Paris

Cycling Great: Louison Bobet

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Louison Bobet – a Breton who first became a Tour de France winner, then a Tour Great, the a Tour Legend!

Louis “Louison” Bobet – French

b. 12 Mar. 1925 Saint-Méen-le-Grand

d. 13 Aug. 1983

Tour de France – 10 Participations, 3 Victories, 11 Stage Wins.

1947; Didn’t finish

1948; 2 stage wins, stage 6 Bordeaux – Biarritz & stage 12 San Remo – Cannes

1949; didn’t finish

1950; King of the Mountains, 1 stage win, stage 18 Gap – Briancon

1951; 20th overall, 1 stage win, stage 17 Montpellier – Avignon

1953; Winner, 2 stage wins, stage 18 Gap – Briancon, & stage 20 Lyon – Saint-Etienne (time trial)

1954; Winner, 3 stage wins, stage 2 Beveren – Lille, stage 18 Grenoble – Briancon, & stage 21 part 2 Epinal – Nancy (time trial)

1955; Winner, 2 stage wins, stage 3 Roubaix – Namur, & stage 11 Marseille – Avignon

1958; 7th overall

1959; Didn’t finish

Jacques Anquetil said of Bobet “in Bobet’s eyes, there were no little races or unimportant victories. Every race mattered and he wanted to give his all to his public. Bobet knew only one way to race, whatever the sacrifices.”

Food Alert!

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If nothing changes by the end of 2014 the TAFTA (Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement) will be in force; a catastrophe for those who believe that food and drink are serious issues not to be messed about with so much.

If the agreement comes into force as planned then you will soon be saying hello to genetically modified milk, beef hormones, and chlorinated chicken, not to mention shale gas and oil… And then you will have to say farewell to managed environments, free-range, freedom foods, and a pleasant and green landscape pleasing to the eye as well as our collective conciseness. The influx of products will adversely affect our European food security for what I ask? A populist agenda and cheap shopping!

This project opens the doors to American domination so that they can make by 2029 $0.03 per person with nothing in it for Europeans I venture. The deal will remove trade barriers and tariffs designed to keep safe our own food supply, our own farms and associated businesses. American companies will enjoy commercial equality with our European companies. European jobs will be lost, a new recession is peering at us over the horizon at the end of the decade.

NON

European social structures will be damaged, possibly beyond repair by this agreement. Social standards will be diminished, economic standards will be diminished, industrial, cultural, and personal freedoms will be diminished because this agreement will attack our basic democratic freedoms through an unprecedented level of influence that will be exercised by the American mega-companies vying to control our food supply chains.

What gain for Europe? Well its suggested that Europe will gain 0.5% of total European GDP but its also said that this figure should be treated with scepticism, it might not happen!

There is also the further very thorny issue of energy supply. The agreement allows for free trade across Europe of energy supply but there is no universality of agreement between European states on the status of energy supply. In some countries certain types of energy (shale gas) is illegal. This is without question a massive area of concern not currently addressed by the agreement or the EU. Democratic rights will certainly be trampled under the American free trade boot when it comes to energy supply.

The European project seems to be under threat from our American cousins attempts to sell Europe food and energy that it does not need or want in most cases. Do we honestly need more Americanisms? Our food is currently too fast, more not less McDonald’s cannot surly be a good thing.

A Private Affair

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On the whole the French are not that interested in the Affair Gayet. In a survey 56% of French people in a YouGov poll said that they really thought the Holland-Gayet affair is a private matter. Only 25% said they were interested in any way. The French are not curious!

But there is more, the YouGov poll shows that those who are politically on the left or left looking are less interested. For them the scoop of Closer is an invasion of privacy. They are very protective of their privacy notwithstanding the political resonance of the affair. But the opinions are partisan to say the very least; those on the right and supporters of the odious Marine le Pen do not share this view of privacy, for them it is a matter for the public to debate, discuss and titillate themselves over.

One might suggest a link between small things and tiny minds at this point.

tiny minds

Respect for privacy or not that the French populace has shown, the media nonetheless is in something of a frenzy. The priority given to the press conference by the President of the Republic, the rolling news reporting and the pitching-up of foreign news agencies has been nothing if not exceptional. The media is doing its very best to try to encourage the French public to take an interest.

The victim of these intrusions, the President Francois Holland has remained tight lipped about the matter to the point of refusing to complain. No doubt thinking about the judicial immunity the Presidential Office enjoys for his entire term. The actress Julie Gayet by contrast has decided court action is in order and is suing Closer for €50,000.00 damages for invasion of privacy. This didn’t stop the magazine going on to promise further revelations however or all sorts of rumors circulating on the internet and on social networking sites.

francois holland

What is interesting however is that the French public have said that they think the budget of the First Lady should be removed. 55% of the respondents to the YouGov poll say the budget of the First Lady is an anachronism of the Republic. But the budget set at less than €20,000.00 is hardly a kings ransom for Valerie Trierweiler the current First Lady (for how much longer she will be we don’t yet know). Furthermore 69% of respondents said the budget is unjustified regardless of political allegiance or age.

In France even the most high profile of affairs is a private matter, the contrast to Britain could not be any starker. You only have to look at any of the tabloids to see the difference in approach. Privacy in the UK is a matter of contention, in the public eye means you are public property, all the time. To quote “every Katie has a Price…”

Dieudonne; A Sinister Clown

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SINISTER CLOWN

I have been following with interest and repulsion in equal measure the Dieudonne saga in France, partly because I’m obsessed with France and partly because of my innate fear of all things fascist/right-wing/nazi and following the very public goal celebration in the UK by Nicolas Anelka recently.

Dieudonne shows have been cancelled in some parts of France but not without a public outcry from some sections of the society that this is an attack on freedom of speech or freedom of expression. But I find myself thinking as one who will willingly defend the right of freedom of speech even when I fundamentally disagree with the sentiments being expressed, that actually even a bad clown can make a mistake and may even break the laws of the land. Wearing a red nose or pretending to give humor never prevented anyone from committing a crime. If a thief steels a motorcycle he has committed a crime even when he does in an amusing way.

However, Dieudonne, the sinister clown seeks to further his obnoxious views through so called humor. By going on a tour, publishing dates and venues he is being provocative and foolish. The French have not prevented his freedom of expression but have prevented public discord and a potential for civil conflict. Dieudonne is not a victim, he has not suffered a crime against humanity, he has had his talentless show which trades on scandal and abuse brought to a close in the name of public safety.

Dieudonne only speaks to those who cling onto the unintelligible thought of anti-Semites, to them his act, if indeed that is what it is, is a source of humor. He therefore only speaks to a small but nonetheless nuisance minority of people. To this day there are conferences and a vast number of books which speak of the Nazi Holocaust, a permanent stain on modern society. To think that this could be a subject for humor frankly beggars belief.

The notion that the law can impose limits on public behavior to me is something which should and must be challenged frequently. But the exploitation of crimes against humanity for the humor of a very few is not an area I would recommend to anybody as a place to challenge accepted decencies. His act is a cynical insult for his own reward. His act is one of many which seeks to raise the infamous beast of anti-Semitic thought from the ashes of hate.

It is quite amazing to me to notice that resistance of Dieudonne and his like comes from all sides, both left and right leaning thought. Of course Dieudonne argues that he provides a refuge in humor from the Zionist, he may well do this but I ask what is Zionism in 2014?

Certainly 100 years ago when the thought was to make a Jewish state the idea was simple; to provide a state that all Jews from around the world could come to where safety was guaranteed. I recognize the visionary genius of Theodor Herzl without question. However, Zionism in 2014 may look as if it is all about the West Bank and Gaza but really is this so? I think Zionism today is the same as it ever was, especially when you consider the threats from Iran, Syria, Egypt, Yemen, Hesbollah, Hammas…

If only Dieudonne could see the threats from without the ‘Zionist’ state maybe then he wouldn’t be such a sinister clown about it all.

To add to the anti-Semitic attacks which are frequent the need for humor at the expense of the dead is an insult. To do this at the expense of Holocaust dead is a crime!

Death of a Peacekeeper

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Setting off with 2 trucks, jeeps and material ...
Setting off with 2 trucks, jeeps and material in Bangui; © OCHA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was a strange day yesterday, a very strange day indeed. There was the world media event that was the Nelson Mandela memorial, President Obama et al involved in a ‘selfie’ caught on camera by the press and then there was the conflict in Central African Republic.

The French Army, there as peace keepers, peace makers actually but I’m sure you know what I mean banned all media activity for the day. This is unusual to say the very least. Journalists were banned from filming with the French Forces, cancelled until further notice.

Journalists were left to report and film in the absence of armed protection and so they did what journalists do, they made reports.  And these reports, what did they say?

They told the story of a lawless country, of streets barred to ordinary people and to the journalists as it happens. But yesterday the army roadblocks had been removed, almost as if the effort to prevent further slaughter by the militia were suspended for the day! And then the news came that French President Francois Holland was to visit or more accurately fly into a secure, (very secure actually, the army had been taken off the streets to protect him during the visit) airport surrounded by soldiers and barbed wire then fly back out again.

Nonetheless journalists did witness some peacekeeping forces in action. Forces from FOMAC from the UN, African Troops this time were engaged in a fire-fight with local militia whilst covering people seeking to go about their business as usual as possible in these extraordinary circumstances. At least one was felled, killed I don’t know but probably and given the reports possibly from gunfire from his own troops who were seen to be firing what can be best described as in a chaotic manner.

But did we see the report? Not unless you go looking for the information.

I am reminded of Romeo Dalliers, the most senior UN military official on the ground during the Rwandan conflict who said of Africa and Africans that they were people who had nothing to lose except their lives. But that their lives were worthless in the eyes of the world and so what should be expected is more not less conflict, more not less hate, and more not less death.

The death of the two French Soldiers is without doubt a tragedy, but we have to place a higher value on human life, all human life no matter where they were born, what their wealth, no matter what their skin colour or who they pray too. Human life is NOT an economic statistic!

Gender Gaps

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Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, Internat...
Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Christine Lagarde, Director of the IMF, said recently, “In the long race ahead, it makes no sense to simply eliminate half the contestants before the starting gun is sounded. Letting women participate more fully in economic life can yield enormous economic benefits.”

Its probably fair to say that in the developed west that women get a better deal in terms of equality in the workplace than probably anywhere else on the planet. That’s no to say there is absolute equality, there isn’t, but they do experience a much closer to the male experience than almost anywhere else. Of course Asia is probably the most desperate place to be a woman right now but the Middle East offers some hope.

The Middle East is a key region of interest because although increasing numbers of women are receiving a good standard of education, the region still lags behind on the core issue of economic equality. On a global scale, the latest figures from the World Economic Forum‘s Global Gender Gap Report show that although the gender gap in education is 93% closed, the gap in economic equality has closed by only 60%. A problem!

There is plainly a disconnect from the classroom to the workplace. Education will continue to be vitally important generally but it has to be questioned where the focus for women’s education is. What educational support do women need to prepare them for the world of business and work?

Perhaps the Middle East is swayed by overt sexual discrimination? This might be too simple an explanation but nonetheless probably forms part of the explanation. Women entrepreneurs seeking loan capital may have their ideas and suggestions dismissed on the basis of them being a woman rather than straight forward commercial measure of the likely hood of success of the business being proposed. Women’s enterprise then is choked-off at source! The net result is retarded economic growth with only 50% (at best that is) of economically active people partaking in forwarding the economy.

Youth is the key to forward growth and engagement economically. The youth of today shape the future of tomorrow. This despite the political and military challenges facing the region at the present time, youth hold the key.

I am quite sure that each country will need a unique approach, cultural challenges presented by national identities possibly being the most difficult of challenges to overcome, but not insurmountable over time. My assumption is that the majority of countries of the Middle East will face many common challenges, possibly more so than any other region and this then may prove to be the deciding factory in regional success and therefore the model for the rest of the world to follow. Well we can hope I guess.

The exception to the Middle East rule is Israel with an economy broadly speaking similar to developed European and US economies. Although I’m not suggesting that Israel is not without economic issues to overcome, but they are much closer (and in some respects further on) than the close by European economies in respect to equality of opportunity.

Women in the workplace, women in business… it simply makes no sense to eliminate half the contestants before the starting gun is sounded. Letting women participate more fully in economic life will yield enormous economic benefits.

Reaction to Racism

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Christiane Taubira during Ségolène Royal and J...
Christiane Taubira during Ségolène Royal and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero’s meeting in Toulouse on April, 19th 2007 for the 2007 presidential election. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

France it would appear from recent media reports seems to be developing a resurgence in Racism. French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira is to give an interview in the Left Leaning daily Liberation on Wednesday 20 Nov. 2013. In the article she will attack the rise of racism in France and the lack of the French political classes for not speaking out against racism.

Herself a victim, Anne-Sophie Leclere a candidate from the far-right posted on her Facebook page that she could be compared to a monkey and a 12-year old brandished a banana at her during a rally. Taubira said: “The reactions have not been sufficient….What’s most shocking to me is that there has been no strong, beautiful voice raised in alarm at the downward spiral of French society [when it comes to racism].”

The justice minister’s remarks come just one day after Harry Roselmack, France’s most prominent black newsreader, penned an opinion piece for another French newspaper, Le Monde, accusing France of harboring “deep-seated racism”. “Racist France is back,” he wrote.

The one-two punch from two of France’s most visible black personalities has shone a harsh spotlight on an issue that the theoretically “colour-blind” country, with its proud motto of “liberty, fraternity, equality”, has had some difficulty in tackling.

The problem is I suppose is that just like Britain Racism, Antisemitism and Anti-Muslim feeling and actions are on the rise and are all outlawed, but there is little respect for the law and its not enforced anything like sufficiently. There is no threat from the law so to speak. Racist speech has become more acceptable on the basis of ‘its deplorable but should be allowed as a matter of free expression’. This of course is the negative effect of supporting free speech, basically if the leaders are doing it then it must be okay for the public to openly express these odious opinions right? Well, NO actually it isn’t.

Then there’s the rise of the politically far-right parties across Europe. Media attention on these parties puts a sanitized face on their political propositions and provides a platform for their racist speech. The far-right is no-longer politically and morally seen as marginalized. The deafening silence offered in response allows, encourages even the far-right to go further, to claim to speak for the average man/woman, and the Left, how do they respond? They are intimidated and do not respond.

In her interview with Liberation, Taubira also accused the French political class, but particularly the National Front, of inciting racial resentment with their focus on the “threat” posed by immigration. “We need to stop making a daily soap opera out of immigration data,” she said. “How is immigration a problem? How is it endangering French society?” The same of course apply’s in Britain, the issues are the same.

Where the two nations differ (thankfully) is on classification. In France there are no classification on the census for racial origin. In France race statistics are illegal, to be French is sufficient. For me I find myself agreeing.

The honest conclusion has to be that the recent rise (lets hope its a spike) in racism is related to more multiculturalism, more mixing, more openness to the wider world. Over time my guess is that it will abate, but until that time comes we should not ignore its rise, to ignore it is to feed it. No, it must be challenged and we should implore our political representatives to challenge it on our behalf even more than we ourselves do. The very fabric of our societies are easily stained and could be permanently stained if we allow racism to go unchallenged.