Italian Style

     What have the elderly in Italy done to deserve this?
     Is the era of “Logan’s Run” and “Soylent Green” coming upon us?
     Let’s pause for a moment while I take deep breaths. I’m getting old, so this is not the sort of future I want to imagine.
     I’m speaking, of course, of the news report last week that former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been sentenced to spend four hours a week at a center for the elderly.
     This was described in one report as putting him “among men and women who are essentially his peers.”
     (At this point, if I were doing standup, I’d say this was like forcing George Clooney to date someone his own age. Fortunately, I’m above that sort of thing.)
     Who is being punished here?
     Isn’t it bad enough to grow old in a nursing home without being subjected to a politician?
     What was even odder was that apparently both the prosecution and the defense asked the court for a community service order.
     Why would they conspire like this against old people?
     The only explanation that I can come up with is that the prosecution thinks Berlusconi will be able to teach his peers about self-reliance and successful longevity in the modern world.
     And the defense thinks Berlusconi will have a new gang of henchmen to help him terrorize the country.
     I can’t wait to see how this turns out.
     Hmm … Do you think the Pope is one of his peers? Now that would be a posse.
     
     Truth or Dare: The other news report that fascinated me last week was that the U. S. Supreme Court is going to consider whether states can make it illegal to lie about political candidates.
     Apparently an “antiabortion group” is arguing that lying is protected by the First Amendment – so you can say anything you want about a candidate you don’t like.
     It’s an interesting argument. After all, it’s not freedom of true speech that’s protected – it’s just plain freedom of speech.
     And if the Supreme Court protects lying as free speech, it will mean that, combined with Citizens United, anyone can spend millions of dollars (otherwise known as speaking) lying.
     Just what democracy needs – the freedom to be completely misinformed.
     I’m dying to see how the Founding Father fans on the court are going to explain that that’s what George “I’ll Never Tell a Lie” Washington had in mind for the country.
     I do, though, see the problem with pro-truth laws. Who gets to decide what’s true? How do you decide what’s true?
     Maybe these questions are a good thing. If we can tie up all campaign speech in court with litigation over truthfulness, maybe we can get through some elections without campaigning. Imagine how good that would be for our mental health.
     If the pro-truth laws get struck down, there is another solution to the lying problem: more lies.
     If your opponent calls you a thief and a serial rapist even though you’ve never stolen or raped, don’t deny it. No one’s going to believe you anyway.
     Instead, describe the opponent as a drug kingpin and sleeper cell terrorist.
     Best liar wins.
     It’s great practice for a career in government.

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