Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Is a Century of Warfare Ahead

Any of my regular readers here at GUBU know that my motivation for beginning this blog was to make some sense of the geopolitical madness that has characterised the 21st century so far. I have feared for some time now that global events are coming together in a way that are leading us down the path of global depression and war. Basically conditions exist today, not unlike the 1930's that could lead us into a massive global conflict probably before the midpoint of the century. I believed until recently that the only condition not yet here that would confirm my hypothesis was some sort of global financial meltdown. With global stock markets taking a pounding and banks going under all over the world I think its safe to say to say that that moment is almost upon us.

Global stocks plummeted yesterday after the US House of Representatives failed to pass the $700 billion dollar bailout bill

My one single biggest political conviction is that the current international political system as it exists today is unsustainable and that it might very well break down just as it did in 1939. This I fear could lead us into a century even more disastrous than the last. Allow me to elaborate on the conditions with which I speak of and the International Political system that is supposed to manage it. I am referring to conditions such as: the population explosion of the southern hemisphere combined with the global food and energy shortage, the rise of India and China, a militant Russia, A Muslim world wrestling with modernity and Global Warming. It has become increasingly obvious to me that the International Political System and its institutions are incapable of dealing with these issues. International Organisations such as the UN while sound in concept are just not up to the challenge and as we have seen this week the global financial institutions are a total mess. Since the UN is unable to handle global crisis it is left to nation states who unfortunately still operate on a primitive 2oth century view of national interest. They are almost prevented by nature from approaching a problem from a global perspective. As a student of International Relations I became aware that the nature of relations between states was and continues to be based on national self interest. This is still the case at a time when international cooperation has never been more urgent.

An all too common image of extreme poverty in the impoverished south

I do not know what the solution is is but I do know the direction we must go in. There has to be more International law regarding the conduct of international relations. The national interest of one country cannot come at the blatant expense of another. Perhaps a single energy market could do for the world what the single market has done for Europe. And there simply has to be much more regulation (not necessarily in the form of barriers) of the global economy to prevent the sort of madness that we have seen in recent days. The stark reality is that this should be a wonderful time for humanity but its slowly spiraling into catastrophic one. The beginning of the millennium was a time of such optimism, where did it all go wrong ? I do not know but when you consider all the above it becomes increasingly easier to imagine a 21st century even more bloodier than the last.

Last time the International Political System broke down these guys said they knew what to do

Monday, September 29, 2008

Too Close to Call

Due to my hectic social life I only managed to see Friday's Presidential debate today. The first of three it took place at the University of Mississippi and it was chaired by Jim Lehrer of PBS. Because of the GUBU times that we live in I thought that foreign policy would have been the dominant issue in this election. However with the financial crisis worsening by the hour it looks like this will overshadow all other topics. This was certainly the case at Friday's debate. This will probably help Obama as Foreign Policy is seen as McCain's strength and the economy as his weakness although Obama will regret not having more of an opportunity to hammer McCain at the debates for his support of the worst foreign policy administration in living memory.

I am not sure who came out on top in this one. It was probably even. What ye think ? Frankly I think we all know where these two men stand on all the various issues and the next two debates are likely to be similar stalemates. It may even turn out that the vice presidential debates turn out to be more influential on the electorate. Regarding McCain and Obama I think what we have to look out for is gaffes, blunders, howlers, foot in mouth syndrome of which McCain is more likely to fall victim to. We have seen this in previous debates. The most famous of which is probably President Ford's debate with Jimmy Carter where he clumsily claimed that Eastern Europe was not under Soviet domination. On reflection most of us no what poor Gerry was trying to say but it is widely believed to have caused him the election. This election could be so close that it literally could come down to the slightest slip of the tongue. I anxiously await debates 2 and 3.

Friday, September 26, 2008

John McCain Loses a Fan

Watch David Letterman let loose at McCain for cancelling his appearance on The Tonight Show

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Andrew Sullivan on Palin

It would appear that the euphoria surrounding Sarah Palin's nomination as John McCain's running mate is slowly grinding to a halt. Leading the charge in exposing this is blogger and commentator Andrew Sullivan (pictured). Sullivan is openly supporting Obama in the election but he is a man who commands respect among conservatives. He is not simply a lefty. He backed Bush in 2000. He is a fiscal conservative and has often defended the religious right. But on Palin he hasn't just criticised her nomination, he has ridiculed it as one of the most absurd things to ever happen in American politics.

Sullivan rightly in my opinion points out that this is the most political appointment of a VP candidate ever and that this decision has been taken at the genuine risk of the country. Sarah Palin is no doubt a person who can bring in votes for the republicans, however she is completely unprepared for the office. Sullivan has been exposing the fact than McCain only met Palin once before he chose her as his running mate. He chose her knowing she has no foreign policy experience. This foolish choice alone disqualifies McCain as a viable President according to Sullivan. The fact that he would put someone so utterly unqualified within a heartbeat of the presidency shows he is willing to to put the country second to getting elected. Check out Sullivan's daily dish below for more on Palin's inexperience.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Julius Rosenberg Proven Guilty

It was called the crime of the century. The Soviet Union had just tested its first nuclear bomb years earlier that most thought them capable of doing so. It soon became clear that the only way they could have done so was with help from the United States. And so the world's greatest spy hunt began. The year was 1950 and anti communist sentiment was at its height. China had just gone red, North Korea had invaded the south and the Iron Curtain was firmly established in Europe. Led by Senator Joseph McCarthy and FBI director J. Edgar Hoover an effort was made to root communists or those with communist sympathies out of government (particularly the state department), the media and even the army. But the principle objective was to track down spies who were actually working for the Soviet Union. The Attention of the FBI was soon drawn toward married couple Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.

Ethel and Julius Rosenberg on trial for the crime of the century

The Rosenberg's were arrested in March 1950. In March 1951 they went on trial charged with espionage. It was claimed that they both obtained nuclear secrets through David Greenglass (Ethel's Brother) who worked on the Atomic project at Los Alamos and that Julius then passed these onto his Soviet handler. Both Ethel and Julius were convicted and in one of the most controversial cases in US history they were both sentenced to death. In June 1953 both were executed by electric chair. The execution orphaned two young boys. Many see the Rosenberg case as a example of the worst type of anti communist hysteria in America pointing out that the evidence against the couple was less than convincing. It has also been claimed that anti semitism was a motive. Both Ethel and Julius were Jewish communists and many made an issue of this connection.

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg embrace after the guilty veridct

However this remarkable story took another twist this week as pointed out by Dennis Staunton in an article in The Irish Times.. A man called Martin Sobell, who was an engineer at Los Alamos and who was also convicted of espionage alongside the Rosenbergs broke his silence earlier this year by claiming that he did pass information on to Julius Rosenberg. Sobell had confessed to his own guilt at the time but remained tight lipped about the Rosenberg's involvement until recently. He claimed that he did pass secrets on to Julius but that Ethel was entirely innocent. However he claimed that the information passed to Julius was largely unimportant and could not have contributed significantly to the acceleration of the Soviet bomb. Upon hearing this the Rosenberg's two sons, Robert and Michael announced this week that their farther was in fact guilty of espionage. For years the two men have vehemently protested their parents innocence but felt they could no longer do so in the wake of Martin Sobell's admission. They do however stick with Sobell's claim that their mother was innocent and that even though their farther was guilty his crime did not merit execution. This admission along withe the release of documents this month that corroborate Sobell's claims brings to an end one of the most fascinating and indeed disturbing trials in US history.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Naomi Klein V Andrew Sullivan

This brilliant debate took place last night between Naoimi Klein and Andrew Sullivan on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher. Its a great discussion on the cause on this weeks madness in the global markets. Naomi Klein is well known for her books on cowboy capitalism where as Sullivan who is left on social issues but a fiscal conservative is one of the most successful bloggers in the world. In fact, I think I'll just add him to my blog roll. Enjoy !

Friday, September 19, 2008

Controversy Surrounds Petraeus Replacement

General Ray Odierno has replaced General David Petraeus as overall commander of coalition forces in Iraq. However the appointment is not without controversy. Some believe that Odierno bares some of the responsibility for creating the insurgency. Back in March 03 the big New Jersy man was in command of the 4th Infantry Division that participated in the invasion of Iraq. In the post war occupation the 4th ID found itself occupying a hostile part of Iraq that would become known as the "Sunni triangle". It was during this time and place that the insurgency was born. Many commentators and military analysts have blamed Odierno and the 4th ID for their willingness to use artillery to pacify towns rather than risk ground troops. Also there were several well documented incidents in Tikrit, Mosul and Fallujah of US troops opening fire carelessly on hostile crowds killing scores of civillians. But perhaps most tellingly is that most of the infamous cases of detainee abuse came from this area of occupation leading some to speculate that Odierno may have been one of the senior commanders that ordered the use of torture but was never held accountable.

US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates hands over over the Multi-National Force Iraq flag to Gen. Ray Odierno while outgoing commander Gen. David Petraeus looks on during a Change of Command ceremony in Baghdad

In June 2004 Odierno's tour of duty with the 4th ID came to an end. He returned to Washington where he worked as a special assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It appears that during this time he was converted to the Petraeus way of thinking that maintains you simply cannot win a counter insurgency campaign unless the local population is on your side. In December 2006 he returned to Iraq alongside Petraeus, this time in command of Multi-National Corps - Iraq (MNC-I). This basically meant that he was, under the guidance of Petraeus overseeing the day to day actions of the surge. It was he who initiated the security clampdown in Baghdad. It was he who brokered the deals with the Skeiks of Anbar convincing them to turn on Al Qaeda. Just what he had to do to get them on side is unknown and many fear it may come back to haunt the coalition as the Sunni Militia or "Sons of Iraq" that are confronting Al Qaeda are on an inevitable collision course with the Shiite government in Baghdad. Unlike Petraeus, Odierno's legacy is far from secure. His initial Iraq involvement will not be remembered positively but he is closely enough associated with the surge to be forgiven. However the gains in Iraq are extremely fragile and could come apart at any time in which case the blame will likely fall at Odierno's door. The Shia ceasefires are holding, the sons of Iraq have Al Qaeda on the run but maintaing this delicate balance will require diplomatic tact and a deft touch, neither of which Odierno is famous for.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Odierno in, Petraeus out

General Ray Odierno (pictured) has replaced General David Petraeus as commander of US forces in Iraq. General Petraeus's tour came to an end on Tuesday where the change in command was marked at a ceremony in Baghdad which was attended by secretary of defence Robert Gates. General Petraeus will return to America a hero as he is largely credited as the man who turned the tide in Iraq. Violence in Iraq is unquestionably down. However there is a debate raging as to what brought it down. Some say it was the May 2007 troop surge which was overseen by Petraeus. Others claim that a series of political events such as the Sunni/Anbar awakening and the Shia ceasefires are responsible for the improvement in security. Either way Petraeus's legacy is fairly secure at least in the short term.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Israel's Next PM

It has become increasingly likely that Israel's next Prime Minister will be its current Foreign Minister Tzibi Livni (pictured). If she wins the leadership vote in two days time for the ruling Kadima party she will become the Jewish state's second female Prime Minister. A poll run by the Israeli media during the week of the 74,000 eligible voters placed Livni with having 47% of the vote compared to her nearest rival who had 28%. This coming from the controversial Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz. Mofaz made headlines earlier this year for calling for a preemptive strike on Iran, the country of his birth. It is thought that current PM Ehud Olmert will step down immediately after the leadership contest. Olmert's reign has been tarnished by corruption allegations that eventually led to a recent indictment because of his cagey relationship with a wealthy Jewish American property developer. In addition his popularity never recovered after the July 06 war with Hezbollah in which he was deeply criticised for its conduct.

However, even after Livni takes over it is highly likely that a general election will take place within months as the fragile coalition government is not expected to survive the indictment scandal. This will lead to the mother of all political showdowns between Kadima and the Likud Party whom split from each other in 2005 over the Gaza disengagement. Likud under the leadership of former PM and highly popular figure of Benjamin Netanyahu would be hot favourites to win that one. Both of these parties have very different interpretations of the Israeli Palestinian peace process. Interesting times ahead in Israel. Then again, when is Israel not fascinating ?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Palin Doctrine, avoid the question.

In Sarah Palin's first TV interview since her nomination her lack of foreign policy credentials were exposed by abc reporter Charlie Gibson (pictured). When asked straight out if she agreed with The Bush Doctrine, she immediately had the look of the deer in the headlights as she desperately tried to avoid the question. It was quite clear that she didn't know what it was. After Gibson explained the doctrine of preemptive war he then repeated the question using Pakistan as an example. Again she was unable to answer the question. When asked specifically if America should have the right to send troops into Pakistan on a raid against terrorists, without the approval of the Pakistani government she again dodged the question. Am I being too harsh ? Watch below and judge for yourself.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Obama on the O'Reilly Factor, Final

In the final part of o'Reilly's interview with Obama the two men discuss energy independence. Watch as O'Reilly gives Obama a hard time because of his reluctance to build nuclear plants and to drill on American soil. They then move on to foreign policy. O'Reilly brings up his favourite topic of NATO in Afghanistan and the refusal of the "cowardly" Europeans to fight. This of course is not true. In fact the most volatile part of Afghanistan, Helmand Province, is under British occupation. Obama rightly reminds the Cavan man that the French lost ten soldiers in an ambush last week and that part of the reason the Germans don't fight is because of the relationship that Bush carelessly soured with Berlin. For all those Conservatives that like to mock Obama's ability to communicate and persuade they should take note of this. They then discussed the thorny issue of the missile defence shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. O'Reilly got Obama on record to say that he would keep the shield if elected. Personally I am disappointed to hear this. As I have said before on GUBU, if the shield is to protect Europe why does Washington have to pay the Poles to allow American to protect them. It will achieve nothing except anger the Russians unnecessarily. Furthermore, O'Reilly talks about the Russian threat and then asks "are you going to keep the shield". I thought the shield was aimed at protecting Europe from rogue states, not Russia. This is vital because if the shield is aimed at Russia, as O'Reilly implied, then it would be raising the stakes in the arms race forcing Moscow to respond. They finish off by discussing Putin and how best to deal with Russian aggression. Enjoy !

Over all I think Obama handled himself well in front of O'Reilly. Some say it wont make much of a difference because only McCain supporters watch the O'Reilly factor. I disagree. I think more independents watch O'Reilly than most appreciate, even if just for entertainment value. I think he definitely helps his campaign at a time when McCain Palin have been enjoying a serious increase in their popularity.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Irish Killed on September 11th

There were approximately 20 Irish people killed on this day seven years ago in the terrorist attacks of September 11th. The victims that most Irish people will remember is that of the truly amazing story of Ruth and Juliana McCourt (pictured). On that day Ruth McCourt 44, originally from Ballintemple, County Cork, living in the US since 1973, boarded Flight 175 from Boston to Los Angelas. In her arms was her four year old daughter Juliana. Flight 175 crashed into the south tower at 9:02 am. Juliana McCourt was the second youngest victim on September 11th.

The story takes an unbelievable twist with the news that Ruth's brother Ron Clifford was scheduled for a meeting that morning in the South tower at 9:am. He arrived in the lobby of the south tower at 8:45. About half a minute later he heard the almighty roar and explosion of flight 11 crashing into the North tower. He ran outside to the scene of devastation. He came to the assistance of a woman that had been horribly burned by falling jet fuel. He was still cradling this woman fifteen minutes later when he looked up to see the plane carrying his sister and his niece slam into the south tower. He barely escaped the falling debris. Later that evening he arrived at his home in New Jersey from a day that he probably thought could not possibly be more horrific only to find out that his sister and niece had been killed. Such a tragic collection of coincidences nobody could have imagined.

Other Irish killed that day include Sean Canavan, a 38-year-old carpenter from Co Tyrone. He was finishing off a job on the 94th floor of the south tower when the attack happened. Sean was a first cousin of two time all Ireland winning Tyrone football star Peter Canavan.

Obama on the O'Reilly Factor, Part 3

Bill O'Reilly continues to drill Barack Obama. On Tuesday night they discussed Obama and his associations which apparently trouble many Americans. There is his long term friendship with his pastor Reverend Jeramiah Wright who holds some militant views. Then there was his flimsy connection with Bill Ayers, the 1960's student radical that bombed the Pentagon in 1968 whom Obama worked with on community issues in Chicago. For us Irish this obsession with the candidates pasts really is bizarre. His connection with Ayres in particular is so tenuous yet it has caused a political storm in the US. Unlike many Europeans I kinda like the republicans. There are aspects of their thinking that I admire. However this guilt by association game is an utter embarrassment to the USA. If you're not into Obama fine, if your're a conservative that believes in lesser government or whatever, that's fine but pick a real reason to have a go at Obama and stop inventing these fictional issues. Although as you will now see below Obama is capable of defending himself. Watch as he competently copes with the O'Reilly onslaught.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Quiet Surge in Afghanistan

George Bush has called for a "quiet surge" in Afghanistan. For years critics of his administration have been criticising him for only sending 20,000 troops to Afghanistan, an Islamic fundamentalist country where Sunni extremist Al Qaeda networks were permitted to operate. However the white house felt that the secular dictatorship of Sadam Hussein was seven times more of a priority, hence the 140,000 troops sent to occupy that country. Every reasonable person knows that this was at best a spectacular miscalculation, at worst a conscious and sinister attempt to remove a troublesome dictator and to replace him with a pro Washington regime that would be an ally and would safeguard US interests. Which ever you think it was is another debate.

A Chinook helicopter taking off in Afghanistan
Yesterday Bush announced that he was sending 8000 extra troops to Afghanistan and that a marine battalion due to be sent to Iraq in January would be redeployed to Afghanistan. This may be an attempt to make it difficult for Barack Obama to continue with his theme of criticising Bush/McCain policy of not prioritising Afghanistan. Or it may be a genuine reflection of the fact that violence is down in Iraq allowing the US to divert its military resources to Afghanistan. In any case Obama criticised it today as not being enough. And if you think Afghanistan is the priority then you pretty much have to agree. Afghanistan is an enormous country with an extremely inhospitable terrain. The US sent 20,000 there in 2001. This was completely inadequate and just shows that Bush was not really committed to defeating the Taliban and Al Qaeda as he had another country on his mind. In Order to stabilise Afghanistan today a force of at least 250,000 NATO troops would be required. Today their are approximately 60,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, half of them American. Bush has been unable to convince his NATO allies to send more than this. It will be one of the first decisions the new US president will have to make. To what extent are we going to commit to Afghanistan. A McCain presidency will probably leave troops levels as they are in Afghanistan as he is more committed to Iraq. Obama will probably drop troop levels significantly in Iraq and redeploy many of them to Afghanistan. In which case he might very well find himself in a guerrilla war with no end in sight. Afghanistan is so hostile to occupation that it may just be a case of the more troops the more targets for the Taliban without any real progress ever being achieved.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Obama on the O'Reilly Factor, Part 2

It has just dawned on me how clever it was of Barack Obama to go on the O'Reilly Factor when he did. After months of putting it off and of being accused of being frightened of the big bad Cavan man Obama finally sat down in front of him last week. The reason it was clever is because it stole some of the republican spotlight created by Sarah Palin and it may have halted McCain's momentum in the wake of the convention. Even better for Obama was Fox's decision to spread the interview over four nights, a decision clearly motivated by ratings but one that sits well with Obama who was keen to receive exposure in order to counter McCains post convention bump in the polls. On Thursday they discussed national security. Last night it was economics. You are about to watch a classic American debate about the role of government in the economy. The conservatives say you stimulate at the top by cutting taxes which encourages investments which will trickle down. The liberals say you raise taxes on the richest and increase spending at the bottom which stimulates the consumer. This is good craic, enjoy !

Irish Soldier killed in Afghanistan

In the series of geopolitical events that have occurred since the turn of the millennium there has been relatively few Irish casualties. These tragic events that include September 11th, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the second Lebanon war, Darfur and the Palestinian intifada have rarely affected the Irish directly. There have been some unfortunate exceptions. There were approximately 20 Irish killed on September 11th. In April 2003 Lance Cpl Ian Malone from Ballyfermot Dublin was shot and killed in combat as British forces entered Basra after the initial invasion. Irish cameraman Simon Cumbers from Navan was gunned down in a suburb of Riyadh Saudi Arabia while filming for the BBC in June 2004. And last week Cavan man Justin Cupples (pictured) Of the Royal Irish Regiment was killed after recieving wounds from an improvised explosive device while on patrol in Helmand province Afghanistan.

I mourned his death when I heard of it. In particular I feel anger toward the Irish army for their stringent entry requirements that see many leaving cert drop outs and others with minor imperfections abandon a career with Oglaigh Na Heireann for the less selective British army. I wish Ian Malone and Justin Cupples had served with the Irish Defence Forces. If so they would still be alive and serving in Lebanon or Chad. However I was also angered by those in the media and blogosphere that suggested these men were somehow un Irish to join the British army. I reject this completely in particular those on Slugger O'Toole and other blogs that imply these guys got what they deserved. Personally I could never join the British Army but I am not the judging type. I accept that many people may want to join for personal or professional reasons. Not everybody lives in the sectarian bubble that is northern Ireland and if they want to join they should do so without having to justify their "Irishness" to republicans.

I fear that Justin Cupples will not be the last Irish man to die in this "War on Terror". There are many men and women from the Republic of Ireland serving with the Royal Irish Regiment most of whom serve in Afghanistan. Afghanistan has become a far more dangerous place for British soldiers than Iraq over the last 12 months or so. This is continuing to be the case on a grander scale every month as the Iraq war winds down and the Afghan conflict heats up. I take no pleasure in predicting that in three years from now Afghanistan could be the new battlefront where a two times its current size NATO army is in an endless guerrilla war with the Taliban with mounting casualties on all sides. I hope I'm wrong.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Obama on the O'Reilly Factor

Last night Barack Obama went into the lions den. He was interviewed by Fox News' anchorman Bill O'Reilly (pictured). Whatever you think of the Cavan man Bill O'Reilly is undeniably the biggest personality in the American media. To this effect there was a stand off of sorts between Obama and O'Reilly. O'Reilly claimed at the beginning of the year that any serious presidential candidate would have to come on the O'Reilly Factor to have any chance of winning. John McCain went on and eventually Hillary Clinton but it appeared that Obama was calling his bluff. However eventually Obama had to admit that you can't argue with the ratings and O'Reilly does pull in the Viewers. O'Reilly is a right winger and although he claims to be an independent he has been the most notable leader of the crusade to mock and belittle all the lefties and anti war activists since 911. It was therefore expected that if Obama would go on the Factor he would get a particularly hard time from Billo. On the one hand you had the Obama campaign hinting that O'Reilly is not as important as he makes out and that Obama could afford not to go on. On the other hand you had Fox News saying that Obama was afraid to go on. O'Reilly has been saying so for months. In January O'Reilly confronted Obama at a campaign Rally in New Hamshire in order to ask why he hadn't come on The Factor . Watch below as sparks fly.

Just after this incident Obama promised O'Reilly that he would come on The Factor after the primary. But several months after Hillary Clinton dropped out of the race Obama had still not sat in front of O'Reilly. He reminded his audience of this practically every night. So last night for the first time Obama came face to face in a studio setting with O'Reilly, the ultimate symbol of the American right. This is excellent stuff and a must see !

Personally I think Obama nailed it. O'Reilly is a tough interviewer and most who are critical of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and of confronting Iran don't last long in front of the ruthless Cavan man. But Obama was logical and articulate in his criticism of Bush tactics in a way that O'Reilly was unable to counter. What ye think ?

Gotta love those Republicans

God bless the daily show. Jon Stewart, Americas best political comedian lets rip on the hypocrisy of the republicans and the Conservative media in a way that only he can. Watch as Stewart makes a fool of the right by exposing the truly unbelievable contradictions they are prepared to make in order to score a cheap political point. Listen to the wise words of Bill O'Reilly on teenage pregnancies, Karl Rove on inexperienced candidates and Dick Morris on sexism. Incidentally we should give credit to the yanks. Political satire in the states is at an all time high. It has now surpassed that in Britain in terms of quality. I don't know where all the great British comedians have gone but the likes of Jon Stewart and Bill Maher are holding the fort for those who love but are cynical about politics.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Broken Watergate

Its times like this I'm glad I'm not an American. American politics is simply filthy. Whether its conservative Fox News or Liberal MSNBC there is nothing the mainstream media love more than character assassination. In 2004 John Kerry was the victim with the repulsive swift boat campaign. In 2008 everyone is getting it from somewhere most notably Sarah Palin. It has been dubbed by some in the media as "Broken Watergate" which I have to admit is comic genius. I am of course referring to the story of Sarah Palin's 17 year old daughter who is pregnant by some local self confessed "redneck". From an Irish and a European point of view how bizarre is this. It just doesn't happen like this over here. But in the US these personal attacks are the norm. We know from history that these negative attacks work. I support Obama but I mean really, some people will now decide not to vote for McCain on the basis that his VP's teenage daughter is pregnant which somehow indicates that McCain is weak on family values. In a comical attempt to counter this clam Levi Johnson, the poor young lad who couldn't figure out how to use a condom has been brought in front of the world's press and paraded at the RNC as Bristol Palin's fiancee, as if this anything other that a case of two teenagers letting their hormones get the better of them.

Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston at the Republican convention last night

When John McCain shocked the world by introducing Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential candidate it appeared to be a mastesroke. As one Irish commentator noted, She is so perfect it was like she was created in a republican laboratory. Some questioned this and said she was too good to be true. They may have been right. With all the attention on Broken Watergate and other incidents many are questioning whether mcCain and the republicans properly vetted Sarah Palin. Apparently McCain only met her once before last week. Its definitely a gamble. She may as intended steel the conservative democratic vote but it may backfire. How many more scandals are there out there. Back in 1996 Palin was closely involved with a separatist Alaskan political party. Might this come back to bight her. We will see.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Obama Chases Irish Vote

According to a piece in the Irish Times today the Obama campaign are deeply concerned that the Irish American community that traditionally vote democrat might in November's election switch to McCain. There are several reasons for this. Firstly the Irish American community have always been big supporters of the Clinton's primarily because of the role both Bill and Hillary played in the Northern Irish peace process. In the long running democratic primary the Irish American community emphatically favoured Hillary over Obama. Like all Hillary voters the Obama campaign are intensely fearful that they may cross party lines. However this is a particular fear concerning the Irish vote in no short measure due to Obama's remarks last week about his intention to abolish the US special envoy to Northern Ireland. I say so what ! The Irish question (as Gladstone once put it) has been answered. I do not see the need for the envoy in these peaceful times. However the Irish American community apparently view it differently and see the envoy as an important link between Ireland and the US. The McCain campaign were naturally quick to try to take advantage. John McaCain personally stated his intention to retain the special envoy if elected. McCain spokesman Brian Rodgers went further saying that Senator Obama would be willing to toss aside one of the signature diplomatic accomplishments of the Clinton administration and put the progress in Northern Ireland at risk is only further evidence that he is simply not ready to lead.

According to Times Journalist Denis Staunton in St Paul/Minnesota this week for the Republican National Convention, Some of Mr Obama's supporters believe the Democratic candidate has relied until now on too narrow a group of advisers on Irish Affairs, allowing John McCain to outmaneuver him in pursuit of Irish American support. In response Obama has created an advisory panel on Irish affairs consisting of the most prominent Irish American politicians most notably Ted Kennedy, Chris Dodd, Patrick Leahy and former special envoy to Northern Ireland under the Clinton Administration Senator George Mitchell (pictured). The purpose of this panel it would appear is to come up with a new definition of Irish American relations in the post troubles world that we live in. This panel will advise Obama who can then sell it in a positive way to Americas Paddys. I will keep an eye on this.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Ireland should honour its WW2 heroes

Paddy Finucane returning from another successful mission over Europe, note the Shamrock next to the cockpit

How many people know that one of the greatest allied fighter pilots of World War Two was in fact a young lad from Rathmines. Paddy Finucane was born in Dublin in 1920. After emigrating to England in search of work at the age of 17 he joined the RAF and quickly rose by 1941 to be the youngest wing commander in RAF history. He fought over the skies of southern England during the battle of Britain. He excelled to such a degree that in April 1941 he was promoted to command his own squadron. He had not yet celebrated his 21st birthday.

As squadron commander he continued to stand out most notably in dog fights. Throughout the latter half of 1941 he was probably the most worshiped pilot in the RAF. Kids sold Finucane shamrocks on the streets of London and numerous newspapers featured the Dublin man. In June 1942 he was again promoted, this time to wing commander of Hornchurch wing. Nobody before or since has reached such a rank at such an age. However is good fortune in the skies was not indefinite. On the 15th of July 1942, Hornchurch wing was taking part in a raid at Etaples on the Northern French coast. They flew in at low level in an attack on a German naval base. He successfully attacked his target but on retreat his plane was hit by a freak shot from a German soldiers machine gun. As he header home over the channel he radioed his colleagues to say that his radiator had been hit and the plane would not make it home. Since he was flying so low he was unable to bail out. He attempted a landing on water. Although he succeeded, he was unable to exit his spitfire before it sank. Brendan Eamon Paddy Fitzpatrick Finucane drowned that day. He was 21 years old. By the time of his death he had confirmed 32 enemy planes shot down.

Paddy Finucane should be an Irish national hero. I obviously understand the sensitivities involved with the Irish who served in the British armed forces. But in the post troubles environment that we live in where Rugby is played in croke park and north south relations have never been better surely a sound acknowledgement of the Irish who fought and died in the world wars is only timely. If nothing else it should simply be about remembering the many dead. Less than 300 Irishmen died fighting in the 1916 rising. Over 50,000 died in the world wars. Surely these men deserve a more sincere and genuine acknowledgement of their sacrifice from the state and the public.