Sunday, April 5, 2009

Identity Checks

Ever wonder what your rights are in case of an identity check by the French police? I know that I've been contrôlé far more often in France than in the US, despite the fact that I've spent perhaps 3 years of my life in France vs. 59 in the US. Such is life. Anyway, here's a rundown, with practical advice: don't make waves, you'll lose. It doesn't say much about when a contrôle is legal and when it isn't, since the author's position is that it doesn't matter, you'd best comply in either case.

DSK's Future

Sarkozy's petulance got the headlines, but the biggest effect of the G20 as far as French domestic politics is concerned may be the boost to DSK's fortunes. The IMF was the big winner at the G20. Its resources were tripled, and this was not a foregone conclusion. How much of this was due to DSK's influence and how much simply to the situation, the palpable need to help once-emerging economies around the world, remains to be deciphered. But some of the credit must belong to Strauss-Kahn, and he has discreetly sought to capitalize on it. Now, if only he can figure out a way to get the Socialist Party to line up behind him ...

Maybe that's what Cambadélis is supposed to be doing at Aubry's side ... but if I were DSK, I wouldn't trust my fate to Cambadélis. I'd love to know what other bridges DSK maintains with the party back home, but I haven't seen much about this in the press.

Strikes and Streets vs. the Lobby

On why European labor takes to the streets so readily, while American workers seem more reluctant to do so:

Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers, said there were smarter things to do than demonstrating against layoffs — for instance, pushing Congress and the states to make sure the stimulus plan creates the maximum number of jobs in the United States.

I actually believe that Americans believe in their political system more than workers do in other parts of the world,” Mr. Gerard said. He said large labor demonstrations are often warranted in Canada and European countries to pressure parliamentary leaders. Demonstrations are less needed in the United States, he said, because often all that is needed is some expert lobbying in Washington to line up the support of a half-dozen senators.

This, mind you, from a union that got protectionist legislation out of the adamantly free-trade Bush II administration. This is a man who, by "politics," definitely means "the art of the possible" and not the construction of utopian ideals or ideological dreams--or even democratic majorities. It's getting done what the members need to get done.

Villepin Multiplies His Criticisms

Has there ever been a politician in a stranger position than Dominique de Villepin? Facing trial later this year in the Clearstream affair, he nevertheless continues to pursue his ambitions--ultimately presidential--as if no sword hung over his head, and as if the president, whom he attacks relentlessly, were not both his mortal enemy and the leader of the party whose support he will need if he wants to make a run for it. Clearly he is banking on a collapse of Sarkozy's credibility before 2012--a distinct possibility, to be sure. In adversity, other politicians of his stature--Jospin, Juppé--have chosen to withdraw from the scene for a time. Villepin seems to have chosen the opposite course: provocation as a means to continual publicity. It may well work for him. But a political trial is always an unpredictable thing. He still has to survive the judicial ordeal. If he does, however, he may not be so badly placed to pick up the standard if Sarko stumbles. Better placed, in any case, than Jean-François Copé, his potential rival, who seems unable to decide whether he is a loyal lieutenant or a scheming corporal.