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Monthly Archives: January 2009

Must-See Radio

January 31st, 2009 - 2:31 pm

On this week’s PJM Political:

• PJTV co-host Allen Barton interviews Gordon Cucullu, the author of Inside Gitmo, published this week by Harper Collins.

• James Lileks on the Stimulus Bill.

• Col. Austin Bay, the co-author of A Quick And Dirty Guide To War, on President Obama’s planned 16 month withdrawal timetable from Iraq.

• Glenn Reynolds and Dr. Helen Smith interview Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, as he prepares for the TN gubernatorial race.

• Produced by Ed Driscoll.

Plus, Ed and I talk Blago, Pelosi, and North Korea.

It’s Gonna Be a Long Four Years

January 31st, 2009 - 9:19 am

For those of us who argued that President Obama’s promise to talk to Iran, Cuba, etc., “without preconditions” would be interpreted as weakness… well, guess what?

Let There Be Light

January 31st, 2009 - 8:08 am

An LED lightbulb which lasts 60,000 hours and costs less than three bucks to manufacture? Bring it on!

We have very few incandescent bulbs left in our house. There are still a few ceiling fans upstairs we haven’t swapped out for low-energy Windward models — and they require regular-size dimmable bulbs. CFLs like that don’t exist. And three halogen bathroom fixtures we’re too cheap (and spoiled) to replace (they’re very pretty).

Otherwise, we’re a CFL bulb household.

Except for one — count it, one! — LED bulb. Our son’s nightlight is one of those kiddie lamps with a regular bulb on top and a tiny, low-wattage bulb in the bottom. Since it’s encased inside the base of the lamp, the included tiny bulb kept frying out. So I bought an LED bulb to stick in there.

Good news: It doesn’t get hot and will last for generations.

Bad news: If you hate the light CFLs put out, this LED is even worse. Actually, it’s bad by any measure. I don’t mind CFLs one bit, but that LED is just awful. And it wasn’t cheap, either.

So if the guys linked above have figured out a way to make cheap LEDs, that’s great. I just hope they’ve figured out a way to make them good, too.

Even More Must-See PJTV

January 30th, 2009 - 3:22 pm

At about 3PM Pacific, the Blogger Roundtable will feature Jennifer Rubin from Contentions and right here at PJM, Subvert.com‘s Heather Gold, and… ME! We’ll talk about Michael Steele, Joe Biden, and a couple ads you won’t be seeing during the Super Bowl. Plus, special guest appearances by Biden’s hair plugs.

Must-See PJTV

January 30th, 2009 - 2:26 pm

Live, just moments from now, it’s the VodkaPundit Blog Week in Review.

A Little Less Consternation

January 30th, 2009 - 8:49 am

Some good news:

The 3.8 percent annual pace of contraction in the final three months of last year was less than forecast, with a buildup of unsold goods cushioning the blow. Without the jump in inventories, the decline would have been 5.1 percent, the Commerce Department said today in Washington.

For those keeping score at home, the economy shrank at only two-thirds the rate economists feared. So how about Congress chop, say, $200 billion or so off that $900 billion pork package?

In a Perfect World

January 30th, 2009 - 5:14 am

PJ Media has gotten hold of a draft version of President Obama’s letter to the government of Iran:

Dear Schmucks,

That’s a Yiddish word, and if you don’t shape up we’re going to help see to it that it’s the next language your people are speaking over there.

-Barry.

Hey, a guy can dream.

Breaking II: Electric Blagoloo

January 29th, 2009 - 3:58 pm

Blagojevich is gone, 59-0.

Breaking

January 29th, 2009 - 3:30 pm

From Twitter:

BreakingNewsOn The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) did not immediately report as to why North Korea is ceasing all agreements with the South.

Can’t find a real story anywhere, but it appears Krazy Kim is back in charge and up to his usual antics.

UPDATE: Here’s the story:

North Korea said Friday it is scrapping all political and military agreements with South Korea, including one on their sea border.

The statement from the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, a body handling cross-border relations, accused the Seoul government of pushing relations “to the brink of a war.”

The statement follows months of strained relations. Earlier in January South Korea’s military ordered a border alert after the North’s army threatened an “all-out confrontational posture” against Seoul.

As Charlie Martin commented on Twitter, “Expect them to shoot up a couple of ROK gunboats then grumpily agreeing to talk.”

Must-See PJTV

January 29th, 2009 - 1:52 pm

Coming up — live! — in mere moments, today’s Blogger Roundtable with Mark Hemingway & Jeff Emanuel, and your one and only VodkaPundit.

Today’s topics include Chris Dodd and Pelosi & the President’s Pork Package.

UPDATE: We’re running a little late due to some tech issues, but the good news is that today’s Roundtable isn’t just free — you don’t even need to register.

They Don’t Like Profits Anyway

January 29th, 2009 - 11:43 am

Via Melissa Clouthier comes this tasty little item from Gawker:

…today the NYT runs an op-ed from Yale’s hallowed money manager David Swensen, in which he recommends that newspapers turn themselves into non-profits with endowments (we agree, philosophically at least). “As long as newspapers remain for-profit enterprises, they will find no refuge from their financial problems.” He’s talking to you, NYT!

The NYT is already headed towards zero profits for as far as the eye can see — so why not make it official?

Here We Go Again

January 29th, 2009 - 10:50 am

Is the Pork Package really Smoot-Hawley II?

Stimulate THIS! Part III

January 29th, 2009 - 10:28 am

Senator Jim DeMint on the pork package:

The bill, if it were a country, would have the 15th largest economy in the world — right in between Australia and Mexico, greater than the Gross Domestic Products of Saudi Arabia and Iran put together. And the American people will be forced to borrow 100 percent of the unprecedented $1.2 trillion price tag, including interest. The stimulus bill will cost well over $1 billion dollars for every page it is printed on and $400,000 for every job it hopes to create or save.

Wow. And here’s his alternative:

The idea is simple: first, make the temporary tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 — now set to expire in 2011 — permanent. Short-term tax relief — of the sort envisioned by the Democrats’ plan — does not stimulate economic growth.

It’s the difference between a $1,000 gift one month — which you might put away or use to pay off some credit card debt — and a $1,000-a-month raise, which might get you thinking about buying a house or a new car or taking a summer vacation or starting a new business.

To encourage people to take risks and create new jobs, we must make tax relief for families and small businesses permanent. Recessions are caused by uncertainty that keeps investors on the sidelines. By making low taxes permanent, plans and decisions can be made with an eye toward the future.

With the 2011 tax-bomb defused, our plan will cut income tax rates across the board compared to current law. The top marginal rate — the one paid by most of the small businesses that create new jobs — will fall from 35 percent to 25 percent. It simplifies the code to include only two other brackets, 15 and 10 percent.

Of course, the flaw in the plan is that it empowers individuals, not Washington. In the current climate, that’s enough to doom it right there.

Getting Conservatism Back on Track

January 29th, 2009 - 8:40 am

That’s my column this week for PJ Media.

This is the Time

January 29th, 2009 - 5:17 am

Want to stimulate the economy, in six easy steps, all by your li’l ol’ lonesome? Now is the time to buy a new car.

Think about it. GM and Chrysler are flush with free money, and have brought back their Free Money to Most Anyone With a Pulse financing plans. Ford will have to follow suit. So you know the Japanese will play ball, and (shh, don’t tell anyone) so will the Germans. (The Koreans are already playing, and have been since the late ’80s.)

Lock in a fixed rate, and stretch that baby out for years. Usually, I recommend putting down no less than 20% on a new car, and getting the shortest terms you can find. But not these days.

For the first year or two, you might regret buying now, as you watch prices come down and interest rates stay low. But we’re in a window of opportunity here, and there’s no telling how long it might last. Here’s what I mean:

1. Bailout money is letting the carmakers make stupid loans again.

2. Desperation has prices low.

3. Sometime in the next 18-24 months, inflation is going to kick in.

4. I mean, bigtime.

5. That fixed rate at 6.1% or whatever is going to look awfully sweet when inflation has jacked up new loans up over ten percent.

6. You’re going to feel awfully good paying back that loan with dollars worth a third less than the ones you borrowed.

And that’s the Six Point VodkaPundit Plan for stimulating the economy. Fahrfugnugen.

Silver Lining in a Sea of Red

January 28th, 2009 - 4:26 pm

Every single House Republican voted against the Pork Package. Er, the stimulus bill. Then again, the damn thing still passed. Here’s what Nancy Pelosi had to say:

“The ship of state is difficult to turn,” said the California Democrat. “But that is what we must do. That is what President Obama called us to do in his inaugural address.”

True that. But the ship of state isn’t at all hard to scuttle — which is exactly what is going to happen if we keep spending like this.

It’s an Honor Just to be Me

January 28th, 2009 - 12:29 pm

It’s official: I am the studliest blogger in the ‘sphere.

California to Taxpayers: F— You!

January 28th, 2009 - 10:22 am

California has officially put sending out tax refunds on hold:

During the 30-day delay, the controller’s office estimates that a combined 2.74 million California individuals and businesses will have their tax refund delayed.

The controller’s office estimates that the delay in tax refunds will free up $1.99 billion over the next month to pay for education, debt service, and other payments that legally have first claim to state funds.

California taxpayers ought to consider a 30-day delay in paying their taxes, freeing up billions of dollar for stuff like mortgage payments. And beer. Californians are going to be needing lots and lots of beer in 2009.

Told You So

January 28th, 2009 - 10:08 am

At CQ Politics, Alan K. Ota says Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is, well, a big-ol’ player:

McConnell’s approach — whether he works with the new administration in search of consensus, fights every step of the way or does a little of both — will determine as much as anything how well Obama succeeds at ending the toxic party wars that have polarized and paralyzed Washington for so many years, an overarching promise of his campaign.

And how’s he wielding that power? Let’s see:

The initial test of the relationship between McConnell and the Obama administration came even before last week’s inauguration, on the question of whether to release the second half of last fall’s $700 billion financial industry bailout. McConnell led 32 other GOP senators (and eight Democrats) in voting to stop the release, saying there were insufficient safeguards to ensure that the money would be spent wisely.

He lost soundly when six fellow Republicans and 45 Democrats voted to untether the money. McConnell did not put any parliamentary obstacles in the way and was able to secure a letter from Obama’s team outlining some conditions that will be set for tapping the fund, known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). After the vote, McConnell’s attitude was that he’d lost fair and square to a worthy adversary — “impressive” was his word for Obama’s lobbying effort — while learning lessons for bigger battles ahead, starting with an economic recovery package that may exceed $800 billion, which will dominate the congressional agenda for the next several years.

He’s fighting fair and square? That folks who would bankrupt the nation to lock in their majorities are “worthy?”

We’re doomed.

Pay to Play

January 28th, 2009 - 8:41 am

Here’s a case you’ll hope isn’t too little, too late:

Republicans are airing a television ad in Reno this week attacking Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as a “super-spending partisan.”

The early ad buy by the National Republican Senatorial Committee is the latest indication that the GOP views Reid, D-Nev., as a top target as he seeks re-election to a fifth term in 2010.

Committee spokesman Brian Walsh declined to say how much money the committee was spending to air the ad. It accuses Reid of contributing campaign money for Democratic attack ads against Republicans who supported government bailouts last year—but now supporting big new expenditures himself.

“And now he wants a trillion more dollars in new spending? A trillion dollars?” the ad’s announcer says over an image of a hammer smashing a piggy bank. “Tell Harry Reid to stop wasting our hard-earned money.”

The problem of course is that ever since about 1998, the Republicans haven’t had a leg to stand on when it comes to spending restraint. If they’re going to sounds ballsy on the radio, they’d better act ballsy in Congress — otherwise voters will gladly take goodies from non-hypocrites who don’t harangue them, instead of from hypocrites who do.

Stimulate THIS the Sequel!

January 28th, 2009 - 5:06 am

Colorado — my home — looks to get about $3 billion worth of federal stimulus. Where will the money go? All over the place, it seems:

Over the next two years, Colorado would get $226 million to build new schools, $408 million to train workers, and $412 million for new highways, according to figures provided to Colorado lawmakers from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

The biggest winner would likely be state government, which would get nearly $1 billion to backfill a growing budget shortfall and keep state workers, including teachers, in their jobs. Additionally, the state would get $855 million to help offset skyrocketing Medicaid costs, an amount above the nearly $3 billion influx, according to an estimate by the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute. The institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan project of the Colorado Center on Law and Policy.

Now let me get this straight. Last year’s stimulus checks amounted to about $800 dollars per person, put in your very own bank account to stimulate as you yourself saw fit. And those checks accomplished, by my cocktail napkin calculations, perhaps slightly more than nothing. Maybe less.

This time around, around $500 or so per person will come into Colorado, entirely into the unaccountable cesspool of wasteful government spending. If real live cash money delivered to real live people did nothing, then how much good will even less money, more wastefully spent, accomplish?

If you answered “less than zero,” then go to the head of the class.

Required Viewing

January 27th, 2009 - 3:34 pm

How does the MSM screw up? Let Ed Driscoll count the ways…

Hello I Must Be Going

January 27th, 2009 - 9:19 am

Did General Motors refuse three billion in Canadian bailout bucks because they’ll be closing up shop up north?

Tom Clancy Drool-Fest

January 27th, 2009 - 8:51 am

Here’s an iPhone app I bet Steve Jobs never dreamed of:

Apple computer now has two sniper rifle software applications for the iPhone and iPod Touch (which looks like the iPhone, but is just an iPod with a big screen and wi-fi capability). The BulletFlight software is available at the iPhone software store, and it performs the calculations needed to account for atmospheric conditions (wind, temperature, humidity, altitude and barometric pressure) for long range shooting. The output tells you how many clicks to adjust your scope to make the shot more accurately. Before use, you input basic data like rifle type and bullet weight.
Now a highly experienced sniper can do this in his head. There are similar dedicated devices that cost about $7,000. But BulletFlight is affordable, does the job and appeals to inexperienced snipers, hunters, recreational shooters and those who are just curious. The software costs $12.

Whoa.

(Sniper and rifle and ammo and spotter and unsuspecting enemy not included.)

From Will Collier via Remote Control

January 27th, 2009 - 8:44 am

Guest Blog!

Tom Maguire notes this remarkable bit of Paul Krugman effluence:

Next, write off anyone who asserts that it’s always better to cut taxes than to increase government spending because taxpayers, not bureaucrats, are the best judges of how to spend their money.

Here’s how to think about this argument: it implies that we should shut down the air traffic control system. After all, that system is paid for with fees on air tickets — and surely it would be better to let the flying public keep its money rather than hand it over to government bureaucrats. If that would mean lots of midair collisions, hey, stuff happens.

This is a spectacularly specious argument, even for Krugman. Air traffic control, whether practiced by government employees or a private company, is a specialized task with predictable outcomes. To borrow a line from Don Rumsfeld, there are very few unknown unknowns: pilots and controllers are trained to use a specific set of rules for flight and established terminology to communicate with each other. By its very definition, air traffic control is not a chaotic system–if it were, we’d have all those plane crashes Krugman bloviates about.

Krugman is laughably trying to sell the notion that the American and world economies are just like air traffic control: everybody involved knows exactly what they’re supposed to do, there are no unknowns (don’t start with weather regarding ATC; that’s an observable and to a large degree predictable phenomenon, at least in a short time frame and on the large scale), and thus they can be readily manipulated by the smartest experts who went to all the right schools and who clearly know better than all you rubes out there who drive SUVs and aren’t Nobel laureates.

This, of course, is nonsense on stilts.

No professor, no cabinet secretary, no “expert” of any sort knows anything close to “everything” about the economy. That’s not a slam on any of the above; it’s just physically impossible for that much chaotic data to be assembled and comprehended by a single human mind–not least because the data is constantly changing. Suggesting that a few Democratic politicians and their minions in the federal bureaucracy are even remotely capable of “running,” much less fixing the global economy is at best foolish, and is at worst a dangerous lie intended more for consolidation of political power than actual economic benefit.

Krugman, whether he’d ever admit it or not, knows as much. Today’s risible comparison has nothing to do with economics and everything to do with partisan politics. He’s just spouting economic truthiness to build support for an Obama-Pelosi push to buy enough votes to get through several election cycles–and in that, at least, he’s on firm historical ground. Party-building with other people’s money was the one true legacy of the New Deal, and the one that Krugman and his elected allies are most interested in reviving.

Don’t Click the Link

January 26th, 2009 - 2:42 pm

Bailouts aren’t sexy.

Mail Bag

January 26th, 2009 - 12:49 pm

On the Obama/Auto post down below, regular reader Robert Jacoby comments:

Yes, by all means let us have 50 different automobile standards. That’ll keep the number of cars made real low & real expensive, so that the masses will no longer have cars. Only our betters will have them.

I’m afraid Robert has misunderstood what’s going on here.

California — combined with the states which have laws in place to mimic California’s emissions regulations — accounts for half or more of all cars sold in the United States. What Obama’s regulations are meant to do is allow the tail to wag the dog, not to have 50 different tails. Let me explain.

California’s laws are so nutty, they might not even get passed by our current Congress. They’d certainly have a tough time in the Senate. So, by letting California set its own standards, Obama and Congress are essentially allowing the nuttiest state assembly in the entire Union to set the standards the entire nation will end up using.

No automaker is going to produce two entirely different lines of cars for California and its legal dependencies, and the rest of the nation. So buyers in Maine and Alabama and North Dakota will be buying cars designed to appeal to greenhouse emissions fanatics in Hollywood and their beneficiaries in Sacramento. What the Greenies can’t accomplish in Washington, they’ll certainly get away with in California, and the whole country will get stuck with the results.

Welcome to Hope! and Change! — a place where Federalism has been turned on its ear to let local pols in California decide what’s best for everyone, everywhere.

Must-See PJTV

January 26th, 2009 - 12:41 pm

Join Rick Moran and me for today’s Blogger Roundtable at 12:50PM Pacific. We’ll talk about the latest from Planet Blago, Bill Kristol’s departure from The New York Times, and Nancy Pelosi’s most recent foolish utterance.

Oh, and as PJTV enters the next stage of its beta, no more of this live-to-tape stuff. We’ll be broadcasting live, baby.

Retool THIS!

January 26th, 2009 - 10:24 am

President Obama is acting quickly to toughen tailpipe emissions and CAFE mileage standards on the auto industry:

Once the agencies act, automobile manufacturers will quickly have to retool to begin producing and selling cars and trucks that are cleaner and get better gas mileage on an accelerated schedule. The auto companies have lobbied hard against the regulations and have challenged them in court.

Detroit automakers are on the hook for tens of billions of bailout bucks — what are they going to do, complain?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, in the modern welfare state, once you take the Danegeld, you’ll never be rid of the Dane.

That’s Gonna Leave a Mark

January 26th, 2009 - 9:37 am

Microsoft’s misleading “Vista Capable” ad campaign from a couple years ago could cost them up to nearly nine billion dollars:

Vista Home Basic is key to the lawsuit, which alleges that Microsoft’s Vista Capable program inflated the prices of PCs that could run only that edition and enticed users into buying machines that could not be later upgraded to any other version of Vista. Home Basic, the plaintiffs have contended, is not the “real” Vista, in large part because it lacks the Aero user interface.

Microsoft has denied that it duped consumers and has countered that Home Basic is a legitimate version of Vista.

Months before the “capable” campaign, I noted that to get the full benefits of then-unreleased Vista would require a DirectX 10 video card. At the time there were exactly two of those, and I think they cost something like $500 each — that’s nearly as much as entire computers bearing the “Vista Capable” sticker. First time I saw those stickers on el-cheapo Dell boxes, I knew Microsoft was scamming buyers.

And now it looks like Microsoft might have to pay for the scam, writing checks for $3.5-8.5 billion dollars.