CELL PHONES FOR SILVIO….Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi thinks a big turnout in Sunday’s election will help his party. So, since ownership of half the media in the country apparently wasn’t enough to get the word out, he decided to send text messages to all 56 million cell phones in the country. The results were mixed:

Many of the messages arrived in the night, activating the alarms of hundreds of thousands of mobiles and waking their owners.

….Italian law authorises the government to carry out mass texting “in cases of disaster or natural calamities” and “for reasons of public order or public health and hygiene”.

Mr Berlusconi’s supporters argued that a decree authorising the move, signed by the interior minister, Giuseppe Pisanu, on Thursday, complied with the law because the messages would ensure a steadier flow of voters and thus avert any threat to public order.

Yes indeedy, hijacking Italy’s cell phone network for partisan purposes was clearly necessary in order to prevent riots at polling places. That’s some sharp thinking.

The real problem, of course, is that being an ally of George Bush is death for a foreign leader these days. In the last year and a half, Bush bashing has proven to be electoral magic in Germany, South Korea, and Spain, and yesterday it was at its most magical yet in a walloping defeat for Tony Blair’s Labor Party. As a staunch Bush ally, Berlusconi is obviously feeling like he’s next on the chopping block.

That’s my kind of magic. Now, how about if we bring a little of it home for our own elections in November?

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