Monday, April 29, 2013

The Madonna Factor

         "Osama, that American singer, now she sings of being like a virgin. She is mocking The Messenger and Allah!"
       "You are right, Mohamed. We can not allow this. Go and call Khalid, Nawaf, and Ziad. Then get 15 more. Go to America. Take flight training. When you are ready, you must hijack several American airplanes. Fly them into tall buildings, the taller the better. Forget your family, your friends, the wonderful life you had planned. This will not stand."
       "Okay, Osama. But one thing..."      
       "Yes, Mohamed?" 
        "That 'stand' business. Please, no more George Bush impersonations."
       Does anyone really believe that the problem we're facing is people who hate us just because they don't like our way of life, our freedoms? That they hate us so much that they would come all the way over here and kill us, and themselves, just because they don't like the way we live, our music, our movies?  Whew! Talk about being 'killed' by a bad review in the Times.
       Does that really make any sense? Could there be more to it than just that?
       Hard to believe but there was a time when America was widely respected and admired in the Middle East. We had the same freedoms then that we have now, similar way of life, maybe slightly different music and culture but not really all that different. Of course, that was also before oil became such an issue. And before we were supporting the Shah, the Saudi royal family and all the rest. Just a coincidence?
       Think it might have made a difference if we weren't always the ones backing those guys? Who knows? There are fringe people everywhere and they're always looking for an excuse to do bad things to people. But still...
       Maybe The Founders really were onto something with that business about staying out of everyone else's affairs, i.e., "Peace, commerce and friendly relations with all nations, entangling alliances with none." Worth a try? For a change? Maybe. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Willie Sutton Goes to Cyprus

      Willie Sutton was a notorious American bank robber.
       When asked why he robbed banks, he answered with a phrase that has become part of the American Lexicon as well as of the oath taken upon graduation by law school students everywhere, i.e.,  'That's where the money is.'
       Cyprus is an island nation in the Mediterranean Sea and is a member of the European Union. Like many other members of that proud organization [Proud of what? Nobody knows.], the government of Cyprus recently discovered that money does not, in fact, grow on fig trees,
       "Dimitrius, my fellow Minister. We will have to give up our fine villas, our cars. Hummus will no longer flow in the rivers. What will we do?"
       "Relax, Pecunius. I have just finished reading a very interesting book about a famous  American back robber. I think I have an idea."
       And, so, the Cypriot government decided to take 10% out of all the deposits in all the banks of Cyprus. Just push a computer key and (Slurp!) 10% of your money is now in the treasury of the government of Cyprus. What could be easier? No bills to send. No stamps to buy. They're actually doing it for your own good. Just, click, click, and it's done. If only Willie Sutton had had a computer...
       Think it couldn't happen here in America? Think again. 
       The Cyprus tax is just another type of 'ad valorem' tax, i.e., a tax 'according to value.' We already have taxes like that, e.g., real estate taxes, car taxes (in states that levy a yearly tax on the value of your car), estate taxes. Not that different from a tax on the value of your savings.
       Next time you hear, 'spread the wealth...', 'more investments...', 'you're entitled...', just substitute, 'Click, click. Slurp, slurp!' Then go out and buy the biggest mattress you can find so that you'll have a place to store what's left of your life savings.