Thursday, March 24, 2011

Front de Gauche Also Rejects "Front Républicain"

The UMP is not the only party refusing to indicate that its candidates should stand down where necessary to block the election of a Front National candidate. The Front de Gauche (consisting of the Parti de Gauche, the Communists, and the Gauche unitaire) is refusing to support UMP candidates, even if necessary to block the FN.

NATO Will Control Military Ops in Libya

The impasse over command and control of military operations in Libya has been broken. NATO will run the show, but there will be a "political directory" composed of participating states to set the parameters of overall policy, whatever that means. Face-saving, most likely, for the French, who don't want this to look like a neocolonial project. But of course participating states were always free to withdraw from the coalition and will not be making operational decisions, so this gesture is little more than cover.

Guéant Step

It would seem difficult to do a worse job as minister of interior than a man convicted of inciting racial hatred while holding the post, but Claude Guéant, in a few short weeks on the job, has deprived Brice Hortefeux of the honor of being the worst interior minister imaginable. His latest gaffe--or was it a feature, not a bug?--was his assertion, unsupported by any law, that not only are public servants forbidden from wearing religious symbols on the job, but so are the users of public services--in short, everybody. This is untrue, and either Guéant knew it to be untrue when he said it, or else he has a rather shaky grasp on the law for someone who has served as chief of staff to a minister of the interior, secretary general of the Élysée, and now minister of the interior in his own right. Le premier flic de France needs to hit the statute books. It is also a bad sign, with the "debate" on laïcité about to kick off in less than two weeks, that once again we have evidence that the term, whose meaning has always been contested, has now distended to the point where it can be used as a bludgeon to forbid almost anything that the powers-that-be want to forbid. Écrasez l'infâme! 

"Bathed in the universe of Charles Maurras since childhood ..."

I've discussed Patrick Buisson before. Here is another depiction of his influence on President Sarkozy. We learn that Buisson has "bathed in the universe of Charles Maurras since childhood"--Charles Maurras, who described the accession of Pétain to power as a "divine surprise" and was pleased that the defeat of France by the Nazis in 1940 "rid us of our democrats." This is the man who has advised Sarkozy to move closer to the positions of the Front National on immigration issues. Scandalous.

Dictionary Lover

As an inveterate lover of dictionaries myself, I cannot wait to get my hands on Alain Rey's Dictionnaire amoureux des dictionnaires. For those who don't know, Rey is "le papa des Robert," that is, the lexicographer-in-chief of the incomparable and indispensable collection of dictionaries published by Robert. These are the tools of my trade, and I am especially indebted to the Robert Dictionnaire des expressions et locutions. So it is a pleasure to read of Alain Rey's pleasure in the history of the dictionary. I have a collection of French dictionaries from various epochs, and, like Rey, I sometimes amuse myself by examining the ways in which the Grand Larousse, of which I have a late 19th-c. specimen in my basement, treats words like nègre and crétin.

I should perhaps add, however, that I find myself relying increasingly on the marvelous electronic dictionary maintained by the Centre National de Ressources Textuelles et Lexicales, as well as the electronic Oxford English Dictionary. Despite my love of paper dictionaries, the advantages of the electronic dictionary are overwhelming.

Times Editorial on France and Libya

The New York Times:

Now, Mr. Sarkozy needs to step back and let NATO take the lead. After a phone conversation with President Obama on Tuesday, he seems ready to do so, but the details need to be finalized quickly. French efforts to appear the leader and prime coordinator of that intervention have needlessly strained relations with other participating countries. This is a time for the military coalition to come together, not to splinter. It is irresponsible that the command sequence was not decided before the military operation was launched.
Mr. Sarkozy had his reasons for taking such an aggressive stance on Libya. His government had badly bungled the peaceful democratic revolution in Tunisia by clinging to that country’s brutal and venal dictator. He saw Libya as a chance to recoup French prestige in North Africa, a region France has long considered important to its economy and security. And he jumped at the chance to look like a world leader in the run-up to next year’s hotly contested presidential election.