Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Review of the Bushnell SolarWrap Mini Solar Charger

At Brian's Backpacking Blog.

"The Verbal Command Imperative"

I've heard it called "verbal judo." From Breach Bang Clear:
In training and practice we don’t want every drill to be a shoot drill.  Real life offers far more examples of the threat of violence being enough to diffuse a situation in a personal self-defense encounter than the opposite.  People are not shot as often as they have guns pointed at them.  The reasoning for is (or should be) obvious and has verbalization partly to thank.  Proper training includes these drills so that draw and fire is not a conditioned response.  We want our students on the line to think as well as they are able and to act based on their perception of events.  By giving a student a choice, they are forced to display restraint and only fire if the threats behavior warrants it.    ... Part of realistic behavior is the use of verbals. 
If I am confronted with an armed individual, be it knife or bat or stick, weapon of opportunity etc., the presence of the weapon alone will not necessarily dictate a threat to my or someone else's personal safety.  The “totality of the circumstances” is going to determine if I go to guns or not. That is how we tell Stabby McMurderface apart from a neighbor/stranger heading out to trim his hedges. ...
... When we are reasonably sure we are being confronted with a threat and verbalization makes sense, we should do so.  A verbal challenge or command is simple, forceful and direct.  It should also address the larger problem first.  With our shovel man example, would we command stop or drop the shovel first?  You can do both of course (and should) but the immediate concern is motion.  If they are not yet close enough to deliver a strike, a stop command will give ready evidence of a will to comply or not, especially if your weapon is already out when the command is given.  ... [Also,] if a verbal command is warranted, so is the gun.  If you feel threatened, or recognize the threat to someone else and decide to intervene, nothing will underscore the penalty for non-compliance more than showing them what it may be.  If our example shovel man is given a stop with no ready penalty for not doing so, is his course of action likely to change?  If you are cut off in a road rage incident and a man is running towards your blocked-in car with a bat, is a verbal stop alone likely to change his behavior?  We can point guns at people and not shoot them, it happens all the time.  The bad guy makes the decision to get shot, it’s best if it’s an informed decision which is why verbalization is so important. 
Verbal commands should be loud, forceful and simple.  They can be peppered with expletives if you like (common, though not recommended), but get to the point quickly and be specific. 
Now as to why verbalization is important; the primary reason is that it lets our bad guy know that we see him, recognize his behavior and are prepared to do something about it if he does not stop.  A second and possibly just as important reason given the litigious nature of our society is that a loud verbal command paints a far better picture for any potential witness.  ...
The author recommends that if they do comply, do not try and hold them unless they are in your home or business, or it is a personal crime (i.e., someone that you know, such as a disgruntled co-worker or ex-). In any event, he also recommends filing a police report.

Read the full article.

Afghanistan Reaches New Opium Production Record

As our military involvement begins to wind down in Afghanistan, it is worthwhile to explore what we achieved. I've long maintained that "nation building," the core of modern COIN strategy, is a failure and that we would have been better off having only engaged in a punitive mission and then leaving. So, what has our nation building gotten us?
(Source)

Afghanistan Women: Then & Now
(Source)
The United States didn't destroy Afghanistan--the Soviets and Saudis did. But we haven't been able to put it back together again. The problem is that building roads and health clinics is nice, but it doesn't build a civilization. If we had gone in and told them they will have a Constitution that says "such-and-such," including installing Western values, and aggressively imprisoned corrupt officials, civilization might have had a chance. But we didn't--being too afraid to "insult" Islam and alienate "allies"--and now we have a narco-terror state in the making. Civilization touched Afghanistan briefly, and retreated, and I doubt that it will return any time soon.

The New York Times reported last month:
Afghan opium cultivation again rose to historic levels in 2014, United Nations officials reported on Wednesday. And in a sign of how deeply entwined drug trafficking and the Afghan political system have become, the officials said the protracted elections this year were at least part of the cause. 
“With the presidential election ongoing, there was a huge demand of funding,” said Jean-Luc Lemahieu, a senior official with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. “And that funding is not available in the licit economy, and that money has to come from somewhere, so they turned to the illicit economy.”
* * * 
In their annual opium survey, the United Nations agency and the Afghan Ministry of Counternarcotics said Wednesday that Afghan opium cultivation had increased by 7 percent over 2013, while production had increased as much as 17 percent. The rise came even though worldwide demand for Afghan opium has stagnated and prices have dropped for the country’s opium farmers. 
The numbers are particularly troubling, the agencies said, because in 2013, opium cultivation increased 36 percent over the year before, reaching its highest levels since the fall of the Taliban. 
The Taliban regime in the late 1990s was the only Afghan government to completely eradicate opium cultivation, but the Taliban now both tax and actively participate in opium production. 
The eight-month presidential and provincial elections, which included two rounds of voting and a protracted dispute over the results, affected opium production not only in the increased demand by politicians for campaign cash, but also in diverting police and military resources to the elections and away from opium eradication. 
Opium crop eradication decreased by 63 percent from 2013 to 2014, the report said. Such changes were seen in nearly all provinces where there were eradication efforts underway. Such programs are led by provincial governors, who are political appointees of the president.
Depending on the source, Afghanistan is now believed to produce 80 to 90% of the world's opium. (See also this Time Magazine article).

Afghanistan represents a broader problem with how America uses its foreign power. We don't have any desire to be an empire, but we also can't simply hold ourselves back and refrain from interfering. I say "speak softly but carry a big stick," use the stick liberally, but otherwise don't get involved; or act like an empire and put our own people (not Afghans, but actual Americans) in positions of direct authority and impose our own values and laws. But this middle-of-the-road "nation building" is just a waste of blood and treasure.

"Can China Liberalize in Time?"

An article from T. Greer at Chicago Boyz concerning whether China can avoid an extended financial collapse such as Japan suffered with its "lost decade." The issue is whether China can liberalize its markets so that the central government is not having to bail out poor investments by public and private concerns. The centerpiece of the article is that China is using Shandong province as a test of market liberalization.

Read the whole thing.

Remington Announces That It Will Re-Introduce the R-51 At Shot Show

More info at The Truth About Guns.

CZ Scorpion Evo 3 and IWI UZI Pro Pistols to Come to Market Next Year


CZ14_Scorpion_EVO3_S1-L-e1416840329704
CZ Scorpian Evo 3

These are semi-auto versions of the Evo 3 submachine gun. They are 9 mm, closed-bolt (of course), with rails and threaded barrel. And relatively inexpensive for both the gun and the magazines. More information at The Firearms Blog, which indicates that it will come with a SIG brace.

IWI is also going to be releasing its UZI Pro Pistol with an SB tactical brace next year.

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UZI Pro Pistol

Sweden's Christmas Junta

From the Gates of Vienna blog:
Yesterday’s political agreement in Sweden would have been labeled a “coup” had it occurred in some Third-World backwater. The seven mainstream political parties got together and agreed to ignore the wishes of their respective voters, and will act in unison from now until 2022. This wholesale abandonment of democracy was undertaken in order to maintain (or increase) the current unsustainable rate of mass immigration into Sweden, and to keep the Sweden Democrats from increasing their presence in parliament.
Some additional thoughts from Diana West.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Russia Adopts Both AK-12 and AEK-971

Russian soldier with AK-12

This is somewhat "old" news now, but the Russians in a surprising move have adopted two new service rifles--the AK-12 (an update to the Kalashnikov rifle) and the AEK-971. The AK-12, as noted, is an updated version of the AK--"[t]he rifle has a different fire control group, new trunnions, separate thumb-actuated safety and selector levers and even a new bolt carrier group design"--such that there is no overall compatibility of parts between the older AKs and the AK-12.

(Source)

The AEK-971 is a completely different beast:
 The AEK-971 has two op rods joined by a cam inside the recoil assembly. When it fires the op rods travel in opposite directions, with one cycling the action and the other pushing a counterweight exerting a negative impulse that balances the rifle. 
In effect, the AEK-971 recoils in both directions offering soft, level automatic fire. This makes the rifle very controllable in burst- and fully-automatic fire. While it maintains the Kalashnikov aesthetic, it has little in common with the tried and true Kalashnikov design.
According to the Guns article linked to above, it is believed that the Russian government decided on both rifles in order to compensate for reductions in foreign sales due to the economic sanctions imposed by the Obama Administration. But the article also mentions that, because of its cost, the AEK-971 will probably be issued to special units, while the AK-12 will probably become general issue. To me,

Land Nav Skills

Mason Dixon Tactical has consolidated articles and information on land navigation (map and compass, etc.) from various blogs and articles. A great resource. Check it out.

"Rubber Cake"

The Paratus Familia blog has a recipe for a cake that, according to the author, "requires no dairy - butter or milk - and is leavened not by eggs but by vinegar and baking soda."

A Couple Articles on Growing, Cutting, and Preparing Firewood

I know it is too late to do anything for this year's firewood needs, but spring is only a few months away. Via the Surviving Anarchy site, I found two articles from the Oklahoma State University extension office regarding firewood:

(1)  "Managing Your Woodlot for Firewood"(PDF)--a basic guide for managing a wood lot to grow better quality timber for sale or use, and culling other trees for firewood.

(2)  "Firewood: How to Obtain, Measure, Season, and Burn" (PDF). It has good information on stacking wood, and the BTU output of various types of wood.

More Evidence That the Mayan Collapse Was Due to Extreme Drought

For hundreds of years the Mayans dominated large parts of the Americas until, mysteriously in the 8th and 9th century AD, a large chunk of the Mayan civilisation collapsed. 
The reason for this collapse has been hotly debated, but now scientists say they might have an answer - an intense drought that lasted a century. 
Studies of sediments in the Great Blue Hole in Belize suggest a lack of rains caused the disintegration of the Mayan civilisation, and a second dry spell forced them to relocate elsewhere. 
* * * 
Dr Droxler’s research involved drilling cores from sediments in the Great Blue Hole, a vast circular sinkhole off the coast of Belize that is 984 feet (300m) across and 407ft (124m) deep. 
The hole formed tens of thousands of years ago when sea levels were much lower, being filled as the oceans began to rise. 
Ongoing sedimentation at the base of the hole allows scientists to study periods from history. 
When there are storms or extremely wet periods, more sediments are deposited at the bottom of the lagoon. 
But less rainfall can also be accounted for, in particular due to the ratio of titanium to aluminium in cores taken from the sediment. 
A lower ratio of titanium to aluminium corresponds to dryer periods. 
* * * 
With his team he found that from 800 to 1000 AD, no more than two tropical cyclones occurred every two decades, when usually there were up to six. 
This suggests major droughts occurred in these years, possibly leading to famines and unrest among the Mayan people.  
And they also found that a second drought hit from 1000 to 1100 AD, corresponding to the time that the Mayan city of Chichén Itzá collapsed.  
The research adds to previous evidence that suggested decreased rainfall coincided with a decline of Mayan culture.
(Full article at the Daily Mail)

An Interesting Peek Inside the International Drug and Arms Trade

An article at the Daily Mail about Paul Calder Le Roux, and his illegal trading empire.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Finger on the Trigger?

Earlier this month, I linked to an article by Gabe Suarez suggesting that the finger off the trigger rule was being taken too far. He began by noting that no situation is black or white, and so no general rule is applicable all of the time, and then explained:
... I am advocating the finger off the trigger as a default position.  In other words, unless there is a better place for it, the finger will be indexed along side the frame of the firearm.  This is where it would normally be when moving or generally covering a danger area.  But when approaching a specific danger point, or challenging or covering a human adversary at gun point (only a fool covers from low ready) the finger should be touching the trigger to reduce your reaction time, and thus increase your safety. 
So here we go. 
First thing that I did was to contact Shawn Dodson at FirearmsTactical.com.  Shawn has a very thorough collection of Dr. Fackler’s work and since his article was one of the reasons I conducted the research I did, I wanted to go over it again to make sure I did not miss anything. 
The article in question was written by Dr. Martin Fackler and Ernest J. Tobin.  It was titled Officer Decision Time In Firing A Handgun, and appeared in the International Wound Ballistics Association magazine – Wound Ballistics Review.  It is a scholarly study on how long it takes the average officer to decide to shoot.  They determined that it takes approximately .677 seconds to react and fire a handgun that is already pointed at a threat with the finger out of the triggerguard.  That is an additional time of .312 seconds over those whose fingers were already on the trigger. Fackler suggested, quite correctly from my perspective, that it was unsafe  to require officer’s fingers to be outside the triggerguard until they had made the decision to shoot. 
He also dismisses the "startle response"--i.e., inadvertently clenching your hand when surprised:
The startle response is another matter.  
When we are startled will our hands clench?  Will our trigger fingers automatically and reflexively contract? That has not been my experience. Several times in the old days other officers fired their weapons around me and the shots did in fact startle me, but my hands did not register the sort of reaction the gun gurus say we will have.  Two events were notable.  One a flash bang thrown into a room hit an obstruction and bounced right back at our feet.  Very exciting but no involuntary clenching.  Another time an officer fired a shotgun slightly to my right side rear at an approaching pit bull dog.  No involuntary anything took place. 
Finally, I want to discuss the issue of “interlimb reaction”.  This is another thing that inexperienced gun trainers talk about for hours.  They heard it somewhere, read it somewhere, and accept is a fact of life.  The issue was first presented at an IALEFI  conference.  You can guess what happened next as gun writers and inexperienced trainers began parroting the theory. The original piece had to do with the human reaction to a sudden loss of balance and not evident anywhere else.  It has nothing to do with exertion as a matter of fact.  At a recent class we had advanced students hold a Glock 17 on a target, finger on the trigger and slack taken out while they did very rigorous kettle bell snatches with a 24kg KB.  No unintentional shots were fired due to so called interlimb reactions.
Over at Tactical Sh!t, "Shooter Scope" takes the opposite opinion, writing:
A few years ago, a seasoned shooter and I had a small debate about keeping one’s trigger finger on the trigger when pointing at a “bad guy” or keeping the finger in the index position. The index position, of course, is keeping the trigger finger straight and off the trigger and outside the trigger guard, ideally resting on the frame of the weapon. My stance was to keep the finger off the trigger until I’ve made the conscious decision to shoot. My friend’s position, on the other hand, was to rest the finger on the trigger just in case he had to shoot. 
As I recall this shooter held a master or grandmaster rank in the USPSA and IPSC competitive shooting, so he didn’t lack gun handling experience. In fact, with his military and law enforcement background, I was confident he had pointed a gun at people before, although I can’t be sure how often. That said, because of his background, I was totally shocked he would even suggest such a thing as resting his finger on the trigger when pointing at someone he hasn’t decided to shoot.
He then dismisses any speed advantage as being negligible:
Time was the biggest factor in the debate. Seriously? It takes a nanosecond to move the finger from the frame of the weapon to the trigger. With the finger on the trigger, it takes about the same fraction of the second to pull the trigger. The difference is almost without comparison. Assuming you’re already pointing the gun center mass, the delay, if any, has to do with the time it takes a shooter to make the decision to shoot; the thought goes from the brain, through the brain stem and to the trigger finger. That’s about the same for both shooters—the one with his finger already staged on the trigger and the one with his finger off the trigger and in the index position. Therefore time, albeit very minimal and almost without comparison anyway, isn’t worth the risk. 
When I was training a few years ago with a former Chicago SWAT operator (and IDPA shooting champion) with a heck of a lot of experience pointing guns at people, much more than my aforementioned friend, he said that there were studies that showed that under stress a person will involuntarily tighten both their grip and feet. (He, too, advocated for keeping your finger off the trigger.) 
I’ve been unable to find those studies, however, I recall well the time a Las Vegas police officer was pointing at a guy on the ground that her partner was handcuffing and she had an ND. I happened to be watching the news that day. (Note: This was in the days before I had Internet.) 
After speaking with an officer who worked at that same department, I learned she later quit. But, in her defense, I believe a lot of the blame—if not most of the blame—could be put on the training program at the police department at that time for not emphasizing that the finger must be straight and off the trigger unless there is a conscious decision to shoot.
 I haven't read the Fackler paper, but it is significant to me that Saurez cites a specific study on timing, as compared to "Shooter Scope" resorting to hyperbole, essentially offering up his feeling that he is just as fast with the finger on the trigger as outside the trigger. Perhaps he is, since he only trains with his finger off the trigger, and going outside his training would slow him down. But does that apply to the majority of us?

What say you? Fingers always off the trigger or not?

Spurt in Ebola Cases in Liberia

The Daily Mail reports:
Almost 50 new Ebola cases have erupted in Liberia, harming the fight against an outbreak which has now infected more than 20,000 people across West Africa. 
Medics had hoped they were finally beating the disease in Liberia after infection rates began to fall last month amid a global disaster appeal. 
But today officials said 49 new cases had been identified in one part of one county - and they blamed them partly on the tradition of washing loved ones' bodies before they are buried.
The article describes the affected county--Grand Cape Mount County--as adjoining Sierra Leone, but a map in the article shows that it is well away from the borders, just south of the Liberian capital on the coast.

Growth of Christians Behind China Crackdown?

From Breitbart:
Though the Chinese Communist Party is the largest explicitly atheist organization in the world, with 85 million official members, it is now overshadowed by an estimated 100 million Christians in China. It is no wonder Beijing is nervous and authorities are cracking down on Christian groups. 
Christianity is growing so fast in China that some predict that it will be the most Christian nation in the world in only another 15 years. By far, the greatest growth is coming outside the official state-sanctioned churches, which are rightly considered subservient to the Communist Party. Numbers are increasing, rather, in unofficial Protestant “house churches” and in the underground Catholic church. 

The Big Picture

Fraser Nelson writes at The Telegraph that we are living in a golden age:
We have recently been celebrating a quarter-century since the collapse of the Berlin Wall, which kicked off a period of global calm. The Canadian academic Steven Pinker has called this era the “New Peace”, noting that conflicts of all kinds – genocide, autocracy and even terrorism – went on to decline sharply the world over. Pinker came up with the phrase four years ago, but only now can we see the full extent of its dividends. 
With peace comes trade and, ergo, prosperity. Global capitalism has transferred wealth faster than foreign aid ever could. 
A study in the current issue of The Lancet shows what all of this means. Global life expectancy now stands at a new high of 71.5 years, up six years since 1990. In India, life expectancy is up seven years for men, and 10 for women. It’s rising faster in the impoverished east of Africa than anywhere else on the planet. In Rwanda and Ethiopia, life expectancy has risen by 15 years. 
This helps explain why Bob Geldof’s latest Band Aid single now sounds so cringingly out-of-date. Africans certainly do know it’s Christmas – a Nigerian child is almost twice as likely to mark the occasion by attending church than a British one. The Ebola crisis has led to 7,000 deaths, each one a tragedy. But far more lives have been saved by the progress against malaria, HIV and diarrhoea. The World Bank’s rate of extreme poverty (those living on less than $1.25 a day) has more than halved since 1990, mainly thanks to China – where economic growth and the assault on poverty are being unwittingly supported by any parent who put a plastic toy under the tree yesterday.
Obviously, not everyone is blessed or touched by these advancements as others. Much of the world lives under the tyranny of socialism or autocrats. Russia's economy is hurting. The Ukraine is breaking apart. The ISIS barbarians show that even in its death throws, Islamic "civilization" can be dangerous. And the prosperity we have may be fleeting--Nelson's article notes that a similar golden age ended in 1913. But we must also remember to count our blessings. As the hymn says:

 When upon life's billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

First Impressions: Caldwell DeadShot FieldPod

The box
My father-in-law found this product at Cabella's. As you can see, it is an aluminum and polymer tripod shooting rest. According to the box, it can adjust from 20 inches to 42 inches in height, although I did not measure it to test this out. What I know, is that at its shortest length, it is slightly too tall to work from a prone position (although this height would probably be great off a shooting bench or table, which are generally too low). At its highest setting, it is a little cramped when sitting on a regular chair, but would probably be fine off of a shorter stool or folding camp chair.

The length of the distance between support points is also adjustable to accommodate different length rifles, although I did not think to measure the distance.

Folded

The weight of the tripod is just a little over 5 pounds, and it folds down to a fairly compact size as you can see in the photograph, above. Although it comes with a carrying strap, it would probably be easier to carry it in a small bag. I think a carrying bag for a camera tripod or something similar in size to a yoga mat bag would work well.

It takes me about 5 minutes to set it up. I could probably cut a minute or two off this as I get used to it, but I would still expect a few minutes to set it up.

Set up with rifle and 20-round magazine
As you can see, the uprights for the rifle rests can also be adjusted to slightly raise or lower the rifle. Because of the dual rods supporting the front and rear rests, it presents no problem to use a rifle with a longer magazine because the magazine fits between the rods--something that many other shooting rests fail at, and something that I especially appreciate.

Although it is certainly possible to set it up to act as a rigid shooting mount, it is also possible to loosen up the attachment between the rests and the tripod legs, allowing to turn or tilt the rifle up or down while still having a steady support.

I see this rest fulfilling two functions: (1) providing a shooting rest when sighting in or target shooting in the field and, potentially, off a table or bench; (2) providing a shooting rest for hunting from a fixed location (i.e., a stand or if sitting and glassing). Although it allows you to freely turn and elevate or depress the muzzle of a rifle, it does not really lend itself to a tactical role; it takes too long to set up and take down, and certainly does not adjust to be short enough to shoot from a prone position. So, it would not replace a bipod or shooting stick in the field for the shooter or hunter that is moving around.

All in all, it appears to be durable and sturdy enough for range use. My biggest concern is that it appears to use rather small, fragile pins on the connections to the spreader bars for the legs, and spreader bars are simply a stamped piece of sheet aluminum. I could see the spreaders and/or pins becoming bent or broken if you were not careful in setting it up. Obviously, like most tripods using polymer clamps and knobs, it is important to not over tighten the screws, or it could strip the threading.

In short, while not a tactical shooting tool, it will make it a lot easier to sight in or shoot a rifle in the field--particularly those using longer magazines. I look forward to actually taking this out to use.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Creekmore: The 5 Common Piles of Prepper B.S.

M.D. Creekmore has posted an article at The Survivalist Blog entitled: "Warning: Do You Recognize these Five Common Piles of Prepper BS." His list of 5 fallacies are:

  • The golden horde--as he notes, and others (e.g. FerFal) have noted, history shows that during upheaval, people head to the cities, not from the cities, absent some disaster occurring to that particular city (and, even then, there may not be a mass exodus).
  • Without rule of law (WROL)--Creekmore also finds this unlikely because people want rule of law; he suggests that any such event would be localized geographically and temporally. Historical events largely support this. I've read quite a bit about the Black Death, and have noted that even during that horrible plague, with upwards of 50% of the population dying in some areas, the courts and other government continued to function. However, this is not to say that banditry won't increase--it will; until the 20th Century, violent crime was higher in rural areas than in cities. I've discussed the one exception to this being a civil war. But even in a civil war, the lack of rule of law won't be between you and your neighbors, speaking as a whole; they won't tolerate a murderer or thief ... unless the violence is directed against the "enemy".
  • Shoot first--if you are going to still be subject to rule of law, you can also expect principles of self-defense to apply, even if more exceptions might be made. 
  • Bugging out to the woods--wilderness living is just not a viable option for most people.
  • Being squared away in the wilderness--Creekmore is not talking about moving to a small community here, but the genuinely isolated retreat miles from the nearest town. His comments mirror that of Fer Fal's (and what I have oft repeated in my blog):
Some survival writers suggest relocating as far away from other people as possible – this is what I call the “cabin in the woods” survival philosophy. Living in the backwoods is great, now, but in the aftermath of a long-term disaster or economic collapse, those “squared away” in the wilderness will become targets. 
And guess what… you’ll be on your own. No one will come to your rescue – if the looters manage to take control of your isolated cabin in the woods, they can stay for as long as they want and do what ever they want to you and your family, and no one will hear your screams for help. 
Robbers, thieves, rapists and murders will seek out isolated retreats, because of there isolation, I know this goes against what some other self-appointed “survival guru” has repeatedly told his readers, but recent history and common sense prove that I’m right.  Armed and organized home invasions will be a constant threat for isolated families.
One lone gunman could easily, take out an isolated family from a distance or even selectively pick off all of the male inhabitants while saving the females for his own pleasure.
 
I’ve lived in an isolated area where my closest neighbors were well over a mile away, and the peace and quiet are great, I loved the isolation, but even then, I constantly worried about thieves breaking in and stealing my stuff, every time that I left the house to go to town or visit my family. And this was during good times – now imagine how quickly things would deteriorate in the aftermath of an economic collapse or other major disaster.
Anyone that has studied the settlement of North America will recognize the basic truth about this--the Indians did not raid cities or even towns, but the isolated cabin or small settlement.

Fer Fal gets into some of these same issues in his recent video critical of the American Redoubt concept. He observes that when analyzing what happened in the Yugoslavian civil war that a person would have been better off in Sarajevo than in the small towns or isolated homesteads that were subject to ethnic cleansing; and you are not going to be shooting "your financial problems" if there is a financial collapse (unless you plan on turning to banditry).

Bill Whittle: Lights Out! The Chaos When Our Grid Goes Down


Saturday, December 27, 2014

"Firearms Tutorial for Forensic Education"

... from the University of Utah medical school.

Goals and Objectives in Prepping

File:Blue-bullseye.png
(Source)
A couple days ago, I discussed the issue of "what are we preparing for?" I arrived at a very nebulous answer of "whatever life throws at us." This was not meant to be snarky, but to suggest that focusing too narrowly on some particular scenario is self-limiting. I also did not mean for it to dismiss the need to set goals and have measurable objectives when making preps. 

I have mentioned in the past the idea of using "baby steps" in preparing. That is, prepare for short term, more common potentials, then move into putting together preps (especially food, water and fuel) for longer term. I really like the article entitled "Preparedness 'Pie' Chart" from Advanced Survival Blog (ASB) that sets up a general outline of what a preparedness plan would be. The article sets out three basic stages or goals in setting aside preps:
Level 1 is the center of the pie and the foundation of the plan. EVERYTHING needed for your household to function, without help,  for 1-3 weeks should be in your home. Some of the most essential of these preps should be ready to leave with you if necessary. Completing Level One is an admirable achievement and this level of preparedness would be more than adequate for anyone to weather thru the most common emergencies. 
Level 2 is the next “ring” in the circle chart and, IMO, shouldn’t be started until Level 1 is completed. It represents the 1-12 Month portion of a preparedness plan. This level should not only build upon Level One’s supply list but would probably include plans to improvise methods and/or learning to do something without the help of others. 
Level 3, the final level, is the limitless area shown outside of the Level Two blue ring. It’s the goal of many to have over a year’s worth of preps or be self-sustained enough to replenish your needs independently. For some it means advanced training or acquiring equipment to generate an income or trade for other goods. For others it may mean farming or raising livestock.
These three levels provide good way points, and perhaps end goals for your prepping. Although most preppers might think this to be heresy, YOU need to pick a goal which you are realistically going to meet and are comfortable with, even if you end up stopping at level 1. I would rather have all my neighbors at level 1 than none of them prepared because they feel obligated to reach levels 2 or 3 but such preparations are beyond their capability or desire. Also, don't feel obligated to use these levels as the specific goals or objectives--you are free to split them up: for instance, work on getting 1 week of food and water and fuel; then work towards 3 weeks; and so on. Level 2, if you decide to go that far, could have intermediate goals of 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, and so on.

The other thing to keep in mind is that the type of preparations will vary for each of the different levels. The equipment and stores you need for level 2 may be very different from level 1. For instance, at level 1, food stores should be what you normally use and eat--just more of them. You can realistically store a week or more of water in bottles or drums in most cases. You can also keep batteries, propane fuel, kerosene and so on, to run stoves, heaters, lamps, etc. In fact, level 1 should provide little disruption to your way of life, where you choose to live, and so on.

Level 2 takes a slightly different mindset toward preparations that transcends simply putting away extra for a disaster to an attitude of becoming more self-sufficient. You can probably continue with storing foods that you normally eat, but the economics of such preparations may require you to begin canning foods on your own (with a concomitant investment in a canner and/or pressure cooker, jars, rings, lids, etc.), growing a garden to supplement your food supply, and so on. Flour doesn't store well for more than a few months, so as you push out toward one year, you may need to store grain, and obtain a grain mill. Unless you can afford to install a large water tank or cistern, your approach to water will have to change simply because you won't be able to store the water; instead, your focus will have to shift to collecting and purifying water; perhaps going so far as relocating to an area with a dependable source of water, be it a stream or well, or installing a rain catchment system. For those living in an urban area, or an apartment anywhere, level 2 preps will be extremely challenging. Fuel may similarly pose a challenge. A good woodpile may last for several months, but most fuel preps at this stage will, like water, focus on renewable sources of energy or being able to replenish your fuel.

Level 3 preps pretty much leave "preparation" behind and shift almost entirely to self reliance. At this point, unless you have extraordinary storage facilities, you probably won't be able to store sufficient food, but must concentrate on food production. At this stage, water collection and storage from natural sources is a must. Fuel at this stage will probably mean having access to a sufficient amount of land and trees that can be harvested for wood, a large solar panel system, or something similar. Perhaps the knowledge of how to produce alcohol fuels or wood gas. This level of preparation will require a large suburban lot or rural lot, and a whole host of skills and equipment beyond anything needed for levels 1 and 2. Most preppers will probably never have the ability or desire to engage in level 3 preps.

As ASB advises, you are best to focus on completing level 1 before working on level 2. This not only gets you into good habits regarding preps, but keeps you from missing the mark by looking beyond the target.

Beyond the basic levels is the concept of prioritizing your preps. That is, preparing for risks that have a higher statistical odds of occurring over those that are less-likely, or non-likely. ASB has a series of articles on prioritizing, but I want to highlight some thoughts from their first article on the subject, "Focus and Evaluate." They write:
What good does it do a family to spend their time and money preparing for unlikely events if they’ve left themselves vulnerable and exposed to the problemss that they know WILL happen or that are more likely to occur? 
For instance, this week alone I have read 3 articles on motor vehicle EMP preparedness. All of the authors recommended older model vehicles and/or diesel-engine powered vehicles. They boldly stated that they were not only EMP resistant but also practical to own as well. The authors also seemed to be “parroting” information gleaned from the same tired sources dating as far back as the 1960s. 
On the surface, this may not seem to be all that bad but I look at this as being not only factually incorrect but to also be a dangerous distraction away from the threats we are actually facing. 
I could argue that finding a 1970s Jeep or pickup truck (that wasn’t in need of a complete rebuild) would be an outrageous waste of time for most people or that owning a Ford F-35o Super Duty is an enormous cost for the average homeowner. It could also be debated that neither option is very practical. But instead, I’d like to say that there are more urgent things that require your attention. 
Which is more likely in the next year:  a lone terrorist or Iran (or whoever) setting off an EMP weapon somewhere in the US or is it more likely that the US economy will be hit with the fallout from a European depression? 
* * * 
Since the majority of our readers, myself included, would probably have a hard time to letting go of the $8000-$12000 necessary to purchase and restore a vehicle capable of resisting an improbable event, in my opinion, it would seem to be a better use of the money to have that money ready to work for us in the event we were laid-off or under-employed.
Although I've been criticized for taking this position, the same principles apply to defensive preparations. You are more likely to suffer a mugging, a robbery, or a home invasion than to be attacked by "the Golden Horde" and should prepare accordingly. This is why I've in the past recommended obtaining a good handgun before laying out the money for a combat rifle; and why I have suggested that your handgun will be your primary weapon absent some major event such as a civil war. To put it into context of the prior levels of preparation, a handgun clearly falls into the realm of level 1, whereas needing a combat rifle assumes a much greater level of unrest or lawlessness. Obviously, your situation may vary according to where you live. If you are living on a rural farm or ranch, where you have to protect livestock against coyotes, dogs, or foxes, a rifle may serve you better than a handgun. But for the majority of people, a handgun will be the weapon you most likely will turn to if in danger.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Al Qaeda Wants Followers to Target American Economy

As some of you probably know, Al Qaeda has released its 13th issue of Inspire Magazine, a pidgin English publication designed to indoctrinate its English speaking followers and provide them with technical information. The Insite Blog (which writes about terrorism and extremism) reports:
The 112-page magazine was posted on AQAP's Twitter account on December 24, 2014, and was provided in PDF, video, and images formats, and well as being uploaded on YouTube.  
The issue also included an interview with the “AQ Chef,” who has authored the “Open Source Jihad” articles since the inception of the publication. In the interview, the AQ Chef promoted the concept of lone-wolf jihad, stressing the importance of claiming responsibility for attacks while making appeals to Zale Thompson, the NY hatchet attacker; Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter; and Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, the underwear bomber; and others. 
Along with this interview, the magazine issue provided step-by-step manuals on creating bombs and bypassing security barriers.  
The 13th “Inspire” issue also specified different targets of attack in two different categories. The first suggested various Western airline companies, including American Airlines, United, Continental Airlines, Delta, British Airways and easyJet, and AirFrance. Such proposed attacks were specified as being “better to execute inside American soil.” 
The magazine also specified prominent American business/economic figures. In this section, pictures and brief profiles of Ben Bernanke and Bill Gates were given, both described as being people who “run the American economy.”
This summary is not quite correct. Yes, AQAP does ask its fellow terrorists to select economic targets, but it does not suggest attacking airline companies, per se. Rather, the relevant article notes that there are direct economic targets--e.g., financial institutions and exchanges (and apparently includes certain persons in this category)--and indirect economic targets--i.e., targets that themselves are of little economic consequence, but which will result in a heavy-handed government response that will cost significant amounts of money. It includes commercial airlines in the latter category, because it knows from past experience that the successful destruction of an airliner will both (a) cause the government and the airlines/airports to spend considerable amounts of money to increase security and (b) that people will avoid airlines, causing further economic damage. And while not abandoning the concept of large operations planned and financed by AQAP, it also encourages the lone wolf attacks, putting lie to the general government and media line that these isolated incidents are not terrorist related. In fact, since one of the goals stated for attacks is to "[c]reat[e] tension between the government and its people," these inane comments ignoring Islam as a motivator simply assist the terrorists in creating this "tension."

The magazine goes on to describe how different parts of airport security work preparatory to explaining how to make a bomb that will evade most of these security measures. For some reason, AQAP has more faith in airport full body scanners than is warranted. In any event, after very detailed instructions on making a bomb, detonator, etc., without using any metal parts, it also describes the best place to sit on an aircraft to cause the most damage. Although the article goes out of its way to avoid specific references to where to conceal the bomb, it is clear after reading through the magazine that they expect the bomb to be hidden in the rectum or some similarly uncomfortable place. The bomb "casing" is a water bottle, so I'm not sure how they expect to be able to insert something that large into the rectum, but they probably have some experience at it.

As I've written on other occasions, the best defense we have against terrorists is their sheer stupidity, and this issue of Inspire supports my premise. As they have in the past, the primitive savages focus on targets that are high-profile and glitzy--rich financiers and airliners--rather than on more practical targets. Flashing the word "airliner" to a terrorist is like yelling "squirrel" around a dog--they both get so excited they practically wet themselves.

Abandoned Malls

Rolling Acres Mall, Akron, Ohio

Hawthorne Plaza Mall, Hawthorne, California
These Abandoned Malls Would Be Awesome Post-Apocalyptic Film Locations
New World Shopping Mall, Bangkok, Thailand 
 South China Mall, Dongguan, China
Clink on the description of each for more photos and/or an article.





The King Men and the Economy (Updated)

Just a few miscellaneous topics that seem to describe the new political and economic reality in the United States. One of the large disconnects between the coastal elites and Joe Everyman has been the "recovery"--that is, the wealthy have been doing well, while the middle-class continues to struggle. A short article from the Brookings Institute looks at this issue from one perspective--wealth. From the article:
“America’s wealth gap between middle-income and upper-income families is [the] widest on record.”  So reads the title of a Pew Research Center analysis by Richard Fry and Rakesh Kochhar that sheds new light on the persisting anxiety of middle-class Americans. 
The analysis offers a useful definition of wealth as the difference between a family’s assets and debt.  Wealth is an important dimension of household well-being, notes Fry, because “it’s a measure of a family’s ‘nest egg’ and can be used to sustain consumption during emergencies (for example, job layoffs) as well as provide income during retirement.”  Wealth is an index both of resiliency in the face of shocks and of preparation for the future. 
In the 30 years that the Federal Reserve Board has been collecting these data, the gap between upper-income and middle-class families has rough doubled.  In 1983, the median net worth of upper-income families was 3.4 times that of their middle-income counterparts.  In 2013, that figure stood at 6.6 times.  Although the increase occurred by fits and starts throughout the past three decades, it accelerated dramatically during the Great Recession and its aftermath. 
The key point, however, is not that the ratio doubled but why.  Corrected for inflation, the median wealth of upper-income families has doubled since 1983, from $318,000 to $639,000.  By contrast, the median wealth of middle-class families has stagnated during that period--$94,000 in 1983, $96,000 today.  To be sure, middle-class wealth increased to $158,000 between 1983 and 2007 but the Great Recession reversed that gain, and the middle class has not participated significantly in the stock market surge that began in mid-2009.
Unfortunately, the author never goes on to explain the "why" aspect. One clear issue that jumps out is that the increase of "wealth" seen by middle-class families between 1983 and 2007 was not a result of large jumps in income--adjusted for inflation, the average worker saw wages stagnate during the same time period--but the increase in the value of residential housing. The collapse of the real estate market wiped away most of those gains, and it is unlikely that the value of houses will rebound, overall, although certain markets will show growth.

Part of the reasons are demographic, and some of it is economic/debt related. Here are a few articles on the topic from The Atlantic and The Washington Post and the Futurist. Essentially, the main problems related are (i) high student loan debt that keeps younger people from accumulating the savings necessary to buy a home; (ii) lower marriage rates, which eliminates one of the main reasons for buying a family home--a family; and (iii) stagnating wages, as noted above. At the same time, however, retiring baby boomers will be seeking to sell their homes to fund their retirements. More people attempting to sell at the same time there are fewer buyers means that housing prices will at least stay flat, if not decline, when viewed nationally.

Breitbart notes that the mega-rich overwhelmingly donated to the Democrats in 2014. No surprise there--it has been a trend for a long time. Unfortunately for them, their investment did not pay off, and so they are having to resort to other tactics to advance their agenda. Victor Davis Hanson warns:
Obama’s promised new legislation — gun control, climate change, Obamacare — was either rejected by Congress or passed but found to be both unpopular and nearly unworkable. Positive changes — such as lower gas prices brought on by new American oil and gas discoveries and innovative new methods of extraction — came despite, not because of, Obama. 
Yet the president presses on with his unpopular agenda, believing, as did Napoleon, that he alone is the revolution — intent to ignore popular opinion, the rule of law, and Congress. He assumes that his mastery of the teleprompter and iconic status as the first black president exempt him from congressional censure or outright public revolt. 
In the next two years, we will see presidential overreach that we have not witnessed in modern memory.
Great civilizations don't die--they commit suicide.

Update:  Michael Walsh warns:
Now we are past both the presidential election and the ’14 midterms, and have arrived at the inflection point. Change will come thick and fast now, in a flurry of “presidential memoranda” and occasional executive orders, and no one in Congress or the courts to stop him. Obama has a taste for it now and he realizes that there is not a single person or entity inside or outside of government to frustrate him. At this point, the only way he could be neutralized would be for everyone to simply ignore his extra-Constitutional orders, as if he were the Emperor Norton. 
But with the Congress in the hands of the opposition party (really, the GOP wing of the Permanent Bipartisan Fusion Party), Obama will simply ignore them when he’s not using them as a collective whipping boy. Beholden to his hard-left supporters, the president is likely to increase the racial divide, use the (Congressionally ordained) agencies like the EPA and the IRS to further his punishing rule by bureaucracy, and continue to employ the Justice Department as an instrument of his policy preferences. Already we are reading (in Politico, the court stenographers of the Obama administration) that Republicans are “warming” to Loretta Lynch, Obama’s pick to replace Attorney General Eric Holder.
* * * 
So this is where the curve turns, and it’s down we go, straight down, to realms never before charted in the American experiment. It’s going to be a bumpy ride. And remember this; as I like to say about the Left: they never stop, they never sleep, they never quit.

First Thoughts: Mora Craftline Q 546 Knife

Morakniv Craftline Q 546
My youngest two children had finally reached an age where I felt they were mature enough to have a knife. Originally, my intent--as it had been with my other kids--was to give them a small multi-tool type knife, such as the Leatherman Squirt or Micra, with a small set of scissors, a pen-knife, and a few other useful tools. However, as I learned with my older kids, because these tools are so small, they are easy for an active youth to lose, and, frankly, the blades are generally too small and awkward for practical use. Basically, they became a tool of last resort. The impracticality of such knives was reinforced earlier this year when I accompanied one of my sons on an 11 year old Boy Scout camp, and observed how difficult it was for the boys to whittle or do anything of much use with the small pen knives that most of them had brought. (I had brought a small lock blade folder with a 2-1/2 inch blade for my son to use, and it seemed to work much better).

My wife and I next considered just getting a small, lock blade folder for the boys. But my oldest son, with a few years of Scouting under his belt, had begun to prefer a small fixed blade camp or belt knives, and so we decided it would probably be the best choice. My oldest son's favorite knife--even more than his SOG Seal Scout--was a Mora knife, and so we started thinking in that direction. Then, on Black Friday, we happened across the above pictured knives at a local sporting goods store. They answered all we could hope for in a small fixed blade knife.

According to Amazon, the statistics on the knife are as follows:

  • Fixed blade knife with stainless steel blade
  • Blade Thickness: 0.08" (0.2 cm), Blade Length: 3.8" (9.6 cm), Total Length: 8.2" (20.8 cm), Net Weight: 3.4 oz. (97 g)
  • Ergonomic plastic handle
  • Plastic sheath with belt clip
  • 1-year manufacturer's warranty
The knives are inexpensive--I think they were $11.99 at the store where we got them--although I expect that you could purchase them for less online. It shows up on few things--mold marks and that the spine of the blade is not polished, and still shows marks from being cut out.

A little rough on the spine
However, the polish and grind on the rest of the blade is excellent, and, like all Mora knives, very sharp from the box.

Like other Mora plastic sheaths, the knife simply clipped into place by the sheath--there are no separate straps or snaps to deal with. There is a small drainage hole at the end of the sheath. Notwithstanding the description given above, this is not a belt sheath. That is, there is not a belt loop. Rather, it uses a keyhole attachment designed to slip over a button sewn on the side of a pair of pants.

Both sides
 The handles were large enough for me to use comfortably, yet small enough that the boys (11 and 9, respectively) were able to handle them without too much trouble. I really liked the finger guard, which makes the knife much safer to use.

Since they were Christmas gifts, and only opened yesterday, the only use they saw was opening boxes and other packages. But that being said, they handled well. The boys, of course, were overjoyed.

I suppose a pocket knife is handier to carry around, but given the current social climate about children having knives, I expect that the boys will only be using these around the house or when camping anyway. And in those circumstances, the fixed blade design will work better than a pocket knife.

Based on the thickness of the blade and its shape, this is a true belt knife. It is thin enough to use for cutting food, and most other chores, but probably too thin for some of the heavy duty uses expected of a survival or camp knife. Obviously, while it could be used to skin animals, a drop point knife would be preferable. But the point is sharp and pointed enough to get under string and cord, or for fine cutting tasks. In short, it is a general utility design commonly known, as I mentioned, as a belt knife--and in such a role, I expect it will excel.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

What Are You Preparing For?

Cthulhu awakens! (Source)

In the most recent edition of the Backwoodsman magazine, the editor asks what, exactly, are preppers/survivalists preparing for? He understands the self-reliance thing, and he understands wanting to prepare for natural disasters. But he still thinks that there is something more that differentiates a survivalist or prepper.

He raises a fair question, but not one that is easily answered because there is no clear demarcation between someone merely wanting to be self-reliant (i.e., the modern homesteader) or preparing for natural disasters, and someone that would consider themselves a "prepper" or a "survivalist". When do you progress from someone preparing for disasters and becoming a survivalist? Is it when you have three weeks rather than two weeks of food and consumables stored away? Or when you pass the 6 month mark? Is it when you buy a backup generator? Or when you augment the pistol you keep tucked in your nightstand with a defensive rifle? Or is the difference something less definable, such as your motivation for storing food and other supplies.

If that latter is the case, I would like to know what that motive needs to be, because I do not discern a universal reason for prepping.

Back during the Cold War it would may have been accurate to state that most survivalists were naturally worried about a nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States. However, even in the 1970s and 1980s, there were a significant number of survivalists worried about socioeconomic collapse, with the cities becoming battlegrounds for mobs (an understandable worry given the race riots and protests of the late 1960s and 1970s), or an environmental disaster--Love Canal writ large. In the late 1990s, of course, there were a lot of concerns of a final Apocalypse as the end of the second millennium approached, and worries over the Y2K computer bug. Fast forward to today, and it is clear to me that a lot of preppers worry about peak oil, solar flares or EMP attacks destroying the electrical system, financial collapse, pandemics, etc. And, yes, some pick one potential disaster or scenario and fixate on it.

But notwithstanding shows like Doomsday Preppers which feature preppers planning for a specific disaster (or at least are portrayed as such), I'm not convinced that a majority of people that consider themselves preppers or survivalists focus on a single type of disaster. The Survival Blog is informative in this regard because there are a lot of articles from people relatively new to prepping that describe their conversion, if you will, to survivalism. I have noticed that many who have an epiphany regarding preparations do so because of some personal or local disaster that reminds them of how precarious our way of living can be--for instance, loss of a job, a major illness, or a local disaster. Others, however, never have such a moment, but seem to simply have a general unease of where we are headed.

This non-specificity is a good thing. I think that the survivalist movement, if it can be called such, has matured because more people are preparing for the sake of being prepared, rather than fearing some particular or specific earth-shattering cataclysm. It probably helps, in this regard, that we are exposed to better news reporting, and video, of actual disasters striking other countries. It makes one conscious that "there, but for the grace of God, go I." But it also means that preparations are well rounded.

The primary difference between a survivalist/prepper and one who merely sets aside some extra food and water for a tornado or bad winter storm is really one of magnitude. The latter understands the need to prepare for common events, but subconsciously believes he or she is immune from anything greater or the government will step in and take care of everyone; whereas the survivalist/prepper can envision something on a larger scale, or even a gigantic scale, such as the great famine of Maoist China, the purges and genocides that has happened in so many communist and socialist countries, devastating wars such as WWII, pandemics such as the Black Death, or natural disasters such as the New Madrid Earthquake--and understands that the same could happen to him/or her. It doesn't require the end of the world or the collapse of civilization to throw you on your own resources for an extended period of time.

The same applies to self-defense. Most people understand having a pistol or shotgun to protect yourself and your family from a burglar. But what about a hungry mob? Or a mob that has decided that people of your race, religion, or political party should be exterminated? Could it happen? Unlikely. But it does happen with a fairly depressing frequency all over the world, and survivalists understand this. To look at this issue from a different perspective: our local, state and federal government take issues of civil unrest seriously and train for it, so the real question a citizen should be asking is why he or she is not doing the same.

So what do survivalists prepare for? I think that the appropriate answer is that they prepare for life and what it can throw at them.

U.S. Economy Rebounding Due to Low Oil Prices

The LA Times reports:
The U.S. is rolling into the new year with impressive strength as plunging oil prices have ignited consumer spending and helped fuel the best stretch of growth in more than a decade — even as economies around the world are struggling. 
A basketful of mostly upbeat economic data Tuesday pushed financial markets to record highs, with the Dow Jones industrial average breaking through the 18,000-point barrier for the first time. 
Investors were spurred by a Commerce Department report that the U.S. economy expanded at a remarkable 5% annual rate in the third quarter, the fastest pace since 2003 and a far cry from the tepid growth that has plagued most of the recovery from the Great Recession. 
"This is literally shoot-the-lights-out sort of stuff," said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Union Bank in New York. "This economy is pretty much roaring." 
And the third quarter wasn't a fluke. 
Total economic output, also known as gross domestic product, expanded at a 4.6% annual rate in the second quarter. It marks the first time the economy posted back-to-back quarters of more than 4.5% growth since 2003. 
Economists don't expect the torrid pace to continue. The fourth quarter will probably keep the positive momentum, but at a more modest 2.5% to 3%. 
With gasoline prices plummeting, Americans are feeling the difference in their bank accounts. Consumer spending jumped in November as incomes continued to rise. 
And with a leading measure of consumer confidence on Tuesday hitting its highest level since 2007, signs point to strong spending carrying into next year, economists said.

The Role of Joseph

He was faced with a detestable duty. He was a man of compassion, even tenderness. But he was also a man [of] honor, a man of stern code. His obedience to the Law was unwavering. The moment he learned that his fiancé was pregnant he knew that it was the end. The end, certainly, of their betrothal, and perhaps even the end of her life. 
It was two millennia ago in the Roman-occupied land of Judea. The man was named Joseph. His fiancé was Mary. She was going to have a baby and it sure was not his. Compassion, honor and duty dueled within Joseph. He could not pretend there was no problem. She obviously had betrayed him. The whole town of Nazareth was watching. 
Finally, Joseph decided Mary would have to pay the price for infidelity as his honor and the Law required, but tempered with mercy. Joseph determined to break his engagement to Mary and dismiss her from his life without fanfare, leaving her to fend for herself. It would clear the slate, restore his honor and was as least hurtful to the young woman as any just solution could be. 
What the outcome might have been by Joseph’s plan we don’t know, because God revealed to him what was really going on, and Joseph changed his mind. 
Joseph dreamed of an angel, who informed Joseph that Mary’s unborn child was of the Holy Spirit. The angel gave Joseph instructions: take Mary home as his wife and adopt Mary’s child as his own, giving him the name Jesus, an ordinary name then, meaning,“God helps.” 
These things came to pass. In Joseph’s day, when a Jewish man gave a name to the child born to his wife, he was confirming the child as his own. Maybe others knew that Joseph was not the baby’s natural father, maybe they didn’t. It didn’t matter. When Joseph named the baby Jesus, he was also giving to Jesus his own identity, his own lineage. That is why Jesus could truly be said to be of the line of David, because Joseph was of David’s line and Joseph adopted Jesus as his own son. When Joseph named the child Jesus he was telling the world, “This child belongs to me, this child is my child.”
 And then he raised Jesus as his own son:
But more is going on with Joseph than is first apparent. A recurring theme of St. Paul is that Jesus' followers are adopted by God and made children of God, brothers and sisters of Christ. This should make us reconsider the significance of where Joseph fits in with God’s work. Joseph’s adoption of Jesus is highly significant. 
What if Joseph had said no to the angel and had sent Mary away anyway? Can we imagine Jesus growing up in the home of an unwed, single mother, both Mary and Jesus therefore outcast from society? How would Jesus have conceived of God as his heavenly Father if Joseph had never taken on the role of Jesus’ earthly father? But father to Jesus Joseph was. 
God adopts Jesus’ disciples as sons and daughters of God in the family of God. But first, God sent his Son to be adopted by Joseph into the family of mortals. Joseph affirmed on behalf of all humanity that God belongs with us, "God with us."

APEX To Be Offering CETME L Kits Soon

It is a delayed blow-back design similar to the original CETME and HK designs, in 5.56 NATO. And yes, it uses standard AR magazines. Word is that the kits will become available next week.

Update: A photo of the parts kits:

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

I've noted before about the need to pay attention to the people pulling the strings of power (see here and here). So, here is a power broker you probably have not heard of: Jim Messina. Ken Silverstein writes about him:
Up until 2002, Messina was still largely unknown. But that year, when managing Baucus’s Senate re-election campaign, he released one of the more homophobic ads of modern political times. It featured footage from a 20-year-old TV ad for a hair salon run by Baucus’s opponent, Mike Taylor –who at the time was 20 points behind in the polls and had no chance of winning –who was seen massaging a man’s face while wearing an open-front shirt, and hence was obviously supposed to be gay. 
The ad, set to a porn soundtrack, caused Taylor to drop out of the race. When he announced two weeks later that he was resuming a limited campaign aimed largely at “getting the slander out of Montana politics,” Messina issued a public letter that asked Taylor to sign a “clean campaign pledge” for the remainder of the race, saying, “We take you at your word that you want to turn over a new leaf and run a positive campaign.” 
This sort of scumminess put Messina on the map in Democratic circles. He also became known as a world class asshole who kept an “enemies” list on an Excel spreadsheet. “Everybody was a douchebag,” says a person who knew him then. “He kept score.” 
In 2008, Messina joined Obama’s presidential campaign and after the inauguration was named as a deputy chief of staff under the awful Rahm Emanuel. One of his first jobs was to salvage Timothy Geithner’s confirmation as Treasury Secretary, which was endangered due to tax irregularities. The fact that Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, was in charge of Geithner’s confirmation made Messina’s job a lot easier.  
By the time he turned 40 in October 2009, Messina was a Washington VIP. His birthday party — “ROCK OUT WITH JIM MESSINA AS HE TURNS 40!”, said the emailed invitation — was held at the Gibson, a trendy D.C. bar, and hosted by Baucus, Emanuel, Pete Rouse, then a senior Obama advisor, and Jim Crounse, one of Messina’s closest friends, a former Baucus chief of staff and now one of the top Democratic direct mail consultants in the country. 
Three years later, Messina’s star had risen even further — he was in charge of Obama’s 2012 reelection. He reportedly was one of the few White House officials to become close to Obama, even taking the president trout fishing in Montana.
 The article goes on to describe more of his current activities.

CUNY Student Newspaper Calls for Violence

“The time for peace has passed,” says a revolutionary editorial titled “In Support of Violence” that was penned by editor-in-chief Gordon Barnes in the Dec. 3 issue of The Advocate.

“The problem with the protesters’ violence in Ferguson is that it is unorganized. If the violence was to be organized, and the protesters armed — more so than the few that sparingly are — then the brunt of social pressures would not be laid onto middling proprietors [of looted small businesses], but unto those deserving the most virulent response of an enraged populace,” Barnes writes in the CUNY Grad Center’s publication.
 
“The acts of looting, destruction of property and violence directed towards state representatives is not only warranted, it is necessary,” says Barnes, a doctoral student in history who once studied in Cuba. 
The editorial — illustrated in the online version with the circled, capital A that symbolizes anarchy — also urges rioters to emulate the Black Panthers and Malcolm X instead of Martin Luther King and other advocates of nonviolence — and hopes the unrest will morph into a revolution.

Some Articles on Fethullah Gulen

These explain a bit more about the Gulen movement and the reasons for the Turkish crackdown on Gulen supporters.

First, start with this background piece from City Journal in 2012. Note, especially, this:
Gülen’s detractors, however, inevitably point to a speech of his that surfaced in a video in 1999: 
You must move in the arteries of the system without anyone noticing your existence until you reach all the power centers. . . . Until the conditions are ripe, they [the followers] must continue like this. If they do something prematurely, the world will crush our heads, and Muslims will suffer everywhere, like in the tragedies in Algeria, like in 1982 [in] Syria, . . . like in the yearly disasters and tragedies in Egypt. . . . The time is not yet right. You must wait for the time when you are complete and conditions are ripe, until we can shoulder the entire world and carry it. . . . You must wait until such time as you have gotten all the state power, until you have brought to your side all the power of the constitutional institutions in Turkey . . . . Now, I have expressed my feelings and thoughts to you all—in confidence . . . trusting your loyalty and secrecy. I know that when you leave here, [just] as you discard your empty juice boxes, you must discard the thoughts and the feelings that I expressed here.
Then read this recent article entitled "Turkey's Two Thugs".

And then, for some more detail into the recent arrests, read this article from Reuben Silverman.

Related Posts: The False Prophet; More on Fethullah Gulen


How to Build a Rocket Stove


A video from LDS Prepper on how to build a small rocket stove from a handful of steel cans. More information here and here.

The BRASS Method of Shooting

An article from the North American Hunting Club's website:
Taught by U.S. military scout sniper schools, the BRASS method of rifle firing is a keep-it-simple approach designed to consistently achieve precise shot placement. Although it was devised for the war fighter, this technique will also improve the accuracy of the long-range rifle competitor or hunter.
As with most things military, an acronym was devised to help the shooter recall the basics:
  • Breathe
  • Relax
  • Aim
  • Stop/Slack [when you take up any slack in the trigger]
  • Squeeze


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Darkness and Light

ISIS is 'much stronger and much more dangerous' than anyone in the West realizes, a journalist who spent ten days embedded with the group in Iraq and Syria has warned. 
Jürgen Todenhöfer, 74, said that the West has 'no concept of the threat it faces' from the Islamic State and has underestimated the risk posed by ISIS 'dramatically'. 
The German reporter spent most of his time in Mosul in northern Iraq, but he also traveled to the ISIS-controlled territories of Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor in Syria. 
Speaking to ABC News, the veteran journalist described ISIS as 'the strongest group I ever met. Very strong, very clever, very enthusiastic'. 
He added: 'They are extremely brutal. Not just head-cutting. I'm talking about the strategy of religious cleansing. That's their official philosophy. They are talking about 500 million people who have to die.' 
He went on to say that ISIS are 'completely sure they will win this fight'.  
* * * 
Todenhöfer went on to say that ISIS have plans for mass genocide, with the aim or eradicating all atheists and religions that are not 'people of the book' or who do not subscribe to their particular brand of Islam. 
'The IS want to kill... all non-believers and apostates and enslave their women and children. All Shiites, Yazidi, Hindus, atheists and polytheists should be killed,' he wrote. 
'Hundreds of millions of people are to be eliminated in the course of this religious 'cleansing'. 
'All moderate Muslims who promote democracy, should be killed. Because, from the IS perspective, they promote human laws over the laws of God.  
'This also applies to - after a successful conquest - the democratically-minded Muslims in the Western world.'
Although Todenhofer seems to be an ISIS toadie, his warning of what ISIS would like to do needs to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, the West is led by credentialed buffoons that have no faith or liking for Western Civilization, and are blinded as much by their greed as their stupidity. Our elite truly illustrate Isaiah 3:12: "As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths." Just as Isaiah Chapter 3 describes, we live in a pop culture concerned with vacuous fashions and "causes".

You may remember from your study of Greek myths that after Pandora had released the ills of the world from the box, all that was left in the box was hope. Daniel Greenfield speaks about hope--or rather, faith--in discussing Chanukah. He writes, in part:
 The Macabees had fought courageously for the freedom to worship God once again as their fathers had, but courage alone could not make the Menorah burn and thus renew the Temple service again. Yet it had not been mere berserker’s courage that had brought them this far. Like their ancestors before them who had leaped into furnaces and the raging sea, they had dared the impossible on faith. Faith in a God who watched over his nation and intervened in the affairs of men. And so on faith they poured the oil of that single flask in the Menorah, oil that could only last for a single day. And then having done all they could, the priests and sons of priests who had fought through entire armies to reach this place, accepted that they had done all they could and left the remainder in the hands of the Almighty. 
If they had won by the strength of their hands alone, then the lamps would burn for a day and then flicker out. But if it had been more than mere force of arms that had brought them here, if it had been more than mere happenstance that a small band of ragged and starving rebels had shattered the armies of an empire, then the flames of the Menorah would burn on.  
The sun rose and set again. The day came to its end and the men watched the lights of the Menorah to see if they would burn or die out. And if the flame in their hearts could have kindled the lamps, they would have burst into bright flame then and there. Darkness fell that night and still the lamps burned on. For eight days and nights the Menorah burned on that single lonely pure flask of oil, until more could be found, and the men who for a time had been soldiers and had once again become priests, saw that while it may be men who kindle lamps and hearts, it is the Almighty who provides them with the fuel of the spirit through which they burn.
* * * 
But that old light is still the light of possibilities. It burns to remind us of the extraordinary things that our ancestors did and of the extraordinary assistance that they received. We cannot always expect oil to burn for eight days, just as we cannot always expect the bullet to miss or the rocket to fall short. And yet even in those moments of darkness the reminder of the flame is with us for no darkness lasts forever and no exile, whether of the body of the spirit, endures. Sooner or later the spark flares to life again and the oil burns again. Sooner or later the light returns. 
It is the miracle that we commemorate because it is a reminder of possibilities. Each time we light a candle or dip a wick in oil, we release a flare of light from the darkness comes to remind us of what was, is and can still be.