This is an open-ended blog ranging from news about my latest gigs and publications
to ruminations about politics, world affairs, culture and whatever piques my interest—or ire.

Monday, July 5, 2010


French President Nicolas Sarkozy is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Under pressure to dismiss Labor Minister Eric Woerth, who is ensnared in a double conflict of interest (see following post), Sarkozy yesterday threw some ballast overboard by firing two second-echelon cabinet members: Secretary for Cooperation Alain Joyandet and Secretary for the Paris Region Christian Blanc.
Both men had sinned by wasting taxpayer money at a time when the government is calling for austerity and belt tightening. Joyandet had hired a private jet to attend a conference in Haiti at a cost of some $150,000, while Blanc spent $15,000 of state money on Havana cigars. Revelations about the two men's profligate ways caused a public furor and led Sarkozy to announce a draconian slash in his cabinet members' perks and operating budgets. (The austerity apparently does not apply to Sarkozy himself, who has seen his own salary increase by 150% and has recently ordered a brand new presidential plane to compete with Air Force One. Price: more than $200 million.)
Sarkozy (current approval rating: around 30%) is gambling that the dismissals and cutbacks will deflate public indignation and political opposition over the Woerth-Bettencourt scandal (see blow). But in a week in which it was revealed that Liliane Bettencourt, France's richest woman, received a $40 million tax rebate while Woerth was Budget Minister, it seems doubtful that Sarkozy's gambit will work.
Stay tuned.

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