No Minister

Posts Tagged ‘France

The Power of Glamour

I’m shamelessly using the title of this book, which I would recommend you read even if you can’t stand the fashion industry- perhaps especially if you can’t stand it.

For the simple fact is that our societies are driven as much by these ephemeral things as by the literal nuts, bolts and electronics of our technological world.

From vacation brochures to military recruiting ads, from the Chrysler Building to the iPad, from political utopias to action heroines, Postrel argues that glamour is a seductive cultural force. Its magic stretches beyond the stereotypical spheres of fashion or film, influencing our decisions about what to buy, where to live, which careers to pursue, where to invest, and how to vote.

The post I put up the other day on cleverly painted water towers reminded me of a couple of other such things that I’ve come across recently.

First up is the emergence of a very rare turbine-powered Chrysler car from the 1960’s.

The 1963 Chrysler Turbine Car was one of 55 that were built to evaluate the use of turbine engines as part of an automobile powertrain and given to real-world drivers for short loans.

The thought was that a relatively simple, smooth operating engine that could run on a variety of fuels would offer a reliable and efficient alternative to piston engines, but poor emissions and fuel economy doomed it to the history books after a couple of years of testing.

All but nine of the cars were sent to the crusher after the project was complete in 1966. Chrysler kept two, five were sent to museums and two ended up in private hands.

Not surprisingly, car nut, Jay Leno, (former host of The Tonight Show back when it had mass appeal) owns one, but the second privately owned one is back on the market for the first time in decades.

It looks very cool on these shots although if you click on the link you’ll see that the front view is not so great: obviously YMMV. But the inside is just gorgeous, right down to the “turbine look” in the centre console.

As crazy as it might have sounded originally, turbines have been used to power other machines, perhaps most notably the US Abrams Tank.

It’s no coincidence that Chrysler was the original manufacturer of the Abrams.

Despite turbines only really being effective when they’re running at constant speed the big advantage is that they can burn any fuel, which was one inspiration for the turbine car. But as the article notes, they’re fuel hogs. The Abrams uses 10 gallons (38 litres) just to start up and the same per hour when idling.

I suppose there are people – likely military people – who find the Abrams glamorous.

The other piece on this subject that I ran across arose from a criticism by Senator Cruz of the Harris-Biden Administration’s decision to rejoin the Paris Climate Accords. Cruz said that they cared more about the people of Paris than Pittsburgh.

It’s the usual soundbite alliteration beloved by politicians and it rather annoyed right-wing writer Claire Berlinski (There Is No Alternative: Why Margaret Thatcher Matters), who lives in Paris and took Cruz to task for his populist shout-out:

An American writer named James Lileks, who lives in the Mid-West, acknowledges what Cruz was doing but then gently points out to Berlinski that there are two cities called Paris; the one she loves and defends and …. the newer Paris.

I’m sure there’s some lovely modern architecture in Paris. Few people go to Paris to seek it out. Only the die-hard architectural masochists feel required to make a pilgrimage to the Pompideu HVAC Museum:

I recall reading all the gushing guff published in the 1980’s when this thing was opened: about its “challenging”, “shocking” and (of course) “revolutionary” design. People go to see what’s inside, where it’s not at all like this. But they don’t go to admire the building.

Then there’s the Mitterand Library. The four buildings stand like open books, which is nice. They have a serene, spare quality, and also would not be out of place as the HQ for the advanced species that has colonized earth, eliminated 92% of the population, and now rules with a gentle hand because the survivors know the death rays strike without warning or sound.

Which brings me to this Paris concert hall, and the idea of Europe as synonymous with Grandeur And Splendor Which True Murcans Must Reject.

Do you get the sense of some alien creature blindly advancing on the city, its tentacles dripping with silvery ichor?

Of course it’s likely that there are people who do find these structures glamorous, in the same manner of an Abrams Tank.

Lileks finishes up his piece by pointing out what such things may mean for French society, in the context of Berlinski’s remark about what Cruz’s remarks mean for American society:

She’s right about Paris being the seat of arts and culture. Paris is beautiful, but its beauty is an artifact of its past.

Which brings me back to the idea Claire expressed: the sentiments she gleaned from the remark about the values of the Parisian elect “are not the mark of a healthy and self-confident society.” I think one could say the same about the structure above. It doesn’t just reject the norms and forms of history; it erases them and insists they never were.

Perhaps these are the marks of a society that loathes itself – either for what it was, which it feels was characterized by iniquities and inequities, or for what it is, which is not as great as it used to be when we were awesome. The contradiction can drive one barmy.

You can’t unmoor Parisians from the past, but you can dissolve the bonds that carry the past into the future. The city becomes a bustling pretty crypt, full of altars to gods no one believes in.

What’s left as a belief system? Statism, Art – which is either ancestor worship or institutionally “disruptive” modernism – and the notion of the Perfected Future, in which men in suits and their severe but glamorous wives go to structures like the one above and sit through a twelve-tone opera with a blank face

Written by Tom Hunter

May 13, 2021 at 11:36 am

Posted in Art, Europe, History, Humour, Ideologues, Technology, USA

Tagged with

We shall defend our Island…

Not a headline I expected to see in the early 21st century.

Apparently it’s something to do with fishing vessels

A Franco-British feud over access to prime fishing waters escalated on Thursday as the two countries deployed patrol and navy ships near the Channel island of Jersey.

Access to Britain’s rich fishing waters was a major sticking point in post-Brexit talks. A transition period was agreed in which EU fishermen would give up 25 percent of their current quotas — the equivalent of 650 million euros per year — in 2026. The deal would then be renegotiated every year.

Until then, EU vessels have access to an area between six to 12 nautical miles from Britain’s coast, but they have to ask for new licenses.

This is where things got complicated.

The French side says London acted outside of the deal by tightening conditions for access to UK waters

Basically a repeat of the Great Cod War of the mid-1970’s then. Not until reading that Wiki did I realise that there had been similar stoushes in the early 1970’s and 1958-1961.

It seems the French are already turning to the comfort of land warfare, where they have a history of far more success against the British than at sea:

“We’re ready to resort to retaliatory measures” that are in the Brexit accord, Girardin told lawmakers in the National Assembly on Tuesday.

“Concerning Jersey, I’ll remind you of the transport of electricity via submarine cables,” she added. “I would regret it if we have to do it, but we’ll do it if we have to.”

Anyway, I don’t think we should treat this as entirely funny because, as the great Edmund Blackadder once said:

Doesn’t anyone know? We hate the French! We fight wars against them!

Did all those men die in vain on the field at Agincourt?

Was the man who burned Joan of Arc simply wasting good matches?

Written by Tom Hunter

May 10, 2021 at 5:32 pm

The Reading List: Time To Wake Up

Pierre Manent is an interesting man. One of the French elites who graduated from École Normale Supérieure, he now teaches political philosophy in France and the USA.

Back in April an interview with him was published in the magazine, First Things, and I was intrigued by a number of points that he made about nation-states in general, the EU, and the nations within it.

..[the nation] has been abandoned, discredited, and delegitimized for two generations… We have renounced the very idea of national independence. Oh, to be nothing more than a soft and pliant node of specialized expertise in the great network of global trade! And above all, the flux must never slow down! Are we discovering that we are dependent on China for almost everything we need? But we have organized ourselves in order to be dependent! We have willed it!

And he seems to doubt that there will be even a slight reversal of this, even as there seem to be many voices rising to demand less inter-dependence that what has developed. He especially makes the argument that “there has never been a liberal regime without a national framework“, but that national societies have been corrupted in key ways: high-finance and rent-seeking, technostructures that actually disdain the nation-state (Google and Facebook are not mentioned), and social spending that traps low-income people.

The European Union is just as weak as the nations that make it up. The Union is in its last stage. Either it will limp along in its present form, or it will fall apart……. This is the end of the European fantasy. There is no marvelous adventure awaiting us on the European side of the road. Every nation has discovered the unchangeable character of its collective being.

But he cautions against exactly what has been discovered by each nation-state:

… we note the return of the least likeable features of our State. In the name of a health emergency, a state of emergency has in fact been established. In the name of this emergency, the most primitive and brutal of measures has been taken: general confinement under police surveillance.

Being the rather worldly professor he is, there is no condemnation of “elites” or “leaders”. In fact he describes them as “honorable people who are doing their best to overcome a serious crisis.” Nevertheless he warns of the following:

[Globalisation] exploited certain liberal themes, but the liberalism we must preserve is something different.

Expertise provides no immunity against the desire for power.

We now see in the State only the protector of our rights; now, since life is the first of our rights, a broad path is opened up to the State’s inquisitorial power. That said, we gave ourselves over to the State long ago, according it sovereignty over our lives. 

Which has always sounded great to the Left, but which increasingly means we are subject to the problems of technocracy vs democracy and civil liberties, especially with the rise of this feature:

Our world is full of victims who, in a voice that is at once whining and threatening, claim to be wounded by all this talk. …. How can we now oppose the State as guardian of rights while we beg it to intrude into our ever-wounded personal lives?

I’ll finish with a quote that I very much appreciated, as he talks of the difficulties of political decision making:

Aristotle was right: Politics is the queen of the sciences!

Read the whole thing here. There’s much in it to ponder.

Written by Tom Hunter

August 1, 2020 at 11:00 am

The Lungs of the Earth Are Burning

I have been told – the news has worked through to my corner of the forest – the damp bit down on the right which nobody wants…

So I understand that there has been a huge outcry about some forest in Brazil being set ablaze by Homo Sapiens. I’ve heard this courtesy of the French President, so you know it’s informed and trustworthy….


Except of course when he’s not.

It took Mother Jones – yes that Mother Jones, Ye Olde Queen of the Far Left for almost fifty years now, to point out that the photo shared by Macron (and Madonna), was actually over twenty years old.

“…the photo was taken by Loren McIntyre, who died in 2003.”

This among other comments as they begged the Climate Catastrophists to “Stop Sharing Those Viral Photos of the Amazon Burning“.

Too late. Like photos of Melania and Justin, it seems that cretins across the world can never be bothered digging into a cool story or photo before Re-Tweeting it.

As Mother Jones noted:

The photo Ronaldo shared was taken in southern Brazil, far from the Amazon, in 2013. The photo that DiCaprio and Macron shared is over 20 years old. The photo Madonna and Smith shared is over 30. Some celebrities shared photos from Montana, India, and Sweden.

It’s unclear why people are circulating these photos instead of current images of the Amazon ablaze, but one thing is certain: You can’t trust everything you see on the internet. 

Umm…. Cough …. this bullshit rapidly spread to the environs of the MSM globally, not just “the internet“. It’s actually an excellent summary of the whole story, in the sense that when you read other aspects you realise that getting the photos completely wrong was simply how it goes nowadays in the age of “Fake News” and that the rest of it followed naturally.

The photos, especially that photo on President Macron’s Twitter, reinforced the claim that the fires were burning down lush, green, virgin Amazon jungle. That was at best a 7% truth, or in other words a 93% lie. It’s often said that words matter. So do photos, especially in service of propaganda, or as it’s called nowadays by reporters, The Narrative.

Okay, okay. I’m being a little unfair in that even the godforsaken New York Times and CNN, managed to start debunking this shit. After a day or so.

Still, it cannot have added to the credibility of the Climate Justice Warriors and associated clowns.

Lets back up to that “Lungs of the World” shite to start with:

I was curious to hear what one of the world’s leading Amazon forest experts, Dan Nepstad, had to say about the “lungs” claim.

“It’s bullshit,” he said. “There’s no science behind that. The Amazon produces a lot of oxygen but it uses the same amount of oxygen through respiration so it’s a wash.”

Ouch!

What about The New York Times claim that “If enough rain forest is lost and can’t be restored, the area will become savanna, which doesn’t store as much carbon, meaning a reduction in the planet’s ‘lung capacity’”?

Also not true, said Nepstad, who was a lead author of the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. “The Amazon produces a lot of oxygen, but so do soy farms and [cattle] pastures.”

Ok then. So what about the whole burning thing? Well, here’s a lovely graph of forest fires in Brazil – and remember that these are total forest fires in the country, not just the Amazon:


“It was under [Workers Party President] Lula and [Environment Secretary] Marina Silva (2003-2008) that Brazil had the highest incidence of burning,” Leonardo Coutinho told me over email. “But neither Lula nor Marina was accused of putting the Amazon at risk.”

My goodness. Looks like things are improving on that front. How could such MSM reporting have occurred?

Coutinho’s perspective was shaped by reporting on the ground in the Amazon for Veja, Brazil’s leading news magazine, for nearly a decade. By contrast, many of the correspondents reporting on the fires have been doing so from the cosmopolitan cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, which are 2,500 miles and four hours by jet plane away.

Sounds about right for modern “journalists”. But then if The Narrative is already set in your mind – Amazon jungle being burned to the ground – then there’s no need to waste time actually investigating the matter.

In fact the burning was almost entirely on already cleared farms, as farmers did their usual stunt of using fire to beat back various pests and set the land up for planting.

And then of course there were the associated stories that tied all this to the deforestation of the Amazon, and naturally because Brazil currently has a Right-Wing President and government it’s “news” in precisely the way it was not when “The Workers Party” was in charge of the country.

So what is the story with deforestation in Brazil. Time for another lovely graph:

So in fact deforestation in Brazil, specifically in the Amazon, has been decreasing irrespective of who is in government! How could this be? Well it turns out that it’s related to how wealthy a country is:

… after parsing data from 52 developing countries between 1972 and 2003, that deforestation increases until average income levels reach about $3,100 per capita.

Very interesting. And wouldn’t you know it, Brazilian per capita incomes reached $3,600 per capita in 2004. Looks like the author of that article, Yi‐Bin Chiu, has another solid data point to add in support of his theory.

And in case you’re wondering about how this still means that deforestation is continuing, not stopping, there is more excellent news, courtesy of a 2018 study published in Nature:

We show that – contrary to the prevailing view that forest area has declined globally – tree cover has increased by 2.24 million km2 (+7.1% relative to the 1982 level). This overall net gain is the result of a net loss in the tropics being outweighed by a net gain in the extratropics.

Yes, it’s the “extratropics” that have been reforested. But what that means is that as Brazil grows wealthier it will follow the same path as the Developed World with regard to forests; that the deforestation trend in the Amazon will turn toward afforestation. It’s obviously already well on it’s way to that inflexion point.

So there you go! The benefits of capitalism in saving the environment – as usual.

No need for smarmy French Colonialists to be telling Brown People how to manage their nation’s resources.

UPDATE: You can read a more complete article on the Amazon fires by Dr Dan Nepstad here, using what is called a URL. Given some criticisms about the length of my articles I would not like to inflict a wall of cut-and-paste on gentle readers – although if that’s your preference you can link to this NoMinister article. 😁

Written by Tom Hunter

August 27, 2019 at 10:29 pm

This One’s For Legbut

From the land of cheese eating, bum pinching socialists:-

The French government is facing outrage after revelations that 30 bureaucrats in the southern city of Toulon were paid to do nothing for more than 25 years.
Taxpayers forked out more than $1.6 million a year (€1 million) for the public servants, who were left without jobs after water services in Toulon were privatised.
The city failed to find them new posts but continued paying their salaries, according to a report by the Provence-Alps-Riviera Regional Audit Office, first revealed by local newspaper Var-matin.
One of the “phantom” bureaucrats collected a salary while also working as a manager in the private sector, while others received automatic promotions and pay increases based on length of service.

Absolutely priceless!    Just as well you don’t live in Toulon, Legbut or we would be talking about you for years.

Written by adolffinkensen

July 2, 2019 at 3:08 am

Posted in New Zealand

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Borders and Backstops

Like most political tragics I closely followed the storms of Britain in the Thatcher era, especially after  similar tumults hit New Zealand from 1984 on. Similarly with the European politics of the Cold War.

But with the collapse of the Iron Curtain followed by the USSR, the unification of East and West Germany and the departure of Thatcher soon after, I rapidly lost interest in European politics. The whole thing seemed to settle into a period of calm as Eastern Europe slowly began to recover and join up with the West, and British politics settled into an acceptance of the so-called neo-liberal consensus on economics, trade and so forth. For twenty years I barely noted the comings and goings of even the leaders of European nations.

But in the last five years things have changed dramatically. European politics is once again of interest because long-held assumptions are being challenged and turmoil is spreading. It’s the Chinese curse of living in interesting times.

Even so, it’s difficult to get a handle on that turmoil, no more so than with Brexit. Bluntly, what the hell is going on over there in Britain? Given that even its own Parliament of some 650 members seems to be utterly confused and bewildered, perhaps I should not be surprised that nobody else seems to know or understand either.

So to that end I present one of the better articles I’ve read on Brexit, How The UK Lost The Brexit Battle – Politico EU.

The article traces the history from the moment the refendum vote occurred to the present day. It seems that Ireland and the EU prepared for a Leave win, whereas the British Tory government did not, and that almost everything has flowed from that since:

The contrast with London was stark. While Cameron refused to allow officials to prepare for a Leave vote — barring officials from putting anything on paper — Ireland had produced a 130-page Contingency Plan with an hour-by-hour checklist.

As Ireland went, so to the EU:

It was at 6:22 a.m. on June 24, 2016 — 59 minutes before the official tally was unveiled — that the European Council sent its first “lines to take” to the national governments that make up the EU.

This meant settling the divorce first and the future relationship second, once the U.K. had left. “In the future we hope to have the U.K. as a close partner of the EU,” the document read. “First we need to agree the arrangements for the withdrawal.” 

This was crucial. It ran counter to declarations by the U.K.’s victorious Vote Leave campaign not to be bound by the formal exit procedure.  

But Britain were like stunned mullets from the start:

“The British government should have offered something very, very quickly,” said one high-ranking official of a large EU country. “If the U.K. had said: ‘Here’s the plan,’ we might have accepted it.” 

“The British strength was being one member state, being able to define its national interest quickly and making its move quickly,” the official said. “It did not do that.”

A group of 27 entities coordinated better than a single entity. How embarrassing, though not a surprise when David Cameron, not a leader I was ever impressed by, washed his hands of it all and quit. Given that he felt responsible, that was the expected move. But in hindsight he made an even bigger mess that others had to try and clean up. That’s actually one situation where quitting was not the honourable or best thing to do.

“Where we are now has been obvious for a long time,” said a senior member of Theresa May’s Downing Street operation. “By setting up the sequencing like they did, and putting Northern Ireland in the first phase, this was always going to happen. It was their choice, it doesn’t say anywhere in Article 50 that it had to be like this.

I was also impressed – solely from a technical realpolitik point-of-view – by the EU’s slow, overwhelming strangulation of various British positions:

France’s diplomatic establishment schools its officials in the idea of a “rapport de force” — the balance of power in any relationship. As long as the negotiations remained between Brussels and London, there would be no question who had the upper hand. 

And that was maintained by controlling the process. There would be no negotiation without notification, no future relationship without the divorce agreement, and no divorce agreement if the money, citizens’ rights and the problem of the Irish border weren’t sorted out first. 

“The EU, while strategically myopic, is formidably good at process against negotiating opponents,” said Rogers. “No one was paying much attention to how the EU was patiently constructing the process designed to maximize its leverage.”

It’s a long article but well worth the read.

Written by Tom Hunter

March 28, 2019 at 10:39 pm

Posted in New Zealand

Tagged with , , , ,

A Certain Idea of Europe

With one deadline for Brexit approaching fast this Friday, March 29, and amidst the growing howling, I recently enjoyed a review of a new biography: De Gaulle, by Julian Jackson, and was struck by a number of passages in the review that seemed very pertinent to Brexit.
(UPDATE: now April 12 after the EU granted May a two week extension, H/T to commentator Count Eggbutt).

The review is by Peter Hitchens and if you’re familiar with Christopher’s religious brother then you’ll already guess that the “melancholy, long, withdrawing roar” of Christianity from Britain feeds his sad, mournful paens to his dead and dying past.
Of course there are similar pasts to this on the European continent as well, and Hitchens uses this opportunity to repeat the same maudlin attitude, in his review: A Certain Idea of France.
Not that he’s going to let Jackson or his subject off the hook entirely, kicking off the review with this:

Using pick handles and rifle butts, the police force of one of the world’s most civilized countries surrounded and savagely beat hundreds of dark-skinned men. They then threw them into the beautiful river that flows through a city celebrated for its cultural and artistic wonders. Those who were still alive after the beatings were left to drown. 

This was Paris, City of Lights, on the night of October 17, 1961. To this day, nobody knows how many peaceful Algerian protesters died in this episode, concealed for years by menacing state power and a ­compliant press. Most estimates are in the hundreds.

I confess I’d never heard of this event, not being much of a follower of France, its post-WWII history or its politics. Not only that but De Gaulle struck me, long after his death, as a pompous, arrogant figure who just could not accept France’s diminished status in the world. Winston Churchill fought the same fight in the 1920’s, but by the end of WWII had recognised the inevitable.
De Gaulle never did, to the end of his days. Naturally enough Hitchens finds that admirable, and perhaps in terms of stoic courage it is. The biography sounds superb and given that it’s not a history I follow, I think I’ll get it.
But the parts of the review that I thought relevant to today was where he talks about De Gaulle in relation to both the USA and the so-called European Community. While he personalised his fights, De Gaulle knew he was fighting something a lot bigger than one US President.

De Gaulle’s quarrel with ­Roosevelt was based on real loathing. Washington’s vision for postwar Europe, in which the old nations would be diminished and homogenized, was directly opposed to de Gaulle’s idea of a French resurrection in glory and might. Washington loved and promoted the idea of a Europe dominated by supranational bodies, and would later use Marshall aid and the CIA to spread the idea of a European union.

In the hard and non-satirical world, the U.S. also worked ceaselessly to bring an end to the European empires of Britain and France, a cause born out of dogmatic anti-­colonialism. In an American-­dominated world, those empires, including French Algeria, viewed by Frenchmen as part of their country, were doomed.

That’s quite a different viewpoint from the common wisdom served up in my lifetime, where the USA was the aider and abetter of these old colonial powers and their 3rd World machinations. Then there’s Europe, where the same personal/political fights existed for De Gaulle:

In May 1962, de Gaulle would oppose to this his assertion that Europe could not be real “without France and her Frenchmen, Germany and her Germans, Italy and her Italians.” He said (a recording of the performance still exists) that Dante, Goethe, and Chateaubriand “belong to Europe,” precisely because they spoke and wrote as Italians, Germans, or Frenchmen. They would not, he jeered, have served Europe much if they had been stateless and had written in some form of ­Esperanto or Volapük.

Shades of the joke about an EU soccer team. But he turned these arguements into actions too:

Where he could, he continued to act as if he led a sovereign country. He marched France out of the NATO military command. He took Common Market money but acted as if that body had no power over him at all. He particularly despised efforts to form a European Army, and ruthlessly excluded Germany from nuclear weapons research. He spent billions on nuclear weapons which, one must suspect, were targeted as much on Germany as on the U.S.S.R. In his final few months in power, in February 1969, he astonished the British ambassador to Paris, Christopher Soames, with a plan to dilute the Treaty of Rome and put a stop to the European Community’s ambitions for a continental superstate.

In the end of course, he lost. Not just in being booted from power in the midst of the huge French protests of 1968 – which ultimately were very much against him and what he represented – but in seeing his ideas ignored by his successors, particularly François Mitterrand, his old rival.

[Mitterrand] wholly rejected the general’s belief in an enduring, sovereign France. ­Mitterrand had been decorated by Pétain’s collaborationist Vichy government, and like many intelligent Frenchmen, saw 1940 as a moment of truth that France could not thereafter ignore.

De Gaulle’s certain idea of France was replaced by the EU, and it would seem that the Brexiters are fated to go the same way. Hitchens suffers from too much pathos, but the final paragraph should very much strike a chord in the heart of any Brexit voter:

In his fall, many others fell. It was the last brave attempt to raise an ancient banner.

Written by Tom Hunter

March 24, 2019 at 8:07 pm

Posted in New Zealand

Tagged with , , ,

Frexit?

Legbut has better start packing his bags.   The faceless globalists who run his beloved European Union have a problem. 

France is leaving. 

No the Froggies didn’t need a referendum.  They just needed to burn a few cars under Msr Macron’s dumb arse.

Sacre bleu!!!!!!!  Macron has announced major measures aimed at placating France’s millions of protesters.  Trouble is, those measures flout a number of key EU financial regulations.

It looks more and more as though the EU is the union you have when you are not having a union.

Written by adolffinkensen

December 11, 2018 at 11:44 pm

Posted in New Zealand

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