Friday, October 09, 2009

Live by the sword, as it were?

And a few other random thoughts on a frenzied Friday....

This is a very sad story with any number of overtones and subtexts. In brief: A mother, part of a rabid gun-rights family, who would frighten her neighbors by doing things like carrying her loaded (holstered) Glock to her daughter's soccer game, was killed in an apparent murder-suicide. We've been down this road before, and yes, I know there are many ways to bring about a murder-suicide, if that is your intent. It's just that a gun makes it so much easier and, once you start, irrevocable. (You can suddenly realize you've "lost it" while you're in t
he middle of strangling someone, and stop in time to avoid tragedy. But once you pull that trigger...?) Anyway, very upsetting. The story's closing image, of the family's pet mastiff being led from the house with its giant head hanging, will stay with me for a while.

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Been doing a lot of reading and writing about the criminal-justice system. Many of you read (or at least started) my too-long piece for Skeptic, and I'm now working feverishly on a related piece for Playboy. And, you know, I have to laugh about this whole notion of what ma
kes a defendant legally sane or insane. Think about it: If you're convinced that you're being followed by evil spirits who are directing your behavior, you're insane. But if you're convinced that there's an invisible man in the sky who is capable of creating new planets or even an entire solar system with a snap of his fingers, and who, upon your death, will reward or punish you depending on your degree of fidelity to his rules...you're just a good Catholic.

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Finally, I must say I am mystified by the just-announced decision to award Barack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009. Though Nobel prizes are awarded annually in a variety of disciplines, they are almost always given in recognition of a "body of work." Hey, I like Obama, I really do...but the guy's been in office for, what, eight months? That's a little bit like the Major Leagues giving a ballplayer the MVP award after 10 games. And how do we even know that all these peace initiatives cited by the Nobel committee
—like the bridge-building Obama supposedly has been doing with Muslim nationsis going to have any effect at all? Very odd.

UPDATE, mid-afternoon. Here's a column from Huff-Po that I think expresses the bewilderment most of us are feeling, in true nonpartisan fashion, re the news from Oslo. The only thing I can figure is that they gave the award as a kind of attaboy...to wit, OK, we seem to have an authentic one-worlder here, or at least the makings of one, so let's encourage him. Still, I don't think that's what the Peace Prize was meant for.

24 comments:

Tyro said...

I'm right there with you on Obama. His rhetoric is good but his accomplishments to date aren't worthy of a Nobel. Compare that to the other Nobel prizes which can arrive decades after the events recognized.

Rational Thinking said...

Very puzzling that Obama has been awarded this prize. A bit premature, I think.

Steve Salerno said...

"A bit"? They might as well award him the prize for chemistry, too, while they're at it. What's really the difference?

Chad Hogg said...

Here is the subtext that scares me in the first story (aside from the obvious): Two people died, children will have to live the rest of their lives without parents and knowing that their father was a murderer, and someone feels sad for the dog? I guess I am just not enough of an animal lover to see how that is even a drop in the bucket of tragedy here.

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I was unaware of Obama receiving the Nobel prize until I read it here. I do not think I like it either.

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You may be interested to find last week's episode of The Simpsons, in which they had some fun at the expense of The Secret and SHAM in general. It looks like you can watch in at hulu.com (Season 21, Episode 2).

Tyro said...

In fairness, the Nobel Peace Prize has been a sham for years. Kissenger was the jump-the-shark moment and has been a joke ever since.

The only bigger embarrassment is the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics.

Anonymous said...

Note the bizarre awards for the Nobel in literature and it suddenly makes a lot more sense. You'd have to wonder what Nobel himself would make of it all.

Steve Salerno said...

CH: I'm not saying that the dog was the most tragic part of it; I'm seeing the dog's melancholy as being symbolic of the "feel" of the story. But your point is taken.

Anonymous said...

President Obama has done as much for world peace as Al Gore has. And since Gore has already won, I see no damage to the Nobel Prize Committee credibility in awarding it to President Obama.

I honestly thought that Michael Jackson was going to win this year.

Anonymous said...

Boo-hoo, Obama nay-sayers. Whadidya think, Rush Limbaugh should have gotten the *peace* prize? Deal with it.

RevRon's Rants said...

Perhaps the prize was actually intended for the American people for electing a President who doesn't see war as the primary diplomatic instrument. While I certainly don't think Obama's body of work to date is deserving of a Nobel, I can understand how a European continent that has lived for 8 years under the shadow of someone whom they had no reason to trust or respect would go overboard to encourage an American leader who seems committed to maintaining a good relationship with the rest of the world, and who actually strives for peace.

Then again, maybe the committee was just bored, and wanted to see if they could make the wingnuts' collective head explode. If that's the case, I'm sure they'll be successful! :-)

Anonymous said...

I was rooting for Kim Yong-Il, but wouldn't you know Obama pipped him at the post.

Elizabeth said...

Amen, Rev.

There are many lessons for wingnuts here, one of them being that, as long as you are wisely kept away from power, you are irrelevant in the grand scheme of things (i.e., the world, which is a much, much bigger place than America); and, two, in the rest of the world, peace means trying to get along with your neighbors and talking to them, rather than pre-emptively bombing them to oblivion, which is your preferred mode of "diplomacy."

And now, for desert, let's take a look at this parade of irrelevants and their exploding heads. Ahhhh....

It's hard to choose which one is "the best," but Glenn Beck saying that tea baggers should have gotten the Nobel Peace Prize is at the top of my list. Beck, like the rest of them, is clearly confused about the meaning of the word "peace."

He is followed by the only man I know who suffers from chronic penis envy -- why, Rush Limbaugh, of course. His constant references to emasculation and neutering make one suspect that his Viagra is no longer working (if it ever did).

Anonymous said...

"I can understand how a European continent that has lived for 8 years under the shadow of someone whom they had no reason to trust or respect."

Talking about Blair, right?

Anonymous said...

Steve,

I don't think you are accurately portraying the mental incapacity defense -- based on state law of course, but for the most part it isn't based on what a person believes, but rather, in layman's terms, whether they were able to understand that what they were doing was wrong (nature and consequences of actions etc). Don't set up straw men...

Elizabeth said...

This commentary on Obama's Nobel Prize is worth reading:

Nobel Committee, Strategic As Ever, Taps Obama for Peace Prize.

Anonymous said...

'Talking about Blair, right?'

We had to suffer Bush's poodle, Blair, for rather more than eight years and now the war criminal is angling for the unelected position of president of Europe--god help us.

I think the world was rooting for Obama to win the election for the same reason that he's been awarded this prize--simply that he's not George, or any other brand of Bush.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon 10:00-- Though I concede that I was mostly being glib in setting up my analogy, and straining for a mild irony that was not meant to be subjected to a rigorous analysis, I think the point is far from a "straw man." In reality we almost have to leave the courtroom out of this discussion, because those policies are corrupt: In a major homicide case, e.g., it is almost impossible to be found insane, simply because the community "demands justice." Judges make these rulings based on political imperatives rather than psychological ones. However, let's just talk turkey: If you knew someone who was always conversing with invisible people ("praying") and openly admitted that he took his marching orders in life from that invisible entity ("following the 10 commandments"), what would you call him?

RevRon's Rants said...

As I mentioned on my Facebook page, I find it ironic that the far right, who loudly condemn Obama - not for what he does, but what he represents and *might* do - are raising hell because the Nobel committee has singled him out for praise - for what he represents and what it is hoped he will do. Perhaps the irony (not to mention the hypocrisy) eludes them...

Steve Salerno said...

Another Facebooker. Sigh.

Rev, if you tell me you do Twitter, too, I think I'll lose all hope.

RevRon's Rants said...

I did Twitter for about a week... just long enough to realize that it was - to me - nothing but a colossal waste of time & electrons.

Facebook is another matter... I've re-established contact with friends I haven't seen in 35 years, current friends who live some distance away, a long-ago and one-time love who was my primary muse for many years, and my sister, who lives a few hours away, but whom I haven't seen or talked to in years. Oh, well... 3 out of 4 positives is a pretty compelling record! :-)

LizaJane said...

Steve,

Most interesting thing is that nominations went in only weeks after the election. So Obama must have been tapped simply for what he promised. A sea change. A positive way of interacting with the rest of the world.

I think the fact that he's trying to deliver is what got him the prize. They're sending a message, clearly, to the country, not just the man (as another commenter has noted).

I'm not hysterically pro or con the decision (honestly, who has time or energy to care enough to get bent out of shape?). But I do appreciate that he represents a radical shift from the entire feel of the Bush administration: which to me felt like a "nuke-ular" tank, painted with stars and stripes, rolling over meadows of bunnies and chopping down big old hardwood trees, while built-in loud-speakers played "What a friend we have in Jesus."

In comparison, I think Obama really does want to help people -- not by saving them from science or sin, but by creating policy that is more equitable to all right now, and more far-sighted for those in the future.

I could be proved wrong. He could and up being corrupted before the term is up. But I don't think so and I really hope not. I am cautiously optimistic.

I'm also frequently disappointed in the jaded and cynical attitudes of so many of my country(wo)men -- especially the smart and the rich ones, who tend to use "liberal" as a slur.

And what's wrong with FB? It's fun. A few minutes every few days is enough. And I don't Twitter. Seems excessive.

Cosmic Connie said...

Ron's trying to get me on Facebook too, but all I can handle right now is my snarky blog and the occasional Tweet.

As for Obama's peace prize, let him have it. I do think it was mainly a symbolic gesture of hope or whatever, and I don't think anyone really takes the Nobel Peace Prize too seriously in the large scheme of things. However, I also have to side with Ron and Eliz and admit that it's amusing to see the Obama-haters' heads explode over this whole thing.

Elizabeth said...

which to me felt like a "nuke-ular" tank, painted with stars and stripes, rolling over meadows of bunnies and chopping down big old hardwood trees, while built-in loud-speakers played "What a friend we have in Jesus."

LOL! LizaJane, what a perfect visual!

BTW, among many deliciously hypocritical and insane aspects of the criticisms of Obama's Nobel coming from the far right is the inescapable impression that neocons consider themselves arbiters on the matter of peace awards.

This is deeply ironic. As if they knew what peace is, how to work for it, and could put forward a credible candidate themselves. (Dick Cheney perhaps?)

Elizabeth said...

Bad news, Steve:

Why Email No Longer Rules -- and Facebook and Twitter are the future.

Horrible, just horrible.