The USDA Farmers Bulletin, an Untapped Resource

Cover of USDA Farm Bulletin # 1

How many folks know that the USDA was not always a vehicle for farm subsidies and welfare administration and to some extent even still does useful things for the American farmer?  Given the current political environment i would guess that the number is low.  However, throughout its history (the Department was created in 1862 by Abe Lincoln), one of the main things it has done is try to assist American farmers in increasing their agricultural output.  One of the ways it has done this is through the issuance of USDA Farm Bulletins on all kinds of topics related to farms and farming starting in 1889.  It was especially active in doing this during the first half of the 20th century, especially during the Depression years.

Because these bulletins are government products they are in the public domain and archive.org and some other groups have led the way in digitizing these bulletins and making them available for free download, they even have a searchable index page with links to digital copies – https://archive.org/details/usda-farmersbulletin. The USDA National Agricultural Library also maintains an index by title, author, number, or subject on their page at – https://pubs.nal.usda.gov/sites/pubs.nal.usda.gov/files/fb.htm#sortnbr.

These are invaluable resources for the prepper who expects societal collapse as many detail long forgotten pre-farm mechanization/industrial farming cultivation methods.  Methods that many modern farmers are no longer proficient with because they are no longer used.  I urge all preppers to at least browse the index, you might be surprised what you find in there.

Gear Review: AVAWO Hunting Rifle Bipod

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received this article free from the vendor for review purposes. Other than the article reviewed I was not paid by the vendor and and the opinion expressed in this review is purely my own]

I use a Remington 700 as my hunting rifle and I currently have a VOKUL bipod that I use when I go hunting that I paid less than $20 for and is perfectly serviceable.  The AVAWO bipod is at roughly the same price point as the VOKUL selling for $17.99 on Amazon at the time of this writing.  As I always do when reviewing products, I tried to research where the item is manufactured.  That I could not easily figure out.  A quick Google search overwhelmingly takes you to Amazon links for the vast array of products sold under the AVAWO brand name.  There is also a company website at http://www.avawo.net/ that has only an email address on the contact page.  A little further digging reveals that the AVAWO brand is a registered trademark in Hong Kong and the US to a holding company called HONGKONG EASYTOP TECHNOLOGY CO., LIMITED incorporated in 2013 in Hong Kong that has registered several brand trademarks.  Since there is no place of manufacture data on the packaging or bipod itself and given the location of the company that owns the trademark, I am left to conclude that the bipod was most likely manufactured in China, which explains the price point quite well.  That does not mean this is not a good product, just that I am a natural cynic and want to know the origin of the products I buy or recommend.

First, the specs of the bipod off the manufacturer’s website:

  • Material: Hardened steel, aluminum; Color: Black; Leg Height: 6″ / 152mm (retracted) –  9″ / 225 mm (fully extended) Light weight: 10ozs
  • Features: Ultra-light spring loaded folding mechanism bipod; Compact and light weight; Non-rust black anodized finish ;Rubber padded on top to protect fore-end of gun
  • Durable with new design high quality that you can quickly attaches to sling swivel stud.
  • Lleg height: 6 to 9 inches.
  • Adjustable leg length (5 settings) with return springs.
  • The legs can be folded forward or backward.
  • Heavy duty and made of hardened steel and aluminum.
  • With a non-rusting black anodized finish.
  • Compact and light weight.
  • Quickly attach or detach from the rifle using the existing swivel stud.
  • This bipod does not have a swivel top and does not tilt from side to side.
  • Adjustable height & foldable arms with spring tension

I got the AVAWO Bipod in the mail and interestingly the box it is package in was labelled as a fishing adjustable swivel holder.  Opening the box, it is packed in bubble wrap and there is no data sheet or instructions for mounting.  Mounting is actually straightforward but if you are a novice and have never messed with a swivel mount bipod I could see how the lack of instructions could lead to confusion as it takes a bit of thought to figure out how to mount the bipod.

Upon unpacking the bipod, I examined it and at first glance it is fairly sturdily constructed.  After closer examination, aside from some minor cosmetic differences such as phillips head screws vs allen head screws, and different types of rubber for the pads, it is exactly the same as the VOKUL bipod I have and not a lot different from the much more expensive Blackwhawk!! Bipods.  I suppose that has a lot do with the fact that form follows function and other than materials and craftsmanship, a bipod is pretty much a bipod.

The legs of the bipod are adjustable and spring load when fully closed such that if you press the release button they spring to fully extended and it is possible to adjust the leg height at roughly 1/2 in interval from fully retracted to fully extended.  It is possible to mount the bipod with the legs either forward or backward on the rifle.  I mount mine with legs forward to keep the fore-grip unobstructed but it is preference thing.  When opened the bipod legs are quite stable.  If you abuse them I am sure they would bend but they are plenty sturdy for typical hunting and target shooting.

The bipod mounts to the rifle easily and is quite stable once tightened down.  I suppose you could loctite the lock down screw to prevent loosening but I do not since I remove the bipod when I clean the rifle.  The sling mount on the bipod fits standard rifle slings, I have a real-tree sling from BassPro and it goes on quite easily.

All in all, this is a great value for the price.  Personally I have issues with it being made in China but if American or European companies insist on pricing themselves out of the casual market then I cannot help them.  I refuse to pay 4-5 times more for a similar quality American product.  I am not rich and I assume most of my readers are not either.  If two products of are equal quality then I will pick the greater value every time, that is basic economics at work.

This is an excellent bipod at an excellent price and if you are looking for a quality, low-priced bipod for a hunting rifle, the AVAWO bipod fits the bill quite nicely.



It only takes one idiot to f*^k it up for everybody

I saw an article this morning when I satisfied my daily news junkie.  Kansas man accused in bomb plot feared social collapse.  Two things struck me about the article.  One, the defense is bullshit and two, stories like this give preppers a bad name.  It reminded me of a saying we had when I was in the military; “it only takes one idiot to f*^k it up for everybody”.  The guy in the story is that one idiot.

This clown in the story is trying to use prepping and his irrational fears as an excuse for being stupid.  He proved his stupidity by the very plan he came up with and confirmed it by not vetting everyone he was conspiring with well enough. He was not a prepper but a member of a militia group calling themselves The Crusaders, just the name should tip you off that he is not a prepper so much as some type of political activist.  Further, he is not a prepper if he is planning on blowing something or someone up, he is a terrorist just as surely as is an ISIS suicide bomber or a BLM protester that decides to shoot at the cops or a SJW activist that starts a riot when a conservative speaks.  All such people deserve nothing but our contempt and derision and politics has nothing to do with it.  Those that actively hope for and/or work towards bringing about a SHTF scenario should not call themselves preppers, at best they are millennialists.

As preppers, we have to ask ourselves one question.  Why do we prep and if we prep out of some sort of political conviction are we really preppers?  My answer is to why is that I prep because I think learning the skills required is enjoyable and natural cynicism about the state of the world.

I grew up on a farm and loved spending time in the outdoors as a kid hunting, fishing, and hiking.  I also loved helping my grandparents and parents with things like gardening, canning, taking care of the animals, etc.  Those are things I think of as fun and therefore are not work to me.  Those are also things that being truly prepared are required skills so those things fit together.

As a historian and a natural cynic I look around at what is going on in the world and think it is better to be prepared as the modern world is more vulnerable to societal disruption than it has ever been before.  Little more than a century ago things would have been bad if the electricity stopped working or government collapsed but most people had the skills to get by and global population was not so large as to preclude feeding most people without modern agriculture.  That is no longer the case.  A collapse in modern agricultural methods alone through some sort of engineered attack would inevitably lead to widespread famine even in the developed world and all the societal issues that would arise as a result.  Therefore, prepping to me makes sense.

That being said, I hope a societal collapse never happens and I will work actively to try and prevent one.  I don’t romanticize a SHTF scenario as nothing good can come of such uncertainty.  I hope to die peacefully of old age many years from now with a full crisis storage that I never had to use.

I expect that my viewpoint expressed in this piece will not be popular with some, and I am ok with that.  I also hope that more people share my views.  Yes, society seems to be fracturing and there are plenty on both sides of the political divide that are not prepared to compromise on anything.  I think of myself as a conservative leaning moderate as I think as a nation and a world we would be better off focusing on the things that bind us instead of things that divide us and working to find common ground.  This leads me to reject political extremism of every stripe and most types of identity politics.  The guy in this story IS that one idiot that is going to f*^k it up for all of us preppers, because by appropriating the label he is going to let those that disagree with preppers and the prepping mindset paint us in a light that does not reflect who we really are.

Let us all ask ourselves, “Why do I prep?”  and if the answer is anything other than I would rather have and not need than need and not have, perhaps you need to examine your motivations for prepping a little more deeply.

Please discuss as I am more than willing to engage in reasonable debate.

 

The Importance of Reliable News Sources

I am a news junkie and always have been.  One of the reasons my wife says I am a cynic.  There has been much talk about how untrustworthy the media is in the past decade or so.  I agree with that as far as politics go but there is more to it than that.  There are plenty of other news sources that are also untrustworthy or at a minimum guilty of gross hyperbole.  It does nobody any good when a pedestrian news story is blown all out of proportion, you could even call it panic-mongering.  Among the prepper community I see this a lot.  Some simple story is blown out of proportion in order most likely drive sales.  One of the sites that I see do this a lot is survival life, they probably have the most aggressive and sensationalist marketing I have seen within the prepper community.  Other sites do it too and here is an example I found this morning while checking Drudge as I do every morning.

solar-weather-forecast

NOAA Space Weather Center 3-day forecast for 29 Sep, 2016.

Drudge linked to a story from the UK Daily Express about a solar storm.  The info in this story is so over the top it is unreal.  The story is here: Solar storm heading towards Earth threatening to break your Sky TV and mobile phones and just the headline is misleading.  Read the story and then compare it with the 3-day solar weather forecast from NOAA.

It pays to be both knowledgeable and skeptical when it comes to the news.  The last major solar storm that struck the earth and caused a power outage occurred in 1859 and is known as the Carrington Event.  A storm that powerful could happen and here is a good piece form National Geographic (What If the Biggest Solar Storm on Record Happened Today?) about what might happen if it did, but if one were heading this way not only would the major media outlets pick up on the story but governments would get involved in warning people as well.  Our government may be incompetent at a lot of things and they may not serve the people well, but they are also not actively trying to destroy civilization either.

A Couple of Great Reference Sites for Military Publications

Not everyone knows it but everything produced by the US government is in the public domain unless it has been classified or otherwise specifically restricted from public distribution.  This includes everything from USGS maps, to government produced photos and videos, to all manner of printed material.

Many of those publications are useful to the prepping community, especially those from the Engineer series having to do with with obstacles and fortification.  Since these manuals are by and large public domain, except for the newest versions in general, I have added a few links below to PDF versions of these manuals.  These links will also go up on the references page of the site.

As I announced a few weeks ago I am taking some of these manuals and editing them to make them available as print editions.  Often these manuals are already available in print but at a significant cost.  My goal is not to make money with these although i would be lying if I said I did not make any, the goal is to make them available at affordable prices.  I am going to try to keep all of them priced at under $10 although some of the larger ones will have to go for more than that simply because of the printing costs involved.

The first couple of these are already out and an example is the Operator’s and Direct Support Maintenance Manual for the M1911A1.  I have combined both the operator’s and the direct support maintenance manuals into one volume and priced it at $7.49 while just the operator’s manual is available for $10.40.

Of course the most current updates are available online from the Dennis J Reimer Training and Doctrine Digital Library but that is only available to current military and DoD civilians and most of the pubs there are restricted from distribution.

Here are the doctrinal pubs links:

The GlobalSecurity.org Army Field Manual page: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/policy/army/fm/

The Federation of American Scientists Army Intelligence and Security Doctrine page: http://fas.org/irp/doddir/army/#fm

 

 

I have recently started a new project taking select military FMs and TMs in the public domain that are available as PDFs but hard to find and/or expensive as hardcopies and releasing them as affordable hardcopies for people to add to their prepping libraries. Let’s face it, if the SHTF one of the first things to disappear will be the internet and shortly after that electronics will run out of juice without reliable electricity. The advantage of hardcopies is paper doesn’t have to be recharged.
I have the first ff these already available. It is the Operator’s and Direct Maintenance manuals for the M1911A1 .45 pistol. The -12 and -35 in army parlance it is available through Createspace at: https://www.createspace.com/6456315
The next will be FM 23-35 Combat Training with Pistols and Revolvers from Oct 88. I will probably be releasing these at the rate of one every other month or so for a while as I have a list of about 30 manuals I would like to make available. There is a dizzying array of manuals that the military has put together over the years and not all of them deal directly with closing with and destroying the enemy. Many are directly relatable to non-combat prepping tasks. I will primarily be using the Army versions of these manuals because they are what I personally am most familiar with.
If anyone has ideas for good manuals that should be available as hardcopies but are not lets discuss which ones should be out there. Thoughts?

NAT Geo just made all USGS maps easily printable from Home

I posted about free downloadable USGS maps of the United States last year here: USGS Topo Maps for Free.  The official USGS site is great for finding accurate small-scale (1:24,000) topo maps of whatever part of the US you would like to have.  The problem with the site, or at least the maps you can get is that they don’t easily print at home because the sheets are sized for large format printers that are typically only found at commercial printing centers forcing you to download the files and pay to have them printed.

National Geographic Maps Page

National Geographic Maps Page

National Geographic has fixed that with the debut of a new site on their page called PDF Quads that lets you search for and download home-printable copies of every USGS quad for the US.  NatGeo has packaged each quad into a 5-page package that includes:

  • Page 1 is an overview map showing the Quad in context
  • Pages 2 through 5 are the standard USGS Quads cut in quarters to fit on standard printers
  • Hillshading has been added to each page of the PDF to help visualize the topography

They are sized such that you can print them from home, cut off the white edges, and tape them together to have a navigation ready map of the quad you want.  The page includes and interactive, zoomable map similar to the google maps interface that lets you quickly find the map quad you are looking for and download it.  I have included the PDF file for Mine Mountain in the Nevada test site so you can look at it and see what the NatGeo file looks like.

To repeat, the link to the NatGeo maps page is PDF Quads.

Mine Mountain Map PDF file

I am on the lookout for map products as useful the USGS quads for the rest of the world but while there are some good map sites out there, I have yet to fins free map products anywhere else in the world that come even close to matching what the USGS provides for the United States.  If anyone knows of some good sites please eave a comment.

Gear Review: Beileshi All in One .22 to .50 Caliber Rifle Gauge Red Dot Laser Bore Sighter Boresight

At first glance I thought this was going to be a good product. I received it in a cardboard box with foam inserts with slots cut out for all the separate components.  I put it together, installed the batteries, and checked it for initial function at home and everything worked first time out of the box.

How the boresight comes packaged.

How the boresight comes packaged.

There are instructions included with the boresight but at best they are rudimentary and do not go into how to use the boresight to sight in a rifle.  The instructions essentially tell you how to install the batteries and turn the laser on and off.

I finally got it out to the range this past weekend. The boresight comes with 4 different inserts that attach to the bore end of the scope to ensure a good fit in the barrel and accurate boresight. I got out to the range to boresight my .308 Remington 700 and the new scope I just got. I placed my rifle on the gun stand, sighted on the target with the iron sights, mounted the scope, selected the barrel insert, inserted the boresight into the barrel and then looked though the scope to try and find the laser dot to boresight off of. No dot in sight. I then reverted to a trick I used in the army when using similar laser boresights. I took a piece of paper and held it in front of the barrel to find the dot then started walking downrange to see where the dot was at. Luckily this is a visible instead of an IR laser so I did not need any NVG’s to fins the dot. Needless to say, the laser dot was roughly 10 target forms right of my aim point with my zeroed iron sights at 25m.

The unpackaged boresight ready for use

The unpackaged boresight ready for use

I initially thought that I had inserted the boresight incorrectly so I went back and checked it out, rotated the boresight in the bore to see if the laser would line up, I even got a guy waiting behind me in line to try the boresight in his 30 .06 and he got the same result. Then to top it all off, I thought maybe the rubber insert was not tight enough so I use the proved screwdriver to tighten it down a little bit and reinserted it into the rifle but was still nowhere near my known aim point. At this point I gave up and went to remove the boresight whereupon the rubber insert slipped off the small screw and became lodged in the barrel of my rifle. Luckily, I never go to the range without a cleaning kit and barrel rod so was able to push it out of the barrel whereupon I zeroed my scope the old fashioned way by pulling my zero target in close enough to get on the paper then making adjustments and firing at progressively longer ranges until I got it zeroed at my desired range of 150m.

A few things; I don’t expect a laser boresight dot to align with my aim point on a zeroed weapon, indeed I would be amazed if it did. I did however expect it to be somewhere in the ballpark maybe ½ to 1 target forms off of a zeroed aim point. It did not achieve that and thus was useless from the standpoint of boresighting my rifle. A boresight that does not align with the barrel is of no use. It gets one star because I cannot give it zero and at least the laser works even though it does not align with the barrel as it is supposed to do. You never know, I may just have gotten a defective boresight.
On the bright side, I can use the laser to irritate the neighbor’s cat since I certainly cannot use it to boresight a weapon as it was designed to do.

At first glance I thought this was going to be a good product. I finally got it out to the range this past weekend. The boresight comes with 4 different inserts that attach to the bore end of the scope to ensure a good fit in the barrel and accurate boresight. I got out to the range to boresight my .308 Remington 700 and the new scope I just got. I placed my rifle on the gun stand, sighted on the target with the iron sights, mounted the scope, selected the barrel insert, inserted the boresight into the barrel and then looked though the scope to try and find the laser dot to boresight off of. No dot in sight. I then reverted to a trick I used in the army when using similar laser boresights. I took a piece of paper and held it in front of the barrel to find the dot then started walking downrange to see where the dot was at. Luckily this is a visible instead of an IR laser so I did not need any NVG’s to fins the dot. Needless to say, the laser dot was roughly 10 target forms right of my aim point with my zeroed iron sights at 25m. I initially thought that I had inserted the boresight incorrectly so I went back and checked it out, I even got a guy waiting behind me in line to try the boresight in his 30 .06 and he got the same result. Then to top it all off, I thought maybe the rubber insert was not tight enough so I use the proved screwdriver to tighten it down a little bit and reinserted it into the rifle but was still nowhere near my known aim point. At this point I gave up and went to remove the boresight whereupon the rubber insert slipped off the small screw and became lodged in the barrel of my rifle. Luckily, I never go to the range without a cleaning kit and barrel rod so was able to push it out of the barrel whereupon I zeroed my scope the old fashioned way by pulling my zero target in close enough to get on the paper then making adjustments and firing at progressively longer ranges until I got it zeroed at my desired range of 150m.

A few things; I don’t expect a laser boresight dot to align with my aim point on a zeroed weapon, indeed I would be amazed if it did. I did however expect it to be somewhere in the ballpark maybe ½ to 1 target forms off of a zeroed aim point. It did not achieve that and thus was useless from the standpoint of boresighting my rifle. A boresight that does not align with the barrel is of no use. It gets one star because I cannot give it zero and at least the laser works even though it does not align with the barrel as it is supposed to do. You never know, I may just have gotten a defective boresight.

On the bright side, I can use the laser to irritate the neighbor’s cat since I certainly cannot use it to boresight a weapon as it was designed to do.

I initially posted this review on Amazon in early June, 2016 and within 24 hours the company that makes the boresight contacted me and offered to replace the product at their cost if I were willing to revise my review upon receipt of the new product.  I have not yet received the new boresight but when I do I will take it out ot the range and update both here and on Amazon.  At a minimum I am impressed with the responsiveness of the manufacturer.

Update # 1 29 June, 2016 – The seller contacted me after this review went live and offered to send me a free replacement which I just got in the mail yesterday. I plan on taking the new boresight out to the range in the next few weeks and try it out to see if it works any better than the first one I got. I will post another update then and perhaps change my rating depending on how it goes.

Final Update – 8 July, 2016 – I got the new boresight out, put it together, and tried to use it.  This boresight works.

Old and new boresights together

Old and new boresights together

First let me explain how a boresight works.  The boresight is supposed to help you align adjustable sights, whether open/iron or a scope, with the barrel of the weapon such that when you shoot using proper techniques you are closer to zero than starting from mechanical/manufacturer set zero or if you have somehow knocked your sights out of alignment.  Boresighting and zeroing are two entirely different things.  Zeroing aligns your sights, the way you hold the weapon, and your line of sight such that the strike of the bullet aligns with the iron sights or scope crosshairs.  A boresighted rifle is not zeroed, you still have to take the weapon out to the range and fine tune the alignment because it is very rare that mechanical and personal zero are the same thing, I have only ever known one person who could pick up a mechanically zeroed rifle and be zeroed herself.

View through the eyepiece of my scope, the laser dot did not show up as anything but a washed out part of the picture so I added a dot where the laser dot was at so you could see where the laser was in relation to the crosshairs of my scope

View through the eyepiece of my scope, the laser dot did not show up as anything but a washed out part of the picture so I added a dot where the laser dot was at so you could see where the laser was in relation to the crosshairs of my scope

I did not expect to boresight and go shoot hitting the x-ring every time without having to additionally zero the weapon.  As detailed above, my first experience with this boresight was disappointing to say the least.

I played around with it a bit because I still had problems and I think I have diagnosed the problem with it.  As stated above I have a Remington 700 in .308.  There are four different size rubber inserts that come with the boresight.  You are supposed to choose the appropriate size insert and screw it into the end of the boresighter so that the boresight has a tight fit and aligns properly with the barrel.  One of the problems with this is that in order to get a tight fit on my .308 I had to use the insert that says it is for .350-.434 cal weapons, the insert for .280-.349 cal just does not quite get tight enough to provide a stable seat in the barrel.  Given that .30 cal/7.62mm is one of the most common calibers in the world it floors me that they don’t have an insert for that caliber in the kit or at least one that I could buy separately.

Boresight inserted into the end of the barrel

Boresight inserted into the end of the barrel

Be that as it may, I selected the .350-.434 cal insert and screwed it very loosely onto the boresight and then put it into the barrel pushing until the boresight was firmly seated and had as little play around the end of the barrel as possible.  Then I turned it on.  I had my rifle on a gun rest to keep it stable and put the crosshairs of my already zeroed scope on the target.  Initially the dot was at least on the paper but several target forms left.  I rotated the boresight 90 degrees and it brought the dot ½ target form right and ½ target forms down from the aimpoint.  I assume I did not have it seated as tight as I should have at first and rotating the boresight seated it fully.  Since I am not going to adjust my sight I just wanted to confirm that the new boresight actually works.

I then went to remove the boresight from the barrel and the fun began.  Just like with the first one, the rubber insert popped off the screw on the boresight and stayed lodged in the barrel.  Not so bad this time as I was prepared for it and already had my cleaning rod put together and just pushed it out.  I will have to rod the barrel with patches a couple times to ensure there is no rubber caught in it but I can live with that.

Before insertion in the barrel

Before insertion in the barrel

After removing from the barrel.  Note the rubber insert pulled off the retaining screw

After removing from the barrel. Note the rubber insert pulled off the retaining screw

I started thinking about ways that the problem could be fixed and came up with two solutions.  The most obvious and probably cheapest fix from a manufacturer perspective to me would be to have small washers slightly smaller than the minimum caliber size of the inserts to ensure that the insert does not come off and lodge in the barrel.  The other would be to have exact caliber inserts available as additional purchase items.  This is not actually a bad piece of equipment and the price is just about unbeatable for a multi-caliber boresight.  A few modifications and this would easily get 5 stars.  I have adjusted my rating to 4 stars mainly because the first one I got was garbage and even with the second some patience and knowledge of actual boresighting procedures is necessary because the instructions are essentially worthless, and lastly because the inserts still get stuck in the barrel, which I find extremely annoying.

I have attached several pictures to the review.  The first two were in the original review and are of the boresight as I got it.  The 3rd is the old and new boresights together.  The 4th is the view through the eyepiece of my scope, the laser dot sis not show up as anything but a washed out part of the picture so I added a dot where the laser dot was at so you could see where the laser was in relation to the crosshairs of my scope.  The 5th is a picture of the boresight inserted into the end of the barrel. The 6th and 7th are picture of the rubber insert before and after I put the boresight into my rifle.  This is so you can see where it attaches and how it popped off the little retaining screw when I removed it from the rifle.

After all I have been through with this I now like it and think it is a good value for the price.  You do have to be aware that there may be issues with it and it requires a little finesse when using it, I finally got a serviceable boresight but it turned out to take longer and be more painful than I originally thought it would when I spotted this little bargain.

Book Review: Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath by Ted Koppel

Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath is not what I would call a typical prepper book, if there is such a thing, instead it is a serious look at a very plausible scenario and the ways in which it is and is not being addressed by both government and the private sector. The scenario is a cyberattack on the computers that control the US electric grid. Given the nature of cybercrime this is an extremely plausible scenario.

The book itself is not huge at 249 pages of text and includes notes and an index but no bibliography. Ted Koppel is a respected journalist who has not been tarred by accusations of journalistic bias in the past few years as have so many others. Koppel was the host of ABC’s Nightline for over 25 years and the worst that can be said about him is that he faced accusations of conservative bias in the 1980’s.

Lights Out explains how and why the US electric grid is vulnerable to cyberattack due to aging infrastructure and anemic network security features. He explores the ramifications of an attack on the grid that would bring it down and the astonishing lack of preparedness of both the government and utilities to such an attack. He discusses at length the inability of the US to manufacture replacement equipment in any timely fashion that would leave potentially millions of people without power for months at a minimum and do untold damage to life, property, and the wider American economy.

This book is a sober examination of an extremely vulnerable sector of America and a shocking examination of the dearth of preparedness on the part of the government and utilities who carry on as though while an attack is possible it is unlikely. Koppel correctly highlights the fact that a cyberattack can be mounted not only by a nation such as Iran, China, or Russia, but it is also possible for terrorist groups or even a lone hacker to execute an attack given the lack of security of Americas electricity generation infrastructure. Any sufficiently knowledgeable and motivated individual could pull of such an attack.

This is an excellent book and one that I highly recommend. Koppel explains very complex issues in a manner that the laymen can understand. An excellent book.

Book Review: The Death of Money: The Coming Collapse of the International Monetary System by James Rickards -Copy

The Death of Money: The Coming Collapse of the International Monetary System is one of those topical books that come along every once in a while just at the time you are starting to think about the subject at hand.  I must admit that I probably have a little bit of confirmation bias in my review of this book because I was already thinking much of what he says, I just did not have the hard data to back it up as he does.

The book is 302 pages of text separated into three topical parts consisting of eleven chapters and a conclusion.  There are also 18 pages of notes and an 18 page bibliography.  The three parts are Money & Geopolitics, Money & Markets, and Money & Wealth.

The basic premise of the book is that central banks and the IMF have been playing extremely shady games with the dollar since the crash of 2008 and that it is inevitable that the dollar will lose its status as the reserve currency of the world because of this unless action is taken on several fronts.  The Fed has been largely responsible for much of this by its loose money policies in pursuit of inflation and the lingering effects of the successive rounds of quantitative easing that have occurred.

He also claims that the housing bubble that burst in 2008 has been replaced by a student loan bubble and that stock market gains since 2008 don’t represent wealth creation except for investment bankers and other finance professionals.  I thought that one of the more astute observation in the book is that Fed policies are making any eventual recovery worse by using a band aid on a chest wound.

The discussion of the Euro, the Yen, and SDRs from the IMF was especially illuminating.  He no doubt absolutely correct that only finance and news geeks have probably ever heard of SDRs.  I have heard of them but the explanation of what they are and how they are used in the book is the best explanation I have seen so far.  I also found that his discussion of gold and silver to be right on point.  His examination of sovereign metal purchases over the past view years and the way to view was excellent.  I think he is right that those of us buying metals will be very happy in a few years as fiat money goes away and we see our metal holdings revalued to where they should actually be.  Goldbugs will have the last laugh on that one, unless there is a governmental gold confiscation scheme as there was in the 1930’s, which is not outside the bounds of the possible in a dollar collapse situation

The central take-away from the book is that a correction is coming and it will make 2008 look mild in comparison.  He deploys a broad range of arguments and data to support his contention.  His prescriptions for how to put the dollar back on a sound footing are realistic and because of that highly unlikely to happen.  Absent radical action to put the dollar on a sound footing hard times are coming.  They might take 10-20 years to get here but when they do the wise will be prepared.  This book gives some ideas on how to be prepared and what is likely to occur.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who takes in interest in the sorry state of the economy and the ineffectual efforts thus far undertaken by the US Government to address the structural failures that led to the collapse of 2008 and are leading us to an even harder crash in the near future.

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