Monday, December 05, 2005

Victoire pour la France!

Because France and America can't compete on soccer or battle fields, they have found a way to do so through airplanes. Today's headlines in Paris read, "255 Airbuses sold so far this year, versus only 188 Boeings!" (not in quite those words, but almost).

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

CNN - De Villepin Face-Off

Here are some extracts of CNN's reporter Christiane Amanpour's interview of French Prime Minister Dominique De Villepin last night. I think it shows the two perspecitves pretty clearly and why they can't see eye to eye on the issue of discrimination.

Amanpour: So what do you say then to somebody whose name is Mohammed, who knows that even if he has the best grades from the Sorbonne, his resume, his c.v., will be rejected 5 times more often than somebody who's called Francois, that's a fact.

De Villepin: ... So we should change, we have many decisions that have been taken during the last years. As for example, a Curriculum Vitae anonymous which allows the company to choose people without knowing which race or which religion. So I believe that it is a matter of mobilization in the country in order to make sure that discrimination is not going to be accepted. President Chirac has decided to create a high authority against discrimination and for equality. And this authority is going to be able to give sanctions to people who are not going to comply with our Republican rules.

Amanpour: Is that like positive discrimination? Is that affirmative action?

De Villepin: There is a difference between what we stand for in our republic, which is equal chances, and affirmative action. Affirmative action is mainly aimed in taking into account the race and the religion. In our republic, everybody is equal and we don't want to take into account the color of the skin or the religion. But we want to take into account the difficulty that one may have. So we want to help the individuals on the basis of their own difficulties. That's why we are going to have an important program in order to help more this neighborhood that has been facing difficulties in terms of education for example. That means we are going to help all the different schools in these neighborhoods, in order to help all the young people that maybe cannot master as well the French language or do have problems in schools. It means very intense program in order to give them equal chances.

Amanpour: How can you help these people if you do not take into account that they are discriminated against because of their color.

De Villepin: We are going to triple the scholarships giving to the children. We are going to triple the boarding schools in order to answer to the best students in these different neighborhoods, in order to help them going to university and to have a good career. But the difference between the system you have and the one we have is that we are going to help as well any young children in France facing difficulties but not taking into account the fact he is black or coming from Maghreb or being Muslim. Every one who is having difficulties is going to be taken into account and helped individually.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

It's not good when the president of a country gets in front of a TV camera to address the nation and the next day no two newspapers chose the same quote to put on their front pages. It demonstrates a lack of message. Nothing to hold on to, nothing really new.

Last night, Chirac told TV viewers that the crisis in the suburbs exists (gee, you really think so?), that these roitors are suffering an identity crisis and that in response the government will create 50,000 (drumroll please) civil service volunteer positions.

Wait a second, did he say 'volunteer'?

Friday, November 04, 2005

Riots!

The riots in the "tough" suburbs of Paris started, in theory, in response to the fact that two kids accidentally got electrocuted when they tried to hide from police who were pursuing them by ducking into an electrical box of sorts. But I don't think that's what all the fires and fights are about now. Rather I think there's a general feeling of being fed up. These suburbs are filled with recent immigrants who feel they are being treated like shit. Because they are. They're angry, they want some attention and they've figured out the only way that they can get that. The only problem with this is that I don't think that this is the kind of attention that they need. Having fire departments called out every night to hose down burning cars and police to arrest people, just so that Nicholas Sarkozy can call them "scum" (although I'm not sure this is a very accurate translation of "racaille", New York Times, but it seems to get the point across) the next morning probably isn't going to get us anywhere. I blame this on the politicians more than the naive kids setting fires and getting arrested. Now they're told that they're not shit. No, no. They're scum. Much better...

Monday, October 31, 2005

Math Problems

In France, if you want to know how many women are in a company or how many minorities live in a neighborhood, you have to do that counting yourself; organizations aren't allowed to. This is because people in France are all supposed to be considered exactly the same: French. And the rest isn't supposed to matter. This is the thinking that led to the ban on veils in public high schools last year and this is why no one's doing anything about the fact that Arabs are never hired for good jobs and only white males get promoted.

It should be said that there have been a few efforts to extend a helping hand to minorities and women in France. For example, a system was put into place, called "parieté", to get women into political positions. It requires political parties, when they make up their lists of candidates - in all of the various elections, at all levels, all over the country - to make at least 30% of them women. Don't be fooled though - this is different than saying that 30% of politicians will be women. The 30% requirement is only pre-election, which means that women can lose (and do, just like men) and then there are fewer (also, it should be pointed out that there is no requirement for the distribution of those lists, meaning that there are a lot of women in local politics and a lot fewer at the national level). Whatever, this is still good news in my opinion, and much more progressive than anything we have in the States.

Another example is Sciences Po. Arguably the most prestigious undergraduate institution in France, Science Po now gives a certain number of kids who come from underprivileged backgrounds, and in particular racially diverse ones, I gather, to enter into the school without passing the extremely competitive entrance exam that other kids have to take. Again, good - that should help at least in some small way.

Still, France is correctly not considered to be a very good model among its European peers. No female prime ministers, no female presidents, everyone's white and the vast majority are male in the governmental cabinet, etc. And although their reasoning behind why they don't count may make sense in theory, in practice it's just a way to not address a very important issue. Something should be done, and I think some official surveys and counting would be a good start.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Député Nadine Morano, UMP

France just concluded its third international conference on "homoparentalité", which, as you can probably guess, is about homosexuals with or wishing to have children. As far as I can tell, France does not currently have legislation allowing gay couples to adopt children but apparently 66% of French feel that a homosexual couple is just as capable as a heterosexual one of "insuring its role as parents" (according to a Louis Harris survey). Still, debate over the issue nevertheless exists and seems to break down along party lines: Right against, Left for. This is why it was somewhat surprising when Nadine Morano, a representative to the French National Assembly from a small rural and conservative region, herself a devout catholic and a member of France's conservative party, UMP, came out in an interview with Libération as being "favorable to adoption by same-sex couples". She says that "it's a reality…" and "I'm pragmatic: something must be done for these families" so that they have the same rights as all other families. Makes perfect sense to me.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Arman dies

Artist Armand Pierre Fernandez, better known as Arman, passed away yesterday. Born in Nice in 1928, Arman was well known for his style of cutting up and/or stacking different objects. In this way, he made often valuable objects (violins were his most famous, but also clocks, tanks, etc.) unusable but beautiful. One of his sculptures can be found outside of the Gare de Lyon, another is located near the church St. Germain des Près. In an earlier period of his career that he is less famous for (but that I personally like just as much), he would frame people's garbage. I wrote a paper on him during my junior year abroad in college and I think the thing that struck me most about his work was how it made me look at the objects he used very differently and often appreciate their intrinsic value or what they said about the person who threw them away.