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Monthly Archives: November 2003

Required Reading

November 12th, 2003 - 1:05 am

Today it’s David Pryce-Jones on the future of Arabia’s Saud Dynasty. Here’s a taste:

In 1979 a group of Wahhabi extremists seized the mosque in Mecca and tried to spark a revolution. Flown in for the purpose, French special forces shot dead every last one of them. Since then, many Saudis, including some in the royal family, have understood that their society’s moral and intellectual confusion is bringing about its downfall. But those who understand the problem have had little practical effect. The ruling princes, either because they are too old, too unimaginative or too selfish, have continued on as before, failing to make reforms which might have saved them.

Then again, that’s what ruling princes usually do.

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Free trade is always better. Always.

Robert Samuelson explains why:

Consider what happens if Bush retains the [steel] tariffs and defies the WTO.

For starters, he incurs the wrath of many small industrial users of steel — makers of auto parts, various steel components and machine tools. They’ve complained that tariffs have raised their costs and undermined their competitiveness against foreign rivals. Indeed, tariffs have probably cost more jobs among steel users than they’ve saved among producers. Gary Hufbauer and Ben Goodrich of the Institute for International Economics, a think tank, estimate that tariffs preserved 3,500 steel jobs; by contrast, they think that the tariffs might have cost steel users between 12,000 and 43,000 jobs.

We clear?

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Mea Culpa

November 12th, 2003 - 12:42 am

“Mea Culpa” is a recurring feature here at VodkaPundit, where I look back through the archives and say “Oops!” really loud and in public.

That’s something you rarely see the paid pundits do — which is probably why they get paid and I get squat. But that’s beside the point. The point is, I’ve been getting the Democratic primary race all wrong, and the time has come to cop to it.

Before it’s over, every primary becomes a two-man race. Even when it really isn’t, the press will make it so. (Think back to 2000, and Gore vs. Bradley or Bush vs. McCain. Did Bradley or McCain ever really stand much of a chance?) This time around, the man to beat looks like Howard Dean. And while I haven’t explicitly said so, I’ve certainly hinted that the other guy would be John Kerry.

Why? Because of Dean’s three most realistic challengers, Joe Lieberman is too conservative and Dick Gephardt is too old school. Here’s what I wrote about

Lieberman is a centrist, a DLC guy, and that hurts him in the primaries. Yeah, Clinton won the nomination as a centrist in 1992, but that year, the Dems had been out in the wilderness for 12 years. And their last liberal nominee, Walter Mondale, suffered a 49-state loss. And all their big guns sat out in ’92. With all that, the Democrats probably would have nominated a small bag of live ferrets, if they’d polled well.

Perhaps, then, Lieberman’s reputation (deserved or not; let’s not get into that now, it isn’t germane) as a centrist is what’s killing him in this race.

And about Gephardt:

Gephardt’s brand of Democratic politics play well in his partly-urban, heavily unionized district. But in a nation where the steel and auto industries don’t count like they used to, and where union politics (except for government-employee unions) have been on the wane for a generation, it’s hard for someone like Gephardt to make a play for national office.

Secretary of Labor? Sure. Or even the Commerce Department. His experience, leanings, and connections make him a natural for either of those posts under a Democratic President. But that Democratic President, it now seems, will never be Dick Gephardt. While he narrowly leads in the Iowa polls, New Hampshire voters aren’t likely to take to him like they will to Dean or John Kerry.

But today we read this news:

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry’s press secretary and deputy finance director quit Tuesday, adding to the bitter turmoil on Kerry’s team after the dismissal of his campaign manager.

Robert Gibbs, chief spokesman for the Massachusetts lawmaker, and deputy finance director Carl Chidlow quit in reaction to the firing of Jim Jordan, abruptly let go by Kerry Sunday night. Both expressed dissatisfaction with the campaign, according to officials.

And with that, I have to admit the Kerry campaign is, if not dead, then at least on life support. Far from being the default Second Man that I figured him for, Kerry is proven an inept campaigner who will be lucky to place third in Iowa, and figures for a distant third (fourth?) in New Hampshire.

So who will emerge as this campaign’s Second Man? It’s too soon to tell. But it’s not too early to admit I was wrong when I thought it would be John Kerry.

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November 12th, 2003 - 12:21 am

Slate’s Timothy Noah thinks conservatives have won the culture wars:

Conservatives chortle over their seizure of the youth culture. A longer version of Anderson’s Sun piece (published before the Reagan flap) appears in the autumn issue of City Journal, under the headline, “We’re Not Losing the Culture Wars Anymore.” In it, Anderson, sounding a bit like lefty media critic Eric Alterman, plays up the success of Fox News, which he freely admits is “conservative.” (Now that the right is winning the culture wars, there’s no longer any need to pretend that Fox lacks an ideology.) But he also dwells at great length on South Park, which he portrays as refreshingly conservative. The evidence includes one episode titled “Cripple Fight,” and another in which a choir is heard to sing, “There’s a place called the rain forest that truly sucks ass.” Chatterbox has no difficulty agreeing with Anderson (and Andrew Sullivan, whom Anderson quotes at length) that these sentiments reflect conservative influence, particularly in their tone. But he doesn’t find that particularly flattering to conservatism. In a similar vein, Danny Goldberg, former manager to Led Zeppelin and Nirvana, recently published a book titled Culture Wars: How the Left Lost Teen Spirit. Among its targets is Tipper Gore, whom Goldberg calls “snobbish” and “arrogant” simply because she thought record companies ought to label music with adult content.

It’s a little more complicated than that, kids.

Strange, isn’t it, that Noah should mention Andrew Sullivan, without mentioning that Sullivan is a gay conservative? Or that thanks in part to efforts by Sullivan, gay marriage is gaining support in mainstream America? I’d hardly call the Supreme Court’s knockdown of the Texas sodomy law, or Vermont’s civil unions, or polls showing a sometimes majority in favor of gay marriage, or even the popularity of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy evidence that conservatives have won the culture wars.

Noah also fails to mention America’s increasing tolerance for medical marijuana, and the fact that each year, more American politicians openly question the goals and methods of the War on Drugs.

Our music and television are increasingly risqu

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Required Reading

November 11th, 2003 - 4:01 pm

What Is a Vet?

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Soros Loser

November 11th, 2003 - 1:39 am

What happens when you have more money than God and less sense than Keith Richards after a thirty-year bender? Here’s what:

George Soros, one of the world’s richest men, has given away nearly $5 billion to promote democracy in the former Soviet bloc, Africa and Asia. Now he has a new project: defeating President Bush.

“It is the central focus of my life,” Soros said, his blue eyes settled on an unseen target. The 2004 presidential race, he said in an interview, is “a matter of life and death.”

Soros, who has financed efforts to promote open societies in more than 50 countries around the world, is bringing the fight home, he said. On Monday, he and a partner committed up to $5 million to MoveOn.org, a liberal activist group, bringing to $15.5 million the total of his personal contributions to oust Bush.

Will someone please remind me again what the Campaign Finance Reform Act was supposed to accomplish?

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Good Kitsch

November 11th, 2003 - 1:20 am

Greg Seitz sent me the link to a series of pictures of a big rock out in rural Iowa, on which the local kids used to spray paint profanities. But no longer.

And trust me when I tell you that you want to click over and take a look.

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November 11th, 2003 - 1:16 am

Robert Bidinotto is yet another new-to-me blogger, with an interest in debunking environmentalist junk science.

Click and read and scroll, kids.

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November 11th, 2003 - 1:06 am

Yet another worthless quiz, this one courtesy of Walter in Denver.

Which Author’s Fiction Are You?

Dorothy Parker
Dorothy Parker writes you, you wonderfully urbane,
witty boozehound, you.

Which Author’s Fiction are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

I’m actually rather flattered.

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A Bounty

November 11th, 2003 - 12:54 am

Brendan Miniter reminds us of the good news from Iraq:

Virtually every attack on American soldiers has drawn a response from coalition forces. The world is seeing that now–after the downing of three American helicopters, including a Black Hawk–with the strikes by F-16s with precision guided 500-pound bombs. Iraq hasn’t been the scene of such massive American firepower since April. The enemy is being made to pay a hefty price for each and every attack.

These spectacular strikes are but a small piece in the larger war raging in Iraq. That missile attack launched on the al Rashid Hotel in Baghdad when Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was staying there was widely reported. He was unharmed, but the attack killed an American officer, scarred the outside of the building (which has made a good TV visual whenever the story is repeated), and scared many reporters who breathlessly reported how lawless the city must be if such an attack was possible.

But the military followed up by catching 18 suspects. Once in custody, the thugs were quick to rat out their friends. Those arrests led to the arrest of two dozen more enemy fighters.

And if some annoying soul complains to you that the suspects weren’t read their Miranda rights, and you slap them with your shoe, I will personally pay you seven dollars.

NOTE: There’s a bag limit of three — I haven’t been to an ATM all week.

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Cheap Shots Aplenty

November 11th, 2003 - 12:48 am

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present a bit of sanity from Paul Krugman:

Roadkill?Many analysts now acknowledge that the administration never had any intention of pursuing a conventionally responsible fiscal policy. Rather, its tax cuts were always intended as a way of implementing the radical strategy known as “starve the beast,” which views budget deficits as a good thing, a way to squeeze government spending. Did I mention that the administration is planning another long-run tax cut next year?

Oops, my mistake. I think he meant it as a bad thing.

Speaking of bad things, that is a toupee on top of his head, right?

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November 11th, 2003 - 12:41 am

Venomous Kate is my kinda gal:

I really am low maintenance: all I need is the remote, the booze and the chocolate and nobody gets hurt.

For a moment there, I thought my bride had started her own blog.

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Car Talk

November 11th, 2003 - 12:35 am

A couple weeks ago, we looked at what’s wrong with Chrysler. Today the question is: What’s wrong with Ford? Think everything is swell in Dearborn? Think again:

Continuing its steady sales climb, Toyota Motor Corp. squeezed past Ford Motor Co. by 43,000 vehicles in the first six months of its fiscal year to become the world’s second-biggest automaker.

Reporting its financial results for the six months ended Sept. 30, Toyota said it sold 3.170 million cars and trucks worldwide. That’s up 7.4 percent from the year-ago period.

It was no big surprise last month when Toyota finally eclipsed Chrysler as America’s third-biggest brand. In fact, the surprise was that it took so long — industry analysts have been predicting it for years. Now, Ford is still #2 domestically, but for how much longer?

Ford’s problem is, nobody wants to buy Ford cars anymore.

Ford 427 ConceptHenry’s kids still know how to build great trucks and SUVs. The new F-150 is selling briskly, as it ought to. It’s a damn fine truck. The new Explorer doesn’t seem to blow up nearly as much as the old one, and even the tiny Escape is getting a hybrid engine next year. So now idiots can pat themselves on the back for being green, while they tear up the greenery with their four-wheel drive.

But cars? Other than the Ford Focus, Ford hasn’t had a hit since. . . since. . . help me out here, because I really just want to make an Edsel joke. And the Focus is a CAFE-friendly model, designed to please Washington rather than to generate profits.

The Mustang is OK, especially the GT version. But does anyone other than police departments and rental companies buy the Crown Vic? And I’d almost rather drive a minivan than be seen behind the wheel of a Taurus — a model which used to be America’s bestselling, but now ranks 3rd.

The closest thing Ford has had to a popular car for grownups in recent years was the new Thunderbird. It had the looks, and the looks generated a lot of good buzz. But then people got inside the thing, and realized it was just a Lincoln LS in a prettier wrapper. And underpowered, too. Recently, Ford announced they were going to cancel the T-bird a couple years ahead of schedule.

In fact, Ford’s position is so precarious, that one of two little things could send the company into a Chrysler-style financial crisis (if not into actual bankruptcy). If Americans suddenly lose interest in SUVs, the Ford has no fallback position. While the Focus provides sales volume, it generates little (if any) profits. And low-margin fleet sales of Taurus and Crown Vic wouldn’t save Ford’s bacon, either.

And the Focus? Ford sells lots of them, that’s for sure. But a major recall would mean near-certain doom. There was just such a scare last year, but nothing much came of it. But the design is aging, so a new version can be expected in the next few years — and new models are always the biggest risk for recall actions.

What Ford desperately needs is a family sedan to compete with the new Chevy Malibu on price, the Honda Accord on reliability, and Toyota Camry in styling (if that’s not an oxymoron for Japanese family sedans).

Frankly, I don’t think it can be done.

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November 10th, 2003 - 5:33 pm

I always thought Eric Raymond was too smart to still host his Armed & Dangerous blog on Blogspot. And he is.

Update your bookmarks.

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The Painful Truth

November 10th, 2003 - 2:32 pm

Dave Cullen on the John Kerry campaign shake-up:

Kerry who?

I imagine that was the most common reaction to the news that John Kerry ousted his campaign manager this morning. The guy practically had better name recognition before he started running for president.


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November 10th, 2003 - 1:38 pm

Got emails over the weekend pointing to a couple more new-to-me blogs you should check out.

First we have Dan Michalski’s Texas Scrolldown. This guy covers damn near everything, and does it well, too.

Then there’s Professor Stephen (no relation) Bainbridge. He knows money, he knows wine, he knows how to write. Take a look.

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Islamofascism Is No Myth

November 10th, 2003 - 1:33 pm

Jay Manifold “did a bit more math” and argues that Saturday’s find of 300,000 Iraqis in mass graves may just the tip of the iceberg.

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And Then There’s All That Shaving

November 10th, 2003 - 12:55 pm

Whoever thinks men should wear skirts hasn’t seen my knobby knees.

(Link via the InstaPundit.)

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Silver Lining

November 10th, 2003 - 12:43 pm

From the free trade front:

The European Union, Japan and six other countries have warned of retaliatory measures unless the United States ends its tariffs on a range of steel imports.

The comments came after a World Trade Organisation ruling that the tariffs flouted international rules and should be amended, rejecting an appeal by the United States.

Sometimes, it’s good to lose.

UPDATE: Jane Galt is less sanguine.

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The latest Carnival of the Capitalists is now posted for your greedy little pleasure.

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Who’s on First?

November 10th, 2003 - 12:32 am

News non-stories always look exciting at first glace:

U.S. Rep. Dick Gephardt has overtaken former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean as the Democratic presidential front-runner in a new Des Moines Register poll of Iowans likely to take part in the Jan. 19 caucuses.

Curses! Dean is foiled again! Or not. Read on:

The Iowa Poll, taken last week, shows Gephardt is the first choice of 27 percent of Iowans who say they definitely or probably will attend the precinct caucuses. Dean is the favorite of 20 percent. That’s a gain of 6 percentage points for Gephardt and a 3-point drop for Dean since late July, when the last Iowa Poll on the race was taken.

U.S. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts remains in third place with 15 percent, a gain of 1 percentage point from July. The poll has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.

So Gephardt might have support as high as 31.4%. Or perhaps as low as 22 and change. Dean’s real support ranges from 15.6 to 24.4%. And, as the story eventually explains, Gephardt’s supporters are less certain than Dean’s.

In other words, the latest greatest poll is more an exercise in revealed ignorance than it is a snapshot of the Iowa electorate. Which is pretty typical for any poll which isn’t done consistantly, over a period of weeks (or even months).

We’ll know for sure come January 20.

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November 10th, 2003 - 12:25 am

The non-existent Axis of Evil is at it again:

Syria, with help from North Korea, Iran and China, is completing construction of underground storage and launch facilities for its arsenal of over a thousand SCUD missiles. Armed with 1,000 pound high explosive and cluster bomb warheads, the missiles have ranges of 500-700 kilometers. Syria also has some 90 older Russian Frog-7 missiles (70 kilometer range, 1000 pound warhead) and 210 more modern Russian SS-21 missiles (120 kilometer range, payload 1000 pound warhead) operating with mobile launchers. There are also 60 mobile SCUD launchers. The Syrians have a large network of camouflaged launching sites for the mobile launchers. Iran and North Korea have also helped Syria build underground SCUD manufacturing and maintenance facilities.

Nope, no Axis here.

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St. Saddam?

November 10th, 2003 - 12:20 am

Only on the BBC. . .

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“Holidays in Hell”

November 10th, 2003 - 12:18 am

Tired of how CNN reports on Iraq? Sick of defeatism from The New York Times? Certain you can’t do anything to change any of it?

Don’t be so sure — blogger Gavin Sheridan wants to go to Iraq to do some first-hand reporting, and you can help him make the trip:

You might think me crazy but I am planning a trip to Iraq with some fellow freelance journos in the Spring. ‘Why?’ You might ask. Truth be told I really just want to a few things:

1. See what Iraq is like as a country
2. To understand the current state of the occupation/transitional arrangement
3. Measure morale of the Iraqi people and US Forces
4. To get to know some Iraqi people
5. To meet with some US/UK troops

That’s my list for now, though it is likely to expand. We are currently looking at Baghdad only, though we are considering a trip to Basra.

Click on the link, check it out, and maybe even make a donation.

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Steve Green Laughed

November 10th, 2003 - 12:09 am

Can’t get enough VodkaPundit? Then check out my Ayn Rand roots in this interview with Joshua Zader of The Atlasphere.

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November 8th, 2003 - 2:50 pm

What’s the No War Crowd’s answer to this story?

Saddam Hussein’s government is believed to have buried as many as 300,000 opponents in 263 mass graves that dot the Iraqi landscape, the top human rights official in the U.S.-led civilian administration said Saturday.

Sandy Hodgkinson said the administration has been sending forensic teams to investigate those grave sites reported to U.S. officials. So far, the existence of about 40 graves has been confirmed.

“We have found mass graves with women and children with bullet holes in their heads,” she said.

Murder on the same scale in this country would be over 3.5 million people. Or 78,000 Israelis, a million Germans, or almost two million Russians. The Arabs, in other words, are much better at killing their own than they are at killing us decadent Westerners.

Anyone still think there’s nothing in the Middle East in need of fixing?

UPDATE: Holy crap.

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Required Reading

November 7th, 2003 - 2:28 am

Very rarely does another blogger write something which makes me say, “I wish I’d written that.”

But Michael Totten just did.

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No Bag Limit

November 7th, 2003 - 2:03 am

Here’s some heartening news:

The top American military commander for the Middle East has created a covert commando force to hunt Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden and key terrorists throughout the region, according to Pentagon and military officials.

The new Special Operations organization is designed to act with greater speed on intelligence tips about “high-value targets” and not be contained within the borders where American conventional forces are operating in Iraq and Afghanistan.

My first reaction was, “What the hell took them so long?” My second thought was, “If they’re admitting it now, then it’s probably been around longer.” My third thought was, “Why wasn’t this set up on September 12, 2001?”

My fourth thought was that it probably was.

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It’s Fun to Be Right

November 7th, 2003 - 1:50 am

Yesterday, concerning Iraq’s offer of last-minute concessions to the US, I wrote:

The anti-war folks will tell you this story (if true, although I have no reason to doubt it) startles because we rejected such a generous offer. Surely, they’ll claim, the chance of inspections led by the US military and the promise of free elections made avoidable (or at least delay-able) the horrors of war.

Today there’s this from the editorial page of the New York Times:

With crucial details unexplored, there is no way of knowing whether war could or should have been avoided, or indeed whether the offer was genuine or what kind of inspections would have been allowed. Any last-minute offer might have been unacceptable, particularly if it meant leaving Saddam Hussein’s Baathist torturers in power. Yet surely Washington should have made the effort to learn more.

Didn’t take long, did it?

On a similar note, my contest is still open.

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Moon Beams or Moon-Bats?

November 7th, 2003 - 1:33 am

Senate testimony of Dr. David R Criswell:

Solar power bases will be built on the Moon that collect a small fraction of the Moon’s dependable solar power and convert it into power beams that will dependably deliver lunar solar power to receivers on Earth. On Earth each power beam will be transformed into electricity and distributed, on-demand, through local electric power grids. Each terrestrial receiver can accept power directly from the Moon or indirectly, via relay satellites, when the receiver cannot view the Moon. The intensity of each power beam is restricted to 20%, or less, of the intensity of noontime sunlight. Each power beam can be safely received, for example, in an industrially zoned area.

The link is from Drudge, which makes it doubly difficult to think this guy is the same Criswell who used to hang out with (and star in movies by) Ed Wood. If you don’t know him, pick up two movies this weekend. The so-terrible-it’s-still-terrible “Plan Nine from Outer Space,” and Tim Burton’s so-great-it’s-just-so-great “Ed Wood.”

Jeffrey Jones (best-known as the principal, Ed Rooney, in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”) played Criswell in “Ed Wood,” and was far better at it than Criswell ever was.

Anyway, I’m sure it’s a different Criswell, since one was an astrologist or something, and the other is an astronomer or something. But the important question is, will the moon beams be Wi-Fi enabled so I’ll never have to recharge my laptop again?

More importantly, why does Microsoft Word already know how to spell “Criswell?”

I’m sure this post had a point, originally, but I make no excuses other than a stern finger wagged in the general direction of my martini glass.

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