February 2007

Politics26 Feb 2007 at 16:39 by Jean-Marc Liotier

Observers outside of France may wonder what is the story about François Bayrou. The centrist candidate has been patiently building up popular support for a while, mostly ignored by mainstream media. This popular support is now reaching critical mass and suddenly can’t be conveniently brushed aside anymore. The third man is the elephant in the bi-partisan room ! Articles about François Bayrou are now mushrooming in the press and an even better sign is that direct attacks against him are being more frequently mounted by other candidates.

If that sound like an interesting phenomenon to you, you may want to read “French Presidential Elections Turning Point“, the article Demian West has written at Agoravox, a leading site for French political commentary (don’t let the low activity of the English version fool you : the action is mostly on the French speaking side).

Demian West describes the story so far with the eyes of a centrist sympathizer. This is of course a biased view, but it paints very well the hopes of a growing number of French voters with rising odds of handing the French politicians the surprise of their carreers.

Since that article is released under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial license I reproduce it here in its integrality.

“In the upcoming French Presidential Elections 2007, a huge upset surged in the medias and in the polls. Nobody could foresee the smashing increasing popularity of the candidate of the Centre Party UDF, the so-called “third man” François Bayrou. Last week-end, this change outbroke upon the whole mainstream of the media. Before the change, some of Bayrou’s contenders spoke easily about his “foolish poetry”, or about his “definitive non-existent policy”. As a matter of fact, right and left-wing contenders tried to ridiculise Bayrou, spreading out an image of the centrist party usually lowered by the media and politics head-quarters as a weakened go-between force. Thus traditionally, the Center Party should help and back the greatest right party Sarkozy’s UMP, but the center should never win.

In the meantime slowly but surely, the christian-democrat François Bayrou has moved the campaign at a new stake. Actually, silently he has built a Center Party which seems now totally free and independant. And, that’s the very reason he becomes suddenly a real threat for his two leading contenders Segolene and Sarkozy. Last week, Bayrou surged in the polls, gaining one more point per day, from 15 % to 16 % yesterday and 17% today, according to CSA. In fact, Sarko and Sego (the nickname of the bi-partism leaders) launched tough attacks against Bayrou the centrist leader. In some issues, the socialist candidate Segolene expressed frontly agressive and castigating speeches : “the center stays nowhere at all”, she said. But, one can see remaining residual and adventurous risk in this sort of tough behaviour in the political theater. Because, the socialist left-of-the-left trots’ and the right law-and-order Sarkozy both will need the whole transfer of the Bayrou supports and votes, which are the leading key to open the second round victory out of the ballot-box.

On the other hand, last days the polls announced that Bayrou should certainly win the elections against respectively Segolene or Sarko, in second round race. So, the crushing dilemma is : wether Sarkozy or Segolene could win some points by the bias of hard-criticism against the Centrist candidate ; on the contrary, they could lost one point for each dirty tricks against Bayrou. Because the french people do really show favour to the personality of Bayrou, who stands firmly as a hero between mythical agriculture and classical culture.

Howewer, the french people see Sarkozy as the symbol of the former policy unfresh and unattractive, whose supports are now declining. And Segolene Royal evokes some overwhelming stately figure of François Mitterrand the former socialist President, alike a blatant statue of a great Trotskyist Commandator throwing tormenting fear upon every don juanic frenchman. Nevertheless, the Bayrou’s model is Quinctius Cincinnatus, the republican roman farmer. In the early roman history, the Senate pleaded with Cincinnatus to assume political power and to save Rome. Then, within sixteen days he defeated the Aequi and the Volscians. Finally, he resignates absolute authority and he returns towards his fields as an humble ploughman. This classical gesture became the mythical “exemplum virtutis” or exemple of the best and highest moral virtue, who led french people towards French Revolution in the late XVIIIth century. More, Bayrou is a biographer of Henry the Fourth, the beloved king who reconciliate the Catholic Party with the Protestant rebellion, during the french Renaissance : as the modello of the National Unity.

Undoubtly we are at a turning point in the presidential race, when intimately the humane speech of Bayrou crushed down the huge media-machine of the two former leaders Sego-Sarko. According to the polls, the french people are waiting for some self-confidence in their own history and culture, as the very motor of a real political change. And therefore, they picked up great humane exemples in their rich past. Thus, they want to recover some revival of the “grandeur” of french spirit beyond economic difficulties. Finally, the presidential election seems to deal with some idea of recovering-hope. And the mainstream of reconciliation could flow out of that ballot-box in the center of this political drama”.

Politics25 Feb 2007 at 12:32 by Jean-Marc Liotier

The Times of UK in its 21st February edition featured an article by Charles Bremner with a rather spectacular title : “President Bayrou of France” ! This article is part of the latest wave of articles by the foreign press who recognizes that something unusual and important is happening in France : a deep wave that has a chance to break the deadlock of French politics by imposing an open and pragmatic way to tackle issues. Here are an extract :

“When President Chirac was re-elected in 2002, Bayrou committed what looked like political suicide by refusing to merge the UDF with the Gaullists with whom it had long been junior partner. A majority of his MPs deserted for the new Union for a Popular Majority, Sarkozy’s party, and Bayrou turned the rump UDF into an anti-establishment force.

He recast himself as scourge of both government and Socialist opposition and the elite that runs France. Playing up his rural roots, the former cabinet minister has been crusading against an establishment that he likens to the absolute monarchy of the ancien regime. Sarko and Ségo, both senior members of the Paris elite, sing a similar song of course. But Bayrou has a better argument for casting himself as an outsider and he is also offering a consensual alternative to France’s permanent class war. He wants to “shatter the glass wall that divides the two clans” and create a government of national unity. His ideas sound sensible: reform education, cut spending and encourage business while also maintaining France’s cherished welfare state. To the fury of both the Sarkozistes and the Royalistes, he announced this week that as president, he would appoint a prime minister from the centre-left. The ideal, he said, would be a younger version of Jacques Delors, the former minister and EU Commission chief.

“You can’t do that”, they screamed from both big camps. Political reality excludes such fantasies. “Oh yes I can”, said Bayrou, pointing to Charles de Gaulle and other past leaders who appointed cross-party governments. To puncture the Bayrou bubble, Sarko and Ségo are now turning their guns on the mosquito who has got in the way of their showdown”.

Politics23 Feb 2007 at 15:59 by Jean-Marc Liotier

In an article dated from the 21st Fbruary in dans The Gardian, Marcel Berlins bets that François Bayrou will be the next French President :

“Take my advice, immediately. Rush to your nearest betting shop and place a bet that the next president of France will be called François Bayrou, about whom you may not know much. Unfortunately, Messrs Ladbroke, William Hill and Paddy Power may be equally ignorant of M Bayrou and will refuse to take your bet, so you may have to treat it as a virtual wager. Never mind, it’s the thought that counts; and that thought should be to forget all about Nicolas Sarkozy and Ségolène Royal and resign yourself to a French leader with even less charisma than the next British prime minister.

Here’s the reason. The polls show that, if Bayrou were to get into the second round of the presidential election, he would beat his opponent, whether Sarkozy or Royal, and on May 7 become Jacques Chirac’s successor. So Bayrou’s problem is to find a way of being runner-up in the first round. Until recently, that seemed impossible. The final looked like a certain contest between Sarko and Sego, destined to be close. That was until Royal decided to enter self-destruct mode, carelessly whittling away the public support she had gained in the early, heady days of her candidature.She will find it difficult to recover from the failure of her “100 promises” speech to inspire, followed by Monday evening’s performance on French television. I have seen only excerpts, but from everything I have been told and read there seems to be a consensus that – discounting the biased views of both her implacable enemies and her sycophantic supporters – she was reasonably relaxed, competent in presentation, and made no specific mistakes. But – and it is an essential but – she was not exciting, charismatic or possessed of obvious leadership qualities. She needed to be sparkling to revive her campaign and reverse her decline in popularity. She wasn’t.

Enter Bayrou, who has been patiently waiting for just such an opportunity. His ratings in public opinion polls has been rising quietly but significantly. Before Royal’s television appearance he had reached 16% for the first round on April 22, against her 23%. (Le Pen looks out of the running; his shock second place in the 2002 elections will not be repeated.) But Bayrou’s graph is on the up whereas Royal’s is sliding; the gap is far from unbridgeable. Moreover, if the polls keep showing that Royal will be easily beaten by Sarkozy in a run-off, I see a flight of socialists to Bayrou in the first round, to ensure that he makes the final, with an excellent chance of winning. The other day, a separate poll showed that 55% hoped that he would reach the second round.

He may not be well known abroad, but he has long been a fixture in French politics – leader of the third largest party in the national assembly, the centrist UDF (Union for French Democracy), a former minister for education and a candidate in the 2002 presidential elections; he came fourth. He is 55, from an agricultural background near the Pyrenees, has six children, loves and breeds horses, and has written several books, mainly on French history. His manner is usually subdued (though his speeches have recently acquired a more emphatic delivery), and his policies are worthy without any hint of excitement or great originality. He calls for a government of national unity; he is at his most impressive when castigating the political elite and the media for being out of touch with the people.

How could the French possibly elect someone they have found so uninspiring for so long? Easy. Because half the country hates Sarkozy, and the other half can’t stand Royal, or at least finds her unsuitable for the highest office. The election will be fought largely on the “Anyone but …” principle. My money says that the “anyone” will be Bayrou”.

Code and Systems and Writing02 Feb 2007 at 16:16 by Jean-Marc Liotier

My last rant about Openoffice’s lack of a proper outline mode apparently struck a chord if I judge from the number of pageviews and the reactions I gathered. If, like me, you eagerly await this functionality you will be happy to learn that some recent activity around Openoffice Writer’s longstanding issue 3959 aka “Outline View (aka MS Word)” has provided us with some hope.

Mathias Bauer, project lead of the OpenOffice.org Application Framework and manager of the teams for the application framework, Math and Writer posted this morning a summary of the state of the visions about Writer Views with an encouraging comment :

“I hope it gives you some understanding why such a feature is quite some work to do and what must be done in Writer before we could even start. I agree with everybody here that this is an important feature and so does the whole team. This is one of the bigger features that we will try to implement as soon as some resources will be available”.

As he says : What users call a “View” in Writer is what the developers call a “Layout” – the orientation and positioning of the textual and non-textual content on an output device. The outline mode would be one of those views.

What Mathias summarized about why there should be an Openoffice Writer outline mode :

  • “Brainstorming” the structure of a document to create initial hierarchy
  • Easy tool for developing and changing document structure
  • Prioritize, arrange and rearrange ideas hierarchical; add details later
  • Focus on content, no layout should distract from content
  • Chose level of details visible in any part of the document

The current state of the proposal about what an Openoffice Writer outline mode should do :

  • Present structure of a document (paragraphs, chapters, sections)
  • Text indentations created from level of structural element
  • Normal text should be displayed below its heading
  • No margins
  • No page breaks visible
  • No preferred way of text wrapping; open for discussions
  • No display of page bound elements (header/footer, objects anchored at a page)
  • No preferred way of treating any non-textual content; why not display it?
  • No preferred way of treating formatting; why not display it?
  • Additional control elements that allow to promote/demote paragraphs, fold/unfold structural elements
  • Creating, moving and deleting structural elements by keyboard commands or D&D

But implementing this feature will not be a trivial endeavour. Some important preliminary infrastructural work is required :

“There is a particular problem in Writer that needs to be solved before it makes sense to implement more views. A Writer documents always has one layout. If the user switches from “Print Layout” to “Online Layout” the old layout is thrown away and the new layout for the complete document is calculated. On switching back the same happens again. This can become quite annoying when new layouts are used that let switching between layouts happen more often. Perhaps it might also be attractive to have two different layouts visible at a time in two different windows, e.g. Outline Layout and Print Layout. [..] So we should investigate first if we can change the code in a way that it can handle more than one Layout at a time. This will make the implementation of new layouts better and their usage more attractive”.

Multiple simultaneous views ! Not only did the OO team listen, but their ambitions go beyond the requests. Of course, acknowledging the requirements is only a first step, but it is an essential one and I am glad that it has been taken.

Mathias prudently added :

“I want to make clear that my comment wasn’t a promise that we start to work on this immediately – we are just busy with other also important things (bug fixing, ODF support, OOXML filter etc.). But I wanted to let you know that the whole Writer team agrees with you that the Outline View is one of the most important missing features in Writer. Unfortunately it is quite some work to do, especially if you don’t want to just hack the feature but develop an improved Writer view concept. So my plan is to implement the necessary preconditions mentioned in the wiki as soon as time will permit and then start writing the specs. ATM I can’t tell when this will happen, so please be patient with us”.

If you want to be informed as soon as this issue moves you can subscribe to Openoffice Writer’s issue 3959. If you can help in any way, please be sure to leave a note about it !