Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Sarkozy has done his predecessor a favor: Chirac's triumphal return to the Salon de l'Agriculture could hardly have offered such a striking contrast had Sarko not set out to make him look so good. Even stroking the head of a piglet can seem a majestic manifestation of statesmanship. To be sure, a woman can be heard on the clip saying "comment il a vieilli," but no one says "Ne me touche pas, tu me salis."

One wonders if George Bush's successor can do as much to magnify his presidency in retrospect.

Holocaust Memory in Kentucky

The teaching of the Holocaust and the Occupation is in the news again, but this time Sarkozy has nothing to do with it. It's not every day that one of my colleagues makes the Times, but today we have a nice picture of Jeremy Popkin, who teaches French history at the U. of Kentucky and is the president of the Society for French Historical Studies. It seems that Jeremy has been caught up in a hoax that is sweeping the Internet, in the form of a letter claiming that university courses on the Holocaust have been canceled owing to pressure from Muslims. The letter in question claimed, falsely, that Jeremy's course on Vichy, the Occupation, and the Holocaust had been canceled as a result of such pressure.

So France isn't the only country where this issue is troublesome.

Besson Report on Flexicurity

Eric Besson has submitted to the prime minister a report on flexicurity measures in use around Europe. Les Échos describes the report as taking "a moderate position." That may be. I haven't yet read the report in its entirety (you can find it here). But what I have read suggests that it won't be easy to figure out what it says. The writing is hardly a model of clarity, or even grammaticality. Consider one passage:

Ajoutons que la France est loin d’être immobile ;
l’accord interprofessionnel du 21 janvier 2008 porte
une innovation importante, résidant dans le fait
d’avoir pris conscience et d’avoir tenu compte lors de
la négociation de deux enjeux nouveaux essentiels :

-- la sécurité dont les employeurs ont un besoin croissant
et n’expriment plus seulement des besoins de
flexibilité. Cette sécurité porte sur la stabilité de
l’emploi pour faire face aux tensions du marché et
sur la stabilité juridique pour éviter les recours, les
surcoûts et les incertitudes ;

--la flexibilité dont les salariés ont également besoin
pour autonomiser leur parcours professionnel et
n’expriment plus seulement des besoins de sécurité.

Would someone like to parse these paragraphs? One thing is clear: On ne veut plus seulement des besoins de sécurité (the phrase is repeated twice and seems to have been inserted by mistake in both sentences, since it doesn't fit grammatically in either). As for autonomiser leur parcours professionnel, I can already envision a cartoon by Plantu: boss faces crowd of angry workers hurling stones and missiles; Boss: "Hold on there, people! What's gotten into you? We're not firing you! We're autonomizing your professional itineraries. Haven't you gotten the message? Security needs are a thing of the past, so why are you expressing them so angrily?"