Category Archives: Uncategorized

Is Ireland a Legitimate Country?

lemass-on-time

Lemass committed Ireland’s future to one of sovereign compromise. He had no choice.

The international system is a complex and convoluted thing, and sets the framework against which States are measured for their effectiveness, righteousness, or other measures that could serve as proxies for legitimacy: transparency, robustness, even happiness, or goodness. According to these indices, Ireland performs reasonably well – very well actually. It is the seventh most ‘unfragile’ country in the world; the eleventh most ‘good’; the 18th most transparent; and the 19th happiest. Most of these indices combine different metrics such as GDP, social metrics like unemployment, education rates, and so on, which tend to mean that Ireland – and other countries – won’t deviate too much from one ranking to the next. So Ireland performs well as a country. However, the combination of the EU Crisis, Brexit, and Trump’s America seem to represent a trifecta of bad things over which Ireland has little or no control, and could send the country hurtling down those indices. So if Ireland has so little control over these shaping factors, is Ireland in fact a legitimate country, a genuinely sovereign power?

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Algorithmic Governance and its Discontents

AG Workshop

Dr Rónán Kennedy Chairs a session at the Algorithmic Governance workshop at NUI Galway

I had the privilege to participate in a workshop on algorithmic governance this past Friday at my alma mater, the National University of Ireland, Galway, under the supervision of Dr Rónán Kennedy and Dr John Danaher of the Law Faculty. and co-funded by the Colleges of Business and Public Policy. It’s part of a wider program of research grandly titled ‘Algocracy and the Transhumanist Project‘, which promises to tread some fascinating pathways. Comprehensive synopses of the event have already been published by Dr Danaher and one of the speakers Dr Muki Haklay, so I won’t re-do their work, but instead refer to one of the particularly interesting themes that emerged from the work.

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National Security and the Legitimacy of the State

Edward Snowdon

Edward Snowdon: His revelations (though not new) have launched an avalanche of introspection and head scratching.

The New York Times and the Guardian have been digging ever deeper into the activities of the US National Security Agency or NSA following the leaking by Edward Snowdon of information about how they were spying both on countries and ordinary people at home.  Hot on the heels of the Chelsea Manning and Wikileaks diplomatic cables episode, there has been a constant flow of stories reporting on nefarious activities of spooks and governments, embarrassing opinions, and the mechanisms by which international diplomacy and spying are conducted, though Wired Magazine had got there first.   There are numerous angles to all of this.  There is the technology problem, an Orwellian, Kurtzweilian post-humanist dystopia where technology trumps all, and big data and analytics undermines or redefines the essence of who we are and forces a kind of a re-evaluation of existence.  There is the human rights problem, the balancing of the right to privacy and – generally speaking – an avoidance of judgement of the individual by the state, with the obligation to secure the state.  This issue is complex – if for example we have an ability to know, to predict, to foretell that people are going to do bad things, but we choose not to do that because it would require predicting also which people were going to do not-bad things, and therefore invade their privacy, is that wrong?  Many people said after 9/11 ‘why didn’t we see this coming?’ Which leads to the question – if you could know all that was coming, would you want to know?

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The Syrian Complex

Syria's borders are all fraught

Syria’s borders are all fraught

Six months ago, it appeared obvious that Bashar Al-Assad was on his way out of Syria.  What was less clear, however, was who was likely to succeed him. And it is this particular point – the absence of a clear opposition – that has kept him in place. The various countries that have an interest are both local and global, and the rationale of each bears thinking about.

Let’s start with the neighbours.  Immediately surrounding Syria are Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel.  Hizbollah – and therefore Lebanon – is supporting Assad, primarily one suspects because they think he will win. Syria has long been a friend of the Palestinians.  Assad himself put it thus in 2002: “As far as an occupier is concerned, there is no distinction between soldiers and civilians… There is a distinction between armed and unarmed, but in Israel everyone is armed. In any case, we adopted the following concept: resistance to occupation is a legitimate right.”

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Syria – a face of war

Astonishing photo from Syria by Harold Doornbos. Makes you think about why we fight, what we fight for, and what price is worth paying for so called freedom.

haralddoornbos

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I took this picture recently in Latakya-countryside (Syria) at a house where rebels and their families live. This little girl was sitting between guns as rebels prepared to go to the frontline.

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Replacing Religion with…

Replacing Religion with…

Tom Chivers in The Observer laments the demise of religion for its impact on social cohesion – and challenges that secularism needs to replace it with something else that works.  I think that’s exactly what the Internet is for – new communities, new communications, new associations.  The Internet, in that social sense, is the new religion.

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Gilley on Political Legitimacy

I stumbled upon a most excellent article called The Meaning and Measurement of State Legitimacy by Dr Bruce Gilley, formerly of Princeton University and now at Portland State.   One of the most useful pieces of the article is the definition of State Legitimacy, which from my first reading appears to be interchangeable with the term political legitimacy.  Gilley explores the subjects, objects and sub-types of legitimacy.  Gilley then proceeds to do essentially what I have been discussing – a ‘strategy to achieve replicable cross-national measurements of legitimacy is then outlined and implemented, including a discussion of data sources and three alternative aggregation methods.’  He also has a book (right), which I’ve ordered.

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