August 26, 2006

Some kill, some die

Posted in France, Israel, Media at 8:29 pm by billdawson

Bias? Maybe, maybe not. But I thought it was interesting. A screen capture from CNN.COM’s World section earlier today:

diekill.png

In one headline, Israelis “kill”. In the other, French “die”. The stories indicate that the Israelis shot a Palestinian who was hurling explosives and the French died when killed by “insurgents” in Afghanistan.

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November 9, 2005

Thoughts on the rioting in France

Posted in Eurabia, France at 5:12 am by billdawson

[editor’s note: this post was “pasted” in — it appeared originally at the old Dawson’s Danube site, which is archived here.]

It’s interesting to go around “our” side of the blogosphere — where “we” is defined as those who generally support the current U.S. administration, particularly in foreign policy — and read the bloggers grappling over to what degree there is an islamist element to the French riots. Powerline’s Paul seems to believe that Islamist leaders may be directing disaffected foot soldiers. Captain Ed takes the suggestion further by noting evidence of planned Muslim attacks in France and other countries.

On the other side we have people like Stephen Schwartz and Ralph Peters, who insist that the socio-economic factors that have been cited as reasons for the rioting are not just a bunch of bleeding heart baloney. Schwartz writes about his personal experiences:

Observing the gap between the French and their neighbors of North African origin, I learned another disturbing truth: that the latter had a deep fear of the Parisian police. I had more ready cash than my comrades, and one Friday night invited them all to go with me to the wonderful urban district of Saint-Michel, with its glamorous cafés, bookshops, and lots of cute girls. Saleh and Cherif refused. They said they were not safe in Saint-Michel on weekend nights, even though both possessed legal status and were quite respectable in their dress and manners, notwithstanding their radical politics. They told me that even with their papers in order North Africans living in Paris could be picked up by the police without any pretext, beaten, and even killed.

Ralph Peters is very outspoken about the French “apartheid system”:

Utterly devoid of self-awareness, the French cherish their image of America as racist. (…) In France, the non-white poor never have a chance of any kind.

France has no Colin Powell or Condi Rice, no minority heading the equivalent of a Fortune 500 company, no vibrant minority political culture. When Americans who adore la vie en France go to Paris (the intelligentsia’s Orlando), they don’t visit the drug-and-crime-plagued slums. If tourists encounter a Moroccan or a Senegalese “Frenchman,” he’s cleaning up the sidewalks after the dogs of the bourgeoisie.

Peters ends with this: “Meanwhile, every American who believes in racial equality and human dignity should sympathize with the rioters, not with the effete bigots on the Seine.”

I’m not going to pretend to have any kind of insight into French society, so I have no idea who’s right and who’s wrong in this argument. The only thing that matters to me is the most important point of all, a point which many commentators on “our” side of the blogosphere — commentators on both sides of the Islamist-or-Socioeconomic argument — have stressed. The point is this: irrespective of whether Islamicism is the chicken or the egg in this situation, one thing is for darn sure, and that’s that the Islamists will make every effort they can to take advantage of this situation. The people in the western world who are on the “other side” — the side that despises the current administration and America in general — won’t admit it (or can’t see it), but Islamists are at war with the West. Allow me to repeat that word: war. W-A-R. Though we in the west often fail to take this seriously, the Islamists have no such problem. They know they are at war, they do not hesitate to admit it, and their seriousness about it means that they will make use of every battleground they can reach. If the French battleground is open to them thanks to chaos and insecurity, then they will use it. Period.

Now for more random thoughts — thinking out loud — about the situation in France:

  • As someone who lives in a European city with a large Muslim minority, it’s interesting to compare Vienna with Paris. Paris has this phenomenon of ghetto-suburbs, which, if I’m not mistaken (and I could well be), is utterly absent here in Austria. Turkish people make up the largest segment of the Muslim minority and I think of them as living much more directly in the city than in any kind of suburbs around the city. I’m definitely no expert, by the way, since I never go to the suburbs here (I just have no reason to.)
  • In thinking more about Peters and Schwartz (see above), I have to wonder this: if the allegations that the French are so chauvinistic are true, why are there so many Muslims living in France? Nidra Poller, in another article which, like Schwartz’s, appears at Tech Central Station, poses the question this way:

Of course the French have been known for shabby treatment of the people they colonized, including Africans, Arab-Muslim immigrants, and Black citizens of the overseas territories and departments. But this is only half the story. The colonies have been independent for fifty years. What have they done with their independence? If the French are so nasty, why are millions of Muslims pouring in from all sides, by all means, legal and illegal, forthright and stealthy, justified and unjustified? Why are some of those “immigrant” children and grandchildren sacking and burning schools instead of taking advantage of the education that is offered to them? [my emphasis]

  • No matter who is right about the chicken-and-egg question of Islamicism versus Socio-economic factors at play in France, the questions about Islamicism, or even Islam in general and what role it plays or does not play among the rioting youths, is certainly a valid one that should be brought up. Yet, two nights ago, I saw the TV news on Germany’s SAT.1 and noticed that they made it through a full report on the French situation without ever once mentioning the dreaded M or I words.
  • In a few different places today I’ve seen mention of the popularity of rap music among the rioting French youths. One of those places was an article at the website of the Austrian daily, Der Standard. That article mentions, among others, rappers IAM and NTM (these links point to english-language biographies at RFIMusique.) Time Magazine’s website includes an commentary by French (and muslim) rapper, Medine.
  • My favorite quote amongst all of the blogosphere articles I perused today was this: “Instead of creating tomorrow’s jobs, Europe protects yesterday’s.” (Ralph Peters).

September 17, 2005

The Elderly: Helpless and Left to Die. Don’t know about it? Well it didn’t happen in the USA.

Posted in France, Katrina at 9:29 pm by billdawson

[editor’s note: this post was “pasted” in — it appeared originally at the old Dawson’s Danube site, which is archived here.]
The outrageous coverage of Hurricane Katrina here in Austria and Germany has included many references to “third world” similarities. See, for example, Ray’s blog posting concerning Stern magazine’s editorial, “Somalia in America’s South.” The sneering arrogance, the gruesome Schadenfreude and the completely over the top moralizing reminded me of something that occurred two years ago in the United States, which also elicited “third world” references.

You will recall that on August 14, 2003, an enormous power failure occurred across a huge chunk of the United States and parts of Canada. On September 5, 2003, I made the following blog entry here:

Third World?

After the blackout that hit the US and Canada, the next issue of Austria’s profil magazine contained a two-page story titled “A Bit of the Third World” and with the following eye-catching pull-quote:

Why would George W. Bush want to fix up Baghdad’s infrastructure, when there is so much to repair at home?

Clever! Whoa, that’s like really puttin’ things in perspective for me!

This “article” is not labeled as an opinion piece or guest column; it’s just an “article” in the International section of this weekly news magazine. But I’ll translate the first paragraph and you tell me if you think this “article” is actually an opinion piece written by someone who is obsessed with … you guessed it:

One thing you can always say about George W. Bush: he makes himself scarce in frightening situations. On [9/11] … he found himself in Florida and last week, as large parts of the northeast fell into darkness, he was fortunate enough to be in San Diego collecting dough for his reelection campaign, though things were looking gloomy on the other side of the american continent.

This is an opinion piece, whether or not they label it as such. It is written by Martin Kilian. I assume this is Martin Kilian, professional America-hater, who writes for Weltwoche (Switzerland).

The blackout occurred 14. August, and this Kilian “article” appeared in the 18. August issue of profil. I tell you that just to give you a bit of an idea of when one might expect an article about a major event to first appear on the newsstands.

On 11. August, Le Figaro first reported that “the heat wave is killing people” in France.

On 14. August, according to the Washington Post, French government officials reported that at least 3,000 people had died from the heat wave.

By the 21st, the Post reported that the French government had acknowledged that up to 10,000 people may have died.

On 29. August, this CNN report indicated that the toll was actually over 11,000.

Wouldn’t you say that 11,000 deaths from heat in a modern and industrialized country such as France could also be compared to the “Third World”? Okay, maybe that’s unfair — we don’t want to be like Kilian, after all. But at least it’s some pretty big news! Or is it?

The 18. August, 25. August and 1. September issues of profil, as far as I can tell, make absolutely no mention whatsoever of the heat deaths in France..

I later followed-up with a few other postings, including:

You know where I’m going with all of this… In light of the press’s treatment of the Katrina situation, it is worth revisiting their absolute silence over a nearby catastrophe — totally preventable in ways that the Katrina catastrophe was not — of almost unbelievable proportions.

When I sat down to write about this today, I realized I had not “checked the facts” since September of 2003. In much the same way that projections about Katrina’s death toll could turn out to have been wildly off, perhaps the original reports about the deaths during France’s 2003 heatwave also ended up being exaggerations.

They were not exaggerations. Eurosurveillance (“Peer-reviewed European information on communicable disease surveillance and control”), an organization that is funded by the European Commission and which, in 2005, “embarked on the process of becoming the regular scientific communication of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)”, recently published a report entitled “Summary of the mortality impact assessment of the 2003 heat wave in France.”

The analysis of death certificates given by the departmental health offices allowed InVS to produce a first estimate on 28 August of 11 435 excess deaths (excess of 55%) between 1 and 15 August 2003 [2]. On 25 September, INSERM estimated the cumulative excess deaths between 1 and 20 August at 14 800 (excess of 60%) [1].The impact was greater for women (70% increase in excess total mortality) than for men (40% increase in excess mortality)(1). This was the case even for same age groups. Excess mortality reached 20% in the 45-74 year age group, 70% in the 75-94 year age group and 20% in people aged 94 years and over [1].
INSERM also showed that during the last third of the month of August and the month of September the mortality had reached the usual level [3]. October and November 2003 showed the usual death rates in every region.

(…)

The impact was greater for women (70% increase in excess total mortality) than for men (40% increase in excess mortality)(1). This was the case even for same age groups. Excess mortality reached 20% in the 45-74 year age group, 70% in the 75-94 year age group and 20% in people aged 94 years and over [1]

[see the original for footnote references]

Paris itself experienced a disastrous 142% excess in the mortality rate, meaning more than twice the usual number of people died there between August 1 and August 19, 2003. This occurred even though the temperature delta in Paris (+6.7) was no higher than, say, Toulouse (+6.6), where the mortality rate suffered an excess of “just” 36%.

To put Paris’s numbers in a Katrina perspective: according to today’s New York Times online, the death toll in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida — which, I know, will rise — stands at 812. The excess death count in Paris alone between August 1 and August 19, 2003, was more than double the current Katrina figure: 1,854. And these were deaths from heat. I don’t mean to underestimate heat, which I know can be a terrible killer of human beings. But I just don’t believe that the heat wave of 2003 can be compared to a Category 4–5 hurricane putting an entire major city under water.

These numbers from France were and are extremely tragic and sad. Yet let me tell you the following with great certainty:

Athough France is only a hop, skip, and a jump away from Austria…

  • These staggering figures are basically unknown to the general Austrian public.
  • While a massive and preventable human catastrophe occurred within 800 miles of Vienna, Austria’s most significant political and news weekly magazine, profil, remained absolutely silent about it. (Note: I did not track other magazines, such as the usual German suspects Stern and Der Spiegel.)
  • Every Austrian Tom, Dick and Harry (Tomas, Richard und Harald) knows with certainty that a) the American South (thousands and thousands of miles away) just experienced a massive hurricane; b) it was George W. Bush’s fault that assistance was not as timely as it should have been; c) a major American city descended into third-world chaos; d) surely nothing similar could ever happen in Austria.

I want to close by noting something that I think is important. I realize the gruesome and somewhat catty nature of a tit-for-tat blog entry that compares and contrasts natural disasters in order to make a political point. It’s embarrassing even to discuss the French tragedy in these terms. But the overwhelming bias and arrogance displayed by the European media towards the United States should not go unanswered. The seering heat in the fever swamps of the European press offices blinds its occupants to nearby tragedies that cannot be blamed on the United States. For the sake of a hopeful, future return to sense and balance, the double-standards and hypocrisies must be exposed whenever they are as glaringly obvious as they are in the case of these two natural disasters.

[If you are interested in seeing some of the things web-accessible articles I have read in connection with Katrina, the U.S. government response, and the French heat wave of 2003, you can visit my del.icio.us bookmarks at http://del.icio.us/billdawson/katrina.]

July 15, 2005

More lessons in the superiority of European diplomacy

Posted in France at 9:48 am by billdawson

[editor’s note: this post was “pasted” in — it appeared originally at the old Dawson’s Danube site, which is archived here.]
(Hat tip LGF.)

Don’t forget that the Americans are far inferior to the Europeans when it comes to successful diplomacy. We all know that, don’t we?

The smooth Jacques Chirac shows us how superior they really are:

You are so lucky that you’re not British, Chirac tells his people

By the way, that headline might be a tad unfair: he is nowhere in the article quoted as saying exactly that. But he’s certainly an arsch, nonetheless.

Those of us who would like to see the EU become more free-market oriented don’t find any comfort in this bit:

He also insisted that he would “not make the least concession” to Mr Blair in his campaign to reform EU farm spending and would fight his attempts to open Europe’s service market to competition.

July 6, 2005

American diplomacy can’t compete with Chirac

Posted in France at 8:54 pm by billdawson

[editor’s note: this post was “pasted” in — it appeared originally at the old Dawson’s Danube site, which is archived here.]

The great political minds of contemporary Europe are always quick to label the United States as diplomatically inept. But I ask you seriously: throughout all of the international diplomatic mayhem of the last four years, do you ever recall the U.S. president acting undiplomatically or making blatantly undiplomatic comments? I don’t recall any. There must have been some, but they don’t spring to mind.

Meanwhile, the country that we tend to consider the “most European”, France, has a president who is constantly making offensive remarks. If any single leader of a “big” (say, G8) country can be considered diplomatically inept, it is the leader of that most european of nations. This week, while so much has been coming out about Jacques Chirac’s anti-Britain campaign, I remembered that one of my first “blog” entries (before I dared use the term “blog”) was concerning Chirac’s ridiculous attack on some of the newer EU member states for supporting American efforts in Iraq.

I guess nobody can hope to topple President Bush’s position as the most hated man in the world, but surely Chirac should be given a shot at the title.

May 27, 2005

Spiegel, I have a new Gleichschaltung topic for you!

Posted in EU, France at 10:14 pm by billdawson

[editor’s note: this post was “pasted” in — it appeared originally at the old Dawson’s Danube site, which is archived here.]
You know that Germany’s Der Spiegel and others are convinced — or, probably more accurately, pretend to be convinced — that the U.S. media is gleichgeschaltet, meaning it tows the U.S. government’s line. They like to suggest that there is no opposition media in the United States. I say “suggest”, because these intelligent German “elites” know full well that there is more variety in the U.S. media than the Germans could even dream of having in their own country.

So rather than trying to twist the truth to get the public to believe in a gleichgeschaltet American media, why doesn’t Der Spiegel turn their eyes to their neighbor and co-Big-Guy in the EU, France? Kosmoblog points out a Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung piece wherein the author wonders what’s going on with the French press in the EU Constitution debate:

Kein Blatt mit einer Auflage von mehr als 50.000 Exemplaren plädiert für das Nein. Bilden die großen Medien des Landes unter dem Diktat des Staatspräsidenten eine Meinungsdiktatur, in der ausschließlich Propaganda für das Ja betrieben wird? Not a single paper with a print-run of greater than 50,000 pleads the case for the No campaign. Are the big media of France, dictated by the President, forming an opinion dictatorship (Meinungsdiktatur) to push propaganda solely for the Yes campaign?

The author has at least one very specific case in mind:

Daß in den letzten Wochen gerade beim “Figaro” ein Kurswechsel stattgefunden hat, ist jedem Leser klar. Inzwischen wird vermutet, daß der neue Besitzer der Zeitung, Serge Dassault, auf Druck von Chirac interveniert. Der Waffenhändler Dassault ist eher als Euroskeptiker bekannt und wütend auf die Polen, die amerikanische Flugzeuge kaufen. Aber das Wohlergehen seiner Firmen, dank deren Gewinnen er sein Presseimperium erwerben konnte, ist von den Aufträgen des Staates abhängig. Das mag Chirac, dessen politisches Überleben vom Ausgang der Abstimmung abhängig ist, Dassault in Erinnerung gerufen haben. Dessen siebzig Tageszeitungen plädieren in ihren Leitartikeln für das Ja. It’s clear to every reader that a change of course has occurred at “Figaro” in the last few weeks. Some suspect that the new owner of the newspaper, Serge Dassault, has intervened under pressure from Chirac. The weapons maker [i.e., arms producer] Dassault is known to be a Euro-sceptic and is angry at Poland for buying American jets. But the well-being of his company, thanks to whose profit he has been able to build a media empire, is dependent on state contracts. Chirac, whose political survival depends on the vote, could perhaps have reminded Dassault of this; his seventy [?!] daily newspapers support the Yes in their editorials.

Wow, Spiegel, take this and run with it! It’s even got defense industry overtones — a kind of French Halliburton thing.