Monday, April 28, 2008

The Law on the Archives

When I published the petition circulating among historians to protest the proposed law modifying the conditions governing access to French archives, several commenters suggested that there might be a link between the law and the "national security state" mentality that has been evident in Washington since 9/11. Today, has a piece on the law, which comes up for debate in the National Assembly tomorrow. The article points out that the objectionable clauses in the law were inserted as amendments in the Senate at the behest of notaires and against the desires of the government. I hope that this lays to rest the notion that Sarkozy or Jean-David Levitte were somehow doing the bidding of the U. S. government.

The Lagarde Plan

Christiane Lagarde has presented what is supposed to be the second chapter of the government's economic reform program, the first chapter being the TEPA tax cut package that was passed last year. Whereas Sarkozy was much in evidence in the passage of the TEPA, including a personal intervention when the Conseil Constitutionnel ruled part of the mortgage rebate unconstitutional, he hasn't had much to say about the Lagarde plan, which barely came up in his news conference the other day. To be sure, he has discussed pieces of the plan, such as permitting retailers greater latitude to negotiate discounts with their suppliers. But the whole has not been touted as a single package bearing the presidential seal of approval. This isn't simply because the president is less in evidence generally these days. It seems to me rather a calculated move, since many of the details of the Lagarde plan are hardly the stuff of rousing populist appeals: reducing the time a purchaser is allowed to delay payment of an invoice may be an important reform, but it isn't going to set a stadium on fire. It's easier to denounce May '68 or assert that schoolteachers will never replace priests. When even a member of the prime minister's Conseil d'Analyse Économique calls the reform "a policy of small steps," it is easy to understand why the president may think this isn't his road back to popularity.

In addition, it should be noted that the Lagarde plan strikes at certain key components of the UMP coalition, especially small retail businessmen, who must now face intensified competition from big chains, pay bills promptly, etc. "Corporatist" resistance scuttled the Attali report and may yet scuttle parts of the Lagarde plan. Sarkozy has left himself ample room to cut loose any portion of the proposal that encounters too much opposition. But if the president is looking for advice, I'll give him some gratis: he could revive his plan to allow more taxis in Paris by noting that if there were more legal taxis, there would be fewer illegal ones, and sexual predators like the one who allegedly killed the young Swedish tourist would be deprived of an instrument. A demagogic argument, I know--but recidivism and liberalism being two of Sarko's subjects of predilection, here is an opportunity to combine them. Attali meets Dati, one might say.

Cult of Personality

"Che without the hair"--a description that has been applied to Olivier Besancenot, postman, soccer player, and leader of the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire -- will appear on the Sunday afternoon television program hosted by Michel Drucker, whose divan has been warmed by nearly all of France's most famous derrières. Is the LCR becoming pipolisée? Not to worry, says Alain Krivine, Besancenot's predecessor: "Drucker, c'est le public du dimanche." Others in the LCR, already worried about the cult of personality that Besancenot has created around himself, are not so sure: between le public and le peuple, not to say le prolétariat, they see a difference that is more than a nuance. But Krivine, who as a true pol covets Drucker's audience of 2 to 4 million as the mother of all Trotskyite meetings, is unflinching: "Olivier on Drucker? It will be very political. He'll say what he wants to say and put his themes -- immigration, trade unionism -- across. It won't be like Rocard on Ardisson, who asked if 'a blow job is cheating.'"

No, surely not: Drucker is for the salon after Sunday dinner with grandma and grandpa, so his guest of honor will be joined by a favorite singer, Charles Aznavour. He's omitting another favorite, the rapper Monsieur R, whose lyrics are unsuitable for a postprandial afternoon with la France profonde et son animateur préféré, aux vertus dormitives bien connues.

Americans of a certain age will no doubt be struck by the fact that Drucker, pictured above, bears an uncanny resemblance to Alfred E. Neuman, the icon of Mad Magazine--compare for yourself.)