Wotka World Wide

Monday, December 29, 2008

Michelle Malkin, and a tale of two presidential workout fanatics. Guess which one's workout the media fawns over, and which one spends all his time working out, to the detriment of the country?
Victor Davis Hanson, on what we can expect with the coming of the new administration:
All the campaign talk of the Great Depression, a Vietnam-like war, and our shredded Constitution will now thankfully subside as the Obama administration assumes office and solves problems with conciliation, dialogue, and multilateral wisdom, rather than shrillness, unilateralism, preemption, and my-way-or-the-highway dogmatism. We will hear that, by historical levels, unemployment is still not that bad, that GDP growth is not historically all that low, and that deficits, inflation, interest rates, and housing starts are all within manageable parameters. “Depression” will transmogrify into “recession” which in turn by July will be a “downturn” and by year next an “upswing” on its way to boom times.
Should India defuse their strained relations with Pakistan by relinquishing control of Kashmir? There is some logic in this, but it would have to be in a way that recognizes the rights of both sides that live in the region. This would also allow Pakistan to direct more of their forces towards their northern border with Afghanistan and the Waziristan region, but the question is, would they actually do this. and risk angering the more devout segments of their population? Both sides definitely need to stop letting the actions of a few crazed militants determine their military alert status, as that could lead both sides into an unnecessary war, as nearly happened recently with the escalating accusatory rhetoric over the Mumbai attacks. It seems the best impediment to war is currently both sides lack of readiness and preparation when it comes to military operations, especially not surprising given India's response to the attackers in Mumbai.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

BBC News has a look at Pakistan one year after Benazir Bhutto's assassination, along with her mixed legacy. The situation there will be very uncertain over the next year, and strong leadership is needed but sorely lacking. Hopefully they can get it together.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Check out these absolutely stunning nature pics from webecoist.com. Here is one from Finn Ville Miettinen:

Jacob Sullum, on the chances of drug reform under an Obama Administration:

A couple of weeks ago, the Obama-Biden transition team's website solicited policy questions from the public. Over two days, the site "processed over 600,000 votes from more than 10,000 people on more than 7,300 questions," and this was the top question:

Will you consider legalizing marijuana so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and create a billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?

Obama's terse answer:

President-elect Obama is not in favor of the legalization of marijuana.

So apparently the auto execs aren't the only ones with luxury perks. The UAW has a super nice top 100 golf course that they maintain as a "conference center". However, it isn't solvent and has lost $23 million in the last five years. If I was a UAW member, I wouldn't be happy my union dues were going to cover this excess. Both management and union have gotten way too fat over the years, and both sides need to pare down things if the American automotive industry is to survive. Why is Fox News the only one to report this kind of thing, but the rest of the media trip all over themselves to report on corporate jets?
Germany is resisting calls to drastically increase spending to help alleviate the strains of the global financial slowdown. Amazing that some nations can resist the herd-like mentality prevalent among many countries, including the U.S., that every struggling industry must receive some bailout. Germany has basically guaranteed bank loans to shore up their credit markets, and that is about it. It will be interesting to see whether their economy recovers faster than other European economies, and whether they suffer more or less of a recession as well. Other nations would be smart to realize that certain failing companies need to fail, not be propped up. That is how the market works. We need to learn the lessons of Japan in the early 1990s (see previous post on this subject).

Friday, December 26, 2008

Apparently, the CIA is offering Viagra to older Afghan warlords in exchange for their help against the Taliban. And it is working! Heh heh.

In one case, a 60-year-old warlord with four wives was given four pills and four days later detailed Taleban movements in return for more.

"Whatever it takes to make friends and influence people," the Post quoted one agent as saying.

"Whether it's building a school or handing out Viagra."

Now Gov. Richardson, soon to be Secretary of Commerce, involved in pay-to -play scandal? The L.A. Times has the details. Of course, no one is commenting, and aides claim everything was on the up and up. Only time will tell...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A list of the ten companies most likely to fail in 2009. The New York Times Co. is on the list. So is Chrysler (duh). So is Charter Communications, which has $20 billion in outstanding debt. Read the whole list.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Reason has a look at some of the mistakes Japan made in the early nineties when their real estate bubble burst. The moves they made then prolonged their depression, leading many to refer to that period in Japan as the "lost decade". The policies included raising taxes on business, government loans for failing businesses, embarking on "infrastructure projects", and reducing transparency in an attempt to protect the markets. Any of this sound familiar? Those who ignore the lessons of history are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. And we are rushing headfirst down the exact same path. If the fools in Washington really wanted to stimulate things, they would slash corporate and capital gains taxes in half. That alone would generate tremendous financial incentive for investors to inject more capital into the markets. Funny that the quasi-socialist economies in Europe are figuring this out (see Ireland for a good example), while we are stuck with the plan of using policies that have repeatedly failed in the past. Now that is depressing!
The New York Post has a run-down of some of the donors to Bill Clinton's charitable foundations, according to a list he recently released. Heading the list are members of the Saudi royal family, several of whom have donated over $5 million. Some are concerned that "...it can lead to at least the appearance of friends with benefits. For instance, mining financier Frank Giustra gave Clinton between $10 million and $25 million along with a donation of $1 million to $5 million from his private foundation.

In 2005, Giustra flew Clinton to Kazakhstan on his private jet, where the ex-prez sang the praises of the Central Asian nation's autocratic leader. Giustra then won a lucrative uranium mining contract."

Of course, it would be silly to suggest these donations might in some way influence the job Hillary will do as Secretary of State, right?

The music industry has apparently halted efforts to sue illegal downloaders and song-swappers. It is about time.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Russia sliding back to totalitarianism. With new legislation set to ban protests and political dissent, critics are charging Russia's government under Vladimir Putin with returning to the Stalinist days when words spoken to the wrong person could land one in prison or worse. Russia's leadership is simply deranged. They are creating a climate deliberately unfriendly to freedom and the free market, and their new-found economic might will quickly disintegrate when those with money flee the country while they still can. Obama will have a real challenge on his hands dealing with a Russia that thinks it needs to regain its lost glory and power. Hopefully he will be somewhat up to the task. George Bush's strategy was not very successful in restraining their inclinations to befriend America's enemies. And they are already ramping up the provacations to test our incoming President. More:
New legislation backed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin would allow Russian authorities to label any government critic a traitor—a move that rights activists said Wednesday was a chilling throwback to times of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

The bill, which is expected to become law, would expanded the definition of treason to include damaging Russia's constitutional order, sovereignty or territorial integrity. That, rights activists said, would essentially let authorities interpret any act against state as treason—a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Lawyers in Australia have turned to Facebook to serve legal papers.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Time magazine's Washington bureau chief is leaving the magazine to become Joe Biden's director of communications. But of course he was completely objective during his tenure at Time...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Amidst the howling that the evil Senate Republicans killed the bailout bill, it is worth noting that the Democrats control the Senate and had eight of their own members go against the bill, while ten Republicans supported the bill. So, the votes were there for the Democrats, but they couldn't get their own party to support the bailout, and then of course the media narrative becomes blame the Republicans. What a joke the media is in this country.
Ever wonder who tracks down all that art that is stolen from museums and galleries every year?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The apparent $50 billion fraud with Madoff Securities is shocking, but not completely surprising, given the atmosphere on Wall Street. Just goes to show that when someone starts producing incredibly solid and consistent returns, things are never quite what they seem. Too many high-end firms and funds blindly trusted another firm to manage huge percentages of their money, even though most analysts couldn't figure out how they were making consistent double figure returns, including in the current bear market.
Michael Barone on the Illinois governor scandal. He has the best analysis and background of the situation I have seen so far, and he seems to know far more about Chicago politics than most observers or commentators:
The Blagojevich scandal casts something of a pall on Barack Obama's otherwise pretty impressive and highly popular performance in this transition period. It's a reminder that he's the product of a political system that also produces some very tawdry corruption and official incompetence. And that he has been a get-along, go-along politician himself, taking care never to buck Mayor Daley and even backing the flagrantly unqualified Todd Stroger for Cook County Board president in 2006. It puts another name on the list of prominent Democrats who have been tarred by scandal or accused of scandalous behavior—Eliot Spitzer, Charles Rangel, William Jefferson, Kwame Kilpatrick—at a time when memories of Mark Foley, Bob Ney, and Jack Abramoff are beginning to fade. It will provide continuing headline stories. Will Blagojevich resign? My guess is: no way. Will the legislature take away the power of appointing a senator to fill the Obama vacancy? My sense is: quite quickly. Will there then be, as Illinois Senator Dick Durbin has called for, a special election to fill the seat? My guess is: could well be. In which case it's not entirely clear that the Democrat will win, even in such a heavily Democratic state as Illinois. The nightmare scenario for Democrats is a big primary fight on their side, with the Republican nomination going to North Shore Rep. Mark Kirk, a political moderate with a WASPy clean-government reputation that Illinois voters may find attractive after the Blagojevich scandal. Not likely, perhaps, but possible, and not what the Obama administration will need in its early months.
How should India prepare to meet another Mumbai-style terrorist attack? How about actually allowing some gun ownership? The Indians have followed along in the style of the British and refuse to allow anyone to carry firearms, including such obvious candidates as hotel, mall and corporate security. Which really worsens the situation, especially since they are such obvious targets. And then the local police refuse to actually shoot anyone with the weapons they do carry. Changes need to be made soon, as this could easily happen elsewhere in India. Here is a run-down of the situation, courtesy of Shikha Dalmia with WSJ Asia:

Although the Indian government repealed[the old British laws banning gun ownership] after Independence, it replaced them with ones almost equally hostile toward its citizens in 1959. It created a new licensing authority and gave it virtual carte blanche to deny permits. It also restricted private manufacturing to primitive munitions that no one wanted while subsequently banning imports, all of which has made guns prohibitively expensive.

The consequence is that India has among the lowest gun ownership rates in the world -- four guns per 100 residents, according to estimates by Martin Killias and his colleagues at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. By contrast, the U.S. has a rate of 90 per 100; Canada, 31.5; Thailand, 16; and Pakistan, 12. But the most relevant comparison might be with Israel -- another country facing a chronic terrorist threat -- where 15% of adults carry concealed handguns, according to John Lott of University of Maryland.

Read the whole thing.

More corruption in the city of St. Louis. First off, two police detectives were recently arrested and charged with stealing seized money and dealing drugs. Apparently they were on the crime suppression unit. Wonderful.

And then, the Post-Dispatch has actually done some investigation work and found that the same St. Louis City Aldermen that hastily approved of red light cameras have themselves been cited multiple times, with several having the tickets dismissed for no reason and others simply ignoring or refusing to pay the fines. And they wonder why everyone prefers St. Louis County?
Scientists in Japan have apparently created software that can capture images directly from the dreaming mind. Cool.

Monday, December 08, 2008

The downfall of General Growth Properties and the Bucksbaum family. They may have to declare bankruptcy Friday if they cannot meet a loan payment approaching $1 billion. Just goes to show that this financial distress is influencing the upper crust just as much as the little guy.
Remembering the Soviet policy of mass starvation:
This year marks the 75th anniversary of one of the most horrific chapters in the history of the Soviet Union: the great famine the Ukrainians call Holodomor, "murder by starvation." This catastrophe, which killed an estimated 6 to 10 million people in 1932-33, was largely the product of deliberate Soviet policies. Inevitably, then, its history is fodder for acrimonious disputes.
Read the whole thing. Everyone remembers and memorializes the horrors of the Holocaust, but the Soviets intentionally starved tens of millions to death during the thirties, and most people know little or nothing about this.
Charles Krauthammer on the new strategic agreement between the U.S. and Iraq and its importance:
For the United States, it represents the single most important geopolitical advance in the region since Henry Kissinger turned Egypt from a Soviet client into an American ally. If we don’t blow it with too hasty a withdrawal from Iraq, we will have turned a chronically destabilizing enemy state at the epicenter of the Arab Middle East into an ally.
A self-sustaining, democratic, and pro-American Iraq is within our reach. It would have two hugely important effects in the region.

First, it would constitute a major defeat for Tehran, the putative winner of the Iraq War according to the smart set. Iran’s client, Moqtada al-Sadr, still hiding in Iran, was visibly marginalized in parliament — after being militarily humiliated in Basra and Baghdad by the new Iraqi security forces. Moreover, the major religious Shiite parties were the ones who negotiated, promoted, and assured passage of the strategic alliance with the U.S. — against the most determined Iranian opposition.

Second is the regional effect of the new political entity on display in Baghdad — a flawed yet functioning democratic polity with unprecedented free speech, free elections, and freely competing parliamentary factions. For this to happen in the most important Arab country besides Egypt can, over time (over generational time, the timescale of the war on terror), alter the evolution of Arab society. It constitutes our best hope for the kind of fundamental political-cultural change in the Arab sphere that alone will bring about the defeat of Islamic extremism. After all, newly sovereign Iraq is today more engaged in the fight against Arab radicalism than any country on earth, save the United States — with which, mirabile dictu, it has now thrown in its lot.
A winter of discontent for Obama supporters? Many are not happy with recent appointments and policy shifts...
Finally, the end of the road for scandalized Democratic Congressman William Jefferson, who just lost a special election, 50% to 47%, to a Vietnamese-American named Anh "Joseph" Cao, a Republican. Jefferson was the Congressman infamously caught with $90,000 in bribe money stashed in his freezer. His gerrymandered district was designed to support a black Democrat, including large portions of New Orleans, but apparently the reek of corruption was just too much for some voters, just like in Alaska with Ted Stevens. The election had been delayed because of Hurricane Gustav, which probably was the only reason Cao had a shot. Cao is the first Vietnamese-American in Congress. He fled Vietnam after spending 7 years in a communist prison, arriving in America in 1975.
So what would life be like without Microsoft in it? Michael Malone examines the idea, contrasting Microsoft's path with IBM's. Very interesting, and after dealing with Vista for the last year, as well as the absolutely annoying Word 2007, I cannot wait for the day I can be free of this company! Via Instapundit.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Were the media inadvertently helping the terrorists find Westerners in Mumbai by trying to interview them in the middle of the crisis? Minutes after an interview with CNN by phone from the Taj Mahal Palaca Hotel,, wherein CNN revealed where they were hiding, the killers stormed in and executed them. Gateway Pundit explores this story...
An absolute must-read assessment of the Mumbai terror attacks from Mark Steyn of National Review Online. An excerpt:
In the ten months before this week’s atrocity, Muslim terrorists killed over 200 people in India and no-one paid much attention. Just business as usual, alas. In Bombay, the perpetrators were cannier. They launched a multiple indiscriminate assault on soft targets, and then in the confusion began singling out A-list prey: Not just wealthy Western tourists, but local orthodox Jews, and municipal law enforcement. They drew prominent officials to selected sites, and then gunned down the head of the antiterrorism squad and two of his most senior lieutenants. They attacked a hospital, the place you’re supposed to take the victims to, thereby destabilizing the city’s emergency-response system.

And, aside from dozens of corpses, they were rewarded with instant, tangible, economic damage to India: the Bombay Stock Exchange was still closed on Friday, and the England cricket team canceled their tour (a shameful act).