As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Can I Write The Sack Of Rome II?

I've been reading The Sack of Rome: How a Beautiful European Country with a Fabled History and a Storied Culture Was Taken Over by a Man Named Silvio Berlusconi by Alexander Stille, which is a rollicking read, about one of the greatest monsters currently running the world, Italy's richest man, who basically cheated his way to billions, bought his way into the Prime Minister's chair, and saved his own ass from criminal charges time and again by having his handpicked Parliament give him amnesty. It's really good, but I keep thinking that I'm reading the original but missing out on the sequel. Berlusconi returned to power this year, and immediately sank into a sex scandal, a divorce, a scheme to run a bunch of starlets as candidates for Parliament to get notoreity, and a general series of embarrassments for the people of Italy. Now this is all coming to a head with a potentially ultimate ignominy: getting kicked out of the G8.

Preparations for Wednesday's G8 summit in the Italian mountain town of L'Aquila have been so chaotic there is growing pressure from other member states to have Italy expelled from the group, according to senior western officials.

In the last few weeks before the summit, and in the absence of any substantive initiatives on the agenda, the US has taken control. Washington has organised "sherpa calls" (conference calls among senior officials) in a last-ditch bid to inject purpose into the meeting.

"For another country to organise the sherpa calls is just unprecedented. It's a nuclear option," said one senior G8 member state official. "The Italians have been just awful. There have been no processes and no planning."

"The G8 is a club, and clubs have membership dues. Italy has not been paying them," said a European official involved in the summit preparations.

The behind-the-scenes grumbling has gone as far as suggestions that Italy could be pushed out of the G8 or any successor group. One possibility being floated in European capitals is that Spain, which has higher per capita national income and gives a greater percentage of GDP in aid, would take Italy's place [...]

Silvio Berlusconi has come in for harsh criticism for delivering only 3% of development aid promises made four years ago, and for planning cuts of more than 50% in Italy's overseas aid budget.

This really would be a delicious come-uppance for Berlusconi, the mogul who turned to politics to "save Italy" and has only succeeded in tossing it into the toilet. He's holding the summit in L'Aquila, which basically crumbled to the ground in an earthquake three months ago, and the region is still having aftershocks. Both the images of Berlusconi showing off his country by proudly displaying rubble, and the idea of the Prime Minister pronouncing Italy's stability in an area where the ground is still moving have rich figurative possibilities.

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