26 November 2014

Interesting Times

You have to read through all these links to understand the point I'm going to make:

My point is that China has deliberately depressed the value of the Yuan to make it a better candidate as the de facto world reserve currency than the dollar. Because of our own economic policies (undeniably Keynesian) we have already reached the tipping point where mature world markets are withdrawing from the use of the dollar, and moving towards stabilizing their own currencies against gold.

China will succeed where other nations have failed because their economy is export based, and a "good buy" in terms of growth compared to either the Dollar, Euro, Yen or Ruble. Everbody does business with China, so everybody already does business with the Yuan.

I predict that this is really just the public face of the beginning of the end for the Dollar. Once it is no longer a reserve currency, the Treasury will have to start raising rates on bonds to attract investors. Once rates are raised on bonds, the "payments on interest" portion of the Federal Budget will result in either a default or hyperinflation as the Treasury prints bills to cover the bills brought on by the bonds.

And thus Keynesian economics proves once again that you can't stop the bust, only kick the can down the road until it is someone else's problem.

So, to support that argument, please read the links below.

Some economists making the case that reality of not having the worlds reserve currency really isn't so bad, once you get used to it: http://online.wsj.com/articles/how-the-reserve-dollar-harms-america-1416527644

Other economist making the case that reality sucks worse than the official numbers and policy make reality out to be: http://praag.org/?p=16753 if you read no other link from this, read that one.

European banks are taking their gold out of the Fed. Germany's aborted attempt: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/17/business/global/german-central-bank-to-repatriate-gold-reserves.html?_r=0 and the Netherlands successful operation: http://www.mining.com/the-dutch-do-what-the-germans-couldnt-get-their-gold-back-56928/

Russia and China continuing to do business outside the dollar: http://praag.org/?p=16812

China and Europe starting to do business outside the dollar: http://praag.org/?p=16930

Comments are open.

23 November 2014

A Cyber Attack to take down the electric grid!

The internet seemed to notice that the Admiral in charge of CYBERCOM admitted that the Chinese (and in essence, anyone with enough resources) could launch a successful attack to take down the electric utilities of the United States.

In other news, water is wet, politicians aren't always truthful, and a career in the Military might involve being shot at.

Here are things you need to know.

In the US there are three main power grids. East of the Rockies, West of the Rockies, and Texas. Taking all three down at once is in the realm of reality, but I'd rate it about the same as severe weather taking down all three at once.

The Recovery and Reinvestment act that funded the "smart grid" updrades actually made our grids more vulnerable, not less vulnerable. You can't hack a dumb circuit that isn't online without physical access. Putting things on line puts things at risk. But what is that risk and how do we quantify it? That's a whole different can of worms.

The FedGov has 4 power marketing administrations: Bonneville, Western Area, Southwestern Area, and Southeastern Area. Additionally the Tennessee Valley Authority also runs power generation stations.

In addition to that, you have regional utilities that generate power, buy power, sell excess power, and provide customer service.

So with three regional grids, 5 marketing administrations, along with various smaller regional utilities, the odds of taking down the "entire grid" become increasingly small.

Does that mean that we shouldn't increase our cyber security awareness and threat posture? Heavens no, always minimize your risk level whenever it is feasible to do so. When it isn't feasible, it simply isn't feasible and you have to accept some risk.

For example, shooting up transformers can take down substations, and enough idjits with enough rifles can more thoroughly black out a city than a cadre of chinese hackers that can get locked out with the next software patch. Never discount physical security, or the threat of physical hacks.

The truth is that everything can be hacked, cracked, or broken. It just takes resources, time and effort.

22 November 2014

Winter is coming

Since the last PCS move we've had four successful months living in our new home, on a new post, and getting integrated into a new community.

We couldn't move all of our food preps, nor any of my firearms, to the new duty assignment. This has made us a little nervous.

With about 9 weeks until February comes around again, we are nowhere near where we feel comfortable with food preparations. Not only is learning to purchase food in a foreign country a learning experience on its own, you have to couple that with government issued housing that wasn't designed with any real prepping in mind.

So what do you do? You make do, because there is no other option.

We've decided to dedicate a "coat room" area to become a food pantry. We've decided that this coming February we will try to live off of only store bought foods. Rice, beans, canned foods, shelf stable milk, etc.

We've also decided to test out some alternative cooking options for actual utility in a "shelter in place" scenario. I'm thinking cola can alcohol burners and "hobo stoves" fed by twigs. We may or may not purchase a lightweight camping stove between then and now.

There are two truths that drive this yearly prep test.
  1. Experience is the thing you get right after you needed it most. 
  2. The worst place to do anything for the first time is in an emergency.
There are only about 9 weeks from now until the start of the exercise, and we still haven't built up what I consider a comfortable level of preparation. Every week that goes by we add to the pantry, but the learning curve of getting used to German brands has made the progress slow (don't buy a lot of a product that you've never bought before, try it out at least once before deciding to purchase in quantity).

Wish us luck.

15 November 2014

Lines of Effort for Information Operations

This post has been in draft form for longer than I can remember. Bateman's latest article jogged my memory that I needed to finish it.

I'm not an IO guy, but I work with IO guys.

When planning out a long term information "campaign" you need to tie in your goals to your actual operations. This is just a long way to say that information operations can't exist in a vacuum. Advertising agencies know this, which is why you get a "media blitz" for a new product that is carefully targeted to create a demand for something that was never demanded before.

So the first step of targeting is to identify your audience. I think that my audience here is mainly liberty minded individuals, so I spend a lot of time "preaching to the choir" (although sometimes I piss off some folks because I come to a conclusion that isn't proper groupthink). But if I were an advertising agent, I wouldn't put up adds for beauty products or luxury chocolates on my blog, I would stick with sporting goods, beer, whiskeys, guns, trucks, motorcycles, all of which have a price point above bare bottom, somewhere in the 2nd to 4th quintile.

Once you've identified your audience, you need to determine where they stand right now. Are they well informed? Are they ignorant? Are they ignorant but think they are well informed? Are they friendly? Are they neutral? Are they hostile?

Now that you've identified your audience, and where your audience stands, NOW you can begin crafting a line of effort to achieve an effect on that audience. Do you want to pursuade them? Gain support? Reduce support for the enemy? Simply inform them of your side of the story so they can make up their own mind (counter-propaganda)?

The delivery method can sometimes dictate the target audience. Radio messages only reach people listening to the radio. Television messages only reach people watching TV. Previews in a theater only reach the audience who got their early enough to watch the previews. Newspaper adds only reach the people who read that newspaper. A word of mouth campaign is only as good as the social network it spreads through.

Information Campaigns work best when they are not their own operation, but are tied into everything. The behavior you want from your target audience has to be worked for in every possible interaction you have with them, from giving PVT Snuffy a list of things not to do, a list of things to do, things to talk about, and things to avoid talking about, is key to being successful.

And the last thing you have to do is make sure you aren't alienating an audience that you've won over. Call this "information campaign maintenance" or something.

Now as I stated before, I'm not an IO guy. I would appreciate it if an actual IO guy (or gal) spoke up. Comments are open.

Bob Bateman's Information Campaign against gun owners

So LTC(ret) Robert Bateman continues to pen articles for Esquire. I won't link to his article from here as it would increase his relevance in the google ranking matrix.

In his latest attempt at relevance he relates going to brunch and seeing a man with a "Molon Labe" tattoo, and a suspicious bulge that Bateman assumes is a pistol (could have been an insulin pump for all Bateman knows, but never let a known uncertainty get in the way of your information campaign).

Bateman never finds out the gentleman's name, simply assuming that he is a savage, ignorant of Spartan culture, ignorant of the events of Thermopylae, and tells the tale of Sparta, where boys are separated from their family, raised by the state, and supported by a an economy based on slavery.

The problem with Bob's assessment isn't that he gets the facts wrong, his facts about Sparta are correct. But what he gets wrong is that the words "Molon Labe" aren't about Sparta. The words are about saying, "Fuck You" in the face of overwhelming odds. Of being willing to die before submitting.

But Bob doesn't want to touch that. Bob instead focuses on creating a caricature of a man, a caricature of an organization. This is the the same as the buck toothed and fanged Japanese soldiers found in WWII era comics. Dehumanize the enemy to make him easier to kill.

I do not think LTC(ret) Bateman is a stupid man. Generally you don't make LTC without some reasoning abilities, and you don't get to be a strategic planner without going through "mental Ranger school."

So Bob's words were chosen with care. His deliberate attempt to portray gun owners as ignorant rubes, and deliberately says, "molon labe is an NRA approved message." which seems to be a bald face lie. If you google "NRA Molon Labe" the very first hit is Bob's hit piece, followed by someone selling pro gun rights stickers on amazon.com.

Don't underestimate Bateman. He chose his words to have an effect on his audience. And those words were meant to sway readers of Esquire to associate gun owners with insecure, ignorant, and backwards people.

So Bateman, if I ever see you, I think I shall fix the phrase you find so disturbing. "Molon Labe, Oedipus."

14 November 2014

Platonic Ideals...

There are a lot of different rifles out there, with a lot of different intended uses in mind. Lately I've been thinking about bolt action rifles, and how there aren't any real novelties. Both turnbolt and straight pull bolt action rifles have been around for well over a century.

Ignoring the straight pull rifles, I think that the traditional turn bolt is pretty much the epitome of "rifle."

I think my "Platonic Ideal" of a general purpose "do it all" rifle is pretty close to a Steyr SSG-69. While it is used as a sniper rifle, it looks and feels like a hunting rifle. Scoped with a 6x optic, but with permanent irons installed on the barrel. The butterknife bolt handle is almost perfectly made for the "blade hand" bolt manipulation method. And the detachable magazine allows for rapid reloads. Even the synthetic stock is utilitarian and weather resistant. What really is the achilles heal of the Steyr is the process needed to replace a shot out barrel, and the shocking price tag.

Also in the "pretty close" category there is the Tikka T3 Varmint Stainless, although the magazine capacity is a tad on the limited side from the factory and back up irons are missing.

Other examples, and a step across the pond away from Europe and a huge step down in price, is the Savage Precision Carbine (detachable box mag, but no backup irons) Savage Hog Hunter (blind magazine but backup irons) and Savage Axis Heavy Barrel (no backup sights). Obviously some "tweaking" would need to be done with these three, but you could buy all three for the cost of one Steyr sold for MSRP.

If you think that I have a fondness for synthetic stocked, barrel heavy 308s you would be correct. I find that it is a good enough cartridge for anything I ask it to do, even if it isn't optimal at any single one of them. I'd hazard that any of the military small bore cartridges above 22 caliber would do just fine. The various 6.5s (Swede, Carcano, Mannlicher), 7x57, 8x57 (both bore diameters), and all the rest would serve equally as well in terms of sheer utility.

But as an American, the 308 Win is the one we use, so it is generally the one I use. I also find that barrels shorter than 20" have more muzzle blast than I care for, and barrels longer than 22" have met the point of diminishing returns for ballistics inside of 800 meters. I like a bit of weight out front for balance and recoil mitigation. You might like none of these things, and that is just fine. I know a fella who prefers to hunt with his 28" barreled 378 Weatherby, even for non-dangerous game.

Now when it comes to a specialized rifle, you either step up to "Dangerous Game" or step down to "Dedicated Varmint" rifles.

The "Platonic Ideal" for a dangerous game rifle will likely remain the Mauser M98 in 375 or larger chambering. A Ruger M77 MkII would do just as nicely as a stand in. So would a Winchester M70 Classic action.

While the double rifles have a well established reputation, simple economics keep them in the realm of "elite hunting implements" instead of "Platonic Ideal" rifles.

An Africa/Alaska style rifle built on controlled round feed action will cost pennies on the dollar over a double rifle. And while the Ruger action is investment cast, which mentally I know isn't an issue, but somehow the traditionalist part of me prefers forged steel, any of the rifles listed are perfectly adequate.

Factory offerings for new Ruger or Winchester rifles designed for hunting dangerous game are often priced in the realm of what a custom M98 would cost from a reputable gunsmith. If cost is truly an issue you could forgo the conrolled round feed and slap a new bolt and barrel onto a Savage action and go hunting for glory.

So far the only rifle I've listed that isn't a twin opposing front lug action is the Steyr (three lugs, rear locking), but the odds of me buying one are slim to none. I've honestly paid less for used cars than a new Steyr SSG.

For varmint rifles, simply take your pick. I prefer the 223 Rem for varmints myself, but the 22-250 is quite popular, and the 204 Ruger is gaining a cult following. Since these rifles are almost solely for recreation (there are exceptions of course), I think the Savage lineup wins for ease of rebarreling.

If I truly only could have one rifle, it would probably be the one of the 308s. I don't hunt dangerous game, or where dangerous game lives, although it is on my bucket list to do so. I also don't do much varminting, although I do love to put 22 caliber holes in paper.

Unfortunately, no one yet makes an aftermarket butterknife bolt handle for a Savage, I'd love to give one a try.

11 November 2014

ESR, Sarah Hoyt, and now me slaughtering the memes

This post was sparked by a conversation with Daniel Barger about the causes for international conflict. He stated the old wisdom that wars are started by people with a motive for profit. I've found that if someone has an assumption that they believe to be a truth (for planning purposes all assumptions are true until proven false, and you should be constantly trying to confirm/deny all your assumptions) all you need to do is ask the 5 W's to get to the root assumption, which is often nothing more than, "well doesn't everyone know this to be true?"

Separating Truth from Falsity is one of Joe Huffman's ongoing themes on his blog. The ability to spot an assumption, a logical failure or inconsistency, and a blatant falsehood is an incredibly necessary skill for anyone to master. Basically those skills are your bullshit detector. 

With that in mind, please peruse these two links, and while it will take some time I assure you that it will be worth it once you come back.

http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=260

http://accordingtohoyt.com/2014/11/07/and-so-its-come-to-this/

People like memes because it allows them to have an opinion without having all the facts. It allows the illusion of intelligence without any critical thinking to back it up.
  • There is no truth, only competing agendas.
  • All Western (and especially American) claims to moral superiority over Communism/Fascism/Islam are vitiated by the West’s history of racism and colonialism.
  • There are no objective standards by which we may judge one culture to be better than another. Anyone who claims that there are such standards is an evil oppressor.
  • The prosperity of the West is built on ruthless exploitation of the Third World; therefore Westerners actually deserve to be impoverished and miserable.
  • Crime is the fault of society, not the individual criminal. Poor criminals are entitled to what they take. Submitting to criminal predation is more virtuous than resisting it.
  • The poor are victims. Criminals are victims. And only victims are virtuous. Therefore only the poor and criminals are virtuous. (Rich people can borrow some virtue by identifying with poor people and criminals.)
  • For a virtuous person, violence and war are never justified. It is always better to be a victim than to fight, or even to defend oneself. But ‘oppressed’ people are allowed to use violence anyway; they are merely reflecting the evil of their oppressors.
  • When confronted with terror, the only moral course for a Westerner is to apologize for past sins, understand the terrorist’s point of view, and make concessions.

The above list is a good example for playing "spot the master suppression technique" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Master_suppression_techniques

I would like to add the following.
  • Wars are fought over money and resources. To find the root of war you just need to follow the money. For example, "No Blood for Oil."

The first cultural meme I mention is like all good memes, in that there is a grain of truth about it. However, the last war I can think of that was fought for purely economical reasons was WWI, before that the Boer War, and before that the US Civil War. It also plays to the Christians who remember their Bible, "The love of money is the root of much evil."

Another note, one that Andrew Carnegie was prescient in addressing, was the danger of rampant nationalism leading to war. Had the allies not humiliated Germany so thoroughly by the Treaty of Versailles then a young Corporal Hitler might not have found such a ready audience for his message of national strength. Often times there are more nationalist reasons for fighting a war over resources, such as the Boer War, where colonialism is just a proxy for the clash of empires. You would see this "proxy war" again in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and all throughout South America as the clash between the US and the USSR.

So with the facade of truth, what is the reality?

What all these wars with an obvious economic aspect have in common is an empire with a mercantilism economy. The mercantilism of 1800s Europe was exactly what Karl Marx was writing against, a system of exploitation based on the conquest of lands to send raw materials back to the seat of empire, and finished goods out to the fringes of empire. By the time you get to Korea and Vietnam, the economic aspect is removed and replaced by nationalism (or other ideology).

Before mercantilism there was the economy of feudalism, and before that the ancient empires all fought for literal resources. Farmland, mines, trade routes. There really wasn't much else worth fighting for. So there is truth that some wars were fought over money and resources. But even in the ancient eras that does not explain why people fought to gain political concessions in documents like the Magna Carta or Articles of Confederation.

The mercantile economic model broke down after WWI, and WWII smashed the last vestiges of Mercantilism based Empire off the globe. The British and other European powers got around to dismantling their empire with varying success, and the new Cold War ushered in the height of the industrial age and internationalism.

The truth is far more complex than "all wars are economic." The real truth is that all wars are political, and sometimes politics includes economic drivers and policy. But the meme appeals to our desire to have some evil old man sitting in a darkened boardroom who is scheming to start a war somewhere so he can sell the government some widget or weapon and make millions on the deaths of thousands. I have no doubt that such evil people exist, but until you can prove that man exists and is capable of doing the evil described he is simply another conspiracy theory like the Illuminati or Lizard Men.

There are a lot more memes about military service and war that I could list, some with varying degrees of truth. But they are all designed to appeal to the "everyone knows" fallacy and they are not useful at all when looking at cause and analysis. But, for everything there is an answer that is short, concise, and wrong. And that short, concise, wrong answer is much more likely to become a meme than the correct answer.

Comments are open.