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Dispatches Quick Takes


French firestorm

Jean-Marie Le Pen's shocking second-place finish in last month's presidential election in France left Europe stunned. The Euroleft is raging with anger and disbelief as the ultra-nationalist National Front leader heads into a runoff against the incumbent president, Jacques Chirac. Columnist John O'Sullivan writes in the Chicago Sun-Times that the upset is a backlash against the arrogance of France's socialist elites. The far right actually took votes from the far left. "Embarrassing though it is to the left," writes Mr. O'Sullivan, "much of Le Pen's support comes from traditionally Socialist and Communist working-class strongholds which have suffered most from crime and from the low-wage competition of Muslim immigrants-and which are often strongholds of France's republican patriotism and so skeptical of the Euro-nationalism that places Brussels before Paris." The columnist concludes that Mr. Le Pen's popularity results from a political vacuum created by the failure of the French right to build a mainstream conservative movement in the Reagan/Thatcher vein. Left without an acceptable alternative, fed-up French voters turned to the extreme. Mr. O'Sullivan speculates that one day a non-extremist could offer a new agenda-"the standard conservative themes of lower taxes, less government, welfare reform, education vouchers, and so on"-to the French public and find great success.

Just another radio network

NPR has shocked many of its listeners by revamping its programming, moving away from high culture to pop culture. James Bowman complains in The Wall Street Journal that NPR has listened to marketing consultants who say that classical and jazz attract the wrong demographics: "We've come to the end of an era in high culture." He notes that "Classical music, what most people still associate with public radio, hasn't much of a business side anymore, and little of what it does have is on the West Coast. Looks like Beethoven is rolling over again."

Pristine development

The Senate last month shot down plans to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling, but debate on the issue continues. ANWR "is described, by people more passionately devoted to preserving it than visiting it, as pristine," writes columnist George Will. "Yes, and the moon's surface is pristine. Except ANWR is less so, because the moon does not have-as ANWR's coastal plain, where the drilling would occur, does-roads, military installations, an airstrip, a school, houses, stores." Mr. Will also brushed aside claims that drilling would hurt the caribou population. "The herds have tripled in the three decades since opponents of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline said it would interfere with the caribou's reproduction," he notes.

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