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Monthly Archives: August 2002

The SpellCheck Humor Comes at the End

August 22nd, 2002 - 12:09 am

It

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How Did She Get My New Number?

August 22nd, 2002 - 12:02 am

Jim Hoagland says the Saudis might be able to save themselves.

Thus the accusation of “enemy” misses the point: It gives the Saudi regime credit for a decision-making ability and a focus on regional and world affairs that it has in fact lacked for years. Saudi Arabia has stumbled into causing harm to the United States and its own interests. It has not charged in with premeditated malice.

This Saudi vacuum was not inevitable. And it may not be immutable. In the early 1970s, King Faisal mixed shrewdness and ruthlessness to make the sparsely populated kingdom a major player in world politics. In a series of interviews over a decade with Faisal, his two successors, Khalid and Fahd, and the current day-to-day leader, Crown Prince Abdullah, I developed a sense of a flawed but still workable system that could adapt, slowly, to global and local change.

Hoagland is too optimistic. The time for reform was ten years ago. Five years ago was late, but still feasible. Today, the Kingdom is the walking dead.

I

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Video Killed The. . .

August 21st, 2002 - 10:21 pm

Now that I’ve seen the light, so should you.

(Found at The Agitator.)

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Escapist Fantasy

August 21st, 2002 - 5:49 pm

Reader Zach Glazar has his own theory on why the Saudis are pulling billions of dollars out of US banks:

One of the reasons the Saudis are taking money out of the USA is because they fear (rightly) that once they are exposed for what they really are we may freeze their assets in this country. If I was a Saudi prince, I would certainly be moving a lot of capital to Switzerland or another EUnich country.

The Swiss option is probably an increasingly popular one with Saudi princes, as I reported three weeks ago in this post. Comfortable exile, good banks, and — mmm, have you tried the emmenthaler fondue? Besides, the Swiss have a long and fine tradition of not scrutinizing their wealthy exiled guests too closely.

But I doubt the Saudi princes will be taking leave of Arabia because of US military actions abroad, or US Commerce Department actions at home. By the time we crack down (if ever), the smart ones will have their money stashed in Geneva, Zurich, and Lausanne, and the dumb ones don’t really have enough money to matter.

But I wouldn’t be surprised if, sometime in the next couple or a dozen years, the princes escape — and just barely — with jihadists (or worse) on their heels.

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Not Without DeLay

August 21st, 2002 - 4:41 pm

Speaking before a Houston business group today, House Majority Whip Tom DeLay laid out the complete case for war against Saddam Hussein.

Here are a few bits from his own website:

And so we must move ahead. Despite weeks of feverish hand wringing over the refusal by many to acknowledge the overwhelming supposed missing body of evidence against Iraq

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Slow Learner

August 21st, 2002 - 3:02 pm

Ed chimes back in, but he really shouldn’t have. Let’s jump right in:

When I said “capitalist” , I meant it as “someone who gets all of their income from capital”, as opposed to “earning” it via their labor (and paying Social Security & medicare, AND taxes on it).

No class warfare there, Ed! “Gets” versus “earning” isn’t stacked or biased at all. My bad. Or not.

The topic in question was:
“cutting taxes on capital gains, and increasing the tax deduction for investment losses” ( emphasis on the CUTTING and INCREASING, i.e. changing the status quo, which IMHO is already stacked very much in favor of the “capitalist”, and against the wage earner )

Biased, indeed. That investor, who has already paid full taxes on his income, is taxed again on his investments — and is effectively taxed on his losses, too. “Sock it to the rich” at least has the vigor of intellectual honesty.

Now, a person who earns their living exculsively from employing their capital instead of their labor ( a “capitalist”) , now pays ZERO for Social Security and Medicare and reduced tax rates on those capital gains held over a year.

Not that I want to take money from your pocket (this is purely an academic exercise), but how exactly is this fair to “Joe Sixpack” who pays Social Security and full taxes on 100% of his income, and how is this NOT a huge giveaway to the 1% that holds something like 90% of the capital.

A giveaway? Hardly. I’ve avoided SocSec taxes whenever I legally could. As a result, I’ll be paid far less in benefits than Ed will be. Yet, somehow, that’s a giveaway from Ed, to me. Meantime, rest assured that I am by no means qualified to receive Medicaid benefits, even though I spent several years paying into the program. At least with SocSec, I’ll get some small return (about 2%) on my investment, 30 years from now. The money I paid Medicaid might well have been flushed.

And yet, Ed still insists he’s the one giving me money.

Oh, and the top 1% hold nothing like 90% of the “capital.” The top 10% earns something like half of all income, last I recall, which Ed confuses with capital. Capital isn’t just your cash and securities, it’s also your car, your house, and your widget factory.

But let’s not bother with facts, right?

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Bad Timing

August 21st, 2002 - 2:02 pm

Usually, I think of Moammar Khaddafy as a mostly sane, and very wily, survivor. Then I read things like this:

Libya has signed a $13.5 billion weapons deal with Iran for ballistic missiles with chemical warheads and the training to deploy and operate them.

The Berlin-based Die Welt daily reported that Iran and Libya signed the accord in June 2002. Western intelligence sources said the deal was meant to bolster Libya’s missile and weapons of mass destruction programs.

How many cruise missiles are left in our inventory?

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With Apologies to AP

August 21st, 2002 - 1:56 pm

NEW YORK — A Virginia couple accused of having sex inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral to earn prizes from a pair of radio shock jocks was heckled Wednesday as they left a Manhattan courthouse.

“God is mad at you!” shouted one angry man as the pair walked silently past. “You should be ashamed of yourselves! Don’t you know you have to be ordained to do that?”

Brian Florence, 37, of Quantico, Va., and Loretta Lynn Harper, 35, of Alexandria, Va., were due back in court Oct. 2 to face charges of public lewdness for the two of them, and one count of impersonating a priest for Mr. Florence.

Defense attorney Melissa Fritz said the second charge was unfounded and should be dropped, since Loretta Lynn Harper is “quite clearly female,” and “doesn’t even have a boyish haircut.”

But her arguments fell on the deaf ears of State Supreme Court Justice Analisa Torres, who shot back, “Um, yeah, well. . . as you can tell by my name, I’m almost certainly Catholic, so shut up.”

God, crying, had no comment.

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Game Delay

August 21st, 2002 - 1:39 pm

Please excuse how slow the site is loading this afternoon.

Sitemeter, who provides one of my hit counters, crashed a while back. So, while VP might be loading at glacier speed, at least I can’t access any of my referrer stats.

I shouldn’t complain, because Sitemeter is free. But let me tell you — if I thought for a moment that they’d improve their reliability, I’d upgrade to their paid account in a heartbeat.

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Commentariat

August 21st, 2002 - 1:23 pm

If you didn’t bother clicking over and reading this Brink Lindsey piece on the libertarian arguments for war to topple Saddam, then you’re missing out. There’s an excellent, forceful discussion going on in his comments section.

Check it out.

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We Get Excellent Letters

August 21st, 2002 - 12:57 pm

King Banaian comes through with my plea for hard data on capital investment in the Saudi kingdom.

Stephen, some of the data you need is on the IMF website. See http://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/pn/2001/pn01119.htm. I had no idea before reading this that their debt/GDP ratio was as high as it was. Private investment in general is way down. They have had to open up to foreign investment, and government investment is up on the strength of better oil revenues from 2000 on.

Sadly, the IMF data only cover through 2000, and even those data are merely preliminary. Read down to the charts at the bottom, and you’ll see a rather mixed picture.

If I had to speculate — and I do — I’d say today the picture is worse.

The Saudis are pulling their dollars out of the US, weakening the strength of the currency they need to buy pricey imported goods. And Saudi has to import most everything but oil, hate, and madmen.

Furthermore, they’re shooting themselves in the foot (or, “pulling a Bob Barr,” as I like to call it) by voluntarily boycotting US goods.

And then there’s the general investment climate in the entire Middle East. With war ongoing and more war on the horizon, it’s a region any cautious investor is happily avoiding.

That’s the speculation. The happy chance is, we won’t know the reality until after it comes crashing down on Riyadh.

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Breaking

August 21st, 2002 - 12:41 pm

Westerfield found guilty of the murder of Danielle van Dam.

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Advantage: Reality

August 21st, 2002 - 11:49 am

Yesterday, StratFor claimed that the Administration had backed down from waging war against Iraq, because to do so would harm the war effort against al Qaeda.

The Bush administration has begun to back down from plans for a near-term attack on Iraq. The controversial plan was shredding the coalition against al Qaeda, which Washington needs in battling the group. But the Bush administration’s retreat from Iraq, although necessary, forces it to manage a political and psychological defeat.

This site said StratFor is almost certainly wrong.

Just yesterday, Rumsfeld was on Brit Hume, making the case for war without compromise. And there are many other indications, both public and not-so-public, that US special forces are already engaged in Iraq, as well as preparing for something bigger.

Today, Bill Gertz reports for the Washington Times:

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday that al Qaeda terrorists are inside Iraq almost certainly with the support of the government in Baghdad.

“In a vicious, repressive dictatorship that exercises near-total control over its population, it’s very hard to imagine that the government is not aware of what’s taking place in the country,” Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon.

In other words, Rumsfeld argues that war against Iraq is part of the war against al Qaeda. The muffled sound you hear is the good folks at StratFor, attempting to fit a second foot in their mouths — leaving them not a leg to stand on.

(It’s fun to mix metaphors.)

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Turn Down the Heat

August 21st, 2002 - 11:04 am

Suman Palit reports that a Fourth (Fifth) Indo-Pakistan War might still be simmering in Kashmir.

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Next Week’s Special Guest: Charo

August 21st, 2002 - 10:39 am

Joe Katzman’s Winds Of Change often features guest bloggers, but today’s is a special one. Retired Naval Intelligence Officer Lawrence T. Peter is back from Sudan and files this report.

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I Can’t Beleive It’s Not Goebbels!

August 21st, 2002 - 10:32 am

Thought CNN was bad? Matt Welch heard NPR’s report on McKinney’s defeat:

Now, NPR laments, the black community fears it might have lost an

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Signs and Portents Courtesy of Earl Schieb

August 21st, 2002 - 10:24 am

From StrategyPage ‘s Steve Cole:

Fort Riley, Kansas, home to two heavy mechanized brigades, has repainted all of its equipment in desert tan, although the troops remain in European woodland (green). Several National Guard units coming to Riley for training all showed up in desert cammo. The New Hampshire National Guard was just issued new trucks in desert colors with orders not to repaint them.

It’s easier to change clothes than to change paint. And I somehow doubt we’ll hear when new BDUs are issued — on board a ship or transport plane somewhere far, far from Kansas.

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We Get Silly Letters

August 21st, 2002 - 10:20 am

Reader Ed writes in reply to my earlier post on Will Saletan and capital gains:

You seem to imply that the wages of human labor deserve to be taxed, while the wages of capital do not.

Taxes are the cost of a stable society, are they not? I submit that the capitalist benefits *much* more from the stable society than the laborer.

How about a simpler solution – First, eliminate the corporate tax so it is not double-dipping (Bermuda is doing a good job of accomplishing this already), and Second, eliminate the capital gains exemption (yes, tax capital gains at full tax rates! I pay full tax rates on all of my income, why should a capitalist not?).

First off, Ed — we’re all capitalists in this country. Whether you’re negotiating the sale of your ditch-digging abilities, or negotiating the sale of bonds for your new company, you’re engaging in the same right to contract. So let’s ditch the class warfare crap and look at the facts, shall we?

In my example, you had two investments. One made $50,000, the other lost you $20,000. So your income is $30,000. But without a tax break for the $20,000 you lost, you’ll pay cap gains tax on the full $50,000, even though your income is 40% less.

Is that the “extra” benefit a “capitalist” gains in our system, Ed?

Notice I’m not even bothering to point out that capital gains are, by nature, a double taxation (on income already once “fully” taxed), a hindrance to investment, and a blunt tool used to make people feel guilty about providing jobs and opportunities.

And, Ed, just because taxes are the price we pay to live in civilization, doesn’t mean that more taxes make us more civilized. Quite the opposite. Jefferson said that a “wise and frugal government” shall restrain men from injuring each other, but leave them otherwise free to their own pursuits.

Frankly, that doesn’t cost very much. So get your greedy little hands out of my wallet. And if you can’t do that, then at least try not to be so smug about your support of legalized theft.

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You’ve Got to Be Kidding Department

August 21st, 2002 - 10:00 am

Last night I wrote, with all due sarcasm:

Yes, Cynthia McKinney lost her reelection bid.

Damn meddling Jews.

Also, I thought the juxtoposition of antisemitism and that old line from Scooby-Do was kinda funny. Then this morning, the Prof finds this on CNN:

In her loss, McKinney joined Rep. Earl Hilliard, Democrat of Alabama, as the second black lawmaker targeted by Jewish groups to lose a re-election bid in the post-September 11 era. Fueled by contributions from the Jewish community, Majette raised more money than the incumbent.

I’m done with CNN.

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The Reluctant Warrior

August 21st, 2002 - 9:56 am

Brink Lindsey goes after the anti-war crowd.

Sort of.

Instead of taking on the Usual Gang of Idiots, Brink goes after the non-knee jerk anti-interventionists on the libertarian front.

Read it — Lindsey provides intellectual ammunutition of the most powerful sort.

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Prognostication-By-Numbers

August 21st, 2002 - 12:42 am

Here

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Cultural Imperialism

August 21st, 2002 - 12:31 am

In addition to my blogging duties, I’m attempting to add one new Amazon product review each day.

Why? Um. . . it’s the danger inherent in being a blowhard, I suppose.

Anyway, check through and give my reviews a thumbs up or down, just because I’d like to break into the Top 1000 reviewers.

And by this time next week, there really will be a new review each day.

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Required Phantom Reading

August 21st, 2002 - 12:26 am

David Warren is today’s Anti-StratFor:

Anyone in [President Bush's religious] position who was looking for signs in the last week would have seen several hundred. The seizure by exiled Iraqi hotheads yesterday, of their embassy in Berlin; the mysterious death of Abu Nidal in Baghdad; the news that the Iraqi regime is being quietly strangled by the spontaneous flight of its multinational oil customers; the unaccountable quieting of the West Bank — fate itself seems to be closing in upon Saddam Hussein, in advance of the U.S. Air Force.

No link — I have an email subscription and his Essays page isn’t yet updated. Soon as I see it posted, I’ll link it for you.

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Empty-V

August 21st, 2002 - 12:22 am

Just because I voted for Clinton in 1992 doesn’t mean I’ll watch him on TV. Man, that lip-biting routine was old before Newt Gringrich was Speaker and Larry King was still on his first transplanted heart/fifth underage wife.

Besides, Willy J will never host a talk show, no matter how much pork-scented money they waft in front of his rooting little nose — it’s too damn much honest work.

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Shields Ups

August 21st, 2002 - 12:19 am

StrategyPage had an item on this a while back, but it

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Friedman In Paris (Texas)

August 21st, 2002 - 12:16 am

Thomas Friedman echoes this, and many other blogs, with this graf:

When the Bush team insists that Saddam Hussein must be ousted to bring democracy to Iraq and the Arab world

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Burqa to School

August 21st, 2002 - 12:13 am

James Morrow has an interesting alternative to the classic college toga party.

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Bird of Prey of a Feather

August 21st, 2002 - 12:12 am

Michael Kelly argues that the President

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Mo

August 21st, 2002 - 12:11 am

Maureen Dowd has a catty new column this morning. Wake me when it

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Mo

August 21st, 2002 - 12:09 am

As usual, Robert Samuelson talks economic sense. I

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