Monday, June 18, 2007

Sarkozy and the children

There are many and varied responses to the recent election of Sarko, including many asides during a recent concert by Renaud. But this one made me giggle a bit.

I found it while looking through the other acts that will be at the 6th Aperos Musicales in Blesle from 10th to 14th August. It looks like a great long weekend, and one that includes our newly-formed Samba Massif. We will be leading the torchlight procession to the last night firework display.

Our first booked appearance will be a little before that though, at the 'Festival des Créatifs' on the evening of 3rd August at Domeyrat where this photograph was taken at a rehearsal in May.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Sarkozy's reign has started

France is a place for strong-minded individuals. Pig-headed, stubborn, selfish and utterly incapable of taking a collective view of the world, even at a very local level. If I've heard the expression 'J'ai le droit', ('I've got the right') once, I've heard it many many hundreds of times. Rights impose themselves upon other rights. And when they overlap, those that shout loudest, or otherwise impose themselves most effectvely, win. It is a dog eat dog world.

Which is why I think that the French state is so controlling, interventionist and even socialist at times. With such an anarchic mix of individuals battling out their rights, it would otherwise be very hard for anyone not prepared or able to fight for their right to live, eat, learn or whatever.

My rants are often about this very controlling culture. But this one is about the strident, polemic individuals, and what releasing them from their social bonds will do in France under Sarkozy. I fear a post-revolutionary anarchy in some watered-down 21st century form.

Speaking of watered-down, surely the definition of tee-total needs to be re-written after this recent display at the G8 summit.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Mobile phone masts - and mobile phone service - and politicians

The whole set came together today when one of the candidates for the legislature in France came round to the Mairie to press the flesh and listen. Some of those who want our new mobile phone mast moved to more than 500m from the nearest house were there to raise that issue. All that on the day that one of the new kids on the block in the mobile phone market, well round here anyway, started getting arsy with us for being wholly unimpressed with their complete lack of service. This reminded me of a post by Seth here.

So we've got a strategy for the mobile phone company's lack of service, either the contract never existed, since they never, ever, even for a second provided anything resembling a mobile phone service, a technical service or a customer service. In which case we will pay them nothing. Or, the contract does exist, or will exist when they supply some kind of service, and when they provide it, we'll pay for it.

The strategy for the mast is more tricky. As I've said, it's turned into a bit of an us and them stand-off in the 'commune', although we do still have two vociferous locals opposing the thing. The rest of the population, or at least the council and their fans, are not interested in any kind of discussion about it.

What's our stratgey? Well, the aim of the Association is to get the thing at least 500m from houses. So that's clear enough. As for what we do to achieve that I don't know. Finding out more is one thing. Tagging along with any other similar efforts in the country is another. And in the meantime, do we wait until anyone discovers they have leukemia? Or do we move? And what if another mast turns up there; the area still has its coverage gaps.

One thing we won't be doing is counting on the support of the local deputy who visited this afternoon. He shrugged his shoulders about that, about the elderly population's increasing isolation as services in rural areas fall away, about the 1,000 farmers (25% of the district's farmers) who are on the brink of bankruptcy this year. He shrugged his shoulders at just about everything. He's been the incumbent for the past 30 years. I must assume his constituency is urban dwellers in work and paying taxes. He's not interested in anyone else.

Do I sound cynical? I suppose I do.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Round 1 to the bullies

I'm wasn't really surprised to see the crane roll out of the village yesterday having hauled the new telephone mast to vertical while it was bolted into position. The public meeting involved well-prepared bullies shouting down any opposition with a mixture of technical language and flagrant lies. Between the demonstartions stopping the work and the public meeting, the locals in the quickly-formed association who opposed the siting of the mast within 500m of houses were also nobbled. The association immediately became incomers versus locals, and that sealed the mast's fate. The clear divisions in the local community brought a smug smile to the faces of the guys from TDF and Bouyges Telecom.

So we have a new generation mobile phone mast capaple of delivering TV and streaming video to mobile phones locally, and of course transmitting signals around 20 miles to the others in the network. The nearest houses are 200m away, while in other parts of the world a precautionary distance of 500m is increasingly being recommended or imposed as part of planning consent.

The question now is what we do here. The association still feels that it's worth trying to inform the rest of the local community about what research we've found about the biological effects of these things, not least because there are still places where there is no coverage that will no doubt see the siting of more masts in the coming months. Some also feel its worth starting or contributing to a national campaign to get a precautionary distance of 500m set at national level.

Mind you, this is the country that denied for years that there were any effects from Chernobyl on France. The cloud somehow mysteriously passed throughout Europe, leaving France completely untouched. I'm not optimistic that they will go for a 500m exclusion zone for mobile phone masts.

If folks are interested, I can post links to the research we've found...