Friday, June 4, 2010

"The Big News is France" and It's Not Good

Peter Boone and Simon Johnson:

The big news is France.  With sentiment worsening across Europe, France has lost its relative safe haven status – credit default swap spreads on French government debt were up sharply today.

The trigger – oddly enough – was Hungary’s announcement that its budget is worse than expected (blaming the previous government; this is starting to become the European pattern) and in the current fragile environment discussed yesterday, this relatively small piece of news spooked investors.  But these developments only reinforced a trend that was already in place.

Incidentally, Boone and Johnson are wrong about the statement by Fillon. They translate:

Earlier today the French Prime Minister came out with a quote for the ages:
“I only see good news in parity between euro and dollar”.
But then they say:

Update: the exact quote from the French PM is “”Je n’ai pas d’inquiétude quant à l’actuelle parité entre l’euro et le dollar”.  He may be referring to the current euro-dollar rate but there is some potential ambiguity here.

"l'actuelle parité" makes it perfectly clear that he is referring to the current "parity," that is, the current exchange rate, and not to some future hypothetical "parity" of $1 = 1 euro. Nevertheless, such parity is where some observers expect that the current decline of the euro is headed.

What Is Literature?

As you probably know by now, another of those squalid little cultural spats for which France is famous has erupted this week. America has culture wars, France has cultural food fights. This time the object is de Gaulle's memoirs, which 1,500 members of SNES, the teachers' union, feel gained its place on this year's Bac L syllabus only because the bureaucrats sought to curry favor with Sarkozy, de Gaulle the Small, who will attempt to step into the general's shoes later this month when he travels to London to re-enact l'Appel du 18 juin. For the teachers, de Gaulle doesn't belong with the likes of Homer, Samuel Beckett, and Pascal Quignard. Or, even if he does, he shouldn't have been put there under Sarkozy. Or something.

Meanwhile, parents are squawking (in a France2 reportage) that the way in which literature is taught these days--fraught with forbidding technical terms such as la structure actantielle and anaphore--turns their kids off of reading real literature--you know, the likes of Homer, Beckett, Quignard ... and de Gaulle. Of course, everyone in France these days needs to learn about anaphora, the favorite rhetorical device of Henri Guaino and therefore of Nicolas Sarkozy. In any case, I think a compromise can be worked out: one volume of de Gaulle in exchange for La Princesse de Clèves, anaphora, and two tropes to be named later.

Hortefeux Fined for Racial Insult

Le ministre de l'intérieur a été condamné, vendredi 4 juin, à 750 euros d'amende pour injure raciale par le tribunal correctionnel de Paris, pour des propos tenus à l'université d'été de l'UMP en septembre. M. Hortefeux s'adressait à un jeune militant d'origine arabe. Ses propos avaient été révélés dans une vidéo sur Le (AFP)
And yet he remains minister of the interior. Imagine the equivalent in the US! 

No Confidence

As you know, I generally avoid reporting popularity polls, the degré zéro of political reportage. But it's worth noting that the latest TNS-Sofres poll shows that Sarkozy, after a brief recovery, has slipped again to 28 percent approval, matching his nadir of last March. What is perhaps more interesting is that the loss of support has occurred mainly in the upper middle class. The detailed results show that support for Sarko among cadres (26%) is only slightly higher than among employees (24) and workers (16). His most faithful contingent remains the over-65 group (39) and the inactive/retirees (33). What's more, his decline has been more or less steady since his election, when 65 percent of the French approved.

Among parties, the Greens have the highest approval rating (+55), the FN the lowest (12). The PS is at 43, the UMP at 30. Surprisingly, the PCF stands at 25, the Left Party (21) is slightly ahead of NPA (18), and MoDem (21) enjoys a comfortable lead over Nouveau Centre (14).

French Jews Divide on Palestine

JCall, an organization of French Jews critical of Israeli government policy, resembles its American counterpart JStreet. The emergence of organized opposition to existing Jewish representative institutions in both countries is an interesting sign of shifting opinion as well as growing divergence between public opinion in the diaspora and public opinion in Israel, where support for the Netanyahu government remains strong. See this post by Spencer Ackerman for a discussion of political developments within Israel that may explain the growing division of Jewish opinion abroad.