Posts Tagged ‘Silvio Berlusconi’

Bill Clinton and Bill Cosby and droit du seigneur

December 31, 2015

I noted – or thought I noted – that Hillary Clinton’s attack on Trump’s “sexist attitudes” petered out when he responded by bringing up Lewinsky and Bill Clinton. How Bill Clinton got away with his blatant sexism and treatment of women in awe of his position still perplexes me. It was a period when a display of “sexual power” by Bill Clinton in the US seemed to be admired by the electorate just as much as Silvio Berlusconi’s bunga-bunga excesses were admired by the electorate in Italy.

I am not sure though that what Bill Clinton got away with as a minor transgressions, can be transformed and utilised by Hillary Clinton as being something positive and to her benefit. In fact, that she was quite as forgiving of his peccadilloes as she was does not reflect that well on her today. It suggests that she also shared his attitudes of the time. It will not be long before his strategic blunders in Somalia and his downright cowardice in Rwanda are compared to her apparent incompetence in Benghazi, Libya.

But today as Bill Cosby finally faces a criminal charge, it occurred to me that there is a commonality of the attitudes exhibited by Bill Clinton and Bill Cosby. They both felt their positions entitled them to certain “perquisites”. No doubt it was, to some extent, an attitude of the times they reigned in, but that does not excuse them. There were very many others of their time, who also reigned as kings of all they surveyed, but who did not succumb to the de facto power they had. They both effectively believed in a form of Droit du Seigneur. Bill Cosby reigned as king of the TV world and all aspiring young women, who felt he could be of some advantage to their careers, were seen by him as “fair game”and part of his right of office. Bill Clinton was king of the White House, and all female groupies, interns and the like caught up in his train, were also seen as “fair game”, and part of his perquisites of office. Neither could (or can) see that they did anything wrong. Hillary Clinton also accepted – perhaps reluctantly and only by default – Bill Clinton’s Droit de Seigneur at that time. Her relatively weak “feminist” credentials are not enhanced by her acceptance of Bill Clinton’s transgressions.

It does not mean that Bill Cosby and Bill Clinton were not likeable. They still are. So was Rolf Harris. But they represent a time that has gone and attitudes that are not defensible – even for their times. They could have chosen – as others chose – not to indulge in the excesses available to them.

I am not sure that Hillary Clinton can get any advantage – except among the already converted – by relying too much on Bill Clinton’s support.


Comments by limerick (3)

December 23, 2013

A reader suggested that I was being unfair in not having addressed Berlusconi and Sonia Gandhi.

So here goes.

First separately and then together.


Sylvio Berlusconi of bunga bunga renown,

Sought to emulate Mussolini and his shirts of brown,

But he had never in his dreams expected,

Of debauchery and tax fraud to be convicted,

And the loss of his passport has raised a nasty frown.


Sonia Gandhi – no relation to the Mahatma –

Would perpetuate the legacy of the Nehru atma,

But she overlooked Rahul’s lack of intelligence,

Which together with a reputation for arrogance,

Means she now wishes she had bet on Priyanka.


Sonia is Indian by marriage of Italian descent,

While Sylvio is Italian of questionable ascent,

But they are both extremely wealthy,

Resulting from means fairly stealthy,

And those that follow are left to lament.

“Bribes are necessary” – Berlusconi; but he does hit a nerve.

February 18, 2013

Bunga-bunga Berlusconi is at it again!

But he is describing a reality which applies not only in 3rd world and developing countries but also in the EU and Japan and the rest of the “developed” world.

This time he was reacting to a string of corruption cases in Italy culminating in the arrest of the Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi for involvement in bribes allegedly paid to Indian government officials to secure a helicopter contract. This follows ENI’s CEO Paolo Scaroni being investigated for alleged bribes paid by its Saipem subsidiary to win contracts in Algeria.

From the FT:

Former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has defended the need for bribery in winning contracts for Italy’s multinationals, as politicians campaigning in general elections have been forced to respond to a welter of corruption scandals revolving around the nexus of politics and business.

“Bribes are a phenomenon that exists and it’s useless to deny the existence of these necessary situations when you are negotiating with third world countries and regimes,” Mr Berlusconi, leader of a centre-right coalition and seeking his fourth stint in office, said on Thursday.

“These are not crimes,” said Mr Berlusconi, describing payments as “commissions”. He also defended state-controlled energy group Eni, whose chief executive Paolo Scaroni is under investigation for alleged bribes paid by its Saipem subsidiary to win contracts in Algeria. Mr Scaroni denies the allegations.

Corruption generally takes two forms:

  1. According to rule: Where a bribe is paid for preferential treatment  in an otherwise lawful process (i.e. to be preferred over a competitor, to have an application approved “out of turn”  or generally for the facilitation of a lawful process in favour of the briber)
  2. Against the rule: Where a consideration is provided to obtain some service that the receiver is not legally authorised to provide (i.e. to a judge for a favourable judgement or to a policeman to not do his bounden duty or to a Professor to pass a failing student).

For both the cases above of Finmeccanica and ENI, the corruption alleged is primarily of the “According to Rule” type. In the first Finmeccanica’s subsidiary Augusta-Westland apparently payed bribes totalling some €51 million to first have specifications altered so that they could bid and then paid bribes for preferential evaluation during technical trials where the trials themselves were tailored to suit their product. The value of the helicopter contract is about €480 million. In the ENI case, CEO Scaroni apparently arranged to pay some €197 million through a Hong Kong company who then paid bribes to Algerian officials to win Sonatrach and other Algerian contracts for their Saipem subsidiary. The contract values add up to some €8.5 billion.

In the Finmeccanica case the “bribes” make up some 10.6% of the contract value whereas for the ENI case the alleged bribes amount to some 2.4% of the contract value. This difference is itself interesting. Profit margins in energy contracts (oil and gas pipelines or equipment or power plants and power equipment)  are generally significantly lower than in defence contracts. Certainly in the power industry – from my own experience – “consultancy” and “agent” contracts – always ostensibly for the supply of specific services – were considered to be at an “acceptable” and justifiable level if they amounted to less than than about 3% of the contract value in a contract with a profit margin of something less than 10% and typically around 7 – 8%. This suggests to me that the helicopter contract probably has a true profit margin of around 25% with a visible margin of around 15% after paying the “commissions” and “software consultancy contracts” of around 10%.

This is bad enough but there is a particular kind of case where I am a little less certain of what the correct and ethical course of action is. I have seen many cases where the “bribe” is effectively structured as a kind of ” private tax” applying to whoever the winner is. A sort of level playing field as regards bribes.

It is made clear to all bidders that the bidder with the lowest visible evaluated price will win. But it is also made clear – privately – to all bidders that there is a minimum “commission” payment  – usually expressed as a percentage – which will apply. The bidder who makes the best (highest) private bid above this minimum also receives the largest amount of “support” during the evaluation procedure  to be able to declare his bid L1 (lowest evaluated price). The highest bribe-bidder does not necessarily win if his product/bid are not quite good enough to also achieve the lowest evaluated price.

The real question for a CEO then becomes:
“Should I decline to bid and jeopardise jobs – and profits – at my own factories, or join the prevailing game and pay the lowest possible bribe I can?”

And by the way – it is not only 3rd world and developing countries where this dilemma appears. And anybody who thinks this does not happen every day in the EU is living in a fantasy. Not least in the area of public procurement.

Berlusconi bungas while Italy burns

November 7, 2011

Image via Wikipedia

Il Cavaliere , Sylvio “bunga-bunga” Berlusconi is 75 years old, has a personal fortune of some $9billion, and has been Italy’s Prime Minister for longer than anyone else. He is clinging desperately to power as Italy slides towards a Greece-like crevice and it is not apparent as to why he bothers. Whereas the Greek debt is only about 4% of Eurozone debt, Italy’s debt is closer to 20%. Italy’s public debt in 2010 was 118.4% of GDP. The annual budget deficit was 4.6% of GDP. Italy’s public debt-to-GDP ratio is the second highest in the euro zone after Greece’s, while its debt in absolute terms, which stood at 1.84 trillion euros at the end of 2010, is second to Germany’s.

It might seem to be just a powerful politician in denial of the approaching flames when Berlusconi declares that “Life in Italy is good. The restaurants are full. It’s difficult to get a seat on a plane they’re so busy; holidays are all booked up”.


The strange story of the San Raffaele Research Institute, Don Verzé, the Vatican, corruption and a suicide!

October 18, 2011

This is a very strange tale of a prestigious Italian bio-medical Research Institute, a strange priest, tons of money, huge debts, corruption, a suicide, the Vatican and – of course – links to Berlusconi.

It reads like a film script and a subject worthy of a Dan Brown blockbuster.

Alison Abbott writes in Nature:

One of Italy’s most prestigious biomedical research centres now faces bankruptcy, against a backdrop of rumours fed by intrigue among power-brokers, allegations of fraud and corruption, and a violent death. Next week, a court will decide whether to leave the Milan-based San Raffaele Scientific Institute to its fate, or allow a consortium led by the Vatican Bank to rescue it. (more…)

Europe this week: ethics loses as Berlusconi and Juholt continue while Fox resigns

October 14, 2011

Berlusconi clings to power in Italy, while Håkan Juholt continues wallowing through his mire in Sweden and Liam Fox resigns in the UK.

Strange are the ways of politics and ethics. And even when ethics seems to win – as in the Liam Fox affair – there is a sense that the victory is superficial.

Berlusconi will probably hang on by his finger nails as Italy goes the way of Greece. Juholt has probably ensured that his party – the Social Democrats – will lose members and the next election. In the UK the full extent of the dubious antics of Liam Fox’s “best man” have yet to be revealed and David Cameron is struggling with the lack of competence in his Cabinet.

It is tempting to conclude that the common thread is that ethics and competence cannot survive together. But I refuse to believe that it is impossible to be competent or a politician without sacrificing your ethics – even if such examples are difficult to find.

The Prince and the paedophile and Berlusconi and his pimps

March 7, 2011

Does every civilisation go through a period of decadence and excess and crassness and vulgarity or is it just the normal behaviour of the famous and the wealthy?

I find it inexplicable that in spite of such behaviour Prince Andrew and bunga bunga Berlusconi still maintain their followings.

The Duke of York is facing new pressure to resign over his association with a convicted paedophile (Jeffrey Epstein), after ministers admitted that there would be “conversations” about his future role.

Andy at a Scotch tasting in Wasington photo: AP / Pablo Martinez Monsivais

The Daily Telegraph disclosed this morning that the Government had decided to downgrade his position as Britain’s trade ambassador. Vince Cable appeared to confirm that the Duke’s role and responsibilities were under review as he declined to give the royal his firm backing in a radio interview today. …

Chris Bryant, the Labour former Foreign Office minister, repeated his calls for the Duke to be relieved of his duties, telling the BBC: “I think we should be dispensing with his services. I think the charge list now against him is so long that he is a bit of an embarrassment.”

In the meantime Berlusconi is facing 4 trials simultaneously:

Berlusconi's pimps

Berlusconi’s pimps Lele and Fido: Photo: REX FEATURES

The aging ‘pimps’ at the heart of the Berlusconi scandal. Emilio Fede, 79, and ‘Lele’ Mora, 55, are accused of playing a key role in organising Mr Berlusconi’s ‘bunga bunga’ parties.

While attention has focused on the parade of glamourous young women
who allegedly prostituted themselves with the prime minister, the men alleged to have masterminded what was in effect a vast pimping network are anything but youthful.

79-year-old Emilio Fede, a television anchorman, finds himself at the epicentre of the extraordinary prostitution scandal engulfing the Italian prime minister. Mr Fede (“Fido”)  is accused along with Dario ‘Lele’ Mora, 55, a celebrity agent, of procuring escort girls to attend “bunga bunga” sex parties with the 74-year-old prime minister, who is due to face trial himself next month accused of paying for sex with an under-age prostitute. Prosecutors are expected within days to present a dossier of evidence to a judge in Milan in which they will request that Mr Mora and Mr Fede face court on related charges, along with Nicole Minetti, 25, an Anglo-Italian former television showgirl.

Berlusconi the stallion – bunga bunga girls terrified of catching AIDS

February 28, 2011

The Telegraph provides further smutty details about Berlusconi and his bunga bunga parties.

And one wonders how the glories of Italian civilisation ended up with this uncouth lout. But he follows in the footsteps of Mussolini.

The women who attended parties hosted by Silvio Berlusconi were terrified of contracting Aids and other sexually-transmitted diseases from him, according to evidence gathered by Milan prosecutors.

The claims, based on text messages sent between the women, cast further doubt on the Italian prime minister’s insistence that the “bunga bunga” parties at his villas in Milan and Sardinia were nothing more than light-hearted dinners filled with jokes and songs.

According to evidence submitted by prosecutors, several women last year exchanged text messages in which they expressed their relief after medical tests cleared them of any sexually transmitted diseases.

“Have you done it? Is everything okay?” asked one unidentified woman in a message sent on Jan 8 2010. “All ok. White blood cells ok, there is no AIDS.” “Did you have any doubts?” the first woman then asked. “Well you know when someone goes to bed with 80 women, you never know in life,” the second woman responded.

Model Barbara Guerra complained to a friend about the car she received from the prime minister. “I am furious because yesterday that girl arrived with a Mini Cooper he gave her in July and he gave me a Smart car in June. Now I swear I am going to ask him for another car.”

In wiretaps recorded between October and December last year, there were also complaints about the prime minister’s stamina. “He is up all night till 4am. He doesn’t sleep so he can stay up all night with one after the other”.

“There are 20-year-old girls there who are destroyed, they are dead, and me too. Also because I am much older, and I am 45 years younger than him.”………

I cannot resist this picture of another prize winning Berlusconi – the stallion. At least this Danish Berlusconi is not lacking in class or elegance.

Danish bred and Oldenburg branded and licensed stallion Berlusconi (by Belissimo M x Florestan x Donnerhall) Photo

The Danish bred and Oldenburg branded and licensed stallion Berlusconi stood out in the 35-day Stallion Performance Test, which completed at Stable BM in Lemvig, Denmark, on 10 February 2011. The chestnut Belissimo M x Florestan x Donnerhall offspring scored the highest total of 861,5 points.

Berlusconi won’t “disturb” Gaddafi – as one Dirty Old Man supports another

February 21, 2011

As the brush fire of revolution against dictators spreads in North Africa and the Middle East, Bunga bunga Berlusconi ( 75 years old) announced that he will not “disturb” his soul-brother Gaddafi (69 years) in his time of trial. They are of course both senior members of the Association of Dirty Old Leaders.

Reuters reports:

Opposition lawmakers criticised Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi for failing to condemn violence in Libya and saying he did not want to “disturb” Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi during the revolt in his country.

Berlusconi’s government, which has aggressively courted Libyan petrodollars and rolled out the red carpet during Gaddafi’s multiple visits to Italy, has said little on Libya’s crackdown on protesters that has killed more than 170 people.

Pressed by reporters on whether he had spoken to Gaddafi since the uprising began, Berlusconi said on Saturday: “No, I haven’t been in contact with him. The situation is still in flux and so I will not allow myself to disturb anyone.”

The comment stirred outrage among the leftist opposition, which has long accused Berlusconi of turning a blind eye to Gaddafi’s human rights record and pandering to the Libyan leader for the sake of lucrative contracts and investment in Italy, which is Libya’s former colonial ruler.

In this photograph from June 2009 where Berlusconi is welcoming Gaddafi accompanied by a rather plump member of his all-woman bodyguard, it is not clear why Gaddafi finds it necessary to wear cardboard medals and an old photograph on his chest. It is probably something only Bunga bunga will know.

Silvio Berlusconi welcomes Muammar Gaddafi at Rome Ciampino airport

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi welcomes Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi at Rome's Ciampinio airport, Italy, on 10 June 2009. Photograph: ALESSANDRO DI MEO/EPA

As the Guardian put it when Gaddafi visited Italy in 2009:

The highlight of Gaddafi’s trip to Rome is a meeting, personally requested by the Libyan leader, with 700 women from the worlds of “politics, industry and culture”. So Berlusconi got down his Bumper Catalogue of Hot Stuff, got rid of any that were over 25, discarded those with a loud voice or body hair, and whittled down the rest by ballot until he got to 1,000, whereupon the disappointed remainder that didn’t get to meet Muammar were given a senior post in his cabinet or a mini-break in his fancy villa with the pools and the elephants.

Before we start thinking this is just a pact of weirdness between two profoundly weird men, it is not the first time Gaddafi has extended the hand of friendship to the ladies of Europa (I do not mean the convenience store chain; I am romanticising the continent, trying to get into the mind of the mighty dictator). Two years ago in Paris, he met 1,000 French women. His message was clear: he wanted to “save European women”.

Gaddafi and his nurse: image EPA

Of course in addition to his bodyguards Wikileaks has told us that he also has his own voluptuous Ukrainian nurse(s).

Diplomats in Tripoli described how the Libyan leader appeared to be reliant on Galyna Kolotnytska, without whom he reportedly “cannot travel”.

In a despatch to the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, sent in September 2009, embassy officials painted an intimate portrait of Col Gaddafi’s many fears and “eccentricities”.

The secret memo, which was headed “A glimpse into Libyan leader Gaddafi’s eccentricities”, said he “appears to rely” on his senior nurse, and less than in the past on his “legendary” band of women bodyguards who used to accompany him everywhere.


Bunga Bunga Berlusconi only following a cross-dressing Virginia Woolf!

February 16, 2011

The BBC tells us that one of the earliest recorded use of “bunga bunga” was the Dreadnaught hoax in 1910.

The "fake" Abyssinian royals

Virginia Woolf (far left) joins Horace de Vere Cole (far right) in the 'bunga' hoax: image bbc

The infamous Dreadnought hoax was dreamed up by aristocratic joker Horace de Vere Cole, who contacted the British Admiralty pretending to be the Emperor of Abyssinia. He informed officials that he wished to inspect the Home Fleet while on a forthcoming visit to Britain.

After enlisting some friends – artists from the Bloomsbury group, including writer Virginia Woolf – to masquerade as his entourage, he turned up at the navy’s state-of-the-art ship, the Dreadnought.

Officials, taken in by the dark stage make-up, false beards and oriental regalia, treated the group to an official civic reception.

They were reported to have cried “Bunga, bunga!” while marvelling at the ship. An account of the visit plus a picture were sent to the Daily Mail newspaper – probably by Cole himself.

Virginia Woolf said later that when the real Emperor of Abyssinia arrived in London weeks later, wherever he went, ”the street boys ran after him calling out bunga, bunga!” The term reappeared at the end of World War I, after HMS Dreadnought sank a German submarine. According to retired Royal Navy captain Jack Broome – in his book Make Another Signal – the congratulatory telegram read: “BUNGA BUNGA”.

Musical Hall ditty from 1910

When I went on board a Dreadnought ship

I looked like a costermonger;

They said I was an Abyssinian prince

‘Cos I shouted ‘Bunga Bunga!’

Source: The Sultan of Zanzibar: The Bizarre World and Spectacular Hoaxes of Horace de Vere Cole, Martyn Downer

The phrase “bunga bunga” has become inextricably linked with the private peccadilloes of Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi but he can claim to be in the “good” company of a cross-dressing Virginia Woolf !


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