Monday, January 25, 2010

Canada, (still) a decent place!

For those who know me, 20+ years ago I landed in the Bel Paese. In those 20 years, one’s country can also obviously change, in a positive or even in a negative sense (especially events related to the world of Islam, with mosques, burqas and what-not, as is the case here in Europe).

It’s with great pleasure that in the January 9th-15th edition of The Economist, a fine magazine that I’ve been reading now for almost 20 years, on page 10 and on an article on Stephen Harper’s decision to prorogue the Canadian Parliament, the British magazine has said the following about Canada: “…and Canada is a decent, well-run place”.

I can’t, after 20+ plus years of Italian living, quite honestly say the same thing about the Bel Paese, a country which is simply awash with corruption from head to foot, so much so that in the same edition of The Economist (page 27), the magazine shows a brief chart regarding Transparency International’s “Corruption Perceptions Index Ranking”. In Europe at least, Iceland is on top as one the least corrupt nations at position no. 8. Italy? Oh, it comes in at position no. 63, ahead of Bulgaria and behind Slovakia. By FAR is Italy a decent and well-run place, with things like public hospitals in southern Italy which were built in “only” 1955 (!!) and have never EVEN been opened, not to mention each and every summer the elderly being ripped-off with the latest scam involving false health, tax, gas, water, etc. inspectors in their homes!

And watching on a daily basis the Italian national news, NOT one single day goes by when we DON’T hear news of some financial scandal/scam on behalf of Italian companies and/or individuals. Italy’s tax police (“Guardia di Finanza”)—tax evasion being Italy’s NATIONAL sport (and NOT soccer)—is every second day on the news, explaining to viewers their latest arrests or financial investigations. The very latest involves (once again) Italy’s Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, and his son who is also vice-president of daddy’s television empire, Mediaset (things ONLY run in the family vis-à-vis the world of business and politics in Italy)!

You get the impression living in Italy that corruption is a very tiny and almost invisible part of an Italian’s DNA.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

“I may be an idiot, but I’m no fool”!

Never a dull moment in colourful Naples. Police authorities, after having discovered several phoney “blind” people (they were actually filmed driving cars, scooters, reading newspapers, etc.,!) who were ripping off the healthcare system with monthly disability payments, along comes the news that in one neighbourhood health officials have discovered a whopping 400 people with “mental” problems, all naturally requesting (and obtaining) monthly disability payments!

The truth of the matter is that very few of these 400 “loonies” are actually mentally ill. In fact, as the police discovered, they’re ALL healthy as a horse, and most of the 400 “patients” are also relatives in the very same neighbourhood! The entire scam has been operating for the last 3 years and has been run by a local criminal group.

I wonder what the Monty Python boys would say after their wonderful “Town Idiot” sketch. The final scene shows us John Cleese in bed with a gorgeous blonde and brunette at his side. Cleese looks at the camera and says, “Well, I may be an idiot, but I’m no fool”!