Tuesday, December 31, 2013

FBI Going Back to 9 mm

Back in 2011, I noted a shift back to 9 mm from the .40 S&W. Pistol Training.com report on December 13, 2013, that "[a] formal proposal to remove all .40-cal guns from service and replace them with 9mm is sitting on the FBI Director’s desk and is expected to be approved." Various commentators note that the .40 S&W just didn't deliver any real advantages over the 9 mm and had significant disadvantages, including lower qualification scores, and increased wear and tear on firearms. The .40 S&W was developed from a lighter loading of the 11 10 mm; but even the current FBI load is a lightweight load compared to standard .40 S&W.

I have to agree. If you want something bigger than 9 mm, get a .45 ACP.


The Glock 42 and Building an AR

The Firearms Blog has a couple articles I wanted to bring to your attention today. First, they have photos and stats of the Glock 42--a single stack .380--a pistol Glock should have developed a long time ago.

Second, one of their writers--Phil White--gives thoughts (and suggestions for parts and manufacturers) for building your own AR 15. Although White lists some videos for providing guidance on building your own, I would also recommend Kyle Lamb's Green Eyes and Black Rifles, which goes over the basics of building your own, as well as running an AR 15.

Monday, December 30, 2013

"Dark Arts for the Good Guy"

The blog "Straight Forward in Crooked World" has a series of articles called "Dark Arts for the Good Guy" that I highly recommend. It is written for those traveling to international destinations, particularly outside the First World, but all of the articles potentially have application even here in the U.S.

From his introduction:

So what do you do if your traveling in a foreign country, and wake up the next morning to find that there are soldiers in the streets and overnight there is a civil war? Suddenly that easy trip to the airport that is 200 hundred miles away and near the U.S. Embassy is now a non viable option? Tourists and innocent people are being slaughtered.

How do you get out of the country?

How do you get from point A to point B so that you can get out of the country?

How do you make, make shift weapons to either defend yourself or get better weapons?

This is what is coming in a series of articles I'm writing called:

Dark Arts for Good Guys.
Read his articles--print them up. They are good stuff.

Hiding from Drones (Updated)

The Drone Survival Guide offers some tips on hiding from drones:

Drones are equipped with extremely powerful camera’s which can detect people and vehicles at an altitude of several kilometers. Most drones are equipped with night vision, and/or infrared vision camera’s, so-called FLIR sensors. These can see human heat signatures from far away, day or night. However there are ways to hide from drones.


1.  Day camouflage: Hide in the shadows of buildings or trees.

2.  Use thick forests as natural camouflage or use camouflage nets.

3.  Night camouflage: hide inside buildings or under protection of trees or foliage. Do not use flashlights or vehicle spot lights, even at long distances. Drones can easily spot this during night missions.

4.  Heat camouflage: Emergency blankets (so-called space blankets) made of Mylar can block infrared rays. Wearing a space blanket as a poncho at night will hide your heat signature from infrared detection. Also in summer when the temperature is between 36°C and 40°C, infrared camera’s cannot distinguish between body and its surroundings.
  
5.  Wait for bad weather. Drones cannot operate in high winds, smoke, rainstorms or heavy weather conditions.

6.  No wireless communication. Using mobile phones or GPS based communication will possibly compromise your location.

7.  Spreading reflective pieces of glass or mirrored material on a car on a roof will confuse the drone’s camera.

8.  Decoys. Use mannequins or human-sized dolls to mislead the drone’s reconnaissance.
(H/t Ol' Remus and the Woodpile Report).

Update: 1/3/2014: Based on the comments below, I decided to poke around the internet a bit more to see what I could find on defeating thermal imaging systems. This 2009 article (advertisement?) at Super Circuits discusses the basics of thermal imaging, but doesn't really get into weaknesses of the systems.

This article from E-How discusses some techniques for camouflaging yourself from thermal imaging. Some points:
1. Conceal yourself behind shards of glass. Glass is opaque to thermal imaging, but carrying around a pane of glass in the jungle is not terribly practical. In junk yards or urban settings, a broken window or shards of glass can break up the shape of a human body and make a person in a ghillie suit harder to detect.


2. Throw a blanket over yourself. Afghan guerrillas carry thick woolen blankets to help defeat thermal imaging. A thermal blanket works the same way. By covering themselves with a layer of insulation, the heat is blocked so that it doesn't radiate. This only serves as a temporary concealment as the heat builds beneath the blanket, but may work long enough to conceal during a quick TI scan. Partially covering the ghillie suit may also obscure the outline of the body enough to deceive TI equipment.


3. Hide next to warm stones that still hold heat from the day. The extra warm spots will confuse the thermal imagers. Vent pipes near buildings, thick walls or any source of heat can help obscure your thermal outline. Hiding in hollows or caves or piling irregular mounds of earth over you may make you look like a brush pile that's warm inside. Most brush piles emit a little heat that confuses an infrared image to the observer. The trick with terrain blocking is to make yourself look less like a human.
 Some additional thoughts at Steve Quayle's blog, including:

IR is not Xray, Hollywood be damned-it cannot detect a differential heat image through common solid materials, plastic film (black or otherwise) being an exception. However, a good imager system can see through holes in a masking material ("IR masking" camo net). And if you are inside a dumpster, body heating the bad guy's side, he can "see" the hot spot on the dumpster's outside. But if you are not leaning (heating) against that side, he can't "see you". Your body heat will not be detected behind most readily available unholed blinding materials if you are not differentially warming/cooling those materials or allowing your own IR to reflect off of something behind/over you. BUT, if the shielding materials are alien to the surroundings, the material itself will probably stand out. See below.

Glass will not allow your THERMAL image to transmit (pass) through; same as the dumpster scenario. The lenses of IR imagers are made of exotic nonglass materials because of this.
The same basic techniques discussed above appear in this Modern Survival Blog article on the topic.

Update (6/6/2014): Tin Hat Ranch also has an article on hiding from drones/thermal imaging that you may find interesting. (H/t Active Response Training).

Saturday, December 28, 2013

"China's Shadow Currency"

The Diplomat has an article about the use (or, rather, misuse) of banker's acceptance notes in China allowing banks to, essentially, issue their own currency. From the article:
China’s economy is straining to keep up a semblance of its former growth rate. The surest sign is the way a shadow market in bank paper has evolved to substitute the commodity that China is increasingly running short of: cash.

Bankers are passing around their own ersatz currency, stimulating trade with what, in effect, are off-the-books loans. As in the wildcat currency era of the United States, the antebellum period before America had a national currency, this paper trades at a discount from province to province. It is increasingly used for speculative purposes, is potentially inflationary, and is hard to regulate. The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) has been unable or unwilling to crack down, lest it provoke a serious slowdown. But when the world’s second largest economy must resort to passing around IOUs, the financial community should take note.

Bankers acceptance notes (BANs) are nothing more than a post-dated check with a bank guarantee. For example, a buyer in Chongqing might have a hard time passing checks to vendors in Shanghai. But if the purchaser gets his paper signed by, say, Bank of China, his check now has the guarantee of a major financial institution: it is money good. BANs facilitate trade by obviating the need for vendors to assess the creditworthiness of purchasers. But in China, this prosaic instrument of commerce has become a kind of shadow currency that allows under-reserved banks to purchase deposits, fuels speculation, and undermines the central bank’s control over the money supply.
The author of the article compares the situation in China to that of the United States in the late 19th and early 20th Century before central banking and a single currency.

But printing your own currency has its downsides:

Not surprisingly, China’s local governments, themselves heavily involved in project and commercial finance, have become a huge market for BANs. Since 2008, local governments across China have been diligently at work on grand infrastructure and “urbanization” projects, of which ensuring an adequate supply of ghost cities seems to rank highest in priority. In the process, local government financing vehicles (LGFVs), the corporate subsidiaries that local governments use to fund infrastructure projects, have racked up an estimated 19 trillion RMB in debt according to the National Audit Office. Because LGFV investment has been so unremunerative – ghost inhabitants don’t pay taxes – the fiscal burden on local governments is crushing. For cities and counties that are short of cash, there is scarcely a more appealing solution to printing their own.

“There is a risk of banks and LGFVs colluding to fake security deposits and print BANs with no underlying trade,” warns a Ministry of Finance discussion document. Local governments up to their eyeballs in debt have the advantage of control – often of ownership – of banks within their territories, and can order up BANS at will. LGFVs turn to sister banks as a makeshift printing press, printing pseudo-currency virtually on demand. LGFVs use BANs to pay suppliers and obscure the truth about their overburdened balance sheets. A jaded banker in Tianjin complains, “When a borrower uses a BAN, they are supposed to record it on their balance sheet as a liability. But it’s kind of an unspoken rule that they don’t. To be honest, a lot of people see this is a major advantage of using BANs; they can pretend they have lower debt than they really do.” And the LGFVs never have to worry about principal repayments because banks are happy to roll over BANs as they come due. In short, LGFVs have nearly unrestricted access to notes that allow them to make payments, do not get recorded as debt, and never have to be paid down – i.e., their very own money.

Local governments printing their own money has led to a partial fracturing of the monetary system. A BAN issued by a local bank is likely to be accepted within its province, but its credit might not be honored – or honored only at a punitive discount – across provincial borders. ...

Read the whole thing.

Stay Out of Crowded Venues

A warning from The Last Refuge blog which has noted a correlation between public criticism of liberal ideology and mass casualty events:

Statistically speaking something (an event of mass casualty) of large significance is due to happen in the U.S. within the next 10 to 20 days.

If you define Progressive Failing as the exposure of collapsing narratives, and then rate liberal risk from headlines which reflect that collapse, on a scale of 1 to 5 (where 5 is the most damaging to them) you are able to statistically quantify “social tone”.

When the social tone (of anti-liberalism) rating is high, meaning liberalism as an ideology is receiving many negative discussions, statistically, and historically, there is a general likelihood (a pattern) that something of mass casualty takes place.

I have no idea what the causality of it is, nor do I have any clue, other than broad outlines, of why it occurs; but it does.

Out of an abundance of caution, just be prudent and careful with your activities and choices over the next several weeks – Try to avoid large crowds and large gathering places which are, for all intents and purposes, the places where such significant events always seem to take place.

I don't have any information on the statistical analysis that was done, but just passing along the warning. Make of it what you will.

More Thoughts on Building an AK

I've some experience with building an AK from a parts kit. (See Building an AK, Part 1 and Part 2). I have friends that are also partial to the AK, and I have been helping one of my friends recently with a parts kit he had purchased. Because he wanted to build one by riveting rather than using a screw build, as I had done, it was substantially more complicated. However, I left the riveting to him.

For the riveting, he bought a set of bolt cutters from Harbor Freight, and replacement jaws. The modified bolt cutters are actually only good for the short rivets on the front and rear trunnion. I insisted he do this part himself for several reasons: (a) so he would have the experience, (b) because they were his tools, and (c) it was his receiver.

He purchased a special riveting tool and buck bar set for the remaining rivets, including the long rivet in the rear trunnion. These latter tools require a shop press to squeeze the rivets. And of course, the installation of the barrel and various pins require the use of a shop press.

This is where I come in. Not only do I have the experience with seating barrels and pins, but I have the press to do the job. We had pressed the barrel and set the head space on a prior weekend, which I have to say was not as easy as when I worked on my own kit. For some reason, not only did I have trouble getting the barrel aligned, but I had problems with the seating--I seemed to just push it bit too far, or just be just a bit short, at various times. I think I fully removed and reset the barrel at least a half-dozen times. It was made somewhat more difficult because of the order of assembly. With a screw build, I was able to seat the barrel in the front trunnion, then attach the trunnion to the receiver. In this case, because of the riveting, the trunnion has to be installed first, and then the barrel pressed in. This takes a special support piece to hold the receiver/trunnion in place, which my friend had also purchased. My friend had also purchased go/no-go gauges. I don't know if they worked better than my "work around," but they were probably safer.

This weekend we finished with cutting the slot for the barrel pin and pressing the pin, cutting the slot for the pin holding the sight block and pressing that pin, and, finally, crushing the long rivet in the rear trunnion. I has asked him to do the rough cutting on the slots, and then I finished them off--doing a bit more cutting and filing the slots smooth. I used a finer oil this time to lubricate the pins, which seemed to help (I used a cutting oil I had bought from Midway).

All in all, it's been fun building another AK. Unless you are going to use a screw build, or build several AKs from kits, it is not cost-effective to build your own. If you are going to build your own, it should be because you want the experience and challenge.

Review: Eaton FRX3 Emergency Radio


Displaying photo.JPG



I've had an Eaton FR-200 for several years (pictured on the right in the photo above). Fortunately, I haven't had to rely on it for emergencies, but it had several nice features:

1.  A rubberized body;

2.  An LED flashlight;

3.  Radio with AM, FM, and SW1&2 bands;

4.  It was rechargable with a hand-cranked dynamo, or it also runs off standard AA batteries, or could be plugged in to an AC/DC converter.

5.  It came with an pretty basic, but usable, nylon carrying case.

However, after attending a presentation by the local emergency management agency in November, my wife and I decided we wanted to purchase a NOAA Weather Alert radio. That is where the Eton FRX 3 comes in. Plus, it had some additional features which we would thought would be useful.

1. It lacks the rubberized body, but seems to be solidly built.

2. The flashlight now is has 2 white LEDs instead of a single LED like in the older model. It also includes a flashing red LED. Whereas the earlier model had a switch on the face of the radio for controlling the flashlight, the FRX 3 has a button on one end of the carrying handle, just above the flashlight, that allows you to easily turn on the light while carrying the radio.

3. The radio in FRX 3 loses the short wave bands, but adds 7 weather broadcast bands so you can pick the best reception for your area. The tuner is digital which has some benefits, as I will describe a little later. Most important to us, the radio can be set to sound a weather alert (at least according to the box--the instructions are strangely silent on this feature) (Update--the radio does pick up the emergency alerts, but I'm still puzzled why the instructions don't say anything about this feature). The alert feature can be enabled/disabled with a push of a button. So far, we haven't had any alerts come through, so I can't give an example of how well that works.

4.  Like its predecessor, it can be charged with a hand-cranked dynamo. The handle is now located on the face of the device, which allows a slightly larger handle that is easier to use. It lacks the rubberized body, but seems to be solidly built. In addition, the top of the carrying handle has a solar panel, which can also be used to recharge the device--albeit, it requires approximately 8 hours of direct sunlight (direct, as in outside--not through a window) to fully charge the batteries. It also can run off AA batteries, and can be hooked up to a computer or a USB charger.

5.  There is no carrying case.

6.  Because the radio uses a digital tuner, it also includes a clock and alarm function.

7.  The radio can also be used to charge cell phones (and, presumably, other small electronics) via a USB port on the back.

8.  As a couple other nice features, the radio has an auxiliary input jack, presumably to save the power on cell phone if you are using it for music; and there is a band of glow-in-the-dark plastic around the solar panel on the top of the carrying handle, which makes it easy to spot in the dark.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Are We Creating Our Own Replacements?

After a seemingly dry period, significant advances have been in the last several years toward creating an artificial intelligence. But what if we succeed? Ross Andersen writes at Aeon Magazine:

[Nick] Bostrom isn’t too concerned about extinction risks from nature. Not even cosmic risks worry him much, which is surprising, because our starry universe is a dangerous place.
...
The risks that keep Bostrom up at night are those for which there are no geological case studies, and no human track record of survival. These risks arise from human technology, a force capable of introducing entirely new phenomena into the world.


... Nuclear weapons were the first technology to threaten us with extinction, but they will not be the last, nor even the most dangerous. A species-destroying exchange of fissile weapons looks less likely now that the Cold War has ended, and arsenals have shrunk. There are still tens of thousands of nukes, enough to incinerate all of Earth’s dense population centers, but not enough to target every human being. The only way nuclear war will wipe out humanity is by triggering nuclear winter, a crop-killing climate shift that occurs when smoldering cities send Sun-blocking soot into the stratosphere. But it’s not clear that nuke-levelled cities would burn long or strong enough to lift soot that high. The Kuwait oil field fires blazed for ten months straight, roaring through 6 million barrels of oil a day, but little smoke reached the stratosphere. A global nuclear war would likely leave some decimated version of humanity in its wake; perhaps one with deeply rooted cultural taboos concerning war and weaponry.
The technology that concerns Bostrom, and others, is the rise of machine intelligences.
An artificial intelligence wouldn’t need to better the brain by much to be risky. After all, small leaps in intelligence sometimes have extraordinary effects. Stuart Armstrong, a research fellow at the Future of Humanity Institute, once illustrated this phenomenon to me with a pithy take on recent primate evolution. ‘The difference in intelligence between humans and chimpanzees is tiny,’ he said. ‘But in that difference lies the contrast between 7 billion inhabitants and a permanent place on the endangered species list. That tells us it’s possible for a relatively small intelligence advantage to quickly compound and become decisive.’

To understand why an AI might be dangerous, you have to avoid anthropomorphising it. When you ask yourself what it might do in a particular situation, you can’t answer by proxy. You can't picture a super-smart version of yourself floating above the situation. Human cognition is only one species of intelligence, one with built-in impulses like empathy that colour the way we see the world, and limit what we are willing to do to accomplish our goals. But these biochemical impulses aren’t essential components of intelligence. They’re incidental software applications, installed by aeons of evolution and culture. Bostrom told me that it’s best to think of an AI as a primordial force of nature, like a star system or a hurricane — something strong, but indifferent. If its goal is to win at chess, an AI is going to model chess moves, make predictions about their success, and select its actions accordingly. It’s going to be ruthless in achieving its goal, but within a limited domain: the chessboard. But if your AI is choosing its actions in a larger domain, like the physical world, you need to be very specific about the goals you give it.

‘The basic problem is that the strong realisation of most motivations is incompatible with human existence,’ Dewey told me. ‘An AI might want to do certain things with matter in order to achieve a goal, things like building giant computers, or other large-scale engineering projects. Those things might involve intermediary steps, like tearing apart the Earth to make huge solar panels. A superintelligence might not take our interests into consideration in those situations, just like we don’t take root systems or ant colonies into account when we go to construct a building.’

It is tempting to think that programming empathy into an AI would be easy, but designing a friendly machine is more difficult than it looks. You could give it a benevolent goal — something cuddly and utilitarian, like maximising human happiness. But an AI might think that human happiness is a biochemical phenomenon. It might think that flooding your bloodstream with non-lethal doses of heroin is the best way to maximise your happiness. It might also predict that shortsighted humans will fail to see the wisdom of its interventions. It might plan out a sequence of cunning chess moves to insulate itself from resistance. Maybe it would surround itself with impenetrable defences, or maybe it would confine humans — in prisons of undreamt of efficiency.
It is a long article, but worth the read.

David John Marotta--Buy Guns!

The Washington Examiner has an article concerning some predictions from David John Marotta--a Wall Street expert and financial advisor.

A top financial advisor, worried that Obamacare, the NSA spying scandal and spiraling national debt is increasing the chances for a fiscal and social disaster, is recommending that Americans prepare a “bug-out bag” that includes food, a gun and ammo to help them stay alive.

David John Marotta, a Wall Street expert and financial advisor and Forbes contributor, said in a note to investors, “Firearms are the last item on the list, but they are on the list. There are some terrible people in this world. And you are safer when your trusted neighbors have firearms.”

His memo is part of a series addressing the potential for a “financial apocalypse.” His view, however, is that the problems plaguing the country won't result in armageddon. “There is the possibility of a precipitous decline, although a long and drawn out malaise is much more likely,” said the Charlottesville, Va.-based president of Marotta Wealth Management.

The Most Underreported Foreign News Stories of the Year

By now, you are probably getting tired of all the end of the year stories--best of..., worst of..., ad nauseaum. PJ Media has one worth reading, however. It is the 5 most underreported foreign news stories of the year, and each of them bear some interest for the prepper because they are way-points on where the world is headed. The stories are:

1.  The pogrom against Christians in the Middle-East.

2.  The decline of American power (and the rising challenges to the Pax Americana).

3.  The secret negotiations between Iran and the U.S.

4.  The imminent collapse of North Korea.

5.  The growth and ambitions of China.

I want to note a few points from the section on North Korea:

... RAND’s recent paper, “Preparing for the Possibility of a North Korean Collapse,” should be required reading for those interested in the subject.

It paints the picture of a mangy tiger stuck atop a pole, unable to climb further, yet incapable of going down. The problem for everyone — South Korea, Japan, the United States (and surprisingly even North Korea itself) — is what happens when the North Korean tiger eventually falls to the ground. Academics in Beijing having openly given the Kim Family Regime (KFR) ten years to survive, tops.

And when it collapses an imploding North Korea will at best unleash a World War Z-style horde of starving, desperate refugees on both China and South Korea, or at worst precipitate a regional nuclear war. ...

Shorn of its subsidies and terminally inefficient, as many as 3.5 million people starved in the early 1990s. Things got so bad that North Korea reluctantly allowed a black market to arise to avoid total starvation. The present result of that expedient was a curious society that is run at the lowest levels by illegal traders and producers bribing apparatchiks to look away while at the highest levels a nomenklatura labors in is fantasy world on starvation wages made bearable only by a direct provision of state housing, food, and commodities.

Everything that works in North Korea is illegal, and the black market created a permanent threat to the Kim Family Regime since the money is mostly in the black market. From time to time the regime devalues the currency, replacing the existing bills in circulation by revaluing them one for a hundred in order to destroy the cash of the private sector, which has countered by dealing in foreign currency, effectively destroying the Kim Family Regime scrip.

....

Ten years, the Beijing academic predicted, ten years at the most. We learn from RAND that many politicians in South Korea dread the terminal diagnosis, for in the best-case collapse scenario, only 3 to 4 million starving people are expected to head straight for the DMZ, heedless of barbed wire and landmines in a mad scramble for food. China is bracing for an even bigger tide across the Yalu and has probably prepared plans to meet the horde at least 20 miles inside North Korea, to hold them on the Korean side of the border in order to prevent human locusts from ravaging the Chinese countryside.

The nightmare scenario, according to RAND, is that if North Korea does not collapse sweetly, it may be swept up in a civil war, with both the ROKs and the Chinese compelled to intervene, not only to feed the starving millions but to bring the vast stocks of chemical, nuclear and biological weapons which the KFR have developed over the years under control. In that collapse, such weapons would be the nearest thing to gold.

Nor is America without its concerns. RAND author Bruce Bennett points out that a collapsing North Korea might in extremis fire a ballistic missile at Japan, the U.S. or even — in a fit of incompetence of irrationality — at China. Failing that, the NOKORs still have thousands of artillery pieces overlooking Pyongyang, able to destroy where they could not build. ...

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

"Kalashnikov's Gun"

MIT Technology Review published this article on the AK platform back in 2005. It notes:
The Kalashnikov is the most successful firearm in history. William Hartung and Rachel Stohr report in Foreign Policy that between 70 and 100 million of the weapons are in circulation, compared with just seven million U.S. M-16s. In Afghanistan, the AK-47 costs as little as $10.

... The AK-47 illustrates the power of incremental adaptation. As a tank sergeant in World War II, Mikhail Kalashnikov saw that most Soviet troops had only carbines
 [ed.: the author probably meant sub-machine guns] against the superior range of the German Sturmgewehr [ed. the STG-44, which used an "intermediate" rifle round]. While recovering from battlefield wounds, he began to create a design for a new weapon, one that could be assembled with relatively loose tolerances by relatively inexperienced workers, avoiding the supply bottlenecks that often resulted from the German cult of fine craftsmanship. A tractor plant originally produced the gun. Not only was the AK-47 simple to manufacture, but it could withstand rough handling in harsh terrain and climates.
The latter are good reasons why AK clones are good firearms for preppers.

Protests Erupt Across Turkey

The American Interest reports that protests have erupted across Turkey after police arrested a large number of government officials and family members for corruption, and the government responded by dismissing senior police officials.
Erdoğan and others have also accused a US-based Muslim cleric and popular community leader named Fethullah Gülen of orchestrating the unrest; on Friday Gülen denied having a role in the graft inquiry or the street protests but issued a warning that God would punish those engaged in theft and bribery.

As usual, Erdoğan’s international conspiracy-mongering is mostly intended to deflect attention from the accusations against his government and to maintain his popularity across the country, which remains high at around 50 percent. But the signs of a rift between leaders of the AKP party, Turkey’s most powerful Islamist political group, and his former ally Gülen, who commands wide respect and has millions of followers across the world, could have serious implications for Turkish politics. Turkish Islamists do not all see eye to eye; if Gulen and his faithful diverge from the ruling AKP party, the steady economic growth and modernization that has characterized Turkey over the past decade of AKP rule could be at risk.
 I've previously posted about Gulen and his influence in Turkey. (See here and here).

Daily Mail Article on LDS Food Storage

The Daily Mail has an article on the LDS Church's disaster preparations and Bishop's Storehouses (which are for charitable purposes, like a food bank). A little bit from the article:
Towering grain silos overlook the main highway in Salt Lake City at the Mormon church's Welfare Square. At grocery stores, there's a whole section with large plastic tubs with labels that read, "Deluxe survivor 700." Radio ads hawk long-term supplies of food with 25-year shelf lives. 
And houses are equipped with special shelving for cans of beans, rice and wheat.
Storing away enough food and water in case of disaster, job loss or something worse is not just part of the fundamental teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it's an idea that is increasingly catching on nationwide.

... By the mid-1900s, church leaders worried about nuclear war were using more apocalyptic rhetoric in encouraging food storage. During the Cold War, church members were encouraged to have a two-year supply, Bowman said.
 
In the last two decades, the focus on food storage has shifted back to practicality. 
‘A lot of times we are thinking in terms of food storage that we are preparing for this major calamity or major disaster or for Armageddon,’ said Rick Foster, manager of North America Humanitarian Services with the LDS church. ‘It's not about that. 
‘It's about helping all of us individually to get through these bumps that occur in our lives,’ he said.

If members are prepared, they can help themselves and others in times of need, Foster said. ...

... Chris Rutter and his family of six found their food stash vital after he lost his job in 2009 when his company made major layoffs during the economic downturn. It took Rutter two years to find full-time work again.
 
During that rough patch, they relied on savings and leaned heavily on the stored food. Rutter's wife, Jodi, made homemade bread, soups and spaghetti sauces from her canned tomatoes, and made gallons of milk last longer by mixing them with powdered milk. 
They still buy many of their supplies at their nearby storage center, including 50-pound bags of oats and large tins of chocolate milk powder, a family favorite. Jodi Rutter uses the oats, which have a shelf life of five years, to make her own granola, pancakes and cookies. 
She also buys food in bulk at Costco, keeps an eye out for grocery store coupons and has a garden with tomatoes and zucchini and a peach tree. 
‘We honestly never felt like we were going without,’ she said about the period when her husband was unemployed. ‘We always felt so blessed to have enough to feed our kids.’

Monday, December 23, 2013

RIP Mikhail Kalashnikov

Mikhail Kalashnikov has died at the age of 94. Our condolences to his family and friends.

The Wonder-Bag at Amazon

Instapundit recently noted that Amazon is selling the Wonder-Bag--an insulated bag that uses retained heat to complete the cooking process (and saving your cooking fuel)--aka, insulated cooking. Back in December 2011, I posted about the Wonder-Bag when it was first marketed in South Africa, as well as DIY resources for insulated cooking, including making a "hay box," or using a Thermos or vacuum flask systems.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Arsenal Inc. Now Selling "Krinkov" Carbines

The Truth About Guns notes:
It used to be that you needed to get a kit and build your own Krink from the receiver on up, but Arsenal has started making factory rifles with the proper gas system length and sight radius that all you need to do is get your tax stamp and then procure yourself a hacksaw. It gets better — the front sight gas block is already threaded for the typical Krink muzzle device, so when the barrel is short enough, it’ll all just work.
Link to Arsenal site here.

Army Successfully Tests 10 Kw Vehicle Mounted Laser

The Daily Mail reports:

The device was equipped with a 10-kilowatt solid state laser and a radar system mounted atop a heavy truck.
 
During the tests a 'quarter-sized' invisible laser beam successfully targeted and destroyed more than 90 incoming mortar rounds and six to seven unmanned drones. 
Terry Bauer, the project manager for the laser program, told ABC News the test results were 'above and beyond' what they had expected going into the testing.

'We had no thoughts that this 10-kilowatt would be as successful n doing that as it has been,' he said.
 
Mortars are common battlefield weapons that are hard to protect against because they can be fired from short distances. 

The mortars used in the test were standard 60 millimeter rounds – the length of a football — fired from a distance of less than two kilometers in salvos of two to three mortar rounds each.

The laser’s success rate against incoming mortar shells indicates that battlefield protection from the small explosive rounds could be possible in a few years.

Luxury Retreat

If you have $11.5 million, you could purchase this luxury fall-out shelter/retreat near Yellow Jacket, CO.
(More photos and details at the link). While it looks nice, it doesn't look very defensible.

The compound, in Yellow Jacket, Colorado, is on the market for $11.5 million or can be rented for $19,500 a month per person

Some Thoughts on Shooting and Self-Defense from Oleg Volk

I enjoy Oleg Volk's blog, but haven't visited for a couple of months. He posts beautiful photos of various firearms, and generally has links to the manufacturers or sellers of the various products featured in his photos. But besides shooting photos, he is also someone that knows a lot about shooting guns. There were a couple articles of his that I particularly wanted to bring to your attention:

1.  "Designing Meaningful Practice Targets." Volk discusses here that there comes a time to set the brightly colored paper and steel range targets behind, and move to targets that better test or challenge your abilities. He has a few suggestions: (i) use paper bags or other natural colored targets that can be placed directly on a berm and/or behind concealment at random distances to better mimic natural camouflage; (ii) use target with numbered dots (where you have to shoot a the specific dot) to practice trigger control; (iii) use targets with the hole cut out of the center to pay more attention to what your "strays" are doing; and (iv) use balloons to mimic movement.

On the latter point, Volk appears to be talking about balloons filled with helium and anchored by a string, so they float and move with a breeze. I've used just regular balloons that I've blow up and attached to sticks stuck into the ground, and they don't give you very good movement. A couple things about balloons, though, is that they pop easily if they contact brush or other sharp/pointy vegitation. Second, be sure to clean up the balloon remnents so an animal won't unwittingly swollow or choke on the scraps.

2.  "Two Lessons from the Biker Attack on a Family in NY." His first tip is to avoid high population, gun-control jurisdictions like New York, New Jersey, Chicago, etc. (Volk specifically notes the involvement of police officers in the group behind the attack). Second, he suggests going armed if you can, and learning the rudiments of shooting from a car (which he further explains in his piece). Volk recommends a .223/5.56mm pistol for vehicle defense.

Volk also knows people, and one of the articles he links to is this review of the International Disaster Kit--3-Day essentials. The kit is a barebones emergency kit with the basics of food, water, firemaking and so on, including a paper "pot" to cook your meals in.

Check the articles out.

Blogging "65 Signs of the Times Leading Up to the Second Coming" - Part 9

This is part 9, and my final installment, of my review of David Ridges, 65 Signs of the Times Leading Up to the Second Coming. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here. Part 3 is here. Part 4 is here. Part 5 is here. Part 6 is here.Part 7 is here. And Part 8 is here.

In earlier installments, I had made it through Ridges introductory comments and discussion, and the first 60 signs. This time, I will cover the last 5 signs.

(61)  The Mount of Olives will split in two. (Yet to be fulfilled). The basic source for this sign is Zechariah 14:1-5, which reads:

1 Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee.

2 For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.

3 Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.

4 ¶And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.

5 And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.
 This may very well be the earthquake that accompanies the Lord's return, as D&C 45:48 indicates:
And then shall the Lord set his foot upon this amount, and it shall cleave in twain, and the earth shall tremble, and reel to and fro, and the heavens also shall shake.
That is, this may be The Earthquake when the whole Earth will tremble and shake, the "stars" fall, and the continents be gathered together into one.

Ridges quotes Charles W. Penrose as to this sign of the times:

His [Christ's] next appearance [after his appearance in the New Jerusalem] will be among the distressed and nearly vanquished sons of Judah. At the crises of their fate, when the hostile troops of several nations are ravaging the city and all the horrors of war are overwhelming the people of Jerusalem [ed: i.e., the abomonation of desolation], he will set his feet upon the the Mount of Olives, which will cleave and part asunder at his touch. Attended by a host from heaven [ed., perhaps the 144,000], he will overthrow and destroy the combined armies of the Gentiles, and appear to the worshipping Jews as the mighty Deliverer and Conqueror so long expected by their race; and while love, gratitude, awe, and admiration swell their bosoms, the Deliverer will show them the tokens of his curcifixion and disclose himself as Jesus of Nazareth, whom they [ed. i.e., their ancestors] had reviled and whom their fathers put to death. Then will unbelief depart from their souls, and "the blindness in part which has happened unto Israel" be removed.
(Italicized brackets in original; others are mine).

(62)  The sign of the coming of the Son of Man. (Not yet fulfilled). This sign is given in Matthew 24:29-31:
29 ¶Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Ridges goes on to cite some other references and quotes regarding this sign, but the important point is that no one knows what is this sign--no description of it is given. We merely know that it follows many of the other signs--wars and rumors of wars, the sun turned into darkness and the moon to blood, earthquakes and diverse places, and so on. Ridges quotes Joseph Smith as stating that the people of world will attempt to put this sign off as a natural phenomena, such as a planet or comet. I believe that the righteous shall understand this sign, and it will strengthen them; and the those wicked who understand the end times (the sons of perdition) shall also understand, and it will strike fear into their hearts. But for the rest of humanity, it will be just another of bewildering disasters and unscrutible portants.

(63)  The righteous will be taken up to meet the coming Lord. (Not yet fulfilled).  This is not the rapture, as many Christians use that term. That is, this is not a case of the Lord taking the righteous believers from the Earth prior to the tribulations of the last days (which, if it was going to occur, would probably be happening right now). Rather, as Ridges notes, the righteous (which are those living a celestial quality of life already or, if the resurrected dead, qualified to enter into the Celestial Kingdom) will literally be caught up as a group to meet the Lord at the time of his coming and descend with Him to Earth as He comes to begin his reign. The sons of perdition and those living a telestial lifestyle (i.e., the wicked, or the "tares") will be burned at His coming. Although we are not sure of the mechanism, those living a terrestrial lifestyle will be preserved--these will be the subject of intense missionary efforts since, as we know, many of those without knowledge of the Gospel or of Christ will remain.

(64)  The wicked will be burned. (Not yet fulfilled). Malachi 4:1 indicates:
For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
This, of course, is the point of the well-known scriptural references to the gathering of the wheat and the burning of the tares. Ridges focuses on the mechanism of the burning, noting that the scriptures indicate "that the wicked will be burned by the glory of the coming Lord. Since they are not worthy to be 'quickened' or transfigured with the righteous, they will be consumed by the glory of the resurrected and glorified Christ." (See, e.g., 2 Thessalonians 2:8). Ridges adds: "Since this will be a selective destruction, only those people and those things that do not belong on earth during the Millennium will be destroyed."

As noted above, those that are neither among the "righteous" believers, nor among the wicked, will not be destroyed. Ridges quotes Joseph Smith:
There will be millions of people, Catholics, Protestants, agnostics, Mohammedans, people of all classes and all beliefs, still permitted to remain upon the face of the earth, but they will be those who have lived clean lives, those who have been free from wickedness and corruption. All who belong, by virtue of their good lives, to [at least] the terrestrial order, ... will remain upon the face of the earth during the millennium.
(Brackets and ellipses in original).

Ridges does not address the issue of why the wicked must be destroyed. It is one of the great lies taught that a loving God would not punish and destroy some of his children. This has morphed even further into the belief that if God loves the sinner, he will also love the sin (or, at the least, be tolerant of the sin). This argument is often heard by those espousing a homosexual lifestyle or other sexual immorality--they reason that God could not be angry with two people expressing their love toward one another. The flip side of this argument is that advanced by many athiests who do not understand how a loving God could tolerate, let alone, order the Israelites to attack and destroy a city or people. Those holding these thoughts are blinded by the idea of moral equivalence--that all moral choices are equivalent, and there is no "good" and "bad" or gradiations between.

That fact is, like a loving Father, God is more than willing to destroy those whose wickedness threatens the destruction of the good--just as if you had the choice of killing a murderer, or letting the murderer kill your spouse and children, you would kill the murderer. Basic humanity requires nothing less. Obviously, God allows people their free agency, and this short life is merely a test, so God does not prevent bad things from happening to people. Even the rightous suffer trials. But there are points when a line is crossed, where wickedness is so rampant, that the only way to destroy the wickedness is to destroy the wicked--to completely remove their wicked teachings and practices (i.e., memes) from the face of the earth. Such occurred with the Flood of Noah, and such will be the state prior to the Second Coming. The cancer, or infection, of wickedness will be removed, together with those that carry that disease within them.

(65) Everyone will see Christ when He comes. (Not yet fulfilled). Ridges cites Revelation 1:7, which states:
Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.
Ridges emphasizes that, for the righteous, this event will be a time of great joy and peace; but for the wicked, it will be a time of great dread. (See, e.g., Isaiah 11:6-9; compare with Rev. 6:14-16).

Friday, December 20, 2013

Did Halley's Comet Cause A Famine 1,500 Years Ago?

A piece of the famous Halley's comet likely slammed into Earth in A.D. 536, blasting so much dust into the atmosphere that the planet cooled considerably, a new study suggests. This dramatic climate shift is linked to drought and famine around the world, which may have made humanity more susceptible to "Justinian's plague" in A.D. 541-542 — the first recorded emergence of the Black Death in Europe.

The new results come from an analysis of Greenland ice that was laid down between A.D. 533 and 540. The ice cores record large amounts of atmospheric dust during this seven-year period, not all of it originating on Earth.
According to the article, in 536-37, the Earth cooled by as much as 5.4 degrees F. (3 degrees C).

Ice core data record evidence of a volcanic eruption in 536, but it almost certainly wasn't big enough to change the climate so dramatically, Abbott said.

An extraterrestrial impact in the tropical ocean likely blasted these little low-latitude organisms all the way to chilly Greenland, researchers said. And Abbott believes the object responsible was once a piece of Halley's comet.
"There was, I think, a small volcanic effect," she said. "But I think the major thing is that something hit the ocean."

She and her colleagues have found circumstantial evidence of such an impact. The Greenland ice cores contain fossils of tiny tropical marine organisms — specifically, certain species of diatoms and silicoflagellates.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Al Qaeda in Syria May Have Sarin and Planning Olympic Attack

The Debka File is claiming that Al Qaeda in Syria has sarin gas, and may be planning on using at the Sochi Olympics:
[T]he ruler of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, announced Monday, Dec. 4, the formation of a special unit to deal with “Syrian radicals”- both within the North Caucasus republic and abroad. 
He added: “Members of the special unit will be ready to interfere in the Syrian conflict if such operation is authorized by the Russian president.” 
DEBKAfile’s counter-terrorism sources explain that President Putin is loath to drop a Russian intervention force into Syria and risk upsetting his sensitive understandings with the Obama administration on Syria. He is therefore planning to send out a Chechen force to deal with the Chechens and other North Caucasian jihadists who are fighting under the al Qaeda flag in Syria and now gearing up, according to Russian and Syrian intelligence, for a spectacular attack on the Sochi Olympic Games.

According to some reports, Al Qaeda in Syria has got hold of sarin nerve gas and is ready to use it.
 
This was confirmed by the investigative journalist Seymour Hersh in an article he published in London on Dec. 8. 
He quoted “a large number of American intelligence officials” who said that “the chemical attack on the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta on Aug. 21, in which more than 150 people died, may not have been carried out by Bashar Assad’s army but by Jabhat al Nusra [Al Qaeda’s Syrian branch].” 
A senior intelligence consultant told the reporter: “Already by late May… the CIA had briefed the Obama administration on al-Nusra and its work with sarin, and had sent alarming reports that another Sunni fundamentalist group active in Syria, al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI), also understood the science of producing sarin. At the time, al-Nusra was operating in areas close to Damascus, including Eastern Ghouta.” 
DEBKAfile reports that both these organizations have enlisted many Chechen and North Caucasian members to fight in Syria.

The Jackals Have Arrived

Speigel Online has a short, but interesting article on a relatively new group making its presence known in Syria--ISIS. The article describes the group as:
... a new and terrible power that has no face and goes by many names. The official name of this al-Qaida branch, which has broken away from Osama Bin Laden's successors, is the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS). "Daaisch" is the most common abbreviation of the group's name in Syria. "But we call them the Army of Masks," says Basil, the engineer who fled the country, "because their men rarely show their faces. They dress in black, with their faces covered." 
In addition to civil rights activist Halaibna, the group's thugs have kidnapped hundreds of others in Raqqa, where Assad's army was driven out back in March. The jihadists seized the chair of the city council, the heads of the civilian opposition, an Italian Jesuit and six European journalists. Anyone who opposes the ISIS fighters, or who is simply considered an unbeliever, disappears.

ISIS maintains four prisons for holding its hostages in this area alone. And Raqqa was only the beginning. In the last four months, the jihadist group, which was still essentially unknown in Syria at the start of this year, has seized control of several cities, as well as strategically important roads, oil fields and granaries.
What is currently taking place in the north and northeast of the country could bring about the worst case scenario: Syria's disintegration. This is not because the Syrian rebels are eager al-Qaida supporters -- as Assad's propaganda has claimed since the spring of 2011 -- but because people are exhausted after three years of destruction and don't have much energy left to oppose the jihadists' rapid expansion.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I Guess Those MRAPs Won't Be Coming Home

Because Pakistan is still restricting U.S. traffic out of Afghanistan, it has become too expensive to ship MRAPs back to the U.S. or any other countries, according to Defense Industry Daily. On top of that, the vehicles don't have long term prospects in the military:

They were first developed and procured in a hurry to minimize casualties to IEDs, then had to evolve for the rougher Afghan terrain. Some early generation MRAPs shipped from Iraq were probably never used in Afghanistan. But even the lighter M-ATVs weight more than 12 tons, and the added weight coming with protection is also a liability, especially because of their limited mobility, speed and firepower. They also roll over easily, and their dimensions don’t make them well suited for urban combat. The fact alone that these vehicles are customized for counter-insurgency rather than traditional state vs. state warfare would be enough to give planners pause. Prohibitive shipping costs further press the issue of what to do with them, as logisticians execute the retrograde back to the US and the redeployment away from the CENTOM area of responsibility into the much bigger PACOM AOR.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Dimming of the Sun

I've noted before that there are several scriptures prophesying in the last days the sun would be dimmed. See Joel 2:28-32. (But see also Matt. 24:29 and Revelation 6:12). Although these scriptures likely refer to smoke or clouds obscuring the sun and moon, we are seeing a literal dimming of the sun right now. 

From the Inform the Pundits blog on the diminishing number of sunspots:

The monthly International Sunspot Number from the Solar Information Data Center (SIDC) of the Royal Observatory of Belgium was released December 1st. It fell to 77.6 spots/day.
 
Most newsworthy is that this is still the weakest solar max in over 200 years, well below NASA’s forecast. 
Equally important for Earth’s future climate is an emerging pattern in overall sunspot magnetic field strength. Its decline is no longer linear!

... We may be witnessing the sun’s last dying gasps before entering into a long slumber. The impact of that slumber on Earth’s climate remains the subject of growing scientific speculation.
... Its been known for years that sunspot umbral magnetic field strength has been declining while their intensity has been rising, thanks to researchers Matt Penn and Bill Livingston at the National Solar Observatory.

The changes are independent of the 11-year sunspot cycle.

A steady decline in umbral magnetic field strength is the most dramatic evidence that sunspots are fading away. Should their field strength drop below 1,500 gauss it becomes physically impossible for sunspots to form and they will disappear.

Less sunspot activity reduces the sun’s radiant energy output and cools Earth.
 The author concludes:

Sunspots may not disappear completely, but they will be so weak that a long term decrease in solar wind and a slight but prolonged decrease in the sun’s temperature will result.


The latest solar data from this month reinforces the belief that our sun is headed into a long-term period of low solar activity.


As time goes on a link between decreasing solar activity and the halt in global warming 17 years ago becomes harder and harder to deny.
 Powerline Blog broaches the same subject, noting:
... But many scientists are growing increasingly concerned about the prospect of a long-term chill. The Earth has barely emerged from the Little Ice Age, and already solar activity is diminishing to an alarmingly low level. At Watts Up With That, Dr. Leif Svalgaard says, “None of us alive have ever seen such a weak cycle.”
 (H/t Instapundit)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Mexican Oil Could Substantially Drop Oil Prices

Bloomberg News reports:
The flood of North American crude oil is set to become a deluge as Mexico dismantles a 75-year-old barrier to foreign investment in its oil fields. 
... That boom would augment a supply surge from U.S. and Canadian wells that Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) predicts will vault North American production ahead of every OPEC member except Saudi Arabia within two years. ... 
... An influx of Mexican oil would contribute to a glut that is expected to lower the price of Brent crude, the benchmark for more than half the world’s crude that has averaged $108.62 a barrel this year, to as low as $88 a barrel in 2017, based on estimates from analysts in a Bloomberg survey. Five of the seven analysts who provided 2017 forecasts said prices would be lower than this year.
This would undercut Middle East regimes that need high oil prices to sustain extraordinary social programs. As Johnny West points out in this October 2013 article:

The autocracies of the region, scared by the Arab Spring, have locked themselves into a dependence on historically high prices just to achieve what economists call "fiscal break-even", the oil price they need to be able to cover their budgets. Saudi Arabia famously threw $130bn at public services in 2011 to forestall unrest, and this year has a fiscal break-even of $98 per barrel, compared to just $74 three years ago. Previous efforts at developing the private sector have been quietly abandoned and the latest attempt at a social contract has involved hiring large numbers of young Saudis into civil service jobs of questionable value. 
Continued high prices would keep that situation going, albeit precariously. Governments would stumble on with a mixture of repression and patronage networks, with poverty, discontent and extremism lurking at the edges. 
Low prices on the other hand, would lay the fragility bare. As budgets plummet, services and jobs would be cut and unrest would rise - in conditions far less benign than 2011. An "Arab Spring 2.0" might harness rage without the hope of its predecessor, and with the spectre of sectarian divisions hanging in the air.
 The same article notes that Russia's break-even is $125 per barrel. These low oil prices will have a destabilizing effect on the Middle-East and Russia.

Friday, December 13, 2013

EyePal Peep Sight System

The Truth About Guns reports on a "new" product called the EyePal Peep Sighting System. From EyePal's press release:

The EyePal® Peep Sighting System, developed for the open-sight shooter, was designed and patented by Charles Summers, a retired MIT optical specialist and avid firearms enthusiast. Frustrated with his inability to properly see his sights and target without suffering from “fuzzy sight syndrome”, Summers came up with a solution that brings into focus the sights and the target simultaneously. Whether a shooter or archer suffers from vision difficulties or aging eyes or is new to the sport, the EyePal’s unique aperture system provides an immediate sense of eye relief as the image of the target and all of the elements come clearly into focus.


The EyePal® is applied easily onto any protective eyewear. The small aperture provides the maximum depth of field. It does this by producing a very small image which travels, undistorted, through both the lens of the eyewear and the pupil of the eye. The result is a perfectly focused sight picture of both sights and the target. One of the reasons this is possible is that the EyePal’s large black area surrounding the target or game blocks the unnecessary peripheral visual information allowing the eye to get only the necessary information to make a clear shot.
 Or you could save yourself the $29.95 EyePal charges and do what my father did for many years: use a leather punch to clip a small hole in a piece of black electrical tape and press that onto your glasses.

"We Have Our Own Plan"

One of my current vices, so to speak, is watching the television series Sleepy Hollow. For those of you not following the show, it attempts to mix the events of the Book of Revelations in the Bible with the characters from Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. The two main characters are supposed to be the witnesses spoken of in Revelations, while the Headless Horseman is portrayed as one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Absolutely wrong eschatology, and not always the best writing, but I find the show to generally be engaging.

In any event, the episode from this past week has one of the evil characters pointing out that, notwithstanding the prophecies in Revelations, "we have our own plan."

Turning to the real world, Satan really does have his own plan. And that plan is to destroy what which is good, in part, as Isaiah described it, by calling that which is evil, "good," and that which is good, "evil." The most recent example of this is the push for gay marriage, which increasingly is the basis for attacking religious beliefs generally, and Christian beliefs specifically. Now, this has been merged with some of the traditional rhetoric of the racist left to describe a "Christian privilege." From the Washington Examiner:
It's settled, then: Christian conservatives use religion as a justification for their discriminatory behavior, and Americans will only enjoy true religious freedom when their so-called "religious liberty" claims are defeated.

That was the consensus Thursday at a panel discussion sponsored by the Center for American Progress in Washington.

"People [are] using the term 'liberty' when they really mean 'my liberty, your slavery,'" the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, said during the discussion. He made the statement while arguing that liberals' view of religious liberty springs from a true, originalist reading of the Constitution that was once universally understood. Unfortunately, he said, the American people have become "confused" about this question because of misleading claims made by the U.S. Conference of Catholic bishops.

"You have the Catholic bishops advocating for 'religious freedom,' which doesn't look anything like what religious freedom is in the Constitution," Gaddy said. "Unless we do those kind of dramatic actions [such as the ACLU suing the USCCB] in order to get us back to what the foundation of religious freedom has been all the time, it's going to get worse and worse, with people using the term 'liberty' when they really mean 'my liberty, your slavery.'"

The audience received a similar narrative of religious beliefs functioning as a Trojan horse for discrimination from ACLU senior counsel Eunice Rho, who denounced attempts to pass a Religious Freedom Restoration Act in various states.

"These are very dangerous because they can allow religion to be used to harm others," Rho said.

Gaddy compared Christian florists who don't want to provide service for gay weddings to employers who posted "whites only" signs in their windows.
Gaddy apparently also said that interpretations of the Bible "ought never threaten the federal government and the way people are ruled by law ... an interpretation of the Bible is of little consequence to the guarantee of the Constitution." Gaddy also apparently agreed that liberals "need to start educating, and calling out, Christians for trying to exercise 'Christian privilege.'"

This is consistent with the position taken by Chai Feldblum, whom President Obama appointed to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, who the article quotes as stating in 2006: "There can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases the sexual liberty should win because that's the only way that the dignity of gay people can be affirmed in any realistic manner."

This is, in essence, the position of every court that has decided against conscientious objectors to gay marriage: that religious rights, expressly protected under the Constitution, are preempted by laws and regulations protecting "sexual liberty" which is not even mentioned anywhere in the Constitution. First there was the war against the Second Amendment, which is pretty much over (the weapons allowed civilians are generally unsuitable to protect against a standing army). Now is the war against the First Amendment and our freedom of religion. Unfortunately, so far, we are doing just as badly in protecting our religious rights as the "greatest generation" did protecting our Second Amendment rights.

As a Follow Up on Drake Shooting...

... 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.

A Step Toward War?

It's a cold day here. As I look out of my office, the sky is overcast with just a faint ting of orange-gold to mark where is the sun. Frozen snow covers every bit of ground that is not paved. And the pavement glistens slightly with deicer. Imagine how bad things could be with a sudden attack on our infrastructure from a technologically advanced country; no electricity or fresh water; no fuel for cars or heating.

This is not an idle threat anymore. The Washington Free Beacon (h/t Drudge) reports:

A Chinese naval vessel tried to force a U.S. guided missile warship to stop in international waters recently, causing a tense military standoff in the latest case of Chinese maritime harassment, according to defense officials.


The guided missile cruiser USS Cowpens, which recently took part in disaster relief operations in the Philippines, was confronted by Chinese warships in the South China Sea near Beijing’s new aircraft carrier Liaoning, according to officials familiar with the incident.


... The Cowpens was conducting surveillance of the Liaoning at the time. The carrier had recently sailed from the port of Qingdao on the northern Chinese coast into the South China Sea.


According to the officials, the run-in began after a Chinese navy vessel sent a hailing warning and ordered the Cowpens to stop. The cruiser continued on its course and refused the order because it was operating in international waters.


Then a Chinese tank landing ship sailed in front of the Cowpens and stopped, forcing the Cowpens to abruptly change course in what the officials said was a dangerous maneuver.


According to the officials, the Cowpens was conducting a routine operation done to exercise its freedom of navigation near the Chinese carrier when the incident occurred about a week ago.


The encounter was the type of incident that senior Pentagon officials recently warned could take place as a result of heightened tensions in the region over China’s declaration of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea.


Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently called China’s new air defense zone destabilizing and said it increased the risk of a military “miscalculation.”
 * * *

Rick Fisher, a China military affairs expert, said it is likely that the Chinese deliberately staged the incident as part of a strategy of pressuring the United States.


“They can afford to lose an LST [landing ship] as they have about 27 of them, but they are also usually armed with one or more twin 37 millimeter cannons, which at close range could heavily damage a lightly armored U.S. Navy destroyer,” said Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center.


Most Chinese Navy large combat ships would be out-ranged by the 127-millimeter guns deployed on U.S. cruisers, except China’s Russian-made Sovremenny-class ships and Beijing’s new Type 052D destroyers that are armed with 130-millimeter guns.


The encounter appears to be part of a pattern of Chinese political signaling that it will not accept the presence of American military power in its East Asian theater of influence, Fisher said.


“China has spent the last 20 years building up its Navy and now feels that it can use it to obtain its political objectives,” he said.


Fisher said that since early 2012 China has gone on the offensive in both the South China and East China Seas.


“In this early stage of using its newly acquired naval power, China is posturing and bullying, but China is also looking for a fight, a battle that will cow the Americans, the Japanese, and the Filipinos,” he said.


To maintain stability in the face of Chinese military assertiveness, Fisher said the United States and Japan should seek an armed peace in the region by heavily fortifying the Senkaku Islands and the rest of the island chain they are part of.


“The U.S. and Japan should also step up their rearmament of the Philippines,” Fisher said.
 The story goes on to describe other incidents within the last few years. And don't forget the standoff between China and the Philippines last year.

I've noted before that there is a vocal group of Chinese military leaders that favor direct confrontation with the U.S. and its allies. Walter Russell Mead has previously warned:
China’s military hawks like Lt-General Ren are becoming more vocal and more powerful. They push “short, sharp wars” with neighboring countries to take control of disputed territories in the East and South China Seas. They urge China to “strike first”, “prepare for conflict” or “kill a chicken to scare the monkeys.” 
Some hawks take the aggressive rhetoric to an even higher level: “Since we have decided that the US is bluffing in the East China Sea, we should take this opportunity to respond to these empty provocations with something real,” wrote Air Force Colonel Dai Xu in China’s Global Times last August. “This includes Vietnam, the Philippines and Japan, which are the three running dogs of the United States in Asia … We only need to kill one, and it will immediately bring the others to heel.” 
“The military hawks appear to make up only a small proportion of China’s officer corps,” writesMichael Richardson, a fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, in the Straits Times. ”But their influence, magnified by modern communications and social media, may be far more extensive than their numbers suggest. Their influence may also be shaping views and actions in the Chinese chain of military command.” 
China’s neighbors see this aggressive posturing and react accordingly. Japan’s new Prime Minister, a China hawk, has put forward the first increases to Japan’s defense budget in 11 years, citing China’s belligerent behavior around disputed islands in the East China Sea. 
This hostile environment, coupled with repeated tense military encounters on the high seas, makes a high-profile accident all the more likely. That’s not a good sign for this region.
 Close economic ties will not be enough to prevent war.  In The Future of War by George and Meredith Friedman, the authors discuss and analyze this very issue:

The argument that interdependence gives rise to peace is flawed in theory as well as in practice. Conflicts arise from friction, particularly friction involving the fundamental interests of different nations. The less interdependence there is, the fewer the areas of serious friction. The more interdependence there is, the greater the areas of friction, and, therefore, the greater the potential for conflict. Two widely separated nations that trade little with each other are unlikely to go to war--Brazil is unlikely to fight Madagascar precisely because they have so little to do with each other. France and Germany, on the other hand, which have engaged in extensive trade and transnational finance, have fought three wars with each other over about seventy years. Interdependence was the root of the conflicts, not the deterrent. 
 There are, of course, cases of interdependent in which one country effectively absorbs the other or in which their interests match so precisely that the two countries simply merge. In other cases, interdependence remains peaceful because the economic, military, and political power of one country is overwhelming and inevitable. In relations between advanced industrialized countries and third-world countries, for example, this sort of asymmetrical relationship can frequently be seen. 
 All such relationships have a quality of unease built into them, particularly when the level of interdependence is great. When one or both nations attempt, intentionally or unintentionally, to shift the balance of power, the result is often tremendous anxiety and, sometimes, real pain. Each side sees the other's actions as an attempt to gain advantage and becomes frightened. In the end, precisely because the level of interdependence is so great, the relationship can, and frequently does, spiral out of control. (Friedman, pp. 7-8) (italics on original).
The Friedmans then compare and contrast the Cold War with the situation prior to the outbreak of World War I, and suggest that it was the independence of the Soviet Union from the United States that allowed each to forgo extreme measures and gave them freedom to maneuver. However, prior to World War I, the European nations' interdependence, measured by international investment and trade, was greater than it is now (at least at the time the Friedmans wrote their book), and it was this high amount of interdependence that created the conditions for war.

The Diplomat published a five-part series on how a war with China might unfold. (Part IPart II, Part III, Part IV and Part V). In the first part, James Holmes suggests that China's strategy will be one of pushing, but not too hard:
... But whatever the cause of the conflict—whether it’s Taiwan, the Senkakus/Diaoyus impasse, a quarrel over free passage through the South China Sea, or something unforeseen—Beijing will refuse to make Washington’s choice to intervene easy.


In fact, Chinese leaders will go out of their way to make it hard. They will sow doubt and dissension among U.S. leaders. For instance, they will determinedly withhold the stark casus belli—a Pearl Harbor or a 9/11—necessary to rally a liberal republic like the United States around the battle flag. Ambiguity will reign. U.S. leaders should anticipate it.


Staying beneath the provocation threshold constitutes purest common sense for Beijing. Why not play head games with prospective foes? I would. As Shakespeare memorably showed, it takes time and moral courage for an individual to overcome Hamlet-like indecision. Some never do. That’s doubly true in big institutions, where decisions typically emerge from political wrangling among many individuals and groups.


Time spent in internal debate would work in China’s favor in any contingency along the Asian seaboard. It would postpone U.S. military movements, perhaps long enough to let the People’s Liberation Army accomplish its goals before the cavalry arrives. The result: a fait accompli. Even better (from Beijing’s standpoint), the United States might simply stand aside, reckoning the goals of such an enterprise too diffuse and abstract, the likely strategic rewards too few, to justify the costs and dangers inherent in combat operations against a fellow great power.
In part V, Holmes relates the following:
A passage from Clausewitz we pound home over and over in our seminars spells out the rational calculus of war. “Since war is not an act of senseless passion but is controlled by its political object, the value of this object must determine the sacrifices to be made for it in magnitude and also in duration.” How much importance each belligerent attaches to its goals, that is, determines how many lives and resources it is prepared to expend to reach those goals, and for how long.
David Goldman has noted that, in fact, a decision to go to war may be irrational if one side believes that it has no choice in the matter. He raises this in relation to the Middle-East, where demographic collapse may prompt nations, such as Iran, to engage in a hopeless war. While China may not be at this stage, we cannot ignore that China faces both demographic and economic problems (for instance, the debt issued by its banks far exceeds the debt owed by the United States) that may make its leadership feel they are faced with an intractable dilemma.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Russia Looks to the Arctic

Speigel Online reports:

Russia is planning an increased military presence in the Arctic, as several countries increasingly eye the region as a potential boon for natural resources.


Earlier this year, Russia completed renovation of an abandoned airfield on the New Siberian Islands, and sent 10 warships and four icebreakers to beef up security there. Putin also said Russia would revamp a number of other Arctic military bases that had fallen into disrepair after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.


Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday that he would create a special military force dedicated to protecting Russian interests in the Arctic. Putin said earlier this week that Russia needs a greater military presence in the region to counter potential threats from the United States.


... The comments came just one day after Canada announced plans to claim sovereignty over the North Pole. Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said the government has asked scientists to prepare a submission to the United Nations that would extend Canada's territory to the outer reaches of the country's continental shelf.
 The United States' ability to project naval power in the Arctic is limited, however, by the fact that the Navy has a dearth of icebreakers--up until last year the U.S. had only one functioning icebreaker, although the refurbishment of an older vessel--the Polar Star--was completed in December 2012. (See also this 2010 article from the New York Times on the issue). The Polar Star completed its sea trials this past summer.

Drake Shooting

I've seen several sites mention "Drake Shooting" (aka, cover shooting) recently. Probably one of the most succinct explanations (with a diagram) is at the Selous Scouts website. It describes the technique:

The Drake shooting (also known as the cover shoot) is a very effective method for improving the shot-to-hit ratio. It was devised and used by the Selous Scouts to deal with and counter ambushes set by guerrillas in bush country were the enemy had ample concealment and was difficult to locate. This useful technique is based on the fact that in a close-quarters firefight, 99 percent of combatants seek to hide from incoming fire by hitting the ground and rolling into the nearest cover. Accepting this fact, the Drake/cover shoot concept requires that two rounds be fired into positions of likely cover until all positions are neutralized.


Each man of the patrol would concentrate on his assigned arc of responsibility to his immediate front and systematically analyzed it.
While the scout analyzed his arc he would think ‘ if I was the enemy, which position within my arc would I chosen for cover?’ The scout would look at the base of large trees, rocks and thickets, and “double-tap” two controlled shots into each side of the suspected location close to ground level. By placing the shots low into the position, dirt and stones will spray up into the face of anyone hiding there, causing them to take rapid evasive movements and thus exposing them to aimed fire. The trick is to try to place the bullets just above the ground, because a man lying down is no more than 12 inches high. To shoot any higher will result in the bullet winging harmlessly overhead. A four-man tracking team of scouts could quickly and effectively clear 40 potential firing positions, assuming that each man uses a 20-round magazine on a semiautomatic weapon. In the case of trees, the scout was trained to fire right into them at almost ground level, as bullets fired from modern high-velocity weapons can easily and completely penetrate most trees. As the scout observed his arc he would start close up, then systematically progress further and further back, widening the arc of fire, until all likely and suspected positions have been engaged. This technique is effective in flushing hidden adversaries and is economical in ammunition expenditure.
 Here is a longer description and explanation from the Small Wars Journal. (PDF). And an article from Soldier of Fortune Magazine.

Thermal Shield

Due to the decreasing cost and broadening use of thermal imaging devices, it is possible after the SHTF that you may face a foe with thermal imaging capability. Max Velocity has been developing a possible solution, which he is calling his MVT Shield, which is essentially a tarp designed to block heat signatures. He writes:
What you can’t see in the photos is the layer that will stop ALL thermal signature. Note: this is not the same as trying to use an emergency blanket. Those things state that they stop 80% of body heat – and in trials that is exactly right. They will stop 80% of body heat, so you won’t see someones body shape beneath it, but you will see the ‘thermal bloom’ across the material – that’s the 20% that gets you killed. 
This product stops 100% of thermal signature, there is no thermal bloom across the material. It is slightly thicker and bulkier than a standard tarp, but not in a way where it can’t be rolled or stuffed into a pouch.
(Here is the link to an earlier post of his).