EDITORIAL: An Odd Week For America

Last week was an odd one for millions of Americans. President Obama was announced the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and no one really knew what to do.

The Peace Prize is the big one, the Nobel people remember for generations. But Obama has been in office only months, and the Nobel committee more than hinted he’d been named the Peace Prize recipient because of idealistic speeches, not because he’d been able to implement his ideas.

Obama seemed almost embarrassed by the prized accolade. It instantly created a political problem for him. Opponents were quick to seize on the point he had been in office only nine months and has had trouble implementing his domestic plans, let alone his grander vision for the world.

It was easy — and arguably even justified, given the names of recent Peace Prize recipients and the committee’s inclination to politicize the award — to view any world figure who opposed the policies of former President George W. Bush as worthy of the Prize.

Bash Bush. Get a Nobel.

Even people who support Obama were baffled by the selection. The award is too serious, of course, to spark a ticker-tape parade to honor the recipient. But Obama’s allies in the Congress and in the voting pool were not able even to puff out their chests in a convincing way. It was hard to call the award a win for America, no matter how one views the President.

And this brings us to this week’s issue of Time magazine, which features one of the most thought-provoking columns we have ever read. Before we describe what the column is about, perhaps we should take a moment to explain why we’ve spent some time today to write about politics when this Blog normally writes about crime.

It’s because the Time magazine column challenges people to think and to question their views — something we try to do around here. No, we’re not Time. We’re a small Blog in an ocean of Blogs. Even so, we try to provide readers with some brain fodder and always are pleased when they respond with posts that help us shape our thinking, even if their posts don’t help us change our mind about the issues we write about.

The Time column by David Von Drehle poses a question we never before had contemplated:

Should the Nobel Peace Prize be awarded to nuclear weapons?

Von Drehle says yes — and he makes a thought-provoking argument. Noodle it if you have the chance.

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1929553,00.html?xid=rss-fullnation-yahoo

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19 Responses to “EDITORIAL: An Odd Week For America”

  1. What’s even more bizarre is that nomination deadline is February 1st, about 10 days after Obama’s inauguration. But Marge Simpson made the cover of Playboy so who knows.

    As for whether nukes deserve the peace prize, it’s a system that “has worked” at the macro level for decades. With Pakistan, North Korea and Iran in or about to be in the nuclear club, it’s scary….especially if Israel decides to do something about Iran or Pakistan falls to militant Islamists.

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  2. Never mind the Nobel prizes, the real accolade is now the Ig Nobel prizes. This year the Ig Nobel Peace prize went to Stephan Bolliger, Steffen Ross, Lars Oesterhelweg, Michael Thali and Beat Kneubuehl of the University of Bern, Switzerland, for determining — by experiment — whether it is better to be smashed over the head with a full bottle of beer or with an empty bottle. Which is more than Obama has ever done for peace.

    Other notable prizes: ECONOMICS PRIZE: The directors, executives, and auditors of four Icelandic banks — Kaupthing Bank, Landsbanki, Glitnir Bank, and Central Bank of Iceland — for demonstrating that tiny banks can be rapidly transformed into huge banks, and vice versa — and for demonstrating that similar things can be done to an entire national economy.

    LITERATURE PRIZE: Ireland’s police service (An Garda Siochana), for writing and presenting more than fifty traffic tickets to the most frequent driving offender in the country — Prawo Jazdy — whose name in Polish means “Driving License”.

    PUBLIC HEALTH PRIZE: Elena N. Bodnar, Raphael C. Lee, and Sandra Marijan of Chicago, Illinois, USA, for inventing a brassiere that, in an emergency, can be quickly converted into a pair of protective face masks, one for the brassiere wearer and one to be given to some needy bystander. That lady is a hero to the people!

    MATHEMATICS PRIZE: Gideon Gono, governor of Zimbabwe’s Reserve Bank, for giving people a simple, everyday way to cope with a wide range of numbers — from very small to very big — by having his bank print bank notes with denominations ranging from one cent ($.01) to one hundred trillion dollars ($100,000,000,000,000). Money not worth the paper it’s printed on.

    Should the Nobel Peace Prize be awarded to nuclear weapons?

    Maybe. It’s worth noting that the 2000 Ig Nobel Peace Prize went to the Royal Navy for ordering its sailors to stop using live cannon shells, and to instead just shout “Bang!”.

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  3. I really should do more research. This must be true, it’s on the InterWeb.

    Obama wins Ig Nobel Prize in Chemistry for inventing Placebo Piss

    http://www.thespoof.com/news/spoof.cfm?headline=s3i61056

    After winning Nobel Peace Prize, US President Barack Obama has collected another shining medal to his award collection. He was awarded the Ig Nobel prize in chemistry for inventing ‘Placebo Piss’, a new type of piss that flows not from the urinary tract, but from the mouth of the pisser. At the award ceremony held at Boston, Obama was awarded the honor for his remarkable ability to generate piss from his mouth and also for pissing off many millions around the world by winning Nobel Peace Prize without doing anything substantial in his initial months of presidency.

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  4. It’s been rumored from a source or two that the reason the Garda did not want to dig too deeply into Bryan Marsden’s PIPS Ponzi was that more than a few Garda (and prominent local politicians) were caught up in the scam. I don’t know this for a fact but it’s interesting if true given the havoc PIPS caused in Kells, Ireland.

    Personally, I would hope people give Obama a chance. He can’t be all things to all people, no matter what those people have promised themselves. It’s inevitable that there will be some blow back. I hope the U.S. will put the goodwill he had garnered to good use. The world needs it…and for American consumers to go a huge spending spree of imports to float the rest of the world’s economies, they’ve promised themselves that as well.

    Tony H: LITERATURE PRIZE: Ireland’s police service (An Garda Siochana), for writing and presenting more than fifty traffic tickets to the most frequent driving offender in the country — Prawo Jazdy — whose name in Polish means “Driving License”.

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  5. Personally, I would hope people give Obama a chance. He can’t be all things to all people, no matter what those people have promised themselves. It’s inevitable that there will be some blow back. I hope the U.S. will put the goodwill he had garnered to good use. The world needs it…and for American consumers to go a huge spending spree of imports to float the rest of the world’s economies, they’ve promised themselves that as well.

    This is going to be difficult to explain, but being neither Repùblican nor Democrat, I beg your tolerance. this is a European award. We have seen in the young Barak Obama something we dreamed of in our youth – a desire for peace, harmony and a use of our intelligence. He might not make it. There are too many vested interests in his, or anyone elses, path. No one can undoe decades of shameless egocentricism- but he is trying. That is why he was awarded the prize

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  6. You’re kidding right? What about Reagan? This Obama has done absolutely NOTHING yet gets an award for something?

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  7. Reagan was never popular in Western Europe beyond Great Britain. I traveled quite a bit back in those days and Reagan was “the (clueless) cowboy” in Western Europe. Reagan was popular with the Poles and other people behind the Iron Curtain.

    The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded by a committee in Norway, a private organization. You have to look at things from their perspective. The award has been given “in anticipation” or to “give momentum” to processes the committee deems important. Other than the prestige, the award has as much meaning as an Academy Award for acting. Some “deserve it”, some don’t.

    Anyone is free to create their own award and associated prize. Whether the world notices is another matter.

    Whip: You’re kidding right? What about Reagan? This Obama has done absolutely NOTHING yet gets an award for something?

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  8. Robert L wins Ig Nobel Prize in Chemistry for inventing Placebo Piss!!

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  9. Can’t say that I’ve actually seen it awarded ‘in anticipation’ of anything. It seems it’s usually for an actual accomplishment. Hell, This means Candy May can win it for trying ‘to create 100 more millionares’ right?

    dirty_bird: Reagan was never popular in Western Europe beyond Great Britain.I traveled quite a bit back in those days and Reagan was “the (clueless) cowboy” in Western Europe.Reagan was popular with the Poles and other people behind the Iron Curtain.The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded by a committee in Norway, a private organization.You have to look at things from their perspective.The award has been given “in anticipation” or to “give momentum” to processes the committee deems important.Other than the prestige, the award has as much meaning as an Academy Award for acting.Some “deserve it”, some don’t.Anyone is free to create their own award and associated prize.Whether the world notices is another matter.

    Whip: You’re kidding right? What about Reagan? This Obama has done absolutely NOTHING yet gets an award for something?

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  10. In theory, yes, Bowdoin could win. So could you or I or Bob Guenther.

    What many Americans, especially Bush supporters, don’t realize is how alienated the rest of the world felt during the Bush years. I was regularly yelled in the U.S. and abroad simply because I didn’t condemn Bush as a knee jerk reaction to every action he took.

    It was just like mentioning Hillary Clinton’s name to Rush Limbaugh, or worse, his supporters.

    WTF did I have to do with any of them?

    What Obama has done is given millions or billions hope. That’s a fact, misguided or not and, in the committee’s view, that’s enough after their alienation during the Bush years.

    Like I said, it’s a private award. I am sure the Chinese would have been outraged if one of the Wigan’s had been awarded the prize. The Iranian power structure was not too impressed when one of their dissident ladies won the award a few years ago.

    Whip: Can’t say that I’ve actually seen it awarded ‘in anticipation’ of anything. It seems it’s usually for an actual accomplishment. Hell, This means Candy May can win it for trying ‘to create 100 more millionares’ right?

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  11. Hi dirty_bird,

    dirty_bird: Reagan was never popular in Western Europe beyond Great Britain. I traveled quite a bit back in those days and Reagan was “the (clueless) cowboy” in Western Europe. Reagan was popular with the Poles and other people behind the Iron Curtain.

    He was dismissed as a cowboy and “B” actor with no depth, here, too.

    I remember that some people were stunned when his private writings were released, as well as a trove of other writings. Some people desperately needed him to be a boob with a secret desire to bomb the planet into submission, but his writings showed him to be a man of genuine intellect, sensitivity and warmth.

    It actually offended people that his wife loved him so and could be caught gazing at him even in their 70s, but she had found someone she both loved and admired — and was on the receiving end of the bounty of his tender soul. I observed people weep when he died. There was a tremendous outpouring of affection for him, even among the loyal opposition.

    One thought I always keep in mind when considering George W. Bush is that an attack against the United States was launched on domestic soil early on his watch — and on television to boot. No U.S. President had been challenged in that fashion — not even Lincoln, who didn’t have to be President on TV and in the age of the Internet.

    Bush also had to square off against an enemy that didn’t wear uniforms and had a sort of geographic independence. They could be anywhere and, as demonstrated on 9/11, act with complete surprise and ruthless precision — and imprecision. Their imprecision, in fact, was as dangerous as their precision, one of the advantages of terrorism.

    What I admired about him is that he didn’t try to be all things to all people. He knew critics would skewer him and that he would leave office a hugely unpopular figure. He knew he could trade his principles for a boost in the polls, but he did not do it. I always admired that about him.

    Patrick

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  12. Hi Tony,

    Tony H: by having his bank print bank notes with denominations ranging from one cent ($.01) to one hundred trillion dollars ($100,000,000,000,000). Money not worth the paper it’s printed on.

    A hundred trillion here and a hundred trillion there — and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.

    One of these days I hope you’ll do a guest column here — something satirical. I’ve enjoyed reading your take on things.

    Regards,

    Patrick

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  13. Hi alasycia,

    alasycia: This is going to be difficult to explain, but being neither Repùblican nor Democrat, I beg your tolerance. this is a European award.

    Your thought makes perfect sense to me, and it’s a thought that perhaps distills a lot of perceived complexities very economically.

    I remember being very proud of President Carter — and of the United States — when he won the Peace Prize, even though his freelancing on foreign policy after he left the White House used to bother me. There must have been times when it separated successor Presidents and the State Department from their senses.

    Regardless, I always viewed Carter as a man of principle, even though I didn’t share much of his world view. When he won the Peace Prize, I saw it as a reflection of what’s best about America: principled support and principled opposition and lots of hard work. I didn’t see his award as a rebuke to Bush at the time. Now, I do, which is not to say that Carter did not deserve the Prize. His body of work is unquestionably deserving — at least to me.

    I became a little skeptical when Al Gore won because it seemed to be an award for an anti-Bush. Obama’s selection reinforced that thought in my mind. I think it takes some luster away from the award, which is not to say I believe Obama is not a genuinely inspirational man or not an amazingly gifted man. I marvel at his substance.

    It’s just that I believe the award, at a minimum, was premature. One week, he was getting pilloried for “losing” the 2016 Olympics to Brazil, and the next week he was getting the Nobel Peace Prize. If the Olympic Committee had applied the same standard as the Nobel committee — the desire to set the standard for the world — Chicago would have been awarded the games.

    Regards,

    Patrick

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  14. Hey Patrick,

    As someone who loves history, I get a kick out of “watching the watchers” because I want to see the present reaction and see how it is presented in the history books 20 years from now.

    I.E. in the Kerry/Bush debates, I watched them with a group of friends, all but one of them die hard Democrats. They were outraged when Bush said anything they disagreed with but took Kerry at his word….and those of the Democratic pundits. They were quite taken aback by Bush’s habit of “answering” the questions by turning the question into a point he wanted to make. What they did not see was that people would not remember Kerry’s answer in the voting booth but they would remember Bush’s themes which were heavily security related. We had not been attacked after 9/11 and the economy was fine. Staying “on message” and repeating the same message is Marketing 101.

    One thing I don’t like now is the CNN effect where there is a 24 hours news cycle. It gives those in office no time to think before they react. I have also recently read about the “SNL effect”. SNL did not exist when Nixon was in office. His own paranoia did him in. People don’t forget Watergate or that he escalated Johnson’s war in Vietnam. They do tend to forget that Nixon created the EPA, OSHA, opened up China and negotiated the first ABM treaty with the Soviet Union.

    Ford was “bumbling” on SNL even though he’d been a gifted athlete. Carter was the wimpy guy telling us to wear a sweater and turn down the thermostat and also the guy with the yellow rubber boots checking out the meltdown at Three Mile Island even though he’d been on a nuclear sub in the Navy.

    When Reagan came along, people were tired of the Misery Index and the “Carter malaise”. Reagan’s “morning in America” message resonated with people. His later portrayal on SNL as the clueless cowboy who reminisced about his cowboy pictures in Hollywood was repeated over and over again, just like Bush restated his points in the presidential debates. Sooner or later, the messages sinks in regardless of reality.

    If Obama’s “yes, we can” slogan was not borrowed from Reagan’s “morning in America”, I don’t know where he got it from. I would like to think he’s astute enough to see how well it worked for Reagan.

    People remember FDR as the kindly President who made everyone feel better with his fireside chats during the depression. What they don’t know, in many cases, is that Roosevelt was not some “man of the people” when he took office. He related to Teddy Roosevelt and had more in common with Rockefeller than the average union worker. He had a very real fear of the communists, thinking that America may go the way of Europe or worse, the Soviet Union. He was calculating seeing that he could not win the presidency until the economy tanked, as it did in the Hoover administration. He also firebombed Tokyo with over 100k civilian deaths and did the same in Dresden with 60k killed.

    Also lost on many people is that his policies did not do that much for the economy. You can argue that it could have been worse but the U.S. GDP in 1940 was exactly what was in 1930.

    All in all, I find events, and especially people’s reactions to them, fascinating. What we will remember later is not necessarily how we view them now.

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  15. I venture to say that I believe you are mistaken in your observation that Obama has received the Nobel Peace prize “in advance”. Over there in the US you are, in many ways, cut off from the rest of the world, which is composed of a lot of much smaller countries. One can travel for a life time, live and die without leaving the US. It is difficult to say the same outside of the US and even less in Europe (which is a lot of difference countries with difference philosophies and languages) The same applies to the Middle East.

    It seems that many US citizens only see the world in relation to the US, instead of as sovereign powers in their own right, albeit smaller and less powerful. This was certainly a characteristic of the Bush administrations. Many countries have had to accept US (foreign) military presence on their soil, as part of the trade off for foreign aid. We have suffered invasions or attacks on our soil by foreign armies throughout history. We are aware that wars involve more than the death of soldiers. 9/11 was the first experience in hundreds of years for the US of being attacked on its soil, as a result of its foreign policy. It left the world and especially America in a state of shock which some have not yet recovered from. But that is the future – distance is no longer an issue in war and America can no longer rule safely from the other side of the ocean without risking serious consequences to its own population.

    I believe that President is the first President you have had for many years who sees the United States in context of the rest of the world and is aware that other sovereign states value themselves as much as America values the United States. He has made some very courageous speeches which may have alienated him from the rising American extreme right wing, but have demonstrated a maturity and sophistication of thought to the rest of the world. He has a lot of damage to the worldwide reputation of the United States to undo, caused by the previous administrations with their “Axis of Evil” and other unacceptable conducts by their military and multinationals. One of his first speeches after winning the elections included the words “America does not Torture”. It was what the world needed to hear after the shocking revelations of torture by the american military in Iraq. He is doing something about that issue. It is a small example, but a necessary one.

    What does seem to differentiate him from previous presidents is his awareness of the effect of US actions on the rest of the world, as the most powerful economic power. He also seems to understand that the whole world is not Christian – which is its right – and that the christian philosphy is not the only one of value. Lets face it, it is unlikely that we will discover in our lifetimes the “meaning of life” and it is a question of belief systems not fact that keep us following religions.

    No, I dont believe that one man of 48 years old will be able to change the world, but it might be a good idea to give him a chance.

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  16. dirty_bird: It’s been rumored from a source or two that the reason the Garda did not want to dig too deeply into Bryan Marsden’s PIPS Ponzi was that more than a few Garda (and prominent local politicians) were caught up in the scam. I don’t know this for a fact but it’s interesting if true given the havoc PIPS caused in Kells, Ireland.

    Sorry for going a bit off-topic but I found some news on PIPS:
    http://www.vcresearch.info/open/forums.asp?TopicId=8131&ForumId=73

    Last month at their trial, Bryan and Sharon Marsden shocked everyone by pleading guilty to all charges in both trials. Sentencing is to be at a November hearing date, but have not received confirmation of the date.

    They were charged in 2005. A good summary of the PIPS saga before they were charged can be found here:
    http://www.sitnews.us/0805Viewpoints/082105_david_hanger.html
    It is well worth reading. For those new-ish to how ponzi schemes work, try to see how many similarities there are with ASD.

    There’s no date on this open letter, but it demonstrates some of the local feelings in Kells. I think the letter may be from May 2009.
    http://www.meathwest.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=112:pips-collapse-not-for-political-gain&catid=1:latest-news&Itemid=50

    Even after 4 years, there are still calls for the victims to make complaints:
    http://www.joncallaghan.ie/?p=59

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  17. Thanks for sharing, Tony.

    Patrick

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  18. Thanks for those links Tony. The similarities of the PIPS and ASD development is indeed remarkable. The concept of whole small communities becoming involved is one well known in ASD. I have spoken to people in small US towns who said that “everyone at work” had joined ASD. The extent of the offline promotion sets PIPS and ASD apart from the run of the mill schemes and for that reason makes them more dangerous.

    The only light at the end of the tunnel seems to be that, since David Hanger wrote his article, we are seeing a change in the way that the authorities are dealing with the HYIP frauds. They are learning and when we see the results of the ASD prosecutions, we may find that they are changing at a healthier speed than before.

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  19. I’ll stay off topic a bit and beg Patrick’s indulgence.

    The two towns I know that were hit the hardest by PIPS were Kells, Ireland and Ketchikan, Alaska.

    WRT Kells, I had an ongoing conversation with a local who was not in the PIPS scam but he said it was tearing the town apart. He stated that the local Garda and local politicians, including the mayor, were involved. He also stated that after the collapse and arrest of the Marsdens, several people were run out of town or had to flee in fear of physical violence.

    What’s interesting to see is that what appears to be an outsiders politician says that the laws on the books are sufficient to prosecute fraud and what appears to be a local insiders wrings his hands and states that somehow Internet fraud is different. Well, much of the money changed hands locally so, even if some laws are inadequate, you’d think that converting PicPay (the PIPS “units” in the PIPS payment processor) to cash locally would still be covered by the fraud statutes.

    In Alaska, I had more than a few conversations with Dick Kauffman, the editor of SitNews and Lew(?), the past editor of the Juneau Empire. Both were very anti Ponzi but Dick had to maintain a distance in his reporting. Ketchikan is a “closed” economy meaning there are no roads in or out of town to other sizable towns or cities. Dick stated that there were some people waving PIPS checks around and buying new boats and cars while others lost their pensions. Specifically, there were several businesses where many of the employees cashed out their pensions only to lose all of it in PIPS. There were some rather hard feelings in Ketchikan at the time.

    As for Malaysia, the local rent-a-royalty was getting paid for appearances and Marsden thought he had things sowed in Malaysia. Initially, he did not take money from Malaysians but that changed later.

    People should note that Marsden had several physical businesses operating, including New Mark Business Centre and a high end Bistro in a run down section of town.

    Marsden even boasted to me on their forum the he was having dinner with the Prime Minister the next night when I backed him into a corner. That sent the faithful into a tizzy although I could never get him to post the pics. He kept deleting my accounts and I kept hassling him on the forum.

    It should also be noted that one of my online buddies had been writing to BNM, their central bank and banking regulator about PIPS for over a year before they acted. At the time BNM did step in and arrest Marsden, I know for a fact that there was “outside political pressure” placed on the Malaysians to clean up their act. Let’s just say that the Malaysians wanted to be a part of a club and the club told them they needed to show that they were serious about running an above board “offshore banking” center. The Marsdens were convenient in that regard. You will see BNM prosecuting the Marsdens for several offshore violations but you won’t see BNM dig too deeply about who was paid off.

    RIP Dick Kauffman, he was a fine man!!!

    Tony H: Sorry for going a bit off-topic but I found some news on PIPS:

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