Phineas and French racial violence

Yesterday’s Le Monde has a distrubing piece on the profanation of a Jewish cemetery in Lyon, blogged here a few days ago. According to the Lyon police, evidence at the scene links this crime to the murder of a young North African man last week.

Le lien entre la profanation du cimeti?re juif de Lyon et une agression raciste ?tabli

La justice a ?tabli vendredi 13 ao?t avec certitude la corr?lation entre la profanation, le 9 ao?t, du cimeti?re juif de Lyon et l’agression ? la hachette, quatre jours plus t?t, d’un homme d’origine maghr?bine, permettant aux enqu?teurs de resserrer l’?tau sur l’auteur de la profanation.

Le procureur de la R?publique de Lyon, Xavier Richaud, a indiqu? qu'”on a retrouv? l’ADN de la victime de l’agression de Villeurbanne sur la hachette laiss?e lundi soir sur une des tombes profan?es”. […]

Le 5 ao?t au matin, un homme d’origine maghr?bine ?tait agress? ? la hachette dans une rue de Villeurbanne. Cette agression avait ?t? revendiqu?e par t?l?phone ? la police par un individu se pr?sentant comme “Phineas”.

L’inscription “Phineas” avait ?t? retrouv?e quatre jours plus tard, le 9 ao?t, trac?e ? la peinture noire sur plusieurs des quelque 60 tombes profan?es dans le cimeti?re juif de la Mouche, ? Lyon. […]

L’outil avait ?t? laiss?, accroch? sur une tombe, pos? en ?vidence pour qu’on le voie.

Link established between the profanation of the Lyon Jewish cemetery and a racist attack

On Friday, 13 August, Investigators established with certainty the connection between the profanation of the Lyon Jewish cemetery and the attack with an axe against a man of Maghrebi origin four days earlier, allowing detectives to tighten the vice on the perpetrators.

The Lyon Procurer of the Republic [more or less the District Attorney or Crown Prosecutor, for Anglophone readers], Xavier Richaud, said that “we have found the DNA of the victim of the Villeurbanne attack on the axe left on one of the vandalised graves Monday night.” […]

On 5 August, a man of Maghrebi origin was attacked with an axe on a street in Villeurbanne. An individual calling himself “Phineas” telephoned police to claim responsibility.

The name “Phineas” was also found several days later, on 9 August, written in black paint on several of the 60 vandalised graves in the Mouche Jewish cemetary at Lyon. […]

The instrument was left hung up on a gravestone, placed so that someone would see it.

The name “Phineas” has a special meaning in Christianity, and particularly to right-wing racist Protestant churches like the Christian Identity movement in the US. The article goes on to point out that a number of attacks in recent years in the US have been labelled as “Phineas Acts.” France has its own traditions of racism and racist mythologies. It seems a little strange to see them borrowing American ones.
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Scooping the Times

I note that today’s New York Times has an article on the recent upsurge in Neonazi attacks in France, focusing on Alsace-Lorraine and the simultaneously anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant character of these movements. This was covered a couple days ago here on AFOE.

Does someone at the Times read us? Probably not. I suspect they got it from Libé. But I do take back my disgust at seeing the last attack on a Jewish cemetery in France linked exclusively to Muslim immigrants in the anglophone press. Cudos to the Times for being something other than the New Pravda for once.

Sprach und Sommertheater – German spelling reform and linguistic ignorance

August is traditionally a dead month for news. Government is on vacation. Lots of businesses slow down. And it’s too hot for political violence. Only heathen insurgents from warm countries actually stir in August. As the major journals turn increasingly to junior reporters and stringers while the A-team hits the beaches, the news grows ever more frivolous, and this summer’s big story in Germany is certainly silly enough.

Germany, as I have learned via Taccuino di traduzione, is implementing a spelling reform and it seems this reform is facing resistance.
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Never again

Yesterday’s profanation of a Jewish cemetery in Lyon has, once again, put French race relations into the news in bad light. There’s a good reason for that. French race relations aren’t much to brag about. I notice, however, that for all the bloggers – not to mention Ariel Sharon – who think France is a hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism, there hasn’t been much comment over recent profanations of Muslim cemeteries and mosques.

Le Monde, conveniently enough, offers a page for each. Les principales profanations de tombes juives en France and Chronologie des actes contre des cimeti?res et des lieux de culte musulmans.
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Federal Funds Rate: A Clarification

Just a brief follow-up on yesterday’s post on Alan Greenspan. Sleeping on it I have the feeling that for blog posting I may suffer from the failing of trying to complicate things too much, or at least of trying to say too much at once.

Really there were two central themes, and since they are a little different from what most other commentators are saying it may be worth trying to drive them home.

The first point is perhaps best illustrated by this little extract from a Reuters article:

A Reuters poll of 20 of Wall Street’s top firms — primary dealers authorized by the Fed to deal directly in government securities markets — found all anticipate another quarter-percentage-point increase to 1.5 percent on Tuesday.

“Given the mind-set in the markets that another increase is coming, the Fed is unlikely to wish to disrupt that expectation at this stage,” said economist Lynn Reaser of Banc of America Capital Management Inc. in St. Louis, Missouri.

“There might in fact be a greater risk to the economy in the Fed’s holding back simply because to do so would raise questions about what does the Fed know about the expansion’s health,” she added.

Now Let’s be absolutely clear: this view is totally eroneous.
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Alan Greenspan’s Finest Hour?

Really it doesn’t seem to be such a big deal, to add or not to add (0.25% to the Federal Reserve’s overnight funds rate), and in some ways probably it isn’t. But at the same time I can’t help feeling that Sir Alan faces tomorrow one of the most difficult decisions of his whole term at the Federal reserve.

In fact the problem isn’t the quarter point rise, but the vision of the future movement of US interest rates that the Fed will offer tomorrow. A quarter point more or a quarter point less isn’t going to make or break any sophistocated economy (and anyway the important issue is going to be what is termed the yield spread, crudely the difference between the overnight funds rate and the rate on five and ten year US Treasury bonds, a measure which gives a lot more accurate picture of what people will have to pay to borrow money). Ideally Greenspan shouldn’t raise the rate at all tomorrow, but he has now probably boxed himself in too tightly to have the benefit of this leeway. Beyond this he needs to give a clear indication that there will not be any need for a vigorous raising of rates, not now, and not for some time to come.
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Russian writers have long been honored as wise men and secular prophets, but by pioneering literary detective fiction here, Grigory Chkhartishvili has overturned some traditions of Russia’s literary world.
Chkhartishvili – who writes under the pen name Boris Akunin – is best known for a series of 11 thrillers set in late 19th-century Russia, each featuring the aristocratic detective Erast Fandorin. Since Chkartishvili began writing fiction seven years ago, publishers have sold 10 million copies of his detective books. [Two are already available in English]
The author himself doesn’t exactly hide his subversive ambitions: B. Akunin evokes the memory of Mikhail Bakunin, a 19th-century anarchist. And Chkhartishvili was once a Japanese translator. In that language Akunin means “bad guy.”

A delightful review in the Baltimore Sun (free registration required).

Some Numbers

Germany’s latest unemployment figures were released last week: 4.36 million unemployed, 126,500 more than in June, and 6700 more than in July 2003. The rate rose 0.3 percent to 10.5 percent for the country as a whole; 8.4 percent in the west and 18.5 in the east.

A local Berlin paper, whose search page appears not to speak Netscape, provided a chart of the rates in both the capital and the surrounding territory of Brandenburg. It’s sobering.
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We The Consumer

As if the Italians hadn’t got enough to worry about at the moment (what with the latest round of economic data being predictably poor : growth is slowing down, industrial production is falling, consumer confidence is plumbing the depths). Now comes news that the Italian government is heading for conflict with some leading European airlines (and later with the UK and German governments, and then Brussels presumeably). The reason for the problem: their prices are too low, and Alitalia can’t compete.

Italy has ordered leading European airlines, including British Airways and Germany’s Lufthansa, to stop offering lower fares than Alitalia, the struggling majority state-owned Italian flag carrier, on competing long-haul services.

The move by the Italian government comes as it seeks to prevent Alitalia collapsing into bankruptcy by agreeing an emergency state-guaranteed ?400m ($493m) loan to the airline.

But it has sparked a fierce protest by BA to the European Commission and has triggered a row with the UK government.

The UK transport department said the Italian government had been told ?in strong terms? that BA should be allowed to continue with its fare offers.

Lufthansa said it was in talks with Italian authorities after it had been told to raise its fares to Alitalia’s levels.

So much for the white heat of structural reform!

Watch Your Piggy Bank!

Interesting piece in the FT today about the imagined consequences of the new German “Hartz IV” laws. These laws will among other things reduce non-means-tested unemployment benefits to one year’s duration. The measure forms part of the package of labour market ‘structural reforms’, and personally I see little to argue with here.

The interesting part relates to the perceived consequences:

Last week in the eastBerlin suburb of Hellersdorf a man forced three youngsters at gunpoint to take off their clothes, burn them, and dance around an improvised bonfire. The incident may have looked perplexing, but local reaction quickly blamed the usual suspect: the reform of Germany’s unemployment laws.

“When the new rules about unemployment benefits take effect, incidents like this will multiply,” a resident told the Berliner Zeitung daily. “I’ll have to get a pit-bull.”

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