Sanity Injection

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

Archive for January, 2010

Florida’s Tim Tebow to star in pro-life Super Bowl ad

Posted by sanityinjection on January 27, 2010

It’s been a while since there was anything controversial about the commercials aired during the Super Bowl. But this year promises to be different.

Even if you don’t follow college football, you have probably heard the name Tim Tebow. Star quarterback for the University of Florida, Tebow is the first player ever to win the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore and the first to both rush and pass for 20 touchdowns in a season.

Now set to enter the NFL draft this spring and begin his professional career, Tebow has made an unusual choice. He has agreed to star in a Super Bowl ad sponsored by conservative Christian group Focus on the Family. The ad tells the story of Pam Tebow (Tim’s mother)’s difficult pregnancy, during which she was advised by doctors to have an abortion to protect her own health. She refused, and gave birth to Tim.

There are two interesting aspects to this ad. First is the fact that nobody can remember a political issue ad such as this airing during the Super Bowl before. CBS – the network carrying the game this year – used to have a longstanding policy against “controversial” ads, but they have since loosened their rules. Except during a Presidential primary year, there’s rarely anything big going on politically when the Super Bowl is played, so there’s little incentive to spend the megabucks to pay for such an ad. Needless to say, pro-choice groups are lobbying CBS to kill the ad; surprisingly, CBS appears to be standing firm for the moment.

The second question is whether this is a good decision by Tebow. Well known at school as a devout Christian, no one doubts the sincerity of his motivation. But the NFL tries hard to avoid political controversy. Tebow and whatever team he ends up playing for will want fans to be eager to buy a Tebow jersey regardless of their political views. If taking a strong stand on this issue alienates half the fan base, that will cost Tebow and the NFL real money. I could even imagine certain teams rating Tebow lower on their draft boards over something like this.

Of course Tebow should not have to forego the right to speak his views simply because he plays football. There are many, many NFL players who are pro-life and also quite public about their Christian faith. But there is a difference between answering questions honestly – like beauty pageant contestant Carrie Prejean did – and going out of your way to shove your views in everyone’s face, like Barbra Streisand. Focus on the Family and its leader James Dobson have been particularly prone to controversy in the past. Choosing to associate yourself with them for your first foray into politics is like choosing to associate with Al Sharpton for your first foray into civil rights.

What do you think? Is it a good idea to have these kinds of ads during the Super Bowl? Is Tebow doing the right thing by speaking out?

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

Global warming myth continues to unravel

Posted by sanityinjection on January 25, 2010

Ever since those leaked emails surfaced showing British climate scientists deliberately trying to distort data and squash criticism, it seems like more and more cracks continue to appear in the facade of global warming as “settled science”. For example, the International Panel on Climate Change has been forced to admit that one of its assertions – that the Himalayan glaciers will disappear by 2035 – was not based on solid science. In fact, it was based on one media interview with one scientist, in which that scientist never even used the date 2035.

To make matters worse, it turns out the IPCC knew the item was unsubstantiated, but included it in the report deliberately to frighten Asian countries that get water from the glaciers. They deliberately ignored questions about the claim that were raised when the draft report was issued. This is really the smoking gun that proves what I have been saying all along about a hysteria lobby that is willing to say anything in order to scare people into doing their bidding.

Additionally, we now have proof that the claim that global warming will cause more frequent and stronger natural disasters such as floods and hurricanes is equally without scientific foundation. Much criticized by skeptics when it was dramatically illustrated in Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth”, this turns out to be based on one unpublished report which specifically stated there was insufficient evidence to establish a tie to global warming. So much for rigorously peer-reviewed “settled science.”

In fact, the only “settled science” about global warming is this: Carbon dioxide is a gas which, in sufficient atmospheric quantities, can cause a “greenhouse effect” in which heat becomes trapped. There are other gases, such as methane, that have a stronger greenhouse effect.

It is a long way from that simple science to the conclusion that carbon dioxide produced by industrial sources will inevitably cause an irreversible global warming with catastrophic consequences. You have to get there by starting from a political philosophy that fossil fuels, heavy industry and people who profit from them are bad and should be punished or eliminated. Then you have to ignore the long-term climate records of the earth and evidence of the significant role played by other factors such as solar activity. Follow it up with a healthy dose of deliberate deception and you’ve got yourself a multi-million dollar advocacy industry that promises to provide employment and research grant funding for decades to come by feeding on people’s fear. Nice little recipe, indeed.

How does the story end? Same as the heterosexual AIDS epidemic. When it’s all over, no one shows a shred of remorse for having enthusiastically fed the machine, instead insisting that they were fooled just like everyone else. All the fingers point in a circle, the money gets pocketed, and in a few years there’s a new ManBearPig to start the game all over again.

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

The Obama Administration after one year

Posted by sanityinjection on January 22, 2010

It’s a truism that political columnists and bloggers all tend to write about the same things at the same time. So it is no surprise that with the Obama Administration passing the first anniversary of its inception this week, the op-ed-osphere is full of articles assessing the performance of the President and his team after a full year in office.

Rather than add to the babble, I commend to you Mort Zuckerman’s column in US News and World Report, “The Incredible Deflation of Barack Obama.”  Zuckerman’s writing is notable not for the originality of what he has to say, but for his ability to summarize and present a good comprehensive picture of where the Administration is at and what it has – or has not – accomplished. It’s also extremely well written. His central point is that the President has not only failed to achieve progress in any significant area, but that this failure is heightened by the extremely high expectations he encouraged the American people to have for his Presidency.

Here’s a teaser:

“[Obama’s] gift for inspiration aroused expectations, stoked to unprecedented heights by his own staff, that he would solve the climate crisis on Monday, the jobs crisis on Tuesday, the financial crisis on Wednesday, the education crisis on Thursday, Afghanistan on Friday, Iraq on Saturday, and rest on Sunday.”

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

Two steps forward, one step back

Posted by sanityinjection on January 21, 2010

Sometimes it seems like every time some progress is made in American politics, there is an inevitable setback. So it was this week. The positive development of Scott Brown’s Senate victory in Massachusetts and its ramifications for our political system, has been followed only two days later by a Supreme Court ruling that will have a very negative effect on the election process.

In a 5-4 decision, the Court struck down a law  that prohibited unions and corporations from funding campaign advertisements for or against a candidate, or issue-oriented ads within the few days immediately prior to an election. The decision did not change the long-standing limitation on direct contributions to candidates by these organizations. 

It’s worth noting that the law the Court struck down has been in place for 63 years. While that in itself is no reason to uphold it, it does suggest that it has served a purpose.

The Court’s majority found that the prohibitions amounted to an unconstitutional restriction on freedom of speech. I disagree. First of all, it’s questionable whether a corporation or a union must have free speech rights to the same degree that a citizen does. Second, it’s well established that government can limit free speech when there is a compelling public need served by doing so (the famous “yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater” provision.) No one doubts that the result of this decision will be an exponential growth of attack ads funded by these wealthy organizations. Any candidate who doesn’t jump into bed with either a union or a major corporation will be drowned out by an unlimited sea of propaganda. The Court has dealt a serious blow to the independence of our political system. By vastly increasing the power of the special interests, it will be much rarer to see a candidate like Scott Brown who listens to the voice of the people. That will no longer be required in order to win election in America.

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

Saudi Arabia: Not even the pretense of “separate but equal”

Posted by sanityinjection on January 20, 2010

OK, get ready, because this is going to be the most feminist column I have ever, or probably will ever write 🙂

The catalyst is the recent decision of Saudi authorities to shut down a fitness center for women in the city of Jeddah. Readers will recall that in the extremely conservative Saudi society, strict segregation of the genders (except for family members) is seriously enforced. However, that alone is not even the problem. Most Saudi women would be happy with “separate but equal” accommodations, as both men and women believe this to be part of their Muslim faith (though millions of Muslims worldwide would disagree.)

In fact, however, segregation is used as an excuse to severely circumscribe women’s lives to an extent far beyond what blacks in America’s Jim Crow South ever experienced. Women are legally forbidden from driving, for example, because doing so would inevitably cause them to have to interact with men (at gas stations, for example.) Now the closure of the Jeddah fitness center and others in the conservative kingdom – despite warnings from health officials about the level of fitness among Saudi women – proves that the discrimination against women goes far beyond the desire for Islamic segregation. Since the gym in question was for women only, with no co-ed facilities, what could have motivated its closing?

The answer is simple: The gym would have been a place where Saudi women from different families could meet and talk with one another outside of male supervision. This is a frightening prospect to the Saudi patriarchy, which believes that every aspect of women’s lives needs to be controlled by men. The Saudi men – encouraged by their male imams – believe that their women are fundamentally immoral and will descend rapidly into sin if not kept in check by men. This idea is rooted not so much in Islam but in a much older tribal culture. As such, it is indefensible in the 21st century.

There is little that we in the West can do other than to speak up and consistently promote the idea of women as full citizens with equal rights in every area. And not to tolerate any suggestion of “different cultural standards” as an excuse for the Saudi brand of discrimination. Cultural values should be respected in matters such as standards of dress and public behavior, but not where the fundamental rights of speech, faith, and assembly are concerned.

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

Brown’s win in Massachusetts is a national game changer

Posted by sanityinjection on January 20, 2010

It would be impossible to overstate the significance of Republican Scott Brown’s surprising win last night in the special election for Ted Kennedy’s former Senate seat in Massachusetts. I am speaking not simply of what a GOP win in the bluest of blue states implies about the ability of Republicans to compete in blue districts nationwide, but also the ripple impact that the success of his populist campaign will have in almost every area of American politics. Democrats will be forced to make changes in their thinking as well as Republicans.

Consider the following developments today that can be attributed directly to Brown’s win:

  • The Obama Administration’s embattled nominee to head the TSA, who until now has vigorously resisted calls to step down,  has withdrawn, knowing that Brown represented another likely vote against him.
  • President Obama has instructed Democrats not to try to ram through a health-care bill before Brown can be seated. Meanwhile, Democrats in the House, who until now had been holding out for nationalized health care, are recommending that the Obama Administration start over from scratch with health care reform and pursue a scaled-back compromise approach that can win bipartisan support, knowing that the current bills are effectively DOA with Brown in the Senate: “If there isn’t any recognition that we got the message and we are trying to recalibrate and do things differently, we are not only going to risk looking ignorant but arrogant.” (Rep. Anthony Weiner , D-NY.) What? A bipartisan approach to an issue of major importance? What a strange idea…almost like suggesting that one political party shouldn’t try to ram its own agenda through the legislature!

And folks, that’s in less than 24 hours. Make no mistake about it, the playing field of American politics is vastly different today than it was yesterday. Even Scott Brown could not possibly have imagined this when he first decided to run for the Senate months ago. In my not-so-humble-opinion, this is a great day not just for Republicans, but for everybody who believes that no election should be “safe” and no elected official should be immune from being held accountable to the voters. The Democrats who run for election or re-election in 2010 will do a better job of articulating their views and listening to their voters because of what happened in Massachusetts. The Republicans who run will be better candidates now that qualified individuals believe they can win. And the biggest beneficiaries of all will be the voters, who will get to make real choices between different political policies and philosophies. That’s why turnout in Massachusetts was so high – for once, that Silent Majority of independents knew that their votes would really count and make a difference. And hopefully they will again in November.

To paraphrase a line from an old TV show: It’s 2010…let’s be careful out there.

Disclaimer: I’m personally acquainted with Senator Brown. That’s why I haven’t written about his race until now – I did not want to let my own personal feelings color my judgment. Obviously I’m thrilled for Brown and his family.

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

Well, that explains it!

Posted by sanityinjection on January 19, 2010

HealthDay News reports that “in 2007, researchers from Japan’s Kyoto University found that young chimpanzees actually out-performed human adults in tracking numbers and remembering sequencing.”

Maybe if we appointed a chimpanzee as the head of the IRS it would be able to understand the tax code.

Seriously, if somebody wants to use a paid tax preparer – even the head of the IRS – that is their business. But if you state publicly that you find the tax code so complex that you have to use a paid preparer, isn’t that tantamount to admitting you’re not knowledgeable enough to do your job? I file my own taxes – shouldn’t the IRS Commissioner be at least as smart as me?

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Haiti’s government is AWOL – and that might be a good thing

Posted by sanityinjection on January 15, 2010

AP reports that the United States has essentially taken over Haiti because the national government has effectively ceased to exist and there is nobody else capable of running the country.

For example, the international airport is now under the control of, and being manned by, US Armed Forces in order to manage the extreme logjam of relief flights trying to take off and land. Thousands of US ground troops are landing as we speak to try to create some order amidst the chaos. Haiti’s waters are under the complete control of the US Navy and Coast Guard. Some readers may recall there is a UN mission in Haiti, but it was affected by the earthquake as well and is focused on its own rescue operations at the moment.

The US swears it is not trying to sideline the elected government or undermine Haitian President Rene Preval. But you have to wonder whether doing so would actually be good for Haiti, considering that the quality of life of most Haitian people has shown no significant improvement in decades. The only public statement I have heard from Preval so far was him whining that his palace has been wrecked and he has nowhere to live.

Aid agencies are complaining that the Haitian organizations they normally work with are out of commission. Might that not be a good thing? Being able to sidestep corrupt Haitian officials for once may mean that international aid may be more effective, not less. Get your own people in there and get the job done properly this time.

What better lesson for this than Iraq? After the quick war in 2003, the US was concerned about appearing like a conqueror and moved quickly to turn over power to an Iraqi civilian interim government. That government proved to be hopelessly inept and corrupt, and the result was more American and Iraqi lives lost as the US military found itself having to divert from security missions to clean up the government’s messes. The Iraqi people would have been far better off had we placed the country under a formal US occupation government. World opinion would have howled and screamed, but we could have cleaned the place up a lot more efficiently and then presided over elections, leading to a full withdrawal and a stable country as early as 2006.

Is it now the Haitian people’s turn to be sacrificed – yet again – on the altar of national sovereignty and anti-imperialism? Let’s hope not.

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

McCain puts trash journalism in its place

Posted by sanityinjection on January 13, 2010

This is what passes for news nowadays: Someone writes a tell-all book full of juicy tidbits about some of the nation’s major political players. Reporters then spend the next week trying to goad said political players into saying more nasty things either about each other or about the book’s authors.

No one makes a better foil for this sort of trash than Sarah Palin. Everyone seems to either love to love Palin or love to hate her. Along with her own undeniable efforts to remain in the spotlight, this helps explain why she remains a major topic of conversation over a year after her failed 2008 Vice Presidential bid, and why FoxNews has just recently hired her to be a regular on-air talking head. (Personally, I am ambivalent about Palin; I find some of the attacks against her to be vile but I also don’t consider her a great spokesperson for conservative ideas.)

So it came as no surprise to anyone when Matt Lauer turned the conversation to the subject of Palin in his recent interview with Senator John McCain on the Today Show. Lauer wanted McCain to comment on allegations in the book “Game Change” that his campaign had done a lousy and hasty job of vetting Palin before she was selected to be his running mate. It should be noted that unlike some of the book’s other juicy bits, this is not a new allegation, though it may be made in more detailed fashion. McCain certainly has heard it many times before.

Lauer’s goal, of course, was to put McCain in an uncomfortable situation where he faced the following choices: slam your aides for doing a bad job, impugn your own judgment in selecting a running mate, or bad mouth someone (Palin) who worked hard on your behalf. You can almost see Lauer mentally salivating behind his mask of journalistic seriousness.

McCain, displaying the class for which he is legendary among those who have worked for him, refused to take the bait, twice stating that he would not know if the book’s allegations were correct or who the sources were that provided the information. He simply said he was proud of Palin and proud of the campaign that he ran, and sought to move on to other topics. But Lauer wouldn’t let it go. McCain got visibly irritated and suggested something more important to talk about:  “I just spent my time, Matt, over where three Americans were just killed in Afghanistan.”

Lauer wouldn’t even take that obvious hint and continued to press McCain about Palin, leaving the Senator no choice but to put Lauer firmly in his place:

“I am not going to spend time looking back at over what happened over a year ago when we’ve got two wars to fight, 10 percent unemployment in my state and things to do. I’m sorry, you’ll have to get others to comment.”

After that, even Lauer knew he’d been licked, and retreated with a weaselly attempt to sound like he was apologizing for asking the questions, without actually apologizing (which the media almost never does): ““I hope you understand my asking the questions.” Which actually means, “I have every right to ask these questions!” McCain of course took the high road and graciously treated it like the apology it wasn’t.

In fact, what McCain had skillfully done was to expose the degree to which Lauer and his ilk are out of touch with the American people, who are far more concerned with issues like health care, jobs, and Afghanistan than with endless navel-gazing over the internal functioning of the political process. Yes, we like juicy gossip, but the media likes to pretend that juicy gossip is actually serious news, and for once, they got caught in the masquerade of their own self-importance. Is it any wonder why so many of us retain our affection for the irascible Senator from Arizona? We cherish the knowledge that every now and then, like the child at the Emperor’s parade, he can be counted on to look someone right in the eye and publicly tell them the truth they would much rather not hear.

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

Why Iran’s regime won’t fall

Posted by sanityinjection on January 13, 2010

It seems like almost every article in the Western press about the ongoing protests in Iran against the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad government is eager to make comparisons to the 1979 revolution that overthrew the Shah, and speculating as to whether a second revolution is brewing. Most of the time, the authors are simply repeating what they have heard each other say; few of them have much actual knowledge of what life is like in the Islamic Republic.

In contrast, the Asia Times’ Dilip Piro explains why the current protests in Iran are significantly different from the events of 1979 and unlikely to lead to regime change anytime soon:

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