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.