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06 April 2006

the Italian lesson

Italian woman proudly declares:


Hey! I just learned a new Italian word!


It means testicles!

My Professore was Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, in the final days of a re-election campaign. (The election will be 9-10 April; Berlusconi is trailing his center-left opponent by about 5 points.)

During a speech, he called left-wing political opponents "coglione."

When applied to complete human beings, it means, roughly: "bloody stupid people." Other translations in English news stories have been "idiots" and "assholes."

Grazie, Sgr. Berlusconi!

The "un" in the photo means it's a masculine noun, which is a relief to me.
Meanwhile, Berluscone's opponents have begun carrying signs proclaiming: "We're Testicles!"

Here's what he said, and (with a little help from My Silicon Friend) a rough translation:

"Ho troppa stima nell'intelligenza degli italiani per pensare che ci siano così tanti coglioni che possano votare contro il proprio interesse"

"I have too much esteem for the intelligence of the Italians to think that there could be that many balls-idiots who would vote against the real national interest"

The Australian
(national daily, owned by Murdoch's News Corporation)

Monday 27 March 2006

Berlusconi's on a role
in satire movie

As Italy's general election draws closer, everyone wants to take a shot at the PM, writes Natasha Bita in Florence

ITALIANS flocked to the cinema at the weekend for the opening of a satirical film that sends up Silvio Berlusconi.

"The Caiman," by celebrated left-wing director Nanni Moretti, contains gaffes from the Prime Minister's most controversial speeches. Its opening scene has a fictional PM watching a suitcase stuffed with banknotes drop from the ceiling.

In real life, the storyline is just as dramatic. As the leader of Italy's Centre-Right House of Liberties coalition lags in the opinion polls, Italy's richest man is lashing out at his critics.

A fortnight out from national elections, Berlusconi has managed to pick a fight with the nation's leading industrialists, swear at a teenage protester and make a joke about Italy declaring war on France.

A magazine has published embarrassing photos of him flexing his muscles at the beach, taking communion despite being divorced, and holding hands with his young blonde secretary.

Berlusconi's supporters demanded a boycott of Tod's shoes this week, in a vendetta against the firm's owner for daring to criticise their leader.

So vicious is the electioneering in this campaign that President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi was forced to intervene on Saturday with a plea to "moderate the tone".

When a teenage boy called "Hooray for Vittorio Mangano" at a rally in Genoa on Tuesday, Berlusconi lost his cool. Mangano, hired as a stable-hand at Berlusconi's villa in 1975, was a mafia mobster who died in prison in 2000, after being sentenced for life over a double murder.

Livid, Berlusconi got out of his car and strode towards the startled student. "I am a respectable person," he roared, stabbing his finger at the protester. "You are a coglione!" The Italian word for testicle is crude slang meaning "idiot", or "arsehole".

A few days earlier, Berlusconi took aim at Italy's industrialists. Supposedly bed-ridden with a bad back, he made a surprise appearance at a summit of the peak industry lobby group Confindustria, and harangued business leaders for having criticised Italy's economic performance -- despite the fact conomic growth was zero last year.

He then insulted Deigo Della Valle, the owner of luxury Italian fashion labels Tod's, Hogan and Fay, saying he had "gone out of his mind and supports the Left."

Della Valle retorted that the Prime Minister was a "tired man on the verge of a nervous breakdown", and suggested that his family take care of him for a few months.

The spat led to a debate over the merits of Tod's shoes versus the cheaper Clarks label, with Berlusconi supporters demanding a boycott of his critic.

The news director of one of Berlusconi's three television stations swapped his Tod's for Clarks -- although he blamed the switch on a toe infection.

Another blue broke out when the US State Department issued a travel bulletin warning its citizens to stay away from potentially dangerous street protests in the run-up to the April 9-10 poll.

Berlusconi said the Americans were right to be concerned, and blamed his left-wing opponents for violent demonstrations in Milan and Genoa this month.

"There is such resentment and hate against America that a US citizen who ends up in the middle of one of these protests, I don't believe they can feel tranquil," he said.

Romano Prodi, leader of the centre-left Union opposition, phoned the US ambassador in Rome to complain about the travel warning, insisting there was no need to sow "anguish and fear".

But more inflammatory comments came from the government benches, particularly far-right Northern League MP Roberto Calderoli, the minister sacked last month for starting riots in Libya by flaunting a T-shirt of Danish anti-Islamic cartoons on television.

Promoting a policy of "family, Christian roots and immigration", Mr Calderoli said male immigrants should bring their wives with them -- or else take tablets to neuter their sex drive.

"If so many sexual crimes are carried out by foreigners it is because they arrive at an age in which their hormones are running high, without women and with prostitutes who refuse them," he told the latest issue of Panorama magazine.

"They should bring their women with them, or else I would give them those famous pills that stop sexual desire."

Berlusconi seems frustrated, but not by his notorious pledge to abstain from sex until the poll. Rather, he is ticked off about curbs on his media clout. The communications authority fined two of his TV stations a total of €300,000 ($507,000) last week for giving the Government more air-time than the opposition.

A master of marketing, he has decided to pitch his propaganda directly to the voters by using his publishing house, Mondadori, to print a 160-page book detailing the achievements of his five years in office. Glossy photos show him hobnobbing with world leaders, including his personal mates George W. Bush, Tony Blair and Vladimir Putin, along with rock star Bono, world motorcycle champ Valentino Rossi and the late pope John Paul II.

A juicier version of his life comes courtesy of the Italian magazine Oggi, which has published a 17-page tribute to Berlusconi and his rival Prodi in its latest issue.

"What a macho, macho man!" is the caption beside a grainy photo of Berlusconi flexing his muscles at the beach in 1992. On the facing page is the pudgy Prodi, with an "abundant spare tyre", bathing in the waters of Gallipoli.

While Prodi refuses to dye his salt-and-pepper hair, the magazine says, Berlusconi detests grey and has had two hair transplants. Italy's leader also employs a celebrity make-up artist, who uses Chanel products and a golden bronzing powder. Berlusconi wears boxer shorts; his rival prefers underpants.

Prodi, a professor of economics, married one of his students, Flavia Franzoni, in 1969, in a ceremony conducted by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, one of the most powerful figures in the Catholic Church.

Declaring an income of €92,500 ($157,000) in his last tax return, Prodi lives on pensions paid from his former positions as a university professor, Italian prime minister, and president of the European Commission.

Berlusconi, worth U$11 billion ($15.4 billion) through his family-controlled Fininvest and Mediaset empire, collects watches (the priciest is a €90,000 gold Audemars Piguet number) and houses -- he boasts 14.

Berlusconi insists he will not watch Moretti's movie, which Italian commentators are comparing to Michael Moore's provocative film "Fahrenheit 9/11."

The Italian film ends with the conviction of the Berlusconi character for corruption. Back in the real world, a judge will wait until after the election to decide whether to indict Berlusconi on corruption charges.

The Prime Minister is fighting allegations by Milanese prosecutors that he bribed his one-time British lawyer with U$600,000 to give false evidence in an earlier corruption trial. [VLEEPTRON EXTRA: The lawyer's wife, a minister in Tony Blair's cabinet, has separated from her husband, and now only attends cabinet meetings at which unclassified matters are discussed. She claims her husband never told her about his alleged financial dealings with Berlusconi.]

Berlusconi must be hoping it will not turn out to be a case of life imitating art.

- 30 -


Anonymous patdellasvizzera said...

I asked one of my italian-speaking mates (we have a LOT of bilingual secondos in Switzerland) if coglione really means "idiot".
"Nah, mate, it's even worse that that. the actual term is VERY RUDE.It means "wanker".
So much for that.Berlusconi is a selfish loony bastard and the things he said and done in the article you posted are just the tip of the iceberg. Amongst other things he visited and praised Khataffi in Lybia, compared himself with Napolenon and he offended a german member of the European Parliament by comparing him with a guard in a concentration camp. and there's much much more.
Berlusconi holds the record for longest-running presidency in Italy after WWII and it is very likely that he will remain in power after the elections. The siple reason being is that italians fear that the leftist Prodio coalition will turn everything upside down again with their reform plans.
Is it that easy? Give 'em bad television (you think Fox is bad ?? Watch Berlusconis Canale 5 for a day), a lot of showmanship (he's very good at that) and make sure your opponents are undecided on what to do next (they are very good on that as well, change a few impeachment laws in your favour and you can remain in power for as long as you wish.
We'll see on Sunday

Blogger Bob Merkin said...

i'm not even going to give one of my long-winded analyses of Italian politics, because they have never made any sense whatsoever to me. It seems more like Eurovision than Politics to me.

Berlusconi ............ well ... i have to get by with the English-lingo press, and I have NEVER read an article that was respectful of him, or praised any of his political or governing skills. He is always depicted -- even in straight news stories, not opinion columns -- as something of a big crazy superrich clown who thinks everyone is his enemy, and who ignores any laws which are not personally convenient to him.

the way he is portrayed in the press I can capisce, Berusconi seems to believe Corruption and Bribery are Virtues, that this is the way all Great Men should operate all the time.

He also doesn't seem to like parliamentary democracy or an independent judiciary very much when they get in his way or threaten him. He seems to have a lot of contempt or outright hatred of most democratic institutions.

what exactly do Italians worry the economics professore Romano Prodi will do to the country if he wins? Will he nationalize all private property and redistribute it to all the people equitably?

I have to say i admire Berlusconi's straightforward Philosophy of Life: I have $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$, so I can do whatever I like if I pay or bribe someone for it, and no one is powerful enough to make me stop.

Anonymous patfromch said...

you have a point in saying that Berlusconi's career is interesting. Oh, man just when I think of all the stuff about him from my italian friends. compared to that Dubyah is just a small frog in a pond. some of the stuff he was able to pull of and survive the consequences is astounding.
My italian mates say that the Berlusconi Administration has made significant changes in Housing, education, taxation ect. that it will be a LOT of hard work to get back to pre-Berlusconi status and there are doubts amongst italians if prodi's allianza Nazionale will be able to clean up the mess. I have been told they had huge debates amongst themselves and another aspect is that Prodi is not a good public speaker, a bit stiff and to professorish.
You know how these things work, you've seen it in Nov'04, haven't you ?
Oh, and here's a nice story from the Beeb


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