Wednesday, March 10, 2010


When even Pierre Lellouche starts talking about "grave" consequences for US-French relations (in the wake of EADS's decision to pull out of the aerial tanker competition), you know things are getting serious. It's unlikely that the Sarkozys will be vacationing in New Hampshire this summer. Alabama's a possibility though:  Senator Shelby is a great friend of EADS.

Puff Journalism

This is the kind of journalism that can get a minister in trouble for upstaging her boss. But it looks like the offender her is the journalist, who writes like a smitten teenager, rather than the minister, who's been around the block once or twice.

The Great Communicator

Fifty French journalists have elected Daniel Cohn-Bendit the best political "communicant" in France. Whatever that means. When Sarko "communicates," it's a pejorative. When DCB does it, he's demonstrating "son franc-parler, son art consommé de la provocation." Whatever. I take it that this has nothing to do with the Roman Catholic Mass. In any case, Xavier Bertrand seems to exemplify what one should not do. But someone should tell the proofreaders at L'Express that Cécile's last name is Duflot, not Duplot (unless they're trying to suggest that she's party to some sort of conspiration with DCB).

The Euro Crisis

Martin Wolf here. And a minor dissent here.

School Reforms

About some issues I feel that I have enough sources of information that, despite my distance from the scene, I still have a pretty good feel for what's going on. The schools are different. Even here at home, what happens inside the schools is to a large degree opaque to outsiders, and the reports from inside are often wildly contradictory and predictably correlated with the reporter's position, politics, etc. The right and wrong of contending positions are not always easy to sort out. So I preface my mention of these two reports on reform in the French schools, here and here, with the caveat that I haven't the slightest idea whether what they report is accurate or not. For example, Luc Cédelle, Le Monde's educational correspondent, acidly reports:

Mais le cœur de la réforme est sauf : les précieuses suppressions de postes, cette aune à laquelle est jugée l’efficacité des ministres, sont intactes et le « pédagogisme » est blessé à mort à travers la suppression dès la rentrée 2010 de l’année de formation en alternance à l’IUFM.

Finis ces lieux délétères où, selon l’efficace mythologie en vigueur, reprise dans les discours du candidat Sarkozy lors de la campagne présidentielle, des soixante-huitards attardés et à la mise négligée proclament que l’élève est l’égal du maître et que des paroles de rap valent bien autant que du Rimbaud…

Well, I suppose that in many ways I'm one of those  "soixante-huitards attardés et à la mise négligée," but I tend to be rather more conservative on educational issues than on other matters of public policy and would be the last to say that the pupil is the equal of the teacher when it comes to transmitting knowledge. Still, I have my doubts, based on various things I've heard, about whether le pédagogisme ought to be given a reprieve and have to wonder why France's educational establishment employs so many people and yet contrives to have relatively large class sizes compared to other countries. Which is not to say that I believe that reform is being managed well: I really have no idea. But when criticism simply dismisses the premises of reform as risible without argument, my skeptical hackles are raised. Is it really true that any attempt to change the way in which teachers are trained means that "les nouveaux enseignants qui arrivent sont donc une génération sacrifiée sur l’autel des économies budgétaires et à rebours des évolutions souhaitables de l’école et de la réforme du lycée?" I would be glad to hear from readers who have a better feel for what's going on in the schools.


Some months ago, I proposed a facetious test of  "Frenchness" which included the ability to identify the singer Benjamin Biolay as one criterion. There were howls of protest from you readers. You were French, you insisted, yet had never heard of Benjamin Biolay. I guess I can then claim credit for having broken a major story, for today we read this earth-shaking "news":

It's rumored that the French President has Chantal Jouanno - a right-wing cabinet member - on the side, while the First Lady is seeing musician Benjamin Biolay.

"The presidential marriage is breathing its last breaths," French paper Journal Du Dimanche reports. "Carla Bruni is in love with Benjamin Biolay, and the president has found solace with Chantal Jouanno."

An online French publication,, reported shortly thereafter that Bruni had been a close friend of the 37-year-old musician for many years and is now "unofficially living with him at his flat in Paris."

Those aren't the only outlets that have Carla and Nicolas saying a joint "mon Dieu!" Tuesday, Yahoo News France, Le Post and the Global Post, as well as European TV news channel iTele, gave the allegations substantial coverage.

Times on France

France gets no respect here:

In the run-up to the common currency’s debut in 1999, the air was thick with talk about harnessing Germany’s economic power, then enshrined in the mark. A failure to move toward monetary union would lead only to “a preponderant influence of Germany,” Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, the former president of France, said in a 1997 interview in the French daily Le Monde.
Now, as the European Union thrashes out a possible rescue plan for debt-stricken Greece, the importance of Germany has been thrown back into relief. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France can come out and pledge all the support to Greece he wants, but in the end, it’s Germany that matters. 

or here:

Greece has been placed under E.U. fiscal tutelage, but no such intrusion has been imposed on France, for example, which has a deficit of more than twice the E.U. ceiling of 3 percent of gross domestic product.