Friday, December 30, 2005

Democratic Wisdom

Yes, odd as that may seem for a headline on my blog, Senator Barack Obama indeed expressed some serious wisdom this year, as quoted by Time magazine columnist Joe Klein.

"Whenever we (Democrats) exaggerate or demonize, or oversimplify or overstate our case, we lose," he wrote to liberal blog the Daily Kos.

Obama was referring to the vilification of John Roberts during his Supreme Court nomination hearings, but I think he nails the fundamental problem for the Democratic Party pretty much every time its members open their mouths.

They've lost their way,, they have no message, and they spend the majority of their time running around shrieking "Bush lied!"

If others in his party heed his wisdom, there may be hope for them yet.

But I'm not counting on it. Hillary in 2008!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

U.N.. Endorses Iraq Election Results

A senior United Nations official says Iraq's recent parliamentary elections were credible and the results should stand, the Associated Press reports.

Sunnis immediately protested.

Saaay...these Iraqis really ARE getting the hang of this democracy thing.

Monday, December 26, 2005

They printed my letter!!! Part...Whatever

In the News Times yesterday morning. (Sorry, I didn't blog on Christmas)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Saddam's Chutzpah

Oh my goodness, that Saddam Hussein -- he's quite the comedian, complaining in court that the White House is a bunch of liars and he was tortured by the Americans.

Laughed so hard, milk came out of my nose. And I wasn't even drinking milk at the time!

Saddam claims the U.S. lied about his possession of WMD. Well, he could have easily proven them liars by allowing U.N. inspectors to do their jobs. Oh, but that's right -- then they would have quickly uncovered his hidden WMD assets, as described in the Duelfer report, wouldn't they?

Remember? He said he didn't have any of it left.

One word. Eight letters. Starts with a "B."

As to the claims of torture, here's a guy who considered things like gouging out people's eyes and or using electric drills on them perfectly acceptable means of extracting information and confessions. And raping 12-year-old girls? Well, that was just a good evening's entertainment as far as he was concerned.

What a funny guy.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Dems on Domestic Snooping: Do as we say...

Democrats all in a dither about a Bush order allowing spying on terror suspects in the U.S. after 9/11.

I guess I would be concerned about it too -- if I was a member of a violent terrorist organization.

The usual band of Congressional naysayers (Pelosi, Boxer, Rockefeller, etc.) are expressing the usual concerns, calling for investigations, asking for documents to be declassified and so forth in their sudden expressed concern about this practice.

Except, apparently it was okay when President Bill Clinton did the same thing 10 years ago. And Jimmy Carter too, in 1979.

Gosh, and nobody had even plowed any airplanes into buildings or anything yet!

If that's not the biggest "shut your big fat face," I don't know what is.

Thanks to the Drudge Report for posting the Clinton and Carter documents. I'm not a huge fan of Matt's, but you can't argue with the original source text and credit to him for posting it.

Monday, December 19, 2005

NOT the case against the war

Quite possibly the worst argument I've ever read for immediate withdrawal from Iraq.

And I'm not talking about John Murtha here.

From my local paper's op-ed page yesterday.

This thing is so riddled with factual errors that I can't believe this guy is smart enough to take himself to the bathroom.

I'll have to violate my self-imposed moratorium on writing letters to the editor and respond.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Jack Anderson: RIP

Columnist Jack Anderson passed away yesterday, after a 19-year battle with Parkinsons.

I recall reading his columns as a college student -- he always seemed to have his nose under someone's tent. I heard speak at my university, and I think many of my fellow students were surprised by his strongly conservative viewpoint -- totally dissed the Eastern Bloc and Cuba.

A bit flamboyant, and a bit of a grandstander, Jack was a believer in the power of the press uncovering dishonesty.


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Election Forecast:: Partly Sunni

More than 10 million Iraqis were expected to cast ballots today in the third major election this year in that country, the Chicago Tribune reports.

They said it couldn't be done -- that democracy couldn't work in Iraq. And yet for the third time in 12 months the Iraqi people have proven them wrong.

Most notable about this election is the high voter turnout among the Sunni minority, which had ruled the country under Saddam. Disenfranchised after his ouster, the Sunnis largely snubbed the first two elections and supported the terrorist insurgency.

Now that the insurgency seems to be ineffective, Sunnis and their leaders are apparently understanding that if they want a say in how Iraq will be governed they have to participate in the process.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Patriot Act:: Paranoia Vs. Reality

It was a frightening prediction the civil libertarians made. Armed with the Patriot Act, jackbooted federal agents would have free rein roust anyone suspected of terrorism, kicking in doors after midnight, tapping phone lines and rifling through business documents and library records.

Library records! No longer would a three-year-old be able to check out a copy of "The Pokey Little Puppy" without falling under the shadow of the Feds.

Except not, reports National Public Radio.

In a story broadcast yesterday, NPR details how federal agents report finding it extremely hard to obtain warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the body set up in the mid-70s to oversee intelligence-related search and seizure requests and prevent abuses.

The Feds complain that getting requests for warrants through the Office of Intelligenc Policy and Review is nearly impossible -- the office sets exceedingly high standards of proof to ensure that civil rights are protected.

And the number of library records requested under the Patriot Act. Nada. None. Zip. Zilch.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Williams Execution: Repentence, Redemption, Forgiveness

Stanley Tookie Williams, convicted of four murders in 1981 and founder of the bloody drug gang the Crips, was put to death by lethal injection this morning, Reuters reports.

To the end, Williams' supporters proclaimed his innocence and asked for clemency.

Innocent he certainly wasn't -- the evidence against him in the four killings is regarded as overwhelming. And as founder of one of the most notorious gangs in U.S. history, Williams was responsible for tremendous death and destruction, most of it within his own community.

Still, while in prison Williams tried to redeem himself. While never admitting to the murders, he renounced the gang life, even writing children's books warning kids about the dangers of being a gangsta.

The question is, what is the price of public redemption and forgiveness? Did the good he did in prison outweigh the bad? Or was the mere change in the attitude of his heart enough? And who can really know the heart of a man, other than God?

Williams plight reminds of another notorious public figure who underwent a similar conversion. Former Alabama Governor George Wallace was one of the most venomous racists to ever hold public office in the United States, consistently pursuing a segregationist agenda through the 1960s and early 1970s that included a run for president.

In the mid-1970s, after an assassination attempt that left him in a wheelchair and a spiritual conversion, Wallace repented of and renounced his racist views. He sought the forgiveness of those who he had persecuted and in his last term as governor appointed a record number of black Alabamians to state government posts.

Some accepted his repentence, others did not, and he died in 1998 just as much a controversial figure.

I wonder what those who sought clemency for Williams thought of Wallace, if they thought of him at all.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Iraqi's Optimistic: BBC Doesn't Agree With Own Poll

The majority of Iraqis say their lives are good and getting better, although security remains a major concern, a new poll conducted on behalf of the BBC, ABC News and other media organizations -- none of them too crazy about the U.S. strategy, I might add.

Pollsters Oxford Research International spoke with 1,700 Iraqis from all regions, and found that 71 said their lives are very good, and 64 said they think things will continue to improve for them personally. Sixty-nine percent said they think overall conditions Iraq will continue improving.

Fifty-three percent called the security situation bad, while 44 percent characterized it as good -- an interesting contrast.

Only 10 percent said getting the U.S. out of Iraq is a top priority, with 57 percent said restoring public security should be tops.

BBC News said that according to their own World Affairs correspondent Paul Reynolds, the findings are more in line with the kind of arguments currently being deployed by President George W Bush. They said he added that that critics will claim that the survey proves little beyond showing how resilient Iraqis are at a local level - and that it reveals enough important exceptions to the rosy assessment, especially in the centre of the country, to indicate serious dissatisfaction.

Interesting way of saying they didn't get the results they wanted from the poll, so they have to come up with a way of mitigating them with a "some critics" comment.

Can you say "arrogant"? Sure you can.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Christmas Service Diss

Everything aflutter today over at Althouse regarding an NY Times article stating -- oh my goodness -- some churches won't hold services on Christmas Sunday this year.

I'm going to stay with my answer -- this is a classic media rolljob.

Take a preconceived notion, add some sloppy and incomplete reporting, throw in a dash of someone who is offended (yeah, like THAT'S hard to do in this society) and PRESTO: instant controversy!

And an opportunity to smack the churches for being hypocritical.

The implication is that this is a result of the megachurch phenomenon. But the little church I attended as a kid -- which never saw more than 125-150 members -- made the same decision 25-30 years ago.

Ann and company are smarter than this -- I'm surprised they're falling for it.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Miami Airport Shooting

A tragic event, that was probably unavoidable in the world we live in today.

Many will try to hand out blame -- some to the man who was shot, some to the marshals.

But there are a couple points of clarity that I think are indisputable:

-- When someone on an airplane tells you he has a bomb, you believe him;

-- If he fails to stop when you tell him to, you shoot him.

To do otherwise is to court a far greater loss.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Daily Torture Roundup

That's what this starting to feel like. But there's an awful lot of news about it.

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice reiterated America's position that we do not engage in torture of terror war detainees (and from what I've seen, we don't), although her remarks failed to quiet global critics.

In the meantime, most people in the U.S. Britain, France and South Korea think torture is okay if warranted by the circumstances, an AP-Ipsos poll shows.

A German citizen held as a terror suspect by the U.S. claims he was tortured and files suit.

And testimony continued in Saddam's trial, with additional witnesses detailing tortune and abuse.

Saddam refused to attend the hearing today, complaining that among other things he hadn't been allowed a change of clothes in three days. Meanwhile, one of the men testifying in the trial said he'd be forced to wear the same pajamas he was arrested in for nine months while in jail.

Finally, if anyone needs a reminder about how brutal Saddam's regime was, take a read through this British government report on torture and abuse in Iraq under Saddam, if you can stomach it.

One thing is clear -- when it comes to this torture stuff, we Americans a real amateurs compared to Saddam.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Torture at Abu Ghraib

No, not by U.S. forces. Witnesses in Saddam's trial recounted harrowing torture at the notorious prison by the dictators henchmen, Reuters reports.

One female witness said she was stripped naked, given electric shocks and beaten.

Oh well, at least they didn't take pictures of her -- that would have been humiliating.

Others talked of being confined in horrible conditions. Many testified behind screens and used voice modulators to conceal their identifies, fearful of reprisals.

Saddam, meanwhile, whined that the trial is unfair and told the judges to go to hell.

"You first," I'm sure they were all thinking.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Saddam Not Afraid

Saddam Hussein said today during his trial that he is unafraid of being executed, Reuters reports.

"I am not afraid of execution," he said, adding "execution is cheaper than the shoe of an Iraqi."

And all I could think was: "There, now isn't that working out nicely? Who says the Iraqis can't agree on anything? He's not afraid to die, and the Iraqi people aren't afraid to kill him."

Fortunately for Saddam, he'll likely be spared execution by some of the grisly methods he employed for the task while in power.

Death by decapitation

Death by beating

Death by being tossed into a vat of acid

Death by being thrown into a shredding machine

Personally I'm opposed to the death penality, and I'm willing to extend that prohibition even to Saddam.

I'd rather see him thrown back into the hole was captured in and kept there for the rest of his life.

Meanwhile, Saddam amused himself at his trial by alternately yelling at and taunting the judges and lawyers, and chuckling as one man recounted torture and abuse.

"I swear by God, I walked by a room and ... saw a grinder with blood coming out of it and human hair underneath," Hassan told the court.

You can read more here.

Anybody still think this wasn't a good idea?

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Music of Politics: Does the House need a Hall?

From my daily newspaper, the News-Times of Danbury, local of musician of previous fame to run for Congress.

This is worth reading through -- chock full of bumbling on both sides of the aisle. But the upshot is this.

Singer-songwriting John Hall, formerly of the band Orleans, discovered last year that the Bush Campaign was using the hit "Still The One" at campaign events. Hall, a long-time liberal (he was one of the artists behind the "No Nukes" concerts in early 80s) immediately protested to the media.

Now he's running for Congress in a district so Republican he has a better chance of being struck by a bolt of lightning than actually winning.

Some object lessons for all here.

First, political campaigns really ought to do a better job of vetting the politics of the musical artists whose songs they use on the road, or risk looking stupid. You didn't see John Kerry cranking up Ted Nugent's "Cat Scratch Fever," now didja? (Not to say the Kerry campaign didn't do plenty of stupid things.)

Second, instead of immediately making a spectacle of this by complaining to the media, Hall could have simply called the Bush campaign and asked them to knock it off. Unless he was bent on making a political spectacle of the whole thing.

Perhaps he did -- it's not clear from the article. But basically nobody likes a tattle-tale or a whiner.

It would seem to be a huge mistake for Hall to run in this race though -- he has absolutely not shot at all. It would probably be better if they Democrats conserved their resources for races where they can win, and don't think the GOP hasn't noticed.

"We encourage Democrats to spend as much money there as possible," said Ed Patru, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. "It's probably the second fastest way for them to waste money. Flushing it down the toilet would be faster."

Let's hope Hall doesn't make the second mistake Democrats seem to make regularly anymore -- talking about what they're against instead of what they are for. "Bush sucks" is not a political platform.

I used to hear John play with some regularity when he and I both lived in the Hudson Valley (where I grew up). I've always enjoyed his music, and while I don't always agree with his political views, I think he's pretty sincere. Seems like a nice guy, too.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Blogging from Brazil

Brazil today. Hortolandia this morning and Sao Paulo this afternoon.

On to Brasilia tonight.

Wish I had time to write more -- maybe catch up over the weekend.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Blogging from Argentina

In Buenas Aires today on business. Flew down on the corporate jet yesterday -- 13 hours, with fuel stops in Barbados and in Manaus, Brazil, on the Amazon.

Wonderful country, great food, nice people. Wish I could stay longer, but it is on to Campinas, Brazil in about two hours.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Iraq: Even Bill Gets It -- Sort Of

America must continue to fight in Iraq, at least through the parliamentary elections next month, before even considering a timebtable for withdrawal, said Bill Clinton at Westchester County Community College symposium earlier this week.

Other Clintonian revelations in the Journal News story:

-- If the United States pulled out now, he said, "Sunni Iraq would become the very terrorist hotbed they were accused of being before."

-- He does not believe President Bush lied when he linked Iraq to Al Qaeda, but was relying on the intelligence he was given;

-- He declared the recent constituional vote a success, saying that if the Iraqis can persuade the Sunni minority to participate democracy has a shot;

-- He himself did things in the interest of fighting terror that he was uncomfortable with, such as detaining suspects without charge or trial.

Meanwhile, former Clinton Administration official Nancy Soderbergh, when pressed by radio host Brian Lehrer on NPR-affiliate WNYC yesterday, admitted that the Bush administration didn't hype prewar intelligence on Iraq WMDs, with the exception of nuclear weapons, and that we must continue in Iraq.

"I thought he did have them...I got the intelligence for 10 years up until the war, and there was general assumption that he had weapons of mass destruction, primarily chemical and biological weapons," she said.

She spends the better of the interview blathering the usual "imminent threat" mythology and hypothesizing about how much trouble the Bush administration is in. But when pressed on the facts, concludes that based on what was known at the time and Saddam's behavior, the generally accepted view was that Saddam retained WMD.

She also says that Congressional Democrats did receive the same intelligence information about Iraqi WMD as the president, specifically the Democratic leadership in the Congress.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Quitters Never Win

The best way to lose the war in Iraq is to quit, the current philosophy being offered by Congressional Democrats, says retired Army officer Ralph Peters in the New York Post today.

"Forget the fact that we've made remarkable progress under daunting conditions: The Dems are looking to throw the game just to embarrass the Bush administration," said Peters.

I would hate to think that anyone could be so politically craven as that, and I suspect that most Democrats who are calling for retreat aren't. My guess is most of them are well-meaning but clueless, although I'm not sure that's really better.

However, it's impossible for me to totally dismiss this view -- I'd imagine some of those who oppose war simply do so out of hatred for George Bush. It's evident in their hate-filled rhetoric and their lies.

Either that, or they've chosen to back the other side.

Ralph's commentary is a bit of a rant, but it hangs together -- worth reading the whole thing.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Murtha: Wrong on Facts

Democratic Senator John Murtha of Pennsylvania has called for the immediate withdrawal of our troops from Iraq.

"This is a policy wrapped in an illusion ... our troops have become the primary target of the insurgency," Murtha said at a Capitol news conference that left him in tears. "It's time to bring them home."

On the facts, he's wrong, and an analysis of the deaths in Iraq show that to be the case.

U.S. casualty figures are flat year to year (source: Iraq Coalition Casualty Count). The majority of those killed in Iraq continue to be civilians, and most of those deaths are a result of terrorist attacks (source: Iraq Body Count). And civilian deaths at the hands of of terrorists and other criminals continue to rise.

American troops are not the primary target of the terrorists -- Iraqi civilians are. And withdrawal now would leave them at the mercy of those killers.

Case in point from Reuters today: Suicide bombers kills 77 in Iraq. They're attacking churches.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Osama Video Outtakes

Too funny for words.

Edwards Flip Flop

A cartoon from the Charlotte Observer, in response to a column Senator John Edwards wrote for the Washington Post about his vote in favor of the war in Iraq.

"I was wrong," he said.

The first Democrat I've seen express anything close to personal responsibility by fessing up to being part of the decision. Most of them have a pretty bad case of
selective amnesia, continuously regurgitating the "Bush lied" blather.

And while that type of personal responsibility and candor is refreshing from a politician of any stripe, I'm afraid Mr. Edwards is still wrong in his conclusions.

He says the war is wrong because the intelligence was wrong, but frankly the intelligence was only wrong in terms of the quantity of WMD Saddam continued to possess -- not on whether he continued to possess them at all.

The substance of the intelligence estimates and the conclusions coming from them remain correct, borne out by the subsequent analysis and review showing:

-- Saddam continued to conceal the means, capabilities and materials (including biological agent seed stocks, chemical precursors for making weapons, materials and technology for making nuclear weapons, missile technology, and WMD manufacturing facilities, as well as lots of money and people with the education and training to make WMD) for reconstituting his WMD programs on any scale at a time of his choosing. This was a direct violation of the Gulf War Peace Accords;

-- Saddam continued to be a horrific human rights abuser, also a violation of the accords;

-- Saddam was greatly profiting from wholly corrupt U.N. Oil for Food program, using his gains to preserve his WMD capabilities, also a violation;

-- Saddam was an ardent supporter of international terrorists and remained a threat to his neighbors and the international community at large, also a violation.

The conclusion: 10 years of sanctions and on-again/off-again weapons inspections were an utter failure. We were going to end up taking Saddam on head-to-head eventually; better to do so at a time of our choosing.

As opposed to, say, after he provided terrorists with a briefcase full of anthrax spores to deliver to the New York City Subways.

I met John Edwards once -- back in 1996, when he was still working as a very successful trial lawyer in North Carolina. My wife was called as a witness in one of his cases -- a little girl injured in a pool accident. Nice guy, seemed pretty bright.

He won that case, setting precedent in NC for the highest jury award in a personal injury case. At that point, his fortune made, he retired from practicing law and entered politics.

So if he comes across as a bit of a dilettante in politics, I suspect it's because he is.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Dems: He had them, wanted them, would use them

A new television spot by the GOP has leading Democrats, in their own words, talking about how Saddam had or coveted chemical, biological and atomic weapons and would use them.

The quotes dating from 1998 through 2003 are clear and unequivocal in their judgment.

It's an all-star cast. Here's a transcript:

Madeline Albright (2/18/1998) : Iraq is a long way from Ohio, but what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risk that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face. And it is a threat against which we must and will stand firm.

Bill Clinton (2/17/1998): Or we take some ambiguous third route which gives him yet more opportunities to develop this program of weapons of mass destruction, and continue to press for the release of the sanctions and continue to ignore the solemn commitments that he made.

Howard Dean (1/31/1998): There are such a thing as international outlaws. I'm not sure China is one but I'm quite sure Iran and Iraq are.

Sandy Berger (2/18/1998): He will rebuild his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. And some day, some way, I am certain, he will use that arsenal as he has 10 times since 1983.

Nancy Pelosi (11/17/2002): Saddam Hussein certainly has chemical and biological weapons. There's no question about that.

Jay Rockefeller (10/10/2002): There's unmistakeable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years. We also should remember we have alway underestimated the progress that Saddam Hussein has been able to make in the development of weapons of mass destruction.

Joe Biden (8/4/2002) : We know he continues to attempt to gain access to additional capability, including nuclear capability. There is a real debate how far off that is, whether it's a matter of years or whether it's a matter of less than that. And so there's much we don't know.

Harry Reid (9/18/2002) : Saddam Hussein in effect has thumbed his nose at the world community and I think the president is approaching this in the right fashion.

Hillary Clinton (9/15/2002) : I doubt it [that there can be disarmament in Iraq without regime change]. I can support the president. I can support an action against Saddam Hussein because I think it's in the long-term interest of our national security.

John Edwards (1/7/2003) : Sitting on the Intelligence Committee and seeing day after day, week after week, briefings on Saddam's weapons of mass destruction and his plans on using those weapons, he cannot be allowed to have nuclear weapons. It's just that simple.

Evan Bayh (3/17/2003): Bill, I support the president's efforts to disarm Saddam Hussein. I think he was right on in his speech tonight. The lessons we learned following September 11th are we can't wait to be attacked again, particularly when it involves weapons of mass destruction. So regrettably, Saddam has not done the right thing, which is to disarm, and we're left with no alternative but to take action.

Certainly undermines the "Bush made the whole thing up" argument many of them have been using.

Glenn Reynolds over at Instapundit notes the use of Traffic's "The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys" as the soundtrack for this. I don't know why that's significant, other than to demonstrate the good taste of the GOP in selecting a cool tune for the background.

LB75 Rebuild

A long overdue photo of my Carvin LB75 rebuild.

I had to send the original back to the factory in February after it developed a terminal neck problem. That's the problem with neck-through designs -- you can' t jus swap out the neck if there's a problem. You have to rebuild the whole bass.

While I was at it, I made some changes -- went with walnut body wings attached to to the maple neck. I opted for a tung oil finish. And just to be fancy, I added abalone dot inlays on the fingerboard.

The bass is performing pretty well -- the walnut wings have darkened up the tone a bit, as I anticipated they would.
Not really my favorite bass right now -- I've already described the customer service freak show I went through with Carvin. And I got reacquainted with my Fender Jazz Bass while this was in the shop, so that's kind of the fave right now.

Here's another shot from the peghead end.

Not the most inspiring photography, I know -- I was kind of in a hurry.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Krauthammer gets gas

The recent spike in gas prices has focused our attention on the problem of constrained supply and increasing competition with emerging markets for that supply, Charles Krauthammer notes in a recent column.

He notes that we should continue to drive down demand -- with an artificial price floor of $3/gallon if nothing else -- and find additional supply.

I agree with his premise, but I think he misses one thing -- the best, most permanent solution to the problem is to develop alternative energy sources. And I think the best one is gasohol (80 percent alcohol, 20 percent gasoline).

While there are technical and infrastructure challenges to adopting gasohol, the long-term benefits are clear -- it burns cleaner, is cheaper (especially at current gas prices) and comes primarily from renewable resources. The alcohol can be made from a variety of crops -- corn, wheat, rice, sugar, etc.

In Brazil, most vehicles can run on either gasoline or gasohol -- if they can do it, we can too.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Jordan to Al Qaeda: Go to Hell!

Thousands of Jordanians protested in the streets following terrorist bombings at three Amman hotels, shouting "Burn in hell, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi!," reports ABC News.

Al Qaeda has claimed "credit" for the bombings, which were targeted Westerners and the Iraqi government, but actually killed mostly Jordanians and Palestinians. In all, 55 people were killled, some of them members of a wedding party.

The story notes that many Palestinians and Jordanians have supported the insurgency in Iraq, but this could turn them around on the issue.

"Oh my God, oh my God. Is it possible that Arabs are killing Arabs, Muslims killing Muslims? For what did they do that?" screamed 35-year-old Najah Akhras, who lost two nieces in the attack. Similar thoughts were heard over and over throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the story says.

The story also says that in response to the protests from their Muslim and Arab brothers and sisters over this act of fratricide, al-Zarqawi's group offered a rare explanation.

"Let all know that we have struck only after becoming confident that they are centers for launching war on Islam and supporting the Crusaders' presence in Iraq and the Arab peninsula and the presence of the Jews on the land of Palestine," al-Qaida in Iraq said.

Yeah, I'm sure that made the grieving parents, siblings, spouses and children feel so much better.

Attention to whomever is responsible for doing PR for Al Qaeda: you suck at it.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Judy Jumps!

New York Times "Plamegate" reporter Judith Miller has resigned under increasing criticism from her own paper. She marks her departure with a letter to the editor in the Times today, her comments far more gracious to her former employers than they were to her.

My, what a difference a few months can make. Just this summer, Miller was the courageous Times reporter who spent 85 days in jail rather than reveal her confidential sources in the Plamegate matter.

Shortly after being released from jail, her own publication turned on her, describing her as a rogue reporter who botched stories on pre-war estimates of Iraq's WMD capabilities and lying to her editors about her conversations with her Plamegate sources.

Mind you, that's the paper's defense -- that it had an out-of-control reporter on its hands. What a lowly state the Times has come to when that's how they explain their behavior. But I guess in the post-Blair period, you go with whatever you can to get off the hook.

Interesting to note that Miller is a 28-year, Pulitizer Prize-winning Times veteran.

So, I guess the question is has she always been out of control, or is this some recent development?

The charge on the WMD estimates appears to be hollow at best -- EVERYONE, and I mean EVERYONE got them wrong, from Hans Blix at the U.N. to presidential candidate John Kerry -- largely because Saddam purposely lied about what he did and didn't have.

Note that they were only wrong on the amounts however -- the Duelfer report clearly proves that Saddam remained in possession WMD capabilities, resources and materials, with the express purpose of maintaining the capability to reconstitute his programs on a large scale at a time of his choosing.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Now in the "sauce for the gander" category...

Congressional Republicans are calling for an investigation into who leaked info about CIA prisons for terror suspects to the Washington Post, Reuters reports.

Congressional Dems are going to have a hard time fighting this one, after all their howling about the Plame affair and the subsequent investigation, which, I might add, resulted in pretty much nothing.

Wonder who's going to get investigated on this one. Pelosi? Reid? Kennedy?

Most likely the leak came from a staffer.

Newspaper Circ: What Goes Around, Comes Around

Circulation figures for U.S. newspapers continue to decline, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Chronicle quotes the Audit Bureau of Circulation as showing a 2.6 percent drop nationwide over the past six months, and a whopping 16.6 percent drop for the Chronicle itself. The Atlanta Journal Constitution and the Boston Globe both showed declines of more than 8 percent.

Newspaper Association of America marketing guy John Kimball noted factors such as increased use of the Internet as a news source and new limits on telemarketing as factors in the decline.

A factor noted on NPR this morning is age -- newspaper readers tend to be older, and younger news consumers prefer to get their news from other media such as TV and the Internet.

Not cited in any of the reports is public confidence in newspapers, which Gallup reported at a low of 28 percent earlier this year.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Switchfoot at Nokia Theater

Last night, took the big kids down to see them. Awesome show.

The band was more polished than I thought they would be, but great songs performed by a very tight, capable band. Very sincere too.

Thought the light show was a little cheesy though -- a little too slick for them.

We Are One. Stars. Great songs.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Going to the source on Wilson

With all the discussion over the past week about Plamegate and the Senate Intelligence Committee's review of prewar intell on Iraq and WMD, I thought I would take a trip through the actual report the committee produced to see what it says.

One thing it makes pretty clear is that former Ambassador Joe Wilson has been less than candid regarding his pre-war trip to Niger to investigate reports Iraq was trying to buy uranium from that nation.

First, is his statement that he was not picked for the job by his wife. The report makes it pretty clear that he was.

Second, was his claim that his trip produced no evidence that Iraq had sought to buy uranium in Niger. The report says that to the contrary his debriefing with the CIA actually INCREASED their suspicions that the reports were true.

Specifically, he recounted a conversation with Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki in which the Mayaki said he had been approached by a businessman representing Iraqi officials who wanted to discuss "expanding commercial relations" with Niger. The prime minister indicated he believed that meant they wanted to buy uranium. The meeting took place, but because such trade would violate international sanctions, the prime minister "let the matter drop."

For further illumination -- this is not in the report, I just add it for clarification -- Niger's two main exports are uranium and goats. Iraq has goats.

That should indicate what it was Iraq was seeking through those "expanded commercial relations."

Read the report yourself, if you wish. You can find it here.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Illustrated Strunk and White

Strunk and White's classic primer on good writing, The Elements of Style, now comes in a illustrated edition, NPR reports.

Of all the books I've read on writing well, this one is indispensible. Simply reviewing the table of contents will make you a better writer.

The illustrations typically render the examples given in the book to describe the grammar or punctuation rule the authors were expressing.

Although it sounds like a strange concept, the description of it on NPR actually was quite compelling.

The opera based on book, however, um, I dunno about that.

Senate Dems Stamp Feet, Hold Breath Until Blue

In what can only be described as a tantrum, Senate Democrats called for a closed session yesterday to demand that a bipartisan committee pursue the second phase of an investigation of pre-war intelligence on Iraqi WMD, Reuters reported.

Problem was, the committee was already scheduled to meet next week to do just that.

It's kind of hard to imagine anyone more politically tonedeaf than Congressional Democrats right now.

At a time when the president is in a rough patch and preparing to vet a Supreme Court nominee, presumably giving the Democrats some political capital, they squander it on a stunt like this.

Now they've pissed off their Republican colleagues, who are in the majority and will simply roll over them.

As we often say at my house when someone pulls off a real bonehead play: smooth move, Exlax.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

They had to destroy the reef to save it

Greenpeace was fined nearly $7,000 after its flagship Rainbow Warrior II rammed a coral reef in the Philippines, Reuters reports.

The eco organization blamed inaccurate charts for the accident.

Yeah right -- who was running this boat, the Skipper and Gilligan?

The incident occurred during a four-month tour by the ship to raise awareness about global warming and promote renewable energy.

It was not immediately clear how ramming a historic coral reef in a national park helped accomplish either of those goals.

Sort of like when PETA gets caught killing (murdering?) puppies and throwing the carcasses in a dumpster.

I love irony.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Sixth Birthday -- Toy Stories

Birthday party for my six-year-old on Saturday -- we had about a half-dozen five- and six-year-olds running around the house for about two hours.

Now I know how hostages must feel after they're released.

Halloween costumes were the wardrobe -- we ended up with a Buzz Lightyear, a dog, a pirate, two Batmans and two Spidermans.

All the toys were of a similar theme -- Mighty Freerange Nugent Morphin' Teenage Action Megazoid Robot Combat Heroes, or something.

And why, oh why, do all these toys have to come with a ba-zillion microscopic pieces that get lost the instant the package is opened?

Anyway, the kids had fun, and I suppose that's all that really matters.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Plame Grand Jury Serves Up Nothingburger


Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald had VP aide Scooter Libby charged with forgetting when he first heard Valerie Plame's name, CNN ostensibly reports.

That's the substance of the five-count indictment delivered today -- no charges that either Libby or Karl Rove leaked Plame's secret CIA identity to reporters.

Why indict anyone at all? Well you don't spend two years and a kajillion dollars on an investigation without indicting SOMEONE for SOMETHING.

A pity for Libby, and to Fitzgerald's shame.

The crux of the charges is that Libby's own notes indicate he knew about Plame earlier than he testified.

Heck, most people can't remember what they had for dinner last night (uh, chicken and kielbasa, french fries and a green salad. And cupcakes for dessert -- it was my youngest son's birthday).

Grill anyone relentlessly on the details of things happening up to two years ago and they're bound to err somewhere in their recollection.

(Hint: If Libby were truly trying to lie, don't you think he would have edited his own notes?)

Having worked for and with the media for more than 20 years I can tell it's a standard and fairly transparent practice to slide something out on a Friday afternoon if you've got nothing and hope no one will notice.

Fitzpatrick says the investigation will continue, much like O.J.'s search for the "real" killer, no doubt.

Make no mistake, this is a complete failure for Fitzgerald, for former Ambassador Joe Wilson and anti-Bush factions.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

News Shocker: Russia and France Deep in Saddam's Pocket!

A report released today indicates that 4,700 companies participating in the Oil-For-Food program made massive kickbacks to Saddam Hussein, the New York Times says.

And most of the companies benefiting from the resulting sweetheart deals for oil were from -- France and Russia.

You know, the "we don't really think there's a very good reason to invade Iraq" France and Russia.

Okay, so maybe not much of a surprise.

Still trying to figure out how the Germans missed out on all that boodle.

Also implicated in the scandal -- although not in this latest report -- are officials of the U.N. themselves as well as family members, including the son of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Interesting also to note that while oil was flowing out of Iraq and money was flowing into Saddam's pocket, 5,000 children under the age of five were starving to death every month -- children who were supposed to be fed through the Oil-For-Food Program.

In case you were wondering why we're in Iraq, there's another reason.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

American Deaths in Iraq: In Perspective

The number of American servicemen and women killed in Iraq has passed the 2,000 mark, the Associated Press reports.

We owe every single one of them a tremendous debt of gratitude -- their courageous sacrifices are bringing freedom to oppressed people and making our nation and our world safer from terrorism.

What's perhaps most startling to me, though, is not how high the number of deaths is, but how low compared to other conflicts and events.

A few examples:

-- There were roughly 8.5 million soldiers killed in World War I

-- Eighty-four million people were killed in World War II
-- Fourteen hundred American soldiers and sailors were killed in the D-Day
-- In the rehearsal for D-Day, 800 soldiers were killed
-- On Iwo Jima, 6,800 Americans were killed.

-- There were 4,400 American battle deaths in the American Revolution

-- There were close to 500,000 Union and Confederate deaths during the Civil War

-- There were 35,000 servicemember deaths during the Korean War

-- There were 58,000 American deaths during the Vietnam War

These numbers in no way diminish the loss of American servicemen and women in Iraq. But they do illustrate that the cost of freedom is never cheap and is often much more expensive.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Quagmire's Constitution

Iraq has a constitution, Reuters reports, in a story headlined "Iraq voters approve U.S.-backed Constitution."

I love that -- U.S.-backed. Like it's a curse word.

"Those dirty, rotten, no good, #$@%&$*! Americans -- forcing freedom, justice and democracy on people who don't want it."

Or, are they implying, don't deserve it?

Reuters says the voting split typically along sectarian lines -- Kurds and Shiites overwhelmingly in favor, Sunnis overwhelmingly opposed.

Sunnis leaders also typically denounced the results, took their ball and went home. Or, more likely, took their explosive belt and went to the closest market or mosque.

Don't know what the deal is with these Sunnis. If the whole thing unravels into full-scale civil war, they will likely be the losers. They make up only 20 percent of the population and occupy the most resource-poor part of the country.

Even I can do that math -- does the name "Custer" mean anything to them.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Stupid White People

Take two -- Blogger missfired. I was GONNA blog about the Brazilians overwhelmingly rejecting proposed gun control legislation, but then I saw this about Nazi pop-rockers in California (thanks, Scott C)

Lynx and Lamb Gaede may look like pre-legal Olsen Twins, but the twin 13-year-olds sing pop tunes laced with white power and racist lyrics, performing under the name "Prussian Blue."

Mom kicks it homeschool with this crap. Dad sports swastikas. And the youngsters sing about it.

Great, that's just great.

I hate Bakersfield Nazis. Especially when they do this to their kids

I guess it just proves that not all American Idiots are Michael Moore or members of Green Day.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Two for Personal Responsbility

Two big wins in Congress this week for personal responsibility.

First, Congress approved a bill saying crime victims can't sue gun makers and dealers if criminals use guns to commit crimes, unless there is direct criminal or negligent behavior by the makers or sellers, AP reports.

For example, if a manufacturer ships a gun to a dealer, who legally sells it to someone, and the gun is then stolen and used in the crime, the manufacturer and the dealer are not liable.

If the maker or dealer were to sell the guns illegally, however, they would be.

Score one for common sense.

Also, the House of Representatives passed a bill saying people who eat too many cheeseburgers and get fat cannot sue the fast food restaurants that sold the burgers, Reuters reports.

Now, if McDonald's sold the burgers illegally...

No, that's just silly.

No bill in the Senate yet, and a similar bill failed last year.

Babysteps, babysteps.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

SUV Sales Slump

Bloomberg reports that Ford is showing a slump SUV sales in response to gas prices, possibly putting a crimp in earnings.

This appears to validate the trend for the industry, and it's probably just as well.

It may force the carmakers to make more fuel-efficient vehicles or cars that use alternative fuels like gasohol.

Before anyone accuses me of being a quiche-eating, dirt-worshipping treehugger, let me say there is a strategic reason for this (beyond the environmental concerns, which I do believe are valid).

The Chinese and Indian economies are growing at a phenomenal rate and with that growth comes a voracious, growing appetite for petroleum-based fuels. Within 10 years, we're going to be head-to-head with them for petroleum, with the product going to the highest bidder.

So it's a good time for us to be decreasing our dependency on petroleum now, by developing more fuel-efficient vehicles and alternative fuels.

And don't tell me it's too hard and too expensive -- gasohol (20 percent gasoline, 80 percent alcohol) is actually cheaper than gasoline and they're doing it in Brazil, where 80 percent of the vehicles can use either gasoline or gasohol.

Ethanol-based fuels also come from renewable resources -- you can make it from corn, wheat, rice, sugar cane, virtually anything you can make sugar from.

We should have started doing this years ago, but consumers were to complacent and didn't demand it, so the carmakers didn't do anything about it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Registering with Technorati

Technorati Profile

Checking the Vote

Officials are checking unusually high vote tallies in some districts within Iraq from the plebiscite on the national constitution, the Associated Press reports.

While democracy-haters here and abroad will use this to label the whole election a sham, some things for the rational to consider:

-- That some irregularities may have occured is not unusual in any election, particularly in a country so new to democracy, where stuffing the ballotbox was formerly the national pastime;

-- The fact that anyone is even examing the results is progress in a country like Iraq -- actual checks and balances, as opposed to the openly fixed "elections" conducted by Saddam;

-- Those in favor had little to gain from cheating, since the polls showed that the constitution would pass overwhelmlingly anyway -- Kurds and Shiites, who make up 80 percent of the popultion, favor the constitution by a large margin:

-- On the other hand, Sunni factions opposed to the constitution have everything to gain from crying "foul" and trying to spoil the election.

We'll see where this goes, but I doubt the results will be overturned.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Bad News from Iraq

...if you're an antiwar freak, that is.

Reuters is reporting that voting has been relatively peaceful and sucessful, with few terrorist attacks.

Even the U.N. -- those incredibly spineless, dictator-colluding, oil-for-food program cheats -- called the elections "incredibly peaceful."

Some bullying, pushing and shoving has been reported in Sunni areas, but that's pretty much to be expected -- they lost power when Saddam was ousted. They stand to lose more, though, if the constitution isn't approved, which is why some Sunni leaders have actually encouraged their followers to vote in favor of it.

Meanwhile, in the maddog antiwar camp, activists expressed dismay over the results.

"I was hoping for a few more carbombings, maybe a public beheading or two, just to discourage the voters," said Miranda "Midge" Kerfloffle, co-chairperson of the United for Peace and Justice Every Other Tuesday Womyn's Brunch Collective. "*Sigh* I don't know what to do -- freedom will spread through the Middle East and my beloved terrorists will have no support and nowhere to hide. That would mean George Bush was right, and I can't bear the thought of that."

Okay, I totally made the quote up.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Head Cases: The Good and the Bad

....we'll leave out the ugly for now.

I love headlines. I love reading them. I love writing them.

It's kind of an artform -- with just a few short words, a well-crafted, clever headline can draw the reader in quickly.

Or not.

That brings me -- again -- to the front page of my own Danbury News-Times today, which contained a real mixture of good and not-so-good heads.

Top of the page was a story about the effects of our recently rainy spell titled:

"Serious Flooding Fails To Materialize"

Boy...that's a little underwhelming. Kind of falls in the same category as "Man DOESN'T Bite Dog" and "School Board Tables Resolution."

No inspiration there? How about "Town Escapes Flooding" Or "Don't Build That Ark"?

They did better farther down the page.

There was "Illegal Fireworks Case Still Sizzling," about a guy around the corner from me who got boosted this summer for having, like, a ton of fireworks at his house.

And, on the story I wrote about this morning (below), there was "Face Off" with the subhead "Ridgefield GOP Web site showed Democratic women as hags, Republicans as beautiful."

Dem's some Senstive Dems

My local newspaper, the Danbury News-Times, ran a front-page story today about a Web page put up by a radio commenator Neil Boortz showing flattering pictures of attractive female GOP members, contrasted with some rather horrible pictures of Democratic women.

(I know the image at left is hard to see -- you can see it full-size here.)

Some local Republicans apparently linked to the images, and that has local Dems all a-dither.

Okay, okay, I love this -- this is my imitation of the local Democratic reaction:

*lower lip quivering* (sniff) You're being really, really mean to us!

Granted, this is pretty hamhanded stuff -- not to my taste.

In fact, I'll go as far as to say I think this stuff is pretty counterproductive and adds nothing of substance to the political dialogue. That's why I don't listen to folks like Boortz or Rush Limbaugh or the like.

But this is a clear case of whose ox has been gored. I mean, when did the Dems become so thin-skinned?

These are the same people who hosted a NY fundraiser a year ago where celebrity after celebrity mounted the stage and shrieked obscenities at George Bush. The best part -- at the end Johns Kerry and Edwards got up and espoused their belief in "strong American values."

And these same Democrats sent 100,000 howling imbeciles into the streets of New York City last year with the express intent of disrupting the Republican National convention.

But they get upset about an unflattering Web site.

And if you think those are isolated occurences, give a daily listen to the crap spewing from Air America.

Message to Dems: Get a grip. Unbunch those petticoats. And try not to be so overly sensitive AND hypocritical.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Chopper Aid to Pakistan

U.S. assistance to earthquake-ravaged Pakistan could help improve America's image in South Asia, just as it did in Indonesia after the tsunami earlier this year, reports The Washington Post.

So far about $50 million in U.S. aid has gone to earthquake relief, some of it in the form of 38 American military helicopters being brought in from Afghanistan to fly in supplies and evacuate injured Pakistanis to hospitals.

We're not providing aid to improve our image -- we're doing it because of who we are. But if we get a little image uplift along the way, that can't be a bad thing.

That we're providing such aid to countries with large Muslim populations tends to undercut claims by Muslim extremist organizations like Al Qaida that America is an enemy of Islam.

Important to note, so far Al Qaida has sent no helicopters or any other assistance to their brothers and sisters in Pakistan.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Anyone for New Band?

Reports are coming out that the DeLeo brothers of STP have formed a new group with Filter singer Richard Patrick and David Lee Roth drummer Ray Luzier.

No word yet on when their CD will be out, but the presumptive name of the new band is Army of Anyone.

Rob DeLeo is one of my favorite bass players, and I love Dean's guitar playing, so I'm looking forward to what they'll come up with.

The suckiest job at the New York Times...

...has to be that of Public Editor Byron Calame. His job is to restore the public 's faith in the credibility of the Times by being the reader's advocate -- if you see something not right (or wrong) in the Times, he's the guy you go to to set things right.

One would think that the editorial staff would, therefore, see him as an ally -- someone who's looking out for the longstanding reputation of their beloved institution.

One would be wrong.

Read this recent column by Calame, discussing calls for a correction on a story about, of all people, Geraldo Rivera and whether he "nudged" someone out of the way to help a disabled person in New Orleans after the hurricane.

The discussion itself is amusing enough -- heck, anything with Rivera and the New York Times in it together is gonna be darn funny. But what's particularly telling is how the Times editorial staff treats Calame.

Reporter Alessandra Stanley refuses to review the videotapes of the alleged incident with Calame. Mind you, these are the very tapes that will determine whether or not she got it right or wrong.

Editor Bill Keller replies derisively -- via email -- that no correction is warranted, implying that because of who Rivera is (an obnoxious, grandstanding loudmouth -- my words, not Keller's) and his violent reaction to the story, anything he does is open to interpretation.

Translation -- you can say anything you want about people you don't like without regard to the actual facts if you're the New York Times.

Pretty disturbing. In the wake of the various journalistic lapses and calamities that have occurred over the past few years -- including at the New York Times -- you'd think the editorial staff would take their credibility and reputation more seriously, that they would view Calame as a protector and friend.

Somehow, I imagine Calame spends a lot his noon hours sitting alone at the lunchtable.

No wonder trust in the traditional media is in continuous decline.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Eden Delivers!

So I got a call from the Guitarhangar on Friday -- turns out Eden had shipped a brand-new 15" speaker to replace the one I blew a couple weeks ago.

I picked it up on Saturday, took it home and installed it in the cabinet -- just like new. Broke it in for a few hours, playing through it and then running a line from a boombox at a moderate volume -- Eden recommends this, to seat the voice coil and work off any rough edges.

Used it last night and it sounded great.

Very impressed with the service -- I expected Eden to recone the blown speaker and send it back, which would have been within their rights under the warranty. Sending a new speaker was above and beyond and much appreciated.

Thanks to Rick at Guitarhangar for taking care of the return (and interceding with Eden) and to Eden for great service -- they obviously care about what they make and sell.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Agenda? What Agenda?

Low polling scores for the president, the War on Terror, the Tom Delay and Bill Frist ethics squabbles, and handling of Hurricane Katrina have all caused trouble for the Republicans, writes Gloria Borger in U.S. News and World Report this week.

You'd think the Democrats could make some serious hay and major headway in that kind of environment, but they aren't.

Why? Because they offer no meaningful, intelligent alternative, says Gloria.

"Today's Democratic agenda is somewhere between hate for George W. Bush and disdain for George W. Bush," she says."That's not enough for a party looking to revive itself as a governing entity. People already know what they are voting against; they need to know what they're voting for."

In the next elections, as many as 70 seats in Congress could be up for grabs, and the next presidential election is anything but a sure thing.

But unless the Dems can get their feet under them, I don't think they have much of a shot.

Consider that they've elected Howlin' Howard Dean -- the man THEY decided was too crazy to be president -- as their party chief. His first public statement after taking the post was "I hate Republicans and everything they stand for."

Yeah, that's some real intelligent, progressive thinking there. You betcha.

And they consider their best hope for the presidency to be Hillary Clinton -- yeah, like that's gonna happen.

Oh, back to the president's poll numbers -- boy, isn't it refreshing to have a president who doesn't manage his decisions by the fickle polls, but instead does what he thinks is right?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

PeaceNik Shocker: Iraqis WANT Democracy!

Polling shows that 79 percent of Iraqis favor the new constitution being written by their first democratically elected government since whenever, reports Reuters.

The polls showed that even among Sunnis approval runs at 50 percent, indicating that the political split between Sunnis and Shiites might not be as bad as previously believed.

The story continues that Iraqis are weary of both the sectarian infighting and the violence commited by Al Qaeda terrorists, and simply want to have a stable government and to live in peace.

Antiwar activists expressed shock, anger, confusion and grief at the news.

"Why, we just generally assumed Iraqis LIKED being murdered, brutalized and tortured by the sadistic maniacs," said Richard "Woot" Slakey, spokesman for A.N.S.W.E.R. "I mean, who wouldn't want their 12-year-old daughter raped by a platoon of the Saddam Fedayeen? Huh, by golly, it's a puzzler."

"It seems pretty clear that the Iraqis have been duped by zionist-aggressor American occupiers into accepting this so-called "constitution" in a pathetic attempt to establish a "free" country," said Clarette Blivious, member of the Community Brunch Committee of United for Peace and Justice. "You'd think they'd have been content to be slaves under the boot of a vicious dictator, citizens of a rogue, outlaw nation that oppressed its minorities, supported global terror and hid illegal chemical and biological weapons. But NOOOOOOOOOO...they make me sick!"

Other "peace" activists reported such symptoms as dizziness, headache, plantar warts, anemia, uncontrollable weeping, serious doubt about the moral rightness of their views, and projectile diarrhea.

Note: I made up everything after the third paragraph.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Cars Suck -- Chrysler T&C In for Repairs

Got the wife's van in for repairs today -- bad news, needs a steering rack and power steering pump.

Gonna be $1,100 and take at least two days to get the parts and complete the repair.

This on a 2001 Chrysler Town & Country AWD minivan that's been treated like a baby -- I have assiduously followed the maintenance schedule for this car. And it's only got 77K miles on it.

My opinion of Chrysler has been greatly diminished by this vehicle. In the four years we've owned it, it's been in for a long series of repairs that I can only attribute to poor engineering and selection of inadequate materials.

Lessee, there was the armrest that snapped off, and the cupholders in the back that broke within the first month.

We had a seat brace on the driver's seat break and a Macpherson strut that leaked, but they were covered under warranty, so no sweat.

Then there was the oxygen sensor that burned out when the cable came loose and shorted out against the exhaust manifold. I think that was couple-three hundred bucks.

There was the power window actuator on the driver's door -- another $250 or so.

There's also a power lock solenoid on one of the rear doors that only works intermittently -- can't wait to find out what that's gonna cost.

And did I mention this thing goes through tires and brakes like I go through toilet paper?

We also own a '94 Dodge Caravan, 150K + miles and still runs like a top -- it's up on blocks right now, waiting for my daughter to get her license. Never had a lick of trouble from that other than normal maintenance. I did have to replace the tranny at 120K miles, but hey, what do expect from a car that old.

Can't figure what Chrysler did between 1994 and 2001 to diminish the quality of its vehicles, but I'll bet it could be summed up as: cost cutting.

I'll tell ya, I'm thinking one word for the next time I buy a van, and it's not "Chrysler."

It's "Toyota."

Monday, October 03, 2005

Tragedy at Lake George

Twenty-one people killed, many of them senior citizens, when a tour boat capsized on Lake George yesterday, Newsday reports.

It's still not clear what happened, but the supposition is that the boat hit the wake of a larger boat.

We used to visit Lake George occasionally when we lived up in the Albany, NY, area -- swimming, boating, and we even took one of the scenic boat tours once, although not on the boat that flipped over.

So sad and tragic.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Losing New Orleans -- It was in the Plan

Losing New Orleans to a major hurricane wasn't a disaster -- it was the plan, says Jonathan Rauch.

Interesting observations, research and analysis -- worth reading.

The inadequacy of the New Orleans levee system has actually been known since 1927, but for close to 80 years no one did anything about it.

Judi is out of the Joint!

NY Times reporter Judith Miller got sprung from the slammer yesterday, CNN reports

She was held for 12 weeks on a contempt citation for withholding the identity of government officials she may have spoken with about the role Valerie Plame played in getting hubby Joe Wilson sent to Africa to look for Iraq nuke connections.

Miller agreed to speak to a grand jury afrer being released from a vow confidentiality by VP Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Previously, Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper avoided jail after White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove released him from a similar confidentiality agreement.

The flap arose after columnist Robert Novak revealed that Wilson had been picked for the Africa mission by Plame, a CIA analyst -- not the vice president and the CIA director, as Wilson had implied. Plame was apparently operating undercover, and revealing intentionally revealing her identity could be a crime.

It gets confusing, because Plame apparently had multiple identities and it's not clear who knew which one she was using when or that she was undercover.

I'm going to point out the obvious now -- although, apparently it's not obvious to everyone because I have seen no major news organization report it.

If Libby or Rove had actually revealed Plame's undercover status to Cooper and Miller:

1) The reporters would have written stories saying so, which they did not;

2) Libby and Rove would not have released the reporters from their confidentiality agreements.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Blanco gets big wet kiss from Congress

One day after former FEMA Director Michael Brown was subjected to what can only be described as a beating by Congress' Finance Committee, that same committee gave Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco a free pass.

No puncturing remarks, no pointed questions, no personal insults like Brown was subjected to -- although they did offer Ms. Blanco an "opportunity" to respond Brown's accusations that state and local authorities were slow to act in the face of the storm.

''We are looking forward, not backward," she replied.

In the PR game, our technical term for a response like that is "a sack of monkey crap."

Why are Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin getting away with this?

Smells like...politics.

Some of the questions the committee COULD have asked, but didn't:

-- Why did Blanco and Nagin leave 100,000 people stranded in the city?

-- Why was the sheriff of neighboring town Gretna allowed to block a bridge with shotgun-toting deputies, refusing to allow city residents to leave?

-- Why was Blanco slow in activating the National Guard to respond to the disaster and why did she impede the National Guard and the Red Cross from entering the city to provide assistance to the stranded?

-- Why did Blanco refuse to cooperate with federal agencies, including FEMA, in coordinating assistance?

Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., -- who subjected Brown to some of the most brutal and personal remarks during Tuesday's hearing -- said on Wednesday that while Brown made mistakes, so did others.

"He can't be the scapegoat. First responders are local and state, and the governor and mayor did a pathetic job of preparing their people for this horrific storm," Shays said on NBC's "Today" show."

Too bad he didn't say something like that to Blanco and ask her why she failed in her responsibilities.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Dennis in the Hopper for E-Ring?

Okay, I'm just not sure this is gonna work. They've got Dennis Hopper playing a military officer in this new show about the Pentagon -- E-Ring.

I mean, I know he's been a Republican since, like, 1980, but I just can't erase the memory of Hopper as the hippie-biker in Easy Rider from my mind.

I dunno, maybe he can do it.

It's a new Bruckheimer series, and all his stuff seems to turn to gold lately.

Act Now, Don't Delay

Congressman Tom Delay has been indicted in an illicit campaign financial scheme.

Let's be clear: he deserves his day in court. If found guilty, he should be punished.

But if he's accusers are really truthful, let's not stop here -- let's have a thorough housecleaning of all campaign finance practices in Congress.

How about we go with, say, Barbara Boxer, who's been known to pad the payroll with relatives, something else Delay has been accused of.

The charges against Delay stem from a scheme to funnel campaign money to other Republican candidates. Back in May, Bloomberg reported that Delay was one of the most generous Congressional donors to other GOP candidates, writing checks for roughly $3.5 million over the last decade. In the #2 slot behind him is Democrat Nancy Pelosi, at $2.74 million in donations.

Shall we have a peek at how Big Nancy moves HER money around? Might be interesting.

One thing that's pretty clear: there's no lack of wheeling and dealing on either side of the aisle, and some of it comes up to and even crosses the line.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

FEMA's Brown Testifies that the locals failed

He's right, of course. But no one wants to hear it from him.

Brown and the Feds have some culpability in this, no doubt. But the primary failure was at the state and local level -- ask the locals and they'll tell you.

But no one cares what Brown has to say -- I'm surprised he was called before Congress.

Air America Loots Children's Charity

The Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club of the Bronx has been booted from the national organization for illicitly diverting $875,000 for use as start-up money for the liberal radio network Air America, the NY Post reports.

In addition, the club has lost nearly $10 million in city funding as a result of the investigation.

The New York Sun reports that according to court depositions the money was moved by Gary Cohen, development director for the club and a co-founder of Air America. A shell corporation was created to hide the transaction, said the deposition given by David Goodfriend, a former Clinton administration official and top official at Air America, who was a college buddy of Cohen.

Not nice. I didn't think Liberals did stuff like this. Couldn't they just hold a bake sale or something?

Monday, September 26, 2005

Al Jazeera Reporter Jailed as Terrorist

Spain has jailed an Al Jazeera reporter who interviewed Osama Bin Laden for funneling money to Al Quaida, the BBC reports.

I mean honestly -- is anyone really surprised?

Blown speaker - UGH!

Blew the speaker in my D115XLT last night. Ugh. Was using it with my WT550 and my D210XST, which kept chugging along just fine.

Not sure why it blew-- I wasn't pushing it that hard. Master volume was at about 10 o'clock and the preamp volume was at about 2 o'clock. EQ was essentially set flat (slight bump in the lows, slight decrease in the highs), enhance knob at about 1 o'clock.

From the minute I started playing it was buzzing and rattling -- sounded like someone russling torn paper.

In almost 30 years of playing I don't think I've ever blown a speaker, so I'm probably due.

The cab is only six months old though, so it's under warranty. My guess is that it was simply a defective speaker.

Have to admit, I'm not looking forward to dealing with customer service -- last time I had an equipment problem, with another manufacturer, it was one long continuous headache. I'm hoping Eden will be better.

What I'm really hoping is that they'll ship me a new speaker pronto -- I have to play again in two weeks and I need that cab.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Antiwar Protest: Who scheduled this thing?

If the antiwar nuts scheduled a protest in Washington, and there was no one there to hear it, would it matter any less?

Just another example of how out-of-touch and clueless the antiwar boneheads are.

They're having their great, big protest in Washington D.C. this weekend.

Not sure who is supposed to hear their message though -- the president is out of town, as are most members of Congress, which is in recess.


Since there's no one there to hear their protest anyway, maybe the could do something constructive. Do you think if we set them all to typing for a million years, one of them would produce a script for "Hamlet"?

Friday, September 23, 2005

Who is A.N.S.W.E.R.? That's the Question

This weekend major antiwar demonstrations are planned for Washington, sponsored largely by an organization called A.N.S.W.E.R.

Who are they? They are, in fact, a front group for the Communist organization Workers World Party, reports David Corn in LA Weekly.

How do they feel about the terrorists fighting against the U.S. and the legitimate government of Iraq? Well, by golly, they're heroes darn it, praised and cheered around the world for their armed resistance.

Lessee, people who blow up carbombs in open markets filled with women, children and old people -- not military targets -- are to be praised and cheered.

Well, then I guess that means rapists are actually sex therapists of some kind.

As Glenn Reynolds notes over at Instapundit, these folks aren't really opposed to the war -- they're just on the other side.

Even commies are entitled to their opinions here in the U.S., but there is such a thing as truth in advertising.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Lessee, that's two double cones of Infidel Fudge Ripple...that'll be $4,862.48

Wasn't this a Cheech and Chong movie about 20 years ago, but without the terrorists?

A Yemeni man has been convicted of funneling more than $21 million to terrorists through a Brooklyn ice cream shop, the Associated Press reports.

Abad Elfgeeh could get up to 15 years in prison for assisting a Yemeni cleric in sending the money to Al Qaida and Hamas in the scheme. The cleric was previously convicted for funding terror.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Nazi Scourge Wiesenthal Dies

A life well spent. Famed Nazi hunter Simon Wiesthentahl died today at age 96, reports the AP.

A former concentration camp detainee who cheated death by the Nazis more than once, Wiesenthal was credited with tracking down more than 1,000 Nazi war criminals after the war.

Among them was Adolf Eichmann, architect of the "Final Solution" to exterminate all Jews in Europe. Based on information from Wiesenthal, Israeli agents kidnapped Eichmann in Argentina in 1960 and brought him to Israel for trial.

It was Weisenthal's vow that the Holacaust would never be forgotten.

Afghan Elections: Success Despite "Low" Turnout

Afghans again braved the threat of terrorist attacks to participate in the second democratic elections held in the country, the Associated Press reports.

The story is full of the typical caveats about continuing violence, opium trade, blah, blah, blah, and most notably the "low" voter turnout.

Turnout was actually about 50 percent registered voters -- lower than the last election, but still higher that we do here in the U.S.

I think this comment from the U.S. ambassador sums it up:

"For the millions of Afghans who turned out to vote, this was a significant . . . advance on the road to democracy," U.S. Ambassador Ronald Neumann said in Kabul. "Four years ago, the Taliban were here and women were being stoned to death . . . and now you have women running polling centers and women voting."

Freedom's march countinues in the Middle East.

Monday, September 19, 2005

N. Korea: No More Nukes

North Korea has agreed to give up its nuclear (that's pronounced nu-cu-ler) weapons programs, Reuters reports this a.m.

While not a definitive agreement, it's a major step that resulted from the multi-party talks the Bush administration has favored with North Korea and which detractors said wouldn't work.

In fact, it appears that offers of aid including everything from food to energy from China, Russia and South Korea are what turned the tide.

Also, the U.S. has promised not to attack North Korea.

Looks like the old carrot-and-stick approach does work.

This may also increase pressure on Iran to disarm as well.

Lousy day to be a liberal, I suppose.

Update 9/20: Uh-oh, L.A. Times reporting that N. Korea is trying to change the deal already. Goes to show, you just can't trust a commie.

The light-water reactor condition was already on the table though, so it may not derail this after all.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Weasels on the run!

Chris Christner has the Axis of Weasels scorecard posted over on his blog.

Not looking so good for the Weasels right now.

Call it love conquering hate, I guess.

Update 9/19: Not so fast on the German election -- looks like the results are in contention at this point, says Reuters.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

ABC Post-Katrina Speech Interviews: Transcript

To preserve it and make sure it's easy to find later, I'm posting the entire transcript of the ABC interviews with New Orleans evacuees following the President's speech Thursday night.

This was compiled by Brent Baker over at Newsbusters:

Reynolds elicited reaction from the group sitting in chairs: “I'd like to get the reaction of Connie London who spent several horrible hours at the Superdome. You heard the President say retpeaedly that you are not alone, that the country stands beside you. Do you believe him?”

Connie London: “Yeah, I believe him, because here in Texas, they have truly been good to us. I mean-”

Reynolds: “Did you get a sense of hope that you could return to your home one day in New Orleans?”

London: “Yes, I did. I did.”

Reynolds: “Did you harbor any anger toward the President because of the slow federal response?”

London: “No, none whatsoever, because I feel like our city and our state government should have been there before the federal government was called in. They should have been on their jobs.”

Reynolds: “And they weren't?”

London: “No, no, no, no. Lord, they wasn't. I mean, they had RTA buses, Greyhound buses, school buses, that was just sitting there going under water when they could have been evacuating people.”

Reynolds: “Now, Mary, you were rescued from your house which was basically submerged in your neighborhood. Did you hear something in the President's words that you could glean some hope from?”

Mary: “Yes. He said we're coming back, and I believe we're coming back. He's going to build the city up. I believe that.”

Reynolds: “You believe you'll be able to return to your home?”

Mary: “Yes, I do.”

Reynolds: “Why?”

Mary: “Because I really believe what he said. I believe. I got faith.”

Reynolds: “Back here in the corner, we've got Brenda Marshall, right?”

Brenda Marshall: “Yes.”

Reynolds: “Now, Brenda, you were, spent, what, several days at the Superdome, correct?”

Marshall: “Yes, I did.”

Reynolds: “What did you think of what the President told you tonight?”

Marshall: “Well, I think -- I think the speech was wonderful, you know, him specifying that we will return back and that we will have like mobile homes, you know, rent or whatever. I was listening to that pretty good. But I think it was a well fine speech.”

Reynolds: “Was there any particular part of it that stood out in your mind? I mean, I saw you all nod when he said the Crescent City is going to come back one day.”

Marshall: “Well, I think I was more excited about what he said. That's probably why I nodded.”

Reynolds: “Was there anything that you found hard to believe that he said, that you thought, well, that's nice rhetoric, but, you know, the proof is in the pudding?”

Marshall: “No, I didn't.”

Reynolds: “Good. Well, very little skepticism here. Frederick Gould, did you hear something that you could hang on to tonight from the President?”

Frederick Gould: “Well, I just know, you know, he said good things to me, you know, what he said, you know. I was just trying to listen to everything they were saying, you know.”

Reynolds: “And Cecilia, did you feel that the President was sincere tonight?”

Cecilia: “Yes, he was.”

Reynolds: “Do you think this is a little too late, or do you think he's got a handle on the situation?”

Cecilia: “To me it was a little too late. It was too late, but he should have did something more about it.”

Reynolds: “Now do you all believe that you will one day return to your homes?”
Voices: “Yes” and “I do.”

Reynolds: “I mean, do you all want to return to your homes? We're hearing some people don't even want to go back.”

Mary: “I want to go back.”

Reynolds: “You want to go back.”

Mary: “I want to go back. That's my home. That's all I know.”

Reynolds: “Is it your home for your whole life?”

Mary: “Right. That's my home.”

Reynolds: “And do you expect to go back to the house or a brand new dwelling or what?”

Mary: “I expect to go back to something. I know it ain't my house, because it's gone.”

Reynolds: “What is the one mistake that could have been prevented that would have made your lives much better? Is it simply getting all of you out much sooner or what was it?”

Mary: “I'm going to tell you the truth. I had the opportunity to get out, but I didn't believe it. So I stayed there till it was too late.”

Reynolds: “Did you all have the same feeling? I mean, did you all have the opportunity to get out, but you were skeptical that this was the really bad one?”

Unnamed woman: “No, I got out when they said evacuate. I got out that Sunday and I left before the storm came. But I know they could have did better than what they did because like they said, buses were just sitting there, and they could have came through there and got people out, because they were saying immediate evacuation. Some people didn't believe it. But they should have brung the force of the army through to help these people and make them understand it really was coming.”

London: “And really it wasn't Hurricane Katrina that really tore up the city. It was when they opened the floodgates. It was not the hurricane itself. It was the floodgates, when they opened the floodgates, that's where all the water came.”

Reynolds: “Do you blame anybody for this?”

London: “Yes. I mean, they've been allocated federal funds to fix the levee system, and it never got done. I fault the mayor of our city personally. I really do.”

Reynolds: “All right. Well, thank you all very much. I wish you all the best of luck. I hope you don't have to spend too much more time here in the Reliant Center and you can get back to New Orleans as the President said. Ted, that is the word from the Houston Astrodome. And as I said, when the President said that the Crescent City will rise again, there were nods all around this parking lot.”

Friday, September 16, 2005

News Shocker: Evacuees Don't Blame Bush

Try as he might, ABC news reporter Dean Reynolds couldn't provoke New Orleans evacuees into blaming President Bush for the Katrina disaster.

Reynolds, who went to the Houston Astrodome for reaction to the president's speech last night, got an earful from the six people he interviewed -- they said they were heartened by the president's promise to rebuild New Orleans, thought that federal authorities did a good job despite a slow start, and placed blame for the disaster squarely at the feet of state and local authorities.

"I feel like our city and our state government should have been there long before the federal government was called in," said evacuee Connie London. "They should have been on THEIR jobs."

You can see a clip of Ms. London's interview on Realplayer or Windows Media.

All six interviewees are black -- I hate to inject race into the discussion, but that's already been done by others so it's important note it for the record here.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Ally-ally-all-come-free for Blogs

Okay this is cool -- Google has launched a new search function for Blogs.

I'm playing with it -- found my own stuff.

Those guys really dominate their domain.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Hurricane Relief: Put The "Experts" On The Job

How to manage the next catastrope? Simple, says Chicago Tribune columnist Dennis Byrne: abolish FEMA and put the "experts" in charge.

You know, folks like Jesse Jackson, Ted Koppel and Nancy Pelosi, who know oh so much better than anyone else how this stuff should be done.

"Jackson would run relief logistics, because of his impressive ability to transport himself to any place on planet Earth where a camera is rolling. Newsweek contributing editor and talk-show mouth Eleanor Clift would single-handedly pilot a helicopter on rescue missions. Kicking on the automatic pilot, she'd lower herself in a harness to personally rescue thousands of rooftop survivors and fly them back to a rescue area, which she already had previously prepared with all necessary medical provisions, food, water and a big party. She can do this because she knows everything."

Read every word -- worth the time.

Some vacation!

With all the whining about President Bush's month-long vacation in Texas, Gannett political reporter Richard Benedetto takes a look at the tradition of presidential vacations in a recent column.

Worth reading the whole thing but his two main conclusions are:

-- Lengthy presidential vacations are long-standing tradition and;

-- They're not vacations.

"If there is any lesson here, it is that presidents — all presidents — are never on vacation. We just call them that, and pretend,." writes Benedetto.

Presidents continue to perform all the duties of office during these so-called vacations -- it's virtually impossible to escape those responsibilities.

And contrary to current carping, the longest-vacationing president was not Mr. Bush. It was Lyndon Johnson, who spent 484 days at HIS Texas ranch during his five years in office.

Yet I don't recall anyone shrieking about Johnson's audacity for taking a "vacation" during wartime -- that's right, that was during Vietnam. You know, when Liberals invented the "quaqmire."

"Instead of cutting brush on his ranch, Johnson should grab an M-16 and wade out into a Mekong Delta rice paddy to provide covering fire for a platoon of pinned-down Marines," no one said at the time.