Posted by: gurglin | April 12, 2011

Berlusconi and the article 41

Silvio I, emperor of Italy, is not an absolute monarch. Actually, he is no more than a hub of lobbies, the representative of more or less legal interests of a variety of powerful actors, ranging from the federation of entrepreneurs (most of them regularly break the laws and are involved in illegal activities) to the groups of organised crime (Camorra, Mafia, ‘Ndrangheda, etc).

Those “privileged actors” decided they need more freedom, and one way to get rid of the control of Institutions is to modify the Italian Constitution.

The economic part they do not like is the article number 41, which says:
Private economic enterprise is free.

It may not be carried out against the common good or in a way that may harm public security, liberty, or human dignity.

The law determines appropriate planning and controls so that public and private
economic activities may be directed and coordinated towards social ends.

I think those words are way too civilized for a third world country like Italy! Berlusconi and his friends seem agreeing with me, because he said it is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY to change it, so that any economic activity would be allowed, if not against the law… And obviously Berlusconi will also keep on changing the laws for making dirty business easier…

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Posted by: gurglin | March 4, 2011

Marchionne’s (Fiat + Chrysler) strategy

The Italian-Canadian-Swiss manager Sergio Marchionne, CEO of car companies FIAT and Chrysler, is acclaimed by economic press as a saviour. But what is his merit build on? Let’s take a look.

From the industrial point of view FIAT is merely using Chrysler current cars and projects, re-branding them with the Italian logos (FIAT and Lancia) and selling them in Europe. I understand we (some countries more than others) are still going through a difficult crisis and it does make sense to exploit all possible potential available, but to me this does not seem to be a long-run strategy.

Let’s move towards a more subtle fact. FIAT, one of the most mediocre car companies ever, are still alive thanks to the Italian State and its blind vision. In Italy they are so powerful that influenced urban transportation policy: due to the crap quality of their cars, Italy was the only possible market for FIAT, therefore (at least since the 60s) to please them city public transportation was almost eradicated, forcing Italian people to buy their cars. As if it was not enough, through the decades they have been also receiving from the Italian State a huge amount of money – that at current exchange rate would be of hundreds of billions of dollars – in different forms such as incentives, tax discounts, subsidies to employers, etc.

Chrysler through the years already got hundreds of millions of dollars, but more recently got another huge subsidy from the Obama administration.

Marchionne, in the end, only put together two companies heavily subsidised by each respective State, for exploiting public money.

Liberalism, R.I.P.

Posted by: gurglin | January 8, 2011

1861-2011: 150 years of a peninsula turned into a State

Even if it would make much more sense to celebrate the fourth year of the annexation of Italy to Rumania – a de facto united “Free Crime Republic” – in these days are starting the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of Italy as a united country (without Rome, conquered in 1870).

At school we all learned Italy acquired its unity after a joint irredentist movement spread all over the country, with all “Italian” people freed by the Piedmont army. The story is slightly different.

History is written by winners, and not much room is left to defeated populations. Therefore not many historians admit this feast celebrates the victory of Piedmont that conquered many independent States and enslaved a variety of free nations.

Yes, depending from the perspective, things change. Herewith I enclose a document that briefly describes the Italian unification from the perspective of Southern people. It is composed of a long number of slides, but most of them are full of pictures and have few lines on each, making the reading of the whole PDF doable in less than 10 minutes.

I hope it will help preventing the misuse of the word “Italian” in describing anything ethnically and culturally (food, languages, habits, cities, expressions) separated, something that for more than 1,300 (one thousand and three hundred) years one could identify only geographically (“Italy is a mere geographical expression” said Metternich), because delimited by the Alps and the Mediterranean See. A territory overwhelming with diversities that was only recently forceful constrained into a united State by the invasion of a French speaking State of the north of the peninsula.

To the end, Massimo d’Azeglio, one leading political figure of Piedmont and later of Italy, said “we made Italy, now we have to make the Italians” (he also said that uniting with Neapolitans was like going to bed with a leper, demonstrating what he really thought about uniting the peninsula). Well, the process had an acme during fascism, with the nationalist hoax, and after that the Italian language started to be understood (not always spoken) all over the peninsula thanks to the introduction and spreading of radios and TVs, mainly during the second half of the XX century. But that was it. I wonder what they have to celebrate now…

Posted by: gurglin | December 21, 2009

Happy “Sol Invictus”!

Astronomical events since ancient times have been central to mankind. In the past they controlled the mating of animals, sowing of crops and metering of winter reserves between harvests. As a consequence, various cultural mythologies and traditions have arisen.

Today, December 21, is the winter solstice commonly known as the shortest day, but also as the beginning of longer daylight, therefore most cultures have held a recognition of rebirth, involving holidays, festivals, gatherings, rituals or other celebrations around that time.

Before the introduction of current calender, in the Julian calendar since 45 BCE the winter solstice of Europe was the 25th of December. But already in ancient Babylon, the feast of the Son of Isis (Goddess of Nature) was celebrated on December 25. Raucous partying, gluttonous eating and drinking, and gift-giving were traditions of this feast.

The Romans called their winter holiday Saturnalia, honouring Saturn, the God of Agriculture. In January, they observed the Kalends of January, which represented the triumph of life over death (does it ring a bell?). This whole season was called Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun.

Mithraism was one of the major religions of the pre-Christian Roman Empire. It was the Cult of Mithra, the ancient Persian god of light and wisdom. In the Avesta (the sacred Zoroastrian writings of the ancient Persians) Mithra appears as the chief yazata (Avestan, “beneficent one”), or good spirit, and ruler of the world. Mithraism is similar to Christianity in many other respects, for example, in the ideals of humility and brotherly love, baptism, the rite of communion, the use of holy water, the priest were called father, the adoration of the shepherds at Mithra’s birth, the adoption of Sundays and of December 25 (Mithra’s birthday) as holy days, and the belief in the immortality of the soul, the last judgement, and the resurrection. Mithraism differed only in the exclusion of women from its ceremonies and in its willingness to compromise with polytheism.

These similarities made the conversion of its’ followers to Christianity easy. In 350, Pope Julius I also declared that Christ’s birth would be celebrated on December 25. There is little doubt that he was trying to make it as painless as possible for pagan Romans (who remained a majority at that time) to convert to Christianity.

In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII changed the calendar bringing the northern winter solstice to around December 21, for compensating the difference between the calendar year (365.2500 days) and the tropical year (365.2422 days). But major celebrations remained on December 25, offering us a magnificent example of how a ritual can overwhelm in importance its reason of being, also losing any contact with its origin.

Anyway, whichever is the god you worship, whoever the prophet you celebrate, I wish you a sunny year!

I just feel to share with you some considerations on the “influenza A pandemic A (H1N1) 2009 virus” phobia. As we all know Spain was strongly hit by the Virus, but a study involving 21 Spanish hospitals and a calculation based on the experience of Britain discovered just 0.2% of people getting the flu had serious consequences. More or less like for any other kind of flue. I do not deny the danger of this flue, but as far as I understand it is a just a strong flu and not a new form of plague that inexorably kills most of hit people.

Moreover, on Newsweek you can read how impalpable is hand-washing in preventing H1N1 spreading, because humans are most likely to catch influenza by breathing in microscopic particles exhaled by infected people. Generally speaking, I know such measures make human beings feel “on control” of their life, and campaigns done by local governments for public health reinforce the role of politicians (especially shortly before elections, like in Portugal) and give current governments the legitimation of being in charge (because they care for their citizens), but honestly hand-washing sounds a weak and partially justifiable criterion for a flue prevention, not only scientifically but also according to common sense. On a more local context, I am puzzled by the bombarding campaign of the government in Portugal on hand washing, but not a single word was uttered on the disgusting national habit of constantly spitting on the floor: roads and sidewalks are paved of phlegm, fact that I am sure helps in making Portugal “a leading country” in TBC cases in Europe. In other words: lecture people on what they can accept, but do not molest their touchiness or jeopardise their right of being uncivilized.

Crossing the two pieces of information, a few questions came up to my mind:

1) Why is the prevention campaign so standardized across different countries?

2) Is there any mastermind behind? I mean, who are the people planning the “terror and reassure” strategy? I think about a cartel of pharmaceutical companies, but most governments take advantage for those situations.

3) Is it a coincidence in a period of world economic crisis main news on TV and newspapers are about facts and emergencies that turn in being the core of new stock-market investors’ strategies (bread, water and medicines)?

4) What is the role of politicians? What are their advantages?

5) Is it not that pharmaceutical companies producing the vaccine are doing a great marketing campaign paid by national governments?

I do not believe in conspiracy theories, but we do not dare to forget it is already the second time in two years (does anybody remember the bird flu H5N1?) somebody is trying to let us believe some nasty virus is going to exterminate mankind, therefore I wonder who – apart from newspapers – is taking advantage form those terror strategies.

More info at http://www.isid.org/

 

Update: watch this

Posted by: gurglin | February 4, 2009

Nomads on Porsche

One leitmotiv about Roma and Sinti is that they are nomadic populations who travel around Europe in appalling conditions, live in slums and are extremely poor. Moreover, they have been always seen as a danger for local people who claim they are robbers, thieves, and some metropolitan legends (sadly confirmed by some recent judiciary cases) say they steal or buy babies and force them to slavery for “working” as beggars.

In reality the legend is that nomads DO move from place to place, because, funnily enough they are sedentary… but when they “move”, hey!, they do it with class! With a Porsche!

The story is in the Nomad Camp of Tor de’ Cenci (Rome) on Monday February 1 the police found cocaine and heroin, some grams of mannitol – substance used for “cutting” drugs – six 7.65 calibre intact bullets, tons of copper (probably stolen) and nine cars without insurance, including a “Porsche Carrera”.

Posted by: gurglin | January 8, 2009

Boykott CAI (Alitalia+AirOne)

Everything you are going to read here is true, despite sounding like a joke.

On January 13 2009 finally the new Alitalia owned by the recently formed Compagnia Aerea Italiana (CAI) will take off. The “good flesh” of the company was bought by CAI on December 12 last, after a never-ending-story. It also merged with AirOne, a low-cost air company owned by Carlo Toto (who a couple of weeks ago was involved in his last corruption scandal that forced the mayor of Pescara to resign), one of the financial raiders and serial-bribers who gave birth to CAI, the very same people who Berlusconi called the “Bold Knights of Italian business”. Now the “bad company”, the part of Alitalia with debts, will be liquidated by the national government. Rumours around say in total the Italian State will use around 3 billions Euros taken by taxation for paying back Alitalia’s creditors.

Genesis of a disaster

But let’s go back for a sec to the history of the ludicrous agony of this (ex) public owned company. The Italian government and some other organizations so far have invested €4.9 billions in Alitalia since 1998, all public money that disappeared in the voracious throat of this delirious company owned by the Italian ministry of economy and its criminal administrators, obviously chosen by politicians.

Probably the worst of them was Giancarlo Cimoli (chemical engineer, with no managerial background whatsoever, therefore ideal public manager in Italy), chosen by Berlusconi as president of Alitalia in 2004, after having spent around 10 years in Ferrovie dello Stato (FS, national railway) where he almost leaded the monopolist company to bankruptcy (he got €6.7 M prize for his achievements). In 2004 the government led by Berlusconi gave a €400mn “bridge” loan to Alitalia. Cimoli used that public money for buying the bankrupt Volare Group (Volareweb, Air Europe) , hence dilapidating in another agonizing flying company the public money given by the government for cancelling Alitalia’s debt… This is what I call strategy and vision! And what a synergy: combining the incompetence of two failing companies!

In 2005 the capital of Alitalia was increased by €1.6 billion, including an over €500M bond float issued with the promise of a return to profit in 2006, but unfortunately the year ended with a loss of €626 million… surprise, surprise… Of course Italian citizens with their taxes were paying for this, while schools and hospitals were closing down as well as police cars were parked in garages without petrol for lack of money… but that is another story.

At the end of his presidency in 2007 Cimoli decided he deserved € 3M prize for having completely destroyed Alitalia. And of course he got the money.

How to get rid of an economical cancer?

Several attempts to take over or merge Alitalia were made between 2005 and 2009, especially because Italian government from 2006 theoretically could no longer offer support to the failing airline, because it was forbidden by the European Union.

In March 2008 Prodi found an agreement for selling Alitalia (the whole company, including debts) to AirFrance for around one billion Euros, but the strange coalition of trade-unions and Berlusconi doomed it. In the meanwhile Carlo Toto (who had offered 1 cent per stock versus the 35 of AirFrance) had appealed to tribunal against the bid that assigned to Air France the priority for buying Alitalia. The unions said in the AirFrance plan there were too many redundancies (around 2500), Berluskaiser used the question for electoral and populist purposes saying Alitalia had to remain an Italian company. He vaguely talked about an Italian group of proud national businessmen he was aware of who were willing to buy Alitalia. In reality he wanted to tackle Prodi’s historical success in getting rid of Alitalia, which would have meant a success for his opposing coalition, while Lega Nord, one of Berlusconi’s most trustworthy ally, strongly pushed for making Malpensa the core of Alitalia. The risk for Nordic politicians was to lose their local electoral support because AirFrance plan was of definitely shifting the core of Alitalia’s business from the Malpensa Airport (close to Varese) to the Fiumicino hub (the main Italian and Roman airport). As most people know Malpensa has been one of the most expensive failure in Italian strategy: a huge airport planned with the pretence of becoming THE Italian hub, built in a foggy valley in the middle of nothing, where the weather is so miserable that whenever it snows most flights are cancelled. The airport was possibly built just for serving Italian speaking Switzerland (Canton Ticino), given the fact it is far away from both Milan and Turin.

In March 2008 – against European laws – through a bipartisan agreement it was decided to give a bridging loan of €300M to Alitalia, just for surviving a few months longer for allowing Berlusconi to find some Italian buyer.

So Prodi did not manage to sell Alitalia, but just before the political elections in April last, around 1000 temporary employees got a permanent contract. With a company that only a couple of days before was going to make around 2500 redundancies? Yes, that is the power of quid pro quo in here, it is the typical “I give you a job, you vote for me”… But it was the Cayman who won the elections again…

As soon as he became prime minister the histrionic Berlusconi said that AirFrance would be a good buyer for Alitalia (!??!?!?). Nonetheless, he valorously worked for putting together some well known speculators around a succulent meal: he convinced the experienced businessman Colaninno – father of the responsible of economy for the PD (Democratic Party), at the opposition in Parlament – on the succulent opportunity, the tasty flesh to bleed white, offering to his friends of raiders and financial vampires the possibility of buying for a few Euros a sane flight company cleaned from the debts and with no competency on the most revenueable routs, where tickets’ costs will increase dramatically.

The financial raiders

In August 2008 Alitalia went bankrupt. The Italian government and the bankruptcy administrator agreed to the CAI take over offer on 19th November 2008. The profitable asset of Alitalia has been transferred to CAI, while the “bad company”, Alitalia’s less healthy and unprofitable parts – together with much of the current debt it carries – was transferred to another entity that would be authorized to sell assets to reduce the first $1.5 billion in debt, such as land that surrounds Rome’s Fiumicino Airport. All Alitalia’s debts will be liquidated by the State that will pay off all creditors, including the leaving indemnity for the 5000 employees (twice as much as foreseen with previous AirFrance restructuring plan), not mentioning the subsequent expenses for the dole.

The Italian “businessmen” (together with a couple of foreign bankers as well) finalized a package that would maintain Italian ownership of the airline, but flying a greatly-reduced network, and partnering with a major European airline.

Compagnia Aerea Italiana (CAI) bought Alitalia for €1.052 billion ($1.33 billion) paying €427 million in cash and taking on €625 million in Alitalia debts. The plan merged Alitalia’s healthier business aspects with Air One, an Italian airline that is smaller and privately owned. The combined company resulting from Alitalia and Air One would receive money from several sources, including five Italian investors, two private equity companies, two international banks and two Italian banks. The injection of funds and restructuring plan would make it possible for Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi to assert that he has kept his campaign promise of keeping Alitalia Italian (which, as said, is not completely true).

CAI consists of several Italian financial raiders and speculators, and a couple of foreign banks who took the place of Lehman Brothers, the bankrupted bank which was supposed to be the warranter of the operation. Most “entrepreneurs” in CAI have been convicted, investigated, were on trial. In their hands, gold becomes shit and shit becomes capital gains. Their only goal is to exploit the rich route of Fiumicino-Linate where they have the monopole – for which they obtained a 3-year moratorium from the National Antitrust Authority – and then sell the company to AirFrance. Air France at the beginning will only be the foreign partner of Alitalia, entering Alitalia’s capital with around €310M, but acquiring just 25% of the new company, being the rest of the money as an option for buying the whole company at a later stage. Almost any expert (?) believes that after 3 years (at the end of the moratorium) Air France will buy the majority of Alitalia’s stocks, and will practically be the owner. Hence, Italian people are paying taxes for allowing some Italian financial raiders and a French company to speculate… Nice!

None of CAI members had experience in the aviation sector, with the exception of Carlo Toto, as said owner of AirOne, a low cost Italian company whose fleet was bought through the “Chinese boxes system”, thanks to loans obtained by some Irish companies (owned by Carlo Toto) from international banks, each of them bought a plane on leasing. Therefore AirOne fleet practically belongs to Irish banks, but AirOne debts (€490M) are converging into the new Alitalia.

Everything for the joy of pseudo-nationalists like Berlusconi, while, for the joy of trade unions, redundancies made by CAI are twice as much as the ones agreed by Prodi and AirFrance in the first instance. And this time – while pilots and flight assistants Unions fought hardly – the national Trade Unions accepted it almost immediately (?!?!?!). I assume they had to play some sort of a game to show they were trying to do their best. In reality they just represent themselves. They have defended some privileges (their privileges) and betrayed the employees. Honestly it is hard to believe they trusted the electoral promises of Tar Head (another nickname for Berlusconi) and the notorious Italian consortium. Therefore the question to arise is: what did they get in exchange for the failure of the Air France negotiation? Well, I do not that, but I doubt it was just a question of visibility…

As soon as the old Alitalia disappeared, CAI did not respect the agreement signed just a couple of months before with the trade unions, generating a lot of anger among employees, who were all fired and most of them later offered a new job within the new company at worst conditions. But this time trade unions did not interfere in the dispute… funny, is it not?

Any clearer why Alitalia employees are more on strike than ever? How could you expect them to work decently and offer you a good service?

Anyway, Alitalia represents a paradigm, a metaphor for Italy. The bankruptcy of Alitalia is a symptom and a prelude of country’s steadying collapse. Political parties and Trade Unions know this, but just try to keep on maximizing their own profit.

In the last lines I think I gave you enough ethical reasons for boycotting Alitalia… If morality is not your cup of tea (say you are in finance, a paedophile, a priest or more probably a combination of them) but you want your flight will have good chances of taking off or landing on time, and you do not feel like paying a ticket twice as much as it was before for the same shit service, well mate, you better avoid Alitalia anyway…

Posted by: gurglin | December 24, 2008

Imperfections in Rome’s roads ;)

http://www.tgcom.mediaset.it/fotogallery/fotogallery4545.shtml?1

Posted by: gurglin | December 14, 2008

Italian welfare part 1

In Italy there are around four different “layers” for doing a job or for accomplishing a task, not counting the different bureaucratic structures built around them.

What in other countries is generally done by some civil servants within a specific unit of a ministry, in the Boot it has a more complicated journey to go through. We do not dare to forget the hundreds of thousands of people “working” in ministries have no skills no knowledge whatsoever – neither general culture nor job related – and they simply got that job for a political quid pro quo, a vote-job exchange. This is not surprising… it is the normal and generally accepted way of getting a job in the public administration, at any level. These people keep on getting (I would not use the verb “earning”… it does not fit here…) the wage for going to the office every once in a while, but once there they only surf on the web, do coffee-breaks, managers read newspapers (not because they are interested in them, but it is a sort of status symbol compared to the rest of employee whose only window to the world is a TV), make phone calls, make photocopies and send faxes for their own private affairs… Moreover most of the times employees organize different shifts: one every 5 or 10 among them has to go to the office building for checking the badges of his group of people, then he/she leaves and somebody else scheduled for this heavy task goes back in the evening, possible a couple of hours after the official end of the working day, for ensuring everybody will get extra money for the “extra work” provided to the administration.

This way of “working” caused some problems, but not because the whole bureaucratic machine was stuck, but because European Agreements were demanding, therefore under European pressures it was necessary to do some work… hence it was necessary to create some other semi-private structures for doing the “dirty job” that theoretically was task of the “practically unemployed” employees “working” as civil servants. A lot of Authorities – whose role is still obscure – and an uncountable number of Agencies were created, and sometimes those half-public agencies are physically next to the ministries (like in the case of “the ministry of finance” and the agency doing its work, called Sogei).

Sadly enough this is not the end of the story, because politicians tend to be overwhelming with their mafia attitude, and imposed their people in those agencies as well, which means – once again – that if you want to get a job there you need to be sponsored by a politician… your experience and skills are therefore not important anymore….

This fact meant those special agencies created for doing the work on behalf of ministry employees – because ministries were filled of unskilled people – became some sort of ministries themselves, where people do work a tiny bit, but given the strong connection with the political-mafia (synonymous of political parties and trade unions) they are not forced to work… they do not have to… Therefore most of the work is outsourced to some private companies that in most cases avail themselves of some contract heavily-underpaid people, with almost no rights, no holidays, no sick nor pregnancy leave. They are the only ones who really work under the menace of their contract not being renewed if they do not accept the nasty rules of their job, whose conditions are closer to slavery if compared to anything else in civilized countries.

In a way those people, the real workers, pay for not being part of the mafia elite that rules the country. Politically speaking there is no left nor right wing: mafia is a way of living, a spread mentality that pervades the whole country, from the most important politician to the last citizen. Either you accept it, or you leave the country…

From another prospective you realize that for just doing one task there are at least three (generally four) administrative layers and “levels” of people getting paid, while in any decent country one person would be enough…. this is the Italian way for a generalized welfare and the local answer to socialism… for one person really working (the contract-servant) there are 4 working-class-people who are paid for, to whom you must add the different managers and the bureaucrats involved in parallel agencies aimed at coordinating the NON work, which makes a whole country sustained by a few percentage of “slaves”.

Posted by: gurglin | December 9, 2008

Civil argument among Roma

TURIN (Dec 7, 2008). Moments of terror were lived by some Roma in Turin, where they were attacked by some other Roma armed with knives and engine saws (yep, the ones you see in horror movies!).

As reconstructed by the police, three men and one woman were playing cards in a shed when they heard noises. Outside there were two men who got there with the clear intention to kill . One of the four Roma was wounded to death while two others, a man and a woman, are now hospitalized. The investigators of the Police believe it could have been a sort of “settling of scores” within the Roma community, most likely because the victims knew their attackers.

Another step towards a decent integration…

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