Monday, January 26, 2009

Suzanne Berger Honored

Today I attended a ceremony to honor Suzanne Berger, a political science professor at MIT who was awarded the Légion d'Honneur by French ambassador Pierre Vimont. Suzanne is an old friend and a most deserving recipient of this honor. Congratulations, Suzanne!

A Taste of Things to Come

It was only a matter of time before a bien-pensant mainstream outlet like Le Monde began to wonder if sector-specific stimuli and differential interest rates might be decorated with the polemical label "protectionist" for political ends as yet unspecified. Marianne applauds. I merely note the development. As has so often been the case in this crisis, I find it hard to applaud any response with more than one hand. (This stands on its head the remark attributed to Harry Truman, who, after hearing one too many economists offer him "on the one hand ... but on the other hand" advice, is supposed to have wished for a one-handed economist. That's what you get in a depression.)

If you're into keeping score of which one-handed economists stand where on the fiscal stimulus question, here's a handy scorecard (but the scorekeeper is biased in favor of the cons and excludes prominent "pros" who he believes don't qualify as macroeconomists under his rather narrow definition; he also limits his sample to economists who teach in the US).


Via Charles Bremner, on le coming-out of Roger Karoutchi, minister for parliamentary relations:

Karoutchi said he felt confident in going public because Sarkozy had behaved so well towards him, inviting his partner along with him to stay at his holiday house and to official dinners at the Elysée Palace. "If I had to dedicate to someone the fact that I am speaking out, it would be to the President of the Republic," he told le Monde.
As a footnote, Sarkozy's easy relations with homosexual friends mark a change. In 2001, Sarko attacked Delanoe in a book (Libre) for coming out in public. "What got into Bertrand Delanoë, wanting at all costs to reveal his homosexuality?" Sarko wrote.

Plus for Sarko, then, but minus for Karoutchi's cabinet colleague Valérie Pécresse:

Politics are behind Karoutchi's coming-out. He is running in a party primary election in March for the candidacy for the presidency of the Ile-de-France -- the Paris regional government. His opponent is a cabinet colleague, Valérie Pécresse, Minister for Higher Education. Karoutchi was stung by what looked like an attempt by Pécresse to score off his homosexuality. She was asked to describe the difference between her and Karoutchi. "I am a mother in a family," she replied. There was also a whispering campaign on the internet, said Karoutchi.

Hamas an "Interlocutor" for France?

Le Monde states flatly, though without clear attribution, that "French diplomacy" is pushing for the European Union to open talks with Hamas. According to the article, Bernard Kouchner is now referring to Hamas as "an interlocutor." The paper ascribes the change in attitude to a judgment that the Gaza war has "imposed new priorities" and also says that the Obama administration "might abandon the line of unconditional support for Israel."

That last assertion begs the questions, "According to whom? Based on what information?" If France is floating a trial balloon, the responses from around Europe seem less than enthusiastic, to judge by the reports mentioned in the same article. Something is clearly afoot here, but I'm not yet sure what. À suivre.