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VVV Hamilton has Big M. In Worcester I've been shopping at Big Y. And apparently while I was in Australia, I could have gone to BigW.
posted by Stentor Danielson at 18:23 -- link --

Screws Put On Saudis To Tackle Al-Qaeda Financiers

The United States is pressuring Saudi Arabia to crack down on terrorist financiers within 90 days or face unilateral American action to bring the suspects to justice.

The plan, devised before the recent row over allegations of Saudi involvement in terrorist financing, comes amid growing concern among some congressional leaders and US allies that the Administration has been unwilling to press Saudi Arabia for action for fear of alienating a key Arab ally ahead of a possible war with Iraq.

The officials would not say what US action might entail. But they said the US would first present the Saudis with intelligence and evidence against people and businesses suspected of backing al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations, coupled with a demand they be put out of business. In return, one official said, the Administration will say: "We don't care how you deal with the problem; just do it or we will" after 90 days.

The ramifications of this are unclear, but if the government follows through, it will show some definite moral conviction and could even remove something from the list of liberal complaints against Bush. Of course, if the US action turns out to be putting King Fahd on the administration's hit list after Saddam, things might go downhill. Although I think a slap on the wrist is the more likely direction for the administration to err.
posted by Stentor Danielson at 18:09 -- link --

VVV I just noticed one of the exciting features of BloggerPro:
"Better Archiving. We have an overhauled archiving engine that not only solves the dreaded "missing archives" problem, it gives various date-formatting options, as well as the choice to archive daily."

So basically, they have a fix for the dreaded nullpointer error that some of us have encountered, but they're only implementing it for people who pay them.
posted by Stentor Danielson at 12:35 -- link --

Low-Income Taxpayers: New Meat For The Right

Prepare yourself for the latest cause of the political right: You are about to hear a great deal about how working Americans at the bottom of the economy are not paying enough in taxes.

You'd think the tax-cutters on that page {Wall Street Journal editorial] would be happy with a policy begun under Ronald Reagan to lift the income tax burden from Americans struggling to get by on modest paychecks. But no, it seems that because of our tax structure, the favorite causes of supply-siders -- big tax cuts for wealthy Americans and investors -- are just not popular enough. "While we would opt for a perfect world in which everybody paid far less in taxes," the editors write, "our increasingly two-tiered tax system is undermining the political consensus for cutting taxes at all."

I think this would be a politically disastrous move for the Right -- the stereotype of the rich voting Republican and the poor voting Democrat, while true in a general sense, causes people to underestimate the number of poor conservatives out there. Low-income people who vote Republican because of social issues (school prayer, abortion, etc.) may think twice if the party is proposing to raise taxes on their already meager income (and this effect would be stronger on them than the reverse policy would be on rich Democrats, because they can more easily afford higher taxes and can look at it as a form of charity). Taking up a "tax the poor" position would play right into the hands of Democrats if they adopt the policy -- much touted in the blog world -- of ditching the highly regressive payroll tax and making up the difference by making the income tax more progressive.

But what I find interesting about the WSJ's rationale is how Marxist it sounds. In Marxist theory, the shift to communism is brought about by the contradictions within capitalism. The proletariat is so ground down by the system that they rise up against it. So extreme Marxists oppose policies like welfare and social security that alleviate the worst pains of capitalism, because they ease the pressure for revolution. The "tax the poor" plan works similarly -- we have to keep the hurt on the poor so that they'll support us with their votes when we want to get rid of the (taxation) system.
posted by Stentor Danielson at 12:33 -- link --

VVV CalPundit suggests dropping the Fifth Amendment (right not to bear witness against yourself), because "If forced confessions and star chamber proceedings are outlawed -- as they are today -- why should suspects not be required to account for themselves in open court?"

I think the Fifth Amendment is important in keeping one prosecution from turning into another. Imagine, for example, someone's on trial for murder and the prosecutor demands to know where he was on the night of November 21. Now imagine the guy was nowhere near the scene of the murder on that night, because he was visiting his mistress. Should he be foreced to confess to this other wrongdoing because he's been mistakenly charged with something else?
posted by Stentor Danielson at 12:14 -- link --


VVV In my continuing quest to bring you the weird side of the Microsoft Word spell checker, today it suggested I replace a word with "homothetic." But "homothetic" is not recognized by or Merriam-Webster. But they do recognize the word that Word thought was wrong -- "nomothetic."

[Update: Apparently "Two figures are homothetic if they are related by an expansion or geometric contraction," according to MathWorld.]
posted by Stentor Danielson at 19:18 -- link --

Telescope To Challenge Moon Doubters

Conspiracy theorists, you have a problem. In an effort to silence claims that the Apollo moon landings were faked, European scientists are to use the world's newest and largest telescope to see whether the spacecraft are still on the lunar surface.

And then they'll claim the telescope photos were faked. Heck, you could take some of these folks to the moon and they'd claim you just got them disoriented and took them to a secret fake-moon bunker with secret anti-gravity technology to make them feel lighter.
posted by Stentor Danielson at 18:28 -- link --

Are We Protecting Secrets Or Removing Safeguards?

The central trend in environmental protection today is managing information both to expedite regulatory processes and to provide the government and public with new levels of insight and participation. In balancing openness and security, neither advocates for the right to know nor those who stress security have a lock on patriotism. While no one wants to provide a blueprint for terrorists intent on disrupting our nation, the presumption should be one of continued openness, unless a real risk can be demonstrated. The protection of our nation's environment and public health -- through open access to information about toxic risks -- has become an essential American practice.

This article makes the point I was going for in my latest commentary in much clearer fashion. The benefits of freedom of information are greater than the risks for all but the most sensitive data. Terrorists and others who have dedicated their lives to destroying the US will have the time and resources to dig up the information they need. But concerned citizens do not. Hiding our weaknesses just delays terrorists' plotting. Openly acknowledging our weaknesses allows us to pessure government and corporations to eliminate them.
posted by Stentor Danielson at 13:18 -- link --