Friday, November 01, 2002

The more I look in to the International Chamber of Commerce, the more impressed I get. Basically an organization devoted to promoting business ties across borders, the organization has plenty of oars in the water.

For example, I came across this article where the ICC is warning businesses about a scam. Companies are being fleeced by hucksters who present "4081" documents that (they claim) insure against loss. Then the criminals take the up front money and disappear.

When the word got out about the 4081 scam, the hucksters just made up a new bogus document and called it the "4082". They must be finding dopes somewhere who'll be impressed or else the criminals wouldn't bother.

Amusing as that is, the ICC is trying to stop serious violent crime as well. They're the best source for news about modern piracy I've found, although Pravda is interested in it as well (although they usually claim the United States are the pirates).

Anyway, back to the ICC. They've formed an anti-pirate assault force (which has yet to see any action), as well as tried to keep shipping companies abreast of pirate activity. Reports now indicate that something is having an effect on the way the pirates operate. Attacks have been on the rise, with the pirates now steailing the entire ship. Yet, even though more of the attackers are armed, there's fewer injuries and death. This indicates to me that the small fry have been eliminated and some big organization is calling the shots, trying to keep the mayhem down so there's less pressure to hunt the pirates down and bring them to justice.

Hmmm. I notice that about half of all of the attacks are occurring at one country. Just a word to the wise if you're planning on taking a cruise somewhere.

If you're interested in historical pirates, then this site is a pretty good resource.

Get the kids together and go through some of the pictures with them. Better have a supply of toy weapons on hand if you do, though. They'll probably want to play at being pirates after.

So I see this article from Wired. Some microelectronics firm named Nanovia claims to have the answer to tracing guns. They insert a plug in the chamber of a gun with tiny raised letters or numbers. When the gun is fired the expanding brass presses against the raised marks and is stamped with the serial number. Nanovia says that this is a much more reliable method than ballistic fingerprinting.

Yeah, it is. But what about the whole issue of gun registration? To trace the gun back to where it came from you'd still have to set up a registry of firearms, which has been used as a prelude to gun confiscation. Doesn't address that one little bit.

Another problem is how easy it is to defeat the system. If I wanted to I could use a file and buff the serial numbers off in about three minutes (20 if I had to drive to the hardware store and buy a file). The guys at Nanovia (who, after all, are hoping to sell the system and make a profit) claim that it would ruin the gun to try, an incredibly stupid and asinine thing to say. Do they think that all gun owners are idiots?

Last point. Most guns used in crimes are stolen. Why would a criminal even bother to file off the serial number from a stolen gun? So he leaves evidence at the scene so the gun can be traced back to the poor schmuck that used to own it. So what? This is a bad thing for him how, exactly? Instead of just murder (or attempted murder if his aim is bad) he also gets charged with receiving stolen property? Sadie bar the door! We'll have the crooks on the run with this one!

Idiotic as the whole thing is, I'm just waiting for it to be touted by the anti-gunners as the greatest crime fighting tool to come along since public police forces.

Thursday, October 31, 2002

Jane's Defence has come out with their latest on line edition.

Passing the Gas
The Russian authorities have revealed the composition of the gas used to incapicitate the Chechyn terrorists. Previous speculation that the gas was some sort of nerve agent were wrong. Still, nerve agent or no nerve agent, the vast majority of the hostages are still ill from the gas, and all but two of the 177 dead hostages were killed by the gas. Considering the terrorists were wearing explosive belts and had rigged the theater with explosives, one does have to wonder what would have happened if a more conventional approach to freeing the hostages was used.

Flying Infantry Vehicles
The U.S. has unveiled prototypes of new infantry vehicles. As this article explains, the main need was for a battlefield-survivable vehicle that could be transported by a C-130 cargo plane. The two new vehicles would come in two variants: wheeled for use where roads are prevalent and tracked for rougher terrain (the tracked vehicles cost more to operate, so wheeled types are favored whereever possible). The questions we REALLY want answered haven't been addressed yet, and no one knows what kinds of weapons the military will eventually equip the vehicles with.

That's a Really Big Bullet
Back in 1993, under much controversy, the concept of a kinetic energy missile was started. Basically it's just a big, solid metal spearhead attached to the front of a rocket motor. No fancy guidance systems or exploding warheads are included. Fire them at the tanks or bunkers where the bad guys are hiding and trust in weight and speed to make a hole and create havoc (just like a bullet from a gun). Back in August defense contractor Raytheon announced the first test of the system. With almost unprecedented speed it seems that the system is now ready for deployment. I'm certain that many people at the Pentagon are interested to see how these bad boys work under actual combat conditions.

Just Like "Top Gun"
It would seem that the Red Flag air combat training program at Nellis Air Force Base is being stepped up and intensified. Although air superiority missions and dogfighting consitituted the majority of the missions, a surprisingly large number of non-fighters were there to hone their skills.

There Isn't a Word for "Sanctions" in Their Language
It would appear that Yugoslavia has been supplying arms to Iraq over the past decade in clear violation of U.N. sanctions. If the amount sold to Iraq is significant, and if the weapons pose serious problems for U.S. troops in the coming invasion, I don't think Yugoslavia will be on my Christmas card list.

Monday, October 28, 2002

Jane's Defence has an analysis of the recent hostage rescue in Russia. There's some speculation concerning the type of gas used to render the terrorists helpless (sorry, you have to pay big money to get the whole article).

Considering what little the outside world knows of the effects, it's very possible that one of the components was some sort of deadly nerve agent such as sarin. There's very few compounds that would have been as effective in such a short period of time. This would account for both the high mortality rate among the hostages and the reluctance of the Russian gov to discuss what was used.

Still, this is just speculation. Unless the Russians actually tell the world what they used the truth will probably never be known.

Sunday, October 27, 2002

"Jack Dunphy" is the nom de plume of a L.A. cop who writes for the National Review Online. His latest column has some thoughts about the Beltway Assassins. He discusses how difficult and delicate the job of convicting the guilty will be.

"Some cops and prosecutors may view this case as an opportunity to have their tickets punched on the road to promotion, but this is not a job for climbers seeking to see themselves on television. This is a job for the old pros, those who know how to put a case together and bring it before a jury."

Sound wisdom. But it would appear that Mr. Dunphy has had some bad experiences with upper management.

"Every cop knows that the higher one goes in the organization the less one is likely to know about police work. I have learned through bitter experience that the suits know almost nothing about the case law regarding search and seizure, and even less about the nuts and bolts of evidence collection."

Hmmmmm, I think I made essentially the same arguement about profilers.

In response to this post, a friend of mine, one of the best pistol shots I've ever met, asks "Hey, what's with this revolver stuff?" Kathryn thinks that favoring revolvers chambered for .357 Magnum for both long range shootin' and close up self-defense doesn't tell the whole story. She's right.

Kat suggests the Glock 31C, which is chambered for the .357 SIG cartridge. Comparing the .357 SIG with the .357 Magnum cartridge will show that the Magnum has an edge over the SIG when using standard loads, but that edge disappears when one uses high velocity defense ammo.

Besides quicker reload times, the Glock has an advantage over the revolver when it comes to weight. Look over the .357 Magnum revolvers with 4" barrels on this website. You'll see that they weigh about as much unloaded as a Glock with a full 10 round magazine. Another bonus is that the Glock 31C is compensated, which would certainly help with muzzle flip.

I always suggest that at least one full reload is carried, and two is even better. Two reloads for a revolver equals 18 rounds (6 in the gun, 12 on the belt). Two extra 10 round magazines equals 31 rounds (20 on the belt, 10 in the gun's magazine, and one chambered). If you're a police officer you can get 15 or 17 round magazines. Nothing like having 52 rounds at hand.

It wouldn't be hard to track a rifle-wielding felon's car with that many holes in it.

So the Beltway Assasins are caught, and the evidence against them are so strong that the states are lining up to see who will get to prosecute them. Hard to imagine that just a week ago there was rampant speculation as to the who and why.

A few of the blogs out there (and some respected mainstream media outlets) have pointedly mentioned that the profilers were dead wrong.

Robert K. Ressler is the FBI agent who started the whole profiling thing, as well as coining the phrase "serial killer". He has always maintained that profiling is nothing more than a tool that allows the police to focus on the most likely leads. As I've pointed out before, the police never have enough resources to do everything. By focusing on the things that have the best odds of producing results, valuable time may be saved.

Notice the language used in the paragraph above. "Most likely". " odds...". I said that deliberately. When it comes to a case where there are no obvious links to the victims it's always a crap shoot. The lead investigators make choices, sometimes the wrong ones. In desperate times, with no solid information to go on, profiling just allows them to bet where the payoff has come in most often.

Unfortunately Hollywood has presented profiling as being some sort of Houdini act. The grim agent looks around the crime scene and walks out into the crowd and points. "There he is!"

Doesn't work that way. In fact, I can't think of a single case where profiling did anything like that (though there might very well be cases I haven't heard about). Every case I ever heard about was solved with good police work, the dull and boring nuts-and-bolts of the criminal justice system. But that doesn't pull in the TV ratings, so the news shows always have some "expert" going on and spouting off about stuff that may or may not be true. That's what the viewers want, and it advances the career of the "expert". With that kind of combination I don't see this going away any time soon.

When I was working for the police, the consensus around HQ was that profiling was a good way to keep the media and the public off of the department's back while the real work went on out of sight. It probably wouldn't do any harm as long as the investigators didn't pay too much attention to it, and it might just do some good some day.