A sea blockade can be implemented using satellite imaging and missiles

Monday, July 19th, 2021

ICEYE‘s network of synthetic aperture radar satellites promises information about every square meter on earth, updated every single hour, which leads Steve Hsu to mock aircraft carriers:

Duh… Let’s spend ~$10B each for new aircraft carriers that can be easily monitored from space and attacked using hypersonic missiles.

He has pointed out before that aircraft carriers will have to operate 1,000 miles offshore in a peer-to-peer conflict — because that’s the range of China’s PRC DF21 anti-ship ballistic missile — and that will require a new class of (perhaps unmanned) aircraft with greater range.

Chinese Missile Ranges

In this era a sea blockade can be implemented using satellite imaging and missiles or drones:

Japan imports ~60% of its food calories and essentially all of its oil. The situation is similar for S. Korea and Taiwan. It is important to note that blocking sea transport to Taiwan and Japan does not require PLAN blue water dominance. ASBM and cruise missiles which threaten aircraft carriers can also hold oil tankers and global shipping at risk from launch sites which are on or near the Asian mainland. Missile + drone + AI/ML technology completely alters the nature of sea blockade, but most strategic planners do not yet realize this.

Relying on military rapid response units to save diplomats is a forlorn hope

Thursday, July 15th, 2021

RAND examined 33 successful seizures of Western embassies between 1979 and 201 and found that groups that successfully seized Western embassies typically accomplished this in two hours or less:

The majority of attacks were accomplished in two hours or less, while 90% were finished in six hours or less.

The study strongly suggests that relying on military rapid response units to save diplomats is a forlorn hope. “In none of the cases that we examined did planned response forces, particularly In Extremis Response forces (such as a Commander’s In Extremis Force, Crisis Response Force, Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team platoon, or other U.S.-based Special Operations Forces) arrive before the attack culmination,” the study noted.

In contrast, security forces already on the scene did offer some protection. “Marine Security Guards (MSGs), Bureau of Diplomatic Security personnel, other routine security augmentation forces, and local security forces did play significant roles in defending against many of the attacks we analyzed,” said the study.

Embassy seizures were usually preceded by warning signs. Nearly 60% of attacks generated risk indicators two or more days in advance. “We also found very few cases in which there was advance warning of more than 30 days — only five times out of all the cases studied, or exactly once per decade,” RAND noted. In only 12.5 % of cases did an attack occur without prior warning.

And as embassy defenses improve, attacks are taking longer to succeed. “In the past decade, the median attack duration was four hours, and the average was 4.8 hours,” RAND said. “The lengthening of this duration could offer wider windows of opportunity to intervene.

Why not make a teen Rambo and turn the project over to John Milius?

Tuesday, July 13th, 2021

I recently rewatched Red Dawn for the first time in decades, and it wasn’t nearly as cheesy as I expected. The Wikipedia entry explains how it got made:

Originally called Ten Soldiers, it was written by Kevin Reynolds. It was set in the near future as a combined force of Russians and Cubans launched an invasion of the Southwestern U.S.. Ten children take to the hills when their small town is captured, turning into a skilled and lethal guerrilla band.

Producer Barry Beckerman read the script, and, in the words of Peter Bart, “thought it had the potential to become a tough, taut, ‘art’ picture made on a modest budget that could possibly break out to find a wider audience.” He got his father Sidney Beckerman to help him pay a $5,000 option. Reynolds wanted to direct but the Beckermans wanted someone more established. Walter Hill briefly considered the script before turning it down, as did several other directors.

The Beckermans pitched the project to David Begelman when he was at MGM and were turned down. They tried again at that studio when it was being run by Frank Yablans. Senior vice-president for production Peter Bart, who remembers it as a “sharply written anti-war movie…a sort of Lord of the Flies“, took the project to Yablans.

The script’s chances of being filmed increased when Kevin Reynolds became mentored by Steven Spielberg who helped him make Fandango. MGM bought the script.

Bart recalls that things changed when “the chieftains at MGM got a better idea. Instead of making a poignant little antiwar movie, why not make a teen Rambo and turn the project over to John Milius, a genial and rotund filmmaker who loved war movies and also loved war? The idea was especially popular with a member of the MGM board of directors, General Alexander Haig, the former Nixon chief of staff, who yearned to supervise the film personally and develop a movie career.”

Bart says most of MGM’s executives, except for Yablans, were opposed to Milius directing. Bart claims he made a last minute attempt to get Reynolds to direct the film and went to see Spielberg. However, by this stage Fandango was in rough cut, and Bart sensed that Spielberg was disappointed in the film and would not speak up for Reynolds.

Milius was signed to direct at a fee of $1.25 million, plus a gun of his choice.

Milius set about rewriting the script. He and Haig devised a backstory in which the circumstances of the invasion would take place; this was reportedly based on Hitler’s proposed plans to invade the U.S. during World War II. Haig took Milius under his wing, bringing him to the Hudson Institute, the conservative think tank founded by Herman Kahn, to develop a plausible scenario. Milius saw the story as a Third World liberation struggle in reverse; Haig introduced Nicaragua and suggested that, with the collapse of NATO, a left-wing Mexican regime would participate in the Soviet invasion, effectively splitting the U.S. in half. Bart says, “Even Milius was taken aback by Haig’s approach to the project. ‘This is going to end up as a jingoistic, flag-waving movie,’ Milius fretted. As a result, the budget of this once $6 million movie almost tripled.”

Other changes included a shift in focus from conflict within the group to conflict between the teens and their oppressors, and the acceleration of the ages of some of the characters from early teens to high school age and beyond. There was also the addition of a sequence where some children visit a camp to find their parents have been brainwashed.

Milius later said, “I see this as an anti-war movie in the sense that if both sides could see this, maybe it wouldn’t have to happen. I think it would be good for Americans to see what a war would be like. The film isn’t even that violent — the war shows none of the horrors that could happen in World War III. In fact, everything that happened in the movie happened in World War II.”

Bart says Yablans pushed through filming faster than Milius wanted because MGM needed a movie over the summer. Milius wanted more time to plan, including devising futuristic weaponry and to not shoot over winter, but had to accede.

The Pentagon withdrew its cooperation from the film.

Will China invade Taiwan?

Sunday, July 11th, 2021

Will China invade Taiwan?

Taiwan itself is very badly defended and the defence it does have is ill-suited to the task (its military has “pursued a suicidal procurement strategy of expensive boutique US kit that will be no use in the crisis, like fighter jets that will be killed on the ground by the opening Chinese missile barrage”). The US military is aimed at fighting the War on Terror, not defending overseas territories against invasion. US public opinion might not support shedding blood over defending Taiwan.

On the other hand: a war would be a huge risk for China; “every Chinese leader has an incentive to leave such a risky endeavour to his successor,” another forecaster writes. In the short term, the balance of power is still with the Americans, and China can afford to be patient and wait until the middle of the century. The forecasters use facts like these to adjust their initial base-rate estimate.

The six forecasters estimate the likelihood of a significant China-Taiwan conflict at between 8% and 23% in the next five years, with a median estimate of 14%. That doesn’t sound all that bad, but it’s worth adding something.

If we’ve learnt anything from Covid, it should be that preparing for the most likely outcome is not enough. The odds of a global pandemic in any given year is probably only about 1%. But if one happens, it turns out, it’s really bad, and it would have been worth investing a significant amount of resources to avoid or mitigate it. One of the superforecasters told me that “a 14% chance of a proper conflict by 2026 is quite a big deal. If someone says there’s a 10% chance of a really bad outcome, the expected value [the impact multiplied by the probability] is still really bad.” So you might not think a particular bad outcome is very likely, but if it’s bad enough, then you ought to prepare for it anyway.

[...]

The median estimate for how likely the US is to come to Taiwan’s aid if there were an invasion is 83%. So we are talking about a very high probability that a Chinese attack on Taiwan would lead to armed conflict between the world’s two superpowers. They also think it’s about 75% likely that the US would try to sink Chinese invasion ships, and say it’s reasonably likely that China would preemptively attack the US forces in the region if they did attack.

What might the knock-on effects be, if the world’s largest economies end up in a shooting war? Well: the US imports about $470 billion’s worth of goods from China a year. The superforecasters’ median estimate is that that would drop by 20%, or, roughly speaking, $100 billion.

[...]

And what’s more, it’s very far from obvious that the US would win. If a war were to break out over Taiwan before 2026, the median estimate is that there’s a 57% chance of Chinese victory; if the war were to break out between 2031 and 2035, when China has had another decade to build up its military relative to the US, the estimate is 66%.

Could the Germans have taken Moscow?

Saturday, July 10th, 2021

When more than 3 million German and German-allied troops surged across the border on June 22, 1941, many expected Operation Barbarossa to be a walkover:

“Bolshevism will collapse as a house of cards,” predicted Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels. An embarrassingly large number of U.S. and British experts agreed, mindful of then-Soviet leader Joseph Stalin’s officer corps purges and the Red Army’s incompetent performance against tiny Finland in the 1939 to 1940 Winter War. An unending series of Soviet military disasters in the summer and fall of 1941 — including the killing or capture of 650,000 Soviet soldiers at Kyiv — only reinforced that opinion.

But the red banner flying over the Reichstag in May 1945 proved the experts wrong. And a new computer wargame helps explains why.

[…]

The game is a number cruncher’s dream, tracking everything from the number of operable tanks and trucks, to the combat and administrative competence of individual generals, to whether sufficient raw materials are reaching arms factories.

[…]

Battlefield success in the game depends on factors like morale, combat experience, troop fatigue, and the skill of their commanders. Because the Germans have better troops and commanders in 1941, they can chew up the Soviet armies, forcing the Soviets to hastily commit unprepared reserves, which in turn get destroyed in a vicious cycle.

[…]

Compared to the lavishly equipped U.S. Army of World War II, the German and Soviet armies faced a logistical nightmare. Although the United States and Britain held an abundance of Detroit-made trucks to haul supplies, the Germans and Soviets were always short of vehicles, and the ones they had were quickly devoured by Russia’s primitive roads. While armored units were fully motorized, Germany and Russia’s poor infantry relied on horses to haul artillery and supplies. For them, World War II was more like World War I (what historian Omer Bartov has called the “de-modernization” of the German army in the East) and only a short step away from French leader Napoléon Bonaparte’s ill-fated invasion of Russia in 1812.

Hence, both sides on the Eastern Front relied on railroads to move troops and supplies. Armies tended to move along routes where there were railroads to supply them, but even then, logistics were difficult. Compared to Western Europe and North America, rail lines in Russia were sparse and wider than European tracks, which meant the Germans had to re-lay them as well as repair Russian scorched-earth damage to rail yards.

[…]

The game features a detailed logistical model that tracks supplies by the tons. (Yes, the tons, although the computer does most of the bean counting). Fuel, ammunition, and food are transported along rail lines to depots, where they are distributed by truck and horse-drawn wagon (and a limited capacity for aerial resupply). But railroads have a limited capacity; the rail lines actually change color on the map as their capacity is quickly overloaded. That leaves trucks, but there aren’t enough of them. And the more trucks that travel through Russia’s forests and swamps, the more trucks that break down. (Yes, the game tracks broken-down and repaired vehicles.)

This is devastating for all mechanized units, for which gasoline is life. But especially so for the Germans in 1941, who relied on their fast-moving panzers to encircle and pin the Russian armies until the foot-slow infantry moved in the for kill. Without gas, the tanks can’t perform their bold maneuvers.

This isn’t a problem at the start of the game as the Germans begin their offensive from well-stocked bases in East Prussia, Poland, and Romania.

[…]

The biggest question: Could the Germans have taken Moscow if they concentrated all of their forces on a single knife-like thrust to the Soviet capital? War in the East 2 suggests this strategy would have been a disaster: There simply wasn’t the rail and truck capacity to mass forces for a Moscow-only offensive.

The game is Gary Grigsby’s War in the East 2, from Matrix Games.

They both fly low and move fast

Friday, July 9th, 2021

Sea-skimming anti-ship missiles — such as the Exocet of Falklands War fame — have worried navies since the 1970s:

What’s changed is the speed of anti-ship missiles. Older weapons such as the Soviet Styx and America’s Harpoon were subsonic, which meant they were slow enough to be jammed or shot down by shipboard anti-missile systems such as the U.S. Navy’s Phalanx multi-barreled cannon. Newer weapons, such as Russia’s P-270 Moskit and Kh-31, could achieve supersonic speeds of Mach 3 or 4 that taxed anti-missile defenses.

But a new generation of Russian and Chinese hypersonic anti-ship missiles — like Russia’s Zircon, with an estimated speed of Mach 6 to 9 – are a different matter. They both fly low and move fast.

[…]

“As opposed to ballistic missile trajectories where Navy guided missile destroyers and cruisers have on the order of several minutes to detect, track, lock onto, and then launch interceptors against a hypersonic reentry vehicle, low flying missiles provide as little as 10 seconds of flight time above the ship’s radar horizon before missile impact,” the Navy explains.

[…]

Drones are a prime candidate for hosting an airborne missile detection radar. “The most obvious candidate aircraft to host the radar system would be on high altitude long-endurance (HALE) and medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aircraft,” according to the Navy.

But even with better radar detection, the physics of hypersonic weapons will still vex the defenders. The high speeds of hypersonic missiles flying through the atmosphere generate plasma clouds that absorb radar waves. “Even when a threat vector is identified so as to constrain the radar surveillance volume, the detection and tracking timeline for single or multiple inbound missiles whose radar return may be buried within a plasma envelope is extremely challenging,” the Navy notes.

Happy Secession Day!

Sunday, July 4th, 2021

Once again, happy Secession Day:

The almost utter uselessness of the present kind of torpedo boat has been conclusively demonstrated in the recent war

Tuesday, June 29th, 2021

When I read Tesla: Man Out of Time years ago, back before Elon Musk’s electric car company made the mad scientist famous with a modern audience, I was struck by Tesla’s 1898 proposal to use radio-controlled torpedoes — referred to as submarine destroyers in this Sunday Journal piece — to sink enemy fleets:

“I am now prepared to announce through the Journal my invention of a submarine torpedo boat that I am confident will be the greatest weapon of the navy from this time on.

“The almost utter uselessness of the present kind of torpedo boat has been conclusively demonstrated in the recent war. Neither the courage and skill of the Americans nor the desperate extremities of the Spaniards were able to bring the torpedo boats into successful action. These frail craft, of which so much was expected, simply made an easy target for land batteries and rapid-fire guns of opposing war ships.

“The submarine boats, on the other hand, which have up to this time been built to carry torpedoes have proved death traps for men and were consequently ineffective. The submarine boat, or, more properly speaking, the submarine destroyer, which I have invented is as compact as the torpedo itself. In fact, it is simply an enlarged torpedo shell, thirty-six and a half feet long, loaded with other torpedoes to discharge. Like a torpedo, also, it has its own propelling device. But here the likeness stops. The ordinary torpedo, once launched, plunges head on blindly and no known power can turn it one way or another. It hits or misses, according to the trueness with which it is aimed at its launching.

“But my submarine boat, loaded with its torpedoes, can start out from a protected bay or be dropped over a ship’s side, make its devious way below the surface, through dangerous channels of mine beds, into protected harbors and attack a fleet at anchor, or go out to sea and circle about, watching for its prey, then dart upon it at a favorable moment, rush up to within a hundred feet if need be, discharge its deadly weapon and return to the hand that sent it. Yet through all these wonderful evolutions it will be under the absolute and instant control of a distant human hand on a far-off headland, or on a war ship whose hull is below the.horizon and invisible to the enemy.

“I am aware that this sounds almost incredible and I have refrained from making this invention public till I had worked out every practical detail of it. In my laboratory I now have such a model, and my plans and description at the Patent Office at Washington show the full specifications of it.

“As to the mechanism which is to be stored in this submarine shell: The first and most essential thing is a motor, with storage battery to drive the propeller. Then there are smaller motors and batteries to operate the steering gear, on the same principle that an ordinary vessel is now steered by steam or electricity. Besides these there are still other storage batteries and motors to feed electric signal lights. But in order that the weight of the machinery shall not be too great to destroy the buoyancy or make the boat go too deep in the water compressed air motors will also be used to perform certain functions, such as to fill and empty the water tanks which raise the boat to the surface or sink it to any required depth. Pneumatic air or motors will also fire the torpedoes and pump out the water that may leak in at any time.

“This submarine destroyer will be equipped with six 14-foot Whitehead torpedoes. These will be arranged vertically in two rows in the bow. As one torpedo falls into position and is discharged by pneumatic force, another torpedo, by the force of gravity, falls into the position of the first one, the others above being held up by automatic arms. They can be fired as rapidly as a self-cocking revolver is emptied or at intervals of minutes or hours. The discharge takes place through a single tube, projecting straight ahead in the bow. The small amount of water which leaks through each time is caught by drain pipes and a compressed air pump instantly expels it. As each torpedo is expelled a buoyancy regulator will open the sea cocks and let enough water in the ballast tanks to make the buoyancy uniform and keep the boat at the same distance beneath the surface.

“This submarine destroyer will carry a charge of torpedoes greater than that of the largest destroyers now in use. Those vessels of five hundred tons each which cost the Government $500,000, carry but three or four torpedoes, while this simple submarine destroyer, which can be built for $448,000 to $50,000 or less, will carry six torpedoes. It will have, also, the incalculable advantage of being absolutely invisible to an enemy, and have no human lives to risk or steam boilers to blow up and destroy itself.

“All that is necessary to make this submarine boat subject to perfect control at any distance is to properly wire it, just like a modern house is wired so that a button here rings a bell, a lever there turns on the lights, a hidden wire somewhere else sets off a burglar alarm and a thermal device give a fire alarm.

“The only difference in the case of the submarine boat is in the delicacy of the instruments employed. To the propelling device, the steering gear, the signal apparatus and the mechanism for firing the torpedoes are attached little instruments which are attuned to a certain electro-magnetic synchronism.

“Then there is a similar set of synchronistic instruments all connected to the little switchboard, and placed either on shore or on an ordinary war ship. By moving the lever on the switchboard I can give the proper impulse to the submarine boat to go ahead, to reverse, throw the helm to port or starboard, rise, sink, discharge her torpedoes or return.

“It might be thought that some great power would be necessary to be projected across miles of distance and operate on the far-off boat. The power is all stored in the submarine boat itself — in its storage batteries and compressed air. All that is needed to affect the synchronistic instruments is a set of high alternating currents, which can be produced by my oscillator attached to any ordinary dynamo situated on shore or on a war ship.

“How such an apparently complicated mechanism can be operated and controlled at a distance of miles is no mystery. It is as simple as the messenger call to be found in almost any office. This is a little metal box with a lever on the outside. By moving the crank to a certain point it gives vibrating sounds and springs back, into position, and its momentary buzzing calls a messenger. But move this same crank a third further around the dial and it buzzes still longer, and pretty soon a policeman appears, summoned by its mysterious call. Again, move the crank this time to the farthest limit of the circle and scarcely has its more prolonged hum of recoil sounded when the city fire apparatus dashes up to your place at its call.

“Now, my device for controlling the motion of a distant submarine boat is exactly similar. Only I need no connecting wires between my switchboard and the distant submarine boat, for I make use of the now well-known principle of wireless telegraphy. As I move this little lever to points which I have marked on a circular dial I cause a different number of vibrations each time. In this case two waves go forth at each half turn of the lever and affect different parts of the distant destroyer’s machinery.

“How such submarine destroyers should actually be used in war I leave for naval tacticians to determine. But it seems to me that they could best be operated by taking a number on board a large fast auxiliary cruiser like the St. Louis or St. Paul, launch them, several at a time, like life boats, and direct their movements from a switch board placed in the forward fighting top.

“In order that the director of the submarine destroyer may know its exact position at every movement, two masts, at bow and stern, will project up just above the water, too minute to be seen or hit by an enemy’s guns by day, and by night they will carry hooded lights.

“The lookout placed in the fighting top could detect a hostile ship off on the horizon while the auxiliary cruiser’s big hull is still invisible to the enemy. Starting these little destroyers out under direction of a man with a telescope, they could attack and destroy a whole armada — destroy it utterly — in an hour, and the enemy never have a sight of their antagonists or know what power destroyed them. A big auxiliary cruiser, used to carry these submarine destroyers, could also carry a cargo of torpedoes sufficient to conduct a long campaign and go half way around the world.

“She could carry the gun cotton and other explosives needed to load the torpedoes in safe magazines below the water line, and do away with much of the danger of transporting loaded torpedoes. When necessary for use the war heads could be loaded, fitted to the torpedoes, and the submarine destroyers fully equipped.

“A high, projecting headland overlooking a harbor and the sea would also be a good point on which to establish a station and have the destroyers laid up at docks below ready to start.

“That is the whole story of my latest invention. It is simple enough, you say. Of course it is, because I have worked all my life to make each one of the details so simple that it will work as easily as the electric ticker in a stock broker’s office.”

A second laser pulse generates a supersonic shockwave within the plasma

Monday, June 28th, 2021

I was listening to the audiobook version of Daniel Suarez’s Influx, when the high-tech antagonists used dynamic pulse detonation (DPD) to take out attacking missiles, so I read up on the idea:

A short but intense laser pulse creates a ball of plasma, and a second laser pulse generates a supersonic shockwave within the plasma to generate a bright flash and a loud bang.

The Plasma Acoustic Shield System will eventually combine a dynamic pulse detonation laser with a high power speaker for hailing or warning, and a dazzler light source. PASS has already been demonstrated by the system’s makers, Stellar Photonics.

“It uses a programmed pattern of rapid plasma events to create a sort of wall of bright lights and reports (bangs) over the coverage area,” says Keith Braun of the US Army’s Advanced Energy Armaments Systems Division at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey, US, where the system is being tested.

Learning to quickly acquire a sight picture essentially trains you to point the gun at the target

Friday, June 25th, 2021

Are pistol sights actually useful for self-defense?

It didn’t take me any longer to use the sights than to point shoot, but the accuracy was much better. Most of the old point shooting techniques were developed back when iron sights on handguns were small and very difficult to see. With modern, high visibility iron sights, there’s really no reason I have to rely on point shooting at seven yards.

Handgun Sights from 1930s vs. Modern

The real paradox of the point shooting versus sighted fire debate is that learning to quickly acquire a sight picture essentially trains you to point the gun at the target. If you practice sighted fire the correct way, you will automatically get pretty good at point shooting at the kind of ranges where a lot of people claim you will not have time to see the sights.

If I was unable to see my sights for some reason, or my red dot and my backup irons have both somehow failed, I can just do what I’ve always done in practice and I’ll usually still get some pretty good hits. Practicing with sights doesn’t mean I suddenly forget how to shoot if I don’t see them. On the other hand, if you primarily practice point shooting, it does not make you better at sighted fire. If a situation calls for a higher level of precision, you will have limited your ability to get that precision on demand.

So there’s a place for point shooting. You might want to try it on occasion to see if you can do it. It’s what I would teach a novice if I thought they were realistically never going to practice again. But if pistol shooting is a skill you intend to improve, most of your time should probably be spent on sighted fire.

Surviving the Darwinian process of being confronted with what happened in different parts of the world

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2021

Peter Turchin wrote War and Peace and War: The Rise and Fall of Empires 17 years ago, but he feels it has aged surprisingly well:

For seven years before I even started writing it, I read voraciously through books and articles by historical sociologists, economists, archaeologists, cultural evolutionists, and — most important — historians. I read both historians who wrote “grand historical narratives,” such as William McNeill, and historians who attempted to view history at a more personal level, through the eyes of individuals. A great example of the latter is Barbara Tuchman, who in A Distant Mirror followed the fortunes of Sieur de Coucy as he tried to survive the Crisis of the Late Middle Ages.

Human brain is a wonderful inference engine. Like many before me, as I ploughed through this sea of information, I started seeing patterns. I remember that I went through a huge number of ideas and possible explanations, many proposed by others, a few that occurred to me. 99% of them were discarded almost as soon as they came up. But a few endured, surviving the Darwinian process of being confronted with what happened in different parts of the world and different historic eras. And so, I ended up writing my own “grand historical narrative.” War and Peace and War was the result.

Turchin finds the current book cover a bit bland and generic and really liked the cover of the first, hardcover edition, based on a detail from The Conquest of Siberia by Yermak (1895) by Vasily Surikov, which is a wonderful illustration of one of the central ideas in War and Peace and War, the metaethnic frontier.

Does the racial gap in arrests lessen as the crimes get more serious?

Monday, June 21st, 2021

Steve Sailer reviews Charles Murray’s short, lucid book Facing Reality: Two Truths about Race in America about the essential factors influencing society — intelligence and violence:

After The Bell Curve, the great and good made immense efforts to Close The Gap, if only to prove Murray wrong. For example, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, pushed by George W. Bush and Ted Kennedy, mandated the Lake Wobegonization of America: Every single public school student must score “proficient” by 2014.

That didn’t happen.

Similarly, Bill Gates poured huge sums into, first, the “small learning communities” fad of the 2000s and then the “Common Core” whoop-de-do of the 2010s. Neither accomplished anything noticeable.

Today, after 55 years of vast spending to eliminate the race gap on tests, the optimistic centrist education reformers of the “All We Have To Do Is Implement My Favorite Panacea” school are finally out of fashion, leaving Ibram X. Kendi and Charles Murray as the last men standing. One or the other must be right: either Murray (blacks, unfortunately, have problems because they tend to be less smart and more violent) or Kendi (any disparities demonstrate that whites are evil and therefore must pay).

[…]

But, The Establishment no longer really believes that race gaps can be reduced. Instead, the new conventional wisdom is Kendi’s: Tests must be abolished. This will make the problems caused by lower black intelligence go away for Underpants Gnomes reasons.

[…]

Murray, however, has uncovered newly available arrest statistics from the Open Data Initiative by race (with Hispanics usually broken out) and type of crime for thirteen cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.

For property crime, Murray finds, Latinos were arrested 1.5 times as often as whites, a modest difference especially considering the disparity in average age.

[…]

Blacks in these thirteen cities were arrested for property offenses five times as often per capita as whites.

Are cops just racistly arresting blacks for ticky-tack property offenses like, say, taking an extra newspaper from the rack?

One way to get a clue about this is to look at more serious incidents, such as violent crimes. Does the racial gap in arrests lessen as the crimes get more serious?

No. Hispanics were arrested for violence about 2.7 times as often as whites, while blacks were arrested almost ten times as much.

How about murder, the most diligently investigated of all crimes?

Latinos are arrested for murder about five times more often per capita than whites, while blacks are about twenty times more likely than whites to be arrested for murder.

[…]

Whether Facing Reality will inspire a desperately needed national conversation on the reality of racial differences, or whether it will be deep-sixed like Human Diversity, remains to be seen.

But Murray has given it his best shot.

Overseas is not an issue for this technique

Wednesday, June 16th, 2021

The Wall Street Journal explains how the FBI got Colonial Pipeline’s ransom money back:

Colonial Pipeline provided investigators with the bitcoin address where it paid hackers on May 8, launching them on the trail, according to court records filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The hackers moved the funds through at least six more addresses by the following day, the records show.

On May 13, DarkSide told affiliates that its servers and other infrastructure had been seized, but didn’t specify where or how. On May 27, court records show, a sum including 63.7 bitcoins traced to the Colonial ransom landed at a final address, where the FBI this week seized that portion of the funds.

The FBI said in its request for a warrant Monday that its investigators had in their possession the private key for that address. Officials didn’t elaborate on how it obtained the information, and a spokesman didn’t offer further comment.

The sum recovered by the FBI likely represents a cut of the ransom shared with DarkSide’s affiliates, said Pamela Clegg, director of financial investigations and education at blockchain analytics firm CipherTrace. On May 13, the same day DarkSide claimed its servers had been seized, the remaining funds from Colonial that haven’t been recovered by the FBI were consolidated with other crypto tied to ransom payments in a wallet that now holds about 108 bitcoins, she added.

“Everyone has their eyes on it to see if those funds are transferred,” Ms. Clegg said of the wallet.

FBI officials say the techniques they used to recover some of Colonial’s funds can be used in future cases, including when hackers attempt to transfer cryptocurrency through unfriendly overseas jurisdictions.

“Overseas is not an issue for this technique,” said Mr. Chan of the FBI’s San Francisco field office.

He pounded through that dungeon with a ruthless efficiency

Tuesday, June 15th, 2021

Ben Espen reviews the D&D-inspired anime Goblin Slayer, whose main character is old school:

The Goblin Slayer, in his obsession with killing goblins, studies them relentlessly. He learns their ways, and schemes better and better ways to kill them. It reminds me very much of this Hill Cantons blog post about they way Chris Kutalik’s Vietnam veteran father played D&D like he was leading a patrol in ‘Nam. All the other adventurers find the Slayer kind of weird. And he is kind of weird. But he is really good at what he does, and he takes a real problem very seriously that no one else does. The metajoke here is of course that everyone else this fantasy world thinks they are playing the modern roleplaying game of improv theater with fantasy superpowers, while the Goblin Slayer lives in Fantasy F**king Vietnam.

Here’s how Chris Kutalik describes Fantasy F**king Vietnam:

My father was a Vietnam vet. Not a “I scrubbed B-52s on Guam” or “flew F-16s in the Texas National Guard” kind of vet, but a Purple-Hearted combat veteran of the First Cavalry. I always felt that he hated the war though, what it did to him body and soul — he still carries shrapnel in a shoulder to this day. It haunted him, but he spoke freely of it and even let it enter our play with him.

On long hikes he’d send me or my brother, stick in hand, to walk point — several yards in front so that the sudden blast of an imaginary mine or grenade didn’t wipe out the “squad”. Hike done we’d jog back to the car Jody-chanting: “I wanna be an Airborne Ranger, living my life full of danger.”

And I played D&D with the man.

Somewhere in the summer of 1981, I ran a few sessions as a DM where he played a first-level mook of a Fighting Man, fittingly called the Tunnel Rat, alongside my brother’s bland-by-comparison elf. He played the game with every bit of a rigor that phrase conjures up for latter-day REMFs.

He pored over the equipment tables, grilling me on the properties of this or that item. It took him about five seconds to grasp the killing power of the standard Molotov-like flask of oil. He bought 20. Grokking the need to travel light and mean he skimped on armor and the excess weapons so common in our summer camp D&D experience. He bought dogs instead.

Viet Cong Tunnel Complex

He pounded through that dungeon with a ruthless efficiency. At first my brother’s PC walked point. When that nearly ended with his death at the hands of a goblin ambush, he switched to running his dogs into rooms and closing the door before running in on the attack. When that stopped working, he doused the dogs with oil, set them on fire, and loosed them into the massed ranks of his opponents.

There wasn’t a trap in the place he didn’t find, and little in the way of anything hidden missed his eye.

The game was tense, adversarial even. It brought out a side of him that scared me a little. I think sometimes we forget that games — especially such demanding ones as the role-playing variety — aren’t always leisurely fun, sometimes they mix passion and a welter of emotions in them. Those sessions certainly did, but I treasure them because they taught me something about the man.

This is the flip side of Tucker’s Kobolds:

Tucker ran an incredibly dangerous dungeon in the days I was stationed at Ft. Bragg, N.C. This dungeon had corridors that changed all of your donkeys into huge flaming demons or dropped the whole party into acid baths, but the demons were wienies compared to the kobolds on Level One. These kobolds were just regular kobolds, with 1-4 hp and all that, but they were mean. When I say they were mean, I mean they were bad, Jim. They graduated magna cum laude from the Sauron Institute for the Criminally Vicious.

When I joined the gaming group, some of the PCs had already met Tucker’s kobolds, and they were not eager to repeat the experience. The party leader went over the penciled map of the dungeon and tried to find ways to avoid the little critters, but it was not possible. The group resigned itself to making a run for it through Level One to get to the elevators, where we could go down to Level Ten and fight “okay” monsters like huge flaming demons.

It didn’t work. The kobolds caught us about 60′ into the dungeon and locked the door behind us and barred it. Then they set the corridor on fire, while we were still in it.

“NOOOOOO!!!” screamed the party leader. “It’s THEM! Run!!!”

Thus encouraged, our party scrambled down a side passage, only to be ambushed by more kobolds firing with light crossbows through murder holes in the walls and ceilings. Kobolds with metal armor and shields flung Molotov cocktails at us from the other sides of huge piles of flaming debris, which other kobolds pushed ahead of their formation using long metal poles like broomsticks. There was no mistake about it. These kobolds were bad.

We turned to our group leader for advice.

“AAAAAAGH!!!” he cried, hands clasped over his face to shut out the tactical situation.

We abandoned most of our carried items and donkeys to speed our flight toward the elevators, but we were cut off by kobold snipers who could split-move and fire, ducking back behind stones and corners after launching steel-tipped bolts and arrows, javelins, hand axes, and more flaming oil bottles. We ran into an unexplored section of Level One, taking damage all the time. It was then we discovered that these kobolds had honeycombed the first level with small tunnels to speed their movements. Kobold commandos were everywhere. All of our hirelings died. Most of our henchmen followed. We were next.

I recall we had a 12th-level magic user with us, and we asked him to throw a spell or something. “Blast ‘em!” we yelled as we ran. “Fireball ‘em! Get those little @#+$%*&!!”

“What, in these narrow corridors? ” he yelled back. “You want I should burn us all up instead of them?”

Our panicked flight suddenly took us to a dead-end corridor, where a giant air shaft dropped straight down into unspeakable darkness, far past Level Ten. Here we hastily pounded spikes into the floors and walls, flung ropes over the ledge, and climbed straight down into that unspeakable darkness, because anything we met down there was sure to be better than those kobolds.

We escaped, met some huge flaming demons on Level Ten, and even managed to kill one after about an hour of combat and the lives of half the group. We felt pretty good — but the group leader could not be cheered up.

“We still have to go out the way we came in,” he said as he gloomily prepared to divide up the treasure.

Tucker’s kobolds were the worst things we could imagine. They ate all our donkeys and took our treasure and did everything they could to make us miserable, but they had style and brains and tenacity and courage. We respected them and loved them, sort of, because they were never boring.

The seeds of the sting were sown when law enforcement agencies took down a company called Phantom Secure

Wednesday, June 9th, 2021

The recent global sting is impressive:

More than 800 suspects were arrested and more than 32 tons of drugs seized, including cocaine, cannabis, amphetamines and methamphetamines. Police also seized 250 guns, 55 luxury cars and more than $148 million in cash and cryptocurrencies. An indictment unsealed Tuesday in San Diego named 17 foreign distributors charged with racketeering conspiracy.

The seeds of the sting were sown when law enforcement agencies took down a company called Phantom Secure that provided customized end-to-end encrypted devices to criminals, according to court papers.

Unlike typical cellphones, the devices do not make phone calls or browse the internet — but allow for secure messaging. As an outgrowth of the operation, the FBI recruited a collaborator who was developing a next-generation secure-messaging platform for the criminal underworld called ANOM. The collaborator engineered the system to give the agency access to any messages being sent.

ANOM didn’t take off immediately. But then other secure platforms used by criminals to organize drug-trafficking hits and money laundering were taken down by police, chiefly EncroChat and Sky ECC. That put gangs in the market for a new app, and the FBI’s platform was ready. Over the past 18 months, the agency provided phones via unsuspecting middlemen to gangs in more than 100 countries.

The flow of intelligence “enabled us to prevent murders. It led to the seizure of drugs that led to the seizure of weapons. And it helped prevent a number of crimes,” Calvin Shivers, assistant director of the FBI’s criminal investigative division, told a news conference in The Hague, Netherlands.