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.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

SDS Daily Blog for Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

A few years back, I tried to take an honest inventory of the areas in my life needing improvement.  Charity came in fairly high on the list.

I've made some good strides in this regard.  I will admit it's easier to be charitable when you find causes you are very passionate about.  And so I enjoy supporting not only my church and other ministries, but also animal shelters,, and my alma maters.

Even then, I try to focus on specific projects or areas where I want my money to go.  And so when my high school purchased an emergency siren to alert the school of severe weather or an active shooter situation, I knew I needed to do what I could to help fund it.  After all, if donors can put their names on buildings, endowed teaching chairs, and football stadiums, then you ought to be able to put your name on a siren as well. 

If you are into preparedness, think about ways to use your charitable giving as an opportunity to help others be prepared.

Should We Fear a Cyber Attack?

First, let me say this - I'm not a techie in any sense.  As long as my email and internet are working, and I can create the occasional Word or Excel doc, I'm good.  And so I don't always understand the nuances of cyber attacks, but I know enough to say it would suck if it happened. 

Tonight ABC is reporting computer viruses found in Europe show similarities to the Stuxnet virus used against Iran a few months back. 

What are you doing to protect yourself?  Aside from using a good antivirus and backing up my computer nightly with an external hard drive (I'm having a hard time embracing "the cloud"), I'm somewhat at a loss as to what we're supposed to do to prepare ourselves for that contingency.  If you know, please leave a comment below.

More Raping and Killing In The Forecast?

Vice President Joe Biden put on his Mel Kiper, Jr. wig and predicted more rapes and murders in our country if the jobs bill isn't passed.

Now, I'm not bringing this up to create political debate.  I mention this because anytime a President or Vice-President predicts violent crime will go up, it's newsworthy.  My question is - do you believe it?  And if so, what are you going to do about it to be better prepared?

Monday, October 17, 2011

SDS Daily Briefing for Monday, October 17, 2011

My Mental Methadone For The Evening

I over consume two things. First, Diet Mountain Dew.  I drink WAY too much of it. 

And second, although not as problematic as Diet Mountain Dew, is online news.  News about politics, current events, and the financial markets, to be exact.

Over consuming news can really stress me out and make it difficult for me to sleep.  I'm not kidding.  I have stared at the ceiling many a night, trying to sleep, with the news of the day swirling in my head. 

Today was a prime example of what happens when I over consume news.  I started to feel fidgety and even a bit angry about what I was reading.  But then, Navy Mike posted this story on his Facebook page - an article from the New York Times, no less - which has really helped me to relax tonight.  And for that, I am quite grateful.

So, Let's Focus

There's a lot of news out there right now.  The issues in Europe, the ongoing malaise in our own economy, the threats of violence against "the 1%"  by some claiming to be part of the OWS movement, and the war drums over Iran can easily distract us.  But we need to stay focused on what's important.  And that would be....

  • Fall is coming.  Get your home ready for cooler temperatures.  We'll be going to standard time soon, which in our house means we change batteries in the smoke detectors.  It also means Tox will soon have to re-qualify with the fire escape ladder from her bedroom.  The last time she did it, she had to extricate herself, from a starting position on her bed, to the ground in under 90 seconds.  This year, I may cut that down to 60 seconds.
  • Where are you on food storage?  There's some chatter in the financial media as to whether commodity prices will fall, resulting in cheaper food.  Don't bet on it, in my opinion.  As I mentioned in the last blog entry, things like peanut butter are about to get more expensive.  And if the Fed announces some form of QE 3, watch for food prices to spike higher.
  • Christmas is coming....start saving money to pay for it now.  January is miserable for so many Americans, in large part because they charge Christmas gifts to their credit cards...and those cards come due right after the holidays are over.  One way to fix that is to save up now to pay for Christmas in cash.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

SDS Daily Update for Thursday, October 13, 2011

It's a short one tonight, folks, as I have a lot to do this evening.  But I wanted to share a few things with you to discuss with your friends tomorrow at lunch and over the weekend...


Harrisburg, Pennsylvania's city council voted earlier this week to declare bankruptcy.  No joke.  A town of 50,000, Harrisburg has struggled financially for years.  The economic downturn certainly made their problems much worse.

Query: Is this an anomaly?  Or a harbinger of more cities and states to declare bankruptcy/default on their bonds? 

And who did CNN interview to discuss this?  Why Meridith Whitney, of course, who I have mentioned in this blog on at least one occasion in the last thirty days. 

Peanut Butter

The world's perfect food - peanut butter - will soon rise sharply in price in the next few weeks, according to a number of sources today.  A number of factors contributed to this, including a lackluster peanut crop.  Frequent readers know inflation has been creeping into our food prices for quite some time now, which no doubt contributes to this as well.

I'm a PB addict.  George Washington Carver should have his own holiday for creating it.  In addition to being hella-awesome, it's a fantastic emergency food - packed with lots of protein and fats for energy.  I recommend people stock up on it.

As such, I will be stocking up at Costco/Sam's this weekend in an effort to hedge against higher prices.  You should too.


I passed my written exam for the CHL instructor class today.  Tomorrow, it's off to the range to qualify with the revolver and the semi-auto. 

Quote of the day from the instructors (in reference to when husbands and wives shoot together on the range): "The wife will always smack that boo-tay [of her husband]."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

SDS Daily update for Wednesday, October 12, 2011

And Sometimes, The Suburban Dad Next Door Is - Get This - A Terrorist

In case you missed it (and given last night's GOP debate and the NCAA's decision not to pursue its investigation into whether Cam Newton tried to cash in on his collegiate football talent, it's understandable if you did), the U.S. State Department is aflutter over revelations the Iranian government tried to whack a Saudi ambassador in Washington. 

Yeah, this is kind of a big deal, for a number of reasons.  Aside from the fact countries just don't run around whacking ambassadors from other countries as a matter of principle, the fact that it was Iran trying to play the role of mafia boss further complicates a number of things in the Middle East picture, not to mention our relationship with Tehran.  The Saudis, of course, are livid; the State Department is a hair shy of saber rattling.  Needless to say, this is not how Ahmadinejad should win friends and influence people.  (On a side note, you can't spell Ahmadinejad without "mad."  Or "dine.")

As I traditionally ask in rhetorical fashion - why should we, the proud members of the Suburban Dad Survivalist Nation - care about what the Mad Diner is doing to some other Middle Eastern country?  For starters, it's an important lesson in where terrorists come from.

Now before you say "Paul, we all know terrorists come from the Middle East," let's learn more about one particular yahoo involved in this goat rodeo.  Manssor Arbabsiar, an Iranian national charged in the plot, lives in a suburb.  A mere 18 miles away from my house. 

The Austin American Statesman reported Arbabsiar lived in Round Rock, Texas, a typical American suburb just north of Austin.  According to one of the neighbors, ""This is very eye-opening when you live next door to someone and you just think they're weird." 

I don't recommend being all paranoid and calling the FBI the next time your foreign born neighbor acts asocial towards you.  Otherwise, in my hood, I'd be calling them a lot if that were the case. Plus, that's a lousy way to live your life.  And like them, we, too, were once foreigners in this land.

But it serves as a stark reminder the suburban dad next door could very well be planning some sort of terrorist act, which ironically makes me wonder what my neighbors say about me.  In any event, I am not sure what we're to do with this story, other than remain vigilant in these interesting times.

Be The Sheepdog

I've not spent any time talking about the certification class I am taking this week - the one where, if I pass tomorrow's written test and Friday's shooting test on the range, I will be eligible to teach the concealed handgun licensing course in Texas. 

In today's class, we listened to the 911 call made by Pasadena, TX resident Joe Horn.  You can listen to the entire eight minute call here, which I recommend any gun owner who plans to use a firearm to defend themselves or their homes:

Clearly, Joe Horn put himself into a position he should not have.  Nonetheless, the grand jury refused to indict him for killing two men, causing a great amount of protests and controversy.

Our instructors like to tell us that the CHL community needs to be the sheepdogs of society.  We are not called to be law enforcement or vigilantes; we're to learn from the mistakes of Mr. Horn.  Rather, we are good citizens who, by virtue of our training and desire to live in a safe community, often feel compelled to rush to the aid of others in distress.

This may mean exercising our rights to use deadly force to stop a child from being murdered.  It may also mean stopping to help someone on the side of the road in distress, a neighbor who has injured themselves, or simply removing a piece of debris in the roadway.  Being a good citizen doesn't end with simply being law-abiding.  It means we help those in need.

The Suburban Dad Survivalist Nation should remember that.

Monday, October 10, 2011

SDS Daily Update for Monday, October 10, 2011

Suburban Dads - It's October 9.  Do You Know Where Your Pensions Are?

In financial commentator Porter Stansberry's daily email, today he reminds us to keep our eye on the growing pension problem in the United States.  Seems kinda odd that we'd be worried about pensions on a day like today - after all, the financial media was all ga-ga over today's 300+ point gain in the Dow despite the fact volume came in at a paltry 144M shares, or 32% below average.  But we're going to omit that bit of news, because it might make us feel bad.  That's why I'm putting it in such a small font so most people won't be able to read it.

From Stansberry's email today:

An article in the Wall Street Journal today discussed state pension funds considering lowering return targets – historically around 8% – in the face of a slack market. Warren Buffett expects the market to return around 5% a year for the foreseeable future. Assuming he's correct (we think he's close), that extra 3% would be a huge achievement.....

"To target 8% means some aggressive trading," said Jeffrey Friedman, a senior market strategist at MF Global. "Ten-year Treasurys are yielding around 2%, economists say we are headed for a double-dip, and house prices aren't getting back to 2007 levels for the next decade, maybe... Good luck to them."

Couple this with Robert Wiedemer's musings I mentioned in an earlier blog.  In a special report on the "Baby Boomer Crisis, " Wiedemer concluded "pensions are likely to encounter severe stress as outlays outpace intakes.  The investments in stocks and bonds will be under huge pressure.  Many pensions' viability is predicated on high long-term stock-market returns.  If the market under performs, the pensions will be under funded."

Friends, I'm not going to beat this to one to death.  The writing on the bathroom stall is clear - the Suburban Dad Nation needs a multi-faceted plan to finance our retirement needs.  Social Security won't be there when I retire; I doubt Medicare will be.  I have a retirement fund like most of you do.  However, I have no idea how well these will perform long run.

I'm not trying to scare or depress you.  But I am beseeching you to take an active role in planning your retirement, regardless of how old (or young) you are.  Start paying attention to financial news.  Educate yourself.  And take steps to put yourself in a great position to retire comfortably.  I'm confident it can still be done, but it's up to us to make it happen.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

SDS Daily Update for Sunday, October 9, 2011

STRATFOR Reporting Outbreak Of Violence In Cairo

According to Stratfor this afternoon, demonstrators fired at soldiers in Cairo.  "Coptic Christian protesters clashed with pro-government forces Oct. 9, killing at least 23 people and injuring 180."  From their bulletin: "Given elections scheduled for November, and the apparent magnitude of the violence, it would appear that this event is highly significant. We expect details and analysis to evolve as the events unfold."

U.S. markets will not be closed tomorrow for Columbus Day.  I'm interested to see how this affects oil prices. Before this story broke, Saudi oil chief Khalid Al Fahid told the Wall Street Journal that Saudi Arabia did not plan to increase production as previously planned.

Suburban Dads care because Suburban Dads drive....Suburbans.  And pick up trucks.  And other gas guzzlers (my current ride is a big ass Toyota Tundra 4x4.  Made in Texas.  By Texans.  For all Americans.)  In addition to possibly destabilizing the oil markets, this story clearly indicates Arab Spring is still in bloom.  More geopolitical analysis will follow in the coming days.

Rainwater Collection In Full Effect

The Texas rains overnight put enough rain water into my five new (to me) water barrels so that they are now 60% full.  So as of right now, I have approximately 275 gallons of water ready to go for garden watering or any other water need for that matter.  Of course, the water isn't crystal clear - by a long shot, but it's nothing a pre-filter, a bit of chlorine and a Berkey water filter system can't turn into drinking water.

Speaking Of Chlorine...

I'm not sure how one starts a bleach fight in a WalMart, but apparently these folks do.  Yet another reminder that the Suburban Dad Nation needs to be vigilant at all times, because you never know when something this messed up can happen when you're in WalMart.  Then again...

And I've already berated my Baltimore-based sister-in-law who was apparently too freaking lazy to go to the WalMart that day and get implicated in a bleach fight.

This Week...

I'm on vacation this week, but I'm not heading anywhere exotic.  I will be staying here in town attending the certification class to teach the concealed handgun license course in Texas.  Four days in the classroom, half a day on the range.  We'll see how it goes.

I should have done this a long time ago.  I'm looking forward to helping people get their license to carry.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

SDS Daily Update for Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Suburban Dad Survivalist Weighs In On Those Campers on Wall Street

I'd not planned on weighing in on any of this, primarily because it's my belief the Occupy Wall Street/City Hall/Insert Target Of Dissastifaction Here is merely a symptom of a much larger problem, which I've been addressing over the last couple of weeks.  A number of people however have asked my thoughts on it, so I wanted to take some time in putting together what we, the Suburban Dad Nation, should take from all of it.

First, and this may surprise a number of you, let me go on record as saying I understand why so many young people are voicing dissatisfaction with our government and economic system.  This frustration, stemming no doubt from that demographic's ability to find work in this economy and beginning to understand the gargantuan public debt load they will soon inherit, would lead most people to take action such as peaceful demonstration.  And for that, I stand with them.

The OSW movement demonstrates, with Dolby Surround Sound clarity, is how financially, politically, legally and economically illiterate our nation has become.  Note I am not calling these people in the protests stupid (although some of them clearly are), but their comments are simply inane.  Here's one of many:

Now I realize I am picking and choosing videos here, but this gentleman clearly has made a lot of effort to express his frustration....and yet he has no high school level understanding of American government or economics.  And he is one of many.  This is what should concern us; I'm far, far more worried about the fact our fellow citizens make little to no effort to understand the most basic of principles in our capitalist system/republican form of government.  

And what precisely is wrong with what he's saying?  Well, for starters, unless he made his own clothes and walked from California, the resources he used to get there were made by corporations.  It's ironic these protesters condemn corporations as evil and yet make no explanation/apology for utilizing the fruits of corporations for their protesting efforts.

Next, the reason no one is going to jail over bank bailouts is because - get this - it's not illegal.  Don't you think the Justice Department would be prosecuting Wall Streeters if they could?  They can't, of course, because they didn't break any laws. 

Further, to criminalize decisions on what corporations do with bailout money would only discourage them from taking it.  Now before we go any further, I just want to say up front I opposed TARP and all of the other bailout programs - the reason we're in this mess in large part is because the government decided to pick winners and losers.  Attaching criminal liability to bad business decisions would only further stifle the recovery.

Finally, corporations don't vote.  People vote.  If the majority of people don't like the fact their particular elected official accepted contributions from corporations, they get a chance every few years to fire them.  These OWS people need to quit whining about corporate money...especially when they are soto voce on political contributions from big labor and groups like the Tides Foundation.  Note I have no objection to labor or a Soros-funded group from engaging in the political process; I simply think if you're going to exclude funding for those causes you despise, then you should be willing to have your own funding limited as well.

I always try to give you some action items in response to the things I blog about.  Here are a few on this subject:

  • Make sure you are educating yourself and your family on not only current events, but also the fundamentals on how our country works.  That means we need a healthy understanding of what capitalism is and isn't.  You can be a socialist if you'd like, but I would submit calling yourself a socialist just because you think poverty and lack of health insurance were caused by capitalism reflects poorly on your understanding on both capitalism and socialism.
  • Continue to monitor this and pray it doesn't turn into something violent.  Sadly,  I think there are Americans - primarily on the left - who sickly hope this turns into a riot. 
  • Become the expert your friends and families come to for guidance on these issues.  You can be "for" corporations without supporting bailout money going execs.  You can be "for" changing laws which create more transparency in our financial system without being a socialist.  More than ever, our nation is in dire need of people who are willing to educate themselves on the issues and be thought and opinion leaders - not advancing a Republican or Democratic agenda, but rather advocating for more fiscal responsibility, more transparency at the Federal Reserve, and more policies which have been proven to strengthen our economy and put people back to work.

Rain Barrels Filling Up/Horticultural Drag Race On A Rain Delay

The Good Lord has seen fit to send some much needed rain our way.  My new rain barrels are filling up nicely; however it became quickly apparent I had not tightened the manifold connections to the barrels.  I finally got them tightened up so that they would stop leaking.  The radar currently has more rain coming this way...I'm hoping I can bank another 275 gallons or so.

I prepped the wading pools last week for my gardening experiment. However, with all the rain, I'm reluctant to fill them up with dirt and plant the seeds tonight.  I'm hopeful I can get them set up tomorrow; if so, pictures will follow.

"An Entire System Of Global Trade Is At Risk."

I may need those gardens to produce faster than normal if we are truly at the brink of a major problem in our global trade system.  I found this quote from the Telegraph's editorial most poignant: "But now it appears that the difficulties of 2008 were but a foretaste of what was to come. With the European banking system again on the verge of collapse, there is a sense that politicians and economists are out of options, that governments and central banks are powerless before events."

The British media isn't the only outlet foretelling doom.  CNBC printed an article on its website earlier this week using "Greece" and "death spiral" in the same sentence

Remember - The EU takes in over 20% of the U.S. exports.  If they cannot get credit at their banks to buy our goods, our economy will suffer.  (All that stuff I said earlier about the need for being up to date on current issues?  This is a prime example of why.)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

SDS Daily Update for Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Chemical Plants Do Blow Up

Yesterday's fire at a Texas chemical plant, which shut down I-35 and forced evacuations of neighborhoods, should serve as yet one more reason why we should be prepared.  And part of being prepared is a) knowing who your neighbors are and b) when their place blows up, is there anything in it that could harm me or my property?

Situational awareness remains a critical skill.  It's not enough to be on the lookout for people that can hurt you - we must focus on everything that can hurt us, through ill-intent or simply by accident.

And When Texas Isn't On Fire, It's....Well, These Days It's Always On Fire Somewhere

Another fire near Bastrop, Texas lit up this afternoon.  At the time of this blog, it had consumed over 800 acres.  Many people have been ordered to evacuate their homes ahead of the fire.

The wildfire danger will remain an ongoing one.  I think a lot of people thought it was a one weekend event.  Until we get a significant amount of rain, the threat will stay with us.

Those of you outside of Texas should learn from us.  Water management will continue to grow in importance in the coming years...some are calling water the next gold, for the reasons outlined in this article.  Mandatory water conservation will likely become a reality.

How does the Suburban Dad play this?  Three ways:

  • Move to water efficient appliances and fixtures.  We do that as old ones wear out.
  • Move landscaping to xeriscaping.  A lot of our neighbors are already doing that; I suspect we'll begin taking steps in that direction next year.
  • Install a rainwater harvesting system.  What little rain we get will be precious.  As I reported last week, my rainwater collection system continues to grow.  It doesn't take a lot of rain to yield a lot of water.
Back In The Left Seat

Tomorrow morning, I'm scheduled to end my nearly 28 month hiatus from the cockpit and return to the front left seat of an aircraft.  This time, I will be conducting a biennial flight review (BFR) in a rented Piper Arrow, which I am told will qualify me to fly all the other aircraft in this particular flight school's fleet. 

I've learned a lot about preparedness through my aviation studies.  We'll see how easily it comes back to me.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

SDS Daily Update for Sunday, October 1, 2011

Thinking of Rick Rescorla

If you've been prepping for any measurable length of time, you will occasionally ask yourself why you're bothering to do so.  It can seem rather silly, especially if you're preparing for contingencies not caused by natural disasters.

When I start to think that way, I'm always reminded of Rick Rescorla.  Rescorla worked as head of security for Morgan Stanley in the World Trade Center.  He predicted the events of 9/11, and in doing so created a vigorous training schedule for his people.  Many credit his efforts for saving thousands of lives on 9/11. 

It wasn't raining when Noah built the ark.  These are the times where we shore up our preparedness plans, just as Rescorla did before 9/11.

"As Prisoner Exchange Begins, LA County Officials Predict Doom"

Rescorla prepared for a lot of contingencies, but I doubt he ever prepared for a mass exodus of felons from our prison system.  Headlines like this will certainly help sell newspapers.  But are they accurate?

L.A. officials plan to release thousands of nonviolent convicted felons in the coming weeks to make way for those inmates being transferred from state facilities to county facilities.  All of this stems from that-word-some-of-us-who-occasionally-read-this-blog-don't-think-people-in-the-suburbs-care-that-much-about: the economy.  Yes, the public finance system of California cannot house all the criminals it collects from its streets, and so the U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this year the state had to fix its overcrowding problem.  And the headline above reflects the solution. 

What's a suburban dad to do in response to this news?  First, assuming again the early released offenders are in fact nonviolent - drug possession, non-violent theft, multiple DUI convicts - all we would really need to do is to heighten our awareness.  But the problem is a bit more complex than that.  In my opinion, it's not that you're releasing non-violent offenders.  It's that you are releasing non-violent offenders (who are often poorly educated, unskilled young men with chemical addiction issues) into a city with an unemployment rate of 12.7%.  What part of that sounds like a good idea?

The state of California must depopulate its prisons.  They have no choice.  Therefore, residents there have no choice but to not only heighten their awareness, but also to be prepared for an increased risk in property crimes (theft, burglary) as people look for ways to support themselves and their unhealthy habits.

Sorry, MRE eaters and camo wearers.  The economy does matter.

Roseanne Barr - Actor, Comedian, Public Policy Wonk

Even she agrees with me that the economy matters.  I share this as yet another example of the tension growing within our country.  Rather than criticize what she's saying, I'd rather we focus on the bigger picture people seem to be missing.  From her interview with Russia Today:

"Part of my platform is, of course, the guilty must be punished and that we no longer let our children see their guilty leaders getting away with murder. Because it teaches children, you know, that they don't have to have any morals as long as they have guns and are bullies and I don't think that's a good message," Barr told Russia Today (RT).

"I do say that I am in favor of the return of the guillotine and that is for the worst of the worst of the guilty.

"I first would allow the guilty bankers to pay, you know, the ability to pay back anything over $100 million [of] personal wealth because I believe in a maximum wage of $100 million. And if they are unable to live on that amount of that amount then they should, you know, go to the reeducation camps and if that doesn't help, then being beheaded," Barr said with a straight face.

Random thoughts, in no particular order:

  1. This is what passes for civil discourse in our political process now - calling for the beheading of "guilty" bankers (of course she fails to elaborate on what constitutes a "guilty" banker, I suspect by design), and "re-education camps" for those same bankers who want to make more money than Ms. Barr declares is acceptable. 
  2. I suspect this line of thinking will continue to gain traction.  And there are so many problems with it, but the thing I want to leave with all of you is this:  At some point, Ms. Barr's $100M threshold won't be enough to satisfy the masses who want to punish the "rich."  That threshold will drop over time....and before you know it, many of you will be considered the "rich." 

    Don't believe me? The top 25% of earners in the United States in 2008 paid 86.34% of all income taxes.  That same year, the top 31.8% of all households in the U.S. made at least $75K a year.  Think about that - "the rich," depending on how you define it, include a married couple each making $40K a year.  That's not "rich" in my book.
So - what's a Suburban Dad to do with this?  First, be prepared to share with friends and co-workers who are so hell bent on raising taxes on rich people to fix our problems why it won't work.  Here's the soundbite I use: "Forget Economics 101.  Forget about class warfare (which by the way, that's what this is).  Just use simple math.  There simply aren't enough people in the country you can tax high enough to fix the problem of eliminating the deficit and paying down our national debt."

CPAs, and financial advisers are a wealth of knowledge.  Seek out people who not only know what the tax issues are today but also who can articulate a logical opinion as to what we may see long term and how to handle that.

Third, get involved.  Support local and federal political candidates with your time and contributions who believe in the things you believe in.  Make your opinion known.  I can tell you as a lobbyist that few people actually bother to contact their legislators to share their concerns.  Support for a candidate means a lot to them - we need to be the kind of people our elected leaders listen to.

Last, and I sound like a broken record, keep getting prepared.  And by that, I mean becoming more self sufficient and more able to sustain yourself for a period of time. 

Horticultural Drag Race

Speaking of Roseanne Barr, the sometimes macadamia nut farmer, I'm beginning on an agricultural project of my own which will certainly tax every bit of skill I gleaned from years in 4-H and growing up on the farm.

This week, I will be setting up two wading pool sized vegetable gardens in my yard - using old wading pools some friends in my Sunday School class gave me - and forcing them to compete against each other for the top prize of "Awesome Survival Garden."

The two contestants are:

Hippie Organic Garden.  This garden will be run using nothing but organic soil, organic fertilizers, and heirloom seeds.  It will rely solely upon Mother Nature to provide for all of its needs, none of which I will withhold from it.  Its produce will be happy, healthy, and sustainable, contributing to the well being of the planet.

MiracleGro, Inc.  Corporate America shows up to this event with nothing but the finest stuff the know -it-all at Home Depot would sell me.  This win-at-all-costs/rubbin'-is-racin'/if-your-not-first-you're-last contestant gets whatever Monsanto can cook up in its secret labs, where it no doubt carries out eugenics testing and researches ways to intensify the melting of the polar icecaps.  If you could combine steroids and crack cocaine into a plant food source, this garden would get it by the bucket full.

The preparedness community needs to know - once and for all - what will work and what won't when it's critical for it to do so.

Pictures and more details coming this week.