the discovery by the police of Licio Gelli's secret freemasonry lodge (Propaganda Due, or P2) aiming to move the Italian political system in an authoritarian direction to oppose communism. A list of names was found of adherents of P2, which included members of the secret services and some prominent personalities from the political, industrial, military and press elite, among which Silvio Berlusconi, who was just starting to gain popularity as the founder and owner of "Canale 5" TV network. The P2 lodge was dissolved by the Italian parliament in december 1981 and a law was passed declaring similar organizations illegal, but no specific crimes were alleged to individual members of P2. Berlusconi later (1989) sued for libel three journalists who had written an article hinting at his involvement in financiary crimes and in this occasion he declared in court that he had joined the P2 lodge "only a very short time before the scandal broke" and "he had not even paid the entry fee". Such statements, however, conflicted with the findings of the parliamentary commission appointed to investigate the lodge's activity, with material evidence, and even with previous testimony of Berlusconi, all of which showing that he had actually been a member of P2 since 1978 and had indeed paid a 100,000 Italian liras entry fee. Because of this he was indicted for perjury, but the crime was extinguished by the 1989 amnesty.
Berlusconi's career as an entrepreneur is also often questioned by his detractors. The allegations made against him generally include suspects about the extremely fast increase of his activity as a constructon entrepreneur in years 1961-63, hinting at the possibility that in those years he received money from unknown and possibly illegal sources. These accusations are regarded by Berlusconi and his supporters as empty slander, trying to undermine Berlusconi's reputation of a self-made man. Frequently cited by opponents are also events dating to the 1980s, including supposed "favor exchanges" between Berlusconi and the former prime minister Bettino Craxi, indicted in 1990-91 for various corruption charges; and even possible connections to the Italian Mafia, the latter accusations arising mostly from the curious circumstance that he employed for two years, as a stableman in his Arcore villa, the wanted mafia boss Vittorio Mangano4. Berlusconi acknowledges a personal friendship only to Craxi, and of course denies any ties to the Mafia, stating that he was absolutely not aware of who Mangano really was when he employed him. Heated debate on this issue was recently (2004) triggered again when a Forza Italia senator and long time friend of Berlusconi, Marcello Dell'Utri, was sentenced to 9 years by the Palermo court on charge of "external association to the Mafia" 5, a sentence on which Berlusconi refused to comment.
On some occasions, which raised a strong upheaval in the Italian political opposition, laws passed by the Berlusconi administration have effectively delayed ongoing trials on him, allowing the statute of limitations to expire, or stopped them entirely. Relevant examples are the law reducing punishment for all cases of false accounting; the new law on international rogatories, which made his Swiss bank records unusable in court against him 6; the law on legitimate suspicion, which allowed defendants to request their cases to be moved to another court if they believe that the local judges are biased against them 7,8; and most importantly the lodo Maccanico law, passed in June 2003, which granted the highest five state officers, including the Prime Minister, immunity from prosecution while in office2. This law froze Berlusconi's position in the SME-Ariosto trial in which he was accused of having corrupted judges in previous legal rulings regarding his partecipation in the public auction of the state-owned food company SME in the 1980s. However, the trial was not frozen for other defendants, and the former lawyer of Berlusconi's main firm (Fininvest) and former Italian defence minister, Cesare Previti, was sentenced to 5 years although the crime was reduced from corruption of judges to simple corruption 9,10. In January 2004 the Lodo Maccanico was nullified by the Constitutional court as it was ruled to be in conflict with the Italian constitution. Subsequently Berlusconi has declared his intent to re-introduce the law using the correct procedure for constitutional modification. Because of these legislative acts, political opposers accuse Berlusconi of passing ad personam laws, to protect himself from legal charges; Berlusconi and his allies, on the other hand, mantain that such laws are consistent with everyone's right to a rapid and just trial, and with the principle of presumption of innocence (garantismo); furthermore, they claim that Berlusconi is subject to a judiciary persecution, a political witch hunt orchestrated by politicized (left-wing) judges 11.
For such reasons, Berlusconi and his government have an ongoing quarrel with the Italian judiciary, which reached its peak in 2003 when Berlusconi commented to a foreign journalist that judges are "mentally disturbed" and "anthropologically different from the rest of the human race", remarks that he later claimed he meant to be directed to specific judges only, and of a humorous nature12. More seriously, the Berlusconi administration has long been planning a judiciary reform intended to limit the arbitrariness allowed to the judges in their decisions (for example by introducing civil liability on the consequences of their sentences), but which, according to its critics, will instead limit the magistrature's independence, by de facto subjecting the judiciary to the executive's control. This reform has met almost unanimous dissent from the Italian judges 13,14 and, after three years of debate and struggle, was passed by the Italian parliament in December 2004, but was immediately vetoed by the Italian President, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi 15, who said some of the passed laws were "clearly unconstitutional". Presently (February 2005) the law is in process of being examinated by the parliament again, taking into account the President's objections of constitutionality.
Berlusconi has also been indicted in Spain for charges of tax fraud and violation of anti-trust laws regarding the private TV network Telecinco, but his status as a member of the European Parliament allowed him to gain immunity from prosecution 16.

This section provides a summary of each of the many trials involving Silvio Berlusconi as of 2004.
Completed processes
False testimony on Propaganda 2: In 1990 Berlusconi was declared theoretically guilty of perjury by the appeal court of Venice for false testimony on his affiliation to the freemason lodge "Propaganda 2", commonly known as "P2"; however the court did not proceed to a punishment sentence because the crime had been extinguished by the 1989 amnesty.

Bribing a member of the Financial Police (corruption)
First Court: sentenced to jail (2 years and 9 months) for four bribes.Appeal court: the statute of limitations expired for three of the charges, an acquitted was given on the fourth with dubitative formula (similar to Scottish law not proven verdict).

All Iberian 1 (illegally financing a political party)
First Court: sentenced to jail (2 years and 4 months) for paying 21 billion lire (about 10 million Euro) to Bettino Craxi via an offshore bank account codenamed "All Iberian".Appeal Court: the statute of limitations expired before the appeal was completed so Silvio Berlusconi was acquitted.

Medusa Cinema (false accounting)
First Court: sentenced to jail (16 months) for false accounting of 10 billion Lire (about 5 million Euro) in some of Silvio Berlusconi's bank accounts.Appeal Court: acquitted on the charge with dubitative formula (not proven) .

Lodo Mondadori (corrupting a judge)
Appeal Court: statute of limitations expired before the appeal was completed so Silvio Berlusconi was acquitted.

Trials still running (September 2004)

All Iberian 2 (false accounting):
Trial suspended: both the European Court of Justice and the Italian Constitutional Court are examining the new laws on social crimes approved by Berlusconi's Government. If the new laws are accepted, the crime statute of limitations will have expired.

Macherio estates (embezzlement, tax fraud and false accounting)
First Court: acquitted for embezzlement and tax fraud, the statute of limitations expired before a verdict was reached on the two cases of false accounting.Appeal Court: acquitted for embezzlement, tax fraud and the first case of false accounting; statute of limitations expired for the second.

Lentini affair (false accounting / 5 millions Euro paid secretly to Torino football club for buying the player Luigi Lentini)
First court: The statute of limitations expired for the charge.Appeal court: still running.
Fininvest media group consolidated (false accounting / 750 million Euro of illegal (black) funds stored by Fininvest in 64 offshore societies)The statute of limitations expired due to the new laws on false accounting recently approved by Berlusconi's government.

SME-Ariosto (corrupting a judge)
At the beginning, the trial SME-Ariosto involved both Cesare Previti and Silvio Berlusconi. Then, the Italian government approved a new law, the so called "Lodo Maccanico" (also known as "Lodo Schifani"): this law gives immunity to the five highest state officers (premier, president of the Republic, Senate's president, Deputy Chamber's president, Constitutional Court's president). In order to avoid the complete suspension of the trial, the Court of Milan has split it in two parts, one regarding Cesare Previti, and the other regarding Silvio Berlusconi. The Cesare Previti's part of the trial resulted in a guilty verdict, while the other part (regarding Silvio Berlusconi) was closed because of the statute of limitations, and not with a innocence verdict. Actually, the Constitutional Court declared that the "Lodo Maccanico" violates articles n. 3 and 34 of the Italian Constitution (Sentence n. 120, 2004).

SME-Ariosto (false accounting)
Trial suspended: the European Court of Justice is examining the new Italian laws on social crimes (see trial on All Iberian 2 above).


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I think everyone can understand why I hate this man.

As for the rest, I still believe that all men are created equal - which is definitely something Berlusconi doesn't believe, much less understand.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Post Number Forty-Six: Ceterum censeo, Carthaginem esse delendam

Of Equality

In the III-II centuries b.C., the might of Rome conflicted with that of Carthage, a city built on the coast of modern Tunisia, from where it controlled the Mediterranean. Already in control of the Italian Peninsula, the Romans knew that Carthage represented an obstacle to further growth of the economy of the Republic (Rome was a Republic then). Sea routes were of critical importance to boost commerce and Rome simply couldn't let them be controlled by a foreign power. On its own side, Carthage knew that its dominion on the sea was in danger and Rome was to be confronted soon, before it became too mighty an enemy to deal with. This led to the Carthaginian Wars, three series of battles which rank among the most famous campaigns ever fought on this planet. Certainly, one of the most renowned episodes is that of the Carthaginian general Hannibal moving from Spain (back then, a nation under the rule of Carthage) with an army that included elephants, an animal Romans were unfamiliar with. Hannibal was driven in an extenuating series of battles away from Rome by Quintus Fabius Maximus, a Roman General I am proud of having my same name (Maximus is the Latin translation of my Italian name). Anyway, it is known that after the second Carthaginian war was ended, Marcus Porcius Cato the Censor was elected consul of the Republic of Rome, and he had the habit to conclude whatever speech he had on no matter what topic, with the sentence "Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam", that means "As for the rest, I believe that Carthage must be destroyed".
His insistence should be now matched by my intention to close every post I submit to this site with the sentence "Ceterum censeo homines equales esse", or "As for the rest, I believe that all men are equal".

All men are EQUAL. I have already stated this sentence in my blog. I have noticed by talking with Viv that some people still find this too hard a concept to understand. Perhaps, some people do not really know what it means, to state that all men are equal.

I am a guy. I have brown hair and brown eyes, a white skin that becomes beautifully tanned very quickly after a short exposition to sunshine. I have studied Physics, I enjoy literature, I can speak two languages and mutter some words in another couple, my IQ was estimated equal to 135, I am sensitive to music and much less to paintings, I love classical music and beautiful women (the definition of beautiful woman is very subjective in this case). I am European and Italian, specifically Northern Italian. I pride myself of being continuously flattered by Miss Vivien Won who I repute one of the most interesting people in the world, and by Tanya Gelfand who is, simply said, a perfect charming friend of mine. I love science and philosophy, am curious and somewhat arrogant especially when it comes to dealing with Catholic lowlife.

This very inaccurate description of me already identifies a series of characteristics of my being me, that set me apart from a lot of people. I am a guy therefore I am not a girl (and sometimes I regret it). I have brown hair, hence I am not blonde. I am Caucasian, so I am not Asian or Black.
And so on.

I adore Tanya Gelfand and Vivien Won, but they are obviously very different from me. And very different between themselves as well, for that matter, if anything, one is an Asian beauty with a devastatingly inquisitive mind and the other is a Russian-Jew concentration of pure charm and artistic talent. I am not an Asian beauty and I am not slightly talented for visual arts.

If I were so picky as to care about this, my left hand is different from my right hand. They can both type relatively quickly on the keyboard but one can write, the other can't. My eyes are not remotely similar, one is very larger than the other and my sight is therefore impaired: unless I intentionally focus my sight, everything in my world appears blurred just as things do in impressionist paintings by Renoir.
And so on.

It is therefore very evident on the surface, that I am quite different from other people, and in fact I am quite unique. I am a strong supporter of the uniqueness of human beings. There can only be one Vivien Won, and even if we cloned Vivien the new Vivien would not be the same person, for the new girl's life experiences would be totally different and therefore would lead her to a different personality behavior. When I was a child the world was totally different. I was born in 1974 and there were no home computers, cell phones or globalization back then. If I were cloned here and now, my clone would grow up in a totally different world and would certainly develop a different character according to his surroundings.

Each of us is unique, but still I reckon that all human beings are equal. How can it be so? How can I plainly state that human beings are equal if I just stated that human beings are unique and unreplaceable?

I state that because being equal does not mean being, in fact, IDENTICAL. I am not the same as Viv or Tanya.

Stating, like i do, that I am equal with Tanya and Viv, means that, while I recognize the obvious differences among the three of us, I believe that from a certain point of view, that is as far as our nature of human beings is involved, such differences are irrelevant.
In fact, while Tanya and Viv are obviously more attractive than me, no one can deny the fact that the three of us are, actually, human beings. Were I so insane to punch Viv to unconsciousness, I am quite positive she wouldn't be happy about it, as in fact no other human being would. I can in fact assure you that I wouldn't be happy to be punched to uncounsciousness by Viv as well... As human beings, we have similar feelings that induce us to cry or rejoice. When a person says "I am sad", we all know what that means because we all know what it means to be sad, and we know that because we experience that all the time. A human being has a brain (although most human beings do not use it). This brain, in case it is put to use, is able to produce rational thinking. Rationality is a characteristic of all human beings (put aside whether it is actually used or not). Humans share the same destiny on this planet. If the planet was wiped out, all humans would die. In fact, anyway, all humans die, and all humans are born from a mother - or at least from an egg cell.

Those among humans that believe we are equal, actually do not believe that we are identical. What we believe is that the differences among us are not as important as the things that unite us. It's all there. I dare a further step. The differences among living beings are irrelevant. All of us are alive, therefore similar.

We therefore believe that the fact that we are all humans, implies we have certain rights.

Regardless of how sexy or smart or rich or hard-working or whatever you think other people, or yourself, are, because you are a human being, you have rights.

This is it.


Which rights?

1. the right to be alive. I have the right to live. Note: I do not have the duty of living. I have the right to live, which implies, in my opinion, that I also have the right to choose when I want to stop living. Note number two: I claim, state, and fiercely assert that embryos are not human beings and therefore their supposed right to live comes second to the right to be happy of their mother.
because, in fact, right number two is
2. the right to pursuit happiness. To each his own. We are all different so we are happy in different ways, but each of us, for being human, has the right to pursuit his/her chosen path to happiness. VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: Your chosen path to happiness cannot clash with the paths of someone else. You do what you like with your life, but do not tell anyone else what to do with theirs, and most of all, do not prevent others from pursuiting happiness through your careless behavior
3. the right to a job. Surprise. Job is a right.
4. the right to a house. Surprise #2: housing is a right.
5. the right to feed and drink (this is actually an extension of right 1.)
6. the right to health (this is again an extension of right 1.)

These things are inherent rights of human beings. I was born humans therefore I have all those rights.

What we do in Europe (what we used to do and only some countries still do, specifically the wealthiest and most competitive economies in the world - Scandinavia) is to set rules that guarantee these rights.
We believe that since all humans are equal, the community of humans counts more than the single individual, in the sense that what one does, he doesn't do it for himself alone but for the community. So it is simply right that if I work hard, I do it for the good of the human community and not just for myself. So a part of what I gained I give it to the rest of the people, because only an imbecile would think that if one is poor, that is his fault.
We do not prevent people from being rich, but we do our best to redistribute wealth among all the people, through taxes, so that no one is too richer than someone else. Because everyone has the right to own a house, to be treated if ill and to be fed if hungry.
What happens if a country does not do that?

In the USA, they really believe that if you are poor it's your fault. They do not redistribute wealth through taxes, they despise the poor and praise the wealthy.

The poor have aren't guilty of their condition of course, but Americans are driven imbecile by Republican propaganda. Therefore, when a city is flooded like New Orleans these days, instead of working side by side, feeling a part of the society (which is what Europeans did in Central Europe during the floods of this summer), they shoot each other and try to steal each other's wealth. This is what to expect from a people that does not recognize the rights of human beings. This is also the beginning of the decline of the USA, which is something they looked for, and I hope it will teach them a lesson.

Now all of us, let's think of our country. Are human rights protected? Are humans treated as equal, regardless of their differences? Are omosexuals tolerated and treated equally? can they marry? are girls treated equally like guys? Does the Government make the rich bastards pay taxes so national wealth is redistributed to the good people that did not sell their soul to the devil to become rich bastards? Are the poor treated with condescence and helped regardless of their race?
Italy is light years behind in this sense. We are a bunch of racist imbeciles with so little understanding of human rights that even the Americans fare better than us. And Americans have basically no knowledge of human rights, apart from what they wrote in the Declaration of Independence (all of which their Republican rulers were very quick to forget).
Finland is much closer to this "ideal" of equality. Finland has the most competitive economy in the world, and Italy doesn't even appear in the list of competitive economies.

Being equal means that we have the same rights.

And as for the rest, I believe that all men are created equal.