"Every damn fool thing you do in this life, you pay for."
—Edith Piaf's last words
(Swans - July 2, 2012) CONTRASTING STORIES: Carlos Ghosn, the CEO of Nissan and Renault, is paid seven times as much as Akio Toyoda, the CEO of Toyota, over $12 million. Never mind that Renault is losing money, laying off employees, delocalizing plants to countries with cheap labor (e.g. Morocco, and Algeria), Mr. Ghosn is considered a top-level manager. He deserves his remuneration, so the story goes. The best-paid automaker executive in the world is Ford's CEO, Alan Mulally, who made about $30 million last year. It is said that you do not want to let your top executives go the competition. All true enough. That's the socioeconomic system we live in...so let's enjoy it and be a part of it...I suppose.
MEANWHILE, far away in California's Central Valley, 80 miles east of San Francisco, Stockton, a city of almost 300,000 inhabitants, just declared bankruptcy due to a $26 million shortfall in the city's budget. Creditors cannot be repaid. As simple as that... I've read in The New York Times that "Since 2009, the city has cut some $90 million in spending and eliminated 25 percent of its police officers, 30 percent of its fire department and 40 percent of all other city employees." So it goes...
I HEAR that cities all over the USA are cutting electricity down every night because they cannot pay the utilities that have, of course, been privatized.
TO TELL Mr. Ghosn and Mr. Mulally that in light of the ills the greater society suffers (be it in France, the U.S., and elsewhere) their remunerations are obscene serves no purpose. They won't understand and they do not care. Neither do policymakers and rentiers. (You could add Larry Ellison, the CEO of Oracle with a fortune worth some $28 billion who recently purchased the Hawaiian Island of Lanai and its assets for around $600 million.) So here we go down the drain one city at a time, one family at a time...and our "leaders" competing in worthless elections talk about their own disputed "values" -- you know, gay marriage, immigration, religion, growth and taxes, or whatever schmilblick invented by Pierre Dac (French-speaking people can read Dac's description of this utensil that serves no purpose).
TALKING ABOUT WORTHLESS ELECTIONS, I've been accused of not taking sides in the last French presidential and parliamentarian elections, which is true. I did not take a side, only asked people to vote. I had no horse or horses in the races since I did not have the capacity to vote in those elections. Also, as a publisher and editor, I've learned to exercise some restraint. In the French brouhaha, I had French contributors and readers who were all over the place. Some called to vote for a leftist demagogue, others for a right-wing demagogue, many were in between Sarkozy and Hollande. I created a small mailing list containing friends, family, contributors, all French speaking, and I shared my observations with them. Even some inoffensive comments I made -- like saying that Sarkozy's concession speech was classy or that an absolute (compared to relative) Socialist majority in the parliamentarian elections was not welcome (the Socialists already control the senate, most regions, and cities) because it will give them absolute power -- provoked some very strong and negative reactions from one correspondent.
I RECALL getting into a squabble in 2004 with a thoughtful contributor about the US presidential election. I strongly disagreed with his perspectives though in retrospect he was correct and I was not. However, the consequence of that disagreement became palpable very quickly. He stopped contributing (but thankfully has come back recently). The episode taught me a lesson: As an editor I'd better be prudent and avoid taking strong positions; if not I will alienate either readers or contributors, or both. In 2008, we -- my co-editor and I -- strongly supported Ralph Nader. It was an exhilarating experience. We lost half of our readership. So here we are in 2012. I did not pick a side in the French elections and I intend to not pick a side in the Obama-Romney upcoming duel. After all, it's the system that needs to be changed, not the personalities.
I WRITE THIS having in mind the result of the French presidential election. Francois Hollande ran on a visceral anti-Sarkozy platform. He won. Amusingly, Hollande belongs to what the French call le sérail (the "seraglio," members of the temple, of the elites). He is an alumnus of HEC and the ENA, two elitist schools. Sarkozy, in many ways, was far more populist than Hollande will ever be. In France, people vote either for the left (Socialists) or the right, much like people vote for Democrats or Republicans in the U.S. The system does not change.
ANYWAY, Spain just won the Euro championship, beating Italy 4-0. Bravissimo! And believe it or not I did not choose sides there either. Simply enough, the best team won. Viva España!
. . . . .
C'est la vie...
And so it goes...
La vie, friends, is a cheap commodity, but worth maintaining when one can.the life line won't hurt you much, but it'll make a heck of a difference for Swans.
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