Friday, January 31, 2014

Federal Court Upholds Conn. Gun Ban

A federal court has upheld Connecticut's ban on popular semi-automatic weapons and standard capacity magazines. (Link to decision). Although the court found there was a burden on the exercise of Second Amendment rights, the court only applied an intermediate scrutiny instead of a strict scrutiny standard in evaluating whether the law was a "reasonable restriction." (I've noted before that this idea of "reasonable restriction" is the inevitable result of attempting to apply the Bill of Rights to the States, and, for that reason, responsible for weakening our rights vis-a-vis the federal government).

Strict scrutiny is reserved for laws that restrict fundamental rights and suspect classifications. If strict scrutiny is applied, the law must satisfy a compelling government interest and there must not be a less restrictive alternative. (Note that this legal theory ipso facto does away with the principle of many of the Bill of Rights--that there are certain areas that are wholly outside the authority of Congress. That is, it doesn't even enter into the equation that there might be entire portions of human affairs closed off to the government. Again a direct result of attempting to apply the Constitution to the States).

Intermediate scrutiny only requires that a law be substantially related to an important governmental objective. As the court notes, intermediate scrutiny generally only applies to restrictions that are only incidental to fundamental rights.

The court opined that because the Connecticut law only restricted some firearms, but not all, it did not restrict a fundamental right. This, of course, is flawed reasoning; the right is no less fundamental because it is only partially limited. What the court is really saying is that some firearms receive less protection under the Second Amendment than others--essentially the distinction that the Supreme Court has made in regard to commercial speech versus political speech. The court's attempts to make this distinction on what it believes is adequate for self-defense (never mind that the court's security staff have already determined that firearms with limited magazine sizes or bolt action rifles and revolvers are inadequate for the judge's protection). Of course, this focus on the right to self defense ignores one of the primary reason for the Second Amendment, which is to allow citizens to own arms suitable for use in a militia for purposes of collective defense.

In any event, the court goes on to hold that reducing gun violence is an important governmental objective. True enough. But the flaw with the analytic is that the court leaves the determination of whether the law is substantially related to the government objective to the legislature. That is, there is no determination of whether there actually is a substantial relation between the law and the objective, but it is enough that the legislature says there is a substantial relation. The legislature can base its determination on the position of the stars and the state of chicken livers--it doesn't actually have to be based on any facts or even an attempt to discern the facts. Of course, this judge didn't make the rules, but, as this decision illustrates, the rule is so open to abuse that it is meaningless.

The Final Cut

The Economic Collapse Blog asks "why are banking executives in London killing themselves?"

Mexican Sailor Survives 16 Months Adrift (Updated)

The Daily Mail reports:
An emaciated man whose boat washed up on a remote Pacific atoll this week claims he has survived 16 months adrift on the Pacific. 
The Spanish-speaking man believed to be named Jose Ivan was discovered by locals on Thursday when his 24-foot fibreglass boat with propellerless engines floated onto the reef at Ebon Atoll. 
Ivan, who has long hair and beard, claims to have floated more than 12,500 kilometre (8,000 miles) from Mexico over the course of 16 months until he washed up on the tiny islands.

... Ivan indicated to Fjeldstad that he survived by eating turtles, birds and fish and drinking turtle blood when there was no rain.
 
No fishing gear was on the boat and Ivan suggested he caught turtles and birds with his bare hands. There was a turtle on the boat when it landed at Ebon. 
Stories of survival in the vast Pacific are not uncommon. In 2006, three Mexicans made international headlines when they were discovered drifting, also in a small fibreglass boat near the Marshall Islands, in the middle of the ocean in their stricken boat, nine months after setting out on a shark-fishing expedition.
 Updated (2/5/2014): Fox News gives more details:

Mexico's Foreign Relations Department says the man told Mexico’s ambassador to the Philippines, Julio Camarena, that he set out from an area near the coastal town of Tonala in southern Chiapas state, which would mean his journey covered a distance of more than 6,500 miles, if he drifted in a straight line.

... the survivor told the following story:

He's a native of El Salvador but had lived in Mexico for 15 years and fishes for a man he knows as Willie, catching sharks for 25 pesos ($1.90) per pound.

On Dec. 21, 2012, Alvarenga left Mexico in his 23-foot fiberglass boat for a day’s fishing, accompanied by a teen he knew only as Ezekiel, who was between 15 and 18.

A storm blew the fishermen off course, and soon they were lost and adrift.

"He talked about scooping up little fish that swam alongside the boat and eating them raw," Armbruster said. "He also said he ate birds, and drank birds' blood."

After about a month, Ezekiel died, the survivor told officials.

Alvarenga also talked about eating turtles. Once near Ebon, he swam ashore.

"He thanked God, initially, that he had survived," the ambassador said. "He's very anxious to get back in touch with his employer, and also with the family of Ezekiel. That's his driving motivation at the moment."

In Costa Azul, a fishing hamlet near Tonala, fishing boat owner Villermino Rodriguez Solis, who assumes his son is the "Willie" that Alvarenga referred to, said Alvarenga and a companion had gone missing on Nov. 18, 2012, which would imply the sea odyssey lasted 14½ months.

"Here, his colleagues went out in boats to look for them. They spent four days looking for them," said Villermino, who expressed surprise that Alvarenga had been found alive in the Marshall Islands.

Residents of Costa Azul said they didn't know Alvarenga's real name. He had shown up looking for work years before, but worked from fishing camps along the coast. They knew him only by a nickname, "La Chancha," used to describe heavy-set people. It was clear he was an experienced fisherman, they said.
... Erik van Sebille, a Sydney-based oceanographer at the University of New South Wales, said there was a good chance a boat drifting off Mexico’s west coast would eventually be carried by currents to the Marshall Islands. He said such a journey would typically take 18 months to two years depending on the winds and currents, although 13 months was possible.

"The way that the currents in the Pacific work is that there is a very strong westerly current just north of the equator and that basically drives you directly from Mexico all the way toward Indonesia and in the path, you go right over the Marshall Islands," he said.

"Dear Mr. Security Agent"--Scapegoats and Othering (Updated)

Western Rifle Shooters Association has posted an open letter from Matthew Bracken to law enforcement advising them of the risks of participating in gun confiscation. It is worth the read. But one thing I want to take especial note of is his comments about the left creating "scapegoats" of white males. The process he talks about is sometimes called "othering," and the MSM is very good at it. As Bracken notes:
Scapegoating an unpopular group is standard operating procedure for budding socialist dictators wrecking once-free economies. For the Soviets, it was the Kulaks; for the Chinese it was the so-called “landlords.” I could list more recent cases to include Cambodia, Uganda, Guatemala, Rwanda and others. Once disarmed and helpless to resist, the hated national scapegoats are slaughtered by the millions.

... In America today, we are seeing the beginning of an insidious scapegoating process, with older conservative white Christian males designated as the national Lucifer du jour, fair game for any vicious attack. Famous black movie stars joke about murdering white folks and white liberal media stars laugh along with them, conveying elite acceptance of the prevailing “evil whitey” meme.
... The path forward that is indicated by the media’s growing acceptance of these vile and outrageous anti-white celebrity rants, cartoons, and articles is the same path that in previous eras led to the guillotine, the gulag, and the gas chamber for the scapegoated populations. But the final solution—genocide of the scapegoats—is only possible after the mob is sufficiently inflamed with hatred toward them by the mass media, in collaboration with an evil government. And time after time, it works.

We are seeing the opening stages of the scapegoating of white conservatives today, as the last election seems to demonstrate to the left’s satisfaction that a crucial political and demographic tipping point has been passed, and the ultimate power equations of raw tribal loyalty have changed in a fundamental way—and now it’s payback time.

We have seen this play out before in other countries and times, and it is deadly serious. Once the scapegoating gets far enough under way, it can pick up a life and a momentum of its own. For example, if the economy ever truly crashes, and the EBT system that feeds fifty million Americans goes down hard, leading to hunger, looting, and riots, (or we suffer other unforeseen problems of similar crisis proportions), the scapegoats will always be dragged to the forefront as the pre-designated patsy, to deflect blame from the government.
Please read the whole thing.

Update: I just happened across this post at ChicagoBoyz on "Otherizing":

To put it in simple terms, that’s what I call it when a whole group, or sub-set of people are deemed the Emmanuel Goldstein of the moment by a dominant group, and set up as a focus for free-wheeling hate. In practice, this hate may range all the way from a mild disinclination to associate professionally or socially, all the way to 11 in marking the object of that hate as a suitable target for murder, either singly or in wholesale lots – and sometimes with the cooperation and blessing of the state. It’s more something that I have read about – either in the pages of history books, or in the newspapers – and increasingly on-line. Still, it is no end distressing to see it developing here in these United States in this century. Am I paranoid about this current bout of ‘otherizing’? Perhaps – but don’t tell me that it cannot happen here.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

What Will Russia Do?

Things are getting dicey in the Ukraine. The Russian perspective, as set out in an article at Pravda, is:
... for Putin it is obvious that the West wants to swallow Ukraine up whole, leaving Russia without a buffer state against the military-political union of the EU and the USA. Putin called the interference of European officials in the Ukrainian conflict "not a very good thing," referring to the specific character of relations between Russia and Ukraine."
The EU couldn't even go it alone against Libya, so I'm not sure why Russia fears it so. Nevertheless, and with good reason, Russia has a strong historical fear of invasion.

The protests are having some results. The Washington Post indicates that the Ukrainian government has made some concessions to protesters:
Ukraine’s opposition movement gained ground Tuesday in its efforts to remake the country, with the resignation of the prime minister and his cabinet and the repeal of harsh new laws restricting freedom of speech and assembly.

Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, invalidated the anti-demonstration laws hours after Prime Minister Mykola Azarov resigned. Passage of the legislation on Jan. 16 had triggered street clashes in the capital, Kiev, after months of protests against government corruption and the closer ties to Russia favored by President Viktor Yanukovych.

The unraveling of the government has the potential to become a severe blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who strove to prop up Yanukovych and keep Ukraine from drawing closer to the West.

Parliament passed an amnesty bill Tuesday that would drop criminal liability for protesters who agree to leave the government buildings they have occupied. But the opposition objected to the terms, and the bill is to be reconsidered Wednesday. Vacating public buildings has been a key government demand, but Oleh Tiahnybok, head of the opposition Svoboda party, said protesters would remain in the buildings until Yanukovych’s Party of Regions leaves the government.
 However, there are reports that Russian troops have been secretly entering the Ukraine. For instance, Intellihub has the following:
As the protests and uprisings in Ukraine continue to grow, the government is outsourcing troops from Russia to help put down protesters.

“There is information that at 1400 Russian Spetznaz troops were disembarking at [Kyiv local airports] Boryspil and Zhulyany dressed in civilian clothing and that they were going to dress in [Ukrainian riot plice] Berkut uniforms and proceed to the Madan” Rada deputy Andriy Parybiy, of the Batkivshchyna Party said at a recent press conference.[1]

Government agents in Ukraine have had trouble contending with the the large numbers of protesters and have been resorting to the most brutal tactics in some cases. As we reported earlier this week protesters have been kidnapped from the hospital and taken into the woods where they are tortured and executed.[2]
 As I wrote recently, this could be 1956 Hungary all over again.

More Evidence to Support Russian Theories of the Black Plague?


Earlier this year, scientist confirmed that Justinian's plague, in the 5th and 6th centuries, was also due to y. pestis. Yesterday, the Daily Mail ran an article noting research had shown that Justinian's plague was a different strain from that of today and that of the Black Death. From the article:
Tiny samples of the plague bacteria were taken from skeletons belonging to two victims of the Justinian plague who were buried in Bavaria, Germany. 
Fragments of DNA were found in their 1,500-year-old teeth and used to recreate the bacteria’s whole genetic code.

Researchers compared it with a database of hundreds of modern plague pathogens, some of which still kill thousands every year.

The study, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, shows the strain responsible for the Justinian outbreak was an evolutionary ‘dead-end’ and distinct from strains involved later in the Black Death and subsequent pandemics.
 
A third pandemic, which spread from Hong Kong across the globe is also likely a descendant of the Black Death strain and thus much more successful than the one responsible for the Justinian Plague. 
Ancient DNA expert Professor Hendrik Poinar said: 'The research is both fascinating and perplexing, it generates new questions which need to be explored, for example why did this pandemic, which killed somewhere between 50 and 100 million people die out?'
At first glance, this research actually seems to be further confirmation of the Russian model. Under both the Russian and American models, y. pestis resides in certain rodent populations, which provide a reservoir for the disease. Under the American model--at least in the past--there were no real differences in strains. That is, the plague was the plague was the plague. This apparently has been modified to allow for various strains, but which evolve and then die off. The Russian model, on the other hand, believes the type of rodent making up the reservoir has an impact on the strain. That is, the y. pestis in rats and American rodents is a different strain from those found in Middle-Eastern gerbils which is different from central Asian marmots.

As I understand the history, Justinian's plague spread out of Africa to the Byzantine empire, and thence into Europe. The Black Plague is generally understood to have spread from central Asia westward across Asia (devastating the Muslim Middle-East) and into Europe; and eastward into China. (As a side note, an estimate of 100,000,000 dead from the Black Plague is probably on the low side--it appears to have killed nearly half of the populations of China and Middle-East, and slightly less--a third--in Europe). Thus, the variance in strains can just as easily be explained by the Russian model as a theory that certain strains had died off.

Interestingly, the books I've read on the Black Plague indicate that the spread of plague was probably enabled by a cooling trend in the Earth's climate. The same is suggested about Justinian's plague--that dust from Haley's comet may have caused global cooling with resulting famines, making it easier for the plague to spread.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Spengler--"Don't Cry for Argentina"

David P. Goldman (aka Spengler) writes that the largest cause of unrest is a population with nothing productive to do. (Which seems to explain the Occupy movement as much as anything).
But the common thread in all the financial and social crises which broke out during the past several months is this: the world economy has left behind large parts of the world’s people.

... Argentina, whose currency collapsed last week, is another case in point. Blessed with great natural wealth, the Argentines have resented the oligopolies who control their resources, and try to vote themselves rich with depressing regularity. One government after another offers handouts to the querulous voters, who have learned that this practice breeds inflation and currency devaluation. The Argentine game is to be first in line at the public trough, and first in line at the foreign exchange counter to get out of local currency before it collapses yet again.

The industrial countries have the same kind of problem just below the surface. In America, fewer than half of adults available to work with a high school education or less actually are working.

That is, only 58% of the noninstitutional adult civilian population with only a high school degree is counted in the labor force. For adults with less than a high school diploma, the labor participation rate falls to just 44%. Deduct the unemployed, and the result is that less than half of Americans without college are at work. That’s why 60 million Americans are on food stamps, and why a third of all American households have at least one member receiving means-tested government subsidies.

Meanwhile employers report shortages of skilled labor in numerous fields. It is hard to find skilled machine operators, who require the equivalent of a couple of years of college math to master the computer controls on industrial equipment, for example.

... The risk is that the unproductive, unskilled and unemployable portions of the industrial world’s people will decide to vote themselves rich. Their leaders encourage this by focusing on income inequality. That is President Obama’s message as well as the consensus at the World Economic Forum last week at Davos, and it is nonsense.

The problem isn’t inequality of income, but inequality of knowledge. One pilot flying a modern military aircraft could destroy the whole of an ancient civilization. One farmer from Nebraska can replace a hundred in Egypt. A thousand years ago, everyone knew how a watermill worked; 200 years ago, most people knew how a steam engine works; how many people today know how a computer works?

East Asia is faring better than the rest of the world in this great transformation because its culture imposes a merciless meritocracy. The West should be able to do better than this. If we can’t, we can see our future in Argentina.

RIP Ammo

I've had a couple people email me concerning G2Research's RIP ammo. Some information, and a couple videos, are available at The Liberty Digest or at G2R's website. G2R claims that it is the last round you will ever need. Currently, it is only being made in 9 mm, but there are plans to manufacture it for other popular semi-auto calibers and for shotguns.

Color me a little skeptical on its effectiveness. There are eight petals which apparently break off of a button looking base. G2R's theory is that the tip of the petals act like saw blades, cutting through clothing or other material as the bullet spins; and, on impact, the petals break off creating multiple wound channels.

The video shows multiple shots into ballistic gelatin. The only deep penetration of the ballistic gelatin is from the button—the petals don’t penetrate very far and appear to break off immediately on impact. So, I have grave doubts about its ability to retain much mass when going through thick clothing or a barrier. There is little disruption of the gelatin by the button portion--although there are no measurements provided, it doesn't appear to have much more disruption than a .22 LR bullet.

And at $50 per box, it won't be practical to practice with it.

The shotgun round may show more promise, but we'll have to see if anything comes of it.

Feds May Seize California Water

CBS News reports:
With no end in sight to California’s drought, farmers in the San Joaquin Valley fear federal officials could seize water in the San Luis Reservoir intended for their crops. 
The Fresno Bee says dropping reservoir levels across the state are leading to struggles over water set aside via the Central Valley Project, a federally-run network of reservoirs, pumping plants and canals. 
That includes about 340,000 acre-feet of water stored at San Luis Reservoir.
Should make for some interesting legal disputes as they attempt to value the water for purposes of "just compensation." I'm more worried about what the loss of crops from California will do to U.S. food prices.

Interactive Crime Rates Infographics

I was recently told of a interesting tool--an interactive crime rates infographic for the United States.

On the main map, each state is color coded so you can see at a glance a rough comparison of that state versus the others.

Clicking on a particular state will then bring up more particular information for how that state compares against others (a low ranking--e.g., 5th--is good; whereas a low ranking--e.g., 40th--indicates a high crime rate) as to specific types of crime: violent crime, murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault (i.e., assaults with deadly weapons), property crimes, burglary, larceny theft, and auto theft. Anyway, check it out.

The Dark Side of Survivalism

I've posted a few times before about trying to stay positive as we enter the End Times. I recently came across a lengthy article at the Survival Acres blog that touched on this issue, as well as others. Although I don't necessarily agree with everything in the post, this, I believe, addresses an important issue:
Here’s what I REALLY want to lay out for you all — Survivalism, if embraced to the degree that many are heavily promoting, will lead you down a one-way street of despair. If this has not yet happened to you, be glad. I personally know of thousands that it has happened to — because I helped them get there. And I witnessed first-hand what others did.

...Extreme survivalism can lead to a need to constantly engage and participate in endless fear-mongering to feed the hungry demons created within. You can see this in the comments on many website, how “prepared” some of these people claim to be, or ready to “do battle” with the ungodly. Their lives are miserable fearful caricatures of what they could be living. There is a lot of postings from these same people, over and over again, demanding “attention” and seeking justification and validation of their world-views from others online. They’re easy to pick out because they blabber so much.
The truth of the matter is that prepping is supposed to bring peace of mind. You know what I mean...if the power goes out for a few hours, or even a few days, no big deal; if the furnace breaks down and its three days until a repairman can stop by, well, you aren't going to freeze to death because you have alternative ways of heating your home; if you lose your job, you have food and other essentials to carry you through and perhaps supplement what you might get in your unemployment check, until you find employment or get a business up and running.

To be honest, one of the things I like the best about having food storage is NOT having that last minute trip to the store because we ran out of ketchup, or whatever--just open up the pantry and grab another one.

I think one of the ways to keep from falling into the negative trap described above is the gardening aspect of prepping. Planting a garden, whether it is a large garden plot or a small selection of potted plants on your patio or window ledge, focuses you on nurturing and growing something, exposes you to a bit of sunshine and air. And, of course, keep focused on the important parts of your life--your family and friends.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Interesting Trick to Remove a Stuck Wedding Ring

One of my readers directed my attention to a video of a neat trick for removing a ring from your finger. I can remember my father having to cut his wedding band off his finger because he had smashed his finger while working on a car engine. Luckily he had the tools at hand to do so. But his ring was cut, twisted, and he never got it repaired.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Ukraine Protests Continue; President Offers to Share Power

The Daily Mail has photos and a story about the latest in the protests. I'm not even going to try and summarize. Hopefully, this won't go the same route as the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.

Exploding Another Firearm Myth

I recently wrote about what I consider to be the top 5 firearms myths among preppers. After some further reflection, there is another myth that is out there. And it hits close to home because I fell for it.

Myth # 6--Get Your Long Distance Rife In The Same Caliber As Your Battle Rifle.

This myth generally shows up when considering the a 7.62 NATO battle rifle (e.g., a FAL or M-1A). The theory behind this is that if you also get a dedicated long distance precision rifle, you can use the same ammunition for both in a pinch. The unspoken assumption is that your precision rifle will fire the military surplus stuff you feed your FAL or M-1A accurately enough to be useful. 

It is the unspoken assumption that likely will not hold up. Bullet weight for hunting ammunition and match-grade ammunition in the .308/7.62 NATO is generally 168 grains or heavier. Bullet weight for 7.62 NATO is 142 grains. Your precision rifle likely has a twist rate that is intended for heavier weight bullets. And, because of that, the precision rifle may be horribly inaccurate when shooting the lighter weight NATO rounds. My experience--even using good quality ammunition--was that the accuracy degraded to such an extent that I would have been uncomfortable relying on the 142 grain bullets at anything further than 100 to 150 yards.

Your experience may not be mine. But if you feel you need a long distance precision rifle, don't limit your selection to .308 just for the sake of compatibility. If a .308 rifle fills your needs, then that is great. But if you are in area with lots of wide-open spaces, maybe you need to step up to a .300 Winchester Magnum or some other cartridge with longer effective range. If you already have an accurate rifle in .243, .270 or .30-06 that you use for hunting, perhaps that rifle can also fulfil your needs for a long-distance precision rifle. If you anticipate being in an urban area, an accurized AR may also suffice--it certainly was the workhorse for many of the snipers in Iraq.

Stocks, Emerging Market Currencies Fall Sharply

CNBC reports:
U.S. stocks fell sharply and Treasuries rallied on Friday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbling triple-digits for a second session and posting its worst week since November 2011, as investors pulled money from emerging markets and other assets viewed as risky.

As Wall Street's faith in some of the world's largest developed countries unraveled, currencies of those nations were hit, with Turkey's lira falling to a record low against the dollar, and Argentina's peso down sharply against the U.S. currency.

"We've touched off by what's going on around the world, so to speak, and are reallocating assets from some of the emerging markets into what is thought of as more reliable," said JJ Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade. "It's a safe parking spot," Kinahan added of fixed income.

... "Emerging-market currencies have been coming under pressure causing some to erroneously point out it is because of the Fed taper. It is more because of political instability in countries like Argentina and Turkey, which is just another reason to stay underweight EM," Nick Raich, CEO at the Earnings Scout, wrote in emailed research.
The Telegraph also reports:
The Turkish lira sank to a record low of 2.30 to the dollar as worries about the current account deficit - 7pc of GDP - combine with a loss of confidence in the country's political stability. The Sunni Muslim premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that Turkey is facing "war" within its borders, partly the result of a spillover from the Shia-Sunni conflict in Syria.
Turkey's deputy prime minister Ali Babacan said in Davos that the plunge in the lira was a result of a foreign exchange "repricing process", denying that there had been any capital outflows. However, the country is close to a major crisis with foreign reserves down to $33bn, barely enough to cover six weeks of imports. 
South Africa's rand slumped to 11 to the dollar, and has lost almost 30pc over the past year. Venezuela has been forced to devalue certain controlled transactions as reserves fall to a 10-year low. 
The latest rout turned serious after a 12pc fall in Argentina's peso on Thursday, triggered by the central bank's decision to abandon efforts to support the currency. It was the biggest one-day fall since the crash in 2002, when Argentina left the dollar peg.
But why the blame on the Fed tapering quantitative easing? From the Telegraph article cited above:

The IMF's deputy-director, Min Zhu, said in Davos that the Fund is watching the violent gyrations around the world "very carefully", saying the effect of bond tapering by the US Federal Reserve is causing global liquidity to dry up.
 
Mr Zhu said this had combined with a slow structural crisis in a number of developing states that have already picked the low-hanging fruit of catch-up growth, warning that those that resist market reforms "will face trouble".

An internal study by the IMF concluded that the effects of quantitative easing by the Fed had led to a $470bn flow of funds into emerging markets that would not have occurred otherwise. Officials say privately that a sudden reversal as the Fed tapers is a major risk, and could be hard to control.
  
... Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Global Insight, said Fed tapering was the "straw that broke the camel's back" for the BRICS and the emerging market darlings of the last cycle.
"They benefited hugely from the credit boom, a commodities super-cycle propelled in large part by China’s double-digit growth rates and “hyper-globalization” as multinational corporations expanded global supply chains. But all three effects are now falling away." 
"They squandered their opportunity. Productivity has plummeted and they face daunting structural challenges. Without major microeconomic reforms, a return to the BRICS party of the 2000s is unlikely. Turn out the lights,” Mr Behravesh concluded.
The Globe and Mail also explains:
Demand for bonds forces their prices up and their yields down. So by buying hundreds of billions of dollars of U.S. Treasuries, the Fed shoves borrowing costs lower because credit prices tend to be marked against the cost of U.S. debt. But QE also is an attempt to bully private investors into spreading their money around.

When times are uncertain, there is a natural attraction to buy Treasuries, the safest asset on the market. Through QE, the Fed effectively blocks that option, forcing profit seekers to look elsewhere.

After five years of QE, no one is quite sure how out of sync financial markets might be. Some see bubbles everywhere, others see none at all. The “reach for yield” could explain some of the current turmoil in emerging markets.When the Fed was buying bonds indefinitely, investors sought profits in the stocks and bonds of countries such as Brazil and Turkey. But once it became clear the Fed was preparing to end QE, investors recalculated. Many rushed home to the United States, causing volatility in the markets they left behind.
It seems to be a chicken and the egg argument. However, it doesn't appear that the rush to buy Treasuries is motivated as much by profit seeking as a quest for security. This would indicate that the primary mover is insecurity and lack of confidence in the emerging markets, just as stated in the CNBC article cited earlier.

Friday, January 24, 2014

China's Demographic Cliff

I've written before about the demographic problems facing China because of the one-child policy, but didn't have numbers to illustrate the decline. This article at CNBC outlines the numbers:

Sanyal (who defines working age as 20-59) predicts China's workforce will decline modestly from 853.7 million in 2015 to 848.9 million by 2020, but then will then drop sharply to 781.8 million by 2030, 743 million by 2040 and 650.9 million in 2050.

In December, China's top legislature approved a loosening of the country's controversial one-child policy that was introduced in the 1970s in an effort to address demographic challenges including a shrinking labor force, rising elderly population and male-female imbalances.

However, Sanyal says a large decline in the Chinese workforce is now unavoidable irrespective of the removal of the one-child policy.

Due to a skewed gender ratio, China no longer has enough child-bearing age women to stabilize its population, he said. In the mainland, there are almost 118 boys born for every 100 girls.
The decline has already started--the article notes that China's workforce had declined for the second year in a row last year.

This is probably one of the biggest stories of the decade. It raises the question: will China grow rich before it grows old?

"It's A Mistake" (Updated)

I'll probably get some eye-rolls for quoting from an old Men At Work song as my title, but its seems apropos for this article from the Hoover Institute called "War: The Gambling Man's Game." The key point:
[Geoffrey] Blainey argues that assessments of relative power drive decisions on war and peace, and that war occurs when nations misjudge their relative power. He writes, “War is usually the outcome of a diplomatic crisis which cannot be solved because both sides have conflicting estimates of their bargaining power.” Disputes about issues central to states’ interests can be negotiated when there is a clear hierarchy of power—the weaker compromises to prevent war. When there is doubt about the weaker party, compromise is elusive and wars occur, because “war itself provides the most reliable and most objective test of which nation or alliance is the most powerful...war was therefore usually followed by an orderly market in political power, or in other words, peace.”
... Blainey is no determinist; he sees the historical specifics as important in each war. But looking across 300 years of war and peace, he sees the greatest incidence of wars when states are confident about their future, even when others in the international order rate their futures less optimistically. World War I is, as he so wonderfully phrases it, “the haven of the theory.” Blainey quotes Bethmann Hollweg, chancellor of Germany at the outbreak of the war: “Our people had developed so amazingly in the last twenty years that wide circles succumbed to the temptation of overestimating our enormous forces in relation to those of the rest of the world.”
In other words, war can be the results of mistakes in assessing the relative power (or, I would add, the presumption on how an opponent will react to provocation). David P. Goldman has noted in his writings that war is not limited to rational causes, but that nations will go to war when they have nothing to lose--such as a collapsing culture.

We sit at an interesting time when we can actually watch these theories play out in the real world. Right now, China and Japan are assessing their relative strengths and weaknesses. China is currently an ascendant power--i.e., a confident power. I suspect that both have a good idea of their positions. The unknown is how the United States would react. Japan, obviously, hopes that the U.S. would come to its aid in any conflict (and probably expects so given the treaties between the two nations). China, however, will heavily base its decisions on whether it believes the United States will stay out of a conflict. (Germany made the same estimate in WWI as to Great Britain coming to the aid of the French, and guessed wrong). If we had a Reagan or Bush as President, there would be no question of as to how the United States would react. But given our current President's history of abandoning and insulting allies, I would not even hazard a guess.

Goldman's caveat is also at play here as we look at the Middle-East and, in particular, Iran. They can't possibly be optimistic that they could successfully challenge the United States militarily. However, they could be desperate, or hopeless enough, to do so.

H/t Instapundit

Update: Some comments from Ambrose Evans-Pritchard at the Telegraph:

He
[Japan's PM] went on to tell Gideon Rachman at the FT that China and Japan were in a "similar situation" to the German and England in 1914, caught in dangerous process of great power escalation – even though their economies were intertwined by trade. 
As readers know, I have been writing about this parallel for a long time. China is exploiting incidents to test the willingness of the United States to stand behind its treaty alliance with Japan, just as Kaiser Wilhelm provoked spats to test England's willingness to stand behind its entente with France. It was a self-reinforcing process before 1914, and it is self-reinforcing now. All it takes to produce a catalyst is some "damn fool thing in the Balkans" to borrow a term. 
Yet it is not just a calculated policy by China's Communist Party, a stirring up of revanchiste nationalism to replace the dead ideology of Maoism. Emotions are also running out of control, and Mr Abe is of course a red-flag for a bull. 
The Japanese leader is a hard-core nationalist. Despite his pitch yesterday that Japan has "sworn an oath never again to wage a war", his government is in fact rearming fast. Japan has increased spending on military equipment by 23pc last year and is launching its largest ship since the Second World War, a helicopter carrier that can be used for hybrid jets. 
Listening to the raw passion in the voices of Shinzo Abe and Wang Yi over the last 24 hours, I think there is an astonishing level [of] complacency about the world's most dangerous fault-line.

Top 5 Firearms Myths Among Preppers (Original)

There are several myths or misconceptions about firearms that seem to float around the prepper community and pop up regularly. While I don't consider them to be "myths that will get you killed" or something similarly dramatic, they do a disservice to preppers--particularly those without extensive experience with firearms and ammunition--and potentially waste time and money.

Myth #1: Bigger is Better.

This myth most often shows up in arguments of caliber--particularly .223/5.56 mm versus 7.62 NATO/.308, or 9 mm versus .40 S&W versus .45 ACP. Let me answer this issue right now: it depends.

First, it depends on the type of ammunition being used (lead, FMJ, hollow-point, soft-point, partition, etc.) and your purpose. Are you talking about shooting elk, or rabbit? Are you talking about just lethality, or do want recoverable meat? Since my topic is self-defense, I am only going to consider effectiveness against a human being. Just remember, though, that you may have other considerations to take into account.

When it comes to effectiveness against a human being, I will acknowledge that common deer cartridges (e.g., .30-06, .308, .270, etc.) are superior to .223 when discussing hunting ammunition--i.e. soft-point or some other type of expanding bullet. Assuming consistent controlled expansion, the larger bullet will present a larger diameter at full expansion than a smaller bullet, causing a larger wound channel. The larger bullet will likely also cause greater hydrostatic shock as the now fat and stubby projectile is better at transferring energy to the target.

However, most preppers do not store or use hunting ammunition for their self-defense rifle. Rather, the vast majority use FMJ (full metal jacket) ammunition. Expansion of FMJ ammunition is a non-issue, because it doesn't expand. The issue instead become one of bullet upset and/or fragmentation. When comparing FMJ wounding between .30 caliber versus small bullets from rifles, both research and experience has shown that smaller bullets cause larger wounds. (See also here).

Even this doesn't resolve the question because, again, application will suggest what caliber is best for your situation. The smaller calibers begin to lose their lethality after 150 yards, and it is generally presumed that the effective range is approximately 300 to 400 yards. They also have poorer penetration against many forms of hard cover. 7.62 NATO has a longer effective range, and better penetration of wood, brick, cinder block, etc.

Handguns present a somewhat different proposition. First, most anyone using a handgun for self-defense will probably be using a hollow point bullet of some sort. With modern self-defense ammunition, the difference between the popular self-defense rounds is actually fairly minimal--part of the reason that the FBI and other law enforcement are moving from .40 S&W back to 9 mm.

Second, shot placement, and the ability to make quick and accurate follow up shots, are much more critical with a handgun. This is best illustrated by some research performed by Greg Ellifritz and published on the Buckeye Shooters Association site. He writes:
Over a 10-year period, I kept track of stopping power results from every shooting I could find. I talked to the participants of gunfights, read police reports, attended autopsies, and scoured the newspapers, magazines, and Internet for any reliable accounts of what happened to the human body when it was shot.

I documented all of the data I could; tracking caliber, type of bullet (if known), where the bullet hit and whether or not the person was incapacitated. I also tracked fatalities, noting which bullets were more likely to kill and which were not. It was an exhaustive project, but I'm glad I did it and I'm happy to report the results of my study here.
His results showed that, statistically, the .22 was one of the most lethal handgun round. For instance, with the .22, 34% of hits were lethal, it took an average of 1.38 hits to incapacitate the target (i.e., the target stopped being aggressive--not necessarily that the target was incapable of further aggression), and 31% of incidents were one-shot-stops. For comparison, the .45 ACP was 29% lethal, took on average 2.08 rounds to incapacitate, and produced a one-shot-stop 39% of the time; the .40 S&W was 25% fatal, took an average of 2.36 rounds to incapacitate, but had a one-shot-stop of 45%; the 9 mm was 24%, 2.45, and 34% (however, nearly half of his data points were from shootings involving FMJ rounds, which he believes skewed the 9 mm down compared to other calibers); the .38 Special was 29%, 1.87, and 39%; and the .357 Magnum was 34%, 1.7, and 44%. He has other calibers listed as well, if you want to compare your favorite round.

Ellifritz concluded:
What matters even more than caliber is shot placement. Across all calibers, if you break down the incapacitations based on where the bullet hit you will see some useful information.

Head shots = 75% immediate incapacitation
Torso shots = 41% immediate incapacitation
Extremity shots (arms and legs) = 14% immediate incapacitation.

No matter which caliber you use, you have to hit something important in order to stop someone!
In other words, with handguns, accuracy is far more important than caliber.

Myth #2: You need specialized guns for specialized purposes. 

Firearms are tools, and certain jobs take particular tools. For instance, you wouldn't use a hammer when you need a screwdriver, and you are not going to lug around a FAL rifle as your concealed carry weapon, nor would you use your .32 "mouse gun" to hunt big game. However, I notices some people carrying this to an extreme, wanting numerous guns for very specialized and specific tasks.

This is partly the result of gun manufacturers and gun media pushing the latest and greatest for particular and specific types of shooting or hunting. It is also historical in the prepping community. Mel Tappan, for instance, took the approach that you needed "defensive guns" versus "working guns," then subdividing each category down further and further, until he was recommending that clients have a dozen or more different models and calibers of firearms depending on whether they were putting down a horse, shooting a snake, defending against bandits, riding in a car, hiking in the woods, etc. In his book Surviving Doomsday, "Boston Tea Party" in the same vein recommends purchasing at least 4 handguns and at least 7 rifles (one of them exclusively for when traveling) and then writes:
Rifles are merely tools, and no one tool can do it all (although a scoped FAL or AR10 comes close...). Think of rifles like shoes: how many pairs of shoes do you have? You've got tennis shoes, running shoes, dress shoes, beach sandals, hiking boots, work boots, and house slippers. That's seven pairs of footwear. Now, does seven rifles sound so extreme?
Boston goes on to recommend at least three more rifles to get and lays on the guilt trip: "Will three rifles giving 95% be enough? Is that a gamble you can make in good conscience?"

I've written on this topic before in more detail, but this is the gist of my arguments as to why this approach is wrong:

First, and foremost, is the sheer expense of purchasing a large number of different types of firearms and their necessary ammunition, magazines, spare parts, and other accessories. While you will need defensive firearms, I believe you would be better off taking the money you would otherwise put into specialist firearms and use it instead to pay down debt, add to your savings account, purchase stockpiles of food or other equipment, or purchase extra ammunition or accessories for a basic battery of weapons. In short, minimize where possible and put the savings into other preparations.

Second, you will probably have to relocate or temporarily abandon your home or retreat at some point, and maybe more than once. You won't be able to carry a lot of weapons if you are on foot, you probably won't want to carry a large number in a vehicle, and you may not have time to hide a large arsenal. While looters and scavengers may appreciate your leaving a large arsenal of weapons, it probably won't do you any good.

Third, what you carry should be able to serve both as a working gun and a defensive weapon. If you are out hunting and suddenly come under fire, the other side is not going to give you a time-out while you go back to your shelter to exchange your hunting rifle for a combat rifle. Similarly, the need for fresh meat may require you to take game when out on a security patrol or reconnaissance.

Fourth, these recommendations generally assume that the prepper will be living in a remote area as homesteaders--running a working ranch or small farm, with gardens and orchards to boot, and trying to be self-sufficient in most every way. I would question the application of accumulating a large number of specialist weapons to even that small group of people, let lone the suburban or urban survivalist.

To sum up my thoughts on this matter, I want to share something simple, yet profound, that I read in the book High Country Hunting by Lloyd Bare. Bare noted the amazement and disapproval he generally encountered when other hunters learned that he used a .300 Winchester Magnum BAR for all of his big game hunting, be it deer, sheep, elk or bear. He explained:
In my gun cabinet you'll find one big game rifle (the BAR), one .22, one varmint rifle and one shotgun. In other words, I'm a hunter not a “gun nut” and I say that with kindest regards to gun experts and aficionados. Some of my best friends own a closet full of guns, one for every purpose. 
(High Country Hunting, p. 208). As preppers, we too should strive for simplicity. After all, you have to buy ammo for all this stuff, have to learn to shoot it well, and may have to evacuate with it.

Suffice it to say that this is a trap that can easily consume large amounts of money you could use for food storage or other preps.

Myth #3: Pre-1899 Firearms.

Some very prominent members of the prepping community have recommended buying pre-1899 weapons. The basic thrust of their argument is that because pre-1899 guns are not legally "firearms" under federal law, they fall outside federal jurisdiction and that this will protect you in the event of a gun confiscation. All of that is true to a point. The problem with the argument is that the "point" is a law that can easily be changed or ignored.

The selection of 1899 was an arbitrary choice. Congress could change the date or definition of firearms at any time. As an example of how broad the definition of "firearms" could be, you should look up your local ordinance prohibiting the discharge of a firearm within city limits and see how it defines "firearm." Most likely, it will be something vague that includes all firearms of any type or age, airguns, and probably bows and crossbows, etc. Congress could adopt just as broad of definition. 

From a more practical standpoint, imagine that the federal, state or local government has decided to confiscate firearms (e.g., as done in New Orleans post-Katrina). When the SWAT team (or whomever) shows up at your door, do you think they are going to distinguish between your Winchester lever action made in 1898 versus the one made in 1998? Do you think they are going to care one whit about your legal argument or justification on why they should take one and not the other? No. They will take them all, and let the court sort it out.

And what do you get when you buy a pre-1899 firearm anyway? Unless you can lay down the money for collector grade gun, you get an inferior firearm made of poorer steel and likely with substantial wear and tear, probably shooting an odd caliber that has been discontinued or hard to find. If you can find ammunition for the firearm, it likely won't be able to handle modern factory loads. You could have it converted to shoot another caliber, and send it to a gunsmith (who will dutifully write down the information in the records that the BATF requires him to keep) for the work, but that is an added expense on top of whatever outrageous price you paid for the weapon in the first place.

In short, the legal protection afforded by buying pre-1899 firearms is largely illusory. This is, again, a potential money pit that takes away from your other preps.

Myth #4: Your Primary Weapon is Your Rifle.

There are a significant number of preppers that seem to believe that when whatever earth-rendering disaster, financial collapse, or alien invasion occurs, we will suddenly be launched into a full-blown, "Mad Max" situation of kill-or-be-killed. They envision picking off bandits (or U.N. Peacekeepers) at hundreds of yards as they advance toward the particular prepper's retreat, all the while safely ensconced in a concealed location beyond the reach of the bandits' weapons. For instance, there was this post earlier today at the Survivalist Blog, stating:
... Distance ALWAYS equals two things. Time and safety. The time aspect of this is quite simple. The further away an enemy is from a target the longer it will take to achieve their objective. The further away from your loved ones that you can engage a threat provides reaction time for your and your loved ones to initiate whatever pre arranged defense protocols you have established. This in and of itself provides an added level of safety. If you are trying to protect your family, and they are going to be in the home, than the defense should be started as far away from the house as is possible. A good shot with an AR style rifle can ruin your day from five hundred meters in. I am aware that it may not be possible to establish a perimeter at that distance, but that would be best. I suggest possibly establishing a forward outpost at this distance if possible. A forward placed rifle and a few well placed shots may well be all it takes to persuade someone that its better to go somewhere else.
There is nothing wrong with this tactic ... in a war.  But when we prepare, we aren't necessarily preparing for the end of civilization, but other disasters, big and small and in-between. As Fernando "FerFal" Aguirre explains in his book, Surviving the Economic Collapse:
Rifles are terrific but they are not your main weapon. Again, here's the difference between a soldier or a SWAT member and you. 
A soldier carries his rifle because it's his job to do so while at war. SWAT guy has his rifle when doing his thing as well but both soldier guy and SWAT guy do NOT carry their rifles when they go pick up the kids at a friend's birthday party. And yes, the bad guys will attack you at that birthday party, or some other ridiculously unlikely circumstance. 
That's the way it is my friend. Understand that while I'm writing this tonight there are thousands staying awake in their beds thinking about possible plans and ideas to rob people like you and me.
(Surviving the Economic Collapse, p. 155). Massad Ayoob similarly wrote:
For you, it won't happen on a battlefield where the nearest Soviet soldier is 600 meters away behind a French hedgerow. For you, it will happen at point-blank range. Studies by the FBI show that the great majority of shoot-outs occur at a range of 7 yards or less, and more commonly at about 7 feet. And this is among police, whose statistics include running gunfights on the highway and long-distance gunfire exchanges with snipers and barricaded felons. 
The civilian, almost always, will fight his opponent face-to-face. In that close space he won't be able to bring a rifle or shotgun up before the attacker can take two steps forward and stab, club, or disarm him, or fire his own illegal gun. ...
(The Truth About Self Protection, p. 346). Ayoob also discusses the downsides to using a rifle at close quarters, such as the lack of mobility, the overpowering flash and stunning noise, and the need for two hands.

This is not to discount obtaining a rifle or shotgun. They have their place and, as I said earlier, I believe that this nation--the United States--will see another civil war. But I don't know when. It could be tomorrow, or 100 years from now. The burglar or mugger, though, is always with us.

Your primary weapon should be, where available, a good quality handgun, extra magazines (or speed loaders if you choose to use a revolver), a good supply of ammunition, and practice. Your rifle is secondary...at least for now.

Myth #5: Black Powder Firearms ... Just in Case.

This is one that I have never understood--the idea that you should add black powder firearms to your battery of defensive weapons. The general reasoning I've heard on this is that it is a back up for when you run out of ammunition for your modern weapons.

While a romantic notion, it is not a realistic one. Black powder firearms were a product of a functioning civilization and trading network. Making black powder takes materials that may not be available locally or in any great quantity, and can be dangerous. Percussion caps and primers require a fairly sophisticated manufacturing base. Even flints are not going to be available in all locations. If you are going to buy and store up caps and powder and ammunition, why not just purchase modern ammunition or components?

In addition, this is another firearm you have to learn to operate, repair, and provide for. Time and money that can be better spent elsewhere.

Final Comments

Just a few final comments. I am not arguing against collecting a wide variety of firearms, or shooting black powder firearms, if that is your "thing"--your hobby and passion. I'm just arguing against it as a survival preparation. Having a smaller number of weapons for which you have adequate stores of ammunition and, if necessary, magazines, and which you are good with, are going to be far more valuable than a safe full of different rifles for which you only have a few boxes of ammunition each.

In compiling this list, I am not attempting to downplay the role of self-defense and firearms for preppers. To me prepping is for both personal disasters, as well as regional and national disasters. At an individual level, we all face the threat of burglary, robbery, or worse. I also believe as part of my eschatology, based on statements made by past presidents of the LDS Church, that the United States will face civil war again, and possibly foreign invasion. Thus, I believe self-defense to be an important part of personal preparation.

Finally, find weapons you enjoy owning and shooting. These should be your go-to guns.

Update (1/24/2014): Max Velocity linked to this post, but took me to task for suggesting that the handgun should be your "primary" weapon. I have attempted to explain myself in a comment to his post, but I want to clarify my position, so I'm posting my reply here:
Max: With all due respect, I think you miss the point of my comments. My outlook is that prepping encompasses personal disasters (a mugging, a house fire, etc.) as well statistically more remote events (major flooding, earthquake, the proverbial SHTF, etc.). I believe people should take a baby-steps approach for prepping. Accordingly, my comments concerned something less than a SHTF, grid-down situation. I was talking about the standard day-to-day crime, or a localized or regional disaster such as a tornado, floods, etc., which might produce an opportunistic looter. Like you, I do not carry my rifle on me for common everyday activities. So my point was that the handgun is “primary” because it is the weapon you are most likely to have with you and the most likely to use. And you should train, purchase and plan accordingly.

Also, I want to make clear that I was not attempting to belittle the guest post at Survival Blog. I acknowledged his tactics were valid in a war, and I should have said something slightly broader such as a war-like state, conflict or a raid. I did not say that such a situation could not come to pass–in fact, I specifically said that I believed that our nation will see another civil war. That is also why I said that the rifle was not primary “…yet”.

I appreciate the opportunity to better explain my points.
This is a matter of perspective and, to a certain extent, semantics. I have noticed over the years that many prepping books and articles focus on SHTF events. The problem, I believe, is that when you start thinking about what you need to prepare for the metaphorical end of the world, it can be overwhelming and too easy to give up. I believe the better approach to prepping is to prepare for more likely events, and then you can broaden out to more statistically remote events. Sort of a crawl, walk, and then run approach. This is not to say that the financial system won't collapse, or that a nuclear war won't happen, but that to start small and closer to home. As an example, even if you felt it important to prepare for a nuclear war, first make sure you have working smoke detectors and a fire extinguisher before you build a fallout shelter. Similarly, don't think you need to go out and buy a year's supply of food tomorrow. Start building up a little here and there--get an extra weeks worth of food put away, then build up to a month, experiment with using your food storage, and slowly expand it as money and space allows.

I think the same approach is best for self-defense. Focus first on the more likely threat or risk, and then expand to cover other threats as you see fit. Work on obtaining the tools and ability to defend your person and house (cartilage) against a burglar before moving on to a mob or raiders. This is not to say that you won't someday face a mob or be subject to a home invasion, or a raid on your farm (if that is where you live), but that you are more likely to face the burglar. I'm not justifying ignoring the acquisition and use of a defensive rifle, I'm arguing against ignoring the handgun.

New York's Rat Information Portal

New York City offers a "Rat Information Portal" that links to maps showing relative numbers of rat infestations for different neighborhoods and sections of the city. An article about it at the Daily Mail.

Reviewing the "Doomsday Preppers" Show

The Practical Prepper has been running a series of reviews on Doomsday Preppers, analyzing both the good and the bad points raised.

Everyone Loves Fireworks!

Gizmodo has photographs and a video showing protesters in Kiev using fireworks as weapons. One example:

Spectacular photos of fireworks weaponry from the Ukraine protests

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Surviving Hard Times

The Survival Blog has a guest post today with some good, sound advice and tips on making do with less when money is tight.

Common Illicit Homemade Firearms in Brazil

Photos and more at the Firearm Blog. This seems to be a growing trend in countries with strict gun laws. For instance, I believe it was just a month or so ago that Australia busted a major manufacturer of submachine guns there.


California Droughts (Updated)

California is experiencing its worst drought since 1895 with no signs of it abating due to a stubborn ridge of high pressure that is lurking offshore and blocking typical winter weather.

Nearly four miles high and 2,000 miles long, it is to blame for the emerging drought as the mass of high air pressure has been blocking Pacific winter storms from coming ashore and bringing much needed to bring
[sic] rain to the parched West Coast. 
The duration of the upper-level ridge of high pressure anchored off its north coast - since December 2012 - is unprecedented in modern weather records and puzzling researchers.
Well, I'm sure that it is being blamed on global warming by many, but I believe it has another source. In Deuteronomy 11:16-17, the Lord warns the ancient Israelites:
16 Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them; 
17 And then the Lord’s wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the Lord giveth you.
 Similarly, in 1 Kings 8:35 it notes:
When heaven is shut up, and there is no rain, because they have sinned against thee; if they pray toward this place, and confess thy name, and turn from their sin, when thou afflictest them:
 There are numerous other instances where the scriptures record unusual droughts intended to punish the wicked and prompt the people to repent.

Updated: CBS San Francisco has interviewed Lynn Ingram, professor of paleoclimatology at U.C. Berkeley, who has indicated that this may be the worst drought in 500 years, and could be the start of a several decade long dry spell.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Japan and China--Is War Inevitable?

The Business Insider has an interesting piece. Keep in mind, however, that the opinions are just those of one unidentified Chinese "professional", and does not necessarily reflect the dominant opinion among Chinese leaders.
I went to one of those fancy private dinners last night in Davos, Switzerland. 
Like most of the events here at the 2014 World Economic Forum, the dinner was conducted under what are known as "Chatham House Rules," which means that I can't tell you who was there.

I can tell you what was said, though. And one thing that was said rattled a lot of people at the table.

During the dinner, the hosts passed a microphone around the table and asked guests to speak briefly about something that they thought would interest the group.

One of the guests, an influential Chinese professional, talked about the simmering conflict between China and Japan over a group of tiny islands in the Pacific.

... The Chinese professional at dinner last night did not seem so much worried about a military conflict as convinced that one was inevitable. And not because of any strategic value of the islands themselves (they're basically worthless), but because China and Japan increasingly hate each other.

... He then explained that the general sense in China is that China and Japan have never really settled their World War 2 conflict. Japan and America settled their conflict, he explained, and as a result, the fighting stopped. But China and Japan have never really put the war behind them.

The Chinese professional acknowledged that if China asserted control over the disputed islands by attacking Japan, America would have to stand with Japan. And he acknowledged that China did not want to provoke America.

But then he said that many in China believe that China can accomplish its goals — smacking down Japan, demonstrating its military superiority in the region, and establishing full control over the symbolic islands — with a surgical invasion.

In other words, by sending troops onto the islands and planting the flag.


The Chinese professional suggested that this limited strike could be effected without provoking a broader conflict. The strike would have great symbolic value, demonstrating to China, Japan, and the rest of the world who was boss. But it would not be so egregious a move that it would force America and Japan to respond militarily and thus lead to a major war.
 Read the whole thing.

If You Use 7.62x54 R, You May Want to Stock Up

The Truth About Guns has a warning. Black Horse National is releasing an AK style pistol chambered for 7.62x54R. Much of the cheap military surplus shipped into the country uses steel cores to stabilize the bullets. Federal law does not ban armor piercing bullets for rifles, but does for handguns. The BATF has traditionally considered steel cored ammo as "armor piercing," whether or not it actually was AP ammo. Thus, when the first AK pistol using 7.62x39 was introduced, the ATF used it as an excuse to shut down import of military surplus AK ammo, forcing down supplies, and driving up prices.

Mexican Gov't More Afraid of Self-Defense Groups Than Cartels (Updated and bumped)

Last week I had noted an article about Mexican vigilante (i.e., self-defense groups) routing the cartels. I stated: "The government seeks to disarm the vigilantes because it fears them more than the cartels." I hate to say it (ok, I don't), but there is more evidence that my conclusion is valid. From The New American on January 15, 2013:
Obama administration-backed Mexican troops opened fire this week on a group of civilians seeking to keep their weapons and rein in ruthless government-linked drug cartels, which have terrorized their communities in the state of Michoacán. The attack sparked an international outcry on behalf of the citizens, who have suffered non-stop brutality at the hands of both government officials and criminal syndicates. News reports, some of which conflict with each other, suggest that around a dozen people were shot and at least four were killed in the massacre, including an 11-year-old girl. A Mexican paper reported that a dozen civilians died in the clash.

Multiple reports and local witnesses said that Mexican forces opened fire on an unarmed crowd, though officials would not confirm that to foreign reporters. Community leaders quoted in press reports said the government was trying to protect cartels. Authorities also claimed not to know exactly how many people had been killed in the clashes, which reportedly began Monday, January 13, when a group of unarmed citizens tried to stop a convoy of heavily armed government functionaries from entering the town of Antunez and disarming residents.

However, journalists and news reports confirmed that there were multiple bodies in the area, and at least several locals reported that their family members had been slain in attacks by government troops. The federal assault came days after local self-defense groups managed to drive out criminal syndicates from more and more towns in the region over the weekend. Spokesmen for local communities said the biggest confrontation involved around 60 to 80 government troops, although hundreds were in the area.

Officials claim they were trying to bring “security” to the region by disarming the civilians, whom they refer to as “vigilantes” for seeking to drive cartels out of their beleaguered communities. Also part of the scheme was enforcing Mexico’s draconian gun-control regime, which critics say violates the human rights of law-abiding Mexicans while contributing heavily to the ongoing reign of terror and murder across much of the nation. “There will be no tolerance for anyone caught with firearms,” decreed Government Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong.

Other top Mexican officials made similar statements, demanding that citizens surrender their weapons and essentially submit to whatever group or cartel happens to be terrorizing the public at that moment. “We can't combat illegality with illegality,” claimed Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam in a statement to Televisa television. He claimed the purpose of the latest deployment, which led to the massacre, “is simply to restore legal order in a place that did not have it.”
I recognize that there is a certain amount of bias in the article as written, but the basic facts show that the Mexican government is more concerned about disarming and disbanding the self-defense groups than controlling the cartels.

The overriding concern of government is "continuity of government." The cartels don't threaten the ability of government officials, speaking generally, to carry on. However, a populist movement might.

Update (1/22/2014): An article from the Personal Liberty Digest discussing the self defense forces and how the government's attempts to disband the groups:
Michoacan, like most of Mexico, has long been overrun with violent drug cartels that terrorized private citizens while Mexican authorities did little to nothing in response. I could easily cite the abject corruption of the Mexican government as the primary culprit in the continued dominance of cartel culture. I could also point out the longtime involvement of the CIA in drug trafficking in Mexico and its negative effects on the overall social development of the nation. This is not conspiracy theory, but openly recognized fact. 
The Mexican people have nowhere to turn; and this, in my view, has always been by design. Disarmed and suppressed while government-aided cartels bleed the public dry, it is no wonder that many Mexicans have turned to illegal immigration as a means of escape. The Mexican government, in turn, has always fought for a more porous border with the U.S. exactly because it wants dissenting and dissatisfied citizens to run to the United States instead of staying and fighting back. My personal distaste for illegal immigration has always been predicated on the fact that it allows the criminal oligarchy within Mexico to continue unabated without opposition. Unhappy Mexicans can simply run away from their problems to America and feed off our wide-open welfare system. They are never forced to confront the tyranny within their own country. Under this paradigm, Mexico would never change for the better. 
Some in the Mexican public, however, have been courageous enough to stay and fight back against rampant theft, kidnapping and murder. 
The people of Michoacan, fed up with the fear and subjugation of the cartels and the inaction of the government, have taken a page from the American Revolution, organizing citizen militias that have now driven cartels from the region almost entirely. These militias have decided to no longer rely upon government intervention and have taken independent action outside of the forced authoritarian structure. 
The fantastic measure of this accomplishment is not appreciated by many people in America. Though many cartels are populated by well-trained former Mexican military special ops and even covert operations agents, the citizens of Michoacan have proven that the cartels are a paper tiger. They can be defeated through guerrilla tactics and force of will, which many nihilists often deny is even possible.
 I think this is an important point--how quickly the local self defense groups were able to succeed in such a short time where trained and well-equipped government troops were not.
Initially, local authorities encouraged the militias, or stayed out of their way. The citizens armed themselves with semi-automatic weapons, risking government reprisal, in order to defend their homes; and so far, they have been victorious. One would think that the federal government of Mexico would be enthusiastic about such victories against the cartels they claim to have been fighting against for decades; but when common citizens take control of their own destinies, this often incurs the wrath of the establishment as well. 
The Mexican government has decided to reward the brave people of Michoacan with the threat of military invasion and disarmament. 
In some cases, government forces have indeed fired upon militia supporters, killing innocents while exposing the true intentions of the Mexican political structure.
 Here is another story that highlights what appears to have unwillingness on the part of the Mexican government to control the cartels, rather than inability. From Yahoo News:
Mexico has disarmed more than 1,200 local police officers suspected of colluding with drug traffickers in Michoacan state and arrested 38 members of the notorious Knights Templar drug cartel active in the region.

Among those arrested was Jesus Vasquez Macias, 37, who goes by the alias "El Toro," a leading figure in the cartel, Monte Alejandro Rubido Garcia, a top federal security official, announced late Sunday.

Garcia said federal forces have taken control of 27 municipalities in the western Mexico state and disarmed 1,209 of the local police officers.

... The self-defense groups, made up of farmers and other local people, aimed to take over from local police to oust the Knights Templar from the region to stop the group's violence, kidnapping and extortion rackets.

Since February 2013, the self-defense groups have taken control over some 20 towns.

In recent days, federal forces launched a major operation in the state and tried to disarm the vigilantes as well as flush out the Knights Templar gang.

The capture of Vasquez Macias and other Knights Templar leaders was among the conditions the vigilante groups demanded before giving in to government demands they turn over their own weapons.

Argentina Limits On-Line Sales to Preserve Foreign Reserves

BBC News reports:
Argentina has introduced new restrictions on online shopping as part of efforts to stop foreign currency reserves from falling any further.

Anyone buying items through international websites will now need to sign a declaration and produce it at a customs office, where the packages have to be collected.

The procedure will need to be repeated for every new purchase.

Argentina's reserves of hard currencies dropped by 30% last year.

The government of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has introduced a number of restrictions on transactions with foreign currency.

Items imported through websites such as Amazon and eBay are no longer delivered by post to people's home address. They need to be collected at the customs office.

Each individual is allowed to buy up to $25 (£15) a year from abroad tax free, but it has been hard for custom officials to keep accurate records of each consumer.

Once the $25 level is reached, online consumers in Argentina need to pay a 50% tax for each item bought from international websites.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Top 5 Firearm Myths Among Preppers (Updated)

[Ed: Based on comments about this post, I have edited the section on Myth #4 to further clarify my my position and my reasoning for taking my position. If you want to see my original post, you can find it here]

There are several myths or misconceptions about firearms that seem to float around the prepper community and pop up regularly. While I don't consider them to be "myths that will get you killed" or something similarly dramatic, they do a disservice to preppers--particularly those without extensive experience with firearms and ammunition--and potentially waste time and money.

Myth #1: Bigger is Better.

This myth most often shows up in arguments of caliber--particularly .223/5.56 mm versus 7.62 NATO/.308, or 9 mm versus .40 S&W versus .45 ACP. Let me answer this issue right now: it depends.

First, it depends on the type of ammunition being used (lead, FMJ, hollow-point, soft-point, partition, etc.) and your purpose. Are you talking about shooting elk, or rabbit? Are you talking about just lethality, or do want recoverable meat? Since my topic is self-defense, I am only going to consider effectiveness against a human being. Just remember, though, that you may have other considerations to take into account.

When it comes to effectiveness against a human being, I will acknowledge that common deer cartridges (e.g., .30-06, .308, .270, etc.) are superior to .223 when discussing hunting ammunition--i.e. soft-point or some other type of expanding bullet. Assuming consistent controlled expansion, the larger bullet will present a larger diameter at full expansion than a smaller bullet, causing a larger wound channel. The larger bullet will likely also cause greater hydrostatic shock as the now fat and stubby projectile is better at transferring energy to the target.

However, most preppers do not store or use hunting ammunition for their self-defense rifle. Rather, the vast majority use FMJ (full metal jacket) ammunition. Expansion of FMJ ammunition is a non-issue, because it doesn't expand. The issue instead become one of bullet upset and/or fragmentation. When comparing FMJ wounding between .30 caliber versus small bullets from rifles, both research and experience has shown that smaller bullets cause larger wounds. (See also here).

Even this doesn't resolve the question because, again, application will suggest what caliber is best for your situation. The smaller calibers begin to lose their lethality after 150 yards, and it is generally presumed that the effective range is approximately 300 to 400 yards. They also have poorer penetration against many forms of hard cover. 7.62 NATO has a longer effective range, and better penetration of wood, brick, cinder block, etc.

Handguns present a somewhat different proposition. First, most anyone using a handgun for self-defense will probably be using a hollow point bullet of some sort. With modern self-defense ammunition, the difference between the popular self-defense rounds is actually fairly minimal--part of the reason that the FBI and other law enforcement are moving from .40 S&W back to 9 mm.

Second, shot placement, and the ability to make quick and accurate follow up shots, are much more critical with a handgun. This is best illustrated by some research performed by Greg Ellifritz and published on the Buckeye Shooters Association site. He writes:
Over a 10-year period, I kept track of stopping power results from every shooting I could find. I talked to the participants of gunfights, read police reports, attended autopsies, and scoured the newspapers, magazines, and Internet for any reliable accounts of what happened to the human body when it was shot.

I documented all of the data I could; tracking caliber, type of bullet (if known), where the bullet hit and whether or not the person was incapacitated. I also tracked fatalities, noting which bullets were more likely to kill and which were not. It was an exhaustive project, but I'm glad I did it and I'm happy to report the results of my study here.
His results showed that, statistically, the .22 was one of the most lethal handgun round. For instance, with the .22, 34% of hits were lethal, it took an average of 1.38 hits to incapacitate the target (i.e., the target stopped being aggressive--not necessarily that the target was incapable of further aggression), and 31% of incidents were one-shot-stops. For comparison, the .45 ACP was 29% lethal, took on average 2.08 rounds to incapacitate, and produced a one-shot-stop 39% of the time; the .40 S&W was 25% fatal, took an average of 2.36 rounds to incapacitate, but had a one-shot-stop of 45%; the 9 mm was 24%, 2.45, and 34% (however, nearly half of his data points were from shootings involving FMJ rounds, which he believes skewed the 9 mm down compared to other calibers); the .38 Special was 29%, 1.87, and 39%; and the .357 Magnum was 34%, 1.7, and 44%. He has other calibers listed as well, if you want to compare your favorite round.

Ellifritz concluded:
What matters even more than caliber is shot placement. Across all calibers, if you break down the incapacitations based on where the bullet hit you will see some useful information.

Head shots = 75% immediate incapacitation
Torso shots = 41% immediate incapacitation
Extremity shots (arms and legs) = 14% immediate incapacitation.

No matter which caliber you use, you have to hit something important in order to stop someone!
In other words, with handguns, accuracy is far more important than caliber.

Myth #2: You need specialized guns for specialized purposes. 

Firearms are tools, and certain jobs take particular tools. For instance, you wouldn't use a hammer when you need a screwdriver, and you are not going to lug around a FAL rifle as your concealed carry weapon, nor would you use your .32 "mouse gun" to hunt big game. However, I notices some people carrying this to an extreme, wanting numerous guns for very specialized and specific tasks.

This is partly the result of gun manufacturers and gun media pushing the latest and greatest for particular and specific types of shooting or hunting. It is also historical in the prepping community. Mel Tappan, for instance, took the approach that you needed "defensive guns" versus "working guns," then subdividing each category down further and further, until he was recommending that clients have a dozen or more different models and calibers of firearms depending on whether they were putting down a horse, shooting a snake, defending against bandits, riding in a car, hiking in the woods, etc. In his book Surviving Doomsday, "Boston Tea Party" in the same vein recommends purchasing at least 4 handguns and at least 7 rifles (one of them exclusively for when traveling) and then writes:
Rifles are merely tools, and no one tool can do it all (although a scoped FAL or AR10 comes close...). Think of rifles like shoes: how many pairs of shoes do you have? You've got tennis shoes, running shoes, dress shoes, beach sandals, hiking boots, work boots, and house slippers. That's seven pairs of footwear. Now, does seven rifles sound so extreme?
Boston goes on to recommend at least three more rifles to get and lays on the guilt trip: "Will three rifles giving 95% be enough? Is that a gamble you can make in good conscience?"

I've written on this topic before in more detail, but this is the gist of my arguments as to why this approach is wrong:

First, and foremost, is the sheer expense of purchasing a large number of different types of firearms and their necessary ammunition, magazines, spare parts, and other accessories. While you will need defensive firearms, I believe you would be better off taking the money you would otherwise put into specialist firearms and use it instead to pay down debt, add to your savings account, purchase stockpiles of food or other equipment, or purchase extra ammunition or accessories for a basic battery of weapons. In short, minimize where possible and put the savings into other preparations.

Second, you will probably have to relocate or temporarily abandon your home or retreat at some point, and maybe more than once. You won't be able to carry a lot of weapons if you are on foot, you probably won't want to carry a large number in a vehicle, and you may not have time to hide a large arsenal. While looters and scavengers may appreciate your leaving a large arsenal of weapons, it probably won't do you any good.

Third, what you carry should be able to serve both as a working gun and a defensive weapon. If you are out hunting and suddenly come under fire, the other side is not going to give you a time-out while you go back to your shelter to exchange your hunting rifle for a combat rifle. Similarly, the need for fresh meat may require you to take game when out on a security patrol or reconnaissance.

Fourth, these recommendations generally assume that the prepper will be living in a remote area as homesteaders--running a working ranch or small farm, with gardens and orchards to boot, and trying to be self-sufficient in most every way. I would question the application of accumulating a large number of specialist weapons to even that small group of people, let lone the suburban or urban survivalist.

To sum up my thoughts on this matter, I want to share something simple, yet profound, that I read in the book High Country Hunting by Lloyd Bare. Bare noted the amazement and disapproval he generally encountered when other hunters learned that he used a .300 Winchester Magnum BAR for all of his big game hunting, be it deer, sheep, elk or bear. He explained:
In my gun cabinet you'll find one big game rifle (the BAR), one .22, one varmint rifle and one shotgun. In other words, I'm a hunter not a “gun nut” and I say that with kindest regards to gun experts and aficionados. Some of my best friends own a closet full of guns, one for every purpose. 
(High Country Hunting, p. 208). As preppers, we too should strive for simplicity. After all, you have to buy ammo for all this stuff, have to learn to shoot it well, and may have to evacuate with it.

Suffice it to say that this is a trap that can easily consume large amounts of money you could use for food storage or other preps.

Myth #3: Pre-1899 Firearms.

Some very prominent members of the prepping community have recommended buying pre-1899 weapons. The basic thrust of their argument is that because pre-1899 guns are not legally "firearms" under federal law, they fall outside federal jurisdiction and that this will protect you in the event of a gun confiscation. All of that is true to a point. The problem with the argument is that the "point" is a law that can easily be changed or ignored.

The selection of 1899 was an arbitrary choice. Congress could change the date or definition of firearms at any time. As an example of how broad the definition of "firearms" could be, you should look up your local ordinance prohibiting the discharge of a firearm within city limits and see how it defines "firearm." Most likely, it will be something vague that includes all firearms of any type or age, airguns, and probably bows and crossbows, etc. Congress could adopt just as broad of definition. 

From a more practical standpoint, imagine that the federal, state or local government has decided to confiscate firearms (e.g., as done in New Orleans post-Katrina). When the SWAT team (or whomever) shows up at your door, do you think they are going to distinguish between your Winchester lever action made in 1898 versus the one made in 1998? Do you think they are going to care one whit about your legal argument or justification on why they should take one and not the other? No. They will take them all, and let the court sort it out.

And what do you get when you buy a pre-1899 firearm anyway? Unless you can lay down the money for collector grade gun, you get an inferior firearm made of poorer steel and likely with substantial wear and tear, probably shooting an odd caliber that has been discontinued or hard to find. If you can find ammunition for the firearm, it likely won't be able to handle modern factory loads. You could have it converted to shoot another caliber, and send it to a gunsmith (who will dutifully write down the information in the records that the BATF requires him to keep) for the work, but that is an added expense on top of whatever outrageous price you paid for the weapon in the first place.

In short, the legal protection afforded by buying pre-1899 firearms is largely illusory. This is, again, a potential money pit that takes away from your other preps.

Myth #4: Your Primary Weapon is Your Rifle.

There are a significant number of preppers that seem to believe that when whatever earth-rendering disaster, financial collapse, or alien invasion occurs, we will suddenly be launched into a full-blown, "Mad Max" situation of kill-or-be-killed. They envision picking off bandits (or U.N. Peacekeepers) at hundreds of yards as they advance toward the particular prepper's retreat, all the while safely ensconced in a concealed location beyond the reach of the bandits' weapons. This is their focus for self-defense.

Even moving into the mainstream of the prepper movement, there is an emphasis on tactics and weapons for post-SHTF/without rule of law tactics and weapons. For instance, there was this post earlier today at the Survivalist Blog, stating:
... Distance ALWAYS equals two things. Time and safety. The time aspect of this is quite simple. The further away an enemy is from a target the longer it will take to achieve their objective. The further away from your loved ones that you can engage a threat provides reaction time for your and your loved ones to initiate whatever pre arranged defense protocols you have established. This in and of itself provides an added level of safety. If you are trying to protect your family, and they are going to be in the home, than the defense should be started as far away from the house as is possible. A good shot with an AR style rifle can ruin your day from five hundred meters in. I am aware that it may not be possible to establish a perimeter at that distance, but that would be best. I suggest possibly establishing a forward outpost at this distance if possible. A forward placed rifle and a few well placed shots may well be all it takes to persuade someone that its better to go somewhere else.
I'm not criticizing the author of that post because the tactics, and reliance on a rifle, are sound ... when considering warfare, insurgency, defending against raiders, or other situations where you expect to be in combat.

But when we prepare, we aren't only, or even necessarily, preparing for the end of civilization, but other disasters, big and small and in-between. We cannot overlook the here and now and focus on the post-SHTF to the exclusion of everyday preps. And this applies equally to weapons and our training. As Fernando "FerFal" Aguirre explains in his book, Surviving the Economic Collapse:
Rifles are terrific but they are not your main weapon. Again, here's the difference between a soldier or a SWAT member and you. 
A soldier carries his rifle because it's his job to do so while at war. SWAT guy has his rifle when doing his thing as well but both soldier guy and SWAT guy do NOT carry their rifles when they go pick up the kids at a friend's birthday party. And yes, the bad guys will attack you at that birthday party, or some other ridiculously unlikely circumstance. 
That's the way it is my friend. Understand that while I'm writing this tonight there are thousands staying awake in their beds thinking about possible plans and ideas to rob people like you and me.
(Surviving the Economic Collapse, p. 155). Massad Ayoob similarly wrote:
For you, it won't happen on a battlefield where the nearest Soviet soldier is 600 meters away behind a French hedgerow. For you, it will happen at point-blank range. Studies by the FBI show that the great majority of shoot-outs occur at a range of 7 yards or less, and more commonly at about 7 feet. And this is among police, whose statistics include running gunfights on the highway and long-distance gunfire exchanges with snipers and barricaded felons. 
The civilian, almost always, will fight his opponent face-to-face. In that close space he won't be able to bring a rifle or shotgun up before the attacker can take two steps forward and stab, club, or disarm him, or fire his own illegal gun. ...
(The Truth About Self Protection, p. 346). Ayoob also discusses the downsides to using a rifle at close quarters, such as the lack of mobility, the overpowering flash and stunning noise, and the need for two hands.

This is not to discount obtaining a rifle or shotgun. They have their place and, as I said earlier, I believe that this nation--the United States--will see another civil war. But I don't know when. It could be tomorrow, or 100 years from now. The burglar or mugger, though, is always with us.

Looking at it another way, consider this. A soldier or a SWAT officer, or similar, relies on his rifle as his primary weapon as he deploys on a mission or operation. If something goes wrong with his rifle, he transitions to his pistol. For you, at least while we still have rule of law, may not have any warning of danger, and you most likely will not be carrying a rifle--even if you typically have one as a "trunk gun." You will have your handgun first, and then if you have time and ability and need, will transition to your rifle. Exactly the opposite of the soldier.

Your primary weapon should be, where available, a good quality handgun, extra magazines (or speed loaders if you choose to use a revolver), a good supply of ammunition, and practice. Your rifle is secondary...at least for now. With that mind, if you are just starting out with putting together a battery of defensive weapons, my general suggestion is to first obtain a handgun and some ammo, and start practicing and learning to use it for self-defense. Then, as you expand your preps, look to get a defensive rifle.

And for those of you that already have a small battery of firearms, don't neglect the handgun. To paraphrase one commenter, focusing on the rifle while ignoring the handgun is like skipping the first aid kit because there is a hospital nearby. Until the SHTF, loss of rule of law, the handgun is your primary weapon.

Myth #5: Black Powder Firearms ... Just in Case.

This is one that I have never understood--the idea that you should add black powder firearms to your battery of defensive weapons. The general reasoning I've heard on this is that it is a back up for when you run out of ammunition for your modern weapons.

While a romantic notion, it is not a realistic one. Black powder firearms were a product of a functioning civilization and trading network. Making black powder takes materials that may not be available locally or in any great quantity, and can be dangerous. Percussion caps and primers require a fairly sophisticated manufacturing base. Even flints are not going to be available in all locations. If you are going to buy and store up caps and powder and ammunition, why not just purchase modern ammunition or components?

In addition, this is another firearm you have to learn to operate, repair, and provide for. Time and money that can be better spent elsewhere.

Final Comments

Just a few final comments. I am not arguing against collecting a wide variety of firearms, or shooting black powder firearms, if that is your "thing"--your hobby and passion. I'm just arguing against it as a survival preparation. Having a smaller number of weapons for which you have adequate stores of ammunition and, if necessary, magazines, and which you are good with, are going to be far more valuable than a safe full of different rifles for which you only have a few boxes of ammunition each.

In compiling this list, I am not attempting to downplay the role of self-defense and firearms for preppers. To me prepping is for both personal disasters, as well as regional and national disasters. At an individual level, we all face the threat of burglary, robbery, or worse. I also believe as part of my eschatology, based on statements made by past presidents of the LDS Church, that the United States will face civil war again, and possibly foreign invasion. Thus, I believe self-defense to be an important part of personal preparation.

Finally, find weapons you enjoy owning and shooting. These should be your go-to guns.