Monday, September 16, 2013

Daily Briefing For Monday, September 16, 2013

File Under "Don't Assume Others Know What They're Talking About."

Before I start bitterly complaining about the political left's fascination with disarming America, I'd like to share a link to the New Yorker as evidence that a) I do read something other than ZeroHedge, and b) you may wish to stop reading now - the three of you who read this blog - and edify yourself with this piece on Chris McCandless.  You know, the brilliant guy who died in Alaska after either by starving to death or from being poisoned by wild potato seeds.  (Spoiler alert:  the movie about his life is really, really depressing.  Total downer, which is not what you'd expect from any film with Vince Vaughn in it.)  In short, there's new evidence to back up the claim it was the potato seeds that did him in and not starvation.  Personally, I don't have an opinion either way, although his story is quite interesting to say the least.

The new evidence in the McCandless saga dovetails somewhat into the tragedy at the Navy Yard.  Working from home today gave me the opportunity to watch Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, Washington, as she breathlessly announced that the gunman used an "AK-15" in today's rampage.  (For those of you unfamiliar with modern sporting rifles, there is no such gun as an "AK-15.")

One Facebook meme I saw this evening proclaimed "If your first reaction to shootings is to think, 'Oh sh*t, Obama/liberals are going to try to take our guns!' your priorities as a human being SUCK."  Well, I guess I suck.  Perhaps my saving grace was that the sentiment was my second reaction, and not my first.

What was my first reaction, you ask?  I continue to struggle to understand why we insist on having victim disarmament zones - aka "gun free zones" - in places where the people who work there are trained to use guns to kill bad guys.  CNN reports the Navy Yard "is the home to high-level naval personnel." Am I to believe that home of the Naval Sea Systems Command - presumably staffed with sailors and Marines who have had a modicum of weapons training and who may be pressed into action to defend our country - should be devoid of employees who do not have ready access to weapons? 

Forget nut job shooters for a minute.  If Al Qaeda were to attack the Navy Yard, who is going to defend it?  A handful of MPs and DC cops?  A Marine security detail?  All while soldiers and sailors are inside, with no access to weapons, because it makes the nanny staters feel better? 

I have an easier time understanding the desire to keep teachers from carrying guns in the classroom than I do those who wish to disarm our military and law enforcement trainers from carrying guns while on duty here at home.  Those are the experts the anti-gun crowd lauds as the only ones qualified to carry them...and yet they're not allowed to do so while on duty.

The gun free zone failed to keep those victims safe.  Like the McCandless story where experts claim, with a certain bitterness, that he died of starvation and not from poisoning, we have policy makers who refuse to consider data and facts which prove the gun free zone concept for our military and law enforcement work places is a really bad idea.  Today's shooting took place in a facility where there were people inside trained to use guns but were prohibited from carrying them, much like those victims of the Ft. Hood shooting.  We can only hope the military examines this policy so that our well trained military men and women can protect not only our country, but also themselves, from all enemies both foreign and domestic.

Reminder #748 As To Why We Prepare

Colorado continues to deal with the ravages of recent flooding, where now eight are confirmed dead and hundreds are still unaccounted for.

Meanwhile, did any of you run across this Tumblr post regarding two hikers who were stranded in an ice storm in Colorado last week?  You can read their somewhat scary text messages regarding their situation.  I'm not here to criticize their decision making that put them in that situation (I'm not a hiker, so they could have been using the requisite judgment and still ended up in a bad spot.)  But it again serves as a reminder that things can go badly for us when we don't expect it, requiring us to call for help in adverse conditions.

It's Like I've Said Before - Preparedness Is Largely A Math Problem.

Check out this fantastic post from over at Preparedness Pro regarding calorie requirements and so called "30 day packs" sold by a number of survival proprietors.  You are committing prepper malpractice if you don't do the math to determine how many calories are in your food storage plan and how long it will last you.

Fighting The Good Fight With Moral Clarity

Lately I've had a number of people wanting to get my take on the growing militarization of our police force.  Doyle shared this article of how some cops are doing their best to mentor the younger members of their profession on the true role of their calling - to protect and serve.  This is a well written piece, and I am heartened knowing there are a lot of great men and women out there who do a dangerous job to keep us safe while complying with the laws and Constitution.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Daily Briefing For Friday, September 13, 2013

Because Sometimes, Things Make Absolutely No Sense Whatsoever.

I've always thought that the worst kind of life to live is a boring one.  Good times, bad times, successes and failures - these make life interesting.  The worst life one could live in my estimation is one that is colorless and bland, devoid of any interests, conflicts or intellectual pursuits.

The good news is that world events are doing their part to keep our lives interesting.  Pope Francis, in what I find to be an unfathomable move, recently announced that atheists can go to heaven if they follow their conscience.  Now I'm not here to debate this, but it seems to me that if this is in fact true, why should anyone bother to go to church and study the bible?  After all, if all we have to do is just follow our conscience, with no regard as to whether our conscience is right, we could close every church tomorrow with spiritual impunity. 

Add to that the open letter of Russian president Vladmir Putin published yesterday in the New York Times.  For the first time that I can ever remember in my life, the Russian sounds more rational in his assessment of the Middle East goat rodeo du jour than his American counterpart.  Aside from his nonsensical dicta about how American exceptionalism doesn't exist (we have some 400 years of history, before which the eastern hemisphere of the planet had a sizeable head start, evidencing our contribution to culture, self government and technology far beyond what other countries have done), President Putin makes a good point:

We need to use the United Nations Security Council and believe that preserving law and order in today’s complex and turbulent world is one of the few ways to keep international relations from sliding into chaos. The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not. Under current international law, force is permitted only in self-defense or by the decision of the Security Council. Anything else is unacceptable under the United Nations Charter and would constitute an act of aggression.

That's from the former KGB operative and not the U.S. constitutional law scholar.

All of this serves as a good reminder: there are few constants here on earth.  Aside from our faith in God, most everything else is up for grabs.  That's why we who watch the news on a regular basis struggle to make sense of it.  The reality is you can't.

Don't let that depress you.  It's simply the nature of the world in which we live.  Our job is to figure out how to excel under a myriad of conditions and scenarios, rather than to just ride it out.

In Other News And Info...
The Art of Manliness makes a number of good suggestions for podcasts you should be listening to. 

In following up on the student responder class at Webb this past weekend, I'm thinking of going to an ankle rig trauma kit, much like the one Caleb of Lone Star Medics wears.

Please pay attention to interest rates.  One thing climbing interest rates will likely curtail is the acquiring of new mortgages and sales of homes.  One news source reports that "Citigroup Inc., the fifth-biggest U.S. mortgage originator last year, shut an office in Illinois and is eliminating jobs as rising mortgage rates drive off borrowers."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Thursday announced "the anarchists have taken over" the House and Senate.  If he had a radio talk show, the main stream media cognoscenti would label him a conspiracy theorist.  For now, we can just call him the Senator from Nevada.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Daily Briefing For Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Are We Better At Making The Right Call Than The Powers That Be?

As I create a tapestry of news and info this evening, I'm listening to President Obama to make the case to blow up Syria.  Polls show most Americans have no desire to get involved in the conflict, despite the horrible acts committed as a result of it.

Americans have historically trusted their leaders, often to the point of a blind and dangerous loyalty.  That trust seems to be waning, however: a staggering 41% of Democrats and 68% of independents say Obama's handling of foreign policy has been the same or worse than that of Bush.  People seem reluctant to listen to the powers that be or the traditional thought leaders in politics, religion and finance.  I point to the growth of the audiences of people like Alex Jones and Glen Beck, non-denominational churches, and declining volume in the stock market as evidence of such a trend.

What's perhaps more enlightening is when the same thought leaders confirm what we've suspected for some time now.  Take for example one of my favorite people to pick on: Paul Krugman of the New York Times.  After finally admitting death panels and increased taxes on the middle class were the way to go (long after many conservatives were chided for using the term "death panels") a while back, check out this piece from Friday's paper of record.  The Nobel Prize-winning economist writes:

The important thing, however, is to realize that there are degrees of disaster, that you can have an immense failure of economic policy that falls short of producing total collapse. And the failure of policy these past five years has, in fact, been immense.

To be fair, Krugman's complaint is that we didn't go all-out redneck with the credit card and rack up more debt to be pissed away (an economics term I learned during my public policy course work at Vanderbilt) in so-called stimulus programs.  (For those interested, Veronique De Rugy at George Mason University presents a more compelling plan to jump start our ailing economy, which is currently comprised of over 100 million Americans receiving some form of federal welfare.)  Despite a disagreement over the fix to what ails us, Krugman and I see eye to eye on the issue of our economic policy over the last five years: it's been a disaster for the typical American.

And after telling us for years now - years - that we ought not worry about inflation, CNBC reported last week that, well, we need to start worrying about inflation.  From the article: "Higher inflation that's to come will mean still-tough times for savers and retirees, whose money has generated little return since the Fed took over the post-crisis economy."  Buried in the article is this quote from economist David Rosenberg: "[higher inflation] is more bad news for pensioners and those who live on fixed income investments, and good news for Uncle Sam and other debtors." 

Meanwhile, on the subject of self defense during an active shooter situation, we see that conventional wisdom from the main stream thought leaders is, once again, being proven wrong.  Cato lays out a tremendous amount of data on how long it takes law enforcement to actually enter a building where an active shooter is at work.  Answer: long after the shooting stops.   From the article: "The fastest way to stop a killer is to have somebody on-premises who’s armed, whether a security guard, an off-duty police officer or a civilian with a permit."  Once again, divorcing ourselves from the talking points and loyalties of both political parties and the emotional rhetoric which often joins it, and replacing it with facts and data yields a more accurate result.

In short, it's up to all of us to do our own homework and reach our own conclusions.  Just because someone's called an expert in the media doesn't mean they are one, or that they don't have a vested interest in a particular outcome.

Take heart if you have found yourself flying in the face of conventional wisdom lately as you map out your preparedness strategy.  Turns out you may be far more correct in your thinking than most of the so called experts.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Daily Briefing For Monday, September 9, 2013

More On Training Kids

It was a very busy extended weekend for me in Bell Buckle.  For the second year  now, Caleb Causey of Lone Star Medics and I traveled to my high school alma mater - The Webb School - to provide student responder training to student leadership and staff. 

We got in town Thursday afternoon and did our initial walk through for the two classes we were to teach during the weekend.  It gave us an opportunity to eat dinner on campus with the boarding students, which is always good for getting the vibe of kids.  On Friday, I participated in a panel discussion in the school's daily chapel on the subject of campus security and being aware of the possible threats facing students and faculty.  We finished our walk throughs that afternoon, and I had an opportunity to meet with the Head of School to discuss the school's ongoing efforts to become better prepared for a wide spectrum of emergencies.

After an awesome night under the lights of the football stadium where Webb thrashed its opponent, we got started bright and early with the student responder class.  Twenty students and dorm staff (faculty who live on campus in the dorms) spent eight hours learning about tourniquets, pressure dressings, chest seals, drags and carries, with much time devoted to hands on training and role player scenarios.  The students' and staff's interest in this subject matter could not have been stronger.  I was very pleased how seriously they all took it.  In fact, when the students learned the school would be buying a few first responder kits to be shared among the student leaders, their response was "Oh no....we each want our own gear."  I'm taking that as a good sign.

On Sunday, we did a smaller class for school staff and friends introducing them to force on force (FOF) training and tactical medicine.  The really great thing about this class was that we got to run full speed force on force scenarios inside of an actual school building.  As a precaution, we visited with the local police and county sheriff's office days before our class to advise them we'd be running FOF drills on campus in the event someone mistook our exercises for the real thing. Our students were fantastic, and we all learned a lot about shooting on the move, using cover and concealment, legal issues surrounding the use of deadly force, and the basics of tactical medicine techniques.

In perusing my Facebook feed, I gather from my teacher friends that campus security continues to be a growing concern and point of emphasis.  What seems to be a sticking point in the discussion is how best to address the issue. 

I'm a huge proponent of training the student leaders on how to respond to emergencies.  The kids at Webb outnumber the faculty around fifteen to one.  And not all of the adults will be able to handle the drama of a full bore emergency, while many kids will be able to rise to the occasion.  Some random observations, in no particular order:

  • Kids like hands on training and scenarios.  You lecture, you lose. 
  • This year's class had more adults in it than last year's.  The adults really took a strong interest in this - even the ones who admitted they weren't excited about coming to the class.
  • Kids want their own first aid gear.  I was a bit surprised by this at first, but I suspect it goes to pride of ownership. 
  • Kids want to know what to do in an active shooter situation.  And these student leaders wanted to know what they should be doing to help in that scenario. 
  • One way to market this idea at your kid's school is to sell it not only as first aid training, but leadership training as well. 
  • I'd love to see some parents get involved in this effort as well.  Parents have a vested interest in this subject matter.  They're the ones who get the call or the texts saying something bad has happened at their kid's school.
  • It's important to remember that while this may be of significant interest to us as preparedness minded people, your kid's school administration may not see it that way.  They have a lot of obligations to meet, and adding one more to that which isn't mission critical (in their mind) may not result in the response you want.  To Webb's credit, they have been quite receptive to the idea of doing pioneering work in the concept of training students to be crisis responders.  I suspect that's in large part due to the fact I'm willing to financially support the effort (hence the bullet point directly above.)