Saviour Balzan | Sunday, 27 September 2009

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Putting Paul of Tarsus to shame

Just when you thought that you were running out of subjects to write about, enter Marisa Micallef Leyson; who has apparently banged her head against a wall somewhere in the UK and now suddenly finds herself the official porta voce of Joseph Muscat.
Perhaps many readers had forgotten about Marisa’s unending vitriol in The Independent.
Marisa is no run of the mill political animal: she has suddenly seen the light and crossed the border to convert to Christianity.
Marisa was a Nationalist, through and through. She was a Lawrence Gonzi fan, so much so that week after week she poured bile against anyone who dared question the good innocent and honest man who smiles a lot and finds his roots in the benevolent, self righteous Azzjoni Kattolika. More so she took Alfred Sant to the cleaners several times. And more importantly, she made it her mission to hit out at Harry Vassallo and Alternattiva Demokratika. For – in the eyes of her mentors, the spin-doctors at Stamperija – they were the main source of haemorrhage within PN voters.
Marisa hails from good and pure, genetically modified middle-class Nationalist stock: poor in the delivery of the Maltese language, liberal when it suits them but conservative most of the time, and in their midst (or rather in the family) proud to have the author of that most despicable of columns: Roamer – loved and hated in equal measure – whose column questioned and laid to waste anything that was even remotely Labourite for years.
As a confirmation of her faith in Gonzi she stood as a candidate, and as all good candidates who cannot speak proper Maltese talked like a convoluted person with no mission – she had a miserable showing.
Throughout her tenure at the politically appointed post of Housing chairman she complained to most people (including myself) that she was badly paid, until she was finally given a raise and a condition in her contract that if she was laid off she would be given a lump sum.
But now it seems that Marisa has returned from the UK, where she said that she once worked for a Labour council – as if this means anything to Cikku or Peppi - and has embraced Joseph Muscat.
It will be hard for many to understand how this has happened. I have a feeling that Marisa is so ambitious and so angry with Gonzi et al that one way of having her way is landing in the arms of the enemy.
Well, Muscat must be a very happy man and the people at the PN must be quite irate, to put it mildly.
The making of St Paul of Tarsus is not entirely new in politics.
Many of have gone down that route.
Many, of course, will conveniently forget that another woman of great character (Daphne, that is) who was also coincidentally a columnist with The Independent, was once a great fan of Alternattiva Demokratika. She even voted for the Greens in 1992 and then suddenly saw the light (and of course the money) and ‘Hey Jude!’ – she changed tack and the Nationalists became the new love of her life.
She will be having a whale of a time taking Marisa to the abattoir; a game best left to bitches, I guess, but then, if this isn’t fun, I wonder, what is?
We all have our inconsistencies and changes in life.
Lou Bondi, for example, was an avowed Marxist, until he realised that he was related to Austin Gatt, which led to an important epiphany: he realised that Marxism was only a temporary case of insanity, and that really and truly, his real vocation in life was to be part of the system.
The same could be said for Joe Azzopardi, who changed his name to Peppi because Joe (like Saviour) was too common a name. He too says that he was born a Socialist (whatever that means) only to discover that, for his financial prosperity, it is best to adulate the great love of his life (Lawrence Gonzi).
We all have our great moments of momentous change in life.
I for one have less hairs than ever before, I cannot run a mile and not lose my breath, detest camping, and do not eat Rice Crispies with Benna low fat milk anymore.
But for consistency’s sake: I still love cars, the aura of women, risk, good food and wine and I would never be part of any big political party if they offered me the world. And guess what? I am still manifestly a great pain in the ass.
But what Marisa has done is what we call in politics a ‘short lived investment’, which can be roughly described as investing in some silly shares that are highly volatile. Her decision will benefit Muscat, who dearly needs some credence for his efforts. But her St Paul of Tarsus actions have nothing to do with ideology.
Today there is no ideology to be spoken of. Joseph Muscat is not about ideology, but about changing faces, just like having Michael Schumacher changed because it does make sense for him to always keeps winning Formula 1. It is about alternating power.
Muscat’s socialism means nothing today.
Like all good socialists, he has a problem defining socialism. If he gets to power he will simply shuffle a few people, clear a few shelves, change the furniture a wee bit, but in reality there will be no great moves or shakes.
Yes, in democracy that is very much needed. Imagine having Gonzi for the next 10 years and Edgar Galea Curmi as his captain, or switching on telly and still seeing an ageing and badly dressed Peppi looking at you with those inflated big eyes as if he was suffering from goitre.
So Marisa is a simple pawn in the hands of politicians: she has little to offer. She has little political depth, very limited sense of the media, she is deeply mistrusted by the media and more importantly, she fits in the Labour milieu like a Christian parachuting into Mecca.
But then, we really need to thank Marisa for giving us the opportunity to fill up our Sunday piece and of making it worthy for readers to continue reading MaltaToday and this despicable column. More so when I am still abroad and feel so distant from that endearing rock.

Cut the crap and bring down the prices
Why prices remain incredibly high in Malta is inexplicable. If Fenech wants to kick the economy and consumer spending, he must devise ways to bring prices down.
Drinking a good espresso in a mountain village in Italy at 0.80 euro cents while breathing in fresh unpolluted air is a hell lot more enjoyable and cheaper than having the same espresso in a Naxxar cafeteria surrounded by cars and Nitrous oxides.
But it’s not just that. A Quattro Stagioni pizza in Piemonte is €5.50. A spaghetti vongole is €7.50 and the wines incredibly cheaper. All throughout France, Italy and Germany prices are coming down.
Hotels are offering special rates and guess what: they receive no subventions from their equivalent tourist board. They do not have MTA’s run by hoteliers.
And here in Malta we hang on to our prices and grumble or are surprised when people do not spend money, or more of it.
Tonio Fenech, in all his false wisdom, needs to look at the smaller price changes.
Dog food is a good example of how prices get out of hand in Malta.
A grand sized bag of Pedigree is 30% cheaper in France and Italy.
All throughout, the price difference is staggering. Medicines are another example.
And all we hear from our politicians is rhetoric.
Remember when, months ago, we assisted to the removal of the GWU’s monopoly at Cargo handling, only to realise that privatisation does not necessarily bring benefits to small business or the consumer?

One good way of doing away with making Demartino a millionaire
One good idea we can borrow from Italian speed monitoring is the new system introduced in most Italian towns.
As we have seen, speed cameras are installed in Malta and Gozo according to the whims of individuals who either drive snail-paced Ford Anglias or else hope that people like Kenneth Demartino become millionaires at our expense.
In Italian cities, and especially small villages, the speed limit is 50km. To assist motorists to respect the limit, screens which read your speed are installed. As you approach you are informed of your speed. Most motorists realise if they are going too fast and reduce speed.
The initiative is not revenue-based but prevention-driven.
Perhaps someone will think of introducing this system.
Less revenues for Demartino I guess, but more common sense and some respect for people’s pockets.
Issa naraw!


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