Saturday, June 30, 2012

Daily Briefing for Saturday, June 30, 2012

End of Q2

I went through my January 2012 newsletter to see if I'd made any major blunders in my predictions.  From my analysis, in toto:

Now that I’ve laid that groundwork, I’m going to give you my talking points on what I think we
should expect in 2012.

1. Unemployment numbers will remain relatively stagnant. Even if we continue to see an
improving trend, I would not expect it to be a strong enough trend to result in meaningful recovery.

2. I tend to agree with Jim Rogers on the inflation issue. The sheer amount of money the
Federal Reserve has injected into the economy cannot have a deflationary effect. Note
well – we may not see inflation outside of food and energy prices in the coming months.
But as people in lower income brackets spend a disproportionate amount of their
income on food and gasoline, they will clearly feel the effects of this.

3. And by energy, don’t forget to pay attention to your electric bills. We should anticipate
the risk of further blackouts this summer, especially in Texas, due to new EPA
regulations. The above average temperatures forecasted for Texas and the
southwestern United States this summer will exacerbate this problem.

4. Interest rates will remain relatively low, despite inflation. As people tire of stock market
volatility, they will put their money in bonds, CDs, and other cash equivalents. This will,
theoretically, generate significant cash reserves for banks to lend money.

5. In stating this position in item four above, I am necessarily ruling out the risk of a “bank
holiday” other shock to the banking system. While you may think it odd that I need to
even mention such a possibility, I suggest you watch this two minute video
of Joe Biden discussing the risk of a bank holiday. (The fact Biden is on stage with Jon Corzine
when making these comments about bank holidays is an added bonus.) Given this is an
election year, I would be quite surprised if we had a bank holiday in 2012. My only
caveat to this would be if systemic use of leverage by major investment firms caused
them to become insolvent – like MF Global. If this were to happen to other major
investment firms, all bets are off.

6. The equity markets will remain in a state of malaise. I suspect there is a good risk of yet
another correction (i.e., a drop) in the stock markets. I say that because of the growing
lack of confidence investors have in the stock market, coupled with lower trading
volumes and growing unease over the EU debt crisis.

7. Meaningful financial reforms at the state and federal level will remain elusive. Simply
put, politicians won’t agree to reduce spending fast enough to provide substantial relief
to the growing debt and unfunded liabilities situation. I continue to believe things will
have to get much worse before there is the political will to do the things necessary to
make things better.

8. Food prices will remain on an uptrend. We will continue to need maximum yields to
feed a growing global population. Should we experience adverse weather in key
growing areas, expect further price increases and possible food shortages.

9. We should expect continued erosion of civil liberties. Both political parties continue to
push for more government involvement in our private lives as well as in our
communities, all under the auspices of keeping America safe.

I'd give myself good marks so far, although arguably my opinions in number six have not materialized.  The Dow is up about 5% for the year, thanks in large part to Friday's 2.2% increase.  Taking that out of the mix, the Dow is up roughly 2.8% for the year.  Meanwhile, inflation on average this year is running about 2.5%, meaning the Dow's increase in real terms is minimal.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Daily Briefing for Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Where Do I Start?

Lots to share today, so let's drop the puck.

First, I Turned In My Notice At Work.

Actually, I did that on Monday, but today my employer officially announced my departure.  Next month, I will be working for an insurance trade association as a lobbyist.  My job will require me to travel a fair amount, especially during the months that state legislatures are normally in session.  While I will miss my co-workers and my work in emergency management, legislative and regulatory affairs there, my new job is a fantastic opportunity.  I'm very excited.

Traveling out of town presents some tough challenges for people trying to live with a self-sufficient mindset.  I will be working on this in the coming weeks, sharing my experiences with you.

Next, You People Set An All Time Record For Traffic To My Site.

The blog received nearly 200 visits in the last 24 hours.  Apparently, you like Xtranormal videos far more than I would have thought.  And let me take a moment to welcome the many visitors from Get Off The X, a fantastic internet forum on guns and preparedness.  Glad to have you!

And Third, The New Yorker Stumbles Into Pure Greatness.

I generally don't read the New Yorker.  Lots of big words and not enough pictures of things that interest me, for starters.

But Jay in Nashville posted this story on Facebook, and in short order, I realized he'd found a great book review in the magazine.  Why are American kids so spoiled, you ask?  The author of a new book hypothesizes that the reason American kids are spoiled as compared to their global counterparts is because we coddle them.  Shocking, I know.

From the article:

Ochs and Izquierdo noted, in their paper on the differences between the family lives of the Matsigenka and the Angelenos, how early the Matsigenka begin encouraging their children to be useful. Toddlers routinely heat their own food over an open fire, they observed, while “three-year-olds frequently practice cutting wood and grass with machetes and knives.” Boys, when they are six or seven, start to accompany their fathers on fishing and hunting trips, and girls learn to help their mothers with the cooking. As a consequence, by the time they reach puberty Matsigenka kids have mastered most of the skills necessary for survival. Their competence encourages autonomy, which fosters further competence—a virtuous cycle that continues to adulthood.

Think through that.  Toddlers playing with fire, cooking things over it (like roasting hotdogs and marshmellows.)  Three year olds practicing cutting and chopping with sharp objects (like farm kids do.)  Little boys hunting with their fathers and little girls learning to help with cooking (like farm kids do).  As a result, "their competence encourages autonomy, which fosters further competence - a virtuous cycle that continues to childhood."

That's not to say that farm kids are better people than city kids.  But as a former farm kid, I can attest that I did things my city and suburban counterparts never did.  It wasn't because I had permissive, laissez-faire parents; I certainly didn't.  My brother and I were simply expected to help around the house and farm from a young age.  We were never discouraged from playing with knives, tools, tractors, pick up trucks, guns, kitchen utensils, garden implements, chemisty sets, pesticides, herbicides (I had a pesticide/herbicide applicator's permit, issued by the state of Tennessee, at the ripe old age of 14.  No joke.  God bless the Bedford County Farmer's Co-Op.) or wild animals.  I'd like to think it made us more resilient and independent than other kids our age.

When we look at the young adults today, we see many of them in the workplace who lack the basic work ethics necessary to become good employees.  I suspect that's in large part due to the fact so many of them were coddled by their parents, no doubt in an effort to make them feel special.

Make your kid feel special.  Let them learn how to do things on their own.  That's true self-sufficiency.

And Finally, A Word On Hyperinflation.

Here's another article from the "It's not me; It's from CNBC" file for your consideration.  A treasurer from the Royal Bank of Scotland (and not some gold bug hawking a mining stock) had this to say about the risk of hyperinflation:

Because it has no more intrinsic value than Monopoly money, fiat money retains its value only because of confidence. As central banks print more and more money, all else being equal, its real value must decline. That explains partly the desire of the German government to enforce public sector spending controls as the price of saving the euro. Otherwise a blanket bailout without cuts in spending would just be a road to inflationary ruin.

But is there something more at stake here than just an orthodox macroeconomic argument about inflation? Does the ability to keep printing money without any real control or discipline, creating a circular flow of money in which one branch of government lends to another branch of government, undermine confidence in the concept of paper money itself?

You decide what you need to do to protect against that risk.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Daily Briefing for Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ron Reads Rolling Stone

I grew up with Ron.  We went to church together and were on the swim team back in the day.  Smart guy.  And fast in the butterfly.  The last place I wanted to be (and yet I spent a fair amount of time there) was in his wake zone in the pool.  He could generate some serious wave action for the swimmers to the left or right of him.

He shared this link in response to the CNBC piece I posted yesterday.  It further illustrates how we have lost touch with the basic tenets of capitalism - the necessity of free market competition. 

The risk we run here is the temptation to throw the baby out with the bath water.  The economic collapse of 08 wasn't because capitalism and free markets are flawed.  To the contrary - the markets performed as one would predict (and as several did predict they would) when we were in a housing bubble, fueled with government-backed mortgages created by a political agenda (the Community Reinvestment Act), coupled with reckless investment strategies of big banks who purchased, repackaged and resold said assets.  The free market is like any other tool.  Used correctly, it can create wonderful things.  Used negligently, it can cause severe injury.

My First (And Probably Last) Infomercial

This is supposed to be funny.  It's not as funny as I had hoped.  Please don't take it seriously. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Daily Briefing for Monday, June 25, 2012

Short But Poignant

Watch this.  From CNBC.

Just because things sound crazy don't mean they aren't true.  Those in the so-called lunatic fringe don't seem so lunatic or fringe these days.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Daily Briefing for Friday, June 22, 2012

Ham Radio Field Day This Weekend

Every year, the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) hosts a nationwide contest for ham radio operators.  Named "Field Day," the event traditionally takes place the last weekend of June.  Participants use their radios to make as many contacts as possible during the contest.  Those using alternate power and low power rigs get more points than those using more traditional methods.

Several years ago, I read an email containing a number of predictions for the future.  One prediction was the demise of ham radio.  However, the statistics point to an opposite conclusion.  More people are getting their amateur radio licenses.  I suspect much of this has been driven by folks like you and me - people understand that ham radio has time after time come through after a disaster.

One misconception you should note - you do not need to learn Morse code to get an advanced license.  That requirement went away a few years back.  That means you can take a couple of written tests and get on the air with long distance communications equipment. There are plenty of study guides for the tests available from Amazon and other outlets.  Since some of the test materials can be rather technical, I'll share with you my strategery for passing these tests.

  1. Memorize the answers to the tough questions.  You read that correctly.  The test question pool from which your test will come is public knowledge.  The various study guides will tell you the correct answers.  For those you don't understand, make flash cards and memorize them.  (I memorized the answers to every single question requiring math for my General license exam; I don't mind doing math, but I didn't want to bother having to learn the formulas.)
  2. Set a study schedule.  Do five to ten pages in your study guide a day.  Set aside one day a week to review what you've already studied.  You can do this much more quickly than you think.
  3. If you don't understand the theory behind a set of questions, don't sweat it.  Just learn what the answers are.  You can learn theory later.  Most old time ham radio operators would cringe at me telling you that, but it's true.  Your goal is to get your license and get on the air.  As a licensed pilot, lawyer, ham radio operator, and concealed handgun license instructor, I can tell you that your license for just about anything is a license to learn. 
There is so much more I could cover in ham radio, but the reality is I am still a neophyte in this subject.  I will tell you that with the little instruction I've received from my local ham radio mentor, I've purchased a basic multiband radio, a Buddipole antenna, and I've made contacts over 1,000 miles away.  I've had extended conversations with other operators two hundred miles away that were as crystal clear as if I was talking to them on a cell phone.

Ham radio gives you a tremendous source of information exchange after a disaster.  Consider getting your license and learning some of these skills.

Thoughts From Miami

This week, my wife and I have spent several nights in the Palm Beach and Miami areas.  It's given me some time to decompress and think about what I need to be doing over the next few months.  It also allowed me to think about the bigger picture.

Miami holds a special place in my heart.  Later this summer will mark the 20 year anniversary of my arrival into Miami to enroll in law school at the University of Miami.  A week after I moved into my apartment, Hurricane Andrew blew into town.  As a new resident, I had no preparations - no storable foods, no gear, no water purification, no weapons to protect myself.  After the storm, I didn't have power in my apartment for 17 days.  I boiled water on my stove (I had a gas stove in my kitchen), ate fried Spam and pasta, and listened to a battery powered AM radio tell us how messed up Miami was.

That experience really stuck with me.  It's part of the reason I am into prepping. 

I speak to people about preparedness on a regular basis.  Most of the people with whom I speak find my interest in prepping to be quirky, but they also want to know more.  If I'm lucky, they want me to convince them to get prepared.  Selling people on the idea they need to get food, water, and other supplies set aside to insulate their families from natural or economic calamities can be quite challenging. 

And this fact brings me to a crossroad.  Is it better to spend time recruiting others to prepare, or would it be better to expand my own preparations and share my learnings with those who are already interested and working towards more self sufficiency?  I will be struggling with this one in the coming weeks.

Finally, and this is perhaps the most important thing - don't forget to live your lives.  Take vacations.  Enjoy time with your family.  Travel.  See new things.  Meet people who aren't like you.  Your lives will be enriched as a result.  And trust me on this - whatever calamity we may face in the future will not be enough to derail America.  It's important that we prepare ourselves for that possibility, if for no other reason it will allow us to flourish after the fact.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Daily Briefing for Thursday, June 21, 2012

Scenes From Athens

As one of the cradles of civilization continues to seek yet another payday loan, food lines in Athens grow geometrically.  Read this article, checking out the images of those in food lines getting their handouts.

Here's my question for you to ponder.  Could something like that happen in the United States?  While I don't have a good answer myself, I think it's rather naive to dismiss the risk out of hand.

We've seen it here before, during the Depression.  Look at some of these images from that time in our history.  Food lines, foreclosures, starvation, high unemployment - many of the things you see in Greece today actually happened here.  Of course, our economy has changed dramatically since then, with a complex system of social insurance (Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security for example) which would, normally, serve as a safety net for such an event. 

Of course, that begs the question: are our safety nets financially strong enough to sustain a large number of people in a severe economic downdraft?  I don't have the data handy to make the point, but the last figures I saw, we have well over 50 trillion in unfunded liabilities for such programs...meaning there ain't any money to fund these programs long term.

Friends, I don't know how bad things could get, and I am always skeptical of those who profess an ability to predict with any precision what will likely happen.  I would simply ask you to look at those pictures above, both from the Depression and from modern day Athens, and then ask yourself,  how would my family fare under such circumstances, and what can I do today to protect against that?

All of us would rather spend time and money doing something fun rather than preparing for economic hardship.  Yet I would submit that is some of our problem, as a nation - we seek instant gratification.  In doing so, we overextend our finances, buy crap we don't need, run up gargantuan sums of debt, and then act surprised when Congress does the same thing with our nation's finances.

It's not always fun being prudent.  It's sometimes boring.  But boring can be good.  Especially if it puts you and your family in a better position. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Daily Briefing for Wednesday, June 20, 2012

You Need To Understand This.

Recently, Indiana's legislature authorized citizens to use deadly force against law enforcement stemming from a controversial court opinion.  In essence, a citizen in Indiana may use deadly force against a law enforcement officer if that citizen reasonably believes the use of force against the citizen is unlawful.

As you can imagine, this bill drew a tremendous amount of fire (nice pun, huh?) from the law enforcement community.  Stories like this one - where the DEA clearly blew it - give the law's supporters further ammunition (Ha - twice in one paragraph!) in the face of such opposition. 

I support our law enforcement efforts to get bad guys off the streets.  It's a tough job, physically and mentally.  Even as a Libertarian, I am quick to point out that I want our cops to be well trained, well equipped, and adequately staffed (none of that would come as a surprise to Libertarians, but it would surprise many non-Libertarians who don't understand the party's platform).  I want these people to be able to do their jobs, especially when I am the one on the other end of the 911 call.

Last night, I read a piece from Massad Ayoob in the August issue of Combat Handguns regarding the wisdom of firing a warning shot before using deadly force against a bad guy.  The story he shared in this particular piece should cause all of us who plan to rely on firearms to defend ourselves when we are threatened with deadly force.  According to Ayoob, a woman shot her estranged husband after he violently attacked her.  He died from the gunshot, and surprisingly, she was charged with manslaughter.

The prosecution's strategy stunned me, and so I am going to quote from the piece verbatim:

The prosecutor made a huge deal out of the fact that the single gunshot would sustained by the deceased was fired into his torso, and he railed histrionically to the jury that the fact she hadn't fired a warning shot, or shot to wound, was evidence of guilt.  The defense team explained the matter, and a wise and attentive jury very quickly found her Not Guilty of all charges.  Yet, I was appalled that in the year 2011 an officer of the court could make an argument so out of touch with reality."

Appalling indeed.  This case, and the others Ayoob cites in the article, show an alarming disconnect between the realities of using a gun in self defense and the government's attitude towards the citizens for whom it supposedly serves.  I suspect this kind of disconnect fueled the Indiana's legislature when passing the law discussed above.

Bear in mind that if you should ever be put into the most unfortunate position of having to use deadly force to defend yourself, don't count on the cops or prosecutors to "make the right call" when it comes to deciding whether to prosecute you. 

Preparedness Expo in Arlington, Texas July 27-28.  I Will Be There.  Will You?

I'm making plans to attend the Self Reliance Expo.  Let me know if you will be there, too.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Daily Briefing for Friday, June 15, 2012

eFoods Direct Sampler Package

I recently received an email offering me a sampler package of food from eFoods Direct, as well as an opportunity to interview their chief marketing officer.  I've eaten two of the three meals in the sampler pack.  My overall observations:

First, the food is pretty tasty for something that comes in a powder form and has a "best by" date expiring in 2027.  Among the storeable foods I've tried in the past, their foods are some of the better tasting ones.  They do tend to be a bit bland, but that's not a bad thing.  You can season them to your taste.  My preferred spice is Tabasco.  What you won't find is the metallic taste you occasionally encounter with storeable foods. 
Next, calories and fat in eFoods products are high....which is good.  Yes, you read that correctly.  In an emergency situation, you won't be dieting.  As the great Eazy-E once said, "It's all about makin' that GTA."  And in the world of grid down cuisine, it's all about making your calories, fats and nutrients.  You'll be stressed and much more physically active, so you'll need the extra calories in your food.  The eFoods selection doesn't disappoint here, as they are dense in both calories and fats.  They are good in the vitamins and minerals area as well, but you'd still want to supplement with a good multi-vitamin and other supplements.
Eazy-E would have been all about defeating the United Nations' anti-American agenda.  He would have also put a cap or two into a zombie, given the chance.

In addition, when ordering storeable foods from any vendor, beware the "X number of days" packages that    many of them sell.  These are often short on calories for the number of days they claim.  Further, it assumes that everyone eating from that particular grouping of foods has the same caloric needs.  I assure you the two high school boys living across the street from me who regularly participate in multiple sports, year round, need far more calories than an 85 year old woman.  Calculating your calorie needs and planning accordingly is perhaps one of the five most important things you can do to prepare. 

Finally, I'd like to dispel the notion you can eat this stuff every day in non-emergency situations, as part of your everyday diet.  I mean, you could, but most of us would end up fatter than Boss Hogg.  If you're good at portion control and very physically active, it's quite possible you can make that work.  But for the rest of us, don't even think about it.  Buy it and store it.

I hope to have an interview with the eFoods folks published soon.  In any event, check out their sampler pack for yourself

I Support Taylor Brands LLC

A big shout out to Tammy and the gang at Taylor Brands, LLC, headquartered in my home state of Tennessee.  I recently purchased a Smith and Wesson Tactical/Survival Ink Pen, and I really like it.  However, it did not come with instructions.

I contacted the distributor, Taylor Brands.  They immediately shipped me a set of instructions, as well as answered all of my questions about the pen.  I recommend their products and customer service to you.  (And for what it's worth, the negative reviews this item has received on Amazon do not accurately reflect the benefits of this tool.)

The Suburban Dad Takes A Break

I will be on vacation for the next several days.  Blog entries will be spotty at best, if at all.  I will have plenty to report upon my return, I am sure.  I will report back on this frequency no later than Sunday, June 24.   Stay safe.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Daily Briefing for Thursday, June 14, 2012

I Debated Sharing This With You.

But if I don't, you're likely to hear it somewhere else.

James Wesley Rawles posted this directive on Survivalblog yesterday:

“The current liquidity crisis on the southern periphery of the Eurozone now appears likely to spread to all of Europe, and then globally. There are already quiet electronic bank runs in progress in Greece and Spain. On Monday, a bank "holiday" was announced in Italy. More bank runs will likely follow. As of today, Wednesday, June 13, 2012, I strongly urge all SurvivalBlog readers to immediately draw down their checking accounts and liquidate their CDs, passbook savings accounts, and most of the their stocks to buy tangibles. If you already own a retreat, an honest one year storage food supply, and a battery of firearms with ammo and plenty of magazines, then go ahead and buy physical silver. (But don't neglect investing in those crucial "Beans, Bullets and Band-Aids" first.) With spot silver presently under $28.70, this is an ideal time to get out of paper and into tangibles.”

In addition, he posted this piece entitled "20 Reasons Why America's Next Bank Holiday Will Be A Nightmare."

Late last night, I shared the above quote with a number of people who I know are paying attention to things.  I also checked with some folks who are in the industry and whose opinion I value.  A few observations:

1. Breathe.  And expect more of these types of posts and emails in the future, especially as Europe unwinds.  We may or may not have bank holidays here.  It's our job to be prepared for a wide spectrum of contingencies.  Not being able to access your money via ATM or bank due to a regional disaster is certainly one of those possibilities. 

2. Invest. I'm no financial expert, but here's what I think we should see in the short term.  First,  look for money from Europe to rush into the United States as a safe haven.  The dollar will get stronger as a result.  We may see a nice bump in the stock markets if foreign investors decide to park their money in stocks here in the U.S. as Europe unwinds.  Prices for gold and silver will likely drop - perhaps by a significant amount - as the dollar strengthens.  This would make for an excellent buying opportunity.

3. Continue to prepare, just as if you were preparing for hurricane season or a major earthquake.  Much of the population in the United States lives in an area at risk for either a hurricane or earthquake, so let that be your motivating factor if you need it.  It can also make for a good cover story if your friends and neighbors are wondering why you're preparing to be self sufficient for a period of time.

4. Pay attention to the news.  Turn off American Idiot or Dancing With The Tarts or whatever dumb ass reality show you're into (unless it's Whale Wars, Deadliest Catch, or Mountain Men; in that event, carry on.).  What's happening in Greece?  Spain?  Italy?  What is the British government saying publicly about the crisis?  And the Germans?   Read ZeroHedge a few times a week.

This will be very interesting in the coming days to say the least. 

Is Gold Money?

That's one of the questions addressed in a new documentary entitled "End Of The Road: How Money Became Worthless."  I watched this hour long presentation Wednesday night.  The producers do a great job of using graphics to explain how the Federal Reserve creates currency, as well as the distinction between currency and money.

Make no doubt - there's a blatant "pro-gold" theme throughout this video.  Their predictions as to what may happen to the global economy, due in large part to the decoupling of the dollar from the gold standard, are quite dire.  But as I have said before, and as they say in the video, it is not a day we should fear.  When it comes, it will be tough in the short term, but in the long term it will free us from many of the economic problems we have today. 

Regardless of what you think about the possibility of a economic crisis or whether gold is a good investment, it's worth your time to at least hear what folks like these in the video are saying.  Don't dismiss what you don't know.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Daily Briefing for Tuesday, June 12, 2012

One For The Guns and MREs Crowd

I'm sure many of you lament the fact I don't spend more time talking about guns and MREs and guns.  So tonight, I will share this video with you from the Bahrain unrest, taken earlier this month.  In this video, one protester is shot with bird shot.  You get to see the footage of friends literally picking it out of his skin.

Hsoi puts together some analysis on this, which is spot on.  I would add to that there's a bigger lesson here - regardless of what kind of gun you're using for defensive purposes, be sure to use premium defensive ammo for it.  On Saturday, I picked up three different brands of defensive ammo to run through my new Glock 34 to see which brand performs the best in terms of the gun's ability to feed it smoothly as well as consistently putting shots onto the target.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Daily Briefing for Monday, June 11, 2012

Jim Rogers.  Don't Say He Didn't Warn You.

Watch this.  It's worth it. 

Meanwhile, One Way To Help Subsidize Your Preparedness Efforts

Take a look at this this chart.  Note that the rates on a 30 year mortgage are dropping again, this time to lows inconceivable a few years ago.  I'm no interest rate prognosticator, but as the dollar strengthens, and as money comes out of Europe and into the United States for safety, we should anticipate rates will stay low in the short term....and they might go even lower than they are now. 

This is a prime opportunity to refinance your home if you haven't done so in a few years.  By cutting the interest rate, you can significantly reduce your monthly payment.  In term, you can use the savings to help build a cash reserve and to have some additional food and supplies on hand.  Alternatively, you can shorten the term of your loan (going from a 30 year mortgage to a 10 year mortgage, for example, like we did) with something close to the same monthly payment.

Rates will not go much lower.  This is a great opportunity that we may not see in our lifetimes again.  If you can refi it, do so.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Daily Briefing for Saturday, June 9, 2012

“At worst, they will provoke a fiscal crisis that could have severe consequences for the economy.”

In what appears to have sparked precisely zero response from the commentariat, Ben Bernanke's remarks earlier this week should have reminded all of us that we do have options other than printing money to solidify the shaky U.S. economy.  I would call your attention to the last two paragraphs of this article, quoted in toto:

In his appearance on Capitol Hill, Bernanke urged Congress to do three things to put the budget on a sustainable long-run path: avoid the “fiscal cliff,” reach deficit-reduction goals and use tax policy to grow the economy.

“At best, rapidly rising levels of debt will lead to reduced rates of capital formation, slower economic growth, and increased foreign indebtedness,” Bernanke said. “At worst, they will provoke a fiscal crisis that could have severe consequences for the economy.”

I'm not the one opining about "a fiscal crisis that could have severe consequences for the economy."  That would be Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke.  Just wanted to make sure you understand that.

A few thousand miles away from us this evening, the Euro Zone agreed to a banker bailout deal whereby the Spaniards get a loan roughly equivalent to 10% of their GDP to shore up their banks.  The crew over at ZeroHedge break it down for us, capping their story with one elegant headline: Spain IS Greece After All.

And why should we in the Suburban Dad Nation care about Spaniards and Greeks and their rotting economies?  Rachel Epstein provides eight reasons why.  I find reasons six through eight most compelling.

We live in a global world.  What ails our largest trading partner effectively ails us.  Prepare accordingly.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Daily Briefing for Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Be Positive.

You may think that's an odd sentiment - be positive - coming from the guy who posts links about currency collapses, Treasury secretaries warning of martial law, and pageant beauties who know precious little about civics (complete side bar - my decision to post a pic of Miss Ohio in last night's blog really caused a massive spike in traffic to my site last night and looked rather phallic when depicted on a graph, in fact.  I now know what motivates you people - T&A.  How silly of me to think it was my cutting edge reporting and analysis of the issues facing America.)  And yet I have said several times over the last few weeks to think long term and to be prepared, so you can flourish when things improve. 

Think my logic is off?  Tell that to those folks in their 90s and 100s.  ABC News ran this story yesterday, attributing the success to longevity is in fact a positive attitude and a sense of humor.  While genetics and staying fit are important, it's what between your ears that keeps you alive for the long haul.  That's especially true in tougher times. 

Preppers are positive people deep down.  They have to be, as they are betting that life on the other side of whatever they're prepping for will someday be fun and worth living again.  Those citizens who simply throw up their hands and say "I just hope I die when the (insert major peril here) happens so I don't have to deal with it" crowd are the true Debbie Downers.  Especially those parents of little kids who espouse that view. 

Do not let what you see in the news or read in this blog get you down.  Be positive.  Take steps now to soften the blow of any type of problem you fear - be it loss of a job, a hurricane, an earthquake, a major economic depression. 

Being Positive Means NOT Being This Guy.

For those of you who don't follow politics closely, yesterday Wisconsin residents voted on whether to recall Governor Scott Walker (R) from office after only two years into his four year term.  In a state that went for Obama in 2008, Republican Walker kept his job with a seven point margin in the polls. 

Many in the main stream media simply couldn't handle this result, as evidenced by MSNBC's Ed Shultz claiming - without providing any proof - that Governor Walker could be indicted any day, and the Washington Post calling a seven point margin a "close vote."

But MSNBC and the Post do what their consumers pay them to do - act indignant when candidates from the right win elections.  Just as Fox News laments when candidates on the left win.  It's simply how our politics works these days.

I'm not complaining about any of that.  What I am complaining about is this Wisconsin resident:

Really?  Democracy died last night?  It's the end of the USA as we know it?  Because you lost a governor recall election? 

Crybaby.  And to think a bunch of kids stormed beaches and farmland in northern France 68 years ago today in an effort to fight global evil.  Now, we are reduced to images of this guy crying about the fact his candidate lost an election in a constitutional republic. 

He needs to stay positive.  He's still in America.  There will be other elections.  He can still voice his opinion, organize his friends, and protest the Governor's policies whenever he likes.  Instead, he prefers to adopt a victim mentality.

There is no room for a victim mentality in a preparedness mindset.  Don't be like this guy.

In the interest of full disclosure, I made a small campaign contribution to Scott Walker's election fund.

...Perhaps What The Guy Needs Is A Tampon. 

Okay that's about as good of a segue I can come up with while still maintaining some semblance of not going blue on my blog.  But it does set up this next bit nicely, shared with me this morning by Atlanta Jeff.

The lowly tampon is perhaps one of the most versatile tools in your supplies.  Here, Creek Stewart provides us with ten survival uses for a tampon.  I've never tried any of these, but I will admit I'm quite intrigued at the idea of seeing how well his ideas work.  I will keep you posted if I do.

Next Few Days

Blogging will be spotty through Saturday.  Nothing major, just some various projects and events around the house.  I should be back on frequency by Sunday.  Until then, stay safe.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Daily Briefing for Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Further Proof I Am Right

We need an educated citizenry that seeks leaders who reflect the values of hard work, patriotism, liberty and freedom.  Miss Ohio attempts to make the case we should instead admire the character Julia Roberts played in Pretty Woman.  From the article:

On his Bravo show Watch What Happens Live, Andy Cohen - the host of Sunday's competition - asked a selection of the women to answer questions about the United States.

He asked 11 contestants representing Eastern states to name the vice president - but only five could correctly name Joe Biden.

The women from Vermont, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Virginia and Maine fell short, as they giggled at the camera or clutched their hair. Miss Rhode Island, the competition's winner, answered correctly.

Cohen then turned to the Western states to ask, 'In America the Beautiful, what colour are the waves of grain?' Three out of seven correctly guessed 'amber' - with suggestions ranging from 'tan' to grey'.

Failing to reach the right answer along with girls from California, New Mexico and Arizona, Montana asked if she could 'phone a friend.'

Miss Ohio, Audrey Bolte.   

Our supposedly best looking, most well-rounded women in America.  Who compete for the crown purely for college scholarship money.  In their bikinis.  Solely to demonstrate their poise.

Look - you can like beauty pageants all you want.  I don't care.  But when our (allegedly) best and brightest can't tell you who the Vice President is, don't whine to me about how our politicians are so worthless.  We get the government we choose.  And these people are supposedly some of our finest citizens.

And you wonder why we're in the mess we're in.

Meanwhile, At Least Someone Is A Pioneer.

I like this story.  A lot.

A fitness expert decided to gain - and then lose - 72 pounds, in order to better able him to understand the challenges his clients faced in their weight loss efforts.  Take two minutes to read his story.  The effects it had on his wife and kids were completely unexpected.  His story explains why so many of us struggle to get into shape, which our nation desperately needs to do.

Hey Fat Suburban Dad Survivalist - What Are YOU Doing To Be Not So Fat?

I'm glad you asked.

I've started a regimen of walking every morning, and most evenings, in addition to the daily workout at the gym consisting of either weights or more cardio on the treadmill.  I'm learning some strategies to cut back on my evening snacking.  I'm taking more fruits and veggies for me to munch on at work.  So far, it seems to be working.  I will keep you posted.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Daily Briefing for Monday, June 4, 2012

And It Just Keeps Getting Better.

I know you probably won't believe this, but I am truly an optimistic person.  I just think we have a lot of negative juju we're going to have to work through as a world citizenry before we can begin to function (somewhat) normally again.

In order to get there, we're going to have to re-think many of our previous theorems and widely held assumptions.  We'll also need to decouple ourselves from the entitlement mentality which has effectively bankrupted the developed economies of the world.

To that end, I share with you three brief reading assignments.

First, we must end the traditional notion that Americans get to retire and get subsidized health care at age 65.  There's no reason for us spend roughly a third of our adult lives sitting on our asses, drawing a "so-scurity" check (as my Florida Constitutional Law professor used to call it) while getting cheap health insurance from Medicare.  We are put on the planet to be productive.  It's one thing if you aren't physically capable of working, but many over 65 are.  The Suburban Dad Survivalist says we need to start a phased in increase of the Social Security and Medicare eligibility age.   We really don't have a choice

Second, we need to take a hand in actively managing our finances.  That's not to say you shouldn't get professional guidance if you feel you need it, but you need to be paying attention to what you're invested in.  Today, CNBC reported the uber-wealthy are getting out of stocks and instead are parking their money in things like private businesses, commodities (gold, silver, ag products, natural gas, etc.) and real estate.  If they are making major shifts in their portfolios, it's worth it to us to find out why and to see if such investments are right for us. 

Finally, start drilling down into the news and commentaries to really understand what the cultural and fundamentals are that got us where we are at the moment.  Memphis Jeff sent me this piece by Mark Steyn, capturing the reasons behind much of the problems we and the Europeans face.

Friends, we must start clearing our minds of the Obama Sucks/Bush Sucks paradigm, and instead start putting a premium on intellectual honesty.  Search for the truth, wherever it leads you.  Prepare for the future.  Start talking about it with your friends, encouraging them to do the same.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Daily Update for Sunday, June 3, 2012

"Preppers .... are those who seek to understand what the rest of the public goes out of its way to ignore."

Today's blog is nothing more than a short but useful reading assignment, courtesy of ZeroHedge.  The quote above comes from the article.  It succinctly states what I've been trying to articulate for years.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Daily Briefing for Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Summit

This weekend, Kendel and Tox are participating in an amphibious preparedness exercise (they refer to it as a "Girl Scout/Girl Scout Mom Weekend At The Beach," but my description sounds much cooler).  Since they are out of town, I participated in what I hope is the first of many Preparedness Summits with two friends - Jerid and Becky.

We met at Jerid's "Doomstead" in rural Texas.  After taking a tour of his impressive compound (a well, a pond, fruit trees, out buildings, good fencing, good soil, well-built home), we began with a solar oven bread making exercise.  Jerid and Becky got to see the oven and grain mill in action.  We put two loaves in the oven and went off to lunch.

Becky took this pic of me grinding wheat.  (Let the record reflect I ground much more wheat than she did.)

During lunch, I peppered them with questions about what originally motivated them to prepare.  As a blogger and an advocate for preparedness, I'm always interested to learn what stimuli in the environment causes people to start taking steps to ready themselves.  For both of them, their motivation has its roots in the economy.  The weakening dollar, the financial fiasco of 2008, and the slow motion train wreck that is the Eurozone all add up to question the confidence of our political and economic leaders to create a stable environment where our economy can flourish.

One theme resonated with the three of us.  While we each consume cable news to one degree or another, we all felt that written news sources, including web sites like ZeroHedge, provide far more objective analysis, free of the inane politicization of news often promulgated by the likes of MSNBC, Fox and CNN.  Part of being prepared is getting your intel from reliable sources. 

One point I made during lunch which I'll share with you: if you think the nebulous "they" (whoever "they" are - the Federal Reserve, Congress, the President, Goldman Sachs, Wu Tang Financial) can fix what ails us, consider the fact that former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulsen told a number of people on Capitol Hill at the height of the financial crisis that if Congress didn't pass the TARP bill, the United States would end up under martial law.  Simultaneously, Paulsen often told the public during this same time frame that everything was fine and that our political leaders had things under control.

Martial law.  Uttered not by a conspiracy theorist, but by the Secretary of the Treasury.  As recently as 2008.  Remember that.

After lunch, we went back to the Doomstead to check on the bread.  The solar oven didn't disappoint.  We made two nice loaves, and Becky and Jerid now have more confidence in the abilities of solar cooking devices and baking bread in grid down conditions.

Jerid then provided both Becky and me a great tutorial on investing in precious metals.  He's been actively buying coins for years now, and he brought several along today to show us what we are to look for.  To accurately relay what we learned, I've summarized his comments in a Q and A format below.

Q.  What's the difference between proof coins and bullion coins?  And why should we care?

A. Bullion coins are coins made of precious metals.  Proof coins are in essence bullion coins which have been minted for collector value (also called "numismatic value.")  Proof coins generally trade at a premium to a similar bullion coin, due to that special collector value.

Why should we care?  When FDR banned the possession of gold (yes, this really did happen; look it up if you don't believe me), the order did not ban the possession of proof coins.  Thus, many today believe that if the government were ever to reinstate FDR's ban on possessing gold, coins with numismatic value (such as proofs) would be exempted.  If that's the case, you'd be able to own as many proof coins as you want with impunity.

Q. What's the normal commission on coin sales?

A.  For American Eagles, the commission is set by the mint at $99 for one ounce coins.  Jerid reports some coin dealers in Houston charge no commission for junk silver purchases (discussed below). 

Q. What's the preferred junk silver purchase for a prepper?

A. Junk silver simply refers to coins which contain silver and have no numismatic value.  In essence, you are simply "buying the metal in the coin."  They look like old coins, often showing wear and tear after years being in circulation.

Jerid recommends purchasing Mercury dimes for your junk silver investment.  He prefers Mercury dimes over Roosevelt dimes because of the fact not all Roosevelt dimes have silver in them, while Mercury dimes do.  Further, Mercury dimes are easily identifiable - the image of Mercury is found on one side of the coin.

Q. So if we buy a one ounce gold coin, how on Earth are we going "break" something that valuable into smaller units so we can buy things we need?

A. Jerid offered a good rule of thumb - Gold is used to buy currency.  Junk silver is used for those wishing to trade in metals rather than fiat currency.   This makes perfect sense.  Silver coins are worth far less than gold coins.  A Mercury dime as of yesterday was worth about $2.06.  You can easily carry a number of dimes with you to pay for things from those sellers preferring to do business in metals rather than currency.  Meanwhile, when you do need to obtain U.S. dollars, your gold coins will be a great way to do so.

By the way - do you think I'm nuts for discussing the possibility of doing transactions in gold or silver rather than U.S. dollars?  Take a look at this CNN article from earlier this year.  Thirteen states are contemplating laws that would allow citizens to complete transactions in gold or silver coins.  This is getting much attention.  If you're not up to speed on the issue, it's worth a couple of minutes of your time to read the article.

Q.  What about investing in things like gold Krugerrands or gold Francs?

A. Offshore coins which are generally recognizable by the public, like Krugerrands, can be a good investment.  Jerid reports many Houston area coin brokers will sell offshore coins for a lower commission than coins minted in the United States.  Again, the trick here is to make sure you invest in coins that are generally recognized by the public. 

Q. What's the best way to secure your coins?

A.  Coins are small, so hiding them in your home is a good strategy.  Of course, if you have a fire proof safe, that's even better.  The one place you don't want to put them?  In your bank's safe deposit box.  If you do, you're relying on the bank to be open when you need to access it.  Further, banks do burn down.  The local branch of my bank did a few years ago, essentially destroying everything in the safe deposit boxes there.

After the coin tutorial, I went through the contents of my bug out bag to give Jerid and Becky some ideas of things they might consider keeping in theirs. 

Some thoughts from the three of us:

  1. Spending time with people who "get it" like you do is key.  I learned a tremendous amount today, especially about coins.  I hope the other two got something out of our discussions as well.  If nothing else, it serves as a reminder that you're not alone in your concerns about the future and the need to prepare.
  2. There's a lot to know.  Don't be overwhelmed by that fact.  Just start doing and learning.  And asking others for help understanding. 
  3. As I've said a number of times recently, start building a network of friends who think like you do.  You can't read every news story or product review.  Share information you think is important with others.  That's what I try to do here.
  4. Take heart knowing that if you make any preparations at all, you're ahead of most of the population.
  5. Seek out substantive sources of news. 
  6. Don't be bashful about sharing your knowledge with others, even if you're not an expert on a subject.  Tell them what you know and that you're still learning.