The Color of Crime

Sunday, May 29th, 2016

Edwin S. Rubenstein describes the color of crime:

The evidence suggests that if there is police racial bias in arrests it is negligible. Victim and witness surveys show that police arrest violent criminals in close proportion to the rates at which criminals of different races commit violent crimes.

There are dramatic race differences in crime rates. Asians have the lowest rates, followed by whites, and then Hispanics. Blacks have notably high crime rates. This pattern holds true for virtually all crime categories and for virtually all age groups.

In 2013, a black was six times more likely than a non-black to commit murder, and 12 times more likely to murder someone of another race than to be murdered by someone of another race.

In 2013, of the approximately 660,000 crimes of interracial violence that involved blacks and whites, blacks were the perpetrators 85 percent of the time. This meant a black person was 27 times more likely to attack a white person than vice versa. A Hispanic was eight times more likely to attack a white person than vice versa.

In 2014 in New York City, a black was 31 times more likely than a white to be arrested for murder, and a Hispanic was 12.4 times more likely. For the crime of “shooting” — defined as firing a bullet that hits someone — a black was 98.4 times more likely than a white to be arrested, and a Hispanic was 23.6 times more likely.

If New York City were all white, the murder rate would drop by 91 percent, the robbery rate by 81 percent, and the shootings rate by 97 percent.

In an all-white Chicago, murder would decline 90 percent, rape by 81 percent, and robbery by 90 percent.

In 2015, a black person was 2.45 times more likely than a white person to be shot and killed by the police. A Hispanic person was 1.21 times more likely. These figures are well within what would be expected given race differences in crime rates and likelihood to resist arrest.

In 2015, police killings of blacks accounted for approximately 4 percent of homicides of blacks. Police killings of unarmed blacks accounted for approximately 0.6 percent of homicides of blacks. The overwhelming majority of black homicide victims (93 percent from 1980 to 2008) were killed by blacks.

Foreign Languages and SF

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

Army Special Forces is the only combat arms element in the US military that requires every member to have some mastery of a foreign language:

Why not just use interpreters?

Well, can you trust an interpreter the way you can a team member? Maybe. In time. With a certain subset of interpreters. But right from the beginning? No.

You also need to have linguists on the team as a safety check on those interpreters. If they think they can get away with it, they’re going to put their own spin on what you’re saying — at the very least. It’s human nature.


But some people find language learning inordinately hard. We don’t know the neuropsychiatric explanation for this, but some bright people struggle to learn a language, just like some people are (at least in their youth) natural language sponges. It seems to be correlated with verbal reasoning in one’s native language, but not perfectly (or it would track IQ, most measures of which are half dependent on verbal reasoning). So there is a Language Aptitude or “L” factor which is only weakly correlated with Spearman’s “G” factor of general intelligence.

The Army (and now DOD) has a test that purports to measure one’s language aptitude. It’s recently been subject to a little drama, as the test scores tend to have a correlation with race, which is anathema to all right-thinking people, but so far they have not race-normed the scores (i.e., provided some affirmative action points to popular ancestries). Your performance on the DLAB, Defense Language Aptitude Battery is a usable indicator, albeit an imperfect one, of your general “L” factor, and the military will often assign languages based on DLAB performance. (The military assesses languages in Categories. Cat I is an easy language, for an English speaker, like Spanish or French. Cat IV is a tough one, like Chinese Mandarin or Arabic). For an 18X starting out in Special Forces, your language may also determine what Group you go to, although all bets are off in time of war. A trainee may get an opportunity to pick the language from within the category, depending on the needs of the Army. So if you’re a Category III, picking Russian might get you assigned to Europe-oriented 10th Group (although some Russian speakers are needed in other groups). Pick Chinese or Korean, and you will be wearing the yellow flash of the 1st Group; select Farsi, and you’ll be wearing the freshly-restored Vietnam-era flash of the 5th. Or a trainee may just be told “You start language school Monday. Roster Number 107, to French. Roster 116…”

People who scored high on the DLAB often find language learning easier than people who scored low. There’s a mountain of data on this after decades of DLABs. While the cut-off score for Cat I languages in 95, cut-off scores are a bit rubbery… if they don’t have enough students to fill a class, they may bend on admissions requirements. This bending often does the candidate no favors. Few people with scores below 100 complete a long-term language school like DLI, although with good study habits, hard work, and self-discipline, someone with limited aptitude can bull through the shorter SF language school. And the higher the score, the better. While you can get into a Cat IV language school with a 110, the cluster of people down around the minimum score are often not there on graduation day.

Of course, SF and other linguist positions in the military sometimes luck into a native speaker. This is a good thing, subject to CI investigation of the student and his or her family. (If the CI work is botched, you get situations like the Naval flight officer now sitting in the brig, charged with spying for China).

Not everyone in SF thinks language is worthwhile.

This idea tends to be concentrated in the officer corps, especially in those who have spent much of their career in Direct Action units (like the Rangers, for one example). One such officer was Colonel (later Brigadier General) Frank J. Toney, who had been a protegé of James Guest, in an environment where only door-kicking counted. When Toney took over SF Command, he brought his attitude with him: “My men don’t need any language training. They can speak 5.56 and 7.62!”

We leave as an exercise for the reader, why his nickname was Blank Frank.

Who Died in World War II?

Friday, May 20th, 2016

Interesting facts emerge when you make the best estimate of World War II deaths by nation, and by alliance (Allies vs Axis), convert them to a percentage of the population ante bellum, and then put them in rank order — which Paul Mirengoff of PowerLine did, based on historian Tomek Jankowski’s Eastern Europe:

Let’s start by comparing the death tolls of the winning side, the Allies, and the losing side, the Axis.

Jankowski estimates that the Allies lost nearly 48 million people, compared to fewer than 12 million people on the Axis side. It strikes me as astonishing that the winning side would suffer four times as many deaths as the losers.


Now let’s look at the death count by country in terms of percentage of population killed. Poland, not atypically, suffered the most. It lost an estimated 16 percent of its population.

After Poland comes the Soviet Union, which lost around 14 percent of its population.

Then come Lithuania, Latvia, and Greece, all at between 11.2 and 13.7 percent.


After that, finally, we come to Germany at 9.4 percent. Thus the chief aggressor, and the loser, is in sixth place.


What about Japan, the other major aggressor? It lost an estimated 3.8 percent of its population. This puts Japan in 14th place, behind some of its victims (the Dutch East Indies and French Indochina) and just slightly ahead of the Philippines.

Italy, despite some horrific fighting there, didn’t make the top 20.

Diversity is Our Vibrancy

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

As the slogan etched on the blade of every Obama Youth dagger says, Diversity is Our Vibrancy:

Friday was a red-letter day for both of the motivating principles of the modern United States as the Army announced, in a Friday data dump, that they were commissioning 22 women as Infantry and Armor officers. A large percentage of them are West Pointers; a few are ROTC scholarship foundlings.

They have not yet passed any of the requirements, but what’s most important is how everybody feels about it, unless they don’t feel totally awesome about it, in which case they will be punished suitably. Of the 22 greatest 2nd lieutenants ever, 13 will bring their light to the dank of the tank, as operated by the Armor Branch; and nine will be the only officers that ever mattered in the previously unfashionable Infantry Branch.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has now checked one of his highest priority boxes.

Absolute Harrison Bergeron equality-of-results is not upon us yet, unfortunately. True, the women need to pass their courses, but having announced their success already makes that a mere formality. But still, some problems remain.

To start with, the women will have no subordinate women to command, at least, not yet. So far, exactly one woman has volunteered to serve as an enlisted infantry entity, and none has signed up for enlisted armor duty. Of course, neither the cat pack of officers nor the one female infantry entity has passed and been Distinguished Honor Graduates of their respective courses, yet, but today’s announcement makes it clear it’s the merest of formalities.

All right-thinking people know that the only reason women haven’t been infantrymen everywhere, taken over the offensive line of the Seattle Seahawks, and broken all the mens’ Olympic records, is because of false consciousness, and because they don’t have incredibly awesome female officers yet to show them the way.

If enlisted women don’t start signing up in larger numbers, the pinnacle of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in Combat, that is, self-actualization of the upper class female officers, will require them to be drafted. Self-actualization of upper class female officers is, after all, the reason we have an Army in the first place.

Dade County Shootout

Monday, May 16th, 2016

Massad Ayoob shares some lessons learned from the most studied gunfight of the Twentieth Century, 30 years later:

The killer who shot first had a Ruger Mini-14 .223 rifle, which proved to be a terribly efficient force multiplier. He used this gun to inflict every serious wound suffered by the good guys. This incident, probably more than any other, gave impetus to make the .223 patrol rifle the almost universal standard issue for police patrol that it is today. Only two of the agents even had a shotgun, and only one was able to deploy it.

At that time, only the agents assigned to FBI SWAT had semiautomatic pistols; the remainder were armed with revolvers. Two of the good guys, McNeill and Hanlon, were permanently injured while they were hopelessly trying to reload their empty revolvers after having sustained wounds to their gun hands or arms. By the early 1990s, most American police had switched to higher capacity, faster-reloading service pistols from the traditional service revolver.

Early in the fight, a bullet from Dove’s 9mm pistol pierced the opposing rifleman’s arm and into his chest, slicing an artery and inflicting a “fatal, but not immediately neutralizing” hit when it stopped short of his heart. It was after that, that he inflicted most of the deadly damage. FBI subsequently adopted a standard requirement that their handgun ammo penetrate a minimum of 12” into muscle tissue-simulating ballistic gelatin, a standard most law enforcement and many lawfully armed citizens subsequently adopted.

Ben Grogan, said to be the best shot in the approximately 200-person Miami FBI office, would likely have been voted “most likely to dominate the gunfight.” Unfortunately, he was extremely myopic and lost his glasses in the car-ramming crash that preceded the shootout, and this undoubtedly hampered his performance. He died at the scene. Prior to that, this writer had occasionally shot with uncorrected vision; for the last 30 years, I’ve made a point of shooting at least one qualification course a year that way.

Jocko and Tim Kennedy

Sunday, May 15th, 2016

Jocko (@JockoWillink) recently had Tim Kennedy (@TimKennedyMMA) on his podcast, and they answered a few of my questions — or, at least, they talked about them:

0:25:30 – Bayonet Training thoughts.

0:35:46 – Green Beret VS Navy SEALS?

1:19:33 – Combatives with Full Kit on / multiple attackers.

Hard Truths About Race on Campus

Saturday, May 14th, 2016

Jonathan Haidt and Lee Jussim address some hard truths about race on campus:

A basic principle of psychology is that people pay more attention to information that predicts important outcomes in their lives. A key social factor that we human beings track is who is “us” and who is “them.” In classic studies, researchers divided people into groups based on arbitrary factors such as a coin toss. They found that, even with such trivial distinctions, people discriminated in favor of their in-group members.

None of this means that we are doomed to discriminate by race. A 2001 study by Robert Kurzban of the University of Pennsylvania and colleagues in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that race was much less prominent in how people categorized each other when individuals also shared some other prominent social characteristic, like membership on a team. If you set things up so that race conveys less important information than some other salient factor, then people pay less attention to race.

A second principle of psychology is the power of cooperation. When groups face a common threat or challenge, it tends to dissolve enmity and create a mind-set of “one for all, all for one.” Conversely, when groups are put into competition with each other, people readily shift into zero-sum thinking and hostility.


But as practiced in most of the top American universities, affirmative action also involves using different admissions standards for applicants of different races, which automatically creates differences in academic readiness and achievement. Although these gaps vary from college to college, studies have found that Asian students enter with combined math/verbal SAT scores on the order of 80 points higher than white students and 200 points higher than black students. A similar pattern occurs for high-school grades. These differences are large, and they matter: High-school grades and SAT scores predict later success as measured by college grades and graduation rates.

As a result of these disparate admissions standards, many students spend four years in a social environment where race conveys useful information about the academic capacity of their peers. People notice useful social cues, and one of the strongest causes of stereotypes is exposure to real group differences. If a school commits to doubling the number of black students, it will have to reach deeper into its pool of black applicants, admitting those with weaker qualifications, particularly if most other schools are doing the same thing. This is likely to make racial gaps larger, which would strengthen the negative stereotypes that students of color find when they arrive on campus.

And racial gaps in classroom performance create other problems. A 2013 study by the economist Peter Arcidiacono of Duke University found that students tend to befriend those who are similar to themselves in academic achievement. This is a big contributor to the patterns of racial and ethnic self-segregation visible on many campuses. If a school increases its affirmative-action efforts in ways that expand these gaps, it is likely to end up with more self-segregation and fewer cross-race friendships, and therefore with even stronger feelings of alienation among black students.


In their book All That We Can Be (1996), the sociologists Charles Moskos and John Sibley Butler describe how the U.S. Army escaped from the racial dysfunction of the 1970s to become a model of integration and near-equality by the time of the 1991 Gulf War. The Army invested more resources in training and mentoring black soldiers so that they could meet rigorous promotion standards. But, crucially, standards were lowered for no one, so that the race of officers conveyed no information about their abilities. The Army also promoted cooperation and positive-sum thinking by emphasizing pride in the Army and in America.

The .276 Garand That Almost Was

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

Ian of Forgotten Weapons shows off the .276 Garand that almost was, the T3E2:

By 1932, the competition for the new US semiautomatic service rifle had been narrowed down to just two designs: John Pedersen’s delayed blowback toggle action and John Garand’s gas-operated action. Both rifles were chambered for Pedersen’s .276 caliber cartridge, and used 10-round en bloc clips. Twenty samples of each were made and sent out to infantry and cavalry units for field testing.

This rifle is one of those Garands — serial number 15, to be specific. The results of the trial was a preference for the Garand rifle, and the testing board got as far as writing a formal recommendation for its adoption before General MacArthur vetoed the whole .276 caliber idea for economic and logistical reasons (the US Army had a whole lot of .30-06 ammo and not a lot of spare cash). The result was ultimately a .30 caliber Garand rifle becoming the M1, but this T3E2 trials rifle in .276 sure is a sweet-handling piece of machinery!

Erik Prince’s Fighting Crop Duster

Friday, May 6th, 2016

The Embraer Super Tucano is a a low-tech alternative to the usual high-tech Air Force jet, but Blackwater-founder Erik Prince is pushing an even lower-tech alternative, a fighting crop duster, the Thrush 510G:

The African bush is one of the harshest environments possible on any technology. Humidity, dust, unimproved airfields, austere maintenance conditions, and the general difficulty in logistics movement causes advanced tech to work against the user. The biggest drawback for the Super Tucano is its relative fragility, due to this advanced nature, when compared to the Thrush.

Embraer Super Tucano

For instance, the Super Tucano has an ejection seat. While useful, not only are ejection seats incredibly expensive, but they require highly trained maintenance crews to keep in working order, something all but impossible in a forward austere base.

The glass-cockpit avionics in the Embraer are subject to the nature of the environment, and as any pilot can attest, electronics do not mix well with dust and humidity. Old fashioned “steam gauges” like those in the Thrush cockpit are less accurate, but have better reliability in poor conditions.

Just the fact that the Super Tucano cockpit is pressurized using rubber gaskets, subject to rot if not correctly maintained, shows its disadvantages to an African user. In environments like those on Africa, it is hard enough to keep trucks running, much less finicky aircraft.

The numbers only further prove the utility of the Thrush over the Super Tucano. The Thrush was designed from the ground up to work from poorly improved airfields, or even just open fields. The Thrush is intended to fly low, slow, and steady — all useful attributes for close air support operations.

Thrush 510G

The Thrush has a minimum takeoff distance at maximum operating weight of 1,500 feet. The Super Tucano touts a minimum takeoff distance of 1,200 feet, but that is with minimum fuel and no weapons. More importantly, the Thrush can land (with reverse thrust) in 350 feet to the Tucano’s 1,800 feet. Being able to land on a dime, on a truly rugged (not unimproved) airfield is a quality that is aimed directly at the potential consumer.

The Thrush also has a tighter turning radius and better low-speed handling characteristics than the Super Tucano, making it ideal for close air support in African conditions. The Thrush can carry a 20 percent greater payload than the Super Tucano. Even the GE H80 turboprop engine — designed specifically for the Thrush — was made with minimal maintenance in mind.

To be sure, the Thrush is far from fast, or sexy. All-in-all it’s basically a flying tractor … that is easy to work on and can land anywhere. It’s cheaper, simpler, requires less training to fly and maintain, needs fewer consumable parts and has a significantly smaller logistics requirement than the Super Tucano.

In a head-to-head comparison, the Super Tucano is a far better CAS platform, but Prince was not going for a “better” platform. The governments Prince wants to sell these aircraft to, like that of South Sudan, have major limitations when it comes to personnel, logistics and airfields.


Friday, May 6th, 2016

Gun violence is usually measured in deaths and injuries, but the ShotSpotter system measures shots fired:

Last year, there were 165,531 separate gunshots recorded in 62 different urban municipalities nationwide, including places such as San Francisco, Washington, D.C., St. Louis and Canton, according to ShotSpotter, the company behind a technology that listens for gunfire’s acoustic signature and reports it to authorities.

Even that eye-popping number captures only a fraction of the bullets fired each year. It does not include data from rural areas or the nation’s two largest cities — Los Angeles does not use ShotSpotter and New York City was excluded from the 2015 tally because it did not start until mid-year.

The ShotSpotter system also covers just a sliver of each city that it is in, usually higher-crime neighborhoods. ShotSpotter’s total coverage was 173 square miles last year. And the devices tend to not hear gunshots fired indoors.

Still, the data begins to provide a fuller picture of the nation’s rampant gunfire.

Last year, those 165,531 gunshots were divided among 54,699 different incidents — an average of 150 gunfire incidents every day.

The busiest month for gunfire was May.

The busiest day was Dec. 25, Christmas.

And if you want to avoid getting shot, it’s best to lie low from 2 a.m. to 3 a.m. on Saturdays. That was the busiest hour of the week for gunfire. The slowest hour was 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Mondays.


Doleac, at the University of Virginia, and Purdue professor Jillian Carr used ShotSpotter data for Washington to determine how the city’s juvenile curfew affected gun violence.

The ShotSpotter devices were rolled out first in Anacostia in 2006, then Southeast and Northeast neighborhoods and finally north of downtown. The researchers examined gunshots detected from 2006 to 2013.

What they found was surprising: The city’s curfew actually increased the number of gunfire incidents by 150% in the hour immediately after it went into effect.

The researchers focused on the one-hour period when the city’s curfew changed each year, going from midnight every night in July and August to 11 p.m. on weeknights the rest of the year.

During that hour switch-over, they found, gunfire spiked. The researchers theorized that this was because law-abiding juveniles were most likely to follow the curfew. They got off the streets. That resulted in fewer innocent witnesses or bystanders in public, potentially leading to more lawlessness and gunfire.

In another study, Doleac and Carr found that ShotSpotter data showed evidence of “severe underreporting” of gun violence when compared to the traditional metrics of homicides or 911 calls.

In Washington, just 1 in 8 gunfire incidents led to a 911 call for “shots fired” in the covered areas.

“It’s clear most people don’t bother to call 911,” Doleac said.

In Washington, there was one reported homicide for every 181 gunfire incidents.

In Oakland, Calif., the other city that researchers studied, it was one homicide for every 62 gunshot incidents.

They noted with interest that it appears Oakland’s gunfire was at least twice as deadly as Washington’s gunfire. Although the researchers couldn’t come up with the reasons behind this difference (Were Washington’s gunmen poor shots? Did victims in Oakland get to the hospital more slowly?), the difference points to how measuring gun violence with homicides is problematic.

Engineers of Jihad

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

Why do so many terrorists have engineering degrees? Sociologists Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog looked into The Curious Connection between Violent Extremism and Education, and Tyler Cowen found their core message pretty simple:

Our findings about disciplines, personality traits, and political preferences are remarkably consistent. The outstanding result we obtained is that the distribution of traits across disciplines mirrors almost exactly the distribution of disciplines across militant groups…engineers are present in groups in which social scientists, humanities graduates, and women are absent, and engineers possess traits — proneness to disgust, need for closure, in-group bias, and (at least tentatively) simplism…

Three Tribes Under One Roof

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

CIA houses several very different cultures under one roof:

The three main tribes are the analysts, the spies and the techies. For outsiders, the analysts are in-house academics and experts who brief and write papers for the President and policymakers. The spies are those officers of the Clandestine Service (now called the Directorate of Operations, or DO) who live overseas and manage human spy networks. They tend to be the cocky jet pilots of the CIA. The techies spend the money and manage huge, sophisticated, cutting edge programs. They are engineers, scientists and visionaries. Housing these three tribes under one roof has always been both CIA’s strength and weakness.

The man who was easily the most damaging individual to American intelligence was one of those techies who became Director of Central Intelligence, Stansfield Turner:

Turner was a techie, in Sipher’s trichotomy of CIA cultures; he had headed NSA and, when Jimmy Carter appointed him DCI, he concluded that he could get all the intel a nation needs from technical means (listening posts, satellites) and liaison with friendly services, and so he fired 800 case officers (causing lost contact with their foreign agents) — almost 1/4 of the clandestine service — literally overnight. Turner put out one eye and left the US nearly blind in places like Africa and the Levant. In Iran, the only eye left was through liaisons with the Shah’s intelligence agency SAVAK, which evaporated when the Shah fell and left the CIA completely blind and unable to operate in Iran at all.It was in this environment that the hostage rescue’s clandestine side wound up run by a US Army Special Forces element. Likewise, the US was blindsided by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in part because of the Turner bloodletting.

Understanding and Training the Female Shooter

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

Greg Ellifritz shares some things he learned from Lou Ann Hamblin’s Understanding and Training the Female Shooter class:

When measured on a dynamometer, most men have similar grip strength between their dominant and non-dominant hands (as tested in class, my hands differed by only 2 lbs. of force between right and left). Most women have a HUGE disparity…differences of up to 40% are common. Would that knowledge affect how you teach off-handed shooting for a female student? It should.

Female vision is different than male vision. Women have less depth perception, but better peripheral vision than men. It affects how women see the sights on their guns and how far they have to move their head to do an after-action scan.

Shorter-waisted women have difficulty drawing from many traditional holsters. Their body styles change which gear works best for them.

Women are known to be better multi-taskers than men. This can be problematic in firearms training as some women will try to do too much, taking your suggestions very literally. If you give most women a list of 10 things they are doing “wrong”, they will try to work on them all simultaneously and won’t make as much improvement as if you gave them just one or two things to improve at a time.

Because of differing motivational strategies, competition in training will often yield different results between men and women. Most men really enjoy competition and find it valuable. Because most women are motivated more by social connection than by ego gratification, competition may not give the same benefits. Lou Ann suggested using team competitions (where students are partnered up to achieve a goal) when training women. She believes that women will be better motivated to perform if they are trying to help their partner than if they were trying to win some type of individual award.

“Women need details…but only when they are ready for them. Don’t over-explain things in the beginning, but be ready to explain things in much more detail that you ever imagined necessary when she asks for it. But, she won’t ask for the details if she thinks you are a dick.”

The Elbonian Zombie Virus

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

The Elbonian Zombie Virus is a thought experiment of Scott Adams’:

Imagine that the tiny nation of Elbonia suffers a Zombie Virus outbreak. Luckily, the virus does not spread easily, but prolonged personal contact with an infected zombie increases the odds of transmission. Once infected, the Elbonian becomes a zombie killer. As it turns out, most people are immune to the virus. Over 99% of the public have no risk of catching it. But 1% is far too many zombie killers.

Imagine we have no way to detect this Elbonian Zombie Virus infection before symptoms occur. And let’s say that the problem started in Elbonia and so far has not gone beyond its borders. There is no cure for the Elbonian Zombie Virus. So what would world health organizations do?

For starters, they would quarantine the entire nation of Elbonia to limit the damage. This is obviously unfair to all uninfected Elbonians but it is also the only practical way to protect the rest of the world. Once the quarantine is in place, the professionals can get to work on a cure.

Now here’s the interesting part. What is the functional difference between the Elbonian Zombie Virus and radical islamic terrorism?

Weapon Laws in Germany

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

Jörg Sprave of The Slingshot Channel is famous for his crazy improvised weapons, but he also collects real weapons, which isn’t nearly as illegal in Germany as an American might imagine: