«  May 2005  |   Main   |  July 2005  »

»  June 27, 2005


Our Nation's Financial Editors, Counting Fingers Edition: A letter to the Wall Street Journal regarding their editorial "The Iraq Panic" in the 27 June edition:

In a way, it's indicative of the poor calculation and misplaced faith you have for the administration's adventures that you say that "Six months after they repudiated the insurgency in a historic election..." We are currently at the end of June, the sixth month of the year. The elections were at the end of January, the first month of the year. 6-1=5. Call it "pessimism" if you like, but one would hope that a paper based on tracking the financial status of the nation would be a little more accurate when it came to simple subtraction.



Gay Insurance: At Pandagon, Amanda Marcotte comments on a "reeducation" camp that parents send their gay kids to that's been finagling "therapy" payments out of insurers.

Which leads me to wonder if there's a market out there (or an already existing program!) of neo-natal "gay insurance" that crazy parents can take out against the possibility that their child might be homosexual. If it turns out to be the case, the product pays off and gives you the money you can use to send your kids to camp. That might be the only option if insurers catch onto the therapy scam.


»  June 25, 2005


Longer Than World War II:

open interactive graphic in separate window / roll over event markers to see the dates they represent / multi-day battles are referenced by the first day of operations / send corrections and additions to the timelines to the address at left
On December 7, 1941, forces of the Japanese Empire attacked the United States of America at Pearl Harbor. Congress declared war on Japan the following day, beginning our part in the war that had been going on in Asia and Europe for years. US, British, and other forces drove the Nazis out of North Africa and Western Europe while the Soviets invaded from the east, and together they broke the last redoubts of the Nazis in Germany by May of 1945. In the Pacific, American, Anzac and allied forces pushed the Japanese out of Southeast Asia, China, the Philippines, Borneo, the Aleutians, and many deadly Pacific islands. The Japanese, defeated in war and facing the new threat of atomic weapons, surrendered on August 14, 1945. U.S. involvement in World War II lasted for 1,346 days.

We passed that point in the global war on terror in the middle of May. By Independence Day, September 11, 2001 will be 1,392 days in the past. At the end of September 1941 — fifty days after V-J Day — there was no opposition to American forces in the Pacific apart from isolated soldiers who hadn't received word that the war had ended. The war in Europe had been over for four months already.

The people who orchestrated and bankrolled four hijackings and attacks on New York City and the Pentagon on 9/11, though, are still at large. Porter Goss, the head of the CIA, told TIME magazine last week that he has "an excellent idea" of where Osama bin Laden is. When asked if al-Qaeda could hit us again, he replied "Yes, it could." But he also said "In the chain that you need to successfully wrap up the war on terror, we have some weak links."

Why hasn't the Bush administration been able to catch Osama bin Laden? Al-Qaeda never had the kind of forces that Germany or Japan did. Afghanistan and even Iraq were nowhere near as powerful as America's adversaries in World War II.

The Germans and Japanese were technically on a par with the United States, although they were outmatched in industrial capacity. Both nations produced their own planes, destroyers, and submarines. German rocket engineers were considered so desirable that the Soviet and Western Allies raced each other to snap them up.

Both powers had military forces consisting of millions of troops. The Germans had huge numbers of tanks and other armored vehicles. Japanese forces famously resisted US Marines retaking Pacific islands to virtually the last man, and employed specially-designed flying suicide bombs against Navy ships in the last year of the war. As military adversaries, these countries were truly powerful, and the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt committed all of the resources of the United States to eliminating the threat, asking the American people to make great sacrifices in order to win the war.

In our present conflict, we've got 130,000+ troops in Iraq, where bin Laden never was. We've captured Saddam Hussein, who wasn't involved in 9/11 and didn't pose a threat to the United States because we'd had him bottled up for over a decade. In occupied Iraq, our soldiers keep getting killed and wounded (a daily average of 2 dead and 6 too wounded to return to duty since the elections in January). Thousands of civilians have died from both the actions of insurgents and US forces. The government of Afghanistan doesn't have enough control over the country to prevent the return to opium poppy production. The Taliban is resurgent. In New York last week, conventioneering College Republicans who "support" the war in Iraq said that they felt they could do more on the political front than by defending their country in the armed services, despite the Army's having failed to meet recruiting goals for the past several months. And even though the director of the Central Intelligence Agency says he knows where the guy who was behind the 9/11 attack is, he claims the administration still can't "wrap up the war".

The "weak links" Porter Goss mentioned, in my opinion, are right at the top of the chain of command. President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Rice, and everyone involved in dropping the ball on the pursuit of Osama bin Laden deserve nothing less than contempt for their execution of the war on terror.

The United States is a far more powerful nation than it was at the end of the Great Depression when World War II began. Yet this administration has not managed to neutralize the only foreign threat that has carried out attacks on our soil in more than 60 years, and it's failed to capture the top people responsible for those attacks. Instead, it's lost sight of the objective, bungled the planning even for the war it wanted to fight in Iraq, and consistently failed to tell the American people the truth about the war's progress or to level with them about its costs, both human and monetary.

In mid-September, the length of George W. Bush's war on terror will pass the length of the American Civil War.

[UPDATE 2005/06/26 12:47] Driftglass has a related post today about wartime production and serious prosecution of goals.

[UPDATE 2005/06/26 14:49] Everyone seems very cranked up this weekend. Tom Tomorrow tells the tale once again of how Democratic "hard" Zbigniew Brzezinski convinced President Jimmy Carter that funding Afghan insurgents could be used to induce a Soviet invasion, and "giving to the USSR its Vietnam war" (Brzezinski's quote), a move the former National Security Advisor credited in an interview with the "collapse of the Soviet empire." Of course, that interview was done three years before 9/11, so Zbig could blater on about how there's no threat from "stirred-up Moslems." Brzezinski's "brilliant" strategy is precisely the kind of idiotic claptrap that passes for critical thinking among the Democratic hawk circles, and it's virtually indistinguishable from the motives of the people who brought us Iran-contra and other grand debacles, Democrat and Republican. But at the very least, maybe Carter can take the mantle of The Guy Who Brought Down the Soviet Union out of Reagan's clutches.


»  June 23, 2005


Reporting for Duty: Per Atrios and First Draft:

Senator Smith:

Yesterday, President Bush's senior political advisor Karl Rove accused liberals of wanting to put American "troops in greater danger." He said liberals wanted to "offer therapy" to the people who attacked the country on 9/11.

Do you agree with those kinds of statements? Do you believe that a person at the right hand of the President should be calling millions of Americans traitors? As a constituent of yours, I expect you to make it clear that this kind of demonization of American citizens by senior White House staff will not be tolerated. As a member of the president's party and someone who campaigned for him last year, you should stand up publicly for the rights of all Oregonians, on the right and the left, and ask for a public apology from Mr. Rove, or failing that, his resignation.


Darrel Plant

Of course, I've never gotten a response for my letter about an apology to Franco-Americans.


»  June 22, 2005


More Fun With TIME Covers: Torture does work. The Salem witches confessed before they were hanged.


»  June 20, 2005


Heat and Kitchens: From Steve Gilliard, a link to some guy in New Mexico who just seems, well, wishy-washy, repeating all of the canards about how progressives are wimpy and without any will to blow shit up then complaining when they call him names back. This was my comment there:

Of course there's room for dissent. But if you say something stupid in a public place (i.e. on the Internet), you should at least have the ability to take valid criticism without whining about it.

Keeping troops in Iraq under the current administration means an indefinite period of what's been going on there for the past two years. The Bush administration has shown that it's pathologically incapable of telling the public the truth about their rationale for going to war, the current state of affairs, and the conditions upon which we might ever withdraw. That makes their methods suspect. Unless you agree with the way that they've executed the Iraq conflict -- and I certainly hope you're smarter than that -- why would you trust them from here on out? Because they tell you they'll do better? Seriously, Condi Rice? Don Rumsfeld? Dick Cheney? George W. Bush? Do you believe them?

Yeah, I support the use of military force where it's appropriate, but I don't think ensuring "that our basic values take hold around the world" is something that can come from the barrel of a gun. Certainly not in a nation that our own leaders falsely claimed was a threat to international security (something just about everyone else in the world knew was a sham) just so they could depose Saddam and look good. What basic values does killing 100,000 civilians in a couple of years on false pretenses enforce?

In case you haven't noticed, Iraq's in the middle of a civil war already. It's just that we're in the middle of it. And despite the fact that the insurgents are killing dozens of people a day, coalition forces are killing twice that many, on the average, with incursions into places like Fallujah. We've already turned Iraq into a Leaving Iraq would hardly "create even more instability in the region". Invading it did that. Leaving it might just give it a chance to settle down.

More importantly, by leaving, we open up the possibility of other countries actually helping with reconstruction. Nobody wants to go in there now because the US is in charge. Nobody else in the world wants to be there under US leadership, because the current US leadership is what created the mess in the first place.

You've got a lot of jingoistic views of progressives/liberals for someone who claims to be dissenting "from" them. The real problem in 2004 was that the Democrats did have a foreign policy. It was the same as Bush's. Most of them went along for the ride into Iraq without looking at the realities of whether Iraq had the capabilities for WMD production (many progressives doubted that was likely, certainly nuclear factories would have shown up on our extensive overflights during the '90s); whether the claims of drones capable of targeting the US were feasible (even the US hasn't been able to build drones that can be piloted 10,000 miles); and whether thousands of Iraqis and many Americans would be killed in the urban warfare that Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz kept saying would be unnecessary.

That's not an anti-war position. That's an anti-stupid-war position. Sure, there are people on the left who are totally against any military intervention, just as there are people on the right who want to drop nukes on everybody and you can make those straw man arguments that the sissy peaceniks are picking on poor Erik, but face reality. Would you trust Bush and his cronies running your country? Oh, yeah, they already are. Well then, how about if he sent 130,000 guys (and gals!) with guns, some independent contractors (with guns, natch), and planes and tanks and very little accountability to run your country? How's that grab ya?



The Daily Show Meets Shockwave 3D: I don't know who did the game for Comedy Central, but they deserve a round of applause for maintaining SW3D visibility. From CC's "Daily Show Newsletter":

====== New Daily Show Game ===========


You're a roving fake news reporter on the go -- but you're not the only van on the highway! Choose your correspondent and get the scoop before some other contrived news entity gets there. Play NewsHunter 2: Beat the Press!



Gordon Smith, the Other White Senator, Pt. 2: As of 8:59 a.m. EDT - June 16, 2005, the supporter list for Senate Resolution 36, apologizing for not passing federal anti-lynching legislation, has the names of 92 of 100 senators on it. Gordon Smith is finally there as a supporter.

The overwhelming majority of the senators on the support list are also designated as co-sponsors, a designation they apparently can get by "signing an oversized copy of the resolution that will be presented to the Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America exhibit, or otherwise communicating their support to our office."

There are only 6 of the 92 supporters who are not co-sponsors. Gordon Smith (as of Monday morning) is one of them.


»  June 17, 2005


Gordon Smith, the Other White Senator: Did you know that Sen. Gordon Smith is one of the few names not on the list of co-sponsors of Senate Resolution 39 "Senate Apologizes to Lynching Victims, Families for Failure to Act"?

I just called the Senator's DC office [(202) 224-3753], and talked to a young lady who seemed to recognize the resolution number and told me that senators sometimes vote for resolutions that they don't sponsor. I suggested that the list of people who haven't sponsored the resolution is getting pretty short, and that it looked kind of bad for a state where the KKK was active in government in the 1920s. She told me that she'd pass my concerns on to the senator, but didn't offer to take my name or address.

And I never have heard back about my letter asking for an apology to Franco-Americans, either.

At the time I write this, Oregon is the only state that isn't represented by two Republican senators where both senators haven't signed on as sponsors.


»  June 13, 2005


Rube Goldberg Meets Guantanamo Bay: As we all know from The New York Times (June 4, 2005):

A military inquiry has found that guards or interrogators at the Guantánamo Bay detention center in Cuba kicked, stepped on and splashed urine on the Koran, in some cases intentionally but in others by accident, the Pentagon said on Friday.

The splashing of urine was among the cases described as inadvertent, and was said to have occurred when a guard urinated near an air vent and the wind blew his urine through the vent into a detainee's cell. The detainee was provided with a fresh uniform and a new Quran, and the guard was reprimanded and assigned to guard duty that kept him from contact with detainees for the remainder of his time at Guantanamo, according to the military inquiry.

Several commentators have described the incidents with disbelief, invoking the name of late, great inventive cartoonist Rube Goldberg to describe how urine could pass through an air vent in quantity large enough to enter the cell.

For those unfamiliar with Goldberg and his "Weekly Invention" strip, here's how it might have gone down (click on the image to open a large version of the graphic):

Koran Abuse at Guantanamo Bay



Broder Brandishes Media Shield: From Meet the Press, Sunday, June 12, 2005:

MR. RUSSERT: David Broder, the press corps--was it more tenacious during Watergate, more tenacious against Bill Clinton, or is it people seeing things through their ideological prism--that when you're going after Clinton it's good, going against Bush bad, and vice versa?

MR. BRODER: The shortsightedness of Mrs. Clinton's complaint is illustrated by this morning's Washington Post. The front-page story on another memo, this one to Tony Blair's government, about the lack of planning in our government for the postwar period in Iraq. Who does she think is doing this work if not investigative reporters? Give us a break.

Is Broder kidding? Walter Pincus's story on the second memo did make it to the front page, but as everyone but Broder seems to be aware of, information about the first memo was buried in stories related to the British elections.

I have no doubt that there are some reporters out there who have been probing the lies of the Bush administration — you only need to read Sy Hersh as an example — but those people have gotten short shrift at the major newspapers. The New York Times, for instance, recently published its harsh story on detainee torture and homicide at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, but that report comes three years after the incident took place. The Downing Street Memo, which several media apologists have dismissed as "old news", is, indeed, three years old, as well. But then, the media was hardly framing a potential war in Iraq as one that was built on a tissue of lies in 2002. They owe it to the American people to set the record straight.



Shopping For a Better Income Map:

Take a close look at the circles on this map from the front page of the Oregonian's business page on Sunday. The graphic accompanied a story on grocery shopping patterns, how the industry is changing, and the background colors are supposed to indicate changes in the median household income in the metro area.

But for some reason — most likely in the interests of creating a stylistically "cool" graphic — the designers (credited as Derrik Quenzer and Lynne Palombo of the Oregonian) chose colors with virtually no contrast to represent three of the five income ranges.

The darkest blue and green are easy to pick out. The mid-range green used for the "$35,000 and under" category is fairly obvious in most contexts, but the two shades of light blue are almost indistinguishable, particularly on newsprint.

Within the circle, there's actually a section of mid-range blue ("$86,000 to $63,001") surrounded by light blue ("$63,000 to $48,001"). In the detail blowup, I've surrounded the the mid-range area with a red line just outside its boundary. It's still almost indistinguishable.

This kind of style over substance negates the basic purpose of a news graphic. The blue/green look may have been intended to give a Portland "feel" to the map, but limiting the palette to those colors makes it virtually useless.

And what was the intent behind reversing the income ranges: $63,000 to $48,001? Who does that?


»  June 9, 2005

What the...?  

The 10th Circle of Skepticism: My article on the theory of men being "hard-wired" to kill straying mates ("The Murderous Gene. And Bob, Joe, and Albert.") is included in The 10th Skeptics' Circle, edited by Skeptico. The more illustrious contributors include PZ Meyers, Orac, and Red State Rabble. You've got to read it to disbelieve it!


»  June 6, 2005


The Murderous Gene. And Bob, Joe, and Albert.: It's a shame that more people online don't see her work, because Sharon Begley, the "Science Journal" columnist at the Wall Street Journal gets off the occasional slam at wacko theories. I was catching up on some copies of the hard edition of WSJ the other day and ran across "Theory Men Are Wired To Kill Straying Mates Is Offensive and Wrong" (and unlike some other folks, I know that you can occasionally do a Google search to find WSJ articles without registration).

In her May 20 column, Begley discusses a theory put forth in a new book on the origins of homicide by David Buss, a psychology professor at the University of Texas, Austin, entitled The Murderer Next Door: Why the Mind Is Designed to Kill. The column opens with a "Just So" story of why men "evolved" to kill mates who stray, then continues (emphasis added):

Killing, according to his [Buss'] Kipling-esque reasoning, offered so many "advantages to our early ancestors in the competition for survival and reproduction" that, today, "all men have an evolved psychology of mate killing that lies latent in their brains." Men with the genetically based mental circuit for uxoricide had such an edge over their pacifist peers, in other words, that all men living today -- their descendants -- have this murder circuit, too.

For proof, Prof. Buss cites homicide statistics showing that more men than women kill, that over a five-year period in Dayton, Ohio, 52% of the women murdered were killed by a husband, lover or ex, and that women age 15 to 24 are killed by their mates or ex-mates more than over-the-reproductive-hill women are. His explanation: Only the former have evolutionary value, so men are wired to kill them if they stray but not to bother with unfaithful old bags. Also, unemployed men are more likely to kill women who dump them than are gainfully-employed men. Such low-status men, explains Prof. Buss, have the toughest time replacing their lost access to a uterus, so they're wired to raise their attractiveness to women ("you're so strong and powerful!") by murdering a cheating mate.

As evolutionary theory, this is ludicrous. Killing the owner of the uterus that is your only current chance to get your genes into the next generation (the evolutionary imperative), especially if she is caring for your current children and has a father or brothers who take exception to your uxoricide, is an excellent way to a dead end personally and genealogically. Being the target of angry in-laws, not to mention life imprisonment or lethal injection, tends to limit one's reproductive opportunities.

As a parsimonious explanation of data, the "evolution made me do it" explanation pales beside alternatives. Yes, murdered women skew young. But twenty-something men are more impulsive than fifty-something men and more likely to have a 23-year-old than a 57-year-old as a mate. And yes, unemployed men are more likely to kill or try to kill when dumped. But traits that make getting a job tough (being poorly educated, stupid, impulsive, psychotic ...) can also incline a man to murder.

Keep in mind that Buss is a psychologist bending evolutionary theory to his own uses (which, presumably, could include future court testimony to support a defense of "my genes made me do it"), not a biologist explaining an adaptation. Begley goes on to make a couple of other points against Buss' thesis, and she deserves credit for her exposure of this incredibly stupid conjecture. However, there is one argument against the evolution of the mate-killing trait that she misses.

Successful evolutionary adaptations are usually shared by the majority of a species. Eyes, for instance, can be considered a successful trait in humans, as they are in most complex animals on earth. Most humans have eyes when they are born; those who do not or whose eyes are non-functional have difficulty leading an unassisted life. Opposable thumbs are a successful trait. Most people are born with them; some, myself included, have one or more missing or malformed thumbs. I can tell you, having two thumbs would be handy sometimes (sorry, I couldn't resist).

Eyes and thumbs are dominant traits in humans, murder of a mate is not. That's not to say it doesn't happen, but genetic defects occur all the time and they're not treated by biologists as the norm. Buss' treatment of evolution in this thesis is almost as confused as that of the intelligent design crowd. Rather than looking at humans in general and hypothesizing a process of evolution that reaches that point, he chooses an outlier subset of men and draws his conclusions about all men from that small sample.

Most humans will never kill another human. Most men will not kill their mates, no matter what the circumstances. Those who do are not considered acceptable to society at large in most cultures.

As Begley points out, some of the traits that make men unemployable are also linked to murderous urges. Certainly, many people are stupid, many are impulsive, many are psychotic, but even the average person fitting each of those descriptions is unlikely to commit murder. My wife's family once had a (non-feral) cat that would lash out at anyone but my mother-in-law unprovoked, scaring another male cat of theirs twice his size, until the day he slashed my sister-in-law's wrist so badly the tendon was exposed and they finally, tearfully, decided to put him down. That was a maladapted cat.

If evolutionary psychology wants to end up with more credibility than, say, phrenology, it must accept the same logical constrains as biological evolution. There's no doubt that inherited physical differences in the brain can affect behavior. In all likelihood, some of the internal forces that would lead a man to murder his mate are related to differences in the makeup of his brain. That's not the same thing as saying that mate-murder is an evolutionary adaptation of male humans in general, particularly since the act is statistically uncommon.

Perhaps Buss intends us to view those with a predilection to murder as a further evolution of the human species, like the X-Men. But it would seem to me that the numbers lie with the mass of non-murderous humanity, and that those of us who make it through our three score and ten without taking another's life (and here I make exceptions for self-defense, public safety, combat, etc.) can consider murderers as lacking something that's supposed to be there but isn't quite right -- sort of like my left thumb.


»  June 5, 2005


There's Something About Matty: Obviously, I've got to stop reading Matt Yglesias for the same reason I've got to try again to get mom to cancel the New Republic gift subscription. These people don't have a clue about real life. Yglesias's latest whining (thanks Digby) about Democrats is why aren't we patriotic enough?

At today's Take Back America conference I saw some interesting polling data from Diane Feldman on a subject I'd pondered now and again. Unfortunately, the written summary of the presentation doesn't contain the exact numbers and I didn't write them down because I assumed this question would be included in the summary. The point, however, was that when you ask if America is "the greatest country in the world" most voters say that it is. When you ask if Democrats believe that America is the greatest country, most voters say that they do not.

I think it's clear that this perception creates some electoral problems. Indeed, it's a particularly serious kind of electoral problem because my guess is that the perception is probably correct.

Imagine yourself in an America where segregation hasn't yet been ruled unacceptable. Say, the years between the end of WWII and the mid-1960s. Or take, perhaps, the ante-bellum era.

Was America the greatest country then?

All of the institutions we cherished before the Republicans began gnawing away at them: the Bill of Rights, the separate executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government, etc. They were all in place.

Was America the greatest country then?

As it's been since its founding, America is a great country, with a lot of potential. But people who blindly say that everyone must bow and proclaim it the greatest are closing themselves off to the need for improvement and progress. Why would a greatest country need to improve at all?

The "greatest country" thing is just a "swinging dick" statement: "Yeaaah, I got the greatest damn country on the planet. Suck it, rest of the world!" Worrying about this kind of crap is for the people who try to run campaigns by polls. And quite frankly, those people keep losing races.

Maybe, instead of trying to figure out what's wrong with Democrats, Matt could spend some time hammering on the people in the administration who've messed up America's economy, foreign policy, health care, etc.


»  June 3, 2005


Tom's Brain Is Flat: Since the Oregonian printed my letter about George Galloway last week, I suspect they're not going to run this one:

Thomas Friedman's syndicated column last week must have hit the Oregonian editorial funny bone when he complained that Muslims across the world were protesting against reported abuse of the Koran rather than Iraqis killed by insurgents in Iraq, because on Saturday the editorial page ran two editorial cartoon on the very same theme.

What is it with those Muslims? Protesting alleged religious desecration instead of the killing of hundreds of people a month? It's too bad Friedman spends so much of his time these days on talk shows chortling about how witty his new book's title is, otherwise he might have seen some parallels in his own country where there are heated debates over whether the words "under God" belong in the Pledge of Allegiance and whether giant rocks with the Ten Commandments should be placed in courthouses.

Of course, what might be really bad is for him to get his wish, because tens of thousands of civilians are estimated to have died in Iraq at US hands in the past two years, equal to years' worth of insurgent attacks at the current levels. If Muslims around the world decide to protest about innocent people being killed in Iraq, there's a far bigger target than the suicide bombers.



Counting Coup: A letter to The Washington Post:

In over 1,100 words on civilian casualties in Iraq, Ellen Knickmeyer disposes of those killed by coalition bombing and other operations in less than 50. While the Iraqi Interior Ministry has attributed 12,000 deaths to the acts of insurgents, the low estimates for total civilian deaths since the beginning of the war are twice that, and the high estimate is 100,000. Because the "U.S. military says it does not keep a comprehensive tally of people it has killed in combat," there's no way to know whether that number is merely equal to or many times greater than the thousands killed by insurgents. If members of the administration are anticipating that the public will turn against the insurgents because they're killing so many people, wouldn't it be important to know whether or not the coalition is killing more than the insurgents?


»  June 2, 2005


A Blind Eye to the Truth (Mark Felt Edition): In three Daily Kos diaries ("Crazy Dean, Crook Galloway, Commie Chavez", "McGovern Hearts Castro OR Gorbachev was a Commie", and "George Galloway Stole My Shoes OR Cassandra Was Right") and numerous comments over the past couple of weeks, I've suggested that every time someone makes a point which is important to democratic ideals of truth, that there are voices raised calling for us to disassociate from them, and even to avoid appearing to agree with them, because of failings they might have.

This has now happened to Mark "Deep Throat" Felt.

From the predictable Nixon aplogists like Pat Buchanan, G. Gordon Liddy, and Charles Colson (the latter two of whom spent time in prison because of their involvement in the Watergate scandal) this is to be expected. Their lord and master was, after all, driven from office.

What's been interesting has been the people (nominally) in the Democratic camp who've questioned Felt's motives for confirming details of the Watergate story for Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein and for involvement (and subsequent conviction) in the COINTELPRO surveillance of anti-war, civil rights, and other groups deemed "anti-American" in the 1960s and 1970s. Eileen McNamara of The Boston Globe writes "We want Deep Throat to be a member of the American Civil Liberties Union. Instead, he could be a functionary in the US Justice Department of John Ashcroft or Alberto Gonzales." At The Nation, John Nichols says "It is difficult to buy the line that Felt was all that worried about Nixonian skulduggery, as the tipster himself would eventually be convicted of authorizing federal agents to illegally break into the homes of suspected anti-Vietnam War radicals." A number of comments at Daily Kos have been somewhat more vitriolic; Nichols, at least, goes on to say that while he wasn't a hero, Felt was a "necessary player."

I keep coming back to the question: "So, who's looking for a hero?" Who cares why Mark Felt squealed on Nixon? Personally, I don't buy the idea that a guy who was just shy of retirement age and a government pension 30 years ago (he's 91 now, you do the math) would buck a vindictive bastard (no harm meant to anyone of the illegitimate community) like Nixon and his cronies and risk whatever shitstorm would have come his way if he'd been found out just because he lost a promotion, but maybe he was that arrogant and stupid. Maybe it was a little bit of conscience and the promotion was just the last straw. I just don't care. The truth is that as with most criminal enterprises, anyone who was in a position to verify any of the story was involved with something illegal themselves.

Felt, at least, has stayed out of the spotlight for 30 years. Pat Buchanan -- who doesn't think Nixon did anything wrong -- has been on TV the entire time. Colson and Liddy got on the Christianity and media bandwagons, respectively, once they got out of prison.

The old saying about the Watergate guys was: Don't Buy Books By Crooks. If you feel Felt's domestic spying activities with the FBI taint any book he might write, by all means don't purchase anything he or his family puts out (I doubt I will). But he deserves credit for his part in bringing down one of the most corrupt administrations in history, with numerous jail sentences passed out to aides,  a Vice President resigning, an Attorney General convicted, and a President one step ahead of impeachment, one that began a modern era of Republican maneuvering around, over, and through the Constitution.


»  June 1, 2005


Hex To Dec: In a response on the dirGames-L thread "about sending data to html with webXtra", Valentin Schmidt mentions that in his estimate, the fastest Lingo method of converting decimal values to hexadecimal is through the use of the rgb color object and its hexString method. The reverse is also useful.

As an example, take the hexadecimal value D7. To identify its decimal equivalent:

h = "D7"
hx = "#" & h & "0000"
put hx
-- "#D70000"
c = rgb (hx)
put c
-- color( 215, 0, 0 )
put c.red
-- 215

215 in decimal notation, of course, equals D7 in hexadecimal.

Going the other direction, if you wanted to convert a number from decimal to hexadecimal:

d = 186
c = rgb (d, 0, 0)
put c.hexString ()
-- "#BA0000"
put c.hexString ().char[2..3]
-- "BA"

So simple!



Mathematics and Physics for Programmers Released: The long-awaited Mathematics and Physics for Programmers by the ever-helpful Danny Kodicek is now available. Or, at least Danny's got a copy in hand now, Amazon's still reporting one to two months...