Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Rapping the Pres

Sarko's son turns out to be a rap producer who goes by the name of Mosey. Is he sticking a finger in papa's eye? Understandable, perhaps, since the ex-Mme. Sarko says that the pres is a guy who doesn't like anybody, even his own children. Try as I might to keep this blog focused on la science politique, la science "pipolitique" keeps intruding. Impossible to avoid in Sarkoland.

Security Retention

Should "incurable" sex offenders and other "socially dangerous" individuals be held in prison after they have served out their full sentences? This is a truly difficult issue, which has come in for serious attention in recent days (see this Le Monde editorial, this comment and this other comment by Philippe Bilger, and the various contributions of Robert Badinter). The crux of the argument is this: despite rehabilitative therapy in prison, some offenders are deemed too dangerous to return to society at the conclusion of their sentences. Badinter implicitly concedes this point but argues that rehabilitation programs have never been adequately funded and that with sound rehabilitation there would be no "incurables." Bilger notes the very small number of prisoners who would be retained, infers that in most cases rehabilitation efforts are both sincere and successful, and contends that the belief that there are no incurables is purely ideological:

"Security retention will merely draw the consequences of an all too real humanity," he argues. To believe otherwise is utopian. Such a belief, while "generous, makes short shrift of all that daily pains those who hold a certain conception of the world, a pure and theoretical conception of the World."

What fails to emerge clearly from this skirmish, however, is the reason for the tenacity of belief on both sides. The conservative holds that the liberal is utopian if not naive for believing in a perfectible human race. The liberal holds that if the conservative's not implausible view of defective human nature is affirmed, it will be taken as warrant for unspeakable administrative abuse, and that the potential crimes that are likely to be committed with the blessing of the law are worse than those that might ensue by closing one's eyes to an unpleasant reality. Both sides can cite abundant empirical evidence in support of their claims.

The debate will of course be resolved by a decision of the man with the power, whose attitude toward "generosity" emerged clearly yesterday: "Between the hysterics of zero immigration and the poseurs of absolute generosity," he prefers the strong administrative measure of "strict quotas." Here, too, the conflict is real, and one must choose between flawed solutions. While it may be right to reject absolute generosity, it seems that relative generosity is often disposed of in the same gesture.

LATER: Elisabeth Guigou weighs in.

Sarko Reassures the Masons

Sarko has reassured Jean-Michel Quillardet, grand master of Le Grand Orient de France, a prominent lodge of Freemasons, that he respects "secular morality" and the separation of church and state. He will soon make an appearance before the Grand Orient--a not-so-secret secret society, apparently. This exercise in fire-extinguishing comes of course in the wake of the president's controversial statements in Rome about "positive laïcité," the Christian roots of Western civilization, etc. (see several previous posts in this thread).

We all have short memories in politics. Chirac visited Rome in January of 1996 to accept the honorific title of canon of Saint John Lateran, which has been bestowed on all French presidents, including the confirmed Mason Vincent Auriol. At that time Chirac made a speech in which he said that he "wanted to tighten our millennial bonds, confirm France's fidelity to its Christian heritage, and manifest my respectful devotion to Your Person [speaking to the pope]. ... 'Eldest daughter of the Church'--France has earned the epiteht by its Catholic fidelity, its missionary zeal, and, to borrow an expression of His Holiness John XXIII, by 'the admirable line of saints' that springs from our soil. An important part of our heritage is to be a beacon of religious fervor." [quoted in Philippe Madelin, Jacques Chirac, p. 590.]

The Republic survived.