Thursday, May 17, 2007

The mood in Rome

Your faithful correspondent here at the Konnection is completing a study abroad course in Rome, Italy and will not be returning to the states until June 4th, so this will probably be the only posting until then (so don't fear liberal bloggers--this blog has not died, and will be up and running regularly again in a few weeks).

This is my first experience in a foreign country, but despite the strong anti-war tide here in Rome (I've alreay seen numerous anti-war messages scrawled acrosss walls and witnessed an anti-war march near the Colosseum), unlike other parts of Europe, the Italians don't seem to hold any hostility towards Americans. All of our group's encounters have been extremely cordial. A street vendor asked if I was Australian, and I replied ''No, sono Americano,'' to which he replied, ''Oh, Americano! Amo Americani (I love Americans). And then in English, ''God Bless You.''

Having read out the immigration problems, I have noticed the large immigrant (mainly West African and Middle Eastern) populations are segregated in their own neighborhoods and shops here in Rome. Integration does not seem to be occuring--at least not like we are accostomed to in the U.S.

I'll report more when I return.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Deja-"Nouveau" reforme in France

Wow, what a shakeup. With 85% turnout, the French have elected Nicholas Sarkozy their president over Socialist Segolene Royale by a convincing 53-47%. The most conservative candidate in decades, Sarkozy, the son of Hungarian immigrants, has promised to lower taxes, repeal the estate and inheritance taxes, extend the national workweek from 35 hours to 40 hours, and allow nontaxable overtime pay.

Most importantly, Sarkozy is pro-Israel and is the most pro-American French leader in decades. When he visited the U.S., he lamented on how he wished for France to become more like it's neighbor across the Atlantic. Normally, this would have been the end for any French politician, but it seems that the French are tired of the constant American-bashing in their own country, and after having successive presidents who have worked to erode American power and influence around the world, the French people are tired of the rhetoric and want to work with the U.S. In his acceptance speech, Sarkozy declared that the United States can once again "count on our friendship" and the statement was met with enormous applause from the French crowd! In interviews with reporters, several French supporters of Sarkozy said they loved the United States and many said they were tired of their media and government's policy of bashing the U.S. and wanted change...many of these supporters and voters are France's new generation--21-35 year olds--who are replacing the old, obstinate old ways of thinking. Indeed, it was primarily Sarkozy's message of tough, labor reforms (reducing the socialist legacy that makes up the welfare state) and limiting immigration (while mandating that immigrants accept and integrate into France's social and democratic culture) that won the most votes and that the next generation turned out in droves. Sarkozy won among business interests, blue collar workers, and he won a majority of the women's vote, despite the presence of the first major party woman candidate on the ballot (could this be a precursor to the 2008 election and the women's vote in regard to Sen. Hillary's bid for office).

This recent election result continues a general shift in the West towards more conservative, pro-American governments. Steve Harper's win in Canada, Shinzo Abe's victory in Japan, Angela Merkel's win in Germany, and John Howard's re-election in Australia. Britain will be the stage for the next election as Tony Blair steps down in July and is succeeded by chancellor of the executor Gordon Brown. Brown is not as hawkish as Blair on Iraq, but he is a firm supporter of the U.S. and Israel, and Margaret Thatcher's Conservatives, who, barring any new twists and turns seem to be in position of gaining power in Britain for the first time in a decade, are led by David Cameron, a solidly pro-American leader. So we can hedge our bets easily on the premise that Great Britain will remain our staunchest ally for the considerable future.

It seems that vox populi has ruled the day, and France will no longer be a "provocateur" of the U.S. Bring on the french fries, croissants, and baguettes!