Trans Saharan Stayed Route

Some news from Paris:

A transgender woman has spoken out after a video went viral of her being attacked near a rally in central Paris against Algeria’s ailing president.

Julia has described being targeted by three men in the Place de la République.

Julia, 31, was set upon on Sunday as she walked up steps at the metro station in the Place de la République. A big rally was taking place in the square against Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Algeria’s long-ruling 82-year-old president, who has since announced his resignation.

Wearing a black-and-white striped blouse, Julia was blocked by protesters who taunted her in Arabic.

I’m losing count of the number of incidents involving opposing victim classes getting into a confrontation, while ordinary people look on in amazement at what’s become of their country. For what it’s worth, I’m on Julia’s side here: she should be allowed to walk wherever she likes in public, free of harassment. Although it seems some lessons take a while to learn:

Julia later made clear that the attack had nothing to do with the Algerian community but was carried out by ignorant people, regardless of their origin or religion.

Just the facts please, ma’am. Now who attacked you?

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The Tommy Knockers

Yesterday a chap called Mohammed Shafiq who works for the BBC boasted he’d got Tommy Robinson booted off Facebook:


Given Tommy Robinson and several of his supporters have indeed been booted off Facebook, it’s reasonable to assume Shafiq is boasting in good faith. Here’s how elected representatives to Britain’s parliament reacted:


How dare a British citizen be allowed to generate a huge following through utterances of unapproved opinions! Does he not understand Article 58? Facebook should be forced to bend to the will of the British government!


We need an independent social media regulator to ban people politicians don’t like!

We ought not to be surprised by this. Free speech in the UK is dead, assuming it ever existed. Last week an elderly black Christian street preacher was arrested for being Islamaphobic and racist. Maybe there’s more to that story than the media is reporting, but I see no reason to give plod the benefit of the doubt. When you have politicians demanding companies be regulated to suppress dissenting voices and the police arresting wrong-thinkers and none of this creates much of a stir outside libertarian circles, you can assume a good chunk of the population has forgotten the importance of free speech and will have to learn it the hard way.

Over here in France we have Charlie Hebdo, and as I’ve written before, their mere existence is reassuring:

Rather than getting upset about Charlie Hebdo’s puerile and offensive front covers, we should be glad that at least someone is putting them out there. If they weren’t, how could we be sure that speech was still free? And how would we know that what we said was not going to land us in trouble?

So long as Charlie Hebdo can continue to do what it does, everyone else is free to speak, write, and draw as they please. Once we enter into the territory of differentiating between deliberate and inadvertent offence, it becomes a negotiation with those who don’t recognise our right to do either and would rather silence us completely.

It’s also worth repeating that the sale of Charlie Hebdo, one way or another, would be prohibited in the UK. Perhaps because memories of occupation and deportations still linger, the French seem to assign greater importance to free speech than either the British or Americans. Fortunately for the Yanks they have their first amendment. Unfortunately for us, we’re at the mercy of low-IQ grifters like Lammy and Watson. This will not stop with Tommy Robinson, and one gets the impression they’re just getting warmed up.

As I’ve said before, it won’t be long before the only place political discussion can take place outside dreary repetition of establishment-approved doctrine will be in the comments sections at Pr0nhub.

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Maio Carps

So much for this famed EU solidarity we keep hearing about:

Mr Di Maio, leader of the Five Star Movement (M5S) which governs in coalition with the far-right League party, made his latest comments during a visit to central Italy at the weekend.

“The EU should impose sanctions on France and all countries like France that impoverish Africa and make these people leave, because Africans should be in Africa, not at the bottom of the Mediterranean,” he said.

“If people are leaving today it’s because European countries, France above all, have never stopped colonising dozens of African countries.”

He said if it wasn’t for Africa, France would rank 15th among world economies, not in the top six.

Regardless of whether his remarks are fair or not, it does raise questions over just how united these EU nations are when it comes to stuff that actually matters:

The Italian ambassador to France, Teresa Castaldo, was summoned to the foreign ministry in Paris on Monday.

French diplomatic sources quoted by Italian news agency Ansa called Mr Di Maio’s remarks “hostile and without cause given the partnership between France and Italy in the European Union”.

But Mr Di Maio, who is also labour and economy minister, was unrepentant on Monday.

He accused France of manipulating the economies of African countries that use the CFA franc, a colonial-era currency backed by the French treasury.

“France is one of those countries that by printing money for 14 African states prevents their economic development and contributes to the fact that the refugees leave and then die in the sea or arrive on our coasts,” he said.

“If Europe wants to be brave, it must have the courage to confront the issue of decolonisation in Africa.”

I don’t know how much the CFA is contributing to the migrant crisis, but the stance of certain EU governments, not to mention well-funded NGOs, is certainly a large factor, yet Italy must bear the costs as they turn up on their coastline. Between a hostile Italian government and the gilets jaunes, Emmanuel Macron’s year really hasn’t got off to the best of starts, has it?

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Petty Cash

This is dumb:


The convention has always been that EU countries do not charge citizens of other EU countries for any registration or regularisation process, nor do they charge for visas and residency cards for non-EU spouses of EU citizens. I expect this was done because the marginal cost of waiving the fees is vastly outweighed by not having millions of people bitching about having to pay to exercise their rights under EU law.

With Britain set to leave the EU, the Home Office needs to come up with a way of regularising the presence of approximately 3m EU citizens who currently have a right to be there. A simple registration process is the best way to go about it – sorry, mass deportations are not going to happen – and it is in everyone’s interests to make this as painless as possible. Imposing a £65 charge was stupid to begin with, and scrapping it the most sensible thing to do: it would cause far more resentment than it’s worth, and £200m is chump-change considering half the country seem happy to hand over £39bn without so much as a parliamentary debate. It comes across as petty and vindictive, and makes for very bad politics.

France has advised all British citizens to apply for a residency permit within 1 year of March 29th, and is not charging them a processing fee. From what I’ve seen, their approach has been calm, measured, and sensible. Perhaps some Frenchmen have taken to Twitter demanding Brits be charged 65 euros for the trouble, but if so I’ve not seen them. Unlike certain Brits, I don’t think the average Frenchman is interested in punishing foreigners for being caught up in political events outside their control.

Yesterday I submitted my documents on the second attempt, and at least this time it was successful. It wasn’t without complications, though. Firstly, I got a different fonctionnaire, so of course the required list of documents changed. Fortunately, I’d brought “spare” documents with me just for this eventuality, and two of them were needed. Secondly, when I handed over my income tax statements – which are not on any list, but nevertheless a requirement – I was told they were incomplete. I opened up the French tax website, logged into my account, and showed her exactly what was available for me to print. She looked blank and said “normally there are several pages” and “I need the one they sent to your home”. I said I don’t receive paper copies, I’d opted for the electronic version only and this is all I have. So she processed my application, gave me the receipt, but told me I had to come back with my proper tax statements which I could get from a building over the road. Fortunately Annecy is small, and everything beside each other.

I crossed the road, bracing myself for a battle with bureaucrats in the tax office; the prefecture closed in half an hour, and I had no appetite for coming back another day. I spoke to the lady at reception and explained everything, and she said “Oh yes, there’s a room over there where you can log in and print it out.” To my astonishment, there was: a room with two or three computers and a printer which cost nothing to use. I logged into the tax website and discovered that while everything else was identical, there were more pages to my tax statements when going through their own system. Weird, but I didn’t care: I printed everything off, crossed the road back to the prefecture, and handed them in at the counter I’d been sat at 15 minutes before. Job done, I think.

Everything in France is either insanely complicated or surprisingly easy and you have no idea which it will be until you try it. This was a mixture of both, but at least they didn’t charge me. Britain shouldn’t charge EU citizens either.

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Pas de surprise

I have just returned from the local prefecture to request my French residency card. It went pretty much as I expected, having had experience with French prefectures before. Having waited for 3 hours I arrived at the counter to find the list of required documents the fonctionnaire was using was different from the one displayed on the prefecture’s website, and different from the one the French national government issued with Brexit approaching. The one in use at my local prefecture is dated December 2016.

So now I need to get my birth certificate translated, which is no big deal but it takes time, costs money, and isn’t actually required by law. But if the person behind the counter says it is, that’s all there is to it. I also have to produce proof that I have been in France for 5 years. The requirement is you can show a document which covers each 6 month period of your stay. I presented bills and other documents covering the period, but most bills in France are annual, not bi-annual. So I had plenty of documents showing I’d been in France from January 2014 to January 2015 and January 2015 to January 2016, but my application was rejected because I had no bills from July 2014 and July 2015. I explained I didn’t receive any bills in that month and she said, “Oh, maybe you have a medical certificate or something?” Presumably Frenchmen use suppositories on such a regular basis they have a doctor’s bill for each month of the year, but I’m now going to have to scrabble around for something which says I was in France in successive Julys of my stay. I was then asked for my tax bills, which don’t even appear on the fonctionnaire’s list; I have no idea where that demand came from.

This is how it works in the prefectures. You turn up with everything you think you need and wait an age, then you discover what you actually need. Then you come back and hope you got it right the second time. Under French law it is actually not allowed to refuse the application of an EU citizen on the grounds a supporting document is missing; they are compelled to accept it, and the applicant brings the missing document later. But prefectures don’t follow French law, and they have no incentive to: if you feel your rights have been breached you may claim compensation through the courts, but the maximum you can receive is less than what it costs to hire a lawyer. Handy, eh?

We’re going to hear a lot of sob-stories from Brits battling with prefectures over the coming months, the blame for which will be placed squarely at the feet of Brexit. But for me, as I described here, Brits are denied their rights under EU law anyway by fonctionnaires who don’t know EU law nor even care. As I said to the EU representative during my last encounter with a prefecture when the Brexit referendum was looming, if our rights under the EU are not recognised when it matters, we’re better off out. And here we are.

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Assurance française

So this is how screwed up insurance is in France. I bought my car insurance through BNP Paribas, and like all good insurance sellers they increase the premiums each year hoping you won’t notice. If you do notice and query it, they shrug their shoulders and say “that’s just the market”. Sometimes they’ll even throw in some nonsense such as “but there have been more thefts this year”, as if the doozy you’re talking to would know that.

Anyway, after 4 years of this I got fed up and decided to change. Changing insurance companies in France is rather difficult, made deliberately so by the insurance companies. It has got a bit easier recently thanks to the Hamon Law which aimed at doing away with anti-competitive practices. However, it’s still not straight forward. When you sign up with the new company they contact your old company and cancel your agreement with them, but they then ask you to obtain two documents from your old company:

– An information statement listing any accidents the driver’s had while insured, or lack thereof.

– Confirmation the insurance has been cancelled, or the reason why the request was refused.

I immediately asked for these from my previous insurer, who didn’t bother replying. I asked BNP Paribas, who shrugged their shoulders. I dug around and found that unless you send the request by recorded delivery, the insurance companies refuse to comply. I also found out BNP contracts their insurance to an outfit called AVANSSUR, a subsidiary of Axa, whose address is at 48 Rue Carnot. My new insurance company – Direct Assurance – told me I should ask them for my documents, and they have a legal obligation to provide them within 15 days. Unless they come tomorrow, which is unlikely, I will not be getting them in that time period. So I went to advise Direct Assurance that I’m having no luck getting these documents, and somehow I discover they are also a subsidiary of Axa, their address is 48 Rue Carnot, and:

AVANSSUR is a subsidiary of AXA that operates under the Direct Assurance brand.

In other words, I’ve saved myself 30% on my insurance by switching contracts within the same company and I’m waiting for them to send me documents which they are asking to see. What makes it more amusing is that, in order for the new company to cancel your contract with the old one, you give them the policy number and all the details. So they know they’re dealing with themselves, but I’m still getting emails reminding me I’ve not sent my documents and advising I write to them tout de suite.

Welcome to France. Happy New Year, folks!

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One rule for thee…

Back in the early 2000s, Italy, Portugal, and Greece were being chastised and threatened with fines by the European Commission for breaking the Stability and Growth Pact, which aimed to limit the fiscal deficit of member states’ budget to 3% of GDP. Then something happened around 2001 which caused the French and Germans to blow their budgets and go on a borrowing spree, and all of a sudden the Stability and Growth Pact didn’t matter (see this chart for historical deficits). It became quite obvious that EU rules are only to be enforced against certain countries, and exceptions made when it came to France and Germany; those less charitable thought it quite obvious that the EU was run for the primary benefit of those two member states.

Fast forward 17 years and we had the European Commission refusing to approve Italy’s budget because it breaks the Stability and Growth Pact. Then a short time later French president Emmanuel Macron, with his back to the wall facing the might of the gilets jaunes, decided to throw an €8bn – €10bn bung at them in the hope of saving his presidency. France’s budget was already perilously close to the 3% limit, and this pushed it over the edge. So the European Commission is going to take action, right?

Heh:

The EU will accept a French budget deficit above the EU’s 3 percent ceiling in 2018 “as a one-time exception,” Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger said in an interview published Thursday.

Now there’s a surprise, eh? If you follow the link and translate from the German, you find out why:

President Macron has lost authority with his budget for 2019, which exceeds the deficit limit of three percent. But he remains a strong supporter of the European Union.

Of course. The rules don’t matter provided you are France or Germany and you are a strong supporter of the EU. What a wonderful club. I can’t think why Britain voted to leave.

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Rule by technocrat

This is a good article on France, Macron, and the yellow vest movement, in particular:

Whether on the Right, center or Left, French politicians and senior government officials are an astonishingly homogenous bunch. Almost all of them have studied at the grandes écoles like the École Nationale d’Administration. These institutions serve to furnish a group of highly educated individuals. Commonly referred to as “les énarques,” they rotate between elected office, the private sector, and the state bureaucracy, thereby ostensibly lending stability to France’s notoriously cantankerous politics.

These schools produce well-trained technocrats furnished with the mindset that their primary responsibility in life is to serve the state. This is a very different attitude to that which prevails among graduates of most top-level American universities. But the grandes écoles also facilitate a monolithic outlook, an absence of creative thought, and unhealthy patronage networks.

In more recent times, these dispositions have been accompanied by a habit of embracing pretty much every politically correct nostrum. These range from gender ideology (something which infuriates large swathes of French public opinion, and not just on the Right) to environmentalism as a pseudo-religion. This has exacerbated the already huge gap between the viewpoint, life experiences, and priorities of people like Macron—whose personal career path epitomizes the énarque—and most other French people, especially the France of the provinces.

Anyone’s who worked in a company whose upper management are dominated by the graduates of the grandes écoles will relate to that passage. See also here.

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‘Tis the season to be murdered

This is a surprise, eh?

France has issued a maximum level of alert as police hunt a gunman who opened fire at a Christmas market in the eastern city of Strasbourg.

Three people were killed and 13 wounded, eight of them seriously.

People being attacked by a murderous lunatic at a Christmas market in Europe? This is becoming as much a tradition as mince pies, carol singing, and bad jumpers. And wait, we’re not done with the surprises just yet:

The gunman, 29, known to authorities as a suspected extremist, escaped after reportedly being injured.

Of course he was also known to authorities, they don’t like to be caught with their pants down chasing an unknown terrorist. That would be embarrassing. Can we assume the “suspected” modifier will now be removed from his file?

Some 350 officers are involved in the search for the gunman.

There was a time when murderers on the run had their name and photo distributed across the lands to aid their capture. Now their names are withheld from the public in case the earth’s rotation is disturbed by the simultaneous eye-rolling of a hundred million people.

A picture is beginning to emerge of the suspected attacker, although a motive is still not known.

And may never be known. Yeah, yeah, we’ve heard it before.

BFM TV described him as a “repeat offender” and “delinquent”, adding he was part of known extremist networks in the city.

So there are “known extremist networks” in Strasbourg? That’s comforting news. Do the authorities intend to do anything about them any time soon? If this statement from the president of the European Parliament is any guide, I’ll not be holding my breath:


Yes, “let us move” on even though the gunman has yet to be caught and the victims’ bodies are still warm. Naturally the Parliament won’t be intimidated by terrorist attacks because the elites inside are protected by armed guards. But the rest of “us”? Well, best stay away from provocative Christmas markets, eh?

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Macron’s mess

Twitter was rather lively over the weekend concerning photos and videos emerging from the latest round of riots in Paris in which armoured personnel carriers bearing the EU flag are seen rumbling through the streets towards unarmed protesters:


Now various people popped up to say this isn’t really a big deal because the vehicles aren’t really part of an EU authority, and even if they are it’s not really related to the EU because reasons, and for all I know they may be right. But one has to wonder just how tin-eared Macron and his cabinet are to put these vehicles onto the streets bearing that flag at a time like this. Macron was only recently calling for an EU army, and as I said some time ago the first deployment of any such body will likely be against the unarmed citizens of an EU member state. Optics matter, and previous French presidents would have known not to be as cack-handed as this. Macron not only appears incompetent, but more isolated from the country he governs with each passing day.

I read this morning that Macron now intends to sit with union leaders to discuss the crisis. These are presumably the same unions who fully backed the Paris climate change agreement which brought about the fuel tax hikes in the first place*. My guess is he’s talking to them because nobody else has put themselves forward.

*In my last place of work, the white-collar unions were passing around flyers protesting the acquisition of a rival oil company because it was incompatible with global commitments to reduce fossil fuel use and tackle climate change. Yes, the unions were more interested in supranational vanity projects than securing long-term employment for their members.

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