The Nobel Peace Prize: Hilarious

Last week, when the Norwegians awarded the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union, I think more than a few people were waiting for somebody to grab the microphone and say “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night.”  Strangely enough, nobody did, the Norwegians carried on (with a straight face) and everybody, outside of a couple of thousand apparatchiks in Brussels, went “WTF?”  Of all the odd Nobel Peace Prizes ever awarded (and there’ve been a few) this certainly isn’t the oddest (more about that later) but one does begin to wonder who thinks this stuff up in the first place.  Do they ask for suggestions?  Take a vote?  Hold a lottery?  My guess is a bunch of ex-politicos get together, toss back a few Hansas, then, as the evening wears on … well, you know the rest.  Regardless, the EU is now officially a Nobel Laureate!  This entitles them to a diploma and a monetary prize of about ten million Swedish Kroner (Interestingly, neither Norway nor Sweden actual uses the Euro.)  I’m sure the Greeks could use the extra cash, though, even if they do have to pay exchange.

This isn’t the first LMAO moment for the Nobel Committee; their history is full of them.

In 1911, the prize was awarded to Alfred Fried, the founder of the German Peace Movement.  The idea obviously didn’t catch on, because three years later, German Pickelhaubes were lunging over their borders at anybody who looked at them cross-eyed, and half the world went to war.  Fried went to Switzerland (perhaps for the skiing.)  When World War I was over, Nobel got busy again, and in 1919, awarded the Peace Prize to Woodrow Wilson for his work on the League of Nations.  The best that can be said about Wilson and his “Fourteen Points” is God only had ten.  Meanwhile, the League was such a winner that Wilson couldn’t even convince his own country to join it.  Ten years later, in 1929, the Prize was given to Frank Kellogg (no relation to the Corn Flakes guy) who, with Aristide Briand, produced the Kellogg Briand Pact which outlawed war.  Unfortunately, no one bothered to tell the fascists this, and they spent the better part of the next decade killing people.  Finally, a couple of guys (Chamberlain and Daladier) said enough is enough and started shooting back.  For the next six years, the entire world set about slaughtering each other as if they were born to it.  The bloodbath ended only when President Truman (who never got a Peace Prize, BTW) scared the bejesus out of everybody with the world’s first atomic bomb.

For the next twenty years, the Nobel Committee didn’t have that much to do.  Most of the awards were no brainers: Marshall, Pearson and the Red Cross, etc. etc.  It wasn’t until the highly politicized Vietnam War came along that Nobel went back into full idiot mode.  In 1973, they awarded the Peace Prize to Henry the K (Kissinger) and Le Duc Tho, his Vietnamese counterpart.  There are people walking around today who still think Henry should be tried for war crimes, and given the Vietnamese penchant for murder, mayhem and torture, the only nice thing people have ever said about Le Duc Tho is he had the good grace to refuse the award.

In 1994, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin shared the Peace Prize with Yasser Arafat.  Two ex-military Israelis and the grandfather of international terrorism!  I’m sure Mars and all his minions closed up shop and retired.

From there, is just got nutsy.

In 2001, it was Kofi Annan to the podium.  This is the guy who handled the UN peace keeping forces in Rwanda in 1994 — not that there were any.  He was instrumental in the debacle that George Clooney had to clean up in Darfur.  He was running the show while the North Koreans were developing nuclear weapons and may or may not have been up to his elbows in the Oil-for-Food scandal.  Not only that, but many people believe he single-handedly ruined the United Nations for all future generations.

The next year, 2002, the Nobel Committee decided it was Jimmy Carter’s turn to get a basketful of Kroner.  If you recall, it was Jimmy who screwed up the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran so badly that relations between Iran and the West have been in the toilet ever since.  In fact, the results of Jimmy’s utter incompetence turned Iran into the maverick state we’re faced with today and have put the entire world at risk of war for thirty years.

However, it’s recent history that says it all.

In 2007, the Nobel Peace Prize Committee telephoned Al Gore and said, “Come on down!”  Al, the king of global warming, flew in with one of the biggest entourages in Nobel history, including his own motorcade.  Meanwhile, celebrities of every stripe were also flying in from all over the planet to attend the After-Award parties that guzzled and gossiped into the night.  It was the inauguration ball that Al never had.  Enough jet fuel was expended in one week to power Las Vegas on the 3rd of August.  Then, as the limos idled outside, Al told the assembled few that if ordinary people didn’t quit using up the planet’s resources, we were all going to be up to our elbows in poached polar bears.  After that, they all climbed into their jets and went home, happy in the thought that the planet was a better place for their having been there.

However, for downright slap-you-in-the-face audacity, nothing beats Barack Obama’s getting the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009.  There isn’t a single reason why he should have been chosen.  His contribution to the world up to that point was nothing short of nothing.  He hadn’t done a damn thing for peace except talk about it.  College sophomores do that every day.  Who did the Committee reject?  A bunch of crack addicts?  At the time, Barack said he was surprised; he should have been embarrassed.  However, he stood up there, like Al and Jimmy and Kofi before him and got his diploma — just like everybody else.

However, as I mentioned, even Obama’s peace prize isn’t the oddest one.  The oddest Nobel Peace Prize ever was the one the Nobel Committee never awarded.  For some unknown reason, the Nobel Prize for Peace was never given to Mohandas K. Gandhi.

The Euro Crisis and the Golden Rule

I’m amazed at how long it has taken our European friends to realize what reality looks like.  It’s as if they got into the Christmas cheer back in 1989 and never got out.  If you recall, that was the year the two different Germanys danced on the wall and all was well with the world.  At that time, the idea was that without a bothersome Iron Curtain messing things up, Europeans could finally learn to live with each other and become the superpower they were always meant to be.  This has been Europe’s elusive dream ever since Hadrian ruled all the good bits of the continent at the high-water mark of the Roman Empire.  The cunning plan was to slowly integrate everything from the North Sea to the Mediterranean and create an economic powerhouse that would fear nothing in its path.  What a difference a generation makes!  These days, the Germans aren’t dancing anymore — and neither is anybody else.  The grandiose schemes of 1989 got waylaid — for good and sufficient reason.  Europe is now on the brink of a catastrophe that would make the fall of the Roman Empire look like a minor inconvenience.  So, after only twenty years to think about it Europeans are suddenly looking around for — as Monty Python once said to an astounded television audience — “Something completely different!”

Even as you read this, Merkel and Sarkozy are discussing (plotting is such a hard word) ways to take over Europe.  In the 3,000 years of recorded European history, there has never been such a reluctant power grab.  Neither one of them wants this (although Sarkozy has that suspect Napoleon thing going on) but at the end of the day, they have no choice.  They have to do it.  It’s either that or there isn’t going to be a Europe to take over.  Time is running out, so whatever they do had better be big and bold and work right out of the box.

You need to understand something about the European situation before you can understand what Merkel and Sarkozy are up against, however.  There’s a difference between the European Union and the Euro zone.  Not all countries in the European Union use the Euro.  Great Britain, Denmark and Sweden among others, still use their own pounds, krone or what have you.  Therefore, their stake in the game is quite different.  Even though their national currency is not going to be at the epicentre of the financial earthquake, the non-euro EU members are obviously going to take a serious kicking if the Greeks, Italians and Spanish hit the fan.  Plus, they’re probably going to be on the hook for any attempted bailout.  You don’t have to be a Euro sceptic to see more liabilities than benefits.  If things in Europe aren’t fixed pretty quickly, there’s a real danger that a lot of people will be wondering just how much this Euro experiment is actually worth and they might even start looking around for the exits.   Merkel and Sarkozy already know that it’s not just the Euro that’s at stake here but the future of the European Union itself.

Merkel and Sarkozy need to forget about integrated economies, long term solutions, ECB realignment, blah, blah, blah, and restore some confidence in the Euro – today.  The Euro is an unusual currency.  Like the magician’s assistant in the levitation trick, there’s nothing holding it up.  Whole books have been written on what the Euro is and isn’t, but they all boil down to the same thing – faith.  The Euro is based on the simple idea that 400 million Europeans are willing and able to pay.  That’s it.  The Euro is in such dire straits right now because nobody believes that anymore.  The big money boys are looking at the balance sheets and thinking they’re about to get left holding the bag — and it’s going to be full of useless paper.  Therefore, like Sunday morning evangelists, Merkel and Sarkozy need to convince them that as long as they keep the faith, they’re not going to go to hell.

The only way they can do that is quit applying billion dollar band-aids and lay down a heavy duty set of rules.  As of this morning, the nations of the Euro zone need to start taking their fiscal marching orders from the bureaucrats in Berlin.  It’s the only way the banks are ever going to refinance the ridiculous mortgage the Europeans have saddled themselves with.  If Germany and her little sister, France, are willing to co-sign an unlimited line of credit to the southern half of the continent — and put up their taxpayers as collateral — they need to have a serious repayment plan.  Otherwise, they are just going to be sucked into the bottomless financial pit the Europeans have been digging down south.  This isn’t about national sovereignty or petty politics; it’s cold, hard economics.  Anything less and the crisis just deepens and threatens the European Union itself.

Merkel and Sarkozy have got to get tough and invoke the Golden Rule: We make the gold; We make the rules.

Summer: A Time to Wonder Why

Sometimes, reading the news is not the best way to start your day.  I’m not going to recap the body count of disasters pending on our planet, but there seem to be a couple of bucketsful.  So much for the dog days of summer!  Remember when summer was a time when nothing much happened?  When the whole country painted itself into a Norman Rockwell corner and spent the next couple of months lying around, waiting for the colours to dry?  Summer was a time when the beer was cold, young girls were beautiful, old men sat in the park and hot dogs were haute cuisine.  A person could grab a book (that didn’t plug in) and read it or just sit on the grass and contemplate the wisdom of the world.  I’m not lamenting the passing of a former age.  I understand that Rockwell made up those Saturday Evening Post covers, Dennis the Menace was a brat and Father didn’t always know best.  But, however false it might have been, there was a certain security in summer.  It was warm and sleepy.  And there was a vague idea that the bad guys were taking their kids to the beach or something and wouldn’t be plotting our destruction again until after Labour Day.  We had time and leisure to stop and be serious, ask ourselves those insolvable questions or just wonder why.  Nobody ever wonders why anymore.  We all seem to take what we’re given and tough it out.

There’s a famine in the Horn of Africa.  People are starving to death where they stand.  At last count over 10 million folks in Somalia were on the endangered peoples list, and it’s only going to get worse.  It’s common knowledge that Somalia is a basket case country.  Nobody’s in charge, nobody knows what’s going on and nobody cares who does what to whom.  By all accounts, even the Mad Hatter’s is looking around and texting WTF.  But do you ever wonder why we can’t feed these people?  I don’t mean just today or for a while; I mean in the long term.  Why, with all the resources at our disposal we can’t face this human crisis and get things straightened out once and for all? I don’t mean to be flippant, but famines in Africa seem to be one ongoing event.  In my lifetime, millions have died, billions have been spent trying to save them, and nothing ever changes.  We can theorize and chatter all we want about neo-colonialism, addressing the root causes of poverty and blah, blah, blah.  But the reality is we’re doing something wrong.  Do you ever wonder why we keep doing it?

The bottom half of Europe is about to go under.  Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain are financially fast tracking themselves into Debtor’s Prison.  They’ve borrowed and spent more money than they can possibly pay back in ten generations.  Panic is no longer optional.  Currently, the best financial minds in Europe are wearing out calculators, trying to figure a way out of this economic crisis– and they aren’t having much luck.  But they better hurry because if things get any worse, it could possibly destroy the Euro and even the EU itself.  Do you ever wonder why responsible governments get themselves into these financial problems?  It’s obvious to everybody else on this planet that you can’t spend more money than you make.  Why hasn’t it occurred to any politicians?  Aside from times of war or natural disaster, governments should never be in debt.  I’m not saying governments should make a profit but they might try managing their citizens’ money a little better.  National pride alone should kick in somewhere.  It always amazes me that people who manage their own money responsibly allow their governments to act like drunken sailors.  (No offence to the nautical among you.)  And this has been going on since Nebuchadnezzar II borrowed millions to build The Hanging Gardens for no apparent reason — other than prestige.  But do you ever wonder why?

Finally, Rupert Murdoch was summoned to answer a few questions in front of members of the British Parliament.  This is the final act in a scandal that’s probably been going on for over a decade.  Murdoch is certain he’s ashamed of his organization, but he’s just as certain he’s not responsible for it.  To be fair, he probably isn’t.  I don’t think he has the technical knowledge to hack a phone.  And I doubt very much that the old boy stood in a shadowy alley and handed an envelope full of money over to Constable X for the police records.  However, the last time I looked hacking private telephones and bribing policemen were crimes.  Somebody is responsible for them, and the money had to come from somewhere.  It’s pretty cut and dried.  Unfortunately, in this case, although everybody admits villainy was involved, nobody admits to being a villain.  Don’t you wonder why somebody from Parliament didn’t just ask Murdoch who did it?  It’s a simple question: “If you didn’t do it, who did?  Where did the orders come from, and who carried them out?”  There are no complications here.  The guy was sitting there for a couple of hours.  He had time to get a pie in the face.  Yet nobody bothered to ask him who actually committed the crimes his company is accused of.  This is unbelievable!  Nobody has that much influence.

Tomorrow, I’m going to take my electronic newspaper out on the deck.  I’m going to sit in the morning sun — with my coffee — and wonder why.  Why with all our technology, knowledge and problem-solving ability, we can’t figure out how to feed people, manage our finances or convict criminals.  I’m going remember lazy summers, long gone, and try to figure out if I have any answers.  Maybe the folks who run the world should give that a try, as well.