Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Girard on the Burqa Affair

Bernard Girard participated in a debate on the burqa affair on France 24. Here is his summary:

Deux des conclusions intéressantes de ce débat :
- tous les pays qui se sont posés la question de leur identité (comme commence de le faire la France mais comme l'ont fait depuis beaucoup plus longtemps les Pays-Bas) ont vu s'aggraver les tensions avec leurs minorités visibles. Parler d'identité n'est pas la meilleure manière de résoudre les problèmes qui se posent dans les banlieues ;
- même si cette affaire n'est que marginale, elle aura un effet négatif sur la qualité des relations entre la communauté musulmane et la communauté nationale (comme le rappelait l'une des participantes : chaque fois que sort une affaire de ce type dans les semaines qui suivent se multiplient les agressions à l'égard des femmes voilées).

Bernard's previous post on the affair is here.

The Vast Wasteland Comes to the Hexagon

It seems that American TV series totally dominated French series with the French viewing audience last year--for the first time in history. American series have of course been popular in the past, but this is the first year that they have so completely dominated the landscape. La douce France has succumbed to "the vast wasteland."

Credit in the Eurozone

Guillermo de la Dehesa reports that credit in the Eurozone has not become dearer and that the rate of lending is slowing only slightly. Is this comparatively better performance of the European credit markets compared with the US only temporary, or does it reflect real differences in American and European lending practices, regulatory environments, and exposure? Dehesa gives only a few preliminary indications of answers to these questions, but it will be important to learn more as US regulators contemplate new banking regulations in the United States. If European bankers did indeed behave more sanely than American bankers, was it--so to speak--because of better upbringing or sterner parents?

Revealing Interview

In a revealing interview with Le Monde, Nicolas Sarkozy manifests a plebiscitary view of democracy that makes the comparison of his presidency with that of a certain prince-president more than idle chit-chat. When asked if proposed constitutional reforms reinforce the powers of parliament, as he claims, or simply those of the majority in parliament, he replies: "It's extraordinary to reason that way. Today's majority will inevitably become tomorrow's opposition." When the interviewer ups the ante and asks whether France isn't turning back to "enlightened despotism" while other countries have a parliamentary regime, Sarkozy answers, "Let me remind you that unlike a despot, I am elected."

Implicit in these brief remarks is a theory of democracy as a war of position between a majority and an opposition. If the majority is strong enough to control both the presidency and the parliament, Sarkozy sees no need for checks and balances. The legitimation of one-party rule comes from the ballot box--"I am elected"--and the remedy can therefore come only from the ballot box at the next election. The idea that it might be wise to create institutional obstacles to slow an impetuous majority, to oblige it from time to time to seek a supermajority or the advice and consent of the minority, does not cross the president's mind. As long as he has the power, his mission, as he sees it, is to run with it as fast as he can.

One of his characteristic rhetorical turns is also abundantly displayed. As is well known, Sarkozy likes to simplify. His favorite device is to turn every issue into a contest between "necessary reform" and plural "conservatisms" (of both the right and the left, meaning anyone who does not agree with him). Thus, when Le Monde refers to pending institutional reforms as "controversial," Sarkozy says, "This reform has been debated, it's not controversial. There is not a single political official, jurist, or journalist today who favors the status quo." As if the only conceivable opposition to the status quo were to support, without modification or nuance, the particular reform that Sarkozy favors at the moment. As though the word reform were synonymous with "my reform." He is so adept at this particular turn, he uses it so often and with such gusto, that it passes almost unnoticed.

"Très joli titre"

The punning title of my previous post has been noted with approval by MediaPart:

Quant à Arthur Goldhammer, analyste américain qui anime le blog French Politics, il estime, sous un fort joli titre («Collomb-et-les-Deux-Eglises») que le maire de Lyon réalise «la synthèse entre deux chapelles du centre-gauche» (Valls et les strausskahniens).

Maybe I can get a job as a headline writer with Charlie Hebdo, now that they've fired Siné for an allegedly anti-Semitic remark concerning Jean Sarkozy and his impending marriage to la fille Darty.