Monday, January 30, 2012

Next Significant Step...

The house is now on the market. The proceeds of the sale of this house will augment our investments which will be used to live overseas.

60 days after the house has a firm offer (we already have people coming to view the property), we should be install in Paris. Which means there is a LOT of things that need to fall into place. Airline tickets, apartment, health insurance, and bank account verification letters all need to be in hand prior to visiting the French Consulate.

May we live in interesting times, eh?

Sarah Bernhardt Theatre

Friday, January 27, 2012

Getting Away From The Insanity

I quote a fair number of facts and figures in the following piece. All of it comes from various well-know sources. If there's any question about what I say here, the true to back these claims can be quickly uncovered.

Notre Dame

In the USA 37% of the citizens are living in poverty and over 50% live in poverty or with low incomes. The top 1% own 60% of everything and, even worse, the top 0.1% own 40% of everything in the US. 6 million workers have left the labor force due to the lack of jobs. One in four children are at risk for going hungry every day. The Wall Street economy has left the Main Street economy far behind with S&P500 CEO compensation reaching more than 1500 times their average employee's salary.

All of this comes from the supposed "job creators." They need everyone to believe anything but the truth to keep this scheme of moving money upwards into the hands of the already rich in motion. They require we look the other way as our jobs move overseas and our earning and wealth drop. If we saw the truth, we the people might rise up. The rich can't have that and do everything the feel they need to to keep such feelings surpressed.

La Villette

The truth is, deregulation of business and industry in the US has led a series of economic crises over the past thirty years. Trading houses were deregulated in the 1980's which led to the junk bond debacle. The lack of limits on executive staff “compensation” led to the collapse of Savings and Loans in the early 1990's. The lack of even minimal oversight of investment bankers and venture capitalists led directly to the .com bubble of the late 1990's. The lowering of barriers between financial advising divisions and accountant auditing led to the corporate financial debacle of the early 2000's. Deregulation of the mortgage banking industry during the 2000's led to the worldwide banking crisis that is, even now, still unfolding.

Yet many times I feel I must have lived in a different time and place than many Americans. Listening to the Republican Party debate over who should be crowned the next President, one could be led to believe that US Government regulation was the cause of the current economic mess the country remains floundering in. When I hear any of the current contenders to the throne speak, I'm told that unfettered unregulated business is the One True Way to economic salvation for the country. Get government out of the way, they say.

Hotel Sens

What universe do these people live in? The Government has deregulated just about everything corporate and banking interests have asked for. What more could the US Government give corporate interests that they have not already given? How can NAFTA and GATT not give the already rich all the means they desire to move money and resources anywhere around the world? Where haven't corporate lobbyists help prepare the laws that have completely freed up the US capitalist system?

The only group of people to not benefit from all this unfettered free-wheeling capitalism is the bottom 99% of Americans.

Wages, earning, and wealth for the bottom 99% has stagnated since 1970. To keep any semblance of earning and wealth in play has meant people work two, sometimes three jobs. We've been told that corporate profits benefit everyone and that CEO's are gods to be worshiped for the amount of wealth they generate. Citizens are bombarded with strange campaigns to dismantle social systems (like "privatizing" Social Security).

l'isle de la Cite

One of my favorite sentences, in it's opening definition of the word “fascism”, says that corporate interests pay for access to, and in turn control, a government. Italy during the Mussolini era fits that definition. With the Supreme Court granting unlimited First Amendment “freedom of speech” rights to corporations and with the recent passing of the NDA which grants the military the power to indefinitely detain citizens (completely by-passing any Habeus Corpus rights), does not this very same definition now apply to the United States?

No. I want to leave the country where the only public discourse and argument to be had is for how much more must be spent on armament and how abortions must be stopped. I want to live, at least for a short time, in a country where citizens can argue over how much money should be spent on public art and where people can move freely about the countryside by rail and public transportation.

The house goes on the market very shortly. I hope it sells soon. We'd sure like to be in Europe by Springtime.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Political Reasoning

When the US Supreme Court declared George W. Bush the victor in the 2002 elections, I became worried. I was concerned that the US was suddenly no longer a democracy. I worried that entitled interests could place into power whom so ever they chose and damn the citizenry! I worried that the Supreme Court was irreversibly politicized to the far Right. I had forgotten that the USA is not a democracy, rather, it is a republic.

Reims Graff

What I didn't see coming were two disastrous occupations of foreign nations, the legalization of spying on US citizens, the revocation of Habius Corpus, the signing into law legislation that enabled a huge mortgage bubble, and the emptying of public coffers in the 11th hour of George's Presidency as a means of refilling the bank vaults after they experienced stupid, self-initiated economy faltering losses. I hadn't foreseen the successful implementation of the privatization of corporate profits and socialization of corporate losses. Nor had I foreseen the realization of a long-time rich man's dream where the top 1% “own” 90% of everything available in the US.

It was difficult to sit through two election cycles where serious substantive questions were raised regarding the legitimacy of power taken by George W. Bush and his fellow elites. I swore I would move away from the US. Alas, I felt it important to remain here and participate in creating a different way of being and engaging culture and society. I wanted to create beauty in the face of persistent ugliness.

Hope is an ephemeral thing.

des voiture de Paris

With the election of Barack Obama in 2008, I had hope that the precepts of the Magna Carta would be returned to US law and the Bush law revoking the right to fair representation and the right to be held innocent until proven guilty would be overturned. I had hope that the US would pull back from two long, costly occupations, close the Geneva Convention countering Guantanamo Bay prison and would turn it's attention to repairing a very long list of wrongs.

Hindsight and wishful thinking have proved me wrong. Again.

Notre Dame

Obama insisted on legislation that allowed the US Military to detain US citizens with no rights of any kind for as long as they chose . This worsened anything George the Dumber and a Republican Congress were able to force upon the American people.

My wife recently asked a very good question: Would we be smart enough to know when it was time to leave?

It is easy to rail against an unjust system of politics. It is easy to see how the rich 1% exploit the 99%. It is easy to be angry that the 99% do not stand up for themselves, rather, continually vote against their own self interests. It is sad to know we are leaving one of the most progressive cities in the USA. It is deeply moving that now is the time to act on our ideals, our concerns, and the movement of our hearts desires.

It's time to leave before someone closes the gates.

Les animaux sauvages faire des courses

Friday, January 6, 2012

Ideological Reasoning

Les animaux sauvages

When I took French at the university, we read Sartre's “Les Jeux Sont Faits” as well as of Simenon's “Maigret” detective mysteries. I loved the way the language expressed thoughts and feelings.

Certainly, there is the way French is written which can be quite beautiful and used to express passionate emotions. There is also the fact that the French tend to be rather intellectual. These things appear to be freely expressed amongst themselves, which I find rather refreshing.

I love that the French have no compunctions about talking about sex and politics. I am amazed that French schools still teach philosophy and reasoning. I was surprised to see posters all over Paris when we visited in the Fall of 2011 for a series of lectures by a German philosopher.

Angel of Montparnasse

That the French laughed at certain Americans for making such a big deal out of President Bill Clinton's dalliance with Monica Lewinsky brings a smile to me. Who, but America, could care about who a President is playing with? Only in America would the media and certain sectors of society demand a saint of a simple human while searching, diligently, for their every fault and short-coming.

That the French still teach philosophy tells me they must feel there is more to life and living than making money. Using the mind to engage and interpret the world seems to be important to the French. After all, wasn't it they who developed hydraulic power, demonstrated the use of steam locomotion, the world the fine art of movie making, and spend large sums of money each year on procuring art for public places?

Iam very much looking forward to finding a way into French culture. I would like to hear what people think and feel about a few of the mysteries of life. I'd like to begin to understand how philosophical ideas inform and guide French culture.

Reims Cathedral

In reading “60 Million French People Can't All Be Wrong”, I learned that politics are used as a conversation starter, much in the same way sports is used in the US. This fascinates me. In the US, politics is a full time circus of flim-flam hucksters shilling self destructive policies as a means of improving the upward movement of money to the top 1%. In France, it looks like politics can be seriously discussed and issues carefully examined. Am I being too naive?

Before our recent trip to Paris, I recorded a discussion off Radio France Info. The topic was socialism vs democracy vs capitalism and the role of China in world economics. Four people were actively engaged in a roundtable talk of the place of capitalism in culture, society, and how it seems to be ruining economic systems throughout world. The thing that sticks with me from the discussion is how the speakers felt there is no relationship between democracy and capitalism. Such is thing would be viewed as a heretical statement in the US, even if the statement could be made in the first place. Rather, in the US there would typically be a shouting match between participants who spew nothing more than carefully rehearsed "talking points" (or should I say "shouting points"?).


There is one thing, however, that has me stumped. What I don't yet understand is why the French can't talk about money. Maybe it will become one of Life's Mysteries? Or, perhaps, I'll get to the bottom of this after we spending time in France? Either way, it'll be interesting, educational, and fun.

I hope living in France will prove to engage my mind in ways I find more discrete than the continual bludgeoning it receives any time I turn on a TV in the US.

Deeper Reasoning

I want to say just a little more about why we are choosing to leave the US. Particularly at this time. There are economic aspects to the decision as well as ideological and political reasons.

I touched on one of the economic reasons for leaving in a prior post to this blog. That is, the cost of healthcare in the US is astronomically high.

Paris - rue Denoyez

What I find striking and financially exhausting is that healthcare costs twice as much as any First World country which, at the same time, providing a level of care ranked 37 amoung 191 countries around the world. The clear reason for this is that healthcare in the US is a for profit business.

Insurance company and hospital executives feel entitled to their greed and have no legal, social, or political impediments placed on them that limit their profits. Making money takes precedence over providing services at all levels. In fact, services are routinely denied as a means of improving profits for the already rich 1%.

Passy Cemetery - In Sorrow

I get quite angry thinking about the fact that 50% or more of my insurance premium is acting as a direct contribution to executive profit for which I will never see service nor benefit. Unless one counts helping make someone rich as a privilege.

I might as well take at least 50% of my very high healthcare insurance premium out to the back 40 and drop it into a burn barrel.

St Denis - Notre Dame

By contrast, the World Health Organization ranks France's healthcare number one in the world. This, at 50% cheaper than anything the US has to offer. The US healthcare system is clearly broken. This matters to me because as I age I know I will need medical support. Staying the US would mean I face a great risk of being denied services. Or, worst yet, by remaining in the US I would be one serious illness away from needing to declare bankruptcy.

As an ex-patriot, I know I will be funding my own healthcare. I won't be able to take advantage of France's support of a basic human right directly. Even though it will be on my dime, by paying appropriately sized insurance premiums I will, however, have access to a finest medical system in the world, at a fraction of the cost of what I'm currently paying in the US.