Friday, March 29, 2013

Daily Update For Friday, March 29, 2013

Bring It, Lil' Kim

Many of you saw where North Korea's Doughboy in Chief, Kim-Jung Un, plans to nuke strategic U.S. cities, including Austin.  I'm not sure what's got Korean Cletus all pissy with the Lone Star State, but I assure you that we here in Texas admire his strategic thinking.  After all, we all know one of Texas' chief exports is industrial strength whoop ass.

Why Aren't Disaster Preparedness Messages Sticky?

If you aren't following Emergency Management magazine on Facebook, you should.  They ask this very question:

Why can’t Emergency Managers succeed in getting the message across to the public that they should be prepared for a disaster? We all try very hard, and yet survey after survey shows that people just aren’t internalizing the message.

The article is worth a couple of minutes of your time, but I will share with you the conclusion as it's rather succinct:

What is it we want to tell the public? Be prepared to withstand a disaster.
What do we tell them? Be informed. Make a Plan. Build a kit.
Not a real ‘sticky’ message, is it?
What do we really want to say? Be prepared to help yourself because we can’t help everyone.

And that needs to be our message.  The government and other emergency aid groups cannot help everyone during a disaster.  We need to be able to help ourselves for a period of time.

So I May Be Moving Towards Heirloom Seeds

I'm not well versed in gardening, although I've made some efforts in the last few years to learn more about it.  This month's lesson - seeds stored in the shed for a couple of years won't sprout.  I don't know if that's a function of the fact they are hybrids or that they weren't stored properly, but suffice it to say I won't be growing any fresh spinach this spring.  Lesson learned.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Daily Briefing For Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Roadblocks As Opportunities

I rarely talk about matters of faith here, preferring to stay focused on more tangible preparedness efforts.  Yet having a strong faith is a key tool for your mental bug out bag.  While I profess to be a follower of Christ, I realize every one of us must make a decision as to what faith, if any, resonates with us.

This is going to be a rather long post.  And I promise it does have a preparedness nexus at the end.  Please bear with me.

I did my undergraduate work at Vanderbilt (BS, Public Policy Studies, A&S 92).  Given the University's ostensible commitment to academic freedom and intellectualism, I was rather surprised at the school's recent change to its religious freedom policy.  Claiming it was doing so to be in compliance with Federal law, the University has

repeatedly stated that a religious group may not: 1) require a leader, after he or she is elected, to affirm agreement with the group’s religious beliefs; 2) expect a leader to lead Bible studies, prayer, and worship at the group’s meetings; or 3) ask a leader to step down if the leader no longer agrees with the group’s religious beliefs. 

Citation here.  And if you want to see a copy of the actual email from the University to the Christian Legal Society confirming this is the University's position, click here.

This video explains it well:

Think about that for a moment.  You're a Muslim and want to join the Muslim Students Association (I don't know if such an organization exists, but I have to think something akin to it does.)  You and your fellow members want get together regularly, read the Quran, discuss issues in an Islamic context, and pray.  And if you were to join such an organization at Vanderbilt, your group cannot prohibit Christians or Jews or atheists from joining the organization and becoming leaders of it.  Nor can your organization expect its leaders to lead Quran readings, worship or prayer during its meetings. 

Note the religious organizations were not trying to keep people who may not embrace the stated views of the organization from participating.  In fact, they welcome new members for obvious reasons.  These student groups simply wanted to elect organization leaders that espoused the stated beliefs of the organization and who would serve by leading worship services and scriptural reading.

The University's efforts to end all discrimination on campus oddly ends where the fraternity and sorority houses are located.  The University continues to allow these organizations to deny membership based on gender.  Nor do Greek organizations have to comply with the "take all comers" policy that religious groups on campus do, meaning fraternities and sororities can continue to admit whomever they wish. (For the record, I did not seek to join a fraternity while at Vanderbilt.  Or a sorority, for that matter.)

Even the left-leaning University of Texas permits faith-based organizations to restrict leadership positions to those who subscribe to the organization's statement of faith.  Many other universities have adopted this same approach, concluding it's reasonable for religious organizations to insist its leadership teams accept the central tenets of the organization.

Some will no doubt say "What's the big deal?  The members of a religious organization do not have to elect a non-believer into a leadership position if they don't want to.  And if the non-believer won't lead worship at meetings, they can find someone else to do it.  This new policy isn't really an issue."

The truth is that this is a big deal. 

Colleges and universities are supposed to provide opportunities for intellectual exploration.  During my time at Vanderbilt in the late 80s and early 90s, the terms "diversity" and "inclusion" were essentially a faith of their own, espoused by the University, preached by various student organizations, and often the source of much discord among the students, faculty and administration.  I never had a problem with the notion that we should be respectful of everyone else, but it became clear to me - and to many others - that diversity and inclusion at Vanderbilt often meant belittling people of the Christian faith and minimizing the value of their beliefs.

Protecting the ability of any student organization to require its leadership to adhere to a set of fundamental beliefs - be they religious, societal, or even common goals - is inherently necessary to give an organization meaning and purpose.  The organization formerly known as Vanderbilt+ Catholic, in announcing it would not seek recognition as a student organization for the 2012-2013 academic year, put it best:

We are a faith-based organization. A Catholic student organization led by someone who neither professes the Catholic faith nor strives to live it out would not be able to serve its members as an authentically Catholic organization. We cannot sign the affirmation form because to do so would be to lie to the university and to ourselves about who we are as an organization.
Precisely.  The argument that the University's restrictions are not unduly burdensome because

  1. members of faith based organizations don't have to elect leaders who fail to adhere to the organization's stated beliefs, or
  2. members can seek someone other than the officers to lead worship
ignore the reality of what constitutes a faith-based organization - a group of people coming together to explore their common ideas and beliefs, led by those who necessarily espouse the same.

Okay - so you want the preparedness nexus of all of this? 

When I was a sophomore, John Murphy was a senior and president of the Student Government Association.  Service in SGA is often a thankless task, as I found out during my senior year during my term in the SGA Senate.  John is now the headmaster of a parochial school in Potomac, Maryland.  He wrote a provocative piece in the Wall Street Journal a year ago on Vanderbilt's change in its religious freedom policy.  What stuck with me was this revelation:

A similar blessing took place this spring at Vanderbilt. Student leaders of the 13 religious organizations opposing the school's policy began meeting at least twice a month to pray together. As World on Campus reported, "Even if they don't succeed in persuading administrators to rescind the policy, [one student leader said he] believes they've already won the spiritual battle and learned the lesson God was trying to teach."

Students affected by the University's new policy elected not to retreat but to adapt and overcome.  And that is the lesson for us that we can take from a bunch of college kids just trying to worship and explore their faith.  Roadblocks and challenges will come up in our efforts to be more resilient.  Unforeseen events will hamper our plans.  These are not just obstacles to be conquered.  These are opportunities for us to shine - demonstrating to others that individuals really can take care of themselves during a crisis. 

Let's learn from these students at Vanderbilt who refuse to be deterred by a policy that singles out religious organizations.  Keep doing what you believe you are called to do.  Keep doing what you think is right.  Stay in faith.  And above all else, when obstacles come up in your journey, remember that's not the time to quit.

Anchor Down.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Daily Briefing for Sunday, March 24, 2013

The SDS Quarterly Newsletter Is Now Available

Yeah, I know - I'm not posting often these days.  I'm stuck in the middle of my busy season at work.  But I did get some time to pull together some thoughts on current events and other things I think we should be watching.  Send me a note at if you'd like a copy.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Daily Briefing For Monday, March 4, 2013

340 Yards With An AR

I will admit up front I don't feel like my shooting skills are where they should be.  It's in large part due to lack of practice.  That's my fault.  But other things (work, family, other worthwhile interests and hobbies) can get in the way.

So I've make a shift in my strategy towards training in the last few months which seems to be working.  If there's something I really want to learn or if I've identified some short comings in a skill set, I seek out one on one training.  Classes are great for a whole host of reasons, but I'm at a time in my life now where I'd rather spend a few extra bucks for personalized training to help me get up to speed faster than attending multiple classes to try to glean what I need to know.

Given that, I took Friday off and spent the day with Kenan Flasowski, the owner of FAST, Inc.  From his bio, you can see he has a wealth of experience from which he draws.  And he does so without coming across as somebody who wants to convince you he's the baddest kid in the cul de sac.

I'd trained with him once before with a group of friends, but I wanted to really immerse myself into training with the AR-15 in a way that would address my specific shortcomings.  And within a few hours, he had me consistently hitting man sized targets with iron sights at distances out to 340 yards. 

I will admit I didn't think I had it in me to be able to do that, but a) I'm probably being a bit hard on myself and b) the technology of weapons and ammo nowadays is to a point where you can take an out of the box rifle with a 16 inch barrel and do quite well, provided you understand the ballistics.

The one thing that stuck out as perhaps going against some of the conventional wisdom was the idea of zeroing the rifle at 100 yards, rather than at 50 yards.  Kenan came up with some data after my last year's group had a rather lengthy discussion with him regarding the best distance to zero if you're going to be using the rifle for home defense purposes (and thus taking shots at shorter distances.)

Without geeking out too much here, the conclusion he reached was that a zero at 100 yards using standard 55 grain ammo would require no more than a two inch hold over for any distance between 15 and 200 yards.  Put another way, the bullet will not travel above the line of sight at any point in the trajectory for a 100 yard zero.  As a result, memorizing the hold overs at the various distances becomes part because a) it's never more than two inches and b) there are no "hold unders" so to speak.

National Severe Weather Preparedness Week Is On!

Take a moment to check this out.  Find ways for you to become a change agent for preparedness in your home and workplace.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Daily Briefing for Sunday, March 3, 2013


Before I share my thoughts on the latest news in the preparedness world, I wanted to take a quick moment to thank all of you who followed our saga with Foxy last weekend on Facebook.  We are so thankful to have friends like you who shared their thoughts, prayers and other acts of kindness over the past week.  Kendel and I hated putting her down, but given her situation, it was our only option.

There are lessons to be learned from little Foxbat, and I hope to share those with you soon when I can be more objective about her life.  In the meantime, on Saturday we welcomed Kate into our home.  She is a rescue from a local animal shelter. 

The Suburban Dad Survivalist Handicaps The Latest Conspiracy Theories

Before I get into this, let me share a quick (and somewhat unrelated) story with you - several years ago, I've found a fool proof way of keeping you people (okay, not you people, but the public at large) from taking the middle seat next to me on a Southwest Airlines flight.  When I sit down in the aisle seat, I get out the meanest, scariest gun magazine I have and read it at eye level, so every passer-by will see it and think I am some anti-social lunatic.

Apparently, given the current state of our economy and world affairs, being "that guy" is no longer considered passe'.  Hell, in my flights over to New Orleans last week, it was a conversation piece.  The people sitting next to me wanted to know what I was reading and what measures they should be taking to be better prepared.  The fear of what may be coming - be it economic slow slide/downturn/currency war/austerity measure-fueled civil unrest/NCAA football playoff system - is waking a lot of folks up and forcing them to pay more attention to things they ignored in the not so recent past.  And that's a good thing.  Having people sit next to me on the airplane?  Not so much.

Back to tonight's topic.  If you've been into preparedness any length of time, you soon learn you will need to choose a particular camp to join - the "conspiracy theorist" camp or the "I'm not a nut job like those conspiracy theorists" camp.  I've been a member of the latter for quite some time now, although I will be the first to confess it's becoming more difficult to believe the conventional wisdom as to what ails our nation.

I don't normally delve into the conspiracy stuff, in large part because a) it turns a lot of people off and b) some of the more high profile theories (second shooters in the assassinations of JFK and MLK come to mind) have been debunked in convincing fashion.  That's not to say we shouldn't be skeptical and unwilling to examine alternative theories of monumental events.  I'll admit to watching some videos from Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth (which I DO NOT recommend you watch if you want to fall asleep tonight.....) 

But recent news stories continue to fuel speculation as to what the government may be doing or for which perils it's planning.  And these theories are gaining popularity not only with the preparedness movement but with many educated, main stream people.  So tonight, I'm going to look at a couple of these and give you my take on them.

Conspiracy Theory: The government recently purchased two billion hollow point rounds in an effort to prepare for a war with the American people.

Paul's take: It doesn't matter if you're a conspiracy theorist or not.  This should concern all of us for at least one of many reasons.

Investor's Business Daily waded into this story three weeks ago, despite the fact alternative media has been reporting on this for close to a year now.  Even Laura Ingraham brought this story up last week on her radio show. 

In short the theory goes something like this: the government is buying five times the amount of ammo necessary to shoot every man, woman and child in the United States.  Why would the government need that much ammo?

Well, for starters, there are benefits to buying in bulk.  You get better deals.  And that's precisely what the Feds have done here.  We should all want our federal law enforcement officers to practice regularly to be proficient in the use of deadly force, and practicing proficiency means spending time on the range and firing significant amounts of ammo.

A couple of other theories/Internet rumors I've heard include:

  • The government is purchasing gargantuan quantities of ammo to keep the American citizenry from being able to purchase it.  (Note there were no notable shortages of any kind of ammo, of any popular caliber, until the Sandy Hook shooting in December.  The government began purchasing ammunition in large quantities in early 2012, with little noticeable impact on the ammo market.)
  • Certain departments within the federal government use ammo as a sort of currency for inter-agency trades and purchases.  (I have no evidence this is is true.  But it would be interesting if it is...confirming that ammo makes for a good barter item.  And even it it is true, I am not sure it poses any threat to our liberties.)
So no worries, right?  I'm not sure that our analysis should stop there.  If I'm bothered by this story, it's for two reasons:

  1. Why is the federal government purchasing expensive hollow point ammo for training purposes, when it could by cheaper target ammo at a substantial savings?  This seems to be a waste of tax dollars.
  2. If the government feels it's necessary to have that much hollow point ammo on hand, they should tell us what threat or threats they fear.  Make no mistake: two billion hollow point rounds constitutes a tremendous amount of fire power.  What is the government preparing for?  Another terrorist attack? Civil unrest from some sort of economic downturn?  I don't know about you, but I want to be prepared for the same threat the government is preparing for.  If they think they need a lot of high quality defensive ammunition, then shouldn't we want some to protect ourselves from the very same threat?

Conspiracy Theory: The government is using targets in the image of pregnant women, children and the elderly to condition law enforcement to shoot them in the coming war on the American people referenced above.

Paul's take: Lighten up, Francis.

This one's pretty easy to explain.  Alex Jones published this report regarding the government's recent order of non-traditional targets.  These targets depict less than scary looking people holding weapons.  The idea is to condition officers to be willing to use deadly force against threats they might not expect.  After all, the "bad guy" isn't always some six foot four guy with a beard.  Threats come in all ages and genders.  Law enforcement officers need to feel confident they can use deadly force against anyone who is a deadly threat to another.  These targets are one way to do that.

I've trained with similar targets.  It's a bit disconcerting when you draw down on a picture of a young mother.  However, the mother in the picture is pointing a gun at you.  Under the law, she constitutes a threat; good tactics dictate we deal with that threat.  In other scenarios, the gun in her hand is covered up, forcing you to quickly recognize she's not a threat and to take care not to harm her.

I'm not worried about this one.  There are legitimate reasons to use these training aids.

So what can we conclude from all of this?  If there's one thing I've learned in the last five years, it's that things are never what they seem to be.  It's a lot like this scene in Shooter, where the old guy tells Mark Wahlburg that when he thinks he's got it figured out, he's wrong:

In short, be skeptical about everything you read or hear.