Friday, December 21, 2012

While Depardieu Undergoes Criticism, Le Monde Contrasts the Star's Current and Future Homes

On the sign of the Belgian town where Gérard Depardieu is moving, a joker has scratched the word Nounours (Teddy Bear), which has been Depardieu's nickname (another is Gégé) since the actor started gaining weight many years ago.
Update: While Nounours welcomes people to Néchin, we wish to say welcome to the readers of Instapundit… 

Criticism of (the departing) Gérard Depardieu has been mounting, but that expecially among government ministers. Nounours hates François Hollande, calling the French president the "Piglet".

Amongst his fellow actors, a Philippe Torreton has joined in the criticism, while Brigitte Bardot has leapt to Gégé's defense.

In any case, Le Monde's Florence Aubenas and Geoffroy Deffrennes offer a full-page comparison of Gégé's current home (in one of the poshest streets of Paris) to his future home (in the small town across the Belgian border — see photos above and below this paragraph).

In his Paris street, the man whom one storeowner called "Saint Depardieu" enjoys the company of the locals, helping them with various problems and calling all of them by the familiar tu. Indeed, because he has helped save so many stores and jobs — opening a couple of restaurants in the process — Rue du Cherche-Midi might have ended up being called Rue Depardieu, had not the Belgian "scandal" erupted…

Depardieu vouait une passion tonitruante au président Nicolas Sarkozy. Avec François Hollande, c'est tout aussi bruyant, mais à l'inverse : "Il semble le détester de manière presque physique", note un voisin. En tout cas, en public, sans se cacher, il a l'habitude de le désigner sous un seul nom : "le porcelet".

Pour un amateur de bonne bouffe, ça passerait presque pour aimable, et le boucher de la rue de Sèvres, où Depardieu vient en personne choisir son agneau de lait, serait peut-être prêt à le certifier. Le surnom a fini par arriver aux oreilles de Hollande soi-même. 

… un commerçant énumère volontiers les miracles de saint Depardieu, qui a sauvé une coiffeuse jetée à la rue par son bailleur, en lui offrant un local. En fait, tout le monde le connaît dans la rue, même au magasin bio, seul commerce de bouche où il n'entre jamais, "contrairement au fils de Johnny Hallyday", lui aussi du quartier. Et s'il fallait prendre parti, la plupart des voisins le trouvent plutôt chic, plus chic en tout cas qu'Alain Delon, résident suisse depuis 1999, qui vend des lunettes mais pas comme oculiste : il est devenu une des plus grandes marques du secteur.

"It's the Middle Ages" Inside a Prison Filled with Rats, Refuse, and Rainwater, Denounces an Inmate; An American Jail? No, a French One

The team of the Controller General of Prisons left the premises unnerved. By the dreadful smell of garbage and urine, by the crumbling walls, by water trickling inside buildings, by rats that swarm to such a point that guards stamp their feet during night patrols to scare them off. They found a scorpion in a puddle and came upon a prisoner lapping water from the toilet, tired of three weeks' worth of ignored requests to repair his cell's faucet. Another inmate, petrified by fear, ended by admitting that he was the slave, including in the sexual sense, of his two fellow prisoners.
While French intellectuals continue lambasting the lack of humanity in the rotten capitalist system of the clueless and backwards-looking Americans — people who are totally reactionary and have not the slightest idea of what human rights entails — Franck Johannès publishes an article on the front page of Le Monde on Marseille's prison of shame (see the slide show as well as the video).

The "overpopulation of detainment places" is a thing which the daily of reference describes as nothing less than a French disease, while National Syndicate of Prison Directors (SNDP) leader Boris Targe warns that the "situation in [French] prisons has become truly alarming" as he deplores "an explosion of violence between prisoners and against the prison personnel." (Read the original French version.)

Jean-Marie Delarue, the Comptroller General of Places of Liberty Deprivation [yeah, how more bureaucratese can you get than that?!], found the shipwreck of Marseille's Baumettes prison sufficiently alarming to ring the emergency bell provided for in case of the "serious violation of fundamental rights." 
… The treatment of waste "is problematic," notes the report politely, and the electric grid "does not fill current needs": one guard made ​​his night rounds, in full darkness, with nothing but his own tiny personal flashlight. Seven showers in ten are broken. The kitchen was indeed renovated in 1998, "but the hallways of the basement where it is located are extremely dirty." When inmates have not been brought back from their promenade, their meal trays are left in front of the cell doors, to the great satisfaction of the rat population used to waiting for feeding time. Most trays end out the window. "It's a miracle that there has been no epidemic," exclaims the Comptroller, "if an inmate were to become seriously ill, it would spread like wildfire."
… These detention centers are bursting at the seams with an overpopulation averaging 136.6%.
There is a scarcity in personnel, and given the conditions of work, absenteeism is high: 2.6 days' worth of absence per person per month, according to the Comptroller's calculations. One of the guards remembers the day when a rat jumped on his chest, something that duly traumatized him. Sometimes there is only one warden per floor, which amounts to 200 prisoners. Judges' clerks responsible for sentencing refuse to show up at the jail — consequently, the judges themselves do not go there either, something the psychiatric MDs refuse as well.

There is, moreover, strictly nothing to do inside les Baumettes. ... "In these circumstances," says Jean-Marie Delarue, "the only activity there is is the promenade, for up to six hours per day."
Guards do not supervise the walk — "because they're afraid" — or, indeed, the showers, where bloody scores are settled. Since the beginning of the year, doctors have identified 14 multiple bruises, eight deep wounds, seven fractures, three head traumas, and one rape. Because inside a prison, everything has a price. Like a telephone. "I have two phone providers," said one officer. "The retailer and the thugs."
… The poorest, or the weakest, go into debt (15% on average are indigent), many no longer dare leave their cells, even to take a shower. Others go into the service of thugs — or try to escape.
Prisoners testify to Simon Piel that "Les Baumettes is a dungeon" and that inside, "it's the Middle Ages":
The nine months one inmate spent in les Baumettes, the Marseille detention center which he was released from in 2006, left permanent scars. "Some of the others tried extortion to get my shoes or pants, but I had become friends with some hefty dudes. And then I did the warrior spiel. When guys know that if they want to assault you, they will have to fight, they pause to reflect. If you allow it to happen only once it is finished." The staircases, the showers, and the walking areas are the places that are most feared. "Never make a move by yourself," he says. "There are no cameras or guards in that kind of area. When I was inside, one guy got stabbed three times in the stairwell. To be alone is to be a target."
… In addition to this daily violence and the difficulty for a staff suffering shortages to manage it, there is a dilapidation which spares not a single building. "This is the Middle Ages," says a former inmate. "The rats are the size of a big cat," testifies another … He says: "My cell was foul with regards to hygiene: the toilets were appalling, the mattress and blanket were filled with hair." As for cockroaches, he identified "three different types."
Referring to "the indignity of the situation" and to what it calls a "national scandal", a Le Monde editorial concluded that "France is regressing and is treating its prisoners in an inhumane fashion."
Camus said it best: "The only way we can judge the degree of civilization in a nation is by visiting its prisons." A visit to les Baumettes prison in Marseille shows that France is regressing and is treating its prisoners in an inhumane fashion.
On Thursday, December 6, Jean-Marie Delarue, Comptroller General of Places of Liberty Deprivation, took stock of the alarming state of this particular prison: the rats and cockroaches are swarming, the cells with broken windows are repulsively filthy, inmates lacking running water drink from the toilet bowl. The prison is overcrowded, the inactivity forced, the settling of scores and the racketeering pervasive. In fact, the deprivation of liberty is no longer makes any sense, because it produces madmen more violent on the way out than on the way in.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

After Dissing Depardieu's Self-Proclaimed Tax Figures, French Government Forced to Admit That 85% Tax Is Entirely Plausible

After stating that it was impossible for any one taxpayer to have to pay 85% of his income or fortune in taxes, as (the departing) Gérard Depardieu was claiming (i.e., suggesting that the movie star was lying), a government minister has had to admit that the members of the government were, or at least that he himself was, wrong and did not know the nation's tax figures.

Indeed, the Solidarity Tax on Fortunes has attained record heights in 2012 and, in the "right" circumstances, the sky-high rate is therefore entirely plausible. (L'Impôt de Solidarité sur la Fortune (ISF) is thus named, because of the effort of solidarity that, from the Left's viewpoint, "patriotic" rich people must make in order to help their brethren in poverty.)
La fiscalité française est affreusement complexe et changeante. Le ministre des relations avec le Parlement, Alain Vidalies, aurait été bien inspiré de s'en souvenir lorsqu'il a critiqué l'argument avancé par Gérard Depardieu pour expliquer sa décision de quitter la France. "Je pars après avoir payé, en 2012, 85 % d'impôts sur mes revenus", a écrit l'acteur dans sa lettre ouverte à Jean-Marc Ayrault. "Evidemment ce n'est pas possible", a répliqué, dimanche 16 décembre sur Radio J, M. Vidalies.
Le ministre s'est trompé. Il est tout à fait possible d'être imposé à 85 % sur ses revenus en 2012. Cette possibilité générale, qui ne dit rien du cas Depardieu, tient aux réformes successives de l'impôt de solidarité sur la fortune (ISF) décidées par la droite puis par la gauche pour cette année. "Plusieurs centaines de personnes ont été imposées à plus de 85 % en 2012", estime même le président UMP de la commission des finances de l'Assemblée nationale, Gilles Carrez.
Meanwhile, the Socialist government is considering passing a 10% tax on… movie tickets! (It is currently 7%; on the plus side, other taxes have come, or will be coming, down.)

… Raising taxes on film tickets is doubly ironic, notes Clarisse Fabre, given that the French are always vaunting the cultural exception, indeed while defending in Brussels their subsidies to their nation's movie industry. (And many thanks to le Professeur Glenn Reynolds)
A Bruxelles, le gouvernement se bat pour défendre l'exception culturelle. Sur les bancs de l'Assemblée nationale, à Paris, c'est une autre histoire... Le projet de loi de finances rectificative 2012, que les députés ont examiné en nouvelle lecture, mardi 18 décembre, vient de le prouver. … les secteurs actuellement taxés à … 7 % vont grimper à 10 %. C'est ce qui est arrivé au cinéma — mais aussi au droit d'auteur, le vote suscitant l'indignation des sociétés de perception de droits (SACD, SCAM...).

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Super Tax Exile Depardieu: "Putin Has Sent Me a Passport"

If France wants to deprive Gérard Depardieu of his nationality for moving to Belgium because he no longer wants to pay 75% to 85% of his income in taxes — in effect for going Galt — then plenty of other countries would be happy to have him join their communities.

Not only is the (soon-to-be-ex) French film star reported to have asked the Belgian government for a passport, but Raphaëlle Bacqué informs us that the (soon-to-become) Belgian film star also has received offers from places as far away as Montenegro (where Gégé has friends and does business) and Russia.
Depardieu a lancé qu'il pouvait déjà compter sur trois pays pour l'accueillir. La Belgique, où il vient d'acheter une maison, le Monténegro, où il a des amis et fait des affaires, et la Russie : "Poutine m'a déjà envoyé un passeport !", s'est amusé Depardieu.
Indeed, laughs Depardieu, Vladimir "Putin has already sent me a passport!"

Moreover, a friend of Nounours ("Teddy Bear" has been Depardieu's nickname since the actor started gaining weight many years ago) says that he started preparing to move out of the country "the very day after a Socialist president won the election" and that, in a way, he has decided "to embody the opposition to François Hollande and" to his prime minister.
"D'excellente humeur et décidé à incarner l'opposition à François Hollande et Jean-Marc Ayrault", assure l'un des convives, la star du cinéma français a expliqué en riant avoir préparé son départ "dès le lendemain de l'élection du président socialiste", tout en soulignant qu'il vit déjà la moitié de l'année à l'étranger.
Meanwhile, all the French government can do is give the (ex-French, soon-to-become-Belgian) film star lessons on the virtues of patriotism. As Minister of Industrial Renewal Arnaud Montebourg did recently in an interview with Le Monde's David Revault d'Allonnes, Cédric Pietralunga and Thomas Wieder

"Je n'ai pas une mentalité de déserteur"

Que vous inspire … l'affaire Depardieu ?

Tous les jours, nous nous battons pour inculquer à nos enfants les vertus du patriotisme. Je lui demande donc de rester dans la communauté patriotique de la France et de revenir chez nous. Je le dis avec grand respect pour ce qu'il est, pour son art et son oeuvre.
That's right — "every day," leftists the world over "fight to teach our children the virtues of patriotism." Patriotism — and "the patriotic community" — meaning, from the left's point of view, the duty to cough up whatever taxes the politicians have decided to put on our backs (often, in order to correct the previous lot of fiscally irresponsible policy decisions they made)…

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Fruits of Spring

Serguei on the revolution in Egypt:

• Is that the fruit our Spring has wrought?!

Monday, December 17, 2012

I Was Greeted in Guantánamo Bay by Fidel Castro

Following his short stay on the eastern tip of Cuba, the International Herald Tribune cartoonist Patrick Chappatte brings back a two-page comic entitled One Night in Guantanamo.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Asking a socialist to embrace austerity is like asking a prostitute to embrace chastity: it’s simply not part of the business model

Three reactions to The Time-Bomb at the Heart of Europe (A Special Report on France) in The Economist:
The French malaise

SIR – I read your special report on France and found it to be faultless (November 17th). A lot of commentators agree with me on this side of the Channel. I have led companies in India, Ireland, France and Switzerland. Nowhere is it more complicated or frustrating than in France. This is not only because of the high cost of labour imposed by the welfare system; it is mainly because of the time and energy spent in dealing with unions and their numerous committees and representatives. But at least I respect the unions. The bigger problem is with legislators and the political cowardice that results in the accumulated laws that makes the code du travail so monstrous.

An example of political nonsense in French business is the plan for a new airport near Nantes. Nothing justifies this airport, which will fail to attract traffic. It is a white elephant on which public money will be spent just so that the government and its regional allies can save face, and in the middle of a financial crisis. London’s airports are two to three times more productive than the big Paris airports thanks to excellent flight controllers who don’t go on strike all the time.

  The definitive lesson in French management seems to be:
“That’s fine in practice. But it will never work in theory.”
Jacques Bankir

SIR – France lives in perfect isolation and in a state of denial. No wonder that your report was welcomed here with an attempt to shoot the messenger. Entrepreneurs are treated as the enemy, not as people who create wealth. This government is chasing the wealthy out of the country. The problem is on both the right and the left. The Socialists laughed off your report, the UMP focused on their divisive leadership election, and the National Front, well they probably didn’t read it at all.
Paul Vermeulen
St Didier au Mont d’Or, France  

SIR – Well done: a kick in the pants is often a good motivator, though I have no illusions after living here for 25 years that much will change. Asking a socialist to embrace austerity and labour-market reforms is like asking a prostitute to embrace chastity: it’s simply not part of the business model.
Theo Vermaelen
Fontainebleau, France
Welcome, Instapundit readers and un grand merci pour Monsieur Reynolds

"I'm a Free Man, Sir!" Offended by Taxes and Government Insults, Depardieu Goes a Step Further and Returns His French Passport

Following Gérard Depardieu's decision to leave France to escape punitive taxes, the (now ex-) French star was criticized publicly by Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who called his exodus "pathetic" (following a socialist MP's call for French tax exiles to be stripped of their French nationality who has since called Depardieu an "egotist").

In retribution, reports Le Monde, and to show that he doesn't give a damn, the offended (now ex-) French actor has gone a step further and returned his passport, saying that he is "a free man" and that after paying 145 million euros in taxes over 45 years, he is fed up with having to bear a tax rate of 85%.

La polémique entre Gérard Depardieu et le gouvernement prend un nouveau tour, dimanche 16 décembre, avec la publication d'une lettre de l'acteur dans Le Journal du dimanche s'adressant à Jean-Marc Ayrault.

"Minable, vous avez dit "minable" ? Comme c'est minable !", commence la missive, reprenant les termes du premier ministre qui avait qualifié de la sorte le départ de Gérard Depardieu pour la ville de Néchin en Belgique, pour des raisons essentiellement fiscales (la ville est connue pour abriter de riches expatriés).

Gérard Depardieu, s'estimant "injurié" après les nombreuses critiques dont il a fait l'objet, réplique à Jean-Marc Ayrault en annonçant : "je vous rends mon passeport et ma Sécurité sociale dont je ne me suis jamais servi. Nous n'avons plus la même patrie, je suis un vrai Européen, un citoyen du monde, comme mon père me l'a toujours inculqué". 

"Je ne demande pas à être approuvé, je pourrais au moins être respecté ! Tous ceux qui ont quitté la France n'ont pas été injuriés comme je le suis", continue l'acteur dans sa lettre. Il rappelle avoir "toujours payé (ses) taxes et impôts" et commencé à travailler en France "à 14 ans comme imprimeur, comme manutentionnaire puis comme artiste dramatique".

"Je pars après avoir payé en 2012 85 % d'impôt sur mes revenus. (...) Qui êtes-vous pour me juger ainsi, je vous le demande Monsieur Ayrault, premier ministre de Monsieur Hollande, je vous le demande, qui êtes-vous ? Je n'ai jamais tué personne, je ne pense pas avoir démérité, j'ai payé 145 millions d'euros d'impôts en 45 ans, je fais travailler 80 personnes (...) Je ne suis ni à plaindre ni à vanter, mais je refuse le mot "minable", insiste-t-il.

"Malgré mes excès, mon appétit et mon amour de la vie, je suis un être libre, Monsieur, et je vais rester poli", conclut le texte.

L'annonce de son expatriation en Belgique avait fortement agacé à gauche, le député PS du Cher, Yann Galut, ayant notamment évoqué dans ce cadre la possibilité d'une loi pour déchoir les exilés fiscaux de la nationalité française. Dimanche, Yann Galut a qualifié l'acteur de "profondément égoïste", en réaction à cette lettre ouverte.
Update: Asking a socialist to embrace austerity is like asking a prostitute to embrace chastity

And bienvenue aux readers d'Instapundit

Gérard Depardieu as Obélix without the Gaul's moustache in the company of an extra playing a viking during the filming of Astérix et Obélix: Au service de sa Majesté