Alexis Tsipras’s Conquest of Greece

My profile of the Greek radical leftist Alexis Tsipras was the European cover of Bloomberg Businessweek.

The headquarters of the Greek political party that could bring down the European economy lies in a rundown neighborhood in central Athens. Not far away in one direction, a municipal soup kitchen feeds the city’s rising number of poor. Around another corner, a medical charity caters to illegal immigrants and the newly uninsured. The décor inside party headquarters is similarly modest.

Neon tubes shine down on worn blue linoleum. The walls are streaked with age. The only room in the building with a fresh coat of paint is the office of the party’s leader, Alexis Tsipras, the 37-year-old radical leftist who has campaigned on renegotiating Greece’s debt deal. “Sometimes we have television cameras in there,” says Maria Kalyviotou, one of the chain-smoking young volunteers who man the party’s media operations. “That’s why we painted that room.”

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In Athens, Fear, Loathing, and Plenty of Parking

Bloomberg Businessweek just published my short take on the mood in Athens.

In Greece, the lighting of the Olympic torch is normally a moment in the sun, a reminder of the country’s contributions to Western civilization. As the torch began its journey from Athens to London, this year’s host city, dark rain clouds cast a pall over the proceedings. Many Greeks no doubt watched the torch’s departure and wondered if they shouldn’t follow.

Even when the sun breaks through in Athens these days, it shines on sparsely attended cafés, on beggars lying on sidewalks, and on a tourism industry that’s all but collapsed. So many locals have traded in their cars for bikes that it’s disturbingly easy to find a parking space. One in five Greeks is looking in vain for a job; among the young, it’s one in two. The failure of Greek political parties to form a government after the May 6 elections has deepened the gloom. “It’s like being on a ship in the middle of a storm,” says Giorgia, a 29-year-old civil servant who asked to be identified only by her first name to avoid trouble at work, “and there’s no captain.”

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Fiddling While Rome Burns

Time has just published my essay on Italy’s dysfunctional political scene.

It says something about Italian politics that the most potent political figure to enter the arena since scandal-ridden former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is a frizzy-haired bombastic comedian named Beppe Grillo, best known for organizing nationwide protests against government corruption called “Go F Yourself” days. And what it says is this: that as a desire for change sweeps the European electorate, Italians are feeling starved for choice. Indeed, with the exception of Grillo, Italy doesn’t have a single national leader who wasn’t already in politics in 1994, the year Berlusconi first came to power

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