New Flophouse Address:

You will find all the posts, comments, and reading lists (old and some new ones I just published) here:

Friday, May 31, 2013

Flophouse Friday

I am so tired.  The trip to Brussels took a lot out of me.  Yesterday Godin stopped by and had a look at our chimney and said "no problem" so we signed the devis and wrote him a check.  Installation is scheduled for mid-July.

Here in Versailles the weather continues to be terrible.  It's still raining.  The upside is that the garden, especially the reseeded lawn, is lush and green.

Going through my photos, I found one from last year that shows what the garden looked like when we moved in.  I didn't remember it being that bad but it was.

So for Friday's post I offer you before and after pictures of our very own Versailles garden.  Then I am going to wrap a quilt around me and read bodice rippers until I absolutely have to go out later in the day.

And for a bonus (while I still have you), here is a picture of me and my red hair from the Brussels trip:

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Public Hearing on FATCA at the European Parliament in Brussels

Here is the video of the EU FATCA public hearing that was held in Brussels last Tuesday.  Part II is here.  Many thanks to Tim who put it up on YouTube.  The sound is not always perfect and sometimes it moves from those speaking to the interpreters, but the essentials talks are there.  Transcripts of some of the speeches are being posted over at Isaac Brock in this thread by Just Me.  Also see Lucy Laederich's (FAWCO U.S. Liaison and AARO President) comments on the meeting and read her letter to MEP Sophie in't Veld here.

There were reactions to yesterday's post about some of the events around our participation.   I think we are all genuinely confused by what organizations like the OECD and the EU mean by "public."  For us mere mortals that word says to us that we, the public and the eggs being broken in the making of policy, are welcome to attend and hear what is being said about things that concern us.   Well, that is clearly a misunderstanding on our part.  For the OECD it was, "Yes, you can attend if there is space once everyone else (the bankers and bureaucrats) has a seat."  For EP security it was, "The meeting is public but you have to be invited in order to access the building."

Yes, there was pre-registration process, but this was not mentioned in the draft agenda that was published nor was it clarified in the calls we made to confirm the meeting time, date and place.  We were very fortunate to have someone there who could help us.  Not everyone did and we have a confirmed report of an AARO person who came and was turned away.

About the member of our group who had a chilling close encounter with someone during the meeting, I would like to make it very clear that this gentleman, who held up his passports and had a sign next to his seat, was not being disruptive, nor was he asking to get up and make a speech.  Furthermore, he is an EU citizen, this issue is of direct concern to him, and these were his representatives in that meeting.  There was no reason (and I should know because I was sitting right next to him) for someone to come over and get in his face.

These kinds of things could make one very paranoid.  They certainly lend credence to charges of "policy laundering" - a term that means policy made in secret outside of the open, transparent  democratic process.  Are they afraid of what "the people" will say on this issue?   Perhaps they think we aren't capable of understanding the complexities around information exchange, FATCA and the fight against tax evasion.  Looks like some of them have decided to do our thinking for us.  And when the public is finally made aware of what has been done - and they will be once the search in the EU for the pesky U.S Persons who are not necessarily U.S citizens  begins - will FATCA and an automatic system of information system be presented as a fait accompli for the good of us all?

The EP meeting resembled the OECD meeting in another respect as well - lots of discussion about the importance of fighting tax evasion, the "nuts and bolts" of implementation, and speakers falling over themselves to prove that they are "cooperating" by revealing their own proposals for their own systems.  The most interesting speaker, I thought, was the gentleman from Action Aid who pointed out quite rightly that such systems and the information they contain must be made readily available to developing countries.  He's right.  If such systems exist, then the Latin American, African and Asian governments should be able to access the information they want about their citizens in Europe and North America.   I personally doubt that this is what the proponents of such systems in developed countries had in mind, but it would be hypocritical of them to deny access to the poorer sending countries of many international migrants (and their children) who have found themselves a home in more developed countries. I'm sure Eritrea which has a diaspora tax like the U.S., would be deeply grateful for help tracking down their citizens outside the country in order to get them to pay up.

That is a possible impact on global migrants which is a worthy topic but not the focus of this public meeting. It was very startling to see that the impact of information exchange systems on people who are EU citizens was dismissed as being unimportant.  MEP Sophie in't Veld tried to refocus the discussion with limited success.  She asked about the duals and the Accidentals (those who are not aware of their status as U.S. citizens).  The reply was that member states should be responsible for protecting their rights.  Did the person who responded really think this was a satisfactory answer?  Is he aware of the scope of the problem?  This was a moment where I really wanted to leap out of my seat to ask further questions.  This is what I would have said:
My neighbor who lives in an adjacent apartment building here in France told me that she was born in Texas, USA.  Her parents were in the U.S. for a short time and they (and she) returned to France when she was an infant.  She did not grow up in the U.S., she has never returned to the U.S.,  and she does not speak English.  
Is it up to her local French bank to explain to her that she is a U.S. citizen?    Can that bank legally deny her services (access to a checking or savings account, a retirement account or an "assurance vie" or even pull her mortgage) because she is a U.S. person?    Or will she be required to waive her EU privacy rights in her own country in order to retain access to banking services which she needs in order to lead a normal life? 
What would happen if she was either turned in by someone wishing to collect the IRS bounty on U.S. tax evaders, or her name came up on the list sent by the French government to the American government?   How would France and the EU respond if the American government decided that she indeed was a "tax evader" and went after her for American taxes?   
Is the EU aware that if she wishes to renounce her U.S. citizenship, once she knows she is one, that she may be asked to pay a penalty of 5%  even if she was completely unaware of the ramifications of having been born in the U.S. much less that she might be considered a citizen?
EU citizens in this case, be they duals or accidental U.S.persons, need answers to these questions as do EU citizen spouses of American citizens who have a right to know how this will impact them - will they be considered "guilty by association" and see their private data shooting off to the U.S. or their banks accounts closed, even though they are not U.S. citizens, Green Card holders or U.S. taxpayers?

These are THE questions that regular people, EU citizens and their families, are asking right now.  This forum did not address them adequately.  The reply that this was a matter for member states is a non-answer.  It's not only ducking the question, it's almost a slap in the face to those whose lives will be seriously impacted.

MEP Sophie in't Veld expressed it very well when she said that the question of whether or not to tackle tax evasion has already been decided.  The answer is a resounding "yes" and there is a broad consensus on this.  The MEP's might be very surprised to learn that many of us who have questions about FATCA and its implementation in the EU don't have a problem with the basic premise that states go after people who illegally remove their money from a country with the express purpose of avoiding that country's tax laws.

The issue on the table right now is how to do it.  What are the unintended and very destructive consequences of the proposed systems of automatic information exchange on EU citizens and their families?   I humbly suggest that if they were brought to light, perhaps they could be mitigated.

What we need is a real public forum where these questions can be asked, answered and possible solutions discussed.  We spoke to some people after the meeting and they were very surprised by what we had to say.  They had no idea of the scope of the problems FATCA implementation might pose for regular EU citizens.

The pro-FATCA MEPs seem to be seizing the day and using FATCA to do for Europe what Europe can't do it for itself.  Fair enough.  What is not acceptable is that the only concerns they seem willing to raise publicly is how much it will cost financial institutions and access problems for developing countries.

And the cost to their own citizens?  If they can't raise those questions and get direct answers from their representatives in a truly public forum, then everything I've heard about the EU "democracy deficit" is, alas, true.

Update 31/5/2013:   Tim just posted a link to MEP Sophie in't Veld's blog and this post which has links to the information she asked for and managed to get finally from the European Commission about their contact with the US government on the topic of FATCA.  Very interesting reading.  

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Day at the European Parliament in Brussels

A day well spent in a city I like.  Yesterday, a few of us showed up at the European Parliament to attend a public meeting on FATCA.  It was group that well represented the forgotten stakeholders in this matter - the eggs that are being broken in the making of the FATCA omelet.  There were dual EU/US nationals there and spouses of EU citizens and parents of dual European/American citizens.

We will be writing up our notes and I will post as soon as I can.  In the interim, I thought I would share some of the drama around the meeting.  

We almost didn't get in in. We arrived over an hour early and that saved us. When we presented ourselves at the front desk of the Altiero Spinelli building they said we couldn't go in because we had to be "invited." When I replied that it was a public meeting, they told me that the meeting was public but getting into the building required that someone vouch for us. Who knew?

So we left the security area of the building, found a hotel, ordered a cup of coffee and called MEP Sophie in't Veld's office. I talked to Emily (a member of Sophie's staff), explained what had happened and she said she would call us right back. Less than five minutes later she did and told us to come back to the building. Emily personally met us at the entrance with another of Sophie's staffers, Thomas. They took care of our registration (yes, there was a registration process that we didn't know about) and then walked us up to the conference room. Our heartfelt thanks to both of them for their help.

Before the meeting we were able to talk to MEP Sophie in't Veld. She is just as dynamic in person as she is in the many videos of her available on the Net.  Then we sat down to listen to the speakers and the debate.

We were sitting in the back of the room and one of the duals with us had a sign at the end of the table which said, "Ask me about how FATCA impacts EU citizens." That raised a few eyebrows but no one said anything. It was when the same person held up his two passports, one Swedish and the other American, that we got some attention.  A gentleman who was stationed near the door to the meeting room (not sure who he was but he had an American accent) came over, got very close, and told him that he was NOT going to get to speak. I didn't hear the entire exchange but it was rather chilling.

After the meeting we were able to talk to quite a few people and to discuss directly with them the points we wanted to make. My impression was that they were very surprised both at what we had to say (their citizens were hurting because of the unintended consequences of FATCA) and that we felt strongly enough about it to come to Brussels in person for this meeting.

The afternoon ended at a local bar/cafe where some of us had a well-deserved beer (or a cola in my case)  before we had to leave for the train.

I hope those of you were interested were able to join the meeting via webstream.  Hopefully the video will be available soon. I would love to hear your impressions.  There is a good thread over at Isaac Brock here where people are already discussing it in the comments section.

Update:  Ellen LeBelle of AARO just published her impressions of the meeting.  I was so proud to be there with her - she was on top of everything, handing out business cards, engaging people in conversation and passing along AARO's message.  This is how the pros do it, mes amis. :-)

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Search for the Perfect French Wood Stove

An update on our project to install a wood stove in our little house here in Versailles.

This project is something in between a luxury and a necessity.  Last winter was very cold and damp here.  The house is heated by a boiler system that shoots hot water into the old radiators.  The fuel is heating oil and it cost us a bundle of money to keep the house at around 19 degrees Celsius (a little over 66 degrees Fahrenheit).  This was after we insulated.  That's too much for too little.  An efficient wood stove would dramatically reduce our heating bill.

We got the authorization from the mayor's office to elevate the chimney and our mason has agreed to do the work within the next two weeks.

Saturday we drove out to St. Cyr l'Ecole to have another look at the Godin wood stoves.

We had originally set our eyes on this one - the classic, round "Petit Godin".

This is the classic French wood stove that has been around forever.  I've talked to older people at church and in my neighborhood about our project and their eyes light up and they say, "Yes, when I was a child we had one..."  They are genuinely surprised to hear that they are still made.  Godin, I think you have an untapped market here.

But after we talked to the salesperson, we began to have doubts.  This model is 5 KW so that's the maximum amount of heat we can get out of it.  The inside is small and won't take the larger logs which are cheaper than the smaller ones.

So we looked at this one which is very stylish and is called "La Belle Epoque".

Alas, it had the same problems as the little Petit Godin - only 5 KW and won't take logs bigger than 38 cm.

And then we saw it - a larger version of the Petit Godin that is oval and not round (Ref 3727).  We measured and it will fit the space just fine.  It's 10 KW and will take logs up to 50 cm.  Here's what it looks like:

We were sold.  Godin will send someone by on Thursday to measure the space, check the walls, and give us a quote.

The only regret I have is that I would have liked something other than black but the price differential between the standard color (anthracite) and the lovely green or blue, is just too great.

I'll post pictures once it gets installed.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Fête des Mères

Il y a plus de fleurs
Pour ma mère, en mon coeur,
Que dans tous les vergers ;

Plus de merles rieurs
Pour ma mère, en mon coeur,
Que dans le monde entier ;

Et bien plus de baisers
Pour ma mère, en mon coeur,
Qu’on en pourrait donner.

Maurice Carême

Today is Mother's day here in France.  My spouse and the younger Frenchling anticipated the event yesterday afternoon by offering me a gorgeous Leonardo da Vinci rose for my garden.

Later this afternoon we will be calling my mother-in-law in Paris and sending a message to my mother in Oregon to wish both of them a "Bonne Fête Des Mères!"  My mom might be a bit surprised because I think the American Mother's Day was a little earlier in the year.

Becoming a mother was, hands down, the very best thing I've done in this life.  When they were growing up,  I did my best to make them a part of the two cultures, French and American, that are their heritage.  How could I know that my original vision was far too limited?  They took what I and their father passed on to them and then went in directions I would have never dreamed of twenty odd years ago.  I am fiercely proud of both of them.

Brittany, France

Tokyo, Japan

Seattle, USA

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Logistics for the EU Meeting on FATCA

May 27 Update - The meeting will be broadcast live tomorrow from the Alterio Spinelli Building ASP 5G3 starting at 15:30 (3:30 PM) Brussels time. Here is the direct link to the webstream:

Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs Live Broadcast, 15:30 / 19:00 - 28-05-2013


I have my train tickets. I'll be arriving in Brussels at 11:30 AM and leaving at around 8 PM.  Since the previous post I've been hearing from people who will be flying/taking the train in or attending via webstream.

If anyone is interested, I'd be more than happy to set up an email list so we can arrange to meet, talk, have lunch/dinner before or after the meeting.  If that idea appeals to you, just send me an email at

This morning I gathered some info about where the meeting will be held, how to get there (thanks, Tim) and the rules for visitors to the European Parliament.  If someone would be so kind as to crosscheck my info, I would be really grateful:

Draft Agenda:

Here is the tentative speaker list and the format of the meeting.


The meeting will be held on Tuesday, May 28, in room ASP 5G3 in the Alterio Spinelli Building in Brussels from 15:30 (3:30 PM) to 17:00 (5:00 PM).  It is a public hearing and we have been told that anyone is free to attend.  That said, I imagine that seating will be limited so it might be a good idea to arrive well in advance.


Taxi: Tell the taxi driver that you want to go to the European Parliament, entrance Altiero Spinelli Building (the main entrance).  This will take about 15 minutes from the "Gare du Midi" train station and about 25 minutes from the airport.

Metro from the train station "Gare du Midi": Take metro Line 2, in the direction of "Simonis", to "Trône/Troon".  This takes about 25 minutes including the time spent walking from the metro station to the Alterio Spinelli Building.

Here is a map of the area.


You will need an ID card of some sort to enter the building.  The EP website says "Please bring with you formal proof of your identity (an official ID card, passport or driving license)."  To be safe, be sure to bring your passport in addition to any other ID you may have.


All your belongings will be run through a scanner.  There is a video surveillance system inside the building. 

Meeting Protocol:

I have been told that there will be no opportunities for attendees to speak or ask questions.  The only debate will be between committee members.  So the only opportunity here to be heard is to try and talk to people before and after the meeting.  However, during the meeting, even if you can't speak, don't underestimate the message your presence sends.  If you aren't convinced, try to think of it in reverse.  What would it say if no one other than bankers and government officials were present in that room?

A last word and what follows is not me trying to tell anyone what to do or say or how to act.  Just throwing out what seems to me to be common sense.  

This is an important meeting for us.  We and our message will be judged in light of, not only what we say, but how we act.  Here are a few thoughts I had while drinking my coffee this morning:
  • This is a European meeting and the decision-makers in the room are first and foremost concerned about their own citizens and what impact FATCA will have on them. If you are a dual EU/US citizen, identify yourself as such. If you are married to an EU citizen or have dual EU/US citizen children, say so. This will make what you have to say relevant to them. Remember, Americans in Europe aren't (and can't be) their top priority but what happens to their own citizens is (I hope).

  • With the above in mind think about how to frame your message if you do catch someone's ear. I'd make it short and sweet with maximum 2-3 points. Think elevator speech. One of mine will probably be, "I have an EU citizen spouse and two children who are dual EU/US citizens. I and they don't agree with the application of an American law that would require them to waive their rights in their own country here in the EU."
Last one and then I will hold my peace and let you go about your day.

I know you're angry and so am I.  But the Europeans didn't make this law - the US Congress did - and it's not their fault that they have to deal with it.  This is their meeting and their debate and I'm not going to let my frustration with the U.S. government to spill over in this venue.  It's about making the most of an opportunity to listen and be heard - that's the goal.  Getting angry here, in my humble opinion, will not help us one iota.  As the Beatles said, some ways of getting your point across just take us to: "You ain't gonna make it with anyone, anyhow."  

We will probably count to ten many times during the meeting.  I'm sure things will be said that will make us want to shake our fists and leap out of our seats.  I honestly don't think it will do us any good here and it could do a lot of harm.  Let's save it for another time and place.  My .02.

If anyone has other suggestions to make, allez-y!

Quilts, Quilts, Quilts

The Prayse Of The Needle

To all dispersed sorts of arts and trades
I write the needles prayse (that never fades).
So long as children shall be got or borne,
So long as garments shall be made or worne,
So long as hemp or flax, or sheep shall bear
Their linen woolen fleeces yeare by yeare,
So long as silk-wormes, with exhausted spoile,
Of their own entrails for man's gaine shall toyle,
Yea till the world be quite dissolv'd and past,
So long at least, the needles' use shall last.

John Taylor (1578-1653)

Let's take a break from serious subjects for a moment.  Since the weather wasn't cooperating this week and I couldn't do much gardening, I went down into my cellar and hauled out my quilting kit.

Baby quilt for the elder Frenchling 
I grew up with quilts.  Almost all the women in my family made them.  I took it up after I had the elder Frenchling and was hooked almost immediately.

As a craft, it has a lot to recommend it:  it's easy, uses up old clothes and scrap fabrics, and the finished product is useful 

Every quilt I've ever made has a story which can be read in the fabric:  this piece came from the old curtains in my mother-in-law's house in Brittany, this one from fabric my mother brought back from England, this one from an old dress shirt that my spouse wore for years that matched his eyes and this one from a dress the younger Frenchling wore when she was in elementary school in Paris.

I've also inherited (or was given) some very beautiful old hand-made blocks and quilt-tops that have their own origins in the families whose clothing was used and in the hands that pieced the small scraps together so carefully.    By finishing them I add my story to theirs thus making them a common project that spans generations.

My philosophy about quilting is the same as gardening.  I am seeking progress, not perfection, here.  If you look at professionally made quilts, you will see that the points always match, the colors are always perfect, and the stitches are always straight.  Well, I never was much good at coloring within the lines.  All I can say is that every quilt I've ever made is a little bit better than the last one and that's good enough for me.

Here are a few of my finished quilts and the two projects that I worked on this week.  Please forgive the quality of the photos - Michael could do so much better.  Mike, when you are coming back to Versailles?  Please....

This one was made in mid to late 1990's for the elder Frenchling and is a lovely patterns of red stars and crosses.  I used the sewing machine for piecing the top and for the quilting.  It's seen better days and I have it in my to-be-mended pile.

The blocks for this quilt came from a neighbor in Seattle.  They were made by her grandmother in the 1930's or 40's.  The white fabric for the blocks is old flour sacks.  I took the blocks down to a specialty shop that sold vintage fabrics and with the help of a salesperson who knew a lot about old quilts we found fabric for the sashing and the border that was a perfect fit for both pattern and period.  Once I had the right fabric I used the sewing machine to piece the quilt-top.  Then I kicked back and thought long and hard about what to do next:  machine or hand-quilting?  I decided it would be a travesty not to hand-quilt this one.  Took me two years to finish it.

I had originally though of using that old quilt for my bed but after spending two years on it, I just couldn't do it.  Too many nightmares of it being ripped apart or getting dirty.  So I put that one away and decided to make another one.  I used up a lot of scraps making this very simple scrap quilt.  The white squares are old muslin.  I used the sewing machine for the entire quilt (piecing and quilting) so it's very sturdy. Warm, too.

This one could not have gone more wrong.  Tried to machine quilt with batting that was too thick, not enough pins to hold the quilt sandwich together and not enough experience with my new sewing machine.  The result was something of a mess.  But the younger Frenchling looked at it and said she wanted it so I'm binding it and handing it over to her today.

This one could not have gone more right.  This is a baby quilt I started last week and will finish today for a sale at my church.

This is my next project.  This quilt-top comes from my great-great grandmother.  I like the pattern - I'm not that thrilled with the colors.  This is another hand-quilting job.  The trick will be to find the right quilting patterns for the pink (not my color) squares.

I'll sew a bit more this morning and then we are off to the Godin salesroom in St. Cyr.  We heard from our mason and he can do the chimney in the next two weeks.  Then Godin can come by and install the wood stove.

Hoping that the weather is better wherever you are.  Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

EU Public Hearing on FATCA

Update - The meeting will be broadcast live from the Alterio Spinelli Building ASP 5G3 starting at 15:30 (3:30 PM) Brussels time. Here is the direct link to the webstream:

Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs Live Broadcast, 15:30 / 19:00 - 28-05-2013


Rumors have been floating around about an EU hearing on FATCA.  Well, folks, mark your calendars and check the train schedules because it's happening.

The hearing is called The fight against tax evasion - FATCA as a step towards international automatic exchange of information?   It will be held on May 28 in Bruxelles from 15:30 to 17:00.

Given my experience with the OECD, I wanted to be very sure this time around that "public" meant real people could attend. So I sent an email to MEP Sophie in't Veld (many thanks to Mark who passed along her email address).  This was her answer:

Dear Mrs Ferauge,

Thank you for your message. The meetings are public, so you can attend freely. The meeting will also be webstreamed via

With kind regards,

Sophie in 't Veld, MEP

I plan to be there and I hope others can make it too. For those who can't travel on such short notice, please think about joining the meeting via the web.

What an incredible not-to-be-wasted opportunity. Tim pointed out that for those of us who are EU residents this is THE time to speak up or forever hold your peace.  As usual, he's right.  

So let's get moving and make ourselves heard.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

France and jus soli

There are two ways of becoming a citizen at birth:  via jus sanguinas and/or jus soli.  The first accords citizenship through a parent or grandparent and the second by birth within the border of a national territory.  And if you think about it, that's just plain weird.  Why is membership in the political and social community of a democratic nation-state conferred based on an accident of birth?

Furthermore, of the two methods, citizenship by blood is much less controversial than citizenship by place of birth.  Most of us like the idea that this status passes from parent to child but to me that makes it look an awful lot like a hereditary aristocracy.  Weren't there revolutions at one point over that?

Jus soli is a bit more inclusive and that's exactly why nations-states have used it.  In the U.S.  the Fourteenth Amendment resolved the issue of American citizenship for African-Americans and later on it was a very practical method for a young nation hungry for citizens to tie immigrant's children to the country of their birth as opposed to their parent's country.  It is much easier to administer as well - in principle, under jus soli, all you need is a birth certificate to prove your citizenship.  That is a lot cheaper and simpler than making folks come up a family tree every time they have to prove their status.

In France there was yet another benefit.  In our time we have lost sight of the fact that residents of a country who don't have citizenship may have fewer rights but they also have fewer responsibilities.  There are tales told of the French army going out into the villages to draft young men and discovering that some of the Frenchman were actually Italians or Spaniards (on paper at least) and thus could not be drafted.  At that time military service could mean 7 years in the army and just imagine the anger of a French family when their sons were taken away and the neighbor's boys got off scot free.   Well, they fixed that with something called double jus soli which means that a child born on French territory to a foreign parent who was also born in France was automatically a French citizen.  Nice way to close the loophole, don't you think?

Both France and the U.S. confer citizenship using jus sanguinas and jus soli.  What's interesting is that each country has different ways of using them to make new citizens.  The U.S. has some restrictions on citizenship by blood for her citizens born abroad.  These include residency requirement and whether or not the U.S. citizen parent is married (or not) and a father (or a mother).  On the other hand, U.S. citizenship by jus soli as interpreted by the U.S. courts, is unconditional.  If a child was born in the U.S. and left the day after his or her birth, he is a U.S. citizen and equal to all other U.S. citizens, until the day he or she renounced that status.

France does not have the same restrictions for jus sanguinas.  A child born in France or abroad to a French citizen is a French citizen and it doesn't matter if it comes through the father or the mother or if they are married or not.  However, France does not have unconditional jus soli like the U.S.  There are requirements that must be met if a child born on French soil can become a French citizen or not.  What are the conditions?  Interestingly enough, it depends on the age of the child (or adult), when the request is made, and his or her residency on French soil.

So, for example, if a child of immigrants is 17 years old and wants to be French, she must have been born in France, living in France when the request is made and must have resided on the national territory for at least 5 years since the age of 11.

For those children of immigrants who are residing in France when they reach their majority (18), the conferral of French citizenship is automatic if they have lived on the national territory for at least 5 years since the age of 11.

To summarize, the U.S. has conditional jus sanguinas and unconditional jus soli citizenship laws.  France is the exact opposite. That may be something of an oversimplification but overall, that's how it works.

I wrote this post in response to a comment that was left on one of my Path to Citizenship articles.  The person commenting was asking about how to apply for French citizenship since he/she was born in France. His parents are not French, he/she said, but he didn't say where he was living or how many years he spent in France.  Backing up a little bit, the first thing he needs to find out is if he's actually entitled to French citizenship at all because place of birth isn't enough.  This site gives the criteria for all ages.  If the answer is yes or he wants clarification of the conditions, the next step would be to contact the local French consulate if he's abroad or the local prefecture if he's in France and ask.

Citizenship laws are a source of endless fascination for me and France is a great country to study in this regard because just about everything has been tried.  For a very good book about how French citizenship has evolved and changed over the last few centuries, I highly recommend Patrick Weil's
Qu'est-ce qu'un Français? Histoire de la nationalité française depuis la Révolution (available in English  under the title, How to Be French: Nationality in the Making since 1789).  Really good read, lots of fascinating research and you will never look at citizenship the same way again once you've reached the end of the book.

But be very careful - citizenship laws are a moving target.  Countries make citizens and they can unmake them.  Who knows what will happen in the future.  Globalization and international immigration  clearly strain the limits of the citizenship laws and models that have been passed along to us.   What will the next generation of researchers make of the debates we are holding today?  Once we were subjects and then, fairly recently, we were transformed into citizens.  What, if anything, is next?  I have no idea but I sure have an awful lot of fun thinking about it.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Sainte Elisabeth

This post is both the fulfillment of a promise and an opportunity to share with you a few pictures of the interior of my local church, Sainte Elisabeth de Hongrie.

Sometimes I am asked (or I offer) to light candles at church.  This practice of putting votive candles around the statues of saints or the Virgin has been around for centuries.  Some say it started with the early Christians who put candles in front of the tombs of the martyrs in the catacombs.   It's still around and for me it represents a prayer that continues long after I've left the church and made my way back home.

May is Mary's month and a week ago the Portuguese community held a celebration in honor of Our Lady of Fatima.  They decorated our statue of Mary with all kinds of white flowers like roses and hydrangeas and carried it in a procession around the church.  Days later the roses still smell wonderful.  I lit my candles and here is the picture I promised to post.

While I had my camera in hand I took a few more pictures.  This church was built in 1850 in honor of Madame Elisabeth, a sister of Louis XVI, who had a property in Petit Montreuil.  Her former house and garden are a public park.   There is an exhibition, in fact, going on right now called Madame Elisabeth:  Une princesse du destin tragique (she was guillotined during the Terror).  Something to see if you happen to be in the neighborhood.

The church is located in the quarter that we call Chantiers today.  Easy to pass by without a second look because the outside is nothing special.  The inside, however, is something else again.

You can find more (and better) pictures and a description of the different architectural features and artwork that grace the interior here.  That magnificent painting, Sainte Elisabeth, le miracle des roses, is by Paul-Hippolyte Flandrin.  All that we see today when we walk through the doors is the result of a grand restoration project that took place in 2009/2010.

As a parishioner I can tell you what I love about it:  The wood which makes it warm and welcoming, the colors (blue and peach and white), and the light - there are skylights in the chapel and just in front of  Flandrin's painting.  But, most of all, it's a small church which makes it less impressive, perhaps, than the cathedral.  However, it's not about "shock and awe" - it's a space à taille humaine and this human is very happy to spend a portion of her week within its walls.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Flophouse Policy on Comments

When I set up the Flophouse, I had a decision to make about comments.  That's one I had to think about  very seriously because while I'm not into control and I genuinely like it when people speak their mind, sometimes people comment not because they want to join a discussion, but for other reasons.

I derive no income from this blog.  I've turned down all advertising.  I don't even use the Amazon widgets anymore.  The blog is not even meant to kick start a book or anything like that.  It is pure fun for me and I hope for you too.

I don't have a problem with being wrong.  I do my best to check my sources but I'm not perfect and I don't mind anyone pointing that out.  How in the hell will I never learn anything if I don't leave myself open to correction?

As for opinions, I'm not and never will be the last word on anything.  I say what I think and do my best to come up an argument that makes sense.  Anyone who comes here is free to disagree and to say so in no uncertain terms.

So why did I decide to moderate the comments?    Trolls and salesmen.  A Troll is someone who stops by and leaves comments that aren't meant to further or add to a discussion, they are just meant to piss people off to no purpose whatsoever except the amusement of the person doing the trolling.  That violates my rule about this blog being fun and/or interesting.  Trolls are neither.  They are boring and I don't see why any of us should have to suffer through that kind of nonsense.

The second category of "problem child" is the salesmen.  Since I write a lot about immigration, I get comments that have no content other than to steer people to some website that offers immigration/emigration services.  I don't know these people, I've never used their services and have no idea if they are reputable or not.  I'm not selling anything on this blog and I don't see why I should let anyone else do so either.

So, those are my reasons for moderating the comments.  To be very clear, I will never EVER refuse a comment because someone passionately disagrees with me on some topic.  I will, however, instantly delete all attempts to amuse oneself at other people's expense and any efforts to promote one's wares or services.

The downside to moderating comments is that because I don't spend every waking minute of my day tickling my keyboard, there can be a delay between a reader submitting a comment and my publishing it.  Bear with me here - I will publish as soon as I can and no one should view the time it takes as an indication that the comment isn't welcome.

If you have a doubt, please feel free to email me at  In fact, feel free to email me in any case.  Perhaps you have something to say that you would prefer not to have published on an open forum.  Or maybe you'd just like to introduce yourself and start a conversation.  I also like to hear suggestions for future blog posts - a lot of the material I use here comes from people like Tim who pass along links or who recommend books.  There is also my Mom who reminds me from time to time that I really should do some housekeeping.  I may not be able to respond instantly but I will respond.

Time to walk the garden.  Have a lovely Friday, everyone.


And something very important that I completely forgot to mention which is language.  The Flophouse is in English because most of my American readers speak and read it and most of my French readers are bi-lingual French and English.  However, there is no reason to feel obliged to use English instead of French when commenting.  Let's call this the "McGill rule"  - according to my daughter the professors teach in English but papers, homework and discussions with the professors can be in French or English.  So if you are more comfortable with French, allez-y, and I promise to reply in French as well.  You'll even be doing me a huge favor because my written French is getting rusty because I speak French all the time but I haven't had much opportunity to write since I've been stuck at home.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Primordial Debt

Why am I so fascinated by debt?  To date I have written about the Greek crisis and Margaret Atwood's book Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth on this blog.  Right now I'm smack in the middle of David Graeber's Debt:  The First 5,000 Years.

I think the interest comes from the fact that a lot of the language around citizenship and migration uses terms and ideas that try to clarify what is owed to whom.   Debtors versus lenders, takers versus givers and so on.  This causes a great deal of in-fighting among the citizens of a state who don't agree that they either should pay or pay more than others.  It also causes  strife between native citizens and immigrants or emigrants.  One or more groups feels that the scales are unbalanced in some way and so they turn to others groups and ask for (or force) them to accept the responsibility for the "debt" and turn over some sort of payment which can be tangible or intangible.

You can see hints of this argument in almost any discussion about citizenship or migration and they are usually poorly articulated.  Just because one group feels that another owes something, doesn't mean they agree on the terms:  what exactly is owed in compensation, how repayment is to be made, and when payment is due.  Also missing (or expressed in very vague terms) is a moral basis for claiming there is a debt in the first place.

David Graeber unearthed one very intriguing moral argument which he discusses at some length in his book.  It's called "primordial debt theory" and it attempts to answer the question:  On what basis can one say that people owe something to a state or a society?
The first explicit theory of the debt owed by each living person to the society that makes his or her existence possible was formulated by Auguste Comte in his last work, The Catechism of Positive Religion (1852)...
Comte’s notion of an unlimited obligation to society crystallized in the notion of social debt, which was taken up among social reformers and, eventually, socialist politicians in many parts of Europe and abroad. In France the notion of a social debt soon became something of a catchphrase, a slogan — and, eventually, a cliché: “We are all born as debtors to society.” The state, according to this view, was merely the administrator of the existential debt that everyone owes to everyone.
Forgive me, but this sounds an awful lot like something the nuns spent four years trying to beat into my head: the notion that we are born in sin, that we owe an immense debt to God, and that our only hope of salvation is faith and good works.  They did an excellent job and 35 years later I recite the Credo at least once a week and mean every word.

As I examine Primordial Debt theory (and I'm trying to get my hands on the original texts Graeber mentions) I have a lot of questions about it.  Is this really a product of pure reason or are they asking me take quite a lot on faith?

What is this "society" they are asking me to be obliged to?  Is it my local community, is it the country I live in or the region?  I know that I'm physically present in a particular place and I've walked the length of Versailles so I know it's real and has boundaries.  I know people here but not all of them.  The ones I've met are very diverse.  There is a core of something you might call "Frenchness" about them but they are not French in the same way as people in Brittany or in Paris.  I've never walked around the French nation to assure myself that she really exists or, for that matter around Europe.  I take the word of the people around me that these things do indeed have a concrete reality.  

One thing I have observed is that this "society" around me is always changing.  People come and go.  Ideas have their day and then pass away.  New laws and behaviours come into being and old ones are let go.  I go back to the U.S. these days and the "society" in Seattle is barely recognizable to me as the place where I was raised.     

Perhaps when the world was less connected and more people stayed close to the area where they were born,  "society" was meaningful.  It's not entirely meaningless today because clearly we do live in "webs of significance" that are both local and global.  But the argument that there is a thing called "society" to which one owes absolutely everything is questionable.  In the very least it would be more appropriate to talk of "societies" instead - circles that overlap like in Venn diagrams that grow or ebb in significance depending on who and where we are.

The concept breaks down even further when it comes to migrants.  If the debt is "that owed by the living to the continuity and durability of the society that secures their individual existence" then what does an international migrant owe to whom?  To the society they were born into?  To every single society they pass through in their lives?  Or to the society they choose as adults?  All of these societies made a contribution to the person the migrant becomes but how in heaven's name can we possibly slice and dice a life and say that he owes this here and that there.  

The second leap they are asking for is to accept the State as the holder of the debt and the administrator of it.  I don't follow the logic and honestly I'm a bit suspicious of it.  How convenient and what a lovely deal for the State.  I'm not sure that it does much for those under its sovereignty except to put them in a state of eternal servitude and précarité.    Why do I say this?  Because the question I asked before is still outstanding:  what exactly is owed in compensation and what are the terms for repayment?  The answer just might be: what States say it is and they can change the terms any time they like.  Furthermore states have the power to ground people in a particular society - to claim them against their will.  That's the way citizenship laws work. A US customs official said this to one Canadian-American trying to cross the border, "You're an American until we say you aren't." 

That doesn't seem terribly moral to me.  In fact, it looks like a pure power relationship with the people on the losing end.  Granted, one is theoretically allowed certain rights and access to public goods as a result of that grounding (it's sometimes contingent on it) but is this about caring and protecting one's citizens or is it about throwing bread at them so they don't hiss like Colbert's goose?  

Coming up with an argument that stars with the premise that "we are all born debtors" is just a little too close to the one that says "we are all born sinners."   I happen to believe the latter and reject the former. While both tell me I must make sacrifices in this life, my faith at least gives clear terms, the possibility of redemption, and eternal life.  What does the State have to offer to match that?  

As of 16:08 this afternoon that is my take on primordial debt.  If you have another view, or you feel that I don't have a proper understanding of the argument, please feel free to share it.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Quebec and the Anglophone Exodus

This was passed along by Tim who comes up with the most interesting links to stories I've never heard of.  Thank you, Tim.

The Montreal Gazette did a series on the anglophone exodus from the province of Quebec in the 1970's.  This was a tense period in Canadian history where the the Question was about Quebec's future in Canada.  Many tempers flared during this time and the rhetoric around the political debate got pretty hot.  It even assumed an international dimension when De Gaulle decided to subtly insert himself in the whole business.  What De Gaulle had to say (and he was guilty of this many times in his political career and Mitterand was just as bad) was ambiguous enough to infuriate, frighten, provoke and comfort those who listened to it depending on what side he or she was on.

Language politics and identity are still on the table and matters of debate in that province and elsewhere in Canada.   There is an entire chapter in the book Language, Nation and State:  Identity Politics in a Multilingual Age edited by the great Tony Judt and Denis Lacorne devoted to this topic.  This is one to read before one dips one's toes in these waters because it not only talks about Canada but many other places where language and identity are issues.  Like, for example, France, which is on the wrong side of EU rules for respecting minority languages.

The anglophone exodus provoked a lot of anger at the time.  Perhaps it still does.  Some of the comments I read in response to the videos were pretty judgmental.  I wasn't there when it happened and I'm sure not going to express an uninformed opinion about it here.  I do think, however, that the videos are worth watching.  These are people expressing their feelings and answering the question, "Why did you leave?"  You may not agree with them and maybe what they have to say will make you angry if you are a French-Canadian.  All I can say is that you (and I) are not them.  It's also important, I think, to listen all the way to the end because how they felt back in the 1970's is not necessarily what they feel today.

So, if you are going to watch it, I'd ask that you withhold judgement until the end of the third video and then exercise your powers of empathy.  What would you have done in their place under those circumstances?

Enjoy the story.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Ungoverned Spaces

The great thing about having a good home library is that when your children get old enough to ask intelligent questions, you can grab a book off the shelves and say, "Read this and we'll talk about it when you've finished it."

One such book that I handed over to the younger Frenchling is one I picked up at the McGill book shop in Montreal when I was visiting the elder Frenchling.  It's called Ungoverned Spaces:  Alternatives to State Authority in an Era of Softened Sovereignty and it's a set of essays about international security, failed states, immigration and the internet.

In the introduction one of the editors takes exception to the term itself.  When we say "ungoverned space" we are speaking from a state-centric perspective.  The implication is that just because a state cannot exercise effective sovereignty in a particular area, that there is no system of governance or authority at all.  We think that such areas must be danger or threatening and there are calls for someone, anyone, to get in there and straighten things out.
Many assume that alternative governance structures inherently undermine state power.  They assume that increased state capacity, state building, and in some cases, state creation are the cure to the security problems stemming from ungoverned spaces.  Yet, more often than not, prescriptions are based on an anachronistic image of the state as the mid-twentieth-century welfare state, or on the privatizing, outsourcing state of the late twentieth century.  In both cases, the state is assumed to be the critical actor in providing governance and generating authority.
We can argue about whether or not this era is different from others and if the sovereignty of states is softer than it was in the past.  James C. Scott talks about an area in southeast Asia he calls Zomia which he believes has been a refuge for people fleeing state control for hundreds of years.  Academics argue over whether or not Zomia ever existed but clearly states have always had limits to their power whether we are talking about a monarchy, a dictatorship or a democratic nation-state.   I think the state has always struggled to either extend sovereignty to spaces it cares about (sometimes it chooses not to) or to maintain the sovereignty is already has in the areas under its control lest it lose ground.  Are these tasks harder now than they were in the past?  That is something we could debate for years and still not come up a definitive answer.

What are some of the areas the authors of the essays in this book think are particularly pertinent in the early 21st century:

International security:  This is a top priority for many nation-states.  One of the odd facts about the post-911 world is that even though many countries disagreed with the US decision to invade Iraq, most were very willing to cooperate with the US in other areas related to security.  As world leaders and their people were publicly shouting at each other and exchanging insults, on another level far from the public eye, they were getting along just fine and they put together some very interesting "working together" arrangements.

In the essay "Here be Dragons,"  Phil Williams argues that "the major security challenges of the twenty-first century can be understood in terms of spaces and gaps:  geographical, functional, social, economic, legal and regulatory."

In a state-centric world "space" there are assumptions that underly the term.  "Spaces" can be controlled and filled with something:  people, economic activity, laws, rules and the like.  In that process of extending sovereignty there will be gaps or missed areas.  There will also be conflict which can be between other states or with the people who already occupy that area and may have their own local authority that they prefer over the state.  These spaces can be outside the national territory or well within its borders.  Williams mentions car burning in the Paris suburbs.  I have only to walk up the street to find one right here in Versailles - a homeless person who has occupied a bus stop and has been there at least five years.  Another good example is flying over North America.  What do I see?  Vast areas with no roads, a few people here and there, and little towns scattered here and there.  You cannot tell me that the states here exercise total effective sovereignty over those spaces.   In some cases they don't even try.  It would take too much effort for little or no gain.

Does that mean that there is no authority at all in these places?  No, it just means that other forms of authority take root.  Small rural towns have their own governance structures.  Where there are few people living in isolated areas they still work things out with the neighbors even if the property lines are hundreds of miles apart,.  In the case of the person occupying the bus stop, the neighborhood has taken a "live and let live" attitude.  No one seems particularly attached to that stop (there are many others), he's not doing any harm and I've never heard of any calls to get the police to remove him.

If people have a hard time recognizing alternative governance structures within their own national borders, no wonder that they don't see them in spaces outside them.  Williams talks about Afghanistan and other places where tribes and clans have more authority and legitimacy than the national government.  In fact, sometimes these groups don't really correspond to national borders and span several states.  State-building is a real challenge under those circumstances.  The question of whether or not it's really necessary is an open one.  Intervention by other states is justified under many grounds:  humanitarian, in the name of international human rights, and predation and conflict that impacts other states.   But how often is this feasible?   It's costly (just ask the American people about this) and sometimes it just plain doesn't work.  Last I looked Afghanistan still doesn't have a strong state despite all the efforts of the international community to build one.   I think Williams is very wise when he says:
In the final analysis, therefore, perhaps the best outcome is for alternative forms of governance to evolve in ways that enhance the protection and security they provide while reducing their predatory characteristics.  If this happens, then state decline might be less of a threat and more of a blessing as people once again embrace forms of governance that are bottom-up rather than top-down, that are organic and local rather than imposed and distant and that reflect indigenous impulses rather than alien domination.
The Internet:  My Frenchlings look at me strangely when I tell them that I remember a world with no Google, no email, no websites.  Most people today are happy to have these things and the good they do probably outweighs the bad.  However, from time to time people get uneasy about the fact that nobody seems to be in charge of the Net and there is no obvious governing structure.

In the essay "Under Cover of the Net"  Ronald Diebert and Rafal Rohozinski argue that calling the Internet an "ungoverned space" is a grave error.  It may not be controlled by one particular state but that doesn't mean that it is completely out of control and lacks a governance structure.
At the most basic level, it is governed by rules of physics as well as code, which give it predictability and finite characteristics.  It is governed by consensual practices among the network's providers and operators that have their basis in norms without which the Internet could not functions.  And most importantly, is it increasingly governed by actors - states and corporations primarily, but increasingly civic networks as well - who understand how leveraging and exploiting key nodes within the physical infrastructure of the Internet can give them strategic political and economic advantages.
One example of this are the top-level domain name servers.  Think of them as traffic cops who answer question and steer traffic.  These are devices that must be physically located somewhere.  They used to be in the US but are now in other countries well.  The Net relies on boxes and wires that are not at all "virtual" and where they are makes a difference.  There are points of failure and points of control.  The Great Firewall of China is a perfect example.  The Chinese government can and does block traffic it doesn't like.  Ways exist to get around such things but they general require more technical expertise than the average person has.

As for anonymity on the Net, well, I don't want to scare anyone but it is possible to find you and that's been true for years.  I was once part of a virtual community in the 1990's and we had a rather troublesome "guest" and we got curious enough about him to want to track him down.  Since there were people in this forum with technical expertise, some took the time to exercise their skills.  I don't remember if we actually found him but we did narrow down to the area he lived in.  Some basic sleuthing would have done the rest.  Every device on the Net has an address.  The card in your home computer has one and it has a unique identifier called a MAC address.  When you go on out on the Net there is another address that is assigned to you called an IP address and it's way you can be found.  Nothing nefarious about any of this and it's not something the state dreamed up - all devices on a network have to have unique identifiers - that's just the way it works and I won't bore you with more technical details.

We could talk about other things as well like email snooping and other forms of surveillance but I think enough has been said to make the point.

Calls for more governance, more control, over the Internet come from many sources.  Parents don't like to see their children watching porn, governments don't like the free-wheeling natures of some of the discussion and the fact that there are tools like social media that can be used to undermine state authority.  There are arguments over ways to tax things purchased via the Internet, intellectual property rights and how to stop the publishing of information that people and governments would prefer to keep private.

Since there is no one authority that manages all aspects of the Net, people think there is no governance.  Some folks genuinely want someone to yell at when people use the Net in ways they don't like or think are destructive in some way.  To my knowledge that "someone" doesn't exist.  In its place are hundred, thousands, maybe millions of actors who have influence and must negotiate with each other to keep the Net running, but no one authority that can control and punish people who break the rules (such as they are).

The network is neutral.  People aren't.  This discussion is just beginning and it will get louder as more people come to rely on the Net and as more people find new and creative ways to use it.

In a second essay in this book by J.P. Singh, he explores some of these Internet governance activities that are going on right now.
Internet governance is the domain mostly of the California-based ICANN and the dispute settlement functions of the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (URDP) of the World Intellectual Property Organization.  ICANN itself arose from a contest between an international coalition that favored most a civil society-led international governance mechanism and U.S.-backed private industry interests that feared, perhaps rightly so, that they would suffer from the loss of U.S. oversight.
There is another organization that Singh talks about that was created at about the same time as ICANN.  Its called The World Summit on the Information Society and was started by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).  Their work goes way beyond the technical and it has become a place to discuss things like "spam, child pornography, data privacy, freedom of speech..."  They have influence - not only from developing nations but also from the EU who supported their attempt to put ICANN under the authority of the UN in 2005.  If you go to the ITU website today you will see that they are promoting WSIS Forum 2013 which started yesterday.  On the agenda are many technical talks but there are also discussions of legal, social and economic issues tied to the Internet.  The mix of actors is fascinating;  industry is there as well as countries (developed and developing ones), international organizations and NGO's.  Among the talks scheduled for today is this one:  Multi-Stakeholder approach to Governance of the Internet (ICANN).

There probably won't be one central authority to manage the Net anytime soon, if ever.  U.S. domination of the infrastructure is probably on its way out.  There will be more international forums where many actors can come together and and form a consensus around certain perceived problems.  There will be bitter fights as different people from different cultures struggle to create standards that everyone can live with.  "Free speech" is not a priority for everyone and not all think that the highest purpose of the Net is to promote economic activity.  Whatever structure arises from this will be a broad umbrella that works through negotiation and consensus.  It cannot be state-centric since the "space" to be managed is, in a sense, infinite and what parts of it are rooted in the physical world are becoming too dispersed geographically for any one state to exert effective sovereignty over it.  Something to watch.

This is a very thick slice of the book but there is a lot more.  I recommend Ungoverned Spaces to you along with James C. Scott's The Art of Not Being Governed.  This evening I plan on starting David Graeber's Debt:  The first 5,000 Years and I should get to Possibilities or Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology later on this week.  I think I see another book list forming....

Monday, May 13, 2013

A Look Into the Mind of a Potential Migrant

Emigration has been described as "voting with one's feet."  That phrase implies that a migrant has looked around and found the country where he or she was accidently born lacking in some way and that he could do better somewhere else.  I think there is much truth in that.

The focus tends to be on those emigrants who leave because of extreme problems in their homelands.   These are easy cases to explain and study.  "Of course they left," we say, "Any reasonable person would have done the same."  Their migration is justified and understandable even though many people do not want to let them into their country.  Remember that infamous phrase:  "La France ne peut pas accueillir toute la misère du monde."  (France cannot welcome all the misery of the world.)

France is not a failed state nor is it a place of poor infrastructure or oppression.  It is, for me and my family a fine place to live, and she has all the loyalty and love of this American migrant.  However, just because I have found my "bonheur" here does not blind me to the fact that for some French citizens this country may not be the best place for them.  One's life chances and the opportunities available here vary depending on the human capital one has and its value in this country.   Where some degrees and skills have less value here and lead one (especially the young) directly to the unemployment line, is it really surprising that some look elsewhere for a better fit?  Of course if they stay they won't starve but that doesn't mean that they don't feel pretty miserable when they discover what they are really worth on the French job market if they manage to land a job at all.

This kind of migration from one developed country to another rouses all kinds of anger.  It is not seen as justified or desirable on the part of the inhabitants of the sending country.  How the French feel about their emigrants is very similar to how Americans feels about theirs.  No rationalization on the part of the individual migrant will ever be good enough to justify the abandonment of the home country.  The only exceptions are those who leave to work on short term assignments.

These migrants are judged and sometimes they are judged even more harshly than the low-skilled migrants from developing countries.  The latter have reasons that everyone understands which gives them the moral high ground even when countries refuse to let them in.   The former are morally suspect and provoke the ire of many in the homelands on the Left and Right of the political spectrum.  Many argue they should be punished in some way or another for what they have done.

There are thriving French communities in places all around the world:  Tokyo, Japan or San Francisco, USA or Montreal, Canada or Casablanca, Morocco.    Most of these folks left France quietly and did not publicly share their reasons for leaving.  The French are a discreet bunch and this sort of thing is normally discussed exclusively among close family and friends.  Given how people feel about emigration, I think that's very prudent of them.

So it was rather a shock to see this article published early May in Le Point:  Lettre d'une étudiante à François Hollande. (hat tip to Loic who shared the link).  This open letter comes from Clara G, a history student at the Sorbonne to the French and it's a very clear statement about why she want to leave the country along with 50% of people in her age bracket.
Vous voyez, les temps changent. Mes grands-parents soixante-huitards avaient eu la tentation de la révolution, j'ai la tentation de l'expatriation. Mes grands-parents, qui coulent aujourd'hui une retraite heureuse dans leur petite maison de campagne du Limousin, rêvaient de transformer la société française, je ne songe qu'à la fuir.
(You see, times have changed.  My hippy grandparents wanted revolution, I want expatriation.  My grandparents, who are happily retired in their little country house in the Limousin, dreamed of transforming French society, I can only thing of fleeing it.)
I imagine that opening paragraph got people's attention and not in a good way.  She goes on to explain.  She mentions the national debt, the burden of paying the retirements and health costs of a large number of aging French citizens, and a stagnant economy.  But those things are not nearly as important as this:
Mais le plus déprimant, c'est de savoir très exactement de quoi sera faite ma vie si je reste en France. Une fois mes études terminées, une fois mes beaux diplômes inutiles obtenus, je rejoindrai sans doute d'abord les rangs fournis des jeunes chômeurs avant d'enquiller pendant des années les stages et les CDD.
(But the most depressing is to know precisely what my life will be if I stay in France.  Once my studies are over, once my pretty but useless diplomas are obtained, I will undoubtedly join the ranks of the young unemployed before being screwed for years in internships and short-term job contracts.)
Avec ces petits boulots précaires et mal payés, il me sera impossible de convaincre un banquier de m'accorder un prêt immobilier pour m'acheter un appartement à Paris. Et si jamais, par une sorte de miracle improbable, je venais à gagner beaucoup d'argent, je sais d'avance que non seulement je devrais en reverser l'essentiel au fisc, mais que cela me vaudrait aussi l'opprobre général de mes concitoyens et votre mépris personnel.
(With these unstable and poorly paid jobs, it will be impossible for me to convince a banker to give me a loan to purchase an apartment in Paris.  And, if ever, by some sort of unlikely miracle, I do make lots of money, I know ahead of time that not only will I have to turn over most of it to the tax authorities, but also that this will gain me the general disgust of my fellow citizens and your personal contempt.)
These are the "push" factors and while they are not extreme ones like hunger, poverty or oppression,  it would be a gross error not to take them seriously.  Like other categories of migrants, this is the voice of a person who has little or no hope for the future.  

And the "pull factors"?  Globalization and the siren song of both near and far shores:
Je ne vois pas du tout la mondialisation comme une menace, mais plutôt comme une chance. Mais ce n'est sûrement pas dans une France qui fait tout pour s'en protéger, où vos ministres et camarades socialistes passent leur temps à dire qu'elle constitue un mal absolu, que je vais pouvoir en profiter. Alors, oui, j'ai envie d'aller vivre dans un pays où il y a de la croissance, où les salaires augmentent, où être riche n'est pas considéré comme un péché mortel, un pays surtout où l'on a le sentiment à la fois individuel et collectif que demain sera meilleur qu'aujourd'hui.
(I do not see globalization as a threat but more of a chance. But this is not true in France which does everything to protect itself, where the ministers and Socialist comrades spend their time telling us that it constitutes pure evil, and I want to take advantage of it. Yes, I want to live in a country with growth, where salaries are rising, where to be rich is not a mortal sin, and where one has the feeling both individual and collective that tomorrow will be better than today.)
Voilà pourquoi, Monsieur le Président, je songe à quitter la France. Pourquoi aussi votre - au demeurant charmant - ministre de l'Intérieur, Manuel Valls, devrait moins se préoccuper des dangers de l'immigration que des menaces de l'émigration de la jeunesse du pays. Je partirai où ? En Allemagne peut-être, dont vous dites tant de mal, mais qui a l'air d'être un pays qui a confiance en lui. Ou alors plus loin, au Canada, en Australie. Ou dans un pays en développement. En Afrique, pourquoi pas ?
(And that is why, Mr. President, I dream of leaving France. Why also your ( to be polite) Minister of the Interior should spend less time on the dangers of immigration and more on the emigration of the country's youth. Where will I go? To Germany perhaps (of which you speak so much evil) which seems like a country with confidence. Or maybe farther, to Canada, to Australia. Or to a developing country. Why not to Africa?

I have a lot of empathy for her position. I left my home country, the US, at about the same age and though my personal migration equation was different I can recognize part of my younger self in her.

 I slipped quietly away - she decided to go out with a bang.

Should she have done that?  I'm not in the habit of telling people what to do and it's not my place to shut anyone up.  I personally would have expressed myself differently - some of what she has to say is very critical and judgmental in its own right.  This response to her letter has some good points to make but I dislike the tone which reminds me a lot of a parent telling a newly grown child, "Look at all we've done for you," and, "You'll see when you go elsewhere how good you had it here."  Older generations of French tried that with their "soixante-huitard" children and see how well that worked out.  Older Americans do exactly the same thing to the same effect and I'm pretty sure that many other young migrant (from rich or poor countries) have heard the same song.  Keeping the young close with talk of debts owed and cries of ingratitude if the parental guilt trip doesn't stick is pretty universal.

My take on it is as follows:  With the exception of naturalized citizens, we are all "accidental" citizens (French, Americans, Germans, Chinese, Chileans, Moroccans) of the places we were born or of our parents' countries.  That's pretty much how citizenship laws work.  Children do not choose their country or their parents.  Furthermore, their society's gifts like education and to a certain extent other things like health care are compulsory.  Does anyone in any country ask a child if she wants to go to school or get a tetanus shot?

I contend that you cannot hold them to a debt they never agreed to unless you imagine citizenship as some sort of intergenerational indentured servitude.  Every society is a pact between the living, the dead and the yet to be born and every generation has the right to renegotiate the deal.  Yes, I understand that this puts a spoke in the wheels of various social welfare programs but I still believe it is deeply immoral to hold anyone to any debt/lender arrangement they did not explicitly consent to.   

I think every adult should have the right to opt out - to "vote with one's feet."  Dismissing the opinions and feelings of potential migrants from developed countries as the "problèmes de riches" and treating them as moral midgets solves nothing.  Proclaiming empathy and understanding for those from developing countries who also wish to migrate while not offering them a place to go is equally futile (and is a bit hypocritical). 

How about we skip the moral platitudes and the guilt trips and just let people sort themselves out?  It would put even more pressure on every country to take a good look at its "value proposition."  This does not, contrary to the prevailing opinion in the US, mean drastically lowering taxes.  I pay higher taxes in France than in the U.S. but I also believe that I get good value for my money here.  Or to put it another way I get the things that are important to me personally in exchange.  Many migrants I know have come to the same conclusion and have chosen EU or Asian countries or Canada over the U.S. for that reason.  Cash is only one factor in every migrant's migration equation and other things count for just as much:  social mobility, personal safety, affordable health care, less or no discrimination, good schools for children and a family-friendly environment.  If people could choose where they want to live, surely they would come up with a combination that works for them.  Nation-states might even find it's a lot nicer to have citizens and residents who are happy to pay the taxes and are supportive of the existing social welfare system. 

So it with great pleasure that I welcome Clara G. into the ranks of "those who move around."  May she have a long, fulfilling, and prosperous life wherever she lands.