Three Months' Prison for Bové

photo: la brulerie caumartin

A handy canteen stop between the 'grands magazins' and the Gare Saint-Lazare.

Taxes Getting More Notice

Paris:- Sunday, 17. September 2000:- Almost a year to the day after this column carried the headline 'José Bové - Freed!' - the Monsieur Bové in question has been sentenced for the 'sacking' of the McDonald's outlet, under construction in Millau.

Expecting a token term of a month, suspended, or less - the actual penalty of three months' hardtime set off a media explosion that propelled the peasant leader back into the world news' blender.

The court's president, François Mallet, said he didn't want to see Millau transformed into the 'Capital of a Citizen's Revolt.' Assisted by two other judges, the president characterized the actions that took place on Thursday, 12. August 1999, as 'grave.'

Mr. Bové was designated as the instigator and organizer of the 'deconstruction.' The severity of the penalty handed out was to 'get him to finally listen to reason.'

At the trial last June, the prosecutor had asked for a ten-month sentence, with only one month of it in jail - because of the three weeks Mr. Bové had already spent in 'preventive detention.'

The judges made a conciliatory gesture all the same. Mr. Bovéphoto: menu 5790, sign already has another eight-month term of prison to serve in suspension, which would normally be automatically applied to the new sentence - but this was not invoked.

Five of Mr. Bové's companions received fines of 2000 or 3000 francs, and one was left with no penalty. Three others received suspended sentences.

One said he was 'vexed' to receive no more than a fine, and all announced they would appeal the decisions.

The severe three-month term caught left-wing and green politicians and union leaders by surprise, and they generally condemned the court's decision.

On the weekend, José Bové was one of the media's stars making a brief visit to the Communist-sponsored 'Fête de l'Huma' near Paris.

Gas Prices Continue To Rise

One day Le Parisien says that gas prices are going down and two days later the news is they are going up. Even if France's truckers are back on the road again, a lot of other people are unhappy with the situation.

Artisans have set up traffic 'filters' in various parts of France, and they have been joined by auto-school operators, and some forestry haulers.

Since Parisians are hardly menaced by these actions, they are not page one news. Outside of France, various groups that use petrol are installing 'filters,' escargot races or barricades.

This is happening in Germany, Ireland, Spain, Norway, Poland and Holland, and involves truckers, taxi drivers, farmers and tour bus operators.

Not forgotten, however, is the huge part government taxes play in the retail price of fuel. It was concessions on this front that got the trucks rolling again in France.

Other groups, and not just those using fuel, are looking at these concessions and wondering why they can not have them too. Restaurant operators, for example, want the value-added tax on meals reduced from 19.6 percent to the 5.5 percent that fast-food places are allowed to charge.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

The proposal to change France's seven-year presidential term to five years, which will be decided at ballot boxes next Sunday, 24. September, seems to be meeting general indifference.

It appears as if the polling studies, which are saying there will be a poor turnout, are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This is despite the number of prominent political leaders and personalities who have madephoto: vedrines monument, gal lafayette many appearances on TV in order to spur voter turnout.

Before I lived in France, I used to hear some grumbling about the numerous Sundays given over to voting; but many people did take the time to vote - if only to find if they voted for the winners.

Aviator Védrines landed 'ici même' in 1919, several years before the top floors were added to Galeries Lafayette.

With a seven-year term for president, and six-year terms for municipal elections, my feeling is that the average French citizen is vote-lazy. With such long times between elections it is felt that rare elections don't really count for much - especially if they aren't 'left'-'right' faceoffs.

Many of the proponents of voting keep repeating that a shorter presidential term is a step towards greater democracy, but the arguments are too intellectual.

Other boosters say that a shortened presidential term will be followed by votes for shortened terms for senators, deputies and municipal council members. But the President himself has not said he will call for these changes.

What voters might have liked - as has been suggested by 'vote no' champions - would have been a referendum including all terms of political office. The way it has been presented, there will be an endless series of referendums, if all political terms are subject to changes.

The reluctance to tinker with France's constitution is perhaps because of France's continued commitment to centralized power. Nobody really believes that politicians want shorter terms.

President Jacques Chirac thinks it is necessary and desirable, and this is why he put the top office - and his own job - up for a vote.

My guess that he thought he could dare to do this much, and no more. He has been touring the country often in an effort to get a respectable turnout next Sunday - for or against.

Paris Re-applies For 'No Cars' Day

photo: fiat 500 of the weekThe city has submitted its third plan to the Préfecture for next Friday's 'no cars' day. Details are unknown about this plan and it is also unknown if the Préfecture will have time to react to it.

This week's 'Fiat 500 of the Week' will be out of town next Friday.

The first city project was rejected by the Ministry of the Environment and the more ambitious second plan - to close Paris completely - was rejected by the Police Préfecture for being too difficult to implement.

Paris' 'Génitron' - the Countdown Clock

Originally, the Génitron - a bar with spaces for nine digits - was mounted in front of the Musée Pompidou in January 1987. Because of the museum's renovation the Génitron was moved to Bastille three years ago, to where the Boulevard Richard-Lenoir enters the place.

As Le Parisien puts it, 'nine months after entering the 21st century, the Génitron is still there.' In August, its artist-creators thought of auctioning it off in Monaco. As far as Paris is concerned, it has finished its job.

Its location may be unusual, its design may be ugly, but the 21st century won't have arrived until Monday, 1. January 2001 - as most readers of Metropole already know. There's still time to restart the clock and 'get it right' once and for all.

Banners Doom Techno Parade

Le Parisien ran a weeklong promo for the Jours de Patrimoine. This was done with ads so colorful that I failed to notice them because I thought they were 'banners.' Buried within these ads were mentions of yesterday's Techno Parade.

Thus, it wasn't until the lady at my news kiosk handed me Le Parisien's CD-ROM 'Des "Clics" Autour du Patrimoine' with Saturday's paper, that I first 'discovered' the day, time and route of the event.

The third annual Paris Techno Parade ran off yesterday, starting from the Quai Branly near the Tour Eiffel, and meandered its way through the high-rent 16th arrondissement, to the Porte de la Muette.

The parade had a technical hang-up when it crossed the Pont de l'Alma. It set the bridge in vibration and the parade had to stop, to let the 25 motorized displays cross, quietly, one by one.

At 17:00 the parade paused for a 'breather' at Trocadéro, with standing room only. After moving on into the depths of the exclusive arrondissement, residents were seen to be completely unamused by the spectacle.

With its budget reduced by half, there was no big fête at the parade's end, and the estimated 100,000 participants and spectators scattered to any of the 200-odd 'afters' thatphoto: c & a store, haussmann had been organized.

RATP Does a Disney

Any visitor worth their guide-book knows of the 'dragonfly'-style métro entrance, designed by Hector Guimard, at the Porte Dauphine and the slightly similar one at Abbesses.

Shady Boulevard Haussmann, opposite Printemps.

Last year the RATP renovated the one at Porte Dauphine, and while doing it got the idea to make molds of it. Apparently this is a model 'B' and Abbesses is a model 'A.' The most common was a model 'C,' but these have completely disappeared from Paris and only exist in old postcard views.

Using the model 'B' molds and some postcards, the RATP has reconstructed a model 'C' and erected it in the Place Sainte-Opportune, in Les Halles - as a new métro entry for Châtelet. It was unveiled yesterday.

Web Life In France:

The Season of the Grape

If you are a fan of the red, white and rosé juices, you can follow their seasonal progress from the vine to the part where the stout Italian ladies hold their skirts up high and stomp raisins into mush in giant vats.

Even if this pleasant idea is no more than a fiction, the Web site Wine Today is currently watching over the harvest throughout the northern hemisphere, and the link included here should give you the section focusing on France.

Pal's Portal

This is a blind shot, picked up from my favorite French online columnist, who puts out an episode of 'Liar's Chronicles' every now and then. He recently scoffed at the comparative shopping Web sites, that could send you scurrying 50 kilometres to get gas for five centimes a litre less than it costs at your neighboring rip-off station.

Old-timey collections of personal Web sites have been shunted from one free server to another as a result of their one-time homes being taken over by Dot.Coms - so here they are again with their old? new? incarnation which is now called uZine 2.

Present and Past Olympic Games

The Olympic Museum has the history in text, photos and video of the Olympics, plus all the latest developments - including, I suppose - ample presence of all the logos and stadium slogans that add so much to the visual aspects of the games.

In case you are wondering what the Olympics used to look like, the Olympic Television Archive Bureau has a Web site with old films, plus new films showing all the logos and stadium slogans in color.

The 'Official' Weather

Météo France gets another run this week on account of delivering good weather last Thursday and Friday by surprise. This is the official source for France's TV-weather people. If you don't get French TV where you are, you can get the weather from where they get it. Because it is 'official' - meaning: as true as possible - don't expect forecasts to exceed 24 hours.

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