Wednesday, October 24, 2007

An answer to an unsolicited email.

The Email:

Shannon Airport

1 million troops – 1 million dead?

Peace Demonstration at Shannon Airport on Sat 27 October
Time: 2 pm

Location: At terminal building if possible

Otherwise at checkpoint near WESTAIR roundabout.

Between March 2003 and Sept 2007 - 1,059,382 US military personnel have passed through Shannon on 8,698 flights. Estimates for numbers of people killed in Iraq due to US attack and occupation vary from half a million to over one million.

Meanwhile, Aerlingus is abandoning Shannon, and other civilian airlines are likely to follow this example.

An average of 640 US troops on five flights per day have passed through Shannon

CIA rendition planes are still refuelling at Shannon.

No US military or CIA planes are being searched by Gardai

Peace activists are still being are being harassed by Gardai and brought before the courts on spurious chargers

Restore Shannon / Heathrow link

Break Shannon / Iraq DEATHROW link

Likelihood of US air attack on Iraq over the next few months
Shannon and Irish airspace will be used to support this further illegal act of war

Action is needed now to demilitarise Shannon airport and restore Irish neutrality and sovereignty.

The response:

'Are you straight?"

'I am.'

'How straight?'

'As straight as a rush.'

'Go on, then.'

'In truth, in trust, in unity and liberty.'

'What have you got in your hand?'

'A green bough.'

'Where did it first grow?'

'In America.'

'Where did it first bud?'

'In France.'

'Where are you going to plant it?'

'In the crown of Great Britain.'

- A greeting of the United Irishmen Circa 1791

I am so glad I found my way on whatever list this is. Perhaps some
common sense and a bit of accuracy will help some of us.

First, the idea of Irish neutrality is what is "spurious". Neutrality
or what some like to consider neutrality happens only at the pleasure
of those that are NOT neutral. The same for pacifists. Both concepts
are utopian concepts that can never actually be achieved. Both
concepts survive only at the pleasure of those willing to stand for
something and defend something larger than an unattainable concept
like neutrality. Ireland is full of people willing to stand for these
"larger" concepts and may God bless their efforts.

Ireland the country that welcomed me and that I fell in love with is
not neutral, at least not in deed -though it may strive to be so in

Ireland is connected to the US and the non neutral West via economics,
among other things. It is the fact that these non "neutral" countries
stand for something concrete and are willing to defend and protect it
that provides the market relationships necessary for Western progress
of which Ireland is a major part.

Chief among these ideas in need of defense is that of energy security.
I am not defending US consumption practices, far from it. I am
merely pointing out how energy and OIL are the life blood of Western
(Irish) economies. To deny this is folly and perhaps the root of our
major differences. You do not touch one thing or travel to one place
or have one interaction that is not facilitated in some way by oil.
This FACT is immutable. Is this situation a "best-practice"? I think
not. Is it optimal? I think not. Is it correctable? I think so
-with conservation, stewardship and innovation. (Noticeably absent
from this list is fear-mongering, like Al Gore's "End of Days"

This "correction" is not forthcoming in a reasonable amount of time.
So, until the arrival of the distant future we must be pragmatic and
even utilitarian in our energy security policy. WE being the West or
developed world that Ireland is a part of. This pragmatic approach
includes having an influential role in the areas that provide the
energy the West (Ireland) needs. (Not to mention emerging economies
like China, India and Eastern Europe.) This influential role is the
crux of my admonition.

What bothers me most with the current Bush administration is the silly
and cowardly way they continue the failed policy of denying that the
war in Iraq was about energy security, ie... "a war for oil." Because
the cause of "energy security" in and of itself is as necessary a
cause as there has ever been. That cause should be explained clearly
not avoided as is the policy of the current administration. That
cause, "energy security," is axiomatic, a maxim, a heuristic. It is a
moral imperative.

Sadly in order for this moral imperative to be seen clearly many
people must step outside their own bias and out of the narrative they
have placed themselves in. A narrative for Ireland that promotes the
concept of neutrality when in fact Ireland is in the thick-of-it by
action and association –far from neutral. A narrative for many of us
that is an investment in both self-loathing and West-loathing.
Investment in this narrative sadly has some suffering from
true-believers syndrome. Or being so invested in your own bias that
even when faced with facts that counter your position you will
construct walls (read: lies) in your narrative that counter the
cognitive dissonance that occurs when confronted with the truth
-thereby, victimizing you. What is more, when you take it upon
yourself to induct others into your false narrative you victimize

Most wretchedly, once you have induced enough people the process
becomes easier. Your responsibility for the false narrative is
diffused over all that you have convinced of your bias. This
"group-think" will now transform the narrative into doctrine and
promote "mind-guards" to police dissent and deflect any attacks… even
those of reason!

Finally, I find the flaunting of death tolls particularly disturbing
because invariably it is done as an appeal to emotion rather than
reason. It is a distraction if the tolls are void of context as they
usually are. It is sad that many of us pick and choose the value we
place on human life so easily. If we were true humanitarians we would
look not at the cost of human life in terms of our comfort and
emotional well-being but rather we would look at it in a utilitarian
way. A way that sought to preserve the largest number of lives over
the longest foreseeable future.

When we extol the context-less body count we ignore history's lessons.
Lessons that have taught us again and again that freedom, liberty and
happiness are functions of hard work over great amounts of time. Hard
work that translates into men and women standing up for freedom and up
to tyranny. If your narrative suggests that energy security is best
provided in the hands of Saddam Hussein or Mahmood Ahmahdinejad rather
than people of liberty participating in a true Lockeian sovereignty
then you my friend are indeed suffering from a narrative rank with
group-think and self-loathing.

It is important to read this with an open mind but it is even more
important to not assume what is not written here. There is nothing
suggested here-in that says the Iraq war was the proper or best way to
provide energy security. There is nothing here that says the war was
and is being prosecuted efficiently. There is nothing here that says
Ireland should take up arms and join the US in Iraq or Afghanistan.
There is nothing here that says Ireland should take any aggressive
position with its own military. There is nothing here that suggests
Ireland's voice not be heard no matter what it is saying or how
difficult it is for the US to hear. What is written here is an
admonition to Ireland that it is neither neutral nor an outsider
looking in on the US and the broader West. It is a fully vested
player with all the rights, privileges and RESPONSIBILITIES that go
along with the progress and prosperity it enjoys.

So, you don't have to have US military planes, transporting the best
and brightest America has to offer to and from combat, on Irish soil
to be a participant in the battle for energy security. You need only
fill up your car with petrol or take the bus to the City Center or
welcome tourists off of jet planes or purchase a pint from the pub or
any item from any establishment in the whole of the Republic of
Ireland. Like it or not your participation in energy security is tied
not to the military planes in Shannon but the economy and progress you
and the rest of the developed world enjoy daily. To deny this is
either ignorance or hypocrisy of the worst and most dangerous kind.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

What The Election Issues Are, And What The Issues SHOULD Be.

I have watched a few debates and I see how the media and candidates characterize the “issues”. I don’t really think the media or the candidates understand what actually will be affecting us in the coming years.

Of course one issue that broadly we all agree on being important is Iraq. But that is where the agreement abruptly ends. Candidates on both sides of the aisle boil down the issue to stay or go. (Absent Ron Paul on the right and this would be a straight partisan issue.) Rarely do we get into the meat of the issue. How do we stay? How would be go? Could the troops really be pulled out in the next year or two? Would this herald the total decay of any peace in the broader Middle East? Who fills the power vacuum? Iran? Saudi Arabia? How do you combat an insurgency that has the tacit support at best and material support at worst of the very people you are trying to help? How do you keep Iranian influence out of Iraq, both political and military? Would leaving Iraq for dead and concentrating on Afghanistan be a solution?

What is not useful or helpful is posturing on Iran like we see on the right. This bravado without consequence is just silly. Looking tough on a debate stage at the cost of foreign relations and diplomacy not helpful. Relevant and informed suggestions on how we actually bring and keep Iran at the negotiating table would be. That could mean a military option but it might not. Broad pronouncements from candidates about bombing Iran only serve to distance current relations and limit options in the future.

Also, what is not useful is the lefts inability to answer clearly any question about a military option. It is obvious that everyone except Hillary Clinton has sold their soul to and the dailykos on this issue.(Hillary’s soul still belongs to the money raisers just not on this issue, this is so she can remain “electable” in a general election.) Left candidates are so scared of actually suggesting what options might be on the table that they just obfuscate and hide as to not anger their fundraising cash cow. This far left cash cow is decidedly anti-war. Any war. Any conflict. Any military action other than war. Its tragic influence on the left is only equaled to the undue influence of the Christian Conservatives on the right.

Abortion is NEVER on our collective radar until election time. (Sadly “election time” is now about two to three years prior to the actual polling!) Both parties and almost all candidates USE abortion as a wedge issue. What that means is that this issue is designed to separate and entrench voters. Politicians don’t want moderation. Moderation doesn’t raise money. A motivated base does. Nothing splits up moderation like a wedge issue. Iraq being one, global warming another and abortion being the best. Without getting into the actual issue of abortion candidates use it to their benefit to rally the base and bring in more money.

To be clear, America as a whole doesn’t care about making abortion illegal. We never discuss this issue except during an election and then only at the prodding of a candidate(s). Perhaps we should or perhaps we shouldn’t. The point is we don’t see it as of particular importance to our daily lives or we would behave and converse accordingly.

What is of particular importance is a good Job. Not a job. But a good job. In the US if you want to work you can. Plain and simple. With very few exceptions if you lose your job today you can find work of some kind in less than 1-6 months. It might not be a good job and you might have to move to where the job is but there is a job. Candidates speak in terms of employment or having a job. We now need to look towards how to have a “good” job. One that pays well and has some kind of job security. No one talks about this. We hear faintly on the left that the jobs available are not good jobs. But they don’t follow up with a suggestion on fixing the problem, only pointing out the problem as the left is so good at doing… especially if it ends in a poke at our current President.

What we need is debate on how to move from a society that relied on jobs that lasted 20 plus years and had a pension at the end to a society that is mobile and can learn and use new skills in many jobs and provide for our own retirement. The days of going to work at the factory for 20+ years and retiring is over. Putting a dollar or three into the minimum wage does nothing to fix this problem. We need to hear candidates talking about our secondary system of education not just our primary. We need to hear talk about the systemic problems we face in education that put our workers at a disadvantage the day they graduate from high school and/or college. India, China and Eastern Europe are flooding western job markets and universities. They speak several languages and will work for far less than an American. They are better educated on the primary level and ambitious. What candidate has talked about this?

Plenty of Candidates talk about health care. But what are they saying. Hillary has given us her suggestion. Bravo. I think Edwards has as well. What about the right? Thompson has weighed in but has no real plan. Rudy and Mitt have done the best in terms of detailing how Hillary’s plan will not work. (And it won’t by the way!) But they don’t have a front and center PLAN for fixing the problems of cost, availability and improved quality. Just bashing Hillary-care as socialism doesn’t work. (And it is socialism!) You must give an alternative that matches Hillary’s plan detail to detail. Where is this plan from the republicans?

Fred Thompson is the only candidate to address the fact that there will be NO Social Security in the next ten years or less. He has put forth a plan. It is detailed and it does seem plausible. But unfortunately it is getting very little press. Other candidates only talk around the issue. With the exception of Thompson here we have another instance of candidates hiding rather than confronting an issue that will be devastating to the American people very soon.

Potentially most devastating to the American people is the issue of energy. The energy debate unfortunately is being characterized successfully by the left in terms of only the environment. That in and of itself is innocuous enough, but the apocalyptical version being sold by the far left is the problem. Candidates are lost to useless arguing about the hows and whys of global warming when we could all agree on the need for conservation, innovation and stewardship. These three ideas are universal. But conservation, innovation and stewardship won’t raise money on the left or right. The fight over the world coming to an end will.

And finally, George Bush is not running for president. To debate as if he was is stupid. I don’t see the right doing this only the left. We can certainly reflect and learn from his failures but to use GW as a rallying cry or a way to motivate your base as the left is doing is really really sad. Can not the left run on the issues? Don’t the issues deserve the floor, rather than trashing GW so you can whip your kooky fringe into hysteria, i.e. donate more money. You can’t “throw the bum out”. He is already walking to the door. As the party of opposition in the presidential election the left has some responsibilities. Chief of which is framing the debate on failed policy. This responsibility is NOT met by bashing Bush and leaving out the policy as happens all too often. All you succeed in doing is lowering the level of debate by mischaracterizing the issues.

So as you decide who you are going to vote for this election season I encourage you to go beyond what is the presented face of each candidate or party and go deeper into the issues. Remember, it is we that elect these folks to office and what we consent to we encourage.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Free Burma

Free Burma!

Harry Reid and ilk have NO shame

Democrat Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada has been caught red handed spinning Rush Limbaugh's comments about "phony soldiers" into something it isn't. If one takes the time to actually read what Rush said...and most won't, but if one does it is obvious that Rush is talking about Jessie Macbeth. Macbeth was also caught lying about his service record and exploits in Iraq. Jessie never went to Iraq and is now facing charges for his lies. The left seized on Jessie's anti-war statements that accused troops of murder and mayhem. Jessie was in every sense a "phony soldier".

It is crazy to attack Limbaugh who has donated large sums of money and promoted the troop's causes that included a trip to Afghanistan, which is more than most of us have ever done. Rush is pro-military, pro-troops and gives to troop causes. To be guilty of what Reid is accusing him of is not just out of character but also plainly false.

Free Burma

Free Burma!

New Media Puts Spotlight on Burma

That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation.

-Thomas Jefferson, 1813

Even back in 1813 Thomas Jefferson understood the power of the exchange of information. He understood that no one owns information. Oh, many try to, but time usually tells the tale. He also recognized that by trading information we grow exponentially. We are “expansible over all space” and that by sharing we are “incapable of confinement”. Such is the case in Burma (Myanmar). The military government of that country or Junta have just tried to quell peaceful unrest in their country by physical violence and by turning off the internet to it citizens. For over a week bloggers (new media) acting as citizen journalists made sure that reports and photos flowed to the old legacy media. Now that information has been squelched to almost nothing. Still, reports of death and harassment are leaking out.

This leak by the new media in Burma constitutes what is known as Public Diplomacy. Public Diplomacy is the public conversation between two or more nation’s non-governmental interested parties, which has some measurable effect on a government(s) policy. In this case the effect was more attention paid to Burma. A specific example would be President Bush enacting tougher sanctions on the Junta and calling for action at the UN last week. As well, the military government’s crack down on the flow of information via the internet would qualify because it is a reaction to citizen journalists communicating with other non-governmental entities all over the world.

Beyond the exchange of information being Public Diplomacy it is also what is called Soft Power. According to the father of Soft Power Joseph Nye Jr. Soft Power is “the ability to get what you want by attracting and persuading others to adopt your goals…” by attraction rather than coercion. These Burmese blogs do not threaten us or hold us hostage in order to get their message across rather they tell a compelling story that stands on its own merit.

We are not to a point where New Media can drive a story on its own and ensure action. Rather, it still requires the old media to take the baton from the New and then pass it own to our traditional hard powers like the US and China. In any event the role of the New Media in this conflict is unmistakable.

If you want to participate in this public diplomacy and increase the soft power of the Burmese citizens I suggest you log-on and connect with these people via their blogs. You can find a dearth of information on the Burmese blogosphere at or more specifically: