Archive for the 'Politics' Category


The Problem Explained

There’s a big train strike on in France right now. Enfin, it’s not really that big by French standards… just the biggest one in the past four years. Because in France, it’s normal for transport unions to go on strike a lot… and they prefer to go on strike on holidays or in the summer, when the largest […]

Don’t Touch My Friend

Remember this? In the ’80s in France, xenophobia was countered by SOS Racisme, a popular group whose slogan means “Don’t touch my friend.” It was France’s version of the equally cool Two-Tone movement in England, associated with bands like the Specials and the English Beat. I wish there were such a movement now to combat […]

The Appropriation of Joan of Arc

It is highly unfashionable these days in France to show affection or admiration for Joan of Arc because she has been taken as a symbol by the far right, both the anti-foreigner Front National, which meets at her statue every May 1st, and the bizarroïde royalists of Action Française. I still admire the real Joan, […]

Where Are the Jobs?

The Guignols of Canal + went for the jugular this week, showing no mercy to unpopular French president François Hollande after the catastrophic first round of municipal elections. In this brilliantly–and painfully–funny bit, the puppet Hollande sings his desperate search for jobs, looking everywhere for them, including in bookcases and under his car. “Emploioutai!” he sings […]

League of Justice

Last Sunday, four strangers sat down silently at Table No. 1. We were there to count votes for our precinct in the arrondissement’s mayoral election. Opening the majority of small blue envelopes with folded A4 pages produced legitimate results. Near the end of the evening, I unfolded a surprise vote in one of the small […]

Around the Edges

Around 27 million tourists visit Paris each year, but only a small percentage of these people step outside of the city limits. A specially drawn footpath around Paris – and a new book detailing the route – aims to change this situation. Here I discuss the path and the Paris suburbs with its creator, Paul-Hervé […]

Scenes from a Manif

Today marked a strike and demonstrations in many French cities by the equivalent of high school advanced-placement professors. The “prepa” protestors (short for classes preparatoires) are angry that  Vincent Peillon, the minister of national education, wants to add hours to the already heavy workload of these profs–or pay them less. It was moving to see […]

Au Revoir, Ambassador Rivkin

Charles Rivkin, the 62nd US Ambassador to France and Monaco, will soon be finishing his term in Paris, and many of us will be sad to see him go. He’s the fifth ambassador since I’ve been living here, and although Pamela Harriman may have gone out in style (she died in 1997 after a stroke […]

Can Anyone Fix France?

This New York Times article by Steven Erlanger is the best, and perhaps most depressing, precis of what is happening in France right now. In 30 years of shuttling between France and the US, I have never observed a more morose population. And that is among my friends who have good jobs. I agree with […]

Subsidizing Intermittent Workers

France is facing a major budget deficit, estimated at 30 billion dollars (90% of its GDP). One of the biggest problems is that it has one of the highest government costs in the world: 56% of GDP, the second highest in the EU, while the economy is actually shrinking. One of the things that have come under […]

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