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Charles Bremner defines, "encapsulates" Sarkozy's 10-month old presidency

by The3rdColumn Tue Mar 18th, 2008 at 10:31:38 PM EST

In his latest blog, Sarkozy season II: back to basics, The Times' Paris correspondent Charles Bremner declares:

Three sentences from Sarkozy over the past two months encapsulate everything he has done to disappoint and irritate.

Firstly, these three sentences disappoint and irritate because they are true and we all know people don't like the truth about the state of affairs being bandied about by their politicians, let alone by their national leader.

Re:

1) Carla et moi, c'est du sérieux (It's serious, Carla and me.)

TRUE. Well, what's wrong with that? After all, he proved by marrying her that the love affair was serious, didn't he? Now that he's done it, people must get over it. That said, I agree, the voters did not hesitate to pummel the UMP in the last local election partly to "punish" Mr Sarkozy's very public lifestyle with his mistress turned wife/First Lady, something which is rather anathema to many French. I believe (and hope we all do, including Mr Bremner I should hope) Sarkozy will have learned a lesson, eg, to keep his private amorous life well out of the public eye. (Must admit, Sarkozy's display of something so 'unpresidential' also seriously got my goat!)

Re:

2) Les caisses sont vides (The treasury is empty)

ABSOLUTELY TRUE and our dear friends who are not French should know that part of the problem is caused by the French themselves who cannot go beyond the permanent 'assisté' mentality.

Re:

3) Casse-toi, pauvre con (Piss off, jerk, or equivalent. .../... A glimpse of hot temper and lack of self-restraint)

DEFINITELY TRUE. Unfortunately, people prefer their leaders to be hypocritical about things.

I am however disappointed that Charles Bremner, considered an excellent reporter and a journalist hors pair with clearly a loyal and die-hard following who believe that Bremner is the ultimate dream writer, is only able to pick out only 3 sentences to define, i.e., encapsulate everything he (Sarkozy) has done..., Sarkozy's 10-month record following the May 2008 presidential election, Charles is guilty of resorting to a bit of crap reporting; lets face it -- Sarkozy started with a stack of French problems against him that couldn't be resolved 10 months after he was elected, no way! So to expect him to fix the ills of the nation, considered the sick man of Europe, in so short a time, is hardly realistic.

Remember "les caisses sont vides!" In that sense, Charles Bremner is doing his readers great disservice by infering that Sarkozy should have kept quiet about the state coffers being empty. Why should he keep quiet about it? It's the truth! Shouldn't the French be forewarned about the truth? Don't they have the right to know that "les caisses sont vides!" ?

If only Charles could use his great talent for digging info and scrape well below the surface of the 10-month old Sarkozy presidency, instead of constantly resorting to hollow journalistic 'rhetorics' where the Sarkozy presidency is concerned, he'd find that the Sarkozy-Fillon tandem have had achievements albeit modest in trying to turn France from being the sick man/ICU case of Europe into a "convalescing patient." But I leave Charles to do the digging -- he is the professional reporter/journalist/blogger who owes his readers a bit more than just regularly dissing bad news.

In fine, someone judged that particular post of Charles as being well-balanced and witty, I'm afraid, witty it may be but well-balanced, certainly it isn't.

NB: I am well aware that this post may not sit well with the majority of ET diarists here whom I've noticed to be diehard anti-Sarkozy, but the truth of the matter is that this post is more in keeping with my privilege to criticise a lopsided article published in a mainstream 'broadsheet', eg, The Times. If this diary is deemed to defend Mr Sarkozy's presidency, so be it.


Display:
I know you wrote 'is considered to be', but you might want to actually substantiate that bit, which is the ONE BIG lie you get in every single article on France.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 03:24:24 AM EST
Or what about substantiating this:

   2) Les caisses sont vides (The treasury is empty)

ABSOLUTELY TRUE



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 04:49:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, they are. full stop. The budgets of the state and social security are only balanced by the goodwill of lenders, half of which are foreign. But France is in no way different from US, Japan, and many other OECD nations, in that respect. Except may be in that the global tax/contribution burden is one of the highest, around 45% of GDP.

I'm not arguing here on the issue that the tax is fair or not (it is not, the burden is skewed even more heavily towards taxing individual wage labor and not capital/corporate profits/self employed labor). Simply the agregate burden is one of the highest, and still the budget isn't balanced without floating more debt every year.

Of course, Sarko is a dickhead to complain about this now, just after he cut taxes on the richest himself. But he read george w bush's "neolib political economics for dummies".

Still, raising and rebalancing taxes will not be enough: France will need to make honest assessments and cut some benefits and public labor. This will happen in the nearer future than most people think. A credit crunch has far reaching consequences. Lenders will not get fooled another time after the "Great Dollar Devaluation Heist", which is coming right now.

Pierre

by Pierre on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 10:19:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
heh, from italy, france looks like a miracle of organisation and intelligent governance!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 01:30:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
or from perhaps 90% of the rest of the world...

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 01:38:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If this diary is deemed to defend Mr Sarkozy's presidency, so be it.

I don't think it's all that interesting to attack or defend Sarkozy. (To comment on his presidency, though, yes). At least some of us here have always said there was nothing behind the facade, that Sarko was all hat and no cattle, that he was just another populist politician, and I think we are being proved right. The Sarko-person is of no great interest.

Charles Bremner is a hired Murdoch hack and is of no interest either.

OTOH, there are assumptions about France in your diary that are serious and important.

part of the problem is caused by the French themselves who cannot go beyond the permanent 'assisté' mentality.

The famous mentalité d'assistés that anyone on the right trundles out without a second's further thought, just like US anti-welfare slogans ("welfare queens"), or "scroungers" in the UK. But who are the people who are being "assisted", helped? How much do they get? Are you talking about unemployment benefit? Family allowances? Minimum living wage (RMI)? Are you including the health service? And are you showing any proof that the existence of a social solidarity net is really a significant incentive to large numbers of people to consider that the world owes them a living? If that were the case, wouldn't it be logical to also consider the wealthier part of the population as assistés by numerous tax breaks and niches, and cuts in taxes on higher incomes, wealth, and estates, carried out under Chirac since 2002 and lately again by Sarkozy?

trying to turn France from being the sick man/ICU case of Europe into a "convalescing patient."

In our last exchange about that mendacious CER report, you cried off, citing exhaustion. I hope you're going to find the energy to substantiate what you write this time. Sorry if this sounds aggressive, but what you say here is offensive and misguided.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 04:49:48 AM EST
Afew,

If you find that my statement about the French assité mentalité offensive and misguided, let me begin by saying that I consider your sub-heading "ICU case yourself!" equally offensive and misguided.

I'm not sure why you felt what I said there "offensive and misguided" but I have a suspicion that it is because it's coming from one who has openly admitted to being right-wing as your slight of hand attack suggested: "The famous mentalité d'assistés that anyone on the right trundles out without a second's further thought,..."

I don't think it's all that interesting to attack or defend Sarkozy. (To comment on his presidency, though, yes). At least some of us here have always said there was nothing behind the facade, that Sarko was all hat and no cattle, that he was just another populist politician, and I think we are being proved right. The Sarko-person is of no great interest.

The Sarko person is of great interest, like it or not. You may not like him but HE is president of France and that means, rightly or wrongly, France is seen by many, particularly abroad, through his persona both as a "person" and as a politician-leader; difficult to separate the "person" from the "president" (de Gaulle who epitomised France during a certain era set the precedent and many have followed the lead.) To cut off any comment pertaining to his person as "not interesting" is not realistic; proof is tons of ink have been used to describe, ridicule and analyse him.

Charles Bremner is a hired Murdoch hack and is of no interest either.

"Hack" is hard, but there is an element of truth. He is not freelance; you, I or many here may not like what he writes but his articles are normally well researched. What he writes may not be of interest to you but they should be of interest to many French because he writes about France and the French, foibles and all, and what he says in his articles contribute in some way to what the English-speaking people of this world may want to know about France and the French.

The famous mentalité d'assistés that anyone on the right trundles out without a second's further thought, just like US anti-welfare slogans ("welfare queens"), or "scroungers" in the UK. But who are the people who are being "assisted", helped? How much do they get? Are you talking about unemployment benefit? Family allowances? Minimum living wage (RMI)? Are you including the health service? And are you showing any proof that the existence of a social solidarity net is really a significant incentive to large numbers of people to consider that the world owes them a living?

Listen afew, I am not at all inclined to do data mining. If you want percentages of sectors of the French population that receive state handouts, I haven't got them right here and now but I'm pretty sure they are somewhere on the net.

What gobsmacks me is that the French "mentalité d'assistés" line seems to have aroused an incredible political ideological backlash right here at ET. Yet you yourself categorised it as "famous" -- which simply goes to show that there is a perception, a strong one, if we were to go by your own adjective, and that the French suffers from this reputation.

To be perfectly honest, I did find your questions a bit puerile.

But to answer them, yes, we are talking about them and possibly about a lot more. There are certainly people in France who end up being supported by the state who hate the idea and would do anything to change, but equally there are MANY from all sides of the political ideological spectrum who take advantage, i.e., left, right, far left, far right, etc. To deny that this does not exist is to close one's eyes to some harsh realities about France.

If that were the case, wouldn't it be logical to also consider the wealthier part of the population as assistés by numerous tax breaks and niches, and cuts in taxes on higher incomes, wealth, and estates, carried out under Chirac since 2002 and lately again by Sarkozy?

So we perhaps come to the crux of the matter -- you view my mention of the French assisté mentality as an attack against the non-rich perhaps? There are those, rich and very rich, who pay 45% as Pierre had reported below, and perhaps more - and if you feel that tax breaks and niches, etc., are symptomatic of the assité mentalite too, you are somehow reinforcing the perception that the ("famous") assité mentality mindset in France is there, wouldn't you say? (I'm not sure that the rich or those who pay 45% in taxes outnumber those who don't though.)

Let me ask you something on the issue of taxes, how much more taxes do you believe the rich should pay in order to not belong to the assisté category? On this issue, wouldn't you say that the high taxes could drive the brightest and the best to go somewhere where the tax regime is more benign? The so-called brain-drain. What is the percentage of bright young French engineers who go to study in the US and then remain because there is more opportunity there? I do not have a number, but Barosso quoted something like 80% the other day at the launch of the CER report. France (nor any other country) can afford this.

In our last exchange about that mendacious CER report, you cried off, citing exhaustion. I hope you're going to find the energy to substantiate what you write this time. Sorry if this sounds aggressive, but what you say here is offensive and misguided.

I don't understand where you're coming from Afew! I submitted that diary as a report -- while I did cite exhaustion, it had nothing to do with the initial diary/report but if you remember, I mentioned that I didn't feel like reporting on what transpired during the question and answer session -- the CER pamphlet was not written by me and if you are not satisfied with what they have submitted, you should go tell them -- I can't help you there simply because I too have a lot of questions to ask and I thought writing a "report" about the CER report launch would be a good way to start a debate but heck, you attacked my post as if I had been guilty of something or for authoring the CER pamphlet. You apologised and said you're sorry for sounding over critical or aggressive or whatever but why am I feeling that your being sorry is a teeny weeny bit just on the sly?

If your role in ET is that of an ombudsman, I will accept the criticisms if they are warranted (and I humbly submit that I may have been clumsy in my reports) but I have gotten to a stage that I have lost the appetite to engage in debates because rightly or wrongly I don't think it's worth my time to post any more diaries -- put it to that feeling of being "not with it", i.e., whatever diary I may post will not meet the ET "agenda" (whatever it is) since I am not left-wing or ultra-liberal enough to go with the ET flow which I believe to be greatly dominated by "leftish" sentiments.

While I greatly enjoyed reading some of the diaries, particularly those of Frank Schnittger's (whom I appreciated from way back when he was posting in Charles Bremner's blog), and Migeru's, Jerome's, Drew's, Helen's, Jake's, In Wales, and a few others, there are diaries that I don't particularly relish reading because of I felt they were thoroughly biased against anything right wing (could be wrong but heck, that's my opinion.) But to reformulate what Giscard d'Estaing said to Mitterand in a televised presidential election debate: "Vous n'avez pas le monopole de coeur!" ("You don't have the monopoly of heart")

This will be my last diary in the European Tribune. If it suits you or ET, you can delete my diaries. I believe you have the power to do it -- as someone in an Open Thread (I think by In Wales) a few weeks back said -- or along the same line, "We have the power to delete..." (Who is "We", that I really don't know.)

by The3rdColumn on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 10:12:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think voices even the majority of ET readers disagree with should nevertheless be welcome here.  And while some people have the ability to delete diaries and comments, it should only be done in exceptional circumstances. I don't think anyone has the right to delete a diary solely because they are in disagreement with it.

It is very important that ET remains a place where dialogue and debate can flourish and remain within the bounds of common courtesy.  I happen to agree with Afew's position, but do not understnd the purpose of personal attacks.

I can't blame you for wanting to leave.

Hopefully there will remain a place here for you if you decide to return.  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 11:10:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We never delete diaries because we disagree with it, only in circumstances of gross offensiveness or gross copyright infringement or something like that.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 11:29:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Right.  Which is what I said.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 11:45:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, you said no-one had the right to. I said we don't.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 04:10:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One of the reasons for afew's impatience is that we have spent a lot of effort on ET to gather the facts that do prove that your assertions about "assistés", or about the "brain drain", or about France's supposed lack of dynamism, etc... are lies and/or myths endlessly promoted by the rightwing and repeated ad nauseam by the "serious" media.

We've spent a lot of effort proving them wrong, and  it is wearying for us to see them presented as facts on ET, when they are nothing but. Now the fair reaction to you, a relative newcomer, would be to point you to the relevant diaries which collate these facts, but do bear in mind that we spend a lot of time fighting that accepted common wisdom, and that it grinds us down.

So please don't take us on faith when we make these assertions, they are fully backed by hard numbers from unimpeachable sources. A good start, if you have not read this, is this summary post, which made it into Le Monde (without all the sources): France is not in decline and the last thing it needs is 'reform'. another, earlier effort would be this: Actual facts about the French labor market

On the brain drain, may I point you to this:

On "assistés", to these:

Our agenda is not to be leftist, it is to change perceptions that are shaped on incorrect facts.

I hope you can still participate to this forum; for one I have much appreciated your input and insights. Do trust us a little bit when we make assertions here - they are usually backed by hard facts, and, if you have read some of our deconstructions in recent weeks, you should by now be aware that a number of things in the mainstream press are based on repeating the dominant narrative with little respect for the underlying reality - and constesting this does not make us "lefties" (note how this is intended as an insult in the media), or a cult, or something similarly easy to dismiss.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 11:32:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
<sigh> Where to begin?

If "ICU case yourself!" offended you I apologise. It was not meant as an outright insult, but as a flippant way of reminding you that casually speaking of France as an "ICU case" was in itself offensive.

You twice speak of "sleight of hand" and "slyness" on my part. Nothing of the sort. For instance, when I say "The famous mentalité d'assistés that anyone on the right trundles out without a second's further thought", I'm simply speaking from experience, since this is a French expression greatly used by French people on the right of the political spectrum. It was not a dig at you in person. When (in the CER thread) I said I was sorry if I sounded aggressive, and said "do get some rest" when you said you were exhausted, I was simply showing you some respect.

I'm not an ombudsman and I was not writing my comments in any official capacity. I'm a front-pager here, meaning I can post directly to the front page and have some editorial powers ordinary users don't have. If I write in that official capacity, I preface my comment with [ET Moderation Technology™] . (Front-pager duties are explained here). My comment above and my comments on your CER thread were written as from one user to another. Nothing in what I said implied I possessed any authority or rank over you.

You say you have "openly admitted to being right-wing". Fine. But you seem to be complaining that the general ethos of ET is left-leaning. There's nothing sneaky about that, it's clear and above-board. Please see this from the site FAQ:

European Tribune - Frequently Asked Questions

What's a progressive? What if I am not one?

"Progressive" is an political term used loosely to identify activists of the left, favorable to sound and fair economic and social policies, equality of chances, and the defense of personal rights. The European Tribune is broadly progressive, but welcomes all contributors regardless of political self-identification, provided that they be respectful of the mission of this site, provide principled disagreement and don't engage in trollish behavior.

(Please note that I am not accusing you of trollish behaviour.. :-))

So you are a conservative posting on a left-of-centre blog. What surprises me is that you don't seem to expect other members here to argue with you, to call on you to substantiate what you say.

Yet what you say (or what you draw attention to, in the case of the CER report) is likely to attract criticism here. You say  you hope to "start a debate" but, when the debate starts, it's not the kind you want. For example, you seem to think it beneath you to discuss facts (re the CER report), to present some facts to back up what you say: you reply that you don't do "data-mining", and you send me off to find stuff on the net. But I'm not the only one to ask you for some substance to support your allegations (and, in this diary, there are allegations aplenty). If you say something, then you back it up, you don't tell others to go looking in your place.

As for your diary above, it's framed in a way that suggests it's a comment on Charles Bremner and his view of Sarkozy. I think I'm quite within my rights in saying I'm not interested in that. My point is the casual assumptions, and the more than loaded language, that you include about France, and that, for me, make up the main thrust of your text. You seem absolutely certain of them:

our dear friends who are not French should know that part of the problem is caused by the French themselves who cannot go beyond the permanent 'assisté' mentality.

the sick man/ICU case of Europe

This is not Bremner, or Sarkozy, or CER, or your memory of what you think Barroso said, this is you speaking. What's so extraordinary about being asked to explain and provide substance?

So you say you will stop posting, well, that's up to you. There is no reason to delete anything, on the contrary, that would be unfair to what you have written and to the contributions of other members in the discussion threads. As for "we can delete", I think it was part of an explanation about what front-pagers can do. But the only stuff we delete, as part of maintenance tasks, is spam, or comments that get posted twice. Not your comments and diaries, T3C :-)

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 11:44:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hi  The3rdColumn,

My apologies for coming late to this, I've only just spotted this thread has become controversial.  Many thanks for your kind words above, and may I also say that I appreciated your support when I got some abuse on Timesonline.

Please permit me to step back from the details of this controversy and make some more general observations.  

Firstly, all newspapers, blogs, community forums etc. have some general orientations - more or less tightly defined, and more or less tightly enforced.  We have both criticised Charles Bremner for his tabloid tendencies to personalise all commentary and focus almost exclusively on the many foibles of Sarkozy as being emblematic of France.  He has found a very comfortable niche market playing into British perceptions of France and no doubt receives something of a star rating with the Times editorial team for so doing.  He doesn't do heavy economic/political analysis and thus tends to report on and repeat the commonplaces of others.

ET aspires to be a less "populist" and more analytically inclined community who are less interested in personalities and more into underlying economic, political, sociological and environmental causes.  As such it's stock in trade is to challenge, and sometimes refute the "common sense" assumptions of popular political discourse.  In this context, challenging the notion of "mentalité d'assistés" is par for the course, although in a state as interventionist as France, it would not be surprising to find that many are dependent on the state in many ways.  Hell, we all depend on the state for law and order, so it depends on how that concept is used to criticise some and not others.

I too have "issues" with some aspects of ET's self definition:  Whatever its origins, I don't see the relevance of defining ET as some sort of European counterpoint to American liberal blogosphere.  Whilst I am full of admiration for Jerome personally, I think ET lacks a transparent structure and process for defining/agreeing editorial policies, resolving disputes, and representing the public face of ET in the real world.  

I hate the moral superiority of pre-defining ourselves as "progressive" when we should have the moral courage to allow the facts and logic takes us where they will - even if that means adopting a position others might type cast as conservative, Marxist, utopian, or whatever.  I sometimes find it very cliquish and prone to setting a higher standard of evidence for dissident views than those which set the "dominant narrative" within ET.  

I doubt it will ever become a very broadly based forum for a very large user population because we have a tendency to pay lip service to tolerance of diversity and yet give minority views a hard time.  For a forum which prides itself on evidence based argument and high standards of behaviour, too often ad hominum and personalised attacks do creep in.

Having said all that, I think you would be hard put to find a higher or more civil standard of debate anywhere else.  I think you have to be prepared to accept that your assumptions will be scrutinized, and tested against the evidence, and as newcomers here, our views will not be granted the same level of automatic approval as old-timers who have built up a certain status and with many friendships and shared understandings over the years.

I do hope you will stay because I enjoyed your posts and because I think ET needs to be more open to a wider range of views if it is to grow and prosper.  Some old-timers may resist this because they prefer it as a cosy club for the illuminated few - that too is their entitlement. Almost every week we have a spat where someone threatens to leave because they are unhappy with how they have been treated, and I have been there myself.  

But I hope ET will grow into something bigger than all of us and make a growing contribution to informed debate within Europe and beyond.  You too have a contribution to make to that, and you shouldn't let a tense exchange with one or two other members get in the way of that.  We can all be a bit precious about what we may feel to be an unfair or unsympathetic reception for our dearest thoughts.  I still have a few bones to pick with others!  The key thing is that we can all learn from the experience.

I hope you stay.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 01:11:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank Schnittger:
But I hope ET will grow into something bigger than all of us and make a growing contribution to informed debate within Europe and beyond.  

nice, as is the rest of the comment!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 01:27:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Have you seen the hard-time the even old-timers get given around here? The thing is, of course, that we've all already made our extraordinary claims that need extraordinary support for them ... I don't know any way of making those discussions easily available to newcomers, other than Migeru's pointers to historical stuff.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 02:01:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For instance, there's a long running fight over the Lisbon Treaty in it's various incarnations on which there are about three sides among the old-timers on the site.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 02:04:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You know, I think my awareness of the hard time I'm likely to be given is hindering my ability to write my diary on Money, Debt, Credit, Investment, Banks and All That. I already threw away one draft.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 02:15:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I promise I'll be as supportive as I can - from a position of sublime ignorance - don't forget there may always be some smart ass who knows more than you - but there are also probably quite a few who know even less...

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 02:33:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nah - I haven't seen anyone give you a hard time - beyond calling you cranky which obviously can't be true...  I tend to to see you as specialising in the Socratic method - "I ask the questions around here..."

I'm sure it is very exasperating to have newcomers come in and re-raise issues you thought had been sorted out and settled for good - but in the real world everything is continually being re-invented. All organisations try to initiate newcomers into their history and tradition and culture - and create a back catalogue of founding documents, key milestones, seminal works etc. - i.e. this is where we are coming from and how things are done around here.

However don't forget that newcomers here also have a past, and for all I know The3rdColumn is a world renowned expert on comparative state welfare dependency studies.  Maybe he too has reason to take certain things for granted and chooses to focus on other issues.  It's always very dangerous to personalise any argument for that very reason.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 02:30:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think I've written a substantive diary in the time you've been around here, for various reasons. When I do I'll get a beating.

If he has reasons for taking things for granted he can tell us what they are - we'll generally provide references on demand.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 02:32:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you are correct.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 02:35:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
is that The3rdColumn is a woman.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 03:08:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it's fair to say that there are issues on ET where there is a clear majority view. These are: a general disdain for neoliberalism and Atlanticism, a generally positive attitude to the EU, support for renewables. But even on these we have our permament dissidents. And there are always divides other than which see you in a minority, so I find this insistence on a supposed ET prevailing wisdom overblown and self-centered.

Newcomers can check the list of most-commented-ever diaries for evidence of divides among the old-timers, most of which continue to exist. For example, the Danish cartoons issue revealed two incompatible views that fought themselves to a standstill. Then there is the nuclear evergreen. An issue with looong history is referendums on the European Constitution/Lisbon Treaty, where as Colman says there are (at least) three sides, that view the others as more or less giving support to the enemy (Eurosceptics), didn't move an iota in two years and repeat the same points on occasion of any new EU development. I myself feel a minority of one among old-timers with the position that neolibs aren't Eurosceptics (and that that matters). We give each other a hard time a lot, but it seems to go under the radar for some (can happen easily if the theme is not interesting to them).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 07:01:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As usual, thanks for the detailed and informed comment. But let me react to some points you make:


 I think ET lacks a transparent structure and process for defining/agreeing editorial policies, resolving disputes, and representing the public face of ET in the real world.  

That's a fair point, I think, with which we have grappled unsuccessfully so far. It's a community blog, so we pride ourselves on not having one person taking all decisions; but within that context it's not arrogant to say, I think, that I have a strong influence on what goes on; and yet I am often in a minority view on a number of topics...

I'm hoping to revisit this in the near future.


 hate the moral superiority of pre-defining ourselves as "progressive" when we should have the moral courage to allow the facts and logic takes us where they will - even if that means adopting a position others might type cast as conservative, Marxist, utopian, or whatever.  

Fair enough.


I sometimes find it very cliquish and prone to setting a higher standard of evidence for dissident views than those which set the "dominant narrative" within ET.

Now this I find really unfair. We may not provide evidence every single time we say something here, but we do have it and, as I noted above, it's sometimes draining to have to re-explain in detail point that we've successfully explained in the past. (Maybe we need to build a quick reference library for some topics...) Evidence there is, and I'll be happy to provide it every single time.

I don't think we set higher standards for any position, quite the opposite. As Colman remarked as well, we're pretty tough on one another - we fight sloppy thinking and unsubstantiated assertions everywhere - and there is more of that amongst those that repeat the 'common wisdom' prevalent in the media than on our side, given how we've taken the pain to go into data in painstaking detail.


because we have a tendency to pay lip service to tolerance of diversity and yet give minority views a hard time.  For a forum which prides itself on evidence based argument and high standards of behaviour, too often ad hominum and personalised attacks do creep in.

Now that seriously requires substantiation, because I'd say it's flat out false. ET is one of the websites least prone to ad hominem and insults. By far.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 02:25:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But his next line was, "Having said all that, I think you would be hard put to find a higher or more civil standard of debate anywhere else."

Big difference between something creeping in despite our efforts and being "prone" to something.  

Overall, I think he's right on.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 02:36:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Jerome a Paris:
I sometimes find it very cliquish and prone to setting a higher standard of evidence for dissident views than those which set the "dominant narrative" within ET.

Now this I find really unfair. We may not provide evidence every single time we say something here, but we do have it and, as I noted above, it's sometimes draining to have to re-explain in detail point that we've successfully explained in the past. (Maybe we need to build a quick reference library for some topics...) Evidence there is, and I'll be happy to provide it every single time.

I don't think that applies to you at all Jerome -in fact you are remarkable in your patience and in your ability to dig out the right graph or piece of evidence every time.  Every group tends to have  "dominant narrative" based on the accumulated evidence and contributions of its key thinkers - and insiders are not going to want to re-visit all that stuff every time it is referenced or assumed in an argument.  So it just gets passed into the assumption base we work from.  

However to a newcomer it appears that certain things are axiomatic and cannot be challenged, whereas other views evoke a sometimes vitriolic or certainly a very strong rejection.  This creates an immediate perception of unfairness - why is my view being challenged - whereas another view is taken as read.  For instance I am the only person who has recommended this diary.  I actually didn't agree with much of it, but felt that having read and enjoyed it, that was the least I could do.  Sometimes Diaries with very little content get a lot of recommendations - you can see why that might seem unfair to someone who has just put in a lot of effort into writing something they care about.

Jerome a Paris:

Now that seriously requires substantiation, because I'd say it's flat out false. ET is one of the websites least prone to ad hominem and insults. By far.

I thought I had covered that point by saying:Frank Schnittger:

Having said all that, I think you would be hard put to find a higher or more civil standard of debate anywhere else

You can hardly deny that some ad hominem attacks do creep in, and perhaps this thread verged on it.   When peoples feeling are hurt, logic goes out the window. The determination to address the issue and not who makes the argument is a key factor which ought to distinguish a serious from a popular site - and generally I think ET does that very well.

I hate arguments which start "I am a <insert here adjective of choice - conservative, progressive, realist, liberal, environmentalist, radical socialist> and therefore obviously....." .  Whether 3rdColumn is a conservative or whether ET is progressive is neither here nor there.  It is how we conduct the debate that matters.


"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 03:07:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Whilst I am full of admiration for Jerome personally, I think ET lacks a transparent structure and process for defining/agreeing editorial policies, resolving disputes, and representing the public face of ET in the real world.  

You know, I'm getting really bored of this line from you. Last I looked you were not a fan of transparency.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 04:14:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And for  more substantive answer, we're making this shit up as we go along precisely because formalising rules too early would be fatally stupid and a waste of already precious energy.

So to clarify: this is, basically, Jérôme's gig. He has appointed a set of front-pagers to help set an editorial direction - very roughly - and carry out the admin functions needed to keep this place going, which sometimes includes police duties. Things get formalised when they need to be. Most things are handled in full sight on the blog. Some aren't, as you know full well.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 04:22:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Colman:
And for  more substantive answer, we're making this shit up as we go along precisely because formalising rules too early would be fatally stupid and a waste of already precious energy.

Maybe this works for you, but in my experience it doesn't work very well for most organisations and is not, in any case, in accordance with some fairly elementary principles of due process and natural justice.  I trust you don't work in the law, in management, in HR or in trade union movement, because that approach could very quickly get you into a lot of trouble.  If ET is ever to become more than a small collective, or alternatively becomes a target for unsympathetic activists it could also get ET into some bother.  The fact that ET is a voluntary body is not particularly relevant as far as the law is concerned.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 06:08:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I suppose that public hearings on all rulings and disputes would be the first obvious step towards proper justice?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 06:13:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, most dispute resolution processes involve elements of confidentiality and privacy, and above all trust in the impartiality and objectivity of the process itself.  You seem to confuse transparency in structures and procedures with the actual process itself which can take place in camera at the request of one of the parties involved.  If things get serious there are also issues of representation, the presumption of innocence, the right to one's good name, non prejudicial disclosure of irrelevant information, and above all a separation of the roles of Judge, Jury, prosecution and defense advocates, victim, witness, and the public etc. to try and ensure the process remains objective and doesn't get over personalised.  However the biggest issue is a shared trust in the fairness of the process and the people handling it.  If that isn't there you don't have a basis for moving forward and festering disputes and people leaving becomes inevitable.  Is that what you want?

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 06:37:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The trust and impartiality of ET seems to be vested in the biodiversity of viewpoints - as it should be. The extent of success IMO is the effectiveness of self-regulation.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 06:46:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So to clarify: this is, basically, Jérôme's gig

No, this is ET's gig and Jerome is financing it--at present.

If he decided to pull the plug right now, no more ET.  

Or would ET reincarnate somehow?

Those are legal-type issues that meet many of the nuts and bolts and lathes and parser conversations here.

I mean, "How to build a better future--and what's wrong with the present version" is ET grist-for-the-mill.  But when it comes to the future....of ET!

As I wrote a while back, for ET to be a community with power, as contrasted with a community that vests power in a leader...

As you have written a few times, fluid hierarchies....the best wolf for the job takes the lead.

But if the whole hunting trip is Mr. Wolf's, then when Mr. Wolf say "That's enough", we all stop hunting...whatever Mr. Wolf wanted to hunt.

I mean, I just sent some euros to Berhnard's site (moonofalabama) because...he works hard and is clearly sole owner.  With very few exceptions the article(s) for the day I by Bernhard.

At ET there are as many voices as people who can

--register
--work out how to post a diary
--write a diary
--post the diary

How does the photo blog fit in to any proposed structures?

What if a person from...I dunno....Kajikistan...ripped the pics and sold some books?

Does anyone care?  The pleasure is in the moment!  And in the other moments!

What about if the person doing the ripping worked at Madam Murdoch's Times--and crowed about having ripped them off and how much money she was making....

I mean, who cares?

I 100% agree with Frank re: arbitration processes--that might be necessary if and when ET pulls enough eyes to pay some bills--

I think it's actually very simple:

ET is a community website
It is currently financed by Jerome a Paris

....

But if this is Jerome's gig, then we're all the support acts, right?  Or the accompanying musicians?

Heh...it hit me, like the master of Go saying, "Yes, there are masters of Go.  You don't believe me?  Let's play Go!"

The power is the power of ideas, to get beyond the power of muscle, whether bicep, brain, or finger--or money of course--

Who pay?  He the boss!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 07:07:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll add that ET Diaries Vol 1 is (IMHO) a good place to start for the diversity of expression here at European Tribune.

The only reaon DoDo's masterpiece about the Hungarian Revolution isn't there is that I felt it deserved a book of its own, but....I couldn't get the pictures to work!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 07:53:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
but....I couldn't get the pictures to work!

What do you mean? Do they not appear, have my links deceased, or the copyright issue? If the second, I shall check, find all the pictures again and upload copies on my own Photobucket account. (I intend to do that slowly to all of my past diaries, but haven't finished even with the train diaries yet.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Mar 22nd, 2008 at 08:17:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
All the pictures appear(ed) in the diaries, but I couldn't copy them across into a word document--I'm sure it's possible, it's just that...I couldn't do it when I tried.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sat Mar 22nd, 2008 at 05:08:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Having said all that, I think you would be hard put to find a higher or more civil standard of debate anywhere else.

We (i.e. everyone on ET) must be doing something right then, eh?

Almost every week we have a spat where someone threatens to leave because they are unhappy with how they have been treated, and I have been there myself.  

I'm beginning to think - and I am explicitly not referring your case here - that we're worrying too much about that. I wonder if by bending over to accommodate people threatening to leave that we aren't constraining the parameters of debate too much. I'd have to start classifying the reasons that people do that though.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 04:29:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I tend to see anyone leaving as a personal failure, so I try hard to keep everybody around. What can I say?

Apart from being called intolerant, I don't think I mind much of what's written on ET.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 04:44:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Did someone call you intolerant?

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 04:47:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
yes.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 04:57:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought you were referring to what Frank wrote.  I didn't think he was implying that you were.  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 05:03:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I hope you haven't construed anything I wrote as implying I think you are intolerant because that would be the very opposite of my intent. I wouldn't be here, were it not for you, and I suspect ET wouldn't be either.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 06:11:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A couple of times recently, but not on this thread.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 06:32:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not that I mind what's being written, it's that sometimes people want debates to be carried out on their terms and get all huffy when they're not.

It doesn't seem a very mature or useful attitude.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 04:49:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Please then define the terms of how debates should be conducted at ET.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 06:16:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
not necessarily on your terms.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 06:17:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course. (I'm smiling now) But we do mix boxing and wrestling (and sometimes extreme fighting). The very fact that most rules are unstated is the power of ET. And, in fact, few rules exist (thanks to you).

The cusp between control and chaos is where innovation occurs.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 06:39:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Terms of the debate are settled in equilibrium between two sides who start out with different assumptions. It's a hermeneutical thing, Sven ;-)

Anyone who thinks he or she can control a thread is doomed to frustration, though. Threads will always go off topic.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Mar 27th, 2008 at 02:27:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We're all adults here (any child members?) and have to take responsibility for our own actions - whether to go, to stay, to antagonise others, or to try and resolve disputes as they arise.  A certain amount of coming and going is inevitable in any case.  But I think you are taking too much on if you regard every leaver as a personal failure - unless you want ET to remain a primarily personal project - which is fair enough, if that is your intent.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 06:18:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've had a few run-ins here and I still believe they were about specific viewpoints that are still worth arguing about - otherwise I wouldn't still be here. We are human.

ET is an organizational microcosm that IMO models the future, not the past. This is what democracy is going to be like - we have to find ways to make it work.

For those of us with adult offspring - letting go is very very difficult. But it has to be done. Pushing out of the nest seems to me such a very basic, but painful responsibility.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 06:28:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
is only able to pick out only 3 sentences to define, i.e., encapsulate everything he (Sarkozy) has done...

Oh yeah, what else has he done? Proposed Bliar for President, miffed the German Goverment and the EU Commission by stealing their limelight for initiatives they have begun, proposed tax cuts for the rich, created a quasi-far-right ministry (ministry of immigration, integration and national identity???).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 05:00:53 AM EST
I spent the better part of the past decade giving many in my family, starting with my father in law who for some reason idolizes the man, shit for Berlusconi.

Now we have one.

It is quite unfortunate.

This is what Generation Johnny came up with. Not edifying.

They'll be gone sooner than we know it, though. It's even sad, in many ways.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 05:36:18 AM EST
Having reread this discussion, may I coin a phrase?

I love the sound of axe-grinding in the morning.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 22nd, 2008 at 02:38:01 AM EST
And what is your weapon of choice?

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Mar 22nd, 2008 at 07:03:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My word, why, do you feel challenged?

Not that I was thinking of "axe-grinding" in connection with weaponry in any way...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 22nd, 2008 at 09:06:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
3rd Column, I am sorry that you feel compelled to stop posting to ET. The beginning of this thread reminded me of my high school days, when I would hand in an essay only to have my masterpiece in prose returned with a low mark and plenty of comments in red ink where I had gone wrong or the teacher disagreed.

After my initial disappointment and irritation, I would accept that my demonstration was less than perfect or at least debatable, and my wording not good enough. (And yes, sometimes I would think I was right after all.)

Please understand that your readers only have your diary to chew on when you first post it, and at that time you are only as good as your written word. Grow an ET-proof skin and bear with us for a while longer!




   
Hâtez-vous lentement, et, sans perdre courage,
Vingt fois sur le métier remettez votre ouvrage :
Polissez-le sans cesse et le repolissez ;
Ajoutez quelquefois, et souvent effacez.
Gently make haste, of Labour not afraid ;
A hundred times consider what you've said :
Polish, repolish, every Colour lay,
And sometimes add ; but oft'ner take away.

Nicolas Boileau (1636-1711), L'art poétique, The Art of Poetry

You're clearly a dangerous pinko commie pragmatist.

by Vagulus on Sat Mar 22nd, 2008 at 10:57:15 AM EST
Well said!

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Mar 22nd, 2008 at 11:09:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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