Sanity Injection

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

Archive for March, 2009

Just stop, Madonna. For the children’s sake.

Posted by sanityinjection on March 31, 2009

In the news this week, Madonna is back in the African nation of Malawi trying to adopt another child.

Yes, another. Readers will remember that Madonna adopted her youngest child, 3 year old David, from Malawi. Now she wants to add a 4-year old Malawi girl to her menagerie, which also includes her biological kids Lourdes (12) and Rocco (8).

Madonna claims that she wants to make sure David mantains a relationship with his roots in Malawi. Thus, she took him to visit his biological father while pressing her case to adopt the girl, Chifundo “Mercy” James. Problem is, Mercy has plenty of extended family in Malawi who are happy to take care of her.

Which leads us to the question: Won’t somebody put a stop to this lunacy?

Nobody should be allowed to adopt a child that has family willing to take care of them. Yes, Madonna is wealthier than the Malawians, but will she love Mercy more than her own family does? Will she spend as much time with her as they would while she is jet-setting all over God’s creation? What about the fact that, having recently divorced her husband, she would be raising four kids by herself? With plenty of paid staff to help, of course. What a loving environment.

It should be obvious to everyone that Madonna is pursuing this adoption to assuage her own emotional insecurities. She may think she is “rescuing” a child from an impoverished country, but she’s not. There are plenty of orphans in the world she could adopt who have no family, but Madonna specializes in taking children away from their families. If she were any other woman she would be instantly recognized as an unfit mother.

The best thing for all parties concerned would be for Madonna to concentrate on being the best mother she can be to the kids she already has. If she isn’t getting enough love from three kids, adding a fourth is not going to fill the void inside. Unfortunately, when you are rich and powerful, nobody has the guts to slap you out of your own delusions.

So who will suffer most? I’d say it will be her boys, Rocco and David. Neither will be new and interesting to Madonna once she has a new toy to play with. Lourdes at least is old enough that her mother can relate to her somewhat as a person in her own right.

Thus, my plea: Madonna, no one can stop you but yourself. Please stop this foolishness, and get the counseling you so obviously need. For your children’s sake.

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Posted in Current Events | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Above all, make sure the children suffer.

Posted by sanityinjection on March 31, 2009

The latest idiocy to come out of the Middle East reaches us from ABC News. It’s the story of Wafa Younis. Ms. Younis is an Israeli Arab who three years ago established a youth orchestra called “Strings of Freedom” in a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank city of Jenin. So far, so good.

Then last week, Ms. Younis brought her orchestra of Palestinian youths to Israel to perform before an audience of Holocaust survivors. Also good, right?

Apparently not. Certain Palestinians, including residents of the refugee camp, have a problem with this because they refuse to acknowledge the Holocaust as long as Israel continues to oppress their own people, and it seems that some of the youths’ parents complained they were not fully informed of the nature of the performance.

So for starters, Ms. Younis is not being allowed back into the camp to lead her orchestra – allegedly for her own safety. That lie is exposed by the fact the orchestra’s rehearsal studio has been boarded up and the instruments confiscated by camp authorities.

Only in the Middle East would an orchestra performance be considered a crime. Of course the ones who suffer are the children, who had no idea they were doing anything “wrong” and now will no longer get to play their instruments. Orchestral conductors are not exactly floating around the West Bank so it will be hard to find a replacement for Ms. Younis, and that is bad news for kids who don’t have many opportunities available to them.

I fail to understand any ideology that forces its own people, and particularly its children, to suffer for what it considers to be the crimes of others. Leadership of that sort is a curse on the Palestinian people that goes far beyond anything the Israelis are doing to them.

As far as I am concerned, Wafa Younis is a humanitarian and a hero who should be honored by both Israelis and Palestinians. But that would be a different world than the one we, and the children of the Jenin refugee camp, live in.

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

EFCA “Card Check” legislation – Sanity injected.

Posted by sanityinjection on March 30, 2009

Currently before Congress is a controversial bill known as the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), but more popularly known as the “card check” bill. The legislation’s goal is to make it easier for employees to unionize. As you can imagine, this has made it the focus of frenzied lobbying by both unions and corporations.

The most controversial provsion of the bill is the one that has given it its nickname. Instead of voting in a secret ballot on whether to unionize or not, the legislation would allow a union to organize if a sufficient number of employees fill out petition cards in favor of a union. Obviously, this creates the potential for pro-union intimidation since it is easy to see who has signed and who hasn’t. Unions counter that employees are already subject to considerable anti-union intimidation, which other provisions in the bill are designed to address.

With the EFCA bill’s future very much in doubt, the Los Angeles Times weighs in on the question. I am rather in this paper’s debt, because the Times op-ed injects enough sanity into the issue that I need do little beyond providing the link for you to read. Their proposed compromise is simple and reasonable: keep the provisions that stop corporations from intimidating employees who want to unionize, but dump the “card check” provision.

For an ostensibly liberal publication, I increasingly find the LA Times op-ed page to contain a greater than average amount of common sense. And the quality of their reporting is substantially superior to anything printed by their East Coast namesake.

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Profile of a global warming skeptic

Posted by sanityinjection on March 30, 2009

The New York Times Magazine gives us an in-depth profile of one of the most respected scientists to stand up in opposition to the global warming panic industry. Actually, it’s not really fair to label Freeman Dyson as a “global warming skeptic”, because in fact Dyson does believe the earth is warming and does believe that human-generated carbon dioxide is partly responsible.

Rather, Dyson’s departure from orthodoxy is this: He doesn’t think global warming is a problem. In fact, he thinks it could actually be a good thing in certain ways.

The article is quite long, but my point is to illustrate that contrary to what Al Gore and the media would have us believe, there is a great diversity of views among scientists about climate change. It is in no way “settled science.” Dyson is getting old, but he is in no way a crank, loony, quack, or tool of big business: “According to the global-warming people, I say what I say because I’m paid by the oil industry. Of course I’m not, but that’s part of their rhetoric. If you doubt it, you’re a bad person, a tool of the oil or coal industry.”  In fact, Dyson is an Obama-loving anti-war liberal who, instead of refusing to work with the military, works to solve problems for them and influence their thinking while protesting the wars they are asked to fight.

Says Dyson: “The climate-studies people who work with models always tend to overestimate their models. They come to believe models are real and forget they are only models.”

Now that’s exactly what I’ve been saying for years, but my scientific credentials are less than zero. As for Dyson, although he is a nuclear physicist with no formal credentials in climate science, he has been studying climate change and fossil fuel issues since 1976. Back then, he published a paper arguing that any carbon threat to the atmosphere could be offset by simply planting 1 trillion new trees.

If you read nothing else, just read the dialogue between Dyson and his independent-minded wife at the very end.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Quote of the Weekend

Posted by sanityinjection on March 30, 2009

Responding to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s plan for the G20 to pass a $2 trillion stimulus package, this is what German Chancellor Angela Merkel had to say:

“I will not let anyone tell me that we must spend more money.”

Fortunately, Ms. Merkel is not without allies among the other G20 heads of state.

Danke schoen, Frau Bundeskanzlerin, fur die Sanitie-Spritze!

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Obama Administration holds GM, Chrysler accountable

Posted by sanityinjection on March 30, 2009

I’ve been giving the Administration a hard time in some of my recent posts, so it’s only fair to give them credit for doing something right. Remember the big automakers bailout – which I was against – where they gave GM and Chrysler a certain amount of time to submit restructuring plans, qualify for additional federal money, and avoid bankruptcy?

Well, the time limit is up, and surprise surprise, the plans submitted by both companies suck. (Makes sense, when you consider they were put together by the same numb-nuts that got them where they are today.) To their great credit, the Administration not only recognized that they suck, but has said so publicly.  As AP puts it: “President Barack Obama and his top advisers have determined that neither company is viable and that taxpayers will not spend untold billions more to keep the pair of automakers open forever.”

Lawdy, can I get a Amen? Amen!

As a result, GM’s CEO has been forced to resign. Chrysler has been told it must strike a partnership deal with Fiat in order to survive.

Meanwhile, at the end of the AP story, we get a little more info about why the automakers haven’t been able to right their ships:

“Under the terms of a loan agreement reached during the last administration, GM and Chrysler are pushing the United Auto Workers to accept shares of stock in exchange for half of the payments into a union-run trust fund for retiree health care. They also want labor costs from the union to be competitive with Japanese automakers with U.S. operations.

Little progress has been made between the companies and the union.”

Clearly, the UAW would rather see GM and Chrysler go under than give up any of its benefits. Their reasoning? Someone will buy up the assets and rehire their workers – and they have a cushy fund full of GM and Chrysler’s money to tide them over until that happens.

So the question is: If the workers who will lose their jobs aren’t concerned about GM and Chrysler going bankrupt – why should we be? Kudos to the Administration for playing hardball on this one, I hope they keep it up, despite what must be considerable political pressure coming from the motor industry states – states which were critical to Barack Obama’s election.

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

Dirty dishes in Spokane: When “green” laws fail

Posted by sanityinjection on March 27, 2009

The Associated Press brings us the sad story of the people of Spokane County, Washington, who can’t get their dishes clean:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090328/ap_on_re_us/bootleg_detergent

This is a classic example of how well-meaning “green” initiatives can backfire. Spokane County thought it was doing something great for the environment by enacting a local ordinance banning high-phosphate dish detergents. The good people of Spokane tried using the “green” detergents, but found they didn’t work as well, so they ended up just crossing the state line to Idaho to buy the polluting detergents again. The environment doesn’t benefit, just storeowners in Idaho, while both businesses and residents in Spokane are inconvenienced.

Low-phosphate detergents are a good idea, but this sort of regulation has to be broader than just one county, or else it will inevitably fail. The lesson for local governments is: Don’t try to save the world – stick to focusing on things you can control. If you must tackle larger issues, do so together with your neighbors, don’t try to go it alone.

The lesson for all of us is: It doesn’t matter how well-meaning you may be or how earnest your desire to preserve the environment. Anytime an environmental initiative – or any government initiative, really – is proposed, instead of moving forward on an ideological basis (“Clean water good, phosphates bad!”), you have to look forward and see what the practical consequences are going to be. What happened in Spokane was entirely predictable and could have been avoided if enough people had looked at the issue practically instead of emotionally.

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

Are liberals more intelligent than conservatives?

Posted by sanityinjection on March 26, 2009

In the northeastern US where I live, there prevails a general certainty among the liberal intelligentsia that liberals are, both individually and collectively, more intelligent than conservatives. The general image conjured of a conservative involves a white male with a brow ridge, red flannel shirt, pickup truck with gun rack, a Bible that he cites but has not read (and may not be able to read), and who violently despises anyone different from himself.

In fairness, there are places where that stereotype may not be far from the truth, though the great northeastern cities are not likely candidates. Nevertheless, even liberals who can move beyond that stereotype are convinced that conservatives just aren’t as smart or well-educated as they are – otherwise, they’d be enlightened and become liberals.

Thus, it is with this outlook in mind that I feel obligated to present the following object lesson as an invitation for liberals afflicted with this mindset to reconsider:

fail owned pwned pictures

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

The end of the United States of America

Posted by sanityinjection on March 26, 2009

No, this post isn’t about Obama or even the current economic crisis. It is about a much more serious threat to the safety and security, and even the long-term existence of the USA and other countries. I am speaking of a potential natural disaster that could make the current “global warming” concerns look like child’s play. And most people have never even heard of it, including myself until recently.

This natural disaster is called a coronal mass ejection(CME), and it is an intermittent product of the sun’s volatile nuclear activity. Many readers will have heard of the “solar wind”,  a stream of charged particles constantly being emitted by the sun, which are blocked by the Earth’s magnetic field. In a CME, a mass of highly charged plasma separates from the sun and is carried outward by the solar wind.

The problem occurs if such an ejection happens to hit the earth. This places a major strain on the Earth’s magnetosphere. Depending on the size/intensity of the ejection, the magentosphere may suffer a slight or serious disruption.  A serious disruption would create a geomagnetic storm with disastrous consequences for societies like ours that rely on electricity for basic needs such as food and water. Basically, it would knock out electrical grids beyond the ability to be easily repaired, leading to long-term power shortages, which in turn would lead to shortages of food and fuel. Such an event would make Hurricane Katrina seem tame in terms of the casualties caused.

The worst such event that we know of occurred in 1859, before human societies had become dependent on electricity. A lesser event in 1989 took all of 90 seconds to knock out power to 6 million people in Quebec.

The good news is that there are steps that power companies can take to brace the grids and minimize the damage if they have sufficient warning of a CME. The bad news is that we may not get enough warning. A CME usually takes 1 to 5 days to reach Earth from the sun, but our current detection apparatus only gives us about 15 minutes of warning time.

So what should we do? We could adopt the Al Gore-style panic and overreaction approach, and demand that everyone stop using electricity. A more reasonable suggestion, though, would be to devote more resources at NASA and the other space agencies of the world toward putting in place improved detection satellites.

We may not have much time. While we cannot predict when a CME might occur, we know that the sun is in a very calm period right now, but is expected to hit a peak activity period as early as 2012.  Eschatologists and doomsday enthusiasts will recognize that date as the last year of the Mayan Long Count calendar, and one that has been predicted by multiple sources as the date of the end of the world. Coincidence? Well, probably. The Mayans were great astronomers and might have had some understanding of solar activity cycles, but they could never have imagined a world that could be so easily crippled by a geomagnetic phenomenon. Still, we should use the next three years wisely…don’t you think?

Posted in Current Events | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

My response to the resignation letter of AIG exec Jake DeSantis

Posted by sanityinjection on March 25, 2009

If you haven’t already done so, read the open letter published in the New York Times’ op-ed page in which AIG executive Jake DeSantis resigns from his job and blames everybody but himself for the company’s problems.

This letter is so relevant to current issues, and so illustrative of the mental disconnect that has been in operation at these financial institutions, that I am going to quote several of the points made by DeSantis and respond to each. But if you want the short version: DeSantis is an out-of-touch, self-righteous, arrogant, overprivileged ass.

Point #1:  “I was in no way involved in — or responsible for — the credit default swap transactions that have hamstrung A.I.G….Most of those responsible have left the company and have conspicuously escaped the public outrage.”

Response #1: Having no contrary knowledge, I will assume Mr. DeSantis is telling the truth. However, the fact that he is not responsible for ruining the company does *not* mean he deserves over $742,000 of the taxpayers’ money.

Point #2: “I will now leave the company and donate my entire post-tax retention payment to those suffering from the global economic downturn. My intent is to keep none of the money myself.”

Response #2: But it’s still YOU, Mr. DeSantis, who are arrogating for yourself the right to decide what to do with OUR money! How do you not understand that? What if we, the taxpayers, don’t agree with your particular philanthropic interests?

Point #3: “I was asked to work for an annual salary of $1, and I agreed out of a sense of duty to the company and to the public officials who have come to its aid. Having now been let down by both, I can no longer justify spending 10, 12, 14 hours a day away from my family for the benefit of those who have let me down.”

Response #3: And how much have you and your family been making over the last decade, in which you added precisely what value to society? Spare me your cries of sacrifice as you return to your million-dollar home in Fairfield County!

Point #4: “I started at this company in 1998 as an equity trader, became the head of equity and commodity trading and, a couple of years before A.I.G.’s meltdown last September, was named the head of business development for commodities. Over this period the equity and commodity units were consistently profitable — in most years generating net profits of well over $100 million. Most recently, during the dismantling of A.I.G.-F.P., I was an integral player in the pending sale of its well-regarded commodity index business to UBS. As you know, business unit sales like this are crucial to A.I.G.’s effort to repay the American taxpayer.

The profitability of the businesses with which I was associated clearly supported my compensation.”

Response #4: Right, and I’m sure all that profit had to do with your personal economic genius and not the fact that you simply bought and sold in a raging bull market in which a 3-year old could have made money.

The point is not that DeSantis did a bad job. The point is that even if he did a great job, he doesn’t deserve $742,000 of the taxpayers’ money! How simple is that, and how out of touch does this guy have to be that he doesn’t get it? Let me put it more simply: During bad times, you get paid less than you deserve, and so does everybody else. Why should Mr. Three Piece Suit here be any exception? I’m not getting a raise this year, and I do a great job, too.

Point #5: “I never received any pay resulting from the credit default swaps that are now losing so much money. I did, however, like many others here, lose a significant portion of my life savings in the form of deferred compensation invested in the capital of A.I.G.-F.P. because of those losses. In this way I have personally suffered from this controversial activity — directly as well as indirectly with the rest of the taxpayers. “

Response #5: Cry me a damn river. Who forced you to invest your life savings in your own company? Ever hear of diversifying your portfolio, Mr. Financial Genius? And since when do you get the federal government to compensate you for your personal investment losses? How do I sign up for that deal?

DeSantis goes on to accuse AIG CEO Ed Liddy of hypocrisy for first approving the bonuses and then criticizing them once the political pressure was on. I have no comment on that part, though I suspect DeSantis has a point there.

Point #6: “I know that because of hard work I have benefited more than most during the economic boom and have saved enough that my family is unlikely to suffer devastating losses during the current bust.”

Response #6: Reading between the lines, what DeSantis is saying is that those who are suffering now either didn’t work hard enough or foolishly squandered their money. Again, he is arrogant and out-of-touch. Does he think he worked harder than police officers, firefighters, teachers that are being laid off? He probably does think that.

 Point #7: “Some might argue that members of my profession have been overpaid, and I wouldn’t disagree.”

Response #7:  This is DeSantis trying to sound reasonable, but notice what he’s really saying is that other people, but not *him*, have been overpaid. He clearly feels he deserves every dollar of *our* money! 

Point #8:  “That is why I have decided to donate 100 percent of the effective after-tax proceeds of my retention payment directly to organizations that are helping people who are suffering from the global downturn. This is not a tax-deduction gimmick; I simply believe that I at least deserve to dictate how my earnings are spent, and do not want to see them disappear back into the obscurity of A.I.G.’s or the federal government’s budget. Our earnings have caused such a distraction for so many from the more pressing issues our country faces, and I would like to see my share of it benefit those truly in need.”

Response #8: You’re a true humanitarian, Jake. See Response #2 for why it’s not your decision to make. Also, I didn’t see you making this grand gesture until *after* the heat got turned on you and your buddies, so forgive me if I doubt the depths of your philanthropic sincerity.

Point #9:  “On March 16 I received a payment from A.I.G. amounting to $742,006.40, after taxes. In light of the uncertainty over the ultimate taxation and legal status of this payment, the actual amount I donate may be less — in fact, it may end up being far less if the recent House bill raising the tax on the retention payments to 90 percent stands.”

Response #9: I’ll give DeSantis a point for actually giving the exact amount of his bonus in a public newspaper.  But see how he’s already weaseling out of his grand charitable gesture? Basically he’s threatening the Congress – if you tax me punitively, I won’t give anything at all to charity, because the number one rule to be followed is that Jake DeSantis must never have to sacrifice anything. Never mind that Congress is in fact totally out of line in trying to impose that punitive tax – the point is, DeSantis’ attitude stinks. 

Point #10: “This choice is right for me. I wish others at A.I.G.-F.P. luck finding peace with their difficult decision, and only hope their judgment is not clouded by fear.”

Response #10: Awww, can you hear the violin music swelling in the background? Actually, Mr. DeSantis, most of your buddies haven’t found the decision difficult at all – they’re giving the money back to the American taxpayers. You’re the only one who’s being an arrogant, self-righteous jerk about it.

To sum up, DeSantis’ whole argument is that since he is not personally responsible for the bad decisions, he deserves to profit from the situation. Well, guess what, Mr. DeSantis, most Americans aren’t responsible for the bad decisions your company made either. We work just as hard as you do, and strangely enough, we aren’t being handed bonus contracts when things go sour – we’re getting pay freezes, pay cuts, cuts in hours, and layoffs, through no fault of our own. The fact that you not only think you’re too good to share any of that pain, but actually deserve to profit from it, makes you the poster boy for everything that’s wrong with our political and financial leadership in this country. Thanks for being such a useful object lesson. Or should I say, thanks for being a tool.

Posted in Domestic News, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | 8 Comments »