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An italian story September 28, 2007

Posted by dorigo in humor, news, science.

I feel sorry to have to prefer posting on italian politics than on particle physics as I originally planned today, but the occasion is too juicy. What I read on the newspaper Repubblica today shows quite clearly just how “normal” the practice of abuse of office is in my country.

Marzio Strassoldo (see picure, right), a politician elected president of the province of Udine by Forza Italia (Berlusconi’s party) at the last administrative elections, has been sued by Italo Tavoschi, former vice-mayor of Udine, for breach of contract. The contract had been signed by the two politicians 50 days before the elections, on February 2006. It reads as follows (freely translated from italian by yours truly):

Italo Tavoschi vows to support prof. Strassoldo to the next provincial elections, and he does so by joining a list headed by Strassoldo, by running for election in one or more counties, or in other counties of the territory, at discretion of the president. President Strassoldo promises to offer to Italo Tavoschi, for his personal involvement in the campaign, in case he is elected and thus confirmed as president of the Province of Udine, an administrative mandate, for a minimum duration of three years […]. Doct. Tavoschi will be granted a gross salary of euro 70,000.00, with retirement contributions paid separately by the Provincia. […] Signed, Mario Strassoldo and Italo Tavoschi.

What that means is that Tavoschi used his visibility as a political figure in Udine to “sell” the 420 votes he obtained at the elections to Strassoldo, who was thus re-elected president of the province of Udine. In exchange, he was to be granted a very sweet job – one of those abounding in our sorry country, where you do nothing but collect a paycheck at the end of the month -paid by taxpayers, of course. 70,000 a year is about three times what a researcher makes, to give you a normalization point.

The fact that these two rascals had no shame of signing their names under such a blatantly immoral agreement, and that one of them even had no shame in using the paper to sue the other and thus making it public, speaks volumes on the way they perceive the normality of unlawful practices in public office.

In 1950 Achille Lauro (a shipowner, whose name is more famous for being the one of the ship where Leon Klinghofer was killed by arab terrorists in 1985) offered right shoes to people in Neaples before elections, with the promise of providing the matching left one in case of his victory. It seems things have not changed for good in Italy during these 57 years: at least, Lauro’s shoes were paid with his own money.  Strassoldo’s offer means he felt no guilt in promising to waste 210,000 euros of public funds for a small help in getting elected.

The funny thing is the ending: Tavoschi is suing Strassoldo claiming he spent lots of private funds to sustain his electoral campaign, and that he even remained unemployed for several months after the elections in order to be able to accept a mandate which he was never offered. One cannot help feeling for him: he is the real loser in this play. 

Oh, and there’s even a funnier detail: Strassoldo’s campaign was underlined by a sentence which aptly pictures him – kudos for having chosen it appropriately:

The consistency of always doing the region’s interests”  (it: “La coerenza nel fare sempre gli interessi del Friuli”).

Berlusconi did teach the guy well indeed! See his site: www.marziostrassoldo.it .



1. Tripitaka - September 28, 2007

That’s pretty spectacular corruption.. how is the Italian economy these days with that sort of s*** going on?

2. dorigo - September 28, 2007

Hi Tripitaka,

actually, the economy is not doing very well as far as growth is concerned – but that parameter is not too different from the rest of Euroland.

There are two good signals though: one is that there is a strong war to tax evasion going on – which has been paying dividends – for the first time in many, many years. I myself had to withstand a full review of my tax declaration and the situation of all my possessions. They went as far as asking me how I had paid for a $35000 car back in 2003… Needless to say I was extremely happy to have to answer these questions.

The second is that the state revenues from taxes is also increasing strongly, a sign that people have gotten the message!

If the center-left government stays in charge for a few more years, I think these changes will stabilize. Otherwise, people will go back to evading… Berlusconi and Bossi have often been adamant in declaring it is right to evade taxes if these are too high. Their message is “vote for us, we will defend illegality”.


3. jeff - September 28, 2007

If the THIS center-left government stays in charge for a few more years???? Want to place a bet? Like the one on the Higgs?

4. dorigo - September 28, 2007

Hi Jeff,

no, I also think it will not last long. Probably it will not last until its normal expiration in 2011, but it is also quite possible it will fall well before then. However, make no mistake: the right does not want elections now either, despite the polls. They need to consolidate first, and they have not reached an agreement on leadership yet.


5. carlbrannen - September 28, 2007

Okay, this was impressive. Maybe trading the Italian government with the US one wouldn’t be an improvement after all, even if the current US leader is a complete idiot. Maybe it was a good thing that Franklin got nukes instead of Benito or Adolf.

From your recent post on Bush, one thing that comes to mind is that while foreigners know a lot about US foreign policy, they do not seem to appreciate that the US president wins or loses elections almost entirely based on politics having to with domestic concerns of the US. The post of President has mostly to do with what is going on inside the US, (especially economically) not what is going on outside.

The US is quite insular in this way. It is a very big country. The great size, in a physical view means that its internal energies dominate its surface or external energies. Foreign affairs, like foreign languages, are less important here, relative to how important they are for countries which are barely long enough to organize a marathon.

And the two parties are more similar in their foreign policy than most foreigners realize, so the political choices available to the citizens here are distinguished mostly by their decisions on things like schools, taxes, laws, environment, gay marriage, etc., than by foreign affairs.

6. jeff - September 29, 2007

Carl Brannen: You say “Maybe it was a good thing that Franklin got nukes instead of Benito or Adolf.” You are of course joking, pretending to be not entirely certain that is was a good thing. But beware that there are a lot of relativists out there that really do think that even your “maybe” is questionable.

7. carlbrannen - September 29, 2007

Actually, Franklin didn’t get nukes, it was that failed haberdasher, what’s his name, who got them, and used them.

8. Vera - October 6, 2007

I’m afraid this things happen only too often here, and I’m even more impressed by the fact that I live between Venice and Udine, and I’m only a few kilometers distant by the province of Udine. When I read such things I can’t hel but get angry, it’s disgusting.
As for the government… I don’t know if it’ll last until the end, but, as it was said, I don’t believe the right wants elections now, because the principal chiefs of the right, Berlusconi, Fini, Cesa and Bossi are in strong disagreement in this last days. As for the economy, it’s not very good, but better than the previous year. I personally think our minister of Economy, Padoa Schioppa, is smart enough for his place. I sincerely hope the government will last at least enough to make economical laws and to continue the war against the taxes’ evaders.

9. dorigo - October 6, 2007

Hi Vera,

yes, italian politics is often disgusting, and the guy here is really no exception!
I agree with you: the right does not want elections now. One thing to note is that the new democratic party might also want elections to be not too far in the future, though: otherwise it might get there “overcooked”. We’ll see what happens.


10. Ethical aspects of professional conference-going « A Quantum Diaries Survivor - October 8, 2007

[…] rather be among those who have the right to complain about it. You might have read my rants about immoral behavior of politicians in this blog in the past: well, am I sure I had the right to cast those stones […]

11. federico - October 29, 2007

Just a few cents on the Strassoldo story: after the fact that Tommaso already quite clearly explained strangely enough this sir decided to resign his position as “president of the province”. Knowing the italian political class I was surprised by the fact I must sincerely say.
But not for long I was surprised! After a few weeks he retired his resignation claiming that the action would give the province in hands of the left wing (actually of the left wing region). This put into shame even his fellow party friends, but at the moment everything is in practice still the same as it was before the scandal. Of course there is a big indecision on what to do, but of course how could you leave a power-money position like that?
What a story… Well I wouldn’t be surprised if he would just continue keeping his position and if I would see him back at next elections. I’d even be ready to see an upgrade to a senate seat or so… 🙂

Ah just for the note for people not living in Udine/Friuli: this Strassoldo guy was also the rector of the University of Udine in the 1992-2001 period.

Oh how I’m ashamed to live in Udine… and I even have a master degree at University of Udine! At least I got it in 2003 😉

Such a nice place, I assure you, but it’s still part of Italy and its Italian style…


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