05 May 2007

French Fries Back On The Menu?

If the results go as expected in tomorrow's election, France may end its decades-long exile in political la-la land, and the French people will embark on the sort of rude awakening that befell Britain under Margaret Thatcher. "We have two days to liquidate the legacy of May 1968," says Nicolas Sarkozy, and you get the feeling he means it.

The Guardian attempts, predictably enough, to brand him as a radical right-winger and/or neoconservative, but Sarkozy would fit comfortably into America's Democratic Party, slightly to the left of Hillary Clinton, perhaps, and a bit to the right of Barack Obama. Which, under the standards by which France has been governed since les annees soixantes, makes him the slightly wet counterpart to Attila the Hun.

Please don't take this as typical American surrender-monkey bashing; any disdain I might have for the French was acquired during the years I lived in England, where they have been doing this sort of thing for centuries, and have understandably gotten rather good at it. But like many Americans and Brits (though the latter would seldom admit it), I also have a lot of liking and admiration for France and the French. I think of them in the same way many of them think of us: lovely country, lovely people, shame about the government.

I don't even have that many quarrels with their social policies. I think it's great if people only have to work 35 hours a week, if many people don't have to work at all, that there's cradle-to-grave security, that any group of workers can, if mildly aggrieved, shut down the country without fear of consequences. "Nice work if you can get it," as Ira Gershwin might have put it, but there's only so long a country can sustain itself on economic principles so abstract and imaginary that they call to mind the common joke among workers in the old Soviet Union: "We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us."

France needs another Socialist government, even if it's the watered-down socialism of Ségolène Royal, about as much as it needs another variety of smelly cheese. Ms. Royal, who comes across like a slightly overwrought cross between Nancy Pelosi and Oprah Winfrey, has been trafficking largely in emotion, sentiment, and symbolism. In other words, she'd be right at home on the Berkeley City Council, but presiding over 60 million Frenchmen and the world's sixth largest economy might be a bit beyond her grasp.

The worst - and I think most unfair - charge leveled against Sarkozy is that he is a racist, but there is little evidence of this. Himself the son of an immigrant, he has actively sought to improve the lot of immigrants, supporting affirmative action, the creation of the Council of the Muslim Faith, and appointing the country's first prefect to be both foreign born and Muslim. If followed through on, his promise to crack down on the feral populations of the banlieue, far from being an attack on Arabs and blacks in general, will actually benefit the majority now being held hostage by the criminal gangs who control the streets.

Similar charges were leveled at Rudy Giuliani during his tenure as New York mayor, yet by slashing New York's murder rate to a quarter of what it had been, Giuliani saved thousands of lives, the majority of them black and brown. Neither in New York or Paris do the thugs, vocal and visible as they might be, represent the dominant ethos of the minority community; those politicians who pander for votes by letting criminals run free are the worst sort of racists. Women residents of the banlieue in particular would benefit from Sarkozy's promise to clear out the racaille, and a fair number of them support him for precisely this reason, as recounted in this BBC story.

If Sarko wins, expect relations between France and the USA to warm considerably. It's not likely he'll be cozying up too closely to President Bush, who is increasingly seen not just in France but around the world as un canard more dead than lame, but Sarkozy is that rare brand of European politician who finds much to admire about America and Americans. If he manages to pull off what he proposes to do, the admiration is likely to become mutual.


Anonymous said...

;;;;;would fit comfortably into America's Democratic Party, slightly to the left of Hillary Clinton;;;;;;

What a shamefully inappropriate analogy. Sarkozy is a dangerous, post-liberal demagogue, with ties to nefarious intelligence networks like Metsada and LAP (Google them if you've never heard the words).

His sudden rise to fame and glory in France was catapulted by his highly publicized involvement in, and response to, the riots of November 2005 in France. A German journalist for the mainstream Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Udo Ulfkotte, claims that British and German intelligence agents encountered Metsada and LAP agents in France stirring up violence during the November 2005 riots. Allegedly, then-Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy coordinated the paying of agents provocateurs to engage in violence in the predominantly Muslim districts of Paris and other major French cities. A British MI6 source is quoted as saying that this is part of Israel's goal to portray Muslims as unpredictable threats who cannot be integrated into Western society.

Whether you believe the allegations or not, philosophically speaker, Sarkozy is still no liberal. He's the leftwing equivilent of a neo-conservative. Which, to me, makes him a sort of modernized rightist, more in the vein of a law-and-order, tough-on-immigrants demagogue like Rudy Giuliani than a legitimate liberal intellectual and statesperson like Hillary Clinton.

He bashes, insults, and scapegoats immigrants. He manipulates and fearmongers sensitive points of French society, much like Bush did after 9/11. He is notorious for constantly threatening the independence of the judiciary. He bad-mouths secularism and advocates blurring the lines between church and state. And he routinely makes scarely veiled remarks inviting French Muslims leave the country should they continue to desire to peacefully practice their faith.

That's what far right Republicans do, in the US, not what Democrats do.

Here's some nice quotes from this "liberal," who sounds more like Archie Bunker than Hillary Clinton:

"If you come to France and you wear a veil, if you go to one of the administrative buildings, then that's not acceptable. If you don't want your wife to be examined by a male doctor, then you're not welcome here."

"If living in France bothers some people, they should feel free to leave the country."

Larry Livermore said...

"If living in France bothers some people, they should feel free to leave the country." What exactly is wrong with that very common-sense statement?

If you want to be outraged, perhaps you should spare some of your outrage for Islamic countries, including your beloved Iran, where immigrants (or natives) could face beatings, prison or death for cultural practices like Christianity, homosexuality, drinking alcohol, looking at pornography, or making a joke about the prevailing local deity.

France has been extremely generous - too generous, it could be argued - toward its immigrants, some of whom won't be satisfied until France itself becomes an Islamic country. If, as you argued last week, Iran has the right of self-determination, no matter how offensive some of its policies and practices may seem to us in the West, then how you can deny France a similar right of self-determination?

As for your tin-hat suggestion that the 2005 riots were stirred up by provocateurs in order to make Muslims look bad, well, they must have been some busy (and numerous) provocateurs indeed to keep trouble brewing for three solid weeks in 274 different towns and cities. Then again, as we've seen from riots and bombings all over the world, there is a significant element in the Muslim community that doesn't need much provoking.

Similarly, if you drew upon sources other than paranoid conspiracy theories for your information, you'd know that Sarkozy rose to prominence in his role as Minister of the Interior, years before the 2005 riots.

And you'd also know that Sarkozy is not "anti-immigrant," and had done much to assist those immigrants who wish to become contributing members of French society. Conflating violently anti-social elements in the banlieue with immigrants in general is the same implicitly racist mistake that American liberals make when they condemn crackdowns on crime as being attacks on African-Americans.

Just as law-abiding African-Americans and immigrants benefited immensely from Mayor Giuliani's restoration of order in New York City, so too will the majority of hard-working and decent Muslim immigrants benefit if President Sarkozy is successful in clearing the racaille from the suburbs.

Anonymous said...

You're back to drawing irrelevant comparisons, again.

What do objectionable laws in Iran have to do with Sarkozy being a fearmongering, immigrant-scape-goating, bigot in France, with ties to foreign intelligence organizations? That's like saying Stalin is okay and can't be legitimate criticized, because, look at Hitler! Joseph McCarthy is okay, because, look at Stalin!

Can't *both* Sarkozy *and* Iran's domestic laws *both* be bad at the same time? Can't *both* Stalin *and* Hitler be bad at the same time? Can't *both* abuse by McCarthyists *and* Stalin be bad at the same time?

This is the same unpersuasive and misleading rhetorical tactic you employed in your faulty Don Imus argument. "Oh, Don Imus can't be legitimately criticized for using racist terminology because, look at Snoop Dog."

Is this post about Sarkozy or about domestic laws in Iran? If you want to talk about Sarkozy, Iran's laws with regard to pornography are irrelevant. If you want to talk about Iran's domestic laws, then start a seperate thread and I will be happy to have an objective discussion on that subject as well. But you can't use one to defend the other. It's like allowing a murderer to defend himself in court by presenting evidence that Jeffrey Dahmer killed far more people than he ever did.

Larry Livermore said...

Fine, have it your way. Iran is "a civilization and a nation on par with China, Italy, and India" (your words) and France is a nation of ignorant rednecks and yahoos. Only trouble with your analysis is that I don't see a whole lot of Frenchmen emigrating to Iran (or the rest of the Islamic world), whereas it seems like millions of Muslims are eager, even desperate to live in vicious, racist, reactionary France.

But you're right to an extent. Even though you've only defended Iran, and seldom if ever offered a word of criticism of any of the infinitely more repressive aspects of Iranian society, the comparison is somewhat irrelevant to our discussion here.

So, let's stick to the point: I don't think Sarkozy is a racist, I think (at least hope) he will be good for France, and especially that he will be good for the masses of immigrants, Muslim or otherwise, who wish to leave peaceably and honestly in a progressive, secular France.

You haven't offered any evidence to the contrary apart from preposterous conspiracy theories and kneejerk sloganeering from Islamophile reactionaries and the far left.

Anonymous said...

If you're going to attribute absolutely insane and slanderous comments to me, what's the point of having a discussion?

Show me where I ever said "France is a nation of ignorant rednecks and yahoos." I never said this, nor anything remotely resembling this. You simply made it up. Is it not true that you invented that statement out of thin air, and improperly attributed to me?

Admit that you invented that statement out of thin air, and that you underhandedly attributed to me. Then we can continue discussing the matter at hand. Otherwise, as I said, there's no point in having a discussion if you're going to argue not against things I say, but rather against statements you invent and falsely attribute to me.

With regard to the allegations against Sarkozy, what evidence do you have to assert that his critics are "Islamophile reactionaries" or from "the far left." Contrary to your mistaken assumptions, Udo Ulfkotte is a right-leaning journalist who, ironically, is most famous for his scathing *critiques* of Islamism. He alleges having received death threats from German "Islamists" and has even publicly declared his intention to form a "party against the Islamization of Germany." And you, based on absolutely nothing, have the audacity to baselessly label him an "Islamophile reactionary" simply because he alleged wrongdoing on the part of Sarkozy? Are all of your political arguments based on such hallow sloganeering and ad hominem attacks without factual foundation?

Larry Livermore said...

:If you're going to attribute absolutely insane and slanderous comments to me, what's the point of having a discussion?::

No point whatsoever. And I don't need to attribute "absolutely insane and slanderous comments" to you when you can baldly claim that the tens of thousands of marauding thugs who burned, looted and assaulted people all across France for three solid weeks were somehow manipulated into doing so by a shadowy conspiracy of Israeli intelligence agents and Machiavellian Sarko-ites.

If there were any truth to your fanciful notion, one would have to conclude that either a) the Franco-Zionist plot is so all-pervading and powerful that resistance is pointless; or b) that the mobs of North Africans and Middle Easterners who trashed France are so idiotic and easily led that only their ruthless suppression and control can enable France to survive.

Take your pick. And while it's true you never called the French "ignorant rednecks and yahoos" (I attributed the words to you by extrapolation only), they just voted by a solid majority for a "dangerous post-liberal demagogue" who "bashes and insults immigrants" (words you did say, and which are just as insane and slanderous).

I think this is a good result. You clearly do not, and I doubt we shall find common ground on this matter. I urge you to take your considerable energy and intelligence and apply them toward reforming nations that are genuinely repressive and demagogic like, say, your beloved Iran.

Anonymous said...

;;;;I urge you to take your considerable energy and intelligence and apply them toward reforming nations that are genuinely repressive and demagogic like, say, your beloved Iran.;;;;;

Unfortunately, there, like here, the post-liberal, neo-conservative apologists for anything status quo, who have a lot in common with you actually, will simply employ your same faulty logic against people like me.

You know (same stuff that you would say):

"Go tell the U.S./U.K. to stop bombing countries first, then lecture us about free speech."

"The same guys who operate Abu Gharaib, Guantanamo, secret dungeons in Eastern Europe at which torture takes place, are faulting *our* human rights record?"

"Germany, the same country which only a few decades ago, spawned Adolf Hitler, and were baking Jews in ovens, is now lecturing that we can't support the Palestinian resistance?"

"We'll stop supporting the Palestinian and Lebanese combatants in the Israel-Arab war when the U.S. stops supporting the
Israelis in the same."

And, frankly, their points on some of these issues are lot better, logical, and relevant than yours. So so long as you want to deflect blame where due by discussing irrelevent actions of other third parties to justify your own; and so long as you instantly dismiss any notion of political and tactical realism on the part of say, the UK or Israel, as "conspiracy theory," but accept the same conspiratorial theorizing wholeheartedly when it comes to allegations made against the other side, you won't persuade anyone that you are objective, let alone correct, in your assertions.

Larry Livermore said...

Show me one bit of credible evidence that the French riots of 2005 were caused by Israeli intelligence agents rather than by tens of thousands of feral young people, and I promise to show more respect for your wacky conspiracy theories.

mike from st. louis said...

face it, larry -- your mr. anonymous will always find a way to blame israel for the world's woes. evidence be damned. it's what he does.

cue broken record.

Anonymous said...

1. "A new book in Germany is casting light on Israel's covert program to provoke violence among Muslims in Western Europe and engage in "false flag" operations in order for Western governments to blame Muslim radicals. The book, Der Krieg im Dunkeln (War in the Dark) by Udo Ulfkotte, formerly a correspondent for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, provides details of the operations of two Israeli intelligence units -- the Metsada, which specializes in sabotage, including "false flag" terrorist attacks and assassinations; and LAP (Lohamah Psichlogit), which engages in psychological warfare."


2. "A British MI-6 source reports that Israel's goal is to portray Muslims as unpredictable threats who cannot be integrated into Western society.

Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence sources report a continuing Israeli intelligence effort to engage in false flag operations in the United States. In addition to Israeli nationals and dual U.S-Israeli nationals being caught casing tunnels, bridges, military bases, tall buildings, government agencies, private homes of U.S. law enforcement agents, airports, oil and chemical plants, and other prospective targets, Israeli nationals continue to be caught engaged in other terror "scare" tactics. There has also been an unprecedented infiltration by Mossad agents into sensitive and top-level positions in the Department of Defense, CIA, Homeland Security Department, FBI, and other agencies, all of which continue to officially recognize Israel as a "hostile intelligence" nation."


And before you proceed with your now reflexive talking-point response and allege that the people making these assertions are "nuts" or "left wing crazies" or "Islamophiles," let's take a look at who they are.

Wayne Madsen, a well-published journalist and respected expert in the field of intelligence, was a former Senior Fellow of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a credible, non-partisan privacy public advocacy group in Washington, DC. He works with members of Congress and congressional committees on legislation and hearings regarding security and intelligence matters. In addition, he was a communications security analyst with the National Security Agency in the 1980s, and an intelligence officer in the US Navy. He has testified on numerous occasions before the US Congress.


If you expect people to immediately dismiss a plausible allegation regarding espionage and covert operation tactics made by a veteran National Security Agency analyst, and former intelligence officer in the United States who speaks at Ivy League universities and advises our government, and readily accept categorical denials of the same by some guy in New York who used to put out Green Day albums, you must still be smoking the stuff! (No disrespect intended, just making a point)

And remember, I'm not saying accept the allegations without investigating the underlying facts. But you must accept that the allegations are absolutely credible, and that the threat is real and must be addressed. If you don't, then you're the looney, not me.

Larry Livermore said...

I encourage interested readers to look at the Madsen link and decide for themselves whether this sex and Israeli-obssessed former spook is a "credible" source for anything but tabloid-level journalism and paranoid conspiracy theories.

Anonymous said...

Funny how when these same "spooks" make outlandish claims about Iraqi or Lebanese or Iranian conspiracies to take over the world, bomb New York with WMD, and convert everyone to Islam, you take the bait hook, line, and sinker, (based on even less evidence, and from sources with motives to lie about their political adversaries).

But then when someone with the same credentials and access to information alleges Israel or the UK have engaged in any type of covert operation, or indeed any political and tactical realism at all - you summarily dismiss it as "paranoid conspiracy theories."

So everyone's crazy, and everyone's paranoid, be they scholars who know more than you, journalists whose lives are dedicated to reporting on these topics, intelligence operatives ON OUR OWN SIDE, if they think the UK or Israel resort to Macheavellian tactics to advance their interests.

It must just be that simple. We are good. They are bad. We are GI Joe. They are Cobra and the Dredknocks. I'd accuse you of watching too much GI Joe as a kid, but I know you're way too old to know what a Detro is.