Monday, December 1, 2008

Filippis Affair

After a tart dismissal of the matter by Rachida Dati, who remarked that "all procedures had been followed," President Sarkozy has once again taken things in hand with a more temperate response, as reported by Maître Eolas:

Prenant la parole en fin de journée lundi, le président de la République Nicolas Sarkozy a déclaré qu'il comprenait "l'émoi" suscité par l'interpellation de Vittorio de Filippis et annoncé une mission chargée de réfléchir à "une procédure pénale plus respectueuse des droits et de la dignité des personnes".

Another implicit rebuke for Dati and a response, if not quite an apology, from the head of state: as Eolas remarks, M. de Fillipis's ordeal will have served a useful purpose.

Todd's Latest Blast

Clive Davis asks what I think of Emmanuel Todd's* Après la démocratie, which the FT reviews rather more warmly--although the review begins by saying that "Mr Todd's thesis will strike many readers as nonsense," it adds, almost grudgingly, as if to make a fair fight of it, that "some of Mr Todd's arguments are as insightful as they are polemical"--than Le Monde:

Saupoudrée de jugements à l'emporte-pièce, cette démonstration hésite souvent entre l'essai et le pamphlet. Elle perd du coup de sa force. Surtout, Emmanuel Todd pèche par présomption. Si la solution qu'il défend était la panacée, on le suivrait sans hésitation. Hélas...

Well, Clive, I appreciate being turned to as a guru in these matters, but I haven't read M. Todd's screed, nor will I. Life is too short, and I'm a long way from sharing Todd's "reductionist" view, as characterized by the FT:

... globalisation is simply the exploitation of cheap workers in China and India by US, European and Japanese companies. He is therefore an unabashed champion of European protectionism. Erecting trade barriers would increase European wages which, in turn, would increase demand and boost trade, he argues. The "social asphyxia" that is sucking the breath out of democracy would disappear.

This is foolishness. The danger of course is that the crisis may make it seem plausible to people who would have dismissed it out of hand a year ago. It isn't productive to engage in polemic on this level, however, so I'm going to refuse the invitation, Clive, though thanks for asking.

* Old-timers will recall that it was M. Todd who provided Jacques Chirac with the phrase fracture sociale, which he used to such good advantage in his campaign against Lionel Jospin in 1995 and then promptly forgot as soon as he was elected.

Er, the President Misspoke

"Misspoke," that wonderful English word used by politicians to lift their errors into a limbo of forgiveness lavished upon those whose every utterance is exposed to public scrutiny, must now be applied to Nicolas Sarkozy, who confidently stated on Nov. 27 that there is no TGV to Strasbourg, and what a scandal this was. But there has been a TGV to Strasbourg for more than a year.

Copé Makes Good Copy

Jean-François Copé certainly learned one thing from Nicolas Sarkozy: the importance of keeping one's name in the newspaper all the time if one aspires to become president of the Republic. So today we have him discovering the importance of the "-ities": austerity, "conviviality," diversity. Yes, France needs a stimulus program, but if it's going to spend more here, it needs to save more--well, anyway, some--there. Yes, it's his job to whip the majority into line on the question of Sunday work, but he's going to do it with "conviviality." And diversity: yes, if we need more solidarity, we have to recognize our diversity.

One more "--ity": nullity, which is what this interview would amount to if its chief purpose weren't to keep the name "Copé" in the public eye. And Le Monde is willing to play the game. Sort of reminds me of a TV feuilleton I watched this weekend, Les Reporters, in which a newspaper that bears an awfully strong resemblance to Le Monde is manipulated by an aspiring politician named Michel Barlier. But the fictional Michel Barlier reminds me less of the real Michel Barnier than of his UMP colleague Jean-François Copé.

Prix du Livre de l'Economie

The Prix du livre de l'économie was awarded last Friday by Christine Lagarde to a deserving recipient, my friend Jacques Mistral, for his book La troisième révolution américaine. It's an excellent book, which among other things highlights the shortcomings of the Anglo-Saxon economic and social model before the crisis. Congratulations, Jacques.