Tag Archives: CNN

Zakaria on Maher and Extremism

Recently, Bill Maher made some controversial statements about Islam and extremism. CNN’s Fareed Zakaria opened yesterday’s Fareed Zakaria GPS discussing Maher’s statements.

Here is a description of the segment:

When television host Bill Maher declares on his weekly show that “the Muslim world…has too much in common with ISIS,” and the author, Sam Harris (a guest on his show) concurs, arguing that “Islam is the mother lode of bad ideas,” I understand why people get upset. Maher and Harris made crude simplifications and exaggerations.

And yet, they were also talking about something real. I know all the arguments against speaking of Islam as violent and reactionary. It is a vast world of 1.6 billion people. Places such as Indonesia and India have hundreds of millions of Muslims who don’t fit these caricatures. That’s why Maher and Harris are guilty of simplification and exaggeration.

But let’s be honest: Islam has a problem today…There is a cancer of extremism within Islam today. A small minority of Muslims celebrate violence and intolerance, and harbor deeply reactionary attitudes towards women and minorities. And while some moderates confront these extremists, not enough do so and the protests are not loud enough. How many mass rallies have been held against ISIS in the Arab world today?

But now the caveat, Islam today, is important.

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Fareed Zakaria on “How to defeat ISIS”

Last weekend, Fareed Zarakia began his CNN show, Fareed Zakaria GPS, by discussing President Obama’s speech on ISIS.  Zakaria provided his “take” on “how to defeat ISIS.”

Here is a description of the segment from the CNN website:

President Obama’s speech Wednesday night outlined a tough, measured strategy to confront ISIS. But let’s make sure in the execution of this strategy that the U.S. learns something from the 13 years since September 11, 2001 and the war against al Qaeda.

Here are a few lessons to think about:

One – Don’t always take the bait. The United States has to act against this terror group. But it should do so at a time and manner of its choosing rather than jumping when ISIS wants it to jump.

Lesson two: Don’t overestimate the enemy. ISIS is a formidable foe, but the counterforces to it have only just begun…While ISIS is much more sophisticated than al Qaeda in its operations and technology, it has one major, inherent weakness. Al Qaeda was an organization that was pan-Islamic, trying to appeal to all Muslims. This group is a distinctly sectarian organization. ISIS is anti-Shiite as well as deeply hostile to Kurds, Christians and many other inhabitants in the Middle East. This means that it has large numbers of foes in the region who will fight against it, not because the United States wants them to but in their own interests.

Lesson number three: Remember politics. The Obama administration has mapped out a smart strategy in Iraq, pressing the Baghdad government to include more Sunnis. But that is yet to happen – the Shiite parties have dragged their feet over any major concessions to the Sunnis. This is a crucial issue because if the United States is seen as defending two non-Sunni regimes – Iraq and Syria – against a Sunni uprising, it will not win.

Watch the video for the full Take, or read the WaPo column

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Fareed Zakaria on Flight 370 and Conspiracy Theories

Recently, Fareed Zakaria began his show with a commentary on Flight 370 and the human tendency to subscribe to conspiracy theories.  What I find so interesting (and so true) about “Fareed’s Take” discussion of psychology.  He describes Hanlon’s Law which he describes as the maxim: “never attribute to malice what can be better explained by incompetence.”  This is a principle that too many lawyers and policy makers fail to appreciate. 


Here is how the segment began: 

For those of you tired of the coverage of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, I want you to try an experiment.

When you’re with a group of friends – whose eyes might roll over when you even bring up the issue – ask them what they think happened to the plane. Very quickly you will find yourselves in the midst of a lively discussion – with many, different, competing theories, each plausible, each with holes.

The plane was hijacked, someone will say. But then why were there no demands? It was an accident, someone else will say. But then why were there no distress signals? This mystery of what actually happened is at the heart of the fascination with this story. And the mystery has now morphed into an ever increasing number of conspiracy theories about what actually happened that fateful day last month when the aircraft disappeared.

There are YouTube clips suggesting that aliens are involved, blog posts accusing the Iranians of hijacking the plane, and many who believe that the passengers and crew are still alive, perhaps on an island somewhere – like in the television show “Lost”.

I was thinking about some of these theories the other day as I was looking at a new book by Harvard law professor and former Obama official, Cass Sunstein. It’s titled, Conspiracy Theories – and Other Dangerous Ideas. The lead essay in the book explains why conspiracy theories spread – and Flight 370 is a perfect example of his logic. Sunstein treats conspiracy theories seriously, by which I mean he doesn’t assume that people are crazy to believe them. . . .

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April 14, 2014 · 7:44 am

Economics of Demographics

Too often in recent years,  economic debates in the United States have focused on (often self-created) short-term crises rather than the big picture.  One such big picture issue is the economics of demographics.  According to conventional wisdom, an aging population is a recipe for financial shortfall. However, Fareed Zakaria GPS recently discussed a study that found that Japan’s aging population may be beneficial for its fiscal health.  

Here is how this “What In The World?” segment began: 

We were struck by some startling data this past week. Last year saw Japan’s population fall by 244,000 people – the largest natural decline in that country’s history. It’s a trend that’s getting worse. By 2060, Japan projects that its population will have fallen by a third; 40 percent of Japanese will be retirees. It sounds like a recipe for disaster. Imagine a United States where half the population is over the age of 65: Social Security would collapse, health care costs will explode.

So, we were surprised to see a headline in the latest edition of The New Scientis claiming “Japan’s aging population could actually be good news.”

How on earth is that possible? After all, China relaxed its “one-child” policy last month precisely so it could avoid the fate of Japan. And that fate, if you go by conventional wisdom, seems to be slowing growth, and leading to unsustainable debt. Why? Because our entire system is based on having enough young workers to pay for pensions and government services.

Well, according to The New Scientist, perhaps we’ve been looking at the wrong data. . . . 

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January 22, 2014 · 10:09 pm

Extreme Swiss Inequality Reforms

President Obama recently stated that inequality is a “defining challenge” for the United States. Meanwhile, Fareed Zakaria reported that Switzerland, a country with significantly less inequality than the US, considered radical reforms to reduce inequality, including capping executive compensation.  

Here is the beginning of the segment from Fareed Zarakia GPS

If there’s one country in the world that looks like a utopia, its name must be Switzerland. This is a country that has it all. The average income is $82,000 a year – 65 percent more than the average American income. Everyone has great healthcare, childcare, and education. The unemployment rate is 3 percent. There is almost no corruption. According to the OECD, of 34 developed countries surveyed, the Swiss have the greatest degree of trust in their government. And, of course, it is a spectacular country with great traditions of skiing, cheese, chocolate, and wine.


What could possibly go wrong? Well, quite a lot, actually.

The Swiss are furious about income inequality. The story is a familiar one. According to Reuters, in 1984 top earners in Swiss firms made 6 times as much as the bottom earners. Today, they make 43-times what bottom earners make. At some banks and firms, CEOs make 200-times the salary of the lowest-paid employee.


Now, before you assume things about Europe and European attitudes towards capitalism, remember that Switzerland is one of the most business-friendly countries in the world. The conservative Heritage Foundation has an “Index of Economic Freedom.” Switzerland ranks 5th in the world, well ahead of the United States of America.


But in the aftermath of the financial crisis, the Swiss have become far more concerned about the nature of today’s free market system. So, some Swiss political groups came up with a plan. It’s called the 1 is to 12 initiative. The highest-paid company executive should make a maximum of 12 times what the lowest-paid employee makes. In other words, no one should earn more in one month than someone else makes in a year.

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December 5, 2013 · 2:39 pm

Fareed Zakaria: Why No One Is Thankful For The Federal Government

The most recent episode of Fareed Zakaria GPS began with “Fareed’s Take” on trust in government, particularly the federal government.  Zakaria diagnoses the systemic and political causes for the near historic lows in confidence in the federal government and discusses solutions.  

Here is a brief description of the segment: 

Fareed Zakaria explains why Americans have reason not to be grateful for federal government this Thanksgiving.

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December 3, 2013 · 10:02 am

Sunday Funday: “Britney Spears vs Somali pirates?”

There was a story this week about how Britney Spears’ songs are being played to deter Somali pirates attacks, and two “words” came to mind: Sunday Funday.  CNN’s Fareed Zakaria discussed this important development on his Sunday show Fareed Zakaria GPS. Here is how the segment began: 

The U.N. has released a report suggesting that piracy off the coast of Somalia has dropped to the lowest level in seven years. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon credited the decline to improving international policing and prosecution as well as better security and information sharing.

One Scottish merchant Navy officer reported last week that there might be additional reasons for the drop – Britney Spears. The officer told a U.K. paper that blasting songs like Britney Spears’ “Hit Me Baby One More Time” and “Oops, I Did It Again,” is effective in deterring approaching pirates.

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November 10, 2013 · 11:59 am