Friday, April 29, 2005

One Damn Expensive Computer

I was going to post some thoughts about Indiana switching to Daylight Saving Time, but I'll get to that later. I saw another news item that I felt is more pressing...

The Netherlands has a piece of legislation that is set to go into effect in a few months to add a levy to MP3 players. At least, that's the intent. I haven't read the law, but the article makes some rather frightening points about the vagueries of it. The levy will be added to "all storage devices that could possibly be used to store pirated works." (Quote from the article) The amount of the levy is $4.3 per gigabyte. So, let's say you buy a 60 GB iPod. Currently, that costs $449 from Circuit City. Now, let's add 5% sales tax. That's another $22.45. But don't forget to add the MP3 player tax. 60 GB * $4.3/GB = $258. Your iPod will now cost $729.45. That is a de facto 62.5% tax rate. Yowza.

But, of course, that's if they only narrowly enforce the law. Keep in mind that the quote says "all storage devices that could possibly be used to store pirated works." Can you not store pirated MP3s or movies on your computer? So, let's say you pay $1000 for a new computer (just the computer, not including monitor or accessories) that has this fabulous 300 GB Western Digital hard drive. So, add on the $50 for 5% sales tax. And the $1290 pirated works levy. Your computer now costs you $2340 for a de facto 134% sales tax. Or, if you just bought the hard drive itself (to upgrade), you pay $11.45 sales tax plus the full $1290. Your hard drive now costs $1530.45!! That's a 568% tax rate!! Now just imagine when the 1000 GB hard drives start rolling out...

When will governments learn that the record labels and movie companies, in their desparate moves to push through copyright legislation, will kill other industries. Would you consider paying $5000 for a computer (with that 1000 GB hard drive), knowing $4000 of which is going to a copyright collection agency that had absolutely nothing to do with the manufacture of the computer?!?

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Brilliant Web Page

I just visited, which hosts a parody of The home pages used to look very similar by intent. However, since Wal-Mart has now issued a cease and desist letter to the site's host ISP, the parody page has been moved from the index to an internal link. Of course, Wal-Mart doesn't want to be known for trying to stifle free speech, so they're taking the cowardly path and threatening the ISP under the DMCA. Regardless, the page has many great quotes in it. "By running this [Corporate Social Responsibility] page, we get to avert any criticism of anything bad we do by highlighting the good works that we do in our community. [...] In our experience, we can silence dissent by convincing the masses that our interests and their interests intersect." And the Labor Diversity Bingo is great. You fill out a Bingo card based on where the products were manufactured. It's just a great site.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

A Picture Too Good To Pass Up

There's a front-page picture from the 4/26/05 edition of the Dallas Morning News of President Bush holding hands with a Saudi prince. Yes, they are holding hands. You know, maybe Rick Santorum et al were specifically thinking of GWB when they were pushing for an amendment to ban gay marriage. If gay marriage were legal, maybe GWB would not have married Laura, but would rather have married that Saudi prince he's so fond of. You were right, Rick. I bow to your wisdom.

There was no way I could pass up commenting on that one, as much of a cheap shot as it is...

Get back to real work, Congress

OK, I must say that I have always liked John McCain more than most politicians, but his involvement in the NFL steroid hearings disappoints me. I don't really have any reason to think that McCain wouldn't take part in something like this, but I'm not happy because this is such a waste of Congress's time. First, they did it with MLB, now the NFL. Steroid use is probably a problem in professional sports. I don't know for sure because I haven't been following the hearings. But doesn't Congress have more important things to do than to hold meetings to state the obvious? If not, here are a couple of similar ideas. Let's bring in record label execs and musicians to get them on the record about their drug use. Or television producers and comedians to find out about theirs. I always heard the Saturday Night Live had a great drug table backstage. Or one that I would much rather see than any of this is to bring Catholic bishops and priests before a Congressional hearing to testify on their roles in the sex abuse scandal. Threaten to revoke the Church's tax exempt status. Get Cardinal Law to answer some scathing questions for everyone to hear.

I know the arguments for these hearings. Athletes are heroes for many kids. And giving them carte blanche with performance enhancers doesn't present a good example. But why the hell should Congress be involved? Aren't there much more important things to deal with? I can think of about 500. Congress, end these absurd hearings and get back to work.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Go IU students!

A couple of students at my alma mater's School of Informatics used a simple social engineering technique to study identity theft. They gathered information from publicly available web sites to send emails to fellow IU students. The email had a forged From address to make students believe a friend had sent it. It also had a link to a page on an IU server that prompted the student for their username and password. Due to the nature of the study, informed consent could not be given and the students conducting the study worked closely with the Human Subjects Committee for approval. Some "participants" are very upset at having been duped, but I have one question for them: Would you rather be duped by grad students conducting a study (and not actually collecting any personal information) or by unethical hackers actually committing identity theft? Bravo, Informatics students!

Perturbing news

OK, after several days of working on it, I think I'm finally caught up on reading my email. It's amazing how much your inbox fills up when you're out for 6 consecutive work days. Especially when you get 50-75 emails every weekday and another 25 or so over the weekend. Nuts...

So, I've seen two pieces of news in the past day that I feel the need to pass on. First, there's a great commentary on Ars Technica about the Bush administration removing delegates from the Inter-American Telecommunication Commission. Out of 12 delegates, four were removed, including representatives from Qualcomm and Nokia (two huge telecom companies that should be involved). What was the faux pas that these four committed? They supported the Kerry campaign. One of them actually only donated $250 to the Democratic Party. What the hell do political views have to do with addressing technical issues, such as protocol standards and cybersecurity?!? These are engineers. Not heads of industry with money, power, and influence. White House spokesman Trent Duffy is quoted as saying, "We wanted people who would represent the Administration positively." Again, this is a technical meeting and has absolutely nothing to do with representing the Administration in any manner whatsoever. There have been accusations by groups like the Union of Concerned Scientists claiming that the Administration has forced scientists to change their findings so as to match the Administration's political views. But this is political hubris taken to a new extreme that I didn't even think was possible. The Administration punishing private citizens for purely retributive purposes. There are no political views at stake here. Absolutely disgusting.

Second, there's news that Microsoft is adding a "black box" to Windows to better understand system crashes. Sounds innocuous so far, right? Well, this black box is turned on by default. When you system crashes, it will send information to Microsoft, including programs running at the time of the crash and the contents of documents that were being created. Granted, you can select what documents not to send at the time, provided you read the dialog box and really understand what it is saying. In a company setting, IT managers will also be able to set it up so that all that information will get sent to them without individual workers being able to opt out. Let me first say that these things do not concern me too much in and of themselves. If you don't want your IT manager to know about it, it should not be on your computer. Period. If you don't want the document sent to Microsoft, you should read the dialog box and remove documents you don't want sent. What concerns me is that this is turned on by default. And that dialog box, how do you know it is actually working the way it's supposed to? Here's an example scenario. Someone writes a piece of spyware or a virus that runs the next time you open Quicken. It overwrites the part of the registry that actually controls the "opting out" mechanism. So the dialog box makes you think you're not sending your banking records to Microsoft, but the box isn't working properly and those records are sent with the rest of the documents. And, just for kicks, the virus writer changed the destination of the crash report. It doesn't go to Microsoft, but rather to his own personal computer. Now, how good of an idea is this black box?

OK, so there are a couple of thoughts for the day. Hopefully I'll get back to a semi-regular posting schedule soon...

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Copout Post

I've had a couple of friends point out that I haven't posted in a while. As it turns out, I left work early last Tuesday (April 12) to drive to Michigan. I stayed there visiting Michigan State and looking for an apartment in the East Lansing area until Saturday, when I drove home. After that, I've been in class since Monday learning Tcl/Tk (fun stuff!). That only left Sunday for posting, but it was such a beautiful day I had to go out for a ride. So I will get back to normal posting soon...

In the meantime, I would like to point out yet another new feature of Google that is very neat. I've been using Google Maps for a while when looking for a map or directions. The way the image scrolls when you navigate around is a very nice feature. And looking at the satellite images is kind of interesting. As I said, though, I've discovered yet another new feature. It's Google Local. It's essentially a yellow pages type of site, but with the Google Maps feature built in. All listings are labelled on the map for easy reference. You can also view both the map version or a satellite image. Granted, like any map site, it's not perfect. For instance, the location of Foodee's Pizza in Essex Junction, VT is actually where a tea shop is. Since Foodee's is in a strip mall, though, I think it's close enough. The good folks at Google continue to amaze me.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

More Fun With Surveys

I just saw this story on about a Gallup poll concerning the airline industry. The survey shows 75% of respondents are happy with the job airlines are doing. That sounds like a really good result for the industry until you consider that only 55% of those respondents (577/1040) have flown in the past 12 months. Sure, it'd be easy for me to think the airlines were doing fine if I hadn't flown recently. Delays. Lost luggage. Delays. Rude service. Delays. No amenities. Oh, and did I mention the delays? On a recent trip from Chicago to Burlington, VT, I arrived at O'Hare at about 2:30 PM Sunday afternoon. After multiple delays, reroutings, and missed connections, I rented a car at La Guardia and drove the rest of the way home, arriving at 2:30 AM Tuesday morning. 36 hours, 17 of which was spent waiting in various airports. If I had driven from the beginning, I could have made a round-trip and had a full night's sleep in the middle. And someone I was travelling with did not get his luggage for nearly a week afterwards. Everyone I know who has flown recently has had at least one bad experience. I would venture to guess that the 25% that were not happy (260 respondents) were almost all in the 55% that had flown in the past 12 months. If so, that makes 45% of respondents who had flown in the past 12 months were not happy with the job the airlines are doing. That sounds about right to me.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Why I like Google better than Yahoo

So, I just stumbled across a "search engine" called The front page looks like Google, but the logo makes it clear that it's a blend of Yahoo and Google. In fact, all this engine does is split the screen into two, showing you Google's results on one side and Yahoo's results on the other. Kind of neat if you want to do a quick comparison of the results.

One this this site does is to reaffirm two reasons why I like Google better than Yahoo. First, Google is faster. Every time I entered new criteria, Google returned results before Yahoo did. Second, Google is more accurate. For example, I was looking for an article I had seen on Slashdot reporting that 99.8% of complaints received by the FCC came from one small, conservative activist group. So the search criteria was "slashdot fcc complaints one group." On Google, the correct article is the first link listed. On Yahoo, this article was not even in the top 100 listed. There were several links that were referring to this story. And number 42 was a search result from Slashdot that contained a link to the story. But the story itself was not to be found by Yahoo. Those are the two big reasons I prefer Google.


I just watched a trailer for an incredibly old movie. The movie, L'Inferno (based on Dante's Inferno), was released in 1911 and was the first Italian feature length film. It really is a bit amazing to watch this when you think how old it is. To put this in perspective, consider Giuseppe de Liguoro, the director and actor who played Ugolino. He was born in 1869, which would make him 42 at the time the movie was released. Based on the assumption that people have their first child at 25 (I have no idea how accurate that number is, but let's just assume...), that would imply Liguoro's first grandchild was born in 1919. That's the year after WWI. If that grandchild were alive today, he/she would be 86 years old. Thus, for some of the people that you see in that trailer, their grandchildren have been born, lived full lives, and died. That just seems to be a rather mind-boggling fact.

In this day and age, we take movies and special effects for granted. It is wonderful when we get the opportunities to look back at things like this from the past and reflect on the roots of our modern art.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

The worst good idea ever

OK, maybe this isn't actually the worst, but this is a really bad idea. A couple of Congressmen are proposing an amendment to an energy bill that would extend daylight-saving time by 2 months. The idea is that more people are awake between 5 and 6 PM than between 5 and 6 AM. So, if you have daylight go later for longer, then more people could go without turning on the lights in the early evening. I.e., you would reduce the energy consumption for early evening light.

While I applaud the idea of using radical means to reduce energy consumption, this particular suggestion is a very bad idea and I hope it fails. Messing with daylight-saving time is not just a simple matter of remembering to set your clock back in November instead of September. Instead, this would involve updating the operating system on every computer in the world. The alternative would be to manually change the time zone on your computer from September to November. So I, living in the Eastern time zone in the U.S., would have to set my computer to the Canadian Atlantic time zone for those two months, before switching back to Eastern.

As a means of comparison, consider Y2K. The problem was that programmers got the time from the operating system, then stored the year as a 2 digit number instead of a 4 digit one. But the operating system was set to have the right time. Not all programs did this, though. The billions spent on Y2K involved looking at the programs, determining if it was affected, and fixing it if so. With this daylight-saving change, if there is a single program on your computer affected, then all of your programs are affected. The reason is that you have to update the operating system for that one program, which in turn means a new version of the operating system for all the others. This is because operating system updates do not come as small, stand-alone pieces. Instead, you get things like a Microsoft XP Service Pack. That SP will contain the updated clock, but it will also contain thousands of other updates, any of which could cause your computer or program to crash. On my team, when we updated the operating system we were using (going from AIX 4.3.3 to AIX 5.1), we spent 6-8 months doing qualification testing.

So how much of a problem is having the wrong time on a computer? Imagine showing up for a flight only to find that it left an hour ago because the airport's computers had the wrong time. Imagine an engineer setting the wrong trajectory on a new satellite, causing it to crash into an existing one, because his computer had the wrong time setting. There are many scenarios where things like this could happen. Sure, your first reaction is to think that the engineer mentioned here would be smart enough to avoid a mistake like that. That is, until you remember that brilliant (and, yes, I mean that sincerely and without sarcasm) engineers at NASA lost data on a Huygens experiment because they forgot to turn a single instrument on. Other scientists have caused huge failures because they calculated values using English measurements instead of metric ones.

So, unless they create the goal of implementing this change about 20 years in the future, I think this is a really bad idea and needs to fail. There are other, more feasible ways to save energy. How about tax credits for buying a car with over 30 mpg and tax debits for buying one with less than 20 mpg? Make the owner of that Hummer pay an extra $30K per year in taxes. That'll certainly make people think twice before buying a fuel inefficient vehicle. As a side note, yes, there are tax credits for buying an electric or hybrid car. However, there are non-electrics that also get incredibly good gas mileage, some nearly as good as hybrids. The reward should be for reducing oil usage, not exclusively for supporting an emerging technology.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Why does Windows still suck?

I bookmarked this article a few months ago and just got around to reading it now. It is interesting that after all the crap you go through with Microsoft products, they are still dominant. Perhaps if Microsoft put more of an effort into working on the kernel instead of writing flight simulator programs that run inside Excel 97, they'd have fixes to these issues. And kudos to the writer of the article for mentioning Linux. After 2 and a half years of running RedHat (version 8 first, now Fedora), I have yet to have a problem with my home desktop that hasn't been related to hardware (bum power supply). And I keep that up, running, and connected to the internet 24x7. I definitely like Apple. If they could build in a nicely integrated command-line interface (gotta get my scripting fix) and worked with the 3 button/intelliscroll mouse, I would definitely consider buying one. But for now, I'll stick with Fedora (though I've also heard Gentoo is really nice).

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Orson Scott Card

So, I just finished reading this lengthy essay by Orson Scott Card that essentially states that gay marriage will be the end of society. I had never heard of Card, apparently a famous science fiction writer whose novels ironically espouse tolerance, before reading two webcomics. One, Something Positive, had a series where one character, Mike, can't decide if he wants to go to a Card autograph session. Growing up, he loved Card's novels. But now he isn't sure if he can reconcile that with Card's recent writings. The other Queen of Wands mentioned the Card dilemma in recent commentary. Both comics echoed the same thing. Card, once a hero of both writers, is now diminished in their eyes.

Mr. Card's essay is one of the worst examples I've ever seen of a rant that blurs the lines between issues to the point that consistent logic is impossible. [As a side note, yes, I admit that my blog posts can do the same at times, but I don't think mine are ever this bad.] First, he refers to marriage as the way to reign in "natural activities" like male pomiscuity. He then states that gay and lesbian couples cannot be marriages because they are outside of the "cycle of life" (a phrase he uses often). I.e., that are not natural for the survival of the race. So, certain natural tendencies are good but others are bad. And Mr. Card is to be the judge of which is which.

In a letter to the editor response called "No Teetering Here", Bob Herman mentions the inconsistency that Card's argument does not extend to post-menopausal women and impotent men. In his essay, Card states, "At the same time, parents recognize that non-parents are not as trustworthy caretakers." And yet, "All heterosexual marriages, with or without children, present normalizing role models that affirm the institution of marriage; childless people can still function as effective surrogate parents in society at large, encouragin children to remain within the cycle of life." So, I believe it's pretty safe to say that sterile couples are outside the cycle of life. They cannot produce children. So why are those couples able to encourage children to remain within the cycle of life, but gay couples cannot?

I'm not going to get into refuting logic point-by-point because I don't have the time. However, I wanted to point out a few more intriguing quotes. One such quote is, "In the first place, no law in any state in the United States now or ever has forbidden homosexuals to marry. The law has never asked that a man prove his heterosexuality in order to marry a woman, or a woman hers in order to marry a man. Any homosexual man who can persuade a woman to take him as her husband can avail himself of all the rights of husbandhood under the law." I've seen the results of this. My cousin married a man who turned out to be gay. It ended in divorce. Is Mr. Card trying to encourage unstable relationships?

Then there is this one: "In order to claim that they are deprived, you have to change the meaning of 'marriage' to include a relationship that it has never included before this generation, anywhere on earth." When I first read this sentence in the context of the article, it struck me as odd. The essay seems to blame the Massachusetts Supreme Court for this gay marriage dilemma. It gives the first impression that this is only something existing in modern America. Then I realized I was viewing that last part of the sentence as two facts rather than one. In fact, during this current generation, many countries have changed their marriage laws. So apparently the MSC is not the devil. They are just the dolts doing the will of the devil.

One of my favorites is this one here. "And yet, throughout the history of human society -- even in societies that tolerated relatively open homosexuality at some stages of life -- it was always expected that children would be born into and raised by families consisting of a father and mother." On the surface, this seems like a fairly valid point. However, it is laughable coming from Mr. Card. Mr. Card is a devout Mormon. So, it is absurd for someone of a religion with polygamous roots to state that every society has always expected monogamous parenting.

One quote that is absolutely disgusting is the following: "However emotionally bonded a pair of homosexual lovers may feel themselves to be, what they are doing is not marriage. Nor does society benefit in any way from treating it as if it were." At best, this statement reveals an ignorance of the definition of "benefit." At worst, it is utterly demeaning. Large corporations now offer benefits to same-sex partners exactly as they would to married couples. Why would they do this if there is no benefit? Because they know that people with stable, happy home lives are far more productive than those that aren't. If society were to provide proper recognition of the commitments that many same-sex couples are making, these couples would be far more productive in their work, which benefits society, in turn.

OK, I'm done going through individual points. For me to do that to all of them, I would be here all day. What I really wanted to get to was the fact that there are three fundamental issues underlying my disagreement with Mr. Card. First, my view (or definition, if you will) of marriage is, in fact, vastly different than Mr. Card's. His is child-centric. Mine is family-centric. I will explain below. Second, Mr. Card tries to portray himself as wholeheartedly democratic. Put everything to a vote. Fortunately, our Framers were more intelligent than that and incorporated checks and balances into the Constitution. Third, Mr. Card's view of "natural behavior" seems so egregiously negative that I would hate to know what really goes on in his mind.

For the first point, Mr. Card makes it very clear that the purpose of marriage is to have children or aid in doing so. Everything is about the continuous cycle of life. Even those couples that can't have children are still encouraging this cycle by providing an example of the proper pairing. Because, apparently, the next generation will only figure out how to procreate if everyone in this generation enters a heterosexual union. Strangely absent in Mr. Card's rebuttal concerning sterile pairings are the DINK grouping. I.e., what about couples who enter into marriage with no intent or desire to procreate? Surely they are not providing a proper example of the continuous cycle of life. Every argument Mr. Card makes about marriage is entire about doing what is necessary for having and raising children. Nothing else matters. That is patently absurd and insulting. Marriage is a union of souls and a union of lives. It is about loving someone so completely that you are willing to commit your life to being with them and no one else. Having and raising children is the ultimate expression of this love. Even after that happens, though, the marriage must still be about more than just the children. The relationship of the parents needs to continue to grow and evolve to deeper levels. In doing so, the parents will be able to offer even more love and security to the children. Thus, the focus of the marriage is the whole family. Not the children.

Mr. Card lambasts the courts that have overstepped their boundaries. "Activist judges" is the term that is in vogue to describe this. He ends his rebuttal to Mr. Herman by saying, "Studies have shown that when you let dumb people vote, it works out way better than letting experts make all the political decisions." I.e., absolute democracy is the greatest thing in the world and should never be questioned. I wonder how he would feel if a large group of people got sick of Mormons coming to their door and managed to get a law passed that made missions illegal. In that case, in step the courts to repeal this law on the basis that it violates the Free Practice clause. Mr. Card then goes on to state that previous progress (women's suffrage, ending slavery) has been done through the process of amending the Constitution. Sure, the 13th-15th Amendments made blacks equal in the eyes of the law. However, it took a ruling of the court (Brown v. the Board of Education) to enforce these laws. Passing laws through majority vote is not adequate in and of itself. The Framers recognized this. Replacing tyrannical rule by the one with tyrannical rule by the many is still tyranny. A system of checks and balances must be created to prevent a majority from trampling the rights of the few. The anti-court rantings of Mr. Card and other conservatives ring like the whiny complaints of activists unable to push their beliefs through legislation.

The last point is the way Mr. Card talks about civilization as a way to suppress certain natural behaviors. He makes the point that, "Civilization depends on people deliberately choosing not to do many things that feel good at the time, in order to accomplish more important, larger purposes." Right before that, he describes, "If it feels good, do it!" as the slogan of immaturity and barbarism. He later refers to the "natural barbaric impulses of the male mating drive." Barbarism. So man's natural state is barbarism. He goes on, "Civilization requires the suppression of natural impulses that would break down the social order. Civilization thrives only when most members can be persuaded to behave unnaturally, and when those who don't follow the rules are censured in a meanigful way." These statements reveal Mr. Card's belief that human nature is fundamental barbaric and evil. Suppression of human nature is the only way to achieve civil society and civil society can only be wrought by suppression of human nature. If this is the case, why are children revered for their innocence? If human nature is so barbaric, children must be reviled as sources of evil until they prove their ability to function in civil society. I do not agree with this idea that human nature is always bad and civilization is always good. That argument is a complicated one and I have already spent way too much time on this post.

So I will simply end with saying that I fundamentally disagree with the underlying assumptions of Card's essay.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Interesting Surveys

I was just looking at the results of a Gallup poll asking who people thought was the greatest American president. Reagan came in first with 20% and Clinton came in second with 15%. To me, that seems to imply that 35% of the respondents are partisan idiots.

To start with Reagan, you have 42% of Republicans voting for him. That's 3 times more than the number that voted for Lincoln. Yes, Reagan was quite possibly the strongest driving force toward ending the Cold War. For that, there is no doubt that he should be commended. It must be acknowledged, though, that Reagan's Cold War accomplishments could not have been possible without the groundwork done by previous presidents. Most notably, Nixon's diplomatic work with China. However, in addition to the good work that he did, you also had Iran-Contra, for which he should have been impeached. And the invasion of Grenada, the aftermath of which has led to leadership by a "conservative and corrupt elite." Then, you have Reaganomics. A.k.a., trickle down economics or supply side theory. The vast majority of economists agree that trickle down theory is a bunch of wishful thinking. If you give a billionaire an extra $1 million, they're not going to turn around and invest that $1 million in opportunities that will lead to jobs for thousands. He'll invest a small portion of it, but not nearly the amount the trickle down theorists believe. And of course, there's AIDS, which I believe is Reagan's greatest error. A great leader would have listened to the advice of the doctors doing the research and taken a bold stand to support that research. Instead, he ignored it because the social conservatives would have crucified him due to its correlation at the time with gay sex. Yes, Reagan did some good things. But the greatest president? Definitely not.

That brings me to Clinton. The most moderate president in recent history for certain. Yes, he was popular. Yes, he helped to enact a lot of good, pro-environment legislation. Yes, there was an economic boom. Yes, he was very skilled at the art of compromise, as evidenced in the Don't Ask/Don't Tell policy for the Armed Forces. Yes, he gave us many humorous quotes ("I didn't inhale."). But he also gave us Waco, Whitewater, and Monicagate/Zippergate. He committed perjury and was impeached. He failed to act during the Rwandan genocide. The economic policies that led to that boom were also what led to some of the corrupt accounting tricks that led to the recent corporate scandals. But the thing that aggravates me the most is that he didn't learn. He had faced sex scandals before. Yet, he continued to engage in the activities that led to such scandals. Had he not given the lunatic, right-wing fringe the easy target, he could have accomplished so much more. Again, the greatest president? Not even close. I imagine Clinton's long-term legacy will be more like Andrew Johnson's, who is primarily known as the other president who was impeached.

So who is the greatest? I can't decide for sure, but I can think of 5 names. In chronological order, Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, and JFK. Washington led the colonial forces in war to gain our independence from the world's strongest empire of the time. He established the de facto 2 term limit tradition that was followed for almost 150 years. As an independent, he tried to warn against the practice of political parties because of the corruption that leads into such groups. Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and one of the driving philosophical forces behind the founding principles of our country. He made the Louisiana Purchase and supported the Lewis & Clark expedition. Lincoln ended slavery and prevented the nation from splitting in two. FDR led the country out of the Great Depression and was in command for the vast majority of WWII. JFK was perhaps the most dynamic, inspirational leader the country has seen. He founded the Peace Corps. When the world held its breath during the Cuban Missile Crisis, he stood strong and told the Soviets that he would not allow them to build an arsenal of nuclear weapons 90 miles from our coast. Putting a man on the moon was his vision.

I am not saying that these men were flawless. If they were president today, Jefferson, FDR and JFK would have been faced the same public flogging as Clinton did for their sex scandals. However, the legacies of these five far surpass the combined accomplishments of Reagan and Clinton.

It is curious to note, though, the way the vote broke down by age group. The most popular among 18-29 year-olds (who tend to be more liberal) was Clinton. The most popular among 30-49 year-olds (who are more conservative) was Reagan. The oldest of that group would have been 7 or 8 years old when JFK was shot. So, it is my completely unproven hunch that the majority of respondents in these age groups voted for the person they liked most among their party's recent presidents. Hence, Clinton came in first for the Dems and Reagan came in first for the Repubs. For independents, both of these came behind Lincoln, JFK, and FDR.

So my conclusion is, as I said much more harshly above, that most respondents let their votes be influenced by their personal politics than by facts. It was an interesting study to think about.