Monday, April 30, 2012

The Demographic Decline of Japan

The New York Times has an article explaining the declining demographics of Japan:
In Japan, birthrates are now so low and life expectancy so great that the nation will soon have a demographic profile that matches that of the American retirement community of Palm Springs. “Gradually but relentlessly,” the demographer Nick Eberstadt writes in the latest issue of The Wilson Quarterly, “Japan is evolving into a type of society whose contours and workings have only been contemplated in science fiction.”

Eberstadt has spent years writing about the challenges posed by declining fertility around the globe. But Japan, he notes, is a unique case. The Japanese birthrate hovers around just 1.3 children per woman, far below the level required to maintain a stable population. Thanks to increasing life expectancy, by 2040 “there could almost be one centenarian on hand to welcome each Japanese newborn.” Over the same period, the overall Japanese population is likely to decline by 20 percent, with grim consequences for an already-stagnant economy and an already-strained safety net.

Japan is facing such swift demographic collapse, Eberstadt’s essay suggests, because its culture combines liberalism and traditionalism in particularly disastrous ways. On the one hand, the old sexual culture, oriented around arranged marriage and family obligation, has largely collapsed. Japan is one of the world’s least religious nations, the marriage rate has plunged and the divorce rate is higher than in Northern Europe.

Yet the traditional stigma around out-of-wedlock childbearing endures, which means that unmarried Japanese are more likely to embrace “voluntary childlessness” than the unwed parenting that’s becoming an American norm. And the traditional Japanese suspicion of immigration (another possible source for demographic vitality) has endured into the 21st century as well. Eberstadt notes that “in 2009 Japan naturalized barely a third as many new citizens as Switzerland, a country with a population only 6 percent the size of Japan’s and a reputation of its own for standoffishness.”
These trends are forging a society that sometimes evokes the infertile Britain in James’s dystopia. Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the developed world, and there were rashes of Internet-enabled group suicides in the last decade. Rental “relatives” are available for sparsely attended wedding parties; so-called “babyloids” — furry dolls that mimic infant sounds — are being developed for lonely seniors; and Japanese researchers are at the forefront of efforts to build robots that resemble human babies. The younger generation includes millions of so-called “parasite singles” who still live with (and off) their parents, and perhaps hundreds of thousands of the “hikikomori” — “young adults,” Eberstadt writes, “who shut themselves off almost entirely by retreating into a friendless life of video games, the Internet and manga (comics) in their parents’ home.”

Sunday, April 29, 2012

F-22s Deployed to UAE

There have been several reports over the past few days that the United States has deployed F-22 fighters to the United Arab Emirates. This article reports:
A prominent Iranian lawmaker says the reported basing of America's most sophisticated stealth jet fighters in the United Arab Emirates is a U.S.-Israel plot to create regional instability. The U.S. Air Force has moved several F-22 stealth combat aircraft to a base in the United Arab Emirates, 300 km (186) miles from the Iranian border, according to a report by the Aviation Report magazine on Saturday. The F-22 is considered one of the most technologically advanced aircraft in the U.S. Air Force, although it has yet to be utilized in actual combat.

Kazem Jalali was reacting to media reports of the recent deployment of F-22 Raptors at the UAE's Al Dhafra Air Base, which has long hosted U.S. warplanes. Aviation Report claims the planes were moved to the Al Dhafra air base, a short distance from Iran's southern border, but a U.S. Air Force spokesmen refused to disclose the location of the planes, saying only that they were located somewhere in southwest Asia. The UAE is in southwest Asia. Jalali was quoted by the semiofficial ISNA news agency Sunday.

Tehran and Washington are at odds over Iran's nuclear program. The U.S. and Israel say Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies. The two countries have not ruled out military action against Iranian facilities.

In an interview with ABC News, USAF spokesman Lt. Col. John Dorrian said the aircraft were "not a threat to Iran." Dorrian said the deployments were meant to "strengthen military-to-military relationships, promote sovereign and regional security, improve combined tactical air operations, and enhance interoperability of forces, equipment and procedures."

Due to field security, Dorrian refused to disclose how many F-22s were deployed to the UAE or their objective, but did say that due to their advanced technology, the transfer of any number of the stealth aircraft is a significant move.

The move was the second time F-22s have been deployed to the UAE, with the first time being in 2009 for a military exercise in the country. Despite the fact that F-22 has not been used in combat, officials at Lockheed Martin, the company that manufactures the F-22, have said that the aircraft is suitable for complex missions against well-defended targets in countries such as Iran and North Korea.
(See also this article from Fox News).

Chinese/Philippine Standoff Escalates

It had appeared last week that the standoff between China and the Philippines had mostly resolved itself, with the parties seemingly agreeing to mediation. Not going to happen. China has rejected international mediation, and both sides are now lining up ships again.
Hostilities between China and Philippines escalated on Sunday as both sides lined up their naval ships for a second time in as many weeks, in a stand-off over a disputed island in the South China Sea.

China defended its action of sending its maritime vessel to the Huangyan Island, which the Philippines calls Scarborough Shoal as Manila too reportedly lined up two of its naval ships.

Philippines has already approached the International Court of Justice in Hague over the dispute.

China has rejected the move saying that it is against any international arbitration. Earlier in the day, Philippines President Benigno Aquino dismissed as rhetoric the recent warnings by Chinese officials of decisive action against the Philippines to reinforce Beijing's claim over the island.

"We don't think that at this stage they (China) will engage in any military activities," Aquino told reporters.

"And we... Have been geared towards de-escalating the situation."

Bull Whisper Airgun Review

Although I do not have one, I've often thought that a decent quality air rifle would be a good tool not only for pest control or small game (e.g., squirrel or rabbit) hunting, but also basic target practice. The problem, in my view, is the noise. An air rifle can still produce quite a bit of noise when discharged. The gas (CO2) cartridge can be almost as loud as an actual firearm, and even the spring piston designs seem unacceptably loud to me.

When Gamo first introduced their Whisper air rifle, I thought it might be an opportunity to get one that would be quiet enough for my purposes. However, the reviews I had read indicated that, because of the spring piston system, it still could be fairly loud. The solution appeared to be to replace the spring piston system with a gas piston (similar to the lifts used for the rear door of an SUV or mini-van) system.

This is apparently what has been done with the Bone Collector Whisper Airgun, reviewed here at the Firearms Blog.
The Bone Collector Bull Whisper is a gas piston (IGT, Inert Gas Technology) break barrel gun. Thanks to the IGT the air gun has more velocity and does not have the vibration that other spring rifles make. The fluted polymer jacketed steel barrel Bull Whisper reduces the noise characteristic of most air rifles by more than 50%. This is a very positive feature for folks living in communities which have an aversion to loud noises, not to mention the advantage when hunting squirrels. The Bone Collector comes in 0.177 and 0.22 caliber.

... The Gamo PBA Platinum pellets at 5.2 grains shot very well at 25 yards and easily penetrated the 3/8" wafer board backing our target. Hence, switched to 1/2" board to prevent any more holes in the barn. The 6.8 grain Gamo PBA copper-plated pellets were all over the paper. They simply would not group. ...

We picked up a tin of Gamo 7.9 grain Red Fire hunting pellets at our local sporting goods store and began shooting them. Now these were just what the doctor ordered. Not only did they group well at 25 yards, but penetration into the wafer board backstop was excellent. There is no question that these pellets, and the PBA Platinum are more than adequate for squirrel, rabbits and small varmints. ...
 The review indicates an MSRP of $289.95.

Milwaukee Red Cross Told to Plan for Chicago Evacuation

This is interesting. CBS Chicago is reporting that the Milwaukee Red Cross has been advised to have shelters on standby in the event of an evacuation during the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago.
CBS 2 News has obtained a copy of a Red Cross e-mail sent to volunteers in the Milwaukee area.

It said the NATO summit “may create unrest or another national security incident. The American Red Cross in southeastern Wisconsin has been asked to place a number of shelters on standby in the event of evacuation of Chicago.”

According to a chapter spokesperson, the evacuation plan is not theirs alone.

“Our direction has come from the City of Chicago and the Secret Service,” she said.

Officials at Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communication said the directive did not come from them.

The U.S. Secret Service did not return calls for comment.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Spain Slides Further Toward Economic Apocalypse

Well, maybe the title is exaggerating, but things are looking pretty bleak. Fox News reports:
Spain's sickly economy faces a "crisis of huge proportions", a minister said on Friday, as unemployment hit its highest level in almost two decades and Standard and Poor's downgraded the government's debt by two notches.

Unemployment shot up to 24 percent in the first quarter, one of the worst jobless figures in the developed world. Retail sales slumped for the twenty-first consecutive month as a recession cuts into consumer spending.

"The figures are terrible for everyone and terrible for the government ... Spain is in a crisis of huge proportions," Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said in a radio interview.

Standard and Poor's cited risks of an increase in bad loans at Spanish banks and called on Europe to take action to encourage growth. 
* * *

Spain has slipped into its second recession in three years and fears that it cannot hit harsh deficit cutting targets this year have put it back in the centre of the debt crisis storm, pushing up its borrowing costs.

Recovery and job creation are still two years off, Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said on Friday in a news conference where he forecast 0.2 percent growth in the gross domestic product next year and 1.4 percent growth in 2014.

De Guindos also said Spain would increase the value-added tax and other indirect taxes next year, but would seek to reduce payroll taxes. Spain has a low VAT compared with other European countries even after raising it in 2010. 
* * *

S&P now has Spain on a BBB+ rating, which means "adequate payment capacity" and is only a few notches above a junk rating. Fitch and Moody's still rate Spain's sovereign with a "strong payment capacity".
(See also this article at the Washington Post).

A Look Back on the LA Riots

The LA Weekly has an interesting article taking a look back on the LA riots of 1992, and visiting some of the locations now. A reminder:
The riots erupted after a police brutality trial in which a jury acquitted Los Angeles Police Department officers Stacey Koon, Theodore Briseno, Timothy Wind and Laurence Powell on charges of excessive use of force against Rodney King. The previous year, a videotape broadcast around the world had shown a belligerent King, pulled over after a wild chase in which he drove up to 80 mph on surface streets, fighting officers as they'd tried to pin him down - and the officers whacking him with their batons more than 50 times.

When the mostly white jury let the officers off at 3:15 p.m. on April 29, the first violence erupted at the intersection of Florence and Normandie avenues in South L.A. In a harrowing video seen by millions on TV, white trucker Reginald Denny was driving by in his big rig when he was yanked from its cab by a group of black men, then bashed in the head with a claw hammer, a brick and an oxygen tank, nearly killing him and leaving him with permanent brain damage.

Yet when Police Chief Daryl Gates got word of the growing violence, he refused to leave a police political fundraiser in Brentwood. LAPD was unprepared and lost control of the streets in South Los Angeles, Koreatown, Hollywood, Mid-City, Pico-Union and the Civic Center itself. Rioters ran into the Los Angeles Times' building to rip equipment off desks, palm trees blazed in the night skies near Dodger Stadium, and iconic shops such as Frederick's of Hollywood were looted until bare. The U.S. Army, Marines and National Guard were called in. The toll: some 2,000 people injured and more than 50 killed; more than 1,100 buildings damaged; more than 3,000 fires set. Property damage was set at $1 billion. 
* * *
It wasn't just businesses and investors who rejected South L.A. after the riots. As L.A. Weekly reported in 1993, black families ramped up the "black flight" from L.A. that had started in the previous decade. Some 56,000 African-Americans fled L.A. between 1980 and 1990. Cal State Northridge researchers found that the exodus was driven by racial displacement - the mass movement of mostly illegal Latino immigrants into the city's affordable black neighborhoods.

After the riots, between 1992 and 2007, the city's black population dropped by 123,000, as households left for the Inland Empire, close-in suburbs and even for family hometowns in the Deep South. They were running, and being pushed: The city's Latino population grew by more than 450,000 in those years.

In the Los Angeles area, unemployment for Latinos and blacks is worse than in 1992. In 2010, 13.4 percent of Latinos and 19.5 percent of African-Americans were without work.

It's clear in 2012 that some communities Soqui photographed in 1992 have turned a corner, including Koreatown, Pico-Union and Hollywood. Meanwhile, South Los Angeles and others have not. Much as the riots drove out commerce and jobs, the ongoing recession has shuttered storefronts in poor and working-class neighborhoods.

"Not only have these large structural issues never been fixed in Los Angeles," says Darnell Hunt, director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African-American Studies at UCLA, but "you could make the case things have gotten worse."
Read the whole thing.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

More on Tensions in the South China Sea

The Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam all claim ownership of some islands [in the South China Sea]. China's official map stakes a claim to almost all the 1.2 million-square-mile sea, including territory hundreds of miles from its mainland shore.

* * *

A clash between East and West is perhaps unavoidable, given that the United States says it will protect freedom of navigation and commerce for all Asian nations in what is one of the world's busiest shipping routes, some experts say.

"China has boxed itself in," says Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt, North East Asia project director for the International Crisis Group.

She says China has so convinced its public of their country's claims that significant policy shifts will be tough. In "Stirring up the South China Sea," a report issued this week, the group notes a dramatic increase in hostile incidents between maritime forces in recent years.

Beijing moderated its stance in 2011 after tensions led its neighbors to seek closer military ties with the U.S. But "the conflicting mandates and lack of coordination" among Chinese government agencies running maritime policy continue to stoke tensions, the report says.
* * *
Some foreign policy experts say only a strengthened U.S. naval presence will prevent China from taking over.

The South China Sea will be "the strategic bellwether for determining the future of U.S. leadership in the Asia-Pacific region," wrote Patrick Cronin and Robert Kaplan in a report by the Center for a New American Security.
And while the U.S. is conducting joint military exercises with the Philippines and South Korea, the article reports that China is conducting joint exercises with Russia in the Yellow Sea.

Also, the Chinese military has announced that it is ready to protect Chinese interests in the South China Sea:
The armed forces have vowed to "fulfill their duty" to safeguard China's territory in the South China Sea, a Defense Ministry spokesman said on Thursday.

"China's military forces will collaborate closely with related governing bodies, including fishery administration and maritime law enforcement, to jointly ensure the country's maritime rights and interests," Geng Yansheng said in Beijing.

This was the first official remark from the armed forces following a standoff with a Philippine warship in waters off China's Huangyan Island on April 10.

Analysts said the comments were also in response to growing domestic demand to ensure sovereignty in the South China Sea.

Earlier, Defense Minister Liang Guanglie said that any military action will be based on the needs of diplomacy.

Media reports said that China has sent a nuclear-powered submarine to the South China Sea, but the spokesman did not confirm or deny the accuracy of the reports.
Notably, both of the stories cited above also mention possible intentions by China to colonize various islands in the area in order to strengthen its territorial claims.

Unlike the current U.S. administration, China understands the importance of energy to its continued economic growth and security. However, that may be a large part of what is underlying the current dispute over the South China Sea according to this Chicago Tribune article:
A Philippine exploration firm has found more-than-expected natural gas in a disputed area of the South China Sea, a discovery likely to inflame territorial tensions with China.

Philex Petroleum Corp said in a disclosure to the stock exchange on Tuesday that its unit, Forum Energy Plc, "is expected to show an improvement in the resources previously known" in the Sampaguita gas discovery in the Reed Bank.

The area is claimed by both nations and last year Chinese navy vessels tried to ram one of Forum Energy's survey ships there, almost halting its research work.

China has territorial disputes with the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan across the South China Sea, and these nations are worried about what some see as growing Chinese assertiveness in staking claims over the sea's islands, reefs and shoals.

The territorial disputes are pushing the Philippines to seek closer cooperation with the United States, which has drawn Chinese condemnation.

A 2006 study quoted by Forum Energy said the Sampaguita field had a potential of up to 20 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, or more than five times initial estimates.

Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said the findings could support plans to build a multi-million dollar pipeline from the area to Manila.

HK G36 Inaccurate Beyond 200 m When Hot (Updated)

The Firearms Blog notes a German newspaper report that says that "once the H&K G36 rifle has heated up, the accuracy is significantly reduced to a point where it is useless beyond 200 meters (218 yards)." The Blog also reminds us that a version of the G36--the XM8--nearly became the U.S. service rifle.

Updated (7/1/2014): German officials claim the problem was with ammunition--specifically, thinner walled cases used by MEN Metallwerk Elisenhuette GmbH.

The Next Fiscal Armageddon

Unless Congress acts to soften the blow, economists are warning that a looming year-end collision of massive, “automatic” cuts in federal spending and the expiration of sweeping Bush-era tax cuts could crush an already weak U.S. economic recovery.

And unlike the central bank’s response to the Panic of 2008, the Fed would be powerless to offset the catastrophic impact on the economy and financial markets.

"There is absolutely no chance that the Federal Reserve would be able to have the ability whatsoever to offset that effect on the economy," Mr. Bernanke told reporters Wednesday, following a two-day meeting of the Fed's policy-making committee.

The risk of a potential economic train wreck stems from a series of contentious political decisions that Congress has been ducking for years, postponing a long list of tough choices until the end of the year, until after the national elections.

Now, unless a compromise is reached, sharp cuts in federal spending will remove hundreds of billions of dollars from the U.S. economy, virtually overnight. At the same time, American consumers will see a massive increase in taxes that will sharply curb their spending power, taking another big bite out of the economy.

 * * *

Wage earners are also set to lose the payroll tax cut that expires at the end of this year. An extension of long-term unemployment benefits is also set to expire, which would further slash the amount of money flowing through the economy.

Another Hate Crime...

An black 18-year-old suspected of a violent attack on a white teen told Chicago police the beating was motivated by his anger over the Trayvon Martin case in Florida, MyFoxChicago reports.

Alton Hayes III was charged with a hate crime after he and a 15-year-old attacked the 19-year-old man at about 1:00 a.m. on April 17 in Oak Park, a Chicago suburb.

Police say Hayes and his teenage partner, who has not been named since he is a juvenile, picked the man apparently at random and pinned his arms to the side.

Hayes allegedly then picked up a tree branch and demanded the victim give them his belongings, saying, "Empty your pockets, white boy."

The suspects then rifled through the victim's pockets, threw him to the ground and punched him numerous times in the head and back. Both suspects are black and the victim is white, according to police.

MyFoxChicago reports Hayes told police he decided to attack his victim because he is angry over the death of Trayvon Martin. Hayes said he chose his victim because he is white.
I suspect that we will be seeing more of this as we get into summer, and I would not be surprised if the violence did not become more organized.

Fox News Gives a Brief Overview of the Chinese-Philippines Standoff

(Story here).

North Korea's Missiles May be Fakes

At its recent celebration of the 100th birthday of its founding autocrat (a.k.a., founding communist leader), North Korea paraded what it claimed to be long-range ballistic missiles. Only, they appear to be fakes.
The weapons displayed April 15 appear to be a mishmash of liquid-fuel and solid-fuel components that could never fly together. Undulating casings on the missiles suggest the metal is too thin to withstand flight. Each missile was slightly different from the others, even though all were supposedly the same make. They don't even fit the launchers they were carried on.

"There is no doubt that these missiles were mock-ups," Markus Schiller and Robert Schmucker, of Germany's Schmucker Technologie, wrote in a paper posted recently on the website Armscontrolwonk.com that listed those discrepancies. "It remains unknown if they were designed this way to confuse foreign analysts, or if the designers simply did some sloppy work."
I'm thinking that the persons that worked on the mock-ups (and their families) will be disappearing to a work camp soon.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"Econo-Can: A $55 Suppressor"

American Specialty Ammo is selling a registered NFA suppressor for $55 (+ $200 tax stamp) that is nothing more than an adapter to attach a car oil filter to a 1/2-28 threaded barrel. The first bullet punches a hole in the end of the oil filter. 
You can buy "spin-on" oil filters for $10 - $20. A used oil filter (soaked with old oil) will only improve its efficiency. Internally oil filters contain fibrous material designed to filter out contaminates from the oil. I think they would eventually wear/burn out when used with firearms.
Video at the link.

The Imperial Presidency

Interesting article on how Obama views executive power:
One Saturday last fall, President Obama interrupted a White House strategy meeting to raise an issue not on the agenda. He declared, aides recalled, that the administration needed to more aggressively use executive power to govern in the face of Congressional obstructionism.

“We had been attempting to highlight the inability of Congress to do anything,” recalled William M. Daley, who was the White House chief of staff at the time. “The president expressed frustration, saying we have got to scour everything and push the envelope in finding things we can do on our own.”

For Mr. Obama, that meeting was a turning point. As a senator and presidential candidate, he had criticized George W. Bush for flouting the role of Congress. And during his first two years in the White House, when Democrats controlled Congress, Mr. Obama largely worked through the legislative process to achieve his domestic policy goals. But increasingly in recent months, the administration has been seeking ways to act without Congress.
This is a trend that has been going on for a long time--well before Obama was even born. But this is the same trend that saw Republic Rome become Imperial Rome.

Social Security Faces Unfunded Liability of $8.6 Trillion

This is disturbing:
Social Security faces an unfunded liability of $8.6 trillion, according to the 2012 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Funds.

The unfunded liability is the amount that has been promised in benefits to people now alive that will not be funded by the tax revenue the system is expected to take in to pay for those benefits. (The Social Security trustees calculate the unfunded liability for a period of 75 years into the future, from 2012 to 2086)

The $8.6 trillion in unfunded benefits Social Security is expected to pay over the next 75 years equals $73,167.83 for each of the 117,538,000 households the Census Bureau said were in the United States in 2010.
(Full story here). And if you think that is bad, the Medicare unfunded liability is $38.6 trillion, or over $328,000 per household.

China Daily Warns of Small-Scale War With the Philippines

One of China’s most popular newspapers has warned of a potential “small-scale war” between Beijing and Manila as a result of their standoff at Panatag Shoal, or Scarborough Shoal as the area is known internationally.

The Global Times, in an editorial published in its Chinese and English editions, said over the weekend that “China should be prepared to engage in a small-scale war at sea with the Philippines.”

“Once the war erupts, China must take resolute action to deliver a clear message to the outside world that it does not want a war, but definitely has no fear of it,” the tabloid said.

Malacañang and Philippine military officials were unfazed by the toughly worded editorial.
(Full story here). The same story indicates that China is maintaining several vessels in the area.
In Camp Aquino in Tarlac City, the head of the military’s Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) accused China of lying when it claimed it had withdrawn most of its vessels at Panatag Shoal.

“We are telling them they’re not telling the truth,” Nolcom commander Lt. Gen. Anthony Alcantara told visiting defense reporters.

In a press briefing, Alcantara said at least seven Chinese vessels remained in the vicinity of Panatag, including two small fishing boats anchored on the lagoon and three other fishing vessels off a sandbar.

Alcantara said two Chinese maritime ships—the gunboat FLEC 310 and the surveillance ship CMS 71—had been sighted in the Panatag waters as of 8 p.m. Monday.

Two more surveillance ships, the CMS 84 and 75, are believed to be replenishing provisions and refueling somewhere in the Chinese mainland, he added.
Meanwhile, U.S. and Philippine military forces continue their annual "Balikatan" (shoulder-to-shoulder) military exercises.
Nearly 7,000 American and Philippine troops were launched from U.S. and Philippine ships in a simulated amphibious assault to recapture an island supposedly taken by militants.

Four days ago, commando teams rappelled down from U.S. helicopters and landed from rubber boats in a mock assault to retake an oil rig in northern Palawan, 18 km (11 miles) off the town of El Nido on the South China Sea.

The annual war games come under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), one of the web of security alliances the United States built in the Asia and Pacific region during the Cold War.

The drills are a rehearsal of a mutual defence plan by the two allies to repel any aggression in the Philippines.
Patrick Cronin argues in this op-ed in the New York Times that China is not looking for a military confrontation, however, but looking to expand its influence in the region. He writes:

The latest crisis arose after the pocket-size Philippine Navy, with an old United States Coast Guard cutter as its new flagship, tried to apprehend Chinese fishermen it claimed were operating illegally near the Scarborough Shoal. China then sent two surveillance vessels — part of a recent effort to protect its claims in the East and South China Seas — to block the Philippine ship.

The message was stark: escalate and risk a violent run-in with the Chinese Navy, or stand down and negotiate with Beijing from a position of weakness.

Manila wisely chose the latter, first substituting a civilian vessel for its combat vessel, and then containing the dispute through diplomatic channels. But China was also sending a flare to Washington, to the effect that American efforts to strengthen the military capacity of its regional allies would be checked.

It’s easy to see the standoff as an act of quasi-aggression, but it’s not. Because China is looking for influence rather than spoiling for a fight, it will seek a minimal show of force, as it did in the Scarborough incident by sending surveillance vessels instead of warships. Drawing attention to its rapid military modernization or its intensifying nationalist sentiment, after all, could undermine China’s core interests.

The key take-away from the recent showdown is that the United States needs to remain coolheaded. Not only are such skirmishes at sea inevitable, but they are also of minor consequence — assuming they are managed shrewdly.

Given our allies’ overlapping interests in the South China Sea, we are bound to feel pressure to act aggressively against what appears to be Chinese expansionism. But as wiser heads in the United States have understood for decades, China is not truly expansionist. Its mercantilist international policies have material rather than imperial ambitions. China is testing the limits, not necessarily trying to pick a fight.
Like almost every other country in the world, the politics of China is not monolithic. There are multiple coalitions and forces at work. So, Mr. Cronin's views are a little naive if he intends to portray China as having a unified foreign policy. Hardliners in China may well want to push for a small military action to garner respect in the region, or using this incident to test the United States' resolve with respect to allies in the region.

Black Mob Beats White Man...

... and says it was because of Trayvon Martin. (Full story here).
An angry mob of youngsters brutally battered a man who told them to stop playing basketball outside his home - and allegedly then told him 'that's justice for Trayvon'.

Matthew Owens was hit with bricks, chairs, pipes and paint cans on his own Mobile, Alabama, front porch by 20 people on Saturday night after complaining about the noise.

Owens' sister, Ashley Parker, claimed the group attacking her white brother were all African-American as she told wkrg.com: 'It was the scariest thing I have ever witnessed.'

And she alleged that, as they walked away leaving him badly bruised and bleeding on the ground, one of them then said: 'Now that's justice for Trayvon'.

The slur was, she said, in reference to the unarmed black 17-year-old allegedly gunned down in February by white neighbourhood watch captain George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida.
There will be a lot more of this as the year goes on and we get closer to the election.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Is It Possible To Successfully Defend A Retreat Against Superior Forces?

Self-defense should be a concern of everyone. Even without a national or worldwide TEOTWAWKI, you could have your very own personal SHTF moment should you be mugged or the victim of a burglary. However, in this post, I am interested in protecting your home (or your retreat, if you will) from a group of raiders.

There are a few articles about this subject on the internet. (See here and here, for general discussion of the topic; here is an article on protecting against vehicles).

However, I question whether it is realistic to assume that you can do more than hold off a small number of attackers. I'm big on examples, so let me use a few:

First I came across this brief account recently in a book about World War I. (I believe this example to be relevant because the weapons that most troops were armed with at the beginning of the war were no different than a prepper or a reaver would use in a TEOTWAWKI situation).

The German Army was only twenty-five miles from Paris on September 3. That day, at the village of Baron, the 49-year-old composer Albéric Magnard barricaded himself in his house and opened fire on the German soldiers who had called for him to come out, killing one of them. His house was set on fire with straw and grenades: he perished inside it. The village was then looted.

Gilbert, Martin. The First World War: a Complete History, p. 68 (Henry Holt and Co., NY: 1994).

The most recent (June 2012) issue of Guns magazine ("Mexican Standoff" in the Rights Watch column) directed me to another example from 2010 that was reported at the Borderland Beat website. I'll quote from Borderland Beat:
The story began in the morning of Saturday November 13, when a group of armed gunmen went to deliver an ultimatum to Don Alejo Garza Tamez: He had 24 hours to turn over his property or suffer the consequences.

Using the diplomacy he had acquired over nearly eight decades of life, Don Alejo flatly announced that not only would he not be surrendering his property, but that he'd be waiting for them.

When the men had left, Don Alejo gathered his workers and ordered them to take Sunday off, he wanted to be alone.

He dedicated the rest of Saturday to taking stock of his weapons and ammunition and creating a military fortress style defense strategy for his home.
That strategy was to take his limited firearms--apparently hunting rifles--and preposition them with ammunition at the different windows in his house so he could quickly move from position to position.
Marines who investigated the scene could only imagine how it was that morning: armed men, their impunity secured, confident they'd soon be owners of yet another property. Nobody, or almost no one, could hold out against a group of heavily armed gunmen. Only Don Alejo.

The trucks entered the ranch and took up positions surrounding the house. The gunmen got out of their trucks, fired shots in the air, and announced they came to take possession of the ranch. They were expecting the terrified occupants to run out, begging for mercy with their hands in the air.

But things didn't go as expected. Don Alejo welcomed them with bullets; the entire army of gunmen returned fire. Don Alejo seemed to multiply, he seemed to be everywhere. The minutes would have seemed endless to those who had seen him as easy prey. Various gunmen were killed on sight. The others, in rage and frustration, intensified the attack by swapping out their assault rifles for grenades.

When everything finally fell silent, the air was left heavy with gunpowder. The holes left in the walls and the windows attested to the violence of the attack. When they went in search of what they had assumed was a large contingent, they were surprised to find only one man, Don Alejo.

The surviving gunmen did not take over the ranch. Thinking the military would arrive at any moment, they decided to run. They left behind what they thought were six corpses, but two of their gunmen had survived.
Don Alejo was inside his house, dead from his wounds. It was unclear to me from the story whether he was killed by gunfire, the grenades, or both.

Police raids also tell a story. For instance, FerFal notes here:
About 5 young able bodied males in the house and a 21 year old women that literally slept with her .45 strapped on a shoulder holster.
They had a nice weapon battery including ARs, scoped 30-06 rifles, shotguns, more than enough ammo, about 20 handguns spread around the house.
The compound/farm in Austin had the perimeter covered with cameras hidden in the trees, all connected to a big screen TV in the living room.
SWAT nailed them without firing a shot, and even though there were more, I counted only 4 operators entering after ramming down the door…
They were all watching a movie in the family room.

So people, FORGET about you super retreat, at least forget about it being a better defendable alternative. It isn’t.
Unless you have at the very least half a dozen people available for round the clock security you’re a sitting duck, and one lonely duck at that. It doesn’t take SWAT, a bunch of guys with an ounce of brains will get to you, specially if they don’t care about shooting the people inside.
Also, you need a real secured perimeter. Cameras with no one checking them are just a waste of time, at least it represents no real layer of protection.
24/7 guards plus good building design for layered security. If anyone thinks they have a secured or defendable retreat without those they are kidding themselves.
So what works? Again, real world examples help, as discussed in this post:
Rhodesian Farmers Defensive Arrangements

(from the Small Wars Council forum)

I knew many Rhodesian farmers and have visited many farmsteads over the years. At every farm, defensive arrangements were made up to suit their particular situation and infrastructure. The following would be a general overview:

1. Most farmers fitted hand-grenade grills to the outside of all windows. Doors leading outside were likewise security grilled.

2. Many farmers built thick walls about a meter in front of bedroom windows to stop bullets, but particularly to deal with RPG 7`s. Beds were never placed against the outside walls of a farmhouse.

3. It was usual to have a designated safe room within the farmhouse that could be defended until support arrived. Sometimes this was a central corridor that allowed the farmer to move into other rooms to attack those outside through the windows. In the loft or ceiling over the safe room, some farmers laid sand bags to deal with possible mortar attack.

4. Every farmhouse in a given area was linked by a radio system called “Agric Alert”. This allowed radio contact with other farmers who formed their own defence units, usually under the umbrella of PATU (Police Anti-Terrorist Unit), which would react to a call from one of their neighbours for assistance. Another means of alarm raising was the use of a signal rocket – The Agric-Alert system was not done away with after the war, such was the lack of trust in Mugabe`s promises. It performed admirably as well when dealing with criminal activity such as stock theft. The alert system arranged for all farmers to check in with each other at a given time in the morning and evening as a means of monitoring their status.

5. Around all farmhouse gardens were erected security fences with barbed wire (or razor wire) and which often had simple alarm systems built into them. Some I believe were electrified, if not before the end of the war, certainly afterwards. Within the fence boundary, every farmer usually had a couple of large dogs. The dogs were fed their largest meal in the morning instead of the evening, in order to help keep them awake at night. Other farmers had geese or ducks, which made excellent guard “dogs.” Gardens were kept deliberately trim so as to keep clear fields of view and fire etc. The farm houses also had outside flood lighting erected in such a way as to blind those outside the fence, but not to interfere with the vision of those within the farmhouse.

6. All farmers and their wives were armed with an assortment of weapons, and most farmers were trained military men. They had at least one assault rifle, usually an FAL 7.62, assorted shot guns, .303 hunting rifles and so forth. It was also not unusual for wives to carry Uzi`s around with them, or other equivalents such as the Rhodesian Cobra. All members of the family were trained on the various weaponry available to them, including the kids. In one famous incident a child successfully fought off the attacking terrorists after both of his parents were wounded. The main defensive weapons were at all times within immediate reach of the adult farmhouse occupants, and were placed next to the bed at night.

7. Some farmers used mine protected vehicles, as a favourite of terrorists was to landmine the driveway outside the fence. A great deal of time was spent looking at the dirt roads for freshly dug earth points and so forth when driving around the farm.

8. Some farm gardens and particular points external to the fence were wired with home-made claymore like devices strategically placed in areas where attackers were likely to take cover. In a few instances farmers deliberately erected “cover positions” for the terrorists to use outside the fence, which were then blown up upon attack. A particular favourite was a section of plastic piping filled with nails, nuts, bolts, screws and so forth. I witnessed tests with these and the tubes cleared large areas of their intended aiming point of all bush cover and leaves from trees etc for about 30 meters into the bush. By placing a number of figure 8`s in front of these tests, it was apparent from the strike patterns that not one of them would have walked again had they been terrorists.

9. Some farmers also hired soldiers on leave to guard their premises at night. Usually these were men looking for extra “beer” money. They were called Bright Lights, and often ended up in fire fights with the terrorists, where they came as a nasty surprise to the terrs when the latter were expecting a nice soft hit and run. Like all farmers in an area, Bright Lights would participate in the support of other farmers when the situation required.

10. Good relationships with farm labour, particularly the house staff, very often warned of problems before they occurred. All of us who grew up in the country have fond memories of those employees who took care of us as kids, and who often placed themselves at great risk for doing so.
Although this article discusses tips for crime in general, there are some valid points for defending a retreat.

The Bo Xilai Crises -- An Interview with Cheng Li

Cheng Li is an expert on China with the Brooking's Institute, so the interview gives some insight on the issue that seems to have been missing in the main-stream media. For instance, some background on Bo Xilai:
Bo Xilai’s story is certainly linked to China’s present-day factional politics, which I characterize as “one party, two coalitions.” One coalition is led by former president Jiang Zemin’s protégés. While the core of this coalition used to be the so-called Shanghai Gang, “princelings” (leaders who come from high-ranking family backgrounds) have become more central since the fall of Shanghai party boss Chen Liangyu on corruption charges in 2006. Bo Xilai is a princeling, as his father Bo Yibo was a revolutionary veteran who served as vice premier. The other coalition primarily consists of former officials from the Chinese Communist Youth League and is led by President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao. These two coalitions fight with each other over power, influence, and policy initiatives. Bo Xilai’s career advancement can certainly be attributed to his princeling background and his patron-client ties with Jiang Zemin.

Bo’s downfall is also related to his own egotistical personality and notorious ambition. While his ambitions were most recently focused on achieving a seat on the Politburo Standing Committee, it would have not stopped there. In the months preceding the crisis, members of Bo’s staff spread the rumor that he could become China’s next premier. In addition, Su Wei, a scholar close to Bo at the Chongqing Party School, compared Bo Xilai and Chongqing mayor Huang Qifan to former leaders Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai in comments circulated in both the Chongqing and national media.

The Bo episode is also related to ideological conflict, as he was associated with China’s “new left” thinking—especially through his Mao-style campaigns, such as the “smash the black” anti–organized crime campaign—and advocated an ultra-egalitarian and ultra-nationalist development model for China, known as the “Chongqing model.”

But this episode is really more than the sum of these factors. Most importantly, it involves Wang Lijun’s attempted defection to the United States and the charges against Bo’s wife related to the murder or assassination of British citizen Neil Heywood. The Chinese public has been shocked by both incidents, since this is a very unusual set of events in CCP history. How is it possible that national hero Wang Lijun and one of China’s top leaders are capable of such actions? When these kinds of charges are involved, all Chinese leaders—regardless of which faction they belong to—will not support Bo Xilai any longer, because the current crisis poses a challenge to the legitimacy of the CCP itself. The stakes are very high, and the challenge facing the CCP leadership is intimidating.
Li dismisses theories that the scandal was engineered by other Chinese leaders,Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao. He also believes that the Chinese leadership is more interested in presenting a united political front publicly, rather than pursuing a witch-hunt against other senior officials.
The party leadership will be extremely cautious and not expand the scope of the Bo Xilai case to other leaders. Purges will be relatively limited. The fact that certain leaders closely affiliated with Bo, such as Huang Qifan, are still free implies that the top leadership does not intend to punish too many people. The fact that the country is on the eve of the 18th Party Congress, with so many destabilizing factors, will also lead the leadership to limit the scope of targeted officials.

Therefore, though the Bo case is a victory for Hu and Wen, this victory will not necessarily translate into more seats for their coalition on the Politburo Standing Committee. To a certain extent, this explains why Guangdong’s liberal party chief Wang Yang has been reluctant to claim victory since there still could be a backlash against him. The makeup of the future Politburo Standing Committee will largely be determined through compromises between the two coalitions. The balance of power within this system will not be easily changed. If the princeling faction collapsed, this would constitute an unimaginable revolution with implications for Chinese politics and social instability ten times greater than the Bo scandal. Thus, at the moment, there is a tremendous incentive for the party’s top leadership to preserve the current structure of “one party, two coalitions,” and show unity and solidarity. Evidence of the Chinese leadership’s unity on this matter can be found in the man who replaced Bo as party chief of Chongqing, Zhang Dejiang, a protégé of Jiang Zemin and part of the same princeling coalition as Bo. This appointment means that a deal has been made and the top leadership of the party is united.
Read the whole thing. (H/t Instapundit).

China De-escalating Its Standoff with the Philippines?

The LA Times reports that China, today, has withdrawn two of its warships from the disputed Scarborough Shoals. However, this article from the Asia Times contends that China has actually increased its naval presence, stating:
China has beefed up its naval might around the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, threatening a clash as the United States and Philippines hold joint military exercises in the vicinity of the potentially energy rich disputed maritime territory.

In a show of force, a state-of-the-art Chinese vessel, the Yuzheng 310, is now on patrol near the Scarborough Shoal, raising the strategic ante as its maritime standoff with the Philippines heads into a second week. Certain news reports have suggested as many as five other Chinese patrol vessels are now in the area.
The LA Times article cited above notes:
China has pressed its claims to South China Sea outcroppings more aggressively after declaring the sea a "core national interest" two years ago.

Vietnam has sparred with China over another set of islands, last year accusing a Chinese boat of cutting the cables to a ship owned by its national oil and gas company. Brunei and Malaysia have also laid claims to the waters, which are lucrative fishing grounds and believed to cover oil and natural gas reserves.

Despite China having agreed to a U.N. convention on maritime zones that limited its reach at sea, official maps of China show almost all of the South China Sea as being in its territory, alarming neighboring countries. Even some of its own agencies don't seem to respect the same boundaries.

“The Sea will remain volatile unless China’s internal coordination problems and the legal confusion surrounding its maritime territorial claims are addressed,” said Robert Templer, Asia Program director for the International Crisis Group, which released a report Monday on the disputed waters.
Although I missed this earlier, China warned the U.S. on Saturday about escalating the situation by conducting previously planned military exercises with the Philippines.
China's military warned the United States on Saturday that U.S.-Philippine military exercises have raised risks of armed confrontation over the disputed South China Sea in the toughest high-level warning yet after weeks of tensions.

China's official Liberation Army Daily warned that recent jostling with thePhilippines over disputed seas where both countries have sent ships could boil over into outright conflict, and laid much of the blame at Washington's door.

This week American and Filipino troops launched a fortnight of annual naval drills amid the stand-off between Beijing andManila, who have accused each other of encroaching on sovereign seas near the Scarborough Shoal, west of a former U.S. navy base at Subic Bay.

The joint exercises are held in different seas around the Philippines; the leg that takes place in the South China Sea area starts on Monday.
So, in answer to the question posed in the title, I would have to say no, but that instead China seems to be pushing the issue more forcefully toward a military confrontation.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

McCain Didn't Pursue Voter Fraud Charges for Fear of Mobs

There is an interesting story about the 2008 election coming out of Wikileaks. Memos from Stratfor released by Wikileaks say that widespread voter fraud occurred in Ohio and that “black Dems were caught stuffing the ballot boxes in Philly.” The McCain campaign knew about the fraud but feared taking action because of the “possibility of domestic violence” if they challenged the results in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

The memos say campaign staff urged candidate John McCain to act in court:

“Staff felt they could get a federal injunction to stop the process.”

One of the Wikileaked memos says: “Sen. McCain chose not to fight.” The reason?

The memo states:

“McCain felt the crowds assembled in support of Obama and such would be detrimental to our country and it would do our nation no good for this to drag out like last go around, coupled with the possibility of domestic violence.”
The article cited above is at the Business Insider, and further notes Jesse Jackson was paid by the DNC to keep quiet about Israel, and that the Obama campaign received contributions from Russia.

The voter fraud is going to be 10 times worse this time. What then? And why was none of this reported by the media?

Media Attacks Against the Mormon Faith Step Up

As you can see, Bashir calls Romney “Mitt the Mendacious” three times. The crudeness of Bashir’s rhetorical method is enough to make Allahpundit pine for “the relative subtlety and understated good taste of Keith Olbermann.” Bashir also reminds MSNBC viewers that on Wednesday, he interviewed Pastor Robert Jeffress, the Southern Baptist who endorsed Romney despite Jeffress’s continued insistence that Mormonism is a heretical cult.

What Bashir is doing is something I explained two weeks ago: Using evangelicals as a “hook” to bring up Romney’s Mormonism. This is a familiar theme that mainstream reporters have been working on ever since the 2008 campaign. The supposed anti-Mormon prejudices of evangelical Christians that were much talked about in terms of Romney’s difficulties in GOP primaries will now be reinterpreted as an excuse to talk about Mitt’s Mormonism for the general election campaign.

It’s a great two-birds-with-one-stone-stone trick for liberals: “Look how bigoted these holy rollers are and — hey, by the way — did you notice that Romney’s religion is kinda weird and has a history of polygamy, violence and racism? Also, coming up next, we have an exclusive interview with an ex-Mormon woman who has written a book that says the church is horribly sexist . . .”

There will be no end to this, and those who are sanguine about Romney’s election chances — Ace seems positively giddy these days — may be naive in thinking the media’s steady drip, drip, drip about Mormonism will not hurt Mitt with independents.
Foreign media don't even try to hide it--many of them (the Daily Mail comes to mind) have been giving prominent coverage to any and every story (however trivial) attacking the Church. So, expect persecution to continue to increase over the coming months.

Update: More on the subject from Byron York at the Washington Examiner. (H/t Instapundit).

Venezuala is a Powerderkeg Ready to Explode

Hugo Chavez is dying from cancer. The more recent photographs I've seen show him to be almost bloated. It could be simple weight gain, but likely it is bloating from fluid retention, which is common for liver cancer. So what happens when he dies? From PJ Media:
Hugo Chávez did not attend last weekend’s Summit of the Americas in Colombia. Instead, he traveled to Cuba for yet another round of cancer treatments. With each new cycle of radiation therapy, it becomes more and more likely that Venezuela will soon be entering the post-Chávez era, regardless of whether the autocratic leftist wins reelection in October.

* * *

While it is highly encouraging that the Venezuelan opposition has coalesced around a charismatic leader who boasts impressive popularity among the poor and working classes, Capriles — and thus, the restoration of Venezuelan democracy — faces a number of daunting obstacles.

* * *

What if Caracas stole the election and Venezuelans responded by flooding the streets to protest? Would the regime do what its Iranian counterpart did in 2009? Would it be willing to perpetrate a Tiananmen-style bloodbath? For that matter, would the military and official security forces obey government orders to massacre civilian demonstrators? What if the military and police refused such orders? Would Chávez or some other Venezuelan leader call on his Bolivarian Militia to complete the task? If the militia began killing civilians, how would the military respond? Would the Bolivarian Militia and the armed forces wind up clashing violently with each other? Could that lead to an all-out civil war? And what would the Castro brothers do? Would they be willing to let the Chávez regime collapse, even if that meant potentially losing the massive Venezuelan energy subsidies that have been keeping their sclerotic dictatorship afloat?

These questions are deeply unnerving. Chávez has created a volatile powder-keg that is ready to explode under certain conditions. He has also transformed Venezuela into an Iranian satellite, which further complicates matters. As the Miami Herald recently put it, “Chávez has converted his country into a virtual headquarters for Iranian espionage in the Western Hemisphere.”

Then there is the issue of Venezuelan complicity in hemispheric drug trafficking. General Rangel and other senior military officers (including Generals Cliver Alcalá and Hugo Carvajal) have already been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department for their ties to narco-gangs. Meanwhile, cocaine kingpin Walid Makled, who is now on trial in Venezuela, has claimed that dozens of Venezuelan generals and regime officials were involved in his drug business. Such officials obviously want to avoid prosecution for their crimes, and they are surely afraid (with good reason) that a democratic post-Chávez government would seek their arrest. This gives them extra motivation to help steal the 2012 election or mount some type of a coup to ensure that Chávez or Chávez loyalists remain in power.

Friday, April 20, 2012

China Aggravates Standoff with the Philippines...

... by sending a third ship to the area. From Fox News:
The Philippines on Friday accused China of escalating the countries' 10-day standoff in the disputed South China Sea by sending a third patrol vessel to a shoal where both sides claim sovereignty.

The standoff at the Scarborough Shoal, sparked April 10 when the Philippines accused Chinese fishermen of poaching in its territory, is being closely watched to see how far Beijing will go in its increasingly assertive stance on territorial claims in the region. The South China Sea is home to a myriad of competing claims, also involving Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.

The latest Chinese patrol vessel was dispatched after the Philippines refused to withdraw its coast guard ship from Scarborough Shoal, China's state-run Xinhua news agency said.

Philippine Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez told a news conference in Manila that China's move was seen as an escalation of the standoff originally sparked when two Chinese maritime surveillance ships prevented a Philippine warship from arresting several Chinese fishermen. The fishermen slipped away from the shoal, angering Philippine officials.

The Philippines subsequently replaced the warship with a smaller coast guard vessel that was facing off with the two Chinese ships, with each side demanding the other pull out first.

Hernandez said that his government plans to ask China's representatives why they violated an earlier agreement not to aggravate the situation.

China's Demography Problem

Here is an article that provides a good review and analysis of China's "birth dearth."
Over the past 30 years, China’s total fertility rate—the number of children a woman can expect to have during her lifetime—has fallen from 2.6, well above the rate needed to hold a population steady, to 1.56, well below that rate (see table). Because very low fertility can become self-reinforcing, with children of one-child families wanting only one child themselves, China now probably faces a long period of ultra-low fertility, regardless of what happens to its one-child policy.

. . . In contrast, America’s fertility rate is 2.08 and rising.

The difference between 1.56 and 2.08 does not sound large. But over the long term it has a huge impact on society. Between now and 2050 China’s population will fall slightly, from 1.34 billion in 2010 to just under 1.3 billion in 2050. This assumes that fertility starts to recover. If it stays low, the population will dip below 1 billion by 2060. In contrast, America’s population is set to rise by 30% in the next 40 years. China will hit its peak population in 2026. No one knows when America will hit its population peak.

The differences between the two countries are even more striking if you look at their average ages. In 1980 China’s median (the age at which half the population is younger, half older) was 22. That is characteristic of a young developing country. It is now 34.5, more like a rich country and not very different from America’s, which is 37. But China is ageing at an unprecedented pace. Because fewer children are being born as larger generations of adults are getting older, its median age will rise to 49 by 2050, nearly nine years more than America at that point. Some cities will be older still. The Shanghai Population and Family Planning Committee says that more than a third of the city’s population will be over 60 by 2020.

This trend will have profound financial and social consequences. Most obviously, it means China will have a bulge of pensioners before it has developed the means of looking after them. Unlike the rest of the developed world, China will grow old before it gets rich. Currently, 8.2% of China’s total population is over 65. The equivalent figure in America is 13%. By 2050, China’s share will be 26%, higher than in America.
. . .
The shift spells the end of China as the world’s factory. The apparently endless stream of cheap labour is starting to run dry. Despite pools of underemployed country-dwellers, China already faces shortages of manual workers. As the workforce starts to shrink after 2013, these problems will worsen.  

St. Louis Police Adopting Shotguns

I came across this article reporting that the St. Louis Police are adopting (or perhaps, "returning to" is more accurate) shotguns. (H/t The Truth About Guns). Anyway, the interesting part is this:
"When you get out of a car with (a shotgun) and you hear the sound of the racking action, everyone knows the next thing you're going to hear is an exceptionally large bang," said Sgt. David Bonenberger, president of the St. Louis Police Officers' Association. "It's a confidence thing. It means business."

The department abandoned shotguns years ago in favor of short-barreled rifles that use the same 9 mm pistol ammunition as its semi-automatic handguns.

"After testing and training, we found the 9 mm configuration to be inadequate," Lt. Mike Deeba said Wednesday. "The shotgun is cheaper than the rifles and more effective in shorter distances, and most shootings occur within 15 yards of the officer."

While pistols and rifles fire a single bullet with each shot, a typical 12-gauge police shotgun shell fires a tight pattern of about eight bullet-sized balls.

New .223-caliber rifles will be issued to supervisors to provide greater long-distance shooting capability that also can penetrate body armor, officials said.

Report: China's Indigenous Weapons Development

PDF here. From the Executive Summary:
China’s process of modernizing its armed forces has involved the development of indigenously designed weapons systems—some of which appeared to undergo a process of development, procurement, and/or deployment that outpaced the estimates of U.S. and other foreign observers. This paper specifically focuses on four key weapons platforms that have been discussed as “surprise” developments to U.S. analysts:
- Type 039A/B/041 (Yuan‐class) diesel‐electric attack submarine
- SC‐19 anti‐satellite (ASAT) system
- Dongfeng‐21D (DF‐21D/CSS‐5) anti‐ship ballistic missile (ASBM)
- Jian‐20 (J‐20) stealth fighter aircraft

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Revolution and Chaos

Earlier today, I was reading an op-ed by Walter Russell Mead on why revolutions generally require an armed resistance to succeed. The first comment to the story caught my attention with this:
All moments that are called revolutions and a number that are not so called, begin with the collapse of an existing regime. In France in 1789 the chronically insolvent Bourbon monarchy went acutely bankrupt. In Russia in 1917 the Romanov autocracy crumbled under the wight of WWI. In Russia in 1991, the Soviet Union, hopelessly insolvent, simply fell apart.

What happens after regime collapse cannot be subject to ordinary rules that are the sum and substance of a regime. It certainly will, in the medium to long run, be determined by the culture and its deeper institutions. E.G. France, after the Terror, Napoleon, and a great deal of fussing, emerges as a country run by a mandarin bureaucracy centralized in Paris.

But, the short run is always anomic and chaotic. Violent men, unconstrained by non-existent laws, will push forward to grab what they can get, and sometimes will wind up with everything. Despite their name, the Bolsheviks were never more than a tiny terrorist faction. Sometimes the winner will be the second or third man to seize power, like Napoleon, who was better organized, armed, and trained than his opponents.
And there we have a warning for us. Three fairly recent examples of mighty nations suffering a sudden collapse (or regime change, if you prefer) due to financial insolvency and widespread public austerity, followed to one extent or another, by a period of chaos.

Filmmaker Poaching Deer

A Brooklyn-based filmmaker whose film premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival this week could be facing serious trouble from state authorities over a scene in his post-apocalyptic flick that features the illegal killing of a deer, according to a report from DNAinfo.com.

Director Ben Dickinson recorded the scene as part of a 23-day-shoot for his film, “First Winter,” which follows a group of Brooklyn hipsters who are forced to survive in the wild after an apocalyptic event. The scene was recorded on a private farm in upstate New York last year, according to DNAinfo.com.

The crew reportedly not only killed the deer without a license, but out of deer hunting season as well.

“We are idiots. We didn’t know how to do this stuff,” DNAinfo quoted Dickinson as saying. “There were so many deer weak from the winter and getting eaten by the local dogs we didn’t even think about it.”
It doesn't say much about how much the filmmaker knows about survival if he was not aware of such thing as wildlife regulations, hunting licenses, deer tags, etc. How does he think the government pays for wildlife conservation? It certainly isn't from contributions by PETA or environmentalist groups. One can only hope that he is fully prosecuted for his poaching.

On top of that, there is this as well:
According to DNAinfo, the bullet hit two deer, killing one and wounding the other. The crew eventually shot the second deer to put it out of its misery. The group then skinned one of the deer, cut it up and cooked it in front of the camera.
In other words, not only did they engage in illegal hunting, but they didn't even use the second deer they killed. Waste of wild game is a separate crime in most states.

Mexico--56,000 Desertions in Past 6 Years

As high as the number of deserters may sound, it actually represents an improvement over recent years.

Over 106,000 soldiers abandoned the military without authorization during the previous Mexican administration of Vicente Fox, who belonged to the same center-right National Action Party as Calderón.
What the article doesn't mention is that most of these soldiers take their weapons with them, which wind up in the hands of criminals.

India Successfully Tests Ballistic Missile

India has successfully tested its new ballistic missile.
The Agni-V missile is expected to become fully operational as early as 2014 after several more tests, The Times of India reported. It has a range of more than 3,100 miles, according to a BBC report.

The LA Times reported that the 50-ton, 55-foot three-stage rocket is named after the Hindu god of fire. However, it said the missile had been dubbed the "China killer" by the Indian press.

The launch, which was flagged well in advance, has attracted none of the criticism from the West faced by hermit state North Korea for a failed bid to send up a similar rocket last week.

But China noted the launch with disapproval.

"The West chooses to overlook India's disregard of nuclear and missile control treaties,'' China's Global Times newspaper said in an editorial published before the launch, which was delayed a day due to bad weather at the test site.

"India should not overestimate its strength,'' said the paper, which is owned by the Chinese Communist Party's main mouthpiece the People's Daily.

Fast emerging as a world economic power, India is keen to play a larger role on the global stage and has long angled for a permanent seat on the Security Council. In recent years it has emerged as the world's top arms importer as it upgrades equipment for a large but outdated military.

"It is one of the ways of signaling India's arrival on the global stage, that India deserves to be sitting at the high table," Harsh Pant, a defense expert at King's College, London, said, describing the launch as a "confidence boost."

NATO said on Wednesday it did not consider India a threat. The U.S. State Department said India's non-proliferation record was "solid,'' while urging restraint.

How to Get Unstuck

I was reading an article today on how to get unstuck, in a psychological way, because I thought it was about how to get a car unstuck. So, I decided to track down a couple articles on the subject.

Here is one from e-How on how to get unstuck from mud. It recommends:
1. Don't panic. Often a person's instinct is to do the same thing harder, if the initial efforts aren't working. It won't help your predicament to push harder on the accelerator, spinning your wheels--it will just get the car even more deeply stuck. So stop, get out of the car, and look at the situation.
2. Gently push on the accelerator to try to ease out of the mud pit. For cars with an automatic transmission, put the car in its lowest gear and give it just a bit of gas to see if the tires will get traction. For cars with a manual transmission, use a higher gear and very gently let out the clutch, moving the tires inch by inch. If this does not work, try the next step. 
3.  Rock the car back and forth. Turn the steering wheel so the wheels are straight, and quickly switch back and forth from reverse to drive about 8 to 10 times--but no more, or you could damage your car. If your car is still stuck, move on to the next step.
4. Let a little air out of the tires. A slightly flat tire will allow more surface area to come in contact with the ground, perhaps providing that extra amount of traction you need to get unstuck. Just remember to refill your tires as soon as you get to safety.
5. Find something to place under the tires to provide traction. You can use tree branches, sand, boards (check for nails), an old coat or blanket, or even your floor mats. Place these items under your front tires, and drive slowly over them. This step will almost always get a car unstuck from the mud, but if it doesn't work, you might need help.
6. Get help. Call a tow truck or a friend that has a wench to come and rescue you.
The tips given above are also useful if you get stuck in snow or sand. Some other tips on getting out of mud, sand, or snow here:
Plan ahead. Keep your tires in good shape, properly inflated and not too worn. If you live in an area where it snows a lot, consider investing in winter tires. Also, carry a cell phone and sign up with a roadside-assistance program, such as AAA or Better World Club. Some car insurance companies also offer programs; check to see if yours is one of them. Another option becoming increasingly available are telematics systems such as GM's OnStar.

If you're stuck, rock out. Keep the wheels straight, and using a very light touch on the gas pedal, rock the car forward and back by switching between drive and reverse. If the tires start to spin, stop and change direction. In deep snow, and especially in soft sand and mud, spinning the tires just digs you in deeper. If your transmission has a winter mode, use that. If you have a manual transmission, use second gear. Once you get going, don't stop until you reach solid ground. But if you get nowhere after eight or 10 attempts, try the next tip.

Dig deep. Create a path several feet long for each wheel. It's a good idea to make a folding shovel part of your winter emergency kit, along with a blanket, safety flares, reflective triangles, and rock salt or other snow melter. If you don't have a shovel, use what you can—a hubcap, a piece of wood, the base of the car jack, or the spare-tire cover.

Add traction. Spread sand in your tracks, especially near the drive wheels. Cat litter might work, too, but some clay-base litters are useless when wet. You can try the car's floor mats (laid nap-side down), a trunk liner, or a commercial traction aid. Traction mats or grids might also help in snow, sand, or mud. If you need to jack up the car to position a traction aid, consult the owner's manual. The jack has to be on firm ground. If it isn't, place something flat and solid beneath it.

Let out some air. If you're stuck in sand, first try digging out paths for your tires and lining them with small stones, twigs, planks, clothing or carpet scraps. Also try letting air out of the tires. Use a tire pressure gauge to reduce pressure to no less than 10 pounds, then reinflate the tires when you get back on solid ground.

Fill in the ruts. Mud can be a special challenge because it's easy to spin the wheels and sink axle-deep in it. If a tow truck isn't available, you might have to jack up the car and fill the depressions made by the tires with planks, plywood, rocks, or gravel.
Here is another article on the subject from 4X4 Now, discussing the use of tow straps, and a high-lift (bumper) jack. And another from Truck Trend.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Further Update on the Philippine-Chinese Standoff

China said Wednesday that the Philippines is violating maritime law by claiming a shoal in the South China Sea and dismissed Manila's request to take the dispute to an international court.

"We believe it runs counter to historical facts and violates the law," said Liu Weimin, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry.

Philippine navy and Chinese maritime patrol vessels engaged in a standoff last week over a fishing incident near the Scarborough shoal in the South China Sea, an area both sides claim as sovereign territory.

Liu said China had "lodged solemn representations" with the Philippines and that Fu Ying, a vice foreign minister, had called in the Philippine envoy on Wednesday over the issue.

The Philippines plans to seek resolution in an international court, arguing that the shoal is well within the country's 370-kilometer (230-mile) exclusive economic zone that is recognized under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Liu said the Philippines is violating international law by using the U.N. convention to call into question sovereignty over the territory, known as Huangyan island in Chinese.

"China has sufficient legal evidence for its jurisdiction over the Huangyan island. China was the earliest to discover and name the island, and has included it on maps and exercised its sovereignty over it ever since," Liu said.

Liu said that the Philippines never objected to China's territorial control of the shoal before 1997 and that its claim now is "completely baseless."

A Philippine government statement on Wednesday contradicted Liu's remarks, saying it has effectively occupied and exercised jurisdiction over the shoal -- which it calls Bajo de Masinloc, or Panatag shoal -- for decades.

A map published in 1734 showed the shoal was part of the northwestern Philippine province of Zambales, the government said, adding that a Philippine flag and lighthouse were erected on Scarborough islets in 1965.
China summoned a diplomat from the Philippines for a second time on Wednesday to protest Manila's claim over an area of the South China Sea, a foreign ministry spokesman said, as the standoff between the two countries showed no sign of ending.

The most recent dispute is well into its second week, with a Philippine coast guard ship and two Chinese maritime surveillance vessels faced off near the Scarborough Shoal in waters believed to be rich in oil and gas.

Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying "urgently summoned" the Philippines Charge' d'affaires, Alex Chua, on Sunday and again on Wednesday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told reporters.

"She pointed out that the Philippines military vessels' harassment of Chinese fishermen and fishing boats have drawn the close attention of China," Liu said.

"We hope the Philippines side will honour its commitment and withdraw its ships from the relevant waters immediately, so that the waters of Huangyan island can return to peace and stability."

Mexico Raises the Alert for the Popocatepetl Volcano

This AP report indicates that officials raised the alert level on April 14, 2012, to the highest level of "yellow":
Authorities in Mexico have raised the alert level for the Popocatepetl volcano southeast of Mexico City due to increasing activity. It's now at the fifth step on a seven-level warning scale.

A lava dome is growing in the volcano's crater, the National Disaster Prevention Center said Tuesday. The 17,886-foot (5,450-meter) volcano also has been spewing fragments of incandescent rock recently, as well as water vapor and ash.

The volcano could experience "significant explosions of growing intensity that hurl incandescent rocks significant distances," large ash showers and possible flows of mud and molten rocks down the volcano's flanks, the center said.

The agency said the area has been closed to visitors and urged people to stay at least seven miles (12 kilometers) from the crater, which is about 40 miles (65 kilometers) southeast of Mexico's capital. It also recommended that people in the surrounding areas clean ash from weak rooftops and to cover their mouths to avoid inhaling it.

The alert is now at the highest level of the yellow stage; the next stage is a red alert, which presumably would prompt evacuations to begin.

Known as "El Popo," the volcano staged its most violent eruption in 1,200 years on Dec. 18, 2000, when an explosion sent up a plume of red-hot rock and forced the evacuation of thousands of people who live at the volcano's base.

The volcano, which seats in the central states of Mexico, Puebla, and Morelos, has been erupting intermittently since December 1994.
Photos and a brief article here.

India to Test Nuclear Missile

As this AP story at Fox News reports, India will soon be testing a new nuclear missile capable of striking major cities in China, as part of an effort to counter-balance China's growing military power in the region.
India is planning to test launch a new nuclear-capable missile that for the first time would give it the capability of hitting the major Chinese cities of Beijing and Shanghai.

The government has hailed the Agni-V missile, with a range of 3,100 miles, as a major boost to its efforts to counter China's regional dominance and become an Asian power in its own right. The test launch was slated to come as early as Wednesday evening, but Indian media said a delay was likely because of poor weather conditions.

"It will be a quantum leap in India's strategic capability," said Ravi Gupta, spokesman for India's Defense Research and Development Organization, which built the missile.

China is far ahead of India in the missile race, with intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching anywhere in India. Currently, the longest-range Indian missile, the Agni-III, has a range of only 2,100 miles and falls short of many major Chinese cities.

India and China fought a war in 1962 and continue to nurse a border dispute. India has also been suspicious of Beijing's efforts to increase its influence in the Indian Ocean in recent years.

"While China doesn't really consider India any kind of a threat or any kind of a rival, India definitely doesn't think in the same way," said Rahul Bedi, a defense analyst in New Delhi.
In China didn't expect regional arms races, it should have. China has not only had conflicts with India, but also with Vietnam (not only a failed invasion of Vietnam in 1979, but continued provocations) and, more recently, the Philippines. As this article from last year notes:
Among India’s military leadership and security hawks, China looms larger and larger as a potential threat. They are particularly concerned about what they identify as a “collusive threat” posed by a nuclear-armed neighbour, the traditional foe Pakistan, and the growing military might of China.

China’s supply of weaponry to Pakistan, particularly JF-17 jets, has fuelled these suspicions. So too has China’s assertiveness over territory in the Himalayas and at sea. Delhi was alarmed by a challenge to an Indian naval vessel by the Chinese navy in July off the coast of Vietnam – described by Indian officials as the first “incident” of its kind.

China has also rattled India’s defence establishment by parading technological breakthroughs, like its own aircraft carrier and ship-busting missiles, all of which could come to challenge India’s dominance of the Indian Ocean and crucial shipping lanes between the Middle East and Asia.

India has been no slouch itself. Although 70 per cent of its military hardware is imported, it has launched its own stealth frigate and a nuclear submarine modelled on a Russian design. It has tested a range of longer-distance missiles, including a supersonic cruise missile called the Brahmos, and boasts a capable space programme.

* * *
Nonetheless, India’s military establishment is looking more to its eastern border, where the Chinese invaded, albeit briefly, in 1962. A programme of infrastructure and airfield improvement is under way to give greater reach into the Himalayan region. The army is pushing for a $2.5bn Mountain Strike Corps, which would lead to the deployment of a greater number of high-altitude troops (required to operate up to a height of 20,000 feet).
Whatever China's goals, it is clear that its neighbors are apprehensive of China asserting itself military. And, at least as to India, it is giving birth to a nuclear arms race.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

New Wall Street Insider Interview...

... at the Ulsterman Report, warning of increased riots this summer.

Evaporated Versus Condensed Milk

A short article from the Preparedness Advice Blog about the difference between evaporated and condensed milk. (H/t Daily Survival).

"Canning 101" ...

... from Backwoods Home Magazine.

Use of Animal Antibiotics

Armageddon Medicine has an article on using a couple of different veterinary antibiotics:
Procaine penicillin is probably used most often nowadays for strep throat, though with the abundance of effective oral meds, its use has become less common.  The adult dose for moderately severe to severe respiratory infections, tonsillitis, or pneumonia is 600,000 to 1,000,000 units/day via intramuscular injection for 10 days.  It can also be used to treat certain stages of syphilis, rat bite fever, anthrax prophylaxis or treatment of cutaneous disease, and diphtheria (see CDC for guidelines). 
As for lincomycin, when I used to work in Appalachia it was a popular choice for a variety of patients including:
  1. those suffering from pneumonia who were almost, but not quite, sick enough for hospitalization
  2. those whose compliance with oral medication was questionable
  3. those who preferred injections – and there were many.
According to the (human) product insert, Lincocin Sterile Solution is “indicated in the treatment of serious infections due to susceptible strains of streptococci, pneumococci, and staphylocci. Its use should be reserved for penicillin-allergic patients or other patients for whom, in the judgment of the physician, a penicillin is inappropriate. Because of the risk of antibiotic-associated pseudomembranous colitis” (C diff) “before selecting lincomycin the physician should consider the nature of the infection and the suitability of less toxic alternatives (eg, erythromycin).”  Some cross resistance has been noted between clindamycin and erythromycin, meaning if either of these antibiotics are not effective, Lincocin may not work either.
In my personal experience, this drug worked great!  ...  The adult dose is 600 mg IM (= 2 mL injected intramuscularly) once daily for serious infections, or twice daily for very serious infections.    It can be used in pediatric patients over 1 month of age at a dose of 10 mg/kg (5 mg/lb) every 24 hours for serious infections, or twice daily for very serious infections.  I have never used this drug in children – mostly only in sick COPD patients.  It should be reserved for life-threatening infections and is not the first line treatment for anything.  However, it could indeed be life-saving at TEOTWAWKI.
The article mentions that currently neither requires a prescription, but warns that this may change in the near future.