One of the advantages of moving overseas is that you see home more clearly. We came to France last week. Already, America comes into clearer focus.
The French press seems fascinated by the relationship between Francois Hollande's two mistresses. The former a candidate for president herself dumped him when he took up with the latter. The former is also the mother of Hollande's four children, which complicates things further.
The latter hates the former. The former hates the latter.
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We learned all this at dinner last night with a charming French couple we have known for years. They spent half the dinner telling us about the presidential mnage, the other half was spent telling us about what they had eaten recently. They seemed to recall the details of every meal. How it was prepared, what mistakes the chef made and what the weather must have been when the grapes were picked for their wine.
As to the imminent financial catastrophe in Europe they were sanguine -even blas.
"Every week we're told the end of Europe will arrive next week. Frankly, we don't care anymore."
What Europeans care about is their vacations! After decades of social and political struggle, the working classes of the Old World won the right to at least four weeks of paid vacation. Bosses could not stand in their way. And now Europe's highest court has ruled that even nature cannot be allowed to spoil a vacation. The New York Times is on the case:
BRUSSELS For most Europeans, almost nothing is more prized than their four to six weeks of guaranteed annual vacation leave. But it was not clear just how sacrosanct that time off was until Thursday, when Europe's highest court ruled that workers who happened to get sick on vacation were legally entitled to take another vacation.
"The purpose of entitlement to paid annual leave is to enable the worker to rest and enjoy a period of relaxation and leisure," the Court of Justice of the European Union, based in Luxembourg, ruled in a case involving department store workers in Spain. "The purpose of entitlement to sick leave is different, since it enables a worker to recover from an illness that has caused him to be unfit for work."
So, you see, things in France are as they should be. People are delusional. But not deadly.
And more thoughts
Back in the United States of America an ill wind blows. The president is a portrait of failure and homicide. As far as we know, he doesn't even have one mistress, which is probably why he has so much time on his hands. According to the New York Times he personally approves the list of unfortunates his drones will assassinate. And for what? Philip Giraldi does the "Terrorism Arithmetic":
Only three American citizens were kidnapped by overseas terrorists in 2011 (in Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq, all of which were war zones), and only 17 were killed in foreign lands (15 in Afghanistan, a war zone)... Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations has determined that the number of Americans killed in terrorist attacks is comparable to the number crushed to death by falling television sets or furniture each year.
But every president wants to be a war president. War is America's #1 zombie industry.
The federal government employs 2,100,000 today compared to 1,500,000 in 2001, not including the military, which has itself grown by 100,000 personnel to 2,300,000, including reserves, with more increases planned through 2013. Most of the new hires were directly related to the War on Terror for manning the 200 new military and CIA bases that have sprung up around the world and to serve as Fortress America's defenders. The number of reported federal employees does not include contractors, who add considerably to the payroll. More than half of the employees in key sectors within the intelligence community and at the Defense Department are contractors.
What does it cost to keep these zombies fed? Giraldi continues:
Uncle Sam will spend $3.796 trillion in 2012 compared with $1.863 trillion in 2001...
There is full-time security manning the entrances of nearly all federal and state and even some local office buildings. The total costs of state and local expenditures to counter the essentially bogus terrorist threat might well exceed the federal expenditures, and then there is the spending on security, often mandated by the government, in the private sector. But as bad as all those numbers are, consider for a moment the legacy costs and institutional damages that are not so readily visible. Professor Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University estimates that Iraq will cost as much as $5 trillion when all the costs, including interest paid on borrowed money and medical treatment for life for the tens of thousands of wounded soldiers, are paid off. The bill for Afghanistan will be proportionate, depending on how long the U.S. stays there and at what commitment level. All of the deficit-feeding spending for the War on Terror and associated military actions has gone down into a deep, dark hole...
But what's new? War is a racket. Always has been. Major Gen. Smedley D Butler explains:
[War] is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.
A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small "inside" group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.
Sooner or later, almost every country makes war its major racket. Then, after they are defeated and bankrupt, people are sick of it and want to string up the people who got them into it in the first place.
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