Sunday, November 19, 2006

italian budget bill survives vote of confidence

The Italian budget bill, described in general terms here last week, has survived a vote of confidence in the Chamber of Deputies by a 100-vote margin and moves on the Italian Senate where a much closer vote is expected. Demonstrations against the bill, estimated by the media at 300,000 or more participants, were apparently insufficient to sway enough deputies against it. That the demonstrators did not necessarily agree with one another--some seemed to want increased spending while others preferred lower taxes--may have reduced their impact: it is also possible that a certain demonstration fatigue, following an endless series of cortei for and against every conceivable cause, has begun to set in.

One problem with a large volume of demonstrations is that one has to do increasingly outrageous things to get noticed. Even by this standard, this week's pro-Palestianian rally in Rome, in which demonstrators burned effigies of Israeli, American, and Italian (not a misprint) soldiers, was somewhat over the top, and condemned as so across the political spectrum. That a parallel demostration in Milan--more decorous than the capital if hardly less political--went off comparatively peacably did little to calm the shortened tempers.

The interplay of opposites is, of course, a defining feature of Italian (which is to say human) life. Thus the city of Naples, always the poorest of the big Italian centers, is in the midst of its worst crime wave in history, with people being blown away regularly in streets and markets and even some teenagers joining enthusiastically in the destruction. The good news is that the local soccer team, which has been languishing in the C-league for some time, is now nearing the top of Serie B and with luck--not to mention ongoing point reductions for several scandal-plagued competitors--could make it to the A-league for the first time in memory. A vindication of the city by Vesuvius, or a strange coincidence of fate? In Italy the two hardly differ.


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