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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Civil Unrest

This is a re-print from our most recent weekly Personal Safety Newsletter.  Yes, you too can sign up and get them weekly, hot off the presses!  Click here to see our Newsletter Archive.

Things are tense.

The economy is in a shambles. Unemployment is at historic levels.

It seems like you can't turn on the TV or read a newspaper article and not hear about a home invasion, or a shooting or some sort of violent act happening. We've got people flying planes into government offices. It's all a bit unreal.

But these are all the actions of individuals or small groups of people. What happens if that expands?

The reason this topic is being raised at this time is because of what is happening over in Europe. The causes of their civil unrest could become a reality here in the near future.

* We all remember the riots in Paris over racial, religious and economic issues. They seem to pop up every summer since 2005.
* Iceland essentially became insolvent in 2008, and the normally placid citizens rioted.
* Greece has been having riots over economic conditions since late 2008. The last one occurred earlier this week.

And the civil unrest is spreading. From the Times of London online edition (2/24/2010) -

A general strike is planned next month in Portugal after a public-sector wage freeze, while Spain is witnessing growing unrest over plans to raise the retirement age. In the eurozone's most indebted countries, collectively known by the trader acronym PIIGS (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain) the young are struggling to find work, the middle-aged are having their earnings squeezed and the old will see pension and benefit cuts.

What might be the reaction here in America if similar economic constraints are placed on us? Might things happen a bit more quickly here in near-bankrupt California?

How will you as an individual cope with being in the middle of some sort of civil unrest - riots, protests or a general break-down of civil society?

Remember, "mob mentality" is very different from a normal personal interaction. People, as a group, will sometimes do things they would never consider doing as individuals.

Things you can do to stay safe -

1. First and foremost, keep alert. Pay attention to the newspaper and TV and listen for mention of planned demonstrations. Unless you're planning on being part of the demonstration, try and keep away.

2. Listen for events or actions that might spark a violent protest. What high-profile trials, elections, concerts, speeches or other public events have the potential to erupt into violence? Stay away.

3. Always, always, always have your personal defense tool with you. Surprises do happen. Be prepared.

If you find yourself caught-up in the middle of a violent demonstration -

1. If the police have given orders to disburse, follow their instructions to the letter. Because of the large numbers of people, they will have no time to identify who is a participant and who is an innocent by-stander. Limit your chances of arrest, being tear gassed or worse by complying with their orders. Now is not the time to take a stand!

2. If you are the object of an attack, attempt to take cover. Do whatever you can to place large objects or structures between you and the attackers. Be careful, though, not to "paint yourself into a corner" by choosing a location with no secondary means of escape.

3. Be prepared to defend yourself. Hopefully, you will have your defensive tool with you, but grab anything that is available. You may be injured, but you must have the mental attitude that you will not give up until the danger has passed.

Next issue: Know Your Limitations

Here's an article in my favorite magazine - Backwoods Home - that takes a bit different approach and perspective.  Great information.

Accept The Challenge

We have no way of predicting if or when, "the balloon will go up" - there are just too many variables to consider.  The best way you can protect yourself is to stay alert.  Watch for signs or events that could lead to things spinning out of control.

If you have your preps in place, and have both an Evacuation plan and a Shelter-In-Place plan, you will be in much better shape than most other people.  If not, make those preps and plans NOW.  The tensions mentioned in the article aren't going away any time soon.

Image Credit:  Rama
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Copyright 2010 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Economic Realities

I make the assumption that people who read this blog and others like it, have a genuine concern for where our country is heading, including economically.  We see friends and neighbors losing their jobs and homes, while the government tells us about, "green shoots".

We know something bad is happening.  We may not know exactly why it's happening or what we can do about it, but we certainly don't believe the Happy Talk coming from Washington and our state capitals.

Basically, we're not drinking their brand of Kool Aid.

Amazingly, there are people that don't see it.  More accurately, perhaps, they're people choosing not to see it.

We all know people like this.  If you've still got it in you, and you want to give them a detailed (albeit pretty darned long) piece on this subject, send them to this article ("The Great Recession of 2011-2012") in The American Spectator.  It is excellent.

Some snippets to whet your appetite -
The coming crisis should be no surprise, for we all have had plenty of advance warning. If it is a surprise, blame those chat-show economists who have become so politicized that they ignore the truths of their own science in order to acquire celebrity. Nor should we forget those politicians who deliberately suborn national interest for the security of zero-sum pork-barrel politicking. Combine it all with a news media largely made up of self-referential ignoramuses and it is small wonder that most of the world has been diverted as Dorothy was in Oz by the lightning bolts, explosions, and billowing smoke screen being generated by the men behind the curtain.
Right to the point, huh?

The author uses plenty of hard statistics coupled with common sense analysis. The article is more of a conversation than it is an economic dissertation. It is factual and plainly spoken.
After hearing an entire day’s worth of philosophizing by the party’s greatest minds, Reagan closed the meeting with a decision to make tax cuts a policy point for his upcoming run for the White House.

“Nancy and I always believed that if you didn’t want the kids to overspend their allowances, you didn’t give them the money in the first place.” And so it was tax cuts, which did indeed provide the investment capital needed to work the nation’s way out of economic gridlock. If he was wrong in presuming that federal deficits would be reduced, it was because neither he nor any president since has been able to restrain the 535 members of the U.S. Congress from overspending.
And he is no Republican water-carrier, either. There is absolutely no love lost for politicians of either major party.
It would have been a comfort, of course, if there were a viable opposition force in Washington (or elsewhere) to the pervasive government-fix-all philosophy that exists. But a coherent Republican Party led by folks of stature who offer meaningful solutions has vanished from our scene as abruptly as did the Whigs in the 1850s. What’s left is a hologram of a political party, dominated by second-raters who obsess over moral doctrine in an appeal to some hypothetical “base” that will keep them in the few offices they still cling to.
So, how long will this mess last? I'll let you read the article yourself to find out his beliefs. Let's just say that whatever green shoots we have right now, will be big, strong trees...

In case you think this might be a bit of hyper-ventilation on the part of some "doomer," consider this speech given yesterday - straight from lips of the president of the Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank -
Let me begin, then, with the national economy. You know we have been through one of the most severe and longest recessions in our nation’s history. The recovery from the recession may also end up being one of the longest in our history. In fact, it may take years just to get back to the level of output we enjoyed in 2007, just before the economic crisis began.

Some of you may think I am being too pessimistic. After all, we saw a strong GDP growth estimate for the fourth quarter of last year--nearly 6 percent at an annual rate. But I think that figure overstates the underlying strength of our economy right now.
Accept The Challenge

You know the drill:  Get your "financial house" in order.  This is going to be a long, hard slog through the mud.

One thing to remember, though, is that in every economic down-turn, opportunities WILL present themselves.  Homes and other real estate are going to continue to drop in price.  Businesses will continue to close, and assets will be auctioned.

It sucks, but it's reality.  You need to be ready to take advantage of these opportunities.

Look around you and be on the alert for opportunities.  Finding a niche and making a go of it is how YOU are able to make your own personal economy more stable.

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Copyright 2010 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Preps: Lost Records

As we've stated before, in our view, Emergency Preparedness needs to focus more on limiting negative impacts to disasters than on preparing for specific events (earthquake, hurricane, etc.).  We discussed that philosophy and those Twelve Impacts in an earlier post.  You can see all of the items in the series to this point by clicking the 12 Impacts label category.

We're going to drill down into one of the twelve impacts:  Lost Records.

Our lives are increasingly dependent upon data and records. Most of the time, these records are used for some sort of identification or authentication, or as proof of ownership/past payment.  It is incredible how much "permission" we are required to get to live our lives.

As you look through this list of items you need for many business and government services, it will dawn on you that most people have an incredible amount of very sensitive information in their possession.

Despite the massive shift from paper-based records to electronic media, good old printed copies of records are still an effective back-up.

Will you have easy access to your records during an emergency?  Here's a partial list:

Identification:  Drivers license
Identification:  Passport
Identification:  Marriage license
Identification:  Birth certificates
Identification:  Death certificates
Identification:  Military ID
Identification:  Military Discharge
Identification:  Specialized licenses - pilot, SCUBA, EMT, Paramedic, POST
Identification:  Certifications - computer skills, training (firearms, first aid, etc.)
Insurance:  Automobile
Insurance:  Homeowners
Insurance:  Flood
Insurance:  Earthquake
Insurance:  Renters
Insurance:  Life
Insurance:  Medical
Insurance:  Boat
Insurance:  Other (liability, umbrella policy, etc.)
Legal:  Wills and trusts
Legal:  Power of Attorney
Legal:  Medical Directives
Legal:  Business and personal contracts
Medical:  Drug Prescriptions
Medical:  Eyeglass Prescriptions
Medical:  Personal Health Record (PHR)
Automobile:  License and registration
Firearms:  Sales receipt/registration information with serial number
Firearms:  Concealed Carry permit
Membership Number:  Civic organizations and clubs (i.e., Moose Lodge, Elk, NRA, Optimist, Rotary, etc.)
Data List:  Bank account numbers and contact information.
Data List:  Retirement account numbers and contact information.
Data List:  User names and passwords to email accounts, blogs, business websites, bank accounts
Data List:  Phone numbers and addresses of friends, family and other individuals you may need to contact

Looking at the contents of the list, you should realize that this package of information contains the keys to your financial, medical and personal life.  If it were to fall into the wrong hands - either by theft, breach of trust, or by accident - your life would be an open book to the possessor of that information.

At a minimum, it would take a great deal of time to cancel and re-issue the compromised documents.  Depending upon who had access to the information, it could cost you a great deal of time, inconvenience and money.

Generally speaking, the best place for the originals of these documents is at home, locked in a fireproof safe.

What if the safe is stolen or destroyed?  During the Oakland Hills fire in 1991, it got so hot that concrete burned (let THAT image sink in).  My grandfather lost his home in that fire, and the only thing left on his lot was the fireplace.  Even his metal stair banister had melted.

So, you want to have at least one copy of your records off-site in a safe location (bank safe deposit box, trusted relative, trusted friend or cache).

About those trusted sources - be careful.  If you're going to use them, I strongly recommend that your copied records be placed in a tamper-evident bag (such as these) so you know if the records have been viewed by others. 

Another alternative is using something like a FoodSaver sealer for the records.  Obviously, a nosy relative/friend could just open the bag and re-seal it (or make another one).  One way to thwart this would be to write your name and the date across one of the seals, and a note such as, "Private Documents" over the other seal.  Be sure to do this in your own handwriting, with an indelible pen (such as a Sharpie).

Since each of  these precautions use bags that are see-thru, be sure to have a blank sheet of paper (or two, depending on how opaque the paper might be) on the top and bottom of your documents to obscure any information.

On the flip-side, if you use a public repository - such as a bank safe deposit box - your records are subject to access by government officials via a subpoena.  Your lifestyle, and the trustworthiness of your family and friends will dictate the most secure off-site location for your copied records.

We keep a third copy in our version of the Bug Out Bag.  We actually use 60 quart lidded tubs which are numbered in the order of how they should be grabbed in the event of an evacuation.  Box number 1 has a FoodSaver sealed pack of our documents.

If we have to evacuate, we'll have our records in an easily accessible form, and won't have to go fumbling to open up the safe.

Another option - which is also something we use - is to scan your documents, and retain an image on a small thumb-drive data storage device.  If you do this technique, you MUST be sure you encrypt the information.  Otherwise, your records - in electronic form - are readily available to be distributed around the world.

I strongly recommend a FREE program called TrueCrypt.  It is a encryption program that allows you to actually set up an encrypted drive on your zip drive.  My thumb drive holds my records and the program, with TONS of space left over.

Yes, it's a bit technical in nature.  But, it is well worth the effort to learn about this.  Once you understand the concept, setting up the encrypted drive is very easy. 

If need be, you can carry all of your personal information an a thumb-drive that's on a lanyard around your neck.  Or perhaps you can give the thumb drive to your friend or relative.  Unless they know your STRONG password, they can't access the documents.

I use TrueCrypt for this purpose, as well as encrypting a drive on my work computer.  This is where I keep all of the personal sensitive information on my customers.  When they provide me with their credit card information, for instance, I scan the paper where I wrote down the information, save it on my encrypted drive, then shred the paper document.

Accept The Challenge

Regardless of the route you take - either paper-based or electronic - it is crucially important for you to have back-up copies of your important documents.  Be sure you tread very carefully, though.

As noted, this information is important to you, and can be valuable to a criminal.  Don't make your emergency preps be the cause of an emergency in your life!

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Copyright 2010 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Your Tax Dollars At Work

I've been hearing all kinds of noise in the media about all of the jobs that are being saved throughout the country as a result of the Stimulus Plan.  Something north of 2 million jobs.

I'm skeptical, to put it mildly.

I read stories of congressional districts that receive boatloads of money.  Then I read that those congressional districts don't exist.  The government said it was the result of "human error" and they fixed it right up.

But it is still happening.

Where is this money really going?  Who is getting it?

I read story after story of more jobs being saved than there are total employees!  900+ jobs saved for a company with 500 employees.  Government math at its best.

What really chaps my butt is when I see government employees are given money FOR RAISES.  Those people are then counted as saved jobs.
An Associated Press review of the latest stimulus reports — which the White House promised would undergo extensive reviews to ensure accuracy — found that more than two-thirds of 14,506 jobs credited to the recovery act under spending by just one federal office were overstated because they counted pay increases for existing workers as jobs saved.
I decided to go to and take a look at what kind of money is being spent in my area.  You should do the same.  Just key in your zip code, and see where all the money is being spent in your area.

Each link you click will take you deeper and deeper into the data.  It makes for good reading and a case of indegestion.

One of the "awards" to my city was for just over $1 million.  It was to re-pave a street in town.  Take a guess on how many jobs it saved.


Well, it was actually 1.15 jobs.  Go figure.  A million bucks per job save.  Geez.  Even when there's rampant mis-reporting of jobs saved, they can only dig up one for this project. 

Someone's not trying hard enough.  Maybe if they gave the job to do the counting to one of the government bureaucrats that got a raise, the numbers would be a bit higher.

If I had the time and inclination, I'd dig to see if this money had already been approved for my city BEFORE the stimulus-a-palooza started.  I think I know that answer.

Accept The Challenge

The bill will eventually come due for all of this spending.  If you're one of the few remaining tax payers, they're going to be looking to you to pay the tab.

Do whatever is possible to reduce your tax exposure.  Buy online, barter - get creative. 

Live within your means.  Uncle Sam will be coming for increasingly large pieces of your cash flow.  We can expect some sort of Euro-styled VAT tax in the future.  That will make EVERYTHING taxable, including your necessities like food. 

Grow, hunt, fish, preserve.  Stretch your dollars until they scream.

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Copyright 2010 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Monday, February 22, 2010

More European Financial Concerns

 It seems as though our government isn't the only one that gets creative with its finances.  It seems to be "all the rage" in Europe, as well.

When the Euro was being introduced in Europe in the late 1990's-early 2000's, the member countries had to meet certain fiscal benchmarks to join the club.

For instance, they can't have a budget deficit of more than 3% of their GDP (boy, that would be nice, huh?), a debt ratio of no more than 60% of GDP and a number of other statistical measurements. 

All of these standards were meant to ensure that one member-country wouldn't be a burden on the other members - an important consideration when you're all sharing the same currency.
Concerns that Greece and other struggling European nations may not be able to repay their debts are focusing investor attention on another big worry: Economies across the Continent have used complex financial transactions—sometimes in secret—to hide the true size of their debts and deficits.
Oops.  Imagine that:  The financial arm of a government hiding what it's doing.  Hmmmm.  Where have I heard about that before?
Investors long turned a blind eye to European governments' aggressive bookkeeping, aimed at meeting the euro zone's fiscal ceilings.
Wow, European investors also looked the other way, as long as they were making some bucks, err, Euros.

To try to meet the targets, which were aimed at building trust in the stability of the euro, governments over the years have sold state assets, bundled expected future payments into securities to hawk and even, in the case of Greece, insisted to the Eurostat statistics authority that large portions of its military spending were "confidential" and thus excluded from deficit calculations.
So, they falsified public statistics to prop up their currency.  Really - I know I've heard of this same thing happening elsewhere...

Accept The Challenge

All light-heartedness aside, this has the real potential to be very ugly.  Once again, in the short-term it might cause a "move to quality" and result in a rise in the dollar.  That would produce a corresponding drop in precious metals.

The spot price of both gold and silver dropped by the end of today's trading, but only slightly.  Who knows what tomorrow will bring?  There may be further drops, maybe not.  The broader markets might have already accounted for a weak Euro AND the skyrocketing US debt.

News like this - systemic sovereign statistical manipulations - would normally have put the markets into a tizzy.  They reacted more like it was a slight bit of indigestion.  Trying to predict short-term trends is nearly impossible!

So, unless you're a market-player looking to gamble on which way the market will move, stay on a course of fiscal conservatism.  Buy tangible goods, reduce debt and reduce your taxable profile.

Then buckle up, and watch from the sidelines as it all unravels!

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Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Fitness Variety

I do a good number of push-ups in my fitness regime.  You can do them virtually anywhere, any time and they don't cost you a dime at a gym.

But they can be a bit boring.

I found this site (The Art of Manliness), which demonstrates a number of push-up variations.  I already do some of the more "standard" versions, but will introduce a number of the other styles into my routine.

Oh, and no, I won't be doing these anytime soon!

Accept The Challenge

We all know that we need to stay in shape.  It's easy, though, to find an excuse - too busy, usually - to drop or cut back on exercise.  I have found that buy adding variety, I'm more likely to stay on-track.

Mix it up some!  Do cardio one day, strength the next, and agility after that (I like yoga, personally).  Do them out of order - perhaps drawing "the exercise of the day" out of a bucket with everything you want to do each week written down on daily reminder sheets.

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Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Shelter In Place

We're not quite half way through posting about the 12 Impacts you should plan for in your preps.  As we've stated before, in our view, Emergency Preparedness needs to focus more on limiting negative impacts to disasters than on preparing for specific events (earthquake, hurricane, etc.).  We discussed that philosophy and those Twelve Impacts in an earlier post.  You can see all of the items in the series to this point by clicking the 12 Impacts label category.

At this mid-point, we're going to take a little bit of a detour, but a very closely related one.  With any kind of sudden emergency, you will have two immediate actions:  Evacuate or Shelter In Place.  These are handled by the use of very simple checklists - one for each location you might find yourself during an emergency:  Home, Work or One The Road.

Today, I'll cover Shelter In Place (SIP).

If an emergency occurs, you may need to independently make the decision to evacuate or SIP, or the local authorities may issue orders one way or the other.  Regardless, you're going to be under stress.  Having your actions pre-defined by the use of checklists can help ensure nothing, "falls between the cracks" - important actions are not missed and needed materials are not forgotten.

Generally speaking, a SIP emergency can have three broad causes - some sort of a toxin is in the air (a poisonous gas or chemical release, smoke from large fires),  some sort of safety emergency has happened (civil unrest, fugitive searches) or a sudden weather-related event is occurring (tornado, etc.).

For instance, this past weekend, we had a SIP issued while authorities searched for the people responsible for a shooting near our home.  Since I heard the gunfire (all 20+ shots), our SIP plan kicked into place before we received the official notice.

What SIPs have in common is that they are generally short in duration - usually measured in hours, not weeks or months.  We recommend, though, that you assume it will last a couple of days, and prepare accordingly.

The SIP at Home Checklist:

All Emergencies:
  1. Move to your "safe room".  This is a room or safe area near the center of your home, on the lowest level possible.  It must have the ability to receive radio waves so you can get news reports and notification of the SIP status.  Ideally, it will have two ways in and out - preferably no windows.  You may need to evacuate and one exit may become impassible.
  2. Grab your SIP bucket (more on this later)
  3. Grab your Specialty Medical kit (more on this later)
  4. Grab your Bug Out Bag, (you may be required to evacuate at some point)
  5. Grab 5 gallons of water (assumes a family of 4)
Toxic Air Emergency
  1. Turn off air conditioning or central forced-air heater.
  2. Seal doors, windows, electrical outlets and air ducts of safe room with sheets of plastic and duct tape.
  3. Turn on radio to news station
Safety Emergency
  1. Lock all doors and windows. Close all window blinds and curtains.
  2. If a CIVIL DISTURBANCE such as riot, turn off all lights in your home to make it appear empty - and less likely to be attacked.
  3. If a FUGITIVE SEARCH, such as the police pursuing a wanted criminal, turn on all internal and external lights to make it appear occupied.  They are most times looking to hide, not move towards light.
  4. Arm all external home perimeter alarms (be sure NOT to set any interior motion detectors if you are not going to stay in your safe room).
  5. Load and otherwise make-ready all defensive weapons.
Weather Related
  1. Board up windows - if present - in Safe Room.  All materials - plywood, fasteners, tools, etc. - should be pre-positioned in the safe room.

Note 1:  Of course, if at all possible, have all of these supplies pre-positioned in your safe room.

Note 2:  The lights on/off issue is a contentious one, that you must decide for yourself.  During a fugitive search, would having the lights on make the criminal less likely to go towards your home, as they are trying to hide in the shadows?  Or will it draw them towards your home, in hopes of taking hostages?

Note 3:  There is also some contention regarding entering your safe room during a riot.  Some contend that your home may be ransacked or burned to the ground around you.  These are both certainly possible.

Historically, riots have occurred in the commercial districts of cities.  Think about the 1992 LA riots or the more recent riots in Oakland surrounding the BART police officer shooting a passenger.  Businesses were destroyed, not homes.  Residential neighborhoods are generally along the route to the riot, and don't take the damage that commercial areas take.

Both items - lighting and your location in your home during a riot - are personal decisions YOU must make.  What we're pushing for is that you consider the options and make your plans NOW, not during the stressful  emergency.

Note 4:  The average person inhales and exhales 14 times a minute.  The average volume per breath is 0.5 liters.  A 12x12 room with 8 foot ceilings has 32,621 cubic liters of air (12 x 12 x 8 x 28.317).  This is theoretically enough air for 4 people for 19 hours.  In practice, of course, this is not true, as the exhaled air is primarily CO2, which would begin displacing the air in the room, and eventually kill the inhabitants.

My personal rule-of-thumb would be to not remain in the room for more than 4 or 5 hours without an air exchange.  You need to make your own calculations and "trip-wires" for when you would evacuate the room.

Addendum - Note 5:  Obviously, if you have sealed your safe room against outside air, DO NOT light any flames for cooking, warmth or relaxation (cigarettes or pipes).  Aside from the fire danger, you will rapidly consume the available air, while simultaneiously filling the room with whatever exhaust is coming from the combustion.

SIP Bucket Contents

What Why
1 - 6 gallon lidded bucket To hold all SIP supplies and to act as your emergency toilet
5- Emergency "space" blankets 4 are for use as blankets for warmth, and one is to be hung in a corner to provide privacy for the make-shift toilet
1- bag pine bedding shavings For the toilet between uses
4- 3600 calorie survival bars To be eaten if hungry
4- packs of moistened baby wipes Toilet use and general hygiene
2-100 ft rolls of duct tape For securing plastic sheeting and privacy blanket
2- BLACK plastic sheets To secure around doors, windows and air ducts of safe room.  Black to keep light from "leaking" outside
1- Dynamo powered radio To keep abreast of developments.  Dynamo powered so you don't need to rely on batteries
1- Dynamo or shakable flashlight For light.  Dynamo or shakable powered so you don't need to rely on batteries
1- Standard first aid kit First aid
1- Pair of scissors To cut duct tape and black sheets for air ducts
3- 33 gallon trash bags Besides holding trash, too many uses to list
Playing cards, toys, games Entertainment during SIP - especially important if you have children
Self-defense weapon Including ammunition if it is a firearm.  Ensure safe storage guidelines are followed, especially if children are present in your home

Other optional items:
  1. If you live very near a chemical plant, power plant, industrial/manufacturing facility or a rail line, consider adding gas masks to your kit.
  2. If women/girls of reproductive age are in your group, include feminine hygiene items in your kit.
  3. If you have babies in your group, add formula, bottles and disposable diapers to your kit.
Specialty Medical Kits

As with any preparedness issue, your list must be customized to your lifestyle.  You or your family members may have special medical needs - diabetes supplies, colostomy bags, anxiety medications, wheel chairs, asthma inhalers - be sure to include them in your kits.

For diabetics, your All Emergency portion of the list might include grabbing an ice chest, filling it with ice, and grabbing your insulin supplies.

If you have home dialysis equipment, consider housing it in your safe room and doing your treatments there.

Accept The Challenge

Take this list and customize it for your own circumstances.  Do this now, while you are able to think and act clearly.  Be sure all of your family members know where the list is located, and where the various buckets and kits are located.

Also take the time to develop similar lists for Work and One The Road.  You never know where you'll be when an emergency occurs.

For work, your SIP kit and plans may be very rudimentary.  If your employer does not have a plan, YOU should consider what you would do in an emergency situation.  Is there a safe, secure area you could move to?  A restroom, supply closet or somewhere similar?  Don't allow yourself to become a victim simply because your employer has not developed a plan.

While On The Road, incorporate as much equipment as you can into your Get Home Bag.  Many of the items are dual purpose.

Please click our advertiser links. They pay us so you don't have to!

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

US Treasuries? No Thanks!

Just under two weeks ago, I did a post on how the price of gold and silver had recently dropped like a stone (the second half of Guns and Gold).   In it, I was explaing how problems in Europe were affecting the perceived value of the dollar (pushing it up), which negatively affects the price of Precious Metals (PM).
At least in the short-term, we need to look outside of our borders.  While we are in horrible shape, the rest of the world is worse off.  Many countries are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.
Worries over debt levels in Spain and Portugal have increased as investors speculate the two countries may face budget deficit and debt problems like those of Greece. Such concerns helped lift the relatively safer haven U.S. dollar and yen.
That last sentence explains what is going on.  Our economy may suck, but not as badly as the rest of the world.  The dollar is the least-objectionable world currency.

It appears as though the rest of the world has woken up, and realized that the US markets aren't the safe haven they thought were were.  In the post above, I talked about how our crushing debt will make it increasingly difficult for us to function as a nation - piling on more and more debt - with one of the results being that we must monetize that debt.

In short, monetizing our debt means that we - as in the United States government - buy our own debt.  Why would we have to do this?  Because no one else will buy it, and we still need to fund our government "services".  In this case, it is the Federal Reserve Bank buying bonds and notes from the Treasury Department.

I figured it would take a good number of months before the world woke up and slowed down their purchases of our debt.  I was wrong.  It looks like it has already started (Foreigners Reduce Holdings of US Debt by Record Amount) -
Foreign owners of US government debt reduced their holdings by the largest monthly amount ever in December, with China offloading so many Treasury securities that it is no longer the largest foreign holder.
(Note to self:  Why did it take 45 days for this to become public knowledge?)

It looks like this trend is continuing.  With the latest Treasury auction on Tuesday, the yields went up (meaning price went down) considerably.

Mini-primer on Treasury Auctions:  The Treasury Department determines what the market will pay for a given note or bond.  Let's say it's 3% for a 10-year, $10,000 bond.  They offer up these bonds (this week it was $81 billion worth) and the public market decides if the yield is worth the risk.

In this case, the market said NO!  Low demand pushed the price down.  The sales price was lower than the asking price.  So, for a $10,000 bond, you may only pay $9,500.  You get interest earnings as though you paid $10,000 for the bond, so your yield on the bond is greater than the bond face amount of 3%.

The blush has come off the US rose
Ten- and 30-year yields rose the most in seven weeks as sales of the securities drew lower-than-average demand. The European Union said it was prepared to take action to support Greece, while leaving open how it might respond to a fresh wave of speculative attacks against member nations that are also struggling to cut deficits. U.S. consumer prices rose in January, a report is forecast to show next week.
And the experts are aghast this is happening -
“With all of the issues the EU had with the PIGS, one would think we would see a continued flight to quality,” said Thomas L. di Galoma, head of U.S. rates trading at Guggenheim Partners LLC, a New York-based brokerage for institutional investors. He used an abbreviation for Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain.
Yeah.  Well, apparently investors ARE moving towards quality, and they're not finding it here.

The big item in the article was neatly tucked way down in the story.
A higher yield at the auction than in pre-market trading may have cost the Treasury as much as $61.6 million in interest over the life of the debt, according to Bloomberg data.
Let's do some math here:  This year, we need to print up Treasury funny-money to the tune of $3.5 TRILLION (best case Obama projections) to $4.5 TRILLION (more likely).  If the Treasury sells notes in the same volume they did this week - $81 billion - that will give us $4.2 trillion after 52 weeks.

Assuming that there is not additional drop in demand - not a good assumption - this increased cost will translate into an additional expense of $3.2 billion dollars.  Oh, and it's not going to cost the Treasury the extra dollars, it is going to cost YOU the extra dollars.

Taxes, inflation - take your pick.

Accept The Challenge

At the very best, this drop in demand to purchase our debt will translate into increased inflation.  If the foreign governments won't buy our debt, the Federal Reserve will.

If you as a private citizen were doing this, you'd end up in jail.  It is akin to kiting - floating a check from one of your bank accounts to fund the balance in another of your accounts. 

Rob Peter to pay Paul.  Ponzi scheme.  Pick your own analogy, the result is the same:  We get stuck holding the empty bag.

Buy your tangible goods and PM while they're still affordable.  This is not going to be pretty.

BTW - Two weeks ago, I noted that gold had dropped to $1,064 an ounce.  It closed just under $1,118 yesterday.  That's a 5% increase/recovery in only two weeks...

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Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Making Syrups

This is a re-post of an article I did last year on another site. I was reminded of it by yesterday's post.

My wife likes this sweetener called Agave Nectar. It's a natural sweetener made from the agave plant. This is the plant that is used to make tequila. For tequila, they cut up the core of the plant, roast it, then make a mash of sorts to extract the natural sugars. Once you have sugars, you can do with it as you please - syrups, crystallized sugars, or ferment it into tequila.

Hmmmm. Let's see. What do I have experience with in extracting sugars from raw materials?

Malted grains, of course! I've been brewing all-grain beers for decades. As long as I have access to malted grains, I can make a sweet liquid. Hell, in a pinch, I could malt my own grains - from my buckets-o-wheat for instance - if malted barley became unavailable.

Malted corn, rye, barley, wheat - any grain you can get to sprout and then dry out will work.

When you brew, you mash the crushed grains by steeping them in hot water. This process transforms the starches in the grain into sugar. You then wash the sugars off of the grains (in a process called lautering). The resulting liquid is called wort (pronounced 'wert'). Depending upon the quality of your crushed grains, the temperature of the mash and a number of other factors, you will end up with a wort with a sugar content roughly in the 10-12% range.

You boil the wort, adding hops for flavoring and bitterness, and to help evaporate the liquid to increase the sugar content to the 13-18% range.

Cool it off, add the yeast, ferment, consume.

If I want to make a sweetener, I need to leave out the yeast and hops, and increase the amount of water evaporation.

I found two primary types of syrup made in homes here in America: Maple syrup and cane syrup.

The maple syrup has a starting sugar content of around 2% - I couldn't find anything on the starting sugar content of the cane juice.

What they both had in common was the general techniques for turning the juice/sap into syrup. You boil the hell out of it, and when the temperature reaches 7 degrees above boiling - 219F - you have syrup.

What was a bit disconcerting is the volume of juice/sap you needed. To get 1 gallon of maple syrup, you need 40+ gallons of sap!

I needed to do a test.

I took a quart of water, and added a quarter pound of cane sugar. On my hydrometer, I got a reading of 1.046 specific gravity. That equals 11.5% sugar content (on something called the brix scale). So I'm starting at about the same point as I'd be by making a beer mash, and am WAY ahead of the game with regards to maple sap.

OK, a little bit of math (don't glaze over on me here!). I boiled everything down until I hit the magical 219F degrees. I ended up with right around 5.5 fluid ounces of syrup. Since I started with 34.5 fluid oz of "cane juice" (32 fl. oz of water "grows" to 34.5 fl. oz of sugar solution once the cane sugar is added), that means I reduced it by a factor of 6.27. If I take the original sugar reading of 11.5% and multiply it by the 6.27, I come up with a 72.14% sugar solution. Pretty damned close to the published maple syrup numbers of 67%.


It's thinner than a corn syrup like Karo or imitation maple syrup. It's about the consistency of real maple syrup - kind of like the viscosity of vegetable oil. Sweet as hell, though!

I have some extra malted barley laying around, so I think I'll make up a batch of wort and give it a go [Note:  No, I still haven't done this.  Shut up.].

The cost/benefit equation is iffy, at best. You use a LOT of fuel to boil down the syrup. For the sample I made, I used my kitchen stove gas burner for an hour straight, on high. An inexpensive fuel source is the key to making this stuff economically.

I'm going to try and produce a quart of malted barley syrup, so I'll make up 2 gallons of wort to give myself some cushion. From what I've read, this should take in the neighborhood of 2-3 hours. I'll do some hard math calculations at that time, so see what the cost per ounce comes out to be.

Accept The Challenge

Developing skills to become your own "supply chain" can save your life.  In an instance like this syrup, it can make your life a bit more pleasant.

It also gives you a skill which may be in demand during hard times.  Perhaps it can be profitable during not-so-hard times.  Go to a food store and check the price of anything with the words, "organic," "natural," "sustainable" or "free-range".

The terms, "hand-made," "hand-crafted" and "old-world" tend to bring a premium price.

Home-based business, anyone?

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Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Preps: Standardization versus Variety

The Standardization vs. Variety debate is an interesting one.  Do you plan your preps around one single standard or do you intentionally have a wide variety of options?

For instance, consider handguns.  There are dozens of chamberings.  Does it make more sense to choose one or two calibers or should you have as wide of a variety as possible?  Is your answer the same concerning food or fuel?

Many of us standardize without even really thinking about it.  Judging from the logs I view on my business web site, virtually everyone uses a computer that has some flavor of the Microsoft (MS) operating system.  There are only a handful of Mac and Linux users.

By virtually any technological measure, Mac and Linux are far superior to MS.  But MS has them both crushed in terms of the available application software, supported hardware and available technical support.  We compromise on quality for ease-of-use.

We also add variety to our daily lives without even thinking about it.  Few people eat the exact same food every single day.  We use a variety of methods to heat our homes or cook our food - electricity, natural gas, propane, wood and kerosene.

There are pluses and minuses of each approach:

Variety Pluses:
  1. Gives you more options.  Particularly important with food categories.
  2. Availability.  Unlikely to ever run out of sources of re-supply in any given category.  
  3. Spot cost savings.  Allows you to stock up on whatever you use that is readily available and inexpensive at the moment.
Variety Minuses:

  1. Expense.  To ensure sufficient amounts of each item, you must purchase more of each.
  2. Adequate storage space.  Since you must store sufficient amounts of many more items, you must have increased storage capabilities.
  3. Increased knowledge requirements - must know how to use and store each type of item.
 Standardization Pluses:

  1. Fewer replacement parts.  You don't need to purchase repair kits for each individual piece of equipment.  One repair kit can be used for multiple similar items.
  2. Better knowledge.  It's easier to become an expert on price, quality and repair.
  3. Safety/functionality.  It's easier to become an expert on how to use or operate the commodity or equipment to it's fullest potential.

Standardization Minuses:
  1. Loss of supply.  The "all of your eggs in one basket" syndrome.  If you need one type of widget, and it is no longer available, you can be in deep trouble. 
  2. Monotony.  Variety really is the Spice of Life, especially in things like food and entertainment.  This is a much bigger potential issue than many people realize.
  3. Obsolescence.  Unless you can re-supply yourself, a large piece of equipment may become useless.  Anyone out there with an 8-track tape player?!
In general, I thing some variety - to a certain extent - is the prudent course of action.  I'm a big believer in the PACE concept - Primary, Alternate, Contingency and Emergency.  Give yourself some options.

BUT, I standardize within a category.  For instance, regarding handguns.  For semi-automatics, I've settled on the 9mm.  Within that sub-group, I've also (mostly) standardized on Glocks.  In this way, I don't need spare part kits for 5 different manufacturers.

Still in handguns, for revolvers, I've standardized on Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum pistols.  These allow me the flexibility to use either .357 Magnum or .38 Special ammunition, both of which I store in quantity.

With foods, the widest possible variety is our goal!  We have a dozen or so types of dried beans, two types of rice, five different grains, a dozen different spices, 10 different types of animal protein, 3 different types of fat, and so on.

For emergency cooking fuel, we've standardized on propane and white gas.  We store the propane in the 20 lb tanks, and I have a couple dozen of the 16 ounce cylinders.  Most of the devices that use the cylinders also have an adapter so I can use the 20 lb tanks as well.

The stoves that use the white gas will also use unleaded gasoline, which we also store, but in limited quantities.

I think it comes down to the preparation category, and how easy re-supply or self-supply will be.   We're standardizing on AA and D battery sizes, AND converting to rechargeable.  In this way, when we use up our supply of one-shot batteries, we can essentially re-supply ourselves with the rechargeables.  And Yes, we're getting a solar panel to run the recharger if need be!

Another key is designing your plans by having alternatives for as many items as possible.  The dual-fuel stoves are a good example.

We store a large quantity of white sugar, but I also know how to make syrups from mashed grains (I know how to make other things from mashed grains, but that's another post!).  And of course growing/catching/hunting your own foods as opposed to buying them at the store.  Develop some skills!

Accept The Challenge

When developing your emergency plans, give yourself as many options as possible.  Don't "paint yourself into a corner" by making your survival dependent upon a few items which may be unavailable (or cost prohibitive) in the future.

But, unless you have an endless supply of cash, where practical, standardize to limit your re-supply, knowledge and repair expenses.  In general, the higher the cost of the object, the greater the need for standardization.

Finally, whenever possible, develop the skills to become self-sufficient.  Make yourself your own supply-chain!

The image up top?  20 varieties of jello shots.  Variety and standardization all rolled into one!  ;-)

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Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sourcing Bulk Foods Locally

Tracking down sources of wheat, corn, beans, rice and other long-term storage foods can sometimes be difficult.  Even though California produces massive amounts of these foods, finding them in bulk can be problematic.

Most stores now have bulk food aisles.  You can buy a few pounds of these items, generally at a significant discount to the pre-packaged 1- to 5-pound bags in the "regular" aisles.  At least with one western states supermarket chain, you can do better still.

Winco Foods has an excellent bulk foods section.  What I have recently learned is that you can buy the bulk foods in their larger 25- or 50-pound sacks.  If you can wait a couple of days, that is.

I recently purchased 100 pounds of Hard Red Winter Wheat from them.  In the bulk aisle, it is going for $0.58 a pound.  If you buy it in the 25-pound sacks, it is $0.55 a pound.  You just need to track down the bulk foods department, place your order, and wait (usually) two days for delivery.

So, how does this stack up when compared to buying it from online sources in the 45-pound "Super Pails"?

My all-in cost will be $24.75 for the 45-pounds of wheat, $8.67 for the bucket and gasketed lid, $1.79 for the mylar bag, and $0.60 for the 4, 500cc oxygen absorbers, for a grand total of $35.81.

Including delivery charges to California, at Emergency Essentials will cost $41.35 (must buy at least 200 lbs), Walton Feed will cost $47.39 and Pleasant Hill Grains will cost $71.20 (yikes!).

I must say, I was kind of surprised by the great price at Emergency Essentials.  I've used them in the past for some other purchases, and have found them to be quite reputable.  They must have very thin margins!  If I didn't already own all of the buckets, lids, etc., for $5 per Super Pail over my cost, it might make sense to buy from them and not have the time-expense of preparing the buckets.

I'm still trying to find other bulk food sources to help drive down the cost-per-pound - especially for wheat.

For items such as corn - which I've been able to source locally - the cost to make up my own buckets is a much easier decision.  I can get the corn for $0.30 a pound, so my cost for a 40lb filled bucket is $24.57.  Walton Feed is $52.19 and Emergency Essentials is $60.35.  Go figure!

Accept The Challenge

For difficult-to-source food items, you must sometimes "pay through the nose" to get them in your hands.  Expensive Food beats No Food, though, any day of the week!

Putting some time into finding local sources can pay off nicely.  Consider feed stores, but be sure you're purchasing animal feed, and NOT planting seeds, as these will most likely contain insecticides on the seeds!  Most animal feed is the same as "human feed" - it just will have a few more weeds and other chaff in the sacks.  YMMV, so verify the grains first.

Also look at "natural foods" stores  and "big box" stores such as Costco and Sam's Club as sources.

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Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Greek Directive 10-289?

From Atlas Shrugged -
"In the name of the general welfare," read Wesley Mouch, "to protect the people's security, to achieve full equality and total stability, it is decreed for the duration of the national emergency that--"

From Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou -

“Our primary duty now is to save the economy and reduce the debt, aiming to do so through the fairest possible solutions that will protect — as far as that is possible — the weaker and middle classes,”
Life imitating art?

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Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Firearms Safety: Gut-wrenching Tale

H/T to GunRights4US for the article link.

For the lack of a better term, I'm a Safety Nazi.  In my classes, I drill, drill and drill again, the NRA safety rules:
  1. Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
  2. Always keep your finger off the trigger until you're ready to shoot.
  3. Always keep the gun unloaded until you're ready to shoot.
I also tell them that the Cardinal Rule is:  Assume every gun is loaded.

We go into detail about what "safe direction" means, keeping your trigger finger well outside of the trigger guard, and how to verify the gun is empty.  We have a rule that is followed every time a gun is picked up in the classroom:  Verify and have someone else confirm that the gun is empty.

The repetition of doing and seeing safe gun handling practices really reinforces the safety aspects of gun ownership and use.

We also talk about they types of instances where someone is killed or injured by a handgun.  If it's not intentional (self-defense or a criminal act), it is out of Ignorance or Complacency - they either, "don't know what they don't know", or they know the rules and don't follow them.

I have especially low tolerance for this latter group.  Here's a story on Carteach0 about someone whose friend knew the rules but didn't follow them.   The story just tore my guts out.

You can never "screw around" with a gun.  Never.

Accept The Challenge

If you're an experienced shooter, stress the safety rules when you're taking someone less experienced to the range.  Better yet, suggest they take a safety class.

If you're NOT an experienced shooter, don't touch or handle any gun.  You are placing yourself and those around you in danger.  Get educated before you handle any weapon.

And when you learn the rules, follow them.  I cannot imagine the anguish of the friend who has paralyzed his buddy.  Don't put yourself in that kind of a position.

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Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Frivolity

Do you see this pine cone (click to enlarge)?  I've never seen one like it in my entire life.  And I can't find it on Google Images either (at least after going through 30+ pages of images).  Any ideas?

One of my brothers and I were looking at a remote property yesterday, and across the dirt road was some sort of pine tree with these monster cones.  This thing is fully closed up.  It has these curved, spike-like tines at the end of each "petal".

Here's another look-see -

All I can tell you is that the tree was some sort of pine/conifer, it was very tall, and the wood was white-ish in color.  The cone is about 8 inches long and very heavy for its size.

This property is very remote.  The last 6 miles in are on dirt/gravel roads, and the last 2 miles are horrible.  There's no power, no public water.  But it is 20 acres very near a large body of fresh water, is about 50% covered with mostly oaks, and the other half is fairly flat meadow.

It is perfect (although my wife would likely disagree with that)!

We're looking into what it would cost to run power to the parcel.  We know it will be very, very expensive.  There is one guy living on a nearby parcel.  No power, but he built a "shed".  It was the nicest shed I'd ever seen.  It's huge.  He's got 3 propane tanks and what looks to be a pretty nice set-up.  The next time we head up there, we'll try and talk with the guy and see if he has any interest in sharing the cost of bringing in power.

The body of water has tons of fish, and we damned near ran over a group of young mule deer.  There were some indications of hogs (that's good and bad, I guess), possibly elk and an outside chance that one pile of poo we saw was bear.

The site definitely has possibilities...

I was chatting with Guns about some tactical training, and I ran across this IDPA/Glock pistol video.  This guy is fast as hell, but I noted a number of times where he was right on the edge of breaking the "180 degree rule" - the barrel of the gun breaking the invisible barrier at your sides so that the barrel points behind you.  He never breaks it, but it was close.

When I'm shooting IDPA, I really focus on doing magazine insertions with just a twist of my wrist to bring the grips parallel to the ground - the muzzle stays pointed down-range. Break this rule during a match, and you're disqualified.

I really liked his technique and speed in going from the holster to the single-hand, weak-side shot. Like butta.... Gotta add that to my routine at the Action Pistol range.

I'm going to live forever!
People who ate one serving of chocolate per week were 22 percent less likely to have a stroke than those who ate no chocolate, according to a research analysis released at the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting Thursday.
So, if I'm doing the math right, if I eat chocolate 5 times a week, I'll be 110% less likely to have a stroke.  That sounds like imortality, to me.

Ah, if only it worked that way.  I guess I stocked up on all of that chocolate for nothing...

Happy Early Valentines Day.

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Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Why We're Broke

For any of you that are unclear on why California will most likely be the first state to declare bankruptcy, this should make it crystal clear.

We are somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 billion (with a 'B') in the hole - give or take a billion dollars.  We are furloughing workers.  We send our debtors script when we run out of cash.  In fact, we're supposed to be totally out of cash by the end of March.  We pay double the rate of welfare payments that our fellow socialist state, New York, pays its serfs.

Yet somehow, in the midst of all of this financial strife, we are able to find $350 million dollars to pay for personal household improvements.
The state Public Utilities Commission on Thursday established the California Solar Initiative Thermal Program, which will be funded using $250 million to replace natural-gas-powered water heaters, with $25 million set aside for low-income customers. An additional $100.8 million will be used to swap out water heaters powered by electricity.
We're broke, yet we pull $350 million from some crevice to pay for upgrades to people's personal homes, or for tenant improvements in rental properties.

Not to be outdone, the feds get in on the deal as well.
The rebates could reduce the cost of a solar water heater by 15% to 25%, industry experts said. The federal government also offers a 30% tax credit.
Your tax dollars going into private pockets.  Thanks.

Well, I'm sure there's already plenty of demand for these types of systems, right?
The last year was "absolutely dismal," President Al C. Rich said. The company sold about a dozen heating systems last year [without incentives] compared with 50 the year before [with incentives]. In the 1980s and 1990s, firms like his were regularly installing 10 systems a week [with obscene incentives], he said.
So, your tax dollars, which are literally taken at the point of a gun (try not paying your taxes and see who shows up), are being given to private property owners to pay for systems which are unable to economically support themselves.

Sounds like another form of welfare to me.  And we know how well California does that.

Accept The Challenge

If you are a Californian and are not actively working to reduce your "tax profile", you are insane!  If you make it, they will take it. 

I'm just waiting for Prop 13 to be overturned so the vultures in Sacramento can raise our property taxes.  Then things will get REAL interesting.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Preps: No Money

As we've stated before, in our view, Emergency Preparedness needs to focus more on limiting negative impacts to disasters than on preparing for specific events (earthquake, hurricane, etc.).  We discussed that philosophy and those Twelve Impacts in an earlier post.  You can see all of the items in the series to this point by clicking the 12 Impacts label category.

We're going to drill down into one of the twelve impacts:  No Money.  

Money gives us options.  The more money we have readily available, the more options we have in our lives.  What happens when our access to money no longer exists?

For instance, it can mean you are unable to access funds held in depository institutions or the inability to access of credit lines and credit cards. This includes, “Banking Holidays”, bank failures and other similar events.

It also includes being “broke” – because of job loss, law suits, medical bills or other reasons, you have suddenly found yourself with no money whatsoever with which to buy food, shelter, fuel, water, etc.

The impact of no money can have its own "trickle down" effect on your life -
  • Inability to purchase consumables - Such as food, water, gasoline, clothing, cleaning/hygiene goods, etc. The inability to gain access to these types of items can cause a “cascade failure” – such as, you can’t get cash or credit, so you can’t get gasoline, so you are unable to get to your job. Or you can’t buy soap for proper hygiene, so you get dysentery.
  • Inability to purchase utilities - Such as electrical power, natural gas, heating fuel, etc. Your home can become little more than shelter from the elements.
  • The inability to purchase shelter - With no money, you may be unable to pay rent, your mortgage or for day-to-day living at motels.
  • The inability to pay other monthly bills for things such as insurance, car payments, credit card payments, etc. In some instances, this can result in the forfeiture of assets (car repossessions) or loss of benefits (health, auto and life insurance).
What can you do to limit the negative impact on your life?

When times are good, most people assume that their paycheck will continue forever, or their other income streams will never be negatively impacted.  The best thing you can do is to assume that at some time, you'll be without an income stream.  Assume you will have "fallow times" in the future.  Take advantage of "times a-plenty" to prepare for these times -

Save cash.  There is an old rule-of-thumb that after losing a job, for every $10,000 in annual income you earn, it will take you 1 month to find another job.  For instance, if you make $50,000 a year, expect it to take at least 5 months to find another comparable job after a layoff.  Longer if you were fired "for cause".

In an economy such as the one we're in now, you should AT LEAST double those numbers.

Look at your monthly expenses, and determine how much net cash you need each month to pay the bills.  Multiply that by the number of months you can expect your income to be impacted.

One thing about including Unemployment Insurance (UI) in your projected cash-flow projections during a layoff:  At least in California, if you have a part-time home-based business, you are not eligible for UI, even though your employer at your "regular" job paid into the UI program.  At the very best, and after lots of fighting, that income stream will be deducted from your UI payments.

Cash On Hand.  What if the reason for your cash-flow problem is a 'bank holiday' or some other such government-mandated restriction?  What if some sort of natural or man-made disaster happens and you cannot gain access to ATMs, debit or credit cards?  You should examine your monthly cash expenses - food, gas, clothing, etc - and have at least 3 months worth of cash securely stored at your home.

Purchase one of the small fire-proof safes (about $30) and put it in a well-hidden spot in your home.  Be sure you and your other family members understand that this "stash" is ONLY accessed in an emergency.  Pizza on Friday's is not an emergency!  If you can't trust your family members not to squander the funds (which is a whole other issue), be the "responsible party" and do it yourself.

Purchase Consumables.  What better way to ride out a financial storm than by having most of your needs already paid for?  Food, water, fuel, medical supplies and equipment, medications, firearms, ammunition, tools. 

Along these same lines, make or produce as much of your consumables as is possible.  Grow veggies, raise chickens, raise meat animals, fish, knit blankets and sweaters, sew your own clothes, learn how to forage wild foods, can or otherwise preserve foods, etc.  Bottom line:  Reduce your dependence on retail stores for your survival.

Reduce Debt.  Debt is a killer.  It makes you beholden to someone else and limits your personal choices and freedom.  Get out from under it so you can spend your money as you want, not as you must.

Investments and Precious Metals.  Once you have your emergency cash fund, cash-on-hand and consumables addressed, NOW is the time to start looking further into the future.

Things like 401(k) plans have historically been a decent place to put your retirement funds, as long as you had the ability to quickly re-direct investments.  Many people were badly hurt financially when their retirement plans were locked into one or two investment choices, and those choices plummeted in value. 

Regardless of the matching amount contributed by your employer, if you don't have the ability to direct your investments - with one of those investments being cash - don't invest THERE.  Find another personally directed investment vehicle.

Precious metals (PM) are also another option to consider.  Personally, I view PM as an inflationary hedge.  Since I see inflation skyrocketing in the very near future, I'm personally increasing my holdings in PM.  You may or may not see things the same way.  YOU need to get educated and make the best investment decisions for YOUR life.

Also consider that there has been increasing talk in the halls of the US government about nationalizing retirement accounts, as was recently done in Argentina.  The government needs cash-flow, so the funds are seized and you're given a guaranteed monthly payment for life.  Considering the government's past performance with Social Security, this doesn't give me the "warm and fuzzies".

Multiple Streams of Income.   This is a lesson I wish I had learned earlier in life.  When you hang your hat on a big, fat paycheck and it goes away, life sucks for a bit!  Identify the skills you possess and consider ways to make money - above or below "the table" - so that you're not solely dependent on your regular paycheck.

Can you make crafts that can be sold on ebay?  Can you work on cars for some extra cash?  Do you have skills that could be taught at a community college or adult education site?  Find a need and fill it!

Barter and Non-retail.  Sites like Craigslist give you the opportunity to buy, sell and barter goods and services without government intervention - yeah, taxation.  You can find virtually anything you need on Craigslist (outside of guns and ammo), as long as you have a little patience.

Accept The Challenge

Many people are learning the hard way how the sudden loss of income can negatively affect their lives.  Anyone who reads the news has got to know things will be getting worse before they get better.  Having a sound, fiscally conservative financial plan is more important now than ever.

It is fine to assume a rosy financial future, but you should plan for the exact opposite.  Make a budget so you understand your expenses.  Cut out extraneous expenses.  Save your money.  Invest in YOUR future so you are able to call your own shots in life.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Caching: Rifles

I was going to do a video on caching a rifle or shotgun, and this beat the pants off of anything I was going to do.  It uses an iron, a 20x30 mylar bag, and a FoodSaver bag.  Right on point.

Accept The Challenge

This technique would work equally well with handguns or anything that needs long-term, water-proof storage.

Has it gotten to the point of needing to bury weapons?  I don't know.  I'm glad I now know how to do it in case the need ever arises.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Ron Paul, Soup and PMs

Random items -

I'm not sure of the date of this video, but his premise is pretty hard to argue with. I'm not in full agreement with all of his solutions, but I think we need to move in this general direction. Quickly.

Since we all know our government will NOT move in the right direction, all we can do is prep.  And prep some more.

Just Add Water Recipe - Creamy Cheddar Potato Soup

It is brain-dead easy and extremely good. Seriously good.

Makes 4 cups

1/2 C dehydrated potatoes (I use hash brown style)
1/2 C instant potato flakes
3 tsp chicken soup base (or 3 chicken bullion cubes)
2 tblspn dehydrated onion flakes
1 tsp dehydrated parsley flakes
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
3 tblspn cheese powder
1 C powdered milk

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add all ingredients, stirring very well.

Reduce heat to low, cover pot and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir pot every 5 minutes to keep soup smooth.


This is one of the Just Add Water recipes I have made up and vacuum sealed for our BOBs/GHBs. Great for camping trips as well.


A rather lengthy, but interesting look at what is going on with the precious metals markets. There is some concern in many circles, that the actual amount of physical gold that is supposed to be available, isn't being reported correctly.

There have been a number of futures contracts - that were supposed to be filled by taking delivery of gold - that have been fulfilled by cash and a BIG bonus instead. The physical gold just wasn't available.

This is now beginning to cause a rift between the spot price of gold, and the price you pay for physical gold.

Take a look here. It's interesting, a bit over-the-top in its presentation, and more than a bit disturbing. (H/T John).

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Guns and Gold

Two things on my mind:  A new reason to own a gun in California, and some head scratching over gold prices.

Many folks have heard that California has been ordered to release a butt-load of prisoners.  Even though our state has the highest per-prisoner spending rate in the country, we are apparently pissing the money away (well, there's a shock) and the prisoners are deemed to be "over-crowded".

The first prisoners were released on Monday. How's that been workin' out?

It was probably just a matter of time. But less than one day?

Sacramento sheriff's officials say that's how long it took for an inmate who was set free Monday under an early-release plan to be arrested again, this time on a charge of attempted rape.
Ah, rape. That's a bad thing, right? Apparently, it's not to the Ninth Circuit Court that ordered the release program.

But that's not important.  The rights of the rape victim don't matter.  The only thing that's important is that animals like this guy aren't having THEIR rights trampled.  Taxpayers and law abiding citizens be damned.

With the state of our economy - expecially here in California - these guys won't be finding jobs any time soon.  They need food and money just like the rest of us.  Any guesses where they're going to get it?

You're insane, or a member of the Ninth Circuit Court, if you don't think they will  be visiting you or your neighbors.

Assess, acquire, shoot, repeat as necessary.

Oh, by the way, this was just the first wave.  There are plans to catch-and-release over 40,000 misunderstood individuals just like this guy.

Feelin' good about how your tax dollars are being spent?

If you watch the price of precious metals, you've seen them absolutely plummet in the past few weeks.  In early January, the price was around $1160 an ounce.  At this very second, it is at $1064 - an 8.27% drop in the past month.  Not good.

What has got me scratching my head is, WHY?

I think I know the answer, and it will make your head explode.  More importantly, I think it will give me an incentive to buy MORE precious metals (PM).

If you look just at the US, PM should be going up in price.  The dollar is being debased by our government - they're printing dollars like nobody's business and we're monitizing our own debt with much of that money.  It is a recipe for disaster.

Yet gold and silver prices continue to drop.

At least in the short-term, we need to look outside of our borders.  While we are in horrible shape, the rest of the world is worse off.  Many countries are teetering on the brink of bankrupcy.
Worries over debt levels in Spain and Portugal have increased as investors speculate the two countries may face budget deficit and debt problems like those of Greece. Such concerns helped lift the relatively safer haven U.S. dollar and yen.
That last sentence explains what is going on.  Our economy may suck, but not as badly as the rest of the world.  The dollar is the least-objectionable world currency.

When the dollar rises in value, PM prices drop.

Still, the underlying US economy is in horrible shape.  Our annual deficit-to-GDP ratios have never been higher (approx. 10% - $1.3 trillion/$14 trillion). 

Our national debt-to-GDP ratio is projected to be 94% after this year.  We've borrowed nearly as much as our entire country produces each year!  It's projected to be 108% by 2014.

When you include all of our unfunded liabilities such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, our debt is well north of $100 TRILLION.

We can never, ever pay this off.  Never.  An increasingly large portion of our tax dollars are directed to debt payments and social programs.  This is only going to get worse.

The government will have to continue to borrow and print money, and the dollar will be even futher debased.  The ONLY result can be inflation.  Ugly inflation.

That will result in an increase in the value of PM.  Your dollars in a savings account are going to be eaten alive.  Hell, Treasury Bills were recently paying NEGATIVE interest!  You didn't even get back all of your principal when investing in the US government.

I look at this drop in prices as a Buy Opportunity.

Whatcha think?

Accept The Challenge

Precious Metals can be very volitile.  Personally, I don't look at them so much as an investment, as I do a hedge against inflation.  A relatively small portion of our money is in PM, but it IS growing.

If you are considering getting into PM, PLEASE get educated.  We did a tutorial on how to buy 90% silver.  Read financial and economic reports from multiple sources, make a decision on where you think things are going, and act accordingly.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.