Thursday, July 31, 2014

Polling 3 Years Before an Election Is Worthless, Of Course, but This ....

IFOP says Marine Le Pen would get 27% in the first round, Nicolas Sarkozy would come in second with 26, and the Socialist candidate would be eliminated, be he Hollande or Valls.or Montebourg.

Bien joué, M. le Président.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mélenchon Declares Failure

Jean-Luc Mélenchon has declared the failure of the Front de Gauche:
Son constat sur le Front de gauche est lui aussi sans appel : "Nous sommes en échec." Il explique ainsi que "la force" que représentait son résultat à la présidentielle a été "étouffée par le poids du retour aux vieilles traditions partiaires, aux arrangements, aux accords électoraux". "Tout ça a été planté pour une poignée de postes aux municipales", critique-t-il. Le principal responsable ? Le PCF qui a choisi de s'allier au premier tour avec le PS dans certaines villes quand lui et les siens prônaient l'autonomie. Une stratégie qui a selon lui "complètement décrédibilisé" le Front de gauche.
He says he needs time for himself:

"A un moment, il faut s'arrêter de courir. Parce que si on court tout le temps, on va finir par se mettre dans le vide. Et là, j'ai besoin de dormir, de ne rien faire, de bayer aux corneilles", explique-t-il. Des mots rares dans sa bouche qui pourraient résonner comme un aveu d'impuissance. "J'ai besoin de temps, je ne peux plus continuer comme ça", poursuit-il en souhaitant que "le niveau de pression sur [lui] baisse". Le fondateur du Parti de gauche ajoute que la relève au sein de son parti est prête et qu'il n'entend pas jouer "tous les rôles". "J'ai fait mon temps à organiser la vie d'un parti", précise l'ancien socialiste qui se garde cependant d'évoquer sur la crise interne que traverse actuellement le parti qu'il a fondé en 2008.
And he doesn't rule out a Le Pen victory in 2017, recognizing the "talent" of his erstwhile nemesis:

"On doit se demander pourquoi on fait des campagnes aussi mauvaises, aussi lamentables, aussi tardives", assène-t-il. Au passage, il reconnaît du "talent" à la dirigeante du Front national qui a, selon lui, une "chance" d'y arriver en 2017. Pourquoi ? "Parce que la société est en train de se diriger vers le point 'qu’ils s’en aillent tous'. Et quand le point 'qu’ils s’en aillent tous' est atteint, tout saute en même temps", prévient-il. Pas un mot en revanche sur le rôle qu'il entend jouer lors de la prochaine présidentielle.
This is the sound of a beaten man.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Wren-Lewis on the Incoherence of Hollande's Economic Policy

It's not as though no one else has noticed, but Simon Wren-Lewis is also confused about what Hollande et al. think they are up to.

Sadness in the Streets of Paris

I don't generally comment on Middle East affairs on this blog, but since the war between Israel and Hamas has spilled over into the streets of Paris, I will say a word. As Le Monde's editorial this morning suggests, the government erred by prohibiting yesterday's pro-Hamas demonstration, which degenerated into street violence. Le Monde's reasoning is faulty, however. The paper suggests that because authorized demonstrations elsewhere in France did not degenerate, the same would have been true in Paris.

This is of course a logical non sequitur. There may have been--I believe there were--elements in Paris spoiling for a fight, elements not present elsewhere. Now, whether this urge to en découdre on the part of some pro-Hamas demonstrators was in response to previous alleged "provocations" by the Jewish Defense League is beside the point, and it is of course pointless to raise the "who started it?" question--as pointless as in the Gaza war itself.

And just as the war has revealed certain obvious but ordinarily unspoken truths--that Netanyahu has no interest in a two-state solution and that Hamas has stockpiled thousands of rockets and dug dozens of tunnels to attack Israel when the moment is ripe--so has the violence in Paris revealed, or revived, the equally unspoken reality of widespread hatred and hostility among French Muslims toward French Jews. (See also Pascal Riché's excellent report from the scene.)

I say "hostility toward French Jews" (and not Israel) because, as Riché's report in particular makes clear, while demonstrators may be protesting Israel's policy toward the West Bank and Gaza--which deserves to be protested--they are also motivated by the belief that "the Jews control everything" in France and elsewhere and that it is this occult Jewish power that dictates French policy toward the Middle East. This is a dangerously false belief, and it is almost as depressing to see it aired in the streets of Paris as it is to see demonstrators carrying effigies of the rockets that Hamas has aimed at Israel.

A recent Pew poll showed that anti-Semitic sentiment in France is relatively low and that France is one of the least anti-Semitic countries in Europe. Unfortunately, this has been accompanied by an exacerbation of anti-Semitic sentiment within the Muslim minority in France. There is no doubt that this new polarization has been and will continue to be cynically exploited by politicians wanting to demonstrate a "tough-on-Islam" stance at little or no cost. But what is to be done? The festering of anti-Semitic sentiment in a substantial segment of the population of any country is a most unfortunate development in 21st c. Europe. The only real solution is to end the conflict in the Middle East, but that's like saying that the only real solution is the End of Time. It's enough to make one weep.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Did Sarkozy's Dogs Tear Up the Furniture in the Elysée?

First we heard that Valérie Trierweiler had smashed up the bibelots in a fit of rage after l'Affaire Gayet. Now it seems that it wasn't the Rottweiler after all but Sarkozy's pups who messed things up.


And Sarko, they say, is a recidivist:
Mais l'ancien président est habitué aux dégradations de mobilier : alors qu'il était ministre de l'Intérieur, un canapé était déjà rentré au Mobilier, imbibé de poils et d’urine.
Une honte pour la République!

How France Was Spoiled

« L'aménagement du territoire soumis aux puissances financières débouche toujours sur des effets pervers, poursuit le rapport Charié. Comment un élu peut-il facilement refuser un projet parasite si c'est par ailleurs une source de financement pour le budget communal ? »
Here.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Does the Territorial Reform Make Sense?

Geographers analyze the pending territorial reform in terms of networks of flows of people, goods, and ideas:


Worth reading.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Is the UMP About to Explode?

According to Le Monde, one-third of UMP sympathizers think the party should dissolve. The "war of the chiefs," the Bygmalion scandal, the €74 million debt, the revelations of nepotism and high-living among insiders, the Sarkozy scandals and their repercussions -- it's all been too much for M. et Mme Dupont. Various former dignitaries have been hurling brickbats at one another. Rachida Dati says it's not her fault if François Fillon felt humiliated by her man Sarkozy for 7 years. Fillon's people are busy leaking evidence of Jean-François Copé's mismanagement of the party, his (and Dati's) cell phone bills, and the thousands spent on travel and salary for Copé's wife to serve as his "special assistant." It's no wonder the UMP was so desperate to win the 2012 election: it was the only the way to keep the lid on this bacchanalia, which is awaiting the poet capable of rendering it in a latter-day Satyricon.

Eavesdroppers Everywhere

It wasn't only the cops who were listening in on Sarkozy. His trusted adviser Patrick Buisson was also recording his conversations nonstop. Buisson apparently never turned off the recorder he carried inside his vest pocket. Now, one of the recordings has leaked to Le Monde, which has published the planning session for the speech Sarkozy gave in 2011 on the Arab spring and the sacking of two of his ministers, Aliot-Marie and Hortefeux.

The discussion takes place, appropriately enough, in the hunting lodge at Versailles, La Lanterne. The contents reveal that Buisson rather subtly manipulated Sarkozy into portraying the Arab spring as a threat to Europe because of "the Muslim hordes" it was supposedly going to send fleeing to the northern shore of the Mediterranean. The discussion is worth reading in its entirety, and not least for Buisson's expression of distaste for Carla Bruni:

La réunion s'achève après une heure et demie de discussions et tergiversations. Patrick Buisson rentre à Paris avec "Jean-Mi".
"C'est dur, lâche-t-il, une fois le portail de la Lanterne derrière eux.
– De quoi ? De venir ici ?
— Non, la présence de… Carla, en référence à ses sorties intempestives pendant leur réunion.
Buisson also tries half-heartedly to derail the nomination of Alain Juppé as foreign minister, knowing that Sarkozy won't go for it:
Alain Juppé sera parfait en ministre des affaires étrangères. "Je trouve que ça fait professionnel. Je ne dis pas que c'est extraordinaire, concède le chef de l'Etat. C'est un type solide, carré, courageux pour un certain nombre de raisons personnelles dans lesquelles je ne veux pas rentrer." Patrick Buisson émet une réserve sur le "poids politique considérable" donné à un homme "synonyme de la plus grande catastrophe électorale de la droite en 1997" et mû par "un certain autisme à l'égard de ce que sont les électeurs populaires en France".
You have to love that "certain autism when it comes to ordinary voters in France" and the reminder that Juppé, the arrogant énarque, led the party to a crushing defeat in 1997. Henri Guaino recently emitted a similar opinion about Juppé's arrogance and alleged failure to have learned anything from "life's trials." Clearly, a part of the UMP is worried that Juppé is going to be the fallback candidate if Sarkozy is sidelined for 2017, and the old hatred of him is coming to the surface.

The Smoking Gun

Le Monde has obtained the recordings of the Herzog-Sarkozy conversations on the "Bismuth" telephone:
Le 5 février, les deux hommes évoquent M. Azibert. « Il m'a parlé d'un truc sur Monaco, parce qu'il voudrait être nommé au tour extérieur », commence Me Herzog. « Je l'aiderai », répond M. Sarkozy, qui lâche cette phrase à propos du magistrat : « Moi, je le fais monter. »
« Ben oui, reprend Me Herzog, parce qu'il va y avoir un poste qui se libère au Conseil d'Etat monégasque et... euh... il était bien placé. Mais, simplement, il me dit... euh... j'ose pas demander. Peut-être qu'il faudra que j'aie un coup de pouce. Ben je lui ai dit : tu rigoles avec ce que tu fais… » « Non, ben t'inquiète pas, dis-lui, coupe M. Sarkozy. Appelle-le aujourd'hui en disant que je m'en occuperai parce que moi je vais à Monaco et je verrai le prince. »
This would appear to constitute a "smoking gun" on the bribery charge, unless, of course, the lawyers manage to get the wiretap evidence ruled inadmissible, in which case the prosecution would collapse. But there's more. Sarkozy and Herzog had a subsequent conversation on their official line in which the ex-president says he changed his mind and would not speak to the Prince of Monaco in Azibert's favor. But he knew that this line was under surveillance, the investigators believe, so they think this denial was deliberately planted. What's more, Sarkozy and Herzog then have the same conversation on the secret line a few minutes later. The investigators think that the existence of the tap on the secret line had been leaked, leading to a panicky attempt to cover up the whole plot.

Pour les policiers de l'Office central de lutte contre la corruption et les infractions financières et fiscales (OCLCIFF), cette discussion est suspecte. C'est en effet la première fois que les deux hommes font référence à M. Azibert sur leurs lignes officielles. Encore plus surprenant, quelques minutes plus tard, M. Sarkozy rappelle son avocat, cette fois sur la ligne Bismuth, pour lui dire… la même chose.
« Bon bah, j'espère que tu ne m'en veux pas, hein ?, lui demande-t-il. Ça ne me pose pas de problème en soi, mais, si tu veux, je ne l'ai pas senti d'en parler, j'ai pas envie. » « Bah oui, mais quand on sent pas quelque chose… », renchérit Thierry Herzog. « Après, moi, j'aime beaucoup le prince, reprend M. Sarkozy, après, s'il y a un problème, c'est moi qui serai responsable, parce qu'on leur aura conseillé de prendre quelqu'un qui ne ferait pas l'affaire. »
Ces deux communications successives suscitent deux interrogations : pourquoi M. Sarkozy prend-il subitement le risque d'évoquer le cas Azibert sur son téléphone officiel ? Et pourquoi rappeler son conseil sur l'autre numéro pour dire exactement la même chose ?
Pour les enquêteurs, la réponse est simple : ils pensent avoir établi que MM. Sarkozy et Herzog ont bénéficié au cours de la journée du 25 février d'une indiscrétion leur ayant permis d'apprendre que leurs portables « secrets » étaient aussi sous surveillance. Sachant leur stratagème téléphonique découvert, et surtout le contenu de leurs précédentes conversations dévoilé, les deux hommes auraient donc adapté leur discours. Et, éventuellement, leurs actes, à savoir que M. Sarkozy aurait renoncé in extremis à intervenir.

Astounding.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

My NY Times Op-Ed

Here.

Political Suicide

The long knives are out at the UMP. The trouble is that the wounded king, whom all the princelings are prepared to do in, has the support of 78 percent of the rank-and-file. It's not easy to explain why the lambs of the UMP are so eager to be led to slaughter. The extravagance of Sarkozy and the man to whom he bequeathed the party, Jean-François Copé, has left the UMP in debt to the tune of €74 million. Sarkozy's desperation to be re-elected nearly bankrupted the party, not only in cash terms but also in ideological terms, since he virtually erased the distinction between the UMP and the FN on the advice of Patrick Buisson, a turncoat of the extreme right who turned out to be a double agent, secretly recording Sarkozy's conversations even before the judges installed their wiretaps, which have allegedly revealed yet another vein of "active corruption." It's no wonder the deputy Bernard Debré says that if the UMP chooses Sarkozy as its once and future leader, the party will be committing "political suicide."

The trail of devastation is so complete that one wonders how 78 percent support among the party faithful is even remotely possible. Yet the polls seem to say it's there, and the caution of Sarkozy's would-be deposers suggests that they, who are presumably in intimate contact with the base, believe it's real.

So what is the basis of Sarkolatry? I submit that one saw a fair sample of it in the interview he gave to J.-P. Elkabbach immediately after his mise en examen. It's the combination of chutzpah and pugnacity, of punchiness and poise. Sarkozy always evinces confidence. He rarely stumbles. He aligns sentences with the rapidity and lethality of machine-gun bullets, forcing his interlocutors to keep their heads down. No one dares to ask the devastating question. No one dares to say, as Fillon said to Copé in the party committee meeting that deposed him, "Je ne te crois pas, Jean-François." To be sure, Sarko is an ex-president, and the residual majesty of the royal presidency may be intimidating to some, but Sarkozy should by now be vulnerable. He trails so many casseroles, as one says in French, that he should present a broad target. But no one yet dares to strike the fatal blow, unless it's Edwy Plenel at Mediapart, who has been striking fatal blows for a decade now without obvious effect.

Or maybe it's just that Sarkozy is so much more entertaining to watch than most other politicians. His stylish shamelessness has no equal. Bill Clinton was equally shameless and had a certain style but lacked Sarkozy's tough bravado; there was always something vulnerable in Clinton's brazenness. Richard Nixon was shameless, of course, but also styleless. Some have compared Sarkozy to Berlusconi, but Berlusconi is a guttersnipe compared to the Frenchman: the vulgarity of his shamelessness is pathetic. A woman of Carla Bruni's class would not be interested in bunga bunga. Sarkozy is a political phenomenon. No doubt about it. It's a pity that he couldn't parlay his talents into some achievement worth remembering.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Sarkozy Mis en Examen

The question now becomes political: Can Sarkozy recapture the UMP, as he had been preparing to do, now that he has been mis en examen by a juge d'instruction (a position he had notoriously tried to destroy as president)? A rational person might view this second phase of the judicial procedure as a stroke of good fortune for the UMP if it sidelines Sarko permanently. Room may now exist for an untainted candidate, perhaps Juppé or Fillon. (Of course Juppé is untainted only if we agree to forget his conviction for corruption back in the day, but he is of course a new man, having been purged by hard Canadian winters).

The current affair is only one of several in which Sarkozy is enmeshed. If the bribery charge is proved, it lends credence to the charge of illegal financing of Sarkozy's 2007 campaign by Muammar Gaddafi--a flabbergasting allegation in light of Sarkozy's role in Gaddafi's ignominious fate.

The Woerth and Karachigate affairs also involve campaign financing, as does the more recent Bygmalion case. In view of the apparent corruption of French politics by the current system of campaign financing, it's remarkable that there has been so little discussion of reforming it.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Sarkozy in Garde à Vue

Investigators seem to be closing in on former president Nicolas Sarkozy. He is now being held in garde à vue at the HQ of the Police Judiciaire of Nanterre, which is investigating charges of influence peddling stemming from an attempt to scotch another investigation of alleged illegal financing of Sarkozy's 2007 presidential campaign by Muammar Qaddafi, whom Sarkozy later helped topple from power (and, indirectly, kill). Got that?

Of course, the "presumption of innocence" remains.

En droit pénal français, la garde à vue est le maintien à disposition, sous contrainte, d'une personne soupçonnée d'avoir commis ou tenté de commettre un crime ou undélit, par les forces de police ou de gendarmerie dans le cadre d'une enquête judiciaire. C'est une mesure privative de liberté, d'une durée strictement limitée qui reste sous le contrôle permanent de l'autorité judiciaire. Le fait de s'y soustraire constitue une évasion, réprimée en tant que telle par le Code pénal.

Of course, the really flabbergasting thing is that while all this is going on, Sarko is preparing his political comeback and threatening to retake control of the UMP, whose present crisis was precipitated by a scandal involving the financing of his 2012 campaign. That the party would want him back with all of these criminal matters unresolved is a measure of the desperate straits to which it has been reduced.