Monday, November 7, 2011

Rigueur by any other name ...

The Élysée doesn't like to use the word rigueur, but François Fillon, a dour man in the best of times, did not shrink from calling the new plan "le plus rigoureux" since 1945. He spoke repeatedly of the "effort" and "sacrifice" that would be demanded of the French. But actually it didn't sound all that rigorous: the salade niçoise you eat for lunch will be taxed at 7% rather than 5.5; the renovated bathroom will cost 3,042 euros instead of 3,000 (according to France2); the RSA will be reduced (an unkind cut, that) apologies, my mistake; dividends will be taxed a bit more; etc. It wasn't clear that France was actually sacrificing so much as making a show of sacrifice, to impress the ratings agencies.

This matters, of course, but does it matter quite as much as Fillon thinks? I think not. What really counts is the spread on Italian bonds, which rose today, increasing the pressure on French banks. Jiggering the budget has its uses, but what the market really wants is some sign of European coordination sufficient to enlist foreign investment. A few extra centimes on the jambon-beurre isn't going to cut the mustard (hold that culinary metaphor!).

Meanwhile, Hollande, interviewed on France2's JT 20h, clearly rejected Eva Joly's ultimatum and said he would support the EPR at Flamanville. First hurdle cleared on the way to becoming presidential.

More Trouble for DSK

Another prostitute comes forward in the Carlton Affair:
Dans un entretien avec «Nord Eclair» publié jeudi, la jeune femme, qui se présente comme «Jade», raconte avoir rencontré Dominique Strauss-Kahn lors d'une partie fine à l'hôtel Murano à Paris en mars 2009.
Elle évoque également un voyage à Washington en janvier 2010 pour rencontrer l'ancien patron du FMI, en compagnie du commissaire Jean-Christophe Lagarde et de l'entrepreneur Fabrice Paszkowski, tous deux mis en examen pour proxénétisme aggravé dans cette affaire. L'autre prostituée à s'être portée partie civile a par ailleurs porté plainte pour violation du secret de l'instruction, a précisé Me Laporte. (h/t KB)

Sarkozy to Obama: "Netanyahu is a liar."

Private conversation between the two leaders leaks, reported here:

Selon nos informations, les deux présidents ont laissé de côté toute retenue à propos du délicat dossier des relations israélo-palestiniennes. Obama a d'abord reproché à Sarkozy de ne pas l'avoir prévenu qu'il allait voter en faveur de l'adhésion de la Palestine à l'Unesco, alors que les Etats-Unis y étaient fermement opposés. La conversation a ensuite dérivé sur Benyamin Nétanyahou, le Premier ministre israélien. Sûrs de ne pas être entendus, les deux présidents se sont lâchés. "Je ne peux plus le voir, c'est un menteur", a lancé Sarkozy. "Tu en as marre de lui, mais moi, je dois traiter avec lui tous les jours !", a rétorqué Obama, qui a ensuite demandé à Sarkozy d'essayer de convaincre les Palestiniens de mettre la pédale douce sur leur demande d'adhésion à l'ONU.

Will China Bail Out Europe?

Not if this man has anything to say about it:

"If you look at the troubles which happened in European countries, this is purely because of the accumulated troubles of the worn out welfare society. I think the labour laws are outdated. The labour laws induce sloth, indolence, rather than hardworking. The incentive system, is totally out of whack.
"Why should, for instance, within [the] eurozone some member's people have to work to 65, even longer, whereas in some other countries they are happily retiring at 55, languishing on the beach? This is unfair. The welfare system is good for any society to reduce the gap, to help those who happen to have disadvantages, to enjoy a good life, but a welfare society should not induce people not to work hard."
Maybe Jin Liqun should run for office in the US as a Republican. He's absorbed the party line perfectly. (h/t Sophie M.)

L'histoire chévénementielle

Jean-Pierre Chevènement is running for president. This is not necessarily good news for the Socialists, although they are not unduly worried, since JPC is likely to take more votes from Jean-Luc Mélenchon than from François Hollande. Chevènement is and always has been a Euroskeptic, and he believes that recent events have vindicated his doubts. Back in the day, however, his position was more "socialism in one country" than "deglobalization," a term that would have made no sense in 1983, when those in the Mitterrand administration who opposed social market reforms were marginalized as "Albanians."

Chevènement is an honorable man, whose opposition to the party line throughout his career has always been principled. I've generally disagreed him but think that his influence has been useful. I hope he abandons this candidacy while continuing to defend his position. Standing for principle is always good, but one principle of a presidential system is that party discipline is essential.