The proprietors of the bar in Montmartre were gregarious, warm, friendly. They made us the best drink of our week in Paris: tequila-based, garnished with a raspberry and a tiny, star-shaped, blue edible flower – I think a butterfly pea flower, but I’m not sure. It was late and dark, and it wasn’t my first drink of the evening. Three sips later, the blue flower sagging on the ice in my glass as if it, too, was out too late, I asked: ‘Mélenchon, Macron or Le Pen?’ The first round of voting in the presidential election was four days away. The friendliest, broadest-shouldered man among them – a moment earlier, the bartender had pointed him out to us as one of the new owners of the place – clenched his fist. ‘None of them! I’m to the right of all of them.’
The Metropolitan Police announced this morning that they would after all be ‘investigating a number of events that took place at Downing Street and Whitehall in the last two years in relation to potential breaches of Covid-19 regulations’. It was unusual, the Met commissioner said, to investigate ‘retrospectively’, but there was a need to consider whether ‘there was evidence that those involved knew or ought to have known that what they were doing was an offence.’ In other words, ignorance is now, rather conveniently, a possible excuse. If Boris Johnson didn’t ‘know’ he was committing an offence, he could be cleared. Funny how this hasn’t been a valid excuse for others.
Elon Musk is a dick. At least, that’s the image the Tesla and SpaceX CEO likes to project on Twitter. His profile picture is a photo of a rocket, elongated and cylindrical, silhouetted against the sky. It’s a nod to his work with SpaceX, but it’s also clearly a penis. It’s a sly wink at his stans, the fanbase who make up the core of his 64 million Twitter followers. Musk is a master at publicity, and the image is a provocation, to encourage more admirers or haters to pour into his timeline. Rich men – and no one is currently richer than Musk – still flaunt their wealth with overpowered cars or yachts, but they also now have Twitter, and we have to decide how to respond to Musk’s vanity rocket thrusting into our feeds whenever he says something clever, mean, childish or self-serving, which is every day.
The defence secretary, Ben Wallace, choked back tears on LBC earlier this week as the Taliban consolidated control in Afghanistan. ‘The big regret for me is that some people won’t get back,’ he said. Between 2003 and 2005, Wallace was overseas director at QinetiQ, the military technology firm created in April 2001 when the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency was privatised. Its revenues are around a billion pounds a year. Wallace’s contradictory roles – as a former senior executive at a company reaping financial rewards from the ongoing ‘war on terror’ and as a senior minister claiming rightly that much is owed by the UK to the people of Afghanistan – reflects a larger contradiction at the heart of the global war economy.
Bill and Melinda Gates have asked for privacy after their divorce announcement, but a storm of attention seems more likely. Interest in their marital arrangements isn’t merely prurient. They are public figures and their personal lives have political ramifications. The urgent question in global health circles is what will happen to their powerhouse foundation in the wake of their split. Large amounts of funding hang in the balance.
If young workers in an advanced capitalist nation wanted to launch a revolution, what skills do they have? Millennials and Generation Z are routinely disparaged as ‘soft’. No matter how hard they toil in underpaid, insecure service and care jobs, they seem to strike many older people as far less tough than their forebears. But war has many theatres. And today, finance is one of them.