Winking Owl Shiraz.

The cost difference between a ten dollar bottle of whiskey and a forty dollar bottle of whiskey can be quite astounding even to people who may not have a highly refined palette. I do not have a particularly refined palette to tell you what makes one wine ever so much more enjoyable than another, but I can tell you that for many purposes cheap wines are the much better option.

If you are doing anything to change the flavor of the wine, such as mulling or making a German “gluewein” then reaching for the lower end of the price range makes quite a bit of sense to me. If you are going to host a large crowd, then ten bottles of two buck chuck is probably the better option than two bottles of premium wine, as using alcohol as “social lubricant” is less about the taste of an individual sip as it is an aid to spur conversation and human to human interaction. If you are cooking, cheap wines are great because their strong notes mellow nicely.

I lamented that getting three pounds of beef cheeks for 9 dollars was a good bargain in today’s market for my area, but needing to buy a 7 dollar bottle of red wine to cook them in destroyed the economy of the cut of meat. A friend recommended I try some of Aldi’s cheap wines, and so the next time I drove by an Aldi, I stopped inside to purchase some cheap hooch. For background purposes, Winking Owl is a Gallo brand, and Gallo has been putting out cheap supermarket wines for as long as I can remember.

Now with that in mind, the $2.89 bottle of “Winking Owl Shiraz” is definitely a cheap wine. Shiraz is a pretty bold red, and when done it cooks like Pinot Noir for braising beef or chicken (and honestly it would take someone with an incredibly refined palette to be able to tell the difference in the end product). Why? Because wine is traditionally used as a braising liquid for tough cuts of meat, like mature rooster in Coque a Vin, or with beef short ribs or cheek meat. The cheapest I can find Pinot Noir is about eleven dollars for a 1.5 liter bottle (of Yellowtail, also a budget friendly brand), which would work out to about $5.50 for a standard 750 ml serving. Bon Apetit magazine simply gives a list of “dry red wines” to use for when a recipe calls for red wine.

So, I’ve now used Winking Owl Shiraz for both cooking and drinking. For cooking, it’s an absolute bargain, and I will be buying it again for beef cheeks.

For drinking, it is an acceptable red wine that you can make better by decanting the bottle into another container the day prior, and then refilling the bottle and replacing the cork. Let it chill overnight in the refrigerator. What this will do is allow the atmospheric oxygen to “pep up” the flavor of the pleasant fruity notes and minimize some of the sour notes. It still won’t taste like an expensive or exquisite wine, but it will taste better than straight from the bottle two buck chuck. Even doing this a few hours before serving will greatly improve the taste for most people.  But, if you are going to do this for ten bottles for a large gathering, you are well into the “labor of love for economy” at this point, but you’ll have spent less tan 28 dollars and 90 cents for 42 servings of wine, at a cost of 68 cents per 6 oz serving.  That’s a pretty good deal compared to a restaurant like Red Robin where a glass of wine starts at $4 per serving and goes up from there.

Now, for those quiet moments when you want to really enjoy a good glass of wine with a book or some calming music? You should probably treat yourself to something better than Winking Owl. But for a glass of red win with dinner with friends? I’d have no problem serving Winking Owl, especially if I were making anything Italian, Mexican, or “rustic French.” Anything heavy on tomato and herbs would be appropriate.

So in the end, it’s a cheap wine which is simultaneously an amazing value as a cooking wine and great value as a wine to pair with dinner, and yet also not a wine I would recommend for a nightcap or for someone to relax with without food unless they were particularly fond of unpretentious dry red wines .

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“White Privilege” a concept in constant search of meaning.

Many, many words have been written to try to sell the idea of “white privilege.”

https://www.tolerance.org/magazine/fall-2018/what-is-white-privilege-really?fbclid=IwAR307ZRU65nnZveBAUPOt_Nhw7Ua99MIIKJria1Uldjn6TWm3MoSapBBIzA

In that way, white privilege is not just the power to find what you need in a convenience store or to move through the world without your race defining your interactions. It’s not just the subconscious comfort of seeing a world that serves you as normal. It’s also the power to remain silent in the face of racial inequity. It’s the power to weigh the need for protest or confrontation against the discomfort or inconvenience of speaking up. It’s getting to choose when and where you want to take a stand. It’s knowing that you and your humanity are safe.

And what a privilege that is.

Of course the author sums everything up as “unearned benefits” in the follow on section of the article.

Risk your unearned benefits to benefit others.

What benefit do you have that you didn’t earn? I guarantee that a white homeless person will be treated very different than a white person with good grooming, no facial tattoos, and a smart, conservative fashion sense. In fact a black American with good grooming, no facial tattoos, and smart, conservative fashion sense will likely be treated better than the white guy with face tats and smells like a dumpster fire.

Of course other commenters on “white privilege” have different takes on the matter.

https://www.theroot.com/yes-you-can-measure-white-privilege-1794303451

Instead of hurling the term “white privilege” around as an imprecise catch-all to describe everything from police brutality to Pepsi commercials, perhaps its use as a definable phrase will make people less resistant. Maybe if they saw the numbers, they could acknowledge its existence. It is neither an insult nor an accusation; it is simply a measurable gap with real-world implications. It is the fiscal and economic disparity of black vs. white.

I actually appreciate this definition, because it is so easy to address with actual data. Nigerian Americans earn about double the median household income compared to natural born black American citizens. Why? Is there some “white privilege” that Nigerians enjoy? Is it the same “white privilege” that Guyanese and British West Indian immigrants in America enjoy? Or is it that culturally Nigerians, Guyanese, and British West Indians are willing to culturally assimilate to the economic conditions of the United States?

Even more ridiculous:

In America’s four-and-a-half-centuries-old relay race, the phrase “white privilege” does not mean that Caucasians can’t run fast; it is just a matter-of-fact acknowledgment that they got a head start.

So how about the Chinese? I remember something called the “Chinese Exclusion Act” and a bunch of racist crap happening to them. And they are doing well. Obviously not because of any sort of “whiteness” or advantage in this four and a half centuries old relay race.

The Merriam Dictionary provides a simple, yet equally nebulous definition.

inherent advantages possessed by a white person on the basis of their race in a society characterized by racial inequality and injustice.

The problem with this definition is that “racial inequality” shows up for people of African descent in Canada, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Venezuela, France, and every other nation that I’ve been able to gather hard economic data. For the record “white” isn’t the majority society in Brazil or Venezuela, take away from that what you will.

Even more problematic is that this dictionary definition is defined by “characterization” rather than “facts.” America is attracting hundreds of thousands of applicant black immigrants from Africa because America offers better chances for individual economic success than their home country. This creates an illogical situation where the worlds most fair systems to minorities can be “characterized by racial inequality” at the same time where various minority races are clamoring to join the nation, in essence voting with their feet, to get to fairness in economic opportunity.

It’s easy to look at an Indian or Nigerian with a Master’s degree and admire them for achieving success. It is much harder to realize that the white guy or girl who came from a rural area where marijuana and meth were the two job choices overcame an equally unlikely set of stacked odds to be in the middle class.

In the most recent data from 2015, one in four blacks and Native Americans, and one in five Hispanics, are poor. This contrasts with one in ten whites and Asians. Although the poverty rate for whites is low, whites make up the majority of the nation’s poor because there are more whites in the total population.

Click to access Pathways_SOTU_2017_poverty.pdf

“But Roland! Clearly it is EASIER for that poor white guy or gal to be successful once they get an education!” says someone randomly giving me a nice straw argument to slay.

No, most financial success in the United States does not come through talent, but through a concept called “networking.”  The Tech industry is very conscious in understanding how much talent they are leaving on the table by not recruiting talent from “flyover country” to work for their companies. The skills that Nigerian, Guyanese, and British West Indian’s have that make them earn almost double natural born American blacks is almost purely cultural. Yes, this makes it sound like someone’s ability to not be offensive to others, to be “likable” is really important, and it absolutely is. Poor, rural whites have to overcome their culture to become successful, and that is the exact same struggle that natural born American black citizens have to a large degree. People want likeable people to work for them, who dress conservative and are a good ambassador for the brand.

To the point that “white privilege” has any merit it is that some generic “white anglo saxon” level of societal norms for behavior dictates what is respectable behavior and what is not. However if you don’t think that very smart girl from Appalachia attending an Ivy League school doesn’t have to deal with the exact same problems of how she talks, how she reacts, and how she thinks differently from the legacies and trust fund babies around her, you have reduced her from someone overcoming poverty to some generic white girl.

 

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How not to police, Denver Edition

The plural of anecdote is not data, but you see enough anecdotes over time you get interesting trends. The Denver police popped up on my radar and I decided to look into it. What follows are some anecdotes, some actual law, and my conclusion.

Jax Feldmann said he was leaving his friends’ house on May 30 and was walking to his car at around 9:30 p.m. before he was allegedly shot. Earlier that day, the city had seen protests in the wake of Floyd’s death. But by the time Feldmann had stepped out, he said the crowds had mostly dispersed. A curfew was in effect at 8 p.m. that evening.

He walked what he said was about 30 or 40 feet before seeing “a truck full of cops” drive around the corner. Feldmann said he did not see anyone peacefully protesting, let alone being violent. But when he arrived at the corner of Grant Street and Colfax Avenue, he was, as he describes, suddenly shot in the eye.

“I can’t really work my head around the fact that I wasn’t even protesting, and I still got shot in the eye and now I’m blind,” he said. “I don’t have any explanation as to why they did that and they haven’t come forward with an explanation.”

jax-feldman-injury-ht-rc-200613_1592073921736_hpMain_16x9_992

Either the police in Denver are such bad shots that they accidentally hit Jax in the eye, blinding that eye, or they are deliberately good shots.

Lets look at another case, and ask ourselves if Denver cops can hit where they aim.

This is David Chapman. He was outside his home the other night in downtown Denver at 2:30 AM, in a residential area, with no protesting nearby.

Police and SWAT drove by and shot him directly with a tear gas cannister and a rubber bullet, yelling “get the fuck inside”, while he was standing outside smoking.

David_Chapman

The evidence is mounting that Denver police can accurately shoot rubber bullets and gas grenades.

Let us review Colorado State Law:

C.R.S. §18-1-707 states in the pertinent part: Use of physical force in making an arrest or in preventing an escape:
1. “(1) Except as provided in subsection (2) of this section, a peace officer is justified in
using reasonable and appropriate physical force upon another person when and to the
extent that he reasonably believes it necessary:
a. To effect an arrest or to prevent the escape from custody of an arrested person
unless he knows that the arrest is unauthorized; or
b. To defend him self or a third person from what he reasonably believes to be the
use or imminent use of physical force while effecting or attempting to affect such an arrest or while preventing or attempting to prevent such an escape.
2. A peace officer is justified in using deadly physical force upon another person for a purpose specified in subsection (1) of this section only when he reasonably believes that it is necessary:
a. To defend himself or a third person from what he reasonably believes to be the
use or imminent use of deadly physical force; or
b. To affect an arrest or prevent the escape from custody, of a person whom he reasonably believes:
1. Has committed or attempted to commit a felony involving the use or threatened use of a deadly weapon; or
2. Is attempting to escape by the use of a deadly weapon; or
3. Otherwise indicates, except through a motor vehicle violation, that he is likely to endanger human life or to inflict serious bodily injury to another unless apprehended without delay. (The Denver Police Department policy on use of deadly force in this situation is more restrictive than state law – see OMS 105.05(5).
3. Nothing in subsection (2)(b) of this section shall be deemed to constitute justification for reckless or criminally negligent conduct by a peace officer amounting to an offense against or with respect to innocent persons whom he is not seeking to arrest or retain custody.

In the case of David and Jax, I think it is reasonable to assume that the officer acted in both a recklessa nd criminally negligent manner as neither were arrested or retained in custody.

But I’m sure that the officers all filled out their DPD 12, documenting where they were, what they were doing, and why it was reasonable for them to discharge their firearms.

DPD 12 – Report of Use of Force. This report is required to be filled out in all incidents of firearm discharge, other than in training or for recreational purposes; when an officer takes an official action which results in, or is alleged to result in the injury or death of another person; when a person is injured, or complains of injury, after the use of a non-lethal weapon. Note: In incidents in which persons are injured while in custody, or have visible injuries or claim to have injuries sustained prior to arrest, Injury While in Custody and Injury Prior to Arrest Report DPD 12I will be used. See OMS 105.01 and 105.02.

Wait, you mean the Denver police don’t track non-lethal munition usage to see which officers are using the munitions? And the DPD 12 reports don’t match at all with non-lethal ammunition consumption? Well, clearly those Denver police are training REALLY hard to use up all those rubber bullet rounds.

Let’s read further on the use of force in Colorado:

The community expects and the Denver Police Department requires that peace officers use only the force necessary to perform their duties. The level of force applied must reflect the totality of circumstances surrounding the immediate situation. The officer need only select a level of force that is necessary and within the range of “objectively reasonable” options. Officers must rely on training, experience and assessment of the situation to decide an appropriate level of force to be applied. Reasonable and sound judgment will dictate the force option to be employed. Colorado law mandates, and holds an officer accountable to do so, in C.R.S. §18-8-803: which states in part:
“(1)…a peace officer who uses excessive force in pursuance of such officer’s law enforcement duties shall be subject to the criminal laws of this state to the same degree as any other citizen.”
“(2)…’excessive force’ means physical force which exceeds the degree of force permitted
pursuant to 18-1-707 (Use of force in making an arrest or in preventing an escape). The use of excessive force shall be presumed when a peace officer continues to apply physical force in excess of the force permitted by section 18-1-707 to a person who has been rendered incapable of resisting arrest. ”
c. The law requires that an officer who witnesses another officer using excessive force must report it to a supervisor. C.R.S. §18-8-802 states in part:
“(1)(a) A peace officer who… witnesses another peace officer… use physical force which exceeds the degree of physical force permitted pursuant to 18-1-707 [Use of force in making an arrest or in preventing an escape] must report such use of force to such officer’s immediate supervisor.
“(1)(c) Any peace officer who fails to report such use of force in the manner prescribed commits a class 1 misdemeanor… “

Damn. I’m sure the city of Denver and State of Colorado are going to get right on that. Well, probably not. The city of Denver has a rather extensive history of letting their cops beat the ever loving shit out of people without consequence.

alleged-police-beating-denver2

This is from New Years Day, 2019. The Denver police of course have refused to comment on “an ongoing investigation” but honestly that excuse is going to hold less water as there is a clear pattern of excessive force by the Denver Police.

To be fair, the city of Denver can really punish a cop for excessive force.

Three Denver police officers faced discipline last month for inappropriate force, including an officer who forcefully yanked a woman out of a car before realizing she wasn’t the wanted suspect he assumed she was.

Officer Gregory Black faced a two-day suspension for that June 8 incident, according to Denver Department of Public  Safety documents obtained by The Denver Post through a records request. He was called to a 7-Eleven at 1000 East Colfax Avenue after another officer ran the license plates of a suspicious vehicle and found that the registered owner was wanted on felony arrest warrants.

When Black arrived as back up, he saw a woman lying in the front seat of the vehicle and thought she matched the wanted person’s description. He opened the door to the car and ordered the woman to get out.

The woman, who had appeared to be sleeping, started to remove the items off her lap when Black announced himself, body camera footage shows. But she wasn’t moving fast enough for him.

I mean, a two day suspension, how will he ever cope? Oh yeah, he’ll take the time off an show back up to the applause of the other cops in his unit who will close ranks to protect their own.

This is why the Minneapolis city council voted to defund their police department. At some point a culture becomes so insular, so corrupted from the original purpose, that there is no redeeming it.

Further reading:

https://www.denverpost.com/2020/01/08/denver-police-excessive-force-discipline/

https://denver.cbslocal.com/2020/05/05/justin-lecheminant-denver-police-excessive-force-lawsuit/

https://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/local-news/city-settles-excessive-force-claim-against-denver-police-for-500-000

https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/501481-federal-judge-orders-denver-police-to-not-use-chemical-agents

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“Systemic Racism” is bit of a problematic catch all.

In academia “systemic racism” is a narrowly defined term that essentially sums up that the “business as usual” rules for any given society, if they consistently produce disparate outcomes, is “systemically racist.” What this does is create a situation where every actor in the system can be a good, moral, color blind person, and all disparate outcomes are based on “systemic racism” as opposed to “actual racism.”

There is a push by activists to expand on “systemic racism” to mean a lot more than the narrow academic definition. For example, “raceforward DOT com” uses this: “What Is Systemic Racism?” is an 8-part video series that shows how racism shows up in our lives across institutions and society: Wealth Gap, Employment, Housing Discrimination, Government Surveillance, Incarceration, Drug Arrests, Immigration Arrests, Infant Mortality… yes, systemic racism is really a thing. ”

Of the litany of complaints listed, the ones I can find good data for are “wealth.” And when I mean “good data” I mean enough data points to come to some broad conclusions about being able to determine a numeric value for what “systemic racism” actually costs in monetary terms. So this post will not address housing, employment, government surveillance, or other issues.

I’ve looked at this issue a little bit before, comparing African American population density with economic mobility indicators: https://wanderingthroughthenight.wordpress.com/2019/03/31/gun-control-debate-ignores-black-people/

But, lets look at some numbers. First up the big four categories:

1 Asian 87,194
2 White 70,642
3 Hispanic or Latino 51,450
4 Black or African American 41,361

This chart lines up well with IQ by race, but honestly there’s a better way to look at the data. There is the claim that there is almost no poverty in Scandinavia, and almost no poverty in Scandinavian Americans, and this is true. So, what’s the difference in income between Scandinavian Americans and Scandinavians?

Scandinavian American (2016): $73,79.  Norway: 51,489. Sweden: 50,514. Denmark: 44,360. You can break down the “Scandinavian Americans” into their “Norwegian American” and “Swedish American” counterparts and come to the same result, immigrant populations from Scandinavia do better in America than they do in their home countries.

This trend also applies to every other country in Europe except for Ireland. German American median income German American (2016): $67,306, and the median income for Germans (2020) $33,333.  Only the Irish have a very minimal difference, around 2%.

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ethnic_groups_in_the_United_States_by_household_income

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Median_income

So what this means is that we can assume that comparing immigrant groups in the United States by economic wealth, we should see an improvement over their country of origin. This works out for every African nation as well, regardless of whether the immigrant is black African or white African.  The only African country that comes close to providing a median income close to the African American median income is Equatorial Guinea, with a GDP per capita of 34,865. Now GDP per capita is NOT the same thing as the median income, but the GDP per Capita of the USA is 62,794.59. What this means is that on average the median household income for Black Americans is anywhere from 20% to 400% higher than Black Africans in West African nations.

So, where’s the systemic racism? Well it goes back to the definition of “disparate outcomes” being the definition and proof of “systemic racism.” The argument goes that because blacks aren’t doing as well as whites that the system is racist. However, the system is clearly NOT disadvantaging blacks who can trace their origin back to a specific country:

Guyanese American (2016) : $60,968[2]
Nigerian American (2016): $60,732
British West Indian American (2016): $60,407
West Indian American : $56,998
Trinidadian and Tobagonian American : $55,303
Moroccan American (2016) : $52,436

Now the US immigration policy does favor high performing immigrants from Africa. But clearly these groups are doing better than the generic African American median for household income. So what do they have that our natural born citizens don’t? A couple things come to mind.

  1. Attitude. Immigrants to the United States chose to come here and view the USA as the land of opportunity. This is a powerful testament to the power of attitude.
  2. Culture. These immigrants do not have “Black American” culture. This was put on display recently when Kobe Bryant died, the fact that he was raised in Italy and hadn’t “experienced American racism in his formative years” came up again and again. However, immigrants coming to the US are still succeeding at a much higher rate than natural born African Americans, and so we need to assume that something in “African American Culture” is discouraging African American success.
  3. Education. This ties in with both attitude and culture. Immigrant groups to the United States all value education (the Asian population making it a common trope/stereotype).

So, to sum up “systemic racism” it clearly isn’t the “white America” keeping black people down. Immigrant blacks are doing very well, on par with French American (2016) : $63,471, Dutch American (2016) : $63,597,  or Cajun American : $52,886.

So what is it? Well a culture that preaches to its youth that they are disadvantaged and their is nothing they can do about it, will probably pass on a people who defeated before they get started.

The second observation is that I used median household income here. In the last 50 years black American households went from 80% traditional two parent homes to 20% traditional two parent homes. That has a HUGE impact on poverty levels. However it is also not any white person’s fault that black people aren’t getting married or staying married to raise children. There is no government policy that should dictate personal relationships.

Now, this is not to diminish the reality that even recently various institutions have actively sought to exploit black communities in the USA.  Wells Fargo had an entire division dedicated to reaching out to get blacks into subprime loans rather than fair market loans.  There are many, many more heart breaking examples of private market entities acting with malign intent towards the black American community. This is morally wrong and should stop. I am categorically against reparations for slavery, but would not mind seeing Wells Fargo get slapped with economic punishments that pay back to black Americans for the blatantly evil actions they took. Bank of America too.

But…I always keep coming back to the black African immigration success story. It confirms to me that black can be successful and achieve whatever they want the American dream to be for themselves. That is absolutely the America I want for all Americans. But given the data available, the current black American culture seems to impose a 10,000 dollar per year penalty on our native born citizens over our naturalized black American households. Blaming “systemic racism” as the reason is only logically sound at this point if we acknowledge that black American culture is perpetuating that “systemic racism” as defined by disparate outcomes for income.

However, I feel powerless to change reality. The only thing I can do is point out the facts and hope that black Americans decide to change their reality. And it will be incredibly hard to do so, as there have been five serious generations in the civil rights struggle for political equality. Giving up a culture of grievance will not be an easy thing to do.

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Scandinavian COVID

Sweden has taken a lot of heat for their COVID19 responses, or lack thereof, and so I thought I’d look at the data to see if I could come to any sort of conclusion.

SWEDEN_COVID

Sweden is experience a linear growth of COVID19 cases. What this means is debatable, because steady growth in confirmed cases can be a result of maxing out total testing capability at a fixed rate, which creates a linear growth rate. So we can’t use that chart as a smoking gun to make a determination that Sweden’s approach of no major lockdown choice as “good” or “bad.”

FINLAND_COVID

Finland, unlike Sweden, implemented a lockdown. The linear trend is similar to that of Sweden, although the numbers are smaller, the trend is essentially the same, and it is unlikely that this trend represents a maxing out of testing ability.

ICELAND_COVID

Iceland’s curve looks like they’ve hit a critical point where enough of the population is either immune or isolated that the spread has been naturally curtailed. This makes sense as Iceland has just one major city, and even though Iceland did not do a lockdown but allows anyone to get tested, catching many of the asymptomatic. Of course the entire population of Iceland is less than 365,000 souls trapped in pretty unique geography, so it’s not a good model for anyone else.

NORWAY_COVID

Norway looks like their lockdown is starting to pay off, with a slight reduction from one linear growth rate to a smaller linear growth rate. Norway initiated a lockdown, but has started to ease restrictions.

DENMARK_COVID

Denmark, the last of the five Scandinavian countries, also has a linear growth rate.  Denmark chose a lockdown which it has started easing.

Conclusions? Draw your own at this point. The different geography and testing factors of each country leave me with the “fuzzy data” problem where people who are “pro-lockdown” can pick and choose the data they want to illustrate that lockdowns have some effect, while the “anti-lockdown” people can choose from the same data set to show no significant change in rate of increase between Sweden and Finland (no lockdown vs. lockdown) and Iceland and Norway (no lockdown vs. lockdown). But that’s cherry picking data to support an opinion as opposed to analyzing data looking for truth. If I had to hazard a guess, I would say that the effect of a lockdown is probably not worth the pain of a lockdown given this data set. However Scandinavia isn’t really a good proxy for any other country in the world, so I can’t say that the United States, Canada, or Brazil should take any particular Scandinavian approach.

I believe that we won’t have a real good data set to mine until this time next year. By then we’ll be able to see whether COVID changed the overall death rate for any given country for the year.  For COVID to actually matter the country must have a death rate significantly higher than a previous year, right now so many other high mortality conditions are associated with COVID that we might see a serious reduction in heart, lung, cancer, and other normal deaths because of classification as COVID caused. We’ll also not have a good feel for the economic impact of COVID since a lockdown in one country disrupts the global supply chain. Even without a lockdown Saab in Sweden had to furlough workers for about two weeks because suppliers in other countries couldn’t ship parts to Sweden as they were in lockdown.

 

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Leadership Failures

In the US Army I’ve watched plenty of Commander’s make mistakes.

One Colonel, now currently a Brigadier General, gave a long rambling speech to his staff about the end state he wanted to achieve during MDMP, and then left the room. All of the Majors present discussed “what he actually meant” for a solid ten minutes before coming up with three doctrinal tasks and purposes that they agreed satisfied the guidance they’d been given.  After instructing all the worker staff captains to go forth with that guidance, everyone came back together the next day to be firmly told, in an angry tone, “This is nothing like what I instructed, and I gave clear guidance.”

That Colonel, now Brigadier General, was a SAMS graduate, supposedly the premier planning school in the US Army. He was so toxic that neither his XO nor his S3 dared ask for clarification of his “clear intent” because he was, and I assume remains, convinced of his own brilliance. This specific example was the commander who also got to watch his entire Stryker brigade assault force get wiped out by Artillery at JMRC in Honenfels from a C2 helicopter because he couldn’t effectively command and control his force at that time.

Next up is the “entitled Commander.” This is the most common type of Commander, after all, they’ve been told they are super special because they are Command Select List selectees! These are the ones that insist an exception to policy should apply to them and their unit, but they never bother to actually give any military necessity to explain why the actually NEED an exception to policy rather than simply WANT an exception to policy.

“Sir, standard business rules for this redeployment will be 300 pax every other day through the theater gateway, and this will get your unit out in 10 flights over two and a half weeks.” The G4 briefs.

“That’s not good enough. I want a flight every day. I want to stress the business rules. I’m not getting enough support from the Division Staff, they are letting staff officers in higher headquarters tell them ‘no’ and they aren’t fighting for the Commander!”  This particular commander belonged to an Airborne Brigade Combat Team stationed out of North Carolina.

Third up, is the “I know your job better than you know your job!” Commander.

As a Battalion Commander (you saw his Battalion get fucked up in “Restrepo”) he was augmented with a Navy EW NCO who conducted standard log analysis of available equipment logs to help see where spikes in the electromagnetic spectrum could be associated with enemy activities. As a Brigade Commander he explained to his EWO that “the _____ is a box that finds IEDs!” and was absolutely flummoxed to be told that the electromagnetic environment of a large city in Regional Command South was not the same as the electromagnetic environment of the Pech river valley because the bad guys in RC-South had access to cellular technology and other infrastructure rather than flea market push to talk radios…. Colonel “Kill ’em all” (a termed coined by his intel support section) required his EW team to call up to Division to get someone “who knows what is going on!” to “explain to me why we’ve stepped back in technology!”

He couldn’t understand the difference between digital, analog, reactive jamming, and active jamming, and wasn’t willing to listen to his dedicated staff section to adjust his thinking to the reality he encountered, instead he wanted reality to conform to what he was comfortable with.

So…what do these Commanders have in common? Arrogance. The active Army only has 31 Brigades, and there’s a good shot that being a Brigade Commander will land you a star (although for Commander “Kill ’em all” thankfully he retired as an O6 from shoving his bullshit down the throats of West Point Cadets and poisoning their minds of any sort of flexible thinking).

So why do I bring this up now? Because of COVID responses by State Governors. They are elected by the People! They must DO SOMETHING! And this is how the Michigan Governor decisively acts to stop stores from selling the “non-essentials!” and then has to explain that she didn’t stop stores from selling “car seats.” Except she did, because she decisively gave a vague order without any sort of clarification, and so stores like Wal-Mart just put up tape around everything but the food section because they don’t have the time or the lawyers to argue whether anything non-food is “essential” or “non-essential.”

Good leaders listen to the experts, are approachable for clarification, and respect the established rules when there’s no need to change them. Bad leaders make decisions and give direction without thought to the consequences and complain when the people under them don’t get it exactly right. This is the first time for many Americans to see toxic and dysfunctional leadership on public display. And quite frankly, in the case of the Michigan governor, she could simply be doing her best and her best just isn’t up to the situation.

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Covid-19

With all of the news being about Covid-19 all the time all the channels, I guess I need to address it.

  1. It’s best avoided if you can avoid it. Social distancing works. Despite the low death rate it can leave permanent organ damage and infertility.
  2. If you get it, isolating yourself is the best way to avoid passing it on to others. Pick one room, stay in it unless you are going to the one bathroom you use (that no one else uses). If you only have one bathroom, sterilize it with a 10% bleach solution after every time you use it. You’ll need about two weeks of food/water on hand so you don’t have to break isolation (or someone will have to deliver said items).
  3. Reports from France indicate that taking NSAIDs can worsen the disease. This is consistent with research findings that indicate you should wait 3 or 4 days into your symptoms to start treating a fever with NSAIDs in order to allow your body to let the COX enzymes trigger the immune response that leads to IgG and IgM formation.
  4. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Mix a sports drink 50/50 with water to ensure you keep your electrolytes up, and get some calories in you at the same time. Most deaths from fevers are really deaths from dehydration.
  5. After you recover, make a 10% bleach solution and spray/wipe it over all the surfaces of your house that you contaminated while sick. You can add a little liquid dish soap to the mix to make it foam and lift grease if you want additional cleaning power rather than just sterilizing.

I’m not particularly worried. Having been a “prepper” for quite a while now my family is pretty well set to shelter in place and wait out even a month long disaster. No “panic buying” for us, although it does make normal shopping more difficult (we try to avoid crowds).

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It’s been a bad few months for the IRGC

The death of IRGC commander Major General Qassem Soleimani was the culmination of years of provocative attacks on United States and allies within the middle east. It’s no secret that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and “Qods Force” have been actively helping the Assad regime against ISIS/Daesch, and actively provoking Iraqi Shia Militia Groups to attack coalition bases (the Government of Iraq requested assistance from the international community in 2014 to fight Daesch, and the terms of that assistance is that when they ask the international community to leave there is a year to complete the exit). So far the Government of Iraq has not officially asked the coalition to leave, so rocket, mortar and small arms attacks on coalition bases are simply proof that the Government of Iraq cannot control the Shia Militia Groups aligned with Iran.

I won’t go into events prior to January 3rd, 2020, suffice to say that there is a lot of history and backstory.

3 Jan 2020: Qassem Soleimani https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/01/qassem-soleimani-iran-elite-quds-force-leader-200103033905377.html

22 Jan 2020: Abdolhossein Mojaddami https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/01/masked-gunmen-kill-local-commander-iran-security-forces-200122142349845.html

4 Feb 2020: Asghar Bashpour https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20200204-soleimani-aide-killed-in-syria/

18 Feb 2020: Hamidreza Babelkhani aka Haj Ebrahim  https://thedefensepost.com/2020/02/18/syria-iran-irgc-hamidreza-babelkhani-killed-in-aleppo/

7 March 2020: Farhad Dabirian https://en.radiofarda.com/a/iran-guard-s-commander-dies-in-syria-in-possible-assassination-/30474950.html

13 March 2020: Siamand Mashhadani https://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Was-Iranian-IRGC-General-Siamand-Mashhadani-killed-in-US-airstrikes-620862

So six, give or take, IRGC members have perished from bombs or bullets in the past three months. The only acknowledged “targeted killing” was the 3 January 2020 strike on Qassem Soleimani, the other five were “meh, too bad he happened to be at the location of a known terrorist location” or “hell, stuff just happens in war” or in the case of Mojaddami “two guys on a motorcycle sure sounds like an internal security problem.”

What is pretty evident to me (but still pure speculation on my part) is that at least one government, probably many more, are tired of Iranian Qods Force leadership complicating the political situation in the Middle East and trying to cut back their influence in the Levant. With Iranian influence minimized it isn’t too far of a stretch to see the US, Russia, Turkey, and Iraq coming to a ceasefire agreement with Syria. The Syrian Democratic Forces would get slaughtered by Syria and Russia should the coalition pull out rapidly (not really my problem, but it wouldn’t be a politically acceptable move), which would likely set up conditions for yet another transnational terror group to rise up. My guess is that we’ll see one or two IRGC leaders taken out per month for the foreseeable future.

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Hydrostatic Shock

If you do a Google image search for “hydrostatic shock” you’ll pick up a bunch of pictures of bullets going through ballistics gel and causing a big cavity as they do so. That big cavity is caused by the passage of the bullet and the not compressible nature of liquids, but after the bullet passes it generally slurps right back down to the “permanent wound channel.”

So what is “hydrostatic shock” really? Well, in WWII a surgeon noticed that wounded servicemembers were going into “shock” from bullet wounds, and opined that maybe this was from “hydraulic effects.” Later, studies on pig carcasses determined that the hydraulic effect distant to the wound channel was negligible. Later still, other scientists hooked up live pigs to EEGs to monitor brain activity, then shot the pigs and recorded the difference in brain waves and activity location. They discovered, that animals shot, even in an extremity, do go into “shock.” Other scientists still believe that this change in brain activity is due to pressure waves from the bullet impact site, but I’m skeptical and think that if you slam the impact site with a sledgehammer you’d see a similar change in brain activity since the scientists with the EEG didn’t differentiate a pain/injury response separate than that of a gunshot wound.

So, from a physical, biological perspective, “hydrostatic shock” isn’t a real thing. You have the permanent wound cavity that crushed and destroys tissue, and you have the temporary wound cavity that doesn’t destroy tissue but moves it around a bit. Both of those things you can measure. Ironically, if the temporary wound cavity is larger than the animal, such as a prairie dog hit with a 55gr FMJ from a 22-250, you’ll see the temporary wound cavity turn into a “pop” of red mist as the animal turns into chunks.

Now, blast waves on tissue is a real thing, and can produce negative medical outcomes up to and including death. Being too close to an explosion is a significant emotional event (speaking from experience here). But getting punched in the chest or head at the wrong time or angle can also kill you, and the energy levels there are MUCH lower than those produced by most service pistols. Still, most people shot with pistols don’t die, but many are incapacitated by “shock” if they aren’t also in a fight where they don’t notice being shot at all because of a surge of adrenaline from the “fight or flight” response.

So…hydrostatic shock isn’t a real thing. Don’t waste your money on anything that advertises superior hydrostatic shock effects. There are no pictures of “hydrostatic shock” on the internet, only pictures of a “temporary wound channel” in ballistics gelatin. The fact that animals can go into “shock” when injured (from a fall, an attack by another animal, a gunshot wound, or even heat exhaustion) is perfectly normal, and has everything to do with the standard biological response to injury rather than some mythical effect of a bullet.

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Thoughts on World War Three

If we use World War Two as a model for World War Three one thing becomes immediately apparent. World War Three will likely not involve a land war in Asia of the west attacking east, or a land war in Europe of east attacking west. I know this conclusion seems counter productive given that both World War One and Two were precisely fought in those arenas, but bear with me.

Everyone’s military is smaller now. Even China, with the largest military force by numbers, is smaller than the Soviet total military at the start of Operation Barbarosa.  At that time the Soviets had 14 million in Reserve forces alone, which allowed them to generate Divisions just as fast as the Wehrmacht whittled them away to the tune of over 27,000 persons per day. The Germans were being whittled at about a tenth of that, but given their smaller starting numbers, in the end Stalin’s observation that “quantity has a quality all its own” proved true. At least it proved true with western logistical support for trucks, ammo, weapons, etc.

Because everyone’s military forces are smaller (both active and reserve) Word War Three is limited to some form of nuclear missile exchange (aka the great fear of the last Cold War) or some form of direct conflict not in Europe or Asia which will devolve into a stalemate as did Korea. I like to think that this is the same sort of outcome as the 1973 Arab Israeli conflict, where both sides fought to a political standstill as the Americans rapidly reinforced the Israelis and the Soviets did their best for their Muslim allies. But that war ate up more than a years worth of economic output from either the Soviets or Americans, so it showed exactly how costly a peer to peer fight is.

So…the Americans chose to develop better fighting systems so it wouldn’t be a true peer fight. And the Soviets chose to develop extensive electronic warfare capabilities to nullify the American (aka western) ability to sense and communicate so that they could use their superior numbers to overwhelm the west at points (a technique they perfected in The Great Patriotic War as they fought from Moscow to Berlin).  In short, the Americans planned on winning in open warfare by being better on the field in terms of combined arms maneuver, and the Soviets planned on winning in open warfare by setting the conditions to rely on defense until they could mass overwhelming firepower combined with surprise and information isolation of their opponent.

Desert Storm, unfortunately does NOT give us good information on what an American versus Russian or American versus Chinese conflict would look like. Each of those three nations has a distinct “character” about how they wage war and advance their national interests. Both Russia and China are willing to take a longer time-frame to advance their interests before committing military forces, which makes it difficult to predict WHEN they would commit forces.

So…why do I think that World War Three won’t be a land war? The occupation attempts of Afghanistan by the Soviets, then Americans. The “insurgency” in Iraq. The modern lessons that a conquered people are not truly conquered, especially not in an area as heavily armed as the United States. Ground warfare to impose political change on another country has prove quite foolhardy to both the east and west. The classical “war is a contest to impose your will on the opponent” has pretty much been broken as a model for post WWII warfare.

So what will World War Three look like? A few scenarios come to mind, such the military invasion of Taiwan that triggers a US response that drags Russia into the mix could do it. Alternately North Korea truly going rogue, launching a high altitude EMP nuke at the US over the polar shot, and invading south could do it as that pulls in all the major players too. Less likely, Russia fakes a “spontaneous referendum” in the territory of a NATO member and triggers and Article 5 response. Or Russia blunders into a fighting war by making a critical mistake with an aggressive unannounced flyby or sailby that causes an accident and suddenly we are all in a shooting war at sea.

Even darker possibilities for World War Three exist. Biological warfare for example, could potentially eliminate enough of a target population that classical “invade and conquer” tactics might tempt leaders into using them. The Soviets had a pretty robust biological warfare research program, and good money would bet on the Chinese having at least a few illegal research sights on the mainland.

Of course my crystal ball works about as well as any hucksters, so I have no clue if my thoughts on the matter have any bearing on our actual future. Honestly the status quo of proxy wars and economic tit for tat sparring is the most likely future for all the great powers.

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