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Scavengers in France

by geezer in Paris Sun Apr 24th, 2011 at 04:17:45 AM EST

In the recent past, if you sold off public properties like toll booths, water plants, prisons, schools, or parking facilities to your buddies, -property developed over much time with a huge investment in tax revenues- and transferred them to private hands at a small fraction of their cost to create, you could call it "privatization", and conceal the predation under a heap of talking points about markets and efficiency. But the whole process has always been a profitable pain in the butt for the predators- it was necessary to operate through a complex legal procedure involving established predation methods- quasi-competitive bids, tense negotiations with those affected, and those displaced from their jobs or statutory authority, and careful media massage was a time-consuming part of the procedure. But no more. Looks to me as if there's a new technology being rapidly applied to the problem.  It's Corporate Social Technology at it's most blatant.


Scavengers In France

Cross-posted to Kos
I'm taking a break from my new career as a website builder with Joomla! and posting this quick-and-dirty diary. Please forgive the need for finer editing, but our new endeavor, Language-lovers.com, allows little time to write.
Recently I've been amazed and fascinated by Governor Scott Walker's new public law allowing him to appoint "Emergency Managers" to take over direction of municipalities and even county-level governments, bypass entirely their elected officials and place their direction in the hands of an entity appointed by him, often a corporation, all without recourse to the normal procedures traditionally used for such raiding.
At least three states, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio, and probably many more soon, have adopted or legalized this procedure.

Thousands Protest Snyder's Authoritarian Power Grab
Allison Kilkenny
April 20, 2011 
Nation Magazine 

Michigan's House first raised some eyebrows last month when it passed the "Emergency Financial Manager" bill, which states that in the case of an economic crisis, the governor has the authority to authorize "emergency managers" to reject, modify or terminate the terms of any existing contracts or collective bargaining agreements, and dissolve local governing bodies of schools and cities.
Naturally, unions and pro-democratic activists were up in arms when the "financial martial law bill," as some called it, passed. Thousands turned out to protest what is widely viewed as an authoritarian power grab by Governor Snyder. But up until very recently, the effect of such a bill was largely speculative. The scope of Snyder's new power couldn't be fully understood until he decided to flex his muscle in an impoverished former industrial town called Benton Harbor.
The Michigan town is very much in economic crisis--as is, one could argue, most of the country. Crises are wonderful opportunities for the political and financial elites who are always searching for convenient excuses to exploit already chaotic situations for their own personal gains and ideologies. Author Naomi Klein dubbed this the "shock doctrine."
First, one of Snyder's state-appointed Emergency Managers, Robert Bobb, issued a layoff notice to all of Detroit's 5,466 public school teachers. Soon after, another EM, Joe Harris, used his expanded powers granted by the new law to issue an order banning the city commission from taking any action without his written permission. Now, while it is unlikely that all of Detroit's teachers will be fired, what is clear is that the EMs intend to exercise the maximum amount of authority granted to them under this new law.
"I fully intend to use the authority that was granted under Public Act 4," Bobb said.

One may suspect that a higher court might find such a bizarre process of disenfranchisement illegal or unconstitutional. Whole structures, systems of management and governance with their necessary infrastructure, created at great cost in time and treasure, pursuant to statute and after elections, discarded by an unquestionable decree of a single paragraph in length.
Shazam! Your'e gone.
Even if the thing is tossed out, after a couple years in court, think of the situation that would then ensue.
A rollback of the action would be chaotic, and a financially distressed community would be returned to it's original directors--even more broken than before.
Here in France, it's the prosperous, the valuable bits of the nation that are sucked up or broken off and dispensed to favored collaborators, not the impoverished pieces. I have an ongoing morbid fascination with the process whereby such companies as "Veolia", "Carrefour" and "Fayolle" become ubiquitous and omnipresent in more and more municipalities and endeavors in France, but I never assembled enough of the other pieces to see the emerging wider pattern. And I'm not alone- even Krugman fails to mention a key element in this process, in his anguished post below:

Patients Are Not Consumers
I keep encountering discussions of health economics in which patients are referred to as "consumers", after which the usual mantra of freedom of choice is invoked on behalf of voucherizing Medicare, or whatever.
We used to know better than this.
--------------------------
That's why we have medical ethics. That's why doctors have traditionally both been viewed as something special and been expected to behave according to higher standards than the average professional. There's a reason we have TV series about heroic doctors, while we don't have TV series about heroic middle managers or heroic economists.
The idea that all this can be reduced to money -- that doctors are just people selling services to consumers of health care -- is, well, sickening. And the prevalence of this kind of language is a sign that something has gone very wrong not just with this discussion, but with our society's values.

There are better words to describe them. Prisoners. Farm animals.
Orwellian inmates.
Americans are a wholly-owned cash cows on the medical farm, commodities largely owned by insurance companies. The farm is staffed by doctors who are skillfully managed by appeals to their need for status and their greed. But it has been, in the past, a system that operated within the limits of at least the appearance of choice, and a legal process that offered some recourse through tort law.
Yikes! Paul points out how badly those limits have been eroded, but there's lots more examples we could look at, that make it clear that a new technology is assuming a dominant role. For example, soon, the law will force Americans to buy insurance, and from a pool in which  "choice"  will be even more transparently phony. This is hailed as a breakthrough reform of a broken health system.

Is this sweeping endrun around established legal process really such a new thing?

"Aint nothing new under the sun"---

"Back in the days of the robber Barons"---

"In the leadup to the crash of '29"---

Of curse. But for me, sclerotic as I am, it seems so wildly illegal as to be a testament to the central disaster of the recent past, the death of the rule of law, as well as the unashamed rejection of any principle of social responsibility. Try this, for a clear statement of the new morality:

The new Corporate Order
Robert Scheer, for Truthdig

Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of GE, recently appointed by President Barack Obama as his chief outside economic adviser, admits that this (outsourcing jobs) does not involve poorly paid work that Americans don't want, but instead prime jobs: "We've globalized around markets, not cheap labor. The era of globalization around cheap labor is over. Today we go to China, we go to India, because that's where the customers are."
 The loss of well-paying jobs at multinationals like GE to other nations--54 percent of the GE workforce is foreign--exacerbates the plight of U.S. consumers while making the foreign customers even more attractive.
-
No less important than U.S. military muscle is the power of the American government to construct and enforce a worldwide trade and finance structure to the advantage of U.S.-based multinational corporations. (clip) It is precisely the impact of trade agreements like NAFTA that has facilitated the erosion of well-paying jobs. And it was the deregulation of international banking standards, led by the U.S. Treasury Department under the past five presidents, that created the conditions for the recent disastrous housing and banking meltdown.
-
Big government, the devil that Republicans love to inveigh against, is big precisely because it is so active in so many costly ways in serving the interests of our biggest corporations.
It is the corporations that need big government to protect their interests--

Robert Scheer has lots more to say about how government in the corporatist state supports the needs of corporations, but what I'm focusing on here is the commodification of life-of culture, of the natural world, and in the end, of people.
Like flowing water, it is the natural course of market capitalism to evolve toward a state wherein all major areas of endeavor, all large items or networks of "Value", and all sources of profit, including the natural environment are sopped up and held by very large entities- corporations, if you will- who will supplant government and reduce democratic functioning to a level hardly kabuki theater. Only the marginally profitable, the geographically dispersed or grossly inaccessible will remain exempt. Few will act to effectively oppose it, even though successful opposition has a long historical tail.
There will be no wide-scale action because most of us will rely for our income- our survival- on these same entities. Unions are history. Communication and growth of the consensus beliefs that are needed to stimulate action appear to be enabled by social media and the net, but this is an illusion, which can be disabled by the flip of a switch. It's an area of corporate vulnerability that only an idiot would overlook.

Alarmist? Perhaps. But remember the seven-year gap between the existence of a weapon and it's appearance in the media. Remember that discord is the enemy now, and we need to be managed, because a we are the serfs who work on the farm. Without us, there aint no farm. That fact is the route off the farm, but few will take it.

Imperial Decline: How Does It Feel to Be Inside a Dying Empire?
(Tom Engleheart, for Alternet)
April 19, 2011

Could this be what it's like to watch, paralyzed, as a country on autopilot begins to come apart at the seams while still proclaiming itself "the greatest nation on Earth"?

This can't end well.
But then, how often do empires end well, really?  They live vampirically by feeding off others until, sooner or later, they begin to feed on themselves, to suck their own blood, to hollow themselves out.  Sooner or later, they find themselves, as in our case, economically stressed and militarily extended in wars they can't afford to win or lose.
http://www.alternet.org/world/150667/imperial_decline%3A_how_does_it_feel_to_be_inside_a_dying_empir e/

In the United States, about the time it was no longer feasible to provide endless parcels of public land to those who wanted to go West, our attention began to turn to other sources of plunder, at first external and, as marketworld assumed more control, internal. But now we've been feeding on ourselves for a long, long time. Now the new, more streamlined technology of social predation is increasingly here, in France, and so firmly established I can't see any outcome but that the evil process play itself out.

Dostoevsky wrote, in Notes From Underground, that to seek a hiding place from forces that reduce man to an atomized, powerless object in the end result in self-imprisonment in a narcissistic refuge.
Yes, probably so. But tell that to the people of Youngstown, Ohio.
Youngstown used to be the steel capital of the world. Now all the mills are gone, and my friend who visits there often tells me there are three new prisons- one private, one soon to be- on the same land. Their growth industry.
 Pockets of coaled-out regions in Kentucky are now uneconomic and so are abandoned in marketworld, stripped of banks, supermarkets, good schools, the residents left to fend for themselves. Once unemployment runs out, the people are left with around $150 a month and maybe food stamps as a  lifeline.
Having lived through this process once already, close up and personal, I can smell it in the wind. I can tell you, it would be wise to consider having a "Plan B", narcissistic or not.

I'm moving away from Paris. Even though I love the city in a way I thought I could never love a place. Even though I finally got Ivonne to share that affection. The feeding frenzy that seems to be an inextricable part of Market Capitalism is devouring a way of life that I learned to love, and replacing it with stuff I don't want.
Even though Paris is France's showcase, it's face turned to the world, it's cabaret for the tourist, foreign or national, it's becoming more and more commodified, more corporatized, and the corporate model does not include a broad range of options that are imp[ortant to us. Survival options, off-the-farm options.
"Fayolle", the company that owns our privatized port de Plaisance here in Paris is now doing to marinas all over France, what "Veolia" did in Melun, and buying them wholesale. A residential port is a unit with all the support elements of a tiny town- water, sewer, electric, communications, administration, etc. Fayolle is buying them all- establishing a commanding position of nationwide control. Why? Duh. Still runs downhill.
"Veolia" is doing the same to cities' fundamental services all over France. Buying the facilities paid for with tax money, and doing all the usual fake improvements resulting in skyrocketing charges. Their tactics illustrate the economic side of the process, but it's a deeper story, because these small packages, communities in the true sense, are the packets that encode the culture of France.

We lived in the Ninth Arrondissement, on Rue Blanche, for six years. Our building had a huge array of professional and tradespeople living in it, and whatever, whoever was not there was in our block. The electrician was on the corner, the glazier was around and down halfway, the Italian epicierie, with Pecorino Pepato unequaled since, was next door. There were two boulangeries in the block, both fiercely independent. The school was six minutes by foot, three churches were within the same radius, and the architect's son, who lived on the floor below, was an insurance flak who married a vet.

Today the electrician is gone, the glazier hangs on by a thread selling crummy storm windows, both small boulangeries are gone, replaced by a big one that sells real bread along with the instabread that seems to be a necessary product line if you want to get deliveries of other stuff. The Italian Epicierie survives, but not the Pecorino- it's been replaced by a far poorer quality local product. The lady who made my son's zillion pairs of glasses is also gone, and a huge Grand Optical has grown nearby, on a corner once occupied by our grocer and a family pizza place. The trend is obvious.

We are living in a world where the small business, the individual enterprise, the local artisan, the small marina is either incorporated into a politically favored predator, or driven to become a scavenger in the interstices between one megabusiness and another. These scavengers are increasingly disadvantaged relics from the days of broader community. But they carry the culture. Huge parts of it. I mourn the rapid loss of culture, but I need to eat, and I can't live in the world that is again emerging. Where we all work for the company, and shop at Carrefour- the Company.

We know how this works out.

Nevers has so far escaped a great deal of this. It's schools are still fine, it's small but lovely port still cheap and quiet, free of outside control. It's a closed society, costing about an eighth as much as Paris Arsenal, and we sure need the break. But we might not be accepted. And it's the local jury of long-term residents who see us as supplicants on their turf, who will decide whether or not a place for us can be found. Or whether we will be rejected like the last boat from Paris.
"Sorry, but the power is insufficient for another boat."
 "Sorry, but there is just  no room here for the winter."|
 "Sorry, we cannot accept your derogation from your old school or your certificate of residence for schooling."
"Sorry,---etc."
And it's their right. It IS their turf.
A lot of the town has been corporatized, yes, and the old, private hotel we stayed in while visiting the schools and port was recently sold to a chain. The owners remain in charge, blithely unaware of their fate, blind to the train coming.

-What will happen if the local tax revenues drop to the point that the cities cannot maintain an adequate level of services? Is this likely?
-Or if a compliant mayor is installed, who will cry "Wolf! Wolf!" and open the door, like the one in Villeneuve Sur Yonne?
-Who will it hit first?
-What areas here in France are most likely to fall into the food emergency state, like many places in the US?
-And when will the new technology come to the rescue- when will an Emergency Manager be appointed (from Veolia?) to rescue the locals from their independence- er, incompetence? But it's earlier in the process in Nevers, it's cheaper, and so we go.

We feel like scavengers. We are. And so are many of the residents.
The difference is, we know it.

Display:
with the population and its government as the resource being strip-mined.

a quote caught my eye earlier today, that relates to this somewhat:

The Labour tradition understands something important about capitalism, which is that finance capital wishes to pursue the maximum returns on its investment. To that end it exerts great pressure to turn human beings and nature into commodities. Labour politics is rooted in the democratic resistance to the commodification of human beings.
by wu ming on Sun Apr 24th, 2011 at 04:47:28 AM EST
YES.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sun Apr 24th, 2011 at 10:45:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
YES, again!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Apr 25th, 2011 at 06:24:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Labour politics is rooted in the democratic resistance to the commodification of human beings.

This is not true. Not historically or today if we look this from the point of view of (resource)rent extraction. Labour politics has been one of the worst resource stripping politics. They oppose land/property tax, they give tax-credits to real-estate, they give resources to corporations for free, they want to finance public sector by taxing labour incomes and they let banks to collect interest from increased asset values and inflation.

Labour politics is one of the driving forces behind finance capitalism. I believe the reason for this comes to marxists. They don't understand the difference between land and capital. Resource rents and profits and money. To them all is "capitalist production" and they spend their time seeking alternatives to free entrepreneurship. To them the idea of mixed economy without economic rent and with public welfare (within "capitalist" markets) is completely alien.

by kjr63 on Mon Apr 25th, 2011 at 07:14:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Could you develop this critique in a diary?

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Apr 25th, 2011 at 07:16:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would like to, but i'm afraid it's too "challenging" to my time available (and my english).
by kjr63 on Thu Apr 28th, 2011 at 05:40:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
under the délégation de service public model, France has been subcontracting a number of tasks to the private sectors for a long time. Veolia and Suez (formerly Compagnie Générale des Eaux and Lyonnaise des Eaux) have been managing local utilities for 150 years in France.

What's changed has been 2 things:

  • decentralisation, which gave the authority to allocate these contracts to local politicans rather than Parisian bureaucrats - that led to various corruption scandals in the 80s as local authorities did not have quite as powerful Cour des Comptes as the central one:
  • dsp has been reinvented in the form of "PPP" of "PFI" - the UK way of doing the same thing, with heavy involvement of private equity, bankers, lawyers, accountants, the main purpose of which, beyond feeding the professional parasites, was to get these liabilities off the government's balance sheet (to cheat on the Maastricht criteria) rather than actually running the services properly. Naturally the City guys are keen to extend their franchise to other countries, including France.


Wind power
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Apr 24th, 2011 at 12:20:43 PM EST
I was aware of some of the history of Compagnie Generale des Eaux/Suez/ and the ancient Lyonnaise des Eaux, and also the oversight problem, but not the political structure under which they operate/d.
What is striking, if you live and move within the middle lower economic and social strata as we do, is the change in the nature and quality of life in Paris, and in France in general, from the time we first came, in 1994. This is, I think, not your home turf.

--dsp has been reinvented in the form of "PPP" of "PFI" - the UK way of doing the same thing, with heavy involvement of private equity, bankers, lawyers, accountants, the main purpose of which, beyond feeding the professional parasites, was to get these liabilities off the government's balance sheet (to cheat on the Maastricht criteria) rather than actually running the services properly. Naturally the City guys are keen to extend their franchise to other countries, including France.

(Bolding mine)

Don't understand this-the UK way of doing what? And how does this relate to running the communications system, sewer, water, refuse pickup, and a lot of the mass transit system of a city of 50,000 (Melun)--all a liability? If so, why would private equity, banking, et al involve themselves? Why would there be such a pervasive trend toward corporate involvement in these losing issues and towns?
Nevers is a quarter million people, and has seemingly escaped a lot of this. Perhaps in a year or so I'll know more about how. I'd like you to expand on your last-I really want to know.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sun Apr 24th, 2011 at 02:12:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm sure Jerome and others can explain this much better, but off the top of my head:

  1. Jerome is comparing PFI to the traditional French délégation de service public system where, IIRC, the public authorities own the infrastructure (e.g. a city's water and sewage system) but private contractors run it.

  2. The British government likes PFI because it keeps big expenses, like building a new hospital, off the government's balance sheet.

  3. In something like refuse collection, the local council pays the contractor a fixed amount to perform the service, and the contractor will profit if it can carry out the work for less than it's being paid. The contractor isn't billing individual householders so being in a 'losing' town with a declining or impoverished population is not an issue.
by Gag Halfrunt on Thu Apr 28th, 2011 at 05:39:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks. New data. Good thing.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri Apr 29th, 2011 at 05:21:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
GH, if you're still around, I finally have time to follow up a bit on your and Jerome's very interesting comments.
If I follow you correctly,--I wonder right away-under PFI procedures, who owns the service, and/or the associated infrastructure? It would seem that a clear title- actual ownership- would be necessary for the involvement of private equity in a major way.
Jerome, if you were negotiating a finance package for a windfarm in which the financing parties had no recourse, it would seem a difficult, high-risk sell.(I reveal my utter lack of knowledge here, unashamedly).

And in France, is the traditional DSP still the dominant framework? Does this imply a contractual agreement between a council or municipal government, specifying policies and limiting profits, and thus the depth of predation? Is this the area where corruption became such a problem? Because it's easy to see situations in which Veolia would utterly outclass even a council or municipality with good management and intentions, when such contracts are under negotiations.

I am reminded of the Veolia refuse truck in Melun, at the quai de Reine Blanche, -the beautiful island in the middle of town with the law library on it.

Crisp new truck arrives, parks at the end of the quai. Three uniformed black guys leap off and sprint from bin to bin, truck backing along the quai, dumping each container into the slowly moving compactor and going on to the next in a dead run, all the way to the end of a quai perhaps a half-kilometer long. A deadly dangerous (but very fast) exercise, revealing volumes about Veolia's worker policies.
Disposable.
Where were these guys from? Not from France, I'd bet, but  when Ivonne tried to ask, they literally ran away from her.
Perhaps my impression of Veolia (and the process) has been unfairly colored by this vivid memory.  

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sat Apr 30th, 2011 at 01:38:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There's a worldwide picture with Veolia, Suez (and Bechtel). See this page (320) (Google Books: Living in the Environment: Principles, Connections, and Solutions - By George Tyler Miller, Scott Spoolman, 2008). (Incidentally, on Cochabamba, I'll re-plug the movie I mentioned recently, Tambien La Lluvia by Iciar Bollain, very worth seeing).

However, these giants have been getting bad press and there may be signs they're on the retreat. Look at this, precisely re: Paris.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Apr 30th, 2011 at 03:18:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm sorry you're being driven from Paris. But equally, I can understand your reasoning.

However, I don't know about Nevers, but you're not far from Dijon and it gets mighty cold there during the winter

Bon chance, mon ami.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun Apr 24th, 2011 at 01:44:57 PM EST
Thanks for the note, my friend. We had hoped to spend more time perusing the pubs here with you. And we are leaving before we are driven from Paris, while we have options and hope. A new business is fun, in places, even at my age.
Will you visit Nevers?
Who knows? It's new turf, a new chance.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sun Apr 24th, 2011 at 02:16:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
 I was in Digoin last september, but I'm sure I could find my way down again.

Paris didn't really have any pubs, I always felt very disappointed with the (lack of) drinking establishments there, too much superstrong beligian stuff, not enough quaffing beers from germany or Czech republic. France doesn't really have the sort of British/belgian/German/Czech bar culture so there isn't really the same feel.

And french beer is taking the wrong approach, bland over-strong blond beers ripped off from Belgium. there are good beers, I know cos I tried some, but they're almost impossible to source

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun Apr 24th, 2011 at 03:00:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I fear the same deficits in the pub culture will manifest in Nevers.
Gonna get a new set of legs from Valenton and go flying again.lost five kilos, ten to go.
At least, that's the plan. Nevers has a nice airport, glider club, ultralight club,---

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sun Apr 24th, 2011 at 03:37:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You mentioned a boat. Is it a barge? You live aboard? I explored that option, even taking an inexpensive canal tour on a live-aboard barge from Toul to Strasbourg about 5 years ago. Didn't do it, as we weren't ready to leave the USA at that time.

I feel like a narcissistic runaway from the USA, but I gave it 60 years of my life, money, votes, letters to the editors, petitions, political donations, etc. etc.-  I say I get to let the younger people take over now and try to arrange some sort of "escape" for my daughter and grandchildren should that ever be necessary. The creeping Globalization/Americanization/Corporatization of Europe makes me despair sometimes, though.

Found your diary on Kos and rec'ed and 'hotlisted' it (whatever that is) because it seems like something that everyone there should read and benefit from; there must have been 20 damn birther diaries lately.

Thanks for all your thoughts and research.

Karen in Bischofswiesen

'tis strange I should be old and neither wise nor valiant. From "The Maid's Tragedy" by Beaumont & Fletcher

by Wife of Bath (kareninaustin at g mail dot com) on Thu Apr 28th, 2011 at 01:18:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It certainly isn't a barge, but I don't know enough about boats to say what sort it is. A lot of people here have visited him "at home" during the Paris meetings, so somebody should be able to say.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Thu Apr 28th, 2011 at 01:55:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a Dutch boat from Frisia, and its proper name is (sneak peek at something geezer wrote about it) a tjalk.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Apr 28th, 2011 at 04:30:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, we do live aboard a Dutch barge. Click on language-lovers
and select the "about us" page, then scroll down and there she is-Risico- all svelt 60,000 pounds of her.

For us, it's the best option, and I've lived aboard for 40 years, so I'm cool with it.
If you read the comments on Kos, then you know my personal rules for being an expatriate:

  1. Do your bit to fix it before you give up and say, "This country's broke beyond reasonable efforts to repair." It is.

  2. Don't arrive empty-handed. That makes you a parasite. Take something you can add to the country you are a guest in, to earn your keep.

3)Remember that the services that seem so wonderful were paid for by tax revenues paid by the citizens, not you. Pay your way.

We also gave it several decades of effort. What drove us out of the US for once and all was the need for our children to have a life outside the belly of the beast. And a vast number of expendable Iraqis--once again. Discarded, unsung, just trash. Not again.

It's all very well to risk jail or economic disaster if you are a free agent, but once you have children, the game changes.
Life for them here has vastly better possibilities.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri Apr 29th, 2011 at 05:44:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm still doing my bit to try to make the USA better, but I couldn't risk the possibility that a major health problem or auto accident, etc., would cost us our house and leave us with nothing to leave my daughter and grandchildren.  Since my husband is a German citizen whose mother is now suffering health problems, we decided this was a good time to make his return to Germany.  We'd have preferred France, but his mother, brothers, sisters and his kids live here in Germany.

I also figured this would be my chance to introduce my grandchildren to the bigger world other than through books and film. The youngest is now 9, so the parting was not so traumatic as it would have been when they were younger. I'm hoping they can each do a year abroad in high school, too, after spending part of each summer with us. I'll try to include a barge trip in there, too.

When I was researching barges, the tjalk was my favorite. It's a plus to be able to move one's household intact to many different quarters of Europe. "Barging" is a very appealing life to my way of thinking.

'tis strange I should be old and neither wise nor valiant. From "The Maid's Tragedy" by Beaumont & Fletcher

by Wife of Bath (kareninaustin at g mail dot com) on Sat Apr 30th, 2011 at 02:57:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
These Republicans sure are an unimaginiative lot. Bust up a public sector union and become a hero just like Uncle Ronnie did with PATCO back in the day. But what they don't appreciate is that PATCO endorsed Reagan not Carter in the 1980 election (along with the Teamsters - also a supporter of Nixon). Part of this stems from Carter's lousy record with organized labor: busting up the railroad unions with the Rock Island strike and the Teamsters with trucking deregulation.

In 1981, PATCO made a fatal strategic mistake by getting too greedy and going on strike. This forced Reagan to drop their support and find replacements to keep traffic moving. And guess what, they were able to quickly bring in new people (the country was in a serious recession at the time) and get the system back up to speed. What's more this decision was held up in court. Almost by accident, Reagan became a hero to people like Alan Greenspan:

But perhaps the most important, and then highly controversial, domestic initiative was the firing of the air traffic controllers in August 1981. The President invoked the law that striking government employees forfeit their jobs, an action that unsettled those who cynically believed no President would ever uphold that law. President Reagan prevailed, as you know, but far more importantly his action gave weight to the legal right of private employers, previously not fully exercised, to use their own discretion to both hire and discharge workers.

Greenspan's loving tribute not withstanding, Reagan only reaffirmed the federal government's anti-labor stance first clearly demonstrated by Carter.

The anti-labor divide and conquer strategy used in dictatorships business is of course well established, but why would Snyder go in and try and chop up the teachers' union? And why Detroit and Benton Harbor? This is an odd move considering that even Forbes recently had this to say about the teachers:

In fact, teachers' pay has declined relative to other similarly qualified professions, as teachers' unions have compressed teacher wages by often prohibiting performance-based decisions on teacher retention and tenure and salary increases in public schools. This means that the best teachers are underpaid and sometimes leave the teaching profession for higher paying occupations, and there is compelling evidence that teacher quality is strongly associated with substantial improvements of long-term economic outcomes of their students.

So clearly the solution is better paid teachers, more money for education. And just maybe that educational system becomes more equitable too. Hooray!

I don't expect that to happen. In fact, I'd expect far less money to be spent on public education with the consequent continued drop in the quality of public school. This brings me to what I feel is the real legacy of the Reagan administration: the undermining of public education first started through his school voucher program. Snyder's executive order emergency declaration only reaffirms this long running policy. Given the high percentage of women teaching in public schools (84% nationally in 2005), and the high percentage of minorities in Detroit (82% black in 2000) and Benton Harbor (92% black also in 2000), I seriously wonder if these guys are just a bunch of misogynists, racists or both.

by Jace on Mon Apr 25th, 2011 at 02:20:10 PM EST
Both.

And I don't say this just because my mother taught American history and my daughter teaches English literature and reading.

All my friends in Austin TX are in deep despair right now about what is being done to education.

'tis strange I should be old and neither wise nor valiant. From "The Maid's Tragedy" by Beaumont & Fletcher

by Wife of Bath (kareninaustin at g mail dot com) on Thu Apr 28th, 2011 at 01:23:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting. My father was a teacher of American history, my mother taught English.
And educated people are not a plus in the neofeudal world envisioned (or that will inevitably result from) current elite policy. Not the Dems, not the GOP-they are theater. In a vast nation of service jobs, education just makes the workers ---restive, instead of docile.

Here, one of the posters I've kept from the student's last big uprising was,
"Ni Pauvre, Ni Soumis!"
check out the website. nipauvrenisoumis.org

Matters to me.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri Apr 29th, 2011 at 05:53:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am studying massage at a private, for profit school. Massage shouldn't be a for-profit enterprise, but yes, that's where things are at in this era. The school is quite enjoyable, but it's expensive and since they'll allow anyone in for the money, the teaching targets a fairly low achievement level.

It's interesting (to use a benign word) to watch this process with the new eyes I have since the backpacking trip. Prior to it I had a very limited ability to form a feedback loop between my emotional body state and what was going on with my life and the world. Previously it was almost completely narrative based - internally and externally. Without emotional awareness, a person can be led to believe anything - as long as the narrative confirms the underlying emotional state.

Even with the new knowledge I still don't think I know how to live very well. But now I have a very clear view of the learned sociopathy that feeds back through the ruinous emotional state of modern cultures. Nearly everyone in the US knows "something is deeply wrong" but they're stuck looking for a solution through the same narratives that created this space in the first place. That's the power of culture and the double-bind of the adaptable human mind. To get out of it we're going to need a positive feedback loop in the environment that starts channeling people into a happier place on its own. I don't think that's something we can control - the environment is going to have to collapse old myths before we can write new ones based (hopefully) on a happier space.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Mon Apr 25th, 2011 at 02:22:38 PM EST
Any chance of a diary expanding on same?
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Apr 25th, 2011 at 03:01:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
it's part of the backpacking diary I've been meaning to write for 18 months.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Mon Apr 25th, 2011 at 03:11:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
MillMan:
I had a very limited ability to form a feedback loop between my emotional body state and what was going on with my life and the world. Previously it was almost completely narrative based - internally and externally. Without emotional awareness, a person can be led to believe anything - as long as the narrative confirms the underlying emotional state.

this is a particularly fine, astute piece of social cognition, expressed in your usually profound way.

MillMan:

Even with the new knowledge I still don't think I know how to live very well. But now I have a very clear view of the learned sociopathy that feeds back through the ruinous emotional state of modern cultures. Nearly everyone in the US knows "something is deeply wrong" but they're stuck looking for a solution through the same narratives that created this space in the first place. That's the power of culture and the double-bind of the adaptable human mind. To get out of it we're going to need a positive feedback loop in the environment that starts channeling people into a happier place on its own. I don't think that's something we can control -

few people live very well. 'learned sociopathy' is right on the money too.

i am reminded of an aphorism by Pascal, 'better an intelligent hell than a stupid paradise', and my reflections after visiting costa rica, where people lived extremely frugally compared to the west†TM, but smiled a hella lot more.

the hologram we westerners are born into pretty much precludes emotional intelligence. as it undermines it to the point of negation, or trivialises it with tokenism... the beauty section of Vogue magazine comes to mind, mud baths galore, at $200 a pop. we abhor simplicity because it's the hardest 'thing' to commodify, yet it's the very key to releasing oneself from the vice-grip of consumerism.

as a practicing masseur for 22 years, i agree with you that it should not be a for-profit business, just like banks, health care and energy. the big 'however' that makes me able to cope with the inherent contradictions, is that peace(fulness) has become a commodity for its very cultural rarity, and to give that to someone unconditionally would be a bit like taking off your clothes downtown at rush hour.

you'd feel great, for about 2 minutes, until they came to take you away. it might be an extremely rational decision to make, it hurts no-one, and one should be free to do so, in a world of trust and enlightenment.

the way things are now, if you gave away your work of creating (alas temporary) states of attunement and bodymind serenity, without the wherewithal to repair somewhere and charge your batteries, all that would happen is you'd gradually build up such a head of static magnetism you'd burn out rapidos. without the money to go away from the stress, to then revisit it recharged, it would be hopeless! you can't live on ancestral energy very long

the whole point of getting well paid to do quality work, is so you can use the stipend to ensure that your work remains excellent, or your career will be short.

hypertension is epidemic these days, and thus the need for massage is great. it cannot deliver anything absolute or conclusive, but it can offer clues of neural self-awareness which can be extrapolated and built upon, with diligence. for some people it will be positively vital.

my teacher used to say "the therapist's hands are flashlights to light the inner workings and connections of the client".

with focussed intention, the therapist can become adroit at tracing tensions to their root locations, which can be similar to intuitive detective work. a 'crime' (of imbalance) has been committed, sometimes long ago, with multilayered adhesions and compensations on the connective tissue level, bandaging and obfuscating the epicentre with secondary and tertiary tensions that surround and support its hiddenness, just as accessories to a crime help deny it, supply false alibis. one has to divine where the real problem lies, and seek the collaboration of the patient's concentration and degree of self-knowledge to help one ascertain which are false leads and which uncover the truth.

one time i was working on a client's shoulder and she suddenly remembered a car accident she had had as a child, decades earlier. some of the tension and shock had somatised and created an area of energy blockage in the shoulder, and its surfacing to consciousness was helpful in her releasing the chronic discomfort, as she relived it .

techniques, theory, book-larnin' are all great grist for the mind's mill as it engages in the sleuthing, but the best moments come beyond that, for example 3 times today working on 2 different clients i asked fairly trivial questions, but every time it happened that the subjects were dear or topical for them, and i had no idea why i chose them at all, it was just off the top of my head, yet it seemed like i was being psychic. i believe this word 'psychic' merely describes a natural state of events which can occur when two minds have been brought into sympathetic resonance by close, intimate contact requiring significant amounts of trustful surrender, implicitly.

the problem being the amount of touch that happens during an hour's concentrated session is banal in its simplicity, yet so removed from every day life for us. only a mother or a lover usually touches so long and so thoughtfully another's body, and so what is normal becomes rare through sheer infrequency, not because it is in such short supply.

it's as if gold were under every rock, but people are chasing their dreams so fast they don't have time to look and harvest it.

what you become a merchant of is what anyone could have for free, it's under their noses, but they need reminding where, as the lights have gone out...

people need peace, like they need water shelter and food, and the learned sociopathy accrues its vicious sting precisely because it cauterises peace out of the equation of balance, and sells it back to you as a timeshare in a florida condo, later....much later, if you dodge all the sharks and don't fall into the quicksand on the way there.

there are many masseurs/euses who run on will power and technique, but their touch is mercenary, and thus soulless. you cannot be thinking about money and do your best work. the body is not just a machine.

sometimes when your mind has relaxed into the art, it seems like it is far away, watching a hawk gyre across the valley through the open window, or a swallow duck under the eaves, and click a rib pops back into place under exactly the right pressure, angled just so, with the pleasant sigh of relief as an old imbalance is righted. what a pleasant surprise, especially as you were apparently far away with your mind, but somehow the hands know what to do on their own, independently of the forebrain's focus, just as the forebrain may not consciously calculate playing an E flat in the middle of an improvised solo, it just 'happens', and more and more one's most effective work happens from this 'zone', where the push-pull has long gone, and given way to a in some way purer non-localised awareness.

damn it's hard to english...

and i'm ramblin like jack elliot again!

to sum up what i have fumbled saying... peace may be beyond your power to confer in your therapy, but the signposts to it may well be in your ability to highlight, and when you have mastered enough of the art, you can stand back and 'allow' things to emerge from the spring of your intention, namely to bring the whole human race incrementally to an understanding of what collectively ails us, psycho-physically, what makes us tick, and what stops our clock, one body at a time.

i had received a stellar massage yesterday from my best ever student, and it flipped me from a petty, rancorously moody, depressed and angry state of mind which made me want to retreat from the world, turn down an invitation to a dinner and sulk alone, into one of calm, joyous acceptance of my fate, and later an enjoyably social evening.

touch is nuclear in its ability to alter perception, for both parties involved. the high i got from transmitting my love of humanity through this strangely familiar art of conscious touch to these total strangers was priceless, though the utterly unexpected $50 tip was a nice validation too. :)

 millman, the school may well seem jejune, much of the massage art had been banalised beyond belief into a menu of pseudo-exotic rituals, but beyond this van allen belt of noise awaits a galaxy of rich signals, which will become your purview as you clock up really solid chunks of service time and energy.

there are demons to dodge and outw(a)it too, but they're just a test of how seriously you believe in your gift and its necessity for your self-actualisation. many walls created by the sociopathic trends in modern society will crumble in the right atmosphere, and people reveal their inner selves by allowing you so close to them, and then risking to relax.

i wish you all the best in your school, my friend. having met you, and shared great conversations, i am stone certain that you will be an exceptional therapist, and look forward to hearing more from you as you navigate this blessed path. you are now 'touched' and can learn the tools to provide the same shifts to others whose link to affect is temporarily snapping or broken under the stress of cognitive dissonance.

it really is a most effective sword to slice the existential knot, one on one, that so many are lugubriously or frenziedly trying to untangle, (often making matters worse for their efforts).

'job's body' says all this stuff much better than i ever could.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Apr 25th, 2011 at 05:25:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I didn't mean free, I meant non-profit, which is a bit different. A living wage is one thing, speculative earnings are another. There are still some non-profit hospitals and schools out there.

There is plenty to chew on in the school. I'm not beyond it by any means, and getting cocky about it is its own trap. Clinic will be a challenge, albiet a good one. It's also restarting me emotionally, as I think you implied it would (I knew it would as well - I've been down this road a few times now).

Job's body was fantastic and I'm glad I read it before my emotional side slid back under the rug. A lot of his insights simply assume the brain and the body inhabit the same space - which is not part of western mythology.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Mon Apr 25th, 2011 at 06:09:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
MillMan:
the brain and the body inhabit the same space - which is not part of western mythology

True, and true. Though it would be an essential building brick of a new mythology, imo.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Apr 28th, 2011 at 04:07:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Down with Cartesian dualism.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 28th, 2011 at 04:17:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Daily Kos: A Seed Catalog Must-Read on Food, Farming and Socialism
The Cartesian mentality of separation and individuation has been at the core of western thought and action for a few hundred years and threatens to bring us down. The best place to intervene in a faulty system is with the mind that created that system. If we are to survive, we must pull back from the edge and look within our own minds for the cause of the problems we face, rather than tinkering with the faulty system. Nothing less than a restructuring of the way we think and act in the world will produce the desired results. Our teacher the Earth has a crucial role to guide us on that journey.  Peace.

true dat...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Apr 29th, 2011 at 01:42:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
MillMan:
my emotional side slid back under the rug

love how you write!

that's why 'bodymind' is such an apt word.

in craniosacral you get to work with the 'dreambody' which is even harder to english.

check out hugh milne if you get a chance, or book a session with him. i have never, before or since, had such perceptive, profound work done to me, and with pressure of milligrams weight.

freaking extraordinary... he's in monterey, ca, a master of microtouch, and a great writer and teacher too. i did upledger work before getting into his stuff, and the opening/unwinding with hugh's approach worked way better for me. i wouldn't plan on riding your bike till the next day after a session though.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Apr 29th, 2011 at 01:52:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Remember, as the French say:

"Paris n'est pas la France."

Hey, Grandma Moses started late!

by LEP on Mon Apr 25th, 2011 at 05:08:19 PM EST
I've heard it said of LA;-

LA is not California,
California is not the USA.

conversely, London is too much of England

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Apr 25th, 2011 at 05:33:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Geezer, very sorry to hear that you feel you have to leave Paris and your experience of how it is changing for the worse, all very sad. Despite this I wish I had never left it - I may get back there. Bon courage with your new life.

On a side note, Nevers reminded me of Resnais's Hiroshima Mon Amour, one of the founding films of la Nouvelle Vague:

"La femme doit repartir le lendemain pour la France. Pendant cette journée, ils vont se fuir et se rechercher dans les rues, les chambres, les salles d'attente... Au fil de ces rencontres, l'histoire de Nevers va ressurgir. À Nevers, elle a aimé un Allemand. Celui-ci a été tué à la libération et elle a été tondue. Elle est restée enfermée dans une cave où elle a cru devenir folle... Lorsque ses cheveux ont repoussé, ses parents l'ont fait partir pour Paris où elle arrive le jour de l'explosion de la bombe atomique sur Hiroshima.

Le moment est venu de se quitter. Elle le regarde : "Hi-ro-shi-ma... c'est ton nom"..Il lui répond : "C'est mon nom, oui. Ton nom à toi est Nevers. Ne-vers-en-Fran-ce".."

http://www.cineclubdecaen.com/realisat/resnais/hiroshimamonamour.htm

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue Apr 26th, 2011 at 05:17:32 PM EST
Not burning any bridges, Ted.
If it were up to me, I'd stay, but all economic considerations aside, we need for the girls to live in the real world for a while.
We may come back, if the language-lovers.com site catches as well as it did the last iteration.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Wed Apr 27th, 2011 at 08:16:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, a lot of what made France is disappearing as the corporate world sucks away local cohesion with the small businesses and the collective sense of belonging to a meaningful political whole. One of Sarkozy's ghastly charms for the predators he represents is that he is precisely so mediocre, so clumsy, out of phase, self-contradictory, rude, undistinguished, brutal, in a French word, con. Because he is brilliantly dragging down the dignity of his job, and with it that of the state and of the political sphere, leaving more and more ordinary people confused and feeling that there is nothing worth looking for in politics and elections, that it's every man for himself, and so who cares what gets privatized or what public infrastructure disappears. Sarko is a hoodlum, a shock doctrine all on his own.

There's still a way to go, though, and "they" haven't won yet. Hope Nevers works out for you all. But you'll always be geezer in Paris...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Apr 28th, 2011 at 04:23:22 PM EST
Well said-
It seems to me the same degradation of American politics as at least a potentially honorable endeavor took place with the drooling fascination of the pols and the media with semen stains on Lewinsky's dress. We were living in the ninth at the time, and my friends would come to me and say things like, "You're not really gonna do this, -- are you?" As if I had any influence. Rhetorical construction, yes, but containing a deeper meaning. It was then that I knew I couldn't go back.

I think Obama, though he has far more style and social grace than Sarko, will in the end accomplish almost as much toward the destruction of the office of president. And of hope.
 He's transparently a toadie.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri Apr 29th, 2011 at 06:05:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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