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Last Week

Last Week

 A few days ago, on June 21, Emmanuel Macron hinted that he would welcome an invitation to the BRICS summit, to be held this year in South Africa.  What does that have to do with the chaos in Russia on June 24?  The whole episode, 

Five Eyes

Five Eyes

The Report on Russia of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament was released  on July 21, 2020–four years after the Brexit vote, and only about three months before the US presidential election.  It was deliberately brief (roughly fifty pages), a choice the committee made 

Foreign Interference: the Commission

Foreign Interference: the Commission

The National Assembly Commission on the Political, Economic, and Financial Interference by Foreign Powers . . . with the Purpose of Influencing or Corrupting Opinion, Leaders, and French Political Parties, just ended its work. It was preceded by commissions in other countries and the EU: in the United States, The Mueller Report (2019) and the Select Senate Intelligence Committee on Russia (2020), the European Union Committee on Foreign Interference in all Democratic Processes in the European (INGE), including Disinformation (2021, with INGE 2 continuing), and the UK’s Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament: Russia (2020).

The British were particularly concerned about foreign interference in favor of the “Leave” position on Brexit. Stewart Hosie, an MP from Scottish National party on the Intelligence and Security committee, which conducted the investigation, had this to say: “The report reveals that no one in government knew if Russia interfered in or sought to influence the referendum because they did not want to know.  The UK Government have actively avoided looking for evidence that Russia interfered.  We were told that they hadn’t seen any evidence, but that is meaningless if they hadn’t looked for it.” The government ruled for years by a Conservative party in an apparent state of exhaustion, beat back calls for a fuller discussion, to say nothing of action.[1]

The Mueller Report was undermined by Attorney General William Barr before its release:

The US Senate Intelligence Report was dropped into the memory hole.

The French situation must have seemed less urgent.  In the 2017 election, Marine Le Pen, as an opponent of France’s membership in NATO and the EU (she called for a “Frexit”),  received a loan from a bank under Putin’s influence.  At the same time, Macron was subject to a campaign of “hack and leak” as the UK report calls it,  with phony documents mixed in with actual documents, the most serious alleging that he had a secret offshore bank account in the Bahamas.

Macron undoubtedly benefited from the fact that Brexit and the US presidential election had come first, preparing the way for any such leaked information to be regarded with suspicion.  The Macron “revelations” also came very late in the process, just days before the election, and were met with aggressive pushback from his campaign–and from the media, who actually investigated the leaked documents (instead of, for example, taking polls about how people felt about them).

 The following reporting from France24 (the English version) lays out clearly what had happened.  The bank account story broke on May 3; the France 24 report came on May 4, 2017; the election was coming up on May 7, a Sunday:

Macron won the 2017 election, 66% v. 33%; in the 2022 election, it was 58% Macron v. 42% Le Pen.

Nevertheless the episode had occurred, and in the following years the Russian-funded network, RT France, had devoted massive coverage to the Gilets jaunes protests, the most serious crisis of Macron’s first term.  (RT France was shut down several days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.)  In early 2018, the newspaper Libération, in a story about fake news, cited the Bahamas bank account as an egregious example.  They were tweeted at by Wallerand de Saint Just, the treasurer of the National Front (as it was still called): “How do you know this news is fake?  It has not been [proved] for the moment”–meaning, as the newspaper pointed out, that any accusation, even one without foundation, deserved to be kept alive until the negative was definitively proved.[2].

In spite of this background, however, it was the Rassemblement National party, in the person of first-term deputy Jean-Philippe Tanguy, who called for the recent parliamentary investigation into foreign “meddling” in France’s internal affairs.  Tanguy, age 37, has considerable political experience.  He was a member of Nicolas Dupont d’Aignan’s Debout la France, a sovereignist (anti EU) party from 2012-2020; he had become acquainted with Marine Le Pen as he had sought to bring their two parties together, and had joined the RN in 2020.  He should have known better, in other words.

Tanguy, however, saw his new political home as being forever tarred by the accusation of ties to Russia and Putin, and he wished to continue on the path of “normalizing” the party.  He naively believed that he could, once and for all, put to rest the allegation that Marine Le Pen was beholden to her Russian paymasters and had slanted her policies in a pro-Russian direction, or at least in a direction (like her anti-EU stance) that pleased Putin.  Macron had brought up the bank loan in the 2022 debate, and it seemed that it would never go away:

Tanguy was not alone to blame, for he had brought this proposal first to RN president Jordan Bardella, in response to an attack by Stéphane Séjourné, a eurodeputy who leads the Renew Europe group within the EU Parliament.  Séjourné is also the new president of Macron’s party Renaissance, where  his task is to structure the party, to “anchor” it in the countryside (its greatest strength is in Paris) and generally to prepare it for a post-Macron future after he finishes his two terms. Jordan Bardella, head of the RN list in 2019, is also in the European Parliament, and on September 14, 2022, in a debate on “the state of the [European] Union, Bardella had freely criticized the many mistakes of Macron and others.  Sejourné’s reply: “You have been for some years in close connection with the Russian government and today you’re lecturing us.”[3]

Hard ball.  And the idea of a commission of inquiry to put this kind of insult to rest, once and for all, must have seemed appealing.  Tanguy presided over the Commission, whose sessions were streamed, in a calm and impartial manner, and with a great deal of courtesy towards the witnesses.

But what matters, in the end, is who writes the history.  And in this case, the rapporteure, Renaissance deputy Constance Le Grip, who sat beside him in all the hearings, produced a report that was centered on the links between the Front/Rassemblement National and Russia.  The report was leaked to the media before it was officially released.  Presidents, or presiding officers, of commissions typically write a brief preface to reports, perhaps expressing a few disagreements, but generally just a few pages in length.  Tanguy’s preface, in the released report, runs from pp. 17 to 79 of the report.  He called the report a “sabotage,” a transformation of a serious issue into a political attack.  He said that the Commission members had voted to approve it without having read it.[4]

Backbenchers were snickering at Tanguy’s “brilliant idea,” though Marine Le Pen issued a statement that she still had confidence in him.

Tanguy is still devoted to clearing the Party’s name. And now the issue has been revived, there is a lot more clearing to do.


Header Image: Photo 124525184 © Spettacolare |

[1] Dan Sabbagh, Luke Harding, Andrew Roth, “Russia report reveals UK government failed to investigate Kremlin interference,” The Guardian, July 21, 2020.

[2] “Le trésorier du FN relance l’intox sur le compte de Macron aux Bahamas,” Libération, January 5, 2018.

[3] Hugo Struna, “French MEP Stéphane Séjourné voted leader of new presidential party,” Euractiv, September 19, 2022.; Hugo Struna, “French MEP Stéphane Séjourné voted leader of new presidential party,” Euractiv, September 19, 2022.

[4] Marylou Magal, “Ingérences russes: ciblé, le RN lance sa contre-attaque,” Le Figaro, June 8, 2023.“Ingérences étrangères: le député Jean-Philippe Tanguy dénounce ‘un sabotage opéré à travers un rapport malhonnête,’” Valeurs actuelles, June 9, 2023. 

Crimea, continued

Crimea, continued

Andréa Kotarac, LFI, tweeted his support for Jordan Bardella’s list (RN) for the European Parliament on May 14, 2019.  He then announced it on television, stating that “It’s the Left that changed,” and accusing Mélenchon’s Left of “Islamogauchisme” (a pro-Islamic stance). Where should he go 



One of the most surprising party switches in recent years was the decision of Andrea Kotarac, in 2019, to move from La France Insoumise, the far-left party of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, to Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National.  To be sure, his move seemed to support the 



Heetch began in Paris as a niche ride-sharing business: featuring young drivers, it operated only late at night and early into the morning on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.  The name came from “hitch,” as in hitchhike, pronounced as the French would pronounce it.[1] The drivers were young, and so were the riders; the riders were either too drunk to drive home or to be on public transportation (no one said this, but it could easily be inferred) or else they lived in one of the “dangerous” banlieues, the  areas outside Paris, where regular taxis  did not want to go, especially at night.  Put this way, it sounds almost like a public service.  

The two videos that follow, both of them advertisements, show their directed marketing.  The first, “La Jeunesse soutient Heetch,” came out about six years ago, when the company had just been taken to court (more about that later) and featured a clever montage of spoken words from great French figures, including Presidents Hollande and a very young Sarkozy who all, it says at the end, would have supported Heetch if they were still young. The second, from this year, combines historic footage of the giant apartment blocks, the cités, that characterized the banlieues, interspersed with shots of the people and families who live there.  The message is that no other taxis will drive there at night; Heetch will.  

But Heetch got in trouble because they broke the law.  Teddy Pellerin, co-founder and CEO of the company, did not use professional drivers, but rather part time drivers who were neither licensed nor authorized as professional chauffeurs: they replicated the business model of UberPop, which had already been taken to court and given a hefty fine.

Pellerin saw his company as a “P2P” (peer to peer) service, a part of the “sharing economy.” In the early 21st century, this concept began to be defined as a “collaborative consumption” model, effectively (and hopefully) described in a 2010 TED talk by Rachel Botsman.[2]. She is an author and speaker on “trust” in the modern world, who arrived in the first moments of enthusiasm stirred by the digital natives of Generation Y and the rapid development of technology.  “Technology,” she asserted, “is enabling trust between strangers.”   The sharing economy emerged from: a “renewed belief in community”; Peer-to-Peer networking platforms; environmental concerns, that led people to a willingness to trade, share, repair, rather than to throw away; and, in 2008, the Global Recession, that made cheaper products essential.  Her definition was also typical in stressing the rebirth of community as a byproduct, or perhaps even as the main point, of this new vision of consumption.    

The “sharing economy,” the other term for this phenomenon, was defined later in a pared-down version by Koen Frenken: “the sharing economy can be defined in a materialistic sense in that consumers share a physical artifact in its usage.“[3]. While this sort of economy promised much, in the way of saving the environment and cutting costs, it was not clear how it would be organized, what the status of workers would be, who would own the “artifact,” and how the market would be regulated, to list only a few questions.  Frenken provided three possible scenarios, but the most likely seemed to be “platform capitalism,” in the form of global platform companies–”Amazon, Google, Uber, and Airbnb”–who would control the marketplace, making their platforms ever more user-friendly and thus unavoidable.[4]

None of these companies represented any sort of “sharing”.  And other skeptics raised more practical considerations, notably that the problem of underutilization might be replaced with the problem of things that wear out more quickly.   And the platform-startuppers were not necessarily concerned with the environment or the community, but were often “Schumpeterian forces of creative destruction,” as in “Go fast and break things.”[5]

Pellerin was arrested, and he was charged, as were the two main Uber executives in France in a separate case, with “‘misleading commercial practices and complicity in the illegal exercise of the taxi profession.’”[6] In court, Pellerin started down the dead-end road of insisting that he was not running a taxi service because: they limited drivers to earning 6,000 euros a year, which meant that it essentially allowed drivers to cover the cost of driving for a year; because unlike Uber, the fee for the ride was merely suggested, and passengers could even pay nothing if they wanted to, adding “We are part of the sharing economy.”  Heetch also paid for insurance for the passenger and driver.  And none of the drivers was professional, because  they did the driving “to have fun” and get money for the gas.[6]  And nothing is more fun than getting into an unknown car at night with a stranger at the wheel; or, from the driver’s side of things, than sharing your personal car (Heetch did not provide cars) with someone who might get sick over the seats.

The Financial Times saw Heetch’s trial, beginning in late June 2016, as a “test” of whether French startups would be treated the same as–well, Uber. The answer was yes.  Uber was fined 800,000 euros for UberPop, which used non-professional drivers.  Pellerin thought his company would not be found guilty; they had limited Heetch drivers’ earnings and thus hours, they had limited  the times, they did not charge but merely suggested a price that the passenger might want to pay; that put Heetch in the “sharing economy.”[7] They were found guilty, and fined 600,000 euros, which hurt them a lot more than 800,000 had hurt Uber.  

Heetch was down, but not out: they started up again as an authorized non-taxi driving service (called VTCs) with licensed drivers.  (French regulations on this matter are complicated.) They began raising funds from venture capitalists, reaching 38 million euros in their series B round, which they used to expand internationally to francophone Africa–Morocco, in 2018, Algeria in 2019, Angola 2020, with other nations–or rather, big cities in other nations–on the horizon.[8]. Heetch was not alone in what Sifted referred to as “the ride-hailing scramble for Africa.” Already there was Estonia’s Taxify in Uganda, South Africa, Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya and Ghana. Uber is in all of those, plus Egypt and Morocco. The attraction is the lack of regulatory obstacles, plus need. Said Pellerin of African countries: “They don’t have strong public transport networks so many people are already using taxis just to go to work. The prices are very cheap already so we can’t compete on that. But we can bring some efficiency to the market.”[9]

And they are also going back to Europe. They are in Paris, of course, and at the end of 2020, they launched in Ghent, Leuven, and Antwerp, where Uber had broken through the regulatory obstacles some time before; once again Heetch’s emphasis was on the customers who “are mainly people who are used to arranging all kinds of things with their smartphone: young and local people.  The taxi companies mainly rely on people who are regular customers, and go to a taxi rank or stop a taxi”–Pellerin’s rather muddled explanation for why they were not, in fact, in competition with licensed taxis.[10]. But taxi companies now all have apps–the radio car reliant on calls from headquarters is a thing of the past. And Heetch has had it right all along: as their profile states, referring (it would seem) to their European business, they are “a ride-sharing app targeted at late night transportation seekers.” As taxis apps proliferate, it’s good to have a niche.


Photo 216447689 © Rafael Henrique |

[1] lan Hope, “New Taxi Service Launches in Ghent, Leuven, and Antwerp,” The Brussels Times, November 7, 2020.

[2] [Rachel Botsman,  Botsman, The Case for Collaborative Consumption

[3] Koen Frenken,. “Political Economies and Environmental Futures for the Sharing Economy.” Philosophical Transactions: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 375, no. 2095 (2017): 1–15, quotation p. 2.]

[4] Frenken, op. cit., p. 8.

[5] Borel, Simon, David Massé, and Damien Demailly. “L’économie Collaborative, Entre Utopie et ‘Big Business.’” Esprit, no. 416 (7) (2015): 9–18., p. 17. “Go fast” is a frequently repeated mantra, linked to Mark Zuckerberg.  The other reference is to the work of Schumpeter, whose “creative destruction”–capitalism destroys old businesses as it creates new–is a term used also by Emmanuel Macron.

[6] Adam Thomson, “Diversion from traditional taxis takes another turn in Paris,” Financial Times, February 11, 2016.

[7] Adam Thomson, “France’s Heetch in the dock over ride-hailing service,” Financial Times, June 21, 2016.

[8] Manon Triniac, “Heetch accélère son développement en Afrique,” Maddyness, December 1, 2022.  They had plans for Tunisia, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratique Republic of the Congo, Mali, added 2022, with further plans for Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Togo.

[9] Maija Palmer, “Heetch joins the ride-hailing scramble for Africa,” Sifted, May 9, 2019.

[10] lan Hope, “New Taxi Service Launches in Ghent, Leuven, and Antwerp,” The Brussels Times, November 7, 2020.

The Organizers of the Sainte-Soline Demonstration

The Organizers of the Sainte-Soline Demonstration

The protest at Sainte-Soline on March 25, 2023, was planned by three environmental and  peasant/farmer groups (peasant is a term defiantly preferred by some): Bassines non merci, Confédération paysanne, and Les Soulèvements de la Terre. Bassines non merci! (bassines, no thanks!) describes its mission as 

The Water War, Part II

The Water War, Part II

The demonstrations at Sainte-Soline failed.  That is the inevitable conclusion as we see the coverage of the event monopolized by its violence–by the police, on one side; by the “ultra-left” on the other.  The conservative Valeurs actuelles opined, before the event, that “antifa” members were 

The Water War of Sainte-Soline

The Water War of Sainte-Soline

At least 100 were wounded by late afternoon, according to the “street medics,” volunteers setting up impromptu field hospitals, who also appeared during the Gilets jaunes uprising.  By evening, the organizers of the demonstration said there were at least 200 wounded, of whom ten were in the hospital, and one in a coma, “between life and death”; as of this writing, his status had not changed.  There were, additionally, 47 wounded gendarmes, one in serious condition.  This battle between police and demonstrators was on March 25, 2023, in the department of Deux-Sèvres in western central France, in the region of Nouvelle Aquitaine. And the battle was not about retirement.  It was about water.[1]

This can only be a sketch of the event, as investigations begin, but there are essentially two issues: water supply and access; and the use of repressive force against protests. This first post will cover the underlying issue of water and climate change.

For the past several years, France has endured prolonged heat waves in the summer, the temperatures reaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit or slightly above.  Not only is this enervating, sometimes deadly, and costly–but it also dries out the soil, decreasing crop yields and causing economic devastation.[2] The solution? The proliferation of méga-bassines (“stockage”), as shown above.

The méga-bassines are large artificial reservoirs made of impermeable plastic.[3] They are meant to provide irrigation for agriculture, as the heatwaves every summer presumably continue. The reservoirs do not merely collect rainwater, however, but also pump groundwater for several months every winter. Their opponents include environmentalists, who argue that pumping profoundly disturbs the ecology of the area; small farmers, who see themselves pushed out by large agribusinesses who monopolize the water; activists of social justice, who see the operation as an attempt to privatize a basic human resource that belongs to all.

Reporterre, the environmental news site, and Mediapart summed up the reasons for the opposition:

Too Big: They encroach on small farms and their groundwater; there will be a scarcity of water, and the prices will go up. The website of Confédération Paysanne, a union of small farmers, argues that those who own the reservoirs deliberately try to create confusion between their unnatural creations and retenues collinaires, or more traditional hillside run-off collectors. The latter are smaller and permeable, as opposed to the plastic of the reservoirs, which prevents the water from filtering down through the soil.[4]

Stagnant water: “Imagine a swimming pool abandoned by the proprietors.” (Or look at the header image, above.). In addition to algae and potentially dangerous bacteria, the water in the reservoir will evaporate, with a predicted loss of between 20 and 60%, or perhaps only 7% (there are clearly some disparities in the studies). Whatever the numbers, however, “to pump subterranean water to expose it to evaporation and to various kinds of pollutions is absurd.” (Reporterre).

Intensive monoculture: The reservoirs are there for agribusinesses, which farm intensively with the heavy use of pesticides in order to produce corn for export.

Public Financing of Private Companies: To the tune of as much as 70%, in the rush to get these things built.

Scofflaws: As Mediapart notes, farmers and environmentalists had fought and won judicial “stops” on construction and use–and yet they continued. On February 3, 2023, the environmentalists had won an important victory from the Conseil d’État. The decision “annulled” five reservoirs in the Charente-Maritime department, on the grounds that the environmental and water management studies that allowed them to go forward were insufficient; and yet they were continuing to operate. Of the sixteen artificial reservoirs in Deux-Sèvres, the location of Sainte-Soline, nine had been refused authorization by the local administrative tribunal. The government had not acted to enforce the rulings.

Conflicting Science: The Bureau of Geology and Mining put out a study of Sainte-Soline itself in 2022, arguing that the effect of pumping groundwater in the winter months would be negligible–but they based their study on data of the years 2000-2011, before the wave of climate change droughts. Environmental groups, including Greenpeace, have come to starkly different conclusions.[5]

Perhaps the overall import of the built reservoirs is to increase the industrial efficiency of farming, at the expense of the environment and small and medium farmers. Girod, of the Confédération Paysanne, described the bassines and their coming monopoly of water as a means to “make peasants disappear” and to ignore “the ecological and climatic stakes. [The bassines] lock down an [agricultural] model of industrialization and aggrandizement.”


Header image from

[1] 1] Marion Briswalter, “A Sainte-Soline, ‘la lutte contre les projets inutiles et écocidaires se poursuit,’” Mediapart, March 25, 2023.; “Méga-bassines dans les Deux Sèvres: les forces de l’ordre déposent 45 plaintes après les violents affrontements,” Midi Libre, March 26, 2023.

[2] Cathy Lafon, “Canicule: en 2019, Bordeaux bat son record absolu de chaleur avec 41.2 degrés,” Sud Ouest, July 7, 2022.

V.G., “Méteo: la canicule de 2020 fait tomber les records de températures,” Le Parisien, August 11, 2020.

[3] The information here is taken mostly from two lengthy articles: Laury-Anne Cholez, “Mégabassines: les raisons de la colère,” Reporterre, March 25, 2023.; and Marion Briswalter and Michaël Correia, “Sainte-Soline: les tromperies du gouvernement sur les mégabassines,” Mediapart, March 29, 2023.

[4] Confédération, “5 minutes pour comprendre méga-bassines.” Consulted March 30, 2023.

[5] “Mégabassines: pourquoi s’y opposer?”,

Michel Debré (1912-1996) and Article 49.3

Michel Debré (1912-1996) and Article 49.3

Natacha Polony, in an editorial in Marianne, began her criticism of Macron by quoting Michel Debré, who was responsible for guiding the constitution of the Fifth Republic into its final form.  A long-time associate of De Gaulle, he then became his first prime minister when