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Procrastinate away with the second edition of the SAIS BC Blog, featuring analysis of the Italian political landscape, chess challenges, SGA updates, reflections, and photos.

If you are interested in submitting, please send your commentary/creativity to jhubconline@gmail.com by Friday afternoon for publication on Monday :-)

 

Italy in Transition by Marco Ferrara

Restaurant Review by Suzy Xiu

Just Think About it by Nicollette Maunganidze

Return to Politics by Francesco Cuomo

Espresso with the SGA by BCBlog

Photo Roundup featuring photos by Young Lim and Max Meduna

Change by Marijn Otte

The 12th of the November marked the political demise of the Berlusconi government in Italy, which fell under the combined pressure of bond speculators and pleas from within his party to step down. culminating in a stream of defections that cost him the parliamentary majority in the lower house.

Prior to Berlusconi’s resignation, it had become apparent to all that Mr. Berlusconi was no longer in condition to handle an ever worsening financial and political situation, in which persistent economic stagnation coupled with 10 year bond spreads skyrocketing to 550+ base points higher than the benchmark German BundsThe situation left many wondering what to do: Berlusconi, though weakened, still retained a comfortable majority in the Senate.  Initially it seemed he would side with the hardliners within his party and risk a snap election rather than give up his seat. At that point president Napolitano took hold of a vsituation spiraling out of control both financially and politically by convincing Mr. Berlusconi to step down naming Mario Monti as his successor tasked with forming a technocratic government able to obtain the support of both political wings.  Monti’s nomination and the strong confidence votes he received in parliament were well received by Italy’s European partners and seem to have partially appeased the market gods, at least for the time being. Monti’s austere style and seriousness of purpose are certainly a positive change compared to the previous leadership, and opinion polls seem to reflect a strong popular support for his government, with some surveys giving him approval ratings close to 80%.

There are of course elements unsatisfied with this outcome, especially at the fringes of the political spectrum. The Lega Nord party has refused to lend support to the new government and has placed itself squarely in the opposition. Lega Nord’s opposition to the new government is ostensibly because it is contrary to punitive budgets cuts but a position as the opposition is also poltically expedient for the party –  born as the ‘anti-Rome’ outsider party, Lega Nord now closely associated with mainstream politics and is out of touch with its base.Distancing itself from the center of power may allow it to regain the ‘populist credibility’ it has lost during these difficult years. Parts of Berlusconi’s PDL party have also expressed serious reservations regarding the Monti government, and have only grudgingly accepted to support it.

On the left, Mr. Monti has the support of the parties in parliament (though here too the support is far from unconditional in some cases), but the far left, which is currently not represented in parliament, is much more suspicious and is bound to be against the inevitable budget cuts the government will propose.

Conspiracy theories have arisen on both the left and the right regarding Mr. Monti’s allegiance to Goldman Sachs, but in this regard it has to be said that there is truly nothing to worry about. Monti did not have an executive rule at the investment bank and, as a European Commissioner, he pushed for regulation that was certainly not welcome by the big business players.

Looking forward, Mr. Monti’s main tasks will be to carry out much needed reforms and market liberalizations along with painful budget cuts. It is crucial that he do both, as simply cutting would have recessive effects on the economy and may even worsen the situation in the long run. This will be very hard, as Italy has a long history of corporative orders (going back to the Middle Ages) that have no intention of relinquishing their privileged positions. Negotiating labor law reforms with the Unions will also not be easy. Politically, Monti will have to negotiate with the two main parties on a daily basis in an effort to avoid displeasing either one. For this reason, he would have preferred to include at least some politicians from both sides of the aisles to incentivize the respective parties to support the government. However, this idea was shot down by a series of cross-vetos regarding the potential candidates.

Looking forward, the main challenges to the fledging government will be combining growth with budget cuts while maintaining parliamentary support from the main parties. If all goes well, the government should last to 2013, when new elections are scheduled.

Ristorante Il Tinello

Via dei giudei, 1

40126 – Bologna (BO)

tel: 051.221569

Food: 4

Service: 5

Ambiance: 4

Location: 5

Price: $$

Last week a few of us went to Ristorante Il Tinello. I have been there a few times under the recommendation of Giuliana, one of the preterm Intensive Italian teachers, who is friends with the owner. It is a cute little place on Via dei Giudei, near the Due Torri.

What’s great about this place, besides the reasonable price, is that all the pasta is “fatto a mano” or “fatto in casa”, which means its freshly made. You can always taste the difference between store-bought and handmade pasta, and a surprising proportion of the restaurants I’ve been to have served me store-bought pasta (I might as well have cooked it myself at home!)

When you sit down, they give you this cute little basket of bread which I hear they make themselves. The square ones are tasty, with bits of ham in it (a surprise for the vegetarian at our table). The hard loops were of a cracker consistency and more for show than anything else.

I got the Corn Salad, which is a misnomer, since it does not actually contain corn. It refers to a salad made with Lamb’s Lettuce, also known as Rapunzel, and valeriana in Italian. Balsamic-treated pancetta rested on top of the greens, and the slightly acidic flavor went well with the tender sweetness of the leaves.

My favorite dish was the three large ricotta-filled tortelloni smothered in a truffle cream sauce with pancetta. For some reason truffles always make things more irresistible to me, and every bite of this combination was heaven in your mouth.

In terms of appearance, all the lasagna in this city looks the same to me. However, there is truly a huge spectrum when it comes to taste and quality. The person who had this one said it was her favorite so far (and she’s quite the aficionado).

This pasta is called the “priest-wrangler”, which is alluding to its odd shape. Although the dish looks simple, the sauce was surprisingly lively and made me want more than the one bite I tried. The strange texture of the noodles was interesting and added to the appeal.

Gnocchi is something that just cannot be eaten if it’s not freshly made. There is an unmistakeable difference. Eat it fresh and you’ll see that when you take a a bite of the light, airy little dough balls, they come apart oh-so-delicately in your mouth in a way that the store bought ones just cannot. The ones here at Il Tinello, a gorgonzola and walnut version, performed this feat masterfully.

The rack of lamb was tender and flavorful, perfectly cooked and charred around the edges. It was paired with some tasty potatoes (and I don’t normally like potatoes).

The meat basically fell of the bone of the slow, herb-roasted rabbit dish. It came in a savory broth that was perfect for dipping your bread in so that you can savor every last drop.

The interior was cosy but refined, they had a good selection of wines that they display on one wall. The house wine, a Sangiovese, is about 9 euro a liter, and the bottles are priced from 14 euro if I remember correctly.

All in all, I’d really recommend this restaurant. It has great food for an affordable price. Most of the dishes ranged from 8-14 euro, and definitely worth even more in my opinion.

N. B. Each time I’ve gone there we haven’t needed to make a prior reservation (they were weeknights and we always arrived before 8pm). However, the place always would fill up by the time we were leaving, so it might be safer to book just in case.

People seek to learn about the world and how the system works so they can change it or keep it the same (all derivatives included). Which side are you on?

A week ago the former prime minister, mr Silvio Berlusconi, resigned as a consequence of the Italian-German bond spread rise showing the international market’s distrust to his politics. Mr Mario Monti was nominated Prime Minister and few days later he won the confidence vote first at the Senate, then in the House.

There are already two clear differences between the two governments: namely, size of the governments and political communications. Berlusconi’s government was composed 23 ministers, 4 vice-ministers and 37 under – secretariats for a total of 64 members. Monti’s government so far accounts for 18 ministers. Regarding the second issue, it’s not clear that Monti’s approach is for sure more serious and sober than his predecessor. When considering their political appearance, it’s impossible not to notice that while Monti’s style of life, as far as we know, has been consistent with his responsibilities as a former European commissioner, Berlusconi has been at the center stage, of many judicial, political and sexual scandals, in addition of being repeatedly charged of criminal allegations, including mafia collusion, false accounting, tax fraud, corruption and bribery of police officers and judges. While it might not be the case, his resignation shows already that Italy made the first step towards a change in direction: it is finally time and there are the conditions for the government to look at general Italian problems, and not at those of the former prime minister.

Italy now faces many and very diverse issues concerning productivity in both public and private sector, labor market reforms, tax evasion, bank system and competition. In particular, there are many concerns towards the upcoming financial maneuver and the subsequent State balance account: it is of fundamental importance to devote much effort towards a stronger fight against fiscal evasion and corruption, given the already high general fiscal imposition. In other words, this coming fiscal bill should deeply address the structural problems without imposing a further burden on the shoulder of those who have already contributed heavily so far.

Once the financial markets will be reassured, it will be necessary to reform structurally the public sector. It is of critical importance to introduce a merit system to underpin higher level of productivity and increase trust in the public sector. In fact, there is a broad general skepticism towards politics that needs to be addressed in order to solve this long lasting distrust as it impedes any effort to enforce a real change.

Therefore, what we need now is a return to Politics in its old meaning of specifying and fulfilling the national interest. What we might be missing now is a class of foreseeing politicians committing themselves to our country needs.

For now, let’s hope that our new Prime Minister and his technocratic government will be strong enough to meet these expectations.

A recurrent theme during the SGA campaign speeches was the importance of making the Bologna Center a greener campus. A month and a half later, the BC Blog sat down with Bennett Gordon to talk about what has been done to implement a recycling program.

So far, the SGA has spoken with the administration about student desire for a recycling program. Pre-existing recycling bins have been dusted off and moved out to the hallway near the Copy Center. However, the responsibility for emptying these bins rests with the student body. An e-mail went out to the student body requesting help in setting up a Green Committee. However, only one response was received. Currently, SGA representatives Byron Sacharidis and Mahrukh Hasan have taken responsibility for emptying the recycling bins.

Bennett hopes that the Green Committee can get kick-started after Thanksgiving dinner (and the dust from midterms has settled). However, any further movement on institutionalizing a recycling program at the Bologna Center will rest with the student body. Implementing a formal recycling program will invariably cost money. According to Bennett, the administration won’t be willing to make these spending adjustments unless students demonstrate that it is a priority to them.

Bennett explains, “We have amazing people in our student body. We have people who have worked tirelessly on this stuff before they came to SAIS. We could do a lot of cool things. It’s a question of students stepping up and saying I want to organize this, I want to get this done, I want to make this a priority. I can try my best to help give people the tools to do that.”

Students interested in contributing to the Green Committee should get in touch with Bennett at Bennett [dot] Gordon [at] Gmail [dot] com.

Photo Roundup

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