Sunday, October 11, 2009

Today's Double Feature: A Peace Of Their Minds

Professor Juan Cole does not suffer fools gladly. He is most exacting when it comes to the Middle East. His reaction to the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the POTUS (44) is an excellent rejoinder to the knuckle-dragging, drooling Dumbos and their ilk who howl at the moon about the injustice of it all. Then, Mad Mike Moore (filmmaker and bĂȘte noire of Dumbos everywhere) offers a mea culpa after his initial kneejerk reaction to the Nobel Prize awarded to the POTUS.

[Vannevar Bush Hyperlink — Bracketed NumbersDirectory]
[1] Juan Reason After Another About The 2009 Nobel Peace Prize
[2] Mad Mike Offers His Mea Culpa

If this is (fair & balanced) good stuff, so be it.

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Obama Got The Nobel Because He's A Game Changer
By Juan Cole

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I was listening to National Public Radio on the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Barack Obama, and they brought on some nonentity from one of Rupert Murdoch's faux "magazines," who delivered himself of the remark that when he heard the news, he broke out laughing. He laughed at Obama. He is being paid by the Aussie media monopolist, the billionaire bully, to laugh at Obama.

The right in the U.S. objected to Obama getting the Peace Prize on the alleged grounds that he had not yet done anything to deserve it. But the right in the United States is to peace as velociraptors were to vegetarianism. They don't believe in the ideal for which the award stands in the first place. And they find President Obama laughable, so they can't imagine him getting any awards. They have underestimated him badly and will probably pay a price for that. They misunderstand the Nobel Peace Prize and its history, and the Rupert Murdoch right (he pays for a lot of this pollution of our airwaves) would not have agreed with any of the past awards.

Alfred Nobel outlined in his will the grounds on which the Peace Prize was to be given, saying it should go annually to the person who "shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding of peace congresses." The modern committee considers work toward the reduction of nuclear arsenals in the same light as the reduction of standing armies, hence its award to Linus Pauling.

The American right wing would not have approved of Woodrow Wilson getting the prize for helping found the League of Nations. They do not believe in international cooperation or multilateralism in the first place. They think America should cowboy it. They are the tribe of "bring'em on" and "wanted dead or alive." They are about trapping the country in quagmires so as to throw cash to their cronies in the military-industrial complex. They like wars, not peace. They don't care how many people they kill in the global south. A million Iraqis dead? They deny it or justify it or blame it on someone else. They are bottom feeders. 

They would have considered Frederic Passy, the first peace Nobelist, as a woolly-headed dreamer and laughed at a Universal Peace Conference organized just a little over a decade before the mass slaughter of World War I. They would have dismissed Jane Addams as a "socialist." And what would have provoked them to more gales of laughter than the 1935 award to the German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky. How'd that work out, they'd snicker as they elbowed each other (with any luck breaking some of each other's ribs). If there is anyone they find more laughable than Barack Obama, it is Jimmy Carter (the greatest ex-president in American history), the 2002 awardee. Mohammad Elbaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency repeatedly got in the way of the American right's war plans, so presumably they didn't rejoice at his 2005 prize. They don't believe in climate change or global warming and want us to switch to the dirtiest coal possible, so Al Gore's 2007 prize set them giggling, as well.

Matt Corley explained at the time how Murdochians insisted that Al Gore had no accomplishments worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize and that it should have gone to General Petraeus instead. I admire both men, but by the criteria outlined in Nobel's will, it was Gore who had a claim on the prize.

Barack Obama was given the prize because he is a game changer. Obama has dedicated himself to reducing and ultimately scrapping the nuclear arsenals that threaten the world with nuclear winter or a destruction of the ozone layer; either event would be catastrophic for human beings' existence on the planet. Obama has already made a substantial change in relations between the U.S. and the Muslim world. Two years ago we were talking about whether Cheney could convince Americans to go to war on Iran. Now Washington is engaging in direct talks with Tehran that have easied tensions.

Whether she or he actually achieves peace or not is unpredictable, but game changers are clearly visible to everyone. The handshake between Rabin and Arafat in the early 1990s was potentially a game changer, and the Oslo deal would have profoundly enhanced world peace if it had worked (it might even have averted 9/11 and the subsequent wars). Al Gore's campaign for the environment was a game changer. Shirine Ebadi's dedication to a rule of law in Iran is a game changer, and she gives hope to many otherwise cynical youth and women.

For those who are giggling and demanding concrete improvements, it is worth noting that most of the recipients have been idealists rather than practical persons. Obama is both, and therefore he has a real shot at vindicating the social worth of his policies in the future. Right-wing policies were tried for eight years and they failed. Miserably. Ω

[Juan R. I. Cole is Professor of Modern Middle East and South Asian History in the History Department of the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. Cole has written extensively about modern Islamic movements in Egypt, the Persian Gulf, and South Asia. Cole received a B.A. in History and Literature of Religions from Northwestern University; an M.A. in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies from the American University in Cairo; and a Ph.D. from UCLA in Islamic Studies. Cole blogs at Informed Comment. ]

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Get Off Obama's Back...
Second Thoughts From Michael Moore

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Saturday, October 10th, 2009


Last night my wife asked me if I thought I was a little too hard on Obama in my letter yesterday congratulating him on his Nobel Prize. "No, I don't think so," I replied. I thought it was important to remind him he's now conducting the two wars he's inherited. "Yeah," she said, "but to tell him, 'Now earn it!'? Give the guy a break — this is a great day for him and for all of us."

I went back and re-read what I had written. And I listened for far too long yesterday to the right wing hate machine who did what they could to crap all over Barack's big day. Did I — and others on the left — do the same?

We are weary, weary of war. The trillions that will have gone to these two wars have helped to bankrupt us as a nation — financially and morally. To think of all the good we could have done with all that money! Two months of the War in Iraq would pay for all the wells that need to be dug in the Third World for drinking water! Obama is moving too slow for most of us — but he needs to know we are with him and we stand beside him as he attempts to turn eight years of sheer madness around. Who could do that in nine months? Superman? Thor? Mitch McConnell?

Instead of waiting to see what the president is going to do, we all need to be pro-active and push the agenda that we want to see enacted. What keeps us from forming the same local groups we put together to get out the vote last November? C'mon! We're the majority now — the majority by a significant margin! We call the shots — and we need to tell this wimpy Congress to get busy and do what we say — or else.

All I ask of those who voted for Obama is to not pile on him too quickly. Yes, make your voice heard (his phone number is 202-456-1414). But don't abandon the best hope we've had in our lifetime for change. And for God's sake, don't head to bummerville if he says or does something we don't like. Do you ever see Republicans behave that way? I mean, the Right had 20 years of Republican presidents and they still couldn't get prayer in the public schools, or outlaw abortion, or initiate a flat tax or put our Social Security into the stock market. They did a lot of damage, no doubt about that, but on the key issues that the Christian Right fought for, they came up nearly empty handed. No wonder they've been driven crazy lately. They'll never have it as good again as they've had it since Reagan took office.

But — do you ever see them looking all gloomy and defeated? No! They keep on fighting! Every day. Our side? At the first sign of wavering, we just pack up our toys and go home.

So, at least for this weekend, let us celebrate what people elsewhere are celebrating — that America now has a sane and smart man in the White House, a man who truly wants a world at peace for his two daughters.

Many, for the past couple days (yes, myself included), have grumbled, "What has he done to earn this prize?" How 'bout this:

The simple fact that he was elected was reason enough for him to be the recipient of this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

Because on that day the murderous actions of the Bush/Cheney years were totally and thoroughly rebuked. One man — a man who opposed the War in Iraq from the beginning — offered to end the insanity. The world has stood by in utter horror for the past eight years as they watched the descendants of Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson light the fuse of our own self-destruction. We flipped off the nations on this planet by abandoning Kyoto and then proceeded to melt eight more years worth of the polar ice caps. We invaded two nations that didn't attack us, failed to find the real terrorists and, in effect, ignited our own wave of terror. People all over the world wondered if we had gone mad.

And if all that wasn't enough, the outgoing Joker presided over the worst global financial collapse since the Great Depression.

So, yeah, at precisely 11:00pm ET on November 4, 2008, Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. And the 66 million people who voted for him won it, too. By the time he took the stage at midnight ET in the Grant Park Historic Hippie Battlefield in downtown Chicago, billions of people around the globe were already breathing a huge sigh of relief. It was as if, in that instant, one man did bring the promise of peace to the world — and most were ready to go wherever he wanted to go to achieve that end. Never before had the election of one man made every other nation feel like they had won, too. When you've got billions of people ready, willing and able to join a cause like this, well, a prize in Oslo is the least that you deserve.

One other thought. The Peace Prize historically has been given to those who have worked to throw off the yoke of racial discrimination and segregation (Martin Luther King, Jr., Desmond Tutu). I think the Nobel committee, in awarding Obama the prize, was also rewarding the fact that something profound had happened in a nation that was founded on racial genocide, built on racist slavery, and held back for a hundred-plus years by vestiges of hateful bigotry (which can still be found on display at teabagger rallies and daily talk radio). The fact that this one man could cause this seismic historical event to occur — and to do so with such grace and humility, never succumbing to the bait, but still not backing down (yes, he asked to be sworn in as "Barack Hussein Obama"!) — is more than reason enough he should be in Oslo to meet the King on December 10. Maybe he could take us along with him. 'Cause I also suspect the Nobel committee was tipping its hat to all of us — we, the American people, had conquered some of our racism and did the truly unexpected. After seeing searing images of our black fellow citizens left to drown in New Orleans — and poor whites seeing their own treated no better than the black man they had been raised to hate — we had all seen enough. It was time for change.

Thank you, Barack Obama, for giving us the opportunity to redeem ourselves. Now for the tasks ahead. We need you to do all that you promised to do. We need it. The world needs it.

My prediction for the future? You become the first *two-time* winner of the Nobel Peace Prize! Yeah!

Fred (that's Norwegian for "Peace"),
Michael Moore Ω

[Michael Moore was born in Flint, MI and graduated from suburban Davison High School in the Class of 1972. That year, at age 18, Moore was elected to the Davison school board. He dropped out of the University of Michigan-Flint (where he wrote for the student newspaper The Michigan Times) and founded an alternative weekly magazine The Flint Voice, which soon changed its name to The Michigan Voice as it expanded to cover the entire state. In 1986, Moore left Michigan for California to assume the editorship of Mother Jones. He lasted at the magazine for 4 months and was fired because Moore wanted to cover the GM plant closings in Flint, MI. Moore filed suit for wrongful dismissal and Mother Jones settled out of court. Moore used the settlement as seed-money for his first film, "Roger & Me" (1989). (Roger was Roger B. Smith, former CEO and president of General Motors.) Moore followed "Roger & Me" with a PBS documentary, "Pets Or Meat," (1992) and a satirical film, "Canadian Bacon" (1995). He found his voice in "Bowling For Columbine" (2002), a documentary about the gun culture and violence in the United States. Moore followed this film with "Fahrenheit 9/11" (2004) about the Bush Administration and the links between the Bush family and the bin Laden family. The film was the highest grossing documentary in film history. In 2007, Michael Moore's film about the U.S. health care industry, "Sicko," became the third highest grossing documentary film of all time. And in late September 2009, Moore released "Capitalism: A Love Story," looking at the financial crisis that began in 2007. Since 1990, Moore has been married to producer Kathleen Glynn and they live in Traverse City, MI.]

Copyright © 2009 Michael Moore

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Copyright © 2009 Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves

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