Burlesquoni Rides Again!

by Henry Farrell on July 1, 2009

I’ve been a bit remiss in not covering the “recent shenanigans”:http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/22acb81a-64f6-11de-a13f-00144feabdc0.html in Italy:

Appearing on a billionaire’s luxury ship in the Bay of Naples on Monday, nine days before he hosts a Group of Eight summit, Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s prime minister, rejected reports that his government risked falling apart over his personal life. “My government is probably the most safe and secure in the west,” he said. He specifically rejected “foreign” press reports questioning its stability in the wake of allegations by escorts that they had been paid by a businessman to attend parties at the prime minister’s residences and that one had sex with him on the night of the US elections in November.

My acquaintance with Italian society and politics is mostly second-hand these days, and Berlusconi certainly been extraordinarily good at “turning bad publicity into good”:https://crookedtimber.org/2006/02/18/follies-berlesque/#more-4337 in the past, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the one that finally sinks him. Cavorting with eighteen year old starlet wannabes was probably a mild net positive for Berlusconi, allowing him to project an image of continued virility etc. Over-excited Czech prime ministers bedecked with young women at his private villa not so good – but more awkward than genuinely embarrassing. However the most recent allegation – that he had sex with a prostitute (who claims to have recorded the whole thing) seems to me to directly undermine the image that he wants to project of a debonair and charming, ladies’ man, making him sound like a bit of a loser. Certainly, Berlusconi himself “seems worried”:http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSTRE55M5OH20090623.

“I have never paid a woman,” Berlusconi said in an interview with the Chi weekly owned by his Mondadori publishing empire. I’ve never understood what satisfaction there is other than that of conquering (a woman),” he told the magazine, according to excerpts sent to Reuters ahead of publication on Wednesday.

I’m predicting (cautiously, and with fingers crossed) that he will be gone within 3 months.

[As an aside, my favorite bit of the story is that the prostitute (who was allegedly paid by a businessman to attend the party), seems not to have asked Berlusconi himself for money “because she was more keen on favors to obtain building permits.”]

Dispatch from Venice – Serenissima no more

by Michèle Lamont on July 1, 2009

To conclude this guest blogging, I end on a light note and reflect on what I did during my summer vacation.  At this writing, I am on my way back from “Serenissima Venizia” where I took a well-deserved break with my family. Those who remain fond of Death in Venice and other classical representations of this jewel of a city would certainly, like me, be disappointed by the place. One is hard-pressed to find more than a few virgin back alleys that do not cater to pizza-eating tourists. Piazza San Marco is elbow-to-elbow, even in comparison to Florence or Rome. The locals cannot be seen congregating anywhere, except for the younger ones who meet behind the Rialto fish market in the early evening (and the market location is probably very appropriate, although meat appears to be more in fashion than fish). The other locals who deal with tourism seem to be in a permanent state of enervation/aggravation. Moments on the “vaporeto” (the public transportation system) away from the crowds may be the closest one can get to “serene.” This left me very nostalgic about what Venice was thirty years ago when I first saw it as a back-pack carrying student. Then the place was unique and strange enough – unstandardized enough –that it was still possible to enter in a bordello by mistake (one of my fondest memories of this first trip). [click to continue…]