Yellow Vests and Black Raincoats

Repost:


First of all I should state that this is a personal account of the situation, it is my take on a very diverse and complex social movement. The Yellow Vests movement was sparked by a government increase of oil prices in October 2018 though it is far from being the only reason: a generalized speed reduction on the roads was also seen as a way for the government to disguise a new tax by increasing the number of speeding tickets. However these reasons are only the tip of the iceberg. The real origins of this explosion of anger can be found in the policies of president Emmanuel Macron and the French political and social situation. Emmanuel Macron was elected with only few people ever voting for him ; his opponent being the far right candidate Marine Le Pen. A number of voters refused to chose between a racist and a former banker. Unsurprisingly Macron is now conducting a right-wing style of governance; reducing taxes on the rich, continuing his predecessor’s attacks on workers’ rights, repression of social movements, harassment and deportation of migrants etc. In this context the Yellow Vests movement appears as a true popular revolt which has more to do with the fact that people are fed up with the whole situation. However this anger is taking many forms and has not always been directed at the origins of the problem. I will try and explain the movement’s evolution and shed a light on its class composition, then I’ll try to explain the anarchists and revolutionaries’ response to the situation and I will then conclude on the movement’s perspectives and current situation.

In the beginning the movement was launched by a mobilization on social media platforms, especially Facebook. In a few videos seen by millions of people and shared by thousands, individuals were calling on people to oppose the government’s fuel prices increase, new speed limits and taxes. At that time the symbol of the yellow vest appeared ; in France every car owner is bound by law to have one in their vehicle. The videos also called on people to rally in the roundabouts and to wear this vest or display it in their cars. These roundabouts soon became quite central in the mobilization. This gives us a hint on the class composition of the movement in its early stages. The roundabout is typical of France’s industrial and commercial centers, suburbs in-between the countryside and cities, rural areas and small towns. As opposed to the typical movements centered on big urban centers this one took hold in more rural parts of the country. At one point people started occupying these roundabouts, day and night in some places ; tents were erected, shacks constructed and campfires were lit. One has to remember that it was still winter time and the nights could be quite cold. From time to time the roundabouts were blocked and skirmishes with drivers happened here and there. A few people even died because they were hit by cars. However most of the occupations consisted in distributing leaflets to passing cars and debating with other Yellow Vests. The occupations are the place were people who had never participated in any mobilization were starting to learn, make friends and comrades etc. At that time only a few of them were union members or had been militants of any political party.

Politically speaking the movement always has been, and is, very diverse. The focus on taxes, and fuel prices were quite foreign to leftwing activists. On the roundabouts you could also find a number of petit-bourgeois, small business owners, racist and fascist figureheads etc. Depending on the place some racists attacks took place and on one occasion people arrested migrants and gave them up to the police. This is far from being the core of what was happening, but this explains why many leftists and anarchists did not know how to react. However as the movement grew and was met with police repression the situation started to evolve. People started to converge on weekly demonstrations called “Acts” and were faced with police brutality. Occupations on roundabouts were more and more violent because of police repression and not only because of other car owners. At one point the movement decided to regroup for demonstrations in Paris. One cannot stress enough how politically young the Yellow Vests are as a whole. For example, in France one has to declare intended demonstrations to the police. The problem is that although the movement had figureheads, there was no leader and no central decision making process. What happened is that people decided to show up in Paris just by announcing it and they chose a symbolic place that has always been off limit to social movements; the Arc de Triomphe and the upper class neighborhoods surrounding it. This led to heavy clashes with the police and a part of the movement started radicalizing. From people who wanted the police to join them and treat them as fellow workers they started to become more and more angry at what was perceived as unjust and unfair violence and repression. In the meantime, business owners and right-wing elements started to distance themselves from the violence, however the core of the movement did not. Demands started to include more and more things like minimum wage increase, taxes for the rich and democratic reforms. More anarchists and leftists started to join, sympathize and organize within the movement as it appeared for what it was – a working class movement, unaffiliated to political parties and unions. For some anarchists and revolutionaries the fact that these people were capable of rioting in the most upper class neighborhoods of Paris has also been a wake up call. These demonstrations did not always take place in Paris ; some cities emerged as political hubs although they did not have a tradition of participation in social movements and riots sparked by police repression started in a lot of them.

The shift between a mainly non-violent and peaceful movement to a more determined one was also accompanied by the media. In the beginning the bourgeois media found that the movement was quite positive. It seemed like a dream come true for right-wingers; a peaceful popular movement against taxes, government involvement in the market etc. However as the movement became more radical the media started to describe them as irresponsible persons, and called on people to distance themselves from rioters and vandals etc. In the meantime police repression kept on growing and the media did not say anything about it. At this day at least 30 people have lost an eye because of the LB-40 (flashball), 5 lost a hand because of grenades and one person was killed. The number of wounded are in the thousands and a lot of people are being condemned to jail time after each demonstrations. Most of them were not even directly involved in the riots. The role of the media in not reporting police brutality and the distortion of facts explains why a lot of Yellow Vests are now considering them as liars and enemies. A few journalists were even attacked during demonstrations even though most of the violence they face has been coming from the police. We also have something to say about the role of public figures within the movement. Most of them refuse to be considered as leaders and a lot of them do not hesitate to call on people to act outside the law. For now the ones who tried to recuperate the movement for their own political gain or tried to distance themselves from rioters were met with a loss of popularity, death threats and attacks, even during the demonstrations or at their homes. This is also the case for government ministers and political figures opposing the movement.

As always the revolutionary movement (anarchists and autonomists) did not agree on the situation and the response we should have. Especially in the beginning, a lot of people considered the movement to be a right-wing and even far-right movement. It is true that some of the early leaders in the Yellow Vests had a right-wing background. However for me a lot of the rejection from parts of the revolutionary movement came from the disconnect between the revolutionaries and the working class. This is of course a greater problem that should be adressed elsewhere. Because of the problems that I mentioned before, and especially racism and antisemitism, some comrades are convinced that this movement is nothing more than a fascist movement. However there has been a shift in the face of police repression and riots. To their credit most autonomists groups like the “appelistes” (Lundi Matin, the invisible committee, Julien Coupat) were very enthusiastic from the very beginning. But we also have to note that their enthusiasm is also based on the fact that they reject traditional class analysis.

As people were criticizing the movement for its racism, a lot of comrades took it upon themselves to try and expel the fascists from the movement. It mainly came in the form of street brawls during demonstration, doxxing and attacks against fascists’ headquarters. At one point and time the situation was tense for left wing organization and groups. Some attacks were really violent and a number of comrades were wounded. The fascists even attacked mainstream left-wing groups, not only revolutionaries and antifascists. They are still a threat but it seems that the tide has turned for them. They lost a number of brawls and recently they were beaten so badly that they ended up in the hospital. Some of them decided to go to the police which is unusual for those groups who pride themselves on their strength and who are culturally close to the ultras and hooligans. However for me these street groups are not the main threat ; the intellectual figureheads of the movement are sometime far more problematic. A number of them support conspiracy theories and/or low key antisemitic views. For the time being there seems to be no solutions for that other than pointing out the problem.

The riots in the streets are at level not seen in Paris since 1968. The upper class neighborhoods have been attacked and even a ministry was broken into with a forklift during a demonstration. The Yellow Vests are getting more and more radicalized because of the repression; as a result they are starting to view the tactics of what they see as “the black bloc” as more and more justified. Most of the people active in the riots are first timers. This alliance between Yellow Vests and the “black bloc” also called “Kway noir” in french or “Black raincoats” is an issue of great concern for the government. They have not succeeded in creating a rejection of the more radical elements by the movement. Even worse, a lot of people are starting to consider that black bloc tactics are justified in term of self defense and that they have sometimes defended them from police violence. On the other hand the increase in police violence means that a lot of people are now justifiably scared to go to demonstrations and that has provoked a drop in participation if not in popularity.

Concerning the mainstream unions their attitude toward the movement has often been quite hostile but an hostility towards them can also be felt within the Yellow Vests. The reason being that the section of the working class active in the movement is not the same as the one that is unionized. The unions in France are overwhelmingly members of the public sector, have a higher pay and/or work in companies with more than 500 employees. On the other hand a lot of the Yellow Vests come from the private sector, and more precarious situations – self employment, temp jobs etc. However on the ground the rank and file of the unions has been participating in the movement from the very beginning. What is new for France is that this kind of social movement has never been further from the unions and can be seen as an other sign of their loss of power. However unions are not opposing the movement ; for the 1st of may Yellow Vests and unions were demonstrating together.

The government has attempted other means of destroying the movement using methods other than sheer repression. The main attempt was “the great debate” a type of national consultation supposed to inform the president of the request and demands of the people. It took the form of local groups of randomly selected people tasked with debating and coming up with requests. However at the end of this the president declared basically that he understood the demands but was not going to do anything about it, therefore showing what the attempt was all about ; destroying the movement and gaining time hoping people would get tired. It was even more absurd to try and start the “great debate” because the movement already had more or less clear demands ; things like the “RIC” ; Popular Initiative Referendum. This would basically permit people to vote on policies and propose new ones. Raising minimum wage and taxing the rich are the two other big demands on the part of the Yellow Vests.

Recently the demonstration of the 1st of May has seen much violence coming from the police. The government had given orders not to let the more radical groups time to gather. This took the form of a lot of charges and attacks on the demonstration and even on mainstream unions, which is quite new. The representative of the main french union, The CGT, even had to leave the demonstration because of police violence. The government succeeded in limiting this demonstration but failed miserably in the eyes of the public. For example they were caught lying about demonstrators attacking a hospital-it turned out people were just trying to flee police violence. More and more videos show special police groups attacking people randomly, even in their own buildings. Police repression has had the effect of radicalizing and bringing revolutionaries and Yellow Vests closer together. More and more the common denominator of this diverse movement is a hatred for the police and calls for a revolution.

It is difficult to see what the future will bring. However this movement is like no other we have seen in the past years. Personally I think that even though this movement has a lot of problems and things that need to be addressed it is still the most encouraging thing to appear in a long time ; an autonomous, working class, social movement.

[This article was written for Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement (AWSM) by Morgan, a French Anarchist currently resident in Christchurch. The original can be found here: https://awsm.nz/?p=2815]

Ardern and Macron to attempt to “to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online”

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron will chair a meeting in Paris next month which will seek to “to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online”.


NZ and France seek to end use of social media for acts of terrorism

New Zealand and France announced today that the two nations will bring together countries and tech companies in an attempt to bring to an end the ability to use social media to organise and promote terrorism and violent extremism, in the wake of the March 15 terrorist attacks in Christchurch New Zealand.

The meeting will take place in Paris on May 15, and will be co-chaired by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron.

The meeting aims to see world leaders and CEOs of tech companies agree to a pledge called the ‘Christchurch Call’ to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.

The meeting will be held alongside the “Tech for Humanity” meeting of G7 Digital Ministers, of which France is the Chair, and France’s separate “Tech for Good” summit, both on 15 May. Jacinda Ardern will also meet with civil society leaders on 14 May to discuss the content of the Call.

“The March 15 terrorist attacks saw social media used in an unprecedented way as a tool to promote an act of terrorism and hate. We are asking for a show of leadership to ensure social media cannot be used again the way it was in the March 15 terrorist attack,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“We’re calling on the leaders of tech companies to join with us and help achieve our goal of eliminating violent extremism online at the Christchurch Summit in Paris.

“We all need to act, and that includes social media providers taking more responsibility for the content that is on their platforms, and taking action so that violent extremist content cannot be published and shared.

“It’s critical that technology platforms like Facebook are not perverted as a tool for terrorism, and instead become part of a global solution to countering extremism. This meeting presents an opportunity for an act of unity between governments and the tech companies.

“In the wake of the March 15 attacks New Zealanders united in common purpose to ensure such attacks never occur again. If we want to prevent violent extremist content online we need to take a global approach that involves other governments, tech companies and civil society leaders

“Social media platforms can connect people in many very positive ways, and we all want this to continue.

“But for too long, it has also been possible to use these platforms to incite extremist violence, and even to distribute images of that violence, as happened in Christchurch. This is what needs to change.”


RNZ: ‘This is about preventing violent extremism and terrorism online’

Ms Ardern told Morning Report that since the attacks, there had been a clear call for New Zealand to take on a leadership role in combating violent extremism online.

“There is a role for New Zealand to play now in ensuring we eradicate that kind of activity from social media, in particular to prevent it from ever happening again. We can’t do that alone,” she said.

“This isn’t about freedom of expression, this is about preventing violent extremism and terrorism online.

“I don’t think anyone would argue that the terrorist, on the 15th of March, had a right to livestream the murder of 50 people, and that is what this call is very specifically focussed on”.

Ms Ardern said she’s met with a number of tech CEOs, including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, and held meetings with executives from Microsoft, Twitter, and Google.

“When we actually distil this down, no tech company, no country, wants to see online platforms used to perpetuate violent extremism or terrorism. We all have a common starting point. It all then comes down to what it is we are each prepared to do about it.”

Technology correspondent Bill Bennett…

…said a voluntary approach was the only option for getting technology companies to sign up to a crackdown on terrorist behaviour through social media.

“They don’t see themselves as being responsible for content that’s published on their sites anyway. They see themselves as being some kind of neutral thing”.

National Leader Simon Bridges…

…questioned whether the global conversation would translate into anything meaningful.

He was cynical about why Ms Ardern was focusing on the issue.

“I think New Zealanders will say, hey, if you’re not also progressing policy, plans and actions around our housing, health, and education, why is this the big thing?

“Is it just a distraction tactic?”.

New Zealand needed to be cautious about going down a path that would see the casual erosion of freedoms, Mr Bridges said.

NZ Herald: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to lead global attempt to shutdown social media terrorism

Speaking to Newstalk ZB this morning, Ardern said she was confident all major social media companies would sign up to the Christchurch call.

“We have been working on something behind the scenes for some time now, since the 15th of March. I have also recently had calls with a handful of chief executives.”

The call, she said, would place the onus on Governments, in terms of their ability to regulate, as well as on the social media companies themselves.

“I think that’s where we need to move; this can’t just be about individual country’s [ability to] regulate because this is obviously global technology and we need to have those companies accept responsibility as well.”

She said that the principals of a free, open and secure internet would “absolutely be maintained”.

“If we want to prevent violent extremist content online we need to take a global approach that involves other governments, tech companies and civil society leaders”.

“Social media platforms can connect people in many very positive ways, and we all want this to continue.”

But she said for too long it has been possible to use social media platforms to incite extremist violence, and even to distribute images of that violence, as happened in Christchurch.

“This is what needs to change.”

A worthy aim, but it will be difficult to come up with an effective means of preventing the use of social media by terrorists but maintaining the freedom of use of social media generally.

And even if social media companies do put effective control mechanisms in place, it is likely that those seeking to promote and perpetuate violence online will find ways around the controls.

Fine for Ardern and Macron to be seen to be trying to do something about it, but being seen to be trying, and doing anything effective ongoing, will be a big challenge.

Notre-Dame Cathedral on fire

Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris is on fire. There has been major damage, and the spire has collapsed.

The cathedral was being renovated.

Reuters: Paris’ historic Notre-Dame Cathedral hit by fire

A major fire broke out at the medieval Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on Monday afternoon, leading firefighters to clear the area around one of the city’s most visited landmarks.

It was not immediately clear what had caused the fire. France 2 television reported that police were treating the incident as an accident.

A major operation was under way, the fire department said, while a city hall spokesman said on Twitter that the area was being cleared.

Notre-Dame was in the midst of renovations, with some sections under scaffolding, while bronze statues were removed last week for works.

Wikipedia:  Notre-Dame de Paris

Notre-Dame de Paris (meaning “Our Lady of Paris”)  is a medieval Catholic cathedral on the Île de la Cité in the fourth arrondissement of Paris, France.

The cathedral is considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. The innovative use of the rib vault and flying buttress, the enormous and colorful rose windows, and the naturalism and abundance of its sculptural decoration all set it apart from earlier Romanesque architecture.

The cathedral was begun in 1160 and largely completed by 1260, though it was modified frequently in the following centuries. In the 1790s, Notre-Dame suffered desecration during the French Revolution when much of its religious imagery was damaged or destroyed.

A major restoration project supervised by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc began in 1845 and continued for twenty-five years. Beginning in 1963, the facade of the Cathedral was cleaned of centuries of soot and grime, returning it to its original color.

Another campaign of cleaning and restoration was carried out from 1991-2000.

And as reported Notre-Dame was undergoing further restoration, which is thought to be related to a possible cause of the fire.

Major protests in France, Belgium over green taxes

In what has been described as the worst unrest in decades in Paris protesters in France are revolting against carbon tax (fuel tax) rises, and growing dissatisfaction with the Government and President Emmanuel Macron. Protests appear to be rising from both the left and right of politics.

Reuters: France’s Macron learns the hard way: green taxes carry political risks

When Emmanuel Macron rose to power, he put the environment at the heart of his agenda. Eighteen months later, anger over those policies has stoked protests that are a huge challenge for the French president.

Rioters torched cars and buildings in central Paris on Saturday following two weeks of protests caused partly by higher fuel taxes which Macron says are needed to fight climate change. Some protesters called for him to resign.

Macron’s plight illustrates a conundrum: How do political leaders’ introduce policies that will do long-term good for the environment without inflicting extra costs on voters that may damage their chances of re-election?

It is a question facing leaders across the world as delegates hold talks in the Polish city of Katowice this week to try to produce a “rule book” to flesh out details of the 2015 Paris Agreement on fighting climate change.

“Clearly, countries where inequalities are the highest are the ones where these kinds of push-backs are mostly likely,” Francois Gemenne, a specialist in environmental geopolitics at SciencesPo university in Paris, said of the political risks.

Naming Italy, the United States and Britain as countries where environmental moves could risk a voter backlash, he said: “I guess it’s one of the reasons why populist leaders tend to be very skeptical about climate change and environmental measures.”

Could anything like this happen in New Zealand. There has been some dissatisfaction over regional and excise fuel tax rises, and fuel prices rose to record levels, but the pressure was relieved when fuel prices dropped due to a slump in international oil prices.

In France Macron tells PM to hold talks after worst unrest in Paris for decades

French President Emmanuel Macron ordered his prime minister on Sunday to hold talks with political leaders and demonstrators, as he sought a way out of nationwide protests after rioters turned central Paris into a battle zone.

After a meeting with members of his government on Sunday, the French presidency said in a statement that the president had asked his interior minister to prepare security forces for future protests and his prime minister to hold talks with political party leaders and representatives of the protesters.

A French presidential source said Macron would not speak to the nation on Sunday despite calls for him to offer immediate concessions to demonstrators, and said the idea of imposing a state of emergency had not been discussed.

Arriving back from the G20 summit in Argentina, Macron had earlier rushed to the Arc de Triomphe, a revered monument and epicenter of Saturday’s clashes, where protesters had scrawled “Macron resign” and “The yellow vests will triumph”.

The “yellow vest” rebellion erupted out of nowhere on Nov. 17, with protesters blocking roads across France and impeding access to some shopping malls, fuel depots and airports. Violent groups from the far right and far left as well as youths from the suburbs infiltrated Saturday’s protests, the authorities said.

The riots in France are spreading.

UK Sunday Express BRUSSELS IN FLAMES: French riots spread to Belgium – HUNDREDS go on rampage at home of EU

Hundreds of activists made Belgium’s political landmarks their target, marching between landmarks amid clouds of smoke from firecrackers and smoke bombs, as they were stalked by dozens of baton-wielding riot officers ready to pounce.

Protesters descended on the European Commission’s Berlaymont headquarters, the heart of EU decision-making, as they created Belgium’s own ‘yellow jacket’ campaign against rising fuel prices and the cost of living. The EU Commission was forced to temporarily shut its doors as the building’s security guards refused to let anyone in or out while protesters marched passed.

The rises in fuel taxes have aggravated general frustration that had already been growing.

France, Germany look to strengthen Euro zone (without Britain)

French President Emmanuel Macron called on Sunday for Germany and France to dig deeper as allies in their bid to spearhead a more united Europe, including by overcoming lingering scepticism on issues such as a euro zone budget.

In a speech to the German lower house of parliament on Sunday at an event honoring war victims, Macron said the onus was on France and Germany to pursue those efforts.

“This new phase can be scary as we will have to share, pool together our decision-making, our policies on foreign affairs, migration and development, an increasing part of our budgets and even fiscal resources, build a common defense strategy,” Macron said at the Bundestag.

“We have to overcome our taboos and overcome our habits.”

Macron, who later met German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin for talks, evoked a world “at a crossroad” in his speech, pitting nationalist movements “with no memory” against more modern, progressive ones.

“Europe, and within it, the Franco-German alliance, has the obligation not to let the world slip into chaos,” he said.

Meanwhile: Theresa May to visit Brussels this week as she defends Brexit deal

 

Trump dumps on France

Just after returning from a visit to France where Donald Trump had looked uncomfortable amid tensions between he ande Emmanuel Macron, and where macron had a dig at him over nationalism, Trump has let rip via Twitter in attacks described as lacking in common decency.

Four days ago Trump and Macron try to defuse tension: ‘We want a strong Europe’ – video (Guardian))

Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron sought to defuse tensions on Saturday after comments made by both leaders threatened to cast a shadow over a weekend celebration marking 100 years since the end of the first world war.

Three days ago: Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism: Macron lectures Trump (Stuff):

By the grave of an unknown soldier, under Napoleon’s grand arch, at the centenary of the end of a great, terrible war, France’s president lectured the powerful.

His audience, metres away, included presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, and Recep Erdogan.

Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism, Emmanuel Macron declared. A withdrawal into isolationism would be “a grave error that future generations would very rightly make us responsible for”.

In France Trump looked uncomfortable a lot of the time – except he lit up when Putin arrived at one event.

Trump likes being the big man, the US leader, the world leader, the big ego.

But he seems to treat ‘lesser’ leaders, and those who don’t stoke his ego, with disdain. He dislikes doing many of the the sort of things that any significant and effective leader has to do – deal with other people who may have different views and goals.

On Trump’s return to the US:  Days after visit, Trump blasts France’s Macron as relations sour

U.S. President Donald Trump attacked his French counterpart on Tuesday in a series of tweets that underscored how much the once-friendly ties between the two leaders have soured, just two days after returning from Paris.

In five posts sent on the same day that French officials marked the anniversary of the 2015 terrorist attacks that killed 130 people in Paris, Trump blasted the key U.S. ally over its near defeat to Germany in two world wars, its wine industry and Macron’s approval ratings.

White House Director of Strategic Communications Mercedes Schlapp, meanwhile, cast Trump’s Paris trip in a positive light.

“It was clearly a successful trip,” Schlapp told Fox News on Tuesday, saying Trump and Macron “had a productive meeting” on trade and NATO.

“He has sent a strong message to our European allies. And we have seen some changes and some positive shifts coming from our allies to pay more to NATO. We need their support,” she said.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Monday that Trump had isolated himself at one of the weekend events by deciding not to attend the Paris Peace Forum, which Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin attended.

Before his arrival, Trump had blasted comments that Macron made in a radio interview in which he appeared to cast the United States as a threat.

Both French officials and the White House said any misunderstandings had been cleared up after Macron and Trump held talks on Saturday.

It doesn’t look like things have been cleared up – it looks more like they have turned to mud.

That in particular is likely to fray raw nerves.

I guess Trump never claimed to be a diplomat, but this will be creating difficulties or US and French diplomats.

Guardian: He came, he sulked, he tweeted: preening Trump on parade in Paris

In political science classes in the decades to come, Veterans Day Weekend 2018 is bound to be popular essay topic in the course on the Narcissist Presidency.

It has all the hallmarks of the Trump era: a fabricated story that congeals as fact in the president’s brain and moments later is broadcast on Twitter. Countless diplomats and officials are sent scurrying to limit the damage, as the chief executive doubles down, refusing to admit a mistake.

On this occasion, after being generally complimentary to Macron during the trip, Trump woke up furious with the French president on Tuesday morning. He repeated the false claim about Macron’s intentions for a European army, and followed it up with the well-worn jingoistic claim that France would be speaking German if it had not been for US intervention in two world wars.

The president then pivoted, as he often does against domestic opponents, to deride the French president’s unpopularity and then signaled he would express his irritation through trade policy, claiming France imposed “big tariffs” on US wine and threatening retaliation. The tariffs on US wine are higher, but they are set by the EU, after trade negotiations with the US, not by France.

Over the first two years of his presidency, the point has been explained to Trump repeatedly. But in his outbursts against Germany, France and others, he ignores the distinction between the EU and its member states.

Whether Trump acts out of ignorance and deafness to expertise, or sheer political expediency has been much debated, but the distinction may not matter much. Raw attacks on other countries and talk of tariffs plays well with his base. Whether they are well founded or not does not matter.

At best, days of governmental effort will now be wasted, but no new tariffs will be imposed simply out of presidential ire. The outcomes could be far worse when it is not Emmanuel Macron on the receiving end of Trump’s petulance but say, Kim Jong-un after the honeymoon with the North Korean regime goes sour, and there are nuclear missiles rather than cabernet sauvignon at stake.

Who knows what trump may provoke internationally. He is very different to any world leader, past or present. His brashness, petulance and ego may shake some things up and do some good, but he is also high risk.

Trump looks to be a provoked disaster waiting to happen.

Macron and Merkel – emotion and unity on Armistice Day centenary

Angela Merkel, the first German leader since World War 2 to visit the site where the World War 1 armistice site, has joined with French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron in an emotional show of unity in events marking the centenary of Armistice Day.

BBC: Macron and Merkel mark end of World War One

French President c and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have left their own mark of reconciliation at the start of events to mark the centenary of the end of World War One.

They signed a book of remembrance in a railway carriage identical to the one in which the 1918 Armistice was sealed.

Mrs Merkel became the first German leader since World War Two to visit the forest near the town of Compiègne in northern France where the Armistice was signed.

She and Mr Macron unveiled a plaque to Franco-German reconciliation, laid a wreath and signed a book of remembrance in a replica railway carriage.

The original wagon, on which it was modelled, was used by Adolf Hitler to accept France’s capitulation to Nazi Germany in June 1940.

Mr Macron will lead the main event of the centenary – a sombre commemoration on Sunday at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a memorial to France’s fallen under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

Sunday afternoon will see Mr Macron and Mrs Merkel attend a peace conference – the Paris Peace Forum – with leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Macron initiated the peace conference. As here in New Zealand commemorations of World War 1 have highlighted the horrors of war and as well as remembrance of the huge number who died in the conflict have had significant promotions of alternatives to war – that is, peace.

But where Donald Trump goes, controversy is certain to follow. He did not take part in the peace conference.

And Trump was widely criticised for not attending a remembrance event at an American cemetery.

After an hour of talks with Mr Macron and lunch with their wives Melania and Brigitte, Mr Trump had been due to visit one of two American cemeteries on his schedule.

But he cancelled his trip to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial due to “scheduling and logistical difficulties caused by the weather”.

White House officials later explained that low cloud would have prevented his helicopter from landing, and cited security concerns about arranging a motorcade to the site.

Gen. John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, attended on the president’s behalf.

Kelly managed to handle the “scheduling and logistical difficulties caused by the weather”.

David Frum (President George W Bush’s speechwriter):

Nicholas Soames, UK Conservative MP and grandson of British wartime leader Winston Churchill:

Trump was grouchy before he got to France, taking a swipe at Macron via Twitter.

The row began when Mr Macron told French radio station Europe 1 radio on Tuesday “we must have a Europe that can defend itself on its own without relying only on the United States”.

Mr Macron went on to mention threats to Europe, including “re-emerging authoritarian powers” that were well-armed on Europe’s borders, and attempts to launch cyber-attacks, before concluding: “We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America.”

Mr Trump responded angrily in a Friday night tweet, writing: “President Macron of France has just suggested that Europe build its own military in order to protect itself from the US, China and Russia. Very insulting, but perhaps Europe should first pay its fair share of NATO, which the US subsidizes greatly!”

Mr Macron has already raised spending considerably to meet a Nato target of 2% of the GDP going to defence.

He is also overseeing the formation of a European Intervention Initiative, a 10-nation endeavour backed by Germany and the UK.

(me controversy also from German far right Alternative for Germany AfD party co-leader Alexander Gauland – Germany has no place in WW1 ceremony for ‘winners’- far-right leader

German Chancellor Angela Merkel should not have taken part in a ceremony in France on Sunday marking the centenary of the Armistice as it is an event for the “winners” of World War One, said the leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

Germany lost the war and Merkel’s participation in a ceremony for the former allies amounted to an attempt to rewrite history, AfD co-leader Alexander Gauland said.

“We can’t put ourselves in a historical situation that clearly favours the winner and walk alongside Mr. Macron through the Arc de Triomphe,” he said, referring to the famous Paris monument.

That totally misses the point of the Armistice Day commemoration. It isn’t about winners, it is about remembering the huge losses suffered by many countries, and trying to avoid any sort of repeat of the stupidity of the war.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters has been representing New Zealand in France – Foreign Minister attends Armistice Day and Paris Peace Forum

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters will represent New Zealand at Armistice commemorations in France and attended the inaugural Paris Peace Forum later today.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern calls for ‘peace and inclusion’ on Remembrance Day

Ardern’s Speech to Armistice Day National Ceremony 2018

I don’t know why Ardern didn’t go to France, but that was signalled in July when New Zealand plans were announced – Government releases details of Armistice Day centenary plans

Collins unrepentant over fake news link

The dangers to politicians of being active in social media were highlighted again today when Judith Collins used an online ‘news’ article to demand a response from Jacinda Ardern.

This is known to be a conspiracy web site, and this was pointed out to Collins along with the real legal situation in France.

Stuff:  Judith Collins defends linking to fake news article on France consent laws

Senior National MP Judith Collins is standing by a tweet linking to a an article that made false claims about France’sage of consent laws.

France had already made sex with any children younger than 15 an offence, but it did not automatically classify all such sex as rape – neither does New Zealand.

The new law makes it far easier for prosecutors to do so by introducing a new offence of “abuse of vulnerability”. Critics have argued that the new law does not go far enough, but not that the law goes backward.

Collins responded to those on Twitter who asked why she was tweeting out fake news by tweeting to reputable news sources covering the same topic, but in a deeply different way.

She told Stuff she didn’t necessarily “agree” with every article she tweeted but wanted to draw attention to the issue.

“I’m just concerned about the story about France itself,” Collins said.

Collins said she didn’t buy into “conspiracies” about liberals pushing paedophilia worldwide, despite sharing the article which suggested liberals were doing just that in its first paragraph.

And:

It would have been embarrassing, but admitting a mistake and apologising would have been better than digging deeper into the world of real fake news and conspiracy mongering.

Football world cup – Belgium versus France

Belgium and France are now playing the first semi-final in the football world cup.

These are the top ranked teams to reach the semi-finals. Just prior to the tournament Belgium was ranked 3 and France 7.

I’m neither picking a winner nor backing either team. May the best team on the day win.

France, Belgium win world cup quarter finals

It probably wasn’t a surprise to see France beat Uruguay in a Football World Cup quarter final this morning, but it would have shocked many, especially in South America, when Belgium edged out cup favourites Brazil. Belgium led 2-0 until late in the game, and Brazil could only close up with one goal.

France has eliminated both Argentina and Uruguay, and with Brazil out too now there are no South American teams left in the running.

Tomorrow morning (NZ time) the other two quarter finals will be played:

  • Russia versus Croatia
  • Sweden versus England

Despite Germany crashing out early, and also Italy, Spain and Portugal, Europe is dominating this world cup.

Rankings prior to the cup starting:

Top 20 rankings as of 7 June 2018[1]
Rank Change Team Points
1 Steady  Germany 1558
2 Steady  Brazil 1431
3 Steady  Belgium 1298
4 Steady  Portugal 1274
5 Steady  Argentina 1241
6 Steady   Switzerland 1199
7 Steady  France 1198
8 Increase 2  Poland 1183
9 Steady  Chile 1135
10 Decrease 2  Spain 1126
11 Steady  Peru 1125
12 Steady  Denmark 1051
12 Increase 1  England 1051
14 Increase 3  Uruguay 1018
15 Steady  Mexico 989
16 Steady  Colombia 986
17 Increase 2  Netherlands 981
18 Increase 3  Wales 953
19 Increase 1  Italy 951
20 Decrease 2  Croatia 945
*Change from 17 May 2018
Complete rankings at FIFA.com