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      Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – November 27, 2022 by Tony Wikrent Strategic Political Economy   8 billion and counting [ABC, via The Big Picture 11-22-2022] This week, the world’s population ticks over a historic milestone. But in the next century, society will be reshaped dramatically — and soon we’ll hit a decline we’ll never reverse   The incredible s […]
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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.

51,9 %
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.

Thursday: The Quiet Coup of 2008

And it’s still cloudy over the northeast.  The less said about it the better.  It’s just too depressing.

"Oh give me a home, where the buffalo roam
and the deer and the antelope play
Where seldom is heard, a discouraging word
and the skies are not cloudy all day"

Yellowstone Lake, Montana

Yellowstone Lake, Montana

Does anyone care about Governor Sanford of South Carolina?  Me neither.  Just resign already for keeping your Lt. Governor in the dark.   This story isn’t worth two front page pieces at the NYTimes.  FOCUS people!  There’s still a problem in Iran.  You know, crazy Ayatollahs and the Revolutionary Guard threatening to further destabilize an unravelling region of the world?!  Aw, jeez, why do I bother?

StateofDosbelief asks a very good question:

How can the failbots defend what’s going on with so-called healthcare reform?  This latest update from the Senate Finance committee notes that their ideas include:

Dropping the employer mandate
Dropping the public option
Including a new “tax credit to purchase insurance”
Taxing employer-based health benefits

Uh…doesn’t this sound a whole bunch like someone else’s ideas?  yeah, Bush II and McCain.  WTF is going on?  My head will explode if this is what we end up with and the failbots try to paint it as a victory.

She also wonders what ever happened to Franken in Minnesota.  The unresolved senate case was presented before the Minnesota Supreme Court in the first week of June and we’ve been waiting ever since.  Franken is the Democrat’s 60th vote.  He is the filibuster proofer.  OoooooOOOOOooooo!  Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln might have to act like Democrats since there would be no reason for them to give away the store anymore.  Well, we’ll have none of that.  It appears that nothing is happening in Minnesota.  One *almost* suspects that there’s a deal to get most of the tricky legislation off of the table before the Senate recesses and THEN the Minnesota Supreme Court will say Franken won. The delay is somewhat inexplicable.  From what I read previously, there was virtually no way that Coleman could emerge victorious.  The ruling imeediately previous to this one pretty much told him to give it up already.  So, what gives?

Now, a lot of you dislike Franken and, hey, if you want to hold his former profession against him, who am I to tell you you’re wrong?  But there comes a point when past resentments should take a backseat to current events.  Franken is a true liberal senator, or he will be once he’s sworn in.  If you want healthcare, the end of the wars, equality for all, financial accountability and someone who will stand against the coup of 2008, your best bet is with Franken.  You can donate to his recount fund here.  Yes, the guy still needs money.  It’s expensive to keep this going for 7 months and lawyers need to eat too, damn them.

Americans aren’t the only ones wondering what they heck is going on with their government.  One of my French colleagues just got back from a trip from Paris.  She tells me the French are thoroughly disgusted with Nicolas Sarkozy, who recently booked a night at Versailles to hold an unprecedented meeting with the legilative branch.  Yep, Versailles, that beautiful white elephant and former diggs of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI.  I don’t get it either.  Versailles is about 30 minutes trip from Paris via the RER.  The setting is beautiful but why would you want to have a meeting there when presumably there are suitable meeting facilities in the city?  D’oh!  It’s a perfect photo drop:

Nicolas Sarkozy at Versailles to give a speech

Nicolas Sarkozy at Versailles to give a speech

Surprisingly, the French do not seem to approve of such excess and staging.  Who knew?  My colleague says he’s been a little imperious with his cabinet as well, reshuffling the deck chairs, getting rid of people and generally acting like an arrogant little prince.  She thinks it’s funny that he’s so short too.  Yep, “short people got no reason to live” ridicule is not a good sign for Sarkozy.  Not good at all.

Podcast of the day: Donald Kagan teaches the history of ancient Greece at Yale.  You can find his fascinating lectures online at youtube, so technically, this isn’t a podcast recommendation.  In lecture number 8 on Sparta, Kagan discusses the origins of the word “tyranny”.   It’s all just a little bit of history repeating.

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Friday: Gag me with a spoon

The Obamas hobbitize the Queen in protocol faux pas

The Obama's "hobbitize" the Queen in protocol faux pas

The NYTimes has a nauseating account of Barack Obama’s international debut at the G20 conference in London.  Our apprentice president had his very own press conference where he couldn’t help but conjure up the memories of Churchill and Roosevelt, regretting that it wasn’t just Great Britain and America running things anymore.  Now, every other country has to get into the act, so accommodations must be made.

But the silliest part of this account was the brave leadership he showed at wordsmithing:

In a premiere diplomatic tour that has already been scrutinized for every blemish, Mr. Obama has, thus far, gotten some not-so-good reviews — several European news outlets complained that he seemed aloof — and some raves. (President Nicolas Sarkozy of France called him “very helpful.”)

Mr. Sarkozy was referring to Mr. Obama the mediator. For a tense hour on Thursday, Mr. Sarkozy and President Hu Jintao of China were going back and forth about tax havens. In a large conference room at the Excel Center, surrounded by 18 other world leaders, the two men sniped at each other, according to officials in the room.

Mr. Sarkozy wanted the big communiqué produced by the Group of 20 to endorse naming and shaming global tax havens, maybe even including Hong Kong and Macao, which are under China’s sovereignty. Unsurprisingly, Mr. Hu was having none of it. He appeared angry that Mr. Sarkozy was effectively accusing China of lax regulation, and that the French leader was asking China to endorse sanctions issued by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a club of wealthy nations that Beijing has yet to join.

According to accounts provided by White House officials and corroborated by European and other officials also in the room, Mr. Obama escorted both men, one at a time, to a corner of the room, to judge the dispute. How about replacing the word “recognize,” Mr. Obama suggested, with the word “note?”

The result: “The era of banking secrecy is over,” the final communiqué said. “We note that the O.E.C.D. has today published a list of countries assessed by the Global Forum against the international standard for exchange of tax information.” Hong Kong and Macao did not appear on the list.

It was not a Middle East peace accord. But Mr. Obama had his first moment as a statesman.

Amazing.  That Harvard Law degree finally gets some exercise.  Well, I know *I* feel safer now.

This is an interesting spin on the conference.  It’s all Obama’s baby.  The conference did manage to accomplish something but it sounds like the Europeans get the edge.  The Europeans got some concessions on the transparency of the banking transactions  and more money for International Financial Institutions while not ceding an inch on providing more stimulus to their own countries’ economies.  Sarkozy called Obama “very helpful” in a way that suggests that the more mature leaders were able to conduct business without him getting in the way.  “Let’s have a little tiff that Obama can settle off in the corner while the rest of us get some work done.  Oh, and can anyone find a teleprompter?  Maybe he can give a speech or something.  Just keep him out of our hair.”

Oh and American workers can just take an old, cold tater and wait:

Answering a question from a reporter from China, Mr. Obama managed to acknowledge that he had to care most about how American workers and companies were affected by globalization, while still making the argument for why globalization was in America’s best interest.

***“Look, I’m the president of the United States. I’m not the president of China,” Mr. Obama said. Then he added, “It is also my responsibility to lead America into recognizing that its interests, its fate, is tied up with the larger world.”

Mr. Obama said that if America neglected or abandoned poor countries, “not only are we depriving ourselves of potential opportunities for markets and economic growth, but ultimately that despair may turn to violence that turns on us.”

“Unless we are concerned about the education of all children and not just our children, not only may we be depriving ourselves of the next great scientist who’s going to find the next new energy source that saves the planet, but we also may make people around the world much more vulnerable to anti-American propaganda.”

Oh, brother, where to start?  How about here *in* America where our teachers are woefully unprepared to teach science and math at a world class level?  Any American child who wants to be the next scientist discovering anything has to run a gauntlet of the educational establishment’s goal to assimilate students and produce perfect accountants.  Resistance is useless!  If you’re lucky enough to have parents who can afford private tutoring you may get a degree in a science field but find that globalization has taken your job to India.

Does he even know what goes on in his own country?  He isn’t president of the world.  His job is to shore up our dying research industry in America, not the rest of the world.  We were once leaders.


Ok, Nicolas, the joke is over.

*** Am I the only one who hears nails on a chalkboard when he starts his sentences with “Look” then follows that with a Bushesque description of his job title?  Both he and Bush have a tendency of talking to us like we might not be aware of his constitutional obligations.  He has to keep reminding us that he is President of America, as if in a global economy, we might not already know.  Can you imagine Hillary talking like this?

StateofDisbelief found this video of Obama’s side vacation in Europe:

Thursday: This is what happens when you don’t have principles

Carla Bruni teaches Nicolas Sarkozy to walk

Carla Bruni teaches Nicolas Sarkozy to walk

What do the following posts have in common?:

The New Masters of the Universe by James Kwak at baselinescenario.com

The Obama Enigma by E.J. Dionne at WaPo

G20 Color Commentary by Adam Posen on Planet Money

What’s Wrong With Washington? by James Wolcott at Vanity Fair

Actually, the Wolcott piece doesn’t belong.  I just liked his description of Fox News gasbags like Karl Rove and Bob Beckel as “plump juicy roasters”.  Wolcott makes it safe for the mixed metaphor.  The piece is hillarious and spot on.

For the other three, the theme throughout is one of trying to make sense of several moves by the Obama administration and the various players in the economic mess.  One gets the sense that what is going on is not that hard to figure out: The finance industry is taking us to the cleaners.  It is going to prolong the recession/depression because it is going to be the last entity called upon to make any sacrifices.  Each piece suggests that the White House is playing a dangerous game and gambling whole industries and our futures by engineering workarounds that won’t upset the bankers and their friends in the private investment clubs who stand to make out like bandits on our dime. Each solution is tailored to extract the least amount of pain from the wealthy and well connected and saddles the rest of us with the most risk. At the heart of this is the fact that each crisis is dealt with individually, as if the other crises were unrelated.  Each is solved in isolation, deal by deal, banker by banker. And it’s ticking off the rest of the world.

Nicolas (pronounced nee-ko-la) Sarkozy may be a petulant prima donna but he’s right about one thing.  The world cannot get on its feet economically if we continue to deal with the finance industry in a piecemeal fashion without regulatory fixes.  If there continues to be separate deals for each problem and no international or domestic law to hold the financials accountable, there can be no trust or faith in the system.  If there is no trust, there is no confidence that once leant, your money will come back to you.  People understand risk.  What they don’t understand is how their governments can allow them to be fleeced.  Confidence needs to be restored to the system to make sure the money flows to where it is needed.  That can’t happen until the big countries involved agree to set standards for financial transactions and regulations.  We are global now.

But this is not something that is in Obama’s blood.  Obama is of the “everything is on the table” variety of president.  Actually, I don’t think we’ve ever had a president who has ever put his principles on such a sliding scale as this one.  George W. Bush was a stickler for details compared to Obama.  And Bill Clinton, that master of triangulation, at least had the perfectly rational excuse that he was faced with an overtly hostile Congress and national press.  But what is Obama’s excuse for throwing away the tenets and principles of the party he comandeered to shmooze his way to the top?  He has every advantage a president could want and still he sides with the bad guys.

Well, we shall see if Sarkozy follows through with his threat and walks out.  Europe may not be doing enough to stimulate the economy but at least they aren’t stupid enough to throw more money at the banking industry and not ask, “And how do you intend to spend this?”  You have to draw the line somewhere.  And after all,  a leader has to have principles.


It occured to me that there are those who would argue that healthcare benefits that the unions demanded are ruining the auto industry.  This is the lame excuse we hear from the plump juicy roasters on cable TV all of the time.  You know, “Healthcare costs add $X to the cost of an automobile, blah, blah, blah.”  It makes you kind of PO’d to buy a car if your mind is on how many gall bladder operations and hemorrhoid treatments those X number of dollars paid for.  But even if the UAW *did* ask for so-called “gold-plated” policies {{snort!, like a working class guy isn’t going to have to run the insurance gauntlet anyway}}, the cost of those policies wouldn’t have increased so damned much if it hadn’t been for Harry and Louise.

Remember them?

If you don’t like the cost of the cars, you can send a thank you note to the GOP.

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