Sanity Injection

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

Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

The death of decorum

Posted by sanityinjection on December 4, 2009

Today’s sad chapter in the breakdown of our society comes to us from the state of Maryland. Dana Hanna was standing at the altar getting married to his fiancee when he reached into his pocket for his mobile phone to update his relationship status on Facebook and send a Tweet. The minister  – the only person other than Hanna who was in on the joke – paused until Hanna was finished, then pronounced the couple man and wife. Apparently the video of the wedding – posted on YouTube, of course – has become a viral hit.

As with anything on the Internet, Hanna’s stunt has drawn both praise and criticism. Responding to critics, Hanna said, “I was having fun at MY wedding!” In fact, this response only makes the point more clear: At this profound moment of his life, Hanna apparently was not thinking about his bride to be, or the friends and family in attendance to share in his special moment. He was thinking about HIMSELF and how many other random people he could get to PAY ATTENTION TO HIM.  In doing so, he displayed no regard for those close to him, including his bride, who later Tweeted, “Can’t sleep, very anxious about this new fame. What will become of it?” Doesn’t bode well for a future of making important decisions together, does it?

Hanna typifies the lust for fame that has become one of our society’s strongest and most widely-held values, not to mention the narcissistic certainty that every little detail of our lives must be endlessly fascinating to everyone else. How did we get to the point where people would rather be widely known for being a jackass than not widely known at all?


Posted in Current Events | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Let Rio have the Olympics

Posted by sanityinjection on October 1, 2009

As you surely know if you have been watching Obamavision, I mean television lately, President Obama is traveling to Copenhagen, Denmark to lobby on behalf of his home city of Chicago’s bid to host the 2016 Olympics. Chicago is one of four finalists for the games along with Madrid, Tokyo, and Rio de Janeiro.

The President has received some criticism (especially from the Right, natch) as to whether this is appropriate or represents the best possible use of his time, as both foreign and domestic priorities loom large. The best line was from conservative activist Grover Norquist, who quipped that he has no problem with Obama going to Denmark, but he’s a little concerned that he might try to come back 🙂

Putting this question aside, I’d like to make my own pitch to the International Olympic Committee, should any of its solons happen to be reading. I urge the IOC to support not Chicago’s bid, but Rio’s. Here’s why:

  • Spread the love: Both the US and Japan have hosted multiple Olympic Games. Spain had the Summer Games in Barcelona as recently as 1992. No Olympics have ever been held in South America.
  • Local support: Recent polls suggest that about half of Chicagoland residents would prefer not to have the Olympics in their city. Brazilians on the other hand are very excited about the prestige and attention the Olympics would bring to their city and country.
  • Atmosphere: Rio is internationally known as a friendly city and a place to party. Chicago, while a great city, isn’t known for either. Plus Rio has better beaches.
  • Economics: Chicago is a city with a healthy economic base. Hosting the Olympics will probably cost as much in disruptions and preparations as it will gain in business. Rio, while prosperous in some ways, has areas of shocking poverty and is far more in need of the boost the Olympics would bring, as is Brazil generally. Furthermore, while athletes from Europe, East Asia and North America can afford to attend the Olympics wherever they are held, there may well be athletes in South America for whom having the games on their continent will make the difference as to whether they can compete at all.

It’s not that I am against having the Olympics in the US, or in Chicago if the city truly wants them. However, it’s a virtual guarantee that there will be another Olympic in the US within the next few decades. Brazil has no such guarantees, and the money Rio has spent to prepare its pitch for the games is far dearer to them than to the multiple US cities that apply every single year.

As an American, I would vigorously advocate for something that was important for the future of my country. This is an athletic contest. Fun, yes. Admirable, yes. Critical, no. Let somebody else have a turn.

Posted in Current Events | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Winners and Losers

Posted by sanityinjection on September 17, 2009

I’m debuting a new feature here at Sanity Injection. Occasionally I get sort of a writer’s block because there are so many things I want to write about and never enough time. So today’s post is going to hit a number of different topics by running down my thoughts on who benefited most (winners) or who was hurt most (losers) by the news developments of the last several days. Let me know what you think; if this format proves to be popular I might make it a weekly feature.

Anyway here goes:


Ayatollah Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad of Iran – Their crackdown against the election protesters seems to have succeeded for the time being. Meanwhile, Russia refuses to support additional sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program when even the French, who invented the art of sticking one’s head in the sand, are acknowledging that Iran is trying to build a bomb. 

Conservative activistsHundreds of thousands protest peacefully in Washington against the Obama Administration and manage to avoid embarrassing their cause while actually attracting some media attention. Simultaneously, two conservative activists manage to take down the fraud organization known as ACORN (see Losers, below.)

Sharron Thornton – A blinded Mississippi grandmother who has regained her sight after doctors implanted one of her own teeth inside her eye to hold an artificial lens in place. She will soon be able to look at the faces of her youngest grandchildren for the first time.

Hamas – Recent Western focus on the Palestinian civilian victims of the Israeli attack on Gaza ignores years of rocket attacks by Hamas against Israeli civilians, while the terrorist group continues to gradually implement sharia laws making Gazans considerably less free under Hamas than they would be under Israeli control.

RussiaEverything seems to be going right for the Russian government. The media continues to buy into Medvedev and Putin’s good cop – bad cop act; relations with China are improving; no one is lifting a finger to stop the creeping annexation of the “liberated” Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia; unrest in Chechnya and Ingushetia continues to provide a convenient excuse for authoritarianism; and US President Obama, far from holding Russia accountable for anything, has so far given Russia everything it wanted in arms control reductions including signing away the one thing Russia feared, a European missile defense system (see Losers, below.)


Poland and the Czech Republic – Risked the wrath of their giant neighbor, Russia, by agreeing to host components of the Bush Administration’s missile defense system, only to be stabbed in the back by President Obama’s decision not to move forward with the program. Adding insult to injury, the decision was announced on the anniversary of the day Poland was invaded by Soviet Russia in 1939.

Congressman Joe Wilson, Kanye West, Serena Williams – Rude and offensive behavior apparently crosses all lines of gender, ethnicity, and politics. There is a time and place for expressing your opinions. Learning how and when to do that is part of what being an adult means. Guess these three need to repeat a few grades. Also, am I the only one who suspects that Serena Williams might be using steroids or some similar substance that might have fueled both her iron physique and her violent outburst?

Senator Max Baucus – The head of the group of Senators trying to craft a compromise health care bill ended up having to go it alone with a bill that nobody likes, not even his own Majority Leader.

ACORN – The controversial advocacy group (and favorite target of conservatives) has had all federal funding stripped from it in both House and Senate legislation after conservative activists videotaped its workers giving tax advice to a couple they thought were a pimp and a prostitute. They were also declared persona non grata by the Census Bureau as far as hiring census workers. I would argue the massive voter fraud perpetrated by the group in multiple states, for which they have been the target of prosecution by state authorities, should have warranted this step months ago, but in Washington I guess it takes a prostitution scandal to make you too hot to handle.

Everybody involved with the Hofstra gang rape case – now that the “victim” has recanted her accusations. I feel sorry for the falsely accused men, the unnecessarily frightened Hofstra students, the police whose time was wasted, the real rape victims everywhere who will have that much harder a struggle to be believed, and even the accuser herself, who must be a troubled individual to make up something like that.

Posted in Current Events, Domestic News, Foreign Affairs, Politics, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Should Philly let Tony Danza teach high school?

Posted by sanityinjection on August 14, 2009

This post is especially for Ms. D, because she’s a teacher and because she requested a non-politics post for a change 🙂

The Associated Press is reporting that cable network A&E is finalizing a deal for a new reality show called “Teach” in which veteran actor Tony Danza would co-teach a 10th grade English class in an urban Philadelphia high school. School officials will vote next week on whether to accept the deal, which would allow at least 13 episodes of the show to be shot at Northeast High School. The school district would receive $3500 per episode (for a total of  $45,500) plus expenses, and would have the right to “object to footage”.

So the question arises: Is this a good idea? Should the school sign on for this project or reject it? Let’s look at some of the pros and cons.

Pro: Danza might actually make a decent teacher. He’s a talented, down-to-earth individual who worked hard to get where he is. He’s clearly embraced the project, having read the literature in the school’s curriculum and attended new teacher orientation. He’s the type of person who could inject enthusiasm into a subject and get kids to pay attention.

Con: Students might well find the cameras to be a distraction. The show might foster a circus-like atmosphere in the school which would be bad for students and teachers alike.

Pro: Danza’s presence might help with teacher recruitment and student attendance and call attention to the challenges of urban public education. Real teachers at the school might gain recognition for what they do every day.

Con: Other teachers might be concerned about the way the show portrays their job. If Danza is a success, having had little training, they might worry that people will ask why other teachers who have professional training can’t achieve the same results. If Danza struggles, they might worry that his difficulties will be blamed on the school system (lack of funding, rigid institutional culture etc.) Since Danza is the focus, anyone who disagrees with him or opposes him in any way could come off looking badly.

Pro: The school district could use the money from the show to benefit students at other schools in the district.

Con: $45,000 is a drop in the bucket for an urban school budget and wouldn’t go very far.

Pro: Having the right to object to footage assures the school can avoid being presented negatively. Also, A&E has a better reputation for serious programming than most networks.

Con: It’s not clear whether the right to “object” to footage is the same as the right to veto it. And while A&E clains that the show will be produced in a responsible way, ultimately the goal is ratings, and it’s not hard to imagine that the show could try to “creatively” influence events at the school in a way that wouldn’t necessarily be in the school’s best interest.

I am honestly on the fence about this one. My gut reaction is that it’s a bad idea, but from Philly’s perspective they must be thinking that if they don’t greenlight it the show will just go somewhere else. With the planning having gone this far, the school probably doesn’t want to look like they are resistant to new ideas. The city’s mayor and at least some school officials are supporting the idea.

Fundamentally, I think my main objection is that the goal of educating students will necessarily become secondary to the goal of producing a successful TV show. I’m sure the producers don’t feel those goals are mutually exclusive – and often they may not be – but if push comes to shove, the money and the cameras will call the shots, and that’s not good for students, faculty, or administration.

What do you think?

Posted in Current Events | Tagged: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Singers wanted, talent not required

Posted by sanityinjection on July 29, 2009

Have you ever been listening to a singer on the radio and heard something that didn’t sound quite natural? As if, instead of singing a different note, the pitch of the note had been artificially changed by a computer?

If so, you’re not hearing things. You’re hearing something that has become widespread in the music industry over the last ten years, a piece of technology called “Auto-Tune”. It’s a piece of equipment that can digitally correct a singer’s pitch in real time – allowing its use during live performances as well as in the studio.

Depending on how it is used, the effect can be very obvious or subtle. Recall Cher’s 1998 hit “Believe”, in which the technology is used very notably as a special effect on Cher’s voice during the verses. It was also prominent in the Janet Jackson song, “All For You”. When used in this way, Auto-Tune is really no different than Peter Frampton’s vocoder or other special effects used in modern music.

However, it’s not always as obvious that legions of pop, country and other artists routinely use Auto-Tune to fix their vocal mistakes. A careful listener can hear it in songs by artists such as Avril Lavigne and Taylor Swift, and major country stars like Faith Hill and Tim McGraw have used it in performance.

This is troubling because it threatens to eliminate the need for a singer to stay on pitch at all. All of the above mentioned artists are talented and can certainly carry a tune without requiring artificial help.  But it would be easy for a studio to sign some pretty face with no pitch at all and Auto-Tune them into a recording star. In fact, I’d be willing to bet it’s already happened and continues to happen. (Britney Spears is one of my prime suspects.) Certainly the idea has been around for decades – remember the Brady Bunch episode where Greg becomes a pop singer only to find that the secret of his success is that he “fit the suit”? And let’s not forget Milli Vanilli.

One need only look at the massive popularity of American Idol to understand the appeal of authenticity in vocal performance. A pitch wobble in the studio should be fixed by having the singer redo the track; a pitch break in performance reminds the audience that they are witnessing a real live performance, as well as proving the artist isn’t lip-synching. Auto-Tune as a toy for special effects is fine, but as a sneaky way of compensating for a singer’s flaws, it’s essentially pulling a fast one on the public.

Some artists have spoken out against the use of Auto-Tune, including Vince Gill, Death Cab for Cutie and Jay-Z. Hopefully the waning power of major record labels and the increase in independent and self-published music will help to discourage its use.

Posted in Current Events | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Childhood obesity through the lens of McDonald’s

Posted by sanityinjection on July 10, 2009

I was motivated to post by a recent McDonald’s ad touting their “healthy options” for kids. According to the fast-food giant, these include “Apple Dippers – Fresh apple slices with low-fat caramel dip on the side. We also have fruit’n yogurt parfaits and milk in fun-to-drink jugs.” Other fast food places such as Burger King offer similar choices for kids.

I guess this is supposed to make parents feel less guilty about taking their kids to a fast-food place? But the hypocrisy here is a little ridiculous. First of all, if you’re truly concerned about eating healthy, you’re not going to go to a McDonald’s at all. Nobody gets a craving for salad and thinks, “Time to hit Mickey D’s!” when there are so many better places to get one.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I think it’s bad for McDonald’s to offer healthy options. It’s especially convenient if you’ve got a group of five people and only four are carnivores.

No, my scorn is directed at the special healthy choices that are just for kids. Think about it this way: While Junior is having his milk and apple slices, what are Mommy and Daddy eating? How much you want to bet it’s a Big Mac with large fries and a super-sized sugary drink? What message does that send? Seems to me kind of cruel to bring a kid into carcinogen heaven and then sentence them to a diet of health food while Mommy and Daddy happily destroy their arteries. (Or maybe just Daddy; Mommy may have ordered a salad, still feeling societal pressure to fit into clothing designed for anorexic models.) 

In other words, if apple slices and milk are good, why not offer them for adults? (Answer: Because adults won’t order them. Children won’t either; their parents order it for them.) If it’s bad for kids to eat salty fries and sugary drinks, why is McDonald’s offering these bad things to adults?

You can hardly get through one day anymore without hearing about the “epidemic of childhood obesity.” But think about it: Is consuming a Big Mac, fries, and soft drink ultimately more dangerous to the health of a pudgy 10-year old child or to a 55-year old parent with elevated blood pressure or cholesterol levels?

Yes, it’s true that children’s nutrition is of special importance because they are still growing. But nobody should be relying primarily on McDonald’s for their kids’ nutritional needs anyway. A fast-food place such as McDonald’s should be an occasional treat for families with kids, not a regular feature of their diet. In that event, fries and a Coke are not going to harm a child or make them fat. Of course, McDonald’s would prefer that you visit them every day, and that’s what they’re marketing. Just keep that in mind next time you see that kids’ menu.

Posted in Current Events | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

A birthday present from Dad?

Posted by sanityinjection on July 2, 2009

You’ve gotta love the British. They have a certain style to the way they do things.

Case in point: Several months ago, the British National Archives discovered amongst their ancient, musty files, an original copy of the American Declaration of Independence, in very good condition. Only about 200 copies were made in the first printing of the Declaration in Philadelphia in 1776, and only about two dozen are known to exist today. So this find is of signficance.

However, the announcement of its discovery was delayed – until today, July 2, which happens to be the actual date that the Continental Congress voted to accept the document and endorse independence. UK authorities claim that the delay was necessitated by the need to properly catalogue the document, but that is just a classy way of being modest. It’s clear that the announcement was intended as a wink-of-the-eye present to Britain’s closest ally.

Since Great Britain was the ancestral home of most of the American colonists and the power that governed the original 13 colonies under their first democratic system, one can view the UK in a way as the “father” of the United States – even if a rebellion against that father was needed to achieve independence.  In a weird sort of way, maybe Britons take a vicarious sort of pride in everything the USA has accomplished, much the way a father is proud of his child.

So, thanks for the birthday present, Dad. 🙂

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

Thoughts on the passing of Michael Jackson

Posted by sanityinjection on June 26, 2009

Regular readers will know that I usually refrain from comment on the lives of entertainment celebrities unless I feel there is a point to be made beyond simple voyeurism. I do feel compelled to share a few thoughts regarding the sudden passing of Michael Jackson.

To me, Michael Jackson for a long time has been a tragic figure. So much talent and so much promise, but his life is a vivid illustration of how our modern “celebrity culture” destroys lives. Jackson went from being a handsome black man to a disturbing white androgyne; from the world’s darling, the “King of Pop”, to an accused child molester; from being a multimillionaire to being millions in debt; from being the world’s number one performer and recording artist to being unable to perform on stage or even clearly remember his own accomplishments through the haze of drugs.

In the long run, I think Michael Jackson will be rightly remembered for his music. But we should pause to reflect on the disturbing path his life began to take beginning in 1979. That was the year Jackson, already a megastar at 21, broke his nose during a dance move. His rhinoplasty was botched and led to subsequent nasal surgeries, which in turn led to purely cosmetic surgery on his eyes, lips, nose, and chin. Combined with the burns to his scalp sustained in 1984 while filming a Pepsi commerical, by the late 1980s Jackson was virtually unrecognizable, anorexic, and addicted to painkillers. The contrast between photos of Jackson in 1984 and 1988 is striking and shows the change from a heartthrob to a disturbing figure. He had become such a mega-celebrity that no one around him had the guts to stand up to him and make him seek counseling or go to rehab. Jackson’s money bought silence and acquiescence to his every whim, including the purchase of the Neverland Ranch that ultimately led to his downfall and debt.

Among the many eulogies being delivered for Jackson, I am particularly struck by comments made by Rabbi Shmuely Boteach, a close friend and companion of Jackson’s – to the extent that he indeed had any close friends – for about five years. While Boteach is a controversial figure who is himself accused of using Jackson for his own self-promotion, much of what he says in today’s Jerusalem Post rings true:

 “While I was heartsick at the news, especially for his three young children, I was not shocked. I dreaded this day and knew it had to come sooner rather than later….My fear was that Michael’s life would be cut short. When you have no ingredients of a healthy life, when you are totally detached from that which is normal, and when you are a super-celebrity you, God forbid, end up like Janis Joplin like Elvis…”

Boteach writes that “In many ways his tragedy was to mistake attention for love.” In fact, many of the oddest rumors and stories about Jackson – such as the story about him sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber –  were spread by Jackson himself as publicity stunts. Ironically, he later came to fear the intense media scrutiny that he had fueled, shielding himself and his children from the public with masks and veils.

Much has been made of Jackson’s abuse at the hands of his father as being partially responsible for his warped life. Yet, countless others have endured childhood abuse and grown up into remarkably normal individuals – haunted by their own demons perhaps but fundamentally no worse off than their neighbors. Rather, it was Jackson’s super-celebrity status that operated to prevent him from getting the help and care that a normal person would have. He stopped listening, so those around him stopped talking.

Jackson’s musical career was staggering, but one can only imagine what he might have been capable of  if he had been healthy and able to devote himself to his music for the last 15 years. Ultimately, Jackson’s family’s loss is shared by everyone who was touched by his music. But as the world grieves for Jackson’s death, I find myself more inclined to grieve for his sad and painful life.

Posted in Current Events | Tagged: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Why are right-wing women fair game for sexist attacks?

Posted by sanityinjection on June 12, 2009

Amanda Fortini over at addresses the recent dust-up over David Letterman’s remarks about Sarah Palin and her daughter, and a particularly vile Playboy piece about raping conservative female commentators:

Fortini, a liberal feminist herself,  points out the hypocrisy of liberal feminists remaining silent in these incidents: “Imagine if, say, Michelle Obama, or Rachel Maddow, or Nancy Pelosi became the target of similar invective. The outcry from the left would be deafening.” I applaud this intellectual honesty.

I don’t think it’s appropriate for a talk-show host – even a comedian – to call a sitting US Governor “slutty” on network television. I have to say though, I didn’t think Letterman’s joke about Palin’s daughter getting “knocked up” at a baseball game rises to the same level. First of all, I don’t think Letterman realized that it was Palin’s 14-year old daughter Willow, and not the older Bristol, who was at the game. Second, Palin and her family can hardly complain if people make jokes about her daughters getting “knocked up” when Bristol did just that.

But the larger point remains. Women in politics continue to be targeted with sexually-tinged verbal assaults that their male colleagues do not face. This represents an implicit continuation of the antiquated notion that women who voice their opinions are somehow unladylike or of dubious morals, and that it is somehow OK to sexually insult or even threaten them. Liberals need to confront their hypocrisy in staying silent when the targets happen to be conservatives, because that raises the even more ugly implication that a woman’s refusal to adhere to a specific orthodox set of political views deserves to be punished with sexual abuse.

Further, it cannot be left only to women to protest this sort of treatement, lest they be accused of being “oversensitive” or “humorless”. Most of the offenders are men, and it is only when other men make it clear that we do not find such behavior to be “cool” or acceptable that it will diminish.

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

Is the new film “Angels and Demons” anti-Catholic?

Posted by sanityinjection on May 1, 2009

I hesitated a lot about whether to even write about this. I have not seen the new film (coming out in a couple of weeks), nor have I read the book it’s based on, though I’m familiar with the plot. I did read “The DaVinci Code”, and while it was entertaining enough, it was also a virulent anti-Catholic polemic which deliberately (and falsely) blurred the line between fact and fiction. I resolved at that point to make sure author Dan Brown never got any of my money, not because I am a Catholic, but because I prefer not to fund those who spread hatred through misinformation.

“Angels and Demons” was actually written before “Da Vinci Code”. Its plot summary can easily be found on any number of websites and focuses on a secret conspiracy masterminded by Vatican leaders. Like “Da Vinci Code”, it has now been made into a movie.

Fortunately, while struggling with exactly what tack (if any) to take on this subject, I ran across this column by Andrew Leigh, which I think nicely encapsulates my thoughts:

If you can’t decide whether a movie like this is unfair to Catholics, I suggest you apply a simple test: Mentally replace all the Catholics with Jews and all the priests with rabbis. If the result seems like it could have been the Film of the Month in Hitler’s Germany, then you’ve pretty much got your answer.

Of course there is nothing wrong with having an individual Catholic or Jew as a fictional villain. But when an author seems to go out of his way, repeatedly, to smear one of the world’s major faiths, and distorts facts in order to do so, you have to start to question whether entertainment or something far more unpleasant is really the main goal.

So I will not being seeing “Angels and Demons”. You won’t find me protesting in front of the theaters, because that would just create more publicity. And I don’t believe in censorship. But I would encourage readers to consider this issue before deciding whether or not to see the film.

Posted in Current Events, Religion | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »