I've come late to the ongoing "debate" on health care reform in the States because I just couldn't face what I knew would be insulting and infuriating. But now that I'm here, I'm glad I started with Glenn Greenwald.
Even though a good friend, probably Nate, told me years ago that sample size (after a certain point) does not significantly affect error, I've continued to have a bee in my bonnet about media sources not citing the margin of error when they cite poll results. It seems to me easy to do and therefore a red flag that they were hiding something from me.
Listening to the Bryant Park Project just now, they cited the results of a gallup poll which irritated my old wound and sent me a searchin'. So it seems to be true that the sampling error based on sampling size is fixed, but a greater determinant of the accuracy of a poll turns out to be the response rate, which is rarely reported.
It's in the news today that some members of the rugby team at Kanto Gakuin University have been charged with cultivation of marijuana. Somehow I had a feeling that foreigners, the root of all drugs in Japan, would somehow be implicated. Checking out the article in the Asahi online, I see that one of the accused claims that he got the seeds from Britain via mail order. Seems he didn't know that they are readily available for sale in Tokyo.
I do my damndest not to pay too close attention to US news. That is, I get my news from distinct places and therefore often don't have a good handle on what plays on mainstream media. That said, I don't know how much press the Custer Battles thing is getting back home, but I read the article below on Firedoglake and ended up disgusted. As a fairly staunch liberal...progressive...whatever the heck people are calling themselves these days, it comes relatively easy to spout my opinions about war profiteering in Iraq and Afghanistan. It wasn't much of a stretch for me to believe that KBR and other contractors were making a killing in Iraq. That under the premise that "privatization is always better", the American people on the whole were getting taken to the cleaners, and some people with current and former ties to the military-industrial complex were doing their version of the legislator to lobbyist metamorphoses that has been so lucrative in Washington. But some part of me always wanted to be wrong. At least by degrees.
here's an excerpt:
Perhaps it was fate that Scott Custer, a former U.S. Army Ranger, and Michael Battles, a failed Republican candidate for Congress in 2002, joined together to form the "business risk consultancy" Custer Battles, LLC. (Whoever thought that putting "Custer" and "Battles" together would signify "success" was terribly misinformed.)
Custer Battles’ rise from obscurity to winning a $16 million securities contract in Iraq was outlined in an August 13, 2004 article in the Wall Street Journal (full article posted at CB’s website):
In July , Scott Custer and Michael Battles, two former Army Rangers in their mid-30s, found themselves in charge of a $16 million contract to guard Baghdad’s airport. Barely funded with credit cards and money borrowed from a friend, their nine-month-old company had neither guns, accountants nor guards. It had to hire Nepalese Gurkhas to staff the project.
"For us, the fear and disorder offered real promise," says Mr. Battles, 34 years old, a onetime bull rider who served three years as a Central Intelligence Agency operative. (emphasis mine)
I think that quote pretty much sums of the whole reason why I am doing this series. It’s not, "we wanted to help" or "democracy in Iraq is a good thing." No, it’s "show me the money!" Heartless bastards.
The company that became Custer Battles could hardly have sprung from shallower roots. In late 2002, it was still in search of a name. Its co-founders considered Azimuth Partners, after the name of a compass point, but instead chose to name the company after themselves. Mr. Custer, 35, a distant relation of the ill-fated Gen. George Custer, concedes they draw giggles in Iraq, where it’s often noted that Custer was defeated by the locals. "We don’t really have a comeback," he says.
Doomed from the beginning.
Two days later, the company won the contract, beating companies with long histories in the business, including Texas-based Dyncorp International, a unit of Computer Sciences Corp., and the U.K.’s Armor Group International Ltd. Custer Battles’s bid was cheaper, but more important, it promised to have 138 guards on the ground within two weeks, faster than the others.
"We got that contract because we were young and dumb and didn’t know better," says Mr. Custer, a former Army captain who studied at Oxford and Georgetown universities. "Anyone with experience would have said they’d be there in eight weeks." (emphasis mine)
So incompetence was a requirement… now that makes sense.
Frank Hatfield, the senior U.S. airport official in Iraq at the time, says speed — not cost — was the deciding factor. All he wanted, he says, was an assurance Custer Battles could handle the contract.
Custer Battles lacked more than experience. No banks would lend it money. In the end, the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority lent it $2 million in $100 bills that Mr. Battles stuffed into a duffel bag and personally deposited in a bank in Lebanon.
They had only two weeks to set up the project. In mid-July last year, new hires mustered in Jordan and had to be convoyed across the desert. The company had to buy all its equipment from the U.S. with only three full-time employees in its Virginia office to help.
Less than 10 miles from the city center, Baghdad International Airport quickly emerged as perhaps the safest and best-placed real estate in Iraq. The company took full advantage. Custer Battles built kennels for 18 bomb-sniffing dogs beside the camp and has parlayed the animals into $16 million in Army contracts. It also used a terminal to house 40 Filipinos brought in to provide catering services. Frank Willis, one of several officials hired by the Coalition Provisional Authority to handle aviation issues, watched with shock and awe. As officials tried to get Custer Battles to explain the dogs and the Filipinos, the company had ready explanations. "It was always some colonel or ministry official who’d given the OK," says Mr. Willis. "These guys were absolute masters at working the chaos of a combat zone and cutting corners to make a profit."
They worry that a single calamity or mistake could topple their young operation […] (emphasis mine)
Was checking out Language Blogger today, which is a site that I only check from work. Just never got around to adding it to my newsreader at home. Which, of course, is no big shakes because the posts are fairly light and twice a week is more than often enough to check in. Today, I found a post from a few weeks back about some business related laws/terms being translated into English by the Japanese government to aid international commerce.
The Japanese government intends to translate business-related technical
terms and phrases from 14 major laws and whole texts of some of these
Seems like a good idea to me because at my job I often have to translate terms and wonder whether there is an established/accepted translation. Here's hoping that this happens sooner rather than later.
ps. - The link to the Yomiuri in the post has expired.