Saturday, May 31, 2014

Daily Briefing For Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Convenience of Conflict

I'm going to say what no one else wants to say. Conflict is convenient.

When we choose to adhere to a mainstream set of political beliefs, in many ways we free ourselves of  having to think or do our own research.  Choosing to be a Democrat or Republican, for most people,  means that their positions on  various issues are  already decided for them.  And conveniently,  by choosing one side or the other,  it gives us a much needed target for blame and perhaps our enmity - "idiot Republicans" or "kook Democrats." It also decreases our need to be aware of current events –  the recent cable news ratings for the month of May demonstrate that a)  people are consuming less information on political issues, b) are turned off by the base level of discourse that has become cable news, or c) both (a) and (b). 

There is nothing in the preparedness manifesto that requires someone to choose a particular political party or belief system.   in the last few years, I've met  a number of folks from across a wide spectrum of political beliefs , all of whom believe  we need to be focusing more on  self-reliance, sustainability, and decentralization of  political  and financial  power.  These are pickup driving  conservative gun owners,  left-wing environmentalist homesteaders, urban dwelling African Americans, rural elderly, straight women and gay men.  From a cultural perspective,  these groups share little in common.  However,  many within this movement have demonstrated a willingness  to set aside their differences and to share ideas and conversations … and in doing so,  many have found common ground with those much different from them.

When we are willing to reevaluate our own  positions and beliefs, great things happen.  Since 2005, our nation has made great strides in the reduction of homelessness in America.  Utah  – a state  whose political leanings peg the GOP litmus test meter -  expects to end all homelessness in the state by 2015.  Utah leaders were able to do this by re-examining he data and their previously held notions  about the causes of and cures for homelessness.   I think it's worth noting that a large portion of the population of Utah belongs to the Church of the Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) -  a denomination which puts a high priority on both spiritual and temporal preparedness. 

I do not have any data which suggests that  the preparedness mindset of many in Utah led to this positive change in policy towards homelessness.  I would submit to you, however, that the fundamental changes that need to happen in our society will come not from the leadership of the establishment political parties, but from people like us – people who are willing to set aside their preconceived notions, build relationships with others who may not be like them, and find common ground.  Our movement is particularly adept at that, and as such, we need to be mindful of the fact that preparedness is not just about being ready for hard times –  it is about finding workable and perhaps unconventional solutions to everyday problems.

To that end, we cannot  fall  prey to the convenience of conflict.  This business of engaging in ad hominem attacks does nothing to  improve public policy and our nation's level of preparedness.   It merely fuels  the coffers of the interest groups who stoke the flames for that very purpose.

And so my challenge to you this month is fairly simple –  start reaching out to people who are in a different demographic than you are.  Build relationships with them. Find common ground. And if they are not well prepared for basic emergencies, be a good ambassador for our cause.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Daily Briefing For Sunday, May 25, 2014

Coming Clean

We're not big Memorial Day travelers/party goers.  For the last few years, I've observed the holiday in the same fashion - cleaning gutters and doing yard work.  Today was no exception.

Running the leaf blower and mower, unclogging gutters and bagging lots of dead leaves and grass really gunked me up today.  The SPF 50 sunscreen and bug spray mixed with my sweat, allowing lots of dirt to stick all over me. By the time I was done for the day, I resembled the Pig Pen character on Peanuts.

Lately, I've been experimenting with low flow showering, as we may very well install low flow shower heads into the house we're planning to build in a couple of years.  I figured my filthy state would be a great test of how well someone can clean up taking a shower under austere conditions.  Afterwards, I'd fill the bath and  soak, just to see just how much dirt I missed from my grid down bathing exercise.

Some observations:
  • First and most importantly, you need to try doing this from time to time.   Growing up out in the country, our "city" water went off on a fairly regular basis, and so we learned to how to bathe using water heated on the stove.  While it was very Appalachia of us to do that, it has served me well since then to know that I can get reasonably clean with just a pot of warm water.

    Austere showering, or even low flow showering, does require a bit of planning.  One of the things I've learned is that the more you can simplify your bathing routine, the better off you are.  To that end, I'm a big believer and hoarder of generic baby shampoo.  I use it not only for its intended purpose, but also as a basic body wash.  It works really well for both purposes and is dirt cheap.  I know many of you plan to make your own soap during an extended crisis.  For me, stocking up on cheap baby shampoo relieves me of the need to play with lye.
  • Scrub.  A lot.  I didn't get as clean as I would have liked during my crisis shower.  I didn't scrub as well as I should have.  Lesson learned.
  • If things get bad, I'm shaving my head.  My hair trapped a fair amount of dead leaves, grass, and other cooties from the clogged gutters.  When I re-rinsed my hair in the tub, it was immediately evident that I missed a lot of debris when I showered.  I'd plan on rinsing a second time, water supplies permitting, if I was that dirty.
  • In an extended water outage, I'd plan on taking a shower in a large dishpan of sorts.  We live in Texas.  We're in a drought.  If things got to the point that we're taking crisis showers, I want to catch the grey water so I can use it for other things, like flushing the toilets.  (If you don't know how to flush a toilet when the water isn't working, you need to learn.  Just pour a bucket of water in the tank and flush.)

Interest Rates and Debt and Stuff

Your Federal Reserve is contemplating how to raise interest rates in an environment where the financial system is awash in cash.  Before we go full-on doomer about this, let's remember that rates are at historic lows and have been for some time.  Rates must go up.  There's no real room for them to go anywhere else.

The question of course is a) how high might they go and b) can the Fed really constrain rates once the velocity of money picks up steam.  I don't know the question to the former, but the specter of the latter gives me cause for concern.

Meanwhile, food prices keep going up.  This is especially true with pork and beef.  Again, without getting full bore doom and gloom on this, a growing population competing for food during a drought will put upward pressure on prices.  This, in turn, will encourage others to invest in beef and pork production to take advantage of the higher prices. 

Finally, The Hill declared today that "Bankers exhale as Tea Party power fizzles."  From the story:

“The fact that [Sen.] Ted Cruz [R-Texas] will not have a whole lot of new allies is very encouraging,” said one senior financial industry executive.
Let that sink in for a moment.  Regardless of what you think about the tea party, the truth is that its fortunes rose from the bailouts of these same big banks.  For many in the political cognoscenti on both sides of the aisle, the tea party represents the unwashed masses of politics who are simply too ignorant to understand that big banks and corporatism are necessary to "get things done" in America.

What might we make of all of this?  The things we've been talking about here and elsewhere - the specter of inflation, the bullish outlook of the ag sector and the false choices presented by the red/blue political paradigm - these issues are still alive and aren't going away any time soon. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Daily Briefing For Tuesday, May 20, 2014

"Climate Change Will Force Us To Abandon Coastal Cities.  We'd Better Start Preparing Right Now."

I promise: I don't go out looking for gloom and doom articles.  They always seem to find me instead.

The left of center New Republic sounds the alarm for climate change, once again telling us the sky is falling and that we will end up having to "abandon" many of the world's coastal cities.  From the article:

While actual abandonment would not happen for many years (we’re talking centuries), the studies warned that our actions now are irrevocable and will lock in these future sea level rises. In other words, our descendants will be dealing with irreversible damage that we are committing today.

I'm not here to debate whether climate change is real and, if it is, whether it's man made.  I don't find that one's position in the debate is particularly helpful in determining who is likely to support a preparedness culture and who isn't.  And so I don't spend a lot of my time in this blog on the subject.

But tonight, I'm going to deviate from this rule for a bit, in hopes that I draw your attention to what I see as a problem in the Climate Change Industrial Complex's thinking on the issue.  Namely, we can't get people on the coast to prepare for hurricane season...what makes you think they're going to prepare for a predicted multi-century rise in the sea levels?

Many climate changers lament the fact the public doesn't seem willing to engage on this issue in the way they would like.  I feel their pain.  Sixty percent of deaths from house fires occur in homes that don't have a functioning smoke detectorOn average, 99 people a year die from flooding in the United States.  We can't get people to save their own lives by installing a ten dollar smoke detector and doing a U turn when they see rushing water on a roadway.  Getting them to worry about the effects of climate change a century from now when they won't do those basic things to save their own lives today is simply a bridge too far for most people.

And for those who do try to understand the issue, they quickly find they must take a side and become the mortal enemy of those on the other side.  Terms like "idiots" and "whackos" are hurled at opponents regularly.  "Reasonable people, if they would just pay attention to the facts, would conclude..." whatever position that side of the argument propagates.  While I understand such tactics are en vogue in today's political discourse, they do little to motivate the average person who wants to make an informed decision to engage in the necessary intellectual exercise to understand the issue.

So for my climate changer friends, here are some things I've learned from trying to get people more engaged in preparedness:
  • Not everyone who disagrees with you is an idiot.  Not everyone who isn't convinced that it's prudent to be prepared for extended emergencies is a moron.  There are many really bright people who, for a number of reasons, have not bought into the argument.  The same goes for your position.  Saying that people who don't agree with you are idiots does little to convince them that anthropological global warming is real or that they should have a supply of food and water on hand in the event of an emergency.
  • Dire predictions have a finite shelf life.  So when Y2K turned out to be a non-event, despite a lot of hype to the contrary, it became much more difficult to get people to take preparedness seriously.  (9/11, on the other hand, was a compelling motivator.)  Daniel Patrick Moynihan's now famous warnings on rising sea levels fall in that same category.  There's only so many times you get to say "the sky is falling" before people tune you out.  That's not to say you can't talk about it, but we have to make clear that these are worst case scenario predictions...but even if we're only ten percent correct, it still warrants us taking action.
  • Walk the walk.  If you're going to complain about humans contributing to man made global warming, I best not catch you driving a big SUV. (Many of you climate changers are doing this.  And worse.) And if I'm pontificating on the need to check your smoke detectors, you'd better be able to come into my home, push the test button on any of detectors and make them go off.  That's only fair. 
Those of us advocating preparedness and environmental stewardship have much in common.  We ought not let differences on certain issues - as important as they may be to us - become stumbling blocks to further discourse on the subjects upon which there is strong agreement.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Daily Briefing For Monday, May 19, 2014

Stock Up, Tune In and Hang On.

Jerid shared this article with me and a few others this evening to get our feedback.  Turns out Thailand is undergoing a quasi-coup of some sort at the moment.  We visited a bit about the article, and my only response was that we needed to "stock up, tune in and hang on," a play on the Timothy Leary quote from way back when. 

We live in interesting times to say the least.  People occasionally ask me what they should be doing to get prepared for this or that, and I always tell them the same thing:

  1. Do the basic preparations first. 
  2. Educate yourself on what's happening in the world and draw your own conclusions.
  3. Focus on making yourself physically, mentally and spiritually stronger.
That's it.  That will equip you to handle many things that might come your way.  Preparedness is not hard, but it is work.  It's about executing some basic things very well, like having food, water and other supplies to see you through an emergency, staying informed, and being ready to be a leader in your community when needed.

Meanwhile, Chipotle Hates You People...

Because a few of you insist on bringing your assault rifles into the restaurant when you're getting your burrito on.

If you're doing this, stop it.

Yes, it's perfectly legal in many states.  So is staring at a woman's cleavage and making comments about it.  Yet it's bad form to do both.

We want - and need - the not-so-armed community to like us.  You walking into Chipotle with your AR (which I dare say you probably shoot about as effectively as your people skills are) does nothing to promote the cause of firearm rights.

If you want to make a more positive statement, invite your non gun owning friends to the range some time and let them shoot your tricked out AR-15 or other gun of choice.  That's a far more productive use of your time.

Hurricane Season 2014 Is Days Away

I hope to get some updates from Jordan and others on pro tips on hurricane preparedness we can all use.  If El Nino makes an appearance, we can expect fewer named storms and hopefully some drought relief.


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Daily Briefing For Sunday, May 18, 2014

Homeland Security Goes to "Level Four" Readiness; Meanwhile, Is CME Something We Need To Be War Gaming?

Those of us blessed to live in Texas still have things with which we must contend.  Last week, the DHS went to "a level-four condition of readiness" due to "a surge of young illegal migrants traveling by themselves."  No doubt those of us lamenting this will be accused of being anti-immigration (we're not) or worse (we're not that, either.)  This is a heartbreaking situation spurred on by a collapsing society in certain countries south of the U.S. border, made possible by our immigration system which, in 2013, released 36,000 non-residents with criminal records back into society.

All of this, of course, pales in comparison if you believe we are due for a coronal mass ejection.  One writer in the preparedness blogs posted this story citing a story from Reuters and one from Forbes which, combined together, certainly get your attention.  From the Forbes piece:

"An extreme space weather storm – a solar superstorm – is a low-probability, high-consequence event that poses severe threats to critical infrastructures of the modern society,” warned Liu.

"The cost of an extreme space weather event, if it hits Earth, could reach trillions of dollars with a potential recovery time of 4-10 years . Therefore, it is paramount to the security and economic interest of the modern society to understand solar superstorms.”

A study last year estimated that a second Carrington event could cost the world $2.6 trillion.

Are you ready to live in a post-Carrington society for four to ten years?  Me either.

The important thing here is not to get panicked by a Condition Taupe declaration by DHS or a electromagnetic pimp slap by our local star.  Make progress as you can.  Stay focused.  Prepare for a wide spectrum of threats.  Pay attention to the news, educate yourselves on the issues, and participate in the upcoming elections.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Daily Briefing For Thursday, May 15. 2014


Our friends at the U.S. Department of Agriculture need some new equipment. According to the Federal Business Opportunities website:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, located in Washington, DC, pursuant to the authority of FAR Part 13, has a requirement for the commerical acquisition of submachine guns, .40 Cal. S&W, ambidextrous safety, semi-automatic or 2 shot burts trigger group, Tritium night sights for front and rear, rails for attachment of flashlight (front under fore grip) and scope (top rear), stock-collapsible or folding, magazine - 30 rd. capacity, sling, light weight, and oversized trigger guard for gloved operation.

The regulators of food processing plants and seeds apparently want to get into the SWAT business.

No doubt some will claim such weaponry is necessary to deal with the next Cliven Bundy, whom Harry Reid labeled a domestic terrorist.  It's hard to argue that if there's a growing movement of pissed off ranchers who aren't happy with government regulators, those employed by the government to enforce regulations need to be ready to deal with such issues.

Yet to the gun enthusiast community, something doesn't smell right with that story.  First, if you think you're going to need a machine gun, why not bring along the folks who train to use them regularly, like the U.S. Marshalls?  Do we really expect USDA to adequately equip and train a SWAT team for whatever functions they encounter which might require professional gunfighters? 

Further, in the kind of field environment you'd expect a USDA official to work in - a rural one - a sub machine gun is probably the last weapon you'd want to take with you.  They are inaccurate ammo burners best left to those operating in close quarter, urban environments.

If you are persuaded by those concerns, it raises another question: just what are the guns for?  My only guess is that this is a continuation of the militarization of law enforcement and other regulators.  And I would submit those on Team Red and Team Blue should be alarmed by this.

Perhaps USDA Should Focus More On Something In Their Skill Set....Like the Birds and Bees

So Big John shared this link today, describing a new program in Denmark will encourage couples to get it on and make babies.  I am not joking.

Turns out they aren't reproducing fast enough to support their elderly.  They need new bodies in the workplace to pay taxes.  In essence, people are being asked to make babies who, if they elect to remain in Denmark, become the sugar mommas and daddies to the generation which spent themselves into oblivion.

Of course, since it's Denmark, these new revenue producers will have a wonderful life, thanks to the miracle that is socialism.  They'll work fewer hours than most of the rest of the world.  That lack of productivity, of course, is what got them where they are in the first place.  Speaking of first place, Denmark lights the lamp again - the highest level of private debt in the world.  These little bundles of joy will no doubt enjoy the Danish environmental quality, as they have the fourth largest ecological footprint in the world.  Too bad they'll also have to contend with the highest cancer rates on the planet.

We've yet to hear how the climate change crowd will spin this one.  After all, population control is a main part of their solution.

The prepper nexus for this story?  Have a plan to take care of yourself in your older years that doesn't involve bribing twentysomethings to get each other pregnant.

In Other News....

How to light a fire using your pee.  (I promise you I won't be field testing this on my YouTube channel.)

The Soviets are dumping our Treasurys....but who is buying them up?  (*cough*Janet Yellen*cough*.)

Does the military support a state's right to secession?  I was rather surprised by this one.  (And for the record, I am NOT advocating for secession...let's get that straight right now.) 


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Daily Briefing For Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Deep Drill Down

The dash board of my Blogger site indicates it's been a while since I've posted here.  Late last year, I began working on a series of essays on preparedness in an effort to really drill down into some subjects that I wanted to explore in more detail.  It's been a time consuming process, but so far I've enjoyed the process and the learnings from it.

That begs the question - what to do with the essays I'm creating.  I am tempted to make them more cohesive and put them into a book (for what reason, I'm not sure...I'm still thinking and praying about that.)  These aren't "how to" type essays - this is a deeper look into the preparedness culture in America.  I fear we need to be having a different conversation now about preparedness than we've been having up to this point.  It's my hope that we can start doing that sooner rather than later.

Some News About Upcoming Events

Get August 2-3 blocked off on your calendars.  In conjunction with KR Training, I'll be co-sponsoring what may be the First (maybe/kinda/sorta/not sure how this is going to go just yet) Annual Suburban Dad Survivalist Field Day on that Saturday.  This will be heavy on hands on and light on theory.

Right now, we've tentatively scheduled presentations on:

  • reloading
  • map reading
  • rainwater collection
  • snaring and trapping
  • ham radio usage
  • food storage plan building
  • water purification
  • bug out bag toys show and tell
  • electric generator demonstrations
and much more. 

On Sunday, Caleb Causey of Lone Star Medics will be presenting his Dynamic First Aid class.  This will be an intensive weekend of training and hands on experience.  More details will follow, but for now make sure that weekend is on your calendar.

Are You Checking Out The YouTube Channel?

Off and on, I'm experimenting with my YouTube channel.  If you have suggested topics you'd like for me to cover, please let me know in the comment section below.