Monday, January 19, 2015

An Apology

Yesterday, this blog was inundated with obnoxious comments from an unknown source. I deleted them, but in doing so I inadvertently deleted one comment by Bert, a regular reader. I regret this. I do not as a rule censor comments on the blog, but these were both offensive and unsightly, so I got rid of them. Apologies to Bert. Unfortunately, there is no way to undo a deletion.

Marine Le Pen Begins Her Long March through the AMERICAN Institutions

With an op-ed in the Times, quoting Camus, no less, and an interview in the Wall Street Journal, Marine Le Pen has shrewdly set out to persuade American opinion that she is the rampart against European terrorism that Americans want and need.

Mme Le Pen's rhetoric is impeccable. She seizes the occasion of the terrorist attacks to claim that she was right all along--about everything: border controls, the euro, the nature of Islam, the fecklessness of French elites, the identity of UMP and PS, the loss of French identity, the tragedy of the EU, the ravages of globalization, etc. And suddenly she is respectable. The Times plays her game by giving her a forum; the WSJ blandly repeats her claim that she has "been ahead of others in sounding the alarm against anti-Semitism."

Useful idiots? Or useless idiocy? I suppose the great organs of our press have decided to make good their ringing endorsements of free speech by according a platform to a political leader whose ideas they deplore. Such an honorable intention--but you know what they say about honorable intentions.

A Great Leap Forward?

In the wake of the terror attacks, François Hollande's popularity has jumped from 13 to 40 percent in a matter of weeks--a historic record. Is this a Great Leap Forward, to borrow a phrase from the late Great Helmsman, or a confirmation of Michel Houellebecq's prediction that Hollande would win re-election in 2017 only to lead his country to its ultimate Berezina in 2022?

As we Americans saw on 9/11, a terror attack can do strange things to a nation's psyche. Democratic judgment, fallible in the best of times, falls prey to the demons of mass psychology. In a consensus of generalized fear and suspicion, few are willing to say, "That way madness lies." Thus far, at least, Hollande has committed no major faults. Many commentators are saying that the events gave him an opportunity to embody the presidential function in a way that has hitherto eluded him. Frankly, I think incarnation is in the eye of the beholder. Hollande has thus far taken no major decisions, unless it was the decision to kill the attackers, which his press service has let it be known was an order issued by him personally. This was not a challenging decision. Those that remain are.

What we still don't know is whether the events of the past two weeks will have affected the balance of power in Europe. Frau Merkel, now facing the dangerous anti-Islam Pegida movement at home, showed unusual emotion when she came to mourn in Paris. At last the two most important leaders in Europe have been forced to take off their accountants' eye-shades and stare at bodies rather than the bottom line. The experience may have reminded them that their economic decisions have implications for the health of the body politic that do not appear in the spreadsheets presented to them by their finance ministers. Since they are facing a new form of terrorism, perhaps they will recognize in time that what is required is not a war on terror but a rigorous exercise regime. They need to recondition their bodies politic. It won't be easy. No pain, no gain. But it's time to get off the starvation diet and start pumping iron. I'd best stop now, before the calisthenic metaphors run away with me. But you get the idea.