Showing posts with label French presidential election. Show all posts
Showing posts with label French presidential election. Show all posts

Monday, January 25, 2016

Sarko not necessarily a presidential candidate

In a TV interview published yesterday, the former president Nicolas Sarkozy, in charge of the political party called Les Républicains, has admitted explicitly for the first time that he will not necessarily be a candidate in the forthcoming presidential election.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Voices from the Socialist past

Throughout the coming week, we can expect some spectacular fireworks (akin to the final five minutes in a yet-undecided rugby match) as Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande move towards the final moment of truth, next Sunday.

Their forthcoming TV debate will be followed by everybody in France. I don't imagine that there'll be a "winner" and a "loser", unless one of the candidates has a fit of madness... which is a perfectly serious possibility that must not be excluded a priori. And, even if one guy succeeded in knocking out his opponent, I'm not sure that this would change French voting opinion enormously. I believe that most people have already made up their minds, and it's Bye-bye Nicolas (along with your glitzy watches, your charming kids and your top-model wife).

The only thing I regret profoundly in the inevitable impending victory of the left is that Sarko was an adept of cycling, whereas Hollande is a dull soccer guy. OK, I'm a cycling snob, but I find it hard to imagine the president François Hollande watching with enthusiasm (necessary madness) a mythical ascension of the Ventoux. Unless Hollande can do something about this weakness (maybe there are training courses in this domain), his incapacity to go crazy about pairs of wheels on mountain slopes could well turn out to be a significant political handicap.

Meanwhile, we've just heard Dominique Strauss-Kahn informing us that his affair in Manhattan was some kind of Sarkozian setup.

Frankly, for the moment, I can't figure out why DSK chose the present crucial moment (between the two rounds of the presidential elections) to make this disturbing revelation. Is there method in his madness? For the moment, it's impossible to say... But who gives a fuck (apart from DSK, who's apparently good at giving that kind of thing)?

As for the opinions of the former presidential candidate Lionel Jospin, they're easier to understand.

Jospin claims that Sarko was using "the weapon of lies" in suggesting that 700 Muslim mosques in France had proclaimed that their flock should vote for François Hollande. Personally, I've never found it difficult to believe, nor even alarming, that Sarko and his friends might be tempted, from time to time, to play around with the truth.

I'm not saying that being a socialist in France today is a permanent cure against telling political lies... but it seems to help at times.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Elegance and responsibility

Those are the lovely words—elegance and responsibility—employed by François Hollande as a reaction concerning the electoral exhortations of his ex-wife, Ségolène Royal, who encouraged her political supporters to give their votes to the leading Socialist candidate, who happens to be her ex-husband.

Marital divorce, despite its inevitable bitterness, should never be the end of the world. On the contrary, I'm convinced that Ségolène's explicit gesture will go a long way towards replacing the tears that overwhelmed her, Sunday evening, when she learned that her former voters had dwindled to a handful.

I've always believed that she's a splendid woman, even though she probably never had the mettle to become a president of the French République. Her courageous gesture in coming out affirmatively in favor of the father of her children is an act that will surely guarantee the endurance of Ségolène Royal on the French political scene… where we'll need, of course, the presence of wonderful women.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Talk about winning, not disappearing

This man is our main hope of defeating Sarkozy and bringing the French nation back onto a road towards the republican goal of liberté, égalité et fraternité. But the fellow's already evoking (in the Italian press) the eventuality of the Socialists being defeated.

François Hollande must pay attention to his language, and start acting and talking exclusively in a positive style!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Strauss-Kahn affair

Many people in France are in a state of shock after learning today at dawn (French time) that Dominique Strauss-Kahn—the brilliant French economist and politician at the head of the IMF [International Monetary Fund]—has been charged in connection with an alleged sexual assault of a hotel maid in New York.

For several months, in opinion polls concerning candidates in next year's presidential election in France, I've been observing with pleasure the promising scores of DSK (as he's called in France). Hordes of French people have imagined, like me, that DSK, in the wake of his highly successful IMF job, would be an ideal successor to Nicolas Sarkozy. So, if ever DSK were to be found guilty in yesterday's affair, that would throw an enormous spanner into the works of the French Republic. For the moment, in the context of French legal culture, DSK is to be considered innocent, up until such time as he might be proven guilty. While respecting this formal assumption of innocence (which is obligatory here in France), we're forced to admit that the damage to DSK's aspirations seems to have been done already, rapidly and irremediably. It's hard to imagine how he might bounce back into respectability after being charged in such an affair.

Worse, since this morning, French media have been acting as though they had received a green light enabling them to publish gossip on DSK's reputation as a womanizer. The most damning accusations come from a young journalist and novelist named Tristane Banon, who alleges that DSK attempted to rape her in 2002. There's a video on the Internet in which this young woman, in 2007, provided all the details of this incident to a group of Parisian celebrities gathered around the TV journalist Thierry Ardisson. In this video, we hear Tristane Banon describing DSK as behaving like "a sexually-excited chimpanzee". Apparently, the young woman refrained from reporting this incident to the police because her mother, Anne Mansouret, was (and still is) a prominent member of the same political party as DSK. Today, for the first time, Tristane Banon has revealed publicly the details of this alleged rape attempt, in which she names DSK explicitly. So, independently of the US affair, the French authorities are likely to take up tardily this affair of 2002.

Clearly, we need to start thinking about other possible left-wing candidates for next year's presidential election.

BREAKING NEWS: Here in France, the dignity of most commentators concerning the affair has been exemplary. The ugliest exception was Marine Le Pen, of the extreme right-wing Front National, who seems to assume that DSK is guilty. Even political opponents of DSK, such as Nicolas Sarkozy and his supporters, have avoided scrupulously the trap of talking as if DSK were guilty. That's to say, most commentators are respecting assiduously the presumption of DSK's innocence. Moreover, many observers who are familiar with the personality and behavior of DSK express their utter incredulity concerning the Manhattan affair. One doesn't need to be an enthusiast of conspiracy theories to imagine that there might be individuals, out in the wide world, who would like to bring DSK down, as it were. Such people could be motivated by matters at an IMF level, or maybe at a French political level. Even the alleged rape incident that I have mentioned above (concerning Tristane Banon) would need to be examined scrupulously from every angle. So, it's too early to express any kind of negative judgment concerning DSK. Meanwhile, we learn that he has entrusted his defense to two prominent US lawyers: William Taylor and Benjamin Brafman.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Bye-bye, Jacquot

Tomorrow morning, the new president of France will be sworn in. So, this evening at eight o'clock, Jacques Chirac spent five minutes on TV saying Au revoir to the nation, and conveying his best wishes to Nicolas Sarkozy.

What will History retain of Chirac's twelve years as the head of the French Republic? Everybody praises Chirac for his honesty and courage in acknowledging retrospectively the criminal role played by the French government of Vichy during the Occupation. In a different domain, he remains admired for his opposition, right from the start, to the absurd war in Iraq. But there were failures in Chirac's presidency, notably the negative outcome of the French referendum on Europe.

Concerning Chirac's personal future, many news commentators have been borrowing the image of former US president Bill Clinton as a likely role model. That's to say, Chirac could well transform himself into a kind of itinerant ambassador promoting themes such as sustainable development [click here to see the Wikipedia page on this subject] and the economic evolution of Africa.

Unexpectedly, on the eve of the new presidency, there was some nearby rumbling of legal artillery concerning a dark era in Chirac's past, when he was the mayor of Paris. The National Division of Financial Investigations at Nanterre summoned Alain Juppé, Chirac's former right-hand man at the city hall of Paris, as a witness in the context of the affair concerning individuals who were paid a salary by the city hall while working in fact for Chirac's political party. Juppé was condemned for this affair in 2004, whereas Chirac himself has never been troubled up until now, because of his presidential immunity.

If ever this affair were to explode at the start of Sarkozy's presidency, it would create a delicate and embarrassing climate, to say the least. As we all know, judges throughout the world have no special respect for former presidents... even in the USA.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Political couples

Back in the days of Charles de Gaulle, few people would have used the word "couple" to designate the General and his wife Yvonne. I can't imagine a neighbor in the Champagne-Ardenne village of Colombey-les-Deux Eglises phoning up Madame de Gaulle at La Boisserie and saying: "My wife and I would like to invite a few couples along to our place this weekend for a barbecue and a scrabble evening. Are you interested?" In any case, while Charles and Yvonne were of course a married couple, they were certainly not what you would call a political couple. According to a legend (maybe apocryphal), while the General was attending to the affairs of France, his wife spent most of her time knitting.

During the recent presidential election, we saw an extraordinary emergence of authentic political couples, the most famous of which was Ségolène Royal and François Hollande.

In spite of their electoral defeat, and Ségolène's decision to refrain from being a candidate in next month's parliamentary elections, the Royal-Hollande couple hasn't exactly gone into hibernation. On the contrary, they're on the front page of the news because of a book on Ségolène's recent campaign, called La femme fatale, which is about to hit the bookstands. More precisely, the Royal-Hollande couple is attempting to use judicial means to block the release of this book... which is naturally a godsend in unexpected publicity for the two authors: Raphaëlle Bacqué and Ariane Chemin. The bone of contention between the political couple and the authors would appear to be an anecdote concerning the possibility that François Hollande might have preferred Lionel Jospin, rather than his wife, as the Socialist presidential candidate. [Jospin was the man who was knocked out unceremoniously in the first round, in 2002, by the extreme-rightwing candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen.] According to the anecdote related by Bacqué and Chemin, Ségolène would have yelled out at her husband: "If you call upon Jospin to block me, I swear you'll never see your kids again." Nice story, particularly for the authors of a political saga, but a little bit too dramatic to be true. The book will surely be a best-seller.

In calmer waters, Jean-Louis Borloo, a political friend of Sarkozy, happens to be the husband of an excellent TV journalist named Béatrice Schönberg (who reads out the news on France 2)... who was axed for the duration of the elections.

Another victim of a similar kind was the brilliant young TV journalist Marie Drucker [I used to know her father back in my 1972 days at the Research Service of the French Broadcasting System], who had the misfortune of being madly in love with a minister of Chirac named François Baroin, who was actually called upon to replace Sarkozy when the latter stepped officially into the electoral arena.

One of the most famous political couples in France is composed of the Socialist ex-minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn and his journalist wife Anne Sinclair, who was for many years one of the most popular women in France.

At the present moment, of course, the most famous couple of all is Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Cécilia.

Nobody really knows (maybe not even Nicolas) whether Cécilia is prepared to step into the role of the First Lady of France. Personally, I would bet that she won't. In other words, I don't believe that Nicolas and Cécilia constitute a political couple. I don't see Cécilia staying at home, knitting like Yvonne. Nor do I imagine her collecting small coins for charity, as Bernadette Chirac has been doing for years. Sarko has promised us that, with his election, things are going to change, no doubt in a surprising manner. I'm convinced that one of the biggest surprises that awaits us is finding out what the hell Sarko's going to do with his wife.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Today, together, everything's possible

Click here to see the victory website of Nicolas Sarkozy.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

A new page opens in France

An encouraging aspect of the final round of the French presidential elections was the massive turnout of voters (in a nation where voting is not compulsory): some 84% of eligible citizens. Clearly, few people heeded the instructions of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the extreme rightwing ex-candidate who had asked his followers to abstain from voting.

The left, behind Ségolène Royal, was soundly thrashed. Most people who voted for François Bayrou in the first round did not choose the Socialist candidate in the second round. Will the left succeed in getting its act together before the parliamentary elections in five weeks' time? This is not at all obvious, because many Socialists will be tempted to blame Ségolène Royal for the present defeat, and this will tend to destabilize the left during the forthcoming campaign.

As for Sarkozy, he'll be literally going out of circulation from now until his investiture on 16 May. His speech this evening, after the announcement of his victory, was forceful and relatively reassuring, in that he underlined the need for national reconciliation and union. In words addressed to the USA, he insisted upon the fact that humanity's major challenge is the planetary combat against global warming. He also referred to the interesting theme of a Mediterranean Union, which would be a link between Europe and Africa.

In 1983, at the age of 28, Sarkozy became the mayor of Neuilly, an upper-class residential suburb to the west of Paris. Ten years later, by which time he had become an elected parliamentarian, Sarkozy broke into the news for his courageous role in handling negotiations with a crazy armed guy, calling himself Human Bomb, who had entered a kindergarten in Neuilly and taken 21 kids as hostages. I remember listening to news on this dramatic affair on my car radio as I crossed France in the summer of 1993, to start work in Grenoble. Finally, the elite police force known as the RAID [Recherche Assistance Intervention Dissuasion] burst into the kindergarten while Human Bomb was dozing, and filled his skull with lead. I've always imagined that this affair symbolized the start of Sarkozy's ascension in the world of politics and police.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Risk of turbulence ahead

I've already stated my opinion that the "tough guy" image of Nicolas Sarkozy could become a provocation for countless individuals in France, with nothing to win or lose, who would simply wish to stir up trouble in the streets. For many years, these people have been referred to by a vague generic term: the casseurs (literally, the "smashers"). They're well-organized. Often, they assemble on the fringe of authentic political demonstrations and go into action when everybody, including the police, is least expecting it. There's no sense in hiding the fact that these individuals exist, and that they see Nicolas Sarkozy almost as a sporting opponent, whom they're "out to get". As depicted in the following graffiti in a nearby village, Sarko is often relegated (unjustly, it must be said) to the role of a diabolical Fascist:

This morning, Ségolène Royal stated that Nicolas Sarkozy is "a risk" for France. She refers to her opponent as "the candidate of the hard right-wing", and warns that, if Sarkozy were victorious next Sunday, "there will be very strong tensions throughout the country". She added that Sarkozy's bid for power was "dangerous in terms of a concentration of power, of brutality, of lies".

The former Socialist prime minister Lionel Jospin has been equally explicit on the question of Sarkozy. He denounced "the violence of some of his words, his tendency towards demagogy and clientélisme (patronage), and the impression he gives of being constantly in overdrive".

There's no guaranty, of course, that "smashers" would be more conciliatory with Ségolène Royal, if she were elected. After all, she has been quite outspoken on youthful delinquency, and has even evoked the strange idea of calling upon the army to force some civic common-sense into the behavior of offenders. The big difference between Ségo and Sarko is that the lady is not generally looked upon explicitly as a symbol of provocation.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Electoral debate

To my way of thinking (which is biased, of course), Ségolène Royal was a far better performer than Nicolas Sarkozy in last night's grand TV debate.

She stared defiantly into the eyes of her opponent, and spoke with passion, whereas Sarkozy was often drooped over his notes, or glancing sideways at the journalist PPDA [Patrick Poivre d'Arvor].

Although polls maintain that Sarkozy is likely to win next Sunday, there are several positive signs in favor of Ségolène Royal. First, the Centrist ex-candidate François Bayrou has stated that he will not vote for Sarkozy... although he refrains from saying explicitly that he will vote for Ségolène. Today, Jean-Marie Colombani, director of the prestigious daily Le Monde, stated that Ségolène Royal was his preferred candidate. Colombani writes that Sarkozy's vision of politics is "American", and this adjective is interpreted by many of his readers as a condemnation. It's a fact that Sarkozy is on good terms with leading French capitalists such as Martin Bouygues, Arnaud Lagardère and Serge Dassault, who have high stakes in French media. As Colombani explains, Sarkozy appeals simultaneously to those at the top of society and to many of those at the bottom. He wants to make it easier for those at the top to invest their financial resources to create employment for those at the bottom. Sarkozy believes greatly in the old-fashioned work ethic according to which those who get up early in the morning will be winners, whereas society's jobless whiners are generally lazy losers. Needless to say, up until now, that kind of thinking has never been particularly widespread in France. Over the last week or so, Sarkozy has even dared to attack outrightly the social values associated with the legendary upheavals of May 1968. If Sarkozy wins on Sunday, I fear there'll be a lot of social turmoil just around the corner.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Trivial stuff

Often, I spend a good part of the day trying to solve some kind of computing problem. Subsequently, if somebody were to ask me, on the phone, what I've been doing all day, I find it hard to produce a plausible answer. Today has been one of those days. In fact, the day got off to the kind of start that might have suggested that there wouldn't be a lot of action. This morning, the sky at Gamone was overcast, and the weather was wet and chilly. I got into my car to drive to St-Jean. Fifty meters down the road from my house, I slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting a creature that was crossing the road. Readers will think I'm crazy. It was a big Burgundy snail. A few years ago, I used to collect such snails and prepare them for eating. Maybe that's what causes me to respect these creatures to the point of not squashing them with my automobile. It's a fact, too, that I make an effort not to run over toads on the road at Gamone. In that case, it's simply because I'm fond of these big clumsy animals, and I don't like to see them killed stupidly. You might say there's a little bit of Dalai Lama sensitivity in my attitude. A hundred meters further down the road, I slammed on the brakes a second time. This time, it was not for a snail or a toad but so that I could get out of the car and remove a football-sized rock that had fallen onto the road. So, I probably earned a few Brownie points before I got on the way to St-Jean. [In French, they talk of the "good actions" carried out by Scouts and Guides.]

The pharmacy in St-Jean is surely one of the nicest and friendliest pharmacies in France. (Well, at least that's how I've always seen it.) But, whenever I try to talk about anything serious with the pharmacist, I quickly put my foot in my mouth. This morning, I wanted to tell him that I sometimes feel that my GP [general practitioner] tends to be over-zealous by getting me tested for potential ailments that almost certainly don't exist. For example, a year ago, he took me through all the messy prostate tests, which turned out to be totally negative. And now I have the impression that he's itching to get me to go through it all once again. Trying to appear smart, I told the pharmacist (because I'd just read it on the Internet) that the current protocol concerning the possible presence of prostate cancer is flawed, resulting in an exaggerated number of unnecessary biopsies. When I mentioned that a new US protocol was about to go into action (frontpage Google news last week), the pharmacist naturally wanted to know all about it. But he might just as well have asked me to give him a rundown on the latest news about pig-farming in China. I promised to send him an e-mail.

Later on in the morning, at the supermarket parking zone near Romans, I was fascinated by a stunt pilot performing his acrobatics directly above me. When I saw he was making a big low circle in order to land, I decided to drive to the nearby airfield (less than a kilometer from the supermarket) simply to see what kind of a plane and pilot had been carrying out these amazing stunts. As I parked alongside the clubhouse, a female stunt pilot was about to take off, in an exotic blue machine, and the guy I had been watching was getting out of his equally exotic red plane. There are all kinds of people with whom I should never be tempted to strike up a conversation, because I never have anything intelligent to say to them. For example, apart from pharmacists: veterinary doctors (my attitude to animals is too sentimental, and vets must think I'm brain-damaged), farmers (they take one look at me and see I'm not one of them), police officers, priests, etc. Well, you can add stunt pilots to that list.

Me: "I've been watching you from over in front of the supermarket. I guess you're a professional pilot."

Pilot: "No, we simply like that kind of flying. [The "we" encompassed the lady who had just taken off.] But we don't get paid for it."

Me: "Is acrobatics a specialty of this aero club?"

Pilot: "No, we're from a club in Montpellier. I grew up here in Romans. I know the club well. We've just dropped in for a while."

Me: "Ah, so you've come all the way up here from Montpellier to say hello to old friends."

Pilot: "Well, it didn't take us long to get here."

Thankfully, an intelligent conversationalist turned up, enabling him to say goodbye to me, in the polite style of a stunt pilot.

On the way home, I dropped in at a farm to buy asparagus from a young farmer's wife who was busy tying up one-kilo bunches of this excellent vegetable. Now, you might add farmers' wives, particularly asparagus farmers' wives, to my list of bad conversational partners.

Me (after purchasing two kilos): "Maybe you'll give me expert advice on preparing them."

Farmer's wife: "Well, after you've peeled them..."

Me (in my seasoned journalistic style): "Ah, so they have to be peeled?"

Farmer's wife (realizing that she was dealing with an idiot): "Yes, it's best to use a little peeler [called, funnily, an économe in French]. You start at the top and you peel downwards to the bottom. Then you throw them into boiling water that has been salted."

Me: "How long do you let them boil?"

Farmer's wife: "Oh, about a quarter of an hour. Not too long, though, otherwise they turn yellow."

I was about to ask her what's wrong with the idea of eating yellow asparagus, if they're well-cooked, but I decided instantly that this question would be excessive.

Back home in front of my computer, I said to myself that it was reassuring (for me, in any case) to realize that my day had been well spent in solving a few technical problems concerning the creation of websites. What I mean to say is that, if the global worth of my day's efforts had been measured exclusively in terms of removing obstacles from the Gamone road and talking with a pharmacist, a stunt flier and an asparagus farmer's wife, then maybe I should have stayed in bed. The truth of the matter is that I've spent the day looking forward to this evening's debate between Ségo and Sarko. So, let's forget about my conversational inadequacies, and let me tune in to the Serious Stuff that's about to happen.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sporting language in politics

The TV encounter between Ségolène Royal and François Bayrou turned out to be extremely polite and friendly, with no rudeness, aggressiveness nor even raised voices. In describing the show, French media used the fencing expression "fleuret moucheté". This is a foil without cutting edges whose tip is covered by a round button, so that nobody gets hurt.

A fortnight ago, an amusing Nicholson animation appeared on the website of The Australian, on a theme called sledging, which probably comes from cricket. [Click here to see it.] In a cricket match between political parties, John Howard is the batsman and Kevin Rudd the bowler. The commentator, Ritchie Benaud, has invited along a talkative guest: Paul Keating. The match gets off to a quiet almost gentlemanly start:

Bowler Rudd [to the batsman]: "You spineless sycophantic nitwit!"

Batsman Howard [to the bowler]: "Pull your head in, you useless nong!"

Then the great mud-slinger Keating takes over, with comments of the following kind about the batsman: "Howard's got a brain like a sparrow's nest: all shit and sticks. You know, when they circumcised him, they threw away the wrong bit. He's a dead carcass swinging in the breeze, and nobody's got the balls to cut him down. Etc, etc."

Naturally, at the end of this quaint animation, the Sledging Cup is awarded to Keating. [Click here for an anthology of authentic Keating sayings, some of which have been used in Nicholson's sledging animation.] Personally, my favorite Keatingism is his description of Treasurer Peter Costello as "all tip and no iceberg".

Jumping from one thing to another, I was impressed by the sporting language used in the female entourage of the Melbourne underworld personage Carl Williams. A typical specimen, quoted in the Australian press, consists of one of Carl's ladies referring to another lady as a "trashy piece of fucking carnage". The journalist in The Australian used (invented?) a nice expression to designate this kind of language: trash talk.

Getting back to French politics, I see that Nicolas Sarkozy is resorting more and more to sporting metaphors in his combat for the presidency. The other day, when he heard that Ségolène Royal would be debating with François Bayrou, Sarkozy turned to soccer language. In the days preceding a cup final, he stated, it would be weird if one of the teams that was already eliminated wanted to replay a match with one of the finalists. Today, Sarko (as he's nicknamed) has turned to cycling, in referring to next Wednesday's debate with Ségolène Royal as an Alpe-d'Huez stage in the Tour de France culminating in next Sunday's election. As for me, in boxing terms, I hope that Sarko gets KO'd by Ségo next Sunday.

I need words to express my gut-level aversion to Nicolas Sarkozy. Paul Keating is surely a kind of poet, like Barry Humphries, and it goes without saying that I don't share their rare quality of linguistic imagination. I don't know how you would say "mangy maggot" in French... mainly because I'm not quite sure what a mangy maggot would look like. But, if I did, that might just be the right expression for Sarko. However I shouldn't talk that way, at least not before I get naturalized. Sarkozy has a good chance of being elected. In sporting language, I would then stand the risk of receiving a red card and getting sent off the field.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

TV debate of a novel political style

At the moment I'm writing (eleven o'clock in the morning), the TV is turned on and I'm waiting, like countless French viewers, to watch the 90-minute debate between Ségolène Royal and François Bayrou.

This is a new kind of happening, in that Bayrou is no longer a presidential candidate, but the huge packet of votes he collected in the first round will be redistributed in the second round, and will no doubt determine the final winner.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Making a queen or a king

Everybody is reassured to discover that the two contenders in the final sprint bear the respective colors of the Left and the Right. In the French political domain, the Left and the Right are a little like Mum and Dad. It's nice to know that they're both there, even if they're at loggerheads, as usual. Recently, in the middle of a presidential election, one of the traditional parents was missing, on that terrible day of 21 April 2002 when the Socialist Lionel Jospin was beaten by the Right Extremist Jean-Marie Le Pen. This was a traumatic happening. To avoid the repetition of such a political nightmare, French people have been encouraged to cast a so-called "useful vote". This is a way of saying that they should refrain from taking advantage of the first round of the presidential election to vote for an attractive but lightweight candidate who could not possibly become the president of France. The outcome of this "useful vote" idea is that most of the lightweights got annihilated, to a greater or lesser extent. Le Pen's Extreme Right is still alive but, thankfully, it will be kicking less and less from now on. As for the French Communist Party, we can safely say that it's henceforth just as dead as Boris Yeltsin.

The outcome of the second round, in two week's time, will be determined certainly by the votes of those who have just given the Centrist François Bayrou a result of nearly 19%.

If you examine my website concerning the Skeffington ancestors of Lewis Carroll, you'll discover a couple named Ralph de Neville [1364-1425] and Joan de Beaufort [1375-1440]. They had a grandson named Richard Neville [1428-1471], who was a leading figure in the Wars of the Roses during which he helped in deposing the Lancastrian king Henry VI in favor of the Yorkist king Edward IV. Later, he fell out with Edward and restored Henry VI to the throne. Richard Neville, Duke of Warwick, was nicknamed the King Maker.

François Bayrou has acquired a position in French politics that likens him to a latter-day King Maker... or maybe (I hope) a Queen Maker.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Internet outlaws?

Tomorrow evening, the tradition of election-night parties will be in full swing from one end of France to the other. The general idea, to avoid boredom, is that you invite along friends from several points on the voting spectrum. This means that the party is sure to be neither wholly joyous nor totally sad. While one party-goer is lamenting in tears, another is exploding in joy.

Not surprisingly, an interesting party-guest, tomorrow afternoon, will be the Internet, whose Googlistic websites have the habit of behaving from time to time like oracles in Ancient Greece, as if they knew everything... even before it happened. In other words, the Internet should normally be able to tell us who's won the election long before any kind of formal decision has been established. Worse still, tomorrow afternoon, a theoretical French voter, knowing already who has won and who has lost, should be able to wander along to the booths and cast his meaningless vote. Now, Napoléon never reckoned on this kind of technology. And the present-day French Republic doesn't like this scandalous logic at all. One doesn't need to beat around the bush. It's against the law of the republic.

Conclusions. Tomorrow evening, a team of competent French Internet cops will be looking out for offenders: that's to say, webmasters who would dare to announce the election results before 8 o'clock in the evening. I'm alarmed at a personal level in that my journalist daughter would appear to have received a mission from her boss that consists of trying to break the law in this domain... so that she'll be able to write an article from the jailhouse on Monday morning claiming: "Your favorite TV magazine knew who won and who lost at least an hour before the rest of you... which explains why I'm dispatching this article from a prison cell." With friends, I'll bring her oranges.

French jails, tomorrow evening, should theoretically be brimming over with Internet outlaws. A positive note: the future president might be prepared to announce an amnesty, to rid over-burdened French prisons of all these inoffensive orange-eating electronic outlaws.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Thin line between facts and Fascism

We're four days away from the first round of the French presidential elections. Since I'm not French, I won't be voting, but I have my personal aspirations and apprehensions. I would like to see a great victory for the Centrist François Bayrou, rather than the lightweight Socialist Ségolène Royal, because he appears to envisage French politics in a new light, without the eternal split between the Left and the Right. My vital hope, above all, is for the massive defeat of the Extreme Right of Jean-Marie Le Pen.

For the moment, the super favorite would appear to be Nicolas Sarkozy. I can understand this preference in the sense that many people would like to see France governed by a ferocious little bull terrier, which is exactly the image of Sarkozy. The possibility of a resurgence of Islamic terrorism in nearby Algeria promotes the case of a strongman such as Sarkozy, who doesn't beat around the bush when it comes to pointing a finger at societal outlaws, designated spontaneously as scum in need of Karcher-style cleansing.

In a recent interview with a philosopher, Sarkozy dropped an intellectual bombshell that was picked up immediately by everybody. First, in speaking of pedophiles, Sarkozy said: "One is born a pedophile. Besides, it's a problem in that we don't know how to handle this pathology." Then the pit bull turned to an adjacent subject: adolescent suicides. Here are the words of Sarkozy (my translation): "Some 1200 to 1300 young people commit suicide every year in France. They did so, not because their parents weren't taking care of them, but because they were genetically fragile, victims of a precursory pain." Programmed genetically to die. This is strong language, which brings to mind the terrible theme of eugenics.

Today, few people remember the unexpected but profound collaboration between the French Nobel prize-winner Alexis Carrell [1873-1944] and his young disciple, the American aviator Charles Lindbergh [1902-1974]. Carrell was a believer in eugenics: the science and potential technology of breeding humans like stud cattle. Hitler, among others, was fond of this theme.

Nicolas Sarkozy is a smart guy, and he knows where to stop, before going too far. He's perfectly aware (I hope) of the thin line that separates facts from Fascism.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Vote for the planet Earth!

I've translated into English the flyer for a big outdoor reunion in Paris, next Sunday at the Trocadéro, organized by the Nicolas Hulot Foundation. If you feel like listening to Nicolas explaining in French his ecological pact, click here.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Women in white

Looking at recent posts, Freudian readers of my blog might conclude that I've got some kind of a fixation for women in white. Now, that might or might not be the case. It's a fact that, like many males, I've often been fascinated by female dentists, nurses, etc. But I've never known whether the whiteness played a role in this fascination, or whether it wasn't simply the protective soothing presence of these ladies. On the other hand, I was recently enchanted by the vision of a splendid female gendarme, dressed in blue, with a pistol in her belt, talking nonchalantly with friends outside the local supermarket. Maybe I'm simply attracted by uniforms, no matter what color. In any case, there's probably no point in my pursuing this daring exercise in sexual fantasies, since it's likely to send my blog readers to sleep...

Just one final remark. Or rather a question. Do you know, off hand, the etymology of the word "candidate", as in a phrase such as "the French presidential candidate Ségolène Royal"? It comes from the Latin candidatus, designating an individual dressed in white. In the Roman empire, individuals who came to the forum with the intention of proposing their services for a public office were traditionally clothed in white robes.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Don't knock Hubby!

Up until today, the Socialist presidential candidate Ségolène Royal had a dynamic and outspoken spokesman, 44-year-old Arnaud Montebourg. Unfortunately, last night on television, he cracked a trivial joke. An interviewer asked him if Ségolène, in her presidential campaign, was bogged down by any handicap. Montebourg replied spontaneously, with a grin: "Ségolène Royal has a sole weakness: her partner." Now, this kind of a joke didn't go down well with the boss. During the night, Montebourg realized that he had committed an idiotic faux pas, of the kind that cannot be tolerated in the context of such a saintly female as Ségolène. At dawn, he submitted his resignation, while explaining that his words were intended as a pure joke. Acting magnanimously in the style of a soccer referee who wants the game to go on calmly, in a dignified manner, Ségolène told her spokesman that his remarks were "out of place", and she suspended him for a month. For a political party whose emblem is the red rose, you might call that, in soccer terms, a pink card.

It takes a lot of imagination for French observers to figure out the possible consequences of this novel situation in which the female candidate is in fact, in everyday life, the partner of the chief of France's Socialist party, François Hollande. Everybody in France knows that Bernadette Chirac, the wife of the French president, has devoted a lot of energy over the last decade, in liaison with the judo champion David Douillet, to a huge charitable operation that consists of collecting small coins (referred to as "yellow pieces" in French) to benefit hospitalized children in France. A wag suggested that, if ever Ségolène were to replace Chirac, then François Hollande might take over this charitable work of Bernadette.

The husbands of female chiefs of state are a fascinating subject. We've become accustomed to the chap named Philip Mountbatten who has been walking along unobtrusively in the wake of Elizabeth II for the last half a century. Then there was the delightful case of the likable hubby named Denis Thatcher who had been courageous enough to marry the future Iron Lady.

If ever the Democratic senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is elected as the future president of the USA (an idea that pleases me greatly), it will be interesting to see whether she decides to hire her husband for some kind of White House job. On the other hand, it's understandable that Hillary might not like the idea of putting Bill in a situation where he could be tempted to prowl around once again among the female office staff.