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Monthly Archives: February 2009

Qaddafi’s Dirty Joke on the NY Times?

February 4th, 2009 - 11:25 am

Writing last month in The New York Times, Libya’s longtime tyrant and veteran terror-sponsor Muammar Qaddafi proposed a one-state compromise for Israel and the Palestinians, which he dubbed “Isratine.”

For Qaddafi to be preening as an elder statesman, and for the Times to publish his vaporings, all struck me as so over-the-top outrageous that in my Forbes.com column last week, “Freedom Beats a Global Retreat,” I noted “It’s tempting to dismiss such stuff as unintended self-parody — whether on the part of Qaddafi, the Times, or both.”

Turns out I was much too kind. I’ve just received a note from Youssef Ibrahim, free-lance writer, risk consultant and astute observer (he has worked over the years for The Wall Street Journal and New York Times, among others, and you can find his columns for PJ Media here). Youssef, a native Arabic speaker, points out that the media, and in particular the Times, which has some Arabic speakers on the staff, “totally missed the pun in Qaddafi’s designation of Isratine.”

Youssef explains that in Arabic, “tine” means “mud,” or, “in more evident colloquial Arabic a piece of excrement, dirt, garbage, refuse.” (I checked with another native Arabic speaker, who confirms this, and notes that Qaddafi loves to unload on the wide-eyed Western media this kind of derogatory pun).

And while the Times may have missed the sick joke in its own Op-ed columns, the Arab media did not. Apparently it’s a retread from Qaddafi’s repertoire. Youssef notes that Qaddafi has used the “tine” suffix before, attaching it as a dismissive insult to various other words (“socialism-tine,” “capitalism-tine”) and that “Isratine” first came up a couple of years ago. It has been widely commented upon — as comedy — by Arab pundits. So…. in the Arab world it’s bathroom humor, in the Times it’s an elder statesman’s Op-ed?

… With Tom Daschle’s withdrawal from his nomination to head Health and Human Services, the journey into Change continues (see post below). I have to hand it to President Obama — his lineup of nominees is providing quite a tour of the backstage hypocrisies of liberal politics:

Tom Daschle, with his “tax problems” involving $140,000 or so in back taxes for items including the undeclared services of a limo and driver (fascinating contrast to the video clip now making the rounds — can this be for real? – of a 1986 campaign ad that shows Daschle priding himself on driving his own rusting Pontiac past the limos of Washington).  And then there’s the clip of Daschle denouncing tax cheats.

Nancy Killefer, who just withdrew as Obama’s nominee to oversee budget and spending reform, also over a “personal tax issue” — in her case, household help.

Timothy Geithner, now confirmed as Treasury Secretary, having expressed “regret” over $34,000 in back taxes (money he had received from the IMF specifically to cover part of his tax bill to the IRS, but had failed to pay to the IRS as promised).

And, of course, Hillary Clinton, now confirmed as Secretary of State, with her ex-presidential spouse pulling in oil-soaked millions in speaking fees and hundreds of millions for the Clinton Foundation (none of this disclosed in detail until first the presidential campaign and then Hillary’s nomination demanded it — and then only in painful stages, with questions remaining). Here, the concern is not “tax problems,” but potential conflicts of interest, and a disregard for transparency.

What America actually needs right now is not a parade of nominees offering up their tax sins and income sources on the altar of political ambition — some to be trashed, others to join the Obama cabinet and pursue the current confiscatory agenda of taxing trillions away from their fellow Americans. The real answer would include lower tax rates, a simpler tax code, and nominees who see the virtues of both, and would work to deliver them. When the system produces this circus of ”tax issues” (and disclosure issues) among the taxers themselves, it’s a profound sign that it’s time for real change — of which there is, right now, not the faintest sign.

In this time of crisis and never-ending bailouts, President Obama has denounced Wall Street’s $18.4 billion in bonuses last year as “the height of irresponsibility.”

The height? I’m sorry. Obama ought to save that hyperbole for some of his own plans to transform America into a socialist welfare state, long on incentives to live on the dole, and short on the opportunities and prosperity that free markets over the generations have richly delivered.  

When it comes to irresponsibility, Wall Street can’t possibly compete with the U.S. government. Washington is right now ascending the heights of what is probably the world’s biggest ever money-printing binge, spending spree, rapid-fire entitlement expansion and eco-cult blowout. $700 billion for TARP. $800 or maybe $900 billion for a so-called stimulus bill that ought to be called the Congressional Gluttony Act.

We now have a President who even before taking office was trumpeting the millions of job his administration promises to “create” by issuing regulations and gushing money. I keep waiting for an accompanying estimate — and I think it would be vast — of how many millions of jobs these same government programs are going to destroy — because the taxes, and regulations, and inflation ahead, are going to further ravage the already reeling private sector. The subprime mortgage crisis has its roots not in Wall Street, but in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, with their fat bonuses and their government-backed push to re-engineer supply and demand in the housing market. The result? Responsible taxpayers are now on the hook for that whole irresponsible and colossal food chain, from Fannie to Freddie to banks to borrowers. How many jobs has that destroyed already?  

We are deep into an entire mountain range of feckless sleaze, in which derelictions of the private sector are becoming ever less relevant because there is ever less genuinely private sector. In these Rockies of Irresponsibility, our own government commands the heights.

And while we’re on the subject of irresponsibility, maybe the President should set a personal limit on how many tax fumblers he’s willing to include in his cabinet. First Tim Geithner  for Treasury; now the discoveries spilling out about Tom Daschle’s $140,000 in back taxes and whatnot. I’m starting to wonder if (never mind the philosophical differences) the main thing disqualifying Joe the Plumber from a post in Obama’s cabinet is that Joe didn’t owe nearly enough in back taxes.