Berlusconi's classical tragicomedy


Silvio Berlusconi: is he peering into the future in this photo taken earlier this year?




Quo usque tandem abutere, Berlusconi, patientia nostra?

That's the question roiling not just just Italians this morning but the leaders of the EU and the G-20.

Readers with high school Latin will be able to translate the question (from Cicero's orations against Catiline,): How long, Berlusconi, will you abuse our patience?

The Italian leader says he will step down when his reform package is finally passed ... maybe in two weeks, maybe a month, but opposition parties in Italy are worried it is just a ruse. They want him to announce he is resigning from politics - forever.

That may never happen. Berlusconi, although freely elected on several occasions by Italian voters, nevertheless seems to suffer from dictators' vanity syndrome. This is a mental illness I have identified that afflicts those with maximum political power. People like Berlusconi really do think they personally embody the state and that the state cannot survive without them.  They usually have to be dragged kicking and screaming from office ... in the case of dictators it usually means to summary execution, in the case of Berlusconi it will be to his bunga-bunga palace on the island of Sardinia. That's not inappropriate since prominent Romans in disfavor with the emperor were sometimes exiled to that beautiful island.

And, while we are in classical mode, Cicero's great oration against the traitor Catiline continues with questions that resonate loudly with the Berlusconi situation in Italy today: "Quam diu etiam furor iste tuus nos eludet? Quem ad finem sese effrenata iactabit audacia?"

Wikipedia (reliable on this) translates it: "And for how long will that madness of yours mock us? To what end will your unbridled audacity hurl itself?"

Of course, if classical references aren't your bag, you might enjoy this music video currently on view at Italian newspaper La Repubblica's website. It's very funny.


Just when you though it was safe to go to the news stand:


The Scandal that won't go away. Just two days ahead of James Murdoch's second appearance before a Parliamentary committee to answer questions about illegal phone hacking at the now-defunct News of the World, come more revelations ... and, no, readers it is not a coincidence that they emerged yesterday.

Apparently, there were several private investigators keeping tabs on a wide range of people. One, Derek Webb, told the BBC he followed Prince William on assignment for the Murdoch-owned tabloid, which you can just about understand, but the parents of actor Daniel Radcliffe, aka Harry Potter?!?! Whassup with that?

Webb also kept tabs on top law enforcement politicians like Tony Blair's attorney general, Lord Goldsmith. He also kept tabs on lawyers representing victims of News of the World phone hacking.

Webb claims he did nothing illegal - and he should know the law. He's a former policeman who was trained in surveillance by MI5, Britain's domestic security agency.