23 November 2009

Two scandals, one theme

There are two recent scandals that have very similar themes to them, and their parallels are interesting.

Phase I : The Start

First is the Madoff Ponzi Scheme started by a then young and up-and-coming investor who demonstrated some knowledge of the market and decent returns. He decided on a methodology of using secret sets of data for market forecasting and putting out graphs that showed a steady return on investment, year on year, if you just invested with him. A few inside members of his family and financial coterie knew that was nearly impossible to do, yet he was able to show the payouts. If the market went up, he went up steadily and if the market went down, he went up steadily: Bernie Madoff obviously had a secret way to know just which companies to invest in to yield that steady return on investment. He could show graphs of market sectors and show how his earnings correlated with some, but not all, market segments and that by the investing system he had, he could show that his services could obviously steady out market fluctuations and do better than just track the market.

Second are the individuals who put out a paper in the mid-1990's that demonstrated that a group of trees in Siberia were following 'instrument' readings and that there was a steady amount of 'global warming' witnessed elsewhere, too. Indeed they could show that carbon dioxide was a 'secret ingredient' to global warming and that the trees tracked that perfectly and were good measures for temperatures. They then had a select sub-set of trees that were claimed to be representative of the whole and tracked the whole very well and were useful as indicators for whole forests. That secret sub-set of trees wasn't put out, and its data held outside of greater review by the scientific community. Whenever questions of temperature fluctuations arose, they could point to the predictive 'hockey stick' graph that proved that the entire system was warming year on year, regardless of fluctuations. Not all indicators could be explained away by this, of course, but the claim was that they had 'other factors' and 'weren't indicative' of the whole planetary climate. By using a secret subset of data and special interpretations, those pushing global warming claimed that their methodology was superior to any others.

Phase II: The Deception

Madoff flouted the regulatory schema, and even was able to win popular approval for his work from regulators who would over-look minor problems and even recommend that he address Congress on financial matters. That ability to ride out the internet bubble surely showed that he had some great way to beat the averages. Yet, even by the late 1990's, a market analyst and mathematician was showing that the financial numbers that Madoff published could not be right: they were based on market factors that demonstrated volatility and he was inflating numbers beyond what the market return would allow him to do. Even with that regulators would not examine the Madoff Empire, and he still had the ears of those in the halls of power in DC and easily continued his 'market beating scheme' for years, gulling people with his lovely numbers that were not sustainable when analyzed. Yet he convinced regulators who investigated that all was on the up-and-up and that his books were in order. Really!

Critics of global warming started to notice that there was a non-correlation between graph data actual data, that there was something badly askew from what those publishing the data purported and what the data showed. Yet, by then, those pushing the line of alarmist global warming had already won over the minds of politicians and power brokers, and used their power to stifle the opposition. They would use their names at prestigious venues to continue showing that their numbers were 'right' and that they were, indeed, on the up-and-up. As other global data sets acted in non-accordance with the hypothesis of 'global warming' those pushing it then resorted to culling data, showing incomplete data sets and purporting that they were the whole thing. Yet when publications came in to ask 'where is the data' and 'how do we know its verifiable', the supporters would show their sub-sets and show that their books were in order. Really!

Phase III: The Cat Let Out of the Bag is a Beast

The day came during an economic downturn when a number of investors in the Madoff Scheme needed their money. One or two Madoff could handle, but when heavy investors started to ask for their money, they got subterfuge, excuses, and partial payouts. Something was up and when those representing the individuals holding funds in the Madoff Scheme examined the record, they found the financial and mathematical analyst that had, for years, been showing that there was something seriously wrong with what Madoff was doing. Even with that regulators were put off, but not permanently, and as the number of customers grew, the hue and cry increased and Madoff finally had to do something. When the numbers started to come out the Ponzi Scheme was revealed, and it was massive, the largest ever seen.

The day came when a number of skeptics and journals started to demand the original datasets on tree rings, as later evaluation of the actual forests and trees revealed a non-correlation between long published data and the current data. Graphs had been broken down, analyzed and shown to have some data sets grafted on to others, and yet other sets 'adjusted' by yet other sets of data, all which tended to skew the results being shown. The day came when those holding the data had to respond, publish a paper and also release the data set to a third party. When that data got out, others started to raise questions on methodology and measuring practices, and if the original researchers had considered that there were systemic errors in data sets they used. Still the supporters used their contacts to put off such hard questions, and when governmental requests for information came in, the researchers stalled or claimed to have 'lost the data'. Finally, one day, the data sets that had been used for multiple papers were released, along with the documentation on what was being presented, what held back and why. The scheme to distort the numbers so as to get certain ends out of the political system, be it mere grants and contracts or larger payoffs via industrial regulation changes, were revealed to be a huge fraud in the scientific arena, far surpassing Lysenkoism and the Piltdown Man scandal. Truly no one had ever seen such a distortion of science before.

As I have always said: you must show me the numbers, that is the actual, real data, on global warming for me to even consider it as a hypothesis. Now the numbers are coming out and just like with Madoff, they don't add up.

Phase IV for Madoff was trial(s) and imprisonment for fraud.

Phase IV for 'global warming' is just starting and those involved in it will continue to use anything in their means to put of a day of reckoning. The reason there will be no Cophenhagen Treaty on Global Warming, is that there is something rotten in the State of Denmark that global warming activists have brought with them.

13 November 2009

Foundations of law

The following is from The Jacksonian Party.

The following is a white paper of The Jacksonian party.

After spending some time examining the historical documents that examine the law in practice and its basis, I have determined that a better way to describe what our modern, civil law has become should start at a more practical level starting at the basis of what we are, as humans.  From there proceeding to our more modern views of law should give some basis for further understanding what the strengths, limitations and limits of our laws are.  To any who have read at this site, this is more a summary article than one breaking new ground and may be of little interest save in that summary basis.  As there are many aspects of the universe that can only be answered through venues of faith, philosophy and religion I must, necessarily, put those aspects of what the law is off, at least to the point where mankind can formulate those things.  With that said, and not to exasperate phenomenology practitioners, we must understand that we do, indeed, have a form, an existence and a basis of time and space that we experience.

The question of what time actually is, or space for that matter,  I have covered elsewhere when looking at the problems of science in science fiction.  Whatever the general basis for time is, as individuals we must live with the consequences of our actions taken and the universe also reflects that events have happened in one way and not another, albeit others are acceptable in scientific terms, they are not the ones we have to deal with.  Thus our basis is that of natural beings in a natural universe that has had a series of events, large and small, happen to it with the least of that measure being our time alive at the current moment.  As we are physical beings in a natural universe, we partake of the aspects of that universe covering everything from sub-atomic interactions to the motions of galaxies, all of the chemistry, physics and time related events are what we are to contend with.  That entire gamut of forces, energy, space and time are summed up under the concept of: Law of Nature.

This concept often comes with the tag line 'red of tooth and claw', and such is the Natural Universe and its Laws as they play no favorites.  Nature, like Justice, is blind, save that the tools of Nature trump those of Justice as something being 'Just' is a biased view of Nature and Nature, above all things, is unbiased in the whole.  One of the great and age-old questions is 'why do bad things happen to good people?' and never is asked 'why do good things happen to bad people?' or good to the good and bad to the bad.  While our presence in this universe of Natural Law is biased, in that we have personal bias towards certain ends, the universe, in its whole, doesn't care about that, about us or about Justice.  We flee from injustice aimed at us and head towards Nature as it is unbiased and we can craft survival on our own and worry about biased others as part of our greater survival needs.  When we are threatened with doom by unjust society, Nature in its even-handedness towards the Just and Unjust, alike, is preferable to injustice perpetrated upon us by others.  In trading the Tyrant for the Wolf, we go from a decidedly biased organization to one that is merely Natural and we understand that our status varies by our own hand and is determined by our skills, not by our value to a Tyrant.  Thus if we bemoan when 'bad things happen to good people' then we must also recognize the succor and relatively safety of Nature in being unbiased and without Justice.  We cannot cheer for the Partisan resisting Tyranny from Nature and then bemoan that Nature plays no favorites and visits ill upon the Just and Unjust alike, as well as good fortune upon both.

Survival in Nature requires working with what Nature does in the Laws of Nature, and then finding ways to mitigate the actions of Nature or use them to advantage.  Reproduction allows this and reproductive strategies have many facets for survival, although we are used to thinking that only one is best, that is the outcome of a long series of events that get to our using one method and being temporally successful in the present.  Yet examination of Nature shows that many other species use many different modes to reproduce, and they all have varying degrees of success and failure that cannot be predetermined as being successful in the future.  Thus plants give off pollen during their pollination season in the hopes that one, tiny, pollen grain will find its home in the receptive parts of another plant of the same species so as to fertilize it, and that then allows for a seedling to form, drop and suffer the vicissitudes of Nature.  It is not a guaranteed success, per plant, but for all plants it has proven to be a wonderful means of spreading species and causing allergies.  Many sea animals release thousands if not millions of egg to be fertilized by the sperm of their species counter-parts and then those eggs, fertilized and unfertilized, find their fate in Nature.  Some species find this to be ill-suited to survival and tend the eggs until they released a juvenile of their species, and for some that is the extent of their caring.  Fewer still will create bonds between themselves and a mate or their young, or both, so as to spend time and energy ensuring the survival of a few of their young.  All of these strategies are sound, utilize what their beings have as internal structures, and then exploit venues that allow for successfully passing on genetic material from generation to generation.

Most species fail.

Nature's harvest of species represents 95%+ of all species that have ever existed now being extinct.  That is the way of Nature, and no species is immortal just as no natural being is immortal, either.  Our race against death and extinction is temporary, although we do try to make our existence worthwhile and to ensure the greatest chance of survival to our offspring.  This latter, as we have seen, is a survival strategy bequeathed to us by our lineage both ancient and recent.  Within Nature animals within a species have used the raising of offspring as a major way to ensure genetic heritage being passed onwards.  Also within Nature we observe that numbers of individuals of a species of diverse genetic background can come together for self-protection.  Some that do this do it without conscious thought, while others have conscious discrimination although it is driven by instinct.  Evidence of this behavior crosses all lines of species, and is not held just for herbivores or omnivores or carnivores, and even plants that cooperate between members of a species to crowd out other species can be thought of as having this instinct for survival.  Thus man is an animal of nature in that way and our distinctive characteristics are few and telling.

At one time the ability to use tools and create tools was thought as distinctive to humanity, however observation of primates, great apes and avian species now demonstrates otherwise, as they are able to form tools to go after insects in hives and otherwise create direct use tools to do things.  What separates hominids from this is the ability to use tools to create tools and then extrapolate that outwards as a meta-concept.  Recursive tool creation, making tools to make tools to make tools to craft a final, useful item, is something restricted to hominids, of which humans may be the last of that lineage.  That, however, is a hard characteristic to determine and while it sets us apart in thinking it does not set us apart by Nature, which is to say it is a distinguishing characteristic of hominids but not determinative of being human.  Even something like the use of fire and creation of fire falls into this category of distinguishing sole characteristic, but not a determinative one.  You can tell a human does these things which makes that animal a human, but this does not speak to those things which create humanity.

If our tools, use of fire and artifacts do not create humanity, then we must look elsewhere into our nature as being that do so.  This must then be in our social nature as individuals and how we utilize that beyond other animals.  At base our decision for mating, keeping a mate and raising children is not one that is truly unique amongst species, as many species have this in evidence across all species types, although there is difficulty in finding this in the plant kingdom due to the nature of plants being rooted in one spot and having little choice of mates.  Plants may have community, indeed a climax forest of one plant dominating all others points to just such a thing, but it is not one driven by more than suitability to climate and habitat, with some characteristics to crowd out other species for that climate and habitat.  In that the Law of Nature holds.  Amongst other animals we do see conscious choice in mates amongst individuals and this happens in many species.  What is seen with that, however, is the push by intrinsic nature upon conscious decision making, to that end of nature of procreation.  There is an ability to reject mates in many species, and pick and choose amongst suitors from those present and even to bond with a suitable one for life is not unknown.  Humans are not tied to a mating season, however, and our conscious quest for a suitable mate goes beyond any single season or year, and until we can do that and find a way to find good mates via conscious means, we can do without such a mate.  When our means are enacted, either by the further creations that we make to get that decision or directly, we then establish that direct link and create something wholly different from the Natural world.

Our formation of society rests not upon instinct but upon conscious decision outside of the realm of mating.  We may create many things to do this for us in that final creation of society, such as 'matchmakers' but that is also a conscious decision and our ability to say otherwise, as individuals, can still be upheld.  When that decision over-rides personal decision to our detriment, the system is determined to be tyrannical and inimical to us and must either assent to our declining it or we must find suitable society that supports such decisions.  Here the creation of something to sustain that choice, something that is not driven by instinct but conscious thought, creates the thing that few others in the animal kingdom have: society.  Forming society is conscious, driven by our thoughts, and voluntary in that we may choose not to be in a society that upholds certain forms and yet we do uphold that society is necessary to uphold those forms we desire.  While we do create this society in the Earthly realm, it is not held to the Law of Nature alone but to our own conscious creative spirit that is held within all individuals who uphold that society.  When we recognize that we can do this and do so consciously, we set ourselves apart with a distinguishing and determinative characteristic of that subset of hominids known as Homo Sapiens.  To extrapolate out, to add the meta-thought that this is an actual new creation by us within the realm of Nature is something that makes us unique beyond physique and tools, thus creating Homo Sapiens Sapiens and a new order of Law.

This is the Law that allows societies to be created and for our mutual bonds to be upheld by society and to use our natural liberty to seek out societies that uphold such bonds.  This is not Civil Law which is an outgrowth of society, but a greater Law that is one we must hold voluntarily to have society.  At that moment we consciously recognize that we seek out others to be with consciously, that we put a single meta-structure that describes the creation of other structures over those structures we have created a man-made form of Law that is separate from the Law of Nature and yet built upon it.  We could not have such Law without Nature and yet Nature does not provide us with this Law and it is one we must make and discover for ourselves within the Law of Nature.  This Law of creation of society forming at our bond with another person consciously, and consciously creating that bond between us has a name unique to it that is neither the Civil Law nor the Law of Nature.

It is the Law of Nations.

If any other species, no matter how primitive, utilizes conscious thought to create bonds amongst individuals and then seeks to create a further structure to uphold those bonds, which we call society, then they are voluntarily committing to the Law of Nations.  I have examined the fact that we recognized such back in the 13th century and what that means to us, today, in a previous piece.  This concept is foundational to all societies and to all of mankind, and is voluntarily committed to by us, even if we do not know we are doing it either through lack of forethought, lack of knowledge or lack of introspection on the meaning of these things we do.  Yet, even if it is not recognized, not taught, not written it is a Law that is easily described and defined, and as the creation of any society rests upon the Law of Nations it can be rediscovered even if forgotten or even if it is actively not taught by those seeking tyranny over us.  The reason that latter is true, is that it is true in the long run, not the short run.  A successful ideology seeking to enslave all peoples may be able, for a time, to erase the written signatures of the Law of Nations, but because it is founding a society it, also, rests upon the Law of Nations and cannot do without it.  This is why those civilizations that seek to put the imprimatur of a God upon a mere mortal will assuredly fail over time: that we are of Nature is self-evident, and that man is not Divine is likewise self-evident.  Any society that allows such rests upon a deep lie that is contrary to our nature and to Nature itself.  Likewise, any society that tries to 'remake' man into 'perfection' will find the absolute imperfection of the mortal realm as its long-term lethal enemy.  As we are of Nature we cannot be made perfect and will always remain creatures of Nature no matter what we change ourselves into be it a workers paradise or a silicon based platform for thought, neither can do without Nature and has the flaws of Nature within it which is self-evident to thought.

All other orders of Law be it Civil Law created by society to uphold its norms or National Law to unify multiple societies into a Nation State or International Law between Sovereign Nation States, all of them must uphold the Law of Nations as that is foundational to them just as Nature is foundational to the Law of Nations.  What the Law of Nations does is describe those things that we, as individuals, set aside to have in common as a society so that we may have society.  The Law of Nations then becomes the structures that grow up around those set aside liberties and freedoms that we voluntarily acquiesce to having common governance over in society.  There are a large number of things that we voluntarily give up to have society: Private Bondage for Crime, Private War, Private Execution of Law.  Thus we agree that we, as individuals, are not judge, jury and executioner and must abide by the laws created by society, which are the Civil Laws,  as part of being members of society.  Likewise we cannot wage war Privately, which is to say without the sovereign grant of our society, as that would quickly lead to the downfall of all of society.  So momentous an action would quickly dissolve society back into Nature as we set man against man, society against society by individual whim.

At this level of the Law of Nations we find that there is no creation of government as this is the Law necessary for the creation of government, not of government itself.  Some of the provisos, actions, penalties and such that form the Law of Nations do get passed upwards to the organs of society made to administer our few relinquished liberties and freedoms in order to have society.  With society comes governance and the creation of organs to execute those things held in common for our self-protection and the protection of our creation which is society.  These things we enact then have their own realm of Law which is the Civil Law.  By being the laws created by society and common practice of that society, it is local law.  Civil Law varies from location to location, from place to place, from society to society and there may even be multiple different venues of local Civil Law within one locality.  Town, Municipality, City, County and Province or State all overlap each other on local law venues and all execute Civil Law that is local.  Whenever an issue is to be decided by members of society the proper local Civil Law must be utilized to address those needs.  If a local venue at its lowest form of government is not suitable to an issue, it must then either be recognized as not incorporated into the local law or incorporated into a higher level of local law.

Local law is often referred to as 'customary law' and may have areas of it that are unwritten.  The unwritten nature of local law makes it adaptable, flexible and capable of changing due to the changing nature of society.  When such unwritten or 'customary' law is enacted as scripted or written law, it becomes much, much harder to change as it gains structures of government, administration and oversight by the organs of government that are made responsible for it.  If all of life was to become law that is written down, then individuals would lose their civil liberty and become mere automatons of script with no conscious choice left to them.  Yet the creative nature of man is such that not everything can or should be scripted and written down into law for government to oversee.  To do so has been attempted in the past, in India with the Mahabharata and through the various Empires in China in which the administrative class once served as that class that kept absolute restriction upon society so that the structure ruled over the individual.  Such deeply scripted societies can last for decades or even centuries, and yet when one unscripted event happens, the society is at a loss for how to deal with it and creativity is put to use to figure out what is happening.  Some events may fit within the realm of what can be dealt with, say the Shogunate restricting coastal trade with medieval Korea, and yet may collapse entirely, as when Admiral Perry forced an opening for trade in the Shogunate.  Medieval Europe could well be sustained with a numerous feudal class, but when war and plague wiped out a large percentage of that class the survivors were then relatively wealthy having inherited the wealth of the dead and that started a chain reaction that broke that feudal society asunder. 

Thus, as in nature, a society that is scripted may have staying power but little resilience and succumb to the unexpected, as so many species have since the beginning of life on Earth.  Be it Soviet Union, Sun Empire, Shogunate, European Medieval society, Roman Empire, Pharaohonic Egypt, Hittite Empire, Alexandrian Empire, Babylon, Sumeria, Persian Empire, or India under the Mahabharata's dictates, those societies have not withstood the test of time due to the heavy nature of the scripting between classes and individuals.  And each of these conformed to having refined Civil Law at the National level, thus creating National Law.  When local Civil Law has wide agreement within a larger organized Nation State, then those laws may be codified into National Law that is upon all parts of a Nation.  Beyond that there are necessary Public Laws that must address the entirety of a Nation, such as trade, commerce, and how the Nation addresses sustaining the National government.  As highly structured Nations seek refuge in that structure, so they become brittle by leaving too little to local variation.

From the structure of laws at this point, there is the following larger to smaller subsets seen:

First is the Law of Nature, which encompasses all of Nature, entire.  It is the foundation for all laws made by Natural beings and is unbiased.  It is involuntary law and all must abide by it.

Second is the Law of Nations, which is that law which allows societies to form and, from that, Nations.  It is built upon the Law of Nature but separate from it as it is consciously made via our interactions with each other.  This law is voluntary and to be a member of a society, any society, one submits to the Law of Nations so as to ensure one's own safety, the safety of other members of society and the safety of society itself.  While unwritten law, it is easily recreated the moment society is formed and, thusly, is universal to all beings who possess liberty and freedom to form associations and create society consciously. As a structure the Law of Nations is unbiased, although individual societies will emphasize some parts of the Law of Nations over others.  All societies, however, are governed by the Law of Nations and voluntarily abide by it.

Third is the Civil Law or customary law, which is local law of society.  This is built upon the Law of Nations and is the method by which society creates those organs necessary to regulate the body of society on a local basis.  By becoming a member of a society one agrees to abide by the Civil Law and to do so as long as one is a member of that society.  When one is born into a society, one has no choice but to abide by the Civil Law and its consequences.  Upon reaching an age of conscious understanding of society, one may seek to leave one's birth society and seek another society that is more in agreement with the beliefs, attitudes and life outlook of that individual.  That is supported by the Law of Nations via the self-evident ability of man to consciously choose his form of outlook and join with a society that is agreeable to him.  This is the realm of State Law, which is to say the organs of government representing localities that are delegated by society for such government to preside over.

Fourth is Public Law, which is Nation State law, and is the law for an entire Nation as a whole, not in its parts.  Public Law represents the sovereign government of a Nation and that Nation State must abide by the structures set up for human interaction that are defined by the simplest of interactions via the Law of Nations.  Any Nation State is a high stature creation of large societies or multiple societies having broad common agreement on governing principles or other societal venues that bring them closer together.  As such the Public Law needs address the entire Nation State it represents in the continuum of other Nation States.  Thus the Nation State is a similar organizing unit in concept to the local government, but gains absolute independence due to the fact it represents an independent society or set of societies with high common agreement amongst them.  There is no larger or more sovereign power than a Nation State.

This then brings us to the fifth area of law which is International Law.  This is the form of law governed by the universal and voluntary Law of Nations as any Nation rests upon the Law of Nations for its existence.  As such Nation States as representative of independent societies are the sovereign organs of their societies and no Nation State is given preference or higher status within the Nation State system.  With such a system of equals there is no other power to turn to as each society has its own biases, preferences and outlooks that are represented by the independent and sovereign Nation State.  Thus all agreements that Nation States make are enforced only by those organs of society that create the Nation State, and any enforcement mechanism is likewise agreed-to voluntarily.  As such any Nation State may break an international agreement unilaterally, on its own, without compunction nor reason given.  The only repercussions faced are those imposed by other sovereign Nation States, not by a higher authority as there is none.  In this widely recognized accords become familiar to societies and agreeable ways to function between Nations is found, yet this does not mean that they become beholden to those ways.  Any society that finds the ways burdensome, alien or dangerous can, and should, rightly reject them especially when they put an entire people of a Nation at extreme risk and danger.

Summing up International Law, then, requires a recognition that it is a form of sovereign to sovereign contract law with either able to nullify the agreement at a moment's notice as that is the right of sovereignty.  The dream of there being a world state is one that comes against that sovereignty and is a notion that is relegated to the form of state known as Empire.  Any Empire that rules over a disparate set of subjects, climates, ethnicities and so on, soon finds the burden of trying to manage something that large to be impossible due to Civil Law at the local level.  Some Empires have kept such local establishments going with over-arching provisos of the recognition of the Imperial State as the Supreme ruler, but they, too, have fallen time and again throughout history.  The cracking point of all such grand schemes, be it a religious ideology of a single mass religion or a political one of a single world government, fall straight into the diversity of mankind at the local level.  Smaller Nations can, for a time, impose top-down rule as can Empires, but even in relatively limited geographic circumstances the ability of such Nations to continue on without local upheaval dissolving such government is recognized to be nil.  One dictatorial system may replace another, of course, and that has been seen in China, Russia, and elsewhere, which indicates some problems in societal understanding and cohesion more than an affiliation with the love of Tyrants and Despots.  Even then such dictatorial rulers must abide by the fact that they, even in their extreme self-indulgence, must cater to the entirety of their ruling domain.  Anointed Kings have found themselves in the hangman's noose or the mob's guillotine due to such lacks, and today the bullet becomes the end of those who believe that they are appointed to rule, not govern, for they have forgotten their place as an organ of society and in breaching the Law of Nations they find themselves at its sharp end.

If our modern era has any lacks it is understanding that most basic of laws that we create to separate ourselves from the Law of Nature, which is the Law of Nations.  That the Law of Nations only deals with Nation States as a function of our ability to create society, itself, is lost upon our modern culture and society.  There is a deep, dark space in our way of thought that presumes that the Civil Law or Public Law is the most supreme of all laws, and we even ignore the Law of Nature and presume to say that we can now rule Nature when we can not even govern ourselves well.  It is in that darkness that we hear the voice of corruption and tyranny, whispering softly to us that just by entrusting more of our liberty and freedom to governments that all will turn out well.  It whispers to us that mankind can, against all evidence against it, be perfected and is perfectible.  The great sorrow and bloodshed that comes from the voice of unreason sweetly whispering to us is denied time and again, yet the copious dead to the pyre of perfection smells just as rank even if you call it sweet ambrosia.  In believing that we can blame all our lacks on society and all our good will to government, we invert the actual nature of ourselves and forget that what we are saying is that government comes first, society second, while just the opposite is true. 

In this mortal realm we are bidden to seek to be 'more perfect' and understand that the Law of Nature that brings us forth creates imperfection within us and all things that cannot be removed.  No law has been so good that its best practitioners have not obeyed it, and even Moses, upon casting down the Tablets, ordered his fellow Israelites killed against the exact, same dictates he had just carried from the Mount.  Yet when we seek to practice imperfection, to loft up the power of government over society and over the Law of Nations, we will find that this can be done... and then that great and awful edifice will fall, with great loss of life in both directions.  No government is so wise as to be deemed all powerful, as it is made up of men and the creations of man, which are fallible, biased and prone to our corruption to ill ends.  No leader is so wise as to be able to understand the daily lives of each of his subjects nor to rule over them in such a way as to tell each how to live.  No people have created an eternal government full of wise and charitable leaders, that lead a penniless existence and only serve the ends of their Nation State.  It would be humorous that there are those that hint that this is possible, if we could just ignore the gore and horror attendant to each and every time that is tried.  Those preaching this are so wise that they have forgotten the founding Law that makes their existence possible, and then transgress the Law that makes such society as they live in possible by suggesting we don't need it if we only trust the infallible, all powerful, all knowing government that we, poor, frail and imperfect man creates.  And the epitaph of those who preach this seems to be invariant:

"It seemed like a good idea at the time."

09 November 2009

Survival - Phase 5 - Self-defense

Self-defense is a subject rife with danger, and yet the ability to defend yourself is an inalienable right granted to you by Nature and recognized by all of mankind. Your surest, most ready defense is not an army nor a police force, both of which may take time to get to you if they can get to you, at all. Defense of yourself, your body, your life, your liberty and freedom rests upon no society, no government, no one but yourself. Your religious beliefs or beliefs derived from personal morals may not want to let you defend yourself, and that is granted: that is also your right. There is a fine line between self-defense and harming others, and varying levels of harming others that fall far short of absolutely lethal or being lethal at all. It takes a skilled martial artist to know just how to hit you with bare hands to kill you and the necessary self-discipline of the martial arts instructs those who follow them to not do that save as a last and least resort. That form of skill and self-restraint are not only laudable, but demonstrate a profound respect for those you encounter in the martial realm. By practicing the ancient and modern Arts Martial, the practitioners demonstrate honorable utilization of their skills to the lowest, possible cost to those they fight. As practitioners they must practice, constantly, and always keep their skills at bay for merely civil disagreements: you are safer in disagreement with a martial artist on civil grounds than you are with nearly anyone else save clergy of the majority of Christianity.

The concept of self-defense, however, goes beyond just humans gone lawless or turned lawbreaker, and includes all of Nature in that category of 'potential threat'. Animals are one thing, but knowing the 'lay of the land' another, and the greatest way to defend yourself is to avoid confrontations that can be easily avoided. Nature does not 'have it in for you' nor is it looking to protect you: Nature doesn't care about you and you are on your own when in the confines of the Natural world, which is all of your life. Nature tells you many things in the landscape, itself. Do you have a nice, raising meadow area between two forested areas, all of which go uphill rather quickly? If so, just why are there no trees in that meadow all the way up to the upper reaches of that summit? If you see snapped off trees at the edges or large piles of dirt, stone and random natural detritus further down, you may have found yourself an avalanche area or landslide area, not the place to be when it rains or snows a lot. Likewise do you find a stream with abnormally wide and clear banks and see that trees do not go down past a certain point on both sides of the stream valley? Then you can see where large flash floods come through, and as you never know what the weather is 30 miles from you upstream, it is best not to stay there overlong. Mother Nature doesn't care about you, but the message is clear: these are dangerous places at certain times.

Cheap Knowledge

Knowing edible plant life, while in season, is a great survival enhancement and when out of season an essential way to maintain a balance of nutrients and vitamins. You do not need to lug around a huge wildlife guidebook, just some of the convenient decks of cards put out for that purpose: they pack small and are lightweight, and you can use the ones you know for starting fires. Always handy! That, too, is self-defense: eating properly over time. For a short period of time that doesn't matter, but as this series of articles uses the James Burke question of what happens if the lights go out for good, the longer range of survival must intrude on preparations. A 50 cent or $1 pack of cards purchased now may ensure your long term survival later. That is damned cheap insurance, in my book.

Cheap Tools

To get at such plant life you do need a way to render it into edible form. This doesn't start with cooking but with taking non-edible portions away from edible ones so that you lower cooking time. The very first and most useful invention of mankind, still existing with us to this very day, are knives. Originally flint chips used to scrape and cut, the modern knife is a wonder of metallurgy and has thousands of years of good sense behind it. As a category knives go from swords and spear points (of large and numerous variety) to the simple pen knife. Every stout warrior of the Middle Ages carried the utility knife with them: a blade of less than 5" and no less than 2" with them at all times. A modern Swiss Army Knife at 2.25" fits into this category as does a variety of 'fighting knives' and 'commando knives' all the way up to such things as daggers and stilettos. The utility pocket or pen knife of 2 or more blades is a basic and essential part of any survival kit, be it in an actual knife form or in a 'multi-tool' that is pliers, corkscrew, flashlight... Why 2 blades? You will break one. Murphy works with Nature, and that means you need a back-up. The broken one can be fitted to a long stick as a digging tool or simple spear! Yes, when Murphy breaks your knife you now have the opportunity to fashion a makeshift spear/digging tool. Isn't that marvelous? A cheap pocket knife with two blades can be had for $10 and should, with care, last a lifetime. I have two pocket knives from my father and one, if memory serves, bought by my grand-father for my father... that one has a broken blade... and if you add in a cheap hand sharpener and honing oil you are looking at possibly $5 and a few minutes of work to get the blades back into shape.

Thus for a $1 pack of cards on edible plants, a cheap $10 knife and $5 in maintenance supplies for the short term (<1 year), you now have a survival sub-set of identification capability and tools to do basic scavenging in the long term (>5 years), just so long as you take care of them in the mid-term (1-5 years). Your survival cost is: $16 on the cheap.

What a pocket knife/pen knife/multi-tool does, is allow you to become a tool maker.

The prime definition of mankind is that we make tools to make tools to make tools to make things we use. Many animals make tools: birds do, chimpanzees do, and rodents do (after a fashion). Making a tool to make a tool is limited, as far as I know, to the hominids. At third degree there is only humanity. Using a knife to strip bark and put points on sticks means that you will not be wearing down the knife digging, but saving it to make more tools. The tools you make can go into making traps, snares and fishing weirs, or towards creating other tools to do more complex tasks. Without a knife you are down to flint knapping, which is a damned useful skill as it will save your knife from being over-used... by the time you have gotten to making hammers, wooden wedges, and primitive chisels, you will not be using your knife very much at all.

Longer fixed blades, as opposed to folding blades which I put into the 'utility knife' category, are useful for fewer tasks and more readily used for self-defense against animals. A fixed blade at an end of a straight stick is a spear used to fend off animals. Really, do you want to do that up close and personal with, say, a black bear? Or a bull moose during rutting season? Although, come to think of it, that last will not really care if it is pricked with a spear... best give those a wide berth. Of course making a fire hardened tip out of wood is better, still, and saves your machined and tooled blade. With that said a cheap machete is under $20, and I have seen some very cheap, if not too trustworthy, blades at under $15.

Total survival cost to you: $36, tax and tip not included.

With these most basic of tools you can now cut down small trees, brush, make spear points, gut fish and game, and do the million and one things that your hands and fingernails aren't good at doing. You would have a hard time packing all of that into a purse but with care that can be done. Or put into a small bag or pack and kept near you, although on your person is far, far better survival-wise. There are other tools to be had on the cheap, especially in multi-tools, but for the most basic set of survival requirements you are set at the sub-$50 range unless you buy very well made goods. Something that is better made should last longer, with care, than its cheaper alternative and it is up to you if this is truly 'last ditch if I have to survive' or 'without this I will die' mentality.

I will skirt the area of steel traps, dead-falls and the like as they are the realm of decent knowledge on animal habitats, skilled making of impromptu equipment and being able to figure out the first so as to use the second. This is the realm of Les Stroud and Bear Grylls.

Defense from the Elements

Self-defense from the elements is a common sense thing: tarps, rain ponchos that can be made into tents, clothesline, cords, etc. All of that can be under $10, on the cheap, too, for yourself.

Each person that needs to survive with you needs equipment, too, so that $36 basic is per person. Defense from the elements is per group. Do note that most military surplus rain ponchos can be sealed up to provide fast tent space with lines or cords, so that anyone with a friend needs enough cordage in case of sudden bad weather. I have seen surplus military rain ponchos on sale at less than $4 each in packs of three. Cordage varies, but 50' lengths of nylon can come in under $2 and often far less when bought in 100 yard lengths. A tarp to go under an ersatz tent would be more expensive, up to $10 although I have seen them for $4 at local closeout stores, and another rain poncho can serve on the fly, also. A thick 'solar blanket' with strong backing, usually canvas or other material, can be found under $10 each.

If this is not to your liking, then an 'emergency tent' in blaze orange can be had for $4-$10 and comes with cord but without a tarp, allowing it to pack very tightly. That said it is not as thick as a rain poncho and less handy against the wind and the cold. This may do if you are surviving solo, as that and a poncho can pack into a very small sack or waist pack.

Emergency shelter, then, can go for as low as $8 (low cost tent and poncho) or just a bit more per person ditching the emergency tent for ponchos and cord so that just under $15 can serve two people and that increment can be brought down with more individuals.

Your total cost is now: $44, shipping and tax not included.

Emergency Cooking

Cooking food is a matter of fire and ensuring you can have one in an emergency. For the long term people who survive the short term should have the skills to make fire, and in an emergency that must be instant without much skill. Folding solid fuel stoves (Esbit, et. al.) that can accept a wide range of solid or gel fluids are cheap (I've found them for under $10 for the stove, used, and about $10 for a package of fuel tabs). This is about as small as you can get as such things as a 'Commando Stove' or 'Pocket Grill' actually take up more space than this WWII German designed soldier's emergency stove. All the emergency stoves can take solid or gel fuels, so if you find the cost of the solids prohibitive, you can go with a cheaper gel (cost varies for solids from 80 cents per tablet and gels about 30 cents per package, although the tablet will last longer and heat more intensely). Thus your cost will vary somewhat depending on expected length of time you will need them. Either gel or tablet can be used in very small quantities to start fires with tinder, thus extending the use of such materials to cover more situations.

Cost for simple, basic stove and easy to pack refill on fuel: $20.

Total cost for simple survival: $64, although with the various provisos given on equipment quality, tax and shipping.

For absolute and positive emergencies, a 2" rod of flint plus your knife gets sparks, leaving you with something to catch the sparks that will catch fire rain or shine. The best tip I have for that is a pre-preparation DIY and involves having a big bag of cotton balls (actual, real cotton), petroleum jelly, and decent size sealable containers like old medicine bottles. The cost of this shouldn't run more than $5 unless you need to buy containers. The process is to smear a cotton ball completely in petroleum jelly and pack them into the sealable containers that will not leak petroleum jelly once it gets warm (like in a pack during a sunny day). With this cheap stuff you now have lots of prepared spark catching balls that have fuel and wick embedded in them, so should last long enough to add real tinder on them. Flint can cost you 50 cents per piece, so get a couple.

You are now around $70 for survival supplies, excepting those things that deal with the elements but adding in the one tool that makes us superior to the animals, which is fire use.

Defending yourself from more than the Elements

With the low end of self-defense taken care of (your self, tools, fire and the means to get them, we now head up into the higher cost range of self-defense, which is firearms. Mind you, if you are a boyer and fletcher, or a skilled atlatl craftsman, you already have the tools you need to survive, but most people don't. I heartily recommend spear tips (both solid and tines, especially frog gigging ends) for self-defense and small game as you only need a relatively straight branch and twine/cord to keep it on. Throw in a cheap mop handle that you can disassemble and for under $15 you have hand hefted self-defense at close to short range! A real bargain, that. But everyone concentrates on firearms and they are a flexible tool system if you have the right parts of the system, so I will start at the very basic, anyone can pick it up end of things.

As I said, this section gets expensive, quickly, but pre-made and useful tools and weapons come with the cost of having them made added into them. If you think about your needs now, then shopping for a decent bargain means you will find yourself with a slightly lower marginal cost, but at a slightly higher cost than the basics. I consider a single lightweight spear for fishing or frog work, and putting pointy things in the face of an animal to be very basic survival.

Cost for this section: $15.

Total cost: $85

From here, onwards, I will be discussing more expensive considerations. If you do not consider firearms and their use to be of necessity to you, then you have read as much as you are likely to need for survival.

Outside of the never so trusty 'saturday night special' guns made of zinc and likely to blow up in your hand, there is the rock bottom of firearms that is legal to have without any sort of proscription. Most folks don't consider them 'firearms', in the sense of Dirty Harry, but they are just that by definition and much more than that and have a multi-role place in a serious survival/rescue toolkit. Beyond that they are also useful for the longer-term, although they become 'last ditch' weapons. What is this category?

Flare guns.

Not the cheap plastic Orion ones! What I am talking about are military grade flare guns, which range across a gamut of sizes and eras, so even an 'antique' flare gun can serve you well if you think ahead to get the right parts for it. That said I will stick with the modern 26.5mm surplus guns common from the Eastern Bloc and West Germany, that can range from as low as $30 used to just over $50 new, old stock. Something like the HKP2A1, from Hechler & Koch:

Bobba Fett's favorite!

That is a one-shot, tip-up loaded flare gun. The cost of the flares for it are as much as the gun, per box of 10 flares, but a good part of that due to HAZMAT shipping, so buy a few boxes to bring the overall cost down. Yes there are cheaper flare guns on the market from Poland, Russia and the Czech Republic. I trust H&K. This is one simple, rugged design that you can clean with an old toothbrush and just a touch of light oil (I recommend Militec-1, but everyone has their own preferences). It is a solid foundation to work with. If memory serves it was made for a service life of 10,000 flare rounds and it is built to last with very little complicated on it.

Now for that 26.5mm flare gun you can also get a $15 adapter to 12 gauge flare rounds (not 12 gauge shotgun rounds, and don't try that with the insert!) and those 12 gauge flares you can find cheap, save for the HAZMAT fee. For aerial flare signaling the only thing better are single shot, purpose built high altitude flares that are for extreme distress maritime use and cost you, per shot, what this flare gun costs you. If not more. To make up for that you can get parachute flares (new, old stock) and other flares at 26.5mm and lesser altitude 12 ga. flares. As with all things survival, multipurpose and multi-capable is the idea here.

Flares are a burning pyrotechnic that are lightweight and have the extreme advantage of burning in nearly any weather. Get a large pile of logs with tinder in the center and an opening to fire into and the flare will happily burn anything on the inside of that pile. Make sure that you are in a decent clearing at a bit of distance, first, and that the flare can't shoot out through the other side. So for the price of gun plus flares you get a signaling device that can be seen at long distances and an ersatz emergency fire starting system (and a damned expensive one, too).

As you have guessed this is a serious piece of ordnance for survival, coming in at $50 for the gun and perhaps as much as $150 for three boxes of 26.5mm flares and one 12 ga. flare insert. This is a 'weigh and balance' concept: if you can't afford this, but can afford somewhat better initial gear (say a low cost ALICE pack for $30) then get the pack. Even if you can afford this, it is a step into an area that you may not be familiar with. If you are facing the unknown, then that is a choice you will make before disaster strikes, as you can't make it afterwards. However, I will go on to examine some other things this device is useful for to examine what that $200 gets you.

Section cost: $215.

Total cost: $285.

There are only a couple of 'alternate' rounds at 12 ga. for this platform and the best of those is the pepper gas/spray rounds made for flare guns (as opposed to 12 ga. shotgun rounds). That can be a life saver against large carnivores if you have nothing else (thus last ditch) or useful fired into an enclosed space like a room or car. Stand upwind of it if you ever have to use it. I have seen a three pack of these rounds for under $10.

Flares for 12 ga. flare guns do range a bit in price, but specialty pyrotechnics places sell them for $15 per 9 rounds. Orion flares can be used in such an insert, and I've seen those at the low end of $25 for 4 rounds.

So for simple self-defense rounds and a pack of 9 rounds of red/green flares, your cost is: $25.

Section Cost: $315.

Total cost: $340

For carrying around purposes, you can carry at least 3 of the 12 gauge rounds for every 1 of the 26.5mm rounds. The latter go about 3x higher than the former, so you are trading off number of rounds for vertical distance. Three very low altitude rounds don't matter if you are in a deep canyon as they won't clear the walls of it, thus you must take terrain into consideration for your expected survival needs.

At $225 you now have a variable altitude signal device, plus one that can do pepper spray to incapacitate a good sized room or convince a hungry carnivore that they really do not want to mess with you. Throw in an old Russian satchel made for 26.5mm flare guns and you add another $10 to the expenses, but I will keep that out for estimation purposes.

In the realm of inserts there is one man who makes a double insert system to adapt the 26.5mm gun to various pistol rounds. The idea is that each steel insert will take the pressure before it gets to the gun, itself. Once you get that and insert those into a flare gun you have created a deadly weapon, a true handgun, albeit single shot. This has been done in the maritime realm so as not to have a 'real' gun for those ports that don't allow them but to still have some sort of defense in the bridge. So long as the inserts are not inserted, you have a flare gun. This is not a toy, and your life is in your hands with that, which is the point of things. The ability of the frame of a well made flare gun to take firing even small pistol rounds is suspect, but if your life is on the line this is better than nothing. Cost for the double insert is a bit over $100.

I don't consider that as 'essential' unless you are thinking of 'last ditch' sorts of equipment or foresee your maritime travels going into areas where Pirates and other lawless people roam. At that point upgrading your foreseeable problems means weighing costs and benefits of such inserts. As it is I will not use the purpose built inserts for cost estimation, but examine another area that covers the same ground in the way of inserts.

Next up on inserts is a bit harder and requires just a bit of time and energy. The main problem with the straight adapter for 26.5mm to 12 ga. flare rounds is that it is chambered for flare rounds (short shotgun rounds) and isn't all that sturdy. To get to firing pistol rounds requires a multi-insert system, but if you are considering a wide range of possible survival settings and can afford inserts and pistol rounds, then you want something convertible to common 12 ga. for standard 12 ga. shotgun inserts for pistol rounds. The great wonder is that the 26.5mm flare gun is almost, but not quite, 4 gauge shotgun in size. For display cannons there is a 4 ga. to 10 ga. adapter, but it is just a bit too big to fit. So you would have to sand or grind it down just a bit to get a good fit and if you are handy with a dremel and have some good bits for attacking aluminum, you are looking at a couple hours of work to pare down the outer diameter and the base of the insert. Cost for this insert runs about $40, your time in grinding not included but makes for an interesting spare time project.

Why 10 gauge shotgun, which is a larger diameter than 12 gauge? At 10 ga. shotgun you can get a 10 ga. to 12 ga. shotgun adapter, but since the 4 to 10 insert is lightweight you wouldn't trust your hand with that idea: you like your hand, it likes you and you will not blow it off using a 12 ga. shotgun round. However, at that point you are now in a standard and relatively cheap market for (<$20) pistol inserts for 12 ga. That 4 to 10 insert is a bit steep to get you to something a bit more common and from 10 to 12 is no picnic ($30 or so). At that point you have 3 inserts to take the pressure of the pistol round 4-10, 10-12, 12-pistol. So you have a steel flare gun, aluminum 4 to 10 insert, and then two steel inserts (10 to 12ga and then 12ga. to pistol round of your choice) all of which should take the expansion of the pistol rounds used. For $80 or so, and some work on your part, you go from a flare gun to a deadly weapon able to take much smaller caliber rounds.

Do remember that this is not a nice firearm designed to fire these things! It isn't made to take a lot of punishment and you are the recoil mechanism. That is why this is 'last ditch' and far more expensive than a dedicated single shot shotgun. A shotgun, however, isn't that easy to carry around and is limited to the lower altitude 12 ga. flares, so your decision must be made on what the purpose of the firearm is and how it is to be made available to you in an emergency. A flare gun is a low-end, all-purpose tool for signaling, emergency fire starting and self-defense, but with limitations on the last. Any time it was used in that 'last ditch' role, and you survive, the entire firearm should be examined for cracks or expansion on the barrel, plus the inserts may have expanded to the point where you can't get them out of the gun. Making that call of having an all-purpose 'by god if I have nothing else with me, I will at least have this' gun against the ready-made 'bug out' kits by Smith & Wesson or Mossberg is one of choice, utility and expectation of events. You can do a lot with a dedicated 12 gauge shotgun and it can do things the all-purpose, lightweight flare gun can't. But the flare gun can do things the shotgun can't, too.

You can have the capability to do these things and never use them.

But if you ever need them and don't have them, you are SOL.

Defending yourself from the elements, providing shelter and food is low cost. When you step up in the level of considerations of what might happen to you, your expectations must adapt to that wider range of possibilities. As actual firearms vary widely in cost and personal needs, I can only ballpark a few things and examine what I have looked at.

Defending yourself and hunting, basic firearms and concepts

Beyond the basics you get to the dedicated (or insert adaptable) area of rifles, shotguns and pistols. Each have their pluses and minuses, they all require you to train yourself in being able to fire them, use them, clean them and think about them not just as weapons but as survival tools. Each realm is open to a wide range of individual tastes, attitudes and capabilities, but for general categorization they come down to ranges: short (up to 10 yards), medium (10 to 100 yards), long (100 yards+). Each area can be used in the others, to a degree, and a rifle is relatively handy all the way up to personal space defense weapon where the ability to quickly change targets is critical.

I can't offer you solid choices on these, just some that I have made for myself and the reasons why.

At long range the Mosin-Nagant line of Russian/Soviet/East Bloc bolt action rifles is my preference as they were designed for Russian peasants in the 1880's to use. If you have the ability to find the instructions and strip the bolt down using a purpose designed tool, cleaning and oiling the thing, then you have a dependable firearm. It was not made for the space age and is a 'no frills' rifle that is very basic in design, care and maintenance. The Finns bought them on the cheap, did some testing for accuracy and their version, based on the Soviet sent arms, allowed the much smaller Finnish Army to beat the Soviet Army during the winter war. A top sniper for the Finns was a farmer, and he used a Finn Mosin-Nagant and was a terror to the Soviets in that sector. Chambered in 7.62 x54R (Rimmed or Russian, but 54R is critical), this is the oldest '3 line' rifle round still in use today. The Eastern Bloc and Soviet military surplus ammo is cheap, but corrosively primed so you need to clean anything that touches the exhaust gases that is metal after use. There is a water based CLP available (Gunzilla), Aero-Kroil, and even a DIY mixture of Murphy's Oil Soap/Isopropyl Alcohol/Hydrogen Peroxide, plus quickly getting a patch or 10 through until you get the stuff out of the system. Or you can use water which dissolves the salts but really needs to be cleaned out so the thing doesn't rust.

These are cheap, reliable rifles and have cheap ammo available, plus a real confidence builder once you get something on the buttstock to help with the recoil or wear thick clothing. The major downsides are that the military surplus coming from Russia/Poland/Czech Republic/Bulgaria rifles are in cosmoline and will always have some come out when you fire them, unless you totally redo the stock. The upper forearms need some small pieces of material to help keep them in place, too, and original arms were found with paper stuck there, but I recommend very thin, cut with a scissors, brass shim stock. These weapons were made for Russian winters, summers, and soldiers who didn't take good care of them, which sounds like survival conditions to me!

Personal choice only, remember, and this is for survival, not fighting off the zombie hordes.

There are very few 'exotic' rounds for the 7.62 x54R, and they tend to be either tracer or incendiary. Thus, as a round, it isn't all that useful beyond moderate size game hunting and not adaptable to multiple situations.

I have seen used Mosin-Nagants for $80, arsenal packed in cosmoline from a 1950's check-over for $90-$120, and lovely Finnish rifles for $350 on up. Sniper versions cost much, much more. Ammo in a 'spam can' from Bulgaria can be had at 440 rounds for under $90. Modern non-corrosively primed I can find 20 rounds for $10. Bulk discounts can be found for the ammo, still, even with the various runs on other ammo this last year.

For under $200 you get a basic rifle, a spam can of ammo, plus a buttstock pad, and the joy of wiping cosmoline off the forearm and putting small strips of brass in to keep the upper handguard from sliding around.

Next up, shotguns.

Shotguns have one name to know: John Moses Browning.

From 1903 to 1999 the Browning Auto-5 sold continuously and there are millions of them out there. Likewise the various pump shotguns of Browning are still beloved of hunters and troopers to this day. From what I have heard the basic system of exchange in the back country of TN is 'The Browning' as those shotguns are a steady game-getter, easy to maintain and a necessary part of living.

No matter what the shotgun is that you want for survival, the idea is that this would be a primary multi-use gun at 12 gauge. As we have seen before there are 12 ga. flares and 12 ga. pepper rounds. In fact 12 ga. is the realm of exotic ammo from frangible copper slugs made to blow hinges off of doors to tear gas 'rockets' that are actually just finned delivery capsules. From blanks that go 'bang' to flechettes to flares to tear gas to 'less than lethal' flexible baton (bean bag) rounds... if someone ever said 'hey, can this be made into a 12 gauge round?' then it probably has been. For everything from high velocity sabot rounds to slugs to buckshot to bird shot to bolos to nails to salt to pepper... the reason that this is a survival weapon is that it is all-purpose gun, no matter if you have a single shot, side by side, over/under, pump or semi-auto in 12 ga., you have a full suite of options from 'less than lethal' to riot control to small game to big game to signaling all with one gun. If you can't justify a flare gun as a multi-purpose survival tool, then a 12 gauge shotgun is the gun of choice.

Make sure the barrel is smoothbore for as rifling really messes with exotic ammo and skews shot like you wouldn't believe.

If you pick up an antique, get it checked by a gunsmith to make sure it is sound and will work with modern rounds and their pressures.

I prefer a Browning Auto-5 with slug barrel that is Cylinder (no choke). Luckily the original barrel was a Cutts compensated full choke and the barrels are easy to swap out (just remember to change the ring positions!), so for under $500 I have an adaptable shotgun. The hunting and target rounds are damned cheap for 12 ga. and the exotic stuff can be anything from cheap (25 cents/shot for small game shot shells) to 'you want HOW MUCH for 3 rounds?' (getting into the $8+ per shot range). If you use it for home defense remember the ranges on 'less than lethal' and pay attention to where you really shouldn't hit. Plus it shows you though ahead of time and don't intend to kill. What this means is that a 12 ga. shotgun is the all-purpose firearm... save for the long barrel and weight of it. If it wasn't an Auto-5 I would have been looking at a pump action Browning.

A new Mossberg pump action can be had for under $400 (check to see if the survival kit is available), a used Browning Auto-5 with two swappable barrels for $500, and a Kimberly Safari Shotgun with gold scrollwork easily gets into the $10,000 range and up... way up. That old thing at the back of the antique store may only be $100, and once you pay a gunsmith to check it out, you probably dropped another $30-50, and you might have a 'wall hanger' that you will disable and cherish as the new family heirloom or a survival shotgun. With more modern weapons, like the Mossberg 500 pump action, you can get into all sorts of tactical arrangements, home defense set-ups and still have a decent hunting weapon.

My choice was a basic late 1940's vintage Browning Auto-5 that had a barrel for competition/small game and then a later Japanese steel barrel for solid shot, buckshot, and home defense needs. A semi-auto tends to raise the barrel up due to recoil more than a pump action, which is great for quail on the wing but not so hot for the zombie hordes.

Pistols run such a wide gamut it isn't funny, but keep in mind your ultimate needs when deciding if and what you need. Getting a concealed carry weapon (plus any legal documents to allow you to do that legally via training and such) is one thing. A pistol for survival needs is another. There are two calibers that are personally suited to my needs, yours will vary.

First is .22lr, which is a rimfire cartridge and suitable for small game and has been used for decades for just that purpose. Rifles for .22lr are very lightweight, compared to the Mosin-Nagant, and far better for small game at close range, so as a survival rifle (pure and simple) a Marlin 60, Ruger 10/22, Ruger Charger or, really, just about anything would do well for the close range/small game set-up. On the pistol side there are the Browning Buckmarks, the Ruger Mark series, plus the Baretta NEOS, amongst tens if not hundreds of designs, possibly thousands once you get back 70 years or so. A small game hunting pistol in .22lr should have a long barrel to it for better rifling effect and be a bit thicker than a self-defense barrel. A heavier barrel means fewer changes due to thermal expansion as you fire, thus allowing for greater accuracy. What you get is up to you, and if this is to be a CCW then a short barrel and slim-line design (like those from North American Arms) may be more your style.

The thing that must be done with any pistol, shotgun or rifle: practice, practice, practice. Practice on the range. Practice holding it at home in your copious spare time. Practice dry firing. Practice your stance. All of these are critical with a .22lr as it is a small round and the slightest movement by you is the difference between hitting what you are aiming at and missing it completely, and the smaller the target, the smaller the error on your part that will do that. Your survival depends on your skill.

As a survival round .22 lr is actually pretty good. There are shotshells for 'pest control' that won't go through things like aluminum siding, but are good against snakes and other very small animals. There are also tracer and incendiaries available of various types, plus a wide degree of pre-fragmented, sectional and other forms of projectile, that make the .22lr a prime survival round. For survival and getting small game .22lr is a pretty good round type and for long term survival a competent marksman can make a limited ammo supply go a long, long way at a very low up front cost. A Marlin 60 can be found for under $150 and a Ruger Mark III Competition pistol for under $400. Out of the box and with a good cleaning to get the factory gunk out of them, they are good survival weapons. The US Air Force has used a single shot .22lr as its bail-out gun for pilots since the 1960's as it is low mass, low cost and very accurate, plus isn't that noisy in the field. There is a good chance that someone within a mile will hear a 12 gauge shotgun blast, but very little they will hear a .22lr especially if it is a sub-sonic load. Cost for 500 rounds of .22lr is normally under $25 and often under $20. That is a 'brick' of ammo and weighs about the same as 30 rounds of 7.62 x54R or 25 rounds of 12 gauge birdshot shells.

I'm really quite surprised that no manufacturer has made a good 'bug out bag' based on a .22lr pistol.

Second for caliber is 45 ACP, the most favorite round for American pistols and even a few carbines. The Browning designed Colt 1911 has been a favorite on and off the battlefield since it was introduced and, when all the variants are taken into account, outsells any other handgun in the US, hands-down. With the run on ammo starting after the election of 2008, 45 ACP vanished off the shelves in a few weeks and the first wave of re-supply in AUG 2009 also quickly went down. Now there is enough to purchase without paying a premium and it goes back into the 'a good round to have' category. As a round the 45 ACP hits a 'sweet spot' between speed and mass, remaining sub-sonic in most loads and yet delivering a heavy system shock. The arguments on this are legion! Still 'In Browning We Trust' should be a motto for a coin. Here I varied from my recommendation of a 1911 variant for myself, as I didn't have a shotgun or rifle, at the time, and didn't know when I would have money for either, but the 1911 is what I recommend as there is not a gun shop in the US that hasn't seen a few dozen of them if not a hundred or more. A good 1911 variant is on my 'buy list' if I ever have funds for one again.

Surprisingly this is a survival round having a wide array of ammo types available for it: flare rounds (they won't cycle a semi-auto), shotshell, tracer, incendiary, explosive, 'spotter' that lights up on impact, frangible (lethal but doesn't over penetrate), segmented, and on and on. I picked up a longer barrel pistol version of the Kahr/Auto-Ordnance Thompson TA5 as its 10.5" barrel allowed for the most velocity as a standard load has expended its powder completely in that distance. That meant a general all purpose firearm that did none of the things specialized ones did (as a shotgun it isn't much, as a rifle it doesn't have enough range, as a pistol its too bulky) but did them all passably with a bit of style. I would not want it as a carry weapon as it isn't concealable nor lightweight.

But then most pistols can't use a 50 or 100 round drum magazine, either.

I had some work done on mine to allow it to use the older Auto-Ordnance and Government Issue magazines of 20 and 30 rounds. I refuse to mutilate pieces of history when I can perfectly well mutilate something modern with a good spare parts supply. The up-front expense for the Thompson has more than made up for the actual using it, and it has proven to be quite accurate with a smoothbore barrel far beyond what I expect for a pistol. Its mass means it is a weight lifting session, but the joy of getting round on target in tight groupings more than makes up for that. Additionally it is 'user friendly' if you can heft it and have good, reliable magazines.

45 ACP target ammo goes for under $20 for a box of 50 rounds. The cost of a 1911 or variant, or any other pistol using the round, varies so much as not to be funny. As a separate platform I was looking at the $700-$800 range, although Kahr has some nice slim-line variants for under $400. And that is on the new market... used I would prefer a historical arm, not necessarily war time issue, as I do have a fondness for historical arms.

Out of the list the cheapest to outfit is the Mosin-Nagant. For about $100 you can still get a great, clean bore military surplus rifle. For an extra hundred you might get someone else to clean it for you... but if you are willing to expend the time and effort to get the cosmoline off, then you have an inexpensive, relatively accurate rifle. Get up to the $350 range and you can get a Finnish surplus one, no cleaning necessary. The ammo is 20-25 cents per round in bulk 'spam can' amounts (440 rounds per can). A real deal for the cost and you get a piece of history, as well. It is the cheapest to procure and the second cheapest to actually use on a per round basis.

Next is the .22lr and a single pistol comes in well under $400 and a Marlin 60 rifle comes in under $150, and ammo is damned cheap (although during the ammo run of 2009 it was also absent, but so was 45 ACP and .22lr came back first). At 4 to 6 cents per round you can't go wrong, and buying in bulk can lower that price, too. Exotics cost more, of course. This is the second cheapest to procure, and the cheapest to fire on a per round basis.

For shotguns you can vary from $150 to... well what are those gold engraved, specialized pieces? Still at the survival end cost for the gun itself, $500 to $700 with a pretty wide variance at the low end, depending on your personal needs and ability. Cost per round is 25 cents to a dollar (from target shot to slugs) and more for a sabot and exotic ammo. It is a real investment useful for a wide range of applications and nothing can replace a good 12 ga. shotgun, and if you must have one gun, and only one gun, make it a 12 gauge shotgun. What you can do with it has no peer in diversity for a weapons platform.

The 1911 variants and older models range all over the map, but rarely under $500 for an older service weapon, although that is only a ballpark. A special-made custom with all sorts of goodies can reach $2,700 and beyond, and in-between at the $700-$900 range are good modern models. Cost for ammo is 36 to 45 cents or so per round at the low end with exotics cost more at the high round. Remember I paid more for something different.

Are these all the guns I have?

No, these are my survival ones that I consider to be good, multi-use weapons.

I do not consider myself to be a 'gun nut' nor someone who has a deep knowledge and history of firearms per model, per line and per type. I do like the history of arms and have the capability to take decent care of the mechanical end of things while being a pretty fair shot. And while I do work up a sweat at the range, the need to concentrate and understand what I am doing is, itself, a form of relaxation and honing a skill.

Next up on my list of skills to acquire: sewing.

Is it just me or has there been a run on jeans needles, lately?

Why sewing?

I have an article I'm working on... about backpacks. Really the entire industry has undergone a revolution over the last 30 years. But adapting your equipment to YOU is a PITA. Thus I am off to the world of cloth, thread, needles, foam, ALICE, MOLLE and weight distribution. And the last time I even touched a sewing machine I was around 8 or so. Luckily I only need 'the basics'.

Just like firearms.

And I have this lovely White Model 565 from the 1960's...

07 November 2009

Terror, terrorism and Ft. Hood

To the family and loved ones of those that have died in the recent tragedy at Ft. Hood you have my deepest condolences and sympathy for your sudden loss.  My words cannot express my feelings adequately.

To those that have been wounded in this attack, you also have my sympathy and my regard for surviving such an attack.  Many of your comrades around you were not wounded because of you just as the fallen have died in place of another so you, too, have received the sharp end of the unexpected.  My deepest regards to you, your families and loved ones, and I wish you a speedy recovery.

To Police Sergeant Kimberly Munley:  thank you for your courage and cool under fire while wounded.  You have saved many lives by your action and that of your fellow officers to end this tragedy and ensure that it would end.  My best and dearest wishes for a speedy recovery from your wounds and return to health.


Any act in which an individual reclaims their negative liberty of warfare, to act as an animal, is one that is of pure terror as it is the loss of civilized controls upon the self and a return to the state of an animal.  It does not matter if it is a calculated dropping of such restraints or pure blinding animal impulse overwhelming the individual: the source of such reclaiming does not change the event, itself, save when those dropping the restraints of civilization act together without cause.  Those that commit such acts do not deserve our pity nor our attempts to exculpate them by blaming such an uncivilized act on conditions.  Guilt or innocence is for a jury to decide, and then source and reason indicates level of punishment.  The presumption for any charged is innocence and proof must be beyond a reasonable doubt of a jury.  Juries can get it wrong, yes.  Trying an individual in the court of public opinion guarantees a wrong verdict as our media play up to emotions, not facts, and thus misguide our thinking via intent through lack of content.  That is why we have juries: to avoid emotional based conviction or decree of innocence as neither weighs the facts.

During my time working on the civil side of DoD, I visited many bases and facilities fully under military control.  The level of self-control and civility was and is astonishing and when any individual within the armed forces reverts to their animal nature it is a double pity as such an individual not only became uncivilized but betrayed the trust of their comrades in arms who depend upon them.  As we depend upon them to defend our Nation, this is the highest form of loss we can suffer as it erodes the trust within the very organization we use to keep us safe.  No higher loss of trust can be found, save for treason, and when plotted with malice aforethought and intent to change the course of a Nation through one's actions, then the act, itself, is treason as well as reclaiming one's negative liberty of Private War.

Those individuals who step forward to learn the trade of arms do just that: learn the trade of arms.  We ensure that they get the highest level of training not only in the arms but in themselves so that they come to understand themselves and their place in our common defense.  These individuals are trained in more than just arms, but in treatment of wounds, first aid and many other areas that allow them to survive the harshest conditions that humanity offers them, which is the battlefield.  The battlefield is that place where civilization falls apart most directly, and yet we try to place civilized rules so as to keep the carnage and atrocities down.  Our soldiers are taught to uphold civilization not where it is easy and comfortable, in their homes and offices, but where it is least likely to be upheld which is that chaotic field of battle.  That training is done to help distinguish between those that are uncivilized and need to be stopped, and those that are civilized and need to be protected.  Due to the chaotic nature of the battlefield this is never easy, and such laws of war have come about so that the innocent are not destroyed by the nature of war, itself.

When on such bases I never wondered if soldiers were kind, courteous and competent.  They were US soldiers.

Even on the most open of bases and facilities before 9/11 I did wonder about the lack of even side arms for self-protection.  As we have come to understand Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, we have come to learn that normalizing of the mind takes many forms and soldiers now employ those forms from immediate de-compression via violent video games to meditation and counseling.  Thus I had no worries about soldiers who had been in Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Colombia, Philippines, and elsewhere being in harms way.  We have changed how we deal with the aftermath of battle upon the minds of our soldiers, and in many ways we now come to understand the more ritualized techniques of primitives and those before modern times that required similar forms of purification, understanding and re-acclimating themselves to civil society after the horrors of warfare.  They are far better prepared to identify danger and how to respond to lethal threats and even the non-lethal sort that involve warfare than any police officer can be.  While both see similar threats, the field of war goes far deeper into how a soldier will asses a lethal situation and respond.  While they could not respond to stop the attacker at Ft. Hood, they served instantly to care for the fallen and stabilize the wounded and save lives immediately.  There was no question of paperwork, training and instant reaction as that had all been done.  Not all who were there were veterans, that is true, but the response between soldiers in different units points to a coherence of understanding that goes far deeper than any civil set of forces that require higher levels of coordination between them outside of the immediate realm.  Soldiers responded to treat the wounded, secure the area, and ensure communications and supply lines for that is their job.

My question is simple:  why are our citizen soldiers denied the right of self-protection due to any citizen of the United States?

They are citizens first.

Soldiers second.

We trust them to fight for us and correctly identify the enemy in the heat of battle and uphold the highest laws of warfare in doing so.

Why do we not trust them as citizens with the positive right of self-defense?

If our Armed Forces were remiss in identifying an individual with troubles, a person with deep personal misgivings of the armed forces and their mission, then that must be addressed, to be sure.

But to deny our citizens the right to protect themselves openly when they are trained in the highest morals and ethics of warfare to distinguish between minor events and lethal ones on the urban battlefield?

A soldier by taking up arms to protect our Nation is a target on and off the battlefield as they are openly stating their willingness to die for us.  In uniform or out of it, they are targets of our enemies who wish to destroy our will to fight and our Nation.  There is no safety when there are lack of arms as those who revert to their base, animal instincts will always and ever find a way to kill to assert their will over others.

That is the nature of man.

That negative liberty and right of asserting one's will over others also creates, simultaneously, the positive right and liberty for self-defense, to uphold one's existence and to assert the civil right to survive without being threatened by death by those wishing to control you.  When taking that animal liberty against a citizen working with civil means, the positive liberty and right spring into being so that there is a higher authority to be invoked when man turned as animal against all mankind arises: yourself who will hold yourself accountable to civil laws for your actions.

Can we not entrust our soldiers to understand that at home, too?

They know the laws of war and the laws of peace and the differences between them.

If we, on the civil side, cannot make that distinction, then we are seeking to dissolve that compact which allows our society to flourish and inviting the law of nature to rule over us with no means to address it.

No good will ever come of that.