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?

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.

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.

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 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 ()

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.

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.

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

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.

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.