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Teaching the New York Times a little logic

Confederate Yankee has a rather good piece up that takes the New York Times to task for an article they published on body armor and the US Marines. CY points out that simply studying an object's failures paints an incomplete -- and, in this case, potentially life-threateningly so -- picture. One needs to look at samples of the object succeeding and failing, because simply fixing the flaws can result in compromising other areas that are working as intended.

To take CY's example of automobile accidents, it would be like looking at the Ford Pinto, where the gas tank was between the rear bumper and the rear axle, and therefore vulnerable to rupturing when rear-ended. By the New York Times' reasoning, the safest place to place the gas tank would be in the front seat, next to the driver -- ignoring the possibility of the car getting broadsided and the gas tank bursting right next to the driver.

I was reminded of a puzzler once used on Car Talk. In that case, it was the opposite circumstance -- the analysts only had access to the "successful" samples, as the failed ones were lost. But the solution was to study carefully the successes, and to extrapolate what they could about the failures -- and only then could they truly attack the problem.

Or, if you like, you can look at the Times' piece and come up with their ideal solution: each Marine will be clad head-to-toe in fully bulletproof armor at all times. They will be almost unable to move and most likely roast in the Iraqi heat, and be as vulnerable to bombs as all but our most heavily-armored vehicles, but they will be bulletproof.

Just don't expect them to be conscious, mobile, and in any way effective.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Teaching the New York Times a little logic:

» Macmind - Conservative Commentary and Common Sense linked with Let's Just Encase Them In Iron

» Iowa Voice linked with NYT's Body Armor Article

Comments (42)

Anything to avoid the issue... (Below threshold)

Anything to avoid the issue of them not having the armor they need.

Just get them what they need and quit playing popularity games. It's fucking disgusting.

And the point is that the N... (Below threshold)

And the point is that the NYTimes do not know what they need, and that the NYTimes has a real problem with object truth in reporting.

Man people, RTFA. It's tel... (Below threshold)

Man people, RTFA. It's telling that Jay Tea didn't even bother to put up the link to the original NYT article. If you actually read the article, you'd know that the NYT wasn't blithely making this stuff up -- it's from a Pentagon study. From the study itself: enlarging the shields "would have had the potential to alter the fatal outcome."

Where are the trial lawyers... (Below threshold)

Where are the trial lawyers when you need them?!

SO once again the proud cit... (Below threshold)

SO once again the proud citizens who support the administration reveal that party comes before country, before decency, before competence, before accountability, before reality. You guys are sounding like the Dems back in the late 90's - what is the definintion of "is"? Why don't we all give it a rest, get rid of the incompetent, corrupt, hypocritical crooks destroying our country (from both parties!) and make America what it once was. No, wait, that would take some serious honesty and action and no one at any of these sites seems to be able to do anything but play "gotcha" while twisting and/or ignoring the facts. Come on guys, we're smarter and better than this!

It really wasn't the Times ... (Below threshold)

It really wasn't the Times piece that did the study was it? I thought it was the Pentagon. Damn liberal Pentagon, always hating America.

Anyways, pretty dishonest post, or delibritely misleading if you prefer.

Answer me this: would having proper body armor (which is available) distributed to the US troops have saved lives? Why isn't it there? Wouldn't that be a far more useful thought line, rather than just blindly defending? You don't HAVE to defend, you know. At some point, it's okay to let go.

Uh Earl?In the lin... (Below threshold)

Uh Earl?

In the link Jay Tea provides the quoted NYTimes piece leads with the fact that it is a Pentagon study.

Nice way to avoid the points that Jay Tea via CY is making about the quoted parts of the study... just launch into a variation on Mrs. Lovejoy's "Won't anyone think about the children!"


Darleen -- if the study is ... (Below threshold)

Darleen -- if the study is flawed, so be it. That's a worthy point of debate. But re-read Jay Tea's headline: he (as well as the commenter before me) blames the messenger (the NY Times), not the actual authors of the study (the Pentagon).

But EarlI thought ... (Below threshold)

But Earl

I thought the Gray Lady was supposed to be the epitome of professional journalism and would actually raise such concerns/cautions about the study as JT and CY have presented.

Is the NYTimes that uncritical of studies originating from, say, Intelligent Design or pro-life groups?

The study was a Pentagon st... (Below threshold)

The study was a Pentagon study, as mentioned in the very first paragraph I quoted in my post... hardly a secret, or an attempt to be deceptive.

But some of you guys just can't seem to grasp the basic facts that the study, as a kind of failure analysis, only looked at incidents where the armor failed to prevent fatalities. By design it excluded every single incident where the armor worked as intended.

By design, a failure analysis looks at what didn't work to try to make improvements.

Let's use a hypothetical situation to help explain what some of you (obviously the Times target audience) can't seem to grasp.

We have a 20-man Marine foot patrol all wearing identical Interceptor body armor. They are ambushed, and through the miracle of hypothetical examples, 18 of the Marines take hits directly on their SAPI plates that they survive.

The 19th Marine turns sideways and takes a bullet through his shoulder that pentrates his upper torso and he dies. The 2oth soldier takes hits dead center in his SAPI plate, and dies when the plate fails.

Using failure analysis, 100% of the Marines in the study died (remember, those who survive don't count), and of those 50% died becuase of of plate failure, and 50% died becuase of what the Times article who charaterize as "inadequate" body armor, becuase the plates did not cover the Marine's shoulder.

Is it "true" according to this study that 50% of the armor plates in the study failed, and is it true that in the study, the armor failed to provide enough protection 50% of the time?

Yes and yes.

But the study isn't designed to explain that 90% of the entire group of Marines were saved by their armor, and the Times author, quite happy to lie with statistics, certainly isn't going to let you know otherwise.

The Times author is relying on using this lack of knowledge to deceive the reader - you - to sell you what he wants you to believe.

He's tricking you, using what you don't know to sway your opinion. I, for one, get pissed when I discover that someone is lying to me.

This isn't about Bush, or the Pentagon.

This is about the New York Times lying to it's readers.

Perfect example of how easy... (Below threshold)

Perfect example of how easy it is to lie by by statistics. You cant count on polls, studies etc... unless you know and understand the methods. That is why peer review is so important. Perr review fails when all parties are biased

Again, a more important que... (Below threshold)

Again, a more important question CY - why don't they have body armor? Have you thought off tackling that one?

As Paul pointed out to me r... (Below threshold)

As Paul pointed out to me recently, the art of READING is a lost art. Again well demonstated by the comments here. JT's detractors demonstrate a basic lighting rod reflex - once a certain phrase or general concept trips the circuit, the critiques that miss the context come pouring out. Paul's Napa satire did it, and this critical essay did it. It is is shame to see the potential for some real discussion descend so quickly, as with the first post, into Roseanna Roseannadanna monologues that sadly never end with a "never mind."

And nary a link or backup t... (Below threshold)

And nary a link or backup to the argument that Marines don't have the body armor they need. After all, everyone knows they don't have any, 'cause, well, everyone knows that, right?

Anything to ignore the subj... (Below threshold)

Anything to ignore the subject of the posting.

Anything to ignore the s... (Below threshold)

Anything to ignore the subject of the posting.

Wrong, epador. The subject of the posting, "Teaching the New York Times a Little Logic" was that the NYT committed a logical fallacy. My point was simply that if there's a fallacy, it was by the Pentagon report.

Reading is a lost art, indeed.

First jp2 if you read all o... (Below threshold)

First jp2 if you read all of the NYTimes article in the back paragraphs is all the details to answer much of your "why don't they" question.

and Jay Tea? CY This is a good followup:

U.S. soldiers in the field were not all supportive of a Pentagon study that found improved body armor saves lives, with some troops arguing Saturday that more armor would hinder combat effectiveness [...]
Second Lt. Josh Suthoff, 23, of Jefferson City, Miss., said he already sacrifices enough movement when he wears the equipment. More armor would only increase his chances of getting killed, he said. [...]

The study and their remarks highlight the difficulty faced by the Army and Marine Corps in providing the best level of body armor protection in a war against an insurgency whose tactics are constantly changing.

Both the Army and the Marines have weighed the expected payoff in additional safety from extra armor against the measurable loss of combat effectiveness from too much armor.ahem

Whoops PIMF blockquotes sho... (Below threshold)

Whoops PIMF blockquotes should have been:

U.S. soldiers in the field were not all supportive of a Pentagon study that found improved body armor saves lives, with some troops arguing Saturday that more armor would hinder combat effectiveness [...]
Second Lt. Josh Suthoff, 23, of Jefferson City, Miss., said he already sacrifices enough movement when he wears the equipment. More armor would only increase his chances of getting killed, he said. [...]
The study and their remarks highlight the difficulty faced by the Army and Marine Corps in providing the best level of body armor protection in a war against an insurgency whose tactics are constantly changing.
Both the Army and the Marines have weighed the expected payoff in additional safety from extra armor against the measurable loss of combat effectiveness from too much armor.

Veerrryyyy slowly I'll expl... (Below threshold)

Veerrryyyy slowly I'll explain it, since you obviously can't figure it out on your own from all the links and analysis provided. Individual soldiers, sailors and Marines in the U.S. military are far better armored now they they have been at any point in history.

Every single Marine killed in this study was wearing Interceptor armor.

Brand new, upgraded versions of this armor are being manufactured and sent to troops as fast as possible, but even this will not prevent all fatalities. Some soldiers, sailors and Marines will not wear all available armor because it hampers their mobility. What the Times will not tell you is that we have the best armored military in human history. So much for objective reporting.

As a matter of pure fact, both Marines in the hypothetical would have been killed no matter which variant of Interceptor armor they were wearing.

In war, people die.

Even the good guys.

So there is no shortage of ... (Below threshold)

So there is no shortage of armor now?

Darleen: citing one example of a soldier not wanting armor does not help your point. Hell, I remember one soldier asking Rumsfeld point blank why they were under-equipped. You'll find many soldiers bought their own armor, or had their family do it for them.

From Awesome Fox News:

"Congress has allocated funds for all U.S. troops to wear 16-pound, ceramic-plated Interceptor body armor (search), but as many as 51,000 American soldiers and civilian administrators in Iraq have not yet been equipped with the gear, and have been asking friends and families at home to purchase and send them off-the-shelf models for protection."

USA Today:
"Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who serves on the Armed Services subcommittee, said she knows soldiers who were told by the military to buy body armor before leaving, rather than risk arriving with nothing but their shirts."

Again - why was their a shortage of armor? Or do you agree with Rumsfeld that you just go to war with the army you have?

jp2:Wow, way to qu... (Below threshold)


Wow, way to quote a more than 2 year old (roughly 26 month old) Fox News article, and a (roughly) 21 old USA Today article.

This supports your argument about body armor shortages happening in the present how exactly?

Please, get some up to date articles and evidence.

Were there shortages? Yes, at one time there were. Are there current shortages? Who knows, perhaps if you could provide some up to date articles instead of having to go 2 years in the past and act like you have hard evidence of the present.

But, the NYT would be ECSTA... (Below threshold)

But, the NYT would be ECSTATIC if the Marines in Iraq were in this situation and therefore useless, because they would be FLOODED with bad news. Never forget, the NYT (and most of "the left") WANT US TO FAIL, simply so they can "get Bush".

Sorry about the double post... (Below threshold)

Sorry about the double post.

"...(roughly) 21 old USA Today article." Should read as "... (roughly) 21 month old USA Today article."

By the way - in the case of... (Below threshold)

By the way - in the case of the Ford Pinto - the thing did not blow up at low speed impacts because of the location of the gas tank.

It was because a screw in the back was 1/4 inch too long, and at even low impacts, would pierce the tank, causing it to explode.

Most importantly, the executives and the board of directors KNEW about this defect before production; it would have cost .04 cents per car to fix it, and they decided they'd rather pay the death benefits in the random accidents than fix the screw on the thousands of cars.

THAT's why Ford lost that case.

Just thought I'd add in what that case really stood for.

Since we're talking about a... (Below threshold)

Since we're talking about armor, there is a historical precedent. Once upon a time, elite members of the army, pseudo-special forces, were equiped with the best armor available. It was capable of defeated most weapons used in warfare and rendered these warlords of the battlefield nigh invincible. Of course it also made them slow and encumbered, but what the hell. Then a special weapon was invented that could penetrate said armor. Even low level irregulars started carrying this super weapon. Some warriors moved on to even heavier armor to try and cheat death, but overall the most popular answer was to ditch armor all together and come up with new weapons and new tactics.

Armor can always be defeated. Look to history.

Almost forgot, the special ... (Below threshold)

Almost forgot, the special weapon was a crossbow.

I suppose this debate has b... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

I suppose this debate has been exhausted by now by both sides..The Guardian, on Saturday, in an not surprisngly critical article on the enormous expense of the war, as an unlikely source , supports Jay's precise argument that even though the improved body armor has led to an overall reduction in fatal casualties, this has been given short shrift by the NY Times piece.
(from the Guardian article)"For instance, the latest Pentagon figures show that more than 16,000 military personnel have been wounded in Iraq. Due to improvements in body armour, there has been an unusually high number of soldiers who have survived major wounds such as brain damage, spinal injuries and amputations".

another pathetic attempt by... (Below threshold)

another pathetic attempt by the NYT to undermine the effort.
Yes, the soliders/marines/airmen/sailors etc all deserve the best equipment, but who decides what the best equipment is?
The guys in the field or the bureaucrats? I've been told that body armor beyond the mass points (torso) is counter productive. It takes away from mobility, adds weight and forces the user to take other measures to remain cool in the heat.

Same with humvees. The uparmored cars are slower and don't protect against the larger IEDs that are being used now to counter the additional armor. The engines and vital components are breaking down faster that they can be serviced because of the additional weight.
(The latest IEDs have damaged M1 tanks which are the best in the world)
The ultimate conclusion in every one of their stories is that the service people would be safest at home, versus being on the offensive in the GWOT. That is, unless a democrat was in office.
The last thing this is about is "support for the troops" and it's another attempt to keep up the cacophony of negativity that ultimately erods the moral of the very troops they "support".

Keep up the good work NYT, Al Qaeda needs you now more than ever.

This sort of argument infur... (Below threshold)
Been There:

This sort of argument infuriates me. You who call this another example of the Bush Regime blah,blah blah, where are you getting your information? Have you been to Iraq? I have. I deployed in January 04. There were indeed armor shortages early on but by this time, NO ONE was allowed into Iraq without full Interceptor Armor with SAPI plates.

All armor has pluses and minuses. The more protection you have, the less mobility. Anybody posting this crap ever wear military body armor? Somehow I doubt it. This is not to say that the armor currently deployed is the best it could possibly be, but it's pretty good. HEY! How come the guys in 'Nam didn't have this stuff? More would have lived. Oh, right, it didn't exist yet. Hey, maybe we can CONTINUE to improve our armor and maybe a study like this will add to that effort? Could this possibly be a case of the gov't looking for ways to improve soldiers protection? Nah, couldn't be, we all know those neocon chickenhawks hate us.

I would love to be able to wear 100% bulletproof body armor (IED proof too while we're at it). That I could still move in while wearing. And not die of heat stroke. It doesn't exist. It may someday, then it will be defeated by the new zap-o-whatever ray.

We have good equipment, we are making sure soldiers use it. It doesn't always work and I have the Purple Heart to prove it. We are working to improve it all the time.

But what do I know, I'm just a partisan hack.

Aw, Crick, why'd you have t... (Below threshold)

Aw, Crick, why'd you have to go and post that? Now I have to respect you!


I don't really personally c... (Below threshold)

I don't really personally care about the study. CY is right in the fact that failure studies have serious flaws, although they occasionally have their merits. What I do care about is that we are sending Americans into battle without the proper equipment. Clearly, that has been the case. To me, that's a far more important question to answer.

But hey, feel free to tackle the unimportant questions and attack the NYT. And go ahead and call them terrorists, too. A good MO.

jp2:Did you read m... (Below threshold)
Been There:


Did you read my post? Do you know what equipment we are wearing? I have worn it and it is light years ahead of what we had just a few years ago. You are basing your interpretation of the situation on incorrect information and a lack of understanding.

"What I do care about is that we are sending Americans into battle without the proper equipment. Clearly, that has been the case." Really? Hardly. Could our equipment be improved? Why yes it can. And has been. That's why we're not wearing the same body armor we did just 5 years ago.

Again, everything is a trade off and you will find a wide variety of opinion as to what type of armor is appropriate among the guys actually wearing it in combat. Pardon me if I believe that those of us who have used it under fire have a slightly better grasp of the issue.

Been there : They have acce... (Below threshold)

Been there : They have accepted their canard as the indisputable truth. Don't go throwing facts at them, they tend to get all sorts of loco when confronted with differing opinions.

Hey, go ahead and believe h... (Below threshold)

Hey, go ahead and believe him if you want. I sure don't.

So 'Been There' - you are saying there has was never a shortage of armor for the troops in Iraq and the thousands of stories claiming so are wrong?

Just want to be clear on this one.

jp2:So you're chan... (Below threshold)


So you're changing your argument from shortages occuring right now in the present to there had been shortages in the past?

Just want to be clear on this one.

I know that there were shor... (Below threshold)

I know that there were shortages. And I know that are some currently. Just wanted to get his opinion.

Been there : jp2 does not w... (Below threshold)

Been there : jp2 does not want your opinion. Whatever answer you give him will be spun in such a manner to make it seem like you were never given armor, or the armor given was insufficient. Your experience, far more noble and heroic than most people, would have no bearing to his position, but rather, would use your position and service in some queer way to attempt to buttress his arguement.

You are right - I don't rea... (Below threshold)

You are right - I don't really care about personal opinions, in general. Just the facts, ma'am.

No, the only thing you beli... (Below threshold)
Patrick Chester:

No, the only thing you believe in is whatever you can twist to use for your snarky remarks.

There were indeed armor sho... (Below threshold)
Been There:

There were indeed armor shortages. Actually, there were shortages of certain types of armor. We used to use PASGT body armor. The Army had enough of this to equip everybody several times over. It weighs around 10 pounds and is pretty flexible and not very constricting. This is basically a flak vest, stops shrapnel, but not bullets. Why? Because historically, shrapnel has been the biggest killer. And we couldn't make body armor that was effective against bullets that was light and mobile enough for practical use.

Long about the mid 90's we came up with some new stuff called RBA - Ranger Body Armor. So called because it was first trialed and primarily used by the Rangers. This armor consists of a vest that will stop most handgun rounds and 2 insert plates (front and back) that will stop most light rifle rounds. With the plates installed, this vest weighs about 25 poounds. It is fairly stiff and motion limiting. In the late 90's this armor was trickling into the rest of the units, but not a whole lot as there seemed no real call for it. Most units didn't find the extra protection enough to justify the additional weight and restriction. Rangers being in better physical condition than the rest of the Army, and more likely to be shot at, they did. In 99-2000 I was in Kosovo. As a spec ops unit, we were issued RBA, the rest of the troops still used PASGT. Most of us removed one or both of the hard plates to lighten the load and increase mobility.

In the late 90s another improvement came out, Interceptor Body Armor (IBA). This armor has a protection level slightly better than RBA but is lighter at around 18 pounds. It is also less restrictive. The first purchase was by the Marines. The Army had very little, most troops still used the old PASGT.

Once we got into Iraq, it became apparent the the PASGT was NOT the correct solution for this particular war, especially since we had another armor available. The military and beauracracy being what it is, it took some time. Not much though. We invaded Iraq in March 2003 and by February 04, nearly everybody in theatre had IBA. That's a pretty good turnaround to identify a problem, identify a solution, and implement it. Anyone who thinks it's slow has no experience with the military procurement system.

Since then we have continued to monitor and improve the armor. Additional modular components are now used to modify the IBA for particular missions. There have also been improvements to the SAPI plates (hard inserts).

So there's a brief history of US Army body armor in the last 10 years. If that sounds like ignoring the problem and not properly equipping the troops, I don't know what else to tell you.

That's good info BT, and ve... (Below threshold)

That's good info BT, and very good to know. Thanks for the lesson.

Your welcome. Much prefer ... (Below threshold)
Been There:

Your welcome. Much prefer to see topics discussed with facts.






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