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Paris 'riots': My aunt's building burned yesterday night (UPDATED)

by Jerome a Paris Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 03:14:30 PM EST

One of my aunts lives in one of the cités in the suburbs where the "new Intifada" is taking place - the new "Baghdad on the Seine". Her building suffered a fire yesterday night, started by the usual suspects in the neighborhood (they blew up two motorbikes in a local on the ground floor), ignored for almost one hour by the police and firemen. The solidarity of the inhabitants helped to evacuate everybody, and provide temporary shelter while the fire raged. Most people went back home the same evening as the fire was doused eventually.

A few cars were also burnt in the neighborood, but hardly more than usual. It's one of those things that happen and that you don't really worry about if you live there. This week, it goes on TV if you do it, so of course more are tempted to do so (last night saw 1300 cars burn, up from 900 the previous night), including in provincial cities. There is no coordination of anything, it's just mostly copycats by bored kids who are suddenly getting a lot of attention.

The police toughness is just plain posturing by Sarkozy, as the police know very well who does what in the neighborood and didn't and do not intervene. One reason is actually that the local gangs don't attack so much the locals (or the police) as they fight other gangs from nearby cities for sometimes trange turf or other arcane reasons. Also, there isn't that much violence, but isolated incidents and the spectacular, but mostly harmless, car fires. Firemen say explicitly that they let them burn out rather than intervene, as their interventions only excite the gangs more and have little use (unless the fire presents any danger of spreading, which is rarely the case).

Now one thing to note is that these neighboroods are not ghettos. My aunt lived there most of her life, she was a teacher in a nearby pre-school and has a mostly normal middle class life. There are lots of minorities, lots of kids with dysfunctional families, an obvious lack of jobs, and decrepit buildings, but it's not a rundown place, it's not cut off from the rest of the country, and there is a lot of solidarity between the inhabitants.

This is not to deny that the situation is tense, and that the events of recent nights don't signal some real problems in these neighboroods, but it's not like it's war, ot the "end of France" or a crippling crisis for the country.

What it is is a real political crisis for the government, caught between the Le Pen-light shenanigans and provocations of Sarkozy (which are strongly approved and encouraged by a good part of the 'law'n'order' rightwing crowd in the country, but criticised by a majority today, including the moderate right)) and the silence of the rest of the government, led by Villepin, which was hoping that the crisis would burn Sarkozy but did not expect to be caught in the flames as well. The combination of tough, provocative words to start with, an unstable mix of toughness and conciliatory words, and nonstop coverage of burning cars on TV has led to more. Burning cars are nothing new - there was an average of 100 per day in France throughout the year, and it never made the news beyond statistical reports and an quick image once in a while when there was another incident to talk about. But today, it is having a political impact and the political outcry fuels the phenomenon. (The mayor of my aunt's city duly came to visit and be photogrpahed yesterday - sometimes it seems it's the only thing that bring these people around).

What's real is that social budgets for these cités (those that allow the associations to run sport activities, literacy classes and the like) have been cut in the past 3 years, because, as always, this is the easiest thing to do politically.

What is real is that local police forces have been reduced (in Clichy, where it all started, the police has 15 officers vs 35 in the past) and replaced by national police who do not know the neighborood and are pretty aggressive in their behavior - and especially in their overuse of id controls which target only people of color.

What is real is that France made a choice 30 years ago to preserve the jobs of those already integrated, and made it difficult to join that core. Thus unemployment, or unstable employment (temping, short term contracts, internships) touches only those that are not yet in the system - the young and the immigrants, or those that are kicked out - the older and less educated blue collar workers in dying industries. So in neighboroods where you have a lot of young immigrants, the problems are excerbated.

And finally, what is real is that everybody is aware that nothing serious will be done before the 2007 presidential election. With a lame duck, aging, corrupt President fighting it out with his ambitious interior Ministry (Sarkozy), policy is forgotten to spin, politicking and the like and nothing happens - but people are crying for solutions, and not everybody is willing to wait another 18 months for someone to have a clear mandate and do something. The feeling of fin de règne is pervasise and highly corrosive today.

Sarkozy would likely be an improvement over today, in that he would have a clear mandate if elected, and full powers, but he would be likely to run a Bushist policy of tough posturing, tax reform for the rich - and, this is France, getting the TVs not to talk about the banlieues anymore. He is an opportunist and a power hungry reactionary, I don't even see him "liberalising" the economy. But the banlieues do not need more growth, what they need is for the State to come back in full force - bring back the local police presence, give real support to the schools and all the associations that do integration work (it's criminal to cut subsidies to literacy classes, for instance), and actually get things done on improving the housing stock, instead of shuffling money between departments as emergencies arise, and, where necessary, improving transportation links to the big city where the jobs are.

What is not happening is any "intifada"; France is not burning; I still doubt that its integration model is failing ; what is clearly not tolerable anymore is how an underclass (not necessarily only the immigrants, but where they are clearly over represented, and definitely young and undereducated) has been sacrificed and abandoned in the country's (real and mostly successful) efforts to adapt to increasing international competition. They must be brought back into the fold, and toughness is not the way.

[ed] AP story

UPDATE Postscript. Just watched the evening news here. The events of last night, naturally enough, took most of the air time. Chirac spoke, saying that restoring order is the only priority right now. There was a lot of coverage in various places. Most of it showed shocked and uncomprehending populations in these cités, half "white" and half "dark". They showed how the whole cité and the teachers came to clean up the school that was burnt overnight, and which will thus be open again tomorrow. They showed groups of citizens that occupy their local infrastructure (unarmed) simply to create a presence and show that it is valued. They showed some youth saying that they were sick to death of not finding jobs because the don't have the right name, and expressing their anger at Sarkozy's words; there was an interview of inhabitants (again, half white and half brown) of one cité complaining about the racism and provocation of the police.

In 20 minutes, there was not a single mention of religion. Again, these events are not motivated by religion, they are motivated by economics, and by the (correct) feeling of these youth that they are excluded from "normal" society. all they want is a job, a car and decent housing, to live their lifes normally. Now a significant proportion of this underclass is indeed of Arab or African origins, and thus Muslim, but they are all French by nationality.

A final word: I am not trying to downplay the significance of these events, but I do think they need to be put in perspective, and the shrillness of the English language press made me want to give another view. Burning cars are not a good thing, but htey are not the end of the world either, and no sign of any Intifada (or the USA and the UK would be in one as well). The violence unleashed in the past two days will not be tolerated much longer, neither by the inhabitants of the cités nor by the State, and a combination of both actions will prevail.

Now the open question is what the political fallout will be. Will the right use it to push tough law and order policies (to shoot the messenger, effectively), or will France take a hard look at its social model and decide that it is high time to do something for these kids and these cités? On this I must admit that I am not so optimistic.

Jerome, very sorry to hear about your aunt's experience, as it must have been frightening and unsettling. Hope she is doing okay...and send along a readers best wishes.

On your article...it is excellent, thank you. If you haven't cross-posted over at Booman or Dkos, I would recommend it. People need to hear your perspectives on what is going on...which is quite level-headed.

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 06:39:11 AM EST
My aunt's fine. She thought it was just another car burning (her words)...
After the fact, she realised it could have been worse (the motos exploded and thus the whole ground floor burned and it could have gotten worse).

I definitely will crosspost to both other sites in the very near future.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 07:38:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Good to know that your aunt is safe.
by Fran on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 05:10:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's been a very good account of the 'Paris riots'; Detailed, calm and reasoned. Better than most of what I've been reading on European or American media during the past few days.
by vassilis on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 07:32:20 AM EST
 this is what some reader from outside should know. Not only what we see in our newspapers or TV footage.

Please, do something with this report, send it to newspapers, to foreign journalists.. everywhere.

It is a very important information construction that you can hardly see anywhere else. At least, outside of France.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 07:37:19 AM EST
Jerome. I'm not so sanguine as you appear to be. I moved to France and Paris in 1991 and lived in the 18th for ten years before moving to the country. As long ago as then I could see the hatred and despair on the faces of the Muslim youth. I told my French wife that this will explode some day. How many Muslims are judges in France? How many are on the police force and how many go to L'ENA?
I feel that the Muslims ( and I don't us that term to mean a religion) are far less integrated in the society than the blacks in America. Of course America is a country of immigrants and it is used to absorbing. But I don't think this is over by a long shot and I don't see the will on the part of the French to solve the problem.

Hey, Grandma Moses started late!
by LEP on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 08:36:29 AM EST
A lot are in the police (and the army), and quite a few are énarques. But they become invisible. When you're énarque (or when you're an engineer or some equivalent position), your origins totally disappear - you are in, you're an énarque (or engineer), and the rest doesn't matter.

We only see those that fail, because those that integrate are invisible. Still too many fail, and we certainly must do something about it - but they are not the majority.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 09:19:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I didn't realize that. Thanks.
P.S. When I get back to France I'm going to speak to my sister-in-law who is enarque to get some more details. She finished in '93.

Hey, Grandma Moses started late!
by LEP on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 09:27:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, the non integrated people may be invisible. What is visible (to me) are the thousands and thousands of satellite dishes on their balconies, roof tops and next to their living room windows. (Very much like in the DDR.) These folks are not only immigrants they are also after - dinner - refugees. There is something wrong when they collectively emigrate every night to watch Arab television programms. They never really left their home countries and never really arrived in France. And the kids never understood where they live.  

"The USA appears destined by fate to plague America with misery in the name of liberty." Simon Bolivar, Caracas, 1819
by Ritter on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 09:32:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I'm not at all as convinced as some that these groups of immigrants will integrate into the larger society in the foreseeable future, no matter what good will and good policy is applied to the problem.

Traditionally integration of immigrants would be most problematic when the country of origin was right across the border, and the people concerned stayed rooted in their cross border culture. These days, as the parent poster noted, any country is right across the border, as this very forum is an example of. Add to that the religious identity politics, and the outlook is pretty bleak.

The question is, is there hope of a meaningful integration and a lessening of conflicts before a massive backlash, reaching deep into the moderate, and even left wing, parts of the population, provides fuel for a hardline right wing resurgence throughout Europe. Being politically correct is starting to look mighty like whistling past the graveyard these days.

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.

by Alexander G Rubio (alexander.rubio@gmail.com) on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 11:26:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps one problem is the expectation that integration will go smoothly and quickly. The history of immigrants in America is one of multiple back-and-forth trips to the old country, many people who came went back, and long-term connections with relatives and cultures that span generations. People whose families came here from Italy or Ireland in the 1930s still visit their cousins "back home." They clearly identify with their traditional culture. My grandmother kept in touch with her relatives in England 100 years after the family had come over here.

It takes a LONG TIME for people to integrate. The New World has this expectation built in, but if anything the United States is probably better at it than other places like Canada and South America where the connections to England, France, Spain, and Portugal are still very strong. For a country without the expectation of immigration as part of it's culture, the process can be expected to take even longer. Like a hundred years or so.

by asdf on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 12:26:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I even think today you integrate not that slower than eighty or hundred years ago. Even if people in the old days also went back to their home country, it was much more difficult for poor people to go back then as it is today, where you can hop in the air plane anytime.

What is more difficult today is that you have more exposure mentally to the new country's culture and the old one due to the internet and communication possibilities compared to hundred years ago.

In the old day you had to accept that your are "stuck" in the new world and tried to make the best out of it. The average immigrant in the old days was most likely so poor arriving in the new country that he couldn't afford to "make a trip back home" that easily.

Today's immigrants stay culturally at home and just come physically to the new country to make some money. If they don't achieve that (and remain unemployed), but on the other hand are that well secured through a functioning social security net (like in France - at least to the point that they don't become homeless or hungry), immigrants get paralysed.

They can't go home (being ashamed to not have made money in the new world) and the can't really integrate and make it in the new world either.

So, they get pretty depressed and frustrated mentally.
It seems to me that in the old days all immigrants were finally proud to have made it in the new country and had not only integrated but often over-identified with the new country. I don't think that's so clearly the case anymore for today's immigrants from African countries into Europe.

by mimi on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 09:38:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Today's immigrants stay culturally at home and just come physically to the new country to make some money.

This, I think, is a very common and wrong view from outside. What you perceive as staying culturally at home is most probably staying somewhere halfway between old home and new home.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 03:54:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ritter, what's wrong with watching Arab television while in France? There certainly are people who isolate themselves from those around them, but for most, what I see is people with connections to multiple cultures - and kids not not understanding where they live, but understanding more than one place.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 03:57:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What is 'a lot'?  The answer is that nobody knows because there are no statistics as a matter of policy and law. The stuff I read concerning Sciences Po's controversial pilot affirmative action plan indicated that the numbers of blacks and arabs there before the plan was created was tiny. The first non-white prefect was only named a few years ago. If there are black or arab generals or senior police officials they never appear in the media. Back in the day Mitterrand created an affirmative action program for the working class for ENA. Sure, the grand bourgeois alumni weren't thrilled, but the left supported it on the same sort of grounds as the US left supports affirmative action here. But whenever the topic of affirmative action for non-whites comes up, the left shies away as if it were radioactive.
by MarekNYC on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 01:14:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One thing to note is that the high profile posts you describe as white only are usually occupied by people fifty or older. The Arab immigration occured in the sixties and seventies mostly, and the immigrants were around twenty to thirty years old then. Their older children raised in France are maybe forty now. Quite simply, they  have not yet reached this kind of positions.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 05:59:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
hmm, after three hundred years one should think that the blacks of America would be finally "intergrated". It took quite a while ...

I have to admit that I just wonder why you compare apples and oranges. I think the Muslim youth that is involved in burning cars and throwing stones in France are third generation immigrants at the most. Am I wrong in that assumption?

Blacks were never immigrants to the US, they were slaves. Aside from newly immigrating blacks from the carribean and the very new and few immigrants from African countries today, I would say there are no black immigrants in the US to which you could compare the immigrant population in France. You think I am wrong?

by mimi on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 02:44:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There are a moderate number of immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean: about 60,000 and 80,000 per year.
by asdf on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 04:02:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Since when do they immigrate from Africa in the past in these numbers.? I was aware about immigration from the Caribbeans in those numbers and also since a long time, but wouldn't have thought that 60,000 Africans came yearly to the US during the last fifty years.
by mimi on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 09:42:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They do. Mostly it's educated people from Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, and a few other sub-Saharan places. It's on one of the government labor statistics pages but I can't find it right now...
by asdf on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 11:19:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What do you think about the US State Dept warnings, Jerome?  Our son spent the summer in Lille doing an internship, and is scheduled to compete in a tournament near Lille at the end of the month.  He is pretty good at taking care of himself (well, for a 17 year old), he even talked his way out of a small tempest with some Siciliam carabinieri; but his daddy is worried about letting him go.  I have a wait and see attitude about it all, having lived thru civil unrest intimately in the US, but the kid is the child of our dotage...
by dksbook on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 08:38:02 AM EST
let your som  do what would be so much fun for him to do.

I am always amazed how easily Americans are scared if they hear about an event of civil unrest in the world. These days you could be at the wrong place at the wrong time anywhere in the world, if you are unlucky. Chances are that it's quite rare to be one of the unlucky ones.

There is another quality of unrest in European country's riots vis a vis real riots in the US. The rioters have usually no weapons aside from stones, sticks, hammers and may be some little self-made molotov cocktails (to set fires) etc. It's targeted at things to destroy for demonstrating they are angry, it's not targeted at specific persons or a specific group of foreigners.

It's certainly not targeted against Americans this time around. It's targeted against the French elite and policy makers or just targeted at adults and for the media coverage and attention, I would assume.

Well, I shouldn't make that remark. May be it's more serious, but I wouldn't see why your son would be close to the street fighters while participating in a tournament?

by mimi on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 03:00:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
dksbook: If you were sending your son to NYC, you'll probably recommend him to avoid the Bronx neighborhood, or South Central in LA, or... (you get the idea).

Same thing here: car burnings and other arsons happen in very specific areas: low income housing projects outside of the main cities (mostly concentrated around Paris), the "outer cities" so to speak, that are far away from the main touristic places or urban centers.

Total number of fatalities so far: I haven't checked the exact number, but probably less than 5 (including the two kids who were electrocuted in a power substation). The arsonists avoid confrontation and hide from the police. Their goal is to make the headlines on TV (and boy, does it work well..), their 15 minutes of fame every day. This is the "Reality TV" generation.

The other 99% of French territory is just going about their business.

Your son will be safe in Lille, at least much safer than in most large US cities, and if he's been there all summer, he already knows where to go and not to go.

BTW: I can't locate any travel advisory for France. The State Department "Current Travel Warnings" mentions the usual countries, the only European one being Bosnia-Herzegovina.

by Bernard (bernard) on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 03:24:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Last night 1290 cars were torched by angry kids in France if the police numbers are correct. Now, is that news worthy? I think so. Had it happened in Afghanistan or Iraq it would be certainly top news, too. Let's face it: This is not 'normal', it is a fanal that something stinks in France. Big time. I agree that this must not be interpreted as a sign of racism and islamism, but it is however a strong wake up call that the situation in the poor areas of French towns have become unbearable. Perhaps as unbearable as in the inner cities in the US/UK and in parts of Rotterdam, A'dam and other Dutch towns. I see however two major differences between what happens in France to the US/UK and Holland:

  • the militant action has a clearly defined political goal (the removal of Sarkozy).

  • there is no looting going on, no targeting ethnic groups.

There is also an organisational void, their are no leaders of the movement, no national structure. Not yet. It will come eventually. One possibility is that it will become a self fulfilling prophecy thing with the 'older brothers' of the prayer houses stepping in. That would be a desaster. The other possibility needs the swift action of the left wing political forces and the unions to 'jump the shark' and willing to ride it. There is still a one month window of opportunity to do so. The violent opposition towards Sarko has both to be broadened and deepened. The French left has to mobilize and to assume the leadership role. The fight must be lead against the neoliberal economic policies. And it must be Europeanised. We need strong action now, down playing what happens now to a 'phenomenon' would be a desaster.

"The USA appears destined by fate to plague America with misery in the name of liberty." Simon Bolivar, Caracas, 1819
by Ritter on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 09:01:55 AM EST
Do you know if the Social Parties in various European countries (but especially in France right now) are having dialogue about a direction to take? I'd be keen to hear a specific position...

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 09:15:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But I remember that years ago I already heard, on German TV while being in Germany that kids regularly set cars on fire in Strassbourg. It looks like the "French Immigrant Kid's" version of "Skinheadedness". The car burnings are really a distinct trade mark of French immigrant teenager
s street fights. They don't attack people, like German neo-nazi mob do. So, there is something very specific in the way this civil unrest plays itself out.
by mimi on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 09:51:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Burning cars as an element of expression for the unhappy youth started in Strasbourg a few years back, as a New Year's Eve "amusement". I am not sure how exactly it started (because a lot of the cars initially burnt were big German cars stolen for "rodeos", not local cars), and if it became a "tradition" because the media and/or the politicians made a big deal of what was initially fairly isolated incidents. since then, car burning has become the traditional way to express (not necessarily clear) grievances in these suburbs.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 04:23:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The whole post never mentioned who the thugs are.

But I suspect they are all Hindus.  Or Buddhists.  Maybe even Christians.  

Maybe these are unemployed Polish plumbers rioting, destroying, creating havoc and disturbance, burning (property and people)?

Or unemployed Hindus and Buddhists.  

by ilg37c on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 10:25:30 AM EST
The 'thugs' are mostly French citizens, that's the whole point.

Why are you so obsessed with seeing religion everywhere? These are not religious incidents. They are economic and social.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 10:29:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We're way too sensible here.

If I was 18 and jobless with no stake in the system hell I'd be torching cars right now.

Not killing people with AK47 like in the States, mind you, but just blowing things up.

Haven't you ever blown up things when you were kids? I was quite good with petards and explosives.

Yeah I know that's no way to really fix things but sometimes you've got to use something else than Western Union to deliver a message.

Between the French rioters and the supine American poor, I'll take the French rioters.

by Lupin on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 11:40:27 AM EST
Well, it's pretty easy to put judgement on the poor about their reactions, when you're not actually one of them, but maybe a useful fact to consider is: what hope for his future does a poor in France have and what one in America?

And what's killing people with AK47 got to do with the 'Paris riots', anyway?

by vassilis on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 12:24:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Vassillis asks: Maybe a useful fact to consider is: what hope for his future does a poor in France have and what one in America?

Following the postulates of the EU and the Member States the future for the poor should be golden.

Here is why: Are we not telling everbody that the EU is a world peace power, are we not proud that we are the biggest contributers to foreign external aid programs, are we not pointing towards the insane high amount of money spend by the US on its military?

Well, it is time to get serious then.

We all know that our wealth in the EU is 1000 trillion euros higher than the US GDP of 11.6 trillion USD. Now, if we really wanted to put our money where our mouth is, we would just have to spend as much money as the US spends on its military on EU peace programs.

That is 450 bn euros per annum.

With that money spend on decedent housing, education, transport infrastructure you create 9.000.000 direct new 50.000 euros jobs immediately. Which will create another indirect 3.000.000 new jobs in the second year. We do that for a period of ten years. After three years we will have full employment. People will live in decent appartments, have good paying jobs, kids will go to nice schools - everywhere.

And: We will have to spend only a fraction of today's cost of unemployment.

Ok, that's all. We want to be the world's peace superpower, erase unemployment and poverty? It is easy to do it. Very easy. We can start tomorrow.


"The USA appears destined by fate to plague America with misery in the name of liberty." Simon Bolivar, Caracas, 1819

by Ritter on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 01:12:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oops, should read 1000 bn not 1000 tr.

"The USA appears destined by fate to plague America with misery in the name of liberty." Simon Bolivar, Caracas, 1819
by Ritter on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 01:14:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I would love to see this happen...but it will take will.

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 01:43:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If only the economy worked in the way you described.. There would be no problems left, sure, but we're still far from it, really far. You cannot just take an amount of billions of euros, divide it with the number of people you want to get employed, and come up with their annual salaries.

And aren't these projects really going to cost us a single dime? You suggested to "spend on decedent housing, education, transport infrastructure". Let's assume that all this is doable, even if I'm more than doubtful about that--since we're talking as if Europe was the most underdeveloped region of the planet, so thatit needs 450 bn, that's BILLIONS, of euros spent on infrastructure building. You found out that 450bns spent on that, would create 9 million 50,000 euros jobs. That's a bit ingenuous, isn't it? If you just pay the workers with the 450 billions, where are the raw materials going to come from? Who's gonna pay for that? Who is going to pay for everything else included in this huge project, except than the labor costs, that according to your statistics would be just about 450 billions? What if the total cost doubled, or tribled?

To begin with, what does "We all know that our wealth in the EU is 1000 trillion euros higher than the US GDP of 11.6 trillion USD" really mean? Are we talking about countries with same population? Wouldn't it be much wiser to talk about per capita GDP than simply, GDP?

And even if you had the numbers right, where exactly should Europe get this kind of money from? Subtract it from its military budget? I'm not that sure, that EU has such a high military budget, but let's assume that it is up to 450 billions, and we'll cancel it alLtogether, just to implement your imagined projects. Will this not account for new unemployment? Who's going to pay for all the people employed in the military business who will lose their jobs, from simple soldiers to high-rank officials and military industry workers?

And even if there was such an (unrealistic) possibility of totally cutting off Europe's military budget in order to finance you job-creation plans without job losses elsewhere, are we that convinced that we'd like a European Union without military at all? I, as a European, feel really ashamed of our failure to protect 7,000 innocent victims in Srebrenica, for example, and many people argue that the reason for that was that the military employed there was not strong and organised well enough. Would it be moral to let this happen lots of times again in the future, just to employ people in infrastructure-building projects that would cost a huge sum of money?

by vassilis on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 06:02:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oops, I'm wrong now :) My third paragraph -to begin with..- should be second. And the second one should be first...

Mis apologias

by vassilis on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 06:10:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Damn! And the second should be third I meant to write! I need an "edit" feature, desperately..
by vassilis on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 06:12:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There are 450.000.000 EU citizens in the 25 Member States. That means that if the European Central Bank  supplied the EU Commission with 450 bn euros at 3% interests it would put every single person just 1000 euros in debt. That's peanuts, if you look at the individual savings rate, which stands for the German citizenry alone at 5.500 bn euros. Now lets assume that overall programme costs are divided by a ratio of 60% for planning, administration, intellectual property, labour cost and 40% for hardware, machines, material, transport you would create 9.000.000 jobs which earn 30.000 euros p.a.. Actually it would be more than that because the state governments would save easily tens of bn euros on (then obsolete) welfare payments and have tens of bn of additional tax revenues. It would also create 3.000.000 additional secondary jobs, which also contribute to state taxes. Sure we would break the self imposed 3% limit of the stability pact. But how much value has a 'stability" pact, which - as we see - creates social explosions in the form of angry kids who throw molotov cocktails into schools and kindergardens?

We need to kick start the internal consumption in the EU Member States. And fast. It doesn't make any sense to export cars and accept US federal bonds in exchange for it. These bonds are useless, because they are used to finance projects which are in opposition to our interest (see US military spending, Congress appropriations for the war in Iraq, etc.pp.).

Why should we finance the debt of the US, when we could use the same amount of money to finance our consumption and debt at home? It would be more beneficial if we used it to create jobs in Europe.

Now, a stronger EU economy would clearly attract even more foreign investments (more jobs), we could raise our imports from third world countries (more jobs), which would again further strengthen our currency, and even more foreign central banks would keep even more euro denominated reserves (cheaper money for us, lower interest rates, and huge windfall profits for the ECB).

It is easy, really. We just have to do it and forget about bickering about trivia like the CAP. We need a European Development Programme which is worth the name of it. And - obviously - politicians with 'palle quadrate'.

"The USA appears destined by fate to plague America with misery in the name of liberty." Simon Bolivar, Caracas, 1819

by Ritter on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 07:08:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Now one thing to note is that these neighboroods are not ghettos.

Clichy-sous-Bois, ses 28 000 habitants, ses 80 % de logements collectifs. De la cité verdoyante des années 1960, aux abords du bois de Bondy, à 15 km au nord de Paris, il ne reste qu'un paysage de tours et de barres délabrées. Les classes moyennes et les cadres ­ 4,7 % des habitants ­ ont déserté la ville qui compte 50 % de moins de 25 ans et un taux de chômage de 25 %.

A la population diversifiée d'origine a succédé une majorité de ménages à très faibles revenus, en grande précarité. Parmi elles, un tiers de familles étrangères, originaires de tous les continents, installées de longue date ou arrivées récemment, réfugiés politiques, sans-papiers débarqués dès leur descente d'avion à Roissy.

Les HLM ne représentent que 30 % des logements et ces populations ont trouvé refuge dans une multitude d'appartements surpeuplés, de copropriétés laissées à l'abandon, dans des squats ou chez des marchands de sommeil. La ville est impuissante : "Le parc privé dégradé se trouve sollicité pour loger les personnes les plus pauvres de la région parisienne qui n'ont pas accès au parc social public" , souligne Claude Dilain, maire (PS) depuis 1995. Selon les enquêtes, 30 % des ménages de ces copropriétés ne disposent pas des revenus suffisants pour un HLM.

Le potentiel fiscal de la commune est inférieur de 40 % à celui des villes équivalente
Fuite des classes moyennes, chômage à 25 % : Clichy-sous-Bois, radiographie d'une ville pauvre

You also say that the 'suburbs' are not cut off from the rest of the country - well neither are the American  'inner cities.' And like the 'suburbs', the inner cities do have some middle class residents.

by MarekNYC on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 12:57:52 PM EST
Look, you can nitpick to death my post and you'll be right. My question to you: do you feel that what I wrote is closer to the truth than what's been written breathlessly thoughout the English language press about "war, "chaos", "country on fire" etc...

I am just trying to give a different view. It's not THE TRUTH, but it's not so far away either.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 01:25:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
closer to the truth than what's been written breathlessly thoughout the English language press about "war, "chaos", "country on fire"  

Actually I'm primarily following the story in the French press - Le Monde and Libe to be exact. I will note that the two topic headings for the issue in Le Monde are 'Les banlieues en crise' and 'Les banlieues en colere. Aux origines de la crise'.  The current lead title on the Libe site is 'Les banlieues s'embrasent'

by MarekNYC on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 01:45:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As the Le Monde piece you quote, most middle class folks move out of these neighborhoods when they can (except for Jerome's aunt :-)

So in that respect, many (but not all) of these cities are turning into some kind of ghettos, but these are primarily social class and income level ghettos, not (that's maybe what Jerome meant) ethnically defined ghettos. Even though arabs and blacks are over-represented among the rioters, the most defining characteristics are the ever growing poverty, despair and lack of prospects (especially job prospects) and most of all a general ostracism in the rest of French society.

Even the few of them who manage to get college degrees still face employment discrimination because they come from a "cité", whether they're black, brown or white.

Just heard on TV: a cartoon in one of tomorrow's papers shows Sarkosy (himself a son of immigrants) issuing a travel advisory: French citizens are urged to avoid "travelling" to the banlieues... Sure looks like a foreign country to the ruling class.

BTW, Marek: Sarkozy is said to take model on Rudy Gulliani and his law & order policy in NYC. If you live there, can you share your thoughts on that. Thanks.

by Bernard (bernard) on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 04:07:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, Giuliani would not be a good model here. Giuliani did two good things in his eight years as mayor - reducing crime in his first term and dealing very well with 9/11 just before his second term was up.  Unfortunately he was also pure poison in terms of race relations - happy to run two thinly veiled racist campaigns against his black predecessor and showing utter contempt for non-whites while he was mayor. Nor was he any good in improving the quality of life in poor areas beyond crime reduction. And while that obviously improved the lives of the poor, it was accompanied by constant harassment of young black men along with a general sense of impunity for police abuse.  Bloomberg's been much better - he's managed to make one of the safest cities in America even safer in spite of much fewer police resources (budget crisis plus the need to shift significant resources to counter-terrorism). At the same time he's worked hard to reach out to and mend relations with non-white communities. His reward is that the polls say that he'll get a majority of the black vote on Tuesday - incredible for a white Republican.
by MarekNYC on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 04:14:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Giuliani did two good things in his eight years as mayor - reducing crime in his first term

Make that one. Reducing crime could be much more strongly connected to the police boss, William J. Bratton, whom Giuliani fired for fear that he'll take the spotlight. Then the original zero-tolerance method (which Bratton started before Giuliani named him NYC police chief, on the subways) was converted to just being tough.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 04:30:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
He took an experimental small pilot program and chose to expand it citywide by appointing Bratton as commissioner.  He then indeed fired Bratton out of jealousy over media attention. I think that a mayor should get credit for selecting strategies and competent people to implement them. Giuliani IMO is just as entitled to praise for Bratton as Bush is rightly blamed for Brown and the rest of his incompetent appointees and chosen strategies.
by MarekNYC on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 03:47:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks Marek.
Mmmm, lemme see:
  • showing utter contempt for non-whites - check
  • not improving the quality of life in poor areas beyond crime reduction - check
  • constant harassment of young dark skinned men - check
  • general sense of impunity for police abuse - check

Yep, that's it: Sarkozy is playing a Gallic version of Giulani. That's good to know since the guys's gonna run for president in 2007 (Sarko, not Rudy).

Your assessment of Bloomberg is interesting; Steve Gilliard doesn't think much of the guy.

by Bernard (bernard) on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 03:29:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Steve and I disagree. I should note that I am a lot less partisan in local elections than I am in races for national office - there's no way I'd vote for a Repub for Congress, very unlikely for state office, while for local office partisan affiliation is merely a tiebreaker for me.

Steve's opposition to Bloomberg seems to be based on three factors.

  1. He's a Republican (see above)
  2. His civil liberties record on demonstrators, particularly during the Republican convention is atrocious (I agree)
  3. He hasn't done anything for the poor half of New York. (I feel that within his very limited means he's done ok and that Steve doesn't take into account the horrible budget situation he inherited from Giuliani and the fact that there's only so much a mayor can do)

On the plus side.
  1. Brilliant handling of the budget crisis through modest across the board spending cuts and sharp tax increases targetting the wealthy and upper middle class.
  2. Making government far more responsive to the average New Yorker through his '311' system. What that means is that instead of having to navigate the byzantine bureaucracy on our own, we can just call '311', explain what our problem is, and the people working their figure out how we need to handle it, and then track how well the relevant department deals with the problem.
  3. The handling of the crime issue (see my original comment on Bloomberg)

Ferrer on the other hand is unproven - maybe he would be a competent administrator like Bloomberg, maybe not - in other words the same problem that made me wary of Bloomberg four years ago.  Less relevant but worth mentioning is that he has a record of being very conservative on social issues and did a reverse turn when he decided he wanted city wide office and thus had to get the liberal upper middle class white vote. Bloomberg was your standard issue liberal Democrat wealthy New Yorker until he decided that he wanted to become mayor and that it would be much easier for him to win the Repub nomination than the Dem one but he's remained socially liberal and economically centrist. (In New York the standard electoral calculus is that a credible Republican candidate will win the socially conservative ecnomically centrist white working and middle class outer borough vote overwhelmingly, a non-white Dem candidate will do the same with the socially conservative economically left wing working class Black and Latino electorate and that whoever gets the socially liberal economically centrist upper middle class white vote wins. Ferrer is in serious trouble because he isn't doing anywhere near as well as he needs among non-white voters.)

If the race were close I'd vote for Bloomberg. As it is I might vote for Ferrer as a protest vote since I'm not sure I want Bloomberg to win in a landslide.

by MarekNYC on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 04:12:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We'll see the NYC results tomorrow in Europe. Thanks Marek.
by Bernard (bernard) on Tue Nov 8th, 2005 at 04:27:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
but at what point do you think a "poor neighbourhood" becomes a ghetto? What is your definition of ghetto?
by mimi on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 09:58:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
25% unemployment is the national rate for under 25s, so it doesn't sound so bad, relatively speaking, for Clichy, if it's such an awful place.

Same for the 40% less fiscal potential. That's definitely lower, but it's not lower by an order of magnitude either.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 01:26:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Something popped into my mind about all this, and it was remembering living in the San Francisco bay Area, where there was (is?) regular shootings in the Black and Latin neighborhoods of SF, Oakland, and San Jose. There are certain areas you really avoid, especially at night. And this is news in that area...and we are talking for the most point blacks on blacks, Latinos on Latinos...but it isn't news I think many outside those areas know or hear much about. It would be huge news if it was black or brown killing white...but it isn't. This situation in Paris and elsewhere IS serious, but so far it isn't about murder and mayhem...knock on wood.

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 01:42:29 PM EST
If you're looking for an interesting (and accurate) portrayal of the kids who do this, take a look at the film La Haine (get the French version with subtitles). It tells the story of three kids who live in an HLM (the housing projects where many of these kids come from) and a string of riots that envelop their area when one of their friends is shot by a Cop.

It also has an amazing soundtrack, with some of the best French hip-hop out there.

by Scipio on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 01:57:19 PM EST
Hi Jerome, I'm glad your aunt is well and hope your whole family is as well.  Thanks for a even toned diary on what is happening in France-it certainly seems to be hitting some buttons over at bootrib and here also really.

Since I know little about France and it's social structure and politics I don't want to jump in and make to many comments-other than it seems so far to me that this is appears to be more a social/economic issue which is always the mother of all unrest anywhere to my mind-everything usually follows from that.  What causes the economic or social problems are varied of course and seem to me to be race and religion depending on where you're at in the world to varying degrees of ascendancy.

I do feel that no country seems to learn a basic facts of human decency towards immigrants and that is everyone wants to be treated decent, have decent education and decent job to become part of that society..how hard is that to implement.  I'm not talking about France here but all countries in general...that idea doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out does it?

"People never do evil so throughly and happily as when they do it from moral conviction."-Blaise Pascal

by chocolate ink on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 02:20:27 PM EST
Jerome - what do you think about the relationship of the riots to the French culture of protest? I read an interesting study a few years back by a political scientist at the University of Amsterdam studying the environmental movements in various countries. He correlated the readiness of popular political movements to engage in street protest to the "openness" of the political system, the relative ability of non-state political actors to gain input into policy. France, he found, was the Western European country where non-state actors had the least input into policy, and where there was the largest level of mass protest.

Not sure what to make of the thesis - the guy was Dutch, and they're constantly bragging (or whining) about how their system allows all kinds of interest groups to be bought off through informal incorporation into policymaking, making real conflict and protest very rare and making the political sphere rather safe and dull (until recently anyway). But there certainly is a vastly greater amount of public protest in France than in comparable European countries. Might riots in poor ethnic neighborhoods be more of an expression of the French political arrangement, which (on this thesis) makes it difficult for many groups, not just Muslims, to have an influence on public policy unless they show their strength on the street?

by brooksfoe (brooksfoe@yahoo.com) on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 10:51:11 PM EST
There's definitely some truth to it.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 04:19:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Dailykos comment linked in the original post is too good to be just in a link.


During 1999-2002, an annual average of 41,100 intentionally set highway vehicle fires caused 11% of the highway civilian vehicle fire deaths and 5% of the civilian fire injuries per year.

Yes, accounting for a five times bigger population, in France this would 'only' mean 8,220 incidents per year, a fourth of what was in France this year so far - but this is only the highways.

For the UK, 2001 figures:

The 102,100 vehicle fire total was the highest seen in the decade. Eighty-eight percent of these vehicles were cars. Seventynine percent (70,100) of the car fires were "malicious."

Now THAT are 'riots'!

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 04:39:31 AM EST
No, no, Dodo, riots only happen in France and are connected to muslims and religion. <snark>  

These numbers are enlightening. I hope that they are a healthy warning to all of Europe to not forget the social agreements and to continue looking for social solutions - offering a good foundation for a decent life for all citizens.

by Fran on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 05:08:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Note that the American cases were largely associated with insurance fraud. That's bad, but it's a completely different situation.
by asdf on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 08:55:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And what makes you say that this is not the case in France as well?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 10:08:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Strangely enough there was a car burnt out at the end of my street a few weeks ago, in a lower middle class part of Dublin. Bored kids? Cheap disposal (saves paying for scrapping and the insurance might pay up if it looks like a theft)? Don't know. Happens enough that no-one seems to have been very bothered: the fire brigade came and doused it and the council burnt car collection truck came and took away the carcass a few days later.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 03:12:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
looked at v-e-r-y dispassionately, these kids are descendants of sartre's 'nihilisme' unconsciously reflecting their disgust - nausee- for these symbols - cars - of retro thinking and fossil foolishness by torching them.

each one another less to pollute their lungs and brains -for starters - and act as a cry for helpful attention: powering up a comprehensive alt. energy plan, such as the illuminating one diaried on dkos by devilstower.

this issue is like gangrene on the collective human body, and needs URGENT attention. these kids may not know it, but they are another important wake-up call.

riot control is easier when there are id-able leaders; locking down hundreds of acres of suburbs under martial law will cost a fortune, inflame people worse, and be temporary at best.

teaching them to be 'french' (a moving target in a mist, malgre l'academie) is a waste of time. let's teach them to be proud members of a/the human race, by pointing them into productive careers changing the planet for the better!

if illiterate women in india can learn to install solar panels, and all it takes is 5 pigs and a methane digester to supply a family with cooking gas and garden fertiliser, why are we so constipated in europe about this issue?

overeducated wonks not seeing the obvious?

bought-and-sold pols, beholden to the old paradigm, and trusting in an underinformed public not to rock the boat?

enter centre stage: a puzzled, furious greek chorus, carrying molotovs made with the last drops of gaia's javajuice,  present location france... coming soon to a city near you?

let's face it, we're all going to have to live a LOT more like the cubans do if we want to survive the looming global financial/energy meltdown.

 if we wait too long we will be begging for a dictator to organise it for us, with precious social, human and privacy rights flying out the window.

if we take responsibility now, perhaps we could avoid the loss of the privileges our ancestors have hard won since the renaissance.

and i'm not taliking about aztec gold and indian spices...

i mean the ideas of freedom, equality and brotherhood.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 08:10:48 AM EST

"The USA appears destined by fate to plague America with misery in the name of liberty." Simon Bolivar, Caracas, 1819
by Ritter on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 09:24:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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