December 1, 2014

Joyeux Noël – from Russia with love

Posted in Sunday Business Post · 45 comments ·

Under the watchful eye of Maurice de Sully, bishop of Paris, the first stones of Notre Dame cathedral were laid in 1136.

In the medieval ages, no city could proclaim itself a truly great urban centre without a cathedral. Paris had none. How could a city with pretensions to be the centre of Christianity rival Rome without a cathedral?

It simply had to match its increasingly important role as a centre of trade and commerce with commensurate status-conferring architecture.

Work began in earnest a generation later in 1180 and it wasn’t completed until the 14th century.

Notre Dame changed the entire focus of medieval Paris. It was far and away the tallest building in the city, and the entire area around it was razed and rebuilt to facilitate the building work. Due to its height, it became the focal point of the city – and probably more revolutionary was the view of their own city that Parisians could avail of from the top of the cathedral. This gave them a sense of the grandeur and reach of the city they would never have had before. Altitude changes things.

Medieval Paris was probably much more debauched than pictured in Victor Hugo’s epic novel of 1831, Notre Dame de Paris. In the late 12th and 13th centuries, the centre of Paris was a den of whores, robbers and beggars and was prone to epidemics of all sorts, as the river was nothing more than a giant sewer. Yet Notre Dame rose majestically out of this fetid gutter to signal to everyone that Paris had arrived – not just as the undisputed capital of France, but as the premier city of Europe.

The site of the cathedral had always been a focal point for the gods in pagan, pre-Christian Paris. Legend persists that its very design maps out the geometry of ancient pre-Christian science, the so-called occultist Hermes science (after the god Hermes, not the handbag), which dates from the ancient religion of Persia, Zoroastrianism. These Persians – ancient Iranians – were a source of deep fascination for occultists of the 19th century such as Victor Hugo (and our own WB Yeats, who joined the Hermetic Order in 1890). Indeed, many believers in the occult contended that the precise angle of the crow’s beak over the portal on the main door of Notre Dame pointed directly to where the Philosopher’s Stone was buried by ancients under the cathedral. (I don’t know all this stuff; I am just reading a fascinating book at the moment, Paris: The Secret History by Andrew Hussey. Well worth the time.)

The cathedral, with its legends, stories and characters (such as the Hunchback), has become synonymous with Paris. You can’t imagine Paris without it, and Parisians are still naturally proud of this immense medieval monument.

It was therefore odd to see that, last week, Russia donated an enormous Christmas tree to the cathedral.

The ‘gift’ followed an appeal to foreign embassies by Monsignor Patrick Jacquin, the rector of Notre Dame. He explained that the cathedral could not afford a Christmas tree (due to a shortage of huge trees, the price tag doubled this year to €80,000). Russia’s embassy quickly stepped in and offered to bring an 80-foot tree thousands of miles overland to the French capital.

Of course, the Russians are playing games because of the EU’s steps to isolate Russia over Ukraine and Crimea. The Russian ambassador to France gave a rather over-elaborate speech last Thursday at the unveiling of the giant tree: “We want to show, by this gesture, that despite the efforts to isolate Russia, the friendship between our two countries is so strong and deep that no politics can destroy it.”

Interestingly, the politics of Europe look destined to be shaped by events in these two countries in the years ahead. Both countries have elections in 2017, the results of which will have serious ramifications for Ireland.

The Russian picture will be blighted by EU sanctions, the slump in the price of oil, a recession, and the stop/start war in eastern Ukraine. As Putin will want to win the parliamentary elections in 2017, expect him to use Ukraine to stoke up populist feeling in Russia. The president’s stance is hugely popular in Russia. It is hard to see the EU upping the sanctions, as they are already having a deleterious impact on Germany’s manufacturing sector. Europe usually does what Germany wants.

However it is in France, for so long the dynamo of the European project, that the EU has much to fear, and where the link to the Kremlin is most obvious.

It is not unlikely that Marine Le Pen will be the next president of France. Hollande is politically toxic, and the resurrected Sarkozy smells like yesterday’s man. Le Pen is ahead in the polls and her position is strengthening.

It will be stronger financially with the news that a Russian bank with close ties to the Kremlin intends to lend her party, the Front National, €40 million to fight the presidential election. This money is a game changer.

Today, the Front National has its annual convention. They are well ahead in the polls and the French economy is going just the way they want it to go electorally – downwards. Economically, France has for years been pretending to the world that it is a little Germany, but it’s not: it’s a big Italy. Unemployment is rocketing, there is no demand, and Marine Le Pen, rightly, blames the euro. She believes that the deflation incurred by being in the euro is punishing France and rewarding Germany.

She says the euro is bad for France, and it’s hard to disagree. She wants to hold a referendum on the euro. If she gets elected, she aims to take France back to the franc. A far-right president of France, financed by Russia, is a real prospect.

In the years ahead, the European elite will have a lot more to worry about in Paris than the price of Christmas trees at Notre Dame.

  1. I enjoyed reading this article and it held great insights and so relevant to today .However in my own observation and not to ‘sully’ ( excuse the pun) the messages in this great piece of work the following needs to be said :

    Limerick City has a greater cathedral built by 1168 by one of the greatest leaders in Europe then namely Brian BORÚ ( his descendant Donal) and this was built on an Island in a location of an earlier Viking parliament ; and

    Notre Dame was only commenced in 1163 on an island too ( les ille) after Bishop Sully was appointed and was completed 100 years later thus the cathedral in Limerick is older ; and

    David said : ‘ ‘rose majestically out of this fetid gutter to signal Paris had arrived ‘ – this did happen only because Napoleon made that possible when he rebuilt the city and this has only been completed about 150 years ago ; and

    Victor HUGO admired Napoleon and his father was a general in this army and this allowed Victor to see many places where his father was appointed Administrator over various areas that were conquered .His fathers name is not written on the sleeve of the Arch de Triomph like others generals because he was killed in Spain before the completion of this building.
    All areas with Victor Hugos name in all major cities in France hold prime locations to be living in .

    Les Misserables was written by him after exile in Guernsey and …wait….you can all book a ticket in new year to attend a fantastic performance at the Lime Tree Theatre in Limerick sometime in April 2015 ( make a note) ….and my daughter is acting in it ; and

    Russian Connection – there is nothing new in this regard . Many other interests elsewhere in Europe are also significant and that includes Ireland especially in Alcan , and Mining and Exploration companies etc .

    • michaelcoughlan

      “Limerick City has a greater cathedral built by 1168 by one of the greatest leaders in Europe then namely Brian BORU”

      Which Cathedral in Limerick? I thought Boru and his son were killed at the battle of clontarf in 1014? I presume you mean the church of Island cathedral behind the county council offices?


    • Dilly

      Notre Dame is far more impressive, and of course Paris is a far more interesting city than Limerick. But the article is very interesting too, as it discusses the power struggle that few even realise is happening. I am intrigued how Irish people always have to bring Irish history into everything. Why is that.

    • Partly my point is that in another TIME Limerick was an equal with Paris leading Europe with one of the earliest extraordinary Cathedrals built on an Island of historic importance in Ireland then and very successful in battle and conquests .

      Paris subsequently had Napoleon that changed the city beyond recognition to be the new leader in Europe . Napoleon was a leader and a leader can make things happen and change the destiny of a nation for the good .

      Today Ireland has No Leader …No Napoleon ….and No Nation .

  2. We are talking about a great building at a great time and descendants of Brian BORÚ for the record completed this magnificent building but had been initiated by Brian before his death .The name BORÚ means Spiritual High King .It is called St Marys similar to the name Notre Dame in Paris .
    Maybe you mean that the Civic Offices were built beside the cathedral .

    • Putin…
      This points to the fact, that you want the Ukrainian central authorities to annihilate everyone there, all of their political foes and opponents. Is that what you want? We certainly don’t. And we won’t let it happen.

    • Deco

      Moscow was correct about Iraq. The West in it’s arrogance proceeded into a quagmire.
      Putin was correct about Egypt. Even the Saudis agreed there. Though the “indispensable nation” could not make it’s mind up.
      Putin was correct about Libya. The West went into overdrive with extremists, and has created a zone of misery and instability. Even after the US Ambassador got raped and killed, the West ignored the lessons.
      Putin was correct about Syria. The West is now getting involved in a quagmire with “no exit” strategy and no clue.

      Not happy with all the criticism, the same media outlets that whipped up a frenzy of borrowing, and then later a frenzy of “let’s rescue the banks” then drifted towards “get Putin”.

      All of this proves what I have been saying for years – the West (under the leadership of Washington) is completely bonkers.

      The old Greek (where else) proverb “Those that the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad” applies ?

      By the way the Chinese leadership can also be very rational. The people is what we elect in the West – it is usually the result of a filtering process that eliminates people liable to put the interest of people before the interests of lobbyists.

      If there is going to be another World War it will come as a result of think tanks funded by corporations envisaging a roadmap that coalesces with the long term greed of lobbyists in Washington and Brussels.

      • Ducklady

        Follow the money. You’re paying way too much attention to the propaganda. It’s about making money on war, nothing else.

        • Follow the money a little further and one sees that those nations attacked were all ones proposing to trade by abandoning the US dollar.

          Libya, proposing a Pan African currency based on a gold dinar. Iraq suggested selling oil in Euros. syrtia, Ukraine et al. It is all about control of the central bank fiat currency regime. challenge the central bankers and there is a good chance of dying.

          But with so many countries making bilateral Remnimbi trade exchanges it is getting harder and harder to control. Libya’s 132 tonnes of gold disappeared as did the Ukraine gold. Others as well used to suppress the price of gold to in turn make currencies look better than they are.
          As all fiat currency is loaned to existence it follows that as the money supply is increased so is the debt.

          That is the simple (so easy to see ) reason that we are all submerged in debt. Additionally the currency to pay the interest is never supplied and so payment of interest reduces the money supply without reducing the debt. That is there is increased debt but less money in circulation, a gentle throttle on the economy that grows larger and more effective as time passes.

          We have reach where vast amounts of additional money must be created to sustain the status quo. But it must be at ever increasing volumes. We are in the latter stages of economic asphyxiation.

          The result is a race to devalue currencies to gain a brief advantage. All currencies are in a race to the bottom.

          Gold is the only money that is not a debt and bears no counter party risk. Nor can it be wiped out in value by the switch of a computer algorithm.

      • DB4545

        Putin pointed out to the West the dangers of aligning themselves with a movement whose followers were prepared to cut out the heart from a corpse and eat it. That should have been enough to alert the West to the absolute stupidity of funding and arming the then fledgling ISIS.

    • ross81

      yes, I found it strange how the EU decided to so eagerly jump into bed with Uncle Sam and it’s fascistic (and sometimes completely insane) Ukrainian stooges. Putin even offered a 3 way deal involving the EU, Russia & Ukraine well before the bloodshed began in eastern Ukraine. Being the great strategist he is I’m sure he saw violence & conflict ahead unless a deal like this was hammered out. Of course any compromises in the Great Game are usually rejected by the US (and, as sadly happened here, the EU too.)

  3. Deco

    The French centre right have re-elected Sarkozy as their leader.

    From the perspective of Ireland, Sarkozy is effectively an enemy. The same applies to Spain and Greece. When the Germans demurred over how harsh the EU should be with respect to Greece, Sarkozy and the Finns opted to go for the jugular.

    Sarkozy’s hardline on “no-defaults” for bankrupt debtors is responsible for a great deal of misery. Hollande has been much pilloried, but he is an honourable and diplomatic man compared to that insufferable complex in high heels.

    In particular Hollande put an end to the moral hypocrisy that emanated from Merkozy.

    The election of Hollande in the Elysee Palace is an event that provided relief for Europe from the more ridiculous aspect of crisis management. The first thing that Merkozy did was blame somebody else. This was used as moral justification for an inhumane straighjacket – the consequences of which are now apparent in Greece.

    Suicides, radical politics, riots, chronic decline in social services, deprivation, all stem from the Merkozy approach to Greece.

    The last thing Europe needs is Sarkozy in power in France. He has a track record in misery, and he will alienate everybody in Europe from France, and French products.

    Give us “Flamby” ( “M. Normal”) any day.

      • Deco

        I do not know enough about Le Pen to comment.

        But I really do detest Sarkozy. I would agree with Alan Dukes concerning Sarkozy. Sarkozy is probably the exact opposite of the French tradition of diplomacy. He has absolutely none. He is sleazy and loaded with pretence. There were aspects of the “incident” involving Straus-Kahn (Sarkozy’s rival) in a hotel in NYC – with the police back in Paris being in communication with the (French owned) hotel that evening, that deserve investigation.

        Then there is the current scandal that he is embroiled in. The UMP have picked a sleazeball. Probably because he will help them gather more money. It definitely has nothing to do with his ability to run France. He was more pre-occupied with running Greece, stitching up Ireland, and making derogatory comments about the Spanish Premier.

        Sarkozy is a return to the same old mistakes of “extend and pretend”, which are pushing Europe into another disaster. The Sarkozy doctrine is “the poor shall pay”.

        If he gets back in, then Spain, Ireland, Greece and Italy might gang up on him and make him irrelevant.

        Who will be ruling the PIIGS in 2017 ? Syraza ? Podemos ? M5S ? All have an axe to grind with “Bling-bling”.

        The one thing the EU elite do not want is broad based popular movements asking direct questions.

        In fact they don’t like anybody asking direct questions.

        • DB4545

          There’s lots to love about France but I have to agree with you that he is obnoxious and detestable. Most French leaders show some Statesman like style and elan. He ain’t no Charles de Gaulle or Mitterand.

          • DB4545

            The best quality of the French is that if you irritate them too much they will react as some of their former rulers found out to their cost on the guillotine. I think that fear is embedded in every French politician’s thought process and it’s a good mechanism for restraining uppity politicians.

  4. Pat Flannery

    “….and Marine Le Pen, rightly, blames the euro.”

    Does everything you write have to end up with an attack on the Euro?

  5. Deco

    Euro-mess 2.0.

    The PIIGS mess has it’s roots in loose monetary policies under Jean Claude Trichet (who appeared before an investigative tribunal before becoming ECB President, in some rather hastily swept up issues)

    Debt levels in the Netherlands and Finland are getting ever more extreme. In addition private debt levels in Sweden and Norway are off the charts. Belgium has a massive public sector debt level – next to Italy. Though the Italians can at least claim to be better at investment.

    These debt levels have all increased since the ECB decided to “deal with the crisis” by monetary easing, via low interest rates.

    What did this do ?

    It caused people who wanted to borrow, to borrow further. It caused people who save to spend even less (to make up for the loss of interest income).

    And now we are heading towards Euro-mess 2.0. Another FUBAR scenario.

    It seems that the ECB creates one of these disasters once even ten years.

    Even the Greek Central Bank, when it was in charge of the Drachma, had a better record for stability.

    Is it the Euro that is the problem, or the G-Sucks insiders running matters for the benefit of G-Sucks, to the detriment of the people ?

    Oh by the way – if you express an opinion that is in the interest of the people, there is a sophisticated term to describe that. A populist.

    When then I am populist. And so are the rest of you.

    And there is nothing wrong with it. It is a mark of good character, and decency.

  6. Deco

    Were we given the option of a referendum on the “unsecured” bank bondholders ?

    No. That would have caused the EU elite to not think well of us. We must be sensitive to the whims of our betters.

  7. Thanks for all your insights today Deco.

    • Deco

      Tony, Thank you for your insights every week !!!
      Every individual who is using their intellect is a positive addition to improving matters.

    • Deco

      I read it.

      Of course it gets ignored. Look at all the capital on the stock exchanges that is owned by Gulf Arab states. We rarely ever get the Israeli perspective. [ and I would differentiate the Israeli perspective from that of Jewish Americans].

      One line is remarkably interesting.

      Well, the Swedish Government has shown no sense, no sensitivity and no sensibility. Just nonsense.

      It kind of sums up current economic policy in Sweden. They are in another housing bubble. Private sector debt is ballooning out of control. And the politicians and the central bankers (and all bankers are in absolut(pun intended) denial.

      Sweden will be the next Ireland. It is a multiple policy disaster waiting the blow up.

      Maybe we should send over Bertie Ahern to give them economic advice. He has a tendency to say the stupidest things just before an economic mess starts.

    • cooldude

      Tony this is the usual Zionist mixture of lies and threats. The truth is the ethnic people of Palestine are being ethnically cleansed out of existence. The claim that the Arabs are teated equally in Israel is simply a very bad joke. The notion that a religion should have it’s own state is deeply misguided and does not exist anywhere else. Every state should be open to all religions equally and to create a state to cater for a single religion through violence was always going to cause some serious problems. The claim that this is their homeland does not stand up to DNA testing which traces most of them as Khazars which is close to where the Ukraine is right now.

      • cooldude

        Here is an article which shows how “equal” Arabs living in modern day Israel really are. This is just apartheid plain and simple and they are even moving towards segregating Arabs on public transport. Not only are non Jews discriminated against also dark colored Jews from Africa are treated like shit also. These people have no right to lecture anyone and need to learn that all people of every religion and color should be treated equally under law. Until they do this they have to treated like a rogue state just as South Africa was.

        • coldblow

          Without reading the links I wouldn’t share your opinion, but I am interested in knowing why you hold it. Can I ask you what you think is fuelling this Israeli policy? Is it some intrinsic evil or defect, or is it the bad influence of religion (or even worse, ‘religious fundamentalism’)? Just curious.

          • cooldude

            Hi Coldblow, Its just another case of supremicist hatred which unfortunately keeps reoccurring. It stems from indoctrinating children that all Arabs are evil terrorists and are a sub human species. It is much the same as what occurred in South Africa, which was based on skin color, or what occurred in this country during the penal law period. It comes from a premise that one’s particular color or religion makes them superior and the others are inferior and a threat and they must be eliminated or treated like animals.

            Unfortunately it is all too common in human history but it must be exposed and challenged whenever it occurs.

        • DB4545

          I have some serious misgivings about some Israeli actions but a rogue State? Get real. What were they supposed to do when several major European powers tried to eliminate Jews from the face of the Earth wait around for more pogroms? I’ll stand corrected but I don’t see any youtube videos of Israel conducting public hangings of their citizens like Iran. Nor am I aware of any parallels with those role models for pacifism in ISIS on the rampage murdering their co-religionists in other parts of the middle-East operating in Israel. If you take on Israel they will take you out. I wish Ireland had the capacity resolve and balls to deliver the same robust response as Israel when its strategic interests and the safety of its Citizens are threatened. You can be certain its elected leader would never allow themselves to be bitch slapped by a French midget.

        • Colin

          ‘The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers…’ Recep Erdogan, former turkish prime minister, now president, spelling it out clearly.

          Now he is supporting IS from inside Turkish territory. Next, he will be crowned the new caliph.

          • DB4545

            Europe, the USA and the Russian Federation need to get their shit together and fast. These crazies know no boundaries.

          • Deco

            The Salafist militants in Libya have pledeged allegiance to ISIL (or whatever they call themselves).

            And also the Salafists in Algeria have done the same.

            The current situation in dire, and is getting worse.

  8. Greetings,

    Astonishingly good article. -grin- No seriously, one rather rare highlight in my humble view.

    A democracy is dysfunctional without a strong and well represented opposition.

    Such dysfunctional single tier political landscapes remind me of the Tyrannies described in ancient writings, and which can stem from this very democracy. (Plato, The Republic, Book VIII / 360 B.C.E)

    On of the core problems I can see in such tyrannical systems is the shadow elite and thier power brokers manipulating the system to their exclusive advantage. Peter Sutherland and others come to mind when i think about Ireland just for example.

    This problem of a tyrannical shadow elite and their power brokers increased substantially throughout Europe after the Lisabon Treaty with their latest power grab.

    Janine R. Wedel briedly explains the context:

  9. coldblow

    ‘Status-conferring architecture’ or the embodiment of a devotional, artistic and poetic impulse? Perhaps a bit of both.

    This is an interesting glimpse into David’s bed time reading, perhaps a little along the lines of Dan Brown? The Da Vinci Code is a must-read for anyone who has a deep interest in the Louvre’s security system. It also features a hulking albino monk and Tells The Truth About Opus Dei! Actually, it really is a handbook of pc attitudes (‘the sacred feminine’ and stuff like that).

    It’s a thought-provoking article though, the two countries being close allies a hundred years ago. Are we witnessing just the historic German drang nach osten or is the EU just acting as a proxy for US mischief-making against Russia in the Ukraine? Perhaps a bit of both.

    Michael Hudson thinks the trade sanctions are good for Russia in that they encourage it to develop native alternatives to foreign imports. I think he mentioned chickens from Kentucky. The sanctions would seem to be bad for the EU though.

    Is Le Pen’s party like UKIP in that all the other major parties will combine to defeat it?

    ‘Europe usually does what Germany wants.” No perhaps there.

  10. Deco

    David you received an insightful tweet from a Twitter user (what is the correct term ?) “ArjenUSA”. His comment provides clear indications of how exactly American TV viewers are programmed to kneejerk when they read your article.

    “Why Europe should be worried about Russia’s meddling in Paris.”.

    How exactly does this go down in Latin America, the Middle East or SE Asia ?

    Americans are concerned about other countries meddling in other people’s affairs !!!

    You couldn’t make this sort of stuff up !!!

    I am confident that the French will handle Le Pen and her loan much better than the Iraqis will cope with the “assistance” they are getting from Washington. To be honest, the UMP selecting a sleazy dodgy scoundrel as their presumptive candidate is more of boost to Le Pen than the loan. That exemplifies what has gone wrong with present day politics.

    Maybe ArjenUSA is concerned for Russia that it might end up on the road to moral degeneration that happens to a society when it reaches the point of having military bases in half the countries of the world, while it’s own citizens are routinely shot by an increasingly militarized police, on a superficial whim ?

    • Deco

      Of course… could anybody possibly ever forget ?


      Geithner stitched us up with the debts of the reckless Anglo Bondholders.

      If that did not constitute “meddling” then what does ?

      He also violated the rules of capitalism.

      The US treasury secretary was not a capitalist, and the politburo in Beijing are no longer socialist.

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