Annual Fundraising Appeal

The US Geological Survey recorded a minor earthquake this morning with its epicenter near Wasilla, Alaska, the probable result of Sarah Palin opening her mail box to find the latest issue of CounterPunch magazine we sent her. A few moments later she Instagrammed this startling comment…

Ayers

The lunatic Right certainly has plenty of problems. We’ve made it our business to not only expose these absurdities, but to challenge them directly. With another election cycle gaining steam, more rhetoric and vitriol will be directed at progressive issues. More hatred will be spewed at minorities, women, gays and the poor. There will be calls for more fracking and war. We won’t back down like the Democrats. We’ll continue to publish fact-based critiques and investigative reports on the shenanigans and evil of the Radical Right. Our future is in your hands. Please donate.

Day10

Yes, these are dire political times. Many who optimistically hoped for real change have spent nearly five years under the cold downpour of political reality. Here at CounterPunch we’ve always aimed to tell it like it is, without illusions or despair. That’s why so many of you have found a refuge at CounterPunch and made us your homepage. You tell us that you love CounterPunch because the quality of the writing you find here in the original articles we offer every day and because we never flinch under fire. We appreciate the support and are prepared for the fierce battles to come.

Unlike other outfits, we don’t hit you up for money every month … or even every quarter. We ask only once a year. But when we ask, we mean it.

CounterPunch’s website is supported almost entirely by subscribers to the print edition of our magazine. We aren’t on the receiving end of six-figure grants from big foundations. George Soros doesn’t have us on retainer. We don’t sell tickets on cruise liners. We don’t clog our site with deceptive corporate ads.

The continued existence of CounterPunch depends solely on the support and dedication of our readers. We know there are a lot of you. We get thousands of emails from you every day. Our website receives millions of hits and nearly 100,000 readers each day. And we don’t charge you a dime.

Please, use our brand new secure shopping cart to make a tax-deductible donation to CounterPunch today or purchase a subscription our monthly magazine and a gift sub for someone or one of our explosive  books, including the ground-breaking Killing Trayvons. Show a little affection for subversion: consider an automated monthly donation. (We accept checks, credit cards, PayPal and cold-hard cash….)
button-store2_19

or use
pp1

To contribute by phone you can call Becky or Deva toll free at: 1-800-840-3683

Thank you for your support,

Jeffrey, Joshua, Becky, Deva, and Nathaniel

CounterPunch
 PO Box 228, Petrolia, CA 95558

Italy's Presidential Vote Deepens Bersani's woes

The Scourge of Beppe

by TOM GILL

Things are not going at all well for Italy’s centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani.

Once clear favourite to replace Mario Monti as prime minister, he’s now fighting for his political survival, after parliamentary elections in February denied his alliance enough votes to govern alone and the upstart Five Star Movement led by comedian-blogger Beppe Grillo rejected offers of a deal. This week Bersani chose to back a candidate, Franco Marini, for President that split his party and failed to garner enough votes to project him into the job as head of state, leaving egg all over his face.

This isn’t simply a case of an leader’s individual ineptitude, but a story of the centre-left’s enduring vice of looking right both for its political ideas and its allies, when it should be looking left.

In the same way that Bersani spent far too much time attacking Grillo during the election, when he should have been focusing fire on Silvio Berlusconi and former European Commissioner Monti, the leader of the Democrats on Thursday urged his party to chose Marini, an 80-year old former senate speaker and christian democrat, simply because the billionaire media magnate backed him too.

The party base, as well as the powerful Democrat Florence mayor Matteo Renzi, instead favour Stefano Rodotà. From the once communist wing of the Democrats like the incumbent Giorgio Napolitano, Rodotà also had support from Democrat ally Nichi Vendola, the left-wing Governor of Puglia. And crucially, Rodotà is backed by Grillo.

The professor in law is by no means a radical, but he has been a strong and early critic of European inspired austerity measures that have been devastating the economy, such as the lethal budgetary straightjacket of the Fiscal Compact brought in by Italy, among other EU countries. Rodotà has also got the advantage of having maintained a certain distance from national politics, sitting in the European Parliament.

Furthermore, he’s championed the democratizing potential of the Internet, a profile, together with his squeaky clean record among a political class mired in corruption, that has gained him respect with comedian-blogger Grillo and his followers who’ve made widened access to the web and the fight against sleaze their leitmotifs.

In the first vote among national and regional lawmakers Thursday, Marini fell far short of the required two-thirds majority, thanks to a Democrat rebellion, while Rodota gained a respectable 240 of the 1,007 electors in the first vote. Subsequent votes, expected to run into the weekend, require a simple majority and Grillo, as well as Vendola have pledged to continue to back Rodota. With Marini dropped, Friday will see the Democrats are expected to select a new official candidate.

So why has Bersani risked splitting the party, and his own leadership position under threat from the young Renzi, over the election of a largely symbolic post?

One answer is that securing a new government is now dependent on securing a new President, who not only has powers to dissolve parliament and call elections, but also, in times of political upheaval such as these, has a role in banging heads together to force the creation of a government.

Another is that he’d given up trying to do business with Grillo after efforts to come to a deal to form a government with the four year old Five Star Movement failed, with Grillo declaring Bersani a ‘dead man walking’.

Or it may simply be that, despite strenuous public rejections of a ‘grand coalition’ favoured by Il Cavaliere, Bersani can’t help but repeat the mistakes of the past, and cosy up to one of Italy’s richest, and most sleaze-ridden citizens.

Since November 2011 Berlusconi and Bersani have effectively governed together, providing parliamentary support to former European Commissioner Monti, whose punishing austerity measures and deregulatory reforms have made him highly unpopular, and caused the groundswell of support for the Five Star Movement.

Doing deals with a man with perennial legal problems – he was convicted for tax fraud in October last year – and with such a glaring conflict of interest – between his huge business and particularly media interests, comprising control of private TV – has been the undoing of the centre-left since the early 1990s, when Berlusconi ‘entered the field’.

Massimo D’Alema, one of Bersani’s predecessors, and still a force in the party such that he’s been name as a possible candidate for President, (pretty much literally!) handed Berlusconi a get out of jail card on several occasions since the latter’s entry into politics in 1994.

Instead of engineering a revival of the media magnate, whose party is now reportedly ahead of the Democrats in the polls, Bersani should be trying harder to woo Grillo, who, despite his contradictions and megaphone political style, has a programme that is much closer to the traditions of the Democrats.

The Five Star Movement is strong on the environment, opposed to privatizing public services, committed to universal access to state education and heath, opposed to European inspired austerity and committed to a ‘citizen’s wage’ to tackle widespread poverty, as well as a clamp down on the kind of corporate cronyism and excess that helped lead to the 2008 financial crisis. There’s plenty important policies missing from Grillo’s programme, including the attitude to Monti and Berlusconi’s deregulatory labour reforms and taxation in a country with 280 billion euros a year in tax dodging, but the Democrats are equally flawed on that front.

Furthermore, Grillo’s scourge against the Italian political establishment, often dismissed as Pirate style ‘a-politics’, in fact revives the moralizing crusade that was once championed by historic communist leader Enrico Berlinguer, but has all but been forgotten by left leaders since. Unsurprisingly, although Grillo stole votes from across the political spectrum, there’s more left-wingers supporting him that right-wingers.

Grillo, not in parliament himself, but directing things from his hugely popular blog, is not be an easy man to do business with. But his backing for a Democrat as head of state is a sign that his ‘no prisoners’, highly partisan approach may be softening. The alternative to a fresh bid at working with the Five Star Movement is getting into bed with the nemesis of Italian democracy to sooth the dreaded ‘markets’. That cannot be in the interests of the Italian people. Here’s hoping the Democrats’ love-in with Berlusconi is brought to a swift end.

Tom Gill blogs at www.revolting-europe.com