Showing posts with label China. Show all posts
Showing posts with label China. Show all posts

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Economy and You

The world economy has serious problems. China's stock market basically collapsed despite attempted government interventions. Their economy is cooling. Heck it is just not possible to have 10%+ growth a year for any length of time. They tried devaluing the Yuan but that just stinks of desperation.

 This means many peoples aspirations of a better life are not going to be met. Add that to the real estate market (in China) which is a disaster and there are significant issues. Fundamentally China's recipe of letting people make money in a quasi capitalist economy but restricting freedom of speech, etc all worked when the economy was awesome.

China has a bad case of the flu and all of Asia has gotten sick It is also affecting our markets, arguably pointing out their fundamental weaknesses.

Don't even get me started about the train wreck of the EU. Also slowly but surely the middle east is slipping into a regional war. A war that I can not realistically see a desirable end to. Things are bad there and are almost surely going to get worse.

The stock market had its worst day since 2008. This is bad.

So what can we do?

The standard survivalist advice to move away from a major urban center. Even if moving  to Elk Lake Montana POP 357 is out of the question at least move to a smaller town or bedroom community and for goodness sake get out of NY, LA, Chicago, ATL, Houston, etc.

Along other standard survivalist advice store some food, have guns and know how to use them.

Specifically for this situation.

Before we get started. Look I am not a CPA or a financial adviser.  I am a normal guy who makes what he thinks are the best choices and talks about it on the interwebz. Seriously if you choose to make significant financial choices based on the word of some random guy on the internet you are a fool and deserve everything that happens to you. Consult professionals or be a big boy/ girl and make your own decisions but regardless own your own decisions and don't bitch if they go bad. Consider yourself disclaimed. For whatever it is worth I do have skin in the game as things I talk about are generally in line with, if not exactly, what I am doing. 

Cash on hand. A couple hundred bucks is fine for 3-4 day power outage. Heck for most reasonably prepared people there is some margin in that to pick up a couple things for a neighbor who doesn't have any cash.

 My generic advice is to have at least a month cash expenses on hand at home.

We could define cash expenses as food, fuel, household consumables (trash bags, dishwasher soap, hygiene stuff, etc all), medical needs and the like. Basically the cash expense thing excludes stuff like rent/ mortgage, insurance, investments and other stuff and other such stuff that if need be you could A) send checks for or B) it would not matter immediately. Think about it like this. I have to put cash on the barrel head to get groceries or a tank of gas while, at least in the short term, if I send the land lord/ mortgage company a check they can't cash or not and I'm going to keep living there.

A months cash expenses in small bills (say $100 in ones, $100 in 5's and the rest in 20's up to say 2 grand then the balance in hundreds. ) is a good place to be at. Three months cash expenses physically on hand is a darn good spot to be in.

Saying a months cash expenses vs X dollars is significant because the right answer could vary widely. A single person or lower income family might need to stash $500 to meet a months cash expenses. On the other end of the spectrum a family of 6 in a very comfortable income bracket might need 3-4 grand to have the same level of stability.
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More cash certainly wouldn't hurt. Depending on your risk level to suddenly need to take a months discrete vacation (Tony Soprano style) and your overall liquid cash situation more money doesn't hurt. I know a retired person who has ten grand stashed at their place. That would be 6 months cash expenses for them easy. Things were getting weird and banks didn't pay jack in interest anyway so they stashed a bunch of cash at home. Also folks who went through the Great Depression tend to have some strong feelings in this area. They inherently distrust banks and stash cash under the mattress.

Silver and Gold.

Jim the Greek who bought stocks and mutual funds is pretty much screwed right now. His cousin Joe the Greek who bought gold and silver, physically taking delivery, is doing good and has some options.

A guy in an economic collapse who has a few fractional ( sub 1 oz) coins and a decent bag of silver has some options. A guy who has a few ounces of gold and a 50 cal ammo can full of silver has a lot of options. You get the point.

Fuel and Alternative Energy Plans

A few cans full of gas will likely keep your vehicle running for while. A solar charger with some rechargeable batteries is  nice set up to have.

Anyway I guess in closing 1) Live outside of a major urban center. 2) Store your basic beans, bullets and bandaids and 3) It is prudent to stash some precious metals in case you need them later.

Hope you all get something out of this.

Thoughts?

Thursday, July 9, 2015

7.62x51 FMJ Ammo, Greece and the Chinese Stock Market

My primary bank does not have any branches around here. We have been with them for a long time and are happy with it. Still occasionally there are hassles. Needing to get cash into the digital world is one of those hassles. I usually have a relationship with a local bank. That situation was in flux. Tried to establish a relationship with a new local bank but in short order that complete disaster managed to put a mark in favor of every negative stereotype about the speed, motivation, intelligence and competence of rural Southerners. Seriously it was a complete cluster.

[Note to my Southern brethren. I do not mean to disparage you all. I understand this was probably an anomaly. I have lived in some part of the South for long enough to know that while things move at their own pace this sort of total disaster is not a normal occurrence. Still if something ridiculously stereotypical happens it is worth mentioning. If a Canadian logger wearing denim on denim and a fur hat offered me a Molson and french fries with gravy I would mention it.]

Anyway I wanted to get myself a bunch of Federal XM80 149gr FMJ sooner instead of later. Things have been getting weirder and weirder lately and I would like to have at least a start on fodder for the FN-FAL on hand. The boxer primed stuff is a bit more expensive than the surpus Hirtenberger 7.62x51 battle packs which are Berdan primed. The ability to reload the ammo (probably turning it into some sort of precision load) appeals to me. Also since there isn't any cheap .308 ammo out there anyway might as well pay a little bit more for stuff I can recycle.

The situation in Greece is continuing to unfold. American Mercenary brings up good points that 1) massive debt that cannot be paid is more of an issue for the lender than the debtor and 2) bail in's are inevitable and 3) Americans should consider how a potential future bail in one time tax could affect them.

Still it is small time compared to China.  FerFAL talked about it yesterday and so did Bayou Renaissance Man. China's stock market is swirling down the crapper big time. It is down about a third in a short period of time. According to NPR and the BBC, my main sources, most of China's investors are individuals who purchased single stocks. So this means instead of a bunch of hedge funds and index funds taking a 30% haircut a subset of normal people in the market probably lost everything.

The China situation is scary because their economy is so much bigger than Greece. When small countries have their economies go to hell they might cause some economic problems. When big countries have their economies go to hell they have a nasty tendency of getting into wars. Either they go for the little distraction war to inspire nationalism and distract the people, or they say pull a Hitler and try to TAKE OVER ZEE WORLD.

That Chinese curse 'May you live in interesting times' comes to mind. Good thing the plan is  to cut another 40,000 soldiers out of our Army.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

From Around The Web

American Mercenary's Interesting Times talks about countries transferring their gold out of the US, the shift away from the dollar as a world reserve currency and China.

Japan is rearming to face the Chinese threat in the pacific theater.

Bayou Renaissance Man talks about firearms and forensic investigations. I cannot independently verify most of this but it seems plausible, also Peter is not typically a fellow who speaks in a factual way when he isn't sure. Good for entertainment and maybe useful for some scenarios.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Quote of the Day

"Those Chinese must be so busy, they make everything."
-Nephew

Friday, October 12, 2012

Ethics in Everything and Target Selection in Fighting and War

This one has been brewing in my head for awhile ever since Mountain Guerrilla and then American Mercenary wrote about the topic. (Since they wrote so long ago I couldn't find their specific posts within the amount of time I was willing to put into the matter.) In any case the topic has sat sufficiently and either turned into fine wine or some rotten cabbage dish. Anyway here we go.

A few overarching principles:

1) We have free choice.

2) Actions have consequences.

As Kurt Sutter (the guy behind Sons of Anarchy) said about killing off Opie "Bad thing's don't happen in a vacuum." Sooner or later somehow bad things usually happen to people who do bad things.  Maybe it is about life choices or personality sets or social circles, call it what you want. It isn't always 1 to 1 or right away but things have a way of coming around. 

3) As momma said other peoples bad behavior does not excuse ours.

4) There are clear lines of right and wrong. Between the clear lines of right and wrong are varying degrees of both.

5) While it is not a get out of everything worthy excuse the circumstances surrounding an event matter.

6) If in doubt, do onto others as you would want them to do to you.

So here we go. I am responsible for myself and the minor children in my care. I cannot control if Bank of America and the global banking oligarchy are destroying our economy or whatever. I have read about folks who think that B of A and the global banking oligarchy destroying our economy justify all manner of financial shenanigans on their part. I personally do not feel this way. If I swipe my credit card for a tank of gas or to buy some cool kit online I am promising to pay them back within the 42 page customer agreement I didn't read. If in a year or two I buy some land or a home I am promising to pay them back.

Things happen in life that can affect our finances. If people have a life changing event like being seriously injured or disabled or a sudden unplanned job change and a hard time replacing the income they can fail on some things. This is sad but happens in life. Bankruptcy exists for a reason. That being said I have a hard time with people borrowing money they know they will not be able to pay back or 'strategic defaults'.

This does bring us back to point 5. Jingle mailing B of A when you can afford the payment is a bit different than getting owner financing from a neighbor, ceasing payment and making them go through a ton of effort to get you out. Sort of like stealing from Mom and Pop's corner store is a bit different than Walmart. It doesn't make these actions right, just that I can see how someone could feel a bit less bad about them.

Fundamentally lethal force should be used judiciously in defense of life, limb, eyesight and essential property.  The words most commonly used in legal circles are ability, opportunity and jeopardy. Ability is about a weapon or disparity of size that means they have the ability to harm me. Opportunity is about proximity; a  guy with a knife can't stab me from 50 yards away but somebody with a gun could shoot me. Jeopardy is that you reasonably believe to be in danger. Randy Coulture or Bass Rutten (both famous professional fighters and all around scary guys) would have a hard time justifying shooting an narmed 200 pound man while 5 ft 100 pound Sally could justify shooting that same 200 pound man.

Property is an interesting sticking point. I won't shoot somebody if they try to steal my TV (but will shoot someone trying to take food that will feed Wifey and Walker during an emergency). That is what insurance is for and to be honest popping off meth heads for stealing my TV just isn't worth the hassle.

In some states people have the legal right to use lethal force in defense of property. Even setting aside ethical considerations it probably just isn't worth the hassle of shooting a meth head trying to steal your TV. If you fix the window and get a TV things can be back to normal in a couple days while shooting Meth Head Bob could very well ruin your life.
Anyway that sums up my opinion on that. Onto the crazy Mad Max, Red Dawn times.

The idea of using lethal force a bit freely is a common theme in survivalist circles. A lot of this blustering is just BS, sometimes 6 pack deep BS. However even factoring that in some seriously warped beliefs still exist.

To paraphrase AM  "the concept of ethically justifying the profession of arms (or killing outside of the most narrow defensive scenario) is dubious at best."

There is how the world should be and how it actually is. People shouldn't fight and counties shouldn't have wars. Also people should date based on personalities and character not shallower things like boobs, butts, biceps and bank accounts. When they disagree adults fight and when countries (or tribes) disagree they go to war. Sometimes they do it for good reasons and other times for bad reasons but most of the time they are in between. If you want a job that is easy to always feel good about become a doctor and volunteer free medical services to disadvantaged children.

There is a definite need to respond with some proportion to events.  Shooting or choke slamming a hungry 10 year old kid who is trying to steal from your garden doesn't make sense. Having a variety of options like basic hand to hand skills, mace, tasers, rubber bullets, etc helps here.

I do not believe that you must wait for somebody to attack you to respond. If you know a fight is coming better to be attacking their camp at 3am than them doing the same to you. That being said this is a hard one to balance. Folks would have to be pretty bad (like the classic roving robbing raping gang) or I would have to be pretty darn confident they were going to hurt me or mine to go this way.

Outside of a direct self defense situation such as in a civil war or guerilla situation things get even more complicated. Somebody can be an active participant in a conflict without pulling triggers. Hitler didn't (to the best of my knowledge) personally kill anybody but he was obviously a participant. In my opinion active participants, leaders and such are fair targets.

Everyone who disagrees with your agenda is not a legitimate target. Also the friends and family of legitimate targets are not automatically legitimate targets. Just because someone else can justify burning down houses with women and children inside doesn't mean that I will stoop to the same levels.

It is worth noting that low level folks who work in support of an organization may not actually believe in it or even in some cases be working voluntarily. A secretary who worked for the county might just be trying to feed her kids or not have a choice of staying on when the Chinese invade. A guy who runs a coffee shop can't very effectively turn away a bunch of young guys with guns. Especially those who are able to trash the shop and hurt his family without reprisals if they want. The question of whether you can justify ethically kill someone is different from whether you should. 

I don't want to get into target selection too deeply because that is a different post that has been written by other people. Simply put you figure out the goal and the effect which you believe will lead to said goal and then look to achieve it by selecting appropriate targets. I would argue that low level support type employees of the regime who are not actively of your same broad regional/ cultural group are better targeted by recruiting, co opting, bribing or coercion than violence.

Example: Jill is a normal 40ish lady in one of those executive assistant/ admin type jobs. She is a key person in a fairly important office at the district/ county level of the regime. You could easily kill Jill or grab her for a quick interrogation then kill her. You would learn some of what she remembers off the top of her head and disrupt internal processes there for a week or so.

On the other hand if you do some analysis on Jill other opportunities may exist. It may be possible to have somebody (a recruiter or their cut out) approach her at the right place and time. If she is leaning toward the regime or apolitical (Despite what politically active and strong feeling people think a lot of folks don't really care and just want to live their lives.) there may be an easy button to push or threaten to push. Selecting, recruiting and running sources is like target selection a whole other topic and one I am not all that well qualified to write on. My point is that Jill might develop into (willingly or less so) a very valuable source. She could help you fill in who they players are, tell you what is coming down the pipe, push through or falsify paperwork that is convenient for you and lose or misfile stuff that would hurt you.

In fact if the best guerrilla campaign you can come up with is to kill the regime's low level soldiers and support folks it is advisable to do some self education and research instead of acting. It is not that they aren't valid targets just that it isn't a winning plan.

Let's touch on that low level soldier for a second to try and explain the difference between killing some poor bastard and killing that poor bastard for a purpose. Finding a nice place to waiting for the random PLA soldier to walk by and busting a cap in his dome is fine I guess. On the other hand if you were to kill that same PLA soldier today then a couple guys in the market tomorrow and kidnap another off chasing some skirt in a week you might well force the local PLA leadership to restrict movement to larger groups. This will restrict their movement because folks can't go out in onesies and twosies to do whatever. Also it will hurt their morale and force their presence to be more aggressive.

To put it another way let's say Billy Bob and his cousins happen to stop and blow up the ambiguous lone water truck. It is just the first enemy thing that came by. On the other hand Tom's group, in conjunction with other groups also decides to start blowing up (or whatever) water trucks. Their goal is first to hurt the morale of the PLA by killing their showers and forcing them to eat field rations instead of real food. The long game and primary purpose is to make them start guarding the water trucks. This will tie up resources that could be used for active combat and will generally stretch their already thin resources even further.

Make sense?

Precision in lethal targeting is desirable. Obviously you want to kill the folks you mean to kill, not the school bus full of kids in front of them. This runs all the way from training to actually hit what you aim at to choosing when, where and how to engage targets.

There is a trade off between collateral damage and payoff. Collateral damage alienates people from your cause, gives the enemy PR opportunities and generally complicates your life. The amount of collateral damage that is acceptable for an operation varies based on the payoff.  This is really complicated and I don't think there are easy answers. If the equivalent of Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Stalin and Kim Jong Ill are all in the same place at the same time you hit it and use resources and energy to mitigate the collateral damage. On the other hand killing a soldier or minor figure but killing 6 random civilians and injuring 30 with a bomb is a bad trade. While I wouldn't target them specifically if a low level regime employee could get caught in something it wouldn't bother me too much.

The topic of collateral damage in the context of urban operations, people in houses and such is complicated. Proportion is important here as is the tactical urgency of the situation. Leveling an apartment building because somebody took a pop shot from a window is not smart. On the other hand of you are being effectively engaged or taking casualties do what you must. If somebody is stupid enough to shoot at some folks walking by from their house they should expect hate to be brought down on them. Shooting an RPG at a room that has a machine gun which is effectively engaging your element is probably a decent choice. If that RPG collapses the whole place and kills some innocent folks I'm sorry but those are the breaks.

Prudent target selection is very important. Aside from worries about collateral damage we have to consider that resources including time, money and ammunition are finite. This is especially important because Guerrillas are historically vastly out numbered and fairly poorly supplied/ resourced. A guerrilla group cannot trade a dead soldier and a case of rifle ammunition for the same regime blood and ammo. They will run out of men and weapons first which means they will lose, period.

We have to look at payoff. Guerrillas need to find times when they can shoot 200 bullets, kill 2 or 3 PLA soldiers and get away clean with them shooting lots of ammo and dropping a bunch of bombs onto an empty wood line. Also coming back to our previous point (if this is that organized) this needs to be in support of a desired effect.

While it is true that killing every PLA soldier would result in winning that isn't plausible and doesn't pass the historic reality check. Remember, if your group was capable of meeting the enemy openly in large scale combat this would be a conventional war, not a guerrilla war. A more plausible goal is to make the cost in terms of money and blood of pacifying/ holding the area more than the regime is willing to pay and wait until they give up. Or maybe conducting enough violence via attainable goals like wiping out a small outpost to make PR points until you are able to gain enough political backing to win that way or put together an army able to fight openly. All 3 of these options (fight till they leave, win via politics or win via open conflict) have historical presidencies though there is some muddling between the first two.

 So in conclusion. I think it is ethical to kill people who are trying to kill you or directly and tangibly supporting them. However unless they are trying to kill you it is prudent to target specific groups in pursuit of your overall objectives. Don't do something just to do it, do it to achieve an effect. 

Anyway this post got really long and rambling. Hopefully it makes you think about some things. Input is welcome.









Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Independence Day and Another Year Older

Well it is July 4th also known as Independence Day in the 'Merica. Aside from having a day off work to do fun things with the fam, eating too much food, drinking more than is probably necessary and maybe shooting or fireworks it is a good day to reflect. So I did some reflecting.

 I am not particularly thrilled with the state of Independence and the overall situation in our country. Our economy is still firmly in fail mode. The big banks and rich connected folks who arguably destroyed our economy are doing fine. They profited handsomely by manipulating the economy for years and then got bailed out. The normal working folks in the middle got hosed. Over the last few years the average American household lost 39% of it's wealth. Sure some of them did stupid things like getting adjustable rate loans for 120% of the place's value or buying a home with an interest only payment that is 65% of their pre tax income but that just compounded their individual suck factor. The unfortunate bottom line is that many good people who did nothing wrong lost much of their life's savings. For anyone who is concerned I think the habitual welfare cases are doing about as well as they ever do.


 Our government and the mainstream media have been pushing this recovery without any visible positive indicators jobless recovery thing so hard it is painfull to watch. Sort of like the restaurant that is aggressively pushing the fish it is a pretty clear that A) there is something wrong with the fish and B) the folks doing the pushing have a vested interest in convincing you that nothing is wrong with the fish. Here is a hint, the fish is definitely past it's prime and might have already gone bad. I see other things going on but talking about it is not really productive. To be honest most of it (over the past few years gun rights have been doing well between Heller, the new Constitution Carry trend and expansion of CCW rights) depresses me.


Since I try to stick to things I/we can actually afffect and positively influence instead of just whining about how tough times are I started thinking about independence on a personal level. The first question is what exactly would we consider personal independence. To me personal independence would be having the capability to do as many of the various things needed for a normal, modern existence for yourself. Along these lines it should go without saning that  the less you have to rely on other people or organizations the better. There are so many areas this touches from being able to fix a leaking sink to treating a bad cut or protecting yourself. To touch on just a few:

-Having solid defensive capabilities and some default offensive capabilities is very important. If you must rely on somebody else, be it a cop or local tough guy or even worse a gang, to protect you then independence is impossible. Have a gun and know how to use it. Heck, having a few guns isn't a bad thing. The emphasis however needs to be more on the 'know how to use it' than just on getting a gun and some bullets. Know how to defend yourself without a gun also. You probably don't need to practice MMA 10 hours a week (though if you have the time that would be good;) but get some training from a qualified instructor and try to practice enough to stay reasonably fresh.

I would be inclined to focus on realistic scenarios. It is far more likely that you will be car jacked,  robbed at gunpoint or maybe home invaded by some meth meads then Chinese Paratroopers invading or an Alphabet agency SWAT team or the neighbors attacking to steal your crispix. What you will probably face in some sort of emergency scenario would be normal crime and violence on steriods.  Instead of robberies just happening outside of sketchy clubs at 3am and home invasions being predominantly in Cracktown things will change; conventional wisdom that says noon at Safeway is a low threat environment and nice neighborhoods are pretty safe will cease to be valid. If things go on long enough folks will adapt but that is no concillation to those first few unlucky folks who are victims. Your carry piece and the holster it goes in are probably more important that whatever sweet rifle and chest rig you have got. Worry more about basic home defense and out and about precautions than how to effectively ambush armored vehicles or conduct a squad attack.

-Work toward financial independence. Becoming truly financially independent is problematic. Unless you are very wealthy or want to live very simply it is not very realistic to be entirely financially independent. Best case if you own your home/ land money is needed for fuel and taxes and other stuff you can't grow. For most folks living a fairly normal pattern of life who desire a relatively conventional home paying it off by middle age is an impressive feat and earlier is improbable. Not saying it is not possible or that nobody does it but that most folks, even if they make pretty good choices can't do it. That however doesn't mean you can't work towards a reasonably decent place and keep improving.

For heavens sake pay off high rate debts like credit cards, personal loans and nasty vehicle/ hobby stuff loans. Aside from sucking the financial life out of you now they will get way worse if our economy tanks. If possible pay off variable interest rate debts or if they are large and will take time at least roll them into a decent fixed rate. Strive to be debt free aside from maybe a reasonable fixed rate mortgage. Start saving today if you haven't been already. Save for all sort of relatively minor real life issues like car/ home repairs, injuries, job loss, etc as well as for the long term. I am less concerned about how you save (cash, IRA, 401k, investments, metals, etc) than that you are saving in some form or another. Once you have knocked out the bad debt and have some money put away all sorts of other things like paying off a home early, going back to school or changing career fields are possible. I will stop trying to make this horse I have pulled to the water drink.

-Become less dependent on normal commerce for food. Stash some food for if normal commerce is interupted by a disaster or whatever. Somebody smarter than me suggested 3 months of things you normally eat (obviously shelf stable) like pasta, canned goods, etc and then a year of long term shorage type stuff. For every day and the theoretical long term food production is important. At least consider growing some food. If it is possible in your situation that would be a good thing to do.

-Work on all the other stuff you need. A person probably can't build the skills of a professional mechanic, a journeyman carpenter, electricial, welder, plumber and mason in a lifetime. However you can probably learn to do some normal tasks that you may need which these people do. Doing a tune up on the family auto is easier than rebuilding the engine, building a deck or shed is easier than a shopping mall, you get the idea. If you find something that you are good at and enjoy then by all means go deeper into it.

The point, if I have one, is to strive to become more independent. The more independent you are the less you will rely on other people, and to some extent our government and 'the system' to meet your needs. This could be very important in the future.

As to me well, it is my birthday. Another year older and all that jazz. In some ways I am in a better place and in others things are about the same. It was a nice quiet day. Had some fun with Wifey and Walker. He enjoyed birthday cake which is not suprising. I got an amazon gift certificate and an ice cream maker from the rents. As usual my gift from us is cash. I still have some thinking to do but will likely get some rifle plates for the Banshee plate carrier I recently ordered.

Anyway I hope you all have a great Independence Day. Do some fun stuff with people you love and if you have a few minutes think about how to become a bit more independent.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wednesday Randomness

China is buying oil from Iran with yuan.

Check out this interesting infograph on Zombie proofing your home.

For no particular reason I want to talk about a couple of rules or guidelines.

The first is that in firearms there is an inverse relationship between reliability and accuracy. Obviously a gun that shoots minute of barn at 10 paces is not useful but a jamamatic that shoots 1/10th moa when it occasionally decides to function isn't either. Personally for real world applications I am inclined to lean a bit toward reliability. Really you just need minute of man (or deer or elk or whatever) accuracy to get the job done and if a weapon is capable of that then the rest is on the shooter. Also most weapons will outshoot people anyway.

The second is that you typically get what you pay for. Expecting more than that out of a tool/ weapon is just not very realistic. Given comparable models/ styles a more expensive product is probably better. A $15 Wally world special is not going to perform like a Buck 110. Expecting a $550 "plinker" AR to perform like a rifle from Bushmaster, Smith and Wesson or Colt is not realistic. Some products do offer a lot of value and while they don't break this rule they might just bend it a bit. Glock and XD pistols, Buck and Cold Steel knifes and REI brand camping gear come to mind.

Also I would like to let you know that LPC survival an authorized Berkey water filter dealer and long time advertiser are launching a completely redesigned website on the 21st. I got a chance to preview it and the new format is very nice. Much easier to use and a better shopping experience. You should definitely check it out.

Anyway that is about all that is floating around in my head today,
Later

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Books Worth Reading: Guerilla War and Insurgencies

I was talking to a fellow recently who asked me about potentially putting together some sort of book list. I guess this is the first in the series though if you dig through past book reviews you could get some ideas. Maybe at some point I will make a stand alone page or something.

I really enjoyed On Guerilla Warfare by Che Guevara. Yeah the guy was a Commie but he fought a successful guerilla war. I have nothing in common with his beliefs or goals but I got a lot out of his writing. Now that I have a bit of a sense of the man (assuming he wasn't dead) it would be interesting to sit on a patio with a good bottle of run for an evening and discuss all manner of things. Definitely some lessons to be learned here. It is a quick read and I got a lot out of it. Definitely worth reading.

I also read Mao Tse-tung on Guerrilla Warfare. A total pedo and generally a terrible person but he did execure a successful insurgency against the Japanese then took control of China and kept it. This one is relatively long at 128 pages. It has that Oriental way of talking in a circular fashion around subjects. All the same I got some stuff from it.

Over the deployment I read and really enjoyed The Other Side of the Mountain. At some point you will see a review on it (I think it got stashed for a rainy day). The book is a sort of Soviet after action review from the side of the Afghan guerilla fighters. These two Soviet guys tracked down and talked to a bunch of former Afghan guerilla fighters and leaders. It is pretty long, some of the vignettes are redundant or boring and the maps are next to useless (I have absolutely no artistic skills and could make better maps after drinking a half bottle of Whiskey) but it is very worth reading. The insight of highly motivated and poorly equipped guerillas fighting a well equipped mechanized fighting force that has way too much ground to cover and varying motivation is very interesting.

The first book in the "series" The Bear Went Over The Mountain is also worth checking out. The guy I borrowed it from said it was best read while drinking vodka in a smoky bar. It was very interesting to me when I read it prior to deployment to Afghanistan. Maybe less interesting to most folks who read this site than the second book but reading one probably helps to gain understanding of the other.

Anyway that is some of what I have been up to in terms of reading. If you are interested in insurgencies or have been thinking G thoughts then checking some of these out (all PDF and thus FREE!) would be a good idea.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

4th of July

Well it is the 4th of July. A pretty quiet day here. Obviously we need to maintain security, provide some basic services as well as maintain C2, however on the whole it is as light of a day as possible.No beer or fireworks but there was a pretty good spread of food which I vigerously ate my way through. I've got to hand it to our cooks. They really cook the heck out of what they are given. Having eaten in facilities that are outstanding and others which are horrible I can attest to their knowhow and care of preparation being the difference between something that will (or in extreme cases won't) fill your stomach and fuel you for a few hours and an enjoyable meal that raises your spirits. Those guys work insane hours in probably the least sexy job in the military and deserve more credit than they get. Anyway today leaves me somewhat reflective about a lot of things. I am not going to wax about history or philosophy. Birthday's are a great time for an azmith check. Our country isn't in a substantially different place than a year ago. However we were not in a great place, by any measure, a year ago. The drama in the Eurozone has at a minimum shown a possible direction we could be headed in. We probably have a lot more electronic money floating around than a year ago, but some time back those numbers started sounding like made up ones little kids would use to taunt eachother on the playground so I stopped paying attention. We are getting out of Iraq which is a good thing. I truly hope the best for that nation but the next chapter is going to have to be written by it's own citizens. We are also, at least in theory starting to phase out of Afghanistan. Probably for the best. By this point, a decade into this war, if we have not achieved a desired endstate it is time to take a good hard look at how much more blood and money we are willing to put into meeting our goals. The general concensus is not very much. The hard truth is that the Afghan government is going to have to stand on it's own feet pretty soon. We seem to be involved in Libya and I am not at all sure what to say about that one. Is there a way we can keep a good record of ordinance that is about to go past it's lifespan and just measure that up with a list of countries what have pissed us off? Some logisticial could just allocate the 500 scuds which go bad in a few months toward whomever is currently pissing us off. It would be cheaper than using newer ordinance.

I am concerned about the problems on our border with Mexico. Also the rise of no knock warrants against average people going wrong bothers me a lot. There has got to be some way cops can retain that tool they genuinely need but use enough discretion that normal, fundamentally decent, folks aren't getting killed all the time. If this keeps up a lot of folks may start to reevaluate their stance on cops. Cops might find themselves aweful alone in a big scary world if this keeps up for much longer.

I do not think all is lost. America is a big, strong country with a lot of productive power. Sort of like an exceptionally big/ strong man in a fight, even when we are getting the worst of it a solid punch landed can totally change a fight. A governing body that decided to fuel growth and took some (I'm not talking fixing every entitlement problem over night) reasonable steps to get spending under control could change things in a hurry. That would let us stop borrowing like crazy and be on a more even trading field with China. Businesses having the confidence to spend their on hand cash and people being willing to expand their businesses or start new ventures would radically change the employment situation. These problems could be solidly in our rear view mirror in a few years. I know that outlook is a bit rosy but I want to break us all out of the doom and gloom group think. Anyway I hope you have a good Independence Day

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Food as a Weapon, Food and America

The idea of massive food shortages in America is an interesting one. I think there are fallacies as well as misinformation in play. Also it would be naive to say there is not at least some some intentional fear mongering involved.

Food as a weapon is a scary thing. It has been used by brutal governments to force a region or group of people into submission in the one of the most inhumane and brutal fashions. To me it is scary because it intentionally targets the civilian population in a widespread and determined way. The history of it probably goes back as long as their have been organized groups of people big enough to communicate and act cohesively at regional and national levels. The British starved the Irish, the Afrikaners, Kenyan's and almost surely some other groups I have forgotten.

The Soviet communists under Stalin starved the Ukranian peasants in the early 30's. The idea of giving up their land and relying on 'the collective' to support them didn't appeal to these peasants very much. The Soviet troops and police took all of their food and blocked the importation or delivery of food aid to the region. Needless to say bad times ensued. Garden Serf wrote about this more. There is a video here that you can watch if so inclined.



Like I said before this is scary stuff and I don't think anybody can watch it without being profoundly effected. It will likely remind you of why you hate communists and make you want to stock up on food and ammo. These are generally good feelings to have so I won't argue against them.

This is however on the balance not a scenario which worries me particularly. It is somewhere towards the bottom of my list of concerns. It is in the neighborhood of a full on genuine Bosnia or Africa style civil war and above war with Canada or anything involving aliens. Though it is true that Americans tend to have (even those evil liberals) a much higher value for human life than some that isn't really the reason. I honestly think Stalin and Mao (or maybe the Illuminati and Trilateral comission) had a running bet on who could kill more of their population. While different cultures (for a lot of reasons) do tend to act in different ways however events can bring about rapid and crazy changes so in that respect all bets are off.

There are two primary reasons this scenario doesn't worry me much. The first is that privately owned firearms are so numerous and more importantly so widespread in America. It is difficult for Europeans or folks from a couple of large anti freedom cities to fathom just how many guns are out there in the hands of normal people. A hunting rifle with the 3 full 20 round boxes of ammo in the gun cabinet and the 4 random partial boxes spread all over or even a pistol in a nightstand with a single box of bullets are enough to cause real problems.

Even if the second ammendment was totally thrown out or ignored (as well as the rest of the Constitution) it simply would not be possible to confiscate anywhere near enough guns to make a difference. It is pretty obvious to me that well armed people are very difficult to forcibly starve into submission. Shooting would start long before that. I cannot say exactly how it would end but this alone would likely rule out such an outcome here, at least on a big scale.

The next issue is America's ratio of government security forces to citizens. Even if you count all military personnel, federal, state and local law enforcement as well as IRS agents, meter maids and dog catchers (and it would probably be unlikely that they would ALL choose to get involved, but lets just go with it as a worst case scenario) in America the numbers don't work. The ratio of citizens to what could (again a gross oversimplification) be called security personnel just doesn't add up. One of the reasons communist and other totalitarian governments have economic issues is that the ratio of security personnel to citizens is really high. It is really high because people don't like that kind of government. There are also significant budgeting and structural problems because such a high percentage of GDP and the state's budget goes to security. The ratio of people who would be trying to (violently or not) circumvent and bypass any such system to those trying to enforce it would lead to a lot of circumvention.

Food prices are an interesting thing. If you were going to try and specifically design an event to cause massive unrest it would be hard to beat food prices swinging to be either painful or out of the hands of the lower class. Short of a bunch of NeoNazis and the New Black Panthers both deciding to go to the same Waffle house at 2am after a night of hard partying I can't think of a better way to make some crazy stuff go down. While civil unrest is different than an insurgency or revolution one often proceeds the other. This sort of civil unrest has lead to more than one regime change. As I learned from this recent article it isn't so much long term gradual changes like inflation that cause these problems but short term volatile swings. I am not entirely sure why this is. It could be that people have more time to adapt to long term structural changes while someone in true 3rd world poverty can't pay 30, 40 or 50% more for food, even for awhile.

What does this mean for Americans? Well it is a good reminder to use alpha strategy type techniques to use money now to buy goods that will be more expensive later. That sort of strategy also lets you take advantage of good sales. If you have to buy, just for example, a can of baked beans for dinner tomorrow you're stuck paying full price. However if you have a dozen cans of baked beans (or 5 dozen) you can wait until there is a sale in a month and buy 6 cans on sale. Saving .30 cents a can on baked beans isn't a big deal in and of itself but if you do that with a significant percentage of foods you regularly (try for all shelf stable and frozen stuff) eat it will add up to real money.

The more I think about it the harder time I have with Americans who "can't afford food". Now don't get me wrong there are a few Americans with absolutely no income who can not in fact afford to buy anything to include food. However if you really look at the majority of Americans in that boat it is not in fact their situation. According to some reputable seeming website 80% of the worlds citizens live on less than $10 a day. I looked with as much percistence as it was worth to figure out the percentage of their income these folks spend on food and didn't find it. However it is accurate to say it is a pretty high percentage. I want to say more than 50%.

My observation about the Americans who say they cannot afford food is that while their budgeting priorities are fairly sound (unlike say rent food is a flexible part of your overall budget in that if you are flush it can be steak, shrimp and the best of everything; if things are tight it can be pancakes, rice and beans) their actual priorities are completely skewed. The thing is that while to a certain point your food budget can be flexible it is pretty darn important. In reality your actual priorities in order of importance are food, fuel/ energy, housing, insurance and then all that other stuff. While admittedly painting with a broad stroke Americans who are in this situation typically are spending their money on stupid stuff instead of buying food. I would personally like to open face slap everyone who smokes or drinks alcohol and then says they can't afford food.  For heavens sake get your priorities strait. I like to have a drink as much as the next man, unless that man is Mel Gibson, but long before I couldn't feed my family I would be off the sauce.

I just don't see Americans who are one of the richest people on earth getting priced out of the food market at least in significant numbers. Even if the dollar and our standard of living drop significantly most Americans will be fine. According to something I read Americans spend a bit less than 10% of their income on food which is, if you look at world figures, rediculously low. If prices went up most Americans would cut something else out (entertainment, booze, whatever) or practice product substitution which is a fancy economist way to say buying cheaper stuff because the stuff you used to use got more expensive. It would be rough on the very bottom rung of society but the vast majority of Americans would still go to bed with full stomach's. My household spends 7% of our income on food including formula which is 1/4 of that. We could easily cut that by 1/4 if we didn't buy soda, the couple premade convenience foods we get as a luxury, and ate less meat. At subsistence levels with little meat or dairy we could probably spend 4% of our income on food including formula for Walker. We would eat a lot of oatmeal, pancakes, eggs, rice and beans but with some veggies and a little bit of meat now and then and a multi vitamin every day it would be fine for a long time.

So what food vulnerabilities do I see that should concern Americans? As I have said I am not worried about food being used as a weapon or getting priced out of the market. However the incredibly long supply chain between food producers and the end user coupled with JIT inventories is a pretty vulnerable system. A power outage here or a terrorist attack there or some bad weather can mess things up in a hurry. It doesn't take a couple days of trucks not being able to make deliveries and nobody will be able to buy anything.

To me the biggest concern about food security is disasters. A bad winter storm, earthquake or hurricane means the normal food supply is going to be disrupted. As we saw in Hurricane Katrina there is a very real possibility that a major regional disaster will put you on your own for weeks (I think 6 is an accurate number). The 72 hour kit that used to be suggested doesn't cut it. You need to be able to feed your family for a few weeks in case of that sort of event. If you are worried about a flu pandemic think in terms of months not weeks. A black swan event like an EMP or a successful NBC terrorist attack could disrupt all sorts of systems and supply chains for at least a couple years.

The great thing is that like most basic preps food is useful in a lot of scenarios. Assuming you buy things you actually eat worst case you can just eat the stuff. Rotate it by eating it and save a bunch because you can wait for sales. So in conclusion I think you should stock up on food, if just for different reasons than others do.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Shades of Atlas Shrugged: Third World America

Third World America this article is disturbingly true. On another note Shades of Atlas Shrugged is going to be the series title for this sort of article.

I am not sure what the answer is. I do however think we need to create incentive's to promote desirable behaviors. [For example if we as a nation wanted to promote individual saving we could, say, not tax interest, dividends or capital gains on individuals with an income below $100,000 and a net worth below $750,000.] We aren't doing this. We aren't doing close to this. We are often in fact doing just the opposite. We have taken for granted that things are good and will stay that way. That no matter how much individuals or businesses get hammered they will stay in the same place and keep on doing the same thing. We've gotten cocky and lazy and it is coming back to bite us. Big time.

For example we need to attract manufacturing. America is never going to make sweat pants or t shirts cheaper than some random Asian nation where wages are a dime an hour. However I don't see why we shouldn't make computers, tv's, cars and all kinds of other stuff. Particularly the kind of relatively high tech manufacturing which employs more skilled individuals and pays them decent wages.

[If there is any positive way forward for America's low skilled blue collar workers it is if they can get the skills and we as a nation can attract this sort of higher skilled manufacturing jobs. The golden age for American manufacturing type workers from WWII to around the early 90's which has been dying a lingering death for awhile, set expectations which could not be maintained. Large numbers of people simply can't walk out of high school into a secure job that makes a comfortable wage with good benefits and retirement anymore.

I saw this play out on a smaller scale with the timber industry dying in the PNW. Some individuals were able to find a way forward in another job. Others managed to retrain and be successful. However when it was all said and done a lot of folks went from earning a comfortable middle class living to a couple bucks an hour above minimum wage or chronic unemployment. The restaurants and stores which these people patronized went under. Some towns died and a lot of others are sad shells of their former selves. The bottom line was that the jobs that went away were gone. The other industries were able to absorb some people, given that they received training, but a town that lost 100 timber jobs didn't suddenly have 50 new jobs as carpenters and another 50 for auto mechanics. Without some sort of X factor, such as a boom of high tech American manufacturing this will be the case on a larger scale.]

The biggest reason we have issues attracting or keeping these kinds of manufacturers is a grossly unfriendly business environment. Art Laffer said "Taxes don't redistribute wealth, they redistribute people (or I suppose businesses)" and the same could be said for regulations and all sorts of other little committees and agencies that make it hell to actually produce something. There are all sorts of ways America, or a state could do this. Simply streamlining the process for getting permits and clearances to build would be a good start. For a company that isn't going to dump tons of poison into the water system it should be a snap to open a factory. No taxes for 5 or 10 years would be a good one. Matching funds on select capital development would be another. Cheap or free energy would help too. Creating a work force which suits certain high tech manufacturing needs could work; especially if combined with a business friendly atmosphere and some tax breaks.

Instead of trying to hammer businesses for every dime we need to help them grow and employ more people and buy more machinery or other stuff. If every little bureaucratic despot and city councils could realize factories bring jobs; jobs which they desperately need we would be in such a better place.

As for infrastructure I think this is being blown out of proportion. Not significance but priority and who needs to be involved in addressing it. The answer is not big over reaching stimulus but government at all levels adjusting their priorities. Look at it this way. Most sane people would fix a hole in the kitchen floor before going out for a night on the town. If the family car breaks next week they don't need a stimulus from somebody; we need to shift our budget around and figure out how to fix it. If that doesn't work we can raid our hard earned savings. Governments from town to state have forgotten this. They need to make the important stuff work even if it means letting go of some of the flashy unessential stuff.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Who Would Lose A Trade War?

Chinese think tank warns US it will emerge as loser in trade war. 

I think this quote has some merit "They are utterly wrong," said Gabriel Stein from Lombard Street Research. "The lesson of the 1930s is that surplus countries with structurally weak domestic demand come off worst in a trade war."

China needs to sell the goods it produces lest their production will by necessity shrink rapidly to meet just domestic demand. If they have even a small dip in sales it leads to tons of lost jobs, closed factories and social unrest. While they are diversifying their markets it isn't happening anywhere as fast as they would like. Their free economy (well free except for real big players) and totalitarian state approach works so long as the economy is booming and people are happy with that. Iran has been trying the same thing and when the economy slowed they got problems. 

At the same time right now we are dependent on the Chinese buying debt to pay for this meth binge of debt fueled spending we are on (drunken sailor's is a poor analogy because late in the night or early in the morning they pass out/ fall asleep and it ends, unlike this epic economic fail we are experiencing which is more akin to a meth/ crack head who stays up for days on end).

If we got our spending under control then we could tell China to suck it. That would really be great. However we don't seem to want to live within our means. 

Interesting times for sure. 

 


Friday, September 17, 2010

Fun With China

“China gets 10pc growth: the US gets 10pc unemployment. That doesn’t seem the basis for a happy marriage,” said Prof Fergusson

Read the rest of the article here

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

quote of the day

You can’t get good Chinese takeout in China and Cuban cigars are rationed in Cuba. That’s all you need to know about communism.

—P.J. O’Rourke 

Friday, April 30, 2010

quote of the day

"The only reason,and it is the only reason for a gun registration is to confiscate said guns at a later time. The Soviets did it, the Nazis did it, the Chairman Mao did it. And we all known how those turned out. Gulags,ovens, and mass starvation."
-Conservative Scalawag

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Late Night Conversation and Random Thoughts Theiron

I couple days ago I ended up pulling an all niter. Had a bunch of work that needed to get done so I was working until about 1 o'clock. I had to wake up at 4 the following morning. Since I would have the opportunity to take a nap the next day I just stayed up. Ended up having an interesting conversation with the night shift folks.

Personally I am not so sure about the security and stability of China. Their ability to keep totalitarian rule going is something I doubt. Buying people off with letting them own property, make money and such works OK as long as the economy is good. However if it gets too good they have problems. Right now their system works to a large part because the rural poor from the inland area are forcibly held in place. Also sooner or later rich people will want the same sort of social and political freedom as they have for the economy.

While there is was some debate on how bad things could get in the US the picture is bleak. At best I see a rather painful decade coming up. When people eventually get back to work and businesses grow and borrow and invest we are going to see inflation. I just can't see a way that when the massive amount of new money gets moving through the economy it will not decrease the value of currency. It might be catastrophic hyperinflation which could lead to war or a full on default. It could just be late 70's to early 80's style high inflation and interest rates. One fellow saw the Fed getting shut down and replaced with a true government currency. Avoiding adjustable rate interest debt like the plague and generally being financially fit is good advice. If you can afford it putting a few spare bucks into silver and gold isn't a bad idea either.

We were generally not enthusiastic or optimistic about this new health care bill. That it started by being billed as stopping big, evil insurance companies from hurting people and ended with people being forced to buy health insurance from big, evil insurance companies is sad, ironic and not at all surprising. Personally I think we the people are getting taken for a ride but soon enough government may well stick it to insurance companies. In general our government likes to start a program (special education is a great example) and then gradually remove funding but still under threat of something bad, force the program to continue.

There was significant concern voiced by one fellow that since the government is now in the health care business they can and probably will stick their nose further into people lives. Even aside from trying to centrally manage (or at least shot call) 1/6th of our economy it is a great excuse to get all up into peoples business. Think of it like the Commerce Clause but for personal behavior.  Since you doing X might arguably cost the government money via health care it is now taxed/ restricted/ banned could become a common summary of upcoming legislation and decree's.

In some ways the recent problems with the Euro were surprising to us. Then again if you really stop and think they shouldn't be. First of all the relatively recent times where the Euro has pwned the dollar have not been about the Euro's getting stronger but about the dollar getting weaker. Secondly lets look at Europe. In general northern Europe and particularly Germany have solid economies though now and then their socialist programs (they are expensive) cause issues. Southern Europe is a big financial mess. They have relatively similar socialist programs as the rest of Europe but without the economies to support them if things go less than perfectly. Europe is an expensive place to do business and especially the kind of business that employs lots of people. Those whose industry can be anywhere often avoid Europe's high wages and crazy powerful unions. The last couple years chaos has hurt them albeit slower and to a smaller degree than the US but I am not convinced these issues haven't been building for awhile.

There was some talk of the world reserve currency shifting away from the dollar. Personally I think that baring a complete economic melt down of the US, that is unlikely. I think this because there isn't any better option. The Euro certainly isn't as solid as it seemed not too long ago and in terms of managing it the Europeans have too hard of a time getting anything agreed on. I don't think anyone is stupid enough to go with the Chinese Yuan because of a lack of long term history and well, China is not the kind of government one would want to trust with something that big. The Japanese Yen is all over the place and their whole weird pseudo fascist system plus people still vividly remember their Lost Decade. The Pound Sterling is probably in some ways worse off than the Dollar. Russia is a totally unstable Gangsterocracy and heavily dependent on energy prices staying high. That whole "basket" idea seems unreliable and outright nutty. I have a hard time seeing enough nations being willing to buy into it. Then again it is so nutty and prone to manipulation that governments might love it. I see the dollar staying as the world reserve currency for the foreseeable future, if just because better options are not currently available.

 Also, at least for relatively short periods of time coffee helps you stay awake.

Lastly I have been enjoying The Drudge Report as of late. If I have just a 15 minute coffee break to get the news a glance there and one at the BBC News front page gets me up to date.

Since it is late I am going to bed now.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Another Perspective on China.

China faces an economic crash? I do not know much about this stuff but when everybody is just repeating the same thing, it is usually good to consider another perspective. If nothing else it is interesting.
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