Saturday, 1 December 2007

Looking for a Good Reason to Die

(Photo: Kids on Tank, Kabul, by swiss.frog)

Saturday, November 24th, an Italian soldier died trying to prevent a terroristic stroke in Kabul, Afghanistan. Mr Daniele Paladini, warrant-officer of the Italian Army, lost his life putting out of action a suicide killer on a bridge yard where the Italian soldiers were working. Nine Afghan civilians were killed: three of them were children. Three other Italian soliders suffered injuries (bbc.co.uk, repubblica.it, corriere.it).

Acknowledging Mr Paladini's heroic sacrifice, the Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi said that the Italian Army won't leave: "Noi restiamo, ma serve una riflessione per impostare la futura presenza in Afghanistan con una strategia di lungo periodo con forte contenuto politico" [We stay here, but a meditation is due to set up our future presence in Afghanistan according to a long term strategy and a strong political substance] (repubblica.it, corriere.it, ilmanifesto.it).

Why Italian soldiers are in Afghanistan? Let's cast our minds back to six years ago. On September 9th, 2001, Ahmad Shah Massoud, the leader of the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan, is killed. The strongest and most representative Afghan general struggling against the Talibans falls during a trap interview.

Two days later, on September 11th, 2001, a series of suicide plane attacks strike the United States of America: roughly 3,000 people are killed. Mr Osama Bin Laden, leader of Al-Qaeda, then releases some videos celebrating the attacks.

On October 7th, 2001, the War in Afghanistan begins. The U.S. President Mr George W. Bush aims to capture Osama Bin Laden and defeat the Talibans, which are accused to support Al-Qaeda and hide Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan.

On December 20th, 2001, the United Nations Security Council launches the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) aiming to restore peace in Afghanistan. The Italian Army joins the mission with roughly 2,000 soldiers.

Six years later the Talibans control six Afghan provinces over 36 and they're strongly engaged over the 54% of the Afghan State territory (repubblica.it). Mr Osama Bin Laden still rules over Al-Qaeda and is supposed to hide himself in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas over the border with Pakistan.

First, the media and the public opinion took for granted that the Talibans and Al-Qaeda are all the same. This is definitely false. As Mr Syed Saleem Shahzad reported in Le Monde Diplomatique (July, 2007): "En Afghanistan, de violents incidents ont opposé les talibans aux combattants étrangers d'Al-Qaida, les premiers privilégiant une stratégie nationale (et la recherche d'un modus vivendi avec le pouvoir pakistanais) et les seconds appelant au renversements des régimes musulmans en place, dénoncés comme 'impies'". [In Afghanistan, violent conflicts opposed the Talibans and Al-Qaida's foreign fighters. The former privilege a national strategy (and want to find a modus vivendi with the Pakistani rule). The latter aim to overthrow the Muslim regimes in charge, appointed as 'unfaithful'.].

Second, the Talibans were created by the Pakistani intelligence and were supported by the U.S. in Afghanistan. As Ms Barbara Spinelli reported in La Stampa (November 11th, 2007): "I talebani sono il Golem fabbricato dai servizi segreti pakistani (Isi: Inter-Services Intelligence), col pieno appoggio della Casa Bianca e dell’allora premier Benazir Bhutto, che oggi si propone come alternativa a Musharraf. Nella primavera del 1995, quando incontrò Clinton a Washington, Bhutto presentò i talebani come forza filo-pakistana che sarebbe tornata utile per stabilizzare l’Afghanistan." [The talibans are the Golem made by the Pakistani secret intelligence (Isi: Inter-Services Intelligence). The White House gave its full support as well as the former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who now proposes herself as an alternative to Mr Musharraf. In Spring 1995, when she met Mr Clinton in Washington, Ms Bhutto presented the Talibans as a force on behalf of Pakistan that would have been useful to make Afghanistan stable.].

Mr Daniele Paladini undoubtedly died like a hero, but he was worth dying wearing a blue helmet. Italy should withdraw its troops from Afghanistan and engage herself within the United Nations to set up a peace conference for Afghanistan between the Afghan Government and the Talibans.

"L'important, c'est surtout de faire comprendre aux talibans que la solution militaire ne résoudra en aucune manière le problème de l'Afghanistan. Ils doivent en être autant convaincus que nous le sommes aujourd'hui afin d'accepter de négocier la fin de la guerre. Le Pakistan et les autres pays qui soutiennent les talibans doivent eux aussi comprendre et admettre que la guerre ne sera jamais plus la solution. Ainsi pourrons-nous stopper l'effusion de sang en Afghanistan."

[The important is to make the Talibans understand that the military option won't anyway solve the Afghan problem. They must come to believe it, just as we believe it today, so that they can accept to negotiate the end of the war. Pakistan and other countries supporting the Talibans must themselves understand and admit that war won't ever be the solution. In this way we will be able to stop the shedding of blood in Afghanistan]

(Ahmad Shah Massoud, interview with Christophe de Ponfilly, Massoud l'Afghan, Gallimard, 2001, Ch. XII).

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Who Is Going to Pay the Budget Bill?

(Photo: Più tasse ?, by Blese).

Saturday, September 30th, the Italian Government approved the budget bill for 2008.

The lion’s share of the bill consists in lower expenses: 11 billion euros. In addition to this, 7.54 billion euros come from unpredicted income taxes in 2007. Here are the main measures: the bill sets lower taxes on businesses, since IRES drops from 33% to 27.5%, while IRAP drops from 4.25% to 3.9%. This shouldn’t imply any real increase in public expense since contribution base should grow as well. A 2 billion euros tax cut concerns private properties, another 2.08 billion euros cut concerns the slightening of pension reform and some work benefits, while a 2.77 billion euros cut concerns lower taxes on poorest families (lastampa.it).

Presenting the bill at the Senate, the Finance Minister Mr Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa remembered the huge limits of the financial public context: the Italian debt is the biggest in Europe and the third in the world, 1,600 billion euros that every year force Italy to find 70 billion euros to pay interests; besides, tax evasion is between 75 and 90 billion euros per year, more or less 5 or 6% of the gross domestic product (ilsole24ore.it).

Foreign newspapers acknowledged Mr Romano Prodi’s success in keeping together his heterogeneous nine-party coalition, and analyzed Italy’s accounts. In 2008 deficit will fall to 2.2% of GDP (estimated 2.4% in 2007 and fixed to 4.4% in 2006). Public debt is bound to fall to 103.5% of GDP (105% in 2007 and 106.8% in 2006). While struggling against tax evasion is highly unpopular, a lower growth in Europe could weaken the Government’s financial strategy. GDP growth prevision for 2008 has been reduced to 1.5% from the previous 1.8%, while Italy stands at the bottom of the growth scale in Europe (ft.com and wsje.com).

That’s why the rating agencies Fitch and Moody's were critical about the budget bill: Italy should focus on cutting down public debt, before growth soon ends up (ilsole24ore.it).

European Union’s Finance Minister, Mr Joaquín Almunia, said that Italy should reduce public expenses and public debt, which every year demands 4.5% of the GDP in interests (corriere.it).

The International Monetary Fund reported as well that Italy should use unexpected incomes to reduce public debt, while according to its figures the growth for 2008 will slow down to 1.3% instead of the previous 1.7% estimate (corriere.it).

Many economists and observers pointed out the same critics. According to Mr Mario Monti, the budget bill satisfies many different social categories, but it menaces young citizens because it doesn’t cut the debt (corriere.it). Moving along the same lines, Mr Innocenzo Cipolletta reported that since this bill tries to make everybody happy, it doesn’t really make anybody happy (ilsole24ore.it).

Mr Oscar Giannino accused the Government of having deliberately reduced its income forecasts to lenghten public expense: unexpected higher tax incomes would not be the result of the struggle against tax evasion, but simply a smart invention of the Finance Minister (libero-news.it). Mr Tito Boeri came to the same conclusion: in spite of the appearance of higher tax incomes, public expense is still growing. 23% of the Italian public budget is dedicated to local administrations, 18% to pay interests on public debt and 15% to pay pensions. No steady growth will ever be possible if the Government doesn’t cut those expenses (lastampa.it).

Mr Lorenzo Bini Smaghi said that in 2008 Italy could make deficit/GDP ratio fall to 1.8% instead of the 2.2% Government current target. The highest efforts have been put off to 2009 and 2010, when growth won’t probably be so strong as it was during the last couple of years (lastampa.it).

So the Government didn’t cut public expenses enough. But who gets more benefits from the 2008 budget bill? Tax reduction on businesses is huge and silent. Last May, the President of Confindustria Mr Luca Cordero di Montezemolo said that enterprises were ready to change their 5 billion euros public financial incentives per year into an equivalent tax reduction (ivi, June 9th, 2007). Actually, with this budget bill businesses get a tax cut of about 20% and, at the same time, they still keep all their annual public incentives (corriere.it).

Moreover, the announced property taxes reduction will benefit richest families. At the beginning, the measure should concern only people with an annual income lower than 50,000 euros. But then a Parliament emendation has removed the cap previously fixed by the Government (consulenzaimmobiliare.org). The Center-Left Government is now making real what Mr Silvio Berlusconi proposed the last night of 2006 general elections (tgcom.mediaset.it).

What about taxes on work, then? 80% of total Irpef income, the main tax on individuals, is paid by subordinate workers, who are unable to evade paying taxes (corriere.it). Obviously, Irpef won’t be reduced. In Italy, if you work every day, but you are not an entrepreneur and you do not possess any property, the budget bill for 2008 won’t give you any tax reduction at all. Anyway, you can probably take comfort thinking that your personal stake of the public debt is just about 25,000 euros (1,600 billion euros divided by more or less 60 million citizens).

“– Non è proprio il caso d’essere invidiosi, compagni. Le dacie sono ventidue in tutto, e ne verranno ancora costruite soltanto sette, mentre noialtri al MASSOLIT siamo tremila.
– Tremilacentoundici – sentenziò qualcuno da un angolo.
– Ecco, vedete, – continuò il Capitano – che ci si può fare? E’ naturale che le dacie le abbiano ricevute quelli che tra noi sono dotati di maggior talento… –
– I generali! – lo sceneggiatore Glucherëv si buttò a capofitto nel pettegolezzo.”


[– No reason to be envious, comrades. Dacias are twenty-two in all, and just seven more will be built, while we are three thousand within the MASSOLIT.
– Three thousand hundred eleven – sentenced someone in a corner.
– So there! You see, – went on the Captain. – What can we do? It’s natural that dacias were given to those between us who have more talent… –
– The generals! – The screen-play editor Glucherëv plunged himself into the gossip.”]


(Michail Bulgakov, Master I Margherita, 1969).

Sunday, 30 September 2007

Are We Sending a Man to Torture?

(Photo: The Scream, by 3arabawy) Italy wants to repatriate Mr Nassim Saadi, a Tunisian citizen acquitted of international terrorism charges who would face the risk of torture in his own country, where he was sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment. Sunday, September 14th, the Italian authorities have rejected Mr Saadi’s request for political asylum, while the European Court of Human Rights has formally asked Italy not to expel Mr Saadi to Tunisia, according to the 3rd article of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Ms Julia Hall, senior Europe and Central Asia researcher at
Human Rights Watch, reports that “Assurances of humane treatment from Tunisia won’t protect Nassim Saadi from torture, and the Italian government knows it. Instead of sending people back to face ill-treatment, Rome should put pressure on Tunis to stop abusing prisoners.” (hrw.org).
Mr Saadi’s expulsion would take place owing to the Pisanu law of July 2005, which allows the
Ministero degli Interni (Home Office) to repatriate people suspected of working for terroristic organizations. While this law is going to expire at the end of the year, the Italian Constitutional Court will give its opinion on it in November 20th (Agi and tlaxcala).
The Italian police arrested Mr Nassim Saadi in October 2002. Mr Saadi was charged with international terrorism, being supspected of arranging a supposed suicide attack for
Al Qaeda (rainews24). In May 2005 Mr Saadi was acquitted of international terrorism charges, even if at the same time the court of Milan sentenced him to 4 years and 6 months of imprisonment for criminal conspiracy and forgery (repubblica.it). In August 2006, Mr Saadi was unprisoned for elapsed legal terms and then brought to the temporary permanence centre of via Corelli, in Milan, waiting for expulsion (La Stampa). The European Court for Human Rights started to examine the case of Mr Nassim Saadi in July 2007 (asca.it).
According to Mr Kevin Jon Heller, "Saadi v. Italy is just one of many recent attempts to create a 'national security' exception to the absolute prohibition on deporting individuals to face torture." (
opiniojuris.org).
Reporting on the case,
Amnesty International explained that: "At present, human rights law is clear. The absolute prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment means that states are obliged to ensure that their representatives do not engage in torture and other ill-treatment, no matter the circumstances. They must bring to justice those responsible for these acts and ensure redress to the victims. The prohibition also means that states may not expose people to risks of torture or other ill-treatment in other countries. Thus they cannot lawfully send someone to any place where they face a real risk of torture or other ill-treatment. These rules hold true, no matter the circumstances, including where the person concerned is suspected of involvement in terrorism." (news.amnesty.org).
Even if it’s so difficult to investigate and put under arrest people suspected of terrorism, there is no reason for complicity on torture.


"We have beaten you, Winston. We have broken you up. You have seen what your body is like. Your mind is in the same state. I do not think there can be much pride left in you. You have been kicked and flogged and insulted, you have screamed with pain, you have rolled on the floor in your own blood and vomit. You have whimpered for mercy, you have betrayed everybody and everything. Can you think of a single degradation that has not happened to you?" (George Orwell, 1984, part III, ch. III, 1949).

"– Kameraden, ich bin der Letze! (Compagni, io sono l’ultimo!) – […] Vorrei poter raccontare che fra di noi, gregge abietto, una voce si fosse levata, un mormorio, un segno di assenso. Ma nulla è avvenuto. Siamo rimasti in piedi, curvi e grigi, a capo chino, e non ci siamo scoperta la testa che quando il tedesco ce l’ha ordinato. La botola si è aperta, il corpo ha guizzato atroce; la banda ha ripreso a suonare, e noi, nuovamente ordinati in colonna, abbiamo sfilato davanti agli ultimi fremiti del morente." {– Kameraden, ich bin der Letze! (Mates, I am the last one!) – […] I would like to tell that amongst us, despicable flock, a voice stood up, a murmur, a sign of assent. But nothing happened. We stood on our feet, bent and grey, and we didn’t uncover our head till the German ordered us to do it. The trap door opened, the body darted atrociously; the band turned back to play and, drown up again in a column, we marched past the last quivers of the dying man} (
Primo Levi, Se questo è un uomo, 1958).

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Will Pinocchio Listen to Mr Grillo?


(Photo: Pinocchio, by Gnegnet).

Saturday, September 8th, more than 300,000 Italians met up in the whole country and the world over to sign a draft bill proposed by Mr Beppe Grillo.

The famous comic artist has been leading for years a tough protest against Italian political parties, turning his blog into the most known and active one in the country.

Calling up Italians to join the Vaffanculo Day (literally "Fuck You Day"), Mr Grillo succeeded in forcing the media to debate his political proposal (corriere.it).

Mr Grillo’s supporters gathered to claim three radical changes:

  1. Citizens have the right to choose the candidates for the Italian Parliament.
  2. No MP can be in office for more than two mandates.
  3. Those citizens who have been convicted on first instance can’t be in office as MP at all.
The whole political system, with the exception of Mr Antonio Di Pietro's Italia dei Valori, rejected Mr Grillo’s proposal as an anti-political menace to democracy. Almost all Italian MPs refuse to acknowledge Mr Grillo’s draft bill, regretting his fiery tones and his words aiming to replace the political parties with the government of the citizens themselves (corriere.it).
Italian opinion makers and journalists showed varied opinions. Mr Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, the former Italian President, invited Mr Grillo to acknowledge the role of political parties and to take into account the possibility of making his movement itself a new party (lastampa.it).
Mr Eugenio Scalfari, la Repubblica's founder, condamned Mr Grillo’s proposal explaining that assembly government is the ante-room of dictatorships (repubblica.it).
The political scientist Giovanni Sartori marked the differences between his own view and Mr Grillo’s one, but said that anyway a gust of wind carrying off the miasmata of the Italian Second Republic will make him really feel relieved (corriere.it).
The Resistance historian Giovanni De Luna warned that Mr Grillo’s movement is pointing at some of the main political issues of the country (La Stampa), while on the same paper the liberal journalist Barbara Spinelli wrote that Mr Grillo is not anti-political, but he actually shows and reports the parties’ unfaithfulness to their voters (lastampa.it).
Going into the matter, at present the candidacies for the Italian Parliament are chosen by the parties instead of the citizens. Italian politicians have a very high average age and many MPs are in office since the ’60s, preventing young people to take their place. As Mr Grillo reports, 24 current Italians MPs convicted for different crimes are still in office and nobody asked them to resign (beppegrillo.it).
Let's give for granted that the Constitution is worth dying for and that political parties are an irreplaceable element of democracy, as article 49 clearly explains. Anyhow, Mr Grillo’s draft bill aims to deepen the participation of citizens into the life of the country and is indeed widely acceptable.
But will lying Italy really listen to its "Grillo parlante", the talking cricket who is Pinocchio's conscience in Carlo Collodi's tale? Recent history would make us think it won't listen.
Between 1992 and 1994, indeed, the claim for freedom and justice concerning the inquiries on the bribes of ‘Tangentopoli’ lead to a very opposite end.
"I magistrati di Milano invocavano un ritorno generale alla legalità, ma nell’Italia degli anni ’90 questo non era chiedere poco. Interpretata alla lettera, quella richiesta significava che molte famiglie italiane avrebbero dovuto iniziare a porsi una serie di domande decisamente scomode sul proprio comportamento, su quanto la cultura politica dominante fosse anche la loro stessa cultura."
[The judges of Milan Public Prosecutor’s Office called for a general return to lawfullness, but on the Italy of the 90’s that was asking a lot. Interpreted literally, that request meant that many Italian families should have begun to ask themselves many uneasy questions on their own behaviour. They should have asked themselves if the dominant political culture was their own culture too.]
(Paul Ginsborg, L’Italia del tempo presente. Famiglia, società civile, Stato. 1980-1996, ch. VIII).


Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Mr Hugo Chavez Betrays Socialism

(Photo: Venezuela, by Porsborg) Thursday, August 16th, Venezuela’s President, Mr Hugo Chavez, presented a reform to change the Constitution of his country. Changing the article 230, the President term of office will last 7 years instead of 6 and the President himself will be able to be re-elected indefinitely. Other changes concern the political control of the Central Bank of Venezuela, the reduction of both private property and working hours and the institution of a ‘popular militia’ (iht.com, lastampa.it and ilmanifesto.it).
Mr Chavez’s opponents stated that they will fight against this reform, which is going to give him unlimited power and end democracy in the country. At any rate, they are not likely to stop the President (
iht.com). The constitutional reform will be voted by the National Assembly, whose members are almost all Chavez loyalists. Then a referendum will give the reform a final approval.
Before Hugo Chavez announced his constitutional reform, in his editorial in Le Monde diplomatique (Août 2007, 54e année, n. 641), the director Mr
Ignacio Ramonet illustrated Chavez’s economical and social results, explaining that in Venezuela between 1999 and 2005 poverty went down from 42,8% to 37,9%, while people living on informal economy lowered from 53% to 40%. Mr Ramonet asked himself why there is so much hate against Hugo Chavez: “Il arrive aussi, ruine du socialisme, qu’une partie de la gauche social-démocrate ajoute sa voix a cette chorale de diffamateurs.” [It happens too – which is the fall of socialism – that a part of the Social Democrat Left adds her voice to this choir of slanderers] (monde-diplomatique.fr).
Actually, I think that Mr Hugo Chavez is trying to establish a socialist dictatorship in Venezuela. Every free man should oppose this aim and the Left worldwide has the indeclinable responsibility to report this attack on democracy. Italy must absolutely respect Venezuelan people’s freedom to choose their own Constitution. Nevertheless, the
Italian President, the Italian Government and the Italian Parliament should publicly express their disapproval about such kind of reform. The Italian Left parties belonging to L'Unione should make a common statement explaining that their idea of socialism and democracy is absolutely against the possibility of a life-long presidency. Indeed, neither economic nor social improvement can cross out freedom and civil rights.

Il socialismo non è né la socializzazione, né il proletariato al potere, e neppure la materiale eguaglianza. Il socialismo, certo nel suo aspetto essenziale, è l’attuazione progressiva dell’idea di libertà e di eguaglianza fra gli uomini: idea nuova, che giace più o meno sepolta dalle incrostazioni dei secoli, al fondo di ogni essere umano; sforzo progressivo di assicurare a tutti gli uomini una eguale possibilità di vivere la vita che sola è degna di questo nome, sottraendoli alla schiavitù della materia e dei materiali bisogni che oggi ancora dominano il maggior numero; possibilità di scegliere liberamente la loro personalità in una continua lotta di perfezionamento contro gli insulti primitivi e bestiali e contro le corruzioni di una civiltà troppo preda del demonio del successo e del denaro.” [Socialism is neither socialization, nor proletariat being in power, not even material equality. Socialism, of course in his essential quality, is the progressive realization of the idea of freedom and equality amongst mankind: a new idea, lying more or less buried under the deposits of the centuries, in the depht of every human being; progressive effort to grant every man the same possibility to live a life which is really worth this name, delivering them from the slavery of the material and from the material needs which today still rule the greater part; the possibility to choose freely their own personality in a continous struggle to become perfect against the primitive and beastly insults, against the corruptions of a civilization which is prey to the devil of success and money] (
Carlo Rosselli, Socialismo liberale, ch. V).

Monday, 6 August 2007

Working Side by Side with Death

(Photo: The ultimate group hug!, by Mnadi) Wednesday, August 1st, Inail (the National Insurance Institute Against Work Accidents) showed the annual report on safety at work. 1,302 persons died at work during 2006 in Italy, more or less 4 workers every day. Temporary workers’ accidents increased by 19% compared with 2005. Immigrant workers from outside the European Union had twice the amount of accidents Italian workers had. Most dangerous sectors are mining, transports and building (ilmanifesto.it).
As an example, we can tell the story of Mr Domenico Occhinegro, a 26-year-old worker who died Tuesday, July 31st, at the
Ilva siderurgical plant in Taranto. Two steel pipes crushed him to death just before the end of his working-shift. Domenico had been working there for three years: two other workers died in his same department during the last two years. Since 1993, about 40 workers died in the same plant (ilmanifesto.it).
Owing to a great lot of similar cases, the
Italian Parliament at last approved a law to enhance safety at work: public contracts will fix safety costs; companies will stop their activity if more than 20% of their employees are irregular; education programmes for workers will grant a tax allowance; 300 new work inspectors will soon be hired (corriere.it and repubblica.it).
Besides,
Senato della Repubblica, Camera dei Deputati and Cnel decided to carry a new reaserch into the evolution of work: they carried out the last one in 1955 (ilmanifesto.it).

Whether or not the new law will achieve an effective reduction of deaths and accidents at work, the subject is usually neglected by Italian media and political debate. As a consequence, the public opinion doesn't really seem to care about it.


“Ma quando quest’uomo s’ammalerà, il medico, andando a suo comodo dopo la terza chiamata, lo troverà agonizzante; il prete, invitato per carità a spicciarsi, vorrà finire il suo desinare e lo troverà morto; il becchino, guardandogli i piedi scalzi e il camicione topposo, gli reciterà la breve orazione: ‘Accidenti a chi ti ci ha portato!’” {But when this man [the stone-braker] fall ill, the doctor, going there at leisure after the third call, will find him in agony; the priest, requested for goodness’ sake to hurry up, will finish his dinner and find him dead; the grave-digger, looking at his bare feet and patched shirt, will recite this brief oration: ‘Curse who brought you here!’”} (
Renato Fucini, Lo spaccapietre, 1844).

Saturday, 28 July 2007

Save Mr Hassanpour and Mr Botimar

(Photo: Mr Adnan Hassanpour) Tuesday, July 17th, the Sanandaj’s Tribunal of Revolution in Iranian Kurdistan sentenced to death two Kurdish journalists and human rights activists: Mr Adnan Hassanpour and Mr Hiva Abdolvahed Botimar will then be hanged.
Mr Adnan Hassanpour works for the weekly magazine Asu and was accused of attempting State’s security because he wrote articles about public demonstrations which took place in Iranian Kurdistan during 2006.
Mr Hiva Abdolvahed Botimar, freelance journalist, was accused of being in touch with two democratic organizations which are instead supposed to be ‘subversive’: the
Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran, which is member of Socialist International, and Komalah, which has often been received as a guest by international and European institutions.
In Italy,
Information Safety and Freedom, as well as Reporters Sans Frontières abroad, received and supported the international appeal to save Mr Adnan and Mr Hiva. Articolo 21, Nessuno tocchi Caino and Fnsi supported this appeal too. But Italian newspapers and broadcasts didn’t take care of it: as far as I’m concerned, La Stampa and RaiNews 24 are the exception to the rule.
Mr Giuseppe Giulietti, Articolo 21 spokesman, reports: “La sostanziale censura imposta dai media italiani alla vicenda dei due giornalisti curdo-iraniani contrasta […] con l’iniziativa assunta dal Governo per ottenere la moratoria universale sulla Pena di Morte. […] Un disinteresse che induce l’atroce sospetto che questi due condannati a morte, essendo iraniani, curdi, laici e addirittura socialisti, non rientrino nello schema dominante dello scontro di civiltà risultando alla fine scomodi per tutti” [The substantial censorship by Italian media about this story, involving two Kurdish-Iranian journalists, is in conflict with the Italian Government commitment to get the universal moratorium on Death Penalty. […] This lack of interest produces a very bad doubt: being Iranian, Kurdish, lay and even socialist, those two death-sentenced persons escape the dominant Clash of Civilizations scheme: they are then inconvenient for everyone.]
At present, nobody knows where Mr Adnan and Mr Hiva are secluded. “My son has only one fault: he is fiercely Kurdish and he can’t stand injustice” said Mrs Ayesheh Zamani, Adnan’s mother. “Free men cannot and must not accept that, during XXI century, intellectuals and journalists are hanged because they talk about freedom and ask for democracy” said Mrs Hiro Botimar, Hiva’s wife.
After the two sentences, Kurdish journalists recently made a 72 hours hunger strike and stopped working. At present, in addition to Mr Hassanpour and Mr Botimar, those Kurdish journalists and activists are in jail too: Mr Ejlal Aghvami, reporter for Payam Kurdistan; Sadegh Kabudvand, director of the Human Rights Centre of Iranian Kurdistan; trade unions’ members Mahmoud Salehi and Loghman Mohri. Recently, 40 Iranian members of Majlis, the Iranian Parliament, wrote a letter to president
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reporting abuses against press freedom in Iran. According to Amnesty International, 177 persons have been executed in Iran during the first half of 2007.

Act now and join the international appeal (English / Italian) to save Mr Adnan Hassanpour and Mr Hiva Abdolvahed Botimar.

“Or ti piaccia gradir la sua venuta: / libertà va cercando, ch’è sì cara, / come sa chi per lei vita rifiuta” [Now be pleased to support his coming here. / He goes in search of freedom, which is so dear, / As he who gives his life for it would know.] (
Dante Alighieri, Purgatorio, I, 70-73, translation by James Finn Cotter).

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Waiting for Godot’s Pension

(Photo: Mine management, by mm-j) The scene of Italian politics is neither the Parliament nor the Government. Italian politics lives and dies in the media. Will the overhanging reform of pensions ever come to an end?
Friday, July 6th. Mr
Romano Prodi says that he will soon directly take care of the reform aiming to reduce the 'deep step' introduced by Mr Silvio Berlusconi’s government (corriere.it): at present, a worker who was born on December 31st, 1957, will retire in 2007; while a worker who was born on January 1st, 1958, will retire in 2010. The newspapers say that those are supposed to be the new terms for retiring: from 2008, workers would retire if they were 58; from 2010 or 2011, workers would retire if they were 59; from 2012 workers would retire if adding up age and working years they reached 96 (corriere.it).
Sunday, July 8th. Vice Prime Minister
Francesco Rutelli, Senator Lamberto Dini and Minister for Foreign Trade Ms Emma Bonino say that the increasing costs introduced by the reform should be paid putting off to 62 womens’ maximum retiring age. At present, the 'official' age of retirement is 65 for men and 60 for women (corriere.it).
Monday, July 9th. Tensions are growing up between the left trade union
CGIL, which seems ready to sign the agreement, and Rifondazione Comunista, which insists on obtaining better conditions for manual workers (repubblica.it).
Tuesday, July 10th. The European Union asks for rigour and explains that pensions budget can’t grow up again (
corriere.it).
Friday, July 13th. The growth of retiring age will not involve wearing out works. Then a big struggle is set up to tell apart works of this kind: while Rifondazione Comunista insists for miners, labourers and nurses, the
UIL trade union wants to include in this category many workers of the public sector, such as teachers (corriere.it).
Sunday, July 15th. According to Rifondazione Comunista, the accounts made by the Minister of Economy,
Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa, are completely wrong: Mr Silvio Berlusconi’s pensions ‘deep step’ can be removed without any difficulties (repubblica.it).
Monday, July 16th. The Governor of Banca d’Italia, Mr
Mario Draghi, states that we can’t avoid the pensions reform and we must reduce public debt, otherwise young people will certainly grow poor (lastampa.it).
Tuesday, July 17th. The Minister for Foreign Trade, Ms Emma Bonino, write down a letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Romano Prodi: she’s ready to resign if the Radical Left issues will be accepted by the Government (
lastampa.it).
Meanwhile, Mr Romano Prodi seems to say that he can have his cake and eat it. Every party supporting the Government waits for Mr Prodi’s detailed reform proposal. Every party seems to want the Government to fall avoiding to assume on its own the responsibility of this fall.
In my opinion, Mr Silvio Berlusconi’s pensions ‘deep step’ has to be removed. We undoubtedly need more immigrant workers from abroad to enhance pensions funds. Miners, labourers, nurses and other worn out workers should retire at 57. But, without a shadow of a doubt, teachers and workers of the public sector are not worn out workers. Womens’ retiring age should soon grow up and reach men’s level, but only if we really decide to introduce new measures reducing sexual discrimination and increasing men’s contribution in running the household and bringing up children.
At any rate, every economic reform should be planned in silence and then announced to the press: what the Government says should always be reliable. Besides, no issue is worthwhile to make the Government to fall. Politics is the art of making ideas to fight each other and then reach a synthesis, not the chaos. MPs waiting for the fall of the Government are unable to see that the whole Italian political system is in for an irreversibile fall.
“VLADIMIR: (in anguish). Say anything at all! ESTRAGON: What do we do now? VLADIMIR: Wait for Godot. ESTRAGON: Ah! VLADIMIR: This is awful! ESTRAGON: Sing something. VLADIMIR: No no! (He reflects.) We could start all over again perhaps. ESTRAGON: That should be easy. VLADIMIR: It’s the start that’s difficult. ESTRAGON: You can start from anything. VLADIMIR: Yes, but you have to decide. ESTRAGON: True.” (
Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot, 1952, Act I).

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Getting Rid of the Intelligence Service

(Photo: Secret, by Thatgirl). Wednesday, July 4th, Italy's senior Council of Justice (Consiglio Superiore della Magistratura) stated that from summer 2001 until May 2006 the military intelligence agency (Servizio Informazioni Sicurezza Militare) spyed upon 203 judges from 12 European countries (lastampa.it and repubblica.it).
According to the Italian press, the intelligence activity held by Sismi’s then agent Pio Pompa was to enhance Mr Silvio Berlusconi’s government. Mr Pio Pompa meticoulously wrote down everything he hit up for Sismi’s head, General Nicolò Pollari (
repubblica.it).
Romano Prodi’s government publicly expressed his trust in judges enquiring over this case and in the new Sismi’s command (
repubblica.it). Mr Silvio Berlusconi explained that he didn’t know anything about this intelligence activity (lastampa.it), while Democratici di Sinistra’s secretary, Mr Piero Fassino, said that being the Prime Minister during those years, Silvio Berlusconi was objectivly responsible for any intelligence activity held at that time (lastampa.it).
While some MPs call for a public inquiry commission, others firlmly oppose it (
lastampa.it). Meanwhile, General Nicolò Pollari says he will count everything up if State secrecy is removed (lastampa.it).
Rather than protecting democracy, intelligence services and State secrecy look like preventing political change in Italy. Since democracy shouldn’t be scared of truth and transparency, what about getting rid of them both and learn much more over the last ten years?
“Diciamolo francamente: ogni regime, anche il più autoritario, sopravvive in una situazione d’equilibrio instabile, per cui ha bisogno di giustificare continuamente l’esistenza del proprio apparato repressivo, dunque di qualcosa da reprimere.” [Let’s put it plainly: any regime, even the most authoritarian, survives in a context of unstable balance. For this reason, it needs to justify continuously the existence of its repressive apparatus; the existence, indeed, of something to repress] (
Italo Calvino, Se una notte d’inverno un viaggiatore, 1979, Ch. X).

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Europe, the Kaczynski Bros. Hostage

(Photo: European Flag, by TPCOM). Saturday June 23rd, at the end of a dramatic and exhausting meeting, EU member states came to an agreement over a new political treaty (repubblica.it). European Union slows down, while the 'double majority' voting system has been put off till 2017 owing to Poland’s veto (repubblica.it).
Polish President
Lech Kaczynski came to Brussles with the provoking proposal of a 'square root' voting system (ft.com). His twin brother and Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski explained this request going back to the effects of Nazi’s Polish invasion and extermination during World War II (corriere.it).
Thus insulting the memory of Polish people itself, Mr Lech and Mr Jaroslaw Kaczynski made Poland an instrument of the eurosceptical european governments: Britain, the Czech Republic, the Nederlands and France.
18 European countries had given their approval to the
European Constitutional Treaty, but in Brussels they were unable to go ahead without Poland, in spite of German Prime Minister Ms Angela Merkel's initial warning (repubblica.it).
Italian Prime Minister Mr
Romano Prodi explained his disappointment after the summit (repubblica.it), but he was unable to oppose himself to this awfully bad treaty. Italian President Mr Giorgio Napolitano went further in disapproving this ugly compromise (repubblica.it). Mr Mario Monti, former European Commissioner for Competition, approved of Angela Merkel’s behaviour (corriere.it).
Meanwhile, the political crisis stands still: as
Barbara Spinelli explained (lastampa.it), we’re going back to the Nice Treaty of 2001. The Kaczynski brothers will steal Europe 16 years of history.
I think that Italy should stop pretending to act like a world power: Italy should gather Southern and Eastern European countries – such as Spain and Hungary – to enhance a ‘two-speed’ European Union. Since some countries are slowing down, we can indeed speed up between us: in foreign policy, in immigration rules, in public safety, in reforming agriculture and liberalizing the markets.
In Beppe Fenoglio's novel Il partigiano Johnny, a fascist NCO provokes the protagonist: “– Anche lei mi appare un ufficiale, nel grande solo vero senso del termine. Bene, ora voi possedete la città. Anzi, voglio andare oltre la città. Posso figurarmi che possediate tutta l’Italia. Bene: che farete, ragazzi, dell’Italia? – Une petite affaire toute serieuse, – disse Johnny, e Pierre assentì con la sua inimitabile earnestness. – Voglio dire, – insisté il maggiore, – ci sarà ancora un’Italia con voi? – Certamente. Per favore, non se ne preoccupi.” [– You too look to me like an NCO, according the only proper meaning of the word. Well, now you have got the town. On the contrary, I want to go further. I can imagine that you possess Italy. Well guys, what would you make of Italy? – A little thing, but an extremely serious one, – said Johnny, while Pierre nodded with his matchless earnestness. – I mean, – insisted the major, – there will be Italy any more with you? – Of course. And please, never mind.] (
Beppe Fenoglio, Il partigiano Johnny, 1968, Ch. XXI).

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Genoa 2001. The Mexican Butchery

(Photo: Prison, by danielel). During the 27th G8 summit in Genoa, which was held on July 2001, the Italian police made a raid on the school Diaz housing the Genoa Social Forum and arrested 93 people. Many persons were beaten and kicked, while after arrest they couldn’t talk with their lawyers (news.bbc.co.uk). Some weeks later, the head of Italian police Mr Gianni De Gennaro admitted police abuse, but Silvio Berlusconi’s government didn’t remove him (news.bbc.co.uk).
Mr Michelangelo Fournier, Vice Police Superintendent of Primo Reparto Mobile di Roma, took part in that action on Diaz school. A fortnight ago, six years later, he counted what he thought reaching Diaz school that night, during the raid: “Sembrava una macelleria messicana” [It looked like a Mexican butchery]. Mr Fournier told that he soon moved his men out of the school and called for ambulances. Mr Fournier said that he kept the silence for six years to protect the police and its institutional role (
repubblica.it). The Police Superintendent Mr Vincenzo Canterini then admitted that a police 'fruit-salad' took part in the raid on Diaz school that night and that his men didn’t hit anyone so hard (repubblica.it).
After Mr Fournier’s remarks the Left, who wanted Mr De Gennaro to be removed in 2001, renewed his request six years later (
repubblica.it), while the newspapers wrote that Mr De Gennaro is now under investigation (repubblica.it). Mr Romano Prodi’s government then explained that Mr De Gennaro would have been replaced soon; the Center-Right rose up against this decision (iht.com).
Mr De Gennaro made a wonderful carrier inside the Italian Police: he worked with
Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino against mafia; he prosecuted inquiries against many members of Cosa Nostra and arrested Bernardo Provenzano; he fought against new Brigate Rosse and against islamic terrorism in Italy (corriere.it and repubblica.it). Despite this, whether he knew about Diaz school abuses or not, Mr De Gennaro should have been removed in July 2001. Indeed, when police attacks defenceless people a basic civil right is broken: in those cases, the head of police must be replaced, because nobody should think that police is a menace for democracy. No reason indeed to believe that someone is irreplaceable in a democratic country.
What more? [..] tutte le polizie, anche le meglio organizzate sul terreno tecnico, [sono] sempre colte di sorpresa dalle rivoluzioni e ne [sono] facilmente sopraffatte. A che serve un perfetto servizio di informazione, se di queste informazioni non si capisce il valore? In ogni insurrezione, in ogni limitato movimento di piazza ha una sua parte essenziale il fattore improvvisazione. Ora, la polizia non sa improvvisare, appunto perché le manca la capacità di capire – e quindi di prevedere e di valutare – le reazioni popolari.” [Revolutions always take by surprise every police, even those that are more organized on grounds of technique, and they easily overcome them. Is a perfect intelligence service useful, if it doesn't understand the value of the informations found? In every uprising, in any limited riot, improvisation is essential. The police is unable to improvise, and the reason is that it lacks the ability to understand - and then to foresee and to estimate - popular reactions.] (
Giorgio Agosti, Dopo il tempo del furore. Diario 1946-1988, 2005, 21 ottobre 1947).

Friday, 15 June 2007

Tav Lyon-Turin and National Debt

(Photo: notav, by debsilver). Wednesday, June 14th, a meeting between the Italian Governement, Piedmont region, Turin and Susa Valley's municipalities was held in Rome to debate on Tav Lyon-Turin, the projected high-speed rail between France and Italy (corriere.it). A good deal of people in Susa Valley and in Turin stubbornly oppose this project, while main local authorities, French and Italian governments support it.
The meeting established to abandon the old project made by Lyon-Turin Ferroviaire, while the Tav Observatory lead by Mr Mario Virano will define a new scheme. Besides, before July 23rd Italian Governement will apply to get a contribution by the European Union of about 1 billion of euros. Susa Valley's mayors, moreover, acknowledged the existence of a projected tunnel on the French side that will influence the Italian rail.
Being a rail generally supposed to reduce road traffic, why the Tav Lyon-Turin finds such a huge opposition? Susa Valley is 1.5 km wide: Dora river, a railway, a highway, two national roads and a high voltage power line go all through this narrow path. Moreover, Mount Musiné contains amiantus and Ambin Massif contains uranium: making new tunnels there could produce health problems for local communities and it may damage the environment.
Mr Pier Angelo Tartaglia of
Turin Polytechnic, and member of the No Tav movement, asserts that the existent railway may has a capacity between 20 and 30 millions tons of freight per year. Nowadays the effective freight traffic is about 7 millions of tons per year, which is quite a good deal under the capacity limit. Besides, rail freight between France and Italy have been falling for forty years (Le Monde diplomatique).
Mr Rémi Proud'Homme of
Paris XII University estimates that this project will cost 20 billion of euros. Moreover, it will increase national debts of France and Italy for at last 40 years (lavoce.info).
Are we in to repeat the story of
Eurotunnel between France and England? Is another risk of bankruptcy going to come? Citizens will pay through taxes and national debt the construction of Lyon-Turin new railway, instead of financing new and more advanced industries: which companies will receive their money?
The lion's share of freight is concentrated on road traffic. As a consequence, instead of planning to spend such a huge lot of money to obtain certain costs and uncertain benefits, the first thing to do, as Switzerland has been doing for years, is to make rail freight grow, discouraging by law trucks road traffic. The Italian government said it will, by next autumn. But will Mr Romano Prodi's government resist in charge so long? The inhabitants of Susa Valley will wait without a shadow of a doubt: they'll do everything to protect their mountains.