Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Debré the Skeptic

Jean-Louis Debré warns that the institutional reforms currently under consideration could restore some of the features of the Third and Fourth Republics that were responsible for governmental instability. His words are veiled, because as a member of the Constitutional Council he cannot directly criticize the reform texts. But his principal concern is clear enough: he wants to make it as difficult as possible for ministers to further their personal ambitions at the expense of government solidarity. Any reform that encourages ministers to see themselves in solidarity with a parliamentary faction rather than with their colleagues in government would, in his eyes, be tantamount to constitutional regression.

In sampling some of the numerous television documentaries on May '68, I was amused to come across one in which various right-wing personalities remembered their experience of "the events." Debré was among them, and his memory was dominated by the contrast he experienced between the exuberance of his young friends at school and the morose atmosphere at home, where his father, the arch-Gaullist Michel Debré, could only lament the collapse of the General's vision of a state at last stabilized under the tutelage of a strong and hypothetically incontestable president: "All that work [to establish the Fifth Republic's constitution] for this," the younger Debré remembers his father saying ruefully. One can imagine his dismay. The son seems to have taken the lesson to heart, though he shows little appreciation of the institutional anomalies created by a constitution that provides for a government named by the president but responsible before the parliament. "Rebalancing" the constitution is the primary concern of the reform's chief architect, Edouard Balladur.

Thirty and Counting

Le Figaro really likes Carla Bruni's new album. The paper even finds a new dignified maturity in lines like these:

Je suis une enfant/Malgré mes quarante ans/Malgré mes trente amants/Une enfant

Tu es ma came/Plus mortel que l'héroïne afghane/Plus dangereux que la blanche colombienne

You see, what the singer is really singing about is her liberty. Therefore she is a liberal. What's not to like? And if anyone thinks that it's a trifle daring to compare the president of the Republic to a bolus of opiate, well, they're just not liberated. Or is Carla's came one of the 29 previous amants? Well, far be it from me to confuse private life with public life. I'll let the Times of London correspondent do it for me.

The Cost of Rejoining NATO

Jean-Dominique Merchet, Libé's defense correspondent, asserts that the cost in staff salaries alone of France's rejoining NATO would equal the annual cost of maintaining two regiments. Against these and other substantial costs, however, he is careful to note that the potential gain in influence might be significant. Un pari pascalien? That is the question.


Amateurs of neologism will find this sentence delectable:
le système de cosmétovigilance mis en place en 2004 rapporte 8 déclarations d’effets indésirables survenus avec des tatouages éphémères à base de henné en 2004, 9 en 2005 et 16 en 2006.

It seems that a chemical has been added to some henna dyes used for temporary summer tatoos and that some people are allergic to it. Hence the need for cosmétovigilance. This is not a French version of Reagan's Star Wars, which exhorted the U.S. to cosmovigilance. In this era of dégraissage de l'administration, it's good to know that there's still room in the budget for les cosmétovigiles. Knowledge of this foresighted staffing may reduce the volume of the howls when the public learns that although thousands of schoolteachers have to go, the president appears to be in the process of acquiring a personal Airbus.