Friday, September 30, 2005

Penguin Values.

A few days ago, we were talking about the new American passion for Penguins, well, I just read this great posting by Andrew Sullivan who gives here an intersting twist to the debate
[I remind you that the French documentary has been acclaimed by the Christian Conservatives who see in it the proof that their traditional family values are to be found in nature].
Well, not so fast...:
According to "The Auk," the scholarly journal of the American Ornithologists' Union, emperor penguins make Liz Taylor look like a lifetime monogamist. Their mate fidelity year to year is 15 percent. Each year, in other words, 85 percent of Emperor penguins get a divorce and pick up a new spouse.
It gets worse. Some penguins are - wait for it - gay
More here... But in the end, you know what? THEY'RE JUST BIRDS...


Corsica.... let them have it!

This story which makes the headlines in France will baffle anybody who is not French, and it is making me absolutelyn furious.

Here it is in a few words:
  • the state-owned ferry company SNCM (connecting the continent with Corsica) which has been losing money for years was to be privatized. The government did such a bad job at negociating that they got all the unions against them.. and...
  • the striking sailors on Tuesday commandered a vessel from the French port of Marseille and steered it into the Mediterranean, off the French island of Corsica.
  • There, on Wednesday, elite French commandos rappeling from helicopters recaptured the ferry.
  • That action sparked protests on Corsica. Demonstrators threw projectiles and fireworks onto the streets of the port city of Bastia overnight Wednesday. Police responded with tear gas to disperse the crowd. The protests began after union leaders met with police Wednesday night and announced that 36 of the striking sailors detained in the commando raid were being released, but that four others were being kept in custody.Around 500 protesters, shouting "all or no one," marched down the streets of Bastia, overturning and setting fire to a van in their path.

It should be noted that the company is ridden by Corsican 'Nationalists' who want Corsica to be independent. They claim that the ships belong to "the people of Corsica" (but they conveniently forget that the company has been kept afloat by French taxes!). Their mob-like actions are indeed very much in the line of the so-called nationalists, and it's sickening to see them get away with so much for the sake of 'social peace'. Corsica is a land of corruption where the rule of law is non-existent as the law is actually in the hands of a few powerful families who blackmail and threaten whomever disagree with them. The French Republic is stepped upon on an everyday basis.
To put it in a nutshell Corsica is a French version of Sicily in its heyday.
The solution though is quite simple - let them have it. All of it. Both Corsica and the shipping company. What the heck... They keep rioting and bombing symbols of France, and we keep fueling money into their local economy. Hell No!
Their continuing blackmail is outrageaous. Let them become independent indeed. The only problem is that it would take a government with guts to make that decision and I don't see that in a foreseeable future.

Incidently, one happy result of Corsica's independence would be to make vacationing there much cheaper as it is one of the most beautiful but most expensive islands in the Mediterranean sea.


Thursday, September 29, 2005

Banned books

An open question to the Joker and our readers in France: to your knowledge, does France have any sort of equivalent to this list of the most banned books in US schools and libraries? Just curious.


The Shame of the Media.

At last, some American journalists have publicly acknowledged that the U.S. media accorded too much deference to President Bush following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and it seems that it is Katrina which has finally opened the way to a more critical approach of the administration. [Those journalists include such prominent names as New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman or NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams as you can read here.]
It's about time, isn't it? American journalism was - for the most part - so bad in the last few years that you had to watch the BBC or read the Guardian for good critical analysis and professional interviews of leaders such as Blair or Bush.
But are we sure the crisis is now over? Only time can tell... The treatment of Delay's indictment may be a good indication.

UPDATE: Read our friend Greg's comment and analysis here.


Katrina, Dead .... Wrong!

NBC News last night and the Los Angeles Times or the Times-Picayune yetsreday have done some extensive coverage of the false reports of murder and mayhem in New-Orleans in the wake of Katrina. From their reports, it looks like rumors supplanted accurate information and media magnified the problem. Rapes, violence and estimates of the dead were wrong.

Here's an interesting comment:
Times-Picayune Editor Jim Amoss cited telephone breakdowns as a primary cause of reporting errors, but said the fact that most evacuees were poor African Americans also played a part.
"If the dome and Convention Center had harbored large numbers of middle class white people," Amoss said, "it would not have been a fertile ground for this kind of rumor-mongering."


Wednesday, September 28, 2005

When pro-choice means choosing to leave

Amy Sullivan wrote an article recently in the Boston Globe lamenting the myopic vision of many of those in the pro-choice community. Various pro-choice groups, she insists, are hurting themselves by refusing to back (or at least, not oppose) any of the moderate pro-lifer democrats. To be pro-life, it would seem, is the deadliest of sins to this group. One of the greatest misfortunes in this whole abortion debate is the way we define ourselves. Pro-life and pro-choice have been defined by the extremes, leaving very little room for the rest of us to set up camp. When someone like Kerry or Hillary Clinton makes a speech calling for the democratic tent to include pro-lifers, the far left suddenly cries out betrayal. But politics is about more than one single issue. Those who argue that pro-choice is THE core tenant of the democratic party miss the point as badly as those conservatives who say that pro-life = republican = Christian. Believe as you wish, but I'd rather be in a tent with folks who can come to some sort of compromise than those who insist on their way.


Tout vient à ceux qui savent attendre

When your past is full of misdeeds, it will occasionally come back to haunt you. The Hammer just got himself nailed.


Evolution v. Intelligent Design - a(n) (almost) Strictly American Issue.

As we have extensively discussed on this blog (here, here or here) before, the "theory of evolution" is being challenge by Christian conservatives in the U.S. (and only there). Well, in fact this is a recurrent phenomenon if you remember the Mokney Trial of the 20s in Kansas.

The latest development has taken place in a high school in Dover, Pennsylvania refusal where science teachers have resisted being forced to teach creationism on equal footing with evolution in biology class by the local school board. As a defence, they, along with concerned parents have decided to go on trial and sue the school board.

There are some interesting elements to notice:
  • This is not taking place in Kansas, i.e. the Deep South but in Pennylvania. ( in Dover, a rural town of 1,815 people but the school district serves about 3,500 students).
  • This trial is the biggest test on the issue since the late 1980s (since 1987 when the U.S. Supreme Court banned the teaching of creationism in class). Despite a different name, 'Intelligent Design' essentially takes on a pro-Evolution stand.
  • The case is expected to go on the Supreme Court, and that's going to be interesting - especially in the current atmosphere of 'cultural war' between the religious conservatives and the more progressive forces. (maybe this time President Bush is going to be more cautious).
  • This is not going to help the image of the U.S. abroad as it is seen in the rest of the (Western) world as a strictly American phenomenon... Well, now outside the Western world of course, that's (partly) a different story. Needless to say that the Mollahs in Iran are not great fans of Evolution either.
  • the Europeans are going to be watching this with great... perplexity.


Quote of the day...

Most blogs are created by someone you don’t know, often about something you don’t care about, but that hasn’t stopped ‘blogging’ from becoming a remarkably ubiquitous phenomenon.
Found on Slashdot.


Tuesday, September 27, 2005


I just found out that Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, has listed here the many words and phrases made up by The Simpsons which have (supposedly) become (more or less) mainstream words or saying in American English. I have learned that D'oh , for instance, is now listed in the Oxford English Dictionary. Incidently, my favorite Simpsons' insult is definitely 'Jerkass' - a great word I intend to put in use quite soon.

Update: Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia has recently given an interview on C-Span's program Q&A. The topics include the origins of wikipedia, governing philosophy, and criticism from members of the print encylopedia community - the transcript ins available


Monday, September 26, 2005

U.S. Image in Europe.

Somewhat I just found about this survey that was published last month about transatlantic relationships – a topic highly relevant to the main theme of our Blog. This poll was made in June by Transatlantic Trends which offers a comprehensive annual survey of American and European public opinion. The polling was conducted in the United States and ten European Countries.
Basically, despite Bush’s recent efforts, the European public opinion towards the
U.S. remains unchanged. Yet it should be noticed that it is mostly the Bush adminsitration which is criticized . This poll was conducted before Katrina but there is much doubt that the image of the U.S. has changed for the better as a result.

Here are some of the most interesting findings:

Europeans continue to distinguish their feelings about President Bush from their evaluations of the United States taking a leading role in world affairs.

While 72% of Europeans disapprove of the way President Bush is handling international policies, a lower percentage (59%) feel that U.S. global leadership is undesirable (these percentages remain relatively unchanged from 2004). While these numbers are surely more negative than Americans may like, they suggest that Europeans’ negative feelings remain focused on the current administration, not on the United States more generally.

There are some other interesting elements :

Europeans are more likely than Americans to support democracy promotion (EU9 74% to 51%). Both Europeans and Americans strongly prefer “soft power” options to promote democracy, with only 39% of Americans and 32% of Europeans (EU9) who support sending military forces.

And to nobody's surprise, there are clear differences in people's priorities in Europe and in the U.S. :
More Americans than Europeans think they will be personally affected by international terrorism (71% to 53%), while more Europeans see themselves as likely to be personally affected by global warming (73% to 64%).


Sunday, September 25, 2005

Racial Problems in France? The Big Denial.

From a European perspective the anti-climax of Rita comes almost as a disappointment... All that for that!
After all, the French - as well as most European - news media have been fascinated by Hurricane Katrina and its consequences. They have usually taken the opportunity not only to (rightly)
criticize the Bush administration but also to lash against the "American model" as the disaster has exposed the terrible situation of black Americans in the American society. (to which I usually respond that not all of the U.S. is the South)
But John Tagliabue from the New York Times draws, in an article published in the Herald Tribune, an interesting parallel between the situation in
France and that of the U.S.
In this, he is not the only one - the French conservative newspaper Le Figaro, for instance, has done the same thing. But he has done a good job, I think, at understanding the root of the French refusal to see a possible parallel:

France has long boasted of itself as the cradle of human rights and a bulwark against racism. It regularly denounced racism in the United States, and the road from Harlem to Paris was wide, inviting talented American blacks like the dancer Josephine Baker, musicians like Sidney Bechet, and writers like Richard Wright and James Baldwin.
But French insistence on the equality of man leaves them in a bind, their black critics say, perpetuating the fiction of a society without minorities.

The institutions are so much in denial that it is unlawful to list people by race in a census in France. Here is the French dream : there are no blacks or Arabs, or muslims there are only French people. So as a result no one knows exactly the number of blacks or people of Arab descent in France. There are only estimates. You can only know the number of non-French people living in France.

Most French people acknowledge there are problems (how could they not!) but they usually believe that the main cause is economic or social and not racial. But since there is no means of making official surveys of racial minorities, the discussion is pointless.

Unfortunately, this topic has only been addressed by the wanna-be-next-president interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy [To sum it up, he may be our French Thatcher or Merkel, it depends…] As much as I disagree with him on a great range of subjects, I think his proposition of affirmative action and the requirement that résumés conceal a person's ethnic or racial identity is good. But as the NYTimes article pointed out:

But the rest of the cabinet, including the minister for equal opportunity, rejected the ideas, saying they offended the fundamental principle of equality

So there is a long way to go. And the first step might be to allow census by race so that we can assess the reality and stop living in a dream of institutionalized equality.


Friday, September 23, 2005

Une critique de la critique

A good movie review (critique) is hard to come by these days. Movie reviews seem too often written by high schoolers trying to impress an instructor or sound intelligent. Or they just sound like industry hacks trying to convince us that we NEED to see this next movie by X director. A good review is one that gives a film a context and identifies a director's signature. It educates and expands. It ties it together with other works, refers to these other films but not in some pretentious style. It short, it gives you good information. This alone is difficult enough, to actually find one that is entertaining as well is rarer still. So when you find it, shouldn't you share? Enjoy!


Hell hath no Rita!

I've got a sister who lives with her small family between Houston and Galveston. They've been ordered to evacuate - which they've already done - and leave their house exposed to the elements. The lines for plywood were too long at the Home Depot (hours of waiting with irate crowds for a few sheets) so they've put out sheets and plastic under the windows on the inside in order to facilitate clean-up after the storm. But looking at this storm in the Gulf, one gets the impression that sheets and plastic just may not cut it. A category 3, her husband told her, would do immense damage to their home. A category 5...well, the house may no longer be there. The kids left with relatives on Tuesday night and they joined them yesterday. To top it off, my sister is pregnant with another boy; she's in her 9th month. We have a name in our family that goes back a few generations, Storm. Now might be a good time to pull that one out!

If you care to feel official, take a look at the following website (Weather Underground). It's the one that the NASA officials use to track the storms. I find the link with the computer predictions particularly useful.


Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Dark Side of the Force.

As you may have already seen in the news, North Korea Kim Jong Il changes his mind (again) after less than a day:
in a statement broadcast on North Korean radio early on Tuesday morning local time, Pyongyang reiterated its "right to peaceful nuclear activities". It said the US "should not even dream" it would dismantle its nuclear arsenal until Washington had provided it with a light-water nuclear reactor. Soon afterwards, Vice-Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan told reporters that his nation was not prepared to make the first move. "They are telling us to give up everything, but there will be no such thing as giving it up first," he said.

What I find particularly telling is this picture found on Korean News - it makes you imagine what life must be like down there in the North.


Wednesday, September 21, 2005

British Anti-Americanism?

Tony Blair has denounced the BBC's coverage of Hurricane Katrina as 'full of hatred of America' and 'gloating' at the country's plight, it was reported yesterday.
Well, this is at least according to Mr Murdoch, the all powerful media mogul, who owns the Sun, the Times and News of the World newspapers and Sky Television and is a long-time critic of the BBC, as he recounted his feelings in a private conversation earlier this week in New York.
According to The Independent, this is revealing of :
two transatlantic special relationships that have dominated Tony Blair's 11-year leadership of the Labour Party. One is with the US government; the other is with the naturalised US citizen Rupert Murdoch.
According to the BBC,
[Murdoch] said people around the world were jealous of the US, and anti-Americanism was common throughout Europe.
the BBC's world editor Jonathan Baker defended its coverage to Newswatch after similar criticisms from some BBC News viewers and users.He said most of its output had been "absolutely down-the-line straightforward reportage", but added the president had made himself the "figurehead" of the disaster response. "If things are not going well, he is there to be criticised, and if they were going much better he would expect to take the credit," he said.
As you can imagine there is a lot behind this attack against the BBC. The fact that this piece of info comes from Mr Murdoch is so telling that I wonder why anybody would take him seriously.
In any case if you want to know what is behind this, (and trust, there is much more to it ) read the rest of the article in The Independent, here. It's quite enlightening.


Cronyism, kid cousin to nepotism!

When even your conservative base calls out your cronyism, it may be time to actually look for qualified people to fill the leadership posts.


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Scandal at the White House.

What a surprise this is :
The Bush administration's top federal procurement official resigned Friday and was arrested yesterday, accused of lying and obstructing a criminal investigation into Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff's dealings with the federal government. It was the first criminal complaint filed against a government official in the ongoing corruption probe related to Abramoff's activities in Washington.

More details to read here or here.


The Passion of the Penguins.

The best way for a foreign movie to become a big hit in the U.S. is for it to be either a silent movie or be shot in English.Well, the latest European movie hit in the U.S. happens to be French. It is actually a documentary called "March of the Penguins" ["La marche de l'Empereur" in French] with a cast of thousands. It has literally rocked the US box office, taking more than $66.8 million since it was launched in June. No language or cultural barrier fot there! Besides, it deals with (simple) universal themes of love, family, etc that everybody can relate too.
Now the really interesting twist I found in The Guardian as:
Conservatives in America claim to have seen God in the emperor penguin. They have rejoiced in the way the film shows penguins as monogamous upholders of traditional family values.
It has even been called "The Passion of the Penguins" as the reaction of the religious right is similar to that which they had after "The Passion of Christ" came out. Hard to believe, I know but :
As happened with Mel Gibson's Christian blockbuster, churches have block-booked cinemas and organised visits for their members. The 153 House Churches Network in Sidney, Ohio, runs a March of the Penguins Leadership Workshop after screenings of the film.
Laura Kim, a vice-president of Warner Independent, said something very sensical which I think sums up what I would tell those people :
'You know what? They're just birds.'.


Monday, September 19, 2005

Germany Has Two Chancellors.

What happens when two opponents in an democratic election both claim victory in a democracy? Well, here in Europe, everybody is wondering whether now Germany is going to be manageable since both (Conservative) Merkel and (Labour) Schröder claim chancellorship and the French media tend to end their coverage on whether the Franco-German "Couple" or "Axis" will continue as strongly. This "couple" is sometimes criticized too, for its actions and lack of consideration for other (smaller) countries in Europe. In a way, it has lost some of its legitimacy.

I don't think there is anything to worry about though. I trust the Germans to settle the situation - after all, the French and the Americans have had their own political - even democratic - crises. Yet the outcome of the election is particularly interesting as, in my opinion, it illustrates a more general trend in Europe where the large traditional political parties tend to lose out to smaller lists.


C.S.I or R.I.S.?

No "cultural exception", American shows are everywhere on French TV, just like they're everywhere else in the world.
This summer, "Lost" made its debut on Channel 1 (TF1) and now, as we mentioned here, "Desperate Housewives" has just begun on Canal + (a paid channel) - those are the two hits that captivated audiences and revitalized prime time last year in the United-States, but there are many others...
C.S.I, for instance, know as "Les Experts" to the French audience, has been so successful that now TF1 has announced it is working on a French version of C.S.I. called "R.I.S, Recherche, Investigation, Scientifique". Even the name takes on an acronym. It looks like they may lack a lot of imagination but who knows? I wonder if we're also going to be thrust through the victim or killer's arteries, intestines, brain, or alimentary canal to disclose the scientific detail...
In the meantime, Bon Appetit!


Saturday, September 17, 2005

A bit over the top...

Ted Stanger, a US writer and former Newsweek journalist [often seen as the "most Francophile" American citizen] was interviewed on French public television this week to tell how he was shocked by the French reactions after Katrina. Here is his point of view:

"Of course, I am shocked by the mistakes of Bush's administration. But what is wrong for me is the reservations made by many French people to help the USA because it's a rich country [...] This is a political reaction. One shouldn't confuse politics and solidarity. If France had had a great reaction like for the Tsunami in Indonesia, it could have been a great and subtle message to Bush's government. It could have been an opportunity to say: we are not revanchists about Iraq [...] When one sees a rich man falling in the street, one helps him to stand up ! [...] The poor people suffered twice : because of the hurricane first, and then because of the reactions in France. Isn't it French people who decided the site where New-Orleans was build ?"

I must say that I totally disagree with Ted Stanger's opinion here (even though he often makes some really good points). The anchorwoman also showed her disagreement as you can see on this video (at the end of the clip).

She said correcly that the U.S. is usually self-relient and never calls for international aid. People simply aren't used to the idea of a United States in need. It is a bit odd when you think about it... Besides, as Stanger himself admitted, President Bush himself intitially refused foreign aid.

Moreover as we have mentioned before on this blog, the French government made it known right away that they were making their equipment and people in the Caribbean available for any emergency support since what was needed initially was infrastructure support and not financial aid. In addition, there were also local initiatives. The problem was not about money, it was about getting the food and water to the people.

To be perfectly honest, the rest of the world doesn't necessarily feel inclined to give aid to the richest country in the world, at a time when there is a war waged against world public opinion and costing billions. That is perhaps why the aid offered was logistical support and not a blank check. The economic and political choices made by this administration about cutting Federal spending in order to give more money to the Pentagon does not make people want to send checks to the United States. It is not anti-Americanism, it is just a fact. Americans may not have a choice about how their tax money is spent for the next three years, but the rest of the world has a choice about what kind of aid it gives - financial, logistical, or just plain moral. The French would rather rebuild the French Quarter themselves than sign over a check and leave it to Bush & co ['co' includes Halliburton of course!].

The L.A. Times had an interesting editorial a few days ago called "We Asked for It" which included the issue of the environment and the need for more regulation in construction of houses and buildings on the coast. Even though this may not be politically correct, the "You asked for it" is a prevalent feeling outside the U.S. which does NOT mean that people do not feel genuinely sorry for the suffering of the victims of Katrina.

Some people may play the blame game and ridicule the French for building New Orleans in a bowl. As a joke, we accept it. But mostly because we haven't been in charge of the levees for some time now.


Friday, September 16, 2005

Iraq, Katrina, Halliburton... More of the Same!

I just heard on the (French) radio that Halliburton - the controversial business company which became (in)famous for allegations of fraud, specifically with regard to its operations in Iraq, and for its associations with U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney - is also going to be making business with federal money in the Southern U.S.A in the wake of Katrina.
This is confirmed by Molly Ivins, here:
... the first winner out of the gate on Katrina is Halliburton Co., whose deserving subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root has been granted a $29.8 million contract for cleanup work in the wake of Katrina.
..... and she adds some interesting figures (always worth remembering in a political conversation with Republican friends):
Of course, no one would suggest Halliburton and its subsidiaries get government contracts (more than $9 billion for reconstruction work in Iraq, with Pentagon audits thus far showing $1.03 billion in “questioned” costs and $422 million in “unsupported costs”) just because Vice President Cheney is still on the payroll. Heavens no. The veep continues to receive deferred pay from the company he formerly headed — $194,852 last year.
The scope of the lobbying power of Holliburton is reviewed in details by Molly Ivins, and it is worth reading the whole article.
She also ends on a very good political analysis of the 'ideology' that may explain the unbelievable decision that have led to the disaster in either Iraq and/or New-Orleans, and I think it sums it up so well that it is worth quoting the last few lines:
The trouble with Bush is that while he is good at politics, he stinks at governance. It bores him, he thinks government is bad to begin with and everything would be done better if it were contracted out to corporations.W. has stacked much of the federal government with people like himself. When you put people in charge of government who don’t believe in government and who are not interested in running it well, you get what happened after Hurricane Katrina.


Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Frenchman scores again!

With Desperate Housewives now starting its broadcast run in France on Canal+, all eyes are turned to the vixens who play the housewives/single moms/rajun bachelorettes. Who knew that Lois Lane would end up on Wisteria Lane? Like Lost this show has been an instant success. While the writing is better than anything on French television these days, at least the French have one thing to console them. In real life, Eva Longoria is dating one of their own! Allez TP!


A Question of Credibility.

President Bush said yesterday at the U.N. :
The terrorists must know that wherever they go, they cannot escape justice .

Say that to most wanted terrorist Bin Laden or to his colleague Abu Musabal-Zarqawi!

[A golden rule that teachers learn quickly is to never make threats you know you won't be able to carry on or you'll have zero respect and credibility with students or even fellow teachers. Something President Bush should also have earned by now, you'd think.]


Chief Needs.

Here's something funny found on Eschaton:

U.S. President George W. Bush writes a note to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a Security Council meeting at the 2005 World Summit and 60th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York September 14, 2005. World leaders are exploring ways to revitalize the United Nations at a summit on Wednesday but their blueprint falls short of Secretary-General Kofi Annan's vision of freedom from want, persecution and war. REUTERS/Rick Wilking Email Photo Print Photo

The note actually reads "I think I need a bathroom break"


Higher Education (3)

The Economist has listed a series of problems in American universities; those include a certain lack of academic freedom (political correctness is the most famous form of moral self-censorship) and the rise of tuitions which puts a heavy burden on middle-class families, threatening the ideal of meritocracy. The latter, they say, is more the fault of society at large.

One other element that I find interesting is the fact that even though the U.S. still largely dominates in the number of foreign students, [as we can see in the chart below] it has been losing its share in the global world of universities:

The Institute of International Education reports that the number of foreign students on American campuses declined by 2.4% in 2003-04, the first time the number has gone down in 30 years. Foreign applications to American graduate schools fell by 28% last year, and actual enrolment dropped by 6%

In 2002-04 the number of foreign students increased by 21% in Britain, 23% in Germany and 28% in France. A growing number of European countries are offering American-style degree programs taught in English.

The Economists suggests that this is not just the result of the tightening of visa rules after
September 11th 2001 but also the result of foreign competition.

If Europe benefits from the movemet, France still has a long way to go, if we believe the following figures:

Only 2% of French academics are foreign-born. The comparable figure in Switzerland, which is much more successful at producing top universities, is 25%. Only 7% of newly hired professors in major American universities are alumni of the institutions where they teach. In France the figure is 50%.

Now there is one major exception : the French grandes écoles.

French daily Le Monde recently pointed out that the Financial Times has listed once again the French grandes écoles at the top of the professional schools in Europe. Even though the grandes écoles can probably make great business and political leaders, they do not emphasize research.

It seems hard, however, to imagine that continental Europe is going to model itself on its American cousin. Daniel Cohen, in Le Monde has concluded that what European universities need most is independence with stronger leaders who can be more reactive, and in some ways this is already but quietly happening.

The recent financial disengagement of the French government in higher education may just speed up the process but it will be a hard sell politically as “l’égalité des chances” [equality of opportunity] is a slogan that will make it difficult for most universities to raise their tuition or be competitive. As le Monde said though, to create “10 Harvards” in
Europe, as Shroeder suggested, there will have to be bloodshed among more traditional schools.


Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The French Honor Excellent American Movie.

The French celebrate and honor American culture in their onw special way, by having a festival dedicated to American cinema. It is called "Le Festival du Cinéma Américain de Deauville" and has been going on for about 10 years.
This year, le festival gave its top award to "Collision" better known in the U.S. as "Crash". I have to say that I am delighted. It is an excellent movie which I would warmly recommand.

It is basically about several characters of different racial backgrounds colliding in one incident - not unlike "Short Cuts". The movie deconstructs the process of racism in a very non-judgemental way. The characters are multi-dimensional and there is always some part you can relate to. the movie's thesis - that prejudice is always there under the surface - is nothing new but the treatment of the subject is excellent. The cast (Matt Dillon and Sandra Bullock are amazingly convincing) is quite good and the writing is so good that the movie stays in your mind for quite some time. Even the photography is very good.
So if you haven't seen it yet, go for it. It will for once be worth your 8 or 9 euro/dollars.
First-time film director Paul Haggis is also the co-writer. He also wrote the scrip of "Million Dollar Baby". Not bad! Definitely somebody whose next film I will rush to.


Higher Education (2)

In its series on higher education, The Economist is very critical of European universities by comparison to American universities, calling the former “a mess”. The core of the problem, they say, is the (far too great) role of the state. They claim that universities should be set free from the state.
American universities get their funding from a variety of different sources, not just government but also philanthropists, businesses and, of course, the students themselves while European ones are still largely state-funded.
America spends twice as much of its GDP on higher education as Europe does. (1.1% of the GDP I Europe, compared with 2.7% in the United States.)

Wealth is definitely a factor explaining the difference but the Economist also identifies organization and competition as other major elements:
Competition, for instance makes it impossible for American universities to rest on their laurels.
Organization : the American-style organization gives more flexibility to each institution and the power of the presidents is a counterbalance to the power of the faculty.
One of the most interesting point they make, in my opinion, is the principle that it is all right to be useful. Universities can probably not afford to be ivory-towers in today's world. As a result, the American academic world, contrary to its French counterpart has forged stronger links with the private companies.
American universities then earn more than $1 billion a year in royalties and licence fees. More than 170 universities have “business incubators” of some sort, and dozens operate their own venture funds
The Economist suggests that what is necessary is to free universities to run their internal affairs, and they ask the following question : how can French universities, for example, compete for talent with their American rivals when professors are civil servants? A good but highly politically sensitive question in France. Besides, I’m not sure The Economist has the answer either. The American "model" cannot necessarily apply to "Old Europe". And as we shall in a subsequent posting, American universities have problems of their own.


Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Accountability.... finally!

President George W. Bush took responsibility on Tuesday for failures in the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina.
"Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government, and to the extent that the federal government didn't fully do it's job right, I take responsibility," Bush said. "I want to know what went right and what went wrong."

Wow... never thought I'd ever hear him say this. [It must really come from the bottom of his..... polls, but that's just the cynic in me!]. Anyway - it is good to see there are limits to how much even an American president can away with. We'll see what he ends up saying in his Thursday evening address.


New Criteria for a Higher Education

We always like to see people thinking outside the box, which is why this article from the Washington Monthly magazine is so entertaining. Harvard and Princeton have tied for the #1 spot for the last three years in US News & World Reports annual college rankings. This isn't surprising to a lot of people. But change the criteria and you get a whole new set of rankings. The editors at the Washington Monthly set out to do just that when they ask not "what colleges can do for its students, but what colleges are doing for the country." Have a look.



What I find amazing about Brown's [director of the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency] resignation is his reasons for doing so as you can read in his (official) statement:
"I think it's in the best interest of the agency and the best interest of the President to do that, and get the media focused on the good things that are going on, instead of me."
So basically, he is not resigning because he did anything wrong or because people died and he feels bad, no, he's resigning because of the media. That's clearly what his statement implies.
In case you doubt that he's been blaming the media, here's another illustration (extract form an email sent by Bornw to a friend):
I don't mind the negative press (well, actually, I do, but I try to ignore it) but it is really wearing out the family. No wonder people don't go into public service. This country is devouring itself, the 24-hour news cycle is numbing our ability to think for ourselves.

There is something quite evident about this administration from top to bottom, the word " accountability" is not part of their vocabulary. -


Higher Education (1)

This week, The Economist had an interesting series of articles on higher education, including some useful figures. Being involved in the academic world either in France or in the U.S., the Joker to the Thief is always eager to offer some material for further discussions.

The magazine identified a number of challenges facing universities throughout the world today and particularly in Europe:

  • Democratization of higher education or “massification”:

The proportion of adults with higher educational qualifications in the OECD countries almost doubled between 1975 and 2000, from 22% to 41%.

  • The rise of the knowledge economy;

The OECD calculates that between 1985 and 1997 the contribution of knowledge-based industries to total value added increased from 51% to 59% in Germany and from 45% to 51% in Britain. R&D 1/3 of nest companies’ investment

  • Globalization

The number of people from OECD countries studying abroad has doubled over the past 20 years, to 1.9m.

  • Competition.

The World Bank calculates that global spending on higher education amounts to $300 billion a year, or 1% of global economic output. There are more than 80m students worldwide, and 3.5m people are employed to teach them or look after them.

Then, the Economist being… the Economist, they think the solution is to be found in a more free market-oriented system of higher education similar to that found in the United-States. We shall continue our discussion on this idea tomorrow.


Monday, September 12, 2005

America Rules....

Every ten years or so, there are people prophesying the end of the "American Empire". Of course, some people see - in corrolation with 9/11 and the Katrina disaster - signs of the coming demise of the power of the United-States. Last night, one of the Sunday news program on French TV was just about that. It was titled "Les Etats-Unis, un colosse aux pieds d'argile?" [The United-States, an Idol with Feet of Clay?]. A variety of guests with different opinions were discussing this very European question... and Americanophobe Emmanel Todd was particularly scathing about the U.S. and that is no surprise when you know what he writes. Now to answer Mr Todd's idiotic argument, here's a small illustration of the coming end of the American Empire .... or is it?:

America boasts 17 of the world's top 20 universities, according to a widely used global ranking by the Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Britain has two and Japan has one. France has none.
American universities currently employ 70% of the world's Nobel prize-winners, 30% of the world's output of articles on science and engineering, and 44% of the most frequently cited articles.
Source to be found here.


Sunday, September 11, 2005

On French Secondary Education.

This week the French Minister of Education, Gilles de Robien, caused an uproar when he said on a Catholic radio station that “private teaching is not a recourse, it’s a choice”, then defending a necessary “equality of resources so that this choice can be made”.
Now whether you are French or American you may not that the private school system in France is actually partly funded by the government (L’Etat)
Under a law voted in 1959, private schools in France can go under contract with the government – and most of them do - and be partly funded in exchange for agreeing on a strictly state-controlled syllabus and the respect of freedom of conscience. Those schools have their teachers paid by taxpayers’ money and even the running costs (heating, regular maintenance, etc…) are funded by local taxes.
In a country that prides itself in a strict separation of church and state, private and public, this may seem highly paradoxical, don't you think? In fact, this is something not well known by a lot of French people.
The tension between those in favour of the private schools and those supporting the public system remains high, however . As a result of those comments by the French Minister of Education, the media have accused him of inciting a “school war” and indeed in the 80s and 90, up to one million people demonstrated (either to defend the private schools or the public schools) when they thought the current ‘balance’ was threatened. The divide tends to go along political lines but still, today about 80% of the French students go to public schools whereas 20% go to private ones and of those private schools, 98% are catholic.

The recent strain on the public school due to the increase of students attending high-school up to the baccalaureate has worsened the tension, and a ‘school war’ is still always possible. Now personally, I chose to teach in the public school system precisely because I strongly believe in it. I am actually firmly against any public funding of the private schools even though my views may not reflect that of the majority. I think that the balance may have worked well in the past but in today’s world, where the national debt is high and tax cuts are in the air, the government should refocus its priority on the support of public schools alone, including higher education. Unfortunately I think the country will remain divided over the issue and the status quo will remain.
The result is nevertheless quite perverse - in the name of quality, all taxpayers are forced to subsidise the privileged!


Saturday, September 10, 2005

An eyewitness account

If you're interested in a first hand account of Katrina that won't be interrupted by commercials and station breaks (or some syrupy soundtrack), take a look at this photo montage from one New Orleans resident. It's got before and after shots, damage, flooding, looting, and plenty of personal anecdotes. Everything you'd expect in a hurricane report.


France & the U.S.: Friends Indeed.

To respond to Bill O'Reilly - the FoxNews channel king of spin - whom, in a time of national crisis like this one, has nothing better to do than ask his viewers for the continuation of their boycott of France [like the rest of us care!] because of the French supposedly lack of aid in the aftermath of Katrina, I think it is good to give a fair assessement of what France has been giving so far:
  • France has sent two military planes stationed on the Caribbean island of Martinique to Little Rock, with a civilian defense team, food rations and tents.
  • The French have also offered water treatment supplies, generators, tents, food rations and a 150-person team to help with relocation and psychological assistance. (and yes, Mr O'Reilly, they do speak English!)
  • Even French local authorities have taken initiatives: officials in the city of Orleans, a city with obvious symbolic attachment to the Big Easy, are organizing benefit concerts -- one featuring jazz -- and planning to donate half the receipts from sports events to Katrina relief. The city also hopes to take in 50 students from the University of New Orleans. Parisians, whose passion for jazz is legendary, are also reaching out.
  • Last Thursday, The Airbus Beluga Super Transporter landed in Mobile, Alabama as part of an EADS' Hurricane Katrina relief contribution. 22 tons of relief supplies have been donated by the United Kingdom and France and have been unloaded from the plane.
The best evidence that the contribution of France is not negligable can be found in the following extract from the Open-letter of the American Ambassador in Paris, and it is clear that O'Reilly is quite isolated in his French bashing this time, even among ultra-conservatives like himself, it also seems that Americans have better things to do:
Our French friends have demonstrated again how deeply Americans and French are united. The Government of France offered swift assistance, as they did in September 2001. Tents, generators, food rations, water treatment supplies, tugboats, divers, and logistical assistance have been deployed. They are already being put to good use in the efforts to rescue and feed survivors, restore essential services, drain water form flooded areas, assess damage and remove debris. A French Red Cross team is in the U.S. to help with rescue and logistics. Hundreds of private citizens from across France have called and written our Embassy, offering words of comfort and assistance. The Total Company is donating one million U.S. dollars to the American Red Cross. French institutions are offering assistance to American students. The list is long, and we are overwhelmed by the generosity of these gestures of deep-felt sympathy and friendship.


Friday, September 09, 2005

The Third World at home

The UK's Independent newspaper has an article today that will do little to bolster the image of the US abroad as the great model of a modern democracy. A recent UN report shows that parts of the US are as poor as many Third World countries (an argument one would be hard-pressed to contradict given the recent images of New Orleans). The report is critical of the US and its economic policies both abroad and at home. The most recent problem abroad involves the Bush's hand-picked UN ambassador, John Bolton, who last month...
...submitted 750 amendments to the draft declaration for next week's summit to strengthen the UN and review progress towards its Millennium Development Goals to halve world poverty by 2015.
This tactic essentially sank the proposals, un-doing months of hard work by the State Department. Read more about it here.


Petite Catastrophe

France has its own set of floods to worry about. The annual flooding of Nimes is going on right now and rivers and creeks are swollen from the abundant rainfall. Although it pales in comparison to what just happend along the Gulf Coast in the US, it leads the news morning and night for now. Apparently Katrina has given France a new impetus to consider how it deals with its own potential disasters. Perhaps telling this morning was an interview with a worker at the city hall where utilities are out and the water has come up almost to the door. Asked how they were holding up he just shook his head and replied:

"Je suis catastrophé, catastrophé. Plus d'électricité, plus de téléphone. On ne sait plus quoi faire!"
[It's a disaster, a disaster. No electricity, no telephone. What are we supposed to do?!]

Now far be it from me to belittle anyone their own disaster scenario, but when this guy gets power back perhaps he should watch a little television to put his petite catastrophe into perspective. Just google France and flood and you get a history of floods in this southeastern region. It's not like they weren't expecting rain this time of year. Still, natural disasters just seem to proliferate these days. I guess when it rains...


Bush Suffers in Polls.

Polls tend to give different numbers and they're usually a bit unreliable for precise analysis but these are all going more or less in the same direction which probably means there's some truth in them:
  • A Pew Research Center poll found 67 percent of Americans believed Bush could have done more to speed up relief efforts, and just 28 percent believed he did all he could. His approval rating slipped to 40 percent, down four points since July to the lowest point Pew has recorded.
  • A CBS poll taken September 6-7 found 38 percent approved of Bush's handling of the storm's aftermath, while 58 percent disapproved. That was a dramatic shift from immediately after the storm last week, when 54 percent approved and 12 percent disapproved.The CBS poll also found confidence in Bush during a crisis had fallen and only 48 percent now view him as a strong leader -- the lowest number ever for Bush in the poll. A year ago 64 percent of voters saw Bush as a strong leader.
  • Bush's approval rating fell to 41 percent in a new Zogby poll, with only 36 percent giving him a passing grade on his handling of the response to the storm. The Zogby poll also found broad pessimism among a majority of Americans after the storm, with 53 percent saying the country is headed in the wrong direction and 42 percent saying it is on the right track.

  • A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll taken on September 5-6 found 42 percent believed Bush did a "bad" or "terrible" job handling the storm and subsequent flooding, while 35 percent thought he performed "great" or "good."

  • A Washington Post/ABC News poll taken September 2 offered more mixed results, with 46 percent approving of Bush's performance and 47 percent disapproving.

  • Bush's approval rating fell to 41 percent in a new Zogby poll, with only 36 percent giving him a passing grade on his handling of the response to the storm. The Zogby poll also found broad pessimism among a majority of Americans after the storm, with 53 percent saying the country is headed in the wrong direction and 42 percent saying it is on the right track.

  • A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll taken on September 5-6 found 42 percent believed Bush did a "bad" or "terrible" job handling the storm and subsequent flooding, while 35 percent thought he performed "great" or "good."

  • A Washington Post/ABC News poll taken September 2 offered more mixed results, with 46 percent approving of Bush's performance and 47 percent disapproving.


Thursday, September 08, 2005

What's In A Word.

There has been a fierce debate right in the U.S. over the use of the word "refugee" for the Hurricane Katrina "survivors", "victims" or "evacuees". Many consider the term 'refugee' inappropriate -- even racist -- when applied to Hurricane Katrina evacuees as if the displaced victims, many of whom are black, were second-class citizens — or not even Americans. Rev. Jesse Jackson went as far as saying that "It is racist to call American citizens refugees".
As a result The Washington Post, the Miami Herald and the Boston Globe have for instance banned the word from their coveage of the current crisis while AP and The New York Times have continued to use the term.

From a European perspective the whole debate may be hard to understand and it may be seen as yet another form of 'political correctness'.
After all, a refugee is simply "an individual seeking refuge or asylum" and a refuge is "protection or shelter, as from danger or hardship" and a refugee can be a person of any 'race'. So what's the big deal?
Well, first it is interesting to note that if you consider the word from a U.N. perspective, the 1951 U.N. Refugee Convention describes a refugee as "someone who has fled across an international border to escape violence or persecution".
It is also worth noticing that many commentators have compared the scene in New Orleans to that of a Third-World country - something unimaginable in the United-States. By doing so they have not only underlined the economic and racial divide in today's American (southern?) society but also the idea of 'otherness' associated with a whole section of society. Clearly a lot of the poor southern blacks who stayed in N.O. live 'outside' [mainstream] America and so, one may wonder if calling them 'refugees' may actually be very accurate at some level. The anger expressed by many black leaders and by Katrina 'evacuees' is understandable precisely because the word connotes a situation too close to the truth that they cannot bear. No doubt that President Bush is happy to see the debate shift from his lack of management to the use of the word refugee by the media when he weighed in the debate and said that Hurricane survivors are "not refugees." "These are Americans, and they need the help and love and compassion of our fellow citizens," he said.


The Power of Conviction.

There must be ways to convince people to evacuate when they should, without forcing them out. Here's a good example:
"We have them fill out a form and ask them for the next of kin," explains Charleston County’s Cathy Haynes. "And typically they always say, ‘Well, why do you want that information?’ and we say, ‘Because we need someone to identify your body when this is over.’"


G.'s Silver Spoon and Mom's Siler Mouth.

Here's a good quote from Barbara Bush while visiting hurricane 'refugees' in Astrodome in Huston:

"What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas," she said in an interview on Monday with the radio program "Marketplace." "Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality."

"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway," she said, "so this is working very well for them."


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A lighter posting : Chirac's "health problems".

As we mentioned in a previous posting, Chirac has been hospitalized since the beginning of the week. It is incredible to see the big fuss made of this here in France.
Because of the series of minimalist medical bulletins describing the president's health and the long French tradition of near-total secrecy regarding the health of its leaders, all sortsof crazy rumors keep spreading. This has also reignited a debate about the secrecy surrounding the health of French heads of state. This debate also has to do with the French highly protective view of private life.
It is true that secrecy about world leaders reminds us of it another age as Le Monde newspaper said in an editorial Tuesday.
"In France, we practice a cult of secrecy which would have done the Kremlin in the former Soviet Union proud,"
The latest news is that the French president is supposed to leave hospital this week.


An Opening on the International Scene.

U.S.A. Today had a pretty good column yesterday which essentially said that the way "the U.S. is going to accept or reject the offers of help has the potential to influence the soured global international mood". The illustration in point is of course 9/11, when despite an already negative view of President Bush - immediately after the terrorist attacks, "the world was united with Americans. As a headline in France's Le Monde newspaper trumpeted: 'We Are All Americans.' "
I think that's a good point. The editorial also calls attention to something very essential if one wants to understand the American pysche:
Receiving help can be embarrassing and goes against the American character of self sufficiency. Americans see themselves as aid donors, not recipients, and appropriately so given the nation's wealth. No one should take from others in greater need.
The editorial ends on a somewhat optimistic note,
It's a reminder that, not so long ago, the world saw the United States much as it likes to think of itself: as a generous-spirited, socially-responsible beacon of democracy. Regaining that cleareyed international admiration is an ideal. The international response to Hurricane Katrina provides an opening.
But, personally, I have doubts that this administration will have learned its lesson - that working along with the international community is the only reasonable way to handle crises in today's world.


European Aid Despite Criticism.

The general sentiment in Europe with regard to the Katrina crisis is astonishment. If you want to see how the European press has been treating the news, you can go here.
While very critical of the Bush administration through its media, the aid offered by the governments is not negligeable. It seems that the American media coverage of the aid offered by foreign countries is minimum. Well, as our blog is about Franco-American relationship, here is also some information our faithful readers might be interested in:
According to some European observers, channeling the emergency aid through NATO and the European Union spares the Bush administration from the possible embarrassment of having to accept relief from individual governments and leaders to which it would rather not be indebted.
The EU’s aid coordination office in Brussels will manage the aid from member countries that have pledged relief supplies.
France has agreed to donate 600 tents, 1,000 camp beds, 60 generators and three portable water-treatment plants as well as a 60-strong disaster relief team, two planes, two naval vessels and a hospital ship.
And more on CNN :
France has offered a wide range of supplies and services from its mainland and the French Antilles, relatively close to the affected regions. One French non-governmental organization that specializes in restoring phone lines and Internet service is ready to send a team. Veolia Equipment, which has facilities in Louisiana, has offered to make its water management resources available.


Tuesday, September 06, 2005

A reader responds

The following thoughts were sent to me by a new Joker reader. I thought they were worth posting :

Lately the blog mentioned David Brooks' sadly on-the-money prediction of the political and human disaster Katrina would turn out to be. I've not been a big Brooks fan for a while--he seems a little too fond of disingenuous techniques to defend administration actions by appeals to common sense, without mentioning them by name. But that one column made me think"maybe the guy's a little more independent after all." Then came Sunday, a very interesting news day. That morning, Brooks publishes a column predicting a "burst" of societal change after Katrina. Among the effects he predicts is a supercharge to any 2008 presidential bid by Rudy Giuliani. Odd that he wouldn't think that this might actually push people to vote Democrat, rather than just for a different kind of Republican, I think, but clever.

Then, on BBC Newsday on NPR that afternoon on the way to frisbee, a former chair of the RNC mentions that Katrina is a supercharge to any 2008 presidential bid by Rudy Giuliani. Wait a second. Google confirms that there is an explosion of stories on Saturday and Sunday linking Giuliani's name to the disaster, mostly because a single Republican senator has requested that he be made "Katrina czar". So I'm thinking that something very interesting happened here--to be conspiracy-paranoid, the conservative spin machine has apparently decided that the best way to save the Republicans in 2006 and 2008 is to throw Bush to the sharks and remind everyone of that other, effective, disaster-managing Republican, and the catastrophe that eventually made us proud, rather than ashamed.
To be honest, I hadn't noticed the Giuliani trend. But google "Giuliani katrina" and you get 126,000 hits. The first among them is "GOP wants Guiliani for Katrina Czar." It's interesting to note that in one case Rep John Sweeney R-N.Y. calls for Giuliani to replace the incompetent local officials (part of "shift the blame" game) and in another paragraph it quotes former House Leader Newt Gingrich calling for him to be the White House point man since the administration couldn't get it right.


How to View Government.

Paul Krugman in the New York Times has an interesting analysis in his latest column of the reason why President Bush did not deliver after Katrina.

After 9/11, all the country really needed from him was a speech. This time it needed action - and he didn't deliver.
But the federal government's lethal ineptitude wasn't just a consequence of Mr. Bush's personal inadequacy; it was a consequence of ideological hostility to the very idea of using government to serve the public good. For 25 years the right has been denigrating the public sector, telling us that government is always the problem, not the solution. Why should we be surprised that when we needed a government solution, it wasn't forthcoming?
The administration has always tried to treat 9/11 purely as a lesson about good versus evil. But disasters must be coped with, even if they aren't caused by evildoers. Now we have another deadly lesson in why we need an effective government, and why dedicated public servants deserve our respect. Will we listen?
What I may add is that the success of the conservative ideology in the last few years has been fuelled by anti-government rhetoric, especially in social matters. The paradox is that on the subject of terrorism and social liberty, this administration has strengthened government power. In the light of what this blog is about – a Franco-American perspective on current events - it is also interesting to see that the French may be soon following a similar path if right-wing political rising star Nicholas Sarkozy ever becomes president there as some people predict. It is true that in times of crisis, the French tend to do the exact opposite of the Americans – they rely (too) heavily on their government at the expense of private action and personal responsibility, but the failure of government in the aftermath of Katrina shows that some Americans now need to see that government intervention may be not only a good but also a necessary thing.
My view is that the wisest path is (once again) in the 'middle' of course - something between a French view and an American view of government. What is most certain is that both countries now need - for different reasons - to reshape their definitions of the role of government if they want to cope with the new challenges of today's world, they be economic, social or environmental.


Monday, September 05, 2005

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)'s idiotic attitude.

Also on Meet the Press, the head of Jefferson Parish (which includes part of metropolitan New Orleans), Aaron Broussard, broke down and wept on national TV. A very impressive moment that would actually make anyone uneasy. What he said (whose transcript is available here) was quite revealing though:
We had Wal-Mart deliver three trucks of water, trailer trucks of water. FEMA turned them back. They said we didn't need them. This was a week ago. FEMA — we had 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel on a Coast Guard vessel docked in my parish. The Coast Guard said, "Come get the fuel right away." When we got there with our trucks, they got a word. "FEMA says don't give you the fuel." Yesterday — yesterday — FEMA comes in and cuts all of our emergency communication lines. They cut them without notice.


Sunday, September 04, 2005

Homeland [In]Security on 'Meet the Press'

Here's an interesting transcript from this Sunday's Meet the Press with 'guest star' Michael Chertoff, head of Homeland [so-called] Security. The exchange was amazing with a completely unapologetic Secretary and a resolute Tim Russert who basically [and rightfully] tore him up:
When cornered, Chertoff said:
There are some things that actually worked very well. There are some things that didn't.
That's accountability for you. A lot of comfort to all those people down there, no doubt!

And the following shows how the head of 'Homeland Security' keeps himself informed:
What I said is in this storm, what happened is the storm passed and passed without the levees breaking on Monday. Tuesday morning, I opened newspapers and saw headlines that said "New Orleans Dodged The Bullet," which surprised people.
And now this shows the line of defense soon that you are soon going to hear from the Bush administration:
TIM RUSSERT : If you knew a hurricane 3 storm was coming, why weren't buses, trains, planes, cruise ships, trucks provided on Friday, Saturday, Sunday to evacuate people before the storm?

SEC'Y CHERTOFF: Tim, the way that emergency operations act under the law is the responsibility and the power, the authority, to order an evacuation rests with state and local officials. The federal government comes in and supports those officials. That's why Mike Brown got on TV on Saturday and he told people to start to get out of there.