You used to be able to fly into a country on one name and have meetings in another

Monday, August 31st, 2020

Modern technology is putting an end to traditional spying:

The beginning of the CIA’s cover and tradecraft crisis dates back to at least February 2003, when a Muslim cleric known as Abu Omar disappeared off the street in Milan. He didn’t resurface until 2004, when he called his wife from Cairo to tell her about his kidnapping, detention and torture at the hands of the CIA.

Italian investigators, eager to get to the bottom of the audacious abduction on their streets, were later able to track a web of cellphones communicating only with each other in close proximity to the disappearance, leading them to a series of hotel bills, credit card statements and other identifying indicators, according to a 2007 investigation unveiled at an annual hacker conference in 2013. Italian authorities charged 23 Americans, including the CIA’s former Milan station chief, for their roles in the scheme — most in absentia.

While Omar was just one target of the CIA’s aggressive post-9/11 antiterrorism campaign, several former intelligence officials described the Milan operation’s aftermath as a “come to Jesus” moment that revealed just how vulnerable the agency’s operators were to technology. At the time, some undercover officials naively believed that methods like using potato chip bags would mask cellphone signals, and operatives were generally “freewheeling,” according to one former senior intelligence official. In the space of a few short years, the rapid advance of technology, including nascent international surveillance systems, increasingly endangered the CIA’s traditional human intelligence gathering.

Singapore was one example, recall three former intelligence officials. By the early 2000s, the agency ceased running certain types of operations in the Southeast Asian city-state, because of the sweeping digital surveillance there. The Singaporeans had developed a database that incorporated real-time flight, customs, hotel and taxicab data. If it took too long for a traveler to get from the airport to a hotel in a taxi, the anomaly would trigger an alert in Singaporean security systems. “If there was a gap, they’d go to the hotel, they could flip on the TVs and phones and monitor what was going on” in the room of the suspicious traveler, says the same former senior intelligence official. “They had everything so wired.”

“You used to be able to fly into a country on one name and have meetings in another,” recalls this person. “It limited a lot of capabilities.”

Those concerns spread to other places, like London, where CCTV cameras are omnipresent, and the United Arab Emirates, where facial recognition is ubiquitous at the airport. Today there are “about 30 countries” where CIA officers are no longer followed on the way to meetings because local governments no longer see the need, given that surveillance in those countries is so pervasive, said Dawn Meyerriecks, the CIA’s deputy director for science and technology, in a 2018 speech.

In the 2000s, the explosion in biometrics — such as fingerprints, facial recognition and iris scans — propelled the conversation forward, according to multiple former intelligence officials. U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that in many parts of the world, within a short time, all alias work would likely become impossible.

These fears were largely borne out, say former CIA officials — especially in “hard target” countries like China and Iran. But this trend also affected CIA operations in friendlier countries. By 2012, recalls one former official, some officers were temporarily forbidden to travel for missions in the European Union over fear of exposure, due to widespread sharing of airport biometric data between EU member states. “Facial recognition and biometrics make it very difficult to travel in alias,” says Mike Morell, former acting CIA director and host of the “Intelligence Matters” podcast.

The rise in popularity of consumer DNA kits, which allow people to send in samples of their own DNA, is a growing part of the biometrics problem. Even if an undercover operative hasn’t used a consumer DNA kit, it’s highly likely, say experts, that one of their close relatives has. The Pentagon’s Dec. 20 warning to members of the military not to use these kits appears to be partly in response to that threat.

Greg Hampikian, a biologist at Boise State University and a leading DNA expert, says that with the advent of commercial genetic databases, exposing a spy or other covert operative could be as easy as taking a saliva sample from a cigarette butt or a drinking cup. A suspicious foreign government could send the sample in and potentially find out if the person has been operating under an assumed name.

“It’s right out of a spy novel,” he says.

For spy services, biometric data has become a highly valued currency — leading to a widespread and ongoing campaign by the U.S. and its allies, as well as hostile states, to hack into biometric databases from important airports worldwide. The U.S. has spearheaded breaches of its own, successfully hacking biometric data from the Dubai and Abu Dhabi airports, says a former official. Stealing biometric databases is an attractive strategy for other countries as well. In one case, Chinese intelligence successfully hacked into the biometric data from Bangkok’s airport. “The Chinese have consistently extracted data from all the major transit hubs in the world,” says another former senior official.

If you read the official documents that go out to the Party’s 90,000 members, you get a world view that’s surprisingly similar to The Pentagon’s New Map

Sunday, August 30th, 2020

T. Greer (of The Scholar’s Stage) recently spoke with ChinaTalk. Most modern “takes” on China are biased, he notes, by the easy access “China hands” have to Westernized Chinese who don’t take Marxism seriously. If you read the official Party documents that go out to the Party’s 90,000 members though, you get a world view that’s surprisingly similar to The Pentagon’s New Map.

For an overview of Chinese history, Greer strongly recommends F.W. Mote’s Imperial China 900-1800 and laments that Mote never wrote a similar volume on earlier Chinese history.

He recommends the usual Chinese classics — and a satirical novel called The Scholars.

Readers of this blog might be interested in The Chinese Invasion Threat: Taiwan’s Defense and American Strategy in Asia. Taiwan could defend itself militarily, with its favorable terrain, but the will to do so is almost completely lacking.

They had no interest in fighting a half-ass war like this one

Sunday, August 30th, 2020

Frank Muñoz, commanding officer of G Company, realized he had too few men to do the job, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), and he also had a morale problem:

Almost all of the riflemen, dug in along the rear slope of the hill, had jumped in their holes and pulled the zipper. They didn’t want to come out even to shoot.


Some of the men told him they didn’t mind fighting a big war. Americans, he found, tend to take pride in doing things in a big way. But they had no interest in fighting a half-ass war like this one.

Then they started taking mortar fire:

The instant he understood the mortar fire had finished, Frank Muñoz jumped from his hole and ran up to the top of the ridge, where he could see across the rice paddies to the front. Quick as he was, he was too late.

At the top of the ridge, he made eyeball to eyeball contact with a North Korean soldier. Muñoz moved first. His .45 slug killed the Korean at a range of inches. As he shot, he could see two waves of enemy infantry, bayonets fixed, charging up the slope, firing from the hip.

He went into the nearest hole, which was already occupied by a man with a BAR. “Fire to your right front!” he snapped at the BAR man.

The enemy boiled up over the hill and ran at George’s thin line of holes. George Company met them with a blast of fire, stopping them only yards away. The first wave fell apart a few feet in front of Frank’s own position.


Then the second wave of charging Koreans swarmed over the crest. In a wild melee, some of the Inmun Gun jumped into foxholes with Muñoz’s men, bayonets flashing.

Muñoz yelled at his Artillery forward observer to bring fire down on the hill. The FO, Lieutenant Hartman, yelled back, “No! I don’t want to do it!”

But Frank grabbed a field phone and reached Battalion. He got the Artillery liaison officer there, and he got action — two salvos of 105’s, to be put down on his own position.

Seconds later, the shells screamed down, bursting with ear-shattering noise. They caught most of the attacking Inmun Gun still swarming down the ridge.

Dug in, Muñoz’s boys suffered no harm. The enemy, in the open, died. And, as suddenly as they had been attacked, George’s men were all alone on the hill.

Any virus that can make people sick has to have at least one good trick for evading the immune system

Saturday, August 29th, 2020

The immune system is very complicated, Ed Yong notes, but it works, roughly, like this:

The first of three phases involves detecting a threat, summoning help, and launching the counterattack. It begins as soon as a virus drifts into your airways, and infiltrates the cells that line them.

When cells sense molecules common to pathogens and uncommon to humans, they produce proteins called cytokines. Some act like alarms, summoning and activating a diverse squad of white blood cells that go to town on the intruding viruses — swallowing and digesting them, bombarding them with destructive chemicals, and releasing yet more cytokines. Some also directly prevent viruses from reproducing (and are delightfully called interferons). These aggressive acts lead to inflammation. Redness, heat, swelling, soreness — these are all signs of the immune system working as intended.

This initial set of events is part of what’s called the innate immune system. It’s quick, occurring within minutes of the virus’s entry. It’s ancient, using components that are shared among most animals. It’s generic, acting in much the same way in everyone. And it’s broad, lashing out at anything that seems both nonhuman and dangerous, without much caring about which specific pathogen is afoot. What the innate immune system lacks in precision, it makes up for in speed. Its job is to shut down an infection as soon as possible. Failing that, it buys time for the second phase of the immune response: bringing in the specialists.

Amid all the fighting in your airways, messenger cells grab small fragments of virus and carry these to the lymph nodes, where highly specialized white blood cells — T-cells — are waiting. The T-cells are selective and preprogrammed defenders. Each is built a little differently, and comes ready-made to attack just a few of the zillion pathogens that could possibly exist. For any new virus, you probably have a T-cell somewhere that could theoretically fight it. Your body just has to find and mobilize that cell. Picture the lymph nodes as bars full of grizzled T-cell mercenaries, each of which has just one type of target they’re prepared to fight. The messenger cell bursts in with a grainy photo, showing it to each mercenary in turn, asking: Is this your guy? When a match is found, the relevant merc arms up and clones itself into an entire battalion, which marches off to the airways.

Some T-cells are killers, which blow up the infected respiratory cells in which viruses are hiding. Others are helpers, which boost the rest of the immune system. Among their beneficiaries, these helper T-cells activate the B-cells that produce antibodies — small molecules that can neutralize viruses by gumming up the structures they use to latch on to their hosts. Roughly speaking — and this will be important later — antibodies mop up the viruses that are floating around outside our cells, while T-cells kill the ones that have already worked their way inside. T-cells do demolition; antibodies do cleanup.

Both T-cells and antibodies are part of the adaptive immune system. This branch is more precise than the innate branch, but much slower: Finding and activating the right cells can take several days. It’s also long-lasting: Unlike the innate branch of the immune system, the adaptive one has memory.

After the virus is cleared, most of the mobilized T-cell and B-cell forces stand down and die off. But a small fraction remain on retainer — veterans of the COVID-19 war of 2020, bunkered within your organs and patrolling your bloodstream. This is the third and final phase of the immune response: Keep a few of the specialists on tap. If the same virus attacks again, these “memory cells” can spring into action and launch the adaptive branch of the immune system without the usual days-long delay. Memory is the basis of immunity as we colloquially know it — a lasting defense against whatever has previously ailed us.

In general, the immune system’s reaction to SARS-CoV-2 is what you would expect:

Still, “any virus that can make people sick has to have at least one good trick for evading the immune system,” [Shane Crotty from the La Jolla Institute of Immunology] says. The new coronavirus seems to rely on early stealth, somehow delaying the launch of the innate immune system, and inhibiting the production of interferons — those molecules that initially block viral replication. “I believe this [delay] is really the key in determining good versus bad outcomes,” says Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale. It creates a brief time window in which the virus can replicate unnoticed before the alarm bells start sounding. Those delays cascade: If the innate branch is slow to mobilize, the adaptive branch will also lag.


Immune responses are inherently violent. Cells are destroyed. Harmful chemicals are unleashed. Ideally, that violence is targeted and restrained; as Metcalf puts it, “Half of the immune system is designed to turn the other half off.” But if an infection is allowed to run amok, the immune system might do the same, causing a lot of collateral damage in its prolonged and flailing attempts to control the virus.

This is apparently what happens in severe cases of COVID-19. “If you can’t clear the virus quickly enough, you’re susceptible to damage from the virus and the immune system,” says Donna Farber, a microbiologist at Columbia. Many people in intensive-care units seem to succumb to the ravages of their own immune cells, even if they eventually beat the virus. Others suffer from lasting lung and heart problems, long after they are discharged. Such immune overreactions also happen in extreme cases of influenza, but they wreak greater damage in COVID-19.

There’s a further twist. Normally, the immune system mobilizes different groups of cells and molecules when fighting three broad groups of pathogens: viruses and microbes that invade cells, bacteria and fungi that stay outside cells, and parasitic worms. Only the first of these programs should activate during a viral infection. But Iwasaki’s team recently showed that all three activate in severe COVID-19 cases. “It seems completely random,” she says. In the worst cases, “the immune system almost seems confused as to what it’s supposed to be making.”

Somebody give me a white phosphorous grenade

Friday, August 28th, 2020

T. R. Fehrenbach (in This Kind of War) shares the story of an officer coming across a T-34 that had just been disabled with a well-placed bazooka shot:

Pointing to the tank, Schmitt wanted to know, “What’s with that?”

“The crew is still inside — won’t give up,” Frank said.

“Hell,” Schmitt said. He stood out in the open and began to yell at the tank in the Korean he had picked up during the Occupation. “Ede wha!” Come out!

The tank stayed quiet, even when Schmitt went up beside it and banged on the turret with his hand. Then Schmitt climbed up on the sponson and tried to pull open a hatch. Suddenly, then, there was movement inside. A crewman partly opened the hatch, thrust a pistol through, and fired point-blank at the Weapons Company commander.

Unhurt, Schmitt jumped down. “You son of a bitch, we’ll fix you!” he said. “Somebody give me a white phosphorous grenade—”

Pulling the pin, Schmitt dropped the incendiary grenade on the tank’s back deck, over the air intake.

The North Koreans never did come out, though they made a number of unpleasant noises as they stayed inside and burned.

Disabling location services on a mobile device does not turn off GPS, and does not significantly reduce the risk of location exposure

Thursday, August 27th, 2020

Location data can be extremely valuable, the National Security Agency notes, and must be protected:

Using a mobile device—even powering it on—exposes location data. Mobile devices inherently trust cellular networks and providers, and the cellular provider receives real-time location information for a mobile device every time it connects to the network. This means a provider can track users across a wide area. In some scenarios, such as 911 calls, this capability saves lives, whereas for personnel with location sensitivities, it may incur risks. If an adversary can influence or control the provider in some way, this location data may be compromised. Public news articles have reported that providers have been known to sell data, including near-real time location data, to third-parties [1].

Location data from a mobile device can be obtained even without provider cooperation. These devices transmit identifying information when connecting to cellular networks. Commercially available rogue base stations allow anyone in the local area to inexpensively and easily obtain real-time location data and track targets. This equipment is difficult to distinguish from legitimate equipment, and devices will automatically try to connect to it, if it is the strongest signal present [2].

Additionally, location data is stored on the mobile device. Past location information can be used to forecast future locations [3]. Other examples of risk exist: websites use browser fingerprinting to harvest location information [4], and WiFi access points and Bluetooth sensors can reveal location information [5].

A mobile device provides geolocation data as a service to apps. This is known as location services, and users can disable them in the settings of a device. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that disabling location services on a mobile device does not turn off GPS, and does not significantly reduce the risk of location exposure. Disabling location services only limits access to GPS and location data by apps. It does not prevent the operating system from using location data or communicating that data to the network.

Also important to remember is that GPS is not the same as location services. Even if GPS and cellular data are unavailable, a mobile device calculates location using Wi-Fi and/or BT. Apps and websites can also use other sensor data (that does not require user permission) and web browser information to obtain or infer location information [6].

Even if cellular service is turned off on a mobile device, Wi-Fi and BT can be used to determine a user’s location. Inconspicuous equipment (e.g., wireless sniffers) can determine signal strength and calculate location, even when the user is not actively using the wireless services. Even if all wireless radios are disabled, numerous sensors on the device provide sufficient data to calculate location. Disabling BT completely may not be possible on some devices, even when a setting to disable BT exists. When communication is restored, saved information may be transmitted.

If a mobile device has been compromised, the user may no longer be able to trust the setting indicators. Detecting compromised mobile devices can be difficult or impossible; such devices may store or transmit location data even when location settings or all wireless capabilities have been disabled.

These bridges were invisible

Wednesday, August 26th, 2020

The NKPA built underwater bridges across the Naktong at the ferry site, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), employing an old Russian trick:

These bridges were invisible and therefore invulnerable to air attack.

Magnetometer readings are much less easy to jam than GPS signaling

Tuesday, August 25th, 2020

The U.S. Air Force is looking into using Earth’s magnetic field as an alternative to GPS:

Magnetic fields emanating from the earth’s surface vary in intensity, just like topography, and so-called magnetic anomaly maps of those fields have existed for years. Back in 2017, Aaron Canciani, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at the Air Force Institute of Technology, set out to see if magnetic sensors (magnetometers) affixed to aircraft could measure the intensity of those magnetic fields and, thus, locate the plane based on where it was in relation to those “landmarks.” His paper (and this video) shows how to outfit a Cessna plane with magnetometers in the rear and the front. Forty flight-hours worth of data and a lot of work reducing noise from the readings proved the idea viable.

But swapping magnetic fields for GPS isn’t easy. Unlike a crisp clear signal from space, factors such as the electrical operations of the plane itself can interfere with a sensor’s ability to detect the strength of the field. This is where artificial intelligence comes in, canceling out the noise from the sensor readings to allow for a better signal and more accuracy.

Researchers in the Air Force’s-MIT Artificial Intelligence Accelerator. community, working with scientists at MIT, continued to work on the problem, publishing their own paper in July. They showed that magnetic field readings can be accurate to ten meters, only slightly inferior to GPS, which is accurate down to three meters. But magnetometer readings are much less easy to jam than GPS signaling. GPS readings rely on a signal sent along a specific wavelength across vast distances. Magnometers just have to read the magnetic environment around the vehicle.

Revolution and terror are synonymous

Monday, August 24th, 2020

The Communists had infiltrated South Korea to a great extent, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), and as the Inmun Gun captured city after city, Communist cadres were ready to assume control:

The North Korean rulers had absolutely no interest in the merchants of the towns, or the middle classes, except eventually to get rid of them. Generally, these people were left alone or arrested, for later attention. But other groups received immediate attention. Former officials of the Republic, down to clerks, were jailed or killed. People such as moneylenders and prominent landowners were executed at once for political capital. Few, in any land, love the rich. The North Korean State acted on the assumption that men and women who could not be easily controlled or assimilated into a Communist state must be killed.

What happened in Seoul and Taejon was typical. In Seoul, every man or woman who had worked for the Americans in any capacity was executed if found, and the American Embassy had conveniently left their personnel files behind. All former government employees were killed or jailed. Steps were taken immediately to induct many of the youth of the city into NKPA, and others in labor forces.

Outside Taejon, after the city had been scoured for possible enemies to a Communist regime, shivering hordes of unfortunates, in groups of one hundred or more, were led to mass graves, hands bound, wired to each other. Then the shooting began. When the United States Army came back through in September, a burial trench containing more than 7,000 bodies, including those of 40 American soldiers, was uncovered.


The killing was not sheer savagery. The regime was ridding itself of people it could never trust, for the the best of political reasons.

Revolution and terror are synonymous; only with the passage of time does any revolution become respectable. After the military triumph of the American Revolution the hard-core adherents of the Crown — more than a quarter-million out of a population of three million — were stripped of their property and forced into exile in Canada and elsewhere. Much of the success of the United States in early days was due to the lack of organized dissent within the Republic.

After the French Revolution, thousands of aristocrats and others who fought the revolution were permitted to return to France, where their descendants have not accepted the principles of the revolution to this day, causing perpetual instability.

In a hideously practical way the Communists knew what they were doing.

The Korean terror exceeded that of now respectable Western social upheavals only in degree, and in brutal Communist efficiency.

But while it was shooting the officials and anti-Communists, the regime made every effort to cater to the poorer masses. Asian Communists have always realized that in nations largely peasant, the peasantry alone is of any real political value. Land was redistributed. It would be taken back later, when the regime was consolidated — but first, it was a necessary step, as in China, to secure the backing of the millions of the poor.

The middle classes, so vital to Western democracy, do not exist in most of Asia. Where they do exist, they are more of a political liability with the mass of people than an asset, for they are regarded with envy and hatred by men who break their backs on the soil. The peasant feels he can live without them.

While the proscribed classes were being wiped out, the Inmun Gun showed every courtesy to the workers of the soil. When the Inmun Gun required food or lodging of the poor, these were paid for — in worthless currency, but paid for none the less. In Seoul, the Inmun Gun had captured the South Korean Government mints, and the printing presses ran off all the currency the Inmun Gun could ever use.

In a country where 90 percent of the people are peasants, the Communist regime had every expectation of success — because peasants they understood. From the first, the peasantry saw little to lose through Communist rule, and perhaps much to gain. Only much later, when the land is collectivized and the iron hand shows through the paternal glove, and when it is too late, does the peasant who has been Communized realize his loss. Communized, he ceases to be an individual man, losing an identity that even the most abject poverty could not take from him before.


Americans, in turn, have been slow to understand the peasant, let alone mix with him.

Americans, who cannot understand or even communicate with peasantry, are growing lonelier in a world where the great majority of men are peasants.

The invasion of Japan might have resembled the Okinawa campaign

Sunday, August 23rd, 2020

The US dropped two atomic bombs on Japan 75 years ago, but what would an actual Allied invasion of Japan have looked like?

A clue can be found in Japan ’45, from John Tiller Software, a hobby wargame that depicts Operation Olympic (a sequel, Japan ’46, covers Operation Coronet). Japan ’45 is a battalion-level simulation involving thousands of U.S. Army and Marine, Japanese, British and French units maneuvering over a 2-D map of Kyushu.

At first glance, the Allies appear to be an unstoppable juggernaut. They field a staggering array of units, including tanks, armored cars, infantry (foot and mechanized), paratroopers, commandos, artillery (towed and self-propelled) and anti-tank guns, backed by fighters, bombers, battleships and destroyers. They enjoy far more firepower and mobility than the Japanese, whose army is mostly a First World War-style force of foot infantry and artillery.

But the unstoppable Allied war machine soon clanks to a halt. For starters, the terrain is not friendly to a mechanized army. In Japan ’45, the map of Kyushu is studded with rice paddies, forests, hills, villages, rivers and streams. The terrain restricts movement to a crawl, and provides natural defensive cover for the defenders. Despite all those Allied Sherman tanks, there will be no dashing Patton-esque blitzkriegs on Kyushu.

And what nature can’t provide, Japanese shovels will. The invasion beaches on Kyushu are studded with minefields, trenches, bunkers and pillboxes. The Allied player can only gnash his teeth as bombs, napalm and one-ton shells from battleships barely scratch Japanese troops embedded deep in their fortifications.

Finally, there is the Japanese soldier to contend with. The core of the Imperial Army was its legendarily tough infantry, which could withstand the hardest privations, and preferred to fight hand-to-hand with the bayonet. Even if their weapons aren’t quite as good or plentiful as Allied equipment, they’re good enough to inflict massive casualties on the invaders.

Playing Japan ’45, as the Allies against the AI-controlled Japanese side, graphically demonstrates that Operation Olympic would have been a meat grinder. U.S. Army and Marine assault troops splashing ashore suffer heavy losses from minefields, artillery and machine guns. Pinned down on the exposed beaches, the riflemen and engineers advance inch-by-inch. Eventually the Japanese are dislodged from their entrenchments, and once in the open, they are vulnerable to Allied air and naval firepower.

But then what? The terrain on Kyushu is too rough and restricted to allow an Allied breakthrough. Once the Japanese defenders are pushed off the bushes, they just regroup inland among the hills and woods, and the Allies have to dig them out again.

The game suggests the invasion of Japan might have resembled the Okinawa campaign, where U.S. troops had to battle through multiple Japanese defensive lines in a grinding battle of attrition that cost 50,000 American casualties — and 400 ships sunk or damaged by kamikazes — before Okinawa was conquered. Like Okinawa, the question is not whether the Allies will capture Kyushu, but what price they will pay for it.

The United States would have to take to the mud, too

Saturday, August 22nd, 2020

The enemy never seriously attempted to strike at American bases or lifelines beyond Korea, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), vulnerable as the bases continued to be:

An air or sea strike — and both planes and submarines were available in quantity within the Communist bloc — might have wreaked havoc with American reinforcement of Korea, but it would also have exposed the enemy to even more serious retaliation.


A French minister of state, in the days when Bourbon France was the land power par excellence of the world, once respectfully pointed out to his government that if France seriously intended to challenge Britain, a sea power, she must first have a navy. Two hundred years later the United States was in the same position. If it seriously desired to check the Communist advance on the ground, the United States would have to take to the mud, too.

We must be strong there just as we are on earth

Friday, August 21st, 2020

In June 1965, the Directorate of R&D of the Future Weapons Office in Rock Island, Illinois published The Meanderings of a Weapon Oriented Mind When Applied in a Vacuum Such as the Moon:

The purpose of this brochure is to stimulate the thinking of weapon people all the way from those who are responsible for the establishment of requirements, through those who are responsible for funding, to the weapon designer himself.

“If space is truly for peace,” it reads, “we must be strong there just as we are on earth.”

It presents early thoughts and then corrected thinking, like this:

Although the widely advertised temperature of from –250° to +250° F. are actualities on the moon, they are the approximate extremes reached on the surface at midday and midnight. (Days and nights are two weeks long.) The surface of the moon is a poor conductor of heat, consequently a little shade during the day and earth light during the night, plus  a reversible white and black umbrella may be sufficient to keep the temperature in the vicinity of the space suit within limits of from –65° to +125 to +160° F. Assuming a direct proportion to the reflecting area, earth light on the moon will be sixteen times greater than moonlight on the earth.

The discussion involves some calculations. A “5 to 95 percentile” man has an unrestricted maximum line of sight of from 1.4 to 1.6 miles on the moon, with its mean radius of 1080 miles:

Any object propelled horizontally from the shoulder of a man six feet tall (shoulder approximately 5 feet above the surface) would impact the surface after an uninterrupted flight of 2.73 times its velocity. For a velocity of 3000 ft/sec the impact point would be 8190 feet or about 2500 meters. [...] Therefore, the maximum range of a projected object at a velocity of 3000 ft/sec is about 320 miles when propelled at an angle of 45 degrees with the lunar surface. Its maximum ordinate is approximately 80 miles above the surface.

Orbital velocity at the moon’s surface is 5,600 feet per second — totally doable.

Pages 10–16 could have come from an early 1980s sci-fi roleplaying game:








It is expensive to use aircraft in place of artillery

Thursday, August 20th, 2020

The Far Eastern Air Force quickly dominated the skies over Korea, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War):

Unprepared for tactical ground-support missions, FEAF at first did almost as much harm as good, shooting up American positions and dealing grievous harm to friendly ROK units on the roads, but these mistakes were quickly corrected.

After gaining air control, FEAF began to interdict the ever-lengthening supply lines of the NKPA, throttling a great deal of its resupply to the front. But air over a country like Korea could never be in itself decisive. The country was too broken, and the NKPA was never completely road bound. Its units and its supplies, often on foot, went through the valleys and over the ridges, and too much of them arrived at the front. The NKPA did not amass the great, vulnerable mountains of matériel common to Western armies, because in the main it did not have them.


It is expensive to use aircraft in place of artillery — but in 1950 the United States had more aircraft, relatively, than cannon in the Far East.


All through the Korean War, whenever the enemy came out into the open, he was subject to immediate, effective air attack.


The NKPA became very good at camouflage and at night movement.


Based in Japan, which never changed from peacetime ways, many of them had wives and family stationed at their fields. Many a pilot flew out in the predawn darkness to strafe and rocket enemy troops all day across the burning hills of Korea, then returned to play cards with his wife at night.

This was harder on both pilots and family than if the dependents had been an ocean away.

Washington became the greatest foundation of all

Wednesday, August 19th, 2020

Mencius Moldbug writes an open letter to Paul Graham In response to his recent essay on the four quadrants of conformism;

What was happening between 1920 and 1940? The universities were taking power. In 1900, the idea of a professor telling the government what to do was borderline absurd. By 1940, it was normal. By 1960, it was universal — all “public policy” in future would be determined by “science.”

And, because the Ring works like that, power was taking them — with its favorite toy, money. Federal funding of universities before WWII was negligible. In the prewar period, money came from the great foundations — Carnegie and Rockefeller, generally. Institutions and professors that the foundation managers liked prospered gloriously. Those they disliked vanished without a trace. As did their ideas. And after the war, Washington became the greatest foundation of all.

Most of this “science” was complete woo and balderdash — mainly selected for how much it provoked the townies. And it didn’t just provoke them. “Scientific” public policy turned the Bronx in 1960 into the Bronx in 1970. Strolled the Grand Concourse lately? Its name wasn’t always a sick joke. Nice work, Harvard.

This system, with Koreans, had some success

Tuesday, August 18th, 2020

In the first week of fighting, because it had exceedingly poor weaponry and bad training at staff levels, the original ROK Army in the west was largely destroyed, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War):

Most of its men and officers died fighting.


ROK’s would remain weak in artillery and without organic tanks for the balance of the conflict. But they would fight.

All during July 1950, ROK units continued in action. Many fought exceedingly well. A comparison of casualties tells the story: in the first six weeks, American losses amounted to 6,000 men; the ROK’s lost 70,000 killed, wounded, or missing.


When the United Nations reeled behind the Pusan Perimeter, American officers estimated the NKPA had suffered some 30,000 casualties. The actual figure was nearer 60,000, most of which had been inflicted by the ROK’s. On August, many of the Inmun Gun divisions facing the Naktong were at half-strength; the total combat strength of its eleven divisions could not have been more than 70,000. It had no more than forty tanks by 4 August.

Behind the Perimeter on 4 August 1950, the U.N. had a troop strength of 141,808, of which some 82,000 were ROK’s. American combat ground strength was 47,000. By the end of August, when the crucial Perimeter battles began, American strength alone would exceed that of the Inmun Gun. By 19 August there would be 500 American tanks within the perimeter, outnumbering the enemy armor by more than five to one.

The United States Far Eastern Air Force had complete supremacy of the air, and could range over the North Korean supply lines at will. It could concentrate tremendous tactical air power against the ground in front of American troops.

For six weeks, the U.N. forces had been trading space for time. Their space was running out — but time was also running out for the Inmun Gun. In a protracted contest with the potential power of the United States, the North Korean State had no real hope of success.

By August the NKPA was bled white; replacements were fed in, some from the population of South Korea. These new men were hardly soldiers, but they were led by sergeants, officers, and generals who were fanatical veterans of the Chinese Communist Forces. Men who did not obey were shot. This system, with Koreans, had some success. It continued to be a matter of some frustration for American officers serving in Korea that Communist methods often turned out fighting men more quickly than the system employed with the ROK’s.

By 4 August 1950, the Inmun Gun had actually lost every advantage but two: it still held the initiative; though it was running out of men, supplies, and time, its attack spirit was still strong; and of its seventy thousand men, almost every man was available for the line. Given ammunition, the North Korean soldier could fight on three rice balls a day.