Saturday, April 24, 2004

Just Noticed

This blog is commemorating the tenth anniversary of each day of the Rwandan genocide. To-day's post on failed peace talks between the RPF and the Rwandan interim government.

Rwanda on their consciences...

When John Lloyd left the New Statesman last April over the Iraq war, he published a final article (excerpted here) entitled "The left has lost the plot" ( — by defending sovereignty in the name of anti-imperialism, opponents of war undermine their claim to champion the oppressed — ). Lloyd mentioned "a Canadian-sponsored report, The Responsibility to Protect" and said it was a "brilliant summation of the arguments for stripping tyrants of sovereign inviolability."

One of the co-chairs of the commission that developed the report was former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans, now president of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG), an organization that seeks "to prevent and resolve deadly conflict."

Along with Stephen Ellis, ICG's Africa director, Evans has just published an essay in Le Monde entitled, "After the Rwanda genocide, memory is not enough."
In future, the international community most be better prepared to respond to such situations when they become explosive. Part of the response consists in dispensing with preconceived notions that have naturally spread far and wide in world where so many have had to fight with every ounce of strength to rid themselves of colonialism. The sovereignty of a state is not a license to kill. It implies a responsibility protect one's own people. Once one deliberately renounces this responsibility or once the state is incapable of exercising it, it becomes part of the larger responsibility of the international community.

The threshold for military intervention must also be raised: loss of human life, real or feared, on a grand scale, large scale ethnic cleansing, real or feared, brought about by forced expulsion or other means. It must always be implemented according to principles that take into account cautious criteria such as well-founded intentions, last resort, proportionate means and a reasonable hope of success during an intervention that will be worth the damage caused.

Focusing the "humanitarian intervention" debate on "the right of intervention," will assure the continuance of the controversy over whether such a right exists. Changing the perspective in favor of that of the victim and pleading in favor of a "responsibility to protect" will create the possibility of a genuine consensus. This may prove to be the most lasting contribution of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, sponsored by the Canadian government, and of which the 2001 report, "The Responsibility to Protect," is gaining ground, slowly but surely.


A few signs of progress are nevertheless visible. When the UN mission to the Congo had to confront massacres in the city of Ituri, in the east of the country in 2003, France [despite some vexatious snickering] took the lead in an international response by organizing "operation Artemis." This operation secured the city of Bunia and its airport for three months, pending the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force.


Many nations have Rwanda on their consciences. The path to erasing this stain does not lead through commemorative ceremonies but through effective actions.

Sex Scandal!

Dominique Ambiel, 49, chief spokesman for blowhard prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, was arrested in the presence of a 17 year-old Romanian prostitute in the night of Monday to Tuesday, April 20-21, in the wealthy 17th arrondissement, Le Monde revealed yesterday. He will be tried on 7 June in the 15th Chamber of the Paris correctional court for having "sollicted, accepted or obtained in exchange for payment, relations of a sexual nature from a minor who engages in prostitution, including on an occasional basis," a crime punishable by 3 years in prison and a €45,000 fine, in accordance with article 225-12-1 of the penal code, passed on March 4, 2002, "on resorting to the prostitution of minors or particularly vulnerable persons."

He was arrested in flagrante delicto by a vice squad and he then heaped scorn on the police which got him a second charge for "insulting behavior to police officers."

Ambiel has wasted no time in announcing his departure: "Out of consideration for the prime minister and given my responsibilities, I have decided to leave my post several weeks earlier than anticipated, in order to express myself freely about the malicious allegations that may result from this incident," he said in a written statement to Le Monde.

He came to work for the prime-minister in May of 2002 and was charged with protecting the latter's image. Head of a TV production company, Ambiel had an impressive array of connections which he called on while running the government's communications office.

Toward 2 am, on Tuesday April 20, Ambiel left the prime minister's residence to return to his home in Neuilly-sur-Seine (Hauts-de-Seine). According to his version of events, he parked his car at home and then realized that he had forgotten an important file that he needed for a meeting the next morning. He says he turned around to go back to the office.

At a traffic light at the intersection of boulevard Pereire and avenue des Ternes at around 2:30 am, a fight supposedly broke out between two prostitutes in a bus shelter. He claims one of them ran toward his car and that he attempted to lock his doors but mistakenly unlocked them. The young woman then supposedly took a seat in passenger side his car, speaking incomprehensibly. Ambiel says he drove onward to help the girl. At the next light, he claims he pulled over and asked her to get out. "I dropped her off less than two minutes later and about 300 meters further down the street to put her out of harm's reach," Ambiel wrote in his statement.

It was at this precise moment that a team from the night anti-criminality brigade (BAC) appeared in an unmarked car. [...]

Continue reading "Sex Scandal!"...

M. l'imam bousiller

We've all been somewhat preoccupied with little matters like work and ¡No Pasarán! hasn't been exactly up to the minute — so you may already be aware that Imam Abdelkader "wife-beater" Bouziane (there must be some mistake! In French, bousiller means "to bust up," or sometimes, "to bump off"), who had been expelled, is now to be permitted to return:
The court suspended the government expulsion order, reportedly expressing "serious doubt" about its legality.

...the government has vowed to appeal the decision with new information.¶ Speaking on a visit to Corsica, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said he would be sending the court "additional elements of information which justify the expulsion".¶ His government has 15 days to provide the court with the new information, before a fuller ruling is issued in a few weeks' time. ¶ In the Lyon court, the lawyer representing the interior ministry, Georges Holleaux, alleged that Mr Bouziane, 52, had called for jihad (holy war) in France.¶ However, this allegation was not made before Mr Bouziane was deported. Mr Bouziane's lawyer argues that his expulsion "violated several fundamental liberties". ¶ Mr Bouziane has lived in France for about 25 years and has left his family - reportedly including two wives and 16 children - behind. [emphasis added]
This is a revealing and embarrassing development. It seems that even French authorities are affected by the anxiety to have done with the problem of Islamism in France and it is driving them to hasty measures such as this. Now the Interior minister is unable to provide justifications; he is only able to provide promises to deliver them. Even the government's lawyer, no doubt well prepared for his appearance in court, can only argue facts that clearly didn't determine the decision to expel Bouziane in the first place. Next time, fellas, use your heads!

Friday, April 23, 2004

Consumer Spending Falls

Some of youmay think I'm being malicious by harping on France's economic woes but I'm not. I think many indicators are pointing to a genuine trend and I'm simply recording them as they appear. For example:
PARIS, April 22 (AFP) - French households curtailed spending sharply in March, reflecting a cautious outlook in the face of unemployment fears, a stance that indicates further spending declines in the coming months, analysts said Thursday.

Consumption of manufactured goods fell 1.4 percent in March from the previous month, according to the national statistics office Insee, compared with analyst consensus expectations of a decline of just 0.4 percent.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

What's Healthier, a French Quiche or a Big Mac?

Writing from the heart of Roquefort cheese country, Mort Rosenblum provides an interesting Associated Press article on France's love-hate relationship with McDonald's.

Most interesting of the long article (which I read in the Los Angeles Times) was this sentence:
French nutritionists Jean-Michel Cohen and Patrick Serog report that a Big Mac is much healthier than quiche lorraine. [My emphasis]
Is there anybody who would be kind enough to inform José Bové of this? (And to keep reminding him thereof on a daily basis?)

(More news about the truth concerning America's allegedly terrible food habits)

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

The Fire Last Time

The horror: a French voter reacts to Le Pen's victory
To-day marks the second anniversary of Jean-Marie Le Pen's greatest ever political triumph. Let's remember it with the gravity that such an event deserves because the papers sure aren't. I can find no mention of it in the press save for this article in le Parisien. Since that day, the Front National has continued to put down roots in the French political landscape.

Yet, while, when taken together, all the far-right parties got 16.61% of the vote in the regional elections last month, the FN itself only got 14.7%, or 300,000 votes, a 0.5% drop over its surprisingly strong showing of 1998. The FN has not seen the advances it had hoped for and now has fewer regional elected officials than it did in 1998. It's strongest showing this year was in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur (where Le Pen was not personally able to run: he's registered his home address elsewhere for tax reasons). In the first round, the Le Pen list got 22.95% — a drop of 3.5% from 1998 — and two points less in the second round. The only successful FN candidate who wasn't already an incumbent was Marie-Claude Bompard who now heads the regional council for Vaucluse, Orange-Est. Her husband Jacques has been mayor of Orange-Ouest since 1995.

Yet it's not all good news. The FN has again had convincing success in the previously left wing Nord-Pas-de-Calais. The FN's second best showing was in Picardie and the party also did well in Oise. And it has confirmed the trend of rising support in areas outlying urban centers and in rural areas: Centre, Normandie, Champagne-Ardenne, all of them areas that went against the Maastricht treaty in 1992. The FN also picked up voters in Midi-Pyrénées and Poitou-Charentes, Limousin, Auvergne and Pays de la Loire. However, in the Paris region, Le Pen's daughter Martine had an embarrassing night: 10.11% (12.26% in the first round) in a region where her party had received 16.5% in 1998 and where her father got 14.45% in the last presidential elections.

Seeing the expression on the face of the man above, I am reminded of the words of Farid Laroussi — a Franco-Algerian professor of literature at Yale who has recently taken us citizenship — in an editorial published last December in Le Monde, the subject of my first post at LOTF. He wrote
...while there may always be things to be criticized, they are less decisive, less cutting, than suffering the judgment of more than five million of my former compatriots who, during the last presidential elections, told me by voting for the far-right candidate that they would never want me around.

Unemployment, Finances, Sarkozy and Chirac

French unemployment figures have been revised upwards and now officially stand at 9.8% or 2.68 million people, a full percentage point above the eurozone level. In 2003, there were 67,000 fewer employed than in 2002, due in large measure to government cutbacks intended to help stave off a looming crisis in public finances. (The government employs one of every five French workers, meaning that one three French citizens is either employed by the government or dependent on someone who is.)

One hundred thousand government employees were laid off but this was off set by an increase in hiring among so-called fixed "contractors" (i.e. temps) — which would indicate that the number of unemployed may rise still further when such contracts begin to expire if contractor hiring isn't maintained or itself off set by hiring in other sectors. However, the FT quotes Jean-Louis Mourier, identified as an economist at Auriel Leven Securities, as saying that companies should start hiring again in the latter half of the year, thereby increasing consumer confidence.

In news related to this post: data leaked from the finance ministry indicate, also according to the FT, that the government no longer believe they can reduce the deficit (which is greater than $11 billion) to less than 3% of GDP (a Maastrict treaty requirement) for the next fiscal year.

The AFP is now reporting that newly appointed Finance minister Nicholas Sarkozy has announced an even larger freeze in public spending and requests for spending cuts to be made individually to every ministry, including an €800 million cut for Defense.

Some have remarked that, given the herculean and thankless task of fiscal reform, it's no surprise that Chirac gave the Finance ministry to his newest and brashest political rival following last month's cabinet reshuffle (see also this realvideo segment (1:10) from the BBC). Obviously, the assignment is a poisoned chalice.

My post of February on LOTF quoted Sarkozy on his intention to run for prime minister: "I will run for leader of the UMP and no one can stop me!" During a heated telephone conversation, the right honorable minister Sarkozy added, "I'll be the candidate because I am the best. I'll run against [prime minister] Jean-Pierre [Raffarin] if I have to and, what's more, I'll win." Many people think this is simply a political rivalry, however I made sure to include the following paragraph:
This is not the first time that Sarkozy and Chirac have battled over the PM's seat and, of course, we have reason to suspect that there is more to this than meets the eye. In his book (published last year and to which I have referred before), editor Guy Birenbaum writes (p. 98) about "political disputes and other internal frictions that are experienced by all parties and which, most of the time, are 'sold' to the public as so many battles among men and women, mechanical clashes, conflicts of trends, if not of ideology when, at the outset, they cover over banal personal matters. [...] How much longer [did] we have to wait to learn that the waring between Nicholas Sarkozy and the Chirac family was not in fact rooted in the 1993-95 betrayal when the current minister of the Interior supported Edouard Balladur in the presidential elections, but rather in the break-up between the former mayor of Neuilly [Sarkozy] and the president's daughter [Claude Chirac]? [...] In February 2003, when the tensions between the Elysée Palace, Bernadette Chirac and the minster of the Interior [Sarkozy] seemed to be rising again, only Eric Mandonnet of the magazine L'Express would describe the real cause of the dust-up: 'I will never forgive him because he has penetrated my privacy,' he quotes Chirac as saying crudely [... Eric Mandonnet, "Chirac-Sarkozy: la guerre froide," L'Express, 30 janvier 2003]." [emphasis added]

Picasso Espied, Spurned

The Paris Police Museum is exhibiting 40 years worth of documents from police spying on Pablo Picasso. The documents were stolen by the Nazis and then from the Nazis by the Russians only to be unearthed and returned in 2000.

Among the documents' revelations: Picasso applied for French citizenship in 1940 (moments before you-know-what) and was rejected on the grounds that he had Communist sympathies. The police began spying on Picasso when he arrived in Paris in 1901. (Here that, John? You weren't the only one!) One report "painted the 19-year-old artist as a rebel who 'sometimes stays out all night.' It said his concierge had never heard him express subversive opinions but that Picasso's French was so bad that he was hard to understand at all."

Monday, April 19, 2004

NYT, Reuters, WP, ABC, VOA, et al All Come Before Fox...

A filler compiled from wire reports in the San Antonio Express News states that
The New York Times is the Web site most often used as the first source for Google News' stories.

Reuters, the Washington Post, ABC News and the Voice of America filled out the top five on a list prepared by ...

"According to our research, the sites at the top of our rankings are highly relevant at the top of our rankings as credible news sources that present major news promptly," said a message on the site. In other words, "They're good sites currently doing a darn good job.
Et alors? you may ask. And so?

Only this. If French news media are to be believed: the only thing Americans watch all day long is Fox News; there is no other expression for Fox News than "rabidly extremist"; and all that all media outlets engage in all day long is French-bashing of the type that is on Fox News.

As it happens, Fox News isn't even on the top 12 media outlets Americans turn to. So will French media change their tune?

Non. Are you kidding?! That would mean putting brakes on their Yankee-bashing with regards to caricaturing Americans as stupid, trigger-happy, and "rabidly extremist". And that, vous savez, won't happen any time soon.

Lire la version française

Saddam Victims in Houston for Artificial Hands

Hello, sorry to have been away so long, but, as Douglas wrote on April 7, I've been traveling through that hell-hole of misery (to quote Arlette), the United States of America, more specifically through Texas for research on a book about the Texas revolution, with the Alamo and all.

As it happens, I'm currently in Arizona (a Comfort Inn motel on Phoenix's Apache Drive), and I won't be back home to Paris before next Sunday, but after that, I'll be back in form (hopefully).

As usual, I am always amazed at the acts of generosity, even tiny, that perfect strangers are always willing to perform for one another in this country. Twice, while hiking, in Palo Verde canyon and in the Superstition Mountains, I was asked whether I needed water, and offered not just part of a bottle but the entire bottle itself. Not a single second of hesitation, and with an attitude entirely natural. On another occasion, I witnessed a drunk guy trying to pick up a Hawaiian girl, only to be offered a handful of cash so he could get a taxi home. She was insistent he take the money, and not offended one bit.

But let's get back to the raison d'etre of this particular post. In Houston, I picked up an issue of the Houston Chronicle, which published a story that proves my point of view wrong and the Chirac and Zapatero position as being the correct one: Due to their horrifying capitalist system, Americans are arrogant, money-loving, and self-centered, without an iota of fraternal humanity in them, and life in Iraq was much better before those capitalist pigs started their war for oil.
But let's let Eric Berger tell the rest of the story:
Memories of losing his right hand in an Iraqi prison, Qasim Kadim says, are sharpest on very cold nights. The remaining stump feels like a block of ice.

Kadim, a victim of Saddam Hussein's bloody regime, may never have to experience the painful, chilling feeling again. Now in Houston with six other amputees, Kadim will soon receive a $50,000 bionic arm courtesy of several journalists, doctors and hospitals.

After he learns to flex certain arm muscles, the 46-year-old Baghdad appliance importer will be able to curl his fingers, make a fist and perform many of the everyday tasks he now struggles to accomplish. The bionic arm is so advanced, it has "intelligent" sensors that know when to delicately hold a champagne glass or firmly grasp a tool.

As miraculous as this new limb will be, Kadim says, it's just one facet of the six-week odyssey to the United States that he and his fellow Iraqis are taking. The other half is perhaps even sweeter, the gregarious father of seven said with a smile. He relishes introductions to all that Texas has to offer, from chips and salsa to rodeo.

"It is a very beautiful feeling to be here," Kadim said through a translator. "There is nobody who doesn't want to come and see the States. It is a dream come true."
(Poor man: that he doesn't realize the intrinsic nature of Americans and their society. Tch, tch...)
The seven Iraqis' right hands were surgically removed, and a crosslike tattoo carved between their eyes, because Saddam blamed businessmen dealing with foreign interests for the country's failing economy. The regime's punishment was intended to intimidate other business owners looking to trade in international currencies.

Kadim, who traded in foreign currency, including dollars, was importing cigarettes in August 1994 when he and other merchants were rounded up by the Mukhabarat, Saddam's secret police.

For two months, he said, special police beat him and prodded his body with electric rods, seeking information about who his trading partners were.

"I expected to be killed," Kadim said. "Many others were."

After being held by the police for about eight months, Kadim found himself in a courtroom with eight other businessmen who, after a 30-minute "trial," were convicted of working in foreign currency. His defense lawyer, Kadim recalls, never spoke.

After their amputations in March 1995, Kadim says, the men were kept in a prison hospital for three days. Nurses would give them injections for the pain but to no effect.

"I believe it was water in the syringes," he said. "It was part of the psychological torture."

Then the men were released. Kadim says his family brought 10 vehicles to pick him up, threw a party and celebrated his emerging from the notorious Abu Ghraib prison alive.

The Western allure of the Lone Star State, in fact, seems to be most captivating. Among his requests, Kadim asked to meet a real cowboy or cowgirl.

On Thursday, he broadly smiled when introduced to Ashley Guest, a 15-year-old high school rodeo champion from Crosby. After shaking her hand, inquiring about the nature of barrel racing, Kadim offered an unexpected comment.

"That," he said, "sounds very dangerous."
Too bad Kadim, like the majority of the American population, isn't intelligent enough to understand the French viewpoint that in general, American-style capitalism is a devastating system of damning misery and, in particular, that they, the French, "knew that capturing Saddam would solve nothing". Tch, tch...

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Court Jester in this Banana Republic Le Fou du Roi dans cette Ripoublika Banania
Dieudonné in an interview with BlackMap states that the Jewish lobby hates blacks and 'To sum things up, they are still 'busting our balls' with Mein Kampf ...'. Thanks to Eric.
Dieudo lors d'une interview avec BlackMap déclare que le lobby juif déteste les noirs et que 'En bref, ils nous 'gonflent' encore avec Mein Kampf ...'. Merci à Eric.

He's Done It

Spanish Leader Orders All 1,300 Troops in Iraq to Withdraw

Published: April 18, 2004

ADRID, Spain -- Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said Sunday he had ordered Spanish troops withdrawn from Iraq as soon as possible.

While Zapatero had run for office on a promise to withdraw Spanish forces from the U.S.-led coalition, the timing of the announcement was unexpected.

In an announcement from the Moncloa Palace, Zapatero said he had ordered the defense minister to "do what is necessary for the Spanish troops stationed in Iraq return home in the shortest time possible."

Zapatero spoke just hours after the new Socialist government was sworn in.
Reuters also attributes the following words to Zapatero:
"According to the information we is not likely that a U.N. resolution will be adopted that will meet the conditions we have set for our presence in Iraq."

Chirac is "too libidinous..."

American journalist and Paris resident Ted Stanger, author of "Bloody French!", a book explaining American views to French readers, and most recently of "Bloody Americans!", a book that, obviously, explains French views of the US to a French audience, gave an interview to appear in the Sunday edition of Le Parisien and of which the AFP has seen an advance copy:
On the question of whether many Americans view the French as enemies, [Stanger] answers: "It's worse than that: you, the French, have replaced the Soviet, with his teeth of steel, as the villain in the wrestling matches of old." Another question: what of the Democrat John Kerry, president Bush's future rival in the American presidential elections, and for whom the French "feel great affection," according to the newspaper? Answer: "One of his handicaps is being seen in middle America as... French. And that's not a compliment." And Jacques Chirac? "They wouldn't like him in the US: on the one hand, he's too libidinous; on the other, he's too intelligent." Finally, does Ted Stanger believe that the socialist Lionel Jospin will make his return to the French political stage? "The proof that he's been utterly forgotten," says Stanger, "is that he often goes to the US to attend conferences."
Who died and made him Gertrude Stein?

UPDATE: The article has appeared but for some reason it's all lumped together in a single paragraph. And Stanger comes off as rather loopy.
LP: Are the Americans aware of having become the new Satan for the Arab world?

Stanger: The American does not know geography. He is ignorant of foreign languages and the rest of the world. He is therefore incapable of weighing the consequences of the foreign policy of his president. Since September 11, the question Americans — who sincerely believed they were loved the world over — are asking is: why do they hate us? Even in Vietnam, they had the feeling of doing good. George Bush has promised to come to Paris on June 5 and to celebrate June 6 in Normandy, the sixtieth anniversary of the landings... He has made a calculation: the value of the photos showing him on the beaches of Normandy will be infinitely greater than the reports on the anti-Bush demonstrations. And then, at bottom, American opinion feels that our leader has the right to come to France from time to time to receive thanks for what we did together at the time.

LP: The French feel great affection for John Kerry...

Stanger: First, I insist that the cowboy Bush will win. As for Kerry, one of his handicaps is being perceived in middle America as... French. And that's not a compliment. The November election will be determined not by Iraq but by the price of gas at the pump.


LP: What is your view of Jacques Chirac?

Stanger: I love Jacques Chirac. He's a statesman and a very fine politician. However, they wouldn't like him in the US: on the one hand, he's too libidinous; on the other, he's too intelligent. The only one who would succeed with us is Jack Lang because he has understood that a nice smile is worth infinitely more than reforms. [...]

They got him

Abdel Aziz Rantisi a vécu.