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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Curious Bank Observation

I stopped by my bank today (one of the "too big to fail" banks) to do a fairly large cash withdrawal.  I do this from time-to-time just to have some ready cash in the house, but I also do it when my gut says things are getting a bit "hinky".

This was a "hinky" withdrawal.  My "spidey sense" is going off - too many things in the economy are going sideways, and I'll sleep better at night knowing I have at least some of my cash in hand.  I'm not going to say how large it was, but I'll say it was under the $10k limit where paperwork gets written up and sent to the government.

Anyways, I tell the teller what I want and in what denominations.  She pushes all of the buttons, then says she needs to get a supervisor over-ride.  Hmmmmm.... OK.

The guy comes over, and makes her do the entire transaction all over.  Me swiping my card, PIN, sign the withdrawal slip - everything - with him standing there.  Very odd.  This has never happened before when I've done this in the past.

She finishes up counting out my cash and the supervisor leaves.  We're chatting about this-and-that - how I used to be in banking, the economy, the weather - and she makes a comment about, "not getting the memo."  I asked her what she meant.

She said that something must be going on.  She said that I was the 7th person to come to HER line since the bank opened (it was 11:30, so they'd been open for 2 1/2 hours) that had made a large cash withdrawal.  I was the FIRST that was under $10k.

I just shrugged my shoulders and said I had not a clue....

I have no idea if this is an isolated incident or if it's a trend.  Some of this may be attributable to some in the Main Stream Media finally calling our economic situation for what it is:  Bad.

It may be due to the stock market tanking yesterday (and again today) or any of the multiple economic reports that have come out recently - none of which are pleasant to consider.  It may be due to Europe telling the administration that they won't keep spending like we are.

Or, it could have been a bunch of separate transactions that have nothing to do with any of this.

I hope and pray this all holds together for about 12 more months.  I will have all of my ducks lined up, and if the world goes to hell-in-a-hand-basket, I'll at least be able to weather the storm much more easily.  True self-sufficiency will be a practical consideration.

If things DO turn around, I'll be in a very stable position, literally for the rest of my life.  Not living "high on the hog" but all of our basic needs taken care of.

It would be interesting to see if this continues, and if it was happening at other banks.  Was this a bank-run precursor?  No.  I think it was a handful of people that just happened to get worried on the same day.

If you remember, Citibank (not my bank) back in February notified all of its customers that it could require a 7 day advanced notice on all withdrawals.

They tried to back-peddle and say it was a mistake and was supposed to only be sent to customers of one of their Texas banks, and had been sent nationwide in error.  Oh, but they didn't fix that "error" the next month, so it still stands.

I haven't read my account disclosures since I opened the accounts.  I need to spend a bit of time scanning them to see if there is anything similar.

Interesting times...

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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, June 29, 2010

Deep Sheep Dip

Is all of this financial garbage finally coming to a head?  I can't tell for sure, but it sure looks like we're at least creeping up on it.

The Dow is crashing, the euro, yen and pound sterling are tanking, and gold is still holding its own.  Even the government is having trouble pumping out the Happy Gas "economic" reports - no one believes them any more.

Some of this is almost surreal.  Joe "Did I Say That Out Loud?" Biden now tells us that the 8 million jobs lost on his watch (both as a Senator and VP) are lost forever.
Vice President Joe Biden gave a stark assessment of the economy today, telling an audience of supporters, "there's no possibility to restore 8 million jobs lost in the Great Recession."
Newsflash, Joe:  Most of us knew that.  It was your buddies in the Main Stream Media who weren't doing their jobs by keeping the lid on this for the past two years.  It was all puppies and rainbows.  Green shoots sprouting up everywhere!  Don't want to scare the proles.

Housing prices continue to crater.  People don't have jobs, so there's no demand.  Tent cities are popping up all over the place.  Hawaii?
Hunkin walked past a pit bull puppy and peered over a makeshift shelter of tents and tarp hidden by koa haole and elephant grass, then pointed toward the high school's athletic complex barely a football field away.

"The school is right over there," Hunkin said last week. "This isn't right."

The strip of land is bounded by Waipahu High School on one side and the calming waters of Pearl Harbor's Middle Loch on the other, where the Navy's mothball fleet sits idle. It's the most visible portion of an enormous homeless encampment that stretches five miles over approximately 50 acres of city, Navy and state land that serpentines around...
Yep, even paradise is taking its lumps. As the picture up top shows, they DO have their green shoots, though...

And speaking of surreal, I damn near stroked out when I saw that socialist Europe was telling our administration they weren't going to try and spend their way out of this mess.
In Britain, the new government reburied Keynes last week, choosing budget austerity over further stimulus. Germany rebuffed Obama’s requests to keep priming the pump. The European Union’s economic affairs chief wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that he “cannot but disagree” with the push for more deficit spending.

Getting debt lectures from Europe, the continent that already has brought us the Greek bailout and riots? That’s like leaving it to Lindsay Lohan to tell you to lay off the sauce for a while.

Still, it's no surprise what the administration has planned for us.  The projections FROM THE WHITEHOUSE say that by 2085 our annual budget deficit will be equal to 62.3% of GDP.

What does that mean?  To put it into persective, right now, our GDP is about $14 trillion.  Our annual deficit spending is about $1.5 trillion (out of a total "budget" of $3.5 trillion).  This deficit is equal to 10.7% of GDP.

In today's dollars, that 62.3% of GDP would equate to ANNUAL deficit spending of $8.7 trillion!  Hell, our current bloated spending is only about $3.5 trillion right now.  THAT'S how bad this is becoming.

But no one bats an eye.  Spend, spend, spend.  Don't worry about our kids, their kids, and their kid's kids.  We'll all be dead by then, so who cares?

Accept The Challenge

Realistically, if the projections of the budget office come to fruition, there is nothing any of us can do to "soften the blow" of what's coming.  Deficit spending at those levels is unsustainable.

Financially, we need to look much more near-term.  As sad as it is to say, unless we see some "fundamental change" in how our federal government operates, I simply don't think that squirreling away nuts for the future will be worth a damn. 

Read up on Argentina and what happened to their private retirement funds.  Poof!  Our Congress is already studying the idea for Americans.  If your money isn't in a tangible form (read "precious metals") when TSHTF, your life's work will be gone and will be managed by a nice DMV-like bureaucrat.

I personally believe that to have any real chance of surviving what is coming our way will require land.  Arable land.  Land that will allow you to provide for yourself.

If the projections for 2085 do happen, even owning the land and precious metals won't do you any good.  They will have been long-ago "repatriated" by the government.

This is the path I'm taking - precious metals and dirt - and the means to preserve both.  Unless a fundamental change occurs that is 180 degrees different from the change the government is imposing on us, we're all in deep sheep dip.

Not a place I plan on being.

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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.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Summer of Our Discontent

Things are heating up all over the world.

The lid is blowing off in Canada.  Anarchists are being arrested left-and-right for turning peaceful protests into violent mob scenes.  So far, more than 500 have been locked up, a portion of which are peaceful protesters or simply people watching the mess and getting swooped up in a police dragnet.

Bangladesh is rioting because of the "misrule and failure" of their government (hmmmm).  Chinese workers are strikingYoung people in France are protesting because the government has told them their retirement age is going to go up.   We already know what's been going on in Greece.

Here in the good old US of A, we have had buckets-o-protest over Arizona's immigration laws.  The law goes into effect on July 29th.  Expect to see MORE protests ("National Day of Non-Compliance").

In fact, starting tomorrow, there is a "30 Days For Human Rights" deal leading up to the big crescendo on July 29.  They have a calendar on their site, but it's empty, so I've signed up for their email updates.  Should be interesting...

We're seeing protests against BP for the oil spill (great images of protest signs).  So far, they look non-violent, but I know that if I lived on the Gulf Coast, I'd be quite bent out of shape even if I weren't in the oil or fishing industry.  BP and the Federal Government have really screwed this one up quite well.

The BART cop trial is expected to wrap up very soon - perhaps going to the jury as early as this week.  As I've said before, if he's not found guilty of murder - rightly or wrongly - the protests will be wide-spread and very violent.
More than a year later, emotions still run high.

Oakland police and city leaders fear the possibility of violence when a verdict is announced.

Last week, the city's Police Department simulated a riot to help officers prepare for unrest. Meeting areas are being set up for residents to peacefully express their feelings about the verdict. And preachers have agreed to urge calm.

"Whatever the verdict, it's sure to raise a lot of emotion. It touches an issue that's very deep in the community," said city spokeswoman Karen Boyd.

A spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department said special preparations were in the works for any post-verdict crowd gathering outside the downtown criminal courts building, but he declined to elaborate.

"We are not going to go into any sort of detail on our planning other than to confirm that we are working with court security and are prepared to handle any gathering of crowds outside of the courthouse, when a verdict is returned," said Lt. John Romero.
Accept The Challenge

Have you got an Evacuation Plan (Part 1, 2, 3) and Shelter-In-Place plan?  Unless you're one of the lucky few that live out in the boonies full-time, you need to consider each of these over the next few months.  Tighten them up, review your evacuation routes, be sure your BOBs are complete.

Don't end up a victim!

Obviously, review your Safety and Security plans as well.  A big part of that (should be) safety awareness.  Knowing or being able to anticipate problems by following the news or the Internet on potential "hot spots" will take you a long way in staying safe.

Remember:  The best way to avoid an emergency is to not be there!

Photo Credit:  REUTERS/Mark Blinch
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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, June 24, 2010

More Homemade MREs and Other Preps

 I wanted to do a follow-up to the post I did back in March ("Homemade MREs") and see if I could beat the cost per 100 calorie numbers I got earlier.  My plan this time around was to bring the cost down as far as I could, so I decided to do my shopping at The Dollar Store. 

As a reminder, the MREs I put together for the first post had a cost/100 calories of $0.42 and $0.53.  Commercial MREs run around $0.51!

I figured I could drive the price down considerably, but I'd probably have to give up a good deal of the shelf life expectations. I set a minimum of 12 months shelf life for the products I purchased.

Once again, I was surprised by the results.

I started with the following "ingredients" and statistics -

For the items that have a price of less than a dollar, there was more than one item in a package.  For instance, with the cookies, there were 6 packs of cookies for a buck.  With the Tea Drink, that was one item that was not purchased at a Dollar Store (ten packs for $3.30).  Also, when compared to the last MRE post, the vacuum bag cost has been reduced, as much less bag is needed for these ones.

I tried to put these packages together in such a way as to make them enjoyable.  At least at this point, I was looking for a "complete" meal, so to speak.

First up, is MRE package number one -

Notice the milk?  It is a shelf-stable milk with a shelf life of a year.  Hmm.  Supposedly no hormones or other garbage is in there.  Hmmmm again.

Anyways, here are the stats -

Instead of being less expensive, the cost/100 calories went through the roof!

MRE 2 fared a bit better.  Here's what was included -

And here are the stats -

It's better than the first try, but still nothing to be proud of.  As with the first test, it looks like your best value is to go with commercial MREs, as they are the only solution that combines a decent cost/100 calories ($0.51) AND extended shelf-life (5 years).

Still, I wanted to see which of the foods I used would give me the greatest bang-for-the-buck, so I added a column to calculate this out -

From strictly a cost/100 calorie standpoint, the milk, nuts and salmon are all a bust.  The cookies are the best (YEAH!  Cookies rule!).  I keep a bunch of the Tuna and Crackers in my car at all times for a quick bite to eat when I'm out on the road.  You can also get them in Chicken and Ham, but IMO, they suck badly.  I really like the tuna.

I've also been doing some other preps.  Strawberries prices were a steal, so I bought two, half-flats and made up 9 pints of jam.

One's in the fridge and two were given away as gifts.  BONUS!  I've got a buddy into canning now.  His first foray was with strawberry jam as well.

I gave him some of my canned chicken and canned Barley and Pork soup to see how they taste.  I'll be sending him the recipes and process for these, plus chili and clam chowder.  He really likes the "meal in a jar" concept.

I also made up another batch of beef jerky.  The price on the beef was excellent, so I made up 3 pounds of the stuff.

I still need to trim it up.  My friend asked a question about jerky that I couldn't answer:  How long would it last if vacuum sealed and put into the freezer?  I dunno.

I'm going to take a portion of this and put it into two vacuum bags.  I'll check on one in 6 months, and one in a year.  My gut says it will be perfectly good and edible, but I don't want to assume anything.  I'll post the results in the future.

Lastly, My Name is Chief, and I'm an addict.  To nicotine.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm trying to quit smoking, and have cut down significantly over the past year or so.  Still, if things get ugly, you don't want to be around me in a high-stress situation without an occasional nicotine fix.  Trust me on this!

So, I was able to buy a cigarette machine from a fellow member of a fraternal organization to which I belong.  I went down to a smoke shop, picked up some pre-made tubes and bought some tobacco.

After a couple of tries, I was able to get them made up pretty well.  The price per pack is less than half of what store-bought smokes run.  The problem is, they don't taste as good, at least to me.  For my preps, these will be strictly Nicotine Delivery Systems!  I'll squirrel away a couple of cases of tubes and bags of tobacco in my long-term preps.  Worst case, they'll make for a good trade/barter item.

Accept The Challenge

I'd really like to see someone come up with a homemade, cheap, nutritious and (at least moderately) long-life alternative to commercial MREs (yeah, that's a challenge).  I'm guessing it's an Economies of Scale thing with the commercial MREs.

Now is a great time to develop and practice your canning and dehydrating skills.  Even if you haven't grown or raised your own food, prices tend to drop in the summer.  Take advantage of this.

Also, foraging should be a part of your plans as well.  I will be doing a run along the Sacramento Delta levee system next month, gathering up as many blackberries as I can get (we got 6lbs in two hours last year).  Talk to neighbors with fruit trees about you making up jams and splitting the "proceeds" 50/50.  You can do the same with fish any time of the year, or with wild game during their hunting seasons.

Take a shot at pickling veggies, smoking meat and drying fruits and herbs.  Take advantage of Times-o-Plenty...

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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, June 21, 2010

My Letter To The NRA

Chris Cox
Executive Director

I just received your "explanation" regarding the fire-storm you've been under by NRA members. 

Your explanation was a weak, pathetic attempt at CYA.  Your membership is angry as hell.  You would be well advised to listen - and understand - why we're upset.

In your explanatory letter, you and others attempted to explain that the NRA had no intentions to ever support the Disclose Act.  Nope, not us, how'd you ever get that impression?

You provided a copy of your May 26th letter to Congress, supposedly as proof of this. 

I am writing to express the National Rifle Association's strong concerns with H.R. 5175, the DISCLOSE Act, as well as our opposition to this bill in its current form.

Sorry, but that's not what I got from the letter.  I got the impression that you wanted a special "carve out" for the NRA.  The whole "in its current form" was the clue.

Now, that might make sense to you - after all, you do work for the organization.  What has got us all upset is that we Americans are NOT single issue people.  We care about each and every right of ours that gets trampled.  Since you jumped into the First Amendment fray, we don't expect you to act like a typical politician and only protect your little slice of America.  We expect you to stand up for all Americans - NRA members or not.

If you truly had no intentions of getting a special exemption from Congress, as soon as it was reported that this was being considered, you should have IMMEDIATELY issued another press release stating that you didn't support ANY version of the bill that would restrict the 1A rights of any American - including NRA members.

Instead, you waited 3 weeks and issued this pathetic attempt at damage control.

Be clear:  If you EVER pull a stunt like this again - sacrifice any American right so that the NRA can retain it - you will be down at least one more member.  I'm guessing by the panicked tone of your email letter that a number of members have already pulled the plug.

Remember that next time.

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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.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunday Grumpy: It's For Your Protection

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

--Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution
I spent 31 years in banking - from 1977 to 2008.  Back in 1985, I worked for a large bank in California.  I was in charge of the department that was responsible for resolving all of the various out-of-balance conditions inside the bank, and also any outages that occurred between us and other banks.  As a result, we had computer and micro-fiche records for the entire bank.

Because we were this centralized repository of records, whenever any government agency needed records on one of our customer accounts, the request would come to us.

There is a law called the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA).  It was in effect back then, and is in effect to this day.  But the law has been turned on its head.

Back in the 1980's the law was in place to protect the privacy - the secrecy - of our customer records.  If a records request was received from a government agency and it wasn't sent in the form of a subpoena, it was rejected outright.

If the request came in as a subpoena, we were required by law to notify the customer of the request by the government agency.  We were also required by law to hold the requested documents for (I believe) 10 business days to allow the customer to fight the subpoena.

Over the next 20 years or so, banks were turned from being trustees and protectors of customer records into quasi-agents of the government.  The BSA was changed from a law that restricted banks to only disclosing their customer records after a judge had approved the request (as is required by the 4th Amendment) into a process where a single agent at any state or federal agency can get your records.

The only "burden of proof" that agent needs is a belief that someone might somehow be involved in any type of criminal activity.  Forget that whole, "probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized" inconvenience.

Oh, and the banks are now forbidden, by federal law, from disclosing to the customer that their records have been sent to the government.  If the banker tells you of the request, they go to jail.

Privacy and secrecy are now only associated with criminals and terrorists.  A good, up-standing citizen has no need for such things.  If you've done nothing wrong, you should have nothing to hide.

People slurp up this school of thought like it's free lemonade on a hot summer day.  They choose not to see they are making a deal with the devil.  They willingly make the, "trading liberty for security" bargain Benjamin Franklin warned us about.

Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001

You and I know it as the USA PATRIOT Act.

In October of 2001 after the 9/11 terrorist attack, they wrapped this desecration of the Constitution in Red, White and Blue and sold it as patriotism. Just from a banking perspective, you have no idea what powers this abomination granted to the federal and state government.

Most people know that you cannot take out $10,000 in cash from your own bank account without it being reported to the government.  Same thing if you deposit $10,000.  Trust me when I tell you that it goes much deeper.  Much deeper.  All under the pretense that it's keeping us safe from bad guys.

No matter that it's YOUR money.  No matter that the federal government has no Constitutional right to know what you do with that money or that you've decided to covert it from electrons into paper money.

They get the information, and we all willingly comply (you keep money in a bank, right?) - like it or not.

DHS is pulling out the "National Security" card once again -
Fighting homegrown terrorism by monitoring Internet communications is a civil liberties trade-off the U.S. government must make to beef up national security, the nation's homeland security chief said Friday.

As terrorists increasingly recruit U.S. citizens, the government needs to constantly balance Americans' civil rights and privacy with the need to keep people safe, said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
Yeah.  That whole, "balance Americans' civil rights" thing.  The Constitution tells you what you can, and what you can't do.  There's no balance involved, Janet.  Unless you have evidence that an individual or group is planning or committing a crime, and you can sell the story to a judge, you MUST NOT invade their privacy.  It's really that simple.

But that's old news.  Janet already knows that the battle over the Fourth Amendment is won.  We citizens got our collective butts kicked.  That's not what her new battle is about.  She's taking aim at the First Amendment -
"The First Amendment protects radical opinions, but we need the legal tools to do things like monitor the recruitment of terrorists via the Internet," Napolitano told a gathering of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy.
Hey, see, no big deal.  We're just going to watch for evil terrorists.  We promise that's all.  We have no intention whatsoever of restricting what you can say.  Nope.  Not us.  Really.
"We can significantly advance security without having a deleterious impact on individual rights in most instances. At the same time, there are situations where trade-offs are inevitable."
Try selling that reeking sack of donkey feces somewhere else.  This former banker has seen what the government does when it offers a trade-off.  All we get in exchange is screwed.

Accept The Challenge

Silence Is Consent.  Use your First Amendment rights while you are still able.

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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, June 18, 2010

Confused and Disgusted

WTF is going on with gold and silver. I'm happy, but it makes no sense.

The dollar is up against most foreign currencies, the unemployment numbers (as "trustworthy" as they may be) are better, consumer prices are down, and a number of world leaders are talking about how the euro is getting ready to crater against the dollar.  Yet as of this moment, gold is up about $15 from yesterday's close (which was up $15 from the day before).

Is the world finally waking up to the fact that the "highest and best use" of fiat currency is as kindling?

Maybe it has to do with the fact that the world has specifically lost confidence in the dollar.  Talk like this isn't helping the boys in DC -
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Friday he has spoken with Chinese officials about boosting the role of emerging-market currencies and that the Chinese yuan, the Indian rupee and even the Russian ruble should partly replace the dollar among the world's reserves currencies.
Sure looks like that super-secret, gotta-keep-it-under-wraps Federal Reserve Monetary Policy is working like a charm...  The world quakes in fear at the mighty dollar.

Oh, wait, they're not quaking in fear... they're giggling...


Speaking of burning money...
But make no mistake: we will fight this spill with everything we've got for as long it takes. We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused. And we will do whatever's necessary to help the Gulf Coast and its people recover from this tragedy

President Barack Obama, June 15, 2010
"The Coast Guard came and shut them down," Jindal said. "You got men on the barges in the oil, and they have been told by the Coast Guard, 'Cease and desist. Stop sucking up that oil.'"

A Coast Guard representative told ABC News today that it shares the same goal as the governor.

"We are all in this together. The enemy is the oil," said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Dan Lauer.

But the Coast Guard ordered the stoppage because of reasons that Jindal found frustrating. The Coast Guard needed to confirm that there were fire extinguishers and life vests on board, and then it had trouble contacting the people who built the barges.

ABC News, July 17, 2010
The real kicker is that they were already using these barges, and they were working.
Sixteen barges sat stationary today, although they were sucking up thousands of gallons of BP's oil as recently as Tuesday. Workers in hazmat suits and gas masks pumped the oil out of the Louisiana waters and into steel tanks. It was a homegrown idea that seemed to be effective at collecting the thick gunk.
"... as recently as Tuesday..."  Hey, isn't that the exact same day when the president said he would do, "whatever's necessary"?

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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, June 17, 2010

Boom Boom: Out Go The Lights

A comment on the last post by MikeH of Behind The Parapet got me thinking of what I've done to prepare for any kind of  significant, long-term power outage.

First, a question:  What is the first thing you do when you have a power outage?  Our plan, like most, is to find some sort of light source - be it a flashlight or candle.  We then grab one of our dynamo-powered radios to try and figure out what is happening.

I'm guessing the next item on our checklist is a bit different from most:  We fill up our bathtub with cold water.  Even if the event that caused the power outage is a particularly bad one - and EMP or CME, there should still be sufficient water pressure in the system for us to fill our tub.  If it's because of some sort of "normal" problem with the power company, most municipal water companies have back-up generators to maintain water pressure.

We do this for a couple of reasons.  First, there's the obvious reason of water storage.  We fill it with cold water to preserve the water in our water heater as additional storage.  Filling the tub will immediately add about 40-50 gallons of water to our current storage supply.  Be sure to have one of those small rubber disks to place over the top of your drain plug - you don't want your saved water to slowly leak away.

The second reason we do this is a bit less obvious - cooling.  One of the most common times the power goes out is during the summer.  We've all got our air conditioning units running, and the power demands exceed the power available.  We get black-outs.

Suddenly, hot, sweaty people have no way to cool themselves.  This is especially troubling for home-bound seniors.  If worse comes to worse, you can use that bathtub full of water as a mini-pool to keep yourself cool.  If you have a now-illegal-in-California Black Berkey Water Filter (or something of similar quality), that "used" water can still be easily purified into drinking water.

Do you remember the heat-wave that hit Europe in 2003?  In France alone, nearly 15,000 people died over a 7 day period due to the heat!  It was a "Perfect Storm" of excessive heat, caretakers, doctors and public safety personnel  on "holiday," and a pampered populous unfamiliar with caring for itself.  Some sources have gone back and reviewed historical statistical records, and they place the number of extra deaths in all of Europe during that period at up to 70,000.

Accept The Challenge

Is it time to update your Power Outage checklist?  If you have elderly or disabled folks in your life - and they live on their own - the next time you speak with them, tell them about filling up the bathtub.  I started this with my own mother a couple of years ago.

What's the downside?  If the power is only out for a couple of hours, you've potentially "wasted" some water.  You can take that water and put it in your garden, fill your bird bath or use it to flush your toilets.

As Europe found out only 7 years ago, not doing so could cost you your life.

PS:  Want to know where I picked up this tip?  About a million years ago, I was watching the show, "Hill Street Blues".  The character of Sgt. Belker was interviewing some criminal, when Belker's mom called him on the phone.  She was complaining about the oppressive heat wave in NYC.  The criminal made a suggestion about filling up the tub with water to cool her off...

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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.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Electronic Armageddon

Explorer on the National Geographic Channel had a show last night called, "Electronic Armageddon."  The show is on the possible impact of a natural or man-made disaster that takes out our electric grid.

Sobering stuff.

It's on again this Saturday, 6/19.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Melt Up Follow-Up

A friend sent me a link to a follow-up to the Melt Up video from last month.  These are put out by the National Inflation Association.  This one is much shorter, but has some very disturbing information.

Pay attention to the likelihood of 'quantitative easing' (printing money out of thin air - can you say, "$200 BILLION MORE stimulus?"),  the amount of income American's now receive directly from the government (nearly 18%), and the size of our April Budget Deficit (one month - $82.6 BILLION).

This is simply unsustainable.

We, as individuals and as a nation, have some hard choices ahead of us...

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Monday, June 14, 2010


We're surrounded by scams.  Some are government programs masquerading as compassion.  Some are people that are looking to "stir the pot" and make a couple of bucks off of us.  And some are blatant attempts by businesses to separate gullible people from  their money.

Government Compassion

I hear stuff like this, and my head wants to explode.  It seems that some people just keep forgetting to take their medications.  Their free medications.  What's the obvious solution to this gripping problem?

Pay them to take their free medications -
Now, a controversial, and seemingly counterintuitive [duh! .ed], effort to tackle the problem is gaining ground: paying people money to take medicine or to comply with prescribed treatment. The idea, which is being embraced by doctors, pharmacy companies, insurers and researchers, is that paying modest financial incentives up front can save much larger costs of hospitalization.

“It’s better to spend money on medication adherence for patients, rather than having them boomerang in and out of the hospital,” said Valerie Fleishman, executive director of the New England Healthcare Institute, a research organization, who said that about one-tenth of hospital admissions and one-quarter of nursing home admissions result from incorrect adherence to medication. “Financial incentives are a critical piece of the solution.”
Yeah.  Give away more of my tax dollars to pay someone to take the medicines my tax dollars paid for, which were prescribed by the doctor I paid for.

As a side benefit, we'll get to once again penalize the people that actually do what they're supposed to do.  More accurately, you are providing an incentive to the people that currently follow the rules, to disregard them so they can then get the cash to do what they were already doing.

See what I mean about your head wanting to explode?

Even if it's not a government entity making the payments - Aetna, for instance is doing a test payments deal - do you really think Aetna is doing this for free?  Or do you think they'll pass the cost along to ALL of their customers?

[Start Heartless American Alert]  How about we let Darwin enter the equation.  The whole, "survival of the fittest" deal.  If you have such a low sense of self preservation that you can't even take your life-sustaining medications, should you really be our problem?

Obviously, if you have some sort of mental disability, it's a different story, but they would already have some sort of a care-giver.  Are we going to start paying the care-givers a bonus for doing their job?

That's not the case for these people in this story.

The article goes on and on about how paying the incentives NOW will save us money in the future.  That presumes that we will continue to care for them.

Just as you should have to work doing community service  to receive welfare payments (there are plenty of public parks that need toilets cleaned or weeds pulled since the recent budget cut-backs), there should be a minimum requirement to receive free health care.  If you're too stupid to take your free medicine, you be prohibited from receiving free long-term care when your disease destroys your ability to care for yourself.

Our last payment on your behalf should be your burial expense.  As my favorite morning radio station says, "Stupid Should Hurt".

Yeah, like that's going to happen...

[ End Heartless American Alert]

The article just kills me (pun intended).  They act like it's some paradigm-shifting revelation that if you give people money, they'll do what you want.

Give people $8000, and they'll buy a home.  Slip them some cash, they'll buy a car from a government-controlled auto company.  Pay kids some money, and they'll grace you with their presence at their free public school.

Jump through hoops, you happy little seals, and we'll give you a bit of fish as a reward.

The Gullible

Last night I was watching TV and a commercial came on the tube about this thing called The Pasta Boat.  It was this deal where the commercial is shot to make it look like boiling water and making pasta is on the same difficulty scale as splitting an atom.  It's just sooooo hard!

Their solution is this plastic tub you fill with water and pasta, throw in the microwave, and Viola!, you've got perfect pasta.  It's truly a modern miracle!

The price was twenty bucks.  BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!  If you order RIGHT NOW, they'll cut the price in half, so it'll only cost you ten bucks!

HOLD ON TO YOUR HAT, THAT'S NOT ALL!  They tell you they've lost their minds, and that they'll add a second Pasta Boat AND a free food chopper thingy.

In the small print it says, "Just pay separate shipping and handling".   Ahhhhh, the Scam Alert just started screeching.   Whoop!  Whoop!  Whoop!

I went to their site to see if I could find out what the actual cost might be.  After having to sit through the commercial again, I clicked the image and it brought me to the credit card section.  I found this, buried at the very bottom of the page -


So, that ten dollar super-duper deal has now devolved into a twenty-four dollar scam.  Wow, THAT was a shock...

Prepping "Patriot"

In February of 2009 I bought a bunch of heirloom seeds from an outfit called Survivalist Seeds.  A huge variety of seeds for what was a pretty good price.  The seed sprouted and worked as advertised.  I was a satisfied cutomer.

A few months later, I started getting emails from the seller complaining about his competition.  They were cheaters and crooks and under-cutting his business.  These other guys were driving him out of business.  Ok, whatever.

He then started a company called Patriot Food.  His pitch was that he would sell you enough food to feed two people for a year for under six-hundred dollars.  His headline at the time (and it's still there) was that a comparable amount of food cost over $3000 from his competitors (his price is now $725).

Having been a satisfied customer, I gave his site a look-see.  It sounded incredible.  It sounded too good to be true.  So I did some math, then sent him this email - 
How can you say this is enough food for two people for one year?  Based upon the published numbers on your site, the total calories provided by your package is 224,215.  For two people, that would be 307 calories per day per person.  No one can survive on that.  This isn't enough food for one person for a year, let alone two.

FYI, this isn't a "gotcha" email.  I already have my supplies set aside.  BUT, you either need to correct the caloric information on your package website, or change your marketing pitch.
I didn't get a response, but he changed his marketing pitch just a bit.  His site now says that when used in conjunction with canned meat, it provides enough food for 2 people for a year.  Oh, and the calorie count information on the dried food is now removed from the site.  Tough to "do the math" that way.

For a normal, healthy human being, you need 2000 calories a day.  With the 300 calories a day that this "deal" provides, that means you need to buy approximately 1700 calories per day, per person of canned meat!  3400 calories in total for those two people his package is meant to feed.  Really?!

He just happens to sell canned meat on his site (gasp!) and has some package deal where you can get 72 cans of different types of meat for $470.  But he doesn't say how much of this meat you need to get your 2000 calories per day, per person for a year.  No calorie or other nutritional information available, again.

He's in the process of shutting down the business.  I'm guessing it's because other people also "did the math" and saw there was no value to his offer.

Now, he offers to sell Silver Eagle coins for twice the going rate to go along with the food you're buying.

Here's the headline of his latest email gig -

Press Release


He mentions a number of his past predictions (no links provided to support these assertions - and this email had a BUNCH of other links in it) that he made based upon his code-breaking skills.

He'll now share this insider knowledge - but only to 50 of us fellow patriots - for a mere $250 each.  He'll send us this information on.... Independence Day.  Whoop!  Whoop!  Whoop!

Hell, maybe he's actually cracked the code.  Still, I think I'll pass.

Accept The Challenge

Obviously, I don't begrudge people for making a buck.  I'm as pro-capitalist as they come.  I encourage people to find multiple or creative streams of income.  But all of these are out-of-bounds in my book.

You don't make an honest living by finding ways through the political system to get paid to do what you should already be doing on your own.

You don't make an honest living by saying something is inexpensive, then scamming your buyers with hidden fees.

You don't make an honest living by telling someone they can survive a food shortage if they buy your product when your claims are full of air.

Crap like this gives our Emergency Preparedness industry a bad name.  If you think there are lizard-people out there plotting for our downfall, prove it.  Don't rant and rave and tell us how stupid we are for not buying your crap, give us some verifiable facts.

If you have the ability to predict what is going to happen to our economy, prove it.  I'd gladly be willing to pay big bucks for a reliable crystal ball.

But I want a "Double Your Money Back" guarantee.  And I want to see that money in some sort of an escrow account.  Your credibility is lacking.

You see, I already believe we're headed for some hard times.  Ugly, economically crushing times.  I've been preaching how to prepare for it for many, many years.

But I gathered my information - my facts - right off the Internet, or from newspapers and magazines.  I then used the analytical powers that God gave me and I connected the dots.  No voodoo code or secret handshake required.

Tell me something I don't know.

Buyer beware, baby...

Image courtesy of
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Friday, June 11, 2010

What More Motivation Do You Need?

Those of us who take preparedness seriously often just shake our heads at the reasoning people give for not getting prepared.  Most of the time, the excuse is along the lines of, "Well, the government will take care of things."

Uhm, not so much.  Some agencies are apparently more concerned with matters other than terrorism.  As you'll see below, some of them seem more focused on publicizing job openings than offering information on what people can do in the case of a terrorist attack.

Prepare shake your head so violently that you hurt your neck!

A recently release report from the Justice Department Inspector General says they aren't ready for diddly-squat.  Not even close -
I speak of the report from the Inspector General of the Justice Department, issued in late May, saying the department is not prepared to ensure public safety in the days or weeks after a terrorist attack in which nuclear, biological or chemical weapons are used. The Department of Homeland Security is designated as first federal responder, in a way, in the event of a WMD attack, but every agency in government has a formal, assigned role, and the crucial job of Justice is to manage and coordinate law enforcement and step in if state and local authorities are overwhelmed.
So, no law-and-order if things get a bit dicey.  Nice.
The paper also quoted Randall Larsen, the former executive director of the commission that gave the government low marks in January: "They just don't see the WMD scenario as most likely," he said.

They don't? They must be idiots. They must not be reading all the government reports of the past eight years, declaring terrorist attacks on U.S. soil not only likely but virtually certain. There are many reasons for this, and just one has to do with something Ronald Reagan mused about in his office 25 years ago. "Man has never had a weapon he didn't use," he said, to a handful of aides. If you develop the atom bomb, it will be used, as it was. If man, in his darkness, can develop and deploy nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, they will be used, too.
Al Qaeda, Hamas and any of the thousands of groups that want us dead, are smart enough to know that they can't attack us mano-a-mano.  We'd crush them if we fought a traditional war.

They employ the tactics of Asymmetrical Warfare.  They understand that they have to fight "dirty".  They find someone willing to strap on a chest full of dynamite - knowing full well he will lose his life - towards the goal of killing a couple dozen enemy soldiers.  A one-for-ten or one-for-thirty ratio is pretty damned good.

WMDs are considerably more difficult to build and deploy, but these terrorists have had nearly 9 years to work out the bugs.  We know that the first step - getting into our country undetected - is a piece of cake.  They've had plenty of time to work out the details of how to strike again.

Like 9/11 - a WMD attack that cost 20-odd terrorist lives in exchange for 3000+ US lives - a number of coordinated, targeted attacks on key infrastructure could be devastating.  Water delivery, communications, food distribution - pick a target.

I used to wonder about why they wouldn't use airplanes again.  I used to be an Oakland Raiders season ticket holder (I dropped the idiots this year.... who's been the idiot?!).  The Oakland Coliseum is within a stone's-throw of Oakland International Airport.  We'd have planes buzzing over the stadium all the time, pulling advertising banners behind them.

Imagine the panic and terror that would be caused by someone who hired a private pilot for the day, cut the pilot's throat or shot him in the head, and "aimed" the plane into a stadium full of fans?

The cost?  One dead terrorist, one dead pilot, one crashed rented plane and hundreds if not thousands of dead fans.

But the terror impact would be the big bonus.  Seeing planes acting like lawn darts as the slammed into the stadiums would be horrific.  Airports across the country would be shut down.  Football would likely cancel the season, or at least a part of it.

If the wing-nut in North Korea or Iran decides to get ugly, a nuke could be sent our way.  What then?
No one wants to think about it. I don't want to think about it. But you have to make plans. You have to imagine, you have to think about the worst case, and then you have to plan for it—literally. We've had enough time, nine years since our unforgettable reminder that history is, among other things, and some of them quite wonderful, a charnel house.


You can see a certain air of complacency even in government websites. On the front page of the House Committee on Homeland Security site there's a picture of Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, then, below, an area devoted to something called "Business Opportunities Model" and an area for "DHS Business Opportunities." On the Homeland Security Department's website, the priorities seem equally clear: "Find Career Opportunities," "Use the Job Finder." There's little sense of urgency; it's government as employment agency, not crisis leader.

Honestly, I don't know what the Justice Department could really do.  If some SHTF event occurs, we're all going to be on our own - at least for a good period of time.

I noted in one of my last posts that when the Rodney King verdict was announced in LA, there was rioting for 6 days.  What I didn't mention was that it took 3 days for the California National Guard to get on site.  Three days to secure one area of America's second largest city.  And this was while no other disaster was in play.  What kind of response could be expected if it were some sort of wide-spread attack?

If something big and bad happens, and you're out in the boondocks, I hate to break it to you, but they ain't comin'.  You're on your own.

Accept The Challenge

Before you proceed, go read this post ("Twelve Disaster Impacts") to help you get a handle on what you need to plan for.

A post like today's should open your eyes about what personal security issues you need to address.  If something major were to hit us, YOU, and you alone will be responsible for your safety.  The cavalry will not be riding in to save your bacon, so to speak.

There are so many events that could occur that would put you in this position.  A devastating hurricane like Katrina.  Civil unrest like the Rodney King verdict caused.  Another coordinated terrorist attack like 9/11.  An earthquake like the ones in Haiti or Chile.  In both of those instances, the looting and rioting started almost as soon as the ground stopped shaking.

If you haven't heard it, listen to this interview of Gerald Celente of Trends Research on how he survived the Chilean earthquake, and about how quickly the lawlessness started.

"What's normal isn't normal any more."  Indeed.

In the best of cases, government is slow to react.  With Katrina, we knew days in advance that it was coming, the Feds declared a Federal Emergency before it even hit, yet we all saw how that turned out.

What could you possibly be waiting for?

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Manufactured Optimism

The big boys are pulling out all the stops.  You can almost smell the panic.

The, "I just don't get it" brigade - generally led by the Federal Reserve Bank and US Treasury - are seeing that people aren't buying their line of garbage.  In this case, the Fed subtly made comments that undermine certain markets.... at least in the short-term.  His comments caused gold to drop early this morning.

Gold will recover.  Our economy is questionable, at best.

Take Uncle Ben Bernanke's comments in the Wall Street Journal from yesterday -
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says he’s a bit puzzled by surging gold prices. The 30% rally from a year ago, on top of gains in previous years, might be interpreted as a loud signal from markets that big inflation pressures are building in the U.S. Gold is seen by many investors as a hedge against inflation risk.

In this case, it might instead be a risk against risk broadly. Mr. Bernanke notes that the inflation signal isn’t confirmed by movements in other asset classes. Yields on Treasury bonds tend to rise when investors worry about inflation, but those yields have been falling recently. Inflation expectations as measured in Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS) markets remain low. And other commodity prices are falling. Gold is breaking records, but copper prices are down 17% so far this year.

“I don’t fully understand movements in the gold price,” Mr. Bernanke admitted. But he suggested it might be another example of investors fleeing risky assets and flocking to assets that are perceived as less risky, not only Treasury bonds, but also ones like gold.
Uncle Ben, as a public service, I'm going to clear up this mystery for you.

First, the reason Treasury yields are staying low is because PEOPLE AND COUNTRIES AREN'T BUYING THEM.  It's that whole 'supply and demand' thing, Ben.  No one trusts them any more.  The Full Faith and Credit scam has been recognized for what it is - a scam.

Your actions are directly responsible for that loss of faith in Treasury's. Quantitative Easing (printing money out of thin air), Qualitative Easing (buying high-risk assets, generally with those 'thin air' dollars) and then you hiding behind some arcane laws so we can't see how you're manipulating other markets has resulted in that mistrust.

We don't trust you, Ben.

From another WSJ article published yesterday -
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is trying to be reassuring about the outlook for the economy in testimony to the House Budget Committee this morning. But his wariness is palpable given what has happened in financial markets in recent weeks and uncertainty about Europe.

Asked whether a double-dip recession is likely, Mr. Bernanke repeated a reassurance he offered Monday that he doesn’t think so. The Fed is forecasting moderate growth in the 3.5% range, with modest declines in unemployment, and it’s sticking with that forecast. An important transition could be underway for the economy — away from government support and toward private demand, he noted. That’s a formula for continuing expansion.
He wants us to believe we're moving AWAY from government support?!  Did that testimony come with a pre-recorded laugh track?  Ol' Uncle Ben had better get a permit from the EPA for all of the toxic dung he's shoveling.

He's telling us to trust him and his economists.  Aren't these the same folks that were caught flat-footed about the current economic morass?

Most people finally recognize that the Fed and any other government entity will manipulate the numbers and tweak the truth any way they see fit.  Whatever is needed to support their programs.  The ends justify the means.

This use of manufactured optimism is not monopolized by the US.  Europe, in the midst of a "standing eight count", has just come out with reports that they're ready to kick butt and take names -
European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet said Thursday that economic recovery took hold in the euro zone in the spring, but that renewed tensions in some financial market segments pose risks.

The ECB Thursday raised its forecast for growth in the euro area for this year, but lowered its forecast for 2011.
They are literally rioting in the streets across Europe, and this guy has the stones to say things are looking up?  2011 might suck, but green shoots are poppin' up all over the place?!

They are good students, though.  Uncle Ben appears to have his influence over there as well -
Mr. Trichet defended the ECB's decision last month to begin buying billions of euros in euro-zone government bonds to help prop up those markets, particularly in fiscally weakened countries along the region's perimeter.

Many economists said the plan risked fueling inflation if government debt were allowed to be monetarized without corresponding funds being absorbed by the ECB elsewhere.
Hmmm.  Sounds like it's just as easy to print Monopoly Euros as it is to print Monopoly Dollars.

The manufactured optimism comes out, and the markets surge.  As I write this, the Dow is up around 200 points.  Is this being caused by the Plunge Protection Team?  Who knows?  I just have difficulty believing people are willing to risk their own money to buy into this mess.

One thing I do know is that they're making sure the market doesn't simply wake up one day and run, screaming for the hills -
Trading exchanges as early as next week will implement rules designed to tame the volatility of individual stocks by temporarily halting trading during dramatic price changes, even as market participants are bracing for stiffer rules.

Members of the Securities and Exchange Commission have signed off on the stock market "circuit breaker," according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

The rule will be in effect on a pilot basis for six months.

The cross-market trading pause was proposed last month in response to the May 6 "flash crash" that saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummet almost 1,000 points before partially recovering.
Yeah, we wouldn't want free markets to operate, would we?

Insurance industry nationalized?  Check.
Banking industry nationalized?  Check.
Automobile industry nationalized?  Check.
Health care industry nationalized?  Check.
News/journalism industry nationalized?  In process.
Equities industry nationalized?  In process.
Oil industry nationalized?  Under review.
Private retirement savings industry nationalized?  Under review.

Accept The Challenge

Read and digest.  Obviously, everyone's life and financial circumstances is different.  What is right for me might be disasterous for you.

That being said, it seems crystal clear that inflation will absolutely spike.  The Fed simply cannot keep printing up this money without inflation going through the roof.  Just remember that it will likely be proceeded by deflation.  If the high unemployment does not subside, demand for most goods will drop, resulting in a drop in prices.  Manufacturers, farmers and business will then restructure their operations, resulting in lower volumes of goods being produced.  The cheapened dollar coupled with lower availability of goods will mean ugly prices.

Personally, I think we're in the midst of this restructuring phase right now.

Look at all of your options:  Precious metals, elimination of debt, purchase of products important to the success of your business and your family, multiple sources of income, education to enable you to thrive during tough times.

It's "back to basics" time, folks...

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010


This book is a product of its time and does not reflect the same values as it would if it were written today. Parents might wish to discuss with their children how views on race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and interpersonal relations have changed since this book was written before allowing them to read this classic work.
This is a disclaimer at the beginning of a book.  Sounds pretty horrific.

What kind of book could this be?  A Nazi manifesto?  A testament from some fringe pervert group like NAMBLA?  Perhaps it's from some opressive religious group?

No.  It's at the beginning of a book on the US Constitution.

I saw this image on Glenn Beck's TV show last night, and was stunned.  Good Lord, what is happening to this country?  How can our founding document - the very basis of our form of government and way of life - be considered to be an extreme text?

We're screwed.

Most of the Beck show was about a book called, "The Road To Serfdom".  It's next on my non-fiction reading list.

Here's a heads-up to anyone living in any large US city, but especially in the cities of Los Angeles or Oakland:  If BART cop Johannes Mehserle is not found guilty of the first degree murder of BART rider Oscar Grant, there is going to be immediate, wide-spread violence.

Why?  The cop is white and the alleged murder victim was black.  His jury was just selected and there isn't a single black on the jury.
In a surprisingly quick selection process Tuesday, the prosecutor trying the case and Mehserle's defense attorney came to an agreement on a jury that includes seven white Los Angeles residents and what appears to be five Latinos.

In addition, at least four of the jurors have a connection to law enforcement, either by having police officers as friends or in their family or by having worked with law enforcement on neighborhood crime committees.
Forget that the "luck of the draw" only had 5 blacks in the jury pool.  Forget that the defense attorney could have objected to the removal of those 5 blacks if he thought the removals were race-based.  Forget that in a jury pool of 50 people, 5 of them being black roughly approximates the percentage of blacks in the LA Area.

According to, blacks make up approximately 7.8% of the Greater Los Angeles area -

So, that means blacks were actually OVER represented (at 10%) on the jury pool.  I don't think I've seen that mentioned in the Main Stream Media...  Surely, they're not implying that someone should be on the jury ONLY because they're black, are they?

It won't matter.  If this guy is not found guilty of first degree murder, the top is going to blow.  Oakland (where the alleged murder occured), Los Angeles (where the trial is being held) or any large US city are going to have rioting the likes not seen since the Rodney King verdict.

The rioting with that little mess lasted for 6 days.

The trial starts tomorrow and is expected to last up to a month.  Early July should be interesting...

Accept The Challenge

So, what do you do about these two troubling items - a disclaimer for our Constitution and a highly-likely riot at the peak of summer? 

If I had school-aged kids, I would not even consider sending them to public school.  I'd either home school or find a reasonably priced private school.  They would not be going to a public school, period.

I don't know what else you can do.  Our public schools have simply become educational cesspools.  Here in California, we have the highest per-student cost in the nation, and are something like 47th or 48th in performance.

Our system is broken, and no one in educational seats of power seem to care.  Protecting jobs is more important than educating our children.  Time to pull out of the game.

With regards to the trial, when you hear the jury is ready to deliver its verdict, under no circumstances should you be in any large city in America if at all possible.  You're simply insane if you're in Oakland or LA.

See our previous posts on the subject, ("Unpredictable Violence"), ("Evacuation Plan, Part 3"), ("Shelter In Place") and ("Civil Unrest").

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Monday, June 7, 2010

Preps: No Communications Services, Part 2

You can see Part 1 of "No Communications Services" by clicking the linked text.

As we noted in Part 1, the first scenario already happens every single month somewhere in the United States.  Honestly, if you don't have plans and equipment to address the first scenario, you're so far entrenched in the, "someone will take care of me" mentality, that you most likely are not a regular reader of this blog!

Scenario 2:  Wide-spread, regional disaster.  It could be the result of a massive natural disaster, or a deliberate act of semi-localized terrorism where key communication infrastructure sites are disabled.

The likelihood of cell/text/email/internet service is extremely low.  Assume you'll be going "old school".

Minimum Gear/Equipment:  All of the gear/equipment from Scenario 1, plus:  Short-wave radio, flares-glow sticks and signalling mirror, whistle, CB radios.

Also consider:  Learning Morse Code, two-way radios ("walkie-talkies")

Having a communications plan as a part of your overall emergency plan is paramount.  (The general principle of what follows was gleened from some other prepper site which I can't remember for the life of me.  If anyone recognizes it, let me know, and I'll gladly give attribution):

Let's say your emergency plan calls for your family/group to go to Site B based upon the emergency at hand.  Your route to the site is pre-determined - with alternatives - and has "rally points" where messages can be left (and where supplies can be cached). 

No one in your family/group knows if you're OK, or if you're on the way to the site.  You can let them know by employing pre-assigned signals.  Each person is assigned a geometric symbol.  Dad is a triangle, mom is a circle, sis is a diamond and bro is a star.

You also have pre-determined information symbols to indicate physical condition, danger, alternate directions and supply levels.  For instance, dad is first to reach the first rally point.  When he leaves the site, he marks the agreed upon place with his triangle.  He puts the date below the triangle.  He also draws a straight line below it, indicating he is in good health. 

Right below that, he writes "S+" indicating he has plenty of supplies with him to make it to Site B.

He walks a few miles along the planned route and observes a road block manned by some Mad Max types.  He turns around and returns to the last rally point.  He writes a "2" in the center of his triangle symbol, indicating he is now using the alternate route to Site B.  He also writes a series of X's and an arrow pointing in the old direction indicating "danger ahead".

Mom and sis then arrive at the rally point a few days later.  They see dad's signal to take the alternate route.  They write their symbols and the date, and put a "2" in the center of each indicating they're taking the alternate route as well.  Sis puts a straight line under her symbol indicating she has good health, but places a wavy line under mom's, indicating she is ill or injured in some way.  They also put an "S-" symbol indicating they are both low on supplies.

Keep abreast of events using the standard radio.  If this does not get a signal, the short-wave should be able to pick up a signal, albeit likely from a longer distance away, plus they can pick up "ham" radio signals.

CB (Citizen Band) radios give you the ability to speak and listen to anyone that happens to be on one of the 40 possible channels at the time.  There is no ability to speak privately with another person on these radios - what you say is heard by anyone close with a CB tuned to that channel.

Walkie-Talkies CAN give you some privacy, but even encrypted devices can be "hacked".  Generally, the distance between radios must be much closer than it is for CBs.  They do give a small group the ability to stay in contact more easily (and semi-privately).

The flare, light sticks, whistle and signaling mirror are all used to bring attention to yourself and indicate distress.  If you have the ability to build a fire, green boughs thrown on a fire make a great deal of smoke, and act as a very effective signal as well.

Scenario 3:  An EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse), CME (Coronal Mass Ejections - "solar flare") or similar catastophic event.  All public communcications services are out of service for extended periods of time, possibly forever.

These ares VERY bad.  If it's from an EMP, it means we've been attacked with at least one nuclear weapon.  It may have been a one-off shot by a country such as Iran or North Korea.  Or it could be the first salvos in a much bigger and nastier war.

With an EMP/CME, remember that it will not only be communications equipment that dies, it will be all electronic equipment.  Cars, refrigerators, airplanes, etc. - anything with a transistor in it.  Both the electronic equipment and the power grid supplying the electricty are fried.

Minimum Gear/Equipment:  Everything listed in Scenario 1 and 2, plus:  Non-Transistor (vacuum tube) communications equipment, "hardened" equipment or equipment shielded by a Faraday CageHam radios or other similar two-way communications capabilities.

With the first two scenarios, the equipment needed could be carried with you in a ruck sack.  For this last scenario, we're moving into "base station" types of equipment.

And just in case you're saying to yourself, "Uhm, Chief, I think you may have your tinfoil hat screwed on a little bit TOO tightly...", CMEs happen, and they're unpredictable.

There was a massive CME in 1859 that was so strong, they saw the Northern Lights.... in Cuba.  Obviously, we dodged a bullet at that time, since we were technological infants, so to speak.

In March 1989, a solar storm much less intense than the one in 1859 caused Quebec to go dark for over nine hours.

What is a Faraday Cage?  Basically, it is a metal box that absorbs the electrical charge and diverts it away from the equipment being protected.  These can be made fairly easily and inexpensively using a large metal can, such as those used to hold the big batches of popcorn you usually see in the stores around Christmas.

The key is ensuring that the equipment you are protecting does not touch the metal can.  Wrap your small equipment pieces in a number of layers of newspaper.  Pack the bottom of the can with some sort of insulating material - crumpled up newspaper, for instance - place in your wrapped equipment pieces, making sure each piece has insulation above, below and on each side.  Put the lid on the can and store it away.

To improve the efficiency of the "cage", tape a wire to the outside of the can, and attach (ground) it to a large metal structure, such as a metal rack or metal plumbing.

As an aside, those of you that have back-up generators or solar/wind systems are at risk as well.  Do some research on what needs to be done with regards to properly grounding/hardening your life-saving power generating equipment.

Accept The Challenge

If you are going to make a communications plan that employs symbols, obviously you will need to share and discuss the various symbols and their meaning.  Think of as many contingencies as possible.  How will you indicate you're going to a back-up site?  How will you indicate someone has been captured, killed or is missing?

Putting together a Faraday Cage for a handful of basic communications (and other small electronics) is relatively easy and inexpensive to do.

For a fictional story that has a plausible storyline for the outcome of an EMP or large CME, I recommend you read, "One Second After".

***UPDATE***  It seems that NASA is getting a bit nervous about CMEs as well.

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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, June 4, 2010

Preps: No Communications Services, Part I

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.

This is the eighth out of the twelve impacts.  We've also done a 3-part post on Evacuation Plans (I, II, III) and a Shelter-In-Place Plan (SIP).

We're going to drill down into one of the twelve impacts:  No Communication Services
You have no or limited access to modern electronic communication services.

We have become wholly dependent upon instant communications. We use telephones to keep in touch with others. We log on to the Internet to purchase goods and services. We use our cell phones to call for emergency services when needed. Email, blogging, social networking and texting are omnipresent.

This also includes one-way communications, such as television and radio. Devising alternative means of communication allows you to stay advised as to the severity of an event, and establish plans to react to the impact.

Possible Impacts:
  • Learning about emergencies - If access to television and radio are not available, you will be unable to determine the depth and breadth of the incident, and be unable to implement the various aspects of your emergency plans. Without phones/Internet/email, similar “information isolation” occurs. You are unable to ascertain the cause and effect of an emergency, and whether it is subsiding or escalating.
  • Communicating with family and friends - Aside from the emotional stress of not knowing the whereabouts and health of family and friends, you are unable to render assistance or resources if they are in need.
  • Communicating with government authorities - 911, etc. You place yourself in a position where you are unable to obtain assistance for crime, fire and medical assistance.
We're going to explore a number of scenarios - from very mild, all the way up to devastating.  You need to assess the likelihood of each occurring, and build your emergency plans around those assessments.

Scenario 1:  There has been an earthquake/hurricane/flood/terrorist attack/tornado, and communications services are available, but inconsistent.  Somewhere in America, this type of impact happens every month of every year.

Minimum Gear/Equipment - Cell phone, emergency phone list, pad of paper, pen, Sharpie, "sidewalk" chalk, a battery-powered radio.

Bonus Gear/Equipment - An emergency cell phone charger like this, this or this (cool!).  For the battery-powered options, be sure to have extra batteries!  And make sure you choose a charger that works with YOUR phone.  An up-grade to a hand-crank radio.

Both lists of gear/equipment are small, and can be kept in your at-home Bug Out Bag, and at-work (or on-the-road) Get Home Bag.  It is assumed you keep your cell phone on your person at all times.

Every emergency preparation kit - either at home, in a Bug-Out-Bag (BOB) or a work/car Get-Home-Bag (GHB) should have a printed list of important names, phone numbers (land line and cell, if possible) and email addresses.  Let me re-emphasize:  Printed!

You need to assume your cell phone, smart phone or pager has become damaged or destroyed - along with the electronic phonebook it contains - and you will need to borrow someone else's phone to contact your emergency list.

Your list should contain two or more names and numbers of contacts that are outside of your general area.  It has been show time and time again that, during an emergency, local phone "lines" become over-crowded and not operational.  Long distance lines and text networks tend to work as long as the cell towers are not damaged.  They found people buried after the Haitian Earthquake because of the text messages they sent!

Everyone that is a part of your group (family or whatever group you've established) should have the same list.  The person(s) that are out-of-area should be used (with their previous permission, of course) as a message center until full communications services have been re-established.

If you reach one of your contact numbers, but get their message center, leave a message with the following information (this script should be included with your contact list):
  • Your name (don't assume they will recognize your voice)
  • The current date and time
  • Your physical condition
  • Your current location (city, state, neighborhood, business name, address, top floor, bottom floor, garage - as much information as possible)
  • Who you are with, and their physical condition
  • Your plans ("I will be going to the XYZ company parking lot on Maple Street in Anytown")
  • When you will attempt to contact them again
  • Your contact number (including area code) and the contact number of any other people in your group
The Sharpie, pen and paper are to be used in the event public bulletin boards are established.  The chalk (kept in a zip-lock bag in your BOB/GHB) can be used to leave messages on the sides of buildings if necessary.

Attempt to send broadcast text messages and email messages providing the same information listed above.

Listen to your radio often.  You want to be sure you're not moving towards areas of devastation or violence.  Public entities will also be broadcasting about locations that will be offering public assistance.

Next:  Scenarios 2 and 3

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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.