Monday, March 31, 2008

Mission to Save the Semicolon

I don't know if you've been following the movement to save the semicolon. It has been gathering steam in the media these past few weeks. Now, Rue89 reveals the existence of an earth-shaking document--the smoking gun, as it were, the pièce à conviction that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the hyperpresident does indeed concern himself with everything that takes place in France. Super-Sarko has committed himself to saving the threatened punctuation mark; perhaps every child in France will be asked to write a sentence containing un point-virgule, lest we forget.

One word of caution: the letter from the Élysée published in Rue89 is dated April 1. In some respects, the semicolon resembles a fishhook: just the sign needed to reel in un poisson d'avril.

New Blog on American Politics in French

French Politics now has its counterpart in France: sociologist Eric Fassin has a new blog, which will cover the American political scene from a French point of view. Eric, who has taught at NYU, knows this country well.

Renaut on the Politicization of Universities

Alain Renaut is critical of the way in which elections of university presidents have proceeded under the university reform law of 2007. He sees an application of broad political labels--"liberal," "left"--to concrete situations in which these labels have no coherent meaning. For instance, he is responsible for a master's degree in philosophy and sociology. Of 500 students in the program, only one succeeded in obtaining the agrégation. Under such conditions, is it a "liberal" or "left" policy to consider curriculum revisions that take into account the extreme unlikelihood that graduates will find jobs in teaching? Isn't it the responsible and humane thing to do to add courses that prospective employers outside the university will find more relevant to their needs?

Blair Out

Jean-Pierre Jouyet reflects on the upcoming French presidency of the European Commission. Among other things, he reveals that the thought of Tony Blair's becoming president of the European Council, which Sarkozy earlier appeared to favor, is no longer on the table because "the majority of our partners do not want a representative from a country that enjoys the most exemptions. Tony Blair has a lot of charisma, but it doesn't seem to me that a consensus has emerged in his favor." He also suggests, in response to a question about whether Javier Solana will continue as diplomatic representative of the EU, that "one mustn't underestimate the expectations of our fellow citizens" that new faces will emerge in top EU posts. Let the speculation begin.

Zoenauts Pardoned

As predicted here and elsewhere some months back, the six members of L'Arche de Zoé convicted in Chad have now been pardoned by President Déby and will soon be released from the French prison in which they are currently held. If anyone can see the moral in this sad tale, let me know; I see only ironies. Perhaps one day one of the Zoénauts will turn out to be a new André Malraux. Malraux, as you may know, was imprisoned for stealing objets d'art from Angkor Wat and released after protests from metropolitan intellectuals swayed the French colonial administration. So we might view the latter-day episode as a passage from the "museum without walls" to the orphanage without walls. Somehow, though, I doubt that Eric Breteau aspires to fill Malraux's shoes. No doubt the Zoénauts will now sell their stories to the media, however.

Response on Attack Ad

You may recall that I was critical a while back of an ad produced by the Campaign for America's Future that bashed the French in order to attack John McCain. Here is the reply I received today to the message of protest I sent to the organization:

Dear Arthur,

Thank you for your email. The "Merci McCain" video was intended as a
light-hearted way to highlight the ridiculousness of the conservative
attacks on the French. More so (and the true intention of the video),
the real issue is whether John McCain's close ties to corporate
lobbyists has him shipping U.S. jobs to France.

We appreciate your comments and they have been sent to the appropriate
department within our organzation. We also apologize for any offense
that this video has caused.

Thank you for your continued support of Our Future.

All the best,


So I am asked to believe that the bashing of the French was simultaneously mockery of conservative attacks on the French and serious criticism of "shipping U.S. jobs to France." And I am thanked for my "continued support of Our Future." Do words have any meaning for these people? (And grammar? "More so ...", "... close ties ... has him shipping ...") Some days it's difficult to contemplate "our future," let alone support it.

Across the Aisle

Meanwhile, in the ranks of the UMP, Xavier Bertrand's rapid rise and obvious presidential favor have led others to sharpen their knives. With much talk about Bertrand as the next prime minister, François Fillon has begun to feel the heat. When Bertrand's franc-maçon credentials were evoked, the prime minister remarked, "Maçon, je savais, mais franc, je l'ignorais." And Jean-François Copé, le grand déçu de Sarkozysme, scheming quietly in the wings as always, has allegedly begun to refer to Bertrand sarcastically as "le meilleur d'entre nous," harking back to Chirac's famous description of Alain Juppé, which was not universally appreciated by Juppé's party comrades.

Moscovici Reacts

I see that Pierre Moscovici reacted to Claude Bartolone's remarks much as I did. Bartolone's transparent overture to Cambadélis in the DSK courant and Arnaud Montebourg (ex-NPS ex-Royaliste) to form an alliance/triumvirate to block both Royal and Delanoë from seizing the leadership in November pleases Moscovici in one sense--he doesn't want either of the rival présidentiables to become secretary general either--but displeases him in another: he would like to be leader himself, and, failing that, he would like to be recognized as leader of the Strauss-Kahniens and suspects his competitor Cambadélis of wheeling and dealing behind the scenes. Whence his rather prissy formulation of his position:

My approach is to be clear and direct, by stating plainly that the social democrats will have influence in the party and not by diluting our influence or choosing the party leader by lot.

It might have been more clear and direct to say, "Gotcha, Camba, don't think I was born yesterday."