One Man, One Vote

The financial press have a certain fetish about Total’s CEO Patrick Pouyanne. Here’s another gushing article:

Patrick Pouyanne pounced after Occidental Corp trumped Chevron’s $33 billion bid for Anadarko in April with an offer that includes raising financing by selling some of Anadarko’s operations worth up to $15 billion.

By keeping those in the know to a minimum, the French CEO was able to stay flexible in negotiations, take a swift decision and ensure there were no leaks until the binding deal worth $8.8 billion was announced on Sunday, a Total source said.

“Pouyanne proceeded in the same way he did with previous deals: a restricted task force, no bankers and no external counsel,” another source, close to the deal, told Reuters.

Throwing out the rulebook that expects CEOs to be surrounded by investment bankers and other advisers when dealmaking has become a trademark for the 55-year-old CEO and chairman of Total, who took the helm of the French energy major in 2014.

He has surprised investors with his acquisitions, such as buying Maersk’s oil and gas business in 2017 and Engie’s upstream LNG operations in 2018, setting one deal in motion after an unsolicited phone call with the controlling shareholder.

Shouldn’t we perhaps wait a little to see how rushing headlong into major deals while consulting almost nobody plays out over the long term? Look at this bit again:

a restricted task force, no bankers and no external counsel

You’d not hear this from fawning financial journalists, but Pouyanne has a reputation for yelling at anyone who doesn’t tell him what he wants to hear and demanding absolute obedience from all those around him (he’s a product of a grande ecole, after all). And here he is doing multi-billion dollar acquisitions in record time without involving bankers or outsiders. What could possibly go wrong?

For all the praise heaped on him, thus far Pouyanne is reaping the rewards of projects sanctioned by his predecessor. He has put considerable personal investment into Total’s Uganda project but that’s not exactly going according to plan:

French oil and gas major Total’s chief executive said on Thursday that the firm’s Ugandan Lake Albert oil project will be a personal priority this year after setbacks led to a delay on a final investment decision (FID) in 2018.

The project, which was expected to have been cleared last year, has been delayed due to disagreements over field development strategy, tax disputes and a lack of infrastructure such as a refinery or export pipeline.

Indeed, it has all the hallmarks of a development someone jumped into feet-first without carrying out proper due diligence and ensuring the right legal structures were in place. I don’t know if Total’s acquisition of Anadarko’s African assets is a genius move or not, but financial journalists should be asking questions over how decisions get made in that company, not blowing smoke up the CEO’s arse.

Share

Pot-au-feu

I’m not surprised by this:

The ex-boss of France Telecom and six other former executives have gone on trial in Paris, accused of moral harassment linked to a spate of suicides among employees.

Didier Lombard and his fellow defendants deny their tough restructuring measures were to blame for the subsequent loss of life.

The company, since renamed Orange, is also on trial for the same offence.

Thirty-five staff took their lives between 2008 and 2009.

Some of them left messages blaming France Telecom and its managers.

At the time, the newly privatised company was in the throes of a major reorganisation. Mr Lombard was trying to cut 22,000 jobs and retrain at least 10,000 workers.

Some employees were transferred away from their families or left behind when offices were moved, or assigned demeaning jobs.

The French management style – or what passes for one – consists of appointing the best students from the grandes écoles to the top management positions regardless of industry experience. While these individuals are undoubtedly very bright, they often lack the emotional intelligence which genuine leaders have in abundance. They set up a top-down command-and-obey organisation in which absolute obedience from subordinates is demanded, or their careers abruptly ended. Promotion and advancement is based on the degree to which an individual has not fallen foul of the boss. It is probably as close to an Asian power model as can be found in Europe.

The problem is the French are not Asians, and the stress this puts on employees is immense. During France’s golden era of industrialisation this probably didn’t matter as the organisations were doing well, but as globalisation is forcing companies to adapt or die, French management has been found wanting time and again. Total, for example, is a company with operations in 131 countries yet retains French as its official working language for the convenience of those in headquarters and to preserve an outdated model of cultural identity. French management, in parallel with their political counterparts who are drawn from the same schools and with whom swapping positions is commonplace (see here again), are proving incapable of doing the job which is assigned to them. Their response is to take it out on the employees.

One might argue that France Telecom needed to lay those workers off, but they might have witnessed a decade of blithering managerial incompetence prior to that decision, making retrenchment a bitter pill to swallow. And if you’ve hung around French companies as long as I have, you’ll know these suicides don’t just happen in times of redundancies; we used to hear the stories filtering down at my last place of work. I also know at least one case where a complaint of harcèlement moral was brought to HR concerning a manager, and their response was to do whatever was necessary to protect the management. I suspect this is commonplace; little wonder French unions still enjoy high membership rates.

I suspect as the large French companies come under increasing competitive pressure from globalisation, the failings of their managerial cadres are going to get more pronounced. Sadly, it will be the ordinary workers who pay the price.

Share

Knaval Architects

Yesterday I said this:

I have no doubt Notre Dame will be restored, but there will be small but noisy campaigns for the money to be used elsewhere or the building replaced with something “more inclusive”.

Sure enough:

Yet the damage wrought by the Notre Dame fire has also raised important questions about the cathedral’s symbolic significance in an increasingly divided France, and how to rebuild (or which version of the cathedral should be rebuilt) going forward — and in some ways, these questions are one and the same.

It has been my experience that anyone who uses the term “going forward” is either trying to distract you from a catastrophe of their own making or is trying to sell you something which goes very much against your interests.

But for some people in France, Notre Dame has also served as a deep-seated symbol of resentment, a monument to a deeply flawed institution and an idealized Christian European France that arguably never existed in the first place. “The building was so overburdened with meaning that its burning feels like an act of liberation,” says Patricio del Real, an architecture historian at Harvard University.

If the claim is that “some people in France” resent Notre Dame, why the need to quote an American academic? Surely a Frenchman on the streets of Paris would suffice, no? Or did they tell you va te faire foutre?

What it means to be “French,” however, has obviously changed a great deal over the past few centuries.

I don’t think this is obvious at all. What is obvious, though, is that over the past couple of decades cultural Marxists have done everything they can to destroy any tangible means by which people can feel themselves French.

Although Macron and donors like Pinault have emphasized that the cathedral should be rebuilt as close to the original as possible, some architectural historians like Brigniani believe that would be complicated, given the many stages of the cathedral’s evolution. “The question becomes, which Notre Dame are you actually rebuilding?,” he says.

The one that was there last week, you cretin. And why does anyone care what an Italian professor in New York thinks?

Any rebuilding should be a reflection not of an old France, or the France that never was — a non-secular, white European France — but a reflection of the France of today, a France that is currently in the making.

Ah, finally we get to it. These grifting foreigners don’t want the French to restore Notre Dame to how it was, they want some steel-and-glass monstrosity to arise in its place, preferably bearing their name. That, or a mosque.

“The idea that you can recreate the building is naive. It is to repeat past errors, category errors of thought, and one has to imagine that if anything is done to the building it has to be an expression of what we want — the Catholics of France, the French people — want. What is an expression of who we are now? What does it represent, who is it for?,” he says.

If it’s up to the French people, why are you sticking your beak in? Now I know this is only Rolling Stone but the ashes on the floor of Notre Dame are still warm and already the postmodernists are turning up with a crane and a wrecking ball. Thankfully I’m confident the French will tell them where to shove it and restore the cathedral properly, but if this were Britain and St. Pauls a blackened shell you can be sure these sociopaths would be welcomed with open arms by half our political class. Knowing both countries quite well, the big difference I can see between France and the UK is the French establishment, at least for now, doesn’t seem to detest France quite as much as the British elites hate Britain. Right now, that’s a valuable edge.

Share

Worse than a crime

Yesterday I discovered via Twitter that Notre Dame cathedral in Paris had caught fire, and not long after this photo was circulating:

The reason 9/11 had such an effect, at least on me, was the visual impact of the towers falling in real time. It was surreal, and the next morning I woke up wondering if it really happened. The death toll was appalling, but it was watching the towers collapse on live TV which made it an event equivalent to previous generations’ shooting of JFK whereby we’ll always remember where we were when the news broke.

I felt a similar sensation yesterday watching the spire of Notre Dame fall, knowing things will never quite be the same again. It sometimes takes a lot to move me – I can walk around concentration camps and WWI trenches and not feel anything other than the wind – but the sight of a monument to western civilisation, over 800 years old and the survivor of wars, invasions, revolutions, plagues, and occupations, going up in flames left me incredibly sad.

It also left me angry. This should never have happened. Fires during construction and renovations are common, and renovation work recently started on Notre Dame. There are hundreds if not thousands of rules, regulations, standards, and best practices which exist precisely to prevent fires breaking out on building sites. I know this because when you do work on an oil and gas installation with hundreds of tonnes of pressurised hydrocarbons all around you, you pay attention to them. It seems someone working on Notre Dame didn’t. I doubt this was arson, despite the increasing number of arson attacks on churches in France, not to mention a priest getting his throat cut by Islamists.

I expect the investigation will find the cause was either someone not making his equipment safe before leaving for the day, e.g. he didn’t switch it off or put something hot on something flammable (in the offshore oil industry, someone must stand watch for an hour after work stops to make sure nothing spontaneously combusts), or it was an electrical fire. When renovation work is going on there are a lot of cables lying around, temporary junction boxes, and other equipment which gets bashed around and overloaded. That a fire risk is well known on such sites ought to have led those in charge to apply prevention and mitigation measures to 150% considering the importance of the building. I expect cost was one reason they didn’t, and I’d be willing to bet the modern managerial technique of loafing around in offices at the expense of employing good quality tradesmen and supervising them properly also played its part as well. I expect the investigation will state the technical facts of how the fire started and say little about organisational failings, especially if there’s someone important or a union involved. This is the modern way, an inevitable result of the utterly shameless being put in charge of a no-blame policy.

I also noticed what is probably a minority of morons on social media celebrating the destruction as just desserts for a hodge-podge of alleged sins on the part of the French including colonialism, antisemitism, slavery, and every other grievance they think they can make a buck out of mongering. A lot of them seem to be from the former French colonies, particularly Algeria. I’m not surprised by their remarks, but the question I have for those people wringing their hands is where did these attitudes come from? Who has been banging on about the evils of colonialism, Christianity, western civilisation, and European history for decades? Who have made whole careers out of telling non-Europeans they have been and continue to be oppressed, enslaved, and exploited by the evil white man? The answer is western institutions which have been captured by Marxists and other lefties who hate our civilisation, culture, and history and want the whole lot destroyed. I wonder, how many professors at the Sorbonne who this morning look across the Seine at the blackened, roofless masonry of Notre Dame perpetuated the mindset which is now upsetting them so?

I have no doubt Notre Dame will be restored, but there will be small but noisy campaigns for the money to be used elsewhere or the building replaced with something “more inclusive”. If you think I’m exaggerating, consider that a sizeable chunk of Britain’s ruling classes think ISIS butchers should be welcomed into Britain and given free housing and the western response to terrorist attacks is to arrest those who talk about them in an unapproved manner. The fire at Notre Dame is a tragedy because a wonderful monument to an incredible civilisation almost got destroyed. The greater tragedy is that the civilisation itself is almost destroyed, and few have the courage or desire to put the fire out.

Share

Trans Saharan Stayed Route

Some news from Paris:

A transgender woman has spoken out after a video went viral of her being attacked near a rally in central Paris against Algeria’s ailing president.

Julia has described being targeted by three men in the Place de la République.

Julia, 31, was set upon on Sunday as she walked up steps at the metro station in the Place de la République. A big rally was taking place in the square against Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Algeria’s long-ruling 82-year-old president, who has since announced his resignation.

Wearing a black-and-white striped blouse, Julia was blocked by protesters who taunted her in Arabic.

I’m losing count of the number of incidents involving opposing victim classes getting into a confrontation, while ordinary people look on in amazement at what’s become of their country. For what it’s worth, I’m on Julia’s side here: she should be allowed to walk wherever she likes in public, free of harassment. Although it seems some lessons take a while to learn:

Julia later made clear that the attack had nothing to do with the Algerian community but was carried out by ignorant people, regardless of their origin or religion.

Just the facts please, ma’am. Now who attacked you?

Share

The Tommy Knockers

Yesterday a chap called Mohammed Shafiq who works for the BBC boasted he’d got Tommy Robinson booted off Facebook:


Given Tommy Robinson and several of his supporters have indeed been booted off Facebook, it’s reasonable to assume Shafiq is boasting in good faith. Here’s how elected representatives to Britain’s parliament reacted:


How dare a British citizen be allowed to generate a huge following through utterances of unapproved opinions! Does he not understand Article 58? Facebook should be forced to bend to the will of the British government!


We need an independent social media regulator to ban people politicians don’t like!

We ought not to be surprised by this. Free speech in the UK is dead, assuming it ever existed. Last week an elderly black Christian street preacher was arrested for being Islamaphobic and racist. Maybe there’s more to that story than the media is reporting, but I see no reason to give plod the benefit of the doubt. When you have politicians demanding companies be regulated to suppress dissenting voices and the police arresting wrong-thinkers and none of this creates much of a stir outside libertarian circles, you can assume a good chunk of the population has forgotten the importance of free speech and will have to learn it the hard way.

Over here in France we have Charlie Hebdo, and as I’ve written before, their mere existence is reassuring:

Rather than getting upset about Charlie Hebdo’s puerile and offensive front covers, we should be glad that at least someone is putting them out there. If they weren’t, how could we be sure that speech was still free? And how would we know that what we said was not going to land us in trouble?

So long as Charlie Hebdo can continue to do what it does, everyone else is free to speak, write, and draw as they please. Once we enter into the territory of differentiating between deliberate and inadvertent offence, it becomes a negotiation with those who don’t recognise our right to do either and would rather silence us completely.

It’s also worth repeating that the sale of Charlie Hebdo, one way or another, would be prohibited in the UK. Perhaps because memories of occupation and deportations still linger, the French seem to assign greater importance to free speech than either the British or Americans. Fortunately for the Yanks they have their first amendment. Unfortunately for us, we’re at the mercy of low-IQ grifters like Lammy and Watson. This will not stop with Tommy Robinson, and one gets the impression they’re just getting warmed up.

As I’ve said before, it won’t be long before the only place political discussion can take place outside dreary repetition of establishment-approved doctrine will be in the comments sections at Pr0nhub.

Share

Maio Carps

So much for this famed EU solidarity we keep hearing about:

Mr Di Maio, leader of the Five Star Movement (M5S) which governs in coalition with the far-right League party, made his latest comments during a visit to central Italy at the weekend.

“The EU should impose sanctions on France and all countries like France that impoverish Africa and make these people leave, because Africans should be in Africa, not at the bottom of the Mediterranean,” he said.

“If people are leaving today it’s because European countries, France above all, have never stopped colonising dozens of African countries.”

He said if it wasn’t for Africa, France would rank 15th among world economies, not in the top six.

Regardless of whether his remarks are fair or not, it does raise questions over just how united these EU nations are when it comes to stuff that actually matters:

The Italian ambassador to France, Teresa Castaldo, was summoned to the foreign ministry in Paris on Monday.

French diplomatic sources quoted by Italian news agency Ansa called Mr Di Maio’s remarks “hostile and without cause given the partnership between France and Italy in the European Union”.

But Mr Di Maio, who is also labour and economy minister, was unrepentant on Monday.

He accused France of manipulating the economies of African countries that use the CFA franc, a colonial-era currency backed by the French treasury.

“France is one of those countries that by printing money for 14 African states prevents their economic development and contributes to the fact that the refugees leave and then die in the sea or arrive on our coasts,” he said.

“If Europe wants to be brave, it must have the courage to confront the issue of decolonisation in Africa.”

I don’t know how much the CFA is contributing to the migrant crisis, but the stance of certain EU governments, not to mention well-funded NGOs, is certainly a large factor, yet Italy must bear the costs as they turn up on their coastline. Between a hostile Italian government and the gilets jaunes, Emmanuel Macron’s year really hasn’t got off to the best of starts, has it?

Share

Petty Cash

This is dumb:


The convention has always been that EU countries do not charge citizens of other EU countries for any registration or regularisation process, nor do they charge for visas and residency cards for non-EU spouses of EU citizens. I expect this was done because the marginal cost of waiving the fees is vastly outweighed by not having millions of people bitching about having to pay to exercise their rights under EU law.

With Britain set to leave the EU, the Home Office needs to come up with a way of regularising the presence of approximately 3m EU citizens who currently have a right to be there. A simple registration process is the best way to go about it – sorry, mass deportations are not going to happen – and it is in everyone’s interests to make this as painless as possible. Imposing a £65 charge was stupid to begin with, and scrapping it the most sensible thing to do: it would cause far more resentment than it’s worth, and £200m is chump-change considering half the country seem happy to hand over £39bn without so much as a parliamentary debate. It comes across as petty and vindictive, and makes for very bad politics.

France has advised all British citizens to apply for a residency permit within 1 year of March 29th, and is not charging them a processing fee. From what I’ve seen, their approach has been calm, measured, and sensible. Perhaps some Frenchmen have taken to Twitter demanding Brits be charged 65 euros for the trouble, but if so I’ve not seen them. Unlike certain Brits, I don’t think the average Frenchman is interested in punishing foreigners for being caught up in political events outside their control.

Yesterday I submitted my documents on the second attempt, and at least this time it was successful. It wasn’t without complications, though. Firstly, I got a different fonctionnaire, so of course the required list of documents changed. Fortunately, I’d brought “spare” documents with me just for this eventuality, and two of them were needed. Secondly, when I handed over my income tax statements – which are not on any list, but nevertheless a requirement – I was told they were incomplete. I opened up the French tax website, logged into my account, and showed her exactly what was available for me to print. She looked blank and said “normally there are several pages” and “I need the one they sent to your home”. I said I don’t receive paper copies, I’d opted for the electronic version only and this is all I have. So she processed my application, gave me the receipt, but told me I had to come back with my proper tax statements which I could get from a building over the road. Fortunately Annecy is small, and everything beside each other.

I crossed the road, bracing myself for a battle with bureaucrats in the tax office; the prefecture closed in half an hour, and I had no appetite for coming back another day. I spoke to the lady at reception and explained everything, and she said “Oh yes, there’s a room over there where you can log in and print it out.” To my astonishment, there was: a room with two or three computers and a printer which cost nothing to use. I logged into the tax website and discovered that while everything else was identical, there were more pages to my tax statements when going through their own system. Weird, but I didn’t care: I printed everything off, crossed the road back to the prefecture, and handed them in at the counter I’d been sat at 15 minutes before. Job done, I think.

Everything in France is either insanely complicated or surprisingly easy and you have no idea which it will be until you try it. This was a mixture of both, but at least they didn’t charge me. Britain shouldn’t charge EU citizens either.

Share

Pas de surprise

I have just returned from the local prefecture to request my French residency card. It went pretty much as I expected, having had experience with French prefectures before. Having waited for 3 hours I arrived at the counter to find the list of required documents the fonctionnaire was using was different from the one displayed on the prefecture’s website, and different from the one the French national government issued with Brexit approaching. The one in use at my local prefecture is dated December 2016.

So now I need to get my birth certificate translated, which is no big deal but it takes time, costs money, and isn’t actually required by law. But if the person behind the counter says it is, that’s all there is to it. I also have to produce proof that I have been in France for 5 years. The requirement is you can show a document which covers each 6 month period of your stay. I presented bills and other documents covering the period, but most bills in France are annual, not bi-annual. So I had plenty of documents showing I’d been in France from January 2014 to January 2015 and January 2015 to January 2016, but my application was rejected because I had no bills from July 2014 and July 2015. I explained I didn’t receive any bills in that month and she said, “Oh, maybe you have a medical certificate or something?” Presumably Frenchmen use suppositories on such a regular basis they have a doctor’s bill for each month of the year, but I’m now going to have to scrabble around for something which says I was in France in successive Julys of my stay. I was then asked for my tax bills, which don’t even appear on the fonctionnaire’s list; I have no idea where that demand came from.

This is how it works in the prefectures. You turn up with everything you think you need and wait an age, then you discover what you actually need. Then you come back and hope you got it right the second time. Under French law it is actually not allowed to refuse the application of an EU citizen on the grounds a supporting document is missing; they are compelled to accept it, and the applicant brings the missing document later. But prefectures don’t follow French law, and they have no incentive to: if you feel your rights have been breached you may claim compensation through the courts, but the maximum you can receive is less than what it costs to hire a lawyer. Handy, eh?

We’re going to hear a lot of sob-stories from Brits battling with prefectures over the coming months, the blame for which will be placed squarely at the feet of Brexit. But for me, as I described here, Brits are denied their rights under EU law anyway by fonctionnaires who don’t know EU law nor even care. As I said to the EU representative during my last encounter with a prefecture when the Brexit referendum was looming, if our rights under the EU are not recognised when it matters, we’re better off out. And here we are.

Share

Assurance française

So this is how screwed up insurance is in France. I bought my car insurance through BNP Paribas, and like all good insurance sellers they increase the premiums each year hoping you won’t notice. If you do notice and query it, they shrug their shoulders and say “that’s just the market”. Sometimes they’ll even throw in some nonsense such as “but there have been more thefts this year”, as if the doozy you’re talking to would know that.

Anyway, after 4 years of this I got fed up and decided to change. Changing insurance companies in France is rather difficult, made deliberately so by the insurance companies. It has got a bit easier recently thanks to the Hamon Law which aimed at doing away with anti-competitive practices. However, it’s still not straight forward. When you sign up with the new company they contact your old company and cancel your agreement with them, but they then ask you to obtain two documents from your old company:

– An information statement listing any accidents the driver’s had while insured, or lack thereof.

– Confirmation the insurance has been cancelled, or the reason why the request was refused.

I immediately asked for these from my previous insurer, who didn’t bother replying. I asked BNP Paribas, who shrugged their shoulders. I dug around and found that unless you send the request by recorded delivery, the insurance companies refuse to comply. I also found out BNP contracts their insurance to an outfit called AVANSSUR, a subsidiary of Axa, whose address is at 48 Rue Carnot. My new insurance company – Direct Assurance – told me I should ask them for my documents, and they have a legal obligation to provide them within 15 days. Unless they come tomorrow, which is unlikely, I will not be getting them in that time period. So I went to advise Direct Assurance that I’m having no luck getting these documents, and somehow I discover they are also a subsidiary of Axa, their address is 48 Rue Carnot, and:

AVANSSUR is a subsidiary of AXA that operates under the Direct Assurance brand.

In other words, I’ve saved myself 30% on my insurance by switching contracts within the same company and I’m waiting for them to send me documents which they are asking to see. What makes it more amusing is that, in order for the new company to cancel your contract with the old one, you give them the policy number and all the details. So they know they’re dealing with themselves, but I’m still getting emails reminding me I’ve not sent my documents and advising I write to them tout de suite.

Welcome to France. Happy New Year, folks!

Share