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.