Wow. This is the number one song in France this week, but it could leave cultural theorists busy for decades.
I'm willing to bet a cheeseburger flipped on the grill by George W. himself that President Sarkozy told the Bushes that Cecilia Sarkozy couldn't make it because his couple is going through a difficult time (and NOT because of the sore throat).
In this AFP wire, Sarkozy even complains that Cecilia is his only challenge. The French press corp is slowly aiming its sights towards the couple and it's hard to see whatever is going on between the two love birds go on unreported for much longer.
In a similar vein, the presence of Rachida Dati at the Sarkozy holiday retreat is almost certainly pissing off the right-wing (old-white-male) barons, all the way up to Sarko's closest lieutenants. Not only is she a woman; not only is she arabic; but now she goes on f-ing holiday with the man. France's monarchic republic is a jealous place and the royal court blowback is only a question of time.
Sarkozy's manic media maelstrom can continue all it wants - the man flies twice across the Atlantic today - but this morning it's hard to concur with his bad attitude towards the European Central Bank.
Yesterday, the Frankfurt-based mother-ship dumped nearly one hundred billion euros into the world's markets, propping things up after investors panicked because they had stupidly trusted bankers that would give people like me a home loan.
We'll see if the gambit worked, but it's impossible to imagine that France alone in a financial crisis like this could do anything but watch the ticker go by. Indeed, it's in moments like these that Sarkozy's effervescence seems nothing more than manufactured fizz to gate-crash news headlines. European heads of state are but poor players strutting on stage in moments like these. In 2007, when the going really gets tough, you call Europe and not the Elysee palace.
The Sarkozy presidency is simply bizarre. Here he is chasing down two AP photographers on a holiday lake in New Hampshire on a two-week vacation paid for by friends (thought to be a Rothschild banker from Luxembourg).
It's all such a psychodrama. The Figaro (the Figaro!) reports that Minister of Justice Rachida Dati is on the holiday and was actually on the boat when Sarkozy flipped his lid.
The journalist there said Dati -who has reportedly become a cherished protege of the Sarkozy couple- ducked for cover to hide from the cameras.
Very quiet day in a French newsroom. Much of it could have been spent looking at video of Sarkozy in Africa filmed over the past few days. There he was walking in a park with Omar Bongo, Gabon's dictator since 1967. This is not la rupture by any strecth of the imagination and you could see the discomfort on Sarko's face. He's in pure Chirac-mode here. Something about the administration of the French republic forces the new President to spend his day in Gabon; what is so damned precious about gaining the respect of a man like Bongo? On a July 27th, why on earth is Sarkozy posing for photos in a Gabon rain forest instead of working his tan on a yacht in Malta?
According to last night's C'est dans l'air, the Tour de France doping scandal is being partly informed by a turf war between the organizers of the Tour and the Switzerland-based International Union of Cyclists (UCI is the French acronym).
Not surprisingly, money is the key. UCI wants in on the Tour de France. But the Tour is operated by a French family-owned media conglomerate, Amaury Group, which owns l'Equipe, France's hugely read sports daily and Le Parisien, a tabloid.
UCI says the dividends of the Tour should be spread more democratically, so that the rest of world cycling can benefit; the Tour de France, in other words, can help pay for a pro-am race in southern Bavaria, much like the revenues of the Premiership football league pay for second and third divisions in England.
The Tour answers that the sheer media spectacle of the tour helps in itself to pay for a Bavaria tour. Sponsors and athletes join cycling everywhere based on buzz created by the Tour in France. The great race creates a love of the sport whose benefits are felt globally.
The union chaffes at this. And Tour operators argue that in rebuttal, UCI destabilizes the Tour by delaying the announcement of doping-related discoveries until the race is well underway, and for too late for the organizers to preemptively take action. Thus, it was only announced weeks after the fact that Rasmussen had failed to make himself available to Danish anti-doping officers in the weeks leading to the Tour. Why wait until he's wearing the yellow jersey to announce information that is weeks old? The conspiracy theory is that the UCI is trying to so completely shake the foundations of the tour that the operators will have no choice than to turn to the UCI for help and anti-doping coordination; a Trojan horse, Tour loyalists say, for economic cooperation as well.
Unsurprisingly, L'Equipe and Le Parisien (and French media in general) are huge advocates of an independent tour. As acquiescing satellites of the Amaury empire, the newspapers work double time to thoroughly demonize the dopers, while exonerating and boosting the Tour (a headline in the Parisien yesterday even specifically targeted UCI without ever mentioning the newspaper's ownership ties to the Tour).
Knowing about this turf battle puts the Tour's recent history into perspective. When Lance Armostrong began lining up his Tour victories, the operators could never really go after him, and all the other dopers, without a careful cooperation with UCI. Seen as a slippery slope towards opening its coffers (and a de-Frenching of the French tour), the Amaury organizers launched a Cold War against Lance Armstong (using L'Equipe as its chief weapon) instead of very officially (and more efficiently certainly) cooperating with UCI and making it difficult for a Lance Armstrong and his infamous doctors to so assiduously put the fix in.
Great news from Ethiopia. Brehanu Nega and friends are finally out of Kaliti prison.
But why did this all happen when and how it did? Reading up in Addis Fortune, it is clear that homegrown mediation had a major part to do with this, not least of which, the participation Haile G. Selassie, the great distance runner. (Has ever a professional athlete worked so effectively outside the sports arena?)
But risking to poke at Ethiopian nationalism, the release only serves to underline the fact that donor countries function as a full fledged branch of government in Ethiopia. Collectively, the donors -with the US on top and EU some distance behind- have the sway of a national political institution within the local political landscape. It is their pressure that forced Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's hand.
This doesn't, in my view, make Ethiopia a "banana republic", it just admits the reality on the ground. (Besides, in similar fashion, global or international forces play a real role in US affairs or European affairs. It's obviously not openly acknowledged in Washington, but what happens to the US economy if China starts dumping its mountain of dollar reserves?)
The foreign influence in Ethiopia is clear. It has a budget, ambassadors, country representatives all housed in specific buildings with gates, cars and secretaries. Isn't it time that these foreigners finally openly acknowledge their influence instead of misleadingly operating in the shadows? The rulers of Ethiopia would gain legitimacy if the facts were more openly out on the table.
If we were at all fair, the whole question of secularism in Turkey would be put to rest for awhile.
Coverage was dominated by the idea that this hugely awaited poll was going to be about religion. Western media largely framed the multi-party election as a choice between secularist values and neo-islamism or whatever awkward neologism used to to describe the AK Party, which won half the vote.
The secularists won only twenty percent. The Turks massively denied any clash of civilizations debate. Or they voted for Osama because they voted for the islamic-rooted party, or the islam inspired party, or... or... Well, whoever the AK Party is, they won handily and neo-crusaders of the western media are going to have to find their dangerous muslims lurking in some other corner.
Any new arrests in Australia?
Cecilia Sarkozy is back in Libya.
The news dropped late Sunday night. In the French newsroom where I work, jaws dropped.
All last week, word was that British and Brussels negotiators were annnnngry! that the Sarkozy's had jumped all over this dossier, a sensitive one to say the least. The main source of the story, an editor in chief at Le Point magazine, said that France's presidential jet was at Tripoli airport waiting to whisk off the beleaguered nurses.
Minutes after the first news came word that the European negotiator was there with Cecilia (and President Sarko's chief of staff). Monday lunch time, we still wait for news...
The fundamental problem of French politics is that each of the two main political parties, the right's UMP and the left's Socialists, function entirely on holding political or government office. And an average politician holds several of them, typically member of parliament coupled with a mayoralty or adjunct mayoralty.
As such, the major political parties are well-honed office giving machines and elections simply decide how the offices will be distributed between the two parties (with leftovers for the smaller parties who cooperate with the bigger two).
Sarkozy, president of France, is de facto head of the UMP, and therefor president of giving out offices to members of his party (and now even to Socialists).
And as president of this whole system (the machine), Sarkozy has done absolutely nothing since taking office two months ago to change the general scheme of things. Sarkozy is not interested in reducing the pool of offices, especially the more expensive ones at higher levels. The stability of his leadership and the support of his political troops depends on it.
That is why the much anticipated rupture is so far only skin deep. The UMP isn't a society of bankers and entrepreneurs who want a more liberal society economically. It's a party of office holders who happen to decide generally with old people, whites and the rich. The socialists are a party of office holder who think generally with the rent payers, social liberals and the middle class. It's not a very big difference because the office-holding (the French state) isn't actually being put into question. Despite Sarkozy's noise-machine, he continues to represent the state, i.e. the office holders.
Two months in, the French president remains as ever Chairman of the Bureaucracy, with his Prime Minster as CEO.