Thursday, November 15, 2012

Bad time for a War

This shocking footage was released by the IDF today. It is footage of the assassination of Ahmed Jabri, the head of Hamas' military wing who was killed in yesterdays attack. The situation may now lead to a full scale war between the IDF and Hamas controlled Gaza similar to that which we saw in 2008. I am not surprised that Israel has assassinated this man. But I am surprised at the timing. The Middle East is a very different place today than 2008. Egypt since the fall of Hosni Mubarak has been controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood. This completely changes the game. If this war does escalate into a violent confrontation in which hundreds of Palestinians are killed it may be the trigger that finally pushes Egypt firmly into the extremist camp in which case the 1979 pace agreement between the two nations will come to an end. In addition the situation in Syria is deteriorating to the extent that the Syrian army and the IDF actually exchanged fire last week. Syrian President Bashar Al Assad has been hanging on by his fingernails over the last year. A war between Israel and Palestine might be the only thing that could save him. And in the north Hezbollah is still capable of launching a large scale attack just as it did in 2006. The prospect of Israel facing a three front war in the near future appears to me to be a very real possibility. As for the war itself I believe as I always have that Israel is entitled to defend itself, aggressively if necessary. But I hope it doesn't come to that both for the innocent Palestinians who will die and for the Israelis who as I explained above are in a precarious position. Lets hope things calm down over the next few days.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Remembering the Poppy

I spent much of remembrance Sunday watching the many poignant ceremonies in Britain and elsewhere that commemorate the staggeringly high loss of life suffered by British and commonwealth forces during the the two world wars. During this time of year the commemorations, and the symbol of the poppy itself always sparks a debate in Ireland about why we do so little to participate in remembrance activities despite the fact that 35,000 Irishmen were killed during the First World War. I have blogged here in the past on why I believe we should participate more actively in these ceremonies and personally I was delighted to see the Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore travel north last Sunday to represent the Republic. The Tanaiste went to Belfast where as the Taoiseach was in Enniskillen to mark not just remembrance day but the 25th anniversary of the outrageous IRA bomb that killed 11 people in that town. So these are my views on the poppy and on remembrance Sunday.

The Taoiseach lays a wreath in Enniskillen on Remembrance Sunday

However I do want to add the following. I am not in agreement with some people who are highly critical of the Irish state and its cold history toward commemorations. There are some on the revisionist side who I believe use the poppy issue, or lack of, to unfairly demonise the Irish state. They do this by portraying a picture of persecution of those who did not and do not share the nationalist ethos of the Irish state. Revisionists such as kevin Myers would have us believe that the thousands of Irish that returned from the western front after WW1 were harassed and persecuted by the new nationalist majority on the grounds that they may be loyal to the crown. In my view this is one aspect of a sinister campaign by certain individuals who have been intent, particularly since the EU/IMF bailout of 2010, on deligitimising the Irish State. For them, Irish independence was a disaster and the brutal recessions is vindication of this. And part of their narrative is that the Irish state since its birth has been a sectarian entity that punished those loyal to the former administration. Myers and his followers are perfectly comfortable illustrating the history of Irish Independence as being like that of the angry natives keen to exact revenge on their oppressors similar to the ANC in South Africa. This is of course completely untrue and the commemoration issue demonstrates this. All that happened in 1922 was that Southern Ireland changed jurisdiction from British to Irish rule. It was natural that people who had served in the army of a different nation would not subsequently be in a position to participate in public or state commemorations under the new administration. This would be true anywhere but particularly in a situation where there was enmity between the two countries. This is why it is sad. It is very sad. But it is not an example of persecution or oppression. The same happened all over Europe after WW1. Millions, literally millions of soldiers from the European continent found themselves living in different jurisdictions than the ones they had fought under during the war due to the collapse of the Russian, Turkish and Austro Hungarian empires. As I made clear in my first paragraph, and as I think regular readers of Gubu World will be aware, I greatly honour all those who fought and died in the British Armed forces during the world wars. I personally have worn a poppy and will wear one in the future. I hope to see more widespread commemorations in Ireland in the coming years. I think they are long overdue. But I do reject the notion that persecution or bigotry, historically lie at the heart of Ireland's failure to enthusiastically commemorate our war dead.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The American President

The reelection of Barack Obama last week surprised me. I never believed that the polls were accurate as far back as the summer. I was wrong. The polls were deadly accurate. My belief that the American people would turn on the President because of the economy was incorrect. The first thing I want to say to my more conservative readers is that they need to relax. Barack Obama will not destroy America. As long as he confronts the debt crisis, which if we take him at his word is a priority, and even if it's not the Republican controlled House will force him to, then the American economy will likely be much stronger in four years time. After the brutal recession of 2008 the US economy is on a natural upward trajectory. Secondly, in terms of Foreign Policy I want to say that the reason Obama was always ahead in FP polls was because the Republican Party were, and most conservatives still are all over the place when it comes to the most monumental world event of the last four years, which is the Arab Spring. Nobody saw the unrest in the Arab World coming but Barack Obama was in the Oval Office when it happened and it was he who had to confront it. This he did in a calm and competent manner. I think the electorate recognised this and largely saw the Benghazi controversy as an attempt to take down the President. Finally I just want to say that the reelection of Barack Obama is significant for the following reason. He is now a two termer. I can't help thinking of that episode of The Simpsons when during Mr Burns' birthday party former Presidents Nixon and Reagan enter the party with presents but Presidents Carter and Bush Senior are refused entry by the bouncer on the grounds that "no one termers" are allowed in. This will never happen to Obama. 2008 was not a fluke. We must face the fact that he is now a giant of American history and the right need to stop demonising him. It is beginning to look petulant. America, the second greatest country on earth (after Ireland) will thrive and survive. Of this there should be no doubt.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Says it all really !

President Obama has been reelected. The polls were remarkably accurate. And that tells us that Romney was winning last week but the storm may have turned it for Obama. More to come later today. And a big thank you to the DOUCHE BAGS at the Sugar Club in Dublin who promised us wifi at the Levianthan political cabaret last night. My plans to live blog until 6am were dashed. Instead I was forced to drink all night and get in arguments with minor celebrities.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Photo of the Day

A beautiful image of the sky line over Cork City Center

The Swing Voter

I am the typical swing voter. If I was American and if I had a vote I believe I would be categorised as a conservative Democrat or a moderate Republican. I can go either way. So, given that this election will be decided by the swing voter in Ohio, Florida and Virginia I thought it would be appropriate for me to lay it out in the clearest possible way what exactly is in my head one day before the Presidential election.

Reasons to vote for Obama
President Obama seems likable and honest. He is good for Americas image. He appears calm and in control during a crisis as we have seen with Sandy and in Egypt and Libya. On international affairs he has been aggressive on the war on terror whilst leaving a small military footprint. On the economy Obama has done several things which can reasonably be argued have helped the situation. His critics constantly point out that this is the slowest economic recovery since the great depression which seems to me to be a strange point to make since we are living through the greatest recession since the great depression. Obama regularly points out that America is doing its best when everybody gets a shot referring to the 1944 GI Bill which helped drag millions into the middle class and contributed significantly to the greatest economic boom in history. This resonates with people and has some logic. It is clear to me that many Americans do see Obama as an FDR of sorts who does not want poorer Americans to bear the brunt of a brutal recession that was caused by less than 1000 people at the top. This is appealing. If you are not economically idealistic then the Obama claim that the stimulus circulated enough money to prevent a recession becoming a depression strikes a cord. The downward unemployment trajectory backs this up. Obama believes correctly in my view that the financial sector should be regulated, many Americans agree. For all the talk about health care reform over the decades President Obama is the only President to actually pass a bill which in theory makes health care more affordable and results in 30 million Americans becoming insured. Finally, the sheer unmitigated hatred that many have for President Obama leaves a bad taste in my mouth and makes me want to see him reelected, just so I can tune into Sean Hannity the following day to watch him squirm. I accept this is not very logical, but it is how I feel and lets face it, many people will vote based on their perceptions and feelings.

Reasons to vote against Obama
There is a strong perception backed up by evidence that Barack Obama is hostile toward the private sector. That he believes that the main engine of the economy should be the public sector. In such a scenario one can only envision a second Obama term with more government "investment" in industries that will be costly, inefficient and act as a drag on economic recovery. American debt now stands at 16$ trillion. One thing I have learned over the years is that some things that you think could never happen actually can happen. The 9/11 attacks and the global financial crisis thought be that. I fear that if Obama spends in his second term in any way similarly to how he did in his first then one day America could wake up and find itself with so much debt that it cannot pay its bills. I am not convinced that Obama takes this threat seriously. In addition I believe that in a time of great recession Obamas liberal agenda, some of which I agree with, should have taken a back seat to economic recovery. Obamas priorities have been wrong.

Reasons to vote for Romney.
I believe, as most Americans do that a robust private sector is what drives economic growth. Mitt Romney clearly believes this too. You cannot beat the knowledge and experience of a successful business man to turn deficit into surplus. A successful business man understands how to get rid of waste because he would not tolerate it in his own enterprises. I have also come to think of Romney as likable and think he has a pleasant manner. The Obama efforts to portray him as a cruel capitalist have not worked on me. His foreign policy is ideologically similar to Obamas and while I have no way of knowing what his judgement in a crisis would be like I have no reason to think it would be bad.

Reasons to vote against Romney.
There is a valid perception out there that the Mitt Meister is trying to please everybody. I was not impressed at his constant criticism of Obamas foreign policy only for him to virtually endorse it during the final Presidential debate. It makes me wonder if he wants to be President a little too badly, possibly to fulfill an ambition
that his father was unable to achieve. Furthermore I think his promise to roll back regulations on the financial sector is a mistake as is his position that he would repeal Obamacare. The former makes it look like he is in bed with wall street and the latter ignores the reality that affordable heath care is a massive problem. Perhaps he would have been better advised to argue that he would reform Obamacare. His wider economic programme also concerns many voters. His plan to close the gap in spending is not exactly foolproof. It seems to be to be based on economic growth forecasts. But if these fall short he will have to reevaluate his tax versus cuts ratio in a major way that will likely end up hitting the middle class hardest. He has not been forthcoming in this regard which has made many Americans feel very uneasy about him. He has given them reason.

Relax America, there are two decent competent guys running for President. You'll do ok whoever wins. However my prediction is as follows. I believe that that as the swing voters enter the polling booth they will ask themselves one crucial question, is the American economy more likely to come roaring back under a Romney Presidency or a second Obama term. I believe most will choose Romney and am therefore predicting that despite the polls giving Obama a slight edge I think that Governor Romney will take it by a nose.

Now lets have some fun at the expense of the undecided voter.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Vincent Browne's "cancer" remark

Most evenings I watch the Vincent Browne show on Ireland's TV3 Channel. I was not watching two weeks ago when during a discussion on the third Presidential debate Browne stated that "Israel was a Cancer in Foreign Affairs". Browne has claimed that he was not referring to Israel itself when he used the word cancer and that the true meaning of his statement was that Israel has a cancerous affect on US foreign policy because both political parties "bow" to Israel. For a short time I was willing to lay off Browne and take him at his word that the grumpy, but likable uncle figure had his words to some extent taken out of context. But on reflection it is clear to me that this is nonsense. I know what he meant. He knows what he meant and the viewers know what he meant.

The use of the word "cancer" was reckless, irresponsible and bigoted. A cancer is something that kills everything it infects. It has to be destroyed if everything around it is to survive. For Vincent Browne to give in to the narrative that dominates much of the Arab world is unforgivable. The narrative I speak of is the one which we see from Hezbollah, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and others. This narrative seems fit to blame literally every problem that exists in the Muslim world on Israel and Jews. It is a similar narrative to that used by the Nazis in the Third Reich. It is truly mind boggling that a prominent Irish TV personality would give credibility to this narrative. And that is what he has done. This story has already made the Israeli and Palestinian media and by making this statement Browne has reinforced the perception in Jerusalem that Ireland is vehemently anti Israel while simultaneously making it harder for Palestinian elements to moderate toward Israeli recognition. This is what I personally find unforgivable. Ireland is a country that has overcome a conflict that was once thought to be as equally intractable as that in the Middle East. We have overcome that conflict and instigated what is regarded by many as the worlds most successful peace process. One would hope that the Irish nation has learned from this and that our contribution to other world conflicts would only be positive. Not Vincent Browne however. In his mind our contribution should be no more sophisticated than "Israel is a cancer". It amazes me that he sees this as reasonable. "Israel is a cancer", not religious extremism, not Islamic fundamentalism or even authoritarian rule, to Vincent Browne the cancer is the democratic state of Israel.

Browne's response to date has been pathetic. He has fallen back on the old false grievance that "criticism of Israel is not anti Semitic", as if all he had done was merely criticise Israeli policy. He of course did much more than this by referring to the whole nation as a cancer. Can we imagine the reaction if someone had said the exact same words about Palestinians. Or if someone referred to blacks, Ireland, or members of the travelling community as a cancer, the latter being a cause which Vincent Browne himself has been vocal about. Vincent Browne has let himself down with these comments. As a political pundit who speaks to the Irish people for an hour every weeknight he is in fact quite a powerful man who has the ability to shape public opinion on many issues. On the issue of Israel he has not only fallen on the wrong side of it but has put himself in the same category as the bigots and anti Semites that relentlessly bash Israel out of all context and proportion and by doing so he has associated Ireland with these views. He has done the country a great disservice in this matter. My estimation of him has decreased significantly in the wake of this controversy. Below are the comments.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Photo of the Day

A nice image I took yesterday from Portrane in North Co Dublin, I believe that is Lambay Island in the distance.

Sorry for my abscence last week. It was unavoidable. Will be blogging overtime during the next week.