Thursday, October 27, 2011


My Facebook stream has exploded with sarcasm--or should I say Sarkozm--directed against President Sarkozy's TV interview tonight. I watched only a few minutes--life is short, obligations are many--but once again I'm perplexed by the level and tenor of the hostility. It seemed to me that he wasn't too bad at explaining the broad parameters of the latest fix to the debt crisis: the Greek haircut, the guarantees to banks, the capital requirements, etc. Yes, he was a little extravagant in evoking the "barbarity" of past Franco-German history while adroitly sidestepping a question about whether the agreement was not in fact based almost entirely on Merkel's initiative, with which he was forced to comply. Yes, he alluded more than once too often to "Socialist errors" such as the 35 hr. week. Yes, he is not entirely convincing in the role of pedagogue, though he is rather good at explaining things clearly and succinctly.

It worries me that so many on the left are so furious with the president that they underestimate his strengths. He will be ruthless in exposing the contradictions in the Socialist platform, and his arguments are solid enough to require well-planned rebuttal. Sarkozm will not do; it is an incantation audible only  to those who already believe. His grammar may not be perfect, but he gets his points across. Hollande had better prepare well for the forthcoming debates.

(And incidentally, I just watched Sarkozy's plume, Henri Guaino, on Ruquier's program and thought he was quite formidable at demonstrating who he was on television--the very task for which Hollande has apparently had to undergo intensive training--see earlier post.)

P.S. I also learned from a Facebook friend that Marine Le Pen cited Paul Krugman and Amartya Sen during her TV appearance tonight. Staggering, or, as they say on Facebook, "OMG!"

Une histoire belge

Via Brent Whelan:

« Une croisade à Liège »

Bart De Wever concède, dans la même interview, qu’il commet aussi des erreurs en français : « J’ai dû sérieusement m’atteler à l’apprentissage du français en 2007. Après mon élection, je me suis illico inscrit pour une semaine d’immersion linguistique à Limont » raconte De Wever avant de livrer une anecdote. « Le deuxième jour, on m’a proposé un exercice : je devais téléphoner au service du tourisme de la ville de Liège pour organiser le lendemain demain une croisière sur la Meuse avec notre groupe flamand. J’ai formé le numéro et je me suis lancé : « Bonjour, c’est Bart De Wever à l’appareil. Je voudrais venir à Liège pour une croisade. » Il y eut un lourd silence au bout du fil. L’employé a crû que De Wever avait l’intention de partir en croisade contre Liège. »

Sarko: Growth Will Be 1%

In tonight's TV appearance, President Sarkozy announced that France would suffer from lower than anticipated growth, necessitating further austerity measures:

Nicolas Sarkozy annonce une révision de la croissance à 1 % pour 2012

Le président de la République a annoncé jeudi soir une révision de la prévision de croissance pour 2012 de 1,75 % à 1 %, lors de l'émission Face à la crise. Cela correspond à 6 à 8 milliards d'euros d'économies nécessaires, a-t-il précisé. M. Sarkozy a en revanche écarté une "hausse généralisée de la TVA". (Le


The "arts" have found a muse in DSK. First there was Law and Order: SVU, which based an episode on the Sofitel affair. Now there is DXK, a pornographic film inspired by the adventures of the former IMF director. This being "art," the writers are not required to maintain objectivity as to what happened in New York:

Selon le synopsis, «David Sex King, patron d'une grande institution financière, ne résiste pas aux charmes de la femme de chambre qui vient faire son travail. Dommage! C'est l'occasion rêvée pour elle de sortir de l'anonymat et d'utiliser tous les moyens pour faire payer ce très chaud lapin». Un scénario qui privilégie donc le côté vénal de Nafissatou Diallo et qui risque de faire bondir les associations féministes.

Inherited Wealth in France

A fascinating study by Thomas Piketty of changes in "inheritance flows" in France over the period 1820-2050. A model is provided to show that the importance of inherited wealth depends on the relative size of the return on investments and the growth rate of the economy.

Buffing Up Hollande's TV Personality

They're not "coaches," insist François Hollande's two new media advisors, but they do think he needs work in getting "who he really is" across on le petit écran:
"Notre travail a consisté essentiellement autour de cette question : comment faire passer à la télévision ce qu'il est vraiment. Dans les meetings, c'est un showman, il sait embraser une salle", raconte Sarah Meadel. Elles ont donc ingurgité des heures et des heures d'interventions télévisées de celui qui n'est alors pas encore candidat. "Je me suis hollandisée", plaisante Sarah Meadel.
Une méthode ? Elles ne veulent pas entendre parler des grilles habituelles de la communication politique. "Les recettes de com', c'est bidon" pour Sarah Meadel. Claude Laperrière poursuit : "On n'a pas cherché à le formater".
"L'idée était d'enrichir le discours politique et les interventions médiatiques avec les outils de l'acteur", poursuit la philosophe. Elles insistent : "le mot 'coaching' ne correspond pas à notre travail, nous ne sommes pas des communicants, c'est un travail personnel".
And they've also got him reading:
Cicéron, Rousseau, Primo Levi… Plongée, dans un premier temps, dans les textes classiques pour François Hollande. "Utiliser l'émotion ressentie dans des textes de grands auteurs et la transférer pour parler de l'actualité du jour". Avec cette question incessante : comment transmettre ? "Ses discours avaient une forme trop écrite", s'accordent-elles à dire.

Hmm. Reading Cicero in order to sound less bookish on TV:

I shall make you no reply at all about Galba; a most gallant and
courageous citizen. He will meet you face to face; and he being
present, and that dagger which you reproach him with, shall give you
your answer.
"You have enlisted my soldiers, and many veterans, under the pretence
of intending the destruction of those men who slew Caesar; and then,
when they expected no such step, you have led them on to attack their
quaestor, their general, and their former comrades!"
No doubt we deceived them; we humbugged them completely! no doubt the
Martial legion, the fourth legion, and the veterans had no idea what
was going on! They were not following the authority of the senate,
or the liberty of the Roman people.--They were anxious to avenge the
death of Caesar, which they all regarded as an act of destiny! No
doubt you were the person whom they were anxious to see safe, and
happy, and flourishing!
XVII. Oh miserable man, not only in fact, but also in the circumstance
of not perceiving yourself how miserable you are! But listen to the
most serious charge of all.
"In fact, what have you not sanctioned,--what have you not done? 

Oh, yes, indeed, that should do the trick.

Has Europe Been Saved? Did It Need to Be?

In France, former president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing has said that the
crisis has been "exaggerated for political purposes." Implicit in his
remarks was the allegation that Sarkozy intends to run his re-election
campaign on the theme "I saved Europe." If this was the plan, it has
foundered on Sarko's capitulation to Merkel on all salient issues. He
is now being portrayed in the French media as "the man who caved to
Merkel," Europe's new Iron Lady, rather than as Europe's savior.

Nevertheless, let us consider for a moment Giscard's charge. Are there
grounds for thinking that the crisis has been exaggerated? Not for
Greece, surely: as Yanis Varoufakis (see previous post and this one) and many others have
argued, imposed austerity is ripping up the Greek social contract and
precipitating a severe depression. Elsewhere, however, the required
fiscal adjustments have been less dire. Berlusconi's coalition may
sink after being forced to raise the legal age of retirement and
swallow other bitter pills, but widespread wage and benefit cuts of
the sort imposed on Greece have thus far been avoided. Spain's
difficulties are different from the others, stemming essentially from
a construction bust, which has left the country with a very high level
of unemployment. But will high spreads on Italian and Spanish debt
continue, or are these signs of a temporary panic? If so, the
agreement reached in the wee hours this morning may suffice to calm
things down, since it is being reported in much of the press as a
"success," pace Varoufakis's comments. For example: "European leaders,
in a significant step toward resolving the euro zone financial crisis,
early Thursday morning obtained an agreement from banks to take a 50
percent loss on the face value of their Greek debt."

Europe has yet to overcome its contractionary mindset, to be sure, but
then neither has the US. So a decade of no growth may lie ahead. But
is that any reason to prophesy the collapse of the euro and perhaps
even the end of the EU? Are European leaders really fiddling while
Rome burns, or are they playing a gentle nocturne, hoping to lull the
bond vigilantes (who may not exist in the US but are certainly
pressuring PIGS sovereign debt) back to sleep? The 50% Greek haircut
does not really threaten European banks, many claim. Will
the new capital requirements really stanch the flow of credit,
assuming that genuine investment opportunities emerge? One can doubt
this. Giscard might therefore be right.

So, what's wrong with this argument?