Saturday, June 30, 2012

Russians will Adopt 9x19 mm Handgun

The Firearms Blog is reporting that the Russians are planning on adopting a new caliber and new handgun to replace the Makarov. The adoption of a high capacity auto with accessory rails doesn't surprise me. However, the adoption of the 9 mm Parabellum--the same round as used by NATO and the U.S.--does. However, it probably should be interpreted as a belated acknowledgment that 9x19mm is the most widely used combat pistol round in the world, and found almost everywhere.

In a happy world, this would result in seeing Russian Makarovs and 9x18mm ammunition showing up in the surplus firearms market. I'm not holding my breath, though.

Second Mayan Inscription Confirms December 2012 End Date

For those readers who are interested, it appears that archaeologists have located a second inscription confirming December 21, 2012, as the end of the Mayan calender cycle. From the Daily Mail:
Archaeologists have found carvings in a stone staircase at the La Corona dig site in Guatemala which confirm the ‘end date’ of the Maya calendar, December 21, 2012.

It is only the second known inscription which confirms this 'end date'.

* * *

The 1,300-year-old inscription is described as one of the most significant hieroglyphic finds in decades.

Most of the inscription, carved into a stone abandoned by looters, deals with political history - but there is a reference to 'the end' in a passage about a king's return.

‘This was a time of great political turmoil in the Maya region and this king felt compelled to allude to a larger cycle of time that happens to end in 2012,’ says David Stuart of the University of Texas at Austin, who led a dig at the site.
Photos and more at the link.

Friday, June 29, 2012

AK-12 Prototype Testing

The Firearm Blog has linked to a video showing testing of the AK-12 prototypes.

Gunspec

The Truth About Firearms has reported that Google Shopping no longer lists firearms related products. However, TTAG discovered an alternative: Gunspec.com.

More on Google Shopping's policies at The Firearm Blog.

Solar Flare Burns Away Atmosphere of Exo-Planet

Interesting (unless it should happen to us). From the Daily Mail:
A few hours before Hubble observed the planet for the second time, Swift recorded a powerful flash of radiation coming from the surface of the star, in which the star briefly became 4 times brighter in X-rays.

Co-author Peter Wheatley, from the University of Warwick, said: 'X-ray emissions are a small part of the star's total output, but it is the part that it is energetic enough to drive the evaporation of the atmosphere.

'This was the brightest X-ray flare from HD 189733A of several observed to date, and it seems very likely that the impact of this flare on the planet drove the evaporation seen a few hours later with Hubble.'

X-rays are energetic enough to heat the gas in the upper atmosphere to tens of thousands of degrees, hot enough to escape the gravitational pull of the giant planet.

A similar process occurs, albeit less dramatically, when a space weather event such as a solar flare hits the Earth's ionosphere, disrupting communications.


Something Energetic Occurred in 774 A.D. -- A Supernova?

I had recently posted a link to an article discussing an unusual spike in Carbon-14 levels in 774 A.D. without any known explanation. Now a possible answer from an ancient manuscript:
An eerie "red crucifix" seen in Britain's evening sky in ad 774 may be a previously unrecognized supernova explosion — and could explain a mysterious spike in carbon-14 levels in that year's growth rings in Japanese cedar trees. The link is suggested today in a Nature Correspondence by a US undergraduate student with a broad interdisciplinary background and a curious mind1.

A few weeks ago, Jonathon Allen, a biochemistry major at the University of California, Santa Cruz, was listening to the Nature podcast when he heard about a team of researchers in Japan who had found an odd spike in carbon-14 levels in tree rings. The spike probably came from a burst of high-energy radiation striking the upper atmosphere, increasing the rate at which carbon-14 is formed (see 'Mysterious radiation burst recorded in tree rings').

But there was a problem: the only known causes of such radiation are supernova explosions or gigantic solar flares, and the researchers knew of no such events in ad 774 or 775, the dates indicated by the tree rings.

Intrigued, Allen hit the Internet. "I just did a quick Google search," he says.

His long-standing interest in history was helpful, he notes. "I knew that going that far back, there's very limited written history," he says. "The only things I'd ever seen or heard of were religious texts and 'chronicles' that listed kings and queens, wars and things of that nature."

His search found the eighth-century entries in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle at the Avalon Project, an online library of historical and legal documents hosted by Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Scrolling down to the year ad 774, Allen found a reference to a "red crucifix" that appeared in the heavens "after sunset".

DOJ Refuses to Prosecute Contempt Charges Against Holder...

... before they even receive the request.
The Department of Justice, following longstanding practice by prior administrations, is declining to prosecute Attorney General Eric Holder for being in contempt of Congress, Deputy Attorney General James Cole said Thursday in a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

* * *


In response, Republicans noted that they had not yet transmitted the contempt proceeding to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, whom federal law accords the authority to determine whether to prosecute.
Yet another example of how powerless Congress had let itself become.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Review of the S&W Shield....

... at The Truth About Guns.

Fomenting Racial Hatred.

The Ulsterman Report has indicated that increased racial tensions, and even violence, will feature in this election cycle. With that in mind:
General T.A.C.O. (Taking All Capitalists Out) of the New Black Panther Party had some less than encouraging words for white people this week. Mr. Taco, speaking on NBPP Radio on Sunday, decided to let white America know that the NBPP will “hunt” their “pink asses down.” Hunting white people down will serve to accomplish General Taco’s other stated goal of “destroying white supremacy and capitalism.”

Gen. Taco also justifies his killing of white people because of their “history” of pushing “crack, AIDS and unemployment“ on black men and women in order to ”exterminate” them.
 (Full story and video here). The actual statement is worse than reported in the quote above.

(H/t Weasel Zippers).

Estrogen in Drinking Water

I read once that Americans have the most nutritious pee in the world because of all the vitamins we take. Well, it's not just vitamins in our urine. Phys.Org reports:
The birth control pill is a widespread contraception method. However, large amounts of these modified estrogens leave the body again in urine. The conventional methods in sewage treatment plants are unable to treat this waste water sufficiently because the most frequently used estrogen ethinylestradiol is very difficult to break down. As a result, the hormone finds its way into rivers and lakes and also accumulates in drinking water with serious consequences for fish and other aquatic life. These range from reproductive and severe developmental disorders to the formation of female sexual characteristics in males. The long-term consequences of increasing estrogen pollution for human beings are still largely unknown. Nonetheless, declining sperm counts and thereby increasing infertility in men living in industrial nations may well relate to this hormonal pollution. In addition, testicular and prostate cancers as well as osteoporosis (a reduction in bone density) could be a consequence of overly high concentrations of estrogen in the human body.
(H/t Instapundit). A long time ago, I had read an apocalyptic novel based on the premise of a new birth control drug that actually sterilized women, leading to a societal upheaval and collapse as people realized that whole nations would be unable to produce a new generation. How reality sometimes imitates fiction.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

DEA Playing Election Year Politics?

You may find this interesting. You may remember last week that Mexican authorities had announced the arrest of the son of "El Chapo," the leader of the Sinaloa cartel. Then it turned out that the detainee, Felix Beltran, wasn't the son, and the Mexican government blamed the American DEA for giving them false information.

Now, the detainees (Felix and his brother, Kevin Beltran) claim that the DEA tried to convince the two to admit that they were related to El Chapo until the election, after which they would be freed. From Borderland Beat:
Inside the offices of Specialized Investigation of Organized Crime (SIEDO) Personnel of the Drug Enforcement Administration Agency (DEA) offered the brothers Felix and Kevin Beltran, to accept the role of a relationship with Joaquin El Chapo Guzman Loera, leader of Sinaloa Cartel, and they would set them free after the elections, according to the lawyer Juan Heriberto Rangel Mendez, defense counselor of the two young men arrested by Marine/Army Secretariat (SEMAR) last Thursday in Zapopan, Jalisco.

The litigant said “the offering happened during Thursday night before the detainees gave their ministerial declaration. DEA approached them when we were not there to defend them.”

“First, they tell Felix to accept being son of El Chapo and that his situation could be resolved after the elections. They wanted him to sign the statements given by SIEDO. Then he told them that he was not going to sign anything, and fortunately he didn’t.”
“The DEA insisted: ‘Accept this, sign your statement and the we make the clarification that you are not the son’; then after he convinced them that he was not going to do it, they told him ‘we want you to blame the people that we tell you to and you are free right now”, but he didn’t agreed either, so says the attorney.

“Obviously, they couldn’t convinced him of anything, and Felix refers that another DEA agent appeared, a bald one, and asked him to turn around and to take his shirt off and then the agent added: ‘no he’s not it, Gordo, has a scare”. (Chapo’s son bears a scar)

How did you know it was a DEA agent?
Because they said that both agents were blonde, tall and they spoke English. Felix said that the words in Spanish were mispronounced and when Felix didn’t agreed they spoke between them in English.
I would note that the DEA is part of the Department of Justice, and therefore under Holder's authority.  I can't tell if they are discussing the U.S. election or an election in Mexico. Assuming that the accusation is correct, either possibility raises disturbing questions on why the DEA would attempt to influence elections.

A Sign of the Times...

Stockton, Cal., headed toward bankruptcy filing. (Full story here).

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Assad Says Syria Is Now At War

This is a big concession on his part:
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad declared on Tuesday that his country was at war and ordered his new government to spare no effort to achieve victory, as the worst fighting of the 16-month conflict reached the outskirts of the capital.

Video published by activists recorded heavy gunfire and explosions in suburbs of Damascus. A trail of fresh blood on a sidewalk in the suburb of Qudsiya led into a building where one casualty was taken. A naked man writhed in pain, his body pierced by shrapnel.

Syria's state news agency SANA said "armed terrorist groups" had blocked the old road from Damascus to Beirut.

The declaration that Syria is at war marks a change of rhetoric from Assad, who had long dismissed the uprising against him as the work of scattered militants funded from abroad.

"We live in a real state of war from all angles," Assad told a cabinet he appointed on Tuesday in a speech broadcast on state television.

"When we are in a war, all policies and all sides and all sectors need to be directed at winning this war."
(Full story here) (H/t Drudge Report).

Genes Reveal Grain of Truth to Queen of Sheba Story

Luca Pagani of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton, UK, examined samples of Ethiopian genomes and noticed that some individuals had components of both African and non-African lineages. Delving deeper, Pagani and his colleagues discovered that the non-African genetic components had much more in common with people living in Syria and around the eastern Mediterranean than in the nearer Arabian peninsula. What's more, the gene flow probably took place around 3000 years ago [when Solomon and the Queen of Sheba are supposed to have met].

The finding is backed by linguistic research, which shows that one of the four language families of Ethiopia migrated from the same region about 3000 years ago. "Middle Eastern language came to Ethiopia along with Middle Eastern genes," Pagani says. "And that is when the Queen of Sheba legend is supposed to have happened."

China Positioning Itself to Bypass Dollar

Zero Hedge reports that Chile is the latest country to agree to currency swaps with China. So, another country that no longer views the dollar as the reserve currency of the world. From the story:
So to summarize, the list of countries that China is transacting with directly (that we know of), and bypassing the USD entirely, is as follows:
  • Japan
  • Russia
  • Iran
  • India
  • Brazil
  • and now, Chile
In other words, it looks like the BRICs already have their "bilateral" arranagements all sorted out, and are now quietly moving into other suppliers of key resources with swap deals, all without any mention of the word "dollar."
How soon until China re-dips its toe in Europe with a modest "bailout" nobody can refuse in exchange for a simple caveat: you get paid in renminbi?
Of course, like any other commodity, once the demand for dollars declines, so will the value.

Germany's Economy Showing Signs of Weakness

ITALY ­yesterday raised the stakes for the future of the euro by warning there is just one week to save the single currency.

Its prime minister Mario Monti painted an apocalyptic picture of what would follow if EU leaders failed to deal with the debt crisis at a summit of all 27 states in Brussels next week.

New fears have emerged that the eurozone’s biggest economy Germany could be slipping into recession which would be a blow to saving the single currency.

A key measure of German business optimism fell this month by more than market analysts had expected.

Earlier this week, a separate survey indicated that Germany’s manufacturing sector was also slowing down.

Weaker economic conditions could undermine its ability and the willingness of its already resentful public to help their debt-laden eurozone partners.
Uh, oh. The German bank may be closed.

Cop on Cop Shooting at Mexico City Airport

MSNBC reports that there was a gun battle yesterday between Mexican police, as one group attempted to apprehend another group suspected of involvement in a cocaine smuggling ring. From the story:
Three policemen died in a shootout with two other officers suspected of drug trafficking at Mexico City's airport on Monday, as panicked travelers scrambled for cover in the busy facility.

The shootout occurred when three federal officers approached the two suspects in the airport's Terminal 2, which handles international and domestic flights. Two agents were killed at the terminal and another later died of his injuries in hospital.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Collapse of Euro "Very Likely"

Der Spiegel reports:
Investment experts at Deutsche Bank now feel that a collapse of the common currency is "a very likely scenario." German companies are preparing themselves for the possibility that their business contacts in Madrid and Barcelona could soon be paying with pesetas again. And in Italy, former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is thinking of running a new election campaign, possibly this year, on a return-to-the-lira platform.

Nothing seems impossible anymore, not even a scenario in which all members of the currency zone dust off their old coins and bills -- bidding farewell to the euro, and instead welcoming back the guilder, deutsche mark and drachma.

It would be a dream for nationalist politicians, and a nightmare for the economy. Everything that has grown together in two decades of euro history would have to be painstakingly torn apart. Millions of contracts, business relationships and partnerships would have to be reassessed, while thousands of companies would need protection from bankruptcy. All of Europe would plunge into a deep recession. Governments, which would be forced to borrow additional billions to meet their needs, would face the choice between two unattractive options: either to drastically increase taxes or to impose significant financial burdens on their citizens in the form of higher inflation.

A horrific scenario would become a reality, a prospect so frightening that it ought to convince every European leader to seek a consensus as quickly as possible. But there can be no talk of consensus today. On the contrary, as the economic crisis worsens in southern Europe, the fronts between governments are only becoming more rigid.

The Italians and Spaniards want Germany to issue stronger guarantees for their debts. But the Germans are only willing to do so if all euro countries transfer more power to Brussels -- steps the southern member states, for their part, don't want to take.
The article goes on to state:
Until now, the defenders of the euro have been able to resort to the massive funds of the ECB, if necessary. If things got tight, the monetary watchdogs could inject new money into the market.

But now even the ECB has largely exhausted its resources. It has already bought up so much of the sovereign debt of ailing countries that any additional shopping spree threatens to backfire, causing interest rates to explode instead of fall. At the same time, the conflict between Northern and Southern Europe in the ECB Governing Council is heating up. Last week, the head of Spain's central bank managed to convince the ECB to ease its rules to allow Spanish banks to use even weaker collateral than before in exchange for borrowing money from the ECB. This could set off a tiff with the central bankers from the donor countries, who are loath to look on as the risks in the central bank's balance sheet continue to grow.
Although it's a lengthy piece, read the whole thing.

Turkey Toughens Its Response to Syria

Turkey has toughened its response to Syria's downing of a Turkish military jet last week, saying it will ask fellow NATO members to consider the incident a Syrian attack on the whole alliance.

NATO envoys are due to meet Tuesday at Turkey's request, to discuss a reaction to the attack on the Turkish reconnaissance aircraft near the Syrian-Turkish maritime border. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc Monday said Ankara called the meeting under Article 5 of the NATO treaty, which states that an attack on one alliance member shall be considered an attack against all members.

NATO previously said Turkey requested the meeting by invoking Article 4 of the treaty that allows one member to hold consultations with others if it feels its security has been threatened.

Speaking after a Turkish Cabinet meeting, Arinc said Ankara has the right to retaliate under international law for what he called Syria's "hostile" act against the unarmed military jet. He accused Syrian forces of deliberately shooting down the aircraft in international airspace over the Mediterranean. But Arinc also said Turkey does not want to go to war over the incident, which left two Turkish pilots missing.
The article mentions, however, that Turkey has admitted that its fighter was briefly in Syrian airspace. This might be enough of an excuse for NATO to decide not to support Turkey in retaliating against Syria.

Gear Check -- Eco Sox

We're foot—slog—slog—slog—sloggin' over Africa —
Foot—foot—foot—foot—sloggin' over Africa —
(Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin' up an' down again!)
                There's no discharge in the war!

Seven—six—eleven—five—nine-an'-twenty mile to-day —

Four—eleven—seventeen—thirty-two the day before —
(Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin' up an' down again!)
                There's no discharge in the war!

--Rudyard Kipling

Socks may be mundane, but are critical for maintaining the health of your feet. Dr. Bryan C. Satterwhite explains:
Socks are an important aspect of foot health. Your feet are the only part of your body that is in constant contact with the ground. Your feet endure tremendous stresses throughout the day. For this reason, your feet need extra attention and care. Socks can provide a vital part of protection as they are the primary interface between your foot and the ground. 
Socks provide padding, moisture absorption, and a reduction in friction. Socks also provide warmth in cold, and in some cases anti-microbial protection (socks that resist bacteria). Due to the significant stresses that your feet undergo throughout the day a good pair of socks can mean the difference between feet that function well and feet that encounter multiple problems. 
There are many different types of socks from cotton to polyester to anti-microbial. Socks are improving with technology and the point is clear, socks are important not only to foot health, but your health.
(Source).


One brand of socks that came to my attention about 1-1/2 years ago were Eco Sox. What caught my attention initially was that they were made from bamboo viscose fibers. What got me to buy a pair was that they were very soft to the touch, especially compared to other hiking socks that I had purchased from REI and Big 5.



While I probably should care more about how bamboo fabric is "environmentally friendly," the truth is that what was important to me was the superior wicking and odor control. The Eco Sox web-site claims:
Soft, warm, and odorless are three adjectives commonly used to describe viscose bamboo. Viscose is the derivative of hard bamboo stalks that are manufactured into a cozy fiber. It has a soft and buttery feel and can absorb 3-4 times as much moisture as cotton. It is also great at helping to fight odors. When compared to cotton, viscose bamboo material is much softer, much more absorbent which makes it warmer, and helps fight against odors, rather than harboring odors like cotton
My experience over the last year and a half confirms the claims stated above. While I haven't had the opportunity to try them out on long hikes, I have used them for short hikes (including deer hunting last fall) and walks, and plenty of daily wear over the last year.

Most of the pairs that I have bought have been Eco Sox standard hiking socks. I have also tried their lightweight hikers, and athletic socks.

The standard hiking socks have stood up very well. They are soft and cushioning enough that I only need to wear one set of socks and have had no trouble with blisters. These are the style I wore while hunting. The weight is about that of a standard cotton athletic sock or heavy dress sock, but they seem to be about as warm and cushioning as a moderate to heavy hiking sock. And, as claimed, they seem to better at absorbing odors than standard hiking socks.

I started trying the lightweight hikers later, and while I haven't put them to as much use in hiking, they have held up very well for daily wear. I expect for hiking in warmer weather, or day hikes, these would perform very well. They are certainly lighter weight and would probably be cooler when hiking or walking in hot weather.

I had also purchased some white athletic style socks for wearing with walking shoes, cycling, etc. These, however, have been a disappointment. Although reasonably comfortable, I've had problems with the fabric pulling apart on the toes where the Eco Sox name has been knit or dyed into the fabric, after only limited use. Accordingly, I cannot recommend the white athletic style socks.

I found Eco Sox for sale at Big 5, although they may be available at other stores. I have not seen them at REI or Cabelas. They generally run about $7 per pair, which is certainly comparable to other hiking socks.

In sum, I would recommend the hiking and lightweight hiking socks. I cannot recommend the athletic socks because of durability issues. The fabric lives up to the manufacturers description of superior warmth, moisture and odor absorption.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Who are Gog and Magog? (Updated)

The terms Gog and Magog show up in two locations in the Bible. The first is Ezekiel 38, where they lead a Middle-Eastern coalition of troops to attack Israel, but are destroyed by an earthquake and, due to the treatment of the remains, nuclear weapons.

The second is at the end of the Book of Revelations, when, after a thousand years of peace, Gog and Magog lead an army against the City of God and are destroyed by fire from heaven. This ends The Millennium and leads into the resurrection of the wicked and final judgment.

It is important to note that these do not describe the same events. Ezekiel described a war prior to the Second Coming (although, whether it is the Battle of Armageddon or earlier is debated), whereas Revelations is clearly set much later.

During the Cold War, and continuing into today, many Biblical scholars interpreted Gog and Magog to refer to the former Soviet Union and their respective peoples. There were two primary reasons for this. First, Ezekiel relates that Gog and Magog would descend on Israel from "the north parts." So, it was a simple matter of drawing a straight line north. Second, Gog and Magog are identified with the Scythians, which are generally associated with the peoples of the lower Russian steppes.

Both of these are over simplifications. The Scythians were nomadic peoples that originated in what is now modern-day Iran, and spread eastward and northward across northern Iraq and Iran, into Eastern Turkey and northward in the area between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea and northward. The peoples most closely associated with that same region now are the Kurds.

The allies of Gog and Magog are also interesting, because several represent peoples and tribes that eventually settled into what is modern day Turkey and Armenia.

Joel Richardson had previously published a book explaining his theory that the Anti-Christ will, in fact, be Middle-Eastern. World Net Daily has an article based Richardson's latest book explaining who are Gog and Magog and their allies. (Link here).

Update: Just want to emphasize the article written by Dr. Goodman and referenced in his comment to this post.

China Tightening Exports of Rare Earths...

... in the face of declining prices. (Full story here).

Securing and Holding Rural Terrain

For you military/history buffs out there, an article that can be downloaded from the Small Wars Journal, discussing tactics developed from the Rhodesian conflict and how it can updated to modern day counter-insurgency operations.

Israel and U.S. Quietly Prepare for an Attack on Iran

The Business Insider reports on Israel and the U.S. quietly preparing for an attack on Iran. Iran also is preparing to repel any such attacks. The article notes:
Among recent U.S. defense contracts that could relate to an Iranian attack, Raytheon was awarded a $338 million contract to provide the Navy with 361 Tomahawk cruise missiles in their most recent configuration.

Of those, 238 of the misses will be designed to launch from submarines and the remainder from Navy ships like the Ticonderoga class Arleigh Burke guided missile cruiser currently operating with the 5th Fleet based in Bahrain east of Iran.

These are the same missiles that started the Libyan Operation Odyssey Dawn bombing campaign last March when 124 were launched from Navy ships and subs against Qaddafi's missile defense radars and anti-aircraft sites around Tripoli.

The U.S. could simply be renewing depleted reserves from that mission, as well as others, or it could be planning ahead for a specific attack. With work on the contract expected to be completed in 2014, this particular batch wouldn't be used in any immediate action, but could replenish reserves spent in any upcoming airstrikes.

Taking out radar and aircraft defenses would be one step in an Iranian attack. Another, equally as vital, would be determining where Tehran's fleet of submarines may be parked in the Persian Gulf.

There are several ways of locating a sub accurately enough to destroy it, and one of them is using the ERAPSCO sonar buoy.

The buoys are a one-time-use asset that gets dropped into the water to work with other buoys pinpointing underwater objects. The Navy just ordered 17,000 of them under a $13 million contract days after the Tomahawk order. The buoys can be used for research as well, but in the face of biting defense cuts, it seems possible the Navy has something mission-focused for them in mind. Their delivery is also expected in early 2014, to potentially replenish supplies used before then.

The Cocaine Highway

Borderland Beat also had another article well worth the read--"The Cocaine Highway." It tracks the production, transportation, and distribution of a single kilogram of cocaine from its initial growth and harvest in the mountains of Columbia by a poor farmer, its collection by FARC, and delivery to one of the Columbian drug cartels which finish the final processing and packaging of the drugs in a jungle lab. From there, the product is moved to a submarine for its trip to Guatemala. There, it passes into the hands of a crime family, the Lorenzanes, who, with the protection of the Guatemalan military, move the drugs to the Mexican border.

At the point, the drugs pass into the hands of one of the Mexican drug cartels, where the shipment is split into smaller packages as the drugs are spread out among various safe houses and prepared for smuggling. The particular kilo being tracked in the article winds up going to the border of Arizona, where it is flown across the border on R/C planes a kilo at a time. Once the shipments are collected, they are moved into a safe-house in Nogales, then broken down again for shipments to various parts of the country. In this case, the kilo being followed was shipped to a "wholesaler" in Chicago.

My summary is, by necessity, brief. Read the whole thing. These cartels will become a larger and larger factor of social destabilization here in the U.S.

Encounter with Drunk Sicarios

Borderland Beat has reprinted an interesting account from 2010 of the author's encounter with drunk gangsters while on a motorcycle trip in Mexico. The pertinent part:
We continued to ride, it was starting to get late and we were not sure how far we were from Urique. As we came around a bend and started to climb a hill, I could see a large white truck coming down the hill. I could see several indian men on the back of the truck. There was a narrow gap between some trees just enough for the truck to fit. Everest managed to cross the gap before the truck made it through. He sped up the hill and I had to wait for the truck to make it through the gap so I could get through.

But the truck stopped in the middle of the gap blocking my path.

I could see two men inside the cab of the truck. Suddenly the driver got out and I could see he was wearing a military jacket with blue pants. He was carrying an assault rifle, AR-15.

I did not like this a bit.

I tried to back up to turn around fast, but he was moving too fast toward me. I then saw that the passenger had also exited his truck and he also was armed with an assault rifle. I became afraid of what they might do and thought for a second of ditching the bike and running as fast as I could, but I knew I didn’t have time to do anything.

I could see that Everest was reaching the top of the hill kicking dust in the distance.

The driver reached me first but he was laughing and that made me relax a bit. One thing you never want to do in these kinds of situations is show fear. He stopped right in front of my bike and asked where I was going. I told him Urique and he asked where I was from. I said the U.S.

I told him we were just doing a motorcycle ride to see the country. I notice he had two beer cans of Tecate in his hands. He reached out and tried to give me one saying “here cabron have a beer.” I said no thanks and I could see in his facial expression that he did not like my response.

He stood there looking at me and I could tell he was intoxicated as he swayed in his stance. His friend pointed at me with his weapon, “did this cabron just say no?”
“Listen guys, I would be happy to join you for a beer, but it is getting late and we are trying to reach Urique before it gets dark. Otherwise, I would be honored to join you for a drink.” I pointed up the hill.

“You see up there?”

Everest had reached the top of the hill and had stopped far up the distance.

“That is my friend up there and he is waiting for me, so I need to go,” I said trying to sound unalarmed, but my heart was beating a hundred miles an hour.

They both looked up and they could see a tiny figure of Everest waiting for me to come up. The driver came around the bike and looked at me real closely. He could not really tell who I was, as I was wearing my helmet and sunglasses.

He seem to relax a bit and was smiling at me, "do you want some perico?'

"No thank you," I responded while playing with the buttons of my GPS. He got even closer to get a better look at my GPS that looked like some form of communication device.

“Are the gringos in the bicycles up ahead your friends?”

He kept playing with his rifle and I could see that he had two more magazines sticking out of his jacket pocket.

“No,” I responded.

He started to laugh real loud.

“Well we scared the shit out of them, not sure where they went,” he said while both he and his friend laughed out loud.

They both turned around still laughing and went inside their truck. They both were having a hard time keeping their balance and I could tell both were very intoxicated. I could hear the gear grinding as he shifted to first and drove past me, even the men in the back of the truck were laughing.

I started to ride up the hill and met Everest mid way, he was coming down to see what was the holdup. I was glad he did not make it down any time sooner. I motioned him to keep going.

We travelled another hour or so and we came to a “T.” We decided to turn left to reach a small town down the hill called Tubares. In the small town of Tubares I saw a small church that was falling down. I parked my bike to take some pictures. As I was taking pictures I could detect movement underneath a pile of wood inside the dark shadows of the church.

I called out to Everest and I saw two blond men come out of the shadow with their eyes wide open. They were bicyclists from California and they told us they were hiding from two drunken armed Mexicans that were making them drink beer. They said that the two armed men had been shooting down toward their feet and they were very scared.

They asked me if I thought it was safe to stay here for the night. I did not think it was a good idea. On my way in I saw several houses with a bunch of pickup trucks and SUV’s parked in the front. I could also see a bunch of men drinking beer outside. This is narco territory and I myself would not feel safe staying here. I told them they should ride out and find a secluded hidden area to sleep for the night.

It was getting dark and we still had many miles to reach Urique. Everest and I decided that we would ride to Urique even if it took us all night. I watched as the bicyclist rode out and we mounted our motorcycles to try to reach Urique in the dark of night. I could hear gunshots in the distance, echoing in the walls of the far away canyons.

China's Economy May Be Worse Than We Think

I've noted in other posts the importance of looking at underlying statistics such as shipping, demand for basic raw materials (such as iron), electricity production, and other "non-standard" government statistics to get a better picture of what is happening in a country. The idea is that such statistics are less subject to manipulation.

It now appears that China has been manipulating one of these underlying statistics--demand for electricity. From ZeroHedge:
In what may come as a shocking surprise to exactly nobody, the next great discovery as more and more layers of the global ponzi onion are exposed, is that China was, in fact, lying about everything. Yes, we know, stunning.
From the NYT:
As the Chinese economy continues to sputter, prominent corporate executives in China and Western economists say there is evidence that local and provincial officials are falsifying economic statistics to disguise the true depth of the troubles.

Record-setting mountains of excess coal have accumulated at the country’s biggest storage areas because power plants are burning less coal in the face of tumbling electricity demand. But local and provincial government officials have forced plant managers not to report to Beijing the full extent of the slowdown, power sector executives said.
Even that lonely indicator that some, even us, had considered somewhat realistic: electric output, is a mirage.
Electricity production and consumption have been considered a telltale sign of a wide variety of economic activity. They are widely viewed by foreign investors and even some Chinese officials as the gold standard for measuring what is really happening in the country’s economy, because the gathering and reporting of data in China is not considered as reliable as it is in many countries.
...
But an economist with ties to the agency said that officials had begun making inquiries after detecting signs that electricity numbers may have been overstated.
...
Another top corporate executive in China with access to electricity grid data from two provinces in east-central China that are centers of heavy industry, Shandong and Jiangsu, said that electricity consumption in both provinces had dropped more than 10 percent in May from a year earlier. Electricity consumption has also fallen in parts of western China. Yet, the economist with ties to the statistical agency said that cities and provinces across the country had reported flat or only slightly rising electricity consumption.
In other words, the chart we showed a month ago showing already collapsing Chinese power production is far, far worse in reality.
 Read the whole thing.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Military Tanks Roll onto St. Louis Streets

Zero Hedge reports that the military has brought armored vehicles from as far away as Maryland to conduct exercises in St. Louis.

Update (6/24/2012):

The author of the Zero Hedge article posited that the purpose of the exercise was to acclimate people to the military operating in the U.S.:
On the other hand, such an action on the part of the Department of Defense makes perfect sense if the goal is to acclimate citizens to the idea of seeing tanks and armed military acting in a policing capacity.  Just check out the two random idiots the local news affiliate picked to interview in St. Louis on the subject.  Both state that they think the exercise is a "great idea", because having the military on the streets would help to "reduce crime"....
Because of the limited impact that such a "show of force" would have on the public psyche--essentially only impacting a small number of citizens of one city--I would suggest that it is the flip side of the coin that provides a more realistic answer: that such exercises are to acclimate the soldiers to operating inside the continental U.S.

Increased Attacks on Oil Production Facilities

World Net Daily has an interview with American oil and security experts concerning increased attacks on energy assets in different areas of the world. Some excerpts:
While developing the Energy Infrastructure Attack Database (EIAD), we have seen a general rise in attacks on energy assets. In the last decade there has been an average of 327 reported attacks on energy infrastructure globally, and this figure is likely higher due to the fact that not all attacks are reported through open sources.

Pooled together, the data reveals that not only are energy companies increasingly operating in risky, volatile environments and conflict zones, but their assets are becoming key targets for political and criminal reasons.

* * *

More specifically, non-state actors from Mexico to Colombia, to Nigeria, Iraq, Pakistan and beyond are leveraging their terrain in dynamic ways. They are using energy infrastructure targeting as a tool to air political grievances in a calculated manner. For example, to garner illicit funds by stealing oil products and kidnapping energy sector employees, but also to generate global media attention that not only provides a springboard for groups to publicly challenge a state but also to inspire similar targeting behaviors in other regions.

* * *

Another interesting insight from EIAD shows that while energy attacks are dispersed they tend to have a contagion or clustering effect in certain countries. In such cases, we find that energy infrastructure is targeted on a monthly, weekly, and at times daily basis – leading to broad disruptions that have national and international effects. This has been the case in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, where natural gas infrastructure has been targeted on a monthly basis since February 2011 and disrupted energy supplies for Israel and Jordan. Yemen, too, has seen persistent attacks on the Marib-Ras Isa oil pipeline, for instance, that has led to a several-month shutdown that cost the country billions in revenue and shorted global supplies.

* * *

While those cases represent politically motivated attacks, in Nigeria the oil theft and sabotage business has resulted in Shell declaring force majeure on Nigerian Bonny Light crude oil and shut down 60,000 barrels per day of oil. Offshore, energy carriers are being targeted throughout the Gulf of Guinea, making this the new maritime piracy hotspot. Overall, this is a highly complex issue that makes it increasingly difficult for energy companies to navigate and operate in such spaces.
The interview also goes on to note the disruptive effect of the "Arab Spring" (more like, "Arab Winter"), particularly in Libya; and emphasized the danger in Nigeria and coastal waters, which is an important source of light sweet crude. They add:
Also, oil theft gangs are multinational. For example, in a recent arrest of 27 people accused of stealing oil, five of them were Nigerians while the remainder were Ghanaians. The key take-away is that this is spreading and will thus become more complex and challenging to untangle the more sophisticated these oil theft gangs become. What’s more is that we cannot forget the regional context – the high unemployment, growing illicit drug trade (transiting drugs from South America via Africa and onto markets in Europe), and weak governance issues. This makes it a high opportunity space for criminal groups to flourish and recruit.

The interview indicates that the American oil companies are looking at attempting to alleviate some of the violence by becoming more involved in making sure that locals benefit from the oil production--e.g., by building roads, schools, and other local infrastructure.

On a related note, I came across this article today that was published in the Daily Mail last year. It predicts increased warfare as nations attempt to obtain "energy security."
The world is about to descend into a 30 year war as the battle for energy heats up, it has been claimed.

World security expert Michael Klare believes the next three decades will see powerful corporations at serious risk of going bust, nations fighting for their futures and significant bloodshed.

He said the winners in the race for energy security will get to decide how we live, work and play in future years - with the losers 'cast aside and dismembered'.

* * *

'Over the coming decades, we will be embroiled at a global level in a succeed-or-perish contest among the major forms of energy, the corporations which supply them, and the countries that run on them,' he told CBS News.

'Why 30 years? Because that's how long it will take for experimental energy systems like hydrogen power, cellulosic ethanol, wave power, algae fuel, and advanced nuclear reactors to make it from the laboratory to full-scale industrial development.' 
* * *

A decrease in oil, and the CO2 limits, will mean that by 2041 fossil fuels will not be supplying anywhere near its previous level of world energy.

There will then be more emphasis on finding alternatives - and the countries or companies who succeed will be well placed to become the energy, and commercial, superpowers of the 22nd century and beyond.
The unspoken assumption in Klare's thesis is that Europe will be one of the major powers fighting for oil. It just isn't going to happen. Libya effectively acted as a "dry run" for these wars on the part of Europe, and it has been a total disaster. Not only was Europe unable to prosecute the war on its own (it was forced to rely on the U.S.), but it has not produced the stability to ensure either oil production or a friendly government. Rather, if a government were to be formed, it will likely be vehemently anti-Western (e.g., the Muslim Brotherhood). In short, Europe lacks the capability and will to fight for oil.

I also don't see "global warming" and "peak oil" being an issue over the long term. The public is increasingly seeing through the global warming charade, and, as I've discussed elsewhere, peak oil is somewhat of a myth.

Having said that, I do think that there will be energy wars, but they are going to be different than imagined. First, I think the U.S. will disengage from its role as a "world policeman" in the coming decades, with the result that China will be forced to pick up the slack, at least to the extent that China will no longer benefit from the Pax Americana (and may even take the opportunity to be more aggressive). I would not be surprised to see China have to intervene to protect its interests in developing nations, and perhaps even experience its own version of America's Vietnam and the U.S.S.R.'s Afghanistan conflicts.

Second, we are going to see increased conflicts between second- and third-rate powers (and even warlords) over control of lucrative oil producing territories. I include in this, not only Argentina versus Britain, but also Egypt or Turkey against Israel, and similar conflicts in Africa and South America, and perhaps in the Arctic. Old territorial disputes will take on greater importance once viable oil producing areas enter into the equation.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Syrian Conflict May Be Spreading

The Telegraph reports that Turkey is contemplating "decisive" action after Syria shot down one of Turkey's fighter aircraft.
Mr Erdogan promised that Turkey's response would be both "decisive" and carried out with "determination". Although he did not divulge what steps he was contemplating, a senior member of his ruling party had earlier declared that if the aircraft was shown to have been shot down by Syria it would amount to a "declaration of war".

Syria confirmed that it had brought down the aircraft, saying in a statement: "Our air defences confronted a target that penetrated our air space over our territorial waters pre-afternoon on Friday and shot it down. It turned out to be a Turkish military plane."

* * *

The incident represented the fulfilment of one of the international community's greatest fears after months of predictions that the Syrian conflict could easily burst its borders.

Western powers, and particularly the United States, are likely to come under pressure to support Turkey should it choose to retaliate with military force. Mr Erdogan's government has long warned that it would not tolerate any Syrian challenge to its security.

Scientist Show that H5N1 Virus Could Become Airborne

One of the concerns of the bird-flu (H5N1) virus is that it could mutate so that it can be spread through an airborne vector. Researchers have developed a laboratory version that apparently has the necessary mutation:
After months of anticipation, the second of two controversial experiments to increase the virulence of H5N1 avian influenza has been published.

Many scientific questions are raised by the findings, and the same safety concerns remain that provoked massive public outcry and a temporary halt to the research. But if there were any doubts about H5N1′s ability to become airborne, they’re gone.

In the experiment, researchers made H5N1 strains that passed through the air between ferrets, which are often used as a model for human flu infection. Catching the highly lethal virus typically requires close contact with an infected bird or person.

The resulting virus didn’t kill the animals, and it’s uncertain if a ferret-infecting strain could also infect people. But the fact that just five genetic mutations were needed to produce the airborne strain is troubling.
The research doesn't establish that the bird-flu virus will become airborne, only that it could.

China's Manufacturing Sector Has Been Contracting for 7 Months

Reports continue to indicate that China’s manufacturing sector is continuing to slow down. HSBC, which publishes a monthly purchasing managers’ index, said China’s PMI was on track to fall to 48.1 in June, down from 48.4 in May. The magic number for the PMI is 50; any number below suggests a contraction. If HSBC’s initial report is correct it would represent a seven-month low for China’s PMI.
Because China is an export economy, this is really just another sign of continued global recession.

Financially Strapped Nevada Town Declares Itself a Disaster

Signs of the times. Fox News reports:
There are no signs of rioters, wind-damaged homes or flooding. The brand new City Hall features gleaming marble floors and the public recreation centers offer Zumba, karate and Pilates classes.

Despite all of its suburban trimmings, North Las Vegas is officially a disaster area.

After five years of declining property taxes, massive layoffs and questionable spending, leaders of the blue-collar, family-oriented city outside Las Vegas declared a state of emergency, invoking a rarely used state law crafted for unforeseen disasters.

No matter that the statute, which allows municipalities to suspend union contracts and avoid paying scheduled salary increases, doesn't actually include fiscal emergencies among the list of potential disasters.

* * *

North Las Vegas is among Nevada's hardest-hit cities, at a time when the state is dealing with the nation's highest unemployment rate and an unrelenting tide of foreclosures and bankruptcies. Every few months, the state threatens to take over the city.

* * *

As its population more than doubled to 223,394 in 2010 from 115,488 in 2000, the city doubled its staff, built a new park each year and, in 2009, started construction on a sparkling $130 million City Hall.

For nearly two years, the city, where residents have long paid the highest tax rate in southern Nevada, has teetered on the edge of insolvency.

One in every 195 homes is in foreclosure, the state's highest rate. Once the nation's fastest growing city, it lost more than 3,000 businesses in three years after the recession hit in 2007. Its total revenue has plunged from $817 million in 2009 to $298 million this year.

Hundreds of municipal workers have received pink slips and still the city struggled to close a $30 million budget gap. As a final body blow, Fitch Ratings downgraded the city's bond rating last month to a "BBB" with a negative watch.

By 2013, the city will have shed more than 800 employees since the recession began.

Free Kindle Book--Simple Emergency Food Storage

I was checking through the free best sellers for Kindle, and noticed one called Simple Emergency Food Storage. Act quickly while it is still free.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

When the Next Big Eruption in Iceland Hits

Some discussion on volcanic eruptions at Futurepundit:

In my view the human race has been lucky in terms of the severity of geological phenomena since the late 19th century. During the 19th century many more severe natural events occurred than was the case in the 20th. We might be overdo. Since Iceland volcanic eruptions on a similar scale to Laki in 1783-1784 have happened about 4 times in the last thousand years it should not surprise us if a similar eruption occurs in the 21st century.
When Laki sprang to life on June 8, 1783, it generated a sulfuric acid haze that dispersed over Iceland, France, England, the Netherlands, Sweden, Italy, and other countries. It killed a fifth of Iceland’s population and three-quarters of the island’s livestock. It also destroyed crops, withered vegetation, and sowed human disease and death in several Northern European nations. During the eight months that Laki erupted, the volcano blasted 122 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere – seven times more than did the 1991 Mt. Pinatubo eruption in the Philippines and approximately 50 to 100 times more per day than Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano released in 2010.
Well that does not sound like fun.
Today such an eruption would surely cause a couple of years of global cooling (just as the Mt Pinatubo eruption of 1991 cooled the lower atmosphere). The researchers in the latest report focus on aviation impacts. The air in some air lanes would become unhealthy for humans.
In the new simulations – focusing again on the first month of the eruption -- average daily concentrations of the droplets, in up to 10 percent of the air space, would exceed 10 times London’s average daily concentration of the corrosive pollutant, the researchers found.
Earth has so many volcanoes waiting to erupt. The next doozy might be a repeat of big eruptions in Nicaragua.
SELFOSS, ICELAND—Giant volcanic eruptions in Nicaragua over the past 70,000 years could have injected enough gases into the atmosphere to temporarily thin the ozone layer, according to new research. And, if it happened today, a similar explosive eruption could do the same, releasing more than twice the amount of ozone-depleting halogen gases currently in stratosphere due to man-made emissions.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership

Surprise, surprise: a treaty that has been negotiated in secret so that even the members of the oversight committees in Congress have not had full access to the treaty.
Wyden is the chairman of the trade committee in the Senate … the committee which is supposed to have jurisdiction over the TPP. Wyden is also on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and so he and his staff have high security clearances and are normally able to look at classified documents.

And yet Wyden and his staff have been denied access to the TPP’s text.

This is similar to other recent incidences showing that we’ve gone from a nation of laws to a nation of powerful men making laws in secret.

For example, in the summer 2007, Congressman Peter DeFazio – who is on the Homeland Security Committee (and so has proper security access to be briefed on so-called “Continuity of Government” issues) – inquired about continuity of government plans, and was refused access. Indeed, DeFazio told Congress that the entire Homeland Security Committee of the U.S. Congress has been denied access to the plans by the White House (video; or here is the transcript). The Homeland Security Committee has full clearance to view all information about COG plans. DeFazio concluded: “Maybe the people who think there’s a conspiracy out there are right”.

As University of California Berkeley Professor Emeritus Peter Dale Scott warned:
If members of the Homeland Security Committee cannot enforce their right to read secret plans of the Executive Branch, then the systems of checks and balances established by the U.S. Constitution would seem to be failing.

To put it another way, if the White House is successful in frustrating DeFazio, then Continuity of Government planning has arguably already superseded the Constitution as a higher authority.

Post Apocalypse Dubai



An artist's impression of what post-Apocalypse Dubai would look like, complete with exotic animals, but sans people. Check out the other photos.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Outer Limit on TEOTWAWKI

I'm reading the book, How Civilizations Die (And Why Islam Is Dying Too) by David Goldman. His premise is that civilizations and nations die when they cease to have children, and that a civilization ceases to have children when they become nihilistic and hedonistic. Essentially, lovers of life more than God.

I have posted about the impact of the birth dearth before, and Goldman's books reflects many thoughts I've had on the subject (although he certainly has put more research and thought into the topic than I have). One of the crucial points, he makes, however, is that many nations (most of those in Europe, the Muslim Middle-East, and Japan) will reach a tipping point in 30 to 50 years where the number of elderly will outnumber the working population, and the number of women able to bear children will decline to a point where the population will simply crash. He notes that countries as diverse as Japan, Germany, and Iran will simply cease to exist within 200 years as their populations will drop below 10% of their current population.

A secondary premise in his book is that not all nations or civilizations go quietly into that good night, but decide to get theirs while they still can. His prediction is that this is what will occur to the Muslim Middle-East, and in particular, Iran. However, these nations will have to act before they are so weakened that they no longer can act aggressively.

Accepting this premise, and ignoring the possibility of black swan events such as a major volcanic eruption, a new plague of some sort, and so on, it appears then that 30 to 50 years would be the outer time frame for the wide spread war and destruction that is predicted in the Bible. It is interesting that of one of the few nations bucking the trend is Israel, which is still well above the replacement level of children. Bluntly, Israeli Jews are out reproducing their Muslim neighbors (including the Palestinians). Thus, as Israel's enemies stare into the brink of declining populations with no hope of escaping the concomitant economic trap, they may decide to attack Israel while they still have the power to do so.

There are some bright points. First, Goldman sees the United States as one of the few Western nations to escape the population trap, mostly due to America's greater religious faith (particularly, Christianity). Second, those groups within the United States and Israel having the largest families are conservative Christians and Jews. The sexual revolution spelled the doom of the liberal left.

China and India present different issues. First, China suffers from many of the problems of a Communist Dictatorship, yet has a vibrant and growing population of Christians. Goldman states that 10% of Chinese self-identify as Christians. Second, Goldman views India as a natural ally of the United States due to its real commitment to democratic principles and rule of law. Although he does not discuss it in much detail, he appears to believe that India will also be one of the nations that will escape the birth dearth. Thus, the coming century may well be less of an Chinese century, and more of an Indian century. It would certainly be a great victory for one of the oldest (if not the oldest) civilization extant.

One of the points this book has raised, and I've seen articles elsewhere, is that this time represents a golden age for the expansion of the Church, at least those that are protestant and evangelical. As he notes, not withstanding crackdowns by Chinese authorities, some 10% or more of the population self-identify as Christians. Evangelical Christianity is spreading rapidly in Africa and South America. Even, under the radar, Christianity is spreading into Islamic nations.

As I've noted before, the future belongs to those that have children. And that, in essence, is the message of Goldman's book.

"Neo-Survivalist" and ""Radical Survivalism" (Updated)

I came across a couple new websites that I wanted to mention. The first is called Neo-Survivalist. It looks like the posting is somewhat sporadic--most are from 2010, and then there is a gap until the first of this year, and then another gap. However, there are some how-to guides and miscellaneous articles.

The second is a webzine called Radical Survivalism. Somewhat similar to what I am attempting to do with my blog, it appears to be a collection of articles or references to articles from around the web on news and ideas related to prepping and survivalism.

I just came across these, so these are just my initial impressions. So check them out yourself.

Updated: Neo-Survivalist moved (or someone started a new blog under the same name at) Blogger.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Greece Kicks the Can a Little Further Down the Road

Greece appeared to have avoided crashing out of the euro currency zone early Monday after political parties in favor of an international bailout deal won a slim election majority – but the region’s debt crisis showed no sign of abating.

Antonis Samaras, leader of the conservative New Democracy party, said he was confident of forming a coalition as he announced talks with leaders of all parties "that believe in Greece's European orientation and the euro."

Foreign leaders reacted positively to the result, viewed as crucial in holding the joint currency together, and there was a brief rally on Europe’s money markets.

* * * 
However, fresh worries over debt problems in Spain and Italy wiped out the market gains. Spanish 10-year government bond yields rose to 7.14 percent, pushing the nation's implied borrowing costs to their highest during the euro's lifetime. Italian 10-year bond yields also rose to 6.08 percent. Seven percent is widely seen as an unsustainably high cost of borrowing.
Victor Davis Hansen also seems less than impressed by the Greek elections. He writes:
There are three reasons why the Greek election doesn’t help. First, Greece’s economic problems were overwhelming and insoluble before the election, and they are overwhelming and insoluble now. The bailouts have been large enough to antagonize opinion across Europe, where Greeks are seen as shiftless, incompetent liars — but they are neither big enough nor well enough designed to give Greece a reasonable chance of emerging from its vale of tears in a sustainable time frame. Nothing in yesterday’s vote changes that. Greece is still headed over the cliff.

Second, the elections will not give Greece a strong government. It is not even clear that they will give Greece a government at all, but if Pasok and New Democracy agree on terms (and at the moment they don’t) a new coalition will lack the mandate to impose the painful measures and reforms that Brussels demands.
* * *
The third and final reason why the relief rally ended so quickly: Greece was the curtain raiser for the European meltdown, but it is ultimately a sideshow. Europe has moved on now; we are worried about Spain and Italy now. The Greek election doesn’t solve any of Europe’s real problems. Greece can and probably will make Europe’s problems worse, but nothing that happens in Greece can save the euro.

As interest rates on Italian debt passed 6 percent (the crisis threshold) and for Spain they passed 7 percent (apocalyptic), Europe edged a little closer to the precipice this morning. The Greek election went as well as could be expected, and better than feared, but Europe’s problems just keep getting worse all the same.
This mirrors what the Wall Street Insider has said--the real issue is Italy.

To add icing to the cake, there is another European/Mediterranean crises just over the horizon, though. That is the impending flood of refugees from Libya, Egypt, Syria, and so on, start to try to cross into the Europe as food and money run out in those countries that have experienced the Arab spring. By dint of their geographic position, Greece, Italy, and Spain will bear the brunt of any massive movement of refugees to Europe.

Or maybe a strong leader will arise in the Middle-East to put these people on the war path.

"What Peak Oil?"

A guest post at Zero Hedge discusses the myth of peak oil. He writes:
The oil in the ground will run out some day. But as the discovery of proven reserves continues to significantly outpace the rate of extraction, the claims that we’re facing immediate shortages looks trashy.

Some may try to cast doubt on these figures, saying that BP are counting inaccessible reserves, and that we must accept that while there are huge quantities of shale oil in the ground, the era of cheap and readily accessible oil is over. They might cite the idea that oil prices are much higher than they were ten years ago. Yet this is mostly a monetary phenomenon resulting from excessive money creation beyond the economy’s productive capacity. Priced in gold, oil is still very cheap — almost as cheap as it has ever been[.]

Saturday, June 16, 2012

"Are Revolvers Still Relevant?" (Updated)

A good article on whether revolvers are still relevant at Gun Nuts Media. I've discussed the advantages and disadvantages to both previously.

Updated (7/17/2014): Gun Nuts Media apparently has taken down the article I cited to above. However, they later posted a different article arguing that revolvers are obsolete. Their basic argument is (1) revolvers are harder to shoot well; (2) revolvers are not mechanically simpler; and (3) they are not more reliable than modern semi-auto pistols.

I will concede point 1 when it comes to snub-nose revolvers. I don't believe it is necessarily true as to full size handguns, however.

It is also true that revolvers are mechanically more complex than most modern semi-auto pistols. However, that misses the point which is that the revolver is generally simpler to use. That is, point and shoot. Open the cylinder to reload. It is forgiving of limp-wristing, bent arms, and doesn't require special drills to deal with ejection or feeding problems.

The reliability issue is very dependent on the facts. With a modern semi-auto, using good factory ammunition, and assuming no problems with stance, the semi-auto pistol is very reliable. However, I have shot several that hiccup on certain brands of ammunition. Most older semi-auto pistols (including the 1911) will not reliably feed hollow-point bullets.

Where the revolver falls down is reloading and magazine capacity. The revolver is slow to reload, even using speed loaders. It holds half or less of the number of rounds of a typical semi-auto pistol. (Although the disparity is less as you get into small handguns).

Advanced Survival Guide has an article discussing why they decided to ditch the semi-auto pistol in favor of the revolver which is also worth a read.

Free Kindle Book--Vertical Gardening

Amazon has Vertical Gardening by Don Evans for free today.

Electricity Issues Add to Greek Woes

I missed this from earlier this week:
Greece faces the threat of rolling power blackouts as the economic crisis leaves utilities without cash to pay for natural-gas imports and operate power stations.

Regulators will meet with Greece’s power market operator as early as today to discuss an emergency loan of 300 million euros ($375 million) to cover payments for gas imports from Russia’s OAO Gazprom (GAZP), Turkey’s Botas AS and Italy’s Eni SpA. (ENI) The country’s largest power producer is almost out of money and likely to default after unpaid accounts jumped more than 50 percent in a year, according to Standard & Poor’s.

As Greece prepares for a second national election in six weeks, a vote that may determine whether it remains in the euro, the collapse of the energy sector has emerged as a risk for a country that imports most of its oil and gas. At the start of the main vacation season, power cuts that leave tourists trapped in dark hotels without air conditioning would be a further blow to an economy in its fifth year of recession.

“Blackout is definitely a risk,” Olivier Jakob, managing director of Zug, Switzerland-based energy consultant Petromatrix GmbH, said in a telephone interview. “Greece is going to face higher costs because suppliers will want to have better creditor protection. And if the country cannot pay the bill, well, it’s a real problem.”

Public Power Corp SA (PPC), the biggest electricity producer, is on the verge of default, Standard & Poor’s analysts Nicolas Rivier and Vittoria Ferraris said in a June 7 report. PPC, as the Athens-based company is known, has seen cash flow drop as unemployment and falling wages leave many Greeks unable to pay power bills. A lack of cash to pay operating expenses may force the closure of some power stations.
 (Full story here).

In his book, The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse, FerFal describes in post-financial collapse Argentina, rolling blackouts and brownouts were common, as was the sporadic loss of other utilities, such as water. Thus, the need for temporary cooking/heating/light sources and storing at least a few days worth of water at all times.

Man Builds Motorcycle from Car, While Stranded in Desert

Although this is from a recent post at the Auto Blog, it apparently refers to an incident in 2003. From the post:
... a Frenchman named Emile who reportedly found himself stranded in the deserts of Northwest Africa after breaking a frame rail and a suspension swingarm underneath his Citroën 2CV.

What to do? Why, disassemble the broken hulk and build yourself a motorcycle from its pile of parts, of course! As the story goes, Emile was able to use the inventive machine to escape the desert, though not before convincing the local authorities that he wasn't an insurgent and paying a fine for importing a non-conforming vehicle...


Since Emile was the only soul in the area, nobody has been able to confirm the veracity of the events that led to the little French runabout's conversion into a makeshift motorcycle. That said, judging by the images you can see
here (apparently from the March 2003 issue of 2CV Magazine), this Citroën-bred two-wheeler does indeed exist, and it was definitely fashioned from parts scavenged from an old 2CV.

It looks like something from Mad Max.

The Flash Bang Holster


 Women have different options (or perhaps, more correctly, additional options) for concealed carry than men (e.g., inside the thigh carry).

Anyway, here is a link to a Fox News video on a new concealed carry rig for women--a holster that hooks onto a woman's bra, so that the gun is essentially hidden under the breasts. All she has to do is reach up under her shirt and draw the weapon. The holster is, appropriately, called the "Flash Bang."

Here is the link to the manufacturer's web site. And a review by the Survival Mom.

Online Military Medical Textbooks

I came across a website for the Borden Institute that has on-line and/or PDF copies of military medical textbooks. If you go to the "other publications" section, you can download electronic copies of Emergency War Surgery. They have a zipped copy for easy download.

More Warnings from the White House Insider

The Ulsterman Report had a new interview with the White House Insider up on May 30. While he has been vague at times, he has also been fairly prescient about developments. In this latest, he hints at vague connections between Obama's obsession with drones, and a reelection strategy designed to stir up conflict and chaos:
…Obama loves them drones. He has made them a personal priority above all else.

The question that is also the answer to so much of this then – is WHY? From there…I got the goods…I told you what their re-election plan was. How they are gonna use race, division, chaos…that’s the re-election plan. Folks are talking now…from inside the administration. And they are afraid. Sh-t ain’t right. Where they wanna take us – and it’s got people upset. Military had wind of it first…the Old Man knew…now it’s spreading. Not about the election campaign -the second term plan. There’s denials being sent back…but nobody trusts them now. And the ones who do…they are in on it themselves. Others…like me…you might see us smilin’ and noddin’…but know that’s just the public face we are putting on. We gotta do that to maintain access. Don’t let that throw you – you’re gonna see more and more of that in the coming months. That just needs to be done. We lose our access…makes it a hell of a lot tougher to plan, right? So you may see me saying one thing…I’m doing it different. You gotta trust me on that. There will come a time in all of this…it’s gonna get tough, it’s gonna get weird…you’re gonna feel used up. Betrayed. When we reach that point, and we will – I’m tellin’ you now – we will reach that point…trust is what will keep it all together. If we don’t have that…they win. And if they win – we all are gonna lose and lose hard.

The country’s really in the sh-t now…and the papers runnin’ low…
And, on that note, I would note the increased reliance placed on, and direct control over, special operations forces by the current Administration. (See here and here and here). As this story from CBS News notes:

Yet when it comes to military policy, the Obama administration's success in shutting down wars conducted in plain sight tells only half the story, and the lesser half at that. More significant has been this president's enthusiasm for instigating or expanding secret wars, those conducted out of sight and by commandos.

And this disturbing observation:
This cultural transformation has important political implications. It represents the ultimate manifestation of the abyss now separating the military and society. Nominally bemoaned by some, including former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and former Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, this civilian-military gap has only grown over the course of decades and is now widely accepted as the norm. As one consequence, the American people have forfeited owner's rights over their army, having less control over the employment of U.S. forces than New Yorkers have over the management of the Knicks or Yankees.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Greek Vote, the Euro, and the Fall of Italy

I see a lot of doom and gloom stories coming from the European press over what would happen if Greece votes to reject the EU's conditions. There is, for example, this one today from the Daily Mail:
On Monday morning, this modern European nation could be waking up to a nightmare scenario, which runs as follows. The cash machines start drying up. Supermarket shelves are cleared by families fearful that food supplies will run out.


There are queues round the block for the last dribbles from the petrol pumps, and deliveries come to a halt. Within a day or two, protests have turned to looting and random acts of violence against strangers. Overwhelmed, the police retreat to their bases. The most vulnerable citizens lock the doors and pray.


And gradually, the country that gave the world ‘democracy’ descends into another word it also created — ‘anarchy’.
Is it really true that giving up its national sovereignty is the only solution for Greece, or is the media trying to scare the Greeks into voting in favor of turning control over to Brussels? Marc Faber has suggested that Greece should exit the Euro. Another economist, Martin Feldstein, suggests that it would also be better for Greece to leave the Euro and issue its own currency. (See also here).

This op-ed goes further, and actually suggest that it would be in the best interest of all if Germany were to withdraw from the Euro.
What, then, might a German exit do? With integration and multiple restructurings so unlikely and withdrawal of the weak members so fraught, it might actually be the best of all available options.


A single, powerful nation would have the best shot at executing a relatively swift exit that would be over before anyone could panic. No agonizing over who exits and who doesn’t. Stripped of its German export powerhouse, the euro would depreciate sharply, but would not become a virtually worthless currency, as, for example, any re-issued Greek drachma surely would. With the euro devalued, a Greek exit and devaluation would be relatively pointless. So, no contagion or bank runs. With new exchange rates making all the non-euro financial havens prohibitively expensive, and with the threat of forced conversion into devalued national currencies removed, depositors in southern Europe would lose their impetus to run.


Germany’s exit would provide immediate benefits to all the remaining euro-area nations. The currency depreciation would radically improve their trade competitiveness -- exactly what many observers have said the weaker nations in the south need most. The euro area’s balance of payments would improve, providing sorely needed funds to service its external debt. The benefits would accrue to the euro area as a whole, as opposed to serial exits at the weak end of the spectrum, which would crush one weak nation after another, with each exit increasing pressure on the next candidate.


Other relatively strong euro-area nations, such as the Netherlands, would probably pause before following Germany’s lead. If they left, they would lose the trade advantages offered by the newly depreciated currency, and would have to bear all the costs and complications of reintroducing their own money.


The cheaper euro, of course, would be bad for foreign investors holding euro-denominated assets. On the bright side, the losses would be simultaneous in timing, spread evenly across creditors, and more moderate in the southern European countries than they would be in a euro-exit scenario.
Meanwhile, Greeks have engaged in a silent bank run, as described in this story from CNBC from a couple days ago:
Greeks pulled their cash out of the banks and stocked up with food ahead of a cliffhanger election on Sunday that many fear will result in the country being forced out of the euro. Bankers said up to 800 million euros ($1 billion) were leaving major banks daily and retailers said some of the money was being used to buy pasta and canned goods, as fears of returning to the drachma were fanned by rumors that a radical leftist leader may win the election.


The last published opinion polls showed the conservative New Democracy party, which backs the 130 billion euro ($160 billion) bailout that is keeping Greece afloat, running neck and neck with the leftist Syriza party, which wants to cancel the rescue deal.


* * *


Fears that Greece will collapse financially and leave the euro have slowly drained Greek banks over the last two years. Central bank figures show that deposits shrank by about 17 percent, or 35.4 billion euros ($44.4 billion) in 2011 and stood 165.9 billion euros ($208.1 billion) at end-April.


Bankers said the pace was picking up ahead of the vote, with combined daily deposit outflows from the major banks at 500-800 million euros ($625 million to $1 billion) over the past few days, and 10-30 million euros ($12-36 million) at smaller banks.


"This includes cash withdrawals, wire transfers and investments into money market funds, German Bonds, U.S. Treasuries and EIB bonds," said one banker, who spoke on condition of anonymity.


Retailers said consumers were stocking up on non-perishable food while almost all other goods were seeing a huge drop in sales as cash-strapped Greeks have no money to spare in the country's fifth year of recession.


"People are terrified by the prospect of returning to the drachma and some believe it's good to fill their cupboard with food products," said Vassilis Korkidis, head of the ESEE retail federation.


"It's over the top, we must not panic. Filling the cupboard with food doesn't mean we will escape the crisis," he said.
At the Wall Street Journal, Gerald O'Driscoll explains some of the underlying issues with the Euro and why it is ultimately doomed to failure:
The euro is the world's first currency invented out of whole cloth. It is a currency without a country. The European Union is not a federal state, like the United States, but an agglomeration of sovereign states. European countries are plagued by rigidities, including those in labor markets—where language differences and the protection of trades and professions in many countries impede labor mobility. That makes it difficult for their economies to adjust to cyclical and structural economic shifts.

For such reasons, when the euro was created in 1999, Milton Friedman famously predicted its demise within a decade. He was wrong about the timing, but he may yet be proven right about the fact.

Greece is the epicenter of a currency and fiscal crisis in the euro zone. Markets fear a "Grexit," or Greek exit from the euro. That exit is almost a foregone conclusion. The endgame for the euro will be played out in Spain.

But first to Greece, which is devolving from a money-using economy. Firms, households and even the government are short on cash. The government isn't paying its suppliers and workers in a timely fashion, so households cannot pay their bills to businesses with whom they transact. Businesses, in turn, cannot pay their suppliers. There is a cascade of cash constraints.

Normally, credit supplements cash in economic transactions. But there is scant credit in Greece. Anyone who can is moving their money out of the country, either to banks in other euro-zone countries, such as Germany, or out of the euro to banks in Switzerland, the United Kingdom and U.S. (the franc, pound and dollar, respectively).

Absent a truly dramatic event, Greece will exit the euro not by choice but by necessity. It will do so not because the drachma (its old currency) is superior to the euro, but because the drachma is superior to barter. Greek standards of living, which have already fallen substantially, will fall further in the short- to medium-term. It will then be up to the Greek people to forge a new future.

While a Greek exit from the euro zone will have substantial repercussions, it won't unleash the doomsday scenario painted by some. A Spanish exit would be an entirely different matter. Unlike Greece, Spain is a major economy. According to the International Monetary Fund, at official exchange rates in 2011 the Spanish economy was more than five times the size of Greece's. And unlike Greece, Spain has numerous banks, some large and global.

The Greek tragedy began with a fiscal crisis—brought on by the government spending more money than it took in—that became a banking crisis. In Spain, there is a fiscal crisis that exacerbates a banking crisis.

Fiscal and banking crises are often linked because in modern economics the state and banking are joined together. Banks purchase government debt, supporting the state, and governments guarantee the liabilities of banks. When one party is weakened, so is the other.

Spanish banks are impaired not only because the Spanish government is running large fiscal deficits, but also because of bad loans to the private sector. Many Spanish banks lent heavily to property developers and to individuals who wanted to purchase homes built by the developers. Spain's construction sector is substantially larger relative to the rest of its economy than is the construction sector in other euro-zone countries or the U.S. And bank debt to finance that sector grew much faster than elsewhere.
Finally, at the Ulsterman Report, in a recent interview with the unnamed "Wall Street Insider," he warns:
Related to this situation is not the situation in Spain, but the dire condition of Italy. If Spain buckles, the European Union will survive. If Italy soon follows, that may prove the Euro’s death blow. The man calling himself Obama, when most recently told of this potential outcome, was entirely indifferent. This indifference is likely the direct result of his ignorance. So let me re-affirm again, it is the situation in Italy that you must watch. Not so much Spain but Italy. The Italians are in very serious trouble and the implications of that economy collapsing are immense and the shock waves will reach America soon after. Measures are being taken to avert this crisis, but it is a crisis that stems from decades of fiscal neglect, and the outcome is at this time, entirely unknown to me. If Lagarde pushes but a bit harder, Italy will collapse.