Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Maîtriser la langue de bois

In case the previous post did not divert you from the imperatives of your job, you might want to view the video below, particularly if you're considering running for office.


If you're really determined to avoid work today, you can 1) follow the liveblog of the John Galliano trial (capsule summary: "It wasn't me who said those things, it was some drunk wearing my face", h/t MT), or 2) catch up with the events connected with the launch of France's latest social movement, "Osez le clito," which has drawn a certain amount of fire from the usual suspects. Poster pasters at work.

And the Goal of the War in Libya Is ...

David Bromwich, in an article highly critical of President Obama's handling of the war in Libya, among other things, notes the extraordinarily rapid "mission creep" from enforcement of a no-fly zone to protect civilians in Benghazi to an all-out air war plus ground support intended to topple the Qaddafi regime. But if Obama has been silent about his strategic intentions in Libya, so has the principal sponsor of the war, Nicolas Sarkozy. As I noted the other day, French forces have gone all-in on this adventure, to the point where the carrier Charles de Gaulle will have to be withdrawn from service next year for maintenance if the war doesn't end soon (according to a French admiral). Yet we have heard nothing from Sarkozy about how he sees the evolution of military operations, the prospects of imminent victory, or alternative plans if the current strategy proves a failure.

Already there are rumblings in the US about the cost of the operation, the violation of the War Powers Act, and the usefulness of NATO, for which the US now bears 75% of the cost, higher than during the Cold War years. Robert Gates, on his way out as Secretary of Defense, has lambasted the Europeans for their willingness to free-ride on American largesse. Ultimately, Sarkozy's pressure on NATO to get involved in Libya may turn out to be the straw that breaks the camel's back of unquestioned US support for NATO. This war, launched precipitously in the hope that an exit plan would materialize in short order, has become a burden for everyone involved. Once again, we have seen the danger of allowing televised images (in this case of threatened civilians and plucky rebel fighters), overzealous entrepreneurs (today BHL, yesterday the neocons), and false or dubious analogies (the idea that an "Arab spring" could bring about painless regime change across the Arab world) to result in ill-considered engagements from which there is no easy exit.

Can Lagarde Be Derailed?

Christine #Lagarde has been all but anointed the new head of the IMF. But a new preliminary inquiry has been opened against one of her subordinates in the Tapie affair. Will this be enough to change the IMF's mind? It seems unlikely. Thus far the organization has doggedly ignored all suspicions of a misstep by Lagarde in the Tapie case despite numerous indications that things were not entirely kosher. Or are all these investigations last-minute machinations by enemies of Lagarde inside the French government? In any case, if the Lagarde directorship blows up in the future, the IMF will have only itself to blame.

Aubry's Digital France

Martine #Aubry has published a manifesto on her vision of the digital future. Two high points: she envisions a "right to connection" and she will abolish the HADOPI law. The first problem I see is that the two points are in tension, not to say contradiction, with each other. Consider that the right to connection includes free access in many places:

Au-delà, il nous faut imaginer la France connectée de demain dans ses aspects les plus quotidiens. Il faut pouvoir accéder à l'internet partout et à tout moment : dans les trains comme dans les aéroports, les hôpitaux et les mairies, les jardins publics ou les hôtels. Et il faudrait y accéder gratuitement. Les jeunes Français se retrouvent plus volontiers dans les cafés si le wifi est libre d'accès.

But:the abolition of Hadopi involves 3 conditions:

Emprunter cette voie exige trois conditions, pour lesquelles notre programme comporte des propositions précises.
D'abord, que nous adaptions et renforcions les droits d'auteur.
Ensuite, de fonder de nouveaux financements pour la création sur une contribution, forfaitaire et d'un montant modeste, des internautes et sur un prélèvement qu'acquitteront les opérateurs et les fournisseurs d'accès. Justement réparti, ce serait un apport massif pour soutenir la culture en France, et pour trouver cet équilibre, j'en appelle d'abord à un dialogue loyal avec toutes les parties prenantes.
Enfin, intensifier la lutte contre la contrefaçon commerciale.

But free, anonymous access in public places means that ISP's can't collect fees from users, because they won't have any relationship with those users, unless some new mechanism is established whereby the user of public access in France will have to obtain an ID and establish a means of paying whatever ISP furnishes the public access. The system would be more like the Vélib' than like the open access systems available in many US airports. And would downloads under this artist remuneration system be limited to users in France? Is it technically feasible to enforce such a requirement?

I like the principles and await the details. In any case, with the proposal to abolish Hadopi, Martine is obviously angling for the youth vote.