597 – Chorka • 06

597 - POW time.

Yesterday (12.14.09) saw one Matthew Spaulding, a constitutional scholar with the Heritage Foundation, release a paper opining that Barack Obama may be in breach of the Constitution of the United States for accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. I have read Mr. Spaulding’s paper, and I find him to be full of fail.

There is a quick answer to this, but I’m going to take the long way around because it’s more amusing. If you want to skip over and drop straight to the real reason this yahoo is talking out his ass, jump to the Super Secret Extra Happy Point at the end.

So, because I think it’s funny, I present to you Kevin of HOLE, webcomic artist and purveyor of boobie jokes, vs. Matthew Spaulding of the Heritage Foundation, political consultant, Washington think-tanker, constitutional scholar and director of the B. Kenneth Simon Center for American Studies.

Point 1: Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution

“No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office or Trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign state.”

The issue given here by Mr. Spaulding is whether or not the Nobel Peace Prize is an Emolument, and if Obama should have gotten Congress’ stamp of approval before accepting it. It’s a very good question that raises a lot of eyebrows… unless you own a friggin’ dictionary.

Merriam-Webster: Emolument – the returns arising from office or employment usually in the form of compensation or perquisites.

Allow me to point out the salient words here. Office, and employment. The Nobel Peace Prize is what? Let’s think… could we have a clue? Is it… a prize? If I go to my local gaming convention and win an award for Best D&D Based Webcomic Who’s Author is Actually Here, does that represent an office, a title of nobility, or did I just go to work for the mother and brother-in-law of the guy who is in charge of the con because that’s who he asked to choose the winner? The answer is no, because it’s a stupid prize, you dork. It’s not a title, it’s not an office, and it’s not employment. It’s a prize. (Hint: it’s in the name.) Point 1 goes to Kevin.

Point 2: “The award is the property of the United States and Obama has 60 days to turn it over to the authorities for proper disposal.”

Well… it depends. Originally in the U.S. it was illegal for presidents to accept gifts (or presents) of any kind. Very quickly however, they realized that this course of action would result in continuously insulting flocks of foreign leaders. (Which is apparently what Mr. Spauding is after.) The law was changed to allow presidents to keep anything they got if they received congressional approval. Later the law was changed again to allow automatic approval for items with a material value of less than $335. Now the Nobel Peace Prize consists of 3 parts, a 1.4 million dollar cash award, an honorary diploma, and a medal. Obama has announced his intention to give the money to charity, and the diploma with his name on it has no material value whatsoever. That leaves the medal, which might be gold… I’m not really sure. If it is, then Congress might send it to some kind of presidential museum or something, if they’re feeling like dicks.

Now all of this assumes that a prize is to be considered under the same rules as gifts, which it may or may not be. I tend to think it should be, since prizes could be used to the same effect as gifts if you thought you could sway someone’s opinion in that manner. Point 2 (probably) to Spaulding, event though he thinks it’s an emolument, and not a present — because he’s stupid.

Point 3: “The Commission, the group that gives out the Nobel Prize, is actually appointed by the Parliament of Norway, which is to say that it’s connected with a foreign state.”

Sort of. The Nobel Foundation hands out 6 awards each year, every one of them awarded by a different committee, and every one of those committees is chosen in a different fashion and by different people. (Should I be surprised that Spaulding doesn’t seem to know this?) The only one awarded by a committee chosen by any government agency is the Nobel Peace Prize, (there is no generic “Nobel Prize”) which is the one Obama won. I’d give this point to Spaulding except he uses it merely as a support for his previous contention, that the prize should be considered a gift and subject to congressional approval — which I already gave him. Point 3 is void. (If you’ve noticed that Spaulding has shifted gears here and is now contending that the prize is a gift and not an emolument… yeah, I saw it too.)

Point 4: Spaulding has stated that the Nobel Peace Prize committee chose a president who hadn’t yet accomplished anything of note as a way to influence him in the future when he does get around to doing something.

The easiest way to see if this is true is to look at why the committee said they gave it to him, and then look at whether or not Obama actually did any of the things they supposedly gave it to him for.

  1. “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples…” While it would be easy to say that this is simply an award for not being George W. Bush, it goes a little deeper. Bush was a train wreck on the international stage, and his belligerent attitudes were responsible for the escalation of tensions, terrorist recruitments, and the condemnation of our country throughout the Middle East, as well as continually insulting, belittling, and acting disrespectfully towards our European allies. By announcing that we will meet and open diplomatic channels with everyone, (to the extent that it’s possible) the United States has set an entirely new stage for the nations of the world to come to the table and mend their rifts.
  2. Nuclear Arms Control: For years a fact of life in the world, arms control was abandoned by the Bush administration in their desire to field a tactical nuclear arsenal and to build a missile shield that would both block incoming missiles, and violate the terms of all of our previous treaties, thus giving other signatories free rein to violate them as well. Obama has returned nuclear arms control to the forefront of his administration, correctly seeing this as one of the most important safety considerations to this country, or any other.
  3. The accomplishment-less president: Obama has accomplished more than any other first year president in the past fifty years, and is on track to exceed even that. (Here is a partial listing of his successes so far.) Half of his accomplishments are fairly liberal, which liberals overlook because of the things he hasn’t done yet, and the other half are all fairly conservative, which conservatives ignore because they don’t want to be seen supporting a Democrat. But if you put it all together, it’s an impressive list.

Final point and match to Kevin, who is both smarter and much better looking than Mr. Spaulding. (While I’ve never met him, based on the fact that he delivers half-baked nonsense from a position whereby he ought to know better, I am pretty sure he’s a douche.)

Super Secret Extra Happy Point: The simplest argument here that Mr. Fancy-Pants constitutional scholar completely blows over is this — Spaulding says that Obama is in breach by accepting the award. Yet the purpose of the law is to allow presidents to accept ALL gifts so as not to offend anyone. If the gift is over $335 it is now the responsibility of Congress to decide if he should keep it. Obama has so far done exactly what he was supposed to have done, and our dear Mr. Spaulding should return his head to the bucket where it belongs.

The end.

56 Responses to 597 – Chorka • 06

  1. Wasn’t that too easy (like beating up on a quadriplegic) or were you just doing it as public service?

    • A friend of ours linked the original article on her Facebook page, and when Lena tried to suggest some of it may not have been correct, she deleted Lena’s comments.

      I figured I’d like to throw my two cents in where EVERYBODY could have a say.

      • It’s a noble goal to try and bridge the partisan divide and try to make the point that ad hominem attacks are sad at the best of times and ridiculous when they’re as incompetent as the one you’re pointing at here. If I made a sounding board like this I’d probably try to do something similar with your success here as an inspiration.
        What I was getting at though is that you’re smart enough and good enough to take on Ben Bernanke being Time’s man of the year as a hero instead of for the crook he really is and the incompetent he’s pretending to be.

        • Hm. I only just found out about Bernanke’s being chosen as Man of the Year, and haven’t yet had the opportunity to judge it one way or the other yet. As of right now I’m taking it at face value, though I’d be happy to research it further.

          • Arguably Alan Greenspan is even more responsible for the the financial crisis America is in right now, but Bernanke is at least a close runner up for a lot of reasons. Amongst them is his strong resistance to the regulation of derivatives and the fact that he did not lobby for the reinstitution of the old Glass-Steagall walls preventing financial institutions from growing “too big to fail” that were undone by the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act. Less controversially or deniably the interest rate policies he and Greenspan pursued fed easy money into the derivatives market and the property bubble, which collapsed when minor market corrections popped the balloon of overinflated prices in both.
            Since the banks started failing he has very stubbornly resisted nationalizing failed banks–unlike just about every other central banker in the world–and instead has been throwing “bailout” money around like mad in a parody of government responsibility to correct market failures and penalize the irresponsible. These policies are why many bank executives have giant bonuses instead of pinkslips this year as well as a large number of them last year and a surprising number the year before as well. The fact that a bunch of these banking executives whose bonuses he’s rescued don’t even work for American banks is just a footnote in the record of his apparent incompetence.

          • I guarantee he’s not incompetent. (Though that may only leave evil… or possibly blinded by a misguided fiscal philosophy. Like I said I’d have to do the research myself.)

          • Well, I don’t think he’s a total idiot so much as that he was educated in and has been following a theory of economic thought that pretends that unfettered capitalism doesn’t have drawbacks and failures in need of imposed correction from the rule of law. I am interpreting ideologically-founded incompetence as still being incompetence though, and that’s why I say he’s pretending to be an incompetent and actually is a crook.
            Having read some of what he’s written and watched some video of him under questioning I’d say he’s at least reasonably intelligent and possibly quite highly so. It troubles me that either he isn’t quite smart enough to see out of the Friedmanite doctrine or that he is smart enough but lacks the moral courage and integrity to act on that understanding.

    • Are you a fellow /. reader or just someone who thought I was making fun of the host?
      If it’s the latter my apologies: My work lately has sucked and mostly been dealing with executives that wanted me to fire half their IT departments for them. Y’know, just the half that’s not working or doing useless things. Because obviously it’s the people on the bottom that are getting paid too much.
      The ignorance of this has been grating on my nerves.

  2. Hey Americans, your president seems way better than our Prime Minister, so you FINALLY have something to brag about in traditional dick-waving USA vs Canada arguments.

  3. You sir, have made my day. I wish I wasn’t in debt up to my hind quarter or I’d send you a little gift for that 😀

    • LOL, thanks! But the kind comment is a HUGE gift to me!

      (Edit) But if you ever get out of debt, I’m also in the market for a PS3! 😉

  4. There’s another question regarding Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize win: Did he actually do anything to deserve it? Or did they just wait for either him or Hilary to just win the elections?
    Couldn’t they wait a few years for him to actually achieve anything?

    Couldn’t he have graciously declined the prize, “humblly” telling them something along the lines of “Wait until I at least finish to move my stuff into the White House”? Or, I don’t know, “Until I have a few years in office and have achieve something”?

    Then again, this same Nobel “Peace” Prize has been given to terrorists(later again delegitimized and hunted down by the world), so I wouldn’t give much weight to it.

    • Point 4, #3.

      However, the Nobel Peace Prize is almost always given out in this way. They seem to look for the people they feel have the potential to do the most good in the world, and then give them the prize… in my opinion because they figure that having “Nobel Peace Prize Laureate” attached to their name will actually aid the winner in their future peace-making endeavors.

      I think it’s a fine way to hand out prizes… in countries where peace is valued instead of scoffed at anyway.

      • They already manage this stuff for live TV most of the time and in general for a good fraction of physical-media distributed video content. If you have, or know someone who has, a high-rent TV setup try looking up in the manuals about closed captioning, you might be surprised by how little of what’s on TV doesn’t have it.
        Since they can manage it with DVDs and cable TV I can’t see why not over the interwebs. Without diving into the legislation I’d guess it’s probably only the big commercial distributors and people marketing to American schools that they’re after; that should be plenty doable.

        • It isn’t that hard to require new programming the be closed-captioned. For the most part, TV networks already have their act together enough to be able to handle it. But I’ve uploaded YouTube videos before and I would have no clue how to go about closed-captioning them… and since it’s almost always done on a whim the effort might well make people consider the entire endeavor no longer worthwhile to do at all.

          I wonder if services like YouTube could add an easy-to-use interface that would let you add ccing to your movie on the spot?

          • There was a specific mention of Youtube as being exempt because it is user-driven, but the ability to put in a text track for the hearing impaired is a feature that ought to be included in consumer-level video production apps if it isn’t already.
            Maybe it is, hmm….

  5. Meh, even after reading your well thought out points, I am still unconvinced that the award wasn’t given prematurely. I do kind of feel that he is being given the prize for “not being George W. Bush” as you say in point 4.1. Simply saying that we’re going to do the opposite of the what the last guy did is easy, and rather obvious. Give it a couple of years and see if it makes a long-term difference, then recognize it.

    I do hope for great things from this president, especially since I went against my usual pattern of voting almost exclusively for Republicans. And breaking the color barrier on the highest office in the country is certainly award-worthy in and of itself (I hope this goes a long way towards our culture gaining greater racial equality – which, coincidentally, will probably help our international image – so maybe the Nobel Prize committee has a point after all).

    • Again, this is just the way the award is typically given out. Saying that they should give it to people who have already accomplished everything they’re going to is just saying that’s how we would do it if it were our award to give… which it ain’t. In my opinion the Web Cartoonists’ Choice Award should always go to me, and though I might criticize the voters for NOT picking me, it’s not up to me to set their guidelines for handing out awards.

      Of course people who DO accomplish great things are given the Nobel Peace Prize, you aren’t barred just because you already did something great. And the stated reason for Obama’s prize was the relief of international tensions which has been tangibly felt throughout the world. That’s real, it’s something he worked hard for, and he took a lot of flak here in the States for it. As a matter of fact, my guess is that the simple reality of being open to diplomatic overtures will do more to reduce terrorism than all the war we have made since 9/11.

  6. Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson also received the Nobel Peace Prize while in office. They appear to have been spared Mr Spaulding’s constitutional censure.

    As an aside, I wonder what Mr Spaulding’s analysis would be if a President ordered the US Arned Forces to invade a foreign (and sovereign) nation without obtaining congressional approval.

    • If I’m giving too much credit to our esteemed host then my apologies but I thought that Kevin was subtly, sneakily making the point that all Mr. Spaulding has done is to serve as a hired loudmouth: More specifically that Mr. Spaulding doesn’t give a half-cc of diarrhea about foreign policy or governance regulation in general and he’s just grasping at words he either doesn’t understand or is cynically and dishonestly manipulating to throw a personal assault at The President of the United States.

      • I was shooting more for “cynical and dishonest manipulation” than “grasping at words”. I see political hacks frequently release information I believe they know to be false, just because they know there is an undereducated segment of the population that won’t look any further. Birthers, Teabaggers, and other similar bunches of nut bags demonstrate how effective this strategy can be. Throw out any kind of inane bullshit and these flakes will hold a rally that gets covered on the 6:00 news. Instant media attention.

        • I try to live by, “Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by ignorance or stupidity,” but that philosophy does seem to hit a breaking point when dealing with propagandists.

          • They need not even be malicious. They could be doing a cynical and dishonest thing for misguided reasons, and likely that is exactly the case. I think they mostly want to see their side win more than they want to see anyone in particular lose.

  7. I agree with you Kevin about the nature of the Nobel Peace Prize. They award it to people with ongoing actions that could be seen to better the world, because it is seen as an investment and proactive action towards peaceful worldly thinking. There is no better figure-head than one that can stand before you and promote a possitive motivational reaction.

    If they awarded to people after they have achieved some worldly peaceful greatness by then they would probably be dead, and the dead don’t make very good motivational speakers, they just get burried in history books no one remembers or portrayed as flesh eating abominations… and they smell.

    • Right! What would you rather invest in? A strong person in a leadership capacity who will take their obligations as a peace-make seriously, or a long box of smelly meat?

  8. Well, it’s a shame to give it to him, especially given the few deeds he has done. No, this prize should have been given to Nicolas Sarkozy!

    Or at least, that what some of his henchmen and ministers said. Pretty ridiculous, I reckon, but it also did put shame on all of us.

    • Which Sarkosky words in particular are you thinking of, would you please give me a quote or a link?

        • I think Italy’s Mr Berlusconi is a shoo-in for that one. And rather than presenting that particular prize, I think it would be more appropriate to throw it forcefully in the recipient’s face.

          It was interesting to see what might have happened if the shoe guy had had a better aim…

  9. If I’m not mistaken, the peace prize is awarded by a comittee to those they think deserve it. You don’t walk up to them and say “I want one!” I’m sure your president didn’t ask for it. In my opinion, anyone willing to take on the job of cleaning up the train wreck that was the Bush administration deserves some kind of recognition. It took Bush and his cronies YEARS to screw over America and the rest of the world; Obama’s got his work cut out for him. He’s doing the job. He’s just starting and may not be perfect, what counts is he’s doing the job. He donates the money, gets Congressional approval for the medal, keeps the diploma. What’s Spauldings problem? Spaulding is one of those self-righteous, narrow-sighted assholes who focus on one rule that suits his agenda while totally ignoring any other rules and/or amendments. Y’know, losing sight of the spirit of the law. Kinda like the right to bear arms doesn’t mean the right to walk into a public area with a shotgun slung over your shoulder. I’m sitting up here in Canada wishing we’d had someone like Obama to vote for during our last election. All we had was a pack of idiots with all the ignorance and arrogance of the Bush administration but without the warmongering. Lucky us. 😕

    • Nice post.

      But, if you say bad things about Canada, you are taking away our American rights to say “Fuck it. I’m just going to move to Canada”. You’ll just take all the air right out of our bluff! 😉

    • It gets lost in the kerfuffle, but Obama didn’t know that he was up for the award, didn’t really want it, and didn’t think he deserved it either. Refusing it though would have been an enormous slap in the face of the international community, which would have been the opposite of Obama’s long-reaching goals. Additionally, it isn’t really up to him to decide if he’s worthy of it or not. That particular distinction belongs entirely to the committee who apparently thought he was.

    • C’mon, none of our crew are as ignorant as GWB.
      Harper for one manages the maturity, integrity, wisdom and farsightedness of someone who managed to complete a high school diploma without having to resort to the fact his daddy ran the CIA in order to graduate.
      When Layton remembers to take his medication he reaches the level of university dropout, if only that happened more than once or twice a year.
      The Liberals might actually be individually smart people, it’s just that you can’t have two of them in the same room simultaneously without at least one of them trying to backstab another.
      All in all that’s much less bad than Prez’nit Nukyaler.

        • For Harper that’s no trick, he has total power over everyone in his caucus including the ability to fire them from the Conservative party and the reputation for bullheadedness necessary to threaten with it convincingly.

      • True, but the last election up here was a circus that I never want to see again. I think my favorite idiocy was when the losing parties were going to join up with the Bloc Quebecers and form a coalition government. Good idea, that. Join up with the party whose main goal is to split up Canada. Excuse me while I go beat my head against the wall. 😐

  10. I don’t think Obama deserved it, but I see no problem with him accepting it. The “he might do something later” theory of Peace Prize giving didn’t work too well with Yassir Arafat (though I admit it was probably a bunch of goon underlings that messed THAT up, and I also note he only got half the prize).

    As for all that gift stuff, well, everyone knows he’s really a citizen of Kenya and is therefore not really the POTUS… so he can do with the gifts as he wishes. Right? (For those with weak joke detectors, that was a joke.)

  11. IDk about some of that stuff on the list of accomplishments, like the withdrawing of US troops… I heard he was sending more troops overseas (but then again, I don’t care much to watch the news)
    Also I don’t know how good of an idea the US disarming it’s nukes would be, seems like it would just be painting a big target on the country…

    • It isn’t about total disarmament, mostly it’s about responsible disposal of obsolete warheads, and establishing secure stockpiles. Putting a cap on the max number of missiles is there too, but it’s a pretty fair walk from getting rid of our nuclear weapons altogether.

    • Obama is sending more troops into Afghanistan-Pakistan which is a poor strategic move at best. Really he should be cutting his losses because he’s bogged down in a war there that can only be ended by genocide or retreat. Still, he’s promised to withdraw even more troops from Iraq than he’s sending to Afghanistan. I should remember to check up with my Middle Eastern sources if he’s actually done any troop and mission withdrawals from Iraq yet though since we all know about politicians giving empty promises.

      Kevin just explained what Obama has been doing in regards to nuclear policy, a return to the system that stopped the cold war from going nuclear and a retreat from GWB’s doctrine that America can do anything it wants whenever it wants and fuck everybody who doesn’t like it, common sense and the simple facts of geometry.
      Nuclear disarmament isn’t even on the table, but it would actually be a very good thing for America in a number of ways.

      • It’ll look a little poor on the world stage if they yank out of Afghanistan. Sadly though they don’t seemed to have defined any sort of “victory condition” (beyond kill binLabel and revenge for terrorism (and decimate the heroin trade…)) so pouring more troops in is all good for training purposes but isn’t going to solve anything.
        It’s not like they can set up a local pontiff to look after the infrastructure etc; binLabel family was their choice last time and look how well that went. Similiar with Sadman H.

        • The way I see it, and many other foreigners like me, U.S.A. has a responsibility now to make things right in Afghantistan and Iraq, because of the ruined state they are in after the war. Pulling out entirely right now will only make things worse for the people living there, who have had their infrastructure bombed out, and are dealing with rampant militant groups with no restraint against harming civilians. Obama is really doing the responsible thing, helping to stabilize the countries so they can get back to taking care of themselves.