Showing posts with label Ségolène Royal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ségolène Royal. Show all posts

Friday, October 30, 2009

Jacques Chirac to stand trial

For the first time ever in the history of the Fifth French Republic, a former president will be put on trial. It's alleged that, when he was the mayor of Paris, Jacques Chirac used public funds to pay the salaries of 21 alleged municipal employees who were in fact his political agents.

Shortly after learning that Chirac would be brought to trial, former presidential candidate Ségolène Royal provided a surprising demonstration of the unusual state of current political feelings in France by saying publicly on radio that Chirac should be left in peace. One has the impression that the regal behavior of Nicolas Sarkozy—including above all his recent legal pursuit of Chirac's former prime minister Dominique de Villepin—is causing a lot of people to look back upon Chirac's presidency with fond nostalgia.

On 30 December 1941 in Ottawa, Winston Churchill evoked defeatist French generals who had expressed their belief that, within three weeks, England would have her neck wrung, by the Nazis, like a chicken. He pronounced simple words that drew applause from members of the Canadian parliament: "Some chicken, some neck."

In the context of the Clearstream affair, Sarkozy recently blurted out that the individual who tried to smear him through falsified computer listings would be "hung up on a butcher's hook".

Seeing the popularity of Dominique de Villepin, who's starting to look like a presidential candidate for 2012, I'm tempted to paraphrase Churchill: "Some carcass, some cut of meat."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Cheap website

These days, if leaders of political movements want to influence people, their Internet presence must be impeccable. Here's the web page of Ségolène Royal, which hit the world yesterday:

The thick black frame around the video is not particularly aesthetic, and the presentation of a dozen buttons is boring. Furthermore, this allegedly professional website is based visually upon a free Microsoft background image:

It's the sort of basic website that could have been assembled by an average schoolkid. A single adjective springs into the minds of connoisseurs: cheap. Is Ségolène Royal no longer in contact with talented photographers, web designers and media experts? Today, would-be leaders can no longer get away with cheap stuff like this. There are simply too many brights kids around. And they're going to vote for tomorrow's leaders.

BREAKING NEWS: The website's getting worse. Yesterday, we saw a typical specimen of amateur web creativity at a junior college level. Today, we're informed by a big banner that the creation of Ségolène's website will be a "participative" affair, with various Socialist Party committees throughout France taking turns in contributing various backgrounds. This morning, to start the ball rolling, they've moved down to an infants' school level.

[Click the image to see what happens.
Maybe the website has been hacked, and this is a hoax.]

If this process continues, Ségolène will soon be demonstrating that even a year-old baby can participate in the creation of a website. Maybe, for background: a dirty diaper.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Funny Amsterdam

The civic authorities in Amsterdam have a side-splitting sense of humor. Look at this Photoshop montage they concocted for their forthcoming festivities for the late queen Juliana's birthday, characterized traditionally by the color orange (I wonder why):

France's queen of morality, Ségolène Royal, has become famous recently (as if she weren't so already) for making apologies to foreign nations and leaders concerning Sarko's faux pas. This time, she should probably apologize to Berlu for his being cast in this role as a drag-queenish duettist. Maybe she should apologize directly to the Dutch people, for their being obliged to see these clownish faces staring down at them from the walls. Or she could create a surprise by apologizing to the citizens of Italy and France for this shocking exploitation of the images of their cherished leaders. Ideally, Ségo could also apologize to readers of Antipodes, since the author is too dumb to do so, for their having to endure such a stupid blog article.

ADDENDUM: I was trying to be mildly ironical when I wondered out loud why Queen Juliana's birthday evokes the color orange. Every schoolchild of my generation in Australia learned that a Dutch prince, William of Orange [1650-1702], became William III of England. As a teenager, I remember my paternal grandmother telling me that we had ancestors in Ireland who were Orangemen, which was the funny term designating bigoted folk in Northern Ireland and Scotland who were members of the so-called Orange Order, inspired by the staunchly Protestant monarch.

The Orange term in the name of the Dutch royal house is derived, of course, from the ancient city of Orange in south-east France, which used to be a principality. For its Roman builders, that city had a Latin name, Arausio (designating vaguely an anatomical part of the head), which was later transliterated into Orange.

As far as the fruit and the color are concerned, the original Arabic term was naranj, which was later transliterated into the French word orange, at a time when the city of Orange had already existed for many centuries. Maybe the transliteration of the name of the fruit, of a crudely approximative nature, was influenced at a purely auditory level by the existing name of the city. The French name of the fruit and its color was then incorporated identically into the English language.

People might imagine that the French city acquired its name because it was connected in some way with oranges. This was not at all the case. So, there is no profound reason whatsoever why the queen's birthday in Holland should be associated with the color orange.

Observers might object that the arms of the city of Orange contain an explicit allusion to the fruit tree. In the relatively serious domain of heraldry, this is a case of a mild joke. The creator of the arms thought it would be amusing to take advantage of the homonymy, so he decided to include an orange tree. Why not? There are so many cases of this phenomenon in heraldry that it received a special name. Arms that exploit coincidental homonymy are described as canting arms (literally, arms that talk; in French, armes parlantes).

Today, it might be said that the Orange joke has come a long way... attaining a zenith in the comical photo-montage of Berlu & Sarko on bus shelters in Amsterdam.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Ségolène in attack mode

The recent behavior of former presidential candidate Ségolène Royal has been unexpected, indeed disturbing. First, when everybody was jubilating about the release of Ingrid Betancourt, Ségolène threw a spanner in the works by declaring publicly that Nicolas Sarkozy had played no role whatsoever in that operation. In fact, Ségolène's opinion was justified. Like many observers, I was shocked when I saw Sarkozy making a TV appearance with Ingrid's children in tow, just an hour or so after the message of her release was flashed on our screens. But Ségolène's outspoken opinion on this affair struck many people as "politically incorrect", since Sarkozy had been attempting constantly to obtain the release of Ingrid Betancourt, but with no success.

More recently, Ségolène shocked many people when she suggested that a couple of criminal intrusions into her Paris flat might be linked in a causal manner to her public criticism of Sarkozy's style of reigning over France. In speaking in this way, she did in fact come very close to blaming the Sarkozy clan for a misdemeanor, but without supplying any explicit proofs for such an accusation.

Some of Sarkozy's political associates have suggested that Ségolène has "blown a fuse", and lost control of herself... but I'm not convinced that her detractors really believe what they're saying. It's quite obvious that Ségolène, faced with the phenomenon of Sarkozy, has decided deliberately to step up her carefully-planned provocations and move into attack mode, so that French citizens see her clearly, from now on, as an aggressive opponent of the president. There are no limits, as it were, to the ways and means by which she seeks to vent her anger against Sarkozy. In any case, as far as I'm concerned, Ségolène's anti-Sarkozian outbursts are perfectly logical and politically sound. There would be no point in her trying to be nice and polite with a protagonist such as Sarkozy. In any case, she's unlikely to get hurt, from a popularity viewpoint, by adopting a strategy that consists of being systematically nasty with respect to the president.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Sounds of silence

The new president is ubiquitous. That's a highfalutin way of saying that he's everywhere, simultaneously, 24 hours a day, prepared to intervene, like Zorro or Superman. Nicolas Sarkozy is an earthmoving machine in overdrive, but many critics are not sure what he's shoveling. Meanwhile, his prime minister, François Fillon, is more like the Invisible Man.

In the political aftermath of Sarkozy's victory, it has become fashionable to evoke the silence of the Socialists, and to joke about the fact that the once-great leftist party has imploded, with a few former members even being lured to the president's camp. They still have a nominal chief, François Hollande, who used to be the companion of Ségolène Royal.

In the near future, when Hollande steps down as party chief, there's a good possibility that he might be replaced by the mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë. This openly gay gentleman has worked well in his job in Paris, and become highly respected and indeed popular. It's premature to envisage such questions, but Delanoë has supporters who see him as a future presidential candidate.

On the far left of the political spectrum, the youthful postman Olivier Besancenot carries on believing naively in his eternal Robin Hood convictions. In society, there are two classes: the lazy rich and the poor workers. To make things hunky-dory, all that's required is a political system that takes wealth away from the rich and distributes it to the needy. But don't waste your time asking Olivier how a society generates new prosperity. He's good at delivering letters and packages, but it's not his business to know what's inside them.

Meanwhile, the socialist madonna Ségolène Royal is going about things in a calm and determined manner, convinced more than ever that the nation will need her one of these days. She has just written a book that analyzes her recent electoral defeat, and she's currently doing the media rounds to publicize it... but drawing less attention than she might have expected. For the moment, nobody knows whether she might try to conquer the leadership of the socialist party when her former partner François Hollande vacates the post. So it's a little too early to evoke, or even imagine, a hypothetical leadership battle between Ségolène Royal and Bertrand Delanoë. Today, a journalist asked Ségolène a pertinent question: "Could a future presidential contender win the election without being the official candidate of a major political party?" Ségolène said yes. Then she added: "At one and the same time, I'm enrolled inside the socialist party, and outside the socialist party." In French, that kind of situation is described as sitting on a fence. Maybe, though, it's a fence with metallic spikes and barbed wire.

Monday, April 9, 2007


Maybe I have a distorted way of looking at things but, when I first saw this image, I had the impression that the red-haired angel was handling a roll of toilet paper. When you think about it, that would be a great question for Byzantine theologians: Do angels use toilet paper?

Sometimes, in the middle of a spirited conversation between several people, the talking stops abruptly, for no particular reason, and there's a gap of maybe ten seconds or so of spooky silence, up until somebody takes up the conversation once again. In French, there's a quaint expression to designate such an incident. They say: An angel just passed by.

You might be wondering why I've brought up the subject of angels. I hasten to add that this has nothing to do with Easter Monday or the alleged resurrection of Jesus. On the contrary, I wish to mention a down-to-earth affair: a white paper with a curious title, République 2.0, on the challenges of digital technology in French society.

A few weeks ago, the presidential candidate Ségolène Royal called upon a distinguished Socialist personality, Michel Rocard, to produce a report on this highly topical subject.

And angels in all this? In browsing through the report this afternoon, I was intrigued by the following recommendation, in the section of Rocard's report that deals with technological innovation in France:

Encourage logic of a "business angels" type.

Here, the abstract term "logic", which is highly popular in technocratic French, simply designates a way of doing things. The expression "business angels" appeared as such in Rocard's report, in English, and the inverted commas ("twitch twitch") were no doubt inserted to underline the author's awareness that he had switched momentarily into less than academic French. And what exactly does this recommendation mean, when translated into everyday language?

In case you didn't know, so-called business angels are wealthy individuals who get a kick out of operating as venture capitalists, using their personal cash. They're the sort of individuals who are capable of being so enthralled by the great ideas and ambitions of a talented innovator (who knows how to sell him/herself) that they're prepared to bury him in bags of money (like in a Dilbert cartoon) enabling him/her to set up a business. It goes without saying (but I'll say it all the same) that Michel Rocard is convinced that, in the domain of digital technology, there are many brilliant young French innovators who would be able to achieve marvels if only they had the financial resources enabling them to get into action. Who knows? Maybe he's right...

I've never thought of France as the kind of country where it's easy to start off with a brilliant idea and build it into a business. First, the competition's stiff, in the sense that, in a brilliant country such as France, there are hordes of bright individuals with brilliant ideas. But the real problem is that, in France, the concept known elsewhere as free enterprise turns out to be a terribly expensive affair. As soon as an individual decides to set up a business, to do anything at all (or even nothing in the immediate future), the entrepreneur is hit with a massive volume of charges of all kinds, and it's hard to survive. Either you have to make piles of money rapidly, or else the charges drag you into bankruptcy. That's France.

Years ago, I had a brilliant idea (in the course of a lifetime, this can happen), and I would have loved to be discovered by a business angel hovering in the skies of Paris. I remember writing down a neologism, wearware, on a piece of paper, and trying to explain to friends that it was a matter of designing exotic garments incorporating various kinds of digital devices, maybe coat pockets that flashed messages of a kinky kind with graphic and audio effects. Just imagine it. If only I had been able to develop the brilliant idea of wearware, I would have become filthy rich, and I wouldn't be here today in my modest Alpine abode typing this silly blog message. Retrospectively, I believe it's quite likely that my guardian angel stepped in, fortunately, and saved me from spending my life as a filthy rich developer of wearware.

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.

Five years as a political hostage

People in France are familiar with the photo of Ingrid Betancourt, who has dual French-Colombian nationality. While campaigning politically in Colombia on 23 February 2002, Ingrid was kidnapped by FARC guerrillas (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). Today, there are no firm projects for rescuing her. Worse, nobody even knows if she's still alive.

In France, Ingrid's daughter Mélanie Delloye has been fighting relentlessly to make sure that her mother's plight is not forgotten. It's a small consolation to be able to take advantage of the forthcoming French presidential elections to remind everybody that more needs to be done to find her mother.

The Socialist candidate Ségolène Royal has just signed a manifesto submitted by the French committee concerned with the Betancourt case. Among other things, Madame Royal has promised that, if she were to be elected president of France, she would call upon both the European Union and the USA in a long-overdue attempt to rescue Ingrid Betancourt.

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.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Monsieur Hulot

In most of the films he directed, Jacques Tati [1908-1982] played the role of a comic character called Monsieur Hulot. This pipe-smoking eccentric, constantly attired in a gabardine raincoat and hat, was modeled upon a real individual: an architect who rebuilt Saint-Malo after the bombing of Normandy.

Today, the architect’s grandson, 55-year-old Nicolas Hulot, is rapidly becoming one of France’s most-celebrated personalities: not merely the familiar and talented producer of the spectacular Ushuaïa TV series on the wonders of the natural world, but now the leader of a dynamic program aimed at promoting ecological awareness in political spheres.

During my recent visit to Australia, I was surprised to discover that, whereas most people recall Commandant Jacques-Yves Cousteau [1910-1997], nobody seems to have heard of Nicolas Hulot, or seen his extraordinary TV work... which nevertheless exists now on DVD. Hulot is Cousteau in overdrive: an exponential power shift. If Cousteau were to be likened to a basic automobile, Hulot is in the Formula 1 category.

Nicolas Hulot, at the head of the 10-year-old Fondation Nicolas-Hulot pour la nature et l’homme, recently published a so-called ecological pact, which he has been proposing to candidates for next year’s French presidential election. Piles of this document are on sale in every bookshop and supermarket in France. The pact includes five engagements:

— Appointment of a deputy prime minister in charge of durable development.

— Imposition of a tax on carbon dioxide emission.

— Reorientation of agricultural policies.

— Organization of participative debates on environmental questions.

— Implementation of educational programs in ecology.

This afternoon, the socialist candidate Ségolène Royal met up with Hulot and expressed her overall acceptance of the measures set out in his pact. Meanwhile, Jacques Chirac had invited Hulot along to the Elysée Palace, earlier in the day, and asked him to be a member of the committee preparing a conference in Paris, on 2-3 February, aimed at setting up a World Environment Organization. There's no doubt about it: Monsieur Hulot, these days, is much in demand.

Besides the ecological pact, another little book, published in 1989, is a must for those who wish to understand the force that has been driving Monsieur Hulot in his fabulous media activities and his ecological crusade. It’s an autobiography whose title, Les chemins de traverse, might be translated as Crossroads. Nicolas relates the tragic story of the suicide of his brother Gonzague in the cellar of the family’s Paris flat. It was 18-year-old Nicolas himself who came upon the decaying body on Christmas Eve 1974, when he was helping his sister prepare the festivities. Gonzague had left a paper stating: Life is not worth living. And, ever since that discovery of his dead brother (which was not revealed to his mother and relatives during the entire Christmas evening, to avoid spoiling the get-together), Nicolas has devoted his existence to proving that Gonzague’s words were terribly wrong.