Tuesday, December 13, 2011

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 survivalblog.net, 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.

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