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Saturday, November 19, 2005

Jean-Marie Le Pen

The French riots brought a strong sense of vindication to one French politician, Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of the far-right National Front (FN) party. We use the term "far-right" advisedly, recognizing the MSM tendency to portray all conservatives as loonies. Give the man his due, though. He has been saying for years that allowing masses of Muslim immigrants to form a country-within-a-country would lead to exactly the kind of disaster that unfolded in the past month (and continues to fester). You don't have to like him or agree with him on other issues.
OpinionJournal: "Three years after his greatest triumph, when he finished second in the presidential elections, party infighting and age seemed to be wearing him down. The riots have revived him. Following detours into euroskepticism, anti-Americanism (he opposed both Iraq wars), gay-bashing and Nazi revisionism, this is more familiar territory. 'For 30 years, I've said that the crazy growth of immigration from the Third World would submerge France,' he declaims. 'I put forth policies that defend our identity, our territory, our prosperity. And my ideas challenge the ideological currents of globalization as well as the partisans of the free flow not only of capital and merchandise but also people.' In his attacks on liberal economics, JMLP is squarely (if disconcertingly) in the French mainstream, alongside Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, who also proposes that France can opt out of globalization.

Mr. Le Pen argues that globalization must be reversed altogether. 'The 10 million foreigners mostly from the Third World' are impossible to 'integrate or assimilate,' he says. (According to the last census, there are 4.3 million immigrants in France, population 60 million.) But didn't France assimilate Armenians, Poles and others? He waves his hand. Those immigrants were 'a little like your Mexicans in the United States: They are Christians--even if not practicing, they are culturally Christian. Our immigrants are principally Muslim, guided by the precepts of Shariah that aren't only political but religious.'"
Well, if "globalization" is defined in this way, we're not in favor of it either, nor do we think it is inevitable.

As the OpinionJournal article notes, there are reasons to doubt that Le Pen will ever rise to real power. For one thing he's much happier as a perpetual opposition gadfly.

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Friday, November 18, 2005

Nothing to See, Move Along

It seems the riots in France are officially over, at least for now. Burned cars for the night slipped below the magical, "normal" level of 100--all the way to 98--as total arrests approached 3,000. In a sure sign the crisis has become part of the status quo, and therefore no longer a crisis, stories on the situation slipped off page 2 of Google News and into the memory hole.

Meanwhile, spokesmen for the Religion of Peace sounded a familiar theme:
"Dalil Boubakeur, the director of the Great Mosque of Paris and one of the country's leading Muslim figures, said in a statement Tuesday that it was too easy to make Muslims 'the scapegoat' of France's riots, and that he detected a 'troubling Islamophobia.'"
We wouldn't want to blame the people who were rioting for any of this, now would we. Actually, many non-Muslims went to great lengths to actively conceal the ethnic/religious backgrounds of the vast majority of the "youngsters" engaged in criminal activity.

Against that backdrop, several French government officials played up a new angle on the integration problem:
"That debate grew more strident after Labor Minister Gerard Larcher was quoted in Wednesday's Financial Times as saying that youths from large polygamous families often had social behavioral problems, stemming from lack of a father figure.

At the same time, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy was quoted in the current issue of newsweekly L'Express as saying that polygamy is one of the cultural differences that 'makes it more difficult to integrate a French youth of African origin with a French youth of another origin.'

And Conservative lawmaker Bernard Accoyer told RTL radio that polygamy was 'certainly one of the causes' of the problems of integrating Muslim families into French society."
These don't seem to be outrageous suggestions, although we have no real idea to what degree this is actually a factor. Certainly, single-parent, fatherless families in the US have a strong correlation with poverty and low achievement levels. Considering the cultural resistance against Muslim women working outside the home, it seems likely that polygamous Muslim families would be prone to financial problems. It seems unlikely polygamy could be the main cause of the integration failures, but it might be a factor.

Although polygamy is illegal in France, from the reactions one would think it was a constitutional right: liberté, égalité, et poligamie.
The reaction was immediate. One group, the League of Human Rights, said in a statement that the comments were provocative and 'knowingly took the risk of reinforcing xenophobia and racism.'

Jean-Pierre Brard, a communist lawmaker from Seine-Saint-Denis, said he was aware of 150 polygamous families in his town. But to link polygamy to the rioting 'is to treat people like imbeciles.'

Polygamy is illegal in France. But visas were granted freely to family members of immigrants until 1993, after which visas were authorized for only one spouse. The Ministry of Social Affairs estimates on its Web site that there are between 8,000 and 15,000 polygamous families in France."
Actually, we'd say that to advocate communism is to show that you deserve to be treated like an imbecile, but Mr. Brard has a right to his opinions, no matter how stupid they are. The comments from the government officials don't seem in the least "provocative" to us nor do they seem to pander to racist/xenophobic elements. They're certainly debatable, but the Left doesn't want a debate on the problems, they just want to shout down the opponent with accusations of racism. Hmmm. Looks like a worldwide strategy.

So would you call a baby in a polygamous French family a "pollywog?"

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Only 163 Cars Burned

The French rioters torched the fewest number of cars last night since the riots officially began on October 27. "Only" 163 citizens had their cars destroyed last night. This is rapidly approaching the standard of 100 car burnings per night in France, suggesting the "crisis" may soon be extinguished from the news.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin toured a riot-torn area and stated:
"'The situation remains serious in a great number of districts. We cannot accept that more than 200 cars burn each night,' he said.

Nearly 3 weeks of rioting had destroyed 8,500 vehicles, 100 public buildings. Some 2,800 people had been detained and 600 jailed, he said."
Apparently, however, the police are willing to lower the bar a bit further in a clear bid to declare an early victory:
"The unrest began on Oct. 27 with the accidental deaths of two youths apparently fleeing police but quickly engulfed tough suburbs in towns around France, although police said on Tuesday only 215 vehicles had been destroyed, an 'almost normal' level."
Previously, the police had given "100 per night" as the "normal" level of car burnings in France, but now 215 is "almost normal." Although de Villepin says "more than 200" is unacceptable, there may be some wiggle room here. Perhaps as many as 199 could be tolerated.

Here's a shocker from the same article:
"National Police service chief Michel Gaudin told the Le Monde newspaper that 80 percent of those arrested for rioting were already known to police."
Who knew that the rioting "youngsters" (as this article again calls them) had criminal backgrounds. We thought they were just "angered by racism and unemployment."

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy remains surprisingly frank for a politician:
"Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy told the assembly the country was confronting one of its most acute and complex urban crises. 'The suburbs are not another France, the suburbs are not France on television,' he said. 'The suburbs are France as it is, as we have built it and as we have run it for 30 years.'"
According to FBI statistics in all of 2004 there were 68,245 cases of arson in the entire USA. Of these approximately 30% involved the burning of a motor vehicle. That works out to about 56 car burnings per day in the entire US. The population of France is about 1/5 th that of the US.

The 2004 US arson rate was the worst in cities 250,000 or larger: 48.8 arsons per 100,000 for the year. Presumably, about 30% of these would also be car burnings. At this rate a single US city the size of France would have about 24 car burnings per day, although the actual rate is slightly lower for cities over 1,000,000. The French authorities can only dream of getting back to "just" 100 car burnings a day.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Chirac Immitates Jimmy Carter

Via al-Reuters the Boston Globe reports, French President Jacques Chirac is still promising "firm action" against the rioters. No word on when this might occur:
"'We will respond (to the violence) by being firm, by being fair and by being faithful to the values of France,' Chirac said in a television and radio speech, his first direct address to the nation since the unrest began on October 27.

'These events bear witness to a deep malaise,' he said. 'It is ... an identity crisis.'"
Reportedly President Chirac delivered the speech wearing a cardigan and sitting in front of a fireplace.
"Chirac, 72, sought to end criticism that he is out of touch and has been too silent over the violence that began after two youths were accidentally electrocuted as they hid from police in a power substation in a Paris suburb."
He should only speak if he can improve on silence.

Meanwhile, "only" 284 cars were burned Sunday night, as the rioters continue to inch (or perhaps centimeter) towards that "only-100-burned-cars-per-night" goal that will signal a return to the "normal" level of destruction.

This same article describes the riots as "violent protests against racism and unemployment by youths of African and Arab origin as well as white youngsters." How many misrepresentations can fit into half a sentence?

Update: Reader DiEGO, who is French, points out that President Chirac did not actually deliver his speech in front of a fireplace wearing a cardigan, but rather in the normal venue and wearing a suit and tie. Apparently we confused Chirac with Jimmy Carter.

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Monday, November 14, 2005

French Riots Really Dying Down?

We've been reading for five days or more that the rioting is falling off, but is it really? Could it just be the French government spin on the news, trying to convince the world public to look away and the rioters themselves to move on to other fun?

One indication is the numbers coming out about the riots each day. According to this article on the riots there were 8,300 cars torched and 2,652 people arrested from the night of Oct. 27 prior to Sunday night, Nov. 13. That's 17 nights for an average of 488 cars and 156 arrests per night.

On Friday night over 500 cars were torched and 119 were arrested. On Saturday night "only" 374 cars were torched. Of course last week 1400 cars were burned in just one night, so things have certainly settled down from that point. Not to worry, though:
"If the downward trend continues, 'things could return to normal very quickly,' National Police Chief Michel Gaudin said, noting that French youths burn about 100 cars on an average Saturday night."
What a relief! We're within striking distance of "normal" already. Perhaps that's part of the problem.

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Sunday, November 13, 2005

Euro Shell Game

France is one of the wealthiest countries in the EU, but they'll be getting a handout to cope with the rioting damage. Do Europeans really think extra wealth is created by passing it through Brussels?
"The European Union yesterday offered France 50 million euros (58.6 million) for urban rebuilding programs in riot-hit areas, AFP cited European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso as saying before he met French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin late yesterday."
Why should the rest of Europe, particularly the newer members to the East, pick up any of the tab for France's follies? Of course, that scam is working pretty well here in the US, as the states would rather squabble over scraps of "federal dollars" than tax and pay for things locally. This is a negative sum game.

Update: It's even worse. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso says the EU could make up to $1.2 billion available in longer-term "support."

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Nicolas Sarkozy

The French Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, is not backing down. Opponents have tried to blame him for the riots that have now been "winding down" for 5 days. Sarkozy's sin was to use indelicate language in promising to clean up the crime-ridden housing projects where the riots are occurring. He also described some of the criminals as "racaille," which means "riffraff," but has been widely translated in the English language press as "scum."

Sarkozy seemed to have been eclipsed in the news reports by President Chirac and Prime Minister de Villepin for awhile there, but you can't keep a good man down. As al-Reuters reports:
"Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy reiterated a controversial pledge to throw out foreigners caught rioting, saying the expulsions could begin at the start of this week. 'If you want to live in France with a residency permit you have to abide by the laws,' he said on Saturday night.

He has been criticized for using tough language during the crisis and was heckled by a crowd on Saturday.

The opposition Socialists accused him on Sunday of acting tough to increase his chances of becoming president in a 2007 election. But opinion polls show the emergency measures are widely supported by French citizens.

A poll published in Le Journal du Dimanche showed 53 percent of people were confident Sarkozy could resolve the problems in impoverished suburbs and fewer than one in three thought Chirac, who has kept a low profile during the crisis, could do so."
It would be interesting to see how de Villepin and the rest of the French political class fared in that poll. Our guess is Sarkozy's 53 percent is probably near the top, if not at the top. We're tempted to accuse the "oppostion Socialists" of acting wimpy to increase their chances of regaining power in the 2007 elections. However, let's give both sides the benefit of the doubt and assume that Sarkozy actually thinks getting tough with the toughs is good policy and that the Socialists are really believe that appeasement is the way to go.

This al-Reuters article continually refers to the rioters as "youths" or our personal favorite "youngsters." It almost calls up an image of rampaging Cub Scouts. Those poor, misunderstood kids.

William F. Buckley has another idea on dealing with the root causes:
"'My view is unorthodox,' Mr. Buckley says of the violence roiling the French suburbs. 'It seems to me that a very hard dose of market discipline would distract the attention of the young revolutionaries from their frolics, traditional and otherwise, and my sense is that if they had to worry about how to eat, and buy food, they would stop screwing around and face reality. If these people didn't wake up in the morning thinking about what cars to burn--instead of work--they might not be having these problems.'"
He's right, of course, but the French are not yet willing to give up the pleasant illusion that they can prosper by insulating themselves from economic reality forever.

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