Sanity Injection

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

Archive for January 7th, 2009

Foreign Affairs Quote of the Week

Posted by sanityinjection on January 7, 2009

South Asia watchers will recall that Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency, the local equivalent of the CIA, has often been accused of supporting the Taliban and Islamic terrorists such as those responsible for the attack in Mumbai, India.

In an interview with the German magazine Der Speigel, the chief of the ISI, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shujaa, did not mince words. Discussing the possibility of war with nuclear neighbor India, he said:

“We may be crazy in Pakistan, but not completely out of our minds. We know full well that terror is our enemy, not India.”

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Obamawatch: New efficiency watchdog post

Posted by sanityinjection on January 7, 2009

President-elect Obama has announced the appointment of Nancy Killefer as Chief Performance Officer, a new White House post created to act as a watchdog on federal spending and efficiency.

Never let it be said that our new President does not have a sense of humor. If you’re concerned about overspending, creating a new top-level administrative position isn’t the most self-evident way of reducing spending. Especially as Obama is busily crafting an economic stimulus plan that is projected to cost between $775 billion and $1.2 trillion, which he acknowledges is going to make the deficit worse. If Killefer really wants to do her job properly, her¬†first report should be one criticizing the President’s stimulus plan ūüôā Expect this position to be more style than substance. The White House Office of Management and Budget is already perfectly well suited to handle concerns about efficiency and spending – in fact, that’s exactly what it was originally intended for.

¬†I feel compelled to point out that the last President who had a “Chief Performance Officer” was Bill Clinton, although the position was a decidedly unofficial one, and it led to his impeachment.

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Obamawatch: Sanjay Gupta for Surgeon General

Posted by sanityinjection on January 7, 2009

I cannot be the first, but let me be one of those to congratulate President-Elect Obama on his nomination of Sanjay Gupta to be the country’s next Surgeon General.

The pick is being derided in some quarters of the media because of the semi-celebrity status Gupta enjoys as a CNN correspondent, Time Magazine columnist and host of his own show. The fact that he is also young and good looking doesn’t add to his gravitas. However, Gupta is also an accomplished neurosurgeon.

But the reason I am very supportive of Gupta’s candidacy is his demonstrated history of insisting on truth and accuracy even when that puts him at odds with the politically correct. For example, how many public figures have the guts to tell the truth about smoking: that like anything else, the danger to your health lies chiefly in the degree and duration to which the behavior is indulged? Gupta has. He’s also challenged the lies and distortions of demoagogues such as Michael Moore:

http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/2009/01/sanjay_gupta_obamas_politicall_1.asp

It is vital that American public policy in areas that touch on science be guided by those who are not afraid to embrace scientific fact in all cases, rather than those who would selectively pervert science as a club to be wielded in pursuit of a predetermined political agenda. In this light, Sanjay Gupta represents the best of his profession. I hope he is confirmed overwhelmingly.

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When will we have a Voting Rights Act for the military?

Posted by sanityinjection on January 7, 2009

In 1965, Congress passed the landmark Voting Rights Act, which ended various measures used in the South to prevent African-Americans from voting. The legislation is widely viewed as one of the greatest achievements in the history of the civil rights movement.

And yet today there is a group of people who are still systematically discriminated against and repeatedly prevented from voting in election after election. That group consists of the men and women of our armed forces serving overseas.

I first wrote about this back in July in response to a column by Bob Novak. Novak explained that there was a bipartisan effort in the House to remedy the persisting logistical problems that prevent many military members from casting their votes.

That effort seems to have failed to bear fruit, but a new study by the Pew Center details how bad the problem has become. According to the study, in 2006 only one-third of military ballots requested were actually cast and counted. Even worse, they found that “the voting rules in 25 states and the District of Columbia made it nearly impossible for service members stationed abroad to cast ballots in the 2008 election.”

This is the 21st century Рsurely modern technology should be able to solve this problem. And indeed, the Pew Center concludes its report with four simple recommendations that it feels would be effective in doing so. But what is appalling is that if these numbers applied to any other group in America РHispanics, say, or African-Americans Рthere would be massive pressure in the media and from activist groups to end what they would call an outrage. Sadly, however, our military members enjoy no such concern for their civil rights.

This is especially appalling because it is precisely those who are risking their lives in defense of America who most deserve to have their voices heard at the ballot box. Author Robert Heinlein once controversially wrote about a future society in which military veterans were the only citizens allowed to vote, and people joined the military precisely in order to earn that privilege.

You can go here to find out whether your state is doing enough to allow military members to cast their votes. If not, consider e-mailing your state’s Secretary of State and legislative leaders with a link to the Pew Center’s report. Change has to come from somewhere.

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I just threw up a little in my mouth.

Posted by sanityinjection on January 7, 2009

That’s the only possible response to New York Times’ columnist Maureen Dowd’s sickening ass-kissing of Caroline Kennedy. Dowd is scurrying to remedy her mistake of being on vacation when Kennedy was floating trial balloons for her Senate ambition, but she has missed the boat. There’s already been enough disenchantment with Kennedy among Democrats that New York’s Governor is unlikely to hand her the seat. He will probably choose a veteran oldster who won’t seek to run when the term expires and let Kennedy, Cuomo, and whoever else slug it out at the ballot box. Indeed, that’s what he should do.

Dowd is awash in the classic liberal nostalgia for all things Kennedy – which is funny, since the Kennedys of the 1960s weren’t really liberals at all. Dowd insists that Kennedy deserves to sit in the Senate because of her “magic capital”, which consists of having a father and uncle who were assassinated.¬† But even she seems to sense that this is a pathetic argument, so she moves to argument number two, which is that she, Maureen Dowd, knows Caroline Kennedy personally, which ought to be enough reason for everyone to support her. Finally, she moves to argument three, where she points out that rampant nepotism is hardly rare in the federal legislature, as if that’s a good thing.

She concludes by writing, “It’s not what your name is. It’s what you do with it.” Yet she can’t seem to tell us what exactly Caroline Kennedy has done with hers.

Perhaps the Times should consider whether there might be some connection between the unrepentant arrogant elitism of columnists like Dowd and the paper’s plummeting readership.

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Obama’s stimulus package: Will it work?

Posted by sanityinjection on January 7, 2009

Peter Ferrara over at the American Spectator says no, and explains why in detail:

http://spectator.org/archives/2009/01/07/tax-cut-mirage

Ferrara’s main point is that a tax rebate paid for by government borrowing does not boost the economy the way a cut in tax rates would. It’s the difference between a Keynesian tax policy and a supply-side one. He also goes on to examine the other aspects of the proposed stimulus bill, and suggests alternatives.

It’s a good piece of writing and makes some very good points. Ferrara even allows for the possibility that the economy could improve on its own in spite of whatever the government does. However, I think he overstates the case just a bit. Like many writers who are firmly wedged at one end of the political spectrum or the other, he’s not as rigorous in scrutinizing his own ideas as he is with those of others. For example, Ferrara claims that reducing the top marginal tax rate would create an “economic boom”, although I’ve seen persuasive arguments to the contrary which he does not address.

Ultimately, the biggest effect of the stimulus package may be a psychological one. Voters have yet to be disillusioned out of their faith in the new President, and he is offering a solution. If they believe hard enough that the solution will work, then it might work even if the fundamentals aren’t sound. Why? Because what economists can never bring themselves to acknowledge is that the modern economy is far more affected by public perception than by reality. This is best observed in the stock market, where until recently inflated price/earnings ratios were the norm, and where the effect of a company’s quarterly financial report on its stock price is not based on whether the numbers are black or red, but whether they are better or worse than what the financial prognosticators predicted.

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