Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Who Voted How?

Vote on the constitutional amendment to permit adoption of the Lisbon Treaty.

La Vache Qui Gruge

The retailer Leclerc is playing to concerns about declining purchasing power in France by naming names: suppliers who have raised prices more than Leclerc considers appropriate are being publicly denounced. Among them: the famous cheese brand La Vache Qui Rit.

Say it ain't so. Also Ajax, L'Oréal, Nivea, les gâteaux de Brossard, and Pulco syrups. Caveat emptor.

LATER: Philippe Cohen is skeptical of Leclerc's motives.

Death of Pierre Lambert

Pierre Lambert, the leader of the Trotskyist Organisation Communiste Internationaliste (now the Parti des Travailleurs) and a presidential candidate in 1988, died today. Few people were aware of the "Lambertistes" (who garnered 0.38 pct of the vote in 88) until it was revealed that Lionel Jospin had been a clandestine member of the group in the 1960s. Since the hallmark of the Lambertistes was "entrisme," that is, placing members inside "bourgeois" institutions, questions were raised about Jospin.

Honorary Soixante-Huitard

Danny the Red has appointed Nicolas Sarkozy an honorary soixante-huitard on the grounds that he is the living embodiment of the '68 slogan jouir sans entrave.

History is full of ironies. It seems that the spirit of jouir sans entrave has brought us two things: Nicolas Sarkozy and les fesses de Beauvoir, over which nearly as much ink has now been spilled as over le nez de Cléopatre. As a member of the '68 generation, I will carry the guilt with me to my grave.

Labor Relations: A New Tone?

Bernard Thibault, the head of the CGT, expressed his satisfaction that the various unions had worked together in an "entente intersyndicale" in negotiations with employers over labor contract reform. He nevertheless reiterated the opposition of the CGT to the result of the negotiations, which the CFDT is expected to approve today, becoming the fourth union to do so. Thibault's evocation of an entente certainly mitigates his union's opposition to the settlement and further diminishes the likelihood of major strikes over this issue, although he does threaten further strikes if there is no progress on the special retirement regimes, which, contrary to widespread belief, were not definitively settled after the strikes two months ago.

Much to my surprise, then, it seems that labor contract reform will not become the focal point of major resistance to Sarkozy's program. I had thought that Sarko's strategy was to attack first on the lesser issues--minimum service and special regimes--before the final assault. But it is as if the confrontation over special regimes demonstrated to the unions that there will be no repeat of the general strike of 1995, that a reform of some sort will go through, and that it makes sense therefore to bargain hard over details rather than count on street demonstrations to lead to a total withdrawal on the part of the government. This is a significant development. Sarkozy can't really take credit for it. The change in attitude on the part of the unions is surely the result of a lengthy reassessment of global market conditions. Nevertheless, it took steady nerves to tackle contract reform head-on after the CPE debacle of 2005. Chirac had no stomach for confrontation. Sarkozy, who relishes it, probably did persuade union leaders that, in the parlance of American football, they would not be able to run over him and would have to rely on finesse instead. This is progress of a sort.

LATER: Labor sociologist René Mouriaux sees some progress but not radical change. The important point, he says, is the disarray in the Socialist Party. Without a coherent opposition, the unions have no choice but to make the best of an imperfect bargain.

La Joconde

So it turns out that "Mona Lisa" was actually named "Lisa Maria." She was an Italian beauty married to a guy fourteen years older--remind you of anybody? (Hint: Carla is 40)