Friday, March 31, 2006

France Demos : Chirac green lights the CPE, demonstrators see red

Jacques Chirac met with Dominique de Villepin earlier today to discuss tonight's address to the French public. Chirac has just finished speaking to the nation and has announced that he wants to be "just and reasonable". He based that on the law has been passed by Parliament and he wants to promulgate the law. He wants to reduce the initial trial period to one year and that workers can ask for the reason as to why they were dimissed. In effect he is sending the law back to parliament for modification and has called for students to participate, but he wants the law to be promulgated. Considering that the law wasn't negotiated on the first place but railroaded through the parliament it's going to be too little too late.

He is trying to find a path of compromise within the government, by not retracting the law he protects Villepin and is obviously trying to divide the movement against the the CPE and the CNE. I think the reaction from the movement is going to be that this not going to be enough - the demand has been for the retraction of the law and Chirac's proposition isn't going to cut it.

Today there small groups of students roaming around town with loud hailers, handing out flyers asking people to attend the demomnstration on Tuesday the 4th and holding up placards at intersections asking people to hoot if they are against the CPE and CNE. Motorists were hooting in support of the students and you get the impression that most people are aware of what is going on and are in support of the movement against the CPE and CNE.

If this level of mobilisation continues and isn't divided by Chirac's speech, because 1 year is just as ridiculous as 2 years and I don't think people are going to be duped by it, then I think we are looking at a demonstration on Tuesday that will head for the record books.

France Demos : Ça Suffit!

Another pic from Tuesday's demo - "That's enough! More and more profits, less and less jobs guaranteed, more and more richer shareholders". How true.

France Demos : CPE validated, fun starts

The French Constitutional Council has ruled that the law providing for the CPE is valid constitutionally, without reserve.

The implication of this is that the demonstrations are going to intensify. Hold onto your hats.

The ball is now in Chirac's court as he can either sign it into law or he can send it back to the parliament. He is due to make a televised address to the nation at 8pm on Friday night. Interesting note; He had a chinwag with Condi on Thursday. She has been flitting around Europe, probably dishing out the new moves for the Iran gameplan. So I wouldn't be too surprised if there was some discussion as to how the CPE and CNE crisis affects France's participation in the lynching of Iran. If Chirac does back down on the CPE then his government is going look silly. If he signs the law into the books he is going to face massive protests. Like I said, when people catch onto the Iran angle of things then future demostrations are going being "Chaud" (hot).

Thursday, March 30, 2006

France Demos : Motion Pictures

Video sent by mjs33
Manifestation contre le CPE, à Bordeaux, le 7 février 2006

What's amazing to see is how the Internet is opening up all kinds of new ways of communicating - has loads of videos of the demonstrations and events in France.

Another amazing resource is which is the Student Television service of the Sorbonne. They have created a dedicated section on the CPE and CNE.

Its great to not have to rely on the mainstream media to see what is happening.

The revolution will not be televised

Stand up. The clock is running down and now is the time to stand up. The warmongers are ready to assault Iran and if we don't stop this now we are all up shit creek.

I am disgusted by what happened at the UNSC yesterday and I am horrified by the role the that French government has been playing in all of this. They have signed up on this absurd mission to ignite a global conflict on a scale that we have not seen before.

I hope that the French people wake up and realise just what their government has in store for them - their "Final Solution" to youth unemployment entails a war that will cut down their children. This has to be stopped now.

This affects every single human being on the planet. You are either with the warmongers or against them. I am against them.

There is a historical opportunity to stop this madness now and if the movement against the CPE can understand the bigger picture of just what the current French government is trying to pull off in concert with Team America and the Brits, there is the real possibility that we all can make a difference.

This is a global issue and all of us have to take a stand right now. No more Bullshit! Vive la Revolution!

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

France : Strikes and Demonstrations called for April 4th

Le Monde is reporting on their website that the Student and Union groups involved in organising yesterday's demonstrations are calling for strikes and demostrations on the 4th of April.

Tomorrow the Constitutional Council is due to report on the Constitutionality of the law concerning the CPE and might give the government a face saving way out of the mess.

Blue Parktown Prawns?

I might have to create a glossary here. In the meantime a Parktown Prawn is a very nasty creepy crawly with an exoskeleton from hell.

Big Brother is watching me

The city of the trees

You could possibly translate "de Villepin" as "from the city of the pine[tree]" very literally, but when the Prime Minister can't see the forest for the trees you have to wonder how he landed the job in the first place.

There were 135 demos in France on Tuesday. While the media coverage is centered on Paris and a couple of demonstrators getting the water canon treatment, the whole country is out on the street. I'm still waiting to see how much further this goes beyond just the CPE because there are other issues in play here; the CPE is just the focal point.

Dom is a career professional politician and has never stood in an election but is the top dog in the French government. God alone knows what kind of political shenanigans need to take place for that to happen. Nonetheless, one does imagine that if he wasn't just an appointee he might be listening more closely as to what happened on the streets of France today.

Over 2 million people marched against the idiotic CPE law today. The Le Monde website has a good graphic that gives an idea of the scale of the demos. The police estimate for Bordeaux was 31 000, but my minimum guess was 40 000. Its hard to say that the union figure of 100 000 is correct, but with 70 000 students here, it's not far off and was the third biggest demo nationally.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Chirac, Villepin, Sarkozy – votre périod d'essaie est finie

BORDEAUX - The city seemed eerily quiet on the journey into the center of town; the atmosphere was more like a public holiday until I got to the starting point of the demonstration at the Place Tourny. I was impressed by the size of the crowd that was gathered there from the start. By far the biggest demo I've been to in France.

After the usual speech making, the procession began to move towards Place Gambetta. Led by the students and the youth, the march headed up to Gambetta and right around Meriadeck. The students were followed up by the Teachers Unions and then the general Trade Unions and political parties. Everyone was chanting “Retraite du CPE, Retraite du CPE” – “Withdraw the CPE”. The marching bands and drummers added to the very festive atmosphere. The students seemed to be having the most fun, with many dressed up and waving homemade placards and banners.

The March headed along to the Place de la Victoire with the whole center of town being closed to traffic and the two main tram lines were shut down. Not that it mattered much as everyone seemed to be on the the march. Coming up to the Place de la Victoire it was amazing to see the whole square packed with people cheering on the marchers as they arrived.

Most of the Unions have vans mounted with loudspeakers and their members would gather around the vans to continue the speeches. The biggest attraction was one group who had marched with a suited effigy with four heads – including Chirac, Villepin and Sarkozy. The effigy was burnt as a band played and students danced around the smouldering remains.

One had the sense that everyone was there; not just students and school children, their parents and teachers, but also many others who are opposed to the law. The police kept a very low profile around the main march and when I left the square people were milling around, chatting and enjoying the afternoon.

A smaller march headed off into the center of town to the Hotel de Ville and I followed it to the Place Pey Berland where a smaller group was facing down the boere. Apparently there had been some arrests earlier and a group of about 50 people wanted to march to the Commisariat (the biggest cop shop in town). There was a strong presence of anarchists and radical left, and the odd clown or two, who sat down in front of the CRS who were blocking the road. The boere began a series of retreats until they formed a blue line in front of the Hotel de Ville.

Although some people wanted to continue to the Commisariat, the majority didn’t seem to be that inclined to advance much further. I left soon afterwards but all in all it was a great march. I haven’t heard any estimates of how many people there were yet, but as one banner read: “Chirac, Villepin Sarkozy – votre périod d'essaie est finie” (Chirac, Villepin Sarkozy – your trial period is finished) there is no way the government can ignore what is happening on the streets of France.

All photos by yours truly. An Album is kindly hosted at galleries.

Nous sommes tous Irakienne

We are all Iraqis. The problem with sitting on the fence about this, is that you get slashed to bits by the razor wire. There is an interesting article on suggesting that "The French are Iraqis".

One of the reasons why I started this blog is because of Joanmarie Fubbs, my high school History teacher. Besides being an undercover ANC activist, she also had a great love for the French Revolution. Joanmarie was one of the few teachers I had in my inglorious high-school career who managed to teach me something useful. Her intensive lessons on the original French Revolution have stood the test of time and proved invaluable to me. I don't have to be French to appreciate how the French Revolution made our world, our lifetimes different. I do understand now, how we must overturn the existing order to liberate ourselves, taking nothing for granted.

Where the article falls short is that we are all subject to the same ordering being advanced by the PNAC, whether we are "French", "Iraqi" or "Swiss". We are all French, we are all Iraqi, we are all here. Include the rest of us, and this article is not just a nationalistic appeal but a global appeal.


Monday, March 27, 2006

France Demos : Sarko comes out of his corner

Sarko has broken cover and late today was proposing a "Contrat Unique", which if I understand correctly is breaking from Dom's CPE and CNE debacle. Any idiot who knows anything about the French labour laws would suggest the same thing. There are nearly 20 different job contracts in France and the whole system is so confusing that you can actually get paid by the state to go on a training course for 4 months to learn about how all of these contracts work and how to find a job in the ensuing quagmire.

So while Sarko is coming out with something that might sound like common sense, its the timing and agenda behind it that is full of kak. The word "sneaky" comes to mind and Sarko looks like he is about to abandon ship purely for his own personal political ambitions. Chirac wasn't available for comment as he was having a manicure.

Iran : Underneath the radar

Condi and John Bolton must be fuming. First Ariel goes and has a stroke, and now the frikkin' French are having strike.

The rhetoric against Iran over the last 2 weeks has been comparatively quiet, with a few reports of negotiations between the 5 Security Council members continuing apace, but with no clear position emerging to keep the UNSC process moving forward. By my reckoning these are the two reasons for this "slow down".

The first spanner in the works came when the old General lapsed into a coma and forced an early Israeli election - just one of things that you can't really plan on and it has thrown the whole timetable out of whack. My money would be on Kadima making a clean sweep in the election though, as they are up to speed with all the current planning at this stage of the game and it is far too risky to allow a new government in. Even if it is Likud. I could be wrong, but I don't think so. There is a timetable here, and it can't handle too many disruptions.

That's where the French come in. French media at moment is wall-to-wall CPE coverage - not a peep about the Iran issue, where only a few weeks ago the French Foreign Minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, was going on about how Iran's nuclear energy project was a military project. Although he didn't get around to proffering any proof for that...

That was the end of February, now its a question if the French government is going to make it to the end of week. Just picture Dom pleading with Condi and John to stay on the Team, but trying to explain that his government might be packing its bags quite soon and any hint that France is going to be supporting air strikes against Iran would make that a reality overnight.

Any Imperialist games are out of the question for the French government at the moment - one false move and it will be tickets for the regime. I can only imagine that the level of invective against the French within the US State Dept must be even higher than it was back in 2003. I don't believe that France's internal issues will hold up the gameplan against Iran, but I do think it weakens Team America's planned agenda in the UNSC.

Tomorrow - Tuesday 28th March - promises to be very interesting. The Israeli elections and the French general strike are just two major events and both are interlinked via the Imperial project in the Middle East.

OK Now.

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Blogging the Situation in France - Part III

Another French language blog, has been providing coverage of the events in France and has compiled a good list of on-line resources.

France Demos : Mine canary on life support

France has become the mine canary. If the French can't stop this law, the rest as they say, will be history. This is an issue that goes beyond just the French workplace and job contracts, it is an issue that affects everyone who has to work for a living. If the French lose this fight to their government, then its not just French jobs on the line it is yours too because there are some very real precedents being set here and if they are forced through in France they will be arriving on your doorstep next.

The first ugly precedent is the anti-democratic way in which the French government has been behaving. The original CNE (Contrat Nouvelle Embauche - Contract for a New Hire) was essentially passed by decree in June 2005 under an "Emergency Employment Plan" and implemented in Summer 2005 when most people where on holiday. Ruling by decree - great one guys! And don't forget that Dominique de Villepin is not an elected representative, but a political appointee. He has never stood in an election. Beacon of democracy stuff that is for a so-called first world country.

Now if that wasn't enough, the current nasty, the CPE (Contrat Premier Embauche) was also not properly debated or consulted on, but rather railroaded through the French parliament using a special legislative procedure under Article 49.3 of the French constitution. Yes folks, that's right, we are talking dictatorship here. Both of these contracts allow your boss to sack you for no reason during an initial 2 year period. It's like they knew that these contracts were political hot potatoes and would not have made it through the parliament. And there are some pretty good reasons as to why these contracts would not have made it through parliament if anyone had had the chance to question them.

Why? Because these contracts do NOT conform to internationally accepted Standards and Practices. From the ILO website:

"The termination of an employment relationship is likely to be a traumatic experience for a worker and the loss of income has a direct impact on her or his family's well-being. As more countries seek employment flexibility and globalization destabilizes traditional employment patterns, more workers are likely to face involuntary termination of employment at some point in their professional lifetime. At the same time, the flexibility to reduce staff and to dismiss unsatisfactory workers is a necessary measure for employers to keep enterprises productive. ILO standards on termination of employment seek to find a balance between maintaining the employer's right to dismiss workers for valid reasons and ensuring that such dismissals are fair and are used as a last resort, and that they do not have a disproportionate negative impact on the worker."
Which is derived from the Convention concerning Termination of Employment at the Initiative of the Employer (Note: Date of coming into force: 23:11:1985.), which states under Article 4:


Article 4

The employment of a worker shall not be terminated unless there is a valid reason for such termination connected with the capacity or conduct of the worker or based on the operational requirements of the undertaking, establishment or service."
The cherry on the top is that the regulations of both the CNE and CPE, allowing the Employer to terminate the contracts for no reason for a period of 2 years, are not only in contravention of what are internationally accepted standards, but also in contravention of France's exisiting labour laws. Go figure.

So if you hear someone going on about how the French are always protesting, stop and remind them that this time the French are protesting against anti-democratic measures and employment contracts that undermine everbody's job security. In fact you should convince them to show solidarity with the French, because if the French lose now, we all lose.

Images courtesy of

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Tsotsi Taal

Sharp mfwetu. I am still waiting to hear the exact date but Totsi, the South African film that has won numerous awards at Film Festivals around the world and an Oscar, is due to be released in France in April. It is great that South African cinema is coming of age and that South African stories like this are finally being filmed.

People here in France all think that The Gods must be Crazy is the only South African film ever made. Wait, maybe that's true for a lot of other countries... Nevermind. I am looking forward to seeing the fliek and I might even buy popcorn. I also hope that I can get to watch it in VO (version original) because the French have this nasty habit of dubbing every foreign language film into French and I'll bet you a Black Label that they won't get the Totsi Taal translations right.

Heita daar now. OK?

Friday, March 24, 2006

Blogging the Situation in France - Part II

One of the best French language blogs of what is happening on the anti-CPE front is While Paris is the recieving all the attention its important to remember that the anti-CPE movement is happening nationwide and the StopCPE blog provides great regional coverage too.

Chirac : Storming out of the tEa-cUp

Apparently Jacques walked out of an EU gathering because one of his pals was using, god forbid, English instead of French. You can read about it here and here. You'd think with everything going on at the moment that petulant displays of arrogance would best be avoided, especially when protectionism is so high on the issue list.

The protectionist attitude towards the French language is really hard to comprehend for two reasons. Firstly, all languages are dynamic and are constantly changing. Trying to set strict limits on how language can and can't be used just leads to ossification and is anachronistic. French is not an easy language to learn and get right - I find it inflexible and difficult to learn. Despite my best efforts I know I will never be able to match a mother-tongue speaker. There are so many nuances that I'm just not going to get. It is also depressing to see how pureblood Gauls deride the Belgians, Africans and Quebecois for their use of French.

Secondly, English didn't get to where it is as an international language by the English insisting that we all speak the queen's English. By being flexible and accommodating, English has grown as the world's second language, not solely because of the original Imperial project, but because people find that they can communicate comfortably in the language. To me the issue seems to be that a lot of French people have been taught to fear speaking English and for the most part they are not encouraged to do so. So much so, that a Norwegian once told me "that there is nothing more desperate than a Frenchman trying to speak English".

I beg to differ and when in conversation I always try to speak French. If it does end up that we converse in English, I always try to compliment them on their use of English, because even trying deserves positive reinforcement. I have studied Afrikaans, Modern Greek, Latin, French, Xhosa and Zulu and although I am by no means fluent in any of those, I do feel richer for being able to communicate with a wider range of people.

France Demos : No Future

I was trying to figure out why the French government has embarked on such a campaign of self-induced stupidity and the only thing I can come up with is that they want to win next year's election. I have this picture in my mind of a pollster telling the ruling party, in the aftermath of the No to EU vote, the thing that most French people are concerned about is jobs. So the UMP decided that in order to win 2007 they had to drop the unemployment rate (which at that point in time was heading north of 11%) as fast as they could. Jacques dumped Ruffian as PM and installed Dominique, who embarked on a series of measures of cutting the unemployment numbers by any means necessary.

Dominique set about reworking the labour legislation by introducing the CNE and a new scheme whereby work seekers could be removed from the register of the unemployed if they infringed certain conditions. At the time it was presented as a carrot-and stick approach to encourage people to take jobs and accept the conditions of the CNE (the same 2 year trial period). Except it has been more stick than carrot. The CNE is just as evil as the CPE but harder to organize against. The objective though was to cut the unemployment numbers. The CPE is just a step further along in this strategy, one which is intended to bring "structural adjustment" to the French economy in true IMF style.

The January unemployment numbers are down to 9.6%, which in a word, is bullshit. Although the decrease is credited to the CNE, the numbers have been cooked by a political agenda rather than any real job growth in the French economy. They don't like to mention how many people have been removed from the list even though they are still unemployed. The bottom line is that the French economy is not producing any new real jobs - and the government is well aware of this - although some slack can be taken in by creating temp jobs through the CNE and CPE which keep people off the unemployment list for 23 months and 29 days. And if you don't like these job offers you are taken off the list after 3 refusals. Not that the ANPE is much help in finding a job anyway, which is why the unofficial rates of unemployment are still much higher than advertised.

The point is that the contracts aren't about creating jobs, they are about hiding the real unemployment figures until the end of the next election. Its the only reason that makes any sense of what the government strategy has been for last 10 months. In that period they haven't made any headway in creating any real jobs. I don't know the exact figures but I'm willing to bet that there has been a net job loss. Nor have they made it any easier to employ yourself. At the end of the day the French government has brought the current siuation on themselves purely for sake of trying to win the next election by obfusicating the unemployment numbers. Quel con.

OK Now.

Image courtesy of

Thursday, March 23, 2006

France Demos : Casseurs and the CRS

The MSM coverage of the demonstrations in France is becoming increasingly sensationalist. CNN is now treating 3 burning cars as Breaking News and in typical fashion that's the lead story. When I was watching the French news channels tonight there was a lot of coverage of today's event but interestingly France 2 news made an important distinction between the Students and the "casseurs" or unruly elements. These demonstrations are also riddled with plain-clothes cops and there is often a contingent of right-wing bruisers out looking for fight.

Today the "casseurs" are generally ascribed as being from the banlieues; the ghetto kids who were at the forefront of the November uprising. For them the anti-CPE demonstrations are just another opportunity for biting shit with the cops and maybe getting away with some vandalism and petty crime. The whole CPE issue, and I think they realize this, is not their fight because the majority of them aren't going to get any job offers coming their way any time soon. The CPE just makes them think that the system is even more pointless and rioting is a good kick. That would just be a small minority of kids from the banlieues though, there are plenty who are joining the marches because they are still angry and frustrated by the events of November and now the CPE is yet another law targeting them.

I reckon that everything we saw in November is starting to come through again and don't forget the November uprising didn't end because everyone was happy but rather that the State of Emergency and cold weather took care of things for the government. That anger hasn't gone away - it was just repressed for the winter. The situation is very fluid at the moment and the confrontations with cops are going to continue. It gives the demonstrations a bad spin but that's what CNN thinks makes for good TV.

The cops on the other hand are another story altogether. France 2 had visuals of plain-clothes cops climbing into people with batons and that is creepy because they were probably in the march earlier. Police provocation is also part of the mix and the forces of "law & order" have been relying on heavy handed tactics since the Storming of the Sorbonne. The worst are the CRS (Compagnie Républicaine de Sécurité) though. Now I've had enough encounters with riots cops to know that I don't like these motherfuckers. The SAP (South African Police) riots cops were much worse; they didn''t have the RoboCop exoskeletons but did have live ammunition. Its a good thing that these CRS dudes don't fire rubber bullets and that they haven't studied the fine art of sjambokking. Give these blokes half a chance though...

Image courtesy of

Euskadi : ETA announces a ceasefire

ETA has announced a permanent ceasfire after decades of armed struggle against the Spanish state. Its not the first ceasfire offered by ETA but hopefully it will be the last. I've been to the Basque regions of Spain and France and have always been astounded that this long running conflict has been ignored for so long. In a Europe that likes to present itself as a modern champion of Human Rights, the Basque issue has always been swept under the carpet.

Recent action by Spanish and French authorities has resulted in the arrests of a large portion of the ETA leadership and coupled with ongoing repression of Basque political parties affliated with ETA it is likely that ETA has conceded internally that armed struggle is not going to achieve the desired results.

This should not be viewed as a victory in George's so-called "War on Terror", because everybody's favourite Texan rancher wouldn't know his ETA from his i.t.a.. Obviously the post-911 environment made life much harder for organisations like the IRA and ETA, but neither has climbed down from their objectives, opting instead for a change of tactics.

I for one do hope that this ceasefire is permanent and that the entire Basque region of Spain and France can become the autonomous region that it deserves to be through peaceful and honest negotiation.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Blogging the Situation in France

It's hard to get good English language coverage of what's happening in France at the moment - as usual the MSM is providing the glossy and sensational coverage - but Bloggers the worldover are picking up the threads as they emerge.

An excellent blog has been established at with regularly updated reports being filed.

One third of French say they are racist: survey

PARIS (Reuters) - One third of French people say they are racist, a French human rights watchdog said on Tuesday, after a survey that showed an increase from last year in the number of people who acknowledged being racist.

Some 33 percent of 1,011 people surveyed face-to-face by pollsters CSA said they were "somewhat" or "a little" racist, up 8 percentage points from last year, according to an annual report by the National Consultative Commission for Human Rights.

The poll asked the question "When it comes to you personally, would you say you are …" followed by a list of options: somewhat racist, a bit racist, not racist, not very racist, not racist at all and don't want to say.

The poll revealed deep economic and social anxiety, Joel Thoraval, the commission's president, said in a statement released to coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. More...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

France demos : The French are revolting

One of the most impressive things about French democracy is that it is not a simple two party state like the US or UK. There are any number of political parties, civil society is strong and on the face of it, the unions appear to be highly organized and an effective force.

That's the outward facade portrayed by the MSM locally and abroad. Once you peer under the hood though, a different picture begins to emerge. The extreme right wing starts with those dudes with creepy eyes who natter on about how we need to worship Odin as the european god, through the FN (National Front) to an assortment of neo-liberals and other odd-balls until you get to the UMP (Union for a Popular Movement) which is the current ruling junta under Jacques. Its a recent coalition and has by no means consolidated a hold on power and could fracture at any moment.

The spectrum then moves to the left with the PS, the so-called Socialist Party who fell out of public favour under Jospin and have a rather wishy-washy-left-but-nearly-center-right agenda (think UK labour or US democrat). They curry favour among the intellectual and arty left, but they are not anything to write home about. Moving right along we get the dyed-in-the-wool communists of the PCF who are maybe more "workerist" than the PS. Somewhere between the two are the Greens. Finally we arrive at the other end with an panache of extreme leftists and anarchists. Of course there is a whole spectrum of anarchists, but we won't get into that now. Nor José Bové either.

Turning to the trade unions, and people like to go on about unions this and unions that, but apparently only something like 9% of the workforce is unionized. That may just be in the private sector or something - anyway the point is that union membership has been in decline throughout the 90's and 00's. That's not a symptom of apathy but rather globalization, where manufacturing jobs have disappeared and have been replaced pseudo McJobs.

Internally the unions know that their privileged position is in decline and they are not that eager to upset the apple-cart. The current Strike Season is presenting them with a dilemma:
The French trade unions, the Socialist Party (SP), the French Communist Party (PCF) and the petty-bourgeois radical left are striving to establish control over a movement which has embraced broad layers of the population. Although it is clear that the government is neither willing nor able to withdraw its legislation, all of these organizations are studiously avoiding any sort of call for the resignation of the government. Instead they are seeking a way of resolving the conflict as quickly as possible and stabilizing the government.
In the meantime, popular resistance to the law is growing. According to one opinion poll the law is opposed by nearly three quarters of all French citizens. Thirty-eight percent declared the law had to be changed, while 35 percent were in favor of its complete abolition. Opposition to the law increased to around 80 percent in the 15- to 24-year age group.
Several newspapers then appeared with the headline: '“Ultimatum to the French government' and indicated that if the government did not react within 48 hours the trade unions would call a strike. In reality, the trade union leadership is desperate to avoid an open confrontation with the government, not to speak of measures aimed at its downfall.
The trade unions have consistently criticized the CPE from the outset, not so much because of the content of the law but because Villepin sought to whip it through parliament without consulting them. In the past they have supported similar measures without complaint and worked to suppress any opposition. Just last summer the government introduced a very similar regulation, the '“New Job Contract'(CNE), for enterprises with less than 20 employees - —a move that met with no resistance from the trade unions. More...

Hrmm. So while the left political parties and unions are trying to get on the bandwagon they are not doing so to remove the current regime, but with the hope of containing the current Youth based movement. The PS doesn't want to rock the boat as it isn't ready to fight an election now. Interesting. The CNE is just as bad as the CPE, but it targets everyone whereas the CPE targets the Youth and the students are in a position to mobilise against the law in way that Joe Schmoe can't against the CNE.

If the movement is co-opted it could well peter out by April and the Easter holidays. The CPE might get watered down a bit too, but the CNE will stay on the books which nails people over 26 in much the same way. Still its very much a single issue movement at the moment and unless the government does something stupid there is unlikely to be any regime change from below. Then again...

South African Human Rights Day

21 March - Human Rights Day

The Bill of Rights contained in the Constitution is the cornerstone of democracy in South Africa.

The Constitution further provides for the establishment of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) of which the aim is to promote respect for human rights, promote the protection, development and attainment of human rights, and to monitor and assess the observance of human rights in SA. The SAHRC was launched on 21 March 1996, 35 years after the fateful events of 21 March 1960 when demonstrators were gunned down by police:

The Native Laws Amendment Act of 1952 extended Government control over the movement of Africans to urban areas and abolished the use of the Pass Book (a document which Africans were required to carry on them to ‘prove’ that they were allowed to enter a ‘white area’) in favour of a reference book which had to be carried at all times by all Africans.

Failure to produce the reference book on demand by the police, was a punishable offence. The PAC proposed an anti-Pass campaign to start on 21 March 1960. All African men were to take part in the campaign without their passes and present themselves for arrest.

Campaigners gathered at police stations in townships near Johannesburg where they were dispersed by police. At the Sharpeville police station a scuffle broke out. Part of a wire fence was trampled, allowing the crowd to move forward. The police opened fire, apparently without having been given a prior order to do so. Sixty-nine people were killed and 180 wounded.

In apartheid South Africa this day became known as Sharpeville Day and although not part of the official calendar of public holidays the event was commemorated among anti-apartheid movements.

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Sybil's Star : The French Are Back in the Streets (What Else is New?)

Sybil's Star: The French Are Back in the Streets (What Else is New?)

This is another view (more lasissez-faire than anything else) of the social situation in France and while it might be 'Ho-hum' to think of this Strike Season as the same as years past, I am beginning to think that this years' might be quite different.

The key to the issue is the No vote to the EU constitution last year, and how the cracks in French society are beginning to show. The protests of November were a symptom, not the cause of what we are seeing now. The French government didn't respond to the concerns that led to the No vote and has done nothing of consequence since.

The protests of November, ended not because the government responded with a solution but because of a State of Emergency and cold weather. The repression has been ongoing.

Now the winter of discontent is being made glorious by the CPE but that is just the current focal point of people's frustrations. By itself it is not enough to bring down the government, but the government hasn't been listening to the electorate and one more false move will bring forth a cascade of all the other issues that are bubbling under the surface.

That false move could easily come in the next few weeks, especially if, as I predict, the French government joins with Team America for an assault on Iran. Dominique de Villepin will look like a complete twat to France and the rest World if the French (Military Industrial Complex) do join in. His eloquence in front of the UN in 2003 will become a political disaster for him overnight, as he will be unmasked as a Janus-faced lackey of political expediency rather than a statesman.

With such a high level of mass mobilisation currently, any false move would be fatal for the sitting government, but is there a replacement government? I think the mainstream "left" in France at the moment is much like fabric softner; warm, fuzzy and gentler neo-liberalism.

France is on track towards another revolution - just when that will happen is anyone's guess.

O fok nou kom daar kak

"But still it isn't the zol we are both carrying that troubles me. It is the fucking computers. I am re-entering the European Union - Illegally. I have to pray They don't know that the Belgians expelled me from re-entering the E.U. when they released me from Leeuwen three months ago. I had better pray to all the gods they don't know. The problem is I know. Fuck, I saw Inspector van den Linden of the Belgian Airport BOB enter me into their intelligence database when they arrested me and Earl at Zaventem in Brussels back in '97. I wasn't nervous then but I am now. Bastard. My cover is well and truly blown. Interpol, The D.E.A., De Belgiese Rijkswacht and our own local SANAB - all know about me now. I just have to hope that I haven't been red flagged and that the EU Point of Entry computers are not linked between participating countries. They can't be. I mean I am travelling on a BENELUX visa - in your own name you prick - happily issued by the Netherlands five days ago dammit. BENELUX is tog Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg - and if the Dutch don't know that the Belgians are on my arse then the frogs sure as hell can't. Surely not? Fucking frogs. What was it that the Flemish okes in jail called them? Oh ja - verdomde kikkervreters. Fucking frog munchers. Oh shit I'm panicking. Breathe, breathe - shake hands with the kikkervreter koffiemoffie. He's attended to you the whole flight. He is your friend - Very nice flight m'sieu. Merci beaucoup! Keep breathing. Don't sweat. Whatever you do don't sweat. Get objective Al. Now! More..."
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in, along comes Al Lovejoy to blast that idea out of the water. I have just finished reading Acid Alex and I'm not sure when I will recover or read a book that comes close to it.

I lived in and around Cape Town and Stellenbosch in the 90's, I had many hazy days and nights, from De Akker and the Stag's Head to the shebeens of Langa and reading the book brought the whole scene all flooding back.

Al has had a kak time, no doubt about that. More than most people in a couple of lifetimes but the book that he has written is a catharsis. I mean not just for Al, but for the reader too.

Thanks Al. Great book. When can we see the fliek?

Monday, March 20, 2006

Strike Season kicks off : March 28th

PARIS (Reuters) - French unions and student bodies called on Monday for a general strike and protest marches on March 28 to pressure the government to withdraw a job law they say will create insecurity for a generation of young workers.

"All the unions are calling to make March 28 a day of demonstrations, strikes and work stoppages," said Rene Valadon, confederal secretary of the Force Ouvriere union after a meeting of France's main unions, student and high school groups. More...

The impetus for this year's Strike Season has been building since late January. I went to watch one of the first demonstrations on the 16th of Febuary at the Place de la Victoire which was a small affair, but it is remarkable to see how much the groundswell of support has grown in only the last two weeks.

Thursday this week will see a Student day of action and the official opening of the Season will be next week Tuesday with a General Strike. Woohoo.

I was thinking today that maybe what's good for the goose is also good for the gander; how about the people deciding that politicians are entitled to similar 2 year trial periods? If we are not satisfied we can boot them out without having to give a reason and they can go and join the back of the unemployment line or do a real day's worth of work. Or even better, if your boss is a real doos you can get him sacked within the first 2 years of being on the job.

I once worked for a company where that would have worked out just fine, as the new IT Director who got hired didn't know shit from shinola (frikkin' ex-Andersen Consultant) and it would have saved everyone a lot of hassle if I could have got him sacked without any reason.

Actually, come to think of it, I was part of the reason he did eventually get sacked, but that is another whole story.

OK Now.

Frogs rule Europe

France won the Six Nations title when they came from behind to beat Wales 21-16 in Cardiff on Saturday.

Ireland had to beat England by 34 points to claim the championship, but their victory was by just four points.

The England and Ireland match so nearly proved to be the tournament finale as it looked like France were going to lose in Cardiff. More...

Of course the other big event in France in 2007 is the Rugby World Cup. France managed to scrape through to the top of this season's 6 Nations - but are they ready for 2007? The Italians put in a spirited campaign throughout and the Scots and the Irish made the Poms look, well in a word, bad. The Welsh side was a let down after their splendid performance in the last 6 Nations.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Avec Sarkozy ici bientôt une nouvelle prison

"With Sarkozy there will be a new prison here soon" - this piece of graffiti is written on the toilet wall of my favourite Bordelaise bar and it sums up a lot of the political action in France at the moment.
If Villepin's presidential ambitions are irretrievable, it leaves Sarkozy as front-runner for the right. He has been prudently silent during the CPE controversy. It is still too soon to say whether his prospects have been damaged by the crisis or whether the French electorate considers him so distant from Chirac and Villepin that he will emerge unscathed. More...

As much as Dominique may be bearing the brunt of the anti-CPE demos, Nicolas Sarkozy, or Sarko, as he is more generally known, is the minister who gets to send in the Riot Police and one imagines that he enjoys his role. He is all about "Law & Order" and his ideas about job creation go as far as hiring more cops. In fact the police services, of which there are numerous, have increased their personnel considerably since 2002 when Chirac came to power as Prez.

Sarko is currently doing his second stint as Minister of the Interior and is basically in charge of those burly riots cops, the CRS, who have been putting the boot in the anti-CPE protestors. The CRS are obviously chosen for their size (large) and their disposition (non-intellectual). They must be some of the ugliest cops I've ever across - although they look kind of silly when they are in their RoboCop gear.

The 2002 election was really a balls-up - Jacques didn't get into office on any strengths, but rather the fact the electorate voted against Le Pen. Now Dominique and Sarko are both competitors to take over from Jacques when he starts packing his bags and gets ready to face those criminal corruption charges when leaves the Palais de l'Elysée. Dominique is your Class A old school career politician. Sarko is more of a right-wing populist nouveau riche kinda guy, although I suspect that his right of center right political postion is not just about garnering right wing votes, but informs his ideological stance too.

The race is already on for the 2007 Presidential election, but the fissures in French politics have been apparent since May 2005 and the No vote for the EU constitution. If Dominique is eliminated from the race this early on and Sarko comes out as the number one contender with over a year to go it will polarize French society because Sarko is either liked or detested and when people realise that he is in direct ascdency to the presidency, well the riots of November and March will look like a tea-party.

The Truth Will Set You Free : What every American needs to know about the riots in France

The Truth Will Set You Free: What every American needs to know about the riots in France

This post over at The Truth Will Set You Free drives home the point that what is happening in France at the moment is not just something that is happening in isolation from what is happening to the Western economies in general. The French and German economies are limited in what they can practically outsource by what is imposed by their language barriers. There may be a few German speakers left in Namibia, but not enough to staff a call-center. Unlike the US and the UK, there are certain things that can't really be outsourced for the major French and German players, but they are not far behind.

Manufacturing jobs in the west are on the verge of extinction, and I'd argue that the unemployment rates in western Europe are much higher than advertised. This spring is likely to see a lot of the other problems boil to the fore and I reckon that if the governments of western Europe, notably France, Germany and the UK insist on playing alongside Team America in pressing for an illegal strike on Iran there will be massive demonstrations on the homefronts. So much so that the political landscape could look very different by August.

If one was cynical one might consider how wars mop up useless eaters as canon fodder and how governments in the past have stabilised the crises in domestic economies with large scale dust-ups. You think I'm kidding? Then think about WW2 and how that cleaned up the mess of the Great Depression.

France Demos : No to the CPE and the CNE

Its not just the CPE that's the problem, it is the CNE too. Take a look at this job offer from the ANPE (National Agency for Employment - the state run job shop). Don't mind the French, please read on:

Numéro de l'offre : 120018V
Code Métier ROME : 32212

Compétences particulières :
- Exécution de graphismes, dessins, illustrations.
- Publication assistée par ordinateur (PAO).
- Palette graphique.
- Autres.
- Conditionnement, emballage.
- Signalétique, logotype.
- Multimédia (cédéroms, pages Internet...).
- Direction du projet.
- Suivi de la fabrication du produit.
- Négociation avec les clients.
- Autres.


Lieu de travail : 33 - BORDEAUX
Salaire indicatif : 1136,36 E NET AU DEMARRAGE
Déplacements : NON

This ad is not for a mickey mouse job wearing a clown suit at a theme park, and there is high level of technical skill with 2 to 3 years of experience being demanded here:

This job requires that you are an accomplished 3d Designer (3d Studio Max is NOT windows Paint), a practiced Graphic Designer (Photoshop and Illustrator - not for mere amateurs), a consumate Webmaster (Dreamweaver, Flash & PHP MySQL), a MultiMedia specialist (Director of course), fluent with Microsoft Office and the cherry on the top is the requirement for previous experience in textile embroidery?!? WTF!

This is not a job offer, this is a wishlist. Especially when the salary on offer is the princely sum of E 1136,36 nett per month. That is the equivalent of the French minimum wage (or SMIC as it is know) and you will get the same if not more for wearing a clown suit at Eurodisney in Paris. For a monthly salary I find that disgusting for the skill level demanded. This offer is for a highly specialised position that can't easily be outsourced (there aren't enough French speakers in India) nor filled by an unskilled immigrant.

But what is truly horric is that this is a CNE or Contrat Nouvelle Embauche (Contract for a New Hire) which is available to companies of less than 20 employees, and like the CPE, the employee can be terminated for no reason during the first 2 years of employment. I know from experience that this kind of company is going to expect a lot more time from it's employees than the stated 39 hours a week, but no matter what you put into the job, the boss can turn around and say cheers just because he is having a bad hair day. And bad hair days are common amongst French bosses.

We all have a right to job security and a fair reason for dismissal. A 3 month trial period is fair - once you have proven yourself on the job, you should be able to go work secure in the knowledge that you participating in a two-way exchange where you are fairly rewarded for your labour and you can't be arbitrarily dismissed. Under the CNE you can be sacked after 23 months and there is nothing stopping the employer from placing this exact same job offer once again - give or take a rise in the minimum wage.

There is anger on the streets of France today and its not going to disappear over night. The anger has been mounting since the No vote to the European Constitution and the November Riots. The issues are deeply rooted but the current government can't deal with them; Jacques is in lame duck mode, Dominique is about to walk the edge of the political abyss, Sarko is rubbing his hands in glee and the whole house of cards is in the balamce.

What really needs to happen is an end to globalisation, in that all workers around world and particularly in South East Asia are afforded the same job protections and that wages are normalised to the degree that it is not any cheaper to make a pair of Nikes in Vietnam than in the Val d'Oise. I'm willing to bet that the job offer above is for a company in the textile trade and that not one single item that is designed is actually produced in France.

This is not something that just affects France, it is a global problem and its needs a global solution. If governments don't wake up and inhale deeply from their espressos, rioting students will be the least of their problems.

OK Now.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

V for Vendetta

You can see why all this would have appealed to Larry and Andy Wachowski, the band of brothers behind the Matrix trilogy. In the same way those movies did, V for Vendetta melds big ideas about power and liberation with futuristic blowuppy thrills. More...

Finally something from the Wachowski bros. I'm not sure what one does after making The Matrix Trilogy, but this looks like a start. The Time Magazine preview makes out like the writer has already written this film off. I can't wait.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Strike while the iron is hot

...or at least when Spring is in the air. After a long hard winter, today had that first spring like quality; warm sunshine, people sitting outside the cafes of Bordeaux drinking coffee and the hint in the air that the Spring strike season is upon us. You know, that time of year when planes, trains and buses are cancelled on a regular basis.

Every year in France the strike season starts in spring and continues until the end of June when people take their sacred summer holidays in July and August. This season promises to be an interesting one, while things have been building up slowly, Friday night's storming of the Sorbonne has ratcheted up the debate around the CPE and the CNE.

I have been meaning to write a post on the French love affair with TLA's and MLA's (Three/Multiple Letter Acronyms), but the Contrat Premier Embauche and the Contrat Nouvelle Embauche are the reason for all the current fuss. As I mentioned before, the French economy is blowing off jobs at a rate of knots - manufacturing is shrinking and whatever can be outsourced is being outsourced. I am no fan of globalization and I can see what it's doing to the French economy, which is trying to cope by creating jobs in the service sector.

Flipping burgers, or if you are lucky, marketing cellphones are the McDo Boulots that are meant take the place of the kinds of jobs where you had a sense of security and future. Many years of worker's struggles built up a hefty set of labour laws and social security in France, which in their own way stifle the creation of employment.

The government has to create jobs, or face an unemployed population who aren't paying any tax (which is meant to keep the government in the style they have become accustomed to) and draining away an already in-debted social security system.

The employers would rather be able to hire and fire at will, pay less social charges and they are thoroughly keen on the new legislation. Workers on the other hand want a sense of job security that isn't provided for in the new legislation - a 2 year trial period is the silliest piece of labour legislation I've ever heard of.

Not that I have any say in the matter, but if I did I'd start by cutting the tax rate and facilitating the creation of new businesses. Starting a business in France is like trying to row a boat in the desert. The ethic in France is that the state will provide and no one even thinks of employing themselves, but considering what you have to go through to do it, its not worth the hassle.

France needs more jobs, and simplifying woker's right and the labour code is what the government needs to be doing. Stripping workers of rights is a recipe for disaster and this strike season promises to test the mettle of the government. If Dominique lasts until the end of June, he may well be France's next President, but should he be sidelined, then Petit Nicolas might have a clear run for the 2007 election, and that my friends is another whole ball-game, not even petanque.

OK Now.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The March to War

As the march to war with Iran continues this month, with Team America falling over themselves to get in front of the cameras and push ever harder for 'tangible consequences' (whatever that maybe), I have been wondering when exactly this madcap scheme was dreamed up.

There has been a lot of talk about the planned Iranian Oil Bourse as a driver for the launch of an offensive, but I think that argument ignores a lot of history. Once you read about where the idea of the Oil Bourse came from, and why it isn't really a threat to Dollar hegemony, then you have to rewind back to the Iranian revolution, and gauge what kind of scores are being settled here.

The origins of the oil bourse
The idea of creating a new trading platform in Iran to trade oil and to create a new crude-oil benchmark apparently originated with the former director of the London International Petroleum Exchange, Chris Cook. In a January 21 article in Asia Times Online (What the Iran 'nuclear issue' is really about), Cook explained the background. More...

As I have pointed out before, Iran has been a target for ages, and since the 2002 "Axis of Evil" blatherings from George the war plans have been constantly updated.

But where are we now? I reckon with 20 odd days to go into the end of the month, we are unlikely to see the UN Security Council being able to issue any kind of ultimatum without some period for "compliance" or some such nonsense of at least 30 days. A lot of speculation has revolved around the end of March for the war, and while that seems to be out of play at the moment perhaps the calendar has been altered to account for the Israeli elections.

I don't seem much happening until after the elections - an Israeli launched attack prior to the elections would radically alter the electoral process where polling stations would have to be relocated to bombshelters. And a Team America led attack would no doubt still leave the Israelis reaching for the gas masks. With Ariel still comatose, there isn't anyone strong enough on the Israeli stage to rally the population.

But this is just a delay, and any manufactured ultimatums from the puppet show at the UN SC would likely fall around early to mid-April.

Desperate Housewives?

'Leprosy drug in Milosevic's blood' - "Traces of a drug used to treat leprosy and tuberculosis were found in a blood sample taken in recent months from former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, a news report has said." More...

Too much TV can be a bad thing. At first I thought that the 'poisoning' of Slobodan was a bit too much to be true, but apparently there is some traction to this story.

I wonder where on earth the idea came from?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

French Students, Cops Clash Over Jobs Law

"PARIS Mar 10, 2006 (AP) Riot police clashed with students at Paris' famed Sorbonne University on Friday, spraying tear gas as protesters occupying the city landmark hurled ladders, chairs and other objects from windows." More...

France has so many different employment contracts that it is truly mind-boggling and trying to understand the ins and outs of each one is a full-time job in itself.

The reason for the current fracas is that this new contract is designed to entrench McJobs (McDo Boulot in French I guess) for young French workers. The government knows that they can't create any real jobs and that employers in the service sector don't like the labour laws and taxes that they are hit with when employing someone.

It is a Catch 22 situation though; the high cost of employing someone in France pays for the Social Security system, but real jobs (manufacturing etc.) aren't being created - in fact they are been outsourced to South East Asia. Flipping burgers or changing sheets in Hotel rooms with a University Education under your belt is the future of work in France, and I fully understand why the Students are revolting, because the new CPE and CNE contracts are doing away with any real labour protection. I mean a two year trial period where you can be fired at will is ridiculous.

Ok, so will the take over of the Sorbonne lead to another May '68? It would have to continue for a while, and there isn't enough of a broad-based movement as there was in '68 - and bear in mind that the Unions have shrunk in membership since then. But things might get interesting because the government had to use special legislation to force through this new Contract, basically by decree, and as we all know that doesn't go down well in a democracy.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

No Comment

Monday saw another visit from CENTCOM. Teeheehee. Yip that's right - no comment, no "engagement"; my suggestions fell on deaf ears. Oh well, too bad, tant pis.

Well what can I say? OK now?

Nah, that doesn't quite capture it - how about this then:

When you are waiting in line to be evacuated from the roof of the US embassy in the Green Zone think about what Sun Tzu said about Moral Authority in waging war. Without the moral authority any engagement in war is doomed to failure. Thus the US has already lost in Afghanistan and Iraq because, because as we all know, there is no moral reason as to why the US Military is engaged as it is.

Enuff Sed.

Monday, March 06, 2006

German Ambassador warns Poland of ‘painful consequences’

BERLIN - Poland faces “tangible and painful consequences” if it continues its aggresive activities and the Third Reich will use “all tools at their disposal” to stop this threat, a senior Reich's official said Sunday, ahead of a crucial international meeting on Poland.

Oooops. Some spelling errors crept in there: the above should read:
Bolton warns Iran of ‘painful consequences’
WASHINGTON - Iran faces “tangible and painful consequences” if it continues its nuclear activities and the United States will use “all tools at our disposal” to stop this threat, a senior U.S. official said Sunday, ahead of a crucial international meeting on Iran.

Which is a load a of bullshit, 'cos Iran has nuclear weapons like John Bolton has a club foot. Ok, ok, he might not have a club foot, but he is be short of enough IQ points to qualify him in the same category as balsa wood, and he is still a plank. And like a piece of balsa wood, he will float to the top.

Achtung Baby! Team America is on the warpath again.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Free Porn for Propagandists

So there I was going through the web stats the other day and I came across an interesting visitor: someone from CENTCOM had arrived at my blog after doing a search for "War on Terror" over at Technorati. It was just after my "Bos Befok" post, and although I hadn't bothered with Technorati before, I rushed over there and added my blog to make it easier to find and basically shrugged off the visitor.

But wait there is more: apparently the world's most powerful (and expensive) military is so shit scared of what bloggers might have to say, that they have put together a dedicated team to troll through the web's blogs and "to engage these writers and their electronic information forums."

"McNorton said the team contacts bloggers to inform the writers about any given topic that may have been posted on their site. This outreach effort enables the team to offer complete information to bloggers by inviting them to visit CENTCOM's Web site for news releases, data or imagery.

The team engages bloggers who are posting inaccurate or untrue information, as well as bloggers who are posting incomplete information. They extend a friendly invitation to all bloggers to visit the command's Web site." More...

OK Now.

So let's get this cleared up right away then shall we? As we bloggers, and everyone else for that matter, don't have the complete and accurate set of images from the torture chambers of Abu Ghraib is CENTCOM kindly going to post the Darby Collection in it's entirety???

This would be really helpful and provide a real service, as bloggers could just link to the CENTCOM site instead of trying find somewhere else to host what is apparently a rather extensive archive.

Nah, I didn't think so. So much for "completeness" and "accuracy". If it smells like propaganda and disinformation then it probably is. Nothing short of a self-induced pre-frontal lobotomy could convince me otherwise. Oooops, better not to give them any ideas for when I find myself locked-down in an anonymous prison in Estonia.

Now if CENTCOM really wants drive traffic to their site they should start a Porn affiliate program. I hear that there is a gap in the market, what with Now That's Fucked Up closing down after the owner was harassed silly by the pentagon and the US gov. You remember the site where PFC Hotlips Houlihan could upload pictures of her shaved pussy or Iraqis blown to bits to get free access to porn?