Saturday, March 22, 2008

France-Bashing from the American Left

I have to join Boz at Sarkozy the American in condemning a new ad by Campaign for America's Future that makes a whipping boy of France in order to attack John McCain for his role in the award of the aerial tanker contract to EADS. What a deplorable thing for a "progressive" political action group to do--straight out of the Karl Rove playbook. And what a lousy ad--couldn't they at least have found an authentic French speaker? Shocking (video at the first link above).

CAF's directors include Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel, AFL-CIO pres. George Sweeney, and LA mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

To register your protest, go here. I have.

Mme Collomb n'est pas une colombe

Caroline Collomb, the wife of newly re-elected Lyon mayor Gérard Collomb, slapped a journalist Friday in the cour d'honneur of the Lyon city hall. Raphaël Ruffier, the editor of Lyon Capitale, had apparently written some disobliging things about the awarding of city contracts and about comments the mayoral couple allegedly made in private about certain subordinates. Mme Collomb and M. Ruffier have known each other since both were militants in the leftist student organization UNEF. Libé reports that the lady approached the editor and slapped him without saying a word. She subsequently apologized.

Shades of Henriette Caillaux, who shot Figaro editor Gaston Calmette back in 1914. The student of comparative politics will want to note, of course, the striking difference between the wives of American politicians and the wives of French politicians. Eliot Spitzer's wife had to stand silently beside him while he confessed his sins, while his replacement David Paterson's wife not only had to do the same but was also required to accept the blame for his infidelity, which he claimed was prompted by jealousy over hers. Whereas in France, we have Carla Bruni denouncing journalistic calumny with a pen dipped in acid and Caroline Collomb taking more direct action in defense of her man.

The Typical Basket

Commenter MY, responding to kirkmc, wrote:

I've heard purchasing power complaints since September - much before it became an issue in the media. It mostly came from working women who could not afford to buy fruit and meat for their children. Overall, the cost of a supermarket cart has risen sharply - in my case, from about 90 euros a week to 130 euros a week.

The ministry of the economy has now released the results of an official survey showing that an index of food prices rose 4.69 percent between Feb 2007 and Feb 2008. This is higher than the overall inflation rate of 2.8 percent for the same period, though nothing like the 45 percent reported by MY. One has to be skeptical of any price index, which is of course sensitive to what items are included and how they are weighted. The wording of the Le Monde article cited above suggests a simple average of the prices of 100,000 food items, which would be a perfectly meaningless figure. What matters is the price of a typical basket of goods. And the composition of that typical basket changes over time. There was a time when a typical family ate meat only once a week and when a chicken in every pot could count as a royal miracle. Today, this level of consumption would count as privation, while a change in relative prices that obliged a typical family to substitute pasta for meat one day a week would be felt as hardship.

The question is whether the typical family's typical basket has increased in price as much as MY's basket, which would have a serious impact on most family budgets, or whether the typical family could remain within its budget constraint despite the rise in food prices by forgoing that new iPod or pair of glitzy sneakers, as kirkmc suggests. And there, what comes into play, obviously, is the image one has of the "typical family," which is a social construct, and which varies from observer to observer, regardless of the hypothetical basket that the gnomes at INSEE have concocted for the typical consumer.