Wednesday, March 8, 2017

March 8, 2017 -- A Quick Run Around the Web

Black Pigeon Speaks (9 min.)

  • "The Psychology of Previous Investment"--Greg Ellifritz, Active Response Training. The basic concept here is that we become emotionally or socially invested in a bad decision, refusing to abandon it in favor of a better choice or even acknowledge that we have made a bad decision; thus the expression "throwing good money after bad." Ellifritz applies this to shooting and self-defense; in particular, the choice of a carry gun, the type of clothing we select and wear, and self-defense training. Ellifritz, as a weapon and self-defense instructor, sees this most often with firearms. He observes that people will spend considerable time researching the best handgun, for instance, talk to "experts" and select a gun. "The gun works ok.  Maybe it doesn’t fit their hand well or maybe the recoil is really too intense for their skill level.  Maybe [the] gun jams every 20 rounds.  It could be a variety of factors, but it soon becomes obvious that they made a bad decision." But they can't admit to themselves that it was a bad decision, and, instead proceed to make excuses, and invest more heavily in the firearm: replacing a trigger or springs, try out a plethora of different brands of ammunition, replace the sights, try different magazines, try a different holster, and perhaps even have some custom gunsmithing to correct perceived shortcomings in the weapon, when the real solution is to simply move on to something else.
       I know of what he means. As I've related before, when I first started carrying a concealed weapon, I spent significant time researching different guns, calibers and carry methods. And I went through several firearms and at least twice as many holsters, before I ended up with a S&W snub-nose which I carried for nearly 20 years before recently switching to a new semi-automatic. And I had three different holsters for that revolver for different situations and clothes. I later tried carrying a Glock 26, but ended up returning to the revolver. 
       As an opposite example, my Glock 34 seems to be becoming a money pit. It had a horrible trigger, which necessitated a different trigger connector and replacing springs. I've switched out the magazine release. I've had issues with the Magpul magazines for it. I'm trying to decide whether to replace the sights or not (I bought some replacement sights, but am considering putting them on my older Glock 26). 
  • Speaking of money pit, this might be nice: "Strike Industries’ New G4 Slidecomp For Gen 4 Glocks"--The Firearms Blog. This is a compensator that does not need a threaded barrel or other gun smithing work, but attaches to the Gen 4 (and only the Gen 4) slide. Interestingly, though, it does require you to replace the Gen 4 operating rod and spring with the Gen 3 rod and spring. Those are included with the kit.
  • "IWA: New Heckler & Koch Futuristic Concept Guns"--The Firearms Blog. HK has shown off concept art for future civilian weapon designs. A couple of the semi-auto models are based on the G-3/HK-91 system and actually look pretty good.
  • "The Top 10 Guns Women Purchased in 2016"--The Well Armed Woman. Number 1 was the Smith & Wesson M&P 9 Shield.
  • "How to survive an apocalypse: Scientists reveal the seven keys to 'rebooting civilisation'"--Daily Mail. The seven items/technologies: (i) purify water; (ii) prevent infection; (iii) generate power; (iv) grow food; (v) "drive tree powered cars" (gasification of wood); (vi) restart a chemical industry; and (vii) be scientific (i.e., use the scientific method). 
  • "Cyberwar via Cyberwar during War" The author discusses the attacks on the Ukrainian power grid ("flicking the lights") and how it causes temporary power outages. The article is more about how this tactic doesn't really harm Ukraine, but is good psychological warfare against the West (particularly the United States). Basic takeaway: we are too scared of "flicking the lights" for our own good.

Other Stuff:
The lesson here is that you must practice OPSEC even at home; don't say anything around a smart phone or other smart device (even if you think it is off) that you don't want people to know. Intelligence agencies have been hacking cell phones since the 1990s at least (that is how they gathered intelligence on the Columbian drug lords), and the media has been reporting hacks of laptop computers (including cameras and microphones) for years, so this is something you should have been practicing well before this. If not, start now. 
  • Protecting the currency: "American Shale Ready to Take On Petrostates"--American Interest. With OPEC restricting production, prices have risen to the point that many idled fracking wells in the United States are coming back on line. Consequently, "nearly three years after a global glut sent oil prices into a tailspin and American oil producers to their nearest lenders, U.S. oil production is once again floating above 9 million bpd." I've argued before that while the dollar is not a gold based currency, it is, because of Saudi denomination of oil sales in dollars, a petroleum backed currency. The ability of the United States to produce excess oil for export protects the value of the dollar.
  • Another BRIC bites the dust: "Brazil's worst-ever recession unexpectedly deepens in late 2016"--Reuters. From the article:
           Brazil's worst-ever recession intensified unexpectedly in the final quarter of 2016, data showed on Tuesday, frustrating hopes for signs of a recovery and stepping up pressure on President Michel Temer and the central bank to do more to promote growth.
             Brazil's gross domestic product contracted by 3.6 percent last year, statistics agency IBGE said, following a 3.8 percent drop in 2015. The nation's two-year downturn is the longest and deepest on record for Latin America's biggest nation.
               The economic contraction worsened in the fourth quarter, with a steeper-than-expected decline of 0.9 percent, following a 0.7 percent drop in the previous three months.
                 Investment tumbled 10.2 percent in 2016, in a sharp drop that is partly blamed by economists on Brazil's chronically high interest rates.
          • "China’s Economy Continues to Decline"--George Friedman notes that Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told the National People’s Congress that China’s GDP growth rate would drop from 7 percent in 2016 to 6.5 percent this year. Since the growth in 2016 was the lowest since 1990, and it is well known that China exaggerates its positive economic news, the reality is probably more like no growth this coming year. Friedman explains:
                   China’s economic miracle, like that of Japan before it, is over. Its resurrection simply isn’t working, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. Sustained double-digit economic growth is possible when you begin with a wrecked economy. In Japan’s case, the country was recovering from World War II. China was recovering from Mao Zedong’s policies. Simply by getting back to work an economy will surge. If the damage from which the economy is recovering is great enough, that surge can last a generation.
                     But extrapolating growth rates by a society that is merely fixing the obvious results of national catastrophes is irrational. ... The idea that China was going to economically dominate the world was as dubious as the idea in the 1980s that Japan would. Japan, however, could have dominated if its growth rate would have continued. But since that was impossible, the fantasy evaporates – and with it, the overheated expectations of the world.

                       China’s dilemma, like Japan’s, is that it built much of its growth on exports. Both China and Japan were poor countries, and demand for goods was low. They jump-started their economies by taking advantage of low wages to sell products they could produce themselves to advanced economies. ...
                         China and Japan had two problems. The first was that wages rose. Skilled workers needed to produce more sophisticated products were in short supply. Government policy focusing on exports redirected capital to businesses that were marginal at best, increasing inefficiency and costs. But most importantly – and frequently forgotten by observers of export miracles – is that miracles depend on customers who are willing and able to buy. In that sense, China’s export miracle depended on the appetite of its customers, not on Chinese policy.
                           In 2008, China was hit by a double tsunami. First, the financial crisis plunged its customers into a recession followed by extended stagnation, and the appetite for Chinese goods contracted. Second, China’s competitive advantage was cost, and they now had lower-cost competitors.
                             China’s deepest fear was unemployment, and the country’s interior remained impoverished. If exports plunged and unemployment rose, the Chinese would face both a social and political threat of massive inequality. ... So, a solution was proposed that entailed massive lending to keep non-competitive businesses operating and wages paid. That resulted in even greater inefficiency and made Chinese exports even less competitive.
                               The Chinese surge had another result. China’s success with boosting low-cost goods in advanced economies resulted in an investment boom by Westerners in China. Investors prospered during the surge, but it was at the cost of damaging the economies of China’s customers in two ways. First, low-cost goods undermined businesses in the consuming country. Second, investment capital flowed out of the consuming countries and into China.
                                 That inevitably had political repercussions. The combination of post-2008 stagnation and China’s urgent attempts to maintain exports by keeping its currency low and utilize irrational banking created a political backlash when China could least endure it – which is now. China has a massive industrial system linked to the appetites of the United States and Europe. It is losing competitive advantage at the same time that political systems in some of these countries are generating new barriers to Chinese exports. There is talk of increasing China’s domestic demand, but China is a vast and poor country, and iPads are expensive. It will be a long time before the Chinese economy generates enough demand to consume what its industrial system can produce.
                                   In the meantime, the struggle against unemployment continues to generate irrational investment, and that continues to weigh down the economy. Economically, China needs a powerful recession to get rid of businesses being kept alive by loans. Politically, China can’t afford the cost of unemployment. The re-emergence of a dictatorship in China under President Xi Jinping should be understood in this context. China is trapped between an economic and political imperative. One solution is to switch to a policy that keeps the contradiction under control through the use of repression.
                            • You remember those collage classes where you were supposed to do a group project, and, in the end, only one or two people did all the useful work, and the others essentially contributed nothing? There is now a research study to explain it: "Group IQ Doesn’t Exist"--The Unz Review. "Smart groups are (simply) groups of smart people." So, there is no synergy between members that made the group smarter than its individual members, but groups were necessarily less intelligent then their smartest members. 
                            Their findings should not be interpreted as meaning that groups are useless. On the contrary, given that the management of clever people is so important for success, care must be taken to let the best thinkers concentrate on the hardest problems. Also, it implies that organizations should pay close attention to the intelligence of their staff members, and very probably to pay more attention to the opinions of their brighter workers.
                            It is interesting also that groups did not perform better than individuals – a genuine group-IQ might be expected to enable problem solving to scale linearly (or better) with number of subjects. In group-IQ tasks, coordination costs appear to prevent group problem-solving from rising even to the level of a single individual’s ability. This implicates not only unsolved coordination problems, which are well-known barriers to scale (Simon, 1997) but also reiterates the finding that the individual problem-solver remains the critical reservoir of creativity and novel problem solution (Shockley, 1957).
                            The conclusion you should take away, then, is that "if you want a problem solved, don’t form a team. Find the brightest person and let them work on it. Placing them in a team will, on average, reduce their productivity. My advice would be: never form a team if there is one person who can sort out the problem."
                                   This peculiarity of Swedish public discourse has often allowed politicians and public authorities to deny the problems caused by the country's migration and integration policies, without being seriously challenged. The Swedish foreign ministry, for instance, launched a PR campaign in response to the debate following Donald Trump's remarks about the country. It tweeted last week, as part of the campaign:
                            Does Sweden actually have 'No-Go Zones'? No, we don't. 
                            You think that Swedish police have lost control? The 'no-go zones' are in fact 'go-go zones'. #FactCheck 

                                       But no-go zones cannot simply be dismissed as a myth. Gordon Grattidge, chairman of a Swedish ambulance trade union, explained to me that no-go zones are a reality for paramedics in Sweden. There are areas where first responders can't enter without police escort. Grattidge's assessment is that ambulances are forced to retreat from such areas on a weekly basis.
                                • Related: "Ripple effects in Cairo from IS attacks on Christians"--UPI. "The displacement of Chris­tian residents of North Si­nai after the Islamic State started systemati­cally attacking them has led to unprecedented Christian an­ger and potential withdrawal of sup­port for the government of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi."

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