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All Reason.com articles with the "France" tag.



Published: Tue, 23 May 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Tue, 23 May 2017 02:47:57 -0400

 



Vive La Trump? Definitely Not Yet.

Thu, 11 May 2017 12:01:00 -0400

There is a lot of debate over President Donald Trump's record after his first 100-plus days in office. Defenders of the president point to his successful efforts on deregulation, the successful appointment to the Supreme Court of Neil Gorsuch and his steadfast desire to implement substantial tax reform. Critics point to his insistence on counterproductive immigration and trade policies, an incoherent foreign policy, and his overall lack of policy acumen. One thing is for sure, however: The United States is headed toward French-style economic sclerosis if Washington continues its reckless spending spree. My native France is an economic mess. It might sound wonderful to some that the French are "entitled" to health care, can retire at age 60, have to work for only 35 hours a week and get "free" education. But this spending comes at a cost; 57 percent of the French economy (as measured by the gross domestic product) is spent every year by the government. To pay for it, you need more taxes—and not just high marginal income tax rates and payroll taxes. The French also pay a 20 percent value-added tax, pay a 33.33 percent corporate income tax and have hundreds of other punitive revenue-generating measures. French policymakers have responded to the resulting sluggish economic growth and persistently high unemployment by making the market for labor horrifyingly inflexible and insulating workers from the competitive market forces that generate long-term prosperity. This results in stubbornly high unemployment rates, mounting debt and the exodus of intelligent French brains to other countries with brighter economic prospects. The mood has become so grim that more than 10 million French voters just turned to the National Front party of Marine Le Pen for hope. Although Le Pen lost to centrist Emmanuel Macron, little will change unless major reforms are made to the debilitating French welfare system, which pays people not to work while providing handouts for everything from the rent to subway tickets. It's admittedly hard for me to be optimistic, given how ingrained government dependency is in France. But my bigger concern is that the United States is on the same path—even if there's a substantial reduction in red tape here and Trump is able to implement reforms to a tax code that currently suffocates job producers and disincentivizes working, savings and investment. Although we can still pat ourselves on the back for not having fully embraced France's combination of big government and low growth, any hope for 3 or 4 percent annual economic growth that Trump officials are relying on will fade if federal spending—and its byproduct, debt—isn't curtailed. Unfortunately, there remains scant evidence that the Trump administration is interested in pursuing the measures necessary to bring federal spending and debt under control. Trump never misses a chance to tout his alleged deal-making prowess, but his administration's first budget negotiation just ended with higher spending and Democrats getting most of what they wanted. Then there's the American Health Care Act (already being labeled "Trumpcare"), just passed in the House. Despite what its apologists claim, even if it were to be signed into law as is, it wouldn't get rid of Obamacare. Sure, Trumpcare would cut taxes, but as we've seen in the past, tax cuts don't last long if spending continues to flow unabated. Indeed, if critics are correct, Trumpcare could end up making health care in this country worse. That outcome would most likely translate into more government spending (including potentially massive bailouts), and promised cuts to Medicaid could actually turn into an expansion of a program that is already a budgetary problem at both the federal level and the state level. Oh, did I mention the not-so-small problem of the fact that Social Security and Medicare are consuming an ever greater share of budgetary resources? The president says he remains committed to leaving those programs untouched, which would be the height of fiscal irresponsibility. Should all of this blow up[...]



Trump's Mouth, Rape as a Pre-Existing Condition, & Why Our Politics Is So Stupid [Reason Podcast]

Mon, 08 May 2017 14:30:00 -0400

"[The Republican health care bill] is quite likely to lead to an insurance-market meltdown even faster than under Obamcare," says Reason Features Editor Peter Suderman. "And [ultimately] it creates [incentives] for more government intervention in the market."

On the latest episode of the Reason podcast, Suderman talks with fellow editors Nick Gillespie and Katherine Mangu-Ward about why the Republican health care bill is tax legislation in disguise (check out Suderman's Sunday New York Times op-ed); our stupid debate over whether the law makes rape a pre-existing condition (it doesn't); the centrist Emmanuel Macron's big win in France (maybe populism isn't sweeping the globe after all?); the FCC's "investigation" of Steven Colbert's comic rant that Trump's mouth is only good as a "cock holster" for Vladimir Putin; and the agency's shifting stance on net neutrality (thank god we have a government bureaucracy protecting us from free YouTube, right?).

In both cases regarding the FCC, says Suderman, we've got "a 20th century mind-set that makes for really bad policy."

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Macron Victory Not Yet a Win for Globalization or Economic Reform

Mon, 08 May 2017 08:30:00 -0400

Emmanuel Macron, the former economy minister who pushed liberalization under President Francois Hollande, roundly defeated the National Front's Marine Le Pen, who campaigned on an anti-immigration, big government platform. Le Pen's candidacy was about more than membership of the European Union or the merits of an open society, but about the liberal, pro-market values that have lifted billions out of poverty in the last half century. Her defeat is not yet a win for globalization or economic liberalization. "The problems are still there," analyst Antonio Barroso told Reason last month. "And it's the challenge of these leaders, particularly Macron, to alleviate some of these problems in the next five years, otherwise we'll be in the same position next time." Neither is Macron's victory a victory yet for globalization or free markets. And it's certainly not a win for Barack Obama, the French media, or the West, as MSNBC's Joy Ann Reid suggested. It's barely a win for the EU, which is still bungling Brexit negotiations and facing a loss of popularity across the continent—even countries that have joined the EU more recently than Western European ones and have been historically enthusiastic, like Poland, have elected Euroskeptic governments. Macron must now commit to the kind of economic reforms that get the French government (which accounts for 57 percent of GDP and carries a GDP to debt ratio of 100 percent) out of the way, alleviating the economic pain it causes and dispelling the appeal of simplistic populists—these are reforms the EU has sometimes suggested, but they are not the kinds of reforms wholeheartedly supported by other factions commenters like Reid insist the French election is a victory for. Hollande becomes the first president in the history of the French Fifth Republic not to seek a second term. The Socialist started his presidency rejecting his predecessor's attempts at reform but eventually appeared to come to understand the need for reforms and liberalization to rehabilitate the French economy. In 2015, the Hollande government passed a set of reforms that were known as the "Macron Law," which included such provisions as making it easier to lay off employees and allowing more stores to stay open on Sundays and in the evenings. The law was passed without a vote in the parliament, which Macron defended from criticism of being anti-democratic. "Is it democratic to keep procrastinating?" Macron said at the time. "There is a moment when you have to act." Macron's proposed reforms during the presidential campaign were not as well-defined or bold as that of the Republicans' Francois Fillon, who became embroiled in a scandal over hiring family members for no-show government jobs. In the end, the second round presidential election was the first that did not include a member of either of France's major two parties, the Socialists and the party now known as the Republicans. Le Pen's loss was not unexpected—she trailed by about 20 points in head-to-head polling against Macron and ultimately finished nearly 25 percent behind him. Comparisons of Le Pen to both Brexit (because of her opposition to the EU) or Donald Trump (because of their shared rhetoric on immigration and radical Islamic terrorism) are misguided. Brexit was a referendum on British membership in the European Union—untethered from specific policy agendas, which will be worked out in the June parliamentary elections there and beyond. And Trump, despite his populist, pro-entitlement rhetoric, is not the kind of anti-capitalist that Le Pen made herself out to be. Le Pen was able to perform better than any previous National Front candidate (though in a strategic move she technically left the party weeks before the election) because in the last decade she has tried to distance herself and her party from the kind of anti-Semitism and racism of her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who disowned her after she suspended his party membership. The younger Le Pen, as economist Emmanuel Martin explained to us last [...]



France's Malaise Will Continue No Matter Who Wins the Presidential Election

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 07:00:00 -0400

Whatever the final outcome of the French presidential election, the actual consequences for France will likely be less dramatic than many people hope or fear. Emmanuel Macron is a political novice, who enjoys support of the French political establishment only in so far as it is necessary to beat Marine Le Pen. His political party is a year old and it is unlikely that Macron's personal appeal, such as it is, will translate into a parliamentary majority. Let's not forget that Macron was the first choice of just 24 percent of the French electorate.

If Macron does become president, he will likely face a Parliament constituted of political parties that owe him zero loyalty. The French Parliament will be elected in June and the center-right Republicans, the National Front of Marine Le Pen, and an assortment of socialists and communists, are likely to be abundantly represented as well.

Traditionally, French presidents have found it impossible to push through reforms even when they had parliamentary majorities (e.g., Alain Juppe's and Jacques Chirac's attempt to reform the French welfare system in 1995). Unlike his predecessors, Macron will be left alone to face the fury of special interests, such as the powerful public sector unions. That is not a recipe for a successful administration.

If Macron's limited reform agenda fails, France will suffer five additional years of decline and anguish. By 2022, Le Pen's radical platform will be even more appealing to the disgruntled populace.

Should she become president, Le Pen will face similar constraints to Macron's. "France's constitution says that proposed laws on the organization of state powers, reforms relating to economic, social and environmental policy, or a request for authority to ratify a treaty can be decided by referendums. But it stops short of providing the power to withdraw France from an existing international agreement."

To give the voters such power, the Constitution would have to be changed in accordance with Article 89 of the Constitution, which says that "any such change must first be approved by the National Assembly and the Senate." So that too is a non-starter in a Parliament united in opposition to Le Pen's agenda.

That, in any case, is the theory. In practice, Le Pen could try to emulate President Charles de Gaulle, whose 1962 electoral reform was backed by a majority of voters and became law. De Gaulle "did not get the required parliamentary approval for it. He went straight to the French people. It was a revision of the Constitution but he did not use the revision procedure because he knew the two chambers [of Parliament] would be against it."

The French legal community agrees that De Gaulle's action was unconstitutional, but Marine Le Pen could attempt something similar. If that happens, years of legal wrangling will follow.

France's choices aren't good not only because of the shortcomings of the two remaining candidates. Making matters worse is the poor shape of the French economy and national security concerns—both of which require radical changes that the French political system is ill-suited to actualize. No matter who wins in May, expect malaise to continue.




The Government Shutdown: What's the Point of Paul Ryan? [Reason Podcast]

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 18:00:00 -0400

"The European Union was created by France and Germany...which is integral to the French identity," says Reason's Editor at Large Matt Welch. "The flight towards [French presidential candidate Emmanuel] Macron is a way of saying we're not willing yet to [leave all that behind]."

In today's podcast, Reason editors Welch, Nick Gillespie, and Katherine Mangu-Ward talk about the likely victory of the moderate Macron in May 7's run-off eelction and what it means for France; the looming U.S. government shutdown (even though Republicans control both houses of congress and the presidency); Howard Dean's idiotic tweet about "hate speech" and Ann Coulter; how campus freakouts prop up the careers of fake conservative intellectuals; and the real meaning of David Brooks' recent column on the crisis of Western civilization (which, minus a few details, could easily have been written 30 years, 50, or even 100 years ago).

Mentioned in the show:

Veronique de Rugy's 2015 column on how Congress abuses the emergency-spending loophole.

Snoop Dog's 1996 "Doggfather."

Subscribe, rate, and review the Reason Podcast at iTunes. Listen at SoundCloud below:

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Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons.




No, the Le Pen-Macron French Presidential Match-Up Isn't Just Like Trump-Clinton

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 17:00:00 -0400

Emmanuel Macron, a former economy minister who founded the political party En Marche! last year, and the National Front's (FN) Marine Le Pen finished in the top two spots in the first round of the French presidential election, inviting ill-fitting comparisons to last year's U.S. presidential election. Donald Trump, who after the Brexit victory last year said by the end of 2016 he'd be called "Mr. Brexit," tweeted out ahead of the French presidential election that he thought Le Pen would benefit from the ISIS-claimed attack on a police bus in Paris because the nationalist Le Pen was "toughest" on borders and terrorism. As weak as the comparisons between Donald Trump and Brexit were, comparisons between Brexit, or Trump, and nationalist candidates in continental Europe like Le Pen are weaker still. Le Pen, unlike her father, the former leader of the FN, jettisoned any pretense to small government and embraced a far left, anti-business economic program to couple with her nativist political program. Nikolai Wenzel, a research fellow at the Center of Law and Economics at the University of Paris Law School, sees some similarities between Le Pen and Trump. "I think basically Le Pen is the wrong reaction to a real problem," Wenzel told Reason, "just the way Trump was the wrong reaction to a real problem." "We're looking at a somewhat extreme, out-of-the-mainstream candidate with bad economic ideas going up against a dull, mainstream candidate with bad economic ideas," Wenzel continued. But Le Pen is not an outsider candidate the way Trump may have appeared. "Trump was an outsider from the political system, Le Pen is not," Antonio Barroso, deputy director at political risk advisory firm Teneo Intelligence, told Reason. "It's the opposite; in this race, the anti-establishment candidate is very much part of the political establishment." Neither is Macron, a 39-year-old former investment banker who has never run for elective office before, a Hillary Clinton clone. "Macron was nobody, absolutely nobody two years ago," Barroso said. While he may be a member of the "institutional elite" because of his schooling and career in public administration, he's unlinked to any party, a "political nobody." Unlike Le Pen, or Clinton, he doesn't have any "political lineage" either. Kerry Halferty Hardy, a libertarian nonprofit consultant active on several boards who currently resides in Paris, tells Reason Macron is more like Barack Obama circa 2008 than like Clinton. Obama and Macron spoke on the phone recently, at the latter's request, but the former president insisted the conversation didn't indicate an endorsement. "Macron has some good points: he's not a friend of Vlad. He has actually worked in the private sector. Some potential reforms make sense," Hardy wrote on Facebook. "But there's no there there." Hardy notes that Macron's lack of a natural base in government will make implementing any reforms exceedingly difficult. "So, what's the upshot if Macron wins?," she asked. "France continues to slide downwards, sans reforms, sans capitalized banks, sans growth... but with a big fat helping of 'hope and change'. Which means nothing will change at all." Macron served as the economy minister for President Francois Hollande after the Socialist belatedly embraced the principle of economic liberalization. Macron's proposals, as French economist Emmanuel Martin told Reason last week, were a lot more nebulous than those offered by the center-right Republican Francois Fillon. He won the Republican primary by offering more intensive economic reforms than his rivals, and was the frontrunner in the race until a scandal involving his employment of relatives in no-show government jobs. He still managed to win 19.5 percent of the vote, about the same as Jean-Luc Melenchon, who Hardy called an "unrepentant Chavista/Stalinist communist" Unlike Fillon and Clinton, Macron is not scandal-ridden. The Surete (more or less the Fre[...]



France Election Preview: Terrorism, Socialism, Nationalist Socialism, and the Prospects for Economic Liberalization

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 18:26:00 -0400

The attack on a police bus on the Champs-Elysee in Paris yesterday, which killed two police officers and for which ISIS claimed responsibility, came while France's presidential candidates were participating in their last televised forum, and President Trump said today that he thought the attack would help the National Front's Marine Le Pen. "She's the strongest on borders and she's the strongest on what's been going on in France," Trump told the AP. "Whoever is the toughest on radical Islamic terrorism, and whoever is the toughest at the borders, will do well in the election." After the police attack, Le Pen called for the expulsion of all foreigners on terror watch lists. The suspected gunman in yesterday's attack, Karim Cheufri, is a French national who was questioned in February for allegedly making threats to kill police officers. Meanwhile, the center-right François Fillon, once the frontrunner before a scandal over a no-show job for his wife yielded calls for him to drop out, said "Islamic totalitarianism" ought to be the next president's top priority. François Hollande declared a war on terror after multiple coordinated ISIS-linked terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015 killed 130 people. The French government followed up with warrantless raids, house arrests, limits on freedom of speech and assembly, and other security measures. The 2015 attacks helped the National Front outperform its polling in the first round of regional elections, but by the second round, a month after the attacks, the bounce appeared to have faded. Voters go to the polls Sunday for the first round and in early May for the second round—four candidates are polling at about 20 percent; Emmanuel Macron, Le Pen, Fillon, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon. And in fact, both Le Pen and Mélenchon, a former Socialist who created his own party and has been called the "French Bernie Sanders," support French withdrawal from the European Union and euro as well as more protectionism, and even closing the border to refugees and banning the veil. "This is a very good example like Hayek used to say, where extremes actually join together," Emmanuel Martin, a French economist involved with libertarian MOOC Ecole de la Liberté, told Reason earlier this week. "Mélenchon-LePen, their program is 90 percent the same." Martin, who also describes himself as a libertarian rocker, even has a song about the tendency for such confluence in what we call the far right and the far left. "Mélenchon is the new Robespierre," Martin explained, referring to the French revolutionary leader associated with the Reign of Terror, "and to some extent he's very much like Bernie Sanders, but I think he's more evil… They both share this total illusion of democratic socialism, which to me is a complete oxymoron, and to any libertarian obviously." While terror attacks in France grab more headlines, the country has long-standing economic problems caused by too many labor regulations, too much centralization, and a lack of accountability in government. President Hollande's tough talk and concomitant actions on the war on terror failed to shore up support in the face of his failure to execute on economic reform. The former economy minister, Emmanuel Macron, who was one of the architects of Hollande's belated turn away from socialism and attempt at some labor deregulation and other economic reforms, now has the highest polling average, at 23.6 percent. "He's trying to gather so many different people, that it's very difficult to find something solid, something really, he's just a basic politician, he's trying to please everyone," Martin explained. "And his speeches are completely hollow, just hot air, really, and sometimes you even laugh when you listen to him, because it's so empty." Nevertheless, there could be a bright side there. "Maybe that's the solution," Martin suggested, "to gather a lot of voters and then do some reform[...]



Brickbat: How Do You Say ‘Oops’ in French?

Fri, 10 Mar 2017 04:00:00 -0500

(image) A French police sniper accidentally fired a shot, injuring two people, during a speech by President Francois Hollande.




Brickbat: Submission Was Just a Novel, Right?

Thu, 09 Mar 2017 04:00:00 -0500

(image) The European Union parliament has voted to remove the immunity of French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen after a request from French prosecutors. The move allows Le Pen to be prosecuted under French law for publishing violent images. French officials are investigating Le Pen for posting images of executions committed by the Islamic State.




Anti-Immigration, Pro-Big Government National Front’s Le Pen Inching Up in Polls—At 44 Percent in Run-off Match-up

Mon, 27 Feb 2017 19:20:00 -0500

Marine Le Pen of the anti-immigration, pro-welfare state National Front, is improving her standing in some French presidential polls—she is expected based on her polling performance so far to make it through the first round of elections, while a corruption scandal that rocked the candidacy of Republican candidate Francois Fillon has reduced his lead in head-to-head polling with Le Pen to a 12 points. In the most recent poll of the most likely run-off scenario, Fillon topped Le Pen 56 to 44. Le Pen's father, Jean-Marie, made it into the run-off against the incumbent Jacques Chirac, where the challenger was trounced 82 percent to 18 percent. In the first round, Chirac led with 20 percent and Le Pen finished second with 17 percent. Chirac received nearly 20 million additional votes in the second round, while Le Pen gained only 700,000. Polling in the 2017 election suggests Fillon, or whoever else makes it into the second round with Le Pen, cannot expect support as broad as Chirac received. Some French leaders are warning that a Le Pen win is far from impossible. She has a 27.7 percent chance of winning according to prediction markets aggregator ElectionBettingOdds.com—within the range of Trump's chances of winning during much of the 2016 campaign. "I think Madame Le Pen could be elected," Jean-Pierre Raffarin, a former Republican prime minister, warned this month according to Euractiv, while another former prime minister, Socialist Manuel Valls, who ran unsuccessfully for the Socialist nomination for president this year, said it was dangerous to assume Le Pen could not win. Le Pen has mixed a nationalist, Euroskeptic, Islamophobic and anti-immigration message with promises of increased social and welfare spending to expand the National Front's appeal, particularly relative to her most likely second-round opponent, Fillon, who is campaigning on much needed civil and government services cuts as well as labor market deregulation. The Socialist Francois Hollande's presidency failed in large part under the weight of unsuccessful efforts to get French government spending under control and to remove barriers to economic growth. Socialist voters, The Independent columnist Satyajit Das suggests, faced with the run-off choice of Le Pen and Fillon or a center-left candidate (the Socialist Benoit Hamon is not expected to make it into the second round in most scenarios), may choose Le Pen at a higher rate than French pundits are willing to admit. The center-left candidate, Emmanuel Macron, a former investment banker and founder of the En Marche! party, is, like Fillon, is also running on labor reforms and tax cuts, two policies critical to improving France's economy but not popular with Socialist voters. Le Pen has not been shy in trying to align herself with Donald Trump and with Brexit (she supports a French withdrawal from the European Union), and launched her campaign earlier this month with the slogan "France First." In response to Macron rising in the polls, she has adopted a Trump-like attack on the French media, accusing it of campaigning "hysterically" for Macron. Last year she praised Russia President Vladimir Putin as a real leader and called the EU the real enemy, and earlier this year she denied that Russia invaded Crimea, which is under the control of Russia but recognized by most of the international community as still being part of Ukraine.[...]



Protests Over Alleged Rape by French Police Turn Violent

Mon, 13 Feb 2017 12:10:00 -0500

(image) The suburbs of Paris have been rocked by protests, some violent, since the alleged rape by police officers of a 22-year-old black Frenchman identified only as Theo—he was arrested during an ID check.

Last night's protests turned violent again, with some protesters reportedly throwing objects at cops and setting vehicles on fire and police responding by using tear gas on crowds of protesters. A group of officers were caught on tape telling protesters they were going to "fuck [them] in the ass."

An initial investigation by police into last week's incident found that the alleged rape was an accident and there was "insufficient evidence" to substantiate the sexual assault claim, The Independent reported. One lawyer argued an expandable baton penetrated Theo's anus "by accident." Police have reviewed a video not made publicly available—one police source told French media Theo's pants "slipped down on their own." Frederic Lagache, deputy secretary general of the French national police union, Alliance Police Nationale, complained that the four officers were "victims of a media flood" and that they were "going to trial before the trial."

President Francois Hollande visited Theo in the hospital after the first riots last week, spending thirty minutes at his bedside. Theo reportedly told protesters to "stop the war and stay united" and said he trusted the justice system to work. One of the four officers involved in Theo's arrest was charged with rape, the other three with assault—they have all been suspended.

Last week, a police spokesperson said eight officers could have been killed in one night of rioting—no police officers were actually reported killed.

France saw riots in 2005 after two African immigrant teens reportedly running from police were electrocuted to death after reaching an electricity substation at a dead end alley—officials eventually denied police were chasing those specific teens.

The anti-immigration National Front's Marine LePen, a candidate for president in this year's election, said in a statement that protesters were "gangs of scum that nothing seems to be able to stop anymore, and certainly not the courts in a overall context of decadence."

Watch a portion of the arrest caught on video and posted online below:

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/_bLGewkH86A" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0">




Brickbat: All You Can Drink

Wed, 01 Feb 2017 04:00:00 -0500

(image) France has banned restaurants and other places that sell drinks containing sugar or other sweeteners from offering free refills of those drinks. Some restaurants have already removed or moved their drink fountains, while Five Guys has placed microchips on drink cups that switch off their drink fountains if someone tries to refill a cup. The ban is aimed at fighting obesity.




Charlie Hebdo Journalist Quits On Two-Year Anniversary of Massacre, Says Magazine Went 'Soft' on Extremism

Mon, 09 Jan 2017 10:56:00 -0500

The two-year anniversary of the massacre at the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo passed quietly over the weekend. In contrast to last year, there were only a few relatively quiet remembrances for the 17 murdered artists, journalists, staffers, and policemen killed by Muslim extremists. Zineb El Rhazoui, one of Charlie Hedbo's journalists who was out of the country at the time of the attack, told France's Agence France-Presse (AFP) that she is leaving the magazine because it now lacks the "capacity to carry the torch of irreverence and absolute liberty." El Rhazoui added, "Freedom at any cost is what I loved about Charlie Hebdo, where I worked through great adversity," but she now believes the terrorists who murdered her colleagues accomplished what they wanted, as the magazine no longer publishes images of the Prophet Muhammad. Charlie Hebdo's current editor, Riss, tells AFP that "We've done our job. We have defended the right to caricature," but that "We get the impression that people have become even more intolerant of Charlie...If we did a front cover showing a cartoon of the prophet Muhammad now, who would defend us?" El Rhazoui counters that if she were in charge, she would continue publishing Muhammad images, telling AFP that "we cannot permit that our colleagues died for nothing." A Moroccan-French atheist, El Rhazoui has been described as "the most protected woman in France" due to her 24-hour police protection. She recently published a book called Destroy Islamic Fascism and last year told the New York Times Magazine: "It's totally crazy. I have done nothing against the law and have nothing to hide, yet I live with security while those who threaten us are free," El Rhazoui declares with an air of shock and anger that underscores the arbitrariness and brutality visited on a 34-year-old woman condemned to living on the run and mostly in the shadows. "And if you call them by their names you are Islamophobic and racist. I am racist? I can teach them a few things about Arab culture. I can show them how to discover its richness and the diversity of their culture. I believe this culture deserves universality because you can be Arab, Muslim and a free thinker." It is hard to fault Charlie Hebdo's current editorial leadership for being squeamish about publishing images of Muhammad. The magazine persisted in its mission of no-holds-barred militant secularism even after having been firebombed about three years before the 2015 massacre. Although the immediate reaction to the killing of journalists over cartoons was an international outpouring of support for free speech, very quickly Charlie Hebdo faced accusations that the organization was a racist "white power" publication, and later faced a boycott by 145 PEN America writers over an award presented to the magazine, as well as insinuations from everyone from Pope Francis to John Kerry to Garry Trudeau that the deliberately provocative journalists had somehow asked for their tragic fate. Charlie Hebdo, which marked the one-year anniversary of the massacre with a cover depicting a bearded "God" figure carrying a rifle, chose a drawing of a laughing man staring down the long barrel of a gun held by a jihadist for the second grim anniversary issue. The accompanying caption reads, "2017, at last, the light at the end of the tunnel."[...]



Brickbat: How Do You Say That in French?

Mon, 02 Jan 2017 04:00:00 -0500

(image) Robert Menard, mayor of Bexiers, France, has been charged with incitement to hatred or discrimination after noting in a TV interview that 91 percent of the students in one class in his town are Muslim. "Obviously, this is a problem," he said. Menard says he was simply describing the reality of life in his town.




France President Francois Hollande Not Running for Re-Election, No Surprise

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 16:45:00 -0500

The Socialist French president, Francois Hollande, announced today he would not be seeking a second term, saying he was aware of the "risk that going down a route that would not gather sufficient support would entail." Hollande's decision doesn't come as much of a surprise, his approval ratings had been dismal, hitting 12 percent in a poll this summer. And that was a longtime coming—back in 2014, just 3 percent wanted Hollande to be the Socialist nominee for president again in 2017. 85 percent wanted a Socialist primary, and just 15 percent would vote for him in that case. Last week, Hollande had just a 1 percent chance of being the next president of France on ElectionBettingOdds.com. That betting aggregator, and polls, suggest the first round of the election, scheduled for April 23, 2017, could lead to a win by Francois Fillon of the Republican Party (the former UMP, whose last president, Nicolas Sarkozy, lost this year's nationwide primary) over the National Front's Marine Le Pen without the need for a run-off. The Socialists, so far, are a non-factor—they have a primary scheduled for January. Hollande promised in his election bid in 2012 that he would resign if he couldn't turn the economy around—surprisingly the socialist prescription of government jobs programs failed to do that. Unsurprisingly, Hollande never resigned. He did face a revolt in his own Socialist Party when trying to push through labor reforms meant to make it easier for employers to hire employees. Fillon, the center-right frontrunner of the 2017 election, was described in Bloomberg Businessweek as "a neo-Thatcherite who wants to downsize government, slash taxes on corporations and the rich, and scale back labor protections." His main opponent, Le Pen, meanwhile, who is often described as "far right", has an economic plan, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, "that could be mistaken for a Marxist tract, with calls to strengthen the social safety net, raise trade barriers, and nationalize the banks." The National Front is also an anti-immigrant, nationalist party. Hollande's popularity problem started before a series of terrorist attacks kicked off by Al-Qaeda-linked gunman massacring the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015. There were a series of attacks in Paris in November in which 130 people were killed, and a truck attack in Nice earlier this year that killed 86. There have also been a number of smaller incidents like stabbings, a beheading, and vehicle rammings. France has been in a state of emergency since the November Paris attacks. Although Reuters reports it's the "first time in decades that an incumbent French president has not sought re-election," Jacque Chirac was a two-term incumbent when he chose not to seek re-election in 2007. However, in the history of the Fifth Republic, established in 1958, no other incumbent non-interim president had chosen not to run for re-election. Vincent Auriol chose not to run for re-election in 1953 during the brief Fourth Republic. "The work was killing me," Auriol said at the time, "they called me out of bed at all hours of the night to receive resignations of prime ministers."[...]