Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Race in the Race

So I'm watching the Bill Maher show on HBO a couple of nights ago and the "It's OK" ad by the Romney campaign comes up for discussion. Maher is probably the most left wing guy on American TV but I have always respected his principled stances on issues that the left should stand by but have abandoned to populism and political correctness. Anyway, in this discussion Maher implied that there was a racist element to the ad. Other guests objected to this as another example of Obama supporters playing the race card. Below is the short video.

What Maher objected to were the words "he tried, you tried, it's ok to make a change". Now I am the type that dislikes when race is injected into an argument but this is not to say that it never is. I have become convinced in recent times that in a clever way race is very deliberately used in American politics by politicians and pundits from both sides. You see, in all western countries the majority of the population are politically inattentive. They do not vote nor do they pay attention to political developments. A significant percentage of the population has no concept of what it means to be left or right wing. But everybody understands race. Everybody knows there is a race issue. That goes for 100% of the population. And that's why it is used by politicians who know it can excite their bases and by pundits who recognise that race is ratings gold. When Newt Gingrich referred to Obama as the foodstamp President, this wasn't a rascist statement but it clearly wasn't a random word either. It was deliberately used to evoke images of blacks queuing for handouts and to provoke an accusation of being racist because nothing fires up the base more than a false allegation of racist behaviour and rightly so.

I believe the "It's ok" ad is also in that vein. The phrase "You tried" and "It's ok to make a change" is in my opinion designed to provoke a perception in the minds of the listner that they need not give into white guilt by voting for Obama a second time. "You tried" means you tried voting for the black man. "It's ok" means it's not racist to change your vote. I don't know if many people voted for Obama in 2008 on the basis of white guilt but any who did were moronic beyond belief. I doubt many will do so next November. That makes me wonder why the RNC decided to play the ad. I think it was another example of race being injected into the discussion in a subtle way in order to excite the race baiters. I believe that the Republicans want to strengthen the perception that conservatives and especially now moderates are under siege from race baiters who will label them bigots when confronted by reason. That perception will get Romney votes. And of course liberals also love to get the racial juices flowing as we saw recently with Vice President Biden's outrageous "ya'll in chains" remark but in fairness to the Democrats the worst of it from the left comes from liberal media outlets like MSNBC and many bloggers who as I have already said, recognise that race is ratings gold.

And just for good measure enjoy this other rather absurd video whose creators seem to think the Obama administration has accused everyone who didn't vote for the President of hating blacks.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

W. & WMD's

I watched the Oliver Stone move W. a couple of nights ago after I recorded it on RTE1 last week. It is not a great movie really. I know the lefties hate it and feel utterly betrayed by Stone who portrays Bush in a surprisingly favourable light. I on the other hand disliked the lazy psychological profile of Bush that obsesses with his insecurities that stem from his relationship with his father. I mean, who out there doesn't have some personal childhood hang-up that continues to motivate them in some way. The main focus of the movie should have been the highly controversial George Bush Presidency and not whether George Senior hugged him enough.

There were some interesting scenes though. The one that struck me the most was the one in which Bush's closest advisors held a meeting to discuss why no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq. In it David Kay of the Iraq Survey Group makes what I believe is the most important point about the Iraq war which is almost always overlooked. In this scene the David Kay character explains to a gobsmacked Bush administration why Sadam Hussein behaved like he was hiding WMD's when he in fact had none. Sadam was trying to thread a very thin line. He wanted to be ambiguous with the west so that they would confront him over his WMD's but not to the extent that they would take military action. His most important objective was to make his own people believe the perception that the Iraqi military had stockpiles of chemical weapons. The belief that such weopans existed was what prevented his own people from rising against him. The majority Shia Muslims in the south and the ethnic Kurds in the north were terrified of an arial gas attack in the event of an uprising just as the unfortunate citizens of Halabja had sufered in 1988. This point is so often missed when discussing the Iraq war. Because had Bush allowed the UN weapons inspectors to find out what we subsequently knew to be true, that Sadam was toothless on the WMD front, then it is very possible, if not quite likely that it would have led to the overthrow of Sadam Hussein by his own people. Unfortunately though, it seems that others wanted war and a lot of people died unnecessarily.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

HMS Barham Sinking

I came across this spectacular and horrifying footage which I had to post. On the 25th of November 1941 the HMS Barham was attacked in the Medditaerranean by a German submarine. It was hit by three torpedoes which sunk the battleship. Just before the great ship sank an almighty explosion ripped through her, taking 862 of her crew to their deaths. There were 449 survivors. The explosion was filmed by a British cameraman on a near by ship. The second World War was of course a worthy war. But it was also the worst conflict in all of human history. That should never be forgotten.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Obama not Carter

As I have said many times here on Gubu World Barack Obama is not Jimmy Carter. His Presidency has already been much more successful than that of the 38th President. Republican attempts to portray Obama as a weak apologist who wants to reduce America's power and influence in the world are ineffective, untrue and are likely to backfire in my humble opinion.  This from
A Fox News poll from last week showed that President Obama continues to lead Mitt Romney on foreign policy and national security issues. When asked which candidate they trust to do a better job on handling foreign policy, 51% of respondents selected Obama, compared to just 38% for Romney. The same polling question from June yielded a similar response, with 49% of respondents preferring Obama’s handling of foreign policy to only 38% for Romney’s. Most striking has been data showing domestic support for Obama’s policies toward Iran compared to Romney’s proposals. The same Fox News poll found 43% of people trusting Obama to do a better job on “stopping Iran from getting nuclear weapons,” while Romney only received 39% confidence in the same category. This difference comes despite Romney’s frequent criticism of Obama’s patience toward Iran and hawkish rhetoric in favor of potential military action. This poll comes on the heels of recent increase in sanctions against the Iranian regime, which 74% of respondents in an ABC News/Washington Post poll supported compared to only 41% who supported potential military action.

This public sentiment is nothing new, and demonstrates that Romney’s recent foreign policy trip to the U.K., Israel, and Poland did nothing to increase voter confidence in his national security credentials. In fact, according to recent polling data from Reuters/IPSOS, opinion of Obama’s foreign policy rose from 47-51%, while Romney’s remained at a static 35%. When it comes to defending the United States from terrorism, Obama again holds a substantial lead. A survey from the beginning of July by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 50% of the respondents thought that President Obama would do the best job of defending the country from terrorist attacks, while Romney only received 38% of public support. Though polling data only represents one measure by which to judge how the public feels about a candidate’s ability, it is a very clear one. During a time where stories of political conflict and civil war make front page headlines daily, it is paramount that we have a strong leader making decisions about our foreign policy strategies.
 Many Republicans seem to view the upcoming election as being similar to that in 1980

If Mitt Romney wants to be the next President he will have to focus on the economy and on the ever increasing perception among moderates that Obama is hostile to the private sector and that his ultimate goal is in fact to transform the US economy into the European model which has a much greater social net. Many people on this side of the Atlantic find it difficult to understand why conservative Americans and even many moderates view the US model of self reliance to be the source of Americas strength and that the welfare state as practised in Europe is what guarantees a nation a future of mediocrity. This I believe strikes a cord with the silent majority in the US and if the Romney campaign are clever about it and succeed in hammering that message home whilst refraining from personal and negative attacks against the immensely likable President, the Republicans will win in November. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Gold for the Irish

Katie Taylor, a wonderful athlete, truly brilliant boxer and credit to her country.

Obamas Work for Welfare Requirement

The Romney campaign have landed a powerful blow with this hard hitting ad depicting Obama as a President who want to create a dependent class.

The Obama campaign responded with this ad which is fairly unconvincing. As it happens I believe the Romney ad has been largely discredited by key figures such as Bill Clinton and even Newt Gingrich. But in these 30 second attack ads the truth is often irrelevant. The Romney team are clearly taking aim at conservative democrats in order to convince them to vote republican rather than for a man who favours an entitlement state. Of the two ads, the Romney one will have a much greater impact.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Photo of the Day

Hill 16 in Croke Park for last weekends All Ireland Quarter Finals. The terrace is believed to have been built with rubble from the 1916 Rising.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Dan Senor and Mitt Romney

I was surprised to find out during Mitt Romney's recent European and Mid East trip that his foreign policy advisor is Dan Senor. In every book I have read on the US post invasion administration of Iraq the name Dan Senor comes up time and time again as someone who was an obstacle to progress. Senor at the time was Paul Bremer's spokesman and close aide. Bremer was the chairman of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) from May 2003 to June 2004. It was during this time that several mistakes were made by Bremer which are generaly regarded as being responsible for the emergence of the ferocious Iraqi insurgency in 2005 the most notable of which was the disbandment of the Iraqi Army. However in many of the accounts I have read of this era the blame is oftern focused on Senor as much as Bremer. I have noticed that this is true of publications that are both conservative and anti war. From what I could tell the US military in Iraq detested Dan Senor. As Bremer's spokesman he constantly restricted access to Bremer for Pentagon officials who were desperate to warn him of upcoming dangers.
Dan Senor (left) with Paul Bremer during the US administration of Iraq. Senor is now Mitt Romney's chief Foreign Policy advisor.

It would seem that Dan Senor and to a lesser extent Paul Bremer were more concerned about free market ideologies and how these alone would be enough to pacify Iraq more than any other practical considerations. Bremer and Senor quickly set about privitising Iraqi national industries which had been non existent during Sadam's reign. They seemed to believe that the introduction of a free market economy in Iraq would more than any other factor lead to a free and stable nation. In some circumstances I might agree. But in a nation as ethnically and religiously fragmented as Iraq that had just come out of 30 years of brutal dictatorship there were obviously some more urgent concerns that needed to be prioritised such as the masses of armed men particularly in the capital that were fearful of their position in the new Shia dominated order. The military were aware of this but the CPA did not appear interested. The mishandlings of Bremer would prove disastrous. I am surprised that Mitt Romney has chosen a foreign policy advisor who is so directly linked with one of US Foreign policy's greatest failures.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Do the ends justify the means ?

A controversy of a relatively minor nature occurred in Ireland last week when a plaque was unveiled in Booterstown South Dublin to mark the spot where Irish Justice Minister Kevin O'Higgins was assassinated on the 85th anniversary of his death. The controversy surrounds O'Higgins' role in the Irish Civil War. As justice Minister he personally authorised the execution of 77 anti Treaty republicans, a feat which many believe make him unsuitable for commemoration. The following day I listened to a fascinating discusion on Joe Duffy's "liveline" radio programme in which people either defended the actions of O'Higgins or accused him of being a war criminal. As a dispute it is a classic one which is exceptionally difficult to call. As someone who believes that the Civil War was fought by honourable men and women on both sides I find the O'Higgins legacy difficult to grapple with but I will try.

The Civil War executions did not begin straight away. The conflict was three months old before the first captured republican was executed under emergency legislation that was introduced to counter the IRA's ongoing campaign against the new state. This legislation permitted the execution of anti treaty fighters captured with arms. It was not until the anti treaty side decided to continue the war into a new guerilla phase in the wake of their conventional defeat that the Free State Government concluded that decisive action needed to be taken to stamp out the unrest. Some of the executions were legal, others were not, and some can only be described as state murder. The most notorious of the executions occured after the assassination of pro Treaty TD (MP) Sean Hales on the 7th of December 1922. In response to his killing the government had four prominant Republicans, one from each province taken from prison and shot. Unlike other executions these men were innocent of the charges that the emergency legislation was suposed to provide for. In fact they had been in prison since they were captured in June when the Free State Army shelled and stormed the Four Courts at the outbreak of the war. Their execution was simply a reprisal. When accused in the Dail (Irish Parliament) of acting out of spite, O'Higgins responded, "Hardly, one of these men was a friend of mine". He was of course referring to Rory O'Connor who along with Liam Mellows was a former member of IRA GHQ who reported directly to Michael Collins and Richard Mulcahy. Now as Army Chief of staff and Minister for Justice Mulcahy and O'Higgins were overseeing the executions of their former comrades. The story of O'Connor is particularly poignant. Just over one year earlier Rory O'Connor stood as best man at Kevin O'Higgins' wedding. It truly reads like something from a Shakespearean tradgedy.

The wedding of Kevin O'Higgins and Bridie Cole in November 1921. O'Higgins is flanked by future enemies Eamon De Valera (left) and Rory O'Connor (right) whose death sentence O'Higgins would sign 13 months later.

It is hard to justify the executions on any level and for both political and personal reasons people would be justified in describing O'Higgins as cold hearted. But some facts must be considered. Throughout the 20th century democracies that were not prepared to be
tough usually got devoured by fascism, communism or military hard men. In Ireland this did not happen and our democracy has lasted for 90 years. 1922 was the year Mussolini came to power. Democracies were failing all over Europe. What many people don't realise is that most civil wars, most political instability all over the world is not caused by ideology or ethnicity. It is caused by the failure of civilian authorities to exercise control over their own armed forces. The IRA was the army of the Irish Government. In 1922 the new Free State Government brought its army to heel.

People who are familiar with this period in Irish history will know that the greatest achievement of the pro treaty Government (1922-32) was the consolidation of the independent democratic state. O'Higgins is credited specifically with the demobilisation or the army, creation of an impartial police force and the setting up of an independent judiciary and civil service. It is hard to imagine that any of this could have happened if we were fighing an ongoing and intractable guerilla war. The executions worked. The IRA's guerilla war fizzled out and came to an official end in May 1923. What we have is a classic case of do the ends justfity the means? What do you think?

Below is a clip of the Booterstown commemoration including a speach by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny.