Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Daily Briefing for Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Take The High Road

I should be working tonight, having been out of the office most of yesterday and not getting home until 2:30 AM this morning from a long night at the Legislature.  But I need a break from the nuances of permissive driver exclusion legislation (don't ask). 

Several years ago, my boss at the time and still good friend to this day, Becky, talked to me on the phone one afternoon as I was leaving an informal mediation from my divorce.  I won't bore you with the details of the conversation, but something she said to me really resonated: "Paul, no matter what, take the high road.  You won't regret it."

I've taken this advice to heart over the years, and ironically gave it back to her once several years after the fact.  It's good guidance for us.

Today's vote in the U.S. Senate reminded me again that we need to take the high road.  Immediately after it became apparent that the more restrictive amendments to the gun control bill would not be adopted, my Facebook news feed began blowing up with people celebrating and people lamenting the results.  Like most if not all of you, I was relieved to see the more restrictive amendments fail.  I remain convinced these provisions not only curtail our constitutional rights, they would also be ineffectual in reducing violent crime.

Yet gloating or spiking the ball this evening doesn't seem appropriate in many ways.  As a Libertarian, I don't get any joy out of seeing liberty-limiting legislation fail; I only get a sense of relief that constitutional rights were protected.  As an owner of many of the items these amendments sought to outlaw, I'm relieved that I can continue to enjoy using these items.  As a human being, I'm reflective on what we can do as a society to reduce the likelihood of active shooter situations.

I would submit to you that tonight is not an evening to celebrate.  It is an evening to reflect.  Think back to how you felt in January of this year - just three months ago - when it became clear there would be a massive effort to restrict the Second Amendment.  Many gun owners were terrified at the prospect of not being able to purchase the weapons of their choice.  Ammo prices entered and remain at stratospheric levels.  It was very bleak for us, to say the least.

Gloating over today's votes won't win us any friends in the anti-gun crowd.  To be sure, many of those folks aren't going to be won over, no matter what.  But there's still a large number of people out there - those who don't have strong feelings on this issue either way - that we need to be reaching out to.  Rather than spiking the ball and saying negative things about legislators who sponsored restrictive legislation, we need to be inviting those folks on the fence to go to the range with us and encouraging them to pursue whatever interest they have in firearms.  This is especially true with women.  Female enrollment in gun classes has exploded over the last few years and continues to remain strong.  If momma gets to go to the range, it won't be an issue for the kids to do so in the future.

As I said back in January, we need to continue to respect the Constitution and be nice people.  And that means taking the high road.

Boston Bombing

I will admit - I'm not sure what I am supposed to think or say about this.  I know that may sound odd.  Of course we all can agree it's a terrible event with heart breaking injuries and loss of innocent lives.  We all can see the goodness in those who rushed in to help and take the high road as discussed above. 

I get all of that. 

Yet I find myself pushing my emotions aside and yearning to be more objective about the situation.  By that I mean I keep asking myself things like:
  • What does this mean going forward?  Can we expect more interaction with TSA out in public?
  • What should we think of the media and their rush to speculate this was the work of some one from the political right?
  • Did 9/11 de-sensitize us to the point we can see what happen on Monday and go about our lives as if it took place in the Middle East?
  • How can I do a better job of making sure I have an IFAK (individual first aid kit) near me at all times?
These are some of the things I think we need to be asking at some point.  Monday's bombing was a stark reminder that we are not immune from terrorism, and that being prepared to deal with it isn't some cute hobby.  It may be what keeps us alive if we ever experience it ourselves.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Daily Briefing for Saturday, April 13, 2013

Do Facts and Data Matter?  What About Sourcing?

The obvious answer for most folks these questions is "yes," although we often demonstrate that's not the case.

Take this piece that's making the rounds from entitled "Tennessee: Ayn Rand's Vision of Paradise."  I knew instantly this article was going to be a hit piece on the Volunteer State.

The story goes downhill quickly from there.  Writes Les Leopold:

As you would expect, [Tennessee's last place ranking in per capita tax revenue] translates into hard times for its public school systems, which rank 48th in school revenues per student and 45th in teacher salaries. 

Never mind the fact that using the data linked to in the article, Tennessee average teacher salaries were only $500 less than those in Arkansas,  and $1,200 above those in West Virginia (page 36,  Table C-9 of the pdf if you're checking my homework) ...and yet those two states made the top ten states with the best public schools as scored by Education Week.  And of course, we should ignore the fact Tennessee's cost of living is ten points below the national average.

Leopold goes on to add:

By the way, the Tennessee legislature is lily-white: One percent is Latino, 6% African American and 91% Caucasian. But the complexion of poverty is darker. Nearly 80 percent of Tennessee’s poor children are black and brown.

And there you go:  the problems facing Tennessee are caused by the fact its legislature is predominately white.  Followed to its logical conclusion, states and cities where the governing bodies are not predominantly white would have much better results. Places like Detroit, which not so long ago had the nation's worst drop out rate, according to NPR and where only seven percent of its eight graders could read at grade level. And by the way, while I am picking on Detroit (the birth place of my father, I might add), their per pupil funding levels were between $2,000 and $5,000 above the national average

Just in case you're wondering, I'm not blaming the failing school system in Detroit on the racial make up of its board of education.  The board's racial makeup, along with the racial make up of the Tennessee legislature, has absolutely no bearing on the quality of policy decisions they make.

Oh, by the way - in case keeping score matters - Tennessee public schools were ranked 21st in a recent study

I could go on here.  And if you want to blow up my Facebook page or the comments section below taking issue with my criticism of the Salon piece, that's fine.  I'm not going to argue with you, because I'm trying to make a bigger point here, which is this:  we get to the correct conclusions and solutions much quicker when we are willing to be intellectually honest and look at all of the data.  Note I'm not claiming Tennessee is perfect; every state has its problems.  Nor am I claiming Tennessee doesn't consider some really bad legislation from time to time; again, every state does.  But I am claiming that pieces like this one from Salon don't drill down into the data deeply enough - and if I could be so bold as to say honestly enough -  to present a meaningful analysis of the state's situation.

Friends, we drown in news and opinions every day.  I get it.  The Internet is a wonderful thing, but it's often difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff when it comes to reliable data and accurate information.

That's one of the challenges we in the preparedness movement face - getting accurate information.  With all of the stories of the government stockpiling ammo, the European banks taking depositors' money, and evangelical Christians, Catholics and Mormons being named religious extremists in military training presentations, it's now more imperative than ever that we make sure we have as much objective, factually accurate data as we can get.  It's a difficult burden to bear, of course.  But if we are to be prepared for a wide spectrum of contingencies, we must seek the truth.  That's one of the many tasks on our to do lists.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Daily Briefing for Wednesday, April 10, 2013

What Do Cops Say About You Owning A Gun?

PoliceOne asked over 15,000 of them to find out.  Their answers may surprise you.


I'm encouraging the prepper nation to start learning about bitcoin.  I am still learning what it is and how it works.  I don't know if this will catch on, but it does raise some interesting issues regarding alternative currencies to the dollar. 

And Oh Yeah, Bitcoin Volatility Is One Of The Things You Need To Understand

Bitcoin cratered today.  This should to be expected.  Please understand that you need to fully understand what you're investing in when you participate in bitcoin.

Hsoi On Being Your Own First Responder

Johnny lays out his case.  Don't expect help to arrive instantly.  Instead, be prepared to deal with the emergency on your own.  Seems like I've heard that somewhere before....

ZeroHedge Adopting The Suburban Dad Survivalist Mantra

Jerid asked me the other day if I wrote this article.  Take two minutes to read it, and you will see why.

David Stockman Is Pissing Important People Off

I was one of three newspaper reporters who covered his press conference in Nashville back in the late 80s.  As a college freshman, I wrote for the Vanderbilt school newspaper and got a cool opportunity to see him in person.  Peter Schiff on Stockman's latest musings, namely that what ails us is due to a burgeoning welfare state and abandonment of the gold standard.  Seems like I've said that here before as well....

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Daily Briefing For Saturday (evening), April 6, 2013

Negligent or Accidental Discharge?

Kate is our new dog.  She's about two years old, and she's really bright.  We got her from an animal shelter about a week after Foxy passed away.  We love her dearly, but she finds ways to challenge us that we didn't expect.

Today is a prime example.  We own about ten acres which border the Austin city limits (we're on the unincorporated side of the line, thank goodness).  We let the dogs run off leash on the property.   Foxy loved every minute of it.  We were hoping Kate would, too. 

This was Kate's second time to the property today.  Much to our chagrin, she took off and got into the woods, causing us to have to look for her for over 45 minutes.  At one point, we thought we'd lost her forever, but she finally circled back to us.  Needless to say, she is not on the good doggie list.

On the way home, Kate managed to create additional chaos, discharging one of the fire extinguishers I carry inside the truck.  The extinguisher was aimed at Kendel who managed to take the brunt of the powder when it went off. 

Upon examination of the extinguisher, I found the safety pin had broken, and a piece of it was lying on the truck's floorboard.  Despite the fact the retention cord was supposed to hold the pin in place and protect it from breaking off, the pin failed.  And so when Kate put her paw on the trigger, it set the extinguisher off.

Some observations:

  • Where should you keep a fire extinguisher in your vehicle?  I keep mine in an organizer that fits on the back of the driver's seat.  I can get out of the truck and have it deployed in seconds.  Is that the best place to carry it?

  • What precautions should I take to prevent this from happening again?  Most people don't bother with putting retention cord on the safety pin, but because I'm a bad ass operator like Rick Taylor, I do.  Turns out being a bad ass operator didn't prevent Kendel from getting spooged with mono ammonium phosphate because Kate decided to put her little paw on the trigger.  By the way - NOT letting the dogs ride in the truck isn't an option.  This is Texas.

  • Is an ABC extinguisher the right one for my truck?  I like the fact it can stop a wide spectrum of fire types.  But I am open to re-thinking this.

I still have one extinguisher in my truck.  I need to think about putting some sort of protective covering over the gauge and trigger to prevent something like this from happening again.  I will keep you posted on my efforts.  In the meantime, I need to go out and clean my truck to remove the monoammoniumnotgonnaworkhereanymore my detail guys at the car wash missed this afternoon. 

And Kate needs to figure out how to get out of the dog house with her momma.

Daily Briefing For Saturday, April 6, 2013

52 Days Left

Each Friday, I write an email to many of my clients involved in the Texas legislative process on what's happened the past week and what's likely to happen the following week.  I start each email with a countdown until how many days are left until sine die, which for our purposes translates to "the last day of the legislative session."

The recent talk of Cyprus and North Korea have many asking a similar much time do we have left to get ready for another major problem to fully manifest itself in America?  The question is understandable when you have stories like this one: North Korea Tells Brit Diplomats To Get Out - Then Sets Chilling April 10 Deadline

There are other troubling signs.  Announced just today: Almost 90 million Americans now have dropped out of the labor force.  This doesn't count the number of people who are on disability and no longer work.  Next week, the Obama Administration will announce new proposals to limit how much money someone can have in their IRA.  From the article: "The senior administration official said that wealthy taxpayers can currently 'accumulate many millions of dollars in these accounts, substantially more than is needed to fund reasonable levels of retirement saving.'"  As if it's the government's job to tell us how much we're allowed to save or spend.  And interestingly, no one calls me a fear monger any more for claiming the government is planning to exercise control over our retirement plans.  The lack of criticism on that front has not gone unnoticed.

Meanwhile, David Stockman of the Reagan era comes out and says what I've been saying for years: "all America’s economic problems stem from the welfare state and the end of the gold standard."

Even Rush Limbaugh, who championed the phrase "American Exceptionalism" not too long ago, said today: We are living in a dying country.

If you accept Rush's premise, and if you believe our current economic course is unsustainable, what are we to do?  Can we do anything about it?

First, let me say I don't know how much time we have before there's another 9/11 or Katrina or OKC Bombing or stock market crash.  I wish I did.  But I don't let that stop me from moving forward and taking steps to help ensure the well being of my family for whatever may come our way.

So this evening, I want to share some thoughts with you that I hope will give you a blue print on what I think you need to be doing in the next 52 days.  I'm using that time frame because there's a handy clock on a Texas lobbyist association website that measures, to the second, when sine die occurs for the Legislature.  Might as well use their sine die as our own personal clock for getting better prepared.

Make physical exercise and better health your new hobby.

Some of you won't like this.  But with reports that we will be facing a shortage of doctors in the coming years, we have to be more proactive with our own health care.  You need to be losing weight, building stamina, flexibility and strength.  You don't have to join a gym.  Start walking.  Change your diet.  This is the preparedness lifestyle.

Put together a sixty day supply of food and water.

This is just a start, of course.  A sixty day supply will get your family through a lot of calamities.  And you may be able to use it to help another family in need.

Don't count on being able to get money out of your bank.

It feels weird typing that.  But power outages after major storms render ATMs and bank branches useless.  And if Cyprus is any indication of what might happen here, we need to be prepared accordingly.  This may mean keeping cash and precious metals secured somewhere in your home or other safe area.

That's it.  That should get you started.  I realize I didn't tell you to go out and buy more guns and ammo.  All the guns and ammo in the world are worthless if you don't have food and water.  Most of you reading this already have this part of your plans squared away anyway.

Use the time you have to do what you can.