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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)..?
<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.
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).
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:
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
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.
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.
Tue Mar 15th, 2011 at 05:49:08 AM EST
Some fresh space for ongoing news and discussion of the earthquake and its consequences.
Thu Feb 10th, 2011 at 03:19:24 PM EST
Early on Day Two, this is what awaits:
(Day One is here).
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..?"
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
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?
Tue Jan 11th, 2011 at 09:42:12 AM EST
Below is a comment meant for Jerome's Neo-feudalism and neo-nihilism, that turned into a diary:
I've said before that I disagree (and so agree with Migel Sanchez) with this loose use of "feudalism" as an analogy for the socio-economic order most of us see coming into being. Feudalism was a highly-coded system of mutual obligations, sanctioned by religion, in which membership of a particular class was strictly regulated and clearly visible. You can rush in with parallels, and there are many suggested in Jerome's diary and the discussion on it, but all of them are too approximate or strained. What's emerging is something new, in which those at the top don't even need to offer guarantees in return for their power (one thing that died the death in the latest financial crisis was already-sick old Fordism), or engage in struggle with the regalian power of the State, since by various means they possess inordinate influence over it.
I've no idea what to call it, and it might be argued that "feudalism" is as good a catchword as another since most people make a face when they hear it. But I'd suggest that accepting it may simply obfuscate and delay a more accurate description of what's going on.
Mon Dec 13th, 2010 at 05:28:02 AM EST
A petition launched by Avaaz and Greenpeace calling for a moratorium on GM crops within the EU reached a million signatures.
EUobserver / EU receives anti-GMO petition amid raging legal battle
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - Environmental groups Greenpeace and Avaaz have handed the European Commission a petition with the signatures of over one million EU citizens, calling for a ban on GMO crops until a new scientific body is set up to assess their impact. Behind the scenes however, a battle is raging over the document's eligibility under the EU's new citizens' initiative procedure (ECI).
Barroso wouldn't receive it, shifting it off to the Health Commissioner.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso refused to receive the document on Thursday (9 December), sending the EU's health commissioner John Dalli instead. Mr Dalli welcomed the petition, but warned that the ECI had not been fully set up yet, drawing a question mark over the anti-GMO document.
"We have agreed to receive the petition today but at this point I can't commit on action taken by the commission," said Mr Dalli.
Greenpeace Europe chief Jorgo Riss said the commission could ill afford to ignore the document, born out of the commission's decision in March to grant the first EU GM cultivation approval in 12 years for the 'Amflora' potato.
Tue Nov 23rd, 2010 at 05:50:15 AM EST
Nicolas Sarkozy underwent a serious blowout last Friday during a debriefing for French journalists at the NATO summit in Lisbon, if different reports in the French media are to be believed (and it's hard to imagine this stuff being made up).
The background is an affaire d'Etat concerning alleged illicit campaign financing via back-payments on bribes involved in the sale of submarines to Pakistan (more on this below). But on Friday:
|Arrêt sur images - Lisbonne : la colère de Sarkozy restera "off"|
Interrogé à Lisbonne sur l'affaire Karachi, Nicolas Sarkozy s'en prend aux journalistes: "Vous dites n'importe quoi, vous ne vérifiez rien". Le président s'emporte au point que l'Elysée demande aux journalistes d'effacer les bandes. L'information est rapportée dans Mediapart (article payant) et L'Express.fr.
|Questioned in Lisbon about the Karachi affair, Nicolas Sarkozy attacked the journalists: "You say just anything, you check nothing". The president lost his temper to the extent that the Elysee asked journalists to delete their tapes. Reports are in Médiapart and Express.|
| Vendredi 19 novembre, en marge du sommet de l'OTAN à Lisbonne, Nicolas Sarkozy s'est énervé contre des journalistes. Un journaliste l'interroge sur l'affaire Karachi, lorsqu'il "pète les plombs", rapporte Mediapart.||On Friday 19 November, on the fringes of the NATO summit in Lisbon, Sarkozy blew up against a group of journalists. A journalist was questioning him about the Karachi affair, when he "blew a fuse", according to Médiapart.|
| Un journaliste précise que son nom figure dans des documents montrant qu'il a donné son aval à la création d'une société-écran luxembourgeoise par laquelle transitaient les commissions. C'est alors que Nicolas Sarkozy s'emporte « Qui vous a dit ça? Vous avez eu accès au dossier? Charles Millon a une intime conviction. Et si moi j'ai l'intime conviction que vous êtes pédophile? Et que je le dis en m'appuyant sur des documents que je n'ai pas vus...». Pour L'Express.fr qui rapporte la même anecdote, le président voulait dénoncer les journalistes qui parlent sans preuve.||A journalist pointed out that his name features in documents that show he gave his agreement to the creation of a Luxembourg screen company through which the commissions were conveyed. At that moment Sarkozy lost his temper: "Who told you that? Did you see the file? Charles Millon speaks from personal conviction. And what if I say from personal conviction that you are a pedophile? And I say it on the authority of documents I haven't seen..." According to l'Express which reports the same incident, the president meant to criticise journalists who speak without proof.|
| Les journalistes présents racontent que Nicolas Sarkozy était "survolté" et "hors contrôle".||The journalists present say that Sarkozy was "worked up" and "out of control".|
| Hélas, on ne pourra pas écouter la longue diatribe du président qui se termine par "Amis pédophiles, à demain". En effet, après le debriefing, l'Elysée a insisté pour que la conversation reste off. La conversation, enregistrée sur le circuit interrne du sommet selon L'Express, a été effacée.||Alas, we can't listen to the president's long harangue that ended with: "Pedophile friends, see you tomorrow". After the debriefing, the Elysee insisted that the conversation should stay off the record. Recorded on the internal circuit of the summit, says l'Express, the exchange was deleted.|
Libération has a little more detail that tends to set the attack in a less crude and frontal light:
|«Amis pédophiles, à demain!» - Libération|
|«On est dans un monde de fous», a déclaré le président. «Il n'y a pas un seul parmi vous qui croit que je vais organiser des commissions et des rétrocommissions sur des sous-marins au Pakistan, c'est incroyable.» Puis il s'adresse à un journaliste, dans une démonstration par l'absurde: «Et vous, j'ai rien du tout contre vous. Il semblerait que vous soyez pédophile... Qui me l'a dit? J'en ai l'intime conviction (...) Pouvez-vous vous justifier?».||"This is a crazy world," said the president. "There isn't a single one of you who believes I am going to organize commissions and back-commissions on submarines for Pakistan, it's incredible." Then he turned to a journalist and used a reductio ad absurdum argument: "And you, I've got nothing at all against you. It seems you're a pedophile... Who told me? It's my personal conviction (...) Can you get off the hook?" |
Fri Oct 22nd, 2010 at 05:34:36 AM EST
Jean Quatremer reveals an interesting French dream:
|DSK à Francfort? - Coulisses de Bruxelles, UE||DSK in Frankfurt? - Backstage Brussels, EU|
|Et si Dominique Strauss-Kahn succédait à Jean-Claude Trichet à la présidence de la Banque centrale européenne ? C'est une hypothèse caressée au plus haut niveau du gouvernement français. En effet, Paris semble désormais déterminé à s'opposer à la nomination du président de la Bundesbank, Axel Weber, jusque-là candidat « naturel » à la succession de l'ancien gouverneur de la banque de France en novembre 2011, celui-ci s'affichant un peu trop comme un « faucon » monétariste un tantinet psychorigide. On préfèrerait même à Paris Jürgen Stark, le pourtant très orthodoxe économiste en chef de la BCE, c'est dire...||What if Dominique Strauss-Kahn were the successor to Jean-Claude Trichet as chair of the ECB? This hypothesis is fondly envisaged at the highest level of French government. Paris seems determined from now on to oppose the nomination of Bundesbank chairman Axel Weber, till now seen as the "natural" candidate to follow the former governor of the Bank of France in November 2011 -- Weber making too much of a show of being a rather psycho-rigid monetarist hawk. A measure of the rejection of Weber is that Paris would even prefer Jürgen Stark, chief economist of the ECB and all the same very orthodox...|
Fri Oct 8th, 2010 at 12:37:30 PM EST
Here are some excerpts from the Executive Summary of a report by RMF on the eurozone crisis:
1. The turmoil in the Eurozone is due to the global crisis of financialisation that broke out in 2007. But it is also due to the biased nature of the European Monetary Union (EMU). Systematic pressure on labour has intensified the disparities of competitiveness among Eurozone members, splitting the Eurozone into core and periphery.
2. ... The periphery has been unable to compete against the core, while being constrained by uniform monetary policy and rigid fiscal discipline. Thus it has registered current account deficits, mirroring the current account surpluses of the core, above all, Germany.
3. Current account deficits in general must be financed by capital flows from abroad. The latter can be either debt-creating, e.g., bank loans or portfolio flows, or non-debt-creating, e.g., foreign direct investment. Furthermore, current account deficits correspond to financial deficits by the public and the private sector.
4. In the periphery, the Stability and Growth Pact has prevented the public sector from registering systematic financial deficits. Consequently, current account deficits have corresponded largely to private sector financial deficits. Furthermore, current account deficits were financed overwhelmingly by bank lending from the core.
5. In short, peripheral country indebtedness is largely due to the behaviour of the private sector in the course of EMU. Unable to compete against the core, peripheral private sectors have generated large financial deficits. Consumption was boosted in all three countries, while a real estate bubble emerged in Spain. Capital flows from abroad - typically lending by core banks - provided finance. Furthermore, the domestic financial system found the opportunity to expand, thus increasing domestic financialisation and indebtedness. The result has been the accumulation of vast debts, partly external (and owed to the core), partly domestic (reflecting internal financialisation).
RMF has requested ET's thoughts on the report (Download here, PDF). UPDATE below...
bumped by Nomad rebumped afew
Fri Jul 30th, 2010 at 05:47:23 AM EST
In the Wind series
Jérôme and I wrote an opinion piece on the economics of wind power for New Scientist, and it has now been published.
All power to the wind - it cuts your electricity bills - opinion - 26 July 2010 - New Scientist
ATTEMPTS to discredit wind power often claim that wind turbines need to be subsidised. A piece in British newspaper The Daily Telegraph last month asserted that each wind turbine in the UK receives, on average, £138,000 in subsidies a year, and that as a result wind-power investors are coining it hand over fist at the taxpayer's expense.
So are wind farms subsidised? In the sense of direct government support, very rarely. What they do enjoy in most countries, though, is a guaranteed right of access to the grid, and minimum prices for the electricity they produce.
The article explains marginal pricing and the merit order effect that lowers average electricity prices, going on to suggest that established producers are hostile to further penetration of wind in electricity generation because it deprives them of windfall gains on high spot prices.
Imagine you run a utility company with coal-fired or nuclear plants. From your perspective, wind power is causing you to lose out on the windfall cash previously provided by high spot prices at times of peak demand. Will you be inclined to look favourably on plans to increase the share of wind power in total electricity generation?
Sun Jun 13th, 2010 at 04:54:36 AM EST
A month ago, in a discussion about wind power and its potential usefulness for farmers, I said I'd report on a farmer I know who has a windmill.
So here's the huge beast, on a ridge overlooking the plain, open to the westerlies and to the Autan, the south-easterly that comes in from the Mediterranean about 120 km away. This is in hilly but good wheat-growing land about 40 km south-east of Toulouse. If the windmill looks like something rigged up by a DIY enthusiast, it almost is (but not quite). There's a little story attached.
In the Wind series.
Wed May 19th, 2010 at 05:37:21 AM EST
This is a diary by ManfromMiddletown, deleted accidentally and restored thanks to Google cache, h/t Migeru and det - afew
Spanish business daily Expansion recently published an article that explains much of the recent fight over feed in tariffs (FITs) in the country. There are two very different views of when renewables will become profitable without FITs. The graphic below illustrates this clearly.
On the left is the view from the government. Industry expects Photovoltaic (PV), concentrated solar, and wind to pass through the band of market prices to be profitable without FITs between 2014 and 2016.
On the right is what business is saying. The solid blue line is fossil fuels with a CO2 emission cost, and the dotted light blue line is fossil fuels with no emission cost. The deep black is solar technologies, and the grey is wind. If CO2 emissions costs are included, wind will become profitable without FIT sometime around 2013. If not, this will take until 2015. The story is even more dramatic for solar. With CO2 emissions included in electricity costs, solar becomes profitable without FIT around 2018. Without, this will take until 2026 or 2027.
Promoted this time without deletion - afew
Tue Feb 9th, 2010 at 09:35:56 AM EST
French business daily La Tribune reports:
|José Manuel Barroso revient à la charge sur les OGM||Jose Manuel Barroso back to the attack with GMOs|
|Le président de la Commission européenne José Manuel Barroso veut relancer le processus d'autorisation de la culture de deux OGM controversés, ont assuré à l'AFP (Agence France Presse) plusieurs sources européennes.||The President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso wants to relaunch the approval process for growing two disputed GM crops, several European sources have told AFP (Agence France Presse) .|
| "L'autorisation de la culture du maïs MON 810 et de la pomme de terre Amflora est une de ses priorités", a ainsi confié une source au sein de l'exécutif bruxellois sous couvert de l'anonymat.||"The authorization of MON 810 maize and the Amflora potato is one of his priorities," a source in the Brussels executive confided, on condition of anonymity.|
| Le président souhaiterait ainsi résoudre très vite le dossier, dès la prise de fonction de sa nouvelle équipe la semaine prochaine. La première réunion de la nouvelle Commission est prévue le 17 février mais le programme est "encore en cours d'élaboration", a précisé la porte-parole de la Commission, Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen.||The president wishes to settle the matter quickly, as soon as his new team takes up its functions next week. The first meeting of the new Commission is scheduled for February 17 but the program is "still being worked out," said the spokesperson of the Commission, Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen.|
Wed Jan 27th, 2010 at 09:48:44 AM EST
An OECD press release today details G7 trade figures over the recession and into Q3 2009. Here comes the Big Dipper and the oof! up we go again, a nice reassuring U-shape.
(Note: this is trade in goods; services show a somewhat flatter profile).
As they note, trade remains well below the levels of mid-2008.
Below the fold, an interesting series by country covering the blue rectangle in the bottom right corner of that graph above, and from which I've cherry-picked. Says the press release:
However, the U-shaped pattern for G7 countries shows distinct differences in trends in net balances. Increasing positive trade balances for Germany and Japan contrast with increasing negative balances for France and Italy. The United States and the United Kingdom broadly maintained their negative trade balance.
by Migeru - Jun 15
by Katrin - Jun 12
by DoDo - Jun 9
by DoDo - Jun 11
by DoDo - Jun 9
by DoDo - Jun 6
by DoDo - Jun 4
by gmoke - Jun 2
by ceebs - May 29
by DoDo - May 26
by DoDo - May 23