Greece and Its Occupation by the IMF and the Euro

March 2, 2012 by Randall Erickson
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When the International Monetary Fund(IMF) is involved, one can expert the worst, and it usually–always–happens. In the case of Greece, it is the typical «cure» demanded by the IMF that is to be applied. The aim is always to reduce or even demolish the power of the state to take action to aid and protect its citizens. One of the primary demands of the IMF is to privatize state companies like electricity and water and whatever else it can think of. Another one is to attack the civil service and lower wages for or fire numerous civil servants.

Hospitals and schools are supposed to reduce the number of employees, thus services to citizens is reduced: longer waits for medical care and a larger number of students in classes. Even the police and the fire departments can be affected.

In France, the rightwing government has reduced the number of police by 16,000 and teachers and other educational workers by 30,000. This was done by a government whose main campaign theme was more security for the population.

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The State of the Occupy Movement in France

November 30, 2011 by Randall Erickson
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The Occupy Movement has taken on a certain ampleur around the United States and in a few European countries such as Greece, Italy, and Spain where there have been mass demonstrations. That hasn’t happened in France though. Different magazines and newspapers here have asked the question of why it is so feeble in France and have given different responses or theories.

At most there have only been a couple of thousand or a few hundred occupiers. These small numbers have made an intelligent change of plans. Before, they protested in traditional central Parisian sites, like the Place de la Bastille in the eastern part of Paris.

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Politics and Non-Religion in France

November 10, 2011 by Randall Erickson
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By Randall Erickson / Special to the OB Rag

PARIS, FRANCE. Political debate in France is generally rather civilized and simplistic name-calling of opponents is not common and even when it happens, it is more subdued than in the U.S. Religion is rarely mentioned. However, France has small minorities of fanatic Catholics and Muslims and Jews who readily take violent action.

The most serious incident recently was the fire-bombing with a Molotov cocktail of the offices of the satirical weekly magazine, “Charlie Hebdo” (Charlie Weekly) on the night of November 1-2. “Charlie had published an issue they called “Charia Hebdo”. They had Muhammad as its imaginary invited editor and who commented on the subjects of the day, with of course cartoons of the man. On the cover is a cartoon of Muhammad saying, “100 lashes if you don’t die of laughing”.

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The Occupy Movement in Europe

November 2, 2011 by Randall Erickson

By Randall Erickson / Special to the OB Rag

PARIS. Recent events have caused me to add a preamble to this dispatch. These concern the very idea of democracy. The Greek prime minister announced that he would call for a referendum on the agreement he reached with the members of the Euro Zone on the management of the Greek debt and austerity program. This was too much for the powerful financiers and their stock markets which immediately plunged. So they have already voted against the democracy of the people. Can’t let the people decide on their own futures, you need the capitalist oligarchy and technocracy to do that.

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Teachers’ Strike in “Socialist” French Education System

October 3, 2011 by Randall Erickson
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PARIS, FRANCE. September 27th this year, teachers in France from primary school to high school went on a national one-day strike. They weren’t asking for pay raises–though they certainly deserve them–they were on strike to demand the means to do their jobs.

There were around 150,000 demonstrators, including parents supporting their demands. The current rightwing government has already eliminated thousands of educational posts and proposes to eliminate another 14,000 next year. [Editor: Let’s be clear: France does not have a “socialist” government or education system.]

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The “Gleaners” of Paris

September 13, 2011 by Randall Erickson
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By Randall Erickson / Special to the OB Rag

PARIS, FRANCE. In addition to the different forms of aid to the defavorized (a popular political euphemism often used now in place of the more descriptive and simple «poor»), some people have found their own ways to survive or improve their lives. Like in the United States, they scour the garbage bins behind supermarkets and find products that have been thrown out but are perfectly edible, and even non-food products. For reasons incomprehensible to me, some supermarkets pour bleach or other liquid products over the contents of their bins.

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The Horror of Living in “Socialist” France – parte trois (3)

September 6, 2011 by Randall Erickson
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By Randall Erickson / Special to the OB Rag

PARIS, FRANCE. In my last dispatch, I gave some practical examples of how «socialism» or the welfare state, if you will, functions.

I should add that the price of visiting a doctor is about 30 dollars. Specialists cost a bit more. Doctors can stay in the government system or go independent and charge more, but that extra may or may not be taken up by the mutual.

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The Horror of Living in “Socialist” France, parte deux

August 15, 2011 by Randall Erickson
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By Randall Erickson / Special to the OB Rag

PARIS, FRANCE. My previous dispatch may give a too idealistic image of life in France.

There are major and minor problems. Yes, like the United States, France has homeless individuals and families. They cannot afford available housing and may have trouble paying for food or even finding a school for their children because they don’t have an address.

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The Horror of Living in “Socialist” France

August 8, 2011 by Randall Erickson
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By Randall Erickson / Special to the OB Rag

PARIS, FRANCE. Republicans and respected opinion makers like Bill O’Reilly have asked the question: do we want the United States to become another France. I understand their concern because I experience the horror of living in «socialist» France everyday. Like nearly all people living legally in France, I carry a little plastic green card, like a credit card, with a micro-chip in it. This chip carries information about my standing with the French Social Security system, popularly known as the Sécu. The Sécu is the French government’s health agency and not a retirement system.

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