On a personal note: I’m currently pondering the choices on offer in the upcoming German Bundestag (parliamentary) election. It’s not easy to get a handle on what’s going on when you’ve been living abroad for some years. From the Guardian News Blog I gather that there have been some significant changes in the campaigning style since I last observed it first-hand. At least the campaign music looks more interesting than what Mr Chirac came up with in 1981. (Except for the (liberal#[1]) FDP — “Money Money Money”, huh? Okay, I wouldn’t have voted for them anyway.)

And I’m still waiting for my postal-vote papers. Dealing with the German embassy is, as always, a pain. They must be the rudest people in Paris.

[1]: Not synonymous with “progressive” or “left-wing”. At all.

Citations d’hier

Three quotes, two from yesterday, one from today. I’m leaving the post in this bilingual version: there’s an English translation for the one that was originally in French.

There is much less of a conflict between journalists and bloggers here in France; I even think this struggle might be a phenomenon that is particular to the US. On the contrary, quite a number of journalist have blogs, and their notes, penned in a personal, more intimate voice, are often a more interesting read than the articles the same journalists write for their newspapers.

… et une d’aujourd’hui.

Les journalistes qui bloguent, ne serait-ce que dans un coin du site officiel de l’organe de presse auxuels ils sont rattachés, apportent un je-ne-sais-quoi de parole à la première personne qui change du baratin des journaux.

Voici la description de Pascal Riché, correspondant de Libération à Washington, du spectacle qu’il s’est offert à ses yeux et à ceux de son compagnon de route, Julian Borger (du Guardian), hier à La Nouvelle Orléans :

Des milliers de gens étaient agglutinés autour du Convention Center, abandonnés à eux-même. Ils attendaient des bus qui ne venaient pas. Plusieurs sont morts, et les autorités n’ont même pas emporté les cadavres qui restent là, posés à même le trottoir. On leur jette des rations alimentaires et des bouteilles d’eau du haut d’un hélicoptère, ou du haut du pont voisin. Comme à des pestiférés. Ils vivent dans la peur, surtout la nuit, à cause des gangs, des armes. Ils ont soif et faim. Les toilettes du centre débordent d’excréments. Vous pouvez imaginer l’état d’exaspération et de colère de ces gens. “Ecrivez que si les bus ne viennent pas, on va mettre le feu à la ville” m’a juré un type.

Car l’autoroute est juste à côté est parfaitement sèche. Les aider, les tirer de là, serait facile. Pourquoi a-t-il fallu attendre quatre jours pour commencer à leur promettre des bus ?

Au début, en débarquant dans cette foule en colère, nous avions un peu peur. Aucun n’a été agressif, tous ont été amicaux, clamant simplement leur indignation, leur souffrance, et leur sentiment profond d’être traités comme des animaux parce qu’ils sont noirs et pauvres.

[« Thousands of people were crowded around the Convention Center, left to their own devices. They were waiting for buses that didn’t come. Several have died, and the authorities haven’t even taken away the dead bodies that are laid out on the sidewalk. Food rations and bottles of water are being thrown down to them from a hovering helicopter, or from a neighboring bridge. As if they had the plague. They are frightened, especially at night, because of the gangs, the arms. They are hungry and thirsty. The toilets of the center are overflowing with excrement. You can imagine how exasperated and angry these people are. ‘Write that if the buses don’t come, we will burn down the city,’ a guy promised me.

Because the highway is very close and perfectly dry. To help them, to get them out of there would be easy. Why was it necessary to wait four days to start promising them busses?

In the beginning, when we entered this angry crowd, we were a bit scared. None of them has been aggressive, all have been friendly, and were simply venting their indignation, their suffering and their deep-seated feeling that they are being treated like animals because they are black and poor. »]

Les notes de Adam Brookes sur le Reporters’ Log de la BBC (également d’hier) sonnent sensiblement pareil :

[16:00 GMT] There’s a very aggressive police presence. They don’t stop and talk to the refugees at all and they don’t communicate with them. They just speed by in their pick up trucks and their cars pointing shotguns out of the window as they go. It’s quite extraordinary behaviour. And these desperate people are waiting for evacuation. The police behaviour makes them all feel like suspects.

Every now and again a military helicopter comes in, it hovers over a car park and soldiers throw out big boxes of bottled water and food ration packs and then a great tide of young men come running in and start fighting for the food. This means that the most vulnerable people, the sick and elderly, many families don’t get a shot of the food coming down. There are five corpses there, at least from what we’ve seen today, it could be a serious development.

[17:24 GMT] One army veteran, sick with diabetes, with no medications, asked me why if the United States is capable of invading a country half a world away, wasn’t it capable of driving him 10 miles across the river.

It was as if in his mind the very idea of Americanness and citizenship was being betrayed.

Donc, pourquoi la Croix Rouge n’était-elle pas présente à côté de ces réfugiés ? Simple: ils ont reçu des ordres. La Garde Nationale contrôlait l’accès à la ville, et le département de la « Homeland Security » ne voulait pas créer des conditions trop « favorables » au maintien de quiconque dans la ville sinistrée :

Hurricane Katrina: Why is the Red Cross not in New Orleans?
  • Acess to New Orleans is controlled by the National Guard and local authorities and while we are in constant contact with them, we simply cannot enter New Orleans against their orders.
  • The state Homeland Security Department had requested–and continues to request–that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city.

Quelqu’un a fait exprès de laisser des êtres humains souffrir et mourir dans une ville transformée en enfer. Merci à tous ceux et celles qui ont gueulé, pour que finisse ce spectacle indigne et meurtrier.

(La dernière citation via Rivka, chez Respectful of Otters ; remerciements à Magpie.)

So Mr Schröder has made, er, creative use of the process that allows for a dismissal of (the lower chamber of) Parliament and new elections in Germany. It’s not entirely clear yet whether they will be okayed by the President. Just to make sure I’m up to date, I follow the political news that come out of my country-of-citizenship more closely than usual.

I can’t help but notice that the level of political discourse appears to be particularly, er, elevated this time. The site of the Tagesschau (which federates the news programming done by a network of public regional broadcasters and also provides a national program), provides an educational insight in the potential candidates’ vocabulary.

(A short introduction to the German political landscape, though: There are two large parties, SPD (German Social-Democratic Party) and CDU/CSU (Christian-Democratic Union, which operates everywhere except in the state of Bavaria, and Christian-Social Union, which is the Bavarian version thereof); three smaller parties that are likely to be represented in Parliament: Bündnis 90/Die Grünen (Federation 90/Green Party), FDP (German Liberal Party) and PDS (Party for Democratic Socialism) — the first two are currently partnered with one of the big parties each, who, in turn, need them to form a majority, while the third, as the successor of the East German communist party is still not fit for polite company at the federal level; and then there’s a newcomer, called Linksbündnis (or Federation of the Left), rallied around the controversial former SPD heavyweight Oskar Lafontaine and apparently in a partnership with the PDS. Mr Lafontaine has recently drawn major criticism for his populist public statements — in a way unsurprising, though: he has always had a populist streak; suffice it to say that this “Federation of the Left” is, to me, reminiscent of the British UKIP phenomenon.)

It’s party congress weekend for several of them, so future candidates seem to think it’s time to crank up the volume a bit:

  • [Geldgeiler Gockel] CSU General Secretary Markus Söder calls Mr Lafontaine a money-grubbing rooster (the original, with its alliteration and suggestion of vanity in Gockel is much better).
  • [Brechreiz] Green politician and Foreign Affairs Minister Joschka Fischer says Mr Lafontaine’s statements made him want to throw up.
  • [Die Penner von gestern] Chancellor Schröder hits out at the CDU/CSU, calling them yesterday’s hobos. (He has a way out, though: he could claim he only meant Penner as a slang term for someone who’s asleep. Maybe bummers or ragbags would have been a more toned-down translation.)
  • [Alte Säcke] Mr Söder, in turn, strikes back with the epithet old sacks or bags for his SPD rivals. Now this one needs a better translation: I have always understood the Sack in this particular insult to refer to the scrotum.
  • [Vergiftet] Meanwhile, Guido Westerwelle, the FDP president and allied with the CDU/CSU warns Angela Merkel, the Christian-Democratic challenger of Mr Schröder for the office of Chancellor not to accept the latter’s invitation to have a debate on TV — calling Mr Schröder’s suggestion poisoned, and adding (my translation): “If you want to win against Boris Becker, don’t challenge him to a tennis match but to a game of chess”.


… blogs are talking about society. And language, too, further down. Firstly, via Laurent at the beautifully redesigned Embruns, we learn from this post by Adrien/Bix that the french “pro-life” activists (they are called les anti-avortement here, by those who don’t agree with them) have found a rather insidious new way to send young women on a […]

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What’s your MP up to?

Je fais écho en anglais à un billet en français, que vous pouvez lire en VO vous-mêmes.

  • 2005-02-03
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In his post De la démocratie au Palais-Bourbon#[1] on his blog at Ceteris Paribus, Emmanuel offers some thoughts on the role of French members of parliament and how the voting public keeps an eye on their work and votes — or rather, doesn’t. As a political blog, Ceteris Paribus has several things going for it: […]

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US elections provide us with our four-yearly dose of US geography. Some sites have published maps that are more interesting and illuminating than the standard state-by-state red-and-blue ones. Kieran Healy at Crooked Timber has posted a county-by-county map that comes from (Associated Press via) USA Today . His post is a bit terse because the […]

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Pas aussi atroce que ça !

La maîtrise de M. Kerry, candidat démocrate à la présidence des Etats-Unis, de la langue française, je veux dire. Vous êtes probablement en désaccord si vous vous attendez à des prouesses, mais personnellement, je suis habituée à pire.

  • 2004-10-20
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On Language Log, Geoffrey Pullum links to an mp3 audio clip from Slate Magazine, in which John Kerry, visiting Haiti while campaigning, speaks a few words of French. According to Prof. Pullum, Kerry’s French is “atrocious”. Well, I have to disagree respectfully. Sure, the Mr Kerry on this clip doesn’t come up to the ankles […]

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After last month’s dismal elections, the EU parliament’s (newly renamed) Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality is getting a new member from Britain, UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom. The Guardian tells us a little more about this champion of women’s rights. In his own words: I want to deal with women’s issues because […]

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