Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Terrorists are simply Cowards

Republican Politics, American Style
Published on April 16th in Metro √Čireann By Charles Laffiteau
Today I want to discuss Irish Republicans instead of American Republicans, even though Irish and American Republicans do share certain affinities including a propensity to use violence to advance their political agendas because they are bullies and cowards.
The word “coward” comes from an old French word coart (the modern French version is couard) and is a combination of the French word for “tail” and an agent noun suffix. It means “one with a tail” or one in the habit of turning it, and it was derived from a dog’s habit of putting its tail between its legs when it is afraid. A person who acts in a cowardly manner is someone who demonstrates a weak or ignoble lack of courage.
Research indicates that adults who bully have personalities that are authoritarian, combined with a strong need to control or dominate and that they use violence as a tool to conceal their shame or anxiety and to boost their self esteem by demeaning others. Risk factors for adult bullies include tendencies towards envy and resentment as well as quickness to anger and use force, addiction to aggressive behaviors, concern with preserving one’s self image and engaging in obsessive or rigid actions.
Bullies use aggressive behavior in an effort to perpetuate the myth that people who act this way are really tough people. But the truth about bullies is that they are weak, cowardly and inadequate people who cannot interact in a mature manner because they lack knowledge, experience, wisdom and emotional maturity. Bullies are actually fearful, dysfunctional, disordered, aggressive and emotionally retarded, which is why they resort to physical and or psychological violence to get their way. But many bullies are also very adept at manipulating the perceptions of other adults, who by their failures and inactions condone the bullying. The sad truth is that only very weak people have a need to bully.
Two thousand years ago the ancient Roman statesman, Lucius Annaeus Seneca, observed that “All cruelty springs from weakness” and “He who does not prevent a crime when he can, encourages it.” Seneca’s observations about the Roman Empire’s bullies and those who excuse their behaviour, square neatly with my own views regarding Irish nationalist bullies and their misguided Irish Republican Army supporters.
Unfortunately bullies or terrorists, call them what you will because there actually isn’t much of a difference, have been with us for thousands of years and so they are likely to still be around many years from now long after all of us have departed this earth. The only real difference between them is that terrorists are bullies who have also wrapped themselves in cloaks of religious, ethnic or nationalistic rhetoric so that they can justify their propensity for violence and solicit weak minded individuals to do their dirty work for them. Real leaders lead by example whereas terrorist leaders are simply cowards who manipulate others to do what they can’t or wouldn’t be stupid enough to do themselves.
Mind you, I’m not saying that there aren’t people living in this world who don’t have legitimate ethnic, political or religious grievances. Many dissident political, ethnic and religious minorities have suffered for centuries from the pernicious effects of overt and covert discrimination by those wielding political and or military power. But it is one thing to protest in a peaceful and non-violent manner against such unfairness and quite another to use these injustices as an excuse for cowardly and criminal violent behaviour.
The suicide bombers used by Tamil rebels, Islamic extremists and other terrorist groups are weak minded individuals who have been manipulated by terrorist leaders into thinking that murdering innocent individuals is a moral and justified act of self sacrifice. Hmmm. If killing others and yourself in the process is so moral and justified then why aren’t the terrorist leaders taking these actions themselves instead of manipulating others to so? Why don’t these terrorist bullies confront soldiers who are capable of defending themselves instead of stealthily attacking unarmed soldiers and civilians, then slinking away before they can be identified with their tails tucked between their legs?
The truth about terrorist leaders and those who do their bidding is that they are no different than drug lords and the criminals they employ. All they really want is power and to be a law unto themselves. They have no use for laws that would protect minorities or that would regard them as equal under the law with others, because they want to be above the law. They care nothing for other people; only for what those people can do for them, which is why they have so little regard for the lives of others and gladly sacrifice them.
There is no difference between Mexican drug lord Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman causing thousands of deaths in Mexico’s drug war and the thousands of deaths bin Laden is responsible for in his pseudo-religious political jihad. So what is the difference between John Gilligan sending his henchmen to murder an unarmed journalist and the IRA sending thugs to murder unarmed soldiers, policemen and pizza deliverymen? What they have in common is neither Gilligan nor these IRA thugs would ever dare to do their dirty work in anything but a cowardly manner.
Courage is the ability to confront fear, intimidation, pain, risk, danger, uncertainty and to act rightly in the face of popular opposition, shame or discouragement. Courage, real courage, means standing up against something or someone that is unjust or evil knowing that the consequences of your actions might lead to your death or imprisonment. Aristotle also notes that the vice which represents a deficiency of courage is cowardice.
People like Mahatma Gandhi, Veronica Guerin and Dr. Martin Luther King possessed true courage. On the other hand, what the IRA dissidents, Osama bin Ladens, John Gilligans and Joaquin Guzmans of this world have is a deficiency of courage; that vice Aristotle called cowardice. So next week I will discuss why extremists use religious reasons to justify their cowardly actions.

The economic future looks bright for America

Republican Politics, American Style
Published on April 9th in Metro √Čireann By Charles Laffiteau
Given the short comings of the French approach to increasing its population (and thus its taxpaying workforce) that I cited in last weeks column, today I want to explore why America’s population is growing faster than that of any other developed country as well as the long term benefits America will realize as a result of this.
Unlike France, the American government doesn’t pay couples to have children, although it does provide parents with income tax deductions that partially subsidize the cost of child care and the expenses associated with raising children. But these income tax breaks are nowhere near as generous as the subsidies provided by France and other developed countries such as our Scandinavian neighbours. So why have America’s fertility and population growth rates now taken an upward trajectory when all the other developed countries’ fertility and population growth rates are on a downward trajectory?
If we take a closer look at America’s current demographic structure and the underlying characteristics of its fertility and population growth rates we can see that it is not skewed in favor of any one ethnic group. As one might expect the fertility rate of Hispanics is higher than that for other ethnic groups at 3.0, but the rate for non-Hispanic whites is 1.9 while the rate for African-Americans is 2.1.
America’s population growth is also fairly well balanced between growth driven by immigration and growth resulting from the birth and fertility rates of native-born Americans. That means America’s population growth isn’t subject to the destabilizing effects the addition of large numbers of immigrant workers and their families can have on a nation’s workforce and its social structures.
America’s steady and fairly balanced population growth will also continue to keep America’s population younger than the aging populations of other developed countries. Currently the median age in America is 36.6, but its 40.4 in Europe and Ireland is the only EU nation with a median age lower than the US at 34.6. According to Bill Frey, a demographer at the University of Michigan, the median age in America in 2050 will only be 37 while in Europe it will be almost 53. In other words, the difference between US and EU median ages is likely to rise from 4 to as much as16 years by 2050.
This means that Americans will have to continue to spend more than EU countries on education, but it also means that US taxpayers will have to shoulder a much lighter burden of retiree pension and healthcare costs than its EU and East Asia neighbours between now and 2050. Retiree benefit costs are expected to skyrocket in America and the developed countries of Europe and East Asia thanks to the retirements of post World War II baby boomers. As a result, US government debts could rise to a level almost equal to 100% of US national income by 2050. But government debts would rise to over 150% of income in East Asia and EU overall, and to over 250% in Germany and France.
A younger population will also result in lower labour costs for companies operating in the US and make American companies more productive and globally competitive. This is exactly what happened in Japan during the 1960s and 1970s when its workforce was younger than the US labour force and those lower labour costs helped Japanese companies become much stronger competitors around the world. Using current demographic trends, the number of people over 65 will be equivalent to 60% of the working-age population in Europe and Asia in 2050, compared to only 40% in America.
These huge economic impacts on countries with declining populations can best be addressed by encouraging more young people to immigrate to these countries. But except for the years between 1920 and 1970 when it was encouraged by France, immigration levels have always been low in European and Asian countries. So even if these countries suddenly decided to throw their doors open to immigrants, I think there is a good chance they won’t get the results they would be hoping for.
America is a nation of immigrants and 75% of all the people in the world who have ever emigrated from their native countries have moved to the United States. That’s why Kenneth Prewitt, former head of the US Census Bureau, argues that “in the struggle to find workers to support growing economies, nations that are hospitable to immigrants will have an advantage.” In other words, immigrants tend to go where they already have friends and or family waiting to welcome them and help them get jobs. So if you were an immigrant where would you prefer to move; to a youthful and multi-coloured America (where you likely know someone) or to an aging Europe with a 90%+ white population?
There are also military and geopolitical implications associated with the declining populations of countries in Europe and East Asia. Despite its promises to narrow its defense spending gap with America to address the military imbalance within NATO, ever since the end of the cold war Europe has chosen to increase spending on social programmes instead. As a result the United States now spends twice as much on military defense than the entire EU spends each year and that military imbalance is unlikely to ever be corrected. Why? Because if Europe is unwilling to spend what is needed on defense when people over 65 are only 30% of the working-age population, what do you expect Europe to do between now and 2050 when the proportion of 65 year olds doubles?
I would contend that anyone who thinks the United States’ economic, military and or political power has peaked and has already begun the same slow but inexorable decline that Rome and England experienced is making a big mistake. Thanks to its positive demographic trends, it is much more likely that America’s economic, military and political power will become even more solidly entrenched during the rest of this century. What other country has America’s potential?