Thursday, January 14, 2010

China: Connecting the Dots Is Not So Hard, Y'all

Making news today is the conclusion by iDefense researchers that the Chinese government was behind December's "highly-organized" attack on Google. The iDefense report also surmises that, due to similarities between the December attack on Google and an attack last July against a large number of U.S. companies, the Chinese government was likely behind both attacks, not just the one on Google. "If the report's findings are correct, it suggests that the government of China has been engaged for months in a massive campaign of industrial espionage against US companies."

Oh, and let's not forget the fact that China and Russia hacked the U. S. power grid in April of last year.

And yet:

  • China continues to enjoy most-favored-nation trading status despite its lengthy record of human rights abuses.
  • China continues to export goods to the U.S. containing poisons like melamine (pet food and baby formula), lead (children's toys), and cadmium (children's costume jewelry) without penalty.
  • In September 2009, the U.S. owed China $798.9 billion, which was 23.25% of all U.S. debt owned by foreign governments. The risk to the U.S. economy should China elect to divest itself of these holdings is well-documented and, in September of '09, China (along with India and Russia) indicated they were interested in buying gold from the IMF in order to diversify their dollar-denominated securities. (source: Wikipedia)

How long before we wake up and realize that China is not our friend? How can anyone escape the conclusion that China is probing our defenses in preparation for a massive act of warfare designed to crater our economic, communications, and power infrastructures?

And yet: I defy anyone to point out one single effective, constructive measure that the U. S. Government is taking in order to counter this threat.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Real-Life SHTF: Haiti Earthquake

Port-au-Prince is the scene of an honest-t0-God SHTF situation right now. Here are the reports I am reading:
  • Haitian PM Jean-Max Bellerive believes 100,000 may be dead. Senator Youri Latortue believes the figure may be closer to 500,000. Both admit they don't know for sure.
  • Doctors Without Borders reports that all hospitals in Port-au-Prince are gone. Not damaged. Not without power. Gone.
  • The main prison in Port-au-Prince has collapsed and there are reports of escaped inmates.
  • The parking lot of the Hotel Villa Creole has been turned into a triage center. The International Red Cross reports that one-third of Haiti's 9 million people - 3 million persons - may require emergency aid.
  • The commander of a U.S. Coast Guard cutter is reporting that the port is heavily damaged.
  • The Port-au-Prince airport was unable to accept flights in the first hours after the quake because the traffic control tower was not communicating.

I confess that my mind is simply not able to comprehend such devastation. But I think that it is helpful to read these reports, view the photos, watch the news coverage, and imagine yourself there. First, because it helps you to be compassionate for what these poor people are going through - please donate to the relief effort if you can. Second, because it may help you to find areas of your own disaster planning that could use improvement.

As I write this, it's less than 24 hours after the quake, which occurred at 4:53 p.m. local time. I imagine that I am there. I would have been at work. I probably would have been trapped in rubble, and if I escaped, I most likely would have been separated from my emergency kit no matter where I had stored it - in my office (buried in rubble) or in my car (buried under tons of concrete in a pancaked garage). I would be without a cell phone to call home. I would have to try to walk five miles home (to an apartment that likely no longer exists) over rubble, concrete, and broken glass with only the three-inch-heels on my feet and the dirty, torn clothes on my back. I would sleep in the street on whatever soft material I could find, afraid to go into any of the damaged structures around me. I would not have anything to eat until Red Cross arrives, probably two days from now.

Honestly, I don't know how you can plan for this sort of disaster. When buildings are not up to code and everything collapses, there's nowhere you can go and nothing you can stash that will help you except, possibly, for whatever is in your pockets when the building comes down. As much as we all strive to be independent and prepared, sometimes all you can rely on is your faith in God and the charity of others.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

My Survivalist New Year's Resolutions

I'm ambivalent about New Year's resolutions. January 1st seems like an arbitrary date to make a change, and if you know you need to improve something, why wait to start? Also, it's a jump-on-the-bandwagon sort of thing, and I'm not much of a "joiner." Nevertheless, I usually end up making at least a few resolutions.

My list this year was delayed due to an incredibly hectic holiday season and vacation over New Year's. So I now offer you my belated list of survivalist New Year's resolutions - how does it compare to yours?
  1. Obtain my ham radio license. Cost: $15 to take the exam. Study materials available for free on the internet. Time investment: 10-15 hours for studying and exam taking.
  2. Improve my shooting skills by visiting the gun range at least once a month. Cost per month: Approximately $15 for range fees, $50-$100 for ammunition at roughly $1/round. (Ouch!) Time investment: 3 hours a month, including travel time, range time, and gun cleaning time.
  3. Lose 15 pounds. That's not even a loss of 2 pounds a month; should be doable. I lost ten pounds in the last half of 2009; this will continue the effort. Cost: $12/month for Weight Watchers enrollment. Time investment: 2 hours a week for meetings and food tracking for a total 8 hours a month.
  4. Improve outdoor survival and camping skills. I'm currently enrolled in a how-to-camp class (don't laugh!) and I'm in the process of obtaining gear and suitable clothing. Cost: several hundred dollars for tuition, gas, tent, and sleeping bag. Time investment: one evening class meeting, one three-day camping trip, and four hours a month exploring day hiking trails in and around Houston - 126 hours total.
  5. Organize food storage and continue adding to it. Right now everything is just thrown in a spare closet with some old crappy bookshelves. Cost: minimal for organization; $10-$20/month for nonperishable food. Time investment: 15 hours.
  6. Improve my Spanish-speaking skills. Cost: Zero. I already own language-learning software. With a trip to Puerto Rico in the planning stages, I'll have plenty of opportunity to try out my ability to communicate with people who (gasp!) don't speak English. Time investment: 2 hours a week plus vacation time, which I won't count, cause, well, it's a vacation.

Total projected cost in 2010: $1,619 ($135 a month, on average). Practice ammunition accounts for an overwhelming majority of this. Total projected time spent: 232 hours (20 hours a month on average).

If I can end 2010 with all these things accomplished, I think it will count as a productive year. How about you? Share your resolutions in the comments!