Better bread and more free time

As the rest of Europe wonders if the French elections prove the old adage that in all countries the government lies to the electorate, but in France the electorate lies to the government, John Kay in the today’s FT offers reasons why the French voted as they did. Basically France is a nice country to live in, with better bread and more free time, and the French want to keep it that way. He has a point, though cynics might note that Kay lives in France but works in Britain.

The Stomach For Reform?

In its assessment of the debacle for Chirac/Raffarin in this weekend’s French regional elections the German newspaper S?ddeutsche Zeitung asked one pretty pertinent question:

‘are European societies capable of stomaching unpleasant reforms?’

Certainly the evidence would seem to make it a fairly reasonable question to ask. Sunday’s elections have been billed as a victory for the left, but equally we have only recently witnessed Gerhard Schroeder, seemingly unable to inspire sufficient confidence in his proposed welfare cuts, stepping down as chairman of the Social Democratic Party just before suffering a significant defeat in the Hamburg elections.
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The beautiful game

Crooked Timber goes from strength to strength, now adding John Holbo and Belle Waring to the masthead. (John & Belle will also continue to maintain their own blog.)

Kieran Healy notes that CT now has the numbers to field a rugby side. (He even provides a diagramme.) Down in the comments, Cryptic Ned asks:

When?s the home-and-home against Fistful of Euros set for?

Now maths are not my strong suit, but a quick tally down in the sidebar suggests that the Fistful has too few fingers for rugger. But, if I count correctly, there are eleven of us, which lends itself nicely to the other code.

And anyway, AFOEers (and CTers) – who wants to be a gentleman when one can be a hooligan instead!

Late Last Week

German President Johannes Rau cancelled the last leg of his nine-day trip to Africa because of credible indications that he would be attacked by terrorists. Given that he was scheduled to stop in Djibouti, where German soldiers are serving in multinational efforts to help maintain order in and around the Horn of Africa, it’s a pretty good bet that there was an Islamic component to the threat.

When Rau landed in Berlin, he looked rested and fit in a tropical-weight suit. He sounded more disappointed than worried that he had had to break off the trip, the 75th of his tenure. Just days before, he had been encouraging African leaders not only to solve their own problems, but not to let a false sense of solidarity lead them to overlook repression. This last led the ambassador from Zimbabwe to walk out in the middle of Rau’s Nairobi speech.

On the tarmac in Berlin, Rau said that the deciding factor was that the threat was not just to him, but to the people around him, and that he had a responsibility not to endanger them for his own sake. From that, I would read that the indications were of an attack against his airplane, maybe like this. German media are also reporting that the local security forces had been infiltrated, meaning any changes in route would have been quickly betrayed.

Looks like a narrow escape, and a reminder that differences over Kyoto, genetically modified crops, copyright, film subsidies, tax flimflammery or any of the dozens of things we fight about within the western world don’t matter a whit to the people who want to bring death and destruction to the peoples of the west, its leaders and its symbols.

Pondicherry Calling

Pondicherry is in the news. The former French colony, handed over to India in 1954, has just become the lastest cause celebre in ‘the great outsourcing debate’.

Under the evocative title: Once they were French colonies, now they call back NewIndpress has a piece today on this very topic.

Says Joel Ruet, a researcher with the French Cultural Centre in Delhi: ??Companies?both French and Indian?now offer a variety of opportunities to French-speaking Indians in the software sector. Satyam, Wipro and other companies looking for opportunities in French BPOs have now started to have their own in-house French software translation units where Indians from the old colonies are hired,?? he says. This is apart from the French energy companies like TotalFina and EDS that have come to India and hire those proficient in the language.

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