Old regime’s supporters unleash violence against Constitutionally elected new government

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

Steve Sailer summarizes yesterday’s activities with the headline “Old regime’s supporters unleash violence against Constitutionally elected new government“:

Paul Kersey calls them “the shock troops of the Establishment.”

Remember the coordinated Fake News campaign in the media last winter about how violent Trump supporters were?

What % of all political violence in the United States over the last 12 months turned out to be more or less anti-Trump?

95% or 98%?

Philip Wegmann of the Washington Examine describes what he saw at the anti-Trump riot in DC:

After protestors got tired of chanting “love trumps hate,” they started chucking rocks at cops.

On Friday thousands of protestors gathered in Washington, D.C. to protest the peaceful transition of power from one democratically-elected president to another. And it got ugly quickly.

Organized by the DisruptJ20 protest group, activists took aim at the alleged sexism and racism of the incoming administration. Practically speaking, that meant blocking security checkpoints, smashing windows, and torching at least one limousine outside the Washington Post building.

[...]

Families from flyover country were greeted to the nation’s capital with chants of “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA.” When short of breath, protestors opted for the more succinct, “Fuck Trump!” One activist even decided to lecture a young Republican, screaming “don’t grow up and grab women by the pussies!” before his father covered his ears.

When words failed them though, protestors turned to rioting. Wearing black face masks, they smashed the windows of Starbucks, Bank of America, and a Bobby Van’s steakhouse a few blocks from Capitol Hill. Private business didn’t suffer all the damage, though. Suddenly enemies of public transport, liberal rioters trashed at least one bus stop—an indicator of the aimlessness of the whole thing.

[...]

So far, they seem like the JV team to the rioters that trashed Ferguson and Baltimore. Most didn’t know whether to take selfie or retreat in front of a police line. A pile of flaming trashcans served as more of a prop for Instagram than a barricade for police.

Anti-Helicopter Mines?

Friday, January 20th, 2017

The U.S. Army is now concerned about anti-helicopter mines:

Bulgaria, which seems to have developed these devices as far as as the late 1990s, offers several mines such as the AHM-200, a 200-pound device which looks like a mortar tube mounted on a tripod. The mine, which is emplaced on the surface rather than buried in the dirt, has an acoustic sensor which arms the weapon when it picks up the sound of the helicopter as far away as 1,500 feet. At a range of 500 feet, a Doppler radar tracks the target. When the helicopter gets within 300 feet, the mine detonates both an explosively formed projectile and an explosive charge packed with steel balls.

A 2012 Russian news video shows what looks a similar device. A Russian expert in the video claims that anti-helicopter mines were developed because shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles are ineffective against helicopters flying lower than 300 feet.

Other nations have also developed anti-helicopter mines. Poland has one, while Austria has developed an infrared-guided version.

Oxytocin levels surge in troops of chimpanzees preparing for conflict with rival groups

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

Oxytocin levels surge in troops of chimpanzees preparing for conflict with rival groups:

The finding is at odds with the prevailing image of oxytocin as something that helps strengthen bonds between parent and infant, or foster friendships. But given its capacity to strengthen loyalty, oxytocin could also be a warmonger hormone that helps chimps galvanise and cooperate against a common enemy.

Catherine Crockford of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and her colleagues monitored two rival groups of chimpanzees in the Taï National Park in Ivory Coast, each containing five males and five females, for prolonged periods between October 2013 and May 2015.

Thanks to trust built up between the team and the chimps, the team could safely track and video the groups – even during conflict, observing at close quarters what was happening. Crucially, the team was also able to pipette up fresh samples from soil when chimps urinated.

The samples revealed that oxytocin levels surge in the mammals whenever the chimps on either side prepared for confrontation, or when either group took the risk of venturing near or into rival-held territories. These surges dwarfed the oxytocin levels seen during activities such as grooming, collaborative hunting for monkey prey or food sharing.

How Japan has almost eradicated gun crime

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

The BBC naively explains how Japan has almost eradicated gun crime:

Japan has one of the lowest rates of gun crime in the world. In 2014 there were just six gun deaths, compared to 33,599 in the US. What is the secret?

If you want to buy a gun in Japan you need patience and determination. You have to attend an all-day class, take a written exam and pass a shooting-range test with a mark of at least 95%.

There are also mental health and drugs tests. Your criminal record is checked and police look for links to extremist groups. Then they check your relatives too — and even your work colleagues. And as well as having the power to deny gun licences, police also have sweeping powers to search and seize weapons.

That’s not all. Handguns are banned outright. Only shotguns and air rifles are allowed.

The law restricts the number of gun shops. In most of Japan’s 40 or so prefectures there can be no more than three, and you can only buy fresh cartridges by returning the spent cartridges you bought on your last visit.

Police must be notified where the gun and the ammunition are stored — and they must be stored separately under lock and key. Police will also inspect guns once a year. And after three years your licence runs out, at which point you have to attend the course and pass the tests again.

This helps explain why mass shootings in Japan are extremely rare. When mass killings occur, the killer most often wields a knife.

It’s quite reassuring that mass-killers there use other tools.

It’s also impressive how Japan’s gun-control laws keep Japanese-Americans from committing gun crimes. (Some estimates place Japanese-American gun crime rates even lower than the Japanese rate.)

The U.S. Army’s Radical Idea to Save Its Tanks from Enemy Missiles

Friday, January 13th, 2017

The U.S. Army’s radical idea to save its tanks from enemy missiles involves a shield:

OBJECTIVE: Develop and demonstrate a model for a mechanism capable of moving an armor panel of at least 1 square foot with an areal density of 100 pounds per square foot (PSF) 10” horizontally in less than 5 seconds. The movement is intended to be repeatable and controlled from the interior of the vehicle and shall not pose harm to dismounted personnel.

DESCRIPTION: Conventional armor solutions currently being integrated are “not adaptable” in providing increased threat capability and protection from a greatly expanded set of threats. A solution is needed for threats that are not feasibly addressed with conventional armor systems. Conventional armor systems are essentially static and unable to respond to unanticipated changes in threats deployed against the system; essentially the army has limited potential to increase the capabilities of current static armor recipes in order to balance size, weight, and performance requirements.

Increased threat defeat using conventional armor is prohibitive due to the significant weight burdens associated with increased protection. Any increase in weight has secondary effects such as limited off-road mobility and increased logistics burden.

This SBIR topic solicits new, innovative approaches to incorporate mechanisms into an armor system to provide protection against increased threats. For the purpose of this effort the system shall be designed to interface with a 1” plate of Rolled Homogenous Armor (RHA) Plate that represents a surrogate vehicle structure. The mechanism needs to be capable of moving a 100 PSF armor panel 10 inches horizontally in less 5 seconds. The mechanism needs to be able to withstand automotive loading as well as environmental conditions typical of a combat vehicle. The proposal should discuss in detail how the system could be incorporated onto a vehicle platform and what the projected Space, Weight, Power, and cooling (SWAP-C) at the vehicle level.

The proposal shall not include a system that could be describe as an Active Protection System (APS). A system is considered an APS system if any of the two statements apply: 1. A light-weight hit avoidance vehicle defense system which, when integrated on a ground combat vehicle, can detect, track; and then interdict by diversion, disruption, neutralization, or destruction of incoming line-of-sight threat munitions. 2. A system that deploys a counter-measure that does not providing any inherent protection to the vehicle system when the counter-measure does not perform as designed.

Mossad does not play nice

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

When it comes to protecting Israel’s national security, Mossad does not play nice:

The death of Mohammed al Zoari in a hail of gunfire in the coastal city of Sfax came at the zenith of a complex operation involving as many as eight Tunisian nationals and an unknown number of others, who Tunisian officials said were foreign agents. Although the hit carried the hallmarks of other Mossad operations, Israel has hinted at, but not acknowledged, its involvement.

“If someone was killed in Tunisia, he’s not likely to be a peace activist or a Nobel Prize candidate,” said Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman. “We will continue to do in the best possible way what we know how to do — that is to protect our interests.”

From the streets of Europe to the Middle East, Israel’s agents time and again have found their mark, with their victims dispatched in novel ways, from bombs under beds to lone figures targeted on dark streets with silenced Beretta .22s. I’ve often wondered if somewhere inside the Mossad there is a secret office that mulls over plots from fiction novels and uses them to plan real-world missions.

The operation aimed at al Zoari was a little less byzantine than ones found in a spy novel, despite the number of Tunisians under investigation for their roles in it. Reports have surfaced that al Zoari, known as “The Engineer” by his Hamas brethren because of his expertise in building unmanned aerial vehicles, was working to develop an armed underwater drone that would have targeted Israeli oil and gas platforms in the Mediterranean Sea. His murder as he sat in his car in front of his home set off waves of protest in Tunisia, whose citizens have been witness to Israeli justice before.

In 1988, Fatah operative Khalil al-Wazir, aka Abu Jihad, was assassinated in his home in Tunis in a spectacular Israeli commando raid. I was an agent with the U.S. State Department at the time, and the hit, which came without warning from Israel, took us by surprise. This was a vivid example of one of many occasions that confirmed that there really are no friendly intelligence services and that nation-states will do whatever they think is necessary to protect themselves. On a practical level, the Israelis would not have jeopardized the lives of their agents by sharing their tactical plans with another country, because too many things could go wrong. This was no different than the U.S. decision to carry out its operation in Abbottabad to kill Osama Bin Laden without prior warning to the Pakistanis.

In 1996, the Israelis killed a Hamas bombmaker, also called “The Engineer.” We got into a fair amount of trouble when we fulfilled the Palestinian Authority’s request for help in investigating the murder, which included examining the crime scene. Neither the State Department’s foreign service officers nor the Israelis cared for that decision. But from my perspective as a counterterrorism agent, I figured we would learn something by our involvement, and we did. In the aftermath of the hit, we discovered that an informant for the Israelis had given a cell phone to the bombmaker. When he answered the phone, an explosive hidden inside detonated, blowing off his hand and half of his head, killing him instantly. The gruesome crime scene photos are still vivid in my memory.

How to Predict Gentrification

Monday, January 9th, 2017

Everyone has theories for why well-educated professionals are moving back into cities:

Perhaps their living preferences have shifted. Or the demands of the labor market have, and young adults with less leisure time are loath to waste it commuting. Maybe the tendency to postpone marriage and children has made city living more alluring. Or the benefits of cities themselves have improved.

“There are all sorts of potential other amenities, whether it’s cafes, restaurants, bars, nicer parks, better schools,” said Ingrid Gould Ellen, a professor of urban policy and planning at New York University.

“But a huge piece of it,” she said, “I think is crime.”

New research that she has conducted alongside Keren Mertens Horn, an economist at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, and Davin Reed, a doctoral student at N.Y.U., finds that when violent crime falls sharply, wealthier and educated people are more likely to move into lower-income and predominantly minority urban neighborhoods.

Their working paper suggests that just as rising crime can drive people out of cities, falling crime has a comparable effect, spurring gentrification.

I love the surprised tone.

Kidnapping for ransom works like a market

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

Kidnapping is hard — because of problems of trust, problems of bargaining, and problems of execution — but there is a well-organized market for hostages:

The first principle that insurers adopt is that safe retrieval of hostages is paramount. The second guiding principle is that kidnapping cannot become too wildly profitable, for fear of further destabilization. In the language of economists, there must be no “supernormal profits.” If victims’ representatives quickly offer large ransoms, this information spreads like wildfire and triggers kidnapping booms. A good example is Somalia, where a few premium ransoms led to an explosion of piracy that could only be stopped by a costly military intervention.

Insurers have therefore created institutions to make sure that ransom offers meet kidnapper expectations and produce safe releases but that do not upset local criminal markets. Insured parties obtain immediate, free access to highly experienced crisis-response consultants in the event of a kidnapping. These consultants find out whether the person demanding the ransom actually holds a live hostage to bargain over, they advise on the appropriate negotiation strategy, and they reassure families when they inevitably receive dire threats of violence.

Because insurers can communicate outcomes confidentially, they can stabilize ransoms — as well as discipline rogue kidnappers. One kidnapper summarized this perception in the criminal community as “No one negotiates with a kidnapper who has a reputation for blowing his victims’ brains out.” Crisis responders also manage the ransom drop, removing a further obstacle to a successful conclusion. About 98 percent of insured criminal kidnapping victims are safely retrieved.

Of course, this “protocol” for ransom negotiations is costly. Tough bargaining takes time, imposing huge psychological costs on negotiators and on the victim’s family and tying up productive resources in firms. Experienced consultants are paid a substantial daily fee. It is very tempting to conclude negotiations early. Most of the cost of quick ransoms that are bigger than they ought to be is borne by future victims and their insurers, not the current victim’s stakeholders. An effective governance regime for kidnapping resolution therefore requires rules to prevent anyone’s taking shortcuts.

It would be impossible to prove beyond reasonable doubt that an insurer’s crisis responder deliberately cuts corners because ransoms are naturally variable. This makes it impossible for insurers to formally contract with each other and punish those who “overpay” kidnappers.

Insurers resolve this through an ingenious market structure. All kidnapping insurance is either written or reinsured at Lloyd’s of London. Within the Lloyd’s market, there are about 20 firms (or “syndicates”) competing for business. They all conduct resolutions according to clear rules. The Lloyd’s Corp. can exclude any syndicate that deviates from the established protocol and imposes costs on others. Outsiders do not have the necessary information to price kidnapping insurance correctly: Victims are very tight-lipped about their experiences to avoid attracting further criminal attention.

The private governance regime for resolving criminal kidnappings generally delivers low and stable ransoms and predictable numbers of kidnappings. Most kidnappings can be resolved for thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. This makes profitable kidnapping insurance possible. When the protocol fails, insurers sustain losses and must innovate to regain control.

The outcomes of privately governed “criminal” kidnappings (where private firms or individuals pay the ransoms) contrast starkly with those of “terrorist” kidnappings (where governments are asked to pay ransoms or to make concessions). Here, insurers are prevented by law from ordering the market, leaving governments in the firing line.

Governments struggle to contain ransoms, and they often end up making concessions to terrorists despite their public “no negotiation” commitments. Government negotiators have no obvious budget constraints. They often prioritize quick settlements over containing ransoms. Finally, there is no international regime for preventing spillovers to subsequent negotiations. Citizens of nations who refuse to negotiate with terrorists are often tortured or killed to raise the pressure in parallel negotiations. Multimillion dollar ransoms in terrorist cases are therefore not really surprising — and such settlements reliably trigger new kidnappings.

Russia needs just three days to conquer Estonia and Latvia

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

Russia needs just three days to conquer Estonia and Latvia, according to a new RAND study:

They found Russian forces will have “eliminated” NATO resistance and be “at the gates of or actually entering Riga, Tallinn, or both between 36 and 60 hours after the start of hostilities.”
“Such a rapid defeat would leave NATO with a limited number of options, all bad,” Shlapak and Johnson wrote.

“A bloody counteroffensive, fraught with escalatory risk, to liberate the Baltics; to escalate itself, as it threatened to do to avert defeat during the Cold War; or to concede at least temporary defeat, with uncertain but predictably disastrous consequences for the alliance and, not incidentally, the people of the Baltics.”

[...]

Assuming NATO has a week to detect a coming invasion, the alliance could deploy an equivalent of 12 maneuver battalions in the Baltic states. This includes the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team rushed from Vicenza, Italy, but no main battle tanks. Poland — which has the largest tank force in Europe west of the Bug River — would be “assumed to be committed to defend the [Polish] national territory” and blocking Russian forces from moving south from Kaliningrad.

However, Russia could mass the equivalent of 22 maneuver battalions, including four tank battalions and large amounts of artillery from its Western Military District. Russia would also have an advantage in the air, with 27 squadrons of fighters and bombers compared to 18.5 NATO squadrons. While able to challenge Russian aircraft, the NATO planes could not quickly establish air superiority. Russian combat planes would then create “bubbles” of undefended airspace to launch “massed waves of air attacks.”

There’s an important lesson here — though Russia cannot challenge the United States or NATO globally, it can do so locally … and win.

[...]

The main problem is that geography favors Russia. In the days after an invasion, the alliance would have to first mass its own forces and conquer Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave bordering Poland which could flank any counter-attack … before facing the bulk of Russia’s Baltic combat power.

[...]

Article 5 of the Washington Treaty obligates NATO to defend its allies, including Estonia and Latvia, if they came under attack. That could plunge Russia into a wider and far more destructive war it might eventually lose, but it could also set off a chain of events ending in a nuclear exchange.

Which is why if Russia were to do it, it would want to do so quickly, presenting NATO with the option of … doing nothing.

The Problem With Trump’s Admiration of General Patton

Saturday, December 31st, 2016

The problem with Trump’s admiration of General Patton is, apparently, that Patton was conservative and anti-Communist:

His success in wartime has, over the years, whitewashed the rest of his character. His views on race and America’s role in the world were retrograde even in the 1940s — and so forcefully articulated that it’s hard to understand why contemporary Americans have such an easy time admiring him. His life isn’t just an example of winning — it’s an object lesson in how hard it is to transfer skills from a ruthless campaign to the complex tasks of real governance.

Patton came from a long line of soldiers. He was home-schooled on the classics until age 12. Like Trump, Patton came from money; he lived well off the battlefield, with a string of polo ponies accompanying him on stateside postings. He fought in Mexico, was gravely wounded in WWI, gained fame leading the Allied invasion of Casablanca in 1942, successfully led the Seventh Army invasion of Sicily and swept into Germany as a conqueror at the helm of the Third Army.

Patton, whom reporters dubbed “Old Blood and Guts,” was a happy warrior. At a somber December 19, 1944, command meeting following the massive German attack that began what would be known as the Battle of the Bulge, Patton saw a tactical opportunity. “This bastard has put his cock in a meat grinder and I’ve got the handle!” he said.

Patton’s rescue of cornered GIs at Bastogne erased his most famous blunder of the war, which occurred in two hospital tents in Sicily in 1943 when he infamously confronted two traumatized soldiers and slapped them. Patton had no concept of the disease that was then called shell shock, and we now know as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Wars were about winning and glory, and his subsequent apologies, ordered by his friend and superior, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, were entirely pro forma. He told colleagues that the soldiers were cowards and that the slapping — he also brandished a pistol at one of the soldiers — had saved their souls. “It is rather a commentary on justice when an Army commander has to soft-soap a skulker to placate the timidity of those above,” Patton wrote in his diary.

Eisenhower resisted calls to fire Patton, whom he viewed as a “problem child” who was “indispensable to the war effort and one of the guarantors of our victory.” To Patton’s disappointment, Ike refrained from giving him the highest commands he craved. Still, he had a huge following in the military and among the public, which he stoked with frequent appearances in the press.

[...]

The U.S. Army’s mission in Germany was to govern and start rebuilding a former enemy nation, a country gutted by its war machine and deflated by its surrender. Part of the task, President Harry Truman and Eisenhower agreed, was to “denazify” the country, which meant re-education, the fostering of democratic institutions and the punishment of Nazi war criminals to set an example for the would-be Hitlers of the future. Patton was astonishingly indifferent to this mission. He spent much of his time writing his wartime memoirs, hunting and fishing with subordinates, and riding in the countryside with his groom, Baron von Wangenheim, an Olympian equestrian and die-hard Nazi whom remnants of the SS had implanted in Patton’s staff to keep an eye on him and feed his lust for a war against the Soviet Union.

It was hard enough to get the streets cleared and keep Germans from starving to death; Patton wasn’t interested in denazification or creating a lesson for future tyrants. He thought it was “madness” to imprison Nazis, good soldiers who were much more valuable as future allies against the Soviets than the Jewish survivors he was charged with protecting and feeding.

Disturbingly, Patton had zero sympathy for the Holocaust victims living in wretched, overcrowded collection camps under his command. He was unable to imagine that people living in such misery were not there because of their own flaws. The displaced Jews were “locusts,” “lower than animals,” “lost to all decency.” They were “a subhuman species without any of the cultural or social refinements of our times,” Patton wrote in his diary. A United Nations aid worker tried to explain that they were traumatized, but “personally I doubt it. I have never looked at a group of people who seem to be more lacking in intelligence and spirit.” (Patton was no friend to Arabs, either; in a 1943 letter, he called them “the mixture of all the bad races on earth.”)

The orders from above — Eisenhower wanted him to confiscate the houses of wealthy Germans so Jewish survivors could live in them — embittered Patton. His beloved Third Army was decaying as troops decamped for home, discipline vanished, and meanwhile, “the displaced sons-of-bitches in the various camps are blooming like green trees,” he wrote a friend.

He saw journalists’ criticism of his handling of the Jews and the return of Nazis to high official positions as a result of Jewish and Communist plots. The New York Times and other publications were “trying to do two things,” he wrote, “First, implement Communism, and second, see that all business men of German ancestry and non-Jewish antecedents are thrown out of their jobs.”

As reports on the conditions in Bavaria began to alarm Truman, Eisenhower came down from Frankfurt on September 17 to join Patton on a tour of the camps where Jewish refugees were housed. He was horrified to find that some of the guards were former SS men. During the tour, Patton remarked that the camps had been clean and decent before the arrival of the Jewish “DPs” (displaced persons), who were “pissing and crapping all over the place.” Eisenhower told Patton to shut up, but he continued his diatribe, telling Eisenhower he planned to make a nearby German village “a concentration camp for some of these goddam Jews.”

While Eisenhower ordered him to stop “mollycoddling Nazis,” Patton lashed out at journalists and others he viewed as enemies. “The noise against me is only the means by which the Jews and Communist are attempting and with good success to implement a further dismemberment of Germany,” he said.

Patton’s callousness, anti-Semitism and indifference to the job of re-education were bad enough, but what really worried Eisenhower and Truman was Patton’s desire to start another war. The Soviet Union had been a close U.S. ally against the Nazis, but Patton was an early, fervent anti-Communist who loathed “Genghis Khan’s degenerate descendants” and felt Roosevelt had surrendered too much European turf to the Russians. He was obsessed with pushing them back out of Germany.

The Gun Industry’s Lucrative Relationship With Hollywood

Friday, December 23rd, 2016

Hollywood and the gun industry see themselves as mortal enemies, but they have a lucrative, symbiotic relationship:

“Until they stop making films and outlaw weapons altogether, we’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” says Gregg Bilson Jr., president of the American Entertainment Armorers Association and head of the Independent Studio Services, one of Hollywood’s biggest prop houses.

ISS is a massive, family-owned business — renting everything from Chinese takeout containers to canoes. With more than 16,000 guns in its arsenal, nearly all real, ISS is the largest armory in Hollywood (about 80 of the guns at the NRA’s Hollywood exhibit are on loan from ISS). Bilson’s crew of armorers and gunsmiths helps finicky directors from Michael Mann to Oliver Stone find and use historically appropriate weapons, train A-list actors (like Bradley Cooper, Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro) in how to wield them safely and shepherd complex projects to completion. “You can’t have a modern movie without a car rolling down the street or someone taking out an iPhone,” says Larry Zanoff, an ISS armorer who has worked on many big Hollywood productions. “Seventy-five percent of the time there’s at least one gun involved.”

This bit of trivia amused me:

To serve Hollywood’s marquee felons like Mark Wahlberg (currently brandishing a Glock 17 as a cop in Patriots Day) and Danny Trejo (most recently armed with an M1911A1 pistol in 2013′s Machete Kills) — who aren’t allowed by law to bear arms — ISS has a roster of realistic electronic guns (also known as e-guns or non-guns) that can stand in for everything from Smith & Wessons to Uzis. “They get a lot of use on hip-hop music video shoots,” says one weapons specialist. Producers working with ex-cons or shooting outside in neighborhoods with noise restrictions rely on them since they discharge at a much quieter level. They also are used in close-fire situations like a point-blank execution scene, where real weapons firing blanks are deemed unsafe (e-guns don’t eject shell casings).

Filmmakers now have much more incentive to get things right technically:

IMFDB.org is a wiki list-serve that functions as a clearinghouse for every possible bit of trivia, analysis and commentary on the interplay between guns and movies. Able to be cross-referenced by virtually any metric — actor, movie, firearm or manufacturer, for instance — the site is a testament to the appetite for information on Hollywood guns. There are 71 gun manufacturers listed and more than 1,500 pages in the “gun” category, along with thousands of actors and more than 5,000 movies.

“The only other product that gets people as excited when it appears in movies is cars,” says Chris Serrano, 32, the self-described “geek” who started IMFDB in 2007 from his home in Glendora, 30 miles east of Hollywood. At the time, there was much discussion but little agreement about guns in movies on the web. Serrano, who worked in real estate at the time, thought IMFDB would be a good way to crowdsource consensus.

Interest was immediate. The first visitors were fans of Westerns eager to weigh in about history and authenticity. Some modern movies generated intense discussion. The entry on Michael Mann’s Heat now tops two dozen pages. When Chad Stahelski and David Leitch debuted the 2014 thriller John Wick, IMFDB editors began itemizing the array of weaponry on display in the gun-heavy film. “As soon as it came out, it was big on the site,” says Serrano, a gun enthusiast who says he likes “a nice lever action” rifle.

Today, IMFDB gets more than 1 million unique visitors a month and has a team of 12 administrators and editors scattered around the world. “I’ve gotten word that Hollywood people do come and do research,” says Serrano. It’s mostly prop masters and armorers, but sometimes actors also come to the site to do research for their shows.

I didn’t know they traced this one back to its origin:

Sometimes armorers find that their onscreen handiwork worms its way back into real life. John Patteson, a Florida-based armorer (Cape Fear and Bad Boys II), recalls an experience on a 1980s TV show that he will not name in which a director wanted two guys with semiautomatic handguns to fire while standing next to each other. Patteson pointed out that the ejected rounds from one gun would hit the second man, at best creating an annoyance and at worst a potential safety hazard. “The director says, ‘How about we ask the left guy to tilt his gun sideways, so brass goes up and arcs away?’ ” Patteson adjusted the scene accordingly, but “next thing you know, I’m seeing guys in 7-Eleven videos holding the guns sideways.” There’s no way to trace whether incidents of sideways shooting in real life increased as a result of movie portrayals, but the anecdotal trace of his craft in real-life criminal activity left Patteson feeling disconcerted. At some point, he says, people do get “educated” by cinema: “A lot of the time, unfortunately, it takes on a life of its own.”

Apparently the initial article referred to Clint Eastwood’s iconic Smith & Wesson Model 29 .44 Magnum — “the most powerful handgun in the world” — as a “massive Smith & Wesson Colt .44″. Sigh.

The Ankara Assassination looks like Bertolucci’s “The Conformist”

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

Images from the Ankara assassination look like they come from an avant-garde 1970s film, Steve Sailer notes — namely Bertolucci’s The Conformist:

The extraordinarily cinematic-looking assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey today in an Ankara art gallery by a young Turkish policeman is the latest in a long series of events I routinely characterize as “Byzantine” because I have no idea what’s really going on, but it makes me sound knowing.

Ankara Assassination

I may have to rent The Conformist from Amazon.

ISIS in the Caribbean

Monday, December 12th, 2016

The Western country with the highest rate of Islamist radicalization is Trinidad?

In a recent paper in the journal Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, John McCoy and W. Andy Knight posit that between 89-125 Trinidadians — or Trinis, to use the standard T&T idiom—have joined ISIS. Roodal Moonilal, an opposition Member of Parliament in T&T, insists that the total number is considerably higher, claiming that, according to a leaked security document passed on to him, over 400 have left since 2013. Even the figure of 125 would easily place Trinidad, with a population of 1.3 million, including 104,000 Muslims, top of the list of Western countries with the highest rates of foreign-fighter radicalization; it’s by far the largest recruitment hub in the Western Hemisphere, about a four and a half hour flight from the U.S. capital.

[...]

The last state of emergency in T & T was declared in 1990, when, on July 27, a group of black Muslims, the Jamaat al Muslimeen, stormed into the nation’s Parliament in the capital city of Port of Spain and tried to overthrow the government, shooting then-Prime Minister Arthur Robinson and taking members of his cabinet hostage. Around the same time, another group of Muslimeen gunmen forced their way into the studio of the nation’s only TV station. At 6:30 p.m. the Muslimeen’s leader Yasin Abu Bakr came on television and announced that the government was overthrown. This was premature: Six days later, the Muslimeen surrendered, and the government regained control. But history was made. As Harold Trinkunas of the Brookings Institution remarked to The Miami Herald, Trinidad is “the only country in the Western Hemisphere that has had an actual Islamic insurrection.”

USMC F-35B pilots speak about their aircraft

Sunday, December 11th, 2016

Four USMC F-35B pilots speak about their aircraft:

Guts; My first “aha” moment was a seemingly simple thing. I was executing a familiarization flight near MCAS Yuma. I was coming back to the airfield and I basically just turned the jet and pointed its nose at Yuma. Immediately the jet is providing me the information of all the traffic that is out there in the airspace. When I talk to approach for the first time they are telling me about the traffic that is out there that I already know about and I see it. I can tell who everybody is that he is talking about and the jet also saw traffic that ATC hadn’t seen yet and I asked about it. And I thought, “Holy Cow!” here I am coming back to the field from a simple familiarity mission and my jet is telling me everything about the operational environment I am about to go into. In this case, something very simple, the traffic pattern coming back there, but I didn’t have to do anything to have that level of SA [Situational Awareness]. I can start making decisions about what altitude I wanted to go to, if I wanted to turn left or right, speed up or slow down. There’s somebody coming up next to me, I want to get in front of them — or whatever. It is a very simple example, but I thought WOW this is amazing that I see everything and can do that.

The other was the first time I vertically recovered the airplane. The flight control law that the airplane has is unbelievable and I always tell the anecdote. Flying AV-8B Harrier IIs, I only had one specific aircraft I felt like I could kind of go easy on the controls and it would sit there and hover. I love the Harrier, love flying that aircraft, but there was work involved to bring it back for a vertical landing. The very first time I hovered an F-35B I thought, I am the problem here, and I am just going to let the jet do what it wants to do. The F-35 was hovering better than I could ever hover a Harrier without doing a thing. That’s back to that workload comment I said earlier. I am performing a vertical landing, and I have the time to look around and see what is taking place on the pad and around me. It is a testament to the jet.

BC; I was conducting a strike mission and Red Air was coming at me. In a 4th Gen fighter you must do a whole lot of interpretation. You see things in azimuth, and you see things in elevation. In the F-35 you just see the God’s eye view of the whole world. It’s very much like you are watching the briefing in real time.

I am coming in to perform the simulated weapons release, and Red Air is coming the other direction. I have enough situational awareness to assess whether Red Air is going to be a factor to me by the time I release the weapon. I can make the decision, I’m going to go to the target, I’m going to release this weapon. Simultaneously I pre-target the threat, and as soon as I release the A2G weapon, I can flip a switch with my thumb and shoot the Red Air. This is difficult to do in a 4th Gen fighter, because there is so much manipulation of systems in the cockpit. All while paying attention to the basic mechanics of flying the airplane and interpreting threat warnings that are often very vague, or only directional. In the F-35 I know where the threats are, what they are and I can thread the needle. I can tell that the adversary is out in front of me and I can make a very, very smart decision about whether to continue or get out of there. All that, and I can very easily switch between mission sets.

Mo; I was leading a four ship of F-35s on a strike against 4th Gen adversaries, F-16s and F/A-18s. We fought our way in, we mapped the target, found the target, dropped JDAMs on the target and turned around and fought our way out. All the targets got hit, nobody got detected, and all the adversaries died. I thought, yes, this works, very, very, very well. Never detected, nobody had any idea we were out there.

A second moment was just this past Thursday. I spent a fair amount of my life as a tail hook guy — [landing F/A-18s on US Navy Supercarriers] on long carrier deployments. The last 18 seconds of a Carrier landing are intense. The last 18 seconds of making a vertical landing on this much smaller USMC Assault Carrieris a lot more relaxed. The F-35C is doing some great stuff. Making a vertical landing [my first this week] on the moving ship, that is much smaller than anything I’ve landed on at sea — with less stress, was awesome.

Sack; It was my first flight at Edwards AFB Jan ’16. I got in the airplane and started it up. I was still on the deck and there were apparently other F-35s airborne — I believe USAF, I was not aware. I was a single ship, just supposed to go out and get familiar flying the aircraft. As the displays came alive there were track files and the SA as to what everyone else was doing in the airspace, and I was still on the ground. I mean, I hadn’t even gotten my take-off clearance yet. I didn’t even know where it was coming from. It was coming from another F-35. The jet had started all the systems for me and the SA was there. That was a very eye opening moment for me.

The second one, took place when I came back from that flight. In a Hornet you would pull into the line and had a very methodical way in which you have to shut off the airplane and the systems otherwise you could damage something. So you have to follow a sequence, it is very methodical about which electronic system you shut off. In the F-35 you come back, you do a couple things then you just shut the engine off, and it does everything else for you. Sounds simple, even silly — but it is a quantum shift.

Suez, the RAF, and the Royal Navy

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

The Suez conflict provided lessons for British strategy and defence policy — beyond the long list of things not to do:

Since the early 1950s, the role of the Royal Navy and even of sea power more broadly had come under concerted attack in Whitehall. The Air Ministry pushed hard for a narrow focus on the early, nuclear stage of a total war with the USSR – for which, as it happened, the RAF’s cherished medium bomber force was well suited. This approach left little room for naval power; why seek to defend sea communications when the war would be settled quickly, by nuclear weapons? Some senior politicians and civil servants were convinced of the strategic logic of this case, while others went along with an approach that appeared to offer significant savings in defence spending. The Admiralty put up a spirited counter-case arguing that defence policy could not plan only for total war, let alone for only one form that such a war might take. Conventional forces, it insisted, including naval power, were an indispensable part of the deterrent to war; they would be essential to fighting any war if Britain was to survive; and they were vital for waging the cold war, which was bound to continue and even intensify as total war became less likely. The strategic logic of the Admiralty case was compelling but the financial implications were unpalatable; the Navy held on but only just and the assaults kept coming. Suez provided a much needed reality check.

First, it was a reminder that while deterring or fighting total war with the Soviet Union was bound to be the main focus for policy, it was not the only game in town. Britain and the West more broadly had interests around the world that were important in their own right, as well as having a potential connection to the cold war. Indeed, with a deliberate resort to war by the USSR being viewed as unlikely, preventing the outbreak of minor conflicts that could escalate became an important element of avoiding war. The Suez crisis both demonstrated the need for military intervention overseas and also shed a harsh light on existing British capabilities for such operations.

The second question concerned how such intervention should be conducted. Britain had hitherto relied on garrisons stationed overseas and on the use of air bases. These were expensive to maintain and as pillars of a strategy for intervention, they were being increasingly shaken by nationalism and decolonisation, resulting in the loss of bases or tight restrictions on their use. A potential ‘air barrier’ across the Middle East further complicated the British response to any crisis in the Gulf, Indian Ocean or Far East, reducing the utility of any UK-based strategic reserve. In response to these developments, the Admiralty was beginning to propose that the Royal Navy could take the lead ‘east of Suez’ with maritime task forces, based around carrier air power and amphibious capabilities, which would provide a stabilizing influence and a capacity for intervention. This vision appealed to those wanting a cheaper strategy as well as accommodating the reality of reducing access to overseas bases. It suited the Air Ministry which, focused on nuclear-armed bombers, was entirely content to see conventional, expeditionary air power fall primarily to the Fleet Air Arm. It also gave the Royal Navy a clear and viable role which attracted wider political support – at the same time as preserving capabilities that the Admiralty continued to see as essential for total war; hot war was de-emphasised in favour of warm and cold war.