Thursday, June 5, 2008

French EU Presidency


Well, they've got the logo (left) and the (non-functional) Web site. Now all they need is policies.

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Congratulations

Congratulations to Ecopublix, the excellent economics blog, which has just been awarded a "golden blog" by Challenges magazine.

"J'ai changé"

"Approval ratings" are of course meaningless, and reporting them is the "degree zero" of blogging, so normally I avoid doing so. Nevertheless, it's probably worth noting two things about the latest SOFRES-Figaro Magazine barometer. First, Sarko is back (+5). Second, Besancenot's appearance chez Drucker seems to have been a smart move, at least if you think that the revolution is going to be made in bourgeois living rooms on a Sunday afternoon: he gained 7 points (up to 43% positive, or 6 points ahead of Sarkozy). This might be an astonishing result if it meant anything other than that Besancenot passe à la télé comme une lettre à la poste. So Sarko seems to have benefited from his relative sobriety plus Carla's charm offensive, while Besancenot has found the formulae to make le grand soir as unthreatening as a friendly soccer game among drinking buddies.

And yet a substantial majority of the French (77%, up from 73) worry about "social conflicts" to come. If and when they do come, you can bet that Sarko's soft support will solidify very quickly. Just as people who saw de Gaulle as usé in early May of '68 were rallying around him by the end of the month, many who mocked Sarkozy as a buffoon will be the first to close ranks in a crunch. Yet lurching from cynicism to reaction is not a sign of political good health, even when leavened by velleities of revolutionary bonhomie

Finance Committee Report

One of Sarkozy's innovations when he first came to power was to place the National Assembly's finance committee under the chairmanship of the opposition as a check on government spending. That committee has now produced a very interesting report on the dramatic increase in tax credits, rebates, and shelters over the period 2003-2008--a period of undivided right-wing control. The increase amounts to nearly 50 percent over 5 years, from 50 to 73 billion euros. Of course there are legitimate governmental uses of tax credits, but Migaud claims that the efficacy of the new programs is "poorly evaluated." Furthermore, the system is "opaque," which only complicates the problem of reform.

You Say Tomato, I Say Liberal

Pierre Moscovici has some sport with Ségolène Royal, who responded to Delanoë's raising of the "liberal socialist" banner by saying that it was impossible to be both socialist and liberal. But she had previously written in her book Maintenant: "Nous, socialistes, nous sommes des libéraux au sens du libéralisme politique originel."

And so the Socialists continue in their petty squabbles. If they really want to see full-blown liberalism in the European sense, they of course need to turn their attention to the United States (where the word is used differently, but the thing itself flourishes). A case in point (via Marginal Revolution):

A small number of California jails have begun to offer pay to stay programs. These programs allow inmates in for minor crimes to "upgrade" to a private or public jail with better facilities. Evidently the fees are profitable to the jails. Take a look at how Santa Ana county advertises it's hotel jail.

The Santa Ana Jail is pleased to host a full range of alternatives to traditional incarceration. Our offerings include weekends in jail, non-linear jail sentences, and a variety of work release options. Our philosophy is designed to allow our clients (!, AT) to serve their obligations to the court in a manner that respects them as human beings and permits them to continue to provide for themselves and their families....

  • Programs that include 2-day or 3-day weekends with minimal impact on the client’s professional life. Work on Saturday and Sunday? No problem...
  • Programs that permit jail sentences to be served in multiple parts. Perfect for clients that live out of the area or clients with frequent business travel.
  • Programs that permit the client to leave jail for work everyday. We have helped everyone from 9 to 5 business people to oil-rig workers, so no work schedule is out of the question.

The Santa Ana Jail is the most modern and comfortable facility in the region. Our housing areas are a world away from cement and steel bars....

Most clients can be approved immediately, over the phone. We can also provide same-day acceptance letters for the court.

The Annulment Debate

A debate on the judicial decision to annul a marriage on the grounds that the wife's concealment of her non-virginity represented a deception as to the "essential qualities" of one of the parties can be heard here. Here is the account of one of the participants in the debate, the legal blogger "Maître Eolas." Eolas is of the opinion that this affair marks the eruption of yet another "defense of the Republic" by republican ultras, who were "lying in wait for the first symptom of [judicial] recognition of le fait communautariste." In short, we have here another case with all the ingredients that allowed the controversy over the Islamic veil to défrayer la chronique for more than a decade: a potent mix of sex, religion, law, history, and symbolism.

The fate of the two individuals at the heart of the matter is of course buried beneath the avalanche of passions. In an interesting aside, Eolas remarks that he believes the reason the couple did not seek divorce by mutual consent is that the law requires both parties to appear together before a judge before such a divorce can be granted, and neither party wished to be in the presence of the other. If the defense of the Republic requires that a court insist that such a marriage remain legally intact, then one might be tempted to conclude that there is something wrong with the idea of a Republic that requires such a defense. The ultras are unlikely to find such an argument persuasive, however.

ADDENDUM: The flood of readers coming here from Andrew Sullivan's site may want to look at this earlier post on the subject. I think commenter ejm gets it about right.