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):


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!

- 5 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. emma

    really enjoy reading the blog Guglielmo, stop loitering on campus corners and write some more!

    25 Aug 2010, 13:37

  2. emma

    PS you were in Paris recently, how about something on Sarko’s attempts to save his political career by merging his party with the National Front?

    25 Aug 2010, 13:44

  3. Guglielmo Meardi

    Emma, loitering on campus corners is important training for the intensive loitering on Europe’s corner that’s awaiting me (tomorrow, it’s Dublin’s round). Plus, the University wants us to have more visibility, so I interpreted it as an invitation to “work” outdoors, especially in this beautiful summer.
    As to Sarkozy, it’s true that failing finding another wife he resorted to scapegoating the Rom – but that’s hardly original or exclusive to him is it? Why always singling him out – and his mate Silvio – just because they’re short? Anyway, I will write on Paris next month, so keep following these pages.

    25 Aug 2010, 14:12

  4. Anonimus Pristinensis

    Dear Guglielmo, so Fini looks more democratic than those Polish politicians. But what does ‘looking democratic’ mean? It must mean something of importance as, on account of his looking democratic, you started to forgive him. Other than this, you leave us in the dark; better: hanging from your lips. Perhaps ‘looking democratic’ must be constrasted with ‘being democratic’: appearance and substance. Surely substance matters more. And what is the substance of Fini? I suppose it is what he des. For instance, Italy’s immigration laws bear his name, and suffer from some imperfections: human rights could be better protected, and (domestic) economic development could be more effectively favoured; and he probably voted for all those laws that share three features: they are about criminal procedure; they contain odd, surprising provisions having little or no relation with their ostensible purpose; they help Berlusconi in the criminal cases against him. That someone like Guglielmo has started to forgive someone like Fini (who famously said that Mussolini was Italy’s greatest statesman) tells us something of how low Italy lies now (perhaps Guglielmo likes the ‘statesman’ in that judgment: Berlusconi holds the same opinion – but ranks M. second after himself – but would have said ‘boss’ instead); unless it simply tells us something about Guglielmo.
    Don’t tell me that we were both in Paris last week without knowing it.
    Bon voyage, et soyez prudents

    31 Aug 2010, 11:32

  5. Guglielmo Meardi

    O mi care Anonime Pristinensis
    (not sure about the vocative, but who’s going to check?)
    You take my “starting to forgive” as an endorsement. Starting to forgive is not much, is much less than forgiving, which Christians should do to anybody. My blog goes actually against the current mood suggesting that Fini is (1) a decent guy, and (2) a saviour of the Constitution. My blog contests both points, he is (1) an opportunist, and (2) an ignorant. I argued that we cannot (yet?) trust him, and cannot even say whether he is any better than Berlusconi. On this point your observed similarities are spot on.
    As to looking and being, I am a kind of phenomenologist and can’t see what Fini, or anybody, really is. But indeed he looks more democratic than those Polish politicans glorifying Salazar and calling for a Christian Europe.

    31 Aug 2010, 19:22

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