It's really quite simple...
"TRUMP declares war on Europe," says the headline in Le Monde, writes Bill Bonner in his Diary of a Rogue Economist.
We came over to France on the ferry from Southern Ireland. It takes longer than flying. But we have our car here, which makes it easier to get around – especially when the trains aren't running.
"They got their benefits fair and square. They don't want to give them up."
A friend was explaining why railway employees were on strike. At issue, apparently, are employment contracts that give SNCF (France's state-owned railway company) workers some pretty juicy plums:
"A conductor can retire at 52, with full pension...and, of course, their families get to travel on the trains for free. These contracts were negotiated during the heyday of union power in France. Now, they seem a little out-of-date. And more than we can afford.
"Twenty years ago, a strike like this would have shut down the entire country. Now, people are pretty blasé about it. There are usually some trains running, even when it's a strike day."
When you go on the website to buy a train ticket, you are told that you "cannot reserve a ticket because of a social movement [a strike]." Then, you are directed to a calendar that tells you which days will be strike days.
Typically, strikes end in late June. French workers don't strike during vacation season.
Meanwhile, the "war" with the US seems to be heating up.
For a refresher, last week, the president announced trade tariffs on imported aluminum and steel, not just from "enemies" like China, but also from American allies like Canada and Europe.
"Protectionism..." the European Commission said of Mr.Trump's new trade barriers. "Illegal and mistaken," says French president Emmanuel Macron.
The New York Times takes a more measured approach to the new war with Europe, focusing instead on how a deeply divided enemy might respond:
"I don't think [the EU] will be strong enough to rally against this," said an investment banker. "They are not willing to pay the price."
Then, the NYT turned to the 49th parallel:
"A slap in the Canadians' face," reads a headline. The paper sent a reporter to Hamilton, Ontario, where some 9,000 people work in the steel mills.
"No Canadian wants what Trump is doing," one of the locals told him. "And if he gets away with this, what else is he going to ask for? He's like a little bully; that's all he is."
"We will not negotiate with a knife to our throat," added an official.
We've already made our sympathies clear: Private citizens shouldn't have opinions about other people's trade deals...and neither should the feds.
It's none of their business. Win-win deals – made freely, without knives to their throats – are the only honest way to get what you want.
Many readers disagree. "But they do it..." is a now-familiar pushback.
The gist of this argument is that if a foreign government stomps on its own citizens' toes, the US feds should, too.
That is, if the French have to pay more for Harley-Davidsons (because the frogs have protective tariffs against imports), the feds should put up barriers so that Americans have to pay more for perfume!
If that's "fair trade", we're agin it.
But we were trying to understand how the US government functions.
The hypothesis on the table: When the US evolved from a simple, modest Republic into a global Empire, it left behind the system of government designed by the founders and taught in the public schools.
That's why the president can mess with the entire world economy – on his own say-so.
That's why Congress passes important laws – Obamacare...tax "reform"...etc. – that no member of Congress actually reads.
And it's why the US is now meddling in as many as 130 different conflicts, including five active wars, with no Congressional declaration.
With so much going on, it is no wonder that the people...and their representatives...have largely lost track. Is "our" trade with Europe "fair"?
Who the hell knows?
The insiders, the technocrats, the cronies, and the campaign contributors have taken over. The Deep State rules.
But what role does Donald J.Trump play in this? Is he a disruptor...an enemy of the Deep State?
Or is he the leader of one of its factions? Or is he just a "useful idiot," pretending to fight against the Deep State while actually providing cover for it to expand its power?
Meanwhile, despite the state of war...life in Paris goes on...
Last night, we left the hotel and found thousands of people dressed in white on the esplanade in front of Les Invalides.
It was the "Dîner en Blanc" [dinner in white] – a phenomenon begun 20 years ago. People from all over the world come to Paris and wait for a message that tells them where they will all meet.
Then, when the signal comes...like a flash mob, they pack their picnic baskets, bring candles with folding chairs and tables, and arrive – thousands of them. This year, the press estimated that some 20,000 people participated.
We have often joined a group of friends at a private "Dîner en Blanc". The idea comes from the tradition of dressing in white on the 15th of August to celebrate the Ascension of the Virgin.
We don't know the motive for the big bash that happened last night. Maybe it was a farewell to a doomed civilization.