05/23/2011

DSK, masculinity and flights

The weekend press reported widely on the DSK affair, plus other men linked to criminal investigations. Airline flights can be a common denominator.


The main subject of the weekend was, of course, DSK (Dominique Strauss-Kahn) being removed from the first class cabin of an Air France flight, arrested and kept in prison for several days before being released on bail. The immediate reactions in France, the USA and elsewhere illustrate our tendency to want to believe in public figures of our own country. Although the facts of the case are far from being established, a majority of french people apparently thought that DSK was innocent (a plot of the USA, Sarko or someone else!), whilst the american public saw DSK as a powerful european man, with a reputation as a serial seductor, being exposed after long being protected by the press in France. To me, this is an example of "My country, right or wrong"! Note that this quotation continues with "if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right".

The UK also had its own reports of powerful men being involved in scandalous behaviour. Whilst some of them continue to be shielded by the super-injunctions, seemingly given to wealthy people wishing to protect details of what they consider as their private life, two news items can be reported on in this blog, the common link being air travel. One is a politician, the other a top lawyer, and since neither profession is currently held in high esteem by the UK public, it is doubtful whether many people in Britain feel sorry for either of them.

The politician is Chris Huhne, member of the Liberal Democrat party and currently the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (a department growing in importance since the reactor meltdown in Japan). His troubles, however, date back to 2003, at which time he was a member of the European Parliament and making frequent trips to and from Strasbourg. It is alleged that when his car was photographed by a speed camera, he wrote that his wife was actually driving the car (and would thus get a 3 point offence recorded on her driving licence).

Where things started to go pear-shaped was probably when he obtained a "quickie" divorce from his wife after his affair with a bisexual former assistant. His ex-wife then said that she was not responsible for the driving incident, having been nowhere near where the offence was committed. However, the 3-point penalty does appear on her driving licence. Furthermore, the airline Ryanair, which he normally used to return from Strasbourg to London Stansted airport, has been able to locate the passenger list for that day. Things thus begin to look rather black for Chris Huhne: all we need now is a statement that he has the full backing of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues and we will know that he is doomed.

The case of the lawyer is somewhat different, apparently involving financial affairs but not sexual affairs. Christopher Grierson (unlike Huhne, his christian name is not shortened!) is described as a top lawyer having acted for royalty, the super-rich and some British victims of Bernie Madofs ponzi fraud scheme. His career came to an abrupt end when his employer, the firm Hogan Lovells, discovered that he had defrauded them of around £1000 per day over the last four years.

How did he do it? Being someone who flew very often, he simply booked and paid for flights (certainly not economy class or low-cost airlines), claiming the expenses from his firm's business account. He then cancelled the flights and obtained cash refunds from the airlines ("forgetting" to pass this on to his employer). When found out, it appeared that his colleagues were astounded, saying that he did not need to do this because "he was as rich as Croesus".

The common denominator to these affairs, and to many others, is that some men can never seem satisfied with what they have got, but always want more. Somehow, they appear to be convinced that normal rules of behaviour do not apply to them. It is arguable that this is for the most part a masculine trait (a lust for a combination of power, money and sex). A quotation from Christine Lagarde, who could be the person to replace DSK (she has one obvious advantage!) is appropriate: she said

"I honestly believe that the majority of women in such positions approach power in a slightly different manner. Women inject less libido and less testosterone into the equation. It helps in the sense that we don't necessarily project our own egos into cutting a deal".

Having, on the Swiss radio this morning, heard the four female members of the Swiss Federal Council rated more highly than their three male colleagues, maybe the Swiss are ahead of the rest of Europe as regards politics. All that remains now is to repeat this achievement in other branches of life.

More top bankers should be female!

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