Sanity Injection

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

Archive for October, 2009

“I’ll stop.”

Posted by sanityinjection on October 30, 2009

In my last post about the Frankenstein House health care bill, I posed the question: Why do the Democrats in Congress think they can spend unlimited amounts of money that we don’t have with no consequences?

Peggy Noonan tries to answer that question in her latest column, which I commend to your attention. I was particularly struck by this tidbit:

I talked with an executive this week with what we still call “the insurance companies”….He talked about all the new proposed regulations on the industry. Rep. Barney Frank had just said on some cable show that the Democrats of the White House and Congress “are trying on every front to increase the role of government in the regulatory area.” The executive said of Washington: “They don’t understand that people can just stop, get out. I have friends and colleagues who’ve said to me ‘I’m done.’ ” He spoke of his own increasing tax burden and said, “They don’t understand that if they start to tax me so that I’m paying 60%, 55%, I’ll stop.”

If that bears an eerie similarity to Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, it should. I recall reading that work and thinking that while I agreed with the points being made, the story of America’s most productive people laying down their ploughshares and refusing to work to subsidize everyone else seemed overwrought and implausible. But isn’t that just what is being implied above?

If the slogan of 2008 was “Change We Can Believe In” and the slogan of 2009 has been “Where’s *My* Bailout”, I sincerely hope the slogan of 2010 is not, “Who is John Galt?” But the Nancy Pelosis and Barney Franks seem to be doing their best to force us down that path.

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

The best argument against big government is big government.

Posted by sanityinjection on October 30, 2009

Case in point: The recently released Pelosi, er I mean House health care bill. C’mon, even those of you who passionately believe in the cause of health care reform have to be embarrassed by this? A 1,990 page health care bill? Tolstoy’s War and Peace is shorter! Price tag $1 trillion? Didn’t we just spend a trillion on the stimulus package? The total revenue collected by the US government in 2008 was only $2.5 trillion! How much money do these lunatics think we have?

Nobody is going to read this bill. And if they do, no one will understand what it does. Isn’t health care an important enough issue that if we’re going to pass sweeping reform legislation, it ought to be comprehensible to the average college graduate?

To use a crude but easily understood metaphor: If I see something that has the size, shape, and smell of a giant turd, I can safely assume it’s a giant turd without having to cut it open. The truth is that most of the verbiage isn’t there to accomplish needed reforms – it’s there to conceal all the stuff that they don’t want us to realize they put in the bill, like favors to special interests. If I were the chair of a committee that produced such an abomination, I would be ashamed. Fortunately, most Congressmen shed any lingering sense of shame before taking office.

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

Rethinking Afghanistan

Posted by sanityinjection on October 30, 2009

I was struck by the recent decision of Foreign Service Officer Matthew Hoh to resign his post in Afghanistan in protest of what he believes to be a failed strategy. While disgruntled personnel or peacenik protesters are nothing new, Hoh exemplifies neither of those stereotypes. In fact, his record as both a  Marine and a diplomat is exemplary enough to earn him the right to have his comments taken seriously even by Afghanistan hawks. (It is significant that not one of the people interviewed by the WashPost who knew Hoh has anything even remotely bad to say about him, whereas normal institutional practice is to trash the reputation of anybody who steps out of line.) 

Hoh’s fear is that our current military activities in Afghanistan are doing more harm than good.  Speaking from his personal experience on the front lines of the Afghan provinces, Hoh argues that much of the rebel activity is locally based and not particularly affiliated with the Taliban or Al Qaeda, apart from being willing to take their money. He describes the Pashtun tribes as being extremely xenophobic and not at all happy about the continued presence of American and other foreign troops.

Normally, I would dismiss this sort of thinking as liberal bloviating. But Hoh isn’t a liberal, an isolationist, or a defeatist by nature: “There are plenty of [Al Qaeda and Taliban] dudes who need to be killed. I was never more happy than when our Iraq team whacked a bunch of guys.”

Hoh’s main point seems to be that we need to get the Pakistanis and Afghans to do the lion’s share of the work in eradicating Al Qaeda, and that the US’ close ties to the corrupt and ineffective Karzai government are proving to be a liability rather than a strength. Perhaps the upcoming Afghan runoff election could inject some new legitimacy if challenger Abdullah Abdullah manages to topple Karzai. But Abdullah is a northerner and even less likely to command the loyalty of the Pashtun tribal leaders.

I don’t know what the answer is. But it seems clear that pulling out of Afghanistan is not the answer any more than continuing with the status quo. The Obama Administration needs to come up with a new plan, and the time to do so was weeks ago.

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

Veto message WIN!

Posted by sanityinjection on October 28, 2009

This totally made my day.

Whenever a Governor (or the President) vetoes a piece of legislation, he or she does so in the form of an official letter to the legislature. Usually the letter will explain the reason for the veto, which gives the legislature the opportunity to modify the bill to address the concerns that led to the veto.

Nothing particularly exciting about any of that. However, a veto letter recently issued by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is made of win. The veto came on a bill filed by San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano. Ammiano had rudely interrupted and heckled the Governor at an event a few weeks ago and had subsequently taken the podium to blast him at length. Of course, since the event was a Democrat fundraiser (which Schwarzenegger had inexplicably been invited to), one wonders what kind of reception the Republican Governor was expecting to get.

Apparently it didn’t sit too well with the Governator, because this is the veto message he issued to Ammiano’s bill:

http://gov.ca.gov/pdf/press/2009bills/AB1176_Ammiano_Veto_Message.pdf

If you read that and didn’t spot the win, take a look at the first letters of each line of the text.

Juvenile? Perhaps. But also clever, and perhaps effective. There are some people who will never respect you unless you demonstrate that you can fight back. After getting the letter, Ammiano’s office issued a statement saying “We will call it even and start with a clean slate with the governor from here on out.” Clearly, they got the point.

Thanks to Breitbart and the Associated Press for this gem.

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There is no environmental “point of no return”.

Posted by sanityinjection on October 26, 2009

Amid all the discussion about climate change, one point that is made frequently by the global warming hysteria lobby is this: The earth will soon reach a “tipping point” or “point of no return”, at which time the amount of damage that has been done by man to the earth’s ability to self-regulate its climate will be beyond the possibility of repair and our planet will be irrevocably doomed.

That’s a pretty effective argument in favor of taking hasty action without thinking it through, because there’s no time. (You may recall a similar argument being used when the economic stimulus package was rammed through Congress.) This is an emergency, so just do what we tell you and don’t think, we are told.

 But in fact, if you *do* stop and think, the argument makes little sense. We are being asked to simultaneously believe that 1) Man is so powerful a force for change that we can easily overwhelm ecological systems that ran for billions of years before we arrived, and 2) Man is not powerful enough a force that we can reverse the effects that we ourselves supposedly have caused.

It is in this context that I offer you the inspiring story of the resurrection of the Aral Sea. For those not well versed in geography, the Aral Sea was at one time the fourth-largest inland sea in the world, located smack in the middle of Central Asia. However, the Soviets diverted the waters that fed the sea for irrigation, creating a man-made desert and destroying the area which used to depend on fishing.

In recent years, however, part of the Sea is coming back and with it the fishing industry, thanks to a dedicated program of environmental reconstruction including water diversion. There is still a long way to go, since not all of the Sea’s neighbors are cooperating. But the instructive point is that the rate at which the damage is being reversed is faster than the rate at which it was caused. In just three years the total fish catch has risen from 52 tons to 2,000 tons!

Al Gore’s crowd will object that the example isn’t valid because the Sea never disappeared completely (only about 90% of it vanished), so it wasn’t necessary to start from scratch. True – but our climate isn’t 90% destroyed, either. They will also complain that the Aral Sea project is much too small to provide relevant lessons for global climate change. But in fact, the AP article explains how both the death of the Sea and its rebirth have had a significant effect on the local climate. And by normal standards, it’s not small – we are talking about an original sea area the size of Ireland and a surrounding climate zone bigger than that.

What I take from this is that even *if* anthropogenic causes are exacerbating global warming to a degree that will ultimately be problematic – and so far the evidence suggests otherwise – even then, the suggestion that we must hurry up and act NOW without calculating the potential impact of our actions is not supported by the actual experience we have with environmental restoration and climate change. You wouldn’t sign a contract without having read it, but they would have our legislators sign environmental legislation without undertsanding what it will do either environmentally or economically.

Ultimately, it’s independent thought, and not runaway global warming, that the hysteria lobby fears most.

Posted in Foreign Affairs, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Give this man a medal…and a job.

Posted by sanityinjection on October 21, 2009

Today’s example of the lack of sanity in our modern society comes to us from Ocala, Florida, in the person of one Josh Rutner. Mr. Rutner, you see, was until recently employed by the local Wal-Mart as an “asset protection officer” – essentially, a store detective whose job is to identify and stop possible shoplifters.

Earlier this month, while Mr. Rutner was on duty, a man tried to steal forty bucks worth of golf balls and a chicken dinner without paying. Mr. Rutner, following store policy, radioed for assistance and with the help of two other employees, collared the thief just outside the store’s door. But then, the suspect pulled a knife and fled on foot. Mr Rutner gave chase and tried to knock the guy over with a shopping cart. He was eventually apprehended by police.

The next day, Mr. Rutner was called into a manager’s office at Wal-Mart and fired. Why? Because store policy strictly forbids detectives from giving chase to armed suspects once they leave the premises.

Now, one can understand why Wal-Mart might have such a policy – to protect its employees and to protect the store itself from liability. But as Rutner states, he felt he could not allow someone he knew to be dangerous to run free and possibly attack someone else. “I didn’t get hurt. They got their merchandise. And yet I got fired.”

Rutner knowingly violated store policy and should certainly be subject to some sort of discipline for that. But to most of us, he’s a hero – and that should count for something more than being tossed out on his tuchus. The one time somebody tries to go above and beyond the call of duty – rather than just getting by with the minimum amount of effort – and what happens? He gets punished for it. So much for civic-mindedness. So much for incentivizing excellence, which is probably mentioned in Wal-Mart’s BS employee materials. The message Wal-Mart is sending is “Screw the community, all we care about is ourselves.”

Wal-Mart can of course do what they want – but here’s hoping that if Josh Rutner doesn’t get a medal for his bravery, someone will at least offer him a new job.

Posted in Domestic News | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Paglia on Nobel prize, war, tea parties, Palin, hate crimes, Polanski, academia

Posted by sanityinjection on October 14, 2009

Every month I resist the urge to post about Camille Paglia’s latest column at Salon.com. Although I continue to feel that Paglia is the most intellectually honest columnist around and worthy of reading every month, I figure the permalink over on the right hand side of the page is usually sufficient.

But this month Paglia touches on so many of the subjects I’ve discussed recently that I can’t resist. What’s great about this column in particular is the high quality not only of her commentary but of the reader e-mails she quotes, some of which rebut her opinions quite skillfully.

Here is just one tidbit to whet your appetite:

The mainstream media’s failure to honestly cover last month’s mass demonstration in Washington, D.C. was a disgrace. The focus on anti-Obama placards (which were no worse than the rabid anti-LBJ, anti-Reagan or anti-Bush placards of leftist protests), combined with the grotesque attempt to equate criticism of Obama with racism, simply illustrated why the old guard TV networks and major urban daily newspapers are slowly dying. Only a simpleton would believe what they say.

Read the full article here.

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Hezbollah caught red-handed when terrorist blows up his own garage

Posted by sanityinjection on October 13, 2009

After the 2006 war between Israel and the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah, one of the conditions of the UN resolution that ended the conflict was that Hezbollah would disarm and turn over their weapons and control of the areas in southern Lebanon they controlled to the Lebanese Army.

Needless to say, they turned over some weapons (knowing they could smuggle in more as soon as the UN stopped paying attention), but still retain control of southern Lebanon. The Lebanese government and army has only as much authority in the south as Hezbollah chooses to give them.

Israeli intelligence has repeatedly complained that Hezbollah was re-arming, but the terrorists predictably denied it. That is, until yesterday, when a Hezbollah militant’s garage was blown up by an exploding artillery shell. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know too many people with artillery shells in their garages. Even Lebanese officials initially admitted that it was likely the garage was being used to store illegal weapons.

Now, can we finally dispense with the ridiculous idea that you can negotiate with terrorists and trust them to keep agreements?

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

Who *should* have received the Nobel Peace Prize?

Posted by sanityinjection on October 13, 2009

I resisted the urge to post about this on Friday. Like most people, I was shocked by the announcement that President Obama was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. I was even more shocked when my friends over at The Western Experience pointed out that since nominations were due February 1, whoever nominated Obama must have done so less than two weeks after he’d taken office.

In trying to decide what to write about this, I had the following thought: If I post that I think the selection of Obama is ridiculous, surely someone will ask the question: If not Obama, who do I think should have received the prize? I figured I had better have an answer to that question before I posted.

In fact, I have two. The first is Morgan Tsvangirai, the current Prime Minister of Zimbabwe. Readers familiar with African events will recall that Zimbabwe has suffered under the dictatorship of the increasingly erratic and ruthless President Robert Mugabe for many years. Tsvangirai was the President of the Movement for Democratic Change which opposed Mugabe. He ran against Mugabe in both 2002 and 2008; both elections saw massive fraud to keep Mugabe in power. Eventually, under international pressure, Mugabe agreed to a power-sharing agreement, but is suspected of having tried to assassinate Tsvangirai less than a month after the latter took office.

As an opposition leader, Tsvangirai condemned massive and widespread human rights violations by Mugabe’s government. In the course of his speeches and work for reforms, he has been repeatedly arrested, beaten, tortured, and survived three assassination attempts. Against this background, and the severe circumstances facing the people of Zimbabwe, no one would have been surprised if an armed revolt had arisen. But Tsvirangai has consistently urged that the country’s problems be resolved by peaceful means, and it was in that spirit that even though he had won the 2008 election, he agreed to share power with the man responsible for his torture and attempted murder. Frankly, Barack Obama may never accomplish anything as impressive in the cause of peace as this.

My second choice for the Nobel Peace Prize would have been the King of Thailand, King Bhumibol Adulyadej. I can understand why this would have been a controversial choice, because of the King’s involvement with the 2006 military coup that overthrew an elected government. But the King has a well-documented history over half a century of working to maintain peace and prevent civil strife both within Thailand and with respect to its neighbors. (And the Nobel Committee can hardly claim that it chose Obama to avoid controversy.)

Meanwhile. members of the Committee continue to display their cluelessness and/or disingenuousness:

“We simply disagree that he has done nothing,” committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland told the AP on Tuesday. “He got the prize for what he has done.”

Jagland singled out Obama’s efforts to heal the divide between the West and the Muslim world and scale down a Bush-era proposal for an anti-missile shield in Europe.

“All these things have contributed to — I wouldn’t say a safer world — but a world with less tension.”

Translation: Obama has accomplished nothing to make the world safer, but he made us hand-wringing Europeans FEEL BETTER!

He said most world leaders were positive about the award and that most of the criticism was coming from the media and from Obama’s political rivals.

Funny, I wasn’t aware that the purpose of the Nobel Peace Prize was to curry favor with the world’s heads of state. What an amazing thing. Why don’t we just let the heads of state vote, then, and dispense with the Committee altogether?

Aagot Valle, a left-wing Norwegian politician who joined the Nobel panel this year, also dismissed suggestions that the decision to award Obama was without merit.

“Don’t you think that comments like that patronize Obama? Where do these people come from?”

Translation: If you think Obama’s selection was inappropriate, you are a racist hillbilly. (As if no one ever questioned all the white recipients of the award?)

Anyway, I hope with the above we can now dispense with the nonsense that there was “nobody better to give it to.”

Posted in Foreign Affairs, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Signs of sanity on climate change

Posted by sanityinjection on October 13, 2009

Dribs and drabs of good news have been cropping up on the climate change front, beginning with Australia’s rejection of cap-and-trade, and the back-burnering of similar legislation here int he US in favor of the health care bill.

Now even one of the leading drum-beaters on global warming, the BBC, is acknowledging that there is an actual debate within the scientific community on the subject. While that seems obvious to us, it represents a significant concession from their previous attitude that only crackpots and oil industry shills could be unbelievers.

The article, titled “What happened to global warming?’, states flatly that “For the last 11 years we have not observed any increase in global temperatures. And our climate models did not forecast it, even though man-made carbon dioxide, the gas thought to be responsible for warming our planet, has continued to rise.”

Of course, they are not ready to capitulate altogether. The article presents conflicting opinions from scientists, some who say that we are due for a cooling period of 10-30 years and some who say global warming will resume next year. It concludes that “It seems the debate about what is causing global warming is far from over.” In short, it’s the kind of reasonable, balanced and fair article the BBC should have been presenting on the topic all along.

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