Profanations of cemeteries
On 12 February five adolescents desecrated tombs in a Jewish cemetery in Northern France. Was it an anti-Semitic rampage? Yes say some, no say others. On the no side is the rabbi Claude Heymann, deputy to the chief rabbi of Strasbourg. According to Heymann, « Cet acte est représentatif de l’incapacité pour les jeunes d’entrevoir un avant eux-mêmes. Ils vivent dans un monde virtuel et autocentré. Il n’y a qu’eux, le présent […] En cela, c’est emblématique d’une époque. » “This act is representative of the incapacity of the young to even imagine that something existed before they were born. They live in a virtual and self-centred world. Nothing exists except themselves, today. In that respect [this act] is representative of our age.’
The five young people were bored, in their half-term holiday. They went to play in a deserted place and, apparently after damaging a monument by accident, the game changed to frenzied destruction.
The youth and their families had no anti-Semitic convictions; the game was a sort of role play or fantasy, fed by a diet of war films and video games, on a par with the British royal going dressed as an SS officer to a fancy dress ball. When the youths heard that their act was being described as an anti-semitic outrage they went to the police to explain they had no such motivation. The leader of the group cultivated an antifascist image, he was ‘antifa’.
Hundreds of Christian cemeteries are desecrated every year. A parliamentary commission found that in 2010, 308 Christian churches and 214 cemeteries, 50 mosques and 7 cemeteries, and 30 synagogues and 12 cemeteries had been damaged with similar figures in 2011 (434, 41 and 34). The perpetrators were overwhelmingly groups of young people, with nothing to do and under the influence of drink.
The Agricultural Show
The annual Show is the centre of all media debates for a week in February; media channels broadcast from there and politicians parade and answer questions.
Hollande had to answer questions about the milk quotas, which come to an end in April this year, as decided in October 2013.
This abolition will have drastic consequences. The price of milk is much lower when it is produced in intensive farms with hundreds of cows kept indoors and given industrially produced feed—instead of being outside eating grass half the year. Milk is already very cheap; an even steeper decline in the price of milk will ruin more small farmers. The EU decision makers know this, but they think there are too many milk farmers, and most of them should give up and find something else to do.
The consequences on the way of life, on the quality of milk, and on the landscape are not considered important: if something can be produced cheaply it will be, regardless of social and environmental consequences. When they think about it, people might find battery farming of chicken distasteful, but they still eat it. The same will happen with battery farming of milk cows.
The influence of Britain on the EU is felt here:
‘When this system [of regulating milk production] is finally dismantled, […], the gloves will come off and Britain’s redoubtable dairy farmers can take on their foreign counterparts on a level playing field for the first time.’ So says Dairy UK, representing the British milk industry, ‘the UK’s dairy supply chain is one of the leanest and most efficient in the world’ and will be even more so with ‘further mergers’ and ‘consolidation’.
The average size of herd in the UK is 112 cows, and growing, against an EU average of 45. The yield per cow is also much higher than the EU average.
Unlike on the continent, the dairy organisation represents both the producers and the distributors; Dairy UK ‘represents the interests of dairy farmers, producer cooperatives, manufacturers of dairy products and processors and distributors of liquid mild throughout the United Kingdom.’
Between them Dairy UK’s members collect and process about 85% of UK milk production. This is a powerful organization.
Countries with small farmers are less well organized to resist this industrialization. When Hollande was asked about this catastrophe about to happen, all he could say was that the decision had already been taken, as indeed it had. It was at the time the decision was taken a fight should have started. Instead, the decision was taken 18 months in advance of implementation to give small farmers time to ‘get out’.
The French are torn between a sentimental attachment to the land and a practical preference for cheap food. As in England, the supermarkets feed them daily the message that ‘cheap is what you want and deserve’; paying more is bad. You are a mug if you don’t avail yourself of the biggest bargain.
To the English supermarket slogans e.g. ‘Every little helps’ the French supermarkets shout ‘All united against high prices’ (Tous unis contre la vie chère). The English slogan reflects English pragmatism, while the French slogan exploits our revolutionary and militant traditions. Both slogans refer implicitly to the thousands who actually find it hard to pay for food, and these thousands serve as a fig leaf for the millions who don’t want to pay the price for food products that would preserve the farming way of life.
Nicolas Dupont-Aignan on milk quotas
Nicolas Dupont-Aignan is an ex UMP member—UMP being Sarkozy’s party—who founded his own party Debout la France [France Arise]; he has been on the political scene for a number of years and admires UKIP and Syrisa, small parties doing well. He criticizes American foreign policy in the Middle East and towards Russia. Dictators in the Middle East are responsible for the stability of the states and must be maintained, for example Al Assad. Europe must trust Putin.
Europe must have a policy of mutual support within its members, for example Poland should buy the French fighter plane Rafale instead of buying American planes.
Europe is not working any longer in the interests of its member states. Nowhere is this clearer than in the case of milk quotas. The end of milk quotas will ruin farmers in France by decreasing the price of milk. France has thousands of milk farmers, who currently get paid 31 centimes per litre. When it gets any lower, a difficult life will become an impossible life.
France, an agricultural country able to support a farming way of life, a milk producer, will end up importing milk from Poland, Rumania and Germany. It is an absurdity, says Dupont-Aignan, who reports that François Hollande, asked about this at the Agriculture Show this year, replied: ‘I have written to the Commission’. Hollande behaves, says the leader of Debout la France, like the governor of a province, a spectator and not a leader in charge of a country.
The French ambassador in Copenhagen
The French ambassador was present at the meeting attacked on 12th February, in an episode likened to the Charlie Hebdo killings; the meeting, in a small local cultural centre, was addressed by a Swedish cartoonist, Lars Vilks. Lars Vilks is famous for his 2007 Mohammed as a dog cartoon; he gives drawings to extreme right wing websites, and the man who runs his gallery in Sweden attempted to found a Pegida like movement for Sweden. The other speaker was the leader of Femen, the originally Ukrainian group now in Paris, promoting hatred of religion. They desecrated Notre-Dame and the Church of Madeleine in Paris; the men guarding these buildings were the ones prosecuted.
Why was the French ambassador mixed up in such a meeting?
Sunday work imposed by decree
When the government thinks it will not have a majority in Parliament for a law it wants to pass, it can resort to a paragraph in the Constitution, the so-called 49.3, to pass the law without a vote.
It can only do this once per term of office, unless the subject of the law is Social Security or foreign policy.
The government had for months been pushing the Macron law, a law designed to liberalise the economy a bit more, by increasing the number of Sundays shops that can open, by opening up coach travel and other occupations such as chemists and driving schools.
A number of socialists MPs let it be known they would not vote this law, so the government passed it anyway.
Nicolas Sarkozy talking to his party about Russia
Crimea cannot be blamed for seceding from Ukraine – a country in turmoil – and choosing to join Russia, said former president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy. He also added that Ukraine “is not destined to join the EU.”
“We are part of a common civilization with Russia,” said Sarkozy, speaking on Saturday 7 February at the congress of the Union for a Popular Movement Party (UMP), which the former president heads.
“The interests of the Americans with the Russians are not the interests of Europe and Russia,” he said adding that “we do not want the revival of a Cold War between Europe and Russia.”
Regarding Crimea’s choice to secede from Ukraine when the country was in the midst of political turmoil, Sarkozy noted that the residents of the peninsula cannot be blamed for doing so.
“Crimea has chosen Russia, and we cannot blame it [for doing so],” he said pointing out that “we must find the means to create a peacekeeping force to protect Russian speakers in Ukraine.”
In March 2014 over 96 percent of Crimea’s residents – the majority of whom are ethnic Russians – voted to secede from Ukraine to reunify with Russia.
The decision was prompted by a massive uprising in Ukraine, that led to the ousting of its democratically elected government, and the fact that the first bills approved by the new Kiev authorities were infringing the rights of ethnic Russians.