When History Repeats Itself

Parc Monceau Gustave Caillebotte Commons wikipedia.org
Parc Monceau
Gustave Caillebotte
Commons wikipedia.org

Paris has never appealed to me: I regard it as a place to slog through to get to somewhere more interesting and am relieved that I have rarely had to stay there for more than a couple of days.
I must be a provincial at heart – not even that gem of a book ‘Paris des Pas Perdus’ by Alain Rustenholz can enthuse me enough to check out whether or not the Eiffel Tower is painted in three different shades of grey to make it look as if it tapers.
For one thing I would have to pay an entrance fee and for another I much preferred to return home to see my own Eiffel Tower…the metal spire of the village church designed by Eiffel and destined to become the subject of a French rural version of Bleak House as the village, varying departmental architects of Batiments de France and a firm of painters slugged it out in the courts for years to see who was to take the blame for the paint peeling off it and who was to pay for the solution.
I could have told them the answer: they must have used that wonderful French invention – non stick paint.
It would peel from my shutters in under a year, so no wonder it peeled from the steeple in two.

Still, were I to be lumbered with a longer stay in Paris I think I could seek solace in the alleys of the Parc Monceau, still not all that different from its depiction by Caillebotte above.
Quiet today as when he painted it, but not many years before it had been one of the sites where the supporters of the Paris Commune were shot by the troops of the bourgeois French Republic in May 1871….those rounded up had their hands inspected to see if they had been firing weapons and those thus incriminated were sentenced to immediate sentence of death by firing squad by an ad hoc military tribunal.

Pavillon de Chartres Pavillon de Chartres Parc Monceau scholarsresource.com
Pavillon de Chartres
Parc Monceau
scholarsresource.com

This building at one end of the Parc Monceau is one of the few remains of the Wall of the Farmers-General, built in the late eighteenth century to encircle Paris at the behest of the ‘Ferme generale’ – the corporation of private individuals who collected most of the taxes on behalf of the government.

The royal government had long since given up the task of tax collection by that time.
It had hived off the function to the Ferme generale whose members would bid for the chance to collect a particular tax in a particular area….thus the government was guaranteed a certain income, and the members of the Ferme generale were guaranteed a whopping profit as – thanks to their spirit of solidarity – the bidding process was not exactly competitive.
They collected all sorts…taxes on land, taxes on that most basic of commodities, salt….and taxes on everything that entered Paris.
Thus the wall.

After a brief moment of revolutionary madness when the tax on goods entering Paris was briefly abolished before being rapidly reinstated, the wall remained – not to disappear until Paris was torn apart by Baron Haussmann in the 1860s, its narrow insanitary streets being replaced by the wide boulevards we see today and as the wall disappeared so did the tax which gave birth to it.

The wall had long outlasted its progenitors however: prominent members of the Ferme generale having filled the maw of Madame Guillotine the new French state took taxation into its own hands.
No more middlemen.

Well, not until recently, that is.

The previous government of France, that of Sarkozy, signed an agreement with a private company, Ecomouv which enabled that company to organise a system of tax collection on the usage of particular stretches of road by heavy goods vehicles in return for a fixed tariff to be paid to the French state.

Once the system was due to come into force there were protests – notably in Brittany whose hauliers claimed that they were being penalised for being at a distance from Paris, out on their peninsular.
Several of Ecomouv’s installations were destroyed and the Hollande government promptly announced that implementation of the tax would be postponed.

In the meantime, journalists at ‘Marianne’ have uncovered an opinion of one of the civil servants most closely involved with the Ecomouv concept that the infrastructure as set up not only enables the company to monitor heavy goods vehicles – but all vehicles

And not only that…with the technology available road pricing can be put into place.
You’re a rich bugger – your company can pay for your use of a road rendered empty by price fixing and lay it off to tax.
You’re a minister or high civil servant – the public purse can pay.

It all makes me think that the Green lobby has a great deal for which to answer.

Why do we use inefficient wind power when we can use nuclear power?
Because nuclear power produces spent uranium which has to be stored…or used in the military weapons which have made a devastation of Iran.
But if we use thorium we don’t have that problem.
Except that governments don’t see it as a problem. They like having depleted uranium available for military purposes.
Where is the Green lobby here?

What do we propose to do to enable people living in the country to access the services they need?
Public transport? Don’t make me laugh!
Elderly neighbours in France were already limiting their trips to town for shopping before I left.

Carbon exchange credits…what does that do apart from permitting polluters to continue to pollute?

I’ll have time for the Greens when they stop taking ‘planes to conferences; when they take into account the lives of the poor in first world countries and when they disassociate themselves from money raking enterprises.

But I won’t be holding my breath.

Chinchilla Goes A-Hunting

Chinchilla-Comunicacion-CORTESIA-CASA-PRESIDENCIAL_LNCIMA20131104_0006_57Laura Chinchilla, President of Costa Rica, is on a tour of Europe to attend a meeting of the OECD and drum up investment and tourism for her country.
I’m never happy when Costa Rican politicians visit Europe….they inevitably return starry eyed with new ideas on how to separate the citizen from the said citizen’s money following the example of those masters of financial meltdown, the European Union.
Last time it was VAT…what will it be this time?
The ecotax on heavy goods vehicles currently going down with all hands in Brittany?

Paris was the first stop….
Usual meetings with the President of the Senate….and even with the reclusive Hollandouille, President of the French Republic where the usual platitudes as to investment were exchanged – the French want to flog a tramway to San Jose – and the possibility of opening Costa Rican waters to ships of the French fleet was discussed.

The Costa Rican Legislative Assembly need have no fear of approving this measure as every time the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle attempts to leave port either the propellor falls off or they run out of nibbles in the wardroom so there’s not much chance of pom-pom hatted matelots performing the cancan in the streets of Limon any time soon.

President Chinchilla then went to the real seat of power…the offices of MEDEF, the bosses union, to have more meaningful discussions on inward investment in Costa Rica.
While not privy to the session I imagine that MEDEF would have been interested to know to how the facilitation of the social dialogue works in Costa Rica: as we are now belatedly discovering, in France it works by shovelling bank notes to the tune of several million Euros into the hands of union leaders on a regular basis.
I am sure that President Chinchilla was able to tell them how the social dialogue is facilitated in Costa Rica.

Before moving on to the Vatican, President Chinchilla wound up her visit by giving a speech at the UNESCO offices in Paris where she drew attention to Costa Rica’s strongdemocratic traditions in a region more noted for the despoliation of the people by oligarchal regimes…and to Costa Rica’s respect for the environment…for the natural world.

notre dame de paris wikipedia.commons.orgFrom that point of view it was perhaps infelicitous that on the Sunday the President had attended a mass at Notre Dame de Paris…in the company of government colleagues travelling with her and embassy staff.

She’s a Roman Catholic…so why not? She was welcomed by the Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Vingt-Trois, and she heard mass.
Where’s the problem?

In the light of her declarations at UNESCO the problem was that the mass in question was that of St.Hubert.
The patron saint of the hunting fraternity.

les=photos=de=dd=over-blog
les=photos=de=dd=over-blog
If you are not familiar with them, the music of the ‘trompes de chasse’ is based on the calls necessary to direct the mounted hunt…la chasse a courre…. and all over France, in towns as well as in the countryside, you will find the feast day of St. Hubert celebrated by groups of players of trompes de chasse outside and inside churches…from tiny chapels in the forests to the mighty Notre Dame of Paris itself.

Let me leave you with an example of the music that President of Costa Rica may have heard: