Thursday, December 29, 2011

SDS Daily Briefing for Thursday, December 29, 2011

Back on Frequency

We spent the Christmas holiday in Tennessee with our respective families.  This year, we wanted to take our small dogs with us, so we drove the 900 miles.  The drive home yesterday lasted over 14 hours, including stops.  We're glad to be home.

Report From Sniper School

I've been meaning to summarize my experiences at Sniper School (okay, it's not really called that, but that's what the four of us who attended decided to call it), but the holidays got in the way.  So I'll try to cover the bases tonight.

The four of us took our AR-15s to a range about two hours east of Austin, where we met Kenan  Flasowski of FAST, Inc.  Kenan is a former Army sniper and a wealth of knowledge.

A little background is helpful here.  Shooting long distances, or even medium range distances, requires a strong understanding of ballistics.  Unlike tactical handgun shooting, where you are shooting at short ranges with small barreled guns, rifle shooting is far more complex.  Suffice it to say that if you are learning to shoot rifles at any distance, you first need some instruction in ballistics, proper breathing, and sight picture on your rifle.

We had hoped to get out to 400 meters, but the weather and our collective skill sets dictated a different strategy.  After we got our rifles zeroed in at 25 meters in the prone position, we practiced shooting from kneeling and sitting positions.  While that sounds easy, I can assure you that unless you're in your early twenties or are in phenomenal physical condition, contorting yourself into a stable shooting position is challenging. 

The rain, wind and temperatures limited our ability to do everything we had hope to accomplish, but Kenan didn't let that discourage him.  We set up one of those party tent things you see at tailgate parties - just a roof and open sides - large enough to accommodate all five of us and room for our gear.  Kenan put us on the clock and had us shoot steel targets at 100 yards, utilizing cover and from different positions.  The great thing about working with Kenan is that as a former sniper and plenty of trigger time in Iraq and Afghanistan, he knows what works and what doesn't, and coveys that information to you without the macho "I'm a bad ass" you get at many gun schools.

My personal take aways:

  • I don't shoot nearly enough.  And I certainly don't shoot nearly enough with my rifle.
  • Optics help.  Peering through that peep hole sight at 100 meters made for difficult shooting at times.  The guys with optics didn't have that problem.
  • ARs shoot high.  I need to learn that and compensate for it.
  • You MUST keep your AR in good working order.  By this I mean you must clean it regularly.  My rifle did well, but towards the end of the class, some of the other ARs were beginning to choke on all of residue left behind from the hundreds of rounds we fired.
On a side note, one of the guys had a "bump stock."  What is that, you ask?

For about $350, you can have one of these too.  And yes, I tried it out.  It rocked.
    An Uplifting Scary Video

    Here's a unique way at looking at the faltering economy.  The conclusions the presenter reaches tend to reach apocalyptic levels, but the time progression of the unemployment rates across a map of the U.S. is quite thought provoking.  I share this for what it's worth.

    2012 Analysis Newsletter Out Soon

    I'm preparing a special report on the upcoming year.  I will be happy to share it with you.  More details to follow this weekend.

    Wednesday, December 21, 2011

    SDS Daily Briefing for Wednesday, December 21, 2011

    Reading List For the Holidays

    Blogging over the next week or so will be limited, as I am celebrating the holidays like everyone else.  I would encourage you to read three articles over the next few days.  M.D. Creekmore found the first two, which he mentions on his blog

    Why All Signs Point To Chaos - European economic woes may create major problems for our own weakened economy.

    Cops Ready For War - The article's title tells it all.  This is key because of the article below.

    Rights Activists "Appalled" As Senate Passes Prison Without Trial Bill - the National Defense Authorization Act should shock every American.  The idea that you or your family member could be labeled as a terrorist and put in jail without a trial violates many of the basic rights afforded us under our Constitution.  Don't think for one minute this couldn't apply to you.  Ever bought an MRE or other storeable food?  Ever paid cash for an item?  Ever attended a Tea Party or other political function that wasn't a Democrat or Republican sponsored one?  You, too, could be labeled as a terrorist and have your constitutionally protected rights to due process essentially ignored.  All in the name of allegedly making us safer.

    These are strange times.  But more people are paying attention.  Many who wouldn't have thought twice about preparedness and the erosion of our rights and national sovereignty two years ago now confide in me they are worried and are beginning to take steps to prepare themselves for harder times.

    As we end the year, think about what things you need to be doing in 2012 to be more self reliant.  Make a plan and create a budget to allow you to make those things come to fruition.

    Saturday, December 17, 2011

    SDS Weekend Briefing for Saturday, December 17, 2011

    Need A New Investment Idea?  How About Antique Firearms?

    CNBC ran this article earlier this week.  It's my understanding that certain antique firearms are exempt from New York City ordinances prohibiting handguns.  Something to think about.

    I Hope You Are Reading This Newsletter

    Texas Todd turned me on to this newsletter.  Fantastic reading.  Makes me wonder why I even bother blogging....I could just read what they write and save myself a lot of time.

    Sniper School On Monday
    I, along with three other lobbyists, head east of Austin for what we're calling "Sniper School."  The day long class is designed to enable us to shoot AR-15s out to 400 meters.  If our instructor, a former Army sniper, can teach me to reliably hit a man sized silhouette at 400 meters in a day, I will be forever impressed.  I will certainly blog about our experience.

    Thursday, December 15, 2011

    SDS Daily Briefing for Thursday, December 15, 2011

    Guns Sales Are Off The Charts

    Gun sales on Black Friday set new sales records.  People, especially women, are taking more responsibility for their own personal safety. 

    If you're one of those new gun buyers, I congratulate you.  I also highly encourage you to get training on how to use it safely and effectively.

    Building Your Team

    Today, I had lunch with a fellow prepper.  It's good for me to meet with other preppers to hear their concerns and share ideas. 

    One of the topics we discussed was how to build a team or network of like minded people to share ideas and, if need be, rely upon in a crisis.  In my mind, it's one of the most difficult challenges - if not the most difficult one - someone who wants to prep as part of a network.

    It got me to thinking - what might someone new to prepping do in order to build their own network?  Some ideas include:

    • The Internet is filled with info on preparedness groups around the country.  Reach out to them.  I do caution people about jumping head first into any preparedness group.  Start slowly with any prep network you join.  While I'd like to tell you everyone who is a prepper is an upright person, I know there are some within the movement who have ideas counter to mine.
    • Talk to your close friends.  Identify ones you think "get it" but perhaps haven't started taking action, and encourage them to do so.  They can be a fantastic asset, since you've already vetted them to be worthy of close friend material.
    • Look beyond conventional "prepper" groups.  Groups focusing on gardening, amateur radio, neighborhood watch, and training people in first aid are often filled with people who are interested in learning more about self sufficiency. 

    Wednesday, December 14, 2011

    SDS Daily Briefing for Wednesday, December 14, 2011

    Santelli For Three....YESSS!

    If you watch this two minute video, you will know more about the national debt situation than the vast majority of Americans.  Rick Santelli has a way of distilling complex finance issues into very simple terms we can understand.  This may be his best work yet.

    Follow Up From Yesterday's Briefing

    I mentioned I'd read a comment on the electricity rate article I linked to in yesterday's blog.  I went back so I could attribute the comment to the correct person.  That would be Sharon Lank of Nashville.  While her comment led me to believe she might be a prepper, her other postings on her Facebook page make me think otherwise.  And I'm pretty sure she would not like me.  Nonetheless, I believe in giving credit where it's due.  Unlike both parties in Washington.

    Today's Silver And Gold Prices

    Those of us long in metals - and I am in that group - got hammered today, especially if you held silver.  The metals fell in large part due to a flight to the U.S. dollar.  The EU crisis has everyone freaked, and as a result, commodities tanked, the equity markets tanked, and the Euro (predictably) fell against the USD. 

    We continue to wait to see if and when there will be a decoupling of metals from the equity markets.  Once that happens, I suspect we would see metals and other commodities grow much higher. 

    Is US Prepared For Electromagnetic Pulse Attack?

    This story is getting a lot of chatter among many in the preparedness community.  It's not that it tells us anything we didn't already know, but instead because of the timing.  Many say the Iranian situation is pushing this concern up towards the top of the threat list. 

    EMP remains a terrifying threat.  How real is it?  A number of bright people remain quite concerned...and the video in the link above is a litany of all the reasons why an EMP attack would suck.

    Conspiracy theorists aside (who promote the idea that the EMP threat is simply a fiction created by the industrial military complex to justify more defense spending), I remain concerned about the threat, simply because the ramifications could be devastating.  I still put other concerns, such as the economy and severe weather, ahead of the EMP threat.

    Tuesday, December 13, 2011

    SDS Daily Update for Tuesday, December 13, 2011

    "Stop Complaining and Panel Up."

    Someone posted this Facebook comment in response to the article that came out a day or so go regarding the dramatic increase in electricity rates over the last few years.  A number of people were blaming Obama and/or Bush for the issue.  One astute lady commented that she had put 3.6 kW solar panels on her house and was selling power back to the utility company as a way to offset her energy bills.  She concluded her post by poignantly saying, "Stop complaining and panel up."

    That could very well be the mantra of the Suburban Dad Survivalist Nation.  Queen Elizabeth is often fond of telling her grandsons "Never complain, never explain."  That stiff British upper lip may be a turn off to many, but it explains a lot about the mental toughness of those Britons who endured the Battle of London not so long ago.  We should take a lesson from these two ladies.  Complaining about Obama or Bush or Europe's mess won't help us going forward.  On the other hand, when we "panel up" - both literally and figuratively - we begin to take more control of our own destiny.

    When Arithmetic Trumps Economics

    These days, this Suburban Dad spends a fair amount of time on the treadmill.  Because he is fat.  And because he likes eating sweet things.  During my time on the treadmill in my younger and single days, I might pass much of that time checking out the talent on the Stairmaster.  Now that I am older, my head is usually down, with earbuds pumping Stone Temple Pilots or Billy Idol into my brain, flipping through a financial newsletter, a devotional or gun magazine.  (And yes, that is what my demographic is into).

    Tonight's reading assignment was to continue reading this month's Financial Intelligence Report.  Monthly columnist James Dale Davidson writes this month on the Euro crisis, he rhetorically asks (and then answers) his readers:

    But why did the establishment financial operators, normally compliant with even the most fantastic
    “fairyland” accounting, suddenly revert to using arithmetic to do their sums [in determining the financial health of Italy and the EU]? I suspect for many, the reason is they know something you don’t — that the gag is up. Think of rats deserting a sinking ship.

    As I  have discussed before on this blog, set all economic theory aside for a moment.  Set aside any proclivities you might have for class warfare or blaming Obama or Bush or Ben Bernanke.  Think in terms of simple arithmetic.  And when you do that for Italy, Davidson points out the math is pretty clear:

    According to published reports, Italy needs to refinance about €310 billion in debt next year.  Currently, the average interest rate on the expiring debt is less than 3 percent. If the Italians need to
    pay 7 percent plus on the refinancing, that implies an additional 400 basis points of cost times €310
    billion of maturing debt. This will add another €12.5 billion of interest expense to the €54 billion interest payments already scheduled.

    The problem here is twofold. Possibly optimistic projections suggest Italy’s economy will grow by 0.1 percent in real terms in 2012 and by 3 percent in nominal terms, adding up to an expected nominal gross domestic product growth of about €60 billion. By contrast, Italy’s interest costs on its mammoth debt will be about €66.5 billion in 2012, exceeding the economy’s margin of growth by 10 percent. And, while Italy is ill-prepared to grow its way out of the debt crisis, it is also too big to bail out.

    Simply put, as I said in last night's blog, math can be a bitch sometimes.  Italy cannot mathematically grow its way out of the problem.  And just as Italy doesn't have the arithmetic to do so on its side, nor does the United States.  Again, putting aside economic theory and class warfare for a moment and just looking at the raw data, you cannot tax the rich enough to ever eliminate the deficit in any meaningful way.  There's simply not enough rich people out there to soak.  Like it or not, that's reality.  We need to learn to deal with that, lest we continue down the path we're on.

    And That Path Would Be.....

    A global recession, of course.  CNBC's website leads with this story it picked up from the Financial Times.   "Policymakers are worried," we're told in the article:

    Deeper gloom has infected the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, particularly with the response of advanced-economy politicians. Pier Carlo Padoan, its chief economist, said: "We are concerned that policymakers fail to see the urgency of taking decisive action to tackle the real and growing risks to the global economy."

    And the article goes downhill from there.

    So let me ask you - just what the hell are you doing to prepare for further economic malaise and possible depression?  If your answer is "uhh," it's time to "panel up."  If you are starting to take action, I have to think you are way ahead of most people, even if you're in the first steps of preparing.

    SDS Daily Briefing for December 12, 2011

    Take A Deep Breath.  Then Exhale.

    This will likely be my longest blog entry to date.  Might want to go get a Red Bull and a snack before you read any further.

    Beginning last Thursday, the internet forums on preparedness have been talking nonstop about the reports of a federal raid on a Latter Day Saints (LDS) cannery in Tennessee, seeking information regarding its customer lists.  Many have sounded the alarm on this news, holding it up as yet another example of government intervention into the lawful activities of citizens. 

    The stories about the alleged raid vary.  Perhaps the most dramatic tale can be found at the Oathkeepers website, which I gather broke the story.  It's hard not to be alarmed when you read something like:

    The man that manages the facility relayed to him that federal agents had visited the facility and demanded a list of individuals that had been purchasing bulk food. The manager informed the agents that the facility kept no such records and that all transactions were conducted on a cash-and-carry basis. The agents pressed for any record of personal checks, credit card transactions, etc., but the manager could provide no such record. The agents appeared to become very agitated and after several minutes of questioning finally left with no information. I contacted the manager and personally confirmed this information.

    The Oathkeepers piece goes on to say:

    So why do federal agents want to know who is storing away long-term food storage? We suspect it is for the following reasons:
    1. DHS/FEMA wants to know which Americans have food storage so the federal government can at some future point confiscate that food. Just as with lists of gun owners, compiling such lists is the first step toward future confiscation.
    2. DHS wants to identify those Americans who are “switched on” and squared away enough to actually store food for coming hard times (such as during an economic collapse). That population of awake, aware, and prepared Americans poses a “threat” to whatever DHS and its masters have in store for the American people, and as Joseph Stalin so ably demonstrated, one of the easiest ways to subjugate defiant people is to confiscate their food and starve them into submission.
    The federal government already tipped their hand by sending the FBI to military surplus stores (as we reported), gun stores, and pawn shops to encourage those businesses to spy on their customers who buy MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat), bipods, “night flashlights”, high capacity magazines, rifle bipods, and bulk ammo. Maybe some of you fooled yourselves into thinking there might be some legitimate reason for them to track purchases of such items. But powdered milk and wheat berries? Those are hardly items that could be used in a terrorist attack. It must be the storage of food itself that the feds now find so offensive and so “dangerous.”

    Now, add to that this story, run by WTVF in Nashville, which reported local and state officials were doing door to door surveys in certain Nashville neighborhoods to assess people's disaster readiness.  These two stories, read together and and woven into a bigger picture, have led many to believe the government is stepping up its efforts to identify and monitor those within the prepper movement.

    I sense a large number of people in the various preparedness movements are stressing over this.  Take a deep breath.  Exhale.  Let me make the case for you why I don't think we need to worry.  And while I am at it, allow me a little latitude to make the case why reaching the conclusions listed above may actually hurt our cause.

    Do The Math

    First, let's back up a bit and talk about logistics.  As I pointed out to Atlanta Jeff over the weekend, who was celebrating/lamenting his age relative to those half of his, math can be a real bitch sometimes.  And if you are really concerned about the government coming and confiscating every one's buckets of beans and guns, this should cheer you up.

    As best I can tell, there are approximately 2.2 million active and reserve duty officers and enlisted people in the U.S. military.  Add to that another estimated 800,000 federal, state and local law enforcement officers, or roughly 3 million people commissioned to carry guns.  In some martial law scenario, these 3 million people would be the ones going house to house, confiscating stuff.

    The U.S. Census estimates there are well over 100 million homes - including condos, apartments, town homes, and so forth - in the United States.  This means for every guy or gal with a commission to carry a gun as a soldier or cop, there are 33 homes they would have to visit.  Of course, this assumes that all three million of them would engage in home clearing activities.  I think it's safe to say many of these three million would be busy doing other things, like providing maintenance to military assets, flying airplanes, cooking food for troops, arresting rapists, running jails, etc. Simply put, it would be a logistical impossibility to go door to door to every (or even most) the United States looking for guns and stored food.

    But let's say the government is able to figure out, using ATF records, who might be likely to have guns in their home.  Clearly this universe will be smaller, but with an estimated tens of millions - if not hundreds of millions - of guns in the United States, this too presents a logistical challenge.

    So let's drill down again.  Now let's suppose the government decides to go after only those people with storeable foods.  Would the government do that?

    First, the federal government, by statute and executive order, could very well do so.  However, what would be the purpose of this?  I can only think of two reasons:

    1. The government wishes to redistribute your stored food to those who need it.
    2. The government wishes to deprive you of your autonomy.

    I don't give a lot of credence to the first reason, because collectively the stored foods of all the preppers in the U.S. won't go that far towards feeding the masses for a significant period of time.  It would be a poor use of the government's resources to undertake such a seizure to yield such a relatively little amount of food.

    The second reason, if true, would be far more troubling.  And we saw this sort of thing in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, although the government confiscation there was limited to guns.  As a result, many states (including Texas) passed "Katrina Laws" to make such confiscation illegal. 

    Do You Want The Government To Promote Preparedness Or Don't You?

    And so if the state and local leaders in Tennessee are paying any attention to the reaction to these stories, no doubt they are in a quandary - either they should encourage people to prepare for disasters (and thus sent people out door to door to survey their preparendess efforts), or they should stay out of the affairs of those of us who do.  Put another way, for those of you who are worried about all of this, what is the role of government in disaster readiness?  It seems whatever action it takes, someone will criticize it for either overstepping its legal authority or for not doing enough to educate people on preparedness. 

    And In The End...Turns Out the Story Wasn't True After All.

    This story also further underscores the need to pay attention and scrutinize everything you read.  Blogger M.D. Creekmore, the proprietor of, posted this video in response to the story on the LDS cannery raid:

    Later, I obtained portions of a text of an email sent by Oathkeepers to its distribution list. I am providing exactly what was provided to me, in toto:

    We have pulled this story about the Mormon cannery being visited by federal agents because the source of the information at the cannery is now denying that he ever told us that event occurred.

    From now on, we will NOT post any such story based on what we are told by other people unless, and until, they are willing to go on video or at least on an audio recording with their info. That way, in case someone starts to crumble under the public attention or other pressures, and wants to deny what they told us, we have video or audio proof.

    My Takeaways From This

    I think there are three things to learn from this.

    First, we must correctly assess the true threats.  I do not believe massive door to door confiscations on of food and guns by law enforcement and the military on a nationwide basis are a significant threat.  Note I am not saying it's not possible; I just don't see how they could realistically do it on a nationwide basis.  Could it be done on a local or regional basis?  Absolutely, as it was done in post-Katrina New Orleans.  So while I agree we should always remain vigilant from an overreaching government, be it to protect our privacy, our right to counsel, our freedom of speech, we must also learn to discern what is the real threat versus one that is speculative or unworkable.

    Bear in mind that even if they cannot identify who is prepped before the crisis, if you are still in your home long term after a disaster, you will be relatively conspicuous to anyone looking for preppers.  In the end, all preppers out themselves by their mere existence in a long term crisis.  Never forget that.

    Second, we in the prepper movement need to cry wolf carefully.  When we raise the alarm like this story, we call into question the credibility of our movement.  There are not black helicopters behind every bush.  There are plenty of legitimate threats - economic hardship, terrorism, severe weather, to name a few - to motivate us to prepare. We don't need fake ones.  Let me say this now for a second time, friends - I am not saying we shouldn't be skeptical of our ever overreaching government.  We should be careful, however, when we make accusations like this.  Let's make sure we have all the facts.

    Finally, we as citizens need to be taking a leadership role in encouraging our government to take sensible preparation efforts which do not violate the rights of the citizens.  FEMA needs to prepare and exercise its abilities to respond to a hurricane or other disaster.  We need to encourage that.  Simultaneously, we need to encourage them to respect the rights of citizens who are prepared.

    Take a deep breath.  Exhale.  Let's keep our focus.  We still have a lot to do.

    Saturday, December 10, 2011

    SDS Weekend Update for December 10-11, 2011

    Straight Outta Compton...or Hollywood

    Check it.  Another episode of senseless gun violence in another allegedly gun free zone.  And thanks to the miracle of smart phones and YouTube, we get to see how it went down.  The best part of the video are the witness accounts of the story.  The lesson here? Go armed whenever you can, and don't be like these eye witnesses who were completely unprepared to handle something like this.

    Frozen Beer, Pink Floyd, and Alaskan Snow Drifts - A Story Of Survival

    If you read one article or story on preparedness this weekend, it should be this one.  He did a lot of things wrong...and a lot of things right.  We can all learn from this.  I'm glad he was confident enough in himself to share his experiences so that we might benefit.

    Man Runs Wild With Hammer At Mall, Despite Assertions That "Things Like That Don't Happen Here."

    The suburbs are filled with malls. Malls are filled with people.  Some of them are crazy.

    Have you discussed with the kids in your home what to do in a situation like this?  It's been a while for me, so we'll be having that conversation this weekend as a reminder.

    Thursday, December 8, 2011

    SDS Daily Briefing for Thursday, December 8, 2011

    We're Number 4,810,509! tracks Internet traffic...and my blog is now in the top 5,000,000 websites on the planet.  If you like what you're reading here, please share the link with friends and visit often.

    How Might Issues In Iran Affect Us?

    I suspect all of you have been watching the recent news coming out of Iran.  If not, just google it. 

    If the conflict escalates over the next weeks and months, I think we should expect:
    • higher gas prices.
    • an increase in the price of commodities, especially gold and silver.
    • a muted economic outlook
    Iran is no Iraq or Afghanistan.  One U.S. military official called it the greatest threat to the United States.  This threat largely stems from the country's burgeoning nuclear weapons program.

    Please put this on your list of things to monitor.

    100 Things That Disappear In A Crisis

    Game ball to Kansas Mary for sharing this with me tonight.  It's a good reference to use in case you're trying to poke holes in your plan.  I will admit there are a lot of items on this list I don't have but probably need.  That's why I draw up a budget every year for the items I want to acquire. 

    Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    SDS Daily Briefing for Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    Happy Pearl Harbor Day!

    Seventy years ago today, the Japanese navy attacked Pearl Harbor. 

    At the time, many felt like we felt right after 9/11.  Scared.  Angry. Determined.  And from that experience, the nation rallied together to fight two wars on opposite sides of the planet, and then go on to develop the American middle class.

    Can we harness that kind of spirit again?  I like to think we can.  There are still many Americans of all walks of life who want to see a vibrant economy, a smaller government, and more respect for freedom and liberty.  The challenges we face today remain difficult.  We can overcome them.  If we want to.

    CBS News Said It.  Thus, It Must Be True.

    The ATF's "Fast and Furious" operation, it can be revealed, was to be used to argue for more stringent gun laws.  In essence, the ATF "secretly encouraged gun dealers to sell to suspected traffickers for Mexican drug cartels to go after the 'big fish.'"  Put in other terms, the ATF instructed gun dealers to sell guns to suspected criminals (which is illegal) and then use that as a reason to have more restrictions on gun sales.  It's akin to illegally giving someone heroin and asking them to use it, then observing the results of such heroin use, and then using those results as justification for making more anti-heroin laws.

    Now note the source of the story - CBS News.  CBS isn't exactly World Net Daily or Glenn Beck.  It's clearly mainstream media.  And the mainstream media is telling you the Obama administration used a program in which government agents encouraged people to dangerously skirt or even break the law in order to justify more laws, and as a result at least one lawman is dead, along with at least 150 Mexican nationals.  What part of that sounds like good policy to you?

    Fear the government that fears you owning a gun. 

    Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    SDS Update for Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Two More Out There

    I taught my first concealed handgun license (CHL) class on Sunday.  My two students did a great job throughout the class, including the range portion.  They've started the application process; I hope to hear they've gotten their CHLs in the mail in the coming days.

    Two recent stories from the Houston area, such as this one and this one, highlight the need for all of us to stay vigilant, even if we live in the relative safety of the suburbs.  Crime does happen here in the 'burbs.

    More MFer stories

    I outlined back on 22 November how the MF Global debacle could affect our agricultural sector, and today's story along those lines reiterates that.  Agriculture is a capital intensive business, and big players in that sector - including many family farmers - require access to tremendous amounts of it and a secure, predictable financial market in which to keep their capital and invest it.  Fewer farmers able to plant as much food for us to eat = less food for us to eat at harvest time. 

    Pay attention, friends.  While this may not result in a food crisis, it does highlight how tenuous the system can be.  It also demonstrates to the MRE and camo crowd that if you are serious about being a prepper, you have to study everything - including the markets.

    Railway Strike Averted - For Now

    Speaking of markets, our nation narrowly avoided a massive railway strike.  As you may know, railroads carry 43% of all freight in the U.S., including a third of our exports and 70% of our coal.  Some believe a strike would have cost the U.S. economy, during this holiday shopping season, a whopping $2B a day.

    I'm not anti-union, as I think people should feel free and collectively bargain if they so choose, provided the rights of other workers who don't wish to do are not affected.  It's clear in this case the union used the upcoming holiday season as leverage to gain an advantage in the negotiation.  It's also clear such a strike would have had a devastating effect on our ability to obtain coal for heating and other basic necessities.

    The crisis you prepare for may not be the one you face.  If  you're prepared for a hurricane but end up using your supplies during a national railway crisis where there's a shortage of food at the grocery store, then your prep efforts were not in vain.

    Survival Garden Update

    I mentioned a while back I was testing some non-organic and organic gardening techniques.  I will tell you the non-organic garden is winning by a long shot. 

    In the preparedness community, many believe the only type of seeds you should use are of the heirloom variety.  I will tell you right now that in an emergency situation, if you can grow edible foods using hybrid seeds instead, those same people will use them.  They'd be crazy not to.

    Learn as much as you can about gardening, both organic techniques as well as conventional techniques.  Don't shun one for the other.  Learn about them both so you can maximize your yield long term.

    Thursday, December 1, 2011

    SDS Daily Update for Thursday, December 1, 2011

    Pay Attention To This

    Most people have no idea how critical railway shipping is to our economy.  If a strike shuts down our railway system in the coming days, we could see serious effects in our economy.  

    My suggestion - continue to plan for a soft economy for the foreseeable future.

    Suburban Evasion and Escape Class This Year

    Texas Todd and I are planning to attend one of onPoint Tactical's urban E&E class sometime in 2012.  I try to attend one out of town training class a year...and this one is what I want to do for 2012.  Not only should it be a lot of fun, I expect to learn a tremendous amount.  More details to follow.

    Sunday, November 27, 2011

    SDS Daily Update for Sunday, November 27, 2011

    Solar Ovens and Pop Tarts

    My stepdaughter is a big fan of Pop Tarts.  I hate them.  However, because I am a protective stepdad, I do from time to time sample the Pop Tarts in our inventory to ensure they are safe to eat.  Usually late at night, when no one is watching.

    Today, I heated my lunch (some sort of delicious soup Kendel made a couple of days ago) up in my solar oven.  There's not a cloud in the sky, so the solar oven works well.  The only challenge is the fact that this time of year, the sun is so low in the sky the neighboring trees require I move the oven fairly regularly to keep it in the sun.

    In any event, after I ate my soup, I knew the oven was still hot, so I decided to see how long it would take to get two Pop Tarts warmed up.  Answer: about 5 minutes in a 300 degree oven.  And since it's not good to waste food, I forced myself to eat both Pop Tarts.  My stepdaughter is so lucky to have me fretting over her Pop Tart safety.

    Saturday, November 26, 2011

    SDS Daily Update for Saturday, November 26, 2011

    DHS Denies, You Decide.

    I reported earlier on the cyber attack on a Illinois water treatment facility, supposedly the first instance of an off shore cyber attack on critical infrastructure/key resources (CIKR).  The Department of Homeland Security took a break from its usual and statutorily imposed Thanksgiving responsibilities of warning us about the dangers of deep frying turkeys to deny the story was true.  Some in the Suburban Dad Survivalist Nation have asked me to weigh in on this.

    Would DHS have incentive to claim this was not a cyber attack from off shore?  Sure it would.  If it feared Americans would start reporting to hospitals in droves because they drank water poisoned in an Al Qaeda cyber hack (remember the anthrax scare circa 2001 and the burden that placed on hospital ERs?), it could certainly try to downplay that in an effort to calm fears.  We need look no further than 2008 when then Treasury secretary Hank Paulson told the Bush cabinet and certain members of Congress we should prepare for martial law and food lines, while simultaneously telling the American people everything was fine.

    Does that mean they are not telling us the whole story here?  I think we should ask ourselves what, if anything, the water treatment entity had to gain by claiming it was hacked by an off shore entity. A play for more state and federal resources?  Attention seeking?  An effort to embarrass local political leaders or treatment facility management?  It's certainly possible. 

    We may never know the reality behind these dueling stories.  Regardless, we do know someone hacked into the control system of critical infrastructure and damaged it.  If that happened in your area, would you be able to cope for a period of time if that utility could no longer deliver water/sewer/electric/gas to your home?

    I Love How News Agencies Put The Headlines In Their URL

    In case you haven't noticed, many news agencies put the headline of a particular story into the web address for that story.  Here's one example, taken verbatim:

    That's right.  The Telegraph reports the British government is preparing for riots in the event of a collapse of the Euro.  Taken from the article, verbatim:

    Some analysts say the shock waves of such an event would risk the collapse of the entire financial system, leaving banks unable to return money to retail depositors and destroying companies dependent on bank credit.
    The Financial Services Authority this week issued a public warning to British banks to bolster their contingency plans for the break-up of the single currency.
    Some economists believe that at worst, the outright collapse of the euro could reduce GDP in its member-states by up to half and trigger mass unemployment.
    Analysts at UBS, an investment bank earlier this year warned that the most extreme consequences of a break-up include risks to basic property rights and the threat of civil disorder.
    “When the unemployment consequences are factored in, it is virtually impossible to consider a break-up scenario without some serious social consequences,” UBS said.

    How does this affect us in the U.S.?  If Europe's economy becomes so weak that it dramatically decreases their demand for American exports, it certainly would hurt our economy.  Further, the pressures this would create on the European banking  system would certainly not be limited to Europe. 

    Do I think they will have massive rioting in the streets?  I have no idea; I hope not.  But a lot of smart people in positions of authority are beginning to prepare for this possibility.  I would submit it needs to be on our radars as well.

    Wednesday, November 23, 2011

    SDS Daily Update for Wednesday, November 23, 2011

    You People Are Getting Prepared, It Seems

    A St. Louis store reports a dramatic increase in the sale of disaster foods.  People are beginning to pay more attention to the news, it seems. 

    Query: what particular news item or subject is prompting you or your friends to step up your preparedness efforts?

    I Hope You're Paying Attention To The Financial News

    Friends, the news from that sector of our world is changing rapidly and touches all of us.  Are you paying attention to it?

    The poor action in the German bond market should give all of us pause.  German bonds are some of the best on the planet.  And guess what?  There wasn't a lot of appetite for them.  Investors fear Germany will get sucked much deeper into the financial turmoil in the European Union. 

    I certainly don't have a crystal ball.  But I'm failing to see the silver lining in any of the financial news these days.

    Poignant Words From Off The Grid Radio

    I received an email today from Off The Grid Radio, a product of Solutions From Science.  In this season of giving thanks, I found this text in their email most thoughtful:

    Today, the essence of those Pilgrim ancestors can encourage us as well. We need to get away from the sloth, ease, comfort, and dependency that our present-day society encourages for the sake of building future generations that have learned to be thankful in adversity. It is in adversity that we are strengthened. It is in adversity that we are refined.

    And it is in adversity that we find our faith in God.

    Tuesday, November 22, 2011

    SDS Daily Update for Tuesday, November 22, 2011

    Sniper School Set!

    I, along with three other lobbyists, will be attending a long range rifle class on December 19.  We got our reading assignments today to prep for the class.  To say we are stoked is putting it mildly.

    Learning to shoot a rifle well requires not only practice, but also someone who can provide you with quality instruction.  Our instructor is a former Army sniper.  We'll be spending a fair amount on the academic and theoretical aspects of long range shooting before actually moving onto the range. 

    All of us who are interested in preparedness need to continually to learn new skills and practice old ones.  I'm hoping to spend more time in training in 2012.

    Putting the MF in MF Global

    This MF Global mess is far bigger than most people realize.  This story is sending shock waves not just among investors, but in the Farm Belt as well. 

    The question we have to ask is "how similar are the other banks to MF Global?"  Seeing how we bailed many of them out just two years ago, today's announcement that six large megabanks will undergo stress tests should make us all think about the health of the financial system.

    Saturday, November 19, 2011

    Daily Update for Saturday, November 19, 2011

    The Long (But Good) Week

    I've slept in two different hotels and two different time zones over the last 6 days, with over 6,000 miles flown, in weather conditions consisting of below freezing temps and 90 degrees with 85% humidity.  So I have lots to report....

    Sedation Is Good

    I made my annual pilgrimage to Rochester, Minnesota, home of the Mayo Clinic, on Monday.  I received my annual colonoscopy under twilight sedation.  The result - a prescription for some antibiotics to (hopefully) resolve what we think is a minor issue.  We'll see.

    But Before I Entered Health Mecca, I Made A Quick Detour to Faribault, Minnesota

    The Faribault Mill, manufacturers of some very fine blankets, went back on line a few month's back after a two year shut down.  I got a tour of their facilities, and I must say it's heartwarming to see industry coming back to life in the United States.  I would suggest you stop in if you're ever in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.  It's impressive to see how they were quickly able to fire up machines built circa 1940 and get them up an running again, creating great products and putting people back to work.

    My Reading On The Way To Mayo

    I read a large chunk of Rising Prices, Empty Shelves.  A creation of Solutions From Science, the book comes delivered in a three ring binder.  The book claims to give readers some insights into the history of famine, the causes of it, and how you can prepare for it.

    First, let me admit up front I have not read the entire book.  I simply ran out of time.  The book does a good job footnoting much of their research into the history and causes of famine.

    And that's where one of the problems I had with the book comes in....the footnoting of much of their propositions, rather than all of them.  Specifically, the author makes some what I believe are misguided judgements about "big business" (whatever that means) in what is otherwise a well-written treatise on the subject. 

    For example, early in the book, the author laments that Wal-Mart's CEO makes more in one hour than many of its employees makes in one day.  However, it's never made clear why this is a cause of famine or food shortage.  In another instance, the book goes into detail of how governmental policies in the U.S. in 1933 caused major food shortages.  And to be sure, it appears the author is correct in his assertion.  However, he goes on to imply that somehow "the rich and fortunate were wasting food to line their own pockets" thanks to those same policies.  It's never made clear how someone - anyone - was profiting from destroying their livestock and crops. 

    Readers should also know the book is in part an infomercial for other products from Solution From Science.  That's not to say the information in the book is incorrect; I point that out simply as an observation.

    Having said that, the book certainly gave me a lot to think about in my ongoing food storage efforts.  If you are interested in history and learning more about why we could see food shortages in the future, this book is a good primer on the subject, notwithstanding the shortcomings noted above.

    ...And Then Off to San Juan

    I officiated my first ever wedding Friday night for my cousin and her husband.  We all had a great time, and I'm looking forward to having another cousin in the family.  Congrats to both of them.

    The lesson here?  Despite our efforts to study and prepare in this unsettled world, life goes on.  Just as it has done for ages.  We get married, we have kids, we die.  We cannot afford to lose the joys of life because we were too busy preparing for something which may not happen.

    Then Again, Sometimes Those Things DO Happen...And It Makes Us Wonder...

    Pay attention, folks.  If cyberattackers from off shore can attack our water supply in the heartland of our country, we don't need much more evidence of why we should be prepared to be self-reliant for an extended period of time.

    Sunday, November 13, 2011

    SDS Daily Update for Sunday, November 13, 2011

    Plowing Through Revelation

    My Sunday School class began a series on the book of Revelation.  My wife has done a great job leading us through the first nine chapters.  We're just now getting into the portions which are rich in imagery.  In today's discussion, we talked about the famines and wars predicted in the book.

    I asked her at lunch today what her take on all of it was.  I volunteered that it makes me want to expedite the food and water storage process; that was her same sentiment. 

    What motivates you to prepare?

    Annual Colonoscopy This Week - Lucky Me!

    Part of being prepared means staying in good health.  I know of so many people who think of themselves as preppers who still smoke, don't exercise, and don't take care of their health.

    Prepping well means doing the basics well.  And part of the basics includes taking care of yourself.  If you've put off that trip to the doctor or that dental procedure, get it scheduled.  Soon.  It's part of your preparations. 

    Christmas List Time

    My wife asked for a list of Christmas ideas for me.  Of course, it's heavy on preparedness gear, just because I like playing with solar ovens, para cord, and other fun toys.  I will try to get it posted soon so you can have some gift ideas for the prepper on your list.

    Needing An Investment Idea?  Think Farm Land.

    This idea continues to get more traction.  If you are not ready to invest in metals but need something to put your money into long term, it's a good option. 

    Saturday, November 12, 2011

    SDS Daily Update for Saturday, November 12, 2011

    Three Days In Real America

    I spent three days this week traveling the back roads of rural Texas, en route to various meetings for work.  Places like Abilene are over a thousand miles away from New York and Washington.  Folks go quietly about their daily business, raising families, managing businesses, working on farms to raise our food.

    It's easy to get sucked into 24 news cycles and to feel the stress that comes with overdosing on internet news, cable news, and talk radio news.  My time away from all of that this week helped me keep things in perspective.  Regardless of what's happening to our economy and in geopolitics, we need to remind ourselves that every day, the sun still rises in east and sets in the west.  Summer will come, followed by Fall and then Winter. 

    The lesson here is that we need to find things that help us keep everything in perspective. 

    Beatdown of Elderly Man Caught on Tape

    At least they didn't have a gun.  Or maybe they did and didn't elect to use it.  This is precisely the kind of violence we should be prepared to handle, especially when in the big cities.

    Nationwide Test of EAS

    The prepper boards are full of smack talk about the first ever nationwide EAS test earlier this week. Here's a pic of me waiting with bated breath to hear it:

    I know I make being a prepper look cool.  Don't try this yourself unless you can make it look as well as, if not better, than I can.

    I've perused the various prepper/survivalist boards to see how others scored it.  The term "epic fail" appeared a lot.  Apparently a lot of folks could not hear it for one reason or another.  I will tell you that the EAS tone did not go through WSM 650 AM's iPhone app for whatever reason.  The stream went silent for a minute and then picked back up.

    A lot of folks are hating on DHS and the FCC over this right now.  Rather than talking smack, I think it's more constructive to use this as a learning experience so those agencies can get it right the next time.  Rome wasn't built in a day, after all.

    Got Me Some Buckets of Beans and Pasta Packed in CO2 and Stuff

    Last weekend I managed to get four large buckets packed with beans and pasta using the dry ice method.  I learned a lot from the experience.  Some random observations:

    • I bought way too much dry ice.  You need very little, even if you're doing a lot of buckets.
    • I had so much dry ice I elected to put some at the bottom of the bucket AND the top as well. 
    • I'm not sure it's cost effective to do it yourself, unless you get a really good deal on whatever product you're storing.  The gamma seal lids and the buckets add to the cost, so make sure you price that into your decision matrix on DIY vs. buying it already sealed.
    • Dry ice is much easier to work with than I expected.  You can touch it with your hands...just not for very long. 
    • The next time I elect to pack food myself, I think I will simply use the little oxygen absorber packs.  I'm also wondering if I could take a shop vac, put the crevice tool on it, cover the suction part with a piece of screen, and literally suck the air out of the mylar bag before sealing it. 
    • I will be storing a lot of beans and rice soon.  I need to start eating more of it in my diet.

    Friday, November 4, 2011

    SDS Daily Briefing for Friday, November 4, 2011

    Lots of Stuff To Chat About....So Let's Get To It

    Busy, busy, busy the next two weeks - so this weekend will be spent on TCB as Elvis would say - Taking Care of Business.  My blog tonight is in part my to do list for this weekend.  Don't look for me to blog much this weekend.  But don't worry - I have plenty of homework for you for the next two days.

    Fall Back

    DST comes to a screeching halt early Sunday morning.  That means it gets dark earlier for the next four depressing months.  It's also a good time to check your smoke detectors to ensure they are in working order as well. 

    Tricking Out the BOB

    I'm getting my BOB tweaked a bit this weekend.  I repacked it two weekends ago.  I need to replace the emergency meals I previously had in there. 

    Packing Staples Into Carbon Dioxide

    I have a fair amount of rice and beans that need to be put into long term storage.  I recently purchased food grade buckets and mylar bags from Emergency Essentials.  With a quick trip to the local grocery store, I'll have the dry ice I need to pack them into an oxygen-free environment.  I've never done this before, so it should be interesting to say the least.  You can read more about this method here.

    Making Preparations For My First CHL Class

    I'm tentatively planning to instruct my first class the first weekend in December.  More details to follow.  If time permits, I will visit the range where I plan to conduct the shooting portion of the test to get a lay of the land.

    Getting My Shed Organized

    It's a mess.  It's hard to get anything done in there at the moment. 

    Reading Up On The Latest Financial Goat Rodeo

    Italy's next.  States here in the U.S. are worried about running out of money due to declining tax revenues. So sayeth CNBC.  Like we didn't know that.  Rather disappointed in CNBC at the moment.

    Collection of Glenn Beck Videos On Preparedness

    Many good preparedness suggestions here in these three video clips.  Food for thought.

    Prayer Request

    I don't normally do this, but tonight a number of kids from Abilene Christian University were involved in a horrific bus crash while traveling to do some local mission work.  Two students died in the accident; many more are injured.  In a time where kids are occupying this street or that town, the ACU kids quietly went about their business, giving of their time this weekend to help others.  Please keep the ACU community in your prayers this weekend.

    Thursday, November 3, 2011

    SDS Daily Update for Thursday, November 3, 2011

    Ha!  I Told You People!

    People like to make fun of me.  Actually, let me be more accurate - people have always liked making fun of me.  For as long as I can remember.  These days, people like to poke fun at me for my unconventional outlook on current events, the fate of our nation, and my obsession with all things disastrous.  And yet, I ask you, exactly who is the goofy one here? 

    Well, it's certainly not me, since the Independent put out this article Tuesday night, reporting on the United Nation's conclusions we may have, and I am quoting here, "The UN agency warned that it could take until 2016 for global employment to return to the levels of three years ago – and that anger could erupt on the streets of Europe and other continents as a result."

    That's not from the Suburban Dad Survivalist, folks.  That's from the Blue Helmet Crew. 

    So - all y'all who think this business of prepping and planning is for nutjobs?  Your beloved UN might be more inclined to agree with me.

    Tuesday, November 1, 2011

    SDS Daily Update for Tuesday, November 1, 2011

    The Urban Danger Video

    I've shared this with a number of people, but not before in this blog (I don't think).  This two hour video is fantastic.  I will warn you up front it does have Christian overtones throughout it, but there is a lot to see and learn for people of all faiths.  I highly recommend it.

    It's Getting Starbucks

    I'm not a coffee drinker, prefering to get my caffiene delivered via Diet Mountain Dew.  So I don't frequent Starbucks that often.  Which is probably a good thing, seeing how one guy went Primate Fecal in a Sacramento Starbucks. 

    Moral to the story:  Lots of suburbs have Starbucks.  Violence can happen at Starbucks.  So, be prepared for danger wherever you go.  Even Starbucks.

    QE 3 Not A Sure Thing After All?

    A lot of folks on Wall Street felt the Fed would create some sort of way to inject more liquidity into the market...a third round of quantitative easing, so to speak.  However, many are beginning to believe this won't happen anytime soon.  According to the article, "Chairman Ben Bernanke probably won’t come to the market’s rescue by announcing any new policy initiatives and may even aid a further decline with a significant downgrade of the central bank’s official economic outlook, investors said."

    Monday, October 31, 2011

    SDS Daily Update for Monday, October 31, 2011

    Trick or Treat - Our National Debt Won't Equal 100% of our GDP For Another Two Months!

    Today, many expected our national debt to reach the point where it equals 100% of our nation's gross domestic product.  However, it looks like the Bureau of Economic Analysis thinks it won't happen for another month or two.  So party on, America!  Things are looking up!  At least for another month or so.

    Some Days, I Feel Sorry For Lawrence O'Donnell

    Lawrence O'Donnell, who hosts some sort of left of center political show or something to that effect on MSNBC, tried to help out a protester in the Occupy Oakland movement who was involved in the scrum with Oakland Police the other day.  The exchange between the two gives you some keen insights into the mind of some of these protesters:

    I actually like O'Donnell.  He's the only one on MSNBC who is intellectually honest enough to admit he's a socialist.  Unlike a lot of conservatives, I don't think socialists are inherently bad people.  Extremely misguided, but not inherently evil. 

    As I mentioned in earlier blogs, we need to be paying close attention to this.  I fear this will escalate into something tragic for all involved.

    Food and Energy Inflation - Perhaps The Important People Are Beginning to Pay Attention?

    Looks like some economists think the Fed should pay more attention to this.  Of note in the article:

    Because of the globalization of the economy and the U.S.’s diminished importance as countries such as China and India continue their growth, we are becoming price takers rather than price setters,” said Patty Edwards of Trutina Financial. “It is a long term issue, and frankly as people in these emerging economies become accustomed to eating more than one meal a day or having protein on more than a sporadic basis, we see the food inflation growing rather than diminishing.

    Suburban Dad Nation - The Sheriff Says "Carry A Concealed Weapon."

    Spartanburg, S.C. is clearly Pro-America, which is clearly proven in this article.  When law enforcement tells you that you need to start carrying, we need to pay attention.

    Sunday, October 30, 2011

    SDS Daily Update for Sunday, October 30, 2011

    31 inches of snow.  3M people without power.  50+ wind gusts.  Two deaths.  Still need a reason?

    This weekend's freakish storm up in the Northeast should give us all food for thought.  Just because a particular peril isn't supposed to be an issue during a given time of year doesn't mean we shouldn't prepare for it.  I'm betting most of those three million people are wishing right now they had better preps than they had. 

    Don't be those people. 

    Emergency Essentials Powdered Milk - $2.92 per gallon, mixed

    I like doing business with Emergency Essentials.  I find their products are competitively priced and of high quality.

    One of my recent purchases, a "Superpail" (not an average pail, mind you) of instant milk cost me $130 for 29 pounds of powdered milk.  I did the math and found I'm buying milk at less than $3 a gallon.  When we buy non-organic milk at our grocery store, this is about what it costs us.  Plus we have the added convenience of not ever running out of milk.

    I hasten to add I am the only one in the house that drinks it.  The rest of the family says they'd drink it during grid down operations, but only then.  Personally, I find it tastes better than what we buy at the store.

    I've Started Reading Pat Buchanan's New Book

    "Suicide Of A Superpower" goes far past lamenting the Balkanization of the U.S., raising the question "Will America survive to 2025?"  My ninja-like math skills deduce that's only 14 years away.

    After reading his "Day of Reckoning," a gift from my father, I concluded Buchanan had some interesting ideas about the future of our country.  His vitriol for Bush 43 in that book clearly crossed the line of objectivity, diminishing otherwise what I thought was a well crafted argument for smaller government. 

    I will be curious to read what he thinks about our future, given that is going on in the economy and geopolitics.

    Saturday, October 29, 2011

    SDS Daily Update for Saturday, October 29, 2011

    What's On My Radar?

    This will likely be my most controversial post to date.  Against my better judgment, I'm sharing this with you in hopes that it may help you in some way. 

    If I were being totally honest, I'd tell you that I don't tell you everything I'm thinking about on a particular issue about which I'm writing.  I hold back.  Sometimes, I hold back a lot.  Because as I explained it to a friend of mine who recently asked me what's motivating me to prepare, I shared with him a lesson I learned years ago while trying lawsuits before a jury.  I can't tell them how to think; I have to lead them to the conclusion and hope they reach it on their own. 

    That's what I've been trying to do here.  I don't tell you all the things I read or hear or think about, in part because me telling you how to think is not a good use of my time or yours (and in part because I don't want to scare the hell out of you).  Instead, I try to point out things in the world around us I think you might have missed in the daily bustle of life, and give you food for thought as to how those things might impact you in the future.

    Sometimes, however, we have to come clean.  For a lot of reasons.  And so tonight, I am coming (somewhat) clean with you.  I still hold back some thoughts and info, in part because I'm still trying to figure out for myself what it all means.  And sometimes it's because it's fairly controversial stuff. 

    Tonight I give you a glimpse into the things that rattle around in my head, sometimes keeping me up at night.  Some of you won't find any of this surprising, but I'm betting many of you will. 

    The things that concern me, in order:

    1. Our economy is in poor shape.  I remain willing to be convinced otherwise, but so far no one has been able to show me, with objective proof, that we aren't headed for further trouble.  At best, we will remain in this malaise for years to come.  The most compelling arguments I've heard to date are that we are better off than the rest of the world, and our positive birth rate allows us to spread the debt over a larger number of people.  If this is the our plan, we are so screwed.

    I don't know for certain how this will play out - rampant inflation? deflation? defaults on sovereign debt?  massive disruptions in our supply chains?  or simply a lot more of what we're seeing now? But I don't think we have to know the specifics.  We just have to be able to provide for ourselves for a period of time, regardless of what is happening outside. 

    Collateral to that is the Occupy Whatever movement. This has the potential to become violent. If we think Americans are somehow above those rioting Europeans, we are arrogantly kidding ourselves. Americans will riot over NBA championships....what makes us think a major welfare benefit reduction or further malaise in the jobs market won't spark waves of civil unrest here? I pray this won't happen, and as I've posted previously, I do understand much of the frustration of the Occupy protesters. But we cannot simply dismiss this as a sit-in circa 1965; see Exhibit A as to why.

    2. Terrorism.  There are plenty of toys for terrorists of all stripes - Islamic extremists, white supremacists, North Koreans, etc - to get their hands on, and a porous border system to the north and south of us allows for massive inflows of such weapons with little scrutiny.  I include within terrorism the threat of some sort of EMP attack.

    3. Government intrusion into our lives.   There's a growing element within certain groups who think anyone with a Ron Paul sticker or other similar statement is some sort of troublemaker who should be detained (the MIAC report is but one example).  And this is clearly not limited to law enforcement.  Cities cracking down on back yard gardens and home schooling comes to mind. 

    4. Decreasing ability in our agricultural sector to feed us.  I grew up on a farm so I am pro-farmer, to be sure.  But I read a story in the New York Times (I think) a few months back that said something to the effect of a 5% increase in our ag production would feed the world for only two or three weeks.  That floored me.  That means that if there is a major crop failure somewhere in the world, in one growing season, we could see major food US, of course, but we'd still feel it in terms of what we pay for food.

    5.  Pandemic.  While I currently have this fairly far down on my list of concerns, we've had a major pandemic every 100 years or so since at least the 1400s.  The last one was the Spanish Flu of 1918, which was 93 years ago.  We are due.

    So what steps would I recommend someone take?

    1. Be able to feed yourselves for as long as possible.  Costco and Sams are your new best friends.  What you don't eat you can donate and get a tax write off for it.  In other words, it doesn't cost you any more in the end - because you'll either eat it or it will become part of your charitable giving for that year.  Store what you eat.  And lots of it.  If you're using storeable foods, practice cooking with it.  Many of your grandparents and great grandparents did this...except they didn't call it "preparedness."  They called it "normal."

    2. You'll need water - a way to get it, a way to store it and a way to purify it.  Lots of options here.  The easiest way to go is to shop around for rain barrels or used food grade barrels and fill them up with water.  Winter can be a challenge if you live in a cold environment.  If you can keep them in a garage with just enough heat to keep them above 32 degrees, you're in good shape. 

    3. Some form of self protection.  Stock up on bulk ammo.

    4. Coinage.  I like junk silver.  Ask around for a reputable coin dealer and tell them you want Mercury dimes. Currently, they're worth about $2.35 bucks, due to the silver content.  I buy these whenever I can.

    5. Alternative energy.  How are  you going to run lights and radios?  Northern Tool will sell you a basic solar system for about $200, which with a $70 battery can give you all sorts of energy options.  Plus, how do you plan to cook your food and heat water?  Put some thought into this.  I love my solar oven, and I have a propane stove and some cylinders as a back up.

    6. Emergency meds and first aid.  Tough to do.  Think about what you take regularly and make a plan to get more of it stored up.  Shop on line if you have to.

    I realize this is not an inexpensive proposition.  But remember the food expense is what you'd eat/use as a charitable contribution anyway.  The water is equally pressing, but if you shop around, you can get some used food grade barrels really cheap (I got some for $20 each for 55 gallon models).

    My time line?  If we don't see some major disruption in the economy caused by (insert your favorite problem here) in the next six months, we may have some breathing room - the upcoming presidential election will give all policymakers reason to be on the Ps and Qs and not do anything stupid.  If Obama gets re-elected, get ready quickly.  A GOP president could delay the inevitable, but it will stay precarious for some time.

    Remember two things.  One - God is in control.  Put your faith in him and he will get you where you need to be.  Second, do not panic.  Make out a list with realistic time lines and budgets, and start working the plan.  Too many people get so overwhelmed by this that they get paralyzed.  Don't vapor lock.  Take action.  You will feel SO much better when you do.

    Finally, here's the question I ask myself constantly - What if I am wrong about all of this?  What if nothing happens, like Y2K?  What if I do all of this, and spend all of this money, and it's all for naught?  Won't I look foolish?  Won't I feel foolish?

    I can list a number of people who would tell me I look foolish for a number of reasons unrelated to this, so I don't sweat that one too much.  But the best answer I've been able to come up with, in general, is this - If we prepare for A, and A never happens, but instead B happens, and by being ready for A we handle B nicely, was it a waste of effort to prepare for A? 

    In a more concrete example, you and your family prepare for economic Armageddon, which never takes place.  But instead, you lose your job and are able to feed your family using your stored foods while you look for a job.  Or a tornado hits your community and knocks out your power for days on end.  Or a disaster doesn't affect you, but you're able to donate some of your supplies to friends and relatives (or complete strangers, for that matter) who are able to use it to get back on their feet?

    We buy insurance on our homes, cars and life every day.  Making preparations like the ones I describe above are just another form of insurance.  We don't feel foolish when we pay our premiums for insurance we hope we never have to use.  Why should this be any different?

    You now know what I spend a lot of time thinking about.  I hope it helps you.

    After 25 Seconds, You'd Think One Of Them Would Have Said Something

    A co-worker shared a story with me this past week about a fire drill she and her husband did at their house.  They have three kids, ranging from 13 down to six years old.  To see how prepared her kids were for a fire in their home, the parents set off one of the smoke detectors to gauge their response.

    She reported that after a full 25 seconds of alarm, no one showed up or asked what was wrong.  When asked, the kids admitted they heard it but thought it was a false alarm.  She's planning more rigorous fire drills as a result.

    Do your kids know how to react to a smoke detector?  Test them this weekend.  The results may surprise you.

    Sam's Club Report - Jif Peanut Butter Prices

    I reported a couple of weeks ago the price of peanut butter, a staple in the larder of many preppers, should go up 40% or so in the coming weeks.  I'm pleased to report that at Sam's this evening, the price remains constant to what I stocked up at two months ago.

    It's my understanding we should see prices go up in November.  Take advantage of the lower price now.

    Thursday, October 27, 2011

    SDS Daily Update for Thursday, October 27, 2011

    So - Everything's Okay Now, Right?

    I hadn't planned on blogging tonight.  Beavis and Butthead returned to the airwaves this evening after a several year hiatus (awesome!), the Texas Rangers are up  6-4 in the top of the seventh inning, and the University of Miami is mounting a comeback against the University of Virginia (Go Canes!).  But there's a few things I wanted to mention tonight.

    First, to hear the financial media tell it, we are officially out of the financial mess we were in.  today's massive rally in the Dow came on somewhat higher volume .  While this is not a bad sign, you would hope to see such a rally with a massive amount of shares being purchased.  We did not see that today.  Thus, I remain skeptical of the current uptrend.  The amount of volatility we've experienced over the last three months signals to me that the market is simply unhealthy. 

    Add to that the fact no one, except for perhaps the New York Times, is discussing the fact the EU agreement does nothing to address the Italian situation.  Or the Portugal situation.  Or Spain's situation, for that matter.  Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, whom I criticized earlier this week, pulls himself out of the ditch with tonight's analysis in which he drives this point home far better than I ever could.  The "Grecian Vortex," to use his term, is quite apropos. 

    The GDP numbers came in for the quarter as well, at a 2.5%  pace.  As one commentator described it, it's like your kid who usually makes Ds and Fs in school bringing home a C.  It's an improvement, but not nearly enough to demonstrate a meaningful change.  And jobless claims remained above 400,000 this week.

    I'm still waiting for someone to explain to me, with objective data, why we're out of the woods. 

    Tuesday, October 25, 2011

    SDS Daily Briefing for Tuesday, October 25, 2011

    What's Playing In Peoria?  Teen Mob Violence.

    I saw this story on Drudge - Peoria, Illinois is located not too far from the HQ of my employer, so I tend to track on things like this.  Teen mob violence continues to rise across the country, and when it starts hitting middle America like Peoria, we need to pay attention.  The home of Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT), Peoria isn't exactly the 'hood. 

    As members of the Suburban Dad Survivalist Nation, we simply must pay more attention to what's going on in our communities and be ready to take care of our homes and families in the event of escalating violence.  Make your family members aware of the challenges we're facing, and make sure they stay alert to danger in our neighborhoods.

    The SDS - A Source of Uplifting News

    I chatted with a couple of guys at work today about the presidential race and our economy as a whole.  As usual, I shared my "why I think we are so screwed" sound bites with them.  As I left the conversation, they thanked me for giving them such an uplifting pep talk.

    Meanwhile, I got back to my desk and casually checked on my latest investment as of yesterday: selling First Solar (NASDAQ: FSLR) short.  (That means, in essence, I invested in such a way that I only profit if the shares go down in price.)  I felt I'd timed the investment fairly well yesterday afternoon, and so I wanted to see how my theory held.

    What I didn't know yesterday afternoon was that today, the CEO of the company abruptly left his job, ostensibly forced out by the board of directors.  Today, First Solar closed down a whopping 25%...meaning I made 25% in just one day.

    Now, I don't share this story to brag - for every awesome trade I've done, I can show you ten more which really, really suck.  But my point is this: even in times of crisis, there are things we can do to not only be prepared, but to come out ahead.  One thing I've started doing is shorting stocks, like I did yesterday, following the guidance of Stansberry Research.

    Don't get scared, friends.  Get prepared.  And when you do, you'll sleep better at night and find opportunities to come out ahead.

    Monday, October 24, 2011

    SDS Daily Briefing for Monday, October 24, 2011

    "World Power Swings Back To America;" Santa and Easter Bunny Lead The Effort

    I've read a fair amount of chatter today about the Ambrose Evans-Pritchard piece in today's UK Telegraph.  Entitled "World Power Swings Back To America," Evans-Pritchard outlines his arguments as to why the U.S. has left the precipice of economic disaster.  You can read the piece and come up with your own conclusions, but I would submit the usually insightful Evans-Pritchard totally biffs this call for the following reasons:

    1. It's not that we're all that awesome right now; we just suck less than China and the EU.  To E-P's credit, he does concede "the switch in advantage to the US is relative. It does not imply a healthy US recovery. The global depression will grind on as much of the Western world tightens fiscal policy and slowly purges debt, and as China deflates its credit bubble." (emphasis added) 
    2. Chinese inflation is near the point of spontaneous combustion, and the EU is one or two bad decisions away from a credit crisis of ecumenical proportions.  Think your way through this one, folks, because I'm not sure E-P has.  If China can't continue to support buying and holding our debt, and if Europeans can no longer obtain credit to import U.S. made products, exactly how are we in the U.S. coming out on top?
    3. Cheaper energy, obtained here in the U.S. is great - provided others are able to buy the stuff we make using said cheaper energy.  We live in a global economy.  In the past, when one nation struggled, other nations rushed in with capital to take advantage of the lower asset valuations.  We're clearly not in a position to do that for these other nations we are now supposedly leading out of the global crisis.
    Lest you think I am a perma-bear, always pessimistic on our economy and its future, rest assured I am not.  And as I have told many people, I'm more than willing to be convinced what we're seeing now in the markets is nothing but a spectacular buying opportunity and that the Dow will be back north of 14,000 sometime this winter.  Needless to say, I am still waiting to be convinced.

    So, SDS Nation - what do you think?  Do you believe the U.S. is back in the driver's seat?  Or are we still facing economic malaise for some time to come?

    Saturday, October 22, 2011

    SDS Daily Briefing for Saturday, October 22, 2011

    Are You Saving Your Nickels?

    If I were to give you a dollar for twenty nickels, would you take me up on it?  And if so, who got the better deal?

    Well, depending on the price of copper and nickel on the day of the transaction, it's clear one of us came out ahead.  The government makes nickels using the same formula it's used for the last 65 years - 75% copper, 25% nickel.  Thus, if the price of these two metals increase, a nickel is actually worth more than five cents.  Similarly, if the price of copper tanks, as it has recently, a nickel is worth less than five cents.

    Coininflation keeps track of the melt value of various coins.  As the name implies, "melt value" is simply the value of the metal in the coin if we melted it down.  Before you go outside and start taking a blowtorch to your piggy bank's contents, note well there are some restrictions on melting pennies and nickels to extract their metal content. 

    Jim Rawles wrote an excellent piece on this, updated just last week.  I encourage you to read it.  It's a fun and simple way to participate in metals speculation with essentially no risk.  Kids will love doing it as well.  As for me, my piggy bank where I dump my change every day filled up recently, so I took all of the nickels out of it and stored them away.  In a worse case scenario, they're still worth five cents.  However, should the U.S. Mint reformulate the nickel's composition (and assuming at some point, the price of copper rebounds), the "old" nickels could be worth much more.

    And if you do elect to do this, you will be in good company.  Successful Texas hedge fund manager Kyle Bass reportedly holds 20,000,000 nickels as an investment. 

    Big Ol' Bucket Of Powdered Milk

    This weekend's to do list includes cleaning out more closet space to make way for more storeable foods.  In my latest purchase from Emergency Essentials, I bought a bucket of no-fat, fortified instant milk.  I like the taste of it, and it's comparably priced with what you get at the grocery store.

    I also received some food grade buckets, and if I can find some dry ice this weekend, I'm going to pack them with some bulk beans and rice.  The dry ice method works well for these items.