28 August 2014

Tempest in a pot of you don't know any math.

Let's play with math!
In a 100-friend scenario, the average white person has 91 white friends; one each of black, Latino, Asian, mixed race, and other races; and three friends of unknown race. The average black person, on the other hand, has 83 black friends, eight white friends, two Latino friends, zero Asian friends, three mixed race friends, one other race friend, and four friends of unknown race.
Everybody get that?

White average:
91 white friends.
9 different race friends.

Black average:
83 black friends
17 different race friends.

If you take the numbers on face value it is interesting, but there just isn't enough data to draw any real conclusions.

The US population is largely white at 72.4%, with a 12.6% black minority. Of course "white" is a variable number if you include "non-hispanic whites" the number goes up from there to around 83.6%. Numbers from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_the_United_States

So we don't have an even distribution of "races" in America, but more importantly we don't have an even distribution of races in America geographically.

You are more likely to have a lot of hispanic friends if you live in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico or Calfornia than if you live on the North Slope of Alaska, rural Maine, or on an Indian Reservation in South Dakota. You won't find many Pacific Islanders in rural Wisconsin, or African Americans in Havre, Montana, or Jackson, Wyoming.

If you live in Louisville, Detroit, or Chicago, having black friends will not be a problem. If you work for the US Army, having black friends won't be an issue. If you spent your life on a farm in Iowa two hours from the nearest major city, might be kind of a tough slog to find your token black friend.

Sorry, we really haven't done any math here yet, so I promise to get around to it.  So here it is, calculating the "standard deviation" of races in the US based on the wikipedia data gives us 25.6%. If you use a different subset of data breaking out non-white hispanics and the rest then you'll get a different standard deviation, but it won't be so different as to disprove the point I'm about to make.

If we assign every human being in America with a statistical chance of being "white" of 72% then every American should have 72 white friends, plus or minus one standard deviation. That means anywhere from 97 white friends, to 47 white friends.

When we look at the numbers quoted in the linked article, whites fall in at 91 white friends, which is a tad on the high side, but within the realm of standard deviation.

Blacks on the other hand, blacks are way outside the standard deviation, like really outside, beyond two standard deviations. Is that because they are racist? Or is it because of all the other factors already noted, such as geographic clustering? I would say that it is more likely do to geographic clustering than anything else.

Race relations in America are getting better. Not as fast as some would like, and I think mainly in spite of the current administration rather than because of it, but crap like "white people don't have enough black friends, RACISM!!!" isn't helping.

If you really want to help all Americans stop telling people they need a college education to be successful. Bring back our respect for skilled labor. Welding, plumbing, construction, even truck driving and warehousing are all honest jobs. Stop the madness in dumbing down our schools and start holding back children until the do measure up. It isn't a punishment to teach someone at their level, it is a punishment to pass them through an uncaring system and toss them out into a world with no marketable skills or even basic math and language skills.

I say this now because this is what I want for my children. I want a world that challenges them as they grow into competent adults. I don't expect them to win a Nobel Prize, I do expect them to know how to work hard and treat other people with decency and kindness. Having me for a father is just a handicap they'll have to overcome on their own.

27 August 2014

Winter is coming. Brace yourself for the coming of pumpkin spice flavored everything.

I'm sure you know that Food Babe owns this image....
Ok kiddies, "made with ammonia" is true. So are amino acids essential for life. The specific molecule that Vani the food babe goes on to demonize, 4-methylimidazole in her write up, has not been shown to be harmful at that level, despite Food Babe declaring no safe level. If that is the case, I'd like to remind you that there is no safe level of water, you risk drowning from a teaspoon or more.

Absolutely no real pumpkin in a pumpkin spice latte. Got a news flash for Food Babe, there is no coffee in coffee cake, no canines in hot dogs, no Franks in frankfurters, no wieners is wienershnitzel, no dick in "spotted dick" and no actual "Fives" in five spice.

As far as "Mansanto Milk" goes, give it a fucking break already. No one has ever been able to "show harm" from dairy products derived from the milk of cows who were fed GM grains. This is simply "scare mongering" which is evidently bad if Bush does it, but somehow ok when your side does it? As far as "holy shit soy milk is bad because it contains carageenan!" without any reference to the inability of scientists to actually quantify any sort of risk. When studies conflict, some showing no symptoms, other showing gastric distress, it means you need to do a meta-analysis to find out what the best knowledge is, and that is that carageenan is a safe food additive, as it has been for centuries.

I have to laugh at "Toxic dose of sugar!" because the word "toxic" literally means something life threatening in the medical field. 50 grams of sugar is a lot of sugar, but it is most definitely NOT toxic to anyone without diabetes.

"Ambiguous Natural Flavors" is ambiguous. A "flavor pack" is essentially the distilled "essence" of scent and flavor chemicals, and chemicals always come with scary sounding names. Coffee alone has over 900 chemical flavor compounds, and yet Food Babe doesn't require that every alkaloid and oil be named by IUPAC conventions, with specific molarity concentrations per drink. Obviously such a label would be impossible to put on a cup, and even quite difficult to put into something smaller than mid sized phone book.

"Preservatives and Sulfites" that can cause allergic reactions. Oh Noes! Somebody forgot to mention that milk and soy can cause allergic reactions! Quick hold a press conference!!! If you have an allergy to sulfites, you don't need Food Babe to tell you to check the labels. If you don't have an allergy to Sulfites, CHUG CHUG CHUG CHUG!!!!

"Possible Pesticide Residues from using non-organic coffee beans." This is literally the dumbest of the dumb shit that Food Babe has published. Organic doesn't mean "no pesticides" it simply means "organic approved pesticides" which all have to be used at higher concentrations (such as copper sulfite) because they are LESS EFFECTIVE AND LESS SPECIFIC than better engineered conventional pesticides. Getting back to that word, "toxic", organic approved pesticides are MORE TOXIC than conventional pesticides. This is sheer ignorance on display, about the same level as Jenny McCarthy on vaccines.

"Contains conventional condensed milk, not vegan even with soy milk." Which is something that Starbucks has addressed for years. Latte means milk, and the Pumpkin Spice Latte mix they use has milk products in it. There are some very good food chemistry reasons for this, and even if Starbucks were to specify a vegan friendly alternative it would have to come from soy. You know, that horrible Monsanto soy Food Babe has already assured you is poisoning you, without providing any sort of scientific evidence of harm.

The most interesting thing about "Food Babe" is her ability to get people to protest against shit they know nothing about. She has led several campaigns against restaurant chains including Subway, Chic-Fil-A, and Chipotle which have accomplished absolutely nothing in terms of public health, but she counts them as victories. I looked through her bio, and found no resume of scientific accomplishment even so basic as a BS in anything.

But "Food Babe" will continue to be influential because she is photogenic and outspoken. Much like Jenny McCarthy.

The Cyber Domain

The military talks about the cyber domain in what I consider imprecise terms from a technical standpoint, but very precise terms in the realm of "effects based targeting" if you happen to use that model.

The Physical Domain. This is all the hardware that runs the cyber realm. I guess you could say this is layers 1 through 3 of the OSI model.

The Logical Domain. This is all the software and services that run the cyber realm. This would be layers 4 through 7 of the OSI model.

The Social Domain. I've heard this referred to as the "Cognitive Domain" as well. This is where people interact with the cyber realm. My "cyber persona" here on this blog as "AM" is an example this "cognitive domain." Consider this the "user experience."

These layers are built one on top of the other, each nested comfortably over the layer below it. In each level of cyberspace there are things like territory. At the physical level you have primary things like cables, radio relays, antennas, switches, routers, even firewalls and ancillary things power feeds, battery backups, air conditioning units, and even the structures housing the primary units.

The logical domain interacts with the physical domain at the server level. Servers provide services to users/clients and they handle email, stream media, resolve IP addresses to domain names, host web sites, handle database queries, and pretty much make the internet the massive multimedia monstrosity that it is today.

The social domain is the human part. Computers interact with machines on this level all the time. Targeted advertising on facebook, or amazon.com, or even search results from google. My website here, where you can read my thoughts, and respond to them.

So what "weapons" do we use at the physical level? Everything from a denial of service attack to an IP reroute to a set of wire cutters. The weapons don't matter so much that the "effects" that can be achieved are all the "Ds" such as; deny, degrade, disrupt, destroy. You can also do an "exploit" at this level.

At the logical level things get a little more interesting. Backdoors, trojans, viruses (think stuxnet), botnets. The effects here can be all the d's, plus exploit, deceive, detect. This logical domain provides all the services that make the internet great, and it is the intermediary between the social and the physical layers. For it to exist in the the social level, it is nested inside the logical level.

At the social level the "effects" are not targeted at equipment, but at the end users. "Inform and Influence Activies" or "Information Operations" should be pretty familiar concepts to most readers. Succinctly, this is all about, "how to we get people to stop doing something?" and "how do we get people to start doing something?" through targeted messaging. Imagine being able to turn off my website from showing up in search engine results. Imagine crashing the servers of someone spilling information you don't want spilled. Here it is all about shaping perception about an issue which leads to a behavior change.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that cell phones and the internet are not secure means of communication. There are a lot of things you can do to be more secure, but nothing you can do to be secure. It is all sorts of relative. But just like you continually improve your fighting position you should be working to improve your cyber security.

At the physical layer you need to ensure you have physical control over your devices. You need to ensure the firmware that runs these devices is not compromised, and works as you desire. A hardware firewall is highly recommended. This is the layer where targets are found.

At the logical layer you need anti-virus software. You should consider a MAC address randomizer. Also you should consider IP anonymizers, proxy servers, and other tools to make you a harder target. This layer is where targets are fixed, finished, and exploited.

At the social layer, don't be a dumbass. Facebook is forever. This blog is forever. Everything I write down here is just potential evidence. Weigh your sources carefully. Many times I've tracked down a news story to a single source, and then dismissed the story because it didn't come from a credible source. Be skeptical. This layer is where the war of ideas plays out, and this is the layer where dumb people give out actionable intelligence to people they shouldn't.

In the security world, paranoia is a job requirement. If you are happy with your security, so is everyone who wants to target you.

Comments are open for bitches, gripes, complaints, war stories, and interpretive dance.

26 August 2014

Le Sigh, the most reliable thing about the AR pattern of rifles is how it stirs controversy

The M16/M4 rifle is a polarizing piece of equipment. Either it is outdated 1950s technology or the most amazing thing since USB 3.0.

The reality of the situation falls well between those two extremes. The way we fight in the US Military means we need a weapon that provides such and such capabilities. And we need to do it at such and such a price tag. And it needs to meet international requirements to fire such and such ammunition.

When you look at everything we need our small arms to do it is no wonder that we've stuck with the M16 despite its often noted shortcomings, which are debated long into the night against its often noted advantages.

I may be a bit late getting to the party, but the argument that "it's good enough" isn't the same as saying, "we should stop looking for better."

Nathaniel F wrote this response to Tom Kratman earlier this year. I would agree that Soldiers are largely not dying because of an inadequate weapon, but I would say that getting a better weapon that can meet the same performance parameters at half the weight would be a godsend to the grunts.


But even more recently, the 2007 dust tests are like zombies, they never die and stay dead. Look at this quote from the Washington Post.

Reliability was measured against the M4 as the baseline. Gun “C” scored 25 percent more reliable than the M4A1 and better than all others.
25% better seems like a lot, but any math geek will tell you that a percentage is a dimensionless value, and without context it is essentially meaningless. What that very same article doesn't tell you is that the M4A1 came it at over 98% reliable, so "25% over baseline" is really the 25% difference of the 2% between 98% reliability and 100% reliability. In other words, this mystery carbine beat the M4A1 by an actual 0.5% reliability.

In deference to Tom Kratman, when the M16 was originally issued without chrome lined chamber and barrels, and with 6061 aluminum receivers that corroded in the jungle heat and humidity, it was not much of a stretch to think that the issuing of the black rifle did in fact cost lives. However, after 5 decades of improvements for both rifle and ammunition I can say with confidence that your M16A2 or A4 is a damn fine weapon, and even the baseline M4 is completely adequate to the task. All bets are off if the weapons are not maintained, or are worn out. Early on in the war on a noun, worn out weapons were the one of the first items to be addressed by the influx of wartime funds.

In my career I've seen carbine trials come and go. I've seen everyone champion their favorite rifle, and some of them favor the M16/M4 series. Personally I think they are a stone bitch to clean, but I've never had any real complaints with the reliability.

I'm not completely wedded to any particular weapon system, although I am fond of Mausers as sort of a Platonic ideal of a rifle, and I'm fond of AR pattern rifles because when I don't have to turn them into an arms room I can clean them my way and life is grand. Also ARs are stupid easy to shoot well.

The reloader in me fears the day when telescoping or caseless ammunition becomes ready for prime time military deployment. My biggest source of reloadable brass would suddenly dry up. Until those technologies are made which can give us the 4 lb rifle with half weight caseless/plastic ammo, it looks like I'll have plenty of brass available on the market for reloading.

25 August 2014

The Militarization of Police

The problem with police agencies having Armored Personnel Carriers and MRAPs isn't that they can't use the capability. It is that they have historically used that capability simply because they had it, not because they needed it.

The problem with having a SWAT team isn't that the police are using them to throw flash bangs into cribs, not to rescue hostages from a barricaded perpetrator.

The problem with all of this is of course training and rules of engagement.

I'm trained to use a Tube Launched Optically sighted Wire guided (TOW) missile system. I haven't fired a missile in over 7 years. Obviously being trained once, the better part of a decade ago, isn't much use to my employer now.

When you have these "high speed" toys and you train to use them, you train to use them in a certain way. The assumption is that you "train heavy, dial back as you need" but forget that you don't "rise to the occasion, you fall back to your level of training."

Training to be officer friendly is boring, not sexy, and won't help you pick up chicks. Contrast that to a week at a shoothouse doing dynamic entry drills.

For years the Washington State Patrol used the Winchester 94 carbine as the patrol rifle. They then switched over to the AR-15 pattern. So far the WASP hasn't turned into an occupying army because of the presence of a military style rifle in the patrol car.

Now the Sherriff's departments in Washington can be a whole different story. The Seattle Police Department is famous for shooting people, then clearing the officer for the shooting by an "internal investigation."

So what is different between the WASP and SPD? One is supposedly a community police force, and the other is the highway patrol. The state patrol is legitimately famous for being neatly dressed, including the bow tie and mounty hat. They look like cops, and every time I've received a ticket I was at least treated with respect.

The militarization of cops isn't about the weapons or vehicles, although often times capabilities are used simply to justify their continued existence in the budget. It is mostly about the mindset of the agency and individual cops.

Several years ago the city of Des Moines, WA, had a police problem. The cops were aggressive, the community was unhappy. A new police chief was put in place. He started with one change, no more mirrored sunglasses. The public would be able to look their officers in the eyes. Such a small change brought about big dividends for community relations. The perceptive change from "authority figure" to "public servant just doing his job" was almost immediate.

The hardest part about COIN in the military is the intentional vulnerability to your troops. But for COIN to work it has to be that way. SF teams do this all the time, accepting levels of risk that would make a regular Army planner go into pants shitting hysterics.

But if you are integrated into a community, then the risk is minimized because the community cares for you back. That isn't to say there is no risk, but minimal risk.

When the mindset, "the most important thing to me is getting to go home at the end of my shift" starts being the driving factor in decision making, then the public, who you are supposed to be serving, simply becomes a dangerous inconvenience that you have to deal with.

In the Army we have body armor, automatic weapons, and armored vehicles. But to pacify an area in a COIN environment, it is more about drinking tea, talking to people, and getting people to see you as a force for good in their community.

24 August 2014

Idiocracy revisited

I'd been getting the dreaded 503 error from Joe Huffman's sight, so I didn't see this http://blog.joehuffman.org/2014/08/17/quote-of-the-daydoug-huffman/#comments dealing with the subject of shaping society until today.

If you are worried about "Idiocracy" you probably have a line of thought that goes like this:

The survival of the fittest ensures the fittest group of animals. Our society has grown increasingly soft and thefore the least fit intellectually among us are going to breed much faster than the more intelligent, until at some future point in we will not have enough smart people and our society will descend into poverty and a new dark age.

Does that about sum it up?

Now Joe Huffman is smarter than I am, but this is one of the rare things when academic training in a given subject gives me a good chance to make up for with experience and subject matter expertise what I lack in the natural brains department. Anyone who wants to bring in a real MS or Ph.D. Bio/Gen professor to refute anything I write, please do so.

Darwinian selection is based on the idea of relative fitness for a particular environment. A species that adapts to a particular environment will not necessarily have any fitness advantage over another species when the environment changes.

The idea that our society is creating an environment that is selecting for stupidity is most definitely NOT the same as our society removing some of the consequences of stupidity.

Who is more desirable as a mate? The unemployed meth head or the kid with a 2 year vo-tech degree and a job as a welder? The kid with a high school diploma working at WalMart or the kid with a Bachelors of Art History working at WalMart? Which one do you think will make manager quicker?

As you can see with that simple thought experiment, intelligence and education level are still predictors of "fitness" in our society. There are no "fitness" selectors for stupidity. Removing consequences is not the same as giving incentives. For a better example, removing the legal consequences for smoking marijuana is not the same as creating incentives smoking marijuana.

Now the incentive for a woman to have multiple children in order to "work the system" as a "welfare queen" is a very interesting conundrum. You have to have someone smart enough to work the system, but dumb enough to think that working the system is the best possible life for themselves. It is a particularly weird combination of intelligence and laziness that makes me chuckle the more I think about it.

Because there is a second lesson to be learned from biology, and that is "nothing lasts forever."

There is no environment that is static. The current welfare scheme is unsustainable, so it will eventually go away, or be so diminished as to be worthless. The math professor who looks at the human population growth and says, "Wow, THAT is unsustainable!" is correct. But when you look at the numbers of growing populations in the world it is not the industrial/post-industrial societies which are merely maintaining population rates/growth through immigration. The fastest growing populations are where agricultural demands create the conditions for a large family to be a fitness advantage.

There can never be a parasite population that overwhelms the host that won't also kill itself off. The whole premise of "Idiocracy" is that the parasite will somehow become the host organism. That just doesn't happen. Even with total parasite control over a single organism, such as the parasitic fungus and worker ants, there has to be a steady supply of healthy worker ants to keep the parasite fungus going. Without that steady population of workers, you run out of hosts and the parasite dies with the colony.

Which gets us to the point where I think we are now, heading to a collapse. But not a collapsed caused by parasites, unless you consider Congress to be a parasite body on the host. I'm sure that the argument can be made either way, but the real point is that the collapse will come from economic forces, and not genetic or social forces.

Which brings us to the third point I'd like to discuss, economics. Every culture that has collapse has done so for some sort of economic reason, save for the central American empires which sacrificed themselves to death (which could be argued in economic terms of human capital).

In his book, "The World is Flat" Thomas Friedman described the Indian economy as "stagnated by decades of socialist rule, where excellent state run schools churned out programmers and engineers who desperately wanted to get out of India to make use of their education and be financially successful. Suddenly after the fall the Berlin Wall, India opened their markets and the economy took off like the cork of a champagne bottle with 40 years of shaking and pressure build up."

The coming collapse will be purely economic as the rest of the world wakes up to American debt financing as a bad bet, and we will either have to undergo "austerity" or we will see the collapse of the dollar. The end of the dollar as the world reserve currency is almost imminent at this point.

Unforfortunately for us, we have been subsidizing "Art History" and "Women's Studies" degrees more than STEM degrees. When America faces the next fall, we won't have the human capital that India did to take advantage of foreign capital to cause it to flood in. Don't get me wrong, we still have a LOT of foreign capital, but based on the numbers it will take us longer to turn that human capital into a renewed and prosperous economy. There will be a lot more "have nots" than "haves" after the next major collapse.

Globalization will ensure that we fall, but it will also ensure that we get back up afterward. The question remains on how we get back up, and whether we do it in an intelligent manner. A collapse can go either way, into communism/socialism, or fascism, or it can go to deregulation and increased competitiveness. The Weimar Republic went to Hitler. Chile voted for Allende and then got Pinochet. Iran got Mussadek, who lost popular support to the Shah (despite US and British support, not because of it). All of this is economic in origin.

So to sum it up, Darwinian evolution works on environmental pressures to succeed, economic policy is a much better indicator of societal collapse, and economic recovery is possible due to the intelligent "human capital" of a population. As a parting shot for why "Idiocracy" isn't likely, how many lower class babies have been aborted since Roe V. Wade? Whether you agree with infanticide or not, it has been going on, and it has had a measurable effect on things like overall violent crime. Something to think about anyway.

Comments are open.

Feminist Utopia

Imagine if you will, a world populated by Snooki, Paris Hilton, and that meth skank you went to high school with.

Would that be a feminist utopia? Well probably not, you can't have high class society with low class people. However, if we stop thinking about people as individuals, and just judge everyone based on their sex, well by golly then maybe a million Snookis running around really is a feminist utopia.

If you haven't already heard about the woman who wants to castrate men, well she has another plan involving eugenics (cause it worked so well last time someone tried to build the master race sex) which is nothing more than a classic "top down, this will work if all you peasants do exactly what I want." socialist idiocy.

The really sad part about all of this is that she seems to be serious.


There was another woman, Lois McMaster Bujold, who wrote about a planet composed entirely of men in her Vorkosigan saga. She managed to explain, in great detail the artificial wombs, the storage problems of maintaining functional ovaries, and that the society based on having 100% men wasn't a utopia. It still had all the problems that you get when any two people, regardless of sex, interact on more than just a casual level.

I don't see how flipping that around, and creating a society where men are reduced to mating studs, without even the pretext of "separate but equal" is anything more than the most selfish and vile form of "hey, I want power for myself, and if I can convince enough people that we can solve all our problems be getting rid of those pesky jews men, well then I say lets start the big lie in earnest!"

I've tried to give her proposal an honest shot at intellectual analysis, but I keep running into one huge insurmountable problem, which is, "Where in the seven holy hells did you find any shred of historical, social, or scientific evidence to support your idea?" When we look at the communes of the 60s and 70s and some of them deliberately trying to "smash the nuclear family." http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2009/jul/04/feminism-communes-children we also see that it didn't really work in the long run. I may be willing to speculate on the effects of a specific gender ratio on society at large, but the complete and utter lack of any credible evidence to say that "do this, and this outcome will emerge" is troubling. After all, you wouldn't build a spaceship powered by a "sun stone" simply because a science fiction author wrote about "sun stones" and eventually reality will have to catch up.

What did work for the feminist commune dwellers in the long run is that "society at large" began to accept divorce, polyphilia/multiamory (know your meme), and all sorts of non-traditional family situations in addition to the traditional nuclear family. Of course the laws have yet to catch up, only now really letting same sex marriages enjoy the same benefits. But that brings up the question, why in the seven holy hells is government involved in personal relationships anyway?

As a pretty consistent libertarian, I think the legitimate role of government is to protect individual rights, enforce contracts through neutral arbitration, and oversee public works (which I am more than happy to see sold to the best value private company bidder on everything from road maintenance to police services). Unfortunately my "utopia" doesn't do anything to get rid of the evil patriarchy (after all, such a silly notion, letting men think they have equal rights under the law!) or more feminists would fall under libertarian ideology instead of socialist ideology.