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«  June 2006  |   Main   |  August 2006  »


»  July 30, 2006

Politics  

Whose Wounded Are More Important to CNN?: Breaking news on Wolf Blitzer's show this morning:

Four Israeli soldiers were injured on Sunday when an anti-tank rocket hit their tank in southern Lebanon, an Israeli military spokesman said.
It's an item that been repeated a number of times as I've watched coverage of the Qana bombing and the emergency UN Security Council meeting.

Buried in a story in the World section of their site (i.e. no front page link like the story containing the Israeli woundings) and less-mentioned on TV is that four Marines were killed in Iraq's Anbar province. There's no mention in the story of how many US servicepeople were injured yesterday, and certainly nothing on the television coverage. But the number of wounded hasn't been below 400 per month since February (when it hit a two-year low of 300), which is an average of more than ten wounded every day.

How come those casualties aren't being mentioned every 10 minutes on CNN?

 


»  July 29, 2006

Politics  

Journalists Spinning for Both Sides: Listening to the public radio business show "Marketplace" early this week, I heard host Tess Vigeland finish up her introduction to a story touting the success of private contracting for military logistics with this statement:

We've heard a lot about the failings of the contracting system in Iraq. But in the latest issue of Business Week magazine, reporter Dawn Kopecki says the system actually works.
Kopecki went on to describe that the couple of dozen people she'd spoken to -- "experts in military procurement, outsourcing in general, and defense" -- said every war has fraud, but that, in Iraq, contracting out support services was saving money.

Vigeland and Kopecki discussed a Congressional Budget Office study comparing cost estimates for supplies provided by the military itself and by contractors that claimed a nearly 50% savings (on $80 billion) associated with logistical support over a 20-year period. They talked about how people always blame the contractors but mentioned a specific case where several Army reserve officers were siphoning off money.

Vigeland's final statement makes it all sound as if everything's hunky-dory, though:

Yeah, but I guess then the real bottom line here is that, even with these kinds of problems with waste, fraud and abuse, the Pentagon is getting more bang for its buck by outsourcing.
Guess so. But something was nagging at me. I mean, wasn't there something about a couple hundred million in overcharges from Halliburton for fuel delivery to the troops? Didn't Kellogg Brown & Root (a Halliburton subsidiary) get more than seventy million in bonuses last year even though the Pentagon had caught them cheating the American taxpayer? Even the case of Army officers stealing money from the Coalition Provisional Authority involved a contractor paying bribes to the officers in order to secure contracts. Building bribes to get contracts into the contract totals is not cost-effective from the government perspective.

I went to Business Week to look for the article. The most recent piece by Kopecki -- and the only one I saw online that discussed military contracting -- was titled "When Outsourcing Turns Outrageous". The subhed reads: "Contractors may be saving the Army money. But fraud changes the equation".

The BW article is practically the antithesis of the marketplace interview. The article says "some experts on the topic aren't convinced" that outsourcing pays off "even with a lot of fraud and waste". Kopecki's article quotes a former CIA lawyer as saying "What has happened in Iraq is just disgraceful".

The article mentions the case of a company that collected $190 million on an original contract amount of $160 million after building only 6 of the 150 health centers the contract called for. It mentions 80 open investigations and 20 cases referred to the Department of Justice, but none of this came up in the Marketplace piece. The BW article mentions that $60 billion has been paid to contractors for services in less than four years. That's half again as much as the CBO's estimate of the cost of logistical services for 20 years (the figure also includes contracts for reconstruction costs). The Pentagon has paid KBR alone $15 billion since 2001.

Unlike the happy, shiny Marketplace piece, the Business Week article concludes:

Smith, the former CIA general counsel who now represents contractors at Washington law firm Arnold & Porter, predicts that without more oversight, military outsourcing will saddle the government with the wrong kind of business partners. "Iraq has attracted patriots and crooks -- and there were probably some crooked patriots," he says. "We're going to be cleaning that up for years to come, I fear."
That comes just after a statement that "the military expects to further reduce its procurement oversight corps."

To me there seems to be some major disconnect. On the one hand is an article on military contracting where the author puts forth some facts and figures, mentions potential serious problems and concerns by experts and starts out with the words: "The U.S. Military has lost billions to fraud and mismanagement by private contractors in Iraq who do everything from cooking soldiers' meals to building hospitals to providing security."

On the other hand is the same author, interviewed by a radio host who gives the impression that the experts who agree on the fact that there is waste and fraud in military contracting also believe that money is being miraculously saved.

 


»  July 27, 2006

Director  

Logo of the Apocalypse: During one of the recurring "Director is dead" discussions on DIRECT-L, Valentin Schmidt of Dasdeck posted this:

 

Politics  

Newt's Crystal Ball: Digby writes on the current neo-con walkback from Condi Rice, mentioning that Newt Gingrich is quoted in an Insight magazine article as saying "... Miss Rice's inexperience and lack of resolve were demonstrated in the aftermath of the North Korean launch of seven short-, medium-, and intermediate-range missiles in July. He suggested that Miss Rice was a key factor in the lack of a firm U.S. response." Somehow, I figured that -- considering the size of his mouth -- Newt might have had some other words on Rice in the past and wondered how the judgment of the guy who claims we're in World War III stood up to the test of time. I mean, she didn't just become incompetent overnight, did she? I left this in the comments:

From Newt's own Web site, a reprint of a New Yorker article from November 2001:

Then, with the arrival of George W. Bush, Gingrich got what every Washington policy advocate most covets: he got inside. His old friend Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense, named him to the Defense Policy Board. Condoleezza Rice, the national-security adviser, is a former colleague of Gingrich's at Stanford's Hoover Institution, where he is a visiting fellow.
Such matters are the subject of much debate inside the Administration, and it is clear which team of senior advisers Gingrich is aligned with. Condoleezza Rice, he says, is a person for whom he has "tremendous respect," adding, "I think she'll do a very good job." Rumsfeld is "one of the smartest people in government, very determined, very serious." As for Secretary of State Colin Powell, Gingrich is diplomatic. "Colin is a very good diplomat, and a very good spokesman for America," he says.
Still, he is encouraged by the degree of Rice's influence over the President. "I think there's a section of the State Department that will once a day come up with a genuinely bad idea, and I think the strength of this Administration so far is that those ideas seem to die somewhere around the national-security office."
Such criticism poses the paradox that the people in charge of the war-Rumsfeld; his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz; Condoleezza Rice-are Gingrich's closest allies.

 


»  July 26, 2006

Politics  

Great Masters of War:

I thought that the front page of yesterday's [correction: last Friday's] The Independent was particularly striking, showing the overwhelming international support for an immediate ceasefire in Lebanon (in case you can't tell, the only flags on the right are Israel, the US, and the UK), and I didn't even notice the banner advertising their series of glossy posters of the great masters.

Until, that is, when I saw today's front page with its somewhat jarring juxtaposition of an image of the war and the words "FREE GLOSSY POSTER."

 

Director  

Director Lists to Flash Arrays: The question comes up over and over on various fora. People are well aware that you can -- in Director MX 2004 -- directly access variables in a Flash sprite instance at run-time. Strings and numbers are easy. I've documented methods for using the Flash XML Object within Director (both in sprites and as free-standing objects) at Director Online and here on the blog. But what about lists?

That question came up again the other day, so I spent a couple minutes whipping together a very simple demonstration of how to pass a Lingo linear list into an ActionScript array. This is about as bare-bones as it gets.

First, I created a SWF with a dynamic text field in it that would display the contents of the array I created in the movie. I named the field "test" and put the name of the field into the text area.

Next, I imported the SWF into Director and placed it in sprite channel 1. In a movie script, I added the following:

on makeArrayFromList
  lst = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]
  arr = sprite (1).newObject ("Array")
  repeat with i = 1 to lst.count
    arr.push (lst[i])
  end repeat
  sprite (1).test = arr.toString ()
end
That's all there is. A call to makeArrayFromList in the Message window (while the movie's running) creates the linear list, creates an Array object in the Flash sprite, then pushes the items from the list in order onto the Array. The toString method shows the elements in the test field.

Easy steps from here are adding parameters to the handler that allow you to pass in any linear list and define a target within the Flash movie (if you don't want to create a _level0 variable. More complex would be handling multi-dimensional lists as well as property lists (which need to be represented by Flash Objects instead of Arrays) and multi-dimensional combinations of linear and property lists.

 


»  July 25, 2006

Director  

Director Eruption:

Chris Griffith of Atomic Archive was in town last weekend for the WebVisions 2006 conference and he survived his stay in our attic guest room/construction zone and the 100+ degree temperatures. So on his last day, we drove across the river to Washington (the 41st state he's visited) and Mt. St. Helens, where a helpful visitor at Johnston Ridge Observatory -- five miles from the middle of the crater -- took this picture for us. After that, it was off to Vista House and Multnomah Falls on the old Columbia Gorge Highway, then the 1-hour tour on Willamette Jetboats, after which he just had time to get his bag together and get to the airport.

In other words, it was just like any other Director user group meeting.

 


»  July 16, 2006

Politics  

Canada Declares War On Israel: Well, they could, couldn't they?

On Sunday, seven members of a Canadian family were killed by an Israeli airstrike in southern Lebanon. According to the Globe and Mail:

Media reports out of Montreal indicated that six family members an elderly man, his nephew's wife and her four young children, were killed while vacationing in the village of Aitarun, about 50 kilometres south of Beirut.

During a protest by hundreds of Lebanese-Canadians in Montreal, an unidentified woman said she had just learned that two of her family members were killed in the Israeli bombardment.

Considering that the Israeli attacks on Lebanon were supposedly precipitated by the kidnapping of two soldiers, and that hundreds of people have died as a result of those attacks, it stands to reason that Canada now has an even greater justification to attack Israel.

Comment on Daily Kos

 


»  July 11, 2006

Politics  

Iron Pants:

Iron Pants: Oregon's Anti-New Deal Governor, Charles Henry Martin

I picked up Iron Pants: Oregon's Anti-New Deal Governor, Charles Henry Martin at the WSU Press table during Wordstock this spring for Dad, and he lent it back to me after a weekend, having already polished it off (it is only a couple hundred pages). I've been delinquent about reading it -- I've got a huge stack of partially-read stuff -- but when I got into the early chapters, I was ready to write a post about some parallels the author seemed to be clearly drawing between Martin's era and ours.

I thought the book was a new title when I bought it, but when I didn't see it in WSU Press's New Releases section, or in their online catalog, I looked at the Amazon page and realized that I was completely wrong. The book had been published in June 2000! That makes passages like this -- discussing Martin's service in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War and the crushing of the Philippine insurrection and which I'd taken as somewhat influenced by the current situation in foreign affairs -- even creepier (the quotes are from letters written by Martin in 1899 to his wife, Louise; Emilio Aguinaldo was the leader of the Phillipine insurgency against the Spanish and then the Americans, General Elwell S. Otis was the commander of the American forces):

Martin believed the situation had gone terribly awry. The U.S. Army fought a war of liberation against the Spanish. What was wrong with the Philippine people? Liberators should be met "with [a] surging mass of Filipinos on the way to make peace." What do we get for an answer to our efforts, Martin asked. "Give us our independence or we [will] fight you to the death." What if the fight replicated the American Revolution? We are told that history repeats itself," he said. "Is Aguinaldo to become a George Washington & General Otis a Sir Henry [Thomas] Gage?"
While the standoff continued, General Otis clung tenaciously to the belief that Aguinaldo had no legitimate claim to power. Captain Martin nurtured his private doubts. "We are now face to face with the Filipinos who as we now know hate us and will fight us if we remain here." The liberating mission that began the war changed so that "our actions of May are not our actions of December." Would the rest of the world view the United States as just another imperialist power? Martin feared so. "I am not so sure that Aguinaldo's able papers will not convince the people of the world that we have been guilty of bad faith," he fretted. The precarious position of U.S. forces worried him. "Here in the walled city we are surrounded by 13,000 disarmed Spaniards & 35,000 of their sympathizers. In our front are 30,000 Filipinos." Tempers reached the breaking point. One night, when someone killed a dog in one section of Manila, U.S. troops three miles away, hearing the shot, opened fire on Aguinaldo's forces. Martin feared that "a few hot headed fools" would precipitate a bloodbath."
After the Philippines, Martin went to China to quell the Boxer Rebellion.

 


»  July 9, 2006

What the...?  

Italy win the World Cup 5-3 on penalties: That's the subhed from the BBC's report of the World Cup title match. Which makes this passage from Jeffrey Toobin's article on the World Cup in last week's (3 July) New Yorker in which he discusses the US's second-round match against Italy very prescient:

These days, Italians play a style known as catenaccio--door bolt--which focuses more on preventing goals than on scoring them. This defensive approach frequently leads to unattractive behavior, such as de Rossi's assault on McBride, and, as a consequence, Italian players are also famous for making operatic complaints to referees, who are especially important in their games. Italian teams often rely for goals on free kicks and penalties, which only referees can award.
Toobin goes on to mention that this has led to a number of scandals.

 


»  July 8, 2006

What the...?  

Blade: First in a Series:

wind turbine blade in transit

Driving home last night, I'm making the turn onto the Glenn Jackson (I205) Bridge going south from Washington SR14 when I'm joined on the ramp by this thing merging onto the bridge coming the other way (from Vancouver). Hard to tell exactly how big it was (I know from the car behind it it was "OVERSIZE") but it looked about 75 feet long. It may be hard to tell from the photo I snapped on my cell phone while I drove past it (shouldn't that be illegal?) but it's a blade from a wind turbine, apparently headed out to the wilds of Eastern Oregon.

 


»  July 5, 2006

Politics  

Getting Smart About It:

Smart car on Hummer H1

This weekend, I saw a TV ad from local car dealer Vic Alfonso advertising an H3 Hummer for $400 less than an Americanized Smart convertible.

DaimlerChrysler says that they're going to start bringing the Smart into the US with base prices starting at $15,000, but not until 2008. You've gotta think that bold, innovative, forward thinking like that that comes from the Chrysler side of the company. Should be popular with the $5/gallon, irradiated gas then available from Iran.

 


»  July 3, 2006

Politics  

1,202 Days: I missed it, but Saturday was the 1,200th day of the conflict in Iraq. That led me to a quick calculation, and if I'm right, the day the Iraq war equals the length of US involvement in World War II (1,345 days from Pearl Harbor to V-J Day) falls on Thanksgiving.

 

Politics  

Camouflage: If the Bush administration can't even find out ahead of time whether the guy they nominated to head the Department of Homeland Security is a self-admitted crook with links to the mob, how can they claim to be able to find terrorists hiding in the shadows?

 

Politics  

Body Counts:

HENRY V: Where is the number of our English dead?
Edward the Duke of York, the Earl of Suffolk,
Sir Richard Kikely, Davy Gam, Esquire;
None else of name; and of all other men
But five and twenty
. O God, thy arm was here!

-- King Henry V, Act IV, Scene VIII, William Shakespeare

The story of how only 25 men died when the English defeated a much larger French force at Agincourt has always been one of the more preposterous historical notes in Shakespeare's plays.

According to a June 15 Department of Defense press release, 452 operations were carried out in just over a week after the death of the late leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi on 7 June. 143 of the operations (32%) were carried out solely by Iraqi forces. Another 255 operations (56%) were carried out by combined coalition and Iraqi forces (with the remaining 54 presumably handled by coalition forces alone). The operations are said to have "netted 759 anti-Iraq forces and killed 104 terrorists." That's just shy of two captures or kills per operation.

But in over 300 operations involving coalition forces against nearly 900 presumably dangerous adversaries, only one American soldier appears to have been killed.

Zarqawi, is said to have died in captivity after two 500lb. bombs had been dropped on a house where he was staying, an action that also reportedly killed a woman and a child as well as a couple of Zarqawi's lieutenants. None of the reports I've seen mentioned any coalition casualties during the action against Zarqawi or in the mop-up when they inspected the site and recovered his body and papers that led to further operations against al-Qaeda in Iraq. In fact, despite the fact that ground units didn't arrive for more than half an hour after the bombing, it was reported that they met little if any resistance.

This is the roster of casualties reported by the DOD between the day of Zarqawi's death and that of the press release.

Date Location Service Cause Deaths
7 June Ar Ramadi, Iraq Army combat operations, improvised explosive device (IED) 2
7 June Mosul, Iraq Army dismounted combat operations, small arms fire 1
8 June Buritz, Iraq Army combat operations, IED 1
8 June Ar Ramadi, Iraq Army combat operations, indirect enemy fire in camp 2
8 June Al Kut, Iraq Army combat operations, IED 1
8 June Baghdad, Iraq Army combat operations, IED 1
9 June Kirkuk, Iraq Army combat operations, IED 1
9 June Ad Diwaniyah, Iraq Army combat operations, IED 1
9 June Al Anbar Province, Iraq Navy combat operations, land mine 1
9 June Al Anbar Province, Iraq Marines wounds received during combat operations 2
11 June Ghanzi, Afghanistan Army combat operations, IED and small arms fire 1
12 June Washington, D.C. Army non-combat related cause occurring June 5 in Kabul, Afghanistan 1
13 June Korengel, Afghanistan Army small arms fire 1
14 June Musa Qulah, Afghanistan Army combat operations, small arms fire 1
14 June Al Anbar Province, Iraq Marines combat operations 1
15 June Baghdad, Iraq Army combat operations, IED 1
15 June Bagram, Afghanistan Army non-combat related cause, under investigation 1

That's 20 dead. I've been scanning the releases for the last half of June for reports of any deaths in military hospitals from wounds received during that period and haven't seen any.

Five of the reported deaths were in Afghanistan or the result of injuries there (in gray). Of the fifteen deaths in Iraq, two (8 June) were the result of a mortar attack on a coalition base. Eight of the Iraq deaths were from IEDs, where soldiers were in their vehicles (gold shading). The green-shaded Navy and Marine deaths on 9 June are the result of a single incident where a HMMWV hit a land mine.

Of the remaining two deaths, the 2,500th casualty in Iraq on 14 June was on a foot patrol.

Which -- in my mind, anyway -- raises some questions.

If the nearly nine hundred people the DOD press release claims were killed or captured were violent "anti-Iraqi forces" and "terrorists", wouldn't they have put up more of a fight? Obviously, they're quite adept at placing explosive traps, but for dangerous killers they seem to just lie down and die or wait for the handcuffs to be put on once they're found, if the numbers above are any indication. Perhaps the actions the coalition forces went on didn't find any of the terrorists. Maybe the terrorists just never learned to post night watches and keep getting caught when they're asleep. IF they're not actually dangerous terrorists, then who's getting killed? Something doesn't add up.

Comment at Daily Kos

 


»  July 1, 2006

Politics  

The Long, Hard Road to the White House: As you may remember, the New York Times and Washington pundits like David Broder spent the last week of May wondering -- given their busy schedules and past personal problems -- just how many times President Clinton and Senator Clinton do it. The Times article by Patrick Healy was said to be based on interviews with fifty Democrats concerned about the state of their relationship impacting on a potential Presidential run. Chris Matthews brought it up in an interview with DNC Chair Howard Dean, when he told Dean what party leaders are really worried about (i.e. not Iraq, the economy, etc.)

Well, I think we need look no further for one of Healy's sources (only 49 to go).

In an article that does not mention the Clinton story whatsoever, Arianna Huffington writes about one potential Democratic hopeful's attempt to portray himself as not so driven for the Presidency that he wouldn't "rather be at home making love to my wife while the children are asleep". She goes on to mention that the youngest of the children in question is 25, and that he has two sons in their 30s, but presumably the erstwhile campaigner is putting forth this information in order to show his dedication to his marriage. Huffington writes:

A ... spokesman followed up by saying this shows that running for president "is not an egotistical pursuit" for ... and that he is "totally in love with his wife." [name deleted for dramatic effect]
I have my spokesmen tell that to strangers, as well.

So who, you ask, would make such a bizarre comment? What potential presidential candidate would be making a note of his matrimonial fidelity and virility, and might have the ear of people like Matthews and Broder enough to convince them that "Democrats" were concerned about the state of the Clinton marriage?

Did you guess Joe Biden? Smart you.

Comment at Daily Kos