Friday, May 21, 2004

Chocolate Makers Fudgepackers and boring opera Fabricants de chocolat et soldats d'opérettes
The US-European gulf will continue to widen no matter who wins the US Presidential election. The Economist explains. Why the USA would want to shack up with such a panty-waist candyass shithole is beyond me. Zeropa's opinion is worth somewhere in between 'jack' and 'shit'.
Le gouffre qui sépare les Etats-unis et l'Europe continuera à se creuser quel que soit le résultat des élections présidentielles américaines. L'Economist explique. Pourquoi les Etats-unis voudraient faire équipe avec un tel trou à merde pédaloïde cucul la praline me dépasse. L'opinion zéropéenne a une valeur qui se situe quelque part entre 'que' et 'dalle'.

A Thousand Pardons

As you can see, things have ground to a halt: we're all tbtb.

Have faith, Dear Reader: we'll be back soon...

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The Lie of Le Monde

Straight to you from a French keyboard in Cannes' American Pavillon.

On May 18, the newspaper of reference printed Une guerre sans justice on its editorial page, in its unrelenting battle to castigate America, its leaders, and its army. Among the combatttants Le Monde has asked to join the holy war to weed out the Bush team's lies is a "philosophe". This is what Monique Canto-Sperber writes at one point, in which she seeks to refute, one by one, the benefits of the Iraq war:
Bring help to the Iraqis? Over 100,000 civilian victims have been counted…
I thought that Le Monde was the forefront of the battle against liars, deceivers, and other tricksters. Apparently, any trick is good in battling those unholy beings, including... lying... deceiving... and using tricks...

Here's a nickel, now beat it you filthy bum Voilà une pièce de 5 euro-centimes, casse-toi sale clodo
Chiraq is passing the collection plate for NGOs.
Chirak se balade le bras tendu histoire de quémander des sous pour les ONG.

Euro 2004 Squad

French National Team manager Jacques Santini has named his his 23-man selection for this summers Euro championships.

In alphabetical order, they are:
Fabien Barthez, Jean-Alain Boumsong, Grégory Coupet, Olivier Dacourt, Marcel Desailly, William Gallas, Ludovic Giuly, Thierry Henry, Mickaël Landreau, Bixente Lizarazu, Claude Makelele, Steve Marlet, Benoît Pedretti, Robert Pires, Jérôme Rothen, Willy Sagnol, Louis Saha, Mickaël Sylvestre, Lilian Thuram, David Trezeguet, Patrick Viera, Sylvain Wiltord, Zinedine Zidane
The AP has noticed a few conspicuous absences. Despite having won the Bundesliga championship with his team Werder Bremen, Johan Micoud will not be on the Euro 2004 squad, along with Sidney Govou, Peguy Luyindula and Philippe Mexès.

Djibril Cissé (aka Sisko) won't be there and most surprisingly... Nicolas Anelka will be left out despite his wopping 25 goals for Manchester City this season.

On Thursday, France will play a friendly against BRAZIL (!!!) its centenary match, according to Reuters. Many important players will be missing due to prior club engagements, including Giuly and Rothenm, Barthez and Marlet, Silvestre, Lizarazu and Sagnol. There'll be a number of back benchers on the field against Brazil however there's no sense thinking France will have a chance against Brazil any time soon.

France Today

Ivorian Bloc Said to Plan Murder of French Soldiers

Civil war broke out in Ivory Coast in 2002 but in January of last year, France negotiated a cease-fire between Ivorian authorities and a rebel army, granting the rebels a place in a new power-sharing government. President Gbagbo accepted this but it infuriated the Ivorian public who are angry with France for making such a concession to the rebels and, in their view, imposing it on Ivorian authorities. A wave of anti-French sentiment has come over the country and tensions are high, especially since the murder of a French reporter in IC last October. French peace-keepers are now in a hostile country and having to repel insurgent attacks. Meanwhile, the rebels have recalled their representatives from the government.

The rebels now claim that the government is planning for war. Furthermore, an Ivorian News Web site is now reporting that the "Rebel Bloc" are seeking to murder French soldiers, stationed there as part of a peace-keeping force. The site quotes a "trustworthy source" as saying "there will be a demonstration by the rebel bloc in Abidjan. During this demonstration, which will be more violent than that of last March 25, a French soldier will be killed. This will provide an official reason for the Licorne forces [French peace keeping troops] to intervene alongside the rebel marchers. The aim of the march itself is to create the conditions for a clash among the civilian populations. The rebels, large numbers of whom are already on the banks of Ebrié Laguna, are all armed with light weapons. And this time, it won't be firing on a few of their own members. It will rather involve attacking the civilian population."

Cross your fingers everyone...


French Sikhs to Wear Hair Nets But Not Name Tags

Indian news Web site reports that France's Sikhs plan to get round the new law on secularism (which forbids wearing religious symbols in school) by replacing their turbans with hair nets.

Great. Education minister François Fillon is actually proud of this arrangement. He said, "we've come up with an arrangement. They accept wearing a hair net. It's less aggressive, less showy."

Injustice Update

Despite a moribund French economy, the average salary of French CEOs rose by 14% in 2003, according a widely publicized report in on the financial news Web site Les Echos (subscription required). The average CEO salary was €2 million last year. These same salaries increased 36% in 2000, 20% in 2001, and 13% in 2002, not exactly good years for the French economy.

Meanwhile, Le Journal du Net is reporting that the number of salaried employees in France dropped by 0.1% in just the first quarter of 2004. Fifty thousand such positions were terminated in 2003.

In her memoirs, former investigating magistrate for financial crimes Eva Joly (mentioned here, here and here) wrote (p. 293) that "30 years ago, the highest salary in a company was on average twenty times greater than the median salary. To-day it is nearly 200 times greater." She goes on to list a number of CEOs of failing companies whose remuneration only grew and grew. This is part of a larger array of social injustices that she says arise from the abuse of power by the super-rich. "Why have we remained passive opposite this deep flaw in the democratic system?" she asks.


Fewer Dead on French Highways
— Pols Still Hypocrites

Those who take the Paris metro will be familiar with the ubiquitous graffiti that reads "8,000 dead a year on the highways!" (Huit mille morts par an sur les routes!) This is normally written right across a woman's boobs in a lingerie ad. (Indeed, that is a high number: it translates to almost one death an hour in a country of sixty million). Well, according to this AP news round-up, France saw a "historic drop" in the number of people killed in high-way accidents in 2003. Transport minister Gilles de Robien presented the new statistics which hold that only 5,731 people were killed on France's high-ways in 2003, down from 7,242 in 2002, which equals a 20.9% drop. (There were also 20% fewer wounded and 20% fewer accidents.) See here some of the embarrassments suffered by the French government in its campaign against speeding. (De Robien was himself caught red-handed speeding down the highway with Nicholas Sarkozy last October. De Robien and Sarkozy had themselves unveiled radar speed detectors on that very same road).

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Le Point sur l'actu française

Abdelkader Bouziane has 16 kids in France
• Abd al-Kader Bouziane, left, the Salafist imam of Vénissieux who preached wife beating and was hastily expelled from France (for more info see here, here and here) has been granted a visa to return.

• During yesterday's demonstration against anti-Semitism, Green MP and mayor of Bègles (Gironde) Noël Mamère was splattered with ketchup and kicked by a gang of youths.

Mamère is another inevitably fashionable critic of Israel. He is also author of Dangerous America: Chronicle of an Announced War (published in January of 2003) and of No thanks, Uncle Sam! (1999) in which he writes that, in these times, "it is appropriate to be downright anti-American."

Toward the middle of the demonstration, "a young man emptied a bottle of ketchup on my face and clothes and ran off," said Mr. Mamere. "Ten or so youths of 16 to 18, very violent, then came up to me and started hitting me."

Mamère had to leave early.

• Socialist parliamentarian Jean-Christophe Cambadélis writes in an essay in to-day's Le Figaro that the left is derelict in its duty to combat anti-Semitism.
It is not a mindless and insignificant part of France that is behind these acts. It is the lethal hatred of the Jew. So why has the left remained with its rifle by its feet? Because it does not want to react, so much is it overtaken by the desire to explain [this phenomenon]. But at this moment, an explanation is a pardon. [...] Isn't it a sophisticated form of modern anti-Semitism to view each Jew as a guardian of the Israeli government? Racism consists in always reducing an individual to his racial origins, in burdening him with a biological identity.

In light of our cause, putting a change in Israeli policy before our indignation, our upset and our rage is intolerable. It is unacceptable given the evil coming over our country. It is here, in France, in our schools, in our suburban areas, that Anti-Semitism is arising.
• A poll has found the three men most favored for president in 2007: Finance minster Nicolas Sarkozy (54%), doctor and consultant Bernard Kouchner (53%) and former prime minister Lionel Jospin (47%).

• French trade minister François Loos has announced that France will be seeking more business in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. According to Loos, French megabank BNP Paribas will open offices in KSA. The Accor group will begin construction of Sofitel hotels and France's National Railway corporation intends to finalize plans for railway lines in the Kingdom soon.

French investments in KSA are greater than $1.2 billion, making France the third largest investor in the kingdom. Along with Royal Dutch/Shell, French oil conglomerate Total has signed a deal — which the AFP calls "landmark" — for gas exploration in Rub al-Khali (the "empty quarter") in the south.

The fact that a wave of anti-Western terrorist attacks has killed more than 65 people in KSA leaves Loos undeterred. "There was a horrible attack in Madrid. I didn't hear that French companies stopped going there," he said. One wonders if the same holds for Israeli tourism.

Loos arrived on Thursday with representatives from 30 French firms and will soon depart for Qatar. The trade minister claims France is seeking a free trade agreement with the entire Gulf Cooperation Council as soon as possible — perhaps bringing French foreign policy into direct opposition to American desings (cf. Bush's Greater Middle East plan) yet again.

When asked why France didn't have the same security concerns that drove the US and UK governments to advise their citizens against travel to Saudi Arabia, Loos put his smarmiest face on. "It may be that the Americans feel they are in a different political situation than us [sic]," he said.

Tee hee. (not).

• Switzerland's Federal Commission Against Racism commissioned a study by the University of Zurich into media bias. According to SwissInfo, the study found that the Swiss media give a positive image of Jews but not necessarily of Muslims. Who knew?

• A month before the the D-Day celebrations, a book entitled Accursed Children has come out about the illegitimate children of German soldiers abandoned during the war. The BBC quotes a passage
"Which one of you knows the difference between a swallow and a Boche?" the mayor asked.

"I'll tell you. When the swallow makes its babies here in France, it takes them with it when it leaves. But the Boche - he leaves his behind."

Rouxel was, not surprisingly, mortified. He was the baby the Boche had left behind.

"After that, I wept and wept," he says today. "I was so ashamed that I ran and hid under a bridge for the whole night. I even thought of doing away with myself."

Monday, May 17, 2004

The Test of Cannes

(A translation of a Le Monde editorial that appeared on May 15, 2004)

Recall that almost one year ago, the summer festivals were canceled one after another because of the protests of contract workers for the performing arts. They waged a campaign to maintain their unemployment insurance that was threatened by a protocol that became effective on January 1st.

During the past week, reason seems to have prevailed on the Cannes promenade: angry artists, after negotiations with the Festival, won a space in which they could express themselves. So much for the better, because another cancellation would have created a bad start to a season that has barely begun. This would have seriously harmed the image of French culture and threatened the viability of the renowned, international festival at Cannes. One might nonetheless question, from the point of view of social solidarity, a course of conduct that endangers the work of other artists and the livelihood of those who depend upon the festivals.

The government’s logic throughout this crisis has been flabbergasting. Jean-Jacques Aillagon’s successor at the Ministry of Culture and Communication, Renaud Donnediue de Vabres, promised to revive negotiations, raising hopes among the contract workers, while the Prime Minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, closed the door on renewed negotiations by announcing that the reform of the protocol was fixed. This incoherence and lack of transparency rekindled a dispute that was burning out.

A more simple disagreement would have suffered as a result. What, therefore, to say of the difficulties raised by the reform of live performing arts! We must recognize that it is no longer realistic to hope for a pure and simple return to the past (which is not necessarily what all contract workers hope for). The system created in 1969 for 30,000 artists and technicians has collapsed, and not only under the weight of abuses. It pays the costs of its massive coverage to more than 100,000 beneficiaries, resulting in a deficit of 850 million euros in 2003, which Unedic,** alone, cannot sustain. At the same time, profits from the performing arts have not proportionally increased, leading paradoxically to the growing impoverishment of contract workers, as emphasized by the excellent Laterjet report recently given to the Minister of Culture.

In this difficult context, we welcome the “emergency” measures promised by Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres and his proposal to redefine the range of beneficiaries—privileging those who live off of “discontinuous” or temporary work. This reform should create a better compensation system than the current one which applies to 600 different professions, many of which have little to do with the performing arts.

Yet, if we are to arrive at a compromise and avoid more protests (which are already forecast), the Minister must do more than take necessary measures. He must stop equivocating, and he must propose a plan that incorporates the more reasonable demands of the contract workers.

**Unedic is the French national organization that manages unemployment benefit schemes.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Rules to Live and Die By

(especially die by)

A Good Week for Anti-Americanism in France

What with newly-appointed foreign minister Michel Barnier outdoing his predecessor in lambasting the situation in Iraq and Le Monde outdoing itself on castigating the "horrors" of the Iraq war with unending editorials, columns, and fillers, it's been a good week for anti-American sentiment in France.

Especially since it ended in crescendo as the paper's top honcho, Jean-Marie Colombani, penned a ferocious editorial that went against tradition by appearing on the front page for once (as in the olden days), one which basically retracted his September 11, 2001, assertion that we are all Americans.

Thankfully, all hope is not lost. For Colombani said there might be hope on the horizon. The American people will be happy to learn that in substance, he promised to unretract the assertion if Americans would only do the right thing. All they had to do to win the Frenchman's respect (and, supposedly, that of the government and the entire French people and the rest of the world) was vote for the right man in November.

Still, it's been heated this week, and the broadsides so unending, that one might almost think that the French government and the newspaper of reference were in collusion. But given the French press's tradition of independence, that's impossible, of course.

In any case, you will happy to learn that various editorials, columns, and letters to the editor have been most graceful all week long, in comparing the Iraq situation to the Vietnam quagmire, generalizing the guards' behaviour to the entire army, calling Americans torturers, calling their actions war crimes or crimes against humanity, comparing them to those of the Nazis, saying that Rumsfeld is the equivalent of Zarkaoui (just as Bush is the equivalent of Bin Laden), calling for Bush's impeachment, and otherwise showing that subtle trait of spirit that the French are world-renowned for.

I have a short (sic) comment on the onslaught on Le Monde Watch, but it's only in French, j'ai peur.

(By the way, today is the birthday of William Seward (1801-1872), Abraham Lincoln's secretary of state who once said: "The circumstances of the world are so variable that an irrevocable purpose or opinion is almost synonymous with a foolish one.")

Contre l'antisémitisme, je marche

Ceremonies today in Fleury-devant-Douaumont — AFP

=>Three to four hundred people gathered outside the memorial in Fleury-devant-Douaumont dedicated to the Jews killed in the first world war which was defaced ten days ago with nazi slogans. In a message read aloud by the deputy minister for veterans services, Hamlaoui Mekachera, president Chirac condemned the profanation of the memorial as a "collective wound" and "an offense to the entire nation."

Others present included the Grand Rebbe of Nancy, Daniel Dahan; the mayor of Nancy, André Rossinot (Radical Left party); the chair of the regional council, Socialist Jean-Pierre Masseret and the former chairman of the same council, Gérard Longuet (ruling UMP party) and several Jewish, Catholic and protestant representatives who participated in Hebrew prayers.

=>Meanwhile, a demonstration against anti-Semitism and against "apathy" took place in Paris. Police put the number of participants at 9,000 but organizers said there were 30,000.

Every political party sent representatives to the demonstration with the exception of the National Front. The procession began at Place de la République and went to Place de la Bastille (Web cam here).

The head of the procession, demonstrators held a banner that read "Contre l'antisémisitme, je marche" ("Against anti-Semitism, I march").The Movement Against Racism and for Friendship Among Peoples (MRAP) and the Human Rights League (LDH) had sought to change the order of the day to include anti-Semitism "and all forms of racism" but protest organizers denied this request. Representatives from the two groups "remained at the tail of the demonstration with Green party and Communist militants," according to the AFP.
Girls from S.O.S. Racisme participating in the demonstration. — Reuters
Their signs are marked with the organization's slogan: "hands off my pal."

Youths from the left wing Jewish organization Hachomer Hatzaïr were present along with representatives of the Jewish Student Union of France (UEJF), who chanted, "France, wake up! Thy silence shall undo thee."

References to the Arab-Israeli conflict were strictly banned from the demonstration. There were no pro-Palestinian slogans and a young man who tried to brandish and Israeli flag got a stiff dressing down.

When the demonstration arrived at place de la Bastille, undersecretary for victim's rights Nicole Guedj said "Suppression must be as firm and as active as possible." Health minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said that anti-Semitism "is a crime." Socialist party leader François Hollande said that there can be "no tolerance for intolerance," while UDF leader François Bayrou told the AFP that "there is a movement, a minority but a real one, that must be identified and fought."

Novelist and painter Marek Halter said that "France is neither racist nor anti-Semitic. She is apathetic."

Other News

=>Some 780,000 people in France are to-day infected with the Hepatitis C virus, which is nearly 200,000 more than official statistics indicated, according to a study by the Proscop institute, published on Friday in Toulouse.

One of three French persons infected with Hepatitis doesn't know it. Consequently, there are 5,000 new cases of hepatitis ever year, causing the deaths of 4,000 people annually. Nasal and intravenous drug use constitute the principle modes of infection (around 80% of new infections occur in this way).

=>Chirac's approval rating has fallen to 43 percent, the lowest since his reelection two years ago. Incidentally, George Bush's approval rating — some people actually approve of him, it seems — has fallen to 44%.

=>French police physically abused protesters outside the Cannes festival to-day (protests mentioned yesterday on NP). A crowd formed to demand that six other protesters already in detention be released. Two policemen charged the crowd and, in doing so, allegedly employed excessive force.

A cameraman for France 3 suffered cuts and bruises when police threw him to the ground. Eight policemen and three protesters suffered injuries during the troubles. France 3 has announced that it will file a complaint against the police and the deputy commissioner has opened an investigation into the events.

Though he was carrying a camera on his shoulder, the reporter in question, Gwenaël Rihet, was thrown to the ground and handcuffed by the advancing police. As a result, he was hospitalized for 24 hours, required six stitches in the head and was incapacitated for four days.

Seasonal, part-time or freelance entertainment industry workers are protesting cuts to their welfare benefits which are part of penny-pinching measures designed to stave off fiscal disaster.

Protests began with a sit-in that forced the interruption of a film-screening for potential distributors, part of the Cannes festival.

The police have brought in 1,000 men to maintain order during the festival and protest organizers say that the demonstrations have drawn 1,500 participants while the police put that number at 500.

Staff at Quentin Tarantino's hotel, the Carlton, have also gone on strike over pay. (Who could afford to pay them enough to serve that ambulatory piece of turd?).

What a celebrity-TV show says about French attitudes to rural life

Excerpts from Down on the farm, an article in The Economist:
RENOWNED abroad for their fine culture, at home the French busily consume trashy television. The latest hit is La Ferme Célébrités, a reality-TV show that maroons 14 C-list celebrities on a Provençal farm, with neither running water nor electricity. The contestants include a Caribbean-born transvestite who totters across the mud in stilettos and a germ-phobic choreographer who dons rubber gloves while trying to herd sheep. Last month's opening night beat French records for reality-TV … Why has it touched such a nerve?

In part, it is popular devotion to low culture, a phenomenon often ignored by the elite. A few politicians have noticed: Gilles de Robien, the transport minister, invited Elodie Gossuin, a former Miss France who is on the show, to stand on his centre-right list at March's regional elections. She won a seat. Her participation in the TV show prompted local tut-tutting, but a poll showed that most people saw no conflict of interest. Ms Gossuin was even given permission by TF1, the station airing the show, to nip out to attend council sessions.

The show's casting breaks new ground. The contestants may lack stardom, but not diversity. Every tint, from black African to swarthy Corsican, is represented. Throw in the middle-aged, sexually ambiguous or fat, and there is a mix that defies the usual rules of all-young, all-beautiful prime-time French television. But the biggest reason for the show's appeal is what it says about rural life. Farming has long had a peculiar grip on the French imagination, blending nostalgia with genuine traditions. Politically too it holds unusual power. President Jacques Chirac, whose political life began in rural Corrèze, is a staunch defender of EU farm subsidies. Today, though, only 3.5% of the working population is engaged in agriculture. The celebrities in the show were picked partly for their ignorance of farming—though they managed to deliver a kid goat. But their metropolitan disconnect from rural life strikes a chord with viewers.

Needless to say, this depiction of farming life also upsets real farmers. This week, the Confédération Paysanne, a rural union formerly run by José Bové, an anti-globalisation campaigner, threatened to blockade the set. Scores of farmers gathered to demand that TF1 close down the show. The series, they said, “ridiculed” farming life and gave the rural world a “degrading image”. A few years ago, Mr Bové's confederation trashed another symbol of evil, McDonald's. Between junk food and junk TV, rural life in France appears to be perpetually under threat. But many French people seem to like both.

Middle East

48% of the French dislike Israel, which ranks only below Syria and Iran in terms of unpopularity in the Hexagon. The feeling is mutual. According to a poll, requested by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, of 507 Israelis, 67.1% "do not like" or "hate" France. 41% of Israelis feel "some hostility" and 16% possess a "strong hostility" towards France.

--(via Le Monde (scroll down the linked page))