2014/04/15

[Deutsch] Glenn Greenwald im Interview „Die Bundesregierung stellt die Beziehungen zu den USA über die Privatsphäre“

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Wie bewerten Sie das Agieren der Bundesregierung in der NSA-Affäre?
Zuerst hat die deutsche Regierung nur so getan, als sei sie etwas verärgert. Da ging es auch erst mal „nur“ um das Ausspähen der deutschen Bevölkerung. Erst als die Kanzlerin persönlich betroffen war durch das Abhören ihres Handys, wurde der Ärger real. Das stört mich schon sehr. In Brasilien war das ähnlich. Da veröffentlichten wir auch erst Dokumente über das Ausspähen der Bevölkerung und dann über die Politik, und auch dort reagierte die Regierung erst, als sie selbst betroffen war. Jetzt, denke ich, will die Bundesregierung schon Schutz für die eigene Kommunikation und die der Bevölkerung, aber sie geht nicht viel Risiko ein, um diesen Schutz zu bekommen. Sie stellt die Beziehungen zu den USA über die Privatsphäre der eigenen Bevölkerung. Aber man muss auch sagen, dass die deutsche Politik zumindest klare Worte gefunden hat, um die amerikanische Überwachung zu kritisieren. (...)
Der Tagesspiegel (2 Seite)



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2014/04/14

The less Americans know about Ukraine’s location, the more they want U.S. to intervene

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 The Washington Post

Survey result: Where Americans (from the U.S.) locate the Ukraine.
The average was 2,900 km off.
We found that only one out of six Americans can find Ukraine on a map, and that this lack of knowledge is related to preferences: The farther their guesses were from Ukraine’s actual location, the more they wanted the U.S.  to intervene with military force.

It's about time to weep about mankind.
A similar survey in Germany would likely still be embarrassing, I would expect about 1/3 instead of 1/6 to get it right.

How can democracy work, how can politicians represent their constituents if said constituents are clueless?
There's still the approach of politicians representing by trying to get it right on their own, instead of trying to trying to decide according to majority preferences - the technocrat model. But how could - at the next election - the voters judge the technocrats (and new candidates) if they don't even know about the basics?

I've seen issues such as geography and policy knowledge pinned to schooling deficiencies, but I actually don't remember having learnt world maps and their meaning at school, ever. I was able to find all countries and name their capital at some point (often messed up the small Caribbean islands, though), but that was because I was bored in class, not because I was taught it. General knowledge needs to be picked up later. It is about paying attention to the outside world, instead of being consumed by private life fully.

The worker movement of the 19th century worked to politicise the workers by educating them. Clubs and publications with useful functions doubled as political education tools. It's confusing to me how modern "news" can be infotainment (pretending to be about information, but emphasizing entertainment value) and still fail to carry the content across sufficiently.


I am convinced: The historians in the 22nd century will consider our societies as ridden by many very obvious defects - unable to cope with challenges, and quite embarrassing.

S O
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2014/04/12

Uncertainty and reasons for intervention

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Imagine you're in some Banana Republic and the Dictator offers you to play his version of Russian Roulette:
You get a revolver and are asked to aim at someone innocent in his country and pull the trigger. He says there are few bullets in the revolver, but you're sure at least one chamber is empty. You'll never justice there or at home if you kill somebody like this. In case you pull the trigger and there's no bullet fired, the person you aimed at would become multi-millionnaire in some meaningful currency; very rich. But you would have killed the person if you aimed, pulled the trigger and there was a bullet aligned with the barrel. Either way, you would need to pay a week's worth of income.

Would you aim, and pull the trigger?

Presumably you would not.


Now imagine a different situation. You're leader of your country and hear the news that ethnic cleansing and massacres are happening in some other country. You cannot know for sure. Such things happen, but disinformation happens as well.
Some people suggest you should intervene with your military, and you know you would get away with it if it turns out that there was no ethnic cleansing or massacres, but merely a small insurgency about to be quelled.*
You realise that if there's evil going on you could help the people much, but if you were misled your intervention would really be a war of aggression, harming a great many people.
Either way, the fiscal and human costs to your country would be substantial.

Would you intervene invade?

Presumably interventionists would,
because people simply almost never change their mind
no matter how painful a cognitive dissonance I create. ;)


In  dubio pro reo. Civilized countries employ this principle on the level of individuals. I think it is underappreciated on the level of countries. Too many wars have been started for manufactured reasons, and the costs of these wars have been horrible. Even supposedly very sophisticated countries**  are susceptible and can be enticed to make the mistake of going to war on feeble grounds. It's almost as if a jury of ten would only need six "guilty" votes to convict the defendant, or even only four if the chairman of the jury is in favour of a conviction.
 
This is stupid. Uncertainty, fallibility and special interests working to deceive should be more widely recognised as corrupting our decision-making in such cases, and we should be careful accordingly. 
 
S O

*: With rural people fleeing from their villages when there's fighting (and returning after the war reporters left the scene) and the massacres are really insurgents killed by security forces, stripped of their weapons before the war reporters made their photos.
**: Including Germany.
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2014/04/10

Greaves are back

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One of the joys of history in general and military history in particular is that feeling of 'I knew that already' when once again something truly old has a comeback in one form or another.

This time greaves




There are bigger moments like that as well, of course. Studying history is highly advisable. That is, unless your family life is too demanding for study. Then better get that one right at full steam ahead.

S O
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2014/04/09

Daily Show's take on the torture report and the gang

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(Videos from this source usually misbehave when embedded, so here's the link instead.)


The tools (archive footage, satire) available to Stewart are very suitable for exposing hypocrisy and denial of reality, and him getting a point across is definitively more entertaining than msot other way.
Today's news sources are really in the infotainment business, so a lowly blogger can lean back and just let infotainment get the point across, right?
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2014/04/08

[German] Urteil des EuGH zur Vorratsdatenspeicherungs-Richtlinie

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Die Richtlinie 2006/24/EG des Europäischen Parlaments und des Rates vom 15. März 2006 über die Vorratsspeicherung von Daten, die bei der Bereitstellung öffentlich zugänglicher elektronischer Kommunikationsdienste oder öffentlicher Kommuni-kationsnetze erzeugt oder verarbeitet werden, und zur Änderung der Richtlinie 2002/58/EG ist ungültig.


Die Ausrede, dass die EU es ja vorschreibt, ist jetzt dahin. Sie war ohnehin Unsinn, denn man hatte ja einst mit abgestimt als die Richtlinie verabschiedet wurde. Die deutsche Bundesregierung kann jetzt natürlich trotzdem weiter versuchen die Vorratsdatenspeicherung zu erzwingen, aber die Gründe des EuGH werden wohl auch beim BVerfG ziehen*. Vorratsdatenspeicherung kann man jetzt getrost als verfassungswidrig einstufen.

Und wer hat's gewollt? Wer hat's gepusht? Wer ist mitgelaufen?

Mal wieder nicht die längst marginalisierten offiziellen Extremisten, sondern die allzuhäufig nicht verfassungstreuen "Bürgerlichen". Noch kein einziges Gesetz von Neonazis oder Linksaußen-Sozis wurde für verfassungswidrig oder gar grundrechtemissachtend erkannt**, doch unseren Regierungen der "Mitte" geschieht das inzwischen in erschreckender Regelmäßigkeit.
Es ist an der Zeit, dass man auch diese Herren (und wenige Damen) als potentiell gefährlich und zu extremistischen Aktionen fähig ansieht. Bisher tut das ja vorwiegend die junge Generation, die sich mit "STASI 2.0" und "Zensursula" Memes Luft gemacht hat und personell die politische Opposition zu Überwachung, Zensur etc. stellt.

S O

*: Insbesonderegilt dies im Hinblick auf ein BVerfG Urteil von 1983, das ein Grundrecht auf informationelle Selbstbestimmung einführte
**: Ganz klarer Vorteil; sie haben gar nicht die Macht, Bundesgesetze zu schreiben. 
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[Fun] RPG - How Not To

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allegedly the Ukrainian national Guard in action (edit: faked)
Reminds me of someone. Some guys are too dumb for everything.

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2014/04/07

Underrated (?) French infantry arms (and munitions)

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Enough bashing of milporn for now. Here's some milporn for a change. ;)

French bashing is popular and the language barrier is powerful, and the French had some of the ugliest machine guns ever, for sure.
But the French also introduced post-WW2 some outstanding infantry arms, some of them quite unique in their concept. A couple of these became great export success stories, but let's face it: The French are not as interested or proficient in public marketing. Their speciality is in business-to-customer marketing, backed by their government's industry policy. They can easily produce some most interesting hardware and the anglophone part of the internet will take less notice than to a simple press release about some soon-cancelled-anyway American project.

So here are some noteworthy French infantry arms, and it's in the nature of the topic that most of them are not very recent designs.

MDF Polyvalent / Gr Poly Expl F1

This is a combined rifle grenade/hand grenade (not unheard-of, but very uncommon). It's also a combined offensive/defensive hand grenade (a not so uncommon combination). It's also a combined impact or time fused grenade (rifle grenades are usually impact- and hand grenades usually time-fused).
The versatility led to a design with a slim body, instead of some spherical bodies known from by comparison primitive combined rifle/hand grenades. The cylindrical body is inferior in regard to the fragmentation pattern, but this shape is also the typical compromise for combined offensive/defensive hand grenades, as it allows for a simple fragmentation sleeve.
The combined impact/time fuse allows reliable fusing on soft ground during rifle grenade operation. The impact fuse may preclude the bouncing use in hand grenade use (no throwing against a wall to bounce it around a corner), but I'm not sure about this.

defensive hand grenade "MD", rifle grenade "MDF"
It is (or was) certainly the most versatile grenade design for infantry I know about.

The intertubes are largely devoid of data about it, so here you got the specs:

MDF1 (for ballistite cartridge) 470 g, 400 m range
MDF5.56 (bullet trap) 470 g, 300 m range
MDF 7.62 (stronger bullet trap) 520 g, 350 m range
MD (defensive hand grenade without fins) 340 g
M (offensive hand grenade without fins or fragmentation sleeve) 190 g

FLY-K / NR 8111 / NR8113 / TN 8111 / Jet-Shot / LGI Mle F1

normal commando mortar looks
There's but one way to build Hollywood-silent "silenced" firearms, and it doesn't include a silencer. Instead, you need to use the captive piston (or closed combustion chamber) technology which contains the expanded propellant gasses and doesn't let them escape. There are plenty such handguns and a couple commando mortars (and at least one underbarrel grenade launcher) with this principle. The principle does not allow for auxiliary charges, it's impractical for larger mortars which derive their utility in great part from the variable propellant.
The FLY-K (initially from from Belgium) was the first mortar with this principle of operation, which spawned copies at least in China and Georgia. It has been adopted first and foremost in France.

Its firing noise is negligible, it doesn't heat up its barrel, has no muzzle flash and emits no smoke.

The weapon itself is a simple spigot commando mortar; the interesting part is the round. The following graphic should explain its operation:

one version of the closed combustion chamber principle
Everything else is plain commando mortar stuff; frag, illum and smoke rounds are available. The idea was "sexy" enough to be revived with different designations, and quite recently a German company picked it up, actively trying to market it to the Bundeswehr. The design doesn't seem to grow old.

By the way; there was also a grapnel launcher, for commando and police special units, which excelled with its silent operation.

SARPAC

You do most likely know the American M72. It was a single-use ("disposable") bazooka with a weak yet useful warhead. It was rather useful against thinly armoured BTR, BMP and BMD vehicles than against T-64 and later main battle tanks, but its practical utility was in it projecting a blast grenade towards infantry anyway. It was always in competition with rifle grenades, and quite successful at that.
Now what if I tell you the French had their own weapon of this kind, which was actually reloadable a couple times and even superior in regard to light weight?
It's the SARPAC; the better, yet unknown M72.

Late SARPAC model; (1) HEAT round (2) HEAT-frag (3) Illum

Comparison of weights, including a 200 g estimate for the SARPAC round packaging/pouch (rounded):
1 shot: M72 2.36 kg, SARPAC 3 kg
2 shots:  M72 4.7 kg, SARPAC 4.3 kg
3 shots: M72 7.1 kg, SARPAC 5.6 kg
4 shots: M72 9.4 kg, SARPAC 6.5 kg
Now what's truly "lightweight"?

(The SARPAC rocket weighs almost exactly as much as the M72's with near-identical calibre and muzzle velocity, so the delivered warhead weight appears to be near-identical as well.)

Granted, the dual purpose round with fragmentation effect was the clearly preferable one, and it weighed 700 grams more. This would yield the break-even with the 4th instead of 2nd round - but that warhead was heavier and more useful than the M72 warheads.
And last but not least, SARPAC offered the versatility of an illuminating rocket (whether you need it or not).

Again little about SARPAC is to be found on the intertubes, so here are the specs:

launcher calibre 68 mm
length open 997 mm, folded 734 mm
weight empty 1.9 kg

HEAT round length fins folded 472 mm
weight 1.07 kg
muzzle velocity 150 m/sec
flight before arming about 10 m
effective range 150-200 m
RHA penetration 300 mm

HEAT-frag round weight round 1.8 kg
muzzle velocity 92 m/sec
flight before arming about  10 m
weight of fragmented body 0.83 kg
range 650 m

illuminating round weight 1.3 kg
diagonal range 700 m
candle power more than 180,000
 
LRAC 89 / LRAC F1 / ACL STRIM

The world seems to be in awe of the Swedish Carl Gustav recoilless rifle / strange bazooka overweight weapon. I never understood it because the spin ("rifled") is really only useful for the HE round and the only anti-tank round strong enough to penetrate a T-72 front reliably was the overcalibre HEAT round (which had to work around both the breech loading and the rifling), which seemingly didn't take off commercially. Still, the Swedes supplied a incrementally lightened gun versions and by now they also offer some high-tech rounds.

Other designs meant to fill the same niche in infantry armament provided better firepower/weight ratios, were commercial successes as well - and are largely unknown by comparison.

The French LRAC-F1 was one such weapon. Its calibre of 89 mm was modestly impressive to some contemporary main battle tanks, but the French had DARD 120 and later Apilas and Eryx against those (they were much more attentive to infantry AT capabilities than the Germans). The LRAC F1 was rather a general support weapon, a kind of portable direct fire infantry gun. Its most useful rounds were likely the smoke and dual purpose (HEAT-frag) rounds.

LRAC 89

M2 Carl Gustav: Weapon weight 14.2 kg, HEAT round 2.6 kg, calibre: 84 mm
LRAC: Weapon weight with sight 8.2 kg, HEAT round 2.2 kg, calibre: 88.9 mm
Much newer (1991) M3 Carl Gustav, praised for its weight savings: "~ 10 kg"

This time the much more famous competitor didn't even try to claim to be "lightweight".

The French had a laudable interest in keeping the infantry equipped with something to defeat a main battle tank even if it only exposed the front armour. This led to a couple powerful, heavy and increasingly expensive munitions, leading to ERYX and ultimately the adoption of the Javelin missile. This interest was also a very poor environment for keeping the infantry supplied with a portable direct fire infantry gun kind of a bazooka. A projector for multi-kilogram grenades over hundreds of metres. Ultimately, the LRAC fell out of use in France.

MO-120-RT-61

The MO-120-RT-61 can be summarised as a towed single axle 120 mm mortar that's a bit heavier than most, but with the added benefit of being able to fire rifled rounds of unusually long range. These rounds improve the dispersion much and make this mortar more field howitzer-like to counter-mortar/counter-artillery radars, as there are no especially radar-reflective fins.
It's more like a mortar of old than most are today (mortars included heavy guns which fired only in the upper angle group of 45° to about 80° from about 1890 to about 1945).

MO-120-RT-61

There are few truly outstanding mortars, and this is one of them.* It's not "lightweight", but the weight difference is rarely important in this class. Such weapons are usually drawn by motor vehicles or mules, and moved with manpower only for short distances between vehicle and firing position.

Honourable mentions

One goes to the FAMAS assault rifle, which introduced some bullpup improvements. The French ruined the design over time by delivering a version for the newer SS109 bullet specification too late (and repeated the mistake with Picatinny rails) and by IIRC also botching the initial production quality.
 
The MAT-49 submachine gun design deserves to be mentioned as well. It was based on an Interwar Years design and is notable for having a forward-folding magazine.
 
As an extension to infantry, we could also remember the AMX-VCI armoured personnel carrier, a very early specimen which was considered for the first German post-WW2 APC/IFV; we bought a much worse unproven design instead. The AMX-VCI equipped with a 20 mm autocannon deserves much more attention as an early IFV than it gets, but then again I dislike the entire IFV concept anyway (1, 2).

Closing remarks

The images are greyscale for a reason: These weapons and munitions are all Cold War vintage. They're not really obsolete, though. The two bazooka-type weapons were no more ahead of the newest MBT's protection at their introduction than today. Their utility is unchanged. The LRAC would nowadays get new munitions (electronic timed HE, multispectral and medically safer smoke, Bunkerfaust, muzzle-loaded supercalibre tandem HEAT, heavier confined spaces versions of HEAT and DP rounds), though.
At least the mortars are still being actively marketed, and are still almost unique and in their kind top products.

Engineers usually come to similar solutions for a given challenge, and when they don't in regard to military hardware it's usually a design philosophy difference between NATO and Russian products that's catching the eye. But French developments are quite often very independent and bucking the trend as well. The MICA missile of their air force is one such example, but the uniqueness extends to infantry arms and ammunition as well.

S O

*: I consider 2B9 Vasilek, MO-120-RT-61, Tampella M58 and  FLY-K as "truly outstanding mortars", though one might mention the CARDOM system as well.
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2014/04/05

When all you have is a hammer ...

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... all problems look like nails to you.

I'm not impressed by Gates' display of intellect  a.k.a. his recent Wall Street Journal column.

Him about Putin:
He also has a dramatically different worldview than the leaders of Europe and the U.S. He does not share Western leaders' reverence for international law, the sanctity of borders, which Westerners' believe should only be changed through negotiation, due process and rule of law.
How stupid or dishonest is a man who was secretary of defence during the occupation of Iraq and still writes this? "reverence for international law"?
Right now I want an arena, Gladiator-style, full of Iraqi women who lost their sons in the war of aggression against Iraq in 2002, and Mr. Gates in the centre. I'd donate the shoes. Heavy, steel-capped work shoes.

Quite to the contrary; what Mr. Gates bemoans is not that Putin is unlike Western politicians; he bemoans that Putin has become like Gates' own ilk.

Do a thought experiment: Think of U.S. foreign politicians, White House folks under GWB and foreign policy commentators. Now imagine what policies they would advocate if they were Russians.

There are somewhat more sensible accounts of why and how Putin came to behave like this, and they don't dismiss the legitimacy of Russian grievances as easily as Gates. They rather paint a picture in which Western hypocrisy and "containment" policy (if not encroachment) have provoked Russia to behave as it does now. The high energy commodity prices of the last decade have helped Russia economically and made it more stable, more powerful. Now it asserts the right to be just as aggressive and hypocritical as some Western powers.

We've got many people who think they're brilliant enough to do foreign policy or to give advice on it. And too many of them aren't that brilliant, but rather fool themselves. They aren't even smart enough to comprehend backlash. Too many of them are one-trick ponies, capable of thinking in but one direction: Confrontation.

- - - - -

For sure, the majority of countries and people want a rules-based foreign policy world if they made up their mind about foreign policy at all. Others - with much military potential on call - think that rules are for the weak. The weak shall obey the rules, while the powerful do what they want.
And amidst all the nonsense talk about an "unipolar" world with but one "superpower" [blatherblather] these people fooled themselves into believing that their own party is the only one which can break the rules and get away with it (officially). Too bad Russia proves that others - shielded by the very same nuclear arms threat and the very same UNSC veto power - can break the rules as well and get away with it (officially). Now they're crying foul and rally to reduce this other power to a weak power which has to obey the rules.
Fools.

The NATO members had a unique opportunity to shape the world from a position of strength, to have the self-discipline and foresight to submit to rules as do the supposed weak powers. Instead, the steering wheel was given to warmongers in exactly the wrong countries and now we've got this mess with a hypocritical mixture of great and small powers, rule of force and rule of law.

We all pay the price by living in a world with unnecessary rivalries, hostilities, waste of resources and instability. At the very least we should punish the warmongers and make sure they won't be able to act as if they were wise experts on foreign policy any more.

S O

*: Which seemingly are still able to inflict damage of a couple dozen times equal their pre-war GDP on great power aggressors.
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