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Silent Tornado Menacing the Frontline

Raleigh, Rally for Wisconsin, February 26, 2011

Raleigh, Caroline du Nord, Manifestation en solidarité avec le Wisconsin,
26 Février 2011

On March 20, I found an email in my inbox, from Richard Ortoli, an elected French official representing French folks from the East Coast. The fellow was writing that he would like Nicolas Sarkozy to emulate Scott Walker in his attacks on the public employees "priviledges" and union rights. I forwarded that to my contacts at Radio France, he was interviewed, prosecuted, jailed, executed (just kidding, he was just interviewed for now) and the podcast of that is in the previous entry, or
here. An explanation of my "Frontline" concept is also at the beginning of that entry.

Here is the podcast of my conversation with Eric Lange of "Le Forum du Mouv" on Radio France on April 11, 2011, following up on what is described in the above paragraph, a translation is below :



... 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. With Eric Lange, The Mouv's Forum ....

Eric Lange :
Let's go the United States catch up with our friend the Photographer Jean-Christian Rostagni .. How are you doing Jean-Christian ?

J-C : Very well thank you, good evening Eric.

Eric Lange : Good evening, welcome to the show ... So it is you who talked with us several times of movements .. I was going to say "revolutionary," almost huh ? Marches in Wisconsin, of Americans who were protesting budget cuts in public service, in everything that is public service ... We talked about it because it is very rare that Americans march like that ... Huh .. what's new, what is going on now ? ... There are two things, there is that story of the American budget that passed this weekend ?

J-C : Yes, that passed at the last minute. And as for Wisconsin, there is, I think there is already one Republican senator who has been recalled, there is also ... There is a lot going on .. but if we want to make it simple, in short, we can observe that everything that the Tea Party and its Governor Scott Walker have done in Wisconsin, does not fare very well with that State's citizens, and there is an evolution in vote intentions favorable to Democrats, subsequently to what happened since the end of January.

Eric Lange : But as a general rule, in the U.S. it is open season on public services currently ?

J-C : Well yes, because on the top of it, all this in the end .. the Wisconsin is one thing, but as a general rule the United States at the federal level, are in the same situation as some states are, there are budgetary problems, which almost resulted in the shut down of the federal government last week, which is rather incredible, isn't it ? For all I know, I have never heard of any other country in the world were it was considered to shut down the government because people could not agree on budgetary issues, .. it is a different take on things I suppose. And so, there are problems of means, and once more, in Wisconsin, as in other states as at the federal level, what is in question is to decide whether the expenses are going to be cut, or are we going to increase taxes ? Because that is what the debate is about.

Eric Lange : And in the United States, it is the expenses tat are cut, right ?

J-C : Yes, because it is completely anathema to raise taxes. It is anathema, but there is the vague start of a talk about it. Because if taxes weren't to be raised, .. and also military expenditure, ok ? There is the beginning of a discussion that it is rather unbelievable that the United States spend by themselves, practically as much as the rest of the world combined, and to top it, at that price Americans don't even have such a great defense, since they can't really win a war in Iraq, they can't really kick the butt of the Taliban, and now that there was a call to intervene in Libya, they pulled out rather quickly because they thought that it was too expensive ... It is therefore appropriate to wonder what does it serve to spend such a fortune on the defense department, if at that price we can't even take care of Ghadafi ? And that we need the French to do it for us. It is rather unbelievable. And therefore some folks envision, well, actually few really do, .. there is only folks like .. not like me, because I don't account for much, but some intellectuals, .. some intellectuals like, let's say .. there is Joseph Stieglitz, who is a Nobel Prize winner of economy who says that, and here and there others do so as well.

So this starts to be said, and it is also starting to be said that it is rather incredible, in the United States, the top 1%, the top 1% of the richest Americans, ...... earn 25% of the revenues, so the ratio is 1/25, and the top 90% as well, own ... of sorry, the top 10% own 90% of the wealth. There is therefore maybe something that can be done there, because ..

Eric Lange : Yes, but there you are walking on some ground .. you are on a reflection path which is very European and French. Since you know the United States better than I do, can this type of idea, of debate, penetrate the American intellect ? They don't want .. you know that better than I do .. the less government intervention there is, the better they feel ...

J-C : Yes, well, I don't know ...

Eric Lange : Do you think it is evolving some ?

J-C : Well, .. it is always difficult to assess this kind of things, because we all evolve in our little bubble, and therefore, we all tend to surround ourselves, to exchange with people who are not too foreign to our own state of mind ... I sometimes listen to some alternative media where Joseph Stieglitz may be heard, but anyway, Joe Stieglitz is not somebody who is "underground" either, ok ? He teaches at Columbia, Paul Krugman says more or less the same, writes in the NY Times and teaches at Princeton. So all this is not that far away from what we call "mainstream," but it is also true that in the evening news this is never said, or then it will be glided over very fast. There is often somebody who is invited in some anecdotical fashion to say that kind of thing, but it is true that the focus is "what budget is going to be slashed?" "Who's pay is going to be cut?" And so on. It is not at all contemplated, for now at least, to say "wait up, there are some untouched pools of revenues, and maybe if we were to do that, there would not be any crisis any longer."

Eric Lange : That is not digestible there ... The word "social" remains a bad word ...

J-C : Uuuuh ... Well, I would rather say that there is like a media blockage, there is plenty of folks who strive to hide all this, more or less consciously, I don't know. I see that recently you had our friend Richard Ortoli, who came to speak on your antenna, who more or less was doing that on a French scale ... There are stuff like this that happen that ...

Eric Lange : Richar Ortoli is the Councilman for French living abroad who published a text on the internet in which he was saying what you say .. "that the United States are going to slash into public services' budget .. and dare to attack the unions of the public sector." And he was saying that maybe this is going to arrive in France as well ... But, you know, we had him on the phone .. and he was not necessarily for it, He said that in the United States, that's how it is ...

J-C : Well, all right. I am glad that you followed up on all this and you brought him on the air, because you are pretty much the only ones in France to do that. So I heard what he said ... He was back peddling, he was peddling backward very strongly, which makes me say that when the Tour de France, which is scheduled to come to Corsica soon .. in 2013 if my memory is correct, .. I need to precise that Richard Ortoli's origins are more or less from Ajaccio, .. he might have a card to play then, if the Tour organizers want to create a stage that would favor the adepts of back peddling, because he is a real virtuoso at that ... He nevertheless wrote, isn't it ? It is written black on white in his newsletter, .. that he was suggesting to Nicolas Sarkozy to inspire himself from Scott Walker's actions .. That's in short what he was writing in his post. So now I heard what he was saying on the air ...

Eric Lange : He was much more balanced ...

J-C : Yes, yes, yes, .. very well, I am happy that he comes back to more appropriate feelings ... I would have preferred if he had been a little more honest and had said "I am sorry, I am under bad influences in NY, I was brought to think certain things, and in the end well it is true that etc ... " So, he tried to drown the fish, that is not very important, that is not the heart of the issue. The core of the issue is that there are people like this, who when they see Scott walker, find him inspiring. I think that you asked him the right question "how is it that in a world which is more and more global, things always follow the same trajectory. Which is that we always want to import from the United Sates the good and the bad, often the bad, and that it apparently does not function very well in the other direction ? While when it come to social reforms, one might wonder if it is not rather the United States that should inspire themselves of the French or European model rather than the opposite ? This reminded me what I heard years ago, on France Inter I believe, "French love beautiful Americans" he was talking of American classic cars, "and they bring them in and transform them into homely fats." That is a little bit what Mr. Ortoli and others are busy doing, they want to import in france anAMerican model ... They import the worst and they leave the best.

Eric Lange : Jean-Christian, Jean-Christian I interrupt you, we must go, there is people waiting ... In any case it is always that famous debate between "what society do we want, more social, more government, what do we want ?"

J-C : Exactly, once more we could observe that in the past 10-15 years, the only ones who have benefited from growth, are the ones at the very top brackets. I was talking on teh phone with my friend Pascal yesterday, he was telling me that in France it is the same thing, in Paris it is now common to see 500,000€ cars on the boulevards ...

Eric Lange : Commonly, he is exaggerating a bit, there are not tons of it, but it is true that Paris is becoming a very expensive city ...

J-C : From what I hear, there is more and more luxury goods shops, .. and these folks need to find customers somewhere ... In any case this is not me who is saying this, it is once more Joseph Stieglitz, who demonstrate rather brilliantly, that the only ones who have benefited from growth in the last 10-15, even 20 last years are the 1%. As a matter of fact, he has a new book that I recommend to everybody "of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%" which is a twist on ...

Eric Lange : Jean-Christian, I interrupt you this time, as I feel it that you are going to start over, and we need to go, there is people waiting ...

J-C : All right, thank you Eric ..

Eric Lange : Thank you in any case, talk to you soon again, we'll come back for news regularly.

J-C : All right, thank you Eric. Bye ...

Eric Lange : Thank you Jean-Christian Rostagni, talk to you very soon ... 01-45-24-20-20 if you want to react on the importation of the American System ... We are going to put some music, "Larves in the hinge of light .." on The Mouv ...


Le 20 Mars dernier, je trouvai dans ma boite mail, un billet dit "d'humeur" de Richard Ortoli, l'un des conseillers des Français de l'étranger représentant ceux de la côte Est des Etats Unis. M. Ortoli concluait son billet par un désir que Nicolas Sarkozy s'inspire de Scott Walker Gouverneur du Wisconsin, et étudie comment il serait possible de réduire les avantages sociaux présumément considérables ainsi que les abus de droit de grève dont jouissent les fonctionnaires français, car l'on ne saurait durablement avoir une société à deux vitesses, où les fonctionnaires seraient privilégiés sans commune mesure avec le secteur privé.

Je m'empressai alors de faire suivre le billet de M. Ortoli à mes contacts de Radio France, suite à quoi il fut interviewé dans le Forum du Mouv pour s'expliquer, voir précédent billet avec podcast
ici. Le Comité de Salut Publique délibère en ce moment sur son cas. L'explication de mon concept de "Ligne de Front" est aussi au début de ce billet-là.

Voici ici le podcast de ma discussion avec Eric Lange le 11 Avril 2011, en suite à l'interview de M. Ortoli :



On the Frontline, in the Shadows

Raleigh, Rally for Wisconsin, February 26, 2011

Raleigh, Caroline du Nord, Manifestation en solidarité avec le Wisconsin,
26 Février 2011

On the Frontline ? That is because I specialize in bridging the U.S and France, and that bridge constantly the making, can be considered as the frontline of the debate on democracy, certainly in the western world.

On March 20, I found an email in my inbox, from Richard Ortoli, an elected French official representing French folks from the East Coast. If you ever wondered why there was so many French here that you did not feel at home anymore, don't wonder any longer call homeland security, we even have representation!

The email (see reproduction in the French column and its translation below in this column) would not have attracted my attention, if not for the world "Wisconsin" in its first sentence. As you might know, I had just then published a tribune in Le Monde on the matter, and had spoken three times on Radio France about it (see entries
here, here and here), but was about the only one talking about this to French folks until Mr. Ortoli jumped in, hence my curiosity.

I can't remember now if I was surprised to discover that Mr. Ortoli, while presumably a little chocked by the methods, was nevertheless inspired by the substance governing Scott Walker's actions, and thought that indeed Nicolas Sarkozy should emulate the Wisconsin Governor. What surprised me for sure, was not that a right leaning French politician would think of importing the worst of American politics in France, but rather that the guy would have chosen the right to strike, which is as everybody knows, quite cherished in France, and even protected by the constitution, and that he would have thought of doing so when the corpse of the Wisconsin public workers' rights was still warm.

But nothing really moves us too much anymore here on the frontline, we built up the immunities for mental health survival, and therefore, a few seconds later I was forwarding Mr. Ortoli's email to the superior authorities, my Radio France contacts.

This is how we now get to hear Mr. Ortoli's voice, interviewed my Eric Lange on the Forum du Mouv, see podcast below, and its translation
here. It should be noted that the Tour de France is supposed to have a couple stages in Corsica in 2013, Corsica being where Mr.Ortoli is from. Mr. Ortoli might find then another opportunity to shine, as if we judge from this interview, he is certainly a virtuoso of back peddling.

I will be on the Forum du Mouv myself Monday April 11, to develop all this, and the podcast will be posted here as soon as possible afterward.


Translation of Mr. Ortoli's Email :

Dear Compatriots,

In Wisconsin, the new Republican governor Scott Walker did something for now unthinkable in France : he attacked public employees unions.

On march 11, he passed a law that weakens their power. From now on, they will not be able to collectively negotiate salaries or vacations. Raises will be paired with inflation, no more. Every year they will have to dutifully ask their members if they want to renew. Finally, every public employee in Wisconsin will have to spend a little more out of pocket for health insurance.

Neither the public workers marches, of a rare violence for the United States, nor the scants from Democrats, some of which fled to Illinois in order to prevent a vote to take place, not event the Capitol's occupation, deterred Scott Walker. Until the end he maintained that these reforms were necessary to balance the State's budget otherwise much in deficit. It is difficult to see clearly. Some say that the deficit will be of 3.6 billion in 2012, others estimate it to 2.5 billion. Unions claim that all this is much exaggerated, and that the Governor simply wants to eliminate their rights.

Of course the method used by Scott Walker is chocking. Of course the cuts planed in the new budget, notably for education, risk to harm everyone in Wisconsiin, whether public worker or not, But the Pew Research center finds in its polls that the Wisconsin Governor is supported by 31% of Americans ... His actions therefore signal a deep malaise. Is it possible to maintain as many inequalities between public and private sectors employees when unemployment nears 10%, and when most States are near bankruptcy ? Why should there be 2 categories of workers : those who risk unemployment, pay cuts, work until 70, and those seating on very generous social advantages at tax payers expense ?

The situation in France is not much different from that of Wisconsin, but Nicolas Sarkozy has too many problems with foreign politic now, to examine those issues carefully enough ... He first must restore the Foreign Affairs Ministry, damaged by Michelle Alliot-Marie fishy relationships and her subsequent firing from her post as Foreign Affairs Minister. But when he will have digested the government shake up, when the middle East fires will be calmer, and before the 2012 election that appears to be very hot if D.S.K. is a candidate, it is not impossible that Nicolas Sarkozy, by respect for those who voted for him in 2007, attempts something to break the omnipotence that unions exercise on French political life.

Madison/Paris, same fight ?

Richard Ortoli


Sur la ligne de Front ? C'est parce que je me spécialise dans le rapprochement des conceptions politiques, sociales et culturelles entre la France et les Etats Unis, et que cela peut être considéré comme la ligne de front du débat sur la démocratie, en tout état de cause pour ce qui est du monde occidental.

Le 20 Mars dernier, je trouvai dans ma boîte mail, un billet dit "d'humeur" de Richard Ortoli, l'un des conseillers des Français de l'étranger représentant ceux de la côte Est des Etats Unis. J'aurais sans doute envoyé ce billet sans humour aux oubliettes préconisées, si le troisième mot de la première phrase n'avait été "Wisconsin." Il faut dire qu'à l'époque je venais de publier une tribune dans le Monde basée précisément sur la situation et les événements du Wisconsin, que j'étais intervenu 3 fois sur le Forum du Mouv (voir billets
ici, ici, et ici) et que je pensais très autarsiquement être probablement le seul expatrié jusqu'à ce 20 Mars, à attirer l'attention des français sur ce sujet.

Curieux, je me mis à lire le billet de M. Ortoli (voir repro à droite). Je découvrais alors que ce Monsieur trouvait que les actions de Scott Walker (le Gouverneur du Wisconsin), bien que un peu choquantes dans la forme, étaient dans le fond néanmoins probablement salutaires et qu'il conviendrait à Nicolas Sarkozy d'examiner comment il pourrait en faire de même au pays de Cocagne.

Là j'étais surpris pour de bon, non pas qu'un politique apparenté de droite puisse avoir une idée aussi saugrenue,
Fighting Like an Egyptian

Raleigh, February 26, 2011,
Rally for Wisconsin

Raleigh, 26 Février 2011, Manifestation en solidarité avec le Wisconsin
mais plutôt qu'il ait le toupet de le claironner, et de surcroît aussi tôt, sans respect pour le deuil des pauvres bougres, alors que le corps des droits défunts des fonctionnaires Wisonsinois gisait encore chaud dans le Capitol de Madison.

Mais si sur la ligne de front l'on s'étonne encore, l'étonnement n'y est guère paralysant depuis longtemps, grâce aux immunités que l'on développe assez vite afin de garder une santé morale. Quelques secondes plus tard je faisais donc suivre le billet pas doux du tout de M. Ortoli aux autorités compétentes relevant de mon secteur, en l'occurrence mes contacts à Radio France.

Et c'est ainsi qu'il nous est donné d'entendre la voix de M. Ortoli interviewé par Eric lange dans le Forum du Mouv, voir podcast ci-dessous. Notons au passage que le Tour de France a prévu de passer par la Corse en 2013 je crois, et que si l'on en juge par la prestation de M. Ortoli à l'antenne (M. Ortoli est originaire des environs d'Ajaccio) celui-ci pourrait surprendre sans doute ne serait-ce qu'au titre de "régional de l'étape", à condition que les dirigeants du tour puisse concevoir un parcours privilégiant le rétro-pédalage dont notre ami corsico-NewYorkais est de toute évidence un virtuose de classe internationale.

Je serai à l'antenne sur le Forum Lundi 11 Avril afin de développer tout ceci, et le podcast sera posté sur ce blog dans la foulée.



In The News Today

News & Observer, April 8, 2011 / Mon journal le 8 Avril 2011


There has been quite a few good cartoons lately in the News & Observer. This morning's stopped me in what I was doing.
Here is as well, the rest of the page, with a letter to the editor for which I thank its author, as it is dead on target, and very enjoyable to read. An enlarged version in the French column allows for a better read of that letter.


Mon journal le News & Observer de Raleigh, a eu une bonne série de dessins ces jours derniers. Celui-ci m'a arrêté aujourd'hui. Le gouvernement Américain est en effet à moins de 24 heures de sa fermeture pour impasse budgétaire.
Les élus du Tea Party bloque le camp Républicain, et contemple avec joie la perspective d'arrêter le gouvernement qu'ils haïssent tant. Le tristement célèbre Newt Gingrish avait déjà fomenté une telle manoeuvre en 1995, et cela ne lui avait pas réussi du tout. Mon petit doigt m'incite à penser qu'il n'y a pas grand chose de nouveau sous le soleil, si ce n;est que celui là semble plus chaud, et je me régale un peu déjà, à contempler les dégâts auto-infligés au Parti Républicain. Dans moins de 24 heures nous sauront si ils sont encore plus abrutis qu'on le pensait. Surprenez nous!