Just *Forget* Charlie Hebdo!

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

WHY oh WHY do we have to look to Quebec for a little bit of contemporary wisdom?

6JANCharlie
Translated: Is it really necessary to commemorate the Charlie Hebdo attacks, as it seems France is doing all this week? In fact, the writer here, Nathalie Goulet, is from France, she is a member of the French Senate for the center-right party UDI and Vice-President of a government commission investigating how best to fight jihadist networks.

These Charlie Hebdo anniversary ceremonies, she makes clear, are not the way to carry that fight forward. What are terrorists looking to achieve, after all? What might those key elements be that transform them from angry young men thinking of causing mayhem to gun-toters ready to carry that out?

. . . what these murderers are looking for, other than to promote a violent ideology and to oppose our values, is a moment of glory: they are searching for acknowledgement from their mentors, from their friends and those helots [low-lifes] who surround them.

It’s inexhaustible media coverage and especially official ceremonial attention – repeating year after year – which gives them exactly what they want, and thereby also attracts future candidate-terrorists looking for their own chance to go down in a blaze of glory.

Within this international bond of terrorist crimes, what sort of effects can these images of the Charlie anniversary have, other than to reinforce their conviction that they have attained their aim? To cast families into endless mourning, create a security psychosis, divide society, make more fragile the [French] Republic which then forgets here and there its founding principles of Liberté Egalité Fraternité . . .

Yes, of course. Yet there’s another reason to drastically tone down or even cancel outright these sorts of commemorations. (And I’m also looking at you, 13 November 2016!) All you have to do is recall images of that parade through Paris last year after the Charlie Hebdo attacks – you remember, with French President Hollande there in the middle of a menagerie of other world leaders in the front row. The vast majority of those leaders were implicated in some way with harassment of journalists and restriction of freedom of the press in their own countries, even while this solemn Paris parade was supposed to be a celebration and defense of press freedom as expressed in the slogan “Je suis Charlie.”

In short, we also need rather less of these ceremonies because, through craven government cynicism as abetted public ignorance, they run too much danger of becoming gigantic exercises in hypocrisy.

By the way, if the French government still wants to indulge in such ceremonies, could it at least get the spelling of the victims’ names on the plaque correct?

UPDATE: Here’s what I mean about the sheer “Je Suis Charlie” hypocrisy, from Glenn Greenwald: France Spends Last Year Crushing Free Speech.

In all the many years I’ve worked in defense of free speech, I’ve never seen the principle so blatantly exploited for other ends by people who plainly don’t believe in it as was true of the Hebdo killings. It was as transparent as it was dishonest.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Armored Hostage-Saving

Friday, January 9th, 2015

On this Friday mid-day the European press (and the French press in particular, as is understandable) is going crazy on social media about the stand-off with the Charlie Hebdo murderers at some industrial park to the north-east of Paris. Just now Le Figaro came up with the following:

tank
A tank! Note that this French paper had to give credit to the actual photo to the English, namely @Telegraph.

But wait! Following a few minutes afterwards:

Tanknotcert
“The nature of the vehicle is not certain. We will give you subsequent information as they are confirmed.”

Of course that is a tank! The first Twitter-commentator there, a certain François, suggests that it is an AMX-10 RC, but that can’t be right since what we see in the picture seems to be a tracked vehicle, whereas the AMX-10 RC is an armored car, a wheeled vehicle.

But these are mere details for the military enthusiast. More relevant is that all news reports agree that these fugitive militants have taken at least one hostage. What are the French authorities doing bringing in a tank to resolve a hostage situation?! That is more likely to worsen the situation than to make it better: the gunmen will be more ready to shoot their hostage when they contemplate being on the receiving-end of the massive cannon they see there on the vehicle.

Reports that some 88,000 police/soldiers had been mobilized to conduct the manhunt were bad enough. But now it seems the French police are starting to head along the same infamous path, brought out into the light with the Ferguson, MO disturbances of last August, of the over-militarization of the police that we see already in America.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Charlie Hebdo: The Stark Viewpoint

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

For any sort of publication that puts “Euro” in its name, it would now seem that some sort of reaction to the massacre of the staff at the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo is expected, even required. I think I do have something to offer along those lines, boosted by the usual multi-lingual monitoring of the European press that I have been able to do since yesterday. As usual, I’ll try to shy away from any conventional wisdom; I apologize that that probably means that my slant is on the pessimistic side.

1) The attackers will achieve their objectives. Well, they already achieved their tactical objectives, in that it seems they managed to kill all of the skilled cartoonists (I believe there were four of them) there at the magazine. They managed this via the simple expedient of research to connect names and faces, combined with what appears to be some skilled use in wielding AK-47s to overcome security guards armed only with pistols.

By “objectives,” however, what I really mean is what we can presume were their more strategic objectives of deterring anyone who might want to insult the Prophet Mohamed in print in the future. (However, see also below.) Yes, I know that everyone is hammering on now about the need to protect free speech, in government pronouncements and in innumerable demonstrations around the world, most of them on some cold public square. But that is different from stepping up again to take up the flag of the “cause” of insulting Islam, one aspect of asserting one’s free speech. That sort of courage is rare; it’s the sort of courage that cannot reasonably be requested from anyone, including journalists or cartoonists who in most cases have not signed on to living every work-day with the dread of someone storming into their offices firing an automatic weapon. News reports from France today indicated that other big-name French newspapers (Le Monde, Libération, etc.) are ready to step in to provide funds and resources to get Charlie Hebdo back on its feet. That’s fine – but will they provide substitute writers and cartoonists to take up their places on the firing-line as well? I think not; I think those will be quite slow to come forward, if at all, since everyone will quite reasonably be intimidated – and so the attackers will win. (Indeed, at the personal level they may never even be caught.)

A related point: Let’s say that reasonably competent new writers and cartoonists with the right sort of attitude do come forward. What are the French authorities then supposed to do to protect them, and any other news publication which may want to indulge in offending fanatics? Post guards with sufficient firepower to have a chance against the next set of attackers to come along? No, we don’t want that as a society, we don’t want to be living perpetually in an armed camp. Nonetheless, something like that may happen anyway, and such incidents will inevitably provide further licence to government campaigns to further restrict civil liberties, to enlarge their surveillance over citizens (well, over everybody), and indeed possibly even to start torturing (or else to resume/broaden their torture activities – as in the USA, for example – if they have already been indulging). You can call this the “9/11 Effect”; people are scared again and, after all, you can’t exercise your civil liberties if you are dead. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Asterix to French History

Friday, December 5th, 2014

Anyone else out there into the Asterix & Obelix cartoons? It’s true that these cartoon tales of plucky Celtic warriors beating back the Romans in ancient Gaul were originally French, but they soon went international, with the requisite translations, and now seem to rival even Peanuts as an ongoing commercial vehicle for all sorts of lucrative tie-ins.

Astrix & Obelix originally meant Goscinny & Uderzo, the story-writer and cartoonist, respectively, but all that commercial money has been smoothing the retirement only of Albert Uderzo (now 87) for the longest time, as Goscinny died back in 1977. (The latter’s Wikipedia entry states he died “during a routine stress test at his doctor’s office” – whoops!) Uderzo recently re-emerged in public for an interview on the French radio station Europe 1.

Uderzo
The highlight of that interview was when he was asked “Which politician could incarnate Asterix?” His answer:

Maybe Asterix resembles the President of the Republic. He’s a person who doesn’t attach any great importance to what people say about him and who just goes on his merry way.

Curious! Could the Europe 1 producers have succeeded in enticing to their studio a representative of the 5% or so of the French electorate which stills supports François Hollande? It’s clear that, among the vast majority of the rest, President Hollande evokes rather less flattering images, most notably those of the tabloid-photo variety of someone riding a motorscooter with a silly helmet on his head, having slipped out the Elysée palace to go meet his mistress in the neighborhood, as it apparently was his wont to do roughly a year ago.

Still, it’s possible that Uderzo is indeed a Hollande fan, as he also displayed in the interview his rather low view of his countrymen. “The French don’t like success,” he declared on-air. “They envy success. They always find something so they can say that it’s no good.” And as evidence Uderzo mentioned the latest Asterix album he brought out (now on his own), Asterix Among the Picts, which in the end sold quite well in the face of mostly negative reviews.

As for drawing, he admitted “I don’t feel so much like it anymore. I have done so many [drawings]!” As I said, he’s 87 years old: he deserved to be done with all that long ago.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Bosses’ Ras-Le-Bol

Friday, November 7th, 2014

Truly, it is the Autumn of Discontent in Europe. That’s why that phrase up in the headline might be a handy one to learn. It’s French of course: ras-le-bol, or “enough” as in “I/We’ve had enough!” People are unhappy with their governments and are taking to the streets. Just yesterday marchers representing Belgian unions flooded through downtown Brussels, while a minority topped off the day by setting fire to cars and skirmishing with the police. Such demonstrations are set to continue there today, while the Antwerp dockworkers and their local labor brethren are set to do the same there on November 24th.

Now that we’re talking about protesting crowds flooding the streets, the French surely cannot be far behind. Things are not going very well there economically either, and sure enough:

RasLeBol
Even if you don’t know French, you can make out the word décembre there: they’re going to hold their fire until December. But wait: the next words after that are le patronat, and that means “bosses,” not “workers.” (And indeed, that fat-cat in the suit there does not look very proletarian.)

But things are going bad for these guys, too, at least according to the vice-president of one large (French) employers’ organization (Medef), Geoffroy Roux:

One SME boss kills himself every two days, the treasuries are bone-dry, business bankruptcies are up and the government adds practically every day a little tax here, a measure increasing complexity there, so there is really a sense of “Enough!” [ras-le-bol!].

The plan is for things to truly go down on 1 December, when most of the various French employers’ associations are calling upon small business-owners to “hit the streets,” both in Paris and in Toulouse. But really: can it be true that French bosses will display their anger with the same sort of mass demonstrations (with occasional violence) that working-class organizations use?

That M. Roux I previously quoted declared in a TV interview that, yes, “some will perhaps hit the streets” on 1 December, but that there will also be meetings and témoignages, which literally translates as “testimonials.”

There’s another way these business organizations will mobilize to get what they want, too. M. Roux does not include it in his list, but the Le Monde writer (uncredited) does give it a mention: stepping up their institutional lobbying.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Can Leopard Shed French Spots?

Monday, September 15th, 2014

As I mentioned previously, the main tone I could detect within the European press in reaction to the announcement last week of the specific personnel and assignments of the new Juncker Commission team (to take office – barring any problems with confirmation before the Parliament – on NOV 1) was along these lines:

Seriously
And with that I thought that the topic was exhausted. Not quite, though: one of the Brussels correspondents of the leading Dutch business daily Het Financiële Dagblad, Ulko Jonker, points out a particular aspect of that “fox guarding henhouses” syndrome that I had not realized, and that is too full of import to be left unmentioned. (Link is behind a paywall with a limited number of articles free per month for non-subscribers.)

Right then, Jonker’s list of EU Commissioner oddities includes:

  • The British commissioner in charge of bringing London to heel with Brussels’ financial regulations;
  • “[T]he Greek who has to carry out migration policy” (Actually, this was very smart: Greece is one of the main EU member-states charged with holding the line against illegal immigrants – principally along its short border with Turkey – so why not put the Greek Commissioner in charge?);
  • “[T]he Hungarian who can explain about citizens’ rights” (Aha, I did note this puzzling paradox in my previous post, it seems at least some elements of the Fourth Estate are taking note of Hungary’s creeping authoritarianism.);
  • “[T]he German illiterate who is responsible for the digital economy” (Harsh, but again this is essentially what I remarked on in that previous post.); and
  • “[T]he Cypriot who will do ‘crisis management'” (That would be Christos Stylianides, of Humanitarian Aid; I don’t get why he would not be up to the job.)

Jonker’s explanation for all this is up top in his lede: “The biggest difference between him and his predecessor José Manuel Barroso is that Jean-Claude Juncker has a sense of humor.”

Frenchman’s Collision Course with France

It’s not always so funny though, because surely the biggest paradox among the new Commissioners is France’s Pierre Moscovici, put in charge of “Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs” – otherwise known as the “budget czar” since Moscovici’s DG is in charge of monitoring member-state budgets to ensure they adhere to the 3%-of-GDP-or-less standard – and to start proceedings for fining the EU government in question when its budget does not. And yes, it is France that looks set to be the greatest offender along these lines, with a projected 4.4% deficit for this year. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Why Can’t They Eat Cake?

Saturday, September 13th, 2014

You might be aware of the sensational book recently published (SEP 4) in France, written by Valérie Trierweiler. She is the former “First Lady” – except that she and French President François Hollande weren’t married, he has never been married – who was rather unceremoniously booted out last January after Hollande took a fancy to a younger, blonde actress and started departing the Elysée Palace on the sly – and on a scooter – for their assignations. Trierweiler has now shown how she had plenty of dirt to dish on her presidential ex-lover, and the French political scene is still recoiling in shock from her revelations.

But it has been one of those in particular that has struck a special chord among the public. In her words (my translation, as usual):

He [Hollande] has presented himself as the man who doesn’t like the rich. In reality, the president doesn’t like the poor. He may be a man of the Left, but in private he refers to the “toothless ones” [les sans-dents], very proud of his sense of humor.

Lord knows what particular train of thought led Hollande to come up with this particular expression. But perhaps it has a certain historical element: there was a similar term during the French Revolution for the uneducated masses – the rabble, if you like – who made up the vast majority of both the revolutionary mobs and of the French national armies which would go on to conquer most of Europe. That was sans-culottes, or those without culottes which were the sort of silken “knee-breeches” worn in that period by middle-class men and above.

Naturally, Hollande never intended this particular pet phrase of his to get out to the public. But now it has anyway, all thanks to the woman he spurned, and you can bet he is mortified about it. All the more since the phrase has in turn been taken up by that widespread – and growing – segment of the population that has grown tired of both this president and his policies. As we see here:

SansDents
“The Toothless: That’s Now!” it reads at the bottom there. And you’ll notice that the attractive lady at the forefront also seems to be wearing a red revolutionary’s cap from those heady days back at the end of the 18th century when the French aristocracy was being systematically beheaded. You have to hope that that seeming void inside her mouth – although necessary to make the point – was only Photoshopped. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Hey Mate, Just Es-Car-Go!

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Certainly you’ve heard of french fries, but how about French leave (i.e. without permission, such as from the army) or French tickler (look it up)? Courtesy of Le Monde, we find that there’s a new concept of “French shopping” arising Down Under.

En Australie, le consul français a honte de ses touristes http://t.co/ozSrjNChY4

@lemondefr

Le Monde


“In Australia, the French consul is ashamed of his tourists.” So much so that this consul-general has issued an open letter pleading for better behavior, now that “French shopping” has become a by-word there for shoplifting. (Actually, the letter addresses French citizens residing permanently, asking them to set any visitors from the Home Country straight.)

The problem is a wave of French backpackers visiting Australia – 22,000 there at last count – many of whom don’t know how to behave themselves. While they are mostly there taking advantage of a one-year combined tourist/work visa that allows them to seek employment even as they explore the country, they’re also cultivating a reputation for drunken, loud behavior and, yes, petty pilfering. The low-light so far was the French guy who in January (the height of summer down there) apparently did something nasty to the Cenotaph memorial in Sydney honoring Australian war dead.

There is of course coverage of this new French plague in the Aussie papers themselves. For example, in his treatment in the Sidney Morning Herald writer Robert Upe brings forth the phrase “French nickers” – without any initial “k,” so don’t get too excited or yours in a twist, “to nick” is Commonwealth English for “to steal” (cf. US “to swipe”).

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Tax-Exile Hell

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

You know, it can be a tough life when you happen to have a lot of money at your disposal. Just ask Mitt Romney. Or nose around a bit in Geneva:

#Economie – Des fortunes de France vivraient l’enfer à Genève: Un reportage sur les exilés fiscaux français clou… http://t.co/9Fgmrp4d

@news_suisse

News Suisse


A little background: The new French Socialist government of François Hollande (dominating both the executive and the legislature) made it clear both pre- and post-election that it intends to substantially raise taxes on the rich. As a result, many of those rich are upping stakes and leaving, often just across the border to more tax-friendly but still francophone climes in Belgium or Switzerland, where they can escape French taxes if they live there for at least 183 days in the year.

Trouble is, it’s not that simple, at least when it comes to Geneva, where for all their money these tax-exiles have to deal with substantial culture-shock. That @news_suisse tweet links to a piece in Geneva’s own Tribune de Genève by Dino Auciello, about how his own venerable hometown is somehow just so uncomfortable and, well, boring for these wealthy wanderers. It’s not difficult to detect Auciello’s thick irony just below the surface, as in his lede:

Poor French fiscal exiles! Those who flee from ever more oppressive fiscal authorities, now the promised land of Geneva reveals itself to them as a veritable hell.

Things are so humdrum there, he reports, that “aside from golf and adultery, distractions are rare.” (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

No “European Spring”

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Politically, this has been a most eventful week in the Netherlands. As we head massively onto the streets today in our orange apparel to celebrate the QueensDay holiday, many of us will drink and dance in the sunny weather in part simply to forget the experience of the government falling, followed by the cobbling-together by a hastily-formed temporary coalition of a budget-cut package to meet EU demands.

So yes, it has been a remarkable past couple of days. This, however, just goes too far:

Paul Brill: ‘Begint in Den Haag de Europese lente?’ http://t.co/LgHpwSBb #vkopinie

@volkskrant

De Volkskrant


“Has the European Spring begun in The Hague?” asks commentator Paul Brill – as in “Europe’s Arab Spring,” you understand.

Thank God for that question-mark, for actually going through his piece makes it clear that Brill is hardly sure himself that the answer is “yes.” (What we also might have here is a rogue third-party headline-writer; I understand that column-writers for periodicals – as opposed to bloggers – usually don’t write their own headlines.) What makes Brill (or his headline-writer) think of the Arab Spring is the series of “No!” gestures to the EU austerity regime – mostly being pushed by Germany – now in the cards. You have the French presidential election run-off next Sunday, which according to most polls will elevate François Hollande to that position, who will then reject the EU’s new Austerity Pact. On the same day there will be national elections in Greece, and polls there forecast a defeat for the PASOK and New Democracy parties – now ruling in a grand coalition, but for decades the two main competing parties representing (respectively) the Left and the Right on the Greek political scene. As of next week they will likely be superseded by brand-new parties, all of them promoting resistance to the terms of Greece’s bail-out from the IMF, EU and ECB.

And then the Netherlands: Once seen as reliably in Germany’s austerity camp – indeed, Finance Minister De Jager has made quite a name for himself as scourge and hector of those irresponsible, debt-ridden Southern Europeans – this country effectively made its first substantial anti-austerity gesture with the collapse of the government, brought about when the right-wing, populist PVV party would not go along with the budget cuts being proposed. Yes, as stated, enough budget cuts to satisfy the EU were ultimately approved anyway via a one-time reshuffling of the political deck, but the fact that the PVV was effectively part of the governing coalition (it “tolerated” it, i.e. promised not to vote against it on important matters) meant that there would have to be new elections (in early September), to form a new government.

Notably, a couple of important parties held themselves aloof from those budget cuts, namely over on the Left in the forms of the Labor Party (PvdA) and the Socialist Party. The strategy here was clear: they won’t be tainted by those budget cuts in that election, so that a vote for the Left offers a means for the Dutch electorate to vote against budget cuts and austerity, and basically to join the likely French and Greeks “No!” against the EU austerity regime.

So that is what is really going on here. The Greeks and the French seem unlikely to accede to German demands for EU member-state austerity as the best way out of the financial and sovereign-debt crises. But the Dutch – the Dutch! those traditional lap-dogs of the Germans! – now seem quite likely to do the same. If they do that, however, they’ll do it in September, so forget about any “European Spring.”

For that matter, let’s give the peoples of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, etc. some proper respect for what they have accomplished/are accomplishing and simply drop any further hyperbolic talk about a “European Spring,” “Autumn,” or anything else. The Europeans have their own notable Days of Revolt to their credit in history, but they were back in 1789, 1848 and (to the East) 1989, and certainly not today.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Schengen R.I.P.?

Friday, April 20th, 2012

Free movement of goods; free movement of ideas; free movement of money; free movement of people: these all used to be points of pride for the European Union, milestone-accomplishments as it succeeded in bridging national differences to create unprecedented levels of cooperation between European states. And along with that, unprecedented levels of trust; all of those freedoms required each participant state to have confidence that the others would not let them down and cause them to regret such openness.

Now “freedom of movement” once again seems to be under peril, as can be seen in today’s Süddeutsche Zeitung exclusive article Berlin and Paris want to bring back border controls. This is all about the EU’s Schengen Agreement, begun in 1985 and expanded since then to include most, if not all, member-states in a regime where travellers are not checked at “internal” EU borders between member-states but, on the other hand, “external” borders between member-states and non-member-states are policed ever more carefully, since someone getting past those then has free access to other states party to the Agreement.

Or at least those external borders are supposed to be carefully policed. In reality, doubts have arisen as to whether this really is the case, particularly when it comes to asylum-seekers making their way from North Africa across the Mediterranean, usually to Italy. When the pressure got turned up last year due to the Libyan civil war and many thousands more attempted this boat trip than usual, French confidence that the Italians were performing their proper border-control duties disappeared, to the point that border controls were reimposed for a few days on those countries’ “internal” common EU border – in violation of the Schengen agreement, of course. Denmark last year also chose unilaterally to reimpose controls on its border with Germany for a while. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Pocketbook Integration

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

The beginning of the year coming up, 2012, offers a rather bittersweet anniversary. Do you remember? It was from midnight on 1 January 2002, literally as fireworks still lit up urban skies, that euro banknotes first issued from ATM machines inside the 12 original Eurozone members, and that banks and merchants first returned eurocoins in change, all of those with a national emblem reflecting where they had been minted on one side.

No prize for guessing why any commemoration of this 10-year milestone is lacking so far in the press – everywhere I look, really. For 2012 promises to be a difficult year for European national finances, and therefore for the euro; to many, an exit from the Eurozone of one or several states is likely, and from that possibly even the common currency’s “collapse” (although I think that, no matter what, there will be a rump core of states – Germany, Netherlands, Finland, etc. – still using it for quite a while).

But enough of this depressing talk! We have all read and heard quite enough of it, at least before the onset of the holiday season (when the bureaucrats and bank officials in charge left their desks for a while).* Let’s rather follow the Luxembourg lead and consider the euro from a different perspective:

http://t.co/eNBpc2Z7 Dix ans de l’euro Pas vraiment de mixité dans les porte-monnaie http://t.co/b3mtHfyx

@luxembourg_news

news luxembourg


That perspective is “integration,” always a hot European topic: to what degree are the various European peoples mixing with each other and getting along while they do so? Except that here, in this essential piece from the French-language Luxembourg paper L’essentiel (no byline), the subject is rather the degree to which all the various eurocoins are mixing with each other in people’s pockets. The lede:

Ten years after the arrival of the euro, the coins which sport a national symbol on one face are not yet totally mixed in European wallets.

(more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Ardeur for Libya Now Cool

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

What’s up now with the French and Libya? Nicolas Sarkozy’s government was the first to recognize the rebels’ National Transitional Council as the country’s valid government, and also led the way both in urging NATO military intervention last March and in actually conducting the very first bombing raids. But now Prime Minister François Fillon is saying “[a] political solution in Libya is more indispensable than ever” while Foreign Minister Alain Juppé claims to have word that Qaddafi is ready to head into exile.

Le Monde provides a perspective, in an unsigned article (Libya, a political objective now uncertain for L’Elysée). Put simply, it’s something akin to buyer’s remorse. France was looking forward to a glorious “big brother” role with the assistance it provided the rebels, one that would go far towards erasing – so officials hoped – her rather ugly colonial history in the area. Most of all, though, this was supposed to be short and sweet, something – in the words of Juppé back in March – that was to “be calculated in days or weeks – certainly not in months.”

Well, now it is months later, and the fighting is still going on. The rebels do seem to be making some sort of progress, yet it still seems doubtful that they can take full control before the onset of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan on 1 August complicates their efforts considerably.

According to the article, Sarkozy had a somewhat earlier date in mind for a rebel victory: 14 July, or Bastille Day, just two days away, when the usual parade of military hardware down the Champs Elysées could be spiffed up considerably on the wave of a cut-and-dried successful military campaign. But that certainly will not happen, and meanwhile Le Monde reports how the French president recently changed his mind from a trip across the Mediterranean to go visit the rebels’ self-styled Libyan Republic and opted to visit actual French troops in Afghanistan instead.

At least Sarkozy has just confronted the issue of submitting his military operations to approval of the legislature rather better than Barack Obama has done, and indeed has gained renewed votes of support for Libya actions from the Assemblée and the Senate, when there were fears that this was not certain. But the fighting goes on, and perhaps it should not be so surprising that the French should start lowering their standards for how they think it should end, as long as it does so quickly.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Criant au Loup

Monday, February 7th, 2011

That’s supposed to be the French for “crying wolf” – I admit it, I had to go to an outside reference-source for that information and yes, it does seem suspiciously close to the English expression – but what brought that saying to my mind was this piece in Der Spiegel about the latest warnings of an imminent terrorist-strike issuing from the Direction centrale du renseignement intérieur (DCRI) or intelligence bureau of the French Interior Ministry (i.e. more-or-less their FBI).

Now that the American Department of Homeland Security has recently officially retired its much-derided color-coded (excessively-hyphenated) terror-alert system, could it be the French government which has now pulled into the lead in the Chicken Little stakes of driving its citizens crazy via repeated terror-warnings, until they just tune out and don’t listen anymore? After all, we heard this same sort of warning from the same source – and saw men in uniform with automatic weapons patrolling at the base of the Eiffel Tower, and all the rest – just last October, and nothing at all happened then.

Indeed, if you examine it closely this latest advisory is spiced-up with some new elements. It’s the recent revolution in Tunisia that is said to be one reason for the heightened alert; the DCRI claims to have intercepted a communication from Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQMI) urging attacks against both France and the US before they can get a chance to install new “vassals” in power there. More intriguingly, a second indication comes from the steep rise that the DCRI has detected in “Europeans” being trained in those infamous terror-camps located in the no-man’s-land between Afghanistan and Pakistan – that is, whites looking like any other native resident of Paris, or Lyon, or Frankfurt. So now it’s apparently not enough to be cautious around “Arab-looking” people, the next suicide-bomber could look like any other “European”!

That’s a sure-fire recipe for heightening the general climate of paranoia in France. What possesses the French authorities to issue such warnings? Even if they truly believe in what they are saying, can such proclamations really put the population on some sort of meaningful “alert” that will make any material difference in stopping an attack? You don’t see this sort of thing in Germany; the Spiegel piece is short and resolutely opinion-free, but you still have to think that its (unnamed) authors are wondering just what has gotten into the French as of late.

UPDATE: Whoops, the US authorities are back at it, color-coded chart or no: the terrorism threat there is now “at it’s most heightened state” since 9/11, says Janet Napolitano. FYI – and FWIW!

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Retirement Reform – For Some

Friday, October 29th, 2010

As various forms of unrest continue to percolate throughout France – as always, the website of Humanité, the Communist Party newspaper is probably the best place to go for news about that – the fundamental fact remains true that the retirement reform at the center of contention is becoming law regardless. Yes, word is that it has to be formally approved a couple of times by the two houses of the French legislature and then signed by President Sarkozy, but there’s no indication that there will be any hitch in that process despite any strikes and demonstrations going on in the world outside.

The result: Even as the masses out on the streets shriek NO! the government goes ahead with “Yes” – and this in a liberal democracy. Of course, things are actually not quite so clear-cut as that. All the people out demonstrating often make an impressive sight, but do they really represent the political will of the majority of France’s citizens? And even if they do: France is not a direct democracy where the people vote directly on laws – no modern society is a direct democracy – but rather a representative democracy, where according to one section of the rules of the game (somewhere; I believe it’s in Aristotle) the elected law-makers do have the right to go against the will of their constituents if they believe doing so better serves the nation. And it would seem raising the retirement age from what is financially a completely unsustainable age to one slightly less unsustainable qualifies.

Ah, but even as the Assemblée Nationale and French Senate undertake to do so, they make a mess of it. For while they were passing this retirement reform, they chose not to pass amendment 249 – that’s the one that would have subjected their own even-more-generous lawmakers’ pension system to the same conditions they were about to impose on everyone else’s!

Pretty outrageous, no? (Then again, the US Congress also almost routinely exempts itself from the laws it passes for the rest of the country.) I heard about this little bit of chicanery in the first place from an editorial in today’s Le Monde: You’re making me take to the streets – me, a moderate! It’s written by one Gregory Kapustin, who calls himself an “entrepreneur” and “former moderate.” (Check out his public LinkedIn page!) His message is basically expressed in his title; the actual article fills in the details about how, yes, he understands why pensions must be reformed, and he wishes the French nation would grow up and face the real world of globalization – but really, in exempting themselves the legislators have simply gone too far with their cynicism and he’ll be off to join the nearest street-demonstration. (With gasoline, bottle, and rag-stuffing in hand? He doesn’t say; he still seems to be too much of a professional dude to go that far.)

One can gain a similar feel for what he is fed up with from another article, from Le Point: Sarkozy will take some time to reflect on the situation after retirement reform. The lede:

Nicolas Sarkozy declared on Friday that he will announce when “the time is ripe” for initiatives in response to the French people’s worries and that he first intends to “take some time” to reflect on them.

As becomes clear as the article goes on, however, don’t expect him to start that thinking anytime soon, he’s a busy man. The Chinese president will be visiting Paris soon, then it’s off to Seoul for the G20 summit. Sarkozy made it clear that, when it comes to addressing the concerns of his countrymen he won’t “confuse speed with haste” but will take “time to reflect serenely, calmly, profoundly.” Hey – merci bien, monsieur le président! I bet your own pension is rather more generous than that of the man-on-the-street as well!

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

France: Annoying Neighbor

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Tired of hearing about all the French strikes (even if you haven’t been living/traveling there and so had to deal with them directly)? Finding it hard not to snort when you recall that the main point at issue is a raising of the official retirement age from 60 to 62? Consider it rather too convenient that that month-long wave of street-demonstrations has now dovetailed nicely with the week of Autumn vacation for French students?

Well then, you’re not alone, for much of the Fifth Republic’s recent behavior is attracting unfavorable notice among its neighbors, including that big one across the Eastern frontier marking the area of so many of the 19th and 20th centuries’ great battles. The lede paragraph of a recent article in the German newsmagazine Focus (Always annoyed with the French) sums things up well:

They strike like there’s no tomorrow, provoke Siemens with unfair attacks and undercut the German European Central Bank candidate behind his back. Is France doing away with herself?

Well, it sums things up well with a little unpacking:

  • Provoke Siemens: The French government reacted rather badly to news of a few weeks ago that Eurostar, which runs high-speed trains from Paris and from Brussels to London, had decided to buy new equipment from the German firm Siemens rather than – as usual – the French firm Alstom. Of course, public procurement contracts such as this within the EU are supposed to be awarded based purely on cost/quality considerations, not nationality – but the French Transport Minister, Dominique Bussereau, did conveniently mention that the Siemens trains were not long enough and posed other safety risks, as he made his announcement that he was using his authority to invalidate the sale.
  • Undercut the German ECB candidate: Everybody knows (doesn’t everybody?) that the successor next year to Jean-Claude Trichet at the head of the ECB is supposed to be Axel Weber, currently president of the German Central Bank, the Bundesbank. Actually, regardless of whether that really is the consensus among EU officials and European politicians who decide these things, it’s particularly important these days to elevate the Bundesbank president to ECB president, for political reasons: the Germans have been those mostly called-upon to come up with the money to bail out Greece and the whole Eurozone monetary system, and the same would be true if help were to be needed for Portugal, Ireland, and the rest. They know that, they’re getting tired of it, so it’s a very good idea at least to put one of their own in a banking/monetary decision-making position as vital as that of ECB president. Then again, nowadays French authorities profess to know nothing about any “consensus”; they have started pushing for the current head of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK), to succeed Trichet. This might also have something to do with the fact that, if DSK is not immobilized in a new job at the ECB, he may well challenge Nicolas Sarkozy for the French presidency in 2012.
  • Oh, and there’s one remaining bit: Focus writer Uli Dönch finishes that lede-paragraph I’ve quoted with the question Schafft Frankreich sich selbst ab? and that’s a clever allusion to Deutschland schafft sich ab, which is the title of a current raging best-seller in Germany (written by a former member of the Board of the Bundesbank, Thilo Sarrazin) which posits that Germany is weakening itself fatally through a combination of its low birth-rate and readiness to accept non-Western immigrants (with their high birth-rates).

There you have it: this Uli Dönch hepcat manages to compress just about all he has to remark on into his one, short leading paragraph. I mean, is this journalism or is it poetry? All that remain to be considered are some speculations as to why unsere Lieblingsnachbarn – that is, “our favorite neighbors,” expressed with an ironic tone – would be acting this way.

This comes at the end, in a section headlined “Arrogance or Inferiority Complex?” Here Herr Dönch drops the ball, yielding to rhetoric better-suited to the dueling of rival fans on football commentary websites. It can’t be arrogance, he proclaims, because the times are long gone when France was “the clearly dominating Power on the European mainland. But now? La Grande Nation? Like how. La Grande Illusion! Only: who’s going to tell them?”

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

French Strike Violence: A View from the Left

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

Back now to the French strikes and street-demonstrations, still ongoing, in protest at the raise in the French national retirement age – and this time we’re off to L’Humanité, official organ of the French Communist Party.

Long-time readers of EuroSavant (Hi Mom!) will recall that this blog has certainly not been averse in the past to checking out what L’Humanité has to say from time to time – after all, the paper has a constituency to represent (one whose political views I do find hard to understand, particularly in light of the failure of Communism towards the end of the preceding century), and it represents that political cohort consistently and well. But now is a particularly good time to check out their site – well, if you’re comfortable reading French. For while the national powers-that-be might want to give off an impression that the demonstrations are petering out, with maybe a little police intervention here and there mainly to unblock the oil refineries, this Communist paper gives quite a different view, with its headline article at the present time a bona fide hour-by-hour, blow-by-blow listing of various violent demonstrator-police confrontations happening throughout the country.

Typical is this account of such a confrontation at an industrial-zone near the Northern French city of Amiens, which apparently doesn’t even have any sort of refinery facility (but was at the center of violence of a different sort almost a century ago when it was on the front lines of the Western Front during World War I). From L’Humanité correspondent Jean-Marie Faucillon:

The forces of repression were sent to the industrial zone north of Amiens, on Thursday, 21 October at 23.00 hours, to brutally charge the demonstrators. . . . The charge was brutal with the firing-off of tear-gas at more than 100 meters, whereupon the demonstrators left the premises. “It’s truly a punitive expedition,” declared an official for the Somme departmental [i.e. local] union of the CGT [that’s the Communist-run trade union confederation].

But that’s not all! Attached to that piece with a link is a picture-series of the late-night confrontation. To be sure, there’s nothing nice and bloody here that would draw those interested in that sort of thing away from their World Wrestling Federation TV broadcasts, but it’s interesting to see the policemen marching up along the highway, and in the later pictures there is certainly a thick fog of what must be tear-gas seemingly everywhere.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

French Footballers’ Mutiny

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

They’re gone now, Les Bleus, the French national football team. Today they arrived back in Paris, and star attacker Thierry Henry even headed straight to L’Elysée Palace to give his own explanation to President Nicolas Sarkozy of what went on down there in South Africa that produced such a shambles.

Time now for the tournament to move on, which it has done already with, among other things, England’s narrow 1-0 victory over Slovenia and Landon Donovan’s last-minute goal for Team USA which sent them on to the sudden-death Round of 16 and sent the Slovenians packing for home. For any of those with a more morbid outlook, though – those who tend to linger long while passing the scene of a horrific accident by the side of the road, say – Grégory Schneider of the French paper Libération has some behind-the-scenes details of what happened with the French, including the precise wording of Nicolas Anelka’s to-his-face characterization of his coach during half-time of the France-Mexico game (Get ready: Va te faire enculer, sale fils de pute! It’s pretty bad.) that got him sent home and was the immediate cause of all the trouble. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

The Doctor is IN/OUT/ON Picket-Line

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Whoops, there’s another problem one sometimes is face with while trying to procure medical attention over in this continental “health care paradise” – at least in France, as Le Monde reminds us. You can probably guess it: your doctor can go out on strike, as it seems French GPs are doing this very day on a nationwide basis.

Closely related to that is that, again in France but likely elsewhere in Europe as well, your doctor is likely to belong to some sort of union. In fact, there are several French doctors’ unions, and they all have called for a strike today. Their grievance? They basically want the price doctors are allowed to charge for a consultation to rise to €23 (=$30.50); it seems the current price is €22. If that is all they’re getting angry about . . . citizens trapped in many other more privately-based health-care systems where a doctor’s visit tends to cost much more than €23 can only look on in envy.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Death of French Carbon Tax: “Crime Against Humanity”

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

Remember how, only a couple short months ago, the election for Edward Kennedy’s old Senate seat was lost by the Democrats, and suddenly nothing in politics that people had thought to be sure was so sure anymore in the face of that supposed voters’ anti-Establishment revolt? This particularly applied to health care reform, which up to that point had been laboring slowly through Congress, but had already been passed by both chambers, in two different versions that still needed to be reconciled. With the Massachusetts Senate result, though, even many of that legislation’s greatest supporters were nonetheless ready to throw that effort overboard entirely or at least drastically scale back its ambition.

A similar thing has just happened in France, following regional elections there last Sunday which resulted in heavy losses for the governing UMP party of President Nicolas Sarkozy. Two days afterwards, French premier François Fillon announced that his government was dropping the idea of a carbon tax, something it had previously been developing with a view towards putting it in the tax code on 1 July. And there is reason to believe that this concept is certainly more permanently dead than US health care reform turned out to be; for one thing, as Claire Guélaud reports in Le Monde, the main French organizations representing employers and entrepreneurs broke out in rejoicing at Premier Fillon’s announcement. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

One-Stop Death Shop Convenience

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

Goodness, it seems one 54-year-old male resident of Mérignac, a town to the southwest of Limoges in the French Dordogne, recently set off in his car on a rather dastardly mission. He headed for a village about 50 km away called Valeuil, with the intention of stealing whatever he could find of value from the local cemetery there. We can deduce his intentions by the fact that he had a ladder, a hammer, and a chisel in his possession. And we can deduce that he had a ladder, a hammer, and a chisel because those were found right next to his stiff body laid out in the very cemetery he had intended to loot, as Le Point tells in a brief article entitled He dies of a heart-attack . . . in the middle of pillaging a cemetery.

Perhaps his mistake was that he visited the cemetery in broad summer daylight; he apparently figured that it was such a small town that no one would notice him anyway, but he didn’t take into account the effects of the heat. Truly, the shoplifter unexpectedly became a customer, so to speak – I wonder whether somewhere in the afterlife he immediately ran into those whose graves he had despoiled or had intended to despoil.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Pirates Reborn

Friday, July 10th, 2009

If you’re into peer-to-peer downloading of large files (e.g. movies, music) from the Internet, you know already know all about it; if you’re not, here’s a quick summary. The most popular program for doing so is called BitTorrent, and for quite some time The Pirate Bay, a site based in Sweden, was the most popular place to go to get the files you might be interested in (you know, like Hollywood movies still in general public release – or even yet to embark upon public release). Naturally, The Pirate Bay came under some considerable legal pressure for its activities, until this past spring the main personnel behind it were sentenced to jail and to the payment of a hefty SEK 30 million fine. (They are appealing the verdict.) In the meantime, the Swedish advertising company Global Gaming Factory X AB has announced its intention to buy The Pirate Bay next month and give it a “new business model” that makes the site’s activities strictly legal. In the meantime, though, some of the people behind The Pirate Bay have formed The Pirate Party – with chapters not just in Sweden but other countries as well – to advance their free-file-sharing political views, which already won one seat in the European Parliament in the early-June elections.

The (eventual) metamorphosis of The Pirate Bay to legality is especially good news for the French government, which has been busy since the beginning of the year trying to come up with legal measures to pass to outlaw the sort of free downloading of copyrighted commercial material that The Pirate Bay did so much to facilitate. After modifying their legislation to meet the objections from France’s Constitutional Court, which had first thrown it out, the French Senate has recently passed it, so that it is close to becoming law. It would empower a state agency – called Hadopi – to detect this sort of activity and, if two warnings to desist are ignored, pass on to French judges information about the offense for them to assign penalties, including fines, jail, and disconnection from the Net.

Ah, but can anyone ever stop truly determined Internet “pirates”? Le Monde reporter Maël Inizan now reports on another site now arising like a phoenix from The Pirate Bay’s ashes to save the cause of free downloading (Illegal downloading: a new site takes up the torch of The Pirate Bay). (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Immigration Quotas Gaining Ground in France

Wednesday, January 19th, 2005

I’ve been away for a little while, lacking access to a reliable computer, and while I wasn’t looking it looks like the debate on immigration in France has taken an interesting new turn with the injection of the heavily-loaded word “quotas.” That happened last week Thursday, in a statement from the prominent French politician (and presumed future presidential candidate of the Right) Nicolas Sarkozy. But for all his presence in the current French political scene, these days Sarkozy has no policy-making role (he is instead president of the governing right-wing party, the UMP). When someone who does have such a role takes up the same chant, that’s when you know things are starting to get serious – especially when that someone is none other than the Interior Minister, and Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin let a meeting of legislators from the UMP party know earlier this week that his ministry has started work on a legislative proposal along the lines that Sarkozy had previously discussed, as reported in Le Monde (Dominique de Villepin Comes to Terms With the Idea of Quotas). The next element in this time-line looks to be a report his ministry will submit at the end of next month “containing its propositions on how to determine France’s needs for foreign workers.” (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Czech Republic at Rear of Cigarette Pack

Wednesday, October 13th, 2004

A notable topic covered lately in the Czech press is one of that country’s chief vices: smoking. That coverage does not really concern the associated damage to one’s health and the fact that anyone who can quit really should – the Czechs know about all that already. Rather, what has occurred is two recent developments with seemingly opposite meanings for the country’s smoking classes, but which in the end still basically leave them gasping for air. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Ariel Sharon vs. France

Tuesday, July 20th, 2004

“Did the Israeli prime minister expect such a barrage [of criticism]? Did he even desire it?” Those were the questions posed by reporter Eric Favereau leading off coverage in the French left-of-center newspaper Libération yesterday of remarks by Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon on Sunday, in which he called upon French Jews to move “immediately” to Israel to escape “unfettered anti-semitism” which is allegedly spreading in that country. (The lead article is [French foreign minister Michel] Barnier Harshly Criticizes Sharon’s Invitation to the Jews of France, although the verb that article-title actually uses translates to fustigate, perhaps an interesting addition to the vocabulary of us all.) But by making such remarks (in English, and in front of a delegation of American Jewish leaders visiting Israel, as it turned out), Sharon only managed to offend not only the French state, but Jewish organizations there. From the French foreign affairs ministry spokeswoman: “We have immediately made contact with Israeli authorities to ask for an explanation on the subject of these unacceptable remarks.” And from Richard Prasquier, executive board member of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (French acronym: CRIF): “We can’t accept this type of discourse. We all know that the situation of Jews in France is difficult. . . . [The Jewish community] knows that the [French] political class is doing everything to fight against this anti-semitism. But pouring oil on the fire this way is not acceptable.” (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Turkey and Other Bones of Franco-American Contention

Tuesday, June 29th, 2004

At the NATO summit in Istanbul, wrapping up its second and final day today, relations between the United States and France have certainly not gotten any better. Bush did not help prepare things very well with an interview he had with RTE (Irish Radio and Television – official transcript here) as he made his way to Istanbul by way of Ireland (and a summit there with top EU officials over the weekend). In the interview he strongly suggested that it was really only France that opposed the Coalition attack on Iraq – “And, really, what you’re talking about is France, isn’t it?” – an assertion which seems to be in contradiction with widely-held facts. Then, once in Istanbul, Bush seemed to think he had the authority to advise the EU to admit Turkey as a member-state, which prompted French President Jacques Chirac to declare that Bush “not only [went] too far, but he went into territory that isn’t his. . . . It is not his purpose and his goal to give any advice to the EU, and in this area it was a bit as if I were to tell Americans how they should handle their relationship with Mexico.” Undaunted, Bush has since repeated this line today at a speech at an Istanbul university: “America believes that as a European power, Turkey belongs in the European Union.” (This CNN report has all the details of the spat in English.) (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

The Glory That Is France

Friday, May 28th, 2004

Back now today to the cultural survey series of the EU member-states published serially in the Danish newspaper Politiken. As you would expect, by now they’ve started to treat some of the ten new member-states – I see Slovenia and Cyprus on the list already. So we can ultimately expect a total of twenty-five such portraits, as the Politiken editors finish rounding up the cultural figures from each country to give their selections of representative paintings, photographs, persons, etc.

Goodness, which to choose? Luxembourg is available! – a cultural portrait assembled by one Jean Portante, a Luxembourgeois poet. Yes, we’ll definitely cover that one, eventually. There’s also Ireland, which should be interesting; Germany – but that one is sure to be so heavy that I think I’ll cover it around the 6 June D-Day celebrations; and Austria: just how is it different from Germany, anyway? And Italy.

I’ll play it safe this time and go for France and its representative cultural selection chosen by Jean d’Ormesson – or to give a more precise name, Jean Lefévre, comte d’Ormesson. (The Politiken editor notes that his full name is twice as long as that.) He is a director at the conservative French newspaper Le Figaro, and at the same time a prominent fiction-writer, especially of historical fiction – particularly, it seems, of tales of the decline and fall of aristocratic families. We’ll find that his cultural choices range from the predictable to the surprising – and to the surprising chosen so as to avoid the predictable. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

France Warms to Gay Marriage

Friday, May 14th, 2004

War, torture, deception, decapitation: Let’s leave Iraq behind for once, and return to the matter of love. Or at least what some call love, while others prefer not to recognize it as such, calling it other things. Remember not so long ago when a flurry of homosexual marriages were being performed at the San Francisco City Hall, among other places in the US, to which President Bush countered with his proposal for an amendment to the US Constitution defining marriage exclusively as a union between a man and a woman? Well, once more people are planning homosexual marriages, and the administration is promising to block them while inveighing loudly against the very principle. This time, though, the opposition is preparing a law for debate in the legislature to formally enshrine that principle into law.

Ah, the “opposition”; the “legislature.” Do I mean the Democrats and Congress? No, and that’s your clue (plus this entry’s title, plus the innocent fact that this weblog is entitled “EuroSavant,” after all). If you haven’t heard of all this, you probably have a good excuse since it is happening not in the US but in France, and reports on these developments are by-and-large only available in French. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Volkskrant Stories From Out of Left Field

Thursday, November 20th, 2003

In its continual quest for innovation, today EuroSavant reverses the matrix, so to speak. (No, not “Matrix” – there will be no more discussion here of that pseudo-philosophical, black-leather-and-Ray-bans film series). Usually I take a topic and go see what newspapers in a given national press have to say about it. Granted, occasionally it’s just “newspaper.” Today, though, I present you reporting from today’s Volkskrant on a couple of topics – a smoker’s responsibility, a singing trash can – mainly because, as far as I can tell, that paper is alone in staying on top of these vital issues.

To start with: Did you know that, when someone who has smoked two packs of cigarettes a day for most of his life dies prematurely from cancer, that is basically his own damn fault? You can read all about it in Gauloises Home-Free from Lung Cancer. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

It’s Official: France Wins the Budget Deficit Battle

Friday, October 31st, 2003

You know that has to be true when the hardest-liner on the side of making France pay a fine for its flouting of the 3%-of-GDP budget deficit limit, Dutch finance minister Gerrit Zalm, finally throws in the towel. That he is now doing so is clear from an interview published in today’s Het Financiële Dagbald (subscription required). The scheduled meeting next Monday evening of EU finance ministers, long thought to be a setting for confrontation, will now merely be a formality as the lenient stance proposed by EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Perdo Solbes is approved. Even though for him personally Monday’s meeting is sure to be, as the article puts it, “a long and unpleasant session,” in the end Zalm himself might even vote to approve Solbes’ proposal, if only to head off even more-lenient treatment of the French that some may use that occasion to advance. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)