Saturday, August 31, 2013

Blogging "65 Signs of the Times Leading Up to the Second Coming" - Part 1

I recently purchased the book 65 Signs of the Times Leading Up to the Second Coming by David Ridges (Amazon link here). Rather than reading the entire book and then posting a short review, I decided to try blogging about the book as I go through it.

Before getting into listing the 65 signs of the times leading up to the Second Coming (and Ridges makes clear that there are many more signs--he apparently has picked only those he considers especially significant or interesting), Ridges discusses several important points to keep in mind when studying the signs of the times. His first chapter is called "The Last Days, an Exciting Time to Live." His main point in the chapter is that we should not allow our study of the End Times depress us.

We live in truly miraculous times! Having been a science-fiction fan much of life, and having read a substantial amount of classic science-fiction, I can attest that we live in a science-fiction world. Medical and technological miracles surround us everyday. Notwithstanding the rhetoric from various vested interests, we live in a time with less everyday violence and crime, better health, more prosperity, and more racial/ethnic harmony than at any other time in history.  The fact is that the Church (whether speaking broadly of the number of Christians, or more narrowly of the LDS faith) is spreading far and wide among all nations. Temples and meetings houses continue to be built. It is a blessing to have been born and live in such an amazing time. Yes, there is much to be done, and there is a great deal of misery in the world. Yes, there are "wars and rumours of war" spoken of by Christ. But, as Christ tells us, these should not trouble us.

Ridges writes that "[s]igns of the times are prophecies that the Lord has given His prophets, recorded throughout ancient and modern scripture, which are designed to alert the faithful in the last days that the coming of the Lord is near. They are designed, among other things, to strengthen testimonies and provide encouragement and confidence in the hearts of believers in a day when many no longer even believe in God."

He also discusses the doom and despair that will fall upon the world in the last days, quoting Luke 21:25-26:
25 ¶ And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; 

 26 Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
Ridges notes that "[t]he word 'hearts,' in verse 26, above, as used in the scriptures, usually means 'courage, hope, confidence,' and so on. The word 'failing' means to 'run out of.' Thus, the phrase ... can mean that there will be much depression and despair in the final days before the Second Coming." However, if you look at verse 28, the Lord tells us:
 And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.
Remember, also, 2 Nephi 2:25:
 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.
God did not create or intend us to be miserable and depressed. That is the work of Satan and those that follow Satan.

Ridges finishes off his chapter by relating the words of Pres. Hinckley and Pres. Monson concerning living a joyful life and not giving in to fear. He concludes:
Although Satan and his cunning allies use such advances [the technological advances we enjoy] to further their evil schemes, if we follow the advice and counsel of our modern prophets, we will emphasize the positives and do our best to limit the negatives, thus appreciating and enjoying the vast blessings of living in the last days.

Some Free Kindle Books

I try and look through Amazon's free Kindle books at least once per week, and this week saw several that might by of interest:

(1)  Home Canning Food For Beginners by Casey Watkins;

(2)  Herbal Remedies A-Z by Barbara Griggs; and,

(3)  Traditional Archery-2nd Edition by Sam Fadala.

Also, a classic sci-fi book:

(4)  Sargasso of Space by Andre Norton.

As always, I don't know how long these will remain free....

"Where Did The Ammo Go?"

I was perusing my latest Guns & Ammo magazine the other day and flipped to the "Industry Insider" column, which was discussing the current ammo drought. To summarize the column, you can discount the conspiracy theories. Ammunition manufacturers are operating at full capacity. The current shortage appears to be a mixture of panic buying (thank you, Mr. President--all sarcasm intended), a surge in new gun buyers, increased gun sales (the article notes that gun purchases in 2013 are 27.2% higher than the same period last year), and more people shooting (the article notes that 81% of gun ranges have reported an increase in traffic). However, manufacturers are adding capacity and, hopefully, the panic buying will subside a bit. I have started seeing products come in and actually remain on shelves for a while. .22 LR seems to be the hardest to find right now, at least in my area.

In the long run, the factors leading up to the current shortage should be viewed positively. Because of past shortages and a President that lurches from one crises to another, people are beginning to understand that a person who stockpiles some ammo is not a "freak," but merely being prudent. Because more firearms have been purchased, and more people are becoming gun owners, and more people are shooting, we have a permanent increase in demand that will encourage manufacturers to expand their facilities. This should help dampen the impact of future"panic buying."

New Link for Ammunition Purchases

In the current ammo shortage, it is nice to get a heads up concerning a new source for buying ammo--particularly in bulk. In this case, I'm talking about "Ammo For Sale.com". (I've also listed them in the "Useful Links" at the side of the page). I just found out about them, and haven't had the opportunity to order anything yet, so I would appreciate any comments from those of you that have.


Friday, August 30, 2013

Discussion on the Second Amendment

Charles C.W. Cooke writes at the National Review in response to recent criticism from liberals of comments made by Justice Scalia concerning the Second Amendment and whether it would protect the right to own a rocket launcher. Cooke states:
Winkler’s insinuation that the American compact includes no way out for the oppressed would have shocked its authors and contemporaries. In a much-distributed article published in the Philadelphia Federal Gazette and Philadelphia Evening Post in 1791, the Second Amendment was explained to intrigued citizens as protecting the people from “civil rulers” who “may attempt to tyrannize” and from “military forces” that “might pervert their power to the injury of their fellow citizens.” The author was channeling no less a personage than the drafter of the Second Amendment, James Madison. In Federalist 46, Madison laid out the insurrectionist theory himself, observing bluntly that the states should not fear the tyranny of a federal standing army because the superior state militias and well-armed public could defeat that army by force if, heaven forbid, it became necessary for them to do so.
After looking at another historical example, Cooke moves into the area of what types of weapons might be permissible under the Constitution. He takes the position that a nuclear weapon or cruise missile is too indiscriminate to be protected under the Second Amendment, but a pistol is clearly protected. He goes on:
Nevertheless, a significant gray area remains. Are the current federal restrictions on the sale of machine guns permissible? Can a state limit access to so-called “assault weapons” without violating the incorporated right? Can, per Scalia’s own example, the government prohibit private ownership of rocket launchers? These are serious constitutional questions — questions that, as an inevitable consequence of wading into the debate around an amendment that was left largely untouched for two centuries, the court will ultimately be required to address. This, remember, is a constitutional issue. It is not a political one. Contra the zeitgeist, “constitutional” and “unconstitutional” are not synonyms for “things I like” and “things I don’t like,” but statements of legal fact. If the Constitution does prevent Congress from prohibiting rocket launchers, and if this is deemed by a supermajority to be ridiculous, then the Second Amendment can be changed via the usual channels. Until that time, it remains in force and it must be upheld as it was written.
Again, looking at history, it is clear that the Constitution protected the right of private ownership of large military hardware--merchant ships of the day were regularly and routinely outfitted with the same type of cannon found on military vessels (which is why I disagree with the comment that a cruise missile is per se unprotected by the Second Amendment).

At the time of the founders, there was no such thing as a "strategic weapon" other than a standing army, and a person could not have a standing army. But a person could outfit a warship, and own and use explosive shells. Thus, the analysis should begin at that division--the difference between strategic and tactical weapons--and then work backwards.

Ruger Announces Its American Rifle in Rimfire...

It will be available in .22 LR or .22 Mag. The .22 LR version will use 10/22 magazines. (The .22 Mag version will also use a standard Ruger rotary magazine).

Some people shoot rimfire simply to save money. The cost is an issue for me, but the fact is, I also simply enjoy shooting rimfire.

Some Hints Concerning the NSA's Decryption Capabilities

Wired Magazine speculates on the NSA's ability to decrypt electronic communications based on information in the black budget report published by the Washington Post. From Wired's article:

One of those methods, though, is hinted at in the Clapper summary — and it’s interesting. Clapper briefly notes some programs the intelligence agencies are closing or scaling back, as well as those they’re pouring additional funds into. Overhead imagery captured by spy satellites was slated for reduction, for example, while SIGINT, the electronic spying that’s been the focus of the Snowden leaks, got a fresh infusion.
 
“Also,” Clapper writes in a line marked “top secret,” “we are investing in groundbreaking cryptanalytic capabilities to defeat adversarial cryptography and exploit internet traffic.” 
The Post’s article doesn’t detail the “groundbreaking cryptanalytic capabilities” Clapper mentions, and there’s no elaboration in the portion of the document published by the paper. But the document shows that 21 percent of the intelligence budget — around $11 billion — is dedicated to the Consolidated Cryptologic Program that staffs 35,000 employees in the NSA and the armed forces. 
In a WIRED story in March of last year — the pre-Snowden era of NSA reporting — James Bamford reported that the NSA secretly made some sort of “enormous breakthrough” in cryptanalysis several years earlier. 
Previous Snowden leaks have documented the NSA and British intelligence’s sniffing of raw internet traffic. But information on the NSA’s efforts to crack the encrypted portion of that traffic — which would include much of the email transiting the net — has remained absent; conspicuously so, given the NSA’s history as world-class codebreakers. The leaked budget document is the first published Snowden leak to touch upon the question of how safe routinely encrypted traffic is from cutting-edge nation-state spying.

Record High Teen Unemployment

From McClatchy (h/t Drudge Report):
For the fourth consecutive summer, teen employment has stayed anchored around record lows, prompting experts to fear that a generation of youth is likely to be economically stunted with lower earnings and opportunities in years ahead. 
The trend is all the more striking given that the overall unemployment rate has steadily dropped, to 7.4 percent in August. And employers in recent months have been collectively adding almost 200,000 new jobs a month. It led to hopes that this would be the summer when teen employment improved. 
In 1999, slightly more than 52 percent of teens 16 to 19 worked a summer job. By this year, that number had plunged to about 32.25 percent over June and July. It means that slightly more than three in 10 teens actually worked a summer job, out of a universe of roughly 16.8 million U.S. teens. 
“We have never had anything this low in our lives. This is a Great Depression for teens, and no time in history have we encountered anything like that,” said Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston. “That’s why it’s such an important story.”

Obama Lacks Support to Attack Syria

Apparently, only die-hard progressives like Nancy Pelosi favor attacking Syria--whatever the Dear Leader wants appears to be their motto. However, nearly 80% of Americans think the President should consult with Congress (i.e., obtain Congressional approval) before launching a strike; and even so, 50% are opposed to any sort of military action. Even our closest ally, Great Britain, will not be joining us on this foray.

The Washington Post reports that military officers--of all ranks--are similarly opposed to military intervention in Syria. From that story:
Former and current officers ... said the main reservations concern the potential unintended consequences of launching cruise missiles against Syria. 
Some questioned the use of military force as a punitive measure and suggested that the White House lacks a coherent strategy. If the administration is ambivalent about the wisdom of defeating or crippling the Syrian leader, possibly setting the stage for Damascus to fall to fundamentalist rebels, they said, the military objective of strikes on Assad’s military targets is at best ambiguous. 
... Marine Lt. Col. Gordon Miller, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, warned this week of “potentially devastating consequences, including a fresh round of chemical weapons attacks and a military response by Israel.” 
“If President [Assad were] to absorb the strikes and use chemical weapons again, this would be a significant blow to the United States’ credibility and it would be compelled to escalate the assault on Syria to achieve the original objectives,” Miller wrote in a commentary for the think tank. 
... A young Army officer who is wrapping up a year-long tour there said soldiers were surprised to learn about the looming strike, calling the prospect “very dangerous.” 
“I can’t believe the president is even considering it,” said the officer.... “We have been fighting the last 10 years a counterinsurgency war. Syria has modern weaponry. We would have to retrain for a conventional war.”
The Financial Times also points out that such a strike would be a lose/lose proposition for the United States in that it would do little harm to Assad, but would reduce America's position in the Middle-East even further:
Every now and then one of my English-speaking colleagues asks me what Russia will do if the western powers make good on their threats and strike at Syria. My answer is: nothing. 
Russia does not have to do anything, it can just sit quiet. The situation is advantageous to Moscow. Our leaders will be only too happy to see the US start a new war it cannot win.
Consider the options. A land invasion is out of the question. Sustained air bombardment risks the loss of pilots, and would therefore be unacceptable for the public in the west. The likeliest avenue is missile strikes; President Bashar al-Assad’s regime will undoubtedly suffer – but Russia and Iran will be able to make up for any losses. The allies will give Mr Assad a bloody nose and that is it. Punitive strikes cannot bring about a turning point in the hostilities. Any substantial change in the correlation of forces on the ground is not feasible.

So, morally and psychologically, the Assad regime will score points, at least in the eyes of the developing world – and certainly in those of Russia. Propaganda is certain to draw parallels with the intervention in Iraq 10 years ago. It is, of course, very easy to picture the US as a global bully ever bent on inventing pretexts for aggression. Iran will be jubilant. Many people in Syria will be inclined to resist a new imperialist crusade.
 
Upping the ante is advantageous for Moscow. The more the western powers are involved in the conflict, the more deeply they are immersed, the more opportunities emerge for Russia to back the Assad regime as a “legitimate authority under attack”. Since a land operation can be ruled out, it may appear in the end that not only has Mr Assad survived but also that Moscow and Tehran have won in the global confrontation with the coalition of the west, Turkey and the Arab League.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Middle East in Precarious Balance

Right now, Israel and Syria are flash points, and Obama is waiting to strike the match. First up, Israeli leaders have said that they are not going to stand by this time if they are attacked in retribution for a U.S. attack on Syria. From the Los Angeles Times:


During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Israel endured dozens of Scud missiles launched by Saddam Hussein's forces, but refrained from retaliating because of U.S. concern that Israeli involvement would fracture the international coalition it had built against Iraq. 
As the United States prepares for a possible military attack against the Syrian government over its alleged use of chemical weapons, Israeli leaders are making it clear that they have no intention of standing down this time if attacked. 
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday issued the starkest warning to date in response to recent saber-rattling by Syrian President Bashar Assad's government, which has said it might respond to a U.S. strike by attacking Israel. 
"We are not part of the civil war in Syria, but if we identify any attempt whatsoever to harm us, we will respond with great force," Netanyahu said after huddling for a second consecutive day with key Cabinet members to discuss the possible ramifications of a U.S. strike against Syria.
 Russia may not idly stand by either:
Russia has deployed two powerful warships to the Mediterranean Sea to augment its normal naval presence amid rising expectations of Western airstrikes on its ally, Syria. 
A senior Russian naval officer denied Thursday that the dispatch of an anti-submarine ship and a guided-missile cruiser were in response to U.S. and European naval buildups in preparation for possible punitive strikes on the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. 
But Russia's Interfax news agency this week quoted an unidentified Russian General Staff source as saying that "the well-known situation now in the eastern Mediterranean required us to make some adjustments to the naval force."

Decadence

China Gaze reports that the latest way to ostentatiously display your wealth in China is to suckle at the breast of a hired wet-nurse.

Emerging Market Rout

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writes:

Mirza Baig from BNP Paribas advises them [the BRICS] to embrace devaluation, calling it futile to defend quasi-pegs. "The costs of fighting are spiralling out of control," he said. 
Mr Baig said foreigners bear 90pc of the currency risk in Malaysia, 81pc in Thailand, 79pc in Korea and 74pc in India. So let them take the haircut. Should these countries take that course, they will inflict a deflationary trade shock on the West. The eurozone is in no fit state to handle that. Nor is Britain. 
We are in entirely uncharted waters. Emerging markets were less than 15pc of global GDP in the early 1980s, when tightening by the Volcker Fed brought Latin America crashing down. That was an ugly episode for Western banks, but easily contained. China was then in autarky, shut off from the world. The Soviet Union and its satellites formed a closed system. 
The picture was already very different by the mid-1990s, when ex-Communists had joined the party. By then emerging markets had grown to a third of global GDP, big enough to rock the boat, as Fed chair Alan Greenspan discovered after Russia's default in August 1998. 
Mr Greenspan became worried enough to canvas Fed governors on the need for a response at the Jackson Hole conclave that month. The Fed cut rates in September but it was not enough to stop the crisis spinning out of control as currencies crashed across East Asia, and the pre-EMU "convergence play" in Europe reversed violently. 
The New York Fed was forced to intervene in October 1998, rescuing the hedge fund Long Term Capital Management. The Fed cut rates again in October and November. Mr Greenspan said "the probability of systemic collapse was sufficiently large to make us very uncomfortable about doing nothing". 
If the stakes were high then, they are higher now. Emerging markets are half the world economy, according to IMF data. The "power ratio" is no longer 1:2, it is 1:1. Those who fell in love with the BRICS and mini-BRICS in the boom were entirely right to claim that an economic revolution was taking place. 
Yet all we heard from Jackson Hole this time were dismissive comments that the emerging market rout is not the Fed's problem. "Other countries simply have to take that as a reality and adjust to us," said Dennis Lockhart, the Atlanta Fed chief. Terrence Checki from the New York Fed said "there is no master stroke that will insulate countries from financial spillovers”. 
The talk for Fed corridors strikes me as dangerously insouciant. The bank has made a series of errors over the past six years, the result of a "closed macro-economy model" that fails to take full account of global interactions. It failed to anticipate how jamming on the brakes before the Lehman crash would trigger a scramble for dollars, igniting a conflagration. The bank played a key role in setting off later spasms of the EMU debt crsis with hawkish talk, each time forced to retreat later. 
"The big risk is that Fed tapering will spark a rush for US dollars. That is when the Fed will stop being complacent," said Lars Christensen from Danske Bank. "Central banks around the world think they have been doing something they shouldn't do with all this stimulus, and they want to unwind it as quickly as possible. But the danger is that they will go too far and trigger a relapse like 1937."
 Read the whole thing.

The basic problem is one of competition, which is ultimately a question of price and value. A country can compete as to price/value by offering low wages and/or high efficiencies. Costs of living in the United States prohibits us from competing via wages when compared against most countries. However, overweening government regulations and laws cripple U.S. firms when it comes to higher efficiencies--particularly against countries like China or Korea which can also offer high efficiencies. The approach by the federal government (and many state governments) has not been to reduce the impediments to efficiencies, but to focus on lower wages--which have stagnated for the past several decades among the middle-class.

Detroit's Failure to Provide Basic Services--Death Certificates

The Detroit News reports that Detroit has stopped issuing death certificates:
The city did stop issuing certified copies of birth and death certificates on July 23, days after the July 18 bankruptcy filing. That day, a nervous paper vendor demanded cash — and the city wanted to do business as usual, on credit. 
... Cutbacks in hours, balky vendors, and the news that Herman Kiefer Complex will close Oct. 1 are all affecting the city’s death and dying business. The city’s vital records department will close and Wayne County will assume responsibility for issuing birth and death certificates, according to Bill Nowling, spokesman for Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr.

... Without certified copies of death certificates, families couldn’t access bank accounts, file insurance claims, or access probate court. The families are often struggling financially, grieving and frustrated by any bureaucratic delay. And although funeral homes provide copies as a service to families, they wind up taking the heat.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

China Experiences Massive Cyber-Attack

Yesterday's South China Morning Post reports:

China's domain name service suffered the largest attack ever on a mainland internet address server at the weekend, the central government said yesterday. 
The attack started very early on Sunday and was continuing yesterday afternoon, it said. More than eight million websites are registered with China's top-level country domain, .cn 
Li Xiaodong, executive director of the China Internet Network Information Centre, (CNNIC), which maintains the servers, said such an attack was unprecedented. 
To jam the Chinese servers, the attackers summoned traffic flow "far greater" than anything seen before, he said, without providing a figure on the volume. 
The first wave of attacks began at about midnight and lasted around two hours, interrupting services, CNNIC said. 
The second wave, at about 4am, turned out to be the biggest denial-of-service attack on Chinese domain name servers in history, slowing or killing connections to certain Chinese websites. A staff member at CNNIC told the Post that the attack was still going on yesterday afternoon.
The story indicated that officials did not know who had initiated the attack, but believed it was from a foreign (i.e., non-Chinese) group, but not a foreign government.

Black Mob Attacks Police In Chicago

WND reports that an unidentified Chicago police officer is hospitalized in serious condition with a fractured skull, a victim of black mob violence. Although the article makes a point that the mob was black, but the media regularly ignores the racial makeup of such attackers, there were a couple other points I found significant: (1) that such mob violence is regular; and (2) the distribution, afterward, of a flyer by Revolution News stating:
“It is the workings of the capitalist-imperialist system that produces killer cops and the mass incarceration of a whole generation of Black and Latino youth – over 2.4 million in prison,” said the paper. “We need a revolution to end once and for all the brutal, vicious oppression of Black people.”
Geez. I wonder where they learned the violent communist rhetoric.

When the Government Doesn't Earn Its Pay...

Government is, in many ways, a protection racket. You either pay taxes for "protection" (government services you may or may not use, including police protection) or, if you don't, you get arrested and thrown in jail. However, what if this implied promise breaks down? In Mexico, many local communities have begun to turn to self-help; but if there is anything that a government doesn't like, it is competition.

The Michoacan state government apparently arrested some 45 community guards in Aquila for possession of firearms (it is not clear from the article if they had weapons limited to only the government and cartels, or merely because they had firearms of any type). The civilian "Auto Defense" group is demanding their release, or:
“Two fundamental options exist. The first one: we are going to paralyze every one of the functions of the government of the state of Michoacán in our municipalities.” 
“If that first step does not succeed , we will absolutely not recognize the government and power of the state of Michoacán and we will create a free independent zone. ..."

Japan and China Dislike Each Other

James Fallows, writing at the Atlantic, notes recent opinion polls showing that 90.1 % of Japanese hold an unfavorable or relatively unfavorable opinion of China, while 92.8% of Chinese have the same feelings toward Japan. This is up from approximately 10% of Japanese and less than 40% of Chinese in 2006.

Dioramas of a Post-Apocalypse World

Co.Design has a slide show of 17 dioramas of what particular buildings might look like in a post-apocalypse world. Take a look.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

DIY Gravity Water Purification System

Survival Cache has a nice article and photos showing how to build your own gravity water purification system using two 5-gallon buckets and a water dome filter (and few other odds and ends). My only comment is that I would recommend using a food grade plastic bucket and not the cheap orange buckets from Home Depot.

Vanishing Chernobyl

The Daily Mail has an article and photographs showing how Chernobyl is being overgrown by the surrounding forest.

Putin Responds to Western Threats Against Syria

Zero Hedge summarizes some news stories indicating that Russia may increase the strength of its naval forces in the Mediterranean, and deliver more air defense equipment to Syria. A little over a month ago, I reviewed George Friedman's book, The Next 100 Years, which suggested that there would be another "cold war" between Russia and the United States. Let's hope that this is just saber-rattling between two rivals, and not something that could escalate to a direct conflict between the United States and Russia.

However, it is always important to "follow the money" when we involve ourselves in conflicts that don't directly impact the security of the United States. In this case, like Libya, intervention is being driven by Europe and its desire to access cheap fuel. Zero Hedge notes that in this case, the issue is European access to natural gas from Qatar--one of the primary suppliers of arms and aid to the rebels. Apparently Assad won't let Qatar build a pipeline through Syria. Russia, obviously, would be opposed to such a pipeline which would undercut its own sales to Europe.

Bubonic Plague Outbreak in Central Asia

The Guardian reports:
Health officials fear an outbreak of bubonic plague in central Asia after a teenage boy died from the disease and three more were admitted to hospital in Kyrgyzstan.
Temirbek Isakunov, a 15-year-old from a mountain village near the border with Kazakhstan, reportedly died from the disease last week after eating an infected barbecued marmot. Kyrgyzstan's emergency ministry said a young woman and two children from a different village who came into contact with Isakunov were hospitalised on Tuesday with the high fever and swelling around the neck and armpits characteristic of bubonic plague, local news outlets reported.
 
A total of 131 people, including 33 medical personnel, have been quarantined, although none of them have yet exhibited symptoms of the disease, the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda in Kyrgyzstan reported. The health ministry continues to find and quarantine people who came into contact with the teenager, according to its director.
This doesn't sound like a serious outbreak. However, it is notable how much more deadly it was than comparable outbreaks in the United States.

Izhmash Becomes Kalishnikov Inc.

And showcases two new bullpup rifles--one in 5.45x39 and the other in 7.62x39. Story and photos as the Firearms Blog.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Basic Prepping Guide ...

... from Survival UK.

How Western Forces Could Attack Syrian Forces

The "extremist," Pres. Obama, is considering violence against Syrian military forces because of the alleged chemical weapon attack on Syrian civilians, stating that there is "little doubt" that Syrian forces launched the attack. (Not everyone is convinced the attack was from Assad's forces) (see also here and here). The Daily Mail reports on what could happen:
The favored option among top brass is for limited Western action using ‘stand-off’ weapons from long distance to disrupt Assad’s ability to carry out chemical attacks and damage his military machine. 
Intelligence on targets would come from drones patrolling the skies above Syria and special forces on the ground. 
Military analysts believe an attack could last between 24 and 48 hours and would target key regime installations. 
These would include Syria’s integrated air defense system, command and control bunkers, communications hubs, government buildings, missile sites and Assad’s air force. 
The dictator’s use of air power has been a huge advantage for the regime, and eliminating or weakening it would tilt the odds toward the rebels. 
Other military options are airstrikes on Syrian units believed to be responsible for chemical attacks. Reports last week claimed the chemical weapons were fired by the 155th Brigade of the 4th Armoured Division of the Syrian Army. 
This division, which has a military base in a mountain range west of Damascus is under the command of the president’s brother, Maher Assad.

Farmer's Almanac Predicts Colder Than Normal Winter This Year

Full story here.

Defense Department Labels Founding Fathers As Extremists


Judicial Watch announced today that it has obtained educational materials from the Department of Defense (DOD) depicting conservative organizations as “hate groups” and advising students to be aware that “many extremists will talk of individual liberties, states’ rights, and how to make the world a better place.” The documents repeatedly cite the leftwing Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a resource for identifying “hate groups.”
Judicial Watch obtained the documents in a response to a Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA) filed on April 8, 2013. The FOIA requested “Any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to the preparation and presentation of training materials on hate groups or hate crimes distributed or used by the Air Force.” Included in the 133 pages of lesson plans and PowerPoint slides provided by the Air Force is a January 2013 Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute “student guide” entitled “Extremism.” The document says that it is “for training purposes only” and “do not use on the job.”
According to the article,  the document defines extremists as “a person who advocates the use of force or violence; advocates supremacist causes based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or national origin; or otherwise engages to illegally deprive individuals or groups of their civil rights.” It then goes on to suggest that extremists can be identified because they "talk of individual liberties, states’ rights, and how to make the world a better place." How horrible!

The document also states: “In U.S. history, there are many examples of extremist ideologies and movements.  The colonists who sought to free themselves from British rule and the Confederate states who sought to secede from the Northern states are just two examples.”

Since "extreme" means the "most remote," "outermost" or "farthest," or "extending far beyond the norm," the document is obviously wrong as both the colonists and the Confederacy, which enjoyed substantial popular support--you can't be "extreme" when your views are held by a significant percentage of the population. Their own definition doesn't make sense, since, according to its wording, anyone supporting the use of military force under any circumstance (i.e., advocating the use of force) would be an extremist. Nevertheless, the authors of the paper stand by their characterization of our founding fathers as "extremists."

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Obama Cedes U.S. Influence in the Middle East

The giant sucking sound you here, I said on August 15 on CNBC's The Kudlow Report, is the implosion of America's influence in the Middle East. Vladimir Putin's August 17 offer of Russian military assistance to the Egyptian army after US President Barack Obama cancelled joint exercises with the Egyptians denotes a post-Cold-War low point in America's standing. Along with Russia, Saudi Arabia and China are collaborating to contain the damage left by American blundering. They have being doing this quietly for more than a year.  
The pipe-dream has popped of Egyptian democracy led by a Muslim Brotherhood weaned from its wicked past, but official Washington has not woken up. Egypt was on the verge of starvation when military pushed out Mohammed Morsi. Most of the Egyptian poor had been living on nothing but state-subsidized bread for months, and even bread supplies were at risk. The military brought in US$12 billion of aid from the Gulf States, enough to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. That's the reality. It's the one thing that Russia, Saudi Arabia and Israel agree about.  
America's whimsical attitude towards Egypt is not a blunder but rather a catastrophic institutional failure. President Obama has surrounded himself with a camarilla, with Susan Rice as National Security Advisor, flanked by Valerie Jarrett, the Iranian-born public housing millionaire. Compared to Obama's team, Zbigniew Brzezinski was an intellectual colossus at Jimmy Carter's NSC. These are amateurs, and it is anyone's guess what they will do from one day to the next. 
There is also this ominous note:
The Saudis, meanwhile, have installed Chinese missiles aimed at Iran. There are unverifiable reports that Saudi Arabia already has deployed nuclear weapons sourced from Pakistan. The veracity of the reports is of small relevance; if the Saudis do not have such weapons now, they will acquire them if and when Iran succeeds in building nuclear weapons. What seems clear is that Riyadh is relying not on Washington but on Beijing for the capacity to deliver nuclear weapons. ...
And this:
 But the Obama administration (and establishment Republicans like John McCain) insist that America must support democratically elected Islamist governments. That is deeply misguided. The Muslim Brotherhood is about as democratic as the Nazi Party, which also won a plebiscite confirming Adolf Hitler as leader of Germany. Tribal countries with high illiteracy rates are not a benchmark for democratic decision-making ... As long as the United States declares its support for the humbug of Muslim democracy in Egypt and Syria, the rest of the world will treat us as hapless lunatics and go about the business of securing their own interests without us.

Widener's Has $49 Lower Parts Kits...

... for the AR rifles. And Brownells has some for $36.

Myths About Fooling Metal Detectors

Dirt Time has a must read for anyone that uses or intends to use a cache. Basically, the author indicates that "salting" a site with nails and whatnot, or burying a false cache on top of a real one, don't work.

Moving Toward A Police State

Radley Balko has written extensively on the militarization of police forces across the nations (see here, here, here and here, for example). However, this trend has not escaped the notice of others. In December 2011, for instance, the New York Times carried an article discussing the issue and potential problems. Most recently, Rodrigo Sermeno, writing at PJ Media, discussed both the militarization of the police and the NSA domestic surveillance. He wrote, in part:
 The recent revelations about the federal government’s surveillance programs underscore a subtle trend in the U.S. that should raise some concerns about personal freedoms in America. 
According to John W. Whitehead – founder of the Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties and human rights organization – more Americans might find themselves in increasingly dangerous situations as SWAT teams and SWAT-team tactics are used more frequently in routine law enforcement activities. 
Violent crime in America has been on a steady decline since the mid-1990s. No one knows exactly why criminal activity is down, but experts point to a variety of factors for the continuing decline in overall violence. They cite the end of the crack cocaine epidemic and changes in technology that include a substantial increase in surveillance cameras, among other reasons, as being responsible for bringing down crime. 
Despite falling crime rates, some of the nation’s major cities are increasing the size and scope of their police agencies. For example, the New York Police Department (NYPD), the biggest police force in the nation, boasts more than 34,000 officers patrolling the streets of New York. Other cities with increasingly large police forces include Los Angeles (which has approximately 10,000 officers) and Chicago (13,400). 
More robust police departments have also been credited with the fall in criminal activity. Nevertheless, other cities without similar increases in their police force, including cities like Dallas and Seattle, also saw decreases in crime rates during the 1990s. 
In fact, both of these cities have reduced the size of their police departments, which has led some experts to question whether there is a strong correlation between department size and declining crime rates. 
Notwithstanding the lack of evidence, police forces across the nation have not only continued to grow but have ramped up the scope of their activities.
... [Whitehead] also talks about the often criticized “fusion centers” – data collection agencies created after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 that fall under DHS supervision. These centers, with help from the NSA, monitor everything from web searches to text messages, emails, and phone calls. This data is then passed on to government agencies like the CIA and the FBI. As of 2009, the government has admitted to having at least 72 fusion centers. 
Shortly following the creation of fusion centers, their focus shifted from this exclusive interest in the dissemination of terrorism-related intelligence to one of “all hazards” to the public – a broad term used to describe virtually anything that may be deemed a threat to the public.
Unfortunately, whatever our political beliefs (or lack thereof), preppers have always been favorite "boogey men" for law enforcement--particularly federal law enforcement. I don't really know what else to say other than repeat the need for "opsec" and to be involved in politics, even if is limited to voting or volunteering for a candidate you know and trust.

China's Challenges

I came across the following in an article on China after the Bo Xilai trial:

...  The trial, although it will render the Party’s final — for now — political verdict on Bo, will do nothing to end the infighting as to what to do with deteriorating growth.
China’s economy is growing, but not nearly at the 7.5% rate claimed by the National Bureau of Statistics. Inadequate adjustments for inflation and substantial overstatement of industrial output, among other maladies, suggest growth is really in the low single digits, well off the double-digit pace seen as recently as 2010.
 
Economic problems have appeared to sharpen political divisions, something evident in Beijing’s on-again, off-again censorship of Finance Minister Lou Jiwei’s admission last month that China would experience sub-target growth in the second half of this year. Permitting slower growth is considered crucial for reform, so the censorship has been taken as a bad sign. Xi Jinping’s reformist premier, Li Keqiang, wants to implement sweeping changes to get China moving again but has been stymied by the so-called Iron Quadrangle of entrenched interests, many of them Bo supporters. 
As growth continues to erode, the divide between those wanting structural reform and others believing in state-directed solutions can only widen, as it appears to have done so in recent months. Worryingly, China’s internal squabbling looks like it is affecting the country’s external relations. Xi’s aggressive maneuvers to grab territory — especially from India, Japan, and the Philippines — are attempts to direct public discontent away from the faltering political system. 
The settlement of Bo’s future does nothing to address that discontent, which manifests itself in the evident displeasure with the current rock-no-boat politics. Bo’s incarceration will also do nothing to end signs of defiance of authority, including increasingly noisy street protest. His sentencing could mean that Xi Jinping may have to move even further “left” to repair his relations with Bo’s extremist supporters. Already, China is in the midst of Xi’s Maoist and Marxist campaigns that highlight, once again, the anti-modern nature of Chinese communist politics. 
Xi, who has no identifiable political faction of his own, will have to navigate among the Party’s partisans. If anything, that means he will not be able to undertake the bold initiatives expected when he became general secretary last November. There were also high hopes that his predecessor, Hu Jintao, would also sponsor liberalization when he came to power in 2002. His ten-year tenure is now called the “Lost Decade.” 
Soon, Bo Xilai will be out of the way, and Xi’s real test will begin. Perhaps the controversial Bo has stood in Xi’s way, but it’s more likely that the one-party state has been the real impediment to positive change.

DPx Dangertag

Death Valley Magazine is advertising a truly "backup" knife. From the website:
Created by Robert Young Pelton of The Worlds Most Dangerous Places fame, the DPx Danger Tab is a thin metal card with perforated edges on the back that quickly breaks away to form a blade. 
Just snap off the edges and you have an instant WW II style OSS Thumb Knife with one Serrated and one Smooth edge with a needle like tip.
The idea is that you have what is essentially a metal card--until you need a knife, and then you can punch it out. Obviously, its a one use, disposable item, but when you otherwise can't carry a knife, this may be a means to get a small knife in a pinch.

"Fight Like Sherlock Holmes"

I came across this interesting article at Time Magazine about a Victorian martial arts:
Sherlock Holmes, of course, is a fictional creation—but, for a long time, the sleuth’s fans thought that his preferred method of hand-to-hand combat was fictional too. In the original Arthur Conan Doyle story The Adventure of the Empty House, Holmes returns from what readers had thought was his death at the end of The Final Problem; he explains to Watson that, contrary to public perception, he didn’t met his end in the treacherous Reichenbach Falls. How then, did he make his escape? Holmes explains that he fought off his arch-nemesis Professor Moriarty by using his knowledge of baritsu, a form of Japanese wrestling.
Although misspelled--the correct spelling is bartistu--the fighting style was real, was created in Victorian England, and combined elements of stick fighting, boxing, and judo. It has been asserted that boxing should be the foundation of any good empty-handed method of combat.




Thursday, August 22, 2013

"How Rare is Crime?"

Ross Douthat notes, at the New York Times:
... It is rare in the specific sense that Beutler suggests: Most people aren’t would-be muggers, and even in areas with relatively high crime rates, the average encounter on the average street on average day has a vanishingly small chance of turning violent. 
But at the same time, crime is common enough that it’s quite likely to happen to the average person at some point in time. Not that the average person will go through what Beutler went through, mercifully. But over a span of years, your odds of experiencing at least an attempted robbery or an attempted assault are pretty good. 
How good? Well, that depends on the crime rate over time. In the 1980s, the Bureau of Justice Statistics tried to quantify the “lifetime likelihood of victimization,” by assuming that the American crime rate over that hypothetical lifetime averaged what it averaged from 1975 to 1984. (Those were, of course, high crime years; more on that below.) The study calculated that at those rates, 83 percent of Americans could expect to be victims of an attempted robbery, rape or assault at least once as an adult; 40 percent could expect to be injured in a robbery or assault; 72 percent of households could expect to be burglarized and 20 percent could expect to have a car stolen, and 99 percent of the population (that is, everybody) could expect to experience some kind of personal theft. 
These numbers don’t suggest that crime is a regular occurrence in law-abiding lives; it is not. But they suggest that it can be a normal occurrence, in the sense of being something that you have to be prepared for, something that you can reasonably expect to have to deal with at some point, and something that will definitely affect somebody you care about even if it doesn’t touch you directly. ... 
... Is crime a low-probability danger? Well, yes in the everyday sense, but no in the sense that you could very easily be victimized at some point, which isn’t true of, say, lightning strikes and terrorist attacks and other truly low-probability threats. ...

Thomas Sowell on Egypt

The Deseret News carried this op-ed from Thomas Sowell which raises some important considerations when looking at the problems in the Middle-East:
Egypt existed for thousands of years before there was a United States of America. In all those millennia, Egypt has never had a free or democratic society. Nor is Egypt unique in that. 
Of all the different nations that have existed at various times and places throughout recorded history, it is doubtful that even ten percent were free or democratic. 
Even free and democratic nations existing today took centuries to achieve freedom and democracy. Barack Obama may have enough ego to imagine that he could accomplish, during his White House years, what took centuries to accomplish elsewhere. But do others, including some conservatives, need to share that delusion? 
Yet Obama is only the latest in a long line of American officials, including presidents, who have thought that a universal human desire for freedom meant that freedom and democracy could be exported, even to countries where they have never existed before.
However widespread the desire to be free, that is wholly different from a desire to live in a society where others are free. Nowhere is such tolerance harder to find than in the Middle East.
The United States was the result of centuries of political development in England and Western Europe. But, it should be remembered, that even the Puritans who fled to New England for religious freedom came for their own religious freedom, not those of other peoples. Political and religious tolerance is something that must be learned again and again.

California Tracking Down Illegally Owned Firearms

NPR reports that California law enforcement are tracking down the owners of illegally owned firearms. By this, they mean persons that had legally purchased a firearm, but subsequently lost the right to possess a firearm either because of a conviction or entry of a protective order, not known gangbangers.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

White House Looking At Restricting Gun Trusts

The Hill reports:
The Obama administration is working to close a loophole in the nation’s gun laws that allows for some machine guns and sawed-off shotguns to be sold without the buyer submitting fingerprints or photographs. 
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is working on a new regulation that would require more background information when the weapons are sold to someone through a corporation or legal trust. 
... Normally, when an individual buys a machine gun or short-barreled shotgun, they have to submit their fingerprints and picture to the ATF, and the local chief law enforcement officer has to assert that there is no reason to believe it would be illegal for the buyer to own the gun. 
However, those same requirements don’t apply when the gun is bought in the name of a corporation or legal trust instead of an individual person.  
... The trusts can be formed relatively easily by a lawyer and cost a few hundred dollars. Aside from the ease of securing restricted weapons, they also assure that gun owners’ firearms will be transferred to their loved ones when they die without going through bureaucratic channels. 
A spokesman with the ATF declined to detail the measures of the new proposal, since it is still in draft form. 
However, an online notice said that it will require “responsible persons” designated by the legal trusts to submit forms, photographs and fingerprints to the ATF and forwarded to the local chief police officer. The rule will also define the term “responsible person.” 
I know gun trusts have developed a certain cachet among owners of NFA weapons, mostly because of the ability to cut the local law enforcement approval out of the process, but my concern with them has always been that trusts would be afforded less protection than a person.

The Largest Tsunamis

This slideshow at the Christian Science Monitor lists 5 (well, actually 6) of the largest tsunamis in history, at least as far as death tolls. This Wikipedia article lists historically notable tsunamis. The largest (as in tallest wave) was a 1720 foot tall wave in Lituya Bay, Alaska, in 1958, but it was a magatsunami, caused by an impact (in that case, a landslide) into the water. This Wikipedia article lists some other megatsunami. And another list from LiveScience. And a list of the 10 most devastatingPeru has been the victim of several large tsunamis.


German Population Shrinking

From the Daily Mail:
In its most recent census, Germany discovered it had lost 1.5 million inhabitants and, by 2060, experts say the population could dwindle by an extra 19 per cent, to about 66 million.  
Between 2000 and 2013, Germany's birth rate dropped by 11 per cent compared to rises in the UK (4.3 per cent), France (3.6 per cent), Spain (12.8 per cent) and Ireland (8.9 per cent).
... Adding to the country's woes, a recent study by Europe's Population Policy Acceptance Study found that 23 per cent of German men thought 'zero' was the ideal family size.
... A third of all babies born in Germany, still the EU's most populous member state, came from immigrant families, the analysts said, noting that without them the overall figure would have been much lower.

Government Paranoia and Disaster Planning

Salon has an excerpt from Jesse Walker's The United States of Paranoia. Most of the excerpt has to do with the reaction to 9/11, including the formation of so-called "fusion centers" involving local, state, and federal law enforcement. However, this part is relevant to prepping:

In the words of the disaster researcher Kathleen Tierney, all-hazards planning — a staple of traditional emergency management — asks institutions to “focus generically on tasks that must be performed regardless of event type, and then plan for specific contingencies, guided by risk-based assessments of what could happen.” The DHS was rhetorically committed to the all-hazards idea, but in practice it was oriented toward more specific threats; and since the department had absorbed the Federal Emergency Management Agency, those threats took priority in places with worries far larger than terrorist conspiracies. Under Homeland Security Presidential Directive 8, Tierney wrote, communities that once had assessed their own risks and vulnerabilities were “required to develop plans and programs for dealing with fifteen different scenarios, thirteen of which involve terrorism, [weapons of mass destruction], and epidemics.” Worse still, “as we saw so vividly in Hurricane Katrina, the government’s stance is that the public in disaster- ravaged communities mainly represents a problem to be managed — by force, if necessary — and a danger to uniformed responders.”
The sociologists who study disasters are wary about using the word panic. In real-world disasters, genuine panic is rare and spontaneous social cooperation is the norm. But in 2008, the Rutgers sociologists Lee Clarke and Caron Chess suggested that events like Katrina can spark something they called an elite panic. When the hurricane hit New Orleans, there were rumors that dozens of dead bodies were stacked in the convention center where refugees had taken shelter, that men were firing weapons at the helicopters coming to rescue them, that roving bands of rapists were assaulting people willy-nilly, that survivors of the storm had turned to cannibalism. “Misinformed about conditions on the ground and overly fearful of the loss of property,” Clarke and Chess wrote, “officials turned resources away from rescue in New Orleans. Elites responding after Katrina were disconnected from non-elites and obviously fearful of them. Further, their actions and inactions created greater danger for others.”
Panic may or may not be the appropriate word here. But paranoia is a term that fits. The effects of the elites’ fears were far greater than the effects of, say, the grassroots rumors that the authorities had deliberately blown up New Orleans’ levees to drive out black residents, even if the latter idea was more likely to be invoked in discussions of public paranoia during the disaster.
(Underline added).

Feral Dogs in Detroit

From Bloomberg, an interesting story about feral dog packs in Detroit:

As many as 50,000 stray dogs roam the streets and vacant homes of bankrupt Detroit, replacing residents, menacing humans who remain and overwhelming the city’s ability to find them homes or peaceful deaths. 
Dens of as many as 20 canines have been found in boarded-up homes in the community of about 700,000 that once pulsed with 1.8 million people. ... 
... many dogs have been left to fend for themselves, abandoned by owners who are financially stressed or unaware of proper care. Strays have killed pets, bitten mail carriers and clogged the animal shelter, where more than 70 percent are euthanized. 
... Pit bulls and breeds mixed with them dominate Detroit’s stray population because of widespread dog fighting, said Ward. Males are aggressive in mating, so they proliferate, he added. 
... Mail carrier Catherine Guzik told of using pepper spray on swarms of tiny, ferocious dogs in a southwest Detroit neighborhood. 
“It’s like Chihuahuaville,” Guzik said as she walked her route.

Syrian Rebels Report Massive Chemical Weapon Attack

From Reuters:

Syria's opposition accused President Bashar al-Assad's forces of gassing many hundreds of people - by one report as many as 1,300 - on Wednesday in what would, if confirmed, be the world's worst chemical weapons attack in decades. 
Western and regional countries called for U.N. chemical weapons investigators - who arrived in Damascus just three days ago - to be urgently dispatched to the scene of one of the deadliest incidents of the two-year-old civil war. 
Russia, too, urged an "objective" investigation but Assad's biggest foreign ally also heaped skepticism on his enemies' claims. A foreign ministry spokesman in Moscow said the release of gas after U.N. inspectors arrived suggested that it was a rebel "provocation" to discredit Syria's government. 
Images, including some by freelance photographers supplied to Reuters, showed scores of bodies including of small children, laid on the floor of a clinic with no visible signs of injuries. 
Reuters was not able to verify the cause of their deaths. The Syrian government denied that it had used chemical arms.
 Seems odd that Assad's forces would resort to using chemical weapons given their recent successes versus the odds it would generate a military response from the West.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Gibraltar--A Rock of Contention

Little things often lead to bigger conflicts, so it will be interesting to see where this goes. The Guardian reports:

Spanish boats illegally entered Gibraltar's waters after a stand-off with the Royal Navy on Sunday. 
In an escalation of the bitter diplomatic dispute over fishing rights, British military and police boats had to push back a flotilla of around 40 Spanish vessels. 
The fishermen, some shouting "Gibraltar is Spanish", were protesting against a concrete reef built by the Rock's government to protect its fishing stock. 
They argue the reef restricts their rights to fish, but Fabian Picardo, Gibraltar's chief minister, said "hell will freeze over" before the barrier is removed. 
In the tit-for-tat row, Spain introduced extra checks causing five-hour queues for drivers trying to cross the border and has threatened to bring in a £40 charge. 
The tensions led David Cameron to complain to the Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy and ask for the European Commission to intervene on Friday.
The European Commission has promised to investigate, according to this New York Times article:

On Monday, the European Commission, the executive agency of the European Union, warned Spain that such a border toll would violate European law. But it agreed to send a team of inspectors to Gibraltar, after Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain called José Manuel Barroso, the president of the commission, asking it to check Spanish claims that the territory had turned into a hub of money laundering and tobacco trafficking. 
On Friday, Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain called Mr. Barroso to request that European inspectors be sent to Gibraltar to confirm that the toughened border checks by Spain amounted to a violation of European Union rules on the free movement of people and goods. 
In an interview with the BBC on Monday, Fabian Picardo, the head of Gibraltar’s government, played down the significance of the arrival of the British warship. “This was planned quite long before the issues that we’re having to deal with now,” he said.
“I’m certainly very hopeful that common sense is going to start to prevail and we will be able to go back to normality as soon as possible,” he said.
 
At the same time, he has maintained a defiant stance toward Madrid, telling the BBC recently that “hell will freeze over” before Gibraltar removes the concrete reef. Mr. Picardo also accused the Spanish government of escalating the Gibraltar dispute to divert attention from a scandal over a slush fund that has engulfed Mr. Rajoy and his governing Popular Party.
I'm not sure what money laundering and tobacco trafficking has to do with building a reef, but Spain is relying on a U.N. resolution to relieve it of obligations under the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht.


Lightening Strike Leaves 120,000 Homes Without Power

The Daily Mail reports on a lightening strike late Monday in California:

A bolt of lightning knocked out power to around 120,00 homes in southern California during a storm on Monday.
 
The fork of lightning struck a major bank of transformers at the Rector Station, just outside Visalia on Road 148 and Caldwell, causing it to burst into flames. 
Firefighters battled for an hour to control the blaze but thousands of homes were without power last night and for many, it will not be restored until this evening, according to ABC30.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Lucid HD7 Sight

The Firearms Blog reviews the Lucid HD7 red-dot sight, which sounds like a good balance of quality and price.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Continued violence in Egypt

Fox News reports continued violance in Egypt by and against the Muslim Brotherhood. The story describes Brotherhood terrorists firing on troops from a mosque, which resulted in tear gas being used by the government. Strangely, unlike U.S. tear gas, the Egyptian stuff didn't catch fire. Anyway, digging deeper into the story, most of the violence appears to between civilians: Egyptians who hate Morsi and the Brotherhood, and, of course the Brotherhood taking time to destroy Coptic churches.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Cluster of Hindenburg Omens ...

... point to a significant fall in the stock market.

Syrian Conflict Spreading--Car Bomb in Beirut

We live in interesting times... From the Washington Post:
A powerful car bomb ripped through a crowded southern Beirut neighborhood that is a stronghold of the militant group Hezbollah on Thursday, killing at least 14 people and trapping dozens of others in burning cars and buildings in the latest apparent violence linked to the civil war in neighboring Syria, officials said.
Groups opposed to Syria’s President Bashar Assad have threatened to retaliate against Hezbollah for intervening on behalf of his regime in the conflict. The blast raises the worrying specter of Lebanon being pulled further into the Syrian civil war, which is taking on an increasingly sectarian tone.
It was the second such explosion in just over a month in south Beirut, an overwhelmingly Shiite area tightly controlled by Hezbollah, and the deadliest attack in decades against the neighborhoods that are considered key bastions of support for the group. The blast appeared to be an attempt to sow fear among the group’s civilian supporters and did not target any known Hezbollah facility or personality.

More Violence in Egypt

Just a few stories concerning the clashes in Egypt between the government and the Muslim Brotherhood:

The death toll is believed to be above 500 now.

In the wake of yesterday's violence and the burning of government buildings today, Egyptian police have been authorized to use deadly force. (See also here).

I don't think the protests and current violence constitute a civil war. Obviously, I'm not there, and so I don't have a picture of how wide-spread violence the may be, but I don't believe the Muslim Brotherhood can field enough supporters. What could turn this into a general civil war would be if Egypt lost its temporary funding from the Gulf states so that it could not afford to import subsidized food, and we saw opposition to the military actions spread.

Update: Obama's pro-Muslim Brotherhood stance is driving the Egyptian military into the Russian camp.
The Obama administration support for Muslim Brotherhood Islamists in Egypt is driving the powerful military there against the United States and toward Moscow, according to U.S. officials and reports from the region.

The pro-Muslim Brotherhood stance is undermining decades of U.S. policy toward the Middle East state and prompting concerns that the United States is about to “lose” Egypt as a strategic partner, said officials familiar with intelligence reports.

Disclosure of the concern over the administration’s policy failure in Egypt comes as a security crackdown on pro-Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Cairo resulted in scores killed.

“The Obama administration’s blatant Islamist support is risking the decades-long security arrangement with Egypt,” one U.S. official told the Washington Free Beacon.

Ol Remus Discusses the Balkanization of the U.S


DC increasingly stands alone, and if we rely on what they do rather than what they say, it's no unintended side effect. But pulling up the drawbridge and manning the parapets has consequences. Insular command from above falsifies the notion of unity, it replaces "we're all in this together" with "you're all in this together." DC no longer pretends their window on the nation is the freely expressed will of the people, rather it's surveillance of the kind once deployed against kidnap-murder suspects or, further back in time, of the kind feudal kings used to repress their subjects.


The absence of a constitutionally legitimate central government warranting the trust and support of the people, and DC's us-versus-them internal realignment which decouples it from the people, and DC's sponsorship and protection of groups hostile to elementary civic duties, have encouraged and enabled fragmentation on a scale not seen since the 1850s. There are those who see this as an intentional unraveling of the republic by DC so their power may be nearer to absolute. A compelling case can be made neither for nor against such a proposition so we'll let it be for the moment. Here's what we do know.


Some Hispanics are busily constructing a breakaway confederacy called Aztlán, to consist of the southwestern states and southern California. The goal is to evict Asians, whites, blacks and all others not of La Raza—The Race—which goal they declare at street gatherings large and small. ...


Elsewhere, some of the native population of Hawaii are building a parallel government which excludes Asians, whites, blacks, Hispanics and all others not of the race. ....

The Congressional Black Caucus, The National Conference of Black Mayors, The National Association of Black Journalists and many other organizations also pursue overtly racial ends. The goals of black activists are not easy to summarize, they're ever-shifting and difficult to reconcile. Supremacist outfits like the Black Panthers and the Black Moslems are straightforward enough, they advocate zero-sum plunder—taking the country by force and exterminating everybody else. Oddly, their rhetoric is cribbed from paleo-socialist screeds already antique when Hoover was president.

While they recite some supremacist cant, street level politicos and pseudo-academic community organizers opt instead for urban-based, de facto separatist enclaves, to be supported by everybody else. ....
* * *
Moslem associations in America have adopted the off-the-shelf American victimhood template so we can spare ourselves the tedium of itemization here. They're particularly fond of "lawfare"—nuisance suits designed to intimidate onlookers—but rely mainly on the tried-and-true to grow their enclaves, namely, physical confrontations and credible threats of worse. Professional diversity enforcers, rootless thrill seekers, Big Time journalists and other witless bottom feeders have attached themselves to the Islamic cause with barely restrained enthusiasm. It may be only coincidental Islam seems particularly attractive to pedophiles, misogynists and homicidal sadists. The goal is plainly stated: bring ever-expanding areas under Islam until the former United States is a full caliphate in a Moslem world.

* * *
By their own narratives these organizations are committed to separatist goals. To them, civic affairs are legitimate and material only to the extent it advances their agenda and, however prettified, their agenda is about race and racial advantage. Not sometimes. Not mostly. Always. ...


The working definition of racism is "any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin," so we can dispense with the "color of their skin" bromide. By this measure the only difference between these outfits and the olde tymme night riders is middle America's remarkable ability to imagine it ain't so. Middle America is told what to think art-link-symbol-tiny-grey-arrow-only-rev01.gif, what to say and how to say it. And they do. There are those who say they deserve all that has befallen them and all that will befall them. With no persuasive evidence otherwise, refutation is a hard prospect.


Pretending these organizations protect the vulnerable from ongoing oppression, or pretending they serve some common good reveals contempt for both common sense and the common good. A nation survives only if enough citizens respect the common good. For that reason there is no Congressional White Caucus or National Association of White Journalists, nor is there likely to be. There is a crucial difference between preserving one's heritage and seeking influence and benefit from it. It's a bizarre foundation for racial pride. Their contention that race supremacy is the default motive for everybody else merely reveals an unhealthy obsession with it. Nor is it convincing to reprove the putative origins of racism itself if it's merely to be the foundation for a different racism.

So much for the bright side.

The dark side is this: we are some ways down the road to the Balkanization. If the law of intended consequences still holds, and if everybody gets what they say they want, the disunited states will be a patchwork of territories run by the same kind of demagogues that are advocating for it now. And the aggressive, no-quarters hostility of these organizations suggests the nature of their hoped-for autonomy.

* * *

If we can rely on their own words, many Hispanics and blacks and Moslems and even nativist Hawaiians believe autonomy is preferable to integration with the larger America. How the rest stand won't really be clear until a decision is forced. Whatever happens probably won't happen as a showdown, there are few actual showdowns in history. More likely we'll see a series of sharp nudges that, while unpleasant, aren't immediately catastrophic. At this point we don't know which reality, civics or racial supremacy, is the more compelling should a choice be imposed. For the present, something near enough to civility holds the field, but civility has been only lightly tested thus far.

EU Times Warns of a Military Coup in the United States

(Full story here). A few years ago, a story like this could have been dismissed as pure quackary. No so, anymore.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Disaster on Board Indian Submarine Highlights Problems for Indian Navy

USA Today reports on the explosion and fire believed to have killed the crew of an Indian submarine docked at a port in Mumbia. From the report:

All 18 sailors aboard an Indian submarine hit by twin explosions and an intense fire are feared dead, a naval official said. The submarine had also been damaged in a deadly explosion in 2010 and had only recently returned to service.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because divers had yet to recover any bodies, said the navy believed there was no way anyone could have survived the intensity of the blasts and fire, which occurred early Wednesday while the diesel-powered submarine was docked at a Mumbai navy base.
* * *
The explosions in the submarine's torpedo compartment sent a huge fireball into the air and sent nearby sailors jumping into the sea in panic. It is shaping up to be another embarrassment for India's military, which has been hit with a corruption scandal as it races to modernize its forces.
* * *
At least some weaponry exploded in the near-simultaneous blasts, Joshi added.
A video of the explosions filmed by bystanders showed an enormous ball of red and yellow fire rising hundreds of feet into the air.
* * *
The 16-year-old Russian-made submarine, INS Sindhurakshak, was hit by an explosion in 2010 that killed one sailor and injured two others. The navy said that accident was caused by a faulty battery valve that leaked hydrogen, causing an explosion in the vessel's battery compartment.
The sub recently returned from Russia after a 2½-year refit, overhaul and upgrade, said Rahul Bedi, an analyst for the independent Jane's Information Group. Joshi, the navy chief, said it returned to India in April, and had been certified for use by the Indian navy.
Russian ship repair company Zvyozdochka said the blasts were unrelated to its repair work.
"According to the members of our warranty group, the vessel was functioning properly and had no technical faults at the time of the incident," the Interfax news agency quoted an unidentified company representative as saying.
Zvyozdochka said the submarine had been "in active use" and had logged 15,000 miles (24,000 kilometers) on three missions.
Wednesday's accident came at a time when India is facing a shortage of submarines because of obsolescence, Bedi said.
 The cause of the explosion is unknown, but could shape submarine operations and politics for some time. My guess, over the short term, is that India will be reluctant to continue with Russian-built submarines and seek better built submarines from the West. Not the United States, but from Germany, UK, or France, and, maybe, Israel. There will also be a push to develope their own production facilities.

Our hearts and hope goes out to the families of the sailors that are missing or killed in the explosion. God be with you.

Israel as a Light and Blessing to the World

P. David Hornick writes about ancient prophecy of Israel's unique place among the nations, and how it seems to have come to pass. Of course, by showcasing Israel's accomplishments--in a little over 60 years--one cannot help but compare that with the failures of the surrounding nations. Anyway, read the whole thing.

124 Dead in Clashes Between Egyptian Police and Arab Nazis (Update)

From Al Arabiya:
At least 124 people were reportedly killed on Wednesday as Egyptian police moved in on protest camps in support of deposed President Mohammed Mursi, according to an AFP tally.

Six members of the Egyptian security forces were killed, state TV reported, quoting the Interior Ministry, adding that a further 66 members of the security forces had been wounded.

The state news agency said security forces had started implementing a phased plan to disperse the protesters, which is almost certain to deepen political turmoil in Egypt. The operation began shortly after dawn when security forces surrounded the sprawling Rabaa al-Adawiya camp in east Cairo and a similar one at Nahda square, in the centre of the capital.
I threw in the "Arab Nazis" part because, as any student of WWII knows, there were actually close ties between Islamic groups and the Nazis due to the shared hatred of Jews.

This isn't a situation where police are attacking peaceful protesters. The Muslim Brotherhood are attacking targets all over Egypt. Weasel Zippers has the best roundup of news stories on this, including: attacks on Christian churches (also here), attacks on police stations and government buildings, and other attacks on police.

Update: France24 now puts the death toll at 278.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

India Forming New Mountain Strike Force...

... to provide a conventional deterrent to Chinese forces. From the Diplomat:

India’s Cabinet Committee on Security has agreed to proceed with the creation of a new mountain strike corps of nearly 40,000 troops to be deployed along the disputed China border region by the end of 2016. The decision to set up the new corps has been long debated by India’s security planners and final approval came in the wake of the three-week long Depsung Valley confrontations with Chinese forces earlier this year. Over the last two decades, India has gradually increased its military presence along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in response to aggressive Chinese patrolling in the disputed region.

The 4,100 km long LAC between the two countries is geographically divided into three sectors. The western sector in Ladakh, the central sector along the Uttarakhand-Tibet border, and the eastern sector in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, where China claims 90,000 square kilometers of Indian-administered territory. Earlier in 2009, the Indian Army deployed two similar mountain divisions in the Arunachal Pradesh region to boost its defenses in the eastern sector. The new mountain strike corps, however, is expected to take the fight into Tibet and capture the Chinese territory there, should the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) invade Indian territory.

Britain Sends Naval Task Force to Gibralter

Another E.U. failure. The Daily Mail reports:
A Royal Navy rapid reaction force is to set sail for Gibraltar on  Monday as tensions over the Rock continue to rise.

Ten vessels including the aircraft  carrier Illustrious, two frigates and support ships are heading to the waters off Gibraltar as part of an annual exercise.

But defence officials have revealed that three of them – the frigate Westminster and two support vessels – will call in at the British sovereign base at Gibraltar for three days, beginning on August 19.

In a show of force, the warships will practise ‘a range of operations’ including ‘deterring adversaries’.

Although diplomatic relations between Britain and Spain over Gibraltar have plunged into the deep freeze, the Ministry of Defence insisted that the mission, called Cougar ’13, is a long-planned exercise.

But senior government sources conceded that the timing is convenient since it will reassure the people of Gibraltar after Spain imposed draconian border checks in a  dispute over fishing.

And while the deployment could have been delayed to avoid upsetting the Spanish government, it was not.

A Whitehall source said: ‘The timing is not unhelpful. We could  have decided to call it off or divert it  away from Gibraltar to avoid offending  the Spanish. But there was absolutely no question of that.’

The deployment follows demands from the government of Gibraltar for the coalition to beef up its naval presence off the Rock, and calls for gunboat diplomacy from Tory MPs.

Ex-Border Patrol Agents Say American Politicians Helping Cartels

From Beitbart (warning--video plays at link):

“Sanctuary cities established throughout the United States discourage even the most basic law enforcement initiatives within their boundaries against these predatory criminals,” they wrote. “Encouraged by Congress and a disinterested mainstream news media, these havens deny the American public their constitutional right to national security and public safety while providing relative safety for dangerous foreign criminals.”

The retired Border Patrol agents called on Congress to abandon efforts to grant amnesty to illegal aliens because passing an amnesty would be akin to abetting the drug cartels.
“Congress must abandon their focus on rewarding illegal behavior for millions of persons by the grant of amnesty in favor of protecting American citizens who suffer daily at the hands of these seasoned criminals,” they wrote. “To do otherwise makes a mockery of our laws, and encourages countless millions more from around the globe to do the same. Transnational organized crime nationwide has flourished under these conditions.”
You might also find a couple recent op-eds from Small Wars Journal to be interesting. First, this one by Eric M. Tope, suggests that, counter-intuitively, increased violence may indicate more effective government action against the cartels. He writes:

In short, Mexico’s decent into violence is not unprecedented.  An abrupt policy change followed by a surge in bloodshed is not atypical and does not necessarily mean the situation is hopeless. Conditions may continue to get worse before they get better, but as America’s counterinsurgency efforts in Iraq demonstrate, intelligent and tenacious policies can lead to a tipping point after which drastic and sustainable improvements in stability are possible. Consequently, when things appear to be at their worst it is often sensible to remain resilient.[xvi] This news surely offers little comfort to millions of Mexican citizens, and it is a tall order for an elected official facing domestic pressure to curtail the death toll. If President Peña Nieto intends to uphold his campaign pledge of reducing insecurity, he may be tempted to reach an accord with the cartels in which less government interference is exchanged for less street violence.[xvii] Such a transaction could prove to be politically expedient and domestically popular in the short term, but it would forfeit an opportunity to solidify recent gains, and it “would consign Mexico to the corruption and impunity of organized crime for generations to come.”[xviii] Thus, rather than flinch, now may be the time to press the boot on the cartels’ throats even harder. If the government remains resolute, a time may come when Mexicans are not forced to choose between corruption and violence.[xix]
He also draws parallels between the U.S.'s experience in Iraq and Mexico's fight against the cartels:

With the Iraq assessment in mind, some light can now be shed on Mexico’s predicament. While different in some aspects organized criminal elements and insurgents share many traits. Both undermine government sovereignty; that is their monopoly of the legitimate use of force, and both bribe, persuade or intimidate locals into compliance with their agendas. Moreover, both have resorted to excessively vicious tactics when confronted with threats to their authority.
 I take umbrage at Mr. Tope's statement, however, that ties government sovereignty to a "monopoly of the legitimate use of force." This is a European/Socialist philosophy and directly contradicted by English and American common law and the U.S. Constitution. And the pursuit of this philosophy is one of the reasons that the cartel violence has been so rampant in Mexico. Under a democratic government, the people are sovereign and retain rights, including the right to the legitimate use of force--i.e., the concept of self-defense. In a truly free country, the government cannot have a monopoly on the use of force. Only in a tyranny do we find citizens demoted to subjects, without even the means of protecting themselves.

This second article, by John Zambri, suggests that the cartels need to be treated as insurgents, with the caveat that there is no political compromise possible with the cartels because they are not political organizations. Zambri also notes the threat cartels pose to national security:

In the past few years the cartels have extended their reach across the United States and into Canada.[27]  Cartels are responsible for a rash of shootings in Vancouver, British Columbia, kidnappings in Phoenix and Texas, and brutal assaults along numerous border cities.[28]  The FBI in San Antonio, Texas reported that there have been 266 kidnappings in Texas since 2004, 14 reported in 2004, and 58 in 2009.  Kidnappings include Americans kidnapped in Mexico, victims abducted in Texas and taken to Mexico and victims kidnapped in Texas by subjects from Mexico.[29]  Most notably, Yvette Martinez, 27, and her friend Brenda Cisneros, 23, are among nine Americans who the FBI says have simply disappeared along the border in the last two years.[30]

There is little doubt that the cartels could wreak havoc in the U.S. if they ever decided to do so.  Officials cautioned that cartels have plenty of experience utilizing military style small unit tactics to ambush Mexican police and federals.[31]  The cartels possess intelligence capabilities, weaponry and communications equipment that challenge U.S. law enforcement, to include light and heavy automatic weapons (assault rifles like the AK-47, .50 caliber machine guns, M72 anti tank rockets, and RPG 7), armored personnel carriers, grenades, RPGs, Vehicle Born Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIEDs) and IEDs. [32]  American law enforcement and Border Patrol agents are armed with handguns (primarily 9mm), shotguns, and light assault rifles (.223 calibers).[33]  It is evident that local law enforcement and Border Patrol assets are woefully unprepared and inadequately equipped when compared with the weapons, tactics, and technology employed by drug cartels.[34]  Personnel, intelligence resources, tactics and technology utilized by U.S. law enforcement need to be enhanced to combat the highly organized and sophisticated cartels.[35]  These criminal enterprises have seemingly unlimited money to purchase the most advanced technology and weaponry available.

Spillover violence, as indicated above, is increasing.  Drug cartels, in order to keep their trafficking corridors open into and within the United States, are not deterred by American law enforcement efforts.  In keeping with fourth generation warfare principles, they are adeptly and routinely utilizing asymmetry, in weapons and tactics, to exploit the legal, tactical and technological gap that exists between law enforcement and military responses.  Drug cartel weapons and tactics, at present, can overwhelm conventional law enforcement capabilities, but present no match for conventional U.S. military responses.  The question, therefore, is how to deal with the drug cartels; is it a law enforcement problem or a military problem?

This author contends that it is both. 
 He proposes the creation of "joint task forces"--essentially para-military units--to deal with cross-border violence. While perhaps essential, I frankly have doubts about such units, not because they might prove effective, but because of inevitable mission creep into operations unrelated to fighting cartel paramilitary forces; much like the mission creep of SWAT teams from hostage rescue to general warrant service.