"There must be something beyond slaughter and barbarism to support the existence of mankind and we must all help search for it."
—Carlos Fuentes (1928-2012), in his last Twitter message sent March 19, 2012.
(Swans - May 21, 2012) In 1999, Ronald Perelman, the chairman of Revlon, battled his former wife Patricia Duff in court for the alimony she wanted for herself and their child -- I wrote about it in "Let 'em Eat Cake (Part III)," October 24, 1999. I recall she wanted at least $30,000 a month to take care of the child. Apparently, they settled for "only" $12,000. Time goes by. We are in 2012. The former top Canadian model Linda Evangelista has been asking $46,000 a month to take care of the child she had with the French magnate François-Henri Pinault. They had a short, 4-month liaison. He says that it was only a seven-day affair. But, whatever, a little Augustin came out of the model's belly. Little Augustin, it is said, requires a car, a chauffeur, a body guard, a nanny 24/7, an education in a private school, and I suppose a Rolex and a Patek Philippe when he turns 10. They'll settle for $15 or $20,000.
Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson resigned from his position after it was discovered that he had lied and embellished his CV -- something rather current and recurrent in our times. He did not get any severance pay, but was allowed to keep the cash he was awarded when he joined the company four months ago. He netted about $12 million in cash for about 130 days on the job -- or about $95,000 a day.
I'm not sure why I relate these trivial matters. Maybe I'm thinking of the people, the masses in Greece, Spain, and elsewhere, that are falling into misery, or the billion people who live with less than $2 a day with no access to sanitation or potable water. Maybe. I don't know. I look at our former "leaders" who were supposed to work for justice, equality, and fraternity. I wonder what these notions mean in their minds. I recall writing about the former US presidents' cost to the state. I wrote about it in my Blips #110. It read:
Does anyone have any knowledge of the cost borne by the taxpayers for benefits paid to these high-valued retirees? The Internet Public Library (IPL2) has some general information on the topic. The Congressional Research Service has a 2008 document detailing the "Federal Pension and Retirement Benefits" of former presidents (PDF). The FY2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act allocated $2,478,000 to the trinity, of which Clinton got $1,162,000, Bush Sr. $786,000, and Carter $518,000. They are all multimillionaires. Does Bill Clinton need an 8,300-square-foot Harlem office? How often does Mr. Bush visit his 4,600-square-foot office in Houston or Carter his 4,200-square-foot one in Atlanta? Do we have to foot the $79,000 telephone bill of Mr. Clinton? They are accorded more perks called "related benefits" -- state funeral, medical expenses, presidential libraries maintenance, and Secret Service protection whose costs "are not publicly disclosed... for reasons of security."
This is not an American phenomenon per se, however. Take Nicolas Sarkozy, the recently ousted president of France. Mr. Sarkozy, age 57, will receive a €6,000 monthly pension for life, which will be indexed on inflation. As a former president he is entitled to be a member -- for life -- of the French Constitutional Council. He'll get a modest stipend of €11,500 per month, also indexed on inflation. He is also going to receive a monthly €4,000 pension as a former parliament representative and mayor of Neuilly. He too, like his American counterparts, will get "related benefits" to compensate for the duress he experienced during his presidential functions -- an undisclosed amount left to the discretion of the government. Furthermore, he is getting a free office. He's already chosen it, at 77 rue de Miromesnil, close to the Elysee Palace -- 323 square meters (3,477 square feet) with 10 rooms, a kitchen, and a bathroom paid by the state for about €15,000 a month (indexed on inflation). He also gets a staff of seven assistants paid by the state, a car with two chauffeurs, and two security guards. He will have a free pass to travel in business class on Air France airlines or in first class by train. When he travels to other countries, he will be lodged gratis pro deo by the local French embassy or consulate. It is estimated -- though I cannot confirm the estimate -- that Mr. Sarkozy will cost €1.5 million a year to the French state (and do not forget the indexation on inflation).
Again, do not ask me the reason I am relating these tidbits of no interest. Justice, equality, fraternity are such quaint notions. Why bother? After all, I have to go and fix the engine of my little tractor that just died on me and that of our 1986 truck that refuses to start, or go to take care of another fallen tree. I'm sure all these great people will make things happen.
I'll leave you with a sad note. One of the greatest novelists of the 20th century died. Carlos Fuentes was 83. Anyone who's read Terra Nostra knows what I am talking about -- an extraordinary novelist. But he was much more than a writer. Fuentes was a humanist, a defender of all the values that we cherish in life: justice, equality, fraternity. He now joins Pablo Neruda in the Pantheon of glory. Darn, do I hate to see them depart...
. . . . .
C'est la vie...
And so it goes...
La vie, friends, is a cheap commodity, but worth maintaining when one can.the life line won't hurt you much, but it'll make a heck of a difference for Swans.
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