Sanity Injection

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

Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

Beginning of the end for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”?

Posted by sanityinjection on February 4, 2010

It’s starting to look that way. President Obama wants to end this policy and allow homosexual men and women to serve openly in the US military.

15 years ago, when President Clinton first considered the question, there was heavy opposition from within the armed forces to what they saw as a politically motivated move being forced on them by Washington. The result was the compromise “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy, in which homosexuals were allowed to serve provided they did not disclose their orientation.

I stress the word “compromise”.  I’m not aware of anyone who ever viewed DADT as an ideal solution to the problem. I supported the policy as the best way of moving forward – I thought it was the right call at the time and have never had cause to reconsider that judgment.

However, a lot of time has passed since then. Attitudes toward homosexuality have evolved, not only in society as a whole but within the military itself. There is a new generation of soldiers who came into the armed forces with gay and lesbian friends and generally are scornful of the DADT policy. Also, the very fact of DADT has allowed individuals who, while not publicly “out”, are basically known informally to be homosexual, to serve in combat in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a result, other servicemen and women have become more comfortable with the idea of “sharing a foxhole” with a homosexual soldier – because they’ve done it.

In other words, unlike in Clinton’s time, there is now substantial support *within the armed forces* for doing away with DADT. For those of us who take seriously issues like unit cohesion and morale as they affect military capability, this is an extremely important point. When you add the fact that our armed forces are stretched thin to the bone, with every able man and woman a valuable asset, the military may well feel that it cannot afford the luxury of foregoing the services of men and women willing to serve their country but unwilling to make a secret of a central facet of their identity.

But make no mistake, this is a major change for the US military. It will be far-reaching, and there will inevitably be wrinkles that have to be worked out. So I support the position taken by Defense Secretary Gates: We’re going to do this, but we’re going to do it carefully and thoughtfully and not in a rush. If that means a year or more before the new policy is fully implemented, so be it. There will be time for all kinds of official studies to show, in the words of one GOP Congressman, “concrete, in-depth evidence that readiness concerns require a change and that such a change would not degrade wartime military readiness in any measurable, significant way.” This will give the politicians the cover they need to vote a change in policy – cover they don’t have at present and would not be eager to go into the 2010 elections without.

There is reason to be optimistic about the military’s ability to handle this well: when President Truman ordered the racial integration of the armed forces, it was accomplished much more rapidly and smoothly than in civilian society. I believe that DADT was a policy that served its purpose when it was created. I also believe that its usefulness is coming to an end and it is time to move forward with a new policy that is better suited to the military of the 21st century – but as with a military mission, we must lay the groundwork first before sending in the troops.

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

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 »

Quotes of the Week

Posted by sanityinjection on November 18, 2009

“[Former President George W. Bush] couldn’t speak with flowery language and even made grammatical mistakes but spoke as plainly as an American farmer. [ President Barack Obama speaks] “with sweet but empty words.”

– Chinese blogger Zhao “Hecaitou” Dezhu

“Learn English from Obama: Instead of saying ‘I want to eat,’ say ‘I am a big supporter of non-hunger.'” – Chinese writer Wang Pei

Despite all the hype from both governments about President Obama’s glorious visit to China and the heavily censored media coverage of the visit in China, it would appear that some folks in China were able to size up the Nobel Peace Prize winner pretty quickly:

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=9117321

The question is whether Americans can say the same.

Posted in Foreign Affairs | 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.

Posted in Foreign Affairs, Politics | 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 »

The Left’s cult of intelligence

Posted by sanityinjection on October 1, 2009

I’ve been meaning to write about the high value bordering on worship that liberals place on the quality of intelligence for some time. Ironically, it was a recent London Times interview with virulent leftist and two-bit author/scriptwriter Gore Vidal that finally inspired me to do so.

Vidal, you see, is a perfect example of the phenonemon I’m talking about, both as subject and object. For the modern Left – and it makes no difference if you’re European or American – there is no higher virtue than that of intelligence. And more specifically, not the kind of savvy of a bootstrap millionaire or a populist preacher, but only of the bookish, intellectual, Ivy League variety. For the Left, people with this quality are the world’s elite. They, and only they, are qualified to lead.

Nowhere has this been more evident than in US presidential politics. The Democrats’ Mike Dukakis was seen as more intellectual and more intelligent than Republican George Bush Sr. Democrats Al Gore and John Kerry were similarly idolized by the Left for their alleged intelligence, while Republican Bush Jr. was widely insulted as “stupid”. The message was clear: Intelligence makes the best leaders.

At first this seems to make a certain amount of sense. Wouldn’t we all prefer a smart leader to a stupid one? But that’s not really the question. Would we prefer a  highly intelligent leader, whose other qualifications are scant, to one of average intelligence whose other qualifications are impressive? If so, we discount character, diligence, experience, courage and many other factors that most leaders throughout history have embodied. I would argue this was one of the dilemmas facing American voters in choosing between the highly intelligent but underqualified Barack Obama and the average intelligence but highly qualified John McCain. Granted, most voters did not cast their vote based on this criterion – but I would argue a majority of those on the Left, including my own family members, did so.

Back to Gore Vidal – The man is obviously intelligent and well educated. And he’s made a living out of it. We are supposed to give greater weight to his words, not because of his experience or wisdom, but because of qualifications he earned over 50 years ago. Meanwhile, his life has been one of economic privilege, sexual hedonism, and strident atheism.  For someone who has defiantly done exactly as he pleased and accepted no limitations on his own behavior, he delights in preaching to others.

And yet even Vidal, in his old age, seems to have become aware of the limits of intelligence alone. In the Times interview, Vidal speaks of his disappointment with President Obama: “He was the most intelligent person we’ve had in that position for a long time. But he’s inexperienced. He has a total inability to understand military matters….His problem is being over-educated.”

Keep in mind, Vidal was a supporter of Obama’s. He and his left-wing cohorts believed that Obama’s intelligence was exactly why he’d be the greatest President in recent memory. They certainly knew at the time that he was inexperienced, but that didn’t bother them. They were happy to be upgrading from “the stupidest man in the country, Mr. Bush.” Only now are they waking up to find that experience matters a lot more than they thought – something plenty of people of average intelligence could have told Vidal’s clique, if they had deigned to listen.

Vidal marries his worship of intelligence with an aggressive anti-Americanism: “Does anyone care what Americans think? They’re the worst-educated people in the First World. They don’t have any thoughts, they have emotional responses, which good advertisers know how to provoke.” America’s great successes must be a puzzlement to the brilliant Vidal.

But the true myopia lies in the fact that the Left is incapable of perceiving that the majority of Americans – or indeed people anywhere – do not share their all-encompassing worship of traditional intelligence. That’s why Dukakis and Gore and Kerry all lost, and why the Left remains baffled by the fact of it. They not only thought they were smarter than everyone else – they expected us to receive their commands like the word of God by virtue of their superior intelligence. Ronald Reagan was lampooned throughout his Presidency by the Left as an idiot -and yet today he is recognized around the world (and even by some of his more honest critics) as one of America’s greatest leaders. No one, including Reagan, would describe him as an intellectual genius. His academic career was undistinguished and his grasp of the minute details of public policy vague. But what Reagan did have was a visceral understanding of character and human nature along with a dedication to duty and a firm belief in American values. This allowed him to surround himself with highly competent advisors and assistants – many smarter than himself – who helped him to turn his vision for America, and indeed the world, into reality. Sitting across the table from foreign leaders, he could rely on staff to brief him on policy details, but his ability to accurately size up the men across the table could only come from himself.

Serendipitously, Roger Simon over at Politico seems to be groping at what I’ve expressed above, though he locates it more in the world of popular culture than politics. He misses the fact that this is a particularly liberal phenomenon, mainly because he is himself a liberal and is helplessly mired in the usual liberal misperception of their own ideas as universal. But Simon’s point is that intelligence does not imply virtue, and gives some good examples to the contrary.

Again, I am certainly not suggesting that intelligence is a bad thing. (That would be rather self-hating of me.) I am simply suggesting that to take this one good quality out of context and elevate it to the sole criterion on which to judge human potential and achievement – as the Left continually does – is pretty much insane. (Historians use the epithet “reductionist” to describe anyone who foolishly tries to explain human events by reducing everything to one overriding factor.) Let us admire and respect the intelligent, and learn from them when we can – but let us also ask if they are brave, perceptive, hardworking, wise, and trustworthy.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Why tomorrow’s Middle East talks will fail

Posted by sanityinjection on September 21, 2009

In the field of international relations, I don’t think there is any topic on which more nonsense is written that the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Most of the columnists and journalists who write about it have absolutely no idea what they are talking about, and as a result, most of the public is very badly informed about the reality of the conflict.

In this context, Politico’s Laura Rozen stands out for her weekend column on this week’s three-way talks between President Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Rozen displays unusual insight in breaking down the diplomatic moves leading up to the talks and the motivations of each of the players. To sum it up: This is talking for the sake of talking, and not for the sake of accomplishing anything. For Obama, it’s the emptiest sort of grandstanding – trying to show that he is being effective on foreign policy with a show of sound and fury that signifies nothing. He wants Americans to believe that simply getting the parties talking is a great achievement.

Ultimately, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not fundamentally different from any other. It continues as long as one or both sides feel that they have as much to gain from intransigence as they do from compromise. Only when both Israel and the Palestinians feel there is more to be gained from reaching an agreement can progress be made. That’s not a condition that can be created by Obama, the United States, or anyone other than the two sides themselves. The US definitely has a role to play in helping to broker a deal if and when the parties are really ready for one. (The broad outlines of a permanent settlement of the conflict have already been sketched in great detail by non-governmental Israelis and Palestinians working together, but there is no official buy-in.) President Obama can use his clout to drive Netanyahu and Abbas to the negotiating table. But no amount of US pressure can force them to get serious about making peace if they can’t arrive there with motivation of their own.

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

Questioning the sacred cows of health care reform

Posted by sanityinjection on July 22, 2009

Thomas Sowell weighs in on the health care debate with a typically well-reasoned piece questioning some of the basic assumptions behind the Administration’s push for health care reform:

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2009/07/21/medical_care_confusion_97543.html

I don’t think I’ve encountered anyone who thinks that our health care system is perfect the way it is. But as Sowell notes, the fact that there are things that need to be improved is not necessarily sufficient to hand the Administration a blank check for generic “change”. Democrats’ proposals for health care reform are an exercise in doublethink because they would have us believe that we can simultaneously expand coverage and cut costs at the same time, which defies logic. In fact, they know better: they are paying lip service to the idea of reducing costs in order to win support for universal public health care which is what they have wanted all along – to give the federal and state governments complete control over every aspect of the medical care of all Americans.

The health care reform I could support would focus instead on reducing the cost of medical care so that Americans can afford to purchase health insurance. That could involve several ingredients including malpractice liability reform, promotion of catastrophic as opposed to comprehensive health insurance, taking the burden of the free care pool off the backs of hospitals, and an end to pharmaceutical and medical tech companies profiteering off of no-strings-attached government R&D funding. If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard about *any* of these ideas being talked about in the current health care reform debate – good! So am I.

Instead, we’re going to get another dose of the line of arguing that gave us the trillion dollar stimulus package: “Our solution is the only solution so it’s either this or nothing at all. And we have to do it immediately so there’s no time for discussion. Either you support doing it our way, right now, or you’re part of the problem.” To the extent that this has become the operating dynamic of politics in the Obama era, it is a most unwelcome change. So much for reducing partisanship and reaching across the aisle.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , | 7 Comments »

Throwing money down a rat hole

Posted by sanityinjection on June 1, 2009

If you loaned a failing company $20 billion and they didn’t pay it back, what would you do? (Besides kill yourself or take on a fifth job to make ends meet.) Well, if you are the Obama Administration, you’d declare like Victor Kiam, “I liked it so much, I bought the company!” and promptly promise them $30 billion more.

Now if a loan officer for a bank did that, they’d not only be fired by the Board of Directors but prosecuted as well. In this case, the loan officer is Barack Obama, the failing company is GM,  and we, the voters and taxpayers of America, are the Board of Directors.

Obama swears that just because the federal government will now own 60% of GM when it emerges from bankruptcy, doesn’t mean he’s going to run GM’s day-to-day operations.  Instead, the guy he handpicked to be GM’s new CEO will do that. Honestly, I don’t know which is more frightening for my invested tax dollars to depend on: federal bureaucrats who lack the aptitude to make the right decisions to make GM profitable, or the idiots in GM’s management group that have proven for years they lack it.

Obama says, “Don’t worry, it’ll work out fine, just like Chrysler.” Well, Chrysler got sold to Fiat, and the Feds get 10% of that company too. Meanwhile, everyone agrees Chrysler was in better shape than GM to begin with. What we should have done, of course, was to let GM go bankrupt last year instead of paying $20 billion to stave off the inevitable. 

House Republican Leader John Boehner’s words sum it up pretty well:

“The only thing it makes clear is that the government is firmly in the business of running companies using taxpayer dollars. Does anyone really believe that politicians and bureaucrats in Washington can successfully steer a multinational corporation to economic viability? It’s time for the administration to fully explain what the exit strategy is to get the U.S. government out of the board room once and for all.”

Of course, the Administration can’t do that, because they haven’t got an exit strategy.

Incidentally, I did learn one asnwer to a question that has puzzled me. With all the talk about the various GM brand names that will be discontinued (Saturn, Hummer etc.) I was puzzled as to why Buick was to be spared from the chopping block, given dismal domestic sales and the lack of a niche market in the US. According to my radio this morning, it turns out that Buick is huge in China, having rather recently grabbed significant market share away from Volkswagen there. In fact, GM’s Chinese sales have been critical in keeping the company afloat as long as it has. So for my older readers: Any idea what the Chinese character is for “porthole”?

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

Democrats’ Rush Limbaugh strategy

Posted by sanityinjection on March 3, 2009

Wonder why you’ve been hearing so much in political circles lately about Rush Limbaugh? The Chicago Tribune spills the beans that President Obama and the Democrats have a deliberate strategy of painting Limbaugh as the real leader of the GOP:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-limbaugh_03mar03,0,3567977.story

By focusing on the flamboyant and controversial Limbaugh, they are hoping to draw attention away from the more reasonable GOP leaders in Congress. Which ironically is just fine with the attention-loving Limbaugh.

While Limbaugh is certainly popular with the conservative wing of the GOP, it’s important to remember that he is first and foremost an entertainer, and his goal is to generate ratings rather than good government. Limbaugh has never been elected to any office and holds absolutely no role in the Republican Party. In fact, Limbaugh has never hesitated to criticize the GOP and its leadership when he feels it has strayed from its conservative roots.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 12 Comments »