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Remembering Le Carillon, the Best Dive Bar in Paris and a Target of Terrorists

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I never saw a photo of Le Carillon until Friday night.

But I've stood right there, out front, too many times to count. Smoking, talking, laughing. Mostly laughing. I've sat outside on the jammed terrace and I've probably sat on every chair, stool, couch, coffee table and window ledge in the entire bar. I've even sat on the toilet seats—but only when too wasted to pop a squat.

I first went to Le Carillon to get obliterated. My boyfriend at the time was away working in Angola. I felt abandoned, and was mad at myself for feeling abandoned. Despite the fact that I was getting instructions over the phone, it took me a while to find. I'd assumed it was called "Le Carry On," like the British comedy films. I spelt it out to the taxi driver and he told me, correctly, that it didn't exist. But perhaps I meant the Le Carillon?

I loved it from the minute I walked in, because I could walk straight up to the bar and order a drink—a miracle in Paris's packed 10th arrondissement on a Friday night. The beer was a little watery and the pint glasses carelessly filled up only three-quarters of the way (like everywhere in the city), the wine was cheap, and the mojitos were wildly inconsistent. Along with a couple of friends and colleagues, equally favorable to obliteration, it became my local.

It wasn't hard to feel at home at Le Carillon. The place was packed with furniture: wooden and metal chairs, springless couches and divans, tables of varying heights, sizes, and varnishes. There was a piano in the corner, an impossible stack of records and a set of slanted bookshelves that contained no books. None of the walls were painted the same color, if at all. A tabby cat slept on the piano, or if the bar was nearly empty, in one particular armchair. The cat didn't like to be pet, but sometimes it would slink outside and sit just far enough away from the smokers to maintain its cool.

The owners, two Algerian brothers and a family friend, could be rude, charming and nonchalant all in one night. They often forced caramel vodka shots on us, which smelt like synthetic sugar and tasted like turpentine. If we stayed late enough and accepted enough compliments, we were treated to a lock-in, and handed more caramel vodka shots. We howled with laughter, danced on the bar, threw up in the toilet, went home in tears.

An elderly Indian guy selling roses came in at the same time every night. Unlike most bars, he was allowed to stay and peddle his wares. He had such a kind face, it hurt not to buy a rose. Tired of taking them home ourselves, we'd buy one anyway and have him present it to an unsuspecting couple, falling about in delight when they smiled, laughed or even—jackpot!—kissed.

Le Carillon didn't stay uncrowded for long. It became one of the busiest bars on the block, hosted jazz nights, got gradually younger and more hip, or "bobo," as the French say. Neighborhood mainstay Le Cambodge opened up a shiny new sister restaurant, Le Petit Cambodge, across the street from the bar. The queue at Le Carillon got longer, and yet, we kept going back.

When I left Paris two years ago, I had a going away party at Le Carillon. We ate at the Petit Cambodge first, crowding around bo buns in front of its floor-to-ceiling windows. Then we pranced across the street to join the Carillon horde. We sat inside, outside, maybe even on the toilet seat. We danced a little, but not on the bar. We got kicked off the terrace for making too much noise, and after pleading for some caramel vodka shots—"One last time?"—we finally lurched off into the night.

The next time I saw Le Carillon was on TV on Friday. Unsurprisingly, it hadn't changed at all.

The blackboards at the entrance, promising three euro Amstel pints and free WiFi. The rotten awning, green from years, perhaps decades, of mold. But in place of revelers, police. Bodies under white sheets.

I raced to track down my friends in Paris, and finally exhaled completely when the last confirmed that he was fine. It was horrible, awful, a tragedy, yes, but also so bizarre."They targeted the fucking Carillon?? Le Petit Cambodge??"

Did we miss a memo from al-Baghdadi about the specific evils of Cambodian food and dive bars?

I tried to imagine how the conversation went when the militants singled out these places, along with the Bataclan concert hall and the Belle Equipe restaurant – all in the left-leaning, multi-cultural, agnostic, north-east of the city.

So many questions, but as with all senseless acts of violence, there is no logic worth comprehending, no "aha moment."

I don't have any answers. Just the unease of processing how the quotidian, my former every-Friday-night, became historical last night in a few awful moments. Le Carillon, and the Bataclan, the Petit Cambodge, and the Belle Equipe will become symbols now, shorthand for tragedy. It's hard to square this with what they used to be.

Le Carillon was my favorite bar in Paris. It was a lot of people's favorite bar. I hope it will be again.



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mikevine
1838 days ago
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A beloved business laid low by senseless violence.
Arcadia
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Are 'We' Bombing The Wrong Country?

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Presented with no comment...

 

 

h/t @ianbremmer

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mikevine
1839 days ago
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Even Syrian refugees agree it is not easy to identify the fakes

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BEIRUT — “Everyone in the world is afraid of Syrians right now,” says Mohammad Mohammed. “But that does not mean we are all terrorists.”

The former clothing wholesaler, who fled his home in Edlib when extremist factions took over, was among those gathered outside Beirut’s UN High Commission for Refugees Monday.

Matthew Fisher/Postmedia
Matthew Fisher/Postmedia“Everyone in the world is afraid of Syrians right now,” says Mohammad Mohammed.

But like a million-plus other Syrians registered as refugees in Lebanon, he knows his chances could be worse since the Paris attacks last weekend.

One of the terrorists allegedly came to Europe as a Syrian refugee. Now, questions about screening procedures are being raised in many countries, including Canada, which is set to take 25,000 Syrian refugees in the next six weeks. Some groups are even calling for a cold stop to bringing Syrians across their borders.

The refugees on the street here say they understand the challenge facing anyone assessing who really is a refugee and who isn’t, especially given that Lebanon and other countries in what is a notoriously tough neighbourhood are awash with dubious Syrian documents.

“Every one of us has heard about fake passports and ID cards,” says Mohammed. “It is a business. Some Lebanese are buying them.”

Khaled Ghazawi, who was pouring small cups of thick, sour coffee at $1 a shot, says he’s seen what he believes are “fake” passports in the hands of people from seemingly everywhere — Morocco, Egypt. “I’ve even seen an African woman carrying a Syrian passport and claiming to be a refugee.”

Matthew Fisher/Postmedia
Matthew Fisher/PostmediaKhaled Ghazawi sells coffee for other Syrian refugees while waiting to find out if Canada or some other country will consider him, his wife and six children for resettlement.

The 45-year-old husband and father of six, a former grocery store manager from the brutally contested town of Daraa, says the worst are those he believes “help people get such papers.”

If they are right, says Jihan Ismail, a Lebanese shop clerk, it compounds the challenge of figuring out “who is peaceful and who is a terrorist.”

“It is not easy to identify terrorists,” he says.

Omar Saifeddin, a fruit and vegetable salesman also from Edlib, raises his hand during the street-side discussion.

“You can see that not every finger is the same,” he says. “It is like that with people, too. There are good Syrians and bad Syrians. The problem is that only God knows for sure who is good and bad.”

Matthew Fisher/Postmedia
Matthew Fisher/PostmediaOmar Saifeddin: “There are good Syrians and bad Syrians. The problem is that only God knows for sure who is good and bad.”

Pouring more coffee for the growing crowd, Ghazawi says he understands the latest terror attacks claimed by ISIL “will, of course, have an effect on how foreign governments view us.”

He believes the solution for countries willing to accept Syrian refugees is “really good clearances so you know who the people are that you are accepting. Remember there are many other ways for Daesh (the Arabic acronym for the terrorists) to reach where they want to go other than claiming to be refugees.”

The men also insist taking in current Syrian refugees from Lebanon is a safe prospect: Lebanon ordered the UNHCR to stop registering Syrian refugees about a year ago, and “terrorists won’t want to wait around for years to see if they can go somewhere,” said one.

Mohammed adds he thinks the fear many countries have of refugees is misplaced.

“Canada’s problem is not with Syrian refugees,” he says. “There were French citizens involved in this too, so why aren’t Canadians afraid of them? It is that Daesh is already in many centres overseas — they boast that they are in Canada, too, and I am sure that they are right.”

Meanwhile, Radia Zammar, who had brought her four-year-old granddaughter with her to the UNHCR compound, hadn’t heard about the terror attacks in Beirut or Paris.

‘I am an uneducated woman,” she said. “I have only come here today to beg for help for my daughter who requires kidney dialysis. I am afraid that she is going to die. My son-in-law Ahmed Hajar disappeared last year in Syria and we believe he is dead.

“We are totally without hope.”

National Post

Matthew Fisher/Postmedia
Matthew Fisher/PostmediaRadia Zammar, who had brought her four-year-old granddaughter with her to the UNHCR compound, hadn’t heard about the terror attacks in Beirut or Paris: “I have only come here today to beg for help.”
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mikevine
1839 days ago
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Escalating the War on ISIS Is a Mistake

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Roger Cohen doesn’t want us to be “seduced” by reasonable arguments that point out the shortcomings of military intervention:

To defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq will require NATO forces on the ground. After the protracted and inconclusive Western interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is reasonable to ask if this would not be folly. It is also reasonable to demand – and many will – whether military action will only have the effect of winning more recruits for ISIS as more lives and treasure are squandered. Terrorism, the old nostrum has it, can never be completely defeated.

Such arguments are seductive but must be resisted. An air war against ISIS will not get the job done; the Paris attacks occurred well into an unpersuasive bombing campaign.

In other words, there is a reasonable case that escalation of the war on ISIS is the wrong response to these attacks and that the costs of “destroying” ISIS will likely far exceed the benefits, but we should ignore all of this so that we can get on with the expanded war. As ever, the burden of proof is on the advocates of more aggressive measures, and as always they are failing to show that the more aggressive measures they want will produce the desired results. The danger in the wake of these heinous attacks is not that the U.S. and its allies will be too careful or limited in their response, but that they will overreach and commit themselves to a conflict whose costs they aren’t actually prepared to pay. The argument that needs to be resisted and challenged at the moment is that the best and most appropriate response is a military one, and that is the argument Cohen is making.

It is worth noting here that “NATO forces on the ground” will mean mostly American forces. Besides France and the U.S., there may be a handful of NATO governments both willing and able to contribute to a ground war in Syria, but the burden and costs of any NATO campaign will be borne primarily and overwhelmingly by the U.S. Cohen knows as well as anyone that there is little or no political support for that kind of war here in the U.S., and even the most hawkish presidential candidates are reluctant to say that the president should send large numbers of U.S. forces to fight in Syria. Lots of politicians and pundits want to declare their desire to “eradicate” ISIS, but no one wants to spell out what doing so would cost, how long it would take, and how much longer U.S. and allied forces would have to remain in Syria once the initial campaign was finished. That is because the public would justifiably recoil from an honest assessment of what would be required.

The U.S. just learned the hard way over the last fourteen years that we should be avoiding prolonged, open-ended wars in countries that we don’t understand very well. Plunging even deeper into the war in Syria may seem momentarily satisfying for many people in the West, but we should know by now that the costs will be much higher than we expect, the intervention will not be the remedy that is being promised, and it will create additional, unforeseen problems that will plague us later on. Escalating the war on ISIS is a mistake, but unfortunately it appears to be one that the U.S. and its allies are making without the slightest hesitation.

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mikevine
1839 days ago
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The Pitfalls of France’s War on ISIS

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Noah Feldman identifies some of the pitfalls of France’s decision to label the attacks in Paris “an act of war.” Among other things, it creates expectations that the French government isn’t going to live up to:

The strategic rationale for withholding ground troops hasn’t changed. The U.S. won’t provide any because of public skepticism after the Afghan and Iraqi disasters. And if the U.S. isn’t willing to commit troops, neither is anybody else, from Saudi Arabia to Jordan to, yes, France. The Paris attacks won’t move the needle sufficiently for Hollande to pursue a different course.

That leaves Hollande with no military option but contributing more to the air war. That’s fine, but it points to a deep flaw in his declaration. If Islamic State has really committed an act of war against France, shouldn’t France do more than send a few planes?

Like Obama’s statement that the U.S. would seek to “destroy” ISIS, Hollande’s declaration against ISIS sets a goal that he must know his government can’t achieve at an acceptable cost. Western political leaders seem to think that if they aren’t declaring war on a particular menace that they aren’t taking the problem seriously, and if they are declaring war on a group they have to say they are committed to its eradication. That doesn’t mean that they intend to do what is required to achieve the eradication of the group, nor does it mean that they believe that eradicating it is even possible under the circumstances. All that it really means is that they feel compelled to make the biggest show of hostility towards the group they can think of, and so they treat it as a problem to resolved with military means.

We see again and again how the bias towards “doing something” meets the over-militarization of foreign policy, and so increasingly the preferred response to something terrible is a military one. Whether this successfully addresses the threat or not is almost beside the point, because decisive “action” has been taken. We saw much the same thing in the French decision to start bombing targets in Syria as a bizarre response to the surge in refugees coming into Europe a couple months ago. Bombing Syria could not possibly have reduced the number of refugees fleeing Syria, and yet that was their answer. Military action is often treated as proof of a government’s “toughness” and “resolve,” but it is usually a better measure of how short-sighted and rash it is.

This is also why the talk of invoking Article V to bring NATO nominally into the fight seems misguided. As a practical matter, France and the U.S. were already bombing ISIS of their own accord, so it’s not as if the attacks on Friday created a new set of conditions that oblige the U.S. to do something it wasn’t already doing. The other members of NATO probably will express their solidarity with France in words, but very few of them will be willing or able to do more than that. More to the point, NATO was not intended to be used and should not be used as an umbrella organization to back up other members in their “out-of-area” military campaigns. It has been used that way in the past to the regret of many of the alliance’s members, and NATO governments should think carefully before repeating that same mistake.

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mikevine
1839 days ago
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Too much salt

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Why do most restaurants use an unhealthy amount of salt in the food they serve? I'm talking three to five times as much salt as the typical home chef might use.

For the same reason that lazy marketers spam people and unsophisticated comic book writers use exclamation points.

1. Because it works (for a while). 

Salt is a cheap and reliable way to persuade people that the food is tasty. Over time, it merely makes us ill, but in the moment, it amplifies the flavors. It's way cheaper than using herbs or technique.

And that's why marketers under pressure push the limits in terms of spamming people or offering urgent discounts. And why Batman is so easily caricatured with the word: POW! 

Cheap thrills. Shortcuts. Lazy.

2. Because they've been desensitized.

Cook with enough salt long enough, and nothing tastes salty after a while. And so the lazy shortcut becomes more than a habit, because it's not even noticed.

And so the marketer figures that everyone is used to being treated this way, so he ups the ante. And the other marketers around him are used to it too, so no one says anything.

The solution to all of these problems is it to zero out. Play for the long haul. Take the more difficult route. Surround yourself with people who insist you avoid the shortcut. 

Back to the basic principles, so you can learn to cook again.

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mikevine
1866 days ago
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