Covid-19: What To Do Today.

This is the growth we are seeing – world-wide. And as I am writing this it jumped to over 212,000. At this rate, assume you will probably get this, & your loved ones will too. Depending on your demographic, you will experience somewhere along a spectrum of no symptoms or issues, to pneumonia in bed for 2 weeks, to death. There will be a global quarantine for at minimum 1 month. The economy will stay crap and services will begin to be prioritized. At best, over the next 90 days things will normalize, assuming we have a vaccine/cure.

The vast majority of the world has no system in place like developed countries do, and they will be hit hard. The one thing they do have though, that we tend to not, is the ability to operate without regularly functioning luxuries like we are used to. I am no survivalist guru, but with 20 years of military and intelligence experience and study, coupled with extensive travel and living in some of the most austere regions of the globe, this is my advice for the average American.

Prepare:

Panic buying toilet paper and hand sanitizer is not a solution long term. Though building a bunker and stocking guns may be a bit extreme on the other end; planning for 2-8 weeks of limited civilization, likely under government enforced curfews and aid delivery, is more reasonable for the average American.

Prepare to operate without toilet paper, that means having a hose or bidet-like solution. For the record, the vast majority of the rest of the world does this already as standard. Americans do not, and it will come to bite them in the ass (pun intended). Grabbing now the tools and equipment for this should be fairly easy – you can see some directions here.

Instead of panic buying absurd things, try to focus on stable items that will last, and that you will eat anyway. Aim for pasta and rice. Plus-up your seasonings and some canned goods like tuna and sauces to provide some diversity. I once lived off trail mix for a week on the island of Socotra off the coast of Somalia. Trust me, even tasty trail mix begins to taste bad after a few days.

Law Enforcement and Military will likely be providing security, but people tend to do crazy shit when they think it’s the apocalypse. So relying on them to handle minor things like break-ins and theft is not wise. Ensure your locks and security systems are up to date and used. Run through security methods and reactions with your household now. What to do in case of a home intruder, what to do in case of a fire, what to do in case of a medical emergency. This can be done in as little as a couple hours. Do some role play with it to engrain this in your family’s brains.

It would be wise to have ample sources of light on the offhand chance of a follow on disruptions – say, everyone in your neighborhood sitting home using air conditioners and the power goes out. It is not some prepper madness, to ensure you have some chemlights, flashlights and batteries. be prepared for power to go out for up to 24 hours. Chemlights are cheap and effective. But if you have kids who eat tide pods, please ensure they don’t eat these – no they will no glow if they do.

If you can take out enough cash, for an emergency it is recommended. This does not mean making a run on the banks. This means, have say $500-$3,000 depending on your financial situation, in cash, in a safe place.

Ensure you have bleach. You can go all full prepper mode and get a LifeStraw or water sanitization tablets (I have) but for the average American just knowing the bleach-to-water ratio for cleaning water to drink is enough in case we have a water disruption for any reason. Read about it here.

Prioritize:

The economy was doing great, but still many Americans are in no great condition financially. Prioritizing your needs with your resources is critical. If someone requires medication, that should be your first thing you try to stock up on now. Doctors can prescribe 90+ day amounts if you are going overseas or on vacation. I imagine, explaining that you are doing something like that, should be able to get your a prescription for that.

I am a fan of sticking through with investments currently, as I feel the economy will rebound, but you you should review what your current expenses are, and see which ones you can turn off. Clearly Amazon Prime Video and Netflix are required. We are not savages.

However, if you have some luxury expenses, especially recurring, say those stupid monthly box programs with “Guy Stuff” or whatever, it may be wise to pause these sorts of things for now depending on your financial situation. It took months to years even, for the economy to rebound after 2001 and 2008, begin preparing for this now just in case. Austerity is key.

Plan:

Contact your family members now, and confirm what their plan is if things continue on this glide path. Will they stay at home and hunker down, or will they opt to depart urban centers for the summer house in the rural areas? Have the plan decided already. Confirm your loved ones also have or will prepare as noted above.

Most planning does not require a massive military planning team – it just requires a conversation hitting some key points and making a short To Do list. Just running through what situations may arise 2, 4 or 6 weeks from now is more than most do their entire lives.

Knowing that public and private services work fine, until 50% of the workforce is in bed with a fever, changes your outlook greatly. So, get your house together. Clean out the trash, organize your stuff and assume you will likely be providing services for yourself.

Ensure you have an SMS or online messaging group set up for your loved ones, and your neighbors. This ensures rapid collaborative communication in case of an emergency. Check with your neighbors to have a conversation on plans and see if they need help with something. A family member, friend or neighbor, rapidly becomes a liability for your if they did not plan.

Prepare your will. Do not be daft. You should have one anyhow. If not, I do not recommend going out and searching for lawyers now. You can do this all online in a short period of time for a fee, over at LegalZoom. Take serious stock in your relationships and use this time to get on a call or video chat or email follow ups with your friends and loved ones.

Perform:

Stay the fuck home. Read your books. Work on the six-pack abs you always wanted since you ordered P90x that night drunk back in 2011. Watch your health. Both physical and mental. Take your Flintstones, stay active moving around in your home and on your property. I am writing this confined to a government compound overseas and I love me a good scotch. But I am doing my damnedest to wash/sanitize my hands regularly, and taking vitamins.

Do not become the liability for something unrelated to Covid-19. In that sense, maybe don’t start up that P90x – you may hurt yourself. Follow up with people living alone. Check on your neighbors. Watch Stand Up comedy. Stay positive. For most Americans you have never experienced times of real distress, war, natural disaster, social upheaval, etc. Some have, and they are more resilient because of it. But check on yourself and your loved ones.

If our soldiers can spend a year at war and survive, the average American stay-at-home mom and office worker can get through this. If you are alone, losing your shit, and have no one to talk to. Get online and find an online therapist – many insurance companies cover this. There are Facebook groups out there too. Your sanity and those around you, can rapidly become a liability when it goes to shit.

Austerity. Endurance. Resiliency. Stick to those, and we will survive the zombies. Speaking of zombies, stock up some guns in your bunker. Fuck it, better safe than sorry.

Further Reading:

If things get worse, and we have a lot going on in the world. Some education will go a long way. Years ago I spent a couple days learning urban survival under Tim MacWelch of Advanced Survival Training in Virginia. He has a lot of great resources and guidance at his blog: https://www.outdoorlife.com/tags/survival/

For a great book by one of my favorite authors, see if you can order before Amazon stops non essential deliveries, Emergency by Neil Strauss. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Emergency-This-Book-Will-Save/dp/0060898771/

Caveat: This is a brief off the cuff write up. I will try to add to it if I have time.

American Gun Culture is a Myth

It pains me to see how loud socio-political sectarianism is in America, considering our media platform has far greater reach than any other one. When a demographic in the US screams, the world hears it. I have seen evidence of the rest of the world believing in a “gun culture” in America – immigrant social media groups saying they fear being shot if they come to the US, etc. This concept of a gun culture is a myth. It also is a near-sectarian sub-demographic that is loud.

In my 37 years I have spent about 27 of them in the US – in over 40 states inclusive of the far flung such as Hawaii and Alaska. I have lived in at least 5 of the states. Yet, this massive gun culture spoken of eludes me. I have only seen guns a handful of times.

Aside from Law Enforcement, Security and Military, I have seen a few people with guns in their own homes. A good example of this was my father who owned a few – I think one pistol, one rifle and one shotgun. I think I have only seen them used once as a child in North West US (where guns are far more tolerated).

Though some estimates put the number of guns in America as over 300 million – or that of our population. From a subjective experience they are not being carried around in public or flaunted in any way shape or form. Numbers however reveal that ownership by home is only at roughly 30% of American homes. Numbers also reveal this is mostly in rural areas.

Considering most people I have met with guns, tend to own plural, I would estimate that there are not 300 million people owning guns, but a small segment in mostly rural areas who own many guns. By age alone, you can assess that 20% of the country likely does not own a gun, because they are too young or too old. There is no reason to believe that that that 20% is not represented equally across gun owning and non-gun owning households.

Thus 20% of the 30% of gun owning households, are too young/old to even own guns – leaving say 26% of people with ownership. Without running numbers of those not able to own guns – those under state control (mental facilities, prison, etc) we can further whittle this number down even more. I would speculate that would cover at least another 6% of the population. Ergo we are looking at no more than 25% of the population, clustered in rural areas and being multi-gun owners.

Additionally, in my experience most gun-savvy gun-loving owners in rural areas are extremely gun-wise. It seems these people are not likely to be conducting crimes with guns. So we are not looking at a massive gun culture menacing from sea to shining sea. We are looking at most guns being owned by a niche group of people, while most crimes committed by another niche group of people.

Criminal statistics aside, the niche-ness of ownership highlight how the purported gun culture is a myth. You can easily live your entire life in America never seeing a gun in person unless you see a law enforcement officer. Those in America projecting this notion of a gun culture not only skew the domestic debate with scare tactics but they are damage our image abroad as gun toting fanatics.

*https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/10/22/facts-about-guns-in-united-states/

*https://www.npr.org/2016/01/05/462017461/guns-in-america-by-the-numbers

From Iraq, to America, with Love.

Recently, the US Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq posted a Facebook post announcing the cessation of Consular activities (Visas, Passports, etc) due to the damage and continued threat from the New Years Eve and New Years Day Iranian-backed Iraqi militia/protester attack on the embassy.

As a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom II, a former State Department contracted Cultural Advisor of the last class of Iraqi YES Program students, and having spent roughly 2.5 years in the Baghdad Regional Security Office, I thought it would be important to share with my fellow Americans, 30 snippets from Iraqis who appreciate our sacrifices.

These snippets are comments on the US Embassy Baghdad Facebook post. When you think Iraq is a place we need to remove ourselves from, may I remind you that there are Iraqis who need and cherish our support and continued presence. As a reminder, the militia protestors at the embassy are the not same protesters who have been protesting in Baghdad for the last 3 months while getting gunned down by Iranian-backed security forces.

I hope you find these as touching as I did:

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Brandon Scott 2020 (Policy Positions)

  1. Israel/Palestine
    1. Keep US Embassy in Jerusalem. Recognize Palestine. Both sides will be confused about their feelings. Take Iranian money still frozen, and use it for humanitarian aid for Palestinians.
    2. If Iranian money cannot be had, take money frozen from Venezuela as they are allies of Iran and provide a satellite platform for Iranian operations in the American region.
  2. Veterans Administration
    1. Fire everyone in the VA who is not a veteran.
    2. Re-staff it with all Veterans. Now they have jobs and the VA has a vested in interest in the work they do. No more backlogs. No more dying vets.
  3. Afghanistan
    1. Fix the International Zone. Wall it off like Baghdad.
    2. Negotiate with Taliban for 10k US troop withdrawal (leave behind a contingent of JSOC/CT operators, Essential Function Advisors and ISR) – while ramping targeted strikes on leaders. Create massive education program for youth in provinces.
    3. Tell Pakistan to build a border “wall” if they want our military aid. Establish the Prince Plan for Security Assistance and Essential Functions not covered and pressure India and China (who benefit the most from the natural resource contracts in Afghanistan) to provide Security Force Assistance and advisory.
    4. Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Sunni extremism so Saudi Arabia pays for the massive youth education program and a jobs program for domestic development projects. Development projects in the past usually failed because USAID could not conduct proper monitoring and evaluation. This led to corruption and USAID funds going directly into militias’ pockets for bribery and protection money. NATO should not be running Afghanistan. The UN on lead with India and China as the manpower should be.
    5. Force GIRoA to manage all government finances digitally. There is 4G in Afghanistan and digital financial accountability is the only way to counter the massive corruption that one could argue is the primary challenge for Afghanistan. Create a corruption reporting mobile app. Both services are to be created by Afghans and paid for with an inflated award prize to the teams who won and participated.
    6. Ensure 100% internet penetration rate in Afghanistan by 2022. I personally drafted the most comprehensive paper on this topic. Task Roshan or the Moby Group to run this effort. They work has been great so far.
  4. Syria
    1. Option 1: Remove Assad, forcibly. Have the Arab League drop 250k troops, for 5 years, for stabilization. GCC/Arab League/KSA fund the entire operation. Lock down the border between Syria and Iraq.
    2. Option 2: Balkanize Syria. Syria may be the greatest example of a needed Balkanization (more so than Iraq). Split between Turkey, Kurds and a third element (UN, Lebanon, or Iraq). Lock down the border between Syria and Iraq. Still remove Assad
  5. Yemen
    1. Green-light the GCC/Arab League to remove the Houthis on humanitarian grounds, with overwhelming force. We already have US ISR infrastructure in place. Follow up with Arab troops under UN -guise, utilize Arab states via the WFP and UN to immediately follow in behind them for aid.
    2. US/EU or China/India given rights to develop a massive port on the coast of Yemen to be completed within 5 years – to turn Yemen into a maritime hub for trade through the Indian Ocean.
    3. UAE creates a high speed rail line from Sanaa to Dubai to import labor from Yemen. UAE owes it to Yemen to hire them instead of Bengalis, Indians and Pakistanis as their labor force for domestic development. The UAE cash-house now has money funneled back to Yemen.
    4. Yemen is suspected of having vast natural resources untapped, explore this as a funding mechanism.
    5. Oman provides extensive security force assistance.
    6. Create global exchange program for Yemeni education, contingent on the student returning to Yemen. Student also signs a waiver to the right of seeking asylum while studying abroad.
  6. Economy
    1. Establish living wage based off of number of dependents. Apply time cap on this for 10 years. This gives an income boost to those who made bad decisions already (having kids they cannot afford) while pressuring no further people from doing so thinking kids = money. Review at 10 year mark.
    2. Public info campaign to stop having kids if you cannot afford them.
  7. Crime/Prison Reform
    1. Ban death penalty – turn the Innocence Project into a government Task Force with a mission to confirm every inmate imprisoned between 1980 and 1995 – as it targeted Black African Americans.
    2. Turn prison industry to education industry. College/vocational classes all day. Punishment for failing is hard labor.
    3. Legalize marijuana. Tax it. Use tax income to cover costs of opiate epidemic rehab & education and said prisoner reform program. Full review of rehabilitation programs in prison.
  8. Congress
    1. Term Limits.
    2. During a shutdown, congress does not get paid.
    3. Review lifelong benefits and have a national vote on which ones to keep.
  9. Environment
    1. Set 2050 for fully Green country. Massive tax credit to companies with remote work. Massive focus on green technology development.
  10. Guns
    1. No guns confiscated, your get to keep your guns.
    2. Establish mandatory training program & background checks if you want to buy ammunition. Boom.
    3. Offer gun buyback program in inner cities. If you bring in a gun – you get a 6 months of healthy food, free fuel and free internet. This encourages inner-city current and potential criminals to study well, find jobs and get to work easily.
  11. Legalize sexual workers
    1. Tax it. Use the tax to subsidize Planned Parenthood clinics & education.
    2. No more angry dudes who can’t get laid – gun and sex violence drops, while unplanned pregnancies drop.
  12. Student Loans
    1. Initiate program where for those with Student Loan amount over 50K can volunteer part time for Loan Repayment assistance.
  13. Privacy
    1. Establish strong Right-to-be-Forgotten laws at least equal to Europe’s.
    2. Include law that no minors can have information/images posted publicly, thereby providing them the ability upon becoming an adult, to decide their level of anonymity.
    3. The threat of ransomware, blackmail and hacking is greater than the threat of terrorism – push for encryption in all commercial digital products/services. All State, Local and Federal governments must use fully encrypted digital services by 2022.
  14. Gender
    1. Transparency of gender pay by organization – every organization to be required to submit anonymous data on the gender, position title and salary, in order to provide a transparent review of a gender pay gap.
    2. Gender Neutral military standards.
    3. Women must sign up for the draft.
    4. Fraternities and Sororities do not fall under Title 9?. You want safe space – these are safe spaces.
  15. IRS
    1. Flat tax percentage.
    2. Complete overhaul of IRS. Possible tar and feather in the public square of most of the employees.
    3. Turn agency into a digital agency. It is still snail mail based and draconian.
  16. Homeland Security
    1. Mandatory college & study abroad requirements for TSA positions.
    2. Create list of previously vetted travelers, such as USG background checked – they get express screening.
    3. Create a Joint Vetting Center that is tasked with vetting all immigrants, Local Employees at USG bases and embassies abroad, and security clearance required USPER. A joint venture will reduce redundancies and streamline processes.
    4. Hire all the illegals to build the wall – they are given 10 year Green Cards. Buy materials from the home towns where southern immigrants are coming from. Better yet, make it a trench, then we don’t need materials, just shovels. Even better, make it a canal so we don’t have to use the Panama Canal. We built it for them, now they can build one for us. Boom. Problem Solved. Problem staying solved.
    5. Actually track international departures. Currently only arrivals are tracked.
  17. Education
    1. Serve 2 years in the Military/Peace Corps/AmeriCorps, get a free 4 year degree paid for at any university you get accepted to.
    2. Mandatory high school classes on finance, taxes, credit scores/budgeting; automechanics, electrician, carpentry, masonry; survival, fishing, self-defense.
    3. Vocation secondary school is free for anyone interested.
    4. Mandatory two years of language courses in high school with focus on critical languages.
  18. Military
    1. Gender Neutral military standards.
    2. Women must sign up for the draft.
    3. Kill the Space Force, establish Information Force – which focuses exclusively on Cyber and Psychological Warfare.
    4. Begin the process for a Joint Force to replace redundancy of branches. Start with joint Service Uniforms and Joint Rank structure. Joint Force established by 2030.
    5. If you serve 5+ years, you get a house.
  19. DOD/DOS
    1. Create America’s Expeditionary Corps (in effect, a combination of PRTs, ODAs and SFATs; a highly educated, highly seasoned cadre who specialist in Security Force Assistance, Development and mentoring, that is embedded in in countries under with no GO1 and single occupancy housing. Pay them exceptionally well, and ensure they stay overseas for a minimum of 2-5 year tours.
    2. These cadre are to language/culture trained. They go to the “non-integrating gap” and other post-conflict zones. There specialty is pre-conflict zones. They work closely with the Information Force to prevent conflicts in ungoverned regions.
  20. YES Program
    1. Quadruple (at a minimum) the Kennedy-Lugar Exchange/Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program. Target countries are as follows: Somalia, Yemen, Honduras, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Tunisia, Morocco, Mali, Niger, Kenya, Pakistan, Chad, DRC, Sudan, Cuba and Algeria.
  21. Algeria
    1. Ramp up diplomatic engagements with Algeria. Algeria is the next North African “non-integrating gap” nation that will fall when the leader usurps the next election and Arab Spring Protests occur.
    2. The Arab Spring taught us that despite long held beliefs, a strong dictator is not stability. It is the opposite. Like a non-Earthquake resistant building along a fault line. Flexibility and democracy is stability. Without it you get Yemen, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Libya.
  22. Libya
    1. NATO/EU/Mediterranean states take lead. Egypt and Tunisia tasked with massive export of security to Libya.
  23. Intelligence
    1. Clearances are vetted and adjudicated by the Joint Vetting Center.
    2. A complete overhaul of the Cold War era “Foreign Fear” paradigm. No longer is knowing foreigners or foreign travel a bad thing. In fact, it is now encouraged.
    3. Work with tech industry to establish a 2FA approved mechanism for Secret and Top Secret space. Currently, if you work in a secure office having a 2FA personal account (Gmail for example) is nearly impossible. This is counterintuitive as our cleared staff thus have weaker security on their personal accounts – these are people who should not have the weakest security on their personal accounts. You hack a spooks personal Gmail, bad things can happen.
    4. Remove all reporting of mental counseling that is not court ordered.
    5. Remove all drug reporting aside from hospitalizations.
    6. Store all SF-86 data at the Secret level to avoid another OPM hack.
    7. Overhaul of Classified networks to ensure they operate at the same speed of unclassified networks – at any cost. This causes massive delays in intelligence processing.
    8. Merge agencies individual FOUO/SBU/Classified systems.
    9. Joint Unified Classification matrix. DOD has FOUO, DOS has SBU. LEOs have LES. This is dumb and confusing and causes problems.
  24. Health Care
    1. Nationalized Health Care so everyone is covered.
    2. Each person pays based on their health – the healthier you are, the less you pay. Haven’t left the couch in 3 months? You pay a lot more.
    3. Extreme Tax credits if you are in (or retired from) an industry that has Physical Training Requirements (LEO, MIL)
    4. Private healthcare is subsidized/discounted.
    5. This makes sense because the longer you live and the healthier you live, the more money you bring to the economy.
  25. Infrastructure
    1. Coast to Coast High Speed train. Non-negotiable. Within 5 years.
    2. USG official mobile app to report public infrastructure decay. This prioritizes tasks for fixing to a central hub that delegates.
  26. Cuba
    1. Complete engagement. Return the embassy to full staff.
    2. Absorb Cuba with love and incorporation. Pour money and connectivity into it while pushing extensively for democratization. Isolation is not the future for Cuba inclusivity.
  27. Dialogue
    1. Create a National Dialogue Conference that brings the nation together for an actual deep-depth conversation on the most controversial and delicate issues. No soundbites, not tropes. Deep work. Our culture is being torn apart over topical analysis.
    2. Published via a government platform to ensure nothing is taken out of context and a source of origin is always available. Publish on web via video and audio.

This is About Vetting, Not Muslims

customs-immigration

Firstly, this is definitely not a Muslim ban because at least 87.8% of Muslims are not included in it. Saying otherwise is factually ignorant and confusing feelings with facts. Do the math.

Additionally, this is a temporary suspension in is visa issuance and there are multiple exceptions to the “ban”. Contrary to multiple people and articles saying otherwise – have they even read the State Department cable or the actual Executive Order?

The greatest take away for the action is that to vet potential individuals (from these locations) coming into the country and our embassies and bases around the world is nearly impossible. Most people chiming in on this this topic have no idea nor experience regarding the process of how that is done. If you have ever conducted vetting in these places you would know how poor the document collation and ability to validate them are.

The fact is, in Yemen,  Iraq, Somalia, Sudan and Libya – we have next to no ability to do an effective background check on nearly anyone. If this EO was targeting just places with high chances of nefarious actors then you would have the likes of Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan & Pakistan on them.

However, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have far greater domestic security organizations and thus they can collect, collate and share with us files on their people if they are nefarious (terrorists) – whereas the “governments” of Somalia, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Iran, Yemen & Syria are incapable or unwilling to do so. Afghanistan being an exception to this for more diplomatic reasons.

And if you are one of those people claiming this to have to do with Trump’s business connections because the likes of UAE were not included in it you would be woefully wrong. If you have ever been to UAE you would know how exceptional their Law Enforcement and Intelligence services are at tracking travel and personnel within their borders. UAE frankly is better at this than the US.

If there is anything the execution of this EO is guilty of, it is horrible Strategic Communication (i.e. Public Relations) and a terrible implementation and clarity. Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR) aka Green Card Holders should definitely be removed from this policy – and the flip flopping on the topic illustrates the fact that most likely believe that.

The fact is, the US vetting industry has been left to whither while simultaneously being directed to perform exponentially more while their resources have been carved out. Once, I brought to the attention of my supervisor that I thought I identified a potential nefarious individual and the response I received was “Well, he is already in the States so that is not our problem.”

Furthermore, one terrifying quote from a USG official who is even more so intimately involved in this field, really brings home the terror – when the official was talking about the dysfunctional vetting program the official ended the conversation with “So you just bide your time until you mosey, then just hope you are armed, back home, when someone cooks off in a Safeway.”