Thursday, September 30, 2010

Retirement Reform: A Ploy to Divide the Left?

For Jules at Diner's Room, the lifting of the legal age of retirement to 62 is a ploy to divide the left:

Voici un texte d’une modération exemplaire qui parvient à scinder la gauche. Ne nous y trompons pas, l’augmentation de l’âge légal de départ à la retraite ne règle que très provisoirement le problème du financement à l’horizon de vingt ou trente ans. En revanche, il permet de stimuler un vif débat au sein de la gauche. Malgré les apparences et les nuances, le Parti socialiste se range grossièrement à l’analyse de la droite6. En revanche, ce que la France compte d’alter-mondialistes, d’anti-libéraux et d’anti-capitalistes, refuse le compromis de l’augmentation de la durée du travail pour faire valoir une autre répartition — considérée comme moins injuste — des méthodes de financement.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Another Overture to the Extreme Right

When Nicolas Sarkozy was elected president, he surprised many--including many in his own party--with his apparent ouverture to the left. Now, the only apparent ouverture is to the extreme right, and, unlike the other, it is not openly avowed. A group "associated with the UMP," La Droite libre, will be staging a debate, at UMP headquarters, on the subject "Immigration, Islamism, France Threatened?"

The founder of La Droite libre is one Rachid Kaci, a deputy prefect (le devoir de réserve not withstanding). He has an interesting past.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Deconstructive Gossip

Well, this will set tongues wagging in certain quarters of academe: Jacques Derrida had an affair with Sylviane Agacinski, who later became Lionel Jospin's wife.

Aubry Greets Miliband

Communiqué de Martine Aubry, Première secrétaire du Parti socialiste

Election d’Ed Miliband à la tête du Parti travailliste

Je me réjouis de la victoire ce week-end d’Ed Miliband à la tête du Parti travailliste.

Je salue l’élection d’un leader qui a l’énergie, la culture historique et la volonté nécessaires pour rassembler et relancer le Parti travailliste. Soutenu par les syndicats, attaché au rôle de transformation sociale de la gauche, reconnu pour ses engagements très forts dans la lutte contre la pauvreté dans le monde ou le changement climatique, je ne doute pas qu’il saura redonner de la force au « Labour ». Je souhaite bon vent à Ed Miliband pour bâtir ce « Next Labour ». Comme Ed l’a dit hier soir : « The journey starts today ».

L'arrivée de Ed Miliband est un nouvel espoir pour le Royaume-Uni, mais aussi pour l'Europe. Avec le « Next Labour », le SPD de Sigmar Gabriel, et nos autres partenaires européens, nous allons imaginer et construire la « gauche qui vient »./.

Rachida Dati: A Slip of the Tongue

Or a slide of the tongue, perhaps: here. (h/t Kirk)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Labour Has a New Leader

It's not French politics, to be sure, but I can't refrain from commenting on Ed Miliband's election as head of the British Labour Party. Ed was a member of my seminar at Harvard some years ago, so I can attest that he is articulate, brilliant, and charming. I expect that these qualities will serve him well in his new post. He faces a difficult task in rebuilding Labour's fortunes. I wish him well.

Fillon Reminds the World that He Exists

François Fillon, perhaps signaling that he will no longer be part of the government after next month, has begun to differentiate himself from Sarkozy, whom he now disavows as "mentor." This only a day after calling Copé to order (without naming him) for putting personal ambition above party. Could Fillon emerge as a contender? Perhaps.

Meanwhile, Gérard Longuet, now a senator, has been accused of corruption when he was minister of the postal service (he allegedly sold rare stamps received as an ex officio gift) by Martin Hirsch, until recently high commissioner for active solidarity in the Fillon government.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

On Copé's ambitions (see yesterday's post) and potential hostility toward them in the UMP, nothing is more eloquent than the photo accompanying this article in Le Point. (It's copyrighted, so I link rather than include, but it's worth clicking through to see the daggers in Fillon's eyes as he glances sidelong at Copé.)

See also Bernard Girard.


There is much confusion in France about the precise meaning of the principe de laïcité, even though it is supposed to be one of the fundamental principles on which the Republic is founded. Exactly what does it entail? What is the supposed "neutrality of public space" and who must respect it? Lately, this issue has been clouded by association with anti-Islamic sentiment, but the blog Diner's Room calls attention to a recent court case involving discrimination against a Christian municipal councilor by an (overly) zealous laïc mayor. I cite the following excellent comment verbatim:

Aussi bien, c’est se tromper profondément que de croire que la laïcité relègue la religion dans l’espace privé. L’obligation de neutralité ne pèse que sur l’État, qui n’est pas identifiable à la société, non plus qu’aux élus ; n’en déplaise à qui nourrit des pulsions totalitaires. Hors l’exercice de la puissance publique, donc, il est loisible à chacun de faire valoir ses convictions de fidèle ou de libre penseur. Et, loin de lui apporter une limite, le principe de laïcité garantit la liberté de cette expression. Concernant la religion, la laïcité n’est pas une tolérance, c’est une protection. [emphasis added]

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Say it ain't so.

Copé Moves His Pawns

Jean-François Copé, who has studied the career of Nicolas Sarkozy, knows that hiding one's ambition is not necessarily the road to the top. Like Sarkozy, he has never made a secret of his desire some day to become president of France. And Sarkozy, who knows a thing or two about political treachery (remember Balladur!), has kept a wary eye on Copé since his election, denying him a ministry and thus far keeping him confined to a parliamentary post far from the party's levers of power and bags of cash. But Copé has been patient, not overtly dissident, and careful in his public disagreement with presidential policy. With Sarko weakening by the day, however, Copé must decide soon how he'll play it in 2012. Is it too soon to make his move for the presidency? Is a wounded Sarkozy still dangerous--more dangerous, perhaps, than an intact Sarko? Does he have enough support to take over the party and make this the basis of his run for the presidency, if not in 2012 then in 2017? One can get a glimpse of the current state of play in this article, but no doubt there is a great deal going on behind the scenes.

I might add that Copé's electoral appeal has never been tested at the national level. He is often seen on TV and heard on radio, but I'm not at all sure that the public has as clear an image of him as it had of Sarkozy in, say, 2005. And to the extent that people do know him, they may well think of him as a smarmy lawyer rather than an homme de poigne. I've seen him at work in a small room, incidentally, attempting to turn on the charm and failing dismally (before an audience of academics, to be sure, not perhaps a group most susceptible to his particular brand of charm). Ambition is not necessarily its own reward. [Note, by the way, that Copé lists the 35-hour week as his party's next "target," having now dispatched (so they think) the retirement age of 60. Such class-against-class overtness may not be an ideal strategy either, but it has at least the virtue of bluntness.]

Uncle Sam Reaches out to the Banlieues

Scott Sayare has an interesting piece in The New York Times about US embassy outreach efforts to the Paris suburbs. (Full disclosure: Scott is a reader of this blog and visited me earlier this year to discuss French politics.) He notes that Uncle Sam has moved in where the French government has moved out. What one wonders after reading the article is how the French government is reacting to this effort. The following sentence in particular raises a host of questions:

Since Mr. Obama’s election, the Americans have helped organize seminars for minority politicians, coaching them in electoral strategy, fund-raising and communications. 

One can only imagine what the reaction of, say, John Boehner would be to the news that the French embassy was coaching, say, Haitian-American politicians on how to knock off their no-doubt Republican opponents. This is really quite an extraordinary intervention for the American embassy, and I can't imagine that the UMP, whose idea of a "minority politician" is an Auvergnat deputy, is pleased. But maybe the French government is so indifferent to the suburbs that it doesn't even know what the Americans are up to. Which suggests a good follow-up story for Scott Sayare.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Le Monde Editorial

Le Monde has an editorial today that uses the Swedish election as a jumping-off point for a reflection on immigration, globalization, and the fate of social democracy. The questions it asks are challenging, and good answers are hard to come by. Here is Le Monde's concluding paragraph:

Contrôlée, l'immigration est nécessaire au maintien de l'Etat- providence dans nos sociétés vieillissantes. Mais elle suppose un immense effort d'insertion qui n'a pas été fait. Il a un coût. L'Etat-providence à l'européenne ne survivrait-il qu'en en faisant moins dans ses domaines traditionnels - santé, retraites - et plus dans sa nouvelle tâche : l'insertion des immigrés ? La question a été posée à Stockholm.

Schengen, Mobility, and the Hordes from the East

Florent Parmentier reflects on the internationalization of the Roma affair.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rosanvallon on Retirement Reform, the Woerth Affair, and the Difficulties of Democracy

Here. The book mentioned is one that I translated.

La Guerre du Luxembourg n'aura pas lieu

French Politics contributor and OFCE economist Éloi Laurent and his colleagues on Le Rendez-vous des politiques provoked UMP senator Philippe Marini into declaring that he would rather Luxembourg did not exist, leading to diplomatic protests from Luxembourg.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


I will be in Chicago for a few days, so blogging will be slow.

Fronde on the Right?

Bernard Girard, noting that 36% of right-wing sympathizers are troubled by EU criticism of French policy (according to a recent CSA poll), thinks that the time is ripe for a fronde on the right and that potential participants are biding their time until the expected cabinet shakeup next month. But are they waiting for the offer of a ministerial portfolio from Sarkozy? At this point, would Copé, for example, regard it as a prize or a curse to be named to a regalian ministry? Might he join a new government and hope from within to persuade Sarko not to run in 2012? I don't see him as Jean-François le Téméraire, eager to take his dagger between his teeth and emulate Villepin. And as for the latter, I imagine that some among those 36% might be taking a fresh look at him.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Automatic Stabilizers

Do automatic stabilizers cushion the effects of an economic downturn? If so, how much? An attempt to answer these questions can be found here. Below is a comparison of the effect of stabilizers in various countries:

Another Presidential Whim Down the Tubes

It was not so long ago that President Sarkozy stunned the country with his decision to end all advertising on French national television. But now that signature measure of Sarkozy's presidency has been put on hold: "We are moving toward a moratorium," announced culture minister Frédéric Mitterrand. Chalk up another failure for le volontarisme présidentiel.

Astonishing Rebuke

Nicolas Sarkozy, under fire in the EU for his policy of expelling Roma from France, invoked the support of Angela Merkel:

«Mme Merkel  m'a indiqué sa volonté de procéder dans les prochaines semaines à l'évacuation de camps, nous verrons à ce moment là le calme qui règne dans la vie politique allemande.» «Je dois dire que j'ai été très sensible au soutien complet, total et entier une fois encore d'Angela Merkel sur cette question comme sur tellement d'autres», a-t-il ajouté.

The problem is that this statement was a lie, according to Merkel. In an astonishing public rebuke, Merkel's spokesperson issued the following statement:

n'a pas parlé de camps de Roms en Allemagne avec , «ni lors du Conseil européen, ni lors d'entretiens en marge», a déclaré le porte-parole de la chancelière allemande jeudi soir à Berlin, récusant ainsi les les propos tenus par le chef de l'Etat français, à l'issue du sommet européen qui s'est tenu à Bruxelles. L'Elysée n'a pas souhaité réagir, peu après l'annonce du démenti.
 This open disavowal of the French president by the German chancellor is simply flabbergasting. The idea that Sarkozy would simply have invented an exchange with Merkel and that he would have invoked her "total and entire" support without having cleared it with her beggars belief. A president who behaves in this way permanently discredits himself. Plummeting in polls, attacked for human rights violations, chastised by the Pope, sued by Le Monde, and now slapped in the face by Merkel, Sarkozy seems to be coming unhinged, prepared to say anything and do anything to retain his increasingly tenuous hold on power. How long before an open revolt breaks out in his own party?

Times on the Roma

The New York Times looks at the sources of the Roma problem.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

EU Problems

Henry Farrell looks at the EU's problems. Clearly seen, forcefully presented.

Pingeot on Europe

Mazarine Pingeot (François Mitterrand's daughter, for those who may not know) has this to say about Europe:

On n'a jamais tant parlé de l'Europe, et c'est une bonne chose. Certes, ce qui lui vaut ce retour à l'actualité est l'indignité de la France. Mais cette indignité, si elle nous rend en certaines heures honteux d'être Français, devrait nous rendre fiers d'être Européens.
Et si elle nous paraît lointaine, cette Europe « technocrate », il est pour elle urgent de rappeler aujourd'hui son fondement et sa vocation éthiques. Non seulement de les rappeler, mais de les prendre authentiquement en charge. Elle fera alors preuve de cet « héroïsme de la raison » qui nous fait défaut aujourd'hui.
Not bad!

The Great Sovereign Nation and the Little Boy

Pierre Lellouche, minister for European Affairs, says that France is a "great sovereign country" and that he, for one, won't stand for its being treated like "a little boy" by the European Commission. This, as Christophe Bouillaud notes in an astute commentary, is a rather remarkable statement for a minister charged with overseeing the relationship, defined by solemn treaties, between France and the European Union. These treaties impose limits on French sovereignty to which France has agreed. Either those limits are respected, or the European Union, once a centerpiece of Sarkozy's administration, becomes meaningless.

Viviane Reding, speaking for the European Commission on the Roma affair, may have been imprudent in her remarks about French policy, but she did capture everyone's attention and succeeded in making it clear that France cannot act just as it pleases in this matter, which concerns its treaty partners as well as itself. When tempers have cooled, perhaps everyone involved can take this pertinent fact on board and act accordingly. The Roma are indeed a European problem, and the problem cannot be solved by exporting Roma from wherever they happen to land.

Indeed, the situation is analogous to the economic problem, which Germany thinks can be solved if only everyone would export more. Someone has to be a net importer, in demographics as well as economics.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hope for the Sans-Papiers

In the form of an ID card stating that their application for a work permit is under review. We no longer here much about l'immigration choisie, which was supposed to be Sarkozy's response to the problem of immigration. Apparently, the French population has choisi an immigration of its own: people to help with the housework, take care of the babies, tend the elderly, etc. Not what Sarkozy had in mind.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

EC Charges France with Violating European Law

The European Commission is filing charges against France because of the expulsion of Roma.

A Curious Poll

Le Parisien reports that a CSA poll it commissioned finds equal support for Villepin and Sarkozy as the candidate of the Right in the next presidential election; each man obtains 15%. Fillon is close behind at 13%. But the really curious thing is that if you throw in Juppé and Copé, the total for all the top candidates is only 55%.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Smoking Gun Found, "Rendered Inoperative"

In case anyone doubted that ethnic cleansing was involved in the decision to dismantle Roma camps, a memo from Brice Hortefeux's chef de cabinet surfaced this weekend making the point explicit. Hortefeux has now withdrawn the memo, however, and replaced it with one of his own purporting to enact an equal-opportunity expulsion policy. But the original message, no doubt received loud and clear by prefects, cannot be erased from consciousness.

Did the Élysée Break the Law?

Le Monde claims that the Élysée tasked an investigative agency, the DCRI, with identifying the source of information provided to the newspaper about the Bettencourt-Woerth affair. This would presumably be a violation of a law put in place under Sarkozy himself to protect journalistic sources.

Did France Cause the Great Depression?

I haven't read this paper (gated) yet, but I couldn't resist quoting the abstract:

The gold standard was a key factor behind the Great Depression, but why did it produce such an intense worldwide deflation and associated economic contraction? While the tightening of U.S. monetary policy in 1928 is often blamed for having initiated the downturn, France increased its share of world gold reserves from 7 percent to 27 percent between 1927 and 1932 and effectively sterilized most of this accumulation. This "gold hoarding" created an artificial shortage of reserves and put other countries under enormous deflationary pressure. Counterfactual simulations indicate that world prices would have increased slightly between 1929 and 1933, instead of declining calamitously, if the historical relationship between world gold reserves and world prices had continued. The results indicate that France was somewhat more to blame than the United States for the worldwide deflation of 1929-33. The deflation could have been avoided if central banks had simply maintained their 1928 cover ratios.

Eric Fassin on the Roma


Inversons l’analyse : les Roms, les musulmans, mais aussi les « jeunes d’origine immigrée », les Noirs ou les « couples mixtes », sont les signifiants variables d’un même signifié flottant ; et c’est précisément le caractère hétéroclite de la liste qui en est le révélateur. Qu’ont-ils en commun ? À l’évidence, rien – si ce n’est que les uns et les autres se trouvent disponibles, si l’on ose dire, pour la rhétorique politique de stigmatisation actuelle. Quelles propriétés symboliques, et non pas sociales, les Roms partagent-ils avec ces groupes divers ? La réponse ne nous dira rien sur les causes de cette phobie ; en revanche, elle en éclairera le fonctionnement. Elle permettra de comprendre, non pas pourquoi, mais comment les Roms se trouvent pris dans la rhétorique gouvernementale. L’hypothèse qu’on voudrait développer ici, c’est que tous ces groupes stigmatisés sont à la frontière entre « eux » et « nous » – ni dedans, ni dehors, ou plutôt les deux à la fois. Le « problème », c’est qu’ils ont en même temps un pied dedans et un pied dehors.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Robert Zaretsky on Veils

Robert Zaretsky in the Chronicle of Higher Ed:

This attitude reflects a tragic irony: The other side of the coin of equality in France is the refusal to acknowledge the desires of some citizens to hold on to certain religious, social, and cultural practices. That there is a wide spectrum of motivations behind these desires has been lost from sight. When we see a Christian wearing a cross, or a Jew in a skullcap, we do not assume that they all have the same motivation for signaling their religious faith, much less have been forced to do so. Why do we fail to attribute the same act of volition to wearers of the veil? Instead, the French risk representing Islam as a monolithic belief system—an ideological foil for the totalizing discourse of French republicanism.
Some historians suggest that there are deep continuities between Vichy and the republics that preceded and followed. In this regard, we might consider one consequence of the Statut des Juifs: Vichy eventually enforced the Nazi order that all Jews living in the occupied zone (roughly the northern half of France occupied by the Germans in 1940) wear the Jewish star on their outer clothing. While the differences between then and now are striking, they nevertheless reflect similar ideological and conceptual preoccupations. One group is forced to wear an article of clothing, while another group is forced to surrender an article of clothing; one group is banished from the nation, while another group is compelled to assimilate. In both cases, however, the nation refuses to tolerate otherness.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Easy go, easy come.

"Dérive droitière de l'UMP"

Who said that? A Socialist? No: Jean-Pierre Raffarin. And the Senate administered a rebuke to Sarkozyan securitism:

Des poids lourds de la majorité ont fait part de leur mécontentement. Le président UMP du Sénat, Gérard Larcher, a demandé de "faire attention" et de "garder raison" sur ces questions, tandis que l'ex-Premier ministre Jean-Pierre Raffarin s'est offusqué d'une "dérive droitière" de l'UMP. Les sénateurs de l'Union centriste (UC) sont allés dans le même sens. "Nous adhérons totalement au texte d'origine de la Loppsi, mais nous sommes opposés à une surenchère dans les sanctions qui se réduit à un effet d'annonce et qui n'est d'aucune efficacité sur le terrain", a expliqué François Zocchetto, principal orateur de l'UC sur ce texte.

Halal Outstrips Organic

Indicating what?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Now What?

Yesterday's protests against retirement reform were large enough, it seems. Sarkozy en prend acte, says the Élysée, but will stay the course on pushing the legal age up to 62. But François Chérèque, appearing on France2 last night, exhibited the confidence of a gambler who believes he has a good betting hand. Meanwhile, a group of academics, union leaders, etc., is calling for a new approach. Of course many of these same voices have been calling for a new approach for a long time, and their voices have gone unheard.

In watching man-in-the-street interviews on TV last night, I had the impression that all the rhetoric surrounding the legal age had produced a distorted image in the minds of many of the demonstrators, who seemed to believe that they had to paint a rather desperate picture of the physical condition of the typical middle-aged Frenchman in order to "stop Sarkozy." There was a sort of surenchère at work: "In my job, you're worn out at 55." "A cashier on her feet 8 hours a day is washed up at 50." "Movers are afflicted with permanent back injuries by the time they turn 45." Etc. One can't help but notice a certain gap between this sort of rhetoric and the rather bland and unspecific call for a more flexible approach to retirement in the manifesto linked to above. As in other matters touching the economy, a basic effort of education seems in order. People need to have a better grasp of the life cycle of work, the handling of these issues in other countries, and the kinds of work that older workers are and are not capable of doing. Because surely these vociferous protesters are overplaying their hands when they suggest that not only should the legal not be raised to 62, but 60 is already too high.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

European Stress Tests Minimized Risks

This is not really news, but now it's quasi-official--the WSJ has spoken--and spreads are affected (h/t Calculated Risk):

LONDON—Europe's recent "stress tests" of the strength of major banks understated some lenders' holdings of potentially risky government debt, a Wall Street Journal analysis shows.
From Calculated Risk:

After the WSJ story last night on the European stress tests, here is an update on a few European bond spreads:

  • The 10-year Ireland-to-Germany bond spread has risen to 376 bps. This spread is larger than during the financial crisis in May when the spread peaked at 306 bps.

  • The 10-year Greece-to-Germany bond spread is now 946 bps, just below the peak level of 963 bps in May.

  • The 10-year Portugal-to-Germany bond spread is now 351 bps, just above the peak in May of 349 bps.

  • Day of Protest

    Today is the long-awaited day of strikes and protests against retirement reform. So how's it going? Let's have some eyewitness reports, so we can add to the "police estimates" and "organizers' estimates" of participation our own French Politics estimates. I've often wondered whether the police derive their estimates by taking the organizers' estimates and dividing by five, or vice versa. So, given the invariably disappointing and easily inflatable/deflatable elasticity of the quantitative, let's aim for some qualitative evaluations. Do the people you talk to believe that the government has fixed its policy once and for all, or is there some flexibility? What do they think ought to be done? Do they believe reform is necessary? How do they define pénibilité, and how should it be taken into account? Would they favor increased contributions (for all? for some?) over an increase in the retirement age? Etc. etc. The floor is open.

    Friday, September 3, 2010

    Poisson d'Avril en Septembre?

    See here.

    Another Comment on the French and the Roma

    This one by Olivia Miljanic and Robert Zaretsky.

    France Buys US Drones and Missiles

    From Judah Grunstein:

    A few more eyebrow-raisers in terms of France's defense purchases: The head of France's procurement agency traveled to Washington over the summer to discuss the purchase of Reaper UAV drones, and the French military is anxiously awaiting delivery of a batch of already purchased Javelin missiles for use in Afghanistan.

    Quiggin Compares EU and US

    An interesting, if rough, comparison between the EU and the US is offered by John Quiggin. The whole post is worth reading, but here is the bottom line:

    Within the inevitable margin of error, we can reaffirm the conclusion from the earlier post that there is no significant difference between the US and the eurozone leaders on output per hour worked or on employment population ratios. The big differences between the two are
    (a) Employed Americans work longer hours (offset by the fact that Europeans do more household work)
    (b) In both the EU and US, ordinary income earners receive about half of total market income as private disposable income. In the US, however, a much larger proportion of the other half goes to those in the top 1 per cent, while in the EU it is mostly tax revenue.

    On the Roma

    Eolas has an excellent, truly excellent, post on the Roma (h/t Louis). In particular, note this passage:

    Une question se pose, et je ne tiens pas à l’éluder : celle des Roms et de la délinquance. Le lien est certain, les chiffres ne mentent pas. Partout en Europe, les Roms sont bien plus victimes de la délinquance que les autres populations. Destructions de biens, agressions racistes, sur lesquelles les autorités ferment bien volontiers les yeux, d’autant plus que les Roms, on se demande pourquoi, ont développé à leur encontre une certaine méfiance, quand ce ne sont pas des pogroms. Sans compter les crimes contre l’humanité subis par ce peuple, que ce soit le génocide nazi ou la réduction en esclavage en Valachie et en Moldavie —oui, des esclaves en Europe— jusqu’à la seconde moitié du XIXe siècle.

    France and the G20

    A Times analysis. Not much to say, really. In my view, domestic pressures will be intense and prevent Sarkozy from showcasing his G20 role as he might once have hoped. It would have made a nice lead-in to the presidential election season had things gone better on the domestic front. But as it is, he's going to have his hands full at home.


    David Bell weighs in on the Roma expulsions (h/t Passerby). Meanwhile, however, things have become more complicated in France. In Lille, a camp of Roma was removed from a site it had occupied, apparently illegally, and apparently, according to the government, at the explicit request of Martine Aubry's city hall. And Aubry is not denying the fact but rather trying to differentiate "evacuation" from "expulsion." Meanwhile, François Rebsamen, the Socialist mayor of Dijon, urges the PS not to oppose expulsions as such but to insist on "dignity" and discretion (no spectacle).

    These two incidents show, as I suggested the other day, that Sarkozy has found the perfect wedge issue. Not only are the expulsions popular with the masses, but they also put local officials in a difficult position--and most local officials are Socialists. Illegal occupation of land is--well--illegal, and illegality is not supposed to be tolerated. The debate will therefore not turn on the issues of principle cogently described by David Bell but rather on the false dichotomy of "laxism" vs. "complicity," which is precisely where Sarkozy wants it: either you're with him or you're with "them." The possibility of searching for a more humane way of dealing with "them" is taken off the table.

    The creation of false dichotomies has been a hallmark of Sarkozy's politics throughout his career. There's no likelihood he will stop soon.

    Thursday, September 2, 2010

    Ma Rentrée

    I am back from a short vacation, but in a larger sense I feel as though I took most of the month of August off. I had various work obligations, and there wasn't a great deal of French politics to write about: one gets tired of saying again and again that it is wrong as well as ineffective to punish crime by withdrawing nationality; to imply that the French will feel secure if only they can rid their soil of some unwanted interlopers; and to overlook, or even reward, the crimes of the wealthy who grease the wheels of the political machine.

    But it's time to get serious again. On Sept. 7 retirement reform will be tested by massive opposition. It is impossible to keep expelling the Roma forever. And Eric Woerth can't both pretend to be a victim of "lapidation by the media" and confess to having solicited a Légion d'honneur for Patrice de Maistre, a fact that he had previously denied:

    Affaire Bettencourt : Woerth reconnaît avoir demandé la Légion d'honneur pour Patrice de Maistre

    Le ministre du travail a reconnu jeudi devant des journalistes, avoir initié la demande de décoration pour le gestionnaire de fortune de Liliane Bettencourt. "Le Monde" révèle également ce que François-Marie Banier a dit aux enquêteurs.