Tunis and Italy, Business as Usual

Tunisia and Italy may not seem all that connected these days. In the way that we currently think of the world, Italy is Europe, and Tunisia "Africa." Except its the part of Africa which no one really talks about, because it is the white, Muslim, north-of-the-sahara Africa, which I think in most people's minds is this strange floating land without a real home.

Historically of course, this region was dominated by one thing: the Mediterranean. The Med, or as the Romans knew it: the backyard pond, is a cultural region in almost the same way, or in some ways more, than Europe is.

And right now, sorry to say, it is business as usual in two of the nations of the med.

First of all, you have the Big Berlusconi in Italy. He has faced and faced down/paid off/subverted/arrested/intimidated/sat on more scandals than Washington has seen in the last 100 years. This has included innumerable sex scandals, including his estranged wife saying he was a sexual monster who enjoyed the company of underage girls and saw himself as the emperor from whom nothing was forbidden. Turns out, she was right, but first a little back story. Berlusconi controls the majority of the media in Italy. He has turned it into an ever more sexist society. Thanks to his initiatives, the news and daily newspapers all include topless women parading around and lurid sex stories. Girls in Italy now say that being one of these TV "models" is what they want to be when they grow up more than any other profession.

But he may have gone too far this time. He paid a 16yr old Algerian prostitute for sex. And then he offered to cover the whole thing up, and pay her millions. And many of these interactions, email, phone calls, were recorded and released.

Amazingly, even the Catholic Church is wavering it in its usual stalwart support for the sexist, racist, rapist, autocratic Berlusconi. And no, its not because they see too much of themselves in him, its that even they think he might have gone beyond the pale this time.

Across the Med, Tunisia is in uproar over the massive fraud committed by the previous, and now ousted, President and his family. It followed the usual shakedowns and blurred lines between family and government, military and police, public good and private good. In the wake of the turmoil, a new government coalition has come to power. Which is, ironically, lead by many of the Presidents old cronies. The government lawyer who used to protect the family is now in charge of the commission to look into past corruption... and the new prime minister now says he "had no idea there was so much corruption." This is in a country were a 5 year old could tell you the whole thing was corrupt. In other words, it seems the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Regardless, I hope Tunisia gets it real freedom, and I hope Italy gets rid of Berlusconi and kicks him to the curb. Italy has become a joke and is slipping back into the 3rd world.

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