Showing posts with label matthew bracken. Show all posts
Showing posts with label matthew bracken. Show all posts

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Book Review: The Red Cliffs of Zerhoun

The Red Cliffs of Zerhoun by Matthew Bracken
Today I will be reviewing this book by Matthew Bracken. I will try to keep big spoilers to a minimum as it relates to this book but inevitably a review gives away some stuff. I will also compare and contrast with Matt Brackens other books so there may be some spoilers there. Also for the sake of full disclosure I paid full price for this book and do not have any relationship with Matthew Bracken. To the best of my recollection I have never interacted with the guy. That said I do like his stuff and have all his books. Getting started.
Brief Overview: “Dan Kilmer is a former Marine sniper in his late thirties. Fifteen years earlier, he returned home from military service in the Middle East and gave college a try, but his combat experiences prevented him from fitting into campus life. In a South Florida boatyard, his uncle was attempting to refurbish an old cargo schooner, and Dan left college to help him finish the flagging project. After two years of work but before the sixty-foot boat was relaunched, his uncle fell from a scaffold and died. While still in his mid-twenties, Dan inherited the schooner Rebel Yell, but not the means to maintain it or to afford the cruising lifestyle. Soon after, he left the United States to embark on a series of voyages, mostly in pursuit of beautiful women and good times. The action in this new novel takes place a few years after his adventures in Castigo Cay, the first Dan Kilmer novel. In The Red Cliffs of Zerhoun, Dan's trading schooner is located in southwest Ireland, where he is attempting to sell 96 drums of diesel fuel salvaged from an abandoned NATO base in Greenland. The global financial system has collapsed, and both paper and digital currency have no value, but diesel fuel and gold still do. While waiting to sell his remaining thirty barrels, Dan is approached by a retired SAS colonel and asked to transport a dozen former special operations commandos 1,400 miles south to the Canary Islands, where they will be transported by a landing craft to Morocco in order to conduct a rescue operation. Two months earlier, nearly seventy Irish and English girls had been kidnapped by pirates from their elite Irish boarding academy and taken to Port Zerhoun, which is under the control of a cartel of modern corsairs. The young schoolgirls will be sold at auction as sex slaves, unless a ragtag team of former commandos can liberate them in time.”
The Good:
-This books collapse scenario is plausible. Particularly the scenario Matt lays out of a violent, economically depressed world is vivid and realistic. Things in many areas have fallen apart but more in a “there is very little fuel and the electricity doesn’t work much” than a cataclysmic typical survivalist scenario where civilization as we know it falls apart and the world descends into murdering rapist cannibal gangs. Manufacture of most complicated modern goods is seriously limited and the supply of them as well as fossil fuels are highly prized/ rare/ expensive. This is probably the most realistic portrayal I have seen.
-The geo politics in the book are current and valid. They didn’t dust off the same scrolling paragraph at the beginning of red dawn kind of start scenario. Too many books in this realm start with “the stock market crashed or the lights went out” then go into their plot. This book takes a real quality look both at current situations (portrayed as past since the book is in the near future) and realistic future ones based on the current trajectory.
-Along these lines technology available to our happy go lucky group of adventurers and mercenaries reflected the overall scenario of the book and is downright plausible. A decade into a collapse scenario most of the wiz bang electronics people have now will have stopped working.
This was a sharp contrast with the first Dan Kilmer book where he had all kinds of cool toys: night vision, lasers, a small UAV, etc. In this book they were navigating by sextant and rocking iron sights on their rifles. This brings up an excellent point. Gear fails and the most vulnerable/ fragile gear is by far electronics. Having a plan/ gear set up that uses modern gear but can easily fall back to older durable gear is prudent. So relying solely on a red dot sight is a bad plan.
-The book portrays people and social situations in realistic ways. Characters had faults and a person who is great in one way may be a jerk in another. How they are motivated in different ways (economics, morality, etc) or combinations of ways is so good. How sex is portrayed is realistic for normal society and straddles a fine line between ignoring the matter entirely like some books written by very socially conservative Christian types or randomly being fairly dirty like Unintended Consequences. Ditto various realistic but very unpleasant events like rape and slavery.
-Things went wrong. Missions fail. Small missions relying on single points of failure can come apart if a vehicle doesn’t work or a rope breaks or whatever. In a collapse scenario where gear is decades old and questionably maintained things will go wrong even more often.
-Piracy. While the resurgence of Islamic raiding of Europe to steal slaves is a “what if” the relationship between lack of global stability and piracy is quite solid. We are seeing it now in Somalia. Piracy based out of the the Med and NW Africa if Europes stability starts to crack is absolutely realistic.
-Dan finally got his shit together and bought a Glock 19.
The Bad:
-Depending on their stance on Islam, the Arab world and North Africans someone could be really offended by this book. Someone could also say that Matthew Bracken is speaking the politically incorrect truth. I will let you judge that one for yourself.
-There was one moment where a main character made a total mental 180 on a huge decision in a way that was pretty ‘the writer had a deadline and couldn’t figure out a good way to do it facing a tight deadline’ ish. Just didn’t seem plausible at all.
-Like many books there were times the good guys got really, really lucky.
The Ugly:
-Matt Bracken takes a long time between books. I wish he could get one out every year or so.
General Thoughts:
-The items characters in this books really valued (aside from the obvious boats, gold, etc) were durable, common and readily fixable. Think Glock 9mm pistols, Toyota trucks, strait razors, etc. Looking at Glocks and Toyotas they tend to just work for a really long time. They also are so widely available odds are high you can find a broken one to snag parts out of. You can’t say that about a CZ PO7 Duty or a Land rover.
-There was a shift from Matts other books such as Castigo Cay (and doubly his first 2 Enemies books) where the economy is seriously damaged and there are localized problems but mostly we have the same landscape as today. Less electronic stuff and the ability to replace things easily decreases.
Overall Impression: An excellent book. Buy and read it.

Monday, September 8, 2014

More Free Bracken!!!

This Kindle free run of Castigo Cay and The Bracken Anthology will last until Wednesday September 10th at midnight PST.

Free Kindle reading app for your PC, Mac, Droid, iPhone, Tablets can be downloaded here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Matthew Bracken Interview

Interview starts at 23 min.

Without starting a flame war I personally do not consider Alex Jones/ Prison Planet to be a reliable source, nor do I frequent any of their various publications. People have to evaluate these things themselves and reasonable people can differ in opinions. YMMV, end of topic.

The above taken for what it is they did an interview with Matthew Bracken which is pretty cool. I enjoyed his books and they are turning out to be more accurate than I like as time goes by. When Matthew Bracken talks I listen. Though he should probably consider doing something with his hair or at least throwing on a hat for the next interview.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Matthew Brackens 'Enemies' Trilogy Available FOR FREE on Kindle

Download them between now and the 16th for free. DO IT NOW!!! If you don't have a kindle there are aps to read books on pretty much anything electronic. Read these books, think and make some choices about what you want to do, where you want to live and how you want to react. As the years go by the two authors I find myself re reading are James Kunster and Matthew Bracken.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Max on Sailing Away

Max's take on an interesting article by Matt Bracken.

My thoughts:
1) Jumping into a sailboat to go is a romantic idea. If I was single it would bear serious consideration.

2) The thing is you need a plan and a place to go, if a nomadic one. Without a decent plan you are playing Superman Sailboat to Batman in the Boondocks. Granted you can carry a fair bit of stuff on a boat, fish along the way, etc but eventually you're going to run out of disposables, need spare parts, etc.

3) Max's point that you need a skill that can be readily sold/ bartered in strange foreign lands or a moderate to large sized pile of cash is very valid. A legitimate doctor who was willing to fix injuries as well as maybe stab wounds and the occasional gunshot at reasonable prices with discretion could probably make a decent living anywhere. On the other hand some other skills are great but do not readily transition to strange foreign parts. Some skills and personality sets translate a lot better than others. The point I'm trying to make is to do a realistic assessment of what money you will need and how you will earn it. Sailboats do not go on magical wishes and rainbow dreams. You really need to have a legitimate financial plan before sailing away. The only thing worse than being broke and out of luck at home is bring broke and out of luck in a strange foreign land where Americans without money are not looked on well.

4) I'm not knocking Matt Bracken at all here but I think there is a lot of fantasy, lack of accurate information and skewed commercial interests involved in many conversations about how wonderful life is in Central/ South America. In fairness to Matt his books hit on a lot of the downsides of this sort of life.

5) Many, if not all people saying that Central/ South American Country X or Y is perfect almost without exception have an overlapping financial interest with people using their company/ service/ program to move to Country X or Y. Even if well intentioned these people are at best inherently biased. A Ford salesmen may drive a Ford, his wife may drive a Ford and he may genuinely believe in Ford's but he is probably biased and is not a good judge of what sort of monthly payment you can really afford to buy a Ford. 

6) Gun Control pretty much everywhere except America sucks a lot. You can definitely write off legal possession of military pattern semi automatic rifles. Concealed carry is almost surely illegal though in many places it is practiced. What I am getting at is the grass isn't always greener.

7) It is interesting that people want to run away from America to strong man dictatorships where crime is ever present, corruption is rife and bribery is the rule of the day. Not saying America is perfect but I would urge people to check their premise before sailing from Florida to Banana Republic X in search of freedom. 

8) If the hypothetical poo hits the hypothetical ventilator do you really want to be a person of the wrong color, creed, culture in a place where rule of law is iffy in the best of times who is, by the perspective of the locals, wealthy and open to victimize?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Bracken Anthology Free For A Short Time

The Bracken Anthology, a collection of fiction works and essays by Matthew Bracken is currently available for free on kindle. You can get an ap to read kindle stuff on the computer or just about whatever else. Get it now.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Reminder Matthew Bracken's Enemies For Free!

Matthew Bracken's Enemies Foreign and Domestic is currently free. Think this deal lasts till Thursday.

If you do not have a kindle there is an app you can download to read it on your computer. If you haven't read this book (and all Matt's stuff) I strongly recommend it. One could argue things are looking more and more like the beginning of Enemies these days.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Download Matthew Bracken Books for Free!!

Novelist Matt Bracken's is going through a fit of generosity: "'I'm going to put each of my Enemies trilogy novels into the Amazon Kindle free download deal, starting with Enemies Foreign And Domestic next Monday, October 14. Then Domestic Enemies: The Reconquista on Monday the 21st, and Foreign Enemies And Traitors on October 28th."  His novels are great. I own the Enemies series paperback but would love to have it on Kindle. Now I think that will happen for free. Winning.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Random Tuesday Thoughts

-It might be time to re read the Matthew Bracken novels as they seem to be playing out in real life.

-This whole discussion about the NSA, Verizon, etc all data gathering is interesting. First that stuff called 'meta data' matters, modern computers using well designed programs combined with various other open source stuff can come up with huge amounts of information. Think pattern and link analysis that is largely automated based on huge amounts of information. Along these lines the idea that has been posed "it is legal under our law but may not be constitutional" says a lot about the current problems in our country.

-Silver is at 21.5ish right now. If you have a few dollars to spare that is definitely a buy. I cannot say why gold is down either but if you can afford it that is another fine place to park a few dollars.

-Ammo prices seem to be coming down (except .22lr which is going up) but availability is still spotty for sure.

-TEOTWAWKI Blog's post on Resupply Caches is worth checking out. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Glock Modifications


I saw this video awhile back. Steve Fisher saying the goal of modifying a gun is to improve functionality without messing with durability or reliability I think is a good starting point.

While I do think the Glock is probably the best standard bone stock fighting pistol out there it could be a bit better. I like swapping the normal guide rod/ spring out with a spring that has the same tension (or whatever they call it) but a stainless steel body. The primary reason for this is that a little bit of weight up front helps decrease muzzle rise. Some might also argue they are more durable.

Something new I did today is to swap out the standard trigger connector with a #3.5 trigger connector. Between the reference manual and youtube it wasn't too hard to figure out. Took the gun to try at the range today and it was pretty awesome. It's just a bit lighter and smoother but makes a whole lot of difference. The combination of the steel guide rod and 3.5lbs connector is awesome. It is seriously like a whole different better shooting gun. I shot the same gun about a month back and groups were probably less than half the size this time.

Night sights are pretty much required and are an easy upgrade on most modern service type pistols if the gun does not come with them.

I think the combo of ss guide rod/ spring, 3.5lb connector and night sights is an upgrade all of my Glocks will get. Might just stash a spare set or three (at that mythical time when I have $500 for gun stuff and nothing else to buy) just in case. That way I could set up a Glock acquired however down the road the way I like it. Stole that idea from Matthew Bracken's newest book Castigo Cay.

A pistol mounted light like a Streamlight TLR-1 is a solid option. I have a love hate relationship with them. I love the capability but hate the added bulk. For a dedicated home defense or open carry/ tactical gun a light is an easy decision. For a gun that is going to regularly pull concealed carry duty it is a harder call. I like the idea but the Glock 19 with a light kept getting left at home in favor of the J frame. A more concealment oriented slimmer holster would help but that's still carry under a sweatshirt or something, not AIWB which is my preference for concealed carry. I do not think anybody makes an AIWB rig for a gun with a light and if they did I'm not sure it would be tolerable to carry. Definitely better to carry a Glock without a light than to think I carry a Glock with a light but actually pack the snubby 9/10 times. I think running a concealed carry Glock and a home/ tactical one is probably MY way forward.

That's what I have done to Glocks. Things I can see doing

A modern red dot like a Trijicon RMR or the new Leupold offering seems like a really cool way to go. I'm going to wait for some more R and D to happen and prices to slip down a little bit over a few years before seriously considering taking the plunge. Obviously higher suppressor sights would need to go with this setup.

A threaded barrel to go with a suppressor would be cool at some point.

Stippling has potential to help with grip, etc. I would want to see and handle a gun done by a shop before giving them my gun. Too many yahoos with a dremel and a soldering iron think they are gunsmiths these days to trust just anybody offering the service.

Beyond that I cannot think of anything currently available that I want to put on a fighting handgun.

What have you done to Glocks (or I guess other pistols)?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Assault Weapons Band and Matthew Bracken Radio Interview

Matthew Bracken comes on about an hour in. Worth listening to as Mr Bracken always is. Maybe he is right and maybe he is wrong; I will leave you to draw your own conclusions.

I do not take easily to panic but if the Dem's could pull something off this is the best opportunity in awhile. [Well since the two years where they had the house, senate and presidency but did nothing.]

After looking at our inventories I saw some holes. AR mags are in an OK spot but I want more PMAGs. Also AR spare parts could be better.  Brownells has PMAGs for $12.50 a piece as well as a variety of AR-15 spare parts. Our ammo situation is not great but decent. Code for I want more ammo but these days even the best priced ammo is expensive and there is other stuff on the list. Sure if I had a few hundred bucks sitting around I would like another case of 9mm ball, one of 9mm JHP and 250 rounds of 12 gauge buckshot. Those needs will addressed over the next year or so as finances allow. The holster situation could be improved as I need a nice Safariland holster as part of a war belt setup and a nice range bag would be cool but those are low on the list.

This all depresses me and I am headed off to bed. Anyway figured I would let you know what I'm up to.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Recent Conversations

I have had a couple conversations with close family members lately. One about precious metals and another about rifles. We will talk about them as part of the need for a quarterly rehashing of all basic topics.

A relative asked what I thought about silver and gold as an investment:

For the sake of avoiding repetition check out this post on getting into precious metals. I told him that I do not like PM's AS AN INVESTMENT. Making money buying and selling commodities requires buying low and selling high. If you have those skills that is great. Personally if I knew how to do that reliably I would be doing it for a living. That makes it basically gambling which probably is not smart.

I do like PM's as a conservative piece of my overall financial situation. Sort of like insurance or an alternative savings plan. I like them for protection against high inflation, currency debasement and even an outright economic collapse. They generally move opposite to more modern instruments like stocks and such which is nice. For most people assuming they are halfway financially squared away (no huge credit card balances, etc) putting some money into PM's makes sense.

We talked the qualities of both silver and gold. To recap silver is affordable and valued appropriately for day to day type transactions but it gets heavy fast while gold is very compact for it's value which would be useful if you have to move it. For his situation I said it would not be a bad idea to buy a big bag of silver then put the balance into gold, mostly 1 ounce bars/ rounds.

As to total amounts I recommended not to go crazy but maybe to put a certain % of your liquid assets into PM's. Depending on your situation and where you think the doom thermometer is this could be lower like 5% or more like 25%. Like most things somewhere in the middle is probably the way to go.

Another relative asked if I would recommend that he purchase an AR-15 or an AK-47. I told him to go with an AR. This is for a variety of reasons. First the price gap between the two weapons, which was part of the AK's advantage has closed drastically in recent years. Second given his military experience muscle memory lies with the AR. Third the logistics of potential resupply are probably better for the AR. John Mosby makes a case that the AR is a better weapon which is hard to argue with. That being said (and this is how I closed the talk) both are good guns that should serve you well.

There was also a separate thread of the conversation about specific builds for AR's and barrel twist rates. The answer was that considering that his intended uses of casual plinking and potential SHTF I suggested not to bother. If so inclined he could do a lot of research and spend a bunch of money. However my recommendation was that a good basic carbine like a S&W MP would do everything he wants for a lot less money.

Maybe these questions give a bit of insight into what normal non whacko survivalist folks are thinking about these days.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Putting on my Nostradamos Cap

On Economics/ Politics:

Well QE 3 is finally getting launched so we will see a fast meaningful recovery the lost decade will continue.

Unfortunately I do not think our economy is going to get better until we are really honest about our situation and take the steps to get back to an honest and stable place. This requires facing the pain of unraveling all the bad "assets" floating around and the massive empty inventory in the housing market gets unloaded at realistic prices. As this is not happening any time soon the pain will continue.

I saw an interesting article over at James Dakin's place (original Lew Rockwell article here) that basically says we will not have hyperinflation because it is not in the best interest of big banks and their whole crony network. I cannot say that I understand it fully but, not necessarily for any quantifiable reason, I agree that hyperinflation is not likely.

We do need to get onto the same page as to exactly what is considered hyperinflation. Let's pick the definition of hyperinflation as greater than 50% inflation in a month. It is as good as any. I do not see this happening. Yes we have a huge debt but we are too big and powerful with too many huge productive businesses for it to be likely IMO. (Also I think Arctic Patriot noted that huge powerful countries do not go broke, they go to war) I don't intend to argue this point, it is just my take on things.

Now I do think a period of painfully high inflation is quite possible. Maybe somebody gets some sense and cuts off the free money that has been subsidizing big businesses and poor decisions like dollar shot night at the local bar. Maybe our creditors start to get wise and demand an actual return on their money. Maybe the big banksters aim their destructive market powers at US. I don't know.

We could see 10-13% inflation which would probably leave the fed rate around 16%, prime mortgages around 20% and consumer debt in the area of 30%. This would drag down our economy like a guy trying to swim with an anvil tied to his waist. Several consecutive years of this would essentially destroy those on fixed incomes. Folks holding adjustable rate debt's would probably face default or ruin.

We may see rioting and disorder as welfare/ food aid/ etc that are chained to the ever more manipulated to give a happy story CPI get left behind. [Briefly touching on Matthew Bracken's When the Music Stops I do not see our government failing to send out welfare/ food stamps (now on cards)/ etc. I respect Matthew Bracken immensely but IMO this article misses the simple point that our government via it's cronies the Federal Reserve has a darn license to print money. It is like saying that Jack Daniels will run out of Whiskey or Tula will run out of .45 caliber bullets.

Seniors and moochers will get what they are "entitled" down to the exact penny. However that doesn't mean it will be worth the same as it is today. Somebody on food stamps or whatever will get the same dollars worth of hand out's but if a pound of rice costs $5 and a Digorno frozen pizza costs $10 it won't go very far. Not quite as sudden or whatever as envisioned in the scenario. It would more likely cause a slow upswing in problems than a sudden burst of angst. That is of course unless some sort of response was coordinated to meet a specific purpose in support of some agenda.]

I see this arguably intentionally orchestrated series of events potentially diminishing our status on the world stage with a wimper, not a bang. Think of the way Britain's role and power have changed from WWI to now. They went from being the biggest and arguably most powerful nation in the world to being publicly dissed by Argentina stealing their island (yeah they later took it back, barely).

On War:

The madness between Israel and Iran is out of control. All I hear in the media is war drum's. At this point I really would not mind if they get it over with and fight, at least that way it would get done and we could have  the news back. Except of course it would cause a lot of problems, likely embroil us in a nasty conflict, maybe cause nuclear war, blah, blah, blah.

On Gun Control:

I do not see a reinstatement of the Assault Weapons Ban or whatnot. The balance of public opinion is clearly against it. Unless the Dem's sweep the house and senate plus keep the presidency which is probably not likely I am not concerned. Even then I am not so sure for heavens sake Walmart sells AR-15's.

That being said ATF fiat and possibly executive orders might pop up with some fun new stuff. The play of the ATF arbitrarily usurping more of our rights changing some regulations which FFL's (and individuals) will then follow or face their lives being ruined and livelihoods destroyed is already in the playbook. Remember that your shotgun is a shotgun unless it is suddenly a pistol or maybe an evil assault weapon.

On Crime and Disorder:

In general I think crime is getting worse with the signs showing the trend is likely to continue. Maybe it is the economy. With everybody (well a lot of folks anyway) taking a step down the proverbial economic ladder some folks look to crime as the easy way out. Some of it is cultural/ environmental but that doesn't really matter. For reasons I am not entirely clear on criminals seem to be getting more and more violent. Home invasions seem to be becoming more and more prominent.

As discussed above there is a potential scenario (amongst others) where things could just go nuts like LA Riots times 1,000 all over the place.

Anyway that is what I think may be coming. Now to what we might be able to do about it:


Some folks argue that having a lot of debt is fine because hyperinflation or at least inflation will let them pay it back in cheaper (or basically free) dollars. The first issue with that plan is that if you haven't figured it out yet banks are going to get taken care of at the expense of common folks, not the other way around. The second issue is that you it will be hard to pay back cheaper dollars if you lose your income/ job because the economy tanks.

If you listen to nothing else that I say get out of any debts that have an adjustable interest rate. The only exception would be if you have the cash to pay the debt off immediately (like in the next payment) but choose to keep it at a low adjustable rate so you can stay a bit more liquid. Rates are very low right now with almost a guarantee that they will go up. As we saw with various European countries a bad auction or two can jack up rates in a hurry.

The basics still apply here. Minimize debt and live below your means. Save in various forms against an uncertain future.

Gun Control:

In this quadrennial 'OMG the evil gun haters might ban everything' period I have spent a bit of money but that was just bumping up some purchases I planned to make anyway by a bit. Sort of hedging my bets if you will. That being said I have been getting squared away in this area for awhile and while things aren't perfect (are they ever?) most of our bases are covered. If you do not own something, especially if it is likely to be targeted in a ban, that you want and can afford then consider getting it.

Crime and Disorder:

Things are getting more and more dangerous. Carry a weapon if it is legal and practical for your lifestyle. Get the training to know what you are doing. Make yourself a hard target. If you live someplace that is sucky and dangerous with a high percentage of unhappy urban folks and welfare types consider moving if you can figure out how to afford it.

Note that most of the things I have recommended are the same things I have been talking about for awhile. Preparing for every situation is not the same. You do not need a dozen assault rifles to survive an economic collapse. Having half your net worth in PM's will not be ideal if things go all mad max. That being said a whole lot of the commonalities are the same. Live below your means saving (in various forms) for emergencies and the future. Store food, fuel and other various things you will need. Have the skills and weapons to protect yourself and your stuff.

Anyway that is what I have been thinking about. Thoughts or input are of course welcome. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Enemies Free Kindle Download

Matt Bracken's novel Enemies Foreign And Domestic will be available for free Kindle download on Thursday, March 1st. I am looking forward to having a copy of it in kindle format.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The concept of boats has come up recently. Both the teaser for Matthew Brackens upcoming book and our good friend Mayberry's Blovel have involved them. Before I go any further there will be one significant disclaimer. I do not have a lot of experience with boats. Thus I will stay away from all but general thoughts on prices/ sizes and specs for boats.

I will start by saying that this idea is sexy as can be. I mean on a preparedness sexiness level where 1 is doing a household budget and a sweet new M1A with an EBR stock and a great optic is a 6 this is a 9.5. The world goes to heck in a hand basket and you just cruise the world in your awesome boat. Catch and eat some fresh seafood most nights of the week and regularly have fruity drinks with little straw hats. I like the idea of lobster for dinner while watching the sunset a lot better than fighting the neighbors to keep my cereal. Seriously stop for a minute to think just how awesome that would be. OK, now that your minute has passed lets get a bit more practical.

The massive and continual need for fuel narrows our discussion to sail boats for all but the shortest GOOD/ cross the river when the bridges are down type of discussion which would be another topic all together. Basically we are talking about sail boats. Also we are probably talking about people who live in reasonable proximity to open water (though maybe the Great Lakes are an exception) because a sail boat doesn't do somebody in a landlocked state much good for anything but a great Saturday at the lake/ reservoir. Boats have a good combination of being transportation and something you can live in. A comparable role to RV's or Travel Trailers but obviously in the water.

We do need to narrow down exactly the sort of scenario where living in or out of a boat would be a decent option. Boat living would be very bad in almost every possible situation for a full on Mad Max scenario. A lack of space would be a real issue first and foremost. That alone puts you at a major disadvantage over anybody with a house and a garage or shop. Other issues such as weather, security and maintenance are area specific and beyond my depth of knowledge but to varying degrees would probably make a land based plan more realistic. However as we note from time to time a Mad Max scenario is by far the least likely scenario you would face. As FerFal so eloquently points out often countries go down the tubes in relative isolation. When one country really starts to suck you just go to another one. This is a niche where a sailboat could come in handy.

A sailboat would work well on the southern and gulf coast of the US. If a personal (crazy stuff can happen), social or economic trigger point is reached then pack a couple duffel bags, top off of fuel, water and food then cast off. The Caribbean and Central/ South America are chock full of quiet countries that are often very discrete. Also the South Pacific has some darn nice spots. If you get bored or want to seek other opportunities just go somewhere else. For the right person in the right situation with a pinch of luck this could work out well.

The biggest roadblock is that boats are expensive. A boat you could potentially use for a long term residence is going to be significantly more than a little day sailor. Being able to cook and sleep in the cabin would be essential. I hesitate to say you would need a boat of X length because the amount of occupants and the scenario you are talking about would be factors. That being said Wifey and I lived in a 40" RV and it got pretty claustrophobic for just us and 2 cats. While the RV didn't have a deck as a second story we also did not need to store a lot of fresh water and food. Size and features would drive cost significantly. Figuring somewhere between the price of nice used car (say 10k) and an average house (150k) is probably reasonable. Of course like anything else the sky is the limit. A family of 8 that planned to live self contained (infrequent trips to shore for resupply) on a boat long term would need a lot more space and amenities than a single guy who planned to sail down to a friendly country and use his boat more or less as a studio apartment. We are definitely not talking chump change here.

The next reality check is that in any situation where a boat would be a valid option you are going to need money.You will need money, in some form or another when you get to the quiet and relatively unaffected port of your choice.Slip rental, fuel, food, repairs and other costs of living are not something I have the experience to estimate but are probably higher than most would like to admit. Even for somebody who had a wad of cash or a tube of gold coins if this is something beyond a temporary trip you will need to earn continual income. Having some plan to earn a continual income would be essential. After all as much as we would like it is not practical to choose bits and pieces of different scenarios to make our ideal one. A scenario where you don't really need money but the security situation isn't horrible is a wonderful idea but not realistic.

Having a skill that can earn money in a discrete manner anywhere would be helpful. Then again that sort of skill would be helpful anyway.

It is also worth noting that even the lovely Caribbean has some dangers. Now and again a nice couple with a boat vanish and not in the happily ever after sort of way. Also for various reasons people can get into real trouble by running afoul of the local law enforcement. Personally unless you have stuff you like drugs or guns [Guns could get tricky for this one. In fact if the you choose to not declare firearms they could become a real serious problem. Almost every country you could visit will have laws (on the books if not consistently enforced) that are far more stringent than the US. Some have serious (3rd world jail time) penalties for breaking these laws. Having a couple of relatively politically correct guns could be a reasonable answer.] or other things you are not supposed to have I wouldn't be too worried about local law enforcement. In general countries worth visiting try not to bother tourists who spend money.

If serious about this sort of plan you probably want to learn Spanish.

If we ever have the cash I would love to own a nice sailboat that we could take out for the weekend or potentially longer. However a sail boat is at the low end of a long list.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thoughts on Insurgencies (3?): Myths, Night Letters and Cost to Benefit Ratio

I have enjoyed writing this series (1, 2) and hope you have gotten something out of it. I was quite proud of the overwhelmingly positive response the first chapter got. I hope to keep a bit of that spark in every chapter. Anyway it is time for another chapter. I imagine it will continue periodically for the foreseeable future.

The first thing I am going to talk about today is what I think is the biggest myth about insurgents/ guerillas/ partisans in certain preparedness/ liberterian and pro gun circles. For lack of a better word lets call this myth the noble insurgent. In America the term Noble Patriot would fit better. The idea is that these noble insurgents are operating within an acceptable moral framework and level of violence against a clearly targeting a definite enemy and moving towards pure and worthy goals. This myth is so presumptuous and morally superior I cannot find the words to accurately describe it. It is to many men with an assault rifle and a copy of the Constitution what the nice college girl trying to earn her degree is to a guy in a strip club.

Lets disect it real quick. The Noble Patriot is absolutely sure that a) his cause is riteous or possibly holy, b) that the violence he commits against c) whomever is an evil supporter of tyranny (or otherwise disagrees with him) is just and noble for the end cause. We will go point by point.

A) My real concern here is that typically the crazier someone and their cause are the more riteous and possibly holy they believe it to be. Just because an individual or a group believe in a cause doesn't make it just. Also for heavens sake please don't find 3 pieces of scripture that, taken completely out of context, seem to support your cause and say it has sacred underpinnings. I am not going to say that all true believers are crazy. Some are decent sane folks who just believe really strongly about this or that. However some are completely off their rocker. There is nothing scarier than a true believer.

B) I don't have a real issue with this one. When you start hurting or killing folks I just can't see morally, ethically or otherwise how it matters much how you do it. To say that shooting them is OK but stabbing then is wrong, dropping mortars on them is OK but an IED is wrong, etc doesn't have much standing with me. Maybe a certain way is slow or cruel but at the end of the day the only person to whom that matters is the one it is inflicted upon. I don't think God differentiates between dudes you just shot in the face vs dudes you killed in another manner.

C) This is where the whole Noble Insurgent thing really breaks down. The Noble Insurgent ideal works only if we think in absolutes. People are absolutely good in the context of whatever your value system is or against it an absolutely bad. Anybody with experience in a chaotic area suffering a serious breakdown of law and order, let alone an insurgency or civil war can say that absolutes are a hard thing to find. Most people have some good elements and some bad elements. We are talking about a whole lot of shades of grey between a little bit of black and white on the perimiters. A and C come together to create some real issues.

I get reminded of a quote from The Goodfellas. "For most of the guys, killings got to be accepted. Murder was the only way that everybody stayed in line. You got out of line, you got whacked. Everybody knew the rules. But sometimes, even if people didn't get out of line, they got whacked. I mean, hits just became a habit for some of the guys. Guys would get into arguments over nothing and before you knew it, one of them was dead. And they were shooting each other all the time. Shooting people was a normal thing. It was no big deal." Another notable quote is "when the only tool you have is a hammer every problem starts to look like a nail." Basically once you get into the habit of killing folks to solve problems it is disturbingly easy to start killing all sorts of folks to solve all sorts of problems.

The honest truth is that despite the purity of their goals insurgents/ whatever are going to have to do a lot of bad things. More significantly they are inevitably going to have to intimidate/ coherce/ conscript (at least in a limited way for limited tasks) and steal. The last Matthew Bracken book had a good portrayal of this. It is fine and dandy to think about killing enemy soldiers or traitors but what about a shop keeper, small business owner or average joe trying to get by in a crazy situation? This is where those shades of grey continue to be problematic. Sure capping a dude who you estimate to be 90% evil is an easy decision but what if you think he is  52% evil?

The blunt and honest situation, if you look at accurate real life examples, is that insurgents are eventually going to have to force some sort of goods, services or information out of people who are not willing to give it. It is truly unavoidable. The 'cause' is going to bump into some decent normal people who just want to live their lives. Shooting enemy soldiers is pretty clear cut but what about some average joe so you can get some food or fuel?

Before flaming this please realize that I am not saying all insurgents or insurgencies or 'patriots' are inherantly bad. Nor am I saying that some causes they could stand for are not entirely just. Personally I can say there are some situations where I would start collecting information, sabotaging and destroying infrastructure and killing enemy personnel. It would be like a more boring but also more effective Red Dawn. I am a pragmatist and thus believe that the ends can justify the means. My main point is that folks need to get off of a high, morally superior horse and come to terms with the fact that being a successful insurgen is going to mean doing some bad things. It is also going to mean doing some bad things to people who probably don't really deserve it.

Maybe it is easy for Americans to have a nice sanitized 60's Western PG view of this sort of thing because our Revolution was a really long time ago and our civil war is also beyond real authentic memory. We can say that in America these things are fine, clean and noble. We can also use cultural, ethnic and racial steriotypes to think that revolutions and civil war's in other parts of the world are not dirty, nasty and violent because of their inherant nature but because these people are somehow inferior to us. Anyway onto the next point.

Insurgents are successful largely (or at least in part) because they can effectively intimidate the populace. To burst your bubble even further they don't intimidate people because they are tough, virtuous and have neato rifles; but instead because they prove very willing to cripple, main or kill those who do not bend to their will. Night letters are a great example of the power insurgents can have. A night letter is just a letter, posted at night and attributed to a given group that gives a warning/ threat. For example lets talk about Afghanistan. Here is a story that isn't exactly true but is very like a lot of true stories. Those crazy Americans think it would be nice to teach girls (oh their wacky western ideas) to read, do basic math and stuff like that. Lets say they go to months of effort and great expense to build and set up a nice school for these girls to learn some stuff. They hire a teacher and all that too. The night before the scheduled big opening of the school the teacher gets a letter stuck to his door. It says "If you teach those girls, we will cut your head off" and is signed by the local insurgent group. No way the teacher is going to deal with that. He may or may not do a lot of things the next day but sure as hell isn't going to that school! The reason this letter is effective is not because the insurgents are pure of heart or have nice rifles; but because the insurgents have a track record of cutting people's heads off. They have probably cut the head off of a  couple people from the teachers village for whatever reason.

While I am diametrically opposed to the Taliban's perspective on educating young girls I cannot say their methods aren't awesomely effective. An insurgent in another place, provided they were willing to do what it takes to establish the kind of credibility required to get this sort of reputation, could accomplish a lot of things with night letters. Maybe the evil occupiers have a base in your area. On that base they have toilets and since they are exceeding the capacity of that system they have plumbing issues. They hire a plumber who then gets a night letter. Either the insurgents have already earned through blood some credibility and he quits or it takes till plumber #3 for them to get that credit. Night letters flow well into my next point.

Insurgents are never on an even playing field with the government/ occupiers. If they go life for life and dollar for dollar they will quickly lose. However if they can find a way to negate or otherwise tie up a significant amount of personnel, energy and money for a modest investment they are in business. Back to that night letter I talked about before. Lets say the occupiers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, as well as lots of time and energy on a project and that project can be nullified by the insurgents posting a single letter. Even a force with lots of men, money and resources can quickly be worn down when the their large investments are countered by the 25 cents it costs to write a letter.

IED's are another great example. A fairly smart Iraqi bomb maker (specialized insurgent skill) with some electrical skills and a flair for creativity makes a new type of bomb. It costs $500 in components and a couple days of his time. Call it $750 just to have a number. That bomb blows up, messes up a vehicle and kills a few people. The Americans send numerous experienced specialists to study this bomb. Then the Army Center for Lessons Learned, EOD and numerous other groups and contractors spend a ton of money figuring out how to defeat this new threat. Millions of dollars are spent which then creates a new system or product. That product is created and fielded to as many groups as possible as quickly as possible. It costs tens of millions of dollars on the low end. So for an investment of $750 the insurgents killed 3 guys, wrecked a truck, tied up countless thousands of man hours and MILLIONS OF DOLLARS.

Insurgents can do well with this sort of techniques. Not flashy like direct action missions and that stuff but far more useful. Even if the enemy is 20x stronger and 20x better funded by using techniques that tie up vastly disproportionate amounts of their money and time they can be worn down into defeat.

I guess in closing being an insurgent is not a nice business. They do really bad things, sometimes to pretty decent people. If you don't believe that the ends justify the means then I suggest another hobby. If you do choose to be an insurgent then use the fear your group envokes to your full advantage. Also plan and conduct operations that will tie up disproportionate amounts of the enemies time, money and resources.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Thoughts On The 20th Century

The 20th century was a heck of a time. It probably saw more change for the living conditions of normal people than any other period. Around 1900 most peoples lives were pretty darn close to how they had been since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.  Most peoples lives revolved around working on a small family farm or in some sort of a shop. In big cities people worked in the labor intensive factories and such. By the end of the 20th century the lives of people were radically different. In the US something like 2% of people feed the rest. Instead of a typical farm being a guy with a couple hundred acres and a mule or two it is tens of thousands of acres worked by a man with tractors and combines. Even now massive agricultural businesses are making farming not viable for the typical family farm. Communication and massive technological innovations have radically changed the lives of all but the poorest people (I mean like Zimbabwe poor, not American poor) into something unimaginable back in 1900.

One of the biggest single misconceptions in the opening part of the 20th century was that history was set. It is really tempting to think that somehow the era you are in is the ultimate creation of all of history, but it is entirely inaccurate.  War came about early as in part because the recently unified Germany sought to gain power and territory. The beginning of the century saw the massacre of almost an entire generation in the fields of Western Europe. The fall of the massive and decayed Ottoman Empire happened immediately after the war ended. Also WWI brought America onto the forefront of the world stage for the first time.

It is easy for us to look back with perfect hindsight about how foolish it was for people and nations to think history was set back then but we far too often laugh at those folks but think the same thing ourselves about today. Nations are going to gain and lose territory and power through natural coming of age (India, maybe China) and decay but also the old fashioned way, by taking it from someone else. Also I think it would be a dangerous assumption to think that even Europe is done with war. They may well come out of the shell shock of WWI and WWII and revisit old ambitions, rivalries and feuds. Just as the 20th century saw all of these events the 21st will also.

Economies will collapse. Some will just sputter out because of new developments making areas undesirable and products unnecessary and others will fall apart in spectacular hyper inflationary crashes. When this happens a few rich, smart people will be able to see it coming and prepare. As almost always is the situation it is normal average people who get the worst end of these collapses.

Lots of folks talk about how a hyper inflationary collapse is coming for America. Some say that it is coming next week and that gold will hit $9,734 an ounce. They also often say that a certain type of gold coin is best and happen to be selling them. I do not know if this will happen. Maybe we will just have a period like the late 70's and early 80's with fairly high unemployment and only 15-20% inflation. I know America is a huge, powerful and amazing nation. If anybody could figure a way out of the box it seems we are painting ourselves into it would be this great nation, however I am not so naive to think it could not happen here. If nothing else minimizing debt, particularly adjustable interest rate debt is always sound advice. If you have a few bucks that do not go strait to putting a roof over your head and food in the kitchen buying some silver and gold is a good idea.

"If the 20th century taught us anything it is that life is pretty cheap"- Jim Rawles on Coast to Coast Radio

Lots of people died in the 20th century. World War One darn near killed an entire generation of young European men. World War Two did a pretty good job on the next generation.  Russia has been unsuccessful in proving that a country can kill off its entire population through revolution, war, government produced famine leading to starvation starvation and just plain purges. They do however get an A for effort.

Speaking of famine food has been used as a weapon multiple times in history. Most notably the Holodorm comes to mind.  Seriously I think Russia has a running bet with somebody that they can kill off more of their population than anyone else. Though Pol Pot might have won that one. Anyway things can get bad and people go hungry, not missed a meal, like those starving African kids in the aid commercials hungry.

Sometimes war or economic craziness or nutty national policies mess up the normal flow of food that begins with production (farms, ranches, etc) and ultimately ends up in our kitchens. What can we do as individuals to mitigate this? Storing food obviously comes to mind. Having multiple ways to procure food is probably prudent. Debit cards are good but having cash as a backup is very prudent. If you are worried about a situation where a single currency/ country collapses then having some other currency on hand might be prudent. For a long time this was the dollar, nowadays Euro's, Swiss Franks or Canadian dollars might be good. A single ATM transaction worth of a foreign currency might be a big deal for your family some day. If nothing else it is cool to reference your foreign currency reserves. Again as with the hyper inflationary situation having some precious metals is a good idea if you can afford it. Assuming food is available you can get some of it if you have precious metals, as noted in Zimbabwe. Depending on your situation and how concerned you are about this particular possibility (or saving money, healthy eating, etc) producing some of your own food can be a good move. In my opinion if it is possible with your lifestyle producing some food is a good idea. However it is not a cure all. If a 40 armed men with a tank show up they will take what you have, sorry but it is true. Storing some food off site in a cache might not be a horrible idea depending on your level of concern and overall scenario. Again in a perfect world having multiple ways to get food, multiple ways to grow/ harvest your own food and multiple ways to trade/ barter/ buy food would be nice.

On a tangent I greatly enjoyed the little Reece's peanut butter eggs I ate while researching/ writing about famine. I also like having ice cream while watching Survivor and Lost.

I do not think the 21st century is going to be as bloody as the 20th. If nothing else the combination of Nuclear Weapons creating a MAD scenario between some larger nations and the faster, more technological nature of warfare the body count will almost certainly be lower. However it could still be pretty darn bad under a variety of situations. Also it doesn't matter if the total number of people killed is far lower then the last century if you and your family end up being part of the death toll.

Even aside from fully state vs state conflicts groups of people will kill each other. Sometimes states kill certain minority groups that are present within their society. Also sometimes states sponsor or allow to act without fear of intervention a group that is actively killing another group. Our world started the 20th century with a few genocides and mass killings in Turkey and Russia then finished up with a couple of bangs in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. The time in the middle wasn't exactly calm either.

I would be quite surprised if the  21st century doesn't have a few times when certain groups of citizens are targeted by state or quasi state actors. What can be done to minimize ones risk to this sort of cultural/ ethnic/ racial violence? Well if a place seems like a cultural/ ethnic/ racial powder keg now then it might not be a great place to live, especially if you belong to the wrong cultural/ ethnic/ racial group for that area. It probably isn't politically or socially correct to say that but IMO it is something to consider. Matthew Bracken's books depict some events in the South West and California which one might want to think about.

I guess in conclusion I will reiterate a few key points. History isn't set and nations will rise and fall. It is prudent to take some common sense steps to mitigate your exposure to economic collapses, famine and cultural/ ethnic/ racial violence. This century is going to be a lot like the last one just with computers and Ipods. There are certainly new risks (terrorism, EMP's, etc) but the old ones haven't gone away.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Foreign Enemies Review

I finished the last of the Enemies Trilogy by Matthew Bracken. Really enjoyed this one. Some of the same characters appeared which was fun. It portrayed an interesting vision of the mid south after a major disaster amidst a dissheveled socialist totalitarian government which is using foreign soldiers for 'pacification'. In typical Matthew Bracken fashion the events were entirely plausible and disturbingly realistic.

In fact some pieces of the book were realistic enough to be downright disturbing and parraleled the nightly news.

This book was admittedly low on real lessons and high on entertainment. It did enforce the wisdom of having some small fractional coins. Silver is great for small trading and such but a person could easily conceal a small fortune in gold on their person.

The utility of a very compact pistol was strongly enforced. A well concealed keltech P3AT .380 will evade all but the closest search but could sure change the momentum of a bad situation. One of these is definitely on my wish list. I will probably get one prior to the PPK/S. I like the Walther a lot but it really doesn't fill a new nitche in the collection as it is just a bit smaller than the Glock 19 while a P3AT sure would.

In any case I enjoyed this book.
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