The Corner

Euro Derb

Well, plainly the credit guys at Standard & Poor’s are keen readers of The

Corner. (Who isn’t?) Following my grumbling about the wretched state of

Rome yesterday, what did I read in the Italian newspapers this morning?

Front-page story: S&P have downgraded Italy’s credit rating from AAA

(“stabile”) to AA- (“negativo”).

So far as I can gather – as a non-speaker of Italian trying to make sense of

a quite complicated politico-financial story with the aid of a tourist

phrasebook while children are yammering in both ears stuff like “Dad, when

will the bus come?” and “Dad, tell him to stop!” and “But Dad, I wasn’t

doing ANYTHING!” and “Dad, I think I’m going to throw up” and “Dad, what

does v-i-e-t-a-t-o mean?” and “Dad, Mom wants to know if you brought spare

batteries for the camera” – the Italians, in that sly Mediterranean way, are

not giving the true cause of this crisis of confidence; at any rate, I

don’t see my name anywhere, though it’s obvious that my remarks must have

triggered the event.

The downgrading, they are saying, is a consequence of (a) Italy’s economy

being in the tank, (b) a nasty bank scandal involving the governor-for-life

of the national bank, (c) offering convincing proof that the

govt. has done nothing much about major corporate/financial hanky-panky

since the appalling Parmalat fiasco of a year or so ago, while (d) upcoming

elections (next year) make it highly unlikely that anything much will be

done about this or anything else in the next few months.

Well, I have seen Apollo & Daphne at last–it surpassed all expectations.

Likewise Aeneas with father & son fleeing Troy. As a person of dull

esthetic sensibilities and only patchy education in this area, I must say I

find Bernini quite overpowering. Must read him up. The Borghese isn’t as

hard to get into as I thought, either… Though it would be nice if, when

you buy your ticket, they told you about the 20-minute line to check in your

bags.

This is being written, with considerable difficulty (there is no hardship

NRO correspondents will shirk, no obstacle we will retreat from, to bring

you the news!) in a bus going from Beauvais airport to central Paris. The

Derbs, as is well known, exist on the brink of penury, and can only afford a

European vacation by flying with these new budget airlines that have sprung

up in England recently. These people take the concept of “no frills” to

places Freddy Laker never dreamed of. “They give you a seat, and they get

you there,” is what I’d been told.”

In fact, this slightly overstates their product. What the budget airlines

actually do is get you to an airstrip hacked out of somebody’s turnip field

so far from the city you actually want to get to, it might as well be, and

for all I know sometimes is, in a different country altogether. Beauvais

airport is the nearest they will get you to Paris. It’s a one-hour bus ride

away; and someone forgot to build an expressway, so it’s an hour of rattling

through villages which in a different context would be quaint, but right now

are just irritating, since none of them shows any signs of being any closer

to Paris than the one before. Paris report follows.

John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

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