Filthy infidel, can you give us your bankcard PIN too?
When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number, and date of birth.

Since 1967, in the American armed forces, the Social Security number is the service number. One's "last four" is commonly used as a shorthand identifier when recording or speaking the entire number is impractical.

There is a world of difference between using your Social Security number as an identifier when attending university, or accessing your bank records on line, for example, and using this number as a master identifier in the armed services.

If you are captured or your body is recovered by the armed forces of an enemy, they automatically receive that magical short sequence of digits that are the keys to your medical records, tax records, investments, credit, mortgage, everything. People who want to hurt you have the most powerful, effective, and thorough means to do so.

Would an organization like Al-Qa'eda hesitate to take advantage of this information? Would they refuse to open lines of credit in a captured serviceman's name? Would they somehow find it below them to interrupt phone service or change the address of the family of a soldier they killed, or pay them a visit?

It's stamped on your service ID card. It's embossed in the aluminum of your dog tags. You stencil it on your duffel bag. It is recorded on every form that has anything to do with you.

All the more reason we must get rid of it.

The military routinely orders its members to memorize a mind-numbing litany of dates, places, names, sequences of alphanumeric characters, and symbols already. So the precedent exists to require an accessee to memorize a randomly assigned 9-digit number, stamp it on his uniforms, grid it into computer-scanned forms, and so forth. Then they can stop collecting and using the Social Security number. They will never ask for it again, and never print it again except for one spot on his pay stub, where he is told how much FICA has been bled from him the last two weeks. And the last-four would suffice there.

It will take months or years to remove one's Social Security number from the thousands of fields where it has been recorded. It will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, at least. Databases will have to be overhauled to wholesale-replace the number, and possibly to teach that software to accept alphas in addition to numerals as the new service number starts to propagate. All the more reason to get started right now.

There will be a modest cost saving, because all of the forms that collect the Social Security number today require proper storage and disposal. The new service number, because it is connected to the old one at only one point in the payroll system, doesn't carry the old number's potential for abuse.


I told them it's shite, but they continue to eat it
Dodgeblog opines:
"pop music in the UK has been utter shite for a considerable period of time. The top of the chart last week was a group clearly ripping off Elvis with a remix track. (Wonk alert: yes I know Elvis spent most of his career ripping off black musicians, but does that it make right, either?) "

Wait a minute. This just underscores the point that Lawrence Lessig maks, and Glenn Reynolds agrees with, that art is normally derivative, and necessarily so. The law is too harsh, and allows too much protection to the established music industry, because it enforces too much protection over artistic intellectual property---it protects too well against "ripping off" by other artists.

A derivative work can still be shite, and deserves to be dissed if it's shite. Don't diss it merely because it's derived or ripped off.
If derivation-as-art gets a little more respect, and legal protection, it will disrupt the cash flow to the record companies who market and distribute the shite, making room in the ecosystem for labels that make less shite---and more original music.
Just a minor reorganization
A new category of links has appeared on the left, to identify blogs by military folk.
The error is mine
To correct an email of mine to Coyote, which he then posted, GI AR's have 1-turn-in-7" rifling twist. Some aftermarket shops offer both 1:7 and 1:9. Or, as the rollmarks show it, "1/7."

Maybe the M249's have the slower 1-in-9" twist.


how 'bout girls on trampolines!
The Blogosphere recently volleyed about a study of advertising effectivenes versus placement with sexual and violent content. After days of Googling, I couldn't find any scent of this topic. (Presumably because my short-term memory of where I found the posts was, er, affected by the mention of sex and violence.)

Now that study has been debunked by Iain Murray at TCS.

"The researchers then asked the participants what they remembered of the adverts (for neutral products such as snacks or laundry detergent) screened during the shows. "

Emphasis mine.
Neutral products, ptui! According to mothers-in-law everywhere, bachelors and husbands who stay up late to watch The Man Show don't buy laundry detergent. The former scavenge the stuff they find abandoned in laundromats (there's always a nice little pile of the powder crusted on the top of the washer, just under the lid). The latter leave it to the wife.

Had the study examined the power of sex and violence to influence purchasing behavior for products related to the programming where the ads were placed, in comparison to "neutral" products, the results would have been meaningful. Say, St. Pauli Girl costumes and trampolines.

This was really a study of meta-advertising---how do you advertise, if you are selling advertising spots on PAX TV?
MommaBear: please recommend me some music. I have affinity for Led Zeppelin, Emerson Lake and Palmer, liked the first 2 Public Image Limited albums. The collaboration between Brian Eno and David Bowie, "Low." Three jobs ago I had a friend at work who recommended stuff, he's long out of touch.

There's got to be some music out there that I will kick myself for missing. Tell me who/what I might like. Go out on a limb---I sure as hell do.


Where will it all end?
I hear that the flight attendants' unions are reluctant to back the move to arm pilots because there's no measure to arm them.

That request is more than reasonable. The Al-Qa'eda hijackers slashed the throats of flight attendants before they murdered the flight crews. It would be surprising should the flight attendants not insist on the permission to arm, whether the pilots win it for themselves or not.

Those complete idiots who argue that the job of flying the plane is so complex and demanding that pilots can't be charged with defending it, should hear from flight attendants, who are not flying the damned plane, and will always be able to free one hand, draw a Kahr, and do what
Fritz Hollings says the pilots cannot.

Flight attendants are responsible for the safety, not just the comfort, of passengers. They are trained to get people off the craft in case of fire or crash. They are trained to size up passengers who are inebriated, ill, or unhinged. They are in constant contact with the passengers and have some understanding of how they tick, and they are in regular contact with the flight deck.

They are in uniform, usually a conservative design that allows for several concealment opportunities. The armed flight attendant will also have a better understanding of how to conceal various weapons, so he or she will be better qualified to spot them.

Add to this population the flight attendants and crew who are riding in standby on the flight, in uniform or not. These people are always known to the flight attendants on duty in the cabin. If the program were to include off-duty attendants, there would be a legal obligation for them to identify themselves to the crew, (those very few) air marshals, and on-duty flight attendants, and there would be a discreet opportunity to do so out of sight of the passengers. They have means to coordinate discreetly with each other during flight.

Let me go out on my usual limb here: the flight attendants I've seen go about 3-to-1 female to male. The women appear to be in an age range, physical build, alertness and intelligence comparable to the career military population (does their population overlap with the reserve military population, like flight-deck folks?). If anything, female flight attendants appear to maintain better body-fat index than career military women, but that topic/flamewar is for another day. Overall, that population handles firearms just dandy if taught well, but then, try to name a population that does not.

Still on my limb: the male flight attendants I've seen are slightly less fit than same-age men in the career military population, but still better than the overall American male population (this says more about the military than about flight attendants). In no way are they as a group not capable of the demands.

If my friend the pilot for Large Unnamed Airline is correct (you'd better be sitting down, this will come as a complete surprise to you), a good portion of this male population is gay. I will not venture a ratio. This fact does not affect hand-eye coordination, breath control, or concentration. If the gay community is not taking to the Modern Technique of the Pistol in droves, it is because they, or the leaders of their politicized interest groups, have to put aside their stereotypes of gunowners. That consciousness-raising has begun, and the word "empowerment" is used to express the epiphany these people feel as they learn to sock the X ring. Who can be against empowerment?

So: flight attendants are in the right place at the right time to apply that kind of force; they are arguably better-placed to do so than the pilots. Their employers train them in other lifesaving skills, so they can be trusted with lethal-force decisions. They are already held responsible by their employers and by statute for the safety and order of the cabin. They are more fit than the general population for the demands of managing the defensive handgun. Their schedules and mobility allow them to choose from a number of schools that would welcome them. Just allow them to deduct the cost of the piece and the training from their adjusted gross income.

Another friend of mine replied, when I suggested support for armed pilots, "where will it all end?" Well, it will works for pilots if it is tried, and it will work for flight attendants too. It will probably work in many other areas, such as ticket counters.

If we are not allowed to protect ourselves, inevitably every one of us will need an armed guard standing over us. Where will that end?