Sunday, March 4, 2012

"Collective Political Imbecility"

Michel Rocard is not feeling optimistic: he foresees military rule in Greece and a gigantic financial crisis of which the sovereign debt crisis is only the precursor:

« Comment fait-on dans ce contexte pour maintenir des élections ? Il n'est pas possible de gouverner ce peuple en lui disant qu'il va perdre 25% de son revenu dans les dix ans si on tient à payer toutes les dettes. Personne ne le dit, mais il ne peut y avoir d »issue en Grèce qu avec un pouvoir militaire. »
Il ajoute :
« Il devient de plus en plus indispensable d'annuler partout une bonne partie de la dette non payable. Mais attention, la grande bulle qui menace, elle est privée ! Une éventuelle crise de la dette souveraine européenne ne serait qu »un petit détonateur. Nous sommes dans l'imbécillité politique collective. »

François the Greek

Claude Guéant, who apparently fears unemployment if his boss is ousted in May, attacked François Hollande's management of the finances of la Corrèze, where he heads the regional council:
"Hollande est à la tête de la Corrèze, qui est la Grèce de la France."
Le Monde has looked into the case, however, and found that Hollande has actually done a pretty good job of managing the region's finances, which were left in a shambles by his predecessor, Jean-Pierre Dupont of the UMP.

JDD Sues L'Express, Martel

One doesn't often see one news outlet suing another for slander, but that's what JDD has done with L'Express. The incriminated article is by Frédéric Martel, who wrote that "Nicolas Sarkozy a mis la main sur le titre depuis plusieurs années et continue de le diriger, indirectement, à tous les étages."

Frédéric, who used to be the cultural attaché here in Boston, is a friend. One suspects a settling of scores here, since he recently published a book, J'aime pas le sarkozysme culturel, which is not tender toward Denis Olivennes, who heads the Lagardère media group that owns JDD. Frédéric also wrote a series of articles criticizing Carla Bruni's charitable foundation.

French-German Contrast

The Times compares the French and German economies by looking at border towns. The article draws a nice picture of the depressed conditions in Sélestat, but on the whole it's misleading about the relative situations of the French and German economies. The Germans have done relatively well in recent years, and over the past decade particularly, by restraining wages relative to productivity, increasing their competitiveness and boosting their export sector. But in the long run they face a worse demographic problem than France. The Mittelstand--German small and medium enterprise--is indeed a distinctive German strength, but the French economy also has its strong areas; they are different but not inferior. France also has a distinctive advantage in energy costs. I don't have time to develop these arguments here, but I'll post a few graphs that are clearer than the graphs in the article and tell a different story to those who can read them. These show the dependency ratio (over-55 to working-age population), relative GDP, unit labor costs, and unemployment.

A New Human Right

Nicolas Sarkozy has invented a new human right: the right to know how one's meat has been slaughtered:
Abordant la nourriture halal, M. Sarkozy a ainsi déclaré : "Reconnaissons à chacun le droit de savoir ce qu'il mange, halal ou non" et a demandé "l'étiquetage des viandes en fonction de la méthode d'abattage".
This is curious indeed. The French, ces fins gourmets, can't detect the difference between halal and non-halal meats with their palates, apparently, so they are being asked to make the difference palpable with their ballots. Is there a fear that one can be turned into a Muslim by eating halal meat? What about the right to know whether one's meat has been killed humanely, laced with antibiotics and growth hormones, or handled properly from abattoir to retail outlet? These are modern issues, clearly less important in right-wing politics than tribal atavisms.

Claude Guéant has taken the argument a step further: if one gives the right to vote to foreigners, they may impose the use of halal meat in the school cafeteria. Of course some Muslims are French citizens, so they already have the right to vote and elect local councils that might be majority Muslim, yet the mass conversion of French Catholics via the school cafeteria has yet to occur. Still, no xenophobic fear is too remote to go unraised in a presidential campaign.

How low can one stoop?