Tag Archives: france

Review of “The Treasure of Rennes le Chateau” by Bill Putnam and John Edwin Wood

There’s a chapter of my life, that began when I played Gabriel Knight 3 and read Holy Blood, Holy Grail, that ended when I read this book. That game — and from that game, that book — were gateways too so much. My love of Dark Ages history (including great books of real history, like Before France and Germany, Mohammad and Charlemagne, and The Long-Haired Kings, an affection for the idea of the Mediterranean (I stayed in Italy for several weeks after high school), a consideration of how a conspiracy would actually have to be structured (my dream of secret war and a a book, and so on.

The part of my life ended with reading The Treasure of Rennes le Chateau.

But that’s the end. Here’s the beginning.

treasure_of_rennes_Le_chateau_book_cover

 

The facts as we know them: Around a hundred years ago, Father Berenger Sauniere in rural southern France became suspiciously wealthy, with a cumulative lifetime income estimated at a few million dollars (after accounting for inflation). He had a number of visitors at his house, was investigated by the local Bishop, and eventually lost his power to lead Mass at the local Church. He died before the ecclesiastical trial reached a resolution.

Plaque_tombe_abbe_sauniere

The story is much more interesting, because its also inarguable that there’s an actual conspiracy with actual forged documents, layered on top of this. Whether or not there is a treasure, there are documents that contain cyphers, references to ancient societies, and bizarre false clues and dead-ends.

What the world knows about Rennes le Chateau was primarily filtered thru Henry Lincoln, who encountered a real group (albeiet with a fraudulent history) that called itself the “Priory of Sion,” and which has an unusual fixation on the Merovingian Dynasty and King St. Dagobert II (feast day December 23) — a sainted boy king

18_Dagobert_II

Henry Lincoln also added a new layer to the mystery, much (apparently) to the bemusement of the actual conspiracy he nearly uncovered. Dusting off his early French, he translates “Sangraal” not as “San Graal” (Holy Grail) but “Sang Raal” (Royal Blood), and from there reconstructs an improbable chronology where the Dagobert II was a blood-descendent of Jesus Chrst, and that secrets to this extent were buried in southern rural France — the discovery of which by Priest Berenger Sauniere led to his millions. Lincoln also added some geometric interpretations, which lead themselves to a reconstruction of the history of the mile (among even less probably claims)

europe_pentagram

This stuff later spawned a pretty good video game…

gk3-13

And a film series you may have heard of. (Lincoln’s co-authors lost their lawsuit on The DaVinci Code.)

Putnam’s and Wood’s book is an exhaustive, well researched, extremely well document demolition of nearly every conspiracy theory associated with Rennes le Chateau, and the persuasive presentation of evidence of a more mundane conspiracy (Sauniere was illicitly selling masses, and may have engaged in some light grave-robbing.) Even elements which struck me as probable enough (such as the location of certain church-sites) are addressed, with everything from first-person research, to cryptographic analysis, to computer simulations of the probability of certain features appearing by chance.

800px-Rennes-le-Château

The number of myths the authors systematically demolish is impressive. Rennes-le-Chateau wasn’t the Visigothic cty of Rhedae. The placing of churches around Rennes doesn’t fit any sort of pattern, mundane or not. Berenger Sauniere supported his (real) generosity by scamming those seeking prayers for the dead. The inflection point of the entire story seems to have been a small remodeling task, which made the priest as power mad as one who is content in a small, remote town can be.

The Treasure of Rennes le Chateau is certainly not the first book you should read about this maze of facts and secrets. But if you’ve encountered any of it, and you are interested in any bit of bit, The Treasure of Rennes le Chateau is a must read.

Review of “To Lose a Battle: France 1940,” by Alistair Horne

To Lose a Battle, by Alistair Horne (the author of A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962) is (1) a logistics-heavy description of the Battle of France, (2) a description of the general incompetence in both the France and German High Commands, (3) a tale of France, a country that was not then and never became a western democracy, and (4) a history of the end of France and Germany as distinct states.

1. The Logistics of War

“It was time that was the vital element which — more than weapons, even perhaps more than morale — France most lacked in 1940.”

Horne’s focus on logistics, timing, supplies, and materiel is refreshing, especially given so much strategy-focused writing by John Boyd and William Lind. I am not in a position to evaluate the completeness of Horne’s account, but his manner of writing certainly has fans:

Some two years later, I encountered at a London publishing party Israel’s leading military analyst and former Chief of Intelligence, Chaim Herzog (He was later to become Israel’s President.) We had met some years previously in Israel, and he had now just published his own account of the 1973 campaign, The War of Atonement. (Weidenfeld, 1975). When I commented on the similarities to the Manstein Plan of 1940, he smiled knowingly and said something to the effect that, only recently, General Sharon had referred to it, acknowledging a certain indebtedness to To Lose a Battle. Herzog kindly signed a copy of his book for me, adding the laconic but meaningful inscription, “In appreciation.”

I’ve never read a clearer account of battle that focused on the vital appointment of having the right materiel at the right location at the right time. Horne deserves major props for this part of the book, as he does for flowing between the political and military dimensions of struggle in his last book.

2. The Incompetence of the High Commands

Poor decisions went up to the part. “During the course of the Second World War,” Horne writes, “Hitler committed half a dozen key blunders that were to lose Germany the war.” Though in fairness, Hitler’s consistent habit was to bluff as much as he can while being prepared to rapidly ceed ground at the first resistance. Even as late as 1939 Horne believes that a French attack on Germany (during the Nazi invasion of Poland) would have reached the Rhine within two weeks.

The French and German general staffs, however, were fixated on the strategy of an orderly defense, and as such both were hesitant to move rapidly or seize the initiative. These “wrong lessons learned” for World War I, however, reach comic levels with the French, who even move troops away from Paris and towards the Maginot Line near the end of the fight.

3. France, an Unstable Democracy

The best insight I have from reading To Lose a Battle and A Savage War of Peace is that France was never a stable western democracy. Attempts to view its behavior as analogous to what the United States or Britain would do in a similar situation are unfounded, because France had a unique set of interests. Specific elements of French political life that made normal politics impossible were

  • A lack of separation between the political and the military
  • A militant left-wing (which was purposefully crippled by Stalin)
  • A revolutionary right-wing (which was sympathetic to military coups against elected governments)

The pattern of both To Lose a Battle and A Savage War of Peace is the old general, brought in from retirement, who oversees the death of the old Republic and faces resistance from an idealistic general

Philippe Petain v. the Third Republic and Charles DeGaulle
but then… DeGaulle v. the Fourth Republic and Roaul Salan

After reading both books, the solution is obvious: France is not a stable democracy.

Reading To Lose a Battle and A Savage War of Peace at first is strange, because the country appears to be a nightmarish version of the United States, but the U.S. is a democracy that has not had a new constitution since the the 18th century. France, by contrast, was never stable. Thus Petain, and DeGaulle, operated out the same frame: no stable government existed absent a strong leader, so a constitutional dictatorship was (for the time being) the only natural form of government for France.

The difference between Petain and DeGaulle was not between traitor and patriot (by our standards, they were surely both). Indeed, both recognized the unstable nature of French democracy, and sought to meld the French polity into Germany. Likewise, both (like Mao Zedong, Chiang Kaishek, and Wang Jingwei) differentiated between ‘diseases of the limbs’ and ‘diseases of the hearts’ — during their heights…

DeGaulle, unlike Petain, was an optimist as DeGaulle, unlike Petain, did not live with the guilt of overseeing a massacre. While other French commanders fled he attacked the Germans, achieving some pointless victories that did nothing to stop the German war machine. Thus, DeGaulle was willing to wait for a better time to commit his ethnic cleansing campaign and tie his country’s fate to Germany. Petain simply wanted to end the destruction of his country.

4. The End of France and Germany

The hosts of heaven allowed the sons of man to form two nations, France and Germany, in June 840. The mandate was revoked in June, 1940.

Before France and Germany western Europe was controlled by a transnational aristocracy. After June, 1940, such a world returned.

The end of the book has a “where are they now” section. There seemed to be no correlation between the side of a leader and how his future career unfolded. Both German and French generals suffered under Hitler. Both German and French generals were executed post-war. Both German and French generals would enjoy a sunny career in NATO. June 1940 appeared to be the last month where the fates of Germany and France were, truly, antagonistic.

For centuries it was impossible imagine a world without these two countries. Now, it is impossible to imagine one with them. Considering the inability of either France or Germany to establish stable national democracies, the accomplishments of the European Union are astounding.

To Lose a Battle is a brilliant history of one of the first fights of the Second World War. Highly recommended!

France and Freedom from Energy-Exporters

Razib sums up France’s power situation (very, very good) better than I can, so his thoughts get priority:

Gene Expression: France and nuclear power
France Reaffirms Its Faith in Future of Nuclear Power:

Nuclear power provides 77 percent of France’s electricity, according to the government, and relatively few public doubts are expressed in a country with little coal, oil or natural gas.

France generates half of its own total energy, up from 23 percent in 1973, despite increased consumption.

Electrical power generation accounts for only 10 percent of France’s greenhouse gases, compared with an average of 40 percent in other industrialized countries, according to EDF.

There is No Free Lunch, and life is about trade offs. Those who live in the American Pacific Northwest know this well; hydroelectric power is great and low risk, and results in cheap electricity which helps drive high tech industry such as aerospace and electronics. But, there are ecological downsides.

Well said.

Energy-dependence on unstable gap countries (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia, etc) is fundamentally bad not because it “funds terrorism” or “warms the globe” or whatever, but because it limits the freedom of action of market-driven economies. The energy-exporters are essentially parasitic states, that limit the ability of pro-growth states to naturally develop their economies.

Nuclear, wind, solar, hydroelectric, and other domestic and renewable sources of fuel are very important for us. France is a great example.

Little Denmark is too.

Sarkozy!

Sarzkosy, a man I praised back in 2005 (h/t to Martin Walker)….

No one should expect any weakness from me. Mosques where extremist Islam is preached will be closed. Imams who give radical sermons will be expelled. And people coming to conferences who don’t show proof of respect for republican rules will find themselves systematically denied visas to enter France.”

..

Sarkozy has now produced a book, which translates as “The Republic, Religions and Hope”, that seeks to address the issue of Muslims in France, which many voters put at the top of their concerns. It is a thin volume of 180 pages, mostly conversations with philosopher Philippe Verdin, but it is revolutionary by French standards in that it calls for an end to the 1905 law that established France as a secular republic, separating the state from religion. If the state can subsidize sports and culture clubs, Sarkozy asks, why not churches?

… will be the new President of France!


The French like Sarkozy

Catholicgauze has more. The Left has issued their reaction:


Well, most of them

Shrinking the Gap with Allies (Capitalism and Democracy)

The Wave Theory of Core and Gap,” by David, The Glittering Eye, 28 March 2006, http://theglitteringeye.com/?p=1870 (from ZenPundit).

When the Chinese were our friends…,” by Tom Barnett, Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog, 4 April 2006, http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/weblog/archives2/003131.html.

In Pictures: French Protests,” BBC News, 4 April 2006, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_pictures/4876616.stm.

In the Second World War, China was our ally:

china_first_to_connect

In this global war on terrorism, she is again.


Shrinking the gap — lifting countries up from “third world” conditions to modern ones — is the grand strategy of the United States. This plan includes regime changes to take down bad actors, and may eventually include political union to reward good ones. Another part is the reverse domino theory, where one state is globalized, and that state in turns helps others globalize.

Today I was lucky to hear an American diplomat stationed in Africa talk about China’s investments in that continent. China is wisely transforming some of her wealth to connect with other states, building up infrastructure spreading globalization. China is a natural ally in shrinking the gap, not just because of her economic wisdom but also for her people’s ideologies. When the Chinese people are asked whether they support capitalism, they respond “yes!” even more than Americans — and much more than the French:

free_enterprise_md

Yet France has a role to play, and in at least one way is more important than China. Yes, even though French has huge protests

french_street_protests

And Communist babes

french_communists

They don’t have protest babes…

goddess_of_freedom

crushed by Communist Tanks

tanks_in_tianamen_square_md

France is a natural ally in shrinking the gap, not for her economic foolishness, but for her people’s freedoms.

What does this mean? France and China are allies, but in different ways. France is an ally because she is democratic, and if we are successful all people can, like the French, protest for any reason they want without being gunned down by “People’s Liberation Army” soldiers. China is an ally because she is capitalist, and if we are successful all people can, like the Chinese, lift themselves out of poverty.

What does this mean? We support both France and China — but in different ways. We will stand by France when her democratic traditions are attacked by Muslim ghettoists, while working to minimize her harmful effects on globalization (such as her attempts to prop-up Middle East dictators). And we will stand by China in building connectivity, while maintaining a military that minimizes her harmful effects on globalization (by assuring the world a democracy like Taiwan can never be invaded by a dictatorship).

Nicholas Sarkozy 2007

Sarkozy 2007!,” Catholicgauze, 19 February 2006, http://catholicgauze.blogspot.com/2006/02/sarkozy-2007.html.

Any day that sees Playboy returning to UNL and tdaxp taking over a warship wouldn’t be complete without French political news. From Catholicgauze:

Creoles, Arcadians, and Cajuns! Soon you may be able to once again embrace your French heritage with pride! Americans of all backgrounds may once again look to France as an ally. Soon it will be time for the Old Europe country of France to elect the pro-globalization, pro-American, anti-terrorist Nicolas Sarkozy as Président de la République française.

Market-liberalism combined with social conservatism is marching across the developed world to victory after victory. The latest region to become a battle ground for the Neo-Right is Old Europe. Germany elected as Chancellor over the center-left incumbent . The next up for elections is France.

has been on tdaxp before.

French-Style Protectionism Comes to America (and soon the world?)

A New Threat to America Inc.,” by Jeffrey Garten, Business Week, 25 July 2005, pg 114, http://businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_30/b3944123.htm.

France and the rest of “Old Europe” have rightly been criticized for trying to export burdens on the rising states of central Europe. From the old Iron Curtain to the borders of Russia herself, the central European states have lowered taxes, lightened regulations, and enjoyed strong growth. But this was not good news to the French and the Eurocrats, who saw a pro-growth economy as “unfair.” France’s solution has been to try to force New Europe to have higher taxes and more regulation. After all, if the French suffer because of bad French decisions, why shouldn’t everyone?

Former Clinton appointee and Yale Professor Jeff Garten believes America should act like the French

The rise of these new multinationals will force Corporate America to rethink strategies for Third World product development, marketing, and links with local companies. But growth of these new rivals should also compel Washington and other Western governments to revamp today’s inadequate hodgepodge of global commerce rules. The reason: Western companies could be disadvantaged by having to adhere to more stringent economic and social standards than the competition [sic -- tdaxp], because of their tougher [he means "less competitive" -- tdaxp] home-country laws and expectations.

There is a huge gap in the international framework for such standards. The World Trade Organization deals with governments but not with companies. The Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development has established a code of conduct for multinationals, but compliance is voluntary and pertains only to its members — mostly from rich countries.

For example, all companies should be held to international accounting standards, including financial disclosure and transparency [so much for competition! -- tdaxp]. There should be accepted corporate-governance rules, including protections for minority shareholders. The requirements for listing on major stock exchanges should be more rigorous and uniform. And all global companies — including those from the West — should disclose their labor conditions and the impact they have on the environment using a common, audited format. None of this has yet happened.

As long as American multinationals ruled the global roost, Washington resisted most formal rules for international business on the grounds they would constrain U.S. outfits such as IBM (IBM ) and Coca-Cola Co. (KO ) But the challenge from emerging-market companies signals that the dominance of big U.S. and European corporations is no longer assured . Uncle Sam should take the lead in efforts to build a new global commercial order — while the U.S. still has the clout.

In other words, Garten thinks America should export rules, not import freedom; government dictates, not peer-to-peer agreements.

The French would be proud.

Why I Love Nicolas Sarkozy

French Without Tears,” by Martin Walker, The National Interest, Spring 2005, ppg 136-138.

This is why I want the Hungarian-French politician to become President of France in 2007:

medium_nicolas_sarkozy_in_church.jpg
Nicolas Sarkozy

To fight terrorism:

There are sections of almost every French city that are intensely Arab, and one reason why Sarkozy became so popular as interior minister was his announcement that there would be no more “no-go areas” for the French police, and he set up the special squads of riot police, gendarmes and customs agents to invade and bring the ruling gang leaders, or caids, to book. In an interview with Le Figaro in September 2003, he announced a tough new policy for visiting Muslims seeking to radicalize their French brethren:

“No one should expect any weakness from me. Mosques where extremist Islam is preached will be closed. Imams who give radical sermons will be expelled. And people coming to conferences who don’t show proof of respect for republican rules will find themselves systematically denied visas to enter France.”

To his Bush-style inauguration as head of the center-right political party in France, the UMP:

Characteristically, Sarkozy staged a very American kind of political spectacular for his investiture as head of the ump, in a vast hangar at Le Bourget Airport decked out to resemble Bush’s Republican convention arena in New York. Chirac chose not to attend (and made some waspish remarks about the reputed cost of $6 million), but 40,000 of the party faithful turned up to hear Sarkozy promise a new era for France and cheer him to the echo. As he told them,

To his faith-based efforts to strengthen horizontal bonds — what we call “civil society”:

Sarkozy has now produced a book, which translates as “The Republic, Religions and Hope”, that seeks to address the issue of Muslims in France, which many voters put at the top of their concerns. It is a thin volume of 180 pages, mostly conversations with philosopher Philippe Verdin, but it is revolutionary by French standards in that it calls for an end to the 1905 law that established France as a secular republic, separating the state from religion. If the state can subsidize sports and culture clubs, Sarkozy asks, why not churches?

Religion is a quality essential to civilization and morality, Sarkozy insists (an unusual stance to take in what is fast becoming post-Christian Europe). “The moral dimension is most solid, most deeply rooted, when it proceeds from a spiritual or religious engagement, rather than when it seeks its source in political discussion or republican morality.” Only religion can define and assert the moral absolutes that a just and self-confident society requires, he argues, adding that it is a weakness of the French state that it lacks this moral dimension. In a France whose schoolchildren are still inculcated daily with “republican virtues”, and where the American political process is mocked for the power of religious groups and the prevalence of religious rhetoric, this is bold stuff. But Sarkozy is clear: “the Republic does not recognize the distinction between good and evil. She defends rules, the law, without grounding these in a moral order.”

Three cheers for Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007!

Grand Strategic Isolation Attack on France

Snow, Snow, Snow,” by Collounsbury, Lounsbury on MENA, 15 June 2005, http://www.livejournal.com/users/collounsbury/343852.html.

Collounsbury is confused as to why American Treasury Secretary Jack Snow’s is provoking the French

While I am sympathetic to his attack on the modish new fad among the French in re attacking “ultraliberalism” (i.e. proper free market economics that may undermine the French elite), what the bloody fuck was the point of this? No US official preaching in Bruxelles is going to change minds. Quite the opposite really.

This was…. really pointless and counterproductive. And dumb. Yes, sometimes telling the truth is dumb, but there it is.

Of course it will make the French more stubborn. That is the point.

America and Britain are trying to detach Germany from France. Franco-German integration has been a goal of Paris for years, and until the EU Constitution collapsed it looked very achievable. France wants Europe to serve her interests. America and Britain are against this, because those “Anglo-Saxon” nations want to maximize their own influence, better integrate Europe into the global economy, and and integrate the Eastern European states into Europe. With Snow’s words, Washington is counting on the French penchant for unilateralism to antagonize the Eastern European and Germans and so further Atlanticist goals. Britain is helping in her own ways