Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thoughts on Bugging Out -- Part 2

So let’s continue and assume that we have to leave our happy home with just what we can carry in a bag or two or even in the trunk of a car.  In general, what are the essentials I would want to have in an emergency?

The cell phone is a valuable tool.  You need a way to keep it charged.  Assuming you have your phone with you, consider including a solar charger or windup charger in your pack.  The windups are often found in combination with an emergency radio which is also a good thing to have.  Put a spare cell phone cable in your pack.  You can’t charge it if you can’t connect it. 

Stash some cash – not necessarily a lot -- $50 to $100 as a minimum, a little more if you think it is safe, IN your pack.  Don’t “borrow” it and forget to replace it.  Some should be in change so you can plug a vending machine easily.  Most should be in $5, $10, and $20 bills.

Have some way to entertain yourself.  If your phone is your MP3 player, you’ve got that covered.  I would include a favorite book or two – in my case that would be a Bible or the New Testament.  I would also include a small notebook and a pen or pencil or two.  Some folks might want to take along a deck of cards or a harmonica.  The important thing, and it is important, is to have something to occupy your mind and time if you get stuck somewhere just waiting and wondering.    
For clothes, at the very least, I would want a couple of pairs of good socks – one pair thin for walking and a heavy pair for warmth.  Socks should be changed if they get wet.  Dirty socks are no big deal.  Wet socks can get you in trouble.  A change of underwear is not a bad idea if there is room, especially a set of long thermal underwear (this is for my part of the country where it usually doesn’t get much below 0 degrees Fahrenheit for too long.  In other regions, more and heavier cold weather gear is critical).  I would probably try to fit in a pair of cargo pants and a long-sleeved shirt.  Have a pair of boots that will take some abuse and that fit.   Stash your boots with your pack when you aren’t wearing them.  Have a coat, preferably waterproof.   Ideally you should have a sturdy sleeping bag and a foam pad, but a wool blanket or even one of those stupid space blankets beats nothing.  A tarp along with some fishing line, zip ties, and/or duct tape would provide some shelter. 

I would have a toothbrush, a toothpick, small travel-size tube of toothpaste, and small container of mouthwash that won’t leak or come unscrewed.  A package of floss doesn’t take up much room, helps in cleaning teeth and proves a little emergency cordage if necessary.  Keep a bottle of multi-vitamins in your pack that you rotate out regularly.  Include some first-aid items like adhesive bandages, pain reliever, and Benadryl.  An antiseptic like iodine or alcohol could be handy, but antiseptic mouthwash is probably – I’m guessing here – antiseptic as well.  Throw in some wipes in addition to liquid soap in case you are short on water.  Toilet paper may not save your life, but it might save your dignity.  Pull the cardboard center out and compress a roll in a Ziploc bag.  Insect repellant could save your life.  I would have a hat with a brim, like my crushable felt fedora, maybe a watchcap, and definitely sunglasses or spare prescription shades.    Have a little sewing kit -- a few needles, some buttons, and heavy-duty thread. 

For water, a hydration pack is great, or, keep a jug or a couple of bottles of water with your pack and rotate out for freshness every once in a while.  Whatever works.  Just make sure you have water.   Get a water filter.  A bandana or coffee filter should be used to pre-filter the chunky stuff to keep things from clogging up. 

Food should be compact, long-lasting, relatively unaffected by temperature changes, and require little or no preparation while providing fat and protein and a few carbohydrates.  It should be light, as well.  You can buy MREs.  They are possibly the best choice, but I would supplement with sealed bags of nuts, sunflower seeds, or trail mix, and maybe a nutrition bar or two per person.  You can also make your own MRE-like meal packages .  For an evacuation situation, you don’t want to be carrying a lot of cooking utensils, but a small pan or large metal cup for boiling water would be useful. 

If you think you might be end up “living off the land”, more cooking supplies and equipment are in order.  Salt will be needed along with small amounts of a favorite spice or two – chili powder for me.  Oil would be nice to have, at least in a small quantity, as long as it does not require refrigeration.     

Have a way to start a fire.  I’m a simple person.  I always, always have a mini-BIC lighter on me just like I always have a knife and a flashlight.  I have carried lighters for decades in fact, since the early ‘70’s after being stranded all night on a float trip with zero equipment except for my pocket knife and my buddy’s Zippo lighter (another excellent tool).  If I’m going to be out in the boonies, I wrap three or four ranger bands (cross-sections cut from a bicycle inner tube, in case someone doesn’t know that) around the lighter and use the bands for tinder.  They burn hot and last long enough to catch kindling under adverse conditions.  It is a neat, complete, and compact package.  A bug-out pack should have at least a couple of these lighters and with the bands or tinder of some kind along with a flint and steel or magnesium fire-starter.  Fire good.   

Light is good, too.  If you don’t have a high-powered LED flashlight, go buy one.  For $20 or $30 bucks at Wal-Mart, you can pick up an LED that throws an intense, long-range beam, runs probably four to six hours on two or three common AAA batteries.  You can also spend more and get even better lights, one advantage being that they use the little disk batteries which are more compact and longer lasting, and have selectable levels of light so those batteries can last even longer.  In any case, get some light. 
Your pack should include a spare multi-tool and a modest fixed blade knife, perhaps something like the basic, non-threatening, yet frightfully sharp Mora that I reviewed a few months back.  If you have edged tools, you need a whetstone or hone to keep them sharp.  For a bug-out pack, I would probably go with a small ceramic, but that’s a personal preference.  A fine diamond hone is a good choice, too.  Of course, I’m going to throw in a chopper of some kind – big knife, hatchet, or tomahawk.  Obviously, if one is going to be evacuated or forced to flee into an area with lots of other people, it is best to be discreet with things that might look like weaponry. 

And speaking of weaponry, should your bug-out gear include firearms?  That will vary according to the situation.  If you are removed to some holding area by the authorities, they may well frown on the idea of you packing, even though that is a situation were you could realistically need to defend yourself.  We recall what happened when people were forced into the Superdome in New Orleans by Katrina.  The predators had easy pickings.  I would be likely to take a firearm or two if I could at all.  I would likely lie about having a weapon if I thought I would not be searched or run through a metal detector.  If I thought I would be run through a metal detector and disarmed, I would probably not go with the authorities.  That is not advice or a recommendation.  I do not encourage other people to endanger themselves in any way, or to do anything illegal.  

If I had to bug-out with only one weapon, it would be a centerfire handgun.  If I could have two, one would be the handgun, the second would be a long arm, either a .22LR rifle or a shotgun.  If space and weight are limiting factors, you could do worse than to have a good, reliable .22LR handgun, especially an autoloader like the Ruger Mark III.  An alternative would be a .22LR conversion kit such as is available for Sig-Sauers, Glocks, and 1911’s.  The advantage of the .22LR as a bug-out firearm is the amount of ammunition that can be carried, the low noise signature of the .22, accuracy, and the fact that smaller game can be taken without destroying too much meat.  A really good case could be made for putting a take-down .22LR rifle, such as the Henry AR-7 or the Marlin Papoose ( the more accurate of the two) in the bug-out bag with a couple of hundred rounds of ammunition.  Though it might be marginal for self-defense, the .22 will do the job, and it is an excellent foraging tool in the right hands. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Thought on Bugging Out -- Part 1

I am not too interested in the bug-out concept.  I moved out to my fall-back position several years ago.  If you have seen the movie Up -- yet another Pixar classic, there is a scene in which Russell expresses his admiration of the fact that Carl brought his whole house, allowing him to bring all his “stuff”.  That’s the perfect bug-out scenario for most of us. 

We are facing an economic day of reckoning.  It could turn into something uglier than simply a depression, but that is not the likeliest outcome.  Depending on where a person lives and the conditions under which one lives, leaving may not be the best option.  However, in spite of the depressed economy in several areas of the country, other areas have much lower unemployment rates, e.g., North Dakota.  A person might find it beneficial to be able to relocate.  Mobility is always a plus when preparing for future vagaries.  It is also conceivable that people might be forced to evacuate an area for varying periods of time due to, for example, fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, tsunamis, nuclear disasters (as in Japan), tornadoes, localized civil unrest, disease epidemics, break downs in supply systems (water, sewer),  etc.

If you are forced to leave your home in a hurry, what do you take?  Let’s assume that you are a well-prepared person who has a pantry full of Spam, powdered milk and eggs, not to mention containers of water, MREs, and sealed five-gallon buckets of beans and hard winter wheat.  Your gun safe and your closets are overflowing guns and ammunition and gold and silver coins.  You had considered, you thought, every possibility, and yet, there is a vast all-consuming forest fire fast approaching your mountain retreat.  If you stay, you will die.  Anything you leave behind will be burned and lost. 

When disaster threatens, and when that threat is imminent, we may have neither the time nor the presence of mind to set priorities and assign relative values to our possessions.  The time to do that is now.  Now is the time to set aside a day or two to gather and consider and to organize.  We need to understand what absolutely has to be carried with us, what would be good to carry if possible, and what is necessary to leave behind.   

What documents do you need?  Passports, birth certificate, marriage licenses, deeds, titles, insurance, medical records, bank records?  Family photos?  What can be scanned and saved on a flash drive?  What has to be carried in hard copy?  Do you have a backup external drive with all your computer records?  How about making sure ahead of time that you have backup copies of documents in a safe deposit box or stored securely with friends or family in another area?  Are you going to try to carry off your laptop?  Do you have prescription medications or medical equipment that you will need?  Spare eyeglasses?  What are you going to do for money if you can’t get to a bank immediately?  What if the power is out and you can’t use a credit card?  Is all this stuff in a central location?  Do you have a “bug-out box” or something that you can grab, throw in the car and go? Decide what needs to go in there, fill it, and place it where it is readily accessible. 

Now, what if you can’t take your car or truck?  Pare your list down farther so that your essentials, including a container of water, some food, required medications, essential documents, cash, coins, computer files, a change of clothes, a sleeping bag or blanket, some tools, and weapons can be carried out in your hand or on your back.  This might be the case in a flood when the roads are closed or you have to evacuate by boat, or, perhaps if the authorities order an evacuation by truck or bus.  Have your bag ready to grab and go.

Everybody will probably have different requirements.  I would strongly suggest having duplicate hard copies made of titles and deeds and storing them at another site.  This is especially critical if you live in a location that is subject to brush fires or flooding.  Anything that can be moved and secured ahead of time is one less thing you risk losing or forgetting or being delayed trying to find.   Aside from documents, records, and irreplaceable family pictures or heirlooms, what else would you hate to lose?  I would miss books and Bibles and all kinds of relatively minor things I’ve been given by family members and friends that have passed on.  We have to face the reality that so many elements of our lives are fragile and perishing, and that someday we will leave it all behind. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

It Is Always Darkest Just Before It All Goes Completely Black

I strongly recommend reading a couple of on Karl Denninger’s Market Ticker.  First, we have  "Take Off Your Blinders"  regarding the OWS and trying to engage them.  Having seen some of the videos, I have to wonder how effective “logic” is going to be with the majority of the protestors.  Whatever.  Read it and draw your own conclusions. 

Then we have "Tying It All Together"  in which Denninger explains why he thinks the bank bail-outs, TARP, et al, were not government “taking over” capitalism.  Though Denninger is obviously much smarter, not to mention far more informed than I am, I will risk adding my own thoughts in this regard. 

Since Denninger has been in a running argument with a writer from PJM for the last several days, his comments here may carry some of that baggage.  The disagreement is pretty uninteresting to me and amounts to a couple of baboons flashing one another to show whose is the biggest.  I do not mean to denigrate either of the parties involved; it is merely a reflection of nature of all too many arguments on the interwebs.  That said, I think Denninger has the other guy beat.    

As I have stated before, we live in a fascist economy – not a free market economy.  We have government interference and control in business. We have incestuous relationships between regulators and the regulated.  We have the Federal Reserve – an alleged private bank, controlling the money supply and fiscal policy.  Our Secretaries of the Treasury for both Republican and Democrat administrations have been tied inextricably to Wall Street.  Then there is Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac which are unholy amalgams of government and private lending.  I am not being at all inflammatory when I say this system is fascist.  What we currently have is the dictionary definition of fascism as an economic system.  We are not talking about the authoritarian nature of Mussolini’s Italy or Hitler’s Germany.  This is purely an issue of the economic system.  People call it “crony capitalism”.  It is fascism. 

The only point at which I might disagree with Mr. Denninger is that he fails to emphasize that this the way the system is and has been working for way too long.  To blame the banks is to blame the government which is to blame the corporations which is to blame the bureaucracy, and so on.  It is all one messed up orgy of stupidity.  Big business and big government are two sides of the same coin.  And this is not a sudden occurrence.  It has been happening for decades. 

Unions are another factor in this equation.  Excessive and unrealistic demands by unions have done at least as much damage to American manufacturing and industry as the much-discussed greediness of CEOs and investors.  A free market economy is just as detrimental to union “closed shop” ambitions as it is to the economic manipulations of the Corporate-Political complex.

The Tea Party focused on taxation and out-of-control government spending and regulation.  OWS is trying to focus on Too Big To Fail banks and corporate influence.  The way to address both complaints is to get government money -- subsidies, entitlements, and bail-outs, out of the system.  The Fed has been propping up stock prices for years.  The Federal Reserve and the various levels of government in more or less open collusion with the not-so-private sector have been creating a pretense of economic growth where none exists with one bubble after another. 

Let the bubbles burst.  Let governments at all levels go on a starvation diet.  Cut the attempts at inflating and devaluing the dollar in what is a futile effort to stave off sovereign bankruptcy and save the fake economy.  In the long run, it will fail anyway.  Give it up now.  Some of the fat cats that OWS protesters seem to hate will be jumping out of windows because their lives were built on these fragile, illusory, and meaningless bubbles. 

I am sorry that has to happen.  I am also somewhat sorry that people who have sucked off the government teat for most or all of their lives will have to wake up to reality.  I am sorry, truly and sincerely sorry that unrealistic promises about pensions and benefits, Medicare and even Social Security cannot be kept.  I will suffer along with everyone else through the correction necessary because of the mismanagement of a fascist economy by the bumbling, the incompetent, the greedy and the power-mad.   But I can assure everyone that if we do not bite the bullet now, we will all be much sorrier all too soon.     

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Stopping Power and the .38 Special

Check out the Ellifritz study on

Statistics from Greg Ellifritz's analysis of the .38 Special:  
# of people shot - 199
# of hits - 373
% of hits that were fatal - 29%
Average number of rounds until incapacitation - 1.87
% of people who were not incapacitated - 17%
One-shot-stop % - 39%
Accuracy (head and torso hits) - 76%
% actually incapacitated by one shot (torso or head hit) - 55%

The .38 Special is an excellent cartridge for self-defense and training.  I notice that I said in my comments on the .380 ACP that the .38 did not fare well in the Ellifritz study.  I am not sure what I was thinking when I wrote that, but I was likely mixing up the .38 with the 9mm.  While both the one-shot-stop percentage (39%) and the “actually incapacitated by one shot” (55%) are lower than the .357, the numbers are quite respectable.  Also the .38 tops every caliber except the .45 ACP in terms of the number of people who have been shot with it.  It is a very widely used round.  Back in the 1980s during a brief and regrettable stint in a quasi-law enforcement capacity, I sometimes carried an ancient Smith & Wesson .38 Special M&P, also known, I believe as the Model 10.  It had a 4-inch barrel, and I loaded it with 158-grain roundnose.  Fortunately I never had occasion to use except for qualification.  The DA trigger pull was slick and smooth.  The old revolver shot quite well.  I should have tried to buy from the government agency that employed me, but I had other priorities at the time. 

I have a Rossi Model 68 (5-shot) with a two-inch barrel in .38 Special that I have hauled all over the country in my glovebox or console.  I have slipped it in my back pocket to answer the door a few times.  I have slept with it under my pillow in certain situations.  It is a handy little gun, not exceptionally accurate, but about what a person would expect from a snub-nose.  If I am serious about needing it for self-defense, I load it with Winchester 110-grain Silvertips.  This is premium ammunition, but it is the only standard pressure round (non-+P) I have tried that expands reliably and penetrates sufficiently from a two-inch barrel.  If your life is going to depend on it, it is worth the money.

Generally, it is better to go with a slightly larger weapon in .38.  In fact the best choice is probably a .357.  One could argue reasonably that all a person really needs is a .357 magnum revolver with a 4-inch or 6-inch barrel.  Loaded with .38 Special rounds, it can be used for target practice and occasional, opportunistic small-game hunting.  With .38 +P or .357 loads, it can be used for self-defense and hunting game up to the size of whitetails.

While the .357 has sharp and sometimes painful muzzle blast, the .38 Special generally speaks softly.  It is an excellent choice for training new handgun shooters.  Ammunition is common and usually widely available.  Reloaders will not find it much of a chore to crank out a nice variety of good quality, reliable, and accurate handloads for the .38 revolver.  I also like the fact that the .38 comes in revolvers.  Some people object to the capacity issue, but we should note that “average number of rounds until incapacitation” for this round is only 1.87.  Two or three shots properly placed shots will take down an attacker more often than not.  While it might not be the perfect solution for dispatching hordes of zombies, a revolver is very reliable and endures neglect better than an autoloader which is more tolerant of abuse.  Double-action revolvers in particular are somewhat more prone to wear and breakage if they get thrown around or stepped on by a cow or run over by a truck.  But they will sit patiently in a dresser draw for years and function perfectly when taken out. 

Because it is controllable in smaller revolvers, the .38 Special is good choice for concealed carry, if a person prefers a wheelgun over an autoloader – and there are valid reasons for such a preference.  A good double-action shooter can fire a revolver faster than an autoloader can cycle.  That person would not be me, but check out a Youtube of the inimitable Jerry Miculek..

Another nice feature of revolvers, at least for me, is there is no need to rack the slide.  If your revolver is loaded, it is ready to fire.  While I can carry my DA autoloader safely with a round in the chamber, I usually do not.  If I am going out to check what the dog is barking at after dark, and grab a handgun, it is more likely to be a revolver for the simple reason that I don’t want to have to chamber a round unnecessarily before I go out.    A revolver is not finicky about loads or bullet shapes or how the shooter holds it.  It will generally go ‘bang’ about every time, and, even if it doesn’t, there is no need to clear a jam.  It is simple, and sometimes simple is good. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Very Superstitious

Does anyone else find it strange that as the "Occupy Wall Street" astroturf protesters smell up the Street, stocks shot up at the very end of trading yesterday and posted nice gains today as well?  Italy has been downgraded.  Greece is going bankrupt.  The government is limping along.  There should be indictments coming for Holder and, assuming Obama was informed, for him as well on the Gunwalker scandal. 

Yet in the last hour on 10/4/11, the Dow climbed 4% after being down all day long.  This makes no sense to me.  One tends to think such volatility is something other than the result of totally transparent, aboveboard and honest trading.  It seems manipulated.  For be it from me to offer reasons for the behavior of an irrational market, but I cannot help being suspicious. 

My opinion is that the losers of OWS are simply tools (possibly unwitting tools) of The Powers That Be.  What both Wall Street and the protesters want is further expansion of government debt and spending -- i.e., another round of money printing, QE3, full-blown and completely inflationary.  The protesters may be the means of giving cover to Bernanke, the Fed, and the Obama Administration as they try one last time to blow a bubble in the economy.  It will give the financial sector a chance to bail out of the equity markets on a plateau before the ground opens beneath them.  If it would happen to find some traction and inflate wages, the result would be increased government revenues.  It will not find traction, of course; it will simply shoot up the price of commodities, of food and transportation, and, by devaluing savings, become a huge tax on those with the foresight to live within their means. 

I may be slightly too conspiratorial here. I am usually more cautious in assigning motives.  However, the result is likely to be the same whatever the motives of the OWS stooges might be.  They will end up helping the sector they claim to be protesting.  Meanwhile, the decent, moral, honest, and honorable folks paying the bills and doing the right things are fixing to get hosed. 

In the end, so will the stooges.   

Leverage and Bad Money

There is no point in me restating what has already been said with utter clarity and brevity -- read Denninger's "OWS:  Want to Turn the Tide?" on the Ticker.

Denninger's explanation of the student loan program and the rising cost of college is perfect.  I wish everyone in America would read it.  Some eyes might open.  Just meditate upon this thought:

But that we can do a thing on a technical basis doesn't mean we can afford to do that thing.  We can put a man on the moon, but we can't afford for everyone to take that flight. 
Write this on your wall.  Write it in the dust on the back of an truck.  Get a bumper-sticker printed with this on it.  Tell it to everyone you know who thinks that government money does not come out of the pockets of workers and employers at the point of a gun.  Maybe, just maybe, a few people will start to get it.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

China and the Future

China has undergone a great deal of rearranging in the past 70 years.  Mao was a totalitarian and Communism presented him with a powerful system.  He was a true believer, creating state-run industries and instigating the Cultural Revolution when things were not changing fast enough for him.  Upon his death, however, the Party elites decided they liked being elites, and they sought dialog with the West via Nixon and Kissinger, turning away, for a time, from their allegiance to the USSR.  They still had a state-run economy.  Nearly all workers were employees of the state.  There was, during the 1970s and early 1980s, a migration to the urban areas and industrial jobs.  These workers no longer thought of themselves as peasants.  They adopted the proletarian attitude.  Freedom may have been foreign to them, but they learned to be good government workers.  Though they had low productivity, they were relatively loyal and docile.

In the 80s and 90s, the government began a push for greater productivity through privatization – though still state-controlled, moving toward a more fascist economic model.  The old proletarian worker (read “union worker”) was not happy with the change, but they could be replaced with younger workers not indoctrinated in the attitude of “good enough for government work”.  Chinese productivity increased, but at a minimal cost to the factory owners in terms of labor.  The Chinese economy also produced what might be called, in Marxist terms, a petite bourgeoisie of technical and information workers.  This became the aim of Chinese students who planned to improve their station in life. 

Thus Communist China became Fascist China with an elite leadership in the Party, the government, and the military, capitalists, a middle class, and a working class.  Profits and investments from the West have enriched both the owners and the government – but not so much the working people.  Americans buying resin figurines at the Dollar Store have funded China’s military expansion, its satellite capability, and its advances in technology – much of which was stolen from the West and reverse-engineered.  It becomes a little scary when we think that China holds a significant portion of US-government debt.  They have a reserve of billions of our dollars.  While I have no animosity toward the people of China,  the Chinese government is not our friend or ally.  The leadership is dangerous and untrustworthy.  It is likely that they seek to replace America's global hegemony. 

But all in China is not peace and contentment.  China has blown its own real estate bubble with uninhabited ghost cities.  They have a retro-communist element among the older workers who are opposed to privatization.  This would be comparable to our own SEIU and NEA – unionized government workers who would gladly surrender economic and individual freedom, preferring job security for the incompetent, the unproductive and the lazy.  There have been numerous strikes organized over the last several years.  In some cases they have turned violent.  In one factory, workers opposed to further privatization beat a manager to death – an event related by the Communists with a morbid glee.   The petite bourgeoisie is also struggling under the ongoing changes.  Unemployment for Chinese college graduates with technical degrees is around 15%, based, presumably, on government figures.  Since the Chinese government is at least as untrustworthy as our own, the figures could easily be higher. 

In addition to political unrest, there are cultural issues.  China is not of a piece.  Violent clashes have taken place between Muslim Uighurs and portions of the Han Chinese population in northwest China.  The issues that led to the suppression of protest in Tiananmen Square in 1989 have yet to be resolved.  There are people in China who value liberty and who embrace Western values of individual rights and the rule of law.  Christianity remains a potent force in China with millions of members in the underground church.  Then there is the more visible suppression of Tibet and the exile of the Dalai Lama. 

China is also threatened in the East by the growing economic power of India with a population comparable to China’s and an increasingly competent military.  China is attempting to spread its influence and gain power in Africa and Europe.  In both cases, India may have the upper hand.  Through their long association with the British Empire – troubled though it may have been at times – the Indians are far more Western in their thinking than the Chinese.  Indians have a history of working in African nations as well, especially on the coast.  Also, India is not hampered by a fascist regime and is much more of a free market nation than China has ever been.  If the threat of Pakistan were to be removed or, at least, significantly reduced, India would gain greatly in an Asian balance of power. 

It is unwise to trust the commonly held views of China’s vibrant economic growth and future.  Fascist economies do not do well in the long run.  I expect China, despite its massive manufacturing base, will suffer a major setback in what appears to be an impending and inevitable global depression.  At that point it could suffer significant internal upheaval and be distracted from its goal of dominating Asia and the Pacific.  Or it could become extremely and desperately dangerous.