Moi, je ne le sais pas encore en Italie. Mais je le dis tout de suite: il n'y aura plus jamais d'amnistie fiscale en Italie. Jan 21st , by Lexington. He wants to complete the Great Society project of such progressive forefathers as both Roosevelts and Lyndon Johnson, and make it sustainable in an America that faces unprecedented global competition.
How he plans to do that, when he must share power with fiercely hostile Republicans in Congress for the foreseeable future, is a more interesting question. Mr Obama's inaugural speech, delivered this morning beneath a bright, chilly Washington sky, offered a remarkably stark answer. He plans to confront Republicans, co-opt their most cherished beliefs about American exceptionalism and individualism, pin them into a corner with the power of public opinion and—in the longer-term—to marginalise them by building his party a progressive coalition from such diverse groups as women, ethnic minorities, gays, the young, immigrants and environmentalists.
Though the speech rang with references to national unity, the founding fathers and the ties that bind Americans, it was a deeply partisan piece of work. In his second term, Mr Obama's big tent will be held up by Democratic ropes and stays. Those who insist on remaining outside, it was easy to conclude, risk feeling very cold indeed. The power of public opinion is palpable at an inauguration ceremony, a strange and handsome hybrid of coronation and political rally.
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Your blogger was lucky to snaffle a seat in a sort of no-man's land on the Capitol's west front, between the serried rows of congressional spouses and the Marine Corps band, at the foot of the presidential podium. In the lull before the president's arrival, grandees of the Senate displayed themselves at a balustrade next to his still-empty lectern.
They showed off silly hats several wore stetsons, one wore a beret, and Senator Bill Nelson of Florida came in a bright orange hunting-cap bearing his name. They waved to friends, family and constituents, and generally acted like politicians seeking the love of a crowd. Then came Mr Obama, and the atmosphere gained a wholly new charge. The crowd gathered far below the Capitol may have been smaller than four years ago, but it still stretched almost to the Washington Monument and it was filled with true believers. The sight of the president on giant screens down the National Mall sent up a roar from the crowd that made hair stand on end.
Mr Obama took that applause, and sought to harness it. Inauguration speeches are often hailed as moments to reach across partisan divides, and make peace after the bruising fights of the election just ended.
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Time and again, Mr Obama seemed to be re-fighting that election. At the very start of his inaugural address, he offered a definition of what it means to be American: an allegiance to the idea of equal creation and unalienable rights articulated in the opening lines of Jefferson's Declaration of Independence. It was hard not to hear a direct challenge to the argument set out by Mitt Romney, his vanquished Republican foe, and the Republicans' vice-presidential running-mate, Paul Ryan.
It was Mr Ryan who, on the day that he joined the presidential ticket, galvanised American conservatives with his declaration that America was unique in being a country "founded on an idea", namely that:. Our rights come from nature and God, not government. We promise equal opportunity, not equal outcomes. This idea is founded on the principles of liberty, freedom, free enterprise, self-determination and government by consent of the governed. Six months later, in the first moments of his second term, Mr Obama took on that small-government credo.
Jeffersonian truths may be self-evident but "they've never been self-executing", Mr Obama said, with something approaching audible scorn. The president bowed to core conservative beliefs about American exceptionalism, conceding that he governs a people sceptical of central authority, disdainful of the "fiction" that society's ills can be cured by government alone, and unusually insistent that it is an American's duty to seek success through hard work, personal responsibility and a dose of risk-taking.
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He is right. That belief in meritocracy and enterprise sets America apart from other rich nations, notably on the continent of Europe, where people are much likelier to ascribe success to good luck or connections, and to believe that the state should intervene to ensure no citizens fall too far behind the most fortunate.
But if Mr Obama is not the European socialist of his enemies' gibes, he is something closer to a European liberal, setting out a vision of a state safety net whose job is to protect responsible, hard-working citizens from the strokes of ill luck that can strike at any time Mr Obama cited job losses, sudden illnesses, or the sweeping away of a home in a terrible storm. At that moment, the president argued, commitments made by Americans to each other, through such Great Society programmes as Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, do not sap initiative but strengthen it.
In his pointed words:. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great. He went on to list some concrete consequences that flow from his vision of a communal action as an enabler of American individualism. In a canter through big agenda items for his second term, that will be spelled out in more detail in his February state-of-the-union address, Mr Obama talked of action on climate change chiding those who "still deny the overwhelming judgment of science" on global warming and action to make America a leader in sustainable energy production.
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He committed himself to seeking diplomatic solutions to security crises, and ran through a veritable to-do list of Democratic ambitions, from equal pay for women to gay equality, comprehensive immigration reform and through a coy reference to Newtown in Connecticut to action on gun violence. It was not necessary to settle centuries-long debates on the role of government, but political leaders did have to take decisions without delay, reaching imperfect and impartial agreements if needs be.
Few can have mistaken his meaning. Beneath the ringing oratory about America's journey and the work of generations, Mr Obama was directly challenging the core beliefs of today's Republican Party. From the backhand slap for climate-change deniers, to the rebuke of "absolutism", Mr Obama was attacking congressional Republicans, notably in the House of Representatives, and their entire conception of their role in a divided government.
He gave Republicans almost no ground, making the briefest of references to their defining concern, the nation's deficit spending. Perhaps confrontation will prove to be a fruitful strategy. Mr Obama's supporters would point to his first term, and the serial obstructionism of Republicans in Congress, and argue that the president has no choice but to come out fighting, as he seeks to achieve anything in his final few years in office.
I wish I could feel so gung-ho. Those same founding fathers ensured that an American president must share his vast powers with Congress, and Republicans still control the House of Representatives and can filibuster and stall legislation in the Senate, through their minority there.
How did today's speech set out the process by which Mr Obama plans to govern? It was fascinating to see Mr Obama sketch out his vision of how individualism and American risk-taking need a progressive safety net to thrive.
That will be a potent argument for Democrats to promote in future elections, as they seek to occupy the centre ground of politics and corral Republicans on the political fringes. Today's inaugural address also set out attack lines that Democrats will be able to use in the event of continued Republican obstructionism, as they seek to blame their opponents for dysfunction in Washington and make Republicans pay the electoral price in the mid-terms and the general election.
But if you believe that getting anything done in the next four years will require the support of at least some moderate Republicans, it is hard to see how Mr Obama's inaugural address will have helped much. The president came to the Capitol as a victorious commander, staking claims to large swathes of American political territory. But the public did not hand him complete victory.
A majority of states have Republican governors, and partly through gerrymandering and partly through more organic quirks of electoral geography , Republicans have a lock on the House of Representatives. It was a powerful speech, but how this ends well, I struggle to see. Photo credit: AFP. That kind of skill would be handy for Mr. Monti, who after years as a professor and a European Commissioner is making his debut as a campaigner. But the real interesting thing about Mr. Axelrod is that he is known as a street fighter. Well, Mr.
Monti, who usually speaks about the balance of payments and the machinery of the European Union, ripped into Angelino Alfano, the putative candidate for premier for the People of Freedom party headed by Silvio Berlusconi , using atypically aggressive sarcasm. That kind of pivot looks inevitable given that polls show that Mr.
Berlusconi is clambering back from near oblivion while Mr. The risk is he goes too far. For a while, that was the game plan — in fact, Mr. Monti needed Mr. Bersani in need of a new coalition partner.
Editorial Board "Italian issue"
Monti recruited aboard will not be enough to form a stable government. ROME — At the tender age of 12, Pier Luigi Bersani led his fellow altar boys in a strike against their parish priest to win back tips from Easter services. Beppe Grillo is a controversial Italian comedian shaking up Italian politics. Here's his backstory. With a bigger borrowing burden than any of its neighbors save near-bankrupt Greece, Italy remains one of the biggest wild cards in the long-term viability of the euro. While serving in left-leaning cabinets in the s and s, the cigar-chomping year-old surfaced as a powerful advocate of reforms considered key to modernizing the business climate in long-stagnate Italy.
He has nevertheless raised eyebrows with investors by striking a coalition deal with more strident leftists as well as for openly suggesting he would move to fine-tune, if not overhaul, at least some of the budget-cutting measures pushed through last year. Such changes, he has said, would include higher taxes on the rich to lessen the burden on the poor.
In an extensive interview this month with The Washington Post, he additionally suggested that, if elected, he would push to renegotiate strict European limits on budget deficits and debt in a bid to simulate growth. Yet Berlusconi, who represents the center-right, has proven a far more outspoken critic of new taxes and spending cuts than Bersani.
Even interim Prime Minister Monti — the fiscally tough technocrat chosen by Parliament to replace Berlusconi who is seeking a full term — has recently said some of his own measures went too far while others did not go far enough, suggesting any winner here would tinker with the formula that allowed Italy to escape financial collapse last year. Jan 12th from the print edition.
By Lucy Hughes-Hallett. Buy from Amazon. Lucy Hughes-Hallett, a British biographer and critic, in a deeply evocative new biography, suggests probably not. There is too much blood on his hands both from the first world war and from the 15 bizarre months in when he was the charismatic duce of a rogue state in the Adriatic port of Fiume now Rijeka in Croatia.
And yet there is greatness in the man. During the great war, on which he had so influentially preached to his countrymen, he was capable of acts of heroism and even chivalry, as the author herself admits. So wherein lies the problem? His life, his dress, his lovemaking, his going to war—everything was so minutely stage-managed with an eye to how it would appear in the press or in the histories. Although Ms Hughes-Hallett valiantly but ultimately without conviction teases out a few timorous examples to the contrary, it is almost impossible to believe in any spontaneous act of humility or empathy in the man.
There are acts of beauty, but these are often sinister and his story serves largely to show the moral emptiness of pure aestheticism. At first, the audience applauded him act after act; but by the end it tired of the posturing. Ms Hughes-Hallett evokes the edgy relationship between these two unaccommodating egos with particular adroitness. He was a writer, after all; a turbine of extraordinary creativity, an intense observer of the nuances of light, of faces, landscape, flowers, the gore of war and of every conceivable inflection of the sexual act.