Thursday, December 03, 2015

The Real Lesson of the Paris Attacks

They hate us all

by Douglas Murray

When the truth is revealed, it can be not merely unpleasant but often accidental. There have been several striking examples of this since the massacre in Paris earlier this month. In the days immediately after the attack, The Times of London interviewed residents of Paris. Referring to the latest attacks, one 46-year old resident also referred back to the attacks in January on the offices of Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket. "Every Parisian has been touched by these attacks," she said, referring to the latest attacks. "Before it was just the Jews, the writers or cartoonists."

If "just the Jews" was an unfortunate way of putting it, it was no less unfortunate than the reaction of America's top diplomat. Days after the latest Paris atrocity, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said:

"There's something different about what happened from Charlie Hebdo, and I think everybody would feel that. There was a sort of particularized focus and perhaps even a legitimacy in terms of -- not a legitimacy, but a rationale that you could attach yourself to somehow and say, okay, they're really angry because of this and that. This Friday was absolutely indiscriminate."

To the extent these comments have been noticed, they have been ridiculed. It is what lies revealed beneath the statement that deserves our attention.

The true problem with the line that it used to be "just the Jews, the writers or cartoonists," is not that it is offensive or inelegant or any of the other words that are now used to shut down a discussion -- though all these things it may be. The problem is that it suggests that people were not paying attention during those earlier attacks. It suggests a belief that the terrorism in January was a different order of terrorism -- call it "understandable terrorism" -- rather than part of a continuum of terrorism that now reached its logical endpoint, as "impossible-to-understand terrorism" -- because "Jews, writers or cartoonists" were missing.

What if the terrorists had been targeting "just Americans," or "just diplomats" -- would that be "understandable terrorism" in Kerry's thinking? That it used to be "Jews, writers or cartoonists" is precisely what made the attacks on everybody else inevitable. The only surprise should be our own surprise.

After the January attacks in Paris, there were large marches through the center of Paris, and the phrase, "Je Suis Charlie," for a moment, seemed to be the hashtag or profile picture of everybody on social media. But, of course, almost nobody was Charlie, because apart from a lot of people dwelling on Twitter and Facebook under various virtual noms de guerre, very few people were keen to republish any cartoon of Mohammed or make new Mohammed cartoons of their own.

Sadly, a few months after the attacks, the remaining staff members at Charlie Hebdo announced that they were not going to draw Mohammed any more. No one could blame them: as well as losing most of their colleagues, it must have been exhausting to be among the only people still exercising a right that everyone else was just pretending to defend on Twitter. Despite all the "Je Suis Charlie" signs, it turned out very few people were Charlie. In the end, even Charlie was not Charlie.

The "Je Suis Juif" signs were never likely to catch on as much as the "Je Suis Charlie" signs, nor be followed up on even as much as they were. Did everyone on the streets of Paris take to wearing a skullcap or Star of David? No -- no more than they would have walked through any of the streets with reproductions of the cartoonist Kurt Westergaard's image of Mohammed with a bomb in his turban.

A lot of people said they were "Jews," but they were not willing to put themselves in the same line of fire as Jews -- just as a lot of people said they were "Charlie," while not actually being interested in landing on the same Islamist hit-lists as Charlie.

The latest attacks in Paris were, indeed, targeted at absolutely everybody. In that, there should be a lesson of a kind. The lesson should remind us that in a free society, no one can wholly dodge the bullets of these particular fanatics. In the conflict that faces us now, there is no opt-out if you happen to be "lucky" enough not to be Jewish. There is no opt-out if you happen to think that people should not draw or publish opinions that are anything other than 100% agreeable to 100% of the people, 100% of the time.

Because one day, you will be targeted for being at a restaurant or a concert, or for having the "decadent" temerity to attend a football match. That this has not yet sunk in to the public imagination is one thing. That it has still not permeated the understanding of the heads of the world's only superpower is quite another.

A month after January's terror attacks in Paris, there was a less-remembered terrorist attack on a free speech event in the U.S., and then on a synagogue in Copenhagen. I asked one of the organizers of the targeted free speech event what she would say to the people who claimed, "You know you might have brought this upon yourselves. You don't have to keep publishing cartoons or defending other peoples' right to publish cartoons, and you know how much the Islamists hate it." Her reply was characteristically succinct: "If we should stop drawing cartoons, should we also stop having synagogues? Should they be converted into something else? Should we ask the Jewish people to leave?"

The problem was that too few people listened to such voices, or too few people fully understood the import of what those voices were saying. They were saying what the dead journalists and cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo had also been saying: If you give up this right, next, you will lose every other right. Much of the world may only have been just bragging or emoting in saying, "Je Suis Charlie" or "Je Suis Juif." But it turns out not to matter: the terrorists of ISIS think we are all cartoonists and Jews anyway.

So here we are, at the end of what should be one of the world's sharpest and most painful learning curves in recent history. At the end of this curve, we ought finally to be living with the realization we might have acquired earlier: that since we cannot live with ISIS and other ISIS-like groups, we had better live without them. We had therefore better do whatever it takes to speed up an end of our choosing before they speed up an end of their choosing.





"This just doesn’t happen in other countries???

Maybe we should give Barack Obama a break. He's a had a bad year. The economy stinks, Obamacare is in shambles, and Americans haven't budged on the issue he believes threatens us more than anything- climate change. To borrow a term from Obama's favorite game, maybe we should give him a mulligan. After all, it has to be impossible for someone who would say something this stupid to ascend to the presidency, right? right??!

President Obama held a news conference in Paris, where he was asked about the recent shooting at a Planned Parenthood center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“I mean, I say this every time we’ve got one of these mass shootings; this just doesn’t happen in other countries,” Mr. Sensitivity said in a city that just witnessed horrific mass shooting at the hands of ISIS that left 130 people dead.

He added that the U.S. devotes “enormous resources” in preventing terrorist attacks at home and abroad. Of course, that’s a mutual interest we share with our allies. The president added, “We have the power to do more to prevent what is just a regular process of gun homicides.”

Obama's speech is the silliest thing to come out of France since Sartre, and showcases a profound disconnect from the goings on of the world around him. Even the most radical left-wing, vile, anti-American members of the French press had to be scratching their heads. As many of us have long suspected, Obama's malignant narcissism totally clouds his ability to comprehend objective reality.



The Orwellian present


When Regulations Are More Trouble Than They're Worth

And some constructive suggestions for cutting them back

While the recent Republican debates have sparked lively discussions of tax and spending problems, many candidates have also highlighted the economic drag of regulation. This is important: Regulations have an annual cost of more than $1 trillion and have a significant impact on investment, innovation and economic growth. Rather than shackling the economy with new ones, Washington should conduct a comprehensive review of the regulatory burden with an eye towards eliminating redundant and obsolete mandates.

So what do the candidates propose to do? All have called for cuts in regulation and ensuring that the benefits exceed their costs. Many White House contenders have also insisted on the elimination of various agencies in an attempt to reduce the influence of the bureaucracy and its regulators–Texas Senator Ted Cruz said, if elected, he would get rid of the IRS and the Department of Education, among others. (Cruz is pushing for a federal hiring freeze as well.) And there have been demands for the repeal of onerous regulations issued by President Barack Obama, from Obamacare to a host of new EPA rules.

More consensus: The REINS Act should be passed. This legislation would require agencies to submit all economically significant regulations to Congress for an up or down vote before they can be enforced. Currently, Congress can take credit for passing sweeping and feel-good sounding legislation such as the Clean Air Act while bearing no blame for the regulatory nightmare that ensues. The REINS Act forces these elected officials, rather than unelected civil servants, to take responsibility for their outcomes.

Some of the candidates have moved beyond generalities to more specific solutions. One option championed by Marco Rubio is the creation of a regulatory budget. By essentially setting a cap for the costs of each agency’s regulations, this would address the new layers of rules piled on year after year without any sense of their cumulative effects.

If an agency bumps up against the cap, it must find cuts before it can issue new regulations. This creates two important incentives. First, new regulations must be carefully evaluated in terms of cost before they are put in place. This would force agencies to find the least cost approach to regulation as well as more narrowly focus their regulatory efforts. Second, and just as important, a regulatory budget provides an incentive to prune outdated and unnecessary rules from the books. Rubio has introduced a version of this in the Senate and Cruz signed on as a co-sponsor.

Jeb Bush is also a supporter of a regulatory budget, as well as a tougher executive order for regulatory oversight. Currently, regulatory review is carried out under Executive Order 13563, “Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review,” introduced by Barack Obama shortly after taking office. Bush wants to issue his own executive order to tighten the standards of review in three particular ways. First, it must be demonstrated the benefits of any regulation exceed its costs. Second, it must be demonstrated that state-based solutions are not available to address the issue at hand, a clear effort to devolve regulatory activity down to the state level. And, third, Bush wants to implement a retrospective review of new regulations where major rules can be reviewed within eight years of enactment to determine their economic impact.

John Kasich has endorsed a regulatory freeze, a move akin to the first President Bush’s regulatory moratorium. This would allow an assessment of current regulations to more prudently move forward with reform. In an attempt to shut down “midnight regulations” issued by the outgoing Obama administration, Bush is also calling for a regulatory freeze that would delay implementation of any regulations until they are approved by agency heads nominated by him.

It is promising to see candidates tackling the mundane issue of regulatory reform. While there is no silver bullet to reining in the regulatory state, several candidates have put forth thoughtful agendas for reform. Regulatory cuts, budgets and freezes can all play a role. But, ultimately, what is required is a commitment from the president and his appointees to curb the agencies they are leading—a significant challenge for those seeking the White House.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

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