Waiting will get you killed

Thursday, July 21st, 2016

The various recent attacks all took place where law-abiding adults could not legally carry handguns for self-defense and largely had to wait for armed police to arrive, but waiting will get you killed:

A lot of people can be shot in the time it takes police to arrive after a mass public shooting begins. The norm seems to be between three and eight minutes.

Active Shooter Results

In every single active shooter attack where a good, armed person was present when the attack began and acted aggressively to stop the killer, the body count was less than 10, single-digits. Every time. 100%. Having a good, armed person present who will act to stop the killer, whether it’s a cop, armed security guard, or armed citizen, ends the attack in the first 1–2 minutes. This prevents the killer from having the time needed to amass a high body count. Waiting on police to arrive and stop the killing gives the killer plenty of time to shoot a lot of people.

Begun by dreamers and implemented by criminals

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

Minorities trouble in two main ways, Dr. James Thompson notes — by being a nuisance and by becoming majorities:

Doing both in parallel is the greatest threat to the host nation.

Proportionality is the key here: in most places, most people, most of the time,  go about their business peaceably. They can rightly say of the troublemakers in their communities that “they are a minority”. True. However, those troublemakers are more frequent in some communities than others, and this is a subtlety that often gets lost in discussion. Troublemakers need some support from their own communities, even if just tacitly turning a blind eye.

The rate at which European communities commit mass murder of their own citizens is very low, though not zero. The US suffered casualties from anti-government bombers. The UK suffered more casualties from Irish Republicans. Basque separatists have bombed Spaniards. However, these dreadful events can be seen as localised grievances, not an over-arching plan.

What troubles most about the Jihadist meme is its generality: its scope is global, and although it has key Western targets, the Crusaders, it takes on all non-believers: white Europeans, Black Nigerians, and anyone else who gets in their way, including brands of Islamic belief they judge to be insufficiently pure.

Like any franchise, it attracts lone entrepreneurs: those who vaguely want to do something, and find a general plan excuse enough to vent anger, disappointment, and general malaise. Insurrections are begun by dreamers and implemented by criminals.

So now we have a dreadful calculus: Western Europe has sizeable Islamic populations, most of whom are not bent on committing murder. Within those populations there are a minority willing to murder on a large scale. Their spectaculars (as the IRA used to boastfully call them) are aimed at showing the population that their governments cannot protect them. They attack the presumption of safety on which civil society is based.

A nation is a protection system, and not a racket if you can leave of your own free will. In exchange for following the rules and paying your dues you get the protection of the state: the protection of borders and the protection of your safety within the boundaries of the state. Insurrections challenge that protection, and taunt both the governed and the government.

The paradox comes thus: any state which guarantees the rights of citizens must also grant them to those who would destroy the state and injure its people. Our interpretation of Magna Carta is that the big letter demands that no-one be arrested without due cause. A noble aim, though of course the original did not apply to all citizens, only to free men, say about 40% of the population at most. It did not contemplate millions of non-Christian non-Europeans, with perhaps 10% of them at least passively in favour of establishing the dominion of another religion and another system of law. That which would have been considered treason is now considered a right which must be defended by the very State which is the target of the attack.

Why Terrorists Keep Succeeding in France

Monday, July 18th, 2016

Muslims make up 60 percent of the French prison population, but just 8 percent of France’s total population:

Youths with a criminal record are excellent material for radicalization: It gives them a cause for which to fight. And yet the French government barely has a system for tracking this risk group’s embrace of radical Islam.

France makes a convenient target for global terrorists, because of the linguistic and cultural heritage it left in its former colonies:

“We must no longer think in terms of French or French-resident people, but in terms of francophones,” Patrick Calvar, head of France’s domestic intelligence, told the commission. “Thousands of Tunisians, thousands of Moroccans and Algerians can be dispatched into our territory.”

Why Turkey’s Coup d’État Failed

Monday, July 18th, 2016

The leaders behind the recent Turkish coup made some of the classic blunders:

Rule No. 2 in planning a successful military coup is that any mobile forces that are not part of the plot — and that certainly includes any fighter jet squadrons — must be immobilized or too remote to intervene. (Which is why Saudi army units, for example, are based far from the capital.) But the Turkish coup plotters failed to ensure these loyal tanks, helicopters, and jets were rendered inert, so instead of being reinforced as events unfolded, the putschists were increasingly opposed. But perhaps that scarcely mattered because they had already violated Rule No. 1, which is to seize the head of the government before doing anything else, or at least to kill him.

The country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was left free to call out his followers to resist the attempted military coup, first by iPhone and then in something resembling a televised press conference at Istanbul’s airport. It was richly ironic that he was speaking under the official portrait of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of Turkey’s modern secular state, because Erdogan’s overriding aim since entering politics has been to replace it with an Islamic republic by measures across the board: from closing secular high schools so as to drive pupils into Islamic schools to creeping alcohol prohibitions to a frenzied program of mosque-building everywhere — including major ex-church museums and university campuses, where, until recently, headscarves were prohibited.

Televised scenes of the crowds that came out to oppose the coup were extremely revealing: There were only men with mustaches (secular Turks rigorously avoid them) with not one woman in sight. Moreover, their slogans were not patriotic, but Islamic — they kept shouting “Allahu ekber” (the local pronunciation of “akbar”) and breaking out into the Shahada, the declaration of faith.

Richly ironic, too, was the prompt and total support of U.S. President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the European Union’s hapless would-be foreign minister, Federica Mogherini, in the name of “democracy.” Erdogan has been doing everything possible to dismantle Turkey’s fragile democracy: from ordering the arrest of journalists who criticized him, including the outright seizure and closure of the country’s largest newspaper, Zaman, to the very exercise of presidential power, since Turkey is not a presidential republic like the United States or France, but rather a parliamentary republic like Germany or Italy, with a mostly ceremonial president and the real power left to the prime minister.

Why popular opinion can’t predict a coup

Sunday, July 17th, 2016

The assumption that popular opinion has an impact on coups is common in political science, but there is no evidence to support it:

Over the course of writing my book, “Seizing Power: The Strategic Logic of Military Coups,” I spent 300 hours talking with participants in 10 coup attempts in Ghana and statistically analyzed the determinants of every coup attempt and outcome in the world from 1950 to 2000. Based on this evidence, I argue that there is no reason to believe that military factions hesitate to attempt coups when popular opinion is against them, or that coup attempts are more likely to fail when the populace is opposed.

Over the course of this research, I observed that conspirators devoted very little consideration during coup plotting to the question of how the population would react. Coup makers are largely convinced that their cause is just (even when the coup comes from a partisan or personal interest), and that they will have widespread popular support for their actions, with perhaps limited opposition coming from entrenched special interests. And, in general, coup attempts do encounter very little popular protest, although this is not a reflection of support for military intervention. Coup attempts generally transpire very quickly and, with a few noteworthy exceptions, are over before civilians can mobilize in opposition. If a coup succeeds, civilians respond strategically. Opponents of the previous government will rejoice, joined by opportunists who wish to curry favor with the new rulers. Supporters of the previous government will usually remain quiet, afraid of bringing attention to themselves. Because successful coups are generally met with expressions of popular support, it spuriously appears that public opinion had a role in encouraging the conspirators to act.

The whole point of a coup is for a faction of the military to take over the government without kicking off a civil war:

That means that coups are typically marked by defections to whatever side appears to be winning, rather than outright military conflict between factions.

[...]

One critical way to create this self-fulfilling prophecy, according to Singh’s research, is to take control of the broadcast media. Once you’ve got the radio and television stations, you then use them to tell everyone the government has already been overthrown. That convinces people in the military that the coup has succeeded, leading them to take your side.

But reports on the ground say that this didn’t happen. President Erdogan managed to make a televised statement opposing the coup (though he did so, amusingly, via a cellphone on Skype). Leaders of major political parties, including the opposition, publicly opposed the coup.

Perhaps most importantly, the coup plotters did a very poor job of getting their message out. While they did seize a number of media outlets, like CNN Turk, they failed to use them effectively in broadcasting their message.

“We had no clear statement from the coup forces. No leader came on TV, no real manifesto,” Zeynep Tufekci, a professor at the University of North Carolina who was in Turkey during the coup attempt, tweeted. “In Turkey, successful coup attempts are massive, happen within chain-of-command, and take over media immediately.”

The coup plotters failed to establish the perception that they were fully in control, and hence failed to win the overwhelming bulk of the military to their side. It’s still early, so we can’t be sure of anything. But given Singh’s research, and the information we have, it’s very likely that this explains — at least in part — why they failed.

Puzzling Statistics

Sunday, July 17th, 2016

Why do the human sciences record pervasive behavioral differences among racial groups, such as in violent-crime rates?

One explanation is that these disparities originate in complex interactions between nature and nurture.

But, of course, only dangerous extremists hold that theory.

The much more respectable sentiment is that statistical differences among the races are the fault of bad white people, such as George Zimmerman and Minnesota policeman Jeronimo Yanez.

Last week, on his way to Warsaw on Air Force One, President Barack Obama was looking at social media. According to The New York Times, he alerted his press secretary that:

He had decided to make a statement himself as soon as they landed, and had told his aides to collect statistics demonstrating racial bias in the criminal justice system.

Now, you might think that’s putting the cart before the horse. Perhaps the administration should objectively evaluate the evidence first, rather than order its media flacks to dredge up some data justifying the president’s prejudices?

But that would be wrong. Everybody knows that culture or evolution can’t have anything to do with hereditary racial differences in performance. If you even consider those possibilities, you must be one of the bad white people you’ve been warned about.

Instead, we know that science has proved that statistical differences among the races are all due to a vast conspiracy to plunder blacks. Nothing makes 21st-century people who think they are white richer than having a lot of black bodies around. Just ask MacArthur genius Ta-Nehisi Coates. He’ll tell you.

“Why are there all these puzzling statistics that don’t agree with the stereotypes promoted by our national leaders?”

And yet, here’s a statistic published in 2011 that doesn’t support the Coates-Obama orthodoxy:

While young black males have accounted for about 1% of the population from 1980 to 2008…(b)y 2008, young black males made up about a quarter of all homicide o?enders (27%)…

In other words, young black males are about 27 times more likely to kill somebody than the average American.

Interestingly, that datum comes from the Obama administration’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, which published a report entitled Homicide Trends in the United States, 1980–2008.

One reason young black males are disproportionately homicidal is that they are young (homicide rates are highest among 18- to 24-year-olds). Another factor is that they are male (according to the BJS, “Males were 7 times more likely than females to commit murder in 2008”).

That the police keep a warier eye on men than women and the young than the old is never seen as offensive. It’s just common sense.

Yet profiling blacks as tending to be more threatening than whites (not to mention Hispanics or Asians) is the worst offense imaginable under today’s ruling ideology. For instance, the day after the Dallas antiwhite atrocity, the first two policy responses that Hillary Clinton recommended in an interview with Wolf Blitzer were: “National guidelines for police about the use of force” and “We need to look more into implicit bias.”

Jon’s Law

Saturday, July 16th, 2016

The recent truck attack brought to mind Jon’s Law, from the world of hard science fiction fandom:

Any interesting space drive is a weapon of mass destruction.

Apparently Warg Franklin had the same thought:

Looks like it turns out we don’t need to imagine starships, or even airplanes, for this to be a problem. In the hands of sufficiently motivated terrorists, everyday tools like trucks become weapons of mass killing.

Banning assault trucks is attacking the wrong part of the problem.

Gun Deaths In America

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

FiveThirtyEight presents a rather reasonable infographic depicting gun deaths in America, which are mostly suicides, then homicides, with a few accidents, and notes that while the common element is a gun, the causes are very different, and that means the solutions must be, too.

Gun Suicides, Homicides, and Accidents

Lifetime Violence and IQ

Monday, July 11th, 2016

One of the most consistent findings in the criminological literature is that African American males are arrested, convicted, and incarcerated at rates that far exceed those of any other racial or ethnic group, but this racial disparity was completely accounted for after including covariates for self-reported lifetime violence and IQ.

Social Violence Networking

Monday, July 11th, 2016

Social media broadcasting has become central to social violence, John Robb notes, and this has led to a new dynamic that bypasses the “redirecting–calming–slowing” influence of traditional media and the government, one which is raw, unfiltered, and fast, radically increasing both the likelihood and the intensity of social violence:

Violence as performance art. Selfies. Instagram videos. Twitter. We’ve been conditioned to record our experiences using social media. Naturally, we’re are seeing the same thing with violence. Recording violence and showing it to the world, raw and unedited, can be used to “elevate the act” and memorialize it. NOTE: ISIS recently stumbled onto this as a way to motivate people to engage in terrorism. In these cases, the attackers used social media to turn their bloody attacks into both performance art and solemn ceremony. It gave it meaning. We’ll see more of that in the future.

We are bombarded with Instant outrage. We are more vulnerable to emotional manipulation than ever before. Our use of social media has changed us. We are constantly on the hunt for pics, news, stories, and videos that grab our attention and titillate us. Once we find them, we are then quick to share them with others. Few things provoke outrage faster than violence and injustice. It is proving particularly effective when the videos arrive raw and unedited from an individual rather than from the media. These personal broadcasts have an authenticity, a vulnerability, and an immediacy to them that greatly amplifies their emotional impact. This makes them more effective at triggering violence than any sterile broadcast from a traditional media outlet.

Echo chambers. Our virtual networks on Facebook, Twitter, etc. surrounded us with people who think like we do. These networks can easily become echo chambers. Echo chambers that radically amplify outrageous social media videos, spreading the outrage like a contagion. More importantly, it appears that this amplification can trigger individuals on the fence to engage in violence.

Garwin and the Mike Shot

Saturday, July 9th, 2016

In Building the H-Bomb: A Personal History, Kenneth Ford explains how Richard Garwin designed the first H-Bomb, based on the Teller-Ulam mechanism, while still in his early twenties:

In 1951 Dick Garwin came for his second summer to Los Alamos. He was then twenty-three and two years past his Ph.D. Edward Teller, having interacted with Garwin at the University of Chicago, knew him to be an extraordinarily gifted experimental physicist as well as a very talented theorist. He knew, too, that Fermi had called Garwin the best graduate student he ever had.

So when Garwin came to Teller shortly after arriving in Los Alamos that summer (probably in June 1951) asking him “what was new,” Teller was ready to pounce. He referred Garwin to the Teller-Ulam report of that March and then asked him to “devise an experiment that would be absolutely persuasive that this would really work.” Garwin set about doing exactly that and in a report dated July 25, 1951, titled “Some Preliminary Indications of the Shape and Construction of a Sausage, Based on Ideas Prevailing in July 1951,” he laid out a design with full specifics of size, shape, and composition, for what would be the Mike shot fired the next year.

Okkupert

Friday, July 8th, 2016

I have not yet watched Occupied (on Netflix), the Norwegian 10-part mini-series about a Russian occupation of their small and peaceful country:

Many of the good people of Norway are faced with a dilemma. The growing sense of oppression becomes harder for many Norwegians to ignore but the only forces actually pushing back are hardly nice Norwegians–not nice at all. And they challenge both the values or interests of many in the Norwegian public.

As I was watching the series I happened to be reading the book Violent Politics, by William R. Polk. Polk’s book is a history of insurgencies “from the American Revolution to Iraq.” Polk’s argument is that all insurgencies follow a similar path. They start with an invasion or some other challenge to the identity of a cohesive group, whether nation, culture or tribe. At first only a tiny number of individuals fight back. They are small in number and typically poorly armed but they are dedicated and zealous. They are not nice people by a conventional definition, and they often start with terrorist acts.

As they start to take action, a number of contradictory things are set in motion. More and more people are attracted to the cause but there is typically a high degree of resistance to their methods even among the people they are attempting to win over. Polk describes General Washington’s disgust at the kind of person fighting for American independence in loosely organized militias, and he was ever attempting to squash them in favor of a decent regular army, one that would be willing to fight fair, under European rules of engagement. In Polk’s view that would have been a disaster – in fact Polk argues that were it left to Washington the war would have been lost since a conventional American army would have been no match for the British. It took the nasty guys to create the change, and to force the population to make a choice.

Polk describes a kind of dialectic, with the initial brutality of the insurgents creating contradictory responses among the populace. When the insurgency is done “right” – that is, when conditions are favorable and when the insurgents manage the dialectic effectively – the result can be a twisting road to victory.

The Norwegian insurgency follows Polk’s classic pattern perfectly – a textbook case of how to do it right.

Four Months as a Private Prison Guard

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

Shane Bauer went undercover as a prison guard for Mother Jones, with the goal of attacking private prisons.

The system clearly has some incentive problems:

If he were sent to the hospital, CCA would be contractually obligated to pay for his stay. For a for-profit company, this presents a dilemma. Even a short hospital stay is a major expense for an inmate who brings the company about $34 per day. And that’s aside from the cost of having two guards keep watch over him. Medical care within the prison is expensive, too. CCA does not disclose its medical expenses, but in a typical prison, health care costs are the second-biggest expense after staff. On average, a Louisiana prison puts 9 percent of its budget toward health care. In some states it can be much higher; health care is 31 percent of a California prison’s budget. Nearly 40 percent of Winn inmates have a chronic disease such as diabetes, heart disease, or asthma, according to Louisiana’s budget office. About 6 percent have a communicable disease such as HIV or hepatitis C.

Even prisoners want good governance:

“CCA is not qualified to run this place,” an inmate shouts to me a day into the lockdown. “You always got to shut the place down. You can’t function. You can’t run school or nothing because you got everybody on lockdown.”

Another inmate cuts in. “Since I been here, there’s been nothing but stabbings,” he says. “It don’t happen like this at other prisons because they got power. They got control. Ain’t no control here, so it’s gonna always be something happening. You got to start from the top to the bottom, you feel me?”

It’s still shocking that they allow female prison guards in a male prison:

In interviews with staff, the DOC learned that staff members had been “bringing in mountains and mountains of mojo” — synthetic marijuana — and having sex with inmates. “One person actually said that they trusted the inmates more than they trusted me, the warden. One staff member said, ‘The inmate made me feel pretty. Why wouldn’t I love him? Why wouldn’t I bring him things he needs because you all won’t let him have it?’”

America’s First Propaganda Coup

Monday, July 4th, 2016

The Declaration of Independence was America’s first propaganda coup, as Max Boot explains:

This [talk of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"] was designed to cast the colonialists’ cause not as a grubby dispute over levels of taxation but as an idealistic fight for freedom. This was a bit of a stretch given that Britain in the late 18th century was already one of the most liberal countries in the world with established democratic institutions both at home and abroad. The Founding Fathers, after all, had developed their ideas of self-government precisely because they were a mainstream product of the English political and educational system.

What the Declaration of Independence showed was that the rebels, far more than their Tory adversaries in Britain, had a proper appreciation of the power of “public opinion” — a word that first appeared in print, by a fateful coincidence, in the very year 1776 in the first volume of Edward Gibbons’ Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. They understood that to prevail against the British Empire — the superpower of its day — it was not enough to fight on the field of battle; it was necessary to fight in the realm of ideas as well to influence public opinion at home and abroad in favor of the pro-independence cause.

The most radical colonialists had been doing just that for years. Samuel Adams and Joseph Warren had started a Committee of Correspondence in Boston in 1772 to make their case, an example that was soon emulated across the colonies. Thomas Paine was another propagandist extraordinaire; the publication of his pamphlet Common Sense in early 1776 prepared the way for the Declaration of Independence. Benjamin Franklin was yet another effective salesman for the Revolution — his political and propaganda work in France made it possible for the rebels to secure French help, which made all the difference.

The rebels were constantly engaging in what we would today call “spinning.” They managed to get their account of the Battle of Lexington and Concord in 1775 to Britain, addressed to the “Inhabitants of Great Britain,” a full two weeks before the official British dispatches arrived, thus helping to mold public opinion in their favor.

Ultimately this line of operations proved decisive. The British Empire could have continued fighting after the Battle of Yorktown in 1781. Lost armies could have been reconstituted from the vast resources of the empire. But it was not to be because Britain was a parliamentary democracy. On February 28, 1782, the House of Commons voted by a narrow margin to discontinue offensive operations. This forced the downfall of Lord North’s hardline Tory ministry and led to its replacement by Lord Rockingham’s more liberal Whigs, who were bent on concluding a peace treaty with their American cousins.

In a sense, February 28 should really be our Independence Day. But the propaganda coup of the Founding Fathers continues to resonate down through the centuries, turning July 4 into our national holy day (the origin of “holiday”).

Mass Shootings Make Sense

Saturday, July 2nd, 2016

What exactly was senseless about the recent mass shooting in Orlando?

A Muslim Afghan man who pledged allegiance to ISIS attacks and kills homosexuals in America two months after a West Point paper is published detailing ISIS’ strategy of encouraging and organizing international terror attacks. The Islamic State itself commits terrorism because, as this informative article stated, “The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse.”

That sounds exotic — to put it mildly — but hardly senseless.

Not that the mass shooting in Orlando was alone in making a little bit more sense than the approved media would have you believe. Do a quick Google search of “mass shooters manifesto” and see how many results come up. Almost every single mass shooter releases some kind of manifesto or statement detailing their beliefs, their ideology, and why the two required a massacre. Sometimes, it’s as straightforward as “the world is against me, I must fight the world.” That describes the manifesto of Christopher Harper-Mercer. Sometimes, like in the case of Anders Behring Breivik, the manifesto runs up to 1500 pages long.

Far be it from me to sympathize with or support mass murderers, but to claim that men who spend years developing intricate, murderous ideologies with a litany of published justifications before acting on them after spending thousands of dollars and manhours on preparation is, frankly, senseless.