Mort pour rien…

As least as much as anyone at the Corner on the subject of…..

French urban culture and the unrest in Paris.

I listen to a ton of French rap music. This much I can tell you- these riots have less to do with Al Qaeda than they do with beats, bass, housing shortages and unemployment. There is a huge culture of youth disenfranchisement in the suburbs of Paris, just like in the outlying neighborhoods of Detroit and Newark and Watts. It has spawned a globally influential music and art culture with acolytes in all of the Francophonic African capitals and even in the Afro-French immigrant communities in the US. These kids spend less time at the mosque than they do at the record store. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that they’re all that different from teenagers anywhere.

I highly recommend the movie La Haine (The Hate) for some background info. If you’re really interested, you can delve into the music featured in that film and find someone to translate the lyrics to Supreme NTM’s “Nique la Police” (“Fuck the Police”). La Haine is a film made by a young French director about the 1994-95 riots in Les Cités, the giant sprawling housing projects on the outskirts of Paris. The protagonists of this film are three young residents of the Neuf-trois (the 93rd Arrondissment of Paris, one of the most notorious housing projects- basically, France’s South Central)- one black, one Arabic and one Jewish. We see the exclusionary culture of modern France through their eyes. La Haine is brilliant, but dark and grim. I think anyone who wants to understand what these young men are rioting about needs to see it.

What the French have inadvertently created in les Cités is a culture of unemployment, drugs, lawlessness and discontent. The official French policy of ignoring issues of race (which remarkably mirrors the US policy from the “official” abolition of Jim Crow laws up to the introduction of Affirmative Action) has backfired. A pressure cooker of anger has been stewing there as young men of North African and sub-Saharan descent live a life of idleness and petty crime in lieu of fulfilling work. Every now and then, an isolated event (like last week’s accidental electrocution of two Afro-French teenagers) coupled with an atmosphere of police harassment, boils over into days and days of rage. (Is any of this starting to sound familiar? Detroit, ’68, anyone?) The French have been hoping that if they ignore issues of race, that the egalitarian nature of French society will magically lift these guys up into jobs and educations and better lives. Ahem. Just because certain elements of society want to pretend the playing field is level doesn’t make it so.

This Nicholas Sarkozy, hardline anti-immigrant that he is, has spoken quite publically of his desire to “clean out the housing projects with a “Kärcher” (a high pressusre steam cleaning machine)” and he calls these kids “scum.” Then two cops chase some kids into a high voltage substation, they die, and hey, it’s “Fuck the police!” time.

You will notice that the only people focusing on the Islamic heritage of these rioters are the, uh, factually challenged, and the Hugh Hewitts (“Death to Muslims! Death to Muslims! Death to Muslims! It goes on like that.”) of the world who want to promote the outrageous theory that this is somehow Al Qaeda’s doing. I mean, hello? As Roger Stevenson said in the article I linked to up there- “Steyn’s comments make you wonder if he has even ever set foot in the country let alone done any meaningful research on the social conditions in France’s HLM housing developments.”

I mean, I guess if you want to just assume all A-rabs are scimitar-totin’, suicide bombin’, camel ridin’ jihadists, you can make up your mind to do it. However, you’re gonna be like teflon to credibility for anyone who is not blinded by bigotry.

I mean, it would be like blaming the Watts riots on Yoruba or seeing the Selma marchers on television and loudly decrying the AME Church for trying to overthrow the US Government.

Y’know, wackyland.

yeah, yeah, price of gas, blahblah… but what did you do about it?

Me? I bought an ’88 Honda Accord for $100. It had a clogged intake valve pickup screen in the tank and it needed CV joints. The rotors were warped and it need a flush of the brake lines, but now that all of that is done (Thanks, Mike!), it’s a lean, mean, gas-sipping machine.

The little intake filter/cone thing was an interesting problem. The engine wasn’t getting fuel regularly, but if you have the car a good shake (like, say, putting it up in a tow truck and then putting it down again) it would start right up, run for a bit, then die again. Maddening. This is where the assistance of an experienced mechanic is REALLY handy. It’s music to my ears when Mike says “Oh, ’88 Accord? I’ve seen this before, and it’s easy!” He pulled the intake valve pickup screen out, and it’s got this microscreen on it. It’s finer than a coffee filter. He sprayed it thoroughly with carb cleaner (all this amber/brown goo apparently ran right off), put it back in, and voila! Runs like a top.

A good mechanic is like a magician, sometimes. Part psychic, part psychiatrist, part wizard.

So yeah, now I have this zippy little car that’s getting something like 30 mpg, has an immaculate interior and a straight body. I have less than a thousand bucks in it.

AND, my battered old Benz, which left here needing $2000 worth of ball joints, steering box, oil cooler hoses, an injector and god knows what else (I mean, it had 500k miles on it), is now on its way to being a friend’s project car. He’s going to fix everything that’s broke and convert it to run on vegetable oil.

Everybody’s happy, and everyone’s going to be using less gas. Win, win, win.

Er, are you sure you want to hold that position, Senator?

The fatcats are on the carpet today, and the fur is flying.

Fireworks started early at a Senate hearing into high oil prices and record industry profits Wednesday as Democrats and Republicans sparred over whether energy executives should have to swear to tell the truth before the panel.

The hearing comes as consumers face a jump of 50 percent or more in home heating bills this winter. Gasoline prices are nearly 20 percent higher than a year ago, though they have retreated in recent weeks.

Senate Commerce Chairman Ted Stevens rejected calls by some Democrats to have the executives sworn in, saying the law already required them to tell the truth.

Uh, Senator… are you kidding? Do these guy have electrodes attached to you somewhere you don’t want to talk about? Do you really want to be firmly lodged into the public consciousness as the guy who stood up for the greediest fuckers on the planet’s right to lie to the American people?

Talk about your Bridge to Nowhere… Keep it up, Senator. Seriously.

Cheney’s numbers in perspective

I am sort of late to the game on this, but I wanted to makes sure that you had seen Bob Harris’ blog entry putting Cheney’s approval numbers in perspective.

Dick Cheney, in the same poll, has a 19 percent approval rating.

19 percent.

That’s two points less popular than cheating on your spouse and seven points behind corporal punishment in schools.

That’s down in what can be politely called lunatic territory. As I’ve been pointing out for years, twenty or thirty percent of Americans believe any insane thing you can imagine.

Dick Cheney is now 18 points behind the number of people who believe alien beings have secretly contacted the U.S. government.

Bush, similarly, now trails the number of people who think astrology is scientific by five points.

Scottie McClellan, however, can still spin things: Bush only trails the aliens by two points.

I think we have a much better idea of what “wingnut territory” actually looks like, now that we have read that.