The U.S. Navy should acquire B-1s and Marine Corps A-10s

Saturday, January 25th, 2020

Both Marine Corps air wings and Navy Tactical Air have glaring capability holes, which could be filled by repurposing Air Force platforms:

The U.S. Navy should acquire B-1s and Marine Corps A-10s.


The Air Force’s number one priority is procuring a fleet of more than 1,700 F-35s and 100 B-21 heavy bombers, which is an enormously expensive goal. The Air Force is also updating its part of the nuclear triad, beginning to develop its sixth-generation air-dominance platforms, recapitalizing elements of the F-15 fleet, procuring the KC-46, re-engining the B-52, and more. To help pay for these priorities, the Air Force has published plans for accelerated retirement of both the B-1 and the B-2 and continues to loudly proclaim its desire to retire the A-10. (Warthog).


It would be difficult for the Marine Corps to imagine a better aircraft than the A-10. The current A-10C configuration provides a partial glass cockpit, a full suite of laser and GPS precision-guided weapons, targeting pods, and tactical data links, as well as a mission-computer capable of continuous upgrades. The A-10 is equally capable in roles such as close air support, strike coordination and reconnaissance, forward air controller airborne, and tactical recovery of aviation personnel. It can execute offensive air support, air reconnaissance, and self-defense anti-air warfare. It could also readily fill the Corps’ light-attack gap due to its legendary ability to dispense and absorb damage and its gun.

For a Marine air-ground task force commander, especially a special purpose or Marine expeditionary unit (MEU) commander, a Marine A-10 has sufficient loiter and slow speed capability to provide both close and stand-off escort to air combat element (ACE) tilt rotor and rotary wing elements while having enough speed to work with Harriers, Hornets, and Lightnings. Such capability would allow ACE assets escorted access into higher threat areas than are currently feasible. For a Marine expeditionary brigade or Marine expeditionary force, A-10s would massively enhance ACE offensive air support, deep air support, and close air support capabilities. With an upgrade to fly Intrepid Tiger II pods, A-10 EW capabilities could even support Marine maneuver non-kinetically.

Though the A-10 is exclusively land based, the expeditionary nature of a Marine air-ground task force in no way precludes its employment. OV-10s were always land based as are F/A-18Ds. Marine EA-6Bs were exclusively land based until their retirement. F/A-18C squadrons remain split between those that support a Navy carrier air wing (CVW) and those that remain land based. The C-130s attached to a MEU ACE remain land based while the MEU is afloat. Having a land-based component to an afloat expeditionary force is the norm for the naval services, not the exception.

Close air support is a classic example. Though the F-35 can provide close air support, the role does not capitalize on the aircraft’s capabilities. An F-35 knocking down air defenses and attacking command-control nodes followed by A-10s executing close air support in the newly lowered threat environment is the definition of a synergistic effect. The Marine A-10s providing close air support in the newly lowered threat zones free F-18s and F-35s to stay forward and shape the battlespace. The combination of aircraft creates and sustains a virtuous circle. The A-10 thus complements and enables the F-35 instead of competing with it.

The A-10 is also an inexpensive aircraft to fly. At $6,118 per hour, the flight hour costs for the A-10 are minuscule compared to any fixed wing aircraft the Marine Corps is currently flying.


With the reintroduction of a B-1 as a maritime patrol bomber, the Navy would reconstitute a capability that was divested after World War II—a capability that takes distributed fires to a logical extreme. In an airborne operations in support of maritime operations fight, B-1Bs could support fast-attack craft/fast inshore attack craft defense with heavy loads of cluster munitions or other precision-guided munitions, as well as function in a strike coordination and reconnaissance role to bring other assets into the fight. In permissive environments, the B-1s heavy precision-guided munitions load would provide a massive anti-surface warfare magazine. In non-permissive environments, a single B-1B can carry 24 AGM-158C long-range anti-ship missiles from a sanctuary halfway around the world.


At the design level, this not only brings symmetry, but overmatches the current heavy asymmetric anti-surface warfare advantages enjoyed by both the Chinese, with their anti-ship cruise missile equipped H-6 series bombers, and the Russians, with their newly modernized anti-ship cruise missile carrying TU-22M Backfires. A B-1 can also bring all its anti-ship cruise missile back if they are not expended, something that is not guaranteed with a carrier air wing strike.

B-1Bs also bring an aerial mining capability far beyond the current fleet capabilities with both gravity and extended range versions of the Quickstrike series mines. The extended range Quickstrikes mate the mine with a winged joint direct-attack munition kit, meaning the B-1 can sow denser minefields that are faster than anything in the current inventory, while remaining at standoff ranges. En route to a strike, a Bone could provide theater intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance support to a maritime operations center or over the horizon targeting for surface action groups, enhancing their survivability and lethality. With its heavy weapons load it could also free carrier air wing assets for other missions or reduce the numbers of carrier air wing assets needed for a strike, increasing carrier flexibility. B-1Bs already provide close air support to the Joint Force and could continue to do so while providing outstanding armed reconnaissance, strike coordination and reconnaissance, and forward air controller airborne capabilities in support of troops on the ground—plus the heavy conventional bombing capability that the Navy has never possessed.

Upgrades could unlock even more potential with anti-submarine warfare on the table, as B-1Bs could be modified to carry the HAAWC air-launched torpedo, creating synergy between hunter P-8s and heavily armed killer B-1s. It could be modified to carry the Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile Extended Range (AARGM ER) and its developmental cousin the Stand-in Attack Weapon (SiAW) and team with carrier based Growlers to knock down air defense radars with anti-radiation homing shots.[5] It could serve as an arsenal jet, supporting hitherto unexplored air to air combinations for defensive counter air and offensive counter air missions or be a mothership for a future air launched unmanned aerial vehicles or unmanned underwater vehicles.

Two of the greatest advantages to Navy acquisition of the B-1B are directly associated with the Air Force’s desires to divest itself of the bomber: its lack of nuclear role and its lack of broadband low observability. The lack of a nuclear role means there is no treaty obligations preventing its retention. The B-1 was intended to be a penetrating nuclear bomber, but the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) removed its nuclear capabilities and made it subject to yearly inspections by Russian observers. Because of the required yearly inspections, the Air Force has fully invested in the infrastructure to support them. The Navy could retain all the existing infrastructure to support New START inspections without paying for them. This precludes costly spending to build new hangars or other base infrastructure.

The lack of low observability capabilities is also highly advantageous to the Navy. Though overland penetration demands the highest levels of survivability, the open ocean provides a wholly different threat environment, especially when coupled with standoff weapons. Additionally, because the B-21 will need extensive, specialized hangarage to support its maintenance, the existing B-1 infrastructure will not suffice, even if the B-1 is retired. Since the Air Force will not be able to use those hangars, signing them over to the Navy will function create infrastructural savings, freeing up budget dollars for B-21 infrastructure. A true win-win situation.

B-1Bs cost $49,144 per flight hour, a little more than flying a section of F-35Cs or a division of F/A-18Fs but with intercontinental range and 75,000 pounds of munitions.

Where do you want to be if the bad guy suddenly regains consciousness with a gun in his hand?

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020

Greg Ellifritz looks at the Texas church attack and discusses post-shooting procedures:

Given the fact that you have at least five people on the volunteer security team, how would you optimally deploy those individuals after the threat is neutralized?  Seriously.  Stop right now and think about it.  Before reading further, think about what the security team’s priorities should be after the immediate threat is no longer active.

The security staff member who took the shot approached the bad guy, kicked his gun away from him and covered the lifeless body. This is a very common reaction, especially in police shootings. I would argue that approaching the down bad guy and kicking his gun away isn’t the best course of action.

The bad guy may be playing dead. He may also be momentarily unconscious, but not out of the fight When people fall to the ground, it’s easier to get blood circulating to the brain. The person you assumed was dead may suddenly regain consciousness on the ground. Low blood pressure from hypovolemic shock reduces blood flow to the brain. When the body falls, the circulatory system doesn’t have to fight gravity any more and many times people will spontaneously “wake up.”

Where do you want to be if the bad guy suddenly regains consciousness with a gun in his hand?

I would argue that standing over the now animate armed bad guy is a poor place to be.

There’s no need to separate him from the weapon if you have enough people to cover him with a lethal force threat option. Approaching the down bad guy is dangerous. Don’t do it.

Instead, move forward only far enough that there are no innocent parties between you and the downed criminal. Get behind whatever cover you can find (the church pews would work pretty well in this case). From that position of cover, keep your gun trained on the bad guy until police arrive.

Who should do this job if you have more than one security staff member available?

I would argue that the shooter may not be the best person to perform this role. After the shooting, adrenaline will start affecting the guy who took the shot faster than the other people on the team. His hands will likely start shaking. Sometimes those folks will also get nauseous or light-headed. Do you really want the shaky-handed guy who is about to throw up covering down on the bad guy until the police arrive?

If I had five armed security staff members in a shooting like this, I would assign a different person to cover the bad guy and move the shooter to a someplace quiet and non-threatening until the cops arrive.

What rooms are inside real medieval castles?

Tuesday, January 21st, 2020

What rooms are inside real medieval castles?

Every stuffed friend is a characteristic of PTSD

Tuesday, January 21st, 2020

A. A. Milne served as a lieutenant in the Great War, was wounded at the Somme, and then finished the war writing propaganda back in England. He went on to write an anti-war book, Peace with Honour, and may have suffered from what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder — mistaking buzzing bees for bullets and popping balloons for gunshots:

It’s been theorized by Dr. Sarah Shea that Milne wrote into each character of Winnie-the-Pooh a different psychological disorder. While only A. A. Milne could tell us for certain, Dr. Shea’s theory seems pointed in the right direction, but may be a little too impersonal. After all, the book was written specifically for one child, by name, and features the stuffed animals that the boy loved.

It’s more likely, in my opinion, that the stories were a way for Milne to explain his own post-traumatic stress to his six-year-old son. Every stuffed friend in the Hundred Acre Woods is a child-friendly representation of a characteristic of post-traumatic stress. Piglet is paranoia, Eeyore is depression, Tigger is impulsive behaviors, Rabbit is perfectionism-caused aggression, Owl is memory loss, and Kanga & Roo represent over-protection. This leaves Winnie, who Alan wrote in for himself as Christopher Robin’s guide through the Hundred Acre Woods — his father’s mind.

Why do medieval buildings overhang their lower floors?

Monday, January 20th, 2020

Why do medieval buildings overhang their lower floors?

(Hat tip to Alistair, who led me down the Shadiversity rabbit hole.)

Instinctive sleeping and resting postures

Sunday, January 19th, 2020

Michael Tetley presents an anthropological and zoological approach to the treatment of low back and joint pain, based on instinctive sleeping and resting postures:

If you are a medical professional and have been trained in a “civilised” country you probably know next to nothing about the primate Homo sapiens and how they survive in the wild. You probably do not know that nature has provided an automatic manipulator to correct most spinal and peripheral joint lesions in primates. In common with millions of other so called civilised people you suffer unnecessarily from musculoskeletal problems and are discouraged about how to treat the exponential rise in low back pain throughout the developed world. Humans are one of 200 species of primates.1 All primates suffer from musculoskeletal problems; nature, recognising this fact, has given primates a way to correct them.

The study of animals in the wild has been a lifelong pursuit. I grew up with tribal people and in 1953-4 commanded a platoon of African soldiers from nine tribes, who taught me to sleep on my side without a pillow so that I could listen out for danger with both ears. I have organised over 14 expeditions all over the world to meet native peoples and study their sleeping and resting postures. They all adopted similar postures and exhibited few musculoskeletal problems. I must emphasise that this is not a comparison of genes or races but of lifestyles. I tried to carry out surveys to collect evidence but they were meaningless, as tribespeople give you the answer they think you want. They often object to having their photographs taken, so I have demonstrated the postures.

Tetley was born in Kenya, where he encountered much worse Mau-Mauing than what Tom Wolfe described:

Mike, who was born and raised in Kenya speaking its native language Swahili, was conscripted to command indigenous troops in the King’s African Rifles as unrest began to spread throughout his homeland.

It was after Mau Mau militants ambushed a police truck that a battle erupted between the rivals.

A clash Mike so vividly recalls as it marked the last time he could appreciate the gift of sight before it was lost.

Remembering the battle, Mike said: “One of the Mau Mau threw a grenade at me and it landed by my foot. I jumped away from it and threw myself on the ground hoping that when it went off I wouldn’t get hit.

“The next thing I remember I was running flat out and I got a bullet in my right ear which came out of my right eye.

“My dad always said I didn’t have anything between my ears and now he’s got definite proof.

“The next thing I remember I fell over and as I picked myself up everything went black. I sat down and I can’t remember much more than that — not in a logical sense anyway.”

Dissatisfied with blasting their victim with a rifle — nearly killing him — the Mau Mau rebels returned armed with machetes to cut up Mike, who lay helpless on the ground nursing his wound. Powerless to defend himself, Mike has always owed his survival to an ally soldier, Reguton — with whom he still has regular contact — who shot dead the seven rebels.

“I was on the ground and they came forward with guns and knives and they tried to cut me up,” he said “Reguton had his gun and shot them and killed them. He killed seven of them from 25 yards — that’s very good shooting, particularly when you’ve only got 28 bullets in a magazine. From 25 yards he would have had three bullets for each person until they were on top of him — I’m very indebted to him.”

For Mike, vivid scenes of massacre and torture remain poignant in his memory. Images of bloodshed to which Mike was repeatedly exposed before he lost his sight have proved impossible to dispel from his mind.

More than 1,800 Kenyan civilians are known to have been murdered by the Mau Mau. Many of the murders of which they were guilty were brutal in the extreme and Mike recalled just one of the savage killings.

“I was walking back to my tent and there was a 12-year-old girl in the middle of the road with her throat cut. There was a note next to her which read ‘We’re not frightened of you, we’ll take you on, the army and the police. It was signed Corporal Kanwemba of the Mau Mau.”

Mike was transferred to a military hospital in England after the attack where he received the devastating news that he would never see again.

He enrolled in a physiotherapy course with the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) — which brings us back to his paper:

Figure 1 shows a mountain gorilla lying on the ground on his side without a pillow — a position in which I have also seen chimpanzees and gibbons sleeping — and a Kenya African in a similar position on a palm leaf mattress on a concrete floor. Note how he uses his laterally rotated arm as a pillow and can listen out for danger with both ears.

Sleeping Figure 1A Kenyan

Sleeping Figure 1B Gorilla

When lying on one side you do not even need the arm as a pillow: when the lower shoulder is fully hunched, the neck is completely supported. I think the neck should deviate towards the ground as gravity then shuts the mouth, preventing insects from entering, and a little traction is applied to the cervical spine (fig 2, top). When the head is down, the vertebrae are stretched between two anchors and every time the ribs move through breathing the tension is increased, the vertebrae realign themselves, and the movement keeps the joints lubricated. Current thinking is to keep the spine straight by use of a pillow. Has anyone ever seen a gorilla shinning up a tree with a pillow? Note also the plantar flexed foot. A dorsiflexed foot rotates the knee and alters the Q angle (between the resultant pull of the quadriceps muscle and the patella tendon), producing uneven wear and, in time, pain.

Sleeping Figure 2B Side Lying Modified

Sleeping Figure 2A Side Lying

Tribal people do not like lying on the ground in the recovery position while wearing no clothes as the penis dangles in the dust and can get bitten by insects. When the legs are in the reverse recovery position (fig 2, bottom), the penis lies on the lower thigh and is protected. In this position the Achilles tendon of the leading foot can be inserted in the gap between the big toe and the first lesser toe to help correct a bunion.

When sleeping in the open in very cold climates and when the ground is wet, humans often resort to sleeping on their shins, like the Tibetan caravaneers photographed by Peter, Prince of Greece and Denmark, in 1938 (fig 3). Nature has not covered the anterior border of the tibia and the medial border of the ulna with muscle, so in this position there is only skin and bone in contact with the cold ground and heat loss is reduced. The body is also folded to conserve heat; both ears can listen for danger, be it lion or terrorist; and when the head is down gravity shuts the mouth and it is impossible to snore.

Sleeping Figure 3 Tibetans

Figure 4 shows the “lookout posture,” another position using the arm as a pillow to reset shoulder, elbow, and wrist: accessory joint movement is regained because the weight of the head resting on the arm is at right angles to the line of movement, producing a lateral glide. I have seen Howler monkeys using this position in Costa Rica

Sleeping Figure 4 Lookout Posture

Quadrupedal lying (fig 5) is ideal for stretching collagen fibre throughout the body. In the penis protect position, with the pelvis locked, the spine is rotated and flexed. With the elbows out sideways and the chest on the ground, many spinal lesions can be corrected gently using nature’s automatic manipulator. Animals are clever because they use the radiant heat from the sun to encourage relaxation of their muscles when they adopt this posture. In this photograph note that the dog’s sternum is in full contact with the ground but that of the human is not: this can be easily corrected by rotating the right arm medially to lower the sternum. It has been noted that guide dogs working in towns breathe the same pollutants as humans yet do not have asthma. Could this be because when they lie on their chests the kickback from the upper ribs keeps the corresponding vertebrae mobile, allowing the sympathetic system to work efficiently?

Sleeping Figure 5 Quadrupedal Lying

Arabs in the Sahara will sit in the position shown in figure 6 for hours and it keeps the forefoot aligned on the hindfoot, as the ischia rest directly on the calcanea and the feet point straight backwards. People who sit like this do not seem to get much osteoarthritis in their knees in old age. Cross legged sitting prevents arthritic hips. A flying doctor from Kenya remarked to me that over the years as local tribesmen became more civilised he more often saw arthritis of hips and knees.

Sleeping Figure 6 Sitting on the heels

The full squat, with the heels on the ground (fig 7) resets the sacroiliac joints; takes hips, knees and ankles through the full range; and can be very useful in treating backs. To start with, some Westerners have to hold on to a door frame.

Sleeping Figure 7 Full Squat

Largely anecdotal evidence has been collected by “old timers” for over 50 years from non-Western societies that low back pain and joint stiffness is markedly reduced by adopting natural sleeping and resting postures. This observation must be recorded to allow further research in this direction as these primitive societies no longer exist and the great apes living in the wild are heading for extinction. All we have to do is to be good primates and use these preventive techniques.

(Hat tip to Gwern.)

What they need to do is die

Saturday, January 18th, 2020

I was not expecting to stumble across a GQ video of Jocko Willink breaking down combat scenes from movies:

This “shadow ban” is very real

Wednesday, January 15th, 2020

While sharing his best writing from 2019, Greg Ellifritz also provides a little “behind the scenes” look at his numbers:

Only about 23% of my visitors come to the site directly or read my posts via email updates. The vast majority (76%) of my readers arrive at my site from either a social media link or a search engine.

The social media giants are notoriously anti-gun. The largest search engines are regularly directing searches away from websites with lots of firearms or self-defense related content. This “shadow ban” is very real.

My website pageviews peaked in the year 2016. In that year, I had 5,120,608 page views. Coincidentally, that was the year that search engines and social media sites began their effort to “de-platform” content they don’t like. My site is filled with content that the large social media giants hate.

I went from over five million pageviews in 2016 down to 2,981,315 pageviews in 2017 despite releasing more and better content. Since 2017, my page views have continued to plummet. In 2019 I had 2,347,144 pageviews.

I intentionally created 22% more content in 2019, hoping the additional articles would boost my readership. It didn’t matter. Page views continue to slowly decrease year after year. Despite writing more than 50,000 more words (half a fictional novel) in 2019 as compared to 2018, I lost half a million readers.

That place is like Africa Light

Monday, January 13th, 2020

Greg Ellifritz just got back from Africa, where not quite everything went to plan:

Before leaving the airport, I tried three different ATMs to get local currency. All three rejected my card. My ATM card wouldn’t work at all in South Africa. That’s the first country I’ve been to (besides Cuba) where my ATM card didn’t work. That made life challenging, but I was smart enough to bring an emergency stash of American cash that I was able to exchange in a dodgy black market currency transaction (arranged by a taxi driver) for some local South African Rand.

I can understand why some folks don’t like traveling.

He booked a room in a guest house on a farm outside of Jo-burg:

Outside, there was an eight foot cement wall topped with an additional four feet of electric fence surrounding the entire property. It’s was crazy to see that every rural house was a completely walled estate. The South Africans really like barbed wire and electric fences. Almost every house was enclosed by a wall with an electrified fence.


On my third day, I hired a private tour guide (recommended by the owner of my guesthouse) to give me a tour of some of the grittier parts of Jo-burg. That was an education just as potent as the Apartheid museum.

There are entire parts of the city classified as “no-go” zones. If you don’t live there, you are not welcome. There are constant protests, roadblocks and tires burning in the streets of some neighborhoods. The downtown area of Jo-burg is a wasteland. Most of the skyscrapers are empty as large corporations have fled to the safer suburbs. Many buildings have no utilities, but were nonetheless inhabited by squatters.

I’ve never seen so many homeless people in one place. There were thousands of homeless people squatting in dozens of buildings without any electricity or running water. People defecated openly by the side of the road. There were huge trash drum fires and lots of people aimlessly hanging out in the streets.

While driving through the downtown area, we had to keep changing routes due to large amounts of rubble placed in the roadway as a roadblock during recent protests. I’ve been a lot of places. Downtown Jo-burg looked more apocalyptic than any other location I’ve visited and gave me an idea of what things would look like if our power grid fails. It wasn’t a happy thought.

Following the tour of downtown, we drove into some of the “townships” or slum areas. The most famous Jo-berg township is SOWETO (South Western Township) where Nelson Mandela lived. The townships had lots of ramshackle buildings, but the people seemed much more organized than the squatters living downtown. People were poor, but worked, had families and a purpose for existence. The townships I visited didn’t seem dangerous at all. The townships were kind of like the favelas of Rio de Janeiro without all the open air drug sales.

Ellifritz is a cop, and he carefully notes how gun laws and law enforcement work in other countries:

My tour guide was a former soldier, a gun owner, and an avid shooter. He explained that residents of South Africa could own a handgun and two hunting rifles with the proper permits. He owned a Glock 17 that he bought for 7000 Rand (about $500 US). Concealed carry was theoretically possible, but my guide didn’t know anyone who actually had the necessary permits to carry legally.

The cops in Jo-berg wore external plate body armor and often carried long guns (R-4 or R-5 rifles that are South African Galil variants). I only saw two cops armed with handguns. Both carried Beretta 92s. One was carried in a cheap nylon IWB holster that placed the gun so deeply in the beltline, that the grip was barely visible. The other carried his Beretta in a 1990s vintage Uncle Mikes “twist draw” retention holster on a duty belt with a big can of pepper spray.

I didn’t see any support gear like handcuffs or batons carried by the local cops. That fact might be a useful fact for you travelers to notice. When the cops aren’t carrying handcuffs, they clearly expect criminals to either submit to arrest without incident or be shot. No half measures.

No thanks. I’m good. I prefer to stay far away from cops who don’t train and carry less lethal weapons.

After Kruger, they made their way to the Karongwe Wildlife Reserve:

The monkeys in camp were an absolute menace. A group of about 20 raided our camp and began grabbing people. As I was trying to clear them off a neighbor’s porch, they tried an ambush attack.

I actually had a Mexican standoff with a growling monkey as I had my OC spray ready to hose him down. He kept growling and advancing. As soon as I pointed the OC canister at him, he stopped, stared at me for a few seconds, and then walked away.

He righteously should have gotten some spicy treats, but I didn’t want to forever be known as the dude who pepper sprays monkeys. The vervet monkeys are such a problem in some parks, that the government employs people armed with paintball guns and slingshots to keep them away from tourists.

At Karongwe they were also able to take a hike in the bush:

Since all of the “Big Five” most dangerous African game animals live on the property, we had to be accompanied by a guide and a “gun bearer.”

The gun bearer walked up to our group. He had a beat-to-shit CZ .458 Win Mag bolt gun. There was absolutely no finish left on the barrel. The wood stock looked like some small varmint had chewed on it.

The rifle was unloaded. The bolt wasn’t in the gun. The gun bearer was carrying the bolt stuck behind this belt in the appendix position. He was wearing a leather loop cartridge holder full of 10 rifle rounds at the four o’clock position behind his hip.

I thought: “Wow, they are actually sending us out into the bush with our ‘protection’ carrying a disassembled and unloaded rifle. What could possibly go wrong?”

We walked about 100 meters away from the camp and the gun bearer installed the rifle bolt and loaded it with five rounds. He took the rounds from the most forward cartridge loops, thereby guaranteeing that he would have to reach far behind his back to access the remaining cartridges should he have to reload in a hurry. Brilliant.

The gun bearer made an elaborate show of loading each round into the magazine. He then pushed the cartridges down with his thumb and moved the bolt forward. Once the bolt was over the top of the cartridges in the magazine, he closed and locked the bolt with a flourish, stating “Now we are ready.”

I normally shut my mouth in the evidence of such stupidity, but I couldn’t hold back.

“There’s no round in the chamber. You aren’t ‘ready.’ The gun is in a better condition to fire now as compared to when you brought it out unloaded, but you are far from ‘ready’.“

He kind of looked at me sheepishly. I continued:

“Don’t worry. When the lion attacks you while you are trying to get the gun in play, I’ll be there. I know how to run that bolt. I’ll pick up your rifle off the ground, chamber a round and shoot the lion off your corpse.

It’s great having a plan. Now we’re ‘ready.’”

Neither he nor the guide really had too much to say after that.

Absolutely frightening muzzle discipline displayed during the whole hike. When the guide talked, the gun bearer stood with the rifle butt placed on his boot, leaning forward with both hands covering his muzzle. He was essentially using the muzzle of a loaded .458 Win Mag as a hand rest.

Then they went to Zimbabwe:

A passenger on the flight from South Africa to Zimbabwe said the following as we were disembarking and walking into the sweltering airport:

“We aren’t in South Africa anymore. That place is like ‘Africa Light.’ Now we are in the real deal.”

That’s a quality analysis.

Imagine sending a five-year-old into combat

Saturday, January 11th, 2020

Hamilton Gregory, author of McNamara’s Folly, discusses the use of low-IQ troops in the Vietnam War:

I mentioned McNamara’s Folly when Gwern reviewed it.

This kingpin strategy increased homicides by 80 percent

Wednesday, January 8th, 2020

The record shows that removing leaders often leads to more chaotic violence, Max Abrahms points out:

In January 2016, Mexican marines captured Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, the longtime head of the Sinaloa Cartel. Taking him off the streets made the gang bloodier than ever before. Not only did the amount of violence increase, but the target selection expanded to include innocent bystanders. A gang member who worked for a contemporary of El Chapo compared the type of cartel violence before and after the arrest: “If we wanted to kill you and you turned up with your wife and children, we couldn’t do anything. We couldn’t touch you. Now, they don’t give a damn … If they see you in a taco stand, they’ll come and shoot it up.”

More systematically, the economists Jason Lindo and María Padilla-Romo examined the effects of targeting high-ranking gang members on Mexican homicide rates from 2001 to 2010. This “kingpin strategy,” they found, increased homicides by 80 percent in the municipalities where the leaders had operated for at least one year.

Many militant groups have also become less restrained toward civilians after the death or imprisonment of senior figures. In 1954, the British launched Operation Anvil to stamp out the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya. Capturing leaders around Nairobi initiated a period of uncoordinated, rudderless violence. South Africa’s African National Congress also became less tactically disciplined when its leadership was marginalized. In 1961, the ANC established an armed wing called Umkhonto we Sizwe, which came to be known as the MK. Leadership stressed the value of “properly controlled violence” to spare civilians. For three years, MK members complied by studiously avoiding terrorist attacks. After Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964, however, young men in the ANC engaged in stone throwing, arson, looting, and brutal killings of civilians. The political scientist Gregory Houston observed that “the removal of experienced and respected leaders … created a leadership vacuum” that empowered undisciplined hotheads. When Filipino police assassinated the Abu Sayyaf founder, Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani, in 1998, the group devolved into a movement of bandits that preyed on private citizens. When Nigerian police summarily executed the Boko Haram founder, Mohammed Yusuf, in 2009, the terrorist organization also turned ruthless against civilians. And the al-Qaeda–linked rebel group Ahrar al-Sham became even more radical after a 2014 attack on its headquarters, in the northwestern province of Idlib, Syria, took out its leadership.

The theory that removing leaders results in worse violence is supported by more than mere anecdote. In a couple of peer-reviewed studies, I’ve tested whether killing the leader of a militant group makes that group more tactically extreme. Across conflict zones from the Afghanistan-Pakistan to the Israel-Palestine theaters, my co-authors and I found that militant groups significantly increase their attacks against civilians after an operationally successful strike against their leadership. Vengeance is not the main driver, as the overall quantity of violence changes less than the quality does. So-called leadership decapitation does not elicit a paroxysm of violence, but makes it more indiscriminate against innocent civilians.

Leadership decapitation promotes terrorism by empowering subordinates with less restraint toward civilians. In empirical research, I’ve demonstrated that militant groups fare better politically when they direct their violence at military and other government targets rather than civilians. Unlike guerrilla attacks against government targets, terrorist attacks against civilian targets tend to reduce popular support, empower hard-liners, and, most important, lower the odds of government concessions. But lower-level members, compared with their superiors, are less likely to grasp that attacking civilians does not pay.


Of course, not all militant leaders appreciate the folly of terrorism or possess the organizational clout to prevent operatives from perpetrating it. To a large extent, the effects of targeted killing thus depend on the type of leader killed. As I predicted in October, the death of the Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, did not increase the group’s terrorist attacks, because he had favored maximum carnage against civilians and exercised limited control over his subordinates, particularly “lone wolves” who simply declared their rhetorical allegiance to him. Leadership decapitation is most likely to increase terrorism when the leader understood the strategic value of tactical restraint toward civilians and imposed his targeting restraint on the rank and file. A salient example is the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, which ramped up their terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians when their leadership was crushed during the Second Intifada.

California’s mandated background checks had no impact on gun deaths

Wednesday, January 8th, 2020

A joint study conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of California at Davis Violence Prevention Research Program found that California’s mandated background checks had no impact on gun deaths:

In 1991, California simultaneously imposed comprehensive background checks for firearm sales and prohibited gun sales (and gun possession) to people convicted of misdemeanor violent crimes. The legislation mandated that all gun sales, including private transactions, would have to go through a California-licensed Federal Firearms License (FFL) dealer. Shotguns and rifles, like handguns, became subject to a 15-day waiting period to make certain all gun purchasers had undergone a thorough background check.

It was the most expansive state gun control legislation in America, affecting an estimated one million gun buyers in the first year alone. Though costly and cumbersome, politicians and law enforcement agreed the law was worth it.

The legislation would “keep more guns out of the hands of the people who shouldn’t have them,” said then-Republican Gov. George Deukmejian.

“I think the new laws are going to help counter the violence,” said LAPD spokesman William D. Booth.

More than a quarter of a century later, researchers at Johns Hopkins and UC Davis dug into the results of the sweeping legislation. Researchers compared yearly gun suicide and homicide rates over the 10 years following implementation of California’s law with 32 control states that did not have such laws.

They found “no change in the rates of either cause of death from firearms through 2000.”

White officers are not more likely to shoot minority civilians than non-White officers

Monday, January 6th, 2020

A recent study published in PNAS looked at officer characteristics and racial disparities in fatal officer-involved shootings:

There is widespread concern about racial disparities in fatal officer-involved shootings and that these disparities reflect discrimination by White officers. Existing databases of fatal shootings lack information about officers, and past analytic approaches have made it difficult to assess the contributions of factors like crime. We create a comprehensive database of officers involved in fatal shootings during 2015 and predict victim race from civilian, officer, and county characteristics. We find no evidence of anti-Black or anti-Hispanic disparities across shootings, and White officers are not more likely to shoot minority civilians than non-White officers.

Odds of Civilian Being White vs. Black or Hispanic

Instead, race-specific crime strongly predicts civilian race. This suggests that increasing diversity among officers by itself is unlikely to reduce racial disparity in police shootings.

The low chance of war with Iran

Sunday, January 5th, 2020

Richard Fernandez discusses the low chance of war with Iran:

With everyone wondering if Iran and the US will go to war it’s pertinent to understand both nations are already in an undeclared conflict going back more than 40 years. “And often, it’s been a war that our political and intelligence elites have denied exists.”

It began on November 4, 1979, when “radicals” loyal to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran … On April 18, 1983, a suicide bomber drove a truck full of explosives into the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon … Iran has also targeted U.S. soldiers on the battlefield, killing more than 1,000 U.S. troops with specialized improvised explosive devices in Iraq, placing a bounty on U.S. service personnel in Afghanistan, and most recently targeting U.S. forces in Syria.

The obvious question is why this conflict, which has claimed thousands of lives has remained in a state of limbo and why elites are at pains to deny it exists. One possible answer is that the combatants prefer it that way. Iran for its part is heavily engaged in proxy war with Saudi Arabia in far flung theaters including Syria, Yemen, Iraq, the Bahrain uprising, Lebanon and even Afghanistan. It can scarcely afford the additional cost of open conflict with the United States if it is to escape over-extension. It is in Iran’s interest to keep its war with America undeclared so that it can pick and choose when to engage.

For analogous but different reasons Washington preferred it secret too. Undeclared conflicts are the only way to fight “forever wars” where the object is not the destruction of the enemy but rather its management and containment in such a way that the global public and markets don’t notice.

Does this mean that Hollywood movies actually reduce crime?

Saturday, January 4th, 2020

Bryan Caplan discusses the social conservatism of Hollywood:

The message of all this cinema: Follow the path of bourgeois virtue.  Work hard, keep the peace, abstain from alcohol, have very few sexual partners, and keep your whole family far away from anyone who lives otherwise.  Think about how many fictional characters would have lived longer if they never set foot in a bar.

Is this the message the writers intend to send?  Unlikely.  Instead, they try to create engrossing stories — and end up weaving morality tales.


Does this mean that Hollywood movies actually reduce crime? I doubt it. The viewers most in need of lessons in bourgeois virtue are probably too impulsive to reflect on the moral of the story. They’re captivated instead by the gunplay and machismo. Yet if you’re paying attention, the moral of these stories remains: Unless your parents are criminals, listen to your parents.