The Paperless

photo: cafe bruant, rue des abbesses

One of several cafés in the Rue des Abbesses.

The 1,2OO.4O Franc Fine

Paris:- Monday, 9. September 2002:- Saturday was the occasion for a street march by people living in France without valid residence papers. They paraded in calm and sunshine from the Place de Clichy to the République.

Police estimated the demonstrators as 500, but I saw many more than this about 15:00 at the Place Clichy starting point, and more were pouring out of métro exit by the minute.

Some, in a crowd estimated by organizers at 12,000, had come from all over France to march for the first time in Paris. There are an estimated 3.3 million foreigners living in France. Forty-two percent of these reside in the Paris region.

According to a CSA poll published in Le Parisien on Sunday, 54 percent of the French believe that foreigners have something to add to France's cultural richness.

Men believe this more than women, and the young believe it more than people over 50. The smallphoto: cafe vins, r abbesses core of extreme-right voters don't believe it at all - and this is why their recent presidential candidate got so little support in the last elections.

Contrary to popular belief, the majority of 'immigrants' come from Europe, and not from Africa. Only six percent have origins in Asia, and a minuscule 2.5 percent come from the Americas.

Real quartier, with really narrow sidewalks - for small terraces.

Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy, quoted in Le Parisien, said, "France needs immigrants but (it) cannot and should not receive all immigrants." At the same time he denounced the 'zero- immigration fanatics.'

The minister suggested that there should be two classes of immigrants - "Those who are willing to integrate into France, we should offer the means to become legal. But those that don't intend to stay, who have received expulsion orders - these orders should be carried out."

Almost in the same breath the minister mentioned the desire to avoid hypocrisy. Doing this seems almost impossible - partly because of the use of a fuzzy vocabulary for the subject.

For example there is the official notion that immigrants who have jobs are contributing to French society. Many of the paperless do have jobs - the kinds for which unscrupulous employers demand no papers. No taxes are paid on either side, and there is no social security.

France had a wide-spread colonial empire and still has its offshore 'departments.' This fact creates two classes of possible immigrants - one legal and one illegal. Children of either class born in France have a 'right' to French citizenship, but if their parents are paperless - they can be deported to countries where their children may not be citizens.

There must be hundreds of combinations of shades of legal and illegal, few of which fit into exactly into the immigration templates used by the French bureaucracy.

Many of the paperless who marched on Saturday are in 'fuzzy' situations. All the same many have recently applied for residence permits, and their leaders have demanded that their cases be treated 'en masse.'

This the authorities have refused to do. They insist on a 'case-by-case' examination of the residence applications. This takes its time, quite often a lot of it. Deportation could arrive sooner.

Meanwhile fuzzy language blurs perceptions. Skin color, accents of speech or styles of clothing canphoto: cafe zebre, rue lepic stamp honest French citizens as 'immigrants' when they are nothing of the kind.

In Paris, the city has invited 'foreigners' to assist with local consultative councils. 'Immigrant' leaders are saying that the right to vote locally is important for 'integration' - especially for people who have been tax-paying but second-class residents for decades.

Rue Lepic high fashion, at the purple Café Zèbra.

At the moment this 'right' only applies to residents who are citizens of the European Union countries - regardless of original origins, length of residence, colors of skin or styles of clothing.

France is like a lot of other 'desirable' countries. It does not suffer from bad water, lack of food, rampant banditry, serious religious intolerance or a notorious absence of civil rights. As such it is a favored destination for people who have little to enjoy wherever they happen to be.

For this reason, like some other 'desirable' countries - through international agencies and forums - France tries to assist with the upgrading of other countries that do not enjoy France's level of development.

While France is not the leader in the field of development aid to other countries, it is not in last place either. For doing this, France serves a certain self-interest.

In an earlier demonstration at Châtelet last Tuesday, Paris' Préfet de Police, Jean-Paul Proust, met a delegation of the paperless that attempted to hand him 6000 applications for residence permits. The préfet told the leaders of the movement that he would personally see to the first 100 applications by the end of the week.

Back to School

Last Tuesday, 12 million kids returned to school after the summer holidays. Of these, 331,451 returned to classes in Paris. The surprising element is that not everybody returned at once.

Several schools throughout France resumed classes in late August. In other parts of the country, schoolsphoto: fish shop, rue lepic were not ready to receive their students on the official day. Some teachers were on strike here and there too, and parents in Lorient were outside schools shouting, 'Non à la tyrannie!'

As Le Parisien mentioned, like it does every year, it was a return to school with the 'usual grumbles.' But a poll indicated that 61 percent of parents with school-aged children have confidence in the French school system - while 38 percent with and without children do not.

How about a lemon, stuck on a Swordfish's sword?

The new Minister of Education, Luc Ferry, was quoted as saying he spends sleepless nights worrying about the 30 percent of school-leavers who cannot read correctly.

If the 'test' happens to be a subscription contract for a mobile phone, the percentage probably jumps to 75 percent - for the entire population.

The 1,2OO.4O Franc Fine

This is what the city is proposing on a series of posters last week, for persons tossing their garbage around in public. In our new, real money of euros, it is the equivalent of 183euro 3 sign.

Some Parisians think this might be too much, while others think the police can't be bothered to hand out tickets for littering. Other reports say street crime has dropped considerably while the number of flics has increased - so idle police may just be watching when you try to ditch a sandwich wrapper on the sly.

Since last year the dark green trash bins have been replaced with clear-green plastic trash sacks. These do not look like anything other than what they are - but there seems to be a lot more of them than the old bins.

A little more than half the Parisians think the city is pretty tidy. Almost 20 percent think it is tidier, while 15 percent think it is less tidy than a year ago. People who get around widely in the city think some parts are tidier than others - lots of clean-up on the Champs-Elysées and less attention paid to Barbés.

Slightly less than half the Parisians think the city could be cleaner. Parks in general get a high score, but the métro and telephone booths get a low score. The city looks after its parks, but the métro and the phone booths do not belong to the city.

Since I do not spend a lot of time in other cities of Paris' size, I have no way of knowing how tidy Paris is relative to other cities. Only visitors might be aware of this, but there's a suspicion that visitor areas in Paris get more attention.

Is It True?

The French are supposed to be watching more television than ever before, spending some three hours and 37 minutes daily in front of their color screens. While they are doing this, a CSA poll says that 67 percent also say they want the state's channels to broadcast more cultural subjects.

The obvious reason for this is that the state's public TV programming seems to have forgotten its role inphoto: rue burq supplying some alternative to the endless and insanely boring offerings of the commercial channels.

These mainly broadcast hours of mindless video-filler featuring unknown 'entertainers' sitting around playing incomprehensible games or grinning at each other while studio audiences clap incessantly.

Windmill choices are two - this one above the Rue Burq, or the Moulin Rouge.

The annual state TV-license, which costs a fairly major sum, is meant to supply financing for the state's TV production. Since this is not much different - it has commercials too - from the private sector's programming, viewers are very much against paying a higher tax.

The government waited until everybody was away dozing in August to announce a three percent hike in this audio-visual tax this year.

Now that I think of it - what could have the 29 percent have been thinking, who agreed that a tax rise is a good idea? The CSA poll indicated that 76 percent want more culture from the public channels - but people will tell pulse-takers outright lies.

The poll did not include any viewing figures for the publically-financed Franco-German Arte channel.

Finally, French television viewers are against broadcast porn. Apparently this is viewable on the private pay-TV Canal+ channel. Whether those polled subscribe to this channel or not, they are 64 percent opposed to X-rated broadcasts.

No mention was made about any of the dozens of cable channels in the poll results, so the real opinions of French TV viewers remain a mystery.

Internet Life

As far as I can tell, there was no 'Internet Life' during the past week due to everybody using email to discuss President George W. Bush's personal plans to attack Iraq for some reason.

Sunday's TV Weather News

This included a storm alert for southern France, for the Gard department west of Marseille and included the department of Vaucluse above the city and the Var department, east of it. On TV's weather-map, the area was shown in red.

This morning France-Info radio news said that a huge amount of rain had dumped, and was to continue throughout the day.

By the time of the national TV-news this evening, the alert was still on for the Var. The storm leftphoto: shops, rue lepic flooding all over, caused the deaths of 11 including one fire-fighter on a rescue mission, and three people were reported as missing. One of those killed was hit by lightening.

The autoroute near Orange was impassable and TGV trains had to suspend operations going south. Passengers heading north were stranded at Perpignon too. In the Gard, 80 percent of the roads were left impassable, and schools were ordered closed until Thursday.

For the thrifty - the horsemeat butcher's.

At one point rain was falling at the rate of 100 millimetres per hour. This evening there is a huge traffic jam on the autoroute near Lyon, as no cars are being allowed to head south because of the situation near Orange.

Since the weather alert service started - mentioned below - there really has been dangerous and nasty weather following every 'alert.' As far as predictions go, these particular ones are accurate.

Weather Warnings

The weather has been acting odd recently, at unexpected times and in unexpected places. France-Météo's alert service is very short-term, and its warnings should be taken seriously - even though Paris itself is seldom a thrilling weather area.

If you are curious or need to know more about France's early fall weather, give the Météo-France Web site a hit, for its short-range forecasts. Check out the warning-prone 'Vigilance-Météo' area on the opening page.

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