Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Archive for June, 2008

Do the media *want* the economy to go to hell?

Posted by sanityinjection on June 30, 2008

If not, why do they keep posting inflammatory stories like CNBC’s latest news video, “Worst June Since 1930”? Yes, I’m sure there is some economic indicator that is worse than any time since June 1930, but the fact is that technically the US is not even in a recession yet, much less a depression. In fact, economists continue to express suprise that the economy has been relatively stable despite the very serious pressures on it.

Do these dimwits not understand that the economy is very susceptible to speculation? The more they sensationalize the extent of the economic problem, the worse they will make it, because people will believe they are right and act accordingly.

How about more stories like this one from Reuters posted today – “The U.S. economy continues to bump along at a slow level of growth but has probably not fallen into recession…the United States is managing to stay in the positive growth column.”

I am not for one moment suggesting that anyone engage in inaccurate reporting or trivialize the seriousness of the economic situation. It is entirely possible that we may go into recession given the inflationary pressure of oil prices. (It’s actually amazing that we haven’t seen widespread inflation yet – maybe because companies know only too well what will happen to the economy if they try to pass along all the extra costs to consumers and are doing their best to absorb the oil shocks for as long as they can. See if they ever get credit for that bit of enlightened self-interest.)

And yet, the media act as if a recession is the harbinger of Armageddon itself. We have had a few recessions in the last 60 years or so. None have done permanent damage to the economy, and after each we came back stronger than ever.

So ladies and gentlemen of the Fourth Estate, it is time to do what you hate most of all: accept some responsibility for the role you play in affecting the course of events, and stop spinning every economic indicator as if it means the sky is falling. You are not going to get any medals for being prophets if we do end up in recession, so stop trying to predict it over and over again, lest your predictions come true, and just report what is actually happening, whether good or ill.

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Posted in Domestic News | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Quote of the day

Posted by sanityinjection on June 30, 2008

In a piece on the continuing assault on freedom of speech in Canada, David Warren of the Ottawa Citizen concludes with this beauty:

“The very notion that “your freedom ends when I begin to feel offended” must be shown for what it is: totalitarian flotsam in the foetid swamp of “politically correct thought.””

To quote the “Men on Film” sketch from the 1980s TV comedy “In Living Color”: I give it a “Zorro snap” in Z formation.

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2008/06/keep_fighting.html

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Don’t be fooled by the idiotic title of this column.

Posted by sanityinjection on June 30, 2008

“Who was more important? Lincoln or Darwin?”

No doubt some moronic Newsweek editor’s attempt to hoodwink his or her more pedestrian audience members into reading what is really an essay on the comparative writing of two major historical figures by making it sound like an ESPN SportsNation poll question. (I’ll spoil it for you: Lincoln wins.)

Stupid hypothetical competitions between dead people aside, the article is full of fascinating tidbits and insights about these two men, born on the same day (February 12, 1809) who have had such a huge influence not only in their own century but in the one that followed as well. Here are just a few:

  • Providing hope for underachievers everywhere, neither man showed any signs of their future greatness as a young adult.
  • Darwin probably could not have succeeded in today’s scientific world (which ironically adulates a modified form of his theory with something like religious fervor) because his ideas were so revolutionary that they would never have attracted grant money or survived the peer review process. Fortunately, he was from a wealthy family.
  • In Lincoln’s second inaugural speech in 1865, he explains to a war-weary nation that as much as we would all like the war to end,  sometimes it is more important to pursue what is right even when that pursuit comes at great cost. (Please don’t make me explain how this is relevant to current events.)

Full article is here: http://www.newsweek.com/id/143742/page/1

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Conservativism, civil rights, and racial policy

Posted by sanityinjection on June 30, 2008

Your Sanity Injection returns from hiatus with a true gem of a column.  It can be very hard for those of us born after 1960 to understand how mainstream conservatives could have so strongly opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which nowadays is viewed by all but the most radical fringe as one of the great achievements in the history of American public policy.

The author of this brilliant piece, William Voegeli, uses the writings and thought of the late conservative icon William F. Buckley as a vehicle to examine the attitude of conservativism as a whole to civil rights and racial policy in America.  Voegeli’s criticism of the conservative movement stings  because, unlike political partisans, he takes the time to aim it precisely: Conservatives were on the wrong side of history not because their concerns about Federal power trampling states’ rights were a mask for underlying racism, as liberals then and now have accused, but because they utterly failed to offer an alternative solution that would have secured the civil rights of black Americans, and were, in the final analysis, content to do nothing about a problem that was far more important in the daily lives of millions than constitutional questions of government jurisdiction.

However, Voegeli goes on to show how this failure destroyed the credibility of conservatives on racial policy issues going forward, pointing out that conservative criticisms of forced busing and affirmative action went unheeded for this reason, to the detriment of the country as a whole.

Be forewarned, this is a long essay and clearly written for the intellectual reader. It is, however, extremely well written, strikingly insightful, and eminently worth taking the time to read. I commend it both to liberals who truly believe that conservatives are racists as well as to conservatives who cannot understand why they think so:

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2008/06/civil_rights_the_conservative.html

 

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

We’re on hiatus…

Posted by sanityinjection on June 22, 2008

Sanity Injection is on a much-needed vacation this week but will be back in July. Good chance to get caught up on anything you missed 🙂

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I can solve this international legal dispute

Posted by sanityinjection on June 19, 2008

Interesting case. Mexico is suing the US in international court to halt the execution of 5 Mexican citizens who were denied their right to speak with Mexican consular officers after being arrested:

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=5200328

There’s no dispute that Texas screwed up. President Bush tried to order Texas to fix the problem but the Supreme Court (probably correctly) ruled he had no authority to do so.  So Mexico ends up having to tick off the US, which it doesn’t want to do, to defend violent criminal scum that they probably wouldn’t have wasted any tears over if Texas had followed proper procedure before convicting them.

Of course, even if the World Court rules against the US, neither the US Government nor the World Court has any ability to force Texas to do anything in this regard.

Fortunately, I can solve this problem. If the law says that the 5 men have the right to speak with consular officials after being arrested – let them meet with the consular officials *now*. Heck, have the meeting in the White House and serve tea. Then fry the bastards as planned.

I’ll await payment of my legal consulting fee…

Posted in Foreign Affairs, Politics | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

A new twist in the debate over health and sex education

Posted by sanityinjection on June 19, 2008

Not a lot of things shock me anymore in this day and age, but I have to admit this story did. In a suburban Boston high school, over a dozen high school girls under 17 deliberately got themselves pregnant, intending to raise their children together. It is speculated that the girls felt that having a baby would give them someone who would “love them unconditionally”.

Ironically, this is the same school where two of the staff at the school health center resigned because they were not allowed to prescribe birth control pills to students without parental permission. While anyone ought to be able to understand that school personnel do not have the right to replace parents in making medical decisions for children, apparently it never occurred to these geniuses that the girls had no interest in taking them.

This strikes me as a colossal failure in health education. Clearly, these girls understood how babies are made. But apparently at no point did anyone bother to instruct them about the difficult responsibilities of parenting, especially as an unmarried teenager, and the impact that a pregnancy would have on their education and indeed, their entire lives. (And let me be clear, the instruction should have been for both genders.)

I am not against sex education or discussion of contraception in school health curriculum. But what good does it do to teach teenagers how to put on a condom if you haven’t managed to convey why teenage pregnancy is undesirable in the first place? This is a school which has gone to great lengths to help teens who become mothers to stay in school, which isn’t a bad thing. But when you have a few pregnancies every year and it becomes a normal site to see strollers in the hallways, doesn’t it start to send the message that teen motherhood is just a choice like joining the softball team or singing in the choir?

Story is here: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1815845,00.html

Posted in Domestic News | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Obama, free trade, and leadership: Who is that masked man?

Posted by sanityinjection on June 18, 2008

To those too young to get the reference, it’s what people used to ask about the Lone Ranger. Our modern day identity query concerns Barack Obama. As he continues to take the political world by storm, we want to know who he is and what he stands for.

Obama’s public statements on free trade and NAFTA in particular help us to understand him.  If you recall, Obama took a somehwat protectionist stand during the primary, criticizing NAFTA and threatening to pull out of it unless it is renegotiated. This alarmed our neighbors, Mexico and Canada, enough that Obama’s economic advisor had to go to Canada and reassure them that it was all talk. But he got caught and Obama had to disavow him, embarrassingly.

Now Obama, in a new Fortune magazine interview, is tacking back toward the free trade side of things, suggesting that he may have overdone it with the rhetoric a little on NAFTA. So what does Obama *really* think about free trade?

Having observed the man for some months now, this is what I see. Obama is a smart person. Smart enough to know how to play the political game of pandering to the people he needs to win over, but also smart enough to understand the benefits of free trade. He’s also a global thinker – he lived in Indonesia and has relatives in Kenya. He knows what international trade means for the standard of living of people in those countries.

So I do not think, in his heart, Obama is a protectionist. But his voting record in the Senate shows that he will only vote for a trade agreement if the unions don’t oppose it. It may be that he does not feel strongly enough about the issue to take a political hit over it.

And therein lies the heart of the matter and its importance to us. A great leader is someone who is willing to part company with the special interests that support him or her in order to do what he or she feels is right for the country. A perfect example from Obama’s party is Harry Truman. As President, Truman ticked off every group that supported him – the Missouri Democratic machine, the unions, Southern whites – and made decisions that he thought were in the best interests of America. As a result, he almost didn’t get elected in ’48, and couldn’t run again in ’52 because he was so deeply unpopular with voters of every political stripe. Yet some of those decisions, like de-segregating the military, turned out to be not only right, but exactly what needed to be done.

Barack Obama is still very young in political terms. Up until now, he may not have encountered many situations where his convictions require him to part company with powerful supporters (Reverend Wright does not count as “powerful”.) How he responds in such a situation will speak volumes about his character and his leadership. For now, at least to me, this is an unknown.

McCain, on the other hand, has virtually made a career out of giving the finger to his own party and the special interests that usually support Republicans, knowing it could hurt him politically, when he felt it was important to do so. But again, he’s had a longer career in public service, and by his own admission, it wasn’t until his brush with the Keating Five scandal that he really began to understand how problematic the influence of special interests can be.

If Obama turns out to be cast from the mold of Truman and McCain in this area, then America may not fare too badly over the coming years regardless of which candidate is elected President.

Preview of the Fortune interview with Obama is here: http://money.cnn.com/2008/06/18/magazines/fortune/easton_obama.fortune/index.htm?postversion=2008061810

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How the news media try to shape your perceptions, Part 1

Posted by sanityinjection on June 18, 2008

A great example of this in a column today on Bloomberg.com. The subject of the column is the many Republicans who said derogatory things about John McCain in the past but are supporting him now that he’s the nominee, and now that his poll ratings are significantly better than Republicans generally.

Let me be clear: I am not alleging that there is anything incorrect or non-factual in this column. At first glance, it appears to be a perfectly good piece of political journalism. So where does the bias come in?

It’s in the way the subject is framed. Ask yourself this question: Has anything similar ever happend with a Democratic candidate?

Of course the answer is yes – many times. It’s happening right now as Hillary Clinton’s supporters go from criticizing Obama to campaigning for him. It’s a standard part of the process of unifying behind a party’s nominee. You may not love the person, but you sure prefer them to the candidate of the other party, so you bury your differences and find nice things to say about your new candidate.

However, the article, by focusing solely on McCain and Republicans, creates the impression that this is a newsworthy, and presumably unusual phenomenon. Without ever having to say so, the article leaves you with the impression that Republicans, and only Republicans, are two-faced liars who will say anything in order to win. (And maybe some of them are, but so are some Democrats.) By framing the focus of the article so as to prevent the reader from making a natural comparison, the authors shape the reader’s perception in such a way that the reader may never realize he or she is being deliberately manipulated. And the journalists can still hide behind the facade of “objectivity” since they never said anything that wasn’t true or stated any biased opinions.

This, my friends, is how they get you. By trying to limit the set of information you receive and use to make your judgments.

Judge for yourself if I’m off base on this one. The article is here: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=avgwOsPaqVk8&refer=home

Posted in Politics | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Thanks for nothing, Al…

Posted by sanityinjection on June 16, 2008

Al Gore formally endorsed Barack Obama for President today. Surprising nobody.

Regardless of your opinion of Gore and/or Obama, this endorsement would only have meant something if it had been given earlier or not given at all. Gore’s endorsement would have meant a lot to Hillary or Obama in the thick of their primary fight – had he timed it right, he could have been seen as the kingmaker. But he didn’t want to burn any bridges, probably thinking he may yet run again if McCain wins and is a one-termer.  So he waits until it’s all over. Thanks, Al.

As for the general election, does anyone seriously believe there is anyone out there who can be swayed by Al Gore’s endorsement that wasn’t already going to vote Democrat in this election anyway? Way to go, Al.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »