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Saturday, 24 September 2016

Christine Boutin’s latest Twitter gaffe - lacking dignity and class

You know some people (politicians in particular) should not be allowed anywhere near a microphone. It only encourages them to utter the most absurd ideas in the mistaken belief that they’re making sense.

Similarly they should think twice - nay thrice - before allowing themselves to share the benefit of their “thoughts” on social media platforms.

Nadine Morano springs to mind. A classic example of someone who’s “good” for a soundbite although many would probably wish she were less of a buffoon.

And then there’s Christine Boutin.


Another “serial offender”.

(caricature of) Christine Boutin “La vache qui prie” - although there’s none of the “tendrement conne” in her latest Tweet (screenshot from Canal + Le Grand Journal video, February, 2016).

Yes, the ex-housing minister and founder and former president of the Christian Democratic Party, well-known for her opposition to civil partnership (for two men or two women) and same-sex marriage (and currently appealing a fine for having said that homosexuality was an “abomination”) has taken to the Twittersphere with her usual “panache”.

This time around though, there’s none of the eye-rolling “here she goes again” reaction. Rather she has committed what many consider to be a monumentally offensive gaffe.

As you might know the former French president, Jacques Chirac, has been hospitalised.

The 83-year-old reportedly has a lung infection, the most recent in a series of health scares.

His wife, Bernadette, has also been admitted, suffering from exhaustion.

A number of French politicians, including the front runners for Les Républicains primary Alain Juppé and Nicolas Sarkozy, as well as the current French president, François Hollande, have “expressed their support” for Chirac and his wife.

Enter stage right Boutin, finger-twitching presumably to announce in just three words on Twitter the death of Jacques Chirac - remembering to use the hashtag of course!

And how did she react when faced with the obvious truth that she had got it all wrong (yet again).

By defending herself in claiming that the information had come from “ a reliable source” and that she had shared it because, in her words, “I think the French are waiting for it, as shown by the buzz it has generated.”

Nothing like an apology!

And Boutin’s response was nothing like and apology.

What class.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Friday’s French music break - Cyril Mokaïesh & Bernard Lavilliers, “La loi du marché”

There’s no doubt about it. This week’s choice for Friday’s French music break is a heartfelt piece of social and political commentary (and that’s not hyperbolising) with a haunting melody and powerful lyrics that would leave only the most insensitive, indifferent.

Inspired by Stéphane Brizé’s award-winning 2015 drama “La Loi du marché” (“The Measure of a Man”) for which Vincent Lindon (deservedly) won Best Actor at last year’s Cannes film festival and a César (the French equivalent of the Oscar) in 2016, Cyril Mokaïesh’s song of the same name sees him pair up with another politically engaged artist, albeit from another generation, Bernard Lavilliers.

And the combination of Mokaïesh (31) and Lavilliers (69) is a stroke of genius.

As is the clip which accompanies the song, directed by none other than Brizé, the man who made the film.

Cyril Mokaïesh (screenshot from official video of “La loi du marché”)

Bernard Lavilliers (screenshot from official video of “La loi du marché”)

“ ‘La Loi du marché’ (the film) marks a moment in our history,” Mokaïesh said in an interview with Le Huffington Post.

“It’s about the difficulty of contemporary existence , the fierce world of work and its injustices.”

So moved was he by the “poetic nature” of the film that Mokaïesh wanted to “make his own contribution”, and in particular express the,“difficult lived of migrants and the way in which society had become dysfunctional” without neglecting structural and social issues in France of course.

You see, a world and-a-half removed from what many other artists have to offer.

“There is no song that can change the course of events,” he said.  “But there is a chance that it (a song) can reveal feelings and unite forces.”

The (overwhelmingly positive) reaction to the song on Mokaïesh’s Facebook page might well be from those who have already been converted to his music and his message. But there’s a strength in both the lyrics and performance that’s undeniable. And Brize’s video clip complements it perfectly.

Maybe there is hope that Mokaïesh’s sentiments, as idealistic as they most definitely are, might be heard by some who are not necessarily natural listeners of his music.

Anyway, here’s a triple recommendation for you.

Firstly, if you haven’t already, try to see Brizé’s film (the first clip below is the trailer): it’s touching and troubling and, needless to say, Lindon is just magnificent.

Secondly, take a listen to (and a look at) Mokaïesh and Lavilliers’ joint “contribution” (the second clip below).

And finally, read the lyrics (in French). “Real” poetry.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

François Hollande named “Statesman of the year”


Say what?

That’s surely the only way to react to the news that the French president, François Hollande, has been honoured as International Statesman of the Year.

The prize, which is awarded by the New York-based interfaith Appeal of Conscience foundation recognises “individuals who support peace, prosperity, liberty and promote tolerance, human dignity and human rights, both in their own countries and internationally through cooperation with other leaders”.

François Hollande (screenshot from Le Monde/Reuters video of acceptance speech)

Right, that’s the news angle, and maybe the international community knows something the French don’t. But does Hollande really merit the award?

After all poll after (endless) poll in this country only emphasises Hollande’s unpopularity with the electorate at home and the frustration there has been with his seemingly trademark “waffling” approach to governing.

As Hollande’s five years near their end, what have been the highlights of his term in office?

In no particular order:

Julie Gayet and the scooter.
The ceremonious (and acrimonious) dumping of not-quite first lady Valérie Trierweiler
Ace government appointments such as Jérôme Cahuzac (the minister of economy, charged with fighting tax fraud who…well, you can probably guess the rest) and Thomas Thévenoud (the trade minister who “forgot” to pay his tax bill…for three years)
Electorally courting the Greens, including them in government and then seeing the “principled” Cécile Duflot flounce out of office.
Facing the wrath of so-called Frondeurs of his own party, abandoning Socialist party principles but refusing to endorse completely those of Social democracy.
Being (and this takes some doing) abandoned by government ministers on the left of his party - Arnaud Montebourg, Benoît Hamon and Aurélie Filippetti and those on the right - Emmanuel Macron (all right, so Manuel Valls has stuck the course, but most political commentators would argue that he has his own agenda).
Telling the French endlessly that unemployment would drop and staking his future on it.
Making administration easier (huh?), reducing the number of regions (at what price?), shifting a dollop of the state’s tax burden to those very same regions.
Oh yes - same sex marriage.

On the whole, a pretty grim and disappointing track record - domestically speaking.

So, to abroad - foreign policy; an area in which every French president stamps his authority.

Just a sampling.

French intervention in Mali and Syria, the battle against Daesch, the handling of refugees in Europe…the list could go on…have, and let’s be brutally honest about it, hardly been resounding triumphs in French foreign policy and ergo for Hollande.

And that term “Statesmanship”.

Take a look around the Net and you’ll come up with several key elements (and, as in all matters of this nature, there is no one clear definition, so the meaning of the term is open to some degree of interpretation) that are embodied in being a statesman.

Having a bedrock of principles, a moral compass, a vision. And an ability to build a consensus to achieve that vision.”

Hollande? Really?

Or how about this?

"A person who is skilled in the management of public or national affairs." or, in determining the difference between a politician and a statesman, “A politician works with details. A statesman works with ideas.”


And this?

“A person who is experienced in the art of government or versed in the administration of government affairs” and “A person who exhibits great wisdom and ability in directing the affairs of a government or in dealing with important public issues.”

Double ditto.

Now, while Hollande might score (just) on some of these points, he clearly misses big time on many.

Certainly he has had to deal with the terrorist attacks in France during his time in office. And few could argue that he has led the nation’s mourning with exceptional dignity.

But that in itself cannot warrant the award of International statesman of the year.

And maybe Hollande recognised that fact in his acceptance speech on Monday, realising that the award was not for just one man, but for a nation.

“It honours France,” he said. An inspiring France which defends  liberty, democracy and human rights everywhere.”

And referring to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks,  he continued, “ On that day we were all American. Today we are all French.”

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