Sanity Injection

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

Archive for September, 2009

I smell something funny, all right…

Posted by sanityinjection on September 30, 2009

Have you ever been reading a news story and found yourself repeatedly double-checking to make sure you weren’t on a fake news site like The Onion?

That’s how I felt reading this story from DallasNews.com about a mother and daughter suing their neighbor for smoking in the neighbor’s own home. Chris Daniel and her daughter Cary claim that their property and health were damaged by second-hand smoke leaking through the wall that separated their townhouse from that of their neighbor, Rebecca Williams.

You have to read the whole story to appreciate the level of  whack-jobbery involved here. This is a direct result of the hysterical nonsense that has been spread widely about the dangers of second-hand smoke. While it’s certainly true that exposure to enough cigarette smoke can damage both lungs and property, there’s no way that enough of it could have entered the Daniels’ home within a year’s time to cause significant damage to either.

Even if Daniels were a semi-normal hypochondriac, she would have moved out of the apartment if she really felt it was that serious of a problem. Instead, she became the scourge not only of her neighbor but of the property management, who tried multiple times to improve the insulation in the Daniels’ home in order to address the objections. Clearly, the issue became Daniels’ cause celebre; she must have felt that pursuing it gave her life purpose and value (“I’m protecting my daughter!”). Thus, to let it go would be to suffer the agony of a more mundane existence.

I think my favorite part is the photo accompanying the story, which shows the Daniels’ wearing the gas masks and goggles they say are necessary just to spend a short amount of time in their former home to move their belongings. Although funny, it’s also sad to see the degree to which this lady has infected her daughter with her lunacy.

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Posted in Domestic News | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Defense bill still has too much pork

Posted by sanityinjection on September 29, 2009

President Obama has cast himself as a budget reformer opposed to handouts for special interests and lobbyists. The reality has been somewhat different.

The pending defense budget bill offers a good example. Last month the President told the VFW convention, “If Congress sends me a defense bill loaded with a bunch of pork, I will veto it.” And indeed, the Administration did press successfully to have funding removed for extra F-22s and Presidential helicopters that the Pentagon doesn’t want.

However, the bill still includes all kinds of stuff the Pentagon didn’t ask for, according to Jeffrey Smith of the Washington Post. Now the White House is praising it with faint damns and it seems likely Obama will sign the bill because it includes the funding needed for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But consider the price tag: $1.7 billion for a destroyer DoD didn’t request. $2.5 billion for 10 C-17 cargo planes that aren’t needed. $3 billion shifted from operations and maintenance to projects the Pentagon did not request. All of this of course comes from legislators trying to steer money and jobs to companies and projects in their states. Funny, though, last time I checked the US military was more than just a government jobs program. Some of these Senators and Congressmen would happily fund military trinoculars with three eyeholes or fatigues with three sleeves and three pant legs; they could care less about giving our military the right tools to do its job. And it’s not a partisan issue: Republicans and Democrats are both guilty.

 Where is the threatened Presidential veto over this waste?

I am a long-time, vocal supporter of defense spending. I believe a strong national defense should be our number one budget priority, and I don’t mind running up the deficit if necessary when wars need to be fought. But those of us who advocate for defense spending have a duty to vigorously oppose waste as well. I would much rather see legislators turning down Pentagon requests on the grounds that they are too expensive than forcing our military to buy things they do not need!

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

German election results may mean stronger US-German alliance

Posted by sanityinjection on September 28, 2009

This weekend’s elections in Germany returned conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel to power with a major difference: Instead of being stuck in an odd-couple “Grand Coalition” with the rival center-left Social Democrats, a strong showing by the free market Free Democrats will alow Merkel to assemble a more traditional center-right governing coalition.

This could be a positive development as far as the US-German alliance is concerned.  With British Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown widely expected to give way to Conservative David Cameron in the next British election, this sets up a situation where Britain, France and Germany will all have center-right governments.

At first glance, one might think that this might cause difficulties given that US President Obama comes from the center-left. But in fact, one of the hallmarks of the center-right in these three countries is that they tend to be more supportive of US policies generally, especially in the military arena. Gone are the days when Germany under Social Democrat Chancellor Schroeder was a vocal opponent of US policy in Iraq. 

In fact, the Free Democrats – who will inherit the key post of Foreign Minister in Merkel’s new government – are if anything more pro-US even than Merkel’s own party. They look to America as the model for the free market reforms they wish to see implemented in Germany, while also advocating the use of German military power abroad in support of its NATO allies. This could reap benefits for the US in Afghanistan, where the Social Democrats had been decidedly unenthusiastic about increasing the German mission there.

The one area that could become a sticking point is the issue of Turkish entry into the European Union – something the US supports as a way of anchoring Turkey firmly in the pro-Western camp. The outgoing Social Democrats strongly supported this as well, but the new government is more likely to oppose it along with France and Italy. The US fears this that EU rejection could drive Turkey into closer ties with Islamic states such as Iran.

Ironically, improved relations with Germany (not that they have been that bad) come at the same time that countries of Eastern Europe that have been staunch US allies are beginning to question their stance, after the embarrassing  reversal by the Obama Administration on missile defense that left the Czechs and Poles feeling betrayed. Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania have been strongly supportive of the US since the end of the Cold War when French and German support was lukewarm. We may now be witnessing a full reversal of that dynamic as Eastern Europe asks the US, “What have you done for us lately?”

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Bad move by interim government of Honduras

Posted by sanityinjection on September 28, 2009

If you’re the interim government of Honduras, trying to convince your own citizens and the international community that the removal of the former President was necessary and constitutional because he is a dangerous, mentally unstable Communist and gain their backing for new elections, maybe suspending constitutional civil rights isn’t the best plan:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090928/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/lt_honduras_coup

Up until this point, my sympathies have been entirely with the interim government of Roberto Micheletti. Micheletti, backed by the leaders of Honduras’ legislature, the supreme court, and the military, deposed and replaced former President Maneul Zelaya – a buddy of Venezuelan thug-in-chief Hugo Chavez – as Zelaya was preparing to hold an illegal referendum in defiance of the country’s constitution. The international community, including the Obama Administration, denounced this action as a coup and have demanded Zelaya’s reinstatement. After being exiled from the country, Zelaya managed to sneak back in and is now holed up in the Brazilian embassy, where he has complained he is the target of Israeli mind-control devices. Not exactly helping his cause.

While there remains a significant segment of Hondurans, including some media outlets, that support Zelaya, the majority seemed to support the interim government, and preparations were being made for a new presidential election.  Unfortunately, the government’s response to  a planned protest march of Zelayistas to “bring down the government” was to suspend civil liberties guaranteed in the very constitution they are claiming to uphold, including freedom of assembly, freedom from arrest without a warrant, and freedom of the press. Ironically, in doing so they are playing into the hands of Zelaya, who publicly predicted such restrictions. And whatever inclination the international community may have had to soften its stance will now surely disappear.

Hondurans are thus left with a choice between the Scylla of an unprincipled Communist lunatic or the Charybdis of an unelected authoritarian regime. (If the metaphor eludes you, Wikipedia is your friend and you would never have been allowed to graduate from any decent prep school in the good old days.)

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Polanski arrest reveals European sleaze

Posted by sanityinjection on September 28, 2009

One of the biggest news stories in Europe this weekend was the arrest of famed movie director Roman Polanski in Switzerland on a 30-year-old arrest warrant from the United States. More interesting than the arrest itself is the reaction of those on the continent falling all over themselves to come to Polanski’s defense.

Many readers know Polanski as the justly acclaimed director of award-winning films such as “Rosemary’s Baby”, “Chinatown”, and more recently, “The Pianist”. Some may also recall that Polanski was struck by tragedy in 1969 when his wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered by the followers of Charles manson. However, readers may not be aware that in 1977 Polanski was arrested in California and charged with rape and sodomy of a child, after he drugged and molested 13-year-old model Samantha Gailey. Polanski, knowing his goose was cooked, wisely agreed to a plea deal in which those charges were dismissed in return for Polanski’s guilty plea to the lesser charge of unlawful sex with a minor (statutory rape.) However, before he could be sentenced, Polanski fled the country and has been a fugitive from US justice since then, while continuing to be a celebrated movie director in Europe and even in Hollywood.

Polanski is being held in a Swiss prison pending a formal request for his extradition to the US. Amazingly, Europeans including the Foreign Ministers of France (Polanski’s adopted home) and Poland (his native country) are calling for him to be released on bail.  Riiight, because he couldn’t possibly be a flight risk now could he? France’s foreign minister called the arrest a “bit sinister”, and the French Culture Minister said, “there is also a scary America that has just shown its face.” Seriously? Bringing pedophile rapists to justice is “sinister” and “scary”?

Others are spreading the rumor that the arrest was motivated by pressure from the US or that Switzerland is trying to curry favor with the US. This is ridiculous for anyone familiar with Switzerland, which is famous for its rigid application of the letter of the law regardless of who benefits or suffers. You’d be hard pressed to find a country more devoted to law and order this side of Singapore.

Here’s what the French film community had to say:

It seems inadmissible … that an international cultural evening, paying homage to one of the greatest contemporary filmmakers, is used by police to apprehend him.

In other words, how dare anyone try to enforce the law when artists are busy telling each other how wonderful they are, which is clearly much more important? European and other celebs are also upset because Polanski was nabbed in the oh-so-posh resort town of Gstaad. They are undoubtedly concerned about what other flagrant crimes (i.e., drug use) they are no longer going to be able to get away with in their Swiss playground.

Finally, we have this statement from the Polish Filmmakers’ Association:

“[Polanski has] atoned for the sins of his young years. He has paid for it by not being able to enter the U.S. and in his professional life he has paid for it by not being able to make films in Hollywood.”

While there is some truth to this, if it’s so compellingly obvious, why not face the music and let the courts decide whether Polanski has been punished enough? In fact, Polanski has actually had the nerve to file (in absentia of course) to have his case thrown out of court. As if a fugitive from justice deserves any consideration from the court system!

In fact, Polanski’s stubborn refusal to face justice like a mortal human being -coupled with the European attitude that a great artist (which in fairness he is) should be allowed to rape anybody he wants is exactly why this case has never died. The success of “The Pianist” in 2002 angered the Justice Department which renewed its push for Polanski’s arrest starting in 2005. Had Polanski simply returned to face the music voluntarily years ago, it is likely that his age (he is 76), questions about improper procedure in the original court case, and the testimony of his victim (who just wants the whole thing to be over with after settling with Polanski out of court years ago), would have led to leniency.

But Polanski has never expressed any genuine contrition or acknowledgement that what he did was wrong. So like O.J. Simpson, he has become an example of how the rich and famous manage to avoid justice. As such, there will be calls to make an example of him.

One last thought – How do you think the thousands of registered sex offenders in the US – many of whom are guilty of nothing more than consensual sex with their underage girlfriends – must feel watching Polanski celebrated and fawned over in Europe while they can barely get a job or live within half a mile of a school?

Posted in Foreign Affairs, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments »

Best foreign policy analogy of the year!

Posted by sanityinjection on September 24, 2009

And the award goes to…Greg Sheridan of The Australian, who compares President Obama on the world stage to Richie Cunningham from the 70s TV show “Happy Days” –  liked by everyone, feared by no one:

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2009/09/24/waiting_for_a_fonzie_moment_in_obamas_richie_cunningham_presidency.html

Sheridan points out that when trouble reared its head, Richie always had to turn to his tougher friend the Fonz for help. Problem is, Obama doesn’t have a Fonz. He needs to *be* the Fonz.

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

Another common sense reform squelched in Congress

Posted by sanityinjection on September 23, 2009

This time, it’s a bipartisan bill that would simply require that any non-emergency legislation should have its full text published online for anyone to read for three days before a vote is taken. The idea is to give both members of the public and just as importantly, members of Congress, the opportunity to actually read bills carefully before voting on them.

You might wonder why anyone would oppose such a common sense reform. The answer is that legislative leaders have a much easier time ramming things through if nobody has a chance to read them. Not only does this tactic reduce objections from the minority party, but also defections from within the party in power. In other words, Speaker Nancy Pelosi can ask a freshman Democrat to support a bill, and that freshman is much more likely to go along if they don’t know what’s in it than if they read it and find things that would be problematic for their district. But it’s not a partisan issue – the same rules would apply regardless of whether Republicans or Democrats are in power.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA), Rep. John Culberson (R-TX), and Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR). I commend these Congressmen as well as the 98 legislators who have signed on as co-sponsors. That’s about 1 out of every five house members, not too shabby. But the bill is stuck in committee going nowhere, and a petition to force it out is unlikely to succeed. (Some of the co-sponsors probably signed on in order to look good knowing it probably wasn’t going anywhere.)

If someone can easily discover the bill number of this legislation, please let me know, as I’d like to encourage my Congressman to support it, and I’d encourage others to do so.

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

Latest Al Qaeda video not intimidating, just embarrassing

Posted by sanityinjection on September 23, 2009

It was only a few years ago that the release of a propaganda video from Al Qaeda would have been an event of significant concern around the world. In addition to the frenzied speculation over whether it was Osama bin Laden in the video and if he was alive and healthy, nations would increase security in the assumption that the video presaged a significant new attack was imminent.

How things have changed – and it shows the progress that has been made in the war on terror. The video released by Al Qaeda today will probably go little remarked upon and excite little distress in Western capitals. In fact, several aspects of the video may prove embarassing to the terrorists.

First of all, the video is intended to commemorate the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks – yet they couldn’t mange to get it online until today.  If posting a video on the Internet (something 11 year olds are proficient at) is a challenge that requires two weeks to accomplish, that doesn’t fill one with respect for Al Qaeda’s ability to coordinate a new terrorist attack.

The video is full of the usual denunciations, but this time they have cast a wide net. Al Qaeda apparently is unhappy with George Bush, Barack Obama, the Saudi royal family, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas,  the Fatah Palestinian faction, other Arab leaders, and Israel (of course). One wonders who is left in the Middle East that they *do* like, other than themselves.

Then there’s the terrorists’ attempt to take credit for the world financial crisis by attributing it to the results of 9/11 and the war on terror. Although the cost of the war on terror certainly was one factor among many that placed strain on the US economy, I think one would be hard pressed to find an economist (Paul Krugman does not count) who would back up this claim.

The funniest part is when they complain of torture committed by US troops in Afghanistan. Seriously?? The guys who behead journalists and blow up civilian women and children are outraged by military interrogation techniques? If their warped notion of jihad tells them they can do pretty much whatever is necessary to nonbelievers in the course of their struggle, by what possible rationale would they expect us to abide by a higher standard? (The fact that we hold ourselves to a higher standard is not the point. The firebombing of Dresden during WWII by the Allies may have been a violation of the rules of war protecting civilians, but if the person complaining was Adolf Hitler, sympathy was unlikely to be forthcoming.)

It is a truism that propaganda tends to get more shrill when the people who produce it feel they are losing. The wider Al Qaeda casts their net of condemnation and the more brazen their complaints against the US, the more it indicates that the terrorists are on the defensive. Which is good news for everybody else.

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“I prefer to think of it as…the ‘Elaine’.”

Posted by sanityinjection on September 23, 2009

ABC News reports that in Iran, police are diligently protecting the Iranian people from the terrifying scourge of lingerie store mannequins:

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=8648089

I realize this is a very serious moral and political issue, but call me low-brow, all I can think of is the “Seinfeld” episode where Elaine discovers the store mannequin that looks exactly like her posed provocatively in lingerie, and ultimately kidnaps it in order to preserve her dignity, only to find that they are being mass produced:

http://www.sonypictures.com/tv/shows/seinfeld/episode_guide/?sl=episode&ep=515

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

Stop calling me a racist

Posted by sanityinjection on September 22, 2009

Am I the only one who is sick and tired of the incessant drumbeat from Democrats and the media that all opposition to President Obama is fueled by racism?

Of course there are racists out there, and some of them do go to town halls and tea party protests. But they are not even a sizable minority. They’re the fringe, and to seize on them as representative of legitimate protesters is typical sleazy politics for the Democrats, but it’s reprehensible journalism. Believe me, I could go to any Democrat rally or health care reform rally and pick out a few left-wing nuts who would make even Nancy Pelosi cringe.

Does it make me racist that I don’t want the government forcing me to pay for everyone else’s health care, or that I don’t want to be punished for the carbon my car emits (or that I emit every time I exhale?) Am I a racist because I think Obama has blundered badly on missile defense? Or that he has wasted a trillion dollars on political giveaways and pet projects that were supposed to stimulate the economy? Does it really enhance the body politic to create an environment in which any legitimate discussion of issues must be swamped by accusations of racism?

Let me make it crystal clear for Pelosi, Maureen Dowd and their associated lapdogs: I attribute none of these failings to the fact that President Obama is black. I see no connection between the color of his skin and the quality of his leadership (or lack thereof.) As Obama said on Letterman, “I was black before the election.” In other words, the fact that Obama’s popularity has plummeted cannot be attributed to racism, and even the President gets that. Rather, it stems from serious, widespread concerns about the President’s leadership, his trustworthiness (in terms of keeping his election promises such as not raising taxes on the middle class) and the direction in which he is taking this country. Even with all of this, I do believe the President is genuinely doing what he believes to be best for our country. I just think he’s wrong – not wrong because he’s black, but wrong because his ideas about America, the Constitution, and capitalism are the same wrong ideas shared by plenty of white people who would be equally distasteful as President.

Are we done now?

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