Monday, October 29, 2012


Every employee has a grievance. This was back in September, but there were no newspapers for a day (except for Le Parisien). No, journalists weren't on strike--the distributors were:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

SNCF Grève / Public Transportation Strike

The SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de fer français), the national rail service in France, is having a planned strike today. Fortunately, I only use the Paris public transportation (metros, buses), which is a different system not affected by this strike.

In principle I generally do not agree with protests (whether strikes, manifestations, or something else), especially when the grievances are hardly grievous. There is a qualitative difference (okay, an enormous qualitative difference) between SNCF people going on strike because they want better wages and benefits and 19th-century French miners going on strike because they didn't earn enough to even feed their families and because they worked in conditions that were actively killing them.

This qualitative difference is obvious in the half-hearted manner of today's strike. If a protest's demands are truly just, then the protest shouldn't care about those affected, right? But the SNCF has been very careful to alert passengers to schedule changes and propose alternatives to travel interruptions. So why have a strike? And if you are going to have a strike, even if your demands are just, why would you be unjust to others (in this case, passengers) who have no say in the matter? The ethics of strikes, and protests in general, are fascinating.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

2012 Presidential Elections: Venezuela

This is the eighth in a series of posts on the numerous presidential elections this year. The  first seven posts were on the elections in Taiwan, Russia, Senegal, France, Egypt, Paraguay (not technically an election), and Mexico. I think I missed one in the last month or two; let me know.

Hugo Chávez won the presidential election in Venezuela precisely two weeks ago. If he finishes his new term in 2019, he will have been in power 20 years.

This is good news for those who approve of Chavez' authoritarian regime and the political and social consequences of his Bolivarian Revolution, as well as those who credit him with giving the country low gas prices and building new, free clinics and other infrastructure.

This is bad news for those who suspect election irregularities or intimidation of voters (not to mention outright fantasy) by the Chávez administration (not just in this but in his past presidential victories as well) and who see only societal decline and economic disaster as a result of his trying to take over the country.

Monday, October 15, 2012

My Nobel Peace Prize (2012)

I really didn't want to have to say this, but everyone is telling me to go ahead and opt for full disclosure over excessive modesty. So, yes, as you no doubt suspected, the European Union won the Nobel Peace Prize this  year precisely because I am living in France for 10 months. I essentially deflected the prize to the EU. There, it's out; I feel better.

I join a long, prestigious line of prestigious Americans who won the prize for the very reason that, well, um. We'll come back to that. But anyway, I am proud to follow Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, and Barack Obama in accepting the prize. I am humbled to be part of this prestigious line of peacemakers, though (and I am not just being modest when I say this) I have to confess that I am not up to their level of contribution.

Carter won "for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development." (Dude, what are you choking on?) Gore won, along with the IPCC, "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change." (You're choking and crying?) Obama won "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." (Why are you doubled over?) The EU (i.e., me in reality) won "for [having] over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe."*

(Hey, are you okay? Do you want me to do the Heimlich? Wait, hey! Are you laughing?! Cut that out! No, seriously, stop! Okay, whatever. Once you get up off the floor and wipe away your tears of mirth, please try to listen to me seriously.)

This is a wonderful legacy. Overlook the fact that I haven't been alive for six decades, and all of these citations for heroic Americans make your heart swell with pride.

One day I will come out and write an overtly political post about the Nobel Peace Prize, but for now I just wanted to let overflow my enthused and overwhelmed heart and spirit at the great honor I had to receive the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize. (The 1.5 million dollars is only a secondary consideration.)

*Source: Uh, Wikipedia of course.