Notes on how things seem to me from out here in Hollywood... As seen from Just Above Sunset
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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Thursday, 10 June 2004

Topic: Making Use of History

Ronald Reagan is dead. So is Emma Goldman.

Reagan, like Franco, is still dead - not one of my heroes, a little bit of a dim bulb, but pleasant enough. He had five thousand times the intellectual horsepower of the younger Bush, and not much of the inherent mean-spiritedness of the younger Bush. Everyone said he was warm quite good-hearted. But all in all a dangerous man.

On the other hand I saw my own parents slowly fall to Alzheimer's and it wasn't pretty. My memories of all those days, each and every one of those days, are far too precise to feel any glee at this at all.

I didn't care for the man, or his politics. But no one should die that way.

The assessments of the man fill the week. A lot of praise, and also more that a few critical comments on what he actually did and didn't do.

Just after the announcement of his death I received a comment from The News Guy in Atlanta (Rick Brown) -
So the guy hasn't been dead two hours and already I'm getting tired of people talking about him - especially the part (mostly from Novak) about his having ended the cold war. I'm still of the school that says he didn't see it coming, didn't know it when it arrived, and afterward, took credit for it, much like the proverbial rooster taking credit for the dawn.

And suddenly I also feel like the Barbra Streisand character in "The Way We Were" who, on hearing all these friends of her husband rejoicing at FDR's death, screamed something like "For God's sake, have you no shame? The man is dead!" Sorry.

But now that he's "passed," as they say here in the south, and after all these years as an untouchable invalid, are we allowed to criticize him yet? No? Okay, can we at least start filing the paper to rename that airport in Washington?
Suggestions for the new name for Reagan International Airport?

Bill Frist, Republican leader of the senate, wants to rename the Pentagon after Reagan. Others suggest his face replace FDR on the dime, or that we have his face on the twenty dollar bill, or the ten. Poor Alexander Hamilton. Poor Andrew Jackson. Some suggest his face on the fifty-cent piece, replacing JFK. Others suggest he be the fifth face on Mount Rushmore.

There is talk of a monument on the Mall in DC - but Reagan himself signed the bill that made that impossible until the person to be honored had been dead at least twenty-five years. Darn. No one has suggested just renaming the Washington Monument, the big white obelisk, for Reagan. But that will probably come.

This is the man who strongly opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the man who decided the Apartheid rule in South Africa was fine, who laughed at the AIDS problem when he wasn't ignoring it... the list goes on and on.

Christopher Hitchens has his way of putting it -
Reagan announced that apartheid South Africa had "stood beside us in every war we've ever fought," when the South African leadership had been on the other side in the most recent world war. Reagan allowed Alexander Haig to greenlight the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, fired him when that went too far and led to mayhem in Beirut, then ran away from Lebanon altogether when the Marine barracks were bombed, and then unbelievably accused Tip O'Neill and the Democrats of "scuttling." Reagan sold heavy weapons to the Iranian mullahs and lied about it, saying that all the weapons he hadn't sold them (and hadn't traded for hostages in any case) would, all the same, have fit on a small truck. Reagan then diverted the profits of this criminal trade to an illegal war in Nicaragua and lied unceasingly about that, too.

Reagan then modestly let his underlings maintain that he was too dense to understand the connection between the two impeachable crimes. He then switched without any apparent strain to a policy of backing Saddam Hussein against Iran. ...
And that's not to mention his record in California.

But all of this is called mean-spirited this week. Maybe it is.

Perhaps it all should be left until next week.

Anything critical said this week is called crassly political at best, and really, at bottom, unpatriotic.

We'll we should be used to this. Agree with Bush and his neoconservative handlers and you'll be called brilliant. Raise an issue and you'll be called an appeaser of terrorists, in league with traitors, if not one yourself.

So next week I will take up a cause someone mentioned to me - getting Reagan's picture on every food stamp printed for the poor.

Well, long before David Frum put the words "Axis of Evil" into George Bush's defining speech, Reagan spoke often about the Evil Empire we had to fight. The sacred word this week is Reagan brought back pride in America and made us patriotic once more. No matter what mistakes he might have made, he did that.

In the meantime, think about what patriotism is.

I found this at a site called Body and Soul and it seems somehow appropriate to the week. The death of Reagan the ceremonies and the funeral swamped all else, or so it seemed.

Here you will find the text from Emma Goldman's Anarchism and Other Essays. Second Revised Edition. New York & London: Mother Earth Publishing Association, 1911. Pages 133-150. Selected excerpts -

What is patriotism? Is it love of one's birthplace, the place of childhood's recollections and hopes, dreams and aspirations? Is it the place where, in childlike naivet?, we would watch the fleeting clouds, and wonder why we, too, could not run so swiftly? The place where we would count the milliard glittering stars, terror-stricken lest each one "an eye should be," piercing the very depths of our little souls? Is it the place where we would listen to the music of the birds, and long to have wings to fly, even as they, to distant lands? Or the place where we would sit at mother's knee, enraptured by wonderful tales of great deeds and conquests? In short, is it love for the spot, every inch representing dear and precious recollections of a happy, joyous, and playful childhood?

If that were patriotism, few American men of today could be called upon to be patriotic, since the place of play has been turned into factory, mill, and mine, while deafening sounds of machinery have replaced the music of the birds. Nor can we longer hear the tales of great deeds, for the stories our mothers tell today are but those of sorrow, tears, and grief.

What, then, is patriotism? "Patriotism, sir, is the last resort of scoundrels," said Dr. Johnson. Leo Tolstoy, the greatest anti-patriot of our times, defines patriotism as the principle that will justify the training of wholesale murderers; a trade that requires better equipment for the exercise of man-killing than the making of such necessities of life as shoes, clothing, and houses; a trade that guarantees better returns and greater glory than that of the average workingman.

Gustave Herv?, another great anti-patriot, justly calls patriotism a superstition--one far more injurious, brutal, and inhumane than religion. The superstition of religion originated in man's inability to explain natural phenomena. That is, when primitive man heard thunder or saw the lightning, he could not account for either, and therefore concluded that back of them must be a force greater than himself. Similarly he saw a supernatural force in the rain, and in the various other changes in nature. Patriotism, on the other hand, is a superstition artificially created and maintained through a network of lies and falsehoods; a superstition that robs man of his self-respect and dignity, and increases his arrogance and conceit.

Indeed, conceit, arrogance, and egotism are the essentials of patriotism. Let me illustrate.

Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot, consider themselves better, nobler, grander, more intelligent than the living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill, and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all the others.

The inhabitants of the other spots reason in like manner, of course, with the result that, from early infancy, the mind of the child is poisoned with bloodcurdling stories about the Germans, the French, the Italians, Russians, etc. When the child has reached manhood, he is thoroughly saturated with the belief that he is chosen by the Lord himself to defend his country against the attack or invasion of any foreigner. It is for that purpose that we are clamoring for a greater army and navy, more battleships and ammunition. It is for that purpose that America has within a short time spent four hundred million dollars. Just think of it--four hundred million dollars taken from the produce of the people. For surely it is not the rich who contribute to patriotism. They are cosmopolitans, perfectly at home in every land. We in America know well the truth of this. Are not our rich Americans Frenchmen in France, Germans in Germany, or Englishmen in England? And do they not squander with cosmopolitan grace fortunes coined by American factory children and cotton slaves?

... But, then, patriotism is not for those who represent wealth and power. It is good enough for the people. It reminds one of the historic wisdom of Frederick the Great, the bosom friend of Voltaire, who said: "Religion is a fraud, but it must be maintained for the masses."

That patriotism is rather a costly institution ...

... The awful waste that patriotism necessitates ought to be sufficient to cure the man of even average intelligence from this disease. Yet patriotism demands still more. The people are urged to be patriotic and for that luxury they pay, not only by supporting their "defenders," but even by sacrificing their own children. Patriotism requires allegiance to the flag, which means obedience and readiness to kill father, mother, brother, sister.

The usual contention is that we need a standing army to protect the country from foreign invasion. Every intelligent man and woman knows, however, that this is a myth maintained to frighten and coerce the foolish. The governments of the world, knowing each other's interests, do not invade each other. They have learned that they can gain much more by international arbitration of disputes than by war and conquest. Indeed, as Carlyle said, "War is a quarrel between two thieves too cowardly to fight their own battle; therefore they take boys from one village and another village, stick them into uniforms, equip them with guns, and let them loose like wild beasts against each other."

It does not require much wisdom to trace every war back to a similar cause. ...

... The contention that a standing army and navy is the best security of peace is about as logical as the claim that the most peaceful citizen is he who goes about heavily armed. The experience of every-day life fully proves that the armed individual is invariably anxious to try his strength. The same is historically true of governments. Really peaceful countries do not waste life and energy in war preparations, with the result that peace is maintained.

However, the clamor for an increased army and navy is not due to any foreign danger. It is owing to the dread of the growing discontent of the masses and of the international spirit among the workers. It is to meet the internal enemy that the Powers of various countries are preparing themselves; an enemy, who, once awakened to consciousness, will prove more dangerous than any foreign invader.

The powers that have for centuries been engaged in enslaving the masses have made a thorough study of their psychology. They know that the people at large are like children whose despair, sorrow, and tears can be turned into joy with a little toy. And the more gorgeously the toy is dressed, the louder the colors, the more it will appeal to the million-headed child.

An army and navy represents the people's toys. To make them more attractive and acceptable, hundreds and thousands of dollars are being spent for the display of these toys. That was the purpose of the American government in equipping a fleet and sending it along the Pacific coast, [remember this was written in 1911] that every American citizen should be made to feel the pride and glory of the United States. The city of San Francisco spent one hundred thousand dollars for the entertainment of the fleet; Los Angeles, sixty thousand; Seattle and Tacoma, about one hundred thousand. To entertain the fleet, did I say? To dine and wine a few superior officers, while the "brave boys" had to mutiny to get sufficient food. Yes, two hundred and sixty thousand dollars were spent on fireworks, theatre parties, and revelries, at a time when men, women, and children through the breadth and length of the country were starving in the streets; when thousands of unemployed were ready to sell their labor at any price.

Two hundred and sixty thousand dollars! What could not have been accomplished with such an enormous sum? But instead of bread and shelter, the children of those cities were taken to see the fleet, that it may remain, as one of the newspapers said, "a lasting memory for the child."

A wonderful thing to remember, is it not? The implements of civilized slaughter. If the mind of the child is to be poisoned with such memories, what hope is there for a true realization of human brotherhood?

We Americans claim to be a peace-loving people. We hate bloodshed; we are opposed to violence. Yet we go into spasms of joy over the possibility of projecting dynamite bombs from flying machines upon helpless citizens. We are ready to hang, electrocute, or lynch anyone, who, from economic necessity, will risk his own life in the attempt upon that of some industrial magnate. Yet our hearts swell with pride at the thought that America is becoming the most powerful nation on earth, and that it will eventually plant her iron foot on the necks of all other nations.

Such is the logic of patriotism.

Considering the evil results that patriotism is fraught with for the average man, it is as nothing compared with the insult and injury that patriotism heaps upon the soldier himself,--that poor, deluded victim of superstition and ignorance. He, the savior of his country, the protector of his nation,--what has patriotism in store for him? A life of slavish submission, vice, and perversion, during peace; a life of danger, exposure, and death, during war.

... Thinking men and women the world over are beginning to realize that patriotism is too narrow and limited a conception to meet the necessities of our time. The centralization of power has brought into being an international feeling of solidarity among the oppressed nations of the world; a solidarity which represents a greater harmony of interests between the workingman of America and his brothers abroad than between the American miner and his exploiting compatriot; a solidarity which fears not foreign invasion, because it is bringing all the workers to the point when they will say to their masters, "Go and do your own killing. We have done it long enough for you."
Well, Emma Goldman isn't one someone should cite, I suppose.

She was a radical and an anarchist. Heck, finally 1936 she committed herself to the support of the anarchists and their fight against fascism and Stalinism - that Civil War in Spain. Against Franco, who wasn't dead then. She died in 1940. This is all just ancient history.

But she was onto something.

Posted by Alan at 21:55 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 10 June 2004 22:14 PDT home

Topic: Photos

As seen today in Los Angeles today...

A chair at a coffee shop, Westwood Boulevard at Pico ...

Los Angeles Bauhaus ...

Posted by Alan at 20:24 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: The Culture

The kitten has claws, even now...

Minor item here -

Bardot fined for 'race hate' book
BBC, Thursday, 10 June, 2004, 14:30 GMT 15:30 UK
French film legend Brigitte Bardot has been fined 5,000 euros (?3,301) for inciting racial hatred in a book.

The charges against Bardot, 69, related to her best-seller, A Cry In The Silence, in which she said she "opposed the Islamisation of France".

Last month the former actress apologised in court, and said: "I never knowingly wanted to hurt anybody."

In her book she wrote about issues such as racial mixing, immigration, the role of women in politics and Islam.

The book also contained a section attacking what she called the mixing of genes and praised previous generations who, she said, had given their lives to push out invaders.

Bardot's comments prompted anti-racism groups to launch legal proceedings against the actress, who now campaigns for animal rights.

The court said: "Madame Bardot presents Muslims as barbaric and cruel invaders, responsible for terrorist acts and eager to dominate the French to the extent of wanting to exterminate them."

It awarded a symbolic one euro in damages to France's anti-racism movement MRAP and to the League for Human Rights who brought the case to court.

The court also ordered a 5,000 euro fine against the head of Bardot's publishing house, Le Rocher, and ordered both to pay for advertisements in two newspapers announcing their convictions.

Bardot has previous convictions for inciting racial violence after criticising in print the Muslim practice of slaughtering sheep.

I've seen little on her campaigning for Jean-Marie Le Pen or his daughter, but any report of that wouldn't surprise me. The odd thing is how much she combines the values of the Christian, conservative right with the PETA mindset of the vegetarian left. What a mix!

Celebrity politics is odd. Well, Charleton Heston, after being Moses and El Cid and whatnot, is a hero of the right and heads the National Rifle Association, trying to make sure we're all well armed. The left has its Barbara Streisand, Cher, Martin Sheen, Jessica Lange, Alec Baldwin, Julia Roberts, Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon, George Clooney, Mike Farrell, Janeane Garofalo and all the rest.

The really odd thing is that one thinks of Brigitte Bardot's ex-husband, Roger Vadim - he fashioned the movie "And God Created Women" (1956) just for her. And she was hot. Recently (and released on DVD March 16, 2004) Roger Vadim offered his second version of this movie - and this time he used Rebecca DeMornay, daughter of the late far, far right political television guy Wally George (not known much outside Southern California, but Wally made Ann Coulter look like Mother Teresa and pretty much advocated killing all the liberals.) I hear the second version is awful. Anyway, Roger Vadim and Brigitte Bardot didn't last. Roger later married Jane Fonda (Hanoi Jane , as they say). Roger and Jane didn't last. Jane later married Ted Turner, who himself has been more than a bit left on many issues. Ted and Jane didn't last.

All in all? The personal and political judgment of those in the film business, the big-gun celebrities, can be a bit suspect. They don't have special insight. Just insight. Sometimes. What the do have is celebrity. So what?

Brigitte Bardot is guilty of being a pain in the ass.

Posted by Alan at 20:15 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Wednesday, 9 June 2004

Topic: Corrections Noted

Brain Damage - Actual and Metaphoric

Just some things you might have missed...

From the Associated Press, Wednesday, June 09, 2004 -
Army Now Says G.I. Was Beaten in Role
LOUISVILLE, Ky., June 8 -- Reversing itself, the Army said Tuesday that a G.I. was discharged partly because of a head injury he suffered while posing as an uncooperative detainee during a training exercise at Guant?namo Bay, Cuba.

The Army had previously said Specialist Sean Baker's medical discharge in April was unrelated to the injury he received last year at the detention center, where the United States holds suspected terrorists.

Mr. Baker, 37, a former member of the 438th Military Police Company, said he played the role of an uncooperative prisoner and was beaten so badly by four American soldiers that he suffered a traumatic brain injury and seizures. He said the soldiers only stopped beating him when they realized he might be American.

Bruce Simpson, Mr. Baker's lawyer, said his client is considering a lawsuit.

Last Saturday Nicholas Kristof had this to say in the New York Times -
... a military investigation concluded that there had been no misconduct involved in Mr. Baker's injury. Hmm. The military also says it can't find a videotape that is believed to have been made of the incident.

Most appalling, when Mr. Baker told his story to a Kentucky reporter, the military lied in a disgraceful effort to undermine his credibility. Maj. Laurie Arellano, a spokeswoman for the Southern Command, questioned the extent of Mr. Baker's injuries and told reporters that his medical discharge was unrelated to the injuries he had suffered in the training drill.

In fact, however, the Physical Evaluation Board of the Army stated in a document dated Sept. 29, 2003: "The TBI [traumatic brain injury] was due to soldier playing role of detainee who was non-cooperative and was being extracted from detention cell in Guant?namo Bay, Cuba, during a training exercise."

Major Arellano acknowledges that she misstated the facts and says she had been misinformed herself by medical personnel. She now says the medical discharge was related in part -- but only in part, she says -- to the "accident."

Mr. Baker, who is married and has a 14-year-old son, is now unemployed, taking nine prescription medications and still suffering frequent seizures. His lawyer, Bruce Simpson, has been told that Mr. Baker may not begin to get disability payments for up to 18 months. If he is judged 100 percent disabled, he will then get a maximum of $2,100 a month.

If the U.S. military treats one of its own soldiers this way -- allowing him to be battered, and lying to cover it up -- then imagine what happens to Afghans and Iraqis.

President Bush attributed the problems uncovered at Abu Ghraib to "a few American troops who dishonored our country." Mr. Bush, the problems go deeper than a few bad apples.
Well, the mistake has been corrected. Sort of. Baker will get his benefits.


Training... indeed. This particular training unit was "Bad Apples 101" it would seem.

There has been other comment on this. What you would expect. If we beat our own guy to the point of serious brain damage in a simulation, then....

There's not much to add.

Ah, but there is!

There was this terrorism report issued by the State Department a few weeks ago. And it said our policies are working. Terrorism is way down! The administration had a few press conferences about that. All you who scoffed at our policies and said the war in Iraq was making things worse, who said we were creating more terrorists, who said, as Howard Dean said and got creamed for it, that killing Saddam's two sons and putting their mutilated bodies on worldwide display, that capturing and humiliating Saddam Hussein himself, did not make us any safer - well, IN YOUR FACE! All the naysayer cowards and shallow critics of Bush and his policies, well, now you know just how wrong you were!


Oops. Again.

U.S. Will Revise Data on Terror
The State Department works to amend its report on global attacks after critics alleged an undercount and political manipulation.
Josh Meyer, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer, Wednesday, June 09, 2004
WASHINGTON -- The State Department is scrambling to revise its annual report on global terrorism to acknowledge that it understated the number of deadly attacks in 2003, amid charges that the document is inaccurate and was politically manipulated by the Bush administration.

... On Tuesday, State Department officials said they underreported the number of terrorist attacks in the tally for 2003, and added that they expected to release an updated version soon.

Several U.S. officials and terrorism experts familiar with that revision effort said the new report will show that the number of significant terrorist incidents increased last year, perhaps to its highest level in 20 years.

... a senior official characterized the errors as clerical, and blamed them mostly on the fact responsibility for the report recently shifted from the CIA to the administration's new Terrorist Threat Integration Center.

... For example, the State Department report listed 190 terrorist attacks in 2003, including 169 "significant" ones. But [Rep. Henry] Waxman said a review showed the report stopped counting terrorist incidents on Nov. 11, leaving out several major attacks, including bombings of two synagogues, a bank and the British Consulate in Turkey that killed 62 and injured more than 700.

Waxman said a State Department official blamed the Nov. 11 cutoff on a printing deadline.
Yeah, right.

But it's being fixed.

Baker's brain damage cannot be fixed.

Our brain damage? We'll see in November.

Posted by Alan at 21:33 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: World View

The Day's Dialog: Hollywood and Paris, Back and Forth

In earlier January you'll find this - Automotive Psychology: If someone's going to die, let it be someone else. Is it possible to limit the damage an obsession does to others? - a discussion in Just Above Sunset of SUV's and why folks drive them.

And here you will find that the aging French rock star, sort of the Mick Jagger of France, sometimes discussed in these pages, Johnny Halliday, does indeed drive a big black Hummer H1 around Paris.

Encens? par ses premiers propri?taires de renom tels que Arnold Schwarzenegger ou pour la France Johnny Halliday, le Hummer H1 ?tait pr?sent? comme un ... - and so on. I've seen it. He does.

And that is the prelude to the comments that flew between the editor of As Seen from Just Above Sunset (me) and the editor of MetropoleParis (Ric Erickson).

Item one: Johnny H in trouble with his big black Hummer?

I alerted Ric to this Reuters item...
Paris Goes After SUVs
PARIS (Reuters) - Bulky four-by-fours could be banned from clogging up the chic streets of Paris after a top official in the capital's left-wing government described them as a polluting "caricature of a car" unsuited to city life.

An anti-sports utility vehicle (SUV) resolution passed by the city council could lead to a ban on the popular vehicles in about 18 months if it is included in an overall project to improve traffic flow in the city, Deputy Mayor Denis Baupin said Wednesday.

"You have to wonder why people want to drive around in SUVs," Baupin, a Greens party member, said on Europe 1 radio.

"We have no interest in having SUVs in the city. They're dangerous to others and take up too much space."

The city council voted Tuesday to urge Socialist Mayor Bertrand Delanoe to consider banning SUVs, which have become popular in recent years and now make up about five percent of the French car market -- just below the western Europe average.

Baupin said Paris, which has been setting aside more lanes for buses and bicycles since a Socialist and Greens coalition took over City Hall in 2001, could not legally ban SUVs outright. "Our idea is to limit the circulation of the most polluting vehicles," he said. "That means SUVs and lots of other vehicles that don't meet European pollution standards."

Baupin, who often cycles around Paris to promote more environmentally friendly transport, called SUVs a caricature of a car and said they were not adapted for use in a city. "It's made for a family on vacation ... and usually they only have one person in them," he said. "Let's be logical and only allow into the city cars that are adapted to it."
And Ric set the record straight -
Paris city council today voted to give SUVs a wrist-slap because they pollute much more than typical cheesy little French cars even if they are diesels.

This is a new crusade for the city council ruled by Socialists and backstopped by Les Verts.

Today's vote has no effect whatsoever - other than to put Mayor Delan?e's government on record as SUV-bashers.

Paris' city hall - the H?tel de Ville - is not thought to be air conditioned, and today's temperatures - 4 to 6 degrees higher than 'normal for the season' - (about 83 F) may be been behind the initiative launched by Denis Baupin, deputy mayor for bicycle issues. (Don't remember whether Denis is a Red or a Green. Everybody is trying to jump on the Green bandwagon these days.)

Quote: "You have to wonder why people want to drive around in SUVs," Baupin, a Greens party member, said on Europe 1 radio.

Denis may wonder, but everybody else knows Paris isn't Long Island or Orange County. France does not, despite controlling large parts of oil-rich Africa, have lots of dirt-cheap oil to squander on idiots who live in the 16th arrondissement, Neuilly, or the western suburbs.

Quote: "Baupin said Paris, which has been setting aside more lanes for buses and bicycles since a Socialist and Greens coalition took over City Hall in 2001, could not legally ban SUVs outright. "Our idea is to limit the circulation of the most polluting vehicles," he said. "That means SUVs and lots of other vehicles that don't meet European pollution standards."

Well, this could mean many of the cheesy little cars with diesel motors too. Diesel motors are much favored by French drivers because the rotten fuel they use is cheaper than regular gas. Cleaning up diesel emissions lags behind the traps put on gasoline-powered cars. About 50 percent of all private cars in France are diesel-powered.

All trucks are diesel.
And as I said to Ric once over coffee on the Right Bank a few years ago, Paris smells that way. Diesel fumes. Paris in the summer smells like... like one morning when I was walking through the French Quarter of New Orleans as the narrow streets were being washed down and the trucks were making their morning deliveries. Wet cobblestones and diesel fumes.

A few years ago I drove a diesel rental car all over the Avignon-Arles-Aix triangle. The car wasn't thrilling. That's France. Not a car place.


Item two: Paris imitates Baghdad (spotty electricity)? "We're moving into a new rhythm."

This from the Associated Press -
Protesters cut power to Paris train stations
Laurence Frost, Paris, France 07 June 2004 17:00
French trade union activists claimed responsibility for surprise power outages on Monday that delayed hundreds of thousands of rail passengers in Paris. They warned of more protests over plans for the partial privatisation of the country's utilities.

The communist-backed CGT union said the outages were a response to attempts by the government to rush through new laws that would transform Electricite de France and Gaz de France from state agencies into listed companies.

Trains to and from Paris's St Lazare station were severely disrupted by the outages that began at 3.30am local time on Monday morning, while three other main line stations suffered partial power losses. All services were back to normal by about midday.

"It's a deliberate action in the face of a speed-up by the government, which is saying that the parliamentary debate could happen very quickly," said Gerard Rodriguez, a senior official at the CGT's mining and energy division.

"Throughout the week, there will be more actions like this," Rodriguez said. "We're moving into a new rhythm."

Power outages sometimes accompany strikes by EDF workers, who descended on Paris by the tens of thousands on May 27. But the decision to target train stations without warning represents a departure from the usual tactics and a clear toughening of the union militants' stance.

A group of militants also cut off power on Monday to the home of a conservative parliamentarian from the rural Lot region, Michel Roumegoux, who advocates reform of the national utilities, France-Info radio reported.

France's national railway operator, the SNCF, said it will seek compensation from EDF after the cuts caused 250 trains to be cancelled or delayed, affecting about 500 000 passengers.

It said the Paris-Nord, Paris-Lyon and Montparnasse stations were also affected, although less severely than St Lazare.

The CGT and other unions have called a nationwide strike for June 15, when the government is set to present its partial privatisation plans to lawmakers.

Besides dropping their special status as public enterprises -- as demanded by European Union authorities in Brussels -- the conservative government wants to sell part of the two utilities on the stock market.

It argues its plans do not amount to privatisation, since it has pledged to retain controlling stakes in both groups as well as allowing employees to keep generous pensions and other advantages they enjoy as public sector workers.

Financial benefits such as cheap debt granted to EDF under the current French law have been repeatedly criticised by EU competition authorities, which in December ordered the power giant to pay back ?900-million in tax breaks plus interest.

The European Commission also said it has obtained a commitment from France to end EDF's special status as a public enterprise by the end of 2004.

The French government is pushing ahead with a wide-ranging privatisation program as it struggles to shore up its finances and rein in the bulging national debt.
And of course Ric set us straight on this too - on these actions regarding opening up the electricity market to competition - something that cost California between eight and thirteen billion dollars a few years ago, and gave us Arnold Shwarzenegger (the man who made the Hummer commercially available to us all) as our new governor.
Without warning on Tuesday morning, protesting EDF workers blacked out the St Lazare train station, causing havoc for hundreds of thousands of hapless commuters. The workers are protesting against government plans to open the state monopoly of electricity production and distribution to competition.

French consumers are perplexed. Nobody has explained to them how 'competition' will reduce power prices while maintaining service at acceptable levels. EDF workers fear there will be job cuts.

The right-wing national government claims it is under pressure from Brussels to open up the French energy market to competition. It is never mentioned that EDF may produce power at lower cost than its competitors in neighboring countries, and may itself be in the position to take them over.

While power for consumers is not cheap - in the recent past the EDF has raised prices and based its logic on world energy price levels (the war in Iraq) - the fact remains that the bulk of power produced in France comes from nuclear sources, developed at the insistence of the government, and heavily paid for by taxpayers.

For, as in all other countries, it is taxpayers and consumers who pay for everything, not governments.

EDF workers say that power supplies are a 'public service' that can only be efficiently ensured on a national level.

Labor action has been led by the CGT union, which is Communist. While the Communist Party in France has fallen on hard times, the same cannot be said of the CGT which is under pressure from even more militant unions. Union members who think the CGT is mamby-pamby join SUD.

All in all, it has been a 'normal' news day in Paris. The pocket-Napoleon Nicolas Sarkozy went out to EDF headquarters in La Defense yesterday to 'do' something, and the news was mainly about how he sneaked through heavy pickets with the help of fully-amoured CRS anti-mutiny troops wielding their traditional iron-bar clubs. A couple of TV-news people got wrecked too.

In France unarmed civilians are not particularly afraid of armed police, the CRS and its dogs, or the armed forces. When the people are 'in the right,' they have a right to fight for their rights. But attention if you are a visitor - none of it is make-believe. The iron in the clubs is real.

... from the barricades, ric
Ric mentions the scary CSR guys. One of them once asked me for a light. I complied. He had a sub-machinegun. Allowing him his cigarette break seemed prudent.

And Ric adds to that - adding detail to the weekend Bush visited Paris (June 5) that he had previously reported here...
A paratrooper armed with a machinegun stopped me on Sunday to ask where I thought I was going. I was up behind the Jeu de Paume because I wanted to look over that empty field of dirt that lies beside Rivoli inside the Tuileries towards the Louvre. There was supposed to be a new labyrinth in there.

I couldn't remember the word 'labyrinth,' so I asked the soldier if his gun was loaded. I couldn't remember the word 'charg?' either. He said it was a secret. There also wasn't any labyrinth. So I asked him if he would shoot if necessary. He said that was a secret too.

This was near the Place de la Concorde. From the front of the Jeu de Paume I could see a sizeable temporary wall drawn up in the place, making a fortress of the Crillon and the US embassy beyond it. But where I was on the Tuileries side, behind the Jeu de Paume building, I didn't understand what the paratrooper was guarding.

He was polite, but wary. When I left him with his secrets I wished him a 'bonne weekend.' All part of a day's work in Dodge City.

...goodnight from Paris, ric
Secrets everywhere. Anti-terror troops with odd attitudes. Here. Paris. What a world.

And goodnight from Hollywood.

Posted by Alan at 19:16 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

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