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Standing up to adversity, both foreign & domestic

By Michael R. Shannon
web posted February 21, 2011

Recent events prove if your travel plans include countries where government is both unstable and hostile to the USA, your chances of escaping a long prison term are much better if you work for Google, than if you work for Obama.

Cases in point: in Egypt, Wael Ghonim — Google's head of marketing for the Middle East and North Africa — was seized by Egyptian secret police on January 28th and accused of being instrumental in the protests seeking to overthrow the government.

On the very same day in Pakistan; US Embassy employee Raymond Davis was attacked by two bandits. Davis shot in self–defense and killed both robbers, but was arrested and charged with murder by Pakistani police.

Davis is not your average gun–toting tourist. He travels with a diplomatic passport that should give him immunity from prosecution, regardless of the charge. Ghonim has no such advantage.

Yet after only 12 days in jail Ghonim was released to become a hero of the revolution, while Davis still rots in jail.

The disparate outcomes probably have something to do with how the two administrations, Google and Obama, are viewed by the world.

When China mounted a cyber–attack on Google email accounts, the government probably did not expect problems even if the hack attempt became public.

After the attack was discovered, Chinese government bullies were no doubt surprised when the Page/Brin administration pulled the plug on Google China without a lot of hand–wringing and attempts at "dialog" or "engagement."

Google appears to operate under the principle that actions have consequences.

In stark contrast, when China protested a joint US/South Korean naval exercise that included the carrier USS George Washington, the Obama administration didn't point out the maneuvers were scheduled for international waters that are open to all navies. Instead the Pentagon cratered and let the Chinese dictate were our navy held its training exercise.

So who's surprised that when Davis was kidnapped in Pakistan the Obama administration did not issue an ultimatum and demand the return of a US citizen?

Instead, a feeble Obama whined that the prosecution of Davis could set up an "untenable" situation around the world, making ambassadors and other diplomats vulnerable to local prosecutions.

"It means they can't do their job," he pleaded. Sounding more like Obama was discussing a meter–reader attacked by a dog than a diplomat of the United States seized by a foreign power.

Since the Egyptians calculated there might be a price to pay for offending the Google administration, Ghonim was set free. Pakistan authorities have rightly concluded that when it comes to international incidents the Obama administration is a consequence–free zone, which is why chances for Davis being released any time soon are slim.

Internet immunity under Google's Larry Page and Sergey Brin evidently is more powerful than diplomatic immunity when you work for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

And speaking of immunity, here at home I've once again withstood extreme commercial pressure and avoided contributing to Hallmark Corporation's Stockholder Appreciation Day — better known as Valentine's Day.

In fact I'm in agreement with the Shiv Sena, a nationalist political party in India, that terms Valentine's as "nothing but a Western onslaught on India's culture to attract youth for commercial purposes." Substitute "my wallet" for "India's culture" and it's my sentiments exactly.

A case can be made that for singles Valentine's Day allows the love–struck to demonstrate his affection. At least that's what appears to be going through male brains, because the average one spends $156, while women skimp by on a meager $85.

This unfavorable rate of exchange is one of the many reasons why during my single days, I usually arranged a minor tiff just prior to Valentine's. On the 16th or 17th, after the anger dissipated, I would make amends and we could resume normal programming.

Now as a married man, I can't see any conceivable reason why a husband should spend a dime on Valentine's. Aren't wedding anniversaries the day where spirit–crushed husbands make an offering to their wives and re–enlist for another year of wedded bliss?

Forcing husbands to participate in Valentine's is double–dipping at best and adding insult to injury at worst.

This is why I'm urging other husbands to join me in boycotting this pernicious drain on our wallets and peace of mind. The Catholic Church abandoned the holiday in 1969, it's high time we followed suit. ESR

Michael R. Shannon is a public relations, advertising and political consultant with experience around the globe. He is also a popular speaker and can be reached at michael–shannon@comcast.net.

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