Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Where Are the Secrets?

So, this is what Wikileaks reveals about Franco-American relations. Humbly, I would suggest to my rulers that they could learn a lot more about France by reading this blog than by perusing their own diplomatic cables. And really, which American diplomat wrote this: "L'engagement international de la France" est "magnifié par Kouchner"? Washington, if you want my number, I'm in the book.

Nota Bene

Now here's an interesting tidbit on the elevation of Denis Olivennes to no. 2 in the Lagardère organization (see previous post "Musical Chairs"):

Avec cette nomination, le groupe Lagardère semble se préparer de plus en plus à une éventuelle victoire de Dominique Strauss-Kahn en 2012, comme l'illustre un sondage du JDD du 27 novembre. Est-ce Ramzy Khiroun, proche conseiller du directeur du FMI et homme de confiance d'Arnaud Lagardère, qui prépare le terrain ?

Et tu, Arnaud? Didn't you once say that Sarkozy was "like a brother?"

"European Integration Is Dead"

From Henry Farrell:

I’m a bit surprised not to have seen anyone making this point, but one obvious consequence of the current situation in Ireland is that European integration (to the extent that it is driven by Treaty change) is dead for the foreseeable future. New Treaties – if they are to be passed, not only require unanimity, but have to pass through two veto points.

First, they have to get a majority vote in a referendum in Ireland. This is thanks to a legal ruling (the Crotty ruling) that Treaty texts which have constitutional implications (which any Treaty involving significant further integration obviously would have) require popular assent in a referendum. Given popular anger at the way that the bailout has been structured, I imagine that the chances of Ireland voting ‘yes’ to any new European initiative are close to zero.

Yet even if somehow the Irish people could be persuaded to say yes to some initiative – perhaps because it put in place a more equitable system of fiscal transfers in the case of crisis – it would have to pass through the second veto point – the German Constitutional Court. The Court has made it clear in recent rulings that it is not prepared to countenance major new initiatives that might e.g. shift responsibility for decisions over fiscal policy to the EU level. In other words – any more equitable system of economic governance is likely to be vetoed.

It is extremely hard to envisage Treaty changes that could get a yes vote in Ireland. It is next to impossible to imagine any new Treaty that could both get a yes vote in Ireland, and survive scrutiny in Karlsruhe. Hence – the process of ‘ever closer union’ through Treaty change is effectively dead. One can imagine other mechanisms of change (drift, policy incrementalism, ECJ rulings) coming into play, but they are unlikely to result in any very obvious changes except over the very long run.

Very true. And then of course the question is whether the euro can survive without further integration, which seems increasingly doubtful, and whether the EU can survive without the euro. Consider, for example, Paul Krugman:

I still don’t see a wide euro breakup. But I guess it’s worth posting, for future reference, one thought I have here: namely, that a rump eurozone, without the southern Europeans, doesn’t look workable to me. It’s not about economics per se; it’s about political economy.
One thing that’s really essential for the euro to work as a political matter is for Germany not to be too dominant. We can’t really have a North American Monetary Union, because the US is too dominant: either it’s just American monetary hegemony, or America takes an unacceptable loss of sovereignty to minor partners. Europe, by contrast, has four and a half big economies; Britain chose not to be in, but that still left France, Italy, and Spain to share the running of the thing. But France, Germany, and a few Flemings and Walloons doesn’t make for anything that even looks like an equal partnership.

Damned if you do and damned if you don't, I guess. Not a very hopeful picture.

Musical Chairs

OK, Alexandre Bompard quits Europe1 to take over the FNAC. Denis Olivennes, who used to head the FNAC before moving to Le Nouvel obs, quits the latter to take over Europe1. Meanwhile, Jacques Julliard, as reported earlier, has left Le Nouvel obs to take on the no. 2 editorial spot at Marianne.

Something seems to be happening in the media stratosphere, but I don't have any idea what it is, and so far I haven't heard anyone blame it on Sarkozy. Meanwhile, on TV5Monde, I have been following the feuilleton called Les Reporters, which first ran on Canal+ in 2007-9. The screenwriters have scrambled various aspects of reality (faux listings, rétrocomissions, journalists held hostage, coups tordus among government ministers, connivance between politicians and industrialists, crisis of the press) to produce a simulacrum in which the bad guys seem to be winning.

Ethnography of Barbès

Reviewed here.

What Is Laïcité?

Canadians Charles Taylor and Jocelyne Maclure reflect on the question.

Who's the Fairest of Them All?

For a woman whose intellectual and political acumen have often been criticized by other Socialists, Ségolène Royal has emerged from the latest scuffle looking like the only one of the lot with the slightest flair for political tactics. In retrospect, it's hard to see Martine Aubry's announcement of a "pact" among the Big Three as anything other than a gaffe of the first order. And Royal, recognizing her opportunity, pounced. Was there a betrayal involved? It seems unlikely that Aubry would have gone public with her "pact" if she hadn't had some sort of understanding with Royal, but a politician who fails to foresee the possibility of a reversal of alliances, and who doesn't have the wherewithal to sanction such a defection, is ill-advised to lay her head on the chopping block, as Aubry did. And since she, of all people, had every reason to expect that Royal would want vengeance for past wrongs, she was doubly foolish to do so. It's hard to see how she will recover from this, but then it was hard to see how Royal would recover from her loss in 2007 to Sarkozy and then her "loss" of the party leadership to Aubry, so I'm not ruling anything out.

So where does that leave the PS? Not quite leaderless but definitely pactless. There will be a real primary, and that might not be a bad thing, as Bernard Girard suggests. What I surmise, however, is that Dominique Strauss-Kahn may now be more reluctant than ever to enter it. He remembers his last encounter with Royal and his inability to counter her popularity. He recognizes the antipathy that the left wing of the party has toward him and realizes that his position on retirement reform leaves him entirely vulnerable to Hamon, Mélenchon, et cie. Although he might win the battle, I suspect that he has little taste for it. He could continue to temporize, choosing to enter his own stalking horse, Moscovici perhaps, in the hope that the party will in the end be so badly divided that it will appeal to him as a deus ex machina in its hour of need.

But this would be a dangerous strategy. He has basically three options. He could announce soon that he will leave the IMF at a specified date to return to France in order to rally his troops. He could remain silent, leaving his options open but his supporters in a quandary. Or he could announce that he has no interest in the presidency, throwing the race wide open.

I suspect that he will choose silence, the worst of his options, in my opinion. Although I think that DSK might well make a decent president, I also think that he's an inept politician--overly cautious, lacking a common touch, a technocrat by instinct and conviction, and fundamentally uninterested in what it takes to move people either individually or en masse. It's not that he would rather be right than president, but rather that he thinks being right is enough to make him president.