Saturday, October 13, 2012

Tocqueville in China

So I'm told:

First there was Confucius. Then there was Mao Zedong. And now Alexis de Tocqueville tops the must-read list for avid Chinese intellectuals and bloggers.

The UMP Dogfight

I'm not sure that Claude Guéant's support for François Fillon is an advantage in his fight with J.-F. Copé or not. One might have expected Guéant, who supported the droitisation of the UMP in Sarkozy's last year, to have gone with Copé, who seems to have committed himself to extending the tactic. But Guéant, a bureaucrat at heart, may find Fillon's understated style more congenial. Who knows? Politics, like romantic comedy, is a matter of chemistry. With supporters like Guéant and Baroin in his camp, Fillon had better watch his back, but then I suppose that back-watching is part of the job description of party leadership. This contest has now been running about as long as a presidential campaign. It's time for a vote.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Lecture Canceled

As announced here earlier, I was to give a lecture at CEVIPOF in Paris on October 26. Unfortunately, a medical issue has arisen that will prevent me from traveling for a bit, and I've had to cancel that lecture. My apologies to anyone who took the trouble to register. I will also have to suspend blogging for a while from Tuesday, Oct. 16, while I recuperate. Thanks for your support.

Badke's books: Research processes and Research Strategies

Badke, W. (2012) Teaching Research Processes: The Faculty Role in the Development of Skilled Student Researchers. Oxford: Chandos; New York: Neal-Schuman. ISBN: 9781843346746
The book "suggests a novel way in which information literacy can come within the remit of teaching faculty, supported by librarians, and reconceived as "research processes." The aim is to transform education from what some see as a primarily one-way knowledge communication practice, to an interactive practice involving the core research tasks of subject disciplines." Info here.
Also just a reminder that there is a free online abridged version of William Badke's Research strategies (updated March 2012). The full book is available in print and e-book versions:
Badke, W. (2011) Research Strategies: Finding Your Way Through the Information Fog. 4th ed. ISBN-13: 978-1462010172
The website with details of the publication and the abridged web version is at

EU Wins Nobel Peace Prize

Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize before he had done anything. The prize to the EU seems like the opposite: a sort of lifetime achievement award (overlooking a few mishaps such as Srbrenica and Kosovo). Europe may be collapsing, but it's not at war. In this light, the prize, while somewhat pointless, is not absurd. But it must seem a rather bitter pill to everyone but the fatuous José Manuel Barroso, who was crowing about the award this morning. Europe would do better to take care of its problems than to sit on its laurels.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Information Literacies Track call for papers

There is an information literacies conference track for the eighth International Conference on Conceptions of Library and Information Science (CoLIS8). COLIS 2013 takes place at the Royal School of Library and Information Science in Copenhagen, Denmark, 19-22 August, 2013. The call is for short or long papers presenting empirical research within information literacies and/or discussjng methodological issues. The deadline for submissions is March 1st 2013. Among the accepted papers on information literacies, one paper will be awarded the inaugural iilresearch Best Information Literacies Paper Award. The call for papers is at and the COLIS conference web site is at Questions regarding the workshop should be directed to Camilla Moring, member of the iilresearch-network and Local chair ( General queries regarding submissions should be directed to Jeppe Nicolaisen (, Chair of Publications and Proceedings.
Photo by Sheila Webber: duck, Sheffield, October 2012

This Is Not a Tabloid or a Scandal Sheet

Nevertheless, as Tolstoy observed, gossip is an essential part of human existence, and there is some gossip that is too juicy to ignore in a fit of high-mindedness.

Incoherence in Economic Policymaking

France has just approved the TSCG, ex-Merkozy, essentially signing on to the austerity bandwagon. At the same time, the IMF has issued its World Economic Outlook, which points out that austerity has already failed and is in fact making matters worse. The incoherence in global economic policymaking could not be more complete. And meanwhile, the US is preparing to fall off the fiscal cliff.

Here is Christine Lagarde's warning:

Christine Lagarde has urged countries to put a brake on austerity measures amid signs that the IMF is becoming increasingly concerned about the impact of government cutbacks on growth. Ms Lagarde, IMF managing director, cautioned against countries front-loading spending cuts and tax increases. “It’s sometimes better to have a bit more time,” she said at the annual meetings of the IMF and the World Bank on Thursday.
The fund warned earlier this week that governments around the world had systematically underestimated the damage done to growth by austerity.
Lagarde gets it, which should give pause to those who blame this crisis on "neoliberalism." If there were such a thing as a neoliberal consensus, the IMF would have to be part of it. But the IMF has gone off in a different direction under the leadership of Lagarde. The WEO contained this graph, which has now been widely reproduced in the blogosphere:

 Paul Krugman explains:

I and others have been arguing for a while that the experience of austerity in the eurozone clearly suggests pretty big Keynesian effects. Here, for example, is what a scatterplot of fiscal consolidation (from the IMF Fiscal Monitor) and growth (including an estimate for next year, from the World Economic Outlook) looks like.
But, you might object, maybe the causation runs the other way; maybe countries in trouble are forced into fiscal consolidation, so it’s not the austerity what did it. But the IMF has an answer to that: it looks at forecast errors versus austerity. Part of the reason for doing this is to figure out why things are going so much worse than expected; but there’s also the fact that the forecasts already included the known problems of the economies in question, so that you’re more or less getting an estimate of the impact of austerity over and above the known problems (and the initially assumed effect of austerity, which was supposed to be small).
Here, "IMF" really means IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard and economist Daniel Leigh, the authors of "Box 1.1" in the WEO (which can be downloaded here). They argue that the "multiplier" in the world's deleveraging economies is much larger than previously thought, indeed greater than one. Hence fiscal expansion adds more than €1 to GDP for every additional euro of government spending and subtracts more than €1 for every euro slashed by zealous budget cutters. This could make the goal of returning to equilibrium an infinite regress: for every step governments think they are taking toward it, the goal actually recedes by a greater distance. That is why Christine Lagarde is warning of the dangers of a downward spiral into depression. The risk is not negligible, but political systems throughout the developed world seem absolutely incapable of recognizing it. Instead, we slouch toward serfdom.

Sarko le Barbu

Ex-Pres. Sarkozy has grown a beard, as you may have heard. No, he hasn't converted to Islam. Roselyne Bachelot thinks that he will keep the beard as long as he is content to remain out of politics, but the minute he ends his "retirement," the beard will come off.

In any case, he has been talking with reporters about his successors at both the Élysée and the UMP. About Hollande, apparently, he speaks only in mimed gestures: rolled eyes, shrugged shoulders, etc. "Il sait que ses propos sont immédiatement répercutés et qu'un manque d'élégance pourrait lui coûter cher dans l'opinion.:" But it seems that concern about lack of elegance doesn't hold him back when discussing François Fillon: he "has no balls," Sarko says of his former "collaborator." He's just a bourgeois from the Sarthe and will never win the presidency because he doesn't have what it takes to talk to "le peuple."

Take it for what it's worth, folks. Is this a covert endorsement of Copé? It's odd that Sarkozy has no harsh words for JFC, since there was no love lost between the two during his presidency. Maybe he views Copé as a stalking horse for ... himself. If and when he decides to make a comeback, a UMP droitisée by Copé would be a more suitable vehicle than a UMP bourgeoisifiée by Fillon, and Copé, who is running as Sarko bis, would be easier to dislodge than Fillon, however emasculated.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Open Education video winners

Creative Commons together with the U.S. Department of Education, and the Open Society Foundation had a competition to create short videos about open education, and these are worth a look (I liked the 3rd prize winner best). My only quibble would be that some of them seem to equate open education with Open Educational Resources (whereas I think there is more to education than providing resources!)
Photo by Sheila Webber:leaf on a chair, Turku, 2008

Paris Talk

I will be speaking Paris on Oct. 26, 12:30-2 PM, at CEVIPOF. The subject is a comparison of the US and French presidential elections of 2012. Registration is required at the CEVIPOF Web site.

Le Pen Minister?

Did Nicolas Sarkozy consider offering Marine Le Pen the ministry of the interior on the eve of the final presidential debate? According to Bernard Girard, this is the message of a forthcoming book--and the proposal came from Camille Pascal, a centrist, not from one of Sarkozy more extremist advisors such as Patrick Buisson. Remarkable if true. Ã suivre.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Imaginaires, représentations, pratiques formelles et non formelles de la recherche d'information sur Internet: PhD thesis

A French-language thesis on schoolchildren's concept of internet searching has just been put online.
Cordier, A. (2011) Imaginaires, représentations, pratiques formelles et non formelles de la recherche d'information sur Internet : Le cas d'élèves de 6ème et de professeurs documentalistes. UNIVERSITÉ CHARLES DE GAULLE – LILLE III.
I did not really spend enough time with it (considering my moderate French language skills) to give a good account of what it is about, but I think it is an investigation into 11-12 year old French schoolchildren's experiences of searching the internet, contrasting this experience with what the school librarians have as their goal for information literacy teaching. The latter are urged to pay more attention to the pupil's practice with information and technology.
This is the French abstract "L'objectif de ce travail est d'apporter une meilleure connaissance des imaginaires, représentations et pratiques non formelles développées par les élèves de 6ème sur la recherche d'information sur Internet, et d'effectuer un parallèle et une confrontation avec les pratiques de formation mises en oeuvre par les professeurs documentalistes. Pour ce faire, une étude qualitative, combinant entretiens semi-directifs et observation distanciée, a été menée au sein de trois établissements scolaires français. L'adoption d‟une éco-posture pour analyser la recherche d‟information sur Internet permet de considérer les pratiques de recherche et de formation de manière située, en tenant compte des contraintes opérées par les espaces d'action identifiés. Le sentiment d'expertise personnellement ressenti en matière de recherche sur Internet joue pour les deux types d'acteurs un rôle fondamental à la fois dans l'appropriation de l'outil et dans l'appréhension des séances de formation. L'étude révèle un écart important entre les pratiques de recherche ordinaires des élèves et les pratiques prescrites par les professionnels."
Photo by Sheila Webber: yet more anemones, October 2012

TSCG Adopted

The TSCG has been approved by a vote of 477 to 70, with 282 deputies of the Left voting in favor. In other words, the treaty would not have passed without the support of the Right. Not a brilliant victory for Hollande, but a victory, since he has now committed himself to getting along with Germany. For better or worse, he now owns what used to be called "Merkozy."

Frechman Shares Nobel Prize for Physics

Serge Haroche shared this year's Nobel Prize for Physics for his work in quantum optics.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Workshop / Atelier

“Attunement and Empathic Reflection”

Workshop with Megan English

on Saturday October 20th, 13h-17h

dans le studio « A » des Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal

4816 rue Rivard, Montréal H2J 2N6


Megan English is a Dance Movement Psychotherapist in private practice in Toronto. Over the past few years, Megan has worked towards spreading the word about Dance Movement

George Kuh article for discussion in October

The article which the ACRL Student Retention Discussion Group has chosen for October is:
Kuh, G. and Gonyea, R.M. (2003) The Role of the Academic Library in Promoting Student Engagement in Learning. College and Research Libraries, 64(4), 256-282.
To join the discussion, go to
George Kuh is an influential figure in US Higher Education, and I think that this article is still worth reading (whether or not you decide to join in the debate!) The authors took data from the College Student Experiences Questionnaire and compared various sets of questions including the set of questions relating to library use, some key questions to do with satisfaction, and a set of questions which they selected as being a (sort of) match with ACRL standards.
The authors make some pertinent remarks about how important variables to do with previous academic achievement, ethnicity etc. are, when trying to link library use with academic success, something which some other studies gloss over.
The evidence does not support an easy correlation between academic excellence and library use, or library use and (the authors' measure of) information literacy. The final paragraph reads:
"The findings of this study indicate that it takes a whole campus to produce an information-literate college graduate. For this reason, librarians would do well to redouble their efforts to collaborate with faculty members, instructional development staff, and student affairs professionals in promoting the value of information literacy in various in-class and out-of-class activities and to provide students with as many opportunities as possible to evaluate the quality of the information they encounter, on and off the campus."
Photo by Sheila Webber: Autumn arriving, Sheffield, October 2012

Sciences Po Management Criticized

The management of Sciences Po during the era of Richard Descoings's directorship, has been harshly criticized by the Cour des Comptes.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Information Literacy petition

There is an online information literacy petition from Easybib - the implication is that it is for librarians in the USA, but it doesn't actually say that, so.... This is what it is about
"In celebration of Information Literacy Awareness Month, we have set up an online pledge for librarians to sign and show their commitment to teaching these imperative skills. For each signature acquired on the pledge, EasyBib will donate $1 to the American Library Association... If you are dedicated to teaching IL skills and would like to sign our pledge, please following this URL: (You do not need to register for an account in order to sign.) The free service used for this campaign, iPetitions, may ask you after you have signed our pledge to provide an optional donation to them. If you see this, just close out of your browser window--your name has been recorded and you are in no way obligated to donate any money"
Photo by Sheila Webber: Autumn leaf (photoshopped) October 2012

Crashed Aquilla Lander Completed

Good afternoon and thank you for joining us again at Nurgle favored cupboard. Now firstly I will apologise for being away for some time now, but some as you know I have had an entire house to decorate and let me tell you it is not fun. Most of that has now been done and the time I have had I have finished my crashed Aquilla lander.

I purchased  some Vallejo gloss varnish to paint over the glass sections once I had finished protect coating the piece with Army Painter's Matt Varnish spray. I think the end result has turned out rather well and I am pleased with the 'glass' effect I achieved  The only thing I don't like is the 'smiling faces' you will see in image below. It almost as if a lone guardsmen survived the crash and is beaming a smile outwards from the glass. 'Haha! You didn't kill me. The emperor is watching over me!'. Also as you can see below I ended up going for a golden Aquilla rather then the white one I was deliberating over.

On another note I picked up my new shiny Chaos codex today. The sultry voices from the warp are already calling me to read it entirely and decide what to buy from the new stuff, which will be hard because it all looks amazing! The new style of codex is awesome though and it well worth the extra cost. I have one of the new fantasy hardback books and they feel more sturdy.

Until the next time you grace Nurgle's favored cupboard, may Nurgles blessings fall on you.

Regionalism on the Rise

Steven Erlanger has a nice piece in The Times about the rise of regional separatist sentiment across Europe. The paradox, as he points out, is that the European Union, which is supposed to create greater solidarity among the nations of the continent, is weakening national solidarities among regions from Catalonia to Scotland. The problem at this level is Europe's problem writ small, as it were: the rich don't want to pay for the poor and don't acknowledge that they owe their less fortunate fellow citizens anything. Interestingly, we have the same problem in the United States at the individual level: those who are better off resent the taxes they pay to support those who are worse off. In Europe, the principle of the welfare state is more widely accepted as a norm, but the body of fellow citizens--what Tocqueville called semblables--to whom one recognizes a duty of solidarity is not fixed and can vary with ambient economic conditions, as we are now discovering.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


Your humble blogger was promoted yesterday to the rank of Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres. Here I am at the podium at Harvard's Center for European Studies reminiscing about 44 years as a Francophile.

Police Dismantle a "Terrorist Cell"

"A network, almost a cell" of more than a dozen people, said to be "delinquents" converted to "radical Islam," has been dismantled by police. One man was killed, ten others were arrested, and two or three remain on the loose. The network was spread across France from Strasbourg to the Alpes-Maritimes. Ties to Salafism were noted.

Le Pen au Chocolat

Jean-François Copé is having a hard time establishing himself as Sarkozy's successor and heir apparent. It's bad enough that he has to fend off a challenge from François Fillon. But on top of that he just can't seem to get hold of the right rhetoric to prove that he is now in fact the incarnation of la droite décomplexée, the role in which his recent eponymous "Manifesto" cast him. So he's gone poaching in the Var, Le Pen country, where he came out with his now famous paean to le pain au chocolat:

« Il est des quartiers où je peux comprendre l’exaspération de certains de nos compatriotes, pères ou mères de famille rentrant du travail le soir et apprenant que leur fils s’est fait arracher son pain au chocolat à la sortie du collège par des voyous qui lui expliquent qu’on ne mange pas pendant le ramadan. »
This gem packs a lot into a small space: it manages to imply that the criminal element (voyous) coincides with Ramadan-celebrating Muslims who terrorize small children and deprive them of that quintessential snack of le Français de souche, le pain au chocolat.

This rather lame emulation of Lepenist rhetoric unleashed a torrent of laughter on Twitter. The title of this post is taken from one of those mocking tweets. Others can be read here. Like many imitators, Copé assumes that the original he seeks to copy is easily imitable. In the case of the Le Pens, it isn't.

Friday, October 5, 2012

WILU 2013: call for papers

There is a call for papers for the Canadian Information Literacy conference: WILU. The Conference will be held at The University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, May 8-10, 2013. The theme for WILU 2013 is Synchronicity: The Time is Now which "reflects the increasing need for Instruction Librarians to balance a myriad of seemingly competing demands. We invite proposals that consider what it means to provide timely information literacy programs in a world of synched devices, decentralized instruction, and information overload, all while serving institutions in flux." Possible topics include: Merging tradition with innovation; Balancing educational theory with pedagogical practice; Providing instruction for interdisciplinary programs; Theorizing instructional technology; Distributed instruction; Information ethics; Open access resources for instruction; Literacies: information and beyond. The deadline for proposal submissions is December 3rd, 2012. More info at
Photo by Sheila Webber: yet more autumn anemones, October 2013

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Private Equity Threatens to Leave France

Private equity firms are threatening to leave France because of Hollande's 75% marginal tax on high incomes, which will apparently apply to "carried interest," the private-equity term for gains by fund managers. Some 280 such firms are housed in Paris, and France is the second-largest European market for leveraged buyouts, after Britain, according to the Bloomberg report.

Entrepreneurs in (mostly high-tech) startups have also protested other proposed changes in the French tax code. The government's announcement of reduced charges on firms' payrolls may have been rushed to counter these attacks from self-styled pigeons. See Bernard Girard's comment here. And see also FT Alphaville here.

Just give me 10 minutes… online talk at 3pm UK time today

At 3pm today (UK time) there is a free online talk "Just give me 10 minutes…” Information Literacy in the Age of Web-Scale Discovery from Alison Sharman at the University of Huddersfield, UK. This is part of a webinar series from Serials Solutions, a ProQuest company. There are further talks with a searching/ information literacy theme; e.g. on The Impact of Serial Solutions’ Summon on Information Literacy Instruction: Librarian Perceptions from Stefanie Buck and Margaret Mellinger of Oregon State University Libraries on 11 October 2012 at 6pm UK time (1pm Eastern time USA). For information about the whole series
Photo by Sheila Webber: Coffee morning in the iSchool on behalf of Macmillan Cancer Care last week

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

United We Stand / L’union fait la force

United We Stand: Towards Professional

Empowerment of the Creative Arts Therapies

A lecture by David Read Johnson, PhD, RDT-BCT

Professor of psychology at Yale University

Director of the Institute for the Arts in Psychotherapy, 

New York City 

Internationally-known drama therapist

The lecture will be followed by a panel discussion with local representatives from art therapy, drama

Intergenerational Literacies: call for papers

The IFLA Literacy and Reading and Information Literacy Sections are seeking proposals for a joint programme to be held at the IFLA Conference in Singapore in August 2013: Intergenerational Literacies: texto / techno. The closing date is November 30 2012.

The challenge of new information and learning landscape can lead to all sorts of information gaps. One of them is a gap between texto and techno generations which can cause intergenerational isolation and separation. The program will showcase innovative and effective library programmes that intend to bridge this gap.
Proposals are requested for as many as ten tabletop presentations which will be given simultaneously. After an opening plenary keynote address, audience members will rotate to three different fifteen-minute presentations of their choice. Presenters will therefore be asked to repeat their presentation three times for three different sets of people.

Proposals chosen for presentation will be specific about how libraries and/or associations have tackled issues related to texto and techno literacies in their particular setting, thus developing intergenerational literacies, dialogue, digital inclusion and social cohesion. They should be grounded in theory, research, and/or practical applications. Because these projects will be presented in an informal, small group setting, speakers should plan some visual accompaniment such as a poster that can be set up on the table. Presenters may also want to bring brochures or flyers to hand out. People submitting successful proposals will be asked to write a brief paper summarizing their library programme or project for publication in the IFLA Proceedings. All chosen presenters will be listed in the official Conference programme.

Proposals in English are required, and should provide the following information: Name and institution of speaker(s); Brief biographical information; Proposal title; Brief (300 to 500 word) description of project and presentation format; Language of presentation. Proposals should be sent to Elena Corradini (Secretary of the Literacy and Reading Section) at by November 30, 2012. Please indicate "IFLA Proposal WLIC 2013" on the subject line. Finalists will be notified by December 15, 2012, and will be expected to submit final versions of their papers in one of the official IFLA languages by May 15, 2013.

For more information, please contact Leikny Haga Indergaard (Chair of Literacy and Reading Section) at: Please note that it is the speakers’ responsibility to find funding for their participation.
Photo by Sheila Webber: autumn anemones, September 2012

France's Absence from the European Debate

Jean Quatremer reinforces a point I've been making for some time now: François Hollande is failing to propose a strategy for European integration capable of inflecting Germany's wish to impose its own vision of Europe:
Alors que la France, tel un célèbre village gaulois, se querelle sur le traité d’union budgétaire, ses partenaires ont depuis longtemps tourné la page et préparent activement le coup d’après, celui du saut « fédéral » que devra effectuer la zone euro afin de donner un gouvernement à sa monnaie unique. C’est encore une fois l’Allemagne qui mène la danse. Elle use non seulement de sa puissance économique, la seule qui impressionne les marchés, mais elle profite aussi du vide politique laissé par François Hollande, un chef de l’État qui semble paralysé par les contradictions de sa majorité. Angela Merkel lui a confié, en juin dernier, qu’elle avait bien l’intention de lancer en décembre prochain le processus menant à une réforme en profondeur des traités européens, processus qui devrait aboutir en 2014. Et depuis, elle martèle, comme elle l’a encore fait le 17 septembre, que « c’est absolument le bon moment pour de coopération politique en Europe ». « C’est consternant », note un haut fonctionnaire européen : « le décalage entre le débat politique français et les discussions européennes est total. Encore une fois, la classe politique française va se réveiller dans deux ans, quand tout aura été bouclé ».
The likely result is all too predictable: Germany will have its way, and France will be obliged to accept, reluctantly, the German vision of Europe, which is based entirely on budgetary discipline and not at all on a coordinated growth agenda. To be sure, it is not clear that France would prevail if it were to press for a different outcome. Probably it would not. But its absence from the debate is distressing, and will only reinforce the arguments of the anti-Europe forces gathering to Hollande's left and right. See also this second piece by Quatremer for more on this theme.

Continuity: "Sarkozy n'a pas fait que des conneries."

Now it's official: Hollande's competitiveness policy is in a direct line of descent from Sarkozy's:

"Sarkozy n'a pas fait que des conneries. Il s'est trompé en voulant faire les choses de manière précipitée et en choisissant la TVA, mais réduire les cotisations famille n'est pas idiot", reconnaît un conseiller qui travaille sur le sujet.
The goal is to reduce payroll taxes (in this case, cotisations familiales) paid by the employer, in the hope that the cost savings will be reflected in the selling price of manufactured goods, thus increasing French competitiveness. The tax burden formerly incident on payrolls will be spread to a much broader base, probably via the CSG. The left prefers this to the social VAT because it is less regressive, presumably, although the precise details of the new tax, not yet announced, will be important here.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

This is Information Literacy month!

Information Literacy Supporter BadgeIn the USA it is National Information Literacy Awareness Month. You can get the code to embed the badge on the right from here: If you are in the USA in one of the 13 states that has signed up to the National IL awareness Proclamation you can customise the badge to advertise that your state supports IL.
On Tuesday, 16 October 16, 2012, 10:30am – 12:00pm EST (that's starting at 3.30pm UK time, see for times elsewhere), the National Forum for Information Literacy and Credo Reference/Libraries Thriving will host a webinar From School to Workforce: Information Literacy, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills, "focusing on the 21st century skills that all learners will need to compete effectively in today’s dynamic global economy". Panelists include: Jennifer Homer, ABC – Vice President of Communications and Career Development for the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD); William Badke, Associate Librarian, Trinity Western University, Canada; Lana W. Jackman, President, National Forum on Information Literacy. There is free registration: go to

some of my daily installation of PFW for and

Comparative Demographics of France and Germany

France may be economically down at the moment compared with Germany, but Germany's demographic outlook is not good, as this article makes clear. If present trends continue, Germany's population will age rapidly, and its dependency ratio will increase sharply. Of course, immigration, boosted by the crisis, may ameliorate the picture somewhat. But the demographic outlook is one factor contributing to the high German savings rate, which in turn contributes to structural imbalances in the eurozone. It is important to keep this in mind.

Mitterrand in Massachusetts

In last night's senatorial debate between Republican Scott Brown and Democrat Elizabeth Warren, Brown borrowed a well-known zinger from François Mitterrand:

After Warren gave a long, three-part answer, plus “icing” for a total of four, about how Brown has been less bipartisan than advertised in voting against jobs bills, he let loose with this: “Excuse me, I’m not a student in your classroom. Please let me respond.”
Old-timers like me will recall that Mitterrand was widely thought to have won the 1981 presidential debate with Valéry Giscard d'Estaing (and possibly the election as well) when he responded to Giscard's attempt to trip him up on the franc-Deutschmark exchange rate with the statement:

I don't much like your tone, and I'm not your student.
Mitterrand then gave a precise figure for the exchange rate in question. His response was made even more pointed by the fact that he used the word élève in French rather than étudiant. The former refers to an elementary school pupil. He thus amplified his scorn for Giscard's hauteur, which many people already disliked.

How nice to see a Republican candidate in the US borrowing from a French socialist.

Can the Center Hold?

Bernard Girard considers Gérard Grunberg's thesis that France's future relations with Europe depends on compromise between the center-right and center-left, since both the left and the right are now irrevocably fractured over the question of further European integration. I have been saying this for some time, and Hollande's reversal on the TSCG, which he now makes the sine qua non of sound economic policy after having opposed it during his campaign, seems to me proof that such an "historic compromise" has already been effected in fact if not in theory. The problem is that I am not at all sure that it is a compromise that enjoys majority support, and what support it does enjoy is likely to diminish over the months ahead, as the consequences of austerity become increasingly apparent. This is an alarming state of affairs.

Crédit Agricole Will Sell Emporiki for 1 Euro

Crédit Agricole paid €2.2 billion for the Greek bank Emporiki in 2006. It now plans to sell the bank to the Greek bank Alpha for 1 euro. Is there anything else to say?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Saint Diam's

François Miclo comments on the ex-rapper Diam's TV appearance wearing an Islamic veil. Or, rather, he chastises other commentators for focusing on the veil and ignoring the substance of the interview, which was conversion from Catholicism to Islam and the discovery of faith:
Ce qui dérange, au fond, les commentateurs, c’est la « conversion » de la chanteuse, dans le sens le plus fort du terme : son changement radical de vie. Elle hausse la spiritualité au-delà de la gloire et du succès. Elle place les besoins de l’âme au-dessus de tout autre besoin. Elle parle de cette soif intarissable de Dieu que connaissent tous les mystiques : elle commet une provocation beaucoup plus grande pour notre temps que celles auxquelles elle se livrait quand elle était rappeuse.
Il y avait, dimanche soir, sur TF1, un peu de saint Augustin, chez cette femme-là. J’hésite à l’écrire, tellement il m’aurait semblé invraisemblable de le faire il y a quelques mois encore : il y avait, chez elle, comme de la grâce. Et puis, Diam’s s’arrêtant de chanter : n’est-ce pas la preuve la plus éblouissante de l’existence de Dieu, de sa grandeur aussi ?

Eurozone Unemployment 11.4%

Zone euro : le chômage à 11,4 % en août, à un niveau record

Plus de 18 millions de personnes étaient au chômage dans la zone euro en août, a indiqué lundi 1er octobre l'office européen de statistiques Eurostat.

Perhaps this will get the attention of European leaders. Austerity is proving calamitous. Something must be done.

LILAC 2013 call for papers

There's a call for papers for the LILAC (Information literacy) conference (being held at Manchester University, UK, 25-27 March 2013). They can take the form of: Short papers; Long papers; Workshop sessions; Symposia; Teachmeet presentations; or posters. The closing date for submissions is 16 November 2012. More information at
Photo by Sheila Webber: Lilac, 2008.

Banned Books Week

30 Sept - 6 Oct is Banned Books Week, which is obviously AGAINST banning books. There is a home page at and a Facebook page at This is a US (particularly American Library Association) organised event, but e.g. you can post your favourite "Banned" title on the Facebook page.

I am part of a Banned Books Week panel Free to read, taking place in the virtual world Second Life on 1 October at 5pm Second Life Time = US Pacific Time (1am Tuesday in the UK! see for times elsewhere) on Community Virtual Library Exhibition Area Other panel speakers on intellectual freedom are Pat Franks, Valerie Hill, Jane Bering, and Monika Talaroc.