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Monthly Archives: July 2003

Trying to Pay Attention

July 31st, 2003 - 4:20 pm

If anyone in Colorado Springs talk radio reads this, why aren’t you syndicating Hugh Hewitt already? Word has it, the man has impeccable taste. In other words, he just mentioned this site.

For now, I have to see if I can tune in Denver’s KNUS 740-AM.

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Required Reading

July 31st, 2003 - 3:52 pm

Read this Will Leitch piece on the Democratic primary race, fund-raising, and our favorite peace imp, Dennis Kucinich. Here’s a sampler of what the Democrats face next year:

So, if you’ve successfully survived all the primaries and emerged from the carnage victorious

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Back in Business?

July 31st, 2003 - 1:02 pm

Yesterday Robert Samuelson argued that reading the economy is tough these days. But today looks like nothing but good news. Read:

US economic growth shot to an annual pace of 2.4 percent in the second quarter, shattering sluggish expectations.

Defying forecasts for growth closer to 1.5 percent, the US economy gave the clearest sign yet it is shaking off Iraq (news – web sites) war-inspired shock and gathering speed, with business investment finally back.

The return in business investment, a 52-year record surge in defense spending, robust consumer spending, and a red-hot housing market powered growth, early Commerce Department estimates showed.

“This is a very positive confirmation that the economy is turning the corner,” said BMO Financial Group economist Sal Guatieri.

For those still looking for work, this part might be the most important:

Businesses trimmed their inventories by 17.9 billion dollars in the period, eroding 0.77 percentage points from the overall economic growth pace, the data showed.

Smaller inventories and increased demand usually means industry will have to add more workers to the payrolls.

It’s a good news day, to be sure. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re out of the woods yet.

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Let the Games Begin

July 31st, 2003 - 1:53 am

Found this story on Drudge:

Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat and 2004 presidential hopeful, is four months delinquent in paying the property taxes on his Georgetown mansion and owes the cash-strapped District more than $11,000, city records show.

Mr. Edwards is worth somewhere between $12 million and $30 million after a successful career as a personal injury lawyer, according to his financial disclosure forms. He bought the eight-bedroom, 6,672-square-foot home in the tony neighborhood for $3.8 million in September.

In February, the city sent Mr. Edwards a tax bill for $9,562.46, which he was supposed to have paid by March 31, according to tax records. As of 3:30 p.m. yesterday, Mr. Edwards owed $11,092.46 with interest and penalties, according to the city’s tax collection office.

As I said before, for political junkies, all the fun the next year or so will be on the Democratic side. This kind of story is exactly what we live for.

Really, how does Edwards recover from something like this? His primary-race poll numbers are nothing great, and he’s already seen as something of a “Clinton Lite.” This ain’t no Whitewater, but that’s what makes the story even more deadly.

Whitewater was just too damn complicated for most people to understand. Hell, I could never wrap my brain around it, and I love that sort of thing. Here, however, is a story every single homeowner can understand.

If you or I don’t pay our property taxes, we eventually lose our homes. In the unlikely event that we don’t pay, we usually have a pretty damn good reason — unemployment, death, or something else catastrophic. Edwards is a guy worth at least 12 million bucks, and he can’t remember to write a check for ten grand?

Not only is that easy to grasp, it’s even easier to form an opinion. And the opinion most people will form is: Why that cheap bastard! And he’s a lawyer, too.

I’ll say it now — Edwards is toast.

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Heads Up

July 31st, 2003 - 1:13 am

Here’s a smart move by the US Senate which could just hasten along the coming collapse of North Korea:

The Bush Administration is expected to back plans to provide thousands of North Koreans with asylum in America, supporting efforts to transport them out of China, in a significant policy shift.

“We will see the United States adopt very generous provisions for North Korean refugees, including relocating them from China and South Korea into processing camps in the region and into localities in the US,” said Chuck Downs, a long-time Washington consultant on North Korean human rights.

The US Senate recently passed a measure that would allow North Korean asylum seekers to apply for refugee status in the US, a move that is expected to be supported soon by the full Congress.

The story goes on to compare allowing North Koreans to come here, with the effect that free travel to the West had on East Germany (remember them?) in the summer and fall of 1989. But the comparison can go only so far.

If you’ll recall, after Soviet Premier Gorbachev declared an end to the Brezhnev Doctrine, Czechoslovakia and Hungary started to freely hand out travel visas for points west — even to East Germans. The floodgates were opened, and, before long, East Germany looked on the weekends like a Old West ghost town made of bad concrete. Not long after that, of course, the Wall came down and we had a single Germany.

It’s hard for a totalitarian state to allow just a little freedom, as China and Iran are also discovering. But I worry about the eventual Korean reunification in a way I never worried about the Germans.

Not that there wasn’t (or isn’t) anything to be concerned about by having one Germany around rather than two. Dennis Miller said it best in his “Black and White” special 14 years ago:

I feel about that the way I feel about Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis; I didn’t particularly care for any of their old stuff, and I’m not looking forward to any new material.

Funny stuff — because all good comedy is based on a nugget of truth. However, that’s not my concern with North and South Korea.

Unified Korea isn’t going to be a threat to anyone. Who are they going to invade? Japan? China? Russia? Hardly. Korea is the Poland of Northeast Asia — a small nation trapped between bigger, and often antagonistic, neighbors. No, a single Korea would likely have a smaller (although still very potent) military than does just South Korea today.

So what’s the problem?

Let’s go back to 1989 once more. West Germany had 62 million people, and the world’s third-largest economy. East Germans numbered a mere 17 million, and by Communist standards, they were quite rich. In fact, the old DDR was the richest Communist nation ever, period, full stop. So while reunification was an expensive proposition, West Germany could afford it without too much pain. Also, East Germans had been under the Communist yoke for “only” 45 years. There were still people alive with some memory of how a civil society functions. Easing matters, East Germans could often watch Western TV, and many were allowed limited travel to the west.

South Korea has fewer than 50 million people, and while they’ve made great strides, their per capita income is still only up to that of modern Poland. They aren’t poor, but they aren’t nearly as rich as West Germany was. In addition, their economy isn’t as mature or robust, as the Asian Financial Crisis of a couple years back showed.

Up north are 22 million of their starving brethren. Before the Communist dictatorship, they lived a brutal existence as virtual slaves of Japan. “Chosen,” as Tokyo called Korea, was annexed by the Japanese Empire 93 years ago. It’s safe to say that there is no one in North Korea with any experience living in a politically modern, free, democratic, or tolerant state. Travel is forbidden. Only a small handful of South Koreans are allowed north. There is only one radio station, and it runs nothing but the foulest sort of propaganda. And according to a story in US News & World Report a few weeks ago, North Korea even has concentration camps bigger than the District of Columbia.

Through no fault of their own, the people of North Korea simply aren’t ready to enter the modern world, and South Korea can’t afford to feed, house, re-educate, and re-civilize them all.

Whether or not there’s a war, when North Korea collapses there’s going to be a humanitarian crisis on a scale the world has never seen — 22 million scared, hungry, and desperate people left without any semblance of anything familiar.

And whether or not there’s a war, the United States is going to have to spend an awful lot of treasure and troops to help set things right.

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Subject Closed – For Now

July 31st, 2003 - 12:31 am

At least someone in Washington agrees with my assessment of the potential of the so-called “terror futures market.” Here are Justin Wolfers and Eric Zitzewitz from today’s Washington Post:

Betting on human lives seems ethically questionable. Yet if it helps save lives, surely the moral questions are mitigated. Not so, according to those in Congress (and elsewhere) who created such a furor this week over a planned Pentagon program to project geopolitical risks that the program was quickly shut down. The plan was to use markets to “price” such risks, and it was quickly dubbed a “terrorism futures market.” Unfortunately, in hastily ending this program, the government may be closing the door on an important source of information and a promising avenue for research.

The authors are “assistant professors of economics at Stanford Graduate School of Business. They are co-authors (with Andrew Leigh of Harvard) of a study titled ‘What Do Financial Markets Think of War in Iraq’,” so they ought to know what they’re talking about.

But don’t take my word for it — read the whole thing.

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Masochism, Anyone?

July 31st, 2003 - 12:20 am

Man, maybe I ought to pick a fight with Lileks.

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Notice

July 30th, 2003 - 11:36 pm

After the surprising response to “50 Words and Phrases Not to Use on a First Date,” I’ve decided to make a semi-regular 50 Things list.

Coming on Friday: 50 Things Every Guy Should Know.

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Already?

July 30th, 2003 - 12:30 am

Happy birthday, Gnat.

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It’s the Economy, and We’re All Stupid

July 30th, 2003 - 12:09 am

Here’s Robert Samuelson on the improving (or declining) economy:

Gosh, the news seems good. People should have ample spending money. After the Iraq war, confidence indicators have increased. So have profits and stocks. Corporate debt levels have dropped — a point Greenspan has emphasized — freeing cash for plant and equipment spending. Why shouldn’t the economy get better? Well, here are a few reasons:

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Required Reading

July 29th, 2003 - 3:45 pm

A letter from the front.

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Let Freedom Work

July 29th, 2003 - 3:28 pm

OK, so the Pentagon bowed to the expected complaints, and killed the Policy Analyst Market. That should make reader (and blogger) Gary Santoro happy. Here’s what he had to say about it:

Question:

Who has proven the “Efficient Market Theory”?

Answer:

No one.

True, but so what? Let’s look at the record. Nation-states without free markets, or with politically-warped ones, include:

The Soviet Union
Pre-Deng China
The People’s Democratic Republic of Korea
Castro’s Cuba
Nazi Germany
Almost the entire Arab world
Vietnam
Most of West Africa

A partial list, at best, but a sure indication that non-market economies simply don’t work, or don’t last, and usually both.

Nation-states with mostly-free markets include:

Hong Kong
The United States
Singapore
The United Kingdom
The Czech Republic
Finland
Thailand
South Korea
France
Germany
Japan
Post-Deng China

All of these nations are either rich, or are at least improving rapidly. And I’ve placed them in a particular order — from the freest markets to those free markets most tainted by politics. Reading the list that way, you’ll notice yet another trend: even in free-market economies, the degree of freedom usually equals the degree of wealth. Not to mentiton which “free”-market nations are stagnating or seeing non-cyclical downturns in growth.

Now, all this is certainly no rock-solid mathematical proof, but the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming. Free markets produce better results than non-free ones.

Santoro goes on:

In fact, the financial markets over the last five years would lead us to believe that great externalities and inefficiencies can occur.

Sorry for getting a bit technical, but the blind acceptance of this unproven theory is a key issue.

Well, of course there are externalities and inefficiencies. We’re talking human beings and human institutions here, not Utopia. The question isn’t “Are markets perfect?” the question is “Are markets better than most any alternative?”

The answer shouldn’t be in doubt.

Santoro concludes by saying, “Terrorism will be defeated without this absurd proposal.”

On that, we’re in full agreement. But as I understood it, the Pentagon’s idea wasn’t designed as a war-winning knockout blow, but rather as a tool for gaining new sources of potentially useful intelligence, in a manner already proven to work.

It’s a damn shame that the Pentagon gave in to the likes of Santoro and threw away their new tool, before ever giving it a chance to work.

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Broken Arrow

July 29th, 2003 - 12:04 am

This story is causing a bit of a stir, but it shouldn’t. Read:

The Pentagon office that proposed spying electronically on Americans to monitor potential terrorists has a new experiment. It is an online futures trading market, disclosed today by critics, in which anonymous speculators would bet on forecasting terrorist attacks, assassinations and coups.

Traders bullish on a biological attack on Israel or bearish on the chances of a North Korean missile strike would have the opportunity to bet on the likelihood of such events on a new Internet site established by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

If you’re opposed to capitalism in general, it’s understandable why you’d react in horror to a proposal such as this. And so it’s without surprise that the usual suspects are making the usual noises:

Two Democratic senators demanded Monday the project be stopped before investors begin registering this week. ”The idea of a federal betting parlor on atrocities and terrorism is ridiculous and it’s grotesque,” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said.

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Notice

July 28th, 2003 - 9:34 pm

The site was down most of the day. No hardship for me, of course. But whatever the big problem was at Hostmatters, it took the Professor away from us, too.

Now that stuff has got to stop.

Ate too much dinner, played too many cards. Blogging later — technicalities permitting.

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Relief

July 27th, 2003 - 4:31 pm

Smile.

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Say a Little Prayer

July 27th, 2003 - 4:29 pm

It’ll be fine.

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Progress Report

July 25th, 2003 - 3:53 pm

This short letter just got sent off:

Dear Mr. Workman,

Since you have not seen fit to even reply to my letter of July 9, I have taken my complaint to the Better Business Bureau, and my business elsewhere.

Signed, etc.

Readers might be interested to know that Ultimate Electronics (who also operates SoundTrack stores) has an amazing array of high-end A/V products, some of the finest salespeople I’ve ever dealt with, and service and repairs departments slightly less concerned with your satisfaction than a drunk Soviet DMV clerk two minutes before closing.

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Spread the Word

July 25th, 2003 - 1:49 am

Cheers!

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This Is John Galt Dating

July 25th, 2003 - 1:43 am

You might read this. . .

SWF, aspiring railroad executive, seeks handsome Argentine with a hint of the rakish for tragic LTR. Smokers OK. No fatties, druggies, or Kantians.

. . .here.

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Fame!

July 25th, 2003 - 12:34 am

If you live in Colorado, pick up a copy of 5280 magazine.

Thanks to Dave Cullen, you’ll find this site — along with Talk Left, the World Wide Rant, and Walter in Denver — in a fine, full-page article on Denver bloggers.

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Handicapping Dean

July 25th, 2003 - 12:29 am

Dedicated Democrats, if they’re a bit drunk and don’t think anyone else is listening, will admit that most of their crop of presidential contenders lacks a certain something. Er, somethings. Little things. Like stature, or money, or mainstream appeal.

Or a pony’s chance in an industrial turbine of getting elected.

Unless something goes horribly, terribly wrong for either the nation or George W Bush, the Democrats in 2004 are looking at what the Republicans saw with Barry Goldwater in 1964: Certain doom. What Democratic primary voters need to ask themselves next year is which candidate will help them most in 2008. Or, in the worst case, which one will do them the least damage. But before we get to Dean, let’s go back to Goldwater for a moment.

The Republican’s 1964 race was one of those “For the life and soul of the party!” battles. On the one side, you had Nelson Rockefeller

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Back

July 24th, 2003 - 10:35 pm

Yeah, yeah, yeah — I took a day off.

And I’m workin on the Dean thing again. I keep changing my damn mind and throwing it out. Anyway, what I’m working on now is IT.

At least until I read the news again tomorrow.

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G’night

July 23rd, 2003 - 10:53 pm

Got halfway done writing a little piece on whether the Dr. Dean campaign is good or bad for the Democrats, then realized what I’d really like to do is go to bed for once at a decent hour.

See you in the morning.

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Summer Fun

July 23rd, 2003 - 10:18 am

If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take the top down on the car, drive too fast on the highway going nowhere in particular for a bit, blaring Patti Smith’s cover of “Gloria” just as loud as I can handle it.

That‘s what summer is about.

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Quagmire II

July 23rd, 2003 - 10:01 am

James Morrow and Austin Bay both add their two cents.

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“I’m Glad He’s Dead”

July 23rd, 2003 - 1:29 am

The Chicago Boyz‘s “Lexington Green” has some interesting comments about the Husseni Boyz, and on yesterday’s post about Iraq and Vietnam.

This sends a powerful message to the whole world in a language Neanderthal man would have understood. These guys took on the USA and its allies, and now they are dead. That will help quell further bad behavior from any number of sources. Plus, its plain justice that these mass murderers have been killed. Anyway, they were participating as commanders in an ongoing war against the USA, so they were military targets. Another factor is the ongoing fear in Iraq that the regime will return, that the US and the other Coalition countries will just cut and run. Hunting down and killing Uday and Qusay sends a message to the Iraqi people that the victorious powers are serious about tearing out the former regime root and branch. That will help create confidence and cooperation among the Iraqi people. All in all this 100% good news.

Anyway, read the whole thing.

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A Minor Fisking

July 23rd, 2003 - 1:21 am

“Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”

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Let Down Again, Naturally

July 23rd, 2003 - 12:17 am

It started with so much promise:

Dick Gephardt deserves Howard Dean. In a sense, he created him.

If anyone has personified the failure of the Democratic establishment to provide the party with a distinct profile during the Bush presidency, it’s Gephardt.

Those are the first three sentences from a Washington Post op-ed piece by American Prospect editor Harold Meyerson. If anyone, I thought, was going to have something interesting to say about the Democratic presidential race, it was going to be this feisty partisan.

For political junkies like myself, the Democrats are going to be the story for the next 13 months. Then the fourth sentence:

As House Democratic leader, Gephardt clung to Bush’s Iraq policy until it all but unraveled over the past month.

And I just stopped reading.

If the angle of the column hinges on the too-hateful-to-be-whimsical folly of thinking we’ve already almost lost Iraq, then why should any of us care what follows? Yeah, I need my political fix, but today I’ll have find my own needle, my own spoon, my own lighter, and my own. . .

Oh, wait — I already have a blog, don’t I?

More to follow on Howard Dean later, if only for my own sake. Well, that and to show the bigshots how it ought to be done.

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Via Drudge — And Damn Near Everyone Else

July 22nd, 2003 - 2:56 pm

Here’s the news we’ve been waiting for all day from CENTCOM:

July 22, 2003
Release Number: 03-07-68

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

STATEMENT REGARDING OPERATION IN MOSUL, IRAQ

Statement from US Central Command:

On Tuesday, July 22, forces associated with the 101st Airborne Division and Special Operations Forces conducted an operation against suspected regime figures at a residence in Mosul, Iraq. The site is currently being exploited. Four Iraqis were killed in the operation. We have confirmed that two of the dead were Saddam

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Case Closed

July 22nd, 2003 - 1:27 am

This is why we read Den Beste.

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