dimanche 31 octobre 2010

The Great Unwashed

The New York Times

A daily shower is a deeply ingrained American habit. Most people would no sooner disclose they had not showered in days than admit infidelity. But Jenefer Palmer, 55, of Malibu, Calif., cheerfully acknowledged recently that she doesn’t shower or shampoo daily and doesn’t use deodorant. Ever.
No, she does not work from home in pajamas. In fact, Ms. Palmer, the chief executive of Osea, an organic skin-care line, often travels to meet business contacts at the five-star luxury hotels where her line is sold. They might be surprised to read that Ms. Palmer, a petite, put-together brunette, showers “no more than three times a week,” she said, and less if she hasn’t been “working out vigorously.”

She contends that a soapy washcloth under her arms, between her legs and under her feet is all she needs to get “really clean.” On the go, underarm odor is wiped away with a sliced lemon.

Defying a culture of clean that has prevailed at least since the 1940s, a contingent of renegades deliberately forgoes daily bathing and other gold standards of personal hygiene, like frequent shampooing and deodorant use.

To the converted, there are many reasons to cleanse less and smell more like yourself. “We don’t need to wash the way we did when we were farmers,” said Katherine Ashenburg, 65, the author of “The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History.” Since the advent of cars and labor-saving machines, she continued, “we have never needed to wash less, and we have never done it more.”

“I’m going to sound like dirty Katherine in this article,” she said, “but it doesn’t matter. I’m still invited to dinner parties.”

Retention of the skin’s natural oils and water conservation are two reasons Ms. Palmer and others cite for skipping a daily shower. Some have concluded that deodorant is unnecessary after forgetting it once with no social repercussions, or are concerned about antiperspirants containing aluminum, even though both the National Cancer Institute and the Alzheimer’s Association don’t share those concerns. Shampooing as little as possible can help retain moisture in dry locks and enhance curl shape, argue adherents of the practice; for some men, it’s about looking fashionably unkempt.

Resist the urge to recoil at this swath of society: They may be on to something. Of late, researchers have discovered that just as the gut contains good bacteria that help it run more efficiently, so does our skin brim with beneficial germs that we might not want to wash down the drain. “Good bacteria are educating your own skin cells to make your own antibiotics,” said Dr. Richard Gallo, chief of the dermatology division at the University of California, San Diego, and “they produce their own antibiotics that kills off bad bacteria.”

Some people have long complained that showering too much makes their skin drier or more prone to flare-ups of, say, eczema, and Dr. Gallo said that scientists are just beginning to understand why. “It’s not just removing the lipids and oils on your skin that’s drying it out,” he said. It could be “removing some of the good bacteria that help maintain a healthy balance of skin.”

But Elaine Larson, a professor at the Columbia University School of Nursing with a Ph.D. in epidemiology, cautioned that subway riders, gymgoers and others who come into contact with many strangers should consider soaping up. “If it’s cold and flu season, you want to get rid of the stuff that isn’t a part of your own normal germs,” she said.

WHATEVER the motivation, personal cleanliness in the United States has long been big business. Widespread advertisements address (and arguably generate) anxiety about body odor, from the classic spots ordering consumers to “Raise your hand if you’re Sure!” to recent popular commercials with the actor Isaiah Mustafa hawking Old Spice body wash.

They seem to work: Adults younger than 24 use deodorant and antiperspirant more than nine times a week, but even for older age groups, usage never falls below an average of once a day, according to Mintel, a market research firm. Ninety-three percent of the country’s adults shampoo almost daily, the firm said. Reliable statistics for how often Americans shower are hard to come by, said Regina Corso, a senior vice president of the Harris Poll. “People are going to be hesitant to say they’re not showering every day,” she said.

But Todd Felix, a clean-cut-looking actor and online producer at Sony who lives in Los Angeles, was happy to report that he finds deodorant unnecessary and antiperspirants absurd. (To his mind, the latter is akin to covering your pores in Saran Wrap.)

To keep his body odor in check, he takes a daily shower with an unscented Dove body wash, usually after the gym. But Mr. Felix, who is in his early 30s and doesn’t want to be taken for a hippie, is cautious about disclosing that he doesn’t wear underarm protection to people he dates. “When you tell a person you don’t wear deodorant, you come across as, ‘Oh, how European, how natural, how funky,’ ” he said.

The few times Mr. Felix has mentioned on a date that he goes without deodorant, he said, things have quickly turned, well, sour. “It’s weird, but I don’t smell,” Mr. Felix will announce. Then, he said, “the comment is always, ‘You think you don’t smell.’ ” (Mr. Felix admitted that he lives in horror of having the rare fetid day.)

But Matt Merkel, an engineer from Birdsboro, Pa., is sure he smells just fine. How? Recently, Mr. Merkel, 29, told his mother and sister that he gave up the old Speed Stick as a teenager, and they were shocked. “I was like, ‘Smell me, I don’t care!’ ” he told them, adding, “They probably just thought I was still 13 or 14, and doing that because somebody told me to.”

America’s custom of rigorous cleanliness was in full swing by World War II, at which point most homes had acquired a full bathroom, said Ms. Ashenburg, the author of “The Dirt on Clean,” and intensified with postwar marketing efforts. But standards are relaxing, at least in some corners. An article in Parenting magazine’s November issue suggests that stressed mothers need not shower daily, stating reassuringly: “The air is drier in the winter, which means you need your skin’s natural lubricants.”

More boldly, on a Facebook fan page for the book “Run Like a Mother,” a bible for active parents, Bethany Hoffmann Becker, a 32-year-old paralegal from Hutto, Tex., posted this week: “I get a lot of my runs in on my lunch break at work so I am all about the baby wipes :) I just shower before going to bed.”

Meanwhile, sales of dry shampoo — a spray used to prolong the time between wet lathers (and perhaps) showers — “more than doubled” from 2007 to 2009, according to the NPD Group, a market research firm.

Recently, the Investment Banking Club board, whose membership is made up of 20 percent of the students at Columbia University’s business school, sent a “friendly reminder” of some “personal hygiene basics” to members seeking jobs. One commandment: “Carry anti-perspirant with you if you are worried about sweating.”

But some young would-be professionals are blithely unconcerned about sweat or odor. “I don’t feel I’m stinkier than the next guy, and I know a lot of people who say the same thing,” said Blake Johnson, 25, a law-school applicant who just moved to Norman, Okla. “I never get told I stink. When I tell people I don’t wear deodorant, they are surprised to hear it.”

As if arguing his case in court, Mr. Johnson went on: “When I was working in San Francisco, in an office in the middle of a prestigious law firm, I had to wear a shirt and tie all the time, and I think at some point my boss would have been like, ‘There’s something I’ve got to talk to you about ... everybody in the office is noticing.’ ”

But no “talk” ever happened. Mr. Johnson, an every-other-day bather who resembles the late singer Elliott Smith, also confessed he lets his shaggy hair get oily so he can style it the way he wants. “Right now it’s cool to appear like you don’t care about what you look like,” he said. “You have to invest time, and often money, into making it look like you’ve done neither, or you can take the easy route, and just don’t wash your hair for a week and a half.”

John Wesley Wilder Jr., 30, a salesman at an eyeglass store in Philadelphia, is not only a convert to unwashed hair — he shampoos only once a month with Head & Shoulders to reduce frizz, he said — but also to what one might call his personal perfume.

“I was getting used to not smelling like Old Spice, and smelling like myself,” said Mr. Wilder, who forwent underarm protection for three years. However, this past summer’s heat wave forced him to reconsider. “The moment I didn’t shower, it was terrible,” he said. Now he occasionally uses a natural deodorant.

“It’s a little different, but not bad,” he said of his experiment, inspired by his concern about the aluminum in antiperspirant, but also by several roommates who went without. This “wasn’t a terrible thing,” Mr. Wilder said, though, he added with a laugh, “A couple of them definitely should wear deodorant or shower more.”

Indeed, those who try laissez-faire hygiene need to brace themselves for negative feedback. Tara Freymoyer, 26, a property manager in Birdsboro, gave up underarm protection after she started dating Mr. Merkel, an abstainer. She has friends who “wrinkle their nose and say, ‘You’re gross.’ ” But Ms. Freymoyer, who shampoos with Herbal Essences, persists, at least in part because of her fear that antiperspirant may cause cancer. “Just for my pure health,” she said, “who cares if I stink a little?”

Alice Feiring, a wine writer in Manhattan, joked that autumn is her “season of nonbathing” (she actually bathes four times weekly). “ ‘Didn’t I bring you up differently?’ ” she said her mother asks. “ ‘What will people think?’ ”

But Ms. Feiring, 52, is resolute. “I don’t like to over-dry my skin,” she said. “It’s a myth that people need a deep cleaning everyday.”
And I'm LMAO!

We scrub away germs to ensure good health, but in the long term, our "squeaky-clean" culture may be backfiring on us. Our immune systems developed to fend off a constant threat of invading organisms, learning to distinguish helpful and harmful invaders throughout life, writes Jeff Leach in the New York Times. Today, though, we deny our bodies the opportunity to grapple with those invaders, leading to a "minimally challenged and thus overreactive immune system." There's growing evidence that the phenomenon is contributing to ballooning allergies and autoimmune diseases.

If we faced some of our microbial "old friends" once again, research suggests it "would help avoid an overreaction of an otherwise healthy immune response," thus acting as a bulwark against diseases ranging from Type I diabetes to allergies. "The too-shiny produce and triple-washed and bagged leafy greens in our local grocery aisle are hardly recognized by our immune system as food," Leach points out. It's just another reason to go to your local farmer's market, where you might get a little more dirt in your dinner.


vendredi 29 octobre 2010

France: Impressions of a Passer-By

Dorian de Wind. Ret. U.S. Air Force Major

We recently visited France, traveled extensively through that beautiful country, met and talked with the French people, enjoyed the marvelous food, experienced "French driving," survived le Périphérique, and were somewhat inconvenienced by the French penchant pour faire grèves -- for labor actions -- at the drop of a chapeau.

But we were also touched by the numerous monuments and memorials the French people have dedicated to the World War II Allied heroes who gave their lives to help liberate France -- expressions of gratitude to and respect for the Allied Forces of that war, especially towards Americans, seemingly not in sync with past and recent discords and differences between our two countries.

We were impressed by the many other monuments, memorials and public and private expressions of pride and honor towards their hundreds of thousands of fallen heroes and martyrs -- a welcome footnote to popular history that at times dwells on France's surrender to Nazi Germany at the beginning of World War II and on the controversial role of the Vichy government during the succeeding years.

Granted, the rapid, massive Nazi advance into France -- largely bypassing the Maginot Line -- caught everyone by surprise, including the British, and resulted in sheer political, military and diplomatic chaos and in mass hysteria in France. And, granted, the roles and allegiances of the puppet Vichy government, the Vichy France military, some of the French people and even of some splinter groups of the French Résistance during the Nazi occupation were complex, controversial and, yes, less than patriotic.

But we should also keep in mind that, very early, France along with Great Britain declared war on Germany, making France one of the first participants in World War II and that France in fact invaded the German Saarland in September 1939 and that, subsequently, French forces fought valiantly against the Nazis in support of the Dutch, Belgian and other allied forces and in defense of their own homeland. Nor should we forget the heroic and vital roles of the French Resistance (their "soldiers without uniform") -- 20,000 of whom paid with their lives for their love of a free France.

The monuments memorialize the participation of the Free French Forces during the Normandy invasion, their major role in "Operation Dragoon" -- the Allied invasion in Southern France -- and how the French forces went on to score great military successes in North Africa, Italy, Elba and elsewhere. Finally, how, in 1945, ten divisions of an eventual 1,250,000-strong Forces Françaises Libres (Free French Forces) bravely fought the Nazis in Brittany, in Alsace, in the Alps and finally in the Nazis' own Vaterland. By the end of World War II France would have suffered nearly one quarter of a million military casualties.

By far the most poignant memorial, the most tragic reminder of the heavy price paid by French civilians -- innocent men, women and children -- during World War II is not a monument, not a plaque, but rather the charred ruins of what had once been a quiet, pleasant town in the French Limousine.

We visited what is left of the village of Oradour-sur-Glane and tried to fathom the hell some 642 innocent French men, women and children experienced at the hands of the Nazis on a nice summer day back in 1944.

We tried to imagine how on June 10, 1944, some 200 French men were corralled into barns and other structures and machine-gunned by Waffen SS troops in cold blood. Those who survived the initial fusillade -- the wounded and a few unscathed ones, pretending to be dead -- were searched for among the bodies, chased out of hiding places and systematically murdered, given the coup-de-grace or burned to death.

We tried to comprehend, impossible as it is, why the same group of Nazi thugs herded 247 women, many carrying their babies in their arms or pushing them in baby carriages, 205 babies -- the youngest only a week old -- and school children into the town's church, where they crouched in terror, awaiting the unspeakable massacre that followed: an orgy of wanton terror that left all 452 innocent, helpless human beings butchered and burned to death.

We tried to think why such unspeakable horrors happened. Perhaps because the French Resistance was intensifying its attacks on German troops as they were making their way to the Normandy front. Perhaps because the Resistance had blown up a railway bridge at St. Junien, a small town a few miles from Oradour, killing two German soldiers and taking one prisoner.

Perhaps because it was in consonance with Nazi doctrine and "efficiency" promulgated by the German High Command such as was reflected in a message received by Adolf Diekmann, the commander of the Nazi troops that committed the Oradour atrocities, on the eve of that massacre:

The operations staff of the Wehrmacht expects undertakings against the guerrilla units in southern France to proceed with extreme severity and without any leniency. This constant trouble spot must be finally eradicated... The forces of resistance are to be crushed by fast and all out effort...[T]he most rigorous measures are to be taken to deter the inhabitants of these infested regions who must be discouraged from harboring the resistance groups and being ruled by them and as a warning to the entire population. Ruthlessness and rigor at this critical time are indispensable...

Oradour was not the only place where such "ruthlessness and rigor" were employed, where the French paid dearly for assisting the Resistance or just for being French. There were many more horrific massacres, pillaging, arson and other atrocities in Ascq, Guéret, Argenton-sur-Creuse, Maillé, Clermont-en-Argonne, Frayssinet, Saint-Julian, in several small communities in the Saulx Valley and elsewhere.

While the suffering and sacrifice at Oradour-sur-Glane and at other small villages were clearly horrific, the toll the war took on the French civilian populace was particularly heavy. Most authoritative sources put the number of French civilians killed during World War II at nearly 300,000, with an estimated 75,000 of them killed by 550,000 tons of bombs dropped over France. Millions upon millions of French people suffered indescribable miseries, humiliations, famine and other horrors of war and occupation.

Some seventy years after a particularly complex and troubled period in their long and proud history , the French have not forgotten the mistakes, collaboration and other disloyal actions by Maréchal Henri Philippe Pétain, by members of the Vichy government, by members of the Vichy French military and by others. But they also remember and celebrate the courage, patriotism of compatriots such as General Charles de Gaulle (both a beacon for hope during the war and a lightning rod for foreign enmity during later years), Resistance heroes Jean Moulin, Madame Marie-Madeleine Fourcade and the "Reluctant Spy" Madame Jeannie de Clarens, flying ace Marcel Albert, "Captain-Rabbi" David Feuerwerker and many, many others.

All of us should also remember the nearly 1.5 million French soldiers who were captured by the Nazis before the signing of the armistice and who languished for five long years in Nazi prisons; the hundreds of thousands of French civilians deported from their homeland to perform forced labor for the Nazis; the estimated 56,000 Resistance fighters sent to Nazi concentration camps -- nearly half of them never to return.

Finally, we must never forget the estimated 80,000 to 90,000 members of France's Jewish population who were deported by the Nazis, the vast majority to be exterminated at various concentration camps.

In my opinion, such numbers -- such acts of both valor and martyrdom -- are indicative of a nation, a military and a people that did not docilely submit to the tyranny of the Nazi jackboot.

I am not a French history expert or a Francophile. I am merely commenting on how a brief visit to France, a few conversations, and visiting some "concrete examples" of French gratitude and respect have altered my perceptions -- perhaps misconceptions -- of the French people and of their recent history.



Anglo-French force: Cheese-eating surrender monkeys? Non

Britain’s military future is as part of a coalition, whether Nato or otherwise, and the new Anglo-French military force makes perfect sense, argues Sean Rayment.

Blow away all of the hot air, the bluster and the frankly ill-informed comment, and the new treaty which has lead to the creation of the Anglo-French rapid reaction force doesn't just appear sensible - it's clearly essential. Does anyone seriously think Britain is going to take part in any future war on its own? There may be the odd, small scale Sierra Leone-type operation but another Falklands? Forget it.

Britain’s military future is as part of a coalition, whether Nato or otherwise, and the new Combined Joint Expeditionary Force makes perfect sense. Let’s get real, British soldiers are not going to have French platoon, company or battalion commanders. The commander of the Task Force may be French and his orders will be passed down and followed by British soldiers. So what?

The very same thing has happened and is happening right now in southern Afghanistan where, since 2006, British troops have been commanded by American, Dutch and Canadian officers. I could be wrong but I don’t recall any howls of derision when this policy was first introduced. Alliances with the French are nothing new – our nations took part in military operations in the First and Second World Wars, the Suez intervention and in the Balkans. The French and British have similar sized armed forces and France’s military expenditure is greater that the United Kingdom’s, but not by much. From a like-for-like view Britain is far closer to the French military than the United States.

In 2007, I took part in an operation in Helmand when I was embedded with the Royal Anglian Regiment. It was late August and the mission was to clear the Taliban from an area of the Green Zone around Sangin. The Taliban were present in quite large numbers and the battle raged throughout the day. The enemy fire was intense and accurate and at one stage the Anglians were forced to call in an air strike. The pilot of the aircraft which dropped a 500lb bomb on the Taliban position was French. His English wasn't prefect but he delivered the bomb with consummate professionalism and unerring accuracy. The soldiers couldn't give a fig for his nationality, they were just happy that by the end of the day they had not taken a single casualty, thanks, in no small part, to the French pilot with faltering English.

My point is this: soldiers don't really care who is on their flank as long as they can shoot straight and don't run away when the going get's tough. The French have a proud military tradition, many British soldiers have served in French Foreign Legion and the British Parachute Regiment have a long tradition of training with the French airborne forces. And in all of my 20 years as a journalist and five years as an officer in the Parachute Regiment I can’t recall a single complaint about French military lacking the stomach for a fight.


jeudi 28 octobre 2010

Tea Party et jeunes Français : même combat

La révolte de la jeunesse française est depuis deux semaines quotidiennement commentée dans la presse internationale. Certains la comprennent voire l'admirent, d'autres y voient la manifestation du statu quo à la française, la révélation d'une jeunesse manipulée, irresponsable, cossarde, pathétique et ridicule. Parmi les centaines de commentaires, articles, édito, blogs sur ce sujet, la comparaison faite par Mark Lilla, "historien des idées" à l'université Columbia de New York, entre les manifs des jeunes Français et le mouvement américain conservateur des Tea Party n’est pas passée inaperçue outre-Altantique.

Mark Lilla, qui était à Lyon - l'un des épicentres de la gronde - au moment des manifs, écrivait sur son blog de la New York Review of Books : "Dans un pays obsédé par la perte de la mémoire nationale, les grèves annuelles sont, avec le Tour de France, l'un des rituels publics qui rappellent aux Français qu'ils sont Français - pas des 'Européens' mais bien des Français".

Ces derniers, explique-t-il, en ont "assez du chômage, assez de l'austérité, assez de la paralysie politique, assez des privilèges pour les riches, assez de la corruption. C'est un amas incohérent et parfois contradictoire d'inquiétudes, et mis ensemble, ils n'arrivent pas à le transformer en un plan d'action clair. Mais peu importe. Comme les manifestations des Tea Party aux Etats-Unis, ils sont l'équivalent politique des actes de langage, provoqués par la contraction économique et la perte de confiance dans la classe politique."

A son sens les deux mouvements "se sentent marginalisés, ne font pas confiance en leurs responsables politiques, souhaitent que les choses changent, et veulent que rien ne change. Plus que tout, ils veulent s’exprimer, et ce qui sort de leurs lèvres est façonné par leur identité nationale. "Don’t tread on me!" Et "On va gagner!" Signifient au final exactement la même chose: nous serons entendus. La question de savoir s’ils ont quelque chose à dire est un autre problème."

Outre un florilège de commentaires bien sentis à la suite de son post -auxquels l'auteur a répondu, l'essayiste américain et sa théorie se sont vus démontés dans un journal européen, la Süddeutsche Zeitung. Pour le quotidien allemand, c’est tout simplement du n’importe quoi ou plus exactement l’arrogance d’un penseur qui mélange tout. Car si les Tea party est un mouvement qui souhaite repousser l’influence de l’Etat, il est également xénophobe et homophobe.

Tandis que la résistance des jeunes Français aux réformes des retraites, elle, témoigne du malaise d’une jeunesse confrontée à la précarité qui, entrant de plus en plus tard sur un marché du travail hostile est, à la perspective de cotiser 41,5 années, révoltée.

La Süddeutsche porte l'estocade : "Son point de vue ressemble à celui d’un étranger décadent qui, attablé dans un bistro lyonnais un verre plein de bon Côtes du Rhône à la main, observe avec arrogance la foule qui manifeste comme s’il s’agissait d’un défilé du carnaval ou mieux, de celui d’indigènes". "D’une telle hauteur, le manifestant français combatif peut aisément se confondre avec un manifestant primitif du Tea Party et vice versa".

Et le journaliste allemand de conclure : comparer ces deux mouvements c’est tout simplement faire preuve d' une ignorance crasse de la réalité de la jeunesse française.


lundi 25 octobre 2010


DuPont, de son nom complet E.I. du Pont de Nemours et compagnie, est une entreprise fondée en juillet 1802 à Wilmington, dans le Delaware, par Eleuthère Irénée du Pont de Nemours né à Paris le 24 juin 1771 et mort à Philadelphie le 31 octobre 1834. Il se distingue notamment pendant la Révolution française lorsque le 10 août 1792, il défend Louis XVI et Marie-Antoinette avec son père Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours contre la foule insurgée.

Lors de sa création, c'était une usine de fabrication de poudre à canon, puis DuPont a évolué et est devenue l'un des plus grands groupes de chimie, qui, pendant le XXe siècle, a été un pionnier dans la révolution des « matières plastiques » avec la découverte du Nylon puis en développant des matériaux tels que les polymères (Néoprène, Teflon, Kevlar ou Lycra).
L'entreprise est cofondée par un des réfugiés français de Saint-Domingue en Amérique, Pierre de Bauduy de Bellevue (1769-1833) sur sa propriété d'Eden Park à Wilmington.
La compagnie se développe rapidement, et au milieu du dix-neuvième siècle, elle devient le plus gros fournisseur de poudre de l'armée américaine, fournissant la moitié de la poudre employée par l'armée américaine pendant la guerre civile américaine.

Second World War

Throughout this period, the company continued to be a major producer of war supplies. As the inventor and manufacturer of nylon, DuPont helped produce the raw materials for parachutes, powder bags and tires. DuPont also played a major role in the Manhattan Project in 1943, designing, building and operating the Hanford plutonium producing plant and the Savannah River Plant in South Carolina.


samedi 23 octobre 2010

Les Français ont raison de se battre pour leur retraite et devraient même être pris en exemple en Europe et ailleurs, assure un économiste américain.

Mark Weisbrot

Les manifestations qui [secouent] la France mettent en évidence certaines différences avec les Etats-Unis. Les Français ont décidé, outre des arrêts de travail et des grèves à grande échelle, de descendre dans la rue par millions pour défendre leurs acquis en matière de retraite. La colère populiste des Français se trouve orientée dans une direction positive – contrairement à ce qui se passe aux Etats-Unis, où elle se mobilise essentiellement [à l’approche des législatives du 2 novembre] pour élire des candidats qui feront de leur mieux pour accentuer les souffrances des ouvriers et de la classe moyenne.

Je dois reconnaître, cependant, avoir été troublé par l’élection de Nicolas Sarkozy en 2007. N’a-t-il pas fait campagne sur l’idée que la France devait rendre son économie plus “efficace”, à l’instar de celle des Etats-Unis ? En réalité, il n’aurait pu imaginer pire moment pour débiter son baratin. Outre-Atlantique, sa bulle immobilière était sur le point d’exploser et allait bientôt, non seulement causer notre grande récession, mais aussi entraîner la plupart des économies mondiales dans le marasme. Mais Nicolas Sarkozy a beaucoup été aidé par les grands médias internationaux. Ces derniers adoraient le modèle américain et ont contribué à diffuser un certain nombre de mythes, repris ensuite dans la campagne présidentielle du candidat Sarkozy. Parmi ces mythes, l’idée qu’une économie mondialisée ne pouvait supporter les coûts exorbitants de la protection sociale et des allocations de chômage, et que les employeurs recruteraient davantage si on réduisait les impôts sur les riches et s’ils pouvaient licencier plus facilement.

Nicolas Sarkozy a également promis de ne pas relever l’âge de départ à la retraite. Il faut savoir cela pour comprendre l’ampleur de l’indignation suscitée par sa volonté de faire passer celui-ci de 60 à 62 ans pour une pension réduite, et de 65 à 67 ans pour une retraite à taux plein. (Dans le système public de retraite américain, la plupart des gens optent pour la pension à taux réduit qui est possible à partir de 62 ans ; les personnes nées après 1959 ne pourront percevoir une retraite à taux plein qu’à partir de 67 ans).

Une fois encore, la plupart des médias internationaux pensent que les Français manquent de réalisme et devraient suivre le mouvement comme tout le monde. L’espérance de vie a augmenté, argumentent-ils, et nous devrons tous travailler plus longtemps. C’est un peu comme ne donner que la moitié du score d’un match de base-ball (ou de football si vous préférez). Face [à ce calcul purement démographique] on oublie que la productivité et le PIB auront eux aussi augmenté dans l’intervalle ; en clair, les Français auront donc la possibilité, non seulement de passer davantage d’années à la retraite, mais aussi de financer cette situation.

L’âge de départ à la retraite a été revu pour la dernière fois en 1983. Le PIB par habitant a depuis augmenté de 45 %. En comparaison, l’augmentation de l’espérance de vie a été très faible. Le nombre d’actifs par retraité est passé de 4,4 en 1983 à 3,5 en 2010, mais la croissance du revenu national a été largement suffisante pour compenser ces évolutions démographiques. Il est donc parfaitement raisonnable de la part des Français de souhaiter que les actifs puissent passer plus de temps à la retraite au fur et à mesure que l’espérance de vie augmente. Et c’est bien ce qu’ils souhaitent en majorité. Sans avoir à se lancer dans de savants calculs, ils sentent intuitivement que si un pays s’enrichit d’année en année, il n’y a pas de raison que sa population consacre plus de temps à travailler.

L’élévation de l’âge de la retraite est une mesure hautement régressive, qui frappera durement les ouvriers. Les actifs pauvres, qui ont une espérance de vie plus courte, vont perdre une plus grande proportion d’années de retraite que les autres. Ceux des actifs qui devront arrêter de travailler plus tôt pour cause de chômage ou d’autres difficultés penseront, à raison, que la baisse de leur pension est une conséquence de ce changement. Et bien sûr, cette baisse ne concernera pas les plus riches dont la pension ne dépend pas pour l’essentiel du système de retraite public.

La France connaît un niveau d’inégalité plus faible que la plupart des pays de l’OCDE. C’est en outre l’un des cinq pays, sur les trente que compte l’OCDE, à avoir vu les inégalités diminuer entre le milieu des années 1980 et le milieu des années 2000. Et, au sein de ce groupe, elle est le pays à avoir connu la plus forte baisse des inégalités, même si celle-ci s’est concentrée entre le milieu des années 1980 et le milieu des années 1990. Elle a jusqu’à présent résisté à certains des changements qui ont provoqué une régression sociale pour les actifs – et, en particulier, pour les actifs à faibles revenus des pays riches. Les autorités européennes (dont la Commission européenne et la Banque centrale européenne) et le Fonds monétaire international accélèrent ce processus de régression dans les pays les plus faibles de la zone euro (par exemple la Grèce, l’Espagne et l’Irlande). Ces institutions et nombre de responsables politiques tentent de saisir le prétexte des problèmes économiques actuels pour introduire des réformes réactionnaires.

D’après les sondages, les grévistes sont soutenus aux trois quarts par la population française, malgré la pénurie de carburant et les autres perturbations. Les Français en ont déjà assez de leur gouvernement de droite, et c’est en partie ce qui suscite ce mouvement de protestation. Malgré la faiblesse du Parti socialiste, la France possède une gauche plus forte que la plupart des autres pays. Celle-ci a la capacité et la volonté d’organiser des manifestations, des arrêts de travail et de larges campagnes de sensibilisation. Les Français se battent en fait pour l’avenir de l’Europe – et donnent l’exemple aux autres pays. Ici, aux Etats-Unis, à l’heure où des attaques contre les retraites se profilent, nous pouvons, au mieux, espérer repousser les coupes budgétaires proposées dans un filet social pourtant beaucoup moins généreux.

The Guardian

vendredi 22 octobre 2010

Fred Astaire

Fred Astaire, de son vrai nom Frederick Austerlitz, né le 10 mai 1899 à Omaha.
Le père de Fred Astaire, Friedrich E. Austerlitz, émigre d'Autriche vers les États-Unis en 1892, où il épouse Johanne Geilus, d'ascendance alsacienne, en 1894 dans le Nebraska. La famille déménage à New York en 1905. Fred prend des leçons de danse à l'école Alvienne, et c'est en 1905, lors d'une interprétation dans une petite pièce avec sa sœur Adele, qu'il adopte le nom « Astaire » ; ce nom a été choisi car un de ses oncles avait été nommé dans son village « l'Astaire du Village ».

jeudi 21 octobre 2010

Pour 104 000 dollars t'as une maison à Miami avec piscine !


Même avec le Prêt à Taux Zéro vous ne pouvez vous offrir la villa de vos rêves? Le marché immobilier français vous déprime? Foncez aux Etats-Unis, sous le soleil de Floride. Sur la terre des yankees, vous pouvez désormais acquérir une villa de luxe pour une « bouchée de pain ».

 La crise immobilière apporte avec elle son lot de bonnes surprises. C’est même la grande braderie. En revanche, la mobilité est impérative pour bénéficier de ces bonnes affaires. Au plus fort de la crise financière, des promoteurs espagnols liquidaient deux appartements pour le prix d’un ou offraient une voiture à l’achat d’une maison.
Aujourd’hui, L’Express se fait l’écho de cette solderie internationale dans ces pages petites annonces :

Oui, vous avez bien lu ! Pour le prix d'une chambre de bonne pourrie dans le XIX° arrondissement de Paris - 104 000 euros -, vous pouvez avoir accès à une demeure de rêve - 3 à 4 chambres, piscine, proximité de la mer et d'un golf, salle de sport - dans laquelle n'importe qui aimerait passer ses vacances.

Attention cependant, avant de casser votre tirelire : Bien que non mentionné dans l'annonce, ce type de maison, intégrée dans l'une ces résidences privées, fermées et surveillées comme on en voit tant dans les séries américaines, comporte son lot de charges mensuelles very expensives : gardiens, intendance, entretien de la piscine, etc...

lundi 18 octobre 2010

Peter Thiel

If you've seen The Social Network, you may have caught a passing glimpse of Peter Thiel. Thiel was the first outside investor in Facebook, putting up $500,000 to finance the site's original expansion in 2004.

Egalement co-fondateur de PayPal

Thel: On trouve le nom dans le département du Nord, où ce devrait être une variante de Thiel (voir Thiele). On le rencontre aussi dans le Sud, où c'est un toponyme évoquant le tilleul (une commune du Rhône s'appelle Thel).

Thiele: Nom porté en Suisse, également présent en Moselle et en Savoie. On le considère le plus souvent comme un hypocoristique de Thierry (allemand Dietrich)


samedi 9 octobre 2010

Pop-rock : des artistes français sautent sur Los Angeles


La France part à l'assaut de Los Angeles ! Après le succès phénoménal du groupe Phoenix mi-septembre (un concert complet au mythique Hollywood Bowl), le festival Ooh La LA ! a pris ses quartiers la semaine dernière dans la mégalopole californienne. À l'affiche : une flopée de groupes français très appréciés du public américain, avec, au sommet de la programmation, le tango électro de Gotan Project, qui a presque rempli samedi soir le Club Nokia (2.300 places, quand même). Mais le barbu branché Sébastien Tellier, chouchou des hipsters (les branchés locaux), la pop ouvragée de Revolver ou la folk électrique de The Bewitched Hands ont aussi fait des heureux. Pas encore rentable, le festival - c'est sa seconde édition - entend bien se faire une réputation, voire s'exporter dans d'autres grandes villes du pays.


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