Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How to Make Lye Soap

Instructions on how to make lye soap at Survival Blog.

Good hygiene has had a more profound impact on eliminating or reducing infectious diseases than antibiotics. Thus, the storage of soap, or the knowledge of how to make soap, is critical. In the book Defiance, which I reviewed recently, hygiene was a critical issue. One of the points made in the books was the prevalence of lice among the partisans. The book noted that without soap, it was almost impossible to kill the lice in the clothing--even boiling the clothing was generally not successful.

I remember coming across a couple formula books in the library when I was in college that had formulas for making common house-hold items such as soaps, shampoos, and so on. I expect that there must be guides or books intended for housewives on how to make these items. If I can find some free on-line, I will post links here.

Pot-in-Pot Coolers

Came across this link (in an article on different topic) at the Survival Blog to a video on making a pot-in-pot cooler--an ancient answer to refrigeration needs. Here are a couple more videos on the same topic: here and here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Attack on the British Embassy--Note the Color of the Flags

A couple articles on the attack by Iranian "protesters" on the British embassy in Tehran. First, from the Guardian. Another from the Daily Mail.

I'm not going to discuss the event, itself, or the threats of serious consequences from the British. Rather, direct your attention to the flags carried by some of the protesters.
(Source: the Daily Mail article cited above).

In Joel Richardson's book, Anti-Christ--Islam's Awaited Messiah, he explains:
In Islam there are two flags. One is white and one is black. Written across both flags in Arabic are the words, "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his Messenger." The white flag is called Al-Liwaa and serves as the sign for the leader of the Muslim army and is the flag of the Islamic state. The black flag is called Ar-Raya and is used by the Muslim army. It is also called the flag of jihad, and is carried into battle. One flag is governmental and the other is a military flag. When Muhammad returned to his home city of Mecca after being exiled for eight years, he returned as a conqueror. with him were ten thousand Muslim soldiers. They carried with them black flags. On the flags was one word written in Arabic: punishment.
(p. 45).

Britain Plans for a Run on Banks.

From the Guardian (h/t Instapundit):
Behind the scenes Treasury officials are hard at work. They are losing sleep over fears of a run on the banks in Italy and some of the other troubled eurozone members. This is what one Treasury source told me:
The five to midnight scenario will be a run on the banks in Greece, Italy and Portugal. Spain is fine. There is already a drawdown from banks. But we haven't got to a run on the banks yet.
Sir Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, highlighted concerns about banks in the eurozone in his evidence to the Commons Treasury select committee on Monday. But there are growing fears among members of Osborne's circle that the eurozone could break up.

Accelerating Demographic Suicide.

I've posted before about the declining populations in many countries (even Third World countries are beginning to join the trend). Leading the pack is Japan. If the statistics cited in this article are correct, Japan's demographic suicide may be accelerating.
Japan is in danger of heading for extinction after researchers found that more and more of the country’s young people are shunning the idea of marriage and having children.

One in four unmarried men and women in their 30s say they have never had sex, and the majority of young women prefer the single life.

A record 61.4 per cent of unmarried Japanese men aged between 18 and 34 have no girlfriend, up 9.2 percentage points from 2005, the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research in Japan said.
It's like the biological imperative is disappearing.

I would suggest that this is the result of the declining value of marriage and families for both parties. And, notwithstanding the old saying asking "why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free," the costs (financial, time, emotional) of dating and entering into relationships actually prices the "free milk" pretty high. So, in the decline of civilization, first goes kids, then goes marriage, next goes the bother of even having a relationship.

Turkey May Support a "Buffer Zone" in Syria

Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, gave voice to contingency plans long thought to be under discussion in Ankara, but went further in adding that international action might be required.

"If the oppression continues, Turkey is ready for any scenario," he said in an interview on local television. "We hope that a military intervention will never be necessary. The Syrian regime has to find a way of making peace with its own people.

"If tens, hundreds of thousands of people start advancing towards the Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey borders, not only Turkey but the international community may be required to take some steps such as a buffer zone. We don't want that to happen but we must consider and work on that scenario."
 While Turkey may cast this as an altruistic measure, such a zone would benefit Turkey in two ways: control of refugees before they enter Turkey (as Lebanon showed by accepting Palestinian refugees, admission of a large number of refugees can lead to a de facto loss of territory and political destabilization--no society can survive an invasion of permanent settlers of sufficient magnitude, even if the invasion is voluntary on the part of both sides); and a foot-hold inside Syria.

Some European Elites Fear a Collapse of Europe

This op-ed from Forbes is very interesting, in that it argues against gun control because of the heightened risk for social unrest due to the looming economic disaster.  The author writes:

About a year ago, I spoke at a conference in Europe that attracted a lot of very rich people from all over the continent, as well as a lot of people who manage money for high-net-worth individuals.

What made this conference remarkable was not the presentations, though they were generally quite interesting. The stunning part of the conference was learning – as part of casual conversation during breaks, meals, and other socializing time – how many rich people are planning for the eventual collapse of European society.

Not stagnation. Not gradual decline. Collapse.

As in riots, social disarray, plundering, and chaos. A non-trivial number of these people think the rioting in places such as Greece and England is just the tip of the iceberg, and they have plans – if bad things begin to happen – to escape to jurisdictions ranging from Australia to Costa Rica (several of them remarked that they no longer see the U.S. as a good long-run refuge).
 So the rich have escape plans (although as the Roman Empire collapsed around them, I wonder how well escape plans worked for the wealthy of that time).
But what about the rest of us? We don’t have property overseas and we don’t have private jets, so what’s our insurance policy?

Part of the answer is to have the ability to protect ourselves and our families. As explained here, firearms are the ultimate guarantor of civilization. 
The author also links to this article from the Telegraph, a British newspaper. The relevant portion reads:
As the Italian government struggled to borrow and Spain considered seeking an international bail-out, British ministers privately warned that the break-up of the euro, once almost unthinkable, is now increasingly plausible.
Diplomats are preparing to help Britons abroad through a banking collapse and even riots arising from the debt crisis.

The Treasury confirmed earlier this month that contingency planning for a collapse is now under way.

A senior minister has now revealed the extent of the Government’s concern, saying that Britain is now planning on the basis that a euro collapse is now just a matter of time.

“It’s in our interests that they keep playing for time because that gives us more time to prepare,” the minister told the Daily Telegraph.

Recent Foreign and Commonwealth Office instructions to embassies and consulates request contingency planning for extreme scenarios including rioting and social unrest.

Greece has seen several outbreaks of civil disorder as its government struggles with its huge debts. British officials think similar scenes cannot be ruled out in other nations if the euro collapses.

Diplomats have also been told to prepare to help tens of thousands of British citizens in eurozone countries with the consequences of a financial collapse that would leave them unable to access bank accounts or even withdraw cash.
 And this cheery warning from The Economist:
Now an even bigger calamity is looking likelier. The intensifying financial pressure raises the chances of a disorderly default by a government, a run of retail deposits on banks short of cash, or a revolt against austerity that would mark the start of the break-up of the euro zone.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Planning a Retreat in the Eastern United States


But for the vast majority who intend to survive without directly military confrontation, there are a much wider set of alternatives. When you understand the principles of retreat location siting, and learn to avoid the flows of refugees (who will take fairly predictable paths out of the major cities), you can find relative safety in many rural forested and elevated areas in the East. It won’t provide the same kind of long-term safety as places farther west, but you can survive. The closer to population centers in meltdown, the greater the risk of having to deal with the more criminal type of looters. And that will happen near any major metro.
Read the whole thing.

Chinese "Princelings"

The natural consequence of any government is an aristocracy. In this case, the Chinese have formed a new aristocracy.
The offspring of party leaders, often called "princelings," are becoming more conspicuous, through both their expanding business interests and their evident appetite for luxury, at a time when public anger is rising over reports of official corruption and abuse of power.

State-controlled media portray China's leaders as living by the austere Communist values they publicly espouse. But as scions of the political aristocracy carve out lucrative roles in business and embrace the trappings of wealth, their increasingly high profile is raising uncomfortable questions for a party that justifies its monopoly on power by pointing to its origins as a movement of workers and peasants.

Their visibility has particular resonance as the country approaches a once-a-decade leadership change next year, when several older princelings are expected to take the Communist Party's top positions. That prospect has led some in Chinese business and political circles to wonder whether the party will be dominated for the next decade by a group of elite families who already control large chunks of the world's second-biggest economy and wield considerable influence in the military.
Socialism concentrates power in a ruling elite. Power brings perks--including the control of wealth (it needn't be the elite's own wealth, it only matters that he or she controls it). As noted in this article:

 The state owns all urban land and strategic industries, as well as banks, which dole out loans overwhelmingly to state-run companies. The big spoils thus go to political insiders who can leverage personal connections and family prestige to secure resources, and then mobilize the same networks to protect them.

It is only natural that a ruling elite will want to make sure that their children retain the perks that they (the elite) have obtained. Any concentration of government power will ultimately result in a ruling class.

So why is this relevant to the subject of this blog? Because resentment is a powerful force for social upheaval. And right now, China seems to be producing a lot of resentment.

How to Store Onions and Potatoes

A good article from instructables.com on how to store onions and potatoes.
They need to live in a dry, breathable container, but I also hate buying baskets! Thankfully, sturdy paper grocery bags provide a great solution.

Just cut them off an inch or two below the upper fold. Two of them side-by-side fit nicely in my standard-size cabinet, so I can sort red and yellow onions. Trim a smooth curve in the front face for easy access to the onions.
The bags are sturdy enough that I can tug them out and shove them around while full of onions without fear of breakage, and the onions breathe well enough I haven't had any more problems with sprouting or mold.

I originally intended these to be extremely short-term storage solutions, but they're still working beautifully several months down the road.

Recommended Reading from Daily Survival

A list of recommended prepper books from Daily Survival.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Positive Press for the Zombie Squad

The Zombie Squad is a volunteer network of purposefully apolitical horror movie fans united through a 10,000-person-strong online forum to share their skills and passion for disaster preparedness, while raising money for diverse charities. Founded in St. Louis in 2003, it started as primarily a social club for a group of friends who observed that victims in horror films could have easily escaped their fate by such simple preparations as carrying a flashlight. According to Oregon Zombie Squad president Gabriel Martin, the charitable component was added so that “it wasn’t a bunch of horror movie nerds who like to go camping.”
Zombie Squad members provide interactive disaster preparedness workshops focusing on zombie protection, natural disasters, and epidemics. Not coincidentally, the survival kit for a zombie invasion includes the same items that the Red Cross recommends for inclusion in natural disaster emergency kits.
Note: This is from about a month ago, but I only just came across it.

Preparing for Natural and Industrial Disasters and Enemy Attacks

Article from Government Security News.

Genetic Modifications to Bird Flu to Make it More Contagious

More on the creation of a more contagious version of the H5N1 flu virus.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Climate Scientists Deleted Data That Didn't Fit Their Model

When even the British newspapers admit that climate change has been faked, you know that there has been serious problems. More from the Climate Gate 2 emails.
Following on from the original 'climategate' emails of 2009, the new package appears to show systematic suppression of evidence, and even publication of reports that scientists knew to to be based on flawed approaches.

And not only do the emails paint a picture of scientists manipulating data, government employees at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) are also implicated.

One message appeared to show a member of Defra staff telling colleagues working on climate science to give the government a ‘strong message’.

The emails paint a clear picture of scientists selectively using data, and colluding with politicians to misuse scientific information.
 Also:
Yet one of the newly released emails, written by Prof. Jones - who is working with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - said: 'Any work we have done in the past is done on the back of the research grants we get – and has to be well hidden.

'I’ve discussed this with the main funder (U.S. Dept of Energy) in the past and they are happy about not releasing the original station data.'

In another of his emails, he wrote: 'I’ve been told that Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is above national Freedom of Information Acts.

'One way to cover yourself and all those working in AR5 would be to delete all emails at the end of the process.'

The Science Is NOT Settled--Mayans May Have Predicted a 2012 Doomsday

Whether you roll your eyes or are a believer, the Mayan 2012 doomsday prediction has been gathering more attention and interest as the fateful day of December 21 (or 23), 2012, approaches. Archaeologists have publically dismissed the theory, however, maintaining that it was a misinterpretation of a Mayan inscription. Privately, however, there have been discussions about a second Mayan inscription that appears to also predict a December 2012 doomsday. (Story here).
Both inscriptions - the Tortuguero tablet and the Comalcalco brick - were probably carved about 1,300 years ago and both are cryptic in some ways.

The Tortuguero inscription describes something that is supposed to occur in 2012 involving Bolon Yokte, a mysterious Mayan god associated with both war and creation.

However, erosion and a crack in the stone make the end of the passage almost illegible, though some read the last eroded glyphs as perhaps saying: 'He will descend from the sky.'

The Comalcalco brick is also odd in that the molded or inscribed faces of the bricks were probably laid facing inward or covered with stucco, suggesting they were not meant to be seen.

Will WWIII Be Between China and the U.S.?

Story here. From the article:

But Richard Haas, chairman of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, says: ‘U.S. policy must create a climate in which a rising China is never tempted to use its growing power coercively within or outside the region.’

To put the matter more bluntly, leading Americans fear that once the current big expansion of Chinese armed forces reaches maturity, within a decade or so, Beijing will have no bourgeois scruples about using force to get its way in the world — unless America and its allies are militarily strong enough to deter them.

Meanwhile, in Beijing’s corridors of power there is a fissure between the political and financial leadership, and the generals and admirals.

On the one hand, Chinese economic bosses are appalled by the current turmoil in the West’s financial system, which threatens the buying power of their biggest customers.

On the other, Chinese military chiefs gloat without embarrassment at the spectacle of weakened Western nations.

As America announces its intention to cut back defence spending, the Chinese armed forces see historic opportunities beckon. Ever since Mao Tse-tung gained control of his country in 1949, China has been striving to escape from what it sees as American containment. The issue of Taiwan is a permanent open sore: the U.S. is absolutely committed to protecting its independence and freedom. Taiwan broke away from mainland China in 1949, when the rump of the defeated Nationalists under their leader Chiang Kai-shek fled to the island, and established their own government under an American security blanket.

China has never wavered in its view that the island was ‘stolen’ by the capitalists, and is determined to get it back.
It should be noted that the U.S. is essentially paying for the Chinese buildup. The interest on U.S. debt held by the Chinese alone is enough to fund their military.

Book Review - Defiance by Nechama Tec and Edward Zick

Book: Defiance, by Nechama Tec and Edward Zick (Amazon link).

Overview: Tuvia Bielski and his brothers were Polish Jews who decide to save themselves and other Jews in Poland during WWII by fleeing to the forests and setting up an armed enclave within the forest. There, they faced extermination by the Nazis, and animosity from Soviet-backed partisans. The Bielski's enclave become a semi-independent member of the partisan movement, but was able to fulfill its primary goal of saving Jews.

Impression: I think this book is an important book for preppers and survivalists to read--particularly anyone who is planning on using a rural retreat--because it gives an idea of challenges and issues that can arise in a "retreat."

Notable Points:

1.  Food gathering. Although this group lived in one of the largest forests in Poland (more specifically, Belorussia), very little of their food actually came from the forest. There is some limited reference to children (the few that survived the Nazis) gathering berries, and adults gathering mushrooms, but there is no mention of hunting or trapping. If there was any hunting, trapping, or fishing, it was an insignificant source of food.

Instead, the primary source of food was from peasants and communities in the areas around the forest. Early on, when the group was small, food was generally contributed by peasants that were sympathetic to the Bielskis or other members of the group. Later, as the group became larger and became an official unit within the partisan network, food gathering was conducted at longer distances (generally over 50 miles from forest encampment), and in force. At this time, like all partisan groups, obtaining provisions became a matter of force (like a tax). (In one example, a member of the group recollected an incident where, on his first food gathering expedition, he asked a peasant if he could have a fur coat; he was reprimanded by a fellow partisan and told that they didn't ask peasants for anything, they just took).

It is notable that peasants would inform on others that had more food or special supplies. These informants would be rewarded; sometimes by nothing more than being passed over for having to contribute food at that particular time. Sometimes the motivation was nothing more than jealousy.

The lessons here is that hunting will probably not be a viable source of food; farms and small settlements will be a target for food and supplies. Although the partisans had strict rules against abusing the peasants, that would not be the case with raiders in a TEOTWAWKI scenario.

OPSEC is important. Your neighbors will turn you in or inform on you.

2. Security. The basic lesson summarized at the end of the book was that this group, which at one time exceeded 1,000 people, had an attrition rate of approximately 5% over its existence, versus over 50% for most partisan groups, and over 90% for other groups. The authors attributed this to two factors: (a) the size of the group gave it a distinct advantage over smaller groups--it was simply too large to be safely attacked by bandits or rival partisans; (b) the Bielski's emphasis on saving Jews and surviving over fighting the Nazis. The Bielski's justified their position to their Soviet leaders by providing support services and products to the other partisans, such as repairing weapons, making boots and clothes, and other types of services. It is notable that like other partisan groups, the Bielski's group would engage in reprisals against peasants or villagers that informed on them to the Nazis.

The issue for a prepper is physical security. The two main factors that contributed to the Bielski's success will probably be applicable to a retreat--size and not looking for trouble.

3.  Position and Prestige. Although all members were guaranteed food, clothing, and medical services, in reality the quantity and quality of food, and access to clothing and medical treatment, was the result of prestige in the group (i.e., people close to the Bielski's or other leaders) or because of particular positions. For instance, men with weapons were able to participate in food gathering mission, and therefore had access to better and more food, and could "liberate" other items like clothing and coats. Men without weapons were given only the most menial of tasks. Thus, the ownership of firearms brought a measure of position and prestige.

Obviously, certain tradesman that were valuable to the group, received food or clothing in payment for services. This put them at an advantage even if not engaged in fighting or food gathering. Good cooks were treasured both by the Bielski's group and the partisan groups generally.

Conversely, formal education (other than as medical doctors and nurses) counted for little or nothing within the group. Even an untrained laborer was better off within the group because they, at least, were used to hard labor and were better able to adapt to life in the forest.

Women were mostly dependent on relationships with men to obtain extra food or clothing. Thus, women generally sought to hitch up with men that could provide protection and go on food gathering expeditions. While women within the group apparently were not forced into relationships, or raped, women in smaller groups in the forest, or fleeing to the forest as refugees, were often subject to rape or murder.

The aged and infirm also faced discrimination within the group. Although the Bielski's were adamant that they would not turn anyone away, a lot of the people in the group wanted to get rid of the more useless members of society. 

The lesson for a prepper is that if you belong to, or join a "retreat" group, you can expect that once you are in a SHTF situation, your worth to the group will be measured more by your ability to defend the group or provide some valuable trade or craft, than anything else. Your business, liberal arts, science, law, or some similar degree won't be worth anything in a true TEOTWAWKI situation. If you lack skills and/or physical ability, you may find yourself turned out by your fellow retreat members.

Pushback on China's Mercantilist Colonial Ambitions

China’s commitment to Zambia is substantial. It has invested around $2 billion in the country, mostly in copper mining projects. The metal is used mainly for electrical cabling, and China’s vast infrastructure programs have made it a voracious consumer of copper.

Under the MMD, Zambia went all-out to woo Chinese state enterprises and ease their access to the country’s wealth. Zambia is home to two of China’s six Special Economic Zones in Africa. Recently the capital, Lusaka, became the first African city to offer Chinese banking allowing the deposit and withdrawal of yuan.

While Banda and his predecessors did everything possible to make the Chinese welcome, ordinary Zambians have come to resent the competition from a flood of expatriates, many of whom compete directly with low-skilled local workers.
Now with a new government in power in Zambia, things are beginning to change:
The increased presence of Chinese small traders, vendors and truck drivers, who take jobs from locals has also stirred up resentment, and Sata has made it clear that under his leadership, the relationship will have to change. His first act of office after his election was to meet with the Chinese ambassador Zhou Yuxiao. The meeting was officially meant to clear the air clouded by electioneering rhetoric. But he also said the days of allowing unrestricted immigration were over.

“We welcome your investment, but as we welcome your investment, your investment should benefit Zambians and not the Chinese,” Sata told the ambassador, according to Reuters.

“It’s in law that all investors who are coming to Zambia should bring a limited number of expatriates whom they cannot find in Zambia,” he added. “My party has taken concern at the unlimited number of people your investors are bringing to Zambia.”

Sata also briefly suspended copper exports. The ban was rescinded after a few days, but all copper exports will now be cleared by the country’s central bank to ensure that exporters aren’t misstating volumes and value. Government figures show that copper accounts for over 75 percent of the country’s export revenue, but less than 10 percent of tax revenue. Zambian unions have been quick out the gate since Sata’s election, by embarking on a series of strikes. About 2,000 workers at NFC Africa Mining, majority-owned by China Nonferrous Metals Mining Corporation, went on a strike early in October demanding higher wages. A week later, 500 miners walked off the job at the Sino Metals copper processing plant. More labor unrest is undoubtedly to follow as unions take advantage of the change in direction of the political winds.
The flood of expatriates is the really telling sign here. These are not merely necessary officers, engineers, and other technical personnel, but low paid, menial laborers that are being moved into the country in favor of using local labor. This is true colonialism. And these large number of expatriates also gives the Chinese an excuse to intervene militarily should things get too far out of hand.

Which Winter Will You Get?

MSNBC is reporting today that Scandinavia is looking at one of its warmest winters ever. "According to Sweden's meteorological office SMHI, the average temperature measured for November so far is 12.6 degrees Fahrenheit (7 degrees Celsius) above average" This has resulted in problems hosting winter sporting events, and late blooming of roses. Notwithstanding the scaremongering, last November was unusually warm in Europe also, but the winter later turned into one of the coldest on record. The Telegraph (a British paper) noted in January of this year:
The cold weather comes despite the Met Office’s long range forecast, published, in October, of a mild winter. That followed its earlier inaccurate prediction of a “barbecue summer”, which then saw heavy rainfall and the wettest July for almost 100 years.

(See also a history of British winters since 1616).

In any event, the opposite is occurring for most of the United States. NCDC data shows that the contiguous USA has not warmed in the past decade, the summers are cooler, and winters are getting colder. I think we can all remember the record early snowfalls along the Atlantic Coast this year.

Also, the science is apparently not settled on how much CO2 impacts atmospheric temperature.
The climate may be less sensitive to carbon dioxide than we thought – and temperature rises this century could be smaller than expected. That's the surprise result of a new analysis of the last ice age.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Seven Seals--Where Are We? (Update)

John begins the book of Revelations thusly:

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:
Revelation 1:1. This indicates that the purpose of the Revelation was on future events. However, anyone reading Revelation must also understand that the different parts of John's vision are placed into a context, so some past incidents and events are portrayed. One of the most obvious examples of this is in Chapter 12, which, in part, describes Christ coming from the Jewish nation. (See verses 2 and 5).

One of the critical symbols in Revelation is the Book with Seven Seals. See Revelation Chapter 5. The opening of the seals, particularly the first four, is probably one of the most well known portions of Revelation among both Christians and non-Christians, inasmuch as it pertains to the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse." See Revelation Chapter 6. Unfortunately, it is also grossly misunderstood by the World.

Most Christian churches interpret Revelation to have either already occurred during the intense persecution the church suffered in the First Century, with the Emperor Nero fulfilling the role of the Anti-Christ; or as pertaining solely as to the Great Tribulation preceding the second coming. Under the latter view, the seals on the book are not opened until immediately prior to the Great Tribulation. This leads to some significant issues. Upon the opening of the First Seal by Christ, John recorded:

 And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.
Rev. 6:2. The most popular interpretation of this passage is that the rider of the white horse is the Anti-Christ. Thus, many Christians believe that events in Revelation will not occur until after the Anti-Christ is revealed. That is, the rise of the Anti-Christ is the first sign of the impending Tribulation period.

The problem with this overall view of the opening of the seven seals is two-fold. First, it doesn't follow from the narrative given in Revelation, where "the Beast" does not make his appearance until well after the opening of the Sixth Seal. Second, we know that it is incorrect based on latter-day revelation received by Joseph Smith.

In inquiring of the meaning of the Book with the Seven Seals, Joseph Smith stated: "We are to understand that it contains the revealed will, mysteries, and the works of God; the hidden things of his economy concerning this earth during the seven thousand years of its continuance, or its temporal existence." D&C 77:6. And of the seven seals? "We are to understand that the first seal contains the things of the first thousand years, and the second also of the second thousand years, and so on until the seventh." D&C 77:7.

In an article entitled "Seeing the Book of Revelation As a Book of Revelation," Gerald N. Lund explains:
With this information, we can see how the book is structured and where the primary emphasis lies. For example, if we know the white horse and the man with a bow who goes forth to conquer (see Rev. 6:1–2) are part of the first seal or first thousand years, we will not look for some interpretation from our own time. Elder Bruce R. McConkie suggested that this was a representation of Enoch and the Zion he established. (See Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1973, 3:376–8.)

Knowing the chronology of the seals helps us see that John’s emphasis is primarily the future. He spends only two verses apiece on each of the first four seals, or periods of a thousand years each. Obviously, that constitutes the briefest of historical highlights. For the fifth seal, which was very likely the time in which John himself lived, the Apostle took only three verses! (See Rev. 6:1–11.)

The entire vision from beginning to end takes 317 verses, and yet John spends only eleven verses (or about 3.5 percent) on the first five thousand years of history, which is about 71 percent of the earth’s total seven thousand years of recorded history. Without a doubt, the vast majority of the vision focuses on things “which must be hereafter.” (Rev. 4:1.) Furthermore, on closer examination, we see that the focus is even more limited than that. The account of the opening of the seventh seal begins in Revelation 8:1, [Rev. 8:1] and yet the account of the Second Coming and the Millennium do not occur until chapters 19 and 20! The Millennium itself is treated in only seven verses. (See Rev. 20:1–7.) By far the largest portion of the book describes the events that immediately precede the Second Coming of the Savior. (See also D&C 77:13.)
An illustration or table setting out the chronology can be found here. Assuming that the fall of Adam was about 4,000 B.C., that means that the first seal was for the approximate period of 4,000 - 3,000 B.C.; the second seal covers the approximate period 3,000 - 2,000 B.C.; the third seal covers the period 2,000 B.C. - 1,000 B.C.; the fourth seal the approximately period of 1000B.C. - 1 A.D.; the fifth seal the approximate period of 1-1,000 A.D., and that we are now in the time of the sixth seal.

This actually matches up quite well with history. For instance, the opening of the Fourth Seal seems to indicate that the rider would kill with, among other things, pestilence. In the book, Germs, Genes, & Civilization: How Epidemics Shaped Who We Are Today, by David P. Clark, the author notes that most of the major infectious diseases we recognize today, did not originate until within the last 2,000 years (and many are younger than that). The collapse of the Roman Empire was more the result of major contagions that killed large numbers of people (post-Roman Europe had a population only 1/3 of the size during the Roman Empire) than foreign invasion.

The Fifth Seal describes the condition of Christian Martyrs. Although this has been described as the period of the early Church, it actually matches up more nicely with the destruction of Christianity in the Middle-East and Asia by Muslims. The Lost History of Christianity, by Philip Jenkins, describes a world that we little know about, where 1,000 years ago, much of Africa and Asia was Christian, with the center of Christianity--culturally, geographically and in population--centered in modern-day Iraq. However, these nations were first invaded by Muslim armies and the Christian inhabitants subject to periodic genocide and incessant persecution, so that by the 14th Century, most of the Christians had been killed off; and by the close of the 19th Century, Christianity was all but extinct in the Middle-East.

We are now in the time of the Sixth Seal, which takes up the majority of John's Revelation.

Update: corrected dating errors and removed one comment based on those errors.

German Bond Auction Fails--Euro on Death Watch

An article from the Atlantic discussing the failed German Bond auction:
Effectively, Germany and France and a handful of other tiny countries have to guarantee both the sovereign debt and the bank liabilities of the whole eurozone. Given the holes that recent events have exposed in these systems, can they credibly do that? Even if the Greeks and Italians don't use that guarantee as a blank check to avoid reform?

We may be getting an unhappy answer to that question: a German bond auction went rather badly today. In fact, a lot of commentators are using words like "disastrous". They sold just over half of the €6 billion they had put out to market, the worst such outcome anyone can remember. This comes on the heels of a Spanish debt auction in which the yields on their three month notes more than doubled to 5%. That's a higher interest rate than I pay on my credit card.
CNBC puts a more negative spin on it, indicating that the results put the Euro on a death watch.

The Economist doesn't seem much more happy.
Now an even bigger calamity is looking likelier. The intensifying financial pressure raises the chances of a disorderly default by a government, a run of retail deposits on banks short of cash, or a revolt against austerity that would mark the start of the break-up of the euro zone.

The German government can probably shrug off a failed auction: it likes to price its bonds as richly as it can, and occasionally cannot sell all it would like, even in untroubled times. Still, the timing is awful, and other governments are not so lucky: the contrast between Germany’s borrowing costs and those of other euro-zone sovereigns is stark (see chart 1). European banks are dumping the bonds of the least creditworthy, and other assets, in an attempt to conserve capital and improve cashflow as a full-blown funding crisis looms. Governments are promising ever more severe budget cuts in the hope of pacifying bond markets. The direct result of these scrambles is a credit crunch and a squeeze on aggregate demand that is forcing Europe into recession. Add the indirect effects on the confidence of consumers and businesses, and the downturn will be deep.
The article goes on to paint a picture of what will happen in a collapse of the Euro:
One of the initial attractions of euro membership for peripheral countries—access to cheap funds—no longer applies. If a messy default is forced upon a euro-zone country, it might be tempted to reinvent its own currency. Indeed, it may have little option. That way, at least, it could write down the value of its private and public debts, as well as cutting its wages and prices relative to those abroad, improving its competitiveness. The switch would be hugely costly for debtors and creditors alike. But the alternative is scarcely more appealing. Austerity, high unemployment, social unrest, high borrowing costs and banking chaos seem likely either way.
The prospect that one country might break its ties to the euro, voluntarily or not, would cause widespread bank runs in other weak economies. Depositors would rush to get their savings out of the country to pre-empt a forced conversion to a new, weaker currency. Governments would have to impose limits on bank withdrawals or close banks temporarily. Capital controls and even travel restrictions would be needed to stanch the bleeding of money from the economy. Such restrictions would slow the circulation of money around the economy, deepening the recession.
External sources of credit would dry up because foreign investors, banks and companies would fear that their money would be trapped. A government cut off from capital-market funding would need to find other ways of bridging the gap between tax receipts and public spending. It might meet part of its obligations, including public-sector wages, by issuing small-denomination IOUs that could in turn be used to buy goods and pay bills.
When cash is scarce, such scrip is readily accepted by tradesmen. In August 2001 the Argentine province of Buenos Aires issued $90m of small bills, known as patacones, to employees as part of their pay. The bills were soon circulating freely: McDonalds even offered a “Patacombo” menu in exchange for a $5 pata c ón. Argentina broke its supposedly irrevocable currency peg to the dollar a few months later.
Scrip of this kind becomes, in effect, a proto-currency. In a stricken euro-zone country, it would change hands at a discount to the remaining euros in circulation, foreshadowing the devaluation to come. To pre-empt further capital outflows, a government would have to pass a law swiftly to say all financial dealings would henceforth be carried out in a new currency, at a one-for-one exchange rate with the euro. The new currency would then “float” (ie, sink) to a lower level against the abandoned euro. The size of that devaluation would be the extent of the country’s effective default against its creditors.

America in Collapse

A piece from Clayton Cramer's blog (h/t Instapundit) citing a news report about a spike in sales of MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) at a chain of survival stores in Missouri. The news story is here. Mr. Cramer comments:
The fact is, American society is in fast collapse, and the politicians either do not get it, or are afraid to sound like alarmists by pointing it out.  You could almost get the impression that Washington does not care whether the society collapses or not.
A commentator suggests that it is people just being prudent because of recent natural disasters. However, this is not what the anecdotal evidence in the article stated.

Also, I have also noted a growing undercurrent showing that more and more people are, even subconsciously, preparing for major social upheaval--primarily the mainstreaming of survivalism and shows on survival (including the spreading "zombie apocalypse" meme), the rise in toys and games based around combat (far greater than when playing with toy guns was acceptable), and the acceptance of military style rifles (particularly the AR platform) among hunters, gun owners, and the public.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

An Example of Why OPSEC is Important (updated)

Operational Security (OPSEC) should be a major concern of anyone prepping for a disaster. As an example (and another link courtesy of Daily Survival) a 1918 New York Times article about a Navy officer and his wife being criminally charged for food hoarding. A few things to take note of:

1.    This took place in the United States, and the prosecution was made pursuant to Federal law;

2.    The approximately 1 ton of food was purchased in 1914 1918 in anticipation of shortages in the event of a prolonged war (the United States did not enter the war until 1917);

3.    The "offenders" were caught because they were informed on by a friend of the local "Food Administrator." Its not clear whether from the story how the "friend" knew about the stored food, but it is notable that the Navy officer had earlier sold some of the stored food to a grocer.

This is particularly relevant to members of the Church, since it is well known that LDS members are encouraged to store a years supply of food. In any major SHTF, I suspect that members of the Church will be specifically targeted because of suspected food stores.

Update: Made a correction based on my misreading the story. The food was bought using money obtained from a 1914 inheritance, but the food was not purchased until 1918.

Bugging Out

A good discussion on bugging out/evacuation issues after TEOTWAWKI, republished at Daily Survival.

More Protests in Egypt

Here is a pretty good article from the Daily Mail on the protests these last few days. Check out the timeline of protests near the bottom.

China's Real Estate Values Continue Their Decline. (Updated)

From CNBC:
In October, however, property transactions fell 39 percent year-on-year in China’s 15 biggest cities , according to government data. Nationwide, transactions dropped 11.6 percent, accelerating from a 7 percent fall in September.
The fall-off in transactions has affected developers’ cash flows and, in some cases, their ability to repay bank loans. Rising defaults after a lending surge in 2009 and 2010, much of which ended up in the property sector, were cited by the International Monetary Fund this month as one of the Chinese financial sector’s biggest risks.
Update: CNBC is also reporting declining manufacturing demand in China, a further indication that their economy is slowing. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Receding Lake in Texas Exposes Graves and a Ghost Town

The drought in Texas has caused water levels to drop so low in Lake Buchanan that it has exposed graves and the foundations of a ghost town. Receding waters in other lakes is also exposing artifacts.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

"Would I Survive a Nuke"

A website that allows you to enter your location and see if you would survive a nuclear attack.

The Benefits of Raw Honey...

It is often hailed as a natural, healthy sweetener – but in most cases, honey bought from supermarkets today is simply sugar syrup with no nutritional value at all. To reap the true benefits of what was dubbed ‘the food of the gods’ by the Ancient Greeks, you have to look for the raw variety.
Among other benefits of raw honey, is that it has anti-biotic properties:
Unfiltered honey also contains a powerful substance called propolis, nicknamed bee penicillin, which is made from the resin that oozes from trees. Bees mix this resin with their saliva to create an antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal ‘wallpaper’ to ensure disease cannot enter their hives. Traces of this brown substance break off into the raw honey to make it naturally antibacterial.

Bees also add the enzyme glucose oxidase to honey. When this comes into contact with moisture, it releases low levels of antiseptic hydrogen peroxide, which can kill bacteria but does not damage skin tissue.

The University of Waikato in New Zealand found that when raw honey was applied to MRSA infected antibiotic-resistant wounds, they became sterile and healed so quickly that patients could leave hospital weeks earlier. Scarring was minimised because peeling back a dressing glazed in honey – as opposed to a dry bandage – did not disturb the new tissue underneath. If you suffer a minor wound or burn, glaze a bandage with raw honey and cover. Change the glazed bandage every 24 hours and any cuts or signs of infection should disappear within a week (if not, see a doctor).

More on the Protests in Egypt

The protests are a run-up to the elections for a civilian government. An issue is that the military is setting itself up to be independent of the civilian government.
Although its powers will be limited, parliament is likely to find itself battling over the shape of a new cabinet which the army has the power to pick and over the extent the army will seek to enshrine powers for itself in a new constitution.

The new parliament will be responsible for picking a 100-strong constituent assembly which will write the new document.

But politicians were enraged this month when the army-backed cabinet proposed principles for a new constitution to shield the military from civilian supervision and to give it a broad national security remit that analysts said would give the army a pretext to undermine a civilian government.

The cabinet has backtracked after the uproar. The army has repeatedly said it has no interest in holding onto power. But the concessions and reassurances were not enough to deter this weekend's protests, or the violence that followed.

Some expect the debate over the army's role to last years.
There is more analysis as to the current social and political climate in Egypt here.

Russia Will Deploy Warships to Syrian Waters...

...to prevent foreign intervention in Syria. (H/t Drudge Report).

China Turns the Other Cheek

(H/t Instapundit). Analysis from Walter Russel Mead on the diplomatic maneuvers against China this past week. Mr. Mead summarizes the events nicely:
The cascade of statements, deployments, agreements and announcements from the United States and its regional associates in the last week has to be one of the most unpleasant shocks for China’s leadership — ever.  The US is moving forces to Australia, Australia is selling uranium to India, Japan is stepping up military actions and coordinating more closely with the Philippines and Vietnam in the South China Sea, Myanmar is slipping out of China’s column and seeking to reintegrate itself into the region, Indonesia and the Philippines are deepening military ties with the the US: and all that in just one week. If that wasn’t enough, a critical mass of the region’s countries have agreed to work out a new trade group that does not include China, while the US, to applause, has proposed that China’s territorial disputes with its neighbors be settled at a forum like the East Asia Summit — rather than in the bilateral talks with its smaller, weaker neighbors that China prefers.
 However, he notes that the China will have to respond, and may do so by strengthening ties with Russia, or meddling with other neighboring countries such as Pakistan or Afghanistan.

(I don't see China doing much in Afghanistan immediately; after all, we are expending our blood and treasure in attempting to stabilize the Afghan government, while they get the benefits by taking advantage of mineral leases. Once we leave, however, all bets are off).

The long term consequence, in Mead's opinion, is increased militarism in China.
Longer term, the conviction in the military and among hard liners in the civilian establishment that the US is China’s enemy and seeks to block China’s natural rise will not only become more entrenched and more powerful; it will have consequences. Very experienced and well informed foreign diplomats and observers already warn that the military is in many respects becoming independent of political authorities and some believe that like the Japanese military in the 1930s, China’s military or factions within it could begin to take steps on critical issues that the political authorities could not reverse. Islands could be occupied, flags raised and shots fired.

Certainly any Chinese arguments against massive military build ups will be difficult to win. The evident weakness of China’s position will make it impossible to resist calls for more military spending and an acceleration of the development of China’s maritime capacity.
The problem is that we do have such strong trading ties to China. As I note in an earlier post, contrary to common opinion, nations are more likely to go to war when they have close ties. So, the chance of war arising between China and the United States is far greater than it would ever have been between the United States and the Soviet Union.

The comparison between China in the near future and Japan may be apropos. Japan, prior to WWII, viewed war with the United States necessary in order to secure its access to oil, rubber, and mineral resources in Southeast Asia. China's current economic model is mercantile--it has created a de facto colonial system, whereby its "colonies" provide a flow of raw materials to China, and China produces and sells back the finished products to its colonies (and the rest of the world) (This behavior alone should make Russia wary of China's interests). Thus, like pre-WWII Japan, China will be sensitive to threats to its supply of resources.

Floating Hand Support When Using Rifles

Article from Warrior Talk News on the importance of moving your support (or weak) hand around for different types of shots. Basically, the author suggests using a forward hold--support hand far out on the rifle stock, with the arm almost fully extended--for longer distance shooting; a middle hold, closer to the magazine, for medium and short distance; and that a magazine hold--i.e., gripping around the magazine--should be limited to submachine guns.

I generally don't use a forward hold when using a rifle, because I tend to use my weak hand merely to support, or hold up, the rifle. When I do use the forward grip, I find that I get the best use by actually using my off-hand to pull the rifle back into my shoulder. On a rifle with a short fore-stock, I sometimes will actually put my first couple fingers over the front of the fore-stock to help with pulling it back.

If you look at some target shooters, when shooting from a standing position, they will bring their off-hand in close so that the elbow actually rests against the torso. The rifle then is cupped by the hand, or a tripod using the thumb (the back leg) and the first two fingers (the front legs). You can use this position comfortably with an AR or Mini-14 by resting the magazine in the palm of the hand. However, the 30-round magazines are too long. In that case, you would grip around the magazine well. This is not a mobile position and probably should not be used in anything but target shooting or hunting.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Protests in Egypt

Protests turn violent in Egypt. More here.

Tensions Rise Between India, Pakistan and China Over Water

The media seems to report a new crises every minute. However, this article about tensions between and among India, Pakistan and China over control and use of water seems to raise a legitimate concern. The primary issue is, by its control of the Kashmir region, India also controls the headwaters of the Indus river. Because of the construction of dams, India potentially is at a point where it could cut off or reduce water to Pakistan at key times. China and India are also butting heads over Chinese plans to divert water from rivers that feed into India.

The greatest risk of armed conflict appears to be between India and Pakistan. From the article:

.... Pakistan’s most powerful man, the head of the armed forces, General Ashfaq Kayani, cites water to justify his “India-centric” military stance.

Others take it further. “Water is the latest battle cry for jihadis,” says B.G. Verghese, an Indian writer. “They shout that water must flow, or blood must flow.” Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani terror group, likes to threaten to blow up India’s dams. Last year a Pakistani extremist, Abdur Rehman Makki, told a rally that if India were to “block Pakistan’s waters, we will let loose a river of blood.”

Assorted hardliners cheer them on. A blood-curdling editorial in Nawa-i-Waqt, a Pakistani newspaper, warned in April that “Pakistan should convey to India that a war is possible on the issue of water and this time war will be a nuclear one.”
The CIA apparently also believes that water will be an increasing source of tension between India and Pakistan:

Analysts have suggested that, given the generally dire relations between South Asian countries, water will provoke clashes rather than co-operation. A 2009 report for the CIA concluded that “the likelihood of conflict between India and Pakistan over shared river resources is expected to increase”, though it added that elsewhere in the region “the risk of armed interstate conflict is minor”. And a Bangladeshi security expert, Major-General Muniruzzaman, predicts that India’s “coercive diplomacy”, its refusal to negotiate multilaterally on such issues as river-sharing, means that “if ever there were a localised conflict in South Asia, it will be over water.”

How the World May End

As preppers, we aren't planning for the literal end of the world, but surviving disasters. Even the subject of this blog, the tribulations and second coming, is not about the end of the world. Other people do think of ways civilization, the world, or the universe will end. And thus, this article from the Guardian about possible ways humanity may be snuffed out. (Of course, coming from the Guardian, the author cannot help but throw in a few anti-religious jabs).

Interestingly, amongst the various possible catastrophes--including a few based on quantum physics--there is no mention of pestilence.  Considering that most of the deadly infectious diseases we know about appeared less than 2000 years ago, and some have had lethality rates of 50% or more, I would think that the possibility of some new disease appearing, for all intents and purposes, out of nowhere would rate at least a mention.

I've written before about the Black Plague, and recently finished an interesting book called Germs, Genes, & Civilization by David P. Clark, discussing the impact of infectious diseases on key events and trends in history. I think that this is a very real threat. In that regard, you may want to look at this recent story about researchers that have developed a more contagious version of the bird flu.

Nevada Wildfires -- A Reminder to Put Together 72-Hour Kits

As usual, the best (i.e., most informative) news is from foreign sources. From the Daily Mail, an article about the wild fires outside Reno, including some pretty impressive pictures and a video. Relevant to our preparations is this:
Police in Reno went house to house in the middle of the night, pounding on doors and telling residents they had to evacuate as a roughly 400-acre blaze raged in rough terrain, destroyed homes and injured some people.
(Emphasis added).

The point is that we don't get to pick when an emergency or disaster will occur. Whether in a city apartment, or a rural retreat, you may need to evacuate with little or no notice, and quickly. Thus, a portable 72-Hour kit or Bug Out Bag, or some similar preparation. Here is some advice from the Red Cross on items to include in a kit. Here is a PDF from the Northwest North Carolina Chapter of the Red Cross that has a slightly different list of items. One thing I like about the latter list is that it places some emphasis on information and documents that you will need in the event of evacuation, such as style and serial number of medical devices (like a pacemaker), and important documents (such as insurance, legal, and financial documents, as well as important family documents). Any "go to bag" should also include some cash in small bills.

We try to keep important documents in a small fireproof box--if we are not home when there is a fire, the box will (hopefully) protect the documents, but if we had to flee the house, we can just grab the box.

Other items, such as family heirlooms and jewelry, can be stored in larger fireproof safes or vaults.

If you don't have a fireproof box or safe, a freezer (chest or upright) also work fairly well. Just make sure that any documents that you store inside are well protected in a waterproof bag or wrapping.

Friday, November 18, 2011

How to Find Tinder in the Wild

Article from Outdoor Life on finding tinder for starting a fire.

Toronto Sun Article on Survivalism

...including some words of wisdom from James Rawles. The writer can't seem to help getting a little sarcastic and over the top by mentioning people preparing for 2012, but its not as bad as other articles I've seen. It's shows how prepping has become more mainstream.

Here's another article that takes a mainstreaming approach.
Kathy Harrison, author of Just In Case: How to Be Self-Sufficient When the Unexpected Happens, has a refreshing take on survivalist skills and preparing for disasters—whether they be economic meltdown, peak oil, or natural disasters. She isn't heading for the hills; she doesn't suggest we should give up our current way of life; but she argues that we could all do with being a lot more prepared.

It's actually a trend I see all over right now. And it's overwhelmingly positive.
 (Emphasis added).

Teaching Wilderness Survival in Central Park

Story from the New York Times about survival classes being taught in Central Park.
One eerie exercise focused on heightening awareness, with students closing their eyes and trying to sense danger lurking nearby. “Two people have been watching us the whole time,” Mr. Hobel said. “Can you feel their presence?”
To our surprise, we all could, and pointed to two thick logs, in front and behind us, in mud and leaves. From behind them suddenly arose two of Mr. Hobel’s associates dressed in full camouflage, their faces painted, who had been lying there unnoticed for an hour.

The AK-47

A good summary by historian Victor Davis Hanson of the major trends that culminated in the development of the assault rifle, generally, and the AK-47 specifically. There are some inaccuracies as to dates (such as lumping the Maxim machine gun together with the general development of weapons in the civil war; and dating the earliest assault rifles as post-WWII when, in fact, the Stg-44 was developed in the waning years of the war), and a few other points I disagree with, but a good overview nonetheless.

      Hanson mentions two books in his article: The Gun, by C.J. Chiver, and AK47--The Weapon That Changed the Face of War by Larry Kahaner. I've read both books, and I would definitely recommend Chiver's book over Kahaner's. For one thing, Chiver's book appears to have been better researched inasmuch as Chiver draws upon Russian sources that Kahaner either didn't have available or didn't use. To be fair, Kahaner's book also has a slightly different perspective or purpose so that information from the Russian sources probably are not significant to his thesis.

     That, however, leads to my second reason for recommending Chiver's book. Kahaner's book is an primarily an indictment of the international small arms trade, and hand-wringing about countless brush wars, and only secondarily about the AK. The AK is merely the author's whipping boy. Chiver's book, however, is about the AK, but inevitably drifts into the international arms trade because the AK dominates the international small arms markets. I disagree with both author's conclusion that the ready availability of AKs has fueled wars, but that is an issue for another time.


      For the American perspective, and the development of the M-16, I would heartily recommend American Rifle, A Biography by Alexander Rose. It starts with the earliest American rifles at the time of the revolutionary war, but the bulk of the book pertains to the post-WWI developments and the sometimes opposing forces between slow, accurate, long-range fire, and fast, suppressive fire that ultimately result in the production of the M-16, and takes it up through recent experiences in Iraq.

Russian General Warns of Potential Nuclear Conflict

From the Daily Mail: "General Nikolai Makarov said Nato’s eastward expansion meant the risk of Russia being dragged into conflicts had ‘risen sharply’" He also stated:
The general said: ‘The possibility of local armed conflicts along nearly the whole border has increased dramatically.

‘In certain conditions, I do not rule out local and regional armed conflicts developing into a large-scale war, including using nuclear weapons.’
Part of the concern seems to be that a number of states which acted as buffer states during the Cold War, have now joined NATO.

While warnings of nuclear war are believable when discussing Iran (whose leaders are religious fanatics), or Pakistan/India, the warning from Russia to whom (presumably NATO or the US) seems more in the realm of hyperbole. I understand Russia's desire for buffer states--they are a land power with long open borders that have historically made Russia vulnerable to invasion from neighboring powers. The destruction visited on Russia and its people during WWII is beyond the knowledge or imagination of most Americans. As a naval power, with (historically) little to fear as to physical invasion, most Americans don't understand this fear of invasion. The reason that I view this as hyperbole, or at least misdirection, is that Russia does not face an existential threat from Europe. In fact, as NATO as shown in Libya and the various Middle-Eastern conflicts, Europe has grown old and toothless.

Russia also does not face an existential threat from the United States (other than for nuclear weapons). First, direct conflict between the two powers is minimized because of physical separation which minimizes friction. I suppose that there might someday be a dispute over the Bering Straight or the Arctic, but that seems remote. The second is that the U.S. is incapable of quickly invading Russia. It simply does not have the sea-lift capability. One of the reasons for the large U.S. bases in Europe during the Cold War was to have troops predeployed. (This is why the U.S. is expanding its military presence in Australia--to predeploy troops against China). These issues, plus the concept of mutually assured destruction, means that a nuclear conflict between Russia and the United States is probably remote.

Russia's real existential threats are two-fold. First, China. China shares a long border with Russia, and has the military power to challenge Russia. It is the only nation that has a realistic chance of invading and defeating Russia in a conventional conflict.

Second, demographics. Russia has one of the lowest birth-rates in the world. In a literal sense, the future belongs to those that have children. Russia's ethnic minorities, particular Muslim, in southern Russia and in the nations and regions along its south will simply outgrow ethnic Russians.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

"Be a Survivalist In Ten Easy Steps"

Good article on basic steps to being a survivalist at Code Name Insight. And another article from the same site on 10 "things" that every survivalist needs.

FEMA Disaster Prep Apps for Smartphones

FEMA apparently has Android and IPhone apps for disaster preperation.

Here is the link for the Android application.

Here is the link for the Apple applications.

Syrian Rebels Launch Attacks on Military Srongholds

More attacks by Syrian rebels on Syrian military facilities. From the story:


Syrian army defectors have launched a major attack on an intelligence complex on the edge of Damascus, activists claimed today.
Members of the Free Syrian Army fired shoulder-mounted rockets and machine guns at a large Air Force Intelligence complex situated on the northern edge of the capital at about 2.30am. 
A gunfight ensued and helicopters circled the area, sources said. The attack appeared to mark an escalation in armed confrontations between government and opposition forces instead of clashes involving street protesters.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Use of the Shotgun in Ambushes

The goal of a prepper is survival, not to be a police officer, soldier, or partisan. However, as happened in Egypt during its "Arab Spring," and in Haiti following the earthquake there, and in other situations where rule of law has disappeared, neighborhoods and communities have had to act to defend themselves against criminals and looters. Thus, it behooves preppers to learn some basic small unit tactics.

One of the conundrums, though, is that preppers do not have access to military weapons. Tactics must be adapted for using civilian weapons. Consequently, you may find this article from Warrior Talk News on the tactical use of shotguns in an ambush to be interesting and potentially useful.

Increased Attacks from Syrian Army Defectors

I haven't blogged about Syria before because, without international support, it wasn't clear if the opposition would be able to survive long enough to have any impact. However, there have been increasing defections from the Syrian army, and these rebels have mounted some strong attacks in the last few days. This has coincided with growing opposition from other Muslim nations, including a call from Jordan's King that President Assad resign.

IMF Says Chinese Banks May Be in Trouble

The IMF has warned China about its banks.
In a report published today, it states that China's banks are strong enough to support isolated crises, but incapable of overcoming a crisis derived from overexposure to credit, housing bubbles, and the currency values.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Relocating to Pre-Fab Structures After Disasters

Thailand has gone through some serious flooding recently, including some (poorer) areas of Bangkok. In typical DYI fashion, some of the people displaced by the flooding have moved into pre-fab concrete sections intended for an elevated roadway.
Meanwhile, in flood-ravaged Bangkok, a similar story emerges from the waterlogged streets of Pathum Thani. CNN recently released a video that captures Thai communities taking refuge in prefabricated concrete shells used to construct Bangkok's elevated skyway. Within these tiered cement structures, dozens of recently homeless residents have moved in with their most prized personal belongings, from pampered purse-sized dogs to massive flat-screen televisions and refrigerators. More after the break.

While coverage of the flooding in Thailand has dwindled, many Thais continue to wait for the waters to recede from their homes. As much of Bangkok is still only navigable by boat, the concrete hive has proven to be a preferred alternative to more conventional government shelters. The prefabricated units of infrastructure provide evacuees with relatively large alcoves of dry space to call their own as well as sources of electricity to tap into. Moreover, the company that owns the skyway has openly given permission for its new occupants to stay.
 The article also linked to this story about temporary housing in Japan made using shipping containers.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Anti-Semitic Violence in New York

"Cars have been torched and swastikas have been painted on the street in a Jewish neighbourhood in New York on the anniversary of an infamous Nazi attack on Jews in Europe." I don't know what is more despicable--crimes like this, or that New York City prohibits (for all intents and purposes) people from possessing any effective means of self-defense.

Mother Jones Magazine Map of Nuclear Sites

Mother Jones magazine has published a map showing locations of nuclear power plants, nuclear weapon labs, and warheads. More here.

U.S. to Aid in the Investigation of the Helicopter Crash of Mexico's Top Drug Fighter

ABC is reporting that the Unites States has been asked by Mexico to assist in the investigation of the helicopter crash that killed Interior Minister Francisco Blake Mora and seven others. Some background on Mr. Mora:
Blake Mora was Calderon's point man in the all-out military and law-enforcement push against traffickers, frequently traveling to violence-torn cities for meetings with besieged state and local security officials.

For many Mexicans, he embodied the government's get-tough attitude on the narcotics business, publicly pledging on many occasions to keep bringing the fight to the traffickers instead of backing down.
As anyone following the news knows, Mexico is treading dangerously close to being a failed state, dominated by rival drug cartels. Certainly, the government has effectively lost control over many areas of the country.

Brazilian Military and Police Raid on Rio Slum

Normally, police and military raids to control drug gangs wouldn't be of much interest. However, this raid (involving 3,000 troops and police) on the Rocinha slum seems a little different. Note the tactics--snipers on roofs, helicopters, pre-raid intelligence gathering, and overwhelming military force.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Mysterious Explosion at Iranian Military Base (Updated)

There are reports that there was a mysterious explosion at a Revolutionary Guard base in Iran. According to the BBC:
Seventeen soldiers have been killed in an explosion at a military base near Iran's capital Tehran, officials say.

The blast occurred when weapons were being moved inside a Revolutionary Guards depot, a spokesman for the elite unit told state TV.
More here, including reference to a similar "mishap" earlier approximately one year ago.

But things may not be what they seem:
An Iranian exile group claimed Saturday that a blast near Tehran hit a missile base run by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, disputing the Iranian government’s account that it occurred at an ammunition depot. Former Mujahedin-e Khalq spokesman Alireza Jafarzadeh, citing what he called reliable sources inside Iran, said that the explosion hit the Modarres Garrison of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps west of Tehran.
....[T]he Modarres Garrison belongs to the IGRC’s missile unit and the blasts “resulted from the explosion of IRGC missiles.” He did not say what triggered the explosion.
More on the site being related to the nuclear and missile programs here.

UpdateThis article is reporting that "Seattle blogger Richard Silverstein says a source he didn't identify told him the explosion was the work of Israel's Mossad, working with Iranian opposition groups, in an effort to relieve the pressure on Israel to launch a full-scale attack."

Review of Federal AutoMatch .22 Long Rifle Ammunition (Update)

Guns can develop their own personalities and quirks, especially when it comes to ammo. I've had some guns that will shoot practically anything you feed them, while others are as picky as a teenager.

A few years ago, I inherited an old Marlin Model 60 semi-auto rifle, that was built sometime in the 60's. It has a certain sentimental value as it was the gun that my brothers and I learned to shoot with. However, when I got it, it probably hadn't been used for 10 years. So, I tore it down and cleaned it, put it back together again and worked the action. All seemed right.

The next day I took it out shooting and fed it some of the same old cheap .22 that I use for all my other plinking. It was a no go, with every other round resulting in failure to feed. Specifically, the rounds were being squished between the bolt and right above the bore. I changed to some premium ammo I happened to have, and it was a little better, but not much.

If it wasn't for the nostalgic value, I would probably have junked the gun right then and there. I took it into a local gunsmith to have it looked at. I immediately realized that I was not wearing the right cloths, or talked differently, or something that caused me to thrown into the box of "people that don't know guns." I pressed ahead with describing the problem and what I had done to try and fix it. I was told that it probably just needed a good cleaning. I thought I had done a good cleaning already, but, what the heck, they are the gun smithing experts.


About 1-1/2 months later I get a call that my gun is ready. I go down, and they tell me that it just needed a good cleaning, and to use premium ammo. like CCI Blazer. I pay them their fee and take the gun home in good spirits. A couple weeks go by without being to test it, then I finally head out to the range to put some rounds downrange. I lode up the Blazer, chamber the first round, pull the trigger. That bullet shoots fine, but in the next round I had another failure to feed. This went on for about 25 rounds until I was sick of the whole issue and went home.

After dissembling the gun for the second time, I noticed two things. First, there was no evidence that the gun had been cleaned by anyone but myself. Second, the lifter assembly fits into a frame that also has a feed ramp. However, the frame is cast into two pieces that are screwed together. When I looked at the device, I suddenly realized that the screws were loose. What this did is allow a bullet being lifted on the raiser to force the frame apart slightly, and then the bullet would feed at too steep of an angle, forcing the bullet into the chamber right above the barrel and causing my failure to feed.

However, I noticed that the gun was still being picky about ammunition, and even premium ammo, it would still have a failure to feed about every third-round.

(Source).


It was about that time I first noticed Federal Automatch .22 Long Rifle in a 325 round box. It was $14 to $15 per box, but was still slightly cheaper than CCI Minimags I had been using. What caught my attention was that it advertised as "ideal for semi-autos." I gave it shot, and have not turned back. It works very well and seems fairly accurate.

Later on, I went shooting with a friend that had an old Colt Woodsman .22 pistol that was going through many of the same problems. I had about half of a box left, and gave it to my friend. He went from having, on average, a failure to feed or extract every two to three rounds, to shooting the rest of the box with only a single hick-up.

I've shot considerably more with the ammo, and have to say that it is most reliable .22 ammo I have shot using .22. Two thumbs up from me.

Updated (July 23, 2013): I have a friend who owns a GSG-5 (a .22 LR replica of the HK MP-5) and had been having chronic problems with misfeeds ever since he bought it a couple years back. I recently gave him a box of the Federal Automatch, and tried out he tried out his GSG-5 this weekend. He reported that it fired without a hitch--apparently the first time, despite trying other brands and types of .22 ammo.

Friday, November 11, 2011

WSJ Op-Ed on Facing Down Iran

This Op-Ed from the Wall Street Journal provides more analysis of the options as to Iran, focusing on continued attempts at containment versus a military option. The author's opinion is that the containment option will guarantee a nuclear armed Iran that will be harder to deal with; while a military option will provide at least a respite of several years allowing more options down the road.
The question for the world, and especially for the Obama Administration, is whether those dire consequences are worse than the risks of a pre-emptive strike. We think we know what the Israelis will decide, especially if they conclude that President Obama stays on his current course.
Opponents of a pre-emptive strike say it would do no more than delay Iran's programs by a few years. But something similar was said after Israel's strike on Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981, without which the U.S. could never have stood up to Saddam after his invasion of Kuwait. In life as in politics, nothing is forever. But a strike that sets Iran's nuclear programs back by several years at least offers the opportunity for Iran's democratic forces to topple the regime without risking a wider conflagration.
No U.S. President could undertake a strike on Iran except as a last resort, and Mr. Obama can fairly say that he has given every resort short of war an honest try. At the same time, no U.S. President should leave his successor with the catastrophe that would be a nuclear Iran. A nuclear Iran on Mr. Obama's watch would be fatal to more than his legacy.

Unusual Radiation Detected in Europe (Updated)

The International Atomic Energy Agency is reporting low levels of unusual radiation detected in the atmosphere over the Czech Republic and other countries. (Story here). The radiation detected is iodine-131.

From Wikipedia:
Iodine-131 ... is an important radioisotope of iodine. It has a radioactive decay half-life of about eight days. Its uses are mostly medical and pharmaceutical. It also plays a major role as a radioactive isotope present in nuclear fission products, and was a significant contributor to the health hazards from open-air atomic bomb testing in the 1950s, and from the Chernobyl disaster, as well as being a large fraction of the contamination hazard in the first weeks in the Japanese nuclear crisis. This is because I-131 is a major uranium, plutonium fission product, comprising nearly 3% of the total products of fission (by weight).
There is no word on the source--although it most likely is from a nuclear fission source--but it is notable that Iodine-131 only has a half-life of 8-days, so whatever the origin, it was probably not too long ago.

Update: Still no word on its source, but some more information as to where the radiation has been detected.

Update: Radiation detected in Hungary.

More Analysis on Whether Israel Would Attack Iran

This article seems to sum up pretty good the arguments for and against a military strike against Iran. The final paragraph, in particular, points out various factors supporting a strike. However, one part struck me in particular:
Western intelligence sources believe that Iran now has enough highly enriched uranium to build, should it choose to do so, at least one nuclear weapon within a year and that this could be rapidly followed by several more. It is less clear whether Iran is capable of putting a miniaturised warhead on one of its Shahab 3 ballistic missiles, which have a range of 1,200 miles (1,900 km), but the IAEA suggests it has conducted experiments to that end.
In other words, if I'm reading this right, Iran has enough fuel to build a weapon sometime in the future, but not one that would work (i.e., because it is too big) with Iran's only viable delivery system. Having the bomb, and being able to deliver the bomb to a target are two different matters. If Iran can't deliver the bomb (other than smuggling it in a ship), then its program may not currently pose enough of an existential threat to force Israel's hand. Either way, we should see this fall out one way or another very soon.

Israel May be Going It Alone Against Iran

This report indicates that Defense Secretary Panetta has cold feet about military action against Iran. It states:

Panetta, who took over the Pentagon's top job in July, said he agreed with an assessment of his predecessor, Robert Gates, that a strike on Iran would only delay its nuclear program, which the West believes is aimed at making an atomic bomb.

Gates also warned it could unite the country and deepen its resolve toward pursuing nuclear weapons.

Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful and that it is enriching uranium to power reactors for electricity generation.

Panetta said: 'You've got to be careful of unintended consequences here.' He acknowledged military action might fail to deter Iran "from what they want to do."

And he added: 'But more importantly, it could have a serious impact in the region, and it could have a serious impact on U.S. forces in the region. And I think all of those things, you know, need to be carefully considered.'

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Role of Prophecy

As one reads the developments as to Iran's nuclear program, it is tempting to turn to the Bible for confirmation as to whether "this is it"--an identifiable step toward Armageddon and the Second Coming.  Certainly, my first thoughts turned to Ezekiel 38 and 39, concerning the war of Gog and Magog, where Persia (i.e., Iran) figures prominently.

In going through the exercise of comparing Ezekiel's prophecy versus the potential crises facing the Middle East, I also reflected on the role of prophecy. My impression (which may be wrong) is that most people think of prophecy fulfilling a predictive role. That is, not only telling of what will occur in the future, but also when. However, most prophecy does not attempt to fix a date or time. In fact, the only example of a fixed time that I can think of is Daniel's Seventy Weeks, which sets out the year in which the Lord would present himself as the Messiah. The Lord's discussion of the destruction of Jerusalem in Matthew 24 also sets a time frame, but even there, it was before the then-current generation passed away, which is not very specific. Most end-time prophecy is simply "in the last days," or the "day of the Lord." There is no time frame fixed, and in fact the Lord cautioned in Matthew 24 that no one knew the specific time of the Second Coming save God, the Father. The promise is that, for those who are true believers, they will know it when it happens. The flip side of this is that those who are not believers will not know or understand the significance of the events unfolding around them. There is also the danger of reading too much significance into events. This can lead to spreading false doctrine or beliefs, or loss of faith.

These are my own thoughts on the matter, but I view prophecy as primarily providing a filter--a means of discerning significant events (in a prophetic sense) from the background noise. Let's face it: there is always some crises or series of crises going on. Some are very significant historically, but have no or limited impact in a prophetic sense. (For instance, for all of the importance of the Black Death in shaping our modern world, there is not a single reference to it in Biblical prophecy). So, the challenge facing us is not to fit events into prophecy, but examine the events in light of Biblical prophecy to see if it is a sign or prophesied event.

So, as we look at events unfolding in the Middle-East, the impending collapse of the European Union, or the growing influence and power of China, instead of twisting the facts to fit a particular prophecy, we need to instead step back and prayerfully consider whether the events fit the description in the prophecy. We may think (or hope) that we are in the last months or years before the Second Coming, but it may also be tens or hundreds of years in the future. Just because an event is, or may be "earth-shattering," it does not mean that it is the beginning of the tribulation, or that the Lord will return tomorrow.