18 September 2014

Truth and Falsity

In science a well designed experiment determines if the hypothesis is false. If the hypothesis is not proven false, then the assumption is that the hypothesis is true until proven otherwise.

Notice that there is nothing about "consensus" in that definition. Things aren't true because of agreement.

But when you can't separate truth from falsehood, odds are the situation is just "complicated." Sometimes the evidence isn't very clear, and the phenomena you are interested in occurs on too long of a time scale to be experimented on, or the study population would be unethical to conduct experiments on.

These things are the contentious issues like "Global Warming er, I mean 'Climate Change' caused by carbon dioxide" and the ever present anti vaccine movement.

CO2 does interact with the IR spectrum. The skeptics aren't denying that. The skeptics are the ones questioning how CO2 has to be both a warming agent and a cooling agent for the global warming computer models to be correct. When something starts violating the laws of thermodynamics based on partial pressure explanations you should feel your BS detector start flagging into the red.

Vaccines are contentious because there are risks either way, and there isn't a good way to quantify those risks. So far their haven't been mass deaths due to plagues caused by vaccine preventable diseases coming back, but there have been higher rates of infection for those diseases. People can make the "public health care" argument all they want, but at the end of the day people are still individuals. Vaccines are effective, but not 100% effective, and they have risks associated with them too, so it is almost impossible to give someone a good set of Vegas style odds to inform them of the pros and cons. There are simply too many variables to make the math easy.

As of late I've been accused of "being on the other teams side" when I point out a crappy argument made by people I agree with. But, just because I agree with your point doesn't mean your argument isn't crap.

But, the next time someone tells you that something is true because X number of scientists agree, please remind them that:

A consensus of scientists reportedly agree that GMO foods are just as safe as conventional crops.

A consensus of scientists reportedly agree that vaccines are safer than not being vaccinated, and that the CDC schedule of vaccines is not too aggressive.

A consensus of scientists reportedly agree that anthropogenic global warming is a problem, and that we should give governments much more control over our lives to fix problems like the arctic being ice free by the summer of 2013.

I haven't met anyone yet who believes all three of those statements are really true. Most conservatives believe two out of three, and most liberals believe two out of three, and most dingbat 'lympians believe one out of three. Consistency may be the hobgoblin of small minds, but it is one way to spot a bs argument.

In the search for truth, you need a well tuned BS detector.

15 September 2014

Bring it on.

Once again the "fairness at all costs" crowd has succeeded in opening up more opportunities for women to act like men.

In this case, it is a preliminary study on women in Ranger school.

http://www.armytimes.com/article/20140912/NEWS/309120058/Women-invited-apply-Ranger-School

Bring it on.

The Army is casting the net far and wide for this one. They will take only the cream of the crop of female Soldiers to ensure that this has every chance of success. You can bet that only those with Olympic level athleticism will be chosen to attend.

Bring it on.

Half the men who start don't finish. Yes mostly it is because of failing to meet standards, and tiny heart syndrome.

Bring it on. Make the women achieve the same standards. Make them go through the peer review process. Grade them to the same standard as every other Ranger in the school.

You know the school where if your subordinate fucks up when you are in a leadership position it is your fault, and your patrol that gets rated as a failure?

If they compromise the standard to let women through then shame on them. If they make like the USMC did with their Infantry Officer Basic School, where all the women failed because they didn't change the standard, then so be it.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/fourteen-women-have-tried-and-failed-the-marines-infantry-officer-course-heres-why/2014/03/28/24a83ea0-b145-11e3-a49e-76adc9210f19_story.html

And if you care to read a better response: http://www.dontevercallmeahero.com/2014/04/09/2nd-lt-santangelo-promised-rose-garden/

I earned my tab. I got a yeast infection. I got cellulitis. I smelled like a corpse and looked like the walking dead. I took a double recycle to stay in the course so that my 62 day training event stretched out to 117 days. But ten years and one day after I signed my first enlistment contract my wife pinned a black and gold tab to my left shoulder.

So bring it on. If there are any women out there who volunteer to meet the Ranger standard, go for it. I'm convinced there will be women who can make it. But I'm also convinced that the women who could make it are smart enough to avoid it.

Men go to Ranger school to get a tab, or to meet peer pressure, or even for the illusion of being "elite." Many call it a right of passage, and it is if you are in the infantry. There are two types of Infantry Officers, those who have a tab and those who are working to get a tab. I knew one douchebag who was given five chances at Ranger school before he earned his tab. After OBC, before the Career Course, after the Career Course, and twice from the same unit. He finally passed, West Point Protection Society made sure he got enough chances.

But just like opening Airborne School didn't turn the 82nd into a bunch of pansies opening Ranger school to women won't turn the 75th Regiment into a bunch of hippies. What it will likely do is make the training easier for everyone. I went through Airborne school twice. Once in 1998 where I was injured on a jump, and again in 2007 where I earned the silver wings. It was easier in a time of war, there wasn't room in the budget to fail people for dumb crap.

But if Ranger school is to be prestigious it cannot waiver on standards. The Sapper school has been used as a model for integrating women into combat training. But even after a decade of gender integration:
Though the sapper school's training of women has become a sort of social experiment, it wasn't designed to be. It was opened to women in 1999 because these soldiers were already allowed into the engineering field, and the Army simply concluded that all junior leaders - men and women - should be given an opportunity to attend the elite course.
In the ensuing 14 years, 55 women have graduated from the course out of 147 who have attended. Marine Capt. Katie Neff, 28, graduated No. 1 among all students in a class last summer.
http://archive.jacksonsun.com/usatoday/article/1954149
I doubt that Ranger School could even match those numbers. The rucks are heavier, the marches are longer, Mountain Phase, the training over twice as long, and even having a Sapper tab is no guarantee of success in Ranger school (although Sappers generally do very well in Ranger school).

So how wide can the net be cast to get women into Ranger school? Well there are at least 55 Sapper tabbed women in the eligibility pool.

Bring it on.

14 September 2014

The Sniper Insurgent

The liar Elliot Fineman got me thinking about "military grade insurgent weapons" and specifically about sniper operations. Fineman makes the mistake of focusing on equipment instead of on training, but there are still lots of people who fail to understand that good equipment can't make up for poor skill.

Doctrinally the "sniper insurgent" falls into three skill categories, the names may change, but it is useful for understanding how precision rifle fires have been used in the recent COIN environments. In fact the Army COIN manual FM 3-24.2 of 2009 (a bit dated, but still useful) specifies three types of insurgent snipers.

Armed irregular.
Trained marksman.
Specially Trained Sniper.

The armed irregular is someone who can fire a weapon using the supplied sights. Most US Army Infantrymen are trained to this standard where they are taught to use a battlesight zero on their rifles, and any targets beyond their combat zero are the province of snipers and machine gunners.

The insurgent armed irregular will fire from a concealed position inside the combat zero of his rifle. John Allen Muhammed and Lee Boyd Malvo are examples of this type of insurgent, when they terrorized the DC area by using the "trunk" firing position of a vehicle it was well inside the point blank zero of the weapon system. This skill level generally fires on targets of opportunity, and serve as a "harasser" or "terrorist."

The "trained marksman" is someone who can use the iron sights, or BDC reticle or turret, to engage targets beyond the combat zero of their rifle. USMC personnel are trained out to 500 yards, and US Army SDM personnel are trained out to 600 yards. These skilled marksmen are capable of firing from behind cover from the prone supported or sling supported position. The targets of opportunity here are generally supporting other operations, much like our SDM

In Iraq, at least one of the Sunni "snipers" were men who learned their craft on the internet, and applied it by using PSL/SVD rifles on the battlefields. They are more effective than the "armed irregulars" because they can fire from a concealed position outside of the combat zero of their weapon system. They generally sucked at reading the wind, lacked the operational planning experience to plan secure ingress and egress routes, and generally only engaged targets of opportunity.

The "specially trained sniper" is either someone school trained to be a sniper, or someone who has moved up from "skilled marksman" to sniper (such as Simo Haya, Vasily Zaitsev or Carlos Hathcock). In the case of Simo Haya it was clearly the school of hard knocks, in Zaitsev's case it was battlefield promotion, and in Hathcock's case it was part of the USMC standing up a new sniper school. The Iraqi sniper, "Juba" is someone I consider to be a trained sniper, although I do not know where he got his training. My best guess is either Chechen or Iranian instructors, but that is just a guess.

The biggest difference between the three levels is that you get to "target discrimination" at the "specially trained sniper" level. From pure targets of opportunity, to targets of opportunity supporting operations, to target discrimination.

I've caught flack before for telling why 20 million deer hunters does not equal 10 million sniper teams, but I'll explain it again here. At best, your "average deer hunter" qualifies as an "untrained marksman" who can't make a shot beyond the max point blank range of his rifle. "I just zero 2 inches high at 100 so I don't have to worry about range." is a pretty common sentiment. On the flip side, those guys who spend their weekends popping prairie poodles at 500 meters with 22-250s easily qualify as "skilled marksmen."

Jerry Miculek has done the trick shot of hitting steel at 1000 yards with a 9mm revolver. Definitely some skill involved in that shot (and a lot of luck in my humble opinion). I'd rather be downrange of the average deer hunter with a rifle than Jerry Miculek with a revolver, but that's just me.

Now I don't believe that you can, "just read the manual" and get skills, but at some point reading the manual is important. If you don't have a copy of the Special Forces Sniper Training manual, you can find it online. The older versions (I found multiple 2003 versions in pdf documents all over the internet) are still good for referencing as while the equipment changes regularly the tactics, techniques, and procedures change slowly. I don't believe someone can become a "specially trained sniper" all on their own, as some of the more intense training events require other people to train with, but someone can definitely become a "trained marksman" on their own. And "trained marksman" is a huge step up from "armed irregular."

And I'd like to to point out that at no time was "TrackingPoint" ever a requirement to qualify as an "insurgent sniper."

Comments are open.

13 September 2014

Elliiot Fineman is a liar.

Normally I wouldn't call someone a liar, after all could be construed as libel. But in this case calling that bitch a liar is something I wouldn't mind proving in court. The president of the National Gun Victims Action Council, Elliot Fineman, is a liar, and proves it by writing this drivel.
On August 20, 2014, the National Gun Victims Action Council issued a press release calling for a ban of “Smart Scope” Military-Style Precision-Guided sniper rifles, manufactured by Texas-based TrackingPoint, from being sold to the public. These weapons, legally sold to civilians, allow even people who have never fired a gun to hit a target the size of a soup can from 1,000 yards away every time—that’s 10 football fields or over half a mile.
This is a lie. The hit probability on something the size of a soup can, even a #10 tin, is way below 100%. Trust me on this, the wind doesn't give a shit what type of optic you have. I've missed shots at 500 yards because the wind kicked my ass by swirling like a damn toilet bowl. Of course facts aren't as scary as some mythical never miss sniper rifle.
None of the defenders of the “can’t miss” Military-Style Precision-Guided Sniper rifle addressed its dangers to the public’s safety and indeed the safety of our public spaces or the fact that the weapon has no legitimate purpose such as self-defense or hunting by “real” hunters who rely on skill.
Precision guided means that the munition is guided along its path. Laser guided munition are guided by a laser target designator. GPS guided munitions are guided by pre-programmed GPS coordinates. The Tracking Point system is not "precision guided" in any sense of the jargon. Possibly they meant to say "precisely aimed" but that just does exactly what those "real" hunters who rely on skill do, precisely aim a rifle.
During the terrifying Beltway sniper attacks of October, 2002, ten people were killed and three others critically injured in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. People were terrified to get out of their cars to fill their gas tanks or even leave their houses and the region was in a state of panic. Yet TrackingPoint and its defenders conveniently forget this example of how a single sniper can and has terrorized entire communities. Now TrackingPoint enables anyone to be an elite sniper and laments that to not do so erodes our “constitutional rights.”
I'm not sure how equating Tracking Point systems with an iron sighted Bushmaster AR-15 that was used to engage civilians at distances less than a football field away has any bearing at all on the conversation, other than you want to call terrorists "snipers" instead of calling two radical muslims "terrorists."
 They left out the loss of freedoms that have resulted from banning civilians from possessing ricin or heat-guided laser rocket launchers. Nor did the gun advocates who wrote us address our side’s Second Amendment right to regulate guns.
Really? "heat-guided laser rocket launchers" (I must have missed that section of Jane's....).  Is the irony lost? Probably.
TrackingPoint’s position is not a surprise. It is just another greedy gun manufacturer unconcerned with what happens to the public once it sells its guns. Are TackingPoint and its defenders really unaware of the mass terror and destabilization of a society these weapons in the hands of civilians can unleash?
Bitch please. I can name off the top of my head people who could take the cost of a single Tracking Point system and do way more damage than any newb with a few thousand in petty cash. Seriously. Don't go all "existential threat!" and get a case of the vapors. My friends blow shit up for fun. My friends build guns in their basement for fun. My friends shoot to ten football fields with iron sights for fun. We haven't killed you yet, so the odds are good that trend will continue.
What will it take to ban sales of TrackingPoint’s “can’t miss” sniper rifles to the public? A Supreme Court Justice being taken out? The quarterback of the opposing football team? A politician? A school bus driver and his busload of children, murdered from half mile away?
What they are really asking is, "what atrocity can shock the public into enough stupidity to let us have our way?" Or more precisely, "Job Opening, wanted: One crazy dipshit with enough disposable income to create mass hysteria." News flash, more Americans died in Chicago than Iraq during our time there.
In defending insurrection-style weapons, you, guns.com, Outdoor Life, Lee Williams and Ammoland are actually working against your own interests. Do you really think the first sniper attack with a TrackingPoint weapon won’t force the gun laws you fear including regulation of the military weapons you defend? Defending weapons like TrackingPoint’s “Smart Scope” Military-Style Precision-Guided sniper rifles is practically inviting the government to take your guns–and they will—and you will have done it to yourselves.
This is logic fail at it's finest. First he asks, "what atrocity will it take to get our way politically?" and then turn around and say, "because we can't get our way to convince enough voters to take away your shit now, at some magical time in the future we will have enough voters to unleash the power of the government on you, but we need a bigger crisis than the DC Snipers, Jared Lee Loughner, or that Holmes guy in Colorado, because AR-15s, Glocks, and AKs are still legal."

Really, either you have the votes or your don't sparky. And you don't. Cry more sweet hippy tears for me bitch.
And, I know when the government has no choice but to act, you will get your guns out and take on the U.S. Armed Forces’ drones, tanks and laser guided missiles and…defeat them. How about getting real for a minute?
You don't know shit about insurgency. A group of engineers at Texas A&M hijacked a drone using off the shelf gear. Farmers using fertilizer made IEDs that took out tanks. We fielded MRAPs to protect our boys from IEDs and they just made them bigger. FUCK YOU ELLIOT, YOU DON'T KNOW SHIT ABOUT AN INSURGENCY.
The “can’t miss” Sniper rifle must be banned from civilian sales and those already sold, bought back from the owners by TrackingPoint. Be smart, if you can, and support this ban or you will lose your guns. Don’t believe me? Let’s find out.
Finally I agree with the bitch on something, lets find out. You don't know crap about ballistics, don't understand insurgencies, and only bothered to get involved politically after your son was shot by a mentally disturbed individual in San Diego, where he and all the other patrons had an impossibly high barrier to legally carrying defensive pistols, much like the residents of Chicago (where you still live Elliot) for many decades.

I'm all for exercising my right to regulate your free speech Elliot, how the fuck does that make you feel? Of course in regulating anything as fundamental as speech, even for the purest reasons such as to protect people from listening to your poisonous idiocy, is a cure worse than the disease. I don't want censorship of words, or guns.

11 September 2014

The state of US Electronic Warfare

This is a succinct article worth reading.

http://breakingdefense.com/2014/09/us-has-lost-dominance-in-electromagnetic-spectrum-shaffer/

There isn't much more for me to add, save to say that EW has really been on the back burner in terms of research and development as anything other than a "force protection" measure for ground forces.

We ignored that capability, and now we are playing catch up.

The good news is that it is cheaper to make new EW jammers than new strike aircraft, so retrofitting aircraft to perform jamming missions is easy and cheap compared to other options for enhancing firepower.

10 September 2014

When non-scientists try to explain science....

One of the hardest things to do in science is design an experiment to prove yourself wrong. Humans have what we call a "confirmation bias" where we want new evidence to support old beliefs. This is why education is so important, because I can still hear my 5th Grade Teacher, Mr. Malone, explain the difference between Republican and Democrats as, "Democrats care about the little guy, Republicans care about big business."

Luckly Mr. Malone didn't teach me much science. But the concept of "confirmation bias" is important, and since I just did an article on what is propoganda, now is a good time to show a technique. I don't know whether the professionals call it "subject linking" or "idea pairing" or some other name, but it is the tactic of associating something with something else, such as Patek Phillipe watches and financial success, or Revlon Lip Gloss with sexuality.

So this movie "Fed Up" about food production is coming out, and because it casts corporations and "big sugar" as villains everyone loves it. Generally the book of face has this picture associated with it, along with the words that someone somewhere doesn't want you to see the movie.

From a scientific standpoint, what does this tell us? Honestly nothing useful. No control, no baseline, just a scan of two brains. or maybe one brain twice, who knows.
The implication here is that "sugar" has the same effect in the brain as "cocaine" which is false. I can't think of any other reason than to put the two PET scans side by side than to implant the idea that "sugar=cocaine in your brain" to the general audience. The message here is clear, the "idea pairing" is that sugar is now equal to cocaine, and there are two high tech brain scans to back it up.

I can't prove that is the goal, but clearly someone fell for it if it was: http://zedie.wordpress.com/2014/04/24/

Now there are other scans out there, but once you put the idea that "sugar equals cocaine in your brain!" then any further evidence that doesn't clearly contradict that premise will seem to reinforce that premise because of our innate bias towards ideas we already posses. Your confirmation bias will cause you to defend "sugar=cocaine" because you want to be right.

Remember now that a PET scan is just there to measure cellular activity by proxy. Someone "on sugar" has more brain activity in terms of cell metabolism than someone on "cocaine" based on the picture provided. That is the only thing you can say based on that graphic.

This graphic is better because it is messier. With more variation the viewer gets more data. Between any two points you can only draw a line (what the advertiser wants you to draw, to make that connection) but when there are a lot more points the line seldom becomes straight, and the "yeah buts" start coming up. This is why absolutely no one will start off with this graphic, because you can't draw a firm association between two things here, other than possibly drugs have an effect on brain metabolism.


Brighter is more activity, darker is less activity

This is a better graphic because as we go from 2 brains to 8 brains more variation is presented. Still this is still a really small sample size. The questions you need to ask, "Why aren't all the normal brains exactly alike?" The answer is that there are different levels of resolution from different machines, operators, and every brain is different.

I hope someone had an "Ahah!" moment there. If all the normal brains aren't exactly alike, then maybe we shouldn't draw too much conclusion from only two different brains to make the conclusion that "sugar=cocaine in the brain." because we really don't have good data to make that conclusion.

But, how many words have I had to write to explain why the misleading graphic is misleading? How many people are going to never believe what I write because they can see the graphic, and clearly see a difference between the two pictures? More than I care to think about honestly.

But, now that you know why I am skeptical about that, how would someone jive the belief that "sugar=cocaine in your brain" with the demographic studies that more intelligent people generally do more drugs http://www.esquire.com/blogs/news/smart-means-sex-and-drugs-and-staying-up 

Wait, if drugs lower brain metabolism at the cellular level according to PET scans, and smart people do more drugs based on behavioral research.... Maybe we shouldn't draw too many conclusions from PET scans for anything other than what they are, a snapshot in time.

So there you have it, a quick reminder in how to spot propaganda masquerading as science. On the flip side, I'm not saying that sugar is harmless, too much of any chemical will kill you. I am saying that sugar is not cocaine. If it were, people would be snorting it instead of making their Pumpkin Spice Latte less bitter because Starbucks over extracts their coffee.

09 September 2014

Propaganda

In the realm of Information Operations umbrella lies Public Affairs, Military Information Support Operations (what used to be called Psychological Operations) and Information Operations. Yes IO is its own subset of IO, since they abandoned the Inform and Influence Activities (IIA) acronym.

So what separates the three parts of IO?

MISO is enemy focused, their goal is to affect a behavior change in a targeted foreign population. The key here is behavior change.

Public Affairs (PAO), is focused on informing the American Public of Army news and dealing with members of the media. The goal here is to put on the best possible face for the US Army, and maintain the high levels of public confidence that we currently enjoy.

IO is focused on coordinating the themes and messages of a Command to support ongoing operations. This is things such as prepping the commander with talking points to bring up, answers to someone elses talking points, knowing appropriate cultural greetings, and coordinating to meet with the right people, get interviewed at the right times, and make sure the boss doesn't look clueless on camera or in quote. The goal here is to make sure that media mishaps don't happen which would negatively affect ongoing operations.

Does any of that sound like propaganda aimed at the American people? Just to be clear, here is the definition of propaganda.
propaganda
prɒpəˈgandə/
noun
noun: propaganda; noun: Propaganda
  1. 1.
    information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view.
    "he was charged with distributing enemy propaganda"
    synonyms:information, promotion, advertising, advertisement, publicity, advocacy; More
    spin, newspeak, agitprop, disinformation, counter-information, brainwashing, indoctrination, the big lie;
    informalinfo, hype, plugging
    "regulations restricting political propaganda were relaxed"
    • the dissemination of propaganda as a political strategy.
      "the party's leaders believed that a long period of education and propaganda would be necessary"
  2. 2.
    a committee of cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church responsible for foreign missions, founded in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV.

So by the broadest sense of the word, maybe all of it is propaganda as we always want to portray the Army in a good light. But that "good light" will change depending on the mission. If we are engaged in lethal operations, the "good light" will be something like, "our mission here is both just and unfortunate" and if it is humanitarian aid would be something like, "we are profoundly saddened by the tragedy of this earthquake and hope to relieve some of the suffering through our efforts on behalf of the American people."

That is a profoundly different set of messages than what Germany put out about Jews in WWII, or what America put out about the Japanese. The specific demonization of an ethnic group is obviously propaganda, simply trying to paint your organization in a good light doesn't even fall into the same category of activity.

Always take every press release or news story with a grain of salt. No one gets all the facts, and no one gives all the facts. Sometimes agencies hold back facts because they are embarrassing, sometimes because they are classified. Sometimes things are classified for no good reason, but you'd still get in trouble for leaking them, even if some of the leaking is necessary to bring to light potentially illegal activities.

One thing that propaganda utterly relies on is ignorance and bigotry. Them Jews, them Japs, them ragheads, them Mexicans, them dumb hicks from flyover country, them libruls.... If you find something that appeals to the basest assumptions about another ethnic group, you can bet that it is propaganda . The truth is much more shaded, and the facts a lot more gray.

There is one thing that we have learned in Information Operations, and that is to tell the truth as quickly as you can. Be first and not wrong. People generally understand that first reports are usually incomplete or overly pessimistic, and people generally understand that situations change over time. But no one understands being lied to, and it is impossible to regain credibility once it is lost.

Another lesson learned is that you don't have anyone smart enough to do it all, which is why we have Functional Area 30 (Information Operations), Functional Area 46 (Public Affairs), and the MISO Branch (not a basic branch, controlled by SOCOM). In our instant, always on, 24/7 news cycle you have to divide up the labor of dealing with things immediately, intermediately, and long term.

Comments are open.