Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Changes of heart

April 21, 2009

“There is nothing wrong with changing one’s opinion… switching from the right to the left of the political spectrum, and vice versa, is legitimate — until one reaches the age of forty, that is. After sixty, it starts looking clownish and dodgy”
Italian journalist and commentator Indro Montanelli

Many among the most prominent members of the right-wing party currently in charge of governing Italy have a left-wing political past. Some are former members of the Italian Communist Party (PCI), and others even of smaller parties or associations that would position themselves at the left of the PCI. As they warm up to, or wholeheartedly embrace the cornerstones of capitalism (free enterprise, progressive elimination of the welfare state, privatization of services etc.), these people find themselves in high demand as editorialists, political commentators, TV hosts (makes no difference of which television or newspapers, as all Italian media are owned by the same person, who happens to be the head of the government).
Some of them are by far the harshest critics of progressive, socialist ideas, and of those who still advocate them, and rank among the most outspoken and bluntest revisionists.

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The road to hell that goes through the center

February 18, 2009

Following another disastrous electoral result, the leader of the main Italian opposition party, known as the Democratic Party (what an original name, eh ? Wonder where they took inspiration from…), tendered his resignation. The future of the party is very much up in the air. A new secretary will take over, but it seems pretty clear that this relatively new political formation, in existence for barely 20 months, has largely failed in its stated purpose of becoming the hinge of a broad center-left coalition that could challenge what now appears the unassailable, virtually absolute power of … yeah, that guy — the “funny” one (TFO).

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The next act

January 25, 2009

In the coming week, the Canadian House of Commons will reconvene after the suspension sought by sitting Prime Minister Stephen Harper and granted by the Governor General in early December. This turn of events took place as the Conservative minority government was on the brink of a no confidence vote that would have led to its replacement by one formed by the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party, with the external support of the Bloc Québécois.
On Tuesday, Harper will submit to the House a budget which, for the first time in many years will post a deficit, prompted by the dire, adverse economic conditions that Canada, much like the rest of the world, will be experiencing for the foreseeable future. Details of the budget are still scant; Harper will allegedly call for permanent tax cuts, together with various spending initiatives. Of course, the question in the mind of Canadians is: will the opposition give Harper green light, albeit begrudgingly ? Will Harper be allowed to continue on as a Prime Minister, or is Canada going to be led by a different leader eight days from now ?
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Excitement and… Relief

January 20, 2009

obama_shep_print_final2

I have to confess: for all the excitement that I feel about the 44th President of the United States, to me today it is not so much about what is starting, but what has finally come to an end.
Sure, the outgoing administration has been reduced to the status of “lame duck” for months, possibly as long as two years now; and I know it’s dismal thinking, for one should always look forward, not dwell into the past and all that, but… the thing is, entertaining a healthy and frank national conversation over the “mistakes” (let’s make this euphemism day) that were committed over the past eight years, leading to a clear attribution of responsibilities, is a necessary step to avoid the same “mistakes” in the future (apparently I am not the only one to think that way).
This is not about “revenge”, or “settling the score”. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, wrote philosopher and poet George Santayana. So, as a huge fraction of the world population celebrates change this day, as a new US administration headed by a cool, intelligent, educated and well-spoken African American readies to tackle unprecedented challenges on all fronts, a clear collective assessment of what has prompted this desire, no, eagerness for change in the first place (beyond the simple exercise of democratic transfer of power) is still badly needed. Let’s not skip that part, please.

Science and Sexism

December 10, 2008

"You should look to marry a millionaire, like my son [...] With that smile of yours, you could…"
Italian Prime Minister, to a young woman explaining to him how hard it is to find a job, these days.

The subject of women under-representation in the sciences is one of the most hotly (and often bitterly) debated — in public, on the printed press, and of course inside blogosphere. Sexism is often put forward as a plausible, likely reason underlying the infrequency with which women take on leadership positions in the scientific enterprise, be that in academia or in national or private research laboratories.
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Coalition thoughts

December 2, 2008

Power wears out — those who don’t have it
(Italian politician and former Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti)

Whoever said that Canadian politics is boring ?
In a surprising twist, only a month and a half after the last federal election that saw the Conservative Party of Canada of (then) Prime Minister Stephen Harper strengthen its relative majority in the Canadian House of Commons (despite receiving fewer actual votes than in 2006) but fall short of the stated goal of an outright majority, it now looks as though Canada may not be governed by the Conservatives at all, for the foreseeable future.
Rather, the first coalition government in Canadian history since World War I, formed by the Liberal and the New Democratic party, with the external support of the Bloc Québécois, may take on the task of navigating the country through the uncertain economic times that lie ahead.
At this time, it is not yet clear if such a scenario will actually materialize, or whether maybe the Governor General of Canada will not allow it, sending the country back to the polls instead. It is also possible that a last minute deal with the opposition will allow Harper and the Conservatives to remain in power. Still, it appears sufficiently plausible to spur an intense online debate (see, for instance, the flood of comments at the Globe and Mail web site).
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Blogging in Italy

November 16, 2008

“Every country has the government it deserves”
(Joseph Marie de Maistre)

Update (11/18/2008): The bill has been withdrawn, ostensibly following widespread complaints among bloggers and the general public. In fairness, however, while I remain wary of any governmental attempt at “regulating” blogs, on examining the bill more closely and on reading some of the most authoritative legal opinions, it seems to me that the bill has been seriously misrepresented and its likely consequences vastly overstated, in both the Italian and international press. As it turns out, it would not have affected the overwhelming majority of blogs.
I felt that I owed at least a clarification.

As an amusing follow-up to my latest post on the relationship between blogs and “official” scientific journals, I have found out that in my country of birth some legislators actually think that regulating blogs is not only possible, but actually opportune (the story, in Italian, here). Indeed, parliament is about to discuss a bill that would require all bloggers to register with the Ministry of Communication (no, not with the Ministry of Blogging, silly…), and be thereafter subjected to the same regulations and restrictions as newspapers, television and other ‘regular’ news media. Failure to do so would result in prosecution of the blogger (yes, all blogs would be affected; even cooking, personal or porn blogs will be required to report news — any news I suppose — accurately and unbiasedly).
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