Sanity Injection

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

Archive for August 22nd, 2008

Irony lost on Indonesia’s Muslims

Posted by sanityinjection on August 22, 2008

ABC News reports that students at a Christian theological seminary in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, have been forced off their campus by violence and threats from the Muslim-majority neighborhood.

This story is disturbing on many levels. Violence between Christians and Muslims in Indonesia is not new, but the government seems increasingly unwilling to protect the rights of minorities. One would generally expect the capital city to be the most cosmopolitan, liberal, and tolerant. It’s the face that the country shows to the outside world. If this is how things are in Jakarta, you can pretty much assume that religious freedom has ceased to exist in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation and once considered an example of moderate Islam.

What is ironic about this? Consider the following: The Christian seminary is a wholly peaceful institution, which has never troubled anybody, and  whose students, faculty, and administration are all native Indonesians. They are being forced off their property, while numerous Islamic madrassas, which are founded with foreign (Saudi) money, whose faculty are mostly Arab foreigners, which preach hatred and violence, and which have been directly tied to terrorist attacks in Indonesia in which innocent civilians were killed, are allowed to flourish. Now, as a Muslim Indonesian, which insititution would you feel poses a greater danger to you?

Of course, there is always more to the story. Reading on, we discover that the trouble started after the school refused to sell their land to property speculators. It seems clear that the “religious” strife was whipped up by those seeking to profit from the school’s departure. That has disturbing echoes of the orchestration of violence and expulsions of Jews in Nazi Germany by neighbors who coveted their property and possessions. Indeed, it was a particular genius of the Nazis to popularize anti-Semitism by marrying it with a profit motive; those who profited from the plight of the Jews would have neither the motivation nor the credibility to oppose the Nazis in future.

As someone recently wrote, “I hope they end up with the country they deserve.”


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

The truth about voter turnout

Posted by sanityinjection on August 22, 2008

It has been a truism so far in the media coverage of the Presidential race that a big part of Obama’s strategy is the assumption that Obama’s unique qualities will drive up voter turnout among populations that have been underrepresented in previous elections, and that these groups (especially African-Americans) will make the difference in the election.

Jay Cost addresses this in the context of analyzing what Obama needs to do in order to win the state of Virginia, a traditionally Republican state with a large chunk of African-American voters and a demographic trend that favors the Democrats. Cost points out that any surge in black turnout for Obama may be offset by backers of Hillary Clinton who switch to McCain:

“Every previous non-voter who votes Democrat this cycle nets Obama one vote, but every typical Democrat who backs McCain nets the Republican two votes.”

For political junkies, Cost’s full analysis of Virginia is here:

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

I love Peggy Noonan.

Posted by sanityinjection on August 22, 2008

I really do. Whether you agree with her views or not, she is the woman who made Ronald Reagan the enduring figure he is today by writing the unforgettable speeches he delivered so well, drawing praise even from his most bitter foes. Her years of experience at the heart of American politics, and her delightful ability to turn a phrase make her column at both a joy and a privilege to read.

Her latest is no exception. She argues that as voters are starting to pay more attention to the Presidential race, the gap in the polls is closing because people see Obama as different from them and have difficulty identifying with him. She suggests that McCain has an opportunity to become the front-runner if he can seize the moment at the GOP convention, and makes the case for taking a one-term pledge as the step that could propel him over the top.

I really wanted to excerpt some of Noonan’s great quips for you, but there are so many that you really must just read the column. Don’t worry, it’s not that long:

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Another stain on the tarnished Olympic reputation

Posted by sanityinjection on August 22, 2008

Yahoo! Sports’ Dan Wetzel exposes the farcical IOC “investigation” of the allegations that medal-winning Chinese gymnasts had their birthdates altered by Chinese authorities to make them eligible:

I would have more respect for the IOC if they came right out and said that they will accept anything the Chinese government says at face value and never investigate any allegations of cheating. But to hold an “investigation” and then deliberately turn a blind eye to evidence is a travesty.

It is worth pointing out that little gymnast He Kexin and her teammates are not to blame in this scandal. They do what they are told, and in a totalitarian state there could be consequences for their families if they don’t. The age limits set by the FIG are designed to protect young gymnasts such as He from being exploited at the risk of the proper health and development of their bodies. Sadly, that is exactly what Chinese authorities, following in the footsteps of the doping East Germans decades ago, have done to these girls.  Once again, the totalitarian state sacrifices the health and welfare of individuals for the good of the State. But their talents and skills have been demonstrated beyond question, regardless of who wears a medal. It is unfortunate that the Chinese athletes’ accomplishments will forever be tainted with the unresolved allegations of cheating. It is for their physical well-being and for their honor, not for the other nations’ athletes, that a full and fair investigation should be held.

Posted in Current Events, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Another nail in the coffin for embryonic stem cells?

Posted by sanityinjection on August 22, 2008

A few years ago there was a period of intense political debate in the US over the issue of embryonic stem cell research. The issue pitted those who felt that the use of stem cells from embryos was justified because of the massive potential for medical breakthroughs it promised, against those who felt that the use of any part of a human embryo for scientific research was unethical. President Bush famously issued an order limiting federal research funding only to pre-existing embryonic stem cell lines.

As the debate continued into the 2004 elections, a handful of scientists began to point out that adult stem cells offered many of the same possibilities for reserach without the ethical issues. The main body of the research community criticized this view, saying that adult cells would never be as flexible and as useful as embryonic ones. However, research on adult skin cells in 2007 showed that they could be transformed into stem cells.

Now word comes from Japan that researchers have succeeded in generating embryonic-type stem cells from cells found in the removed wisdom teeth of a 10-year old girl. Furthermore, the teeth had been extracted three years ago and frozen, indicating the ability to stockpile a source of stem cells over time.

I can’t imagine too many people having an ethical objection to the use of discarded wisdom teeth for medical research. After a few years, when the technology has been perfected, this should obviate the need for any more use of embryos in stem cell research. Sadly, however, a lot of money has been earmarked for embryonic research, and therefore there are still many in the medical/scientific community with a vested financial interest in insisting that embryonic research remains necessary and preferable. (These are the same folks who told you that embryonic stem cells could some day cure Alzheimer’s, when in fact the nature of that disease makes it far less promising a target for stem cell therapies than other diseases.)

I don’t think you have to be pro-life or believe that life begins at conception to recognize the legitimate ethical concerns surrounding embryonic research. It is too easy to imagine disadvantaged women being financially pressured to provide embryos. Hopefully, this latest development will mean that the door to that ugly world can be forever closed.

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