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Article Deconstruction (vol. 3) - Student protests per IHT

by Jerome a Paris Sat Mar 18th, 2006 at 07:34:43 AM EST

The following article by William Pfaff in the International Herald Tribune was flagged in this morning's Breakfast (it was actually published yesterday) and it is worth a full deconstruction:

William Pfaff: When a young Frenchman's fancy turns to revolution

The title itself is worth a comment: "revolution" suggests something violent and radical, while "fancy" suggests that the causes are frivolous. The agenda is thus clear: to discredit those that dare protest against the CPE.

Bumped up...especially relevant today ~ whataboutbob


Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has put himself in a difficult situation at a moment when the French already suffer depression connected with unemployment, a sense of economic vulnerability and what seems like political futility.

A "sense of economic vulnerability"? Fostered precisely by the permanent repetition of the idea in pieces like this one.

This week, Villepin confronts street demonstrations of students flush with revolutionary enthusiasm, backed by union demonstrators with lifetime jobs at state corporations, and opposition politicians. This is supposed to culminate in vast gatherings across France on Saturday, all to protest a modest change in the country's complicated employment laws, meant to help unemployed young people lacking school or other job qualifications.

The contempt dripping from the paragraph is amazing.

"flush with revolutionary enthusiasm". Yeah, they're young and silly, but they'll dutifully turn into corporate drones.

"a modest change in the country's complicated laws" Yeah, it's no big deal, and it's far from enough to undo the big fuck up that labor laws are in France.

"meant to help unemployed young people lacking school or other job qualifications." Repeating the Koolaid. As quoted in the FT just below, even the purported beneficiaries of the contract unanimously view it with suspicion.

France is a certifications culture. Even simple jobs demand formal diplomas indicating a level of school achievement. If you don't have the right certificate, you are usually out of luck.

The obituaries of France's greatest men and women all but invariably begin by saying that the deceased was a graduate of the École Polytechnique or École Nationale d'Administration or some other of the "grandes écoles."

Only after that does the obituary add that the deceased was also president of the French Republic, a leading scientist, head of a great corporation or winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. It's the school that counts. I exaggerate only slightly.

That's fully true.
The youth unemployment problem is connected to this. The poor, unemployed immigrant youth of the ghetto suburbs of France's cities are often, as you might imagine, school dropouts. The problem has been worsened in recent years because of well-intentioned efforts blocking "selection" in schools so that everyone will follow a curriculum leading toward a baccalaureate. The result, naturally, is that even more drop out of baccalaureate courses they don't understand and don't want.

This is false and stupid on so many levels that I hardly know where to start.

  • the problem of "selection" is not the one in mentions. There is a "lack of selection" problem, but it comes at the university level: everybody with a "Bac" can go to university, thus the universities have to take more students than they should, and have to "babysit" them until they drop out on their own to do something more appropriate. But efforts by universities to put in place requirements, tests, or more controversially, increase fees (with a corresponding increase in help for poorer students) mostly fail. About 60% of university students never complete the first 2 years. That's a huge waste due to non-selection, but it's after the baccalauréat

  • the opposite problem happens before: kids with poor results, and with poor knowledge of the education system are pushed out of the normal schools and into aprrenticeships, "professional high schools" and the like, from where they will never be able to have access to higher education. The problem is that this selection (kicking them out, really) takes place too early, and the kids get branded with the bad repautation of these side tracks, in a self perpetuating viciosu circle. Of course, poor kids, where immigrants are disproportionately represented, are the mian victims of this.

One of the important responses of the Villepin government to last fall's disorder in the ghettos was to restore, re-emphasize and lower the age of entry to apprenticeships in the trades and crafts.

Yeah, in breach of the obligation for everybody to be schooled until they are 16.

The continuing demonstrations, and the break- in and occupation last weekend of part of the Sorbonne in emulation of Paris 1968, are all about a new job contract meant to encourage businesses to hire young people lacking the right credentials, and teach them on the job, with the prospect of a regular job contract to follow.

The Kool-aid again. "meant to encourage businesses to hire young people lacking the right credentials". What gall. No, it's meant to let them fire people at will. Business likes to pretend that it will encourage them to hire more, but that's only an expected (or hoped for) consequence - and in France the history of these schemes is that no jobs get created - stable jobs get replaced by unstable ones.

This is called "marginalizing" and undermining young people. I am a biased American, of course, but I never dreamed that the first job I found would carry a lifetime guarantee.

Talk about moving the goal posts...

A knowledgeable analyst of Le Figaro, Bruno Jeudy, says Villepin should have stuck with the success of his scheme for small businesses. If he insisted on going further, he should have called in the unions for talks in which he could have won some support. He never should have overridden parliamentary opposition. School holidays seemed to offer Villepin a chance to get the change through quickly, while opposition was scattered. Now it's back, fully mobilized, and Villepin's allies are edging away from him. Jeudy says he has shown the qualities that have damaged him before: impetuousness, and a taste for solitary decisions.

Now that paragraph actually makes sense. It's not from Pfaff himself...

He may well survive. Student opinion is divided, and many are angry about the excesses of a student fringe.

That sounds like wishful thinking on a grand scale... a "fringe" it is not. (and today a poll states that 68% of the French want the new contract to go)

If the demonstrations peak this week and then decline, and if the new employment measures actually push youth unemployment down in coming months, Villepin will have passed the test of the streets, which has broken the career of more than one prime minister.

Lots of "ifs"...

Display:
As long as political and business elites can pitch this issue as one of "status quo" leftists vs "change," the students will lose this battle because they are made to look like the reactionaries while the elites pursue "progressive reforms."

What is the left's program to deal with unemployment and youth unemployment?

by TGeraghty on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 04:52:37 AM EST
Optimism.

The Jospin government brought unemployment down from 12.6% to 8.6% in 4 years, and created an unprecedented number of jobs in the process (more jobs than had been created in the previous 25 years).

THE 35 hour played as role, as did the "emplois-jeunes" which wer 5-year fixed contracts in the social sector. The underlying mood of optimism and "can do" job creation made the rest possible.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 04:59:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The left manages the economy better...

We've seen endless diaries and charts comparing republican v. democrat periods in terms of economic growth, job creation, income inequality, etc. Are similar data available for EU countries?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 05:19:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure it's as clear cut in France. what I know is that:

  • the stock market ALWAYS performs much beeter under the left;
  • the public debt increases a lot more under the right;


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 05:25:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So just wait it out?

Here's a good description of what Jospin did:

A bit of neoliberal reform:

On the one hand, it took a series of steps to enhance the operation of market mechanisms by means-testing more social benefits, allowing those who take jobs to receive some benefits, and allowing many firms to layoff workers or merge with foreign enterprises to survive international competition.

A bit of social democracy:

On the other hand, the government continued or embarked on a variety of schemes to create jobs, adding several hundred thousand workers in the public sector, subsidizing almost two million low-wage jobs in the private sector, and legislating a thirty-five hour week designed to encourage firms to hire more employees. . . . levels of public spending have soared and, at about 53 percent of GDP, public spending is now higher in France than in all other nations in the European Union except Sweden and Denmark.

Sounds like the same kind of thing we have been saying about the UK or the US recently.

Optimism, sure, but another boost from activist fiscal and monetary policy will go a long way toward making that optimism a reality.

by TGeraghty on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 05:40:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Jerome, are Eurotrib and Kos the primary outlets for your thinking on these matters? Do you get onto national or local radio to speak your mind? Do you write commentary in any of the newspapers? Do you speak at student meetings, union gatherings, or local political events? How are you getting your viewpoints out to your immediate French community?

I found myself writing a longer reply, and thought I would maybe post these few questions before posting my longer thinking on the matter.

by aden on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 06:31:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For the time being Et and DK are indeed my primary outlets. My hope is to get them noticed and then get heard more.

As to France, the big difficulty is that I'd need to write stuff in French in addition to doing it in English and I just don't have the energy in me right now. I know I should do it.

It may sound a but strange, but I'm not very good at pushing myself forward. I have no problem speaking up in public and expressing myself forcefully, but I have trouble going towards people and talking to them.

We need to do more to promote ET in public outlets (write LTEs), push the site on other sites and the like, but I'm sort of counting on the rest of the community to do it. I'll provide - hopefully compelling - content.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 07:13:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It may sound a but strange, but I'm not very good at pushing myself forward. I have no problem speaking up in public and expressing myself forcefully, but I have trouble going towards people and talking to them.
I don't find that strange at all.

Take heart, at Yearly Kos you'll learn what you need.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 07:19:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My assumption was that this was probably the case. So I will post my somewhat longer thoughts on the matter. Please do not feel obligated to respond. I post them as food for thought.

In short, I think you have a very important voice to contribute to a very important fight. I believe the "Anglo model" vs "European model" debate has significant ramifications for the world population for generations to come.

You present your arguments intelligently, systematically, and with passion. Your personal concern for these matters is evident in your writing, as well as your ongoing effort to bring into being Eurotrib.

I believe this is an opportunity to further the voice of non-violent dissent. While BBC posts the photos of the billy-club waving riot geared police as representative of the current activity in France, the numbers of 100,000 demonstrators and 300 violent protestors doesn't justify the lens only being focused on the burning bookstore.

There is a greater argument taking place and I believe you have a very important voice to contribute to it.

I have heard you interviewed in English. Your tone is calm and rational. You are thoughtful and articulate. In the interview I heard you make every effort to take in the interviewers questions, even if your response was in contradiction to their assumptions -it was during the Paris suburb car burning riots.

It is somewhat ironic that you find the effort of writing in your own language a barrier.

I believe if you were to write LTEs in French, conduct interviews in French, find speaking engagements in French, pass out flyers written in French, or just go speak your mind on the streets you would find many people on this site supportive and welcoming to such an endeavor -even if it meant fewer posts on ET & Kos. If I remember correctly, last year you wrote more posts on DK than there are days in the year. I can only speak for myself, so this is an assumption.

I would propose, even though the majority of these efforts were to be in your mother tongue, such efforts would offer the ET & DK community an opportunity to watch the process of intellectual Internet centric argumentation move into the realm of political discourse and social action.

I would go further and propose, that such an effort would only enhance the quality of the ET & DK content. Speaking personally, it would be my hope that such efforts would contribute to motivating other contributors and lurkers, to face their own personal hurdles and enter into the discourse with the tools they have at the current moment and the passion of their beliefs.

You say "I have trouble going towards people and talking to them."...so be it. Speaking only for myself, I have found humility a helpful tool for overcoming such challenges -but again, I can speak only for myself & I am not one to be giving lectures on overcoming personal challenges.

I am not of the school of thought that the blogshpere is the center of political discourse. The blogsphere has become a major player, one of which I am greatly appreciative of, but French people have taken to the streets not because the Internet offers them the most effective forum for communicating their vision of their country.

I have thoughts on the need to grow the site, but I should get back to work. I was hoping to get a post up myself today.

Again, please do not feel obligated to respond.

Bon Courage!

by aden on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 10:56:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not often I disagree with you, TG, but I think you're calling this one wrong. At this stage, unless there is some dramatic new development, it looks very much as if the government will have to back down.

This morning's poll results show 68% of the French are against the CPE (up from 55% a week ago), and 63% support the students.

The "reactionary" spin you outline may work outside France, but it doesn't seem to take hold at all within.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 05:39:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hooray for the French that they see through this stuff.
by TGeraghty on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 05:41:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You make the perfect point.  Those of us languishing in the brainwashed malaise of America! 2006 can only dream of such clarity in the public discourse.  What I am enjoying watching unfold in Paris is quite literaly never going to happen out here.
by paving on Sat Mar 18th, 2006 at 02:06:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Job creation for youth and the young is paramount...I believe everywhere...it certainly is here in Switzerland, with a lot of unhappiness. And it just isn't fair for the young to come out of school and not have work opportunities, or even training opportunites. This is f'n ridiculous.  And unless the Left get moving on this as an issue, I'm afraid the the Right will use it for their ow nefarious means...

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 05:17:08 AM EST
I'm not so sure as you, Jérôme, about some of his "true" points.

On certification : the only example he comes up with is the sempiternal grandes écoles. Now it's true there's a detestable French habit of running the top end of the country with only the graduates of those top schools (though, you know, there are top schools in the US too, and Oxbridge opens doors in the UK...). Then there are required qualifications, as in any other country, for medical, legal, accounting, engineering etc professions. Then there's the civil service that has its own entrance exams.

But, for the mass of employees, it's not true to say that employers demand strict certification corresponding to a particular job. My partner's an accountant for small businesses, and she's constantly asked for advice on recruiting, conditions, contracts, etc: it's very rare for an employer to stipulate a specific "paper" qualification, they just want people who'll do the job.

Larger companies may have specifications, but even there they are not always hard and fast (I can think of a case from only yesterday, where a very big bank, very French since it was the Crédit Agricole/Lyonnais, interviewed a young man for a regional HQ post that was normally way above his diploma level, simply because his overall profile seemed promising to them).

So I think Pfaff's "France is a certifications culture" is not as true as all that, and is in any case condescending.

The second point I'd pick up on is his quote from Patrick Jeudy -- as you say, it makes some sense, but it's not from Pfaff himself. What I take exception to is:

Villepin should have stuck with the success of his scheme for small businesses

That's a reference to the first 2-year probation contract the government brought out, the CNE (Contrat Nouvel Emploi or New Job Contract), restricted to small businesses hiring the long-term unemployed. This is a "success" in that it has not produced opposition and demonstrations (the small population it's aimed at are hardly people who are likely to be able to organize and fight). But it's not such a success on the ground, since employers who learn how it works are wary of using it. In fact, there are compensations for firing written in, that amount to 10% of salary paid up to the date of firing. When employers hear that, they generally prefer a more traditional solution, either a fixed-period contract, or an indeterminate one.

Otherwise, I'm perhaps more riled up than you by :

I am a biased American, of course, but I never dreamed that the first job I found would carry a lifetime guarantee

It's a deliberately skewed assertion that what the opponents of the CPE are asking for is a lifetime guarantee, when what they are objecting to is the opening up of a long period of firing at will. Not the same thing.

Let's leave him the disdainful irony of his "biased American". He is a biased American.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 05:33:43 AM EST
I fully agree with all your points.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 06:14:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I must admit I'm a bit at a loss here.  

I greatly admire the French going out in the streets and protesting en masse and (generally) peacefully, and being heard; I so wish the American population, especially the downtrodden, wouldn't be so passive in the U.S.

I'm not an economist; I don't understand economy; I don't know French labor laws; I haven't read the CPE; so I hardly have any informed opinion on the subject.

As an American however (for that is what I am, despite being foreign-born) I spent all of my adult (working) life in California under the "at will" system -- in the best case, with a 30-day paid notice. I was on unemployment once, never long-term. I've worked for big and small corporations, and for myself. I hired and fired a few people on occasions, so I have a little understanding of both sides.  

I certainly feel certain types of firings (race, sex, ageism, etc) are unlawful, I'm generally pro-union and pro-social benefits, but I really don't understand (literally, I don't get it) what the big deal is here.

I have the greatest respect for the opinions of my French friends here: please explain to me what's wrong about firing people when you have to.

by Lupin on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 10:30:43 AM EST
It's not about firing people when you have to: that's already covered. It's about firing people to avoid them getting rights or seniority. It's about reducing worker power and increasing employer power. It's about reducing the price of labour. I mean "increasing flexibility" of course.

This is not designed to do anything except make people work for less money.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 10:55:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm making an effort.

It's about firing people to avoid them getting rights or seniority.

OK, I don't get that. What rights are we talking about? I don't get the bit about seniority either. Are you talking ageism?

The way I read what you wrote - I might be wrong - would be to imply that, if I work at a job for, say, 1 year, then you can't fire me anymore, so instead you'll fire me on Day 364, right?

But that's a perverse (in the statistical sense of the term) distortion of what should be a naturally balanced system. If I knew I could fire you on day 542, for example, then I wouldn't automatically fire you on day 364, just to be under an artificially-created limit.

Or did I miscontrue you entirely?

It's about reducing worker power and increasing employer power. It's about reducing the price of labour.

I presume, you mean in the absence of a full-blown contrat? Like a union contract, etc. If there is a union contract, I presume the usual remedies are available: grievances, strike, etc. and a balance of power will be struck. (Which is why I am in favor of union and despise Wal-Mart for being what it is.)

But absent unions, or collective mechanisms, what is "worker power"? I assume when you hire somebody, you enter into a private contract (whether explicit or implicit) that spells out salary, benefits, and terms of termination.

The power you have is that of walking away (I suppose you owe your employer a notice). I don't quite see what other kind of power you're talking about.

This is not designed to do anything except make people work for less money.

How?

I've turned down jobs because I didn't think there was enough money in it for what was asked of me. I wouldn't work at Wal-Mart, for example.

I'm in favor of a mandated minimum wage -- and one that is higher than the sub-survival pittance it's become in the US -- even if marginally, that can have a few perverse effects, too -- and the usual OSHA-type regulations, also.

But I don't see how the ability to fire people make them work for less. On the contrary I would think you'd take less money per week for a guaranteed contract job. That has been my experience, anyway.

I'm not being facetious or obdurate here. You talk in generalities. And none of what you're saying makes sense to me, in terms of relating to my own experience.

Please understand that you're not getting your point across.

I could understand defending the RMI and unemployment benefits and the healthcare system and everything that pours money back to help society take care of its poorest elements, but I'm afraid I don't get what seems to me an almost-neurotic French national obsession with controlling employment.

That there is not enough jobs, I get. Then create some.  I'd understand State jobs à la TVA. (In fact the US desperately need a new TVA right now; FDR where art thou?)

While we're on the topic of what I don't get, I don't understand the "allocations familiales" especially for well-off people. If I'm the Duchess of Moneybags with 5 kids, I get money from the State, right?

Maybe someone can take a turn at explaining that one for me?

by Lupin on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 11:32:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If I'm the Duchess of Moneybags with 5 kids, I get money from the State, right?

I suspect that's similar to the children's allowance here. It's not about the parents, it's about the kids. Part of the reason is to work around the situation where himself comes home and doesn't give her any money to do the housekeeping, though I suppose that's a bit anachronistic you'd hear the occasional story of middle-class families were the only money the wife had control over was the children's allowance. But at base the money is being paid to support the kids, not the parents, so the parents' circumstances are irrelevant. It's also probably cheaper to do it that way than try to administer the means testing - I think that's what studies here suggest anyway. The tax system in Europe generally takes enough money from the rich that it's not important anyway.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 11:42:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]

While we're on the topic of what I don't get, I don't understand the "allocations familiales" especially for well-off people. If I'm the Duchess of Moneybags with 5 kids, I get money from the State, right?

Maybe someone can take a turn at explaining that one for me?

It's part of a consistent pro-family policy for the past century. Families with kids are helped, full stop.
Means testing was a Reagan/Thatcher invention. It may make apparent sense, but it sends the wrong signal.

You get a fixed amount per kid (more for later kids in large families), so it helps the poor a lot more, and it's simple, consistent, and it sends a clear message all around (together with other policy items that help). Considering the amount,s I'm not even usre you'd same much by means testing, and you'd create a detestable precedent.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 11:43:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We do have welfare in the US, well, we did, but that's another discussion. During the Johnson era the point was to prevent children from growing up in poverty, even if their parents were poor. Very commendable.

I never bought into the cliched notion of the "welfare queen" and I don't think most women actually had more kids just to collect more money, though I suppose it might be true in some cases. I haven't studied the issue, honestly.

Giving money to rich families escape me. You do have means-testing with RMI and all kinds of warranted and useful social subsidies already, I really don't see the "detestable precedent" / "wrong precedent".

The notion that the President of, say, TOTAL gets allocations if he has 5 children baffles me.

by Lupin on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 11:52:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wealthy people in France also pay higher taxes (including high property taxes) and the ratio of CEO-to-janitor income in French corporations is less than in American corporations. It's all part of a consistent system.

Except that all these things are being eroded in the name of who knows what.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 11:57:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
He's just getting back some of what he's paid in taxes. Not much of it either. Anyway, he's not getting it back. His children are.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 12:01:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So you get a tax break if you breed?

Still seems odd to me.

by Lupin on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 12:07:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Doesn't the US give you deductions for dependents?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 12:07:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I just worked it out for myself! :-)
by Lupin on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 12:09:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
they are small and phased out to zero as income increases
by tomcunn (tomcunn@execpc.com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 09:55:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Mind you, come to think of it, the number of exemptions in the US tax system also function as a tax break according to the number of dependents.

Hmm.

It does show that we take a lot of things for granted until confronted with an outsider's viewpoint.

I stand chastised.

by Lupin on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 12:09:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In Ireland, the point about it being paid to the mother was important for a long time as well. Obviously in families that worked well it didn't matter, but in a family with drink or other problems it could be literally  a life saver, especially when the man of the house was paid in cash weekly and would go and drink most of it.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 12:11:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That is very interesting. I didn't know this before. I can certainly see the reasoning behind it. Hopefully it no longer applies (applies less?) today? Thanks for the info.
by Lupin on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 12:15:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Applies less. It could be a factor for the middle class as well as I say. Control of finances used to be a powerful way for a man to exert control when women didn't have economic freedom. It's less powerful now.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 12:21:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you're rich it's a flat rate tax refund. If you're poor it's a cash payment.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 12:16:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Firing people when you have to" is a bit of a loaded expression, Lupin, since it implies there's good cause. I might ask you, if the problem were simply one of allowing employers to fire when they must, what opinion you could possibly have of the French who are making such a fuss about it (68% against the CPE, as I note above)? Ils sont fous, ces Gaulois!

The problem is whether employers should gain the right to fire when they want, for whatever reason, and without needing to state one. Americans, I know, will say oh but it's like that in the States and it's just fine etc. But how long did it take for a set of implicit rules and the mutual understanding of them to come into being, and a set of behaviours to grow around them, so that a system like that works in the US? If one of the founding myths of America were not mobility -- Go west, young man! -- would that system work as well? (No, I don't mean a terminated employee ups and crosses the continent for a new job, but that there's an assumption of potential mobility in the American mindset that is much less the case here).

What I'm saying is that it takes probably several generations for practice to settle and become, in the strict sense, conventional, in these matters. And society models itself around these conventions (example, loans and rentals depend on a stable job contract here). Then, you can only introduce change if you do so gradually, transparently, and by discussion and consensus-building. You have to interest people in the process (meaning offer something in their interest).

None of this has been done by the Villepin government. The feeling (and, imo, it's correct), is that Villepin is preparing the way, after a first Trojan Horse called CNE, and now with a second called CPE, for a rapid breakdown of the system of guarantees the French are used to. People are quite reasonably objecting that they will not allow the balance of power between employer and employee to be brutally disrupted in favour of the employer. They are defending an acquis.

I could go on, but I'll stop there and we'll pick this up later if you'd like to. :-)

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 11:23:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I suppose I did mean "when they want" assuming there's a rationale for that "want" and we're not dealing with modern-day Caligulas.

So if the State forces an employer to keep an unwanted worker, does it compensate that employer?

If you've seen Michael Moore ROGER & ME you know unemployment is a pretty grim problem in the US and I suspect the real rate is twice what you hear, because the unemployed are dropped off the list after a year. (At least in California they are.)

I despise the fact that large corporations have squeezed the life out of the unions, plundered the private pensions and generally succesfully lobbied the Federal Government to pauperize and endanger the American worker, only to enrich a few.

I also despise the fact that minimum wage in the US has become a sub-survival pittance, inadequate to get hard-working people out of poverty.

I can certainly paint a bleak picture of the US emplyment scene. The remedies to these sovietal ills are known: re-empower the unions, raise the minimum wage, etc.

I certainly don't want to see France go there; but despite all this, I still don't get the notion a state-created labor-contract that would apply to everyone.

(It's not that I'm pro or against CPE; I don't see why there should be a C at all.)

by Lupin on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 11:44:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You're looking at this through an American frame: freedom. We're looking at it from a European one: fairness.

The free-market pretense is that the entrepreneur operates in a vacuum using his God-given resources and property to create wealth as part of his holy avocation and that he should have the right, as the priest in communion with higher powers, to act more or less as he wishes. It is only out of benevolence that he employs people at all.

The truth is that he uses his resources to leverage the infrastructure of the society around him to create wealth and that he needs workers to realise that wealth. Because he is in a position of power - especially were unions don't exist - society places an obligation on him not to treat workers - without whom the business wouldn't exist -  unfairly. We consider it unfair for him to dismiss an employee on a whim. Need to reduce the work-force? No problem - we call it reduncancy. Incompetent or disruptive staff? No problem either - go through a fair process and you can fire them. We even allow for periods of probation in order to ensure that the employ fits in. Normally three to six months. Because that's what we feel is fair.

If you have  a mortgage and a few kids you are not in  position to just walk away.

(Apologies for the sarcasm, but I have a bad cold and I'm cranky.)

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 11:59:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll agree that "whim" is bad, but I don't this that happens too often. We had a few articles on Kos about people being fired for having a Kerry bumpersticker on their cars and that made the news.

If you can make people redundant when economically you have to, then I don't have a problem except who defines "economically".

All in all, because of my own experience, I still prefer the "at will" system with a real social net behind it, as opposed to the State telling businesses how to run themselves.

That is not a freedom vs fairness issue IMHO; it's a who's best qualified to make decisions issue.

By all means, let's have the State assist, help, hire, create jobs, but don't direct.

I will however agree that big companies are behaving increasingly like rogue citizens and obviously need some counterweight.

by Lupin on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 12:20:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The rule around here is that if you make someone redundant because their position is to be eliminated you can't fill or replace the position for six months. Otherwise you can be sued for unfair dismissal.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 12:23:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the issue of the "whim" is not as extreme as firing someone over a bumper sticker for the most part. However, when you think about the way most American companies operate, they consider firing people and downsizing as one of the first items on their agenda when going through financial hurdles. Nevermind that companies like Delphi, GM, LTV, and many others have been horribly mis-managed. It seems that more often than not, it is the workers who pay the price for a company's financial trouble.
Again, I don't think layoffs or firing people is unavoidable in all cases. I just think they are done with much greater ease here than anywhere else without too much consideration for fairness.

Mikhail from SF
by Tsarrio (dj_tsar@yahoo.com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 12:59:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Firings in the United States can be very arbitrary and the concept of "precarite" does not dare enter the mindset of your average worker, particularly the younger-than-26 set.  Sure, there are supposed mechanisms in place and avenues through which to pursue recourse but they are only theoretically available to all but those who probably do not need them (economically speaking).  Show me a case of successful wrongful termination lawsuit in the US.  It's a joke, at best a threat lobbed at an employer to secure an extra weeks severance pay.  
by paving on Sat Mar 18th, 2006 at 02:49:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"I don't see why there should be a contract at all"

Well, that is just the way it is here. And has been for a very long time, which creates a system. In France, any job (bar seasonal) has to have a written contract, quite possibly a simple one, but there must be one.

It may be that, further back, this arises from a difference between Roman law, more written, and Anglo-Saxon law, which relies more on common law. Plus, as I suggested, America has a distinct subset of values on these matters -- which, btw, though I "get" them, I find disingenuous in their assumption of good faith on all sides, of equality in the contractual relationship, and -- especially -- the absence of a power struggle or a balance of power between employer and employee. The right to walk away, excuse me, is piffling compared to an employer's rights and powers. It may be a useful threat in some circumstances, but, most of the time, the firing sanction is a much heavier tool. You're assuming bosses are not present-day Caligulas? Well, maybe they're not in California, (?), but there's a fair amount of anti-employee feeling among French bosses (deeply-seated, going back a good way) that justifies, in my view, the reluctance of young people to see their  early job experience exposed to arbitrary employer decisions.

How would this result in lowering the cost of labour? By creating conditions of fragility and precarity for employees in which they will accept less good terms in order to be sure of holding down the job. A boss who can fire at will is a boss who can fix wages and conditions to his advantage unless the job market is tight which is not the case here.

(BTW, the State doesn't force any employer to keep an unwanted employee, that's not the way things are structured. There are contractual relations, there are conventions, there is jurisprudence, that need to be respected, and that is the case anywhere, including the US. An employer can fire an employee if he can show reasonable cause.)

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 12:28:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think a reading of John K. Galbraith's views on power relations in economics is in order...

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 12:35:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you might have misread my post. (Not that I nercessarily disagree with you.)

Of course there is a contract. A private one.

What I meant is why -- other than for reasons of minimum wahe, health & welfare -- should it be a STATE-created contract.

Why on Earth is the French Government telling employers what to do with their "Premieres Embauches"?

by Lupin on Sat Mar 18th, 2006 at 05:29:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not State-created, it's State-regulated.
The idea is to have macro benefits even if there are micro inconveniences.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Mar 18th, 2006 at 07:11:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is where we might get on to tricky ground -- tricky for mutual understanding.

  1. I have to say I'm against the government on this, because it's interfering in a set of relations that (as I pointed out before) have taken time, and jurisprudence, to establish. And it is doing so, imo, to introduce the thin end of a liberalizing (economic sense) and globalising wedge. In other words, for ideological reasons.

  2. OTOH, I'm not against the government's right to seek to model employer/employee relations as long as that is done impartially, gradually, and by means of discussion and consensus. That seems to me perfectly part of a government's remit.

I realize there may appear to be -- there may indeed be -- some contradiction between these two propositions. But basically, I'm saying it's considered perfectly OK in France (and in other European countries) for the government to come up with this kind of "product".

It's not telling the employer what to do. It's allowing the employer to do things that were not previously accepted, by law, by the jurisprudence. It's saying: from now on, if you hire someone under 26, you're free to fire them at will over a two-year period. This kind of regulation is requested by the bosses' unions. (Though they're backing off from this one now, because it's become a hot potato).

It's not an easy thing to explain without it looking like I'm (me or another) being defensive about a system that isn't necessarily all good (though I must say that Americans can be very aggressive/out-of-hand dismissive about this subject, and that kindles defensive responses). My point, as someone who came from another country with an Anglo-Saxon common law basis, and who had trouble at first understanding what was going on here, is that other ways of doing things exist, and there isn't necessarily a right and a wrong about it.

And don't let me get started about whether it has been demonstrated that the American way of handling contractual relations between employer and employee has been productive of good, equitable results across society. (No, the French way hasn't either, but it does provide lower-level employees with more security, and develops a minimum net of solidarity).

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 18th, 2006 at 08:02:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
why should the employer need "good cause?"

the consequence of this absurd system is that no one hires in france if they can possibly hire any where else.  

if there were more jobs in france, losing one due to the whim of an irrational boss would be counted, as it is in the US, as a blessing

by tomcunn (tomcunn@execpc.com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 09:52:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Jobs are being created all right in France - just not in the past 2-3 years. This decade, like in the 90s, the recession took place in Europe 2 years later than in the US or in the UK (which did not have a recession this decade thanks to the boom from high oil prices). any comparison between the two sides that does not take that fact into account (for instance, any comparison that starts at the low of the US GDP growth, and thus excludes "bad years" in the US) is skewed, whether by ignorance or malice.

Also, macro-economic conclusions based on 2-3 years of data are hardly to be recommended.

Unemployment is not going down so much because the active population has been growing faster than elsewhere, so the economy needs to create more jobs just to stay in place.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Mar 18th, 2006 at 07:17:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
so is the solution to wait out the downturn
then all will be well
by tomcunn (tomcunn@execpc.com) on Sat Mar 18th, 2006 at 06:31:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not saying that all is well, but that it's not all so bad as usually depicted, and in particulat, it appears not to be much wxorse than in the US or the UK, so the unseemly attempts to push the neoliberal model onto France is not really warranted.

But yes, as the cycle turns, maybe we'll end up with differnet comparatives (and then it will be blamed on the "cycle", not on the superior French model...)

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Mar 18th, 2006 at 06:53:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for providing a different view point on theu nderlying issue. As you say, such labor flexibility is not bad per se, and there certainly is a case to make that, in the right conditions, it can provide the right incentives.

But what we are talking about is the fact that it's an unilateral change to the whole social compendium, which includes for instance the fact that workers are paid less in France than in other places because a lot of the services that they need to buy elsewhere are already covered by the social security net. Everything that makes jobs less "real" for other social purposes (pension rights, unemployment benefits, and things like finding housing) without compensation elsewhere are a direct hit on the life of those that rely only on their salary as income.

Twenty years of such chipping away at rights have created a new class of working poor without eliminating unemployment, because companies abuse the new categories of jobs and have never fulfilled their promise of hiring more if they got such "flexible" job options.

And as to the story, it was not about the underlying issue, but about the assumptions hidden in Pfaff's arguments.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 11:38:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
workers are paid less in France than in other places [because a lot of the services that they need to buy elsewhere are already covered by the social security net].

Are they? That's interesting. Do you have any statistics?

Everything that makes jobs less "real" for other social purposes (pension rights, unemployment benefits, and things like finding housing) without compensation elsewhere are a direct hit on the life of those that rely only on their salary as income.

I did not understand that.

companies abuse the new categories of jobs and have never fulfilled their promise of hiring more if they got such "flexible" job options.

I'm generally not a pro-business person; at least in the US I wasn't. And companies have squeezed wealth out of labor to enrich, well, its top management to begin with. There is an awful lot of corporate abuse.

That said, philosophically, I'm in favor of the State helping its poor, giving them work (à la FDR), not directing the business world, which seems the automatic assumption in France (Father Knows Best).

And as to the story, it was not about the underlying issue, but about the assumptions hidden in Pfaff's arguments.

I'm with you there.

Off-topic, I think you should collect all your essays in book form.

by Lupin on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 12:06:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Speaking of books, I received yours yesterday. Thanks!

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 12:35:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
, not directing the business world

As a matter of cultural interface I urge you to write a diary about this, because it is one of the biggest chasms between the US left and the European left.

It's a really emotive and difficult subject to communicate on, because it goes to the heart of the deepest assumptions in society. It will doubtless be a horrendously flame-filled debate, but hey, ET survived talking about Iran and Cartoons, I'm sure it can survive this one.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 02:23:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't really feel competent enough to pontificate over this.

I will say, however, that my philosophy is for the State to provide assistance and encouragement or chastisement, not manage by proxy.

Or else let the State run its oewn business, like SNCF, Airbus, etc. Then they can make their own rules.

I think the French are really wrong over this, but it's their country.  Well, mine too, now.

Exceptions for matters of public order and general welfare, of course.

by Lupin on Sat Mar 18th, 2006 at 05:32:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hm, I have to point out, that like me, you're already pontificating... ;-)

As it happens, I think you're really wrong over this and claims of "management by proxy" are just hyperbole.

I'd put it to you that in fact your basic premise is that "employment relations are not in Lupin's view contributary to the health of society, therefore is no role for government in regulating them" and I would take an opposite view.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sat Mar 18th, 2006 at 06:55:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don´t know...
Mind you I don´t know enough about the student protests in France...

But coming back to your comment.
First of all, "management by proxy".
Reading the stories about CEOs retirement benefits, buy-out benefits, "golden parachuts" (? spelling), aren´t CEOs of large multinational companies acting as "proxy owners" too?
(I won´t even mention their - sometimes ridiculously - huge direct and indirect salaries.)

And why are the share prices of a company rising as soon as they announce a lay-off? With nobody at a stock exchange even analyzing if the lay-offs make sense in the long term? Instead of in the next quarter?

In my experience - I´m an engineer in Germany - some of the lay-offs inevitable involve needed and important service and design personal. Giving us much poorer service and help in the future...

("Right now, we´ve got only four two-man teams available in Europe for regular service and emergency repairs. So you might have to wait a month or two..."
"Well, they did retire the most senior design and construction engineers so right now we´re just scrambling to rediscover their wealth of knowledge..."
"You know, the company was sold to GE - General Electric - and they suddenly raised the prices for spare parts by 300%..."
Just some of the things I´ve heard in last few years.)

Of course, profits will rise in the short term - hooray for the current CEO! - but will hurt the company in the long term IMO.

Not to mention the fact that in a "hire and fire" society, not a lot of companies will spend money to educate and qualify its workers. If you do it, a competing company can just lure away your most qualified workers. Using some of the money they saved by not educating anyone. Leaving you with the costs and no profits from it.

If however firing people is made somewhat harder, it makes sense for a company to educate and qualify them for more demanding work. Provided that every company faces the same regulations. Although I do admit that the same requirements make it harder for "new" people to find employment.

It certainly isn´t a perfect solution!
Let me just remind you though that Germany is doing pretty well on exports...
A lot better that the USA...

by Detlef (Detlef1961_at_yahoo_dot_de) on Sat Mar 18th, 2006 at 05:00:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Everything that makes jobs less "real" for other social purposes (pension rights, unemployment benefits, and things like finding housing) without compensation elsewhere are a direct hit on the life of those that rely only on their salary as income.

I did not understand that.

What I mean is that pension rights, for instance, are proportional to the time spent in full time employment. Temporary jobs or part time jobs add almost nothing to the minimum pension you are entitled to in any case. So anything that weakens the permanent job model also weakens the living standards of future pensioners.

Another example is that of healthcare. While the big things remain covered 100%, the smaller stuff (doctor visits, basic exams, and things like the dentist or glasses) is increasingly covered through a two-tiered system: la Sécu covers a portion (typically 65%, but less for some stuff), and a mutuelle (private or mutual insurance companies) pays for the difference. Most full time jobs have a mutuelle as part of the package, whereas other kinds of jobs usually don't - so these workers need to buy that additional insurance themselves, or pay for part of their healthcare.

And so on. When you get dropped out of the full time CDI job, you drop out of the middle classes into what can quickly be a very precarious situation.

Thus the working poor and the panhandlers that are now a frequent sight in big cities - they did not exist 20 years ago, beyond the odd clochard.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Mar 18th, 2006 at 07:25:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A key component is the matter of exclusion.  Why should the law be different until you are 26 years old?  Why does someone who is adept at age 20 have to suffer 6 full years of job insecurity and yet people older than that do not?  Why should there be such age discrimination?

Further, the French system is one that tends to value the individual more than the US system.  In the US, people are "resources."  There is very little concern paid toward the lives or the wellbeing of "employees."  There is only what they can do for us.  France has consistently chosen to behave differently over the past 50 years and it is economically successful taking that alternate path.  It's not as though France is falling into depraved economic depression.  In fact the United States is sitting much more precariously on the economic cliff these days thanks to a fervent belief in so-called "free-market" corrections.

I've worked in California for a number of years and I've been fired by stupid people who were bad for their company for stupid reasons.  I've seen it happen to other people and when I've been on the other side I've done what I could to prevent that from happening.  The fact remains in the United States that if someone does not like you or does not want to continue working with you, they alone can often determine your economic fate.  The French seem to have built more safeguards against that and there isn't a proven, fact-checked reason to dismantle that system.  This is good for the economy because the person who is treating a company like their personal fiefdom is not able to cause so much damage.  If only it were possible to quantify how many businesses fail in the United States due to a couple of screwups in higher management positions firing or chasing away all of the good talent.  

The greater mobility in the United States stems in large from this commonly understood reality.  When I seek to hire someone I am not especially concerned about the circumstances under which they left their previous employer.  Sadly it is all too often a poor indicator of their talent, work ethic or ability.

Finally you must consider the erosion in context.  It is understood that if you accept this, it will be harder to decline the next step and the next and the next.  If you draw a line and stand firm your voice is heard.  As a government is purportedly to serve the interests of the people then it must do so.  I know that it's hard to see this point of view living in the United States as you do.  That alone is the greatest reason to support the current oppositions.  In a "globalized" world it won't take long for people to look over their shoulders and notice their neighbors doing better and enjoying it more and naturally the question will follow "what are they doing differently and how can I be more like them?"  In this way the french protests against the CPE are a major global event and a potential signpost toward a tidal wave of similar actions and resistance around the rest of the developed world.

by paving on Sat Mar 18th, 2006 at 02:00:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm a 52 year old Ph.D. American SW engineer.  I've worked, always in the US, since I was in my late 20s.  I always had your attitude about working in the US - jobs are temporary, employment is never permanent, noone, neither employer nor employee, is loyal to anyone else in the workplace, everyone is on their own and needs to fend for themself.  I always thought that employers' speeches about "employees being the most important asset" were conventional corporate lying, and that I could live with it.  Neither employee nor employer are completely truthful.  The employer says the employee is important, and the employee says "Yes, yes, I believe you."  Neither statement is in any sense true, and both know it.  Statements about corporate or employee loyalty are conventional, in the same sense that the Barista at the coffee shop says "have a nice day" to you when you buy a capuccino.

That's what I believed 20 years ago when I was single and healthcare was cheap for my employers.  Now that I'm older, my healthcare premiums are somewhat more expensive, and I have two sons and a wife to support.  The lack of a social contract, and in particular, the lack of any sense of trust between me and my current employer, or any other potential future employer, makes me much more nervous.  If my employer can hire a 25 year old engineer who can do what I do 85% as well, but whose health care premiums are 30% of mine, I'll be let go in a heartbeat.

I don't expect that French employers are more truthful.  They are a capitalist country, and the employers' job is to make a profit.  I do expect that the French laws concerning employment are designed to make the employers act as if they were truthful, and that is all that I or any other worker can ask for.

FWIW, when I was in Paris several years ago my wife bought a very funny book called "French or Foe" explaining the differences between French and American society.  Despite the title, it is very sympathetic with both sides.  The only thing I really remember about it was the difference in goals of business.  The author opined that the goal of business in America is profit, and the goal in France in employment.  This causes no end of amusing misunderstanding for American companies in France, and presumably for French companies in America.

by guleblanc on Sat Mar 18th, 2006 at 02:44:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
just one note cher J -- the title may be even snarkier than you may be aware, as I am almost certain it is a gloss on the English-language classic quote

In the Spring a fuller crimson comes upon the robin's breast;   
In the Spring the wanton lapwing gets himself another crest;   

In the Spring a livelier iris changes on the burnish'd dove;   
In the Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.

(Alfred Lord Byron, 'Locksley Hall')

So the implication is not just that the students are [implied] "lightly" turning to "revolution," but that it is merely another sign of Spring, a student rite of passage (or a courtship ritual) as meaningless as Heidelberg duelling or frat parties.  "The students are rioting, it must be Spring again," that sort of thing.  I even think I might just sniff a subtext about Frenchmen and romance, i.e. har-de-har, Frenchmen are supposed to be so sex-crazed etc, yet here it is Spring and the young men are thinking about (boring old) revolution again.

Yes, I think if it is calculated it is quite a masterly little bit of snideness.  Of course it might just be a culturally semi-literate swipe at a nearly-familiar or misremembered tag line... one can read too much into these things.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Sat Mar 18th, 2006 at 12:25:38 AM EST
Most certainly "a young man's fancy" has gone from Byron to the common stock of phrases. But you may be right that Pfaff is consciously playing with Byron (archetype of the romantic revolutionary hero, btw).

It is snide, and it feeds into the passéiste, reactionary meme about these incorrigible French who have to have their little fling against the inevitable modernity of globalisation.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 18th, 2006 at 02:01:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why do my fingers not always type what my brain thinks it is saying?  that was Alf, Lord TENNYSON of course, not the brooding Byron.  and no spell check can catch a brainfart of that kind.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Sat Mar 18th, 2006 at 12:27:01 AM EST
Nor mine, because I picked up Byron and didn't think twice. Oh well, so the point about Byron romantic revolutionary hero bites the dust :-)
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 18th, 2006 at 02:04:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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