Friday, August 31, 2012

Presentations: Supporting Diverse Student populations

Presentations from the ALISS conference on Supporting Diverse Student populations (held in August 2012) are available. They include:
- Ethnicity and Study Skills: active intervention in the library setting (Suzanne White and Lisa Lawrence, Subject Librarians Coventry University.)
- Using Elluminate to deliver library training to distance/ part time learners (Helen Clough Learning and Teaching Librarian, The Open Univeristy.)
- Library support for International students (Helen Ireland , University of Warwick.)
- Online learning: Can a generic tutorial meet the disparate needs of researchers? (Jenny Coombs- University of Nottingham)
Go to
Photo by Sheila Webber: seed head, Jonkoping, August 2012

Anne Sinclair Confirms Separation from DSK

Le Parisien:

Comment va votre vie personnelle depuis votre séparation d’avec Dominique Strauss-Kahn?
J’ai bonne mine, j’ai pris des vacances, je retravaille durement, je suis à fond sur les élections américaines. J’ai toujours un lien très fort avec mes six enfants (NDLR : deux fils qu’elle a eus avec Ivan Levaï et les quatre enfants nés des précédentes unions de DSK). Et je vais très bien, merci.

Tangled Web

Sometimes one gets the impression that all of France is one gigantic interlocking directorate. The new public investment bank promised by Hollande during his campaign will be created with the advice of the private investment bank Lazard Frères, which is headed by Matthieu Pigasse, who supported Hollande for the presidency, is a stockholder of Le Monde and owner of Les Inrockuptibles, which employs Audrey Pulvar, the companion of redressment minister Arnaud Montebourg, who is miffed that he wasn't informed of the decision to consult with Lazard, made by Pierre Moscovici.

Euorozone Unemployment at Record High

11.3%. How high will it go before Eurozone leaders decide that austerity was a mistake?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

No Longer Passing Between Raindrops

On his inauguration day, François Hollande was drenched by heavy rains, but in the ensuing months he seemed to passer entre les gouttes, as they say. No longer. His approval rating has been falling sharply:

Un effritement à l'ifop (moins 2 points), un fléchissement chez CSA et TNS Sofres (moins 5 points), un affaissement pour Ipsos (moins 11 points).
The reasons will be clear to anyone who has been reading this blog over the past few weeks. Hollande's program has been looking increasingly incoherent. Any pretense to combat Europe-wide austerity seems to have been shelved. He has meekly accepted the fiscal pact, which he had promised to renegotiate. While that promise has been forgotten, other promises--to subsidize youth employment, roll back gasoline prices, hire new policemen and teachers--have been kept, but so has the insistence that the budget will somehow be balanced to respect the fiscal pact. Some tax increases have been announced, but not enough to compensate for the new spending.

The next few weeks may well prove decisive. Either he has a real plan in mind, or he intends to hold these contradictory good intentions together with chewing gum and baling wire, in which case the whole contraption may well fall apart, triggering protests from both his left and his right. I wish him well, but at this point it is hard to see where he is headed. If, in fact, his goal is the "balance-budget stimulus" recommended by Joseph Stiglitz, then he really owes it to the country to lay out in detail how he will shift government spending priorities to bring about growth while at the same time raising revenues to meet the requirements of the fiscal pact, which he now apparently supports.

Conceptions of Information Literacy in an international context - join the e-discussion

Another alert for the e-discussion taking place next week on 4 to 6 September on the theme of information literacy in the international context. It has been organised by the IL advocates at the Institute of Development Studies (Sussex University) and there is more information here
Photo by Sheila Webber: from the plane over Sweden, August 2012

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

2.3 Billion for Youth Jobs

Employment subsidies: Hollande has just announced 2.3 billion euros' worth. The money is earmarked for underskilled youth in the 16-25 age group. We have been this way before. The move is billed as a boost to French competitiveness, since it will reduce labor costs in some industries. But actually it doesn't reduce costs. It only transfers the costs to the state, meanwhile discouraging industry beneficiaries from investing in new, labor-saving technology to reduce costs over the long run while spurring employment among manufacturers of capital goods. In short, this is a bad investment. To be fair, youth unemployment is quite high, and this will provide some immediate relief. But similar measures have proved disappointing in the past, and there is no reason to think that this time will be different.

Budget Control

Mediapart has published a draft of the law implementing the fiscal pact in France. The draft envisions the creation of a High Commission of Public Finance, which will be charged with monitoring compliance with the terms of the fiscal pact and reducing expenditures deemed excessive in case of divergence. In particular, control of social security and local government expenses is to be exercised by the High Commission. The government insists that this text is merely a draft.

Pew Report: Future of Higher Education

In July, The Pew Internet/Elon University (USA) published results of a survey of about 1000 "nternet experts, researchers, observers and users". Most people thought there would be more reliance on technology (e.g. teleconferencing, more blended learning), and not everyone thought this was a good thing. “They are worried over the adoption of technology-mediated approaches that they fear will lack the personal, face-to-face touch they feel is necessary for effective education,”
Anderson, J., Boyles, J. and Rainie, L. (2012) The Future of Higher Education.
Photo by Sheila Webber: Albert Memorial, August 2012

Regulating Gasoline Prices

Pierre Moscovici looked very proud of himself while making the announcement: gas prices would be cut by 6 centimes per liter, "a very substantial amount." Even Total tried to put a good face on things: This will be part of our commercial strategy to show our clients that we are participants in the national effort, said, in essence, the firm's chief. The national effort to do what? To subsidize the burning of fossil fuel despite an ostensible commitment to reducing carbon emissions? To reduce the share of gasoline in the average family budget still further (it has in fact been declining steadily for decades)? To prove that, even if "l'État ne peut pas tout," il peut parfois quand même faire quelque-chose.

But who is the dupe here? If the state picks up 3 of those 6 centimes but Hollande sticks to his goal of reducing the budget deficit, taxpayers--including those who don't drive--will be taking change out of one pocket to put it in the other. What the companies contribute or don't contribute will soon be camouflaged by normal fluctuations in the market price of crude and the regular ups and downs of the euro.

In short, Opération Prix de l'Essence is nothing but de la frime, de l'esbroufe, even if it does make good on a Hollande campaign promise. It's no mystery why politicians everywhere--the US is no different from France in this respect--like this particular swindle. Nobody likes oil companies. They make too much money. They corrupt the state (notoriously so in France). They operate as virtual global powers and make their own foreign policy. And the market for oil, both crude and refined, is subject to various sorts of manipulation. Consumers are sensitive to the price at the pump. It's well-known to be a prime irritant simply because it's such a visible manifestation of the capriciousness of the market.

But really. Isn't there some more grown-up way to respond? Under Sarkozy one became inured to what Hollande himself memorably called le coup d'éclat permanent. It would have been nice if the new president, having named the vice, had refrained from perpetuating it. But a promise is a promise, alas.

Richard Millet

Richard Millet, an editor at Gallimard who, according to Wikipedia, played an important role in the publication of Jonathan Littell's Holocaust novel Les Bienveillantes, has published a book in which he claims to be "struck by the formal perfection" of Anders Breivik's murder spree in Norway. He also despairs of the fact that European nations are "fraying socially as they lose their Christian essence to the benefit of general relativism."

Shocking. (h/t Peter Gordon)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Reality Bites

Austerity, unsurprisingly, has produced economic contraction across Europe. French unemployment is up sharply and, worse, long-term unemployment--the kind that permanently damages future employment and earning prospects--is up 22% in one year.

What does the Hollande government propose to do about this? It's very hard to say. Hollande, who many had hoped would lead anti-austerity forces, has rather meekly accepted continuation of the fiscal pact ("golden rule") concocted by Merkely and Sarkozy and has thus far seemed intent on realizing his (hopeless!) goal of reducing the budget deficit to under 3% by 2013. But these latest figures bring renewed pressure on the government to act decisively.

Decisiveness is not Jean-Marc Ayrault's long suit, however. He appeared tonight on France2 and offered a brief paean to "concertation," "deliberation," "discussion," and "dialog," as important, he said, to the whole of France as he had learned it was to collectivités locales--reminding viewers rather lamely of his long tenure as mayor of Nantes, as though to prove he was no amateur at this business by vaunting his long career in the bush leagues. It was a lamentable performance, not because there's anything wrong with concertation or deliberation but because Ayrault seems incapable of departing from the langue de bois he mastered in long years as the head of the Socialist group in an inhospitable National Assembly. To make matters worse, he was forced to put out a small brush fire started by Arnaud Montebourg, who announced that nuclear power was une filière d'avenir, when Hollande during the campaign had promised the Greens that he would begin to phase it out. It was a very poor beginning to la rentrée, which promises to be chaude, as workers, unions, left-wing voters, and some left-wing politicians lose patience with la force excessivement tranquille. Hollande's next move had better be carefully calculated.

The Value of Information Literacy: Conceptions of BSc Nursing Students at a UK University

I'm currently travelling to the Special Interest Group Phenomenography and Variation Theory conference in Sweden (my first blog post from a plane! (Norwegan airlines) and so it is appropriate to highlight a recently completed PhD using the phenomenographic approach: Dr Antony Osborne's The Value of Information Literacy: Conceptions of BSc Nursing Students at a UK University. This investigated the perceptions of nursing students at a UK university. In phenomonography you aim to discover what the differences are in the way in which people experience or conceive of a phenomenon. You normally do this by conducting indepth interviews probing this experience or conception, and then you put all the interview data together and identify the qualitatively different ways in which people are experienncing/ conceiving of the phenomenon. I haven't had time to read the thesis yet (actually I'm having family health problems which mean I'mjoining the conference later than intended) but you can find the whole thing at:
Photo by Sheila Webber: View from St Thomas' Hospital ward (of Houses of Parliament and Big Ben etc.), August 2012

Friday, August 24, 2012

An Interesting Chart

The graph below (FT Alphaville via TexExile) depicts real disposable household income growth by decile over the period 2000-2010:

Households in the southern periphery did quite well out of the euro; German households lost across the spectrum. but France is the real outlier here: sharp growth in the bottom and top deciles, losses in the middle. Explanations welcome. (Yes, Sarkozy tax policies no doubt helped the top decile. But what about the bottom 3? The RSA?)

Grexit, Grinnit?

Frau Merkel met with Hollande yesterday, Samaras today. Friendly pictures emerged of both meetings, and friendly words issued. Greece will keep its promises, Samaras said. Merkel said she was "encouraged." "Trust" has been restored. Casual observers may be wondering what's going on, since Greece hasn't, you know, paid any actual bills since it was all doom and gloom a few weeks ago. But "Europe" is enjoying another of its fits of optimism. We made it through the last apocalypse by temporizing, leaders seem to be thinking, so we can make it through the next one. Mario Draghi has left speculators in just enough uncertainty that they aren't prepared to make large negative bets. And so we wait until the next major surprise, which could be the decision of the German Constitutional Court on Sept. 21. Meanwhile, the euro is up against the dollar--naturally, since I just bought tickets to Paris. I'm always on the wrong side of history.

The Socialists at La Rochelle

Is there any spectacle sadder than a French political party meeting when it is already in power? Since the parties these days are mere vehicles for selecting a presidential candidate, there's not much to hold the interest of outsiders when a party whose candidate has already been elected meets. This is not the moment for the ambitious to reveal themselves nor for rebels to propose bold departures from the status quo. So there will be no Sixth Republics this summer, no nights of the long knives (remember when Moscovici was left sitting alone in a café while other former DSKers went over to Aubry?), no Mélenchonesque reminders that the left in power hasn't really accomplished much or even set a clear course.

All the drama will be over at the UMP, where each of two former second bananas will attempt to emerge as the Contender.

But at least the Socialists aren't being threatened with annihilation by hurricane, which could be the fate of the American Republicans if Isaac stays on course.

Information Literacy and Open Educational Resources: new report, and presentation

The report Librarians, Information Literacy and Open Educational Resources: report of a survey has just been published This is part of a project led by Nancy Graham (University of Birmingham) and Dr Jane Secker (London School of Economics). There is also a mailing list for those interested in IL OERs: and they have set up a wiki at They have been seeking other people to contribute to this initiative. It is supported by UNESCO and they have given presentation at various meetings. The latest was on 14th August 2012

Thursday, August 23, 2012

How do you say l'arroseur arrosé in German?

It seems that Germany, having imposed austerity on the rest of Europe, is now slipping into recession at an accelerating rate. Perhaps this will concentrate minds in Berlin.

Bilger on Cohn-Bendit

A surprising, lyrical homage by a rightist, Philippe Bilger, to a leftist, Daniel Cohn-Bendit. If only political dialog were always like this.

Posters at #WLIC2012 Furry ears; librarian image in gaming

A couple of posters at the IFLA World Library and Information Conference in Helsinki, Finland that caught my eye although they aren't on information literacy. The first one is just cute: "Furry ears are listening" from Jani Keranen of Finland. You can read a little more about the programme to encourage reading, by reading to a dog, here:

The second one, Library in computer games: the major discourses, is a serious piece of research into the image of libraries and librarians in computer games, using discourse analysis, by Olga Einasto (Estonia). The discourses were: library as temple; library as order symbol; library as memory institution of society; library as labyrinth. The librarian is always the magical helper and supporter of "good guys".
Here's a short video of the poster session, from the IFLA people.

Photos by Sheila Webber

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Informationskompetens (Information Literacy)

Continuing my international theme, here is an interesting Swedish blog (in Swedish) on information literacy from Peder Söderlind and Martin Lindqvist
Photo by Sheila Webber: The Walking Man, in Glasgow, July 2012

Fillon, Reformer

To win the top spot in the UMP, François Fillon has proposed a number of bold  familiar reforms: end the 35-hour week, increase the working hours of civil servants, and fuse regions and départements. The first two no doubt enjoy the support of nearly everyone in the UMP, including Copé. The third is the one to watch: Raffarin and his cronies (the Fourth Republican rump in the UMP) didn't like Sarkozy's territorial reform proposal, and chances are they won't like this one either, sensible though it is.

Bones Kickstarter Final Few Days

Good afternoon children of Nurgle and thank you for joining us today. Today I would like to point out that Reaper's kick starter project for Bones is in its last few days and they have smashed their targets and have thrown in a large amount of stretch goal models.

Myself and the Mighty Simo are going in at the Vampire level as you get an awful lot for your money ( even if you do have to wait until March ) and the reviews of the existing Bones range is positive.

If you want to get in on the action the project can be found here. What is included with the Vampire pledge is shown below and this doesn't include the extras you can add on.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The UMP Leadership Fight

The Fillon forces are girding their loins for battle. Philippe Goujon, a deputy and mayor of the XVe Arrdt. of Paris, has launched an "Appeal of the 144" to unseat Copé. I don't expect much intellectual enlightenment from this battle between two cults of personality. What will be interesting will be how the winner deals with the losers. And how the Sarkozy loyalists are treated. Most UMP sympathizers still prefer Sarkozy to either of the two prime contenders to replace him, according to one recent poll. Whoever wins will face a formidable task of party rebuilding and ideological reorientation.

La Rentrée

It's been a dull summer, but September promises to be an active month politically speaking. There will be elections in the Netherlands on Sept. 12, and the Socialist Party there is expected to do well:

Party leader Emile Roemer is staunchly anti-austerity (and a good deal to the left of Hollande):
Economic policy can [not] and must not be reduced to a set of rules which prescribe debt reduction.

Thirteen of the 17 eurozone countries are above the three percent deficit. Who is going tell who what to do? Come on, let’s use our minds and not become too obsessed with the agreed numbers…Rules are good, but we have to adjust to the realities of the moment. I am sure I’ll get broad support in Europe for this.
Such a shift in policy in a northern core economy could significantly affect the balance of power in the EU. On the same day, Sept. 12, the German Constitutional Court will rule on the legality of the European Stability Mechanism. These two events will have great significance for the future of French policy, but there isn't much that Hollande can do about either of them. His responses to both will be interesting to watch, however.

Infolit at South African meeting

The South African Online User Group had its annual meeting in June 2012 and the presentations are online. I will particularly highlight:
- Changing Mountains into Molehills (about teaching information literacy, note that the Word document is the fuller version): Denyse Knipe
- If love is in the air… will students put more effort into information seeking? Liezl Ball and Ina Fourie
- The librarian is dead .. Oh Google me! (use of social media): Maggie Verster
Website with links and also some blog posts
Photo by Sheila webber: reflection of the Uspenski cathedral, Helsinki, Finland, August 2012

Hortefeux Steps on His Tongue

Brice Hortefeux, criticizing the Socialist government yesterday, recalled that there had been no urban riots under Sarkozy. Unfortunately, he forgot a few notable incidents, such as the two-day armed uprising at Villiers-le-Bel. What's even more surprising is that he was interior minister during a number of these events, responsible for the police response. Amazing what political bias can do to memory. Or perhaps Brice is just exhibiting signs of dementia praecox.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Brad DeLong on the Euro Crisis

Brad is terrified:

When I came to his piece I was terrified about the economic future of Europe: I had moderated a panel composed of Barry Eichengreen and Wolfgang Munchau last month in Rio de Janiero that had made me want to hide under the table and not want to come out.
I hoped Bergsten's piece would restore my equilibrium.
But Bergsten's attempt to convince me to worry less and be happier failed: "if this is the strongest argument for optimism he can come up with..." I found myself thinking. The key problem is that Bergsten has an unusual definition of "resolve". So now I am hiding under the table, and so blogging from my iPad.

Online discussion 4-6 September: Conceptions of Information Literacy in an International Context

Do join us discussing important aspects of information literacy - you can contribute anytime, as little or as often as you want, over 3 days. The British Library for Development Studies (BLDS) at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) has organised this online discussion on the conceptions of information literacy in an international context. The e-discussion will take place on 4th- 6th of September 2012 and is hosted on their Chat Literacy forum on Eldis Communities. Each of the 3 days will focus on a different area of information literacy:
- Day 1: What is information literacy? (Tuesday 4th September)
- Day 2: What is the link between information literacy and research skills? (5th September)
- Day 3: What are the effective tools and approaches used in teaching information literacy? (6th September)
Nine people (including me) will be taking a lead in the discussion. Between us we represent a broad range of experiences in the field of information literacy from the academic, Non-Government Organisations and public library sectors. As well as academics (e.g. me) it includes research consultants, programmatic officers, librarians and information specialists interested in e-learning, monitoring and evaluation, programme development and conceptions of IL.
"We welcome you to join us in this discussion, whether you are an academic or a practitioner in the field or interested in finally comprehending what it means to be an information literate individual!"
You need to become a member of Chat Literacy on Eldis Communities to join in: it is a simple process and you would probably want to do this before 4th September. To find out more about how to join and contribute, go to
Photo by Sheila Webber: Inside the Observatory Tower, Helsinki Zoo, Finland, August 2012.

Cumul des mandats

For a party that officially opposes le cumul des mandats, Socialist deputies are awfully fond of the practice. 19 of them hold three additional mandates, 80 hold 2, and 202 hold 1.

I know, I know: babbling about le cumul des mandats is what one does when there's no real political news to discuss. But whaddayagonnado? It's the middle of August.

men in scarf

Sunday, August 19, 2012

ALFIN en el Congreso #wlic2012 de la IFLA

Good detailed posts (in Spanish) from Andoni Calderón about the IFLA World Library and Information Conference held last week:
1. mostly talking about the posters which were relevant to information literacy:
2. summarising key points from the session on information literacy and e-learning:
Photo by Sheila Webber: A mobile library outside the IFLA conference last week in Helsinki, Finland.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Alfin Argentina

For Spanish speakers: an Argentinian blog on information literacy, Alfin argentina, by Ana Chiesa
Photo by Sheila Webber: Observatory Tower, Helsinki Zoo, August 2012.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Using Flickr for scientific discovery

Not sure whether this is information literacy, but it is an example of knowledge being extended and disseminated using the internet. It is also an example of the power of browsing and encountering as information behaviour strategies, as the taxonomist came across the new species because he randomly browses pictures of insects on Flickr.

Winterton, S., Ping Guek, H. and Brooks, S. (2012) "A charismatic new species of green lacewing discovered in Malaysia (Neuroptera, Chrysopidae): the confluence of citizen scientist, online image database and cybertaxonomy." ZooKeys, 214, 1–11.
In fact the title gives you the idea: a taxonomist spotted a picture of an insect on Flickr, thought it was a new species of green lacewing (though it must be said there are 1200 different species), contacted the photographer in Malaysia who was able to capture a specimen a year later and send it to the taxonomist, who verified that it was new. Also, the authors used Google Docs to write the article, and the journal this article is published in is open access. However, you have to pay to publish, a minimum of 300 Euro, with some discounts (but I will write about my opposition to the author-pays model of publishing another time...)
The photo is by me, and is not a lacewing (the photographer does not alllow embedding or downloads) but a bee in my garden in Sheffield a week ago.


Apologies, dear blog readers. I find myself, incongruously, in Florida for a funeral and have been out of touch with the French news for a few days, so blogging will be sporadic to non-existent for a while.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

IFLA #wlic2012 Inspiring and empowering women through access to information

Today one of the sessions at at the IFLA World Library and Information Conference in Helsinki, Finland, focused on Inspiring and empowering women through access to information. I have linked to the four full text papers at the bottom of this post.
I will say a few words about the presentation Sources and channels of information access and use in the information and knowledge society: a case study of informal sector women entrepreneurs of Hlabisa Local - Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. This study looked at women with small businesses, and their information needs. This mixed-methods PhD study surveyed 118 informal sector women traders, with trades like making attire, craft work, selling food etc. 23% had not had any formal education and 86% were sole breadwinners. The research looked at why they were working and what kinds of possessions/ information channels they had. In terms of their needs, they needed government information (e.g. training opportunities), business, market and financial information. Social visits, face to face communication, mobile phone and telephone were the main ways of getting infpormation. Libraries and internet cafes did not rate high. In terms of barriers, these included foreign language documents, lack of education and skills, lack of time (with the women overworked and exploited). For conclusions, there is obviously much to do: libraries need to be brought phyically nearer in some way, and have a more demand-driven collection (e.g. not in foreign language), promotion of services, and changing the image of libraries (seen as not being a place for working people but rather "wasting time"). Developing financial literacy of women is important.
As well as the paper linked below, you can also look at the PhD thesis itself: go to and search for the thesis (author family name is Jiyane)

- Women empowering through access to information: the strategic roles on NGOs in Nigeria: ADETOUN A. OYELUDE & ALICE A. BAMIGBOLA (University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria)
- Sources and channels of information access and use in the information and knowledge society: a case study of informal sector women entrepreneurs of Hlabisa Local - Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa: VELI JIYANE, and MABEL MINISHI-MAJANJA (University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa) and JANNEKE MOSTERT and DENNIS OCHOLLA (University of Zululand, KwaDlangezwa, South Africa)
- Women as leaders of culture and change: a paper on BRAC’s Multi-purpose Community Learning Centre (MCLC): NAZRUL ISLAM and ARCHI BISWAS (Brac Education Programme, Dhaka, Bangladesh)
- Providing information to women in Croatia: improvements inspired by feminist groups' initiatives: EDITA BAČIĆ (University of Split, Split, Croatia)
Photo by Sheila Webber: Ferry boat, Helsinki, August 2012

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Gay Marriage Divides the Right

Same-sex marriage will almost certainly be legalized in France next year. The left and much of the center support it and have a majority in the AN. But the UMP is deeply divided on the subject and trying to avoid an open split at the party's next congress. 65% of the French favor same-sex marriage and 53% favor adoption by homosexual couples.

IFLA #wlic2012 Podcamp in a public library

Judith Hare (Halifax Public Library, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada) talked about Podcamp and social media: keeping the public library connected (at at the IFLA World Library and Information Conference in Helsinki, Finland). This is an initiative of Halifax Public Libraries They have a really large constituency: 395,000 inhabitants, over 2000 square miles. Hare looked at the question "What if you have a traditional library space and no money for rennovation" etc.? Their answer is Podcamp "an open space volunteer-driven unconference".
This is the website for the free one-day Podcamp 2012 As with all podcamps, the participants provide the content. Examples include some IL-related issues e.g. Twitter unleashed; Social media safety; OccupyNS [NS=Nova Scotia] and the use of social media in the Occupy movement; You Will Create a Tumblelog Before This Is Done. The library provides space, but presenters bring their own equipment. The podcamp attracts a range of ages and both men and women. Benefits include extending the reach of the library, to non-traditional users. It builds the library's image and generates publicity (in mainstream and new media). They think the idea could be extended to different themes e.g. bookcamp, multiculturism.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Amartya Sen Considers the Europe Question

Sen adds his voice to the worries about the pressures on European democracy:

If democracy has been one of the strong commitments with which Europe emerged in the 1940s, an understanding of the necessity of social security and the avoidance of intense social deprivation was surely another. Even if savage cuts in the foundations of the European systems of social justice had been financially inescapable (I do not believe that they were), there was still a need to persuade people that this is indeed the case, rather than trying to carry out such cuts by fiat. The disdain for the public could hardly have been more transparent in many of the chosen ways of European policy-making.

Riots in Amiens

Amiens? Riots? Bienvenu chez les Ch'tis! The riots broke out in one of the newly designated "special security zones." Whether there was an immediate cause remains unclear, but the government is clearly worried that the disturbance may spread, as similar disturbances have in the past. A sign of things to come?
Gilles Demailly, the Socialist mayor of Amiens, told news agencies that “there have been regular incidents here, but it has been years since we’ve known a night as violent as this, with so much damage done.” He said tensions had been mounting in the area.
The clashes involved about 100 youths from a poor district in northern Amiens and up to 150 police officers, who used tear gas and rubber bullets. A nursery school was ransacked and partly burned, as was a community center.
The district, Fasset, is one of 15 special urban zones identified by the Hollande government that are supposed to get more policing next month.

Plenel, Habermas, and the Treaty Formerly Known as "Merkozy"

François Hollande has had a fairly free ride up to now. He has avoided public splashes, and criticism has been mainly muted, except for the occasional tantrum on the Right. But now, from the left side of the spectrum, comes Edwy Plenel, editor of Mediapart, to remind Hollande that he had promised to "renegotiate" the "golden rule," that is, the treaty formerly known as "Merkozy," but is now content to avail himself of the Constitutional Court decision that no ratification or constitutional inscription is needed to swallow the treaty's terms as if they were not in binding (and in fact they are not very binding, as the wording of the pact leaves enormous loopholes). But for Plenel, who cites Habermas in support of his position, Hollande's complacency marks another step in the drift toward a "post-democratic" Europe, in which national electorates are supposed to acquiesce in the irrevocable decisions of technocrats censés savoir:

Ferme partisan du Traité constitutionnel européen (TCE) en 2005, Habermas s’est alarmé en octobre 2011 de l’avènement européen d’une « domination post-démocratique » dont le pacte budgétaire alors en cours d’élaboration serait l’instrument. « Un tel régime, expliquait-il (lire ici la traduction française),permettrait de transférer les impératifs des marchés aux budgets nationaux sans aucune légitimation démocratique propre. Les chefs de gouvernement transformeraient de la sorte le projet européen en son contraire : la première communauté supranationale démocratiquement légalisée deviendrait un arrangement effectif, parce que voilé, d’exercice d’une domination post-démocratique ». « Le joli mot de “gouvernance” n’est qu’un euphémisme pour désigner une forme dure de domination politique », ajoutait-il dans un entretien postérieur.
I expect this discussion to become more heated at the rentrée.

University Reform: Ça continue!

Behind a paywall, Philippe Aghion discusses university reform. Consulted by Pécresse under the ancien régime, Aghion is now consulted by Geneviève Fioraso under the new. Exactly how the reform process may (or may not) be inflected does not emerge clearly from this interview, which is nevertheless worth reading.

Zero Growth Thanks to Rounding Error

"France Escapes Recession," read one headline. Official growth was 0.0%, thanks to rounding up of -0.045 (although any economist will be guffawing to see growth figures reported to 3 decimal places). In any case, the big surprise was in net exports: up to Germany, down to the rest of the world (largely because imports from the rest of the world increased).

71% on the Left Support Dismantling Roma Camps

There's no getting around it: the Roma camps have very little popular support, left or right. So Valls' policy is not likely to meet with much opposition.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Hollande Approval Down to 46%

Governing in a time of crisis is not easy. After 100 days in office, a new poll has Hollande's approval down to 46% and reflects a general pessimism on the part of the public. Indeed, pessimism more than disapproval of Hollande seems to be the driving force here: the French by and large do not see a way out of the crisis and don't expect Hollande to invent one. Realism is the watchword, and realism is not necessarily a bad thing. I think one can also say that Hollande has worked to reduce expectations, since he knows that he is not really in command of what happens to the larger European economy.

Tale of Three Gamers (Skaven Update)

Greetings fellow followers of The Decayed One, it feels ages since I last posted, I must have got lost in Nurgle's garden. In actual fact I have been busy the last few weeks redecorating, however I have a progress update to show you:

Skavenslaves (almost complete)

Recently I have been working on my skavenslaves unit. I now have 6 ranks of slaves completed, so only another 10 slaves to paint for the list :) Currently half the slaves have shields and half don't (this is due to using the starter set for half of them. In time the ones with shields will be a second clan rat unit, and I will paint up more scabby ones as slaves without shields).

You may notice a skink which my girlfriend painted for me, and also a couple of night goblins who have been strung along into the horde (through no choice of their own I'm sure). I'm hoping to add another couple of non-ratty types to the group as well as more rats with whips to herd them on.

So as for the progress updates here are all the models I have painted so far for my list:

Rat Ogres and Packmaster (Complete)

Stormvermin (9 more to paint)

Clanrats with spears and shields (19 more to paint)
My list is starting to come together, but still a lot of rats left to get through. I'm currently halfway through painting the Warlock Engineer and the Poisoned Wind Mortar team (trying out a new technique on the warlock's halberd too, so hopefully that will come off well), but am on holiday next week, so no painting :( but lots of sun and fun :)

Until next time...

Hollande Expels Illegal Roma

The Times:

“We’re dismayed,” Yann Lafolie, president of L’Atelier Solidaire, a Roma support organization, told Le Monde, adding: “There are many children who will be sleeping on the street tonight. Sarkozy never expelled us. In the end, it was the Socialists who did.”

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Comparing Presidencies at 100 Days

So, Hollande has passed his first hundred days. If any of you readers are obsessive enough to monitor my blogging output, you will probably find that the average number of posts per day has diminished since the election rather than increased. Indeed, my output is probably at a nadir in the five years that I have been keeping this blog.

It's interesting to compare the past three months with Sarkozy's first hundred days. To be sure, the blog was new back in August of 2007. Blogging fatigue had not yet set in, and I was still eager to build an audience, so much so that I recall blogging from hotel lobbies in Greece while on vacation, lest I miss a day's news and disappoint my then small but dedicated band of readers. But still, there was no shortage of news to fill my day's quota of posts. Sarkozy was a president who believed that in every presidency there is but a brief window of opportunity to lay down the broad outlines of policy change. He was determined to make his mark at the outset, and practically every day brought a new announcement. To be sure, governing by press release (le coup d'éclat permanent, as François Hollande quipped at the time) turned out to be not only the essence of the Sarkozy style but also the Achilles' heel. There was no follow-through.

Five years later, things could not be more different. The change is not solely due to blogging fatigue. And I think that Hollande's self-effacement is not just a matter of temperament; it's an entirely different philosophy of government. He seems to have rejected the whole "100-day shock therapy" approach. He thinks that the way to lasting change is to build consensus (in his own notoriously fractious camp, not across the board, which would be impossible), and this takes time. He knows that he can make headlines whenever he chooses--he did so during the campaign with his announcement of a 75% maximum marginal income tax rate, for example (see yesterday's post on the subject)--but he has also concluded that getting in people's faces this way gets their backs up too often and is ultimately unproductive. So he's moving slowly and cautiously and unobtrusively. And therefore, most days, there is precious little to blog about the chief executive, unless one wants to recount his trek across the beach, fully clothed, near the Fort de Bregançon.

The news, such as it is, is the inexorable news of economic austerity, currency crisis, and continental drift. A factory closing here, layoffs there, an ECB announcement one day, a "petite phrase" from Juncker the next (a Greek exit from the euro would be "manageable," the financial wizard tells us--yet another nail in Greece's coffin, even as Draghi hints that no one will leave the Eurozone on his watch), etc. etc. August is of course the cruelest month for newshounds, but this August seems particularly quiet, an ominous lull before what I expect will be a fall storm in Euroland.

The tale of two presidencies is thus inconclusive. We know that Sarkozy's shock therapy didn't work, but we don't yet know whether Hollande's "return to normalcy" will fare any better than Warren G. Harding's.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Sarkozy Calls for French Intervention in Syria

Tradition has it that ex-presidents do not directly criticize the foreign policy of sitting presidents, but Sarkozy has broken with tradition. "In Libya, at least, I acted." There is all of Sarkozy in a nutshell: "action" is the premier value, whereas "consequences" matter only to the commentariat.

Will there be an intervention in Syria? Pressure for action is mounting in the US as well as France, but to date the abundant reasons for caution still appear to be preponderant. How much longer this will be the case is hard to say. Perhaps Sarkozy has rightly interpreted the signs of an impending shift and wants to be on record as having pointed the way. But then again, the Assad regime may collapse without intervention. The defection of the prime minister is surely a sign, although the massive counteroffensive in Aleppo is a contrary sign. In any case, Hollande does not seem inclined to take the lead in forming a coalition for action, as Sarkozy did in Libya. Is this due to the difference in the temperaments of the two presidents, or to the differences in the two situations? I find it impossible to judge.

The Travails of Wealth

Imposing a 75% top marginal rate on incomes over €1 million has surely brought François Hollande a lot of attention, in addition, presumably, to some number of votes in the election, which may well have contributed to his margin of victory. The New York Times takes notice of the policy today with a certain amount of the usual disbelief: "What? 75%, you say? Can they get away with that?" In search of proof that such a "confiscatory" tax rate will wreck the French economy, the Times intrepidly sets out in search of tax accountants and their clients. But despite a good deal of heavy breathing, it doesn't come up with much:
“Should I be preparing to leave the country?” the executive asked Mr. Grandil.
The lawyer’s counsel: Wait and see. For now, at least.
Or, to get right down to the nitty gritty, we can look at actual numbers:
A tax accountant in Paris with many wealthy clients, Steve Horton, has calculated that a two-parent, two-child household with taxable annual income of a bit more than 2.22 million euros ($2.75 million) now has after-tax take-home pay of about 1.1 million euros ($1.35 million) under France’s current tax system.
That household would end up with 780,000 euros, or $966,000, if the Hollande tax took effect, Mr. Horton says. (The same family, with comparable income in Manhattan, would take home $1.55 million, the dollar equivalent of 1.25 million euros, after paying federal, state and city income taxes, he calculated.)
"Confiscation" looks a little less bleak now. A family of four should be able to get by on $966,000 after taxes, even in Paris. Perhaps the rich won't be forced to avail themselves of the privilege they share with the poor, to sleep under bridges, after all. And if Johnny Hallyday and Laetitia Casta decide to make their homes elsewhere, France will still have Sylvie Vartan and Sophie Marceau to console itself.

But what about the disincentivizing effect of high marginal tax rates, you ask? It's not clear that there are any, but economists convinced that entrepreneurs will go on strike if limited to a million a year will now have a natural experiment with which to prove their contention, if only they can somehow control for all the potential confounding variables, which are legion. To me, it's always seemed that one of the great attractions of building a company is the power that goes with controlling it. The income is nice, to be sure, but power, they say, is the greater aphrodisiac.

Bad Economic News

The Banque de France predicts that the French economy will enter into recession in the third quarter. Meanwhile, Freescale, the semiconductor manufacturer, has laid off 500 at its Toulouse plant, which manufactured semiconductors for the ailing auto industry using what the firm's American management calls an obsolete technology. Freescale will continue R&D operations at the site, however.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Aegis Defence Line Work In Progress

Good evening children of the Plague Father and thank you for joining us once again in our pestilent paradise found deep within his garden of decay. Today I would like to present to you my progress on an Aegis Defence line I picked up before the latest price increase and with a 20% discount to boot so was a steal.

I planned to do a simple scheme on this and knock it out fairly swiftly as a test model for my airbursh. I started by priming it black then giving it a coat of Burnt Umber. Next I applied Yellow Ochre as when thinned down ( possibly too much ) it took on the colour of Desert Yellow however straight from the bottle it is much brighter.

From here I intended to hit it with a wash and then pick out the Aquila and I would be done but then disaster struck and I search for pictures of other Aegis Defence Lines for "inspiration" and found among the hordes done in the Games Workshop method I had intended to use I saw a beautiful example where the painter had picked out the reinforced sections and graffiti painted on.

Now this got me raiding the paint chest for a metallic colour to work against the flat panels and decided that copper would do the job nicely with it being such a warm looking metal for my desert board. After picking out the detail front and back then using Dhenab Stone for the Aquila I applied a Sepia wash.

Now this is where I have got to so far but real life has gotten in the way recently and posting and hobby time took a big hit. Hopefully I will be able to get back on track as this still needs the bullet holes darkening and possibly a soot effect adding to them and the panels giving a bit more depth  (not to mention the small matter of the autocannon that is sat waiting to be sprayed ).

Until next time keep spreading his noxious touch to all you meet.