Sunday, October 11, 2009
Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize -- What More Do You Need to Know to Understand Today's World?
Commentary below by the always insightful Prof. Barry Rubin from Israel. I would add that I personally am mostly amused by the award. The "Peace" prizes have long been an expression of Leftist politics. They are awarded by a committee of Norwegian politicians. The Nobel prizes in science are awarded by a committee of Swedish academics. The Norwegian prizes just feed off the good name of the Nobel science prizes. There is a list here of some of those who were more deserving this year. Also see here. Possibly the most deserving person ever of getting a prize for his contributions to peace was Mahatma Gandhi. But despite often being nominated, he never got one. The Norwegian politicians had other priorities. The irreverent Bob McCarty is wondering when Obama will be made Miss America. We can't be sexist about these things, can we? -- JR
The news that President Barack Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize seems like a prize bit of satire, like Chicago getting the Olympics. “Are you laughing or crying,” wrote a reader to me. “Neither. I’m thinking about what this tells us about the world today,” I responded. Then I checked over and over and over again on the Internet and called up several people just to make sure that this wasn’t a satire, that some new type of computer virus hadn’t infiltrated my software that would make fools of anyone credulous enough to believe this hoax.
And then I realized that it makes perfect sense. It was considered a big joke when people quoted Woody Allen, the American comedian and film director, as saying, that showing up is eighty percent of success. (Allen says he doesn’t remember ever having said that.) With Obama the percentage is considerably higher.
But after all the mocking or cheering, what this shows is that we live in the world now not of realism but of imagination and wishful thinking. The Nobel Committee even said that they gave the prize not because he has done anything but that they support him. They want him to do something.
In the past, the ancestors of Westerners had to work hard, mostly live in grinding poverty, face wars and famines. Remember the proletariat? Remember the slums? But now they —or at least not only the elites who govern but also the masses of the upper middle class that make and shape the news— are living off the fat of the land. In America, even slum-dwellers usually have cars, hi-tech music devices, and expensive sports’ shoes among the young.
Is it an accident that according to the UN Human Development Index, Norway, once the home of starving farmers and fishermen, is number one in the whole world in terms of living standards. While the Norwegians did some of it themselves, a lot comes from the exploitation of oilfields off their coasts, unearned wealth.
And the left, no longer is champion of the actual poor and downtrodden, they just talk about it a lot. In good Marxian fashion they pursue their own interests: bigger government and grant programs to give them jobs and to provide for their needs; the feeling of being a good and moral person even when those they are supporting are terrorists.
To a large extent, too, those who govern—as in the times of aristocratic rule—don’t actually produce anything, or at least not anything but words, concepts, proposals, programs, and statements. The old American slang for this is that they’ve never met a payroll. Some of them have, but the money came from either government or foundations. They know about selling an idea but not manufacturing three-dimensional objects.
Meanwhile, the resource base of society is narrowing, at least in Europe, and societies are living beyond their means. Crime is rising; terrorism and mass violence is peeking out. Proportionately large sections of proportionately large immigrant populations may not want to integrate. But to adjust to these facts makes the voters unhappy and so everyone pretends otherwise. Don’t worry, be happy is a theme which wins a lot of backing.
In all of this context, feeling good is more important than doing good. Doing good may involve doing gritty things, like building factories to employ people at higher wages (uh, oh, environment, man-made global warming, nasty developers demonized in films) or to work real hard in school or start a small business and slave away at it (what are you, Asian?)
Films, music, and other forms of entertainment—the main shapers of popular ideas—portray constantly young people who have lots of money but have never worked for it. Instant success, instant fame, instant wealth. And so what better symbol for this is Barack Obama, the man who has never achieved anything except being elected president. (His earlier posts were mainly the gifts of the most corrupt political machine in America.) He talks; everyone cheers and goes home.
Listen to the words of the Nobel Committee statement: “Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future."
Really? But I would say all American presidents capture the world’s attention. As for giving people hope for a better future, which people? Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Hugo Chavez? Are peasants in their fields in China and India saying to their children: “Look little [insert appropriate name] Barack Obama will save us!”
It is one thing to believe in a messianic figure but doesn’t he have to do something first?
It’s more like electing someone the world’s most popular parent because he let the kids stay up all night, not do their homework, throw parties, and consume large amounts of alcohol and drugs.
And this one: "His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population."
The most obvious point is that whether he shares the values and attitudes of Americans, the country he leads, is of minor importance. But exactly what are these values and attitudes? Oh, I have it, that the United States has long been the world’s greatest villain.
And best of all, the head of the Nobel Committee stated that the prize was given, “because we would like to support what he is trying to achieve"
It’s sort of like giving the Nobel Prize for chemistry to a scientist who hasn’t discovered anything but seems like a nice person and is, after all, trying to cure cancer. So we support what he is “trying to achieve.”
But what if he is trying to achieve it badly, What if he is trying to achieve it in a way such that he is destined to fail and make things worse? By this standard British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain deserved the Nobel Peace Prize of 1938 for his efforts to achieve peace? That’s why Nobel Prizes—and sometimes presidencies—are given to people who have already done something. They have proven an ability to do so.
President Theodore Roosevelt, a man who, in comparison, makes Obama look like a microbe, received the prize for negotiating peace in the Russo-Japanese war. In comparison, Obama has helped set back the Israel-Palestinian conflict 20 years (to be fair, 18, that is before the Oslo agreement).
But yes that’s the measure of the world today: If you envision something that makes it true. If you tell a smug elite what it wants to hear, not only do they applaud but they report in all their media that everyone applauded.
The biggest problem with all this is the following: The fate of the world may depend on whether Barack Obama is capable of learning. Yet if Obama keeps getting rewarded for doing nothing or doing the wrong thing he won’t learn. And things will get worse.
Yet we live in the real world ultimately, not the world of public relations and wishful thinking. There are prices to be paid. Impractical idealists can get people killed and make big messes as much as cynics. Let me amend that: far more than cynics.
What sums up this situation best is a line from Tom Lehrer, the math professor who once wrote successful liberal satirical songs but then stopped and never did again. Asked why, he responded: When Henry Kissinger got the Nobel Peace Prize it killed satire. Poor satire is really in trouble now.
Cloistered Media Libs Don't Get It
CNN "senior political analyst" Gloria Borger doesn't get it. Like so many cloistered mainstream media liberals, she just can't imagine why anyone would oppose Barack Obama's agenda. To her, it's all politics.
Where was Borger when Democrats, purely for partisan purposes, pummeled President George W. Bush for eight years? But let's stay focused on the present, because Republican opposition isn't about paybacks or getting even.
Borger argues that "Republicans don't really want to work with Obama" because they stand to regain congressional control simply by opposing his agenda without offering any ideas of their own. Their opposition couldn't possibly be grounded in principle because, to narrow-minded liberals such as Borger, the only legitimate ideas are liberal ones.
"In my next life," she writes, "I'd like to be an opposition party leader. What fun to go to work every day knowing you will always be right, largely because your ideas will remain untested. ... If we were in charge, you sing, the people would have tax cuts! More money in their pockets! And no deficits! But more jobs!"
Sorry, Gloria, but our ideas have been tested -- since the beginning of this republic -- and the record is pretty solid, though you might not view America's history with similar pride, given the left's revisionist mindset about America's mythical "imperialism" and capitalistic "exploitation."
As a matter of fact, reductions in marginal income tax rates have consistently stimulated economic growth without exacerbating our deficits, whose growth during the Reagan and Bush years (relatively modest, in retrospect) was attributable to unchecked government spending.
I understand that most liberals have decreed a consensus on catastrophic man-made global warming and barred further public debate despite global cooling for the past decade. But what's truly empirically indisputable is that the Kennedy, Reagan and Bush tax cuts all generated robust economic growth and yielded increases in government revenues. That may seem counterintuitive to you, but what seems counterintuitive to us are liberal plans to deliberately smother the engine of capitalism in order to imperceptibly reduce disputed global warming while other nations are prepared to "stoke their own furnaces" and offset anything we do anyway. Also counterintuitive (and nonsensical) is Obama's plan to dismantle our nukes while terrorist regimes are nuking up.
Conservative foreign policy ideas have passed the test, too. Try Ronald Reagan's "peace through strength" Cold War victory over the Soviet Union. Consider George W. Bush's phenomenally effective post-9/11 national security policies, which prevented any further attacks on American soil. How, by the way, is Obama's appeasement approach to turn us into a beloved nation by, say, our allies in France and Israel working for you? Poland? Tibet? How do you reconcile his affinity for tyrants -- such as Ortega, Chavez and Zelaya -- and his hostility toward democratic regimes in Israel and Honduras?
But if you want to talk "tested," Gloria, let's look at Obama's major domestic ideas. We have the sweep of world history as evidence that his socialistic agenda will destroy our prosperity and our liberties.
You must be impervious to socialized medicine's record of perfect failure everywhere it's been tried, including here (in part), and unwilling to take Obama at his (previous) word that his goal is indeed a single-payer system. You must also be blind to the wholesale fraud in his tested and failed Keynesian backloaded "stimulus" bills.
But how do you defend his populist campaign promises to restore transparency to government and not increase taxes on 95 percent of the American people? His cynical dismissal of claims that Obamacare could cover illegal immigrants and federally fund abortions?
The Heritage Foundation reports that Obama's no-taxes pledges for families making $250,000 a year or less "lasted exactly 15 days," as he signed a bill hiking tobacco taxes 156 percent. The House passed a trillion-dollar energy tax, and Obama is prepared to impose punitive taxes on employers and individuals who don't procure health insurance. House leaders are also threatening a national value-added tax. Of course, the dirty little secret is that with all of Obama's budget-busting programs, he'll have to pass enormous taxes on everyone just to pay the increased interest on the national debt.
Meanwhile Heritage reports that Sen. Max Baucus' health care bill would still leave 25 million Americans without insurance (kind of defeats the stated purpose, no?) and would dramatically increase the government's role in health care by expanding Medicaid. Predictably, Democrats also just rejected a Republican amendment to require any health care bill to be published online before the Senate Finance Committee votes, with nary a protest from Mr. Transparency, President Obama. Obama has also been silent in the face of congressional Democrats blocking proposed amendments to bar federal funding for abortion.
Though Gloria Borger apparently can't grasp this, conservative opposition is grounded in principle and "tested" ideas -- not primarily partisanship -- and a duty to save the nation from efforts to transform it beyond recognition.
Just going by averages, I know that a lot of my readers will be dog-lovers. This story is for you.
CBO math says tort reform cuts deficit: "Bolstering what's likely to be a key health care reform argument from Republicans, Congress' budget scorekeeper ruled that limiting medical malpractice lawsuits would reduce the federal deficit by $54 billion over 10 years. The Congressional Budget Office - in an analysis that projects a nearly10-fold increase in savings over its findings last year - said tort reform would cut costs by limiting the use of diagnostic tests and other services health care providers and doctors use to reduce exposure to lawsuits".
Obama Policies Turn Off Independents: "Independent voters, who have held the balance of power in recent elections, appear to be shifting to the Republican side, less than a year after they put Barack Obama in the White House. In different GOP polls released over the past two weeks, independents have shown irritation at the administration's spending policies. A recent Republican National Committee poll for GOP leadership and a Resurgent Republic survey released this week find that independents are angry at Democratic leaders and are sympathetic with the tea party tax protesters".
F.H.A. looking wobbly: "A year after Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac teetered, industry executives and Washington policy makers are worrying that another government mortgage giant could be the next housing domino. Problems at the Federal Housing Administration, which guarantees mortgages with low down payments, are becoming so acute that some experts warn the agency might need a federal bailout.... some 20 percent of F.H.A. loans insured last year — and as many as 24 percent of those from 2007 — faced serious problems including foreclosure, offering a preview of a forthcoming audit of the agency’s finances.... to its critics, the F.H.A. looks like another Fannie Mae. The hearings on Thursday came on the same day that the federal agency charged with overseeing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac provided a somber assessment of those giants’ health. In the year since the government stepped in to rescue them, the companies have taken $96 billion from the Treasury, and may need more. Since the bottom fell out of the mortgage market, the F.H.A. has assumed a crucial role in the nation’s housing market. Created in 1934 to help lower-income and first-time buyers purchase homes, the agency now insures roughly 5.4 million single-family home mortgages, with a combined value of $675 billion."
USA Today circulation down 17%: "USA Today expects to report the largest decline in circulation in its 27-year history, threatening its No. 1 position among U.S. dailies as the growth of online news and the slump in travel pummel the newspaper. While most large dailies are struggling to hold on to print subscribers and newsstand sales, USA Today is being hurt by a drop in traffic at airports and hotels, the newspaper's mainstay. It also increased the price of single copies to $1 from 75 cents in December. In a memo to staff Friday, USA Today publisher David Hunke said the average circulation at the Gannett Co. newspaper was 1.88 million from April through September. That marks a loss of 398,000 copies, or 17 percent, from the same period the year before at the newspaper, which is printed on weekdays only."
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)
Posted by JR at 1:39 AM