Sunday, November 29, 2015

Reporting back on my earlier bleg

On November 5th I asked readers who knew and/or trusted me personally to help with funds to provide a firearm for a disabled person who really needed it.  I figured it was time to report back and let you know what's happened.

The person in need recently separated from her spouse due to a domestic violence situation, and is seeking a divorce.  Threats were made along the lines of "If I can't have you, no-one else will", and that sort of thing - and given the history of violence and instability in the person making the threats, they were taken seriously.  A protective court order is, of course, worth only as much as the paper it's printed on, as many tragic events have illustrated all too clearly.  The only effective answer to a threat of violence is the explicit promise of as much counter-violence as needed to negate the threat.  To make such a promise, one needs the means to carry it out.  That's where defensive firearms come in.

(For the benefit of those who haven't thought much about the subject [and I daresay there are at least a few of them among my readers], the late, great Jeff Cooper encapsulated the purpose of armed self-defense in a few very quotable maxims:
  • "One cannot legislate the maniacs off the street... these maniacs can only be shut down by an armed citizenry.  Indeed bad things can happen in nations where the citizenry is armed, but not as bad as those which seem to be threatening our disarmed citizenry in this country at this time."
  • "The media insist that crime is the major concern of the American public today.  In this connection they generally push the point that a disarmed society would be a crime-free society.  They will not accept the truth that if you take all the guns off the street you still will have a crime problem, whereas if you take the criminals off the street you cannot have a gun problem."
  • "Remember the first rule of gunfighting - have a gun."
  • "One bleeding-heart type asked me in a recent interview if I did not agree that 'violence begets violence'.  I told him that it is my earnest endeavor to see that it does.  I would like very much to ensure — and in some cases I have — that any man who offers violence to his fellow citizen begets a whole lot more in return than he can enjoy."

And from Clint Smith, one of Jeff Cooper's long-time associates and Director of Thunder Ranch:
  • "You have the rest of your life to solve your problems.  How long you live depends on how well you do it."
  • "You cannot save the planet.  You may be able to save yourself and your family."
  • "You can say 'stop' or 'alto' or use any other word you think will work, but I’ve found that a large bore muzzle pointed at someone’s head is pretty much the universal language.")

I appealed for your financial help to buy her something suitable, because my own discretionary funds were pretty much tapped out at the time. You came through magnificently, and I'm very grateful to all of you who helped out.  You'll be pleased to hear that your money paid for a Ruger SR9C pistol for the lady in question, similar to this one.

It also paid for a couple of extra magazines, enough training ammunition for her to become familiar with the gun's operation, a box of high-quality defensive hollowpoints, several hours' shooting at a local range, a holster and her concealed carry permit class.  She's in a much better situation today, self-defense-wise, than she was at the beginning of the month.

There were some funds left over from your contributions, so I've used them to buy an older-model revolver.  It was cosmetically 'challenged', helping to keep the price down, but in good mechanical order, which is really all that's important.  It'll be made available to the next person I encounter who urgently needs a defensive firearm.  The price of the revolver, a low-cost holster and a couple of boxes of .38 Special ammo used up the surplus funds nicely, and fitted the reason they were donated in the first place - to help someone in need of protection.  They'll now help more than one person (and before too long, I'm sure . . . sadly, the need for such protection is always with us).

Thanks again to everyone who helped.  You rock!


Another example of modern mercenaries

A couple of days back I wrote about how mercenaries were making headlines again.  They're doing so in Mali, West Africa, as well.

Last Friday, a week on from the Paris atrocities, gunmen from al-Qaeda stormed the Radisson Hotel in Mali's capital, Bamako, killing 20 foreigners.

The worst terror attack in Mali's history, it showed how jihadists are still a threat to be reckoned with here, despite the presence of 3,000 French troops who ended al-Qaeda's takeover of northern Mali two years ago.

If those French troops are ever to go home, however - as France would like, given its worries about security threats closer to home - local forces must first be able to cope on their own.

Hence the European Union-led training course at the old Malian military academy at Koulikoro, just outside Bamako, where Gurkhas are now among more than 400 soldiers from 22 different EU countries.

"The Malians are very enthusiastic and keen to learn," said Major Roylance, 31, as a platoon of Malian soldiers crawled along a dusty track digging for landmines. "They're particularly proud of being trained by Gurkhas and British soldiers."

. . .

In the past, Malian forces have often been their own worst enemies when they take casualties, inflicting revenge punishments on nearby villages that drive locals into the insurgents' arms.

It is the job of barrister David Hammond, an ex-Royal Marine, to convince them otherwise.

"Recently I had a soldier tell me that his wife had been raped and his brother executed by the jihadists," he said. "He was asking me why he should abide by humanitarian law when the jihadists enjoy impunity. I told him that hard as it was, somebody had to make a stand, and that if international humanitarian law isn't followed then we are no better than animals."

There's more at the link.

So Mali has Gurkha mercenaries - traditionally regarded as one of the 'martial races' - serving and paid by Britain, instructing its armed forces, along with a former Royal Marine who's now a 'contractor', to use the politically correct parlance.  I'm willing to bet some of the French instructors are from the Foreign Legion, an almost exclusively mercenary unit with a long tradition of service to France.  With such varied backgrounds and experiences, the conversations among the instructors over a beer in the evenings must be rather interesting . . . fly-on-the-wall stuff, in fact.

(Of course, it's not politically correct these days for the Gurkhas to cut off their enemies' heads, as one of them found out in Afghanistan a few years ago.  Nevertheless, it's a language the fundamentalist Islamic terrorists in Mali would understand very well.  After all, it's one of ISIL's favorite methods of murder.  Under the circumstances, perhaps the British authorities should consider giving the Gurkhas a free hand once more - and to hell with political correctness!)


Highly strung?

A video clip has been doing the rounds of a few vehicles in Xingtai, China, appearing to suddenly 'levitate' off the ground, spin around and fall to the ground.

Turns out there's a rational explanation.  The Telegraph reports:

It may sound like something out of Star Wars, but if you look very closely at the video, you can just about make out what actually happened.

Just before the first minibus rises into the air, you can see a faint black line to the left of the screen, which police believe was a cable or thick wire.

It appears that a cable became tangled in a street cleaner that is seen to the right of the screen, which essentially tripped up the vehicles, lifting them into the air.

Fortunately, no-one was injured in the incident.

There's more at the link.

Hmm . . . from 'Top Gear' to 'High Wire'!


Saturday, November 28, 2015

"Allahu Quackbar"???

I'm forced to giggle at the news that 4Chan and Reddit users have united to edit yellow rubber ducky heads onto images of ISIL fundamentalist terrorists.  The title of this blog post comes from the Reddit discussion thread.

The Telegraph reports:

As the hacker collective Anonymous continues its cyber war against the Islamic State, other internet users have also joined the fight.

The hacker group has vowed to hunt down members of the terror group, while creative users of imageboard 4Chan have decided to fight back with humour using rubber ducks.

"How about castrating the image of IS by replacing the faces on ALL the propaganda photos with bath ducks?" a 4Chan user wrote.

Since then, many Photoshop masters have been busy putting the heads of rubber ducks onto images featuring Isil fighters.

An album called ‘creates the duck state’ has been viewed more than 100,000 times on photo-sharing site Imgur.

"Great, now I'm scared to take a bath," commented one user.

There's more at the link.

"Allahu Quackbar"?  Full marks for fundamentalist punning to Reddit user Tatumkhamun for coming up with that one!


Curling with kittens?

I'm sure most of my readers are aware of the Scottish sport of curling - but have you ever seen it played with cats?

That cat's got his or her owner well trained . . .


Concealed carry in Haiti . . .

. . . but not of a gun.  I received this picture from an e-mail correspondent last night.  I don't know its origin, but it shows all too clearly how even a very large weapon can be concealed if someone's determined to do so.

A few days ago I pointed out that even large, long-barreled revolvers can be concealed if you put your mind to it.  I reckon that machete's bigger (or, at least, longer) than almost any revolver, yet he was carrying it beneath a T-shirt.  Makes you think, doesn't it?

(I hope he isn't the sarcastic type.  It would be too easy to make cutting remarks - literally!)


Friday, November 27, 2015

Mercenaries make headlines again

'Mercenary' is a dirty word in today's politically-correct environment;  yet mercenaries - those who fight for money, rather than for loyalty or patriotism or some other ideal - have been around almost since the first armies were organized.  It's no different in the modern world.  In fact, the USA re-legitimized the entire concept during its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq by employing so-called 'private military companies' and their 'contractors'.  At the height of the war in Iraq, in 2007, the USA employed more 'contractors' than troops in that benighted country.  With the drawdown of US forces, contractors have become more important than ever in those countries.  There are still tens of thousands of them on the payrolls of governments and 'other organizations'.

Firms such as Blackwater International (later Xe Services, today Academi) became household names as a result, and former members of the armed forces of many nations (particularly the USA and Britain) have found lucrative employment.  I'm informed by former colleagues of mine that at least 6,000 combat-experienced South African ex-servicemen have worked in the 'sandbox' over the past dozen years or more.  Many are still there.  Hundreds of them also served in some of the 'small wars' that erupted in Africa over the past couple of decades.  The most well-known company involved was Executive Outcomes, which served in Angola and Sierra Leone.  British firm Sandline International was linked to EO, and hired many of its personnel for later 'campaigns'.

The demand for well-trained, combat-experienced former soldiers grew so great that the companies supplying this market could no longer attract enough suitable candidates.  Therefore, a 'second tier' of mercenaries came into being.  These were initially local personnel who had at least some military or security training, and showed greater aptitude than most of their counterparts.  The mercenary companies would hire them, provide better training and equipment than they'd received before, and deploy them as support troops to back up their 'first-line' mercenaries.  In due course they expanded their recruiting activities to nations around the world, particularly those still conscripting their citizens for military service.  A time-expired conscript could be given better training and put into service much more easily than a complete novice;  and salaries several times higher than they could earn in their home countries, paid in US dollars into any bank account they chose, anywhere in the world, with no tax deducted and no questions asked, proved an irresistible attraction.  Tens of thousands have joined the throng of 'contractors' at work all over the world.

As the first crop of experienced mercenaries began to grow old and/or battle-weary, they had to be replaced;  but most current first-world military servicemen prefer to go home, take their discharges, and enjoy the tax-free combat pay and bonuses they've saved up.  Relatively few of them are willing to serve as contractors, even at higher pay.  The need therefore arose to develop the 'second tier' mercenaries even further, so they could replace the 'first tier' over time.  This process has been under way for almost a decade.  Several of my former military colleagues are hard at work training the 'second tier' people, getting them to the point where they're as effective in combat as the 'old guard'.  By all accounts it's been an uphill battle, but they're seeing greater success over time - particularly as those who aren't suitable or capable are 'winnowed' in combat, which is a great leveler.

I've known what's been going on for many years, but I was reminded of it today by this article in the New York Times.

The United Arab Emirates has secretly dispatched hundreds of Colombian mercenaries to Yemen to fight in that country’s raging conflict, adding a volatile new element in a complex proxy war that has drawn in the United States and Iran.

It is the first combat deployment for a foreign army that the Emirates has quietly built in the desert over the past five years, according to several people currently or formerly involved with the project. The program was once managed by a private company connected to Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater Worldwide, but the people involved in the effort said that his role ended several years ago and that it has since been run by the Emirati military.

The arrival in Yemen of 450 Latin American troops — among them are also Panamanian, Salvadoran and Chilean soldiers — adds to the chaotic stew of government armies, armed tribes, terrorist networks and Yemeni militias currently at war in the country. Earlier this year, a coalition of countries led by Saudi Arabia, including the United States, began a military campaign in Yemen against Houthi rebels who have pushed the Yemeni government out of the capital, Sana.

It is also a glimpse into the future of war. Wealthy Arab nations, particularly Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Emirates, have in recent years embraced a more aggressive military strategy throughout the Middle East, trying to rein in the chaos unleashed by the Arab revolutions that began in late 2010. But these countries wade into the new conflicts — whether in Yemen, Syria or Libya — with militaries that are unused to sustained warfare and populations with generally little interest in military service.

“Mercenaries are an attractive option for rich countries who wish to wage war yet whose citizens may not want to fight,” said Sean McFate, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and author of “The Modern Mercenary.”

There's more at the link.

I'm familiar with this development through the activities of a former colleague of mine, now living in a South American country that I probably shouldn't name.  He's been there long enough to have become respected, both by the government's armed forces and by the 'guerrillas' operating in that nation, as someone you really don't want to mess with.  His primary occupation is to recruit, train and operate a company-size security force for a commercial operation, including providing armed escorts to local and visiting executives who are potential targets for kidnapping and ransom.  He's been very successful in his work.  He's a hard man, and ruthless.  I'm told three out of four he's recruited have been dismissed before completing their training because he didn't think they were up to scratch, and more than a few have been injured or killed in the process.  His operations against those seeking to disrupt company operations have also caused numerous casualties, not all of whom may have been guilty of any crime.  Nevertheless, in that environment, success covers a multitude of sins . . . and, as almost always in the Third World, life is cheap there.

'Danie' (not his real name) tells me that he makes money out of three lucrative 'side deals', over and above his salary.  The first is to steer members of his security team to recruiters for international mercenary 'contractor' organizations.  When they've served him for a few years and proved themselves, as he puts it, 'the hard way', he can earn a commission of several thousand dollars per person by referring them to those needing the skills he's taught them.  By then he's trained replacements for them, so he can afford to let them move onward and upward - and they usually remain grateful to him for giving them their start, which can be useful further down the road.  (As far as international recruiters are concerned, it's a bonus if those they're hiring are from different countries, backgrounds and cultures to the areas where they'll serve.  They're less likely to be sympathetic to local groups or tribes, and more likely to stay loyal to the person paying them.)

The second is to offer what we used to call a 'sheep-dipping' service to members of criminal organizations such as the cartels in Mexico.  They're usually highly trained and experienced in their murderous trade.  Some would like to break away from their criminal past and 'go straight';  but their present employers aren't likely to allow them to simply resign and fade away.  Danie's built up a network of contacts that lead some of them to him.  In return for a (substantial) cash payment and a few years of service, during which they have to prove themselves to him, he'll help them to 'disappear' from their present countries.  He'll build on their previous experience, retrain them in his way of fighting (learned in the African bush over many years) and help them forge a new identity as residents of the country where he's working.  (I'm sure money changes hands with the local bureaucracy to provide new birth certificates, passports, education diplomas, employment histories and so on.)  In due course, once they've 'paid their debt' to him, he'll steer them to the international 'contractor' organizations, where they can go on to make new lives in another country if they wish, under their new names.  (That way he makes money from them twice;  first in what they pay him, then in commission for referring them to other employers.)

The third way Danie makes money is to provide referrals to former bush war colleagues who are getting old, as he is, and want to get out of front-line mercenary service.  He's built up a network of contacts in companies and 'other organizations' that run (or want to run) their own security operations.  There are many parts of the world where that's essential, because local security and police forces are either corrupt or totally ineffectual.  In return for a suitable fee (probably from both sides), he'll introduce his former comrades in arms to people and organizations looking for their skills and experience in senior positions.  The 'finders fee' for such people can run into thousands of dollars, because there are a lot of 'posers' out there, but not too many who really are what they claim to be.  A solid introduction from a known quantity like Danie is worth money to the right people.

Danie is just one example of the kind of people who are right at home in the often murky waters of the 'contractor' world.  There are many middlemen like him, and a few at higher level who are making millions out of the knowledge, skills, organizational abilities and contacts they've built up over many years.  Erik Prince is perhaps the best-known example, but there are others.  It's a difficult environment, one where suspicion, betrayal and intrigue are the order of the day;  but it's a very lucrative one for those who are prepared to take risks and accept challenges.

The deployment of Latin American mercenaries in Yemen is merely the latest chapter in a tale that's been going on for a very, very long time.  It's probably as old as the human race, and probably won't die out until we all do.


"Black Lives Matter" undermines itself

I'm getting very tired of the bigoted idiots of the 'Black Lives Matter' movement.  Today they disrupted shopping on Chicago's 'Magnificent Mile'.

Thousands of people marched on Chicago's most prestigious shopping street on Friday, disrupting business on one of the busiest U.S. retail days, to protest the shooting death of a black teenager by a white policeman and the city's handling of the case.

About 2,000 protesters, some holding signs reading "Stop Police Terror" gathered in a cold drizzle for the march on Chicago's "Magnificent Mile," which closed the major city street of Michigan Avenue to traffic on the traditional "Black Friday" shopping day after the Thanksgiving holiday,

Organizers said the rally, led by activist-politician the Rev. Jesse Jackson and several state elected officials, was a show of outrage over the October 2014 death of Laquan McDonald, 17, and what they see as racial bias in U.S. policing.

There's more at the link.

I want to know where those same protesters were when Tyshawn Lee was murdered in Chicago last month.  Where were they when 82 were shot and 14 killed (almost all of them black) over the Fourth of July weekend in Chicago last year?  Where were they after the October weekend when six people (most of them black) were shot in Philadelphia?  Where were they in Georgia during the first decade of the 21st century, when well over 11,000 people (most of them black) died a violent death due to firearms?

The hypocrisy of the 'Black Lives Matter' demonstrators - particularly the organizers - is sickening.  They don't really give a damn about black - or any other - lives.  If they did, they'd be protesting every senseless, pointless, criminally violent black death, and doing all they could to resolve the problem.  Instead, they protest only those deaths from which they believe they can make political or social capital.  I despise them for their cynical opportunism and lack of true conscience.  The truth is not in them.


A new angle on the Turkish-Russian dispute

I've been wondering whether there aren't hidden reasons behind Turkey's shoot-down of a Russian strike aircraft earlier this week.  The Russian plane was bombing Turkmen rebel positions just inside Syria - and the Turkmen have traditionally been supported by Turkey.

Now comes this news.

In May, the Cumhuriyet paper published what it said were images of Turkish trucks carrying ammunition to Syrian militants.

The images reportedly date back to January 2014, when local authorities searched Syria-bound trucks, touching off a standoff with Turkish intelligence officials. Cumhuriyet said the images were proof that Turkey was smuggling arms to rebels in Syria.

The government had initially denied the trucks were carrying arms, maintaining that the cargo consisted of humanitarian aid. Some officials later suggested the trucks were carrying arms or ammunition destined to Turkmen kinsmen in Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested the same recently saying: "what difference would it make if they were carrying arms?"

. . .

Prosecutors launched an investigation into the journalists after Erdogan threatened legal action against Dundar for publishing the images and said he would not let the issue go.

His comments prompted the media watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists to call on Erdogan to stop "bullying journalists ... just because he doesn't like what they report."

There's more at the link.  The journalists have just been jailed because of their report.

If Turkey was supporting the Turkmen in Syria with arms shipments, and Russia was bombing those same Turkmen - and/or trying to interdict those arms shipments - it would provide an entirely new perspective on why the Russian jet was shot down, wouldn't it?  And it would explain Russian anger as well.

Turkish President Erdogan is an autocratic fundamentalist Muslim, who has his own set of priorities and arrogantly disregards or rejects any criticism from anybody.  Russian President Putin is not exactly backward in coming forward, either.  Things might get rather interesting in that part of the world . . . Real.  Soon.  Now.


I wish I'd had one of these . . .

. . . during my days as a cubicle drone!

Looks like a whole lot of fun.  You can read more about it here.  However, I can't use it in my home office, because the only available target would be my wife . . . and that might lead to unimaginable complications!


Thursday, November 26, 2015

A hot Thanksgiving . . . sort of



There's so much for which to be thankful

Despite terrorism, economic instability, worries over the US political situation and many more negatives, there's a great deal for which I'm thankful.

I'm thankful to God, who works in mysterious ways and whom I don't pretend to understand, but whose will I try to do, no matter how imperfectly.  For his mercy, I'm truly grateful.

I'm thankful for my wife, who brightens my life in ways I'd never have believed possible until I met her.

I'm thankful for our new home-to-be in Texas.  It looks like all the paperwork is progressing satisfactorily, despite hiccups here and there, and we're already starting to pack (and shed excess belongings) in preparation for the move.

I'm thankful for our friends (our 'tribe', as Matt G. put it so well after Blogorado).  They complement, strengthen and reinforce us, and I hope we do the same for them.  It's hard to have to face today's world alone.  Thankfully, we don't have to.

I'm thankful to you, dear readers, for your support not only of this blog, but of my books as well.  You've made it possible for me to earn a living once more, after being told by a neurosurgeon a decade ago that thanks to my semi-disabling injury, I'd never be able to work normally again and would have to exist passively on a disability income.  It's great to have proved the doctor mistaken!

I'm sure you have your own lists of things for which you're thankful.  Today's the time to celebrate them all.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The dangerous side of Thanksgiving

The police are going to be working hard this holiday weekend while the rest of us are celebrating with our families.  In particular, they're going to be deluged with drunk drivers who've celebrated too often and too well.  This puts the police at risk as well as everyone else on the roads.  Just look at this video clip, filmed last month, of a police officer dealing with one drunk driver - when a second drunk driver gets his attention the hard way.

If he'd been standing on the other side of the car, he'd be dead right now . . .

Enjoy your Thanksgiving, friends, but please don't drink and drive;  and please say a prayer for those who have to deal with people who do.  You might want to thank them for their hard work, too.


The world's finance markets are ill-prepared for what's coming

Two articles in the Telegraph point out aspects of the current international finance market that are likely to affect all of us in the short term.

First, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard points out that the bond market is still in dire straits.

One by one, the giant investment funds are quietly switching out of government bonds, the most overpriced assets on the planet.

Nobody wants to be caught flat-footed if the latest surge in the global money supply finally catches fire and ignites reflation, closing the chapter on our strange Lost Decade of secular stagnation.

. . .

The UBS bubble index of global property is already flashing multiple alerts, with Hong Kong off the charts and London now so expensive that it takes a skilled worker 14 years to buy a broom cupboard of 60 square metres.

. . .

As of late November, roughly $6 trillion of government debt was trading at negative interest rates, led by the Swiss two-year bond at -1.046pc. The German two-year Bund is at -0.4pc.

. . .

This is a remarkable phenomenon given that global core inflation - as measured by Henderson Global Investor's G7 and E7 composite - has been rising since late 2014 and is now at a seven-year high of 2.7pc.

. . .

Inflacionistas in the West have been arguing for six years that the QE-fuelled monetary base is about to break out and take us straight to Weimar or Zimbabwe. They failed to do their homework on liquidity traps.

Yet their moment may soon be nigh. Catalysts are coming into place. Globalisation is mutating in crucial ways.

China, the petro-powers and Asian central banks led a sixfold increase in foreign reserves to $12 trillion between 2000 and mid-2014 (and trillions more in sovereign wealth funds). This flooded the global bond markets with capital and stoked asset bubbles everywhere.

The process has gone into reverse. Data from the International Monetary Fund show that these reserves dropped by $550bn in the year to June as capital flight and the commodity bust forced a string of countries to defend their currencies. Saudi Arabia is still burning through $12bn a month to cover its budget deficit.

This shift in reserve flows amounts to fiscal stimulus for the world. Less money is being hoarded as capital: more is going back into the real economy as spending - or it soon will do - exactly what the doctor ordered for a 1930s world, starved of demand.

. . .

All the stars are aligned for an end to the deflationary supercycle, and therefore for an end to the 35-year bull market in government bonds.

With equities already at nose-bleed levels it is hard to know exactly where to seek refuge.

There's more at the link.

In case you think this won't affect you, consider that our society is awash in debt.  Look at this chart from the article referenced above.

The total debt in most of those nations is at astonishing levels.  For example, if one views GDP as the amount 'earned' by a country in a given year, then the US owes almost two and a half years of its national income just to pay off the debts it and its businesses and residents have incurred.  That's like an anchor, holding us back from greater or faster economic growth.  Too much of our current income has to be devoted to servicing old debt, rather than financing current and future needs.  Imagine if your household owed so much money that your total income for the next two and a half years would be required to pay it off.  How could you do that while still retaining enough money to live on?  It would mean cutting out luxuries and discretionary purchases, and concentrating solely on essentials until the debt was paid.  That would take a very long time . . . and while it was being paid off, your money couldn't contribute to your local economy's growth and development.  Sovereign economies aren't the same as households, of course, but in many ways the comparison is still valid.

The debt crisis has been fueled by repeated rounds of quantitative easing (QE), the funds for which were 'raised' by the nations concerned through issuing government bonds to that amount (even though most of the bonds were bought by central governments or their central banks, like the Fed, in an incestuous self-serving money-printing charade that fooled nobody).  The funds thus raised have already been distributed to banks and other institutions, who've used them to shore up their balance sheets and deal with bad debts (at least, the wise ones have;  there are unwise ones who haven't, as we'll see in a moment).

This affects all of us.  For example, it means that the mortgage on your home is probably funded to at least some extent by QE.  Miss D. and I are seeing this right now at first hand through the Texas bank dealing with the mortgage on our new home.  We're prime-credit customers, putting down a 20% deposit on our home and having income more than adequate to support the monthly payments;  yet lenders in the bond market are quibbling over tiny issues, wanting higher interest, and running scared of anything that might expose them to greater risk.  We've got our financing, but less credit-worthy customers are finding it much harder (not to mention more expensive) to do so.  Just like Mr. Evans-Pritchard, lenders can see the writing on the wall, and its message is distinctly discomforting.

Banks in Europe appear to have been less than wise in how they've handled the 'hangover' of bad debt resulting from the so-called 'Great Recession'.  The Telegraph reports:

Europe’s banks are barely increasing lending because they are still weighed down by bad loans, the European Banking Authority (EBA) said, warning that the burden is greatest on the smallest lenders.

A total of €1 trillion of loans are non-performing, hampering efforts to get banks to make new loans to households and businesses that want to spend more or invest ... On average, European banks have twice the level of non-performing loans as their US counterparts, which took more action in the wake of the financial crisis to recapitalise and improve their balance sheets.

. . .

The EBA said loan growth was fastest in countries and by banks with stronger capital ratios, indicating that those which have built up their financial buffers and cleaned up their balance sheets the quickest are the most able to lend.

As a result, the official body warned that those banks which have low capital buffers and high levels of non-performing loans are less able to lend and to support economic growth.

Again, more at the link.

This is the root of what's called a 'liquidity crisis'.  When banks refuse to - or simply can't afford to - lend money, because their balance sheets are too weak to do so or they have to hoard their reserves to cover existing bad debts, this impacts economic activity on a very wide scale.  Remember the US housing market crisis of 2007/2008?  There were plenty of houses for sale . . . but no mortgages available with which to buy them.  Only buyers who had lots of cash and were prepared to put it on the table, or had extraordinarily good credit and were thus acceptable risks in the eyes of lenders, were sure of being able to buy what they wanted.  The rest of us were out of luck.

That's how it is in much of Europe right now.  That'll affect us as well, because even if US banks are on a more sound footing, much of our economic activity consists of international trade.  If our trading partners can't afford to buy our goods and commodities, and can't afford to produce what we need to buy from them, we'll be hurting right along with them.  This is already happening, of course, as evidenced by the downturn in the transportation of goods from producers to markets.  Last week the Baltic Dry Index fell below 500 for the first time in its history . . . a strong harbinger of bad times to come.

The Bible tells us that "the love of money is the root of all evil".  Unfortunately, the lack of money is at the root of a great deal of economic evil, too . . .


'Star Wars' as a military training tool

Courtesy of a link from XBradTC, we learn that 'Star Wars' can be useful in training military personnel, according to the 'Center for Galactic Lessons Learned'.

This past weekend, I spent some time re-watching Star Wars episodes IV, V, and VI, or as I call them, Star Wars. Watching them with a critical eye towards leader development, tactics, and strategy, I was struck by a number of critical flaws on both sides that could have been fixed with some basic organizational fixture for lessons learned. While some might call this type of analysis a “nerdgasm of epic proportions,” Star Wars is an ideal tool for professional development; because of its status in popular culture, most people tend to have a working knowledge of it, versus an obscure historical military campaign (I still love those, but it takes a while to teach Soldiers the background).

So what are the lessons learned that can be distilled from Star Wars? If there was a Command and General Staff College for the Imperial Fleet or the Rebel Alliance, what could they pass on to students?

Leader Development.

Rebel Alliance. One has to wonder at the vetting system for officers in the Rebel Alliance when Han Solo makes commander (O-5) after one battle and general (O-7) after being rescued from Jabba the Hut. The same goes for Lando Calrissian, who makes general with astonishing quickness for someone who could nicely be called a contractor. This leads one to believe that the Alliance was hurting for qualified pilots because of their overall strategy and tactics (why will be elaborated further on). A lack of strategic minded commanders meant that the Alliance was always one step behind the Empire and was always reacting rather than being proactive.

Mentorship, if you can call it that, was lacking for senior Alliance leadership, mainly on the religious/philosophical side. The return of the Jedi class to warfighting was meant to be a new hope, and yet the surviving Jedi proved too set in their ways to properly mentor the young Skywalker. Fearing that the truth would burden him with too much knowledge, they merely dropped bits of twisted truth along the way, leading him to make the rash choices that they so desperately bewailed. Obi Wan Kenobi spent most of his time either lying to Luke, or explaining his lies. Yoda never bothered to give Luke any true background on the situation until his dying breaths, a colossal waste of resources. Hide-bound into a static mentality that only yearned for the good ‘ol days, these “chiefs of staff” offered no great mentorship to Luke and may have in fact hindered his development by hoarding information like a bad staff officer.

There's much more at the link.  It's funny, but also makes some rather good points from a military perspective.  I enjoyed it . . . even though George Lucas would doubtless have a fit at the thought of his moonbat space fantasy actually having real military utility.  Can you just imagine the Marines trying to teach students in Basic School how to use the Force?  My mind boggles at the thought of a Gunnery Sergeant trying to convey its principles, particularly his attempts to get through to particularly dense students using knife hands light saber hands . . .