Crap! I’ve Been Out Of The Loop

A few days ago, Rome elected it’s first female mayor, Virginia Raggi, and it only just registered in my brain today. Turin also elected Chiara Appendino, and both of these women are in the Movimento 5 Stelle (The Five Star Movement). I’m about to get into a brief history on recent Italian politics now, so be warned. If you could care less, go ahead and jump to the short AJ+ video at the end.

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John Oliver Nails It On Brexit

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve avoided posting about the upcoming Brexit vote due to my lack of expertise and time in looking into the various economic and political arguments for and against. The vote is the day after tomorrow, however, and the latest poll I saw put the vote at 44%-44%. I had no idea it was so close, and that is troubling.

But John Oliver is far more awesome than I am, and British no less, so I’ll let him tackle the Brexit debate

 

I really do love this man.

Is That… A Political Correctness Shark?

I haven’t posted anything about the current Brexit debate, and that was quite on purpose. Not that I don’t have an opinion on it (I definitely think that the UK should stay in the EU), but simply because I do not have the know-how of the current inner workings of the British economy and political climate, the time nor the energy to give a post the depth it deserves, nor to continue a heated debate in the comments section.

But then this cartoon crossed my path. It has left me torn between amusement at it’s ridiculousness, and disgusted by it’s racism.

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A superficial glance at it makes it seem like an unimaginative, old-fashioned cartoon. But go ahead and focus on the EU ship for the juicy bits.

Some of it is obvious, referring to debt, taxes and regulations. But ho, there is some very potent racism entwined in there. Notice the “waves of immigration”, the “diversity” canon shooting a hole into the ship and, the crowning jewel, a swarthy bearded scimitar-wielding man making Sweden walk the plank right into the jaws of a… political correctness shark.

Really? A political correctness shark? That’s what you’re worried about, that’s what you’re fleeing. Diversity and political correctness. That’s embarrassing.

I’ll let Andrew Brown deliver the final smackdown on why this cartoon is particularly vile.

Two swarthy, bearded figures, one carrying a scimitar and one a bag of money, would have been immediately familiar to my father, except that in the cartoons of his captivity they would have been Jews. Here they appear to represent Muslims. The one with the scimitar is forcing a blond Aryan young man carrying a Swedish flag to walk the plank while the one with the money bag holds it excitedly. At the front of the boat another of these figures attempts to grope the figurehead.

These tropes are not just racist. They are callbacks to the particular style of nationalist antisemitism that we thought had been purged from Europe for ever in 1945. The figures in those cartoons are drawn from the same stock as those that populated Nazi papers.

It may seem absurd to conflate the fear and hatred of Muslims with the fear and hatred of Jews when the two groups are united in the popular imagination only by their fear and hatred of each other. But they both appeal to the same dark archetype in the European imagination: swarming, sinister, lecherous, and dirty. Both are supposed to have subverted the elites to strike at the common people. Both are supposed to constitute an existential threat to civilisation.

We were supposed to have gotten passed this. I guess not.

They Are Saving Each Other

For years before the EU finally decided to recognize and act on the problem, the Italian Navy was at the forefront in rescuing migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean into Europe. It seems as though they, in turn, are responsible for rescuing the future of the Italian Navy itself.

 

With the possible exception of Germany and Sweden’s overwhelmed immigration agencies, few institutions on the front lines of the migrant crisis have played a more prominent role than the Italian Navy.

Every day, its ships and sailors rescue dozens — sometimes hundreds — of migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean in leaky, overcrowded vessels. Over the course of the past year, the Italian Navy rescued 47,335 men and women in trouble at sea, according to Defense Ministry statistics. On May 6, Italian sailors rescued nearly 1,800 within 24 hours; on one day in August last year, they rescued 3,000 — and then they made sure to tweet about it.

And somewhere along the way, the Navy has managed to parlay these rescues into a popularity boost: one that has turned sailors into heroes and helped the maritime services secure funding for long into the future.

In the funding package, approved last year, Italy’s government granted the Navy €5.4 billion for new vessels.

By contrast, there has been plenty of opposition to buying additional F-35 fighter jets for the Italian Air Force. (In 2012, the government cut back on the number of aircraft it planned on purchasing.) “People’s attitude was, what do you want these planes for? Do you want to bomb something?” said Fabrizio Coticchia, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Genoa and co-author of Venus in Arms, a blog about Italian defense.

“Italian public opinion is usually opposed to acquisitions of military equipment deemed to be offensive, but Italians like humanitarian operations,” said Coticchia.

The article is interesting, and worth the read. The funding secured by the Italian Navy will create many jobs for both ship builders and naval officers, and of course it part of the fleet will also be used in a “defensive” role, increasing patrols which could hopefully intercept smuggling and trafficking.

The lifeblood that has been pumped into the Italian Navy will most likely outlive the migrant crisis itself, but I find this to be an interesting turn of events. Who knew, in the midst of this crisis, a golden PR opportunity could emerge for the Italian Navy?

Not A Good Time To Be A Woman In Oklahoma

Women in Oklahoma are waiting to see whether or not their Governor will veto or sign a bill which outright bans abortions and jails abortion providers in their State.

Oklahoma lawmakers have moved to effectively ban abortion in their state by making it a felony for doctors to perform the procedure, an effort the bill’s sponsor said Thursday is aimed at ultimately overturning the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

The bill , which abortion rights group Center for Reproductive Rights says is the first of its kind in the nation, also would restrict any physician who performs an abortion from obtaining or renewing a license to practice medicine in Oklahoma.

Obviously the bill is unconstitutional, that goes without saying. But how much money and time is going to be spent fighting this?

Honestly, I don’t know anything about the Governor of Oklahoma, and so my speculating on whether or not she will veto it would be utterly pointless. However, it’s not like Oklahoma has a decent track record when it comes to how the Government treats women.

I mean, apparently, you can perform oral sex on someone if they are unconscious, because consent means not screaming and saying no, right?

And ladies, if you don’t like being raped by cops, maybe you shouldn’t commit a traffic violation, amirite?

Honestly, I feel for the people of Oklahoma right now.

 

I Thought Politicians Were Good Liars…

Apparently, some of them really, really suck at it.

A few days ago, I came across a small story of a Republican candidate for Congress who posted a screenshot of his computer, forgetting to close the porn tabs. I had a short laugh at his expense and moved on. I mean, Republicans get up to all sorts of sex-related shenanigans, right? This one was quite mild in comparison, so I figured it was barely worth mentioning. But now, his excuse for browsing porn has come out and, as far as politician excuses go, this one probably takes the cake.

“Curious by nature, I wanted to test the suggestion that somehow, lurking out in the pornographic world there is some evil operator waiting for the one in a gazillion chance that a candidate for federal office would go to that particular website and thereby be infected with a virus that would cause his or her FEC [federal election commission] data file to crash the FECfile application each time that it was loaded on the day of the filing deadline, as well as impact other critical campaign systems.”

Well that’s pathetic.

How stupid do you think your electorate is? How stupid are you to believe that such a ridiculous explanation could fly? Or do you not expect anyone to believe such nonsense?

Mike Webb for Congress everybody. He’s into amateur porn, women with “tight bodies”, and quoting the Bible. Pretty standard, in other words.

Cue to the jokes about “actually if he were a standard Republican he would be into men with tight asses” in 3… 2… 1…

Cultural Differences: Trump vs. Hillary and Protest Voting

I have generally avoided posting about the ongoing US primaries. However, with them winding down, it seems as though my facebook feed is populated with nothing else. The information overload and ever shriller tone of impending doom has led even us Europeans to begin discussing this amongst ourselves.

The flavor of internet memes and status updates that are flooding my feed at the moment are of precisely two flavors:

  1. OMG Trump is going to destroy America and the foundations of everything everywhere RUN!!!! SAVE YOURSELF!!!
  2. You Bernie Sanders supporters better all turn up and vote for Hillary in the general election or a Trump presidency is going to be ALL YOUR FAULT

While I understand where both of these sentiments are coming from, I find the European perspectives on the US election cycle to be also quite interesting, as they are clearly formed from a very different cultural and political context. There is some pondering, and a bit of disagreement, as to which of these two presidencies would really be worse for America. Undoubtedly there are Americans amongst you who could not give a flying squirrel shit about what a bunch of Italians, Greeks, Serbs and Germans have to say about the whole affair, but to those of you who are curious, I elaborate below the fold.

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Oh My Thor, He’s BACK

I don’t believe it. After all of the scandals, the forced resignation, the criminal convictions, the refusal of a presidential pardon, the squeezing out of his cronies and the global embarrassment he precipitated upon his country, Berlusconi is trying to make a comeback.

Disgraced ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been around the block a few times, but with his 80th birthday approaching this year the mogul is, in desperation, resorting to the internet.

 

Dude, you’re 80, and your multiple face lifts make you look like a wax figure left a little too long next to the fireplace. Clean up, go home, I hear it’s a rather nice one in fact.

But when has it ever been that easy?

“To beat the [centre left Democratic party] PD and the [Five Star Movement] M5S, I knew this oldie would have to make a return,” Mr Berlusconi told a political rally in Palermo on Saturday. “How? Not only with radio and TV. I have finally decided to study the internet. I will launch a major campaign on the web.”

My immediate reaction?

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America? Please don’t make our same mistake and elect American Berlusconi. He’s like herpes. Once you get it, it never goes away, but just pops back up when you least expect it.

 

A Better Comparison for Trump

Yesterday, I wrote a post about the comparison between Trump and Hitler. While I think there is a discussion worth having there, I cannot forget, as an Italian, that there is someone which makes a far better comparison for the Donald.

When I found this floating around the interwebs, I almost chocked.

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Of course, it goes well beyond political silliness. The comparison between Trump and Berlusconi is quite uncanny.

An article in the New York Times sums it up quite nicely.

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Comparing Trump and Hitler: Apt, or Hyperbolic and Offensive?

Given the unexpected success of Donald Trump in the current US primaries, and the increasing violence and vitriol at Trump rallies, I am seeing more and more articles and memes comparing Trump with Hitler. Together with this spike, I am also seeing a fair amount of push-back, often from Jewish Americans, saying that this comparison is at best Godwin-ing, at worst disgusting, hyperbolic and a slap in the face to the millions of people who died during the Holocaust.

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