What Is This Blog?

January 10, 2010

This blog is an archive of the posts written by me, Will Collier, at VodkaPundit from 2004 through 2008.

In February of ’04, Stephen Green invited me to play Joan Rivers to his Johnny Carson and guest-host his hugely-popular VodkaPundit blog while he was away on vacation.  One thing led to another, and I wound up staying for the next four years.  It was one hell of a ride.

I wrote over 700 posts at VodkaPundit, including what I consider some of the best work I’ve ever done.   After writing online in near-total obscurity from 1997-2001 (most of that time before the word “blog” was even coined), I suddenly found myself being quoted in places like CNN and the BBC, and participating in the national debate in a way that was frankly inconceivable just a year or so earlier.  I made a ton of new friends (not least including Steve) and a somewhat smaller number of new enemies along the way.

In 2009, when Steve joined Pajamas Media as a full-time editor, reporter, blogger and on-air personality, the VodkaPundit archives were transferred over to their current site at PJM.  I took the shift as being as good a time as any for me to stop mooching off of Steve’s bandwidth and start up (or rather re-start after a long hiatus) my own blog at WillCollier.com.

But I didn’t want to lose track of the work I’d done at VodkaPundit, and I definitely wanted to be able to link back to particular pieces from time to time.  I soon found out that this would be a difficult task, since the PJM version of VodkaPundit didn’t identify the authors of the older posts.  Steve and I have very similar writing styles, and I occasionally had a tough time myself identifying who wrote what from four or five years back. Making that distinction wasn’t getting any easier as time continued to pass.  So, with a little help from Steve and design goddess Stacy Tabb, I’ve extracted my old posts from VodkaPundit and re-published them here.

A few words of caution:  I make no guarantees as to the functionality of any external link on this site.  The web changes pretty fast, and I’ve made no effort to check or update hyperlinks that go back as much as six years.  Some embedded videos and pictures are also missing; I will endeavor to add those back in as I’m able.  I’ve disabled new comments for all posts, although the original comments from VodkaPundit have been preserved and can still be read.

Finally, this is an archive, not a “live” blog.  I will not be updating it regularly–or barring very unusual incidents, at all.  You can find my current writing on politics and general subjects at WillCollier.com, on college football at From The Bleachers, as well as my columns for Pajamas Media at PJM’s main site.

So thanks for reading, and thanks again to Steve for five hella-fun years.

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Once More, With Feeling

February 9, 2009

All of this has happened before; all of this will happen again.

Sherman, set the Wayback Machine for the bygone days of 1993, which up until last month was the last time a Democratic president took office accompanied by Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress.

After campaigning for a year and a half decrying “the worst economy in the last 50 years”–despite the fact that the mild recession of 1990-91 actually ended in March of ‘91–one of Bill Clinton’s first priorities was to try and ram through (wait for it) a “stimulus package.” Back in those days, politicians hadn’t yet realized that they could add another three zeroes to their raids on everybody else’s pockets, so the Clinton bill was by today’s outlandish standards relatively modest, starting at a mere $30 billion dollars. Most of that was sold as “targeted stimulus,” which meant it was carefully targeted to pay off Democratic grandees and constituencies that had contributed to the 1992 campaign

All of this has happened before; all of this will happen again.

Things did not go all that swimmingly for the Clinton “stimulus” package. By the middle of February, the bill had stalled in the Senate thanks to a Republican filibuster, and the White House sent out its chief economic advisor, Laura D’Andrea Tyson, to warn of the wonderful results should this recalcitrance end:

“The administration estimates that the stimulus package, taken by itself, will add about 0.3 percent to the annual growth rates of real gross domestic project in 1993 and 1994, creating 500,000 additional jobs by the end of 1994,” Tyson said. She forecast economic growth of 3.1 percent this year and 3.3 percent in 1994 if the package is approved.

The Clinton “stimulus” bill failed, going down to final defeat on April 22, 1993. It was never revived. As we all know, the American economy never recovered–oh, wait, that’s not correct. A year later, despite the non-presence of a federal “stimulus” law, unemployment had dropped from 7.1% to to 6.6%. Tyson’s growth prediction was not quite correct, either; the US GDP positively boomed in the fourth quarter of 1993 to the tune of 5.5%, and rose by 4% in 1994–all without the help of Clinton’s “stimulus” package.

The boom accelerated in the second half of the decade, with the greatest gains being realized from 1995 onwards–after the Democrats had been swept out of Congressional power, and as a result, Clinton’s penchants for tax hikes and big spending packages were effectively neutered. There were no grand “stimulus” packages from that point on, only good, old-fashioned gridlock that kept the government from raising taxes or spending to outrageous excess.

All of this has happened before… and if we’re very lucky, all of this will happen again.

Doublethink

February 8, 2009

The current debate over the monstrous and misnamed “stimulus bill” is bringing out the worst of the established Washington press corps. For a group that up until three weeks ago prided itself on “speaking truth to power,” this bunch is awfully comfortable with unexamined ideological assumptions, so long as power is in the hand of people who share those assumptions.

At Newsweek and the Politico, it’s taken as a given that the House Democrats’ monster of a spending bill is a benign attempt to save a faltering economy, and that any opposition to it is by definition illegitimate “playing politics.” Here’s Politico’s Jeanne Cummings, pausing in a column full of hosannas for The One to toss out a 20-year-old leftoid gripe about those meanies on the AM dial:

Despite Obama’s sky high personal approval ratings, polls show support has declined for his stimulus bill since Republicans and their conservative talk-radio allies began railing against what they labeled as pork barrel spending within it.

[snip]

[W]hile the White House team struggled to adapt, it was business as usual on Capitol Hill for Republicans.

They could practically sleep-walk through their attack plan once House Democrats began to fill in Obama’s broad outlines for a stimulus with a few pet projects of their own.

It required two simple steps: Scream pork, call Rush Limbaugh.

Actually, Jeanne, it was The Savior who quite stupidly called out Limbaugh, bringing him back to the forefront of national political scene after several years in relative obscurity (although anybody with an audience the size of Rush’s–easily comparable to Obama’s vaunted 13 million email addresses–is never going to be all that far away from the political center ring). It’s also worth noting that Cummings assumes as a matter of course that any accusation of “pork” from the right must be false–but she can’t even keep her own narrative straight. Further down in her “analysis” piece, she notes,

[I]t’s hardly a secret that the president found unhelpful the House Democrats’ decision to slip funding for special groups into its version of his stimulus bill.
Funding to allow Medicaid programs to provide contraceptives as part of its family planning services to low income recipients was the Republicans’ first easy mark for attacking the legislation.

“How you can spend hundreds of millions of dollars on contraceptives — how does that stimulate the economy?” House Minority Leader John Boehner asked.

With a phone call from the White House, Obama had that provision stripped from the legislation but the damage was done and Republicans soon moved to the next so-called pork project to launch a new attack.

Um, which is it, Jeanne? Is the bill larded up with “funding for special groups,” as you note in one sentence, or is all that just blithely dismissible as “so-called pork,” just a couple of lines later? Why exactly is it out of bounds to point out–or God forbid, get rid of–money being appropriated for no particular good use?

Ah, well. Like they say on The Simpsons, cartoons don’t have to be consistent.

Even more laughably, Newsweek’s Michael Hirsh manages to double-back on himself at least twice in this convoluted graph:

Obama’s desire to begin a “post-partisan” era may have backfired. In his eagerness to accommodate Republicans and listen to their ideas over the past week, he has allowed the GOP to turn the haggling over the stimulus package into a decidedly stale, Republican-style debate over pork, waste and overspending. This makes very little economic sense when you are in a major recession that only gets worse day by day. Yes, there are still some very legitimate issues with a bill that’s supposed to be “temporary” and “targeted”—among them, large increases in permanent entitlement spending, and a paucity of tax cuts that will prompt immediate spending. Even so, Obama has allowed Congress to grow embroiled in nitpicking over efficiency when the central debate should be about whether the package is big enough. When you are dealing with a stimulus of this size, there are going to be wasteful expenditures and boondoggles. There’s no way anyone can spend $800 to $900 billion quickly without waste and boondoggles. It comes with the Keynesian territory. This is an emergency; the normal rules do not apply.

I really love all that. Hirsh walks right up to considering the idea that the Pelosi payoffs might be just kind of unwarranted, but than shrugs it off with a “Nah, it’s more important to just borrow and spend a buttload of money and not worry too much about where it’s going.” It’s as perfect an expression of establishment Washington groupthink as you’re ever likely to read. Any consideration that this monstrosity wouldn’t do much of anything to help the economy at large is brushed away as “stale, Republican-style debate over pork.”

Here’s Beltway grandee Norm Ornstein in The New Republic, bemoaning the growth in lobbyists and their salaries relative to Congresscritters and staffers:

In 1969, a member of Congress earned $42,500. Today, the pay is nearly four times that, $169,300. But in 1969, the salary of a first-year associate at prime Washington firms was around $10,000–while today, the starting pay for a first-year associate is $160,000, not including hefty bonuses for those who have clerked for a federal judge. Back then, a senior partner in a Washington law firm would earn a bit more than a member of Congress; today, that partner might make ten times a congressional salary.

The disparities have grown even sharper with lobbyists. In 1969, a newly minted lobbyist with solid Capitol Hill experience could count on making a touch more than the $10,000 they earned as congressional staff. Today, the congressional staffer making $50,000 can look at a peer making five or six times that much as a lobbyist. An assistant secretary in an executive department can make similar multiples upon leaving office and taking up lobbying. The explosion of public relations and lobbying firms has meant that huge conglomerates like Burson-Marsteller, Ogilvy, Hill & Knowlton, and WPP have bought up boutique firms created by former executive branch and congressional staffers, turning these staffers into instant multi-millionaires.

To his credit, Ornstein does admit just why there’s been so much growth in lobbyist and lawyer salaries:

In 1970, the federal budget was all of $195 billion. Today, the budget is over $3 trillion.

With so many federal dollars at stake, the capital injected into the system to influence government decisions has exploded.

… but, captive as anybody else to the Washington spend-first-ask-questions-later mentality, he never draws the obvious conclusion: if you want to get money out of Washington, then the government should take spend a whole hell of a lot less of it. Instead, Ornstein goes off on the normal goo-goo tangent, talking about restrictions on lobbyists and ethics reform packages and such. All well and good, I suppose, but also nowhere near as necessary if we simply had a government that didn’t trowel out so damn much cash, and exert so damn much influence over individuals and businesses, who then think they have to hire lobbyists to protect themselves–or try and get their own piece of the piggy pie.

Krugman on Stilts

January 27, 2009

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.

Required Reading

December 27, 2008

Matt Labash once again stakes his claim as the best damn writer in journalism with this stunning requiem for Detroit. I’d like to break Matt’s fingers for being this good, but he’d probably just start dictating these stories out loud, and he’d still be better than anybody else in the business. A brief sample:

We tear through the ravaged east side–not to be confused with the ravaged west side. When he was growing up, Charlie’s mom had a flower shop down here, but there are almost no signs of commerce now. In my line of work, I’ve seen plenty of inner cities, but I’ve never seen anything in a non-Third World country like the east side of Detroit. Maybe the 9th Ward of New Orleans after Katrina. But New Orleans had the storm as an excuse. Here, the storm has been raging for 50 years, starting with the closing of the hulking Albert Kahn-designed Packard Plant in 1956, which a half century later, still stands like a disgraced monument to lost grandeur.

There is block after block of boarded windows and missing doors, structures tilting like the town drunk after a vicious bender. Some houses have buckled roofs, some have blue tarps, some have no roof at all. Which is not to say nobody lives in them. A mail carrier I see on the street says desperate squatters will frequently take up residence, even switching house numbers as it suits them. Not all fires are started maliciously. With no utilities, they’ll often make warming fires on the floor. At one point, we stop the car just to count how many burned-out houses we can see without moving. We count six, all from different fires.

We enter the firehouse of Squad 3/Engine 23, or the “Brothers on the Boulevard,” as they are nicknamed. It looks like a very orderly frathouse. There is Dalmatian statuary, in lieu of a real dog, a mounted swordfish, a photo of [recently killed in the line of duty fireman] Walt [Harris] holding a giant sub on the bulletin board. It is ordinarily a place filled with mirthful gregariousness, a place where new recruits might get dropped to their knees with buckets of water, or where middle-aged men play air guitar to Thin Lizzy solos coming from radio speakers.

But today, nobody’s in the mood to smile. In a 90 percent black city, a firehouse is one of the only truly integrated places. The photo that ran with Charlie’s April story contained white Sgt. Mike Nevin, smoking one of his ever-lit Swisher Sweets, clapping black Walt on the shoulder. They looked like ebony and ivory, living together in perfect harmony. They faced death together every day. When they call each other “brother” around here, they mean it.

Several wear shirts memorializing their fallen brother. A black wreath commemorates him on one wall. Charlie and I hang out for the better part of a day, and the stories come fast and furious. Firemen tell me that the safest time to be here now is Devil’s Night, the infamous night before Halloween for which Detroit earned its title as the arson capital of the world. With Angel’s Night counterprogramming, which sees more cops and neighborhood patrols on the street, they’ve managed to whittle the over 800 fires they suffered in 1984 down to 65 fires this October 30. Only in Detroit could 65 arsons in one night be considered a success.

Read the whole thing. Hat tip to Detroit native Michael Barone.

Four Pounds of Backbacon, Three French Toast, Two Turtlenecks…

December 25, 2008

… and a beer–on TV.

Okay, so it’s not on TV, but it is on a computer, eh:

Beauty. Everyone say, “Beauty.”

The Airing Of Grievances

December 23, 2008

File this one under Movies That Should Have Been Released In 2008, But Weren’t:

Indiana Jones and the Call of Cthulhu.

Discuss amongst yourselves–but not until after the Feats Of Strength.

Innumeracy At ABC

December 21, 2008

Sheesh:

Pointing to Republican victories in Louisiana and Georgia after the Nov. 4 vote, Republicans are now batting .1000 in the post-2008 era.

I’m going to remember that line every time I see a mediot use the word “decimate” incorrectly…

Global Warmening Update

December 18, 2008

Vegas, not Tahoe. H/T to Drudge:

Vegas snowstorm

A timely UPDATE from Andrew Bolt: The Top 10 Dud Global Warmening Predictions of 2008.

Good Luck With That

December 17, 2008

Via Breitbart:

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – The parents of American-born Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh are asking President George W. Bush to set their son free before Bush leaves office next month.

Lindh was sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty in 2002 to serving in the Taliban army, which violated U.S. economic sanctions against Afghanistan at that time.

At a news conference in San Francisco Wednesday, Lindh’s mother, Marilyn Walker, asked the president to show mercy during the Christmas season by commuting her son’s sentence.

Lindh initially asked for a commutation in 2004 and his lawyers have renewed the request each year.

The U.S. Department of Justice has never acted on the petition and a spokeswoman didn’t immediately return a telephone call.