Sunday, February 17, 2013

Daily Briefing For Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Confluence of Left and Right

Most of you will not believe me, but I am going to say this anyway.  We are undergoing a magnetic pole swap in American politics.  To wit:

  • Republicans are now decidedly "anti-war."
  • Democrats speak soto voce about the militarization of North Africa and drone strikes.
  • Republicans fear the erosion of civil liberties.
  • Democrats support the NDAA.
  • Republicans push for home schooling and the right to drink unpasteurized milk.
  • Democrats oppose transparency at the Federal Reserve.
Now I am quite sure a number of you will complain I'm painting with a broad brush here, and admittedly I am - not all Democrats and all Republicans take the positions outlined above.  But let's be realistic: twelve years ago, did anyone expect the Democrats to be supporting a drone war in Pakistan, which is targeting American citizens?  And would anyone have believed Republicans would be decrying the loss of civil liberties?

Yet this is precisely where we find ourselves.

One of the things that gives me hope about our future is that a number of conservatives and liberals are breaking out of the left/right/blue/red/donkey/elephant paradigm and are looking at ways to collaborate on issues.  For example, here in pro-America Texas, three state representatives - an Austin liberal, a Tea Party favorite and a strong supporter of Texas business - have teamed up to put together a package of legislation to help support local farming and self sufficiency.

I've said this before - our efforts continue to attract people on both ends of the political spectrum.  We should be mindful of that as we move forward.

This Week

I will be off frequency this coming week.  Work is quite busy these days.  Stay safe.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Daily Update For Saturday, February 16, 2013

One Of Our Challenges Is That We Have To Know Too Damn Much

Remember the guy who ran for governor of New York a few years back, from "The Rent Is Too Damn High" Party?

I thought of him today as I was out at KR Training in the brutal Central Texas winter weather (sunny, light breeze, temps in the low 60s).  The rent we pay to be up to speed in our preparedness is often too damn high.
And I'm not just talking about the dollars we spend in order to be more self sufficient.  I'm also including all of the various skill sets we need to know - first aid, marksmanship, food storage, alternative energy, water collection and purification, physical fitness, and on and on.  To work a full time job, be a good spouse and parent, have some "normal" hobbies, and oh yeah, be able to manage your affairs for an extended period of time without infrastructure can be daunting.
Today's training efforts centered around proficiency with the AR-15.  Big Brian and Aggie John were assistant instructors at today's course, which involved shooting modern sporting rifles or shotguns at distances up to 20 yards or so, utilizing cover and on the move. 
I shot fairly well, although I continued to struggle with shooting the rifle from my weak side.  I've made an effort to improve upon this with my handgun, but for me, shooting a long gun from the weak side is even more difficult.
John was great at helping me diagnose the problem.  And while I struggled throughout the class with it, his help paid off later off in the evening.  I practiced in the house (unloaded, bolt open) for a few minutes, and I'm pleased to report I can now reliably acquire the sights with my non-dominant eye very quickly.  Thanks John!
It can be daunting, folks - staying competent in all the things we need to know how to do.  Don't let it overwhelm you.  Create a training calendar to help pace your development of new skills.  Pace yourself.  You'll be surprised at how much you learn just by scheduling time to learn a new skill or practice an old one.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Daily Briefing For Thursday, February 14, 2013

And My Valentine Thinks I'm Crazy

Haters are gonna hate.  And even Kendel, who does not hate, thinks some of the things I pack in my luggage before we go onto a cruise makes me, to use her exact words, "a high maintenance traveler."

Turns out my fears of being stuck out at sea on a broken cruise ship are not unwarranted.  Carnival Cruise Line's Triumph became the latest laboratory for honing preparedness and mental fortitude in what one doctor called  "a floating petri dish."  Just read some of the articles linked from the Drudge Report earlier today:

Passengers fight over food...
Sleeping With Life Vests Fearing Capsize...
Evacuation 'not an option'...

On board hoarding.  Passengers fighting over food.  "Sewage sloshing around in the hallways."  Passengers being asked to go to the bathroom in bags. 

And some of you think I'm odd for telling people to take a first aid kit with you on vacation. 

My family has some experience with this.  My parents were on a ship that sank in the middle of the Amazon.  They had to abandon ship in the middle of the night, in their pajamas, and ride life boats ashore to Middle of Nowhere, Brazil, with nothing but their wallets and passports.  So we speak with some authority on how these things go down.

So let's take a moment to discuss what you might consider packing for your next cruise. 

  1. Ziploc bags in all shapes and sizes.  I generally travel with an assortment of these.  They have multiple uses, as passengers are now learning.  A trash bag or two would also be helpful, with the bag ties to go with them. Cheap and easy to pack.
  2. High energy snacks.  Yes, I realize it's odd to take high calorie food on a cruise ship, as that's all they feed you during your vacation.  I bet a Clif bar is going for $50 on board that ship right now.  They take up little space, especially if you cram them into shoes and other gaps in your suitcase.  If you're a pro, you'll look for survival bars meeting SOLAS - Safety of Life at Sea - standards. 
  3. Multivitamins and antibiotics.  Stay healthy with the multivitamin.  And when you start sloshing through human waste, you will likely want to take a course of antibiotics.  Talk to your doctor about that.
  4. Hand sanitizer.  I don't think I need to explain this one.
  5. Moist towelettes.  I'm betting it would be nice to be able to take something akin to a sponge bath right about now.  It's better than nothing.
  6. A Steri-Pen or other water purification system.  Would any of you have the utmost confidence in the ship's ability to purify water right now?  There are a number of inexpensive devices out there that can help ensure you're drinking clean water when you're floating on the high seas with 4,000 of your best friends, fighting over the last hamburger bun.  I'd love to have one that can desalinate water.  It would be a virtual ATM machine in an emergency.
  7. Flashlights and batteries.  You'll be one of the cool kids if you can navigate a darkened ship at night.
  8. Radio with shortwave frequency reception.  I've used one of these many times when traveling on a cruise or outside the U.S.  It will enable you to get news and information that perhaps the cruise line won't share with you.
  9. Cash.  As my mother remarked from her experiences while traveling abroad, "a lot of problems can be fixed with cash."  If you needed to buy something to help yourself or family when the infrastructure on the ship, cash will come in very handy.
  10. Your own spork.  If the ship has trouble purifying water or running its dish washing system, how sure are you that the silverware you're using is clean?  Have your own utensils.  Use the hand sanitizer and purified water mentioned above to keep them clean. 
  11. Alcohol.  And no, not to drink, although if you wanted to go that route, take Everclear and put it in a water bottle.  Otherwise, it will be confiscated by the cruise ship when you board.  So I'm told.  Not that I've ever done that before.  Actually, in this case, I am talking about rubbing alcohol.  Great way to get clean and sanitized in a dirty environment.  And Everclear can be used much like rubbing alcohol. 
  12. Multi tool/pocketknife.  Put it in your checked bag.  Do NOT carry it on your person when you board, and learn from my lesson - don't carry it on you during an excursion.  When you board the ship after the excursion, they WILL take it away from you.  (Ironically, that evening at dinner they gave me a steak knife with a six inch serrated blade.)  This will come in handy for a number of things.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Daily Briefing For Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Waste Bombs And Other Trappings Of Urban Survival

I don't do blue, nor do I do potty humor.  It's never been my thing.  And so I am hesitant to even discuss this, but it is critical that we do.

The subject came up recently when visiting with one of you (whom I'm not identifying as I don't want their name associated with this subject) about post-disaster sanitation issues.  Specifically, if you live in a multi-story condo or apartment complex, how do you get rid of waste - trash or otherwise - when the utilities aren't working for days on end?  (My suggestion to my friend - to bag and weaponize it by launching it off the balcony at marauders - was summarily rejected, despite historical precedent.)

If you think I'm being silly in bringing up the subject of waste disposal in an extended emergency, just read the accounts of the passengers on board the Carnival cruise ship currently adrift.  In short, don't underestimate the value of having a good sanitation plan in place in the event you are in a protracted emergency.  Over 3.4 million people die each year because of sewage and hygiene-related causes.  Most of these deaths occur in the third world, yet with large disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, we can experience similar conditions here.

I think we can sum up the sanitation needs in short order:
  1. Clean water
  2. Clean food
  3. Clean clothes
  4. Clean bathroom facilities
  5. Clean bodies
I'm going to stay on message and only focus on the fourth one for today.  There are a number of inexpensive options here.  And the good news that unlike many of the other things we have to do to be more self-sufficient, this one doesn't require much skill or expense.  Be thinking about waste management as part of your efforts.

Need Some Doom Porn? 

So this next story is making the rounds in the prepper/permabear community.  Those of you who watch CNBC will recognize many of the names in the piece, which is more of an aggregation of news pieces than anything else.  In short, these guys see a global war of some sort coming within the next year or so.

To be fair, some of the articles cited in this piece are old...pushing two years old in one case.  Regardless of the pundits' collective ability to time the markets and global unrest, I do think we need to ask ourselves if "first world on first world" conflict is possible in this day and age.  Most of us would like to think we've evolved significantly as a species over the last two hundred years; and we have.  But are we necessarily immune from conflicts our grandparents fought with the grandparents of our fellow global residents?

And if you believe we're not immune, what does your warfare bracketology look like?  Do we go to war with China?  With Russia?  I have to admit I don't see it happening.  There's simply too much to lose for a full on first world set of combatants. 

If you're disappointed in the prospect of a warless planet, fear not: Larry Krugman is calling for death panels and higher taxes on the middle class.  That should give you reason to get your gloom on.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Daily Update For Wednesday, February 12, 2013

Dude, Where Have You Been?

Lobbying's hard work.  I'm actively monitoring and engaging in six state legislative sessions at the moment.  My usual blogging time, also known as nighttime, has been consumed as of late with emails, drafting legislation, and formally commenting on proposed regulations.  I'm not complaining...I'm learning a tremendous amount, my employer is great, and the move to full time government relations was the career challenge I needed.

The active schedule since early January has hampered my preparedness efforts a bit, but that was expected.  I started a six mile walk/three to four days a week schedule this week, and despite the giant time suck, I rather enjoy it.  It's fitness and preparedness training at the same time.  And I'm making time to read more.  I just finished "The Mormon Way Of Doing Business" and wrote my first ever Amazon review, something I'd been meaning to do for some time. 

I will be taking two gun classes in the next two to three weeks: Defensive Long Gun at KR Training, a class I've taken and helped instruct in the past, and a day of one on one long distance shooting with Kenan Flasowski of FAST, Inc.  I shoot my Glock (sorta) regularly, but I don't get enough time with the AR.  So I'm making that a priority this year (just as ammo prices go up and availability goes down.....)

And I'm spending more time studying the Bible.  This is one thing I struggle to do on a regular basis, letting other things distract me.  Yes, I realize that's a lousy excuse, but it's an honest one.  I feel more focused and at peace when I'm regularly studying scripture.  I need to do it more.

I've said this before - preparedness is a journey, not a destination.  There will be times in our lives we cannot spend as much time as we'd like learning new skills or focusing on being self sufficient.  And that's okay.  Because one day, we'll be dead.  I don't say that to be flippant, but I do think some in our movement fail to enjoy life because they become so obsessed with preparing for things that will likely never happen in our lifetimes.  Our time here is limited.  Make the most of it.

What's On My Radar?

Let me tell you what's not, because that's easier.  First up: North Korea.  Bad situation, but not a lot I can prep for, and I am still not convinced they are the risk the military industrial complex would have us believe.  Did you see the pictures of Kim Jung Il's funeral from a while back? 

I'm supposed to believe these people with their 1978 Lincolns have a weapon that can threaten us here? 

I'm far more concerned about our stagnant unemployment, the possibility of a coming currency war, and the growth of our military involvement in North Africa.
What's on your radar?