Friday, December 07, 2018

Macron in the chocolate factory

As was obvious from the beginning, Macron is unsuited, temperamentally and intellectually, to be the president of France. His astonishing reaction to the rejection of the "reforms" - a word that oozes with bad faith, since the reforms are actually the stripping away of the reforms of the past, and should be so characterized - by the French street is to flood said street with armed policemen in tanks if necessary, and to send his friendly unshaven front man, Édouard Philippe, out to talk about how thousands of hoodlums are going to rock and ruin lovely Paris and murder people. Oh, and ps, we'll postpone the gas tax and use this issue to make a plea to lower our funding of France's social insurance system. Nothing says responding to the cry of the lower and middle income level that their lifestyle is seriously deteriorate than feeding them a big dose of neo-liberal whoopass. You want healthcare? well let's lower funding on that! you want a clean ecology? Let's do nothing about rising housing costs that force people to live out where the car is their only means of access to job and life. Oh, and for good measure, let's just manage the railroad system into ruin, then auction it off and let the ticket prices go sky high. You want education? Well, tyr to get it as we freeze funding. The Macronists came from some casting call for the movie, "Atlas shrugged, then pissed, then had champagne and oysters" - a movie only a banker could love.
It appears that France is saddled with this boy-prince for another four years. That is going to be a long fall down the stairs. Macron is another in the long line of French conservatives who refuse to understand that a crisis in capitalism caused by the shortfall of demand cannot be solved by weakening even further the purchasing power of consumers. Rather, the magic formula is "investment", which magically appears when you shuffle money to Capital with no strings attached. You then partition off the part of your brain that just performed this trick from the part that urges the reality of globalisation - which is, precisely, about the liquid flows of capital that seek the highest return on "investment" globally. In other words, the investment you have generated is not going to go to productive activities in France, but to hedge fund bets in New York.
It is all the logic of the spoiled child, which aims at one thing: getting all the candy. We have been trapped with the spoiled kids in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory for some time now, with the plot twist that these kids took over the factory, and made Charlie work for them. In my view, Macron's candystore visions are going to be stuffed down the throat of his party if some grown up doesn't call a halt. Not that I think said grown up is going to appear: when the problem is so simple - the insane divide between the misery of the producers of wealth and the opulence of the profiteers - the solution has to be obfuscated into an incredible complexity, suitable for many a Le Monde editiorial about how complex things are.
Lefty parties were, as usual, late to the gate, but with opportunity throwing a brick at their heads, they finally are waking up. Not totally - connecting the dots between a French foreign policy mainly interested in bombing and droning peeps in the Middle East and North Africa and refugees streaming out of said countries still seems to be a conundrum they don't get. But at least they are getting over the idea that gilet jeunes are just your dumb racist hicks who should pipe down and die behind the screens of the video games they all probably play. Let's hope this goes much further. Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin, or Boil Boil, Toil and Trouble - mottos of the day! And now for a video the French cops proudly released.

Monday, December 03, 2018

Fin de régime

Macron’s first instinct, after the uprising Saturday, was to go around getting photographed shaking hands with the cops. He of course cold shouldered anybody looking like a gilet jaune – such bad taste! Why, if only they had a good tailor maybe they would be part of the “dialogue”.
Melanchon, at least, did not spend a lot of time patting the boys in blue on the back. Nor decrying the tagging of the Arc de Triomphe. Paris, and the generation of 1968 that is now retired, spent a lot of time patting themselves on the back this year. Those 68 days – weren’t they the cards! And those wonderfully witty graffiti slogans: under the street is a beach, for instance.
Under the street, as we’ve learned since, there’s more street.  I much prefer the tag left Saturday on the Arc de Triomphe that reads, simply: Fin de régime.
Not that I believe that such things are accomplished in a weekend. If Macron actually did, by some miracle, fall, he’d be replaced by another suit. The suits have had a good fifty years since 1968. The rest, not so much. Inequality has skyrocketed, and finally, the people in “deep France” – or the people who work in your shops and restaurants and call you up for debts and drive the trucks that get you your goods – have watched their time for “living”, as opposed to making a living, shrink. Along with their services. The faux “eco” president has fed the inflation of housing prices in major cities and raised taxes on those who can least afford them – and who now have to commute on an increasingly ill funded mass transportation system, or in a car, to get to work. As Jeremy Harding, in a good article in the London Review put it:
“Macron has embarked on an admirable policy to mitigate climate change but he’s failed catastrophically to heed the advice of his former environment minister, Nicolas Hulot, who resigned in August. Hulot said the project would only work with grants, attainable tax incentives and green job creation for less advantaged sectors of the population. Not nearly enough of this is in place, or even in the offing. Meanwhile the people now blocking the roads in France have been left to suck up the blame for climate change. But there are few Jeremy Clarksons among them – the motorheads are mostly the ones who try to power their way through a go-slow – and no gilets jaunes I’ve talked to can afford to trade their elderly diesel vehicles for low-emissions alternatives, even with the subsidies announced in January, which are aimed at more prosperous classes and the car industry.
A recent survey carried out for the European Commission finds that transport is still the main source of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU, and that ‘rural living’ raises the per capita footprint significantly outside the cities. Nevertheless the decisive factor across urban and rural communities alike is how much money we have: the wealthier we are, the larger our footprint, by anywhere from 150 to 450 kg per person per additional €1000 in earnings. This is why wilderness-free Luxemburg has one of the highest carbon footprints in the EU and countries in the former eastern bloc – notably Romania and Hungary – have the lowest. It is inconceivable that Macron, a technocrat and number-cruncher before his entry into politics, is ignorant of these conclusions and similar findings in other climate-change studies. Why has he chosen to comply with the caricature put about by his enemies: Macron, ‘president of the rich’? Probably because he is. But shouldn’t he be bluffing by now? Even just a bit?”

I don’t think Macron is as aware of the numbers as Harding claims – the ignorance of economists when their ideology puts out its hand and says halt as they are looking at “figures” is a perpetual source of merriment and mockery to the rest of us.
Go to Willett's for the rest of the article!

Southern California Death Trip

    “He was kind but he changed and I killed him,” reads the caption of the photo of a woman in an old tabloid. She was headed to ...