Archive for French politics

the French MIT? not so fast…

Posted in Kids, pictures, University life with tags , , , , , , , on February 20, 2017 by xi'an

Gare de Sceaux, May 25, 2012A news report last weekend on Nature webpage about the new science super-campus south of Paris connected with my impressions of the whole endeavour: the annual report from the Court of Auditors estimated that the 5 billion euros invested in this construct were not exactly a clever use of public [French taxpayer] money! This notion to bring a large number of [State] engineer and scientific schools from downtown Paris to the plateau of Saclay, about 25km south-west of Paris, around École Polytechnique, had some appeal, since these were and are prestigious institutions, most with highly selective entry exams, and with similar training programs, now that they have almost completely lost the specialisation that justified their parallel existences! And since a genuine university, Paris 11 Orsay, stood nearby at the bottom of the plateau. Plus, a host of startups and research branches of companies. Hence the concept of a French MIT.

However, as so often the case in Jacobin France, the move has been decided and supported by the State “top-down” rather than by the original institutions themselves. Including a big push by Nicolas Sarkozy in 2010. While the campus can be reached by public transportation like RER, the appeal of living and working on the campus is obviously less appealing to both students and staff than in a listed building in the centre of Paris. Especially when lodging and living infrastructures are yet to be completed. But the main issue is that the fragmentation of those schools, labs and institutes, in terms of leadership, recruiting, research, and leadership, has not been solved by the move, each entity remaining strongly attached to its identity, degree, networks, &tc., and definitely unwilling to merge into a super-university with a more efficient organisation of teaching and research. Which means the overall structure as such is close to invisible at the international level. This is the point raised by the State auditors. And perceived by the State which threatens to cut funding at this late stage!

This is not the only example within French higher educations institutions since most have been forced to merged into incomprehensible super-units under the same financial threat. Like Paris-Dauphine being now part of the PSL (Paris Sciences et Lettres) heterogeneous conglomerate. (I suspect one of the primary reasons for this push by central authorities was to create larger entities towards moving up in the international university rankings, which is absurd for many reasons, from the limited worth of such rankings, to the lag between the creation of a new entity and the appearance on an international university ranking, to the difficulty in ranking researchers from such institutions: in Paris-Dauphine, the address to put on papers is more than a line long, with half a dozen acronyms!)

threats on abortion rights

Posted in Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , , on December 3, 2016 by xi'an

231116_yesuAfter a surrealistic debate last week between the two primary candidates about their comparative proximity to the catholic pope, and the reminder by the winner, François Fillon, that he did not consider abortion as a fundamental right, the French catholic church hierarchy has been trying to block a new law that criminalises anti-abortion websites that mimic as official websites, while providing misleading information… With the usual newspeak deviance of arguing for a freedom of speech that is not under threat.


Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , on September 3, 2016 by xi'an

27053069The current burkini bans and the ensuing controversy are yet another indicator of the low standards of the French political class as a whole. Rather than acknowledging that terrorist and (even less) psychopath attacks cannot be always prevented and that a democratic society has to live with the possibility of such dangers, politicians of both sides engage into a blame game and try to cater to far-right and xenophobic voters by introducing anti-democratic measures such as this absurd ban. Measures that have no impact whatsoever on the security threats but strongly infringe upon civil liberties. The reasons advanced by the dozen of mayors who imposed such bans are non-sensical: from hygiene (walking or bathing on one of those beaches can quickly demonstrate this is not a shared concern!), to good manners (no matter how one defines this term, beaches are the last place to seek good manners!), to public order (if wearing a specific dress leads to verbal or physical aggressions by other beach-goers, the aggressors should be prosecuted, not the aggressed), to women rights (because the few women involved visibly cannot make their own choices) and to security (of whom? the wearer who could drown in 30cm of water or the watcher who could choke upon one’s extreme-righteous rage?!). No, the real and only reason is to exclude muslim gear from beaches, once again to cater to the extreme portion of the electorate. Further, as noted by many commentators on this ridiculous affair, this ban only impacts women, while no French policeman goes asking male sunbathers about their religious or political opinions… Local and State authorities would be definitely inspired in creating support against social, religious and sexual harassment on women, rather than adding to this harassment.

As someone permanently opposed to dress codes, whether imposed by State, religions or social environment, I obviously object to such bans as a privation of liberty. The way and the reasons people dress or undress the way they dress or undress is their business, it does not have to account for the feelings of the onlookers, and one does not have to provide justification for wearing long sleeves or a scarf on a beach. Just as one does not have to wear long sleeves or a scarf to obey social pressure. The very few times I could not avoid standing on a beach with no shade, I chose to cover myself as much as possible. And did not feel I needed to give a reason for my attitude. The same should apply to everyone: Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité!

Libération plays with Lego

Posted in Kids, pictures with tags , , , on April 10, 2016 by xi'an

total respect: “parfois résister, c’est partir”

Posted in pictures with tags , , , on January 27, 2016 by xi'an

the ultimate argument

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , on February 6, 2015 by xi'an

In a tribune published on February 4 in Le Monde [under the vote-fishing argument that the National Front is not a threat for democracy], the former minister [and convicted member of fascist groups in the 1960’s] Gérard Longuet wrote this unforgettable sentence about the former and current heads of the National Front:

“Sa fille, elle, a compris, et d’ailleurs pourquoi serait-elle son père, alors que deux ou trois générations les séparent.”

[Translation:  His daughter has for her part well understood and in any case why should she be her father when there are two or three generations between them.]

May the 6th be w/o you!

Posted in pictures with tags , , , , , on May 6, 2012 by xi'an

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