Category Archives: Berlusconistan

Gender Must Be Stopped! The Lombardy Region Stays on the Straight … and Narrow

Italians are sometimes just too adorable for words.

Perhaps it will amuse you to know that what Italians are calling “la teoria del gender” or “la teoria gender” (in other words, “gender theory”) has become a focal point in the Italian culture wars.

It is a favorite topic among the country’s most right-wing politicians, media outlets, commentators and, yes, the Vatican, which essentially invented the “teoria del gender” as a very handy grassroots-organizing tool. All these worthies are dreadfully, dreadfully concerned about gender – but what really gets them alternately weepy and screamy is the terror that helpless public school children are being indoctrinated (by someone other than their parents)!

Now, why they’re concerned has much to do with the success of the urban legends that are running through Italy like chlamydia during Spring Break in Ft. Lauderdale.

And who are the chief architects of these harrowing tales of gender witchery? Why, the Italian Catholic Church (that’s right; the one run by that Pope you love) and the Lega Nord (the Italian Tea Party, only with better shoes). These juicy, terrifying, click-bait-friendly stories involve stuff like how your hairdresser’s brother’s girlfriend says that, in one school in Burago di Molgora, teachers are forcing children to cross-dress, adopt “other-gender” names, and use (gasp!) unisex bathrooms.

Well, of course none of that is happening but, if you’re looking to get your name in the paper, nothing is more boring than the truth.

Now, the “teoria del gender” sounds like it ought to be an upper-division PSY course at UC Berkeley or something, but no. Instead, it has become a handy slogan that stands in for any challenge to the “God-made-men-and-women,-and-man-equals-masculine-equals-straight-and-women-equals-feminine-equals-straight,-and-the-only-true-marriage-is-one-man-and-one-woman,-and-the-only-real-families-are-those-with-an-anatomically-correct-mother-and-an-anatomically-correct-father” paradigm (stop me if you’ve heard this before).

It would make a great bumper sticker, except that Italians don’t believe in bumper stickers (and that right there is almost reason enough to forgive them for everything else).

So anyway. According to this October 6, 2015 article from the increasingly hysterical and scandalmongering staid and impartial La Repubblica, the Regional Council of the Lombardy Region has just approved a motion presented by the Lega Nord to “stop the spread of gender theory in the Lombardy school system,” which is considered “a threat to children.”

Gender theory, that is, not the Lombardy school system. At least I don’t think so.

Naturally, the document approved by the Lombardy Regional Council proposes the traditional burning of books and a moratorium on classroom discussions or materials that mention – as Italian PM Ignazio La Russa so charmingly bellowed at a 22-year-old student who was attempting, during a conference on the family held in Milan last August, to speak about the needs of queer children and young people – “butt fuckers.”

Just to give you an idea of the level of public discourse.

But what’s adorable is this conference, held a week or so ago on September 30th, on the theme “Il Gender Va Fermato” – Gender Must Be Stopped!

il-gender-va-fermato

Yes. The nation of the Roman Empire, that gave birth to the Renaissance, that survived Fascism and was nearly destroyed in WWII but struggled back from the brink to remake itself – that country now lies helpless and quivering before the Juggernaut of Gender.

And, no, they’re not talking about Caitlyn Jenner.

Gender is coming! It’s the London Blitz of Gender! The Gender Sack of Rome! The War of the Gender Roses! The Siege of Fort Gender!

Si salvi chi può!

_________________

Late breaking news!

Now, for all of the above, there’s MangiaGender!

It’s a laundry detergent. It’s a digestive aid.

MangiaGender!

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The “Sentinelle in Piedi” – Italy’s Answer to The Leftovers

So Italy has a new social protest group, the Sentinelle in Piedi or “Standing Sentries,” which describes itself on its impressively well-designed web site as a “citizen protest group organized to stand sentinel over what is taking place in society today and to keep watch on the actions of lawmakers. We protest whenever efforts are underway to destroy human life and civilization…. We stand in order to defend freedom of expression. In silence.”

On October 5, 2014, the Sentinelle completed an Italy-wide protest, sending its members to gather in piazzas throughout Italy where they stood silently, in a precise formation that newspapers often described as a “chessboard arrangement” … and read books.

Yes! Just like the Guilty Remnants in The Leftovers! They don’t speak! They just rebuke you silently for bringing about the downfall of society!

The Sentinelle in Piedi in Verona.

The Sentinelle in Piedi in Verona.

The Sentinelle in Siena.

The Sentinelle in Siena.

According to the Sentinelle themselves, 10,000 members took part in silent protests in seventy Italian piazzas. The police and other non-Sentinelle observers call that number hugely exaggerated, but there are no official figures, so go ahead – say any number that comes to mind.

The Sentinelle are Catholic fundamentalists and right-wing extremists (though they officially claim to be “apolitical”), and their big issues are marriage equality, adoption by gay and lesbian parents, and what the Italian right has started calling the “ideologia del gender” (or, sometimes directly in English, “gender theory”) by which they mean not just transsexual activism but any attempt to agitate for the proposition that boys may not always be boys and that girls aren’t required to comport themselves as though it were still 1956.

Wow, you’re probably thinking. If these kinds of organized protests are taking place in Italy, major social changes must be underway.

Yeah, not so much.

Here are the current menaces to “human life and civilization” in Italy:

  • A few mayors in a few Italian cities have allowed same-sex marriages performed in other European countries, where same-sex marriage is legal, to be registered in the official records of the couple’s place of residence in Italy. (Whereupon Angelino Alfano, the former Italian Minister of Justice, current Interior Minister, and Silvio Berlusconi’s longtime doppelgänger, announced that the mayors were violating the law and that such marriages would never be recognized in Italy. Alfano’s political career, by the way, started in Italy’s Catholic right-wing and, since 1994, has followed the transmutations of Berlusconi’s political parties – Forza Italia, Popolo della Libertà, and the Nuovo Centrodestra, which is a lot like the Vecchio Centrodestra. At one time it looked as though he would be Berlusconi’s anointed successor, but the unction apparently didn’t take.)
  • Last August, the first-ever legal adoption of a child by a same-sex couple in Rome (technically, it was a second-parent or “stepchild” adoption: one member of a lesbian couple adopted the child to whom her wife had given birth and whom they were already raising).
  • A piece of legislation proposed by MP Ivan Scalfarotto that includes measures designed to tackle hate crimes and make life easier for Italian transpeople and which is likely to suffer the same fate as ENDA — so many religious exemptions have been amended into it that major Italian LGBT groups no longer support it, even if it should pass (which it isn’t likely to do). Of course, that has provided no barrier to the Sentinelle and their supporters who argue that, under the new law, a person would be guilty of a hate crime just for expressing the opinion that real families are made up of a mother and father. (Stop me if you’ve already heard this from your local TeaParty Bible-thumper.)
  • Very isolated cases, which invariably get National Enquirer-like treatment even in the mainstream Italian press, of children and adolescents who’ve tried to go to school in “gender-inappropriate” clothing, thereby throwing school officials into the kind of tizzy you’d expect in, I dunno, Tennessee or something.

That’s the sum total of it. There’s no danger that marriage equality is coming to Italy any time soon – or a hate crimes law, or an anti-discrimination law, or anything remotely progressive or humane vis-à-vis the country’s LGBT population, never mind feminism in any recognizable form. Keep in mind that this is still a country in which pregnant women are routinely fired from their jobs, single people can’t adopt, and artificial insemination is governed by a set of Catholic Church-backed laws that are the most restrictive in Europe and which have created the phenomenon of “pregnancy tourism,” often to Spain, which allows procedures that Italy does not: anonymous donation of sperm or eggs; the donation of fertilized embryos; and the insemination of unmarried women, to name a few.

Point being: the Church’s stranglehold on Italian civil law and institutions is as strong as ever.

But that hasn’t stopped the Sentinelle, Catholic politicians, and other assorted loonies from studying the playbook of the American Christian Right: By not being allowed to discriminate on the basis of their religious beliefs, they are being discriminated against! They’re just expressing their opinions! They are the real victims!

(Note that Pat Buchanan only today issued a call for “massive civil disobedience” in America to turn the tide against “secular humanism” – otherwise known as the separation of church and state – and “anti-Christian discrimination,” which, according to him, is equivalent to legalized racial segregation during the Jim Crow years in America. Christians must rise up to “halt the march of the egalitarians” in the United States. Just the way the Sentinelle are “rising up,” though mostly they’re just standing quietly in orderly rows in public piazzas.)

As a publicity stunt, the Sentinelle’s silent protests are cinematographic and, it has to be said, highly impressive. But what really got them a lot of press was the fact that, in a small number of Italian cities, lefties and anarchists and who knows what decided to attack them physically — thereby demonstrating, with the colossal stupidity that can only come from being young and on the left, that the Sentinelle were correct: their freedom of expression was being obstructed.

Arguably, the whole point of the October 5 protests was to attract violence — just like the Guilty Remnants — because it’s no fun being a social provocateur if people refuse to be provoked. Whether or not that’s true, they got a fuckton of publicity out of some split lips and a little spit.

The best protest against the Sentinelle, though (who, in case you were worried, say they have nothing against gay people), was staged in Bergamo. There, a twenty-nine-year-old guy dressed up like one of the Illinois Neo-Nazis from the 1980 film Blues Brothers simply slipped in among the Sentinelle, where he stood silently reading a copy of Mein Kampf. A sign at his feet read, “The Illinois Nazis Stand with the Sentinelle.” The symbol on his right arm is the one Charlie Chaplin wore in The Great Dictator.

giampietro_belotti_nazista_illinois_facebook

 

Whereupon the police promptly arrested him, charging him with “promotion of Nazi-Fascism.”

On October 8, the Bergamo DA’s office dropped all charges, commenting that no crime had been committed.

In Italy, it sometimes takes a few days for irony to register.

Italy’s “Best Gay Jokes”: The Queen Father, Selvaggia Lucarelli, and the Question of “Dignity”

A bit of background. About a week ago, an Italian scandal-sheet called Visto (the quality and journalistic integrity is about at the level of The Star or The Enquirer) published an issue that included—in about 5000 copies distributed on Italian newsstands—a “special bonus”: a cartoon booklet offering “the best gay jokes.” (Yeah, Italians still buy newspapers and magazines at the newsstand; they’re just quaint that way.)

And, as they say in Italian, “era subito polemica” – in other words, there was an instant uproar, especially on Twitter and Facebook. One popular blogger, who goes by the moniker The Queen Father, has been particularly instrumental in keeping the issue alive on social media (his latest post on the subject, “Laughing Bitter,” follows in translation).

TQF, whose name is Marco Platti-Newey, lives in London with his husband and their young son. Soon after their child was born, Platti-Newey left a successful career in fashion to become a full-time gay dad or, as he puts it on his blog: “Husband. Father. Gay. Housewife. The adventures of a gay dad bent on destroying world peace and traditional family values. But not really, guys. Come on.”

Featured in the Italian Vanity Fair and frequently called upon for media interviews, Platti-Newey is on his way to becoming a sort of Italian Dan Savage.

The Visto supplement in question was originally published as a stand-alone volume by PRS Mediagroup, which owns Visto and other magazines, in 2012. The Best Gay Jokes joined a series of similar books dedicated to (among others) the best jokes about couples, women, men, the carabinieri (the branch of the police force that is the butt of constant semi-affectionate humor in Italy), and Francesco Totti, one of Italy’s most famous (and famously dimwitted) soccer players. This summer, PRS decided to pull The Best Gay Jokes out of mothballs, bundle it with Visto, and try to move a few thousand copies.

20140817_76694_180917043_9c8a16a2_39e5_4d0a_81dc_c359c0When The Best Gay Jokes appeared on newsstands this August, there was plenty of reason to take offense. The vignette on the cover, for example – visible through the wrapping paper – depicts two gay men in conversation. “Want to play hide-and-seek?” asks one. “OK,” says the other. “If you find me, you can rape me. If you don’t find me … I’m in the closet.”

That’s a joke that bears a lot of dissection: the use of the verb “to rape” instead of a less chilling (but no less unfunny) choice like “if you find me, you can do me”; the idea that one of the guys is hiding “in the closet”; the notion that gay sex is essentially violent and victimizing.

But what’s perhaps most notable is how crude and moth-eaten the humor is – the kind of joke your Tea Partying great uncle Iggy might tell around the Thanksgiving table just to see if he could get a rise out of you.

But if the resulting protests by various members of the Italian gay community were somewhat predictable — including statements by the president of the Mario Mieli gay cultural association and by Anna Paola Concia, a lesbian activist, member of parliament, and national civil-rights spokesperson — so were the spirited defenses of Visto and The Best Gay Jokes. Federico Silvestri, for example, PRS’s CEO, defiantly declared, “I defend and take responsibility for the decision to distribute joke books on various subjects together with issues of Visto, including jokes about gays, which are no longer a taboo topic. The people who are engaged in real discrimination here are the ones who are criticizing us.”

Selvaggia Lucarelli, meanwhile, a 40-year-old Italian columnist, blogger, and TV and radio personality, chose to take up the “we’re-living-in-a-post-gay-world-and-gay-people-should-stop-being-offended-about-everything” cudgel. In an August 20, 2014 Facebook post she wrote,

If I were gay, I wouldn’t feel at all discriminated against (because of the Visto supplement). In fact, I’d think that equality meant this, too: Giving other people the right to include me in a book of lame jokes just like the ones with jokes about men or about women….

Gay people are known for their sense of humor. It’s one of their strengths. Not all gays, of course, or this would be just another generalization, but many of them are quite capable of being sarcastic and scathing not just with the world in general but especially and above all within their own world. They often do so in ways that heterosexuals would never be allowed to do. Amongst themselves, they often call each other “faggot” or use the term “fag hag” for women who like to hang around with gay men, and so on. I don’t see how they’re in any position to get indignant about (The Best Gay Jokes).

Lucarelli also opined that “books of jokes about carabinieri have existed for a thousand years. No carabinere has ever complained, even though those jokes make them look like hopeless idiots.” (To which one might well ask, as did many people on FB and Twitter, how many carabinieri have been beaten up or fired from their jobs just because they were carabinieri.)

Lucarelli, of course, is arguing the tiresome and clueless “why aren’t white people allowed to say ‘nigger’” position and defending the idea that, where humor is concerned, nothing is off-limits. Whether she knows it or not, she’s also an acolyte of the puerile and cretinous Daniel “Rape Joke” Tosh (see, e.g., Wouldn’t It Be Funny If Daniel Tosh Got Raped Right Now?).

There’s an all-too-familiar concept in Lucarelli’s knee-jerk neoliberalism: the idea that gay people are no big deal and “nobody really cares” all that much about the issue anymore. It’s like arguments about how the United States is “post-racial.” And then Ferguson, Missouri, happens.

 

BARILLA

The Queen Father and family, in a protest over Guido Barilla’s comments about gay families in Fall 2013 (see, e.g., http://tinyurl.com/kv4byh4). The caption reads: “For us, it’s home even after the pasta is gone.”

But it also comes with an all-too-familiar ignorance. Though Lucarelli would probably argue that gays are  “just like everybody else,” the reality is that Platti-Newey could not have married his husband in Italy and they could not both be legal parents of their son in Italy. Italian law makes that impossible. So Lucarelli’s “equality” starts to ring a little hollow.

There are discourses of power here as well: who holds power, who wields it, who is in a position to make others the subject of humor and in what context, and who the audience for that humor is presumed to be. If that doesn’t make sense to you, consider this: A white male comedian whose routine is a run of jokes about lazy black people, heavy on the watermelon and fried chicken. Not funny, right? On the other hand, Katt Williams. Funny. Why? It’s about power. It’s about — not to put too fine a point on it — whose humor is subaltern political commentary and whose humor is a restatement of deep, historic hatreds and violent fantasies.

That’s the kind of analysis Platti-Newey is getting at in “Laughing Bitter.” It’s not something Selvaggia Lucarelli and her army of Dittohead Twitterati would understand.

_________________________________________________________

Laughing Bitter | The Queen Father | 25 August 2014

How could I not dedicate a blog post to the issue of the Visto “gay jokes” supplement that continues to provoke so much debate and conflict on the web.

I was particularly struck by a Tweet by Selvaggia Lucarelli. In it, she offers this perspective: Why have we gays gotten so bent out of shape over a collection of gay jokes, while the carabinieri (who are also a target of public mockery) have not?

selvaggialucarelli31

Selvaggia Lucarelli

What followed her Tweet was a tidal wave of comments, retweets, insults, and black masses. The LGBTQ community got pissed off. Then other people got pissed because the LGBTQ community was pissed off. Then some other people got pissed off at the people who were pissed off at the LGBTQ community because it got pissed off.

In other words: bedlam.

Some people say that expressing outrage when things like this are published is an undeniable right. Others are amazed that so many gay people (including me) have made such a big deal out of a collection of stale jokes that aren’t even all that funny.

What those people tell us is that this is a good time to pull out our famous ability to make fun of ourselves. “Just laugh it off!” they suggest. “This is what it means to be normal,” they remind us. “If you want to talk about being offended, just think what the carabinieri, Jews, black people, and women could say!”

There’s nothing to be so upset about, they reassure us firmly. Stop behaving as though you belonged to some protected category.

Lucarelli went further in an “explanatory” post on Facebook (because she hadn’t made her position entirely clear in 140 characters). She wrote:

“Humor legitimizes. Humor requires the ability to engage in self-parody. Humor is a great leveler and puts us all on the same playing field. Gay people are not some endangered species. They are not helpless, defenseless, different. They’re not made of glass. Gays aren’t children with Down’s syndrome or Jews sent to concentration camps; it’s not like they’re dying of some terminal illness. They still experience discrimination, even today, at the hands of backward people, but the same thing happens to women and to all sorts of other groups who don’t consider that a reason to be offended by jokes at their expense. And seeing the humor in gay life doesn’t require anyone to be politically incorrect. Quite the contrary. People with the natural and spontaneous ability to see the humor in the defects, the limits, the weaknesses of gay people are likely also intelligent enough to recognize their strengths. And I’m convinced that intelligent gay people are well aware of this fact.”

I want to take a moment to reflect on this last part, which is Lucarelli’s attempt to offer an alibi for a position that has no justification. I’ve underlined the key phrases because they are so emblematic of Lucarelli’s arrogance and blindness.

Definitely. If you make fun of gay people—naturally, spontaneously—you probably also possess the intelligence necessary to appreciate their strengths. And if you don’t understand that, then you must not be a very smart gay person. Who could argue with that?

So there it is.

Go explain that to those people who, in their completely natural spontaneity, consider a gay man to be a fag, a queen, or an ass-bandit—and be sure to keep your heterosexual sphincter clamped good and tight just in case. The completely natural spontaneity with which such people express their opinions comes not from a mental elasticity that allows them to navigate cultures and mores but from the terrifying narrow-mindedness that produces homophobia, racism, anti-Semitism, and sexism.

Personally, I can’t believe someone would defend such a vulgar position.

Such people see NOTHING BUT defects, amplified by their own paranoia and ignorance. Certain kinds of jokes aren’t meant to give them a nice, intelligent laugh. All they do is reinforce prejudices they already hold.

The holy skill of self-parody (which, when combined with sensitivity and being supercreative when it comes to mixing and matching colors, apparently constitute the Three Theological Virtues of gay people) is not yet a luxury we can afford.

In fact, I’m deeply convinced that “self-parody” and “dignity” are inextricably linked and that the first, in its strictest sense, cannot exist without the second.

The ability to engage in self-parody presupposes an enormous sense of security both within yourself and in the environment you live in.

If you’ve lived looking for a way to survive the times when you felt something was wrong with you or that you were inferior and different, if you’ve lived trying to carve out some space for yourself in a tough and suspicious culture—such an existence has not prepared you for self-parody by instilling in you a strong conviction of your value as a person. Of your dignity.

Instead, such an existence has prepared you for combat, for distrust, for resentment.

Self-parody without dignity is nothing other than self-disparagement. Self-parody without dignity comes not from comfort in your own skin but rather from a deep sense of discomfort, from a sense of being inadequate and wrong.

“Laugh at yourself before other people do. That way, it won’t hurt as much.”

Speaking of dignity.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the meaning of that word and about whether dignity is an innate quality or whether it is something bestowed upon you.

Let me explain what I mean.

A human being does not experience dignity because of behavior that exempts him from criticism or judgment. Rather, dignity comes from being endowed with a set of inalienable rights that form the basis of humanity. There’s no point leaving the house with your head held high if, in the course of your daily life, you’re treated like a second-class citizen. There’s no point trying to find a space for yourself in this world if, despite that imperturbable expression on your face, the system keeps crapping on your head.

You can use your dignity to clean yourself up and get on with your life, but you’re still covered in shit, whether or not you choose to be philosophical about it.

Expecting gay people to “laugh it off” and to use their proficiency at self-parody when they are confronted with a magazine supplement that mocks them—that’s a slap in the face. A big one. If we were accorded respect when we needed it most (during childhood and adolescence, e.g.) and if our dignity were not under constant attack, diminished by those who seek to deny us our rights, perhaps we’d be able to laugh things off the way Lucarelli wants—her and all those like her who believe that normality means being held up to public ridicule.

If our culture treated us differently, we might be able to laugh at our defects, secure in the knowledge that we had no need to prove our strengths to anyone and surer still that the impact of certain kinds of “humor” wasn’t simply to fan the flames of attitudes that are already hostile.

Asking a gay man or lesbian to “laugh off” bullshit like The Best Gay Jokes is an insult. Just like it would be if you asked us to dress up in “gayface” and put on a show.

The “Nasiriyah Massacre,” Italians in Iraq, and the Denial of Context

You’ve probably never heard of the “Nasiriyah Massacre,” which occurred almost exactly 10 years ago on 12 Nov 2003, a suicide attack on the Italian military base in Nasiriyah, Iraq, that killed 19 members of the Italian military, two Italian civilians, and nine Iraqis and left an unspecified number of Iraqis injured (estimates are between 58 and 140).

A memoir of the events of that day and their aftermath was written by a survivor of the attack and published in Italy in 2005 as Venti sigarette in Nassiriya. My translation, Twenty Cigarettes in Nasiriyah, is in press. (An excerpt is available here.)

An Italian Army soldier gestures next to the barracks building destroyed by a car bomb - AP Anja NiedringhausAs part of the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the attacks, the Hon. Emanuela Corda, Member of the Chamber of Deputies for the “Five Star Movement” party, spoke on the floor of the Italian Parliament on November 12, 2013.

Her nearly 1000-word speech was quickly reduced in the Italian press to a scandalous headline: “Corda: Suicide Bomber Was A Victim, Too.”

In the days since, and on the basis of that media byte, Corda has been pilloried for all the reasons you can imagine: she hates the military, she hates her country, she’s a commie, she doesn’t support the troops, she’s pro-terrorist.

Here below, however, is what Corda actually said. The gist of it is a reminder that actions have consequences, that the fruit of a complex series of lies (known to be lies even at the time) was unimaginable violence in Iraq – the violence of that November 12th in Nasiriyah, to be sure, but throughout the region more generally.

In other words, the chickens sometimes come home to roost. No one liked it when Malcolm X said it. In Italy, they don’t like it now that Emanuela Corda has said it.

______________________

“Mr. President, distinguished colleagues: The most dramatic aspect of the Nasiriyah massacre is that, in our view, the events of that day were no confrontation between good and evil; this was no attack by a military force intent on the murder of defenseless civilians.

All of us recall with great emotion the nineteen Italians who died in that suicide attack, and today their families and loved ones are in our hearts. Occasionally, but not very often, we recall the nine Iraqi civilians who worked at the Italian base and who also died.

No one, however, remembers the young Moroccan man who committed suicide to carry out the massacre. Whenever we do speak of him, we speak of him as a murderer and not as a victim, but he, too, was a victim as well as an executioner. A criminal mindset convinced him that the attack in Nasiriyah was a heroic gesture and sent him to his death. I cannot help but wonder to what extent that young man, like so many other Islamic suicide bombers, was motivated by hunger and by the hope that his sacrifice would provide a better life for his family through the compensation often provided to the families of those who volunteer for suicide missions.

And if our soldiers were victims, they were victims not solely of terrorist ideology, but also of the politics of the West and of the political policies of our own government, which sent and continues to send our young men and women to the front lines of war. They are told that the occupation of other peoples’ lands is heroic. They are offered the pretext that their presence will bring peace when, in fact, their presence at times only incites terrorist ideologies and all of the human tragedy that follows in their wake.

Today, we want to remind you of Colin Powell before the United Nations Security Council, shaking an aluminum tube that supposedly demonstrated the presence of weapons of mass destruction which, in fact, were never found. Only recently, unfortunately, Colin Powell himself said that he had also been deceived by the colossal fraud that led to the occupation of Iraq.

That fraud, that lie, responsible for the massacre of tens of thousands of individuals, appears to have served as no lesson to the governments of Europe, which instead continue to believe in the nonsense conceived around conference tables for the purpose of unleashing new and ever more appalling conflicts. Libya, for example – according to a statement issued yesterday by our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Emma Bonino – is entirely out of control. Afghanistan is a daily nightmare for the Afghan people and for the troops occupying that country.

For all of these reasons – and I’ll close here – we assert with all our strength: No more Nasiriyahs, no more wars of occupation, no more violations of the fundamental freedoms of expression guaranteed in Article 11 of our Constitution. And let us be clear: The families of those lost in Nasiriyah are present in our hearts, just as are all those who suffer each and every day in these shameful wars and as a result of the lies our governments tell.”

That’s Not Rain … That’s Liquid Sunshine: Luca “Il Tempo Che Fa” Zaia & the Veneto’s Pirate Weather Forecasters

So the President of Italy’s Veneto Region, Luca Zaia, is waging a war against Italian hotels  that show local weather reports on their websites – because a lot of times the weather along the Adriatic Coast near Rimini (in the Emilia-Romagna Region) is better than the weather inland and more to the northwest – that is, in the Veneto, which Zaia represents.

And bad weather is bad news for the Veneto’s tourist industry. After all, Italy’s in full economic crisis. We can’t have people deciding not to vacation in the Veneto just because you need an anorak and fleece-lined gloves to go outside, can we?

“The sites that provide this service in the Veneto Region must block their weather forecasts or we will seek legal damages,” Zaia told the Corriere del Veneto (apparently with a straight face). “We’re launching this appeal to force [hoteliers] to shut down weather forecasts…. We need to go back to the days of [Edmondo] Bernacca (Italy’s first widely popular TV weatherman beginning in the late 1960s) and his macro-area forecasts.”

Now, Zaia has a small point: Italian hotel-owners will always tell you that the weather is fine, that the restaurant downstairs is excellent, and that the nearest bus stop is “cento metri” (100 meters) from their doorstep. None of that’s true, of course, just like the food isn’t really “organic” and that expensive olive-wood sculpture wasn’t really “Made in Italy.” The point is, no one with any sense believes it anyway.

But threatening to sue hotel owners for telling the public that the sun is shining on their hotels, even at a difficult moment in which it doesn’t happen to be shining on yours … well, that takes a special kind of crazy.

Godega di Sant'UrbanoYou may understand a bit better if you know that Zaia has been a member of the ultra-right-wing Lega Nord since at least 1993. Zaia also threatens to sue people when they call the Lega Nord racist, so you can just imagine how he feels about foggy days in Treviso. Reality is kind of a minor issue.

Speaking of which, and just for the record: At this very moment, it is raining and overcast in Zaia’s hometown of Godega di Sant’Urbano, and it’s going to stay that way for the next several days. The projected high is 11°C/52°F; the low, 6°C/43°F. 

This information, by the way, comes from http://www.arpa.veneto.it/previsioni/it/html/mtg_05.html, the site of ARPA Veneto (the Regional Environmental Protection Agency for the Veneto). Zaia insists that ARPA is the only resource that provides “serious, efficient” weather forecasts and the only one people ought to consider reputable.

In other words, don’t forget to pack your sun screen, possums.