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Canadian politics. Canadian Arctic. Canadian economics. The World’s Most (And Least) Miserable Countries on Planet Earth. In what follows, I update my annual Misery Index calculations. A Misery Index was first constructed by economist Art Okun as a way to provide President Lyndon Johnson with a snapshot of the economy. The original Misery Index was just a simple sum of a nation’s annual inflation rate and its unemployment rate. The Misery Index has been modified several times, first by Robert Barro of Harvard and then by myself. My modified Misery Index is the sum of the unemployment, inflation, and bank lending rates, minus the percentage change in real GDP per capita. A higher Misery Index score reflects higher levels of “misery,” and it’s a simple enough metric that a busy president without time for extensive economic briefings can understand at a glance. Here is the 2016 Misery Index table. Venezuela holds the inglorious spot of most miserable country for 2016, as it did in 2015.

Argentina holds down the second most miserable rank, and the reasons aren’t too hard to uncover. On the hidden horrors of Soviet life. Ninety-nine years ago, Tsar Nicholas II abdicated, and, after a few months of weak parliamentary rule, the Bolsheviks seized power. We call that seizure the Russian (or October) Revolution, but it might better be designated the Bolshevik coup d’état.

A party of 10,000 people gained control of an empire occupying one-sixth of the earth’s land area. From the start, they made up for their small numbers with outsized violence. If at first their executions of liberals, socialists, workers who showed independence, and peasants from whom grain was seized at gunpoint seemed like a short-term necessity, it soon became evident that the violence would never stop. In fact, it was to grow, with Stalin proclaiming “the intensification of the class struggle” when Bolshevik control had long been total. The Bolsheviks made up for their small numbers with outsized violence. Eventually some eighteen countries were to fall under Communist rule. Being leftwing means never having to say you’re sorry. Why Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Criticism of Islam Angers Western Liberals. Ayaan Hirsi Ali attends a book presentation in April 2015 in Berlin. Photo by Christian Marquardt/Getty Images Ayaan Hirsi Ali can recount in virtual slow motion the events of November 2, 2004—the day Theo Van Gogh, her collaborator on a film about abuse of women in certain Muslim societies, was assassinated.

The Somali-born women’s rights advocate and writer, then a member of the Dutch Parliament, had herself received innumerable death threats for writing the film, entitled Submission. The Dutch Minister of Interior informed her of what had occurred: Mr. Van Gogh was shot eight times and left on an Amsterdam street with his throat slit and a large knife stuck in his chest. The death sentence began this way: “In the name of Allah most gracious, most merciful,” and went on to proclaim that “all enemies of Islam will be destroyed.”

But as Ms. Ms. ‘They fear critical thinking. Hirsi Ali speaks at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., last year. She is hardly alone in that view. Ms. Why Canada's military risks returning to a decade of darkness. Who would have guessed that, at the time of his most critical decision, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan would be doing a military sample of the 1976 Genesis prog-rock song, Ripples? “If we want to understand the ripples we are creating, we have to understand the environment we are creating them in,” Sajjan said last week. He was being asked—as he is on an almost daily basis—when he will reveal details about the long promised Liberal plan to pull out CF-18 jets from the mission in Iraq and Syria. Apparently this “ripple effect” theory is the “genesis” of the long delay.

“We may not be able to control all the ripples that are out there, but we can control the ripples that we create,” Sajjan said, adding something or other about “negative ripples.” As there is no formal military theory about “ripple effects,” it’s hard to tell exactly what the minister is talking about. Related: Why Trudeau’s crass stance on Syria is lose-lose That’s a big problem. The Navy’s needs are even greater. Paris Is on Wartime Footing. What a difference a year makes. Just 12 little months and the spirit of solidarity after the January 2015 Charlie Hebdo attacks — which drew millions to the streets across France — is dead. The first anniversary of the three-day terrorism spree came and went with a clutch of senior officials and invited guests gathering at Place de la République in the heart of Paris while aging French rocker Johnny Hallyday crooned, “One Sunday in January.”

While residents going about their daily business maneuvered around security blocks, the press picked desultory quotes from the handful of people at the square about “mixed feelings,” with one 54-year-old museum technician noting, “It is terrible to attack journalists, but it’s scary to live under a state of emergency.” Weeks later, thousands of demonstrators gathered at Place de la République to protest the proposed extension of France’s new wartime footing. A constitutional amendment — fancy that! They failed miserably, of course. He was right. The American military is bad at teaching others how to fight. Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images When the invasion of Iraq triggered an insurgency, a civil war, and the collapse of social order, Colin Powell coined the “Pottery Barn rule” about military intervention: “You break it, you own it.” In the wake of President Obama’s Oct. 15 announcement that 5,500 U.S. troops will stay in Afghanistan through the end of his term, I hereby proclaim the “Hotel California rule,” after the last line of the Eagles song: “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.”* Obama’s decision—a reversal of an earlier plan to pull out entirely from Afghanistan by the end of his presidency—was made well before the Taliban’s assault on the northern town of Kunduz, which raised doubts about the Afghan army’s ability to defend the country by itself.

Senior administration officials say that, back in March, Obama ordered the Pentagon to conduct a review of how many U.S. troops would be needed to sustain counterterrorism operations in the region.


Faster, Higher, More Oppressive. At the close of this year’s Formula 1 auto race in Bahrain this April, its organizers announced the latest addition to the global grand prix calendar: Slated for 2016, the world’s premier race series will come to Baku, Azerbaijan. Not coincidentally, the upcoming first-ever European Games (a kind of spring training for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro) will also be hosted by Baku. For the next up-for-grabs Winter Olympics — the 2022 Games — the only two contenders are Almaty, in Azerbaijan’s neighbor Kazakhstan, and Beijing, the host of the 2008 Summer Olympics.

The next World Cup soccer tournament, in 2018, will take place in Russia, home to last year’s Winter Olympics. The following World Cup, in 2022, will take place in Qatar. Although each international sporting competition’s secretariat selects its own host cities, it’s hard not to discern a trend toward splashy international sporting competitions becoming the provenance of repressive regimes.


Rwandan Genocide. C.I.A. Cash Ended Up in Coffers of Al Qaeda. Photo WASHINGTON — In the spring of 2010, Afghan officials struck a deal to free an Afghan diplomat held hostage by . But the price was steep — $5 million — and senior security officials were scrambling to come up with the money. They first turned to a secret fund that the bankrolled with monthly cash deliveries to the presidential palace in Kabul, according to several Afghan officials involved in the episode. The Afghan government, they said, had already squirreled away about $1 million from that fund. Within weeks, that money and $4 million more provided from other countries was handed over to Al Qaeda, replenishing its coffers after a relentless C.I.A. campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan had decimated the militant network’s upper ranks.

“God blessed us with a good amount of money this month,” Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, the group’s general manager, wrote in a letter to in June 2010, noting that the cash would be used for weapons and other operational needs.

Middle East

Eastern Europe. Corruption: Good governance powers innovation. Illustrations by David Parkins Former European Commission president José Manuel Barroso, in his 2013 state of Europe address, pointed to “new science studies, from new technologies” as a key to sustaining economic growth. Similarly, US President Barack Obama stressed the importance of innovation in economic recovery in his 2014 state of the union address: “Today in America ... an entrepreneur flipped on the lights in her tech start-up, and did her part to add to the more than 8 million new jobs our businesses have created over the past four years.”

And pledges and encouragements for innovators in the developing world have come from agencies including the World Bank and World Economic Forum. Innovation is key to prosperity. But corruption is inimical to innovation. Top third If you know how corrupt a country is, you can predict fairly accurately how much innovation you will see there (see 'Virtuous circles'). Data Sources: Worldwide Governance Indicators (Ctrl. Favouritism rules. Democracy Is in Recession. Every month now we get treated to another anti-Semitic blast from Turkey’s leadership, which seems to be running some kind of slur-of-the-month club. Who knew that Jews all over the world were busy trying to take down President Recep Tayyip Erdogan?

Last week, it was Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s turn to declare that Turkey would not “succumb to the Jewish lobby” — among others supposedly trying to topple Erdogan, the Hurriyet Daily News reported. This was after Erdogan had suggested that domestic opponents to the ruling Justice and Development Party, or A.K.P., were “cooperating with the Mossad,” Israel’s intelligence arm. So few Jews, so many governments to topple. Davutoglu’s and Erdogan’s cheap, crude anti-Semitic tropes, which Erdogan now relies on regularly to energize his base, are disgusting. For the great nation of Turkey, though, they’re part of a wider tragedy. It is really hard to say anymore that Erdogan’s Turkey is a democracy. Why this trend? Is Democracy in Decline? The Blame for the Charlie Hebdo Murders. The murders today in Paris are not a result of France’s failure to assimilate two generations of Muslim immigrants from its former colonies. They’re not about French military action against the Islamic State in the Middle East, or the American invasion of Iraq before that.

They’re not part of some general wave of nihilistic violence in the economically depressed, socially atomized, morally hollow West—the Paris version of Newtown or Oslo. Least of all should they be “understood” as reactions to disrespect for religion on the part of irresponsible cartoonists. They are only the latest blows delivered by an ideology that has sought to achieve power through terror for decades. It’s the same ideology that sent Salman Rushdie into hiding for a decade under a death sentence for writing a novel, then killed his Japanese translator and tried to kill his Italian translator and Norwegian publisher. The ideology that murdered three thousand people in the U.S. on September 11, 2001.