You may or may not have heard the news about the closure (and then reopening) of the national TV station in Greece. The ERT is Hellas’ pride and joy that for many represents the Greek heritage. Samaras’ government had decided to shut the whole business down with the hope of reopening it with a much slimmer and more efficient workforce. In an equivocal decision today a Greek court held that the public broadcaster should not shut its doors after all and should remain operative while the reforms to its loss-making structures take place.
The brave journalists at ERT had continued to broadcast in spite of the order to shut down six days earlier. They also enjoyed expressions of solidarity from around the world – journalists should not be hushed up. The problem with ERT though is also that it is a behemoth – a giant with many lots of wastage. A large part of the monetary hemorrhage that jars badly with the general atmosphere of austerity is the manner with which the two main parties in Greece have used ERT as though it was their own home turf. A number of the 3,000 functionaries within the channel are political appointees and this portion should be the one bearing the brunt of a scaling down in the future.
It’s not only about functionaries though. There’s a corpus of journalists working with the national station and the shutting down of ERT has been seen as an affront to the basic principles of democracy and expression – rightly so. The focus cannot only be on that matter though. The Greek parties’ patronage and abuse of public funds to further their systems of cronyism must also be addressed.
Meanwhile in the Duchy
CSV president Michel Wolter has had to do some explaining after he commented on a case involving a private radio station. The news story in question was about General Prosecutor Robert Biever and the allegation that the Luxembourg secret service SREL had investigated him on suspicion of paedophilia. In a statement made in the Chamber of Deputies Wolter had implied that the station carrying the allegation should reveal its sources. His intervention was interpreted as as an attack on the freedom of the press and the law on the protection of sources while Wolter was seen as putting pressure on Radio 100,7 to reveal its sources.
From Wort.lu : Wolter explained on Monday that Claude Meisch and Xavier Bettel of the DP had made serious accusations that the CSV was behind this campaign to discredit Biever. Wolter added that the party could not let these accusations go uncommented.
Therefore, the party’s MPs decided together to release radio 100,7 from the protection of sources, should the source be a Member of Parliament for the CSV, as the only way to defend the CSV against the allegations. However, Wolter added that the party did not request or demand that the radio reveal its source, nor that the party exercised censorship or attacked the freedom of the press.
The politician expressed his regret over the current political climate in Luxembourg, saying that rumours were being spread to discredit politicians or political parties. Enough false pieces of information would eventually add up to a wrong picture, he said, prompting his strong statement in parliament. Instead, politicians should put their energy to developing ideas and policies to help Luxembourg tackle the future in the current economic climate, Wolter concluded.
This story rang a few bells in my head, particularly with regard to George Vella’s outburst in the Maltese parliament some time ago. The biggest danger the media seems to have in today’s modern democracy is that of being able to cope with the all-pervading and all-interfering instinct that political parties tend to have. The fact that the media wield such a crucial power for the proper functioning of a democracy makes it all the more important that they are protected from such assaults.
Not only in Malta.
So they set up a Foundation to organise national festivities. So far so normal. This is after all the Malta of Saints and Fireworks where every raħal worth its globigerina limestone has at least one Kumitat tal-Festi. This is the country of the xalati and illum il-festa tagħna so the setting up of a Kumitat tal-Festi Tagħna Lkoll was just waiting to happen. No surprises there. It was even less of a surprise seeing as how Joseph Muscat has been harping on emptily about some kind of breaking of barriers insofar as the “us and them is concerned”. The fans of the PLPN crowd have long obsessed about the greatest national holiday and about how divisive their respective celebrations can be. In truth the approach to each of our nation’s dates with history simply betrays a shallowness of approach and a shoddy recognition of the real steps that were important in our nation’s history.
Back to the Foundation though. The biggest news that made the ripples across all the media was the appointment of Where’s Everybody main man Lou Bondi to the same Foundation. Oliver Friggieri would be chairing the committee and one hopes that his state of health will allow him to provide a decent input – whatever that may be given the already limited, and may I add doomed, remit of the Foundation. I was much more surprised by the descriptors that were attached to each of the members of a committee entrusted with the solemn task of national remembrance – particularly the telling way in which Malta and the Maltese seem to be satisfied with the idea of “TV personalities”. Whatever the flip that may mean.
Back to Bondi. The net – especially the net – exploded with expressions of dismay boring on angst as many hardcore Labour supporters showed their disdain that one the EvilGonziClique had been given a place in the wider court of this government’s workings. If the Labour party had to issue an Iraq-War style “Most Wanted” cards Lou Bondi would be close to the top of the hate list – trumped only by the one they refer to as the Witch from Bidnija and a close call from Lawrence Gonzi himself. And here he was – Lou Bondi – entrusted with the organisation of the nth anniversary of Jum il-ħelsien. Horror. Surely Dom would be turning in his grave.
The beauty of it all was also the reaction from the nationalist side of the national whinge fest. Apparently Bondi had just lost his credentials as a decent journalist. Really? Caruana Galizia even attempted to twist and turn the argument on its head by affirming that Bondi was not a partial journalist and that it was his impartiality that was being rewarded. In a world gone mad it was only another hapless voice to add to the chorus of dismayed and angered oohs and aahs.
The real winner in all this? Joseph Muscat. Not only has he set up a Foundation that is basically there to perpetrate the mental masturbation of an idea that is “reconciliation through celebration of all our national days”. Not just that. He has appointed one of the most hated personas in the Labour, chip-on-the-shoulder based psyche to the very same Foundation that is supposed to be a stepping stone towards the breaking down of us and them barriers. Chapeau. Really. A magician’s hat from which to extract the rabbit.
Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called “The Pledge”. The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course… it probably isn’t. The second act is called “The Turn”. The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you’re looking for the secret… but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn’t clap yet. Because making something disappear isn’t enough; you have to bring it back. That’s why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call “The Prestige”. – The Prestige
We all saw the object. The object was the inherent contradiction. “What? Lou Bondi appointed onto a board by the Prime Minister himself? Had we missed his billboard where he expressed blind belief in everything Joseph does?” We were supposed to be awed. Stunned. Behind the curtain though Muscat had his eyes on something bigger. The most talk in the first 100 days of Labour rule has been of the way meritocracy was thrown out of the window. Merit was scratched from the vocabulary as billboard folk were appointed to government posts and most of the Super One workforce shifted to ministerial salaries. All of a sudden though you had the most nationalist of nationalists – hated journalist, friend of the witch, cousin of one of the most disliked Ministers – elevated to a government appointed position.
It’s one big distraction. The biggest yet. While everyone and everybody complained we would forget the Marshalls, the Testas, and the Micallefs of this world. Muscat became the magnanimous. Too magnanimous. Under Muscat EVEN Lou Bondi gets a blessing. We even forgot to ask what this committee is really about and how important it really is. Prestidigitation took care of that. Just like the idea of building a bridge to Gozo. Now that’s a project that could only be conceived or supported by a Baldrick or an equivalent turnip. Muscat has not built the bridge and I am prepared to wager that it will not be built. What we have is the prestidigitation – the signing of contracts with the Chinese and the illusion that “we are thinking about it”.
All you needed to complete the magic trick was the couple of hired hacks who would sell the tenuous argument that all the unmeritocratic change that has been happening is normal and should have been expected. Give them the chance to look shocked and slightly angry that Muscat went so far as to appoint Bondi – it gives them an amount of cred doesn’t it?
The truth? The truth is that a wave of politically motivated appointments should not be normal and is not to be expected, no. That’s bullshit – particularly coming from supposed pundits and ex-columnists. When combined with all the talk of reconciliation and new way of doing politics, the wave of appointments simply confirms that the Labour government is one big magic trick that only needs a not too particularly alert audience to notice the scam that lies beneath the surface.
So while you whinge and whine about whether Bondi should have been appointed to a post by Muscat, or whether he should have accepted remember that you are wasting your time.
Stop looking at the rabbit and the hat or at the magician’s eyes… look at his lips instead… that smirk on his face will speak a thousand words.
“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”
When the party in government fails to notice that it is actually in government after more than hundred days that it has been warming the seat of power then what you have is a bomb that is ticking away waiting to explode. While the nationalist party’s Rapport tat-telfa (Election defeat report) was published last week, the future Labour party’s report is actually a work in progress – being drafted daily by the government, the party and its apologists.
The ethics of convenience
The Franco Mercieca affair was a perfect litmus test to illustrate what is going on. The red lights flashed at so many levels that it was impossible to keep up. First of all, and most importantly, was the blatant disregard of the concept of a Code of Ethics and how it should work. A code of ethics, by its very nature, works only when there is no waiver. A “waiver” – whatever that means in Taghna Lkoll talk – flies in the face of the very purpose of why a code of ethics exist. [Note: I do not question whether the waiver was justified or not. I question whether the power of the Prime Minister to grant such a waiver does or should exist. It should not.] A code of ethics needs to be applied in a blanket manner. Should the need to apply a “waiver” arise then that should set the alarm bells ringing because what that really says is that a person appointed to a position within the cabinet has an ethical conflict of interest. The question is not whether he should get a waiver but whether he should still hold that position.
Much has been made of the unique healing qualities of Franco Mercieca. Even if it were so and this Gozitan turns out to be more efficient than the Ta’ Pinu Sanctuary votive section that should only mean that Franco Mercieca’s place is more valuable in his clinic than on a seat in the patchwork cabinet formed at the Taghna Lkoll horse-trading market. Joseph Muscat can glare at the questioning press all he likes and qualify his Imperial Waiver with all the postillas and caveats that he may invent on the spot. He may even come up with witty retorts about past deeds of the Evil Gonzi clan. None of that lessens the fact that this cabinet’s operation insofar as conflicts and interests are concerned seems to be fast requiring a Manuel Mallia Amnesty – or better a box of amnesia pills. Thank god that the Taghna Lkoll Pills seem to still work on the general congregation.
Before you accuse me
There’s a story in the Indy this week. It’s a follow up to the saga at San Vincent de Paule residence where the order of the day seems to have been a series of musical chairs and “politically motivated” transfers. SVDP is not the first, nor the last, of workplaces where “meritocratic” moves are being put into effect. I know of a particularly jarring story of a career diplomat in the foreign affairs who found himself plonked on a desk rubber stamping papers from one day to the next – you know because in this case meritocracy means: “if you run for a local council on the PN ticket then you deserve to be demoted to nothingness”. Back to SVPR. The botta e risposta by the two parties is interesting if only for the manner in which it throws us back aeons in political development. The race to mediocrity is still on ladies and gentlemen.
Having first transferred some workers then returned them to the original job after reactions from Unions (UHM of course – we’re back to the blue and red union delineation) the Labour party issues one of its Newspeak reactions peppered with TaghnaLkoll talk. The useless transfer and re-transfer were apparently made because “the government listens” and “is working to find solutions”. The TaghnaLkoll release continues “The decisions taken were all in the best interests”. Really?
It all makes sense now. “Jiena nemmen f’Joseph ghax hu jemmen fija”. You’d be surprised how many people there are out there ready to believe the shoddy explanations coming out of TaghnaLkoll HQ. The nationalist party better pull its socks up and stop flirting with the marketing politics of Joseph Muscat. Forget the TeamPN cock and bull and get down to some real team building. The country has had enough of rhetoric… in fact it is drowning in it and risks becoming a lost Atlantis.
The Nationalist Party has called on Social Solidarity Minister Marie Louise Coleiro Preca to apologise to workers who were transferred and later returned to their original job, rather than boast that the decision was reversed because the government listens. In a statement, spokesman Mario Galea said that the transfers were withdrawn after pressure from the UHM and the Opposition, and some are still to be reversed. On another matter, Mr Galea said that the government should stop the clique who had taken over the running of the hospital. It is a shame that the home has been turned into a political football with employees working with fear and tension. In a reply, the Labour Party said that the PN has not learnt the lessons of the election and is still a negative party. The PN had left the situation in shambles and was now criticising the Labour government for working to find solutions. The decisions taken were all in the best interests and agreed to with the union, the PL said. (The Malta Independent)
I only started using the Sliema – Valletta ferry after I had moved to Luxembourg for work. When I still lived in Malta the ferry was something that only tourists did. They had time. They could afford to take in the splendid views of Marsamxett. Not for me the dilly-dallying. My commute to the city was for work and time was money, so I dutifully got in line with the hundreds of other sensible car-owners (one per-car) and sucked in on the carbon emissions all the way through the Porte des Bombes and Saint Anne Street.
These days whenever I come back home I always make it a point to use the ferry. At least once. Sure it’s not the same deal as walking into the majestic city through its main gate but the arrival by boat seems to be so much more fitting for the city built for gentlemen. This was, after all, the city built by a sea-faring order that threw its weight around the middle sea. Ignoring Valletta’s littoral element is like thinking of London without the Thames or Venice without its canals.
Majestic the city may be but its majesty exists also because of the sea. At the foot of the bastions that skirt the Humble City lie the lapping waters of the Mediterranean – a constant reminder of the place of the Most Proud city in time and space. The sea wraps the gated peninsula – alternating idyllic moments of calm with sudden bouts of fury, when Poseidon and Aeolus unleash their power and besiege its walls all over again.
Gates. The city does not hide its nature. It will always remain a fortified city – no matter how modern it can get. Internationally renowned architects may do away with doors and barriers and introduce open spaces but you will always have a sense of foreboding when you approach the Proud City.
Will it welcome you once more? Will it let you walk lazily through its deserted streets on a hot August afternoon, and allow you to stop at one of the myriad eating joints that have sprung along its streets? Will it engulf you in the darkness of the night as you drunkenly attempt to quit its narrow streets and newborn drinking holes? Will the ghosts of Valletta past entrap you in a winding desolation of brothels, murders and intrigue?
Or will Valletta be itself and gracefully adorn every step that you take on its streets with memorable moments of historic ecstasy – from the smallest nook to the grandest palazzo? Will its church bells toll happily to welcome the many sons and daughters of the nation who find refuge in its proud symbolism? Will it let the sweet winds cool you as they breeze through its narrow, shaded streets? Will Valletta be the capital for everyone?
I have never left Valletta unsatisfied. The sense of foreboding is quickly replaced with a renewed sense of belonging. I was not born or brought up in Valletta but it is my capital. Any street in Valletta is my street. Our street. Every cobbled step down Republic Street, every mooring place near the waterfront, every smell on Lascaris Wharf and every balcony on Saint Barbara’s Bastion. They’re all there to tell you that no matter how far from Malta you may be, you will always have the city of gentlemen to remind you that it will always be the place that you can call home.
If it is up to the victors to write history then the losers are busy writing reports. That is just what the PN has just finished doing and it has published an executive summary of this analysis of the 2013 election result. Chaired by the papabile Anne Fenech the committee produced a litany of reasons divided into three parts: Why the Nationalist party lost, Why the Labour party won, and a part that includes suggestions for the future. Unlike the trend in Labour documents the executive summary does not have an obsession with numbering (check out the Law Commission’s latest report for a veritable OCD of numbering) but contains a list all the same. In the words of Eco “We like lists because we don’t want to die“.
In actual fact the first two lists are just a survey – a sort of vox pop the likes of which could have been obtained by any kind of survey company operating on the market. They are not in themselves the reasons why the nationalist party lost the election (or why Labour won) – they are the reasons why people did not vote for the PN and voted for the PL (sometimes, but not always, “instead” could fit at the end of that sentence). It might seem to be the same but it is different. A survey company would only have omitted those grating praises of the outgoing nationalist party and its achievements (the truth is hard to swallow indeed).
As a political party (and for heavens’ sake don’t give me the movement crap), the Nationalist party is duty bound to look deeper into its soul than simply listing the ills of the people in a quasi-maniacal manner. Idiots without a clue about politics had come up with such lists and polluted the facebook pages with obsessive statuses much before the commission could even start applying its enigmatic PESTLE approach (Ghallinqas kelli ragun fuq din). Worse still the report falls short (but only just) of blaming an ungrateful electorate for not rewarding a highly successful administration – admittedly the temptation is always there (just look at AD).
The report also risks glorifying Joseph Muscat’s “success” notwithstanding the jibes and qualifications that are present at every point in part two. The two lists - the anti-PN grievances and the analysis of the carrots that Labour distributed for its success – are dangerous in that they seem to push the PN into the ugly ground of emulating the Taghna Lkoll formula. That formula is not about politics but about marketing and building on dissatisfaction. It is the push towards the most mediocre of “political” methodologies represented by a manipulation of people’s needs in order to get into power (promising Turkeys to abolish Christmas) followed up by a display of ineptitude, abuse and lack of direction once such power is achieved.
The PN is in a much luckier position than AD in that it holds the lucky seat of alternation and the dice are seriously tricked in its favour when it comes to having to convince a Labour voter to switch back to itself. The committee is aware of this and has grounded its third part on that type of recommendation – of bringing voter into the fold of this “familja nazzjonalista”. J’accuse has always found this hermeneutic apartheid that grounds our political thinking both distasteful and counterproductive. The labour backlash in government is also a result of this way of thinking.
What the PN needs is to think different. To think outside the box. It risks wasting lots of precious time falsely “rebuilding” by thinking in the same terms as its Commission. What the PN really requires at this point is a look within itself – a hard thought evaluation about what the party means and what it wants to achieve for itself but more importantly for the nation. it needs to ask important questions that define its value and ethical make-up and build upon that block. As the Golden Circle goes it needs to be asking less about what it does or how it does it and focus much, much more on Why.
Once that message is clear Chris Said’s horses and men can begin to put Humpty together again.
Dan l-aħħar innutajt li “tal-liġi” reġgħu qed itellgħu bosta statuses dwar l-eżamijiet. Ma tantx tgħid “O żmien ħlejju” x’ħin tiftakar l-istress u t-tensjoni dwar x’ħiereġ għall-eżami jew kemm jiflaħ il-moħħ uman jiddiġerixxi informazzjoni u jikklassifikah. L-impossibilta tal-isfida tittaffa biss b’markinġenji varji li suppositament jgħinu biex issalva sal-eżami li jmiss. Bejn bott nutella, litru kafe u xi erbat ikratal redbull (kelma waħda) suppost taf ittawwal dawk l-iljieli koroh ta’ qabel l-eżami. (come fanno le segretarie con gli occhiali a farsi sposare dagli avvocati).
Jien kelli ħafna ritwali dak iż-żmien. Fosthom bejn superstizzjoni u bżonn tar-ritmu kont nitfa erba klassiċi. Minn Grieg għal filgħodu, Ravel għall-estasi Tereżjana, Vivaldi għall mumenti ta’ raptus ċivili u l-iprem wieħed il-crescendo goljardiku tal-William Tell ta’ Rossini. Għax tgħid kont dejjem nagħlaq għajnejja u nimmaġinah rqiq u sportiv lil Ġwakkin Rossini. Il-mużika tiegħu hekk tagħtik x’tifhem. Qatt ma kont fittixt xi immaġni tiegħu imma bilfors dawk ir-ritmi ħlejjin li fi żmien ieħor kienu jakkumpanjaw lil Zorro f’xi telenovela ma setgħux ikunu xogħol wieħed mogħni b’sovrappiż.
Eppur fu boċċu. Sibt ritratt tiegħu u ma setax ikollu wiċċ iktar ta’ wikkiel minn hekk Ġwakkin. Rossini kien Rossone. Imbagħad ftakart. Hemm dak il-pjatt famiġerat li tant jagħmel ħsara lill-arterji iżda tant jagħti pjaċir lill-palat – it-Tournedos Rossini. Rossini u ngħid. Fittixt fil-Wikipedia u sure enough.
Tournedos Rossini is a French steak dish, purportedly created for the composer Gioachino Rossini by French master chef Marie-Antoine Carême. The dish comprises a tournedos (filet mignon) of beef, pan-fried in butter, served on a crouton, and topped with a hot slice of fresh whole foie gras briefly pan-fried at the last minute. The dish is garnished with slices of black truffle, and finished with a Madeira demi-glace sauce.
Hemm aħna. Fillet moqli fil-butir, itfagħlu crouton u żejnu bil-fois gras li għallgrazzjatalmulejalla kienet hi ukoll moqlija. Żiedilha truffle u naqa sauce u għidli x’mintix tiekol. Allafaccia ta’ William Tell. Jekk il-ktieb ma tiġġudikaħx mill-qoxra lanqas m’għandek tiġġudika kompożitur mill-mużika tiegħu. Imbagħad skoprejt li Rossini kien iħobbu u kif l-ikel (ara link isfel). Sar jogħġobni iktar.
Awguri għall-eżamijiet ,…iġri jgħaddu ħa tgawdu il-ħajja u l-pjaċiri tagħha.
I know of no more admirable occupation than eating, that is really eating. Appetite is for the stomach what love is for the heart. The stomach is the conductor, who rules the grand orchestra of our passions, and rouses it to action. The bassoon or the piccolo, grumbling its discontent or shrilling its longing, personify the empty stomach for me. The stomach, replete, on the other hand, is the triangle of enjoyment or the kettledrum of joy. As for love, I regard her as the prima donna par excellence, the goddess who sings cavatinas to the brain, intoxicates the ear, and delights the heart. Eating, loving, singing and digesting are, in truth, the four acts of the comic opera known as life, and they pass like the bubbles of a bottle of champagne. Whoever lets them break without having enjoyed them is a complete fool. – Gioachino Rossini
iktar dwar Rossini u l-ikel jinstab hawn: Gioachino Rossini’s Haute Cuisine