When Socialists go wrong (Always)

By: iceagecoming , 12:39 AM GMT on October 17, 2012

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Just a few months ago, supporters rallied in the streets for the election of Francois Hollande. Now, some of the same people are protesting against the French president. Leftist parties and unions organized this anti-austerity protest in September.

Published: October 13, 2012

by Eleanor Beardsley

Just five months after electing President Francois Hollande, many French are now despairing that he cannot deliver on the vision they voted for. What's worse, some wonder if Hollande has a plan at all.

The new president's ratings have plummeted, and his once-lauded "steady approach" is now perceived as dithering.

Protesters shouting "Resistance!" in the streets of Paris this month included people who voted for him and now feel betrayed. They were demonstrating against the European fiscal treaty, approved this week by the Socialist-dominated French parliament.

On the campaign trail, Hollande promised to renegotiate the austerity treaty to add a growth component. Protesters here say he didn't change one comma of it.

Hollande insists the country must cut spending and reduce its deficit. Those are the same goals as the unpopular president they voted out of office, says 18-year-old Virgil LeBlanc.

"The French voted just a few months ago to change the direction the country was heading," he says. "But our efforts were obviously pointless because Hollande is pushing the country toward austerity just like Nicolas Sarkozy."

The headline of a leading news magazine, L'Express, reads: "Look Who's Been Cuckolded By Hollande."

First among them, it says, are civil servants. One of Hollande's main campaign promises was to hire tens of thousands of new teachers and police officers.

What he didn't say was that he would shrink the size of other ministries to do so. Granted, keeping campaign promises in the middle of a Europe-wide recession and debt crisis was never going to be easy.

Anger On The Left

French steel workers welded themselves inside a plant slated to be closed, and auto unions set off fireworks as they tried to storm the Paris Motor Show this week.

Peugeot Citroen worker Alain Blazzard says it's outrageous that the company plans to close a major plant and lay off 8,000 workers, and that Hollande is doing nothing about it.

"Peugeot decided to pay out 6 billion euros in dividends to stockholders over the last decade instead of investing in new markets to develop the company. And now we, the ones who actually make the cars, are paying for it," Blazzard says.

The anger against Hollande is not just over the economy. Ecologists are furious after a member of his government called nuclear power an industry of the future, contrary to Hollande's campaign promise to reduce it. And Hollande has taken flack for his inaction on the world stage.

Even flamboyant leftist philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy has piled on. After helping to convince Sarkozy to bomb Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, Levy says he's deeply disappointed that Hollande has done nothing about Syria's President Bashar Assad.

In just five months, Hollande's approval ratings have dropped from 61 percent to 40 percent — a record plunge for a first-term president. And a poll out this week shows that more French people would rather see Sarkozy back in office.

Jumping Through Hoops

It's not just voters on the far left who are disappointed by Hollande. The cafe scene in the Bastille neighborhood of Paris is a favorite hangout of well-heeled Socialists, known as "Gauche Caviar."

These upper-middle-class supporters of Hollande aren't thrilled to see their taxes going up, but it's more a feeling that nothing is happening, says consultant Monique Desgouttes.

"Hollande's big mistake was to cast himself as the opposite of Nicolas Sarkozy in every way. Because now people are saying he doesn't even have a plan and it was better before when there was at least energy and action," Desgouttes says.


SOUNDS LIKE THE LAST FOUR YEARS

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Top Cuomo Aide’s Oil and Gas Holdings Raise Questions of Impartiality in N.Y. Fracking Debate

Related EWG Content

Cuomo Administration Failure to Disclose Drilling Documents Prompts EWG Lawsuit
September 19, 2012

Categories
Fracking
Oil & Gas

By Dusty Horwitt, EWG Senior Counsel, and Thomas Cluderay, EWG Assistant General Counsel, September 2012

As New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo nears a decision on whether to lift the state’s moratorium on shale gas development, filings with the state ethics commission reveal that one of his top advisors may be in a position to benefit personally from the outcome.

An investigation by the Environmental Working Group found that Lawrence Schwartz — who has the title of Secretary to the Governor and is considered “the ringleader” in the governor’s office in part because state deputies and commissioners report to him — has a history of investing in oil and natural gas companies. Since 2009, Schwartz has reported investments in several companies engaged in shale gas development, including one he identified as “Mobile Exon,” apparently a reference to Exxon Mobil Corp. Exxon Mobil has a direct interest in Cuomo’s decision through its subsidiary, XTO Energy, Inc., which holds leases for natural gas drilling in New York’s portion of the gas-rich Marcellus Shale. Schwartz also reported financial interests in a firm or firms he identified variously as “Williams Co.” and “Williams Companies,” apparently references to The Williams Companies Inc., an oil and gas pipeline firm that has a general interest in the Marcellus formation that underlies large portions of New York and other eastern states.

Gov. Cuomo is said to be close to a decision whether to allow high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” and horizontal drilling for natural gas in portions of the Marcellus Shale. The New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics urges state officials to avoid personal investments in companies that would create “substantial conflict” between their duty to serve the people of New York and their private financial interests.

Financial disclosure records obtained from the commission show that Schwartz, who served as secretary to former Gov. David Paterson and continues to hold that position under Gov. Cuomo, has three times reported holding investments in gas and oil companies.

• In 2009, Schwartz reported investments of at least $1,000 each in “Williams Co.” and “Burlington Res.” (Under state law, public officials must identify companies in which they have investments of $1,000 or more but are not required to report the exact value of their holdings or the income they produce.) The Williams Companies operates gas and oil pipelines and related infrastructure across North America. “Burlington Res” appears to refer to Burlington Resources, an energy exploration and production company with worldwide operations. It was acquired in 2005 by ConocoPhillips Co., one of the world’s largest oil and gas producers, in an effort to expand operations in Texas’ Eagle Ford shale, “one of the best shale plays in the country,” according to a ConocoPhillips executive quoted on the company’s website.

• In 2010, Schwartz reported income in excess of $1,000 each from investments in “Mobile Exon,” “Occidental Petroleum” and “Williams Companies”; he also listed common stock holdings exceeding $1,000 each in “Occidental Petroleum” and “Williams Companies.” Occidental Petroleum is a global oil and gas exploration and production company. Exxon-Mobil Corp.’s website boasts of being the “world’s largest public natural gas producer.”

• In 2011, Schwartz reported income in excess of $1,000 each from investments in “Mobile Exon,” “Occidental Petroleum” and “Williams Companies”; he also listed common stock holdings exceeding $1,000 each in “Occidental Petroleum” and “Williams Companies.”

These disclosures raise new questions about whether Gov. Cuomo’s pending decision on shale gas drilling will be fair, transparent and science-based, as he has promised. EWG previously reported that New York regulators gave drilling companies exclusive access to draft regulations for shale gas drilling weeks before sharing them with the public. EWG and New York-based Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy have also highlighted serious flaws in New York’s draft drilling plan, which downplays or overlooks risks associated with shale gas drilling.

EWG left a message with Schwartz’s office on Sept. 4, asking for comment on Schwartz’s financial disclosures. On Sept. 10, EWG talked to Schwartz’s assistant and asked whether Schwartz still has investments in any of the oil and gas companies listed in his disclosures, and if so, how much money he has invested in each. EWG has not yet received a response.

Exxon Mobil Corp., which Schwartz appeared to list in his financial disclosures for 2010 and 2011, has a direct interest in shale gas drilling in New York through its $31 billion purchase of XTO Energy, Inc. in 2009. At least as early as 2008, XTO purchased leases for oil and gas drilling in New York’s Marcellus Shale, paying $90 million to buy leases from a 300-member landowner coalition in Broome and Delaware counties, according to the Press & Sun Bulletin of Binghamton. In August of this year, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the company inked a $110 million deal with a 500-member landowner coalition in New York and currently holds leases on 43,000 acres in Broome and Delaware counties. Last year, XTO sought to force reluctant landowners to extend their leases in New York, arguing that New York’s moratorium on high-volume hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling had deprived the company of the ability to develop the natural gas during the original term of the leases.

The Williams Companies, which Schwartz appeared to list in various ways in his disclosure reports for all three years, may also have a direct stake in the pending decision to lift New York’s moratorium. In recent filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, The Williams Companies told investors that in February 2012 it acquired 100 percent ownership of a natural gas pipeline known as the “Laser Gathering System,” which includes “10 miles of gathering lines in southern New York” as “a strategic platform to enhance our expansion in the Marcellus Shale.” (Gathering lines are typically smaller pipelines that connect gas wells to processing facilities and larger pipelines.) The Associated Press recently reported that Williams Companies has proposed a $750 million pipeline known as the “Constitution Pipeline” that would run from Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna County through New York’s Broome, Chenango and Delaware counties to connect with existing pipelines in Schoharie County. Broome, Chenango and Delaware counties are part of “the portion of the Marcellus Shale most likely to produce gas,” according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in its draft drilling plan.

The Williams Companies currently operates a 10,000-mile pipeline system carrying natural gas from south Texas to New York City. It has proposed to expand pipeline operations into the city, which has generated local concern in part because of the company’s safety record. On Aug. 29, The New York Times reported that “since 2008, the company’s pipelines have had accidents — including leaks, ruptures and explosions — in at least seven states… A company spokesman said that all the issues raised by the accidents had been addressed.”

Burlington Resources and ConocoPhillips, the other oil and gas companies that appear to be listed in Schwartz’s disclosure filings, do not seem to have a presence in New York, but both are pursuing shale gas exploration and development elsewhere in the United States and could make a play in New York if Cuomo lifts the moratorium. The debate over Gov. Cuomo’s pending decision has attracted nationwide interest because allowing shale gas drilling in New York could benefit oil and gas companies generally by signaling to regulators elsewhere that the drilling is safe. Opponents argue that many important safety questions remain unanswered, such as how drilling companies will dispose of millions of gallons of toxic wastewater.

If the oil and gas companies gain from Cuomo’s decision, Schwartz could stand to gain, too.

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Is President Barack Obama green? That question, and the many environmental concerns it raises, casts a harsh light on a president with a checkered environmental history. Where does Obama stand on energy - especially clean energy? What about the Keystone pipeline? And fracking, or hydraulic fracturing? What about Obama and global warming and climate change?

Obama and Global Warming

Global warming and climate change are huge, complex issues, and no single world leader is likely to dominate the issue. Is it fair, then, to criticize Obama for failing to make meaningful progress on this critical problem? Perhaps not: Congress in 2009 failed to pass cap-and-trade legislation that would limit emissions of greenhouse gases and allow companies to buy and sell pollution permits under that cap. Nonetheless, the administration has consistently taken a backseat approach to global warming, leaving it up to others to effectively untie this Gordian knot. Global Warming Grade: D+
Obama's Final Green Grade

There are a number of other issues -- alt-fuel vehicles and electric cars, for example -- that the Obama administration has pledged some level of support for, only to have that support wither under the economic realities that define this era. Despite this, even Obama's most strident critics acknowledge that he has faced unprecedented challenges: a global recession, vast unemployment, and a bloodthirsty Congress that seems hellbent on reducing his leadership to dust. In such an atmosphere, Obama deserves credit for simply staying afloat, even when he appears to be only treading water. Final Green Grade: C+




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2. WunderAlertBot (Admin)
3:58 AM GMT on December 11, 2012
iceagecoming has created a new entry.
1. Skyzics
1:01 AM GMT on October 19, 2012
Hollande's problems from his 'base' are essentially the same problems Obama is now facing from his 'base.' Except the remarkable thing in Hollande's case is the brief interlude between the election and an awakening that he was running on false promises.

Significantly, Obama has been more successful in stretching out the timeline for this awakening among the Democratic party base, as well as in his efforts to deceive the base and in disguising his right wing policies within a left dressing. This may be the result of less political savvy among the US electorate as well as a more servile and less critical mass media. But the tendencies are the same, that is, both politicians and parties are abandoning their respective 'left' base and any true semblance of progressive policies whatsoever that might balance out the venal interests of their financial elites and the recklessness of their national security establishments that ultimately also exist to serve those same interests.

Both politicians (Hollande and Obama) ran on vague but grand promises of change from the previous, despised right wing administrations but, after coming into office, essentially continued and expanded the policies, domestically and abroad, of the despised predecessors.

This points to the general failure of the 'left' - the 'socialist' or PS party in France and the nominal 'left' or Democrats in the US - not only to articulate any sort of future vision (aside from the occasional phony rhetoric, particularly in election season), but to possess any fundamental differences with the right wing of their respective political establishments. Both 'left' parties have proven themselves to be tools of their own financial oligarchy and national security apparatus no less than their right wing predecessors.

The failure of the 'left' in both countries can be seen in 'left spokesmen' in both countries advocating militarism abroad and austerity and reactionary policies at home while often attacking their respective 'left' leaders from the right.

In an age of global economic insecurity and austerity and effective control of all the levers of power in virtually all national governments by a tiny financial elite, the nominal 'left' wing of the various political establishments offer no real alternative to the main right wing politicians and their parties. This betrayal is eroding the base of support of the 'left' political tendencies within all national political establishments while allowing the rapid rise of fascistic parties and tendencies as an alternative to fill the political vacuum. These expanding ultra right tendencies are then often protected, aided and abetted (sometimes by just ignoring them) by the the global financial elites (through institutions such as the EU) and ruling national governments, whether nominally 'democratic' or otherwise.

The result of similar global developments in the last century was ultimately expressed in an economic depression, the widespread development of fascism and two world wars.

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