Is This Your Hat?
2 years ago
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has described himself as the most persecuted person "in the entire history of the world".I haven't followed Italian politics as closely as I might have, and I thought his problems mostly involved paid "escorts," models, starlets and maybe sexual harassment. My own personal bias is against involving sex in politics- both are dangerously irrational to begin with, and combining them seems likely to lead to a critical mass of stupid behavior. But apparently, there have been some pretty serious allegations of corruption and bribery, and apparently Italy has had a policy of immunity for its Prime minister (which seems to be an open invitation to corruption). However,
Mr Berlusconi also said he was "the best prime minister we can find today".
In an impassioned statement, he then mistakenly told reporters he had spent millions of euros on "judges", before correcting himself to say "lawyers".
Italy's top court lifted a law granting him immunity while in office.Ruh Roe. I need to start following Italian news more carefully. It sounds even weirder than US news.
Mr Berlusconi said he was a "dam against the Left in Italy."Ahh. Maybe not. Maybe it's just the same old, same old. Although I'll bet "the Left" in Italy is actually left, not just right lite.
But barring any late entries, Rush Limbaugh's Quote of the Day will be tough to forget. "I think that everybody is laughing. Our president is a world-wide joke," the radio host said. "Folks, do you realize something has happened here that we all agree with the Taliban and Iran about and that is he doesn't deserve the award. Now that's hilarious, that I'm on the same side of something with the Taliban, and that we all are on the same side as the Taliban."...as quoted in Washington Monthly. Golly, I seem to remember a time not all that long ago when being on the same side as the Taliban and Iran was supposed to be a bad thing. Speaking of "Golly," Dr. Zaius provided some video of Rush reacting to the news:
Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.And EB Misfit points out that the prize has, in the past, been given to strengthen a position of moral authority, rather than great accomplishments.
Aung San Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for winning an election to be prime minister of Burma and then being denied the office. The Nobel Peace Prize is often awarded to give people moral authority, not for a long record.Even given all that, I share the discomfort of many, in that it just seems too much too soon. Der Spiegel had a very good commentary piece yesterday. I would suggest that if you're fed up with this story this opinion piece is still worth the time:
Awarding him the Nobel Prize now is like giving a medal to a marathon runner who has just managed the first few kilometers. The situation in Iraq is still fragile; in Afghanistan, it has even got worse. Despite the massive efforts by the US administration, there seems little immediate prospect of reaching a compromise between the Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East. The Iranian regime is still playing its nuclear games with the West at the diplomatic level, while at home one dissident after another is put on the scaffold. A nuclear-armed Pakistan looks close to collapse, while in North Korea, Dr. Strangelove is stroking his bomb.The general theme of the above article is that the prize will be more of a burden than an honor or mark of authority. Yet I was still pleasantly surprised that some I might have expected to go all wing-nut were in fact quite gracious. For example, Elizabeth Hovde, one of OregonLive's in-house conservative commentators had this to say:
The most surprise at Oslo's decision will be felt in the US itself.
The committee clearly has -- both now and in the past -- taken a broad interpretation of Nobel's vision for the prize. Instead of going to recipients for their peace mediation efforts, the prize has been given to people for other worthy deeds, such as fighting poverty or bringing progress to environmental issues.(...)
At the same time, Obama's detractors can take comfort in the fact that Americans are really the winners in Obama's receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. Without a doubt, people around the world are, by and large, happier with America and more hopeful about its relationships with their own countries as a result of last year's presidential election. He has had a positive impact and that is good for Americans.And many more-or-less liberal writers seem more strongly convinced than I that this prize is undeserved for the time being:
And Obama opponents should give the president a break. After all, he didn't force this prize upon himself. And even if people disagree with the committee's wisdom in sending the Nobel Peace Prize his way, most would have to agree that he reacted to the surprising news in a way worthy of admiration and respect.
President Obama's only real diplomatic accomplishment so far has been to change the direction and tone of American foreign policy from unilateral bullying to multilateral listening and cooperating. That's important, to be sure, but not nearly enough. The Prize is really more of a Booby Prize for Obama's predecessor. Had the world not suffered eight years of George W. Bush, Obama would not be receiving the Prize. He's prizeworthy and praiseworthy only by comparison.The BBC seems to be saying that, in fact, simply being "not Bush" is strong enough qualification for the award.
As so often, the mystery clears up if you bother to read the text, in this case the citation. The committee praises him for intentions that were key to his whole campaign. It singles out working through the United Nations, for putting the emphasis on negotiations, international diplomacy and co-operation, for creating a new climate in international politics. In other words, because he's not President George W Bush and has steered American foreign policy, or at least its strategy if not its aims, in an opposite direction.I did find it interesting that in an online poll at The Guardian, the numbers were not supportive of Obama's win. Fair disclosure: I voted "no" to see the results, but was pretty conflicted about it.
Several prominent Nobel observers in Oslo said the Nobel committee had put the integrity of the award at stake. But Mr. Jagland seemed to savor the risk. He said no one could deny that “the international climate” had suddenly improved, and that Mr. Obama was the main reason.But of course, the meaningfulness of the Peace Prize has been questioned many times, even in my memory (think Henry Kissinger). And the right certainly condemned Jimmy Carter's win seven years ago.
From the scientific perspective, Obama has had tremendous impact (the Peace Prize singles out his “constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting”). His appointees are first-rate, and there is a feeling that we are finally starting to move in the right direction. It is hard, of course, to point to tangible scientific results that have arisen because of Obama. There simply hasn’t been time enough. But this does not negate his impact; the momentum is apparent and encouraging. It is a similar story in international diplomacy. Obama also benefits from eight preceding years of Bush. Within the scientific community, the Bush administration represented a dark age. Any subsequent reasonable policy would seem to be enlightened. Thus to have a truly exceptional policy, informed by actual science and scientists (instead of cynical political aims), has a profound effect on the state of affairs. It is a similar story in international diplomacy.(...)
In this context, giving the Peace Prize to Obama is an inspired choice. They are hoping to give him more stature and leverage to help him achieve his goals; they want to help make the world a better place. It affirms the importance of American leadership on the world stage, and endorses our President’s vision of a world at peace. All Americans, regardless of political affiliation, should celebrate this.And the State Department's take was pretty inspired:
"Certainly from our standpoint, this gives us a sense of momentum — when the United States has accolades tossed its way, rather than shoes."So in the end, I still don't really have a strong stance. I feel it's early, and that there's plenty of time for him to show the world what he's got. Though it dawned on me yesterday that the Noble is never given posthumously, and seeing the rabid right, the committee members may in fact be worried. Grim, yes, but realistic. On the other hand, what is being held up for attention is an entirely different approach to wielding American power: negotiation and discussion, cooperation and multi-lateralism rather than bluster and threats, ultimatums and exceptionalism. And while it may simply amount to being "not Bush," it's a relief to me, and apparently much of the world. Further, as pointed out by Brian in a comment to the Nobel post yesterday, this could be seen as a peace prize for the American Voter who chose not to elect "not 'not Bush'" in the form of McCain and Palin. If that's the case, let me offer my sincere congratulations to Obama, and with grace and humility, accept my tiny nubbin of credit.
That's the take of Hillary Clinton's State Department on President Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, according to her spokesman, Assistant Secretary PJ Crowley.
“The salient fact of American politics is that there are fifty to seventy million voters each of whom will volunteer to live, with his family, in a cardboard box under an overpass, and cook sparrows on an old curtain rod, if someone would only guarantee that the black, gay, Hispanic, liberal, whatever, in the next box over doesn’t even have a curtain rod, or a sparrow to put on it.”Attributed to commenter Davis X. Machina, in a post at Balloon Juice. This post is one in a growing number contributing to a wonderfully funny, snarky, and often thought-provoking political lexicon. Here's the whole list.
"We are not changing where we are," he said. "We've thought long and hard about what is important here and we are not going anywhere."Well, Mr. Donahue, I hate to break it to you, but you are going somewhere: the future. What that future looks like is in large part up to the decisions that you and billions of others make in the next few years. What is important to you is apparently an unrestrained ability to make absurd amounts of money. What is important to me and most others is to ensure the planet is still habitable by humans. But far be it from me to criticize your infatuation with little green pieces of paper.
According to an article in OregonLive,Elizabeth Gates
The Pacific Ocean off Oregon experienced low-oxygen conditions for the eighth consecutive summer, Oregon State University researchers said today, an indication that the "hypoxic" conditions that kill crabs and other creatures on the ocean floor are here to stay.This phenomenon does seem to have become a staple of late summer and early fall Oregon science news. I've always found it a little hard to believe. Our coastal waters are so cold (which means their ability to dissolve and carry gases like oxygen should be high compared to warmer water), and so rough (which means they have plenty of opportunity to contact and dissolve oxygen), that it seems oxygen depletion should be the least of our worries. I'm guessing that eutrophication at deeper levels simply overwhelms the ability of oxygen-rich surface water to mix in. Upwelling of nutrient-rich deep water is characteristic of the PNW coast, and is not a new phenomenon; the annual dead zones appear to be new. I can't help but wonder, though, if it's mostly a matter of scale and severity- a matter of degree- rather than an actually "new" phenomenon.
...Progressive Magazine wrote: “At present the United States has the unenviable distinction of being the only great industrial nation without universal health insurance."According to Nicholas Kristof in his column today, those words were written in January of 1917.
There was a lag of 19 years after the Nixon plan before another serious try, and a 16-year lag after the Clinton effort of 1993. Another 16-year delay would be accompanied by more than 700,000 unnecessary deaths. That’s more Americans than died in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq combined.Yeah, but here's the thing: wars are cool. Maybe if people exploded when they died, we'd be more worried about health care. But the bottom line is "If there's no 'splodey things, we don't care."