Saturday, September 20, 2014

Praise for the TGV and efficiency à la française

One of the great things about France (about which there are many great things, even if the French don’t always admit it) is that it sits on two climate zones. You can be sitting up north in Paris staring at clouds and then get on a train, and in the time it takes some poor commuter to drive into the centre of the city from an outlying suburb, you’re sitting by the Mediterranean wondering which rosé to order.
Thus writes Stephen Clarke.
Obviously you can do this by aeroplane from almost anywhere in the world, but then you’d have to add several hours on to your journey to allow for all the queueing. France’s fast trains, the TGVs, zip you down to the south coast so fast you wouldn’t even have time to get into the departure lounge at the airport.
Needless to say, Stephen Clarke does not address the issue of the taxes that pay for France's, or for the world's, high-speed train systems or how this contributes to the poor paying for the well-off. But that will have to wait for another day.
I realize that this is a life of luxury. Being a self-employed writer who has enough money to afford last-minute TGV tickets and a pleasant hotel has definite advantages, but the whole trip cost about the same as, say, a day trip to see Manchester United, or a C-list celebrity’s left shoe. And France is a place where you get value for money for all things luxurious.

Two days to proofread a book, when you’ve also been able to snorkel and enjoy two excellent and not outrageous meals of fresh local produce, that’s what I call efficiency à la française.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The Rotherham sex ring isn’t even the first example of authorities brushing pedophilia under the rug because the perps belonged to a well-organized, militant minority

When an anonymous researcher in Rotherham, England submitted a report thirteen years ago concerning a group of Pakistani men who were sexually abusing local girls she didn’t expect to face disciplinary action.
Benny Huang points out that the Rotherham scandal is not an isolated incident — far from it.
Her report was poorly received by the Rotherham Council which proceeded to launch a hasty coverup. Its members were so fearful that they would be accused of bias against racial and religious minorities that they turned a blind eye to the child-rape bonanza occurring under their noses.

 … Fortunately, the coverup appears to be over. Authorities are now admitting that a major sex slavery ring was operating across northern England between 1997 and 2013. A conservative estimate of the number of victims is about 1,400. One wonders how many of those victims might have been allowed to keep their innocence if someone in Rotherham had taken action in 2001 when the anonymous researcher first submitted her report. We’ll never know.

It takes a special kind of coward to allow kiddie-diddlers to run amok for fear of being called a bigot. Or does it? Covering for child molesters is getting to be rather routine in Britain. The Rotherham sex ring isn’t even the first example I’ve read of authorities brushing pedophilia under the rug because the perps belonged to a well-organized, militant minority. In at least two other situations, repeated credible accusations of child abuse against male homosexuals were ignored because the officials feared being perceived as “homophobic.”
Craig Faunch and Ian Wathey of Wakefield, England served as foster parents to eighteen children in 2003 and 2004. The two men sexually abused at least four of them. The fact that they requested troubled boys didn’t seem to send up any red flags. A report released in 2007 indicated that the two pervy child rapists were considered “trophy carers” because of their sexuality and that social workers went out of their way to show how accepting they were of same-sex foster parents. “It was clear that a number of staff were afraid of being thought homophobic,” said the report. “The fear of being discriminatory led them to fail to discriminate between the appropriate and the abusive.”
Child sexual abuse on a larger scale infested the Islington section of central London in the 1970s and 1980s. Again, the perpetrators were “gay” men, and again the crimes were covered up for precisely that reason. One survivor was Demetrious Panton who is now a forty-seven year old lawyer. According to the Daily Mail: “[Panton] was targeted by a now notorious paedophile ring, whose members at some point ran every one of the council’s twelve care homes. For more than a decade, the group was able to prey on children with virtual impunity, convincing Labour-run Islington’s political elite that anyone who attempted to blow the whistle on their crimes was motivated by homophobia.”

 … Some might argue that “straights” sometimes rape kids too. They would be right, of course, though proportionately speaking there’s simply no comparison—male homosexuals commit an absurdly large percentage of sex crimes against minors. Even so, the “straights do it too” argument fails for another, more important reason—no one ignores credible accusations of sexual abuse out of fear of being called a “heterophobe.” People aren’t trained to self-censor their words, and even their thoughts, when heterosexual men are preying on underage girls. Not unless those men happen to belong another protected group such as Pakistani Muslims.

That’s just the reality of Britain today and we’re probably not much better. Their society suffers from a surplus of cowardly authority figures who won’t lift a finger to protect children if it means that someone might call them a mean name. What spawned this kind of gutless pusillanimity?

 … Members of the cultural elite have created a taboo against criticizing members of groups they deem to be oppressed. The very same cultural elite serves as defenders and enforcers of that taboo, making sure that anyone who defies them pays a steep price. Like dogs who are taught via electrical shock not to stray from their kennels, ordinary people learn to keep mum about things they know aren’t right, even it means acting as an accomplice after the fact by concealing the truth.

Friday, September 05, 2014

When local news is bigger than national “news”

A highlight of the day [in my rented house on the island of Oléron, off the west coast of France] was going to the café and reading the local paper, Sud Ouest
reminisces Stephen Clarke.
I enjoy national papers, but at the moment, the French ones are annoying me. So here, the news that a group of local ladies, dressed as sailors, are doing the rounds of retirement homes to entertain the residents is far more interesting to me than a scoop about one French MP potentially disagreeing with another. It’s real life as opposed to press release life.

A quarter-page article about a librarian who was retiring was as neat a potted biography as I’ve read in any paper for a long time. Usually you only get them in the obituaries, and then only bigwigs and their weighty achievements. But this lady was born in the area, went to Paris, met her husband, moved to Normandy, then came back to the region with their children, presumably (it wasn’t revealed) to take advantage of the grandparents’ free time. Now she’s retiring, and, judging by the photo, her colleagues put together a very friendly send-off with plenty of drinks and snacks. Again, it’s much more immediate than the news that France might or might not end the 35-hour week (which everyone knows can’t be done overnight even if you want to do it), especially because you learn than small towns in France still have libraries. That really is news.

All this, plus a local ladies’ bowling team, a new computer club, the amount of salt put aside by salt producers against bad salt seasons, the problems of local honey producers because their bees are dying – it’s real life. Unlike the week’s massive story in France which is (in case you haven’t heard) that the former First Lady is bringing out a book about her life with Le Président. Yes, now it’s not only politicians talking about politicians. One of their ex-girlfriends is getting in on the act. Excerpts of the book take up half of the country’s biggest-selling glossy magazine. Every TV news channel is blaring about it. The newspapers will all be at it tomorrow. We will probably find out who said what to whom when, where and why, but the real question is, who cares?

I’m all in favour of big-selling books, whatever they are (within reason, of course). They put money in publishers’ coffers, which publishers spend on other books. But when you’ve got big magazine excerpts, you can kill book sales.

So please, give me more details about the librarian’s retirement party. What did she get as a going-away present? What’s she going to do now? It will tell us a lot more about France and the French than how journalists feel about how the First Lady feels about what the President used to feel about her.

If you want to see what real anarchy looks like, just have a look at our southern border

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley this week instructed officials at a Baltimore prison not to detain suspected illegal alien prisoners for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
notes Benny Huang,
unless they “present an actual threat to public safety.” The laws of the United States apparently no longer apply within the borders of Maryland.

Across the country, states and localities are refusing to work with the US government to enforce immigration laws. Some have gone as far as declaring themselves “sanctuary cities,” or places where illegal aliens can live in work (or not work) without fear of the law.

It seems like just yesterday that liberals were griping about the Supreme Court’s affirmation of Hobby Lobby’s right not to provide abortafacients to its employees. It was a slippery slope to anarchy, they argued. They almost made “anarchy” sound like a bad thing so I’ll assume they’re against it.

Their arguments were childish at best. If we don’t violate the Green Family’s rights, the next thing you know it’ll be human sacrifice! Better not to have any of that pesky religious freedom stuff lest it get out of control.

 … Of course, allowing the Greens the same rights guaranteed to all Americans will not lead to anarchy because the law is on their side. The court ruled that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protected their free exercise rights. I would argue that the Constitution does too. Upholding the law is the opposite of anarchy.

If you want to see what real anarchy looks like, just have a look at our southern border. Illegals are streaming across precisely because they believe that the law does not apply to them. NBC News’s Stephanie Gosk reported in July about attitudes in Honduras that might be driving young people to attempt the trek to and across the US-Mexico border.
“There has been for about a year now, this idea …flirting around places like Honduras, that when young people, when they arrive to the U.S., mothers of children when they arrive, that they are going to be allowed to stay. There was a director of one of the groups here who said that a lot of women believed if they could just show up at the border, the official border crossing, and they would be allowed to stay.”

And they will be.

They are not misinformed. Our top law enforcement officials are dedicated to getting as many undocumented Democrats into this country as possible. Enforcement is a joke.

The freefall into lawlessness with regard to illegal immigration is having a myriad of second and third order effects but none more detrimental than the warping of our concept of the rule of law.

Those who cross our border are quickly absorbing this lesson. The first thing they learn about the country they have entered, and which they will likely never leave, is that the rules don’t apply to them. They’re special. Rather than being turned around and sent back where they came from, they are sheltered and fed at the taxpayers’ expense. On top of that, they are then given bus, train, or plane tickets to wherever they want within the interior of the US.

If they don’t have IDs they are even allowed to board airplanes without proving their identity. (TSA initially lied about this but has since admitted it’s true.) Elderly Irish nuns still have to show their IDs and go through the whole rigmarole, because, you know, they might be terrorists! Or something.

Well, not exactly. I think even liberals know that elderly Irish nuns don’t actually pose a terrorist threat but they are uncomfortable with allowing certain groups through airport screening with little scrutiny because other groups might cry foul. By “other groups,” I mean Muslims, of course. We all have to endure an equal amount of harassment at the airport to avoid the appearance of singling out Muslims.

All of us, that is, except illegal aliens. They don’t have to show identification because they’re obviously not terrorists. MS-13 members maybe, but not terrorists. Predictably, the terrorist supergroup known as ISIS has been overheard on social media discussing plans to infiltrate the US via the southern border. We’ll probably give them a ride to their intended target.

After illegal aliens have crossed the border and are safely transported, at the taxpayers’ expense, to Your Town, USA, they are then given court dates. Most will not show up.

 … Rules are for the other guy. That’s the message they hear repeated over and over again.

Is it any surprise that illegal aliens then go on to work under the table, thus stiffing the Social Security Administration of much needed funds? Or that they sometimes “borrow” other people’s social security numbers? That they drive without licenses or insurance, often drunk? In my state, cops are fed up with pulling over illegal alien unlicensed drivers because they know that the drivers will simply give false names and then skip their court dates. Illegal aliens also vote illegally in our elections and collect welfare benefits to which they are not entitled. President Obama’s illegal alien Aunt Zeituni even made an illegal campaign contribution to her nephew’s campaign.

This is what real anarchy looks like. It is the predictable outcome of a judicial system that refuses to enforce the law against a certain group of people. That group of people learns with great alacrity that they are entitled to show the same disregard toward all of our laws that they showed to the laws they brushed aside on their way through the door.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

10 Years Ago, Rotherham's Denis MacShane Was Among the Good Guys


Not that multiculti double standards should be defended in any way, and not that Denis MacShane does not deserve what's coming to him, but just a word to point out that 10 years ago, during the Iraq war, the MP for Rotherham was among the good guys. He was not only a supporter of Tony Blair's alliance with George W Bush, he was vocal in his support.

"That's Why We're Fighting the Bastards, Isn't It?"
"It hurts that war, it hurts me," [A. A. Khaliq of Rotherham said in May 2004]. "Blair made a mistake in backing Bush. I support the British troops, but not the United States. We should never have let the U.S. draw us in. We're in with a regime that doesn't listen to anybody. We should pull out."

 … Rotherham's member of Parliament during the same period, MacShane said of Khaliq, "A ways back, this is a guy who was shouting that the Brits and the Americans were wimping out and demanding the 7th Fleet bombard Milosevic when the Serbs were mistreating the Muslims."
"That's Why We're Fighting the Bastards, Isn't It?"
"Going door to door," said MacShane after two days of talking [prior to the June 2004 elections], "I don't get the impression that Iraq is what's on people's minds. It's how things are working out for them. One guy said, 'Iraq's a problem, isn't it Denis?' Then he talked about the young fellow beheaded on television, and he said, 'that's why we're fighting the bastards, isn't it Denis?' "
Then again, Tony Blair's Labour Party was always close to outstanding on the international scene, and (much) less so on the domestic scene.
Click for more vintage MacShane posts on No Pasarán

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The wise, disinterested experts of the regulatory state will deliver progress for our own good, whether we understand it or not

Government requires trust. Government by progressives, however, demands such inordinate amounts of trust that the demand itself should provoke distrust. Progressivism can be distilled into two words: “Trust us.”
Thus writes George Will (thanks to Instapundit and Ed Driscoll).
The antecedent of the pronoun is: The wise, disinterested experts through whom the vast powers of the regulatory state’s executive branch will deliver progress for our own good, as the executive branch understands this, whether we understand it or not. Lois Lerner is the scowling face of this state, which has earned Americans’ distrust. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

From now on France can forget recovery, forget unemployment, it’s all about politicians’ egos

Monday, Stephen Clarke heard that Arnaud Montebourg, the economy minister, has resigned;
it turns out that he has been saying a bit too loudly that he doesn’t agree with the government’s economic policies (a bit rich from the man who accepted the job of conceiving and implementing them, one might think) and that he has been “resigned”. In fact the PM Manuel Valls has decided that he’s had enough of sniping ministers and has announced to President Hollande that his government has resigned, which simply means that he is going to have a massive ministerial reshuffle.

Montebourg wasn’t the first by any means to start openly criticizing Francois Hollande. The knives are out. A former ecology minister Cecile Duflot has just ripped into him in a book. Other left-wing figures having been queuing up to distance themselves from Hollande.

It’s no coincidence, of course. The politicians are well aware that ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy is preparing his comeback, and that the Socialists need someone strong, and new, to stand against him. They’re all thinking “pourquoi pas moi?” This naturally involves forgetting that the elections are three years away and that France needs to be governed in the meantime.

Three years till presidential elections, and the campaign is under way. From now on the country can forget recovery, forget unemployment, it’s all about politicians’ egos. As if it was ever any different.

From now on, I predict non-stop rumours about who wants to run for President, a glut of new parties, and endless speeches about how moi and only moi can save the country – despite the fact that all I’ve done for the past three years is sit back and criticise.

Oh joy …

The BBC reports that a
central aim of his latest reshuffle is to replace those left-wing critics [Arnaud Montebourg (L), Benoit Hamon (C) and Aurelie Filippetti (R)] with more sympathetic minds, and give President Hollande's economic drive a boost.

Key among the new appointments announced on Tuesday is a fresh face in government. Emmanuel Macron is a former banker and economic adviser to the president who now takes up the job of economy minister.

His key selling point is that he shares the president's pro-business, centre-right vision - unlike his predecessor.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

White Americans avoid speaking the truth aloud for reasons of racial guilt and black Americans avoid saying it for reasons of racial solidarity, but no one is really fooled

The tragic death of Michael Brown, an eighteen year old black man, at the hands of the police, has sparked days of rioting and looting in Ferguson, Missouri. His community rallied around him from the start, telling reporters that Mike Brown was a great kid who was shot down “like an animal” because of his race.
Thus writes Benny Huang.
Unfortunately, the portrait they painted of the gentle giant wasn’t entirely accurate.

 … The version of the story that portrays Brown as a hapless victim of racism and police brutality is quickly unraveling. He was not shot in the back as Brown’s friend Dorian Johnson, a witness to the killing (and accomplice to the robbery), claims. Nor was he shot for jaywalking as ludicrous early reports indicated. Brown robbed a store then attempted to take a police officer’s gun, presumably to shoot him with it.
Either Brown’s die-hard supporters are truly mistaken about what happened on August 9th or else they know that the story is a concoction and they just don’t care.
The Michael Brown case is starting to look a lot like a warmed over version of the Duke lacrosse case, the Trayvon Martin case, and the Tawana Brawley case. In other words, a rush to judgment has resulted in a lynch mob mentality.

Yet I suspect that most black Americans know, in their heart of hearts, that the fictional narrative being foisted upon the nation is a sham. The black citizens of Ferguson are doing what blacks tend to do whenever a racial controversy erupts—presenting a united front to the outside world. It’s a form of tribalism that would rightly be called racism if white people did it, which they occasionally do.

No one knows better than black Americans that there’s something amiss in black America. They know that black-on-black crime is a far greater threat than the supposedly racist cops who patrol their streets and that their values and priorities are out of whack, yet they prefer to discuss these matters when only black ears are listening.

 … A code of silence dictates that black criticisms of black behavior be kept in-house. If outsiders were to overhear them admitting that blacks need to straighten up and fly right they might take it as confirmation that “the system” is not broken; black culture is. “Racists” might exploit that.

Comedian Bill Cosby was chided in 2004 for his remarks at an NAACP function marking the fiftieth anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. The thrust of his remarks was that black Americans should forgo any celebration about how far they’ve come since the fifties and sixties because blacks themselves have largely squandered the gains they struggled for. The black community needs to do some soul-searching about what really ails them—white racism or black attitudes and habits? 
While most black leaders found Bill Cosby’s remarks abrasive, some admitted that they sometimes say the same things to black audiences. Cosby’s transgression was to air the black community’s “dirty laundry” for the whole world to see. In fairness to Cosby, he didn’t know his comments would leak to the media. He believed he was speaking entre nous.
Cosby has responded on several occasions to accusations of airing dirty laundry.   “When you go looking for the dirty laundry, I would appreciate it if you would direct your attention to a school where there is, for sure, a fifty per cent dropout rate among black males. And don’t forget the guards, the ones that have to check for the guns and the knives. Shhhh.This will be our personal little black secret.”  What Cosby meant is that black delinquency and underachievement is the worst kept secret in the world. Hiding the problems isn’t working because anyone with eyes can see them. White Americans avoid speaking the truth aloud for reasons of racial guilt and black Americans avoid saying it for reasons of racial solidarity, but no one is really fooled.

Monday, August 25, 2014

French-Speaking History Professor: Say No to Pro-Russian Propaganda and Do Not Engage in Moral Relativism

Depuis le début de la crise ukrainienne, un discours structuré de défense systématique des actions de la Russie est très dynamique sur les réseaux sociaux, dans des médias officiels russes publiés en français et leurs relais d’opinion en France. Il relève d’une propagande qui joue habilement sur un aspect commun à plusieurs cultures politiques françaises, l’anti-impérialisme, lui permettant de trouver un écho dans des milieux politiques variés. 
In the face of what he calls all the pro-Russian propaganda present in France, Olivier Schmitt has decided to protest in Le Monde:
UN ETAT AUTORITAIRE

 … le relativisme moral est mal placé. D’un côté, une démocratie dont les dirigeants sont régulièrement renouvelés, les soldats sanctionnés lorsqu’ils violent le droit international humanitaire, qui dispose d’une presse libre et reconnaît les droits des minorités.

De l’autre, un Etat autoritaire, dont la brutalité des troupes s’exerce en Tchétchénie, en Géorgie et en Ukraine, où les homosexuels sont pourchassés et la liberté d’expression un concept oublié. Personne ne dit que les Etats-Unis sont parfaits, mais créer une équivalence morale entre les deux pays relève de la cécité ou de la complicité.

Vladimir Poutine veut être entouré d’Etats vassalisés – auxquels il dénie donc la souveraineté qu’il prétend défendre par ailleurs – et, obnubilé par son maintien au pouvoir, ne peut pas concevoir qu’une révolution telle que le soulèvement de Maïdan à Kiev ne soit pas forcément un complot américain.

L’exploitation habile par la propagande russe de divers aspects de l’anti-impérialisme commun à plusieurs courants politiques français fausse ainsi la perception d’une politique russe particulièrement inquiétante pour la sécurité de l’Europe et de la France.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Almost impossible for anyone to set up their own business in France because the administrative costs are so high

The French economy is not in a great place right now
writes Mark Johnson,
but my heart still sinks when I see that yet another local business has closed down in the nearby towns round my part of rural France.
 
Recently, I noticed that the local kitchen and bathroom business in the enclave of Savigné had shut its doors for good. To be honest, I wasn’t surprised, they’d once quoted me €28,500 for two bathroom renovations.

An English expat friend, who owns a beautiful seven bedroom chateau in the Limousin, collapsed in fits of laughter at that quote, saying he’d managed to install five luxury bathrooms for less than €12,000.

But, while President Hollande dithers over how to get the nation back on its economic feet, business owners, employees and their suppliers are counting the cost in real terms of a country that refuses to modernise and create opportunities for the next generation of local entrepreneurs.

This is nothing new of course. Years ago, when I lived in the thriving Arabian emirate of Dubai, I met loads of young French folk who had forsaken their homeland for a nation that would encourage entrepreneurialism and reward their hard work.

One French friend said that it was almost impossible for anyone to set up their own business in France because the administrative costs are so high that you need to already have a fortune in order to get going. Even today, there’s a pile of government regulations and a raft of taxes to pay before you even serve your first customer. “That’s why so many people in France work for the government,” she said.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

What irritates Stephen Clarke is that so little happens in Paris in August

I know lots of people who say that they love to be in Paris in August, when all the Parisians are away
But Stephen Clarke does not agree:
what irritates me is that so little happens in Paris in August.

Of course everyone needs their holiday, but it gets tough setting up meetings, for example. Lots of Parisian meetings happen in cafés, and … many of these are closed in summer

 … It’s the same buying bread. There are very strict rules about when a boulangerie can close for its annual holidays. The baker has to belong to one of two groups, according to when he or she (almost always he) wants to close: either 1-31 July or 1-31 August. When a shop closes, it has to give the addresses of the two nearest boulangeries that are still open.

 … So it’s all well organized, and fresh bread is always available by law, but if your local boulangerie closes and you’re used to strolling lazily across the road in the mornings to buy fresh bread, and now you have to go all of 200 metres further to a boulangerie that you don’t particularly like because their pain aux raisins are too doughy (it can happen), it feels to the average Parisian as if you’ve been told to crawl to Lourdes on your hands and knees as penance for a sin – maybe the sin of staying in Paris when you ought to be on holiday.

So yes, we Parisians are a spoilt bunch, but when you’re used to having a café and a boulangerie within yards of your front door, it’s hard to adapt. I’m sure the same is true for polar explorers: give them easy access to shops and restaurants and they’ll go insane with claustrophobia.

Another problem with Paris in August is that the weekly events guides slim down to supermodel thinness.

 … Paris, I think, needs a summer festival.

 … I fear, though, that theatres, music venues and café back rooms will all be subject to city rules about annual closure; that sound engineers, stage managers and actors will all want their annual holiday; and that everyone would go on strike anyway, as they threatened to do this year at Avignon.

So maybe Paris is doomed to be bereft of culture every summer. Except of course for the art museums, where you can still see some of the greatest collections in the world. But then again, art shows aren’t hindered by annual holidays, because all the artists concerned are on an eternal vacation in the afterlife. Though I bet that if they want to change from heaven to hell one summer, they have to ask for permission.