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The Curse of the Wild Pig

photo: les deux magots cafe

Rare February sun in Saint–Germain.

Will He or Won't He Quit?

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Monday, 2. February 2004:– This morning Radio France–Info said that it is still 'on strike,' along with all other Radio France services. This has been going on for about a week now.

Instead of broadcasting the usual substitute of endless classical music, we are being treated to strike–bound FIP's playlist. Nobody knows the type of official music for coups d'etats.

Over on the TV-weather news things are decidedly optimistic. Other than some fairly fierce winds from the southwest tomorrow morning, Tuesday should be pretty well all sunny until sundown about 17:45. Tonight's low will be twice some of last week's highs, and tomorrow's high has been forecasted as 16 degrees.

It seems as if we are going to have one of February's short bursts of April weather – which seldom happen in April – because completely sunny days are predicted for Wednesday and Thursday.

Since this leaves no room for sarcasm, my only negative note is to mention that the high temperatures will drop one degree per day, until we get to next weekend, when the whole blue shebang will dissolve into – less than freak February perfection. Not easy to come, but darn easy to go.

Café Life

Curses of the Wild Pig

If you have been less than six degrees removed from bad luck lately, it probably isn't your fault. I have just heard that it all started when Alvin accidently wrecked a rental car when he ran into a wild pig. The encounter did not enhance the pig's life expectancy either.

Then there was the used car he bought – I assume, by correspondence. When Alvin went to pick it up, the owner was missing on account of his wife having left him. When neighbours told him where the car could be found, he found it in a cow barn with a dead battery.

So he hauled it out and took it to a place and got it charged up. But something else must be wrong because the battery is going flat again.

I didn't know anything about this when I forgot the PIN number for my bank card. I had already forgotten it, but hadphoto: entry, montparnasse cemetery the keys memorized so I could tap them in with my eyes closed. I didn't use the card for a week, and then with my eyes open I couldn't remember the number.

Sunny Sunday entry to the Montparnasse cemetery.

For two tries I didn't know this until the number turned out to be wrong. So I looked around here to see if I had any likely–looking numbers written down – found one and tried it. Three bad tries and the La Poste's ATM ate the card.

With another card ordered from the bank I turned to Uncle Den–Den – re–re– baptized 'Daddy Warbucks' for the emergency – and pumped some cash from him.

He was having some drinks with friends on marché day last Friday in the café Comédia, and came away without his change purse, which contained two bank cards. By the time he discovered this and went back, all was gone. Luckily he has a fallback. But he had to make some long–distance calls to put a stop on the cards and new ones will take weeks to arrive.

The following morning Professor Henri showed up at Uncle Den–Den's door, to say that he'd misplaced the keys to his apartment. With all the loud music and singing, Professor Henri probably wishes Uncle Den–Den would lose his keys instead – but was glad to get the spare set anyway.

This, of course, caused Uncle Den–den's heat to stop working this morning. This is not as serious as it sounds because it's gotten a lot warmer outside, and some guys are going to come and fix it right away – in a couple of days instead of weeks, they've said.

I don't how much Alvin whacking the wild pig has affected you – the pig got itself mortally 'impacted' in case you want to know the difference between the two words – but if you have been having a run of ill–luck lately, it is probably on account of Alvin.

On the other hand, since everything is related by less than six degrees, the cause may lie closer to you. I honestly hope it isn't the case, but you never know.

'If Convicted, I'll Quit'

So said Alain Juppé before the verdict in the corruption trial held at Nanterre last week. The case was an old one going back to the time when the present Mayor of Bordeaux, deputy in the National Assembly and leader of the UMP party was the number two in Paris' Hôtel de Ville and Jacques Chirac was mayor and leader of the RPR party.

As number two, Monsieur Juppé was manager of finance for the RPR party, and gatherer of campaign funds for Mayorphoto: rue de l'echaude Chirac's run for Président of France. But the charges in question last week were focused on the salaries of some people who were supposed to be working for the city, but who were in fact party workers for the RPR.

This kind of political behavior used to be common in France, until it was made illegal in 1995 – with the aid of a RPR majority in the Assembly National.

Sunlight uses Rue de l'Echaude as a blowling alley.

Over the years a large number of prosecutors have tangled with this case, which originally began with four major charges. By last week only one of then was being considered for judgement.

Last Friday afternoon the Nanterre court wrapped up its session with the conviction of Alain Juppé. He was given an 18–month suspended jail term, banned from voting for five years – which automatically translated into a prohibition against holding public office for ten years.

To not have the conviction noted in the criminal record of the ex–Prime Minister, as requested by his lawyers, was rejected by the court. And Mr Juppé's lawyers immediately promised to appeal the decision.

Apparently in France, merely pledging to lodge an appeal against a conviction is almost as good as reversing a conviction on appeal. At least, Mr Juppé has decided to wait until tomorrow evening's TV-news to let the nation know whether he is going to retire from political life.

If he hangs up his political hat it may be a major blow to Président Chirac. Although he has not announced that he won't re–run for a third term as president. If he does not intend to continue, it was widely thought that Alain Juppé would step into the running.

In France the Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy is seen as positioning himself for the top spot, and his chances with the UMP party may be better without its chief and long–time Chirac stalwart.

To add a bit of pepper to the judgement, Catherine Pierce, Président of the 15th Chambre du Tribunal de Nanterre, has let it be known that her office has received 'visitors' outside of office hours, as well as to the court's computers.

She also thinks her's and her colleagues' phones were tapped, but does not know for certain, or by whom. The court's 124–page judgement was typed up on portable computers, not connected to the court's network.

The contents of the judgement were severe. Alain Juppé is a product of France's higher educational system. It is one that has special schools for high administrators, and many politicians have attended them. They may produce hard–hearted administrators, but corruptive practices are not part of the curriculum.

Within the last ten years a relatively small cadre of prosecutors have decided that certain laws on the books in France need to be observed to the letter and the intent. This is at odds with political practices that were once common, but are probably less so today.

Yet it is strange that even with Mr Juppé's declaration that he would quit politics if convicted, many supporters in the UMP party and in presidential circles are insisting that he fight to stay on. The reason is political – no one else seems to have the stature to lead the UMP party let alone be its candidate for president.

Even if he overturns the conviction on appeal, there remains the fact that his two–dozen co–defendants admitted that the charges were true. The other fact is that French voters believe that Alain Juppé will do what he says he will do.

While we wait for Mr Juppé's decision tomorrow, we can contemplate Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin's statement that the Friday's conviction was 'provisional.'

Daguerre's Parking–Ticket War

On Saturday some the good folks from the office of the parking–tickets in the Rue Fermat, walzed down the Rue Daguerre and plastered tickets on all the private cars of police personal who work in the nearby Commissariat in the Avenue du Maine. Their cars carry a 'CP' sticker.

Locals, also ticketed, were also surprised by the lack of traditional tolerance by the parking wardens. But the surprisephoto: ice skate, montparnasse was total 15 minutes after the assault of the tickets, when a cop car slid down the street and all the tickets were yanked from the cars with the 'CP' stickers.

Skaters at Montparnasse do not notice wet skating.
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