Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Fitoussi's Bon Mot

Jean-Paul Fitoussi has come up with a fine sentence to describe where we are today in thinking about the global economic crisis:

Indeed, today the global economy’s arsonists have become prosecutors, and accuse the fire fighters of having provoked flooding.

Whither Germany?

Élie Cohen contemplates the evolution of German policy since the beginning of the crisis and sees a moment of truth ahead:

La pression d’une opinion publique de plus en plus gagnée par les thèses eurosceptiques et la vigilance sourcilleuse de la Cour de Karlsruhe limitent les progrès dans l’intégration européenne et le fédéralisme budgétaire. Les progrès de la solidarité européenne requièrent donc une grande inventivité dans le design institutionnel, la production de normes et les modalités de leur mise en œuvre. Dans ces conditions et compte tenu des développements prévisibles de la crise la solidité de la construction européenne sera testée dans les mois qui viennent. Cette crise a pourtant une vertu, celle de provoquer un débat fondamental en Allemagne sur l’avenir de l’Euro(pe). Face à une opinion publique travaillée par des forces isolationnistes et xénophobes comme en témoignent les ouvrages récents de deux éminents responsables économiques (Thilo Sarazin de la Buba et Hans Olaf Henkel, ex-patron des patrons) le SPD s’engage plus franchement dans une stratégie de renforcement de l’Europe.

Shoah

Tim Snyder, the author of Bloodlands, pays tribute to Claude Lanzmann's "Shoah":

A quarter century ago, the Holocaust was not as widely recognized as it is today as an unprecedented evil. Lanzmann did much to change that. In his expansive “fiction of the real,” as he calls it, he is like a French realist novelist of the nineteenth century, addressing an injustice by painstaking research: a decade of reading; hundreds of risky conversations with victims, perpetrators, and bystanders; thousands of hours of unused film. This is “J’accuse” six million times over. Lanzmann is quite visible in the film, and heroically so. In his conversations with Jews and Germans and Poles, he is the perfect image of a French intellectual seeker of truth, doing what the existentialists spoke about but rarely did: imposing his mind and his will on a great emptiness, forcing it to take shape, and so leaving a trace of himself in history.
The article is worth reading in full. (h/t Peter Gordon)

Les Neiges d'Antan

Où sont les neiges d'antan? On the runways of Europe, seems to be answer to Villon's question. The French authorities are no doubt glad that Heathrow, Brussels, Schiphol, and Frankfurt have been an even worse mess than CDG, because now they have an alibi. Le Monde points out that the Canadians have shown how the job ought to be done. The key seems to be organization, training, and alertness rather than investment in heavy equipment: the Montreal airport makes do with just seven large plows. And naturally, organization, training, and alertness are the things that tend to atrophy when not constantly tested. Since snow of the sort Europe has seen in the past month is relatively rare, it's not surprising that the result has been la pagaille totale, but still, it's inexcusable.

Given the enormous cost of paralysis of major travel hubs--hundreds of thousands of lost vacation and work days, hundreds of immobilized multimillion dollar aircraft, etc. etc.--one would think that there would be more interest in remedying these problems. And of course for the stranded passengers, the most vexing issue--aside from finding a place to sleep--is the absolute paucity of information available about their plight. This could easily be remedied if the airlines and airport authorities would devote a little thought to the problem: special Web sites with emergency information, instructions to passengers about what to do, advance notification of flight delays and cancellations, etc.