Tag: France

Freedom of Some Speech

Apparently it is illegal to insult someone. Bridget Bardot is going to trial for making someone feel bad. Awww, didn’t the “victim” know the benefits of being rubber (as opposed to glue) and that sticks and stones…Wait, this is in France, but it could very well be the US.

History and Reconciliation

It’s obvious I do not have enough diversity training or multi-cultural sensitivity workshops under my belt, because I just don’t get this.

No doubt…obviously as a white, male, protestant, Southern American I’ve never felt the sting of bigotry (except maybe on the Southern part), or felt historically slighted or taken advantage of (Reconstruction wasn’t genocide by any means).

But someone please explain to me what is gained by deciding that something is or is not genocide.  When the International United Nations Panel on the Ins and Outs and Official Historical Definitions of Genocide and Genocide-like Occurrences issued their ruling that Darfur wasn’t a prime example of genocide, name one person on the planet with a lick of sense that said, “Whew, thank God…we thought all that mindless maiming and murmuring was worth paying serious attention to, but now that we know it’s not genocide, we can move on.”

And with Darfur, we’re talking about something that was happening…well…last Tuesday.  In the Turkish/Armenian example it’s something that happened in 1915.  My Grandfather was born in 1915.  He lived to a fairly old age, but he’s gone.  Anyone over the age of 15 in 1915 would be at least 108 years old.  Meaning there are MAYBE two dozen people still alive that were adults at the time of the incident in question.  But that doesn’t stop the French, and even the U.S. from jumping on the “Turkey should apologize for their transgressions, damnit!–REPENT!” bandwagon.

Let me save the Armenians and Turks some trouble.  Just give me a .1 percent cut on that $12 billion pipeline project and I’ll get everyone in the room and tell them what REALLY matters–whether it was “officially” genocide, or “officially” not genocide:

IT WAS 93 DAMN YEARS AGO!  Build the flipping pipeline!

Does Sarkozy like America, or what?

Ceci n’est pas un fromage mangeant singe de capitulation

Nicolas Sarkozy’s speech given yesterday to a joint session of the House and Senate was quite a breath of fresh air.

A touching excerpt:

Ladies and gentlemen, the men and women of my generation heard their grandparents talk about how in 1917, America saved France at a time when it had reached the final limits of its strength, which it had exhausted in the most absurd and bloodiest of wars. The men and women of my generation heard their parents talk about how in 1944, America returned to free Europe from the horrifying tyranny that threatened to enslave it.

Fathers took their sons to see the vast cemeteries where, under thousands of white crosses so far from home, thousands of young American soldiers lay who had fallen not to defend their own freedom but the freedom of all others, not to defend their own families, their own homeland, but to defend humanity as a whole.

Fathers took their sons to the beaches where the young men of America had so heroically landed. They read them the admirable letters of farewell that those 20-year-old soldiers had written to their families before the battle to tell them: “We don’t consider ourselves heroes. We want this war to be over. But however much dread we may feel, you can count on us.”

Before they landed, Eisenhower told them: “The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.”

Sarkozy, overtime, and science

In France, if you work longer than 35 hrs. a week you get paid overtime, and your employer pays the government a tax. The idea is that employers have economic incentives to hire more people rather than pay good workers to work longer hourse. Scottie’s Mom expounds upon this idea:

I think it’s a good idea for those who prefer to work more than 35 hours per week that they won’t have to pay a higher tax rate on overtime. Already middle-managers and top managers work “beaucoup de plus”, don’t get paid extra for it, and it seems that the workers at the bottom of the pile get all of the social benefits…35 hour work-weeks, overtime pay, etc., etc. What’s really strange, even those who own their own masonry, electric, plumbing enterprises have adopted the 35-hour work week for themselves; many times they are the sole employee with the exception that they sometimes hire part-time people.

Interesting how tax policy can shift cultural attitudes.

Sarkozy wants to reduce or eliminate the overtime tax. One of my French colleagues, who is working in America as a neuroscientist, voted for Segolene both times and thinks Sarkozy will be a disaster. He specifically cited the reduction or elimination of the overtime tax as a big mistake. I find the overtime tax quite shocking and would love to see it repealed.

The way that EU countries and America fund science is also very different. In France, large institutes receive a lot of money and everyone else gets very little. It reminds me of the Charity Hospital system in New Orleans. From Science magazine:

But the candidates’ opinions diverged on how to address the malaise in French research and the long-running problems at the country’s universities. Science and higher education don’t mix well in France, because most research takes place at mammoth government institutions such as the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) rather than at the universities. A highly centralized administration system means universities are relatively powerless to set their own agendas; they also suffer from the fact that the smartest young minds typically attend the so-called grands écoles, which train France’s professional and political elite but carry out little research.

Sarkozy has also suggested turning the big research bodies such as CNRS into U.S.-style granting agencies that would reward proposals rather than employ scientists–a controversial shift in a country where science usually means a government job for life. To carry out those promises, Sarkozy’s UMP will have to retain its majority in the National Assembly during elections next month; polls suggest it will.

America’s granting agencies, mainly bodies of the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, reward grant proposals in a psuedocompetitive processes between professors/MDs applying from universities throughout the nation. There is a long list of European scientists who flock to America in part because of better pay, but in large part because of the un-meritocratic exclusion they faced because the few “Herr Professors” get almost all the funding. I don’t know if the Sark can change that for France, but for many of my European colleagues the changes come too late, they are doomed to do research in the land of the free. Yee-haw! USA!USA!

Nicolas Sarkozy elected French President

So a conservative has been elected President in France, overcoming his socialist opponent, 53-47 percent.

Although he is now taking a couple of days off in Malta, some of his reforms are expected to include:

…the abolition of tax on overtime, swingeing cuts in inheritance tax, a law guaranteeing minimum service in transport strikes, and rules to oblige the unemployed to take up offered work.

On the social front he has pledged minumum jail terms for serial offenders and tougher rules to make it harder for immigrants to bring members of the extended family to France.

Update: The President-Elect’s acceptance speech.