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.