Tuesday, May 31, 2011

31 May 2011: News of the day

In Le Parisien, the top story is about the SNCF's efforts to fight fare dodgers by creating bonuses for controllers who rake in the fines. The French don't like quotas and targets for meter maids and the like, just like they don't like speed radars. The fact that you can avoid any problems by paying for your train ticket, putting money in the parking meter, and driving under the speed limit hasn't occurred to them.

But one of the problems with this is that the controllers go after the easy targets. In ambiguous cases (like if it's well known that the vending machines in a station don't work, and you go to the controller when you board and explain that you weren't able to buy a ticket, they will apply a penalty when they sell you a ticket) they'll go hard on you. And they refuse to go after young people, especially young men, especially young men from bad neighborhoods, who risk to react violently (despite the fact that they are very likely to have boarded without a ticket).

A sales clerk in a department store has been fired after insulting Nadine Morano, the fishwife-cum-junior minister. Morano complained to management of the store after the clerk cried out "Morano's in the house! Who wants to punch her out?" Clerk claims it was a joke, proof again that humor should be left to professionals. Sarkozy and friends have been very prompt to use laws more suited to the Ancien Régime's crime of lèse-majesté (including suing the guy who made the Sarkozy voodoo doll, or the guy who brandished a sign saying "sod off, you asshole" during a visit by Sarkozy, using words Sarkozy himself had earlier used during a visit to the national farm show), but I'll give Morano a break here. Calling for physical violence against a person in the store is probably a firing offence.

The employers' union is firing full bore against Sarkozy's demagogic "dividend bonus", requiring firm that increased their dividends last year to talk about maybe paying a bonus to well-paid employees. The labor unions are also opposed, because these bonuses will treat employees very differently depending on whether their employers are listed firms or not, whether they paid dividends or not, etc., and will also give employers an argument to be stingy in general pay rises that are distributed more fairly.

An interview with Carlos Ghosn who says he'll be spending more time in France, after several black eyes for Renault. While waiting for a blood test, I read an oldish news magazine with an interview with Ghosn about the accusations of industrial espionnage against some employees. They were very serious accusations, and Ghosn was defending the firm and himself by claiming that they weren't amateurs. As it turned out, it was a complete fake, and Renault were total amateurs playing at James Bond, and they had to issue public apologies to the employees in question and will be paying out millions in damages... But Ghosn is a pro, for sure.

The right-wing guilt trip tax of making workers give a day's labor for free is still causing problems, particularly in schools. The default day is Ascension (this Thursday). Example in Paris: primary schools will be open Wednesday (usually a day off) and will be closed on Thursday for the holiday, and Friday to make a long weekend (a day replaced by Wednesday). And for older children in junior high, the choice of having Friday off or not is made by the school principal. As for high schools, they will all be open on Friday. So tough luck for families who want to go away for a long weekend. For the future, it's all part of another major change in school schedules, to move away from the stupid, stupid, stupid four-day week (kids never had school on Wednesday, but had a half day on Saturday, which was hated by some parents, loved by others who got their weekly nooky then).

Police used tear gas on people protesting the killing by a gendarme of a child (and the wounding of many others) when his vehicle hit a group of students crossing a road to play rugby. Lots of BS from the gendarmes on this one: he was coming back from the G8 (no he wasn't), he was in an official vehicle (yes, but unmarked), he slid on an oil slick on the road (which doesn't seem to exist)... How about he didn't give a shit, and at worst will get a suspended sentence?

Some French scientists have made a Harry Potter Invisibility Cloak. Put a rabbit inside this ring, and you see through the ring and the rabbit to objects beyond.

In Nice the banks are carrying out a pilot project for RFID credit cards that can be used without a PIN for transactions up to 20 euros in value. Interesting.

Major drama backstage at the Line Renaud concert at the Olympia. Johnny Hallyday, our national treasure, tried to say hi to Line before her show. Her producer, Jean-Claude Camus, didn't want her disturbed and blocked access to her dressing room. As it happens, Camus was also Johnny's producer and best friend until a dramatic break up a matter of months ago. Johnny tried to force his way into the dressing room, Camus blocked him, Johnny's entourage pulled him away. Wishing Johnny would just go away.

The contract for the new defense ministry at Balard has been signed. Called the "French Pentagon", the buildings will be shaped like a hexagon, an homage to both the nickname of France (supposedly shaped like a hexagon) and the US Pentagon.

Story on the satirical award to be given tonight to the worst urban development project in Paris. I'll be there, voting (probably) for the Grand Ecran Italie. I'm close to "Sauvons le Grand Ecran", but there are plenty of other doozies, including the Halles, and the Jean Bouin stadium (great to have a spanking new rugby stadium, but will harm local sport, and is crazy because there's the Parc des Princes available next door... Jean Bouin would make some sense if it could be used for the French Open tennis tournament, but that's not the case).

A landlord has not been paid since January for a dwelling occupied by a gendarme. After getting no response from the ministry, the agency in charge finally hired a lawyer. The ministry claims a "computer problem" delayed payments... but still hasn't paid.

Once again, modern art at the palace of Versailles is causing the conservative creepos greybeards of the town to get all hot and bothered. This time it's a temporary installation of works (gigantic, to be sure) of Bernar Venet that are getting them all ready to protest and sue and whatever (and lose, again). The retrograde folks would be happy if only white people with de's in their names were allowed to set foot on the grounds. Their defense of a non-existent purity of Versailles is laughable. Expo info HERE.

The city of Fontenay aux Roses is owed 16 million euros from the government for unpaid local taxes by the Atomic Energy Commission. Heee.

And in the stupidest news of the day, French TV channels are now banned from saying "follow us on Facebook" or "our Twitter address is @xyz". Apparently the CSA, the equivalent of the FCC, thinks this is advertising, which is banned within programs on French TV (except when we do an entire show on the latest Airbus jet). So by this logic, they can't do shows about the latest Renault, etc. They are seriously fucked up at the CSA.


Monday, May 30, 2011

30 May 2011: News of the day

In the local section of Le Parisien, we have the complaints of neighbors of Les Halles, where the wasteful, useless exhorbitant destruction/renovation is taking place. They managed to get the workers to avoid using jackhammers before 7am. I work at home so get up after 7am most days. I wouldn't be happy waking up each morning to the sound of jackhammers, for months on end. (And since most people don't have A/C, you keep your windows open all day).

It's the 50th anniversary of the first fast food in Paris. It was a Wimpy. What happened to Wimpy in France? I first saw them in Quebec City of all places.

The big story is the latest fad diet, that of "Professor Dukan". It sounds like Atkins with more carbs. And he is particularly tough on pregnant women, who become "obese" because they gain weight during their pregnancy. He recommends lots of fish, whereas public health authorities recommend that pregnant women eat as little fish as possible, in particular fatty fishes, which accumulate heavy metals, mercury, etc.

So Georges Tron is out as minister, but is hanging on as mayor. The opposition calls for the State Prefect to take over the admnisitration of the city of Draveil, because many of the victims or witnesses are employees of the city, hired by Tron. Meanwhile, Tron claims that it's all a put up job the National Front. He claims that a local group that opposes his development projects is a front for the National Front (when in fact, this group ran candidates against the National Front in the last elections). And that the lawyer for the women accusing him is Gilbert Collard, notorious media whore, and close to the National Front.

The Tron story gives an opportunity to look at sexism in the National Assembly, and it's not a pretty sight, with comments like "Dressed like that, you're gonna get raped", from a male MP to a female MP wearing heels, or a male MP responding to a request to pass her a file that he will if she fucks him...

The national consumer protection agency has found (surprise!) that oil companies raise prices when crude oil goes up, but barely lower them when prices go down. The government says it may intervene to force the companies to lower prices. I'll believe that one when I see it.

The great 2010 Love Lock mystery remains unsolved. A year ago, the love locks on the Pont des Arts were removed overnight. The city claims it had nothing to do with it, despite complaining about it. Now the favorite spot is the Pont de l'Archévêché behind Notre Dame, followed by the footbridge between Tuileries and the Musée d'Orsay, where people place them in straight lines. It looks nice (see photo above, and more HERE.)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

I had a dream, and so did Jimmy

My strange dream, and Jimmy's strange dream, part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

29 May 2011: News of the day

How do you know the DSK story's going cold? Cuz mass murderer of his family, the heterosexual Xavier de Ligonnès is back as the top story. Guess what: there's nothing new. But we still get to learn that he might have gotten away with offing his family if the police hadn't been so thorough in searching his home.

We learn that his wife (whom he killed) may have been aware of the plan to disappear. A supposition based solely on the fact that one of the letters used by Ligonnès to announce the family's departure was a typewritten letter signed in her hand. Let's see: manipulative murderous liar gets his wife to sign a blank sheet of paper, or she is an accomplice in the murder of her children. Hmmmm....

Also suspect, his mother, the founder of a Catholic apocalyptic sect.

It's Mother's Day in France. Did you know that every single asshole in the world had a mother?

DSK coverage focuses on the fortune of his wife, Anne Sinclair, whose grandfather Paul Rosenberg was the art dealer who was already very successful before fleeing France for NYC during WWII.

Foot-fetishist/minister/reflexologist Georges Tron is going to have trouble hanging on as minister and mayor. Hee.

In France, only close direct family members can be a living organ donor (kidneys for example). That will change with the new bioethics law, which extends the scope of possible donors to people with a close connection. It's amazing how regressive the French are with organ donations, blood donations, insemination, surrogacy, etc.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

28 May 2011: News of the day

Reading the good ol' Parisien.

The bowling alley at Porte de Champerret is in danger. Bowling alleys use too much space to be profitable within the city. Two have closed already, and the largest, Porte de la Chapelle, is under threat from urban renewal plans (and would already be gone if Paris had won its bid for the Olympics).

Reflexologist/foot fetishist minister and mayor Georges Tron gets two pages. Not quite DSK-levels, but still not bad. He's probably gonna have to resign, to avoid more embarrassment for the government.

Other ministers are joining in on the attack on immigrant children. Surprise!

Friday, May 27, 2011

27 May 2011: News of the day

Top story: French youth no longer no how to drink, they get sopping drunk and die. I say: Darwin Awards for all (except for the innocents killed by drunken youth drivers).

Racist minister of the interior (police) Claude Guéant continues dog whistling (well, more like wolf whistling) to the fascist xenophobes his master Sarkozy needs to win the elections next year. One of his new lies is about the educational failure of immigrant children. First he claimed that two-thirds of school failers (whatever that means) were children of immigrants. Now he claims that it's two-thirds of immigrant children who are school failers. Neither "statistic" comes from anywhere other than his ass. A report from the OECD points to the poverty of immigrants, and the failure of the State (ahem, run by Guéant and friends) to educate them properly. In fact, when correcting for socio-economic status, immigrant children do better than natives.

The big story from the G8 in Deauville is that Carla Sarkozy is preggers, and is showing off her "baby bump" right and left. VIDEO SPECIAL IN LE PARISIEN: "Carla at the G8, visibly pregnant!".

The French have discovered PACs, or as they call them, "micro-parties". They make it easier to raise money for campaigns, but are criticized for their lack of transparency. They first made the headlines when we learned that former budget minister and friend of the rich Eric Woerth had a few.

The Socialists decided to have "American-style" primaries for their presidential candidate (be careful what you wish for). But these elections won't be run by the municipalities, as are all other elections; they'll be run by the part itself. But they somehow thought that they could get free access to the polling places and the electoral lists. Now some cities and the State prefects are being less than cooperative. While they are being uncooperative for political reasons, just what made the PS think they could make this happen?

Frozen embryos are causing problems. Even non-religious folks don't want the unused embryos they suffered so much to produce to be destroyed (or even donated). And the parliament has voted against using them for scientific research. The French are supposedly so advanced, but in anything to do with "families" they are very Catho-retrograde. Vasectomies were long illegal. Surrogacy is banned. Gay marriage remains illegal in large part because they don't want to allow gays to adopt. And so the "bry-brys" and the "little Birdseyes" remain in the freezer. This is all too gross. In other European countries, including Germany, they simply don't freeze embryos. You have to use them or lose them.

In DSK news, his luxury town-house-arrest irritates some, including Socialist troublemaker Arnaud Montebourg, who is SHOCKED SHOCKED that rich people have it easier than poor people. As if in France your wealth has nothing to do with the way you deal with the justice system. A kid steals a motorcycle, he gets a year in prison. A politician steals millions from the government, he gets a suspended sentence.

In the local section, a story on the illegal cigarette vendors at Barbès. Many buyers assume these are real name-brand cigarettes, smuggled to avoid French taxes. In fact, they're usually counterfeit cigarettes made in China.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Advice Illustrated, 26 May 2011

Letter 1 is from a college student who walked in on his cousin practicing autoerotic asphyxiation. Should he tell his aunt and uncle? Prudie says YES (and the cousin). I say NO (talk to the cousin). Sheesh.

Video letter is from a woman whose BF is a male slut. Every woman in his hometown is an ex paramour. How can she get over this? Prudie says it's odd that she would know this info, but even if it's true, what is important is that he chose her. I say: pictures please of the hunk.

Letter 2 if from an American who found a job in Bahrein. Should he have his family join him in this wonderful land of repression and torture? Prudie says all he needs to worry about is his family's safety, since, after all, the USA has a naval base there, so it must be A-OK. I say that you have to accept some responsibility when you support a regime that is committing atrocities in front of you. Just because you're safe doesn't mean you're pure.I wouldn't say he absolutely has to leave, but bringing his family is definitely a vote of confidence in the regime in place.

Letter 3 is from someone whose BIL has Alzheimer's. Should he say "goodbye" while the guy still has some brain function? Other family members want him to STFU. Prudie says to make it a family celebration of his life. I don't know.

Letter 4 is from a woman who was left paying the very hefty bar tab from a date with a drunk who got kicked out of the restaurant. Should she ask him to reimburse her? Prudie says yes. I say duh.

26 May 2011: News of the day

Lead story in Le Parisien, a case of industrial pollution.

And DSK isn't even the second story: that honor goes to the RADAR issue, with various members of Sarkozy's government making contradictory statements about removing warning signs for radar guns. Part of the problem is that before becoming Minister of the Interior (law enforcement), Claude Guéant was Sarkozy's closest advisor, with a history of undermining the Prime Minister.

A Sarkozy MP created a stir during discussion of a bill for marriage equality by saying "What next? Marriage between animals? Polygamy?" She now has apologized, and claims she was "joking". You're a stupid vicious cunt, Brigitte Barèges. Just joking! Sorry!

So Christine Lagarde, ultraliberal finance minister, is going to replace DSK at the IMF? Looking forward to her resignation when the "abuse of power" case against her moves forward. To replace her as finance minister, the current budget minister François Baroin is not in the running, partly because he doesn't speak English well enough, a key skill in thie G8/G20 year.

Foot-fetish/sexual predator/Mayor/Junior Minister/Reflexologist Georges Tron is still in the news. Apparently his foot fetish is general knowledge in the town where he serves as mayor.

The latest victim of Belgian (Flemish) linguistic BS: The Bruxelles metro will no longer be playing French music on the loudspeakers, due to protests from Phlegms that they deserved equal time. I guess that would be possible if there were actually things worth listening to from Flemish musicians.

Christine Ockrent has finally resigned from her job as the sort-of-head of news channel France 24. There's a great rivalty between her and her boss, everyone hates her, and she's been accused of spying on staff. Of course, one wonders why the wife of the minister of foreign affairs, a ministry that finances the network was even working there at all in the first place.

One wonders if once she's in Washington, Christine Lagarde will still pretend to be a member of the Conseil d'Arrondissement of the 12th and the Paris City Council. It's not like it would make a big change, since her duties as finance minister have served her well until now as an excuse for not showing up to council meetings or doing any actual work as a council member.

The Banque de France is converting a former branch office in a beautiful townhouse to the the City of Money and the Economy, aimed at explaining to us poor taxpayers how the economy works. Hah!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

25 May 2011: News of the day

Local news: The "zone non aedificandi" was the area around the 19th-century fortifications of Paris. The ban on construction was aimed at protecting the wall from attacks, and allowing defenders a clear view of any approaching enemies. Even after the destruction of the wall, and until the construction of the belt of public housing and sports grounds that followed, the area was a no-man's land, with cardboard shacks, ragmen, and bistros that sought to escape the octroi, the internal customs duty that served as the local tax for Paris.

Thus "la zone" became, and remains, the name for a place of ill repute, abandoned, dangerous, slummy. A legacy of the original "zone" was the "boulevard de la zone", between Paris and Ivry. On the Ivry side, the boulevard was renamed in honor of a communist WWII resistance figure, while Paris kept the original name. And under the former right-wing mayors of Paris, steps were taken to force the people and businesses on the boulevard (all of which are located on the Ivry side) to use the Paris name (because the entire boulevard itself was actually on the territory of Paris). This resulted in a loss of 30% of property value, just because of the name. Under the new Paris administration, measures were taken first to stop the efforts to force Ivry-side owners to use the Paris name, and now, to change the name on the Paris side to match the name used by Ivry. Ooof.

The foolish and wasteful project for the renovation of Les Halles has a key element, the Canopée, a glass structure that covers the old Forum and replaces the "umbrella" structures the housed various public facilities at the ground level of Les Halles. Now a call for tender to the major construction companies of the country has prooved fruitless: nobody can build it within the already generous financial constraints of the project. Oops! The architect is brilliant, and has won lots of prizes, and did a great job on our neighborhood sports complex. He himself lives in the neighborhood here. I served with his daughter on the neighborhood council. But the project is nutso megalomania, and pretty useless.

Prime Minister Fillon has backed down on the radar issue, while claiming he hasn't. But since the radar warning signs won't be removed, we're gonna call Mr. Fillon a liar.

A quietly announced verdict from the Cour de Cassation, the highest court in France for civil affairs, could have a huge impact. The demagogical "solidarity day" (i.e. tax on workers to punish them for not working enough, imposed when the government failed to act to prevent deaths during the 2004 heatwave) is unconstitutional. Ooops. Several billion euros could be refunded to workers forced to fork over a day's pay.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

24 May 2011: News of the day

Big story for Le Parisien is the latest attempt by right-wing interior minister Claude Guéant, Sarkozy's closest advisor, to fish for National Front votes. This time, given the failure to stop illegal immigration (because that would involve doing things like sending Sarkozy's buddies in the construction industries to jail for employing undocumented workers), the target is legal immigration, which is generally agreed to be necessary for the economy, and a net plus in terms of public spending.

DSK is down to two pages, unless you consider the page devoted to the "anyone but Hollande" attempts to prevent teddybear François Hollande from taking DSK's place as the Socialist candidate next year. As for DSK, he really is a total creep. And I fear the only chance he has to defend himself is to attack the victim, which is totally gross and vile. Another interesting tidbit is that it appears that Sarkozy had lots of dirt on DSK, including a police stop when he was using the services of a (low end) prostitute.

The leading lights of the web are in Paris for a pre-G8 summit. It's in the Tuileries, according to the paper. Maybe go see how they've set that up?

And the scandal of the day for me: Engineering firms are recruiting using poker. Yes. The French love using bogus recruiting methods (psychological tests, astrology, graphology...), but this is a new one. One of the managers using this "technique" (ie, PR stunt) says: "After all, many engineers also play poker". To which I respond: all of the (male) engineers jerk off. So why not have a contest to see who can cum the fastest or the most, or who has the biggest cock? Creeps.

Under the leadership of convicted homophobe MP Vanneste, the UMP MPs continue to protest the removal of radar gun warning signs. (Update: they won.) I'm not too surprised that this is the only debatable measure taken by the government that MPs bother to protest. Useless parasites.

In today's issue, Le Parisien, always with it, discovers Twitter.

Monday, May 23, 2011

23 May 2011: News of the day

Joke of the day: Minister of the interior says that France would be happy to support a request from DSK to serve his sentence in France, in the context of the exchange treaty between France and the USA. As if the USA will allow him to serve his sentence in France, where he's certain to be released after a few months. It's a pity that France's pathetic history in this area spoils the chances of legitimate cases to benefit from such measures. In any case, why is the Minister of the Interior talking about such things now?

Sarkozy's MPs are unhappy with their formerly beloved Prime Minister, who for some reason has managed to stick around at every government cabinet reshuffle. Usually Prime Ministers take the heat for the President and get replaced regularly... they are considered "fuses" that blow to protect the President. But partly because he has been more popular than Sarkozy, who has sought the exposure usually taken on by the Prime Minister, Fillon has stuck around. Now MPs are finally getting tired of him, because he doesn't listen to their concerns or consult them. This is amusing, because the French parliament is mostly a decorative make-work place that rubber stamps the cabinet's bills. Now they want some consideration! A sore subject at the moment is the government's decision to remove the automatic radar gun warning signs.

Are the protests in Madrid getting any attention where you are?

The French post office used to run the telegraphs and phone system, before the telegraph died and the phone system was spun off, then privatized, then opened to competition. Now La Poste is getting into phones again as a MVNO in partnership with SFR.

French schoolchildren provide all their school supplies. To help keep down the costs for parents, a list of essential items was negotiated with major retailers and the Ministry of Education. But no more! The two parties couldn't agree on including satchels among the essentials (they can always use garbage bags, after all!).

Cannes is over, time for Roland Garros to begin! And when that's over, we'll have a couple of weeks before being expected to care about the Tour de France.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

22 May 2011: News of the day

Reading Le Parisien Dimanche...

DSK of course is still a big story, but a normal big story.

According to Le Parisien, DSK is living at "71 Broadway Street". They add "street" to show how in-the-know with all things American they are. They are dipshits.

DSK is allowed 4 visitors. Yesterday, that was his wife, two lawyers, and probably his daughter. Now it's 4 persons in addition to his wife and lawyers. Which is it, Le Parisien?

Like just about every French media outlet, Le Parisien keeps telling us what the US justice system is like, and how it differs from the French system. Among the signs that they are talking out of their ass, is the fact that they keep talking about "US law" and "US justice", when DSK is being tried in a NY State court, under NY law. And they say crap like: "Dans le système américain, c’est à l’accusé de contribuer à apporter les preuves de son innocence." They point this out, because for some laughable reason, they are convinced that the French justice system has an impartial agent searching for truth, when in fact, it's all one big set up against anyone unfortunate enough to be targeted by the "justice" system. (This is even more true since a recent reform designed to "streamline" justice, by which they mean steamrollering the accused.) In any case, they don't get that in American justice, the State has to prove its case, and the defendent has no requirement to prove his innocence.

Christine Lagarde is favored as the "European" candidate for DSK's old job at the IMF. That of course will not (in any case should not) happen, as she is under investigation for abuse of power in the Tapie case. And frankly, why would Europeans trust a French candidate? In any case, Lagarde is the most American of Europeans, having spent her career in a top US law firm.

Avignon has created a "sidewalk tax", aimed first at the sandwich shops where customers make their purchases (and often eat) on the public domain. The new regulation applies to banks for their ATMs. I like it: they're using public space to do business, they should pay for that use. But if the system is anything like the Paris regulations on the use of public space by businesses, they won't be respected by businesses, and won't be effectively enforced by the city. (The Avignong tax is pretty high. A sandwich shop claims it's 900 euros a month for him, and an ATM costs a bank 1500 euros a year.) Shops claim that it's all because the right-wing mayor wants to limit the number of kebab shops. They are smelly, dirty, their clients create noise for neighbors, they leave their litter everywhere... I'm for restricting them too.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

21 May 2011: News of the day

No news yesterday, because Le Parisien is crap and I only got the PDF in the evening and was already too bored to post.

Today will of course be the last post, as I intend to be raptured.

Good news! DSK is no longer the top news, although he rates a mention on the cover, and pages 4 through 9 of the paper (the last one is more French politics, aka P12 for the 2012 presidential election, with Sarkozy now taking aim at the surprise frontrunner after DSK's political demise, former Socialist general secretary François Hollande).

With regard to real DSK news, some was actually interesting. For example:
I didn't know that DSK's third and current wife, Anne Sinclair, had a huge personal fortune (lucky him!). She is the heir to an art dealer, and has a large art collection worth millions of euros. I only know her as a TV journalist and host with particularly beautiful eyes and chunky legs, and as a woman who blew me off when she spoke at a panel my association had organized.  DSK's house arrest (and his defense) are going to cost a fortune, so it's great that Anne Sinclair is standing by her man.

The paper also claims that the victim lied to immigration authorities, which could make her a difficult witness for the prosecution.

More interesting to me is the case of the journalist who claims DSK tried to rape her in 2002. Her mother, a Socialist elected official, claims that she told François Hollande, at the time general secretary of the party, and local bigwig Laurent Fabius. Now she's changed her tune: she assumed they knew. Huh? And she is the one who convinced her daughter not to file a complaint against DSK back then. Now the journalist is playing coy about filing. She says she didn't do it earlier because no one would have believed her. But not so long ago DSK was already involved in a sex scandal. If she really wanted to file a complaint, she could have now. And now she says she's hesitating because she fears being drawn into the US trial (can a US court for a foreign national to testify? If France doesn't allow the extradition of the accused, why would they cooperate with the extradition of a witness, and a victim, no less). It all seems fishy.

In a story about the lack of women on prime-time radio, there's a sidebar explaining what an "anchorman" is. Le Parisien, fuckwads that they are, say that "The word 'anchorman' literally means 'tree-trunk-man', because you never see their legs." Really.

French taxpayers have the pleasure of paying yet again for the Palais de Tokyo. 20 million euros to make it a center for young creation. Whatever that is. And despite the fact that they've already spent tens of millions to make it a center for young creation. Whatever that was. And before that, more tens of millions to make it the center for cinema. That was before spending tens of millions to convert the former American Center into the Cinémathèque. When the State can waste money like this, please don't tell me that there is a budget crisis and no money for useful things.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Advice Illustrated: They tire me this week

Letter 1 is from some crazy and I just don't get it at all. Prudie is also confused, but ends up giving good enough advice (the best advice would have been: go away you nutjob!).

Video letter is from a pediatrician who wonders if he should intervene when he's off duty and sees parents giving their kids food they could choke on. Prudie says to intervene gently. I say, yeah.

Letter 2 is from a woman who is being stalked by the young guy at the reception desk of her gym. Should she ignore the behavior? Prudie says to report him and get him fired. I say: Is he hot?

Letter 3 is a good one. It's from a 12yo whose mother confirmed that yes, she was an accident, and moreover, she had planned to abort LW. LW isn't overly upset by this. Is that a normal reaction? Prudie says it was a really bad idea for mom to speak of the abortion, but no, LW is not nuts for not freaking out about this. I say, yeah. I would have added: I'm sure most parents think about getting rid of their kids once in a while.

Letter 4 is from a woman who can't get to the point, which is: she's her mother's caregiver, and her mother wants to leave the house they live in to her. The problem is her sister is likely to freak out. Prudie says she shouldn't feel bad about getting the house, and perhaps her sister will realize she's earned it. I say, yeah.

19 May 2011: News of the day

Le Parisien devotes only the cover + 6 pages to DSK today! Of course, the big story for Le Parisien is "why are people so interested in DSK?" It probably has nothing to do with the fact that Le Parisien has devoted 8+8+9+6 pages to it so far...

Among the "reasons" pulled out of a "journalist's" ass, is that it's a story taking place in "puritanical America". Right. Only prudes get in a tizzy over RAPE.

According to DSK's lawyer, one of the biggest problems for DSK in prison is that he DOESN'T HAVE A WATCH! As Séguéla, former adman for Socialist François Mitterrand (and matchmaker for Carla and Nicolas Sarkozy) says: "If you're 50 years old and you don't have a Rolex, you're a failure."

In fact, French people don't care about DSK: they care about speed radar stations. In an attempt to lower road deaths, the government has decided to remove the signs warning that a speed radar was installed down the highway. Drivers are up in arms (just how they justify this is hard to understand... is there some inalienable right to drive too fast?), as are members of the UMP governing party (elections are next year!). Radar detectors will also become illegal (but 90% of those who use them will continue to do so). Yesterday a "demonstration" of drivers was organized by the manufacturers of radar detectors.

A story on the European Commission's plan to eliminate disposable shopping bags. They'll be illegal in France by the end of this year. Many stores are charging for them, usually 3 cents each. In Paris, this is total BS, because most people use their disposable grocery bags as garbage bags. I need to start stocking up.... because all that will happen when they're banned is that I will need to buy disposable garbage bags.

WWF has tested tap water and bottled water in various places in France, and found pollutants in all samples. If I'm going to drink polluted water, I'll do it from the tap, where it's cheaper and I don't have to schlep it up the hill. (But I might invest in a new Brita.)

Here in the 20th Arrondissement, a high school student has stabbed a classmate. It appears that the "victim" was a bully who was threatening the kid who stabbed him. In other crime news, the convicted drug dealing brother of Rachida Dati, liar, former Justice Minister, current bored MEP and easily irritated mayor of the 7th Arrondissement, has been arrested for sexual assault.

Story on how new stores need to be beautiful, with a focus on the new A&F store on the Champs Elysées (with the lovely shirtless sales staff). Yum. Other stores featured are Guerlain and Louis Vuitton on the Champs Elysées, and Ralph Lauren and Hermès in St Germain des Prés. They all look lovely. Wish I had the taste and the means for these places. Given that I don't have the means, it's probably best I don't have the taste.

"La Conquête", a fiction about the presidential campaign of Sarkozy is out. Curious to see it.
Also in film news, Lar Von Trier says he's a Nazi, but he doesn't hate Jews, except the ones in Israel who really are a pain in the butt. Alas, I fear Mossad has better things to do than to knock of this shithead.

A story on diseases that are significantly more prevalent in the Paris area than in the rest of the country. Top of the list: HIV/AIDS, with 157% more cases than the national average! Also TB, with 93% more cases. In the city of Paris, there are 59 cases per 100,000 persons, compared with a national average of 10. Maybe the ban on blood donations from gay men should be limited to Paris...

More complaints about police abuse from the notorious Goutte d'Or police station... surprise!

Labor inspectors have sent warning letters to stores in Chinatown in the 13th (no news about our Chinatown in Belleville). They are all open on Sunday, which is not allowed. Panic! I am a big fan of laws limiting Sunday openings, but there are sometimes reasons for preserving the principle, while changing the date. I think, for example, of the covered market in the 19th that was dying until a Kosher supermarket opened up. But the City of Paris kicked them out, because the market had to be open on Saturday, according to city regulations. So the market is closed, no one can shop there, on Saturday or any other day.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

18 May 2011: News of the day

Will you be surprised when I tell you that Le Parisien's cover is devoted to "The Prisoner of Riker's Island"? Thought not.

I thought the number of pages would go down, but it's up to cover + 9!

DSK had lunch with his daughter Camille. She's doing a "PHD" at Columbia.
One of the reasons DSK didn't get bail is because France doesn't extradite easily to the US. The French are always annoyed when other countries won't extradite to France, but delight in refusing extradition from France (think Ira Einhorn). Nice to see it bite them again.

Here're the articles:

  • DSK at Riker's Island
  • His daughter will be a key witness
  • Defence strategy (hints at "it was consensual")
  • What's Riker's Island like?
  • Testimony from a famous French criminal imprisoned there ("It's a dump.")
  • Story from victim's brother (in which victim's name is given)
  • Pilgrimages to the suite where it may have happened
  • Her neighbors like the victim
  • Face off between the DA and the defense attorneys
  • Definition of "rape" in US law (which of course in this case only means NY law, but the French don't get that each state has its own legal system)
  • Explanation of the Grand Jury system
  • Interview with a noted feminist lawyer in France
  • French feminists react to the sexist reactions to the story in France
  • Tasteless jokes on the web (no!)
  • How the foreign media judge the French media on DSK story
  • The images the French are supposedly so shocked by (perp walk) make for great TV ratings here
  • More reactions from the Socialists
  • Party leader Martine Aubry must take the lead in the presidential race says a friend of her
  • Ségolène Royal won't give up the primary race
  • The right wing parties are trying to find the right tone
  • The young UMPer who supports the conspiracy theory is trying to lie low, with UMP officials claiming they have never heard of him, despite the fact that he was a very public member of the party, in particular their youth movement.

The worst-kept secret in France, the pregnancy of Sarkozy's wife Carla, is out. Jesus H Christ, who cares? This would be the first baby born to a sitting president (except for all the bastards just about every president has sired).

The French are great innovators in retailing, at least in big box hypermarkets. A new upscale version of the Carrefour hypermarkets are being unveiled. There are a couple at the gates of Paris. I would be interested in seeing such a store (although if one of the "innovations" is freezer units with doors, that's been done by every supermarket (but hypermarkets usually use open chests). The face lift is of course aimed at the "ladies".

A new cooking show in France! It sounds like the French version of a British show I've seen here, where two people each open a restaurant for a night in their homes. The one that takes in the most money wins. I forget the French name, and never knew the English name.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

17 May 2011: News of the day

Reading Le Parisien, which offers a second day of cover + 8 pages on Dominique Strauss Kahn (DSK).

Among the highlights, noted homophobic prima donna creep right wing politician Bernard Debré claims that DSK often raped women in the NY Sofitel, and that the hotel routinely covered it up. I do hope someone will sue this guy. For pure form, the "journalist" asks the hotel for comment. Guess what? They deny this grotesque claim.

The papers can't agree on how many years DSK could get. Something like 74 now. That's pretty shocking for France, where rape will get you three years if you're unlucky. Or else a really heavy sentence (suspended). They are very tough with the suspended sentences here.

"Shock" at the images of a handcuffed DSK. Since 2000 this kind of image has been illegal to publish in France, after a series of perp walks shocked the public conscience as an attack on the presumption of innocence. Of course the French routinely handcuff and abuse prisoners, but what's important is to not show people in handcuffs. While the French moan about the lack of respect for the presumption of innoncence among Americans, they ignore the fact that almost everyone who goest o trial here is magically found guilty, and sentenced, miraculously, to time served. In a country that abuses preventive detention on a scale only found in dictatorships, this is very rich.

More on the "journalist and novelist", the goddaughter of DSK's second wife, who claims now that he raped her 10 years ago (she was an adult already at the time).

"He left his phone in the room! Proof he was trying to escape!" After leaving the hotel, he had lunch with his daughter in a restaurant. Just the kind of behavior of a rapist trying to run away.

France will open bidding for 18 4G mobile telephone licences. Goodness!

In the meantime, it appears that after all the hinting and leaking and whatnot, Carla Sarkozy is indeed pregnant. Another child for Sarkozy to abandon when he divorces his wife (actually he's pretty good with his kids, at least in terms of promoting their careers).

A cool exhibition Place Vendôme: giant inflatable "pearls" will circle the colonne Vendôme. When you look through the "hole" in each, you'll see a photographic exhibition on pearl jewelry production, from pearl diving to the finished product.


Monday, May 16, 2011

16 May 2011: News of the day

Well I guess I don't have to tell you what's in the news today. After telling us yesterday that Dominique Strauss Kahn (DSK) was still far above his rivals in the polls for Socialist candidate for the 2012 Presidential electiosn (P12), they now finally catch up and tell us that DSK has been arrested for attempted rape. And use the cover plus 8 pages to do so.

Here are the headlines:

  • DSK indicted in NYC
  • What happened, when
  • What he risks, the legal procedure
  • Internet conspiracy theories
  • Stupor and sadness among the Socialists
  • What does this mean for the Socialist primaries?
  • Reactions from politicians
  • Reactions from a radio broadcast partnered by Le Parisien
  • Man-in-the-street reactions
  • DSK, the pick-up artist
  • A past story of attempted rape comes out again
  • The "victim" could file a complaint (10 years later)
  • DSK's wife, former TV newscaster Anne Sinclair, in the front lines
  • A psychiatrist diagnoses DSK's sexual addiction
  • Emergency meeting at the IMF
  • Interim IMF director named
  • Bad timing for the IMF
  • Reactions in the world press
  • Other sex scandals in politics (including, of course, Bill Clinton)

But what does the lady who takes care of Anne Sinclair's cat when Anne's in DC think?

Guess who hates DSK today? Jean Louis Borloo who scheduled his big rally to announce he was leaving Sarkozy's UMP, and finds himself upstaged.

Drought will affect nuclear power plants. All this before A/C caught on in France, so when the weather is the hottest, the demand for electricity rises, but the nuclear power plants have to be shut down... A dual problem: not enough water for cooling, and the river water is so warm already that adding heated cooling water will kill everything in the river...

Some elderly travellers are suing Air France because the company lost their bags on a flight to Vietnam. Because the people had their medicine in their bags, they suffered throughout the trip. Worse, the weather turned cold and they had to buy some clothes.
1) Air France isn't responsible for the weather, and I assume that clothing is not too expensive in Vietnam in any case.
2) If it's important, you don't check it. Jerks.

The French defeat at Eurovision still leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Rather like the loss of the 2012 Olympics to London, the French are now saying the other side didn't play fair, with the only example given being that of the official jury, where Sweden gave 2 points to France, while France gave 12 points to Sweden.
1) Maybe the Swedes thought Amaury was crap. I know I did.
2) Maybe it makes no difference, since Sweden didn't win, and France FINISHED 15TH!!!!

The City Council of Paris will vote today to approve a 700k€ annual grant to the association building the new Philharmonic at La Villette. Disgusting, wastefull boondoggle. Drives me nuts!!!!

For the first time, members of the City Council are being penalized for being absent at council meetings. The ones bitching the most about it are Ministers who are away for important government business. Which for me is proof that they shouldn't be sitting on the council if they have another job. Sheez!

Apparently the French are the largest consumers of chewing gum in the world, and it shows on the sidewalks, which the city works try their best to keep clean.

15 May 2011: News of the day

Reading Le Parisien from this Sunday morning, it's pretty clear that they didn't cry "stop the presses" when the news of the arrest of Dominique Strauss Kahn came out. The story that was the only thing on TV since the arrest of DSK during the night of Saturday to Sunday, NY time.

In fact, after the big story of the day (football, what else, with the cover plus three pages on the victory of Lille in some cup), the next pages were devoted to the continued high polls for DSK in the race for the Socialist nomination for the 2012 presidential elections. This, despite a pseudo-scandal of DSK riding in a... PORCHE! (The "guy whose Porche it was" gets a full page just for himself.)

Anyhow, nothing about the arrest for attempted rape. But they'll catch up tomorrow.

Several more pages on presidential election "news" (from now on, we'll call presidential election news "P12"), then a short piece on a rally of the UMP (Sarkozy's party). A Sarkozy minister of North African origin was outraged when a participant said "we have had enough of these towelheads*!'The party line is that everyone was offended by the words of the old man. In fact, independent sources state that at least a third of the audience supported the creep.

The term used was "bougnoules". Think "spic" or "kike" in terms of offensiveness.

A rather substantial article about the Mad Hatters, which drew my attention because this gang of pickpockets operates in Michigan. http://abcnews.go.com/US/sterling-heights-mi-mad-hatters-female-pickpocket-ring/story?id=13565233

The entertainment section is heavy on Cannes, of course, but also the fantastic failure of the French singer at Eurovision. Once again, commentators blame geographico-cultural block voting. Duh.

Friday, May 13, 2011

13 May 2011: News of the day

My comments as I read Le Parisien.

Well, for the last two days, Blogger has been offline at various points. This is a first, and surprising for a Google product. You can view Blogspot blogs, but can’t edit them (which is what Blogger is for).

Gosh, there must be nothing happening today in the world if Le Parisien can devote the first two pages of the paper to a major lead story: it’s Friday the 13th.

Another full page is devoted to the 500-day anniversary of the kidnapping of two French TV journalists (and their anonymous translaters, assistants, crew…) in Afghanistan. They seem to be the only kidnapped persons in the world, since we get an update on every newscast on every network every day. Not that this is unimportant, but the fact that the media is obsessed about the media to the exclusion of equally worthy stories.

On the political front, the somewhat-left-of-Sarkozy “Radicals” (that’s another story: the Radical Parties of France… you’ve got Radicals of the Right, Radicals of the Left, Radicals of the Center… they’ve merged and split and joined and unjoined for decades, nay centuries now) are leaving the fold, under the banner of the mysteriously popular Jean Louis Borloo, who remains popular (so the media tell us) despite not ever having done much when he was a minister, except marrying a sloppy newscaster and appearing slovenly and drunk in public.

Anyway, they look like they’ll be officially leaving Sarkozy’s UMP this weekend, a move precipitated by Borloo not getting the Prime Minister post in the last government shake-up/musical chairs. Who will join him? How many center-ish rivals does Sarkozy need in the 2012 presidential race?

An amazing number of former ministers close to Borloo have left the UMP, and suddenly discovered it is polarizing and anti-social (because in a government known for attacking the rights of workers, promoting the rich, etc., Borloo and friends somehow kept a “socially progressive” image).

Marine LePen of the National Front is using the language of the far left. Surprise! Populist extremist movements all appeal to the disaffected poor and working class.

There have been cases recently of fraudulent admission of Chinese students to French universities. Now a professor involved in short-circuiting the admissions process as part of this fraud has been punished: he is suspended without pay for three years. But afterwards, he’ll be welcomed back. Huh?????

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Advice Illustrated

Prudie may be found at Slate.com.

Letter 1 is from a man, with a graduate degree in theology no less (although there's nothing like a bit of real theology to turn you off religion), whose entire family, including his wife, are very Christian. A while ago he realized that the only thing propping up that worldview was a willingness to believe a bunch of nonsense. He doesn't want to suffer the consequences of telling them the truth.
Prudie tells him if he's fine playing along, he can, but it sounds like he doesn't want to hide the shameful secret that he is a rational human being from his wife. She directs him to some resources.
I say, do as you please. They are making believe there is a god as much as you are for the moment. But if you don't believe in god, what's stopping you from murdering, raping, stealing? If, as your family likely believe, fear of hellfire is the only thing keeping people in line, what's going on with you? In short: how is it that they can't tell you don't believe? Is it really enough just to show up in church on Sunday? I mean, if you worked out regularly, and then just went to the gym without actually working out, you would see a difference pretty soon. Shouldn't something similar happen to people who go to church without believing?

Video letter is from a pregnant woman whose female partner doesn't want to tell her temporary coworkers (she has two more years in medical residency) about her impending motherhood. LW makes a big deal about them being in the South. Coworkers know partner is lesbian and partnered, and partner is thrilled about impending motherhood with friends and family.
Prudie basically says the partner is mentally ill and needs immediate therapy.
I say, it's a bit odd that coworked know and accept that partner is lesbian and has a partner, but would freak out if they knew she was going to be a mother. But... these are people in the place she is forced to work. There is such a thing as private life. If at some point her private life intrudes in her professional life in such a way that it becomes easier to tell all rather than keeping matters private, then she'll deal with that then.

Letter 2 is from a privileged woman who is so proud to live in her McMansion on a cul-de-sac (you do know that means "bags ass"?) in a gated community so her precious offspring can be "safe". But, gasp! She has learned that privileged women who live in McMansions on cul-de-sacs in gated communities tend to drive... SUVs! Who'd've thunk it! And this generates some problems... like this one, about the husband of one of those Desperate Housewives: "He told me that his wife had nearly backed her car over our son when he fell off his bike trying to get out of her way. Tom stopped her in time. He was rude and condescending to me, repeatedly saying that my children are too young to play outside unattended." Now Tom Scavo (although Carlos seems more likely to make threats) is threatening to report them to Child Protective Services for daring to let their children play outside unattended by a personal bodyguard.

Can you tell I'm hating everyone involved?

Apparently this is no idle threat, and LW is now worried every time the doorbell rings, and has finally noticed that Tom keeps his beady eyes on all the kids playing outside.

Prudie says: "A pox on all your McMansions!" Basically, the Scavos are crazy and dangerous, but LW is wrong to let a 3yo play in the street.

I note that the LW "works from home". Bad mother! That is unsuburban behavior! You want to work, live in a brownstone somewhere where there are sidewalks for kids to play on, and where drivers know how to keep an eye out for street hockey.

Prudie concludes: "Try to short circuit the feud by telling him you want to express your profound gratitude to him for protecting your son, and that he's right, your kids are too young to be out alone." I would add: "And if you ever make your creepy psycho threats again, I will personally rip off those teeny tiny balls of yours, put a cocktail pick in them, and serve them with a nice martini."

Letter 3 is from an overweight 17yo girl who declines invitations to beach parties because she doesn't want to appear in a bathing suit. Prudie says she is likely exagerating the situation, and she needs to get fit, like her body whatver its size, and find ways to be comfortable enjoying ordinary pleasures like a day at the beach.
I note that she is invited to these events, that she is teased until she gets into a suit and into the water, etc., which for me, means that nobody cares about her weight, and they want her to be part of the fun.

Letter 4 is from a woman who was given a set of pearl earrings and necklace (a set of jewelry is called a "parure" in French, which is a rather nice word... it's related to the verb "to adorn") from her MIL. The parure was designed by MIL for herself 20 years ago (sooooo old fashioned!). While LW loves the necklace, which she can wear anywhere* (which is why wise ladies tell young women to get a simple chain of pearls), the earrings are fussy and no longer in style. Can she get the pearls reset without offending her sensitive MIL?
Prudie says she can, but is it worth the aggravation? Prudie says to find another pair of earrings that go with the necklace, and wait for the earrings to come back in fashion.
I find this such a stupid question I'm done with it.

*I first typed "anywear". And I thought: "That looks wrong. Oh yeah, of course, it's 'anyware'." I am getting old.

12 May 2011: News of the day

What piques my interest as I read Le Parisien:

A report calls for a reform or the abolition of personal income tax in France. Because of various tax breaks, it is far from the progressive tax it was supposed to be. Half of all households don't pay anything. This is due in part to some 500 tax breaks worth 50 billion euros, partly to the "shares" system. Unlike the US personal exemption, a fixed amount per person that deducts income from the household's taxable income, France has a system of "shares", where the household income is divided by the number of members of the household, and the tax rates are then applied to the result. For households with children, this means that they quickly fall under the threshhold for taxable income.
IMO it's not going to happen though: those tax breaks are any government's favorite way of claiming to take action on an economic or social problem.
One of the sidebars shows that Le Parisien is, as we know, full of crap. It gives as an example of a progressive tax the income tax (true, in theory), of a proportional tax that CSG (true, it's a fixed amount of all sources of income), and of a regressive tax the VAT. That's true in terms of household income as a whole, but certainly not true in terms of the tax itself: a 19.6% VAT is perfectly proportional.

Our favorite proponent of workfare, Laurent Wauquiez, promised 10,000 job creations in call centers. Guess what! He failed. With regard to workfare, Sarkozy has given Waukie a good talking to.

The fact that potential Socialist presidential candidate Dominique Strauss Kahn was photographed driving in a Porsche continues, for some reason, to agitate the press and the political class. I don't get it.

A new law on immigration has been voted by the Parliament. It must be a very good one, since it's only the SEVENTH law on immigration made by Sarkzoy. Someday he'll get it right.

A burglar was crushed when the safe he and his accomplices were stealing from a restaurant fell on him.

Lots of noise about the choices of the coach of the French national rugby team for the World Cup selection. Poor freak Chabal wasn't chosen, which makes lots of people angry. If it helps reduce his attractiveness for marketers, I'm for it.

After the deadly fire a few weeks ago in my neighborhood, the survivors face another trauma: all their belongings have been stolen. The investigating magistrates would not allow them to return to their homes, and no security was in place, even after the first burglaries. Computers, TVs, etc. have all disappeared now. Vive la France, vive la justice.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

11 May 2011: News of the day

While reading Le Parisien...

Nothing to speak of in the Paris section.

In the national section, more on the "Sarkozy Bonus". France already has two forms of profit sharing, one mandatory and the other voluntary. Now Sarkozy is stealing money from large-ish firms (50+ employees) that pay dividends. If the dividend last year was more than the average of the previous two years, some sort of exceptional bonus must be paid to employees. It will be (mostly) free from payroll taxes. So, if you happen to work for a company that paid a dividend, you get a taxpayer-supported bonus, but if you don't, you'll just pay for it. Demagogy at its peak.

Another full page on the anniversary yesterday of Mitterrand's first election as president. Yawn.

I'm glad to see the nasty Finance Minister Christine Lagarde finally getting caught in her double dealing with regard to Bernard Tapie. Tapie is the Trump of France (sort of), and lost a lot of money by fraud on the part of his bank, the state-owned Crédit Lyonnais. He won his case against the bank, but lost on appeal to the high court, which sent the case back to be judged again in the normal appeals court. Instead, the parties agreed to arbitration, and Tapie was awarded a huge sum. The question is now why Lagarde as Minister of Finance allowed this arbitration (never before used in a case involving the State), and more important, why she did not appeal the arbitration decision, as she could have, with a good chance of winning, given the grossly excessive damages awarded to Tapie. Lagarde is now being investigated for "abuse of power". Why would she have done this? Because Tapie is an annoyance to the left, and giving him some cash kept him sweet on Sarkozy... and it's not Sarkozy or Lagarde's money, so what do they care?

Chantal Joanno, Minister for Sport, who I appreciate for her stand on homophobia, seems much more tolerant for racism. After coming out strongly against the discriminatory projects of the French Football Federation, she has used her ministry's internal investigation of the matter to make it all go away. Boo!

It's the Cannes Film Festival, and once again, we're supposed to care. The Woody Allen film is getting a lot of attention. I may break my rule of never ever seeing a Woody Allen film again. Or maybe I'll just watch Thor.

Once again, French TV is killing a TV series: TF1 bought ABC's FlashForward for a very high price, but is now broadcasting it Wednesdays at 11pm. When no-one watches, they'll cancel it after four weeks. Or just move it to Sunday morning at 6am, right after the hunting and fishing show.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Will there be a crazed mob at the illegal market in Belleville?

I'm a former council member, and still an active participant, in the Conseil de quartier de Belleville. A conseil de quartier is a neighborhood council or community board which seeks to link inhabitants, businesses and visitors to a neighborhood with the local government and other official bodies. It is supposed to propose projects, bring people together, let grievances be heard, suggest solutions, organize concrete actions. Belleville is one of the 7 Conseils of the 20th Arrondissement of Paris, and covers a territory with over 20,000 people. Members are volunteers, drawn from among the lists of registered voters, designated by local associations, named by the political parties present in the Conseil d'arrondissement of the 20th.

About three times a year a public meeting is held. They usually attract a group of 50 regulars, sometimes the double if a point of great public interest is on the agenda. More often than not, these become occasions for residents to complain about crime, violence, dirty streets, dog poop, and the like, taking advantage of the presence of local elected officials, usually including the mayor.

The agenda for tonight's meeting didn't look very attractive, so I didn't anticipate to find many people in the elementary school activities room. To my great surprise, it was packed with hundreds of people, more than I've ever seen at a public meeting in the 20th. The reason was not a status report on construction projects in the neighborhood, nor an update on outstanding grievances, but rather, the "marché de la misère".

I write "marché de la misèré" but in doing so, I'm making a political choice. This "market" is located on the boulevard de Belleville and surrounding streets. It is an illegal market that began as a "marché des biffins". Biffins or chiffoniers are scavengers who resell "found" objects from the street and garbage cans. Among them you can also find old people who slowly sell off their meager store of personal effecst to earn a few euros.

That's how this market started about three years ago, with a push from the great recession. In our neighborhood, there are some "traditional" biffins, but the ones I see in the garbage cans of my own building are Chinese, illegal immigrants who earn a pittance by finding objects in the garbage, cleaning them, fixing them, and selling them on the street.

Once they settled in, supported by many soft-hearted people who couldn't imagine depriving poor people from making a few euros, and offering other poor people clothing or other items they could never afford new, they were quickly overwhelmed by other kinds of merchants, selling stolen goods, contraband (cigarettes, in particular), drugs and more. They have invaded the center platform of the boulevard and the wide sidewalks on either side. They threaten local people, they have caused great harm to the already suffering businesses located on the boulevard, they fight among themselves, the shit and piss on the street or in the lobbies of the surrounding buildings, they leave the streets covered with waste, spit, vomit, and worse.

The neighbors, as you can imagine, are irate. Last year, after many protests, the French government in the form of the Police Prefect finally sent in the riot police, bringing a brigade from far-off Montauban to provide a non-stop presence on the boulevard. The illegal market moved, until the riot police left. After that they quickly returned, first to the area around the Belleville métro station. When the Police Prefect finally decided to react to ongoing problems of the neighborhood around the métro by creating a special territorial brigade, the illegal market simply moved down the boulevard a bit, away from the territory covered by the new brigade, which in any case lacked the numbers and equipment to dissuade the "merchants" from setting up shop ("shop"is usually a dirty sheet on the pavement, where goods, which now include raw meat, are sold off the ground).

It's a situation totally out of hand, made worse by a legitimate feeling that it would never be allowed in the wealthier parts of the city. Poverty and crime are acceptable in the East, unimaginable in the West. Nor are people satisfied with the hot potato treatment this matter receives. The boulevard divides the 11th and the 20th, and on the otherside of métro Belleville you find the 10th and the 19th. The special police brigade can't act, the police of the 11th tell the police of the 20th to act, the police say they can't act anyway, since this activity is only a "contravention" and not a "délit", limiting the kind of response they can make. The mayor of the 20th asks the mayor of Paris to act, the mayors respond that they don't have control over the police (which is true: Paris, Lyon and Marseille don't have local police, but only national police, under direct control of the Ministry of the Interior), the police say they don't have the resources, bla bla bla and in the meantime the people are getting angry.

And so a huge crowd was present tonight, and the regular agenda was swept away by a giant bitch fest. What was done in the period when the riot police were present to ensure a long-term solution? What solutions does the mayor have?

Among those speaking, we heard a Green party member. They are among the softies the mayor laid into in her opening remarks, saying that there were dissensions in her majority, which includes the Greens. When the Green guy said that they had been talking to a variety of people, and he said that among those persons were "researchers in social sciences", the room started to boo. American-style anti-intellectalism? Perhaps. Certainly frustration that this was not a situation to be studied, but a problem to be solved. Local business threatened to close shop for a day: Belleville, quartier mort. Others brought up the coming elections next year, and threatened that Belleville, which has been a stronghold for the left, would abandon both the city's socialist majority and the state's Sarkozist majority, and vote for the neofascist right. It's not an idle threat: there is such great frustration with the parties in power locally and nationally, that an extremist vote is quite possible, even here.

The mayor of the 20th offered her "solutions". First, to get the riot police back. To do so, she is supporting the "Belleville quartier mort" plan, and calling for a mass demonstration against the Police Prefect and the State Prefect. She has obtained funding for a "ressourcerie", a recycling center that would be located at the Porte de Montreuil, the other part of the 20th affected by this problem. And she is seeking funding for a renovation of the boulevard, which the Conseil de quartier has been calling for for over three years, and for which we have organized any number of public meetings and workshops, carried out a survey, held a street party, etc., and which the mayor of the 20th has consistently ignored, claiming that the city of Paris has no money (a lie).

I left the meeting at this point, in part because I feared fainting in the stifling heat of an unseasonally warm spring day, in a room stuffed with hundreds of people instead of the few dozen children who usually occupy it.

And I can't help but fear that sooner or later, if the situation doesn't change, the locals will get out their crowbars and baseball bats, and blood will flow...








10 May 2011: News of the day

I'm reading Le Parisien, and here're my reactions:

It's "le dix mai" (May 10), a date that needs no year. It refers back to 1981 and the first victory of the left in post-war France, with the election of François Mitterrand. We've had an onslought of media coverage of the 30th anniversary. Le Parisien even does a story about his legacy in the little street where he had his private apartment.

A profile of Jeff Mills, "the king of techno", a Detroiter based in Chicago who after living in Berlin has now moved to the ultrachic 7th Arrondissement of Paris. He says that he is a victim of racism in the US, where blacks are only allowed to do rap. (?) He is well known in France, and is doing a live musical accompaniment to film The Fantastic Voyage at the cité de la Musique. (Kind of pricey, but I would like to see that... I love the film!)

Uproad over Laurent Wasquiez's trial balloon for workfare. The founder of the current general assistance program (RSA), a nice guy who let himself be used by Sarkozy, slams Wasquiez: cities can offer part-time work to people on RSA, under normal legal conditions. Wasquiez should know this, as he (like just about every other minister) is a mayor of a town. Nor is it true that you can earn more on RSA and other welfare schemes than by working at the minimum wage, as Wasquiez claims. The minister who is supposed to deal with these things, the wonderful Roselyne Bachelot, also puts Waskie in his place.

In the ranking of commercial brands (the one where Apple topped Google), France saves face thanks to luxury brands. Well, if they HADN'T what would that have meant?

More on the police officer stabbed yesterday. Disgusting. The victim of the theft and the policeman chasing the thief were mobbed by the sellers of black-market cigarettes. Of course, the sellers wouldn't be there if there were no customers...

Omar Haddad, found guilty of killing his employer in a kangaroo court (the only "proof" was a message on the wall of the cellar where the woman was killed, written in her blood, saying "Omar ma tuer" in bad French, had his sentence reduced by the president. But there's now hope for a retrial, with a court accepting his lawyer's request that the blood samples be reanalyzed. Apparently there was the blood of a man mixed with that of the victim, but the French "justice" system never bothered to require a DNA analysis...

The appeals trial of the beautiful scumbag Villepin continues, with important testimony that shows he has committed perjury.

The affair of racism in the French Football Federation will be quietly snuffed out. A scapegoat will be mildly punished, as will the whistleblower. All is well. Move along, folks.

Apparentl students who have done literary studies are now attractive to corporations. This would be a big change in France, where engineering degrees via the parallel system of Grandes Ecoles have always dominated hiring and management structures. The are more flexible, more autonomous, more open, than engineers. They are better analysts, and are better able to summarize situations.

We learn more about the "tubes de l'été". This is a French tradition in which TV networks choose a song that they will promote the hell out of to make the hit of the summer. I don't get it.

TF1 abandons tropical rythyms (sp) for (crappy) Breton sea shanties:

Les Marins d'Iroise: LA MER TAPE FORT par basquin

France 3 has chosen Jehro:

Monday, May 9, 2011

9 May 2011: News of the day

What I've seen in Le Parisien today.

Velcom, the free bike rental scheme in the northern suburbs of La Plaine Commune (St Denis and surrounding towns), is a flop. Vandalism and theft resulted in all bikes being removed from stations a few months ago. The ones in good shape were put back recently after having computer chips installed to help track them (not sure how that works). They, too, are being vandalized and stolen, so it looks like the whole expensive scheme is going to be put to an end. Even in moderately more civilized Paris, Vélib suffers far more vandalism and theft than planners expected (but less than Jimmy said would happen, but he's very pessimistic about people in general and Parisians in particular).

A policeman, chasing a purse snatcher, was stabbed (as was the victim of the purse snatching). Took place in the capital of Parisian crime, contraband, drug dealing, etc., Barbès.

French notaries do far more than just witness signatures. They are more like lawyers, in charge of all matters dealing with real estate, inheritance, etc. There are less than 10,000 notaries, but they do more than 5 million euros in business each year. Their use is required in many types of contracts. They are private, but operate under a public mandate, and are often accused of cheating, lying, embezzling, etc. They are a clique subject to their own rules and their own justice system. A new book is out claiming that recent government procedures granting notary status to people were illegal (mostly for technicalities), meaning that the people named as notaries aren't notaries, and that all the contracts they've worked on can be contested in court.

The very studly minister for European Affairs Laurent Wauquiez wants to introduce workfare in France. Why not? Except of course that it would cost a fortune to administer it.

Italians fear a huge earthquake in Rome on Wednesday, based on the prediction of Mussolini's astrologer or something. Hee.

François Blaquart, the national technical director of the French Football Federation, is very hurt that people would take his racist proposals for French football as meaning he is a racist. He might even let himself be fired!

Le Parisien give suggestions to national team coach Laurent Blanc on how he can defend himself during his deposition in the investigation on the racist quotas in French football. Thanks, Le Parisien! That's certainly the role of a newspaper.

In a solemn and emotional ceremony, the Mayor of Rouen presented the NZ Ambassador to France with a mummified Maori head from the city's museum, so that it can be returned to Aotearoa to be buried in its tribal lands.

A group of buildings in the very chic St Germain des Près neighborhood, formerly occupied by the French Customs service, have been sold to private investors. The buildings included listed monuments, and have been carefully restored, but with the most modern equipment (raised floors for AC and cabling, etc.). The architects note that the government agents were very hard on the building, requiring a large investment to restore the buildings. But I thought that only public ownership was able to preserve France's historical heritage??? Private bad, public good, right? Note that the new owners are not only private, but they're a private equity fund, the Carlyle Group, from AMERICA! Horrors!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A tale of two accents

Listening to NPR's Talk of the Nation, and have heard two guests with strange accents.

The first is military historian Jim Lacey, who has written about the battle of Marathon. He speaks with this ztrong urban (Brooklyn? Joisey?) accent*, and insists on saying "calvary" for "cavalry". There's really a shocking contrast between what he's saying and his accent. He is a former infantry officer, so came to his position in writing and academia in an untraditional fashion.
Listen HERE: http://www.npr.org/2011/04/25/135710868/the-clash-at-marathon-shaped-greece-and-the-west

The second is Francis Everitt, who has the plummiest of English accents as he discusses his reasearch proving Einstein right. He seems intent on stuffing as many "ones" as possible. He sounds like Prince Charles' scientifically sound (but equally pompous) twin.
Listen yourself HERE: http://www.npr.org/2011/05/06/136057344/proof-that-einstein-got-it-right

*It's Brooklyn.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Slate Corrections scorecard


In the May 4 "Politics," John Dickerson incorrectly described President Bush's 2004 poll numbers as being from 2003.
Corrections guy gets 12/10 on the Doofometer cuz the MISTAKE HASN'T BEEN CORRECTED:
In the text: "In December 2003, Americans were concerned about the economy but their mood was improving.*"
At the bottom of the page: "Correction, May 5, 2011: Originally this article incorrectly stated that the Bush poll numbers were from December 2003. (Return to the corrected sentence.)"
Dickerson gets a 6/10. I don't think it changes much to his story, but since the whole point is about comparing poll numbers for different presidents at different times, he needed to be careful.

In the May 4 "Press Box," Jack Shafer misspelled the last name of Neda Salehi Agha Soltan.
Doofometer: 1/10. Weird name, it's OK to get it wrong.

In the May 3 "Jurisprudence," Simon Lazarus incorrectly referred to Rep. Paul Ryan's budget resolution, passed by the House in April. All such references should have been to Ryan's "Roadmap for America's Future," an earlier proposal that is more detailed than the budget resolution.
Doofometer: 9/10. I can see the mistake, but the entire article was about this document. Do you not know what document you were analyzing???

In a May 3 "XX Factor" post, K.J. Dell'Antonia misspelled the name of Atlanta law firm King & Spalding.
Doofometer: 4/10. I would give this a lower score, but how hard is it to spell "King & Spalding"? What did she write: Spaulding?

In the May 2 "Explainer," Brian Palmer incorrectly identified Yuri Andropov as Soviet premier in 1970. In fact, he was head of the KGB at that time, and did not become general secretary of the Communist Party until 1982.
Doofometer: 5/10. I would think that the beary presence of Brezhnev would have burned itself into ones member over the period 1964 to 1982 (then again, for a person my age, Brezhnev was the about the only premier we ever knew).

In the May 2 "Politics," John Dickerson described Osama Bin Laden's compound as being "35 minutes outside Islamabad." It's 35 miles from the city but would require a considerably lengthier trip.
Doofometer: 7/10. There was another error, where he said it was 90 miles from Islamabad. I give this a high score because "15 minutes from" means something when you say "by car" and its "from Slate HQ in Washington". It could be 15 minutes but a fast car, or a slow helicopter, or by extreme pogosticking...

In the April 29, "Science," Brian Palmer noted that, in the development of written communication, individual characters eventually came to stand in for "letters" rather than syllables. To be more precise, individual characters came to stand in for the sounds with which modern speakers identify letters.
Doofometer: 2/10. We knew what he meant.

In an April 27 "XX Factor" post, K.J. Dell'Antonia misspelled the first name of Garry Trudeau.
Doofometer: 4/10. A minor error, but the guy's name is in your magazine every single day.

In an April 26 "XX Factor" post, Jessica Grose misidentified the Beastie Boys album Licensed To Ill as License To Ill.
Doofometer: 1/10. Who wouldn't make this mistake?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Advice Illustrated: Mother's Day

Letter 1 is from a woman whose mother is a racist, obnoxious, vulgar and ill-mannered boor who's having a bad effect on LW's children. Prudie says that LW is doing the right thing to teach the kids that they can love their grandmother without approving her manners. But the racism is a big no-no. If she opens her racist mouth, she's not seeing the kids. I say, yeah.

Video letter is from a woman who owns two cutesy doggies and is irritated by the people who comment on them when she walks them. Prudie tells LW she knew what she was doing when she acquired the cute doggies. I say: Find that neighbor who sat on the out-of-control dog and your problem will be solved.

Letter 2 is from a mother whose adult daughter is unresponsive to her attempts to communicate. Prudie says to send a last email saying LW will no longer bother the daughter, but is looking forward to daughter initiating contact again. As for me, I wonder about those gifts. Those are fabulous, touching, heartfelt gifts. I wouldn't know how to equal them. Could it be as simple as that? You gave excessively awesome gifts.

Letter 3 is from a guy who knocked up a colleague and married her. Wife is bat-shit crazy about his mother, who is a perfectly nice woman. Prudie says he needs pschological support, and to acknowledge to his mother that his wife is nuts. I say: Men, use the damn condom and make sure the woman you bonk is using something too. No kid, no marriage to crazy women, no MIL issues. But now that you're married and a dad and all... but why is the assumption that MIL is innocent? Some people are capable of being really nasty out of sight when they need to be. And in this case, I can imagine MIL thinking: "The bitch trapped my baby boy!", and behaving accordingly.

Letter 4 is from a woman who doesn't get along with her mother. But her father's partner is adorable. Can she give this woman a mother's day gift? Prudie says, yes, but this can also be an opportunity to reach out to her mother. I say: Give it up Prudie. She said nothing about wanting to be in contact with her mother. And yes, your mother is the person who mothers you. (That's for Cam on Modern Family).