Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Boiteux, bancal

Lame:

They chose five  -- tuning, buzz, talk, chat and newsletter. Alain Joyandet, the Minister for Overseas Cooperation and la Francophonie, announced the winners at a ceremony yesterday. The prize is a trip to spend time at one of the official French culture outposts around the world. The Minister started by deploring the fact that "the French language is not loved enough by our compatriots, especially by our young compatriots."
The prize-winning translations were: 
-- tuning (customizing cars) -- le bolidage (from bolide = roadster/race car)
-- buzz -- le ramdam (from Arabic, current in French, for the festivities after sunset during Ramadam)
-- talk (talk show) -- le débat-- chat -- l' e-blabla or la tchatche
-- newsletter -- l'infolettre

And of course this is the same Joyandet who got himself in hot water (l'eau chaude?) for paying 116,500 euros to charter a jet for a jaunt to Martinique. Official business, of course, not e-blabla or tchatche.

A Snooze

Sarkozy's Columbia speech attracted almost no U.S. press coverage. Here is the entire Times article.

Sounds Like He's Running Already

Alain Juppé, who only recently said that if Sarkozy doesn't run in 2012, he has his eye on the job, seems to have his hat in the ring already:

L'ex-premier ministre Alain Juppé a suggéré, mardi 30 mars, de revenir sur le bouclier fiscal, soulignant qu'il ne serait "pas choqué" qu'"on demande aux très riches de faire un effort de solidarité supplémentaire vis-à-vis de ceux qui souffrent dans la crise". "Il faut s'interroger sur ce qu'on appelle le bouclier fiscal parce que les choses ont changé, la crise est venue", a déclaré le maire UMP de Bordeaux sur France Info.

It's too bad American politicians can't come up with a phrase like "effort de solidarité supplémentaire" to describe a tax hike. You think you could get that past the Fox News radar?

Anyway, Juppé has plenty of support in the UMP.

Retirement Reform

So apparently the great assault on tous les conservatismes that Sarkozy promised in 2007 is all going to come down to retirement reform. Even the replacement of the juge d'instruction has dropped out of public discourse (h/t MYOS) and may soon follow the carbon tax into oblivion. Why retirement reform rather than, say, attacking unemployment? Perhaps because retirement reform is something that the government can achieve on its own before 2012, whereas success against unemployment depends on many imponderables. But the choice is not without risks, which Bernard Girard discusses here.

OECD Questions German Banking

Strange. We have countless Germans delivering stern lessons on fiscal probity to the rest of Europe, and yet we also have this from the OECD:

In its 2010 survey on Germany, published Friday, the O.E.C.D. said German banking practice “exposes German banks relatively more to unexpected shocks than banks in other countries.”
As part of the explanation, it wrote, “German banks exhibit one of the highest absolute leverage ratios as they carry large volumes of assets to which they attach low risk.” Extrapolated into everyday language, that points to an inadequate pricing of risk, which is no way to run a safe banking system.

Euroskepticism in the Heart of Europe

Chris Bickerton has a smart piece on the European crisis. Although there has been much talk of the need for new supranational institutions to manage an economy that can no longer be managed at the national level, there is little enthusiasm anywhere for actually building such institutions. Germany has increasingly become a Euroskeptic country. The idea of "European government" so spooked Gordon Brown that he suggested using the term "governance" instead. Bickerton comments: "The final declaration, in true European spirit of compromise, made reference to both terms: governance in the English text, gouvernement in the French."

For Chris,

The outcome of the crisis will be an expansion in the powers of EU in the matter of fiscal supervision. The European Commission is fighting hard at the moment to make sure that it wins the right to send its officials into the ministries of high-spending member states. When Sarkozy and Merkel speak of “economic government”, they mean greater powers of regulation and oversight drawn up by finance ministers and implemented by Commission officials.

The good news is that Greece is not, in Chris's view, on the verge of civil war: "Public opposition to the government’s austerity measures is vastly out-weighed by public support for the cuts," he writes.