"If the patient dies, the doctor killed him; if he gets well, the saints saved him. (Still looking for a saint proverb regarding keeping witless and pointless relatives at a distance. No luck...)
Enjoy the issue, keep writing and Grazie!
Rome - May 15, 2012 - The sovereign debt crisis has propelled Beppe Grillo into Italy's political constellation, and the comedian is giving his rivals a lesson in the power of social media.
Grillo, 63, is the clown prince of Italian politics. The best-known comic in Italy, he has the manic banter of Robin Williams and the populist media savvy of activist filmmaker Michael Moore. But he has never really been taken seriously by the Italian political establishment or mainstream media until now.
Grillo's Five Star Movement, which is largely organized through social media, has just scored a series of spectacular victories in Italian local elections.
In Italy, political power is derived through ownership of TV and newspapers. All take an openly partisan stand and in return receive billions of Euros in state funding. Long ignored by traditional media, Grillo took his campaign online, directly to Italy's disenfranchised youth.
"With the net, with this great form of communication, of connecting...that didn't exist before but now it's there, you can make miracles," he said.
"That's what's happening today in Italy."
It was a first for Italian politics. The online strategy caught the political establishment napping. TIME magazine declared his site to be one of the best in the world. With little mainstream media coverage, Grillo used the web and networking sites to pull huge crowds. He garnered hundreds of thousands of signatures for anti-government petitions.
Grillo's blog is the most widely read in Italy. His Facebook fan page has 831,656 likes and he has 543,000 followers on Twitter.
Grillo launched his provocative V-Day campaign before 80,000 people in Bologna in 2007. The V stands for "vaffanculo" (up your @ss). Hundreds of thousands more gathered in solidarity in city piazzas around the country for a live link-up.
V-Day then moved to Torini in 2008, with another 60,000 packing historic San Carlo Square.
"Vaffanculo!" he said after taking to the stage with rock-star swagger.
"Vaffanculo!" the crowd roared in response - a group therapy session releasing the tension and anger over the failure of Italian politics.
Grillo accused the Italian media of complicity in supporting a failed political and economic system.
"Enough! These politicians must go, and so must the current crop of journalists and publishers we've got in Italy," he said.
"They must all go home. We start again from the bottom."
In Italy all journalists have to be licensed by the state, a process that can take years. In a bid to muzzle Grillo, Mr Berlusconi's political allies lobbied for bloggers to be licensed as journalists. The campaign failed when Grillo and his supporters announced they would simply move their blogs offshore.
"They've been caught on the hop, they can't even open a laptop. Their average age is 70, the average age of our politicians is 70," Grillo said.
"They're planning a future that they're never going to see."
Grillo's legion of critics pointed out that while he excelled at rallies, cyber campaigning and crucifying politicians with satire, he offered no real solutions to Italy's political and economic problems.
He grudgingly admitted they had a point. In 2009 Grillo launched Five Star, formalizing and organizing his ad-hoc online support. He said it was the "next logical step" but also claimed he was just a figurehead of the movement.
Beyond vetting the candidates selected at Meet Ups (the only disqualifiers are a criminal record or affiliation with another political party), Grillo claimed to "take a back seat and never dictate policy".
"Five-Star is a grassroots party funded by, and represented by, independent local candidates."
He boasted that his online page was the sixth most popular blog in the world, with 6.5 million unique users a month.
At its first political hurdle in 2010, Five Star stumbled, winning just 1.8 per cent of the vote. But the movement would quickly gather momentum; the sovereign debt crisis propelled Grillo and Five Star into Italy's political constellation. Mr Berlusconi's coalition collapsed last year and Mario Monte assumed power, his unelected technocrat government vowing to save Italy from a euro meltdown.
But pension cuts, increased taxes and other austerity measures designed to head off a Greek-style economic disaster proved unpopular with voters.
A master at whipping up popular sentiment, and with brilliant comic timing, Grillo's moment had arrived. Billing himself as the anti-politician, Grillo campaigned hard against political corruption and incompetence. He also tapped into seething resentment over Mr Monti's economic austerity measures by calling for Italy to abandon the euro.
Five Star is the latest political group to exploit Europe-wide anger over austerity measures intended to fix the eurozone sovereign debt crisis. Extreme right groups and other parties campaigning against the euro and bailout packages also made big gains in France and Greece.
Grillo told Bloomberg the euro was an "ever-tightening noose".
"And there's not even the comfort of making sacrifices to see some kind of recovery - there's no sign of economic recovery at all," he said.
"This isn't just an Italian phenomenon; think of the almost 20 per cent gained by Marine Le Pen in France, or the success of both far-left and far-right parties in Greece."
This mainstream political train wreck has been a long time coming.
About 20 per cent of Italians were eligible to vote in more than 900 towns and cities across Italy in the first significant election since Mr Monti took office in November. According to the Wall Street Journal, the three largest political parties combined won just 37 per cent of the votes, down from 72 per cent in 2010.
Mr Berlusconi's PDL party lost heavily as voters joined a wave of anti-austerity anger and punished incumbent parties. In the northern city of Parma, Grillo's movement received 21 per cent of the vote, while in Genoa it won 15 per cent.
"Let's face the issue, it can't be a taboo," Grillo told reporters on Thursday, after his movement emerged as the third-biggest party in local elections.
"As debt rises, spending isn't under control, businesses close down, labour cost is up, salaries are down and we don't even have the power of bargaining our debt."
In recent weeks, with the Grillo juggernaut rolling towards them, Italy's mainstream politicians finally went on the attack.
Centre-right ex-foreign minister Franco Frattini told Reuters that Grillo was "populist, extremist and very dangerous". Nichi Vendola, leader of the Left and Freedom party, dismissed Grillo's movement as "a mix of extreme right and extreme left policies which make it a disturbing phenomenon".
But these outbursts were little more than political speed bumps over which the Grillo road show rolled.
"Grillo has confirmed his political existence. He's the big winner," said Maurizio Pessato, vice-president of polling company SWG.
However leading political analyst Beppe Severgnini does not see the comedian running for the top jobs. He says Five Star remains a movement, not a party, with no formal structure or officials.
"Grillo has not changed. When he has to field real questions, he stumbles," he said.
Grillo himself has always been vague about his ultimate intentions.
"This politics isn't my life. I practice politics every day anyway, but getting into politics isn't my job," he said.
"I'm not a danger, I don't want to be president of Italy or prime minister. I'm a comedian."
He has yet to reveal how the last act of his performance will play out, but he has already shown a younger generation of Italians how to exploit the political possibilities of the net.
And that, in the eyes of the old guard, may be his biggest crime.
As many of you are aware, Italians have been waiting for a change for a long time coming.
(And by the way, say whatever you wish about your class of politicians. They're all the same, etc. etc. That's poppycock. Ours cannot be regarded as 'real' humans. They're 1/3 human and 2/3rds eggplant parmigiana gone bad.)
So, what comes along? A strong consensus-based, Internet-driven alternative started by an angry jelly-belly comic riding in on a healthy jackass. "Minchia", fine, we'll take it! "Forza Beppe!"
Here are some of the favorite quotes from Beppe Grillo that helped sway the thick-witted voters on this news staff:
- "What makes up a criminal organization nowadays? If you go take a look, you'll find: bankers, politicians, judges, and maybe, MAYBE...a criminal.
- "To think evil is a sin, but in Italy you're allowed to guess."
- "An Italian is a Latin lover, two Italians are a mess, three Italians form four (political) parties."
- "The economy, as I see it, is the image of a joyful dog that doesn't wag its tail...it's the tail that wags the dog."
- "Energy is civilization. Leaving it in the hands of arsonists-oilmen is criminal. Why wait until oil runs out? The stone age didn't end because it ran out of stones."
- "Now, with a unified Europe, an unemployed from Benevento can go and become an unemployed in Stockholm."
- "Accountants make sure that if we have to pay five million in taxes, we'll pay just three...and the other two will go to them."
- (His Five Star Movement candidates) "These kids, they may be inexperienced - they still haven't learned how to rig a budget, or give (public) contracts to their friends."
Livorno - May 14, 2012 - A 61-year-old man died on Monday after being repeatedly stabbed in the 'weiner' and abdomen by his wife. She admitted to attacking him in a jealous rage after he admitted he had spent Saturday night with another woman in the Italian port city of Livorno.
The 61-year-old man was admitted to hospital on Sunday in Livorno a critical condition and operated on after the frenzied attack by his 57-year-old wife late Saturday.
She said she attacked him when he returned home drunk, after he'd confessed his infidelity in a phone call, but only called an ambulance late on Sunday when her husband's condition had worsened.
The woman, who is originally from Germany, faces murder charges and was on Monday being questioned by police.
"Cazzarola", what is this? It caught us off guard.
Dear naive women, what Italian films are you downloading and watching that makes you assume you're going to find the Garden of Eden when you visit Italy? Look at this case. The German subtitles in the film were way off.
Why do women who date/marry/enslave Italian men assume it's mandatory we be on top of each other every minute to prove our love? "Porca Eva", come on! It's unnatural for the Italian male species to be with a person after a prolonged period of time.
And how is it possible you don't get tired of us? It's gotten to the point where we're contacting you by phone to let you know we're defiling other people. Some of us writers have been on this planet for well over 30 years...and we're tired of ourselves!
By the way, there is no need to exhibit such crude violence when you're angry. Getting racked over the head with a pizza shovel or whacking a 'weiner' with a wooden spoon is much more painful and embarrassing.
However, and in our defense, when it comes to sentiments and having a good time we can be gentlemanlike. After all, we have a so-called Latin lover reputation to uphold. We think this reputation rumor had to be started by a few ugly American women who got to together with their ugly European girlfriends over a few bottles of wine and the BS started flying around.
And to our German female friends who come down and visit us every summer, we're not going to take offense to this story. We would love to entertain you and show you around Sicily...if you weren't too occupied with puking from all the Italian beer you drink.
Rome - May 14, 2012 - Gasoline is over 20% more expensive in Italy than it was a year ago, ISTAT said on Monday when releasing figures that look set to feed public anger about fuel prices.
The national statistics agency said gas prices were 20.9% higher in April with respect to the same month in 2011, the biggest year-on-year increase since May 1983.
Consumer groups have accused oil companies and distributors of unfairly jacking up prices over the last year, with prices approaching two euros ($2.50 USD) a liter.
Several companies cut their prices by up to two euro cents last week after the government made a "firm" call for them to bring their prices into line with the European average.
1) Norway $9.69 a gallon
We thank everyone for the congratulations. So close to grabbing that silver medal. Give us a couple of days...
Face it, driving in Italy is not for the intimidated, itís often delirious and vivacious with vehicles squeezed onto streets designed as alleys for livestock. You need to be on alert at all times, have a thick skin and keep a close eye on the gas gauge.
Here are our essential Italy driving tips for saving gas:
1) Gas attendants in most southern regions: Get out of your car, do not smile nor greet the attendant, clearly state your request in 3 words in an unfriendly manner (ex. "25 euro verde" OR "25 euro diesel"). Make sure the pump is reading zero before the attendant begins to fill your tank or the "figlio di una battona" may make you pay double.
2) We all tailgate because it reduces aerodynamic drag...and because we're irresponsible jackasses behind the wheel. So, get used to it and don't take it personally. By the way, we also never use our rear view mirrors, so you should do the same. Pay attention to who you're tailgating in front of you and leave your rear to the others.
3) As soon as the light turns green we WILL honk at you. So, move it! We can't waste gas sitting idle at a light while you're busy gazing at the scenery.
4) You're not going to find parking in our cities. Period! Don't waste gas by circling the streets looking for a spot. Most of our sidewalks serve as parking spaces so make sure you master the art of parallel sidewalk parking.
5) Naples is an irrational world in itself. (I think we've mentioned this before.) The godforsaken drivers are barbaric and more aggressive than anywhere else on the continent. Before entering the complex city maze, make sure you have a full tank of gas and that you've watched the entire 'Mad Max' film series twice.