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Thursday, November 03, 2005

French Riots

Steve Donohue has posted about the ongoing riots around Paris. There have been snippets of this appearing here and there in the US media, but a strange paucity of real information. The bare bones of the story is that two "youths" (15 and 17) in a Paris "suburb" ran from the police and hid in a power station. There they accidentally electrocuted themselves. Since then there has been nightly rioting, many cars burned, live ammunition fired at police, a tear gas cannister fired into a mosque and spreading violence. The ethnicity of the dead youths and of the rioters has been obscured rather than clarified in MSM reports, at least those here in the US.

I have been to France twenty-some times over the past 25 years, and Mrs. Abe is French. We spent most of that time outside the Paris area, but I do know more about France than the average tourist.

First of all, "suburbs" in this case are nothing like "suburbs" in the American sense. These are in fact small cities that were created as "housing projects" for the poor. Like Co-op City in New York and other US housing projects, these became ghettos, the purview of criminals, and the French authorities have long been afraid to enter them, let alone police them effectively. See this post linked by Steve for more about the situation and insight into the possible implications.

This problem of the lawless areas has been around for many years, with no one in the successive governments really willing to touch it until Interior Minister Sarkozy. Although, he is in the same party as Jacques Chirac and Dominique de Villepin, they are rivals more than allies.

This problem is what the French were talking about with "law and order" issues in their last elections. This is the problem that the far right wing National Front party has long been focused upon. The NF is primarily nativist, and not too fond of the US either.

The two "youths" who were electrocuted were of "Malian and Tunisian origin" according to a story on the Al-Jazeera web site (apparently largely from AFP). Although, as previously noted, this is not widely reported.

The inhabitants of the cities/ghettos/housing projects where the riots are taking place overwhelmingly of North African extraction, i.e. the Muslim countries along the Mediterreanean where France has extensive connections. Some, but fewer are from the former French colonies in Sub-Saharan Africa. A large portion of the immigrants from North Africa have not assimilated fully into French society even to the second or third generation, unlike immigrants from other European countries, China, Vietnam, etc. People in these housing projects are generally the ones who have not assimilated into French culture.

Thus it is almost certain that the rioters are Muslims, many of them French citizens, but not "French" in outlook.

There have been flare ups in these kinds of places before, particularly in Marseilles several years ago. France also has a tendency to sporadic lawlessness in other areas. It seems nearly every year when we are there a strike or two will paralyze some area or industry. The strikes are often illegal and frequently involve some violence, which never seems to be punished. An anti-American group has burned some geneticly modified (GM) crops, destroyed a MacDonalds, and wreaked other havoc in "protest" against "globalization." Even when arrests are made, not much punishment results in the end. In the 60's a French government was brought down by a "student strike." [What do students stop doing when they strike?]

It possible that calm will return on its own. Sarkozy may be losing the political battle to take back control of these areas. It that is not done now, it will probably be harder later. Clearly it needs to be done, but appeasement and scapegoating Sarkozy may be more attractive to the government.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Google Page Rank Update

It's a monthly ritual that most of us never notice. Google updates their "page rank" for web sites at the beginning of each month. This month we made the page rank leap from PR4 to PR5, joining Ryne, Steve and other friends. We see that Grizzly Mama and Sea Witch have now made the same jump, and we think it was also in this update.

What does page rank mean? See our previous "SEO for Dummies" post for details. In short, page rank is one factor used by Google in determining the order hits are listed in for a particular query. It ranges from 0 to 10, and is probably a log scale (i.e. PR6 is much higher than PR5).

In principle higher page rank should translate to more hits from Google and from other search engines that use Google. We've noticed more search engine hits in general over the past month or so, and Google hits were relatively high today and yesterday, FWIW.

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The Fisking of Harry

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada) has a blog these days. A recent post dealt with the "horror" of the Libby indictment, and followed the standard narrative: shocking; shameful; Bush lied, people cried; WMD; etc.

SobekPundit, now a Nevada resident, takes on the Senator's post in: Time to Get My Fisk On. And to think, Sen. Harry had the nerve to criticize Justice Thomas' writing. Of course, Harry's blog is probably ghost-written by a staffer anyway.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Judicial Confirmation Glossary

In an effort to clarify the debate over the nomination of Sam Alito to the Supreme Court of the US, we provide this list of common terms you will encounter in the media, along with a defintion for each.

Conservative -- to the right of the New York Times
Arch-conservative -- to the right of the Washington Post
Right wing group -- conservative group
Non-partisan group -- liberal group
Liberal group -- moonbat central
Out of the mainstream -- in step with a majority of voters
Pandering to the right wing -- keeping an election promise, proving that elections matter
Missed opportunity -- failure to choose one of the candidates desired by your opponents
Judicial activism -- a conservative judge's willingness to strike down a legislative act that contradicts the constitution. (obsolete: a liberal judge's essential perogative to strike down a legislative act that contradicts what the constitution should say.)
Living document (as in "the constitution is a living document") -- license for liberal jurists to amend the constitution, as needed, to obtain the desired outcomes.
Originalism -- 1) a far right dogma, promoting the radical notion that the constitution means what it says; 2) an attempt to murder the living constitution.
Turn back the clock -- a judicial ban on Daylight Savings Time
Back alley abortions -- the inevitable outcome when any attempt is made to differentiate between a tumor and a fetus.
Roll back women's rights -- put abortion law back in the hands of law-making bodies in each state.
Roll back civil rights -- eliminate perpetual institutionalized discrimination on the basis of race
Destroy the separation of church and state -- replace "freedom from religion" with "freedom of religion"
stare decisis -- the principle that an act of the legislature and executive branches may be nullified, but a previous decision by judges can only be changed by a federal constitutional amendment.

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Monday, October 31, 2005

One Less Thing to Worry About

The risk of nuclear terrorism in the form of a "suitcase bomb" is practically nil according to Richard Miniter's article in OpinionJournal. No such tiny bombs were ever made, and there are technical reasons why this is so. The "portable" nukes that were made filled 3 footlockers and weighed hundreds of pounds.

This is counter to what I thought to be true, but Miniter has carefully researched the origins of the stories of "suitcase nukes" and finds them unbelievable. One technical factor is a bomb that size could only contain a small amount of radioactive materials:
"Gen. Valynkin is referring to the fact that radioactive weapons require a lot of shielding. To fit the radioactive material and the appropriate shielding into a suitcase would mean that a very small amount of material would have to be used. Radioactive material decays at a steady, certain rate, expressed as 'half-life,' or the length of time it takes for half of the material to decay into harmless elements. The half-life of the most likely materials in the infinitesimal weights necessary to fit in a suitcase is a few months. So as a matter of physics and engineering, the nuclear suitcase is an impractical weapon. It would have to be rebuilt with new radioactive elements every few months."
Once the amount of fissile material drops below "critical mass" there is no longer enough to sustain the chain reaction and cause an explosion.