Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Brian Green Reviews the Bushnell SolarWrap

Brian Green who runs the Brian's Backpacking Blog reviews the Bushnell SolarWrap--a flexible solar panel/charging system that rolls up like a scroll or window shade.

And Now For Something Completely Difference--The USS Constitution

Defense.gov News Photo 050716-N-0335C-005.jpg
(Source)
The USS Constitution will be going into drydock in May 2015 for repairs and maintenance. To mark the occasion, All Hands (the U.S. Navy magazine) has put together a special interactive website that gives you brief synopsis of the ship's history, as well as other features including virtual tours of the ship. Check it out.

The Kume Shade

NoTech Magazine describes a DIY window shade that provides not only good insulation, but probably would work very well as a blackout curtain. From the article:
The Kume is a roll-up curtain that is composed of four distinct layers.
  • A front panel which acts as the first layer and seals the perimeter of the window opening when the curtain is closed
  • A moisture barrier which prevents indoor humidity from reaching the window and condensing on the cold glass and window frame
  • Wooden battens which maintain the fabric stretched out and thereby ensure that the curtain fits tightly against both sides of the window opening (the battens also create air pockets which further reduce heat losses through the curtain)
  • A back panel which acts as the final layer of insulation and helps seal the perimeter of the window opening when the curtain is closed.
Instructions and further information for building the shade can be found at the Kume Project. 

How the U.S. Might Break Up

Some thoughts from Fred Reed on how the United States might break up, and some examples showing that it might already be happening. He writes:
A breakup will not come by armed secession. We tried that, with poor results. It will come, if it does, by gradual degrees, by inadvertence, by quietly ignoring the central government, by incremental defiance. This has begun. Whether it will continue remains to be seen. 
It is not clear that the feds could prevent it. How powerful, really, is Washington? Consider. Marijuana is illegal under federal law, yet Colorado and Washington state made it legal, and got away with it. The feds did not arrest the governors or send troops. Since then, Alaska and Washington DC have legalized weed. Other states seem poised to follow. Unless Washington does something dramatic and soon, the states will learn that they can simply ignore the feds. 
Who might like to secede? Most conspicuously, Latinos. In four states—California, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico—Latinos either have or will soon have a demographic majority, which means that eventually they will have a voting majority.
On this topic, Reed observes that not only are many states and cities ignoring federal immigration laws, but that as the South West becomes more "Mexicanized," those states may increasingly ignore the border with Mexico altogether.
In the past the rock-solid unity of the United States existed because people wanted it. The foundation was a largely uniform white, Christian, European culture which no one thought about because there was no reason to think about it. Minorities were minor enough that they had to conform to the dominant culture. People shared ideas of morality, education, crime, music, religion, dress, manners, and patriotism. 
That unity is gone forever. The old, functioning system has been replaced, not by another functioning system, such as that of Japan, China, or Korea, but by civilizational chaos. A law of human behavior is that people want to live among people like themselves. Another is that they do not like being ruled from afar by people they detest. Who likes Washington today? 
Another possibility of secession lies in the South. Mississippi, the darkest state, is thirty-seven percent black. Although we are not permitted to say it, the racial hostility of blacks toward whites is intense.  While whites will (now, anyway) vote for a black candidate over a white—which is how we got Obama—blacks vote as a bloc for black candidates. (If memory serves, Obama got 93% of the black vote.) 
Should the black percentage in Mississippi grow to a tipping point, then, when whites bail out (which is usually what happens though we are not supposed to say this either), the state would become a self-governing country within a country—dependent on federal subsidies, yes, but having no loyalty to or culture in common with white society. It would not, methinks, feel an urgent need to obey federal laws.
The scenario Reed offers is in line with Tainter's thesis on the collapse of complex societies. But where Reed foresees a peaceful breakup--he argues that the Federal Government could do nothing to stop it--history shows that a breakup of a nation, or its aftermath, is rarely peaceful. Particularly where race and ethnicity play a role, ethnic cleansing is sure to follow.  Another flaw I see with his reasoning is that "Mexicanization," as he calls it, will stop with a predominantly Hispanic South West. Gains in political power there will be followed by demands for political power elsewhere--demands that might be resisted.

Finally, Reed seems to buy into the overly broad stereotype of "red state" versus "blue state" that exaggerates the unity within a given state. But it is not that clean: even blue states are mostly "red" outside of the urban areas; and even red states may have areas that are strongly "blue." Perhaps the small town and rural Coloradoan has little liking for Washington and the Northeast, but the residents of Denver probably feel differently. Similarly, the political and social attitudes of Western Oregon and Western Washington state are very different from the more conservative eastern portions of those same states.

No, if things break down, I believe it will end up being very messy.

"Not thinking things through"

The Tactical Professor discusses the OODA loop--particularly, the need to keep the end objective in mind.

A Quick Run Around the Web--March 31, 2015

A bevy of articles that you might find interesting or useful:

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Fruits of China's One Child Policy

From Bloomberg, "The Place Where China Began Its One-Child Policy Is Dying." From the article:
Sitting in her neighbor’s, house playing cards, 58-year-old farmer Si Jinxin asks a question that is troubling millions of China’s workers: “What are we going to do when we’re old?” 
Si comes from a rural county on the east coast that will have to answer that question first — Rudong. It was here, half a century ago, that China began its one-child policy, a political drive to curb overpopulation that may end up sapping the country’s workforce and leaving millions of old people with no one to look after them. 
“Rudong was so good at implementing the family planning policy,” says Si, whose only child, a daughter, lives about 200 kilometers (124 miles) away in the city. “Now we’re the ones who lose.” 
On the flat delta of the Yangtze River north of Shanghai, Communist cadres embraced the call to stem the nation’s ballooning population a decade before it became national policy in 1979. The result is that Rudong is a window on China’s future, a windswept place of old people, closed schools and growing retirement homes. 
“China will see more places like Rudong very soon,” said Wang Feng, a professor of sociology at the University of California at Irvine. “It’s a microcosm of the rapid demographic and economic transformation China has been experiencing the last decades. There will be more ghost villages and deserted or sleepy towns.”
The article goes on to describe the challenges China faces on a national basis, and how it planning to deal with them. In short, though, the current plan seems to be to use pension plans and promises of free health care--just like every other industrialized nation. As we've noted before, this brings in the "free rider" problem when it comes to children and national pension systems. So, even though China is belatedly looking at some weak measures to address its demographics, it is doomed to failure because the policies it is choosing to follow will actually suppress the number of children a family will have.  It is also interesting to note that the retirement age in China is 60 (and as low as 50 for women). That will also have to change.

"Venezuela-Iran’s Aeroterror: Airplanes full of drugs & money"

Fausta's Blog discusses the terror and drug money links between Venezuela and Iran, including:
High-level Venezuelan defectors then started talking to Veja journalist Leonardo Coutinho. They told Veja that Aeroterror came to be a biweekly flight that carried drugs and cash to finance Iran’s activities in South America, and that it would stop in Damascus to pick up fake passports and other documents to ensure that Iran’s agents could move freely once they arrived in Caracas.

"Let's Hear a Big 'Yemen!' for Obama's Foreign Policy!"

The Diplomad reviews the Administration's foreign policy failures and how it is making the world a much riskier place. Notice the end of his piece--like me, he sees the possibility of an alliance between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Up On The Soap Box: What Might Have Been

David P. Goldman tries to answer the question of "How should America compete with China?" To get there, he first addresses the naysayers that suggest that China's economy will crash for financial and/or political reasons. (While I don't disagree that China will weather its problems, I think that the debt load of its local governments and over inflated real estate market means that China will be hard pressed to avoid Japan's "lost decade"). Goldman also rejects a notion that China seeks world domination, which, I suppose, depend on whether its leadership has abandoned the expansionist policies of Communism.

However, that is not the part of his article that interests me. Rather, it is Goldman's overview of China's infrastructure development versus that in the U.S. He writes:
... American infrastructure is miserable compared to Asia’s newly built roads, trains and bridges, as any traveler who has the misfortune to land at JFK or O’Hare will attest. There is a reason for this: A journeyman bricklayer working on any federally-supported building project in Essex Country, New Jersey is expected to earn $67.26 an hour under the Davis-Bacon Act. That’s $134,520 a year without overtime. American public works projects cost the moon and take forever because they are run for the benefit of the construction unions. American politicians are as terrified to touch this torpedo as their French and Italian counterparts are terrified to amend protective labor laws in their countries. New York City expects to complete its Second Avenue subway line by 2029 at a cost of $17 billion, or 22 years after ground was broken. China builds whole subway systems for cities the size of New York in a year. 
Infrastructure is one of China’s great achievements. As the New York Times observed in a Sept. 13, 2013 report, China’s high-speed rail system already serves more passengers than the 54 million Americans who board domestic flights every day, and has transformed China’s economy. With 600 million Chinese migrating from the low-productivity countryside to higher-productivity employment in urban areas, the high-speed rail network has made business ventures possible that were not conceivable before.
It didn't have to be this way. At one time, America had a very bright future, best summed up in the song "IGY" by Donald Fagen, released as part of The Nightfly album.



The title of song refers to the International Geophysical Year which marked a high mark of Americans' expectations toward scientific and technological advancement and what life would be like by the end of the 20th Century. Fagen's song was released in 1982, and was probably intended to be ironic since we were, at the point, seemingly no nearer the ideals in 1982 than in 1958.

But it is worth examining why America did not achieve the dreams of the late 1950's and early 1960's. Certainly, as the wealthiest and most technologically advanced nation in the world we could have achieved much in the way of space travel and advanced infrastructure projects. As the moon missions and Skylab showed, it wasn't for want of technical ability. So what happened?

There are piddling little things that can be pointed to, such as the seemingly grossly inflated wages of the union workers mentioned in Goldman's article. But in reality, overpaid union workers were probably more common in the 1960s when we put men on the moon than they are now.

I would suggest that the difference was in spending priorities, and, in particular, the so-called "war on poverty." Last year there were several articles that examined the cost and results of 5 decades of intense social spending programs as part of the war on poverty, including a report authored by Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield, published by the Heritage Foundation. From the abstract:
In the 50 years since that time, U.S. taxpayers have spent over $22 trillion on anti-poverty programs. Adjusted for inflation, this spending (which does not include Social Security or Medicare) is three times the cost of all U.S. military wars since the American Revolution. Yet progress against poverty, as measured by the U.S. Census Bureau, has been minimal, and in terms of President Johnson’s main goal of reducing the “causes” rather than the mere “consequences” of poverty, the War on Poverty has failed completely. In fact, a significant portion of the population is now less capable of self-sufficiency than it was when the War on Poverty began.
 (See also Louis Woodhill's article at Forbes entitled "The War on Poverty Wasn't A Failure -- It Was A Catastrophe.") (Given the downward trajectory of poverty prior to 1965, and the violence that welfare has committed on the family structure, it seems ludicrous that poverty would have been substantially higher today without welfare programs, when poverty rates have remained steady since the mid-1960's).

Recter and Sheffield discuss why the war the poverty was a failure. I want to discuss the cost--$22 trillion, not including Social Security and Medicare, that essentially went to fund expensive and largely useless bureaucracies, the real goal of which was to buy votes. Adjusted for inflation, the Apollo program (inception to end) was approximately $100 billion (2010 dollars), while the total amount spent on manned space flight over 57 years (in 2010) was $486 billion. Imagine where we would be if even half the $22 trillion had been spent on space and infrastructure and the other half had remained in taxpayer's hands. What new businesses and scientific advances would have been achieved? I was not able to find any real analysis of this issue in my brief search of the internet. Perhaps somewhere someone has attempted to answer this question. But it is significant to remember that until only a few years ago, many of the expanding economies in Asia (including China) did not have extensive welfare systems. Would China have had the money into building its infrastructure if it had a welfare system comparable to the United States? I think not.

It has been said that Europe committed suicide with World War I. I would say that the United States committed suicide when it decided to flush trillions down the toilet of welfare programs.

Government Legitimacy

Fourth generational warfare is driven by crises in government legitimacy, so it is interesting to see a the results of a Reuters poll which found that 20% of Americans viewed Russian President Putin as an imminent threat, while 18% said the same about President Obama. Conservatives believed Obama to be a bigger threat than Putin.

U.S. Allies Fear That Obama Administration Leaking Information to Iran

Not out of incompetence or by mistake, but on purpose in order to curry favor with Iran.
Just how badly has Barack Obama and his administration damaged relations with our allies in the Middle East? NBC’s Richard Engel reports that the Sunni nations in the region have begun to fear that the Obama administration leaks intel to Iran as part of its efforts at rapprochement with the mullahs, which is why the US got blindsided by the Saudi-led coalition’s operations in Yemen.

Ebola As An STD

In some of my previous thoughts about the Ebola outbreak, I had theorized that Ebola might survive to become an STD, much like AIDS. So it was with interest that I saw this New York Times article entitled "Liberia Recommends Ebola Survivors Practice Safe Sex Indefinitely." From the article:

The Liberian government recommended on Saturday that survivors of Ebola practice safe sex indefinitely, until more information can be collected on the length of time the virus might remain present in body fluids including semen. Previously, male survivors were advised to abstain from sexual intercourse or to use condoms for three months, reflecting that the active virus had been detected for up to 82 days in semen. 
Acting on new developments, all countries affected by the Ebola outbreak need to consider applying similar recommendations, said Dr. David Nabarro, the United Nations secretary general’s special envoy for Ebola. 
Agencies involved in the response were urgently reviewing the issue. “Yet again the Ebola-affected communities are asked to deal carefully with an unknown,” Dr. Nabarro wrote in an email, adding that survivors “should not be stigmatized as they take actions for the public good. They are the heroes.”

Saturday, March 28, 2015

More Thoughts on Jade Helm 15

The Goliad County Commissioners Court unanimously approved a request by the U.S. Army Special Operations Command to conduct military exercises in the county for month-long period in 2015. 
Thomas Mead, operations planner for the U.S. Army’s Jade Helm realistic military training, spoke to the court during its Dec. 8 meeting ....
“This allows our soldiers to get a better training environment,” Mead said. “You can only do so much in a military environment. You don’t really get a true interaction with the public.” 
Jade Helm is an eight-week joint military and interagency unconventional warfare exercise that will be conducted in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah and Colorado. The exercises will also be conducted in 15 other Texas
locations, including Victoria County. 
 
“We have Army Green Berets, Navy Seals, Marine Special Operations Command, the 82nd Airborne Division and we also have some of our interagency partners such as the DEA, FBI and the joint personnel recovery agency that will be working with us.” 
... Mead said county residents will see increased aircraft in the area at night .... 
Some participants will be carrying weapons with blank ammunition and some may be wearing civilian attire while driving civilian vehicles.
The Joint Personnel Recovery Agency provides training (SERE) and support for recovery of troops and civilians isolated behind enemy lines or taken prisoner. It also coordinates domestic terrorism response operations and helps the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the FBI guard against weapons of mass destruction in the United States. The latter article indicates that the JPRA, at least at the White Bluff facility outside Spokane, also works with the CIA and DEA.

This suggests two things to me. First, this is going to be a serious exercise of some special forces operators pretending to be terrorists sneaking into or around parts of the country, with law enforcement trying to track them down. That the exercise is concentrated along the border with Mexico and main smuggling routes is indicative that our national security apparatus view that as a probable scenario for a WMD to be snuck into the country.

Second, it is also an opportunity for SOF and law enforcement to coordinate in operations against the drug cartels in some of the prime smuggling routes.

Friday, March 27, 2015

"A simple solution for stinky shoes..."

An article at Fresh Bites Daily for DIY shoe fresheners. 

A Couple Articles from American Thinker Worth the Read

  • "The Old Man and the Sea of Black Mob Violence"--defending yourself against a black mob might just get you charged with a crime and ostracized.
  • "Was Jesus a Nonviolent Pacifist?"--noting that He forbid the spreading of the Gospel by means of the sword, but was not opposed to the State using force to maintain the peace, or self-defense.
  • How A Russian Coup Might Go Down

    "Rofer on The Fall of Beria and Putin’s Vanishing Act"--a look back at the convenient timing of Stalin's death, and the behind the scenes battle for control of the Soviet Union.

    "A Civilization is at Stake Here"

    An article by T. Greer on the battle for the soul of Islam, and why our biggest threat is Saudi Arabia, not Iran.

    I disagree somewhat. Yes, there is a battle for the soul of Islam that will probably be comparable to the Thirty Years War. But however vital is Islam (the religion), Islam (the civilization) is dying and has been dying for hundreds of years. Perhaps this conflict will revitalize the civilization (much as the Black Death and Thirty Years War revitalized Western Civilization), but there is no guarantee. Also, based on its history, it is difficult to view Iran as less a threat. Demographic trends suggest that Iran will become more haphazard and reckless unless it gives up its dream of regional hegemony. Perhaps it comes down to this: Iran is an unknown threat (that is, we do not know what it will do), but Wahhabism is a known threat.

    "The Battle For Saudi Arabia Begins"

    Richard Fernandez offers commentary on the burgeoning war in Yemen.

    Was Andreas Lubitz a Muslim Convert?

    A German news organization is claiming that Lubitz was a Muslim convert that had stayed at times in a mosque in Bremen--the same mosque in which Mohammad Atta had stayed. It will be interesting if this story can be verified. However, the evidence currently is pointing to mental illness and a breakup with his girlfriend.

    In related news, check out the story entitled "Suicide by Airplane: It’s Rare, But It Happens" from Air & Space. Of course, it is not just suicide but mass murder. Mass murder that makes even the worst mass shootings trivial in comparison.

    After Airstrikes, a Ground Invasion....

    In the air assault codenamed "Operation Decisive Storm," Saudi Arabia deployed some 100 fighter jets, 150,000 soldiers and other navy units, Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV reported. Also involved were aircraft from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan and Egypt, though it was not clear which carried out actual strikes. 
    Once the airstrikes have weakened the rebels and their allies in the military forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a ground invasion of Yemen is planned by Egyptian Saudi and other forces. 
    The assault will come from Saudi Arabia and by landings on Yemen's coasts along the Red and Arabian seas, according to three Egyptian military and security officials.
    Three to five Egyptian troop carriers are stationed offshore, they said, although the number of troops was not specified, and the timing of the operation was not given.
     
    The aim is not to occupy Yemen but to weaken the Houthis and their allies until they enter negotiations for power-sharing, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the plans with the press. 
    Egypt is "prepared for participation with naval, air and ground forces if necessary," Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri said at a gathering of Arab foreign ministers preparing for a weekend summit in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

    Thursday, March 26, 2015

    Egypt Joining Fight in Yemen...

    ... on the side of Saudi Arabia, according to The Washington Post. It is sending warships. Meanwhile, the Washington Free Beacon reports that the Obama Administration has caved to Iranian demands that it not be subject to monitoring of its nuclear program. Apparently a "trust but don't verify" strategy. That ought to convince Saudi Arabia to get nuclear weapons or make friends with someone willing to attack the Iranian nuclear facilities.

    Operation Jade Helm


    Jade Helm: The Pretend Invasion of Texas That's Driving the Web Crazy

    Jade Helm is a large special forces training taking place simultaneously in seven Western states: Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah and Colorado. It will involve soldiers operating in and around towns, and include shooting weapons loaded with blanks. And the exercise is scheduled to last two (2) months.The military indicates that there is nothing nefarious about the training exercise, and it will be conducted on private land with the permission of the land owners, or on public land with notification of local authorities. In fact, Stars and Stripes refers to those concerned about the training as alarmists.

    The size of the exercise is unprecedented, but the training among civilian populations is not. But that is what bothers me about this. Years ago I read a memoir by an ex-Delta Force operator that included what was probably intended to be a humorous story of him and one or two other soldiers getting lost on a training exercise. They arrived at what they believed to be their target--a farmhouse where "terrorists" where holding a "hostage"--and kicked the door in, screaming and pointing their weapons at the couple inside. Except, it was the wrong farmhouse. But no one was hurt and, in fact, the couple was a big supporter of the military and exercises were common in the woods around where they lived. The Delta group and the couple had coffee and talked until morning. No harm, no foul, was the author's attitude.

    However, let's take a different scenario. Delta kicks in the door in the middle of the night, and one of the inhabitants grabs a handgun, sees armed men in the house, and opens fire, killing or wounding the soldier. Or tries to, and the Delta operator tackles him, breaking the farmer's hip, or causing him to have a heart attack.

    So now take a similar training scenario, except instead of being limited to the hills around Fort Benning, its across 7 states for two months. What is the opportunity for a fatal mistake under those circumstances? And are we to seriously believe that SOCOM is going to have troops running around in coyote/drug smuggler territory in Southern California while unarmed?

    "China has an ISIS problem"

    An article at The Week. From the article:
    Seven Chinese nationals were recently detained in Turkey as they attempted to enter Syria. The Chinese, described as hailing from the traditionally Muslim province of Xinjiang, were detained by border guards. 
    The incident has highlighted China's growing problem with its own Muslim minority. Chinese officials are worried radicalized Uighurs traveling abroad to train and fight will return with skills that could bolster China's domestic insurgency. 
    This is a small problem that will become a much bigger problem in the near future.
    Xinjiang Autonomous Region is China's westernmost territory. Twice as large as Texas, it was incorporated into China in the 18th century. The Uighur people, the traditional dominant ethnic group, are Central Asians of Turkic origin and predominantly Muslim. 
     
    They are also unhappy. Since 1955, the Chinese government has ran a settlement program for other Chinese — particularly Han Chinese — to migrate to Xinjiang. Native Uighurs feel their homeland is being colonized by outsiders, their culture is now the minority and there are fewer economic opportunities for them as there are for recent arrivals. Uighurs have also felt pressure on their Muslim faith. 
    The result has been a growing Uighur insurgency that has allegedly carried out terrorist attacks not only in Xinjiang but the rest of China. The Chinese government blames Uighur terrorists not only for attacks against Han Chinese and government facilities within Xinjiang and also an attack in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in October 2013 and a mass knife attack at Kunming train station that killed 29 and left 140 injured. China claims the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) is responsible, a radical group that advocates an independent East Turkestan incorporating part of Xinjiang. 
    Chinese Uighurs have been going abroad to train and fight. Aspiring jihadis travel overland to Vietnam or Thailand, then on to the Middle East. More than 800 have been stopped in Vietnam in one year alone. China has even set up a special police unit nicknamed “4.29” to stop human traffickers in southern border states neighboring Southeast Asia.
    Read the whole thing.

    "The terrorists are winning. The regional war in the Middle East has begun."

    Commentary from SNAFU!

    A Quick Run Around the Web: March 26, 2015

    A motley collection of articles:

    TFB Review of the Vanquest Rackit-36 Covert Rifle Bag

    Image 8


    The Firearms Blog reviews a covert rifle bag from Vanquest. Sorry about the small photo; larger photos can be found at the manufacturer's website or at TFB's review. Obviously, I haven't used the bag, but the article caught my attention for the possibility of a get-home bag or BOB that would also contain a rifle. So, just a few thoughts:

    It appears from both the review and Vanquest's description that the pack is outfitted to be carried with a single strap, although it can be switched from one side to another. The interior compartment is 36 inches long, but from the list of firearms it can accept, it appears that 33 inches is realistically the longest that can be easily contained. This means that most rifles will either need the stock collapsed or folded (for instance, the TFB review notes that a SCAR 17 would fit, but only with the stock folded).

    Vanquest describes it as "[d]esigned for covert operations and urban settings, the RACKIT-36 Covert rifle pack provides discreet and secure transportation of your carbine with a rapid deployment capability." Although I suppose it may look rather benign to someone not familiar with concealed carry, the shape is different enough from a standard backpack that it still seems to stick out. It doesn't appear to offer enough volume to carry the gear for a viable get-home bag or a bug-out-bag, and the single shoulder strap doesn't seem like it would be viable for long distance carry. So, the use seems restricted to carrying a carbine concealed over a short distance from a vehicle to where the weapon can be extracted and stock unfolded/adjusted for use.

    "14″ Mossberg Non-NFA Scattergun"

    The Firearms Blog describes another workaround to certain National Firearms Act (NFA) provisions--in this case, building a scattergun with a 14 inch barrel that is not a short-barreled shotgun, but not a concealable pistol shooting shotgun shells.

    TTAG's Review of the Primary Arms Classic 30MM Red Dot GEN II

    Short take: they like it.

    German Airliner Crash Was On Purpose

              Reuters reports:
    A young German co-pilot locked himself alone in the cockpit of a Germanwings airliner and flew it into a mountain with what appears to have been the intent to destroy it, a French prosecutor said on Thursday. 
    Investigators and grieving relatives were left struggling to explain what motivated Andreas Lubitz, 28, to kill all 150 people on board the Airbus A320, including himself, in Wednesday's crash in the French Alps. 
    French and German officials said there was no indication the crash was a terrorist attack, but gave no alternative explanation for his motives. 
    Lubitz gained sole control of the aircraft after the captain left the cockpit. He refused to re-open the door and sent plane into its fatal descent, Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin said. 
    He did this "for a reason we cannot fathom right now but which looks like intent to destroy this aircraft," Robin told a news conference in Marseille broadcast live on national TV. 
    Describing the final 10 minutes of the passengers on board as the plane hurtled towards a mountain range, Robin said sound recordings from one of its black boxes suggested most of them would not have been aware of their fate until the very end. 
    "Only towards the end do you hear screams," he said. "And bear in mind that death would have been instantaneous ... the aircraft was literally smashed to bits."
    The disturbing part was that the pilot can be heard knocking on the door, then attempting to break the cockpit door down to get back into the cockpit. BBC reports:
    "We hear the pilot ask the co-pilot to take control of the plane and we hear at the same time the sound of a seat moving backwards and the sound of a door closing," Mr Robin told reporters. 
    He said the pilot, named in the German media as Patrick S, had probably gone to the toilet. 
    "At that moment, the co-pilot is controlling the plane by himself. While he is alone, the co-pilot presses the buttons of the flight monitoring system to put into action the descent of the aeroplane.
    "He operated this button for a reason we don't know yet, but it appears that the reason was to destroy this plane." 
    Mr Lubitz was alive until the final impact, the prosecutor said. 
    Mr Robin said "the most plausible interpretation" was that the co-pilot had deliberately barred the pilot from re-entering the cockpit.
    Lubitz's religion is currently unknown, but he apparently suffered from severe depression several years ago. That latter article also indicates that the flight cockpit recording indicated that Lubitz was breathing until the crash--he was not unconscious. (See also this article).

             The inability of someone to get into the cockpit in the event of an emergency has been a concern for a while. Instapundit linked yesterday to a March 19, 2014, article at Popular Mechanics concerning Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which warned that cockpits could be too secure:
    In the days following 9/11, securing the cockpit was the number one priority for the airline industry. Once-flimsy cockpit doors were reinforced with Kevlar so that no one could force their way in with a gun or with sheer brute force. Doors were required to be bolted and locked at all times once the cabin door was shut. Air marshals were posted near the flight deck (to the point where it became a common parlor game to pick out the guard from the rest of the front cabin). Passengers were forbidden to congregate anywhere nearby. 
    * * * 
    John Magaw, the first person to head the nascent TSA in 2001, told CNN that an always-locked cockpit was a concern since the outset. He said he told airlines, "Don't lock those doors so that you can't get in from the outside if something happens, and it fell on deaf ears," alluding to a well-publicized case of pilots who "flew past the airport because they were both asleep." However, some pilots scoffed at the idea that a locked cockpit is a serious concern, noting that planes are programmed to fly safely and even land on autopilot in the unlikely event both pilots nod off. 
    Former Jetblue CEO and founder David Neeleman, whose airline was the first to install the reinforced cockpit doors system-wide after 9/11, tells PopMech that the latest troubling scenario means that "perhaps there needs to be way to get back in that door." 
    "But nobody ever thought about having to protect the passengers from the pilots," he says.

    Closer to War Between Iran and Saudi Arabia

              The Shia-Sunni civil war is increasingly a war between Iran and the Gulf States--particularly Saudi Arabia--over whether Iran can establish a regional hegemony. David P. Goldman has been warning about war with Iran for at least 10 years. In his book How Civilizations Die, he observed that the Iran's falling birth rates were pushing it into a corner--either attempt a break-out war to establish its empire, or, like Europe, recede quietly into history. In a March 4, 2015, article entitled "The World Bows to Iranian Regional Hegemony," Goldman wrote:
    The problem with Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress March 3 was not the risk of offending Washington, but rather Washington’s receding relevance. President Barack Obama is not the only leader who wants to acknowledge what is already a fact in the ground, namely that “Iran has become the preeminent strategic player in West Asia to the increasing disadvantage of the US and its regional allies,” as a former Indian ambassador to Oman wrote this week.

    For differing reasons, the powers of the world have elected to legitimize Iran’s dominant position, hoping to delay but not deter its eventual acquisition of nuclear weapons. Except for Israel and the Sunni Arab states, the world has no desire to confront Iran. Short of an American military strike, which is unthinkable for this administration, there may be little that Washington can do to influence the course of events. Its influence has fallen catastrophically in consequence of a chain of policy blunders.
     
    * * * 
    Most of the world wants a deal, because the alternative would be war. For 10 years I have argued that war is inevitable whatever the diplomats do, and that the question is not if, but how and when. President Obama is not British prime minister Neville Chamberlain selling out to Hitler at Munich in 1938: rather, he is Lord Halifax, that is, Halifax if he had been prime minister in 1938. Unlike the unfortunate Chamberlain, who hoped to buy time for Britain to build warplanes, Halifax liked Hitler, as Obama and his camarilla admire Iran. 
    China is Chamberlain, hoping to placate Iran in order to buy time. China’s dependence on Middle East oil will increase during the next decade no matter what else China might do, and a war in the Persian Gulf would ruin it. 
    Until early 2014, China believed that the United States would guarantee the security of the Persian Gulf. After the rise of Islamic State (ISIS), it concluded that the United States no longer cared, or perhaps intended to destabilize the region for nefarious reasons. But China does not have means to replace America’s presence in the Persian Gulf. Like Chamberlain at Munich, it seeks delay. 
    * * * 
    Apart from its nuclear ambitions, the broader deal envisioned by Washington would leave Iran as a de facto suzerain in Iraq. It would also make Iran the dominant power in Lebanon (via Hezbollah), Syria (via its client regime) and Yemen (through its Houthi proxies). Although Sunni Muslims outnumber Shi’ites by 6:1, Sunni populations are concentrated in North Africa, Turkey and South Asia. Iran hopes to dominate the Levant and Mesopotamia, encircling Saudi Arabia and threatening Azerbaijan.
    * * * 
    The Israeli prime minister asserted that the alternative to a bad deal is not war, but a better deal. I do not think he believes that, but Americans cannot wrap their minds around the notion that West Asia will remain at war indefinitely, especially because the war arises from their own stupidity. 
    Balance of power in the Middle East is inherently impossible today for the same reason it failed in Europe in 1914, namely a grand demographic disequilibrium: Iran is on a course to demographic disaster, and must assert its hegemony while it still has time.
    Game theorists might argue that Iran has a rational self-interest to trade its nuclear ambitions for the removal of sanctions. The solution to a multi-period game – one that takes into account Iran’s worsening demographic weakness – would have a solution in which Iran takes great risks to acquire nuclear weapons.
     
    Between 30% and 40% of Iranians will be older than 60 by mid-century (using the UN Population Prospect’s Constant Fertility and “Low” Variants). Meanwhile, its military-age population will fall by a third to a half. 
    Belated efforts to promote fertility are unlikely to make a difference. The causes of Iranian infertility are baked into the cake – higher levels of female literacy, an officially-sanctioned culture of sexual license administered by the Shi’ite clergy as “temporary marriage,” epidemic levels of sexually-transmitted disease and inbreeding. Iran, in short, has an apocalyptic regime with a lot to be apocalyptic about. 
    Henry Kissinger is right: peace can be founded on either hegemony or balance of power. Iran cannot be a hegemon for long because it will implode economically and demographically within a generation. In the absence of either, the result is war. For the past 10 years I have argued in this space that when war is inevitable, preemption is the least damaging course of action. I had hoped that George W Bush would have the gumption to de-fang Iran, and was disappointed when he came under the influence of Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates. Now we are back in 1938, but with Lord Halifax rather than Neville Chamberlain in charge.
              Unfortunately, Obama's decision to disengage from the Middle-East and support Iran has dangerously undermined Saudi Arabia's influence in the region. On March 16, 2015, Goldman wrote in "Iran as Regional Hegemon: Tehran’s Success and Riyadh’s Failure":
    A sign of Saudi Arabia’s waning influence was Pakistan’s decision March 15 to refuse a Saudi request for Pakistani troops to deploy on its border with Yemen, now controlled by pro-Iranian Houthi rebels. A senior Pakistani official told the local press, “Pakistan would not rush to join the anti-Iran alliance that is being forged,” in the wake of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Saudi Arabia last week. “We cannot afford to involve ourselves in the disputes among the Muslim countries,” the official said, adding that Pakistan could spare no additional troops for Saudi Arabia. 
    That is a serious rebuff for Riyadh, which reportedly financed Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program as a last-ditch guarantee of its own security. ...
    Unfortunately for Saudi Arabia, as Goldman notes, the bet has not paid off (and he wonders if the United States and/or China influenced Pakistan to not provide troops). However, Goldman notes that the stars have not aligned for Saudi Arabia in other ways: the rise of militant Sunni Islam threatens China and Russia, driving both those powers into Iran's camp. Saudi Arabia's export of Wahhabism may have been Saudi Arabia's death warrant.

              Anyway, as recent events have shown, the U.S. efforts (and perhaps we should question how much effort was actually made) to support Yemen in the face of the Iranian backed Houthi rebels have failed, with the Yemeni president having to flee the country for safety. Now, Saudi Arabia is taking direct military action. Al Arabiya reports:
    Saudi Arabia waged early Thursday “Operation Decisive Storm” against the Houthi coup in Yemen and in support of legitimate President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
    A Saudi air campaign was launched overnight which has already resulted in the elimination of several Houthi leaders.
     
    Yemen air space is currently under full control of the Saudi Royal Air Force.
    As the operation continues, a coalition of all GCC countries, barring Oman, is taking part in the campaign, including Sudan, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan and Pakistan.
     
    Saudi Arabia has deployed 100 fighter jets, 150,000 soldiers and other navy units, Al Arabiya News Channel reported. 
    Meanwhile, Yemen shut its major seaports on Thursday while Saudi Arabia halted flights to seven airports south of the Kingdom, Reuters news agency reported.
    Fox News' report on the strike indicates that Iran is upset:
    A coalition of Arab nations led by Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes against military bases held by Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen early Thursday, as Iran warned that Riyadh was taking a "dangerous step." 
    The statement Thursday from Tehran's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham did not name Saudi Arabia but called the airstrikes an "invasion." The statement went on to claim that the campaign would worsen the already deteriorating security situation in Yemen.  
    Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya News reported that the kingdom had deployed 100 fighter jets, 150,000 soldiers and other navy units. News footage of the strikes aired by Saudi-owned Al-Hadath TV showed flashing lights and what sounded like machine gun fire. 
    Some of the strikes hit positions in Yemen's capital, Sanaa. In response, the Houthis, were calling on their supporters to protest in the city's streets on Thursday afternoon, Yemen's Houthi-controlled state news agency SABA reported. 
    The airstrikes were announced in a rare news conference late Wednesday, Eastern Time, by Saudi ambassador to the U.S. Adel al-Jubeir, who said the Saudis "will do anything necessary" to protect the people of Yemen and "the legitimate government of Yemen." Al-Jubeir said his government had consulted closely with the U.S. and other allies but that the U.S. military was not involved in the operations.
     An article in The Guardian, "Iran-Saudi proxy war in Yemen explodes into region-wide crisis," notes:
    Like a ticking timebomb left unattended for too long, Yemen’s undeclared civil war has suddenly exploded into a region-wide crisis that will have far-reaching, unpredictable international consequences, not least for Britain and the US. 
    The conflict, spreading outwards like a poison cloud from the key southern battleground around Aden, pits Saudi Arabia, the leading Sunni Muslim power, plus what remains of Yemen’s government against northern-based Houthi rebels, who are covertly backed by Shia Muslim Iran. 
    What has until now been an unacknowledged proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the two great powers of the Middle East, has now burst into an open confrontation that appears to be escalating rapidly as other countries and players are sucked in. The primary Saudi aim is to pacify Yemen, but its wider objective is to send a powerful message to Iran: stop meddling in Arab affairs.
    * * *
    Iran is widely believed to have trained Houthi fighters and supplied arms since the insurgency began. But this is flatly denied in Tehran. Iran has nevertheless kept up a constant barrage of criticism of Saudi and western efforts to forge a political settlement in Yemen. It appears to see the country in terms of a region-wide struggle for power and influence between itself and Saudi Arabia, a struggle that in turn reflects the Sunni-Shia schism across the Muslim world. 
    Its first reaction to Saudi-led air strikes overnight was to condemn them as “US-backed aggression”. The foreign ministry in Tehran described the intervention as a dangerous step with unpredictable consequences. “Iran wants an immediate halt to all military aggressions and air strikes against Yemen and its people … Military action in Yemen, which faces a domestic crisis … will further complicate the situation … and will hinder efforts to resolve the crisis through peaceful ways,” the ministry spokeswoman, Marzieh Afkham, said. 
    It seems possible that the success of the Houthis’ drive south, and the dramatic Saudi reaction in mobilising an international intervention, has taken Iran by surprise. It is unclear how much control Tehran exercises over the rebels. 
    The long-running rebellion has been a useful, low-cost way for Iran to keep the Saudis off-balance and under pressure in the regional power battle. Now the puppet may have broken loose from the puppeteers. Iran is facing off against Saudi Arabia on other fronts in Syria, the Gulf and not least in Iraq, where the Shia-led government in Baghdad is widely seen to be under Tehran’s influence. 
    Iranian-backed militia are also leading the current fightback against Sunni Muslim Islamic State forces north of Baghdad, whom Saudi Wahhabi hardliners and groups are said to have funded.
             I don't believe that Iran will let itself be drawn directly into the war in Yemen, at least in a military sense. Rather, it's role, if any, may end up being as a peace broker, increasing its influence in the region and further undermining Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, Obama's fecklessness will have created yet another failed state.

              Having to rely on public news sources, I can't claim to have special insight into the region. But if Iran were to gain the upper hand, and Pakistan is unwilling or unable to support Saudi Arabia, including nuclear guarantees, we may see something unthinkable happen: Saudi Arabia turning to Israel for assistance.

    Wednesday, March 25, 2015

    "Foraging Isn’t Actually That Cool"

    The downside to foraging from Modern Farmer.

    Storing Wheat

    A useful article from the Utah State University Extension office on the basic types of wheat, storing wheat, and environmental conditions (heat and/or humidity) that can degrade wheat. As long as wheat is stored in a cool environment, it can be stored up to 6 months in a pantry; or up to a year in a freezer. However, in sealed containers (e.g., sealed #10 cans or plastic buckets) it can last for decades.

    Flour generally has a shorter shelf life, although sources seem to disagree as to the time (see, e.g., here and here).

    "The Delusions and Malevolence of Our 'Elite' Class"

    An article at the Diplomad.

    China's Space Weapon Developments

    On China’s space weapons buildup, dubbed “counterspace” arms by the Pentagon, Haney said the United States needs to be ready to deal with attacks on satellites in a future conflict. 
    “The threat in space, I fundamentally believe, is a real one. It’s been demonstrated,” Haney said, noting China’s 2007 anti-satellite missile test against an orbiting satellite that created tens of thousand of debris pieces. 
    “They’ve repeated this kind of test last summer, and during that test, fortunately, they did not do a hit-to-kill kind of thing,” he said, noting that no further debris was created.
    “But just seeing the nature of these types of activities show how committed they are to a counter-space campaign,” Haney said. “So we have to be ready for any campaign that extends its way into space.”
     
    The July 23 test of the anti-satellite missile was identified by defense officials as the DN-1 anti-satellite interceptor missile. China also has a second anti-satellite (ASAT) missile called the DN-2 that was tested in 2013 and is designed to hit satellites in high-earth orbit—the location of intelligence, navigation, and targeting satellites. 
    China, which is publicly opposing the development of space weapons, did not identify the test as an anti-satellite missile. Instead, the Defense Ministry described the test as a “land-based anti-missile technology experiment.” 
    Haney said the July test was similar to the 2007 ASAT test. 
    “The only difference this time [is that] it did not impact another satellite,” he said. “I’m not convinced that was their intention. But quite frankly, just the whole physics and the demonstration and everything that they did, I’m sure they collected data in order to further make this an operational capability. … This was also a test for capability in low earth orbit.”

    Update on Yemen

    Yemen's president has fled the country in a boat (apparently the airport was unavailable), and Saudi Arabia is massing troops on its border with Yemen.

    The Biggest Threat to Our Right to Keep and Bear Arms Is Amnesty

    Jeff Knox, writing at The Truth About Guns, discusses why amnesty for illegal immigrants (who would undoubtedly vote Democratic) is the biggest threat to our Second Amendment rights.

    Tuesday, March 24, 2015

    Immigration and Negative Returns on Investment

    [Robert] Rector [of the Heritage Foundation] told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last week that the lifetime costs of Social Security and Medicare benefits paid to the millions of immigrants to whom Obama is granting legal status will be about $1.3 trillion. 
    Rector's calculation is based on his assumption that at least 3.97 million immigrants will receive legal status under Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, and the average DAPA beneficiary has only a 10th-grade education. 
    DAPA recipients, according to Rector's calculations, will receive $7.8 billion every year once they get access to the refundable earned income tax credit and the refundable additional child tax credit. Those EITC and ACTC recipients will also be allowed to claim credit for three years of illegal work, which will sock U.S. taxpayers for another $23.5 billion.

    * * *
    The average DAPA-eligible family already receives about $6,600 a year in means-tested welfare benefits. That includes food stamps, school lunch (and breakfast), Medicaid, the State Children's Health Insurance Program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.
     
    Many Americans labor under the false assumption that because most immigrants are hardworking, they do not depend on welfare assistance. In fact, as Rector patiently explains, most welfare benefits go to households with children headed by a low-income employed adult. 
    Rector estimates that the combined cost of means-tested welfare benefits the immigrants who came here illegally now receive, plus other goodies such as EITC and ACTC cash, will encourage increased illegal immigration in the future.

    * * *
    Nearly a third of "English learners" in U.S. public schools are third-generation Americans who still are not speaking English at home, and the Hispanic illegitimacy rate is 53%. The cheap labor welcomed by employers is not only a huge impediment for American job seekers but also a big expense to taxpayers, who are hit with new costs of schools, hospitals and prisons.

    "Food Storage Essentials: Tips for storing leavening and salt"

    An article by Leslie Probert at the Deseret News.

    Preparing and Canning a Navy Bean and Ham Soup

    Perky Prepping Gramma has a recipe and instructions for making navy bean and ham soup, and canning the same for your food storage.

    The Fall of Yemen

    Sunni extremists, including Islamic State fighters and Qaeda militants, have carried out deadly attacks against Shiite supporters of the Houthi rebel movement, which controls Sana and since September has been Yemen’s most dominant force. 
    The only silver lining to the collapsing security situation, some American officials say, is that Houthis are even more dedicated to fighting Al Qaeda than many of the Yemeni forces have been. 
    Still, Western officials and Yemeni experts fear that a security vacuum resembling Somalia’s would draw even more jihadists to ungoverned territory in Yemen, where they would have the space and time to plot attacks against the West. 
    “I don’t even think it’s accurate to think of Yemen as a single country anymore,” said Gregory D. Johnsen, a Yemen specialist and writer at large at BuzzFeed. “At best it has dissolved into a series of power blocs that are less and less able to influence change across the country.”
    Over at Foreign Policy, Paul Bonicelli points out the repercussions go beyond just Yemen.
    Look at a map of the Arabian Peninsula and the surrounding region while taking into account recent headlines and you’ll see that both sides in the war between Shiite and Sunni radicals are defeating the United States. That is, radical Islamist forces (both sets of them) are winning and the United States is losing. We are in one of the most significant crises we have faced in the Middle East because the White House has managed to discourage and weaken all of our allies and at the same time provide opportunities to all of our enemies. 
    * * * 
    This means the most important U.S. interests in the region are in peril. It is within the realm of possibility that the Saudi kingdom could fall to both the Islamic and the Shiite forces surrounding it even though these forces are locked in the centuries-old contest between Shiite and Sunni. And if the Kingdom falls, Israel and Egypt are alone. 
    Significantly, Iran stands to score a double victory in the cold war it launched with the United States over 25 years ago. Unless the Congress checks the Obama administration, the Iranians might well win the nuclear contest with the United States this year. But it could win the conventional forces contest with the United States even sooner, although it would be sharing that victory with Sunni radical forces like the Islamic State and al Qaeda. 
    It is almost impossible to imagine a way for Obama to leave office without being seen as having presided over a catastrophe that let our greatest enemies rise to perhaps unalterable victories. The catastrophe: a nuclear Iran and its proxies surrounding what’s left of Saudi Arabia after the Islamic State and al Qeada forces disfigure and dismember it.

    A Quick Run Around the Web: March 24, 2015

    Today's selection of articles have to do with why Islamic civilization is incompatible with Western civilization and Western mores.

    Monday, March 23, 2015

    "Build a Keyhole Garden"

    An article from Backwoods Home Magazine for those living in arid, rocky environments, or otherwise where there is poor soil.
    A keyhole garden is basically an aboveground circle garden with a notch in it resembling a keyhole (hence the name) and a composter directly in the center to continuously feed the entire garden. The purpose of the notch is so you can reach the composter easily without having to step into the garden. A keyhole garden should be no larger than about six feet in diameter. Any bigger than that, and the water and nutrients will have a hard time reaching the edges of the garden. 
    The keyhole garden was invented and used by missionaries in areas of frequent drought or natural desert conditions, mainly places such as Africa, where this style of garden is still being used today. These gardens give people a way to feed their families healthy, sustainable food even in the middle of a drought or economic trouble. A keyhole garden has the ability to use very little water (only a gallon a day in slightly cooler weather), especially if you make a cover for your composter. This prevents the water from evaporating as quickly. 
    Keyhole gardens also provide a significant amount of food for such a small footprint. I experimented with my garden this year; half of it I planted with the "correct" amount of space between plants and on the other half I crowded them purposefully. The side that I crowded did significantly better due to the fact that the crowding allowed a natural shade and mulch environment which aided in water conservation for the plants.
    Read the whole thing, including the instructions.

    The Weaver Stance Explained

    Article and video at the Empty-Cases blog.

    When Seconds Count, The Police Are Only Minutes Away...If They Come At All

    A disturbing article from The Truth About Guns, relating how the police in Savannah, Georgia, responded to two men walking through a neighborhood randomly shooting at houses and yards:
    ... The police got there a good 10 minutes after the dudes had bailed. The response: one cop in a squad car .... He got out and casually strolled around, and started picking up spent brass with his bare hands. 
    My acquaintance went out to talk to him and asked, “Shouldn’t you be wearing gloves?” The cop said, “Oh, uh yeah, I guess I should, huh?” 
    A couple more cops arrived and they don’t understand why my friend is shaken up and scared. They went with him into his house and began to get very testy with him, and started to question him. They seemed to be rather irritated that they were called, and didn’t think the situation was a big deal. 
    He eventually asked them to leave, multiple times, and they finally did. Nothing else happened afterwards. It didn’t even make the local TV news. As far as I know, these guys are still on the loose, brazen enough to light up a neighborhood on a Sunday afternoon. ...

    The Spread of 4th Generation Warfare

    Just a few articles showing the breakdown of the state monopoly of violence that lies as the heart of the modern systems of nation-states, and responsible for much of the decline of warfare over the last several hundred years.



    Rebels seized an international airport in Yemen Sunday as a U.N. envoy warned that the country was at "the edge of civil war." 
    Houthi militants took over the airport in Taiz as they swept through the city and surrounding province, two officials with the Taiz provincial government said. 
    One civilian was killed and 82 others wounded when the rebels fired at local residents protesting their presence, the officials said. 
    The rebels have also seized security and intelligence buildings in Taiz and set up checkpoints in the area, the officials said. Taiz, about 390 kilometers (240 miles) south of Sanaa, is Yemen's cultural capital. 
    The rebels -- Shiite Muslims who have long felt marginalized in the majority Sunni country -- surrounded the presidential palace in January. Yemen's President and his Cabinet resigned days later. 
    Ousted President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi says his resignation wasn't valid and maintains that he remains the country's leader. 
    In a statement Sunday, the United Nations Security Council backed Hadi, calling for all sides to end armed hostilities and work out differences at the negotiating table. 
    "Peaceful dialogue is the only way forward," said Jamal Benomar, the U.N.'s special adviser on Yemen. 
    But he gave a dire assessment of the current situation, saying the country is in a "rapid downward spiral" and at "the edge of civil war."

    So what, then, is the Templar lesson for ISIS?  Perhaps it is simply that the hagiography of state authority waxes and wanes. Caesar will not always be Caesar. Today, it is expressly evident that there is a border between Iraq and Syria on our maps; but it is also expressly evident that there is no border in real life. Nor is there a real one between Syria and Lebanon; nor perhaps, really between Iraq and Iran. There is a gap in capacity.  
    ISIS has arisen to fill that gap, but something else will arise to push back against it, since states cannot. That something won’t be the Templars, exactly, but it will also not be a state. It will instead be new non-state networks to funnel money and fighters against ISIS.  
    There are already reports of Americans and other Westerners going to join the Kurdish militias; how long before the Christian communities in Iraq and other ethno-sectarian communities under assault begin to attract adherents as well?   
    The war against ISIS and radical Islam may not always be state versus non-state, but perhaps eventually non-state versus non-state. Popularized violence and popularized sovereignty; more efficient, certainly, to cut out the middleman. It would be the return of de Molay, at least for a while, until they don’t need him anymore. 

    •  The Sons of Liberty International website. "Sons of Liberty International (SOLI) is the first security contracting firm run as a non-profit. SOLI provides free security consulting and training services to vulnerable populations to enable them to defend themselves against terrorist and insurgent groups."

    Saturday, March 21, 2015

    "Can you learn martial arts from books and videos?"

    A video from Skalligram:


    Short answer: no (or not really) on your own; yes (possibly) with a partner. But, even with a partner, there are difficulties and limitations on learning without a competent instructor, and it will be slower.

    Friday, March 20, 2015

    "A Common Over-The-Counter Cough Suppressant Can Boost Insulin"

    An article at Ars Technica. The cough suppressant is Dextromethorphan (DXM), which can be found in Vick's NyQuil Cold & Flu Relief, Triaminic Multi-Symptom Fever, Dimetapp Children's Multi-Symptom Cold & Flu, Tylenol Cold Multi-Symptom Nighttime, and similar over-the-counter cold medicines. The research cited by the article suggests that the cough suppressant may be more effective for treating Type 2 diabetes than other diabetic medications.

    Russian Leaders Contemplating War?

    I am just going to provide links to a couple articles by J.R. Nyquist on rumors that Russia may be considering a nuclear strike on the U.S. in the near future: "What Is Moscow’s Game?" and "It Takes a Traitor (and a Misfit)." I hope to further address these articles over the weekend.

    More Photographs of Ruins

    The Knowledge website has a collection of beautiful (in a haunting way) modern ruins, including the one shown below. Check them all out.

    source:

    The Myanmar (Burma) Insurgency and China

    From an article at the The Diplomat entitled "After Myanmar Bombing, China Deploys Jets, Warns of 'Resolute Measures'":
    On Friday, Chinese media confirmed that air strikes conducted by the Myanmar Air Force, purportedly in their efforts to suppress ethnic Chinese Kokang rebels in the country’s northeast, mistakenly struck a sugarcane field across the border in China’s Yunnan province, killing four and wounding an additional nine. The incident represents the most serious cross-border escalation of Myanmar’s internal crisis and has drawn a sharp reaction from China, which warned Myanmar as early as last Tuesday to ensure that no bombs cross the border. On Saturday, members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army establishment chimed in with their views on the situation. As expected, senior PLA officials were outraged and expressed, in no uncertain terms, the need for Myanmar to treat this situation seriously. 
    General Fan Changlong, vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission (CMC), China’s apex military leadership body, told Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s armed forces, that the situation was entirely unacceptable and that Myanmar ought to “seriously control” its military. Fan additionally told the Burmese commander that such an incident could never be allowed to take place again. Beyond his condemnation of the Myanmar armed forces, Fan continued and issued a warning, noting that should Chinese civilians face harm as a result of Myanmar armed forces’ actions, the “Chinese military will take resolute measures to protect the safety of Chinese people and their assets.” 
    This is a remarkable statement from the vice chairman of the CMC, and suggests that the People’s Liberation Army could move to take kinetic military action against Myanmar, ....
    The article goes on to note that last week, 30,000 refugees crossed from Burma into China. Burma has also accused China of supporting the rebels.

    China's threat has already caused Burma to limit its use of strike aircraft. The lack of air support is credited for a significant victory by Kokang guerrilla fighters over Burmese troops earlier this week.



    FEMA To Deny Funds to Heretical States

    "I find your lack of faith disturbing."

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency is making it tougher for governors to deny man-made climate change. Starting next year, the agency will approve disaster preparedness funds only for states whose governors approve hazard mitigation plans that address climate change. 
    This may put several Republican governors who maintain the earth isn't warming due to human activities, or prefer to do nothing about it, into a political bind. Their position may block their states' access to hundreds of millions of dollars in FEMA funds. Over the past five years, the agency has awarded an average $1 billion a year in grants to states and territories for taking steps to mitigate the effects of disasters. 

    ATF Received More Comments on Ammo Ban Than Previously Reported

    The ATF had previously reported receiving about 80,000 comments to its proposal to ban the M885 ammunition. Now, the Agency is admitting to receiving more than 310,000 comments.

    Review of Long Term Use of the BCM Gunfighter Stock

    The Firearms Blog offers a long-term review of the BCM Gunfighter stock by Timothy Yan, who apparently has been using it since May 2014.

    Get Ready for Erdogan Caliphate?

    The head of a provincial branch of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has stirred the pot by tweeting that the country should “get ready for the caliphate” of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. 
    Fuat Özgür Çalapkulu, the head of the AKP in the eastern province of Siirt, sent the controversial tweet on March 17, hours after Selahattin Demirtaş, the co-leader of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), said his party “will never let you be president [in a presidential system].” 
    In his tweet, Çalapkulu said Erdoğan’s opponents had in the past claimed that Erdoğan could not even be a village headman, but in fact he managed to rise to the top of the Turkish state. 
    “Now they are saying he cannot be president [under a presidential system]. The caliph is coming, get ready,” he added, referring to Erdoğan as “the tall man,” like many of his supporters.  
    A caliph is a spiritual leader of Islam who claims succession from Prophet Muhammad. The word, stemming from the Arabic khalifa meaning “successor,” has been the focus of much debate since being claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
     Çalapkulu goes on to claim that he meant a different meaning or connotation.

    Social Justice Warrior Wants to Confiscate Guns from White Men

    Andrea Grimes, the pro-mass-killing-of-unborn-babies writer for RH Reality Check (a feminist news blog), has suggested that the government should confiscate the guns of white men. Not sure what that would accomplish, even if it were possible, since it would have a negligible impact on crime. But it just illustrates that we live in crazy times with lots of crazy people.

    Thursday, March 19, 2015

    "Leave No Trace killed Woodcraft… almost"

    An article at Master Woodsman that takes a critical look at the Leave No Trace (LNT) philosophy and principles.

    Post-SHTF Security from a Woman's Perspective

    Evelyn Hively is one of the contributors to the Blue Collar Prepping blog. Back in the early days of the blog, she wrote a three part article on security entitled "Security: It's Everyone's(!) Job" which focused on security issues from a woman's perspective. The first part of the series mostly concentrated on ways to not stick out as a woman--i.e., not make yourself a target. The other two parts dealt with more general security concerns. Anyway, check them out: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

    For Some Reason, This Appeals To Me As A Retreat....

    From the Daily Mail:
    If you dream of living on a houseboat or barge but can't imagine giving up some of your mod cons, this floating home may be the answer. 
    The solar-powered Water Nest 100 can be placed on any lake or river and is completely powered by solar energy.  
    It was developed for London-based EcoFloLife by Italian architect Giancarlo Zema and has enough space to accommodate a family of four with two bedrooms.  
    The largest model of the circular house measures 39 ft (12 metres) in diameter and 13 ft (4 metres) tall, with 1,076 square feet (100 square metres) of floor space plus balconies.  
    Other homes can be made to order in both 649 square feet (60 square metre) and 861 square feet (80 square metre) versions. 
    Prices start at €500,000 (£358,000) and range up to €800,000 (£57,000) and the home can be placed on any 'calm body of water' - it can also be moved, albeit not easily. These prices include furnishings from EcoFloLife catalogue including chairs and beds made from cardboard
    Outside

    The largest model measures 39 ft (12 metres) in diameter and 13 ft (4 metres) tall, with 1,076 square feet (100 square metres) of space plus balconies. Other homes can be made to order in both 649 square feet (60 square metre) and 861 square feet (80 square metre) versions
    Inside
    It's surrounded by water (i.e., a moat), solar powered, well lit. Unfortunately, the article doesn't discuss heating and cooling options, plumbing, etc.