Tuesday, May 31, 2011

DSK as Post-Colonial History

An interesting take on the DSK story:

In the scandalous case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the French IMF chief currently held in New York facing attempted rape charges, the powerful issues of race and gender easily overwhelm one curious geopolitical detail: what's a woman from a French-speaking, former French colony in West Africa doing in the U.S. in the first place? In this case, she is from Guinea, but she could just as likely be from Senegal, Cameroon, Rwanda, Gabon, or Benin -- all Francophone countries that once sent their most ambitious immigrants almost exclusively to France. Now these and other French-speaking African countries experience a steady outflow people to the U.S. 
The presence of a growing number of French-speaking Africans reflects a monumental shift in the relationship of sub-Saharan Africa to France and to the U.S. The shift has been years in the making, and its still-unfolding consequences are dimly appreciated.
The pragmatism and openness of American capital differs sharply from France's more closed, status-oriented managerial culture. About the time that France experienced a wave of protests by African immigrants in 2005, I met with a group of university-educated black Africans living and working in Paris. All of them uniformly complained about racial bias and about limits on the potential of even highly talented to immigrants to advance up French corporate ladders. They showed little gratitude for the government of France having paid for their university educations, a practice meant to bind elites from Africa to French society. The contrast with America's embrace of talented immigrants -- and racial equality -- was impossible to ignore. In a 2009 study of Francophone Africans, Whitney R. Henderson of Providence College found similar reasons for their choice of the U.S. over France.  

Morality according to Finkielkraut, Peillon, Woerth

This (video: Mots croisés, May 30, 2011) is long but not without a certain shock value: to hear MM. Finkielkraut, Peillon, and Woerth debate the question of who has won the "moral battle" is not without savor. Finkielkraut continues his descent into a peculiar form of senility: he is blind to all persecution except that of the powerful. It pains him, it truly pains him--and few are as gifted as Alain Finkielkraut when it comes to the expression of intellectual déchirement--to see DSK "driven out" of a NYC coop and forced to take refuge in a $50K/month apartment because of the inexplicable zeal of American judges and district attorneys to prevent him from returning to his home in Washington. What reason could there be for such acharnement except the desire of NY's DA, Mr. Vance Jr., to win re-election by "taking the scalp of a wealthy man?"

Vincent Peillon, for his part, reminds us that political figures who are seen as paragons of probity often don't do well at the polls. He mentions Jospin; he might have given us Mendès-France. By a strange non sequitur, this removes any stain from the honor of DSK: he would have been a winner, hence it's OK for him to be throwing his wife's money around. The bizarreness of this logic doesn't seem to occur to him. Nor does he ask himself whether DSK's pre-indictment position as the "inevitable" candidate of the left might have owed as much to his wealth as to his talent: which of the other candidates had the means to hire Euro RSCG to buff his image in the media?

Woerth's presence on this platform seems to have been decided by his status as a martyr: martyred, he is retrospectively canonized, and who better than a saint to lecture us on morality in politics? His "presumption of innocence" seems to count for just as much as an acquittal, and he is therefore whitewashed of all past indiscretion and entitled to tell us that black sheep may well be the whitest of the flock, if only we could perceive as he does their inner holiness. "Georges Tron, I knew him well ... " Finkielkraut takes the other tack: he doesn't know either Tron or Strauss-Kahn, hence his judgments are pure of all prejudice, and unlike others, he can see clearly that a "foot is just a foot." Alas, he seems not to have read the actual charges against Tron, which go well beyond foot massages. For the conscience of France, it is enough that Tron has been hounded from power to prove that he, too, is a martyr.

Roger Cohen, Recidivist

I have bashed Roger Cohen before. I might have forgone today's opportunity, except that a commenter begs me to go after his offensive screed (NY Times paywall). And offensive it is: the innocent Mr. Cohen seems to believe that the French have some sort of monopoly on conspiracy theories. He must never have run across a Kennedy assassination buff, a Birther, or a Ron Paulist perusaded that the Federal Reserve and the Trilateral Commission are in cahoots with South African gold and diamond interests. Indeed, it's a bit early to be certain of what happened in Suite 2806, since very little information has been released publicly. So if Mr. Cohen wants to indict entire nations for crimes of credulity, he had better be careful about giving testimony that might one day be used to convict Americans.


Is everyone now going to denounce every illicit sex act they've ever heard of? Luc Ferry wants to be the first.

Problem Solved

How to keep DSK out of trouble while he's out on bail? Hire male maids to clean the house. Meanwhile, Anne Sinclair and daughter have been shopping at Crate & Barrel for napkins and tablecloths. A little downscale for a $50K a month townhouse, but perhaps it was on advice of the image consultants.

Abandoning Nuclear Power

Angela Merkel's decision to wean Germany from nuclear power by 2022 has been wind in Cécile Duflot's sails--or perhaps I should say her turbine blades. Because Duflot is insisting that France commit to a similar course as a condition of her party's cooperation in any government. Given France's heavy dependence on nuclear power, I'm not sure that such a commitment is possible, even if it were desirable, but practicalities don't seem to have weighed heavily in Duflot's decision. Seize the moment, catch the wind, seems to have been her watchword.

So to a left that has not entirely given up the dream of le Grand Soir, France now adds a Green Party with utopian visions of its own. Not that there's anything wrong with utopia. It's a nice place to visit .... and imagining utopias is an antidote to hardening of the arteries. But funny things happen to utopians when they come to power. Not having thought very seriously about what can be done, as opposed to what it might be nice to do, they find themselves suddenly confronted with people clamoring for things to which they have become accustomed, like cheap electricity. And then they panic and make a hash of things.

One thing Sarkozy is good at is reminding his opponents of the constraints imposed by reality, and he is more keenly aware of those constraints now than he was in 2007. Of course it's never a sure bet when voters are asked to weigh past and proven failures against future potential ones. They may decide to go with the dreamers, but then again, they may prefer to believe that it's been a long time since France has seen a tsunami.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Right Énarques vs. Left Énarques

Roland Hureaux quotes Emmanuel Todd:

Comment ne pas évoquer  à leur sujet  ce que dit Emmanuel Todd: «  Le conformisme des hauts fonctionnaires socialistes est, statistiquement, supérieur à celui de leurs homologues UMP. Les énarques de droite trouvent souvent dans leurs valeurs de départ – la religion, l’argent, De Gaulle – un contrepoids à leur formation. Les énarques de gauche sont le plus souvent des méritocrates purs sans autre Dieu que l’Etat. Très bien formés à contrôler l’administration, ils sont encore moins bien armés pour penser tout  seuls. Cette simplicité étatiste de leur formation initiale explique peut-être, lorsqu’ils tentent de s’en libérer, la brutalité enfantine de leur engagement néolibéral. »[1]

Interesting Pairing

Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Michel Serre on Ce Soir ou jamais:

Jean-Luc Mélenchon sur France 3 dans l'émission... by lepartidegauche

Greeks Turning Against Democracy

Jean Quatremer has an alarming report on Greece:

Plus grave : ce sondage confirme le rejet grandissant de la démocratie. 30 % des sondés souhaitent que le pays soit dirigé par « un groupe d’experts et de technocrates », 22,7 % par un « dirigeant puissant auquel parlement et élection ne puissent pas faire obstacle » pour réformer le pays et moins d’un quart des sondés estime qu’un gouvernement élu démocratiquement est capable de faire face à la crise. Dès lors, rien d’étonnant à ce que 52,7 % des Grecs (contre 44,1 %) approuvent le « contrôle économique » de la Grèce exercé par l’Union européenne et le FMI, même s’ils sont 62 % à trouver que la cure d’austérité va dans la mauvaise direction. Ils estiment manifestement qu’au moins les institutions internationales savent ce qu’elles font à la différence de leur personnel politique.

Greens Reject Cohn-Bendit Motion

Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who favors closer cooperation between the Greens and the Socialists with a premium on winning the presidency, saw his motion rejected this weekend by EELV militants, only 26.5% voted in favor of it. So he is pulling back from participation in the party's preparations for the presidential election and will not attend the La Rochelle congress. He considers that his attempt to change the orientation of the Greens has failed.

DSK Hires Crisis Management Team

Story here.

Quality of Life

The French are râleurs, but if you believe the OECD, they enjoy a pretty good quality of life and, what's more, admit it when asked. If you want to compare other countries, start here.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Tron Resigns!

Georges Tron, secretary of state for the civil service, has resigned from the government in the wake of allegations that what began as foot massages turned into sexual assaults. (Le Monde bulletin)

And now there's a third accuser in his case:

En outre, toujours selon le JDD, une troisième plaignante devrait être entendue cette semaine. Il s'agit cette fois d'une commissaire de la commune de Draveil (Essonne), ville dont Georges Tron est le maire. Cette femme aurait été déplacée "à sa demande" en début d'année. Selon un syndicaliste policier ciré par l'hebdomadaire, le secrétaire d'Etat "s'est acharné sur elle pendant des mois".


Christine Lagarde is treated to a bit of Maurine Dowd puffery (NY Times). Dowd is perhaps the laziest columnist in America. Laziness is not limited to journalists, however. The conservative scholar Harvey Mansfield recycles his thoughts on "manliness" for the DSK affair. (h't Arun)

Neither piece is worth your time. You have been warned.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

DSK's Version of the Banon Affair

According to Mediapart, the author Michel Taubmann, who wrote a political biography of DSK, was persuaded to leave out the Banon allegations by Ramzi Khiroun, DSK's PR flack and fixer, who told him DSK's version. Banon, Khiroun alleged, was angry that DSK had intervened with her editor to have the chapter about him removed from her book "because it was written in a grotesque style." She promised Khiroun that she would avenge herself for this slight, and some time later she told her story to Thierry Ardisson.

Unfortunately for DSK, Banon's editor denies that this ever happened. It also strikes me as rather "grotesque," to borrow an adjective, that an important political figure would employ a fixer to police stories written about him or that an editor would allow the subject of a profile to spike a story on stylistic grounds.

Spanish Protests Turn Violent

More here.

The Socialist Project: Something Old and Something New

Rehashed here. Evaluated by Mediapart here.

Among the points signaled as new by Mediapart:

Pour protéger les intérêts de l'Europe, de ses savoir-faire et de ses salariés dans la mondialisation: des droits de douanes modulablesLe tournant est notable pour le parti socialiste. Il y a un an encore, quand Benoît Hamon avait commencé à avancer l'idée d'une fiscalité européenne tenant compte des normes sociales et environnementales, beaucoup de socialistes avaient décrié l'idée sur le thème « le protectionnisme, c'est la guerre ». Depuis le débat s'ouvre.
14. Pour que l'égalité salariale femme-homme devienne une réalité: conditionner des exonérations de cotisations patronalesLes entreprises devront conclure d'ici le printemps 2013 un large accord de «revalorisation du travail» incluant la formation, la santé au travail et l'égalité salariale homme-femme, faute de quoi elles ne pourront bénéficier des exemptions de cotisations patronales. Reste à encadrer le dispositif, afin d'éviter que certaines ne signent des accords bidon pour ne pas être sanctionnées – c'est ce qui s'est passé avec les accords seniors en 2010. Autre problème: dans beaucoup de TPE et PME, le dialogue social est inexistant, l'UMP ayant récemment torpillé une loi qui prévoyait de le mettre en place.
Le PS entend faire varier les moyens attribués à chaque établissement mais en fonction des catégories sociales accueillies. L'idée est d'en revenir à une vraie politique de discrimination positive, qui a sombré corps et biens avec feu les zones d'éducation prioritaires (ZEP créées en 1981). «Il ne s'agit pas d'établir des quotas, mais d'avoir un indice plus fin que les zones d'éducation prioritaire (on est ZEP ou on n'est pas en ZEP) pour contraindre à plus de mixité sociale, y compris dans le privé», expliquait en novembre 2010, l'ancien président de l'Unef, Bruno Julliard, chargé du pacte éducatif du PS. Face à l'échec de l'assouplissement de la carte scolaire, le PS promet également une «nouvelle sectorisation» incluant un indice de mixité sociale et – audace ! – l'enseignement privé, jusqu'ici totalement libre de sélectionner ses élèves. Mais pour le sociologue Choukri Ben Ayed, «il faudrait d'abord repenser l'offre éducative, car la fuite des élèves de certains établissements est la conséquence de la disparité de l'offre, de la hiérarchisation des écoles». Enfin «le droit à une formation initiale différée» offrirait une seconde chance aux quelque 150.000 jeunes qui sortent chaque année sans diplôme du système scolaire. 
23. Pour davantage de justice: fusion de l'impôt sur le revenu et de la CSG en un impôt plus progressif et prélevé à la sourceLes idées de Thomas Piketty ont fait leur chemin: désormais, le PS semble converti à la nécessité de la réforme, avec un impôt progressif qui redonne un sens, une transparence et une efficacité à la fiscalité. Le projet propose de supprimer le bouclier fiscal, de réévaluer toutes les niches fiscales, mais on manque encore de détails sur le nombre de tranches, le taux de la tranche supérieure ou les mécanismes de quotient familial. Or, en matière d'impôts, tout l'art réside dans l'exécution (revoir l'entretien Thomas Piketty-François Hollande).

A Musical Interlude

The Socialists after DSK

Ron Tiersky, a longtime student of the Socialist Party, gives his views here.

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Topical Broadcast

France Culture takes up the question of "hazard in sex life." Randomness, chance, danger ... was this hastily scheduled in response to events, or was it perhaps in the works for a while?

Tron and Le Pen

In case you're wondering how Marine Le Pen got mixed up in the allegations against alleged foot-fetishist Georges Tron, the backstory is here. If you'd asked me four years ago where writing about French politics on a daily basis would lead, this is not the first thing that would have come to mind.

Bickerton on IMF Leadership Contest

Chris Bickerton, here.

Male Pols and Female Journalists

A diversity of opinions. "They're not all like that." "It's a generational thing, mainly the over-40s." Hey, that's MY generation!

Hypocrisy ... thy name is DSK

"L'hypocrisie est un hommage que le vice rend à la vertu."--La Rochefoucauld

We've learned a lot about DSK's residential requisites over the past week: the riyad in Marrakech, the 2 apartments in Paris (including a 250 m2 in the Place des Vosges), and now 620 m2 in Tribeca at $50,000 a month. Which makes the attack below on Hervé Gaymard a bit rich. All's fair in love, war, and politics, but I'm betting Gaymard wanted to get up and slug the guy. And make no mistake: DSK's fortune has shifted the focus from the bling-bling president to the left's double discourse about wealth, with DSK as exhibit no. 1. (Manuel Valls' comment on the party's embarrassment here.)

Strauss-Kahn cartonne Hervé Gaymard by aklineuropa

"Non de gauche"

Christophe Bouillaud reviews a book by four economists examining the crisis of the euro. There is an interesting passage at the end:

Au delà de son contenu, la publication de cet opuscule et surtout son titre témoignent de la montée en puissance probable à gauche d’un refus de l’Union européenne. Le « non de gauche » a décidément un bel avenir. En effet, dans la mesure où les auteurs abusent du conditionnel passé (« il aurait fallu »)  à propos des solutions mises en œuvre par l’UE et dans la mesure où, souvent, ils proposent des pistes aussi tentantes que parfaitement irréalisables dans l’état présent du champ de force politique européen, viendra le moment où la conclusion devra en être tiré : rien n’est à sauver de cette Europe-là. Dans l’introduction (p. 5-20) qui souligne bien que les réformes proposées (dont celle à venir du Traité de Lisbonne) renforcent l’aspect financiarisé de l’économie politique de l’Union européenne,  le collectif des auteurs affirme : « Faire vivre l’Europe suppose un changement total de paradigme. » (p. 17), qui passerait de  la concurrence libre et non faussée de tous contre tous à la coopération fraternelle de tous avec tous. On serait tenté de dire alors, reprenant la dernière phrase de leur quatrième de couverture, que, puisque l’Europe ne saurait d’évidence être dans un avenir prévisible sociale, écologique, et surtout solidaire, elle ne sera pas – ou, plutôt, elle sera ce qu’ils ne voudraient pas qu’elle soit.  Vae victis.
I think this is prescient. The terms of European cooperation will soon become an unavoidable issue for the left in all member countries.

Best. DSK. Picture. Ever

Here. (Thanks, Arun!)

Xavier Gabaix

Xavier Gabaix has received the "Best Young Economist in France" prize for 2011. He discusses his work here. One intriguing line:

L'idée qu'au sein d'une distribution d'événements, les plus extrêmes d'entre eux - notamment les décisions des sociétés les plus grandes, les transactions boursières les plus importantes, même limitées à une journée voire quelques heures - ont, contrairement à ce que postule la théorie de l'équilibre des marchés, un effet macroéconomique plus important que la moyenne des événements.
Il serait donc par exemple pertinent - mais je ne me risque pas à l'affirmer - de limiter la taille des entreprises ou de certains acteurs financiers.
(h/t CF)

Silver Lining Department

Bad news for DSK has been good news for the media: record sales. Your humble blogger can also point to daily and monthly traffic records on this blog, which has been receiving 2 to 5 times the normal number of daily page views.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Simon Johnson Says Lagarde Is Wrong for IMF


Dueling Press Releases

Lawyers for both the defense and the prosecution fired shots at one another. Match nul. All in the game.

Brigitte Barèges Goes All Rick Santorum on Gays

You know you're in trouble when Christian Vanneste says you've stepped over the line in gay-bashing:

«Effectivement, c'est au-delà des limites.» Christian Vanneste, l'un des porte-drapeaux de la liberté d'expression et membre du très droitier collectif de la Droite populaire le reconnaît lui-même, sa collègue Brigitte Barèges a eu «une comparaison un peu excessive»

But Brigitte Barèges has definitely earned her stripes:

Mercredi, lors de l'examen en commission des lois de l'Assemblée nationale d'une proposition de loi socialiste pour «ouvrir le mariage aux couples de même sexe», la députée et maire UMP de Montauban (Tarn-et-Garonne) a lâché: «Et pourquoi pas des unions avec des animaux? Ou la polygamie?»
And so the line between the "populist right" still nominally within the UMP and the Front National becomes a little blurrier.


Has the DSK affair "revived" French feminism?

More Sexual Politics: The Tron Case

More details have emerged about the charges against Georges Tron. One of the accusers registered her complaint with an association that deals with violence against women in the workplace last November, but she did not file charges until after the DSK affair. As I've said before, it would be interesting if the DSK case served as the catalyst for a change of sexual mores in France, making women aware that they have options if oppressed by their superiors and alerting men to the increased risk of aggressive behavior.

Another sign of change: on France2 last night, Christine Lagarde, listing her qualifications for the IMF job, mentioned her experience as "lawyer, CEO, minister, and ... woman." With a slight emphasis on the latter. I don't think she would have said that pre-DSK. She would have preferred to emphasize that she is "one of the boys," an international player of the highest order.

The Left Blogosphere Calls for Unity


The Post Doesn't Like DSK

How's this for a description:

Wearing a dark suit and open shirt collar, Strauss-Kahn flashed a wry smirk at onlookers. He was not handcuffed.

Minutes later, he arrived at the posh Franklin Street townhouse, where police had cleared the entrance. That didn't stop a female passerby from shouting, "Pig" at the Pepe Le Pew-like groper. He sneered at her before entering his new home away from home.


Just exactly why is Nicolas Sarkozy so widely disliked? John Vinocur explores possible explanations. Your thoughts?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Do Early Polls Predict Anything?

A number of you have been critical of my citing early presidential polls as if they were meaningful. You now have statistical support for your criticism.

And Christine Ockrent Is Out at AEF

French journalism is transformed: after Kahn's resignation from Marianne, now Christine Ockrent is leaving Audiovisuel Extérieur de France. Two of the best-known names in the media have ended their careers.

And the method of departure is unusual, to say the least:

Finalement, les juristes ont suggéré une voie médiane. Formellement, Christine Ockrent ne démissionne pas. Elle prend acte de son impossibilité à exercer son mandat social de numéro deux de l'AEF. Elle enverra un courrier recommandé à Alain de Pouzilhac, le P-DG, ainsi qu'aux administrateurs. Puis elle se retournera auprès du tribunal de commerce pour faire constater cette impossibilité et obtenir, éventuellement, une compensation. La solution du tribunal de commerce a l'avantage de faire totalement sortir de la boucle le pouvoir politique. Devant cette juridiction consulaire, il n'y a pas en effet de représentant du parquet dont on dira qu'ils sont aux ordres de la chancellerie.

Jean-François Kahn Is Quitting Journalism

Jean-François Kahn, the editor of Marianne, has announced that he will quit journalism, at least in part because of the polemic unleashed by his use of the phrase "troussage de domestique" to describe the charges against DSK in New York.

Feminist Petition Gets 25,000 Signatures

French women, including Carla Bruni, are up in arms about the sexist remarks proffered by many men who spoke out in the media about the DSK affair:

"Nous avons eu droit à un florilège de remarques sexistes, du 'il n'y a pas mort d'homme' au 'troussage de domestique' en passant par 'c'est un tort d'aimer les femmes ?'", écrivent-elles. "Nous sommes en colère, révoltées et révoltés, indignées et indignés." 

About that famous tweet ...

Some theories of the DSK revolve around the famous tweet that preceded the official release of the news. Here is what is known so far.

Aubry vs. Hollande

Rue89 says Martine has it in for François. Her grievances include clogged toilets at rue Solférino. I can see that this is going to be an edifying battle. Do I have a dog in this race? Frankly, no, and perhaps this will make me more objective than I was in the case of DSK. In retrospect, I think I was unduly impressed by the polls and simply assumed he would be the strongest candidate of the left, despite my (serious) misgivings about his skills as a retail politician, which should have given me more pause. Not only that, but I'm asking myself exactly why I credited him with "competence" not possessed by other potential candidates. Exactly what his distinctive views on the economy were I couldn't say. At the IMF he favored expansive monetary and fiscal policy, but that was a relatively easy call for anyone not afflicted with the professional blindness of a European central banker. So: lesson learned. Scrutinize policy more closely, consider character more fully, and pay attention to the ability to appeal to voters. On the last point, I don't think either Aubry or Hollande has shown much. On character, Royal accused Aubry of stealing the leadership election, and there may well have been something to the charge; Hollande may have helped cover up Tristane Banon's allegations against DSK, and both probably knew about them. On policy, I don't yet see much to choose between them. Hollande has been the more diligent campaigner, however.

The Taboo Is Lifted, and Now What?

The DSK affair seems to have lifted the taboo on reporting "sexual harassment" charges in the media, but the negative consequences are already apparent in the case of Georges Tron:

"L'une comme l'autre dénoncent les très nombreux gestes déplacés du maire dans la foulée de leur embauche. Sous couvert de réflexologie (massage thérapeutique des pieds), Georges Tron se serait permis de leur caresser les pieds en toutes circonstances", ajoute le quotidien, affirmant que les plaignantes ont fait état ensuite de "véritables agressions sexuelles". Ces dernières, écrit le journal, "sont devenues dépressives, au point de tenter de mettre fin à leurs jours".
"J'observe que cela vient de Me Gilbert Collard, qui est un proche de Marine Le Pen, avec laquelle je suis en conflit depuis des mois", a poursuivi M. Tron. Plusieurs contentieux opposent Georges Tron à la famille Le Pen à Draveil. "Je ne suis pas naïf, on cherche à faire écho à une affaire qui se passe de l'autre côté de l'Atlantique...", a enfin relevé M. Tron, en faisant référence aux accusations de tentative de viol d'une employée d'hôtel qui pèsent sur Dominique Strauss-Kahn aux Etats-Unis.
So, is Tron a serial foot-fetishist or worse? Or is he a victim of manipulation and attempted destabilization by the FN? On the whole, I think it's a good thing that such allegations can be aired openly, but the French public must also learn to treat them with the appropriate skepticism until the charges are proven.

UPDATE (flash from Le Monde):

Le parquet d'Evry ouvre une enquête préliminaire visant Georges Tron

Une plainte a été déposée pour "harcèlement sexuel" contre le secrétaire d'Etat à la fonction publique par deux ex-employées municipales de Draveil (Essonne), ville dont M. Tron est le maire. La procureure de la République, Marie-Suzanne Le Queau, précise que si les faits reprochés étaient avérés, ils pourraient être qualifiés d'agression sexuelle et de viol. (Reuters)

"Mort médiatique?" Lagarde and the Presumption of Innocence

So, the Americans don't respect the presumption of innocence? "Death by media" is the rule among those barbaric Puritans. So they say. But the French media are doing their best to remind the IMF that Christine Lagarde, who has not been convicted of anything, has nevertheless been accused:

Si elles venaient à s’accorder sur le nom de Christine Lagarde, les chancelleries européennes enverraient donc à Washington pour l’élection de miss/mister Fmi une candidate dont le sort judiciaire est incertain. Même présumée innocente, elle demeurera sous le coup d’une condamnation. Pas sur que dans ces conditions, les jurés apprécient sa candidature à la seule aune de ses compétences. 
And well they should. Indeed, I'm spreading this information myself--not, I hope, in a spirit of "acharnement" against the minister, because I don't know all the facts, but with a sense of responsibility that the questions about her judgment ought to be weighed by the IMF before any decision is made.

Old Affairs

Bernard Girard reminds us of the Markovic Affair. Thanks, Bernard. I had completely forgotten that one. While we're dredging up old affairs, let's also remember the so-called Cassette Méry affair, in which DSK was involved.

Blogger Weirdness

Blogger is misbehaving in somewhat bizarre fashion this morning. It is impossible to log in when I use the Google Chrome browser, but Firefox displays the login panel correctly. This is strange, because Blogger, like Chrome, is a Google product. So for now I'm back to using Firefox.


A new poll. The Socialists seem to be doing pretty well post-DSK, with Hollande slightly ahead of Aubry. There are a lot of votes up for grabs in the center.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Le Pacte de Poitiers

Ségolène Royal and Martine Aubry have met in Poitou. It would serve both of them if François Hollande were to flag a bit in his race for the presidency, but it's not clear what the two women might have agreed upon to make that happen. Of course if Ségo were to decide not to run in exchange for the promise of a prime ministership after Aubry becomes president, that might give Aubry a boost, but she's still going to have to beat Hollande on her own. And would Ségo as PM prove a plus in the presidential campaign (assuming that the commitment would be announced before the election)? Not sure: Ségo's fortunes have sunk quite a bit since 2007.

Lagarde's Anointment

Something strange has happened to Christine Lagarde. She has survived, unscathed, as the economic policy of which she has been the steward at Bercy since 2007 has revealed its inadequacies. Apparently, she was tapped to replace DSK even before his downfall, since the announcement of his candidacy was imminent. European leaders have closed ranks behind her, and even the Socialists Martine Aubry, Bertrand Delanoë, and Benoît Hamon (though purportedly the standard-bearer of the party's left wing) have praised her. Romain Pigenel offers an explanation--a good one, but perhaps there's more to be said.

What's interesting about Lagarde, to my mind, is that she belongs neither to the énarque elite that Sarkozy did his best to attack in his early appointments (since he, like many other Frenchmen, resents this group) nor to the parvenue elite of real-estate developers (Bouygues) and media barons (Lagardère, Bolloré) whom he counts among his close friends. She comes from another world: educated in part at an American prep school and raised on the ways of the American legal profession's high-flying corporate wing (she made her career at Baker & McKenzie), she moves easily among people who carry a lot of weight outside France but don't present the cultural façade of the typical énarque. She knows American ways, having interned for William Cohen when he was in Congress. But she also has the self-confidence to face down the énarques, for which Sarkozy no doubt admires her.

When Aubry et al. call her "respectable," this is what they mean, I think. It's not just that she's not likely to jump a bellman at a four-star hotel on her way to see Merkel. It's rather that she's got "class" (meaning, she's comfortable with wealthy and powerful people, speaks good English, knows which fork to pick up first, and doesn't make gaffes in polite company) without the morgue méprisante that often goes along with it in French circles. They can't come up with a better word to convey this quality than "respectability," but I think what they're reaching for is obvious. She's also smart and disciplined and well-organized, though I would be hard put to say what if any thoughts she has about economic policy that might be independent of Sarkozy's positions. And she did apparently tell Hank Paulson to go .... himself (not in so many words) after Lehman went down (a moment nicely portrayed in the film "Too Big to Fail," which premiered on HBO last night, with an actress who mimics CL perfectly, right down to her almost-perfect American accent).

Démondialiste, Anti-Mondialiste, Alter-Mondialiste

Marine Le Pen, who has previously called herself an anti-mondialiste, has now adopted the term démondialisation, hitherto associated with the left-wing economist Jacques Sapir. "Alter-mondialiste" has been favored by groups such as ATTAC, as well as by the NPA. This is crowded ideological space, and it isn't always easy to discern what the differences in attitude toward "globalization" might be, since the concept itself is such a nebulous one. But from the standpoint of political tactics, it's in Marine Le Pen's interest to cast her net as widely as possible in the hope of drawing in voters on the left who for decades have been opposed to "globalization," no matter what they may have called themselves. To quote Médiapart (€):

«Les accents anti-mondialistes du FN sont perceptibles depuis 1995. Le FN parle depuis longtemps de la “lutte contre le mondialisme”. On ne peut donc pas dire que Marine Le Pen innove sur ces sujets», précise Erwan Lecœur, sociologue et consultant, spécialiste de l'extrême droite. Mais Marine Le Pen, dans ses discours en tout cas, a opéré un virage: fini le libéralisme anti-étatiste de Jean-Marie Le Pen, place à l'Etat protecteur en aide aux victimes de la crise. «Elle est plus radicale que son père. Dans sa bouche, le simple mot de “capitalisme” est d'emblée connoté négativement», note le politologue Jean-Yves Camus.
La gravité de la crise financière de 2008 puis l'intensité de la crise des dettes souveraines en Europe, toujours en cours, bouleversent la donne. «La crise de l'euro confère au FN une nouvelle marge d'audibilité», assure Jean-Yves Camus. Le discours du FN, sur le retour au franc, ou l'instauration de barrières commerciales aux frontières de la France, passerait mieux. Le parti frontiste joue la carte du seul parti équipé pour penser l'éclatement de la zone euro.

Red-Faced Historians

Candidats for the agrégation in history were asked to write about (€) a text that was not, as it purported to be, an from a 15th-c. diary:

Le texte sur lequel ils ont eu à composer n’est en effet pas un texte authentique datant de 1415, comme annoncé, mais un récit écrit en 1964. Le document soumis aux candidats précise que «l’auteur de ce texte, resté anonyme, est maître Jacques de Ciresio, le secrétaire du chancelier Gerson». Ce qui est faux.
L’auteur réel du texte est un historien, érudit et prêtre français, Palémon Glorieux, spécialiste du concile de Constance qui, en 1964, retrace, dans un ouvrage, ce concile « au jour le jour ». Il choisit pour cela de «prêter sa plume» à l’un des acteurs de ce concile. Il ne s’en cache pas (lire ici), expliquant que, face au caractère épars et parcellaire des documents originaux, il a choisi d’agréger un certain nombre d’éléments sous forme d’un journal reconstitué : «C’est d’ailleurs pourquoi, devant cette carence, je me suis permis de prêter ma plume au secrétaire de Gerson. Parcat lector.»

NYPD: We didn't give out the DNA information

The New York police say that the DNA story didn't come from them.

Why I Removed a Post

A commenter has asked why I removed a post about the Jewish Defense League allegedly breaking up a meeting in the 14th Arrdt. of Paris. The answer is that I began to question the authenticity of the video. It came to me through an RSS feed from a partisan Web site, and when I began to look into the provenance of the video, I discovered that it could only be found on sites with a distinctly anti-Israeli bias, including a Front National site. So I took it down, not knowing whether it was a manipulation or provocation or, on the other hand, an authentic eyewitness video. If anyone can provide me with verification that the JDL did actually break up a meeting in the 14th earlier this month, I will put the video back up.

This is the first time I have ever taken down a post rather than simply correct an error. But since I felt that I might have been relaying false agitprop, I decided to take this one down entirely. I apologize for the haste in putting it up without further checking.

UPDATE: Since Arun Kapil, whose veracity I trust, assures me (see comments) that this event did in fact occur and was not staged to discredit supporters of Israel, I am restoring the video:

Police Note on DSK ... and Other Politicians

The police had found DSK "en fâcheuse posture" in a car in the Bois de Boulogne shortly before the 2007 presidential election. The Élysée knew and had leaked this note to the press. Claude Guéant seems to have been in charge of leaking additional information about the private life of DSK. But he was not the only politician whose sexual activities were being tracked by the Élysée.

A sad, sad, sad business. All of it.

Monday, May 23, 2011

DSK's DNA on Dress

Reported by Le Monde. So there was sex. Even if there was consent, DSK is proven to be a monumentally reckless man. And if there wasn't consent ....

UPDATE: Or maybe it means nothing. See comment by Mitch.
FURTHER UPDATE: Scratch that. It's semen, there was ejaculation, and it was found in three places. See comments.


Who says Americans don't know or care about the euro crisis?

Christophe Deloire Tells What He Knew, and what "They" Knew

Christophe Deloire, the author of Sexus politicus, speaks of pressure from DSK publicity flack, Ramzi Khiroun, not to publish, says that Hollande and Fabius both tried to prevent Tristane Banon from pressing charges, and says that many journalists knew of the allegations but did not go to print with them.

Valls Is In


Mélenchon's Problem With Economics

Qu'ils s'en aillent tous. The title of Jean-Luc Mélenchon's book encapcsulates a sentiment that we all share from time to time. Get rid of the lot of them. But if we followed that advice, who would manage our economic institutions? After listening to the first ten minutes of this interview with Mélenchon, I can only hope and pray that it isn't Mélenchon. To illustrate the greed of our elites, he tells us that "they raised interest rates" after the crisis and thus "served themselves again," having already made a fortune on dubious loans and credit default swaps. But in fact central banks lowered rates. To be sure, interest rates rose in countries like Greece, because their precarious financial situation made default more likely. Buyers of Greek debt disappeared, and investors tried to dump their holdings. But this rise in interest rates corresponded to a fall in the price of the bonds already held by banks, pension funds, and other institutions, so they weren't "serving themselves," as Mélenchon implies, but losing their shirts. To be sure, not everyone lost, but Mélenchon doesn't seem to understand the basics of state finance, as he illustrates in his next remark, which is to say that the European Central Bank should have "lent directly" to Greece. But it did buy Greek sovereign debt when no one else would, which gave Greece needed liquidity. How could it "lend directly" to Greece in any other way? Simply by transferring cash to Greece without taking any notes in return? Neither Mélenchon's criticism nor his remedy makes any sense. His emotion, however, is perfectly comprehensible. And that is the problem.

Hollande, Bayrou on Lagarde

On the question of Christine Lagarde to replace DSK at the IMF (link is behind paywall, alas a problem with using Médiapart as a source), Hollande is slightly less supportive than Aubry:

Un peu plus nuancé, François Hollande ne s'est pas rallié à la candidature de Christine Lagarde mais il ne l'a pas clairement contestée. Vendredi à Dijon, il a dit n'avoir « aucune réserve sur la compétence » de Christine Lagarde pour succéder à Dominique Strauss-Kahn à la tête du FMI, mais des interrogations sur « l'orientation politique ». « Est-ce que ça peut être Christine Lagarde ? C'est une personne qui a des compétences, maintenant, elle n'est pas de la sensibilité politique de Dominique Strauss-Kahn », a affirmé le député de Corrèze. « Donc, nous allons revenir à une nomination qui est conforme, hélas, à ce qui est l'orientation politique de l'Europe et de Nicolas Sarkozy. » « Sur la personne, je n'ai aucune réserve sur la compétence et je n'ai d'observation à faire que sur l'orientation. »

This is disingenuous, because when it comes to IMF policy, it's hard to say that Lagarde's "political orientation" was any different from DSK's. Perhaps there were differences, but they don't spring immediately to mind, and Hollande would be much more enlightening about his own position if he told us what he thinks they are.

By contrast, François Bayrou is clearly against Lagarde's nomination:

« J'ai vu que les dirigeants socialistes, Martine Aubry et même François Hollande, soutenaient Christine Lagarde. Moi, je ne le ferai pas (...) Peut-être qu'ils ne savent plus exactement où ils habitent (...) Le choix qui est annoncé (de Christine Lagarde, ndlr) se heurte, pour moi, à deux questions principales: en principe, on est nombreux à ne pas approuver la politique économique qui a été suivie par la France » et « la deuxième chose, c'est que Christine Lagarde a été l'acteur principal de l'affaire Tapie ». Et d'ajouter : « C'est elle qui a tenu les commandes dans cette période critique, c'est elle qui est venue devant les représentants du peuple français mentir sur les choix qui avaient été faits. »

At least he mentions the Tapie affair, but on the precise ways in which he thinks Lagarde might implement "the economic policy followed by France" (not further specified) at the IMF, he tells us nothing. This remains at the level of innuendo. 

Éolas Reflects on the Past Week

Some thoughts from Maître Éolas:

Dominique Strauss-Kahn a été remis en liberté (très) surveillée, ce dont je me réjouis au-delà de toute considération sur sa culpabilité éventuelle. Toute personne devrait en principe pouvoir attendre son procès en liberté, la détention devant être vraiment exceptionnelle, ce qu’elle n’est pas en France. Ce principe est mieux appliqué aux États-Unis qu’en France, particulièrement pour les affaires criminelles. Rappelons qu’avant 2000, l’accusé devant une cour d’assises qui était libre devait obligatoirement se constituer prisonnier la veille de l’audience. [my italics]
Si bien sûr, et aux États-Unis sans doute plus qu’ailleurs parmi les pays démocratiques ayant un système judiciaire indépendant, une personne qui pourra mettre les moyens nécessaires à sa défense sera forcément bien mieux défendue qu’une personne ne le pouvant point, ici, ce n’est pas la justice new yorkaise qui a imposé des conditions draconiennes à la libération de DSK. C’est la défense de DSK qui a proposé ce qu’on appelle un bail package en béton armé : elle est venue avec cette liberté surveillée clefs en main, en disant : “voilà ce qu’on vous propose”. Le juge s’est pour l’essentiel contenté de dire “D’accord, ça me va”.
À ce propos, un mot de déontologie journalistique, qui peut et doit s’appliquer aussi aux amateurs publiant sur l’internet. Mener une enquête sur un crime se justifie à mon sens dans deux cas seulement. Soit la justice se désintéresse de faits qu’elle estime non établis ou subit des pressions pour s’en désintéresser. Le journaliste fait alors éclater la vérité, prenant l’opinion publique à témoin, ce qui contraint la justice à agir. Soit la justice a statué mais s’est trompée ou a volontairement mal jugé. C’est la contre-enquête. Mais vouloir se livrer à une enquête parallèle quand l’affaire est en cours et que rien ne semble indiquer que la procédure soit dévoyée est dangereux : cela peut interférer avec le bon déroulement de l’enquête officielle, nuire à la défense ou à l’accusation, et expose au risque de manipulation par une des parties, quand ce n’est pas les deux. Les lecteurs sont intelligents, ils peuvent comprendre qu’on ne peut pas encore savoir si Untel est coupable et qu’on ne le saura pas avant plusieurs mois. L’explication du déroulement de la procédure est une information utile et suffisante. Il n’est que voir dans cette affaire le nombre de rumeurs, de fausses informations ensuite démenties, et d’approximations publiées pour se rendre compte que la course au scoop fait toujours des ravages dans le camp de la vérité. La sagesse s’impose.
I agree fully with everything Éolas says. I also recommend that you read the end of his post, where he explains, from a lawyer's point of view, what "respect for the alleged victim" means. An exemplary post from this fine French jurist--as usual.

Anne Sinclair, Defender of Immigrants in the USA

Marc Cohen reminds us of Sinclair's blog post a few days before DSK's arrest:

Les accros du blog en seront réduits à lire et relire le dernier post signé par la grande conscience aux yeux lavande, mis en ligne le 12 mai, 5 jours avant l’Affaire. A priori, on pourrait penser qu’Anne a eu comme une prémonition puisque le billet s’intitule : « Immigration, décidément, là bas comme ailleurs ». Avait-elle pressenti que là-bas aussi les allogènes ne pensaient qu’à créer des soucis aux braves gens ? Bien sur que non, jamais ce genre de pensées lepenoïdes ne viendrait à son esprit. D’ailleurs elle le prouve dans le corps du billet où elle explique que la droite américaine fait des travailleurs immigrés les boucs émissaires de tous les malheurs de l’Américain moyen.

Portrait of Mélenchon


Poll Bounce

Both François Hollande and Martine Aubry are more popular than they were before the DSK affair, according to a new poll.

"Ordinary Sexism"

A feminist speaks out: the DSK has served to reveal the sexism that passes for "ordinary" in France.

Caroline De Haas by franceinter

Pécresse Interview in Times


Why So Much Love?

Matthieu Maffésoli, the author of Sarkologies: Pourquoi tant de haines? wrote the following:

Derrière une langue un peu compliquée, un tantinet pédante par instants (usage du Latin et du Grec, création et jeux de mots), le propos de ce livre est très simple. Il s'agit de dire que la réalité est double, que derrière la face rationnelle, consciente et avouée des choses, se cache une face émotionnelle, irrationnelle, imaginaire, inconsciente ou inavouée qui serait autrement plus déterminante. On retrouve là le credo de l'auteur. Appliqué à ce nouveau sujet, cela donne la thèse suivante : même quand il est au plus bas dans tous les sondages, Nicolas Sarkozy n'en demeure pas moins puissant et aimé des Français car il est « en phase avec les aspirations profondes du peuple » (page 26), « fondamentalement, Sarkozy, en ses aspects changeants, avec sa syntaxe approximative, dans sa théâtralité voyante, avec son côté m'as-tu-vu, au travers d'un désir de jouissance, ici et maintenant, ne fait que tendre au peuple ébaudi un miroir où celui-ci peut voir le reflet de son âme collective » (p. 20). En réalité, la face rationnelle des choses serait celle des « élites éduquées » produisant « l'opinion publiée », tandis que la face émotionnelle des choses serait celle du « peuple » produisant « l'opinion réelle » (p. 14). Le « pays légal » opposé au « pays réel ». Les 200 pages du livre ne sont au fond qu'une longue variation autour de cette unique et simple idée.»

As a reward for explaining why, despite appearances, "the people" actually love their president, Prof. Maffésoli has been made a member of the Institut de France against the wishes of the selection jury:

Michel Maffesoli a été nommé membre de l'Institut Universitaire de France dans des conditions vivement contestées par le président même du jury de sélection, l'économiste Elie Cohen. C'est en effet une intervention ministérielle qui a permis cette nomination, ce qui a provoqué la colère de ce jury et l'envoi d'une missive salée au ministère. Le Jury s'y "indigne du manque de transparence des nominations de 2008." "C'est une atteinte à la déontologie d'évaluation par les pairs qui risque de porter préjudice à la réputation nationale et internationale de l'Institut", concluent-ils. Lire ici l'article paru dans Libération relatant cet épisode peu glorieux. Elie Cohen avait, dans une déclaration à Libération affirmé que Michel Maffésoli «n’aurait jamais été retenu par le jury même s’il y avait eu plus de places.» Lire ici cette mise au point, dans une note sur la politique de Valérie Pécresse en matière de rémunération des scientifiques et universitaires.

Will the Tapie Affair Sink Lagarde?

European pols seem to have made up their minds that Christine Lagarde is the right woman to take charge of the IMF, but that pesky Crédit Lyonnais business keeps cropping up. Of course, Martine Aubry has demonstrated her "statesmanship" by supporting Lagarde, even though her party went to court over the sweetheart deal with Tapie. Daniel Schneidermann reports:

Hypothèse du chroniqueur économique Philippe Lefébure, ce matin sur France Inter : ce soutien patriotique d'Aubry à Lagarde est peut-être lié à son processus de « présidentialisation ». Autrement dit, la mentalité « ça finira bien par passer, et on ne va pas s'embêter avec les juges » serait une qualité consubstantielle, indétachable, du mental présidentiel français.
L'épisode montre à quel point, dans les meilleurs esprits, l'équation mental présidentiel = mentalité maffieuse est incrustée au plus profond. On pouvait nourrir l'espoir, comme le confiait la semaine dernière au Monde un strauss-kahnien anonyme, que la chute en torche de DSK ressuscite, même timidement, l'idée que la « gauche morale » n'est pas forcément perdante d'avance. Ce n'est pas gagné.
(h/t MYOS--and by the way, MYOS, I want to express my gratitude to you, your links are always helpful. Keep them coming. And maybe someday you'll explain the meaning of your pseudo)

In any case, the Europeans seem determined to keep control of the IMF, and Lagarde seems to be the easiest person to agree on, so maybe she'll be home free, despite the flashing warning lights.


Ross Douthat--a columnist whom I ordinarily find a bore--has an interesting column this morning. He takes the DSK affair and tries to tease out its larger meaning. And what he comes up with is this:

Moreover, no creative mind could have dreamed up an allegation better calculated to vindicate the perception that today’s Eurocrats are just a version of the old European aristocracy — exercising droit du seigneur in high-priced hotel rooms while they wait to catch a first-class flight to Paris.

His argument is that high-minded "cosmopolitan" technocrats have for decades attempted to counter the will of dozens of distinct "peoples" by creating and managing a social-democratic super-state dependent on a large influx of immigrants to sustain its generous welfare measures while fending off global competitive pressures. This technocracy, isolated from "ordinary" people, evolved into an "aristocratic" elite with its own mores and an arrogant assumption of privilege, extending, in the case of Strauss-Kahn, and if the charges against him are true, to a sort of droit de cuissage.

Douthat may be excused for dramatizing the issue--the demands of the column format are severe. And I'm not sure that the division between certain elites and "the people" is worse in Europe than in, say, the United States, where the Tea Party reaction demonstrates that anti-elitist sentiment can be virulent even if the elite considers itself entitled only to bailouts and not to women's bodies. So perhaps the problem should not be formulated in terms of the European welfare state, which is Douthat's target because it suits his prior ideological commitments. But there is a germ of an idea here that bears further reflection.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

L'Ouverture à la Socialiste

Martine Aubry says that Christine Lagarde as IMF chief would be good for France. But wasn't it the Socialist Party that went to court to accuse Lagarde of connivence in an unreasonably large damage award to Bernard Tapie? Curious ...  jus' sayin', but sometimes French elite solidarity can seem a tad suspect.

Fassin on the DSK Affair

Eric Fassin, a longtime student of sexual politics who knows both American and French mores well, offers a three-part article on the affair: 1, 2, 3.

New Tristane Banon Interview

Here. (h/t FLN)

0:04:05 Je ne peux pas... ça va au-delà évidemment. C’est pareil, j’ai lu beaucoup de bêtises, disant qu’on peut être impressionné plus que de raison par de la drague un peu poussive et peut-être maladroite de la part de personnalités connues. Pas quand on est journaliste, et pas quand on est une femme, en France, journaliste, on sait ce que c’est la drague un peu poussive d’une personnalité un peu connue, très connue ou pas connue du tout. En l’occurrence, je pense que la personne dont on parle a un problème. Il y a beaucoup de journalistes qui le savent depuis longtemps, et ça je le sais, puisque j’ai eu affaire à beaucoup de journalistes qui le savaient... Maintenant, je pense que c’est un problème grave, que cette vidéo du reste ne reflète pas du tout dans la façon dont elle est montrée. Parce que... et dont elle s’est déroulée d’ailleurs, je ne reviens pas du tout là-dessus, mais faut voir que cette émission, 93 Faubourg et le dîner de Thierry Ardisson, c’est une émission qui se passe le soir, qui est dans un contexte assez festif. On boit du champagne... enfin le but n’est pas de faire pleurer dans les chaumières. Moi, quand Thierry Ardisson me lance sur ce sujet-là, il s’agit pas de plomber l’ambiance de tout le monde. Voilà, donc effectivement je leur raconte avec un air assez, voilà, sur le ton potache, etc. Il est intéressant de mentionner que personne ne pousse des cris d’effroi en me disant quelle horreur, qu’est-ce que tu racontes là ? Donc, chacun en tirera les conclusions qui s’imposent. Tout ce que je sais, c’est que contrairement à ce qu’on peut croire quand on voit cette vidéo, ce qui s’est passé a été très difficile à vivre, que je souhaite à personne les mois de psychanalyse qu’il faut derrière pour s’en remettre. Donc voilà...

UPDATE: So now it turns out that this interview was actually given in 2008, at the time of DSK's problems with the IMF over an "affair" with a subordinate.  This makes the media's failure to propagate this information in 2008 more than a little puzzling. It would be interesting to know if the IMF's investigators knew about Banon's two public statements. (h/t Alex Price, see comments)