Sanity Injection

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

Archive for August, 2008

If you think women have it tough in the US, read this.

Posted by sanityinjection on August 29, 2008

Details are beginning to emerge telling the story of Rania, the young girl who was apprehended/rescued in Iraq after having an explosive vest strapped to her, against her will she claims:

http://abcnews.go.com/print?id=5684693

Being forced/duped into becoming a suicide bomber for Al Qaeda is bad enough. Being tricked into it by your own husband when you are a 15-year old girl is even worse. One might guess that the husband was having some regrets about what was probably an arranged marriage and saw what he must have thought was a clever way to get out of it. I’m sure no one cared if Rania was having second thoughts. Now she is in jail and there is absolutely no one in her life she can trust. How alone she must feel.

Despite the gender issues our society faces, we must never forget the far more serious threats that women in other parts of the world face. And we must never forget what “women’s rights” will amount to in any place that Islamic terrorists are allowed to triumph – nothing.

Posted in Foreign Affairs | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Barack Obama’s Big Speech

Posted by sanityinjection on August 29, 2008

Let me start off by acknowledging that I missed the beginning of the big speech. With that out of the way, I agree with the majority of the pundits who feel that Senator Obama delivered an excellent speech last night. His decision to go for a serious, determined and even indignant note, as opposed to cheerleading, I thought was a good one, and it resonated with the crowd. He took on pretty much every criticism that has been leveled at him and offered rebuttal. He lambasted his opponent’s policies without seeming to descend into nasty personal attacks (although the crack about McCain believing “middle class” means making under $5 million a year was an unfair distortion.) He came across as sincere in his desire to improve the lives of Americans and confident in his ability to do so. He is without question one of the finest orators in American politics today.

As a fine orator, though, it is hardly a surprise that he gave a great speech. He’s certainly proven his ability to do that. Whether he has proven his ability to do all the other things he promised in his speech is another story. I like to believe I am as intelligent as Barack Obama is – and I have a fair amount of experience with budgeting – but it’s hard for me to understand how Barack Obama plans to expand government programs, including universal healthcare while *reducing* premiums, and reducing taxes for 95% of “working families”. Even raising taxes on corporations and the rich won’t generate that much money. I don’t think he’s foolish enough to jack up import duties, so the most likely answer is that he’s planning to decimate the military budget, consistent with his insistence on withdrawing from Iraq ASAP. In doing so, he is counting on America not having to fight on two fronts at once, yet I think that possibility remains even when you take Iraq out of the equation.

Obama’s speech addressed the question of whether he has the character to be President. But no speech can substitute for the experience necessary to be President. My concern is that Obama’s rise to power has been so meteoric that he may never have had to deal with political adversity – may not know how to regroup if he fails, as being human he will surely fail in something during his Presidency. (I’m thinking here of Hillary Clinton, whose reaction when her 1993 universal health care plan bombed was to lash out against an evil right-wing conspiracy rather than acknowledge her own mistakes.)

At any rate, he will be a hard act to follow for McCain, who tends to perform best in informal settings where his humor and sincerity come across. McCain’s best shot may be to focus on substance rather than rhetoric – by laying out the specifics of his plans for the Presidency and not trying to match Obama’s inspirational turns of phrase.

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McCain campaign steals spotlight by being nice

Posted by sanityinjection on August 28, 2008

It’s rare that you see something new in politics, but viewers watching the Democratic convention tonight on the major cable networks will have that opportunity. The McCain campaign has decided to air a television ad before, during, and after Obama’s acceptance speech tonight. That in itself is not new – candidates are always trying to steal the spotlight from each other. But the content of the ad is surprising – McCain simply congratulates Obama on winning the nomination, and points out the symbolism that he does so on the 45th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream” speech:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080828/ap_on_el_pr/cvn_mccain_ad

Clearly, the McCain folks figure this is a way to keep McCain in voters’ minds without looking like he is trying to crash a party he’s not invited to, and hoping voters will give him points for being gracious to his opponent.  It should work, but as far as I know it’s never been tried before. Coming after last night’s speech by former President Clinton, in which he took great care to praise McCain’s character and service before denouncing his policies, are we finally starting to see the kinder, gentler, campaign that both candidates said they wanted to run?

Well, probably not. It’s too easy for criticisms of policy to slide into criticisms of judgment into criticisms of character. But at least those of us who long for a more gentlemanly brand of politics can enjoy the moment while it lasts.

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This just in: Barack Obama to be deified on Thursday

Posted by sanityinjection on August 27, 2008

Check out this photo of the stage they are building for Obama’s big acceptance on Thursday night at Invesco Field in Denver:

Obama's Temple?

Obama's Temple

 

Ummm…is this really such a good idea? Your nominee is already battling accusations that he’s an egomaniacal celebutante with a Messiah complex, and so you decide to build him his own Greek temple? What’s next, a laurel wreath for his head? How about a thunderbolt staff or a pair of winged shoes?

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory?id=5660266

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Thoughts on the Democratic convention, at the midpoint

Posted by sanityinjection on August 27, 2008

Nothing much of importance usually happens on Day 1 of a convention, and this one was no exception. The one thing that sticks out my mind was the image of Michelle Obama and her daughters on stage with their beaming father on a giant video screen behind them. Looking at this handsome, young, charismatic family, I was reminded of nothing so much as JFK, Jackie, Caroline and John-John, only recast with darker skin. If I were the Obama people, I would try to use a photo of Obama and his family together in every ad. It’s an attractive image that counteracts the usual GOP critique that the Democrats don’t support “family values”.

Day 2 was a little more interesting. Governor Schweitzer of Montana is a pudgy redneck with goofy mannerisms who surprised me by blowing the roof off the place with an old-fashioned stump speech that really fired up the crowd (which had just finished ignoring Obama’s brother-in-arms, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.) 

The TV cameras kept going to Bill Clinton and Michelle Obama for reax all night, especially during Hillary’s speech. The Hillary tribute video was well done – I especially liked that they got some real rock music in there instead of the usual insipid crap. Chelsea Clinton continues to be droolworthy, although it’s a little scary how much her voice is starting to resemble her mother’s. (Hillary has many fine qualities, but dulcet tones are not among them.) I liked watching Bill’s face and seeing what was either the greatest acting job ever or genuine love and pride for his wife.

The most enduring image from Day 2 was during Hillary’s speech when she paid tribute to two Democrats who recently passed away, Rep. Stephanie Tubbs-Jones and the chair of the Arkansas Democrats, Bill Gwatney. Jones’ son and Gwatney’s wife were sitting in the VIP box on either side of Bill Clinton. When the crowd acknowledged them, they stood up and briefly took each other’s hands in front of Clinton. That image of the white, Southern woman holding hands with the strong, well-dressed young black man, I thought encapsulated the whole idea of unity that Obama supposedly represents. Again, if I were the Dems, I’d get that shot into as many ad pieces as possible.

What we haven’t heard much of at all so far is specifics about what Obama wants to do as President. We know he’s going to calm the seas and make the lion to lay down with the lamb, but some actual policy proposals might be nice, too. I would assume we’ll be hearing more on that front in the second half of the convention.

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Are you better off than you were 8 years ago?

Posted by sanityinjection on August 27, 2008

That’s the question that always gets asked around election time. The assumption is that if voters feel they are better off (generally, but specifically in an economic sense) than they were when the incumbent took office, they will vote for the party in power. If not, they’ll vote for the other party. This conventional wisdom was firmly established in 1980 when voters punished President Carter and the Democrats for the oil shocks and general economic malaise of the late 1970s.

In 2008, the assumption is that the voters will similarly punish the Republican party for the status of the economy. But according to Investor’s Business Daily, looking strictly at incomes, Americans are in fact better off economically than they were when George Bush took office:

http://ibdeditorials.com/IBDArticles.aspx?id=304643903414901

Of course, this will not be a compelling argument to someone who has lost their job or had their home foreclosed. Yet there does seem to be a fair amount of evidence that although certain sectors of the economy are struggling, and high oil prices are a challenge for everybody, viewed as a whole things are not nearly as bad as the media would have us believe. Our current oil crisis, in real terms, pales before the oil shocks of the 70s, and our economy is far more robust than in the days of “stagflation”. We have had only one quarter of negative growth – not enough to be technically a recession.

The truth is that the President has much less of an impact, and deserves far less of the credit or blame for economic success or failure, than most people realize.

Posted in Domestic News, Politics | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Journalists: Being unbiased doesn’t have to mean being an ass.

Posted by sanityinjection on August 27, 2008

Superb column this week from Editor & Publisher’s Mark Fitzgerald castigating his fellow journalists for being too boorish to rise during the National Anthem like everybody else:

http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/columns/newspaperbeat_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003842759

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Russian arrogance apparently knows no bounds

Posted by sanityinjection on August 25, 2008

It’s bad enough that Russia invaded and continues to occupy its democratic neighbor, Georgia. Now big, tough Russia is whining because the US and other Western nations have the nerve to send warships into Black Sea with humanitarian aid for Georgia.

First the Russians complained that the US ships would “raise tensions in the area”. Funny, they didn’t seem to be concerned about whether their invasion of Georgia would raise any tensions. Now, they seem to be saying that only the Russian navy has the right to be in the Black Sea:

“The fact that there are nine Western warships in the Black Sea cannot but be a cause for concern. They include two U.S. warships, one each from Spain and Poland, and four from Turkey,” Anatoly Nogovitsyn, the deputy chief of the Russian military’s General Staff said.

Now let’s be serious, shall we? Does anyone think the poor defenseless Russians are really afraid of the Spanish, Polish, or Turkish navy? No, they are afraid of the US ships, not because they think we are going to mount a suicidal attack on Russian soil, biut because our presence will hinder them from doing whatever the hell they please in the sovereign territory of their Georgian victims.

Last time I checked, the Black Sea was an international body, which means any nation’s ships may be there. Certainly Turkey, which forms the entire southern border of the Black Sea, has as good or greater right to be there as Russia. The Black Sea is also the easiest way of reaching Georgia without going through Soviet, I mean Russian airspace. So it makes sense to send aid by water. And why warships? Because if we send civilian ships, we’d need the warships anyway to keep the Russians from deliberately sinking them.

These little statements by Russian generals are very revealing. They sincerely believe that the Black Sea should be a Russian lake and that they should get to decide who can and cannot be there. That’s an old imperial ambition from the days of the Czars that Russia never achieved, and it’s also bad news for Russia’s Black Sea neighbors including Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, and Ukraine.

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=5650621

Posted in Foreign Affairs | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Evil walks the earth, but the media doesn’t want you to know

Posted by sanityinjection on August 25, 2008

A truly horrifying event occurred in India today, but odds are you won’t hear about it on the news. Hindu religious extremists set fire to an orphanage run by Christians, killing a woman and a priest.

The mainstream media already devotes a shamefully small amount of time and space to overseas stories, unless there’s a war going on that involves white people. Additionally, religious violence is nothing new in India. Muslims and Hindus have been killing each other there on a regular basis for many years, and Hindu extremists have attacked Christians, especially foreigners, in the past – in 1999 an Australian missionary and his two sons were killed by a mob that set their car on fire.

However, if you examine this story closely, you begin to realize why this particular act is even more abominable. The story begins this past Saturday, when a Hindu religious leader and four other Indians were killed in an attack. Communist rebels are suspected.

Needless to say, the loss of a prominent Hindu religious led to a great deal of anger and grief among the poor Hindus of northeastern India. However, their response was to use the incident as an excuse to target local Christian missionaries, whom the Hindu extremists hate for trying to convert their countrymen. Never mind that nobody with half a brain suspected Christians of being involved in the Saturday attack.

So what did the extremists choose as their target? An orphanage, of all things – a place whose mission was to care for poor, parentless children, give them food, shelter, medical care, and yes, probably lessons on the Bible too. But come on, it’s an ORPHANAGE, for God’s sake. If Osama bin Laden himself opened an orphanage, it might not make me happy that he was raising little kids to be terrorists, but I wouldn’t set the place on FIRE.

Did these criminals sneak up and commit their murder in secret, like the cowardly Klansmen who blew up a black church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963? (This vile act crystallized support for civil rights in America and led directly to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 less than one year later.) No, they took a page from their mentors, the Nazis. They surrounded the orphanage and boldly told the residents (most likely native Indians) to leave the premises. They then locked the priest and the woman (who they probably thought was a nun), both presumably foreigners, inside the building and set fire to it. One wonders if they stood and watched to make sure neither of them escaped, and whether they enjoyed their victims’ screams. Thus they meted out punishment for the unconscionable crime of believing differently from the majority, and also for the crime of being white Westerners. I’m surprised they bothered to let the kids live after they’d been tainted with the beliefs of the foreign devils.

Like the Nazi atrocities of Krystallnacht in 1938, what is most horrifying about this act is that it was clearly planned in cold blood by people who did not fear the law – either because law enforcement is too weak to stop them, or worse, is passively supportive of their crime. So why wouldn’t this be significant enough to be a news story here in the US?

Answer: Because of the US news media’s intense bias against Christianity. (Disclaimer: I am not a Christian.)They never want to portray Christians or priests in a positive light or as victims, only as oppressors who abuse children. Also, in the media’s spastic love of the great rainbow of international diversity, they do not want to acknowledge that there are some (not all, not even most) brown people out there who want to kill white people (Only white people are supposed to be evil, hate-filled racists and bigots, so this doesn’t fit the script.) The only facts you must be allowed to know are those that support the worldview the media wants you to hold, because otherwise you can’t be trusted to draw the “correct” conclusions. You might make the mistake of thinking you’re pretty lucky to live in the big bad imperialist USA or one of her European running-dog lackeys, where you have the freedom to practice whatever faith you choose, and nobody’s going to set you on fire because of the color of your skin. You might make the mistake of concluding that Western society, with its respect for human and civil rights, might actually have something going for it despite its imperfections.

Nobody is going to take from this story that Indians, or Hindus, are horrible violent people. Most Indians and most Hindus surely find this as appalling as white people found the 1963 church bombing. What you should conclude, rather, is that 1) India, the world’s largest democracy, cannot or will not protect the religious freedom of its people or the lives of foreign residents, and 2) Advocating or practicing violence against others simply because they dare to hold different beliefs, or because their skin color or ethnicity is different, is a pure manifestation of evil, as evidenced by its methods. This means you, Islamic terrorists – and the media won’t like that association one bit, either. No, they want you to forget about what the funny little brown people are doing so far away and concentrate on what you are supposed to be doing, getting outraged on behalf of your neighbor whose house is being foreclosed, because he bought one much bigger and nicer than he needed by agreeing to a loan whose terms he knew he’d never be able to pay. Weep for this suburban victim, won’t you, and pay no attention to the minions of evil cackling while the flames rise higher and higher.

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=5649916

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

The Biden pick: Analysis

Posted by sanityinjection on August 25, 2008

My apologies to those of you who came here over the weekend looking for my reax to Senator Obama’s choice of Senator Joe Biden as his running mate. I wanted to take a little time to think about it and hear what the chattering classes were saying on the Sunday talk shows.

Let me summarize the pros and cons of this pick for Obama and the Democrats.

Pros:

  • Experience – Biden’s long career of public service brings a lifetime of experience to the ticket.
  • Foreign policy – Biden brings the street cred in foreign affairs that Obama lacks.
  • Stature – Biden is a fairly well-known figure, widely seen as highly intelligent and arguably capable of assuming the Presidency if necessary. However, he’s not going to outshine the nominee the way a Hillary Clinton might have.
  • Demographics – Biden is a blue-collar Catholic and one of the least affluent members of the Senate, could help with Hillary Clinton/lunchpail type voters and offset perception of Obama as elitist
  • Role player – Biden is very well equipped for the traditional “attack dog” role, as someone who has clearly relished partisan quips throughout his career.

Cons:

  • Off message – Biden is a consummate Washington insider and an old white guy joining a campaign that claims to be about revolutionary change. Also, Biden voted for the war in Iraq which Obama has consistently said should have been opposed from the start.
  • Experience – Biden’s loud and long insistence on the need to partition Iraq has called his foreign policy experience into question.  And neither Biden nor Obama has any executive experience.
  • Foot-in-mouth disease: Biden has a history of unfortunate statements, like his ethnic sterotype of convenience store owners and his faint praise of Obama as a black man who is “articulate and clean”. Arguably Biden fails the “do no harm” test.
  • No pizazz – It is hard to imagine anyone who was lukewarm about Obama before suddenly being excited about the ticket because of the addition of Biden, or any increase in voter registration or turnout. Pissed-off Hillary-loving feminists will not be charmed by Biden.
  • No coattails – Biden is from Delaware, a tiny state Obama already had locked up. The campaign is trying to present Biden as being from Pennsylvania, where he grew up, but he’s unlikely to sway many votes there.

Putting all this together, it comes out rather even. I don’t think Obama has helped himself significantly with this pick, but neither is it a disaster. The pick does fulfill the criteria Obama himself laid out for his running mate. He wanted someone who is ready and capable of being President, someone who will help him pursue a liberal reform agenda, and someone who won’t be afraid to disagree with him.

Perhaps the best aspect of this pick for Obama is the difficulties it creates for his opponent, John McCain, who now has about four days to choose his own running mate. Biden’s blue-collar background argues against picking Romney and thereby losing credibility on casting the Democrats as overprivileged elitists. However, Biden’s intelligence, experience, and aggressive politicking might also argue against picking Pawlenty, who might measure up poorly against Biden in a debate. Shockingly, conservative icon Bill Kristol is now pushing for Lieberman as the pick as a counterweight to Biden:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/25/opinion/25kristol.html?_r=1&ref=opinion&oref=slogin

Kristol makes some good points, but I don’t know that I’m convinced that McCain’s personal friendship with Lieberman is enough to outweigh all the policy areas on which Lieberman agrees more with Obama than with McCain. In other words, how does Lieberman stand up in a debate and argue against the very policies he was arguing for just 8 years ago? No, I can’t see it.

I still think former Congressman John Kasich is the ideal pick for McCain, but he doesn’t seem to be on the radar screen. McCain needs to avoid the trap of trying to pick someone with the same stature as Biden – he, McCain, has the stature all by himself. He also needs to remember that losing a vice-presidential debate is not the end of the world, as Dan Quayle proved in 1988. McCain still needs to placate the conservatives, and he should choose someone with a calm, easy demeanor to balance his own fiery temperament. Finally, by choosing a governor with executive experience, he can really score points against a ticket with two career legislators on it. So I think Pawlenty is still the pick for McCain.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »