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The Cookiepus Conspiracy

Mindless ramblings, leading to perfect clarity.
Monday, September 08, 2003
According to CIA factbook, Israel's GDP in 2002, among all the crap that was going on, was 122 billion (I italicize that word because it impresses you). That figure is a 1.1% decline from 2001 — which equates to a decline is 1.32 billion. According to the same Factbook, US aid to Israel in 2001 was 720 mil — which is 0.72 billion.

Simple math suggests that even if we accept that American aid is contingent on strife w. Palestinians (which it's not, see bellow) and that if peace/stability can remedy the 1.1 percent decline in GDP, Israel can make twice as much money from Peace in one year, as it does from conflict.

The above assumes that you are correct in implying that US aid to Israel has anything to do with the Palestinian conflict. Even if that were the case (meaning that aid would dissipate if peace was achieved) it's apparent that peace is more profitable to Israel than aid.

Now, tell me where in your quote does it suggest that US aid to Israel has anything to do with Palestinians? I would be surprised if US aid, whether financial or military, would decrease sharply if peace was achieved today. You've done nothing to support the idea. It seems to me that Israel would be far better off in peace. Any country with an educated work force and a strong technology sector requires investments, and uncertainly of conflict is a drag on those. If you're talking finance, Israel as a country, nor its leaders have anything to gain from the war, and only money to lose.

Also, in a democracy, Prime Ministers have to get re-elected based on their performance. Yassir Arafat has been chairman for... 40 years now. What has he delivered to the Palestinian populace? How has he earned those 300 mil that he's got? Palestinian GDP was all of 2.1 billion in 2001, a 35% decline. But at least there's Intifada!

Try again, now.

Sunday, September 07, 2003
Let's see...




1956-1957 ENGINEER

Hmm.. An engineer for only one year? Must have moved on to more profitable oportinities instead...

What's Al Fateh?

Headed by [our friend's name here], Fatah joined the PLO in 1968 and won the leadership role in 1969. Its commanders were expelled from Jordan following violent confrontations with Jordanian forces during the period 1970-71, beginning with Black September in 1970. The Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 led to the group's dispersal to several Middle Eastern countries, including Tunisia, Yemen, Algeria, Iraq, and others. Maintains several military and intelligence wings that have carried out terrorist attacks, including Force 17 and the Western Sector. Two of its leaders, Abu Jihad and Abu Iyad, were assassinated in recent years.

In the 1960s and the 1970s, Fatah offered training to a wide range of European, Middle Eastern, Asian, and African terrorist and insurgent groups. Carried out numerous acts of international terrorism in western Europe and the Middle East in the early-tomiddle 1970s. Arafat signed the Declaration of Principles (DOP) with Israel in 1993 and renounced terrorism and violence. There has been no authorized terrorist operation since that time.

6,000 to 8,000

Location/Area of Operation

Headquartered in Tunisis, with bases in Lebanon and other Middle Eastern countries.

External Aid
Has had close political and financial ties to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and other moderate Gulf states. These relations were disrupted by the Gulf crisis of 1990-91. Also had links to Jordan. Received weapons, explosives, and training from the former USSR and the former Communist regimes of East European states. China and North Korea have reportedly provided some weapons.

Sounds a bit like a multinational business, doesn't it?

"How can [our friend's name here], whom Forbes Magazine says is worth more than three hundred million dollars, claim to be a leader who understands and represents an impoverished people when he has become rich at their expense?"

blah blah blah blah blah blah blah Yasser Arafat blah blah blah blah blah blah

Same as it ever was...
I've been keeping an eye on Salam Pax's blog and on Iraq Today and the most important conclusion that comes out of reading these two sources is that the situation in Iraq is far more dynamic than either the American media or the Plastic contingent would acknowledge.

It seems that Americans are only one part of the whole dynamic. By which I mean that it would be improper to divide Iraqis into two groups: those who welcome Americans and those who blow them up. It would seem from both of the sources I listed that people in general understand why American troops are there but are irritated by misunderstandings, confortnations, invonveniences, et cetera. Salam's narative of how his house was raided by American troops on suspicion of working with Sudanese cells (haven't heard much about those on TV, have we? Is it the same Ansar organization whose well being amnesty international was so concerned about in 1992?) while his dad is actually someone who's cooperating with Americans on some high-level is the perfect example. Salam is pissed off that his mom was scared by the raid and that a soldier had a go at his dad's booze, but in another post he laments that the U.S. will most likely withdraw too soon. So with that example, let's leave aside the general grumblings of people and concentrate on those who are genuinely active in the sense that they would go out to blow up American troops, or a mosque, or some other entity.

This quote, for example:
NAJAF — The assassination of Mohammad Baqir al Hakim on Friday may be tied to terrorists who have slipped over the border in recent months, but it also proved a dramatic example of the deep internecine conflicts festering in Iraq since the fall of the regime. This violence has come at a decidedly dangerous period in the country, a perfect moment for anyone hoping to ignite a civil war. In the North, Turkmen connected to the Hakim's SCIRI and Kurds clashed last week over the destruction of a newly built shrine. And in Najaf, two bombings, including the latest against the Imam Ali mosque shook the nation's foundering sense of stability and unfurled an underworld of conflict and division amongst various ethnicities and among the Shia orthodoxy themselves.

Telling enough that they have plenty of conflict and tension to talk about w/o even mentioning American troops. And this one...

As the crowds sifted through the rubble at the Imam Ali mosque on Saturday morning, one rescuer asked the once unspeakable question. "Why cry 'Death to Baathis?' This came from people inside al-Hawza," he insisted.

What's al-Hawza?

Al Hawza is an international network of Shiite universities, and its elders are regarded as the final authority on religious and political matters for Shiites worldwide. Its headquarters in Najaf, also home to the final resting place of the Prophet Mohammed's son-in-law Ali, makes the central Iraqi city a major spiritual center for the faith.

and this...

On the streets of Najaf on Thursday, a large group of men stood reading an open letter posted to the wall of the Imam Ali Mosque from a highly regarded local lawyer.

The letter warned that the Western media and other outside interests are spreading word that the Shiite people are splintered. The letter also stressed the need to pay heed to the opinion of Al Hawza.

"They are working against our religion and national security," the letter said. "They have done this in order to spark a civil war."

Kadhum Mohammed, 23, a doctor's assistant who came to the Mosque to pray Thursday night, said he is hoping that new government will soon be installed. He said that any leader will be better than Saddam but that he will ultimately support whomever Al Hawza endorses.

"The Al Hawza will find us a leader who is fair and provides justice in the name of Islam," Mohammed said. "Whoever Al Hawza says to vote for, we will vote for."

How many other factions are there in Iraq? How many of them are glad that Saddam is gone (probably all but one!) ... but as in any situation, especially one where religious differences can come into play, it's very easy to garner support by speaking out against the occupation. How many of these factions speak against America mainly because it is a way to gain support, and also because they know that if Americans leave it would be that much easier to throw the country into a civil war and (hopefully, from their point of view) come out victorious?

I am not looking forward to the dozen "see they didn't want us there" comments in this thread. I would be curious to see if anyone posessed any further insight into the deep divisions in Iraq. It seems that the situation is far more complex than, for example, what we experienced when the soviet union was falling appart. There were two factions: those who wanted to stick together w. the USSR and stay communist, and those who wanted independance, democracy, and capitalism. In Iraq, clearly this bisection of views isn't possible. So, besides the obvious and familiar Al Quada, who's playing in Iraq?

P.S. I just noticed a link to this on Salam's blog:

NAJAF, Iraq — Police have arrested 19 men — many of them foreigners and all with admitted links to al-Qaida — in the car bombing of the Imam Ali shrine in the holy Shiite city of Najaf, a senior Iraqi investigator told The Associated Press on Saturday.

Two Iraqis and two Saudis grabbed shortly after the Friday attack gave information leading to the arrest of the others, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. They include two Kuwaitis and six Palestinians with Jordanian passports with the remainder Iraqis and Saudis, the official said, without giving a breakdown.

Oh say it ain't so! Palestinians got money from Hussein, but here they are linked to Al Quada, who, we're told, hated Hussein. So are these guys blowing stuff up because they miss Saddam? Or not? Complex!

Is there a number or mark planned for the hand or forehead in a new cashless society? YES, and I have seen the machines!

I am not an accountant (though I did take managerial and financial, so perhaps I had more exposure than most people) and I also use Microsoft Money. I believe you're right about Quicken generally having the same features (I haven't used Quicken much, but from what I've seen it's not bad), but you're wrong about GnuCash. GnuCash is terrible, even if all you do is balance your checkbook. And I am the one who last gave Linux a try because I believed that maybe GnuCash will finally make Linux a full solution for my needs. It failed to do so.

By the way, I encourage everyone to try using this type of software. I am not sure if Quicken has a trial version, but I know you can download a 60 day (that's 2 bill cycles, 2 or 4 paychecks, 2 or 4 401k contribs, 2 credit card statements, etc — in other words, plenty of time to asses the features) trial of MS Money from their website.

Why do I advocate that people use this type of software? Because it really does help you keep track of your finances, which in turn means that you have better control. Here are some uses that I've put MS Money to in about a year that I've been using it.

  • When I was doing contract work, I submitted invoices to clients at irregular basis. Microsoft Money helped me to maintain invoices for different clients, match up payments to different invoices, and determine at a glance whether a client has paid me all that's due or not. (This is a feature of Small Business/Deluxe editions of Money, and similarly, the base level of Quicken does not have this feature, but more deluxe versions do)

  • Keep track of where my money goes. Since most of the purchases I made were billed to a credit card, and since my credit card (as most do) allowed me to download my statements, MS Money was aware of my purchases and allowed me to categorize my spending. Most statement items, it already categorizes correctly (something with the word "mart" or "supermarket" was defaulted to Food: Groceries, for example), and other merchants, I had to classify only once. Why is this good? Because, first of all, I could see where my money went. And second, for tax purposes. Quick, how much money did I spend on my car and cell phone in 2002? (Both were business expenses last year) Money tells you this at a click.

  • In June, I started my first full time job. Money now knows that on the first of every month, I need to enter paycheck information, such as gross pay, taxes I paid, 401k contribs, etc. Why is this good? Because when I get my w-2 at the end of the year, how would I ever know that the stated amounts are correct? (I've had errors on my w-2s before, and I was working for the state of New York!) MS Money will instantly tell me how much money I was actually paid and how much tax was withheld. If there is an error, I will have to dig into my stubs and make a case to HR, but chances are that Money will tell me quickly whether there's a problem or not.

  • Balancing your accounts. When I get my savings and checking statements, I do "balance account" in Money. That means that Money and my bank have to agree on how much money I have. Whenever I make a deposit, transfer, or withdrawal, I have the receipts and then enter the transaction into MS Money. The items in my Money file better match up to the items on my bank statement. One time it didn't. I brought the problem to the attention of the bank and they realized that a $600+ deposit I made wasn't properly credited to the correct account. If not for MS Money, I would probably never be aware this happened, and the hard-earned money will be lost. Also, since my bank has no website, I don't have a convenient way to know how much money I have between statements, except that if I keep track of deposits, withdrawals, and transfers, I can see in Money how much I have. If this number is off, it's only erring on the conservative side (i.e., if go on my credit card's page and say "pay from my checking account", I will mark in MS Money that I transferred XXXX dollars from Checking to MasterCard. My total for checking acct. will now show XXXX fewer than it did before, whereas in reality the money may not be subtracted from the account for a few days. But since I shouldn't rely on that money being there, it's kind of good that Money makes it seem that it's not there already. If your bank (as most do) have online banking, it may still be worthwhile to keep track of major withdrawals and deposits manually and then balance at month end.

  • In similar vein, when you download your statements, you have the option of approving each transaction, one by one. I do that. Not only does this give me a chance to make sure each item is classified correctly, but it catches errors too, because it makes you pay more attention than you do glancing at the paper statements. In my bill for July, as I was approving charges, I noticed a charge from a restaurant in the Pocono. A $40+ charge. I wasn't in the Pocono in July, so I asked money to list for me any charges from this restaurant. Lo and behold, I have paid the same charge in June (which is when I was there) and they billed me twice, in 2 different months. If not for Money, I wouldn't 1) detect the error and 2) confirm so easily that indeed it's a dupe. I called the place and they refunded both charges, even the correct one. Also, one time I downloaded my statement and money showed my balance at $20 less than the printed statement did. Upon research, I found that on my statement there was a charge from the same place, on the same date, for the same amount, which Microsoft Money combined into a single entry (there's a good reason for it to do that), so the numbers didn't add up. One of the charges was a dupe from a canoe rental place, and once again, I didn't notice it on paper, but on the computer the discrepancy was obvious, and forced itself to be dealt with.

  • Now that I have a 401k, Money keeps track of it too. My first bunch of fund shares was bought Friday, and I spent some time entering the fund tickers, number of shares, and buy price, into Money. Today I loaded it up, clicked "update price" and I can see how my funds have fared. Today must have been a good day for the market, since my 3.5k of 401k money has earned a whopping 23.26 bucks. What's more important, the process of setting up the 401k funds (just as the process of figuring out how to balance cards and accounts and issue invoices, in the past) made me learn much more than I did before about how the thing works and about the particular funds (after I entered my funds Friday, Money went ahead and downloaded my fund profiles, and told me how much of my portfolio is invested in what type of securities. Based on this feedback, I went ahead and reallocated my fund percentages for next month. Without money, it would be much harder for me to see how my investments are allocated in risk categories because my 401k manager's website is not very informative)

    I recommend to all my friends to use financial software because I believe that, at the very least, it will give you a better understanding of YOUR finance, and of finance in general, and it could very well save you money by finding errors (if you kept track, MS Money saved me nearly 700 bucks over last year in bank and merchant errors, not to mention allowed me to correctly keep track of account receivables and deductions when I was running a business)

    And btw, it makes no difference to me whether you use Quicken or Money. For full disclosure, I do prefer MS Money, and I also have some investment in Microsoft, particularly due to the fact that it's the weightiest equity in the S&P 500, and I have some of my retirement invested in an index fund ;-) Seriously though, give this type of software a try. Even if you're artsy or simply don't care about being in control and organized, money is the one item that likes to be counted, no matter what.

    Is there a number or mark planned for the hand or forehead in a new cashless society? YES, and I have seen the machines!
    It's not possible to answer the question in the writeup without discussing the broader difference between American news and the news of other nations (that I've seen, anyway.)

    Foreign news broadcasts tend to have very diverse news coverage, trying to span the globe. American news tends to go for news that's most relevant to the viewers (network news tend to go for local stories at the expense of international news.)

    Why did this story not get coverage? Same reason we don't hear much about Chechnia and a lot of other places. It's as simple as that. I am sure no one made a decision to explicitly surpress this news, it just didn't make it — a lot of news didn't make it that day, and continues not to make it.

    The decision criteria is obvious. Most people would hear about it and go "hmm ok." It doesn't concern them because it's not about their neighbors or their country. Makes a certain degree of sense. If you're interested in world-wide news, there are plenty of cable and satelite channels that cater to this desire. Since most people don't really want to know about this, the editorial staff focuses on other news.

    American broadcast news is the McDonalds of the news world. It gives enough substance to sustain the average person, but not enough to sate a true news gourmet. Which is OK because a gourmet won't go to McDonalds anyway, and people who do go to McDonalds aren't interested in Filet Mignon. It works out.

    Other countries' news formats have developed differently. Is it better or worse? I personally don't care as long as I have the option of selecting news media that cater to my level of interest — and I have that choice as an American viewer/reader. It doesn't bother me that the 10 PM news don't talk about this stuff because I don't rely on them to do so. I want my 10 PM news to tell me the weather and talk about city developments because that's what it's for.
    Wellp think of if this way, we had just put the Brooklyn Bridge to the test.

    People compacted together weigh more than cars occupying the same surface area, yes. What's more, there is only one condition in which cars are compacted as closely as the people are: ie a total jam where no one is moving. So the night of the Blackout (and presumably on 9/11 also) the bridge had beared as much MOVING weight as it ever will. It was loaded with moving people, to the max. It will never be asked to bear more weight than that (unless people start having high lead presence in their bodies, I guess).

    Should the bridge creak and sway 2.8 inches (70mm sounds like a lot if you don't know the metric system) when it's got thousands of people stomping in tempo on it? Since it didn't fall appart then obviously it's fine.

    My uncle worked in the Trade Center on one of the upper floors and he'd say that the first few weeks anyone worked there, they'd be SURE that the building should't "creak and sway" (actually I don't know if it really creaked when it swayed) despite being assured that it's fine. Then you get used to it. But you don't naturally accept that a structure you're on is supposed to be dynamic like that.

    Those who have walked the Brooklyn Bridge under normal circumstances have walked on the walkway above the roadway, and if recall correctly it sways at all times. If any such people were on the roadway during the blackout, they probably didn't think anything of the swaying. Those who have only driven accross the bridge before probably were in for a bigger physical sense of abnormality.

    Anyway, the bridge is fine. The only way it's going down is if some terrorist motherfuckers go after it.
    Gather around, lovers of String Cheese.. I am gonna let you in on a little secret..

    Ticketmaster is property of InterActiveCorp, which happens to be branded as the Sci-Fi Network and USA Network, and has 31 major subsidiaries, which include CitySearch, Expedia, the Home Shopping Network,, LendingTree Inc, something called Propaganda Films, Savoy Pictures, Studios USA, and The whole thing is headed by a gentleman called Barry Diller, who earned 3.25 million bucks last year. On the board, one Mr. Edgar Bronfman, who also happens to be the Vice Chairman at Vivendi Universal SA. You may have heard of that little operation. It owns everything from Studio Canal and Universal Pictures to

    So I have a feeling that the answer to "Can the feisty jammers get it together and stand up to the deep pockets of Ticketmaster in court, or will they get the routine smack down from the powers that be?" Is a rather resounding "no."

    Oh, and by the way. InteractiveCorp's stock dropped just a tiny little bit in August (presumably the suit came out sometime during that month) and started to climb back towards the last week of the month. The drop was attributed to some insider dumping a bit of Expedia stock, so I don't believe that anyone in the know is very conserned about this lawsuit.

    Oh, and btw, what the Toyota Center is doing is quite different, and they have succeeded. It's their arena and they can just not enter into a contract with TicketMaster, which is what they did. Also, as per the article, "The Houston Astros switched to Ticketmaster rival last year as part of a national ticketing conversion for Major League Baseball." What the SCI incident is doing is trying to go around contracts that venues they play have signed, and that's just not going to happen...

    "There was a massive disconnect from when we would set a ticket price and what people would see on their tickets," says Mike Luba, a partner in SCI Ticketing and co-founder of Madison House Inc., String Cheese's management company. "People are fucking sick of it. We got sick of it, and that's why we did this."

    Yup. I agree. Too bad it ain't gonna happen.
    When two good looking women kiss, it's for money.
    Let's get the basics out of the way: capitalism isn't going anywhere. In its basic-most definition, it's the private ownership of business and capital, as opposed to state control.

    Now, Marxism. If you forget about state control for a moment, Marxism is basically about the inevitable tendency of society towards classlessness and equality. That idea is not "the opposite" of capitalism.

    I think the tendency of society is indeed toward equality. Marx lived after the French Revolution, and after the American Revolution. In fact, he started writing Das Kapital two years after the end of the American Civil War. In retrospect, we can clearly see that these 3 events had major contributions to the "cause" of "equality" — it's very possible that Marx had insight into this during his time. I am certain he had other indicators as well.

    Now, this does not do Marx justice. He did talk about state control of means of production, and he was wrong on that... to an extent.

    What is the state? In a monarchy, the king is the state. In more democratic forms of government (as well as under communism) the people are the state. So now, if people start owning shares of companies, are they not "the state" controlling "means of production? (the answer is yes and no. Since the MAJOR stock holders hold the real power, and as in Marx's time, they are few and very wealthy, the means of production are still controlled by the few rather than by all. Still having some equity in a company gives you some power — especially if you're owning stock in your place of employment and can easily coordinate with other shareholders)

    So in a sense, yes, Marx was right (don't judge Marxism by Lenin and Mao, they rushed and forced what has to be a slow and natural process) but that's not to say Capitalism is going away. It is still fact that an individual controls capital that allows him to buy stock and in turn control the means of production (to some extent.)

    have a concise example to add:

    If a company is 100% employee-owned, is that capitalism or socialism?

    On one hand, individuals own the company, which is very much capitalism. On the other hand, the workers control the means of production, which is the communism ideal.

    (IMHO, it's capitalism just because: if they fuck up and the company goes broke, they lose their business AND their jobs, both of which are aspects we associate with capitalism, not with communism)
    Music piracy has a lot more to do with the inexpensiveness (freeness) of a download than with the price of a CD. By lowering their prices, the music companies may win back a few customers who really "pirate because music is too expensive but wish they didn't have to" — which I am pretty sure is a very small minority of P2P downloaders (I know you're different, shush..)

    and the efforts of the industry to sell digital music online.

    Universal is part of vivendi universal SA, which among other things owns GetMusicLLC and The concept of selling digital music online is hardly new to them.

    And by the way, if the CD's don't sell well, Vivendi universal SA also owns "Superior Services, Inc" which specializes in "collection, transfer, recycling, and disposal" of solid waste. ;-)
    "Each year, U.S. News and World Report comes out with its ranking of American universities. Each year, thousands of high school students and their parents agonize over the list, searching out the 'best' school they can get into with their grades, SAT scores, and college fund balances. Later, the letters come in the mail. There are joys of acceptance and tears of rejection. This stuff is important!" eduardo writes. "Or is it? According to some, the aid package, distance from home, school size, are all important selection criteria and they may go against numeric ranking. Which matters more? Does it even matter where your kid goes to college, at all?

    "Recent research ... at Princeton University (can't get much more selective than that) ... suggests that it does not. They found that students who chose a school with lower admissions standards over a more competitive school earned incomes just as high as those who attended the elite college." On the other hand, there is "hard evidence ... that being surrounded by other bright, demanding students has a real effect on academic performance."

    "Did your choice of school impact your life, or is it 'what you make of it?' Do the rankings even reflect quality of the school? According to this study (PDF), rankings influence recruitment and pricing policies of schools — so are they self-fulfilling prophecies?"


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