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

Last Build Date: Tue, 25 Apr 2017 01:39:57 -0400


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."

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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 French equivalent of the FBI) is not investigating him. He is not believed to have used a private email server w[...]

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 reforms, but I don't know if he'll do the reforms." Fillon, the former frontrunner, came into the race, Martin said[...]

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—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:

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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 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."[...]

Banned in Cannes

Tue, 01 Nov 2016 12:00:00 -0400

(image) Perched on France's southern coast, Cannes is famous for its luxurious beaches. But enjoying the seaside became more difficult for many Muslim women this summer: In July, the city passed a month-long ban on burkinis—head-to-toe two-piece swimsuits—on public shores.

Cannes is one of several French municipalities that moved to prohibit the demure swimwear following recent terrorist attacks across Europe. Prime Minister Manuel Valls supported the bans, telling the French newspaper La Provence that mayors are trying to "encourage people to coexist peacefully." In Cannes, women wearing the swimwear would be asked to leave as well as face a fine of 38 euros ($42).

In late August France's highest administrative court overturned one of the ordinances, calling it a "manifestly illegal infringement of fundamental liberties." But mayors in the region vowed to ignore the ruling; the situation remains in flux. Civil liberties groups have denounced the laws.

France has a history of mandating and enforcing secularism. In 2004, Parliament banned noticeable religious symbols, including headscarves and large crosses, in public schools. And in 2010, lawmakers passed a prohibition against women wearing burqas and niqabs in public, a vote that drew criticism from human rights and religious organizations.

Brickbat: Red Solo Cup

Sun, 02 Oct 2016 04:00:00 -0400

(image) France has banned disposable plastic cups and plates, the first country to do so. The government had already banned plastic bags. The law will require "all disposable tableware to be made from 50% biologically-sourced materials that can be composted at home by January of 2020. That number will rise to 60% by January of 2025."

Ruling Against Burkini Ban Hinges on the Meaning of 'Decency' and 'Public Order'

Mon, 29 Aug 2016 06:30:00 -0400

Last Friday's decision overturning a local burkini ban in France was a welcome victory for tolerance and religious freedom. But it relied on a narrow reading of public policy goals that supporters of such bans, including French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, define more broadly. That broader interpretation was accepted by a lower court in this case and by courts hearing challenges to other restrictions on religiously motivated clothing. The Council of State, France's top administrative court, ruled that the mayor of Villeneuve-Loubet, one of more than 30 seaside towns that have forbidden women to wear full-body swimsuits, exceeded his legal authority as protector of safety, hygiene, decency, and public order on the beach. Limits on freedom "must be justified by proven risks of harm to public order," the court said, and the city has failed to demonstrate any such risk from allowing women to wear burkinis. "In the absence of such risks," the court added, "emotions and concerns arising from terrorist attacks, including those committed in Nice on July 14, will not suffice to justify in law the contested prohibition." Hence "the contested decree has imposed a serious and manifestly illegal restraint on fundamental freedoms such as freedom to come and go, freedom of conscience, and personal freedom." Villeneuve-Loubet's ban, like the others, did not mention Islam specifically. Instead it banned swimwear that is not "respectful of morality and the principle of secularism, and in compliance with hygiene and safety rules." Whether such a command is legal depends on how you understand "decency" and "public order," two inherently subjective justifications for municipal beach regulations. In a ruling last Monday, a judge of the Nice Administrative Court deemed the burkini ban a "necessary, appropriate, and proportionate" precaution aimed at preventing public disorder following recent terrorist assaults, especially the truck attack that killed 86 people in Nice on July 14. The Council of State rejected that rationale, viewing "emotions and concerns arising from terrorist attacks" as irrelevant to the ban's legality. Although the burkini ban cited "the principle of secularism" as a justification, Valls argues that such laws have nothing to do with religion per se. "The burkini is not a religious sign," he says on Facebook. "It is the affirmation of political Islam in the public space." Valls has also called the burkini a tool for "the enslavement of women." He insists that last week's ruling "doesn't exhaust the debate that has opened up in our society on the question of the burkini." Defending its ban on full-face veils in public, the French government likewise claimed "the practice was a recent phenomenon which was not required by religion but arose from radicalization and extremism" and maintained that it violated the principle of gender equality. In 2014 the European Court of Human Rights rejected the latter rationale but agreed that the law was justified to protect "public safety" and "the rights and freedom of others." The court reasoned that wearing a veil is inconsistent with "respect for the minimum requirements of life in society" because "the barrier raised against others by a veil concealing the face is perceived…as breaching the right of others to live in a space of socialization which makes living together easier." In other words, the veil causes social disharmony by offending people. Supporters of burkini bans believe the same is true of excessively modest swimwear. Once such considerations are admitted as legitimate rationales for restricting freedom, it is hard to find a principled stopping point.[...]

Burkini Ban Busted! French Court Says No to Criminalizing Muslim Swimwear

Fri, 26 Aug 2016 09:55:00 -0400

(image) On Friday, France's highest administrative court ruled that French leaders may not ban burkinis, the full-coverage swimming garments favored by Muslim women, from public beaches.

The French Council of State ruling related specifically to the town of Villeneuve-Loubet, but it should also block bans passed by dozens of French towns and cities recently amid alleged concerns about terrorism.

For more on the burkini bans—and the flawed logic backing them—see Reason's previous coverage: