Friday, August 16, 2019

Kammok UL Camp Kit Review by Greg Pehrson


Kammok’s Ultralight Camp Kit is a minimalist backpacking hammock setup that includes the:
These three elements are also sold separately. Hammockers who are sleeping anywhere below 75*F will also need to add top and bottom insulation to this system, as well as a net for bug season. Let’s take a closer look at each of these products and how they work together.

The Kammok Roo Single UL Hammock

The Roo Single UL is a minimalist backpacking hammock, slightly over 4’ x 8‘, with no integrated bugnet (nor a zipper for one), and no ridgeline. It has a series of small webbing loops around its perimeter and larger ones in both the foot and head peaks, with a roll-top stuff sack permanently attached to the side. The design is similar to Kammok’s Roo Single, but with lighter fabric, lower weight capacity and a suspension attachment system that doesn’t require carabiners, for a savings of almost half the weight.

Kammok Roo Single UL Hammock

Specs at a Glance

  • Weight: 5.6 ounces/159 grams
  • Packed dimensions: 3.25 inches × 5.25 inches / 8.2 cm x 13.3 cm
  • Weight Capacity: 300 lb/136 kg
  • Material: Levitas 20D ripstop nylon with DWR waterproofing
  • Hammock Length: 8 ft 4 in/254 cm
  • Hammock Width: 4 ft 2 in/127 cm
  • Included: Attached roll-top stuff sack, 6 perimeter loops, 2 peak gear loops

Sizing

The Roo Single UL, at 4 ft 2 in × 8 ft 4 in, is at the smaller end of the hammock spectrum. Its closest competitor, the Grand Trunk Nano 7, has similar dimensions at 4 feet wide by 9 feet long. At 5’4,” I have no problem fitting in the Kammok Roo UL and getting a diagonal lay, but historically I have used wider and longer hammocks. Hammock comfort is subjective, so it’s hard to know if a minimalist hammock works for you without trying one out.

Laying in the Kammok Roo Single UL

Kammok’s Pongo Hammock Sleeping Pad is too big to fit comfortably in the Roo UL because it takes up the entire hammock. An underquilt is ideal for bottom insulation on the Roo UL. You could also use a closed-cell foam pad, but since there is no way to secure it to this hammock, you may find yourself literally wrestling with it.
Kammok markets its products both as backpacking/ camping-specific and as lifestyle/ casual use items, and the Roo UL and Python UL combination packs so small that I don’t think twice about bringing it with me to relax in on casual, non-backpacking outings.

Instead of a carabiner, the Roo UL uses Dyneema cord and an aluminum toggle which button together. This saves weight and is secure.

Soft Shackle Suspension Attachment

While the Kammok Single Roo and Roo Double use carabiners to attach to their suspension systems, the Roo Single UL saves weight with a “soft shackle”–in this case, an aluminum toggle on one end of a Dyneema cord, and a small loop on the other. You pass the toggle through a connection loop on your suspension, and then “button it up” by pushing the toggle through its own Dyneema loop. It’s meant to be used on a daisy-chain style suspension system like the Python UL (see below) but could conceivably be used with any suspension system that requires a carabiner to attach the suspension to the hammock. This design is not unique to Kammok but they do execute it elegantly and effectively; see our Hummingbird Single Hammock and Tree Straps Review for another example of the button-up soft shackle concept.

Webbing Loops

The Roo UL has 6 webbing loops around the perimeter (3 per side) which serve primarily to connect the Kammok Firebelly Quilt (reviewed here), or their warmer weather Bobcat series of quilts, as underquilts. If you don’t have a Kammok-brand underquilt, the loops can serve a couple of other functions: you can add tie-outs to them to help with a diagonal lay or attach stuff sacks from other Kammok products to organize small essentials.
There are longer webbing loops on the inside of the head end and foot end of the Roo UL. On the larger Roo models, these are good for clipping the Pongo Pad and Puffin Pillow into (read our review here). The Puffin Pillow will fit in the Roo UL, but, as described above, the Pongo Pad is far too big for the Roo UL. You could also use these as gear loops to attach a headlamp or other small item.

Webbing attachment loops

The Kammok Dragonfly Bugnet, which has its own ridgeline, cinches around the bottom of the hammock, and has zippers for entry. If you have your own bugnet, you’ll need to also rig up a ridgeline on the Roo UL to hold it off your face. I like to keep a bugnet on the hammock when I’m camping in bug season so I can set it up quickly and don’t trap bugs inside the netting when I’m putting it on the hammock, but if you do this with the Roo UL (even using Kammok’s own Dragonfly net) it won’t fit in the integrated stuff sack. You’ll have to put it in another stuff sack, or assemble the parts (hammock plus underquilt plus bugnet) once you arrive at your campsite.
If you know you’ll need a bugnet frequently, Kammok makes a hammock system with a removable zip-on bugnet and integrated ridgeline, called the Mantis, which also comes in the Mantis Ultralight version.

Kuhli UL tarp in porch mode

Kammok Kuhli UL Tarp Review

The Kammok Kuhli UL Tarp is a tapered, hexagon-shaped tarp with lineloc tensioners on the guyline and catenary cut edges. It’s seam-sealed and fully outfitted, so you can use it out of the box without any additional setup.

Specs at a Glance:

  • Weights:
    • Tarp with guylines: 12.07 oz (12.2 oz, actual)
    • Stuff Sack: 0.4 oz
    • 4 DAC Stakes: 1.5 oz
  • Tarp Dimensions: 132 inches x 88 inches / 335.3 cm x 223.5 cm
  • Packed Dimensions: 3.75 inches x 7 inches / 10 cm x 18 cm
  • Tarp Material: Patagium 15 denier diamond ripstop nylon with Silicone/PU + DWR
  • Guyout points with Hypalon Grommets: 2 ridgelines, 6 side guyouts
  • Integrated Cord Pockets: 2 (for ridgelines)
  • Included: 4 DAC aluminum V- stakes, 8 guylines (the 2 ridgelines with attached aluminum hooks), tarp stuff sack w/ integrated stake stuff sack
The Kuhli UL tarp has Linelocs on all guyouts and is attached to the tree via aluminum hooks on the ridgelines. I’ve always scoffed at adjustment hardware (like Linelocs) on shelters. “Learn to tie your knots!” I’d think. Going without hardware means lighter weight and less to break. But the first time out of the bag, I pitched the Kuhli UL drum-tight in about one minute. That got me rethinking my hardware aversion. Don’t get me wrong, I still think backpackers should learn their knots and have a basic understanding of how to fix likely problems that may occur with their shelters, but I’m not such a hardware Luddite anymore.

The ridgelines of the Kuhli UL connect to the tree with aluminum hooks–no knots needed

I thought back to a hammocking trip earlier this year in the hail where the winds were making my MYOG tarp fly like a kite when I was trying to pitch it, and how nice it would have been to just hook it to the trees and pull it tight. I’ve started packing the Kuhli UL tarp from the middle first, so that the two ridgeline cords are the last things packed. Then, when I open up the stuff sack, I can hook one ridgeline cord to a tree with the rest of the tarp packed, then walk to the next tree, holding the second ridgeline hook, while letting the tarp come out of the bag slowly, and hook the second ridgeline cord to that tree. This way, the tarp never touches the ground, and on a windy day, you can get it anchored to the first tree before the tarp is even out of the bag.

The ridgelines of the Kuhli UL (the longest lines) have integrated stuff pockets to keep the lines from tangling

The guyline has reflective tracers woven in, so it’s easy to find your shelter in the night by the light of a headlamp. The guylines have fixed loops on the ends to go over the stakes, and are adjusted with Linelocs. It’s important to coil and tie off each of these guylines before stowing; if not, they will quickly get knotted and tangled with each other makes for a spaghetti nightmare. My second pitch took a lot longer than a minute because I hadn’t stored the guylines carefully enough.

The Kuhli UL has a number of setup options (see video above) and illustrated on a tag attached to the inside of the stuff sack. In addition to the standard A-frame hammock pitch, it can be pitched in “covered porch mode” with trekking pole tips fitting into the Hypalon (a durable synthetic rubber often found on underfoot straps for winter gaiters) grommets at the corners, to lift one side of the tarp like a flat roof. This is nice for increased visibility or for creating a kitchen area for cooking under the tarp during rain. It can also be pitched on the ground for use without a hammock, using trekking poles as end supports.
However, I believe the other two pitching options advertised are holdovers from the standard (non-ultralight) Kuhli tarp. “Storm mode” allows both ends to be closed off like doors, but requires the 2 additional side guyouts on the standard Kuhli not found on the UL version. “Extended coverage/ asymmetrical mode” is pitched on the diagonal, but the Kuhli UL guylines on the corners are way too short to use as ridgelines. In order to pitch it this way, you would need to switch the positions of the ridgelines, which you would want to do before your trip, not in the field, as it is tedious to undo the knots, unthread the line from the Linelocs, thread it through different Linelocs, and knot the cord again. When I initially saw the possibilities of so many pitching options, I was excited, as I imagine other customers may be, but the reality is that only two of them are viable options. Hopefully, Kammok updates the tag and instructional video to reflect this.

The Kuhli UL’s stuff sack has external storage for the 4 included stakes

Stake-holder integrated into tarp stuff sack

A feature that I hadn’t seen before is the integration of a stake stuff sack into the side of the tarp stuff sack. This solves a number of issues common with packing stakes. Stakes are tricky to pack because they are pointy and can damage other gear, especially ultralight fabrics, so they’re usually stored in their own stuff sack apart from a shelter. But you also want to store them in a way that you can access them quickly to set up your shelter, especially if you pull into camp in a storm. And, stake stuff sacks are small and easy to misplace or forget, and while there’s a bunch of things you can use in place of stakes in a pinch, it’s frustrating to lose them.
Kammok solves these issues by creating a stuff sack that holds the tarp and stakes separately but as part of one package. The Kuhli UL’s stuff sack has two sewn channels on the outside designed to tightly hold two pairs of the high-quality aluminum DAC V-shaped stakes which come with the tarp. This style of stake has excellent holding power in soft or wet ground. I love the convenience and simplicity of having the stakes stored with the tarp in this way. The downside to the integrated stuff sack is, if you want to bring extra stakes (more than the 4 that are included) to utilize the side guylines, there’s nowhere to put them–you’ll need to bring a stuff sack just for the extras! A couple of ultralight titanium shepherd’s hook stakes do fit behind the “V” of the DAC stakes, but the hook part protrudes from the top and I’d be wary of it catching on sleeping bags, puffy jackets, or other delicate gear in the pack.

Python UL straps rolled up

Kammok Python UL 10 Straps Review

Kammok’s Python UL 10 Straps may look familiar if you remember Ultimate Hammock’s Ultimate Straps. Ultimate Hammocks was purchased by Kammok and the Ultimate Straps were rebranded as the Python UL. While 1 to 2-inch wide tree straps are recommended for Leave No Trace, the Pythons use two narrower (2 centimeter-wide) pieces of webbing connected with short horizontal pieces 2 inches apart, to save weight while still distributing the load over a wide area on the tree trunk to prevent damage to the tree. This design continues for the tree-hugger section of the strap, and then becomes a single half-inch daisy chain strap where the hammock connects. Each strap is 10 feet long, hence the name.

Specs at a glance

  • Total Packed Weight: 3.2 oz / 90.1 g (3.3, actual)
  • Trail Weight (straps alone, no stuff sack) 3.0 oz / 85 g (3.1, actual)
  • Max Weight Capacity: 300 lb / 136 kg
  • Strap Length: 10 ft / 305 cm each strap
  • Unpacked Dimensions: 10 ft x 2-0.59 in / 305 cm x 5-2 cm (straps taper from double-width to single-width)
  • Packed Dimensions: 3 in x 2.75 in / 51 cm x 7 cm
  • Strap Material:  SpiraLineTM ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene
The Python UL 10 straps are a daisy chain-style suspension that is easy for beginners to learn and a foolproof way to connect your hammock without fear of slippage. The split tree-hugger design makes the straps a little awkward to pack–since you have to fold the doubled area first, they don’t roll up as neatly as solid webbing tree straps–but sometimes I just fold them and stuff them, and they still fit into the tiny included stuff sack.

To save weight while still protecting the tree, the Python UL uses two smaller width straps connected with vertical webbing strips

As someone who is used to using a marlin spike with tree hugger straps attached to whoopie slings attached to a hammock, the simplicity and security of the Python suspension is attractive. Integration with the ultralight soft shackle of the Roo UL is perfect, but you can also easily attach another vendor’s hammocks with a carabiner or carabiner alternative. You just need to find the loop that the hammock will reach while keeping the strap at a 30-degree angle, and clip in (or button in your soft shackle).

Recommendation

Kammok’s Ultralight Camp Kit is a minimalist backpacking hammock setup that includes the Roo Single UL Hammockthe Kuhli UL tarp, and Python 10 UL Hammock Suspension Straps. The Kuhli Tarp UL and Python UL Straps are great lightweight tools for all-around use. The Kuhli UL has a lot of smart and convenient features that make it a pleasure to use, like the integrated stake stuff sack, the Hypalon grommets, and the ridgeline hooks. The Python UL Straps pack small and light, and are simple and secure to use. The Roo UL is a comfortable, small, compact, and truly light hammock at 5.6 oz including the soft shackles. This soft shackle system is a fantastic way to cut weight without losing functionality, but users should understand the minimalist dimensions of the product and test out whether this size hammock is a good fit for their intended uses, as well as if they need to add on a bugnet for their locale.

THE FITNESS REGIMEN THAT WILL PREPARE YOU FOR ELK HUNTING By Michael Herne

There’s no doubt that hunting elk in the Rocky Mountain West is a physical activity. If you don’t live in a state like Colorado, where the average elevation is 6,800 feet above sea level, then you are already going into the season at a disadvantage. One of the most common killers for elk hunting hopefuls is the elevation and rugged terrain elk live in. 
Just about every experienced elk hunter will agree that the farther you get from roads and subsequent hunting pressure, the better the quality of your hunt. Physical fitness directly relates to mental fitness. The fitter you are, the more likely you’ll be able to stay on the mountain longer.
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It takes more than practicing archery skills to prepare for elk hunting in the mountains. Photo courtesy of Michael Herne.

Weighted Step-ups

If you’re hunting elk, moving uphill under load is almost inevitable. Aside from loading a pack and humping up and down hills, one of the best exercises for training your legs is weighted step-ups. I do weighted step-ups one to three times a week starting about two months prior to my elk hunting trip and rotating between these three workouts: 
  • 60 seconds on/30 seconds rest for a total of 20 to 30 reps per interval for 30 minutes
  • complete 600 to 800 step-ups
  • as many as possible in 30 minutes 
This exercise can be easily done in your garage or home. For equipment, you’ll need a box or platform that is 16 inches tall, your hunting pack, and a tally counter (losing count is not fun). I highly recommend wearing your hunting boots while doing this as it will also help you locate trouble spots or potential blister locations, if there are any, that are caused by your boots. 
Last season while I was following this workout regimen, my run time vastly improved, and I attribute that to the weighted step-ups.
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Step-ups prepare hunters for the steep climbs of hunting in the mountains. Photo courtesy of Michael Herne.

Running 

Cardiovascular endurance can make you or break you out West. From significant elevation gain to the rugged terrain, you need to train your motor (lungs and heart) for the rigors of bow hunting in the mountains. If your fitness level isn’t high, start slowly and work your way up. I generally run two to three times a week in the spring and summer months, increasing my mileage from 1 to 3 miles to 5 to 8 miles as the season nears. 
When running, you’re not trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon. We want to get our lungs and heart used to working a little harder for prolonged periods of time. On longer runs, I shoot for an 8- to 9-minute mile pace; on shorter runs, the goal is sub-7-minute miles.  
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The bull is down — can you pack it out? Ruck marches are one way to prepare for a successful hunt. Photo courtesy of Michael Herne.

Ruck Marching 

In the military, we call pack hikes “ruck marching” or “rucking.” There are many practical benefits to putting some miles in with a pack on your back. First of all, it allows you to get intimate with your pack and figure out its fit and function. If the first time you’re carrying over 70 pounds in your pack is after you have an animal on the ground, you may be in for a rude awakening. 
The second benefit is that you can figure out where and how to pack your load, or the weight. As a general rule, the weight in your pack should be centered, evenly balanced, and toward the top — in the middle of your shoulder blades is the best. 
The physical benefit is that you’re getting your body used to what you’ll be doing in the field. I generally ruck two to three times a week, varying the weight of the pack and the speed of the walk. One day I will pack lightweight (40 pounds) and walk a brisk 15-minute mile pace; another day I will pack heavyweight (70 pounds) and walk a slower pace. As with running, I increase mileage over time, starting with 2- to 3-mile hikes and working up to 6 to 8 miles. 
For the heavyweight/slow-pace days, I don’t target a specific pace. The goal is something I refer to as Time Under Ruck (TUR) — this is purely to get the body used to the inherent suck that is packing out an elk. This is another great time to test out your hunting footwear.
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Hydration is an important part of spending time outdoors at elevation. Adobe Stock Photo.

Hydration

About a week before my trip, I get serious about hydration, taking in 100 to 130 ounces of water a day minimum. That translates to a little more than three Nalgene bottles. Other than coffee, I cut out all extracurricular beverages — including alcohol and energy drinks. On my two-day drive to the Rocky Mountain West, I continue this trend. 
While I’m in the mountains, water availability and physical exertion play a major role in my hydration level. I bring electrolyte drink mixes in addition to my water supply and usually drink one a day. Hydration at elevation is extremely important for performance and should not be taken lightly. 
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Graphic by Erik Campbell/Coffee or Die.
Can you kill an elk without physical preparation? It’s absolutely doable — however, if you’re coming from out of state, you’re going to be competing with resident hunters who are, at a minimum, better acclimated and have a better understanding of the terrain and game they seek. 
One major benefit of training to head West is hardening the mind. Tagging an elk with a bow often comes down to who can stay in the field longer and continue to grind. Hiking up and down mountains with a bow and a pack on can be painful and unpleasant. However, if you are fit and have conditioned yourself for it, you’ll be in a better mood and state of mind while embracing the suck, thus you’ll be able to stay out longer and go farther. 
When I’m preparing to head West for an archery hunt, I want to give myself every possible advantage and be prepared to do what it takes to put an elk on the ground. Will you be ready this fall?

You Are Here Red Flag Laws in the Age of Political Psychiatry by Christopher Roach

In the wake of recent horrific shooting sprees, Donald Trump and other Republicans wishing to appear to “do something” have seized the purported “middle ground”: red flag laws. These laws would permit law enforcement or concerned family members to petition a court to remove firearms from individuals deemed dangerous after a summary judicial procedure.
Laws such as these enjoy popular support and a general perception of plausibility upon first glance. After all, there is a broad public consensus in favor of keeping guns out of the hands of convicted felons and other dangerous people. Recent mass shootings where the shooter made pre-incident threats, or otherwise instilled fear among those in his circle, appear to have offered several missed opportunities to prevent deadly violence.
Like so much else in life, however, the devil is in the details.
As a general matter, a goal of every healthy community is to prevent all violent crime. But there is no way to accomplish this goal in practice without a draconian police state. Crime has a cost, but so do infringements on civil liberties, such as detentions, convictions, institutionalization, and other lesser measures like injunctions and protection orders.
We know that our ability to detect criminal intent in the absence of a completed crime is a difficult matter. If everyone who had threatened harm on the internet meant it, for example, our society would be awash in blood.
But it’s not. We know that people express anger and frustration in ways that may be unhealthy or disturbing. Most of those people, however, will never follow through on those threats or actually commit violence. They’re just venting or fantasizing, and those ideas will forever remain confined to the imagination.

Psychiatry Is Uncertain and Easily Abused

As I argued in 2018, the notion that we can detect and prevent mental illness on the basis of psychiatric assessment is a comforting myth. We know that mental illness is not a black and white thing. It exists on a continuum. Not everyone who has seen a therapist or who has taken an antidepressant is a danger to himself or to others. Sometimes such people are just people in pain – and temporary pain at that.
The human mind is infinitely complicated, and predicting anyone’s future actions is nearly impossible. Not only is predicting violence a terribly uncertain business, any such inquiry inevitably would have to be refracted through a highly political concept of mental health and human flourishing.
Given that, here’s another thing we know: Psychologists and psychiatrists tend to be overwhelmingly people of the left. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders changes every few years, removing old diagnoses like homosexuality and gender dysphoria, mostly because of political pressure from interest groups. A move is afoot to add conspiracy thinking to the manual. While conspiracy thinking can be an intellectual dead end, sometimes “they” really are out to get you. Ask Carter Page. It should be obvious how changing and amorphous diagnoses will be used against those on the right.
At various times, psychiatry has been abused to suppress political dissent as an end-run around the publicity and procedural necessities of criminal trials. Summarizing an important study on the subject, even Wikipedia warns:
Psychiatry possesses an inherent capacity for abuse that is greater than in other areas of medicine. The diagnosis of mental disease can give the state license to detain persons against their will and insist upon therapy both in the interest of the detainee and in the broader interests of society. In addition, receiving a psychiatric diagnosis can in itself be regarded as oppressive. In a monolithic state, psychiatry can be used to bypass standard legal procedures for establishing guilt or innocence and allow political incarceration without the ordinary odium attaching to such political trials.
Even after the mass incarcerations of the Stalin era, the Soviet Union’s psychiatric establishment suppressed political dissidents under the rubric of treating custom-made disorders such as “delusions of reform” and “sluggish schizophrenia.” The Soviet experience is an event out of memory for those under 40, which is unfortunate, as its dark course was animated by the same ideology embraced by America’s far-left today.
study of the Soviet practice explained that religious dissenters, nationalists, and other critics of the regime – when not sent to labor camps – were often locked away for years and drugged up in psychiatric hospitals, forgotten by the world, their beliefs maligned as the rantings of madmen. These are the same groups being targeted as nonpersons by the frenzied political left in our own country.
Trump and other Republicans’ embrace of red-flag laws is especially shocking in light of our own very recent history: the attempt to declare President Trump incompetent under the 25th Amendment.
In support of this effort, prominent psychologists opined contrary to their ethical rules about the president’s mental health. The FBI deemed him unworthy of the normal deference and respect due to a president, treating him instead as a target in his first days in office. Prominent law professors explained how his removal would be entirely lawful and reasonable. In a shocking departure from the norm, a rogue Department of Justice official, Rod Rosenstein, offered to wear a wire to entrap the president. If the president, with the power and platform he possesses, could be so harried by weaponized psychiatry, a run-of-the-mill gun owner stands little chance.
Even in the absence of intentional abuse, biases of various kinds can infect a psychological assessment. After all, for many in the mental health establishment, the mere fact of wanting to own guns may be seen as a type of red flag. Should we entrust a treasured American liberty to this group of political leftists practicing an uncertain and malleable science employing pro forma judicial processes? The question answers itself.

A Cavalier Attitude About Due Process

A biased psychiatric establishment isn’t our only problem. The legal profession and the courts also tend to lean left. They also may carry certain biases in conducting their fact-finding. After all, no one wants to let a dangerous person keep his gun, and it burdens the court little to rule in favor of a “red flag” confiscation. Such confiscation would likely be mostly seen as a reasonable middle ground far less burdensome than full institutionalization.
Judges who sometimes reject the constitutional right to bear arms are not likely to be good stewards of the rights of those who do. We have some experience of this in the world of domestic violence injunctions, which are subject to lesser procedural protections than criminal cases. They are frequently brought to bear by vindictive spouses, having become part of the “gamesmanship of divorce.”
“The facts have become irrelevant,” wrote the former head of the Massachusetts state bar. “Everyone knows that restraining orders and orders to vacate are granted to virtually all who apply, lest anyone be blamed for an unfortunate result ... In many [divorce] cases, allegations of abuse are now used for tactical advantage.”

Red Flag Laws May Do More Harm Than Good

Finally, political or not, many people have psychological suffering and get help from good therapy, support groups, and medication. The red-flag regime could interfere with people getting the care they need.
Doctors operating in a world of red flag laws likely would have some “duty to report” if they perceived some risk. But here, as in the case of the courts, the political biases of the doctors themselves would be a concern. The medical profession has come out in favor of asking patients about guns in the home and treating crimes involving guns as a public health problem.
We have an important and cautionary tale in the case of the military, where many capable servicemen do not get help for PTSD and other maladies because of the perception psychological care would interfere with security clearances and be a “career killer.” This is a shame because people should get the help they need with the confidentiality and sense of partnership necessary to heal. It would be a tragic irony if red flag laws dissuaded people suffering from treatable mental illness from getting the help they need – fearing that they would permanently lose their gun rights – and they ended up hurting themselves or others as a consequence.
We already have legal procedures to confine the truly dangerous to themselves and keep them away from others. This procedure rightly has substantial protections to avoid the confinement of those who may be merely eccentric – troubled even – but generally harmless to themselves and others. The idea of making the constitutional right to bear arms one of lesser dignity and peeling it off with lesser protections through specialized red-flag laws is a recipe for abuse.
The reason is obvious. As in the case of domestic violence injunctions, courts, police, and family members would perceive this middle ground as no serious imposition: after all, does anyone really need a gun? As psychiatry and life more generally become politically polarized, these laws could confiscate enormous numbers of guns and otherwise stigmatize dissidents of various kinds, just as psychiatry was used to deprive dissidents of liberty completely in the Soviet Union.
Our historic freedoms slowly are being diminished through the accretion such ad hoc procedures and exceptions, often imposed in the heated atmosphere following a tragic, but rare, mass shooting. Unfortunately, in this instance, the people who promised to protect our rights are leading the charge to diminish them.
Ordinary domestic violence restraining orders, along with misdemeanor domestic violence convictions, also impose the loss of one’s right to own or carry a gun. This has proceeded quietly to deprive millions of their Second Amendment rights, in spite of this general atmosphere of gamesmanship and indifference by the judiciary. Domestic violence is a serious problem, no doubt, but the judiciary’s history in this realm inspires little confidence.
Not everyone gets along with their ex-wives, ex-lovers, or their family, but the vast majority of people do not go on a shooting spree. In a world with red-flag laws, however, increasingly they may be given a scarlet letter and deprived of their constitutional rights.

Argentina and the Grim Consequences of Democratic Socialism August 15, 2019 by Dan Mitchell

It’s difficult to be optimistic about some parts of the world.
When I look at Greece and Italy, for instance, I can’t help but think that economic renaissance is very unlikely, in part because of demographics, but even more so because voters have been conditioned to think that they have a right to live off the government.
This dependency mindset shows that societal capital has eroded, and it’s why I fear those nations have passed a tipping point.
Another example is Argentina. The Wall Street Journal‘s editorial page is very discouraged that the Peronists may return to power in that country.
Does Argentina have a death wish? That’s the question going around after Peronist Alberto Fernández and his running mate, former President Cristina Kirchner, took first place in Sunday’s presidential “primaries” with 48% of the vote. President Mauricio Macri finished 16 points behind… Clearly investors don’t want to hang around if Mr. Fernández and Mrs. Kirchner—whose eight years as president (2007-2015) were marked by leftwing populism and corruption—get to power. Mr. Macri’s unexpectedly poor showing sent the peso and equities down and default risk for Argentine bonds up.
So why would Argentinians vote for statism and economic collapse, especially since there’s so much evidence that Peronists have done immense damage to the country’s economy?
In part, because they were choosing between Tweedledee and Tweedledum. The supposed center-right incumbent, Mauricio Macri, governed as a statist.
And he’s been doubling down on bad policy in hopes of staying in office.
…he fought back by promising to raise the minimum wage for the second time this year, freeze the price of gasoline for 90 days, increase welfare payments in September and October and give a bonus to federal bureaucrats, police and the military. Perhaps this half-baked populism will move voters, but it augurs poorly for the Argentine future. …Mr. Macri…sought to avoid confrontation. He ought to have set about shrinking the state and its subsidies. Instead he maintained lavish government spending. The kinder, gentler president has been unwilling to tell Argentines in stark terms what they are up against. …Argentine debt has shot up on Mr. Macri’s watch and as a percentage of GDP it is forecast to reach 100% this year. Deficit spending has put pressure on the central bank to print money, and there has been no effort to contain inflation expectations.
Ugh, Macri seems even worse than some of America’s big-government Republicans.
But there is a sliver of good news. If nothing else, Argentina serves as an example of why so-called “democratic socialism” is so misguided.
In some analysis for investors, Michael Cembalest of J.P. Morgan looked around the world for insights and evidence about the ideology championed by Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (h/t: James Pethokoukis).
He starts off by identifying the key criteria of democratic socialism.
This sounds like Elizabeth Warren’s platform, or perhaps the Green New Deal, so I think this is an accurate list.
Mr. Cembalest points out, though, that the Nordic nations don’t qualify as being socialist of any kind.
Some point to Nordic countries as democratic socialism in action, but…while Nordic countries have higher taxes and greater redistribution of wealth, Nordics are just as business-friendly as the US if not more so. Examples include greater business freedoms, freer trade, …and less of an impact on competition from state control over the economy. …while Nordics raise more taxes than the US, the gap usually results from regressive VAT/consumption taxes and Social Security taxes rather than from progressive income taxes. The bottom line: copy the Nordic model if you like, but understand that it entails a lot of capitalism and pro-business policies, a lot of taxation on middle class spending and wages, minimal reliance on corporate taxation and plenty of co-pays and deductibles in its healthcare system.
He’s right. The Nordic nations get relatively high marks for economic liberty in all areas other than fiscal policy. They’re no more socialist than the United States.
He did find a country, however, that is a very close match for democratic socialism.
I couldn’t find any country that ticked all…democratic socialist boxes, but I did find one that came close: Argentina.
Seems to me that Argentina does tick all the boxes. But since he doesn’t delve into methodology, I’m not sure of his definitions.
In any event, he looks at Argentina’s relative performance over a long period of time, which is the right approach to see if a country is converging or diverging.
There are two ways to look at Argentina’s decline relative to the rest of the world since the early 1900’s. The first shows the ratio of real per capita GDP in 2018 vs the same measure in 1913. Argentina’s ratio barely rose, and is the lowest ratio of all countries for which data is available for both years.
Here’s the relevant chart, and you can see that Argentina has the worst performance over the past 100 years.
He also slices the data using another approach.
The next method illustrates how Argentina used to be among the richest nations in the world, and how far it has fallen. The x axis shows percentile of per capita GDP in 1913, while the y axis shows the same measure in 2018. All countries below the diagonal line have seen their rankings fall, while those above the line have seen their rankings improve. The farther the distance from the diagonal line, the more things have changed; Argentina’s decline from the 83rd percentile in 1913 to the 40th in 2018 is the largest decline on the chart.
And here’s the accompanying chart.
Fast growing nations are above the line, so it’s hardly a surprise to see that the Asian Tigers of TaiwanSouth KoreaHong Kong, and Singapore have done well.
And I’m also not surprised to see that South Africa is almost as bad as Argentina.
At some point, I’ll have to re-crunch the numbers showing the post-WWII era. I imagine that data also will show a very strong relationship between national prosperity and economic liberty.
P.S. One external reason for Argentina’s awful performance is that it keeps getting rewarded for bad policy with IMF bailouts.
P.P.S. Greece is another country that should be a warning sign about what happens with democratic socialism.