AUSTERITY MEANS fewer champagne corks and lower cost Christmas toys in many parts of the European Union this December. It's front page news on the Financial Times this weekend and part of my Audioboo.
There is a moroseness, "a sadness among the French population at the moment," says Paul-Francois Vranken, chief executive of Vranken Pommery Monopole.  The gloom has deepened during the past two weeks with Irish newspapers watching the open spat between the French socialist government and prominent French citizens. Faced with paying 75% of their earnings over to the State as taxes, a number of well-known Frenchmen are handing in their passports and setting up residency in lower tax regimes such as Belgium and England. And although socialists in Ireland are watching this happen, they continue leading a crusade to squeeze upper income earners through a wealth tax or a higher margin on earnings above EUR 100,000. This would damage wealth creation if implemented as a government policy.YouTube clip below the break. I'm thinking about techies like Loic Le Meur and wondering how all this socialism might affect their entrepeneurial spirit. And for the record, I've been a regular FT reader for a decade.
Back in the day when I had a champagne budget, I also had engraved invitations to gentlemen's clubs in London. I miss those old buildings with their war trophies, club ties, smoking rooms and quiet corners. 
Right before I started writing this blog post, I scrolled through all sorts of ideas suggested by Amazon to make my Christmas shopping easier. I can get apps like Amazon Mobile, Amazon Price Check, Amazon Windowshop and Amazon Student--all designed to help reduce the number of steps I take on the Irish High Street. Retailers are fighting back. "Increasingly, savvy bricks and mortar retailers talk about shopping in terms of 'theatre'--an entertainment that coaxes people to abandon online shopping, or thrift, and venture out to the high street to spend." 
On my iTouch, I see ticker tape of stock prices. Everything is pointed south. That's probably because there's no agreement on how the United States can avoid its fiscal cliff. 
There's probably going to be no major change in US gun laws either, if soundings by the FT are correct.  
And finally, it's good to see finishing schools emerging in China. Cutlery is complex. I wish more of my friends knew how to wipe their mouths wihout snorting in their napkins. I wish cousins knew how to peel oranges without spraying me and without touching it with their fingers. And I really wish my new-found Irish friends wouldn't turn the sharp edges of their knives towards me while eating. I learned all those things in a series of evening sessions arranged in Washington by the State Department.
1. Scheherazade Daneshkhu -- "Champagne stops flowing and toy sales suffer as French lose their joie de vivre" on the front page of the Financial Times, December 23, 2012.
2. Reuters -- "Jobs estate in the dock over yacht" on the front page of the Financial Times, December 23, 2012.
3. James Pickford -- "Gentlemen's clubs raise a glass to quiet success" in the Financial Times, December 23, 2012.
4. Chris Tighe -- "Retailers fight online trend with fairy lights" in the Financial Times, December 23, 2012.
5. Richard McGregor -- "Boehner puts onus back on Obama as tax plan founders" in the Financial Times, December 23, 2012.
6. Anna Fifield -- "School shield programme set up by pro-gun lobby group" in the Financial Times, December 23, 2012.
7. Christopher Caldwell -- "It's US voters, not just the gun lobby, who love weapons" in the Financial Times, December 23, 2012.
8. Patti Waldmeir -- "School of etiquette plots new cultural revolution" in the Financial Times, December 23, 2012.
Bernie Goldbach saves news items.