I’ve liked the French every since they tossed out that liberal embezzling crook Jacques Chirac and elected Sarkozy, the French dude with the conservative ideals and sexy
wife uh, wives. And now I have another reason:
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who sought during the 2008 presidential campaign to associate himself with Barack Obama, has become sharply critical of the American president, often comparing Obama unfavorably to himself, according to an article published this week in the authoritative French daily Le Monde.
The article quotes Sarkozy twice recently criticizing Obama in public, and says he’s twice gone on the record criticizing Obama in recent weeks. Asked last Monday in a television interview of his sweeping attempt to reform several sectors of French government simultaneously, Sarkozy pointed to Obama’s made health care reform his sole focus.
“I didn’t see that that made things simpler,” he said.
Smart guy, that French dude.
A rash of suicides by workers in companies like France Telecom has caught the attention of government officials:
Those deaths have triggered a national debate about whether they’re evidence of a wider malaise in French factories and offices. France may be the land of the 35-hour workweek and the monthlong summer vacation, yet it had a suicide rate of 17.6 per 100,000 people in 2005, the third highest among Group of Eight countries. (Russia and Japan were first and second.)
Estimates of how many suicides in France are work related vary. In 2008, private-sector employers reported 49 suicides stemming from “professional causes,” based on data compiled by Caisse Nationale d’Assurance Maladie des Travailleurs Salaries, France’s state-funded health insurer. Dominique Huez, a doctor who has studied workplace depression, says the real figure may be as many as 3,000 deaths, or about 30 percent of the total number of suicides in 2007, the last year for which statistics are available.
Seems that the short work weeks and bad economy pressured management to try and get the most they can out of workers.
“Employers are now trying to squeeze even more work out of their employees in order to get back the missing five hours,” Salengro [president of a medical association] says. “It lays the ground for the increase of stress and violence at work.”
As a result, the French government has ordered executives to meet with unions to find ways of reducing stress. Gee, I wonder what the unions will say. Perhaps a 30 hour work week and longer vacations? Just what the French economy needs!
This should make liberals think for a second or two before continuing the effort to remake America into the image of France.
The French have some well known traits: arrogance, not working while complaining about how hard they are working, complaining how low their pay is for not working, striking about having to work too hard, electing spineless leaders that capitulate to bloodthirsty tyrants, and surrendering in the face of adversity, just to name a few.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy does not seem to be cut from the same cloth. In fact, Sarkozy is quickly becoming my favorite Frenchman ever.
Before his election Sarkozy promised to "liquidate the legacy" of the May 1968. That was a defining moment in French history; the moment when conservative morality (religion, patriotism, respect for authority) was replaced with the liberal morality (equality, sexual liberation, human rights) that dominates French society today.
Sarkozy wined and dined union leaders, but did not back down on wanting to make railway, electricity and gas workers work 40 years before being eligible for retirement, rather than the 37½ years that they are now required to work before gaining full pension. His predecessor, Jacques Chirac, attempted similar pension reforms in his first year of office back in ’95. After three weeks of strikes that paralyzed the country, Chirac backed down and never attempted anything so bold again.
True to form, transportation unions went on strike and were soon joined by students and civil servants. But after a mere ten days the union opposition is crumbling and it appears Sarkozy has won this round. The difference this time is that the citizens of France were on Sarkozy’s side, not the striking worker’s. Plus, Sarkozy is negotiating, not trying to strong arm the unions into compliance, offering pay raises and other perks.
The result is that Sarkozy has won an enormous victory, giving him the momentum to take on his next target for reform:
But Sarkozy does not plan to back down on the civil servants’ other complaint: his plans to streamline France’s bloated state sector and public administration, the biggest and costliest in Europe. Next year one in three public sector workers who retire will not be replaced. At least 11,000 education jobs will go. Civil servants this week said they would be prepared to strike again.
Even though Sarkozy didn’t play hardball like Reagan did with air traffic controllers or Thatcher did with coal miners, he his still receiving some very impressive kudos from certain quarters. The best quote comes from New Europe:
Maybe it’s still only the first round, but French President Nicolas Sarkozy came close to knocking out the striking rail workers union when they suspended their walkout in the face of his intransigence, unlike his predecessor, the weak-in-the-knees effete milquetoast, Jacques Chirac, who caved in to a similar strike in 1995 faster than you could say “sacre bleu!”
Sarkozy is now headed to China. Let us all hope that he is just as successful as he tries to get the Chinese to allow a fair monetary exchange rate.
I generally have no use for philosophers (those living today, anyway), nor Frenchmen. In fact, if I could go back in time and kill one individual I would have a hard time coming up with a better candidate than Jean-Jacques Rousseau. (Yes, he was Swiss, but he adopted France and they embraced him to the point of having a revolution and there are statues of the crazy old pervert in town squares all over France to this day.)
So you can imagine what my opinion of a living French philosopher would normally be.
But a commentary by André Glucksmann has me reconsidering that position. His work is too good to excerpt, so go read You said ‘war’, Mr Kouchner, and you were not mistaken…
Quote of the Day:
Weakness and renunciation do not lead to peace. They lead to war.
— French President Nicolas Sarkozy to UN General Assembly
The back story:
In mid-September, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner was almost Bush-like as he used plain language to warn against a nuclear Tehran, warning the world "to prepare for the worst… and the worst means war". Who would have thought a French diplomat could be so, uh, un-Frenchly plain spoken?
Of course, Kouchner started taking flack immediately. Russian Acting Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confronted Kouchner, saying that neither military force nor unilateral sanctions were acceptable in dealing with Iran’s nuclear program. Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema said sanctions must be given time and a war in the region "wouldn’t resolve the problem and would only create new tragedies and new dangers." (Coincidently, Italy is Iran’s leading trading partner in the EU.)
The head of the French Foreign Affairs Commission declared Kouchner’s statement was "inappropriate and untimely" as there are still many economic sanctions that can be imposed before making dire threats (i.e., there’s a lot of cajoling and appeasement "diplomacy" that can make it look like they’re not total cowards before the stern talk has to start and somebody ends up looking like a "cowboy").
Last week, Sarkozy went on French television and appeared to back away from the war-drum beating rhetoric of his foreign minister, stating that while a nuclear-armed Iran was "unacceptable", he hoped a mix of negotiations and sanctions would persuade Iran to drop its nuclear ambitions. But he ratcheted up the sanction rhetoric, declaring that if the UN Security Council can’t apply sanctions, then the EU should come up with their own.
The US has been pressing for additional sanctions since June, as the previous UN resolution (demanding Iran suspend uranium enrichment) expired in May. So the addition of the French voice to this demand is welcome.
The Economist declares that the French are "palpably impatient" with the Security Council as Russia and China are stalling, supporting the International Atomic Energy Agency’s agreement with Iran to complete inspections. This plan, by the way, is really just a series of talks that could stretch into December even as Iran adds centrifuges to its Natanz enrichment plant, nearing the 3,000 needed to start producing usable quantities of nuclear fuel. Nice plan, eh?
When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed the UN General Assembly today, he defiantly declared that Iran would ignore any further UN resolutions. He said that Iran would continue to work with the International Atomic Energy Agency. [Thinking back to the months preceding the liberation of Iraq, I recall my amusement at the IAEA being led around the Iraqi countryside like the Keystone Cops chasing Buster Keaton. No wonder Ahmadinejad wants to work with them.]
When French President Sarkozy addressed the UN General Assembly today, he made a wide-ranging speech, but again stressing the need for action in the form of firm sanctions. While reiterating Iran’s right to nuclear energy (he even offered to help Iran achieve that goal), Sarkozy added there would be no world peace if the international community "shows weakness in the face of the proliferation of nuclear weapons."
Newsweek describes recent events as a "revolution in [French] foreign policy that could transform the transatlantic relationship."
What is really playing out is that lines are being drawn in the sand, and they aren’t exactly new lines. Gordon Chang at Contentions says it well:
Russia and China this week have made it clear they will side with Iran until the theocrats announce they have the bomb—all the while saying they are defending the concept of joint action. As Thomas Friedman says, we are entering the post-post-cold-war period. And in that period the West has no choice but to realize that the world’s authoritarian nations are banding together, and Russia and China are undermining the concept of collective security. Whether we like it or not, we are now engaged in a series of global struggles, with neither Beijing nor Moscow on our side.
As for me, I’m starting to like France again. I may even start buying French wine again.
Another Palestinian terrorist claims that the French medical reports state that Yasser Arafat died of AIDS. If true, then the French are protecting yet another terrorist, although this time it is a dead terrorist and it is only his reputation. Still, how very French.
The French may be close to actually improving their lethargic economy by removing oppressive taxation on overtime pay (anything over 35 hours), a measure championed by new president Nicolas Sarkozy:
Under the overtime measure, workers would not pay income tax or social charges on overtime hours, and employers would pay reduced payroll fees. . . .
The measure is aimed at weakening, without abolishing, the 35-hour workweek, a landmark measure introduced by a Socialist government in 1999 to boost job creation. Opponents say it has dragged down growth and not increased employment, but it remains dear to many French leftists.
Silly leftists. How does removing the incentive to work help anybody?
No, really. I was in the market for one until I watched this:
Hat Tip to non-blogging Advised by Wolves.
Tell that to the woman who is lying in the hospital with burns over nearly 60 percent of her body. She was a passenger on a bus that a gang of Muslim youths torched last night.
In all, last night:
- 3 buses were burned
- 277 vehicles were set alight
- 47 people were arrested
- 6 policemen were injured
Here’s an example of the some of the charming behavior shown in one “minor skirmish”:
‘‘Four guys attacked Bus 346,’’ said witness Thierry Ange, 19. ‘‘They made everyone get off, then they hit a woman and dragged out the bus driver by his tie,’’ then torched the bus with a gasoline bomb in a bottle, he said.
Make no mistake: just because the MSM considers the burning of a few hundred cars and attacks on policemen as trivial news items, this is serious business. Imagine being in your home with bands of masked and armed youths roaming the streets.
Also imagine if it happened here. The MSM would be crucifying us.
. . . comes courtesy of my second-favorite comic, Get Fuzzy.
And while we’re on the subject of the French, their Finance Minister has determined that the 35-hour work week has added €100 billion () to the French national debt.
That’s £67 billion or $126 billion U.S. And yet:
The 35-hour working week, introduced by the former Socialist Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin, in 2000, is at the centre of the debate ahead of next year’s presidential election.
The leading Socialist contender, Ségolène Royal, and her two challengers, Laurent Fabius and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, have all called for the 35-hour week to be extended to all workers.