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.


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