Bloggers ponder the economic future of France, which overturned a divisive labor law Monday after loud protest. They also mull Seymour Hersh's bombshell article on Iran war planning and the Page Six scandal.
French surrender: After weeks of demonstrations by students and labor unions, French President Jacques Chirac announced that the government would withdraw the controversial First Employment Contract, which was authored by embattled Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and would've permitted businesses to fire workers under age 26 for any reason during a two-year trial period.
It also would've aided France's stagnant economy, say bloggers who are disappointed that the raucous students got their way. "What really makes this sad," writes Doug at Christian-oriented group blog Stones Cry Out, "is that in this case ... the people are asking to return to a situation that actually works against them in the guise of a worker benefit." Backers of the CPE (the law's French acronym) claim that France's 22 percent youth unemployment rate is owed to overly protective labor laws. "Instead of the harder you work, the more you get -- it becomes foolish to work any longer or harder than the average," writes right-leaning Riehl World View. "So every effort becomes watered down. There's no incentive for an individual to do anything else but be average."
Now is also the time to reassess what's going on in France, which has been rocked in recent months by rioting and unrest. "What is really happening in France is the breaking up of a cultural illusion," writes Alvaro Varas Llosa on the Intellectual Conservative. "For decades, the French have lived under the pretense that their parasitical social model could last forever. It's basically a model in which a small segment of society produces wealth and a much larger segment lives off that wealth through a vast system of government transfers that millions have come to take for granted."
Conservative Andrew Sullivan is pessimistic. "If the French cannot accept even the teensiest attemp to bring market discipline and free labor markets to their over-regulated economy, then they need no longer be considered a nation with a future. They are a nation committing an extremely slow suicide by suffocation."
Iraq today, Iran tomorrow? Calling it "wild speculation," President Bush on Monday dismissed reports of plans for a military attack against Iran. In the April 17 New Yorker, Seymour Hersh reports that senior administration officials are formulating plans for a major air attack on Iran, possibly including tactical nuclear weapons.
Speculative or not, Hersh's investigative reputation is enough to get the blogosphere stirring. One paragraph in particular has bloggers buzzing: "One former defense official ... told me that the military planning was premised on a belief that 'a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government.' He added, 'I was shocked when I heard it, and asked myself, 'What are they smoking?' ' "
"This is a shocking paragraph," writes Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice. "It suggests that there has been no learning curve with the administration. All that's missing in that statement is administration officials predicting that Americans would be greeted as liberators and covered with garlands of flowers"
Rick Moran of Right Wing Nuthouse doesn't see any bombs, but an article with largely anonymously sources that may be a ploy. "I personally think military action to take out Iranian nukes is self-defeating. But don't tell the Iranians that. In fact, the more uncertain President Ahmadinejad is about our intentions, the better. This little stratagem about keeping the Iranians guessing about our intentions seems to be lost on our rabid dog left wing who have swallowed what is almost certainly a deliberately planned leak on our military options."
Armed Liberal at Winds of Change reaches the same conclusion: "All those midlevel officers in the Pentagon have to do something every day," he writes, "and having detailed contingency plans for just about everything is probably a pretty good thing for them to be doing."
Read more about the Hersh article. The Moderate Voice, Think Progress, and Right Wing Nuthouse all have extensive roundups of analysis and blogger opinion. In Slate, Fred Kaplan weighs the possibilities.
Page Six in a fix: After reporting Friday that a New York Post Page Six staffer solicited $220,000 from a high-profile billionaire—for a year's worth of gossip page "protection"—the Daily News reported Monday that another Page Six columnist is routinely showered with gifts. Also Monday, ABC News reported that the FBI lacked clear-cut evidence against the alleged solicitor, Jared Paul Stern, or else it would've arrested him. (Disclosure: the author is a sportswriter for the Daily News.)
The scandal has gotten major play in almost every signficant news outlet, writes Eric Boehlert of the Huffington Post, with one predictable exception. "Proving once again that the 'News'" in Fox News is not meant to be taken literally, the Rupert Murdoch-owned news channel has all but ignored the stunning story.
Another New York gossip outlet, Gawker, suggests that Stern's target for solicitation, Ron Burkle, doesn't come out looking that good. "The fact that he was even meeting with Stern to discuss controlling negative coverage suggests that Burkle, who's going through a nasty divorce, has something to hide." And what might Burkle be hiding? Gawker makes its guess here.