Diversité: L’enfer, c’est les autres, mais j’ai besoin des oeufs ! (Hell is other people, but I need the eggs ! – How diversity is eating away at trust)

1 décembre, 2013
http://consumertraveler.com/wp-content/uploads/In-God-.jpghttp://edge.liveleak.com/80281E/ll_a_s/2013/Oct/23/LiveLeak-dot-com-f83_1382554898-USHasSpent37TrillionOnWelfareOverPast5Yearsprev.jpg?d5e8cc8eccfb6039332f41f6249e92b06c91b4db65f5e99818badf93454dddd05891&ec_rate=230Mais, quand le Fils de l’homme viendra, trouvera-t-il la foi sur la terre? Jésus (Luc 18: 8)
Ne croyez pas que je sois venu apporter la paix sur la terre; je ne suis pas venu apporter la paix, mais l’épée. Car je suis venu mettre la division entre l’homme et son père, entre la fille et sa mère, entre la belle-fille et sa belle-mère; et l’homme aura pour ennemis les gens de sa maison. Jésus (Matthieu 10: 34-36)
Je pensais à cette vieille blague, vous savez, ce-ce-ce type va chez un psychiatre et dit : « Doc, euh, mon frère est fou. Il se prend pour un poulet. » Et, euh, le docteur dit : « Et bien, pourquoi ne le faites-vous pas enfermer ? » Et le type dit : « J’aimerais bien, mais j’ai besoin des œufs. » Et bien, je crois que c’est ce que je ressens au sujet des relations. Vous savez, elles sont totalement irrationnelles et folles et absurdes et… mais, euh, je crois qu’on continue parce que, euh, la plupart d’entre nous ont besoin des œufs…  Woody Allen
Nous venons de terminer le cinquième exercice depuis que le président Obama a pris ses fonctions. Durant ces cinq années, le gouvernement fédéral a dépensé un total de 3,7  mille milliard de dollars pour environ 80 programmes sous condition de ressources différents contre la pauvreté et de protection sociale. La caractéristique commune des programmes d’aide sous condition de ressources est qu’ils sont gradués par apport au revenu d’une personne et que, contrairement aux programmes tels que la sécurité sociale ou l’assurance-maladie, ils sont un avantage gratuit sans aucune contribution du bénéficiaire. La somme énorme dépensée pourl’assistance sous condition de ressources est près de cinq fois supérieure au montant combiné consacré à la NASA et à l’éducation et à tous les projets de transport de compétence fédérale au cours de cette époque. (3,7 mille milliards de dollars n’est pas encore la totalité du montant dépensé pour le soutien fédéral de la pauvreté, les États membres contribuant pour plus de 200 milliards de dollars chaque année à ce lien fédéral, principalement sous forme de soins de santé gratuits à faible revenu.) Parce que le budget de l’aide sociale est tellement fragmenté — les coupons alimentaires ne sont qu’un des 15 programmes fédéraux qui fournissent une aide alimentaire, cela rend le contrôle efficace presque impossible, tout en masquant l’étendue tant aux contribuables qu’aux législateurs. Par exemple, il est plus facile pour les législateurs opposés aux réformes de s’opposer à des économies de coupons alimentaires en occultant le fait qu’un ménage qui reçoit des coupons alimentaires a souvent simultanément  droit à une myriade de programmes d’aide fédéraux y compris l’assistance de trésorerie, les logements subventionnés, les soins médicaux gratuits, la garde d’enfants gratuite et l’assistance énergétique à la maison. Commission sénatoriale du Budget
« Il est temps que l’Amérique comprenne que beaucoup des plus grandes disparités de la nation, de l’éducation à la pauvreté et à l’espérance de vie sont de plus en plus liées à la position de classe économique, » a déclaré William Julius Wilson, professeur de Harvard spécialiste des questions raciales et de la pauvreté. Il note par ailleurs que, malgré la persistance des difficultés économiques, les minorités sont plus optimistes quant à l’avenir après l’élection d’Obama, ce qui n’est pas les blancs qui se débattait. « Il y a la possibilité réelle que l’aliénation blanche va augmenter si des mesures ne sont pas prises pour mettre en évidence et lutter contre l’inégalité sur un large front, » a dit Ted Wilson. Parfois appelé « les pauvres invisibles » par les démographes, les blancs à faible revenu sont généralement dispersés dans les banlieues, mais aussi les petites villes rurales, où plus de 60% des pauvres sont blancs. Concentrés dans les Appalaches à l’est, ils sont également nombreux dans le Midwest industriel et  à travers le cœur de l’Amérique, du Missouri, de l’Arkansas et de l’Oklahoma jusqu’aux grandes plaines. Plus de 19 millions de blancs sont tombésen dessous du seuil de pauvreté de 23 021 $ pour une famille de quatre, représentant plus de 41 % de la nation démunis, près du double le nombre de pauvres noirs. CS monitor
« L’enfer c’est les autres » a été toujours mal compris. On a cru que je voulais dire par là que nos rapports avec les autres étaient toujours empoisonnés, que c’était toujours des rapports infernaux. Or, c’est tout autre chose que je veux dire. Je veux dire que si les rapports avec autrui sont tordus, viciés, alors l’autre ne peut être que l’enfer. Pourquoi ? Parce que les autres sont, au fond, ce qu’il y a de plus important en nous-mêmes, pour notre propre connaissance de nous-mêmes. Quand nous pensons sur nous, quand nous essayons de nous connaître, au fond nous usons des connaissances que les autres ont déjà sur nous, nous nous jugeons avec les moyens que les autres ont, nous ont donné, de nous juger. Quoi que je dise sur moi, toujours le jugement d’autrui entre dedans. Quoi que je sente de moi, le jugement d’autrui entre dedans. Ce qui veut dire que, si mes rapports sont mauvais, je me mets dans la totale dépendance d’autrui et alors, en effet, je suis en enfer. Et il existe une quantité de gens dans le monde qui sont en enfer parce qu’ils dépendent trop du jugement d’autrui. Mais cela ne veut nullement dire qu’on ne puisse avoir d’autres rapports avec les autres, ça marque simplement l’importance capitale de tous les autres pour chacun de nous. Sartre
Chacun se croit seul en enfer et c’est cela l’enfer. René Girard
De toutes les menaces qui pèsent sur nous, la plus redoutable, nous le savons, la seule réelle, c’est nous-mêmes. René Girard
Ce ne sont pas les différences qui provoquent les conflits mais leur effacement. René Girard
Aucun nombre de bombes atomiques ne pourra endiguer le raz de marée constitué par les millions d’êtres humains qui partiront un jour de la partie méridionale et pauvre du monde, pour faire irruption dans les espaces relativement ouverts du riche hémisphère septentrional, en quête de survie. Boumediene (mars 1974)
Un jour, des millions d’hommes quitteront le sud pour aller dans le nord. Et ils n’iront pas là-bas en tant qu’amis. Parce qu’ils iront là-bas pour le conquérir. Et ils le conquerront avec leurs fils. Le ventre de nos femmes nous donnera la victoire. Houari Boumediene (ONU, 10.04.74)
Nous avons 50 millions de musulmans en Europe. Il y a des signes qui attestent qu’Allah nous accordera une grande victoire en Europe, sans épée, sans conquête. Les 50 millions de musulmans d’Europe feront de cette dernière un continent musulman. Allah mobilise la Turquie, nation musulmane, et va permettre son entrée dans l’Union Européenne. Il y aura alors 100 millions de musulmans en Europe. L’Albanie est dans l’Union européenne, c’est un pays musulman. La Bosnie est dans l’Union européenne, c’est un pays musulman. 50% de ses citoyens sont musulmans. L’Europe est dans une fâcheuse posture. Et il en est de même de l’Amérique. Elles [les nations occidentales] devraient accepter de devenir musulmanes avec le temps ou bien de déclarer la guerre aux musulmans. Kadhafi (10.04.06) 
Et si Raspail, avec « Le Camp des Saints », n’était ni un prophète ni un romancier visionnaire, mais simplement un implacable historien de notre futur? Jean Cau
Le 17 février 2001, un cargo vétuste s’échouait volontairement sur les rochers côtiers, non loin de Saint-Raphaël. À son bord, un millier d’immigrants kurdes, dont près de la moitié étaient des enfants. « Cette pointe rocheuse faisait partie de mon paysage. Certes, ils n’étaient pas un million, ainsi que je les avais imaginés, à bord d’une armada hors d’âge, mais ils n’en avaient pas moins débarqué chez moi, en plein décor du Camp des saints, pour y jouer l’acte I. Le rapport radio de l’hélicoptère de la gendarmerie diffusé par l’AFP semble extrait, mot pour mot, des trois premiers paragraphes du livre. La presse souligna la coïncidence, laquelle apparut, à certains, et à moi, comme ne relevant pas du seul hasard. Jean Raspail
Qu’est-ce que Big Other ? C’est le produit de la mauvaise conscience occidentale soigneusement entretenue, avec piqûres de rappel à la repentance pour nos fautes et nos crimes supposés –  et de l’humanisme de l’altérité, cette sacralisation de l’Autre, particulièrement quand il s’oppose à notre culture et à nos traditions. Perversion de la charité chrétienne, Big Other a le monopole du Vrai et du Bien et ne tolère pas de voix discordante. Jean Raspail
Ce qui m’a frappé, c’est le contraste entre les opinions exprimées à titre privé et celles tenues publiquement. Double langage et double conscience… À mes yeux, il n’y a pire lâcheté que celle devant la faiblesse, que la peur d’opposer la légitimité de la force à l’illégitimité de la violence. Jean Raspail
La véritable cible du roman, ce ne sont pas les hordes d’immigrants sauvages du tiers-monde, mais les élites, politiques, religieuses, médiatiques, intellectuelles, du pays qui, par lâcheté devant la faiblesse, trahissent leurs racines, leurs traditions et les valeurs de leur civilisation. En fourriers d’une apocalypse dont ils seront les premières victimes. Chantre des causes dé sespérées et des peuples en voie de disparition, comme son œuvre ultérieure en témoigne, Jean Raspail a, dans ce grand livre d’anticipation, incité non pas à la haine et à la discrimination, mais à la lucidité et au courage. Dans deux générations, on saura si la réalité avait imité la fiction. Bruno de Cessole
Délinquants itinérants issus des gens du voyage ou «petites mains» pilotées à distance par des mafias des pays de l’Est, ces bandes de cambrioleurs ignorant les frontières n’hésitent plus à couvrir des centaines de kilomètres lors de raids nocturnes pour repérer puis investir des demeures isolées. En quelques années, les «voleurs dans la loi» géorgiens sont devenus les «aristocrates» de la discipline. Organisés de façon quasi militaire et placés sous la férule de lieutenants, ces «Rappetout» venus du froid écument avec méthode les territoires les plus «giboyeux» du pays, notamment dans le Grand Ouest, les régions Rhône-Alpes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur ou encore Languedoc-Roussillon. Selon une estimation récente, la valeur marchande de leur colossal butin frise les 200.000 euros par semaine. Continuant à se propager dans les grandes villes, le fléau gangrène à une vitesse étourdissante les campagnes et les petites agglomérations: entre 2007 et 2012, le nombre de villas et résidences «visitées» en zone gendarmerie a bondi de 65 %. Soit 35.361 faits constatés de plus en cinq ans. En plein cœur du département de la Marne, où les cambriolages ont flambé de 47 % en un an, des clans albanais retranchés près de Tirana ont dépêché des «soldats» pour piller des maisons de campagne situées dans des villages jusque-là préservés tels que Livry-Louvercy, aux Petites-Loges ou encore à Gueux. Le Figaro
Le tout virtuel ne marche pas. Si les solutions pour travailler à distance existent, rien ne remplace le contact humain nécessaire au bon fonctionnement d’une entreprise. A la longue, communiquer uniquement par mail ou par téléphone devient pénible. Gauthier Toulemonde
En présence de la diversité, nous nous replions sur nous-mêmes. Nous agissons comme des tortues. L’effet de la diversité est pire que ce qui avait été imaginé. Et ce n’est pas seulement que nous ne faisons plus confiance à ceux qui ne sont pas comme nous. Dans les communautés diverses, nous ne faisons plus confiance à ceux qui nous ressemblent. Robert Putnam
Page appelle ça le « paradoxe de diversité. » Il pense que les effets à la fois positifs et négatifs de la diversité peuvent coexister dans les communautés, mais qu’il doit y avoir une limite. » Si l’investissement civique tombe trop bas, il est facile d’imaginer que les effets positifs de la diversité puissent tout aussi bien commencer à s’affaiblir. Michael Jonas
Americans don’t trust each other anymore. We’re not talking about the loss of faith in big institutions such as the government, the church or Wall Street, which fluctuates with events. For four decades, a gut-level ingredient of democracy — trust in the other fellow — has been quietly draining away. These days, only one-third of Americans say most people can be trusted. Half felt that way in 1972, when the General Social Survey first asked the question. Forty years later, a record high of nearly two-thirds say “you can’t be too careful” in dealing with people. (…) Does it matter that Americans are suspicious of one another? Yes, say worried political and social scientists. What’s known as “social trust” brings good things. A society where it’s easier to compromise or make a deal. Where people are willing to work with those who are different from them for the common good. Where trust appears to promote economic growth. Distrust, on the other hand, seems to encourage corruption. At the least, it diverts energy to counting change, drawing up 100-page legal contracts and building gated communities. Even the rancor and gridlock in politics might stem from the effects of an increasingly distrustful citizenry, said April K. Clark, a Purdue University political scientist and public opinion researcher. “It’s like the rules of the game,” Clark said. “When trust is low, the way we react and behave with each other becomes less civil.” (…) There’s no single explanation for Americans’ loss of trust. The best-known analysis comes from “Bowling Alone” author Robert Putnam’s nearly two decades of studying the United States’ declining “social capital,” including trust. Putnam says Americans have abandoned their bowling leagues and Elks lodges to stay home and watch TV. Less socializing and fewer community meetings make people less trustful than the “long civic generation” that came of age during the Depression and World War II. Connie Cass

A l’heure où même les plus démagogiques de nos dirigeants atteignent des sommets d’impopularité …

Et où, attirés par le grand festin de l’Etat-tout-Providence, les réfugiés économiques du Tiers-Monde comme les nouveaux barbares de l’est déferlent par vagues entières sur nos côtes et nos villes …

Pendant que, par manque de contact humain, un chef d’entreprise français, pourtant armé des dernières technologies numériques et d’un sacré sens de l’auto-promotion, se voit contraint après 40 jours à peine de mettre un terme à son expérience de Robinson virtuel …

Comment ne pas voir avec les résultats d’une grande enquête américaine sur les modes de vie …

Que contre les prédictions les plus naïves ou les plus roublardes de nos hérauts de la diversité …

Mais conformément aux prévisions des plus lucides de nos sociologues ou, accessoirement, de nos propres Evangiles …

Ce n’est pas nécessairement, derrière les spectaculaires et indéniables prodiges de nos nouvelles technologies, à plus de paix et d’harmonie que va aboutir le formidable rassemblement de population – proprement inouï dans l’Histoire de l’humanité – que nous connaissons actuellement …

Mais bien, très probablement, à des niveaux de conflit dont nous n’avons pas encore idée ?

In God we trust, maybe, but not each other

Connie Cass

WASHINGTON (AP) — You can take our word for it. Americans don’t trust each other anymore.

We’re not talking about the loss of faith in big institutions such as the government, the church or Wall Street, which fluctuates with events. For four decades, a gut-level ingredient of democracy — trust in the other fellow — has been quietly draining away.

These days, only one-third of Americans say most people can be trusted. Half felt that way in 1972, when the General Social Survey first asked the question.

Forty years later, a record high of nearly two-thirds say “you can’t be too careful” in dealing with people.

An AP-GfK poll conducted last month found that Americans are suspicious of each other in everyday encounters. Less than one-third expressed a lot of trust in clerks who swipe their credit cards, drivers on the road, or people they meet when traveling.

“I’m leery of everybody,” said Bart Murawski, 27, of Albany, N.Y. “Caution is always a factor.”

Does it matter that Americans are suspicious of one another? Yes, say worried political and social scientists.

What’s known as “social trust” brings good things.

A society where it’s easier to compromise or make a deal. Where people are willing to work with those who are different from them for the common good. Where trust appears to promote economic growth.

Distrust, on the other hand, seems to encourage corruption. At the least, it diverts energy to counting change, drawing up 100-page legal contracts and building gated communities.

Even the rancor and gridlock in politics might stem from the effects of an increasingly distrustful citizenry, said April K. Clark, a Purdue University political scientist and public opinion researcher.

“It’s like the rules of the game,” Clark said. “When trust is low, the way we react and behave with each other becomes less civil.”

There’s no easy fix.

In fact, some studies suggest it’s too late for most Americans alive today to become more trusting. That research says the basis for a person’s lifetime trust levels is set by his or her mid-twenties and unlikely to change, other than in some unifying crucible such as a world war.

People do get a little more trusting as they age. But beginning with the baby boomers, each generation has started off adulthood less trusting than those who came before them.

The best hope for creating a more trusting nation may be figuring out how to inspire today’s youth, perhaps united by their high-tech gadgets, to trust the way previous generations did in simpler times.

There are still trusters around to set an example.

Pennsylvania farmer Dennis Hess is one. He runs an unattended farm stand on the honor system.

Customers pick out their produce, tally their bills and drop the money into a slot, making change from an unlocked cashbox. Both regulars and tourists en route to nearby Lititz, Pa., stop for asparagus in spring, corn in summer and, as the weather turns cold, long-neck pumpkins for Thanksgiving pies.

“When people from New York or New Jersey come up,” said Hess, 60, “they are amazed that this kind of thing is done anymore.”

Hess has updated the old ways with technology. He added a video camera a few years back, to help catch people who drive off without paying or raid the cashbox. But he says there isn’t enough theft to undermine his trust in human nature.

“I’ll say 99 and a half percent of the people are honest,” said Hess, who’s operated the produce stand for two decades.

There’s no single explanation for Americans’ loss of trust.

The best-known analysis comes from “Bowling Alone” author Robert Putnam’s nearly two decades of studying the United States’ declining “social capital,” including trust.

Putnam says Americans have abandoned their bowling leagues and Elks lodges to stay home and watch TV. Less socializing and fewer community meetings make people less trustful than the “long civic generation” that came of age during the Depression and World War II.

University of Maryland Professor Eric Uslaner, who studies politics and trust, puts the blame elsewhere: economic inequality.

Trust has declined as the gap between the nation’s rich and poor gapes ever wider, Uslaner says, and more and more Americans feel shut out. They’ve lost their sense of a shared fate. Tellingly, trust rises with wealth.

“People who believe the world is a good place and it’s going to get better and you can help make it better, they will be trusting,” Uslaner said. “If you believe it’s dark and driven by outside forces you can’t control, you will be a mistruster.”

African-Americans consistently have expressed far less faith in “most people” than the white majority does. Racism, discrimination and a high rate of poverty destroy trust.

Nearly 8 in 10 African-Americans, in the 2012 survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago with principal funding from the National Science Foundation, felt that “you can’t be too careful.” That figure has held remarkably steady across the 25 GSS surveys since 1972.

The decline in the nation’s overall trust quotient was driven by changing attitudes among whites.

It’s possible that people today are indeed less deserving of trust than Americans in the past, perhaps because of a decline in moral values.

“I think people are acting more on their greed,” said Murawski, a computer specialist who says he has witnessed scams and rip-offs. “Everybody wants a comfortable lifestyle, but what are you going to do for it? Where do you draw the line?”

Ethical behavior such as lying and cheating are difficult to document over the decades. It’s worth noting that the early, most trusting years of the GSS poll coincided with Watergate and the Vietnam War. Trust dropped off in the more stable 1980s.

Crime rates fell in the 1990s and 2000s, and still Americans grew less trusting. Many social scientists blame 24-hour news coverage of distant violence for skewing people’s perceptions of crime.

Can anything bring trust back?

Uslaner and Clark don’t see much hope anytime soon.

Thomas Sander, executive director of the Saguaro Seminar launched by Putnam, believes the trust deficit is “eminently fixable” if Americans strive to rebuild community and civic life, perhaps by harnessing technology.

After all, the Internet can widen the circle of acquaintances who might help you find a job. Email makes it easier for clubs to plan face-to-face meetings. Googling someone turns up information that used to come via the community grapevine.

But hackers and viruses and hateful posts eat away at trust. And sitting home watching YouTube means less time out meeting others.

“A lot of it depends on whether we can find ways to get people using technology to connect and be more civically involved,” Sander said.

“The fate of Americans’ trust,” he said, “is in our own hands.”

___

Associated Press Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta and AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.

___

Online:

AP-GfK Poll: http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com

General Social Survey: http://www3.norc.org/GSS+Website

Voir aussi:

L’exil du patron Robinson sur une île déserte touche à sa fin

Isabelle de Foucaud

le Figaro

18/11/2013

Gauthier Toulemonde est parti 40 jours sur une île de l’archipel indonésien pour démontrer que le télétravail n’est plus une utopie avec les technologies de communication.

Gauthier Toulemonde, qui a décidé de passer 40 jours sur une île au large de l’Indonésie pour tester des conditions «extrêmes» de télétravail, a pu gérer son entreprise sans encombre. Il sera de retour en France d’ici à la fin de la semaine.

Gauthier Toulemonde prépare ses valises avec le sentiment du devoir accompli. Il doit quitter mardi son île déserte de l’archipel indonésien, longue de 700 mètres, large de 500 et située à cinq heures de bateau du village le plus proche, sur laquelle il vient de passer 40 jours dans des conditions extrêmes. «J’appréhende le retour à la vie moderne après cette longue période de solitude. Je ne sais plus ce que c’est de prendre le métro ou d’être coincé dans les embouteillages», confie-t-il au figaro.fr par téléphone satellitaire ce lundi, à la veille de son départ.

A 54 ans, l’entrepreneur de Saint-André-lez-Lille (Nord), qui a partagé son expérience sur un blog, ne voulait pas seulement réaliser un «rêve d’enfant» en montant cette expédition à la Robinson Crusoé. Certes, il a passé ce séjour dans l’isolement total, mais ultra connecté. Un ordinateur, une tablette numérique et deux téléphones satellitaires alimentés par des panneaux solaires étaient du voyage. «Mon but était de démontrer que je pouvais continuer à gérer mon entreprise à distance, grâce aux nouvelles technologies», explique Gauthier Toulemonde , propriétaire de la société Timbropresse qui publie le mensuel Timbres magazine, et par ailleurs rédacteur en chef de L’Activité immobilière.

Un pari réussi. «Nous avons bouclé, avec mon équipe à distance, chaque magazine dans les délais et avec les mêmes contenus et paginations que d’habitude», se réjouit-il, en assurant avoir assumé sans encombre l’ensemble de ses responsabilités. Choix des sujets, attribution aux journalistes et pigistes, réalisation d’interviews et lancement des pages en production … «Les communications étaient réduites a minima et je privilégiais les échanges par mail plutôt que par téléphone satellitaire, ces appels étant beaucoup plus coûteux.» Le patron Robinson est parti avec un budget de «moins de 10.000 euros», sans sponsor, et s’est fixé comme limite stricte 20 euros de frais Internet par jour.

Les limites du «tout virtuel»

Autre complication: le décalage horaire de six heures (en plus) qui a considérablement rallongé les journées de Gauthier Toulemonde afin qu’il puisse «croiser» un minimum sa dizaine de salariés en France. «Lorsque je prenais du retard sur la rédaction d’un article, en revanche, ce décalage devenait un sérieux avantage pour moi en me donnant un peu plus de temps.»

Si les solutions pour travailler à distance existent et fonctionnent, rien ne remplace le contact humain nécessaire au bon fonctionnement d’une entreprise

Des délais souvent bienvenus alors que ce chef d’entreprise – parti quand même avec des rations de survie de pâtes et de riz – devait en plus assurer sa subsistance en pêchant, chassant ou cueillant des végétaux dès 5 heures du matin. Le tout dans un environnement dominé par des rats, serpents et varans. «Ma plus grande crainte était de perdre ma connexion», confie cependant l’aventurier. Parti en pleine saison des pluies, il a subi des intempéries qui l’ont parfois fait vivre pendant quelques jours sur ses réserves d’énergie.

Ces frayeurs ont-elles refroidi l’enthousiasme de l’entrepreneur pour le télétravail? «Le tout virtuel ne marche pas. Si les solutions pour travailler à distance existent, rien ne remplace le contact humain nécessaire au bon fonctionnement d’une entreprise», conclut Gauthier Toulemonde, en confiant au passage qu’«à la longue, communiquer uniquement par mail ou par téléphone devient pénible».

Voir encore:

Real-life Robinson Crusoe who decided to run his Paris business from a remote Indonesian island goes home after being put off by the snakes, spiders and sky-high phone bills

Gauthier Toulemonde, 54, moved to a 700×500-metre island for 40 days

He scavenged for vegetables and fish, and ‘detoxed from modern life’

Only companion was a ‘rented’ dog that scared off wildlife for him

Says lack of human contact and fear of losing web signal was unbearable

Mia De Graaf

The Daily Mail

 30 November 2013

A French businessman who realised his childhood dream to relocate to a desert island has been driven home by wild Indonesian creatures and unaffordable phone bills.

Gauthier Toulemonde, 54, had been getting increasingly frustrated with his stagnant life commuting from Lille to Paris every day to his office job as a publicist.

Last Christmas, the sorry sight of distinctly un-merry Parisians lugging presents through the station compelled him to finally take a leap.

Deserted: Gauthier Toulemonde, 54, relocated his work as a publicist to one of Indonesia’s 17,000 islands

Deserted: Gauthier Toulemonde, 54, relocated his work as a publicist to one of Indonesia’s 17,000 islands

Moving to one of Indonesia’s 17,000 islands like Robinson Crusoe moved to Trinidad, Mr Toulemonde ‘detoxed from modern life’ by scavenging for food, being in touch with nature, and having little to no contact with other human beings.

His only companion was Gecko, a dog borrowed from a Chinese woman, to scare off the wildlife.

He told The Guardian he wanted to be the first ‘Web Robinson’ to persuade French people to abandon the tiring, demoralising commute and work remotely.

He added: ‘I found myself in Gare Saint Lazare in Paris just before Christmas watching the continuous stream of people passing by.

Idyllic: He was bound by Indonesian law to keep the exact location of the 700×500-metre island a secret

Idyllic: He was bound by Indonesian law to keep the exact location of the 700×500-metre island a secret

‘Web Robinson': Toulemonde filmed his experiment testing if it was possible to work this far from the office

‘Web Robinson': Toulemonde filmed his experiment testing if it was possible to work this far from the office

‘They had this sad look on their faces, even though they were carrying Christmas presents. It had long seemed to me absurd this travelling back and forth to offices.

‘My idea of going away had been growing for a while, but it was on that day, I decided to leave.’

It took him six months – and numerous run-ins with the Indonesian government – to find the perfect uninhabited island for a six-week trial run. Although he managed to persuade officials to let him go, he was ordered by law not to reveal the exact location of the hideaway, that is just 700-by-500 metres.

Finally, in October he set off – with just a tent, four solar panels, a phone, a laptop, rice and pasta for supplies.

Guard dog: Gecko, a dog he borrowed from a Chinese woman, helped scare off the wildlife

Guard dog: Gecko, a dog he borrowed from a Chinese woman, helped scare off the wildlife

Isolated: Toulemonde was banned from revealing the exact location of the uninhabited island

Isolated: Toulemonde was banned from stating the exact location of the uninhabited island in the Indian Ocean

Every day he woke at 5am and went to bed at midnight.

He would scavenge for vegetables on the island and fish in the sea before simply reclining to ‘detox from modern life’.

‘Those days, for me it was like being in quarantine,’ he told Le Figaro.

‘I used the time as a detox from modern life.’

He told Paris Match: ‘What gave me most joy was living – stripped bare – in the closest possible contact with nature. Every day was magical.’

However, it was not stress-free: his company had to publish two editions of Stamps Magazine.

Snakes: Toulemonde was surrounded by Indonesia’s wildlife ranging from small snakes to giant pythons

Snakes: Toulemonde was surrounded by Indonesia’s wildlife ranging from small snakes to giant pythons

Rats: He said living on the island with pests such as rats for any more than 40 days would be too much to handle

Rats: He said living on the island with pests such as rats for any more than 40 days would be too much to handle

Diary: He wrote a blog and made videos tracking his progress. He admitted he won’t go out again

Diary: He wrote a blog and made videos tracking his progress. He admitted he won’t go out again

He allowed himself 20 euros a day for internet to email his employees – and abandoned extortionate phone calls early on.

But after completing his trial, Mr Toulemonde has conceded that he cannot do it forever.

Although he claims the ‘telecommuting’ experiment was a success, he told French broadcasters My TF1 News that the snakes and rats were intolerable – and fear of losing Internet connection was even worse.

The biggest challenge was lack of human contact.

He said: ‘Telecommuting really works but doing everything virtually has its limits. Working from distance might be doable, but nothing can replace human contact.’

Voir par ailleurs:

Exclusive: Signs of declining economic security

Hope Yen

Jul. 28, 2013

ECONOMIC INSECURITY

Chart shows cumulative economic insecurity by age; 2c x 4 inches; 96.3 mm x 101 mm;

WASHINGTON (AP) — Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.

Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press points to an increasingly globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and poor and loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend.

The findings come as President Barack Obama tries to renew his administration’s emphasis on the economy, saying in recent speeches that his highest priority is to « rebuild ladders of opportunity » and reverse income inequality.

Hardship is particularly on the rise among whites, based on several measures. Pessimism among that racial group about their families’ economic futures has climbed to the highest point since at least 1987. In the most recent AP-GfK poll, 63 percent of whites called the economy « poor. »

« I think it’s going to get worse, » said Irene Salyers, 52, of Buchanan County, Va., a declining coal region in Appalachia. Married and divorced three times, Salyers now helps run a fruit and vegetable stand with her boyfriend, but it doesn’t generate much income. They live mostly off government disability checks.

« If you do try to go apply for a job, they’re not hiring people, and they’re not paying that much to even go to work, » she said. Children, she said, have « nothing better to do than to get on drugs. »

While racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to live in poverty, race disparities in the poverty rate have narrowed substantially since the 1970s, census data show. Economic insecurity among whites also is more pervasive than is shown in government data, engulfing more than 76 percent of white adults by the time they turn 60, according to a new economic gauge being published next year by the Oxford University Press.

The gauge defines « economic insecurity » as experiencing unemployment at some point in their working lives, or a year or more of reliance on government aid such as food stamps or income below 150 percent of the poverty line. Measured across all races, the risk of economic insecurity rises to 79 percent.

« It’s time that America comes to understand that many of the nation’s biggest disparities, from education and life expectancy to poverty, are increasingly due to economic class position, » said William Julius Wilson, a Harvard professor who specializes in race and poverty.

He noted that despite continuing economic difficulties, minorities have more optimism about the future after Obama’s election, while struggling whites do not.

« There is the real possibility that white alienation will increase if steps are not taken to highlight and address inequality on a broad front, » Wilson said.

___

Sometimes termed « the invisible poor » by demographers, lower-income whites are generally dispersed in suburbs as well as small rural towns, where more than 60 percent of the poor are white. Concentrated in Appalachia in the East, they are also numerous in the industrial Midwest and spread across America’s heartland, from Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma up through the Great Plains.

More than 19 million whites fall below the poverty line of $23,021 for a family of four, accounting for more than 41 percent of the nation’s destitute, nearly double the number of poor blacks.

Still, while census figures provide an official measure of poverty, they’re only a temporary snapshot. The numbers don’t capture the makeup of those who cycle in and out of poverty at different points in their lives. They may be suburbanites, for example, or the working poor or the laid off.

In 2011 that snapshot showed 12.6 percent of adults in their prime working-age years of 25-60 lived in poverty. But measured in terms of a person’s lifetime risk, a much higher number — 4 in 10 adults — falls into poverty for at least a year of their lives.

The risks of poverty also have been increasing in recent decades, particularly among people ages 35-55, coinciding with widening income inequality. For instance, people ages 35-45 had a 17 percent risk of encountering poverty during the 1969-1989 time period; that risk increased to 23 percent during the 1989-2009 period. For those ages 45-55, the risk of poverty jumped from 11.8 percent to 17.7 percent.

By race, nonwhites still have a higher risk of being economically insecure, at 90 percent. But compared with the official poverty rate, some of the biggest jumps under the newer measure are among whites, with more than 76 percent enduring periods of joblessness, life on welfare or near-poverty.

By 2030, based on the current trend of widening income inequality, close to 85 percent of all working-age adults in the U.S. will experience bouts of economic insecurity.

« Poverty is no longer an issue of ‘them’, it’s an issue of ‘us’, » says Mark Rank, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis who calculated the numbers. « Only when poverty is thought of as a mainstream event, rather than a fringe experience that just affects blacks and Hispanics, can we really begin to build broader support for programs that lift people in need. »

Rank’s analysis is supplemented with figures provided by Tom Hirschl, a professor at Cornell University; John Iceland, a sociology professor at Penn State University; the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey Institute; the Census Bureau; and the Population Reference Bureau.

Among the findings:

—For the first time since 1975, the number of white single-mother households who were living in poverty with children surpassed or equaled black ones in the past decade, spurred by job losses and faster rates of out-of-wedlock births among whites. White single-mother families in poverty stood at nearly 1.5 million in 2011, comparable to the number for blacks. Hispanic single-mother families in poverty trailed at 1.2 million.

—The share of children living in high-poverty neighborhoods — those with poverty rates of 30 percent or more — has increased to 1 in 10, putting them at higher risk of teen pregnancy or dropping out of school. Non-Hispanic whites accounted for 17 percent of the child population in such neighborhoods, up from 13 percent in 2000, even though the overall proportion of white children in the U.S. has been declining.

The share of black children in high-poverty neighborhoods dropped sharply, from 43 percent to 37 percent, while the share of Latino children ticked higher, from 38 to 39 percent.

___

Going back to the 1980s, never have whites been so pessimistic about their futures, according to the General Social Survey, which is conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago. Just 45 percent say their family will have a good chance of improving their economic position based on the way things are in America.

The divide is especially evident among those whites who self-identify as working class: 49 percent say they think their children will do better than them, compared with 67 percent of non-whites who consider themselves working class.

In November, Obama won the votes of just 36 percent of those noncollege whites, the worst performance of any Democratic nominee among that group since 1984.

Some Democratic analysts have urged renewed efforts to bring working-class whites into the political fold, calling them a potential « decisive swing voter group » if minority and youth turnout level off in future elections.

« They don’t trust big government, but it doesn’t mean they want no government, » says Republican pollster Ed Goeas, who agrees that working-class whites will remain an important electoral group. « They feel that politicians are giving attention to other people and not them. »

___

AP Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta, News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius and AP writer Debra McCown in Buchanan County, Va., contributed to this report.

Voir aussi:

Report: U.S. Spent $3.7 Trillion on Welfare Over Last 5 Years

Dutch King: Say Goodbye to Welfare State

AMSTERDAM September 17, 2013 (AP)

Toby Sterling Associated Press

King Willem-Alexander delivered a message to the Dutch people from the government Tuesday in a nationally televised address: the welfare state of the 20th century is gone.

In its place a « participation society » is emerging, in which people must take responsibility for their own future and create their own social and financial safety nets, with less help from the national government.

The king traveled past waving fans in an ornate horse-drawn carriage to the 13th-century Hall of Knights in The Hague for the monarch’s traditional annual address on the day the government presents its budget for the coming year. It was Willem-Alexander’s first appearance on the national stage since former Queen Beatrix abdicated in April and he ascended to the throne.

« The shift to a ‘participation society’ is especially visible in social security and long-term care, » the king said, reading out to lawmakers a speech written for him by Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s government.

« The classic welfare state of the second half of the 20th century in these areas in particular brought forth arrangements that are unsustainable in their current form. »

Rutte may be hoping that the pomp and ceremony surrounding the king and his popular wife, Queen Maxima, will provide a diversion from the gloomy reality of a budget full of unpopular new spending cuts he revealed later in the day.

A series of recent polls have shown that confidence in Rutte’s government is at record low levels, and that most Dutch people — along with labor unions, employers’ associations and many economists — believe the Cabinet’s austerity policies are at least partially to blame as the Dutch economy has worsened even as recoveries are underway in neighboring Germany, France and Britain.

After several consecutive years of government spending cuts, the Dutch economy is expected to have shrunk by more than 1 percent in 2013, and the agency is forecasting growth of just 0.5 percent next year.

« The necessary reforms take time and demand perseverance, » the king said. But they will « lay the basis for creating jobs and restoring confidence. »

Willem-Alexander said that nowadays, people expect and « want to make their own choices, to arrange their own lives, and take care of each other. »

The ‘participation society’ has been on its way for some time: benefits such as unemployment compensation and subsidies on health care have been regularly pruned for the past decade. The retirement age has been raised to 67.

The king said Tuesday some costs for the care of the elderly, for youth services, and for job retraining after layoffs will now be pushed back to the local level, in order to make them better tailored to local circumstances.

The monarchy was not immune to cost-cutting and Willem-Alexander’s salary will be cut from around 825,000 euros ($1.1 million) this year to 817,000 euros in 2014. Maintaining the Royal House — castles, parades and all — costs the government around 40 million euros annually.

A review of the government’s budget by the country’s independent analysis agency showed that the deficit will widen in 2014 to 3.3 percent of GDP despite the new spending cuts intended to reduce it.

Eurozone rules specify that countries must keep their deficit below 3 percent, and Rutte has been among the most prominent of European leaders, along with Germany’s Angela Merkel, in insisting that Southern European countries attempt to meet that target.

Among other measures, the government announced 2,300 new military job cuts. That follows a 2011 decision to cut 12,000 jobs — one out of every six defense employees — between 2012 and 2015.

However, the government said Tuesday it has decided once and for all not to abandon the U.S.-led « Joint Strike Fighter » program to develop new military aircraft. The program has suffered cost overruns and created divisions within Rutte’s governing coalition.

A debate over the budget later this week will be crucial for the future of the coalition, as it does not command a majority in the upper house, and it must seek help from opposition parties to have the budget approved.

Challenged as to whether his Cabinet may be facing a crisis, Rutte insisted in an interview with national broadcaster NOS on Tuesday that he ultimately will find support for the budget.

« At crucial moments, the opposition is willing to do its share, » he said.

Geert Wilders, whose far right Freedom Party currently tops popularity polls, called Rutte’s budget the equivalent of « kicking the country while it’s down. »

——–

History suggests that era of entitlements is nearly over

Michael Barone

The Examiner

January 11, 2013

It’s often good fun and sometimes revealing to divide American history into distinct periods of uniform length. In working on my forthcoming book on American migrations, internal and immigrant, it occurred to me that you could do this using the American-sounding interval of 76 years, just a few years more than the biblical lifespan of three score and ten.

It was 76 years from Washington’s First Inaugural in 1789 to Lincoln’s Second Inaugural in 1865. It was 76 years from the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse in 1865 to the attack at Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Going backward, it was 76 years from the First Inaugural in 1789 to the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, which settled one of the British-French colonial wars. And going 76 years back from Utrecht takes you to 1637, when the Virginia and Massachusetts Bay colonies were just getting organized.

As for our times, we are now 71 years away from Pearl Harbor. The current 76-year interval ends in December 2017.

Each of these 76-year periods can be depicted as a distinct unit. In the Colonial years up to 1713, very small numbers of colonists established separate cultures that have persisted to our times.

The story is brilliantly told in David Hackett Fischer’s « Albion’s Seed. » For a more downbeat version, read the recent « The Barbarous Years » by the nonagenarian Bernard Bailyn.

From 1713 to 1789, the Colonies were peopled by much larger numbers of motley and often involuntary settlers — slaves, indentured servants, the unruly Scots-Irish on the Appalachian frontier.

For how this society became dissatisfied with the Colonial status quo, read Bailyn’s « The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. »

From 1789 to 1865, Americans sought their manifest destiny by expanding across the continent. They made great technological advances but were faced with the irreconcilable issue of slavery in the territories.

For dueling accounts of the period, read the pro-Andrew Jackson Democrat Sean Wilentz’s « The Rise of American Democracy » and the pro-Henry Clay Whig Daniel Walker Howe’s « What Hath God Wrought. » Both are sparklingly written and full of offbeat insights and brilliant apercus.

The 1865-to-1941 period saw a vast efflorescence of market capitalism, European immigration and rising standards of living. For descriptions of how economic change reshaped the nation and its government, read Morton Keller’s « Affairs of State » and « Regulating a New Society. »

The 70-plus years since 1941 have seen a vast increase in the welfare safety net and governance by cooperation among big units — big government, big business, big labor — that began in the New Deal and gained steam in and after World War II. I immodestly offer my own « Our Country: The Shaping of America from Roosevelt to Reagan. »

The original arrangements in each 76-year period became unworkable and unraveled toward its end. Eighteenth-century Americans rejected the Colonial status quo and launched a revolution, then established a constitutional republic.

Nineteenth-century Americans went to war over expansion of slavery. Early-20th-century Americans grappled with the collapse of the private-sector economy in the Depression of the 1930s.

We are seeing something like this again today. The welfare state arrangements that once seemed solid are on the path to unsustainability.

Entitlement programs — Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid — are threatening to gobble up the whole government and much of the private sector, as well.

Lifetime employment by one big company represented by one big union is a thing of the past. People who counted on corporate or public-sector pensions are seeing them default.

Looking back, we are as far away in time today from victory in World War II in 1945 as Americans were at the time of the Dred Scott decision from the First Inaugural.

We are as far away in time today from passage of the Social Security in 1935 as Americans then were from the launching of post-Civil War Reconstruction.

Nevertheless our current president and most politicians of his party seem determined to continue the current welfare state arrangements — historian Walter Russell Mead calls this the blue-state model — into the indefinite future.

Some leaders of the other party are advancing ideas for adapting a system that worked reasonably well in an industrial age dominated by seemingly eternal big units into something that can prove workable in an information age experiencing continual change and upheaval wrought by innovations in the market economy.

The current 76-year period is nearing its end. What will come next?

Michael Barone,The Examiner’s senior political analyst, can be contacted at mbarone@washingtonexaminer.com

———-

America’s Fourth Revolution: The Coming Collapse of the Entitlement Society-and How We Will Survive It

James Piereson

The United States has been shaped by three far-reaching political revolutions: Jefferson’s “revolution of 1800,” the Civil War, and the New Deal. Each of these upheavals concluded with lasting institutional and cultural adjustments that set the stage for new phases of political and economic development. Are we on the verge of a new upheaval, a “fourth revolution” that will reshape U.S. politics for decades to come? There are signs to suggest that we are.

America’s Fourth Revolution describes the political upheaval that will overtake the United States over the next decade as a consequence of economic stagnation, the growth of government, and the exhaustion of post-war arrangements that formerly underpinned American prosperity and power. The inter-connected challenges of public debt, the retirement of the « baby boom » generation, and slow economic growth have reached a point where they can no longer be addressed by incremental adjustments in taxes and spending, but will require profound changes in the role of government in American life. At the same time, the widening gulf between the two political parties and the entrenched power of interest groups will make it difficult to negotiate the changes needed to renew the system.

America’s Fourth Revolution places this impending upheaval in historical context by reminding readers that Americans have faced and overcome similar challenges in the past and that they seem to resolve their deepest problems in relatively brief but intense periods of political conflict. In contrast to other books which claim that the United States is in decline, America’s Fourth Revolution argues that Americans will struggle over the next decade to form a governing coalition that will guide the nation on a path of renewed dynamism and prosperity.

Voir enfin:

L’enfer c’est les autres

1964 et 1970

L’existentialisme athée

par Jean-Paul Sartre

Extrait du CD « Huis clos » et de « L’Existentialisme est un humanisme »

* * *

L’enfer, c’est les autres [1]

Quand on écrit une pièce, il y a toujours des causes occasionnelles et des soucis profonds. La cause occasionnelle c’est que, au moment où j’ai écrit Huis clos, vers 1943 et début 44, j’avais trois amis et je voulais qu’ils jouent une pièce, une pièce de moi, sans avantager aucun d’eux. C’est-à-dire, je voulais qu’ils restent ensemble tout le temps sur la scène. Parce que je me disais que s’il y en a un qui s’en va, il pensera que les autres ont un meilleur rôle au moment où il s’en va. Je voulais donc les garder ensemble. Et je me suis dit, comment peut-on mettre ensemble trois personnes sans jamais en faire sortir l’une d’elles et les garder sur la scène jusqu’au bout, comme pour l’éternité. C’est là que m’est venue l’idée de les mettre en enfer et de les faire chacun le bourreau des deux autres. Telle est la cause occasionnelle. Par la suite, d’ailleurs, je dois dire, ces trois amis n’ont pas joué la pièce, et comme vous le savez, c’est Michel Vitold, Tania Balachova et Gaby Sylvia qui l’ont jouée.

Mais il y avait à ce moment-là des soucis plus généraux et j’ai voulu exprimer autre chose dans la pièce que, simplement, ce que l’occasion me donnait. J’ai voulu dire « l’enfer c’est les autres ». Mais « l’enfer c’est les autres » a été toujours mal compris. On a cru que je voulais dire par là que nos rapports avec les autres étaient toujours empoisonnés, que c’était toujours des rapports infernaux. Or, c’est tout autre chose que je veux dire. Je veux dire que si les rapports avec autrui sont tordus, viciés, alors l’autre ne peut être que l’enfer. Pourquoi ? Parce que les autres sont, au fond, ce qu’il y a de plus important en nous-mêmes, pour notre propre connaissance de nous-mêmes. Quand nous pensons sur nous, quand nous essayons de nous connaître, au fond nous usons des connaissances que les autres ont déjà sur nous, nous nous jugeons avec les moyens que les autres ont, nous ont donné, de nous juger. Quoi que je dise sur moi, toujours le jugement d’autrui entre dedans. Quoi que je sente de moi, le jugement d’autrui entre dedans. Ce qui veut dire que, si mes rapports sont mauvais, je me mets dans la totale dépendance d’autrui et alors, en effet, je suis en enfer. Et il existe une quantité de gens dans le monde qui sont en enfer parce qu’ils dépendent trop du jugement d’autrui. Mais cela ne veut nullement dire qu’on ne puisse avoir d’autres rapports avec les autres, ça marque simplement l’importance capitale de tous les autres pour chacun de nous.

Deuxième chose que je voudrais dire, c’est que ces gens ne sont pas semblables à nous. Les trois personnes que vous entendrez dans Huis clos ne nous ressemblent pas en ceci que nous sommes tous vivants et qu’ils sont morts. Bien entendu, ici, « morts » symbolise quelque chose. Ce que j’ai voulu indiquer, c’est précisément que beaucoup de gens sont encroûtés dans une série d’habitudes, de coutumes, qu’ils ont sur eux des jugements dont ils souffrent mais qu’ils ne cherchent même pas à changer. Et que ces gens-là sont comme morts, en ce sens qu’ils ne peuvent pas briser le cadre de leurs soucis, de leurs préoccupations et de leurs coutumes et qu’ils restent ainsi victimes souvent des jugements que l’on a portés sur eux.

À partir de là, il est bien évident qu’ils sont lâches ou méchants. Par exemple, s’ils ont commencé à être lâches, rien ne vient changer le fait qu’ils étaient lâches. C’est pour cela qu’ils sont morts, c’est pour cela, c’est une manière de dire que c’est une « mort vivante » que d’être entouré par le souci perpétuel de jugements et d’actions que l’on ne veut pas changer.

De sorte que, en vérité, comme nous sommes vivants, j’ai voulu montrer, par l’absurde, l’importance, chez nous, de la liberté, c’est-à-dire l’importance de changer les actes par d’autres actes. Quel que soit le cercle d’enfer dans lequel nous vivons, je pense que nous sommes libres de le briser. Et si les gens ne le brisent pas, c’est encore librement qu’ils y restent. De sorte qu’ils se mettent librement en enfer.

Vous voyez donc que « rapport avec les autres », « encroûtement » et « liberté », liberté comme l’autre face à peine suggérée, ce sont les trois thèmes de la pièce.

Je voudrais qu’on se le rappelle quand vous entendrez dire… « L’enfer c’est les autres ».

Je tiens à ajouter, en terminant, qu’il m’est arrivé en 1944, à la première représentation, un très rare bonheur, très rare pour les auteurs dramatiques : c’est que les personnages ont été incarnés de telle manière par les trois acteurs, et aussi par Chauffard, le valet d’enfer, qui l’a toujours jouée depuis, que je ne puis plus me représenter mes propres imaginations autrement que sous les traits de Michel Vitold, Gaby Sylvia, de Tania Balachova et de Chauffard. Depuis, la pièce a été rejouée par d’autres acteurs, et je tiens en particulier à dire que j’ai vu Christiane Lenier, quand elle l’a jouée, et que j’ai admiré quelle excellente Inès elle a été.

L’existence précède l’essence [2]

Est-ce qu’au fond, ce qui fait peur, dans la doctrine que je vais essayer de vous exposer, ce n’est pas le fait qu’elle laisse une possibilité de choix à l’homme ? Pour le savoir, il faut que nous revoyions la question sur un plan strictement philosophique.

Qu’est-ce qu’on appelle existentialisme ? La plupart des gens qui utilisent ce mot seraient bien embarrassés pour le justifier, puisque aujourd’hui [1945], que c’est devenu une mode, on déclare volontiers qu’un musicien ou qu’un peintre est existentialiste. Un échotier de Clartés signe l’Existentialiste ; et au fond le mot a pris aujourd’hui une telle largeur et une telle extension qu’il ne signifie plus rien du tout. Il semble que, faute de doctrine d’avant-garde analogue au surréalisme, les gens avides de scandale et de mouvement s’adressent à cette philosophie, qui ne peut d’ailleurs rien leur apporter dans ce domaine ; en réalité c’est la doctrine la moins scandaleuse, la plus austère ; elle est strictement destinée aux techniciens et aux philosophes. Pourtant, elle peut se définir facilement. Ce qui rend les choses compliquées, c’est qu’il y a deux espèces d’existentialistes : les premiers, qui sont chrétiens, et parmi lesquels je rangerai Jaspers et Gabriel Marcel, de confession catholique ; et, d’autre part, les existentialistes athées parmi lesquels il faut ranger Heidegger, et aussi les existentialistes français et moi-même. Ce qu’ils ont en commun, c’est simplement le fait qu’ils estiment que l’existence précède l’essence, ou, si vous voulez, qu’il faut partir de la subjectivité. Que faut-il au juste entendre par là ? Lorsqu’on considère un objet fabriqué, comme par exemple un livre ou un coupe-papier, cet objet a été fabriqué par un artisan qui s’est inspiré d’un concept ; il s’est référé au concept de coupe-papier, et également à une technique de production préalable qui fait partie du concept, et qui est au fond une recette. Ainsi, le coupe-papier est à la fois un objet qui se produit d’une certaine manière et qui, d’autre part, a une utilité définie, et on ne peut pas supposer un homme qui produirait un coupe-papier sans savoir à quoi l’objet va servir. Nous dirons donc que, pour le coupe-papier, l’essence — c’est-à-dire l’ensemble des recettes et des qualités qui permettent de le produire et de le définir — précède l’existence ; et ainsi la présence, en face de moi, de tel coupe-papier ou de tel livre est déterminée. Nous avons donc là une vision technique du monde, dans laquelle on peut dire que la production précède l’existence.

Lorsque nous concevons un Dieu créateur, ce Dieu est assimilé la plupart du temps à un artisan supérieur ; et quelle que soit la doctrine que nous considérions, qu’il s’agisse d’une doctrine comme celle de Descartes ou de la doctrine de Leibniz, nous admettons toujours que la volonté suit plus ou moins l’entendement, ou tout au moins l’accompagne, et que Dieu, lorsqu’il crée, sait précisément ce qu’il crée. Ainsi, le concept d’homme, dans l’esprit de Dieu, est assimilable au concept de coupe-papier dans l’esprit de l’industriel ; et Dieu produit l’homme suivant des techniques et une conception, exactement comme l’artisan fabrique un coupe-papier suivant une définition et une technique. Ainsi l’homme individuel réalise un certain concept qui est dans l’entendement divin. Au XVIIIe siècle, dans l’athéisme des philosophes, la notion de Dieu est supprimée, mais non pas pour autant l’idée que l’essence précède l’existence. Cette idée, nous la retrouvons un peu partout : nous la retrouvons chez Diderot, chez Voltaire, et même chez Kant. L’homme est possesseur d’une nature humaine ; cette nature humaine, qui est le concept humain, se retrouve chez tous les hommes, ce qui signifie que chaque homme est un exemple particulier d’un concept universel, l’homme ; chez Kant, il résulte de cette universalité que l’homme des bois, l’homme de la nature, comme le bourgeois sont astreints à la même définition et possèdent les mêmes qualités de base. Ainsi, là encore, l’essence d’homme précède cette existence historique que nous rencontrons dans la nature.

L’existentialisme athée, que je représente, est plus cohérent. Il déclare que si Dieu n’existe pas, il y a au moins un être chez qui l’existence précède l’essence, un être qui existe avant de pouvoir être défini par aucun concept et que cet être c’est l’homme ou, comme dit Heidegger, la réalité humaine. Qu’est-ce que signifie ici que l’existence précède l’essence ? Cela signifie que l’homme existe d’abord, se rencontre, surgit dans le monde, et qu’il se définit après.

L’homme, tel que le conçoit l’existentialiste, s’il n’est pas définissable, c’est qu’il n’est d’abord rien. Il ne sera qu’ensuite, et il sera tel qu’il se sera fait. Ainsi, il n’y a pas de nature humaine, puisqu’il n’y a pas de Dieu pour la concevoir. L’homme est seulement, non seulement tel qu’il se conçoit, mais tel qu’il se veut, et comme il se conçoit après l’existence, comme il se veut après cet élan vers l’existence ; l’homme n’est rien d’autre que ce qu’il se fait. Tel est le premier principe de l’existentialisme.

C’est aussi ce qu’on appelle la subjectivité, et que l’on nous reproche sous ce nom même. Mais que voulons-nous dire par là, sinon que l’homme a une plus grande dignité que la pierre ou que la table ? Car nous voulons dire que l’homme existe d’abord, c’est-à-dire que l’homme est d’abord ce qui se jette vers un avenir, et ce qui est conscient de se projeter dans l’avenir. L’homme est d’abord un projet qui se vit subjectivement, au lieu d’être une mousse, une pourriture ou un chou-fleur ; rien n’existe préalablement à ce projet ; rien n’est au ciel intelligible, et l’homme sera d’abord ce qu’il aura projeté d’être. Non pas ce qu’il voudra être. Car ce que nous entendons ordinairement par vouloir, c’est une décision consciente, et qui est pour la plupart d’entre nous postérieure à ce qu’il s’est fait lui-même. Je peux vouloir adhérer à un parti, écrire un livre, me marier, tout cela n’est qu’une manifestation d’un choix plus originel, plus spontané que ce qu’on appelle volonté. Mais si vraiment l’existence précède l’essence, l’homme est responsable de ce qu’il est. Ainsi, la première démarche de l’existentialisme est de mettre tout homme en possession de ce qu’il est et de faire reposer sur lui la responsabilité totale de son existence.

Ma volonté engage l’humanité entière [3]

Ainsi, notre responsabilité est beaucoup plus grande que nous ne pourrions le supposer, car elle engage l’humanité entière. Si je suis ouvrier, et si je choisis d’adhérer à un syndicat chrétien plutôt que d’être communiste, si, par cette adhésion, je veux indiquer que la résignation est au fond la solution qui convient à l’homme, que le royaume de l’homme n’est pas sur la terre, je n’engage pas seulement mon cas : je veux être résigné pour tous, par conséquent ma démarche a engagé l’humanité tout entière. Et si je veux, fait plus individuel, me marier, avoir des enfants, même si ce mariage dépend uniquement de ma situation, ou de ma passion, ou de mon désir, par là j’engage non seulement moi-même, mais l’humanité tout entière sur la voie de la monogamie. Ainsi je suis responsable pour moi-même et pour tous, et je crée une certaine image de l’homme que je choisis ; en me choisissant, je choisis l’homme.

L’angoisse et la mauvaise foi [4]

Ceci nous permet de comprendre ce que recouvrent des mots un peu grandiloquents comme angoisse, délaissement, désespoir. Comme vous allez voir, c’est extrêmement simple. D’abord, qu’entend-on par angoisse ? L’existentialiste déclare volontiers que l’homme est angoisse. Cela signifie ceci : l’homme qui s’engage et qui se rend compte qu’il est non seulement celui qu’il choisit d’être, mais encore un législateur choisissant en même temps que soi l’humanité entière, ne saurait échapper au sentiment de sa totale et profonde responsabilité. Certes, beaucoup de gens ne sont pas anxieux ; mais nous prétendons qu’ils se masquent leur angoisse, qu’ils la fuient ; certainement, beaucoup de gens croient en agissant n’engager qu’eux-mêmes, et lorsqu’on leur dit : « mais si tout le monde faisait comme ça ? » ils haussent les épaules et répondent : « tout le monde ne fait pas comme ça. » Mais en vérité, on doit toujours se demander : qu’arriverait-il si tout le monde en faisait autant ? Et on n’échappe à cette pensée inquiétante que par une sorte de mauvaise foi. Celui qui ment et qui s’excuse en déclarant : tout le monde ne fait pas comme ça, est quelqu’un qui est mal à l’aise avec sa conscience, car le fait de mentir implique une valeur universelle attribuée au mensonge. Même lorsqu’elle se masque l’angoisse apparaît. C’est cette angoisse que Kierkegaard appelait l’angoisse d’Abraham.

Vous connaissez l’histoire : Un ange a ordonné à Abraham de sacrifier son fils : tout va bien si c’est vraiment un ange qui est venu et qui a dit : tu es Abraham, tu sacrifieras ton fils. Mais chacun peut se demander, d’abord, est-ce que c’est bien un ange, et est-ce que je suis bien Abraham ? Qu’est-ce qui me le prouve ? Il y avait une folle qui avait des hallucinations : on lui parlait par téléphone et on lui donnait des ordres. Le médecin lui demanda : « Mais qui est-ce qui vous parle ? » Elle répondit : « Il dit que c’est Dieu. » Et qu’est-ce qui lui prouvait, en effet, que c’était Dieu ? Si un ange vient à moi, qu’est-ce qui prouve que c’est un ange ? Et si j’entends des voix, qu’est-ce qui prouve qu’elles viennent du ciel et non de l’enfer, ou d’un subconscient, ou d’un état pathologique ? Qui prouve qu’elles s’adressent à moi ? Qui prouve que je suis bien désigné pour imposer ma conception de l’homme et mon choix à l’humanité ? Je ne trouverai jamais aucune preuve, aucun signe pour m’en convaincre. Si une voix s’adresse à moi, c’est toujours moi qui déciderai que cette voix est la voix de l’ange ; si je considère que tel acte est bon, c’est moi qui choisirai de dire que cet acte est bon plutôt que mauvais. Rien ne me désigne pour être Abraham, et pourtant je suis obligé à chaque instant de faire des actes exemplaires. Tout se passe comme si, pour tout homme, toute l’humanité avait les yeux fixés sur ce qu’il fait et se réglait sur ce qu’il fait. Et chaque homme doit se dire : suis-je bien celui qui a le droit d’agir de telle sorte que l’humanité se règle sur mes actes ? Et s’il ne se dit pas cela, c’est qu’il se masque l’angoisse. Il ne s’agit pas là d’une angoisse qui conduirait au quiétisme, à l’inaction. Il s’agit d’une angoisse simple, que tous ceux qui ont eu des responsabilités connaissent. Lorsque, par exemple, un chef militaire prend la responsabilité d’une attaque et envoie un certain nombre d’hommes à la mort, il choisit de le faire, et au fond il choisit seul. Sans doute il y a des ordres qui viennent d’en haut, mais ils sont trop larges et une interprétation s’impose, qui vient de lui, et de cette interprétation dépend la vie de dix ou quatorze ou vingt hommes. Il ne peut pas ne pas avoir, dans la décision qu’il prend, une certaine angoisse.

Tous les chefs connaissent cette angoisse. Cela ne les empêche pas d’agir, au contraire, c’est la condition même de leur action ; car cela suppose qu’ils envisagent une pluralité de possibilités, et lorsqu’ils en choisissent une, ils se rendent compte qu’elle n’a de valeur que parce qu’elle est choisie. Et cette sorte d’angoisse, qui est celle que décrit l’existentialisme, nous verrons qu’elle s’explique en outre par une responsabilité directe vis-à-vis des autres hommes qu’elle engage. Elle n’est pas un rideau qui nous séparerait de l’action, mais elle fait partie de l’action même.

L’homme est condamné à être libre [5]

Et lorsqu’on parle de délaissement, expression chère à Heidegger, nous voulons dire seulement que Dieu n’existe pas, et qu’il faut en tirer jusqu’au bout les conséquences. L’existentialiste est très opposé à un certain type de morale laïque qui voudrait supprimer Dieu avec le moins de frais possible.

Lorsque, vers 1880, des professeurs français essayèrent de constituer une morale laïque, ils dirent à peu près ceci : Dieu est une hypothèse inutile et coûteuse, nous la supprimons, mais il est nécessaire cependant, pour qu’il y ait une morale, une société, un monde policé, que certaines valeurs soient prises au sérieux et considérées comme existant a priori ; il faut qu’il soit obligatoire a priori d’être honnête, de ne pas mentir, de ne pas battre sa femme, de faire des enfants, etc., etc.. Nous allons donc faire un petit travail qui permettra de montrer que ces valeurs existent tout de même, inscrites dans un ciel intelligible, bien que, par ailleurs, Dieu n’existe pas. Autrement dit, et c’est, je crois, la tendance de tout ce qu’on appelle en France le radicalisme, rien ne sera changé si Dieu n’existe pas ; nous retrouverons les mêmes normes d’honnêteté, de progrès, d’humanisme, et nous aurons fait de Dieu une hypothèse périmée qui mourra tranquillement et d’elle-même.

L’existentialiste, au contraire, pense qu’il est très gênant que Dieu n’existe pas, car avec lui disparaît toute possibilité de trouver des valeurs dans un ciel intelligible ; il ne peut plus y avoir de bien a priori, puisqu’il n’y a pas de conscience infinie et parfaite pour le penser ; il n’est écrit nulle part que le bien existe, qu’il faut être honnête, qu’il ne faut pas mentir, puisque précisément nous sommes sur un plan où il y a seulement des hommes. Dostoïevsky avait écrit : « Si Dieu n’existait pas, tout serait permis. » C’est là le point de départ de l’existentialisme. En effet, tout est permis si Dieu n’existe pas, et par conséquent l’homme est délaissé, parce qu’il ne trouve ni en lui, ni hors de lui une possibilité de s’accrocher. Il ne trouve d’abord pas d’excuses. Si, en effet, l’existence précède l’essence, on ne pourra jamais expliquer par référence à une nature humaine donnée et figée ; autrement dit, il n’y a pas de déterminisme, l’homme est libre, l’homme est liberté. Si, d’autre part, Dieu n’existe pas, nous ne trouvons pas en face de nous des valeurs ou des ordres qui légitimeront notre conduite. Ainsi, nous n’avons ni derrière nous, ni devant nous, dans le domaine lumineux des valeurs, des justifications ou des excuses. Nous sommes seuls, sans excuses. C’est ce que j’exprimerai en disant que l’homme est condamné à être libre. Condamné, parce qu’il ne s’est pas créé lui-même, et par ailleurs cependant libre, parce qu’une fois jeté dans le monde, il est responsable de tout ce qu’il fait.

L’existentialiste ne croit pas à la puissance de la passion. Il ne pensera jamais qu’une belle passion est un torrent dévastateur qui conduit fatalement l’homme à certains actes, et qui, par conséquent, est une excuse. Il pense que l’homme est responsable de sa passion. L’existentialiste ne pensera pas non plus que l’homme peut trouver un secours dans un signe donné, sur terre, qui l’orientera ; car il pense que l’homme déchiffre lui-même le signe comme il lui plaît. Il pense donc que l’homme, sans aucun appui et sans aucun secours, est condamné à chaque instant à inventer l’homme.

Le désespoir [6]

Quant au désespoir, cette expression a un sens extrêmement simple. Elle veut dire que nous nous bornerons à compter sur ce qui dépend de notre volonté, ou sur l’ensemble des probabilités qui rendent notre action possible.

Quand on veut quelque chose, il y a toujours des éléments probables. Je puis compter sur la venue d’un ami. Cet ami vient en chemin de fer ou en tramway ; cela suppose que le chemin de fer arrivera à l’heure dite, ou que le tramway ne déraillera pas. Je reste dans le domaine des possibilités ; mais il ne s’agit de compter sur les possibles que dans la mesure stricte où notre action comporte l’ensemble de ces possibles. À partir du moment où les possibilités que je considère ne sont pas rigoureusement engagées par mon action, je dois m’en désintéresser, parce qu’aucun Dieu, aucun dessein ne peut adapter le monde et ses possibles à ma volonté. Au fond, quand Descartes disait : « Se vaincre plutôt soi-même que le monde », il voulait dire la même chose : agir sans espoir.

[1] Extrait audio et texte de Jean-Paul Sartre, Huis clos, Groupe Frémeaux Colombini SAS © 2010 (La Librairie Sonore en accord avec Moshé Naïm Emen © 1964 et Gallimard © 2004, ancien exploitant).

[2] Jean-Paul Sartre, L’Existentialisme est un humanisme, Éditions Nagel © 1970, pages 15 à 24.

Extrait audio de Luc Ferry, Mythologie, Frémeaux & Associés © 2010, CD2-[8], L’invention de la liberté, 0:07 à 3:34.

[3] Ibid. pages 26 et 27.

[4] Ibid. pages 27 à 33.

[5] Ibid. pages 33 à 38.

[6] Ibid. pages 49 à 51.

Philo5…

… à quelle source choisissez-vous d’alimenter votre esprit?


Présidentielle américaine/2012: Mais qui a encore besoin d’électeurs quand on a Nate Silver? (Did Voter of the year Nate Silver help Obama’s reelection?)

11 novembre, 2012
Soudain, Norman se sentit fier. Tout s’imposait à lui, avec force. Il était fier. Dans ce monde imparfait, les citoyens souverains de la première et de la plus grande Démocratie Electronique avaient, par l’intermédiaire de Norman Muller (par lui), exercé une fois de plus leur libre et inaliénable droit de vote. Le Votant (Isaac Asimov, 1955)
Le fait même de poser une question peut inventer un résultat car elle fait appel à l’imaginaire du sondé qui n’y avait pas encore réfléchi. Alain Garrigou
D’après les journaux, les sondages montrent que la plupart des gens croient les journaux qui déclarent que la plupart des gens croient les sondages qui montrent que la plupart des gens ont lu les journaux qui conviennent que les sondages montrent qu’il va gagner. Mark Steyn
Le premier ordinateur est livré à l’United States Census Bureau le 30 mars 1951 et mis en service le 14 juin. Le cinquième (construit pour l’Atomic Energy Commission) a été utilisé par CBS pour prédire l’issue de l’élection présidentielle de 1952 (alors que les sondages réalisés « humainement » donnaient Eisenhower perdant). À partir d’un échantillon d’un pour cent des votants il prédit qu’Eisenhower aurait été élu président, chose que personne n’aurait pu croire, mais UNIVAC avait vu juste. Wikipedia
UNIVAC I came to the public’s attention in 1952, when CBS used one to predict the outcome of the presidential election. The computer correctly predicted the Eisenhower victory, but CBS did not release that information until after the election because the race was thought to be close. CNN
What accounts for the persistent and often wide ranging divergence between polls? The most common answer is that there are fundamental variations in the pool of respondents sampled. For example, polls typically target a particular population: adults at large, registered voters, likely voters, actual voters, and all these categories can be infinitely subdivided and, in labyrinthine ways, overlap. Further muddying already turbid waters, each one of these populations tends to be more or less Republican or Democrat so every poll relies upon some algorithmic method to account for these variations and extrapolate results calibrated in light of them. These methods are themselves borne out of a multiplicity of veiled political assumptions driving the purportedly objective analysis in one direction or another, potentially tincturing the purity of mathematical data with ideological agenda. Math doesn’t lie but those who make decisions about what to count and how to count it surely do. Another problem is that voter self-identification, a crucial ingredient in any poll, is both fluid and deceptive. Consider that while approximately 35% of all voters classify themselves as “independents”, only 10% of these actually have no party affiliation. In other words, in any given year, voters registered with a certain party might be inspired to vote independently or even switch sides without surrendering their party membership. These episodic fits of quasi-independence can create the illusion that there are grand tectonic shifts in the ideological makeup of the voting public. It’s worth noting that the vast majority of so-called independents pretty reliably vote with their party of registration. The problem of self-identification is symptomatic of the larger difficulty that polling, for all its mathematical pretensions, depends on the human formulation of questions to be interpreted and then answered by other human beings. Just as the questions posed can be loaded with hidden premises and implicit political judgments, the responses solicited can be more or less honest, clear, and well-considered. It seems methodologically cheap to proudly claim scientific exactitude after counting the yeas and nays generated by the hidden complexity of these exchanges. Measuring what are basically anecdotal reports with number doesn’t magically transform a species of hearsay into irrefragable evidence any more than it would my mother’s homespun grapevine of gossip. The ambiguous contours of human language resist the charms of arithmetic. The ultimate value of any polling is always a matter to be contextually determined, especially in light of our peculiar electoral college which isolates the impact of a voting population within its state. So the oft cited fact that 35% of voters consider themselves independent might seem like a count of great magnitude but most of those reside in states, like California and New York, whose distribution of its electoral college votes is a foregone conclusion. When true independent voters in actual swing states are specifically considered, then only 3-5% of the voting population is, in any meaningful sense, genuinely undecided. Despite their incessant production, it is far from clear how informative we can consider polls that generally track the popular vote since, in and of itself, the popular vote decides nothing. Ivan Kenneally

Attention: un bruit peut en cacher un autre !

Mais qui parlera de l’influence médiatique et donc proprement électorale de nos Nate Silver?

Alors qu’au lendemain de la relativement courte réélection du Père Noël de Chicago, où, entre la désaffection apparemment inattendue d’une partie d’électeurs républicains et d’hispaniques et sans compter la « surprise d’octobre » de l’ouragan Sandy, les Américains ont « une fois de plus exercé leur libre et inaliénable droit de vote », la planète progressiste se félicite de la leçon que viennent d’asséner aux sondeurs et stratèges du GOP les ordinateurs du petit génie de la statistique Nate Silver et son blog du NYT (comme d’ailleurs ceux de Sam Wang ou d’Intrade) …

Comment ne pas repenser (merci Dr Goulu) à cette nouvelle de politique-fiction de 1955 d’Isaac Asimov (« Franchise », « droit de vote » mais traduit par « Le Votant » en français) sur la « démocratie électronique » dans laquelle les États-Unis de 2008 (première année du premier succès de Nate!) se sont déchargés du devoir électoral sur un ordinateur géant (MULTIVAC) permettant de réduire toute la consultation électorale au questionnaire d’un seul électeur, simple employé de magasin de son état?

Mais aussi à l’histoire réelle qui l’avait inspirée, à savoir la prédiction il y a exactement 60 ans par le premier superordinateur (UNIVAC I) qu’avait livré la firme Remington Rand au Bureau du recensement américain et qui, à partir d’un échantillon d’un pour cent de la population et contre les sondages humains, avait prédit pour CBS le succès du républicain Eisenhower contre le démocrate Stevenson?

Information que CBS avait d’ailleurs, contrairement au NYT de 2012, gardé cachée pour ne pas interférer dans une élection elle aussi annoncée très serrée ?

5 leçons scientifiques du succès de Nate Silver

Tom Roud

Café sciences

Le 07/11/2012

La communauté scientifico-geek s’est trouvée un nouveau héros au cours de cette élection présidentielle américaine: Nate Silver, l’auteur du formidable blog 538, qui, à l’heure où je vous parle, a fait un sans faute au niveau de la prédiction des résultats état par état (la Floride restant indéterminée, ce qu’il avait d’ailleurs aussi prévu).

On peut tirer 5 leçons de ce succès de Silver:

ce n’est pas la première fois que Silver réussit à prédire le résultat d’une élection présidentielle état par état. C’est en réalité la seconde fois après 2008. On dit parfois en science qu’un seul résultat spectaculaire ne vaut rien sans sa confirmation, l’élection de 2012 confirme à mon sens qu’il ne s’agit pas d’un coup de chance, et donc que ses modèles sont capables de correctement capturer une réalité.

pour qu’un modèle marche, il faut se baser sur des données multiples, bonnes et moins bonnes. Dans le cas présent, tous les sondages accumulés. Le modèle de Silver pondère parfaitement tous ces sondages, et surtout permet de nuancer tous les « outliers ». Par exemple, le 18 Octobre, un sondage Gallup très commenté politiquement donnait Romney 7 points devant Obama. Silver a tout de suite dit qu’il s’agissait de bruit (« polls that look like outliers normally prove to be so »). Une approche raisonnée identifie les tendances, là où le commentaire politique se focalise sur le bruit.

Inspiré de http://xkcd.com/904. Oui, je sais, c’est du Comic Sans.

un modèle hyper simple peut pourtant être étonnamment prédictif. Les modèles de Silver reposent sur l’idée que les populations socio-économiquement similaires votent de la même façon. En couplant cette idée avec les données de la démographie et les sondages disponibles, Silver a pu « projeter » les résultats des états même en l’absence de sondage sur ceux-ci. Comme disait quelqu’un sur ma TL ce matin, le modèle tient sur une feuille Excel. Les modèles les plus simples ne sont donc pas les moins efficaces, un principe de parcimonie scientifique souvent absent de nombreuses modélisations (oui, je pense à toi, « systems biology »)

le corollaire, c’est qu’un système complexe est modélisable tant qu’on identifie correctement des « causes premières ». Nul ne peut contester que les déterminants du vote sont multiples, et que la nature humaine est complexe; pourtant, le modèle de Silver prouve qu’ on peut manifestement arriver à comprendre et prédire relativement finement des comportements. Une leçon à retenir à chaque fois qu’on vous dira que nul ne peut modéliser un système complexe multifactoriels (comme au hasard le climat)

enfin, la science, ce sont des prédictions. Silver s’est mouillé (allant jusque parier avec un éditorialiste critiquant son modèle), a été critiqué pour cela y compris dans son propre journal. C’est la grosse différence entre une approche quantitative et le reste: on sort des prédictions, on les valide ou on les réfute, et on améliore ainsi le modèle au cours du temps. Processus totalement inconnu des nombreux éditorialistes.

Grâce soit donc rendue au premier psychohistorien !

Voir aussi:

US elections 2012

The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver – review

Nate Silver made headlines predicting Obama’s win. Ruth Scurr learns how he did it

Ruth Scurr

The Guardian

9 November 2012

Obama aside, the indubitable hero of the 2012 US presidential election was the statistician and political forecaster Nate Silver. His blog, FiveThirtyEight.com, syndicated by the New York Times since 2010, correctly predicted the results of the election in 50 out of 50 states. When the worldwide media was universally proclaiming the race too close to call and the pundits were deriding mathematical models, FiveThirtyEight.com steadily argued that the odds made clear that Obama would win. On election day, Silver’s final forecast was that Obama had a 90.9% chance of winning.

The Signal and the Noise: The Art and Science of Prediction

Nate Silver

the Guardian

Reflecting on the electoral impact of Hurricane Sandy, Silver was the voice of sanity in the last few days of the race. On 5 November he suggested that « historical memory » might consider Sandy pivotal, but in fact Obama had been rebounding slowly but surely in the polls since his lows in early October. Listing eight alternative explanations for Obama’s gains after the storm hit – including recent encouraging economic news – Silver concluded that the gains were « over-determined »: a lot of variables might have contributed to the one result.

As the votes were counted and the states declared themselves, vindicating the FiveThirtyEight.com predictions in every single case, Silver’s newly published book became an overnight bestseller.

The first thing to note about The Signal and the Noise is that it is modest – not lacking in confidence or pointlessly self-effacing, but calm and honest about the limits to what the author or anyone else can know about what is going to happen next. Across a wide range of subjects about which people make professional predictions – the housing market, the stock market, elections, baseball, the weather, earthquakes, terrorist attacks – Silver argues for a sharper recognition of « the difference between what we know and what we think we know » and recommends a strategy for closing the gap.

Recognition of the gap is not new: there are plenty of political theorists and scientists droning on about it already, in the manner of the automated voice on the tube when train and platform don’t quite meet. Strategies for closing, or at least narrowing, the gap between what we know and what we think we know in specific contexts, are rarer, specialised, and probably pretty hard for anyone outside a small circle of experts to understand.

What Silver has to offer is a lucid explanation of how to think probabilistically. In a promising start, he claims that his model – based on a theorem inspired by Thomas Bayes, the 18th-century English mathematician – has more in common with how soldiers and doctors think than with the cognitive habits of TV pundits. « Much of the most thoughtful work I have found on the use and abuse of statistical models, and on the proper role of prediction, comes from people in the medical profession, » Silver reports. You can quite easily get away with a stupid model if you are a political scientist, but in medicine as in war, « stupid models kill people. It has a sobering effect ».

Silver is not a medical doctor, even if a version of the Hippocratic oath – Primum non nocere (First, do no harm) – is the guiding principle of his probabilistic thinking: « If you can’t make a good prediction, it is very often harmful to pretend that you can. » After graduating from Chicago with a degree in economics in 2000, he worked as a transfer-pricing consultant for the accounting firm KPMG: « The pay was honest and I felt secure, » but he soon became bored. In his spare time, on long flights and in airports, he started compiling spreadsheets of baseball statistics that later became the basis for a predictive system called Pecota.

Silver delivers a candid account of the hits and misses of Pecota, the lessons learned and the system’s limitations: « It’s hard to have an idea that nobody else has thought of. It’s even harder to have a good idea – and when you do, it will soon be duplicated. »

After his interest in baseball peaked, he moved on to predicting electoral politics. The idea for FiveThirtyEight (named after the 538 votes in the electoral college) arrived while Silver was waiting for a delayed flight at New Orleans airport in 2008. Initially, he made predictions about the electoral winners simply by taking an average of the polls after weighting them according to past accuracy. The model gradually became more intricate: his method centres on crunching the data from as many previous examples as possible; imagine a really enormous spreadsheet. He accurately forecast the outcome of 49 out of 50 states in the 2008 presidential election and the winner of all 35 senate races.

Challenged by the economist Justin Wolfers and his star student David Rothschild as to why he continues to make forecasts through FiveThirtyEight despite fierce competition from larger prediction websites such as Intrade (which covers « everything from who will win the Academy Award for Best Picture to the chance of an Israeli air strike on Iran ») Silver replies: « I find making the forecasts intellectually interesting – and they help to produce traffic for my blog. » His unabashed honesty seems the open secret of his success.

Bayes, who lends his name to Silver’s theorem, was « probably born in 1701 – although it might have been 1702″. Silver is a statistician, not a historian, so he reports the fact of the uncertainty without elaboration. As a Nonconformist, Bayes could not go to Oxford or Cambridge, but was eventually elected a fellow of the Royal Society. His most famous work, « An Essay toward Solving a Problem in the Doctrine of Chances », was published posthumously in 1763. Silver summarises it as: « a statement – expressed both mathematically and philosophically – about how we learn about the universe: that we learn about it through approximation, getting closer and closer to the truth as we gather more evidence. »

The attraction of Bayes’s theorem, as Silver presents it, is that it concerns conditional probability: the probability that a theory or hypothesis is true if some event has happened. He applies the theorem to 9/11. Prior to the first plane striking the twin towers, the initial estimate of how likely it was that terrorists would crash planes into Manhattan skyscrapers is given as 0.005%. After the first plane hit, the revised probability of a terror attack comes out at 38%. Following the second plane hitting the revised estimate that it was a deliberate act jumps to 99.99%. « One accident on a bright sunny day in New York was unlikely enough, but a second one was almost a literal impossibility, as we all horribly deduced. »

Fastidiously aware of the gap between what we know and what we think we know, Silver proceeds wryly to delineate the limits of what he has achieved with this application of Bayes theorem to 9/11: « It’s not that much of an accomplishment, however, to describe history in statistical terms. »

Silver ends by advocating a balance between curiosity and scepticism when it comes to making predictions: « The more eagerly we commit to scrutinising and testing our theories, the more readily we accept that our knowledge of the world is uncertain, the more willingly we acknowledge that perfect prediction is impossible, the less we will live in fear of our failures, and the more freedom we will have to let our minds flow freely. By knowing more about what we don’t know, we may get a few more predictions right. »

More modesty and effort, in other words, would improve the predictive performance of everyone from the TV pundits to the political scientists, and members of the public trying to understand what is likely to happen next. Just do not expect, Silver warns, to fit a decent prediction on a bumper sticker. « Prediction is difficult for us for the same reason that it is so important: it is where objective and subjective reality intersect. » You would probably need to be a stat geek to drive around with that on the back of your car, but it might just fit if the lettering were small.

• Ruth Scurr’s Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution is published by Vintage.

 Voir également:

FiveThirtyEight – Nate Silver\’s Political Calculus

Methodology

Our Senate forecasts proceed in seven distinct stages, each of which is described in detail below. For more detail on some of the terms below please see our FiveThirtyEight glossary.

Stage 1. Weighted Polling Average

Polls released into the public domain are collected together and averaged, with the components weighted on three factors:

* Recency. More recent polls receive a higher weight. The formula for discounting older polling is based on an exponential decay formula, with the premium on newness increasing the closer the forecast is made to the election. In addition, when the same polling firm has released multiple polls of a particular race, polls other than its most recent one receive an additional discount. (We do not, however, simply discard an older poll simply because a firm has come out with a newer one in the same race.)

* Sample size. Polls with larger sample sizes receive higher weights. (Note: no sample size can make up for poor methodology. Our model accounts for diminishing returns as sample size increases, especially for less reliable pollsters.)

* Pollster rating. Lastly, each survey is rated based on the past accuracy of “horse race” polls commissioned by the polling firm in elections from 1998 to the present. The procedure for calculating the pollster ratings is described at length here, and the most recent set of pollster ratings can be found here. All else being equal, polling organizations that, like The New York Times, have staff that belong to The American Association for Public Opinion Research (A.A.P.O.R.), or that have committed to the disclosure and transparency standards advanced by the National Council on Public Polls, receive higher ratings, as we have found that membership in one of these organizations is a positive predictor of the accuracy of a firm’s polling on a going-forward basis

The procedure for combining these three factors is modestly complex, and is described in more detail here. But, in general, the weight assigned to a poll is designed to be proportional to the predictive power that it should have in anticipating the results of upcoming elections. Note that it is quite common for a particular survey from a mediocre pollster to receive a higher weight than one from a strong pollster, if its poll happens to be significantly more recent or if it uses a significantly larger sample size.

Certain types of polls are not assigned a weight at all, but are instead dropped from consideration entirely, and not used in FiveThirtyEight’s forecasts nor listed in its polling database. from the firms Strategic Vision and Research 2000, which have been accused – with compelling statistical evidence in each case – of having fabricated some or all of their polling, are excluded. So are interactive (Internet) polls conducted by the firm Zogby, which are associated with by far the worst pollster rating, and which probably should not be considered scientific polls, as their sample consists of volunteers who sign up to take their polls, rather than a randomly-derived sample. (Traditional telephone polls conducted by Zogby are included in the averages, as are Internet polls from firms other than Zogby.)

Polls are also excluded from the Senate model if they are deemed to meet FiveThirtyEight’s definition of being “partisan.” FiveThirtyEight’s definition of a partisan poll is quite narrow, and is limited to polls conducted on behalf of political candidates, campaign committees, political parties, registered PACs, or registered 527 groups. We do not exclude polls simply because the pollster happens to be a Democrat or a Republican, because the pollster has conducted polling for Democratic or Republican candidate in the past, or because the media organization it is polling for is deemed to be liberal or conservative. The designation is based on who the poll was conducted for, and not who conducted it. Note, however, that there are other protections in place (see Stage 2) if a polling firm produces consistently biased results.

Stage 2. Adjusted Polling Average

After the weighted polling average is calculated, it is subject to three additional types of adjustments.

* The trendline adjustment. An estimate of the overall momentum in the national political environment is determined based on a detailed evaluation of trends within generic congressional ballot polling. (The procedure, which was adopted from our Presidential forecasting model, is described at more length here.) The idea behind the adjustment is that, to the extent that out-of-date polls are used at all in the model (because of a lack of more recent polling, for example), we do not simply assume that they reflect the present state of the race. For example, if the Democrats have lost 5 points on the generic ballot since the last time a state was polled, the model assumes, in the absence of other evidence, that they have lost 5 points in that state as well. In practice, the trendline adjustment is designed to be fairly gentle, and so it has relatively little effect unless there has been especially sharp change in the national environment or if the polling in a particular state is especially out-of-date.

* The house effects adjustment. Sometimes, polls from a particular polling firm tend consistently to be more favorable toward one or the other political party. Polls from the firm Rasmussen Reports, for example, have shown results that are about 2 points more favorable to the Republican candidate than average during this election cycle. It is not necessarily correct to equate a house effect with “bias” – there have been certain past elections in which pollsters with large house effects proved to be more accurate than pollsters without them – and systematic differences in polling may result from a whole host of methodological factors unrelated to political bias. This nevertheless may be quite useful to account for: Rasmussen showing a Republican with a 1-point lead in a particular state might be equivalent to a Democratic-leaning pollster showing a 4-point lead for the Democrat in the same state. The procedure for calculating the house effects adjustment is described in more detail here. A key aspect of the house effects adjustment is that a firm is not rewarded by the model simply because it happens to produce more polling than others; the adjustment is calibrated based on what the highest-quality polling firms are saying about the race.

* The likely voter adjustment. Throughout the course of an election year, polls may be conducted among a variety of population samples. Some survey all American adults, some survey only registered voters, and others are based on responses from respondents deemed to be “likely voters,” as determined based on past voting behavior or present voting intentions. Sometimes, there are predictable differences between likely voter and registered voter polls. In 2010, for instance, polls of likely voters are about 4 points more favorable to the Republican candidate, on average, than those of registered voters, perhaps reflecting enthusiasm among Republican voters. And surveys conducted among likely voters are about 7 points more favorable to the Republican than those conducted among all adults, whether registered to vote or not.

By the end of the election cycle, the majority of pollsters employ a likely voter model of some kind. Additionally, there is evidence that likely voter polls are more accurate, especially in Congressional elections. Therefore, polls of registered voters (or adults) are adjusted to be equivalent to likely voter polls; the magnitude of the adjustment is based on a regression analysis of the differences between registered voter polls and likely voter polls throughout the polling database, holding other factors like the identity of the pollster constant.

Step 3: FiveThirtyEight Regression

In spite of the several steps that we undertake to improve the reliability of the polling data, sometimes there just isn’t very much good polling in a race, or all of the polling may tend to be biased in one direction or another. (As often as not, when one poll winds up on the wrong side of a race, so do most of the others). In addition, we have found that electoral forecasts can be improved when polling is supplemented by other types of information about the candidates and the contest. Therefore, we augment the polling average by using a linear regression analysis that attempts to predict the candidates’ standing according to several non-poll factors:

A state’s Partisan Voting Index

The composition of party identification in the state’s electorate (as determined through Gallup polling)

The sum of individual contributions received by each candidate as of the last F.E.C. reporting period (this variable is omitted if one or both candidates are new to the race and have yet to complete an FEC filing period)

Incumbency status

For incumbent Senators, an average of recent approval and favorability ratings

A variable representing stature, based on the highest elected office that the candidate has held. It takes on the value of 3 for candidates who have been Senators or Governors in the past; 2 for U.S. Representatives, statewide officeholders like Attorneys General, and mayors of cities of at least 300,000 persons; 1 for state senators, state representatives, and other material elected officeholders (like county commissioners or mayors of small cities), and 0 for candidates who have not held a material elected office before.

Variables are dropped from the analysis if they are not statistically significant at the 90 percent confidence threshold.

Step 4: FiveThirtyEight Snapshot

This is the most straightforward step: the adjusted polling average and the regression are combined into a ‘snapshot’ that provides the most comprehensive evaluation of the candidates’ electoral standing at the present time. This is accomplished by treating the regression result as though it were a poll: in fact, it is assigned a poll weight equal to a poll of average quality (typically around 0.60) and re-combined with the other polls of the state.

If there are several good polls in race, the regression result will be just one of many such “polls”, and will have relatively little impact on the forecast. But in cases where there are just one or two polls, it can be more influential. The regression analysis can also be used to provide a crude forecast of races in which there is no polling at all, although with a high margin of error.

Step 5. Election Day projection

It is not necessarily the case, however, that the current standing of the candidates – as captured by the snapshot — represents the most accurate forecast of where they will finish on Election Day. (This is one of the areas in which we’ve done a significant amount of work in transitioning FiveThirtyEight’s forecast model to The Times.) For instance, large polling leads have a systematic tendency to diminish in races with a large number of undecided voters, especially early in an election cycle. A lead of 48 percent to 25 percent with a high number of undecided voters, for example, will more often than not decrease as Election Day approaches. Under other circumstances (such an incumbent who is leading a race in which there are few undecided voters), a candidate’s lead might actually be expected to expand slightly.

Separate equations are used for incumbent and open-seat races, the formula for the former being somewhat more aggressive. There are certain circumstances in which an incumbent might actually be a slight underdog to retain a seat despite of having a narrow polling lead — for instance, if there are a large number of undecided voters — although this tendency can sometimes be overstated.

Implicit in this process is distributing the undecided vote; thus, the combined result for the Democratic and the Republican candidate will usually reflect close to 100 percent of the vote, although a small reservoir is reserved for independent candidates in races where they are on the ballot. In races featuring three or more viable candidates (that is, three candidates with a tangible chance of winning the lection), however, such as the Florida Senate election in 2010, there is little empirical basis on which to make a “creative” vote allocation, and so the undecided voters are simply divided evenly among the three candidates.

Step 6. Error analysis

Just as important as estimating the most likely finish of the two candidates is determining the degree of uncertainty intrinsic to the forecast.

For a variety of reasons, the magnitude of error associated with elections outcomes is higher than what pollsters usually report. For instance, in polls of Senate elections since 1998 conducted in the final three weeks of the campaign, the average error in predicting the margin between the two candidates has been about 5 points, which would translate into a roughly 6-point margin of error. This may be twice as high as the 3- or 4-percent margins of error that pollsters typically report, which reflects only sample variance, but not other ambiguities inherent to polling. Combining polls together may diminish this margin of error, but their errors are sometimes correlated, and they are nevertheless not as accurate as their margins-of-error would imply.

Instead of relying on any sort of theoretical calculation of the margin of error, therefore, we instead model it directly based on the past performance of our forecasting model in Senatorial elections since 1998. Our analysis has found that certain factors are predictably associated with a greater degree of uncertainty. For instance:

The error is higher in races with fewer polls

The error is higher in races where the polls disagree with one another.

The error is higher when there are a larger number of undecided voters.

The error is higher when the margin between the two candidates is lopsided.

The error is higher the further one is from Election Day.

Depending on the mixture of these circumstances, a lead that is quite safe under certain conditions may be quite vulnerable in others. Our goal is simply to model the error explicitly, rather than to take a one-size-fits-all approach.

Step 7. Simulation.

Knowing the mean forecast for the margin between the two candidates, and the standard error associated with it, suffices mathematically to provide a probabilistic assessment of the outcome of any one given race. For instance, a candidate with a 7-point lead, in a race where the standard error on the forecast estimate is 5 points, will win her race 92 percent of the time.

However, this is not the only piece of information that we are interested in. Instead, we might want to know how the results of particular Senate contests are related to one another, in order to determine for example the likelihood of a party gaining a majority, or a supermajority.

Therefore, the error associated with a forecast is decomposed into local and national components by means of a sum-of-squares formula. For Congressional elections, the ‘national’ component of the error is derived from a historical analysis of generic ballot polls: how accurately the generic ballot forecasts election outcomes, and how much the generic ballot changes between Election Day and the period before Election Day. The local component of the error is then assumed to be the residual of the national error from the sum-of-squares formula, i.e.:

The local and national components of the error calculation are then randomly generated (according to a normal distribution) over the course of 100,000 simulation runs. In each simulation run, the degree of national movement is assumed to be the same for all candidates: for instance, all the Republican candidates might receive a 3-point bonus in one simulation, or all the Democrats a 4-point bonus in another. The local error component, meanwhile, is calculated separately for each individual candidate or state. In this way, we avoid the misleading assumption that the results of each election are uncorrelated with one another.

A final step in calculating the error is in randomly assigning a small percentage of the vote to minor-party candidates, which is assumed to follow a gamma distribution.

A separate process is followed where three or more candidates are deemed by FiveThirtyEight to be viable in a particular race, which simulates exchanges of voting preferences between each pairing of candidates. This process is structured such that the margins of error associated with multi-candidate races are assumed to be quite high, as there is evidence that such races are quite volatile.

Voir encore:

50th anniversary of the UNIVAC I

CNN

BLUE BELL, Pennsylvania (CNN) — Fifty years ago — on June 14, 1951 — the U.S. Census Bureau officially put into service what it calls the world’s first commercial computer, known as UNIVAC I.

UNIVAC stands for Universal Automatic Computer. The first model was built by the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corp., which was purchased by Remington Rand shortly before the UNIVAC went on sale.

Rights to the UNIVAC name are currently held by Unisys.

Unisys spokesmen Guy Isnous and Ron Smith say other early users of UNIVACs included the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Army, the Atomic Energy Commission, General Electric, Metropolitan Life, US Steel, and DuPont.

The UNIVAC was not the first computer ever built. A host of companies, including Eckert-Mauchly, Remington Rand, IBM, and others, all were developing computers for commercial applications at the same time.

Perhaps the most famous computer of the era was the ENIAC, a computer developed for the U.S. military during World War II. Other computers developed in the 1940s were mostly used by academia.

But the UNIVAC I was the first computer to be widely used for commercial purposes — 46 machines were built, for about $1 million each.

Compared to other computers of the era, the UNIVAC I machines were small — about the size of a one-car garage. Each contained about 5,000 vacuum tubes, all of which had to be easily accessible for replacement because they burned out frequently.

Keeping all those vacuum tubes cool was also a major design challenge. The machines were riddled with pipes that circulated cold water to keep the temperature down.

Each unit was so bulky and needed so much maintenance that some of the companies that bought them never moved them to their own facility, instead leaving them on-site at Remington Rand.

UNIVAC I came to the public’s attention in 1952, when CBS used one to predict the outcome of the presidential election. The computer correctly predicted the Eisenhower victory, but CBS did not release that information until after the election because the race was thought to be close.

Voir enfin:

Polling Opinion: More Sorcery Than Science

Ivan Kenneally

November 5, 2012

At first glance, political opinion polls seems like the nadir of modern liberal democracy. In their special alchemy they congeal a sensitivity to the will of the people and an emphasis on mathematical exactitude. The poll is the culmination of the peculiar modern marriage of science and popular sovereignty, the technocratic and the democratic. To borrow from Hamilton, and by borrow I mean disfigure, the poll is the ultimate success of our “grand experiment in self-governance.”

Of course, on another interpretation, they are completely useless.

As the estimable Jay Cost points out in the Weekly Standard, the polls this year simply don’t seem to add up, collectively defeated by the strident arithmetic that underwrites their purported value. Depending on what pollster you ask, Romney is poised for an explosive landslide of a victory, or about to win a historically close election, or is about to lose decisively, in a fit of humiliation. If you ask Paul Krugman, and I don’t advise that you should unless you’ve been inoculated against shrill, he will call you stupid for suggesting Romney has any chance at victory.

What all these positions have in common is an appeal to the unassailability of mathematics, that last frontier that resists our postmodern inclinations to promiscuously construct and deconstruct the truth like a pile of lego pieces.

What accounts for the persistent and often wide ranging divergence between polls? The most common answer is that there are fundamental variations in the pool of respondents sampled. For example, polls typically target a particular population: adults at large, registered voters, likely voters, actual voters, and all these categories can be infinitely subdivided and, in labyrinthine ways, overlap. Further muddying already turbid waters, each one of these populations tends to be more or less Republican or Democrat so every poll relies upon some algorithmic method to account for these variations and extrapolate results calibrated in light of them. These methods are themselves borne out of a multiplicity of veiled political assumptions driving the purportedly objective analysis in one direction or another, potentially tincturing the purity of mathematical data with ideological agenda. Math doesn’t lie but those who make decisions about what to count and how to count it surely do.

Another problem is that voter self-identification, a crucial ingredient in any poll, is both fluid and deceptive. Consider that while approximately 35% of all voters classify themselves as “independents”, only 10% of these actually have no party affiliation. In other words, in any given year, voters registered with a certain party might be inspired to vote independently or even switch sides without surrendering their party membership. These episodic fits of quasi-independence can create the illusion that there are grand tectonic shifts in the ideological makeup of the voting public. It’s worth noting that the vast majority of so-called independents pretty reliably vote with their party of registration.

The problem of self-identification is symptomatic of the larger difficulty that polling, for all its mathematical pretensions, depends on the human formulation of questions to be interpreted and then answered by other human beings. Just as the questions posed can be loaded with hidden premises and implicit political judgments, the responses solicited can be more or less honest, clear, and well-considered. It seems methodologically cheap to proudly claim scientific exactitude after counting the yeas and nays generated by the hidden complexity of these exchanges. Measuring what are basically anecdotal reports with number doesn’t magically transform a species of hearsay into irrefragable evidence any more than it would my mother’s homespun grapevine of gossip. The ambiguous contours of human language resist the charms of arithmetic.

The ultimate value of any polling is always a matter to be contextually determined, especially in light of our peculiar electoral college which isolates the impact of a voting population within its state. So the oft cited fact that 35% of voters consider themselves independent might seem like a count of great magnitude but most of those reside in states, like California and New York, whose distribution of its electoral college votes is a foregone conclusion. When true independent voters in actual swing states are specifically considered, then only 3-5% of the voting population is, in any meaningful sense, genuinely undecided. Despite their incessant production, it is far from clear how informative we can consider polls that generally track the popular vote since, in and of itself, the popular vote decides nothing.

So the mathematical scaffolding of polls all presume non-mathematical foundations, stated and unstated assumptions, partisan inclinations and non-partisan miscalculations. When the vertiginous maelstrom of numbers fails in its most fundamental task, alighting disorder with order, bringing sense to a wilderness of senselessness, then where can we turn for guidance? I can’t just wait for the results Tuesday night–the modern in my marrow craves not just certainty but prediction, absolute knowledge as prologue. There’s no technocratic frisson in finding anything out after the fact, without the prescience of science, which appeals just as much to our desire to be clever as it does to our craving for knowledge.

I will suggest what no political scientist in America is suggesting: set aside the numbing numbers and the conflicting claims to polling precision and follow me follow Aristotle. We must survey what is available to us in ordinary experience, what we can confirm as a matter of pre-scientific perception, the ancient realism that appealed not to computational models, but the evidence I can see with my own eyes.

What do I see with these eyes? A president running as a challenger, pretending he wasn’t in charge the last four years of blight and disappointment. I see a less than commanding Commander in Chief trying to slither past a gathering scandal that calls into suspicion his character and competence to protect his country. I see a wheezing economy, so infirm our president celebrated a palsied jobs report as evidence of our march to prosperity. I see transparent class warfare that insidiously assumes our embattled middle class resents the rich more than they resent their own shrinking economic opportunity and that women feel flattered and emboldened when condescendingly drawn into a magically conjured cultural war.

I see enthusiastic crowds form around the man they think will deliver them from four years of gruesome ineffectiveness and a defeated left, dispirited and weary, unlikely to convert but less likely to surge. I see ads about Big Bird and and a terror of confronting big issues and a president who seems as bored by his performance as we are. Obama does not look like a winner, not to these eyes.

So in an election year hyper-charged with ideological heat, and polling data potentially varnished by self-fulfilling prophecy and partisan wishful thinking, I tend to rely upon an old school conception of realism: what I can see and what I can modestly infer from what I see. Today, as I write this, I see a Romney victory, however narrowly achieved. This would also be a big victory for the common sense of ordinary political perception over the tortured numbers games that aim to capture it precisely, or to mold it presumptuously.


Présidentielle américaine 2012: Dewey va-t-il à nouveau battre Truman? (Will Dewey defeat Truman all over again?)

3 octobre, 2012
Exceptio probat regulam. Proverbe latin
Tough sh…t, Rollins, I’m glad it cost you plenty. It’s my in-kind contribution to the Mondale campaign. Ben Bradlee (the Washington Post)
They were pounding on me for positive information. You know, where is some good news we can share with people? We were monitoring all these polls and I was sending the ones that were most favorable because [campaign aides] wanted to share them with reporters. We were not finding very much good news and I was trying to give them what I could find. (…) I didn’t necessarily take any of these as for—as you would say, for the truth of the matter. I took them more as something that could be used as propaganda for the campaign. Harrison Hickman
In May, the pollster for Al Gore’s presidential bid in 2000 and John Edwards’s in 2004 and 2008, Harrison Hickman, took the stand in the federal criminal case against Edwards over alleged campaign finance violations stemming from payments to support Edwards’s mistress. Under oath, Hickman admitted that in the final weeks of Edwards’s 2008 bid, Hickman cherry-picked public polls to make the candidate seem viable, promoted surveys that Hickman considered unreliable, and sent e-mails to campaign aides, Edwards supporters and reporters which argued that the former senator was still in the hunt —even though Hickman had already told Edwards privately that he had no real chance of winning the Democratic nomination. (…) In short, to many journalists, what Hickman admitted doing in late 2007 and 2008 was no more a sign of bad character than an actor spinning a yarn on stage during a play or a lawyer mounting an implausible defense for a clearly guilty client. Josh Gernstein
President Barack Obama leads Republican nominee Mitt Romney 49 percent to 45 percent in the battleground state of Iowa, a new Des Moines Register Iowa Poll has found. (…) But 10 percent say they could still be persuaded to vote for another candidate, the poll found. Des Moines Register (Sep. 29, 2012)
Election Could Mirror 1980 Race (…) Barack Obama, like Carter, can run neither on his dismal four-year stewardship of the economy nor on his collapsing Middle East policy. Victor Davis Hanson
Barring any debate debacle, Romney will win by 4 or 5 points and will win Florida, Ohio, Nevada, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Dick Morris (former strategist for Bill Clinton)
I would just caution, the fundamentals of this election call for a close election. I really think the election is going to tighten. Yes, President Obama is ahead, and probably has the best chance to win, but this is going to be a tighter race than the polls show right now. (…) I’ll tell you, it’s caused me to question some of the polls because based on everything I know about Virginia and everything I’m seeing, I think the real margin is actually quite close (…) I would give President Obama, spot him two or three points, you know he won by six last time in Virginia. Think of the conditions in the country. It’s almost impossible to imagine him winning by the same margin in Virginia or nationally so my projection is he gets considerably fewer electoral votes than he got last time. He got 365. I’ll be surprised if he gets above 320 or so, maximum under the best conditions. Larry Sabato
The reality is that 2012 is a horse race and will remain so. An incumbent below 50% is in grave danger. On Election Day he’ll usually receive less than his final poll number. That’s because his detractors are more likely to turn out, and undecideds are more resistant to voting for him. (…) Both candidates have advantages as the race enters its final month. Mr. Obama is slightly ahead (but short of 50%). Late-deciding independents will probably break more for Mr. Romney. Clear-eyed operatives in Boston and Chicago know this and are only playing head games with their opposition when they assert otherwise. Team Obama’s relentless efforts to denigrate Mr. Romney as a sure loser appear to have convinced the Republican candidate that he must run as the underdog. This will make the naturally cautious Mr. Romney more aggressive, energized and specific about his agenda in the campaign’s closing weeks than he might have been. It will also make his victory more likely. America likes come-from-behind winners. Karl Rove

Pour ceux qui auraient oublié que les exceptions servent aussi à confirmer les règles …

Alors qu’à quelques heures du premier des trois débats télévisés qui vont opposer les deux candidats à la Maison-Blanche mais encore à cinq semaines de l’élection elle-même et certes dans la lignée de 17 des 20 dernières élections depuis 1932, les médias multiplient les sondages annonçant comme quasi-assurée la réélection d’un président sortant notoirement non réputé pour sa modestie

Mais que, s’appuyant sur le problème du suréchantillonage des électeurs démocrates comme sur celui du retard du candidat démocrate dans les intentions de vote des indépendants qui avaient assuré sa victoire en 2008,  tant l’ancien stratège de Clinton Bill Morris que le meilleur analyste des présidentielles américaines Larry Sabato voient, à l’instar des élections françaises du printemps dernier, un résultat des plus serrés voire une victoire du Républicain …

Retour, avec une tribune de l’ancien conseiller de Reagan Jeffrey Lord dans The American Spectator (merci james), sur l’une des trois exceptions des 80 dernières années, à savoir, entre celles de Hoover en 32 et de Bush père en 92, la non-réelection de Carter en 80 …

Et notamment sur la manière dont les médias, comme l’avait alors explicitement avoué le patron du puissant Washington Post Ben Bradlee, avaient systématiquement mis en avant, avec les résultats que l’on sait, une lecture des sondages favorables au candidat démocrate …

How Carter Beat Reagan

Washington Post admits polling was « in-kind contribution »; New York Times agenda polling.

Jeffrey Lord

The American Spectator

on 9.25.12

Dick Morris is right.

Here’s his column on « Why the Polls Understate the Romney Vote. »

Here’s something Dick Morris doesn’t mention. And he’s charitable.

Remember when Jimmy Carter beat Ronald Reagan in 1980?

That’s right. Jimmy Carter beat Ronald Reagan in 1980.

In a series of nine stories in 1980 on « Crucial States » — battleground states as they are known today — the New York Times repeatedly told readers then-President Carter was in a close and decidedly winnable race with the former California governor. And used polling data from the New York Times/CBS polls to back up its stories.

Four years later, it was the Washington Post that played the polling game — and when called out by Reagan campaign manager Ed Rollins a famous Post executive called his paper’s polling an « in-kind contribution to the Mondale campaign. » Mondale, of course, being then-President Reagan’s 1984 opponent and Carter’s vice president.

All of which will doubtless serve as a reminder of just how blatantly polling data is manipulated by liberal media — used essentially as a political weapon to support the liberal of the moment, whether Jimmy Carter in 1980, Walter Mondale in 1984 — or Barack Obama in 2012.

First the Times in 1980 and how it played the polling game.

The states involved, and the datelines for the stories:

· California — October 6, 1980

· Texas — October 8, 1980

· Pennsylvania — October 10, 1980

· Illinois — October 13, 1980

· Ohio — October 15, 1980

· New Jersey — October 16, 1980

· Florida — October 19, 1980

· New York — October 21, 1980

· Michigan — October 23, 1980

Of these nine only one was depicted as « likely » for Reagan: Reagan’s own California. A second — New Jersey — was presented as a state that « appears to support » Reagan.

The Times led their readers to believe that each of the remaining seven states were « close » — or the Times had Carter leading outright.

In every single case the Times was proven grossly wrong on election day. Reagan in fact carried every one of the nine states.

Here is how the Times played the game with the seven of the nine states in question.

• Texas: In a story datelined October 8 from Houston, the Times headlined:

Texas Looming as a Close Battle Between President and Reagan

The Reagan-Carter race in Texas, the paper claimed, had « suddenly tightened and now shapes up as a close, bruising battle to the finish. » The paper said « a New York Times/CBS News Poll, the second of seven in crucial big states, showing the Reagan-Carter race now a virtual dead heat despite a string of earlier polls on both sides that had shown the state leaning toward Mr. Reagan. »

The narrative? It was like the famous scene in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy and her friends stare in astonishment as dog Toto pulls back the curtain in the wizard’s lair to reveal merely a man bellowing through a microphone. Causing the startled « wizard » caught in the act to frantically start yelling, « Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain! » In the case of the Times in its look at Texas in October of 1980 the paper dismissed « a string of earlier polls on both sides » that repeatedly showed Texas going for Reagan. Instead, the Times presented this data:

A survey of 1,050 registered voters, weighted to form a probable electorate, gave Mr. Carter 40 percent support, Mr. Reagan 39 percent, John. B. Anderson, the independent candidate, 3 percent, and 18 percent were undecided. The survey, conducted by telephone from Oct. 1 to Oct. 6, has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

In other words, the race in Texas is close, assures the Times, with Carter actually in the lead.

What happened? Reagan beat Carter by over 13 points. It wasn’t even close to close.

• Pennsylvania: The next « Crucial States » story focused on Pennsylvania on October 10. Here the headline read:

Undecided Voters May Prove Key

Reagan, said the Times, « appears to have failed thus far to establish many positive reasons for voting for him. »

Once again the paper played the polling data card, this time saying Reagan had a mere 2 point lead. But the Reagan lead was quickly disputed in series of clever ways. Fundraising for Reagan wasn’t as good as expected, said the Times, and besides the budget for a Reagan telephone bank being shaved « from $700,000 to $400,000. » The Times/CBS poll showed that Carter was ahead of Reagan 36-32 among union households in a heavily labor state. To make matters worse for Reagan the GOP Senate candidate Arlen Specter was being « swamped » in the polls by his Democratic rival, the former Pittsburgh Mayor Pete Flaherty — with Specter losing to Flaherty 47-36. Not to mention Reagan was being trounced in Philadelphia 52-15 percent. Towards the very end of the story was this interesting line — a line that should have some relevance to the Romney campaign as President Obama struggles with the consequences of the killing of the American Ambassador in Libya. Reads the sentence:

One negative reason [meaning an anti-Carter vote] that did not turn up in the telephone poll but came up repeatedly in door-to-door interviews was the hostage situation in Iran.

What happened? The race wasn’t close, with Reagan beating Carter in Pennsylvania not by barely 2 points but rather trouncing him by over 7 points. And Arlen Specter beat Pete Flaherty.

• Illinois: The Times headline here in a story October 13?

Poll Finds Illinois Too Close to Call: Both Camps Note Gains by Carter

The narrative for Illinois? Carter is gaining, so much so that:

…uncertainty about Ronald Reagan’s leadership, especially among suburban voters, [has] apparently set back Mr. Reagan’s hope for a victory in Illinois and left his campaign scrambling to regain lost momentum, according to advisers in both camps.

Then came the usual New York Times/CBS polling data that proclaimed a Reagan one-point lead of 34% to Carter’s 33% as a sure sign that « Carter Gains and Reagan Slips in Close Illinois Race » — as an inside page headline proclaimed.

What happened? Reagan beat Carter by almost 8 points, 49.65% to 41.72%. Again, there was no « close » race as the Times had claimed.

• Ohio: The headline in this « Crucial States » profile once again conforms to the Times pattern of declaring Reagan and Carter to be in a « close » race.

Ohio Race Expected to Be Close As Labor Mobilizes for President

The narrative for Ohio? Ohio, the paper explained, had been « long viewed by Ronald Reagan’s campaign as its best opportunity to capture a major Northern state » but « such a victory …is not yet in hand. » Then came the inevitable New York Times/CBS polling data. Reagan was ahead by a bare 2 points, 36% to 34%. Two-thirds of the undecided were women and Reagan was doing « much worse among women voters than men. » Carter on the other hand had the great news that « 35 percent of the undecided came from labor union households, a group that divides nearly 2-1 for Mr. Carter among those who have made up their minds. »

What happened? Reagan beat Carter by over 10 points in Ohio. Yet another « crucial state » race wasn’t even close to being close as the paper had insisted.

• Florida: For once, the problem was impossible to hide. The Times headline for its October 19 story headlined:

Carter Is in Trouble With Voters In Two Major Sections of Florida

There was no New York Times/CBS poll here. But what was published was « the most recent Florida Newspapers Poll » that showed Reagan with only a 2 point lead over Carter: 42 for Reagan, 40 for Carter, with 7 for Anderson. The election, said the Times confidently, « was widely expected to be close. » Surprise!

What happened? Reagan beat Carter in Florida by over 17 points.

• New York: The Times headline for its home state in a story dated October 21?

President is in the Lead, Especially in the City — Anderson Slide Noted

The Times waxed enthusiastic about New York. Reagan was « being hindered by doubts within his own party. » And it trotted out its favorite New York Times/CBS Poll to show definitively that Reagan was getting clobbered in New York. The poll, said the Times, « showed Mr. Carter leading in the state with 38%, to 29% for Mr. Reagan…. » Which is to say, Carter was running away with New York state, leading Reagan by 9 points. The headline on the inside of the paper:

Reagan Far from Goal in New York; Carter in Lead

Why was this so? Why was Reagan doing so badly in New York? The paper turned to a Carter campaign aide in the state who explained that New Yorkers aren’t « willing to vote for a Goldwater. » Then they found one « frustrated Republican county chairman » who said the problem with Reagan was that New Yorkers « don’t like what they think they know about him. » Then there was the usual yada-yada: Reagan was failing miserably with women (losing 41-23 said the poll) and losing in New York City, not to mention that « labor is hard at work » for Carter.

What happened? Reagan beat Carter in New York by over 2 points.

• Michigan: The last of the profiles in the Times « Crucial States » series was Michigan, published on October 23. The ambiguous headline:

Party Defections May Tip Scales in Michigan Vot

The Michigan story begins with the tale of Reagan being endorsed by Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous aide the Reverend Ralph Abernathy. But the Times immediately saw a problem in this backing of Reagan from a prominent « black civil rights leader. » The problem? Black backlash. Said the paper:

Mr. Reagan was barely out of town [Detroit] before the backlash set in.

« The Abernathy Betrayal, » screamed the headline over the chief article in The Michigan Chronicle, a black newspaper. And yesterday the 400-member Council of Black Pastors, in the greater Detroit area, broke its precedent of refraining from Presidential endorsements and declared its support for President Carter a direct reaction to the Abernathy endorsement.

In other words, Reagan was damned because he didn’t get black support — and damned especially when he did. Grudgingly, the paper admitted that « although the race was close » in Michigan, « Mr. Reagan was ahead. » But once again, the Times insisted that a key state race was close. Close, you see, close. Did they mention it was close?

What happened? Reagan carried Michigan by over 6 points, 48.999 to Carter’s 42.50. Yet again — it wasn’t close.

That same day, October 23, the paper ran a second polling story on the general status of the presidential election, its theme self-evident:

Poll Shows President Has Pulled To Even Position With Reagan.

The story by Times reporter Hedrick Smith began this way:

In an election campaign reminiscent of the tight, seesaw contest of 1960, President Carter has pulled to an essentially even position with Ronald Reagan over the last month by attracting some wavering Democrats and gaining on his rival among independents, according to a new nationwide survey by The New York Times and CBS News.

The survey, readers were assured, was « weighted to project a probable electorate » and had Carter leading Reagan 39-38.

As if the point hadn’t been driven home enough, seven days later on October 30, the Times decided to sum up the entire race in the light of the just completed Reagan-Carter debate. Can you guess what they said? That’s right:

Carter and Reagan Voicing Confidence on Debate Showing: Performances Rated Close

And inside the paper the continuation of the story proclaimed — guess what?

Outcome of Debate Rated as Close.

On November 4 — the day before the election — the Times proclaimed… proclaimed…

Yup:

Race is Viewed as Very Close

The final results?

Ronald Reagan clobbered Jimmy Carter winning 51.7% to Carter’s 41% — a 10 point-plus victory in the popular vote. Third place Congressman John Anderson managed a mere 6.6%.

In the Electoral College? Reagan carried 44 states for a total of 489 votes. Carter won 6 states plus the District of Columbia for 49 electoral votes.

To say the least, the race wasn’t « close. » To compare it to 1960 as a « tight, seesaw contest » was in fact not simply ridiculously untrue but bizarre.

So what do we have here?

What we have is the liberal « paper of record » systematically presenting the 1980 Reagan-Carter election in 9 « Crucial States » as somehow « close » in five of the nine — Texas, Illinois, Ohio, Florida and Michigan. New York was in the bag for Carter. Only in his own California and New Jersey was Reagan clearly leading.

The actual results had only New York « close » — with Reagan winning by 2. Reagan carried every other « close » state by a minimum of 6 points and as much 17 — Florida. Florida, in fact, went for Reagan by a point more than California and about 4 more than New Jersey.

How could the New York Times — its much ballyhooed polling data and all of its resulting stories proclaiming everything to be « close » — been so massively, continuously wrong? In the case of its « Crucial States » — nine out of nine times?

The obvious answer is called to mind by a polling story from four years later involving Ronald Reagan and his next opponent, Jimmy Carter’s vice president Walter Mondale.

By 1984, Reagan was an extremely popular incumbent president. He was running well everywhere against Mondale. But suddenly, up popped a curious Washington Post poll that indicated Reagan’s 1980 margin of over 16% in California had dropped precipitously to single digits. Nancy Reagan was alarmed, calling campaign manager Ed Rollins (full disclosure, my former boss) and saying, « You have to do something. »

Rollins disagreed, as he later wrote in his memoirs Bare Knuckles and Back Rooms: My Life in American Politics.

A Californian himself Rollins was certain Reagan was just fine in California. The Reagan campaign’s own polls (run by Reagan’s longtime pollster Dick Wirthlin) showed Reagan with a « rock-solid » lead. After all, said Rollins, « Californians knew Ronald Reagan, and either loved him or hated him. He’d been on the ballot there six times and never lost. » The Post poll data made no sense. But Mrs. Reagan was insistent, so Rollins ordered up another (expensive) poll from Dick Wirthlin. Rollins also dispatched longtime Reagan aide and former White House political director Lyn Nofziger, a Californian as well, back to the Reagan home precincts. More phone banks were ordered up. In all, a million dollars of campaign money that could have been spent on Minnesota — Mondale’s home state where the ex-Minnesota Senator was, remarkably, struggling — was spent on California because of the Washington Post poll.

A few weeks later, the Washington Post ran a story that confirmed Rollins’ initial beliefs. The Post confessed that… well… oops… it had made a mistake with those California polling numbers. Shortly afterward came the November election, with California once again giving Reagan a more than 16 point victory. In fact, Reagan carried 49 states, winning the greatest landslide victory in presidential history while losing Minnesota in — yes — a close race. Mondale had 49.72% to Reagan’s 49.54%, a difference of .18% that might have been changed by all that money that went into California. Making Reagan the first president in history to win all fifty states.

After the election, Ed Rollins ran into the Washington Post’s blunt-speaking editor Ben Bradlee and « harassed » Bradlee « about his paper’s lousy polling methodology. »

Bradlee’s « unrepentant » response?

« Tough sh…t, Rollins, I’m glad it cost you plenty. It’s my in-kind contribution to the Mondale campaign. »

Got that?

So the questions for 2012.

How corrupt are all these polls showing Obama leading or in a « close race »?

Are they to Obama what that California poll of the Washington Post was for Walter Mondale — an « in-kind contribution »?

Is that in fact what was going on with the New York Times in 1980? An « in-kind contribution » to the Carter campaign from the Times?

What can explain all these polls today — like the ones discussed here at NBC where the Obama media cheerleaders make their TV home? Polls that the Obama media groupies insist show Obama 1 point up in Florida or 4 points in North Carolina or 5 points in Pennsylvania. And so on and so on.

How does one explain a president who, like Jimmy Carter in 1980, is increasingly seen as a disaster in both economic and foreign policy? How does a President Obama, with a Gallup job approval rating currently at 49% — down a full 20% from 2009 — mysteriously win the day in all these polls?

How does this happen?

Can you say « in-kind contribution »?

About the Author

Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com.

 Voir aussi:

Number-Cruncher on Polls’ History of Underestimating the GOP

Jim Geraghty

The National review on line

September 28, 2012

One of my regulars, the accounting-minded poll watcher nicknamed “Number-Cruncher” writes in, describing what he thinks honest pollsters should be saying right now:

“For the past two election cycles the partisan divide in this country has been volatile. In 2008, we could have modeled the turnout in race similar to 2004 and Obama still would have beaten McCain by 1 or 2 points. We knew that there was no way the divide was going to end up even, so even moving to a 1996 model of +3 Democrat advantage would give Obama a 4 point win. Democrats ended up with a +7 partisan ID advantage, given an almost perfect storm for the Democrats.

The 2008 cycle was an interesting race for pollsters, in that while the partisan divide clearly favored the Democrats, we didn’t have to worry too much about overestimating or underestimating too much because we knew the main result: an Obama win.”

Looking back through recent presidential cycles, we see Republicans over-performing their standing in the final polls – sometimes by a little, sometimes by a lot.

In 1992, Gallup’s final poll had Clinton winning by 12 percentage points, he won by 5.6 percentage points. In late October 1992, Pew had Clinton up 10.

In 1996, some reputable pollsters had Clinton winning by 18 percentage points late, and Pew had Clinton up by 19 in November; on Election Day, he won by 8.5 percentage points… In 2004, pollsters were spread out, but most underestimated Bush’s margin. (2000 may have been a unique set of circumstances with the last-minute DUI revelation dropping Bush’s performance lower than his standing in the final polls; alternatively, some may argue that the Osama bin Laden tape the Friday before the election in 2004 altered the dynamic in those final days.) In 2008, Marist had Obama up 9, as did CBS/New York Times and Washington Post/ABC News, while Reuters and Gallup both had Obama up 11.

Now, if this was just random chance of mistakes, you would see pollsters being wrong in both directions and by about the same margin in each direction at the same rate – sometimes overestimating how well the Democrats do some years, sometimes overestimating how well the Republicans do. But the problem seems pretty systemic – sometimes underestimating the GOP by a little, sometimes by a lot.

This is an international polling problem. Look at the polling for the most recent presidential race in France, if you read the tracking polls you would have thought Sarkozy would lose by 20….then the last round of polls showed it in single digits, and Sarkozy ultimately lost by about 3 points.”

Going back to the topic of volatility, in 2008, Gallup provided a model called the “expanded” likely voter model; they knew turnout was likely to be different from past cycles, but they knew that the different turnout was almost certainly going to help Obama. So they used this poll (they ran four different polls Adults, Registered Voters, Likely Voters and New Voters). In the end it wasn’t necessary because the regular bias of registered voters was enough to offset the “new voters”…. but that’s for another day.

Here is what people should know is bothering pollsters, and if you’re a Republican you can feel comfortable that what you are reading is based on guess work assumptions:

In 2010, we saw the country move back to 2004 levels, but we also saw a bubbling of the Tea Party, who are among the most enthusiastic of voters. Also 2010 was a midterm, where the overall turnout of registered voters is considerably lower, and the GOP base turns out better in non-presidential years than the Democrats’ base. So we process this data.

We saw in 1994 the GOP do very well, but in 1996 Clinton won easily. But sometimes a party’s momentum from the midterms carries on to the following year; we saw the Democrats add to their 2006 gains in 2008. So will 2012 be a receding of the tide of the midterms (like 1996) or an acceleration (like 2008)?

Of course in 1996, the economy was soaring and right now, we’re crawling… so you make the judgment on where this should be.

Even using logical deductions, it is difficult to get a read on what the 2012 partisan divide will be because we’ve seen it change so quickly. From 1994 through 2004, the partisan divide was fairly stable, moving no more than 2 points from cycle to cycle.

Personally I think its safe to say that 2008 is not going to happen in 2012, any pollster hanging their hat on 2008 sampling cannot be reasonably relied on…

Number-Cruncher and I part company a bit on this point:

Given the intensity of the Tea Party, it would not be all that surprising if the Tea Party/GOP combination out polls Democrats by a margin greater than 2004, which would turn every pollster except Rasmussen upside down, with Rasmussen being turned on his side.. Simply put, we just do not know.

The problem is that “not GOP, but Tea Party” isn’t listed as an option in most polls, so we don’t know how many Tea Partiers are choosing to identify themselves as independents. It is quite possible that in the polls where we see Romney winning independents, his lead in this demographic is driven by Tea Partiers who refuse to self-identify as GOP. In short, you know how we’ll know the combined demographics of the GOP andTea Party makes up a larger share of the electorate than self-identified Democrats? When Romney wins the election.

He concludes:

One other point to keep in mind, is that Rasmussen has been consistently polling party preference ID, among adults (not likely voters). His latest result was +4.3 Republican and while that is a bit of an outlier, he has consistently been polling Republicans ahead of Democrats by about a 1 to three point margin. Also consider this: In 2008 when the electorate was breaking towards Obama and the Democrats, Rasmussen predicted a +7.8 percent Party Advantage, the exits revealed essentially the same result. . In 2004, Rasmussen revealed a Partisan ID trend favoring Democrats by 1.8% percent. If Rasmussen goes or comes close to three for three on the partisan ID prediction (he was within two points both times), then Romney likely has a 2 to 3 point lead in his polling (Note if you subscribe to the pay side of Rasmussen’s data you know his is polling more Democrats than the Partisan ID study). Simply put, if Rasmussen is correct, then Romney will has an electorate which is MORE favorable than 2004. If this is the case with swing states, the Electoral College will break significantly towards Romney.

I still think a D+3 or D+4 electorate is the most likely scenario, but Rasmussen’s measurements do provide one piece of evidence for a scenario that’s considerably better for the GOP.

Voir également:

Battleground Poll: Race still tight

James Hohmann

Politico

October 1, 2012

The presidential race is tight enough nationally that a strong performance in Wednesday’s debate by Mitt Romney could put him in the lead.

A new POLITICO/George Washington University Battleground Poll of likely voters shows President Barack Obama ahead 49 percent to 47 percent, a point closer than a week ago and still within the margin of error. A tracking poll will be performed each week, and the results released each Monday, through Election Day.

Romney now leads by 4 points among independents, up slightly from a week ago. The Republican must overperform with that group to make up for the near monolithic support of African-Americans for Obama, as well as the huge Democratic advantage among Latinos and women

The head-to-head numbers mostly held steady through the past two weeks.

“The basic underpinnings of this race are just not changing, and that’s what’s going to keep this a very close race,” said Republican pollster Ed Goeas of the Tarrance Group, who helped conduct the bipartisan poll.

A solid 46 percent say they will vote to reelect Obama and 42 percent say firmly they’ll vote to replace him. Just 9 percent say they’ll consider someone else.

“We’ve never had a debate where the electorate was this polarized,” said Celinda Lake, the Democratic pollster who helped conduct the poll. “There’s a real question about how many voters are left to move in the debate.”

Obama’s overall job approval stands at 49 percent, with an identical number of respondents disapproving. The president’s personal favorability slipped to 50 percent, with 47 percent viewing him unfavorably.

Romney remains slightly underwater on likability, with 46 percent viewing him favorably and 48 percent viewing him unfavorably. He has a problem with women, among whom Obama leads by 12 points, 54 percent to 42 percent. Asked about Romney as a person, 51 percent of women say they don’t have a good impression.

“For Romney, it’s a double goal that he has: He’s got to get that likability up, particularly among women,” said Lake. “And he’s got to draw a sharp contrast on what he’d do on the economy. That’s very difficult to do simultaneously. … It’s hard to maintain likability when you’re being an attack dog.”

Romney has not benefited from revelations about the Obama administration bungling its initial response to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya. Obama actually expanded his lead over Romney last week on who is better able to handle foreign policy, from 9 points to 12 points.

Democratic intensity has slipped slightly to 75 percent. A week before last, still in the afterglow of their convention, 81 percent of Democrats called themselves “extremely likely” to vote. Republican enthusiasm, meanwhile, held steady around 80 percent.

Regardless of whom they’re supporting, twice as many voters (61 percent) expect the president to prevail in November as expect him to lose.

“Democrats should be careful not to take this for granted,” said Lake. “Inevitability cannot diminish our focus on getting our voters out because the Republicans will be focused on getting their voters out.”

Pocketbook issues remain overwhelmingly the top concern of voters, and half of Wednesday’s 90-minute debate will focus on the economy.

Romney has reopened a slight advantage on which of the two candidates is bestequipped to handle the economy — 49 percent to 47 percent — and to create jobs – 48 percent to 47 percent. A slight majority, 52 percent, disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy.

Romney narrowed his gap on the question of who fights harder for the middle class. During the media firestorm over his “47 percent” comments, the poll showed him trailing by 19 points on the question. Now he’s down only 13 points — 54 to 41 percent. This double-digit deficit remains a problem, though, because three in four likely voters consider themselves part of the middle class.

Lake said Obama has persuaded most middle-class voters that he’s fighting for them, but he hasn’t convinced them that he has a plan to help them if he gets reelected.

“Now we’ve got to prove we can do something about their lives,” she said.

Of the 11 issues on which the candidates were pitted against one another, Romney’s clearest edge came on the federal budget and spending: Fifty-six percent disapprove of Obama’s handling of the issue — 47 percent strongly so. By a 7-point margin, voters believe Romney is best equipped to tackle the debt.

Obama holds a 3-point edge on which candidate has a better tax plan. This is traditionally a Republican issue, and the lead is notable for someone who makes raising taxes on the wealthy a centerpiece of his campaign.

One of six debate segments will focus on health care. Obama leads Romney by 8 points on who is best for health care generally and Medicare specifically.

Another segment is about governing. Obama leads Romney on the questions of who shares your values (48 percent to 45 percent) and who is the stronger leader (50 percent to 43 percent). But Romney has an advantage (47 percent to 45 percent) on who can “get things done.”

Goeas said to watch these three indicators as a gauge for the gut reaction of voters to the debate.

Obama is trailing slightly with independents. In 2008, the Democrat carried them by 7 percent — the same margin as his overall victory. But right now, he’s softer on the individual issues than is reflected in the head-to-head matchup, which shows him behind by 4 points with independents.

Romney has a 14-point edge on jobs and an 11-point edge on the economy among independent voters. More than 60 percent disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy and spending. Romney even has a slight advantage on taxes. He ties the president on who is the stronger leader and leads by 9 points on who has the best ability to get things done.

Among all likely voters, 56 percent say the country is on the wrong track. This number has fallen because 72 percent of Democrats and 73 percent of African-Americans now say the country is on the right track. Yet two in three independents still think the country’s on the wrong track.

“He has to be careful of accepting and affirming the praise of the Democrats who think the country’s going in the right direction and assuring people he can change the direction with four more years,” said Goeas. “He doesn’t want to do anything to dampen enthusiasm he’s getting from Democrats, but he can’t afford to be removed completely because the overwhelming majority thinks we’re on the wrong track.”

The POLITICO/George Washington University Battleground poll, conducted by the Tarrance Group and Lake Research Partners, surveyed 1,000 registered likely voters from Sept. 24 to Sept. 27 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Voir encore:

A pollster under oath

Josh Gerstein

Politico

10/2/12

When a pollster or strategist for a struggling political campaign presents what seems like a sugar-coated view of his candidate’s chances, do you ever think: I wish I could give that adviser some truth serum, or maybe put him under oath?

Well, truth serum may be pushing it, but the put-him-under-oath part has actually happened. And when a pollster is required to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, under penalty of perjury, what emerges is quite a bit different than what you hear in the waning days of a presidential campaign.

In May, the pollster for Al Gore’s presidential bid in 2000 and John Edwards’s in 2004 and 2008, Harrison Hickman, took the stand in the federal criminal case against Edwards over alleged campaign finance violations stemming from payments to support Edwards’s mistress.

Under oath, Hickman admitted that in the final weeks of Edwards’s 2008 bid, Hickman cherry-picked public polls to make the candidate seem viable, promoted surveys that Hickman considered unreliable, and sent e-mails to campaign aides, Edwards supporters and reporters which argued that the former senator was still in the hunt —even though Hickman had already told Edwards privately that he had no real chance of winning the Democratic nomination.

« They were pounding on me for positive information. You know, where is some good news we can share with people? We were monitoring all these polls and I was sending the ones that were most favorable because [campaign aides] wanted to share them with reporters, » Hickman testified on May 14 at the trial in Greensboro, N.C. « We were not finding very much good news and I was trying to give them what I could find. »

Hickman testified that when circulating the polls, he didn’t much care if they were accurate. « I didn’t necessarily take any of these as for—as you would say, for the truth of the matter. I took them more as something that could be used as propaganda for the campaign, » the veteran pollster said.

Edwards’s viability from late 2007 through January 2008 was a hotly disputed issue at his trial because federal prosecutors were seeking to prove that nearly $1 million in expenses Edwards backers paid for his mistress in and around that time frame amounted to donations to advance his bid for the presidency. Edwards’s defense contended that his inner circle viewed his prospects of winning the presidency as zero or close to it, once Sen. Barack Obama’s juggernaut gathered steam, so the payments must have been made out of personal affection for Edwards or for some other reason unrelated to the presidential campaign.

However, Hickman’s testimony also opened a rare window into the way major presidential campaigns try to use polling numbers to spin the press and laid bare the fact that top campaign operatives sometimes propound a version of the truth starkly at odds with what they themselves believe.

Hickman, called by the former senator’s defense, testified that he told Edwards in « early to middle of November 2007, » that the campaign wasn’t going to succeed.

« I told him that the odds were overwhelming that we were not going—that he was not going to be the nominee for president. I mean, we talked about a variety of things might change, do differently, and all that, but none of them translated into winning the nomination, » the pollster told Edwards attorney Alan Duncan.

However, under cross-examination by lead prosecutor David Harbach, Hickman acknowledged sending a series of emails in November and December, and even into January, endorsing or promoting polls that made Edwards look good. Asked about what appeared to be a New York Times/CBS poll released in mid-November showing an effective « three-way tie » in Iowa with Hillary Clinton at 25 percent, Edwards at 23 percent and Obama at 22 percent, Hickman acknowledged he circulated it but insisted he didn’t think it was correct.

« The business I’m in is a business any fool can get into, and a lot can happen. I’m sure there was a poll like that, » the folksy Hickman told jurors when first asked about a poll showing the race tied. « I kept up with every poll that was done, including our own, and there may have been a few that showed them a tie, but… that’s not really what my analysis is. Campaigns are about trajectory, and… there could have been a point at which it was a tie in the sense that we were coming down, and Obama was going up, and Clinton was going up. »

Hickman also indicated that senior campaign staffers knew many of the polls were poorly done and of little value. « We didn’t take these dog and cat and baby-sitter polls seriously, » he said.

Hickman acknowledged that on January 2, 2008, a day before the Iowa caucuses, he sent out a summary of nine post-Christmas Iowa polls showing Edwards in contention in the Hawkeye State. However, he testified two-thirds of them were from firms he considered « ones we typically would not put a lot of credence in. » Hickman put Mason-Dixon, Strategic Vision, Insider Advantage, Zogby and Research 2000 in the « less reputable » group. He also told the court that ARG polls « have a miserable track record. »

Hickman said he considered the Des Moines Register polls, CNN and Los Angeles Times polls more accurate. (A full transcript of his testimony is posted here.)

The prosecutor was clearly trying to suggest that Edwards was more viable than Hickman, a longtime friend of the ex-senator, admitted in his initial testimony. Harbach may have even been trying to suggest that Hickman’s basic credibility was impugned by the heavy spin he acknowledged offering late in the 2008 primary campaign. However, the line of questioning was baffling to reporters in the courtroom who seemed not at all surprised that a campaign would insist on its viability until moments before the candidate dropped out or lost.

In short, to many journalists, what Hickman admitted doing in late 2007 and 2008 was no more a sign of bad character than an actor spinning a yarn on stage during a play or a lawyer mounting an implausible defense for a clearly guilty client.

When the defense got to question Hickman again, he was unapologetic about what he termed an effort to « keep up morale » among Edwards backers and aides.

« They were being inundated with bad news. I didn’t have to give them bad news. I was trying to pick out morsels, you know, acorns. Out of a big stack of acorns, I was trying to pick out a few good ones that they could pass along to other people, you know, to keep them working, » Hickman testified. « I mean, I wasn’t going to say, you know, all hope is lost, you know, take a couple of weeks off. I mean, that was not the object of it. I mean, the object was to keep going as hard as we could. And we all worked as hard as we could. I mean, the working hard and promoting the candidacy are independent, in my mind, to the evaluation of what the likely outcome is. »

Asked if what he did to that end in the 2008 race was at all unusual when compared with other contests, Hickman told Duncan: « No. No. I did — you know, I did what I was supposed to do…. I did my job the way I’ve always done my job. »

While the discussion of polling and the legitimate bounds of spin did offer an unusual behind-the-scenes look at a major presidential campaign, it’s not at all clear that it had any impact on the outcome of the case against Edwards. Indeed, U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Eagles at one point admonished Hickman and Duncan that the grad-school polling seminar seemed pretty tangential to anything jurors were being asked to consider.

« I don’t think we need quite this much detail about particular polls, » the judge said.

« That’s fine, your honor, » Duncan replied.

« I’m sorry, » Hickman quickly chimed in.

After nine days of deliberation, the jury revealed on May 31 that it had acquitted Edwards on one felony count and was hopelessly deadlocked on five others. The Justice Department quickly announced that it would not retry the case.

Voir encore:

The greatest political showdown on earth

It’s make-or-break time in the world’s most important, and expensive, election. On the eve of tomorrow’s televised debate between the presidential candidates (the first of three), Rupert Cornwell looks forward to a momentous month

Rupert Cornwell

The Independent

2 October 2012

The largest, the longest, the costliest and the cruellest exercise in democracy on the planet is approaching its climax. Thirty-six days from today (barring a repeat of the Florida deadheat a dozen years ago) a new American president will have been elected – in the event of a victory by Mitt Romney, the 45th in a line stretching back to 1789 and George Washington.

The winner will be the last man standing after a contest that formally began with Iowa’s caucuses last January, and continued through a four-month primary season and the late summer party nominating conventions. Now come four presidential and vice-presidential debates, capped by a final draining sprint to the finishing line on 6 November. In reality, though, the process has been under way almost from the instant Barack Obama was sworn into office on the freezing Washington morning of 20 January 2009, promising a new beginning for his country in the midst of its worst economic and financial crisis since the Great Depression.

The final match-up is the one that all along has seemed likely, between the Democratic incumbent seeking his second permitted term, and a Republican challenger who if truth be told never stopped campaigning for the White House even after he had lost his party’s 2008 nomination to John McCain. By the time it’s all over, some $3bn may have been spent on the presidential election alone, in money raised by the candidates, their respective parties and outside groups (not least the infamous Super PACs, empowered by a Supreme Court ruling that enables super rich donors to contribute as much as they like).

Throw in the similar sum likely to be spent on the down-the-card contests, for all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 33 Senate seats (one third of the total), as well as a dozen governors’ races, and the total outlay for Election 2012 may reach an unprecedented $6bn, equivalent to roughly $50 for every likely voter.

Right now, despite economic indicators that in previous elections would have consigned him to defeat, Mr Obama remains the favourite. Recent history suggests that incumbents who seek a second term usually succeed, and at the time of writing Intrade, the usually reliable political prediction market, gives him a 75 per cent chance of victory.

Since Herbert Hoover lost to Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, only two incumbents have been defeated: Jimmy Carter in 1980, when the opponent was Ronald Reagan, who arguably caught America’s Zeitgeist more perfectly than any candidate before or since; and George H.W. Bush, whose misfortune in 1992 was to find himself up against the most gifted politician of his age in Bill Clinton, at a moment when Republicans had already held the Presidency for 12 years. The same rule of thumb operates in the US as in most other genuine democracies. When one party has been in power for a decade the electoral mantra is: throw the bums out.

But even if Romney is manifestly neither a Reagan nor a Clinton, a second Obama term is far from set in stone. The mood of the country is sour; 35 per cent of Americans say the country is on the wrong track, a distinct improvement from a year ago to be sure, but hardly a resounding endorsement of the status quo. The worst of the Great Recession may be over, but the recovery struggles to gather steam. Since FDR, moreover, no president has been re-elected when the US unemployment rate was over 8 per cent. At the end of August it stood at 8.1 per cent.

Further complicating matters is the electoral system itself. Presidents are not elected by direct popular vote (if they were, the 43rd president would have been Al Gore, not George W. Bush) but by the sum of 51 separate elections in the constituent states and the District of Columbia. Each of these in turn sends voters to a 538-vote electoral college, all committed to the winner of the popular vote in their state – except in the cases of Maine and Nebraska, which allocate electoral college votes to the winner of each congressional district.

The number of electoral votes is in proportion to a state’s population. Thus the most populous, California, has 55, while the least populous, Wyoming, has just three. To win the presidency a candidate needs to win a majority, ie 270, of these super-electors. It is thus possible, though unlikely, that either Obama or Romney will suffer Gore’s fate.

At the very least, electoral college landsides, as defined by one candidate winning 400 or more of the 538 votes, are no more. Once they were common; of the 10 elections between 1952 and 1988, seven saw margins of that size or larger – the biggest in 1984, when Ronald Reagan trounced Walter Mondale by 525 to 13, with the latter winning only DC and his home state of Minnesota

But in an ever more polarised America, those days are over. In both 1992 and 1996, Bill Clinton failed to crack the 400 mark, while George W. Bush’s two subsequent victories were squeakers. The 365 electoral votes amasssed by Obama in 2008 – a year when everything, from financial crisis and a desperately unpopular outgoing Republican president to Obama’s personal charisma, favoured Democrats – may be close to the realistic maximum for either party. Certainly, it would be astonishing if Obama matched that score, five weeks hence.

In practice, this election will be fought and won in a dozen or so battleground states, most notably Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin and Colorado, where the result is not a foregone conclusion. Right now Romney is trailing in almost every one of them, which explains why he is a 3 to 1 outsider in the race. His own shortcomings as a candidate, and his failure to provide a vision of where he wants to take the country, are one reason. No less important, Americans seem to accept that Obama, though shorn of his aura of 2008, could not have been expected to correct in a mere four years the profound economic problems laid bare by the financial crisis. He has not succeeded – but nor has he yet conclusively failed. A majority of likely voters appears ready to give him a chance to finish the job.

Such calculations of course could be turned on their head, by events abroad (a European financial collapse and Wall Street meltdown, say, or an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear installations) or at home, most obviously a really strong performance by Romney in the three presidential debates, the first and most important of which takes place tomorrow. In addition, some scandal or huge faux pas could undo Obama.

But such scenarios are increasingly hard to imagine. The President is a cautious, disciplined politician. And even a stellar debate performance is no guarantee of victory, as John Kerry found out in 2004. Separately, Obama is more trusted than Romney on national security, and a foreign crisis could actually help him. Time is also running out. Early voting in some states has already started, and in others will do so in a week or two. Polls suggest that at this late stage, in today’s polarised political climate, fewer people than ever (maybe 5 to 7 per cent of voters) are genuinely undecided.

And while Romney may be a lacklustre candidate, his cause has not been helped by his party. Not only do Republicans sometimes seem to inhabit an alternative universe, on tax policy, abortion and other social issues. Collectively, they are growing steadily whiter, older, more male and more conservative, when the country at large is becoming younger, more diverse and socially more liberal. Especially telling is Obama’s huge lead (almost 20 per cent in swing state Virginia) among women.

These trends could also determine the outcome of the Congressional elections. Until recently it had seemed that, even if re-elected, Obama would have to work with a Republican-controlled Congress, with his opponents retaining the House and making the net gain of four seats to secure a majority in the Senate. Again, however, this may no longer apply.

In several close-fought Senate races, the Democratic candidate is now ahead. And so unpopular is the Republican majority in the House, with its intransigent Tea Party bloc increasingly held responsible by voters for the gridlock in Washington, that there, too, Democrats conceivably could snatch back control.

Back in the dark days of late 2010, after his « shellacking » in that year’s mid-terms, Barack Obama’s fortunes reached a nadir. Some even privately wondered then whether he had lost the stomach for the fight, whether he would even run for a second term. Those doubts have been laid to rest. Election night on 6 November will be exciting. But day by day it looks less likely that come mid-January, the removal vans will be pulling up at the White House.

Voir enfin:

Can We Believe the Presidential Polls?

Last week’s CBS/New York Times poll had Obama ahead by nine points in Florida. That’s not very likely.

 Karl Rove

The WSJ

October 3, 2012

I’ve seen a movie like this one before. I was in my 20s and director of the Texas Victory Committee for Reagan-Bush. Our headquarters was in an old mortuary in Austin. That seemed an appropriate venue when, on Oct. 8, 1980, the New York Times released its poll on the presidential race in Texas, one of 10 battlegrounds. (Yes, the Lone Star State was then a battleground.)

According to the Times, the contest was « a virtual dead heat, » with President Jimmy Carter ahead despite earlier surveys showing Ronald Reagan winning. A large Hispanic turnout for Mr. Carter—and the fact that Texas was « far more Democratic than the nation » (only 16% of Texans identified themselves as Republicans then)—meant that Mr. Reagan « must do better among independents » to carry the state. Our hurriedly called strategy session at the mortuary had more than the normal complement of hand-wringers.

Then came more hard punches. On Oct. 13, Gallup put the race nationally at Carter 44%, Reagan 40%. The bottom appeared to fall out two weeks later when a new national Gallup poll had Carter 47%, Reagan 39%.

Reagan trailed in October but won in a walk.

That produced more than a few empty chairs in phone banks across Texas. But most volunteers, grim and stoic, hung on, determined to stay until the bitter end. Only Election Day was not so bitter. Reagan carried all 10 of the Times’ battleground states and defeated Mr. Carter by nearly 10 points.

Every election is different and this year won’t replicate 1980. But context might be helpful to edgy supporters of Mitt Romney.

In the past 30 days, there were 91 national polls (including each Gallup and Rasmussen daily tracking survey). Mr. Obama was at or above the magic number of 50% in just 20. His average was 47.9%. Mr. Romney’s was 45.5%.

There were 40 national polls over the same period in 2004. President George W. Bush was 50% or higher in 18. His average was 49%; Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry was at 43.8%. An Oct. 4, 2004, story in the New York Times declared the Bush/Kerry race « a dead heat » and asked « whether Mr. Bush can regain the advantage. »

Mr. Bush was hitting the vital 50% mark in almost half the polls (unlike Mr. Obama) and had a lead over Mr. Kerry twice as large as the one Mr. Obama now holds over Mr. Romney. So why was the 2004 race « a dead heat » while many commentators today say Mr. Obama is the clear favorite?

The reality is that 2012 is a horse race and will remain so. An incumbent below 50% is in grave danger. On Election Day he’ll usually receive less than his final poll number. That’s because his detractors are more likely to turn out, and undecideds are more resistant to voting for him.

Then there is the tsunami of state-level polls. Last week, there were 46 polls in 22 states; the week before, 52 polls in 18 states; and the week before that, 41 polls in 20 states. They’re endowed by the media with a scientific precision they simply don’t have.

Take last week’s CBS/New York Times Florida survey, which had Mr. Obama leading Mr. Romney by nine points. The poll sampled more Democrats than Republicans—nine percentage points more. Yet the Democratic advantage in the 2008 presidential exit polls was three percentage points. Does it seem probable that Florida Democrats will turn out in higher numbers in 2012, especially when their registration edge over Republicans dropped by 22% in the past four years?

On Aug. 2, radio talk-show host Hugh Hewitt asked Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University polling organization—which runs the CBS/NYT battleground state polls, including last week’s Florida poll—if he expected a Democratic advantage in the Sunshine State three times what it was last time. Mr. Brown responded that « I think it is probably unlikely, » but defended his polling organization’s record.

Both candidates have advantages as the race enters its final month. Mr. Obama is slightly ahead (but short of 50%). Late-deciding independents will probably break more for Mr. Romney. Clear-eyed operatives in Boston and Chicago know this and are only playing head games with their opposition when they assert otherwise.

Team Obama’s relentless efforts to denigrate Mr. Romney as a sure loser appear to have convinced the Republican candidate that he must run as the underdog. This will make the naturally cautious Mr. Romney more aggressive, energized and specific about his agenda in the campaign’s closing weeks than he might have been. It will also make his victory more likely. America likes come-from-behind winners.

Mr. Rove, a former deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush, helped organize the political action committee American Crossroads.


Présidence Obama: Obama ou l’anti-Reagan (Looking back at the illusion of Obama’s popularity)

16 novembre, 2010
Reagan, je l’ai trouvé comme il est : habité de certitudes. Américain typique, il n’est pas très exportable. Mitterrand (sommet d’Ottawa, 1981)
Son étroitesse d’esprit est évidente. Cette homme n’a que quelques disques qui tournent et retournent dans sa tête. Mitterrand (sommet de Williamsburg, 1983)
L’égalité sera acquise quand on élira un Président noir incompétent. Pape Diouf (président de l’Olympique de Marseille et ancien journaliste)
Imaginez que vous soyez un électeur. Il y a le type X et le type Y. Vous êtes totalement d’accord avec le type X mais vous ne pensez pas qu’il puisse gérer quoi que ce soit. Quant au type Y, vous divergez de point de vue sur la moitié des dossiers mais vous le pensez qualifié. Pour qui voteriez-vous ? Bill Clinton (Aout 2008)
I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director. Obama
C’est un homme de promesse perpétuelle. Il y avait une plaisanterie cruelle qui disait que le Brésil est le pays de l’avenir et qu’il le sera toujours; Obama est le Brésil des politiciens d’aujourd’hui. Il n’a évidemment rien accompli. Et dans le contexte américain, être le héros de cinq gauchistes norvégiens n’est pas exactement positif du point de vue politique (…) Ce qui rendait Obama unique, c’est qu’il était le politicien charismatique par excellence – le plus total inconnu à jamais accéder à la présidence aux Etats-Unis. Personne ne savait qui il était, il sortait de nulle part, il avait cette figure incroyable qui l’a catapulté au-dessus de la mêlée, il a annihilé Hillary, pris le contrôle du parti Démocrate et est devenu président. C’est vraiment sans précédent : un jeune inconnu sans histoire, dossiers, associés bien connus, auto-créé. Charles Krauthammer
I fear two things with Obama. One is if the GOP fails to elect a House majority in 2010 to keep Obama within the bounds of sanity. A GOP majority is essential for the safety of the country and the world. But even if Obama is defeated in 2012, he will just turn into an angrier version of Al Gore and Jimmy Carter. He will haunt the political future of this country as long as he is alive, because that famished ego never gets enough. Malignant narcissism often gets worse over time. And on the Left and among blacks, Obama will still have love and adoration enough to keep him supplied. He is an easy target for flattery by the Saudis, even the Iranians — in fact, by all the real enemies we have. So even if the voters throw out this very dangerous cult-like administration, you can expect Obama to be popping up in our politics for years to come. He will haunt the Democrats, which might be a good thing. But he will haunt the United States as well, even if he is defeated in 2012. James Lewis
Les marchés boursiers ne sont pas les seuls, pour reprendre la célèbre formule d’Alan Greenspan, à faire preuve « d’exubérance irrationnelle ». Pierre Delhommais
Le mythe R. Reagan, « grand communicateur », a valeur d’exemple : loin de ne reposer que sur les vertus du président des États-Unis élu en 1980, la construction de cette réputation repose sur un savoureux paradoxe puisqu’elle s’est imposée au moment même où sa cote de popularité ne parvenait pas à décoller. En contrepartie, l’état-major de Reagan a fortement investi dans les relations avec la presse ainsi qu’en direction du Congrès en mobilisant systématiquement les courants d’opinion conservateurs invités à relayer publiquement les positions du président sur ses thèmes de prédilection. De sorte que la popularité de Reagan, que les journalistes ont attribuée volontiers à ses qualités personnelles et à ses dons oratoires, semble avoir été le résultat d’un intense et efficace travail de coulisses. Acrimed

Attention: une illusion peut en cacher une autre!

A l’heure ou, avec la correction électorale en début du mois de leur « exubérance irrationnelle », nos Obamalatres des medias en sont a appeler celle-ci a renoncer a une seconde candidature en 2012 voire a ouvertement regretter son prédécesseur …

Et ou, avec cette fois la planche a billets et a l’instar d’une France qui s’enfonce chaque jour un peu plus dans le chomage, le président en question semble bien parti pour confirmer par son incompétence l’aquisition définitive de l’égaliteépour les noirs …

Comment ne pas repenser a l’effondrement d’une autre « illusion » elle aussi en son temps, si l’on en croit nos politologues, largement créée et entretenue par les medias ?

A savoir celle de la popularité d’un autre « grand communicateur »

Dont la carriere, apres avoir vu son progressisme braqué par la realité, avait elle aussi été lancée par un brillant discours pour l’investiture du candidat (perdant) de son parti …

Et qui avait lui aussi du son élection plus au rejet de son prédécesseur ou de sa politique qu’a son propre programme …

Mais a la différence toutefois (ce que semblent étrangement oublier nos dits politologues) qu’avec le retour de la croissance et la victoire de la Guerre froide, celui-ci avait vu ses idées largement validées

1964 Republican Convention

The following speech was given by President Reagan when he nominated Barry Goldwater at the 1964 Republican Convention in Cow Palace.

I am going to talk of controversial things. I make no apology for this.

It’s time we asked ourselves if we still know the freedoms intended for us by the Founding Fathers. James Madison said, « We base all our experiments on the capacity of mankind for self government. »

This idea that government was beholden to the people, that it had no other source of power is still the newest, most unique idea in all the long history of man’s relation to man. This is the issue of this election: Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.

You and I are told we must choose between a left and right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man’s age-old dream-the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. Regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would sacrifice freedom for security have embarked on this downward path. Plutarch warned, « The real destroyer of the liberties of the people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations and benefits. »

The Founding Fathers knew a government can’t control the economy without controlling people. And they knew when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. So we have come to a time for choosing.

Public servants say, always with the best of intentions, « What greater service we could render if only we had a little more money and a little more power. » But the truth is that outside of its legitimate function, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector.

Yet any time you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders, we’re denounced as being opposed to their humanitarian goals. It seems impossible to legitimately debate their solutions with the assumption that all of us share the desire to help the less fortunate. They tell us we’re always « against, » never « for » anything.

We are for a provision that destitution should not follow unemployment by reason of old age, and to that end we have accepted Social Security as a step toward meeting the problem. However, we are against those entrusted with this program when they practice deception regarding its fiscal shortcomings, when they charge that any criticism of the program means that we want to end payments….

We are for aiding our allies by sharing our material blessings with nations which share our fundamental beliefs, but we are against doling out money government to government, creating bureaucracy, if not socialism, all over the world

We need true tax reform that will at least make a start toward restoring for our children the American Dream that wealth is denied to no one, that each individual has the right to fly as high as his strength and ability will take him…. But we can not have such reform while our tax policy is engineered by people who view the tax as a means of achieving changes in our social structure….

Have we the courage and the will to face up to the immorality and discrimination of the progressive tax, and demand a return to traditional proportionate taxation? . . . Today in our country the tax collector’s share is 37 cents of every dollar earned. Freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp.

Are you willing to spend time studying the issues, making yourself aware, and then conveying that information to family and friends? Will you resist the temptation to get a government handout for your community? Realize that the doctor’s fight against socialized medicine is your fight. We can’t socialize the doctors without socializing the patients. Recognize that government invasion of public power is eventually an assault upon your own business. If some among you fear taking a stand because you are afraid of reprisals from customers, clients, or even government, recognize that you are just feeding the crocodile hoping he’ll eat you last.

If all of this seems like a great deal of trouble, think what’s at stake. We are faced with the most evil enemy mankind has known in his long climb from the swamp to the stars. There can be no security anywhere in the free world if there is no fiscal and economic stability within the United States. Those who ask us to trade our freedom for the soup kitchen of the welfare state are architects of a policy of accommodation.

They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right. Winston Churchill said that « the destiny of man is not measured by material computation. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we are spirits-not animals. » And he said, « There is something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty. »

You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children’s children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.

Voir aussi:

Ronald Reagan

A Time for Choosing (aka « The Speech »)

Air date 27 October 1964, Los Angeles, C

Program Announcer: Ladies and gentlemen, we take pride in presenting a thoughtful address by Ronald Reagan. Mr. Reagan:

Reagan: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you and good evening. The sponsor has been identified, but unlike most television programs, the performer hasn’t been provided with a script. As a matter of fact, I have been permitted to choose my own words and discuss my own ideas regarding the choice that we face in the next few weeks

I have spent most of my life as a Democrat. I recently have seen fit to follow another course. I believe that the issues confronting us cross party lines. Now, one side in this campaign has been telling us that the issues of this election are the maintenance of peace and prosperity. The line has been used, « We’ve never had it so good. »

But I have an uncomfortable feeling that this prosperity isn’t something on which we can base our hopes for the future. No nation in history has ever survived a tax burden that reached a third of its national income. Today, 37 cents out of every dollar earned in this country is the tax collector’s share, and yet our government continues to spend 17 million dollars a day more than the government takes in. We haven’t balanced our budget 28 out of the last 34 years. We’ve raised our debt limit three times in the last twelve months, and now our national debt is one and a half times bigger than all the combined debts of all the nations of the world. We have 15 billion dollars in gold in our treasury; we don’t own an ounce. Foreign dollar claims are 27.3 billion dollars. And we’ve just had announced that the dollar of 1939 will now purchase 45 cents in its total value.

As for the peace that we would preserve, I wonder who among us would like to approach the wife or mother whose husband or son has died in South Vietnam and ask them if they think this is a peace that should be maintained indefinitely. Do they mean peace, or do they mean we just want to be left in peace? There can be no real peace while one American is dying some place in the world for the rest of us. We’re at war with the most dangerous enemy that has ever faced mankind in his long climb from the swamp to the stars, and it’s been said if we lose that war, and in so doing lose this way of freedom of ours, history will record with the greatest astonishment that those who had the most to lose did the least to prevent its happening. Well I think it’s time we ask ourselves if we still know the freedoms that were intended for us by the Founding Fathers.

Not too long ago, two friends of mine were talking to a Cuban refugee, a businessman who had escaped from Castro, and in the midst of his story one of my friends turned to the other and said, « We don’t know how lucky we are. » And the Cuban stopped and said, « How lucky you are? I had someplace to escape to. » And in that sentence he told us the entire story. If we lose freedom here, there’s no place to escape to. This is the last stand on earth.

And this idea that government is beholden to the people, that it has no other source of power except the sovereign people, is still the newest and the most unique idea in all the long history of man’s relation to man.

This is the issue of this election: whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.

You and I are told increasingly we have to choose between a left or right. Well I’d like to suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There’s only an up or down: [up] man’s old — old-aged dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. And regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course.

In this vote-harvesting time, they use terms like the « Great Society, » or as we were told a few days ago by the President, we must accept a greater government activity in the affairs of the people. But they’ve been a little more explicit in the past and among themselves; and all of the things I now will quote have appeared in print. These are not Republican accusations. For example, they have voices that say, « The cold war will end through our acceptance of a not undemocratic socialism. » Another voice says, « The profit motive has become outmoded. It must be replaced by the incentives of the welfare state. » Or, « Our traditional system of individual freedom is incapable of solving the complex problems of the 20th century. » Senator Fulbright has said at Stanford University that the Constitution is outmoded. He referred to the President as « our moral teacher and our leader, » and he says he is « hobbled in his task by the restrictions of power imposed on him by this antiquated document. » He must « be freed, » so that he « can do for us » what he knows « is best. » And Senator Clark of Pennsylvania, another articulate spokesman, defines liberalism as « meeting the material needs of the masses through the full power of centralized government. »

Well, I, for one, resent it when a representative of the people refers to you and me, the free men and women of this country, as « the masses. » This is a term we haven’t applied to ourselves in America. But beyond that, « the full power of centralized government » — this was the very thing the Founding Fathers sought to minimize. They knew that governments don’t control things. A government can’t control the economy without controlling people. And they know when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. They also knew, those Founding Fathers, that outside of its legitimate functions, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector of the economy.

Now, we have no better example of this than government’s involvement in the farm economy over the last 30 years. Since 1955, the cost of this program has nearly doubled. One-fourth of farming in America is responsible for 85% of the farm surplus. Three-fourths of farming is out on the free market and has known a 21% increase in the per capita consumption of all its produce. You see, that one-fourth of farming — that’s regulated and controlled by the federal government. In the last three years we’ve spent 43 dollars in the feed grain program for every dollar bushel of corn we don’t grow.

Senator Humphrey last week charged that Barry Goldwater, as President, would seek to eliminate farmers. He should do his homework a little better, because he’ll find out that we’ve had a decline of 5 million in the farm population under these government programs. He’ll also find that the Democratic administration has sought to get from Congress [an] extension of the farm program to include that three-fourths that is now free. He’ll find that they’ve also asked for the right to imprison farmers who wouldn’t keep books as prescribed by the federal government. The Secretary of Agriculture asked for the right to seize farms through condemnation and resell them to other individuals. And contained in that same program was a provision that would have allowed the federal government to remove 2 million farmers from the soil.

At the same time, there’s been an increase in the Department of Agriculture employees. There’s now one for every 30 farms in the United States, and still they can’t tell us how 66 shiploads of grain headed for Austria disappeared without a trace and Billie Sol Estes never left shore.

Every responsible farmer and farm organization has repeatedly asked the government to free the farm economy, but how — who are farmers to know what’s best for them? The wheat farmers voted against a wheat program. The government passed it anyway. Now the price of bread goes up; the price of wheat to the farmer goes down.

Meanwhile, back in the city, under urban renewal the assault on freedom carries on. Private property rights [are] so diluted that public interest is almost anything a few government planners decide it should be. In a program that takes from the needy and gives to the greedy, we see such spectacles as in Cleveland, Ohio, a million-and-a-half-dollar building completed only three years ago must be destroyed to make way for what government officials call a « more compatible use of the land. » The President tells us he’s now going to start building public housing units in the thousands, where heretofore we’ve only built them in the hundreds. But FHA [Federal Housing Authority] and the Veterans Administration tell us they have 120,000 housing units they’ve taken back through mortgage foreclosure. For three decades, we’ve sought to solve the problems of unemployment through government planning, and the more the plans fail, the more the planners plan. The latest is the Area Redevelopment Agency.

They’ve just declared Rice County, Kansas, a depressed area. Rice County, Kansas, has two hundred oil wells, and the 14,000 people there have over 30 million dollars on deposit in personal savings in their banks. And when the government tells you you’re depressed, lie down and be depressed.

We have so many people who can’t see a fat man standing beside a thin one without coming to the conclusion the fat man got that way by taking advantage of the thin one. So they’re going to solve all the problems of human misery through government and government planning. Well, now, if government planning and welfare had the answer — and they’ve had almost 30 years of it — shouldn’t we expect government to read the score to us once in a while? Shouldn’t they be telling us about the decline each year in the number of people needing help? The reduction in the need for public housing?

But the reverse is true. Each year the need grows greater; the program grows greater. We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry each night. Well that was probably true. They were all on a diet. But now we’re told that 9.3 million families in this country are poverty-stricken on the basis of earning less than 3,000 dollars a year. Welfare spending [is] 10 times greater than in the dark depths of the Depression. We’re spending 45 billion dollars on welfare. Now do a little arithmetic, and you’ll find that if we divided the 45 billion dollars up equally among those 9 million poor families, we’d be able to give each family 4,600 dollars a year. And this added to their present income should eliminate poverty. Direct aid to the poor, however, is only running only about 600 dollars per family. It would seem that someplace there must be some overhead.

Now — so now we declare « war on poverty, » or « You, too, can be a Bobby Baker. » Now do they honestly expect us to believe that if we add 1 billion dollars to the 45 billion we’re spending, one more program to the 30-odd we have — and remember, this new program doesn’t replace any, it just duplicates existing programs — do they believe that poverty is suddenly going to disappear by magic? Well, in all fairness I should explain there is one part of the new program that isn’t duplicated. This is the youth feature. We’re now going to solve the dropout problem, juvenile delinquency, by reinstituting something like the old CCC camps [Civilian Conservation Corps], and we’re going to put our young people in these camps. But again we do some arithmetic, and we find that we’re going to spend each year just on room and board for each young person we help 4,700 dollars a year. We can send them to Harvard for 2,700! Course, don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting Harvard is the answer to juvenile delinquency.

But seriously, what are we doing to those we seek to help? Not too long ago, a judge called me here in Los Angeles. He told me of a young woman who’d come before him for a divorce. She had six children, was pregnant with her seventh. Under his questioning, she revealed her husband was a laborer earning 250 dollars a month. She wanted a divorce to get an 80 dollar raise. She’s eligible for 330 dollars a month in the Aid to Dependent Children Program. She got the idea from two women in her neighborhood who’d already done that very thing.

Yet anytime you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders, we’re denounced as being against their humanitarian goals. They say we’re always « against » things — we’re never « for » anything.

Well, the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant; it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.

Now — we’re for a provision that destitution should not follow unemployment by reason of old age, and to that end we’ve accepted Social Security as a step toward meeting the problem.

But we’re against those entrusted with this program when they practice deception regarding its fiscal shortcomings, when they charge that any criticism of the program means that we want to end payments to those people who depend on them for a livelihood. They’ve called it « insurance » to us in a hundred million pieces of literature. But then they appeared before the Supreme Court and they testified it was a welfare program. They only use the term « insurance » to sell it to the people. And they said Social Security dues are a tax for the general use of the government, and the government has used that tax. There is no fund, because Robert Byers, the actuarial head, appeared before a congressional committee and admitted that Social Security as of this moment is 298 billion dollars in the hole. But he said there should be no cause for worry because as long as they have the power to tax, they could always take away from the people whatever they needed to bail them out of trouble. And they’re doing just that.

A young man, 21 years of age, working at an average salary — his Social Security contribution would, in the open market, buy him an insurance policy that would guarantee 220 dollars a month at age 65. The government promises 127. He could live it up until he’s 31 and then take out a policy that would pay more than Social Security. Now are we so lacking in business sense that we can’t put this program on a sound basis, so that people who do require those payments will find they can get them when they’re due — that the cupboard isn’t bare?

Barry Goldwater thinks we can.

At the same time, can’t we introduce voluntary features that would permit a citizen who can do better on his own to be excused upon presentation of evidence that he had made provision for the non-earning years? Should we not allow a widow with children to work, and not lose the benefits supposedly paid for by her deceased husband? Shouldn’t you and I be allowed to declare who our beneficiaries will be under this program, which we cannot do? I think we’re for telling our senior citizens that no one in this country should be denied medical care because of a lack of funds. But I think we’re against forcing all citizens, regardless of need, into a compulsory government program, especially when we have such examples, as was announced last week, when France admitted that their Medicare program is now bankrupt. They’ve come to the end of the road.

In addition, was Barry Goldwater so irresponsible when he suggested that our government give up its program of deliberate, planned inflation, so that when you do get your Social Security pension, a dollar will buy a dollar’s worth, and not 45 cents worth?

I think we’re for an international organization, where the nations of the world can seek peace. But I think we’re against subordinating American interests to an organization that has become so structurally unsound that today you can muster a two-thirds vote on the floor of the General Assembly among nations that represent less than 10 percent of the world’s population. I think we’re against the hypocrisy of assailing our allies because here and there they cling to a colony, while we engage in a conspiracy of silence and never open our mouths about the millions of people enslaved in the Soviet colonies in the satellite nations.

I think we’re for aiding our allies by sharing of our material blessings with those nations which share in our fundamental beliefs, but we’re against doling out money government to government, creating bureaucracy, if not socialism, all over the world. We set out to help 19 countries. We’re helping 107. We’ve spent 146 billion dollars. With that money, we bought a 2 million dollar yacht for Haile Selassie. We bought dress suits for Greek undertakers, extra wives for Kenya[n] government officials. We bought a thousand TV sets for a place where they have no electricity. In the last six years, 52 nations have bought 7 billion dollars worth of our gold, and all 52 are receiving foreign aid from this country.

No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. So, governments’ programs, once launched, never disappear.

Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth.

Federal employees — federal employees number two and a half million; and federal, state, and local, one out of six of the nation’s work force employed by government. These proliferating bureaus with their thousands of regulations have cost us many of our constitutional safeguards. How many of us realize that today federal agents can invade a man’s property without a warrant? They can impose a fine without a formal hearing, let alone a trial by jury? And they can seize and sell his property at auction to enforce the payment of that fine. In Chico County, Arkansas, James Wier over-planted his rice allotment. The government obtained a 17,000 dollar judgment. And a U.S. marshal sold his 960-acre farm at auction. The government said it was necessary as a warning to others to make the system work.

Last February 19th at the University of Minnesota, Norman Thomas, six-times candidate for President on the Socialist Party ticket, said, « If Barry Goldwater became President, he would stop the advance of socialism in the United States. » I think that’s exactly what he will do.

But as a former Democrat, I can tell you Norman Thomas isn’t the only man who has drawn this parallel to socialism with the present administration, because back in 1936, Mr. Democrat himself, Al Smith, the great American, came before the American people and charged that the leadership of his Party was taking the Party of Jefferson, Jackson, and Cleveland down the road under the banners of Marx, Lenin, and Stalin. And he walked away from his Party, and he never returned til the day he died — because to this day, the leadership of that Party has been taking that Party, that honorable Party, down the road in the image of the labor Socialist Party of England.

Now it doesn’t require expropriation or confiscation of private property or business to impose socialism on a people. What does it mean whether you hold the deed to the — or the title to your business or property if the government holds the power of life and death over that business or property? And such machinery already exists. The government can find some charge to bring against any concern it chooses to prosecute. Every businessman has his own tale of harassment. Somewhere a perversion has taken place. Our natural, unalienable rights are now considered to be a dispensation of government, and freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp as it is at this moment.

Our Democratic opponents seem unwilling to debate these issues. They want to make you and I believe that this is a contest between two men — that we’re to choose just between two personalities.

Well what of this man that they would destroy — and in destroying, they would destroy that which he represents, the ideas that you and I hold dear? Is he the brash and shallow and trigger-happy man they say he is? Well I’ve been privileged to know him « when. » I knew him long before he ever dreamed of trying for high office, and I can tell you personally I’ve never known a man in my life I believed so incapable of doing a dishonest or dishonorable thing.

This is a man who, in his own business before he entered politics, instituted a profit-sharing plan before unions had ever thought of it. He put in health and medical insurance for all his employees. He took 50 percent of the profits before taxes and set up a retirement program, a pension plan for all his employees. He sent monthly checks for life to an employee who was ill and couldn’t work. He provides nursing care for the children of mothers who work in the stores. When Mexico was ravaged by the floods in the Rio Grande, he climbed in his airplane and flew medicine and supplies down there.

An ex-GI told me how he met him. It was the week before Christmas during the Korean War, and he was at the Los Angeles airport trying to get a ride home to Arizona for Christmas. And he said that [there were] a lot of servicemen there and no seats available on the planes. And then a voice came over the loudspeaker and said, « Any men in uniform wanting a ride to Arizona, go to runway such-and-such, » and they went down there, and there was a fellow named Barry Goldwater sitting in his plane. Every day in those weeks before Christmas, all day long, he’d load up the plane, fly it to Arizona, fly them to their homes, fly back over to get another load.

During the hectic split-second timing of a campaign, this is a man who took time out to sit beside an old friend who was dying of cancer. His campaign managers were understandably impatient, but he said, « There aren’t many left who care what happens to her. I’d like her to know I care. » This is a man who said to his 19-year-old son, « There is no foundation like the rock of honesty and fairness, and when you begin to build your life on that rock, with the cement of the faith in God that you have, then you have a real start. » This is not a man who could carelessly send other people’s sons to war. And that is the issue of this campaign that makes all the other problems I’ve discussed academic, unless we realize we’re in a war that must be won.

Those who would trade our freedom for the soup kitchen of the welfare state have told us they have a utopian solution of peace without victory. They call their policy « accommodation. » And they say if we’ll only avoid any direct confrontation with the enemy, he’ll forget his evil ways and learn to love us. All who oppose them are indicted as warmongers. They say we offer simple answers to complex problems. Well, perhaps there is a simple answer — not an easy answer — but simple: If you and I have the courage to tell our elected officials that we want our national policy based on what we know in our hearts is morally right.

We cannot buy our security, our freedom from the threat of the bomb by committing an immorality so great as saying to a billion human beings now enslaved behind the Iron Curtain, « Give up your dreams of freedom because to save our own skins, we’re willing to make a deal with your slave masters. » Alexander Hamilton said, « A nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master, and deserves one. » Now let’s set the record straight. There’s no argument over the choice between peace and war, but there’s only one guaranteed way you can have peace — and you can have it in the next second — surrender.

Admittedly, there’s a risk in any course we follow other than this, but every lesson of history tells us that the greater risk lies in appeasement, and this is the specter our well-meaning liberal friends refuse to face — that their policy of accommodation is appeasement, and it gives no choice between peace and war, only between fight or surrender. If we continue to accommodate, continue to back and retreat, eventually we have to face the final demand — the ultimatum. And what then — when Nikita Khrushchev has told his people he knows what our answer will be? He has told them that we’re retreating under the pressure of the Cold War, and someday when the time comes to deliver the final ultimatum, our surrender will be voluntary, because by that time we will have been weakened from within spiritually, morally, and economically. He believes this because from our side he’s heard voices pleading for « peace at any price » or « better Red than dead, » or as one commentator put it, he’d rather « live on his knees than die on his feet. » And therein lies the road to war, because those voices don’t speak for the rest of us.

You and I know and do not believe that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery. If nothing in life is worth dying for, when did this begin — just in the face of this enemy? Or should Moses have told the children of Israel to live in slavery under the pharaohs? Should Christ have refused the cross? Should the patriots at Concord Bridge have thrown down their guns and refused to fire the shot heard ’round the world? The martyrs of history were not fools, and our honored dead who gave their lives to stop the advance of the Nazis didn’t die in vain. Where, then, is the road to peace? Well it’s a simple answer after all.

You and I have the courage to say to our enemies, « There is a price we will not pay. » « There is a point beyond which they must not advance. » And this — this is the meaning in the phrase of Barry Goldwater’s « peace through strength. » Winston Churchill said, « The destiny of man is not measured by material computations. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we’re spirits — not animals. » And he said, « There’s something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty. »

You and I have a rendezvous with destiny.

We’ll preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we’ll sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.

We will keep in mind and remember that Barry Goldwater has faith in us. He has faith that you and I have the ability and the dignity and the right to make our own decisions and determine our own destiny.

Thank you very much.

Voir aussi:

OBAMA

July 27, 2004

Keynote Address

2004 Democratic National Convention

On behalf of the great state of Illinois, crossroads of a nation, land of Lincoln, let me express my deep gratitude for the privilege of addressing this convention. Tonight is a particular honor for me because, let’s face it, my presence on this stage is pretty unlikely. My father was a foreign student, born and raised in a small village in Kenya. He grew up herding goats, went to school in a tin-roof shack. His father, my grandfather, was a cook, a domestic servant.

But my grandfather had larger dreams for his son. Through hard work and perseverance my father got a scholarship to study in a magical place: America, which stood as a beacon of freedom and opportunity to so many who had come before. While studying here, my father met my mother. She was born in a town on the other side of the world, in Kansas. Her father worked on oil rigs and farms through most of the Depression. The day after Pearl Harbor he signed up for duty, joined Patton’s army and marched across Europe. Back home, my grandmother raised their baby and went to work on a bomber assembly line. After the war, they studied on the GI Bill, bought a house through FHA, and moved west in search of opportunity.

And they, too, had big dreams for their daughter, a common dream, born of two continents. My parents shared not only an improbable love; they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. They would give me an African name, Barack, or « blessed, » believing that in a tolerant America your name is no barrier to success. They imagined me going to the best schools in the land, even though they weren’t rich, because in a generous America you don’t have to be rich to achieve your potential. They are both passed away now. Yet, I know that, on this night, they look down on me with pride.

I stand here today, grateful for the diversity of my heritage, aware that my parents’ dreams live on in my precious daughters. I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that, in no other country on earth, is my story even possible. Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation, not because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy. Our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over two hundred years ago, « We hold these truths to he self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. »

That is the true genius of America, a faith in the simple dreams of its people, the insistence on small miracles. That we can tuck in our children at night and know they are fed and clothed and safe from harm. That we can say what we think, write what we think, without hearing a sudden knock on the door. That we can have an idea and start our own business without paying a bribe or hiring somebody’s son. That we can participate in the political process without fear of retribution, and that our votes will he counted ? or at least, most of the time.

This year, in this election, we are called to reaffirm our values and commitments, to hold them against a hard reality and see how we are measuring up, to the legacy of our forbearers, and the promise of future generations. And fellow Americans ? Democrats, Republicans, Independents ? I say to you tonight: we have more work to do. More to do for the workers I met in Galesburg, Illinois, who are losing their union jobs at the Maytag plant that’s moving to Mexico, and now are having to compete with their own children for jobs that pay seven bucks an hour. More to do for the father I met who was losing his job and choking back tears, wondering how he would pay $4,500 a month for the drugs his son needs without the health benefits he counted on. More to do for the young woman in East St. Louis, and thousands more like her, who has the grades, has the drive, has the will, but doesn’t have the money to go to college.

Don’t get me wrong. The people I meet in small towns and big cities, in diners and office parks, they don’t expect government to solve all their problems. They know they have to work hard to get ahead and they want to. Go into the collar counties around Chicago, and people will tell you they don’t want their tax money wasted by a welfare agency or the Pentagon. Go into any inner city neighborhood, and folks will tell you that government alone can’t teach kids to learn. They know that parents have to parent, that children can’t achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white. No, people don’t expect government to solve all their problems. But they sense, deep in their bones, that with just a change in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life, and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all. They know we can do better. And they want that choice.

In this election, we offer that choice. Our party has chosen a man to lead us who embodies the best this country has to offer. That man is John Kerry. John Kerry understands the ideals of community, faith, and sacrifice, because they’ve defined his life. From his heroic service in Vietnam to his years as prosecutor and lieutenant governor, through two decades in the United States Senate, he has devoted himself to this country. Again and again, we’ve seen him make tough choices when easier ones were available. His values and his record affirm what is best in us.

John Kerry believes in an America where hard work is rewarded. So instead of offering tax breaks to companies shipping jobs overseas, he’ll offer them to companies creating jobs here at home. John Kerry believes in an America where all Americans can afford the same health coverage our politicians in Washington have for themselves. John Kerry believes in energy independence, so we aren’t held hostage to the profits of oil companies or the sabotage of foreign oil fields. John Kerry believes in the constitutional freedoms that have made our country the envy of the world, and he will never sacrifice our basic liberties nor use faith as a wedge to divide us. And John Kerry believes that in a dangerous world, war must be an option, but it should never he the first option.

A while back, I met a young man named Shamus at the VFW Hall in East Moline, Illinois. He was a good-looking kid, six-two or six-three, clear-eyed, with an easy smile. He told me he’d joined the Marines and was heading to Iraq the following week. As I listened to him explain why he’d enlisted, his absolute faith in our country and its leaders, his devotion to duty and service, I thought this young man was all any of us might hope for in a child. But then I asked myself: Are we serving Shamus as well as he was serving us? I thought of more than 900 service men and women, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, friends and neighbors, who will not be returning to their hometowns. I thought of families I had met who were struggling to get by without a loved one’s full income, or whose loved ones had returned with a limb missing or with nerves shattered, but who still lacked long-term health benefits because they were reservists. When we send our young men and women into harm’s way, we have a solemn obligation not to fudge the numbers or shade the truth about why they’re going, to care for their families while they’re gone, to tend to the soldiers upon their return, and to never ever go to war without enough troops to win the war, secure the peace, and earn the respect of the world.

Now let me be clear. We have real enemies in the world. These enemies must be found. They must be pursued and they must be defeated. John Kerry knows this. And just as Lieutenant Kerry did not hesitate to risk his life to protect the men who served with him in Vietnam, President Kerry will not hesitate one moment to use our military might to keep America safe and secure. John Kerry believes in America. And he knows it’s not enough for just some of us to prosper. For alongside our famous individualism, there’s another ingredient in the American saga.

A belief that we are connected as one people. If there’s a child on the south side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it’s not my child. If there’s a senior citizen somewhere who can’t pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it’s not my grandmother. If there’s an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. It’s that fundamental belief ? I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper ? that makes this country work. It’s what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family. « E pluribus unum. » Out of many, one.

Yet even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America there’s the United States of America. There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

In the end, that’s what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope? John Kerry calls on us to hope. John Edwards calls on us to hope. I’m not talking about blind optimism here ? the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don’t talk about it, or the health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it. No, I’m talking about something more substantial. It’s the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a millworker’s son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too. The audacity of hope!

In the end, that is God’s greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation; the belief in things not seen; the belief that there are better days ahead. I believe we can give our middle class relief and provide working families with a road to opportunity. I believe we can provide jobs to the jobless, homes to the homeless, and reclaim young people in cities across America from violence and despair. I believe that as we stand on the crossroads of history, we can make the right choices, and meet the challenges that face us. America!

Tonight, if you feel the same energy I do, the same urgency I do, the same passion I do, the same hopefulness I do ? if we do what we must do, then I have no doubt that all across the country, from Florida to Oregon, from Washington to Maine, the people will rise up in November, and John Kerry will be sworn in as president, and John Edwards will be sworn in as vice president, and this country will reclaim its promise, and out of this long political darkness a brighter day will come. Thank you and God bless you.

Voir egalement:

American Narcissus

The vanity of Barack Obama

Jonathan V. Last

November 22, 2010, Vol. 16, No. 10

Why has Barack Obama failed so spectacularly? Is he too dogmatically liberal or too pragmatic? Is he a socialist, or an anticolonialist, or a philosopher-president? Or is it possible that Obama’s failures stem from something simpler: vanity. Politicians as a class are particularly susceptible to mirror-gazing. But Obama’s vanity is overwhelming. It defines him, his politics, and his presidency.

It’s revealed in lots of little stories. There was the time he bragged about how one of his campaign volunteers, who had tragically died of breast cancer, “insisted she’s going to be buried in an Obama T-shirt.” There was the Nobel acceptance speech where he conceded, “I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war” (the emphasis is mine). There was the moment during the 2008 campaign when Obama appeared with a seal that was a mash-up of the Great Seal of the United States and his own campaign logo (with its motto Vero Possumus, “Yes we Can” in Latin). Just a few weeks ago, Obama was giving a speech when the actual presidential seal fell from the rostrum. “That’s all right,” he quipped. “All of you know who I am.” Oh yes, Mr. President, we certainly do.

My favorite is this line from page 160 of The Audacity of Hope:

I find comfort in the fact that the longer I’m in politics the less nourishing popularity becomes, that a striving for power and rank and fame seems to betray a poverty of ambition, and that I am answerable mainly to the steady gaze of my own conscience.

So popularity and fame once nourished him, but now his ambition is richer and he’s answerable not, like some presidents, to the Almighty, but to the gaze of his personal conscience. Which is steady. The fact that this sentence appears in the second memoir of a man not yet 50 years old—and who had been in national politics for all of two years—is merely icing.

People have been noticing Obama’s vanity for a long time. In 2008, one of his Harvard Law classmates, the entertainment lawyer Jackie Fuchs, explained what Obama was like during his school days: “One of our classmates once famously noted that you could judge just how pretentious someone’s remarks in class were by how high they ranked on the ‘Obamanometer,’ a term that lasted far longer than our time at law school. Obama didn’t just share in class—he pontificated. He knew better than everyone else in the room, including the teachers. ”

The story of Obama’s writing career is an object lesson in how our president’s view of himself shapes his interactions with the world around him. In 1990, Obama was wrapping up his second year at Harvard Law when the New York Times ran a profile of him on the occasion of his becoming the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review. A book agent in New York named Jane Dystel read the story and called up the young man, asking if he’d be interested in writing a book. Like any 29-year-old, he wasn’t about to turn down money. He promptly accepted a deal with Simon & Schuster’s Poseidon imprint—reportedly in the low six-figures—to write a book about race relations.

Obama missed his deadline. No matter. His agent quickly secured him another contract, this time with Times Books. And a $40,000 advance. Not bad for an unknown author who had already blown one deal, writing about a noncommercial subject.

By this point Obama had left law school, and academia was courting him. The University of Chicago Law School approached him; although they didn’t have any specific needs, they wanted to be in the Barack Obama business. As Douglas Baird, the head of Chicago’s appointments committee, would later explain, “You look at his background—Harvard Law Review president, magna cum laude, and he’s African American. This is a no-brainer hiring decision at the entry level of any law school in the country.” Chicago invited Obama to come in and teach just about anything he wanted. But Obama wasn’t interested in a professor’s life. Instead, he told them that he was writing a book—about voting rights. The university made him a fellow, giving him an office and a paycheck to keep him going while he worked on this important project.

In case you’re keeping score at home, there was some confusion as to what book young Obama was writing. His publisher thought he was writing about race relations. His employer thought he was writing about voting rights law. But Obama seems to have never seriously considered either subject. Instead, he decided that his subject would be himself. The 32-year-old was writing a memoir.

Obama came clean to the university first. He waited until his fellowship was halfway over—perhaps he was concerned that his employers might not like the bait-and-switch. He needn’t have worried. Baird still hoped that Obama would eventually join the university’s faculty (he had already begun teaching a small classload as a “senior lecturer”). “It was a good deal for us,” Baird explained, “because he was a good teaching prospect and we wanted him around.”

And it all worked out in the end. The book Obama eventually finished was Dreams from My Father. It didn’t do well initially, but nine years later, after his speech at the 2004 Democratic convention made him a star, it sold like gangbusters. Obama got rich. And famous. The book became the springboard for his career in national politics.

Only it didn’t quite work out for everybody. Obama left the University of Chicago, never succumbing to their offers of a permanent position in their hallowed halls. Simon & Schuster, which had taken a chance on an unproven young writer, got burned for a few thousand bucks. And Jane Dystel, who’d plucked him out of the pages of the New York Times and got him the deal to write the book that sped his political rise? As soon as Obama was ready to negotiate the contract for his second book—the big-money payday—he dumped her and replaced her with super-agent Robert Barnett.

We risk reading too much into these vignettes—after all, our president is a mansion with many rooms and it would be foolish to reduce him to pure ego. Yet the vignettes are so numerous. For instance, a few years ago Obama’s high school basketball coach told ABC News how, as a teenager, Obama always badgered him for more playing time, even though he wasn’t the best player on the team—or even as good as he thought he was. Everyone who has ever played team sports has encountered the kid with an inflated sense of self. That’s common. What’s rare is the kid who feels entitled enough to nag the coach about his minutes. Obama was that kid. His enthusiasm about his abilities and his playing time extended into his political life. In 2004, Obama explained to author David Mendell how he saw his future as a national political figure: “I’m LeBron, baby. I can play on this level. I got some game.” After just a couple of months in the Senate, Obama jumped the Democratic line and started asking voters to make him president.

Yet you don’t have to delve deep into armchair psychology to see how Obama’s vanity has shaped his presidency. In January 2009 he met with congressional leaders to discuss the stimulus package. The meeting was supposed to foster bipartisanship. Senator Jon Kyl questioned the plan’s mixture of spending and tax cuts. Obama’s response to him was, “I won.” A year later Obama held another meeting to foster bipartisanship for his health care reform plan. There was some technical back-and-forth about Republicans not having the chance to properly respond within the constraints of the format because President Obama had done some pontificating, as is his wont. Obama explained, “There was an imbalance on the opening statements because”—here he paused, self-satisfiedly—“I’m the president. And so I made, uh, I don’t count my time in terms of dividing it evenly.”

There are lots of times when you get the sense that Obama views the powers of the presidency as little more than a shadow of his own person. When he journeyed to Copenhagen in October 2009 to pitch Chicago’s bid for the Olympics, his speech to the IOC was about—you guessed it: “Nearly one year ago, on a clear November night,” he told the committee, “people from every corner of the world gathered in the city of Chicago or in front of their televisions to watch the results of .  .  . ” and away he went. A short while later he was back in Copenhagen for the climate change summit. When things looked darkest, he personally commandeered the meeting to broker a “deal.” Which turned out to be worthless. In January 2010, Obama met with nervous Democratic congressmen to assure them that he wasn’t driving the party off a cliff. Confronted with worries that 2010 could be a worse off-year election than 1994, Obama explained to the professional politicians, “Well, the big difference here and in ’94 was you’ve got me.”

In the midst of the BP oil spill last summer, Obama explained, “My job right now is just to make sure that everybody in the Gulf understands this is what I wake up to in the morning and this is what I go to bed at night thinking about: the spill.” Read that again: The president thinks that the job of the president is to make certain the citizens correctly understand what’s on the president’s mind.

Obama’s vanity is even more jarring when paraded in the foreign arena. In April, Poland suffered a national tragedy when its president, first lady, and a good portion of the government were killed in a plane crash. Obama decided not to go to the funeral. He played golf instead. Though maybe it’s best that he didn’t make the trip. When he journeyed to Great Britain to meet with the queen he gave her an amazing gift: an iPod loaded with recordings of his speeches and pictures from his inauguration.

On November 9, 2009, Europe celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was kind of a big deal. They may not mention the Cold War in schools much these days, but it pitted the Western liberal order against a totalitarian ideology in a global struggle. In this the United States was the guarantor of liberty and peace for the West; had we faltered, no corner of the world would have been safe from Soviet domination.

President Obama has a somewhat different reading. He explains: “The Cold War reached a conclusion because of the actions of many nations over many years, and because the people of Russia and Eastern Europe stood up and decided that its end would be peaceful.” Pretty magnanimous of the Soviets to let the long twilight struggle end peacefully like that, especially after all we did to provoke them.

So Obama doesn’t know much about the Cold War. Which is probably why he didn’t think the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall was all that important. When the leaders of Europe got together to commemorate it, he decided not to go to that, either. But he did find time to record a video message, which he graciously allowed the Europeans to air during the ceremony.

In his video, Obama ruminated for a few minutes on the grand events of the 20th century, the Cold War itself, and the great lesson we all should take from this historic passing: “Few would have foreseen .  .  . that a united Germany would be led by a woman from Brandenburg or that their American ally would be led by a man of African descent. But human destiny is what human beings make of it.” The fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the Cold War, and the freedom of all humanity—it’s great stuff. Right up there with the election of Barack Obama.

All presidents are hostage to self-confidence. But not since Babe Ruth grabbed a bat and wagged his fat finger at Wrigley’s center-field wall has an American politician called his shot like Barack Obama. He announced his candidacy in Springfield, Illinois, on the steps where Abraham Lincoln gave his “house divided” speech. He mentioned Lincoln continually during the 2008 campaign. After he vanquished John McCain he passed out copies of Team of Rivals, a book about Lincoln’s cabinet, to his senior staff. At his inauguration, he chose to be sworn into office using Lincoln’s Bible. At the inaugural luncheon following the ceremony, he requested that the food—each dish of which was selected as a “tribute” to Lincoln—be served on replicas of Lincoln’s china. At some point in January 2009 you wanted to grab Obama by the lapels and tell him—We get it! You’re the Rail Splitter! If we promise to play along, will you keep the log cabin out of the Rose Garden?

It’s troubling that a fellow whose electoral rationale was that he edited the Harvard Law Review and wrote a couple of memoirs was comparing himself to the man who saved the Union. But it tells you all you need to know about what Obama thinks of his political gifts and why he’s unperturbed about having led his party into political disaster in the midterms. He assumes that he’ll be able to reverse the political tide once he becomes the issue, in the presidential race in 2012. As he said to Harry Reid after the majority leader congratulated him on one particularly fine oration, “I have a gift, Harry.”

But Obama’s faith in his abilities extends beyond mere vote-getting. Buried in a 2008 New Yorker piece by Ryan Lizza about the Obama campaign was this gob-smacking passage:

Obama said that he liked being surrounded by people who expressed strong opinions, but he also said, “I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.” After Obama’s first debate with McCain, on September 26th, [campaign political director Patrick] Gaspard sent him an e-mail. “You are more clutch than Michael Jordan,” he wrote. Obama replied, “Just give me the ball.”

In fairness to Obama, maybe he is a better speechwriter than his speechwriters. After all, his speechwriter was a 27-year-old, and the most affecting part of Obama’s big 2008 stump speech was recycled from Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, with whom he shared a campaign strategist. But it’s instructive that Obama thinks he knows “more about policies on any particular issue” than his policy directors. The rate of growth of the mohair subsidy? The replacement schedule for servers at the NORAD command center? The relationship between annual rainfall in northeast Nevada and water prices in Las Vegas?

What Scott Fitzgerald once said about Hollywood is true of the American government: It can be understood only dimly and in flashes; there are no more than a handful of men who have ever been able to keep the entire equation in their heads. Barack Obama had worked in the federal government for all of four years. He was not one of those men. More important, however, is that as president he shouldn’t be the chief wonk, speechwriter, and political director.

David Remnick delivers a number of insights about Obama in his book The Bridge. For instance, Valerie Jarrett—think of her as the president’s Karen Hughes—tells Remnick that Obama is often bored with the world around him. “I think that he has never really been challenged intellectually,” Jarrett says. “So what I sensed in him was not just a restless spirit but somebody with such extraordinary talents that they had to be really taxed in order for him to be happy.” Jarrett concludes, “He’s been bored to death his whole life.”

With one or two possible exceptions, that is. Remnick reports that “Jarrett was quite sure that one of the few things that truly engaged him fully before going to the White House was writing Dreams from My Father.” So the only job Barack Obama ever had that didn’t bore him was writing about Barack Obama. But wait, there’s more.

David Axelrod—he’s Obama’s Karl Rove—told Remnick that “Barack hated being a senator.” Remnick went on:

Washington was a grander stage than Springfield, but the frustrations of being a rookie in a minority party were familiar. Obama could barely conceal his frustration with the torpid pace of the Senate. His aides could sense his frustration and so could his colleagues. “He was so bored being a senator,” one Senate aide said.

Obama’s friend and law firm colleague Judd Miner agreed. “The reality,” Miner told Remnick, “was that during his first two years in the U.S. Senate, I think, he was struggling; it wasn’t nearly as stimulating as he expected.” But even during his long, desolate exile as a senator, Obama was able to find a task that satisfied him. Here’s Remnick again: “The one project that did engage Obama fully was work on The Audacity of Hope. He procrastinated for a long time and then, facing his deadline, wrote nearly a chapter a week.” Your tax dollars at work.

Looking at this American Narcissus, it’s easy to be hammered into a stupor by the accumulated acts of vanity. Oh look, we think to ourselves, there’s our new president accepting his Nobel Peace Prize. There’s the president likening his election to the West’s victory in the Cold War. There’s the commander in chief bragging about his March Madness picks.

Yet it’s important to remember that our presidents aren’t always this way. When he accepted command of the Revolutionary forces, George Washington said,

I feel great distress, from a consciousness that my abilities and military experience may not be equal to the extensive and important Trust. .  .  . I beg it may be remembered, by every Gentleman in the room, that I, this day, declare with the utmost sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the Command I am honored with.

Accepting the presidency, Washington was even more reticent. Being chosen to be president, he said, “could not but overwhelm with despondence one who, inheriting inferior endowments from nature and unpracticed in the duties of civil administration, ought to be peculiarly conscious of his own deficiencies.”

In his biography of John Quincy Adams, Robert Remini noted that Adams was not an especially popular fellow. Yet on one of the rare occasions when he was met with adoring fans, “he told crowds that gathered to see and hear him to go home and attend to their private duties.”

And Obama? In light of the present state of his presidency, let’s look back at his most famous oration:

The journey will be difficult. The road will be long. I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations. But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people. Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on earth. This was the moment—this was the time—when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves and our highest ideals.

The speech was given on June 3, 2008, and the epoch-making historical event to which “this moment” refers throughout is Barack Obama’s victory over Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries.

A senior writer at The Weekly Standard, Jonathan V. Last covered the Obama campaign in 2008.

Voir enfin:

Le mythe de la popularite de Ronald Reagan


Ramadan: Retour sur la charia incomprise (Using the wrong size of stone is against the law)

11 août, 2010
Anti-stoning ad
Comme ils continuaient à l’interroger, il se releva et leur dit: Que celui de vous qui est sans péché jette le premier la pierre contre elle. Et (…) quand ils entendirent cela, accusés par leur conscience, ils se retirèrent un à un, depuis les plus âgés jusqu’aux derniers. Jean 8:7-9
Jésus s’appuie sur ce qu’il y a de plus humain dans la Loi, l’obligation faite aux deux premiers accusateurs de jeter les deux premières pierres; il s’agit pour lui de transformer le mimétisme ritualisé pour une violence limitée en un mimétisme inverse. Si ceux qui doivent jeter  « la première pierre » renoncent à leur geste, alors une réaction mimétique inverse s’enclenche, pour le pardon, pour l’amour. Mais il est périlleux de priver la violence mimétique de tout exutoire. Jésus sait bien qu’à dénoncer radicalement le mauvais mimétisme, il s’expose à devenir lui-même la cible des violences collectives. René Girard
D’abord, vous êtes enterré. Le Code Pénal Islamique dit qu’un homme déclaré coupable d’adultère est enterré jusqu’à la taille; une femme, jusqu’à la poitrine. Si la condamnation est basée sur la confession du prisonnier, selon la loi, c’est le juge présidant le tribunal qui jette la première pierre. Si la condamnation est basée sur le rapport de témoins, ce sont les témoins eux-mêmes qui lancent les premiers, puis le juge, puis les autres – en général d’autres officiels des forces de justice et de sécurité. Les pierres doivent être de taille moyenne selon le code pénal : pas trop grandes pour qu’une ou deux ne suffisent pas à tuer une personne, mais pas trop petites qu’on puisse les appeler des cailloux. En d’autres termes, à peu près la taille d’une mandarine. Toute la procédure prend moins d’une heure.
Un mince espoir pour les lapidés réside dans le fait que ceux qui arrivent à s’échapper de leur trou voient leur peine commuée. Mais cette règle s’applique uniquement pour ceux qui ont confessé leur crime. (Si vous êtes condamné à la lapidation sur la base de témoignages, s’extirper du trou ne sert à rien.) De toute manière, il est très difficile d’échapper à la punition: les prisonniers sont d’abord mis dans un sac en toile blanche avec leurs mains attachées. Christopher Beam
Parce qu’il s’agit d’une injonction divine, la rigueur de cette loi est éprouvante pour les musulmans eux-mêmes. Elle constitue une punition, mais aussi une forme de purification. Il est interdit d’insulter le coupable. Après sa mort, on prie pour lui. Ce que fit le Prophète pour une femme qui s’était livrée après avoir accouché d’un enfant adultérin, et dont le repentir avait été sincère. Hani Ramadan

A l’heure où nos amis musulmans s’apprêtent à fêter pendant tout un mois la fameuse bataille de Badr et la réception du Coran en une sorte, comme à peu près tout le reste, de resucée musulmane de Yom Kippour et Shavouot combinés …

Et pour ceux qui, au moment où comme chaque année nos journaux se dévouent d’un seul homme pour apporter leur petite pierre à l’halalisation de nos concitoyens, s’inquiéteraient encore du sort de cette mère iranienne condamnée à une prochaine lapidation pour « adultère »

Retour sur la célèbre tribune (en une du Monde s’il vous plait!) du frère de Tariq au nom prédestiné (un certain Hani Ramadan, lui aussi petit-fils du fondateur des Frères musulmans) qui avait, à la veille déjà d’une lapidation annoncée mais au Nigéria comme on s’en souvient, dissipé l’incompréhension dont souffre chez nous la charia et rassuré tout le monde.

Rappelant, contre ceux qui prétendent « résumer toute la médecine aux seules amputations chirurgicales », qu’il est « exclu de couper la main du voleur dans un Etat qui ne donne pas à ce dernier les moyens de vivre dignement ».

Et surtout qu' »injonction divine, la rigueur de cette loi est éprouvante pour les musulmans eux-mêmes » qui ont d’ailleurs l’interdiction d’insulter le coupable et l’obligation de prier pour lui  après sa mort

Sans compter, ce que rappelle dument le site Slate, que, ni trop grosses ou trop petites pour qu’elles ne tuent pas trop vite ou trop lentement pour des suppliciés enserrés les mains attachées dans un sac en toile blanche et enterrés jusqu’à la taille ou la poitrine pour les femmes, la taille des pierres est fort heureusement rigoureusement réglementée

La charia incomprise

Hani Ramadan

Le Monde

10.09.02

En Occident, qui voit dans l’application de la charia un retour à des règles moyenâgeuses, les condamnations à mort de Safiya et Amina au Nigeria ont soulevé un tollé. Doit-on comprendre que les musulmans, convaincus du bien-fondé des règles divines, sont des barbares, des coupeurs de mains sanguinaires et des assassins ?

Avant tout, il n’est pas inutile de rappeler que beaucoup, parmi ceux qui crient au scandale, ne réagissent pas devant des crimes d’une autre nature. Dans les capitales occidentales, on n’est guère ému par les rapports qui font état de l’extermination des Tchétchènes, avec son cortège de meurtres et de mutilations.

Personne ne se soucie du sort des enfants handicapés à vie en Palestine, fruit de la terreur et de la lâcheté de la communauté internationale, parce qu’il est plus facile de s’ingérer dans les affaires du Nigeria que dans celles des pays qui exercent au grand jour un terrorisme d’Etat inqualifiable.

A cela s’ajoute une vision caricaturale de la civilisation musulmane. Réduire la richesse de la loi islamique – reconnue par les plus grands spécialistes du droit comparé – aux seuls châtiments corporels, c’est un peu comme si l’on prétendait résumer toute la médecine aux seules amputations chirurgicales. La science médicale comprend une variété de disciplines, allant de la prévention aux traitements les moins éprouvants. Il en va de même pour la charia. Les peines concernant le vol et l’adultère ne peuvent être appliquées que dans une société où sont protégées les normes et les valeurs islamiques. Il est exclu de couper la main du voleur dans un Etat qui ne donne pas à ce dernier les moyens de vivre dignement.

La lapidation prévue en cas d’adultère n’est envisageable que si quatre personnes ont été des témoins oculaires du délit. Ce qui est pratiquement irréalisable, à moins que le musulman choisisse d’avouer sa faute. Avant l’exécution de la sentence, les juristes précisent qu’il lui est toujours possible de revenir sur son aveu.

Une grossesse illégitime peut également entraîner une mise en accusation. Mais en affirmant avoir été contrainte ou victime d’un viol, ou en soutenant que l’enfant est bien légitime, la femme échappera à toute sanction. Dans ce dernier cas, si son époux rejette la paternité du nouveau-né, les conjoints seront définitivement séparés, et elle conservera la garde de sa progéniture.

On le voit : ces peines ont donc surtout une valeur dissuasive. Le prophète Mahomet lui-même faisait tout pour en repousser l’application. Ainsi, lorsque Mâ’iz se présenta au Messager de Dieu en lui demandant de le purifier parce qu’il avait commis l’adultère, ce dernier se détourna de lui. Mais Mâ’iz confessa son erreur à quatre reprises. Dès lors, le Prophète ne pouvait qu’ordonner sa lapidation.

Parce qu’il s’agit d’une injonction divine, la rigueur de cette loi est éprouvante pour les musulmans eux-mêmes. Elle constitue une punition, mais aussi une forme de purification. Il est interdit d’insulter le coupable. Après sa mort, on prie pour lui. Ce que fit le Prophète pour une femme qui s’était livrée après avoir accouché d’un enfant adultérin, et dont le repentir avait été sincère.

La volonté de Dieu, pour les croyants, s’exprime à deux niveaux : dans le livre de la Révélation et dans celui de la Création. Les doctrines juive, chrétienne et musulmane affirment unanimement que Dieu seul est le créateur de toute chose. Or nous demandons : qui a créé le virus du sida ? Observez que la personne qui respecte strictement les commandements divins est à l’abri de cette infection, qui ne peut atteindre, à moins d’une erreur de transfusion sanguine, un individu qui n’entretient aucun rapport extraconjugal, qui n’a pas de pratique homosexuelle et qui évite la consommation de drogue. Par rapport à ces principes de base, seuls s’exposent à la contamination ceux qui ont un comportement déviant.

Avant de juger cette conception moralisatrice et complètement dépassée, je propose simplement que l’on fasse un effort de réflexion : la mort lente d’un malade atteint du sida est-elle moins significative que celle d’une personne lapidée ? Pour le musulman, les signes divins que l’intelligence humaine perçoit se découvrent aussi bien dans l’univers que dans la loi.

Soyons encore plus explicite, au risque de heurter cette fois la sensibilité des partisans invétérés des Lumières. Dans une tradition authentique, le prophète Mahomet annonçait : « La turpitude n’apparaît jamais au sein d’un peuple, pratiquée ouvertement aux yeux de tous, sans que ne se propagent parmi eux les épidémies et les maux qui n’existaient pas chez leurs prédécesseurs. » Qui pourrait nier que les temps modernes, conjuguant le déballage de la débauche sur grand écran et la hantise obsédante d’une contagion mortelle, offrent la parfaite illustration de cette parole ?

En clair, que ceux qui nient qu’un Dieu d’amour ait ordonné ou maintenu la lapidation de l’homme et de la femme adultères se souviennent que le virus du sida n’est pas issu du néant.

Remarquons cependant que l’éthique musulmane nous prescrit de soutenir le malade du sida dans l’épreuve qu’il subit, et qu’il est essentiel de l’accompagner et de le réconforter avec compassion. Remarquons encore que l’islam a encouragé la recherche médicale, le Prophète ayant indiqué qu’à toute maladie, si l’on excepte la vieillesse, correspondait un remède. Il reste que l’épidémie du sida devrait à notre sens, pour être conjurée, nous conduire à une réflexion morale sur le sens de nos responsabilités et sur la nécessité de revenir aux normes susceptibles de préserver notre spiritualité.

Les musulmans sont convaincus de la nécessité, en tout temps et tout lieu, de revenir à la loi divine. Ils voient dans la rigueur de celle-ci le signe de la miséricorde divine. Cette conviction n’est pas nourrie par un fanatisme aveugle, mais par un réalisme correspondant à la nature des choses de la vie. Vivre en paix et en conformité avec l’être et le devoir, tel est le principe de leur engagement, parce que, comme le souligne le Coran, « c’est certes à Dieu qu’appartiennent la création et le commandement ». (7, 54)

Les musulmans savent que la nature leur est soumise autant qu’ils se soumettent à Dieu, mais qu’elle se rebelle en revanche contre eux s’ils enfreignent les lois du Tout-Puissant. Ils ont la certitude que l’homme ne peut se suffire à lui-même, et que la libération des moeurs est à l’origine d’une incommensurable détresse qui touche des millions d’individus. Qui donc aurait le droit de le leur reprocher ?

Voir aussi:

Comment se passe une lapidation en Iran

De la taille des pierres à qui peut jeter la première.

Christopher Beam

Traduit par Holly Pouquet

Slate

Vendredi 6 août 2010

Le Brésil a offert l’asile à Sakineh Ashtiani, une Iranienne reconnue coupable d’adultère en 2006 et condamnée à la peine de mort par lapidation. Il y a quelques semaines, la peine a été temporairement suspendue par les officiels iraniens, mais Ashtiani reste quand même sous le coup de la peine de mort.  Au fait, comment une lapidation se déroule-t-elle?

D’abord, vous êtes enterré. Le Code Pénal Islamique dit qu’un homme déclaré coupable d’adultère est enterré jusqu’à la taille; une femme, jusqu’à la poitrine.  Si la condamnation est basée sur la confession du prisonnier, selon la loi, c’est le juge présidant le tribunal qui jette la première pierre. Si la condamnation est basée sur le rapport de témoins, ce sont les témoins eux-mêmes qui lancent les premiers, puis le juge, puis les autres – en général d’autres officiels des forces de justice et de sécurité. Les pierres doivent être de taille moyenne selon le code pénal : pas trop grandes pour qu’une ou deux ne suffisent pas à tuer une personne, mais pas trop petites qu’on puisse les appeler des cailloux. En d’autres termes, à peu près la taille d’une mandarine. Toute la procédure prend moins d’une heure.

Un mince espoir pour les lapidés réside dans le fait que ceux qui arrivent à s’échapper de leur trou voient leur peine commuée. Mais cette règle s’applique uniquement pour ceux qui ont confessé leur crime. (Si vous êtes condamné à la lapidation sur la base de témoignages, s’extirper du trou ne sert à rien.) De toute manière, il est très difficile d’échapper à la punition: les prisonniers sont d’abord mis dans un sac en toile blanche avec leurs mains attachées.

Les lapidations en Iran étaient publiques par le passé. Entre 1993 et 2000, tout le monde pouvait venir et lancer les pierres. Mais à la suite de cela, un tollé public s’est élevé contre cette pratique et les lapidations sont devenues des affaires privées. Elle ont lieu souvent maintenant à l’intérieur d’un cimetière. En 2002, le principal chef de l’institution judiciaire a même prononcé un moratoire contre les exécutions par lapidation. Mais il s’agissait plus d’une indication qu’un changement de loi, et la pratique de la lapidation s’est poursuivie pendant que les officiels niaient son existence. A l’été 2009, une commission parlementaire a recommandé qu’on abroge la loi autorisant la lapidation, mais le parlement ne l’a pas encore formellement révoquée.  (Vous pouvez regarder le film NSFW montrant une lapidation publique en 1994 ici.)

La loi iranienne décrit trois cas pour lesquels un coupable présumé d’adultère peut être condamné à la lapidation: l’auteur présumé fait lui-même une confession, des témoins attestent de sa culpabilité, ou bien encore le juge prononce la condamnation sur la seule base de sa «connaissance». (Cette dernière est aussi arbitraire que cela en a l’air).  Quand il s’agit de témoignages, un seul ne suffit pas: la cour a besoin de quatre hommes, ou trois hommes et deux femmes.  Si deux hommes et quatre femmes témoignent, l’adultère présumé est seulement passible du fouet.

L’Explication remercie Hadi Ghaemi de l’International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.


Education: L’ingratitude des peuples est décidément sans limites (What’s the matter with France?)

20 décembre, 2009
Betrayed againIl n’est pas surprenant qu’ils deviennent pleins d’amertume, qu’ils s’accrochent aux armes à feu ou à la religion, ou à leur antipathie pour ceux qui ne sont pas comme eux, ou encore à un sentiment d’hostilité envers les immigrants. Barack Obama
Par principe, nous sommes favorables au débat. A sa liberté, à sa pluralité, à son utilité. C’est pourquoi nous refusons le « grand débat sur l’identité nationale » organisé par le pouvoir: parce qu’il n’est ni libre, ni pluraliste, ni utile. Pétition de Médiapart
Moins les personnes interrogées sont diplômées, plus elles souhaitent scolariser leur enfant dans le privé. Ceux qui ont un diplôme supérieur à bac + 2 sont 40 % à émettre ce souhait, les « niveau bac » et titulaires de BEP/CAP sont 55 % et les sans-diplôme sont 59 % à vouloir que leurs enfants soient scolarisés dans le privé. Sondage CSA

C’est chez les enfants d’ouvriers et d’employés que cette demande est le plus forte, car ils n’ont pas d’alternative. Les cadres et professions libérales peuvent se débrouiller pour mettre leurs enfants dans le bon lycée public, offrir des cours particuliers pour compléter, ou accompagner eux-mêmes leurs enfants. Julien Goarant (responsable d’études de CSA)

L’ingratitude des peuples est décidément sans limites.

A l’heure où notre Zorro planétaire nous fait son Sarko mais voit coup sur coup repoussés ses efforts pour offrir les JO à sa bonne ville de Chicago, des centaines de milliards aux kleptocrates africains ou d’ailleurs ou, pour la Noël, son historique « option publique » pour la santé de ses compatriotes …

Et où notre Sarko national nous fait son Obama, mais voit lui aussi dénoncés ses ouvertures aux régimes « voyous » (missions Lang à Cuba et en Corée du nord, accords UMP/PC chinois), ses milliards de dettes nouvelles (pardon: investissements pour l’avenir!), sa certes très soviétique campagne de vaccination qui voit la grippe A « continuer de progresser chez nous (à la nuage de Tchernobyl) tandis qu’elle se stabilise ailleurs », son débat (au sein de son propre parti!) sur l’identité nationale (comme les leçons de savoir-vivre de ses ministres aux encapuchonnés dont le chômage trône à 42%!) ou ses « méthodes fascisantes » et « pratiques coloniales » de renvois des clandestins, sans parler dela mise hors de cause des maitres du délit d’initiés d’EADS et à nouveau de l’amateur de Patek Philippe à 40 000 euros du PS Julien Dray ou de son rapprochement avec le délinquant multirécidiviste qui (au plus haut, il est vrai, dans les sondages à l’heure d’une nouvelle mise en examen) a squatté l’Elysée pendant 10 ans …

Consternation à présent, au pays dont le monde entier envie le modèle si patriarcalement français (21% de fonctionnaires, un policier pour 250 habitants contre 1 pour 380 au Royaume-Uni), avec ce sondage CSA/La Croix révélant, en ce 50e anniversaire de la Loi Debré, la préférence du bon peuple… pour l’école privée!

L’enseignement privé séduirait une famille sur deux en France
Le Monde avec AFP
16.12.09

D’après un sondage CSA pour l’Association des parents d’élèves de l’enseignement libre (APEL) et le quotidien La Croix, 55 % des Français (47 % de parents d’élèves interrogés) souhaiteraient scolariser leurs enfants dans le privé, soit une famille sur deux. Ce désir est partagé par 74 % des sympathisants de droite et 44 % des sympathisants de gauche. « C’est chez les enfants d’ouvriers et d’employés que cette demande est le plus forte, car ils n’ont pas d’alternative. Les cadres et professions libérales peuvent se débrouiller pour mettre leurs enfants dans le bon lycée public, offrir des cours particuliers pour compléter, ou accompagner eux-mêmes leurs enfants », a commenté, mardi 15 décembre, Julien Goarant, responsable d’études de CSA. « Ces catégories, plus que les milieux favorisés, nourrissent leurs enfants de l’idée que l’école va permettre l’ascenseur social », a-t-il expliqué. C’est dans la fourchette de revenus comprise entre 1 000 et 2 000 euros par mois que l’école privée, qui scolarise un enfant sur cinq, est le plus souhaitée, a relevé M. Goarant.

Moins les personnes interrogées sont diplômées, plus elles souhaitent scolariser leur enfant dans le privé. Ceux qui ont un diplôme supérieur à bac + 2 sont 40 % à émettre ce souhait, les « niveau bac » et titulaires de BEP/CAP sont 55 % et les sans-diplôme sont 59 % à vouloir que leurs enfants soient scolarisés dans le privé, relève le CSA. « L’école privée peut donc apparaître, aux yeux des personnes les moins diplômées, comme la possibilité de réduire les inégalités culturelles dont sont victimes leurs enfants et donc comme une meilleure chance d’ascenseur social pour ces derniers », commente CSA.
Quatre Français sur cinq (84 %) pensent que c’est une bonne chose de pouvoir scolariser ses enfants soit dans le public, soit dans le privé. Le clivage politique traditionnel sur cette question s’estompe, puisque cet avis est partagé par 79 % des sympathisants de gauche et par 93 % de ceux de droite.

Le 31 décembre célébrera le 50e anniversaire de la loi Debré, qui régit les rapports entre l’Etat et les établissements privés.

Voir aussi:

Les Français veulent un enseignement libre et accessible à tous
Christine Legrand
La Croix
Le 16.12.2009

Aujourd’hui, la moitié des parents souhaiterait scolariser ses enfants dans le privé, dont ils ont une image très positive, même s’ils ne le trouvent pas encore accessible à tous, en particulier au niveau financier. Tels sont les résultats de notre sondage exclusif CSA/Apel/ »La Croix »

C’est un véritable plébiscite : 84 % des Français (et 88 % des parents d’enfants scolarisés) estiment que la liberté donnée aux parents par la loi Debré de pouvoir choisir entre l’enseignement public et l’enseignement privé pour scolariser leurs enfants est une « bonne chose » (lire le sondage). Certes, ils sont encore un peu plus nombreux à l’affirmer parmi les sympathisants de droite (93 %) que parmi les sympathisants de gauche (79 %), mais les clivages politiques qui étaient autrefois très marqués dans ce domaine se sont estompés.

Une famille sur deux souhaiterait scolariser ses enfants dans le privé
Les Français sont un peu moins nombreux à vouloir eux-mêmes profiter de cette loi pour inscrire leurs propres enfants dans une école privée. Mais le résultat est tout de même étonnant : 55 % des Français (et 47 % des parents d’enfants scolarisés) souhaiteraient aujourd’hui le faire. Sur les quelque 12 millions d’enfants scolarisés en France, l’enseignement catholique n’en accueille pour l’instant que 2 millions, soit environ un sixième ! Ce souhait reste politiquement plus clivé : les sympathisants de droite sont nettement plus nombreux (74 %) que ceux de gauche (44 %) à l’exprimer.

Mais ce désir est également plus fréquent chez les non-diplômés (59 %) que parmi ceux qui ont fait des études longues. L’école privée apparaîtrait donc, aux yeux de ces parents, comme un moyen de réduire les inégalités culturelles dont sont victimes leurs enfants et de leur servir d’ascenseur social. Ce qui signifie aussi, en creux, que l’école publique ne remplit pas suffisamment ce rôle.

Les atouts de l’enseignement privé
Les Français estiment à une très large majorité que les écoles privées assurent un enseignement de qualité (84 %). Ils en confirment aussi les autres atouts : l’importance accordée à la dimension éducative, au suivi personnalisé des élèves, à l’implication des parents dans la scolarité de leurs enfants… La grande majorité des personnes interrogées estime aussi que, comme les y oblige la loi Debré, les établissements sous contrat suivent les programmes de l’éducation nationale et qu’ils sont ouverts aux élèves non croyants comme aux adeptes de toutes religions : tout en conservant leur « caractère propre », ils se doivent en effet d’accueillir « tous les enfants sans distinction d’origines, d’opinions ou de croyances ».

Une majorité de Français moins importante (58 %) estime qu’ils sont ouverts aux élèves en difficulté scolaire. Ce résultat traduit une réalité assez diversifiée de l’enseignement privé : si beaucoup d’établissements accueillent des élèves en difficulté – certains se sont même « spécialisés » dans le rattrapage d’élèves en échec dans le système public –, d’autres sont plus sélectifs.

Un certain élitisme social
L’enseignement privé est également perçu comme étant socialement plutôt élitiste. Seule une minorité de Français (37 % en moyenne, et 27 % des moins de 30 ans) estime en effet qu’il « fait le nécessaire pour être accessible financièrement au plus grand nombre ». Et moins d’un tiers d’entre eux (30 %) pense qu’il « est accessible aux populations défavorisées » (et seulement 17 % des moins de 30 ans).

Si l’acte d’enseignement, selon la loi Debré, doit être gratuit et son financement pris en charge par l’État dans les établissements sous contrat, une participation est demandée aux familles pour couvrir les autres frais (coût du « caractère propre », du culte, etc.), sous forme de « forfait » : selon le secrétariat général de l’enseignement catholique, son montant moyen est de 350 € par an et par élève pour le primaire, 450 € pour le collège et 600 € pour le lycée, auxquels il faut ajouter le prix de la cantine (un repas coûte en moyenne deux fois plus cher que dans l’enseignement public, en raison de subventions inégales des collectivités locales) et les frais de transport. Ce qui représente un coût non négligeable pour certaines familles.

Deux systèmes concurrents
L’enseignement privé peut être ainsi considéré comme complémentaire de l’enseignement public, constituant une alternative, voire un recours possible pour les familles. Mais ce sentiment n’est partagé que par 30 % des Français. Le sentiment dominant est que les deux systèmes entrent plutôt en concurrence : 45 % des Français le pensent. Ce sentiment est encore plus net chez les jeunes (55 % des moins de 30 ans le disent). Un résultat qui confirme une tendance constatée – et souvent dénoncée – par de nombreux spécialistes de l’éducation aujourd’hui : le système scolaire tend à devenir un « marché » de plus en plus « concurrentiel », au risque de s’éloigner de l’esprit la loi Debré, qui garantit le pluralisme scolaire, au sein d’un même « service public » d’enseignement.

Un renforcement des aides de l’État
Pour autant, la grande majorité des Français (67 %) estime que l’État devrait aider l’enseignement privé à ouvrir d’autres établissements ou de nouvelles classes, afin que tous les parents qui le souhaitent puissent y scolariser leurs enfants. Ce souhait est encore plus fort chez les moins de 30 ans (80 %) et les sympathisants de droite (79 %).

Plus particulièrement, les trois quarts des Français pensent que l’enseignement privé devrait pouvoir ouvrir plus facilement des établissements dans les zones d’éducation prioritaire. Ce désir est également formulé depuis longtemps par l’enseignement catholique, parce qu’il considère qu’aller vers les populations les plus défavorisées fait partie de sa mission. Mais aussi parce qu’il a fait preuve de son savoir-faire dans ce domaine. Cela supposerait néanmoins qu’il puisse être, surtout dans ces zones sensibles, davantage accessible à tous.

Voir enfin:

Reportage
L’université Paris-XIII-Villetaneuse, victime d’intrusions et de violences répétées
Maryline Baumard
Le Monde
16.12.09

Il gèle à Villetaneuse et la violence jette un froid. Surtout lorsqu’elle s’abat en plein cours, dans un amphithéâtre d’université. Lundi 14 décembre, il est un peu plus de 15 heures lorsque trois individus s’introduisent dans un amphi de Paris-XIII-Villetaneuse et commencent à chahuter. Un étudiant demande le calme. Invectives. Bagarres. Le bras que lève le jeune homme pour se protéger le visage est lacéré de plusieurs coups de couteau. L’étudiant en droit a été opéré mardi. Et, dans les couloirs, l’émotion qui a saisi une partie des 20 000 étudiants de cette université de Seine-Saint-Denis n’est pas retombée. Les pétitions courent.

Les coups de couteau ont réveillé d’autres souvenirs. Parfois assez récents. « Jeudi dernier, je traverse le campus. En passant à l’endroit des deals (une passerelle difficile à surveiller, lieu de tous les commerces), un groupe d’individus à qui je refuse une cigarette, me traite de « gros pédé ». L’un d’eux ajoute que je peux bien le dénoncer à l’administration, il s’en « bat les couilles » puisqu’il n’est pas étudiant. » Thomas Ribémont, maître de conférences en sciences politiques en est à sa troisième agression verbale depuis son arrivée sur ce campus en 2007.

Coincée entre deux cités, l’université de Villetaneuse est un lieu de squat pour les jeunes des quartiers voisins. Faute d’y étudier peut-être, ils y zonent. Le raconter contribue à stigmatiser l’université, se taire, c’est laisser la violence s’installer. Le choix est cornélien, et chacun le résout à sa façon.

« Oui, c’est l’omerta. Depuis pas mal de temps déjà, on fait comme si rien ne se passe. Je vote à gauche. Je n’aime pas le discours sécuritaire, mais je souhaiterais plus de présence policière », regrette Michel Renault, secrétaire pédagogique de l’institut d’études judiciaires. Une enseignante a demandé à ne pas assurer de cours en fin de journée pour éviter d’emprunter de nuit le bus qui mène à la gare.

En matière de violence, le seuil de tolérance des étudiants, souvent venus des cités, semble se situer un cran au-dessus de leurs enseignants. A l’instar de Faihina Saidani, étudiante en L3 information et communication, ils sont nombreux à se sentir bien « dans cet espace mélangé, où chacun trouve sa place, avec ses différences » et à estimer qu’il « faut arrêter de stigmatiser la banlieue en laissant penser qu’on est plus en danger ici qu’ailleurs ». Soulaiman Khan, en deuxième année d’informatique, travaille souvent jusqu’à 23 heures, et il aime « cette université où les enseignants ont une vraie proximité avec nous. Où on peut se faire aider dès qu’on a besoin ».

Un des points forts de l’établissement – qui propose des formations de pointe, notamment dans les métiers de l’édition – est de diplômer et d’insérer des jeunes issus pour moitié de Seine-Saint-Denis et pour un quart du Val-d’Oise. Avec ses 41 % d’enfants d’ouvriers ou d’employés, Paris-XIII est loin des campus favorisés. Pour Thomas Ribémont, cela rend attachante cette « fac ascenseur social ». « On a tellement envie que ces jeunes s’en sortent. Et eux s’en donnent vraiment les moyens. C’est pour cela qu’il faut qu’on leur offre un bon climat de travail. »

Depuis septembre, une vingtaine de plaintes ont été déposées pour des faits qui se sont déroulés sur le campus. Selon une main courante électronique, mise en place par le président de l’université, Jean-Loup Salzmann, 83 incidents ont été signalés : 10 agressions, 7 dégradations de biens publics, 7 dégradations de véhicules, 14 vols de biens privés et 45 perturbations de cours. « Et tous les incidents ne remontent pas. Ce n’est pas dans la culture universitaire », tempère un professeur.

Comme dit le même enseignant en guise de boutade, « on a tous lu Michel Foucault, alors, demander plus de surveillance ne va pas de soi pour nous ». C’est aussi ce qu’observe M. Salzmann, qui a fait voter le principe d’une carte professionnelle pour les personnels pouvant être contrôlés – projet qui s’est enlisé -, ou repensé l’éclairage des allées. L’idée du président serait de fermer ce campus trop ouvert et de filtrer les entrées. Une réunion aura lieu sur ce sujet à la préfecture, vendredi 18 décembre.

En attendant, « nous avons dévolu trois fonctionnaires à la sécurité, opté pour les services d’une entreprise de sécurité », rappelle celui qui dépense autant sur ce poste « que dans le budget de fonctionnement des laboratoires de recherche ». Et ça ne suffit pas.

Comme l’explique Marcel Dupas, de l’entreprise de surveillance, « nous faisons le maximum, mais compte tenu de la configuration du lieu, il faudrait plus de personnel. Et puis nos agents ne sont pas armés et n’ont pas un rôle répressif ». Mardi, les policiers avaient interpellé un des trois agresseurs présumés ainsi qu’un dealer.

Si 11 milliards d’euros du grand emprunt iront à l’université et si l’on ne parle que de campus d’excellence, un sentiment d’abandon règne à Villetaneuse. « L’Etat doit aussi assumer ses universités de banlieue, peste une enseignante venue de Paris. Avec l’autonomie, l’image est extrêmement importante. »


Classements internationaux: La France brille par ses absences (France’s conspicuous absences in world rankings)

1 novembre, 2009
Where's France?Nos sociétés ont essayé de réagir, avec le communisme, contre la misère et l’inégalité. (…) Mais le libéralisme est lui aussi dangereux et conduira aux mêmes excès. C’est pourquoi on cherche une solution intermédiaire, qui se situe entre le communisme et le libéralisme. (…) Je suis convaincu que le libéralisme est voué au même échec que le communisme, et qu’il conduira aux mêmes excès. L’un comme l’autre sont des perversions de la pensée humaine. (…) Je ne crois pas au libéralisme qui est, à mon avis, une forme de déviance. Jacques Chirac (« L’inconnu de l’Elysée », Pierre Péan, 2007)
Je n’en peux plus de vivre aux Etats-Unis mais je refuse d’en partir. Michael Moore
Le droit des nations à l’ « autodetermination » ne s’applique qu’aux sociétés libres ou aux sociétés cherchant à établir la liberté;il ne s’applique pas aux dictatures.(…) que la nation soit asservie par la force, comme en Russie soviétique, ou par vote, comme l’ Allemagne nazie. (…) Les dictatures sont des nations hors-la-loi. Toute nation libre avait le droit d’envahir l’Allemagne nazie et, aujourd’hui, a le droit d’envahir la Russie soviétique, Cuba ou n’importe quel autre enclos d’esclaves. Ayn Rand (née Alissa Rosenbaum, philosophe russo-américaine ayant connu de près le bolchévisme, 1964)
Les 10 critères pris en compte sont l’originalité des idées, leur potentiel de mise en œuvre pratique, la qualité de leur présentation orale et écrite, la loyauté et l’implication des partisans à ces idées, la prise en compte de la réalité du monde des affaires, le rayonnement international, le sérieux des recherches, l’impact sur les méthodes de management, les impacts décisionnels. The Thinkers 50
Quand la France brille… par ses absences!
.
Aucun français au classement des intellectuels les plus influents du monde des affaires (41 anglo-saxons sur 50), aucune université française dans les 75 premières universités mondiales en économie (55 sur 100 pour les seuls Etats-Unis), aucune en informatique …

Alors que, contre les potions socialisantes du Prince de Sang-Mêlé et au moment où Michael Moore envisage de demander l’asile politique en France, la pensée anti-collectiviste d’Ayn Rand semble retrouver une seconde jeunesse …

Confirmation, avec les classements de Shanghaï et des Thinkers 50, de la terre natale de Sartre et Chirac comme patrie incontournable des déshérités et des damnés de la terre …

Aucun français au classement des intellectuels les plus influents du monde des affaires
Yacine Kellib
Novapresse
25.10.2009

Selon le palmarès « The Thinkers » le professeur de stratégie d’entreprises Coimbatore Krishnarao Prahalad serait l’intellectuel le plus influent du monde des affaires.

Le palmarès des gourous de l’économie, The Thinkers 50, est dominé une nouvelle fois par le professeur de stratégie d’entreprises d’origine indienne Coimbatore Krishnarao Prahalad. En 2007, il avait déjà remporté la tête de ce classement, qui paraît tous les 2 ans depuis 2001.

Diplômé d’Harvard et professeur à la Ross School of Business dans le Michigan (Etats-Unis), Coimbatore Krishnarao Prahalad est mondialement reconnu pour plusieurs ouvrages d’économie. Il a notamment rédigé un essai sur le business et la pauvreté, et coécrit avec Gary Hamel le bestseller « La conquête du futur », sur la stratégie et la concurrence. CK – Prahalad est né dans la ville de Coimbatore dans le Tamil Nadu. Il a étudié la physique à l’Université de Madras (Chennai).

Le numéro deux est un journaliste du Washington Post et du New Yorker: Malcolm Gladwell. Quant à la troisième place, elle est attribuée à Paul Krugman, professeur à l’université de Princeton et prix Nobel d’économie.

D’autres personnalités figurent dans le classement, comme Bill Gates (7e), le chef d’entreprise indien Ratan Tata (12e), le patron d’Apple Steve Jobs (4e), et le prix Nobel d’économie Joseph Stiglitz (22e).

Certains, en revanche, ont disparu du palmarès, comme l’ex patron de la Réserve fédérale américaine Alan Greenspan, Al Gore ou encore Donald Trump.

Yacine Kellib

Voir aussi:

Les 50 penseurs les plus influents sur le monde des affaires

1. C.K. Prahalad (déjà 1er en 2007)

2. Malcolm Gladwell (18)

3. Paul Krugman (-)

4. Steve Jobs (29)

5. Chan Kim et Renée Mauborgne (6)

6. Muhammad Yunus (-)

7. Bill Gates (2)

8. Richard Branson (9)

9. Philip Kotler (11)

10. Gary Hamel (5)

11. Michael Porter (4)

12. Ratan Tata (-)

13. Ram Charan (22)

14. Marshall Goldsmith (34)

15. S (Kris) Gopalakhrishnan (-)

16. Howard Gardner (39)

17. Jim Collins (10)

18. Lynda Gratton (19)

19. Tom Peters (7)

20. Jack Welch (8)

21. Eric Schmidt (-)

22. Joseph Stiglitz (-)

23. Kjell Nordsröm & Jonas Ridderstrale (13)

24. Vijay Govindarajan (23)

25. Marcus Buckingham (38)

26. Richard d’Aveni (46)

27. Rosabeth Moss Kanter (28)

28. Clayton Christensen (25)

29. Stephen Covey (15)

30. Thomas Friedman (26)

31. David Ulrich (42)

32. Roger Martin (-)

33. Henry Mintzberg (16)

34. Daniel Goleman (37)

35. Chris Anderson (-)

36. Warren Bennis (24)

37. Robert Kaplan et David Norton (12)

38. Jeff Immelt (31)

39. Don Tapscott (-)

40. Nasim Nicholas Taleb (-)

41. John Kotter (30)

42. Niall Ferguson (-)

43. Charles Handy (14)

44. Rakesh Khurana (45)

45. Manfred Kets De Vries (-)

46. Tammy Erickson (-)

47. Costas Markides (44)

48. Barbara Kellerman (-)

49. Rob Goffee et Gareth Jones (32)

50. Jimmy Wales (-)

Source : The Thinkers 2009. Ce palmarès est établi tous les 2 ans (entre parenthèses, le classement précédent).

Voir également:

Classement de Shanghai : suprématie des universités américaines, les françaises à la traîne
Julien Pompey
Les Echos
30/10/09

Les Etats-Unis dominent une nouvelle fois le classement des 100 premières universités dans le monde, avec 55 établissements présents. Contre seulement 3 pour la France.

Les classements des grandes écoles et universités se suivent, se multiplient… mais se ressemblent. Après les palmarès du « Financial Times » et de « The Economist », la septième édition du classement de Shanghai, réalisée par l’Université des Communications de Shanghai et censée constituer la référence internationale en la matière, démontre une nouvelle fois l’hyperdomination américaine. Les Etats-Unis trustant 55 places sur 100.

L’indétrônable Harvard arrive une nouvelle fois en tête, une position que l’université américaine occupe depuis 2003. Suivent Stanford et Berkeley, soit le même trio de tête que l’année dernière. Cambridge et le Massachusetts Institue of Technology (MIT) complètent le top 5.

Dix-sept universités américaines sont dans les 19 premières de ce classement. Seules les universités britanniques de Cambridge (4e) et d’Oxford (10e) parviennent à se glisser parmi les dix meilleurs établissements mondiaux, aux côtés de facultés toutes américaines. Le premier établissement d’Europe continental, le Swiss Institute of Technology, n’arrive qu’au 24e rang, en progression d’une place.
Léger mieux des universités françaises

De leur côté, les universités françaises font toujours pâle figure. La première est l’Université Pierre et Marie Curie (Paris VI), qui n’atteint que le 40e rang, malgré un gain de deux places cette année et après en avoir perdu trois en 2008. Les deux autres universités françaises du classement des 100 meilleurs établissements sont l’Université de Paris Sud (Paris XI) au 43e rang (+6 places), ex æquo avec l’Université de Copenhague, et l’Ecole normale supérieure (ENS), à la 70e place (+3 places).

Avec ces trois institutions figurant dans le célèbre top 100, la France retrouve sa sixième place au niveau des nations, une place qu’elle avait perdue en 2008. Mais elle est à égalité avec l’Australie, la Suisse et la Suède.

Paris Sud, 6e en mathématiques

L’édition 2009 du classement de Shanghaï innove en proposant également des classements spécifiques pour les mathématiques, l’informatique, la chimie, la physique et la gestion. Des matières dans lesquelles les universités françaises s’en tirent plus qu’honorablement. C’est notamment le cas en mathématiques, où Paris-Sud se hisse à la sixième place d’un classement dominé par Princeton, Berkeley et Harvard. Paris VI (7e), Paris Dauphine (35e), l’ENS (47e) s’installent dans le top 50 devant Polytechnique, Rennes-I et Strasbourg.

En physique, Paris-Sud pointe à la 19e place, loin derrière Harvard. L’ENS (34e), Grenoble et Paris VI complètent le palmarès. En chimie, Strasbourg, première université française, s’installe à la 15e place d’un classement lui aussi écrasé par Harvard. En gestion, apparaissent à la 40e place l’Insead, une école de commerce internationale installée à Fontainebleau, et Toulouse I entre les 76e et 100e places. Enfin, en informatique, aucune université hexagonale ne se classe dans les 100 meilleures universités, Stanford et le MIT dominant ce classement.
Une méthodologie contestée

Publié depuis 2003 par l’université Jiao Tong, ce classement est très contesté en raison de sa méthodologie. A tel point qu’il est ignoré dans certains pays. Ce palmarès s’appuie sur les performances académiques ou de recherche, les articles parus dans certaines publications scientifiques comme « Nature » ou « Science », le nombre de prix Nobel, de médailles Fields, de citations de chercheurs et autres récompenses prestigieuses de plus de 2.000 universités dans le monde. Des critères centrés sur la recherche et non la formation, que contestent fortement certains pays, la France en tête, qui estiment qu’ils favorisent de facto les universités américaines.

Le physicien français Albert Fert, prix Nobel 2007, déplore ainsi que la méthode de Shanghaï « désavantage les universités françaises » en partageant les points obtenus entre l’université et les organismes associés.

La ministre de l’Enseignement supérieur, Valérie Pécresse, préconise la création d’un classement propre aux universités européennes pour « montrer la qualité de la formation » des établissements européens. Un classement qu’elle veut opposer en « référence » aux palmarès existants, et qui sera en fait une « cartographie » par disciplines, conçue notamment comme une aide aux étudiants pour leur choix d’inscription.

Voir enfin:

Ayn Rand’s Revenge
Adam Kirsch
NYT
October 29, 2009

A specter is haunting the Republican Party — the specter of John Galt. In Ayn Rand’s libertarian epic “Atlas Shrugged,” Galt, an inventor disgusted by creeping American collectivism, leads the country’s capitalists on a retributive strike. “We have granted you everything you demanded of us, we who had always been the givers, but have only now understood it,” Galt lectures the “looters” and “moochers” who make up the populace. “We have no demands to present you, no terms to bargain about, no compromise to reach. You have nothing to offer us. We do not need you.”

“Atlas Shrugged” was published 52 years ago, but in the Obama era, Rand’s angry message is more resonant than ever before. Sales of the book have reportedly spiked. At “tea parties” and other conservative protests, alongside the Obama-as-Joker signs, you will find placards reading “Atlas Shrugs” and “Ayn Rand Was Right.” Not long after the inauguration, as right-wing pundits like Glenn Beck were invoking Rand and issuing warnings of incipient socialism, Representative John Campbell, Republican of California, told a reporter that the prospect of rising taxes and government regulation meant “people are starting to feel like we’re living through the scenario that happened in ‘Atlas Shrugged.’ ”

Rand’s style of vehement individualism has never been universally popular among conservatives — back in 1957, Whittaker Chambers denounced the “wickedness” of “Atlas Shrugged” in National Review — and Rand still has her critics on the right today. But it can often seem, as Jonathan Chait, a senior editor at The New Republic recently observed, that “Rand is everywhere in this right-wing mood.” And while it’s not hard to understand Rand’s revenge-fantasy appeal to those on the right, would-be Galts ought to hear the story Anne C. Heller has to tell in her dramatic and very timely biography, “Ayn Rand and the World She Made.”

For one thing, it is far more interesting than anything in Rand’s novels. That is because Heller is dealing with a human being, and one with more than her share of human failings and contradictions — “gallant, driven, brilliant, brash, cruel . . . and ultimately self-destructive,” as Heller puts it. The characters Rand created, on the other hand — like Galt or Howard Roark, the architect hero of “The Fountainhead” — are abstract principles set to moving and talking.

This is at once the failure and the making of Rand’s fiction. The plotting and characterization in her books may be vulgar and unbelievable, just as one would expect from the middling Hollywood writer she once was ; but her message, while not necessarily more sophisticated, is magnified by the power of its absolute sincerity. It is the message that turned her, from the publication of “Atlas Shrugged” in 1957 until her death in 1982, into the leader of a kind of sect. (This season, another Rand book, by the academic historian Jennifer Burns, is aptly titled “Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right.”) Even today, Rand’s books sell hundreds of thousands of copies a year. Heller reports that in a poll in the early ’90s, sponsored by the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club, “Americans named ‘Atlas Shrugged’ the book that had most influenced their lives,” second only to the Bible.

Rand’s particular intellectual contribution, the thing that makes her so popular and so American, is the way she managed to mass market elitism — to convince so many people, especially young people, that they could be geniuses without being in any concrete way distinguished. Or, rather, that they could distinguish themselves by the ardor of their commitment to Rand’s teaching. The very form of her novels makes the same point: they are as cartoonish and sexed-up as any best seller, yet they are constantly suggesting that the reader who appreciates them is one of the elect.

Heller maintains an appropriately critical perspective on her subject — she writes that she is “a strong admirer, albeit one with many questions and reservations” — while allowing the reader to understand the power of Rand’s conviction and her odd charisma. Rand labored for more than two years on Galt’s radio address near the end of “Atlas Shrugged” — a long paean to capitalism, individualism and selfishness that makes Gordon Gekko’s “Greed is good” sound like the Sermon on the Mount. “At one point, she stayed inside the apartment, working for 33 days in a row,” Heller writes. She kept going on amphetamines and willpower; the writing, she said, was a “drops-of-water-in-a-desert kind of torture.” Nor would Rand, sooner than any other desert prophet, allow her message to be trifled with. When Bennett Cerf, a head of Random House, begged her to cut Galt’s speech, Rand replied with what Heller calls “a comment that became publishing legend”: “Would you cut the Bible?” One can imagine what Cerf thought — he had already told Rand plainly, “I find your political philosophy abhorrent” — but the strange thing is that Rand’s grandiosity turned out to be perfectly justified.

In fact, any editor certainly would cut the Bible, if an agent submitted it as a new work of fiction. But Cerf offered Rand an alternative: if she gave up 7 cents per copy in royalties, she could have the extra paper needed to print Galt’s oration. That she agreed is a sign of the great contradiction that haunts her writing and especially her life. Politically, Rand was committed to the idea that capitalism is the best form of social organization invented or conceivable. This was, perhaps, an understandable reaction against her childhood experience of Communism. Born in 1905 as Alissa Rosenbaum to a Jewish family in St. Petersburg, she was 12 when the Bolsheviks seized power, and she endured the ensuing years of civil war, hunger and oppression. By 1926, when she came to live with relatives in the United States and changed her name, she had become a relentless enemy of every variety of what she denounced as “collectivism,” from Soviet Communism to the New Deal. Even Republicans weren’t immune: after Wendell Willkie’s defeat in 1940, Rand helped to found an organization called Associated Ex-Willkie Workers Against Willkie, berating the candidate as “the guiltiest man of any for destroying America, more guilty than Roosevelt.”

Yet while Rand took to wearing a dollar-sign pin to advertise her love of capitalism, Heller makes clear that the author had no real affection for dollars themselves. Giving up her royalties to preserve her vision is something that no genuine capitalist, and few popular novelists, would have done. It is the act of an intellectual, of someone who believes that ideas matter more than lucre. In fact, as Heller shows, Rand had no more reverence for the actual businessmen she met than most intellectuals do. The problem was that, according to her own theories, the executives were supposed to be as creative and admirable as any artist or thinker. They were part of the fraternity of the gifted, whose strike, in “Atlas Shrugged,” brings the world to its knees.

Rand’s inclusion of businessmen in the ranks of the Übermenschen helps to explain her appeal to free-marketeers — including Alan Greenspan — but it is not convincing. At bottom, her individualism owed much more to Nietsche than to Adam Smith, though Rand, typically, denied any influence, saying only that Nietzsche beat me to all my ideas. But “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” never sold a quarter of a million copies a year.

Rand’s potent message could lead to intoxication and even to madness, as the second half of her life showed. In 1949, Rand was living with her husband, a mild-mannered former actor named Frank O’Connor, in Southern California, in a Richard Neutra house. Then she got a fan letter from a 19-year-old college freshman named Nathan Blumenthal and invited him to visit. Rand, whose books are full of masterful, sexually dominating heroes, quickly fell in love with this confused boy, whom she decided was the “intellectual heir” she had been waiting for.

The decades of psychodrama that followed read, in Heller’s excellent account, like “Phèdre” rewritten by Edward Albee. When Blumenthal, who changed his name to Nathaniel Branden, moved to New York, Rand followed him; she inserted herself into her protégé’s love life, urging him to marry his girlfriend; then Rand began to sleep with Branden, insisting that both their spouses be kept fully apprised of what was going on. Heller shows how the Brandens formed the nucleus of a growing group of young Rand followers, a herd of individualists who nicknamed themselves “the Collective” — ironically, but not ironically enough, for they began to display the frightening group-think of a true cult. One journalist Heller refers to wondered how Rand “charmed so many young people into quoting John Galt as religiously as ‘clergymen quote Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.’

Inevitably, it all ended up in tears when branden fell in love with a young actress and was expelled from Rand’s circle forever. That he went on to write several best-selling books of popular psychology “and earned the appellation ‘father of the self-esteem movement’ ” is the kind of finishing touch that makes truth stranger than fiction. For if there is one thing Rand’s life shows, it is the power, and peril, of unjustified self-esteem.

Adam Kirsch is a senior editor at The New Republic and a columnist for Tablet Magazine. He is the author, most recently, of “Benjamin Disraeli.”


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