Monday, May 23, 2005

French Democracy in Action

The London Sunday Times uncovers Chirac's secret weapon in assuring a "Oui" vote on the EU Constitution: Chirac counts on jungle tribes to swing EU vote:
AMONG the Wayampi Indians it is not uncommon for children to give birth at 10 and become grandparents in their twenties. They hunt and fish in red loincloths. Their favourite food is smoked alligator. They are also among Europe’s most civic-minded citizens.
Apparently, Chirac and the EU are courting nominal European voters in the French overseas territories in a frantic attempt to get the draft constitution passed:
The Wayampi are among the most pampered “Europeans” anywhere. Their new landing stage on the river Oyapock was paid for by Brussels. The EU also funded the school in Comapi, whose big moment was a visit in 1997 from President Jacques Chirac to inaugurate the local dirt airstrip.

Chirac no doubt wishes the unpredictable French could be more like the Wayampi. They are expected to turn out in big numbers to vote “yes”.
Pampered, yes, but qualified to vote?
Many speak only rudimentary French and have little understanding of qualified majority voting, but an election is always a welcome occasion for a gathering in this alligator-infested corner of French Guiana in South America... a television message to the Dom Toms, broadcast from the Elysée Palace, he (Chirac)reminded voters how much they benefit from EU money: Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana and La Réunion received £2.2 billion in aid between 2000 and 2006 and the £34m received by French Guiana in the past year amounts to about £650 a voter.
And its not just French Guiana. There are 1.4m voters in France's overseas territories, including those in the "...Wallis and Futuna islands in the Pacific, where three kings rule by fiat..."

According to the Times, overwhelming support in these territories helped the Maastricht treaty gain a slim margin of 540,000 votes back in 1992. With so many in France claiming that Bush stole the 2000 election, wouldn't it be ironic if victory for a united Europe came from the swamps of South America?

Chirac is leaning on the foreign territories since polls at home are showing the "Non" vote running at 53% despite a heavy media campaign in favor of the constitution, a campaign that has drawn criticism from some French reporters:
"This is a grotesque situation," says Jacques Cotta, a well-known TV correspondent for France 2 who is one of the leaders of the campaign for fair coverage in the lead-up to the referendum.

"Publicly-owned media in France are broadcasting sheer propaganda to the public, and this absence of any pluralism or any attempt to represent and discuss the point of view of those who want to vote No to the Treaty is profoundly undemocratic"
As the BBC reports, over 15,000 people have signed an on-line petition protesting the biased coverage.
France's best-known Eurosceptic MP, Philippe de Villiers, has warned his supporters that they face what he called an "incredible bludgeoning" by the political and media elite.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Move Over Keith Olbermann!

Another sportscaster-turned-political-pundit has joined the tinfoil hat brigade. Jim Lampley says George Bush's theft of the 2004 election is The Biggest Story of Our Lives! Bigger than the theft in 2000? Bigger than ESPN's Biggest Sports Controversies? Wow - that is big! Lampley can't believe that the exit polls were wrong and sees the sinister handiwork of Karl Rove (or is this more appropriate):
Karl Rove isn't capable of conceiving and executing such a grandiose crime? Wake up. They did it. The silence of traditional media on this subject is enough to establish their newfound bankruptcy. The revolution will have to start here.
(Don't worry Jim... there is another.)

Luckily Byron York is around to point out some facts, including the admission by head pollster Warren Mitofsky that the exit polling was seriously flawed. As Mr. York points out from the Washington Posts' coverage:
Interviewing for the 2004 exit polls was the most inaccurate of any in the past five presidential elections as procedural problems compounded by the refusal of large numbers of Republican voters to be surveyed led to inflated estimates of support for John F. Kerry, according to a report released yesterday by the research firms responsible for the flawed surveys.
If Mr. Lampley is looking for voter fraud, Mr. York points to Wisconsin, a state John Kerry won by only 11,384 votes - less than a tenth of Bush's margin in Ohio. As Powerline documents, the hijinks there include Democratic dirty tricks, 4,609 "extra" ballots in Milwaukee and 70,000 election day voter registrations. Nothing suspicious there.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Hardly "Fearless"

Harry Stein on comedian Jon Stewart in The Wall Street Journal: Laugh Winger:
...the fair-minded viewer might find the half-hour show intermittently humorous, but he won't detect anything "fearless" or even especially original in it. In truth, Mr. Stewart's elevation to near-iconic status says more about those doing the elevating than about the comedian himself. His "bravery" and much-vaunted grasp of political nuance consists mostly of his embrace of every reflexive assumption shared by every litmus-tested liberal holding forth at every chic Manhattan dinner party.

Those assumptions cover everything from the religious right (scary) to easy sex (yummy), but Mr. Stewart's No. 1 obsession, like that of many of his fans, is George W. Bush. Almost every major event Mr. Stewart deals with, foreign or domestic, is an excuse for Bush derision. Depending on the story at hand, the president is a reckless cowboy or a devious schemer, an inept fool or an immoral knave. Pressed, Mr. Stewart would probably be comfortable with all of the above. Often he will simply show a brief clip of the president speaking, then silently react, his look showing bewilderment or dismay, as his audience, their own contempt for all things Bush once again confirmed, erupts in laughter.
I'd have to agree with this. The Daily Show can be very funny at times, but making fun of President Bush is hardly an act of courage. Bring back Craig Kilborne!

One interesting fact: according to Mr. Stein, Frank Rich has written 16 stories on Jon Stewart. He only joined the show in 1999, so that's almost three stories a year. A quick Google search seems to miss most of them, but the earliest date found is 2003. You'd figure an important writer like Mr. Rich would be able to come up with some new material.