Tag Archives: McLaughlin Group

RUSSIA’S INTERVENTION IN SYRIA

Putin Syria

A generation after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia is back in the Middle East.   It cannot be good for America!

Britain dominated the Middle East between the two world wars. After World War II, that domination continued for about a decade. Then, in 1956, the Egyptians seized the British and French owned Suez Canal. The two countries, together with Israel, invaded Egypt in an attempt to reclaim the Canal, but they were stopped by US President Dwight D. Eisenhower.     In hindsight, it marked the end of the British Empire. It also resulted in greater US involvement in the region.

The Book of Daniel is a prophetic book in the Old Testament, written during the sixth century before Christ.  It’s a remarkable book because the writer, Daniel, who served two kings of Babylon while Babylon was the greatest power in the world, then served two kings of Persia when it was the Persian turn to attain the status of super power.

His writings predicted the eventual replacement of Persia by Greece and then, in turn, Rome.   These were four of the greatest empires of the ancient world.   Each rose to greatness and each descended into oblivion.   Only their ruins remain.

Daniel put it well when he wrote the following:

“And He (God) changes the times and the seasons;
He removes kings and raises up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
And knowledge to those who have understanding.” (Daniel 2:21)

God is behind the rise and fall of nations.   He also reveals His prophetic outline “to those who have understanding.”

Just as Great Britain’s period of pre-eminence came to an end, so will America’s.   But, as with Britain, the change took a while to be fully realized.

Russia’s intervention in the Middle East fundamentally changes the balance of power in the region.   Russia, in the form of the Soviet Union, was heavily involved in the area following the British withdrawal.   While the US supported Israel, Jordan and the other conservative monarchies, including the Shah of Iran, Moscow supported Egypt and Syria.   That changed with the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty of 1979.   Moscow has not had much clout since.

But now that’s changed.   Moscow is not only involved in Syria, propping up President Bashar al-Assad against ISIS and other groups, it is also involved in Iran and Iraq.   In effect, Russia is backing the Shi’ite arc that starts in Lebanon (Hezbollah) and swings through Syria, Iraq and Iran.   Bible students will remember that this is basically the territory of the old King of the North of Daniel, chapter 11, the Seleucid dynasty that had its origins in the conquests of Alexander the Great.   The rivalry with the Ptolemaic dynasty labeled the King of the South in the scriptures continued for two centuries and constantly threatened the Jews who were in the middle. The terms “King of the North” and “King of the South” refer to their geographical location in relation to Jerusalem and the threat they posed to the ancient capital of the Jews.

The same chapter prophesies that these two powers will be revived in different form prior to Christ’s return and will once again threaten the Jewish nation of Israel.

So it’s interesting to see Russia getting involved.

Vladimir Putin had this to say at the United Nations just a few days ago:

“An aggressive foreign interference has resulted in a brazen destruction of national institutions and the lifestyle itself.   Instead of the triumph of democracy and progress, we got violence, poverty, and social disaster.   Nobody cares a bit about human rights, including the right to life.   I cannot help asking those who have caused the situation, do you realize now what you have done?”

President Putin was talking about the United States and the consequences of American intervention in the Middle East.

Discussing this speech on PBS’ McLaughlin Group, conservative columnist Pat Buchanan had this to say:

“We are responsible for the disaster in the Middle East by our interventions.”

The mess the US and its allies created in the Middle East is affecting peoples around the world.   The Lansing State Journal carried the following front-page headline today:   “Eager for Syrians to arrive”, referring to Lansing, Michigan, welcoming Syrian refugees in the coming days and weeks.   Europe has been invaded by hundreds of thousands of people, some of whom are refugees, over the last few weeks. Australians are also seeing Syrian refugees arrive in their country.   This could pose a serious security threat to western nations.

President Obama said the following at the UN:   “The strongmen of today become the spark of revolution tomorrow.   You can jail your opponents, but you cannot imprison ideas.   You can control access to information, but you cannot turn a lie into truth.”

What the US president was saying was intended as a warning to President Putin and the Arab dictator he intends to keep in power, President Assad of Syria. The latter is a ruthless dictator (the former is simply a dictator who can be ruthless; there’s a difference). The US position on Syria is that Assad must go. That now seems highly unlikely.   When Mr Obama refers to “ideas” that cannot be suppressed, he is referring to democracy and the “moderate” resistance to Assad. However, recent history shows that democracy is not the winner when dictators in the Middle East are overthrown. Rather, Islamic extremism or chaos, and usually both, result.

Putin, unfettered by ideological constraints, instinctively knows that.

Russia is in Syria to stay.

This could pose a problem for Israel now that the Russian bear is on its border.

It could also weaken the Russians.   Mr. Putin must remember that it was Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in 1979 that brought down the Soviet Union, which he has described as the greatest disaster of the twentieth century.

What it will mean for Russia is not clear at this time.   However, it is clear what it means for the United States.   Just as an American president’s decision in 1956 precipitated the fall of the British Empire, so an American president’s inaction over Syria and cozying up to Iran, with the resultant weakening of ties with traditional allies in the region, has directly led to America’s decline in the Middle East.

 

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OUT OF TOUCH

Jeb Bush

Following the Republican debate Thursday evening, one newspaper quoted on PBS’ McLaughlin Group observed that Jeb Bush spoke as if he thinks that America’s problems are all psychological and not real at all.   The Bushes have done well and live the dream and can’t understand why others have failed to achieve the same.

On Sunday, reports from Moscow showed a similar problem. President Vladimir Putin, by some accounts now the richest man in the world, thanks to the accumulation of ill-gotten gains, ordered the destruction of 350 tonnes of food from the EU in retaliation for western sanctions on Russia.   Mr. Putin’s decision shows that he is oblivious to the fact that millions of Russians are struggling to feed their families.  40% of Russia’s food was imported before the sanctions were announced.

Jeb Bush and Vladimir Putin aren’t the only two politicians who are out of touch with reality.   It’s difficult, for example, to imagine how Hillary Clinton, who, together with her husband, earned approximately $30 million last year, can possibly claim to represent the middle class.

It’s dangerous when politicians at the top are out of touch with people at the bottom.

In 1789, France’s Queen, Marie Antoinette supposedly said: “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche”—“Let them eat cake.”   That same year, the monarchy was overthrown and, three years later, the hated Marie lost her head to Madame Guillotine.   It wasn’t that simple.   The queen actually did a great deal for the poor through her charitable work and the words she supposedly uttered were recorded over a century earlier, attributed to the Spanish wife of King Louis XIV.

But hungry people don’t care about historical accuracy – they just want to eat.

A lack of food has been a regular cause of revolution throughout history.   In 1917, a bread riot in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) started the revolution that led to the downfall of the 300-year-old Romanov dynasty.   It’s not inconceivable that something similar could happen to Mr. Putin.   Of course, the revolution did not improve the situation – seven decades of communism included many years of famine and regular food shortages even at the best of times.

No nation is exempt.   If billboards in Michigan are to be believed, one in five Michigan children go to bed hungry.

Former presidential candidate Ross Perot warned a few years ago that food stamps are all that stand between us and anarchy – in other words, take away free food for the poor and you could see a revolution in the United States.

In June, 1932, veterans marched on Washington demanding that a bonus they were promised by Congress should be brought forward as, in the midst of the Depression, they could not afford to feed their families.   They built shanty-towns outside of Washington and were determined to stay until Congress met their demands.   President Herbert Hoover sent in troops under the command of General Douglas MacArthur to tear down the camps and send them home.   Reports at the time tell of great hunger amongst the vets and their families, including young children.   President Hoover was seen to be out of touch and uncaring (the shantytowns were dubbed “Hoovervilles”) and lost the election a few months later to Franklin Roosevelt.

Mr. Bush should remember the fate of the last Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, who lost the 2012 election to Mr. Obama.   Mr. Romney was recorded dismissing the “47%” of the electorate who depend on government and who, therefore, were not going to vote for him anyway.

Mr. Romney and Mr. Bush, both claiming to be conservative, should have read a biography of Benjamin Disraeli, the nineteenth century Conservative British prime minister who warned of Britain becoming “two nations,” one rich and the other poor.   He reshaped the Conservative Party to be a party that reached out to the working-man.   If the Republicans are to succeed, they have to do the same, to show how their policies will help improve the life of Joe Citizen.   To do this, they need to distance themselves from Big Business.

They can do it.   The 1896 election was held in the midst of a Great Depression that saw 50% of the people unemployed, at a time when there were no unemployment benefits for those who were out of work.   Understandably, the election saw the highest turnout in American history.   80% of the electorate voted.   The presidential election that year was won by Republican William McKinley.   He promised the people sound money and high tariffs to increase employment at home.   It’s interesting to note that the same issues still prevail.

Left-leaning parties, whether the Democrats in the US or the Labour Party in Britain, do not represent working people.  They are the parties of Big Government, which gives jobs to their supporters, but leads to a rise in taxes.   Those taxes are paid by ordinary people and small businesses, making life harder for the majority of people.

Leaders, and aspiring leaders like Jeb Bush, cannot afford to be out of touch with the common people.   This is especially true in democracies where every citizen has the vote.   Perhaps Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin should copy Britain’s Prince William, who spent the night sleeping on the streets of London to get the feel of homelessness.   At the very least, his gesture showed empathy with the poor, a realization on his part that tens of thousands of people are homeless and unable to take care of themselves.

Only a return to conservative values, including restoration of the traditional family, can help people get out of poverty.   Conservatives everywhere need to convince the voters that they represent them and not Big Business.

They could start by following the example of Menachem Begin, an Israeli conservative and former prime minister.   Mr. Begin spent many years in prison under the Bolsheviks.  Reading a biography of Benjamin Disraeli helped him maintain his sanity and inspired his future conservative course.   Focusing on struggling voters makes more sense than pursuing big business!  After decades of Big Government, people want change.

A GREAT AMERICAN WEAKNESS

Hillary and Gates

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates was interviewed yesterday on CBS’ Face the Nation.   He clearly does not think much of current and prospective presidential candidates, most of whom are, like Mr. Gates, Republicans.

The big problem is that foreign policy is set to play a big role in next year’s presidential election, sharing priority with the economy.

And this is the problem – none of the Republican candidates have had any experience in foreign policy.   The Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was a former Secretary of State and, therefore, has had more experience.   Mr. Gates and Mrs. Clinton overlapped so know each other well.

This has always been a big weakness in the American political system, that somebody can come from seemingly nowhere, with little or no experience, and become “the leader of the free world” and is immediately eyeballing world leaders who have had twenty or more years experience in government, including foreign affairs.  The current president and his two predecessors illustrate this well.

A prominent US politician in the 1950’s put it well when he said:  “It is true that, in America, any boy can grow up to become president. This is something we’re going to have to learn to live with!”

What makes it matter more this time is that the US and its allies are facing greater danger now than ever before.   This is the warning from former Deputy Director of the CIA, Michael Morrell, whose book The Great War of Our Time has just been published.   Mr. Morrell writes about the danger from ISIS, but also warns that there are three terrorist groups in the Middle East that are an even bigger threat to the West.   It’s only a matter of time, warns Mr. Morrell, before a major attack is launched.  We have already seen relatively minor attacks.

In the 1930’s Great Britain was constantly being warned by Winston Churchill of what was happening in Germany and the threat it posed to Britain and the rest of Europe.   When war came, Churchill was asked to lead the country in its long struggle for survival.   Today, there is no Churchill.

Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas wrote on May 8th that steps should be taken immediately to halt immigration from Iraq and Syria, home to ISIS.   People from those countries pose a huge security risk to the US and other western nations.   You can guarantee that not one presidential candidate will touch on this issue.  If immigration is discussed at all, it will be to fast track the path to citizenship for illegals already in the country, so that they will be ready to vote for the Democrats in time for this or the next election.   Nothing will be said about keeping people out, especially those from ISIS influenced areas.

Politicians lack knowledge and understanding of the rest of the world.   Some time ago, it was revealed that less than one third of US Congressmen even had a passport.   Perhaps this is why candidates, trying to make up for this, are already starting to fly around the world spending a day in London, 12 hours in Paris, 6 in Berlin, etc., etc.   This is in order to impress, sending a not-so-subtle message that “I understand the world – I’ve been there, done that!”

But, under pressure, they show little if any understanding. Republicans Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are the two latest to put their foot in their mouth and say the wrong thing.

When Mr. Bush was asked a few days ago whether he would have chosen to send troops into Iraq like his brother did, he answered in the affirmative, also claiming that Mrs. Clinton would have done likewise.  Shortly afterward he backtracked, claiming he did not understand the question.  Later still he said he would not have sent troops into Iraq.

Surely the correct answer should have been to say, “Based on the intelligence we had at the time, I would have chosen to go into Iraq; but now, in hindsight, it was clearly a big mistake.”

Marco Rubio went a bit further claiming that the world is a better place with Saddam Hussein gone.  It is???  I would not have liked to have lived under Saddam, but I would have preferred living there under him than living there now.   And that goes for hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have fled the country.

The bigger picture is even worse – by invading Iraq, we set off a chain of events that have given us ISIS and a growing Shia-Sunni conflict that threatens the peace and security of the world.

These two men are no more ignorant than many others.  John McLaughlin of the McLaughlin Group (PBS) read a statement at the weekend from a senior member of the Obama Administration justifying an agreement with Iran.  The statement expressed the hope that, through the pending agreement, Iran would be able to return fully to the family of nations and would turn its back on terrorism and conflict.  The spokesman added the hope that it would lead to a healing of the historic schism between Shia and Sunni Islam.

What?   Did somebody really write that?   Are they serious when they think that a short-lived US Administration can bring about peace between Shia and Sunni and end a 1400-year-old conflict? Next, they will be thinking they can resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — oops, I forgot, more than one Administration has already tried that!

Doesn’t anybody know history any more?  Don’t they stay awake during history class at school?  Come to think of it, history and geography are hardly taught in schools.   Perhaps that explains everything – presidential candidates went to school like everybody else.  It’s not surprising they know so little about history and can’t even find most countries on the map!

 

ADMINISTRATIVE BLINDNESS

 

Eleanor Clift

Eleanor Clift is an arch-liberal who writes for the “Daily Beast / Newsweek.”  She is also a regular contributor to the weekly political discussion on PBS, “McLaughlin Group.”

Eleanor has often made me think of the old story about Winston Churchill.   When the very liberal Lady Astor came up to him one time, she said:  “Mr Churchill, if I was your wife, I’d put poison in your coffee.”  Churchill’s response was:  “Lady Astor, if I was your husband, I’d drink it!”  If I were married to Eleanor, I would have drunk it a long time ago, and I’m not a coffee drinker.

It’s been six years now since the Obama Administration came to power.   During that time, I’ve not heard her utter one criticism of the president.   The other regular “liberal” on the program, Mort Zuckerman, who voted for the president in 2008, is quite capable of pointing out the president’s faults, but not Eleanor, oh no.

Eleanor and the president are in tandem.   While she is incapable of saying anything bad about the president, he seems equally incapable of saying anything bad about Islam.   He can’t even bring himself to say anything negative about Islamic militants.   He won’t even use the term, lest people associate Islam with extremism.

I’m not one of those people who think the president is a closet Muslim.   He is certainly sympathetic to Islam, which is dangerous at this time in the history of the West.   For what we need now is for a powerful personage on the world stage to speak plainly and bluntly to the Islamic world – to make it absolutely clear that extremism will not be tolerated and that Muslim leaders must unequivocally condemn acts of terror.

This applies to US, UK and French based Muslim leaders, imams in our mosques.   If they will not condemn acts of terror, then they should be expelled, deported from our countries to the Islamic country they came from.   Instead, many of these imams are actively recruiting young men and women to join ISIS.

A firm stand needs to be taken, but we are not going to see it from the US president or anybody in the Administration.   Rather, we are being constantly told that Islam is a religion of peace, that extremists have taken hold of a peaceful religion, that Christians did some awful things to Muslims during the Crusades, etc., etc.   The refusal to face up to reality is a hallmark of this Administration.

There has been no clear condemnation of the massacre of 148 students Thursday in Kenya by Muslim extremists, a death toll that is set to rise.

On the same day, we hear nothing but good things about the new deal with Muslim Iran, even as Iranians celebrated all night in the Iranian capital, Tehran, firmly believing that they have triumphed in their long struggle with the West.   Their perception is that Allah has given them victory over the Great Satan.   If they have won, how can we in the West claim victory?   The Israeli prime minister has made it clear that the agreement will ensure Iran has nuclear weapons, not stop them.   He has described the deal as a threat to Israel’s survival.

Of course, it’s not just the Administration that is at fault here.   Most members of the press and the average citizen have their heads in the sand.

The trouble is, eventually they will have to come up for air, when they just might have to focus on reality.

 

PARISIAN AFTERMATH

hebdo

It really is a dialog of the deaf!

I’ve just been listening to a discussion on the World Service of the BBC.   The program was Newshour, one hour of serious world news, the best available.

The discussion was about the cover of this week’s Charlie Hebdo satirical paper.   Only last week ten members of staff, including four cartoonists and the managing editor, were all killed when terrorists invaded their office. Their motive was revenge, to kill those who had insulted the prophet Mohammed by depicting him in their paper.

In defiance, the paper’s staff, now temporarily housed in the offices of Liberation, refusing to be intimidated, have again depicted the prophet on their front page, holding up a sign saying “Je Suis Charlie” (I am Charlie).   Interestingly, not one of the 200 members of staff of Liberation disagreed with the decision to house those from Charlie Hebdo, even though they clearly endanger themselves.

The BBC presenter was interviewing two female journalists, one a practicing Muslim of Algerian origin and the other a journalist with Liberation.

The Muslim explained to the BBC’s worldwide audience how deeply offensive the cartoon is, that it is, in Islam, blasphemy.   The other journalist countered by explaining that France has freedom of speech and that they are expressing their highly valued freedom.

What was particularly interesting to me was the Muslim saying she is deeply committed to freedom of speech but that does not extend to insulting somebody else’s religion.

It reminded me of a segment on the same program two or three years ago following the Arab Spring, a period of time when western countries thought they were witnessing the flowering of western style freedom in the Arab world. The interviewer then was talking to Tunisians who were anticipating democracy in their country.   They were asked a number of questions and gave the same responses as most people in the West would give.

That is, until the interviewer asked if their vision of democracy extended to allowing people to choose their own religion.

That was a definite no-no.   Nobody could ever renounce Islam

A huge gulf separates western thinking, which is based on individual freedom, and Islam, which means “submission.” They are two opposites.

This is not only a dialog of the deaf; it is also a clash of civilizations.

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The clash between these two worlds is going to be the defining conflict of our age, just as the Cold War was for over forty years.

Tom Rogan, a writer for National Review and an expert on Islamic terror groups, said on the latest McLaughlin Group that there are three types of terrorists now operating in the West.

One group is the al-Qaeda operatives, who have been around for about twenty years.

Secondly, we have those returning to the countries of their birth, from Syria and Iraq.   They have been trained for conflict and encouraged to stage terror attacks in their home countries similar to what we saw in Paris last week.   All western countries should expect to see a surge in such attacks in the foreseeable future.

The third group is made up of those influenced by “YouTube.”   These are often the lone wolfs we saw recently in Ottawa, Sydney, and New York. They keep an eye on terrorist websites, which encourage them to stage terror attacks, especially on police, security personnel, and government buildings.

Mr. Rogan predicted that we will see more attacks this year.

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While we are on the subject of terrorism, it should be noted that while the world’s attention was on the 17 deaths in Paris, an estimated 2,000 died in NE Nigeria when Boko Haram attacked a small town. Most of those killed were women, children and the elderly who could not run fast enough to escape from the terrorists.

The BBC has not been able to verify the figure because it is impossible for anybody to get nearer than 200 kilometers to the area. Boko Haram also destroyed the cell phone tower in the town, so that nobody living there has been able to communicate.

People who escaped ran to the nearest big city of Maiduguri. All told the same story of countless numbers of dead within and outside of the town.

A few days later, in the same region of Nigeria, a ten-year old girl, used by Boko Haram as a suicide bomber, blew up a market, killing twenty people.

It’s not surprising that the local archbishop has called on the US and other western countries to intervene to save the people from the Islamic onslaught.

The Nigerian army seems to be doing very little.   Neighboring Cameroon claimed today that is has killed 150 terrorists belonging to the organization.

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FOOTNOTE:   Sky News has just said that 5,000 EU citizens are now fighting in Iraq and Syria with ISIS.   What will they do when they return to their home countries in Europe?

Clearly, President Obama was wrong when he said a few months ago that the War on Terror was over. It seems more likely that it’s just starting.

COMMENTARY

Dollar

I want to begin by clarifying something I wrote in yesterday’s post.     I shared a quote from Eleanor Clift on the McLaughlin Group, “The dollar is the indispensable currency,” she said. I added that, on this point, she is correct.

I should have added two words to that comment, “for now.”

The dollar right now is riding high and doing better than other major currencies.  But that does not mean the dollar is really strong. In fact, just yesterday Singapore and China announced the start of direct currency trading, bypassing the US dollar, which has been volatile and is not backed by anything. It’s just paper and is held up by confidence and nothing else. Note the following from Channel News Asia.

“BEIJING:  China will allow direct trading between its currency and the Singapore dollar from Tuesday (Oct 28), making it easier for companies here to do business with their Chinese counterparts.

The Sing dollar will be added to the China Foreign Exchange Trade System (CFETS) platform, which currently offers transactions between the yuan and 10 foreign currencies. The announcement came on Monday (Oct 27), after an agreement at the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) in Suzhou, co-chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli.

Previously, companies that wanted to convert a large amount of Sing dollars to renminbi (RMB) or vice versa had to do so via an intermediate currency such as the US dollar.

“This will lower foreign exchange transaction costs and encourage greater use of the two currencies in cross-border trade and investments,” the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said in a news release on Monday.

DPM Teo called this is a “major and significant” development which will reduce the cost of doing business and make it more convenient.”

Singapore is a major hub for the internationalization of the Chinese currency.   Some predict China will overtake America as the number one economy next year.   This means China can take on the burden of being a trading currency just as the US dollar has been.

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I’ve been reading a novel by Brad Thor set in Afghanistan. The 2009 book is titled “The Apostle.” The author clearly knows the country well and I’ve learned a lot about Afghanistan from it. Frankly, the book is as close to the country as I want to get!

I would like to share two paragraphs with you. The subject is not Afghanistan. The main character is Harvath.

“Harvath just couldn’t understand the liberal mindset. He was convinced that they believed deeply in what they said and what they did; his only problem was that it so often flew in the face of reality. They continually focused their rage on their protectors rather than their enemy. They denigrated their country, believing it was the source of all evil in the world. The truth was, when it came to Islam, it had been violent since its inception. Its clearly stated goal was worldwide conquest. And while Harvath believed there were peaceful and moderate Muslims, he knew from studying the religion that there was no such thing as peaceful and moderate Islam.

“The entire religion was a mess and needed a complete gut-rehab. And though he had a good feeling his country’s new president would probably not agree with him, he also knew that until the politically correct crowd stopped making excuses for them and undercutting any motivation to reform their religion themselves, the majority of Muslims wouldn’t do anything . . . Islam had been Islam for fourteen hundred years and what it had been was violent.”

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Which reminds me of the three teenage girls, all born in the USA and from the Denver area, who were detained in Frankfurt en route to Syria to fight with ISIS. All three were of Sudanese and Somali descent. It is not necessarily the case any more that second generations born in America become more American. It seems that, when it comes to Islam, assimilation doesn’t work any more.

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This is certainly the case in Tower Hamlets, a rundown poverty stricken area of east London, profiled this morning on PBS’ Focus on Europe. Tower Hamlets has the UK’s highest percentage of Muslims, over 30%. They are mostly from Bangladesh and Somalia.   A recent election there has led to accusations of corruption, including vote rigging. This is unheard of in British elections. Or was, until a significant percentage of Muslims took over an area and introduced their own brand of politics, just like home.

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It may seem a big jump from ISIS to Downton Abbey but it’s appropriate at this point.   The fifth series is already showing in the UK on ITV. It starts in the US on January 4th. Apparently, Lord Grantham is going to lose his dog in this series. The reason is quite simple – the dog is named Isis. Lord Grantham has had his dog for four seasons of the show, while the terrorist group is quite new. But viewers do not want to be reminded of terrorism when watching the series in their living rooms. Besides, Isis joined the family in 1912 and the series is now up to 1924. That’s about it for a Labrador’s lifespan.   Ours only made it to five.

ECONOMIC PROSPECTS NOT BRIGHT

John McLaughlin

PBS’s “McLaughlin Group” (www.mclaughlin.com) remains the best political discussion of the week. John McLaughlin has the chair, with three regular guests and one visitor. This week’s program was particularly good.

The first item discussed was the US economy.   The program began with President Obama lauding the accomplishments of his Administration in this area. Economist Robert Gordon of Northwestern University was then quoted.

Whereas the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) predicts an average growth rate of 2.1% over the next ten years (down from the 3.5% averaged since World War II), Professor Gordon predicts 1.6%. The reasons he gives are that the baby boomers are leaving the work force; new hires will not fully replace them, so less will be produced. He also predicts the national debt will increase to 87% of GDP by 2024, 9% higher than the government’s estimate.

Robert Samuelson of the Washington Post wrote:

“If he’s right, this could be our next nasty economic surprise . . . the prospect now is for years of modest to, in Europe, non-existent growth.  How will political systems cope?  Will class warfare intensify as groups battle harder for bigger shares of a stagnant pie?  Without an expanding economy as a shock absorber, will racial, ethnic, generational and ideological conflicts worsen?   . . . prolonged sluggishness would turn the economy into a zero-sum game, where one group’s gain is another’s loss.  This is no formula for social peace.”  (Washington Post, 9/22/14).

This all led to an interesting discussion. “Are we in for a decade of political and social unrest?” asked host John McLaughlin. Conservative Pat Buchanan’s response was: “More than a decade . . . the share of the labor force that is working is dwindling . . . the baby boomers were the best skilled and best educated generation ever . . . Millions of folks are coming in from the Third World who lack the skills, education, and abilities that are needed.”

Liberal Eleanor Clift predictably felt that the exact opposite was the case and that the economy is all set for a wonderful decade. She added that “the dollar is the indispensable currency” – on this last point, she was correct.

Journalist Tom Rogan (National Review and The Daily Telegraph) felt that “the biggest issue is the national debt.” Rising debt threatens social security and Medicare.

Pat Buchanan pointed out that “real wages have been stagnant since 1974.”   Mort Zuckerman (publisher of US News and World Report) added: “In the last half a dozen years, real wages have gone down by about $4,500 per year.” Buchanan felt that “neither party will deal with social security, Medicare and Medicaid,” government programs whose costs keep rising way above the annual rate of growth in the economy.

Zuckerman mentioned a recent poll that showed that “78% of Americans have no confidence that Washington can ride to their rescue.”

Host John McLaughlin quoted a recent poll that showed 58% of Americans feel the need for a third party. Eleanor Clift quoted Shakespeare to sum up the attitude of most Americans: “A pox on both their houses,” a condemnation of both political parties. Pat Buchanan observed: “Our system is breaking down.” Mort Zuckerman added that ‘we’ve had five years of low growth.”

This is clearly not a rosy picture of America’s future.

The same day the McLaughlin Group was recorded, The Economist was working on a leader warning of the danger of deflation, the worst thing that can happen to an economy.

Western countries have had low inflation rates for over a decade now.

Falling prices at first seem benign but can soon turn deadly. At the time of writing, gas prices in the US are falling, which is making everybody happy. But a fall in gas prices means that demand for oil is dropping and this means that economies are slowing down. This will increase unemployment, which will mean a further drop in demand, which will lead to more unemployment, etc. And so it goes on in a downward spiral.

Some countries are already showing the first signs of deflation. Italy, Spain, Greece, Sweden and Israel are five western countries where inflation is below zero. Deflation can easily follow, warns The Economist in “The Dangers of Deflation” (10/25). A twisting of the title of Edgar Allen Poe’s famous 1842 short horror story, “The Pit and the Pendulum,” The Economist’s sub-title is “the pendulum swings closely to the pit.”

The world is dangerously close to a deflationary downward spiral.