Friday, April 03, 2009

Comments on Belmont Club
"The arithmetic of news"

Many bad things in the Obama administration are emanations from the Clinton years. Remember Wen Ho Lee and the Bundlers? The millions of phantom small donors that donated via the unsecured web system to Obama's campaign were a refinement on that. No need to send Al Gore to a Buddhist Temple, just set up Hamas operatives in Gaza with a PC and a list of stolen credit card numbers.

wretchard is correct with a proposed refinement.
Rumsfeld's Razor

The problem is no longer Rumdfeld's "Unknown unknowns" but the deliberate desire to create a wilderness of mirrors to prevent the reflective study of issues needed for the citizenry to give informed consent. Journalism becomes replaced by melodrama or conspiracy mongering that creates an atmosphere of helpless paranoia. That reduces the electoral process at best to an emotional referendum.

When I was a Junior Officer I performed the ritual known as inspecting the troops. Sometimes it could be fun, as when we were returning to port after a long deployment and the guys would put a hat and a pair of shoes on the deck so that I would stop and ask "Who is this?" and they could reply "Seaman Short Sir" or a guy would show up in dungarees with his dress uniform in a dry cleaning bag to prove it was inspection ready. The lesson for me there was, never stop people from acting cute, we all need comedy. Civilians have asked about inspections as if they were some big mystery. Is the officer some incredible genius with a superior attention to detail that ferrets out each flaw? Of course not, the trick is in fact simple. You have six or twenty or forty men lined up. One looks different. Bingo. We learn from new and unexpected information. We learn to recognize outliers from our data set. The ways that our ability to gain knowledge fails fall into (guess how many?) three categories.
1. New situations where we don't have prior data to measure against.
     Anybody know how to wear the new uniforms?
2. Corruption or collusion among the sample pool.
     Everybody looks the same, wait a second, nobody shaved.
3. Balancing of priorities on the part of the observer.
     The Admiral inspected a fan room and asked one of my men 3 Questions:
        a. Is this your space Son?
        b. Do you know what is wrong in this space?
        c. Am I going to find it?
     The answer was "No Admiral," the Inspection ended with all of us happy.
OK, add variable number four and call it Schrodinger's Cat or the GE Effect. There sometimes is or is not new information to discover because you are looking for it.

The dirty secret of the Marine Corps is that they are the true home of the Liberal Arts among the Armed Forces.
The Navy is focused on the back end of the Ship and the Air Force, well OK I meant to limit myself to military branches but still, they focus on Industrial Organization and Human Resource Management Theory like they believe that stuff and the Army has always been devoted to Engineering and Artillery as the fast tracks, although they would find Brains and then hide them until needed. A friend of mine 25 years ago was a damn good Officer of Marines and a French major at Berkeley.

I heard that a study that examined the services by socio/economic background of the enlisted entrants had the following ranking.

1. Coast Guard, say what you want the quality of the Knee Deeps are
2. The Marines, if you are going into a tough situation do it with the best.
3. The Air Force, it's the best hospitality industry outfit out there.
4. The Navy, the Soviet troops mutinied and couldn't get to Finland but the
     US Navy troops can do it all.
5. The Army, as an economist I know all the arguments for an all
     volunteer force and I still think that we should draft everyone for 6
     months of training after the 17th birthday and then recruit a more
     middle class army by limiting non-service related scholarships.

michael hoskins,
My Department Head once asked why I requisitioned a big set of special request chits, the old 4 color paged carbon paper probably cost a fortune type. He was pleased when I explained that I had the troops fill them out for requests for Special Overtime Pay whenever they bitched. I had Deck Division, all stories were true. I faithfully filed the requests in my bottom drawer so we could have a laugh over them later. The troops knew they were getting nothing but giving them an outlet to record their frustration worked. Nowadays they would probably complain to the world off the ship via email or blogs, much more destructive.

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