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The Rubble Of Neoliberalism

by afew Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 04:29:51 AM EST

At Melanchthon's instigation, I've translated a tribune by French (ex-PS went by EELV now without party label) politician and researcher Pierre Larrouturou. The piece was in Monday's Le Monde. As this is an appeal for support for the Roosevelt 2012 Collective (of which Larrouturou is a founder), I'm hoping there'll be no copyright problems - particularly as I'll offer the translation to the Collective.

"Nous ne voulons pas mourir dans les décombres du néolibéralisme !" "We do not want to die in the rubble of neoliberalism!"
Les systèmes tiennent souvent plus longtemps qu'on ne le pense, mais ils finissent par s'effondrer beaucoup plus vite qu'on ne l'imagine." En quelques mots, l'ancien chef économiste du Fonds monétaire international, Kenneth Rogoff, résume bien la situation de l'économie mondiale. Quant au gouverneur de la Banque d'Angleterre, il affirme que "la prochaine crise risque d'être plus grave que celle de 1930"...Systems often hold on longer than we might think, but they end up collapsing much faster than we imagine." In a few words, the former chief economist of the IMF, Kenneth Rogoff, gives a good summary of the situation of the global economy. As for the Governor of the Bank of England, he says "the next crisis is likely to be worse than 1930" ...
La zone euro ne va pas bien, mais les Etats-Unis et la Chine, souvent présentés comme les deux moteurs de l'économie mondiale, sont en fait deux bombes à retardement : la dette totale des Etats-Unis atteint 358 % du produit intérieur brut (PIB) ; la bulle immobilière chinoise, presque trois fois plus grosse qu'elle ne l'était aux Etats-Unis avant la crise des subprimes, commence à éclater.The euro area is in poor health, but the United States and China, often presented as the twin engines of the global economy, are actually two time bombs: the total debt of the United States has reached 358% of gross domestic product (GDP); the Chinese housing bubble, almost three times larger than it was in the U.S. before the subprime crisis, is beginning to burst.
Vu le contexte international, comment le PS et l'UMP peuvent-ils continuer de tout miser sur le retour de la croissance ? Il n'y a qu'une chance sur mille pour que ce rêve devienne réalité. "Ça va être effroyable, me confiait récemment un responsable socialiste. Il n'y aura aucune marge de manoeuvre. Dès le mois de juin, on va geler des dépenses. Dans quelques mois, le pays sera paralysé par des manifestations monstres et, en 2014, on va se prendre une raclée historique aux élections."Given the international context, how can the (French) PS and the UMP go on gambling on the return of growth? There isn't one chance in a thousand for this dream to become reality. "It will be terrible," a socialist leader confided to me recently. "There will be no leeway. As soon as June, we will freeze spending. In a few months the country will be paralyzed by mass demonstrations and, in 2014, we will take an historic beating in the elections."
L'austérité est-elle la seule solution ? La gauche au pouvoir est-elle condamnée à décevoir ? Non. L'Histoire montre qu'il est possible de s'extraire de la "spirale de la mort" dans laquelle nos pays sont en train de s'enfermer.Is austerity the only solution? Is the left in power condemned to let everyone down? No. History shows it is possible to get out of the "death spiral" which our countries are now shutting themselves into.

Read on...

Read more... (100 comments, 2637 words in story)

April In Paris: Meet-up THIS Week

by afew Thu Apr 19th, 2012 at 07:03:22 AM EST

The main meet-up will be on Saturday 28 April. Meet from 12 noon for lunch, prolongations ad lib.

Where? Le Cantalou, where else?

Le Cantalou, 8, avenue de Versailles (map)


Who will be there? Let's see...

  • Jerome a Paris
  • dvx
  • Helen
  • Wife and Husband of Bath
  • Colman
  • Migeru and SteelLady
  • gk
  • Bernard
  • Ted Welch
  • Luis de Sousa
  • afew
  • redstar +++
  • LEP
  • Cyrille
  • linca
  • eurogreen
+
  • pi?

Add your name in comments if you've been forgotten in this list or if you're a late adopter!

Friday evening, details below the fold. Any ideas for Sunday?

Read more... (102 comments, 233 words in story)

Sarkozy : Danse Macabre

by afew Wed Apr 18th, 2012 at 03:16:49 AM EST

Not that there was ever much doubt. Nicolas Sarkozy was elected in 2007 thanks to posturing as the xenophobic hard man of the moment, siphoning part of the Front National's electorate and winning with the support of the over-65s. He promised to clean up the cités (sink estates, housing projects) with a pressure hose. His administration and its mouthpieces proceeded to continue with the talk and the gesticulation, stigmatising youth, immigrants, and Muslims, which alienated part of centrist opinion while being insufficient to guarantee the loyalty of the extreme right. French contributors to ET have said this again and again: every time Sarko pandered to that electorate, he was working for the Front National.

Now it's payback time. He is forced to run to the right to have any chance of winning, and so has raised the xenophobia and anti-Muslim bidding (halal, Schengen, etc), the effect of which keeps him out of the centre where a good proportion of voters are not scared of Hollande. He has never been more frantic in his jumping from one lead to another (from the far right to ludicrous attempts to curry favour in the centre by letting it be known he would consider François Bayrou as Prime Minister, to the silly talk slapped down by Germany about how growth should be part of the ECB's remit) and in dramatising the stakes: the end of the world as we know it if Hollande wins; channeling John-Paul II with the repeated injunction "Do not be afraid" at the mass rally on Sunday... Twitching, gesticulating, in a genuine danse macabre... Because he's going to lose.

UPDATE 18 April : the latest poll (CSA) gives Hollande 29% Sarkozy 24% in Round One, 58-42 in Round Two.

Read more... (156 comments, 970 words in story)

ET Paris Meet-Up 2012 (2 UPDATE)

by afew Sat Mar 10th, 2012 at 02:14:27 AM EST

This year's main Paris meet-up will be on
Saturday, April 28.

Read more... (119 comments, 164 words in story)

Ordoliberalism 1: Beginnings

by afew Fri Mar 9th, 2012 at 04:20:17 AM EST

Monetarism, Austrianism, Austerianism, Austeritarianism, gold-buggery... The terms have not been lacking on this forum to attempt description of the mindset obdurately (and increasingly apparently parochially) shared by a majority of German economists, central bankers, and political personnel. Just recently, the word "ordoliberalism" has made its entry. What follows is an attempt to pull on a few threads and find out more about what ordoliberalism means and where it comes from.

In a paper for the European Council on Foreign Relations, Sebastian Dullien and Ulrike Guérot contend that

...there is more to Germany's distinctive approach to the euro crisis than the much-discussed historical experience of the hyperinflation in the Weimar Republic on the one hand and simple national interest on the other. Rather, there is an ideological edifice behind German economic orthodoxy with which Germany's partners must engage. While a change in the government after the next general election, in 2013, would lead to a change in German economic policy, it is unlikely to dramatically change the country's approach to the euro crisis.

Dullien and Guérot point to the post-WWII economic history of Germany, and to an influential school of economic thought called ordoliberalism:

While ordoliberalism nowadays is no longer an important academic current in Germany, most economists have at some point in their career been influenced by ordoliberalist ideas. Conversely, unlike in other European countries and the United States, there are very few influential Keynesian economists in Germany.

So what kind of liberalism is ordo?

Read more... (112 comments, 1842 words in story)

Cohn-Bendit: Politically Stateless?

by afew Sat Feb 25th, 2012 at 08:14:24 AM EST

Libération publishes an internal note dated 24th February that Daniel Cohn-Bendit sent to Europe-Ecologie-les Verts (EELV) (a French movement he belongs to and was instrumental in starting up), in which he slaps EELV around, not because the presidential candidate, Eva Joly, is not the right one (he's already abundantly said that) but because of the decision of the three Green deputies to vote against the ESM ratification in the Assemblée Nationale.

What he says is that he is touched by the number of requests for him to support EELV candidates in the legislative elections that will follow the presidential, but that he intends to say what he thinks, so caveat emptor. And the main reason:

Cohn-Bendit se dit «politiquement apatride» - Libération Cohn-Bendit declares himself "politically stateless" - Liberation
Les positions récentes contre le mécanisme européen de stabilité (MES) permettant, pour la première fois, d'aider concrètement les pays de la zone euro qui ne peuvent plus emprunter m'ont consterné. Au lieu d'argumenter, les élus d'EE se fondent indistinctement dans le slogan "Pas de cadeau à Sarkozy" au point de ne même plus savoir ce qu'ils font. Si demain, Sarkozy copiait son idole "Angie Merkel" en décidant de fermer 5 réacteurs nucléaires, le bon ton à gauche serait de s'y opposer! C'est tout simplement aberrant!!The recent positions against the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), which enables, for the first time, to bring practical assistance to countries in the euro area which cannot borrow, appalled me. Instead of proposing a reasoned position, the EE representatives base their action indiscriminately in the slogan "No gifts for Sarkozy" to the point of not even knowing any more what they're doing. If tomorrow, Sarkozy were to copy his idol "Angie Merkel" in deciding to close five nuclear reactors, it would be in good taste for the left to oppose it! It's just ridiculous!!

Read more... (167 comments, 2038 words in story)

Sarkozy: Enemies Ahoy!

by afew Fri Feb 10th, 2012 at 04:21:43 AM EST

Over the last two weeks, the not-yet candidate whose candidature is supported by Angela Merkel, has nailed his colours to the mast: hard over to the right. First act, two Sundays ago with his six-channel TV spectacular, he announced that France would adopt the policies that have done so well for Germany, including an increase in VAT of 1.6% and the usual "necessary reforms" (in other words, reduce labour costs). Now, to appear in the magazine of the UMP's house newspaper, Le Figaro, he comes out with more bold plans: he will hold a referendum on the questions of whether foreigners should be more easily thrown out of the country or not, and whether the long-term unemployed should be forced into training and/or work, or not.

Shorter Sarkozy: I'll bring your wages down, but I'll offer you scapegoats.

Read more... (63 comments, 574 words in story)

The Imitation Of Germany

by afew Sat Feb 4th, 2012 at 09:03:50 AM EST

Media peddling of received wisdom likes to dwell on the Economy to Emulate du jour. Seeriouss People™ are reported or filmed saying they've crunched the numbers or just returned from a visit to such and such a place, and my word they're impressed. Journalists repeat the puffwords "successful, vibrant, surging, stellar, GDP growth, full employment..." In the 1980s, in the French media at least, it was Japan. Then Japan hit a rock and has since gone off the radar. In the Blair years, it was the UK England London. No more now. For long it was the "insolent good health" of the American economy, just when that economy was rotten to the core. Don't hear that any more. These days it's Germany.

So Nicolas Sarkozy went on six French TV channels last Sunday, with much pomp and obsequious journalists asking predetermined questions, to say he was going to make France imitate Germany. Raise VAT, reduce employers' payroll contributions, put an end to the 35-hour working week, weaken collective bargaining even more than in Germany with enterprise-by-enterprise renegotiation of hours and pay (more of one and less of the other). As usual with Sarko, it was smoke and mirrors, since he was announcing as decisions on his part measures that would be applied after the presidential elections... when he stands a good chance of being an ex-president, and the measures of not being applied. But, through the smoke, it's an image that he wants to project of the tough guy telling it like it is, and "like it is" is TINA - Germany is right, we have no choice but to copy the Germans.

If anyone wonders why any other eurozone country, France in this case, should want to copy Germany, Sarkozian smoke billows. Too much emphasis on German exports might sail close to the dangerous waters of the effect of those exports on the eurozone. So it's the success of the German economy - GDP growth, full employment - that is touted.

Read more... (31 comments, 680 words in story)

Democracy in the EU

by afew Mon Jan 23rd, 2012 at 05:04:58 AM EST

ET was contacted a week ago by Stronger Europe  for feedback on their upcoming campaign for the direct election of the president of the European Commission. There was discussion of this here.

Their main page now shows a video ad for this campaign, followed by this text:

Stronger Europe

We believe the President of the European Commission who holds significant powers in the European Union should be directly elected by the people of Europe.

A directly elected president would make the EU more accountable to ordinary Europeans and allow us to choose the direction policies take. At the moment, aside from decisions originated by the European Parliament, we have policies forced on us by Brussels. Shouldn't we choose who makes those policies?

Electing a President of the EU Commission does not mean giving more power to Brussels. It means the opposite: making Europe more accountable, transparent and forcing bureaucrats in Brussels to go to the people.

Electing a President of the EU Commission would also mean that European citizens take the time to decide together on what direction they want Europe to follow.

At its most basic, it is the ability to take our own decisions. We passionately believe this would be a victory for democracy and that a legitimate President would give Europe the leadership it needs.

Well, yeah... There's no doubt there's a huge democracy gap in the EU, and electing the EC president would be one move towards filling it. But I can't help feeling there are a couple of misconceptions here.

Read more... (52 comments, 924 words in story)

ET Paris Meet-up 2012 RE-UPDATE

by afew Sun Jan 15th, 2012 at 05:10:16 AM EST

As this open-thread discussion is sliding into oblivion, here's a diary to keep the topic alive.

April-May have been suggested as a better time of year for the main Paris meet-up. Here again is a comment I made listing the possible weekends:

OK, practically, weekends in:

April 2012

  • 7-8 is Easter (Monday = Bank holiday)
  • 14-15 looks quiet
  • 21-22 first round, presidential election
  • 28-29 probably quiet but the Tuesday is 1st May (BH)

May 2012

  • 5-6 second round of elections, the Tuesday is 1945 Armistice BH
  • 12-13 looks quiet
  • 19-20 part of Ascension Thursday (BH) long weekend
  • 26-27 Whit, the Monday is BH

The fact of being part of a long weekend (ie tied on to a Bank holiday) could mean more French visitors to Paris, though the last two weekends there are probably the biggest. Elections are not really an obstacle.

I don't think we should count on these dates being out of the tourist season, this now seems much longer than it used to be, as looking for hotel rooms in October showed us.

I'm going to suggest the 12-13 May weekend, which means the main meet-up on Saturday 12th.

Over to you.

UPDATE If we want this to happen in April-May, we should perhaps get ahead with a decision. May 12 fits for a number of people, but not all - April 28 is another possibility. Please pile back in with your thinking on dates.

RE-UPDATE 15 Jan 2012 Even split down there in the poll, and we should reach a decision soon if we want to get reasonable travel and accommodation prices. Migeru has given a good reason for his choice (a long weekend over the April 28 date, which makes it easier for him to attend), so, though I voted "No preference" I'm going to come down on that side. Whadda you say?

re-re-bumped - afew

Comments >> (50 comments)

An Irreproachable Republic

by afew Sat Oct 1st, 2011 at 05:52:10 AM EST

So you really want to understand the seemingly endless flow of scandals, affairs, accusations, prosecutions, libel suits, counter-accusations and yet more scandals currently to be seen in French politics? You want to know what Bourgi has to do with Bettencourt has to do with Villepin has to do with Takieddine has to do with senile Chirac has to do with Karachi has to do with Juppé has to do with Clearstream has to do with Prévost-Desprez has to do with Helen of Yugoslavia has to do with Bazire the Bizare has to do with Tibéri, Sarkozy, Pasqua, Copé, Courroye (continue ad lib)..?

You do?

<sigh> Well... The presidential elections, around which French politics revolves, are coming up, so there are lots of stink bombs, banana skins, smoke screens, and firecrackers vying for media attention.

Not enough?

But it happens to be true. Just as it's true this is mostly about election campaign funding sleaze and a brown envelope / document case tradition on the right, for whom the constitution of the Sith Republic was written ("Sith" (sic), should be 5th) in 1958, and who therefore consider they're at home in power and can do as they like.

That's all very well, I hear some of you (no names) grumble, but we want the skinny, the lowdown, the dirt. OK, but don't blame me if you understand even less of it at the end than before you started. So now let's go back to the 1960s. (You asked for it).

Read more... (43 comments, 3103 words in story)

The Politics Of Poison (Part One)

by afew Tue Aug 2nd, 2011 at 04:23:59 AM EST

Quiz: In what year was this said by the boss of a major tobacco company in testimony under oath before a US House of Representatives committee?

I believe that nicotine is not addictive... Nicotine is a very important constituent in the cigarette smoke for taste.

I'd have thought this was the kind of line cigarette manufacturors were pushing in the 1960s, maybe into the 1970s, when people's ideas on the subject were still hazy (pun intended). But - to my surprise - it's a statement from just seventeen years ago, in 1994 (at the "Waxman Hearings" on tobacco and public health).

Six other tobacco CEOs made similar statements that day. It was probably a bridge too far, because public awareness had gone beyond being taken in. And the following year a whistle-blower, Jeffrey Wigand, former head of R&D at Brown & Williamson (then a wholly-owned subsidiary of British American Tobacco), made the industry's game plain in an astonishing deposition (harassed by a flock of tobacco lawyers). Tobacco companies knew that nicotine was addictive and made deliberate use of the fact to sell the product. Tar was reduced (permitting marketing of a low-tar cigarette) while maintaining nicotine levels that ensured addiction, by blending different tobacco types, adding ammonia to "free up" nicotine molecules, and using an impact booster:

Read more... (17 comments, 2537 words in story)

South Wales Photo Blogging

by afew Sun Jul 10th, 2011 at 01:43:59 AM EST




I was visiting In Wales in Wales last week. Time to see places I haven't seen in a long time, like considerably-changed Cardiff, greatly-changed Valleys (last time I was there the pits were still open and the slag-heaps were black), or relatively unchanged popular beach resort Porthcawl.





The weather was typically Welsh, sun every day (with just a shower on the Brecon Beacons, duh).






                                Time machine in the mountain rain

Read more... (42 comments, 1807 words in story)

Fukushima: Time To Turn The Page

by afew Mon Apr 25th, 2011 at 12:22:34 PM EST

OK, losers, don't you think people have had enough of hearing this obsessive fearmongering news talk about Fukushima? There's a general feeling that it's time to move on. Let's get back to normal and deal with life's real everyday problems. Another blonde white girl was kidnapped. And you still haven't worked your butt off to get that car that exactly expresses your personality and your precise status slot on the social ladder (take our poll).

Leave the isotopes to the experts. Sheesh.

Read more... (105 comments, 308 words in story)

ECB and Liquidity

by afew Mon Mar 28th, 2011 at 04:32:16 AM EST

Eurointelligence tells us this morning:

as Reuters reports, Ireland's government says it is now considering imposing haircuts on senior bondholders to reduce the pressure from the Irish tax payer. The total amount held by senior creditors in Irish banks is some €16bn. The Irish government is nervously awaiting this week's results of the stress of its banks, which are likely to show a recapitalisation requirement of around €25bn, according to Reuters. The FT puts the recapitalisation requirement at between €15bn and €25bn, with an additional €90bn in asset sales to reduce the loan-to-deposit ratio from 170% to 120-125%. There is a widespread acceptance in the markets that the government will impose bondholder haircuts on Anglo-Irish and Irish Nationwide, but to bail in bond holders at the other banks might be more controversial.

Towards a new medium liquidity facility by the ECB?

The ECB has on previous occasions voiced strong opposition to a bondholder bail-in, and the Irish threat to bail in bondholders may only be part of a wider negotiating strategy, especially in view of the following. The ECB is preparing a new liquidity facility that will give troubled euro zone banks access to liquidity over a longer time frame, Reuters learned from an anonymous central bank source on Saturday. The plan will initially be "tailor made for Irish banks" the source said and is likely to be announced next week after the stress test results of Irish banks. This is meant to replace the Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) currently being provided by the Irish central bank. The programme would be similar to the ECB's securities market programme (SMP) in the sense there will be no fixed time frame on it. He added that although it would initially be tailored for Irish banks, it would subsequently be available eurozone wide. It would be under the control of the ECB's Governing Council who would set the conditions attached to the loans on a case by case basis.

This is from an e-mail newsletter, so no direct link. The Reuters report, from Saturday, follows.

Read more... (24 comments, 604 words in story)

Japan: New Open Thread

by afew Tue Mar 15th, 2011 at 05:49:08 AM EST

Some fresh space for ongoing news and discussion of the earthquake and its consequences.

Comments >> (324 comments)

Pig Blogging (Day Two)

by afew Thu Feb 10th, 2011 at 03:19:24 PM EST

Early on Day Two, this is what awaits:

(Day One is here).

Read more... (21 comments, 993 words in story)

Pig Blogging (Day One)

by afew Thu Feb 3rd, 2011 at 03:58:43 PM EST

[Disclaimer 1: No offence is meant to those who don't eat pork, or any meat at all, for whatever reason.]

[Disclaimer 2: this description is from memories of days gone by, using old photographs. Nowadays the law obliges you to have the animal slaughtered at the abattoir, which of course everyone does.]

It begins on a cold morning, with death. That of a large hog, followed some time later by that of a second. Death by a bullet in the brain (entrance point, the intersection of two lines from the base of each ear to the opposite eye) is instantaneous. The animal is quickly hoisted by its hind legs (this involves the use of a tractor with a forklift) and bled. The knife must go in just above the sternum at a precise spot that they call the buttonhole. At least part of the blood is collected in a basin and whipped with vinegar to prevent it from clotting. All this might in some gruesome way suggest the Crucifixion and form the basis for an artistic concept coining more money than the use of the pig for food, but in fact it's tense, there's a lot to be done, and it's too ugly to show here even if I'd been able to take photos.

The hog is weighed with a steelyard. 205 kg (the second weighs in at slightly less). Then - no time to waste - it is lowered into a large trough and soused in very hot water, from 82°C to the upper eighties, depending on how cold the weather is. It has to be turned in the water, or parts will get cooked while others stay cold. This calls for muscle and a particular knack:

Again, quickly, as soon as it has soused enough, it is scraped. As many people as can without getting in each other's way scrape off the epidermis and the bristles, using scrapers made from pieces of an old scythe (blunted, they mustn't be razor-sharp).


Piggies look much cleaner after a haircut. "Have you seen the little piggies..?"

Read more... (13 comments, 1234 words in story)

Study of Commission Consultations

by afew Thu Jan 27th, 2011 at 10:09:45 AM EST

We get mail:

Last year, your organisation has participated in a consultation of the European Commission on the European Citizens' Initiative, which will soon enter into force.
A research team from the University of Technology of Compiègne [Paris region] is currently running a study on the consultation tools of the Commission. In this context, we would like to receive the participants' feedbacks on this experience, and it would be a great help if you would take a few minutes to answer the following questionnaire. It is short (only 10 questions), and you can answer by returning this e-mail to etc
Thank you very much for your participation

Read more... (3 comments, 298 words in story)

Is the German position sustainable?

by afew Tue Jan 25th, 2011 at 08:34:17 AM EST

German economic growth is rocketing ahead while most of the eurozone is in difficulty, says Eurointelligence this morning:

Germany, like China, is hitting the speed limits

The interesting question about Germany is not so much whether the economic recovery is for real (it is), but it is whether it is sustainable. On Monday, the Ifo index reached a post-unification record, and yesterday, the eurozone PMI also raced ahead, based on good performances by Germany and France, but also showing a widening gap between core and periphery.

Eurointelligence refers to a report in the Financial Times that shows the divergence in this chart:

And the further question (that underlines the lack of labour mobility within the single-currency area) is whether the ugly spectre of (gasp!) wage inflation will strike the speeding mercantilist economy:

FT.com / Europe - Germany powers eurozone services growth

Underscoring Germany's revival, Ernst & Young, the financial services firm, reported that almost three-quarters of the small and medium-sized companies in the country's industrial Mittelstand were having difficulties finding enough qualified workers.

Its survey of 3,000 enterprises put the cost of skill shortages in terms of lost revenues at almost €30bn ($41bn) a year. German business organisations have called for easier immigration rules for skilled workers to tackle the shortage.

Are the limits of German competitive deflation in sight?

Comments >> (166 comments)
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News and Views

 24 April 2014

by dvx - Apr 23, 44 comments

Your take on today's news media

 23 April 2014

by ceebs - Apr 22, 61 comments

Your take on today's news media

 Wednesday Open Thread

by Helen - Apr 23, 11 comments

I hear the sound of a gentle word on the wind

 Tuesday Open Thread

by In Wales - Apr 22, 6 comments

Any left over chocolate?

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