Friday, February 1, 2008

I Give Up

I give up trying to explain what's going on at Le Monde. Here is Philippe Cohen's latest installment. If anyone can see to the bottom of this, let me know. Meanwhile, the spiking of Daniel Schneidermann's spiteful piece on the affair by Laurent Joffrin, the editor of Libération, is making the rounds.

The SocGen Affair: "The Insanity of the System"

Jean-Michel Aldebert, the head of the financial section of the Paris prosecutor's office, said that "there will inevitably be questions to ask [SocGen head Daniel Bouton]" about Kerviel's charges that he did what he did with the tacit permission of his superiors. Nevertheless, "as things stand currently, there will most likely be no possibility of criminal prosecution for the insanity of the system" (my italics).

I wonder. Whose money did Kerviel lose? Was he gambling with the bank's own capital or with clients' funds? This is one of many aspects of the case about which information has been unpardonably sketchy. The French financial press in particular has been lamentable. If this had happened in the US, you can be sure that the Wall Street Journal would have been all over it.

As it is, the WSJ is using the story to push its usual line of French labor-market rigidities. What kind of system makes it impossible for a manager to can an employee caught with his hand in the till? Why, the French, of course. American capitalists shake their heads in disbelief:

PARIS -- Société Générale says wayward trader Jérôme Kerviel lost the bank $7.2 billion. But that was last week. He's now on his way to cult celebrity -- and he still hasn't lost his job.

Société Générale has stopped paying Mr. Kerviel and told him not to come to the office, but it hasn't managed to formally fire him. French law stipulates that to do that, the bank must first call him in for a sit-down meeting and explain its dissatisfaction. He has the right to bring along a trade-union official, a lawyer or anyone else he'd like.

Ségo's Polling

Yesterday I discussed Sarkozy's declining approval rating. It should be noted, however, that Ségolène Royal's rating has suffered a corresponding decline.

Ségo chez Drucker

I commented yesterday on Ségolène Royal's appearance on Michel Drucker's program and on the criticism it had elicited from four other Socialist women. A friend writes:

I do not want to challenge you on translation, but there was more to Sego saying "j'ai ete trompee" than "I was deceived" --I saw the clip on the web, and to me it really meant "I was cheated on" (by an unfaithful partner...). Here is the link to the interview in question: here.

My answer:

Thanks, ... in my view, "deceived" is a euphemistic way of saying "cheated on" in English. We say, "she was a deceived wife." Anyway, that's how I took it ... yes, she was saying she was cheated on. If she had said, il m'a trompée, I would have written, "He cheated on me," not "He deceived me." But since she seemed to want to spare him to that degree and resorted to the circumlocution "j'ai été trompée," I chose to translate with the more discreet "I was deceived." "I was cheated on" is a little inelegant in English because it ends with the dangling preposition. J'ai été trompée doesn't have that inelegance in French. Anyway, that's my defense!

Questions of translation aside, I thought that Ségolène handled the question in a dignified manner (you can watch the video clip and judge for yourselves). My only quarrel with her presentation was her assertion that part of her motive for not revealing her separation from Hollande was to protéger les Français. I don't think that the people need to be "protected" from basic facts about the circumstances of those who aspire to lead them. Of course the situation that Royal faced was unusually complicated, since her companion was also the leader of her party. But I think it would have been better to put the stark fact on the table.