Sanity Injection

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

Archive for August 4th, 2008

Whither goest thou, Barack?

Posted by sanityinjection on August 4, 2008

I’m trying to understand this one. Senator Obama recently announced his new energy plan. While it is no suprise that the plan includes more support for hybrid cars and renewable energy initiatives, what *is* new is that it also calls for tapping the nation’s strategic oil reserve and recommends being open to the possibility of offshore drilling if it can be done in an environmentally responsbile way. These are new positions for Obama, who previously opposed them:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080804/ap_on_el_pr/obama_energy

Now some will accuse Obama of flip-flopping on these issues for poitical gain. And certainly, with gas prices being what they are, it’s not hard to see how these changes could help Obama with undecided voters. But I like to give people the benefit of the doubt.  I think it is also possible that Senator Obama is having a genuine reassessment of these policies based on the reality of the current situation. He’s been accused of a lot of things, but being stupid is not one of them. He knows that if he becomes President he is going to be the one taking the hits if the economy doesn’t improve, and it’s smart to leave his options open a little bit. 

Others will accuse Obama of being a hypocrite for departing from liberal orthodoxy on the energy question. A good liberal after all, views oil (and all fossil fuels) as the spawn of Satan and would be happy to see gas prices go even higher in order to force the unwashed masses to start bicycling to work. But I do not see it as hypocrisy to acknowledge the undeniable need of the US economy for oil in the short term, while continuing to push for changes that will move us away from fossil fuels toward more sustainable, renewable, and clean energy sources in the long term. In fact, it’s the height of common sense. Furthermore, Obama’s announcement probably helped to drive the price of oil even lower in trading today, which means gas prices should continue to fall, for which we can all be thankful.

Here’s the part I can’t seem to figure out, though: At the very same time that Senator Obama is embracing the need for oil, he’s running a campaign ad accusing McCain of being a stooge for the oil companies. Reuters, in an astonishing display of attention to objective facts, points out that while McCain has certainly received more money from Big Oil than Obama, he voted against a 2005 bill that gave the oil companies billions in tax breaks. Obama voted *for* that bill:

http://www.reuters.com/article/politicsNews/idUSN0230158220080804?feedType=RSS&feedName=politicsNews&rpc=22&sp=true

Meanwhile, McCain has his own ad which compares Obama, probably unfairly, to celebutarts Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. I guess the lesson here is that even the most principled of candidates (and I count McCain and Obama among that group) are not immune from the temptation to go negative when the stakes are the highest office in the land. And that’s disappointing. (The only silver lining is that Paris Hilton’s mother Kathy, who is my personal #1 suspect as the Anti-Christ, was ticked off by the McCain ad.)

Turning to pick on the GOP for a moment on oil, the House GOP members are currently staging a “talk-in” on the drilling issue. They want Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to call the House back into special session during its summer recess to vote on the drilling issue, so they are continuing to give speeches on the House floor to an amused press contingent even while the House is not actually in session. Good for them – this is not only a valid form of protest but an intelligent one.

However, the GOP congressmen are also threatening not to vote for the budget resolution in September if it contains an extension of the offshore drilling ban, effectively shutting down the federal government by denying it the funds it needs to operate. This I think is excessive. Republicans have already blocked action on some other bills in protest that they have not been allowed a stand-alone vote on the drilling issue. That is protest enough. It’s one thing to force a shutdown when the economy is healthy (as the GOP did in 1995 and was roundly criticized for so doing.) But when the economy is shaky, shutting down the federal government wipes out one of the economy’s biggest demand generators – the purchasing power of all the government agencies as well as their employees who will not be getting paid. That’s tantamount to economic hara-kiri, and you don’t have to be an unreconstructed Keynesian to understand that it’s a bad idea:

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/aug/04/lift-drilling-ban-or-risk-shutdown-gop-warns/

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Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Helping to understand why peace in the Middle East is so elusive

Posted by sanityinjection on August 4, 2008

Reuters reports that about 181 members of an influential Palestinian family in the Gaza Strip fled to *Israel*, of all places, in fear for their lives. Why? After all, for the majority of Palestinians, Israel is the enemy, a foreign occupier on their soil. Were these people traitors to the Palestinian cause?

Hardly. The family in question, the Hilles clan, belongs to a Palestinian faction called Fatah, associated with the late Yasir Arafat and the current Palestinian “government” in the West Bank. Gaza, however, has been taken over by a rival faction called Hamas. Both factions want Israel out of the West Bank. Fatah,  a secular group, has, on the surface, accepted the principle of peaceful negotiations, while Hamas, an Islamic group, believes in armed struggle to drive all the Jews into the sea and reclaim all of Israel for the Palestinians. Despite these differences, both groups are essentially on the same side and both view Israel as the enemy.

And yet, the two groups hate each other so much that they continue to fight violently with each other in Gaza. Even the common enemy isn’t enough to unify them. Thus, the Hilles fled to Israel because they knew that Hamas planned to execute them, whereas at the hands of the hated Israelis they could expect to be treated lawfully and even with some rights as refugees.

So what did the “enemy” Israelis do? They decided that the best thing to do with the Hilles would be to provide transportation for them to the West Bank, where they would be safe under the authority of the Fatah-controlled government. But Fatah initially said, “Send ’em back, we don’t want them.” According to Fatah, the Hilles, you see, had not done *enough* to fight the Hamas takeover in Gaza. (These people really can’t win.) An *Israeli* civil rights group had to intervene to keep most of them from being sent back, and the Fatah authorities finally agreed to allow the majority to come to the West Bank.

The point of all this is that there are too many Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza who are only too happy to hate and kill each other just as well as they hate and kill Israelis. Turning over the occupied territories to such as these is asking for the kind of violence and chaos we have seen in Lebanon and Iraq. When the Israelis sit down to talk peace with Palestinian “President” Abbas, they point to all this and say, “How can we possibly trust a Palestinian state to guarantee the security of Israel when you can’t even keep your own people from killing each other?”

The ultimate losers, of course, are the many Palestinians who want nothing more than to live, work, and raise their children in peace.

Full story: http://abcnews.go.com/print?id=5507812

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

Time for Hillary supporters to face the music

Posted by sanityinjection on August 4, 2008

Politico.com reports that even at this late date, some of Senator Hillary Clinton’s most ardent supporters are still pushing to have her put on the Democratic ticket as Senator Barack Obama’s running mate.

This is an excellent example of what happens when some people are so passionate about their cause that they start to deny reality. Most of the ordinary Americans who supported Hillary have come to understand that Obama is not going to put her on the ticket. They may not be happy about that, but they realize it is so. While Senator Clinton has many good qualities and obvious popular support among many Democrats, the simple fact is that she is a polarizing figure, disliked by many independent voters, and is of sufficient stature that she could draw attention away from Obama rather than toward him. No Presidential candidate would ever choose a running mate who could potentially outshine him, and political veterans know this.

The unhappy warriors of NOW (National Organization for Women) and NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League), though, are not so burdened by a connection to the real world. Geraldine Ferraro thinks Hillary is entitled to the VP spot simply for finishing a close second, which would be news to Ted Kennedy (Kennedy nearly knocked off sitting President Jimmy Carter in the 1980 Democratic primary, but was not offered the VP spot.)  She goes on to suggest that if Obama were to pick some other qualified woman, such as Governor Janet Napolitano of Arizona or Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, that it would “annoy women”. Really, Gerry? So you’re saying being female isn’t the most important criteria for our elected officials, after all? But wasn’t that why you supported Hillary in the first place? I’m confused!

Pamela Sumners, a state NARAL director, says not picking Hillary would be like “Moses gets all the way to the mountain and doesn’t get to the promised land — and I think there would be people really angry about that.”  (In addition to the wonderful irony of an abortion-rights activist quoting the Bible, Sumners apparently forgot that in the Old Testament, Moses was not allowed by God to enter the promised land as punishment for his sins. Do you think Sumners really wants us speculating on what sins the election gods might be punishing Hillary for? I don’t either.)

This from Marcia Pappas, a state NOW director: “I would be very concerned about his judgment if he offered the position to another woman before offering it to Hillary Clinton, or any person…The women who have been elected to office in this time in history are the beneficiaries of the women’s movement. And it’s disheartening to see those same women turn their backs on another woman who is better qualified, and one can only wonder what they are getting out of their decision to turn their back.”

So in other words, a female politican who didn’t support Hillary, or who is so presumptuous as to accept the VP nomination if offered to her, is not only an ingrate but must have been *bribed*? Yikes.

The article correctly notes that the Ferraros, Pappases and Sumnerses of the world are not going to be switching their support to McCain in this lifetime, but suggests they may stay home and not work to elect Obama. The obvious question, of course, is: If they couldn’t put their own highly competitive candidate over the top, how much help would they be to Obama anyway? History Professor Joan Hoff has it right: “Those adamant Clinton supporters…and some of the better known feminists from the dark ages, I think they will use [Obama’s] vice presidential choice, whether a woman or a man, as an excuse not to support him.”

Bottom line: Hillary isn’t going to be on the ticket. Hillary’s supporters can swallow the bitter pill and vote for Obama, cast a protest vote for McCain, or simply stay home. But the one thing a strong, independent feminist is *never* supposed to do is WHINE. You lost, and in America, when we lose an election, we accept it, however grudgingly, and move on. That’s part of how a democracy works.

Full article is here: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0808/12262.html

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »