Friday, October 5, 2007

DNA Testing Restored

DNA testing has been restored to the immigration bill. In a vitriolic editorial, Eric Fottorino of Le Monde attacks this decision as a shameful renunciation of French values. Among other things he notes that French law does not privilege the biological family; that French law limits DNA testing to legitimate medical or judicial purposes; that the amendment has alienated many foreigners friendly to France; and that the a priori suspicion of fraud in immigration applications is unworthy of a generous people. These points have some merit. So, in my view, do the points on the other side of this debate: that 11 other EU countries allow such voluntary DNA testing (I stress the word voluntary) in contested immigration cases and that fraud is not unknown. I am not sure where I stand, finally, on this amendment, but at a minimum I would want to know how frequent allegations of fraud are in family reunification applications. The highly emotional nature of this debate seems to me misplaced. I see no reason to suspect advocates of this amendment of covert racism or betrayal of French values. My question is rather of a pragmatic nature: are suspect cases frequent enough to warrant this step, given the facts that it is controversial at home (only about 47% of those polled support the amendment, and the Senate vote was 188-135) and may disserve the French image abroad?

The story is not yet over, with constitutional challenges still to come.

Scholarly Crackdown?

According to historian Paul Schor, the working group of the Institut d'Études sur l'Immigration et l'Intégration has been assigned the mission of "determining pertinent fields and subjects" and of "identifying the main lines of current and desirable research," which are then to be submitted to a Scientific Committee charged with "validating and orienting the main avenues of research and ensuring the neutrality and quality of results that are to be made public." The quotes are from the mission statement of the working group and seem to validate the worst fears of scholars who warned months ago that the government was preparing to intervene in academic research on immigration in an unacceptable way. The only way to "ensure quality" in research is to allow free and vigorous debate. Government cannot dictate what is "neutral" or "valid." Such an affront to academic freedom is astonishing and intolerable. I expect the protest to grow louder in the coming months.

France Makes Peace with Google


La République des Livres reports that culture minister Christine Albanel has seen the light and is making peace with Google. Those who follow France's Internet policies will recall that Jean-Noël Jeanneney, historian and head of the BN, had been an outspoken critic of Google's effort to digitize millions of books and make them available on line. Jeanneney and the Chirac administration felt that Google's domination would inevitably submerge French culture on the Internet. Instead, they proposed independent French and European efforts to counter Google. But France had nothing comparable to Google's resources, and the effort bore little fruit, whereas Google Books has already become a valuable resource, as I, a regular user, can attest. Now France has approached the head of Google France with an eye to promoting a joint effort to ensure that French works are not neglected in Google's program. I think this is the right move.

EADS and the State


Responding to my post on the accusations of insider trading at EADS, a commenter rightly pointed out that Christine Lagarde had stated flatly that the state had sold none of its shares of EADS. Yes, but la Caisse des Dépôts bought shares of the company that were being dumped by insiders. Thus the state wound up holding the bag when the share price fell. Make no mistake: this could well prove to be a huge scandal and a huge embarrassment to a president who has close ties to major players.

Wishing Doesn't Make It So

Jean Véronis has another fascinating analysis of the candidates' use of language, this time focusing on their affinity for certain modal verbs (vouloir, falloir, pouvoir, devoir). It turns out--who would have guessed!--that Sarkozy is particularly fond of vouloir:

Discours de Nicolas Sarkozy à la Porte de Versailles (14 janvier 2007)

Je veux être le Président d'une République qui dira aux jeunes : « Vous voulez être reconnus comme des citoyens à part entière dès que vous devenez majeurs... »
Je veux être le Président d'une République qui dit à la jeunesse : « Tu reçois beaucoup, tu dois donner aussi de toi-même.... »
Je veux être le Président d'une France qui remettra le travailleur au coeur de la société.
Je veux être le Président de l'augmentation du pouvoir d'achat.
Je veux être le Président du peuple qui a bien compris que les RTT ne servent à rien si on n'a pas de quoi payer des vacances à ses enfants.
Je veux être le Président de tous ces Français qui pensent que l'assistanat est dégradant pour la personne humaine.
Je veux être le Président qui s'efforcera de moraliser le capitalisme...
Je veux être le Président qui va remettre la morale au coeur de la politique.

Bayrou favors pouvoir; Ségolène Royal, devoir; Le Pen, falloir. Typical samples of all the candidates:

François Bayrou

Il faut que la France prenne un autre chemin.
Il faut que l'Etat soit légitime.
Il faut que l'Europe soit l'affaire des citoyens européens
On ne peut pas continuer comme cela.
On ne peut plus continuer dans la guerre civile ridicule et sourde d’une moitié du pays contre l’autre.
On ne peut laisser l’Université en l’état actuel.

Ségolène Royal

La France doit aimer tous ses enfants, d’où qu’ils viennent, où qu’ils aient grandi, dans la diversité de leurs talents.
Le peuple doit se saisir de notre projet présidentiel.
La puissance publique doit assumer ses responsabilités.
L'inventivité des entrepreneurs doit être reconnue, mais la dignité du travail doit être respectée.
La France doit travailler plus en donnant d’abord du travail à tous.

Jean-Marie Le Pen

Oui, il faut rompre, changer !
Il faut dire la vérité aux Français.
Il faut avoir le courage de regarder les réalités en face.
Il faut le dire, la France ne sait plus mettre de limite, ni aux enfants, ni à l'immigration, ni au commerce.
Pour que le peuple s'en sorte, il faut sortir les sortants.

Nicolas Sarkozy

Je veux remettre la politique à l’endroit.
Je veux tourner le dos à une politique qui explique que ce qui est nécessaire est impossible.
Je veux regarder en face la question de l’immigration.
Je veux rendre au travail sa valeur morale et sa capacité d’émancipation.
Je veux rendre au travailleur la première place dans la société.

All this is backed up by a factor analysis of a digitized corpus of the candidates' speeches.