The most disturbing facts surrounding this media circus however, have seemed to pass the media by (not to mention the EU & World Bank for that matter). That the government has been at a standstill, aside from the internal cat fights, for seven months, while Berlusconi & pals entertain new ways to get him off the hook, instead of trying to resolve Italy's stagnant growth, brain drain & myriad problems. Today's ace up their sleeve? Introducing a law to fine 100,000 euro anyone issuing an order for telephone interceptions (read: judges - which is what tripped him up in the first place), if there is no ultimate proof of wrongdoing (the chicks aren't chirping, so, it will get him off in the second place).
Another issue much ignored by the anglo press is, of course, that paying for escorts is not illegal. It's the girl's age and playing the 'get out of jail free' card that may cost him Park Place. Every day I see policemen picking up prostitutes to keep them off the streets - but, it's hard to uphold that law when your PM seems to be getting their phone numbers and inviting them to his villa. Only the church seems to be talking about decorum and how one should assume a more 'statesmanlike conduct' (and we know how good they are at saving face in the face of scandal). Let's face it. If any of us carried on like this in our jobs, except for Hef, we'd be fired.
But, my biggest beef is none of this. I wonder, while Italy has income tax revenues too low to speak of, State spending above their GDP, no money to pay their teachers, remove their garbage, build nursery schools, maintain the streets, rebuild Aquila, etc. etc., why Miss Minetti, the 25 yr. old ex-dental hygienist cum City Councilwoman (and, allegedly, the Madam of the mansion), and who, I am certain, is, according to Berlusconi, "a splendid person, intelligent and educated,"
makes as a fledgling City Councilwoman in Milan, more than Barack Obama.
Her pay? 12.555 euro per month (times 14 months' pay and including about 8 weeks vacation - more even, than George W. Bush). This comes out at today's (lower) exchange rate to $245,155/yr. - and I believe that's after taxes. Multiply this by their thousands of city council people and...Work in the EU? The pay is over 50% more than that. We've already seen the picture play out on this legalized graft -- it's called Greece. This is the real scandal. Of course, one could also state that the escorts don't make out so badly either.
What did P.J. O'Rourke call it? Parliament of Whores -- and that was the US Government.