Monday, March 5, 2018
Giving the World Back to Its Citizens : What We Learned on Sunday from Italy and the Oscars
THE REAL NEWS TODAY COMES FROM ITALY. The results are in and the EU establishment took a beating, but even online conservative outlets are largely silent for the time being. • • • BUT FIRST, THE OSCARS. Before we talk about what happened in Italy on Sunday, spare a moment for the 90th Oscars. • There was one bright light that I stayed up till 6 AM to see -- Gary Oldman won the best actor Oscar for his performance as Winston Churchill in The Darkest Hour. It was the sole moment that any conservative could wholeheartedly applaud. And, Oldman gave us Americans who are still proud of our country a reason to celebrate. Gary Oldman actually thanked America in his acceptance speech. The British-born actor said this country stood behind the success of both his career and his family. He thanked America for the “wonderful gifts it has given me.” He also thanked movies for giving him “a dream” to follow in his life. It was a surprisingly heartfelt patriotic moment not often seen at the Oscars, where stars thank each other for being "the greatest." Oldman's remarks stood out starkly. Others at the Academy Awards touted Dreamers and other illegal immigrants, women, and gun control. Gary Oldman chose to thank the country to which he'd immigrated legally -- and for the industry in which he made his career. He also thanked his wife. • If you just became a fan of Gary Oldman, grab a copy of "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," the 2011 Cold War espionage film based on John le Carré's 1974 novel of the same name. Gary Oldman is George Smiley in the film, playing alongside Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, and John Hurt. If you're old enough to remember the 1979 seven-part drama spy mini-series made by BBC TV that starred Alec Guinness, you may think, as I did, that Gary Oldman would be outclassed. It isn't so. Once you've seen Oldman play George Smiley, you will have a new standard. Watch the Oldman version and judge for yourself. • One more important point about the Oscars. I watched the awards on a French TV pick-up with commentary by two French film critics. What they said was not important. Where they were standing was. They were in the Red Carpet hall in front of a glass beaded backdrop that let what was going on behind them show through. While Dior- and Versace-dressed Hollywood millionaires were thanking themselves for loving humankind, out in the hall, real Americans were rollling up the red carpet, dressed in jeans and cleaning up the mess left behind. One older overweight woman, dressed in a dowdy beige sweater and what we used to call "carpet slippers" made of felt was loading and pushing a heavy trolley of carpet out of the hall. She made me wonder how many of the glitterati inside have ever talked to, or even seen, this old worker or anyone like her. It also made me realize that we conservatives are not just fighting for the Constitution -- although it is the foundation of everything -- we are fighting for that old woman and everyone like her, who have been used, abused, and ignored by Progressive elites, including the Hollywood darlings who love each other and who like to preach to "humankind" from their palaces while dressed in $50,000 evening gowns. It was a tearful, angry moment for me. • • • THE ITALIAN ELECTION. When New York Times journalist David Leonhardt titled his Monday Op-Ed piece "Italy's Frightening Election Result," you know something important happened in Italy on Sunday. Leonhardt wrote : "Far-right and anti-Europe parties did very well in that election. It’s still unclear who the new prime minister will be. But Italy’s new government will likely join the list of governments -- including those in Hungary, Poland and, yes, the United States -- hostile to immigrants and even to democratic values. After Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Emmanuel Macron of France beat back populist and far-right insurgencies in the past year, 'Europe had seemed to be enjoying a reprieve from the forces threatening its unity and values,' the Times’s Jason Horowitz writes. 'That turned out to be short lived.' ” • Deutsche Welle started out on a more factual basis, reporting that Italy's election will result in a hung parliament. DW also reported that former PM Matteo Renzi will apparently resign as head of the ruling center-left Democratic Party after he led its crushing election defeat, and that Silvio Berlusconi's right-wing coalition took the lead but may face a hung parliament. As DW noted : "...the country now faces a hung parliament and a struggle for power. Forza Italia, the far-right Northern League and Brothers of Italy together took about 37% of the vote, followed by the euroskeptic 5-Star Movement (M5S) with about 32%. Matteo Salvini's right-wing [read that "populist"], anti-immigrant Northern League took 18%, surpassing Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, which took less than 14%, according to the partial results. Berlusconi had expected to dominate the alliance. Salvini said Monday that his coalition had the 'right and the duty' to form a government and staked his claim for the leadership. The ruling center-left Democratic Party (PD) came in a distant third at 23%, leading leader Matteo Renzi to reportedly announce his resignation." Renzi's spokesman said he was "not aware" of any resignation plans by his boss. • In Italy, it takes 40% necessary to govern. If the final count results in a hung parliament, DW says : "Italian President Sergio Mattarella will likely have to form the next government. Italy's 2013 election also resulted in a hung parliament, prompting then-President Giorgio Napolitano to handpick the next government. Analysts have speculated that Mattarella may choose outgoing Prime Minster Paolo Gentiloni of PD to lead a government if it comes down to it. Polls published before the election suggested Gentiloni was the most-liked Italian politician across party lines. But, MS5 leader Luigi Di Maio said on Monday his party was ready to assume leadership and that it was willing to negotiate with any other party. This put MS5 and the Northern League in direct competition for power." • Renzi's PD, which leads Italy's outgoing government, has signaled that it may position itself as an opposition party in parliament, according to PD parliamentary leader Ettore Rosato : "If this is the result, for us it is a defeat and we will move into the opposition." • • • EUROPE ON THE ROPES IN ITALY BECAUSE OF ILLEGAL MIGRANTS. That is the news that was shaking the EU elites on Monday. In financial markets, shares, bonds and the Euro all weakened after the election count, worried about the possibility of an administration led by eurosceptic parties promising to ramp up spending. The Northern Leagues's Salvini has called the Euro currency a mistake and criticized European Union restrictions on national budgets. • The Merkel-Macron vision of a united Europe has been severely challenged all over the EU in the past several national election cycles, and in Italy on Sunday, the challenge continued, this time from one of the major players in the EU. • German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who took five months to cobble together a weak governing coalition after the populist AfD party shredded her former governing coalition in last September's elections, wished Italy success in forming a "stable government" quicker than the six months it took her took to form one, her spokesman Steffen Seibert said : "Italy is our friend and partner, and we wish those responsible success in forming a stable government, for the benefit of Italians as well as of our common Europe." • French President Emmanuel Macron said he was "cautious at this stage" but stressed that Italy had clearly suffered from the migrant crisis, presumably referring to a surge in anti-immigrant sentiment. Macron warned : "We must keep that in mind as a backdrop to the election." Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said the result happened because of the EU's failure to reform its migration system, under which Rome has had to deal with a vast influx of illegal migrants -- some 600,000 of them, many piled into makeshift shelters in the poorest southern parts of Italy. • Matteo Salvini, the head of the eurosceptic Northern League, promised during the parliamentary political campaign to repatriate 100,000 migrants in his first year in power, followed by another 400,000 during the rest of his five-year term in office. Salvini said : “There are half a million irregular migrants in Italy. All of them need to be sent home.” The illegal mirgant issue has been the glue that holds the coalition of the Northern League, Berlusconi's Forza Italia and two smaller Right-wing parties together. Salvini dismissed suggestions that his party was xenophobic, arguing that he was trying to prevent the rise of racism by tackling the problem of illegal immigrants : “The only antidote to racism is to control, regulate and limit immigration. There are millions of Italian in economic difficulty. Italians are not racist, but out-of-control immigration brings with it far from positive reactions. We want to prevent that.” • EU regulations and court rulings are making Italy's illegal migrant problem even worse. Whether the populists and conservative coalition would be able to expel so many migrants is a question, given the legal and logistical difficulties that past governments have wrestled with. It takes months to process an asylum application in the EU, and there is an appeals process that can prolong it further. Migrants who have their applications turned down in Italy, their first landing country in the EU, often simply walk out of reception facilities and disappear, begging on the streets or finding work in the black economy. Even those identified for repatriation may not be sent home because their home countries are reluctant to take back their people. All of this means the pace of repatriations has been slow. But, the influx of illegal migrants is fast -- in 2017, 120,000 migrants and refugees reached Italy from the coast of Libya, while in 2016 the total was 180,000. So far in 2018, approximately 2,750 migrants have been rescued at sea, up from 2,400 in the same period last year. • And, Italy, a profoundly Catholic country, is taking a beating from the Catholic Church under the Progressive Pope Francis. The Catholic Church warns that political parties risked fomenting a “climate of fear” by campaigning on immigration issues. Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, the head of the Italian Bishops Conference, said parties risked encouraging xenophobia, “evoking debates on race that we thought we had buried for good.” Bassetti, in a fear-mongering comment that made illogical WWII connections, pointed out that this month marks 80 years since Mussolini introduced discriminatory race laws which resulted in thousands of Italian Jews being rounded up and sent to Nazi death camps. But, a senior member of the Northern League recently warned that “the white race” in Italy was in danger of dying out because of uncontrolled migration. Attilio Fontana, the League politician who apparently has won his bid to become governor of the wealthy northern region of Lombardy, said : “We have to decide if our ethnicity, if our white race, if our society continues to exist or if it will be canceled out.” His remark caused a "firestorm" in Italy, but it seems to have struck a chord with Lombardy voters. Fontana's spokesman later told journalists : “Italians are afraid. If you let migrants into the country indiscriminately, then they have nothing to do, they are just thrown into reception camps and they have to rob homes and people. Refugees who are fleeing wars have the right to stay but not economic migrants.” • Economic migrants -- that is the battle in the EU. Merkel's ill-advised plan to take in unvetted migrants who seemed to be fleeing war has turned into a mass migration of Middle East, African and even Bangladeshi migrants seeking jobs and EU social benefits. • • • THE FIVE STAR MOVEMENT. Deutsche Welle reported on Monday morning that : "The Italian media declared on Monday morning that the anti-establishment populist Five Star Movement (M5S) had garnered the most seats of any one party in national elections, thrusting it's young leader Luigi di Maio into the international spotlight. Di Maio, 31, was elected as the leader of his party last September amidst great fanfare and excitement -- a measured, calming presence hoping to create a new air of credibility around the party after the party's bombastic, confrontational founder Beppe Grillo stepped aside. In 2013, at the age 26, Di Maio became the youngest-ever MP to be elected as the Vice President of Italy's lower house of parliament, the Chamber of Deputies. He sailed past seven other contenders to secure his party's nomination for prime minister. Di Maio told his party : 'The responsibility you have entrusted to me is great, but together we can do anything because we are the Five Star Movement and we must never forget it!' Di Maio has long been groomed for party leadership by founder Grillo. The 69-year-old comedian-turned-politician founded the movement in 2009 after becoming fed up with political gridlock as well as the corruption and nepotism personified by the administration of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Grillo has often courted controversy by means of his highly popular blog, where he has taken aim at Italy's ruling elite -- but also in 2016, when he supported statements made by then-President Elect Donald Trump that the European Union is a 'total failure.' Grillo believes the EU allows northern Europe to thrive at the expense of southern Europe. The party has seen increased mainstream success in recent years, with a strong presence in parliament as well as winning the high-profile mayoral posts in Rome and Turin." Grillo told the M5S conference last September : "I will always be like a dad for all of you, but I am old," signaling what many predict to be his backing away from the spotlight as a new generation takes over. • M5S has been categorized as a left-wing populist party, but the movement is difficult to categorize. While the party supports many Progressive causes like same-sex marriage, environmentalism and social justice, Di Maio himself represents the more conservative wing of the party and has positioned himself as a law-and-order candidate whose positions on immigration sometimes coincide with the far right. Di Maio referred to the rescue efforts made in the Mediterranean migrant crossing from Northern Africa to Italy a "sea-taxi service" that must end. Despite the party's strong eurosceptic roots, Di Maio promised on the campaign trail that "we do not want a populist, extremist or anti-European Italy." • • • DEAR READERS, Sunday's elections, whatever the final tally, will show that Italy has pulled back from full participation in the EU. Bloomberg's Europe article on Monday was written by Ferdinando Giugliano, who said "This was an anti-establishment triumph of the same magnitude as the Brexit referendum or Donald Trump's US election victory. Two populist forces are on course together to secure around half the votes. Five Star looks set to be by far the largest party in Italy, polling well above 30%. Within the center-right bloc, the League is the dominant party, above Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia." • Eurosceptic populism is sweeping across Europe. The Progrssive Globalist elites try to bat it down in one country only to see it rise up in another. Its characteristics are alike no matter where it appears -- love of country and desire to save national culture, anti-immigration views that focus not on legal but on illegal immigration encouraged by EU policies, a desire to get out of the Eurozone and return to national currencies, and a demand for deep cut-backs in an overriding EU rule that leaves member states at the mercy of unelected bureaucrats. • In Italy, the Five Star Movement and the League could team up and form a eurosceptic alliance. The reason for this is not that Italians are dedicated to either of these parties, it is because they are fed up with the EU as it is now constituted, and parties that understand that will win elections. In Italy now. Where tomorrow? The technocrat Italian governments of Mario Monti and later shared one trait, says Bloomberg : "They have all sought to modernize Italy’s economy -- raising the pension age, passing labour market reforms. They have also been broadly compliant with euro zone rules. When they have sought exceptions -- for both banking and fiscal matters -- they have done so in agreement with European institutions. The Five Star Movement and the League don’t want to hear any of that. Their programs include generous giveaways, such as a universal basic income (Five Star) or a flat tax (League), or lowering the pension age (both); none of which Italy can afford without deep spending cuts. In short, they want to bust the European fiscal rules, claiming Italy needs a stimulus now. Some -- particularly within the League -- are ready to leave the Euro to win the right to spend more." • This creates a major problem for the Eurozone. French President Emmanuel Macron was waiting for the new Merkel-led coalition in Germany to propose his ideas about greater risk-sharing between Eurozone member states in exchange for a stricter management of the public finances. The populist result in Italy’s election is a real challenge to Macron. Germany and France, says Bloomberg, can react in two ways -- halt the process of further Eurozone integration or treat Italy as a problem and forge ahead with their solution. But, one thing is clear -- Italy has opted out and will not play along in designing the new rules. Italy could end up like Greece and it prime minister Alexis Tsipras, having to submit ot EU austerity. But, the likelihood is that Italy, with a much stronger and larger economy than Greece's, will be the test case for challenging the EU model of "ever greater union" and surviving as a new model for Europe. • As American Thinker's Monica Showalter said on Monday : "The great wave continues. First Brexit in the UK. Then Donald Trump in the US. And now Italy. Not every country on Europe has managed to elect an outsider in direct contravention to its country's out-of-touch elites, although they all have factions for it. But Italy, with the world's eighth largest economy, has, joining the US and Britain to signal that the larger economies are moving this way, rebuking their elites and reclaiming their sovereignty." Showalter writes : "Obviously, Italians are tired of not recognizing their county anymore. They're battered by a European Union that has sucked the life out of their country's economy with its out-of-touch currency, a death spiral in its own population, and now a migrant wave flooding the country, giving uneducated, unassimilated migrants from hellish cultures more rights than ordinary Italians along with access to the public till. No, they don't recognize their country much after events like that. There was a recent cake-baking in one Italian town to celebrate the exit of its migrants, which gives a whiff of the sentiment. What it suggests to us is that a long-term trend is taking place now that Italy has rejected its elites and the EU monoculture (which stands for nothing) and reasserted its unique identity and culture as Italian. With Trump in the saddle over here in the States, and Eastern Europe reasserting itself, too, this trend might not let up anytime soon, even as US Democrats and their media allies slaver to oust Trump quickly and dream of a blue wave in the US midterms. It's hard to buck a deeply embedded trend such as this one. Italy is telling us something about how ordinary people are feeling worldwide. The bottom line is that the smug elites have failed, both in the US and in Europe. They continue to fail to recognize it, and they refuse to reform. Now they're being swept away." • The fight to give the world back to its citizens, country by country, is far from over. It is really just beginning. We should be optimistic about the US mid-terms and a Trump second term. We need to remember and reach out to the cleaning lady left behind on the Oscars red carpet and to everybody else who has been beaten down by the ProgDem elites. They are our brothers and sisters in this battle. Forget about the Hollywood glitterati -- they are lost forever, or at least until they wake up to who actually pays the bill for their Versace and Dior gowns and post-Oscar gourmet feasts.