by de Gondi
Sat Mar 13th, 2010 at 02:30:56 AM EST
In the past days hardly an hour passes in Italy without a dramatic turn of events. Just in the past hour the Court of Appeals rejected the plea to readmit Berlusconi's personal political entity in the Rome electoral contest while the Procura of Trani finally confirmed the indiscretions that have circulated throughout the day: Berlusconi is under investigation for extortion in public office, along with Augusto Minzolini, director of the banner state news program RAI 1, and the director of Agcom, Giancarlo Innocenzi, an ex-Fininvest sanfedista.
front-paged by afew
Friday morning started off with a whammer handed down by the Regional Administrative Tribune that rendered null Berlusconi's silencing of in depth news programs on the pretext of elections. His government had broadly interpreted the par condicio law (fair timeshare for political parties) extending its application to in depth news programs and private TV's. Sky and La 7 challenged the ban and won their case. The ruling automatically implied that the State television had to rescind their broadcasting ban too.
The Authority watchdog released a report showing that because of the ban, Berlusconi's personal political entity had become far overrepresented on all channels both public and private, with the exception of Sky and RAI 3, the Left's Indian Reservation which essentially exists to testify that Italy is a democratic pluralistic state.
The most popular news program, Annozero, had intended to broadcast a Special via internet and private radio on the 25th. It should now return on air on the RAI.
But what had started the day off was the scoop in Il Fatto Quotidiano, a maverick muckraking daily run by the best and brightest from the once glorious l'Unità under Furio Colombo which had been the bane of the rightwing during Berlusconi's second tenure (2001-2006). The scoop stated that the Procura of Trani had stumbled onto a case of extortion in public office while investigating an unrelated case involving usury interest rates on credit cards. One of the suspects, alleging acquaintance in high offices, attempted to block a news program exposing the case. Wiretaps were authorized only to discover the obsessive and near daily complaints of Berlusconi to the directors of Agcom and RAI 1 News. Now Agcom is the authority that presumably regulates fair representation in the media among other, while RAI 1 News has been turned into a bedroom mat with the nomination of Minzolini as director. Mr. Berlusconi's view on fair representation plainly means that no other views should be aired. He would outright order these public officials to find a way to exclude opposition voices and the two directors complied, as the past months demonstrate. However, Agcom can not act on what has not occurred. So the programs had to be first aired to be then denounced, and Innocenzi would arrange for some stooge to do so, provoking deep irritation in other rightwing appointees to the point of one irate remark, "This doesn't even happen in Zimbabwe!" In effect, Zimbabwe is a score higher than Italy. It certainly isn't in a state of paralysis over the paranoid delirium and victimism of a crass billion dollar brat.
The bottom line is that Agcom, an authority that should protect consumer rights, contributed to banning in depth news programs on illegal pretexts. And since it appears its actions were fruit of an illegal agreement or conspiracy, the law tacks it down as bribery or extortion in public office.
That was Friday. Wednesday saw Berlusconi's 37th ad personam law passed through the Senate on two confidence votes- the 30th confidence vote since winning office, an all time record. Amusingly called "legitimate impediment" the law allows Berlusconi and all of his ministers to avoid court appearances for a period of 18 months without a plausible pretext. The law is clearly unconstitutional since all citizens can claim a circumstantiated and justifiable impediment not to appear in court on a certain date. The court and the parties will then agree on a further date. This law allows only a few dozen citizens to declare an unsubstantiated impediment that may extend in time to a maximum of 18 months thus blocking almost all of Berlusconi's trials.
Thursday instead treated us to a novel variant of the press conference. Berlusconi artfully reinvented reality, asserting that the exclusion of his political entity's lists in the regional elections of Rome was a conspiracy of judges and the Radicals. It is most interesting since his tirade is in stark contrast with the numerous films of the events, the declarations by police authorities, witnesses, and two court sentences- now three of this evening (Friday). Berlusconi's press got some yardage out of the fact that there was a Che Guevara poster in the background while the judge was being interviewed, a fact just as grave as Judge Mesiano's turquoise socks. The clou of the press conference was Berlusconi's insults to a freelance reporter for having asked a question about the Civil Protection scandal. Berlusconi created a scene that allowed him to avoid flooring further questions and turn the event into an anti-Left diatribe. Berlusconi called the reporter a villain several times, adding that the reporter looks in the mirror each morning and finds himself so ugly that he acts like a scum the rest of the day. By then the Minister of Defence, Ignazio La Russa, had approached the reporter presumably to physically prevent him from continuing and laid hands on him, even patting him on the head.
Today is Saturday. There will be a massive rally in Rome to ask for Berlusconi's demission. Known as the Violet Movement (il popolo viola), it follows in the footsteps of last year's student movement l'Onda, an ineluctable evolution of internet informed opinion and civic participation. All opposition political parties will also participate.
Italy's highest court will have its say on the excluded list during the day.
In the meantime, all the other grave scandals implicating Berlusconi's closest collaborators have slipped out of the news.