Friday, June 28, 2013

Daily Briefing For Friday, June 28, 2013

Some Observations on the George Zimmerman Trial

Like some of you, I've tuned in from time to time to the train wreck that is the State of Florida vs. George Zimmerman trial. I thought I'd share some thoughts with you as a recovering attorney licensed in Florida.

  • The prosecution's case goes beyond unconvincing and borders at times on lending support to the defense's theory that Zimmerman acted in self defense.  From the slow motion crash of the purported superstar witness Rachel Jeantel (her deleted tweets, which you can read here, will likely eliminate any sympathy you have for her) to today's testimony that it appeared Martin "was straddling Zimmerman and using a mixed martial arts-style of punching during the confrontation," according to WFTV, we get a sense that the prosecution has no idea what these witnesses are going to say until they get on the stand. 
  • If you are going to use a weapon in self defense, you need to have a plan for what you're going to do after that horrible moment.  What are you going to say to 911?  The police?  Does your family know what to do after you've told them the news?  Every action Zimmerman took in the hours after the shooting are being closely scrutinized.  Yours will be as well.  While you can't dictate the when and where, you can certainly plan for the what and why. 
  • Under Florida law, the state will have to prove that Zimmerman demonstrated a depraved mind without regard for human life, and do so with evidence that is beyond a reasonable doubt.  Heard any witness yet that can prove that for the prosecution? 
  • Like many of you, I am reading articles similar to this predicting civil unrest if Zimmerman is acquitted.  The fact many are taking to Twitter threatening to kill Zimmerman if he is cleared adds to that fear. 
  • The testimony so far seems to lend further support to Zimmerman's pending lawsuit against NBC.  As many of you might remember, NBC's track record in court includes having to admit to rigging GM trucks to catch on fire during an episode of Dateline.
What's Up With Gold Prices?

Gold punctured the $1,200 mark Thursday, and many expect the price to drop further.  "Everything that had been driving gold up has gone into reverse," said Julian Jessop, chief economist at Capital Economics.  And Goldman Sachs recently opined gold will fall to $1,050 by the end of next year.

Nouriel Roubini, nicknamed Dr. Doom for his consistently dire predictions about the economy, shares this view and outlines his explanation here

My philosophy on gold is very simple.  It's not an investment.  It's an insurance policy.  When you invest in gold with that mindset, the price fluctuations really don't bother you.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Daily Briefing For Monday, June 24, 2013

James Kunstler On The Economy

You may remember the name - Kunstler is the one who wrote the book on Peak Oil Theory.  ZeroHedge picked up his blog entry on Monday, which paints a snarky (and funny, if you're into Kunstler's sense of humor) picture of the global economy.  It's pure gloom and doom, but if it were rosy, it wouldn't be Kunstler.

Thanks to Jerid for the tip.

State v. Zimmerman, Day One

I listened to the trial in the background today as I worked, and opening statements are now out of the way.  Having tried several jury trials myself, I tend to watch trials differently than non-lawyers.  I get fixated on tactics and evidentiary squabbles.

I've remained a steady critic of Zimmerman's decisions that evening, but I fail to see how it rises to the level of murder.  Left leaning criminal law professor Alan Derschowitz agrees with me.  We'll see how the jury sees it.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Daily Briefing For Thursday, June 20, 2013

Lessons from Bosnia

Back in the spring of 1992, the conflict in Bosnia began.  We'd like to think that our species had evolved significantly up to that point, making the atrocities from previous wars a thing of the past.  Bosnia, however, taught us we were still quite human.

This story will give you some insight into what an extended worst case scenario might look like in a developed society.  Granted, this took place at the collapse of the Soviet Union, but there are lessons here for all of us.

What's Up With The Market?

In case you've been too wrapped up in Game 7 coverage of the NBA finals, the Dow has cratered in the last two days - over 500 points down in volume that's well above average.  Apparently, this was caused in large part to the Fed's announcement it would, predictably, begin to slow down its quantitative easing program.

As a result, gold and silver are down on a strengthening dollar, interest rates are going up, and the broader equity markets are down. 

On the financial talking head shows this evening, there were many opinions - many of which were contradictory to the others - as to what this means going forward.

What does it mean to the prepper community?  It means we need to continue to pay attention to the markets, make sound financial decisions, and keep your efforts on pace. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Daily Briefing For Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Adventures In Solar Bread Baking

When Kendel and Delaney are out of town, the lack of supervision in the house encourages me to do things I might not otherwise do. 

And so when they were out of town recently, I made up another batch of solar oven bread.  I'd hoped to grind my own wheat using some organic wheat my parents gave me at Christmas.  I scooped up a batch and took it outside to put in the grinder.  Imagine my surprise when I took the lid off the container only to find hundreds of small black bugs crawling around in the wheat.

Turns out that organic wheat isn't always cleaned before it's sold. This wheat came directly from the farm where it was raised, so it hadn't been processed in any way since harvest.  I told my mom about the bugs; she told me I should have frozen the wheat to kill any critters (or their eggs, in this case) that might have been in the wheat.

This is a good lesson for all of us to remember.  Some preppers, in order to save money, will buy unprocessed staple foods for their storage plan - which is fine, but you need to know what you're buying and how to treat the food prior to storage. 

And Is The Food GMO Free?

There's much discussion in the prepper community, as well as the wellness community, about the advisability of consuming genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.  There's a tremendous amount of debate on how healthy foods containing GMOs really are.

True story: I was watching a news story on PBS back in 1993 about GMO tomatoes with a friend of mine's father, who happened to be a minister.  We quietly watched the news piece, and at the conclusion, he asked me what I thought about the story.  I told him it sounded like there were some benefits to GMO foods.  "Yeah," he agreed, "but I'd hate to be the guy whose dick fell off and have the doctor say to me 'Looks like you've been eating those GMO tomatoes.'" 

I still laugh at that story.

This article is but one of many defending GMOs, and the arguments are certainly compelling.  But what troubles me more than the actual allegations regarding the harm caused by GMO is the acrimony between the pro-GMO groups and anti-GMO groups.  For a layperson, like myself, trying to separate the wheat from the chaff on this issue is rather daunting.  People with Ph.D. after their names on each side of this debate, claiming the other side practices bad science or outright lies about their cause, does little to help those of us who just want to know the truth.

What is the truth?  The truth is we're eating GMOs now, whether we want to or not.  They have already permeated our food supply.  I'm not sure it's even possible to eat a GMO free diet without dramatic lifestyle changes. 

Right or wrong, let's take a couple of lessons from the GMO debate.  First, a healthy amount of skepticism is a key ingredient of good citizenship.  Question everything.  Find out where the biases are.  Only then do we find the truth.

And second, when advocating preparedness to others, let's not be like many of those in the GMO debate (or vaccine debate, or global warming debate, or fluoridated water debate, for that matter).  We won't encourage people to prepare by telling them those who are on the fence about doing so that those who don't prepare are morons.

Advocate for whatever motivates you.  Do so in a civil fashion.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Daily Briefing For Thursday, June 13, 2013

Where To Begin?

Most of the state legislatures I track for work have ended their sessions, but that didn't result in a corresponding drop in my work load.  To the contrary - the tornadoes in Oklahoma have created some challenges for the insurance industry, and the summer brings with it a full dance card of various insurance association annual meetings where my attendance is strongly encouraged.  Plus, this is a month of vacations for me, adding to the cumulative time out of the office the last few weeks.

A lot has happened from a preparedness perspective, both globally and at home.  The New York Times reports this evening that Syria has crossed the proverbial red line by allegedly using chemical weapons against the rebels.  There's much talk about the U.S. increasing our involvement in the conflict, which would put us on the same side as Al Qaeda. 

Yes, that Al Qaeda.  The terror cell responsible for the burgeoning growth of the TSA with the concomitant airport gropings, naked body scanners, and large scale ammunition purchases will now be our ally of sorts in the region.  You cannot make this stuff up.

The cynic in me says this Syrian issue could not be timed better if it were intentional, which raises the question if this issue is now on page A1 of the Times in large part to serve as a distraction from the crisis du jour at the White House.  Perhaps. 

I'll leave it to others to drill down into the case for having our military blow stuff up in Syria.  We need to address a more pressing question in the preparedness community: what do Syria, the IRS scandal, the NSA scandal, and Benghazi have to do with the typical American trying to be better prepared for a wide spectrum of emergencies?


These events serve only as confirmation that our suspicions about the unchecked growth of government were not the stuff of overnight radio talk shows.  This shouldn't come as a surprise to any of you.  

Continue your preparedness efforts.  Try to get others to do the same.  As much as I'd like to try to get people to pay attention to the news take action, I realize things like the NBA Finals, the Stanley Cup and TV shows like The Voice are far more important to the typical citizen than what's going on in our Republic.  I will do what I can.  I hope you will, too.

My Plans For The Summer

I gave up all sodas on May 23rd.  It took a full four days to detox off of Diet Mountain Dew.  I'm 21 days soda sober.

I've greatly reduced my calorie intake.  I've dramatically increased my cardio workouts.  I've eliminated candy bars and most other empty carbs.

And so this new effort - to clean up the diet and lose weight - is my top priority this summer.  I know I've said stuff like this before, but I cannot continue on the course I was on.  My body simply won't let me.

The great thing about getting in better shape as part of your preparedness strategy is that it need not cost you anything.  Eating less and walking more costs you nothing, and it's one of the best things you can do to be better prepared.

My other goal is to learn more about alternative energy.  I have struggled with understanding the science behind this, and if you're going to have alt energy as part of your plan, you need to understand it. 

I'm hoping that by selecting two goals - and only two - it will better enable me to meet them, rather than having a long list of things I want to accomplish.