Sanity Injection

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

Archive for June, 2008

Sleeping with the enemy?

Posted by sanityinjection on June 13, 2008

A good piece in the International Tribune on the logistics of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his almost-as-famous wife, Maria Shriver, vocally and vigorously supporting opposing candidates in the Presidential election:

http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/06/13/america/13split.php

It’s a drama that is recreated in miniature at many an American dinner table. It’s also a good reminder of something we seem to have forgotten over the past decade or so in America: It’s OK to disagree sometimes. Just because someone doesn’t share your views doesn’t make them a bad person. We ought to be able to advocate for our own point of view while still being considerate of those who don’t agree, especially when they are our friends and relatives.

Had someone suggested to me twenty years ago that I would one day recommend Schwarzenegger, the overly muscled action star, as a role model, I would have snorted with derision. But in fact, Schwarzenegger embodies a lot of examples that young people could beneficially look to, not least of which is the idea that part of being successful is the ability to change and continue to learn as we grow older. He’s come a long way, baby.

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Are we better off than we were eight years ago?

Posted by sanityinjection on June 13, 2008

Gregg Easterbrook says yes in the WSJ, and reminds Democrats (on domestic issues) and Republicans (on foreign policy) that the American sky of 2008 is not, in fact, falling. Easterbrook is a good writer, but the cartoon of the donkey with the raincloud over its head alone is worth a look:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121331500809069989.html?mod=opinion_main_commentaries

 

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Fun for political junkies

Posted by sanityinjection on June 12, 2008

The Los Angeles Times has got an interactive electoral map on their website that allows you to view how each state has voted in the past and then click on it to turn it red for McCain or blue for Obama, and see the effect on each candidate’s total number of electoral votes. Although some states with strong leanings are already done for you, you can change those too, if you want.

In addition to being a good tool to learn where the real battlegrounds of the campaign are likely to be and which states each candidate really needs to win, it’s just good geek fun:

http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-votemap,0,2338623.htmlstory 

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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 »

Missing the point of Celtics-Lakers Game 2

Posted by sanityinjection on June 9, 2008

Reading the various sports columns today analyzing the Boston Celtics’ Game 2 win over the LA Lakers in the NBA Finals, it strikes me that most of them are missing the point. So far the columns I’ve read fall into one of the following categories: 1) Paul Pierce had a great game, 2) The heartwarming story of Leon Powe, 3) Rajon Rondo had a great game, 4) The Lakers really poured it on at the end and nearly pulled off the win.

Without denying any of the above, what is missing from all this genius analysis is something that should have been obvious to anyone who actually watched the game or even listened to the TV commentators covering it. The main point of Game 2 was this: The Lakers’ total, inexplicable failure to play anything resembling defense. For most of the game, the Celtics were practically scoring at will. On drive after drive, the Lakers made no attempt to obstruct the Celtics’ shots, and when they did, it was usually with a clumsy foul. The Celtics, on the other hand, played very good defense for three quarters, then went to sleep early.

Given how close the game was at the very end, the conclusion is clear: Had the Lakers played even marginally better defense, by just attempting to contest shots, they would have won this game on the road and the series would be tied 1-1 heading back to LA. Somebody needs to point this out to Lakers’ coach Phil Jackson, who is whining that the officials wouldn’t call fouls on the Celtics. Phil, your team didn’t need to hit more foul shots to win the game (both teams scored over 100 points in the game, considered high scoring in the playoffs.) They just needed to do what high school and college teams are taught to do every day – defend the hoop. The Lakers have no one to blame for this loss except themselves – and the Celtics should consider themselves lucky to have escaped with a win.

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Did Bush really lie to the country about Iraq?

Posted by sanityinjection on June 9, 2008

Fred Hiatt, the editorial director of the Washington Post has a great piece up on this very question:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/08/AR2008060801687.html

Hiatt points out that, contrary to the popular “Bush Lied” bumper stickers, even the Democrats’ investigation showed that in virtually every area, President Bush’s statements arguing the need to go to war with Iraq were “substantiated by intelligence information”.

Now, you can legitimately argue that a lot of that intelligence turned out to be crap. You can also argue that influential individuals within the Bush Administration may have cherry-picked from the available intelligence to find what they wanted to hear. But that’s very different from stating that the President deliberately lied to Congress and the American people to trick them into approving the war with Iraq. This slander has become all too common. Kudos to the Post for once again demonstrating that it is the best major newspaper in America, because it is willing to print the truth even when it is “An Inconvenient Truth” for the paper’s general left-wing leanings.

Of course, the idea of the President lying to the country is easy to swallow given how common it’s been among Bush’s predecessors (LBJ, Nixon, Clinton.) But to those sporting “Bush Lied” bumper stickers, let’s not tarnish the current President with this label unfairly – there remain plenty of legitimate areas in which to criticize Bush and his Administration without resorting to the intellectual equivalent of “Bush Is a Doodie-Head.”

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In response to gas prices…

Posted by sanityinjection on June 9, 2008

Judging from a few hours of highway driving this weekend, I can definitely tell that in response to $4/gallon gas, some people are taking to heart the advice of drving 55mph to improve fuel efficiency. Which is all well and good. But in the name of all that is holy, WHY do these people feel the need to drive 55 in the middle lanes of a multi-lane highway? Are they trying to make some sort of statement – “Look at me, I’m saving money and saving the environment!” or just generally clueless? Do they think they are going to inspire other drivers to follow their example by clogging up the entire road?

This is not a question of right and wrong, it’s a simple question of safety. If you want to drive 55, do so in the right lane. Driving that speed in the middle lanes when everyone else around you is going at least 10 mph faster forces other drivers to either slow down unexpectedly, or pass you on the right. Both can create unsafe situations. It also creates traffic bottlenecks that inconvenience others for no valid reason.

The extra miles per gallon you are getting will probably be of little comfort if you are in a full body cast in the hospital because two people passing you at the same time on either side both tried to shift into your lane at once right in front of you. 

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