January News roundup

The Neo Crusades
Let us review the effects of the attacks on Charlie Hebdo from a Jihadi perspective. Last week the paper printed off several million copies, all carrying new cartoons of Muhammad, versus a normal print run in the order of 60,000 or so. Obviously, many in the Muslim world are unfamiliar with the term “the Streisand effect”. After all, its very unlikely any more than a handful of people would have seen either the Jylland-Posten or the original Charlie Hebdo cartoons, had they not started making a big deal out if it. So in summary, short of the Paris terrorists going door to door through France, putting a copy of Muhammad cartoons through every letter box, one can scarcely think of a better way of scoring an own goal.

As I’ve highlighted before, the issue here has little to do with offence of Islam, not least because its questionable whether such cartoons or images are offensive (as Muslim authors do it all the time, as they have throughout history), but with the attempt by various Wahhabi preachers, more than a few of them in the pay of Saudi Arabia, to use this issue in to stir up trouble and further a particular agenda.

Take for example, in Chechnya where there have been large protests about the recent cartoons. However this probably has more to do with propping up the local murderous despot, than promoting Islam.

Meanwhile in Africa we have the news regarding the recent advances by Boko Haram. When I first heard of this lot, I thought from the name they were some sort of new age band. However it would appear their greatest hits include “papa don’t teach”, “burning down the house” and “make me your slave” :no:

It is in short, difficult to make sense of groups like ISIS or Boko Haram, or the various wannabe Jihadi types until you realise, the mistake your making is to put their actions in a religious context. Whereas its better to look on their actions as those of a band of murderous, thieving thugs, using religion to justify their actions. Indeed one can draw an immediate parallel between these groups and the worst excesses of the Crusades of the Middle ages. There is a certain irony to this, given that these groups often point such violence and injustice from the crusaders (several centuries ago!) as justifying their actions today.

The unfortunate reality is that many of those who went on crusades in the middle ages were less interested in serving god, but more on plunder. This was a time remember when the church was hugely corrupt, as portrayed in the book “The Pillars of the Earth” by the Bishop Waleran character. It was an era when the sale of Indulgences (paying the clergy to pardon you for some crime you’d committed) was rife.

Consider for example that the Fourth Crusade missed the Holy land altogether and instead was directed first at the Christian city of Zara and then later attacked….and subsequent sacked the city of Constantinople, the capital of the (Christian) Byzantium Empire. And this was hardly a one off. Numerous Crusades, such as the Wendish Crusades, the Hussite Crusades or the Albigensian Crusade were launched not at Muslim nations, but at other Christians, within Europe.

Now you may enquire why did the crusaders attack fellow Christians? And isn’t Southern France or Northern Europe some distance away from the Holy Land?….and in completely the wrong direction? Well its the same reason why the vast majority of the victims of Islamic terrorism are other Muslims or why the main target for ISIS, the Taliban or Boko Haram have been Muslim minorities within their territory. It was because the leadership of these groups wanted to steal something and the managed to find some Priest/Imam willing to sell his soul and come up with some lame-ass excuse to justify it, framed in a religious context.

And Speaking of gun totting loons….
And speaking of religious nutters waving guns around, in the US there has been a fierce reaction to an interview by Irish actor Liam Neeson in which he made several idle anti-gun comments.

Inevitably the Fox News and Tea Party brigade have gone nuts overs. Several US gun companies have threaten to cut off ties and end co-operation on any films in which he stars. And there’s been the usual calls from Tea baggers for him to be deported, as they tried with Piers Morgan when he made the mistake of using his rights under the first Amendment of the US constitution (that’s the bit that guarantees freedom of speech btw) to bring up the topic of gun control.

Without reviving the whole debate against gun control, I think this shows just how poisonous and corrosive politics has now become in the US, as the Tea party types response to anything they disagree with is to nosily shout it down. In essence they seem to think the 2nd amendment trumps the remainder of the US constitution, including the right to free speech and religion (if you’ve been following the anti-Muslim paranoia state side recently). One wonders what sort of ISIS like state the US would become with them in charge and the only right you have is to own a gun and a bible….in fact that does sound a bit like parts of Iraq or Somalia (maybe they should emigrate? ;D)

Consider that there are many Hollywood actors, many of whom appear in action movies, who are also in favour of some form of Gun control. This includes the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Silvester Stallone. And yes I am aware both are Republicans, but you see the Republican party they joined allowed for people to have differences of opinion. Such as favouring some reasonable measures to ensure that guns don’t end up in the wrong hands, or closing number of loopholes (e.g. gun show sales of weapons) or restrictions on assault weapons.

Its odd that every car in the US has a license plate and a registration tied to a licensed driver, and if the vehicle is involved in any sort of crime, the registered keeper is considered responsible, yet guns in the US are excempt from any sort of controls! :no: In effect its bordering on a religious belief for many NRA members.

Hence why my view would be, let everyone in America own as many guns as they want….except members of the NRA! As they are clearly the sort of loons we want to keep away from guns…or indeed sharp objects in general!

Paris Sues Fox
There was also news of the city of Paris suing Fox news over various derogatory comments made on the channel, claiming large areas of the city are “no go zones”. Much like the similar story regarding Birmingham, here’s the Young Turks latest report on that one, this Fox news claim was based on the usual half assed analysis from so-called “experts”.

Basically, they googled a map of areas in receipt of various structural funding. This generally applies to “deprived” areas (that said some of the areas on the map are quite posh and touristy), which in Fox news logic meant they were exclusively home to immigrants and of course all immigrants are Muslim terrorists, even those from strange places like “Poland” or “China” :))

Needless to say, the French have been caught between those deeply insulted by this, to others unable to stop pissing themselves with laughter at some typical dumb Americans. A satirical French News show, Le Petite Journal, has been mocking Fox News as a result (see here and here). Of course whether or not a city can sue a news channel is questionable, as many have been pointing out to the French.

But why do the Fox News reporters do it? Why do so many of these howlers creep in? Well because of what I mentioned above regarding Liam Neeson. Republican fundamentalism has reached such a crescendo that there is now no room for any sort of debate or dissenting opinion. Many of the staff at Fox news are scared out of their wits of saying something that might be considered “liberal” by their ultra-conservative viewers or bosses. Consider that they will get daily e-mails from their boss, Roger Ailes, setting the agenda for the day. And violating that will get you fired, even Glen Beck (hardly the sort known as a liberal!….he suffers from “nazi tourettes”) can get the shove if they fail to toe the line.

So in essence Fox news has become a bit like a Salem witch trial, whereby everyone goes along with the lie, or feels compelled to embellish it further, for fear that they might be next to be accused of being a witch if they speak out.

Ban Unemployed from Driving
UKIP have again had to rush out a statement, distancing themselves from comments made by a candidate. Indeed, they seem to be getting very good at this, as often now their press statement can come out before the candidate has even finished putting his foot in it.

Anyway, UKIP candidate for Charnwood, Leicestershire, Lynton Yates has suggested that the unemployed should be “banned from driving” and that this would “remove six million cars from the roads”.

Where to start with this one. Well firstly, there’s the assumption here that everyone who is unemployed is some sort of a scrounger and owns a car, which is of course not true. Many can’t afford to feed their families let alone keep a car, so I doubt you’d remove “millions of cars” from the roads.

And what about people with seasonal jobs? Should they be banned from driving just because its the winter? Or those whose job involves driving and therefore would need to keep a car and be able to drive to interviews, etc. I’m thinking of some of those driving gritter lorries right now (who may be on temporary contracts till the winters end) or drive tourist buses in the summer? Won’t stopping them driving make it difficult for them to get a new job?

And also, most of the cost of running a car is privately paid for. i.e. the owner pays for the car and its costs through taxes, insurance, garage costs, fuel, etc. There is a debate, particularly from the greens or oddly enough a number of libertarians, as to whether what we pay in taxes actually covers all the costs associated with motoring (road building and maintenance, policing, emergency cover, pollution, climate change costs, etc.) and this is prompting calls to change how driving is taxed, e.g. road pricing instead of petrol duty and car tax. However, what our UKIP candidate is proposing is a policy to the left of the green party.

Of course, this is the problem with a populist party such as UKIP, particularly one with a cult of personality built around its leader. They will make all sorts of insane statements that are tabloid friendly, but ultimately unenforceable in the real world.

Indeed one has to wonder whether these comments were more the reaction of Mr Yates to his precious party leader being caught in a traffic jam by nasty evil hobbits immigrants (who are of course all unemployed, terrorists over here to sell horsemeat, steal our jobs, claim benefits and drive around aimlessly in what little free time they have) last year.

Greek elections and EU QE
Perhaps the big story of the week however should be the news of plans for the EU to start a process of quantitative Easing across the Eurozone. This has produced a mixed reaction from economists.

I fear its a case of too little too late and all this will actually do is dilute the savings of many European pension holders. I certainly feel that some modest and temporary level of QE and the start of this crisis (as in seven years ago!) would have driven away the spiv’s and speculators hovering over Greece and other troubled nations, however, bringing it now is a case of closing the stable door after the horse has already bolted.

Of course why this is being announced now probably has a lot to do with events in Greece, where baring accident, Syriza a left wing populist party, will be in power come Monday. Obviously, the ECB is more interested in preventing a feeding frenzy from the spiv’s once speculation starts about Grexit.

It is important to put Syriza and their (likely) victory into context. The Greeks have applied a fairly one sided policy of austerity, rather than the more mixed “carrot and stick” approach I discussed has happened in Ireland or the policy of Obama in the US or the route taken by Iceland (which I might add has pulled all three nations out of recession and well onto the road to recovery). This has caused enormous levels of poverty and hardship in much of Greece. Also there is the long standing problem of corruption within Greece, which has always been high and which neither of the major parties have done a lot to combat it. So one can understand why so many are turning towards Syriza, even thought them might inadvertently be voting to leave the EU by doing so.

However, my worry with Syriza is that, like many populist parties (such as UKIP) they have committed themselves to a miss-mash of popular policies that are going to be very hard to implement. Inevitably they are going to have to do what the mainstream parties did and compromise, e.g. in return for getting their share of this 1 trillion euros of QE, the Greeks keep some of the austerity measures, agree to EU budget spending limits, etc. How popular that will be with their supporters is the question. It might drive them into the arms of the radical right wing, with parties such as the neo-nazi Golden Dawn.

Also there’s the “what if” scenarios we need to deal with. What if Syriza puts its foot down and says no any austerity? Or they simply default on all of the country’s debts? What if the “the Troika” refuses to offer any compromise on the Greek bailout? The danger is this could very quickly push Greece towards the exit door. Both Syriza and EU seem to think they have one another over the same barrel. The Greeks gambling that they won’t be forced out of the Euro for fear of what that would do to the value of the currency, the Troika convinced markets are less jittery now and thanks to QE will not be overly disturbed if Greece slides off the table and implodes.

It is as the Chinese say, a recipe for “interesting times”.

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