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Italian President fiddles while Rome burns, vetoes Coalition nominees

His reasoning was that he didn’t fancy the political perspective that they represented

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Italy’s president, Sergio Mattarella, refused to give consent to the designated Prime Minister’s picks for high office.

His reasoning was that he didn’t fancy the political perspective that they represented, namely that of the Finance Minister nominee proposed by Giuseppe Conte, who has withdrawn his role as the designated Prime Minister.

Conte was designated by a coalition of the 5 Star Movement and the League, two Italian political parties on opposing sides of the political aisle, after months of back and forthing.

Yesterday, Matarella vetoed Conte’s nominees, saying that he feared that they could endanger Italy’s participation in the EU.

RT reports:

Italian President Sergio Mattarella has used a shady pretext to turn down a Euro-skeptic coalition pick for economy minister, as he seeks to mold a cabinet after own political views, an MP from the coalition told RT.

Manlio Di Stefano, an MP from the anti-establishment Five-Star Movement (M5S), which has teamed up with Lega Nord in a parliament, argued that it was Mattarella’s fault that Sunday did not bring a much-desired end to the two-month long post-election stalemate. Mattarella on Sunday rejected the candidacy of former industry minister and a distinguished economist, Paolo Savona, who was suggested by the coalition to fill the post of the minister of economy.

“I asked for a figure, who would mean not risking an exit from the euro,” Mattarella explained, citing Savona’s Euro-sceptic remarks.

Stefano argued that Mattarella has gone well beyond his powers by rejecting Savona’s candidacy based on his political views.

“You can be a problem if you have a trial, you can be a problem if you’ve been found guilty for something, but not because you have some good ideas, or, any idea in a political sense. There is a constitution defending political ideas and opinions,” Stefano said.

Mattarella’s claims that Savona is a danger to Italy’s stay in the eurozone lack any ground, Stefano argued, since Savona’s current stance is that Italy can assert its place in European economics without necessarily abandoning the euro.

“The incredible point is that Savona was the first telling us that Italy has to stay in the EU and Eurozone, but it has to be stronger institutionally to bring some points at home,” Stefano said.

Given that, Mattarella’s reasoning seems tailored to serve his own political agenda, the M5S member said.

After the coalition’s bid to form a new government failed, Mattarella summoned Carlo Cottarelli, a former senior official at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to his office. It is believed that Mattarella will ask Cottarellli to head the government.

“The incredible thing is that President Mattarella has not only stopped this government, but is trying to force the government that is the expression of his own will,” Stefano said.

In case Mattarella makes Cottarelli PM-designate, the latter “will not have any chance to create the government,” the MP said. “We will never support the kind of a different government than us,” he stressed.

Arguing that Mattarella has broken all the rules of an established European democracy, Stefano described his conduct as “something without any historic record until today.”

Mattarella’s objection to the economy minister candidacy earlier drew the ire of MS5 leader Luigi Di Maio, who called the president’s decision “incomprehensible” and called for his impeachment.

Matarella’s actions have brought some fundamental questions to the fore as he did not mask the fact that he vetoed Savona’s nomination on the basis that he did not approve of Savona’s political opinions, something that is supposed to be protected under Italy’s constitution.

In fact, Matarella seems intent on position his own candidates, having sent the Parliament’s picks down the drain, potentially leading to new elections, during which interim, his political agenda continues to realize implementation.

He precisely wants to preserve cooperation with the EU and continue the course of action that his administration has followed to date.

France24 reports:

Efforts to form a coalition government collapsed on Sunday after the Italian president rejected a eurosceptic pick for the key economy ministry, triggering a possible constitutional crisis and opening the prospect of fresh elections.

The leaders of the two parties trying to field a government, the far-right League and anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, accused President Sergio Mattarella of abusing his authority and working under the orders of European powers.

5-Star leader Luigi Di Maio, whose party won the most seats at an inconclusive March 4 vote, demanded that parliament impeach Mattarella, raising the spectre of political turmoil in the euro zone’s third biggest economy.

Financial markets tumbled last week on fears the mooted coalition would unleash a spending splurge and increase Italy’s already huge debt mountain, which is equivalent to more than 1.3 times the nation’s domestic output.

Looking to allay investor concerns, Mattarella vetoed on Sunday the choice of 81-year-old economist Paolo Savona, a vocal critic of the single currency, to the pivotal economy post.

Prime Minister-designate Giuseppe Conte promptly abandoned his efforts to form a government.

In a sombre, televised speech, Mattarella said he had accepted all the suggested ministers bar Savona.

“I asked for that ministry an authoritative political figure from the coalition parties who was not seen as the supporter of a line that could provoke Italy’s exit from the euro,” he said.

Shortly afterwards, he summoned former International Monetary Fund (IMF) senior official Carlo Cottarelli for a Monday morning meeting — an indication he may be considering asking him to head a government of unelected technocrats.

Voter anger

Cottarelli would be a calming choice for the financial markets, but any technocrat administration would likely only be a short-term solution because the majority of parliamentarians have said they would not support such a government.

If he failed to win parliamentary backing, Cottarelli would stay in office in a caretaker capacity ahead of elections that would most likely be held in September or October.

Polls have suggested that the League, which won 17 percent of the vote in March, would see its support surge in any early ballot, while support for 5-Star remained strong.

Mainstream centre-left and centre-right parties were seen losing further ground in the face of voter anger over the sluggish economy.

League leader Matteo Salvini responded furiously to Mattarella’s refusal to rubberstamp Savona.

“If there’s not the OK of Berlin, Paris or Brussels, in Italy a government cannot be formed. It’s a folly, and I ask the Italian people to stay close to us because I want to bring democracy back to this country,” Salvini told reporters.

News of Mattarella’s veto sent a shockwave through Italy.

The leader of the nationalist Brothers of Italy party, which had an electoral pact with the League, said the head of state should be impeached, accusing him of abusing his position.

“We will ask parliament to charge Mattarella with high-treason because he has acted under foreign pressure,” Brothers of Italy chief Giorgia Meloni said on La7 television channel.

The 5-Star’s Di Maio also demanded impeachment under article 90 of the constitution. Under that clause, parliament can demand a president leave office if a simple majority of lawmakers votes in favour. The constitutional court would then be called to decide whether to impeach or not.

“After tonight, it’s truly difficult to believe in the institutions and the laws of the state,” Di Maio said.

Experience

On Friday, the closely watched gap between the Italian and German 10-year bond yields, seen as a measure of political risk in the euro zone, was at its widest in four years at 215 basis points.

After markets had closed on Friday, Moody’s said it may downgrade the country’s sovereign debt rating because of the risk that the would-be government would weaken public finances and roll back a 2011 pension reform.

Facing Mattarella’s veto, Savona tried on Sunday to allay concerns about his views in his first public statement on the matter.

“I want a different Europe, stronger, but more equal,” Savona said in a statement.

He also said his position on debt was the same as that forged by the potential coalition allies in their programme – which says it will be reduced not through austerity or tax cuts, but through targeted investments and policies that boost economic growth.

Savona has had high-level experience at the Bank of Italy, in government as industry minister in 1993-94, and with employers’ lobby Confindustria. But his critical stance on the euro has been the focus of concern.

In Sunday’s statement Savona did not mention his opinions on the euro, but more than 70 slides outlining a “plan B” for Italy’s exit from the euro, co-authored by Savona in 2015 with a dozen others, circulated on social media.

On Monday, Mattarelli is set to meet with Carlo Cottarelli over whether he will be willing to take the post, likely to be offered him by Matarelli.

Insodoing, Mattarelli will be installing someone to fill the slot without the backing of the Italian people or that of the Parliament, to serve as a technocrat during the interim space until elections can be held in autumn.

Cottarelli, as an occasional television analyst, has harshly criticized the policies represented by M5S and Lega’s coalition, indicative that his role will be to construct obstacles in the implementation of their agenda, should they eventually accommodate the Italian government.

Not the least is the fact that he represents precisely what the coalition stands united against.

AFP reports:

Carlo Cottarelli, a former International Monetary Fund director, will face an uphill battle should, as expected, he is tasked with forming a technocrat government for Italy in the midst of a deep political crisis and populist rage at the financial “elite”.

Cottarelli, 64, will meet with President Sergio Mattarella after talks between the head of state and populist parties on the cusp of forming a new government fell apart over the inclusion of eurosceptic Paolo Savona as economy minister.

Cottarelli’s likely appointment as prime minister has already attracted the wrath of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and nationalist League, which have denounced a “premeditated” strike from Mattarella and European “lobbies” against their proposed coalition government.

The chances of the economist gaining approval for any technocrat government are slim, as Five Star and the League boil with anger at their own coalition stumbling on the home straight.

League leader Matteo Salvini said that Cottarella was a “Mister Nobody” who “represents financial institutions”, while the head of Five Star Luigi Di Maio laughed off his chances of ever gaining the endorsement of a parliament in which his and Salvini’s parties command a majority.

“They’ve replaced a government with a majority with one that won’t obtain one,” said Di Maio to supporters at a rally near Rome.

Cottarelli first joined the IMF in 1988, following six years in the Bank of Italy’s Monetary and Financial Sector Division.

He was director of the IMF’s fiscal affairs department from 2008 to 2013 and became known as “Mr Scissors” for making cuts to public spending in Italy while charged with the revision of public spending by Enrico Letta’s short-lived centre-left government.

Looking back on his time under Letta, Cottarelli lamented the resistance of bureaucrats in Rome to help him carry out his role, claiming that “often I wasn’t even given the documents I asked for”.

In 2014 Letta’s successor, Matteo Renzi, nominated him as the IMF’s executive director for Italy, Greece and Malta before leaving the institution in October 2017.

Since then Cottarelli has worked as director of the Public Accounts Observatory at the Catholic University of Milan, and as a TV pundit he has offered a string of warnings about the economic cost of the Five Star and League’s joint government programme, which includes huge tax cuts and a ramping up of welfare spending.

Mattarella is treating this situation as if the fate of Italy’s participation in the Euro is at stake. He sees the situation in Italy from the top down, rather than the way the Italian people view it: from a bottom up.

At the ground level, Italy’s economy is fundamentally malfunctioning, and Cottarelli sees the situation from the perspective of Italy’s creditors.

The people and the government, at this moment, do not perceive a common ground. Political gains are to be made, governmental stakes are to be uprooted, and relationships shaken up. The outcome of Monday’s meeting will further show how this situation will pan out.

 

 

 

 

 

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Understanding the Holodomor and why Russia says nothing

A descendant of Holodomor victims takes the rest of us to school as to whether or not Russia needs to shoulder the blame.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One of the charges that nationalist Ukrainians often lodge against their Russian neighbors is that the Russian government has never acknowledged or formally apologized to Ukraine for the “Holodomor” that took place in Ukraine in 1932-1933. This was a man-made famine that killed an estimated seven to 10 million Ukrainians , though higher estimates claim 12.5 million and lower ones now claim 3.3 million.

No matter what the total was, it amounts to a lot of people that starved to death. The charge that modern-day Russia ought to apologize for this event is usually met with silence, which further enrages those Ukrainians that believe that this issue must be resolved by the Russian acknowledgement of responsibility for it. Indeed, the prime charge of these Ukrainians is that the Russians committed a genocide against the Ukrainian people. This is a claim Russia denies.

To the outside observer who does not know this history of Russia and Ukraine’s relationship, and who does not know or understand the characteristics of the Soviet Union, this charge seems as simple and laid out as that of the Native Americans or the blacks demanding some sort of recompense or restitution for the damages inflicted on these societies through conquest and / or slavery. But we discovered someone who had family connections involved in the Holodomor, and who offers her own perspective, which is instructive in why perhaps the Russian Federation does not say anything about this situation.

Scene in Kharkiv with dead from the famine 1932-33 lying along the street.

The speaker is Anna Vinogradova, a Russian Israeli-American, who answered the question through Quora of “Why doesn’t Russia recognize the Holodomor as a genocide?” She openly admits that she speaks only for herself, but her answer is still instructive. We offer it here, with some corrections for the sake of smooth and understandable English:

I can’t speak for Russia and what it does and doesn’t recognize. I can speak for myself.

I am a great-granddaughter of a “Kulak” (кулак), or well-to-do peasant, who lived close to the Russia/Ukraine border.

The word “кулак” means “fist” in Russian, and it wasn’t a good thing for a person to be called by this label. A кулак was an exploiter of peasants and a class enemy of the new state of workers and poor peasants. In other words, while under Communism, to be called a кулак was to bring a death sentence upon yourself.

At some point, every rural class enemy, every peasant who wasn’t a member of a collective farm was eliminated one way or another.

Because Ukraine has very fertile land and the Ukrainian style of agriculture often favors individual farms as opposed to villages, there is no question that many, many Ukrainian peasants were considered class enemies like my great grandfather, and eliminated in class warfare.

I have no doubt that class warfare included starvation, among other things.

The catch? My great grandfather was an ethnic Russian living in Russia. What nationality were the communists who persecuted and eventually shot him? They were of every nationality there was (in the Soviet Union), and they were led by a Ukrainian, who was taking orders from a Georgian.

Now, tell me, why I, a descendant of an unjustly killed Russian peasant, need to apologize to the descendants of the Ukrainians who killed him on the orders of a Georgian?

What about the Russian, Kazakh golodomor (Russian rendering of the same famine)? What about the butchers, who came from all ethnicities? Can someone explain why it’s only okay to talk about Ukrainian victims and Russian persecutors? Why do we need to rewrite history decades later to convert that brutal class war into an ethnic war that it wasn’t?

Ethnic warfare did not start in Russia until after WWII, when some ethnicities were accused of collaboration with the Nazis and brutal group punishments were implemented. It was all based on class up to that time.

The communists of those years were fanatically internationalist. “Working people of all countries, unite!” was their slogan and they were fanatical about it.

As for the crimes of Communism, Russia has been healing this wound for decades, and Russia’s government has made its anticommunist position very clear.

This testimony is most instructive. First, it points out information that the charge of the Holodomor as “genocide!” neatly leaves out. In identifying the internationalist aspects of the Soviet Union, Ukraine further was not a country identified as somehow worthy of genocidal actions. Such a thought makes no sense, especially given the great importance of Ukraine as the “breadbasket” of the Soviet Union, which it was.

Secondly, it shows a very western-style of “divide to conquer” with a conveniently incendiary single-word propaganda tool that is no doubt able to excite any Ukrainian who may be neutral to slightly disaffected about Russia, and then after that, all Ukrainians are now victims of the mighty evil overlords in Moscow.

How convenient is this when the evil overlords in Kyiv don’t want their citizens to know what they are doing?

We saw this on Saturday – taken to a very high peak when President Petro Poroshenko announced the new leading “Hierarch” of the “Ukrainian National Church” and said not one single word about Christ, but only:

“This day will go down in history as the day of the creation of an autocephalous Orthodox church in Ukraine… This is the day of the creation of the church as an independent structure… What is this church? It is a church without Putin. It is a church without Kirill, without prayer for the Russian authorities and the Russian army.”

But as long as Russia is made the “problem”, millions of scandalized Ukrainians will not care what this new Church actually does or teaches, which means it is likely to teach just about anything.

Russia had its own Holodomor. The history of the event shows that this was a result of several factors – imposed socialist economics on a deeply individualized form of agrarian capitalism (bad for morale and worse for food production), really inane centralized planning of cropland use, and a governmental structure that really did not exist to serve the governed, but to impose an ideology on people who really were not all that interested in it.

Personal blame might well lay with Stalin, a Georgian, but the biggest source of the famine lay in the structures imposed under communism as a way of economic strategy. This is not Russia’s fault. It is the economic model that failed.

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Mueller Finally Releases Heavily Redacted Key Flynn Memo On Eve Of Sentencing

Alex Christoforou

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Via Zerohedge


Having initially snubbed Judge Emmet Sullivan’s order to release the original 302 report from the Michael Flynn interrogation in January 2017, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has finally produced the heavily redacted document, just hours before sentencing is due to be handed down.

The memo  – in full below – details then-national security adviser Michael Flynn’s interview with FBI agents Peter Strzok and Joe Pientka, and shows Flynn was repeatedly asked about his contacts with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and in each instance, Flynn denied (or did not recall) any such conversations.

The agents had transcripts of Flynn’s phone calls to Russian Ambassador Kislyak, thus showing Flynn to be lying.

Flynn pleaded guilty guilty last December to lying to the FBI agents about those conversations with Kislyak.

The redactions in the document seem oddly placed but otherwise, there is nothing remarkable about the content…

Aside from perhaps Flynn’s incredulity at the media attention…

Flynn is set to be sentenced in that federal court on Tuesday.

Of course, as Christina Laila notes, the real crime is that Flynn was unmasked during his phone calls to Kislyak and his calls were illegally leaked by a senior Obama official to the Washington Post.

*  *  *

Full document below…

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Don’t Laugh : It’s Giving Putin What He Wants

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself.

Caitlin Johnstone

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Authored by Caitlin Johnstone:


The BBC has published an article titled “How Putin’s Russia turned humour into a weapon” about the Kremlin’s latest addition to its horrifying deadly hybrid warfare arsenal: comedy.

The article is authored by Olga Robinson, whom the BBC, unhindered by any trace of self-awareness, has titled “Senior Journalist (Disinformation)”. Robinson demonstrates the qualifications and acumen which earned her that title by warning the BBC’s audience that the Kremlin has been using humor to dismiss and ridicule accusations that have been leveled against it by western governments, a “form of trolling” that she reports is designed to “deliberately lower the level of discussion”.

“Russia’s move towards using humour to influence its campaigns is a relatively recent phenomenon,” Robinson explains, without speculating as to why Russians might have suddenly begun laughing at their western accusers. She gives no consideration to the possibility that the tightly knit alliance of western nations who suddenly began hysterically shrieking about Russia two years ago have simply gotten much more ridiculous and easier to make fun of during that time.

Couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the emergence of a demented media environment wherein everything around the world from French protests to American culture wars to British discontent with the European Union gets blamed on Russia without any facts or evidence. Wherein BBC reporters now correct guests and caution them against voicing skepticism of anti-Russia narratives because the UK is in “an information war” with that nation. Wherein the same cable news Russiagate pundit can claim that both Rex Tillerson’s hiring and his later firing were the result of a Russian conspiracy to benefit the Kremlin. Wherein mainstream outlets can circulate blatantly false information about Julian Assange and unnamed “Russians” and then blame the falseness of that reporting on Russian disinformation. Wherein Pokemon Go, cutesy Facebook memes and $4,700 in Google ads are sincerely cited as methods by which Hillary Clinton’s $1.2 billion presidential campaign was outdone. Wherein conspiracy theories that Putin has infiltrated the highest levels of the US government have been blaring on mainstream headline news for two years with absolutely nothing to show for it to this day.

Nope, the only possibility is that the Kremlin suddenly figured out that humor is a thing.

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself. The hypocrisy is so cartoonish, the emotions are so breathlessly over-the-top, the stories so riddled with plot holes and the agendas underlying them so glaringly obvious that they translate very easily into laughs. I myself recently authored a satire piece that a lot of people loved and which got picked up by numerous alternative media outlets, and all I did was write down all the various escalations this administration has made against Russia as though they were commands being given to Trump by Putin. It was extremely easy to write, and it was pretty damn funny if I do say so myself. And it didn’t take any Kremlin rubles or dezinformatsiya from St Petersburg to figure out how to write it.

“Ben Nimmo, an Atlantic Council researcher on Russian disinformation, told the BBC that attempts to create funny memes were part of the strategy as ‘disinformation for the information age’,” the article warns. Nimmo, ironically, is himself intimately involved with the British domestic disinformation firm Integrity Initiative, whose shady government-sponsored psyops against the Labour Party have sparked a national scandal that is likely far from reaching peak intensity.

“Most comedy programmes on Russian state television these days are anodyne affairs which either do not touch on political topics, or direct humour at the Kremlin’s perceived enemies abroad,” Robinson writes, which I found funny since I’d just recently read an excellent essay by Michael Tracey titled “Why has late night swapped laughs for lusting after Mueller?”

“If the late night ‘comedy’ of the Trump era has something resembling a ‘message,’ it’s that large segments of the nation’s liberal TV viewership are nervously tracking every Russia development with a passion that cannot be conducive to mental health – or for that matter, political efficacy,” Tracey writes, documenting numerous examples of the ways late night comedy now has audiences cheering for a US intelligence insider and Bush appointee instead of challenging power-serving media orthodoxies as programs like The Daily Show once did.

If you wanted the opposite of “anodyne affairs”, it would be comedians ridiculing the way all the establishment talking heads are manipulating their audiences into supporting the US intelligence community and FBI insiders. It would be excoriating the media environment in which unfathomably powerful world-dominating government agencies are subject to less scrutiny and criticism than a man trapped in an embassy who published inconvenient facts about those agencies. It certainly wouldn’t be the cast of Saturday Night Live singing “All I Want for Christmas Is You” to a framed portrait if Robert Mueller wearing a Santa hat. It doesn’t get much more anodyne than that.

Russia makes fun of western establishment narratives about it because those narratives are so incredibly easy to make fun of that they are essentially asking for it, and the nerdy way empire loyalists are suddenly crying victim about it is itself more comedy. When Guardian writer Carole Cadwalladr began insinuating that RT covering standard newsworthy people like Julian Assange and Nigel Farage was a conspiracy to “boost” those people for the advancement of Russian agendas instead of a news outlet doing the thing that news reporting is, RT rightly made fun of her for it. Cadwalladr reacted to RT’s mockery with a claim that she was a victim of “attacks”, instead of the recipient of perfectly justified ridicule for circulating an intensely moronic conspiracy theory.

Ah well. People are nuts and we’re hurtling toward a direct confrontation with a nuclear superpower. Sometimes there’s nothing else to do but laugh. As Wavy Gravy said, “Keep your sense of humor, my friend; if you don’t have a sense of humor it just isn’t funny anymore.”

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