Bloggers handicap the French election, express outrage at rising infant mortality rates in the South, and frown over "positive news" in Russia.
Battle Royal: After near-record turnout in Sunday's presidential election in France, conservative candidate Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist Ségolène Royal will go head-to-head in a runoff May 6. Plagued by a declining economy and immigration problems, France now faces a distinct choice between right and left: Sarkozy, who in 2005 referred to rioting youth in the suburbs of Paris as "scum," has pledged to reform labor laws and cut taxes; Royal vows to "reform France without brutalizing it," safeguarding the state's famous worker protections and social welfare system. Centrist François Bayrou finished third.
"The question now," says Michael Stickings at The Moderate Voice, "is whether a unified left-center opposition to Sarkozy will emerge out of this round. Le Pen's supporters presumably will go with Sarkozy. Will Bayrou's go with Royal?"
Nidra Poller, reporting from Paris for Pajamas Media, isn't so sure they will. "All the far left whackos threw their support in her favor tonight. Lovely, no? No. Because with support like that, you'd rather have a headache. They are going to bug her from morning to night. She's not anti-capitalist enough. ... She's not sweet enough to the youths of the banlieue. She's not mean enough to junior executives. She won't reduce the 35-hour work week to 32 hours. … So how about getting some help from François Bayrou? There must be quite a few juicy votes to munch in his 19% picnic basket! Fine. Except that when you reach down … to get the Far Left votes, you tip the basket and the Centrist votes go scattering. So you reach down (or over) to gather up the Centrist votes and the Far Left goes ballistic. ... So that's her problem and I don't think there's any way she can turn the tables between now and the 6th of May."
Back at home at Captain's Quarters, Ed Morrisey predicts, "Of course, what will happen in the runoff is that both candidates will move to the center in an attempt to capture those voters. … With the chronic unemployment and economic ennui in France, a heavy dose of Socialism will not have the attraction it once did. Or, it might. As one of the commenters from France put it on the Times of London website, French voters tend to elect those who will protect them from reality. We'll see."
Mississippi mortality: A New York Times report on the increase in infant mortality rates in the U.S. South has bloggers fuming. Bean at A Bird and a Bottle blames tougher Medicaid requirements: "[T]he most central reason that infant mortality is on the rise in Mississippi and around the south is because medicaid cuts have made it exceedingly difficult for poor women to secure prenatal care. …. The result? fewer women receiving medicaid, more dead babies."
Jill at Feministe wryly notes: "According to a national 'pro-life' organization, Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, who has pushed a series of anti-choice laws, has made his state 'the safest place in America for an unborn child.' Too bad the same can't be said for born children, as Mississippi now has the highest infant mortality rate in the country." At Arse Poetica, AE piles on to blame the messenger: "The news is bad enough … yet the tone of this article takes the tack that it's fat, lazy welfare mothers who are the problem. This amplified dishonesty and willful disregard for the harsh realities of the poor makes me sick."
Meanwhile, McCamy Taylor at Daily Kos offers up an intriguing solution: "Here is one modest proposal. Abstinence only sex education programs have been shown to be worthless. … Maybe the Bush Administration can take all the money it is spending on non-effective abstinence only sex education programs and funnel that money straight into prenatal care programs for at risk populations to cut down on infant mortality. If Right to Life believes in what they say they believe in, they should be tickled pink."
Read more about the climbing infant-mortality rate.
Susan Daniels is a former Slate staffer. She lives in Amsterdam.