Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sexist Robert?

Did the renowned dictionary deliberately choose female examples for many negative traits:

- Capricieux: « C’est une enfant très capricieuse » (p.145)
- Vilain: « Eve a été vilaine avec sa soeur et elle a été punie » (p.1102)
- Peste: « Quelle petite peste, cette Sarah! » (p.779)
- Peureux: « Eve est assez peureuse » (p.782)
- Inconstant: « Sarah est inconstante dans ses amitiés » (p. 537)
- Impuni: « Elle ne restera pas longtemps impunie » (p.533)
- Moqueur: « Sarah regardait les autres avec un air moqueur (p.674)
- Gourmand: « Sarah est très gourmande » (p.477)
- Insolent: « Sarah a été insolente avec l’enseignante » (p.553)
- Bavard: « Sarah est très bavarde » (p.93)
- Paresseux: « Sarah est très paresseuse, elle n’a pas fait ses devoirs » (p.751)
- Parfait: « Elle est d’une beauté parfaite » (p.751)
- Naturellement: « Les cheveux d’Eve frisent naturellement » (p.692)
- Vexer: « Sarah se vexe facilement » (p.1098)
The evidence seems clear, but say it ain't so, Robert.

La Danse des Cons

Arnaud Montebourg has a knack for self-promotion, or is it self-ridicule. Thus we have him flogging the "made in France" (étiqueté en anglais, bien sûr, pour plus d'effet) and posing for a magazine cover in marinière while holding a Moulinex blender:

This stunt would merely have made him a leading candidate for the weekly roi des cons award. After all, what politician has not at one time or another urged his fellow citizens to "buy home rather than abroad." But the European Commission, ever vigilant for apostates from the Church of Free Trade, could not resist the opportunity to turn this non-event into une danse des cons:

Le commissaire européen au commerce, Karel de Gucht, critique le protectionnisme prôné par le ministre du redressement productif, Arnaud Montebourg, et rejette la surveillance des exportations sud-coréennes réclamée par Paris dans une interview publié mardi 23 octobre par Le Figaro.
"Monsieur Montebourg s'affiche contre la mondialisation, il est protectionniste, c'est un choix. Mais son raisonnement ne tient pas la route. La France ne peut pas, seule, redistribuer les cartes du commerce mondial.", a estimé M. de Gucht, de nationalité belge.
Well, it's perhaps difficult for a Belgian to comprehend economic nationalism, since Belgium is an experiment in survival as an economy without polity. But Montebourg's Monoprix photo op is the small beer of economic nationalism, nothing compared with Villepin's adventures in this arena. When it comes time for the Socialists to choose a new standard bearer, we will see which of today's contenders has chosen the more successful strategy. Will it be Montebourg's parlaying of a nothing ministry into an instrument for staging a presence in a bewildering variety of contexts? Or will it be Valls's more severely classical dramatization of the role of minister of the interior as guarantor of the ordinary citizen's security? Or Moscovici's epicurean self-delight at having graduated to the cour des grands, where he can pose as serious steward of the nation's finances? Or someone else entirely. Some student of French presidentialism should collect the high points of each man's parcours: we are being given an education in the uses of various portfolios in presidential image-making.

Indeed, I would go even farther and say that Hollande's failure to build an image of himself as president prior to assuming office has proved a handicap now that he is in it. He seems not quite sure of his marks, as one would say in the theater, and inevitably looks slightly out of place whenever he tries to fill the stage.

Le Président Thaumaturge

The "hyperpresident" Sarkozy earned that epithet in part because of his hypercaffeinated personality but mainly due to his omnipresence at critical events large and small, from global and regional crises to faits divers of everyday life. François Hollande, the erstwhile "normal" president, apparently feels the need for an image boost to lift his sagging ratings, hence he has been popping up in unexpected places. A woman in labor suffers a mishap on the way to a distant emergency room and there is the president, calling for hospitals closed by Sarkozy to be reopened. It was the sort of shoot-from-the-hip reaction to the fizz of publicity for which many critics reproached Sarkozy. Of course, Sarkozy was saved from many of his more extravagant follies by an almost total lack of follow-through. Hollande may be different in that regard, although budgetary constraints may take the place of fecklessness in his eventual record.

But has this hyperpresidentialism become a structural component of the modern executive? Pierre Rosanvallon has argued that a "democracy of proximity" imposes on leaders the role of accompanying citizens through individual traumas that can be read as symbols of fundamental social issues. A recidivist thus becomes an occasion for considering the flaws of the penal system, while a mother in labor serves as the pretext for pondering the maldistribution of health care resources in France. There is nothing inherently wrong with such executive responsiveness to the quotidian, even if it does suggest a sort of ambulance-chasing practice of national governance.

Does the Bundesbank Want Out of the Euro?

Paul de Grauwe, who is as prominent an expert on European political economy as there is, speculates that the Bundesbank opposes the ECB's outright monetary transactions (OMT), without which there is no salvation for the euro, because it, the Bundesbank, has always opposed the euro project and is trying to lay the groundwork for a German exit, after which the Bundesbank would again be primus inter pares among European central banks, rather than a handmaiden of the ECB.