UMPs Decide UMP Is Best

photo: brasserie zever, alesia

Grey winter near sundown, but the café is closer.

Comeback for Bertrand Delanoë

Paris:- Tuesday, 19. November 2002:- Last spring when Jacques Chirac was re-elected Président of France, there was an effort among moderate right-wing parties to abandon their favorite initials, and run as members of a unique 'UMP' party.

Since the Socialists, Le Verts and the Communists had no candidate in the election's final round and didn't want to vote for Jean-Marie Le Pen, they acted like good republicans and voted for Jacques too.

At the time it seemed like a name like 'UMP' was a temporary device, a sort of holding company for Gaullists, other UDF centrists and DLs, or Diverse Liberals.

Over the weekend all of these have gotten together for a big pow-wow, and to reject alternative names like 'Maison Bleu,' 'Le Forum,' or 'L'Union Populaire.' Led by Alain Juppé, they embraced 'UMP,' which stands for the 'Union Pour la Majorité Présidentielle,' or 'Union Pour la Majorité de Progrès' or 'Union Pour un Mouvement Populaire.'

When all of the names were tossed in the hat, 'Union Pour la Majorité Présidentielle' outscored all others. But when it was narrowed down to 'Union Pour un Mouvement Populaire' and 'L'Union Populaire,' the first got a clear majority.

Thus, the right-leaning stalwarts who voted for the 'UMP' last spring and spent the weekend out at Le Bourget as Gaullists - ex-RPRs - UDF centrists, and DLs, emerged as proud 'UMPs' - which is for 'Union Pour un Mouvement Populaire.' Be sure to try and remember this.

But, as I've never tired of hinting, the intitials UMP don't exactly inspire poetic flights - so Alain Juppé has already shortened the party's nickname to 'L'Union.'

He can do this because the same crowd that voted for the name, voted for him to be the new party's president. This should have put all the other union party presidents out of business, but the UDF's François Bayrou declined to become an 'UMP.'

The card carrying members of the combined parties number 164,500 according to figures supplied by the party. At Le Bourget Mr. Juppé was elected with a majority of 79.42 percent, orphoto: cinema mistral by 37,822 votes. His predecessor, president of the RPR, Michèle Alliot-Marie, won the post in 1999 with 57,166 RPR members voting.

The hyperactive Minister of the Interior, Nicolas Sarkozy, said he voted for Mr. Juppé but declined to say whether he would run for president of the party in 2004. But if you ask Nicolas Sarkozy if he will be running for Président of France in 2007, he will say nothing but his eyes will glitter.

Cinémas are other well-heated winter attractions.

The one distress signal in this heaving sea of well-dressed joy is out in the neighboring department of Yvelines. Christian Blanc, one-time president of Air France, is getting ready to run in a by-election as a candidate of François Bayrou's UDF party.

As early as next month the UMP will have its first 'union' test when it runs Le Chesnay mayor Philippe Brillaut against the less than union- minded UDF candidate.

I presume that Jacques Chirac is blessing if not actively presiding over all of this 'union' even if it effectively dissolves the RPR with which he has spent most of his political life.

As for the united UMP being the plumed war-horse that Alain Juppé is going to ride on into the Elysée Palace in 2007 - as far as I know he is doing a better job of being mayor of Bordeaux than he did as Prime Minister when he had his shot at it.

Mayor Begins Run for Président

I have accidently written so much about the emergence of the right-wing UMP, that there is hardly space here to mention that Paris' Socialist mayor Bertrand Delanoë reappeared in public a week ago, on Monday, 11. November, at the Remembrance Day ceremony.

Since then, although taking it easy - as he says - on account of recovering from getting stabbed in early October during the 'Nuit Blanche,' Mr. Delanoë has managed without difficulty to be seen and heard on TV, read about in the papers, and appear here and there nearly daily - plus run a regular city council meeting.

The Socialists are still licking their post-election wounds and quietly fighting behind their pink curtains. They are making noises about making a leftist coalition with Les Verts and the Communists - who have just lost their leader, Robert Hue. But they are keeping it as quiet as possible.

This is perfect for Bertrand Delanoë. Former Paris mayor Jacques Chirac is having a second term in the Elysée Palace - proving that the French have no particular animosity against Paris mayors, right - or left.

Light Pollution

Just when we were getting used to info panels all over the city giving us minute-by-minute updates on the quality of the air, along come the astronomers to tell us there is night-time light pollution.

'We can't see the stars,' they say. There is even a group called the 'Association Nationale Pour la Protection du Ciel Nocturne,' or ANPCN for short.photo: moon, from bedroom window

There is a remedy short of turning off nighttime street lighting, and Paris is a leader in this area. When it lets out contracts for street lighting, it stipulates that the light must be directed at the ground and not the sky.

Apparently some Paris suburbs are not so fussy, and even leave their churches blasted by floodlights all night long, while the Tour Eiffel's lights go out at 01:00.

If it is a planet, the moon is the only one I can see from my bedroom.

Even so, astronomers say all one can see from Paris are planets and some brighter stars. For me, since leaving the apartment in the bottom of the canyon, seeing the moon occasionally now is a big treat. I don't think it is a planet exactly, but I'm not an astronomer.

Collect Nothing - Go Straight To Jail

Tonight's TV-news has announced that the court deciding the appeal of José Bové's sentence for taking part in the destruction of a field of transgenic corn, has decided he should be locked up for 14 months.

On hearing this, France's most famous farmer said no courts since the time of Vichy in World War II had treated union members so harshly.

Mr. Bové has previously served time in jail for his participation in the 'deconstruction' of a McDonalds unit being constructed in central France. He got through this stint okay, but was reported to have told friends he wasn't looking forward with any relish to going back to the slammer.

While prisons in France range from the modern to the mediaeval, most of them are overpopulated. Nevertheless, prisoners like Mr. Bové are usually treated to special facilities, reserved for non-violent 'big hats' and other luminaries.

Who's Who On Strike this Week?

This afternoon radio FIP said that while it - Radio-France - was no longer on strike, the TV channels France-2 and France-3 are. But I had forgotten this at 20:00 when I turned on the TV to see the evening news - partially, because of the lack of an antenna - and there it was, with the news guy I don't like.

Except for static, color drop-outs and some total snow, the 'news' seemed strike-free, but the weather-news lacked its animated rain clouds and its snowflakes falling on the Alps.

Earlier today there was some sort of strike at Gare du Nord affecting the Eurostar trains. For many years it was possible for all trains to stop in France while Eurostar kept rolling, but it looks like the chunnel operation finally is having its turn.

The nation's driving-test inspectors are still on strike, much to the major annoyance of all the would-be motorists who would like to take the test so they can get on the roads to drive around looking for parking spaces.

A Special Case - the Truckers

Tonight there is a strike warning from the truckers that they will be beginning a major strike next Saturday. Normally news services do not care or fail to know the reasons for strikes - is it another French 'exception?' - but this time we have been told the truckers want a 13th-month salary and raises for seniority on the job.

Let it be remembered that long-haul truckers have had a major strike every other year since the famous 'all-everybody' strikes late in 1995. Each time the truckers have managed to make their actions felt everywhere and each time after some pain for everybody, they have been promised some of what they've been demanding.

Seldom has any of it ever been delivered.photo: samaritaine window, photo This means that truckers re-run their strikes, partly to try and collect on ancient promises, and partly to try and claw some new benefits - usually ones that most other workers enjoy - out of their employers.

This photo is called 'Just a photo.'

Let's say the truckers are good Christians and they remain optimistic. They always think the next strike is going to get them what they want. The employers always appear to give in enough to get the wheels rolling again - but never manage to deliver.

You may be unfamiliar with the idea of a 13th-month salary. Generally, some employees receive this, sometimes just before Christmas, or just before summer holidays.

It works by dividing the total salary for a year by 13 instead of 12, and lets employers pretend that they are 'giving' employees some sort of gift. For workers, it is a handy way of getting a fake extra month - of 'short-pay' - at a time when it is handy.

When things were even more 'social' in Europe 15 or 20 years ago, 14-months' salaries were not too uncommon. The principle was the same - divide the annual salary by 14 instead of 12.

Also in principle, long-haul truckers are not paid by the hour because safety regulations are supposed to forbid them from driving more than so many hours in a day - just like airline pilots.

Most trucks on European roads are equipped with 'black boxes' that show things like the speed they been going, and how many hours per day the truck has been on the road. Police inspect the telltale disks frequently.

Winter and Fog

Pretty much all of western Europe is close to the Atlantic ocean and in winter the difference between temperatures on land, the ocean's temperatures and any other stray temperatures flying around - combine to create fogs.

For a reason unexplained by scientists, these fogs tend to congregate on high-speed roads like autoroutes, autopistas and autobahns. Although many of these roads do have speed limits, these tend to be somewhat high.

For some other unexplained reason, many drivers tend to treat fog as if it some sort of benign night-time effect, and roll into it with fullgas. However fog, unlike simple night, is not penetrated by headlights very well.

The result is major cascades of pileups involving cars, big trucks and tankers, motorcyclists and highway buses. These happen often and everywhere.

Paradoxically, these huge collisions are often apparently caused by very prudent drivers who, when they spot the approach of fog on the highway, immediately turn on their four-way warning blinkers, and slow right down.

Slightly less prudent drivers then run into them. If a huge 30-ton semi-trailer runs into this two-car pileup, then it's the beginning of the end.

If more than 80 vehicles are involved, totally destroyed - but especially if both sides of a divided highway have to be closed in order to evacuate the survivors - then it will be featured on the evening's TV-news. If over 100 vehicles are involved, there's a good chance for pan-European coverage.

Internet Life

This 'life' isn't what it used to be. Who still gets a chilled shiver when the dialup finally signals, 'you have network?' To the whole world no less.

You already know whatever you might be looking for will be 'not found' or incomplete - while your screen's window will be complete with animated banners, popups, mystery windows overlaying the main one - with stupid popup questions like, 'will you accept this cookie that with eat itself in 2005?'

Dépot-Vente de Passy

The way standards are next to nonexistent these days there are few people other than some Japanese ladies who have their hearts set on getting that 'chic' little suit from Chanel, mainly because it costs a lot for something neat and simple and pure trash is cheap. I should say, 'cheaper.'

I shouldn't write 'cheap' in the same sentence as 'Chanel,' but this is about a shop in Paris in the semi-chicphoto: sea cat toy boat area of Passy - a shop that specializes in having a selection of second-hand - only worn once on Bastille Day to the Elysée Palace!' - quality clothing made by major Paris names.

How about a little sea cruise with 'Sea Cat?'

Mélanie Leguin has written to tell me that the Dépot-Vente de Passy now has its own Web site. I have checked it out and it is really real, and its 'press' section is interesting for all the favorable comments by Japanese magazines.

Because there are other shops in the same area with quality used clothing for men - no baseball caps, no designer jeans! - I'll add the dépot-vente's address. It is at 14. Rue de la Tour, Paris 16. Métro: Passy. Just a short walk up the hill from the métro station. I remember, because this dépot-vente has been mentioned before in Metropole.

Online Weather Warnings

We have pure winter now and it seems to be going about it will more will than seen for many years. France-Météo's online alert service is very short-term, and its warnings should be taken seriously.

Mainly these warnings will about areas beyond the area of the Ile-de-France. Even though Paris itself is seldom a thrilling weather area, there are occasional gusty winds which can be hard on umbrellas.

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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