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Monsieur Hollande’s Opus?

According to The Guardian, the socialist, François Hollande, appears to be in the process of unseating Nicolas Sarkozy. The results have been known since 7:00pm local time and should be announced any minute now. You can follow the election updates at The Guardian site here.

My in-house translator just woke up from her post SAT slumber. She’s got a French AP coming up next week, sooo…

In the meantime, stand by for Wall Street to commence wailing, gnashing of teeth and rending of garments. Wait. Skip that last part. Do you know how much a good suit costs these days?

If Hollande wins, good for the French. It means that they know what’s going on, won’t be taken in by the fearmongers and definitely do not want to adopt Third world labor habits and living standards.

Here’s an update from Paris by writer Fiachra Gibbons:

Euphoric atmosphere at Bastille — hard to believe that François Hollande, the clubable once chubby Monsieur Flamby, could provoke quite so much fervour, but he has — and we don’t even have the official, official results yet. The truth is the thousands of Parisians here have gathered as much to celebrate the demise and humiliation of Nicolas Sarkozy as the triumph of François Hollande.

People are smiling, laughing, being wonderfully joyful and polite — generally not behaving at all like Parisians ought to in public. It must have been like this after the liberation — when Parisians, who usually go to great lengths to ignore and be pointlessly rude to each other, also let their hair down for a few days. A Portuguese gardienne from my quarter who hasn’t talked to me once in six years just hugged and kissed me on the mouth when she recognised me in the crowd. Immaculata voted for Le Pen in the first round but against Sarko today. “It is true there are too many foreigners and Muslims in France but his voice was driving me mad. He’s a crazy person. And he was making the country as crazy as him. It could not go on. All he cared about was himself and his rich friends.”

A shout of “Sarko en prison!” — roughly, “Lock up Sarko” — has been taken up by a part of the crowd, a reference to the multiple corruption and party funding investigations he will now face, from the Karachi scandal over the death of 11 French engineers in Pakistan over alleged unpaid kickbacks to Bettencourt brown envelopes and now allegations of millions from Gaddafi. An even more grisly chant of “Copé au pot eau!” (“Put Copé against the wall [and shoot him]) is also making an occasional appearance, aimed at the not very likable head of Sarko’s UMP party — who if you can imagine such a thing, plays the Mr Nasty to Sarko’s Mr Nice — and who was responsible for the ban on niqab. But the violence of the slogan seems completely at odds with the mood of the night and is being drowned out by the very drole, “Copé au burqa!” (Put Copé in a burqa!)

Lots of people I have talked to believe France is rid of Sarko forever, that there is no way back for him now. (There are, rather cruelly, not giving his marriage much of a chance of survival either.). They point to his frequent protests that he would withdraw forever from public life if he lost, which I think amounted to “Re-elect me or I will never play with you again”.’But I don’t think this will be the last we hear of him. Remember he has Transylvanian blood — and as far as I can seetonight, there’s been no crucifixes or silver bullets

It sounds rather personal.

Update: It’s official. François Hollande is the next President of France:

François Hollande élu président de la République LIVE
Le candidat du PS a devancé Nicolas Sarkozy au second tour de l’élection présidentielle, avec 51,8 % des voix contre 48,2 % au président sortant, selon les estimations Ipsos pour “Le Monde”, France télévisions et Radio France à partir des premiers bulletins dépouillés.

FRANÇOIS HOLLANDE
51,9 %
NICOLAS SARKOZY
48,1 %

Présidentielle : 71,96 % de participation à 17 heures

Not a landslide but decisive nonetheless. Congratulations to all my former French ex-pat colleagues who voted today.

More on why Sarkozy lost from Angelique Chrisafis at The Guardian reporting from Paris:

Sarkozy is the 11th European leader to be ejected since the economic crisis. But the irony is that he was not booted out directly because of it. The eurozone crisis was paradoxically one of the only ways he could have won the election, selling himself as Super Sarko, an international firefighter and problem-solver, protecting France. That was the message of his election posters which featured his portrait against the sea: Captain Courage in a storm. But instead of vaunting his crisis-busting skills or even leadership in the intervention in Libya, he chose to pour his energies into veering hard-right in a crusade against immigration and halal meat, blaming Islam for the troubles in French society, and claiming to protect the Christian roots of Europe. Much of this harked back to his ill-fated far-right flirtations in office, from his controversial ministry of immigration and national identity, which he eventually abandoned, to a speech blaming Roma for crime in France and dismantling their camps.

Sarkozy’s courtship of the far right ultimately failed. By bringing the favourite topics of the Front National into the mainstream, namely immigration and fear of Islam, he served only to strengthen its leader, Marine Le Pen. He also dented his own legacy, leaving himself for the time being remembered in French minds not for what he defined as his bullishness in defending France abroad, or for reforms such as lowering the pension age, but for a divisive, stigmatising campaign that even some in his own camp privately felt was repulsive.

Sunday’s vote was a personal referendum on Sarkozy.

There’s a warning in there for Obama that I think the Democratic party has not been paying attention to. If you court the far right, you end up strengthening it. Also, this fall, expect it to get very personal. Bludgeoning the voters with accusations of racism will probably backfire this year even if they happen to be a lot more true this year than in 2008. Win by racism, lose by racism. And those of us falsely accused in the past will not be coming to your aid this time. Maybe it would have been better to have spent the last four years fixing the crisis instead of giving in to rich friends and polishing your image.

Just sayin’.

Latest update: François Hollande says this about going forward: “Austerity can no longer be inevitable in Europe” The Socialist candidate, elected President of the Republic Sunday, said he was “proud to have been able to restore hope.” He asks to be judged on two commitments: “Justice and Youth”.

Sounds like he has been talking to Krugman. Or Occupy.

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Sunday: Taking the Top off the Mountain

Digby wonders why the bankers are whining.  They’ve gotten everything they wanted but they’re all upset that Obama is speaking harshly to them.  So, now they’re going to sit on their money and not give him any for his re-election.

Wait!  Why is that a *bad* thing?  If they’re not contributing to his campaign, maybe he and other Democrats will have to start paying attention to what the voters want.  Would that be such a crime?  After all, there are more voters than bankers.  Seems to me that banker money has made it too easy for Democrats to coast instead of doing what they’re supposed to be doing.  So, ok, then, let the bankers keep their money.  And if they give it to Republicans to run a bajillion campaign ads, then Democrats better get on it and do some legislatin’.  But I digress.

So, Digby’s question is a valid one: What drives the bankers to be such whiny Verulka Salt’s who want it all NOW!?  She has a couple of theories that glance at the truth tangentially.  They explain the whininess but not what drives the bankers.  They’re either naive, resentful of populism or arrogant twits.

But if you’ve read my Strategy of No Strategy series, you’ll see if from a different point of view altogether.  The finance class actually consists of a bunch of overqualified strip miners.  They’re overworked, which might explain the number of bad decisions they make, and their compensation system decouples the consequences of their actions from the actions themselves.  They are being paid to make “deals” and the purpose of those deals is to extract “wealth”.  In a way, it’s not that much different from getting into the cab of some giant piece of earth moving equipment and mowing down the side of the mountain and then loading that potential ore onto a conveyor belt to be separated from dirt.  They live in a “company” town and are paid “company scrip”.  It’s a truck system for them as well.  The compensation is not proportional to the amount of work they do, they can be fired at will and they’re never going to leave that mountain because they owe their souls to the company store.  The more they work, the more compensation in bonuses they are promised but it’s never enough.

That’s not to make you feel sorry for them.  That’s just the way it is.  And seeing it for the way it really is can help us get over the very legitimate emotion of wanting to ring their skinny necks right out of their Brooks Brothers suits. We need to separate our feelings of hatred towards them from our understanding of what’s really going on here.

What I see is really going on here with Obama is that he was hired because he is one of them.  He comes from the right school, he has the right pedigree, he had the right connections.  It didn’t matter if he knew nothing about finance.  Just like them, he would get a crash course and learn on the job.  And they have taken this deal with him as far as it would go.  Just like them, Obama has stripped the top of the mountain.  There is no more wealth to be extracted.  Now, the middle class has been mined to death.  It’s exhausted and can no longer generate the wealth that they have been paid to retrieve.  They’re screwed.  The owners (ironically, that would be some of us shareholders through our 401Ks) want more money.  There’s no more to give.  It’s a vicious circle because generating more wealth for us, the shareholders, means laying more of us off, which means less wealth going into the 401Ks.  When Obama finally signs the Grand Bargain, he will be creating an environmental catastrophe but before that happens, he has to win this election and people are hurting so badly, he may not be able to do it.

Do the number of ad buys really make a difference anymore?  We may see the effects of the internet on politics for real this election season.  Some of us have given up TVs altogether and no longer subscribe to newspapers.  I’m guessing that would affect the Democrats more.  Their base is younger and better educated (but not necessarily smarter).  The people who are moved by TV ads are older and less well educated.  That would favor Republicans.  I don’t know, this crap makes me crazy.  It’s all a bunch of political psych tricks that make no difference to how people live their lives.  But I suspect that the Osama bin Laden to-do this week had something to do with appealing to older and independent voters.  I could care less.  All I want to hear coming out of either candidates’ mouths is how they are planning to solve the unemployment problem and save our retirements without requiring even one more half penny of sacrifice from the late babyboomers.  Anything other than that might as well be speaking in some obscure language from a small isolated population in the Caucasus.  “Blah-blah-blah-SEALS! Blah-blah-blah-SHOT-IN-THE-EYE!” Who. Gives. A. FRACK.

So, as I was saying, the bankers are like strip miners and they’re not getting much out of the mountain anymore, their manager says the place is exhausted and they’re puzzled because this particular piece of real estate has been pretty rich for so long that it’s hard to take it all in that it’s gone.  It’s really gone.  And now, they have to go mine somewhere else and in those other places, the ore’s not so rich or it’s harder to get at or there are people standing in the way or it’s going to take time to get the permits and pay off the owners or make new deals.  They’re going to have to do a trickier kind of work now or they’re in big trouble because the deals they are about to make are a lot riskier.  Meanwhile, they’re leaving a big mess behind with lots of toxic runoff and the downstream people are angry because they have destroyed our economic ecosystem.  I guess they want Obama to keep the rabble down while they finish their work but it’s getting loud and noisy and not helping their concentration.  Maybe Mitt can keep a lid on it…

Anyway, that’s the way I see it.  They’re getting paid to stripmine.  Changing the way they behave will require the will to change the environment they work in.  If I were really interested in changing the way this works, I would have protected the employees that worked for Wall Street at the very beginning of this crisis.  I would have enforced workplace standards, required a limit on the number of hours worked, required mandatory overtime to be dispensed with the next immediate paycheck, enforced the minimum wage, tied salary to hours worked and prevented bonuses from rising to more than 20% of salary, mandated more 4 weeks of vacation per year, paid, and required every blessed transaction to undergo rigorous outside auditing, just to slooooow everything down.  Also, I might have had the EEOC or some other agency review hiring practices so that applicants were not discriminated on the basis of where they went to school or their genders.

From the money side of things, I would have begun the process of eliminating the 401K, reinstituted the defined benefit pension plan, and placed rigorous outside auditing checks on every blessed pension fund transaction.  One final thing: I would have made sure that I seized control of any fiber optic cable coming out of Wall Street.  We should never negotiate with terrorists.

Wall Street would have screamed bloody murder but such measures might have gotten a lot of support from workers including some of the workers on Wall Street.

Alas, Obama did not do this.  So now he is faced with having to do without finance sector money and will have to face the mountain this fall.

I kind of like the way this is playing out.