Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Le Monde's reorganization plan has leaked to the press--the rest of the press, that is. The paper will attempt to reduce its size by 1,000 pages per year. This is to be achieved by a drastic cut in the book section, among other things. The paper lost 20 million euros last year.
Jacques Attali, who likes to think big, is proposing a new international grouping consisting of France, Germany, Russia, and Turkey. He sees an ideal marriage: the former two countries need markets and fuel, the latter two need modernization and a tether to the West. The EU won't accomplish this goal, says Attali, because it will be a thousand years before a majority in the West accepts Russia and Turkey. Better, then, to fob them off with a will o' the wisp than to reject them outright. Attali has a name for this figment of his imagination, cobbled together out of the initial letters of the four countries' names in French: FART. But surely Attali speaks English well enough to know that this is an unfortunate choice if he wants to ensure that his proposal doesn't faire pschitt on first exposure. It's a little suspicious, in any case, that France should come first. Why not RAFT? (Does it risk reminding people of Le radeau de la Méduse?) Or ARFT? (The dogs arft, the carvans passed.) No matter. The idea will dissipate as quickly as its namesake. It's perhaps uncouth of me even to notice it. In polite company the passing of gas is ignored, and Jacques Attali is a potent usine à gaz unto himself.
The GMO screw-up, which may well have been a carefully orchestrated screw-up, may also prove to have been just the warm-up for the coming fracas over the Law on the Modernization of the Economy (LME). With this the government will at last attack the famous purchasing power question by, among other things, liberalizing competition in the retail sector. But the UMP is divided on this question, as it was on the GMO issue. Many deputies are sensitive to the strenuous opposition of local merchants to modifications of the Royer, Galland, and Raffarin Laws. And once again, Jean-François Copé will be trying to thread a needle. He can't allow chaos in the voting, for that makes him look weak. He can't enforce discipline, because he needs the support of members who aren't on board with the new law. But above all he doesn't want to make things too easy for the government, because Fillon is his rival and he covets a ministry, if not the prime ministry, for himself. His ultimate goal is to prove to Sarkozy that he can be a real thorn in the president's side unless he gets what he wants. And of course to punish Sarko for not having given him what he wanted a year ago.