Friday, November 11, 2011

Italy Really Lucks Out With An Exceptional President And Now An Exceptional New Prime Minister

Posted by Peter Quennell

Italy already possesses in President Napolitano one of the more popular and effective presidents in the world

Now President Napolitano has handpicked Dr Mario Monti to succeed PM Silvio Berlusconi, starting out perhaps as soon as tomorrow. Dr Monti is the president of one of Italy’s premier business schools in Milan, and he has twice been elected a European commissioner.

Other heads of government and stock and bond markets around the world seem increasingly optimistic that Italy can now manage to pull out of its nosedive. Italy’s austerity package as mandated by the EC has already been passed by the upper house in the Rome parliament.

Below is the only video (a few months old) we can spot in which Mario Monti speaks in English at length. And here in Business Insider is a short balanced assessment of Italy’s new prospects.

So. Fingers crossed but the trend looks promising. Enjoy your very overdue retirement, Mr Berlusconi. Keep out of prison…


Posted by Peter Quennell on 11/11/11 at 04:06 PM in The wider contextsItalian context


This should take a lot of the steam out of the political assault on the justice system. I for one have never seen anything like it except in some banana republics. Perugia prosecutors will be smiling today as they were a main target.


Our shared server was down for a while this morning NYC time. Apologies for that. This is almost never our space’s “fault” and our hoster just emailed this explanation:

“We apologize for the long wait. We did have an issue with the server application pools. Our server team is looking into the issue still but your site is up and functioning now. ”

For a site like this the code and images are on one server, the posts in the MySQL database on another, the PHP code base on another, and the email on another. A fifth server offers various bells and whistles which for this site we dont use.

Seems pretty good for $42 a month with over 2 gigabytes of disk storage used. (The videos and pdf’s occupy most of that space.) Whatcha think, Dr Monti?

Posted by Peter Quennell on 11/11/11 at 05:48 PM | #

Italy’s slide downhill took almost a decade.  Recovery will be also equally slow and painful.

Mr B could have done a lot: instead he focused on Mubarak’s grand daughter and the likes.  He had a vice-like grip on the nation and its politics.  He simply did not bother.

Foxman (in the link you posted) sums it up nicely: Even if Monti and his coalition can push through a ground-breaking package, problems in Italy are deep-seated and will not be immediately resolved. There is a strong possibility that the markets could soon render saving Italy impossible, Monti or no.

One picture you posted of a young girl facing the gorilla. The girl is now Italy and the gorilla is the market. The monster wants blood.

The US (financial mess) headache is now world’s nightmare.  We do not know what is going to happen and what is going to be the result.  We can only pray.

Posted by chami on 11/11/11 at 06:40 PM | #

Hi chami. You spotted the slideshow of 25 slides on “the situation” in Italy via the Business Insider link, right?  Seriously funny but also seriously true and Knox and Berlusconi are both in there.

Italy needs a very compelling big-picture image of a viable future say seven years out which everyone in Italy helps create and everyone feels ownership of.

But thats not normally in economists’ or politicians’ job descriptions, and it’s a skill area in which central banks frankly suck.

These days the emerging markets are more competent at managing their growth than the “advanced economies” which sorta muddled their way to the top and are now sorta muddling their way down again.

At core, this is a growth tools problem. Simple as that. Don’t just keep throwing money at it.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 11/11/11 at 07:15 PM | #

I agree.  The problem is related to skill- both managerial and technical.

Just throwing money will not solve the problem (that is what Paul Krugman says in short) - We need to spread the butter thinly and evenly.  We need to look at the lower middle class base.  The big showrooms in Milan and Rome are empty and we need a new toolkit for the new style of development.

We learn more from the failures but is really hurts a lot of innocent people at the bottom.

Posted by chami on 11/13/11 at 10:38 AM | #

Pete, you wrote:

“Italy needs a very compelling big-picture image of a viable future say seven years out which everyone in Italy helps create and everyone feels ownership of.

“But thats not normally in economists’ or politicians’ job descriptions, and it’s a skill area in which central banks frankly suck.”

This is related to the scope (or scale) problem, which according to Herman Daly (the ecological economist, formerly of the World Bank) says that regular (traditional) economics does not concern itself with (distribution is another). Traditional economics deals mostly with supply-and-demand and markets and such. Planning is something they are just not geared toward. Let’s hope Dr. Monti is the right man for the job!

Bye-bye Berlusconi!!

Posted by Earthling on 11/14/11 at 08:35 PM | #

Hi Earthling. Very true. They are geared toward managing equilibriums and work best as backroom boys. Vital work. Paul Krugman wrote a book called Peddling Prosperity in which he was highly critical of economists over-reaching as policy wonks and eager to get their paws on the levers of power. Now that he has come pretty close himself, he would probably say he had to, to countervail the cut-taxes/cut-taxes/cut-taxes crowd.

Worst example in the world is the economist-dominated World Bank and IMF which pushed the Washington Consensus too far and threw vast sums at member countries with mandates to do this and that. Their giantism pretty well ground emerging economy growth to a halt.  Then in the mid 90s they saw the shocking (to them) flourishing of China, India and the East Asian tigers who without any of their help did a lot of things right. (See the World Bank book The East Asian Miracle where they actually admit it.)

I’ve touched a few times before on the three tool-sets that all have to be applied right for fast growth to start and keep going: (1) value accounting for setting the right priorities, (2) managerial and technical systems installation and upgrade, which is huge, and (3) change process management. All three tool-sets got to be very good in this past decade, but at macro level their experts in each try to push their partial solutions while shrugging the other two off (and the economists!).

Apple shows what can happen when all of the tool-sets are managed just right, and Bank of America shows what happens when all of the tool-sets are managed totally wrong. The result? You can see it here in this two-year stock chart. (Click it for larger image.) Apple is blue, Bank of America is green, and red is the dismal US stockmarket average (zero growth in the past TWELVE years).


Now Bank of America is worth 1/5 of what it was 3-4 years ago, while Apple’s value is higher than all the US banking sector put together!! Most governments, industries, cities and corporations are sticking with the Bank of America model and tending to throw zillions at that.

All Europe really needs is a few knowhow-based Apple-type growth streaks in each country, and they will be well on their way. Ask Chami above who posts from India and is seeing such things happen there before his very eyes.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 11/14/11 at 10:24 PM | #

Perhaps today’s most interesting commentary on Berlusconi and his real legacy of just about zero achievements.  (same link as under the post below)

Why the justice system is (with the President) Italy’s most respected institution and why we incline strongly to support it and dont like it meddled with.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 11/14/11 at 11:11 PM | #

I found this astrological analysis of Italy’s future written by astrologer Liz Greene in 1999. The period she covers runs from 1999 to 2009, and covers very well, what might have been.

“The republic of Italy was born in 1946 under the versatile, communicative sign of Gemini. Pluto, as it moves through Sagittarius, presents major challenges to this country’s political, financial, and social structures, offering the possibility of a total transformation of outlook with greater stability and the fulfilment of many cherished social ideals. However, it would seem that this potential, because of Pluto’s delving quality, can only be achieved if there is greater transparency and openness on the part of both government and people.

Italy’s birth chart reflects the double-edged gift of an intense and enormously creative individuality coupled with a propensity to shroud many things from prying eyes. It is this inclination toward secrecy, reflected in many areas of Italian life and government, which may be challenged by Pluto, and old sores and grievances inherited from the past may need to be brought into the open and re-evaluated so that the innate optimism, idealism and generosity expressed by the fine aspect between the Sun and Jupiter in this birth chart can be anchored in positive changes which benefit everyone.

Uranus, also a harbinger of change and progress, is crossing the area of Italy’s chart which reflects its past, and this too suggests that many issues - both religious and social - need to be finally confronted and transformed. Italy’s Scorpio Moon, hidden away in the area of the chart concerned with ancestral inheritance, suggests that old wounds linger for a long time, and so does the people’s mistrust of authority, whether religious or political.

The cleansing and inspirational energies of both Pluto and Uranus could provide the possibility for the healing of these wounds.

Whether or not you are personally in sympathy with the kinds of changes now on the horizon, this is one of the countries most powerfully affected by important planetary movements in the next decade, and the potential for positive change and the expression of each individual citizen’s creative gifts is enormous”

~Liz Greene, 1999

I looked at the chart as well, and the following is my own interpretation. It does look like the next two years will lead to a battle between the old and the new Italy. Yes, the potential for positive change is enormous, but so, too, will the resistance to change. Interesting, that the planet Saturn, which represents restriction, became exact this November 9-10, when the crisis peaked. It will be exact again from late May to August 2012, when there will be another crisis, change, elections or revolution. I will write in more detail in my own blog shortly.

I hope the Hellman court’s decision of October 3 represented the old Italy, and next year, justice for Meredith Kercher comes from the new.

Posted by Ergon on 11/15/11 at 03:26 AM | #

I am aware that it is always easy to criticize any action afterwards; Steve Jobs was asked to leave Apple.  Steve worked like a dictator (excuse me!) but the company succeeded.  If he failed, all the fingers would be pointed at him. 

A country like Italy will never be able to work like Apple and there are serious constraints on the way.  In a democracy, we have to please every one, knowing very well that it is not in the best interests of the country.

First thing the experts will tell that the markets must be unrestrained (they are self-correcting, they say) and labor laws must be amended, as if the country is only for the rich and the poor have no share of it and conditions must get worse before it can get better. I do not buy this theory.

A good and committed leadership can still do wonders even in bad times and now they are needed most.  Also remember that Mr B never worked alone and he won elections and he ran Italy for a long time.  Changing Mr B is only a small part of the job and the new leadership must realize this to be effective.

Italy has been the most kind host to a large number of immigrants and though they remain relatively poor, they are to be used effectively for the new change.  They are hard working, willing to learn and have a dream.

I have full sympathy for Guede.  Italy failed him.  He need not have become a criminal and he had the opportunity to stop a crime at the beginning.

Posted by chami on 11/15/11 at 05:47 AM | #

Charmi what i have read about Rudy Guede is that he has had many wonderful opportunities in life and threw them away. He was taken into a very wealthy Perugia family who liked him and believed that he could be a great sportsman. These people lived very well and shared what they had with him. He was practically adopted by them.

He did not appreciate what a wonderful opportunity it was to be treated very well by this family and have everything he wanted.

What i have read is he went off the rails was lazy would not work or follow his sport he resorted to lying stealing and experimenting with drugs instead. I think they threw him out in the end.

You just cant help some people and he is a very good example of this. He sunk lower and lower and eventually attracted the likes of Amanda Knox and Raffaelle Solecitto into his life and look where all that behaviour has led him.

Hes ruined and so are they and their families and anyone who comes in contact with them.

Posted by mason2 on 11/15/11 at 09:31 AM | #

Hi mason2. Guede’s life was well researched by the writers of Darkness Descending, which was the first major book to come out on the case. Their findings dont quite tally with the image you summarize above which is the one propagated and fictitiously expanded upon by the Knox campaign. Take a look:

That description of Guede’s life has been out for two years now and we have not yet encountered any hard proof that it is inaccurate. In a sense he was adopted by the basketball-playing son, who remained loyal to him, rather than by the father, who seems to have not liked him very much ever.

Guede could be aggressive and uinpleasant for sure, but he had no police record when Meredith was attacked, and the one “witness” who claimed Guede broke in and threatened him with a knife was given a very hard time by Judge Micheli who suspected he had been set up to claim that.

Guede had only been back in Perugia for a short time after his restaurant job up north collapsed, and there was not really the time or the need for a major crime wave. His drug dealing if there was such must have fitted into a very small time-frame.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 11/15/11 at 01:15 PM | #

Hi Chami. On Steve Jobs, the point hammered home in the various biographies that have been airing since his death is that after initial technical and marketing flair he then got the business model and product mix wrong that was appropriate to an expanding company. Rightly he was pushed into the wilderness.

When he came back to Apple (which was nearly bankrupt) a decade later, he had really learned a lot, and he then created a second and much larger value streak (graph above) by getting the business model right (very nimble and no longer a small clone of Microsoft) and the product mix right (moving away from simply computing to IPod and IPhones).

On Italy, the suggestion was not that Italy as a whole needs to behave like Apple. The real need is that the infrastructure support levels (ministries and departments, research and training institutes, extension services) provide in particular the right facilitating knowhow.

The knowhow is those three toolsets that I mentioned above, and one only has to go back a decade and find key elements that were absent or flat-out wrong (see Harvard’s Clayton Christensen). 

Value based accounting is still coming in, and not widely understood correctly. The perception that enterprises are the sum of their many, many systems hit home hard in the US only when Japan showed the way with its TQM (Kaizen). And process managers often motivate their audiences and boost morale, but almost never follow all the steps through to arriving at another Apple.

Harvard’s Michael Porter (The Competitive Advantage Of Nations) described Italy’s world-beating networks of enterprises and support infrastructure, mostly up north, which has created value streak after value streak in the areas of car making, fashion goods, and ceramics.

We profiled a Perugia businessman who recently created a value streak in fashion goods which, though much smaller than Steve Jobs’s and despite Italy’s generally unhelpful infrastructure, showed how it can be done.

Writ large, the propagating and facilitating of his model via a more supportive infrastructure would give Italy a good future. As you know, value is a forward looking indicator, and if Mario Monti explains this as the way Italy needs to go, then Italy’s value and growth will rise very far, very fast.

I think the Euro was maybe a mistake because localized currencies also are a major indicator and driver of value. The US has to transfer hundreds of billions of dollars of government revenue annually from high-value-creating areas like New York and California toward the struggling central areas, because all of the areas are stuck with the one currency.

Not dis-similarly with Germany and Greece.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 11/15/11 at 01:58 PM | #

This is a great site that you and the team have set up here ,Peter.

Regarding Guede, were the items found in his bag (gold watch and computer) after he was questioned by the police for staying overnight inside a school, proof that he must have committed another robbery where these same items were reported stolen?

Are your thoughts that Guede got both these items from whoever else actually stole them?

Possibly more pro-Knox garbage , but didn’t one of his formers neighbours (of his wealthy adopted parents) have strong suspicions that he acted as though he might have committed some arson at her residence?

Posted by rb on 11/15/11 at 06:54 PM | #

Hi rb. Strong suspicion? That is precisely the kind of weak claim that Judge Micheli threw out as unfounded. No charges, criminal or civil, were brought against Guede for the item or items he may have had on him in Milan so nothing hard there either.

And there were no traces of Guede either in Meredith’s bathroom where mixed DNA was found or in Filomena’s bedroom. Even the defences didnt argue for the discredited lone wolf.theory - instead they had witnesses suggesting quite the opposite.

The attempts to put RS and AK on one plane and Guede on quite another don’t really fly. All three were having unsavory dealings, and other people were tending to avoid all three of them. RS and Ak both had prior records and the evidence that they were drug users is stronger than the evidence that Guede was a dealer.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 11/15/11 at 10:52 PM | #

Rudy struck me as someone who was kind of depressed and hence the drifting and the lying and lack of motivation.  Abandoned as a child more or less, and without a strong family life, he was not even liked much by the rich father who adopted him.  No serious girlfriends were ever mentioned.  Talk about a groundless existence which undoubtedly scarred him.  Therefore if we talk about not using his so-called opportunities, one must remember he never fit into the rich family well, he was taken away from his previous neighborhood and friendships and transported into a lifestyle which he could not relate to.  He even could have had learning disabilities.  He certainly does not seem all that bright or maybe that was the drug use.  I still haven’t seen any proof that he was a drug seller as many claim.  Was he ever arrested for that?  I do not see him as a violent person but who knows under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Posted by believing on 11/15/11 at 11:47 PM | #


As regards the other parts of your question, the computer and a phone were traced back to the Brocchi and Palazzoli law firm which had been burgled on 13-14 October 2007. He said he bought them at the Milan train station, and he subsequently went back to see Brocchi to apologize for having bought the stolen goods. He was never charged with the Brocchi burglary, and reasonable people can disagree about whether Guede’s story is credible.

The Mara Madu Diaz burglary/fire that Burleigh dredged up from 23 October was never connected to Guede. Burleigh worked hard in her book to portray Guede as a feral animal and one-man crime spree, so when she’s the source, watch out.

Posted by brmull on 11/15/11 at 11:49 PM | #


I used to think Rudy wasn’t too bright, but after reading his diaries and studying his alibi I’m convinced of the opposite. Lack of intelligence and inability to apply oneself are separate issues, the latter being not uncommon in young men and women.

Posted by brmull on 11/15/11 at 11:57 PM | #

Points taken! I will now be more careful,brmull when Burleigh is the source for anything.

I agree with you that it is far more logical to consider the animal-porn loving, Manga reading,knife collecting Sollecito and his highly disturbed girlfriend as the likely main perpetrators.

However, there was a long kitchen knife found in Guede’s bag also.
This is far less then the the numerous pieces of circumstantial evidence against RS/AK but is still pretty worrying for a 19 year old guy to have- at least Sollecito has the excuse of being from the country-side and using them for his ownership of several knives.

Posted by rb on 11/16/11 at 03:24 PM | #

Yes the knife found previously with Rudy bothers me too, and seems uncharacteristic.  Why would he need that to sleep in a nursery school?  I’m also now convinced he isn’t as stupid as I had originally thought.  However either desperate for money or lacking in moral grounding due to his upbringing.  Sounds like his own father beat him a few times, from his diary.  I mean the real father, not the adopting father.  He was without a job or source of funds in the weeks before the murder, and yet seemed to have a few shillings together to continue going to the pubs and dance places.  The apology to Brocchi was interesting, I didn’t know about that, and seems like in character for him and not like something a future rapist/murderer would do.  His diary does not show him to be without friends, he seems to have gone around with quite a lot of men and women friends.

Someone asked why we are all so intrigued by this case.  I think it is because it is truly very puzzling in many respects.  As well everyone would like for Meredith’s family to have justice.  Nothing will bring her back but if someone is out there free who is capable of this kind of action, that person(s) needs to be locked up.

Posted by believing on 11/19/11 at 05:32 AM | #

The knife found in Guede’s rucksack at the Milan nursery school came from the school’s own kitchen(see for example Follain, page 174). Who knows what he had in mind for it, but he didn’t harm the owner of the school who discovered him, nor did he try to escape. If I had to guess, I’d say the knife was intended for his own safety.

Posted by brmull on 11/19/11 at 12:11 PM | #

Continuing my interest in Meredith’s socks. Below is a picture of Meredith’s bear-holding-a-heart socks (warning: shows probable bloodstains, may need to be a PMF member to view).

From everything we know about how the murder occurred, Meredith was not on her feet for any significant time after she was wounded.

So the stains on the bottoms of these socks are either: (1) running of the red dye; (2) someone walking around in Meredith’s socks on a floor that was lightly covered in blood. Unfortunately I don’t know if the socks were tested for blood, but (2) seems much more likely.

I’m trying to picture Rudy Guede wearing those socks, and I’m just not seeing it. But I do know of one no-sense-of-decency person who might wear the socks of the woman she’d just killed.

Posted by brmull on 11/19/11 at 12:31 PM | #

Thanks for your posts ,brmull, Very interesting.  Unfortunately you are guilty of ” hypothesizing” - i.e. using your brain- so these type of thoughts don’t make it into the mind of a Hellman jury or any of the childlike British and American televised media reporter’s minds.

Posted by rb on 11/22/11 at 12:24 AM | #


Thanks. If the Hellmann court can’t hypothesize I wish at least they’d be bothered by things like Guede’s bloody footprints appearing, disappearing, and then reappearing without explanation at the crime scene. In this universe if you walk through a puddle you leave wet footprints behind until they gradually disappear. If there was no puddle and no clean-up, Guede must have been in some sort of parallel universe where these things are possible.

Posted by brmull on 11/22/11 at 03:03 AM | #

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