Sanity Injection

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

Archive for June 11th, 2008

Speaking of myths, unicorns turn out to be real

Posted by sanityinjection on June 11, 2008

Well, one of them anyway. It lives in Italy, but it’s not an albino like in the cartoons:

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=5047137

Of course, now they’re going to have to take steps to protect the thing from the attention it’s going to get. God forbid some nutcase attacks it and cuts off the horn to sell as an aphrodisiac powder.

As far as we know, Bigfoot/Sasquatch is still a hoax and the jury is still out on Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster.

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Exploding more myths of the Bush Presidency

Posted by sanityinjection on June 11, 2008

We all know that the Bush Administration has pursued a relentlessly unilateral foreign policy, refusing to consult with or engage the help of our European allies and permanently damaging US-European relations. Right?

Erm, well, perhaps not. The Wall Street Journal blows up first the “unilateralism” charge:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120666168987070241.html?mod=opinion_main_review_and_outlooks

and then the notion that our relationship with Europe is broken:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121305526251459171.html?mod=opinion_main_commentaries

My thanks to the folks over at the Flopping Aces blog (www.floppingaces.net) for bringing these articles to our collective attention.

Posted in Foreign Affairs | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

What is Smoot-Hawley and why should I care?

Posted by sanityinjection on June 11, 2008

If you follow politics and pay attention to the often dry discussions concerning economic policy, particularly issues relating to international trade, every now and then you will run across a reference to “Smoot-Hawley”.  For example, Al Gore made the reference in a debate with Ross Perot in 1993, and John McCain recently mentioned it in a Bloomberg interview. Usually, it’s mentioned by someone who supports free trade agreements such as NAFTA. But nobody takes the time to explain what that is, they just act like you should know. Of course, if you’re an economist, you should know. But the rest of us can only deduce from the way it’s mentioned that Smoot-Hawley is right up there on the good vs. evil scale with the Devil, new Coke and the movie “Ishtar”. And that it’s fun to say out loud.

So here’s a quick explanation: Smoot and Hawley were two Republican Congressmen during the Great Depression. They authored legislation, the Smoot-Hawley Act, that in 1930 dramatically raised tariffs on products from other countries, which of course led other countries to do the same to our products. This in turn caused US imports and exports to fall by half right in the wake of the stock market crash of 1929.

Economists and historians debate the extent to which Smoot-Hawley worsened the Depression. Some maintain that the debate over the legislation in 1929 helped *cause* the crash, and then its effects turned a temporary economic crisis into a long-term one. Others insist that it was only one of a number of factors. However, it is generally agreed that to one extent or another, Smoot-Hawley had a measurably negative effect on the US economy.

So if you hear or read something like “let’s not go back to the days of Smoot-Hawley”, you are being reminded that measures that restrict free trade with other countries in the name of protecting American industries and workers have an ugly track record.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

Celebrities and politics – walking a tightrope

Posted by sanityinjection on June 11, 2008

I certainly count myself among those who are irritated when Hollywood celebrities such as Barbara Streisand and George Clooney engage in self-righteous political preaching.  However, it is also true that these celebrities, like any American, have the right to support and speak out on behalf of causes that they believe in. So how does a celebrity walk the fine line between helping to raise awareness and being an annoying scold?

I offer the following keys:

1) Educate yourself. Getting educated on a particular political subject or candidate doesn’t just mean listening to someone mouth off at a party or stuffing yourself with the propaganda of one side of the argument. It means making yourself aware of the arguments and concern of the other side also (even if you ultimately choose to refute them.) Being informed helps ensure that you will be taken seriously and not viewed as a  dizzy gadfly, especially if you happen to be blonde 🙂

2) Lose the attitude. No matter how passionate you are and how righteous your cause, don’t start every comment by insulting the people who disagree with you. Probably some of those people are your fans, have paid to see and hear your stuff and deserve more of your respect than that. Talk about what is great about what you support rather than criticizing what you oppose. Or be prepared when your targets start to criticize you in return, with the potential to affect your livelihood.

3) Don’t mix business and politics. Just as employees in other industries are not supposed to engage in politics during worktime, the set of your new movie or your Grammy acceptance speech are not the appropriate time and place to air your political views. If the press are there because of something to do with your professional career, keep it professional. If, on the other hand, reporters approach you looking for gossip or personal info from a star, then it’s all right to mention what you’ve been doing to support such-and-such a cause or campaign.

As an example of how to do it the right way, I offer Scarlett Johansson. I’m not a particular fan of Ms. Johansson’s work or political beliefs, but she illustrates perfectly how to follow the above guidelines:

“Even I’m wary of celebrity endorsements,” Johansson told Politico on Friday. “I don’t want to seem like I’m holier than thou… I’m hoping to raise awareness,” she explains. “I’m not telling people who to vote for, and I don’t expect that if I did it would swing votes. At least, I hope not. What I want to do is raise awareness of Obama and his policies, and share my own story of how I became involved in his campaign. Perhaps, if they’re a fan, my story might entice them to learn or spark their interest some other way. If I can answer questions or direct people to a website where they can get more information, that’s how I can help.” 

Full article is here: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0608/10980.html

Posted in Politics | Tagged: | 1 Comment »