Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Look forward to seeing y'all over there!
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
I immediately had a bad feeling about the call. It was in the middle of the afternoon, and my father doesn't usually call me when I'm working unless he has a very good reason.
As soon as I answered, he said, "I just heard from your mother, and she's okay, but you need to know that there's been a shooting at the base."
You can imagine how it went from there. We had very little information - my mother was only able to talk to my father very briefly. She was under instructions not to talk to anyone at all as it was.
I immediately logged on to CNN - nothing. Fox - nothing. I was frustrated. In this day and age, the news media is practically omniscient. I couldn't believe that there wasn't someone, somewhere, recording everything on a cell phone camera streaming live from an online news site.
In desperation, I turned to Twitter, where Fox News personality Andy Levy had just reported on a shooting at Fort Hood. His brief, one sentence "tweet" was marked with a code: "#fthood."
It was pure coincidence that I had opened a Twitter account that morning. I'm a late adapter for nearly any technology. I was the last person I knew (among people my age) to acquire things most people take for granted: the last to get a cell phone; the last to learn how to send a text message; the last to get on Facebook. I think the only reason I logged on to Twitter was because I was tired of seeing it mentioned everywhere and still not understanding how it worked or why it would be useful.
Twitter was my lifeline that afternoon.
For the uninitiated, Twitter is a "microblogging" service. Users enter "tweets" - entries of no more than 140 characters. Other users can "follow" you, which means that your tweets show up on their account as you enter them. You can do the same, and choose to follow others. The result is that when I log on to my Twitter account, I see a page full of entries from people that I am following - favorite authors, musicians, bloggers, commentators, all posting one or two sentences at a time on topics of interest to me.
Twitter users can also embed a code - called a "hashtag" - in their tweet that allows other users to find the tweet. For example, I clicked on Andy Levy's #fthood hashtag that afternoon, and what I saw was this:
Thousands of people all posting on the Fort Hood story, in real time - hundreds of tweets a minute, from all over the globe. They were posting links to news stories and broadcasting information that they got from friends, family, and local media. Anyone who put the #fthood tag on their tweets was a part of this conversation.
Twitter users were several minutes ahead of online media in their reports, and for the most part, what they reported was accurate. Twitter was my best source of information that afternoon. -- That, and discovering that my mother really does know how to send and receive text messages on her cell phone, after all, which was incredibly useful not only because it was my only direct link to her but because the text messages went through even though all the local phone lines were overloaded, making a voice connection impossible.
Clearly if you are the victim of a disaster, Twitter is not likely to be useful to you. My mother did not have the time or inclination to sit at her computer during the shootings and see what was being reported. But for me, as a concerned family member looking for information, it was invaluable.
My recommendations for anyone looking to increase their emergency preparedness would be this: (1) Learn to use Twitter. (2) Learn to send and receive text messages on your cell phone.
And the best commentary on the shootings by far - as usual - comes from Charles Krauthammer, who was a practicing psychiatrist (like the Fort Hood shooter) before he became a political writer:
Medicalizing Mass Murder
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Please pray for our men and women in uniform, and for my mother, who works on the base and is presently in lockdown with other civilian personnel.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Massive FBI Raid on Islamic Slaughterhouse Mystifies Tiny Illinois Town
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Commercial Real Estate: The Coming Storm
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
The world's oil producers will continue using the U.S. dollar as the currency for buying and selling crude, high-ranking oil and finance officials in the Gulf said on Tuesday, denying a report in a British newspaper.
Earlier, The Independent reported that Gulf Arab states, as well as China, Russia, Japan and France, are in secret talks to end the use of the U.S. dollar to trade oil, causing the American currency to fall in overseas trading Tuesday. ...
Click the link above to read the rest of the article.
Friday, October 2, 2009
Behind the scenes, I'm still working on eliminating debt and improving my finances, networking with like-minded people, and slowly increasing my food storage. I'm closely monitoring the current utter failure of the Obama administration to deal with Iran (see the post just before this one) and the stock market, which appears to be entering a perilous time. I'm also considering pulling my accounts out of Bank of America and switching them to a local, more stable bank.
It feels like the calm before the storm.
Obama's French Lesson
by Charles Krauthammer
"President Obama, I support the Americans' outstretched hand. But what did the international community gain from these offers of dialogue? Nothing."
-- French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Sept. 24
When France chides you for appeasement, you know you're scraping bottom. Just how low we've sunk was demonstrated by the Obama administration's satisfaction when Russia's president said of Iran, after meeting President Obama at the United Nations, that "sanctions are seldom productive, but they are sometimes inevitable."
You see? The Obama magic. Engagement works. Russia is on board. Except that, as The Post inconveniently pointed out, President Dmitry Medvedev said the same thing a week earlier, and the real power in Russia, Vladimir Putin, had changed not at all in his opposition to additional sanctions. And just to make things clear, when Iran then brazenly test-fired offensive missiles, Russia reacted by declaring that this newest provocation did not warrant the imposition of tougher sanctions.
Do the tally. In return for selling out Poland and the Czech Republic by unilaterally abrogating a missile-defense security arrangement that Russia had demanded be abrogated, we get from Russia . . . what? An oblique hint, of possible support, for unspecified sanctions, grudgingly offered and of dubious authority -- and, in any case, leading nowhere because the Chinese have remained resolute against any Security Council sanctions.
Confusing ends and means, the Obama administration strives mightily for shows of allied unity, good feeling and pious concern about Iran's nuclear program -- whereas the real objective is stopping that program. This feel-good posturing is worse than useless, because all the time spent achieving gestures is precious time granted Iran to finish its race to acquire the bomb.
Don't take it from me. Take it from Sarkozy, who could not conceal his astonishment at Obama's naivete. On Sept. 24, Obama ostentatiously presided over the Security Council. With 14 heads of state (or government) at the table, with an American president at the chair for the first time ever, with every news camera in the world trained on the meeting, it would garner unprecedented worldwide attention.
Unknown to the world, Obama had in his pocket explosive revelations about an illegal uranium enrichment facility that the Iranians had been hiding near Qom. The French and the British were urging him to use this most dramatic of settings to stun the world with the revelation and to call for immediate action.
Obama refused. Not only did he say nothing about it, but, reports the Wall Street Journal (citing Le Monde), Sarkozy was forced to scrap the Qom section of his speech. Obama held the news until a day later -- in Pittsburgh. I've got nothing against Pittsburgh (site of the G-20 summit), but a stacked-with-world-leaders Security Council chamber it is not.
Why forgo the opportunity? Because Obama wanted the Security Council meeting to be about his own dream of a nuclear-free world. The president, reports the New York Times citing "White House officials," did not want to "dilute" his disarmament resolution "by diverting to Iran."
Diversion? It's the most serious security issue in the world. A diversion from what? From a worthless U.N. disarmament resolution?
Yes. And from Obama's star turn as planetary visionary: "The administration told the French," reports the Wall Street Journal, "that it didn't want to 'spoil the image of success' for Mr. Obama's debut at the U.N."
Image? Success? Sarkozy could hardly contain himself. At the council table, with Obama at the chair, he reminded Obama that "we live in a real world, not a virtual world."
He explained: "President Obama has even said, 'I dream of a world without [nuclear weapons].' Yet before our very eyes, two countries are currently doing the exact opposite."
Sarkozy's unspoken words? "And yet, sacré bleu, he's sitting on Qom!"
At the time, we had no idea what Sarkozy was fuming about. Now we do. Although he could hardly have been surprised by Obama's fecklessness. After all, just a day earlier in addressing the General Assembly, Obama actually said, "No one nation can . . . dominate another nation." That adolescent mindlessness was followed with the declaration that "alignments of nations rooted in the cleavages of a long-gone Cold War" in fact "make no sense in an interconnected world." NATO, our alliances with Japan and South Korea, our umbrella over Taiwan, are senseless? What do our allies think when they hear such nonsense?
Bismarck is said to have said: "There is a providence that protects idiots, drunkards, children, and the United States of America." Bismarck never saw Obama at the U.N. Sarkozy did.
Friday, September 25, 2009
"ProPublica, a nonprofit online news organization, published a story this week that says 'state and federal officials are pushing ahead with plans that -- during a severe flu outbreak -- would deny use of scarce ventilators by some patients to assure they would be available for patients judged to benefit the most from them.'
'The plans have been drawn up to give doctors specific guidelines for extreme circumstances and they include procedures under which patients who weren't improving would be removed from life support with or without permission of their families.'
The story, which criticizes the 'scant public input' given in the process, says the plans are designed to go into effect if the U.S. were struck by a pandemic comparable to the 1918 outbreak that killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide. It notes that
state and federal health officials have concluded that 'such a pandemic would sicken far more people needing ventilators than could be treated by the available supplies.'"
Thursday, September 17, 2009
This should come as a surprise to absolutely no one who has been paying any attention for the last few years.
And on a related note:
Israel may attack Iran by December
Link to news article courtesy of the Joel Rosenberg weblog.
Friday, September 11, 2009
NEW YORK (Fortune) -- Can hundreds of stock-selling insiders be wrong?
The stock market has mounted an historic rally since it hit a low in March. The S&P 500 is up 55%, as U.S. job losses have slowed and credit markets have stabilized.
But against that improving backdrop, one indicator has turned distinctly bearish: Corporate officers and directors have been selling shares at a pace last seen just before the onset of the subprime malaise two years ago.
While a wave of insider selling doesn't necessarily foretell a stock market downturn, it suggests that those with the first read on business trends don't believe current stock prices are justified by economic fundamentals.
"It's not a very complicated story," said Charles Biderman, who runs market research firm Trim Tabs. "Insiders know better than you and me. If prices are too high, they sell."
Biderman, who says there were $31 worth of insider stock sales in August for every $1 of insider buys, isn't the only one who has taken note. Ben Silverman, director of research at the InsiderScore.com web site that tracks trading action, said insiders are selling at their most aggressive clip since the summer of 2007.
Silverman said the "orgy of selling" is noteworthy because corporate insiders were aggressive buyers of the market's spring dip. The S&P 500 dropped as low as 666 in early March before the recent rally took it back above 1,000. "That was a great call," Silverman said. "They were buying when prices were low, so it makes sense to look at what they're doing now that prices are higher."
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
If this scenario could apply to you, as it does to me, then this information from GlobalSecurity.org will be helpful in assessing the ramifications of such an attack. I will note that it assumes a 10-kiloton payload; the information I found on Wikipedia suggested that a 5-6 kiloton device may be more likely, making the Global Security website's information a useful and reasonable "worst-case scenario."
Monday, August 31, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
"Sebelius appeared on NBC's "Today" show one day after a special presidential advisory panel presented a grim report to the Obama White House, saying among other things that a "plausible scenario" for the United States later this year is wide-scale infections, possibly 30,000 to 90,000 deaths, mostly among young children and young adults, and perhaps as many as 300,000 sick enough to require intensive care unit treatment at hospitals.
... A report by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, delivered Monday, said that while the impact of H1N1 was impossible to predict, a "plausible scenario" is that the epidemic could "produce infection of 30-50 percent of the U.S. population this fall and winter, with symptoms in approximately 20-40 percent of the population (60-120 million people), more than half of whom would seek medical attention."
Swine flu could lead to as many as lead to as many as 1.8 million U.S. hospital admissions during the epidemic, with up to 300,000 patients requiring care in intensive care units. In fact, those very ill patients could occupy 50-100 percent of all ICU beds in affected regions of the country at the peak of the epidemic and place "enormous stress" on ICU units."
Monday, August 24, 2009
"A total of 33 Fox advertisers, including Walmart, CVS Caremark, Clorox and Sprint, directed that their commercials not air on Beck's show, according to the companies and ColorofChange.org, a group that promotes political action among blacks and launched a campaign to get advertisers to abandon him. That's more than a dozen more than were identified a week ago.
[Beck] was actually on another Fox show July 28 when he referred to Obama as a racist with 'a deep-seated hatred for white people.'”
Friday, August 21, 2009
Karl Denninger: Depression Assured? Maybe (Swine Flu)
This article highlights the point that swine flu's biggest impact may not be in terms of lives lost but rather decline in GDP.
Monday, August 17, 2009
"For a law-abiding citizen to bear personal arms is an act of civilization.
Not just an act of self-defense or an act in defense of civilization, but an act of civilization.
This is true for men and it is even more true for women. For a woman to bear personal arms means that she will not be deprived of her legal rights: to go any lawful place she pleases at any time; to be free in her body, meaning that she need not be defenseless against assailants; to live. And it means that the uncivilized, those who would deprive her of life and the liberties of a free citizen, including freedom from unwanted sexual contact, do so at absolute risk to their lives. ..."
Sunday, August 16, 2009
SciGuy: Update on the Tropics
TS Claudette Forms Off Northern Gulf Coast of Florida
Thursday, August 13, 2009
It seems that survivalism is becoming increasingly mainstream. Fox News Channel's "Hannity" and NBC's "Today" have both aired pieces on "suburban survivalists" lately. Apparently Ashton Kutcher has a bug-out bag and guns (are you kidding me?) (not safe for work):
And then I saw this magazine cover at Target last night:
National Geographic Adventure: How to Survive (Almost) Anything
The article explains eight "Black Swan" (high consequence, low probability) situations such as wildfires, power grid collapse, and tsunamis and how to survive them. Definitely worth a read.
I don't know -- does it seem to you that survivalism is now becoming more mainstream, or am I just noticing it more because I am one now?
Friday, July 31, 2009
In the meantime, be sure to check out the great websites featured on my blogroll on the right-hand side of your screen.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
POSTED: Thursday, July 30, 2009
UPDATED: 3:05 pm CDT July 30, 2009
BRYAN, Texas -- Officials are evacuating much of Brazos County to the north and west of Bryan because of a fire at a chemical plant believed to contain explosive ammonium nitrate.
The fire broke out about noon Thursday.
Bryan-College Station fire dispatcher Andy Throne says the plume of smoke from the El Dorado Chemical Co. plant extends up to 60 miles from the plant.
Throne says no injuries have been reported from the fire, where fertilizer and other chemicals are blended and packaged.
But he says an area up to six miles from the plant will be evacuated, including part of northwestern Bryan and a large part of northwestern Brazos County.
The plant is located about three-fourths of a mile west of Bryan.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Scientists discover asteroid that could hit Earth 31 years from now; scientists urge action now to discover ways to avert catastrophe
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Saturday, July 25, 2009
100,000 new cases in UK in just one week, double previous figure; pharmacies experiencing run on hand gel, respirators, thermometers, with no replacement stocks available
-- Which tells you what items you should stock up on now to avoid the rush this fall.
Friday, July 24, 2009
The original post is reproduced below, but the reader will need to click on the link above to see the full discussion and FranchiseKid's response to some questions posed by other Survivalist Board members.
Okay, here is my "Ode to Squeak" who has asked me to expand on a currency collapse regarding the USD and how to prepare for it and the events that will unfold thereafter.
Disclaimer 1: There is no road map or playbook for what I am going to discuss. No third world debt default can compare to what a default of US debt and/or the collapse of a major world currency such as the USD, Euro, or Yen.
Disclaimer 2: Due to unprecedented levels of government hubris, intervention, complete disregard for law, and manipulation, any assumptions I make could be just as easily discarded as they could be true. Since the rules of the game change every Sunday night, it is very difficult to play. This is not a caveat for being wrong (as I am not afraid to be wrong) rather a caveat that history, education, and research go out the window when rules can be made and broken at will.
Disclaimer 3: Any assumptions made are my own. I will not take the time to post links to every piece of factual research that I post as that will take too long but if someone wants that information please PM me and I will provide it. Pretty much 99% of the information that I use or cite are easily found government stats that can be Googled.
Where We Are Now:
There has been much debate in the media and in some of these threads regarding whether we will sooner see inflation or deflation. There are many camps that are discussing this matter and you have probably heard them all by now. Heck, we cannot even agree on how to define inflation and deflation. For practical use purposes though, it is more helpful (IMO) to define them as they relate to the money supply in circulation. It is economic theory that if you create a bunch of money in the system and pump it into people's wallets, they will go out and buy things. This increases demand. An increase in demand, without a corresponding increase in supply, will create an increase in prices of "stuff". Deflation would work the opposite way. If you take money from people, they cannot spend and therefore demand will decrease and without a corresponding decrease in supply, prices fall.
Now, NOTHING in economics can be viewed in a vaccum for the ONE simple fact that economics involves the behavior of IRRATIONAL beings. This fact cannot be stated loudly enough. This fact is also a reason that econometric comparisons to the Great Depression ought to viewed as nonsense. It is like saying if the Patriots played the Bears in the SuperBowl this year the Bears would win by 36 points since that is what happened in SuperBowl XX. We all can see clearly why that assumption is nonsensical. Different this, different that... but those differences make a huge difference in outcome.
Economics is the same. Please keep that in mind as we go through this.
The only thing that the US has produced in the last decade plus is financial engineering defined more technically as velocity of money. Mathematically put, the output of a country can be simply defined as the aggregate money supply multiplied by the times that money supply moves through the economy. "High powered money" is the theory that $1 moves through the economy and changes hands multiple times. As I get paid from work, I pay the landscaper, he pays his employees, they pay their bills, etc etc. Since 72% of our economy (at the most recent peak) is measured by how much we, as consumers, spend, you can see very quickly how the "velocity" of money creates a HUGE impact in the final tally of our output.
But, as some of you may be saying now, how is that really "output". "We have not created anything" you say. And you are right. This goes back to a fundamental issue with our country's monetary & fiscal behavior. We have a fiat currency and a fractional reserve monetary system. In English, that means we have a currency that is backed by nothing, can be created at will, and when deposited by members of the Federal Reserve Banking system, can be leveraged 10-1 (at least). This is how the "money mechanism" works. The Fed prints $1 and puts it into the bank of choice. The bank puts $.10 on "reserve" with the Fed and lends out $.90. The bank makes money on that loan called "interest" (this is the trouble with "usury". If the Fed prints all the money needed, then who creates the money to pay the "interest".... and on and on we go). The bank loaned that $.9 to me so that I could buy a car from my neighbor. My neighbor takes that $.9 and puts it into his bank. Guess what his bank does? His bank takes 10% of that money and puts it on "reserve" with the Fed and loans out the rest. And so on...... you don't even want to get into the leverage amounts that the government afforded to JP Morgan, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, B. Stearns, and L. Brothers. What shock, three of them don't exist anymore and the other three only exist because they were the "chosen ones" to be bailed out.
So, what have we done over the last decade? Well, we had a complete "productivity miracle" occur with the advent and application of the internet. I cannot say how much this system has revolutionized global business and changed economics. This was real and tangible. This was measurable and legit. What it allowed us to do however, was to again manipulate our system for the worse. What increases in productivity do is to keep a lid on what is called "unit labor costs" or wages and other inputs that go into the cost of goods. Lower cost goods means that "inflation" (that pesky inflation again...) AND THIS IS IMPORTANT, "as measured by the Consumer Price Index", stays low. Again, in English, this means that we can make computers now for $500 instead of $5,000. That, according to the CPI is a huge move down in inflation, or the "costs of goods and services". The government's response to a move down in the costs of goods and services is to keep the pedal to metal in terms of monetary and fiscal policy. No inflation? No hikes in interest rates. Money is cheap and stays that way according to them.
Then the internet bubble bursts. Wealth is literally destroyed overnight. This is why an understanding of inflation and deflation is so important. When you remove the consumer's ability to buy, leverage, borrow = spend, you create a complete bottom out in demand. Our economy is built on debt, remember that is how money is created over and over again. If you remove that money, if you destroy that wealth, you handcuff the people's ability to spend.
Now, another key, CORE theme in economics is the theory of rate of change. Since economics is totally linked with behavior, the rate of change makes all the difference in the world. This can be most recently noted in either the default rate of mortgages or the US consumer savings rate (or if you want to get really scared look at the savings rate of change of Japan). A small uptick in the % of defaulted subprime mortgages caused massive waves through our system. Our savings rate went from negative to now at 6.5% in about 1.4 years. 6.5% for a savings rate is not high "by historical standards" but that does not matter AT ALL, it is the rate of change that matters.
So what we had was a complete drain of wealth from the bursting of the internet bubble. We entered a recession as defined by negative growth, or GDP. A contraction, if you will. What causes contractions in a society that is based on debt? Less debt. Less money. Less purchasing power. OR, and we will get into this in a minute.... a paradigm shift of consumers from spending to savings. A jump from a negative savings rate, to a positive one, has catastrophic impacts on corproate earnings and profits. If the savings rate gets high enough you experience what is called the Paradox of Thrift. This is now occuring. Because I save money on landscaping, my landscaper cannot pay the people to wash his cars, and those people then cannot go out to eat as much which takes money from the waitress who then cannot get her hair done every other week, and so on and so on.....
In times of economic contraction the government and The Fed, will become the "Lender of Last Resort". This goes back to GDP and the money mechanism. If people have been using their homes as ATM's, and their housing values plummet taking away their ability to spend, the government wants to step in and create a supply of money to abate the crisis. When the government can create money from thin air, why not? Well, here is why not....
To pull us out of the recession of 2002 (which was mild at worst) and the devestating effects of 9/11 (don't want to get into CT here), The Fed pumped massive amounts of money into the system and regulations were relaxed for Wall Street lending. We created another bubble to solve the problems of a bubble bursting. We also spent billions and billions on war, the most profitable business model our government has ever known. Since money and credit is like a virus, it landed and infected assets such as real estate.
We inflated the real estate market and all the ancillary markets (construction, retail, furniture, autos) that go with it. That is a bit misleading because there were not specific instructions to inflate the real estate market but regulations were sidestepped and new rules put in place which made real estate the spot where the lending landed/credit expanded.
So, let's go back to economics. We had a contracting GDP so we did what we always do (the only tricks we have) on the other side of the equation, we pumped massive amounts of cheap money into the system to increase the depleted money supply and then we did something of EPIC proportions, that we had never done before, we literally created "financial weapons of mass destruction", as Buffett calls them, which is the alphabet soup of credit "derivatives" that we all hear about. Here is how it went down....
The orders came from Washington to open up the printing presses and issue massive amounts of government debt. The government debt went to transfer payments but more importantly, that that time, to funding the wars on military spending. The Fed essentially created no cost money which meant that banks could take that money from The Fed and lend it out and make huge money on the "spread". But that "huge spread", or net interest margin, was not enough. Since interest rates were held so low, and there was a "global savings glut" which kept bond yields very, very low, savers were being punished due to the increases in prices from the increase in demand. Banks started the process of syndication in the name of risk mitigation. And here is where it gets really, really bad. Syndications allowed banks to play a virtual game of hot potato. Since borrowers (hedge funds, pensions, you name it) could go out and borrow money (there is a carry trade aspect here with the Japanese that I am leaving out for sake of simplicity) in the global arena very, very cheaply, you could borrow money at 1% and buy a package of "insert mortgage product here" which was "said" to pay 5%. These events created a velocity of money that was unparalleled before. Speed of light, one trillion times. It was awesome to see. Buy something today, sell it by lunch. Do it again tomorrow. All cheap, all profit. No money down, no doc, no anything.... just get it done. "Castles to the sky". Credit cards, cars, boats, houses... The profits were obvious, the money cheap, the underwriting free, the game rigged.....
Fiat currency in a fractional reserve system works until it doesn't. And here is when it doesn't. We built up capacity (think auto dealerships, malls, schools, movie theaters, gyms, restaurants, etc.) for consumer spending that was probably in the range of 75% GDP going to 80% GDP. Our entire system was based on debt. Unlike equity, debt has to be paid back, or losses taken. It doesn't just go away and worse, unlike equity, has immediate residual consequences that create a cascade affect in economics.
What made the music stop? People. Behavior. Psyche. The system gets so bloated and overweight, that it collapses under its own weight. No one stands up on Capital Hill and waives a flag saying the game is over. You just wake up one day and the tone has changed. You "can" have events that do that... a comet, or drought, etc. But not in this case. The paradigm shift was underway. People smartened up and the scales tipped from those "getting in while the getting was good" to "getting out before it all crashes down".
It is that simple and resembles a snowflake at the top of a mountain that rolls into a snowball and then into an avalanche. Rates of change in a system built on debt where everything is connected.
We built up an empire of debt that has never before been seen in our nation's history. What's worse is that the same globalization that was borne in the wake of the productivity miracle of the 1990's made it so that no rock was left unturned. Credit infected every single aspect of our lives across the globe. People in Poland were issued mortgages that were priced in Swiss Francs but those people were paid in the local currency, the Zolty. When the Polish government became so overwhelemed as the credit stopped, the Zolty got hammered in the currency markets. The people that were paid in zolty's but paid their mortgage in Franc's saw their mortgage payments jump 40% overnight. Ouch. Everything is connected.... economics is pushing on a string.
Back to the US. When the weight of our system began to implode you had a rush to the exits. Owners became sellers overnight and buyers went away. From the end of the chain came the "no mas" signal. No more. The fund at the end buying everything was full. No more. All the way down the line to the bank that finally said, "No" to the mortgage applicant because the bank was now having trouble unloading the mortgages they currently had on their books.
See, what happens when you create all of this "stuff" with debt is that debt has to be paid back.... if you are creating increases in the prices of "things" faster than wages are increasing, you have a major issue coming. Relative to the price increases, wages were not moving an inch for the average person. And that average person was the couple buying the $500K house with the pool, the second home in FL, and filling the driveways with SUV's. The day that John Q. Public, or John Q. Speculator, called the bank and said, "I've got a problem paying this month"... the music stopped and stopped fast.
Velocity slowed, which means lending slowed, which means borrowing slowed, which means spending slowed, which decreases demand in a debt financed society, which collapses prices.... and the process starts again from the top until velocity crashes. Money, wealth, the ability to spend is stopped immediately. Prices crater and money/debt is evaporated into the thin air from which it was created...... deflation.
The Fed is powerless against deflation caused by a paradigm shift from consumerism to thift. The Fed can create all the money it wants, but if the public doesn't borrow it, velocity goes to zero and stays there. And this brings me to the collapse of the USD.....
If you go fishing in a swimming pool, you are not going to catch anything. You can have the best rod, the best lure, and 400 ft. of Spiderwire, but you are not going to catch a thing. You can cast and cast and cast, but nothing. Why? Because there are no fish....
There are no consumers in the US and the globe. The game of money from debt, that game created by the banks for the banks, only works if there is a consumer there to borrow. If people stop borrowing, it is very bad, if people start paying off their debt, it gets worse. A loan is an asset on the books of the banks. They do not want you to pay it off or else they face reloan risk and interest rate risk.
So what does the government do???!!!! Well, from the same playbook, they create a TON of money!! But just like our fisherman at the pool who let's out 100 ft of line, if there is no fish, you are going to end up with a big bird's nest of line on your reel.
The government's attempts to "stimulate" the economy includes pumping massive amounts of money into the banking system. What is so nuts though is that, for the first time in history I think, the Fed is paying banks interest on their deposits at the Fed. Talk about discouraging lending. Why lend money out to borrowers that may not pay it back when you can put it on reserve at the Fed and collect interest. Also, the borrowers just are not there. People do not want more debt. Who on earth needs another car or who on earth needs a new one? All of the buying and selling, for the next decade, was done in the last 3 years (prior to the crash). So now we are left with overcapacity and a shift to thrift. To bring it back to the inflation versus deflation debate, we have seen wealth destruction that far exceeds the amount of money being printed right now by the government. But what is more important than the money being printed is that there is ZERO willingness to borrow and spend which reduces that velocity to 0. Go back to rates of change and you will understand how dire it will get when you go from hypervelocity to nothing.... the Fed can print all it wants, but the money will just sit around, and here is how we get to the collapse of the USD.
The government is issuing massive amounts of debt to finance its spending and transfer payments. The US government is so far in debt that we now need to borrow $1.85 Trillion for 2009 and will need to borrow another $2 Trillion for 2010. This goes to pensions, wages, Medicaid, Medicare, SS, TARP, bailouts, wars, etc. All told, the global amount of government ONLY debt issuance for fiscal 2010 will be over $5 T. That does not count corporations, commerical mortgages, etc. Where will that money come from during a global deleveraging process? Well, the debt will be what is called "monetized". That is a not so fancy word for, inflated away. The government will sell bonds to itself and foreign central banks, the print the money needed to pay the interest. Rinse. Repeat.
The World Bank reported that 2008 global GDP was $60 T. This will be far less in 2009 and less in 2010. That means that global government debt issuance will be 10-11% of global GDP. That is a huge problem and here is why.
Governments are used to borrowing at very low rates. Uncle Sam pays us 3.5% to use our money for 10 years. In a time like this, a deflationary period of falling prices, that "real return", or adjusted for inflation, is large because inflation, as measured by price increases, is negative. But 2.5%? When I could take that money and payoff my credit card which charges me 20%...! What will happen is what is called the "crowding out effect". The cost of borrowing, or the interest rate paid, goes up to compete. Would you buy a GE bond paying the same rate as a government bond (default theories aside)? Of course not. So GE's cost of capital needs to go up to compete with all the government debt being issued. Bad for corporations, bad for workers, bad all around. This also works on a global level as governments must compete for dwindling capital. Japan's interest rates are going to skyrocket since they need to issue massive debt ( I could do a whole other post on this mess) and compete with the US for capital.
We will print money. Japan will print money. The Eurozone will print money. We will all lower interest rates but again, remember how this plays out in economics. It doesn't happen in a vaccum. All nations rely on exports and imports, buying and selling... it's commerce, right? Well, if one currency loses value because of monetary policy, it becomes more competetive in the export game against another currency that is stronger. You have a "race to devalue" all of a sudden. The feedback loop is vicious.
The US will print and print and print. And issue debt and issue debt and issue debt. Solving a massive leverage problem, with more leverage = not the answer. The real killer in this will be when the interest rates increase (this is why the US government has been buying so much of its own debt). If you are used to borrowing at 3.5%, and the rates jump to 4%, that may not seem like a lot at 50 bps, but the rate of change is large and the corresponding increase in interest cost is staggering! Think of Japan. They issue debt at 1%. What happens if that goes to a paltry 2%?
The feedback loops are enormous and will end when the race to devalue ends at 0. This is why you hear that the cost of everything we NEED will go UP but the price of everything we HAVE will go DOWN. The worst of both worlds. The value of my house, down. The value of my stocks, down. The price of milk, up. The price of gas, up.
How does that occur. Currency. The devaluation of currencies will be the reason that products we want will go up, and that which we have will go down. We, in the US, have enjoyed the ace in the hole because our currency is accepted world-wide as the "reserve currency" which means it is necessary for global trade. But that is changing, rapidly. US debt is now at 375% of GDP which is a post 1870 record. We leveraged more during a deleveraging process. That makes us clearly prone to deflation and complete stagnant growth. We are a debtor nation which removes any comparisons to Japan in the 1990's or the Great Depression.
We are in much worse shape now than ever. EVER. We may see temporary increases in GDP but GDP per capita, as the population grows, will decline and that will be reflected in the lower standard of living. We will see deflation take hold and run its course driving asset prices into the ground and creating massive losses for banks and lending institutions. Falling prices, unless spurred through increases in productivity, are death for corporations and therefore workers. Deflation is nasty, very nasty.
In an effort to be the lender of last resort world governments are issuing trillions in debt and printing trillions in new money. But it all falls on deaf wallets. When it does that it has the effect of our fisherman friend letting line out to catch a fish that isn't there.... a huge bird's nest. Our currency will become worthless as foreign countries get sick of being paid back with fiat currency that is being devalued by the day. Again, the only ace we have right now is that our currency is the "reserve currency". The IMF prices their loans in the USD. It should now be obvious as to why China wants more of a voice at the table and why we always push for more loans from the IMF to other nations. Everytime the IMF issues a loan to Poland or Iceland or Argentina, we have an immediate buyer of the USD.... Why do you think we invaded Iraq? Saddam would not price his oil in the USD.
The game will shift to one of resources. China is buying commodities is because they understand that at some point in the very near future, money will not mean a thing, but copper will, gold will, oil will. The game is about resources now. That is why we will not drill in ANWR. Why use our oil when we can invade a country, take its massive oil and natural gas supplies, and price it in our currency, and exploit it? We will use our oil when we need to.
The question of "how to prepare" should be an obvious one. As our currency falls in value, and confidence wanes in our currency, commodities will rise in price regardless of demand. Food especially. Europe is in even worse fiscal shape then the US and Japan is worse than that.
It is ugly. Really ugly. Contrary to our "microwave" way of thinking, this will not play out over the course of 1 minute. This will be a slow painful death for world banks and currencies but one that is almost impossible to reverse.
Prepare by coverting your paper wealth into tangible wealth. That is my advice and that is how I am preparing.
I am sure that I have missed themes but I tried to hit on the highlights of what shapes my thinking. I am certain that parts of my diatribe was remedial for some, but others may learn something new. I hope that you found it interesting and helpful and please remember that I am not saying that I am correct with my future assumptions since there is no playbook for where we are heading.
Krauthammer writes a column for the Washington Post. I can't link it on the blog roll for some technical reason I don't understand, so from now on I'm just going to post his articles as blog entries.
Charles Krauthammer: Why Obamacare is Sinking
And a few prior editorials I particularly enjoyed:
The Moon We Left Behind
Obama's Israeli Settlements Canard
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
The mother and one child make it out fairly quickly, but one child remains inside, strapped in by his seat belt, burning alive.
In this video you can hear the brave men, off-duty fire fighters, who rescued this young child calling desperately for a knife to cut the seatbelt. If you don't carry a knife, or a rescue tool (much less an emergency kit, c'mon people!), in your car please consider doing so. Here are a few examples:
Boker Cop Tool
KnifeCenter: Rescue Knives
All passengers made it out alive, and the boy, although he suffered severe burns, is expected to make a full recovery. The rescuers did sustain burns in freeing the boy from the car.
Finally, note that the cops don't arrive until the end of the video -- long after the boy, and possibly the mother and other child, would have died.
Former Treasury Sec. Paulson Reveals U. S. Concerns of Breakdown Prior to Passage of Bailout Bill (emphasis mine)
The Bush administration and Congress discussed the possibility of a breakdown in law and order and the logistics of feeding US citizens if commerce and banking collapsed as a result of last autumn's financial panic, it was disclosed yesterday.An exercise for the reader: Do you really think things are that much better now, fiscally speaking, than they were last November? Or have we just gotten used to how bad they are?
Making his first appearance on Capitol Hill since leaving office, the former Treasury secretary Hank Paulson said it was important at the time not to reveal the extent of officials' concerns, for fear it would "terrify the American people and lead to an even bigger problem".
Mr Paulson testified to the House Oversight Committee on the Bush administration's unpopular $700bn (£426bn) bailout of Wall Street, which was triggered by the failure of Lehman Brothers last September. In the days that followed, a run on some of the safest investment vehicles in the financial markets threatened to make it impossible for people to access their savings.
Paul Kanjorski, a Pennsylvania Democrat, asked Mr Paulson to reveal details of officials' concerns, which were relayed to Congress in hasty conference calls last year. The calls included discussion of law and order and whether it would be possible to feed the American people, and for how long, according to Mr Kanjorski.
"In a world where information can flow, money can move with the speed of light electronically, I looked at the ripple effect, and looked at when a financial system fails, a whole country's economic system can fail," Mr Paulson said. "I believe we could have gone back to the sorts of situations we saw in the Depression. I try not to use hyperbole. It's impossible to prove now since it didn't happen."
The Oversight committee is investigating the takeover of Merrill Lynch by Bank of America, a deal forged in the desperate weekend that Lehman Brothers failed, and which later required government support because of Merrill's spiralling losses.
Mr Paulson defended putting pressure on Bank of America when it had last-minute doubts about the deal in December. Not to have done so could have rekindled the "financial havoc" the bailout had calmed.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Swine flu is spreading faster than ever — so much so that the World Health Organization has decided to stop tracking cases.
In the U.S., the H1N1 virus has sickened tens of thousands and closed summer camps at a time when there should be little or no flu activity.
Even as the WHO and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continue to raise awareness of this potentially deadly disease, which appears to be killing both sick and healthy individuals, the topic has virtually disappeared from the headlines.
“Complacency is a major concern,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director for National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC.
“This virus is a new one, and on top of that, we really still don’t know how it’s going to behave,” Schuchat said during a media conference call Friday. “There are special efforts that have been undertaken by health agencies, but individuals also need to be ready, to be thinking ahead and have steps in place should a family member get sick or a workplace close down or a situation arise that requires working from home.”
Over the next six to 12 weeks, there are several concerns that national health officials are preparing for:
1. Figuring out how the virus will react and spread once students return to schools, especially inner city schools, which typically struggle with overcrowding issues.
2. Overseeing the completion of a vaccine and getting it to the individuals who need it most.
3. Determining how the virus will behave as it spreads and mutates.
School districts across the U.S. struggle every fall with outbreaks of typically non-flu respiratory viruses, which are easily spread through germs on surfaces and doorknobs, as well as passed from student to student through sneezing, coughing, and sharing drinks and food.
Seasonal influenza usually begins to spread through schools in the late fall and early winter, but this probably will not be the case with swine flu, which behaves differently than seasonal influenza – by oddly thriving in warm and humid conditions.
“This year we’re seeing the H1N1 virus circulating through summer camps and military units, so I’m expecting we may see an increase in cases once school starts, but we don’t definitely know that,” Schuchat said. “We are concerned that there will be challenges in the fall. It is the kind of thing we want to be ready for and not surprised by.”
Schuchat said national and state health officials are working closely together on updating their guidance for schools and similar institutions with regard to swine flu outbreaks.
“We still believe that the best place for kids is in schools, where they can be nourished receiving a healthy breakfast and lunch and learning,” she said. “But we also believe the best place for a sick kid is at home being cared for. So we’re working on putting strong plans in place on communication and preparedness on the local and state levels.”
Click here to read the CDC’s advice for parents for educating and protecting children from swine flu.
Companies such as Baxter, GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis are working to ready a swine flu vaccine for October. Earlier this week, concerns were raised that the U.S. may not receive all the vaccine it needs because it only manufactures about 20 percent of its own supply. The other 80 percent is produced in foreign countries, which will also need ample supplies of the vaccine.
But Schuchat downplayed those concerns, saying the U.S. has contracts in place with manufacturers around the world that guarantee it will receive adequate vaccine.
But, will the vaccine be effective?
In a typical year, the seasonal flu vaccine is about 70 to 90 percent effective, depending on how closely the vaccine matches the strains circulating and on the population the vaccine is used in.
In other words, a vaccine is not going to be as effective in a person with a compromised immune system or someone who is considered at high risk for the virus.
Scientists typically spend months researching the strains of seasonal flu virus that are circulating the globe in order to pick out the three strains that it puts into the annual vaccine.
Because swine flu is new and mutating – for example, in Argentina the virus appears to have mutated to where it can now easily spread from humans to pigs – scientists have their work cut out for them when it comes to determining what strains of the H1N1 swine flu virus to include in the vaccine.
“Unfortunately, right now, we do not know how effective it will be in different populations,” Schuchat said. “We will be looking back at how well it worked, taking into account whether it worked as well as expected, better than expected or worse than expected. Unfortunately, that’s something we’re not able to do until after the fact.”
World and U.S. health officials have already determined that swine flu behaves differently than seasonal flu in a number of ways. First, it’s able to spread in hot and humid weather, which is not usually the case for the seasonal flu virus.
Second, the infection appears to be more severe in young people and less severe in the elderly than the typical seasonal flu. Schuchat said in some countries, elderly people, usually at high-risk for influenza, appear to be immune to swine flu – possibly because of the similarities between swine flu and the 1918 flu pandemic, which some of the world’s elderly survived and may be resistant to.
“We are particularly concerned about pregnant women; we’re seeing fatalities and life-threatening illnesses that have occurred in pregnant women in the Southern Hemisphere,” Schuchat said. “We are expecting pregnant women to get a recommendation to get the H1N1 vaccine to reduce the risk of complications from influenza. We know many pregnant women don’t like to take any drugs, but this is one instance we’re you need to be much more concerned about your health than the baby’s health.”
“We’re in a very active stage of preparing for the [coming months],” she continued. “We’re working with the private sector. We want individuals and families to be preparing. Influenza in general is unpredictable, and we don’t know what to expect in the weeks and months ahead.”
Thursday, July 16, 2009
American Thinker: Sophie's Choice, and Bibi's
"...Today the moment for which Israel was founded has arrived. Sophie's choice is here again -- but not as sadistic and cruel as the SS version, because this time there is a genuine choice. Not an easy one, but a choice. Israel has prepared itself for this moment for half a century and more.
Bibi's Choice is almost universally understood by all Israelis across the political spectrum. Labour Defense Minister Ehud Barak may disagree on a hundred questions, but not on this one. Barak's background is almost the same as Bibi's.
Bibi's Choice is either to annihilate the danger from Ahmadinejad and his suicide cult before they get a nuclear bomb, or to hide his head in the sand, in the hope that every screamed threat from Tehran for the last thirty years was a bluff. ..."
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Bayou City History: 1955 H-Bomb Drill Evacuates Downtown
It was Wednesday, June 15, 1955. The time was 5:15 p.m.
Air raid sirens blared throughout downtown. An "attack" on Houston was imminent.
At that moment, residents were directed to stop what they were doing and leave the area.
As the above headlines indicate, the 30-minute Civil Defense drill -- dubbed "Operation Alert" and conducted in various cities across the nation -- tested Houston's response to a nuclear attack. It wasn't a complete surprise to most Houstonians. Residents back then didn't have to wait for a siren to tell them to leave downtown. . . .
For those who want to bring back those days, I really recommend Utah Shelter Systems' website. Not only does it have information on their "All-Hazard Shelters," but there's also great general information on what to expect in the event of an actual nuclear strike, and what to do (if you have a shelter, that is).
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
A billboard proclaiming that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican has stirred a religious and political hornets' nest in Houston, where a church leader is trying to draw black voters into the Republican Party.
The jumbo-sized roadside ad made its contentious claim for about a week -- until a local black activist charged that the sign unjustly politicized King's legacy and was hurting his community by telling a "blatant lie."
"Martin Luther King may have very well believed in some of the Christian principles of the Republican Party, but Dr. Martin Luther King was not a Republican or a Democrat," said Quanell X, who heads the New Black Panther Party in Houston.
"Dr. King was bigger than a political party -- he was a humanitarian, and so to attach him exclusively to any party is to devalue his humanitarian global status," he said. "We were insulted ... by the billboard because it was a blatant lie."
King held great sway over black voters and carefully courted both Republicans and Democrats. He never officially endorsed a party or candidate.
But the founder of RagingRepublicans.org, the black conservative group that sponsored the sign, told FOXNews.com that the sign was designed to get blacks to rethink their political affiliation -- about 95 percent of blacks voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential elections -- and that this is just the beginning. He said a radio campaign that focuses on "the destructive nature of liberalism" is forthcoming.
"We think it's imperative that [the GOP] try and attract more people from the communities of color to vote their values -- to vote conservative," said Claver Kamau-Imani, who heads the Corinthian Christian Empowerment Church, a small house church in Houston.
What's more, he said, the sign is accurate.
Kimau-Imani told FOXNews.com that King's niece, the Rev. Alveda King, has long argued that her uncle was a Republican, though he acknowledged there was no documentation or voting record to prove it.
Those claims enraged Quanell X, who held a press conference late last week to rally against the sign and ended up in a shouting match over the legacy of the murdered civil rights icon.
The billboard, which Kamau-Imani says cost $3,000 to display for a month, came down shortly after Friday's press conference -- about 20 days ahead of schedule, a move Kamau-Imani attributed to the "spineless" response of the billboard company, SignAd.
"The simple fact is that the leader of the Black Panther Party here in Houston called a news conference and they spooked," he said.
Representatives for SignAd did not return requests for comment.
Quanell X told FOXNews.com he was pleased that he had succeeded in getting the billboard removed. He added that King would never have embraced the present-day GOP, which he said had "racist elements."
"Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would not be with the party of Newt Gingrich, he would not be with the party of Sarah Palin, he would not be with the party of Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage or Sean Hannity," he said.
Representatives for the King family did not return requests for comment.
What went little noticed in the fray was the subtext on the billboard, which said that the Raging Republicans are committed to "leading America's 2nd emancipation."
Kamau-Imani told FOXNews.com that black voters feel that "your blackness, your street cred is tied up with whether you are a Democrat or not" -- a notion he said amounted to a kind of mental slavery that keeps blacks from speaking freely.
The president of the Houston branch of the NAACP said that the civil rights group does not wade into partisan politics, but seemed pleased that the sign had come down.
"The community has prevailed," said Carol Galloway, president of the organization's Houston branch.
Despite losing some of his investment in the billboard, Kimau-Imani told FOXNews.com he was happy with the effect of the sign.
"The billboard was simply something to get a conversation started, to make people think about their political affiliations," he said. "It appears we have achieved our goal."
Monday, July 13, 2009
WASHINGTON — The new H1N1 influenza virus bears a disturbing resemblance to the virus strain that caused the 1918 flu pandemic, with a greater ability to infect the lungs than common seasonal flu viruses, researchers reported on Monday.
Tests in several animals confirmed other studies that have shown the new swine flu strain can spread beyond the upper respiratory tract to go deep into the lungs — making it more likely to cause pneumonia, the international team said.
In addition, they found that people who survived the 1918 pandemic seem to have extra immune protection against the virus, again confirming the work of other researchers.
"When we conducted the experiments in ferrets and monkeys, the seasonal virus did not replicate in the lungs," said Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin, who led the study. "The H1N1 virus replicates significantly better in the lungs."
The new swine flu virus has caused the first pandemic of the 21st century, infecting more than a million people, according to estimates, and killing at least 500. The World Health Organization says it is causing mostly moderate disease but Kawaoka said that does not mean it is like seasonal flu.
"There is a misunderstanding about this virus," he said in a statement. "There is clear evidence the virus is different than seasonal influenza."
Writing in the journal Nature, Kawaoka and colleagues noted that the ability to infect the lungs is a characteristic of other pandemic viruses, especially the 1918 virus, which is estimated to have killed between 40 million and 100 million people.
They tested the virus in blood samples taken from nursing home residents and workers in 1999 in California, Wisconsin, the Netherlands and Japan.
People born before 1920 had a strong antibody response to the new H1N1 virus, meaning their body "remembered" it from infection early in life. This finding supports a study published in Nature in August that also found people who survived the 1918 pandemic still had immune protection against that virus.
Flu viruses change constantly, which is why people can be re-infected and why the vaccine must be changed regularly. Current seasonal strains of H1N1 are distant cousins of both the 1918 pandemic strain and the new H1N1 strain.
"Our findings are a reminder that swine-origin influenza viruses have not yet garnered a place in history, but may still do so, as the pandemic caused by these viruses has the potential to produce a significant impact on human health and the global economy," the researchers wrote.
Other tests showed the virus could be controlled by the antiviral drugs Relenza, made by GlaxoSmithKline, and Tamiflu, made by Roche AG, the researchers said.
The World Health Organization said on Monday that vaccine makers should start making immunizations against H1N1 and that healthcare workers should be first in line to get them.
Companies working on an H1N1 vaccine include Sanofi-Aventis, Novartis AG, Baxter International Inc, GlaxoSmithKline, Solvay and nasal spray maker MedImmune, now part of AstraZeneca.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Five to Survive the First Five
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Most troublesome, the patient in Hong Kong had not previously been treated with Tamiflu, meaning that the strain had already evolved to be resistant and then was transmitted to him. Thankfully the reports indicate that the resistant strain does still respond to treatment with Relenza.
Monday, July 6, 2009
Part of preparedness means living within your means, and that sometimes involves making hard decisions. When you are looking at your budget, wondering what you can cut so that you can increase your savings or free up funds to purchase preps with, sometimes the only choice is to look at your "fixed" or "hard" expenses -- the ones that are not easily varied. For me, that meant acknowledging that my apartment, while once affordable for me, is not within my means at present.
The circumstances precipitating the move may be familiar to many of you. Last fall, I experienced a forced job change, and was on an involuntary vacation for two months while I lined up new (and much improved) employment. While the time off work was wonderful, it consumed nearly all my savings -- and when I did find a new job, the pay was 2/3 of my former salary.
Consequently, I opted not to renew my lease and found a less expensive place to live. It's slightly smaller but, I hope, not lacking in most of the amenities that I've grown used to. I should be able to save several hundred dollars a month on rent, and that will free me up to rebuild my savings and eliminate more debt. The move is also providing sufficient motivation for me to finally throw out, donate, or sell all those useless items that have been cluttering my home for years now.
So, as much as I hate the stress and disruption of moving, I hope that it will pay dividends both financially and preparedness-wise. If you find yourself contemplating similar decisions, know that you are not alone.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Eric Berger reports on tropical wave forming in Gulf of Mexico
Thursday, June 25, 2009
German authorities warn of swine flu mutation risk
I will note that the swine flu shows signs of behaving exactly as the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic did: the Spanish Flu was a mild, late-appearing epidemic in the spring of that year, mutated into a more aggressive, lethal strain, and returned with a vengeance that fall.
BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's federal agency for infectious diseases said on Tuesday there were signs the H1N1 swine flu virus had started to mutate and warned it could spread in the coming months in a more aggressive form.
Experts were concerned about how the flu was developing in Australia and South America, said Joerg Hacker, head of the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases.
"It's possible the virus has mutated. In autumn the mutated form could spread to the northern hemisphere and back to Germany," Hacker told a news conference in Berlin.
The World Health Organization raised swine flu to pandemic status earlier this month. According to its latest figures, more than 230 people have been killed by the flu worldwide from 52,000 confirmed cases, mostly in the United States and Mexico.
Symptoms of swine flu are typically fairly mild, but doctors have said the virus could evolve into something more aggressive.
According to WHO figures, Germany has the third highest rate of swine flu infection in Europe with 275 confirmed cases.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the conference that Germany was as prepared as it could be for any surge in cases.
"We are in contact about it internationally," she said. "Now all we have to do is coordinate internationally who should be vaccinated and how we should do it, in case things get worse."
The WHO has advised governments to prepare for a long-term battle against the new pandemic it officially calls A(H1N1).
WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said recently the virus is currently "pretty stable," but warned it could still change into a more deadly form, perhaps mixing with the H5N1 bird flu virus circulating widely in poultry.
I don't think it's cause for panic, but it does bear watching.
Monday, June 22, 2009
The Inner Ring, by C. S. Lewis
". . . But you have met the phenomenon of an Inner Ring. You discovered one in your house at school before the end of the first term. And when you had climbed up to somewhere near it by the end of your second year, perhaps you discovered that within the Ring there was a Ring yet more inner, which in its turn was the fringe of the great school Ring to which the house Rings were only satellites. It is even possible that the School Ring was almost in touch with a Masters' Ring. You were beginning, in fact, to pierce through the skins of the onion. And here, too, at your university-shall I be wrong in assuming that at this very moment, invisible to me, there are several rings - independent systems or concentric rings-present in this room? And I can assure you that in whatever hospital, inn of court, diocese, school, business, or college you arrive after going down, you will find the Rings-what Tolstoy calls the second or unwritten systems."
Saturday, June 20, 2009
One Dead After Freight Train Derails Northwest of Chicago
The people living nearby had no idea when they woke up this morning that this would happen.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Envirosax - found at the FranklinCovey store, these polyester bags are strong and roomy enough to hold two plastic bags worth of groceries -- but roll up and button down to roughly the size of a golfball. You can get them in singles or purchase a pack of five with a pouch to hold them all -- the pouch fits comfortably at the bottom of my Tom Bihn Medium Cafe Bag. They are absolutely gorgeous and come in a range of beautiful prints.
Pocket.doc and Life.doc from Buttoned Up - the Pocket.doc from Buttoned up is the size of a tiny notebook, but unfolds like an accordion. Inside are forms for your emergency plan, emergency contacts, and medical information forms for each member of your family (up to four). It's a great item to include in your purse or EDC kit.
It's too big to EDC, but the maker of the Pocket.doc also makes the Life.doc Organizer, which is a large three-ring binder with sections to record and organize all of your important information -- legal, medical, financial, home, and caregiver info for elderly parents. Best of all for us anal-retentive types, it comes with a CD so that you can type your information into your PC and then feed the forms through your printer. Each divider tab has a pocket for storing loose sheets of paper, notes, business cards, and the like. This is a perfect item for a disaster kit or bug-out bag and I would go so far as to suggest that every family needs one of these. Available from FranklinCovey, Amazon, and any number of online stores.
Ironkey USB Drive - this USB drive is made to government specifications. It's rugged enough to carry on a keychain and sports an encryption algorithm that ensures that no one will be able to access the files on it without knowing the password. Some people EDC a flash drive like this one that holds files containing scanned copies of all their important documents -- birth certificate, passport, credit cards, insurance, ID, etc. I wish I liked the idea better, but realistically I think the applications for emergency use may be limited. If you truly need to show someone a copy of these items in an emergency, they probably are not going to have a laptop just sitting around ready for you to plug in the USB drive and pull up your information. Not to mention, in the event of an EMP attack, this thing and the things it plugs into won't be working no way, no how. The truth is, paper is an amazing technology that still hasn't been surpassed by all of our electronic wizardry.
It is a very cool toy, though. EDC it if you want, just don't rely on it in an emergency.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Melbourne residents are being urged to have a bag of essential items - including a torch, soup and tissues - prepared in case of evacuation.
Releasing a new CBD emergency plan today, Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said carrying a Go Bag made sense for workers and visitors to the city.
The new plan, to be sent out to the CBD's 20,000 residents and available on the City of Melbourne's website, includes mass evacuation to sites such as Etihad Stadium, the MCG and Exhibition Building in times of emergency.
Emergencies could range from earthquakes and terrorist attacks to floods or the heatwave experienced in Melbourne earlier this year.
Cr Doyle said he had a Go Bag already packed. "My first priority is to make sure people in the city are safe and they are prepared for any emergency or natural disaster," he said.
Items people should consider putting in their Go Bag include a small radio, torch, soup, basic first aid, any personal medicine, bottle of water, muesli bar, pack of batteries, jellybeans and tissues, the council said.
Makes sense. I imagine Australians have a preparedness mindset from birth. They live in a country whose natural climate and wildlife are inimical to humans.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
How to proceed?
Choosing the pack
You can use an old school or camping backpack, or buy a new one. I originally co-opted my old law school backpack, a Jansport, for this new duty. (I've since acquired more than it can hold, and upgraded to a 5.11 Tactical 72 RUSH pack.) I emptied it, put it through the washer with a tiny bit of soap, and hung it to dry in the shower overnight. The next day, it was ready to use.
If you are buying a bag new instead of using one on hand, take some care in selecting it. I would not recommend a duffel bag because of the uneven weight distribution. You need to be able to carry this pack hands-free for long distances if necessary. It needs to fit well -- if you are a small person, buy a mammoth-sized pack at your own peril. Also consider internal organization, such as pockets and dividers, and external organization, such as MOLLE and PALS attachment points that are available on tactical bags. Ask yourself if you want the bag to have a pouch for a hydration bladder like a CamelBak.
My pack presently weighs in at a doable 19 pounds. (I’m such a girl.) The general guideline for the amount of weight that you should carry in your pack for a multiday trip is up to 25 percent of your body weight. Obviously this varies with your size, weight, and physical condition. If you are older, have back problems, are not in good health, or for other reasons cannot carry a heavy pack, I would recommend that you look at assembling a smaller, lighter bag using a “lumbar pack” available from many outdoor equipment retailers. This is basically a larger, more rugged fanny pack. The obvious trade-off for the lighter size is that you will have to carry only the barest essentials, so choose your gear wisely. Regardless of the size and weight of your pack I recommend that you train with it -- try walking a mile in it and see how you hold up.
The conventional wisdom for a pack such as this is that it needs to supply all your needs for three days. For example, if an earthquake strikes, or there is a chemical spill near your home, this is a bag that you would grab from your closet or the trunk of your car in ten seconds while evacuating your home that would have everything you needed to get by for three days -- after which time presumably you will have been allowed to return home, or will have found refuge at a local shelter or with family and friends who are still in their homes. For myself, I carry more than this, as I anticipate that it will take at least a week if I have to hike home to my family should the major urban center where I live become uninhabitable.
As will quickly become apparent from perusing the list below, your pack will be a treasure trove of very valuable items, some expensive, and some inexpensive but still very sensitive. Your personal identification, any firearms, and the emergency cash are all items that any thief would be glad to have. You will have to make a personal choice about how and when to keep your bag with you. If you keep it in the trunk of your car, you will have it with or near you at nearly all times, which ensures that you will have it whenever the need arises. The trade off is that a thief who steals your car will also have the bag now and you will not only face the inconvenience of a stolen car but also identity theft.
Packing your bag
The list below looks extremely long, but in fact, most of these items are in my bag. Many of them take up very little space especially when compared to their utility or the degree of comfort they will offer in the event of an emergency.
Some simple guidelines will help you to pack your bag in an efficient manner. Try to keep the center of gravity close to your back, and not too high in the pack unless you are not going to encounter any steep or rough terrain. Frequently-accessed items, as long as they are not too large, go in outer pockets. For more detailed information on loading your pack depending upon your sex or the type of terrain, I suggest you consult The Backpacker's Field Manual by Rick Curtis.
Most items need to be sealed in plastic bags or Aloksaks to ensure they are kept dry in inclement weather; use your common sense as to what will not need to be waterproofed. Aside from the waterproofing issue, the plastic bags are useful for grouping categories of items together for organization and ease of access and for tight and efficient use of space, both inside the plastic bag and out of it.
Building in redundancy
For very critical items such as water, fire, and light, I recommend including redundant sources. This is so that if one tool breaks, you have a backup or alternate ready to go. The truly hard-core preparedness types use the acronym "PACE," which means Primary-Alternate-Contingency-Emergency, or having in mind four different ways to accomplish a task at all times. You may also see the phrase "three is two, two is one, one is none." Same idea.
Read the manual
If you carry any technically advanced or potentially hazardous items such as a camp stove, personal protection device, Leatherman tool, or any item whose operation and use is not intuitive for a five-year-old, make sure that you learn to operate the item immediately upon purchase and BEFORE putting it in your bag. An emergency is not the time to try and figure out how to use the thing.
There are several items on this list that will require you to exercise your own independent moral judgment. The two major areas are, first, the issue of self-protection, where you will have to decide what type of weapon to carry and, second, for women, whether to carry a dose of Plan B to prevent pregnancy in the case of sexual assault. If you choose to do so, you should know that Plan B is available without a prescription at your local pharmacy, although you may need to ask the pharmacist for it. It is not a good idea to attempt to purchase it at the last minute because the local pharmacist may choose to exercise their right of conscience in refusing to dispense the drug, and you will have to find another source that will sell it to you.
If you choose to carry a firearm, please ensure that you obey all local and federal laws while doing so and are sufficiently trained and rehearsed in the safe and accurate operation of the gun. I do NOT recommend deciding not to carry any protection at all. You need to be able to defend yourself. How you do that is up to you.
This list is not exhaustive. Use your own sense when constructing your bag.
Emergency rations and ready-to-eat food items, 3 days
Optional: Camp stove or Jetboil personal cooking system, with fuel canister (will provide approximately 90 minutes of cooking time); for families, consider a Helios cooking system.
Optional: Fuel for campstove
Optional: long-term storage multivitamins, such as SuperSpectrim
Optional: Lifetabs or other survival/energy tabs
Emergency water packs, 3 days, plus extra if you have pets (see below)
Katadyn Ex-Stream XR personal water filter
Micropur water purification tablets
Emergency tube tent or tarp
Tennis shoes or hiking boots
Socks, 3 pair
Underwear, 3 pair
crushable hat with brim, such as a boonie hat
Optional: one pair of jeans or other comfortable pants; one cotton t-shirt
LED headlamp, batteries stored separately
Small flashlight, batteries stored separately
Light sticks, 3
Small toothbrush and toothpaste
Two large trash bags, to dispose of waste
Comb or brush
Mini rolls of toilet paper
Small microfiber towel, like Packtowl
Safety - choose at least one
Firearm with appropriate JHP (jacketed hollow point) ammunition, concealment holster, extra magazines, and small cleaning kit
Knife, fixed blade or folder with locking blade
Pepper (OC) spray
Survival Kit - I recommend the Doug Ritter version from Adventure Medical Kits.
Leatherman tool or utility knife (look for a blade at least 2 1/2 inches long)
100’ 550-lb paracord
Small waterproof notebook, such as Rite in the Rain, and pen or pencil
Detailed map of your local area
Detailed map of the route from your home to any “bug out” location, such as family in another city; with primary and alternate routes highlighted in different colors
$100 in cash, small bills only, plus roll of coins if desired
Photocopies of your ID, birth certificate, social security card, health insurance card
List of phone numbers and addresses of family, relatives, and friends (do not rely on your cell phone to provide this information; it may be dead or you may not have it with you)
Passport (or photocopy thereof)
Fire - choose two or three methods of firestarting
Kindling, such as Wetfire, cotton balls soaked in vaseline, or small bag of cotton-fiber dryer lint
First aid kit sufficient to deal with both "boo boos" and "trauma"
Supply of any critical prescription medications -- pack extra in case you are gone longer than three days
N95 or N100 respirator masks, 3 (one per day) (for dust and smoke)
Lip balm w/SPF
Insect repellent towelettes
Optional: emergency surgical kit, CPR kit
Pets (per pet)
Food, 3 days’ worth, sealed in vacuum bags if possible
Water (see above)
Collapsible plastic food and water bowls
Copies of their most recent rabies shot and city license, if required
One dose of Advantage or other flea and worm preventative
Nukalert personal radiation meter
Potassium iodide or potassium iodate tablets (thyroid radiation blocker) (for nuclear incidents)
N95 or N100 respirator masks, 3 (one per day) (for pandemics)
NBC-rated gas mask (for nuclear, chemical, biological attacks)
Feminine hygiene products
Optional: Plan B, one dose, in case of sexual assault
Travel-size Bible, Torah, Qu’ran, etc.
Pack of playing cards