Jewish Preppers?

Some people finding our website may be wondering what is a Prepper and why does it have a religious affiliation? Well the short answer is...A Prepper is the modern day survivalist. It's not (necessarily) a right-wing militiaman preparing for Armageddon in the boondocks of Montana. But better represented by a normal, educated, middle class individual perhaps living in the most urban of cities, preparing themselves physically and mentally for any upcoming disaster, natural or man-made. This could include anything from earthquakes to volcanic eruptions, social unrest to an act of terrorism. Preparations include: food supply, medical supply, weapons supply etc. and the knowledge and skills to use them. Of course, a Jewish Prepper is just a designation for a small niche of the Prepper Community that is of the Jewish Faith. We are non-profit and nonpartisan. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Right Wing? Left Wing? Try joining the Accurate Wing

From YidWithLid .... quoting Barry Rubin

By Barry Rubin

I ran into an older, retired Israeli colleague who is a fine scholar in his field. We hadn’t met for 25 years and agreed to have coffee in a nearby Tel Aviv cafe. In the ensuing conversation I learned some key things about why current intellectual and political discussion is such a wreck.

The retired professor has read nothing I’ve written. He is on the left-wing politically, in the historic non-Communist sense, but his work has always been first-rate and untouched by any political slant. In addition, he has worked amicably with people of different views.

And that’s why I was dismayed by his first question: “Are you left-wing or right-wing?”

I sighed, partly because I hate this starting point of dividing people into two categories. A more appropriate question would have been: “what do you think of … ?” To classify someone is to decide in advance to agree or disagree with whatever they say. To ask someone their view makes it possible to listen and think about the quality of their ideas.

A scholar or analyst, whatever his personal views, should do work that is beyond politics.

Many years ago I wrote a scholarly article on American radical professors of the 1930s and 1940s. I was almost unable to find a single case in which anyone had even been accused of politicizing their academic work or classroom teaching. They viewed such behavior as inappropriate, and perhaps some were worried about how being outspoken might hurt their careers. At any rate, even during the McCarthy era people were pursued for their organizational memberships and not their classroom behavior.

Today, all those old issues of professional ethics have vanished. Professors may spend most of their time being propagandists: throw away scholarly standards and energetically persecute dissenters.

Back to my cafe meeting: if one puts people into a box, all that follows will either be banal agreement or total argument. If this encounter had been in an American context, the next hour or so might have been spent on endless consensus on how great or terrible Obama is. Alternatively, the discussion would have been characterized by a heated argument in which each person would not concede that the other had a single valid point to make. Either way, nobody probably would have learned anything new or need to exercise their brain.

So I gave my standard response:

The international issues I deal with have no “left” or “right” wing aspect to them. The important question is how one analyzes situations, issues, and events. They should be approached as objectively as possible with an honest attempt to be accurate, to produce evidence proving one’s assertions, and to follow where the facts lead.

Perhaps because he is a pre-politically correct person on the left, he completely understood my response and he correctly added an additional point: “And not to conceal things that don’t coincide with your thesis.”

A generation ago, this is how people thought.

You could hold totally different political views, but how you wrote history or taught about works of literature was something else entirely. Not everything people said was predictable, because they actually thought about things rather than merely apply a preexisting political standpoint. Academics across the political spectrum respected what some call the “scientific method” — I prefer “Enlightenment values.”

I continued:

Figuring out whether or not, say, the Muslim Brotherhoodis a radical organization is not a matter of political viewpoint. One’s politics should be expressed by what one wants to achieve, not in one’s analysis of the situation.

Although I didn’t say so, an example I had in mind was this: I would like to see a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That puts me left-of-center in Israel. But my good-faith assessment of the Palestinian political scene (leadership, ideology, groups, public opinion, options) and of the regional situation is that overwhelming evidence claims this is impossible to achieve at this time. The evidence — and there is hardly any actual evidence — offered by those who argue otherwise is not persuasive.

Consequently, I draw policy conclusions from that analysis. No two-state solution is possible at this time. I then go on — I won’t go into this right now — to develop my view of the best policy response to the situation.

Instead, I asked him how he saw this methodological problem in which one’s politics determined whether the Brotherhood was radical or moderate. Here’s approximately what he said:

People on the right slant the facts to fit their political views while people on the left don’t.

After I questioned this, he altered his statement to “most people” in either case. I then asked for examples. He gave two and I will take them one at a time.

He continued:

Rightists say that [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad is so extreme that you cannot talk to him. He is eager for war to wipe out Israel. You can’t talk to him so therefore war with Iran is necessary.

That’s a fascinating mixture of points from which I think we can learn a lot. Let’s dissect.

The opening point — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is so extreme that you cannot talk to him — is clearly correct, not wrong at all. What is needed, though, is to separate analysis from policy proposals and always to look for alternatives.

I think these are the two points that people don’t understand, and they are destroying any productive discussion of intellectual or political issues at present. So let me repeat them:
Analysis should be separate from policy. If people conflate the idea that the Iranian regime is extremely radical, intransigent, and dangerous and thus no deal can be made — the perception of reality — with what should be done about it, people will reject the correct analysis because they don’t agree with the proposed response. Example: We must lie about Palestinian politics or we will damage the cause of peace; we must lie about revolutionary Islamism or we will provoke a war. Of course, lying is most likely to hurt peace or to lead to creating a crisis that will end in war.
When moving from analysis to policy, one should think creatively and not just give a knee-jerk response. There are many alternatives to going to war with Iran. But an accurate assessment of the threat’s existence must be the starting point. Examine each issue and the needed policy response on an individual basis rather than impose an ideological template on it.

To prove how the above two points apply, let me go to his second example, which precisely paralleled the one on Iran:

The right-wing says that the Muslim Brotherhood is radical. Egypt is an enemy. Hence, the only response is a major military buildup.

Here we see the same two points. The Muslim Brotherhood is indeed radical. But that doesn’t make Egypt an enemy, at least certainly not right now. Equally, it does not foreclose other policy responses and a more sophisticated third alternative between pretending all is fine (even worse, supporting the Brotherhood!) and going to war next week.

But before answering how one should deal with these two specific issues, let me explain how ludicrous is this line of argument — we must lie rather than admit the “right-wing nuts” are right — which currently governs our discourse. Consider this:

We are on a ship. Some of the crew says that the ship has sprung a big leak. Some passengers and crew are yelling that the ship will sink and everyone is going to die.

That is a horrible situation that I don’t want to believe. Personally I don’t like the individuals who are crying out warnings. And I don’t believe everyone will inevitably die.

So therefore I will respond: The ship is just fine. Those who say the ship is sinking are right-wing extremists and should be ignored.

Or a historical example:

(This is completely hypothetical and does not correspond with historical reality) 1941: any analyst who suggests that Japan might attack the United States is a warmongering right-wing racist who is more likely to get the United States into a war with Japan. We must insist that no such war is possible because we don’t want war.

(There was, however, a real-life parallel to that one: Stalin punished any Soviet analysts or intelligence agents who warned that Germany might attack the USSR. Yes, that’s how debate is conducted in a dictatorship, but shouldn’t be the method adopted by a democracy).

Here’s an example closer to home:

There are those who say that the U.S. government has a huge deficit that’s only growing. Entitlements are unsustainable. Tax increases won’t even begin to cover it. But I don’t want to admit that is true (especially because conservatives are saying it and I hate those people!). So I will instead insist that everything is fine, we don’t really have to make any major changes, and all we have to do is raise taxes on the rich.

And that’s what’s killed historic moderate liberalism — which would have tried to come up with some solution to a real problem — and empowered radicalism, which ignores reality and just calls the other side nasty names. If you deny the problem exists at all because you don’t like your rivals’ proposed solution, then you are doomed, baby.

My central point: We should agree on what is real using proper and honest methods of analysis.

Then we can discuss what to do about it in a rational fashion. But disagreeing with someone else’s analysis because you don’t like their proposed policy amounts merely to lying deliberately, or to making a fool of yourself by denying what is obviously true and being totally unprepared to deal with the resulting crisis.

What about alternative solutions? I am against attacking Iran militarily at this time. Iran’s firing of nuclear weapons is not inevitable. Covert methods, sanctions, building alliances, supporting the opposition, containment, and other methods offer a way to counter the Iranian threat. Moreover, the ultimate strategy is that if there is a clear and present danger of Iran firing nuclear weapons, it can be attacked at that time. And the interim period can be used to prepare for such a possible operation.

Regarding Egypt, the armed forces pose one force constraining the Islamists. The election of a non-Islamist president (Amr Moussa) in June is another one. There are many things that can — in some cases are — being done to deal with this threat. Unfortunately, the U.S. government isn’t doing them and in fact is helping the “bad guys.”

In conclusion, let me lay down some proposed rules:

Forget about your political view or the view of the writer/speaker. Is their description of reality accurate? Does it take the facts into account and provide evidence? Does it ignore or conceal evidence that undermines their thesis? Is the argument persuasive? Does it successfully answer criticisms of the claims being made? If so, then that person is right. You may then proceed to draw some conclusion about the proper response.

Is the policy response proposed merely a knee-jerk one based on a preexisting ideology, or does it make sense? Is it creative? Does it deal with the nuances of the problem? What aspects of the problem wouldn’t it solve? Would it make things worse in some ways, including unintended consequences?

In other words, don’t ignore reality because you don’t like others’ proposed solutions. Even worse, don’t ignore reality because it conflicts with your preexisting ideological assumptions. If necessary, change your assumptions. [to paraphrase Ayn Rand: You can ignore reality, but not the consequences of ignoring reality-- David]

(If you are interested: after laying things out this way to my colleague, we had a useful discussion and found that we could agree on a lot of things that didn’t fit narrow stereotypes of how people think nowadays.)

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His book, Israel: An Introduction, will be published by Yale University Press in January. Latest books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at and of his blog, Rubin Reports,

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Monday, January 9, 2012

Review: Wicked Edge Precision Sharpener

Review: Wicked Edge Precision Sharpener

See: There is a lot of good information there, plus a forum of users.

Being somewhat geeky, I recently purchased the Wicked Edge Precision Sharpener, “Pro-Pack” along with an additional sets of 800/100 diamond ‘stones’ and a set of ceramic ‘stones’ for curved blades for an embarrassingly large amount of money, even on sale. But hey, I have bought some expensive knives and if added up, there is far more money invested in the knives than the sharpener. Rationalization is a wonderful tool.

The adage, “Cry once, buy once” that fits this purchase. I have a few sharpening systems, among others the Spyderco crocksticks and a DMT, both for well under $100. They both put a nice edge on a knife, but nothing eye-popping amazing. What is nice about those systems is that they are small and easily thrown in knapsack or bag. The WEPS is definitely a base-camp or home unit.

The WEPS puts on a beyond professional sharpened edge on my knives. Amazing results on both a functional level and an esthetic level; elegant.

There is a learning curve but it is a gentle curve; the first knife I sharpened came out sharper and better looking than any previous attempt on other systems. I’ve done about 10 knives so far and the results keep improving and the thrill is just beginning. I’m pestering friends to sharpen their knives.

I ordered mine through a distributor, Nice easy transaction and fast delivery. Wicked Edge was having some delays but may soon be up to date .

The WEPS is elegant, it has the look, feel and function of a precision instrument. It is. You have a few choices for the base to mount the clamp. I regret not spending a few more (fiat) dollars and getting one of the heavy granite ones. The clamp, now secured on the base, is the backbone of the system. It doesn’t move. You can pick up the the whole thing by lifting the handle of the knife. Impressive.

The clamp is similar to the Lansky and other systems, just beefier and more precise. Place the blade in (more on this later), snug up the top screw, then tighten the lower screw. The hardened aluminum clamp holds the blade nicely. If the spine part of the blade is not 90*, the clamps often have a hard time tight and some sort of insert needs to placed between the knife and the vise arms. Many use foamy double sided tape or chamois cloth to take up the space between the right angles of the vise arms and the angled spine.

Some attention needs to used to properly center the blade fore and aft; my first few knives were clamped too close to the heel of the knife which resulted in a wider bevel along the curved portion of the knife as compared to the straight part. Alignment stayed true. It is more of an aesthetic issue than functional.

Underneath the vise part of the base are two symmetric arms that jut out and are inscribed in 1 degree hash marks labeled from 15 to 30 degrees. There are little divots in the sides of the stationary arms to screw the operating rods in tight.These are just estimations as mounting the blade higher or lower in the clamp will change the angle a bit. This is why you see folks on the Wicked Edge forum talking about the ‘Angle Cube” readings -- some (yeah, me too) measure the actual angle verses the indicated angle.

Now we talk about the rods, the parts I think ‘make’ the WEPS. At this point take a break and watch a few youtube videos on the sharpener sent in by happy users with more technological prowess than I. But then, I can hit their video camera at 500 yards with my 308, so there. The rods pivot across the blade and the stones move up and down. This elegant set up keeps the stone at the same angle along the edge. Its like comparing a straight line drawn with a ruler versus freehand. Additionally, you do a stroke on the right side, then the left side, keeping things even. Try doing this with a Lansky or freehand! Or you can do 5 or 10 strokes on one side to check burr development on the other. No comparison. End of story.

The basic system comes with 2 pairs of stones, each pair has 2 grits. 100, 200, the other 400 and 600. These let you reprofile an edge (eg: a 20* angel from the manufacturer and you take it down to 15*) and take it to more than adequate sharpness. It doesn’t quite take you to the mirror edge I love to see (and use), so I got the Pro System which includes 800 and 1000 grit stones and leather strops (5/3.5 micron (flippin’ microns!) and paste. Using all the stones (not the strops) puts a glowing edge on knives and using the lower angles, will slice through paper using only the weight of the blade. The strops add some sharpness but for me, its the aesthetic of a truly mirror finish. Place the edge on a printed page, you can read the letters. Cool.

The sharpening process is best viewed on youtube or the Wicked Edge site. The instructions are also available under “Instructions” under “Resources”. Basically, place the blade in the clamp on the depth guide with the alignment guide in place, and tighten. If this makes no sense to you, you didn’t read the instructions! What I do then, I learned from the Wicked Edge site. I take a magic marker and draw it down the existing edge, essentially painting the bevel. I lightly run a stone across the now painted edge and see where the marker is removed. This allows a good visual check on how the stones remove the metal along the curved portion of the blade so that you don’t develop an much wider bevel along the curve. See “Finding the Sweet Spot - Positioning Your Knife Front to Back” under Directions under Resources on their web site. It also allows you to visually determine you’ve developed a burr.

To fully benefit from the WEPS, you may need to brush up on your knife sharpening theory. Google “Experiments on Knife Sharpening John D. Verhoeven Emeritus Professor Department of Materials Science and Engineering Iowa State University Ames, IA” -- electron micrographs!! And also look at the less high-brow The bottom line, the sharper, the less durable and the more durable, the less sharp. You will need to make compromises, a 15* angle on a little pocket knife is fine, but such an acute angle does not belong a camping knife that you baton the occasional log or use like a machete. If you’re going to drop the fiat $$$ on this system, read the two. You may also be interested in taking a look at (by the developer of the WEPS). If these don’t hold your interest, then the WEPS may not be for you.

The advantages of the WEPS is found in their name -- precision. Add on sharpening both sides simultaneously (less time) and the ability to get as fancy as you want. Great customer service (I stripped a bolt as I often do, and at first they sent a replacement screw, then I got a letter that they thought that perhaps the arm threading caused the problem and sent a replacement arm with its screw, both completely free of charge.

Disadvantages. Hmmm. It’s not easily taken when camping. But then, I knew that. At best, it’s a base camp item rather than back packing item. Big deal. The knives sharpened with the WEPS holds their edge very, very well and any touch ups needed should be taken care of by a smaller, more portable system.

Is it right for you? A few hundred dollars for a sharpener? Either a waste of money or a bargain depending on your likes. I like a sharp knife and no system I’ve used has come close. It’s a pleasure to use. It’s a pleasure to look at the results. I just don’t like the bald spots on my arms where I test the edge.... If you enjoyed the paper Experiments on Knife Sharpening, then I think it will be money well-spent.

For pics of the WEPS system, please go to their site and to youtube.

Mirror edge on a cheap ChiCom knife