Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Woman Writes What She Feels ...

... about wearing the hijab, and not wearing it. Here.

Baudis, "Defender of Rights"

An interesting tidbit:

Après des semaines d'hésitations, Nicolas Sarkozy a tranché. Il va nommer Dominique Baudis défenseur des droits, apprend-on de sources concordantes auprès du président de la République. Ce poste a été créé par la réforme de la Constitution de 2008. Agé de 64 ans, l'ancien maire de Toulouse avait été victime d'une grave calomnie en 2003 dans l'affaire du tueur en série Patrice Alègre. Président du conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel puis de l'Institut du Monde arabe, M. Baudis est actuellement député européen. La nomination pourrait avoir lieu en conseil des ministres mercredi prochain.
M. Sarkozy a finalement renoncé à nommer Eric Molinié, actuel président de la Halde. L'ancien ministre socialiste Jack Lang avait perdu toutes ses chances depuis qu'il a déclaré qu'il n'y avait pas "mort d'homme " pour justifier la mise en liberté de DSK.
In case you've forgotten, Baudis was once one of those people whom "everybody believed" to have been involved in a shady affaire de moeurs. He turned out to have been wrongly accused. Now the name of the ancien ministre socialiste has been floated by British tabloids, blogosphere pundits, and other unimpeachable sources as the person whom "everybody knows" to have been guilty in another alleged affaire de moeurs. To which I say, "everybody" ought to get a grip. Rumors should not be allowed to destroy a person's reputation. Since when has on-dit been accepted as proof of anything, even if it comes from the mouth of the esteemed author of La pensée '68?

The Post-DSK Left

"Inventer à gauche," a group of têtes pensantes of the PS, consider what direction the left ought to take after DSK. Their main points are:

1. It's a new world, in which the US + Europe are no longer the be all and end all.
2. Something really ought to be done about "financial capitalism."
3. High spending and high deficits are not ipso facto "progressive."
4. The EU is in trouble.
5. The French don't like inequality.
6. "Social ecology" is the new paradigm.
7. Both the Sarkozyste right and the extreme right have targeted immigration. The left should recognize the necessity and inevitability of "legal immigration."
8. The state is an essential instrument for constructing "a better society."

It would perhaps be too much and too hasty to dismiss this as a list of "pious wishes," but I frankly don't see much content here. There is nothing surprising about the list of problems and no actual policy proposals to combat them. As a statement of principles, the manifesto has a certain hollowness. Take the mention of "financial capitalism." This has become a sort of mantra: by attacking "financial capitalism," we signal that we are realists who do not reject "markets" ("We believe in a market economy but not a market society," said Jospin) but we do reject anything bad that markets happen to enable. Ditto for "social ecology." Absent any specification of what costs a social ecological agenda might entail, we are left guessing what this actually means. Since I posted earlier today about nuclear power, has anyone on the left who has hailed the German decision to exit from the nuclear begun to ask how this decision might affect Germany's earlier and equally splashy decision to reduce carbon emissions by a date certain? Clearly the effect will be enormous. But the same formulae continue to be intoned. In the end, they amount to saying, "We want what is good, we reject what is bad." Vaste programme, as de Gaulle would have said.

Simon Johnson on the Lagarde IMF Candidacy

Why is France so dead set on having Christine Lagarde run the IMF? Simon Johnson has an idea:

The French want to sway decision-making at the I.M.F. in order to use money from the United States, Japan and poorer countries to conceal from their own electorate that the euro-zone structure has led all its members into fiscal jeopardy: some borrowed heavily; others let their banks lend irresponsibly and thus created a large contingent liability.

The best way to hide the true cost is to have other people’s taxpayers foot the bill, preferably with the least possible transparency. Thus, euro-zone politicians have a lot at stake, and look for Ms. Lagarde to run the I.M.F.

Mitterrand on Nuclear Power

Mediapart reminds us that François Mitterrand was much more emphatic about the desirability of diversifying away from total dependence on nuclear power while campaigning than he proved as president:

Débat télévisé entre Giscard et Mitterrand, le 5... by Mediapart

Mélenchon and the Communists

What do Communists think of Mélenchon, whom the party leadership supports for the presidency? According to Mediapart, the rank and file are less enthusiastic, not because they have anything in particular against Mélenchon or his program but because they fear that the PCF will finally be swallowed by the Parti de Gauche. Many would prefer to see André Chassaigne as their candidate. I confess that I've never seen Chassaigne, which only confirms Mediapart's assertion that he has failed to "penetrate the media wall." Mélenchon, whatever else you may think of him, "gives good press," and especially good TV: he fills the media's need for a leader of the extreme left who is either scowling and irascible, like Georges Marchais, or surprisingly radiant and well-spoken, like Olivier Besancenot. Mélenchon can be both, hence he is the perfect gauchiste médiatique.

Lest you think that the rank and file might prefer Chassaigne because he's an authentic son of the working class, a cheminot or steelworker or something of that sort, no, I'm afraid that his pre-political career was spent as a teacher of literature, history, and geography. Mélenchon has a licence in philosophy.

Ferry Sows, Le Pen Reaps

Le Monde is right: Luc Ferry is proud of having roiled the pond by tossing in his huge rock, but the resulting waves are floating Marine Le Pen's boat (to stretch a metaphor):

M. Ferry assure qu'il n'a pas les preuves de ce qu'il avance, mais il s'est dit ravi d'avoir jeté un pavé dans la mare. Une telle attitude est indigne de la part d'un homme qui est l'une des cautions intellectuelles de la droite. Elle alimente un climat de soupçon généralisé qui ne peut que faire le jeu de l'extrême droite. Elle donne libre cours à la thèse du "complot", puisqu'il affirme avoir des témoignages de la part "des autorités de l'Etat au plus haut niveau"
Remember that it was Marine Le Pen who exploited Frédéric Mitterrand's confessions of culpable sexual tourism. Luc Ferry has now seemingly confirmed her thesis of tous pourris. Within the microcosm, he is saying, there are two kinds of people: sinners and those who turn a blind eye to their sins. Whether this allegation is true or not no longer matters. It has become an article of faith that "everybody knows," even if nobody seems to know precisely what "everybody" knew or whether what they thought they knew was mere rumor or something more substantial. The climate of suspicion is now total. France may have doubted that the presumption of innocence exists in the United States, but in France it now appears that the collective guilt of the entire political class is assumed on the basis of little more than a cloakroom rumor magnified by the power of the media. I don't think I've ever witnessed an unhealthier atmosphere in 40 years of following French politics.

Nuclear Energy: Mediapart Special Issue

Mediapart has devoted a special issue to nuclear energy. Make no mistake: this is a special issue against nuclear energy. Nevertheless, it contains some interesting pieces. In one, Jade Lindgaard calls upon two anti-nuclear experts who prepared a report on the subject prior to the Fukushima disaster to refute five myths about nuclear energy. They deny, first, that nuclear energy promotes French energy independence. Their argument is simple: France no longer mines its own uranium but imports all that it uses. But they ignore the diversification of energy sources that imported uranium provides (it is an alternative to oil). Second, they argue that nuclear energy is not cheaper than energy from other sources once the costs of fuel disposal, plant dismantlement, and safety are taken into account. For details, the reader is referred to the authors' book on the subject. Third, they discuss the cost of exiting from nuclear dependence and emphasize that the reason to exit is to reduce risk, so that cost should be a secondary concern. Fourth, they argue that French officials who defend nuclear energy belong to a "monoculture" of high civil servants trained in a few schools and taught by believers in nuclear energy. Their arguments may be sincere, but they systematically discount the negative. Fifth and last, they take on the idea that pro-nuclear officials are the only ones who truly understand France's energy needs. It is not the anti-nuclear movement that is "fundamentalist" on the issue but the pro-nuke faction, one expert says.