Tag Archives: National Review

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.

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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.