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August 03, 2008

From the Pillage Idiot "Spam Period"

In Peter Schickele's hilarious biography of P.D.Q. Bach, the author divides the composer's work into three periods -- the "Initial Plunge," the "Soused Period," and "Contrition."

I thought it was the least I could do to create a period for myself called the "Spam Period," the roughly 48-hour period when Pillage Idiot was shut down by Blogger as a potential spam blog. I'm going to post some junk I was unable to post during that period. And I'd like to make it clear that I have not yet reached "contrition," if I ever do.

Kool-Aid party over at Rabbi Jack Moline's place

I'm relieved to see that nothing, nothing can shake the Jews out of their politika mi-sinai (my bastardized Hebrew approximately meaning "politics given at Mount Sinai"). According to the Washington Jewish Week, Northern Virginia Jews are mobilizing to support Obama. Isn't that special?

Rabbi Moline is actually a pretty sensible guy in general (but see), so it's even worse for him to be trying to sell undecided Jews like this:

Moline assured his listeners that Obama's record on Israel is "stellar," and that there is "nothing in the senator's record to indicate that he would make any other concessions than the current president" would make.

Questions about Obama's support for Israel are a cover, Moline said, for underlying prejudice.

"We have to own up to the prejudice in our own community. There are plenty of people who say they're ambivalent about him because he's black, he has a middle name that sounds like the deposed president of Iraq, that he's the son of a single mother," Moline told the gathering. "Those prejudices in our community generally don't get spoken. They get expressed in questions about Israel."
I guess Rabbi Moline thinks Jews can't legitimately be concerned about Obama's associations with folks like Rashid Khalidi or his 20-year association with Jeremiah Wright, whom he disowned for calculating political reasons, or his association with William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, two domestic terrorists, whom he's never disowned, or an ever-emerging cast of characters. No, it's got to be prejudice, because what right-thinking Jewish person could not want to place hope in someone like him? Did the Children of Israel doubt Moses himself? And when the Torah said (Deut. 34:10), v'lo kam navi od b'yisrael k'moshe, could it possibly have meant to exclude Obama?

In all seriousness, I'm sure that when Obama says he supports Israel, he's as sincere as he is about anything. But really, why should Jews who are concerned about Israel not have the right to doubt a guy who wants to scale back American power? Without American power, Israel is doomed, no matter what nice things a political candidate says.

But it sure is easy to dismiss the concerns that some Jews have about him as purely based on prejudice. Thanks a bunch, Rabbi Moline.

Economics 101 -- tax policy

I thought everyone knew that when you cut taxes your revenue dropped and vice versa, so that when you doubled taxes, your revenue would double. It's called "static revenue analysis."

Apparently not.

The Washington Post reports: "Cigarette sales have dropped by nearly 25 percent in Maryland since the state's tobacco tax doubled in January, as sticker shock apparently has curtailed some residents' smoking and sent others across the border for better deals."

And of course, the folks who think government exists to change human behavior often have a totalitarian mentality -- when people react rationally to your policies, you try to squash them:
Maryland law seeks to limit out-of-state cigarette purchases. It is illegal for Maryland residents to be in possession of more than two packs of cigarettes lacking stamps showing that taxes were paid in the state.

We're not crashing into people's homes to see if they've purchased a pack or two more than they should out of the state, but we have a very aggressive effort concentrated on larger smugglers," said Joseph Shapiro, a spokesman for the Maryland Comptroller's Office.
So this is the way it works: Try to increase revenue by raising cigarette taxes. People reduce smoking or shop elsewhere. Tax revenues go down. So you call these smokers smugglers and threaten prosecution. Brilliant.


Pillage Idiot appears 4,000 years ago in Sumer: "Flatulence joke is world's oldest"

Say what you want about the President, but he's a really decent guy: The Party Crasher