It Would Drive You Bananas

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iwishiwasindixie.com
Dragging what is laughingly called a hand of bananas down to the house, risking not only a hernia but also indelible latex stains on a clean top from the freshly cut stem I asked myself what else I expected….I had, after all, come to live in a banana republic.

And I can imagine that when I honk on about Costa Rican politics on this blog there are those who might well ask what else I had expected when moving to a banana republic with my eyes wide open.

I have to say that nothing so far has come as too much of a shock…but then before moving here I had had a masterclass in the mores of banana republics: I had lived in la belle France for over twenty years, under the reigns of Mitterand, Chirac and Sarkozy – and my friends in France keep me up to date on the doings of the latest incumbent, the Lesser Helmeted Hollandouille.

Now, while I suspect that years of contagion from the European Union has rendered the U.K. just about as corrupt as France, when I crossed the channel the process of turning a crafty private penny from public resources was in its infancy, so France came as quite a surprise.

Didier, done for having a defective rear light on his farm trailer, went to see an insurance agent who was the fixer for the local senator.
Didier undone for having a defective rear light on his farm trailer.

A neighbour’s son had lost points on his licence after driving under the influence and being tactless enough to run his car into the ditch in the presence of a gendarmerie van.
His father went to see someone at the court bearing an envelope and the points loss, awarded in court, never appeared on his record.

A maire managed, by the use of several shell companies, to buy a building belonging to his commune for a price below that offered the commune by a private buyer.

A retired senator had borrowed an enormous amount of money from the regional Credit Agricole bank, to finance the acquisition of property on the Cote d’Azur and the Ile de Re – neither area known for property bargains.
By way of security he offered some bonds…which were kept in his own safe deposit box at the local branch until the day when he walked in and removed them without a word being said on the part of the bank.

Mitterand brought about the process of decentralisation of government…by which more faces could be brought to feed at the publicly funded trough….and later Presidents extended the process, or trough, as often as needed.

But should one trough not suffice you could feed from several.

As maire of your commune, town or city you drew money related to the number of citizens you ‘represented’.
But you could also be a departmental councillor…for more dosh….and a member of the National Assembly for even more dosh and until relatively recently you could be paid for all these at the same time, and, in addition have an expenses allowance which was never checked….let alone an allowance for staff which enabled you to pay your wife for polishing her nails…and in some cases an official residence and a chauffeur driven car.

Needless to say, the egos became inflated.
The top dogs and their families were untouchable.

A chap whose car was damaged by Sarkozy’s son’s scooter found that a simple insurance job landed him with being accused of making a malicious prosecution….and he narrowly escaped a two thousand euro fine…; the Sarkozy family lawyer had even ‘phoned the chap’s insurance company to extract information by pretending to be the chap’s own lawyer.

But the top dogs fall out….usually at a handover of power, when the appointments made by Party A are joyously unmade by Party B and party A’s henchmen scramble for the seats on the magic roundabout of the well connected in France – the jobs in business which are at the disposal of the temporarily dispossessed party.

And it can prove nasty…..and is proving nasty for ex-President Sarkozy.

Escaping from charges of taking financial advantage of a senile old bat who was heir to the Oreal fortune, he applied to have his diaries, which were seized during the investigation, returned to him as he was worried that they might be used in other investigations involving him….a state pay out to a well known financial crook, and two little problems of campaign financing from dubious sources….one Pakistani and one Libyan.

He was quite hopeful…he had inside help at the court.
A well placed judge who thought he could talk his colleagues into seeing things the Sarkozy way in return for Sarkozy’s help in getting him a well paid retirement job in Monaco.
His lawyer thought it was a done deal…unless, as he said, they took a decision based on the law…

He was not only hopeful, he was cautious.
Suspecting, rightly, that his ‘phones were tapped, he got his lawyer to buy a mobile ‘pone in an assumed name – not so easy in France where they seem to want ID to go to the loo let alone buy a ‘phone – but no obstacle for this lawyer…the same who impersonated an opponent’s lawyer in the Sarkozy scooter case.

Unfortunately though, the judge investigating his little problems got wind of the mobile ‘phone and had that tapped too with the result that he now faces further charges of perverting the course of justice…..and the chase is on for the ‘sleepers’ he left in place when he left office.

So when, in Costa Rica, I hear that the candidate who wasn’t a candidate has become a candidate again…or that ballot papers for the second round of the Presidential election have been found in the street….that the warehouse where they were stored is owned by a company whose boss is a second cousin once removed of the President of the Election Tribunal, under a contract which does not meet standards of government transparency and which obliges the Election Tribunal to pay for all the services available at the warehouse in addition to the rent….I am not surprised.
Nor am I surprised when a Vice President of the Election Tribunal says that the newspaper which published the details should be sued.

I just think:

How French.

Not Much Bread……..But Plenty of Circuses

hollande on scooter
Hello, Clement! You look a bit fed up! A glass of Claude’s rose?

Thanks….it needs something. I’ve been up to my ears all day: Plouc’s never in the office so I have to deal with all the old biddies…and if they’re not in the office they’re on the ‘phone.

I hear he’s standing for maire in the elections….so I suppose he’s out pressing the flesh.

Tell me about it! I just wish he’d find a bit of time to do his job as a notaire! I’m sick and tired of forging his signature.

What’re his chances?

Pretty good…mark you there’s not much opposition given old Georges’ antics – he won’t be re elected and people are none too keen to join his list.

Not surprised when you think of that water tax he dreamt up!

Well, there’s not much you could do about your yard, was there….you could hardly take up the tarmac with people parking and deliveries and all…

They get you all ways with water!
First it was ‘Cut down your usage…be responsible….buy water butts’.
So you do that and then the water bill goes up all the same because they don’t have enough money to keep the system going. Or so they say!
Then along comes Georges with his bright scheme to avoid paying for a new sewage works….wants the rainwater to soak into the ground instead of going into the drains….so he charges you an arm and a leg for every square metre on your property that is covered by roofs or tarmac!

Yes, even Plouc pulled out that old outhouse when he saw the bill for the tax.
Old Georges couldn’t care less if Plouc is going to be the next deputy……he reckoned that Plouc would have to splash out round here as it’s his own backyard so he didn’t have to worry about keeping in with him.

Yes, but why’s Plouc standing for maire if he’s going to be the deputy? I thought they were going to stop politicians having two jobs….

Well they haven’t…and there’s not much chance of getting it through the parliament any time soon. The turkeys won’t vote for Christmas, so Plouc reckons it’s safe to stand for maire and that it will help him when it comes round to the general election….you know, planning permissions and whatnot.

So you’ll be seeing even less of him, then?

Not really…they don’t stay up in Paris all week….they clear off on Wednesday night to spend time in their constituencies….so I suppose he’ll he in the office about as much as he is now…
Oh, hello Victor!

Victor! We’re just talking about the elections! Claude’s rose?

Ah yes…he made a nice drop this year. Elections? Well, I’m voting for Georges!

For Georges! After what he got up to!

Oh, that water tax…didn’t bother me…us farmers were exempt…
But you talk about old Georges…what about our beloved President? Now that’s one who’s really been up to something!

Well, no more than others before him. They’re all at it….always have been.
Look at Chirac – yes, thanks, another glass…the night Princess Diana died he was off with some woman and no one knew where he was until he turned up in the early hours.

And Giscard d’Estaing..colliding with a milk tanker…

Not to speak of Mitterand! Though that was more of a settled sort of thing – a whole other family rather than tarts – he had female ministers for all that.
No, Victor he’s not the first and he won’t be the last!

And anyway, it’s his private life…he has a right to privacy.

Oh, does he? And if he does why don’t we?

But we do, Victor…people can’t take photographs of us without our permission,, so why should they take them of Hollande without his?

It’s not photographs I’m talking about! Young Laurent’s been telling me that now the taxman and the police can bug our ‘phones and monitor anything we do over the internet without even having to get a judge to agree to it!

That won’t bother you Victor! You’re too mean to sign up for the internet anyway!

That’s where you’re wrong! It does bother me!
They go on about terrorism and security – but you watch! One mention of where you keep your money and there’ll be a posse of gendarmes carving up your mattress before you can blink!

Yes but that’s different….Hollande wants what everyone has – the right to do what he wants in his own time.

What own time! He wanted to be President, didn’t he? Wasn’t too bothered about having Strauss-Kahn’s private life splashed all over the papers when that knocked out one of his rivals!

Yes, but you can’t confuse his public life with his private life…

No? Well just tell me how it is then that some young policeman who works as a security guard on the Ministry of the Interior can be suspended because he does what he wants in his free time?

It must have been something illegal…

No! Perfectly legal! He worked at the Ministry in the daytime and was a rent boy at night.
And how did they find out? Snooping on his bank account.
And they want him suspended because being a rent boy isn’t compatible with being a policeman.
So if they can ‘confuse’ his public and private life then why should Hollande be exempt?

Well, he’s the President, not some young kid doing something on the side….and even you aren’t going to say that Hollande is a rent boy!

No of course he isn’t, but you can’t say what he’s up to is very savoury.
And what’s more, aren’t they bringing in a law to make criminals of men who visit prostitutes?
Doesn’t that apply if you’re the President either?

But she’s not a prostitute, Victor! She’s an actress!

Takes off her clothes for money doesn’t she? Same thing!

But that doesn’t make her a tart, Victor! Hollande’s not paying her!

No, I don’t suppose he is – doesn’t pay for anything himself – but you want to look at who owns that flat in the rue du Cirque!
Some bint married to an actor who’s well up in the Corsican mafia.
Now you tell me what’s worse…some kid trying to make a bit of extra on the side, or a President of the French Republic who, with all the snoopers in the country at his service, gets himself mixed up with bandits!

Here, Alain, lets have another. A whisky this time…and none of your Clan Campbell!

Right you are! A Johnny Walker – a double – and on the house!
Go easy Victor! One free drink and you’re anyone’s rent boy!
What’s that, Clement?

Well, I tell you what….private life or not, Hollande’s not much of a man is he?

What do you mean?

Think about it.
He was living with Valerie Trierweiler when he was elected.
He doesn’t marry her, so that puts her at the sharp end of a lot of nastiness about being or not being First Lady.
Then he installs her in the Elysee Palace with a staff….making it as public as possible that married or not she has a status as far as he is concerned.
She goes with him on State visits. Except the Vatican, of course.
And then he has this affair – which he’s not denying – and leaves her twisting in the wind, a target for anyone who pleases.
You can’t live with someone and then treat them like this. Not if you have any decency.

Yes, I see what you mean. He could have told her what was going on…given her the chance to leave with a bit of dignity.

What! Him!
If he’d been straight with us, the electors, about what he was going to do he’d never have made President, nomatter how much everyone hated Sarkozy.
No, with his women he’s like he is with power….sits on his arse and waits for better times….

The way things are he’d better watch out that performing in the rue du Cirque doesn’t lead him to performing against the lions in the Circus Maximus…

I tell you what!

Yes, Victor?

When they cut out his prostate they should have been a bit more radical.

Paris is Rather a Mess

palace elysee guides.restaurants.frThus the Sellar and Yeatman version of the end of the sixteenth century Wars of Religion in France where the Protestant victor, Henry of Navarre, turned Roman Catholic (again) in order that his victory should gain acceptance.
Paris, he is reported to have said, is worth a mass.

Given current conditions…the Sellar and Yeatman version seems distinctly appropriate.

Eighteen months into his five year stint as President of the French Republic, Francois Hollande is not a happy bunny.
Things are not going according to plan.

Hollande is a graduate of the ENA – where the elite of France are formed to be worthy leaders of their country’s institutions.
Where to succeed you need to know that not only is there only one answer to a question…but also only one question to be asked.

Accordingly Hollande knew the one question to be asked….how to be elected in 2012?
He also knew the answer….be anyone except the retiring President, Nicolas Sarkozy.
Nowhere in this process will you find matters such as how to conduct the governance of France.
All ENA graduates know the answer to that one….carry on as before with all the posts of power, private and public, in the steady hands of themselves or other graduates of the ENA.

The ENA would have been gratified at the success of his plan.
He was elected President of the French Republic and set about proving he was not Sarkozy by getting shafted by the German Chancellor at their first meeting and wandering round in baggy bermudas on his hols in the south of France.

Then he got the bit between his teeth.
Sarkozy had given a tax exoneration for overtime worked. Hollande removed it.
Sarkozy had overseen the setting up of the auto-entrepreneur scheme, whereby people setting up in business paid social charges only on what they earned after they had earned it…not on what a bureaucrat thought they would earn and so charged them upfront before they started. Hollande wanted to overturn it….but met opposition, especially from those who found that if they sold the business they had founded they would have to pay a 60% tax on the proceeds.

The grand plan began to run off the rails….

Even the EU had noticed France’s budget deficit and urgent measures had to be taken to reduce it. The people had to be prepared to make sacrifices.
Well, some people.
Not politicians for a start.
Nor top civil servants.
Nor big business.
Nor the state.

No, the little man could stump up.

To have the least malcontents, keeping hitting the same people all the time
To have the least malcontents, keeping hitting the same people all the time
The ENA teaches its students to operate on the Shadok system…..

If there is no solution it is because there is no problem (the only one question principle)….

If there is only one chance in a thousand of success, hurry up and make the first nine hundred and ninety nine cock ups.

This was an unfortunate moment for the budget minister to be found to have had secret Swiss bank accounts.

Then foreign manufacturing companies started to pull out of France….jobs have been lost.
Taxation is hitting hard.
And the one Sarkozyism that Hollande did not boot out – the ecotax on heavy goods vehicles – has provoked riots in Brittany and vandalism to installations elsewhere.

But the ENA has the answer…the only one…..the traditional one.
Bribes.
So billions to Brittany, billions to road transport groups, and probably billions to buy off the Italian firm who were going to run the ecotax

Buit who is going to pay the bribes….yes, the little man through increased taxation.

And the deficit? …Oh; that….

Paris is rather a mess.

Normally when disatified with one main stream political party people turn to the other…but the UMP has its own scandals and infighting to occupy it….so no leadership there.

The journalists (given a whopping tax break by Hollande after Sarkozy had previously removed it) worry about people looking to a strong man…they see the rise of totalitarianism in France….they fear the Front National coming to power.

So today, on the anniversary of the death of General de Gaulle, his tomb has been visited by a range of politicians on the make, anxious to wrap themselves in the mantle of the last strong man to rule France.

They could all be put into one of the pockets of his greatcoat and pass unnoticed.

One, however, has not made the journey.

Moi-je, Francois Hollandouille, President of the French Republic.

Perhaps he worries that, should he pay a visit, the speed at which the General would be revolving in his grave would be sufficient to achieve lift off….and that the resulting encounter would be a re-run of the finale of Don Giovanni….

Hollande going up in flames.

memorialcharlesdegaulle

Un Grand Foutage de Gueule….or Urine Extraction on the Grand Scale

http://www.lecafedelaville.fr/
France is a country, a society, of entrenched monopolies….if the leaders of the various interest groups would just dress up in houppelandes and liripipes we should have no difficulty in recognising them as the successors of the masters of the trade guilds of the middle ages, carefully allowing only those who conformed to their rule to be able to work at a trade.

You can understand their attitude…to some extent. If they limited the numbers working at their trade they could keep their prices up and afford a bit of fur to line their houppelandes in the winter weather.

De Gaulle tried breaking the monopoly which he said was the permanent enemy of France…..the moneyed interest…so he set up the Ecole Nationale d’Administration to produce people to man the organs of the state.
As we can see today, the moneyed interest just sneered and made sure their kids monopolised the available places….and President Hollandouille busies himself stuffing people from his own time there – the ‘promotion Voltaire’ – into every well paid orifice the state affords.

His predecessor, President Sarkozy, came to power announcing that France needed reform and before his own party – startled that he actually meant what he said – could muzzle him he had attacked one of the sacred cows of France…..the monopoly of the artisan francais. The French craftsman.

One heard a lot about the wonders of the artisan francais in the time when the ‘living the dreamers’ monopolised what was written about France….he had served an apprenticeship (up to a point Lord Copper); his work was insured (it damned well had to be from what I saw of the breed); and he was a local independent workman.

It cost him a a packet to set up though and with unemployment growing the Great Reformer thought it would be good to allow people to try setting up their business without it costing the arm and a leg they would need to develop it.

Thus the new creation of something called the auto-entrepreneur who only paid contributions on what he actually earned as opposed to paying them on what some civil servant with no experience in business thought he should have been earning.

It has been a success. People have been able to try out their ideas without ruinous financial risk: people have stopped working on the black and have declared themselves – thus paying something into the state’s coffers as opposed to taking something out as being unemployed.
People may not make much money at it..not enough to pay the ruinous charges of the artisan francais…but enough to keep their heads above water.
A good thing, one would think, when times are hard.

So the Great Monopandouille wants to stop it.
Of course he does.
The scheme gives rise to unfair competition for the artisan francais.

While the simple answer would be to allow the artisan to operate under the same scheme as the auto entrepreneur which might make it financially possible for him to employ someone, unfortunately only paying up as a percentage of what is made would produce an immense shortfall in the social security budget, let alone leaving thousands of civil servants with even less to do than usual…and it would never do to try to reform the great monopolies of the health service and the state bureaucracy.

No,no…this product of the ENA, trained box tickers to a man, goes for the solution of the medieval guildmasters….if it doesn’t jump through our hoops it won’t be allowed to work.

After two years, it is proposed, the auto-entrepreneur must either cough up like the artisan francais or join the ever swelling ranks of the unemployed.
And very helpful that will be in reducing the deficit in the national finances.

With all the problems facing France, Hollande, Moi-je, President of France, can think of nothing better to do than to pander to interest groups to keep himself in power….which is what he did during his reign as secretary of the Socialist Party.
He doesn’t seem to have learned, to have understood, even to be aware, that running a country is a far cry from manipulating a bunch of brain dead would-be Borgias.

When his Interior Minister is busy allowing riot police to use tear gas at a demonstration where there are people with small children, could he not better employ his resources in clearing up the drug and crime ridden suburbs of the big cities where decent kids don’t stand a chance of setting up their own businesses…let alone entering the ENA?

But these are just ordinary people; people who have been marching in Marseille in protest at the lack of presence of the state in their areas, protesting at the corrupt police who are enforcers for the drug rings.
Much more important to reassure the bosses of the big companies that they can go on awarding themselves pay and perks at will…nomatter how dire their performance – after all, they’ve been to ENA. They deserve it.

Let it not be said, nor even whispered in Gath and Ashkelon, that the big cheese does not set an example in difficult times.
He has announced that he will not be lounging on the new garden furniture chosen by the light of his life for the presidential holiday home in the south of France.
No…he will be in Paris. At work. And so will his ministers.

They have to show they are there.

What is important, he says, is the impression.

Allo, non mais allo quoi!

Does he take the average French person for an idiot?
Impression of what exactly?

Selling off some of the wine from the Presidential cellars while those – far better – at the Lanterne (the house at Versailles on the books of the Prime Minister’s department but favoured by Hollande as by Sarkozy before him) remain at his disposal?

Announcing that the unemployment figures will improve – and allowing his ministers to do their bit by employing more and more advisors paid by the public purse?

The impression people have is that he is extracting the urine…..but what would you expect?
With the taxes he has imposed he has already extracted everything else.