Saturday, July 2, 2011

FN Targets Housewives

The "new" Front National is going after women in a way that the macho Jean-Marie Le Pen never did. And it seems to be working, especially on the 35-49 age group. It's partly the Marine effect, pollsters think, and partly that this group is most worried about insecurity, both physical and economic.


Tout devient clair. Jean-Louis Borloo wants to be mayor of Paris. Jean-François Copé wants to prevent his archrival François Fillon from becoming mayor of Paris, but he needs powerful assistance to achieve this goal. So Borloo runs for president, plunging a serious thorn into the side of Nicolas Sarkozy, who needs Borloo's votes in order to make it to round 2 against Marine Le Pen. Ergo, Borloo now has a bargaining chip: in return for Sarko's support for his mayoral candidacy, Borloo will eventually stand aside. Of course, this means that Sarko will be shafting Fillon, but Fillon has served his purpose, and Copé will be pleased, though of course Sarko doesn't trust Copé any more than he trusts Fillon.

And then in 2017, Copé and Fillon will square off for the presidency, but Borloo will hope to have built a powerful enough base in Paris by then to make his own presidential bid. Meanwhile, the recent passe d'armes over the nomination to the finance ministry has put Le Maire in Copé's camp (to my dismay--I like Le Maire, perhaps more than I should, because he has a literary sensibility, while I dislike Copé), and aligned Baroin with Fillon. This is the cream of the right, the future présidentiables, and what a nest of intrigue it is. They're almost as contentious as the Socialists. For la petite histoire, readers may be interested to know that Borloo is married to Béatrice Schönberg, ex-présentatrice of France 2, while Baroin used to be the companion of Marie Drucker, Schönberg's replacement. What a cozy little world, cette classe politique.

Amartya Sen on the Need for a More Democratic Europe

An impassioned plea to save the European idea from its current financial caricature. Here is the conclusion:

La formidable idée d'une Europe unie et démocratique a changé au fil du temps et l'on a fait passer au second plan la politique démocratique pour promouvoir une fidélité absolue à un programme d'intégration financière incohérente. Repenser la zone euro soulèverait de nombreux problèmes, mais les questions épineuses méritent d'être intelligemment discutées (l'Europe doit s'engager démocratiquement à le faire) en prenant en compte de façon réaliste et concrète le contexte différent propre à chaque pays.
Dériver au gré des vents financiers que souffle une pensée économique obtuse et entachée de graves lacunes, souvent proférée par des agences affichant de piteux résultats en termes d'anticipation et de diagnostic, est bien la dernière chose dont l'Europe ait besoin.
Il faut enrayer la marginalisation de la tradition démocratique européenne : c'est une nécessité impérieuse. On ne l'exagérera jamais assez.

DSK Portrayed by His "Friends"

Raphaëlle Bacqué and Ariane Chemin provide a very interesting portrait of DSK painted by his "friends." I find it difficult to imagine this man as president of France even if all suspicion of rape is somehow removed from his person. Reckless, libertine, feckless, lazy, self-indulgent ... if this is what his friends say about him, all his supposed "brilliance" would not be enough to redeem him. Surely there has to be more to the man than emerges from this portrait.

And for icing on the cake, read this comment by Arun Kapil, as well as the article he cites by Colombani.

A Few Thoughts on Mediocracy

The DSK affair has forced me to take a fresh look at how changes in the technology of news reporting have influenced the practice of democracy. The fourth estate, which Tocqueville thought to be an essential bulwark of democracy owing to its ability to "implant the same idea in many minds at once," has become something of a monster. The "idea" that it implants is often a lurid one, which appeals to our most perverse imagination and worst instincts, yet we cannot avert our eyes.

The cable news networks are the worst offenders. My experience yesterday on CNBC, a network I never watch, was revelatory. Forced to sit in the studio for an hour while awaiting my few minutes of air time, I was treated to inanity after inanity, as reporters, who knew little more about the breaking news than their viewers, dutifully filled their air time with vapid speculations. When my own turn came, I had little to no opportunity to develop the slightest argument about the way in which the French presidential campaign had been affected by criminal charges in a foreign land--a historically unprecedented situation, as far as I know. As usual, the subject I had been asked by the producer to discuss--how sex scandals are handled in the US and France--was ignored by anchor people spouting nonsense about how "the French hate us" and DSK's impending elevation to the status of "folk hero" by the libertine Gauls.

Of course, when one lends oneself to this circus, one shouldn't be surprised at being turned into a prostitute (except that of course I wasn't paid for my degrading service). The only honorable course is to refuse such invitations in the future, and yet I accept, again and again, despite having made resolutions not to in the past, in the hope that what little knowledge I possess might actually be passed on to viewers interested in hearing it. But the very format of these "news/opinion shows" is designed to prevent thoughtful dialogue: there is no discussion whatsoever between guests and anchors (who are often separated by thousands of miles) before the cameras roll, so there is no opportunity to map out a coherent outline for discussion or even an informative set of topics. The "guest expert" is merely a body recruited to lend an aura of authority to the incessant yammering of the "news." And yet this instrument actually does shape public opinion by saturating the atmosphere with unvetted, unfiltered, unedited "infotainment." Its audience is far larger than that of any "serious" journal of opinion.

The whole business is a scandalous waste of time and money. There's nothing quite comparable to American cable news in France, and so much the better. But even the "legitimate" media are guilty of this reductio ad absurdum of their institutional role. "Who will educate the educator?" Marx asked. The question remains as pertinent as ever, now that vast numbers of people are "educated" by "media" that impede rather than facilitate the flow of information and ideas.

Yet Another Revelation

The Sofitel maid was reportedly a prostitute on the side. I had heard this rumor yesterday from another source but was waiting for published confirmation. That it comes from The Post is unfortunate, but my private sources tell me that more respectable papers were also close to breaking this story. Of course, prostitutes can be raped, but this story, if true, is yet another reason why this case will end soon.

Crony Capitalism à la Française

When the French elite parties (hosted by Alain Minc), Médiapart is there to record the arrivals:

Petite fête entre amis de l'oligarchie sarkoziste by Mediapart

And then there's this:

Mediapart au Prix de Diane, avec Monique... by Mediapart

DSK Dines Out

For DSK, the taste of freedom is pasta with black truffle sauce, $100 at an Upper East Side eatery:

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, homme de nouveau libre de ses mouvements à défaut d'être libre tout court, n'a pas hésité, vendredi soir, à défier, sans doute délibérément, l'une des images qui se sont installées à son sujet pendant cette période : l'homme qui aime le luxe. Il y a eu, juste avant son arrestation, la polémique sur la Porsche ; voici le plat de pâtes aux truffes noires à 100 dollars (70 euros) !
I don't begrudge the man a nice dinner to celebrate his liberation, but I do pity his PR guys.

New Revelation

Times on the accuser's phone call to the man in jail:

When the conversation was translated — a job completed only this Wednesday — investigators were alarmed: “She says words to the effect of, ‘Don’t worry, this guy has a lot of money. I know what I’m doing,’ ” the official said.