Monday, May 7, 2007

It's Sarkozy

Nicolas Sarkozy swept to victory yesterday in an election that saw 85% of eligible French voters turn out. He's the first mainstream candidate to run openly as a conservative in France in generations and his election signals a deep discontent with the political and social status quo in that nation. The Washington Post says that Sarkozy in his victory speech proclaimed that:

An unabashed admirer of America, Sarkozy, 52, had a special message for the United States, which has had troubled relations with France under President Jacques Chirac, who led international opposition to the U.S. war in Iraq.

"I'd like to appeal to our American friends to say that they can count on our friendship," he said. "But I would also like to say that friendship means accepting that your friends don't necessarily see eye to eye with you."

France's economy is troubled due largely to a 35 hour work week, the inability to fire slackers, and an onerous welfare system. According to the Post:

[Sarkozy's] election signals a shift to the right in French politics and could herald a major transition for French society. Sarkozy has promised to boost economic growth and employment by cutting taxes, reducing deficits, shrinking government and loosening labor laws -- the kind of free-market policies embraced by the United States and Britain, but long eschewed by French leaders.

In selecting the passionate, pragmatic and pugnacious Sarkozy, who is a lawyer by training, voters rejected Royal's prescription of continuing big spending programs to protect and expand France's vast social welfare state.

Another festering problem in Franmce is immigration and the emergence of a highly alienated underclass of North African Muslims among whom joblessness and poverty are commonplace.

Sarkozy, who takes office May 16, has promised tough law-and-order measures and tighter immigration controls that many opponents fear could alienate the country's underclasses and fuel social tensions. Opinion polls throughout the election showed that large numbers of voters were concerned that Sarkozy had an authoritarian streak that could fracture French society.

So, for some voters the choice was between solving very serious problems at the risk of stirring up popular discontent or maintaining social order and allowing the problems to fester and worsen. Most French voters, to their credit, apparently opted for the first course.


Great Ape Project

Ryan passes along a link to the site of an organization called the Great Ape Project, whose goal it is to secure for the great apes the same basic rights as humans award themselves. They say on their site that:

The Great Ape Project seeks to end the unconscionable treatment of our nearest living relatives by obtaining for non-human great apes the fundamental moral and legal protections of the right to life, the freedom from arbitrary deprivation of liberty, and protection from torture.

Now no one could object to protecting these animals from torture and gratuitous killing, but if they are given the right to freedom from arbitrary deprivation of liberty that would mean that it would be a violation of their legal rights to put them in zoos. I'm not sure what I think about that.

I also wonder where the granting of such rights would stop. Once we give rights to apes do we put ourselves on a slippery slope that winds up conferring similar rights on all mammals? All vertebrates? If not, why not?

Another question that occurs to me is upon what are such rights as the apes are said to deserve based? Where do the apes' rights come from? As with humans, rights are based either upon the fact that we are creatures of God and thus have worth and dignity or they are based on nothing more than the arbitrary preference of those who advocate for them.

If it's the former then, as stewards of God's creation, we have the responsibility to care for what He cares about. If it's the latter that is to serve as the ground for the apes' rights, however, then I'm afraid that these grand animals will gain little lasting benefit from the efforts of their advocates.


Rare Bird

A very rare bird, a Yellow-billed loon, has been gracing the Susquehanna river in Wormleysburg, PA for the past couple of days. The bird breeds in the arctic along the north slope of Alaska, and although it is sometimes spotted off the Atlantic coast, it is extremely rare inland. It is even rarer to find one in breeding plumage so close to shore and so easy to view.

People have come from all over the east to see it, and as far as I know, no one who has come for it has failed to observe it.

For those not able or not interested in making the drive, here's a photo courtesy of Thomas Brodie Johnson.