All entries for Friday 30 July 2010

July 30, 2010

Birthday presents: water, Fini and beer

3 presents in the news for today's birthday.

First, the UN General Assembly approved the Bolivian motion to declare access to drinking water a human right (in 1948 they were not so thirsty and didn't think about it). 122 countries voted Yes; let's name and shame the 41 countries that did not (from the UN website):

USA;

From the EU (18/27): Austria; Bulgaria; Cyprus; Czech Republic; Denmark; Estonia; Greece; Ireland; Latvia; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Malta, Netherlands; Poland; Romania; Slovakia; Sweden; UK;

Others: Armenia; Australia; Bosnia; Botswana; Canada; Croatia; Ethiopia; Guyana; Iceland; Israel [and then what, water for Gaza? you must be joking]; Japan; Kazakhstan; Kenya; Lesotho; New Zealand; South Korea; Moldova; Trinidad&Tobago; Turkey; Ukraine; Tanzania; Zambia.

Easy to notice: they closely correspond to the 'coalition of the willing', those who care about oil rather than water.

Second, the Italian government, technically, no longer controls a majority in the two chambers (but don't get too excited: it is unlikely it will fall), following the expulsion of Fini's group from the Popolo delle Libertà's party. This present has a bitter aftertaste for somebody born anti-fascist, as it comes as courtesy of post-fascist Gianfranco Fini (speaker of the lower chamber). I have long rejected the idea that one can honestly jump the ideological divide between fascism and democracy overnight as Fini did in the Autumn 1993, when a new election system and the Mani Pulite crisis unexpectedly opened to him the opportunity to become mayor of Rome (narrowly missed - but taken by his camerata Alemanno 15 years later) and to enter the government (taken, con gusto). I also consider him an old-school 'professional politician': he can communicate, he knows the rules (and how to play with them), but he is no specialist of anything. Actually, he is completly ignorant. At least, Berlusconi knows something about business and trash - Fini not even that. On the economy, I remember him not understanding the basic question of whether higher interest rates may damage the economy. On international affairs, I can't forget his performance on live tv on the evening of the 12th November 1998, when the news broke that Öcalan had landed in Rome and requested asylum: Fini had no clue who Öcalan was. A few years later, he was foreign minister, and admittedly even quite a good one: knowledge in politics is clearly redundant. I only started to somehow forgive him when seeing him on a visit to Warsaw and Auschwitz in February 1999: he looked genuinly embarrassed by the primitive bigotry he had to listen to from his hosts, the (then in government) Polish Catholic nationalists of the ZChN, and looked clearly more democratic then them. So, the jury is still out on who actually Fini is.Budweiser

Third present: the European Court of Justice has ruled that the EU trademark Budweiser does not belong to the dull American imitation, made by multinational Anheuser-Busch in-Bev, but to the real thing, the divine pils still made by a rare (for long?) state-owned company, Budějovický Budvar from České Budějovice (pretty baroque little town, and the first place in Czechoslovakia where I got off the train back in 1990: you never forget your first Czech beer). So this is the drink to celebrate with today, and start holidays tomorrow: na zdraví!


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