Thursday, August 2, 2007

Deux Poids, Deux Mesures, Deux Langues

While we're on the subject of language, on which Greg Brown finds me persnickety, you might find this Libé article amusing. It seeems that Fadela Amara has started two blogs, one for the general public, the other for "suburban youth." She seems to have employed a translator to bridge the gap between the two. A sample:

Youth blog: «Salut! Bienvenue sur le skyblog Pour ma ville sur lequel je t'invite à participer pour améliorer la vie de ton quartier et de ta ville. Lâche tes idées !» Le ton se veut direct, amical, sans détour. «Balance moi des comms pour me dire ce qui te plairait dans ton quartier.(...) Mon skyblog? T'as intérêt d'y participer».

Official blog: «Si j’ai choisi d’avoir un blog officiel, c’est pour avoir un lien direct avec tous les Français qui sont intéressés par la politique de la ville». La présentation est plus sobre, plus aérée, les couleurs acidulées: le rose et blanc contrastent avec le rouge pétard et le jaune canari du skyblog.


It will be interesting to see how Sarkozy responds to the first real challenge of his presidency: the pressure to come clean about the terms of his deals with Libya. Claude Goasguen, who was a Sarko spokesman during the campaign, has now joined Hollande, Loncle, and other Socialists in calling for a clearer explanation of what transpired in the negotiations to secure the release of the Bulgarian nurses. Goasguen has made it clear that he is not satisfied with Sarko's one-word dismissal in an aside to a TV reporter yesterday.

The question of quid pro quo can be broken down:

1. The 400 million euro ransom is not really Sarko's responsibility. The EU had already agreed to do this. Sarko, so far as we know at this point, merely facilitated the payment.
2. The agreement to pay for the training of Libyan doctors in France. And why not? Chalk it up to foreign aid.
3. The military side-payments apparently made by France to clinch the deal, including 100 million euros' worth of antitank missiles, which Libya will pay to buy from France (standard arms horse-trading), and the construction of a military "production and repair" facility in Libya (probably to be paid for by the Libyans and built by the French--more horse trading, profits for arms dealers, etc.).

And then the big enchiladas:

4. Discussions involving Libyan oil and gas rights.
5. Discussions involving Libya's participation in an eventual Mediterranean union, a pet project of Sarko's and a potential substitute for EU membership for Turkey.
6. The nuclear deal: will or will not Areva build 2 European Pressurized Reactors in Libya and for what purpose (desalination or other)? And has Areva been granted rights to Libya's stockpile of uranium?

Elements 4, 5, and 6 would have been subjects for discussion with Libya whether or not there had been Bulgarian hostages, so Sarko may be at once candid and guilty of "parsing" when he implies that these items were not part of any quid pro quo. In relations between states, of course, the game is long-term and multidimensional and the idea of tit-for-tat is simplistic. The real test for Sarkozy will therefore be a matter of presentation. Will he lay out his short-term foreign policy maneuvering in the context of a grand vision and define the principles of that vision, or will he content himself with wriggling out of a minor embarrassment that has allowed the opposition to score some points and disconcerted one of his own lieutenants?

Added later: Le Monde's editorial also takes up this question.
Added still later: Goasguen claims that negotiations with Libya on the antitank weapons and arms plant had been going on since 2004 and had nothing to do with the nurses. He insists that Kadhafi's son deliberately confused the issue in his interview with Le Monde for reasons having to do with internal politics in Libya.

Cries and Whispers

The PS isn't the only party riven by internal dissension. Victory can be as disruptive as defeat. Complaints are being heard at the National Assembly about the way Jean-François Copé is running the UMP group. Copé, who had hoped for a ministry of his own, has assuaged his disappointment by adopting a ministerial, not to say autocratic, style in his relations with the party's lesser fry.

Meanwhile, Arnaud Montebourg gripes that the readiness of certain unnamed politicians to expose their private lives in pursuit of power has encouraged certain media, also unnamed, to "blackmail" unwilling politicians into giving up the spouse and kids as hostages if they want publicity for their pet projects. Attacking the pipolisation of the news seems to be yet another way of remaining among le people politique.

Note to the Académie Française: you Immortals would perform a real service to the French language if you ruled pipolisation a Franglais barbarism punishable by death. It should be banished along with la top model and le building de grand standing.

Nullification in Poitou-Charentes?

Connoisseurs of American history will recall the doctrine of "nullification," proposed (anonymously) by that great exponent of states' rights and the South's "peculiar system," John Calhoun, according to whom each state had the power to nullify any federal law it did not like. Something like nullification seems to be emerging in France, as local courts and regional governments try to prevent the application of the Contrat Nouvel Embauche, which was adopted in August 2005.

Ségolène Royal's region Poitou-Charentes is the latest to get into the act. The region had decided not to award regional subsidies to firms availing themselves of the CNE.* The prefect protested, on the grounds that the law had been passed by the Parlement, duly promulgated, and approved by the Conseil d'Etat. The region went to court, and the Administrative Tribunal of Poitiers ruled in its favor.

The region's rationale for opposing the CNE is that it allows employers too much flexibility in firing workers without cause during the first two years of employment. It had been hoped that this provision would encourage smaller firms to take a chance on less-credentialed employees by reducing the cost of giving them a try-out. Whether it did much to encourage job creation is open to question, but certainly the increasingly confused judicial status of the law is not likely to increase the incentive of employers to make use of it.

* The CNE should not be confused with the CPE, which sparked massive demonstrations before it was "passed but not promulgated" in 2006. The CNE drew little attention when it was passed, but in retrospect it has taken on symbolic value as a convenient CPE-substitute. Opposition to the CNE thus accrues moral credit derived from the anti-CPE demonstrations, which are supposed to represent the "will of the people" to reject "precarious employment." The merits or demerits of the measure as such take a back seat to its symbolic value.