Islands in the Info-Stream
Midwest, Northeast, and on the way home May 30 - June 5, 2007
I didn't make it to one of those great bakeries on the west coast but I ate two dips of scrumptious Babcock ice cream--in the student union at my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin--and enjoyed a memorable lunch at Gray Bros. Cafeteria in Mooresville Indian, just outside of Indianapolis.
Wisconsin ice cream is The Very Best! We can get Amorino Italian gelati, Haagen Dazs, Ben & Jerry's, and the famous miniature-scoop Berthillon in Paris, but there's nothing to match Wisconsin ice cream and as far as I can tell (editors and readers will correct me if I'm wrong) you can't get it anywhere else. So many local specialties have gone international, it's a wonder that this world-class ice cream has stayed home
Gray Bros. is a hot spot for country cooking. Down home folks who look like they just hopped off the tractor or came in from the fields, white-haired customers who have been eating there since they were kids, long farm tables, a country fair array of main dishes and deserts...I'd trade it for a passel of NY restaurants any day. OK, maybe that's not a good enough comparison. I'll remember it for a good long time.
I chose a crispy, tasty, juicy meaty fried chicken thigh, mashed potatoes with brown gravy, and a piece of cherry pie. They must grow their own chickens out in the backyard, because that thigh was as good as the farm chickens I buy at my neighborhood open market in Paris.
Food is a wonderful subject, and I'd gladly elaborate further, but I'm flying back to Paris tomorrow; time, as usual, squinches up in the last hours like a bunch of deadlines caught in a printer jam, politics is thumping on both shores of the Atlantic, and my attention is hurtling like jai lai balls back and forth between France and the US.
Scooter Libby sentenced to 30 months in prison and a $250,000 fine?
The plot to blow up JFK airport hatched between NY, Trinidad, Venezuela, and Iran!
President Bush drawn and quartered between anti-war zealots, anti-illegal immigrationists, and antiglobalization fascists.
Lebanon exploding in its contradictions.
A judge in Metz (France) stabbed by an irate mother whose name is withheld to protect the guilty.
A front page article in the Capital Times (Madison, Wis.) sings the praises of Cindy Sheehan.
Democratic candidates fall all over themselves to get out of Iraq.
A member of the audience in Madison is so shocked by my comments on Muslims and jihad that she interrupts the question & answer session to "speak out or else walk out."
Palestine PM Ismael Haniyeh declares that the recognition of Israel has been settled "in our political literature, in our Islamic thought and in our jihadist culture, on which we base our moves. Recognition of Israel is out of the question."
These items plucked from breaking news, streaming information, scattered clippings, and smatterings of public opinion, look like fish of all sizes and colors swimming around an aquarium in a seemingly random pattern...trying to figure out if they are in a safe well lighted room, or a sewer, or going down the drain.
Now let us zoom in on a real-life incident that took place in a municipal swimming pool in the northeastern cathedral city of Reims on the 18th of April.
As reported in the CRIF (Jewish umbrella organization) Newsletter, citing Lib√©ration, a 15 year-old boy is charged with insulting and assaulting a 46 year-old handicapped wheelchair-bound woman who asked him and his friends to move out of the special handicapped lane where she was swimming. When the boy saw that she was wearing a Jewish star, he spewed anti-Semitic insults, dove underwater, came up and hit her so hard in the back that she will be out of work for three months. The assailant is, as they say, "known to the police." That means he's been in trouble before.
Elsewhere, in a southern French city, a handicapped man came to the rescue of a woman who was molested by a 17 year-old Maghrebi, also known to the police. The molester tipped over the wheelchair, knocking the man to the ground, and started beating on him. A black man restrained the assailant, who broke loose and ran away but was arrested the next day.
The irate mother who stabbed a judge three times in the stomach because he extended the placement of her three year-old son with his paternal grandparents, had walked into the courthouse concealing a kitchen knife with a 20 cm blade. There is no doubt as to her identity, and yet it was not revealed. Judges are asking for better protection, though the media showed that the metal detector portals at most courthouses stand unused.
Furthermore, the courts have established a reputation for extreme leniency in judging criminals. Would they be more severe when the victims are from their own corporation? Justice Minister Rachida Datti was on the scene in short order, promising concrete measures. Violence against government officials, hospital personnel, teachers, bus drivers, firemen and policemen...and people in wheelchairs has increased sharply in the past decade and almost always comes from one particular sector of French society.
Problems that are not defined cannot be solved. So what do you do when defining the problem is treated as a crime?
The Ft. Dix plotters, the JFK schemers, the liquid gel airplane bombers, Nasrallah, Haniyeh, Ahmadinejad, and the Fatah al Islam jihadis in Palestinian camps in Lebanon do not hide their plans or motives. They all brew their stew from the same jihadi cookbook. They have the same goals and use the same methods, but public opinion is handed the menu as if each incident were a brand new plat du jour. These "isolated incidents" run together, covering our TV screens with wall-to-wall jihad, and still it seems like the picture can't get focused.
Little Red Riding Hood Democratic candidates are putting all their eggs in one anti-war basket and dancing through the woods on the way to see their grandmother. Buoyed by media that have been whipping up a sea of moral confusion, they may end up drowning in foam. Their disingenuous cynicism is almost touching. I watch them competing for the biggest brightest antiwar medals, and I chuckle. Don't they see? It's like the French Left's "anything but Sarkozy" campaign. Their slogan is "anything but war," and it seems like a sure thing; who's going to run on an "I love war" ticket?
But it won't work. Because jihadis are too impatient. They won't plot and scheme quietly, deftly bring fine-tuned plans to fruition, swoosh the antiwarriors into office, and then scoop us all into their dhimmitude basket like autumn leaves.
Jihadis always jump the gun and there are a whole lot of guns to be jumped between now and November 2008.
Anti-war rhetoric is posited on a static world in which hindsight pretends to be foresight; it doesn't hold the road. Republican candidates will be keeping an eye on the Sarkozy victory. The media tried every way possible to portray him as the bad guy but voters looked at concrete realities and chose the candidate who showed he does not back down under PC pressure.
The people will choose the candidate who is most forceful on hot issues like snatching Scooter Libby out of the fires that have been consuming, one by one, Bush-Cheney's trusted and trustworthy advisors, enforcing a bit of "immigration and national identity" on the southern border, defining and fighting jihad. Giuliani got my vote in the New Hampshire debate. His vision is sharper, his scope is broader, he's more forthright and more articulate than the other Republican hopefuls. And he will defeat the Democratic candidate.
How are things developing in France, on the eve of the first round of the legislative elections? What happened to that iffy majority your mainstream media were toying with last month? Sarkozy's UMP is poised to win 420 to 460 out of a total of 555 seats in the Assembl√©e nationale (they currently hold 350)-a resounding victory.
The erstwhile third man, the over-rated Centrist Fran√ßois Bayrou with his cobbled-together MoDem party is predicted to get from 0 to 4 seats. Extreme Left and Extreme Right parties are not expected to do much better.
Fran√ßois Hollande is losing his grip on the Socialist party while S√©gol√®ne Royal's smile has lost its power to electrify the crowd. Her latest bright idea is a citizen's movement to force schools to enroll handicapped children. You may recall that this was the issue she chose for her righteous indignation fit during the May 2nd debate. She accused the UMP government of amputating the program when in fact these enrollments have steadily increased, though it must be added that the problems of their integration are too complex to be solved so simply. Having lost the debate and the election, and certain to lose the legislature as well, Royal falls back to street fighting. She suggests that groups of fifteen to fifty adults accompany each handicapped child, storm the public schools, and demand their integration.
So that they can grow up to be toppled over, kicked, pummeled and stomped by "youths known to the police" and, incidentally, coddled by the anti-Sarkozy Left?
That's the reality gap that cost the Socialists the election. It seems to be growing ever larger in Great Britain, where the boycott-Israel movement has picked up steam. Full speed backwards!
A big anti-Israel demonstration is planned for this coming weekend in London and who cares what's happening in Lebanon. The center of Beirut is dead, strangled by a six-month Hizbullah siege. As we approach the anniversary of the Gaza Beach Massacre hoax, the Lebanese army is firing into the Nahr al Bared camp for hours on end; there's no need to photoshop the smoke plumes but casualty figures are inked out and NGOs haven't gone into the camp to take pictures of dead children with teddy bears. Washington Post columnists still think that Europeans don't like us because we aren't nice. Too much greenhouse gas, too many boots on the ground.
As I take off for Paris, I'll be looking back at my homeland, stretching in freedom from sea to shining sea. The United States of America, infinitely improvable.
Frequent traveler that I am, I leave a bit of my heart at every...why can't I find the English word for "escale"? At every stop? Exasperatingly beautiful-ugly New York. Luscious Florida vegetation perfumed with Miami Beach memories. Virginia woods. Wisconsin lakes. Downtown Madison by the light of the full moon, sweeping from the statehouse to the Frank Lloyd Wright designed convention center, white turrets, globe lights, and a round yellow moon.
Streets running straight and flat from here to eternity in Indianapolis, lined with modern buildings, stately homes, or a Hispanic jumble of shops, eateries, churches, and storefront law offices.
Then I came to a French bistro in Florida. The French young couple just picked up, eight months ago, and took over an existing restaurant in a strip mall. She told me that they worked too hard and earned too little in France. I asked her what she thought about our new president. She hesitated, √† la fran√ßaise (traditionally it is easier to talk about your extra-marital affairs than to say how you voted) before replying like an American: "I don't think S√©gol√®ne Royal had anything to offer our country."
Then I asked √† la fran√ßaise: "Would you think of going back, if things change?"
"Not for the moment," she replied.
Man, and woman, and restaurateurs do not live by bread alone.