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French Items from 2011:                                         to enlarge a photo, click on it

The French hexagon   Maison de la Reine Blanche   What is a secular state?    French gender    Welfare in France   Le Printemps de Bourges    Nuclear France    Before and after DSK    Vegetarians in France   Boulanger    The Philosophy Exam    Closing a box   No fracking in France   French tales    French movies    Artistic Freedom     Bits and Pieces    The euro is a French dream    




map


The French hexagon
I have a French school geography text from the 1960s. In it there is the way French children are taught to draw a map of France. First draw a cross: the horizontal is approximately the line from Brest, through Paris and on to Strasbourg; the vertical runs from Dunkirk through Paris to Perpegnon. Then make the sort of hexagon using the first four points and two more that are at Nice and Bayonnne.  The line from Bayonne to Perpegnon is the Pyrenees and the line from there to Nice runs through Marseille at its mid-point. Put in the fiddly bits along the coasts and the four big rivers and you have a pretty good map of France. I have seen a little kid do this on TV and very skillful and quick he was too. Obviously it is practiced.

























Maison de la Reine Blanche
Throughout France there are streets, hotels, restaurants and so on named after a white queen. Bourges has its Maison de la Reine Blanche which is one of the oldest buildings in the city. It dates from just before or after the great fire in Bourges in 1487. Currently it is shops, it once was an inn and may have been built as a private home and place of business of a deputy mayor called Ursin Sauzay. The name probably comes from its time as an inn.white queen
The house is located in a neighbourhood that was originally a place of merchants and craftsman who worked with wool and cloth by the Yevrette river. They were the rich bourgeois. The Sauzay family was powerful. They were Contremoret barons who moved to Bourges Saint-Sulpice at around the time of the fire. King Louis XI had a violent feud with the municipal elected government and when he won, he replace the elected group with his own supporters including William of Sauzay. The family remained prominent in the city for many generations.
The building is oak and it is carved with many scenes. It did have a third story but it disappeared in the 1600s. Jules Dumoutet made this drawing of it in 1850.
The common inn name 'Reine Blanche' refers to Queen Blanche of Castile (1188-1252). She was a woman who was remembered! She was the grandchild of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Her sister was promised to Louis VIII of France but grandmother Eleanor thought that Blanche would make a better queen of France and arranged for her to arrive instead of the sister. She had 13 children of which 6 died in childhood and when her husband died the heir, Louis IX, was just 12. Blanche was the regent. Blanche had to bear the whole burden of affairs alone, to break up a league of the barons (1226), and to repel the attack of the King of England (1230). But her energy and firmness overcame all the problems; she had both military leadership and diplomacy skills. She was charming too. Louis owed his crown to her and he always remained under the spell of his mother's imperious personality. She ruled not only her son but his wife Margaret and several other important children. When Louis went on crusade, Blanche was regent again. Although she disliked the crusades, she kept the peace at home and got supplies and men to her son in the Holy Land until she died.


What is a secular state?
France has been a 'secular state' since the revolution. The Church was pro-crown and the revolution was anti-cleric. Both in a big way.
The Republic, through all its changes of constitution, has guaranteed religious freedom for all, as long as faith is private. But at first all education was done by the Church. Almost a 100 years later, in the third republic in the 1880s, a modern education system was created. The education would be free, obligatory, and secular. The fight over education raged between the Church and Republic for a few more decades.
They settled their fight in 1905. The State pays all teachers in the state schools and the religious schools.  Other religions could have schools, not just the Catholic Church. What is to be taught is fixed by the state.
Any manner of religious manifestation is banned in public including displaying anything that identifies someone's religious affiliation. You cannot group together in public to pray either. The Republic maintains the religious buildings built before 1905, classifying them as historic monuments. The problem is new religious buildings. The state cannot build these within the constitution. What happens if the Russian Orthodox want a church or Muslims want a mosque. They have to get the planning permission and if they can't or it is delayed – where are they to hold their services? Apparently Montmarte Muslims have been gathering in the Rue de Myrha which the police closed to traffic and for two hours every Friday it is an open air mosque. This is strictly against the law but arranged and overseen by the local authorities.
The problem is that many French people see buildings with onion domes or minarets etc. as proof of non-integration. Integration is basic. If you live in the Republic it will be good to you as long as you integrate – that is,  to speak French and adhere to the values of France. There are French people that do not see the difference between wearing a crucifix in public (a no-no) and building a mosque in public.
There is a deep confusion in this.
 
French gender

gnder cartoon

Welfare in France
This is part of what Polly Toynbee, a prominent journalist with the Guardian newspaper has to say about the French welfare state:

Sarkozy has made a striking promise to create a "new branch of the welfare state" to provide care for old people and those with disabilities. France has 1.1 million dependent old people, their numbers expected to grow by the middle of the century, when the over-85s could number 5 million.
In France, cross-party commitment to welfare runs deep, as does belief in the necessity and benignity of "l'état". Politicians on the right and the left use the word solidarité with sincerity (the National Front is statist, too, though its definitions exclude "immigrants" from the national compact). Perhaps solidarity is the modern expression of the 1789 cry for "fraternity". The Sarkozy government has a minister for solidarity and maintains the solidarity tax, only one of several payments by general taxpayers and employers levied in the name of strengthening social cohesion. On the annual journée de solidarité employees' pay is earmarked for old people's charities.
Fraternity begets equality. France is one of the few western countries where poverty and income inequality have fallen during the past 20 years. Meanwhile in the UK, income inequality is higher than it has been for 30 years. An impulse towards égalité is imprinted deep in the French political DNA: the Lavialle polling institute recently found that nine out of 10 French people think the income gap is still too large. The French are more convinced that the state is a force for good: leftist criticism of Sarkozy's government masks deep underlying agreement on the need for a big and benign state.
All this finds expression in willingness to spend on pensions, income support, health and social services which together amounts to 33% of national income, the highest in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, where the average is 24%. The French benefits system is "Bismarckian", based on insurance funds. For health the employer pays 12.8% of earnings, the employee 0.75%; in state pension contributions 8.3% and 6.65% respectively, up to an earnings ceiling. But as in Germany, the funds still need large subventions from the state. Households pay a hypothecated tax, topping up the funds, which cover health, maternity pay, disability and pensions. Separate insurance covers family benefits, industrial accidents and unemployment insurance.
Since the revolution, the place of Catholicism in French life has been fiercely contested. But church and state have long agreed to encourage child-bearing and support mothers. Though the birth rate fell as elsewhere in Europe, it is higher than in the UK. In both countries the birth rate picked up from the boom years of 2002 onwards, yet both countries still have fewer babies than funerals. Ever since a great drive after the first world war to make up for its missing dead, the French state has been energetically pro-natalist, traditionally favouring families nombreuses. But there is not much sign of church influence in observance of marriage vows. In both France and the UK, figures for fertility and births outside marriage have broadly risen in step. Some 42% of UK births are out of wedlock; in France it's over 50%. Average age for first motherhood is in the late 20s.
A larger proportion of French women of working age take jobs than in the UK. In pay terms they are better treated, too. In Germany men on median earnings get 23% more than women, in the UK 21% more, but in France, the pay gap is 12%. That one difference contributes significantly to their greater overall equality.
French families get more help. Public spending on early years is the highest in Europe after Iceland and Denmark, at about 1.1% of national income.
Whether it's due to lifestyle, social security or high health spending, the French are long-lived. A Frenchwoman can expect to live 84.4 years, three years longer than her British counterpart and the highest in the OECD after Japan. For Frenchmen, however, life expectancy is 77.3 years, the same as for UK men.
All in all, France is a generous society, and it fights hard on the streets against attempts to cut back on good collective provision for pensions, benefits and health. Contrary to myth, it is not the power of its unions – France has fewer union members than the UK – but the power of collective will. As a result, it is a better country than most in which to be old, or sick or unemployed, or disabled or a little child.

Le Printemps de Bourges
Bourges has, for 30 years, held a big concert season called Printemps de Bourges or Spring in Bourges rock festival.

Printemps de Bourges Logo

This year the headliners are Zaz (jazz singer), Ben L'Oncle Soul (soul & reggae), Cali, Aaron (British pop), Angus and Julia, The Original Wailers, Tiken Jah Fakoly, and six other reggae groups.
It lasts 5 days, has 250 acts, 80 concerts, about 80,000 visitors to the city and is one of the most important rock festivals in France. We have not gone previous years and were going to try this year – but – Ciara and Ryan's visit is at the same time and much, much more important. Maybe we will hear some next year.

nuclear stations
Nuclear France
What is happening in Japan makes me think of nuclear power stations here in France. This country has just under 60 nuclear stations and they supply 80% of the country's electricity.  They are dotted around the country. 34 are 500 megawatts that are 27 years old, 20 are 1300 megawatts that are 21 years old, 4 are 1450 megawatts that are 11 years old and there is one under construction. EDF has a lot of experience with nuclear plants and a very good safety record. They also run some other country's nuclear stations. Still the Japanese were pretty good at it too until they suffered a tsunami that was larger than they had planned for. France also has coastal stations and stations near seismic zones along the edges of mountain ranges. There isn't an installation near us but then they do have the storage of weapons just down the road. I suppose in an emergency, fate will depend on which way the wind blows.







Before and after DSK
The arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn in New York is called the 'DSK affair' here in France. It has shaken things up.
The first reaction was shock that the Americans actually arrested such a important man and then put him in jail. Was he not a foreign diplomat? And in New York on international business? Should he be treated like a common criminal because Americans have a puritan attitude towards sex?
Then there was a change of mood as a result of some unfortunate remarks. The most noted of these was Jean-Francois Kahn, philosopher and journalist, who referred to the event as a 'troussage de domestique' and had to apologize and resign for that remark. This phrase apparently has no English translation but it is archaic, pejorative and was used to refer to aristocrats having the right to have sex with their servants (consensual or not) in the days before the revolution. In fact, it was one of the many causes of the revolution - that the lord had access to any of the women in his estates. This clearly put in context remarks by others along those lines but not so explicit. The political elite value an image of macho 'seducers' as a badge of power in politics, but they also had a very weak dividing line between 'gallantry' and sexual harassment, and between seduction and rape. It seems that DSK had been groping and pressuring any woman he could; he was known for it and admire by his male counterparts for it. His female counterparts dealt with it as best they could.
The French are proud of how independent and equal women in France are. They did not take well to seeing the way their political elite viewed and behaved towards women. Stories came out. Statistics were published. French women were not getting as much respect as people thought. There were marches, complaints and talk of new laws. The elite come under criticism and so did the media. The uncomfortable question was raised of the two parallel worlds in the French media and politics: what is printed, and what is behind it, gossip, and what must officially remain "unsaid". Private lives were simply out of bounds to the French media, even though female journalists had many stories to tell of being harrassed themselves. Now the treatment of those that had spoken out about harassment and rape before came under a new spotlight. Private lives will still be protected by not when it involves coercion or illegal acts.
The America and France cultures are having another of those moments. The French are coming to terms with the idea that some 'private' news should be published. But everyone agrees that they do not want a press like the America or English scandal-sheets with their muckraking. And the French are in shocked at the American legal system – because they interpret it in terms of the French system. In France you are not assumed innocent until proven guilty. By the time the police put handcuffs on you, you were assumed guilty and have to prove your innocence. A great deal of investigation preceeds arrest. The grand jury was misunderstood as a one-sided trial. Still the reputation of DSK cannot recover in France, even if his lawyers get him off.
How far DSK has fallen – from head of the IMF with an extremely rich wife and a shoo-in for President of France in the next election to a nobody on trial in New York. Meanwhile the unpopular Sarko is sitting pretty with his new trophy wife pregnant and no obvious rival for another term as president in sight. He says nothing about the DSK affair and appears macho enough but in good taste.
France is not the same as it was before the DSK affair and it's a good thing.

Vegetarians in France
Is it possible to be a vegetarian in France? – yes, but it is not easy. Two vegan parents have been have been sentenced to five years in jail for neglect and feed deprivation after the death of their 11 month old daughter. She died of pneumonia but was extremely thin and had vitamin deficiencies. They were loving if somewhat incompetent parents. The public feeling against them included use of natural (ineffectual) remedies, not following doctors advice, washing the baby in clay rather than water, breast feeding as the only source of food – but their greatest sin was being strict vegetarians. How could she breast feed when she didn't eat right? Vegans have to be careful about vitamin deficiencies but this pair were not aware of the dangers.
An adult can be a vegetarian – its their choice. But children are not allowed – sort of. Schools have canteens, all the children eat the canteen meals. There are special menus for various health conditions and religious rules, but vegan is not recognized. Choice of animal protein is one thing but none is quite another. There is no such choice for children. What is more, the canteens put all the dishes on the plate. A child cannot say it will not eat any dish. What is more, the child is expected to eat everything on their plate. (Some schools are more enlightened and let children off with just taking a taste of the food they hate. Some schools even let vegetarian children eat around the dreaded meat. But even in the less rigid schools that bend the rules, the child is sure to know that they are doing something unhealthy, stupid, in bad taste and unpatriotic.) It is a good thing that France has a good standard of cooking, and the system does produce people who are not fussy about what they eat, only fussy about how it is prepared. French meals are also very high on animal protein – lots of meat, offal, fish and seafood, cheese and dairy, eggs, exotic things like snails, frogs etc. – so what is left when animal products are removed can be a little meager.
There are now quite a few vegetarians in France but they are far rarer than in other European countries and very few vegans.

Boulanger
One of the things I have loved about France since I first visited in the '60s is French bread. Now I live here and cannot eat a bite because of gluten intolerance. But I still remember what good bread it was.
The French still buy their bread fresh each morning. On average 3 baguettes. Why? French bread does not keep well. Buy it and eat it – that is the French way.
Most villages have one or two bakers and so do most neighborhoods in larger centers – a baker for every 1800 people on average. If a place is too small for a bakery (like our village) there is a place that sells fresh bread from a another nearby village in the morning, called depot de pain. So there is healthy competition and very good quality. These days there are big continuous bakeries on the edges of big cities where you can park, buy just fresh baked brain and go.
So if everyone is going to have fresh bread for breakfast, the bakers have to work in the early, early morning. And if everyone is going to pick up some fresh bread for the evening meal on the way home from work, the bakers have to work in the mid-day too. When do they relax?
Harry buys a half a loaf every morning and one or other of the neighbouring villages which have two bakeries each.


The Philosophy Exam
All students study philosophy as one of their subject in the last year of secondary school and it is the first exam in the Baccalauréat or le bac as it is known (think Canadian High School Matriculation or British A Levels). The bac is a European-wide qualification for university entrance but each country has separate exams. In France there are three types of bac: Scientific (S), Economic & Social (ES), and Literary (L) - and they all include the philosophy exam. You are not considered educated in France if you do not know the great philosophers.
In fact there is a good deal of overlap in subjects but the weighting given to the various subjects varies between the three series. The questions on this year's four hour exam were published in Le Monde right after the exam was written. Later they published what was apparently a marking guide for all the questions.
L series:
CAN A SCIENTIFIC HYPTHESIS BE PROVEN ?
IS MAN CONDEMNED TO BELIVE IN HIS OWN ILLUSIONS ?
COMMENT ON THE EXTRACT FROM NEITZSCHE
ES series:
IS LIBERTY THREATENED BY EQUALITY?
IS ART LESS VALID THAN SCIENCE ?
COMMENT ON THE EXTRACT FROM SENECA
S series:
DOES CULTURE DISTORT MAN?
CAN WE BE RIGHT AGAINST THE FACTS?
COMMENT ON THE EXTRACT FROM PASCAL


Closing a box
box It seems that the French have a thing about boxes. When we buy something like, say, rolled oats, the first problem is to open the box and the second problem is to close it. It seems that the French don't like having boxes around that are not neat after they have been opened.box
When I change countries I am not surprised that opening things has to be learned. I had to learn that English milk bottles with foil tops were the easiest milk bottles in the world to open. After several days of fighting the foil top, I saw someone open one without really looking while doing something else with the other hand. All it takes is a gentle push with the ball of the thumb and presto. But I expect to only have to learn a few of these tricks.
boxThe companies in France must patent their opening methods. Every box seems to have a new and unique opening method, a new way to make a neat little door. You would think that an easy method would be taken up by everyone, but no, everyone has to have their own. The photos are new, opened, re-closed (no enlargement - not that interesting).
Some things are just not meant to be understood.


No Fracking in France
The French parliament has voted to ban fracking in France. Those companies that have purchased permits for drilling in oil shale in French territory have until September to notify the government of the extraction technique they use and if it is fracking or if they do not give notification then their permits are revoked. It is the first country to enact a ban, although some smaller authorities have bans.
The vote was along party lines with the governing conservatives passing the bill and the opposition socialists voting against because they wanted a stronger bill that banned all development of the shales.
Fracking injects vast quantities of water and chemicals into the shale to force the release of natural gas. The concern is the toxic waste and the pollution of underground aquifers.


French tales
We don't get all our fairy tales from the Grimm brothers and Hans Christian Anderson. There are also tales from the French tradition in the Mother Goose group. Charles Perrault (1628-1703) was an intellectual and could have not predicted that his reputation for future generations would rest almost entirely on a slender book published in 1697 containing eight simple stories with the unassuming title: Stories or Tales from Times Past, with Morals, with the added title in the frontispiece, Tales of Mother Goose (Histoires ou contes du temps passé, avec des moralités: Contes de ma mère l'Oye). Charles Perrault, in a symbolically significant gesture, did not publish the book in question under his own name but rather under the name of his son Pierre. Like the Grimms, he did not invent these tales -- even in his day their plots were well known -- but he gave them literary legitimacy: The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood, Little Red Riding Hood, Blue Beard, Puss in Boots, The Fairies, Cinderella, Ricky of the Tuft, Little Thumb. He also published Toads and Diamonds which I have never encountered before.
TOADS AND DIAMONDS
A bad tempered widow had two daughters. The eldest was like her mother, both in feature and disposition, while the youngest resembled her father. She was sweet-natured always, and as pretty as she was amiable.
The widow doted on the daughter who was so like herself, but had no love for the other, whom she compelled to work hard all day, and to live upon the leavings of her elder sister. Among her other hard tasks, she was obliged to carry water every day from a great distance.
One day when she had just filled her pitcher at the fountain, an old woman asked to drink from it. "With all my heart," replied the pretty girl. Glad to show a kindness to one old and infirm, she held the pitcher while the woman slaked her thirst.
Now, this was not a trembling old peasant, as she appeared, but a fairy who rewarded good deeds. "
Your face is pretty and your heart is gentle," said she. "For your kindness to a poor old woman, I will make you a gift. Every time you speak, from your mouth shall come a flower or a jewel."
When the girl reached home her mother scolded her for her long absence.
Pardon me for being away so long," she sweetly replied. As she spoke some pearls and diamonds issued from her lips.
"What is this I see, child?" asked the astonished widow.
The forlorn girl was so happy to be called child by her mother that she eagerly related her experience with the old woman at the fountain, while, with her words, dropped precious stones and roses. The widow immediately called her favorite daughter to her.
"Fanny, wouldst thou have the same gift as thy sister?" asked she. "Go thou to the fountain and fetch water. And if an old woman asks thee for a drink, mind' thou treat her civilly."
The girl refused to perform the menial task, until the widow lost patience and drove her to it. Finally, she took the silver tankard and sullenly obeyed. No sooner was she at the fountain than from the wood came a lady most handsomely attired, who asked the haughty girl for a drink from her pitcher.
"I have not come here to serve you," she rudely replied, "but take the pitcher and help yourself, for all I care I would have you know that I am as good as you."
The lady was the fairy, who had taken the appearance of a princess to see how far the girl's insolence would go.
"I will make you a gift," she said, "to equal your discourtesy and ill breeding. Every time you speak, there shall come from your mouth a snake or a toad."
The girl ran home to her mother, who met her at the door.
"Well, daughter," she said, impatient to hear her speak.
When she opened her mouth, to the mother's horror, two vipers and two toads sprang from it.
"This is the fault of your wretched sister," the unhappy mother cried. She ran to beat the poor younger sister, who fled to the forest to escape the cruel blows. When she was past pursuit, she threw herself upon the green grass and wept bitterly.
The King's son, returning from the hunt, found her thus, and asked the cause of her tears.
"My mother has driven me from my home," she told him.
She was so pretty that he fell in love with her at once, and pressed her to tell him more. She then related to him the whole story, while pearls and diamonds kept falling from her lips. Enraptured, he took her to the King, who gave his consent to their immediate marriage.
Meanwhile the ugly and selfish sister had made herself so disagreeable that even her own mother turned against her. She, too, was driven forth into the forest, where she died miserable and alone.


French movies
The Cannes film festival is the second oldest in the world. Venice has that honour and the Cannes one only started because of disapproval of Fascist interference in the film industry. The first Cannes festival was in 1939 and it did not finish because the Second World War started on its third day. It started again after the war and soon became THE festival – big, classy and fair. The Cannes festival was not the first festival but it was one of the few second places in French cinema.
The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station, the 50-second film by the Lumière brothers first screened in 1895 – the first thing that could be called a 'movie'. Georges Méliès made the first science-fiction film and pioneered special effects in A Trip to the Moon in 1902. Around the same time Alice Guy-Blaché became the first female film-maker. That is the last 'first' I can find.
In the early silent files there are a few giants. France did not have the first, that was the American Birth of a Nation (1915). But it did have had the longest. Abel Gance's made the six-hour Napoleon in 1927. Birth of a Nation was only two and a half hours long; The Battleship Potemkin (1926) was only 75 mins. France was famous for the artistic style of their films before and after the First World War, in keeping with French prominence in all the visual arts at that time.
Not only did the French miss the first big movie, they were a little after America in making musicals. The first was in 1930, Under the Roofs of Paris by René Clair. During the 30's and after the WW2, the French made romance, triller, gangster, comedy, historical, noir, satire, surreal movies and something all their own, poetic realism. They have had many internationally famous directors and actors. French cinema is still going strong and making great movies.


Artistic freedom
Well, France has its artistic freedom credentials in good order. A play by Romeo Castellucci, called On the concept of the face of the son of God, is filled with a fake substance that looks and smells like shit liberally staining the stage. That is the sort of thing Castellucci is famous for. But the mayor of Paris and the Minister of Culture are taking a stand against organizations that disrupt the play. Le Monde reports (via Goggle machine translation):

The city of Paris and the Theatre de la Ville decided to file joint complaint against those who disrupted the play by Romeo Castellucci , "On the concept of the face of the son of God," presented last Thursday at the Theatre de la Ville in Paris. Members of the association InstitutCivitas, Christian fundamentalists, who had already attacked in April the photographs by American artist Andres Serrano in Avignon, including the famous Immersion Piss Christ, have interrupted the performance Thursday night. "The city of Paris and the City Theatre decided to file joint complaint against those who commit acts of officials of public degradation and violation of freedom of creation and artistic expression", said the mayor of Paris in a statement Saturday.
The city "condemns in the strongest terms this type of action, which aims to impede the principle of creative freedom "and" reaffirms its support for Demarcy-Emmanuel Mota, director of the Theatre de la Ville, Romeo Castellucci and artists and staff of the theater, despite the disruption, while continuing to put out for the show to be presented to the public in the best possible conditions."  He said that he and the Théâtre de la Ville 'deposit systematically complaint' against anyone who tried to disrupt the upcoming performances of the play.
The Minister of Culture Frederic Mitterrand also denounced "these disturbances which violate a fundamental principle of freedom of expression protected by French law." The ministry stressed that the Justice had dismissed an association - the Alliance against Racism and for respect for the French and Christian Identity (Agrif) - which called for the cancellation of the show.
Even the bishops of France said in a statement that the Catholic Church condemned "the violence at recent shows," adding: "The Catholic Church in France is neither fundamentalist or obscurantist.”
The government has also been speaking against the arson at Charlie Hebdo by Islamic extremists after the paper's Sharia satire, not just because arson is criminal but because satire is not.

Bits and Pieces
(1) The campaign for the French President is starting in earnest, Hollande verses Sarkozy. Le Monde says Sarkozy, who was unpopular in public opinion polls, has had a lift from his new baby and his stateman-like prominence in the Euro crisis. Hollande beat Aubry who was the favorite until a few days before the second round of primaries. He is described as:
“First and foremost, he has the common touch. He is from deepest France, as far from the Parisian left bank “chattering classes” that you can get. At one point during the primaries, he was caught on camera going back to his flat clutching a salami sausage and a bottle of wine – very common and very popular. Unlike Mr Sarkozy, Mr Hollande has not “rich”. He’s the sort of guy who’ll drive to work in an inexpensive small car and take his holidays on a campsite by the sea. Mr Hollande is the “man next door” - he has none of Sarkozy’s “bling bling” trappings.” He is the ex-husband of Royal who was the favorite in the early days before the primaries heated up. The ordinary man is just what the left-wing voter wants after the Strauss-Kahn's fall from the elite of the elite.
(2) Le Monde also reports that Strauss-Kahn avoids leaving his house because of the treatment he gets on public streets and only 3 or so of his old friends come to visit. Apparently those that supported him have found out that he really is far worst then the two police investigations implied and they feel betrayed, disgusted and angry. He has recently been named in a case about pimping and that has finally sealed his fate.
(3) The Euro crisis goes on. The idea is to not have Greece default or leave the Euro zone, but for their debt to slowly be written off. The effect is the same as defaulting except that it can be denied that there was a default, it will happen slowly enough that most of the public will not realize what is happening, the loses can be spread about and not bring down any particular banks, much of the effect with be payed for by the public in their taxes through bank supports. The European powers (primarily Germany, France and UK) are managing to withstand the recession in their own countries while holding up the Euro and engineering the disappearance of Berlusconi from Italy so that it can be saved from crisis. Merkel and Sarkozy are taking the bows. Every time they claim they have solved the problem something happens to show that they haven't – usually the refusal of the Greek public to cooperate. Cameron is getting problems with the anti-Europe end of his party for being helpful.
(4) It looked like France was in good shape but the French banks hold a lot of Greek debt. It has had small but very steady growth for many years. The GDP for the second quarter of 2011 was 0% and it may dip negative next time. From 1978 to 2011 the quarterly growth has been 0.48% with a high of 1.60% in June 1978 and a low of -1.60% during the crisis in 2008. Between 2008 and now, growth has been at its historic steady rate of about 0.5%. France is the second largest economy and second trading nation in Europe. As with many modern industrialized nations, it has a large and diverse industrial base. Economic growth rates in France have been steady for decades due to conservative planning of the economy which in comparison to other western European countries is more centralized by the government in France. There is a lot going for France: World's fifth largest economy, top tourist destination, fourth largest weapons exporter, second largest agricultural exporter and sixth largest ag. producer. It has strong industries in telecommunications, aerospace, defense, ship building, pharmacueticals, construction, chemicals, automobiles, nuclear energy and others. Except for the Greek debt, which it holds a lot of, it is strong compared to many competitors. Sarkosy has just promised spending cuts and higher taxes.
(5) Peter Mayle, who wrote A Year in Provence, has sold his place in France for 6 million Euros and joined the move of Brits out of southern France.
(6) S&P down-graded France from its AAA+1 rating by mistake and corrected it within a couple of hours. I'll bet someone there made a fortune.

The euro is a French dream
You may think the euro is a very young idea and that it was a German idea but no, the idea is old and French.
In 1865 the Latin Monetary Union was born as a monetary union of France, Belgium, Italy and Switzerland. Over the years it was joined by Spain, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Austro-Hungary, the Papal States, Albania. It ran into difficulties in the First World War but lived on the name and some levels of cooperation until 1927.
A European currency was discussed in the League of Nations in 1927 but not taken very far. In 1969 the European Council looked into centralization of the national macroeconomic polices, "the total and irreversible fixing of parity rates and the complete liberation of movements of capital", but not a single currency or central bank. It was called the snake in the tunnel and it failed when exchange rates got erratic.
In 1971 the US went off the gold standard and therefore the Bretton Woods system collapsed followed by exchange rates being very unstable. This started the Europeans talking again about a monetary system. In 1979 the European Currency Unit (ECU) which was an accounting currency was created and the European Monetary System and the European Monetary Cooperation Fund (EMCF) was born.
In 1986 the Community began to outline monetary co-operation. France, Italy and the Commission wanted fully monetary union. UK's Thatcher opposed it. Jacques Delors, a French politician, was asked to develop a plan and came up with the Spaak method. At this time Germany was wanting reunification while the UK and France didn't want a unified Germany. Germany had the very strong and trusted DMark and was worried about losing it. France made a deal with Germany – Germany gets reunification and France gets European monetary union.
The first step was abolishing exchange controls in 1990, then the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 which agreed the single currency before 1999. The UK and Denmark would not participate. Delor's step two was the forerunner of the European Central Bank in 1994. In 1997 the Stability and Growth Pact was signed to ensure budgetary discipline for the euro. An exchange rate mechanism was set up for stability of rates with countries not in the euro zone. Greece did not met the Pact criteria but the other 11 did and carried on to the next step.
In the third step the conversion rate for the 11 currencies to the euro were fixed (one ecu equaled one euro and the currencies were fixed with their value against the ecu as of Dec 31 1998). The next day the euro was born and replaced the ecu as the accounting currency. The change over in bills and coins, prices and records went on in each country until 2002. All government bonds and other debts were denominated in euros immediately. On the first day of trading on the 5th the euro rose against the dollar. The new currency was shipped to the banks started in 2002 and started replacing the old.
The French have had the dream of a Europe-wide currency for close to 200 years, it goes back to Napoleonic times and they are fully committed to the euro. The euro is in trouble and the French answer is to further unify Europe. The rest of Europe agreed with the Franco-German plan to do so, including all the non-eurozone members except for the UK. Even the countries waiting for admission to the EU signaled their agreement.
The reaction to the UK stance has been angry. “French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the 17 nations that are in the eurozone would now press ahead to approve an inter-governmental treaty among themselves, setting a March deadline. Jacky Rowland reported from the summit that the reaction to Britain's veto was "angry, annoyed, yes, but hardly surprised". The French president's comments that it was unfair for UK to expect exemptions from the rules, and that it was precisely the lack of adequate regulation that had led to the financial crisis. This viewpoint is one that many ordinary Europeans are likely to agree with.....Cameron has vowed to protect the City of London, with France and Germany leading EU moves to impose a financial transactions tax which the British prime minister says would hit the UK the hardest.”