Tuesday, January 21, 2020
And the market reacted rapidly...
As we detailed earlier, the global risk-off wave had started in the overnight hours of Monday as the full extent of the Chinese coronavirus scare became apparent to traders, has rolled into the cash session Tuesday with airline, casino and gaming, hotel, and travel stocks, taking a leg lower.
PARIS. The people are angry with their government. Where? Just about everywhere. So what makes ongoing strikes in France so special? Nothing, perhaps, except a certain expectation based on history that French uprisings can produce important changes – or if not, can at least help clarify the issues in contemporary social conflicts.
The current ongoing social unrest in France appears to pit a majority of working people against President Emmanuel Macron. But since Macron is merely a technocratic tool of global financial governance, the conflict is essentially an uprising against policies that put the avaricious demands of financial markets ahead of the needs of the people.
This basic conflict is at the root of the weekly demonstrations of Yellow Vest protesters who have been demonstrating every Saturday for well over a year, despite brutal police repression. Now trade unionists, public sector workers and Yellow Vests demonstrate together, as partial work stoppages continue to perturb public transportation.
In the latest developments, teachers in Paris schools are joining the revolt. Even the prestigious prep school, the Lycée Louis le Grand, went on strike. This is significant because even a government that shows no qualms in smashing the heads of working class malcontents can hesitate before bashing the brains of the future elite.
However general the discontent, the direct cause for what has become the longest period of unrest in memory is a single issue: the government’s determination to overhaul the national social security pension system. This is just one aspect of Macron’s anti-social program, but no other aspect touches just about everybody’s lives as much as this one.
The Macron economic reform policy was essentially defined in Brussels.
The most cynical pretext for Macron’s pension reform is that combining all the various professional regimes into a universal point system favors “equality” – even as it increases the growing gap between salaried people and the super-rich, who don’t need pensions.
The variations in the current French pension system perform a social function. Some professions, such as teaching and nursing, are essential to society, but wages tend to be lower than in the private sector. These professions are able to renew themselves by ensuring job stability and the promise of comfortable retirement. Take away their “privileges” and recruiting competent teachers and nurses will be even harder than it is already. At present, medical personnel are threatening to resign en masse, because conditions in hospitals are becoming unbearable as a result of drastic cuts in budgets and personnel.
The real issue is a choice of systems: to be precise, economic globalization versus national sovereignty.
Macron is an ardent devotee of the invisible hand. He seems to expect that by draining French savings into an international investment giant such as Black Rock, Black Rock will reciprocate by pumping investment into French technological and industrial progress.
Nothing could be less certain. In the West these days, there is lots of low interest credit, lots of debt, but investment is rarely creative. Money is used largely to buy what is already there – existing companies, mergers, stock trading (massive in the U.S.) and, for individuals, housing. Most foreign investment in France buys up things like vineyards or goes into safe infrastructure such as ports, airports and autoroutes. When General Electric bought out Alstom, it soon broke its promise to preserve jobs and began cutting back. It also is depriving France of control of an essential aspect of its national independence, its nuclear energy.
The rules of the European Union prohibit a Member State such as France from developing its own civil-oriented industrial policy, since everything must be open to unhindered international competition. Utilities, services and infrastructure must all be open to foreign owners. Foreign investors may feel no inhibition about taking their profits while allowing these public services to deteriorate.
The ongoing disruption of daily life seems to be forcing Macron’s government to make minor concessions. But nothing can change the basic aims of this presidency.
At the same time, the arrogance and brutal repression of the Macron regime increase demands for radical political change. The Yellow Vest movement has largely adopted the demand developed by Etienne Chouard for a new Constitution empowering citizen-initiated referendums – in short, a peaceful democratic revolution.
But how to get there? Overthrowing a monarch is one thing, but overthrowing the power of international finance is another, especially in a nation bound by EU and NATO treaties. Personal animosity toward Macron tends to shelter the European Union from sharp criticism of its major responsibility.
Leftist leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon has the oratorical punch to lead a revolution, but his popularity seems to have suffered from attacks even harsher than those unleashed against Corbyn in Britain or Sanders in the USA. With Mélenchon weakened and no other strong personalities in sight, Marine Le Pen has established herself as Macron’s main challenger in the 2022 presidential election, which risks presenting voters with the same choice they had in 2017.
Asselineau’s analysis, Yellow Vest strategic mass, Mélenchon’s oratory, Chouard’s institutional reforms – these are elements that could theoretically combine (with others yet unknown) to produce a peaceful revolution. But combining political elements is hard chemistry, especially in individualistic France. Without some big surprises, France appears headed not for revolution but for a long frozen combat.
By EMILY WANG, DAKE KANG and YANAN WANG
In addition to 258 cases in Wuhan, more than 20 have been diagnosed in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong province in the south and Zhejiang in the east. Four cases have been confirmed overseas among Chinese travelers in South Korea, Japan and Thailand. A Taiwanese businesswoman who just returned from Wuhan tested positive for the virus, Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control reported Tuesday.
Fifteen medical workers have also tested positive for the virus, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said.
Two cases in Guangdong were people who had not visited Wuhan but fell ill after family members returned from there. Zhong cited those as evidence the disease had spread between humans.
Australia, Japan, South Korea and the U.S. were among the countries increasing airport screenings. Three weekly direct flights from Wuhan to Sydney will be met by border security and biosecurity staff for assessments, chief Australian medical officer Brendan Murphy told reporters.
“Please take every possible precaution,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe instructed the health minister and other government departments.
The possibility the virus can be transmitted between people increases the chances it could spread faster and more widely. The Chinese government has estimated people will make around 3 billion trips during the Lunar New Year travel season, but some social media users have said they may stay home due to concern about the virus.
The global risk off wave that started late on Monday as the full extent of the Chinese coronavirus scare became apparent to traders, accelerated overnight and global shares took a beating on Tuesday, wiping out all gains made at the start of the week as US equity futures, Asian stocks and European equities all slumped the red.
The mood swing saw MSCI’s All-Country World Index slip 0.4%, wiping out gains made at the start of the week on Monday. Asian markets were hit particularly hard, with Hong Kong - which suffered badly during the SARS outbreak - stocks tumbling 2.8% following a rating downgrade and as the coronavirus panic was seen impacting real estate, casino and car stocks, and with Chinese New Year coming up the situation could get even worse. Indeed, the coronavirus outbreak from central China entered a new phase of severity as multiple medical workers were reported to have been infected.
A Swedish politician says that the government has 'lost control' after new figures reveal a 60% rise in bombings in 2019 over the previous year, amid what Reuters reports as "a surge in drug-linked gang-violence."
Kristersson's comments come after a blast rocked Stockholm more than a week ago, considered to be one of the most powerful in recent memory according to police area manager Erik Widstrand - who added that it was "pure luck" that nobody had been injured, according to Breitbart.
And while we don't have a breakdown as to the type of explosives, what we do know is that the use of grenades in Sweden has been on the rise.
"Löfven, you have lost control of Sweden," Kristersson wrote in September in another Aftonbladet Op-Ed criticizing Prime Minister Stefan Löfven.
"Last year, 306 shootings occurred and 45 people were shot dead. According to the police, the number of people killed has doubled since 2014. During the same period, the number of people who have been subjected to sexual abuse has tripled according to BRÅ [the Swedish Crime Prevention Council]," he added.
At the same time, we have an integration crisis: More than half of all the unemployed are born outside of Sweden. In our exclusion areas, [utanförskapsområden] there are schools where not even half of the students pass all subjects... Many children born in Sweden hardly speak Swedish, and there is extensive repression [in the name of] honor culture. Here too we have called for reforms, but the Social Democrats say no.