March 2008 Archives

Monday, March 31, 2008

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Last week, the mainstream media described the latest expansion of the Mother of All Bailouts (MOAB), but they politely refrained from calling this what it is: socialism, plain and simple. The grand plan, as it stands now, is to bail out not just consumer banks, but also investment banks, with taxpayer dollars. They are effectively making our life savings and our future earnings surety for a bunch of idiotic contrapreneurs' loans on everything from flat top duplexes to McMansions. These were houses that the contrapreneurs bought, that they could never really afford unless the market continued to rise at an artificial rate. They bought these houses with the intention of "flipping" them, but then the market topped out, and the "easy money" party ended.

At least those hated fascist dictators like Mussolini had the common sense to nationalize viable, productive companies. But now Ben Bernanke is busy nationalizing a slew of corporations with negative net worth. This is absolute lunacy!

Here are four examples of the mainstream's view:

From The Washington Post: Fed Leaders Ponder an Expanded Mission.

From The New York Times: Treasury Dept. Seeks New U.S. Power to Keep Markets Stable

From Reuters: Treasury regulatory overhaul plan "timely": Fed

And finally (with an ever-so-slightly more conservative view), this from Fox News: Bush Administration Proposes Sweeping Overhaul of Financial Regulation.

All of these calls for regulation, new government agencies, and greater scrutiny might outwardly sound well-reasoned, but they ignore some inescapable underlying problems: We have a fiat currency that is based on debt, we have a banking system with fictional fractional reserves, we have a derivatives market that is a $500 trillion casino, and we have a national treasury that is backed by wishful thinking--certainly not by anything tangible.

The other key point that seems to have escaped the mainstream media is that this new regulatory power is being handed to the Federal Reserve, which is a private banking cartel, not a government agency. They are no more "Federal" than the Federal Express parcel courier company. So this isn't just socialism. This is nothing short of corporate-controlled socialism--where a handful of banking corporations are given access to the Federal tax coffers to bail out other institutions and then, even further, they are given sweeping regulatory powers. This power grab is deemed "necessary" by circumstances that the Federal Reserve itself created! Somewhere, somehow, somebody stands to make a lot of money in this process. Cui bono? I'll wager that it won't be the American taxpayers that benefit. As economist Mish Shedlock observes, this is like putting the Fox in Charge of the Henhouse. Mish summed up the current mess succinctly: "The biggest, most reckless credit experiment in history has started to implode. It's far too late to stop a complete systemic collapse now. Granting new powers to the agency most responsible for the mess simply does not make any sense."

Secrecy is another concern. In a recent e-mail, SurvivalBlog reader KAF commented: "We should be greatly concerned about the fact that the Federal Reserve has provided public release anonymity to the institutions who are taking '30 day' never ending loans. We'll now never know if the institutions we deal with are truly solvent and credible, This new"confidentiality" allows the Fed. to manipulate reserves on a routine basis. We'll never know if this country's Federal Reserve is or is not heading for bankruptcy unless we use the tests of consumer spending and commodity pricing as indicators." She hit the nail on the head. At the same time that the press is howling for "greater transparency" in banking, and writing exposes of "predatory lending practices", the Powers That Be are drawing the veil of secrecy over lending institutions. They'd rather treat us like mushrooms--keeping us in the dark and feeding us barn waste--than risk a panic by letting the public know the real depth of the liquidity crisis and its collateral effects.

Instead of government platitudes, do you want some figures to chew on? Look at this Federal Reserve web page. The negative numbers at the bottom of the "Non-loaned Reserves" column speak volumes. Without the newly-created Federal Reserve "emergency lending mechanisms", many banks would be absolutely bankrupt. As you can see, the bankers are swimming in red ink. There is now a huge risk of bank runs, but this threat is being ignored by the mainstream media. Mark my words: There are bank runs coming.

The fact is that the global lending system is essentially broken. Artificially lowering interest rates won't fix it, when bankers are afraid to lend. As I've previously noted, the bankers are afraid to lend because so much re-packaging and reshuffling of debt has gone on in the past seven years that nobody knows who owes what to whom, and precisely what assets are underlying these exotic debt "packages." Meanwhile, the bankers have learned that the big insurance firms like Fitch, Moody's and S&P were in on the swindle. We now know that they colluded with their mortgage firm buddies to inflate assets and deflate risks in a masterpiece of legerdemain that would make Enron's accountants proud.

The bottom line is the the entire world economy is is in deep, deep trouble. Without financing, the Big Machine is grinding to a halt. The next few years will probably see the economy plunge into a deep recession, if not a full blown depression. The current headlines are just a foreshadowing of the real crisis to come. The MOAB will grow and grow, eventually bailing out far more than just banks. There will be brokerage houses, insurance firms, S&Ls, credit unions, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac, and possibly even muni bonds and pension funds are all lined up, ready to reach into our wallets. Once the government starts down the slippery slope of bailout-socialism schemes, they will perforce spread to more and more institutions. And, as I've previously noted, the public coffers will be insufficient to cover the inestimable costs of the MOAB. So this mean that Uncle Sam will monetize the difference. They'll just create the needed "dollars" out of thin air. This will be outrageously inflationary, at all levels.

All of this is not going unnoticed by European and Asian bankers. They can see that the dollar is set for mass inflation, so they are dumping dollars as fast as they can. It is no wonder that the US Dollar Index has plummeted. When I last checked, it took $1.58 to buy one Euro! The foreign bankers aren't stupid. Upcoming auctions of US Treasury paper will languish with very few takers. I predict that in less than a year, the Treasury yields will have to be pumped up substantially to attract enough bidders to get the needed financing to cover the budget deficit. We could see double digit rates--a la the late 1970s--in the not too distant future.

All of these macro-level implications might seem fairly abstract, so let me put them in real world terms and take the risk of extrapolating on some trends that I've observed: There will be a recession, and it will be deep, and long-lasting. A recession will mean that there will be some big corporate layoffs. Be ready. There will be bank runs and banking "holidays". Be ready. There will be huge flows of "bailout" funds that will effectively nationalize many industries. Be ready. There will probably be a stock market collapse. Be ready. There will be a further collapse in residential real estate that will make the recent declines seem small, by comparison. Be ready. Credit delinquencies and foreclosures (on car loans, home loans, credit card bills, etc.) will dramatically increase. Be ready. There will be a collapse of the commercial real estate market. Be ready. Even though the credit available for IPOs and private mergers and acquisitions has dried up, there will be news of some large and seemingly inexplicable acquisitions in the near future, all sanctioned by and in some cases, underwritten by, and even funded by, the Federal government. Be ready. There will be shortages of key commodities including fuel and food. Be ready. Strapped for cash, America's highway, rail, water, sewer, telecommunications, and power infrastructures will degenerate. Be ready. There will be mass inflation of the US Dollar that will devalue any dollar denominated investments. Be ready.

And now, to further extrapolate, (with a lower level of confidence): All of the aforementioned economic dislocation and surging inflation might trigger mass protests, riots, looting, and arson in the cities. Be ready. There may then be massive out-migration from the cities. Be ready. Wars have been known to follow close on the heels of depressions and financial crises, so there may be a war, possibly big enough to require another draft. Be ready.

As I've written many times before, the real lynchpin to worry about is the power grid. If the grid goes down, then all bets are off. Be vigilant, be well-stocked with a deep larder, and be self-sufficient. Store extra for charity. If you can afford to, establish a survival retreat in a lightly-populated region, and if possible, live there year-round.

I finally had a chance to see [the 2007 movie] "I Am Legend", and analyzed it as a writer, and from a technical perspective.

I've seen a lot of discussion over his [use of a] M4 [Carbine as his primary weapon]. I have to say for that type of fighting, I'd prefer a shotgun. However, a shotgun doesn't reload fast enough. He might be better off with a good .308 self-loading carbine, if he can find adequate soft-point ammo. In New York City, that's unlikely. National Guard armories would only have ball ammo, and likely wouldn't have anything other than standard duty weapons. Add in that he was likely at least familiarized with the M4 as a military surgeon and officer, I think the M4 was about the best practical choice under the circumstances, though inadequate. Lesson: Obviously, for those preparing for any of various disasters, this is a reminder to plan ahead.

Much is made of his OPSEC, including bleaching his footsteps to kill scents. What isn't discussed is how he hides the scent of fuel for his generators, or the exhaust smell. Also, this is supposed to be three years after the disaster struck. How does he hide his tracks in winter, with snow? This would likely necessitate long stays inside. Lesson: Obviously, that would mean more preparations. You may have to bunker down due to weather or other events.

The steel shutters and reinforcements on the building don't extend above the ground floor. This is an obvious failure point. His armory also should not have been in one closet, but in multiple locations, possibly the central stairwell, on each floor. Lesson: A point source failure of any resource--food, weapons, water, medicine, fuel--can kill you. Diversify your preparations.

One of the character's critical intel flaws is failing to note that: he and the "Dark seekers" have overlapping territories, and their search methods are as precise and professional as his. We see him searching a building that has already been stripped of food, but there is no extraneous damage or vandalism. This was a key item that his enemy were not mindless and irrational, but rather very organized and intelligent. There are other events that indicate this, and he missed them, too. Obviously, he was emotionally reluctant to consider human attributes remaining in people so sick and damaged. Never underestimate your opponent, and always remember that from his point of view, he is correct and you are in the wrong. It may not be possible to understand his point of view, but the attempt must be made.

There are several signs that his own rationality is slipping. Obviously, talking to mannequins and creating scenes with them is a coping mechanism. However, herding deer with a sports car and attempting to take potshots might be a thrill, but a dangerous one. Likewise, when he loses Sam, his dog, his vengeful actions almost get him killed for no gain. His character did a great many things to maintain himself--a regular schedule, replaying old news and movies, interaction with his dog, but ultimately, we are a social creature and cannot operate alone. This is also driven home when he is trapped. Consider that other disasters or accidents are possible, too--broken limbs, car failures. Lesson:Plan to be part of a team, with organization and training. Do this before disaster strikes.

Besides the deer, we see lions, presumably escaped from a zoo. We don't see any transformed wildlife, but knowing dogs and rats did, it's reasonable to assume others did. This is a massive potential threat. The metabolic issues in this scenario might have meant transformed predators are not viable long term, due to massive food demands, but in the short term, one could create a tremendous amount of damage, or infect an entire herd of deer. In addition, while there are lots of supplies he can loot in the short term, apart from a small garden patch, there is little space for food or material production. Lesson: A city is a consumer, not a producer, of base resources. It is not the place for a long-term base in such a scenario.

Conversely, the character did well by operating from a central location, keeping records and charts, performing regular patrols and intel sweeps, operating in a scientific fashion, attempting to contact others, holding to a regular schedule, acquiring resources, keeping fit, and demonstrating generally good fire discipline and caution. Lesson: Even the best, most prepared individual can make mistakes. Constantly review your scenarios and preparations, and have someone else do so, too. - Michael Z. Williamson

Mr. Rawles:

You recently wrote: "Oxygen absorbing packets would have no efficacy for ammunition storage. (These are designed just for killing insect larvae in storage foods)." Sorry, Jim, but that's not quite correct. Oxygen absorbing packets come in a variety of sizes and do their job very well. Their job? Absorbing oxygen. They are placed in packets of food such as jerky to reduce amount of oxygen which degrades the flavor of the food. That they also make life more difficult for bugs is a side-effect.

The ability to absorb nearly all the free oxygen in an enclosed space makes them uniquely qualified for preservation of a variety of things - including guns and ammo. Back when Y2K was the big issue, I enclosed an SKS [carbine], a hundred rounds of ammo and several oxygen absorbing packets in a plastic tube with and glued-on caps. I stored it outside for a year before I opened it up to check it out. When I made my initial cut into the pipe I was rewarded with a "hiss" as air entered the pipe. Since oxygen comprises about 16% of our sea-level atmosphere and since it was now tied up in the packets I was left with a partial vacuum inside the pipe. Upon reassembling the rifle, I loaded it with the ammo it had been stored with and fired it.

I need to point out that this experiment was conducted in Oregon, a fairly wet climate, and that after close inspection of the rifle, I found no rust on any of the metal. Obviously, oxidation of the steel couldn't occur when the oxygen wasn't free to combine with the iron. - D.Y.

JWR Replies: I should have been more thorough in my reply to that letter, when I mentioned Oxygen (O2) absorbing packets. Instead of dismissively writing "...have no efficacy for ammunition storage" I should have written "...are not the best choice for ammunition storage". (I will update that post.) I will elaborate:

If you are the "belt and suspenders" type, then by all means use both desiccant packets (such as silica gel) and O2 absorbing packets. But of the two, desiccants are much more reliable. The formation of rust takes two ingredients interacting with ferrous metals: moisture and oxygen. Ditto for oxidation of copper and brass. Without moisture present, corrosion will not occur with typical atmospheric oxygen levels. Hence, O2 absorbers are not "uniquely qualified", as you asserted.

Both types of packets will work in protecting guns or ammunition is sealed containers, but desiccants have far more reliable efficacy. The biggest problem with typical food grade O2 absorbing packets is that there is no easy way of insuring that they were handled properly before they came to you. The O2 absorbing packets that I have seen all have gas-permeable coverings. If the seal on the outer package that the packets were shipped in was compromised, or if they were removed from their original packaging and later re-packaged, then they will have virtually no usefulness. They are effectively "used up" when they come in contact with a large volume of air for more than a few hours. And once used, these packets cannot be reactivated at home. You have to buy new ones.

But unlike O2 absorbing packets, if you use silica gel desiccants, you can reactivate them by simply putting them in a dehydrator (or in a kitchen oven on a 150 degree F setting) overnight. Using this method, they can be used over and over. This is vastly superior, especially in the context of a survival situation where regular commerce is disrupted. And, as I've mentioned previously in SurvivalBlog, in the present day, desiccants are often available free for the asking. Just make a few phone calls. Piano shops often get musical instrument shipments that include large desiccant packs. Most of these get thrown away.

So if you are going to depend on one of the other for firearms and ammunition storage, in my opinion you should choose silica gel desiccants rather than O2 absorbers. OBTW, beware of re-using any packets that you find in jerky packaging. These sometimes include an integral moisturizing packet, to prevent jerky from becoming too dry. Those packets would of course be counterproductive, for ammunition or gun storage. Again, only use O2 absorbing packets that are factory fresh, and preferably that come vacuum shrink wrapped. Otherwise, you have no way of knowing whether or not they have already been chemically neutralized.

Stephanie in Arkansas mentioned that there are some plans for do-it-yourself gravity water filters posted over at the Alpha Rubicon site. JWR Adds: OBTW, while you are there, be sure to check out their many other references available for free download. It is a great site that has done yeoman service in preparedness circles.

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From Al Jazeera television, of all places: Montana Has a Lot of Guns.

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Dennis found us this commentary on long term Social Security obligations: Glenn Beck: The $53 trillion asteroid

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Luis in Utah sent this: Gray wolf hunts planned after de-listing -- Idaho, Montana and Wyoming to manage estimated 1,500 animals in region

Tappan's universal rule of law: "The nobler the language, the more nefarious the purpose [of] any legal instrument." - Mel Tappan

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Today we present a guest editorial, courtesy of veteran market analyst John Ing:

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke once said: “By increasing the number of U.S. dollars in circulation, or even by credibly threatening to do so, the U.S. government can also reduce the value of a dollar in terms of goods and services, which is equivalent to raising the prices in dollars of those goods and services. We conclude that, under a paper money system, a determined government can always generate higher spending and hence positive inflation.”

The Fed slashed short-term interest rates six times in six months to 2.25 per cent from 5.25 per cent despite the U.S. Department of Labor reporting that consumer prices had jumped 4.3 per cent at an annual rate in January -- the biggest rise in two years. As a result, the Fed's benchmark overnight lending rate is about half the rate of inflation and real interest rates are now negative. The last time interest rates were negative, housing exploded; the housing bubble grew larger stoked by Wall Street's alchemy of mortgage backed securities that are at the heart of the unfolding crisis.
Bernanke, a student of the Great Depression, believes that policymakers and politicians then were too slow in countering the downturn, letting the resulting panic sink the economy. Bernanke is right about the foot-dragging almost eight decades ago. But by slashing interest rates and lending hundreds of billions to Wall Street today, he risks creating yet another bubble. Already, Bernanke has orchestrated the biggest bailout since the Great Depression in the wake of the collapse of the mortgage industry. Even oil, gold and other commodities retreated rapidly from record highs as traders flattened positions in a desperate deleveraging process. The greatest fear is the fear of the unknown. The current financial crisis is due to the lack of confidence and trust because of uncertainty about the extent and breadth of the potential financial losses.

Counterparty Defaults

The credit market simply lacks credit. The subprime woes have spilled over into dislocations in the overall credit markets – from municipal debt, to corporate debt, to derivatives. Fears of a default by a counterparty is threatening the global financial system and is believed to be one of the reasons behind JP Morgan Chase’s bid for Bear Stearns. Banks are hoarding and have stopped lending since their thin capital base (and solvency) is at risk while their customers such as hedge funds, private equity and Corporate America are forced to deleverage and dump the assets – like those owned by Bear Stearns – in a no bid market. Lower rates will not unblock this logjam. Unfortunately, lower interest rates are not the answer in warding off this financial market crisis. The source of America’s problems is not interest rates. The problem is simply too much debt and too much leverage. A great unwinding is the answer.

Despite the dramatic drop in rates, there are still no signs of a pick-up in the credit markets. Trust has evaporated. Banks are desperately trying to dump billions of leveraged securities in an illiquid market. To date Wall Street has taken only $200 billion of writedowns but has only raised about $100 billion, leaving a shortfall. The Fed has extended loans to the investment banks, taking on some of their illiquid paper as collateral. After failing to offload these to a naive public, the game of "slicing and dicing" risk and dispersing this risk is over. Now, that risk has come back to haunt them. And any sale becomes a new benchmark for these dubious assets, leading to more price cuts and, of course, further fire sales and bigger losses. The markets have yet to reprice risk.

The Tip of the Iceberg
In the credit binge, the risk-rating agencies became more like principals rather than advisors and helped spread the poor quality of debt by rating risk highly. Today, AAA ratings mean nothing. With the closing of America's capital market, the big Wall Street icons such as Citicorp, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley were forced to rebuild their balance sheets with the help of foreign buyers such as foreign sovereign wealth funds from Singapore to Kuwait. America's growing reliance on foreigners for funding its deficits has become its Achilles heel. Already there is a controversy over the growth of sovereign wealth funds (SWF), which manage between $2.5 trillion and $3 trillion, and to date more than $100 billion has bailed out Wall Street's biggest investment banks. But the United States can't accept this money without conditions. In the past, the Asian or Middle Eastern buyers bought trophy buildings, recycling their excess dollars back into the United States. As of last summer, foreigners owned $ 6 trillion or 66 per cent of the entire $9 trillion U.S. federal debt load.
In order to keep their currencies competitive, the Asian central banks and the petro powers of the Middle East ploughed their reserves into U.S. treasuries. This is great while it lasts, but as Asia booms and Wall Street declines, the big buyers of treasuries are growing disenchanted with some of their earlier purchases. No one likes to lose money and the Fed must somehow maintain the trust of foreigners. China's near-Bear experience and the promise of more taxpayer-assisted bailouts will certainly cause foreigners to think twice about investing in the United States. Wall Street's problems seem to be chronic and the Chinese are looking at huge losses in their foray into Wall Street. It will get worse. We believe there will be less Asian money available to finance America’s trade deficits, which requires over $2 billion a day of outside funds.

Wall Street's Margin Call
The party is over on Wall Street. Carlyle Capital Corp., the publicly traded investment fund affiliated with the powerful Carlyle Group, defaulted on $22 billion of mortgage securities on a flimsy capital base of less than $1 billion. That is 22 times leverage, exceeding the leverage of bankrupt Long Term Capital Management LLC. And venerable Bear Stearns was sold for about one third per cent of its value the previous week. With almost $100 billion of liabilities against book value of less than $12 billion, the investment bank was forced to close its doors at liquidation value. Bear Stearns was the key prime financer/broker for America's biggest hedge funds and its demise threatens a domino-like counterparty chain reaction that could spread throughout Wall Street.

Bear’s key role in the web of financial players and counterparty risk emerged as a major reason for the Fed’s bailout. Ironically, it was last summer’s collapse of two Bear hedge funds that sparked the upheaval in the markets. Bear simply was hoist upon its own petard. Most troubling is that all investment banks are similarly highly leveraged. Bear Stearns borrowed $30 for every $1 of capital. Yet Morgan Stanley has leverage of 32 to 1, Merrill Lynch 28:1, Lehman Bros. 32:1 and Goldman Sachs 26:1. Worse still, not even the Sheriff of Wall Street is around to witness the unraveling.
That Wall Street cannot fund itself has forced its major players to borrow massive amounts of money from the Federal Reserve. The Fed has even taken to accepting dubious assets as collateral to alleviate the financial stress in the markets, which in essence makes the Fed "the garbage collector of last resort." The Fed created a growing $200 billion lifeline available to lend treasuries in exchange for unmarketable triple-A mortgage-backed securities. Bear Stearns was the first recipient of this largesse and already the Fed is on the hook for more than $30 billion of Bear's obligations that JP Morgan does not want. This is not a crisis in liquidity but one of solvency.

In our view, the Fed’s solution is simply the beginning of the de facto nationalization of Wall Street. What’s particularly worrisome is that the Fed has started on the slippery slope of taking on the credit risk and liabilities of Wall Street, similar to the Bank of England’s bailout of Northern Rock, which ended in the nationalization of that sorry institution. The Bank of England’s nationalization of Britain’s largest mortgage company cost taxpayers more than $200 billion. The sobering message, however, is that it’s far from over. Inevitably, politicians and regulators are pressured to prevent more problems, but there is no point in closing the barn door after the horse has left.

With the shadow of the Thirties looming, the Fed's orchestration of events since August, from the decision to give Wall Street access to the discount window, to the acceptance of Wall Street's inventory as collateral, to the cronyism of the Plunge Protection Team (PPT) to the $30 billion backstop of unwanted securities to the Bear Stearns' rescue, to the relaxation of rules governing quasi-government bodies such as money losing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, all points to a role beyond that of a lender of last resort. In absorbing the liabilities of Wall Street, the Fed is simply piling on debt on more debt. No nation, even the United States, can borrow forever without facing up to economic consequences. And no one is too big to fail.

Just Who Will Bail Out The Fed?
The U.S. dollar is among the sickest currencies in the world, giving up 50 per cent of its value since 2002 because the United States is deep in the financial hole. The gap between spending and revenue grows ever wider. Today, foreigners are not so eager to help. The problem is that America is a debtor country and dependent on foreigners to finance its chronic deficits requiring an inflow of $800 billion from foreign investors each year to finance the country's deficits. Not surprisingly, America's creditors are losing confidence in the country's solvency. Americans spend too much and save too little. America's trade deficit is at seven percent of GDP and the budgetary deficit - excluding supplement spending for the war - is estimated at $400 billion. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan so far at $600 billion and Congress is to approve another $275 billion. The CBO estimates the war might eventually cost between $1 trillion and $2 trillion by 2017. Meantime, consumer spending accounts for more than 70 per cent of the U.S. economy, but household debt is now at 140 per cent of consumers of after-tax income. Debt on debt is not good.
There is no question that the bursting of the housing bubble and the cost of the inevitable breakdown of the financial system has created huge dangers for the global financial system. The vortex already has dragged down institutions in the United Kingdom, Switzerland and New York. The United States is on a path similar to Japan’s deflation in 1990s. While the savings and loan bailout cost U.S. taxpayers “only” $200 billion, this time the potential cost of the biggest bailout in history is estimated at more than $1.2 trillion or enough to wipe out half of the global banking sector’s capital. We believe that fears that U.S. taxpayers face even bigger bailouts to save Wall Street will further undermine confidence in the dollar, boosting gold’s allure. Gold is a good thing to have as a barometer of investor anxiety.
Previous crises such as the stock market meltdown in October 1987, the S&L crisis in the early the 90s and the Asian contagion in 1997 or the bursting of the tech bubble in 2000 had a common denominator – too much money chasing too few markets. Warren Buffett warned that derivatives today are the new ticking time bomb. Derivatives exploded to a whopping $516 trillion by 2007, according to the Bank of International Settlements. Yet it is not the size of the market that concerns us. It is the growing risk of counterparty failure since the capital position of the global banking system supporting the $500 trillion plus of derivatives is estimated at only $2 trillion, insufficient to handle even one per cent of potential losses.

Stagflation Now?
In January, U.S. farm prices had an annualized 7.4 percent increase, the biggest yearly gain in more than 26 years. Beset by credit woes, the U.S. economy appears to be entering a period of low growth and high inflation, just like the stagflation of the 1970s. Rising food and energy prices are sopping up what is left of consumers' discretionary income. The bad news is that central banks appear to be providing the very fuel that will stoke inflation even further. The Fed's dramatic lowering of interest rates has not helped domestic demand. Instead, it has simply sped up the flood of capital away from the United States. There is tight productive capacity from potash to steel to coal while the only surplus seems to be in cars and condos. Of concern is that the rise in commodity prices is not cyclical but structural, with huge supply shortages.

Inflation is the monetary flavour of the week and the month. Inflation is rising, pushed upwards by high oil, food and commodity prices. Short-term government yields are at lows only because of the Fed's panic to prop up Wall Street and long rates are actually rising. More important, inflation is on the rise in France, Japan and Saudi Arabia. Meantime, in China it is at the highest level in a decade.
The Fed is worried more about the risk of a financial meltdown than rising inflation. This time, central banks have not only flooded the system with money but also loosened financial regulations for highly leveraged mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Prices, of course, are rising because there is too much money being created. The root cause of inflation is money creation. Sadly, for the central banks and the financial markets, inflation is the obvious solution to U.S. indebtedness, allowing money to depreciate even faster. For creditors, this is not a solution.

The potent combination of a slowdown, the cost of Wall Street's bailouts and skyrocketing commodities has investors justifiably worried about a repeat of 1970s stagflation. In the 1970s, two oil embargos doubled the price of oil to $50 a barrel. The oil shocks were accompanied by a surge in 'soft' commodities after the anchovy fishery off the coast of Peru almost disappeared. The need to replace the anchovies caused the Japanese to switch to soybeans, which caused a spike in prices. Indeed, the jump in commodities crippled the global economy. Costs went up and wages were raised to compensate for increased prices in a classic case of cost-push inflation. In 1980, the U.S. inflation rate reached 13 per cent and wage and price controls were imposed when inflation hit 4 percent, the identical level today. Gold rose from $35 an ounce to more than $850. Interest rates soared to double digits when the government realized that it had to fight inflation, Fed Chairman Paul Volcker arrived on the scene, eventually snuffing out inflation by sending interest rates to the sky, which ended in a decade of stagflation.

Today, we have similar ingredients in place, now only monetary policy is much easier. The parallels are most ominous. Recently, M2 money supply increased a whopping $35 billion a week as the Fed provided both expansive monetary and fiscal stimulus. With inflation picking up, investors should know that the current monetary inflation is not just an increase in the monetary base. It is the leverage impact of this monetary inflation, which creates bubbles. As in the 1970s, food prices have now risen by more than 75 percent from the lows of 2000. Meantime, China's growth and poor weather has intensified demand, cutting into supplies at the same time. Ironically, the spike in the oil price has encouraged the conversion of grain to bio-fuels, helping to trigger a dramatic increase in food prices. This is controversial because Americans are actually subsidizing crops for fuel instead of for food; making it seem more important to drive an SUV in the United States than it is to eat.
Moreover, the news could be even worse than we think because the government's inflation statistics are skewed. For example, the 'core" inflation rate excludes energy and food prices because of a desire to 'even out' spikes. Thus, we are told inflation rose only 2.7 per cent on an annualized basis in February. The elimination of food and energy has relegated inflation to the back pages, making historic rate comparisons meaningless. The bottom line, however, is that energy and food prices are increasing and the core rate is on the move. The CPI rate is actually 4.3 per cent, the same level that spurred wage and price controls on Aug. 15, 1971.

When The Swamp Drains, The Ugly Frogs Are Exposed
For us, there is a sense of déjà vu because the Bernanke reflation is similar to Alan Greenspan keeping interest rates too low for too long causing the housing bubble and, ultimately, the credit bubble. Now both have burst and we have Bernanke pumping yet again. To avoid a systemic banking crisis, the Fed has opened the monetary flood gates. Investors are concerned about credit conditions. If Wall Street firms continue to lose money at current rates, they will find themselves below capital requirements in less than six months. Bernanke and Wall Street appear to think that the solution is to reduce interest rates. And yet by relaxing borrowing requirements, they are in fact leveraging the system even more.

America's solution is to devalue its currency further and monetize this mountain of debt by inflating its way out of the problems, just as it did in the 1970s. And the emphasis on more bailouts has prompted investors to seek refuge in 'hard assets' such as gold and oil as a hedge against future inflation and currency depreciation. That is why gold hit $1,000 an ounce.

The U.S. dollar has fallen to a new low against the euro while gold recorded new highs. Further rate cuts by the Fed have the effect 'pushing on a string' and to date has not ended the downward spiral in housing. The Fed has cut rates by 300 basis points but long-term yields have actually gone up, not down, further reflecting investors' concern that inflation is the next big problem. Mortgage rates have actually gone up. After the subprime mess came the CDO mess. Then the investment banks fell and now the hedge funds are falling. All are subject to capital constraints, and in the deleveraging process, Wall Street's inadequacies are surfacing just as a draining swamp exposes its ugliest frogs.

The Bottom Line?
We believe the piling on of more debt to rescue the financial system and the U.S. economy is unlikely to work in the face of a surge in inflation. Nor will driving interest rates to the floor work since it will debase the dollar further. Americans have become too dependent on foreigners, who have become increasingly uncomfortable with their enormous dollar holdings.
Reflation has created a new commodity bubble. The other driver is the emergence of China and India, coupled with supply constraints caused by sustained underinvestment. The aging infrastructure of the commodities producers has not kept pace with the new demand. Thus, there is a need for the market to return to balance. Unfortunately, greater money supply will neither cause a fall in demand nor significant increases in supply, so prices are expected to remain at elevated levels for some time to come. In mining, for example, it will take at least five years before any new discoveries come on stream. In addition, power shortages in South Africa have led the mining industry to both curtail expansion and current production. Consequently, there will continue to be waves of consolidation as the bigger mining companies look to economies of scale. Gold is a good commodity to own.

What Do We Need?
Needed is the recapitalization and restructuring of Wall Street, which is bloated from a decade of financial innovation. Needed is the repricing of risk. Needed is a new way for the rating agencies to rate risk, in that they cannot be principals but truly arms-length advisors. Needed is a restoration of faith in the U.S. dollar, which requires a fundamental change of policy in the current and next U.S. administrations. Needed is a boost in the U.S. savings rate, which now sits at zero. Needed is a reduction in the twin U.S. deficits. Needed is more candour from officials and policymakers. Needed is a deleveraging process.

Needed is for the Fed to allow the investment banks to take their losses, support those in need of liquidity, but not assume those losses. While prices will undoubtedly go lower, investors are really looking at a repricing of risk. The markdowns are needed as a discipline. Needed is a change in the accounting rules to reflect mark-to-market losses and the impact on the investment banks' capital. Needed is a reversal of the accounting rules that allowed the banks to leverage up and instead put an emphasis on capital building rather than leverage. Needed are the changes in the impact of securitization that converted illiquid debt into new instruments. Needed is a change in accounting rules for off-balance sheet vehicles.

The United States must also address its continuing problem of too much consumption and its reliance on debt. America’s credit woes come at a time when the rest of world is no longer willing to finance its current account deficits. After a quarter century of wealth creation, Americans have no choice but to work harder, tighten their belts, retire later and save more.
The economic downturn has paved the way for a new sheriff in town. Among the Democrats, one of them is an inspiring orator but both offer no solutions other than hope. Both want a government to spend more, abrogate trade agreements, bail out its institutions and use more government intervention. For a time, Americans enjoyed a free ride on the stock market and housing market. Now they need a leader to solve the country’s problems in new ways, not old ones.

And Finally, Needed is a Role For Gold
Gold cannot be created like fiat currencies or be printed like dollars. At one time, the pound sterling was the world’s reserve currency. It, too, failed. The monetary order is changing again and the dollar as a reserve currency is losing value and influence. In our view, a basket based on gold’s value will go a long way to restore needed liquidity in the markets. Gold is simply the new old currency. Gold hit $1,000 an ounce because the world has been losing confidence in the dollars issued by the Fed.

Gold reached new highs amid tight supply/demand fundamentals, U.S. dollar weakness, investment buying and, equally important, the lack of faith in dollar assets. Gold has doubled in euro and yen terms since 2005. Investor demand is at a record, led by China, which has consumed more gold than India and United States combined. Meantime, supplies have been constrained as South Africa, the second largest producer, has curtailed its production due to a lack of power. China holds only about 600 tons or less than one per cent of its total reserves in gold. With reserves of $1.7 trillion, China will inevitably diversify part of those holdings into gold.

But most important, gold is a global currency that will become the “go to” asset class as the foundation for the global currency system falters due to the protracted credit crisis. Gold will go higher as long as America’s solution to its debt crisis is to pile more debt upon debt, further debasing the dollar. America will, in effect, default on its obligations, either through currency debasement or inflation. Gold has no counterparty risk and no risk of default. This bull market has just begun. We see gold more than doubling to $2,500 an ounce. Gold is the ultimate “currency” and the inevitable store of value and medium of exchange. When George W. Bush was sworn in as president, gold was at $265 an ounce. This month, gold traded at $1,030 an ounce. In essence, the U.S. dollar has been devalued by more than 100 per cent in almost eight years of his presidency. Will the next president do any better?

JWR Adds: For the second half of this article, including John Ing's specific investing recommendations, see

Home Equity Loans as Next Round in Credit Crisis Don't miss one key point that was buried near the end of the article: "...many people added second loans after taking out first mortgages, so it is impossible to say for certain how many homeowners have multiple liens on their properties." Clearly, there are a lot of home buyers (I'll refrain from calling them home owners, since it is the bankers that still hold controlling interest) that are getting "upside down" in their mortgages. Without a doubt, much more jingle mail is coming, as property prices continue their downward spiral.

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Just when we thought things couldn't get any worse in Zimbabwe, the currency inflation rate has jumped to an "incalculable" level. SurvivalBlog reader J.M. mentioned the mind-boggling figure of 200,000%, per annum. (not yet confirmed--the last "official" figure was 100,000%.) Even more incredibly, Comrade Mugabe is on the fast track to re-re-election. Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party cronies have improved on the once-heralded "one man, one vote." They have now apparently rigged "One party member, one hundred votes." Just think of it as another form of inflation. Voter fraud is practically an art form in Zimbabwe. OBTW, I should mention that Zimbabwe's printing press economy is not unique. See this slide show: World's Most Worthless Money.

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Several readers wrote to mention that Backwoods Home magazine's upcoming issue (May/June) is a special expanded 116-page Preparedness issue. It can be ordered separately, if you don't already subscribe. Backwoods Home is one of our perennial favorite publications.

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Karen flagged this: Census Bureau Estimates U.S. Population Continues Shift to South and West

"Although we give lip service to the notion of freedom, we know that government is no longer the servant of the people but, at last, become the people's master. We have stood by like timid sheep while the wolf killed - first the weak, then the strays, then those on the outer edges of the flock, until at last the entire flock belonged to the wolf." - Gerry Spence, From Freedom to Slavery

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Wow! Three million unique visits! Thank you everyone, for making SurvivalBlog a tremendous success. Please continue to spread the word to family, friends, and co-workers.

Today we present another article for Round 15 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The writer of the best non-fiction article will win a valuable four day "gray" transferable Front Sight course certificate. (Worth up to $2,000!) Second prize is a copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, generously donated by Jake Stafford of Arbogast Publishing. Round 15 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entries for Round 16. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival will have an advantage in the judging.

My husband and I are like minded, (he realized way before I did), and he and I didn’t meet until I was in my mid-thirties. I was considered weird, called a tomboy and later, a gear head. Don’t get me wrong, I cook, sew, knit and crochet. I had many interests though and wanted to learn.

What I have seen lately and in some people we met that are like minded, is the lack of initiative on the part of some spouses. I have seen some women and men that will ridicule their spouses or will just roll their eyes and feign interest. I have seen some that their spouses have prepared and bought supplies but their other half has no clue even how to do the basics. If you are truly vested in being prepared, your spouse and children need to brush up on the basics also. This should give you some good ideas on how to learn where you are lacking.

Do you have a grain mill? Mortar and pestle? Does he/she know the basics? Can all of you bake and cook from scratch? Are your children picky or will they eat everything you put in front of them? Can they sew? Do they know the basics on edible plants? Can they hunt or fish? Can your children do what is needed? Can you do the repairs needed to your home/vehicle?

Our daughter is 16 and she is learning about cars, she can fish with the best of them and she is a good shot. Our youngest is three years old and he will be learning as we go. Both will be able to cook (one does now), sew, set traps, care for farm animals, strip and clean weapons, basic survival, fix the family relic (car) and hopefully get through anything that is thrown at them.

The first step is to start early – my husband is Creole and we eat a lot most people don’t. Turtle soup, crawfish, head cheese and some even eat tripe. My son will eat everything he is offered, he was eating crawfish when he only had 2 teeth. So our routine was this; we fix it and tell you later what it is. It works well with older kids; younger kids will eat what mom and dad eat. It is a well known fact that most really young or really old will not eat a “different” diet, unless they have been doing so all along.

When your child starts showing interest in guns, at about 6-7 years old, take them hunting. Show them what guns do. My father did that I have always had respect for what they can do. Children love doing what mom and dad do so they will take to hunting with pride. We start ours fishing at 2-3 years old for small fish and getting them used to being around the water supervised. They know how to check nets and bait hooks by the time they’re 5, that’s when we teach them how to clean the fish (mom or dad using the sharp knife).

With cars teach them as soon as they’re out of a booster seat. I have seen too many men and women who can’t even check the oil in their own cars. Your children should be a help in most situations not a hindrance, even if it’s just handing you the tools you need. Our three year old will do most simple tasks he is shown and he does them willingly, he is so happy to be a help.

If you are in the military they have a lot of classes on the base that can help with some of this. Most bases have a repair shop and you can utilize their mechanics and tools to learn about repairing your car. They offer other things so check into at the base [or post] repair/craft shop.

Work out your plans to include the jobs you expect your children to do. When things get bad, if we’re on the move our 16 year old is to keep her little brother while we move and defend if necessary. When stationary she can shoot, load and take care of first aid. She will be able to pull her own weight and then some. Our littlest one will follow suit as he grows.

Use barter to attain the skills you don’t have, watch family, use the Internet and community college. Take a vacation to Pennsylvania or Tennessee. You can learn a lot in an Amish community, I learned how to make butter and I am going back so I can learn to shear. Some teach and charge others will share what they know for free. You can also buy produce and goods from the Amish. Davy Crockett days are in August and you can watch the craftsman work and it is for the whole family. All vendors must have a "period" looking tent up and must dress in period clothing. The on site cooking is also period.

Volunteer to gain skills; veterinarian office and humane society is a good place to learn about wound care, antibiotic use and dosage, just go watch, then you will learn, most places will not turn down a volunteer. Zoos are a great place to learn about husbandry, housing and more than basic wound care, as smaller zoos take care of injuries themselves (after a vet is consulted), most of what you learn at these places about wound care can be used on humans. Colleges have book sales where you can get books on farming and some older trades/crafts very cheap (books are 1-5 dollars). Local small gun and knife shows are also a bountiful source of information [and logistics], from hard to find books to hard to find ammo.

Buy reference books! We recently went to a "Friends of the Library" book sale and spent just $12. We now have the McGraw-Hill's 20 volume set on technology ($5), doctor's desk references ("fill the box for $2"), a whole box. These included: beginner, intermediate and advanced practical chemistry, triage handbook, a nurse's reference guide, medical encyclopedias, and a diagnosis reference. We also got the EIR special report "Global Showdown Escalates", Practical Handyman from Greystone Press ($3). In many towns, you can join the Friends of the Library for $5 to $10 dollars annually, or just hit the book sales once per year. Our $12 investment filled the back seat of our car!

Even if you don’t live where your retreat is take the time to “visit” the area. Go to the local library, stop at the local shops and grab the touristy maps. In Amish communities the maps tell you about the local farms and what produce and goods they sell. They have fliers that have information on classes offered locally. The department of education has listings for adult education classes on things like welding. Introduce yourself to the locals, visit the farmers and the farmers market. Attend the church while you are there, it is the quickest way into the fold and into being welcomed by the locals. Whether you live there permanent or you will someday, you will want to be on friendly terms right away then when it all goes down.

In Tennessee when we were there, we saw newcomers (less than one year there) helping and being helped by the Amish. Neighbors coming together when they’re needed, no questions asked other than when do you need me. They all pull together and work well.

If your family isn’t ready, or is almost ready, taking these steps or some of these steps will help you get there. If you’re not “together” as a family in your preparedness then you need to find a way to be. Get the spouse interested in this even during an outing or vacation. Find a way to get your children involved. Preparing isn’t just for one person in the family, it’s for everyone. - T.D.

Mr. Rawles,
Hello again! Hope you and your family are doing well. I have had some questions on my mind lately, and was curious if you would mind helping me. (I know you must be tremendously busy with our "strong" economy!). My wife and I are both college students in Santa Cruz, California, and we have a very limited amount of storage space and limited income. Are there any tricks or pieces of advice you have for individuals like ourselves? I recently spent my tax refund on some firearms (which were from a federal firearms dealer :-[ ) and now I was curious about the next step. I contacted "Wiggy's" from your web site about some sleeping bags, but feel like a water filter would be a better investment at the moment. Thanks for your time!

OBTW, I feel like California is turning into a commune, I literally have less freedoms than I had recently thought. - V. from California

JWR Replies: Given the mild climate on the California coast, a water filter is much more important than cold weather gear for your next purchase. I recommend the American-made Aqua Rain brand. These are similar to the Big Berkey (imported from England), but they only cost half as much. (The US Dollar's recent slip versus the British Pound has sadly further widened this price gap.) Please compare prices with our advertisers such as Safecastle, JRH Enterprises, and Ready Made Resources, before buying elsewhere. Next, consider buying from our affiliate advertisers like Lehman's and Nitro-Pak. OBTW, if you contact any of our advertisers, then please mention where you saw their ad. Thanks!

Fellow novelist Matt Bracken mentioned this article: Farms of fear, about murders in rural South Africa. It gives some useful glimpses, when considering security measures for retreats in the not-too-distant Schumeresque future.

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Speaking of Harder Homes and Gardens, ponder this piece: Bulletproof public design in Los Angeles. (A hat tip to James K.)

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Inyokern spotted this sobering piece: Into the Economic Abyss: How Deep Will It Go? Even the mainstream media is catching on...

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Reader "EL" suggested using propane for a source of lighting. EL notes "The Amish in our area use it through out their buildings. Using three 30# and (2) 20# barbeque tanks with a accessory hose and fitting running a single mantle lantern from Wal-Mart, the set up (determined by testing hours of burn time from (1) 20# tank) is all that's needed to get five hours of light per night for one full year. The compact single mantle lantern puts out a little less than a 40 watt incandescent light bulb."

"Don't believe them, don't fear them, don't ask anything of them." - Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Friday, March 28, 2008

Our first post today is a cross-post (with permission) from Ranger Man's SHTFBlog:

Rawles, at SurvivalBlog, had a good post earlier this month that included reader-submitted comments on survival lessons from the homeless. Check the link to read the advice, which mostly contains thoughts on street survival as the homeless see it, how to score a free shower, etc. Let’s flip this line of thinking around and brainstorm on how staying dirty could be a SHTF survival technique.
If (when) the world is your enemy, deception is your ally. I think this is particularly pertinent to urban dwellers, but it could be valuable for everyone. WTSHTF - dress like a bum. Post-doomsday:

George: (whispering) - “Hey Bill, look over there.” (readies his rifle) “A bum, should we take him?”

Bill: (whispering back) - “Nah, look at him. Our clothes are in much better shape. He ain’t got nuthin’. Save the ammo.”

Remember in Parable of the Sower [by Octavia Butler] the doctor dude that dressed like a bum and wheeled around his cart that contained a big pile of cash and a full-auto? That dude knew what he was doing. Don’t make yourself a target. Make it so people want nothing to do with you. You can act deranged, appear diseased, wear dumpy clothes, rub yourself in dirt, etc.

Similarly, remember that television series from 1984 called “V”? The one where lizard-like aliens came to Earth pretending to be humans for the purpose of harvesting our bodies for food? There’s one scene in particular that I remember where one dude was smuggling some people in his truck. He comes upon a road block and quickly starts munching a raw onion. When roadblock dude starts questioning him, he is quickly taken aback by the onion breath. He moved the truck along quickly, never finding the people buried in the back.

Make yourself undesirable, and don’t show your preps off. The Golden Horde will want what you have. I know you’re all just itchin’ for s**t to hit the fan so you can look at everyone else scrambling for gear, food, and fuel and yell, “Ha! Told you so!” as you sit behind your dining room window fortified with sandbags, dressed in fatigues, and sipping a juice box, but resist the urge. Depending on the circumstances you may want to play down your preparations. When the entire town is starving you’ll want to look gaunt. I don’t care how much food is in your basement. When everyone is walking, don’t drive. I don’t care how much fuel is in your F-350.

You get the idea. Think outside the box, creativity is your greatest asset. - Ranger Man

I have read your web site and thanks for posting it. I am presently purchasing seven acres in Wyoming with an existing log home. We are going to build a new home on the same property and would like to
invest in a good attached underground bunker. Can you please tell me where I can find decent plans and specs for a bunker to sustain five adults and three children? I would like to branch it off of our new basement. I would really appreciate it. God Bless, Mel

JWR Replies: I would recommend Safecastle. They have lots of experience with both aboveground and underground shelters. They work with local contractors from coast to coast. They use their blueprints (tailored to your specifications, on request), and supply key components such as inward-opening vault doors and HEPA air filters (assuming that you want your vault to double as a fallout shelter). The rest of the supplies (rebar, forms, concrete, etc.) are sourced locally. They have a nice four color brochure that they mail to SurvivalBlog readers, upon request. But first, see the Safecastle web site.

We have some great news for you folks that have been wondering where all the approved retreats disappeared to, on the Idaho page of (This is SurvivalBlog's sister site that JWR put together specifically to help SurvivalBlog readers to find their own survival retreats.) More than 15 Idaho listings have now been posted! You can view them here.

In order to comply with guidelines set forth by the Idaho Real Estate Commission, although the listings are available on any public MLS approved site, the subsequent retreat evaluations, analysis and photos are only allowed to be disseminated to actual customers and contractual clients of licensed real estate offices, upon request from those interested persons. In order to stay within those guidelines you'll be required to agree to the 'Terms of Use' in order to view any of the non-For Sale By Owner (FSBO) Idaho listings. The clickable agreement covers two important items. First, that a request is being submitted to the chosen real estate company to display approved survival retreats and their evaluations. Secondly, that it is understood that by agreeing to the service that no financial obligation is owed to the real estate company and that one may contact any licensed agent for further information about any property. This process is essentially the same as e-mailing an agent for information about property. However, this process will allow you to review approved retreat properties anonymously, without e-mailing a bunch of real estate agents, giving out your contact information and being subsequently bothered with e-mails about properties that do not meet your criteria.

One more important change is that the Tactical Analysis and other non-PC type information will not be posted, even though the information is on a private web page for customers and clients. Only the standard MLS page will be displayed. For that technical and other additional info you'll need to contact the Retreat Evaluator Todd Savage. This is done out of respect to the sellers, their agents, and brokers alike.

Moving on to northern Idaho, There is a beautiful 40 acre parcel on the North Bench just above Bonners Ferry, that is going to be coming up for sale or trade soon. It features about 20 acres of rolling timbered hills and draws, and about 20 acres which was at one time plowed and tilled by horses. There are multiple building sites, plentiful game, and majestic views of the Selkirk Mountain range. Sun exposure and the micro climate of the North Bench area lend the property to be turned into a small community based farm, bed and breakfast, or a combination of both! The seller wishes to be discreet about marketing so information will only be emailed out to pre-screened folks and will not be posted on, other than a brief mention here and there. The price has been set starting at $275,000. The seller is willing to trade for a retreat in Colorado as well. Please e-mail me if you wish to be included for further information on this incredible property.

Over the next week I will be posting many more approved retreats on the private 'customer only' pages on Look for them when mentioned each day in SurvivalBlog's Odds 'n Sod's section! OBTW, prices are becoming more realistic with each passing day, and the market will be flooded with listings this spring with some incredible deals.

I plan to host several 'Approved Retreat' tours of the Palouse Hills, Boundary County, and northwestern Montana locales this spring and summer. Please e-mail me to be included as well for detailed information and dates. The tours will be limited to 20 reservations each, on a first-come, first-served basis. If you have always wanted to see the 'real deal' this would be the time!

Congratulations to "Mr. Echo" who recently closed on a spectacular off the grid retreat "somewhere in north central Idaho".

- Todd Savage Certified Retreat Evaluation Consultant - Realtor, Real Team Real Estate Center
Phone: (208) 946-1151
Idaho is, what America was...Free!

Courtesy of Steve H., comes this article: Is your grocery bill going up? You're not alone

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More and more bad economic news: Investment Firms Tap Fed for Billions. Meanwhile, we read: Corporate liquidity begins to dry up. Also, The Insider told me that KB Home (already in hot water for inflating home appraisals) just defaulted on a $850 million loan from Wells Fargo, and they've been given just 30 days to settle up, or face a foreclosure that could trigger collapse of the company. The global credit crisis is far from over, folks. The chances of a full scale economic depression are growing, daily. Get your logistics squared away, pronto!

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California freefall: Home prices down 26% since last year. This is not anywhere near the bottom folks. I stand by my prediction of at least 60% price declines in the most overbought markets.

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Do you own a Remington Model 700? If so, then reader CDR recommends the Remington 700 BDL Kwik Klip Magazine Conversion, available from Cabela's, Gun Parts Corp., and several other Internet vendors.

"I'd rather be over trained than under trained." - Bruce Lee

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The high bid in the current SurvivalBlog Benefit Auction lot is now at $230. This auction is for four items: a MURS Alert Base station, a MURS Alert Hand-held transceiver, an earbud, and a Kaito KA-1102 AM/FM/Shortwave. These radios were kindly donated by the owner of Affordable Shortwaves and MURS Radios. If you aren't familiar with the Dakota Alert infrared perimeter security system, take a few minute to look at the Dakota Alert web site. These alarms are very reliable and versatile. I often recommend them to my consulting clients--especially those that plan to have lightly-manned retreats. You can easily set up multiple detector/transmitter sensors to provide 360 degree perimeter security for a large area. Instead of just a generic alarm, they will let you know which sensor was tripped, via a computer-generated voice message to a radio that you can carry on your belt. (Such as "Alert, Zone Two.") The same radio can be used for point-to-point voice communications, on the little-used MURS band. The three radios have a retail value of $210. The auction ends on April 15th. Please e-mail us your bids, in $10 increments.

Hello Jim,
I am a prepper who is trying to do so on a very tight budget (wife, four kids, and two jobs just to make ends meet-you get the idea). Here are some random ideas that others might find useful.
1) Try drying your own fruits and vegetables for food storage. Whether homegrown or bought. This can be done inexpensively and dried food takes up very little storage space.
2) Consider making your own biodiesel. I am in the early stages of doing this myself. It's not that hard. Just pay attention to detail and do it right. Besides saving a lot of money now this will also allow you to build up a large amount of fuel storage for vehicle and generator use inexpensively. This will become much more critical as fuel prices skyrocket in the future.
3) You need a diesel vehicle to use the biodiesel in. In addition to a diesel truck, think about getting an older Mercedes Benz diesel car for an everyday driver and second BOV. Don't laugh. The W123 chassis cars, specifically the 240D and 300D models made from 1977 to 1985 are built like tanks, lots of space and they are fairly simple to work on. I am not mechanical at all and plan on doing all the work on mine. has great pictorials and do-it-yourself DVDs to help you. These cars have no computers so they should be EMP-proof.
4) If you have a high quality roto-tiller such as a Troy-Bilt or BCS brand (and you should if your serious about food production) it could be used to earn money/barter. If things get really hard gardening will make a dramatic comeback. Most people don't have tillers and there should be a good market tilling ground for people. Assuming you have enough fuel/spare parts this could make you indispensable in a small town.
5) A recent [SurvivalBlog] post talked about a vehicle as an improvised generator. While probably somewhat inefficient in terms of fuel consumption versus electricity produced it sounds perfect for someone on a budget.

I have two questions: Will running the inverter straight from the battery prematurely wear out the starter battery in the car or should the inverter be wired directly to the battery cables? Will using this set up overwork the alternator and cause early failure?

Some Useful Web Sites:
Look at the eBay Motors listings if you want to see what these Mercedes vehicles look like.

This is just my little contribution to the blog and I hope others find it useful., - Jeff S.

JWR Replies: I recommend having at least one diesel tractor, one utility pickup or quad, and one diesel car at every retreat. Although they are fairly scarce, in my experience, a pre-1986 Mercedes diesel 300D series station wagon (on the W123 chassis) is worth looking for. These share a common drive train with the much more common 300D series four-door sedans, so parts are readily available.

Ready Made Resources (one of our most loyal advertisers) offers an affordable small-scale biodiesel making system. The recent spike in diesel prices will give you a big advantage in bargaining for a price when buying any diesel vehicle.

In answer to your questions: As long as the engine is left running at low to moderate RPMs, then using a vehicle's alternator as a power source--for either DC loads, and/or to run a small 120 VAC inverter--will not cause excessive wear and tear on your battery or alternator. You may have to rig a manually-controlled set-throttle. Just keep in mind the usual safety precautions, such as carbon monoxide venting, and making sure that the transmission lever does not get bumped into "drive". To conserve your precious fuel, it is probably best to buy a bank of deep cycle ("golf cart") type batteries that you can charge whenever you run the engine.

Rather than using jumper cable clamps, for safety it is best to attached heavy gauge battery cable and terminal lugs, Use a detachable high-amperage-rated 12 VDC polarity-protected "Pigtail" block connector, in parallel with your vehicle battery cables. That way you can quickly disconnect and still be able drive your vehicle without a time-consuming cable un-bolting procedure. Ideally, your battery bank will be the heart of an alternative power system that will also--as your budget eventually allows--include some photovoltaic panels. (This online primer is a good starting point.) As previously mentioned, in SurvivalBlog, for 12 VDC devices "downstream" from your battery bank that draw 30 amps or less, I recommend standardizing with Anderson Power Pole connectors rather than flimsy cigarette lighter plugs and jacks.

To follow up on Mike Williamson's recent letter on choosing a state for relocation, the April 2008 issue of Outdoor Life magazine has a good article on the best 200 towns in the U.S. for hunters and fishermen. The towns were rated for:

Abundant Fishable Species
Abundant Huntable Species
Public Land Proximity (This may or may not be a good thing, IMHO.)
Trophy Potential
Gun Laws

From 1 to 10, the top 10 towns rated were:
Mountain Home, Arkansas
Lewsiton, Idaho
Sheridan, Wyoming
Cody, Wyoming
Pocatello, Idaho
Lewistown, Montana
Marquette, Michigan
Dillon, Montana
Page, Arizona
Bismark, North Dakota
They also list an additional 200 more towns. You may or may not agree with their ratings, but if an abundance of wild game and fish are important to you now, or during a SHTF event, this is a good list to hang on to.
Both Field and Stream, and Outdoor Life have upgraded their quality of late, and are well worth the subscription prices. Wait for the sales, you may get them for a dollar per issue. I am seeing more and more prep and survival articles in both magazines. Perhaps the editors actually "get it"? I can't say, but they're both worth a look. If you don't want to subscribe, check them out at your local library. Best Regards, - Florida Guy

Could you address storing ammo? Regarding ammo cans, vacuum sealing, and what that actually accomplishes? Also would 02 absorbers or silica gel be in any way useful? I'm currently using vacuum pack on my surplus after I inspect them and remove any surface dirt/corrosion,then into ammo cans for storage. I also like the idea of vacuum packing small amounts, any thoughts on that? Thanks, - SP

JWR Replies: Be sure to buy military ammo cans with rust-free interiors and seals that are still soft and free of any cracks. This will provide an essentially air tight seal. Adding a 1 to 4 ounce bag of silica gel desiccant is definitely worthwhile, to remove any moisture from inside the can.

As I have mentioned twice before in the blog, DO NOT vacuum seal loaded ammo. Doing so can unseat bullets! A very light vacuum might be acceptable, but even a home vacuum packing machine such as a Tilia FoodSaver, can achieve enough of a vacuum to unseat bullets that are not crimped into cartridge necks.

Oxygen absorbing packets are not the best choice for ammunition storage. (These are designed to kill insect larvae in storage foods.) If you are worried about corrosion, it is much more practical and cost effective to use silica gel desiccant packets.

James and Memsahib,
In reference to LL's letter posted yesterday, you and the Memsahib are right on target again.

My wife, a licensed Vet, says that a recurring theme at Veterinarian Continuing Education Conferences is the call for more Vets to consider specializing in large animal care. At a recent meeting she spoke up giving several reasons why it doesn't pay to treat large animals, and others agreed with her.

For many Vets treating large animals there's little money to be earned. The travel time between billable calls in a rural area, the difficulty some owners have locating their sick animals on a sprawling property once the Vet gets there, and the expectation the Vet will "just look at" some other animals and answer questions for free while at the property, are all experiences of the rural vet.

Common occurrence: an animal's owner might not discover a sick animal until the owner gets home from work in the evening. The owner then wants a Vet to make a farm call. Also, many birthing problems occur late at night, with accompanying increased demands placed on the Vet who treats large animals.

Another problem for the rural, large animal practice Vet is the "territorial" nature of animals. When the Vet is on their turf, animals can become more defensive and aggressive. Vets are injured more in this type of practice, and are sometimes disabled.

Now contrast those demands with the opportunity for the Vet who remains at a clinic in town treating only pets. The Vet can treat several dogs and cats during the day, one after another. The diagnostic equipment is there, the meds are available, the Vet's assistants are on hand to help, and the animals tend to be less territorial when on the Vet's turf. And the small practice Vet is typically earning the greater income.

So we agree with you, folks better get the information they need to treat their stock ahead of time. As you said, "When the grid goes down, we will be on our own". - KA

It is important to keep track of solar flares, especially for those of us interested in amateur radio. (Sun spot activity dramatically affects radio propagation.) It is also a lot of fun to get a glimpse of auroral displays. One site that we have found useful is They offer a free e-mail alert service.

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Michael Z. Williamson found a site with lots of useful information on 12 Volt DC power systems.

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A reader in Pebble Beach, California is a part-time FFL that recently got "stuck" with 2,000 rounds of Black Hills 75 and 77 grain target grade .223 Remington ammo. (A customer had placed a special order with a small deposit, but then moved without leaving any contact information before the ammo arrived!) If you live on the central California coast or in the San Francisco Bay Area and you own a .223 bolt action, then you should jump on this. Contact Michael via e-mail, or phone: (831) 622-9033

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The Federal Reserve's unprecedented move of bailing out Bear Stearns makes me wonder about further bailouts in the near future. As the liquidity crisis spreads, and the US residential real estate market continues to tank, I can only foresee the Mother of All Bailouts (MOAB), wherein the US Treasury (read: the US taxpayers) will effectively become the lender of last resort for countless billions in toxic debt--mainly mortgage-backed securities. The full implications of the MOAB are frightening. We are, in essence, about to nationalize millions of "liar loan" mortgages. Stand by for mass inflation, folks!

"If you draw your sword against 'your' prince you must be prepared to throw away the scabbard." - Machiavelli

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Dear Mr. Rawles,
We are presently in the middle of lambing season here. The day following our shearing, one of our ewes looked quite ill. She was glassy eyed, was shaking, and unsteady on her feet. A quick consultation with our Merck Veterinary Manual made me think that it was likely milk fever. Merck said the stress of shearing and delayed feeding is a trigger. Death could result in as quickly as 6 hours without treatment. Therapy recommended was an injection of calcium. It was then I discovered that the availability of large animal vets does not go hand in hand with rural locations! We could not find a vet that had any injectable calcium within 70 miles! The nearest vet, 50 miles listed herself in the phone book as a "large and small animal" vet, but had no injectable calcium on hand! And no, the feed stores didn't have any either! We finally reached a small animal vet 70 miles away, bless his heart, whom I only consulted by phone, and whom I had never met. We reached him just before he was leaving his office. He had some injectable calcium on hand. He could not come out to our place, but he was willing to leave it in his mail box for us to pick up. No charge!

The thought struck me: If things are like this now, then what will they be after things go bad? I am really going to rethink the vet supplies I keep on hand, and stock up! - LL

The Memsahib replies: ewes, mares, or cows can die of milk fever . It is most common in dairy cattle, but it does occur in sheep, horses, and even cats and dogs. It can occur both prepartum and postpartum. I recommend that any SurvivalBlog readers that plan to raise livestock learn how to do their own vetting, assemble a hard copy set of veterinary references, and lay in the needed supplies, in depth. When the grid goes down, we will be on our own.

Note from JWR: The discussion of use of force in retreat security (and "Less Than Lethal" means) has elicited large number of e-mails from readers. For the sake of brevity, and since so many letters covered the same ground, the following are just three of them. The first of these is from "FerFAL". He is SurvivalBlog's volunteer correspondent in Argentina.


Hi James,
I’m glad to see that you are advising people to have non lethal weapons [in addition to guns] and (when the situation allows it) deterrent approaches when dealing with trespassers.

Some situations require immediate lethal action, but that does not mean you’ll never require non lethal solutions on occasions. Life isn’t always black and white. On the contrary, most of the time it’s a plethora of shades of gray.

This is awful common in these parts, I’ve often seen people fire warning shots, fired a few myself on occasions when visiting my friend’s farm. On one occasion it was just kids stealing some fire wood. A few .22 LR shots sent them away.

Not long ago we saw some poachers well within my friend’s land, too close to the house. I shot a couple of .44 Magnum rounds and they got the message, changed direction immediately.

People, as James warns, this is a last resort, or almost last resort alterative. Be careful of the legal consequences! Over here it is common practice but it’s still serious business, be ready to explain the cause for such action.

I keep a couple of Less Than Lethal rubber pellet 12 ga shells in my Mossberg's 500 stock shell holder, ready in case I need a Less Than Lethal alternative. As you explain, it portrays you as a humane person that cared enough to at least have the non lethal alternative, even if lethal action was required afterwards.

Another word of caution, "Less Than Lethal" 12 ga ammo [such as rubber pellets and beanbag rounds] can be lethal. The one I have is military ammo designed for riots and clearly states that it can be lethal if shot directly at the target at less than 10 meters.

The knock down power of these rounds, even against healthy, robust adults is pretty impressive.

God bless you and your family during these special days, take care. - FerFAL


Dear Jim:
As a proud 10Cent Challenge subscriber, I know that the recent subject of Levels of Force could be argued back and forth for a long time. What may help all your subscribers and readers are articles on the defensive use of firearms by Massad Ayoob. I found them at, for example, and any internet search should come up with them. He gives excellent practical advice on gun situations, what to do, not do, as well as what to say and not say. The reader in Maine who fired a warning shot would know this is never done by law enforcement, too much liability. If one is involved in a shooting, tell law enforcement something like "...I was afraid for my life (or another's) and had to fire my weapon to save a life, I want to clear this up as much as you do but I need to speak to an attorney first..." and then SHUT UP, which is exactly what they would do in the same circumstance.

People need to know the use of a gun is serious, life is not a movie, and shooting people, even those that deserve it, is not glorious. Folks will come back and get revenge, either with a civil or criminal complaint or violent ambush at a later date.

Living here close to the Mexican border, being once mugged at knife point by three illegal aliens (for $1.30 in my pocket), working all hours in these mean streets, I have never had to pull a gun on anyone, thank goodness, and survived many altercations none the worse for wear. My job with the power company for the last 30 years has me on occasion cut electrical service for non-payment at the pole or junction box when the tech's cannot cut it at the meter because of access, dogs, etc. Having encountered angry biker gangs, meth labs, and all other sorts of bad people and bad situations, the use of a gun has always been kept as a last resort. My truck has reverse to get away from most problems and luckily I'm paid by the hour and not by how much work I do. (-:

The point is pulling a gun will get you in a lot of trouble, shooting a warning shot will get you arrested, shooting someone may very well cost you everything you have worked for up to now in your life. Your home, retreat, guns, food reserves, retirement account, everything. I would definitely shoot if my life or another's life were in danger, but that is indeed very rare and most situations can be avoided with a little education, forethought and by setting aside one's ego. Take Care and God Bless. - Cactus Jim


I'm assuming that many patrons of this blog who read and digested the two letters referred to in the subject line have never served on active duty in a combat arms branch and/or never served as a law enforcement officer. Because of those two letters, many are possibly over thinking self defense reactions to would be criminals/trespassers/thieves? The effect on law abiding citizens who choose to possess firearms for defense is that they subconsciously and automatically hesitate to defend themselves because of all the legal discussion and, 'it happened to me' type cautionary statements. Police officers are guilty of the same thing because of legal double talk (i.e: I don't want to get sued so I better wait as long as possible to ...a real disaster for us cops since it's either our lives or possible jail time). In order to clear the air, as I believe many readers are confused and probably have reached out to the closest friend or co-worker they trust for clarification. What and when to do something is not complicated. I hope to eliminate the ubiquitous 'what if' in so many people's minds (including cops, former military who have returned to civilian living).
OBTW: I have been serving as a law enforcement officer for 18 years, and I served five years active duty with the US Army. Most of my army experience was as an Airborne Ranger and served in the Middle East for 13 months. No, I don't know everything about the subject but have spent the majority of my working life considering all these issues pre 9-11 and post-9-11.

1. The cops are not your friends (see: letter by Gary B in Maine who shot off a warning shot with a 12 gauge). Cops are for one thing: to prosecute you. That's it. They are resources for the state's attorney, period. Sure, the other guy may be guilty, but until proven guilty, you are right there with bad guy facing charges involving firearms. Not good, especially with so many anti-Second Amendment types in office. So, in such scenarios, do you spill your guts to the first cop who shows up while other guy tells lies because as a criminal he knows what to say?
2. If you are threatened, you're threatened. What else is there to know? (a threat is a situation where you 'feared for your life or feared serious bodily injury'. Using lethal force because somebody stole/attempted to steal your XYZ isn't justification for lethal force. However, read on...). If threatened, then immediately go to the next level and take care of business at that level. Make sure you can articulate that you were threatened. If in doubt as to how to articulate that, just do an Internet search engine on lethal force. As an 18 year officer, I tell you that if someone refuses to obey a legal and clear command to do something, they are resisting (and they know it). Because a subject resists, I know that I am permitted to take it to the next level. Said bad guy will continue to resist until you do something about it. If you don't do something that gives you the upper hand, he's got the upper hand. Better to maintain the upper hand and act from that position versus from the other. Waiting spells potential disaster. As a citizen just trying to protect themselves and their retreat, if it comes to that, it isn't any different. In my mind the big difference is if you/me were in a survival times situation, are you really expecting some cops to respond? They'll probably be more concerned with their own property, family, neighborhood, garden plot, et cetera.
3. The more training you have, the more your confidence will rise.
4. Sending your dogs after an intruder(s) who have entered your property is stupid. If your dogs were trained for such things, the intruders wouldn't have intruded. Sending an aggressive untrained barking dog into the the field/yard where you feel intruders pose a threat (a real threat, after all, you have the guns, night vision, IR floodlights, ....) is an great way to get them killed. If the dogs barked while they were in the house, you were alerted. So why send them out? They did their job, [now] you do yours. If you have trained dogs in protection (and related skills), that's a different scenario. Most people don't have that kind of dog. If bad guy kills one or all of your dogs, now you have a less secure retreat than you did before. The only 'threat' to fear, is the one who poses a 'real threat'. He'll take those dogs out if they aren't trained to threaten him. - Flhspete

Dear Jim,
I found this article on the safest states to live in, based on major crime rates. Compare that to this article from "Parents" magazine, who['s author] seems to rate states by the number of socialist laws they have.

This is the [same] magazine whose solution to children fearing fire, after seeing the attacks of Sep 11 [2001], was "therapy." I used the expedient of starting a small brush pile out back, dousing it with an extinguisher, and leaving a new extinguisher in their room. $30 is a lot cheaper and less stigmatizing than "therapy," and had the practical benefit of teaching them how to control small fires.
Along the same lines, here's an article from England.

I was being partly facetious when I suggested in my novel "The Weapon" that fire extinguishers would be banned like guns because "firefighting should be left to professionals." It seems that I wasn't too far off.

I am so very glad my parents made the decision to relocate from the UK to Canada, and then to the United States. Just keep in mind there's nowhere left to retreat to at this point. Liberty must make its stand here. - Michael Z. Williamson

Reader "LG" sent us this: Fed's rescue halted a derivatives Chernobyl. JWR's comment: I think "delayed" would have been a more accurate word than "prevented", for the headline

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KAF flagged this Reuters article: Cities grapple with surge in abandoned homes

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RBS found a piece that is probably already "old news" to most SurvivalBlog readers: Cell Phones--FBI Can Listen In, Even When Phone is Turned Off

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Bee plague worsening, anxious keepers say

"[Recognition of] Peak Oil will never catch on in any major way, at least no more than the folks in the Tower of Babel economy ever caught on to the big flaw in their economic model. We've got 50 years invested in suburban buildout economy, 150 years invested in industrial living, and 500 years invested in the age of expansion to come to understand just what this means for us, at least in the aggregate." - Matt Savinar, Editor of Life After The Oil Crash (LATOC)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Today we present another article for Round 15 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The writer of the best non-fiction article will win a valuable four day "gray" transferable Front Sight course certificate. (Worth up to $2,000!) Second prize is a copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, generously donated by Jake Stafford of Arbogast Publishing. Round 15 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entries. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival will have an advantage in the judging.

In light of the impending economic and social crisis, a knowledge of edible wild plants is essential. I have included a list of seven easily recognized plants in this discussion, but keep in mind there are hundreds of edible species. These seven are common throughout much of North America.

When foraging, one must remember that if you need a field guide to identify a plant, you are not ready to eat that plant. However, field guides with color photographs are necessary for anyone interested in this activity. In my opinion, the best field guide on the market today is The Forager’s Harvest by Samuel Thayer. Although it only covers 32 plants, it does so in amazing detail. Unlike other authors, Thayer has eaten all the plants he discusses. He also notes important errors found in other field guides.

Before listing my seven choices, please keep these facts in mind: (1) an individual may be allergic (or develop an allergy to) any of these plants. Initially consume them in moderation. (2) although a plant may be easily recognized during its flowering stage, this is often NOT the time they are collected for food. Use sources with color photos (not drawings) of a plant at various stages of its life cycle to aid identification. (3) In addition to field guides and on-line sources, consult a botany reference to become familiar with botanical terms.

At the end of this discussion, I have included both on-line references as well as field guides from my own personal collection. While you may not be initially familiar with some of the plants on this list, once you see color photographs of these wild edibles you will be able to recognize many of them on your front lawn.

(1) Plantain- broadleaf plantain is found on lawns throughout the continent. It has broadly elliptical leaves that rise directly from the root in a formation known as a basal rosette; these leaves remain close to the ground. This plant can be eaten as a salad or boiled in soups (the latter is preferred when the plant gets older-at this point the leaves become stringy). Plantain leaves are rich in vitamins A and C, and minerals. Narrow-leaf plantain is also edible and is similar in appearance except for the shape of the leaves. Fresh leaves can also be mashed and applied to minor wounds.

(2) Common Purslane- Purslane is also found on lawns throughout North America. This plant barely reaches an inch off the ground. It has fleshy, jointed stems (purplish- green with a reddish tinge), and narrow, thick leaves about two inches long growing in opposite directions. The stems contain a clear fluid (Spurge, a poisonous plant that looks similar to Purslane, has milky sap). The best way to harvest this plant is to cut off only the leafy tips; it will rapidly sprout again and provide greens from May until the first frost. It can be used in soups or salads.

(3) White Oak Acorns- The leaves of a typical white oak have rounded lobes which are never bristle tipped (as opposed to red or black oak). After shelling acorns, they must be boiled to leech out tannins (in high concentrations, tannins damage the kidneys—tannins are also found in tea). The yellowish-brown water left over from leeching is a good topical remedy for poison ivy rashes; it is also styptic—it will stop bleeding. Leeching takes several hours—change the water each time it becomes yellowish-brown. After leeching, the acorns can be dried in a slow oven. They can be eaten or ground into a fine meal. This meal can be mixed with flour to extend your supply; acorn meal lacks gluten and will not make dough rise. The acorns of other oaks, while requiring a longer leeching period, are also edible.

(4) Maple Trees- people think of maple syrup, but the liquid extracted from a tapped maple tree is potable. The “keys” (winged seeds) can be boiled or roasted, while the leaves can be used in salads. In emergencies, the inner bark can also be consumed.

(5) Wild Rose- this plant is widely distributed throughout the continent. Few foods have a higher vitamin C content. The rose-hips (seed pods) can be used to make jams or dried and used for soups or teas. They remain on the plant throughout winter and can be picked when other food is not available. The seeds within rose-hips can be ground and boiled in water to provide a rich source of vitamin E. Rose flowers and leaves can also be used to make tea.

(6) Lamb’s Quarter- this plant, which thrives throughout most of the U.S., is regarded as among the most delicious of wild edibles (similar to spinach). It is available from
spring to the first frost. This plant is generally 3-5 feet tall with diamond shaped leaves; the leaves have irregular teeth or shallow lobes when mature (immature plants have spade
shaped, toothless leaves). The undersides of the leaves are often coated with a thick whitish-gray powder. Before cooking, water will not wet these leaves.

(7) Cattails- this is an easily recognizable plant of swamps and marshes throughout the world. It is a year round food source. The leaf bases can be harvested from mid spring to early summer. The immature spikes can be boiled and served with butter like corn on the cob during early and mid summer. Cattail pollen requires little processing once gathered (except for sifting) and can be combined with flour stores; it is collected during June and July. The cores of the underground rootstocks are a valuable source of starch (especially during winter)- waders or a wetsuit would be a good investment for winter harvesting. Finally, small sprouts begin to form at the tip of the rootstocks between early summer and early fall

Use the following listed sources for more information about these wild edibles. Also keep in mind that this is only the tip of the iceberg; there are hundreds of wild edibles waiting to be utilized—good luck!

Thayer, Samuel. The Forager’s Harvest. Ogema, Wisconsin: Forager’s Harvest, 2006
Angier, Bradford. Feasting Free on Wild Edibles. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books, 1969
Kinsey and Fernald. Edible Wild Plants of Eastern North America. New York: Dover Publications, 1943
Peterson, Lee. Edible Wild Plants: Eastern/Central North America. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1977
Heyl and Burt. Edible and Poisonous Plants of the Eastern States. (A card deck with color photos!) Lake Oswego, Oregon: Plant Deck, Inc., 1973

Web Resources:

Good Evening,
I've recently become a reader of your web site - thank you for the excellent resource.
Having read through your information on Recommended Retreat Areas, I have an additional question or two. My husband, kids and I currently live in Utah. He has family here, within an hour drive. We also live in a heavily populated area, right on the Wasatch Fault. That is worrisome. My mother, many cousins and close friends live in rural coastal North Carolina. My mom lives alone and is aging. We have thought ahead to the possibility of needing to care for her. She has a large house that is paid for and will pass on to me when she leaves this life.
My family has very strong ties to North Carolina, having ancestors in the same county for 200+ years. My husband and I have lived there together - he felt most welcome and fit in very well. We were part of a close knit church group, in addition to family and neighbors that looked out for each other. I know that the East Coast is not high on your list of places to be, and my family is in a hurricane/flooding zone. On the other hand, it's rural, the home is paid for, it's on almost two acres that can be used for small scale homesteading, and there is a family/friends support system in place. Do you feel that these things are more important than having a retreat in a specific location, i.e. West of the Mississippi? Thank you, - Mary C.

JWR Replies: As I described in my book Rawles on Retreats and Relocation, you cannot put a price tag on having deep roots in a community! Even if you were not known personally, if you are related and share a distinct surname with "one of the pioneer families", then you have an exceedingly valuable "in" in a rural area. This factor should weigh heavily in your choice of retreat locales.

My main objections to moving to the eastern United States are the generally higher population density, and the unfavorable downwind position of the eastern states in the event of a full scale nuclear exchange. You can fairly well mitigate both of of those drawbacks by:

1.) Building a home fallout/storm shelter (typically by upgrading an existing basement, or building a stand-alone shelter, such as those built by Safecastle), and

2.) By teaming up with contiguous neighbors or "doubling up" with another family that would share your house with you after TSHTF, to provide additional security for your retreat.

The only other significant limitation in your situation is owning less than two acres. Perhaps you could buy or lease some adjoining land. Good luck with your upcoming move!


I see a lot of letters concerning 're-locating' out of the U.S. What are these people thinking? If there is one country that still has a modicum of privacy, freedom, and the ability to 'disappear' into the wilderness, then it is here in the U.S. Where in the world can you own the variety and quantity of firearms than here? [Where else can you] stockpile food, go off the grid et cetera? The legal system is still intact here as well, so you can win in court under most circumstances. I just cant figure Americans willing to give up this uniquely free country for some Third World gamble in some distant land completely removed from family, friends, heritage and culture. It boggles the mind. - Jason in N. Idaho



I read with interest the article "Some Offshore Retreat Considerations", by P. Traveler. There was much of value in the article. I hope I can add some information for your readers. My circumstances are that I work and live in a South East Asian country for an International NGO. My background is prior military (paratrooper), Police and Prison service, followed by working as an NGO security officer in Bosnia and Sudan before taking my current post. I have a degree in Risk, Crisis and Disaster Management.

I am also married to a local woman which impacts my survival planning. In Asia you don't just marry a wife. You marry the entire extended family which brings some strengths and weaknesses.

Personally I am in the Jerry Pournelle school of survivalism: Prepared for, but trying to prevent TEOTWAWKI. See [Pournelle's] Foreword to the first edition of "Tappan on Survival" which says, in part:
"'[Mel Tappan] saw civilization as hopelessly doomed. Collapse was inevitable, and the only prudent thing to do was to be prepared for it. I didn't agree then, and I don't now. I think civilization can be saved. Can be. But I won't guarantee it. Be Prepared is a pretty good motto for anybody, scouts or anyone else. And of course there are times when I think Mel was right."

As Pournelle says, being prepared is a good and necessary thing. I would not call myself a retreater. That implies running away.

Quoting from Pournelle again:

"There's only one problem: I don't want to move. I like living in cities. The word 'civilized' originally meant those who can–and do–live in cities, and I happen to care a lot for my civilization. When challenged, I can make a reasoned defense of city life, but I shouldn't have to. I like it here. I don't intend to let the barbarians chase me out, and there's an end to the discussion!"

I have been following survivalism since I read the book 'Starman's Son' by Andre Norton. I did the usual bush survival stuff. I read Larry Dean Olson, Mel Tappan, Dr. Bruce Clayton, Soldier of Fortune [magazine] and American Survival Guide [magazine]. I always had my bugout bag and stores so I could go about my duties in law enforcement without having to worry about the home front. I note that since the 1980's the world has been collapsing so plan for things to go right as well as for things to go wrong. I am alarmed by people (especially on the Peak Oil sites) who tell young people not to go to college because the world is doomed anyway. If I had followed that advice I would be unemployed instead of working in interesting countries around the world. Just study something that is useful in both a collapse situation and in good times.

In Asia the survival unit is the extended family. I am particularly fortunate that the family I have married into is reasonably well educated but still has [native] survival skills. My wife's parents survived a period of auto-genocide despite the fact that my father in law had served on the opposing side during the war. It was family connections that kept him alive. My wife and her older brothers and sisters still know how to live off the land and farm. The younger ones are more of a concern and would have a more difficult time adjusting to a survival situation. They tend to be more interested in mobile phones and karaoke. Having said that, the bulk of the family accepts my arguments for survival precautions and things like food storage. The younger ones think I am a strange foreigner but the parents get it because they have lived survival. In a crisis the young ones still do what their parents tell them!

If you have family (or marry into one) it is almost certainly a bonus.

A few tips you might want to consider.

* In developing countries the medical care is not great. Consider doing a Wilderness EMT [W-EMT] First Responder course before you depart. The training will not be available locally.
* Get skills. They cannot take skills away. People have survived extreme situations with next to nothing.
* Asia is a great place to learn martial arts! [Although there are equally effective trainers in the US, Canada, Australasia and Europe. Still it is kind of fun training in Asia for someone who grew up watching 'Kung Fu' on TV.]
* Get mentally prepared. I would share with your readers the view that religious belief is important. Unlike most of your readers I am a Buddhist, as is my wife. But I follow the warrior view of Buddhism--not aging hippy pacifism which I believe to be immoral (and not really Buddhist).

* Study how the indigenous people survived and how any guerrilla groups operated in the country. If coming to Asia there are some jungle survival schools. (Web search engines are your friend!)
* If coming to Asia read some books about how non-Asians functioned behind the lines [during World War II] against the Japanese such as the Coast Watchers and the OSS/SOE. 'The Jungle is Neutral' By F. Spencer Chapman is a good book to start with.
* The book "The Sovereign Individual" by William Rees-Mogg and Basil Davidson has some strategies for protecting your wealth when overseas.
* Enjoy life. Take precautions, learn defensive skills, medical skills,and so forth. But try not to get a bunker mentality.
* Learn about urban permaculture and food production.
* When researching a country you might want to look at some books about Country Risk such as the 'The J Curve' and spend some time looking around the Carlton University site 'Country Indicators for Foreign Policy'
* Finally, while aimed at NGO security personnel, there are some good resources for people living in developing countries at this web site.

Regards, - Felix D.

SF in Hawaii mentioned Wisemen Trading and Supply. Check out the "Picklemeister", near the bottom of their crocks product page.

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Tonight's season finale episode of the Jericho television series (Tuesday, March 25, 2008), titled "Patriots and Tyrants" looks like it will be good. The five minute teaser for the finale (on the CBS web site) shows a pro-Second Amendment message hat is most unusual for a network television show. No wonder that the show is now rumored to be doomed to cancellation. OBTW, all of the first and second seasons are now available for online viewing.

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Thanks to D.C. for finding this: Dow up 187; can the rally hold? The "Rah-rah" market mavens never know when to quit, do they? CD's comment: "Is the proper word fib or is it just a cover up? The insiders say cover up since their whole underwriting staff and commercial department just we sold to HSBC Global of New York and their hedging team is now working for Smith Barney."

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Jason in northern Idaho mentioned a web pages that describes the health effects of various fats and oils.

"Words may show a man's wit, but actions his meanings." - Benjamin Franklin

Monday, March 24, 2008

One way that you can help increase the readership of SurvivalBlog is by e-mailing the Permalinks of blog articles and letters that you think would be of interest to your friends and relatives. Just click on "Permalink" beneath any blog entry. Then you can copy and paste the URL from the displayed Permalinked page into an e-mail. Many thanks!

Greetings Jim, Memsahib, and Readers,
I wanted to mention a couple things regarding caves for shelter or storage. Many years ago, in my youth, I became interested in Spelunking (Caving) and was lucky enough to explore caves in Tennessee with seasoned Spelunkers with fifteen years experience. Depending on your climate you will not only get a 'wet season' where you have to deal with a lot of dampness but you may actually face the cave being almost totally under water. We found this out the hard way when on one trip the cave we were going to explore a lower chamber we found was totally submerged from the previous week's rains. We did manage to explore a upper chamber that was well above the water line. Even though the cave we explored was well hidden, as the one Linda H mentioned, others had used the entrance chamber because of discarded beer cans and trash left behind. And, yes, we packed out other's trash. Once we left the entrance chamber signs of others having frequented the other chambers faded away. But if you are curious about a cave, you can bet someone else has been curious also. After our trek of nearly six hours into the mountain we thought we found the end of the chamber's run. As all humans like to put their mark wherever they go I found a name, that was not very legible, and a date of 1784 carved (heavily scratched) into the rock. After looking around we located another chamber through a very small opening that had remnants of an old hemp rope leading through what would have been the ceiling of the extended chamber below us. Yep, we were reluctant to go farther or look to closely into the chamber just in case we found the remains of the person who explored before us.

To safely utilize a cave you have to have a very good knowledge of yearly rainfall patterns, and it is best to have a compilation of several years to give you a baseline of rainfall, and have a good knowledge of the variations of the water table in the area. Using a cave for shelter or storage in its natural state is one way to utilize a cave. However if the size of the chamber is large enough you may want to expend a bit more energy and expense if you intend to pass on the property to family later on. The perfect example of the best utilization of a cave for long term shelter and or storage is the old NORAD Cheyenne Mountain [Command and Control] Complex. Within the natural cavern is built a shelter system with all the comforts of home, and a few I wish I had. Of course our tax dollars built it and to go to those lengths would be problematic at best. But the basic concept of a shelter within a cave is not a far stretch and would provide a lot of comfort and protection for the occupants provided the cave is deemed habitable for the long term after compiling the climatic data. You would have to weigh such construction against not only costs but also to factors such as:

1. Would enlarging the entrance to accommodate construction materials, tooling, and manpower (even immediate family only) compromise the location?
2. Would the cave/constructed shelter be susceptible to flooding during prolonged rainy seasons?
3. Would the cave provide a source of water, or is there a close source of water that could provide the needed water or water storage for the shelter?
4. What type of power could be provided? The cave we explored could potentially provide hydropower if properly set up.
5. What are the range of temperatures through the seasons, and would prevailing winds impact the cave's temperature ranges; especially during winter months? You would have to consider ways of mitigating winter winds whipping through the cave.
6. Will the cave need a ventilation system to make sure that you don't have a buildup of carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide when occupied full time?
7. Does the cave, consistently or periodically, capture and retain any gases such as methane or other harmful gases that can be emitted from deeper in the earth from the geologic formation? And it would be a good idea to know the basic geology of the area so you know the stability of the cave. A cave in even with a constructed shelter within the cave could still pose a serious danger. And you may want to reinforce the cave ceiling just in case the geology slightly active (small tremors).
8. Is there an alternate or secondary entrance that could be utilized as an emergency exit or could it prove to be an access point for others to enter during a crisis.
9. If there is no other entrance or exit point, is it possible to construct one as an emergency exit? I would be reluctant to have a single entrance and exit point. If you have to dig an emergency exit you will need some very specialized equipment and skills to prevent a cave in, or suddenly finding yourself flooding the cave by hitting an underground spring or other high volume water source. It would be too easy for an adversary to simply block a single entrance and either starve you out or to fire on your position and use the rock walls to ricochet around until they hit someone, or to build a fire at the entrance to smoke you out. And a worse scenario would be for an adversary to cave in the entrance and seal you in until you died of suffocation.
10. Could the shelter or the cave provide any method of hydroponic gardening? If your shelter is the cave proper you will have to have access to an area where you can garden if you intend to occupy the shelter over a protracted period of time as the result of a nuke exchange or protracted pandemic.

These are just a few questions that come to mind and there are others that must be answered depending on how you want to utilize the cave. If you want to really kick your 'creative engine' into overdrive and see how mankind has utilized natural and man made underground structures then watch the History Channel program "Cities of the Underworld". It is absolutely amazing how people through the centuries utilized natural underground formations, and expanded them or built and utilized underground spaces. Mankind has covered over entire cities over the centuries as new construction has been built over old. Some of these underground areas have been done as far back as the Celtics of Ireland and Scotland as well as through the Middle Ages and Renaissance as well as the modern eras. There is one common thread, of different iterations but a singular concept, which runs through all of the construction techniques from the beginning; whether utilizing natural features or new construction over old cities. And this thread is utilized today. But I'll leave that to you to discover for yourself. - The Rabid One


Hi Jim,
The best way I know of to camouflage stuff (entrances, equipment, traps, etc.) with respect to its environment is to paint it with spray-on adhesive, the same kind that automotive upholsterers use, then simply take dry dirt and sprinkle it all over the painted areas (some moving parts, etc. you would of course want to mask-off, just like regular painting).

This provides an excellent base coat, even for things attached to trees, buildings, etc.

I still think the best book on the subject is the US Army "Camouflage" field manual (FM 5-20) from 1969: Regards, - Jerry E.

You recommended that I use Swiss America for some gold purchases, which I did. What would you recommend for bartering purposes exactly, as far as gold and precious metals are concerned? I'm confused by all the "collectors" coins and such which are more expensive. Do you have any specific types of coins that you think would be ideal for trading? I purchased some collector 1 ounce coins for their easy-liquidation (and no tax paper trail on gains) as a hedge against inflation, but I'm looking to get some good barter gold for long-term post-SHTF security (especially now that gold is correcting a little)! Thanks, - Rob A.

JWR Replies: First, I must re-iterate: Get your food storage, water filtration, non-hybrid gardening seed, defensive firearms, and other key logistics squared away before you consider investing any extra funds in precious metals.

As I've written before in both my novel ("Patriots") and in this blog, I consider gold coins too compact a store of wealth to be practical for barter in a post-collapse economy. Circulated pre-1965 mint date US dimes and quarters are both more widely recognized and a more realistic unit of value for day-to-day barter. The current silver-to-gold value ratio is around 54 to 1 (It presently takes 54 ounces of silver to buy one ounce of gold). So there are very few barter transactions for which even 1/10th-ounce gold coins would be appropriate. So I recommend that you budget first for one full $1,000 face value bag of pre-'65 "junk" silver coins for each family member. After you have that in hand, then you might consider buying some 1/2 ounce or 1 ounce gold coins as a long term inflation hedge.

While your silver coins will be useful for barter, the gold coins would be your long term store of wealth, designed to parlay back into tangibles (or perhaps a new specie-backed redeemable currency) on the far side of an economic crisis. As I've written before, I think that the risk of another Federal gold confiscation--like that in the 1930s--is low, so there is no need to buy numismatic coins. Instead, buy low dealer premium Krugerrands, American Eagles, or Canadian Maples Leafs.

You mentioned the following in your List of Lists:
"WTSHTF, ammo will be worth nearly its weight in silver. Store all of your ammo in military surplus ammo cans (with seals that are still soft) and it will store for decades. Stick to common calibers, get plenty of .22 LR (most high velocity hollow points)."

High velocity .22 rimfire can be heard from a long way off. Would human predators stalk you and close in for the kill? Think stealth after the SHTF. Here are some figures:

High velocity 22 40 grain @ 1,250 fps (hypersonic) = 136 foot pounds of energy

CCI 22 CB Long 29 grain @ 720 fps= 33 foot pounds of energy

Aguila SSS 60 grain @ 950 = 120 foot pounds of energy

Remington subsonic 38 grain @ 1,000 = 95 foot pounds of energy

Please take the time to read Tossing "Rocks" - Shooting Subsonic .22s, -- a comparison of four subsonic 22 rounds.

JWR Replies: There is some value in buying subsonic ammo, for stealthy pest and small game shooting. If that is your goal, then buy the Aguila SSS Subsonic. These are like CB caps on steroids. They are very quiet. A quantity of 500 to 1,000 rounds should suffice. Subsonic "target" ammo is made in small quantities, so it can literally be twice to six times as expensive as the mass-produced high velocity .22 rimfire varieties. The Aguila SSS, currently sells for $4.49 for a box of 50, even from a discount mail order dealer like Midway! (Expect even higher prices in retail gun shops.)

For barter purposes, (your largest stockpile), buy high velocity, factory name brand (Winchester or Remington) hollow points. In actuality, standard 40 grain round nose has almost identical terminal effects as a hollow point. (The hollow nose looks great for marketing purposes, but at typical rimfire velocities, it doesn't case significantly increased expansion.) But since the majority of your barter customers will not be ballistics experts, they will assume that hollow points are somehow "better" and hence they will likely be willing to allow more in trade for them.

If you are going to store both subsonic and hypersonic rimfire ammo for your own use, then do some extensive testing with each of your .22 pistols and rifles. Accuracy can vary substantially, so match your rifles to their most accurate cartridges. The point of impact ("bullet drop") will also vary considerably when switching ammo, necessitating re-zeroing. If you have numerous .22s rifles, then you might consider making one of them with a scope your "dedicated" platform for shooting subsonic ammo. Zero it in carefully for use with one particular type of ammunition, and mark the rifle accordingly . (For example, an adhesive sticker on the scope marked "Zeroed for PMC Moderator Subsonic.")

Consider this: If you are in a situation where bad guys head toward the sound of gunfire, then you had better have something a lot more powerful than a .22 rimfire rifle in your hands when they arrive.

In an absolute worst case scenario, where you don't want to attract any attention, pest or small game shooting with a high-power .22 or .25 caliber air rifle is both quieter and less expensive than shooting with subsonic .22 rimfire ammunition. For survival shooting, I prefer manually pimped models, rather than CO2-powered. If money is no object, then get something like a Beeman R1 .22 Double Gold or perhaps even a Weihrauch HW 100S. These are available from Pyramid Air (one of our affiliate advertisers), and several other Internet vendors. Compared to the cost of shooting expensive subsonic ammunition like Aguila SSS, even an expensive air rifle will pay for itself after shooting just a few thousand rounds. If you are on a budget, then Get a Gamo Big Cat, or Gamo Carbine Sport. Both of those use .22 pellets. For a medium budget, a Walther Falcon Hunter (either .22 or .25 caliber, around $270) is a good choice.

The other advantage of air rifles is that you can legally conduct target practice inside city limits, in most jurisdictions. While no substitute for high power rifle shooting, indoor practice with an air rifle can help maintain your shooting skills in winter months.

I read the piece about the Forever stamps. Not a bad idea if you mail things. But why pay face value? Stamp collectors often purchase large quantities of stamps looking for a one or two particular stamp. Usually they sell off the remaining stamps at less than face value. Also, many stamp collectors invested in full sheets of Stamps issued in the 1950s and 1960s, thinking full sheets would appreciate in value (They didn't.) These sheets and other bulk postage can often be found selling at 50% to 90% of face value on eBay.

So, if your readers need a boatload of stamps, and send regular mail often, this may save them some money. Also, I think this is obvious, but remember to factor in shipping as part of total cost. - Bill

Hawaiian K. suggested this blog post by Rick Falkvinge of Sweden: Why the US is collapsing:

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The Federal Reserve has now issued denials that it discussing coordinated purchases of mortgage-backed securities with other central banks. Why am I dubious? Harken!, the MOAB commeth.

   o o o

With gardening season fast approaching in the northern hemisphere, here is a useful YouTube video on composting.

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Vic at Safecastle mentioned that the entirely revamped Safecastle Royal Store web page is now up and running. Buyers Club members get 20% off of list prices, and free shipping, anywhere in he continental United States. OBTW, you may have to contact Vic (via e-mail) for a new login password.

"Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer." - Thomas Paine, "Common Sense", 1776

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Today, our family celebrates the resurrection of our savior, Jesus, The Christ. I pray that you recognize him as your savior, too.

Our first article was written by an old friend, who is an American ex-pat presently living somewhere in east Asia.

Moving to a new area is a challenge, as any city-bred person from the US East Coast could tell you after his first winter in Wyoming. And the job market is not exactly as promising, either, at least for office workers. Yet, many make the move, and come to regret having waited so long before having done so. An even more difficult move is to go from the country of your birth and to explore a new life somewhere else. Many of our ancestors did this, however, and under far more difficult circumstances than you would face today. Just think of the “coffin ships” that the Irish came to North America on.

Before considering this big step, you should ask yourself what you are trying to achieve and what types of disasters you are hoping to survive. Is it a local disaster, such as flooding, or the disaster of your country going down the drain? You can prepare for almost all natural disasters without the need to move. However, if you are worried about something along the lines of serious civic unrest or even a civil war, then you may want to consider a more dramatic move. For example, if you had been living in the Soviet Union when it came crashing down, but had had German ancestry, you could have moved to Germany. Would you have done so?

Once you have decided to pursue the possibility of moving, you should consider the fact that serious trade-offs will be required, as there is no perfect place in this world. You will have to weigh and balance many new issues in a way that you don’t now. For example, some countries often have low crime, but may seem a bit regimented, such as Singapore. Other countries may be relatively free, but lacking in modern infrastructure.

1. Review all the issues that would apply if you moved within your country. They still apply - only more so. If you can’t handle the snow in Idaho, you won’t do much better in Switzerland. If you can’t afford a house plus a retreat in the Western US, then you probably won’t be able to pull it off in Costa Rica, either. Yes, it’s true that prices are lower in less-developed countries, but the days of the dollar being as good as gold are long gone.

2. Make a list of needs, wants, and can’t haves for everyone in the family. Without their buy-in, you’ve got a problem. You need a reasonable balance for them in their new home, too. You may happy to find a paradise that has both good tax and gun laws, but your children may not care about that, and they’re unhappy about going to a school that teaches in a foreign language.

You should set your priorities of what you can live with, and live without. Do you need TV programs from your home country? You realize, of course, that those might not continue anyway if things get really bad. Do you need first-class hospitals, such as the Mayo Clinic? What is your definition of good medicine? Some folks think the US has a great system, while others disagree. It’s clearly the case that some of the less-developed countries have modernized quite a bit in the last 20 years, and that could make a move to, say, Mexico a lot safer in this regard now than then. Indeed, medical tourism is a fast-growing business due to the low costs in places such as Costa Rica or India. Are you willing to experiment a bit? I have had good results with Chinese herbal shops in Asia, but you may feel that is too risky.

A possible list of must "haves" is:
-Taxes are no worse than where I am now.
-A hospital where at least some of the doctors speak English is within close range.
-Some form of self-defense is legal.
-Phone and Internet service is available.
-Violent crime is uncommon.
-Many schools teach in English.
-The type of business I want is legal for an immigrant to operate.
-Good agricultural land is available and not too expensive.

A possible list of "wants" is:
-Phone and Internet service is inexpensive.
-The government is pro-American.
-The currency is stable.
-A wide variety of churches and religious materials is available.
-Properties with gravity-fed water supply are available.
-Acquiring a second citizenship is not too difficult.
-The country is considered to be a tax haven and has laws that guarantee financial privacy.
-US-style fast food and supermarkets are available.
-Cyclones are rare.

A possible list of "can’t haves" is:
-Religious oppression is common.
-There is widespread hostility towards home schooling.
-A high probability of civil unrest exists, such as Pakistan.
-The country’s language would take many years to learn, such as Chinese.
-The country has high anti-American sentiment or very poor political relations with the US, such as Venezuela.
-The pollution is unbearable.

Then you need to do some long soul-searching about your lists, as we all have a tendency to overestimate our strengths and underestimate our weaknesses. You may think that learning Phasa Thai will only take a year or so, but most Westerners living in Thailand would say that’s highly unlikely.

As you can imagine, one man’s must have is another man’s can’t have. You may want something that doesn’t exist in a country, but that product might be available on the Internet - for now. Not if things get rough, though. As most of the world eats a lot of rice or beans, you might have to change your diet. Can you do without pancakes and maple syrup? Can you give up venison in exchange for fruit bat?

3. Consider the possible differences due to geography, history, or the thinking of people in the culture.

German-speaking Switzerland and parts of Germany may seem very similar, but their mindsets are not. The historical experiences of Switzerland have led the public to have a jaded view of government, and big neighbors with big armies. Even if gun rights or financial privacy are limited in Switzerland, it will be a lot better than in Germany.

Chile and Brazil illustrate a similar situation. In Chile, the government is relatively effective and not particularly corrupt. In Brazil, government is, shall we say, a bit different, and authorities in Rio de Janeiro have often ignored the laws from Brasilia.

4. You simply must visit a country for some length of time before considering a permanent move. Can you handle the cleanliness standards there? Are you starting to pick up the language after a few weeks? Are your kids fascinated, or disgusted? And make the effort to stay in a representative location, so no Hilton hotels. Consider a home stay for studying the language.

A visit will let you discover things that travel guidebooks won’t say. For example, I know a woman who was the wife of an American diplomat. In one South American country, this couple had to worry about their child with blond hair and blue eyes being kidnapped, and this child’s memories of life there are very different from her sibling, who has a darker complexion.

5. Be honest about your financial and work situation-for both you and your spouse. If you need good luck in your business to make it past three years at a location, you probably shouldn’t go. Also, do not be surprised if it costs you twice as much as you expect or takes twice as long as it should.

6. Be honest about your family’s desire to move. A big cause of failure is family strife about being in another culture.

7. Study the country and region you are considering moving to. Has it changed since you visited 20 years ago? Many readers of this blog would like Australia as it was 30 years ago, but would you like it today? Are different technologies practical or required? A tropical island may not have much of a power grid, and you may want to consider cyclones when building anything. For that matter, if you are from a country with a large population, it can be hard to keep in mind the idea that the capital of a tropical country may only have 50,000 people.

Open your eyes to the fact that a lot of possibilities are not really discussed in the mass media, or that the way things are presented gives a misleading impression of how the people in a country actually live. 80% of the Japanese population lives in the big, urban centers – so there are a lot of empty spaces (and houses) that are quite cheap. If you are single and contemplating New Zealand as a location, you may want to look into house sitting or working on a farm. If I were young, I would seriously consider a working holiday visa there to check it out. A friend moved to Israel after the dotcom bubble burst, and has enjoyed it immensely, and done quite well in the Information Technology business.

An under-appreciated topic is the reality of laws on the ground versus theoretical laws. In many cultures, theoretical laws from the capital are not the way you would actually have to live. This is especially relevant with regards to visas, weapons, and building codes. [JWR Adds: The Philippines come immediately to mind, on that point.] This most definitely doesn’t mean you should buy a passport in another name with a bribe, but it’s just a fact of life that many countries have the perspective that governments are corrupt and lousy, so you have to do what you have to do. In any case, you simply should not rely on a government’s web site for any important decision without verifying what they say with locals, preferably ones who aren’t trying to sell you something. And the same applies with many law firms who just parrot the government’s story, too.

8 - Make a list of how your choices would fare with different scenarios. For example, how do you think your home in rural Texas would do if the US or the whole world had a 1930s style depression? How about a dollar collapse or horrible inflation? Or a repressive national government? Now, how would you fare if you lived in Vanuatu if similar things occurred? And don’t think that an article you read about a nearby country is really all that relevant. New Caledonia could have major strife if the world economy got really bad or France has continuing unrest, as the relations between the French settlers and the locals are not very good in the best of times, while Vanuatu might be perfectly fine. As a general rule, urban areas have dramatically more problems now and will have even more potential problems if the balloon goes up, as a lot of rural areas around the world are largely self-sufficient, and do not contain large numbers of disaffected immigrants from poorer areas.

9. If you do decide to make a move, don’t rush things. You may want to build up your skill sets first, language being an obvious one. Also, certain skills might be required to get a visa. For example, New Zealand offers a lot of bonus points in their immigration system for immigrants with qualifications in desired fields. A credential might mean the difference between getting in, or not.

10. Expect the move to be a lot of work. Much more than if you moved to a rural area in your home country. Just the visas alone can be a major headache in some countries.

11 . Be willing to not do it. You always have the alternatives of getting more prepared where you are or moving to a better location in your home country. You can also improve your skills or bank account.

12. Have a backup plan, and perhaps a secondary backup plan if your first backup plan goes bad. If a family member becomes terminally ill back home, what will you do?

For resources, I recommend It has a large collection of articles written by immigrants living in different countries. It is not oriented towards survival topics, but it some writers discuss self-sufficiency, as that’s one of the aspects of adjusting to life in a less-developed country. And, of course, your starting position should be to review everything written at the Rawles Ranch. You can also gather information regarding countries at the CIA’s World Factbook.

First, thank-you for posting my question on SurvivalBlog. Second, thank-you for posting your thoughts. They are well thought out and very well presented.
Your response sparked an additional couple of thoughts:

Dogs have been man's early warning and engagement system since the dawn of history. A barking dog tells the potential visitor that he lost any advantage of stealth and that he is facing a team. Two barking dogs are even better. Dogs over 50 pounds also represent a physical threat.

The second thought is to split the axis (axes?) of confrontation.
Killing flies by clapping one's hands over them is a great parlor trick. Flies, and other vermin, have very highly developed strategies for dealing with threats that come from one direction. That is why they are almost impossible to slap with one hand. However, it is comical how they lock-up when confronted with a threat from two directions. You actually have to slow down your "clap" so they can become airborne. They are almost paralyzed.

Confronting men with evil intent from a single direction does not present them with much of a dilemma. They would level their arms and start shooting. Good-bye lights, good-bye dogs, good-bye people who are down range, good-bye to people and objects in unhardened buildings.

I think the ideal situation would be to have a couple sets of flood or spot lights pointing inward from different corners of the garden/stock corral/asset to be protected. Then release the dogs from one point (another family member would very helpful here) and post-up with a shotgun at a good strategic point that is in a different position than where the dogs were released from. Lights, dog, shotgun should push the bad-guys down a reasonable line of retreat. That is, it should push them toward the road or where their vehicles are. Most opportunist will gladly bail out if they are not cornered.

A couple of key points:
-I don't want to paralyze the intruders, just like I don't want the flies to freeze.
-I want them to leave if they are opportunist.
-If they do not leave, then they reveal evil intent or extreme stupidity
-The overload of stimuli gives me strategic advantage

Thanks, - Joe and Ellen

JWR Replies: If you want to throw attackers off balance, there is nothing quite like the flash and sound of explosions on multiple flanks. Some Tannerite might prove useful.

Spotlights and floodlights are very vulnerable to rifle fire. If you are using them to distract, then only turn them on for about five seconds each. If you mount any floodlights on your occupied structures, then use only the IR variety, which only give off a very faint glow to the unaided eye.

There are a variety of fireworks that can be used to create distractions or diversions. Keep in mind that many fireworks can be set up to be ignited electrically, using model rocket igniters (such as Estes "Solar Igniters"), which are available from most hobby shops. The flash and sound of M-80 firecrackers (aka "cherry bombs") is not too much unlike the sound of rifle fire.

For the full psyops effect, don't discount the effectiveness of voices or music on amplified loudspeakers to un-nerve your opponents. At the risk of sounding trite, might I suggest a little Johnny Cash or some Credence?

I just read the letter regarding use of force. Since I'm a cop, in Colorado, and a trainer of lethal and non-lethal force - it might help to know that the use of force model is moving away from the escalation principle and towards the 'toolbox' principle. You pull the appropriate tool out of the box for the job at hand. For instance, in many many areas of the country an officer need no longer justify his actions concerning use of force by explaining the escalation from the typical 'command voice' to use of potentially lethal force.

Accompanying this is a simplified assessment of the threat at hand. With alarming results, police officers are trained to expect the worse case, take action to neutralize it and de-escalate their use of force, rather than use the stair step approach to using greater and greater force. It revolves around the Saucier v. Katz supreme court decision. Wherein "The Court plainly stated that while uses of force by police occur that are clearly excessive or clearly appropriate, a gray area remains in between. The Court went on to say that when an officer's use of force falls within this gray area, deference must be paid to the officer and qualified immunity granted." There are essentially three other court cases that apply in determining whether an officer used excessive force - but Katz is the most applicable to the question of how we train police officers in deciding what force to use, it was a precursor to the 'toolbox' approach.

One of the pivotal elements of determining in what constitutes excessive force for anybody is what they perceived at the time of the threat, and what training they had in recognizing a threat. Pre 9/11 a box cutter was just a simple slicing weapon, now it's considered a 'terrorist threat' to possess one under the right circumstances. [JWR Adds: In the aftermath of any use of force, do not hesitate to admit that you were frightened. If you can honestly say "I was very scared!", and "I was afraid that he was trying to kill me!", then do so, repeatedly, for the record. This may carry considerable weight at a later date, if you ever have to go to trial--either criminal, or civil.]

Rather than concentrate on the use of force of any kind, I would recommend people seek training that helps them recognize threats of all kinds and more importantly how to articulate their perception of the threat. It's true that most people who misuse force, in my experience, could probably have avoided criminal prosecution if they had just known/learned how to articulate their assessment of the threat. The examples are endless really, I won't go into illustration here.

While a multi-generational SHTF situation is in your opinion unlikely, I must point out that our mere technological advancements do not preclude this, I think it simply makes us more complacent because of our perception of the layers of social and technological protection we believe insulate us from it. Rome probably believed itself the pinnacle of modern civilization, I would imagine that the fall that preceded the Dark Ages had it's own 'it will never get that bad' detractors also.

I have a different view of things. I'm pretty certain that the three people running through my orchard armed with knives were shouting, "Kill them!" and not there to cut fruit. In Colorado, for instance, our 'Make My Day Law' from which the Castle Doctrine seems to have sprung, states that deadly force may be used when a person believes that the person about to commit the illegal entry is there to commit any level of harm to the occupants of a dwelling - and most importantly, it takes away the burden of proof from the citizen to substantiate why they believed it.

Less-lethal (no such thing as non-lethal (pepper spray has [on rare occasions] killed, Tasers too, beanbag rounds improperly used are 'deadly', etc.) force being available the most important thing to remember about their deployment is that no police force ever deploys less-lethal force unless another officer is ready to use lethal force if the less-lethal does not stop the threat. If you're in a tussle and the taser is what you use, then it's what you use - but if two officers (or more) are confronting someone and a Taser is deployed - one officer is designated [as] the backup in case lethal force is needed. - Jim H

JWR Replies: The Castle Doctrine actually got its start in Florida. Since then, many states including Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas have adopted similar laws. It is not surprising that the majority of the states are in the South or the West, where individualism and respect for property rights are part of the culture.


About 15 years ago, I bought a house on 70 acres that was rural, but not remote. As I worked on the place, painting and getting it ready for me to move in, I was distressed that every time I went to the house, the door had been kicked in. Replacing the trim got to be an irritation so on Halloween, 1993, I drove down to my house and found the lights on. As I gunned the truck and drove over the front lawn, I saw two people run from my house. I got out with my Winchester Model 12 and yelled, "You get the hell out of here and don't come back or I will kill you" and blew off a round of 12 gauge in the ground.
I searched my house and found a six pack of beer, some wine coolers and a blanket. Apparently, some kids were using my house for their love nest. I slept at the house that night in case someone were to come back and burn down the house. At about 11:30 pm, there was a knock at the door. Two County Sheriff's deputies were there with the lights flashing. I invited them in and said, "There is the wine and beer, there is the blanket." Things then took a turn.
"So you fired a warning shot," he asked?
"Yes", I said.
"So you shot at them?" he probed
"That isn't what I said." And then they jumped me, threw me on the floor and handcuffed me. I was dragged to the cruiser where I was strapped into the back seat. "We got him," the County Mountie crowed to the neighbors assembled at the end of my 250 yard driveway. I was taken to the county jail where I was booked for reckless conduct with a firearm, a felony here in Maine.

For the next two years, I was in legal hassles with the County. The District Attorney didn't want to press charges. The Sheriff's Department didn't want to back down. And I was wondering what country did I live in where the victim could become the criminal so fast. It all worked out in the end. But I would counsel your readers to think twice about firing shots. I know this about myself, I will pull the trigger. I just know better when to do it. The thing about it was that for the next 12 years that I lived there. No one came down my driveway uninvited, and nothing was ever disturbed in my house, garden or barn. - Gary B., in Maine

My sincere thanks for your response to Joe and Ellen's letter on "Rules of Engagement." Most of the so-called preparedness experts out there talk only about "guns, guns, guns." (Well, 'cept for the "I'd never own a gun" uber-naive liberal-granola crowd.) Your are absolutely right about using less-than-lethal means, when [it is] safe and practicable. It sure beats getting your *ss sued off. by some ambulance-chasing lawyer. You truly are the survivalist voice of reason, following in the footsteps of Mel Tappan.

Thanks for sharing your knowledge in SurvivalBlog, Jim. I often feel like I'm getting free consulting. Oh, BTW, I'm re-upping my 10 Cent Challenge subscription for another two years! - C.T.M.

Mr. Rawles,
With a 70 pound weight limit, [USPS] Flat Rate [Priority Mail] boxes can be a fantastic deal, especially for small heavy items, as you mentioned. Up until this month, the two sizes available were 11" x 8.5" x 5.5" and 13.625" x 11.875" x 3.375". They cost $8.95 to send anywhere in the U.S.A. Now there is a third alternative, a larger 12” x 12” x 5-1/2” box that costs $12.95 to send (or $10.95 to an APO/FPO address). This is a real bargain.

I recently shipped a large quantity of these from Arizona to Alaska. Most of them contained quite heavy items, such as reloading lead, hand tools, and rocks. These boxes would have cost up to $50.00 each at regular parcel post rates.

The automatic handling equipment evidently knocks the boxes around. Heavy boxes get beat up a lot more than light boxes. If you ship a heavy box, it should be taped securely as you mentioned. It's a good idea to tape all edges, and to wrap strapping tape around it in at least two directions.[JWR Adds: Be sure to cover any strapping tape with a couple of layers of opaque tape or Priority Mail tape, since strapping tape is discouraged by the USPS, for fear that it might gum up their automated parcel handling equipment.] You can ask the clerk to mark it "heavy" and sometimes they'll run it through their strapping machine.

Incidentally, you can buy postage for Flat Rate Boxes online and just estimate the weight since you aren't paying by weight anyway. Then you can have the carrier pick it up at your house. - K.L. - Alaska

Wayne V. mentioned a piece in The Financial Times: Central banks float rescue ideas. Here it comes folks! This is the "Mother Of All Bailouts" (MOAB) that I warned you about. It may cost literally trillions of dollars. This will be very, very expensive for those of us that pay Federal taxes. If the US Treasury can't raise enough funds through taxation, they'll monetize the new debt. That will generate lots of inflation, which is, of course, a hidden form of taxation.

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SF in Hawaii suggested this blog post: Seven of the Most Important Economic Events of the Last Seven Years: Collapsing the Economy in the Buildup to World War III

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Mark from Michigan sent us a video clip link to a very clever Glock pistol adaptation. Too bad that its just a prototype. This is enough to give a liberal politician like Chuck Schumer apoplexy.

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HPF suggested a great video clip of an interview with legendary investor Jimmy Rogers. He predicts mass inflation, a collapsing dollar, and a continuing bull market in commodities. He also predicts trouble with Fannie Mae, and that US interest rates will eventually have to be jacked up to 20% again (a la the late 1970s). Citing the Japanese experience of the 1990s, Rogers correctly opines "It costs you more to prevent a recession than it does to have a recession. Recessions are a good thing. They clean out the excesses so you can start over."

"Fear them not therefore; for there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed: and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye on the housetops" - Jesus, in Matthew 10:26, 27

Saturday, March 22, 2008

It is great to see that SurvivalBlog is rapidly approaching the three million unique visits mark, after only 2-1/2 years. Our readership growth has been phenomenal. Thanks for continuing to spread the word about SurvivalBlog! Links to SurvivalBlog in your personal web page and/or in your e-mail footer would be greatly appreciated.


I finished my copy of the [post-nuke novel] "Malevil" [by Robert Merle.] One scene that was particularly well done was when the looter/vandals start destroying the wheat planting. I could see myself paralyzed by the dilemma: If they completely destroy my garden,then my family's survival becomes less--perhaps very much less--probable. When I start shooting them their probability of survival drops to zero.

From my understanding of decision making, especially decision making under stress, it is very important to have crystal clear, absolutely unambiguous triggers or "switches". Pull that trigger or switch and the pre-made decision is implemented.

Triggers need to be revisited as circumstances change. Rowdies pilfering pears from the tree in your yard should elicit a different response today than it would after TSHTF.
I can make the case that anybody who does not demonstrate absolute respect for another's private property will imperil other's lives post TSHTF. Post TSHTF, the margin for error will be very much less. The margin between a child surviving until the next harvest, or not surviving, could easily be as small as 25 pounds of corn or wheat. Under a "Malevil" or "Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse" scenario I think I would have few qualms about shooting. However, circumstances that are less absolute would be very difficult for me.

I suspect that you have given the topic substantial thought. Is there a short list of questions to "test" a circumstance-a short list that would be of use to the SurvivalBlog community? Thank You, - Joe and Ellen

JWR: Replies: One important yet sadly under-emphasized aspect of preparedness is access to less-than-lethal weaponry.

Having less-than-lethal weapons available to supplement your firearms is important for two reasons: 1.) To show restraint and respect for human life, and 2.) To keep you out of jail for reckless endangerment, assault, attempted murder, or murder. I cannot overstate the point that the chances of a full-blown multigenerational societal collapse are very small, Thus, the odds are that you will still have contact with functioning police and sheriff departments, and might end up answering to the criminal justice system if you use unjustifiable or disproportionate force in self defense.

Of course if someone is shooting at you, you have the right and duty to defend yourself and your family. (As a Christian, I found this piece by Brandon Staggs, and this Crusader Knight piece helped me resolve this issue with certainty.)

Do not endanger yourself unnecessarily just for the sake of employing less than lethal weapons. There could very well be a situation where you think that you are dealing with an unarmed intruder, only to have them then produce a concealed weapon. If that happens, it could easily get you killed. For that reason, I recommend concentrating on less-than-lethal weapons that you can employ from a distance. Anything "up close and personal" has multiple risks. One of the principles that is stressed again and again when training police officers and prison guards is that proximity increases risk. If you can maintain distance form your opponent, you will minimize your risk of being overpowered or killed. This also meshes nicely with the "defense in depth" approach that I stress with my consulting clients. By placing multiple barriers between your family and the bad guys, you will greatly increases your chances of avoiding harm.

Sometimes a display of force will be enough to discourage looters to go find easier pickings. One of my consulting clients is rancher in the intermountain west that has large a 3/4"-thick steel plate hung up on chains above his perimeter fence gate, which is 250 yards from his house. (He has a typical western ranch entry gate with a very high, stout crosspiece.) He's told me is that his intention is that if miscreants stop and show signs of forcing his gate, he will used a scoped FAL rifle to apply several rapid shots to that steel plate. He calls it his "Go away" bell. Hearing that "bell" will be a clear message to the malo hombres: "You have 250 yards of open ground to traverse to get to my house. Do you feel lucky, or bulletproof?"

In hours of darkness, in genuinely Schumeresque times, it is likely that a semi-auto burst of tracers fired over the heads of a gang of looters might have a similar effect. One of my readers also suggested placing Tannerite targets in prominent positions around a retreat perimeter. Depending on the circumstances, that might be a good technique for getting ruffians to leave.

One strong proviso: The use of "warning shots" could be misconstrued. State laws on this vary widely. In some states, this is often considered justifiable, but it in others it is a potential felony. I would only recommend doing this in the midst of a true "worst case" societal collapse, only from a long distance (firing from cover), and only if no law enforcement were available to call. Do not do this in present day circumstances or you will risk getting sued or prosecuted!

Please don't mistake any of the foregoing as sure solutions. Merely scaring off looters might not be sufficient. Certainly don't use displays of force more than once, per customer. The first time should be their only warning. Be prepared, if need be, to follow it up with a genuine dose of RBC if they persist and thereby demonstrate that they plan to do you in.

Here are some other non-lethal weapon options:

Pepper Spray Alarms - either trip wired or set off by electronic sensor. These can fill a room with pepper spray in seconds. One variant fires up to four times in sequence. A friend of mine has one of these mounted in the vented bottom of a mailbox on his porch. It is wired for activation (on command) from inside the house.

"Ferret" 12 gauge shells (These are shotgun shells, that instead of lead pellets contain large capsules of CS tear gas or OC powder. They form an irritant dust cloud, on impact. These are not very effective outdoors, but they are very effective in enclosed spaces. Say, for example, you saw an intruder enter your garden shed, but would feel endangered if you left your house to approach the shed to confront him. Two or three Ferret rounds fired into the shed would probably do the trick. (Passing through a sheet of plywood, in fact, is the best way to get full dispersal from a Ferret round.

CS riot control grenades. These are similar to a smoke grenade, but issue forth huge clouds of CS smoke. I see a few of these at gun shows, including some that were marketed by Smith & Wesson. They can be thrown, but also could also be rigged to be set off by pulling a cable or lanyard, from a considerable distance. Since most of these these are pyrotechnic, be forewarned that there is a fire hazard. Some of the latest ones use CO2 to propel a vapor.

Rubber bullets and beanbag rounds. These are deigned to bruise rather than penetrate. (This ammo was originally designed for riot control.) Be careful to aim fairly low to void any pellets striking you opponent in the face.

Speaking of these, I've heard of rubber bullets being used on moose and bear in residential areas. These critters often become destructive, typically tearing apart people's fruit and nut trees. Rubber bullets and 12 gauge beanbags are a non-lethal solution.

Pepper gas and CS (liquid stream or fog) dispensers. These are risky because they requite proximity. But at least the dispensers are small and can be kept close at hand. Here at the Rawles Ranch we have occasional ursine visitors, so except in winter (when bears are denned up) all of the members of our family habitually go armed whenever we step more than a few yards away from our house. Before they were old enough to carry handguns, our children usually carried large 15% pepper spray (OC) canisters.

Tasers. These could be practical, but again, they are only useful with about 15 feet. I don't recommend them unless you live in a gun-deprived locality.

Stun guns. Even worse than a Taser, these require direct contact. I don't recommend them

Impact weapons (Batons, kubatons, walking sticks, et cetera) These are at the bottom of my list because they require immediate contact. They also require considerable training and practice. Their application in subduing someone is practically a martial art form, and is much, much more difficult than portrayed in movies and television. Too little force can merely be antagonistic or possibly result in a miscreant disarming you and use the weapon on you. . Too much force can be crippling, disfiguring, or lethal. (Any blows to the neck or head, for example, are potentially lethal, and if you use them, in the eyes of the law it would not be much different than pulling the trigger of a gun.)

You might also find some other weapon possibilities at the web site.

Without having non-lethal weapons available, your only other choice would be attempting to use a lethal weapon in a less than lethal manner (typically, with warning shots.) Do not consider using a firearm with the intent to wound an opponent. By doing so, at the very least you will create an adversary that will most likely seek vengeance whenever and wherever he can get it: There is nothing quite like a vendetta, particularly during a period of lawlessness. He may later ambush you. He may snipe at your retreat from long distance. He may poison your well. He may burn your grain fields. He may even wait and later meet you in court, where he will have some nasty scars to display. I regularly get letters from readers, asking about using bird shot or the proverbial "shotgun loaded with rock salt". Those are both likely to either get you killed, or get you sued out of all of your worldly possessions. In short: don't consider using any intentionally maiming weapon.

Whenever you use amy weapon, you need to think through the implications. Even what looks like a "worst case" situation might suddenly and unexpectedly end. When order is restored, you could be facing your opponent in the most dangerous arena of all: the courtroom.

Think Through Anticipated Levels of Force

When police officers train, they typically learn force escalation. An officer doesn't doesn't use his service automatic on an unruly drunk. That would be considered grossly disproportionate force. Law enforcement officers have detailed rules of proportionate force and force escalation drilled into them from Day One at the academy. Civilians are not held to quite the same standards, but proportionate force and reciprocal escalation of force are both long-standing precepts used by the court system in judging guilt or innocence.

There might be a situation where uninvited guests are raiding your garden or fruit trees. If it is dark (quite likely), you may not be able to determine if they are armed. In such a situation, it might be better to have alternatives like trip flares or remotely triggered floodlights. Also see some of the recent SurvivalBlog posts on infrared (IR) floodlights and/or IR cyalume trip flares used in conjunction with Starlight technology (light amplification) night vision gear. These will give you a strong advantage and most likely send the ruffians to flight.

Is Mr. Badguy there to siphon the gas out of your vehicle, or steal the vehicle itself? Does he want apples from your orchard, or does he want to kill you and take over your retreat? Is he there to steal a couple of chickens, or to kidnap your daughter? Does a stranger merely want a handout or is he looking for the chance to carry out a home invasion?

How can you determine their intentions? That is a toughie. But there are some red flags to watch for. If a party that is approaching your retreat dwelling is entirely armed men, then odds are that they have murder on their minds. But if a group includes women and children, the threat level is likely much lower. (They probably wouldn't endanger them if they were expecting lead to soon be flying.) Are they dressed in normal clothes, or in BDUs and war paint?

Is law enforcement help available? If law enforcement evaporates at some point in the future, even people living inside city limits may be in a comparable situation.

There is an old saying: "When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail." Make the effort to acquire non-lethal weapons. I'd hate to see a SurvivalBlog reader use excessive force, just for lack of a less-than-lethal arrow in his quiver. Use them, when possible, but again only if and when doing so won't endanger yourself or your family.

Ironically, in many cases it is easier in the US to acquire lethal ammo than it is to buy non-lethal ammo and items like CS gas grenades. (Often, although they are legal to possess in most jurisdictions, because of company sales policies they can only be ordered on law enforcement letterhead.) So finding what you need might take a bit of looking and/or require the aid of sympathetic intermediaries. Two closing proviso: Consult your state and local laws before ordering any weapons, be they lethal, less-than-lethal, or non-lethal. None of the preceding should be considered legal advise. Consult your local laws and, as appropriate, seek qualified legal counsel.

I think I made a great purchase today. A division of "Inn on the Creek Foods” makes a six 1⁄2 gallon plastic bucket of instant food. The bucket is called an "ARK" and can be purchased at for $119 + $25 shipping and handling. Each bucket has 90 meals inside in 285 individually sealed pouches. The shelf life for this kit is listed as 15 years, and the buckets have a “Store until 2022” label on them. I saw on their web site that Sam’s Club was a sole source distributor of them if you didn’t want to pay for shipping, but only a few participating Sam’s had them. Fortunately one of the Sam’s was here in Tampa . I went down to the store to check them out, and perhaps purchase one or two. Imagine my surprise when I found a pallet of them marked at $19.81 each. A whopping $100 discount per kit! I asked a clerk to scan the item to confirm the price, and she confirmed the price at $19.81 claiming it was a discontinued item that they were no longer going to carry. So, being a Preparedness Oriented Person, and having read your novel twice, I purchased all I could afford which was 36 buckets! I paid $713 for 36 kits. I would have paid $5,184 for them if I had bought them on the Internet. I plan on keeping 12 kits, giving 12 kits away to family and close friends, and selling 12 kits either to friends or co-workers, or on E-bay. So, what do you think, good buy or not?

JWR Replies: This was covered in SurvivalBlog back in August of 2006. This product--or one remarkably like it--was originally marketed as a "three month food supply for one person." There was at least one lawsuit over their claims-- which focused on the number of meals and caloric content. It might be a product worth buying, but realistically, consider each bucket just a 15 to perhaps 20 day food supply for one adult. This product is not some miracle Lembas Bread out of a Tolkien novel. Survival requires calories, and calories require volume. If you were to believe their claims about "X days supply", you would quickly find that the caloric content per "meal" would put you below the starvation level of the 1940s Nazi death camps. So take the manufacturer's "Days supply" estimates, and divide by six. Be sure that you re-label the actual number of days supply before you distribute these for charity or for sales.

Referring to your comment about sorting pennies in your post about nickels: "At present, sorting pennies simply isn't worth your time. Although I suppose that if someone were to invent an automated density-measuring penny sorting machine, he could make a fortune. As background: The pre-1983 pennies presently have a base metal value of about $0.0226 each.) Starting in 1983, the mint switched to 97.5% zinc pennies that are just flashed with copper. Those presently have a base metal value of about $0.0071 each."

A penny sorting machine has been developed by a member of the Gold Is Money information community. He goes by the name Ryedale. This machine automatically sorts the pennies into two piles according to composition. [It sorts out the earlier pre-1982 [95%] copper pennies from the newer copper-flashed zinc pennies.] It is exceedingly accurate and the cost isn’t too bad. It can process 3000 pennies in 10 minutes.

There is also another machine out there than can do hundreds of thousands of pennies at a time (from giant hoppers) in a very short span of time, but it is a commercial machine and costs about $10,000 apiece. Contact another member of Gold Is Money (member name SLV) if interested in learning more. - Ramsey

JWR Replies: Unfortunately, it is presently illegal to melt pennies for scrap. But I suspect that now that it has been more than 25 years since they were last minted, the restriction on melting copper pennies might be lifted.

Even with pre-1982 pennies now worth nearly 2.4 cents, it is still not very economical to launch a business sorting and re-selling pennies. Just to pay for the cost of a coin sorting machine, you would have to sort out and sell more than 1,800 rolls of all copper pennies. Once the value of the dollar drops to the pont that pennies are worth more than four times their face value, then this might become a profitable venture for someone with a good strong back and plenty of secure storage space. Keep in mind that just one $50 bag of copper pennies (5,000 pieces) weighs just a hair over 34 pounds. A $50 bag of the newer debased zinc pennies weighs just over 30 pounds. Ideally, someone could take advantage of the US Mail's "Flat Rate Box" available for Priority Mail. These have no weight limit! So it is conceivable that someone could use sturdy canvas bags inside these boxes, and some stout tape reinforcement on the outside of the box, and have 34 pounds of pennies mailed anywhere in the US for under $10!

Again, it is not currently very economical to sort copper pennies with the intent to re-sell them. However, if you can acquire some full rolls of copper pennies at or near face value, then it is certainly worthwhile to set them aside.

OBTW, if any readers would care to send their voluntary 10 Cent Challenge SurvivalBlog subscription payments in the form of either US pre-1982 pennies, or in US nickels (of any mint date), it would be greatly appreciated. Using a Flat Rate Box would be the most economical method. Thanks!

Mr. Yankee suggested an editorial by Greg Evensen posted over at News With Views: The Implosion is Accelerating, Prepare While You Can. Mr. Yankee's comment: "I don’t know this writer but the piece sounds like [it was written by] a SurvivalBlog reader."

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Chester mentioned that Jim Willie has some interesting comments on the Bear Stearns debacle, posted over at Kitco.

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This piece by Daniel Amerman is a must read: The Subprime Crisis Is Just Starting. (A hat tip to Kurt for sending us the link.)

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Thanks to Robert B. for spotting this: Researcher: [Ethanol Bacteria] Discovery could end energy crisis

"Men are expendable; women and children are not. A tribe or a nation can lose a high percentage of its men and still pick up the pieces and go on... as long as the women and children are saved. But if you fail to save the women and children, you've had it, you're done, you're through! You join Tyrannosaurus Rex, one more breed that bilged its final test." - Robert A. Heinlein, "The Pragmatics of Patriotism" address at the U.S. Naval Academy, April 5, 1973, later published in the book "Expanded Universe" (1980)

Friday, March 21, 2008

The high bid in the current SurvivalBlog Benefit Auction lot is now at $210. This auction is for four items: a MURS Alert Base station, a MURS Alert Hand-held transceiver, an earbud, and a Kaito KA-1102 AM/FM/Shortwave. These radios were kindly donated by the owner of Affordable Shortwaves and MURS Radios. The three radios have a retail value of $210, plus shipping. The auction ends on April 15th. Please e-mail us your bids, in $10 increments.

My friend has a piece of property that has a cave. The initial opening to the cave is circular, about four feet in diameter. Inside the cave is a large room with a 20 foot tall ceiling and an approximately 70 foot long floor. We have been inside three additional smaller [side] rooms. Also, we have found a source of water deep in the cave. We spent the night in the cave about two weeks ago. It got cool at night, but no bats or other animals joined us.

The biggest potential problem I can think of is the relatively small opening. However, due to its small size, my friend and his wife walked by the cave hundreds of times before they realized it was an opening.

Would this make a good retreat when the stuff hits the fan?- Linda H.

JWR Replies: Caves do have their uses, particularly as expedient fallout shelters. Finding a cave with an unobtrusive entrance on a piece of privately-owned land that is under your control is very fortunate. I'm surprised that it wasn't mentioned by the previous owners at the time that your friend bought the property. Keep in mind that caves are far from vermin proof, so you would need to store anything inside in sturdy, waterproof containers. Many caves are seasonally wet, so waterproof containers put up on at least 4x4 wooden blocks are also a must.

The existence of caves is often widely known by locals, so don't consider anything you store there truly secure. It might be worth your time to make a "rock" door to camouflage the entrance. Start with a wooden framework of 2x2s, covered by doped fiberglass with a highly irregular "hilly" shape. Then prime, coat, and seal it to match any nearby rock outcroppings. There are now some amazing rock texture paints---pioneered by Zolotone--that look quite natural. One of the popular brands is "Roller Rock", made by Daich Coatings. When applied with a rough-textured roller, these coatings can be very natural looking. These paints can be custom tinted. It is probably best to bring a sample of the local rock to the paint store, and have them match the color)

Before storing anything of value in the cave, leave your camouflaging "rock" door in place for at least a full year, using a telltale. (A twig wedged into the doorjamb--if it has fallen you'll know that the door was disturbed.) Storing anything in the cave without taking that precaution is an invitation to theft. You might want to set up a Dakota Alert (or similar passive IR intrusion detection system) to see if anyone goes near the cave entrance. If you have welding skills, or you have a trustworthy friend that knows how to weld, then you might want to install a locking steel security door or barred gate back behind your "rock camouflaged" door. Just keep in mind that given enough time, a determined burglar can reduce nearly any barrier. (At this juncture I should mention that I get one or two e-mails a year from readers that have had their CONEXes broken into by thieves with bolt cutters or cutting torches.) But at the very least a locked security door will slow burglars down. It will also tremendously reduce your risk of an attractive nuisance lawsuit.

If you are even moderately past the first stage of becoming prepared, you have (or will have) the experience of finding things you had forgotten you had bought. Yeah, Christmas! I thought, until it occurred to me that if I had needed that item really, really badly, I would have just screwed up, big time. Cancel Christmas.

After the third – or was it sixth? – time reading "Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse", it occurred to me there was one thing I wish had made it into the book: the Gray's notebook. Their preps notebook, to be more specific. Only thing I remember is the lists on the chipboard

Jim has been kind enough to share an abundance of gifts. In my opinion, one of the greatest of these gifts is the List of Lists.

What I had, was a pile of papers, which is not really useful at all. So, I just got a bunch of clean paper, some pens, three-ring binders, and here is what I did, and how it got done:
Print out the Rawles List of Lists, writing the title of each at the top of a sheet of paper.
This page will be the rough draft page, and the info put on it will be used on a separate template with the same name.

Lay out each rough draft paper where you can see it (I had the entire dining room table, couch, and coffee table covered).
Go through your giant pile of disorganized papers, placing each article, story, list, clipping, on the appropriate sheet, being sure not to cover the heading.

(Some files are really big (Flu pandemic PDF files come to mind); set these aside to be put in a reference binder – but make a note that you have this reference On the page with the heading.)

Now, for those of you with awesome PC skills, format a template page as follows (if no PC skills, pencil and ruler for you! LOL):

Heading, bold capital letters at top. WATER, for example.
Under this, make a section about one third of the sheet of paper (this section is called info/notes/goals). Leave space for hand written notes, and make a horizontal line at the bottom of this (again, this is about one third the way down the page).

Below this, the remaining two thirds of the page has two columns:
On the left: next steps, with a numbered list below.
On the right, three sections one atop the other:
Short term, with room for a few listed items;
medium term, with room for a few listed items;
long term. with room for a few listed items.

Something like this:
Info/ notes goals

Next steps short term
1 1
2 2
3 3
4 Medium term
5 1
6 2
7 3
8 Long term
9 1
10 2
11 3

(With a vertical line between the two columns.)

Print one of these forms for each list subject heading.

The real work begins.
We have a rough draft sheet with WATER written on it in pen, and also a template with WATER in the heading.
I took the rough draft page, and really quickly, listed every thought I had about water as it concerns my preps. Something like …I have about 8 big water cooler bottles in the basement; have two hand water filters, one is not made anymore, the other I can still get filters for; have a base camp filter, do not remember what type of replacement filters it takes; want a big berky filter, need to find best price; can you drink swimming pool water? I need to stock more bleach, can you use dry bleach as well?...

This is your rough draft page, questions page, and brainstorming page.
Do this with every heading.

So, now, on my fancy template, in the first section, is info about drops of bleach per two liter bottles for purifying. Also, is a reference to a PDF form about sand water filter construction, kept in a bigger, separate binder called Reference.

In the bottom right section, under short term, I have listed the amount of water I have on hand or have immediate access to.

Under Medium term (middle box), I have my various filters listed with prices for replacement filters.

Under Long term, I need info on a manual pump for my well, possibly a solar powered setup, if feasible.

Move to the left, to next steps.
I know I have to rotate the stored water, so I write "Enter water rotation date on master yearly calendar list". I also know I need a little more bleach, so I note that. I might put in a note to price filters, and one more to see how much power my well requires to pull up water, so as to further develop or drop the solar power train of thought.

Now, do this with every heading.

With a new sheet of paper, flip through the notebook, taking at least two next steps from each heading, and make a quick and dirty "Next Steps" list. This will not be pretty, because you will, I am sure, be crossing off the next steps in a lively and methodical fashion. Those of you in the know will understand how this list can become a "thickly padded clipboard". (An inside joke, if you have not yet read "Patriots".)

Pretty simple, I know.
I would say "The end", but we all know we are just now entering the beginning.

Now, go and execute your next steps. - Sled238

The recent dip in precious metals prices is a buying opportunity for those of you that thought that you had "missed the boat." Market analyst Adam Hewison suggests that there might be further pullbacks on the spot price of gold to $855 or perhaps even $750. My reaction? Great! A "full Fib" retracement presents a great short term buying opportunity in what will otherwise be a long term bull market.

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Two months ago, a few readers chided me for being too harsh in my criticism of gadget-oriented "Mall Ninja" survivalists. This auction listing shows exactly what I was talking about: (Thanks to Mike Williamson for spotting the auction for this monstrosity.)

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From Matt Drudge's news site: British authorities try to quell damaging financial rumors

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Reader K.A.F. asks: Is CIT the next domino to fall on Wall Street? CIT Group draws on $7.3 billion of bank lines

"The militia is the natural defense of a free country against sudden foreign invasions, domestic insurrections, and domestic usurpation of power by rulers. The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of the republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally ... enable the people to resist and triumph over them." - Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, "Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States", Vol. 3, pp. 746-7, 1833

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The press has been heralding the apparent agreement by the majority of supreme court justices in the recent oral arguments to DC v. Heller. that the Second Amendment confirms an individual right to keep and bear arms. This is good news, but I think that at least two crucial points were missed in the oral arguments.

The arguments made by Mr. Gura, in my opinion, were a disservice to American gun owners and "the militia at large". (Which consists of all male citizens age 17 to 45, per US Code Title 10, Section 311.) Gura discounts any Second Amendment protection for machineguns, because he claims that the Second Amendments protects only those guns "in common use" as suitable for individuals to bring from their homes, for their personal use in service with the militia. Gura stated:
"They wished to preserve the ability of people to act as militia, and so there was certainly no plan for, say, a technical obsolescence. However, the fact is that [US v.] Miller spoke very strongly about the fact that people were expected to bring arms supplied by themselves of the kind in common use at the time. So if in this time people do not have, or are not recognized by any court to have, a common application for, say, a machine gun or a rocket launcher or some other sort of ..."

That was a specious argument. What he overlooked is the fact that machineguns are not presently "in common use" only because 74 years ago, Congress effectively banned them, by placing a confiscatory tax and onerous fingerprinting and background check requirements upon purchasers. It is a tax of $200 per machinegun transfer. That might not sound "confiscatory" these days, but in 1934, $200 was nearly two months wages for the average working man! For comparison purposes, in 1934 that same $200 was more than the purchase price of a used Thompson submachinegun, 10 times the purchase price of a used M1911 pistol, and 20 times the purchase price of a used M1898 Krag service rifle. Clearly, only the very wealthy could afford to pay this tax. Hence, the potential market share and large scale production ("economies of scale") of privately owned machineguns was never allowed to develop. This was a glaring error that should have been caught by the court justices. Granted, shoulder-fired machine guns were fairly expensive in 1933 since they were a fairly recent technological development, but they became prohibitively expensive in 1934, after enactment of the National Firearms Act (NFA). The bottom line is that in 1933 your grandfather could have walked into your local gun store or hardware store and bought (or had them place special order) a Thompson submachinegun, and walk out with it, sans any paperwork. But in 1934 that became impossible. Hence, shoulder-fired machineguns were never allowed to come into "common use" by civilians.

In my opinion, Gura also stumbled badly when he stated: "At the time that -- even at the time Miller was decided, the civilian arms were pretty much the sort that were used in the military. However, it's hard to imagine how a machine gun could be a "lineal descendent," to use the D.C. Circuit's wording, of anything that existed back in 1791, if we want to look to the framing era."

I beg to differ! The US Springfield Armory designed and produced nearly all of the shoulder-fired arms for the US infantry from 1777 to the 1950s. You can follow the "lineal descent" of those rifles directly from flintlock muskets, to caplock rifles, to the Trapdoor Springfield, to the M1898 Krag, to the M1903 Springfield, to the M1 Garand, (semi-auto) and finally to the M14. Each of these iterations display some quite distinctive design features that are carried on from its immediate predecessor. Some design features are almost continuously-used (such as bayonet lugs and butt traps for cleaning equipment), but others (like stacking swivels) were eventually dropped, as military doctrine changed. It is notable that the pinnacle of this unbroken lineal descent was the M14 and it is fully automatic! The only distinct "lineal break" came when Defense Secretary Robert McNamara forced adoption of the Colt M16. But, again, the selective-fire (semi-auto and full auto) M14 pre-dated that lineal break. And, coincidentally, M14 rifles (now equipped with plastic stocks) are still in service with the US Army in limited numbers in the present day, as designated marksman's rifles.

Justice Kennedy hit the nail on the head when he stated: "It seems to me that [US v.] Miller, as we're discussing it now, and the whole idea that the militia clause has a major effect in interpreting the operative clause is both overinclusive and underinclusive. I would have to agree with Justice Ginsburg that a machine gun is probably more related to the militia now than a pistol is. But that -- that seems to me to be allowing the militia clause to make no sense out of the operative clause in present-day circumstances."

Clearly, the Second Amendment secures both an individual right and a collective right. The NFA of 1934 and all subsequent Federal firearms laws should be struck down as unconstitutional!

In recent months, as he described America's incipient economic peril, Jim Rawles has made references in to "The Mother of All Bailouts." To illustrate the extent of the disaster that is awaiting us--I'd like to introduce you to the entire Economic Collapse Family's cast of characters. This family is so large that I'll use numerous analogies and, with apologies, some mixed metaphors. To include the full Dramatis Personae I'll have to borrow from both The Addams Family, and The Munsters. My apologies to anyone that never saw these two TV shows from the 1960s. This will seem like gibberish to you. And if you hate allegorical pieces, just skip reading this. - Will in Wyoming

You are Pugsley Addams. (The American citizenry.) You are a content, pampered, over-fed child. You have indulging but perverse parents. They let you eat all the junk food you'd like (consumerism), and they let you watch as much television (the mass media) as you'd like, to keep you occupied. Their only demand is that you "do your chores" (pay taxes.) You live in a strange sprawling old mansion with extensive grounds and horse stables (America). The mansion doesn't look like it has been painted or repaired in decades. (Crumbling infrastructure.) You are young and naive, so you don't really understand all that is going on around you. But you have had a vaguely uneasy feeling for as long as you can remember. You certainly have a lot of strange relatives.

Your father, Gomez Addams, is a banker. (The Federal Reserve.) He always wears a dark suits and he keeps a pocketful of cigars (call loans) handy. Oddly, they are lit, even as he pulls them out of his pocket. On his time off, he likes to play with an elaborate electric toy train set (the economy) with you. It is one of those father and son bonding opportunities. He is always at the controls of the the train. (The train set was very expensive, so you can only watch.) Whenever he sees trouble ahead, instead of hitting the brakes, he takes a puff on his big cigar, and opens the throttle (liquidity) wide open. After all, he has always enjoyed seeing a nice train derailment. Gomez is madly in love with his wife. They are inseparable. (The Federal Reserve's monopolistic cartel relationship with the US government.)

Your mother, Morticia Addams, is also known as the Mother of All Bailouts. She (the US government) is supported by her husband Gomez, the banker. She makes any problems go away by throwing money at them. Oddly, she always wears black (debt), but it matches her long black hair (the budget deficit). Morticia has a timeless beauty, but you wonder what potions she takes to maintain that beauty. Morticia's hobby is growing carnivorous plants (stocks and stock mutual funds) that have insatiable appetites. She has an unlimited supply of cash because of her brother, Uncle Fester.

Uncle Fester (the US Treasury) is an inventor of sorts, always experimenting with new things up in the attic. Years ago has invented a nifty high speed printing press, on which he can produce as many $100 bills as he wants. He also has a spare set of plates to produce $100,000 bills.

Lurch. He is the lugubrious house butler (the police). Lurch is seven feet tall and very strong. He obeys the orders of your mother and father without question. Whenever there are any difficulties, you mother and father can ring a bell, and Lurch comes immediately to solve the problem. Whenever he enters the room, he asks in a very deep voice "You rang?"

Cousin Itt. (Social unrest.) Your mom and dad have always given Lurch instructions to keep Cousin Itt locked up in the basement. They've warned Lurch that whenever "Itt" gets loose, he starts breaking things. But luckily "Itt" rarely gets out, and for not very long. Without fail, Lurch catches Cousin Itt, and locks him up again. But a lot of your mom's fine china gets broken each time. She gets angry, but she just takes some of the money from Uncle Fester's printing press and buys new dishes from the store. You've notice that the new dishes are all marked "Made in China."

Thing. Even more scary than Cousin Itt is the disembodied hand creature called "Thing". (The US military, warfare.) Thing is powerful, and also breaks some china, but thankfully that is usually in other people's houses.

Some of your cousins are The Munsters. They live in a big house of their own (much older than your family's), that is called Europe. They drive a very stylish car. (The Munsters have a great sense of design and style.) Their daughter, Marilyn, is a real babe. She could get work as a model at a Paris fashion show. Her little brother is your cousin, Eddie Munster. He is cool and likes a lot of the same games and TV shows that you do. Their Grandpa (the European Central Bank) is a strange old man that is sort of like Uncle Fester. (He is also in inventor.)

Your mom once said that the Addams Family and the Munsters are very closely related. She mentioned something about some cousins marrying each other, but never gave you the details. The Munsters always seem to be getting in fights with their neighbors, so occasionally your family has to send Thing over to the Munster's house and restore order.

Thankfully, circumstances are different in your neighborhood. For as long as you can remember, the Addams Family has had peaceful relations with all of your nearby neighbors (Mexico and Canada), mainly because they are all afraid of your dad's creepy mansion and all of his money. Starting about 30 years ago, one of your neighbors sent a maid named Maria (uncontrolled American immigration) to help out with the chores at the Addams mansion. You realize that Maria has been having a lot of babies up in her room, but they are quiet, so nobody worries about them.

The Latest Episode:

Your dad dashes into the TV Room. You have been distracted there (with the newer, big screen television with all the extra channels), so you didn't notice the changes in your dad's toy train set up. Your dad excitedly tells you "Come to the parlor, son, to see the upgrades that I've made to the train!" Among other things, you see that he has switched from the old low-current transformer (precious metals backed currency) to a new, high-current transformer (fiat currency.) This new train set is swell. It isn't just an old steam locomotive. This one is a shiny streamlined Zephyr. It is very fast. (The post-Greenspan low interest rate economic boom.) Uncle Fester helped design and build it. Instead of just an old fashioned derailment, your dad says that he has a dramatic ending planned, using the "The D Word." He calls them derivatives, but you recognizes those bundles: They are bundled sticks of dynamite.

"Watch this, son!" The toy train goes speeding down the track, faster and faster. It is barely staying on the tracks. Your mother and Uncles Fester clap their hands in delight. Lurch just stands off to the side patiently, but he moans "Uggggghh" to himself and he rolls his eyes. The expression on his face reveals that he knows that there will soon be a big mess that he will have to clean up. The train passes over the trestle, and just at the precise moment, your dad shoves down the lever on the blasting machine, setting off "The D Word" in a tremendously loud explosion. Things go flying everywhere. Your ears are ringing. There are huge clouds of acrid smoke. Windows, china, light bulbs, and even the big screen television are broken. You father comments drolly: "I guess that I used a bit too much of the D Word."

Cousin Itt hears the commotion and breaks out of the basement. Lurch chases after him, but Cousin Itt is wild and uncontrollable. He breaks a lot of china. Meanwhile, Maria's children--it turns out there 27 of them (who knew?)--come running out of their room, shouting. They join Cousin Itt in an orgy of breaking china, tearing the copper wiring out of the walls, and eating up all of the food in the house. It is absolute pandemonium. Lurch can't control the situation. Cousin Itt and Maria's kids slip from his grasp and continue wrecking things. There are too many of them. Sadly, "Thing" is no help, because he is currently off working at some other's peoples house, down the street (Iraq). All of the gadgets in the house seems to be broken beyond repair, except that you still hear Uncle Fester's printing press running upstairs. (It is reassuring to know that something still works.)

Amidst this confusion, you hear your dad shout at your mom: "Call the Munsters for help!" Your mom objects. "But Gomez!", she sobs, "The Munsters already have a first and second mortgage on the mansion. This time they'll demand that we sign over the title o the house and they'll take Uncle Fester's printing press. They'll even send their own maid, cook, and butler to run our house!" You don't like the sound of that, because you know that the Munster's butler has a big mean German Shepherd (the United Nations) and their maid Sharia (uncontrolled European immigration) is very scary and speaks a foreign language. You were told that she was originally from North Africa. (But, like Maria, your cousins hired Sharia because she works for practically nothing. And, coincidentally, you've heard that Sharia is also having a lot of kids.)

You dad motions you outside. "Let's have a talk, son." The sun is setting. In the distance, your hear some nervous whinnying and stomping of the Four Horses out in the stable. Clearly, they have been agitated by the explosion and the continuing sounds of chaos in the house, and you wonder if they are going to get loose. Your dad sits you down and he nervously pulls out another lit cigar. Finally, the truth comes out. "Pugsley, it is time that I told you the truth: Your mother and I are are immortals. We've owned this mansion for more than 230 years. Nothing can ever kill us." He goes on with some details, explaining that as their children have grown up, they just keep raising new ones, to do the chores. Your father also admits that this latest train wreck (economic depression) is one of many that he has orchestrated over the years. He begins proudly, "Son, some of my best train wrecks were in 1819, 1837, 1857 and 1929." After a pause, he adds, more soberly, "Up until this last one, I've always used just the throttle and run the train off the tracks. But this time I made the mistake of using the D Word, and frankly I'm not sure if I can ever fix the train set." Over in the house, you hear the sounds of Cousin Itt chasing chaos continuing. It is starting to get dark, and the lights in the house aren't working. You realize will be a very long night, without television! - Will in Wyoming

I was told by a local LDS Bishop's storehouse that the church is out of white wheat and will no longer be providing it because they buy it and it's simply too expensive right now on the open market. The wait time for [hard] red [winter] wheat orders is 3-to-4 weeks. Another LDS cannery in Utah is also out of several items that they typically have on hand. Get your food storage while you can. - Junior

A friend of ours is an investment banking consultant. He is currently engaged is raising cash to help salvage an ailing hedge fund. He said that he predicts that the vast majority of US hedge funds will go under in the next year. "The pressure from margin calls and [individual investor] redemptions will be unstoppable." Of the nation's top 150 hedge funds, he said, "nearly all will cease to exist in their present form." He added that there are perhaps 12 hedge funds that are not publicly traded that might be spared the ignominious demise of their brethren.

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Greenleaf [Idaho] residents prepared for almost any disaster. (A hat tip to Bret for sending us this.)

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Our correspondent in Brazil, "The Werewolf", mentioned that the archives of Cooper's Commentaries, (previously known as Gunsite Gossip) are still available for free download.

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The Canadian Jericho Ranger Lady sent this: Financial markets turmoil stirs economists' memories of 1929 crash

"The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the law of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If 'Thou shalt not covet' and 'Thou shalt not steal' were not commandments from Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society before it can be civilized or made free." - John Adams, A Defence of the Constitution of the United States Against the Attacks of M. Turgot, 1787

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Our first post today is a guest editorial from economist John Mauldin, with permission from the author. John is the editor of the weekly Outside the Box e-newsletter. I highly recommend it. Subscriptions are free!

By now, everyone knows that the subprime crisis started with non-existent lending standards which resulted in the large numbers of foreclosures we are seeing today. Those foreclosures will be rising throughout the year. We are not near anything like the top of the rising number of foreclosures. Ben Bernanke said last July that losses from the subprime would be in the $100 billion dollar range. True confession. I think I wrote six months earlier that it would be $200 billion. I point that out to make the point that I am an optimist by nature. The latest "bidding war" number for the amount of total losses is about $500 billion from Goldman Sachs, and a neat $1 trillion from uber-bear Nouriel Roubini.
Add in hundreds of billions from losses which are piling up in other credit markets and you can easily get to $1 trillion in losses which are going to have to be eaten by all sorts of financial institutions, without being all that pessimistic.

Banks are being forced to reduce their loan and margin books in order to get the necessary capital required by regulatory authorities. Plus, credit is now more expensive as risk premiums rise from absurdly low levels in what more than one authority called a "new era of finance." Turns out it was just normal old era greed.
It is not just the mortgage market. It is commercial mortgages, safe municipal bonds, credit card debt, student loans and a host of credit that is under fire and cannot find a buyer at what should be a realistic price.

We should not be surprised at the lack of liquidity in the credit markets. We have essentially vaporized 60% of the buyers of debt in the last six months. The various alphabet of SIVs, CLOs, CDO, ABS, CMBS, and their kin that were the real shadow banking system are either gone or on life support. It took decades to build these structures and it is not realistic to think we can replace them in six months. This is going to take some time.

And time is what the Fed has bought this week by offering to take AAA mortgage paper and swap it for T-bills. They will start with $200 billion on offer. Remember you read it here first that that number will be increased and increased again. From the markets initial euphoric response, you would think the problems have been solved and banks will once again start lending. Sadly, this is probably not true.

This is similar to the action by the bank regulators in 1980, when nearly every major bank had losses that were greater than their capital on Latin American loans which had defaulted. The Fed, with a wink and a nod, allowed the banks to carry these worthless loans on their books at full face value. It took six years before they started to actually write them down. But without that measure, every major bank in the US would have gone bankrupt. And technically, they were for several years. But the Fed action simply bought the banks time to re-liquefy. It was the right thing to do.

This week's action by the Fed is essentially the same thing. It buys time. This 28 day auction will be around for a long time. If the banks had to write down the potential losses on their AAA Fannie Mae paper and other similar assets, it could have brought the banking system to its knees. Eventually, we will get a market clearing price for all this paper, but the key word here is eventually. We are going to see foreclosures and losses for another 18 months. It is going to take a long time to know exactly what the losses will be.

I think the losses on many of the various forms of debt have been marked down way too far by the various derivative markets. (I would hasten to add this does not include the subprime markets, as many of those assets are going to zero.) I doubt the loss in a lot of the debt paper will be nearly as much as the current credit default swaps prices indicate. For instance, some municipal bond debt is priced for 10-15% losses, when losses of less than 0.5% are normal. When there is a buyers strike, prices fall, and sometime to quite low levels. In the fullness of time, the price of these bonds will rise back to "normal" levels. There is a reason Bill Gross is buying municipal bonds by the train car load. Many are simply at the best prices we will see in my lifetime.
But if that debt is now on a bank's capital books, they have to write it down to the latest mark-to-market. The Fed's move simply allows the banks to move what will eventually (or maybe the better word is should eventually) be marked back to reasonable values. It avoids a crisis today.

The next crisis? I read a very chilling piece from Michael Lewitt this morning. He speculates on what if the rumors were true that Bear Stearns is basically bankrupt. Bear is in the "too big to fail" category. They are at the heart of the chain of Credit Default Swaps which run like fault lines throughout the world's financial system. If Bear were allowed to collapse, it would simply cascade throughout the world so fast it would truly make the current level of the credit crisis seem small potatoes.

So, why can I be so sanguine? Because the regulators (the Fed and the SEC) would step in and whatever large bank was failing would be merged or bought very fast. Liquidity and assets would be provided. The Fed and the rest of the world's central banks get that we are in a crisis. They will do what is necessary. Those of us sitting in the cheap seats in the back of the plane may not like it, as it will look like a bailout of the big guys who caused the problem, but you have to maintain the integrity of the system. A hedge fund here or there can go, but not one of the world's premier banks.
I wrote the above paragraphs on Thursday, and sure enough, the NY Fed and JP Morgan stepped in to bail out Bear. This will not be the only time or bank. The regulators may have been asleep, but the depth of this crisis has awakened them.

But this is a boost for my contention that we will be in a Muddle Through Economy for a long time. This latest Fed actions simply draw out the time over which the market will correct. But that is a good thing, as a too swift, dead drop correction could spawn a very deep recession, destroying vast amounts of capital, which would take much longer to come out of.

You have written favorably of the US Postal Service Liberty Bell ("Forever") stamps. Short history: The US Post Office Department was reorganized and became the US Postal Service effective July 1971. Employees of the Post Office then became employees of the Postal Service, but saw no changes in their paychecks. They looked the same.

More recently, the Postal Service has likely accumulated significant cash from selling the "Forever" series. The government's pledge is that the stamps will henceforth be honored as postage without more adding one or two cent stamps' postage (or more) to the already purchased forever stamps.

However, whether the stamps would retain value, as "forever" status should the US economy plunge is untested. As we anticipate a crisis when we would doubt the value of Federal Reserve Notes, why would we stock up on "forever" stamps? Couldn't the Postal Service be "repatriated" back into the US Post Office or into another government entity, and the already issued "Forever" stamps be then no longer honored? Or at a minimum the public be required to again add supplemental postage? These pre-purchased "Forevers" could just end up being a loan or a donation to the US Government. - KA

JWR Replies: While I hardly consider them an investment, I do consider Forever stamps a good inflation hedge. The vagaries of government edicts are impossible to predict. It is indeed possible that an Orwellian decree will issue forth from the District of Columbia, stating that "the word forever no longer means forever." This is just a risk that anyone holding Forever stamps will have to take. I think that it is more likely that at some point in the inflationary future the USPS will simply mandate that postage stamps can only be used one at a time, for postage, rather than allowing them to continue to be cashed in or applied to other transactions--such as purchasing USPS money orders, or recharging postal meters. Congress might also someday make secondary bulk sales or barter of un-cancelled postage stamps illegal.

For now, however, I still consider Forever stamps a good inflation hedge. OBTW, I was recently told by my local postal clerk that regulations have changed, and henceforth I cannot pre-pay the rental on my post office box for more than one year in advance. This will of course leave me vulnerable to rental rate increases. But presumably, I can set aside a stack of Forever stamp booklets that I can use for future post office box renewals. There is more than one way to skin a cat.

Parenthetically, I should mention that I still gratefully accept donations of Forever stamps, in lieu of 10 Cent Challenge contributions. My mail forwarding address is still:

James Wesley Rawles
P.O. Box 303
Moyie Springs, Idaho 83845

Note: We live at an isolated ranch. The address above is just a mail forwarding address. We maintain this intermediate address to ensure our privacy. Our mail and packages are picked up and forwarded to us roughly twice a month, by a very trustworthy friend. Be advised that there may be as much as 20 day delay before I receive your mail. Thanks for your patience, and many thanks for your support of SurvivalBlog!

J. Ross sent us some serious Gloom und Doom: Fed Heads Back to the Well, Will It Run Dry?

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Trevor flagged this piece at WND: Fed abandons dollar in new round of rate cuts--Reacts to fall of investment giant Bear Stearns, Carlyle Capital Corp.

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Mark recommended the rifle muzzle brakes made by OPS. We have had the muzzles of all of our .30 caliber bolt actions threaded 1/2-28. That is the same thread used on many flash hiders (such as AR-15, M4 and AR-10.) Our preferred flash hider is the Vortex Model 3068, made by Smith Enterprise. You can keep a muzzle brake installed in the present day, and switch to a flash hider if and when times get inimical. Have your rifles threaded and keep both devices handy. The later Vortex flash hiders are also compatible with the SEI Direct Connect sound suppressors, if you don't mind all the paperwork and expense associated with a Class 3 transfer. ($200 Federal Transfer tax, in the US.) Safety Note: If you own any .30 caliber rifles, be absolutely sure that you have all of your muzzle brakes and flash hiders drilled for proper clearance of .30 caliber bullets. If you were to attach an unmodified .22 caliber Vortex to a .30 caliber rifle, it could cause a tragic accident!

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SF in Hawaii suggested a great article on desert expeditions that should be required reading for anyone that expects to ever do any off-road driving, even in temperate climates.

"The first information survival skill we all need is the ability to decode propaganda and demythologize the highly commercialized and entertainment-based U.S. culture. Psychologists politely call it 'resistance to enculturation.' Writer Ernest Hemingway had a less elegant term: 'cr*p detecting.'" - Karl Albrecht, article in Training and Development magazine, February 2001.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

You've probably read about the seven Hedge Funds controlling $5.4 Billion have been forced to liquidate or suspend redemptions in the past month. Many of their investors had been leaving their full principal intact, quarter after quarter. In many many cases they want to continue to "let it all roll", so they then used other funds to pay the tax bills on their hedge fund earnings. But now, with redemptions (cash outs) halted, not only will they lose most or all of their principal, but they must also pay the 2007 income tax on the "gain" for the calendar year. What a bitter irony.

I know one couple that has 2/3s of their net worth tied up in very well-known and long-established a hedge fund. Despite the dramatic and unprecedented collapse of the global credit market, this couple is in denial that the value of their fund could ever decline. Despite my repeated urgings, they have now missed their opportunities to cash out, though two quarterly redemption windows.

Back in September and October of 2007, I warned specifically about the ability of hedge fund managers to suspend redemptions without notice. This is now exactly what is happening, on a grand scale. I often say that markets are alternately driven by greed and fear. Now, the fear index is clearly rising. But many of the investors that still stubbornly hang on to their greed-driven investments are about to pay the piper. And then some extra tax, on top of that.

Mr. Rawles:
One way that U.S. citizens can still get M1 Garand rifles at reasonable prices is via the DoD's Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP).

M1 Garands are available starting at $445 + shipping. (I believe the Field Grades to be best choice for practical use rifles--$495)

M1 Carbines are available for $419 + shipping and up. [JWR Adds: I do not recommend M1 Carbines, because they are chambered for an anemic cartridge. The .30 US Carbine is not a reliable man stopper!]

.30-06 military surplus ammunition in clips, bandoleers and sealed cans, for $200 per case of 768 rounds.

Requirements: Proof of citizenship, proof of age, proof of membership in a CMP affiliated club, proof of participation in marksmanship training activity and NICS check. Rifles can be shipped right to your doorstep by the CMP.

Additionally, the Appleseed Program that you advertise on your site normally provides certificates for proof of marksmanship activity to Appleseed participants if requested. Membership in the RWVA (the Appleseed Program's parent organization) satisfies the "affiliated club" requirement, and participation at an event exposes one to the techniques and tools needed for becoming a better rifle shooter. Appleseed has been to Corona, California, and will be in other locations.

For other options, the Lee-Enfield is probably the best bolt action battle rifle--the mag capacity, speed of loading with stripper clips, and rapid bolt manipulation minimize the usual bolt gun limitations. The No. 4 with the aperture sight is easiest to shoot well, especially with older eyes. Just get plenty of stripper clips, a decent sling that can be used as a shooting aid (USGI web sling--the one with the buckle and adjustment slide, not the "silent sling"), some spare parts (pins and springs mainly, Lee Enfields are pretty easy to repair), and maybe a Lee Loader in .303. The rimmed cartridge is easy to reload and can even be reloaded with black powder and cast lead bullets for really long term use.

Thanks for your web site, and God Bless. - SoM


Hi Jim,
I'm in California, and I absolutely feel the pressure your writer feels. I abide by the law, for fear of it. My choice for an MBR is the PTR-91.
I can get it in a "California Legal" configuration. It has what is called a "bullet button" installed. This is a replacement mechanism for the mag release, that requires an included tool to operate. Since California defines an assault weapon and a rifle with a detachable box magazine. [Under the California law], a fixed magazine is defined as one that requires a tool to remove. This arrangement works just fine. My rifle is a fixed magazine weapon, and therefore may have all the evil features I wish to install, without limit. No one can remove the magazine without the proper tool. And, it is not on the list of banned weapons. It's not even close to that problematic AR-series and AK-series ban language (which no longer applies to off-list lowers. But that's still something [that California] law enforcement has yet to learn.)

[To keep legal] you must never have the magazine detached from the rifle and still have the trigger assembly installed. Fortunately, the butt stock and trigger assembly fall into my hands. Make sure the mag stays in the rifle until the rest has been removed. It's a pain, I know, but less so than an arrest. To make it easy for myself: I leave the mag in place, and load it through the ejection port. My mag has been pinned by the reseller so as to accept only 10 cartridges.

The PTR-91 can be found for $1,100 - $1,240, depending on options.[They comes with a] brand new H&K carrier, bolt head, and flash hider. - Randy in Central California


Hello Mr. Rawles.
I too, am a California resident. For the longest time I wanted to own an AR-15 only to be let down by the [California 1999] "Assault Weapons" ban.

Recently I found out I can indeed own a legal AR-15. In the text of the ban, there is a list of names that are forbidden. However, there are now several manufacturers making AR15s and their lower receivers are not on that list. These receivers are legal to own as they are not “listed”. Some people are calling said receivers “off list lowers” .

The California definition of an assault weapon lists the criteria as:
(a) Notwithstanding Section 12276, "assault weapon" shall also mean any of the following:
(1) a semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and any one of the following:
(a) pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon.
(b) thumbhole stock.
(c) folding or telescoping stock
(d) grenade launcher or flare launcher.
(e) flash suppressor.
(f) forward pistol grip.

Since your typical MBR is going to be a centerfire, there’s no way to change that. However, you CAN change the “detachable magazine” or “pistol grip” feature.

There are two options if you want to remove the pistol grip. The U-15 stock, or the Monster Man Grip. This eliminates any question of the pistol grip and it’s “pistol style grasp”. This will allow you to have a detachable magazine. However, please understand that your rifle must be “featureless”. Adding D, E, or F will make it an assault weapon (seeing that it’s already 1) centerfire and 2) possessing the ability to have detachable magazines).

If you’d like to keep your pistol grip, there’s the option of “fixing” the magazine (meaning not detachable without the use of tools). One well known option is to weld your magazine to the receiver and feeding it via stripper clips. This can be an expensive, irreversible solution.

Instead, you can buy a magazine lock kit (known as a “bullet button”) that will convert from “detachable” to an “attachable” magazine rifle. This type of mag lock uses a tool (an allen wrench, a cartridge, a screwdriver, etc) to detach the magazine, but will accept the magazine without any complications. A list of various “bullet buttons” (and its cousins) can be found at

Bullet Buttons are made for a variety of firearms, including AKs, AR-15s, HKs and from other sources, FALs. Should you choose this route, your magazine must be limited to 10 rounds as anything more will be illegal.

The best part about these options is that you are legally allowed to own what would otherwise be an “assault weapon”, and if you move to a gun-friendly state, they are 100% reversible.

Should you plan to build an California-legal AR-15 (or AK, HK, FAL, etc) then please refer to this PDF chart to ensure it is legal.

For more information about the above options, check out the CalGun Forums.

I hope this information is useful to law-abiding Californians. - Jason


Hi James:
I enjoyed reading SurvivalBlog this morning as usual. In reading your response to the question of a MBR for California, I thought I would chime in as we still have a number of fairly good options here in the PRK.

The M1A is the obvious choice, and while expensive, they can sometimes be had used for a very good price. Detachable mags, in California are sadly limited to 10 round mags, unless you actually owned those higher capacity mags prior to the 2000 PRK ban.

DSA makes several California compliant fixed 10 round mag FAL rifles which use stripper clips, and after market kits are available to convert a normally configured FALs to fixed mag/stripper clips configuration. There are probably thousands of FAL variants in California sitting in safes, which have had the pistol grip (and flash suppressor) removed to make them California compliant but shooting an FAL without the pistol grip is a bit awkward. MonsterMan Grips make a grip which makes off list lower AR-15 and AK types California compliant, and they have promised to make a similar grip for the FAL. I am planning on using an old thumb hole butt stock and filling in the thumb hole to make a close-to-normally configured FAL which will be California compliant, and will allow me to continue to use my 20 round FAL mags.

I went to a California gun show a few weeks ago - my first in many years, and was surprised at the plethora of California compliant ARs, AKs, FALs, and other weapons thought to be non-existent in the California market. I also saw a number of M1 Garands for less than your $900 market price. I thought I paid a lot for my 7.62 NATO Garand all those many years ago, never realizing what a deal it would really turn out to be. Keep up the great work, and sage advice.- Eric P.

You mentioned the FN49 rifle as a possible MBR.
I just purchased a Yugo SKS ($199) plus four 20-round magazines (at $10 each) and 1,000 rounds (at $177) via the Internet. Even if I have the trigger re-worked, the springless firing pin replaced, custom stock installed, I'll still be way under the least expensive FN49. In fact I could buy 2 SKS for the FN49 price. It's a good rifle out to 300 yards and perhaps more if the rifleman has the skill set. In my suburban environment, it would be untypical for me to be shooting even out to 300 yards. So, does my SKS pass muster? - Bob

JWR Replies: Since they are chambered in an intermediate power cartridge with a rainbow trajectory, I consider the SKS a poor second choice to a full power rifle such as an M1A, M1 Garand, or FN49.. And though an SKS might suffice, but why risk your life depending on something that is second best? An FN49 combines great penetrating power with a flat trajectory, allowing effective defensive shooting out to 400 yards. With the exception of the Argentine Navy variant (with detachable magazines), the rate of fire for an FN49 is not as fast as an M1A, HK, or FAL, but it is close.

For those that don't mind the paper trail associated with getting an M1 Garand through the CMP, read the eligibility requirements.

And for those that want to jump through the flame-filled hoops of a "complaint" semi-auto rifle in California, I agree with Eric P.'s advice on getting an FN-FAL or L1A1 and equipping it with a stripper clip top cover. These are quite fast to reload. Further, if anyone in California has owned a 20 round magazine since before Dec. 31, 1999 and they have resided continuously in California since before that date, then that magazine can be legally possesed, but not inserted in a semi-auto rifle that has any of the "evil" features.

With all that said, keep in mind that the legalistic contortions of California's so-called "Assault weapons" ban skirt the real issue, which is freedom. If you love liberty, vote with your feet and get out of that Mickey Mouse state, post haste!

Todd Savage found this gem: Dollar Bear: The road to hyper-inflation

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Mark mentioned the M3 Medical kits available from JRH Enterprises, with fresh components

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Eric spotted this at MarketWatch: Wall Street watches Lehman walk on thin ice

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Another piece courtesy of Eric: Gulf central banks urged to sever links with tumbling US dollar

"The argument for liberty is not an argument against organization, which is one of the most powerful tools human reason can employ, but an argument against all exclusive, privileged, monopolistic organization, against the use of coercion to prevent others from doing better." - Friedrich August von Hayek (1899-1992), Nobel Laureate of Economic Sciences 1974

Monday, March 17, 2008

The high bid in the current SurvivalBlog Benefit Auction lot is now at $210. This auction is for four items: a MURS Alert Base station, a MURS Alert Hand-held transceiver, an earbud, and a Kaito KA-1102 AM/FM/Shortwave. These radios were kindly donated by the owner of Affordable Shortwaves and MURS Radios. If you aren't familiar with the Dakota Alert infrared perimeter security system, take a few minute to look at the Dakota Alert web site. These alarms are very reliable and versatile. I often recommend them to my consulting clients--especially those that plan to have lightly-manned retreats. You can easily set up multiple detector/transmitter sensors to provide 360 degree perimeter security for a large area. Instead of just a generic alarm, they will let you know which sensor was tripped, via a computer-generated voice message to a radio that you can carry on your belt. (Such as "Alert, Zone Two.") The same radio can be used for point-to-point voice communications, on the little-used MURS band. The three radios have a retail value of $210. The auction ends on April 15th. Please e-mail us your bids, in $10 increments.

Collectively, Americans have accumulated a mountain of public and private debt in the past 20 years. The essential nature of all debts is that they someday must be repaid. Debts can be broken down into three categories:

The Good. This is debt with low fixed interest rates, secured by tangible assets that have value that exceeds the amount of the loan. Everything is copasetic as long as the borrowers have a steady cash flow and can make their payments

The Bad. This is debt that is either insufficiently secured, or that has a nasty contractual surprise waiting, such as an adjustable interest rate reset date, or a balloon payment date.

The Ugly. This is the call loan. It can be called at any time, for any reason.

An interesting thing happens when an economy heads into a deep recession. Credit tightens, and assets begin to lose value. The quality of debt drops. Employees get laid off in large numbers and installment credit delinquencies and then defaults soar. In very rough terms the following plays out:

Good Debt starts to resemble Bad Debt,
Bad Debt starts to resemble Ugly Debt, and
Ugly Debt becomes Hideously Ugly Debt.

Hedge fund managers are in some ways like high states poker players. The risks are large, but so are their potential rewards. Well-managed hedge funds make gobs of money in good economic times, when there are stable--or at least trend-predictable--interest rates. They apply leverage, often as much as a 30-to-1 ratio, to make their profits. They make most of their money by borrowing short but lending long. Again, this works fine in good economic times with stable interest rates. But when interest rates fluctuate wildly, hedge funds can run into trouble. Periods with an inverted yield curve can be the most perilous.

The collapse of the subprime mortgage bubble signaled an end to a decade of debt-driven good times. Almost overnight, liquidity dried up.

Now we are entering some very scary times. Bankers are getting margin calls. The only way that they can meet those call demands is to call in loans that they have made. So, at present, the bankers are making margin calls of their own: They are calling their loans made to hedge funds (among other borrowers). This is putting many hedge funds in an impossible situation. Many hedge funds will collapse.

There is an old saying on Wall Street: "A one million dollar debt keeps the borrower up at night, worrying. But a one hundred million dollar debt keeps the lender up at night, worrying."

Exceptional times like these will result in some huge write-downs and write-offs. The only good news is that many assets will lose a lot of value. Everything from vintage cars to vintage wines, to grand estates will drop precipitously in price. Desperate for cash, the holders of those assets will be offering them at fire sale prices at the bottom of the market. If you are one of the few people with extra cash in your pocket, you will be able to pick up some tremendous bargains. (OBTW, the firm J.P. Morgan just did exactly that. They just inked a deal to buy troubled Bear Stearns for 2 cents on the dollar from its value of just one week ago.)

Just a quick report on what I've learned about buying bulk grains and beans.
We have a local bulk food depot. I called to place an order. The guy checked with his wholesaler for prices, then called me back. He was aghast. He said everything was up around 25% since he had placed his last order two weeks ago. And up about 100% since the first of the year. The reason, the wholesaler reported, was demand from folks stocking up. The wholesaler was sold out of many items. Then I called an Amish bulk food store about an hour and a half away. Same story. (Yeah, I wondered about the Amish answering a telephone, too. Apparently the rules are flexible.)
Well, finding the prices a bit high, even for 50-pound bags (like 61 cents a pound for red wheat, 93 cents a pound for black beans, 53 cents a pound for white rice), I decided to check out the local "budget" supermarkets. Surprise, surprise. They were less expensive. Sometimes by a lot. For example, Sav-A-Lot had black beans for 70 cents a pound. ALDI had long grain white rice for 39 cents a pound. A further surprise, even Kroger's beat the bulk food prices. Of course, these things may change when the supermarket's wholesalers have to replace their stocks.
I' sure things vary from region to region, even city to city. But, as always, caveat emptor. One shouldn't assume that sources that should be cheaper actually are. And prices are unlikely to be any cheaper in our lifetimes than they are this afternoon. Best wishes, - Dr. Jack

Mr. Rawles
I am a long time lurker on your site and would first like to thank you for all you do. I learn much from your site and finally read a topic I have some knowledge of. I operate a large ambulance service (75 units) and read the article about using ambulances as BOVs. I thought I might make a few observations.

It is true that the truck type ambulance have factory 4WD. However the majority of van type units have good aftermarket conversions. Most are done by Quimby. In fact I would only purchase a van type 4x4 from them. One down side to the truck type unit is that rescue squads are notorious for building a unit well above GVW. This causes all sorts of brake and suspension problems in the long term.

As for durability you may be surprised but the van type units have a longer service life as well as a lower cost of operation. They are usually lighter and have far more payload than the truck type. One big concern of a truck type ambulance is that the module is designed for remount. Now from a factory they are built well but at remount time all bets are off. They can truly be done by a shade tree mechanic and the electrical problems can be a nightmare. The van units will almost always come with the factory wiring and since they are all one unit the cabinets and structure seem to hold up better.

Excluding 4WD units, if I was getting one as a BOV, I would consider a van type Ford E350 built between 1990 and 1994 with the non-direct inject, non turbo engine. These units can easily go 400,000 plus miles. Consider keeping [one or more] glow plugs, a fuel pump, an extra set of injectors, and a crank position sensor as spare parts. These units are small, durable and easy-to-maneuver vehicles that handle well get acceptable mileage and are easy to obtain parts for.

One other thing to consider. How to paint the unit. In a true pre-TEOTWAWKI Get Out of Dodge situation having a vehicle that can appear similar to an emergency vehicle may not be a bad thing. With a van unit you could even have a magnetic sign with some sort of logo that could be added and removed at will. I can tell you an ambulance is rarely stopped or harassed. It is not unusual for them to go long distances and both LEOs and the public see out-of-area units all the time so it does not arouse a lot of suspicion. Of course you would have to check state and local laws.

Hope this gives some insight into ambulances. It is true they can often be found at low prices with low mileage and could make a great BOV, if selected carefully. - RB

The US House of Representatives is currently debating HR 5512, (the "Coin Modernization and Taxpayer Savings Act of 2008") legislation that would further debase our coinage. According to a article in The Chicago Tribune titled Change for a Penny?, pennies will soon be made of steel instead of zinc. Although the bill leaves it up to the Treasury, presumably, five cent pieces would be made of zinc instead of their current alloy of copper and nickel. I've warned SurvivalBlog readers that this was coming, and that they should start saving nickels. Coincidentally, reader RBS sent us a link to an article about how Zimbabwe's corrupt government is introducing a new 10 Million dollar bill. In Zimbabwe, all coins have long since been removed from circulation. The following is an excerpt of Congressman Ron Paul's statement on this bill, speaking before the Financial Services Committee's Subcommittee on Domestic and International Monetary Policy, Trade, and Technology. on March 11, 2008:

"Mr. Chairman, I oppose HR 5512 because it is unconstitutional to delegate the determination of the metal content of our coinage to the Secretary of the Treasury. Under Article I Section 8 of the Constitution, the Congress is given the power to coin money and regulate the value thereof. It is a shame that Congress has already unconstitutionally delegated its coinage authority to the Treasury Department, but that is no reason to further delegate our power and essentially abdicate Congressional oversight as the passing of HR 5512 would do.

Oversight by members of Congress, who have an incentive to listen to their constituents,ensures openness and transparency. This bill would eliminate that process and delegate it to unelected bureaucrats. The Secretary of the Treasury would be given sole discretion to alter the metal content of coins, or even to create non-metal coins. Given the history of Congressional delegation and subsequent lax oversight on issues as important as the conflict in Iraq, it would be naive to believe that Congress would exercise any more oversight over an issue as unimportant to most members as the composition of coins.

While I sympathize with the aim of Section 4 of this bill to save taxpayer dollars by minting steel pennies, it is disappointing that our currency has been so greatly devalued as to make this step necessary. At the time of the penny's introduction, it actually had some purchasing power. Based on the price of gold, what one penny would have purchased in 1909requires 47 cents today. It is no wonder then that few people nowadays would stoop to pick up any coin smaller than a quarter.

Congress' unconstitutional delegation of monetary policy to the Federal Reserve and its reluctance to exercise oversight in that arena have led to a massive devaluation of the dollar. If we fail to end this devaluation, we will undoubtedly hold future hearings as the metal value of our coins continues to outstrip the face value.

HR5512 is a sad commentary on how far we have fallen, not just since the days of the Founders, but only in the last 75 to 100 years. We could not maintain the gold standard nor the silver standard. We could not maintain the copper standard, and now we cannot even maintain the zinc standard. Paper money inevitably breeds inflation and destroys the value of the currency. That is the reason that this proposal is before us today."

"We are now experiencing the first truly major crisis of financial globalization. Never before have banks seen such destruction of their balance sheets in such a short time. Moreover, there are signs that the problems are spreading. The risk premiums on commercial property, consumer credit and corporate loans have risen sharply." - Swiss central bank governor Philipp Hildebrand, quoted March 12, 2008

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Congrats to Stephen H., the high bidder in our recent SurvivalBlog benefit auction. Today we are starting a new auction. This one is for three radios: MURS Alert Base station, a MURS Alert Hand-held transceiver, and a Kaito KA-1102 AM/FM/Shortwave. These radios were kindly donated by the owner of Affordable Shortwaves and MURS Radios. If you aren't familiar with the Dakota Alert infrared perimeter security system, take a few minute to look at the Dakota Alert web site. These alarms are very reliable and versatile. I often recommend them to my consulting clients--especially those that plan to have lightly-manned retreats. You can easily set up multiple detector/transmitter sensors to provide 360 degree perimeter security for a large area. Instead of just a generic alarm, they will let you know which sensor was tripped, via a computer-generated voice message to a radio that you can carry on your belt. (Such as "Alert, Zone Two.") The same radio can be used for point-to-point voice communications, on the little-used MURS band. The three radios have a retail value of $210. The opening bid for the combined lot of three radios is just $50. The auction ends on April 15th. Please e-mail us your bids, in $10 increments.

This week the news wires were abuzz about the Bear Stearns bailout. It all started with a margin call.

An investment banking insider tipped me that there will be perhaps as many as five more "margin calls that can't be answered" next week. Three names mentioned as possibly getting the dreaded call are Goldman Sachs on Tuesday and both Morgan Stanley and Lehman Brothers on Wednesday--on the same day that each reports their first quarter earnings. The word on the street is that all three may need to be bailed out, to varying degrees. Who is standing in the wings to bail some of them out? Credit Suisse and some other big European banks. At the end of next week there may be even more unanswerable margin call news, for US Bank and Washington Mutual. Oh yes, and rumor also has it that Wells Fargo sold some its tangible assets--including some that date back to the 1850s--in order to meet its margin call on Friday.

To meet these margin calls, most of the troubled banks will in turn be making margin calls of their own, to their hedge fund buddies.This, I believe, will cause dozens of hedge funds to go belly up, since most hedge funds have already been under redemption pressure from individual investors. Many hedge funds are using high leverage with their trading portfolios. This makes them unlikely to be able to meet their margin calls. The end result? Look at least for suspension redemption notices from a good portion of American and European hedge funds, and possibly bankruptcy announcements, soon after. A lot of investors are going to lose every penny.

And if all of the preceding weren't bad enough, think about one other big piece of fallout: Derivatives. There are hundreds of billions of dollars of over the counter Credit Default Swaps (CDSes) in play, folks. Many of the banks and hedge funds are party to these CDSes. If a an institution goes belly up, then the full value of the CDS contracts on their books must be covered! Remember what I wrote a couple of months ago about Bank of America (BofA) bailing out Countrywide Financial? They didn't do so because they were nice guys, or even because it was a "good investment." They did so because that by acquiring Countrywide, they in effect became both party and counterparty to several large CDS derivatives. So magically, Poof! The derivative exposure disappeared. BofA simply "did the math" and realized that it would be less expensive to simply buy out Countrywide and zero out those derivatives, rather than having to fulfill them. Based on this recent experience, I predict that there will be dozens of mergers and acquisitions that come out of this banking and hedge fund crisis. We might even read of some acquisitions that will get us scratching our heads. Why would a major pension fund, an insurance company, or a money center bank buy a controlling interest in a hedge fund or an boutique bank? Watch for such oddities in the headlines in the months to come. You'll know why...

You may ask, "What does all this high finance news mean to me? I don't have any money in hedge funds or investment banks." This bad news means that not only will there likely soon be some big bank runs, but also there will be The Mother of All Bailouts, in which the US taxpayers will foot the bill to bail out boutique investing banks, possibly a few big money center banks, and dozens of hedge funds. We are talking about hundreds of billions if not trillions of dollars that don't exist. Read: monetization. So get ready for mass inflation of the US Dollar!

OBTW, I think Ben Bernanke needs to record a new greeting for his telephone voice mail [Insert imitated voice of the late actor John Houseman]: "Ben Bernanke isn't here. He's out making money the old fashioned way. He's printing it!"

I wanted to address some of the discussion about buying [farm] ground. I know the situation may be different in the West since the flood of Californians may never result in lower prices than are currently available. But the following is my view of the current situation in the Midwest . Keep in mind that farmland has rarely acted in the same way as housing prices have. For one there is not the mass subsidization of farm land purchasing like housing. (think GI loans, first time buyers loans, Freddie Mac and Sallie Mae, etc)

The perils and pitfalls of land ownership is completely subjective depending on your region of the country and a host of other site or region specific issues. For instance, in the Midwest , good cropland away from metropolitan areas was selling for $2,000-$2,500 an acre in 2001 and 2002. It is now regularly being priced in the $6,000 area (it has roughly doubled) and between 10,000-$50,000 and acre the closer you get to a big city. It seems it has become fashionable for investors in New York and Los Angeles to buy cropland and take advantage of the ethanol boondoggle or the high crop prices. Even trash land that was good for nothing but hunting has soared upwards of $3,000 an acre (you couldn’t give it away for $300 an acre 15 years ago. It seems that everyone is trying to buy hunting ground to go into business as an outfitter or hunt deer. Many of these people live half way across the country (Mississippi, Colorado, Alaska , Pennsylvania, et cetera). It doesn’t help that every hunting magazine encourages this in the pitiful quest to shoot trophy deer (who got that way by eating corn and soybeans off of productive farmland all their life).

On its face you would think that the cost of land would do nothing but go up in price. I happen to remember the same thing around here during the 1970s and 1980s before the price of land collapsed. The commodities bull market of the 1970s encouraged every farmer and speculator to run out and purchase land. The run up started around $500 an acre to a top of around $4000-5000. Then the crop prices collapsed and farm land could be bought for $1,000-to-$1,500 an acre in the mid 1980s. If the current scenario turns out to be a similar multi-decade commodities boom that later collapses as the prices get ahead of themselves, the same scenario may present itself.

The nature of our semi-capitalist system tells us that there will be booms and busts in every market or sector. For many people it may make more sense to purchase a smaller piece of property first for a retreat and plan on buying more later when the inevitable collapse/stall in price happens. You may come across a once in a lifetime deal that throws this whole idea out the window. Many younger people feel like they have to go into debt and struggle to get all they need to “survive”. Your turn will come and at some point when you are more financially secure you may be able to buy a piece of property at a more reasonable price. Many of the people buying now are not even remotely attached to the land/locale and their interest will wane over time. Others will find their debt load too much to handle. At some point they might beg you take farm ground off their hands at a 50% loss to themselves. I know that at least two plots of my in-laws farms where purchased during the Great Depression. Put yourself in the position of having ready cash to buy ground when no one else does. - A.T.

JWR Replies: I agree wholeheartedly with your observations. Please note that I specifically wrote about patience, buying at the bottom, and watching foreclosure listings. That is where folks will find those "50 cents on the dollar" bargain retreat properties.

Mr. Rawles,
As I watch the meltdown of the Carlyle Fund, of Bear Stearns, and of the credit and derivative markets in general, I am constantly surprised at the the parallels of what I watch happening (via CNBC) with what happens in the novel, "Full Faith and Credit: A Novel About Financial Collapse", by James R. Cook. [In his novel] huge hedge funds fail, and because they have huge counter-party exposure, the government has no choice but to bail them out. The government pumps money into the markets, causing commensurate inflation. And, as we are seeing in reality, the public gradually recognizes that precious metals are the only safe store of value and purchasing power.

In Cook's novel, the calamity is initiated by rapid slide in the stock market. In our reality, it is the credit and derivative markets are failing, catalyzed by the failing real estate markets that are causing the recent problems. The book does not take the scenario into such a complete grid-down environment as in your book, and foreign currencies and precious metals are the antidote in "Full Faith and Credit" where bullets and beans are the means of survival in your novel "Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse" I've read both books, and taken from each in preparing myself and my family for the future.

In this mess we are in, may the innocents (John Q. Public) be blessed and protected, and may the greedy, amoral thieves of Wall Street that have profited so handsomely from these financial shenanigans pay for their moral hubris -- very publicly. - Tango in Utah

Chester noted that Gold-Eagle posted some commentary from Chris Laird that nicely sums up the global economic crisis: Gold Says that Central Banks Fail to Stop World Deleveraging

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Bear Stearns exposed as a bank saddled with toxic sub-prime debt

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What went wrong? The story straight from the Plunge Protection Team

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Reader "RS" purchased the "Survive Martial Law" e-book, available for download for just under $20. The author, Harold Williams, claims to be prior service "Special Forces" in Vietnam, but both his writing style and some key details quickly show that his "combat experience" is an utter fabrication. Most of this slim 44 page "book" is just a re-hash of material that has been floating around since the early 1970s. RS recommends: "Don't waste your time or money."

"We've got a blind date with Destiny -- and it looks like she's ordered the lobster." - William H. Macy, as "The Shoveler" in Mystery Men, 1999 (Screenplay by Neal Cuthbert.)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The current SurvivalBlog Benefit Auction ends at midnight tonight (Saturday, March 15th), eastern time. The high bid is now at $220. The auction is for a combined lot of five items: a 120 VAC/12 VDC BedFan Personal Cooling System (a $99 retail value), kindly donated by the manufacturer, a Thieves Oil Start Living Kit (a $161 retail value), the book "Healing Oils of the Bible" by David Stewart, Phd. (a $19 retail value) the book "When Technology Fails", by Matthew Stein (a $29 retail value)--all donated by Ready Made Resources, and a copy of the latest edition of "The Encyclopedia of Country Living" by the late Carla Emery (a $32 retail value). The auction ends on March 15th. Please e-mail us your bids, in $10 increments.

SurvivalBlog includes plenty of gloom and doom, but I do my best to not be a ranting and raving alarmist. The recent torrential flood of bad economic news, however, has led me to now urge greater preparedness. Don't quit your job and head for the hills yet, but by all means redouble your efforts to get ready. In my estimation, we are now on a short countdown to economic depression. Back in early 2006, I first warned about derivatives trading. Since June of 2007, I have been warning about the larger implications of CDOs. In January of 2008, I pointed the finger of blame at exotic debt repackaging instruments that are "marked to mystery" and causing the credit market to collapse. Now, these manifold dangers are apparent even the mainstream media. New bank accounting rules go into effect on March 31st, so the Fed is pumping liquidity frantically. This will likely exacerbate the problem. Please take the time to read the two following linked articles about the ongoing collapse of the global credit market:

1. Meltdown Looms Larger as Credit Markets Freeze. Here is a key quote: "As for Bernanke's Term Securities Lending Facility (TSLF) it is intentionally designed to circumvent the Fed's mandate to only take top-grade collateral in exchange for loans. No one believes that these triple A mortgage-backed securities are worth more than $.70 on the dollar. In fact, according to a report in Bloomberg News yesterday: “AAA debt fell as low as 61 cents on the dollar after record home foreclosures and a decline to AA may push the value of the debt to 26 cents, according to Credit Suisse Group."

2. IMF tells states to plan for the worst.

Clearly, the global credit collapse is getting much worse, but ominously, it is also now clear that the collapse is just in its early stages. I now have a high level of confidence that the credit collapse will trigger a global economic depression that may be as bad, if not worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s. At this point, it seems almost inevitable. The Federal Reserve lowering interest rates will not prevent it. At best, this will forestall it by a few months. To borrow an old Wall Street aphorism, Ben Bernanke is "pushing on string." Without financing, the global economic machine is grinding to a halt. Helicopter Ben and his cronies can't re-start it until after a lot of bad debt has worked its way through the system.

If you've been reading SurvivalBlog for several months, then you know what you need to do. And if you have been hesitating, then I strongly suggest that you get busy immediately: and actively prepare. Get the food and other key logistics, get the training, team up with like-minded friends and relatives, and if possible, buy and fully stock a retreat in a lightly-populated region. Get OUT of your dollar-denominated investments and re-invest in practical tangibles that you can barter. Companies with derivatives exposure and hedge funds will be the first to go, followed soon after by a stock market crash. Eventually, even erstwhile "safe" municipal bonds will be wiped out.

In the short term, please follow my advice on preparation for surviving bank runs. The recently-announced bailout of Bear Stearns is indicative of how quickly a bank's fortunes can turn. Here is a key quote from a recent Financial Times article on the Bear Stearns bailout: "One problem with the credit crunch is that banks' solvency positions can change overnight. As banks force fire sales of assets to recover their loans from hedge funds, the prices of those assets fall. But as the prices fall, the amount of capital that the banks need rises. Lena Komileva, a Tullett Prebon economist, said: 'This is what is fueling the vicious cycle. Things can deteriorate very rapidly and banks can reach insolvency almost overnight.'" In my estimation, bank runs are now imminent.

Am I being an alarmist? I don't think so. Just look at the US Dollar Index and the spot price of gold. Pray hard, folks. There's a storm coming.

Mr. Rawles,
I am a resident of the People's Republic of Kalifornia (PRK). I'm looking to buy a main battle rifle (MBR). My rifle collection currently consists of a few .22 rimfires and a [Federally exempt antique Model] 1893 Mauser, which I purchased on your recommendation from The Pre-1899 Specialist. It seems as though most of the [firearms design] features one would look for are restricted (if not outright banned) here [in California]. My question for you is, what would you suggest for a California resident's MBR?. Thanks, - C3 in CA.

JWR Replies: California does have some almost unbearable "assault weapons" restrictions. OBTW, I'm fond of saying that the only "assault" going on is against our Constitutional rights.

Unless you plan to move out of the state soon, I'd recommend that you buy one or two FN49 rifles. This was a very robust post-WWII semi-auto rifle design. Most FN49s have fixed 10 round magazines that are filled from the top, via stripper clips. The ideal choice would be the detachable magazine Argentine Navy variant chambered in 7.62mm NATO. These are presently around $1,200 each. But if you are on a budget, FN49s were also made in several other calibers including .30-06, 7.65mm Argentine Mauser, 7x57mm Mauser, and 8x57mm Mauser. The latter were made for an Egyptian contract are the least expensive variants. These can sometimes be found for around $750. An 8mm Mauser, would of course also give you cartridge commonality with your Turkish contract pre-1899 antique Mauser. Regardless of what you buy, be sure to inspect the bore and chamber condition carefully before purchasing a military surplus rifle. Many of the Mauser cartridges and most of the older lots of .30-06 were made with corrosive priming, which causes bore pitting.

OBTW, up until a couple of years ago, I would have first recommended getting an M1 Garand rifle. Unfortunately, they have recently become quite collectible and prices have jumped up to the $1,000 to $1,500 price range. Spare parts have also become quite expensive. My advice to Californians: If you can find an M1 Garand with a nice bore for under $900, jump on it!

In a recent Odds 'n Sods item, you cited a article published by The New York Times: You stated: "A key data point mentioned in the article: 'The median household [in the US] earned $48,201 in 2006, down from $49,244 in 1999, according to the Census Bureau.' "

That's from changing population dynamics and more careful surveys of low-income families. For comparable populations, income has risen as you ought to expect.
Consider the results for "Worked Full Time, Year Round, Both Sexes, White"...
For 1999 income:
Persons in this group: 81.7 million
Mean income of all persons in this group: $44,854
For 2006 income:
Persons in this group: 88 million
Mean income of all persons in this group: $55,176
The 1999 figure, adjusted for US retail price inflation to 2006, is equivalent to $53,781.
Adjusted for US wage inflation, the number is $53,622.

This is only barely better than staying even, but that's a lot better than the conclusion you drew from the New York Times article, which is that the median income has somehow declined 23% in constant dollars. Since when did you start trusting everything you read in the New York Times? In this case, the [New York Times] author went out of his way to make a clearly false claim: "Most American households are still not earning as much annually as they did in 1999, once inflation is taken into account." Based on the actual facts he presents as his source data, that just isn't true.

From the CIA World Factbook, the US GDP was $9.26 trillion in 1999 and $12.98 trillion in 2006, a 40.1% increase. Tom's price-inflation calculator says $9.26 in 1999 is equivalent to $11.10 in 2006, so the real growth was about 17%.

According to the Census Bureau, the population of the United States grew about 7% in those seven years, leaving us with roughly 10% of growth in per-capita GDP. So that's consistent with the other Census data, and it's reasonable to conclude from these analyses that average individual income did in fact increase faster than inflation during this time. - PNG

JWR Replies: Like you, I am dubious about statistics complied by governments. Journalists with an axe to grind--such as the New York Times writer that you mentioned do indeed distort statistics even further, so this is cause to distrust press accounts of "official" statistics.

In many cases, government statisticians are solving equation with multiple missing variables, so their results are an admixture of mathematics, conjecture and voodoo. Inflation statistics are case in point. The official figures on consumer price inflation have become almost laughable. The "core" inflation rate excludes "volatile" food and energy costs. This makes the "official" consumer inflation figure just about useless to me, since my family's three biggest budget items are insurance, groceries, and gasoline.

Money supply figures cannot be trusted. The figure for electronic "bankers" dollars are perhaps fairly trustworthy, ut figures for printed paper dollars are unreliable, at best. There is no way to account for how many dollars are squirreled away in mattresses, or are in the hands of foreigners. (Although if foreigners have half a brain, they are currently scrambling to exchange into a more stable currency.) One key statistic, the M3 Money Supply Aggregate, got so embarrassing that in 2006 the government stopped publishing it. At least one web publisher, ShadowStats, has attempted to reconstruct the M3 figure, independently. (They charge for access to most of their data and reports.)

Government unemployment figures are also highly suspect. By their own admission, the Bureau of Labor Statistics undercounts the chronically unemployed. Once someone has been unemployed long enough to have their state unemployment insurance benefits run out, they simply drop off the radar. The unemployment statistics also do a poor job of accounting for underemployment. For example, they would in the aggregate count an out-of-work stockbroker (that formerly made $250,000 per year) as "full time employed" if he out of desperation takes a full time job as a waiter, for minimum wage, plus tips.

Census figures cannot be completely trusted. The US Census has become a political football. Most notably, it has become a cause celebre for both homeless advocates and illegal alien advocates. These advocates can be found both inside and outside of government. They have attempted to manipulate data for political ends. How many illegal aliens are there in the US? Nobody really knows. The estimates that I've read range from 10 million to 22 million. But again, it is guesswork.

The bottom line is that "official" statistics are not be trusted. I'll close with an unattributed quotation: "Most people use statistics the way a drunk uses a lamp post, more for support than enlightenment."

Eric spotted this summary article at Bloomberg: Subprime Losses Reach $195 Billion; German Banks Get Hit

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DB found us this: Dollar losing clout around the world. Here is a quote: "Hit by a free fall with no end in sight, the once-mighty U.S. dollar is no longer just crashing on currency markets and making life more expensive for American tourists and business people abroad: Its clout is evaporating worldwide as foreign businesses and individuals turn to other currencies. Experts say the bleak U.S. economic forecast means it will take years for the greenback to recover its value and prestige."

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Kyle D. sent an interesting piece of conjecture on "upside down" US homeowners, posted over at The Bear Ridge Project blog. Kyle's comment: "The housing market is currently going down in value, and it will continue to do so at least 10-20% more. There are going to be so many foreclosed homes on the market, its going to take a very long time for the market to reach equilibrium. After we near this bottom, it will be even more of a buyers market than it currently is. At this point, its almost better to currently rent your home, as anything you buy will be upside down shortly."

"I do not have a new message here; we have known for a long time that advance preparation and a strong balance sheet are the keys to riding out a financial storm. As I have emphasized before, the Federal Reserve can deal with liquidity pressures but cannot deal with solvency issues." - William Poole, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, February 29, 2008 (as recently quoted by Dr. Gary North in his Reality Check e-newsletter.)

Friday, March 14, 2008

The current SurvivalBlog Benefit Auction ends tomorrow (Saturday, March 15th) at midnight. The high bid is now at $210. The auction is for a combined lot of five items: a 120 VAC/12 VDC BedFan Personal Cooling System (a $99 retail value), kindly donated by the manufacturer, a Thieves Oil Start Living Kit (a $161 retail value), the book "Healing Oils of the Bible" by David Stewart, Phd. (a $19 retail value) the book "When Technology Fails", by Matthew Stein (a $29 retail value)--all donated by Ready Made Resources, and a copy of the latest edition of "The Encyclopedia of Country Living" by the late Carla Emery (a $32 retail value). The auction ends on March 15th. Please e-mail us your bids, in $10 increments.

In the next few paragraphs I'll be tackling four issues that for many years, I've labelled "The Four Gs." One of my contemporaries, Richard "Doc" Sweeny, even made the concept into and acronym: GGGG, for "God, Gold, Guns, and Groceries."

I consider faith in God the cornerstone of my family's preparedness. Faith in God's sovereign control of the future gives my family hope and peace in these troubled times. If there is no hope, then why prepare? Our hope is in Christ Jesus.

There are continuing reports of shortages around the country of wheat flour, corn meal, rice, and cooking oil at some of the "big box:" stores such as COSTCO and Sam's Club. This phenomenon is not uniform. Some readers tell me that it is "business at usual" at their local stores, while others report "one bag per customer" rationing signs have been posted, and a few report empty shelves. With galloping wholesale prices and shortages at the wholesale level, I expect these spot shortages to continue.

I've had a half dozen anxious e-mails from readers in the past week, complaining that their storage food orders have been delayed, that they can't get a firm answer on delivery dates from the vendors, or that the vendors won't even return their calls or e-mails. In nearly all of these instances, the companies in question are not SurvivalBlog advertisers. I've heard from several vendors that the big packing and canning outfits like Mountain House and Alpen Aire are essentially sold out of stock on hand, and that their order backlogs are at least 30 days, and growing. The problem is that in "normal" times, these companies serve a "niche" clientele. They just aren't scaled to handle the order volume when more than 1% or 2% of the population places orders. I witnessed a similar situation back in 1999, just before the Y2K rollover. Some good news that I can mention is that several of our advertisers such as Ready Made Resources actually still have some storage food on hand. It is actually on the shelf ("in captivity") and ready to ship. For any of their items that are back ordered, just be patient. You may have to wait four to six weeks. The other good news I can offer is that our advertisers all have good reputations. (If they didn't, then they would not be allowed to advertise on SurvivalBlog.) The most reputable food storage vendors will not bill your credit card until the day that your order is actually shipped. Beware of small "fly by night" vendors that don't keep any inventory on hand and that will bill your credit card weeks ahead of when they know they can ship. If you buy from a vendor that is not a SurvivalBlog advertiser, my advice is simple: pick your order up in person only from stock on hand, and pay cash on the spot. If you are taking delivery personally, then there is no need to leave a paper trail. Buying with a credit card is advised, in instances where immediate delivery is not promised. In that case, your credit card's "charge back" buyer protection policy could protect you if you are defrauded. Keep in mind, however, that a charge back complaint often must be made within 30 days of the time of purchase.

The next presidential election is huge question mark: Will the Democrats take the White House? And if they do, will another so-called "assault weapons" and "high capacity" magazine ban be legislated in the US? (Something similar to the 1994-to-2004 Federal ban.) At present, these possibilities are difficult to predict. But even if the "worst case" (namely, another ban with no sunset clause) doesn't come to pass, I still consider battle rifles, full capacity magazines, and ammunition to be good investments and excellent barter items. If nothing else, like other nonperishable tangibles, they are good hedges on the falling dollar. Stock up, but do so quietly. If it is legal to do so in your jurisdiction, make all your gun purchases from private parties with no paper trail. Keep your eye on the local newspaper classified ads, as well as ads from sellers in your own state on (on-line auctions) or (fixed price sales--usually more expensive) Search only for sellers from your own state. That way, you won't run afoul of the Federal law that prohibits the transfer of a modern (post-1898) gun across state lines, except through a FFL dealer. It might also be worth your time to drive long distances to some of the larger gun shows in your own state. Once there, you should of course buy guns only from private parties.

The upcoming Heller v. US supreme court decision should be interesting. I suspect that instead of striking down all Federal gun laws--which they rightfully should--the supreme court justices will pen a decision that is tightly worded and hence will only apply to just that one gun ban in the District of Columbia.

OBTW, for any of you that think that my advocacy of gun ownership and training is somehow un-Christian, all that I can do is direct you to Christ's words in Luke 22:36.

I'm addressing gold last, for a reason. You've undoubtedly seen the recent headlines like this one: Gold at $1,000 on Weak Dollar, High Oil. Keep in mind that $1,000 is a psychological barrier. This might trigger some profit taking that could push the spot price of gold down as far as $920 per ounce. Take advantage of such dips. However, don't get caught up in precious metals buying fever. Your key responsibility is to provide for your family, not to be a speculator. Don't even think about investing any of your money in precious metals until after you have all of your crucial "beans, bullets, and Band-Aids" preparations well in hand. If you don't have an honest one year food supply, then stop wasting your time hitting reload at the Kitco web site! (You probably won't get the web page to load with any regularity anyway. The recent spike in gold and silver prices have generated so much web traffic that it has nearly crashed Kitco's server. You might have better luck at the Swiss America web site.)

Remember: You can't eat gold! There may come a day when you need to barter for day-to-day essentials. In such times, barter goods like common caliber ammunition or one-gallon cans of kerosene will be more sought-after than gold. Recognize precious metals for what they are: storehouses of wealth and hedges on the dollar. Think of them as a "time machine". They can be trusted to preserve your wealth from one side of an economic collapse to the other.But do not expect them to keep your family fed in the midst of a socioeconomic collapse.

An afterthought: Perhaps I should add a fifth "G"", for Ground. I have long been a proponent of buying productive farm land. The nationwide market for real estate is clearly in a tailspin, and probably won't bottom for several more years. But I firmly believe that the price declines will not be nearly as significant for good farm ground. Just be sure to be a wise buyer. Study local markets thoroughly (including soil surveys), and don't feel rushed into making a purchase. In today's market, time is on your side. I now recommend keeping a close eye on foreclosures, using services like or


I found this site in my search for a way to heat that travel trailer (that I don’t yet own). The guy with built his heating system for his RV out of a car's heater core and attached it to PV panels for power of the pump motor and fan, the heating of the tank is [accomplished with] a propane [burner]. This might be something of interest to your readers as it’s something I’m going to need since the travel trailer I’m looking in to getting is older and needs a new heater. I figure why buy new or reinvent the wheel, I’ll find an efficient way to power and heat this travel trailer with minimum funds, someone has already done this somewhere and it’s out there on the Internet Thanks, - Fitzy in Pennsylvania

This might seem like an odd [question], but have you given any thought to the [possible] aftermath of a major WMD terrorist attack, in which martial law is clamped down on the USofA? In times like that, political freedom might just evaporate. For [those of] us that have been [politically] outspoken--(I'm one of those cranky old guys with hundreds of published Letters To The Editor, and with one of those big Ron Paul [campaign] signs in my front yard)--where could we go in the event of some sort of round up?

Now, in peril of sounding even more odd: Are there some countries with which there is no bilateral extradition treaty? I'd just like to know if there is someplace that I could go, from where I could still be politically active on the Internet, without fear of getting swooped upon, bound and gagged, boxed up, and shipped home C.O.D. to some [expletive deleted] Supermax prison? Thanks, - J. in the Desert

JWR Replies: While extremely unlikely, your scenario does pose an interesting mental exercise. Extradition--more properly called rendition--is not universal. If you look at the map on the Wikipedia page on US Extradition Treaties, you will see that every nation in the Americas can be ruled out, because of extant rendition treaties with the US. In Western Europe, only tiny little Andorra lacks a rendition treaty. But you will also notice some big gray gaps on the map in Oceania, Africa, and Asia. In all, there are more than 50 countries that don't have rendition treaties with the US. Just be sure to do your homework. Be advised that some nominally "sovereign" and independent countries, most notably in Oceania, are in part administered by foreign governments like France, Australia, and New Zealand, so as a practical matter you might be subject to a rendition treaty. Again, I consider such planning as nothing more than an idle "what if" exercise. Your chances of ever having to flee the country are highly remote.

Our friend Chad recommended this piece by John Markman: Sell Stocks While the Selling's Good. Oops! Too late. You had your chance: Global Markets Tumble (A hat tip to Eric for that link.) Meanwhile, we read at WND: Recession? Maybe worse. Economy stumbles more--Expert says it could take years to recover from financial crisis now going global

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RBS mentioned a great do-it-it yourself project page on building cargo compartments into the back of an SUV. (This was designed for a Toyota Land Cruiser, but it is adaptable to many other vehicles.) It would be particularly useful for any readers that like to keep their rigs packed with G.O.O.D. essentials at all times. Speaking of BOVs, Chad mentioned Host Industries, a RV manufacturer in Bend, Oregon, that makes expandable pickup truck campers. Sort of like campers on steroids. Aside from the limitations of a higher center of gravity and lower overhead clearance, campers have a lot of advantages to towing a camping trailer.

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Eric flagged this: Flu outbreak could put big cities on lockdown

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Our #1 Son sent us this link: Scientists warn of wheat disease. Soon after, SF in Hawaii sent this piece on the same topic with a different perspective: Billions at risk from wheat super-blight

“I spoke to you in your prosperity, but you said, 'I will not hear.'" - Jeremiah 22:21

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The current SurvivalBlog Benefit Auction ends in just two days. The high bid is now at $200. The auction is for a combined lot of five items: a 120 VAC/12 VDC BedFan Personal Cooling System (a $99 retail value), kindly donated by the manufacturer, a Thieves Oil Start Living Kit (a $161 retail value), the book "Healing Oils of the Bible" by David Stewart, Phd. (a $19 retail value) the book "When Technology Fails", by Matthew Stein (a $29 retail value)--all donated by Ready Made Resources, and a copy of the latest edition of "The Encyclopedia of Country Living" by the late Carla Emery (a $32 retail value). The auction ends on March 15th. Please e-mail us your bids, in $10 increments.

Our first post today is from David in Israel, one of SurvivalBlog's volunteer international correspondents. He is an American ex-pat with a diverse background in forestry, firefighting, emergency medicine, and commercial kosher food inspection. One of his life-long hobbies has been amateur radio. David is now a Torah scholar, living in Israel with his wife and family.

In the early 1990s--before Internet was ubiquitous--I remember a well-connected VHF packet remailer network that was nearly on par with the old Fidonet dial up network.
Unfortunately while many hams played with packet 15 years ago, the complex mailbox routing networks are now mostly replaced by the Internet. I don't expect any data network resembling the Internet to evolve if the grid goes down. This is not to say that local networks using sound card data modems on CB or FRS radio or with Wi-Fi gear might not spring up, but it would be a low priority in both electricity and time.

HF amateur radio and shortwave radio will be the way to get your world news if the grid goes down. Buy a radio that will receive upper and lower sideband (USB/LSB) or you will be limited to megawatt commercial AM stations. (SSB is used by the power poor.) Set up a proper antenna length for the band you are listening to, an antenna tuner is not good enough. Even if people do not want to obtain their amateur licence it is advisable that they obtain PSK-31 sound card software and a connector cable to decode low power PSK data signals. PSK-31is nearly as good as Morse code for punching through noise, much better than voice mode. For those operating out of a backpack look at this PSK terminal device. No laptop needed!

Amateur satellite (AmSat) is fun and a great way to talk worldwide without needing HF gear but if the grid ever fully went down I would expect satellite tracking stations to lose control of their satellites as the employees are detained protecting their families. Most AmSat gear is piggybacked on commercial satellites and is powered from the main buss, amateur controllers have no way to maintain the main systems on the host satellite.

Look a few months back in the SurvivalBlog archives for the article on Earth Moon Earth (EME or "moon bounce") propagation for an exotic and often difficult alternative to HF radio.

My plug for getting your license in the United State is: There is no longer a Morse Code test requirement! Anyone can memorize the question pool and easily pass the tech and general
exams now, what possible reason could any survivor not want to get licensed and on the air.

Worried about expensive gear? while I put down the tuna can transmitter for use as a survival set, it is a great way for a family to build a first transmitter
But if you want an actual usable Morse-only radio transceiver with even minimal long range survival utility, but easy and small enough for every member of the family to build and hide in a Tic-Tac breath mints box for under be $10 the Pixie takes the prize. If you search the net there are several sources for the pixie kit. - David in Israel

I read Doc's article about volunteering in a homeless shelter and meeting some of the occupants. That brought back memories of when I was in my early teens. My Dad worked for the railroad and we lived near the railroad yards and I met a number of hobos in the woods behind our house. Most of them knew my Dad and had a lot of respect for him. He would sometimes give them spare change and cigarettes. The hobo's slept in small dugout caves in the woods and would never steal from us. But they would steal chickens from a couple of our neighbors. I never ever saw a hobo carrying what he had in a bandana on the end of a stick like you see in pictures. What most of them had was either a small suitcase or an old surplus WWII army [back]pack. My friends and I would be playing or riding our bikes in the woods and run into the hobo's eating or just hanging around. I was amazed on how they could start fires, cook, a lot of them always carried fishing tackle made up of hooks, sinkers, and line, used frog gigs with branches, set traps using snares. I used to hang around with these guys just to watch them. In turn I would sneak out some cans of beans, corn,etc to help them out. Not one time was I ever scared or harmed in any way. Again, most of them knew my Dad and left me alone. At the time I was in the Boy Scouts and learned from the hobo's and when my Scout troop would go camping I would use my skills I learned from the hobo's. This would amaze my scoutmaster and some of my fellow scouts. So I can understand Doc learning from the homeless that stay in the shelter he works at. - Randy in Asheville, NC

Hello, Mr. Rawles.
On your advice I read Boston’s Gun Bible and became convinced that I should get a .308 rifle. I bought the HK91, mostly on faith since I have never shot, let alone owned, a FAL, M1A, or AR-10. No one I know has any of these. And with ammo prices going up as much as they have, I decided to get the .22 [Long Rifle rimfire] conversion kit for the HK91. I paid a little under $500 (they were $400 a couple months ago, and there were a lot more available.) But since .22 ammo is so much cheaper than .308 ammo, I figured that the conversion kit would pay for itself after shooting about 1200 rounds of .22 instead of .308. I realize that practicing using the .22 conversion kit only comes so close to shooting .308, but I can still practice weapons familiarity, using the sights, trigger pull, etc.

When I first shot .22 [rimfire] through the HK91 I wasn’t sure the round left the chamber. The weapon barely moved, since shooting a measly .22 round is nothing for the rifle. This actually was something I really liked, because I could get used to firing the weapon and avoiding bad habits like, flinching, or jerking. I only had four malfunctions when I shot about 700 rounds of .22: one was from a dud, and three were mag feed problems (all with the second to the top round in the magazine, something with the spring I suppose). Shooting .22 through the HK91 was very accurate! I had thought that the conversion kit might be okay for beginners and I was expecting it to malfunction once in awhile, since the weapon was not really designed for it. So I was very happy that it was all so reliable. Obtaining the .22 conversion kit was not a factor in my decision to get an HK91, but it would be now if I were to do it again. I haven’t seen too many conversion kits for other .308 battle rifles, so I take it as a big plus that I can get an original HK conversion kit that is super reliable. I think it’s a great way not only to save money with weapons practice, it might also help others move into using my HK91 by starting them off using the lower caliber conversion kit.

I have decided to get all original HK parts and accessories. The quality I’ve experienced is worth it. I realize that other rifles, like the M1A, may be more accurate, but at my skill level, I don’t think it really matters. I’m still practicing using iron sights at 100 yards. Plus, I want mine to go boom (and hit the target) when I pull the trigger. I prefer revolvers for the same reason. If I were a better shooter, accuracy would probably be a bigger factor. If I were better at combat reloading, then I might like the FAL more. I also don’t have the money, and maybe time, to make many modifications to my weapons, so I really like how everything about the HK91 just plain works out-of-the box. I haven’t heard of anyone suggesting making modifications to it at all. I was thinking about getting different scopes (like one for night vision, another for daylight) and getting a separate STANAG claw mount for each one. I figured that way I could change scopes on my HK91 and have them all retain zero, but I’d like your opinion on that.

I appreciate your blog and I have taken the challenge to donate 10 cents a day because I have learned so much. However I don’t think I’ll ever be nearly as skilled, knowledgeable, or equipped as some of your other readers. I won’t be able to get that secluded property, I won’t be able to get a battery of weapons or make nice modifications to them, I won’t be able to get a converted 4-wheeler that runs on vegetable oil, at least not anytime soon, but I am staying out of debt, and I am keeping my ear to the ground and staying nimble for whatever comes down the road. I have recognized that a skill that I have lacked is that of a rifleman, and I am trying to become one, both for my family and my fellow countrymen. Thanks, - A Rifleman in Training

JWR Replies: You are to be commended from you efforts! Get some training from experts. Even if you can't a afford a trip to Front Sight, keep in mind that both the RWVA/Appleseed Project. and the Western Rifle Shooters Association (WRSA) offer inexpensive but very effective training for riflemen.

In addition to the HK sub-caliber kit that you mentioned, there are .22 rimfire kits available for a variety of .223 rifles including the AR-15/M4 family and the Ruger Mini-14. Similar kits were also made for FALs and L1A1s, but sadly they are very expensive. With the current high cost of most centerfire ammunition, buying a .22 kit makes a lot of sense. I have also found that being able to shoot .22 rimfire through a battle rifle is useful for transitioning youths to high power shooting.

The original HK claw mounts have fairly consistent return to zero, so I do indeed recommend them.

Courtesy of reader KBF: J.P. Morgan Says Banks Face "Systemic Margin Call," $325 billion hit

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When I last checked, the US Dollar Index was down to 72.260, and falling rapidly. Consider this a final warning: If the USD Index drops below 72, the next likely trading target will be approximately $1.75 to buy a Euro. Keep in mind that 72 is the magic number that The Chartist Gnome warned us about. Quit dawdling and get out of your dollar-denominated investments! OBTW, on a related note, here is a piece (by way of Eric) from Forbes: Fed Doing In The Dollar. It seems very likely that the Federal Reserve will make another 50 basis point (1/2%) cut decision at their planned March 18th meeting. This would surely mean a lower dollar and higher precious metals prices.

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Reader Charley S. flagged some economic commentary at Here is a brief excerpt: "Suddenly, the very notion of paper money, a sort of rubber check, has lost its credibility. As a corollary to that disaffection, investors are switching en masse to physical assets such as gold, land and the real estate and infrastructure of countries experiencing strong growth."

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I Told You So Department: Seven Hedge Funds controlling $5.4 Billion have been forced to liquidate or suspend redemptions in the past month. Back in September and October of Aught Seven, I warned specifically about the ability of hedge fund managers to suspend redemptions without notice. Well, now this is exactly what happening, on a grand scale.

"Any great nation that goes off the gold standard ends being a great nation." - Ronald Wilson Reagan (recently quoted in a debate, by Dr. Ron Paul)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Just a brief reminder that SurvivalBlog does not host its own discussion forum. We recommend a third party forum site: The Mental Militia (TMM) Forums. They have kindly invited SurvivalBlog readers to join them. I don't have my own forums, simply because administering them would be a huge time sink. Back in 1998 and 1999 I was a volunteer moderator at a Y2K forum for Dr.Gary North. That was incredibly time consuming.

Keep in mind that TMM forums are peopled by fellow freedom-loving folks that come from a wide variety of political, social, and religious backgrounds. These include some anarchists, min-archists, Voluntaryists, wiccans/pagans, atheists, and agnostics. TMM posters range from far left wing to far right wing. TMM does have many Christian members, but most are the sort of Christians who are adaptable to politely mixing it up with folks of different philosophies, beliefs, and perspectives. Please be civil and show respect for others, even if they have different points of view.

Also, be advised that some coarse language crops up at TMM forums. It is not a forum for children!

Before writing any post for TMM, please apply the "Auntie Test". Ask yourself: would you write an e-mail to your elderly aunt using the same attitude and language? Enough said.
If you aren't willing to exercise politeness and restraint, then don't visit The Mental Militia Forums.

Dear Mr. Rawles,
Perhaps an overlooked, but wonderful option for a BOV is an ambulance. You can often find used ambulances on eBay or at [fleet dispersal] auctions. They often have fairly low miles, have been well maintained and are most often diesel. They come with lots of storage compartments and equipment built in, as well most have propane fuel systems, generators, inverters etc. There is usually at least one "bed" in them as well. The outside storage compartments are often ready to go for the prepper as they are often diamond plate on the interior and have webbing for securing items in place. They are easily "hardened" and easy to drive. It is easy to remove the outer lights and replace them with other more TEOTWAWKI appropriate choices. You will of course want to have it painted....LOL.

We have taken our lovely BOV to the ATV park here and put it through some serious tests. I personally love the looks I received when driving a muddy ambulance (pre-paint job)....but like most prepper wives I am not your average soccer mom. It has some disadvantages as it is a pretty heavy beast, but I feel very confident in its capabilities. We also have a 4x4 Durango that we are currently working on for a second BOV. However, the ambulance is by far and away our favorite. - Prepper Mom in Washington

JWR Replies: When shopping for a surplused vehicle such as an ambulance at auction, look for one that is built on a pickup truck frame rather than a cargo van frame. Not only are they more sturdy, but the chances are much better that you will find one that came from the factory with a front differential to provide four wheel drive (4WD). (I am leery about buying a van that was converted to 4WD unless I know the details about who did the conversion. There are a lot of unqualified "shade tree mechanics" out there!

Needless to say, all of the usual caveats and disclaimers about buying at auction apply. If you aren't familiar with inspecting vehicles (checking for leaks, inspecting tires, hoses and belts, checking for exhaust system leaks, examining dip stick colors, et cetera) then bring someone that is experienced along with you for "advice and consent" before bidding.

Mr. Rawles,
As i am very new to your blog,(although it is now a morning ritual), I haven't had time to read all of the back posts.

I was wondering if you had ever done one on vehicle readiness. One of my concerns over TEOTWAWKI is that my loved ones will go to their vehicle to get back to our retreat, and have it disabled in some way, dead battery, flat tire, et cetera.
As I am an automotive technician(with some engineering background) by trade, I have some advantages that others may not have.
Our vehicles are always serviced at the "severe" intervals in he books, and I mean serviced as in the factory recommended flushes, belts, and so forth. Some of it is very expensive, but well worth it IMO.
We have taken the precautions of have all small leaks fixed, storing extra tires (think about [the danger and difficulty of] having to stop and change a faulty tire on the run back to the retreat, whew!), we purchased a manual tire changer from harbor freight that is fairly robust, and have a few cans of ether for seating the beads. Extra batteries are a must, set on trickle chargers and rotated in stock (we have six vehicles including our scout motorcycles). Extra oil and filters also, if people think fuel is going to be hard to come by, oil will be just as bad. I think, plus you can burn the used oil in a pinch. Sorry for rambling. I just haven't met too many people with your insight into the world situation. Thank you for your time in reading this, maybe it will be of some use to someone.
Peace to you and yours, - NiK on the Mississippi.

Dear Mr. Rawles,
I lived in Romania in 1993 and 1994 at the height of runaway inflation. It was not a pretty time to see the land of Count Dracula! A meal that cost 5 Lei in 1990, was 2500 Lei in 1993. My rent was paid in Deutsche Marks, as the landlord would not take Romanian currency. However, I had to stay three days in Bucharest prior to my departure for home. I paid nearly 4 Million Romanian Lei for the room, and it was crummy and shabby to boot! By that time, I think the Lei to Dollar rate was something like 100,000 to one. (It had been 5:1 in communist days). While I saw no wheelbarrows full of money, I had to use a large shopping bag to carry the nearly 4 million Lei from the official government exchange office to the hotel.
The largest bill at that time, was 5,000 Lei. As we waited at a bus stop, I sat the shopping bag down at the side of the bench. My "Securitate" interpreter grew agitated and told me to hold the bag close. I thanked him and said, "Thanks.", as I didn't want to lose my money. He said, "Your money? They will take the bag and leave the money! Then how will we carry
all the money to the hotel?"

I also was in Yugoslavia when the hyperinflation of post-communism set in. I still have a multi-billion Yugo Dinarius note. I think Nicola Tesla's picture is on it. At the time, the bill was good for a small sandwich only. No meat on it, at that! This may yet happen here, in the good old USA. Thanks for the information that you provide. I'm a new "prepper," but am blessed by God to have a nice remote location, with good water and good farm ground. Now all I need to find is a group, not easy to do in rural Florida. Regards, - MB

MB and Jason both mentioned an article that indicates that the mainstream media is catching on to the threat of a derivatives implosion: Derivatives the new 'ticking bomb' The only good news is that the number of new derivatives contracts has dropped dramatically since August of '07. But then again, that "good" news is indicative that the global economy has stalled and is about to crash and burn.

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Eric recommended this commentary from England: Who knows there's a food crisis? The early signals are there, but the world seems to be sleepwalking towards disaster

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Crude May Rise to $120 in Six Months, Taqa CEO Says

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Rising metal costs may see Aussie coins change

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In an e-mail, reader DAB asked about a recommended source for chimney brushes. We got ours from They have a good assortment of brushes--both round and rectangular. Should you circulate the brush with a chain or with rods? I definitely prefer rods, to reduce the time required for cleaning and to reduce the mess. Because the length of brush rod sections dictates high postage costs, I recommend getting rod sections at your local hardware store. How many rods? My suggestion is: Measure your chimney and get four extra feet of rod length than the chimney's height. This will give you plenty of extra "throw" length, thus allowing you to brush your chimney vigorously and thoroughly.

"The dignity of man is not shattered in a single blow, but slowly softened, bent, and eventually neutered. Men are seldom forced to act, but are constantly restrained from acting. Such power does not destroy outright, but prevents genuine existence. It does not tyrannize immediately, but it dampens, weakens, and ultimately suffocates, until the entire population is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid, uninspired animals, of which the government is shepherd." - Alexis de Tocqueville

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hi James,
I finally took the 10 Cent Challenge and pledge to keep it up in the coming years. Thanks for a site with a reliable source of news and resources for family survival. Thanks for referring me to a good storage food vendor. I bought 60 of the #10 cans of dehydrated food and made sure to tell them a couple of times that I heard of them on SurvivalBlog. They were prompt and delivered everything as advertised. Nice people, as I would expect from your recommendation. I am looking to get more freeze dry foods later this year from another one of your advertisers.

I currently live in Oregon which has a pretty high tax rate on real estate. I was considering a retreat location in Oregon, but now am considering property to pass on to my heirs without the burden of annual property taxes. Are there states west of the Rockies with no, or very low, real estate taxes? - JB in Oregon

JWR Replies: When evaluating retreat locales, I try to look at more than just one tax, since experience has shown that state and county governments get their taxes one way or another. (See my Retreat Locales web page for some details.) There are definitely some offsetting factors. In Oregon, for example, you have no sales tax, but high property taxes, especially in the more heavily populated counties west of the Cascade mountain chain. Nevada has no income taxes, but very high car registration fees.

Let's back up and consider "The Big Picture": The overall tax burden tends to be higher is states with large, pretentious, Nanny State governments. California, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado are all headed in that direction. When big city liberals move into a state, they bring their attitudes with them. They all seem to expect the same city and county services that they were accustomed to. If enough liberals move in, they eventually gain a majority (or at least a vocal minority) and get their way. Both higher taxes and busybody government soon follow.

On a side note, in the early days of SurvivalBlog, I discussed the advantages of what I call "the state line jumping line game". This is where you live in close proximity to a state line, so that you can take advantage of differentials in taxation, just across the state line. These advantages can be dramatic. One example of this is living in Washington State, where there is no personal income tax, but shopping across the state line in Oregon, where there is no sales tax.

Regarding property taxes, keep in mind that they can vary widely within states, depending on the city and county where you reside. In general, the more lightly-populated counties have the lowest tax rates. (This is just one more reason to head to the hinterboonies!) In some states, such as Oregon, the differences between counties can be significant. Oregon also has a tax abatement program for agricultural land and timber land. This tends to skew the statistics.Also, Ballot Measure 50 changed the property tax system to a rate-based structure. This effectively slowed the increase in taxes.

One web site with a good variety of fairly up-to-date tax data is In particular, see their sub-page on property tax rates. Their data is based on a 2005 study by economists at the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB.) I gleaned the following list of the property tax rates in my 19 "top pick" western states (shown in order of my subjective retreat potential ranking. I have added some parenthetical notes). Note that this list only includes an average of state level tax rates. (Again, they will often vary within city and county jurisdictions):

Median Property Tax Rate (Per $1,000 of Assessed Value):

US Average: $9.64

1 Idaho: $9.09 (Deep tax discounts are available for holders of agricultural or timber exemptions)
2 Montana: $9.95 (No sales tax)
3 Oregon: $9.49 (No sales tax)
4 Washington: $9.88 (No income tax)
5 Wyoming: $5.46 (No income tax)
6 Utah: $6.76 (Fairly low sales and gasoline taxes.)
7 South Dakota: $13.81 (Low sales and gasoline taxes.)
8 North Dakota: $14.97 (Low income tax and gasoline taxes.)
9 Arizona: $6.11 (No building code or permits in some rural counties. Low gasoline and income taxes.)
10 Colorado: $5.81 (Low sales and gasoline taxes.)
11 Nebraska: $16.69 (Fairly low income tax.)
12 Kansas: $12.40 (Fairly low income tax.)
13 Texas: $18.17 (The highest of any of the western states. Thankfully, however, it has no state income tax and plenty of homeschooling freedom)
14 Nevada: $5.10 (If taxes were my only criteria, Nevada and Wyoming would top my list, since neither state has an income tax.)
15 New Mexico: $5.63 (Low gasoline and income taxes.)
16 Arkansas: $5.25 (Low gasoline and income taxes.)
17 Oklahoma: $7.13 (Low income tax and gasoline taxes.)
18 Louisiana: $1.72 (Note: With a very substantial homeowner's exemption, Louisiana has lowest property tax rate in the nation!)
19 California: $4.77 (Has a top income tax rate of 9.3%, very high building permit costs, and painfully high sales tax rates.)

Again, I believe that the total tax burden is a far more relevant figure, unless your only concern is property tax. In picking a retreat locale, look at the big picture. You have to consider climate,, length of growing season, overall self-sufficiency of the citizenry, population density, gun laws, cost of living, fuel taxes, income tax, sales tax, and many other factors. For example, consider some of the following

Overall Tax Burden by State

State Income Tax Rates

State Sales Tax Rates

Cost of Living Comparison

In my opinion, beyond just looking at taxes, the freedom factor should be a paramount consideration. For example, gun laws are crucial for most of us that are preparedness-minded. Depending on your age and interest in true independence from “the system” you might also consider factors like home schooling laws and home birth laws. In your case, you need to consider not merely how much land you will be passing on to your heirs (and its level of taxation), but also how much individual liberty you are passing on to them. Beyond property tax rates, you must also consider the cost of doing anything with a piece of land. There is often a labyrinth of zoning laws, building codes, environmental impact studies, "mitigation" fees, and expensive building permits. In the more populous parts of Oregon, just getting permits can add $20,000 to $60,000 to the cost of building a house. In contrast, consider that at least outside of city limits in many counties in Idaho, Montana, and Arizona, there are no building permits required, and in some locales there isn't even an official building code enforced. That would seem like a veritable exodus from bondage, to many Oregonian house builders.

Again, in my estimation, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado are all getting "Californicated". In the long term, the politics, taxes, zoning, and intrusiveness of government will soon approach levels resembling California. This cultural shift has become so obvious, that some folks in eastern Oregon and eastern Washington are now calling for secession or a re-alignment of state lines to create a new state.(Many of the people living east of the Cascades want no part of the liberal-do-gooder mentality that pervades the state capitols in Salem and Olympia.)

A Note on California: California has a splendid climate and a long growing season in much of the state. I am a fourth-generation descendant of California pioneers. I have dozens of relatives in the state. With these deep roots, you would think that I'd be motivated to live there. But I would never consider moving back to California. Why not? The state has some of the most draconian gun laws in the country. It also has plenty of crime, traffic, and unhealthful smoggy air. Also, consider that a California appellate court decision recently outlawed home schooling except by credentialed teachers. Forget California, folks!

Hi Jim,
I was reading Monday’s letter regarding “Sizing a Retreat AC Power Generator”, and a thought came to mind when the author mentioned super-insulating a freezer for extended cooling durations. There are basically 2 types of freezer; the upright and the box, (what we call around here, the “coffin” freezer). Given the same basic amount of insulation included with each type, to the point where both manage the loss of cooling at the same rate, the “coffin” appears to be more efficient during access.
Cold air sinks. When the door of an upright freezer is opened, the cold air inside will pour out, much like you would expect water would pour out of it in the same circumstances. The cold sinks and falls out the front, and is replaced by warmer air from above. While the contents of the freezer chill the incoming air immediately, and give the impression that things are staying cold due to that same recently-chilled air passing over your face, in reality, heat is being absorbed by everything inside the freezer.
When you open the door of a box freezer, the cold has nowhere to go. There is disturbance of the upper layer of air as the door opens, and there is also a heat exchange effect at the boundary of the two layers, the vast majority of cold air remains in the box. A box freezer thus saves on the energy needed to take the temp down to its set level after opening the door.
Here’s a tip for preserving low temps for those with upright freezers. Keep as much food as possible inside the freezer. The more frozen stuffs you have, the less space warm air has to occupy. Cold food loses temp much much slower than displaced air does, and with this practice in place, the door may remain open for longer periods as junior tries to decide on rocky road or vanilla (the only real flavor on earth…) ice-cream. The remaining low volume of air will chill much faster after the door has been closed, and the energy required to do this will be less as well. This is good for post-TEOTWAWKI as well as everyday living.
We prefer our “coffin” for bulk storage. It’s easier to keep our prey “on ice”. - Randy in Central California

JWR Replies: I agree wholeheartedly that it is important to keep a chest freezer full. Not only will it mean less cold air spilling out, but their thermal mass will also provide more of a time lag before defrosting, in the event of a power failure. Here at the ranch, we fill up any extra chest freezer space with used one-gallon plastic milk jugs that have been 3/4ths-filled with water.

I once had an opportunity to volunteer at a homeless shelter in Denver, Colorado. What started as a chance to be of service, turned out to be a lesson in survival. I was surprised to learn that many of the "guests" at the shelter had become experts at existing comfortably, on a permanent basis, without benefit of a home. Here are some of the things I learned:

1) The first lesson is - The quality of your bags determines the quality of your life. If your possessions are contained in fragile garbage bags, you are limited in how much can be carried and how far it can be carried. The first step up is a simple sports bag, and better yet is a backpack. Next up is a backpack along with a wheeled carry-on bag and collapsible handle. With such equipment, you stop looking homeless, and if you and your clothes are clean, hitch hiking is easier. One creative fellow used bungee cords to lash the luggage handle to his belt, so the luggage became a trailer of sorts.

On another level was a bicycle messenger who equipped his bicycle with a trailer for his worldly possessions and panniers for making package deliveries. Before you dismiss such an arrangement, consider this: His vehicle was paid for, he had no mortgage or rent to worry him, a steady job, and a large circle of friends in the shelter community. He always had money, a smile on his face, no stress, and time to help others. Can many of us say the same?

No doubt many readers of this blog have seen a "Sidewalk Winnebago" as the homeless sometimes call them. This is a grocery cart filled to overflowing with everything the user owns. If you can gain the trust of the owner, perhaps he will show you what is in the bags. It may amaze you how well equipped they are to survive whatever comes their way.

2) Staying Clean - Walgreen's sells a shower head on a short hose with a rubber adapter to connect to a faucet. They are meant for cleaning pets or dishes in the sink, but can also be used to shampoo your hair in a convenience store bathroom. The homeless man who showed me this trick said that if your hair is clean, you appear clean. This helped him find temporary jobs.

3) Self Defense - One man carried a sports bag with a Ka-Bar sheath knife inside. He could hold the sheath through the bag with his left hand, while drawing the knife through the open top of the bag with his right hand. Yet another had a Colt .45 in his bag.

4) I was told that a roll of toilet paper soaked in lighter fluid, charcoal starter, or alcohol makes a good improvised cooking fire.

5) Another guest showed me his cache that was buried by the river. It was a pair of five gallon plastic buckets, buried by rocks and hidden behind some trees in a remote area. One was filled with food, the other with cooking utensils. I doubt that this was his only stash.

Consider volunteering at a homeless shelter. You may be surprised what the residents there can teach you about survival. The most important lesson I learned is: I should be more grateful for what I have, and I should give thanks more often. What a precious lesson. - Doc. S.

More from economist Marc Faber's recent speech: 'Doom and Gloom' has just begun. And at the risk of exceeding your maximum daily dose of Gloom and Doom, consider this article sent in by RBS: US Fed releases [another] $200 billion as credit crisis hits new depths. And for the icing on the cake, The New York Times ran this: Seeing an End to the Good Times (Such as They Were). A key data point mentioned in the article: "The median household [in the US] earned $48,201 in 2006, down from $49,244 in 1999, according to the Census Bureau." OBTW, that $49,244 figure would equate $62,395 if adjusted for inflation! So now we can plainly see that the recent "boom" was entirely financed by debt. The magic money machine fell apart when house prices started to decline. Folks can no longer use their homes like ATMs. The party is over, America.

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Eric sent us this: A Global Need for Grain That Farms Can’t Fill.

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I heard that Rob at MURS Radios now has the Dakota Alert MURS Alert Motion Activated Transmitters (MAT) in stock. The special SurvivalBlog price is $119 each plus shipping. They offer an additional 5% discount if you purchase three or more MAT units. The also sell the MURS Alert base station ($69) and hand held units ($74).

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Another from Eric: Cattle theft still plagues ranchers. Eric's comment: "An interesting article, especially for folks who aim to be prepared and live at their retreats where they keep cattle. As the economy continues is precipitous decline and food, fuel and just about everything becomes more and more expensive I suspect that cattle rustling will become more pervasive. If things do head south really fast we may start hearing of ranchers shooting rustlers ala the wild west. After all these are folks that are stealing your families ability to survive in a grid down situation."

"Personal weapons are what raised mankind out of the mud, and the rifle is the queen of personal weapons." - The Late Col. Jeff Cooper

Monday, March 10, 2008

Whenever you call a talk radio show or join a Podcast discussing any topics related to survival or preparedness, please mention SurvivalBlog. Our goal is to double our readership again in 2008. Thanks!

Hello Jim and SurvivalBlog Readers:
I have enjoyed reading the vast knowledge shared on this topic and the awakening you have brought to us about our fragile economy! How can one put a price on a wake up call?,… well, it’s easy, renew your 10 Cent Challenge! Admit it, your year is probably up, but the education is still coming to you!

I have not seen any talk on your site about a "miniature" diesel genset. My thought is that while the large Lister type genset's are proven to last, ... their will be a time when running something with a much lower noise signature, vibration signature, and fuel consumption will be necessary to survive. It seems foolish to fire up 5KW,10KW, 25KW, etc... Watts of power, when you may only need enough to run your furnace and the freezer. Fire up the big boy for pumping water and what not once a week, and pump as much as you can into storage containers. Not to mention that diesel engines last longer when left running, not starting and stopping all the time. Whereas the gas unit would not know the difference.

My thought is this,. at today's price of diesel, one could afford to buy a 1,000 or 2,000 watt Honda portable unit with the savings of storing 200 stabilized gallons of gasoline vs. diesel. The Honda units are totally amazing! Almost silent running, easy to start, easy to throw into the vehicle, and the 1,000 watt unit will easily run a freezer and furnace for a day on less than a gallon of gasoline. Use your head and run the generator only as needed, (10 minutes or so several times a day to keep the freezer going), and you just greatly extended the days in which you will have portable power. Since the freezer is so important, it will be worth considering super insulating your freezer when not running.

In a post-SHTF scenario where we would be very vulnerable early on, and while gasoline is fresh, we could consider using the little guy first, expend your gasoline fuel supply, barter off the genset after that, then use caution and go with your primary Lister type genset. At the rate of one gallon of gasoline per day, you would have 200 days of run time before even really counting on your diesel genset. Use your head and run the gasoline genset 6-10 times a day for shorter duration, and you could have 400 days of gasoline portable power.

Given the cost of gasoline versus diesel, it appears that you would obtain more kilowatt hours per dollar in this scenario. It seems like the big genset could be very valuable in offering you the ability to weld, etc... at a time when most will have already been wearing out their big gensets and consuming their fuel. Here you sit with everything fresh and ready to go. Might make a fine job opportunity to be able to [arc] weld, run 220 VAC equipment, etcetera, all many moons after the onset of TEOTWAWKI.

I know this thought defies what has been discussed, but a few hundred gallons of gasoline stored almost pays for the Honda generator in savings over buying diesel [fuel] at today's prices. Thought I would put it out there for thought, of course, run the figures with an expert to make sure you are not starving the electric motors which would prematurely burn out the appliance.
All the best! - The Wanderer

Mr. Rawles,

Once again, thank you for your research and SurvivalBlog posts. I have been a [10 Cent Challenge] contributor for a couple of years and have gotten more than my money's worth. Thank you.

Last night my group and I met at my home. Here in New Hampshire we received a record amount of snow fall this year. (Over 108 inches!) That is the fourth largest every recorded. Yesterday it was warmer then normal there for a lot of snow melt. Last night it rained. As the group was getting ready to head to the range for night shooting I went to my basement to get my ammo. I found 18 to 24" of water down there. All the water was running in off the roadway and into my basement.

Thank you for your writings. [Because of advice in SurvivalBlog] everything was in Mylar bags in five gallon buckets, floating. I went to turn on my submersible pump that I have not had to use for years and it did not work. I started bailing with buckets. We attempted to get a siphon going with out success. My son went to Home Depot--one of the few stores still open--and was able to rent a large 2" diameter pump. That emptied the basement in about two hours.

The hot water heater was damaged. I had sand bags that we used in the basement to keep the water in one area once it started to rain again. It was like a water fall coming in the basement at time. The sand bags worked great creating a pool in that area for the pump to work. We dug a trench out side in the driveway to get the water to go into the back yard. Using spades, shovels and axes that we had on hand. We dug out the culvert that that the highway department should have kept opened and that I should have kept checking. Once that was open it stopped raining but it should keep the water out with everything else we did.

One of the members of our group is a tech for a propane company and he was able to get the hot water heater up and going with the tools and supplies we had on hand. He was able to make sure the furnace was going well.

A couple of lessons: You need good people that you can trust. We were going over our bug out plans and storage plans for the retreat prior to heading to the range. You have to plan for the future but live in the here and now.
We have different people with different skills. Once is a propane tech, one is a mechanic, one an administrator, one good in first aid and one security - defensive person. All of them have various skills that are needed. I had a stash of cash on hand to purchase or rent the pump and anything else needed last night.

Having a good working pump would have been invaluable. I have a stream that flows all year long in my yard and I could even use a good pump for fire control if needed. That will be on the list now.
I once again thank the Lord for his providence. - New Hampshire Hillbilly

Hi Mr. Rawles,
I hope you're having a great day! I was tumbling around the Internet and stumbled upon a site on do-it-yourself bookbinding.

It's got a great deal of information on binding your own books simply and easily using two bolts, two wing nuts, some wood scraps, a wet cotton ball and some Gorilla Glue. I tried it and found that this is a great way to EMP-proof my PDF collection of [public domain] WTSHTF books. Have a great evening. Best, - Ian

P.R. suggested an article in Home Power magazine on hydropower basics.

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A reminder that the Western Rifle Shooter's Association (WRSA)'s first event scheduled for 2008 is a two day defensive handgun course, in Brookings, Oregon on March 15 & 16. The WRSA offers high quality training for very little money, so be sure to take advantage of it!

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Remember what I've been saying about lenders reverting to saying "No"? And do your remember my predictions on municipal bonds and their insurers" Here are a couple of recent snippets from Bill Bonner, over at The Daily Reckoning that confirm my conclusions: "Bankruptcy filings rose 18% in February. One of the big mortgage lenders, Thornburg, of Santa Fe, New Mexico, defaulted on a $320 million loan. Investors sold the stock. Just a week ago, it was a $12 stock. Now it’s a $3 stock. Everything is getting ‘marked to meltdown,’ says the Wall Street Journal. Lenders approach a new loan as they might come upon the rim of an active volcano...worried that it might blow up in their faces at any minute. Yields on auction rate financing for municipalities and hospitals have almost doubled. And when the auctions fail, they can really explode. That’s why the Port Authority found itself paying a 20% rate on money it needed."

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TL in New York City wrote us via snail mail to ask for a recommended vendor for NBC masks and spare filters. I highly recommend JRH Enterprises. I have been doing business with them for nearly 15 years, and they have been a SurvivalBlog advertiser since shortly after the blog was launched in September of Aught Five.

"You can't make an appointment to have an emergency so always have your firearm." - The Late Col. Jeff Cooper

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Regarding the recent comments in SurvivalBlog, I have no experience with coastal land. I do have experience with farm / rural land.

In my part of the Midwest, "junk" land (rough land not really fit for farming or pasture...and not holding valuable timber) could be purchased all day long 10-12 years ago for $500-$750 per acre. I recently attended a sale of several parcels good only for hunting and the price was $3,000+ per acre. Top quality tillable land---great for corn, soybeans, wheat? Within the last 90 days a 1,500 acre parcel sold for $6,500 per acre. 10-12 years ago, I have no doubt it would have brought $2,500 if the right bidders wanted it. Five years ago? Maybe $3,000 per acre.

I personally believe we may be seeing a bubble developing in farm ground---but if commodity prices stay on the trend they are on now? We have a lot further to go in price increase.
Thanks, - Straightblast

It's not quite a wheelbarrow full of money yet, but check out accompanying the photo in this news story.

I guess that I should invest in a separate ALICE pack, for when 'Helicopter Ben' starts dropping off my paycheck - that way I can at least schlep it all to the grocery store, and keep my hands free to operate small arms.
Check out the slide show imbedded in the article as well - shows just how far Rhodesia/Zimbabwe has fallen. - Bob in Pittsburgh

Dear Jim:
< Sarcasm On > Your disappearing home equity got you down? Behind on your mortgage? What if you could live payment free for up to 8 months or more and walk away without owing a penny?
See: You Walk Away < Sarcasm Off >

The foregoing is a real solicitation to delay the foreclosure process. When real estate parasites like this have a business helping deadbeats game the foreclosure process, you know the Schumer is starting to really hit. Not that I have much sympathy for the crooked bankers and lenders being taken advantage of here (just wait till we get hit up for the upcoming Federal banking bailout...)
Regards, - OSOM


>Here’s the scene on that waterfront Florida property that you mentioned, as shown in a Seeking Alpha article by Barry Ritholtz: Foreclosure-Proof Homeowners
Regards, - KBF

From Bloomberg: Fed Boosts Lending to Banks as Credit Rout Continues. Bloomberg also reports: Bernanke Policy to `Destroy' U.S. Dollar, Faber Says. It sounds like there are some perilous times ahead!

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Mark in Idaho mentioned: that he spoke recently with a good friend who lives in Southwestern Utah. Mark said that his friend went to his local LDS cannery over the weekend and was told to "hurry up and buy what he could since the cannery prices were going to increase, as of the 22nd of March." That leaves just a short time before the price increase. I just heard from another reader that the LDS cannery wheat price is set to double. If you have been dawdling, then get busy, folks!

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Another news tip from Eric: Non-resident Indians in Bahrain urged to avoid US Dollar and Indian stocks: "invest in gold or British pound"

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Our friend Chad mentioned the plethora of information on the upcoming D.C. v. Heller US Supreme Court decision available over at The SCOTUS Wiki.

"We have the illusion of freedom only because so few ever try to exercise it. Try it sometime. Try to save your home from the highway crowd, or to work a trade without the approval of the goons, or to open a little business without a permit, or to grow a crop without a quota, or educate your child the way you want to, or to not have a child. We all have the freedom of a balloon floating in a pin factory." - Karl Hess

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The high bid in the current SurvivalBlog Benefit Auction lot is now at $110. The auction is for a combined lot of five items: a 120 VAC/12 VDC BedFan Personal Cooling System (a $99 retail value), kindly donated by the manufacturer, a Thieves Oil Start Living Kit (a $161 retail value), the book "Healing Oils of the Bible" by David Stewart, Phd. (a $19 retail value) the book "When Technology Fails", by Matthew Stein (a $29 retail value)--all donated by Ready Made Resources, and a copy of the latest edition of "The Encyclopedia of Country Living" by the late Carla Emery (a $32 retail value). The auction ends on March 15th. Please e-mail us your bids, in $10 increments.

Let there be light. We take it for granted these days, but in the woods on a dark night, during a power outage, or--most importantly--in a long-term survival situation, you'll quickly learn just how important light is, and how important it is to choose your illumination tools wisely.

My purpose here is not to recommend specific lights. There are web sites that can better help you make that decision. I'll include a few links at the end to get you started. What I want to do is offer my opinions about what I think makes for a good survival light. Other people will have other opinions. While I don't consider myself a flashlight expert, I own over 20 of them and have put a lot of thought into using flashlights in long-term survival scenarios. Following are what I consider the most important criteria in evaluating a survival flashlight (not necessarily in order of importance).
1. Small and lightweight is better
Bigger flashlights are usually bigger (or longer) because they hold more or larger batteries than smaller flashlights, which usually translates into increased light output. On the other hand, they're also heavier and more unwieldy than their smaller cousins, and do not necessarily enjoy a longer runtime than lights using fewer or smaller batteries. Ideally, a survival light uses just one or two batteries, and is small and lightweight enough comfortably carry in your shirt or front pants pocket. This gives you more carry options and makes carrying the light for long periods of time more comfortable.
2. Uses a common battery size
Currently, the most common flashlight battery sizes are AAA, AA, and D cells. Very few lights use 9-volt batteries (though there are some that would make decent back-ups, such as the PALight or PakLite), while most D-cell lights are too big and/or heavy for consistent, comfortable carry. That leaves AA- or AAA-cell lights as the most logical choices. Using a common battery size is important for obvious reasons. Many new battery types and sizes have hit the market in the last few years, and while these are (slowly) gaining in popularity, they're still not as common as AAs and AAAs. They also tend to be more expensive. Remember, we're talking about serious, long-term, dedicated survival lights, not the fancy whiz-bang or cheap-o flashlight you keep by your bedside, in your glove box, or take car camping. Depending on the severity and duration of the survival scenario, it will probably be easier to either purchase or barter for AA and AAA batteries than the newer, more exotic sizes. In fact, if possible, it might be wise to standardize all your survival-related electronics so that they use AA and/or AAA batteries.
3. Uses a variety of battery types
It's important that survival flashlights be able to function whether using alkaline, lithium, or rechargeable batteries--especially rechargeables (along with a portable solar recharging system), since you could be facing a long-term survival situation. Each type has its own particular advantages and disadvantages. Most lights will function using all three types, though some manufacturers don't include lithium primaries in their list of recommendations. That doesn't mean lithium batteries will harm your light, but don't assume there won't be a problem using any type of battery that the manufacturer doesn't specifically recommend. Find out exactly what batteries your survival light can tolerate before you purchase it, or test the batteries in your light before you have to rely on them.
4. Fewer batteries is better
Obviously, the fewer the batteries needed to operate the light . . . the fewer batteries you'll need to operate the light. This is a good thing in a survival situation, even better in a long-term survival situation. Your two-cell light may get a total runtime of 60 hours compared to just 40 hours for my one-cell light. But I'll get a total of 80 hours using two batteries compared to your 60 hours. Of course, comparisons like this don't always apply: run times vary greatly between different manufacturers and models depending on the type of light source and the electronics employed. Still, as a rule, a survival light should use no more than two batteries, preferably just one. Currently, there are many one-cell AA lights on the market that not only produce a lot of light (for their size), but also enjoy excellent run times. Twenty-plus hours of usable light is not uncommon, and even longer run times can be found. There are also a few 1xAAA lights available that might make adequate primary or excellent back-up survival lights.
5. Simple to operate
There are lots of fancy lights out there that sport multiple output levels, including SOS and strobe modes. Some are even computer-programmable. While that's not a bad thing in itself, when it comes to survival lights (as with most survival gear), simple is usually better. A light with just one medium-intensity level will usually suffice, or perhaps a two-level light with low and high output levels. In
the end, it doesn't matter how many light levels or modes your light offers, just so that it's dirt simple and intuitive to operate.
6. Reliable operation mechanism
" Twisty" or "clickie," that is the question. Which is more reliable? There is no definitive answer, because operation reliability depends more on the quality of the light (and its constituent parts) than on the particular mode of operation. And even a good company can turn out the occasional bad light. I've heard of $200+ Surefire lights having clickie malfunctions. I've also heard of twisty lights failing because the circuit board was displaced after repeated use, or by using too much torque while tightening the bezel. Most clickies have the on-off mechanism on the rear of the light, while some have it on the side (e.g., Maglite). Most twisties are operated by turning the bezel (head) or tail cap. And there are also hybrid models utilizing both twisty and clickie operations. If at all possible, obtain spare clickie mechanisms and/or twisty bezels (depending on the type of light) to use as replacement parts. [JWR Adds: Changing a MagLite "clickie" switch assembly require the use of an Allen (hex) wrench. Thankfully, MagLite sells large maintenance & repair spare parts sets at a very low price, considering the number of parts included in the sets. I have been told that they sell these parts sets at near their cost, to keep their biggest customers (such as police and fire departments) happy and loyal to the brand.]
7. Well constructed
Look for lights where the bulb is reasonably protected within the bezel, that are shock resistant and water resistant/proof, and that won't accidentally turn on while in your pocket or backpack. Clickies are most prone to accidental activation. This can usually be prevented by rotating the bezel or tail cap (depending on which end the batteries are inserted into) counterclockwise while the light is on until the power cuts out, then clicking the clickie button off.
8. LED versus incandescent
No contest here. A flashlight that uses an incandescent (or similar type) bulb is simply not a primary survival light. Period. If the bulb itself can burn out or malfunction due to shock (broken element), then you don't want to trust your life to its operation. While light emitting diode (LED) "bulbs" technically don't last forever, a 5,000- to 10,000-hour use life is close enough to "forever" for survival purposes. And no, LED bulbs are not impervious to shock, but they're a heck of a lot tougher than other bulb types. Over the last few years LED technology has improved exponentially, to the point where they now favorably compare to or out-perform most other lights in almost every category, including output (brightness). There are still brighter bulb types out there, but the newest and brightest LEDs are more than bright enough to meet virtually every basic need you'll have for a flashlight. The older Nichia brand LEDs, still commonly found on store racks (it takes time for new technology to trickle down to the retail level) emit a slightly bluish tint. Many people find this tint objectionable, though it's really a matter of aesthetics. I still rely on a relatively dim Nichia LED as my primary survival light (a CMG Infinity Ultra, now redesigned and marketed under the Gerber name), and am more than willing to put up with the bluish tint due to its superb runtime (80+ hours of usable light on just 1 AA battery). My current back-up survival light (an old Arc-P 1xAAA) is also a Nichia. Other people are not so forgiving of the tint. Not to worry. The newer generation LEDs (e.g., the so-called Cree lights, and others are on the way) boast a lily white tint--or maybe even whiter than lilies. The bottom line is, go with LED technology.
9. Good compromise between output and run time
Other than the "LED versus incandescent" issue (which is actually a non-issue), this is arguably the most important criterion, and it's what separates most lights from true survival lights. Look for a run time of at least seven hours to 50% output (which would probably translate into 8-12 total hours of usable light). This is the minimum that you should settle for. The longer the run time, the better. Let's make sure you understand that last point. The longer the run time, the better. Don't get hung up on the whole output (i.e., how bright it is) thing. Super-bright "tactical" lights are great for impressing your friends, but will usually suck batteries dry much more quickly than less powerful lights (although improving LED technology continues to give us brighter lights and better run times.). Also, the darker your environment, the less light you need to see well enough. Brighter lights can actually be a disadvantage, because they more readily attract unwanted attention, and can also impair your night vision more than moderate-output lights. These are important considerations in a survival scenario. Again, we're talking about survival lights here, not tactical (super bright) lights. While it might make sense to also take along a super-bright light for "tactical" use (e.g., disorienting or disrupting the night vision of a potential threat), in most cases these lights will not meet the necessary criteria to qualify as true survival lights. And to repeat: the darker your environment, the less light you'll need to perform most essential tasks.
11. Quality of light beam
What this refers to is the illumination pattern, or beam characteristic, of the light. It's sometimes referred to as "spill." For survival lights, a wide spill beam is usually preferable to a tight, bright spot beam.
While the former won't illuminate specific objects as well, it provides illumination to a wider area, facilitating a broader picture and better peripheral vision. The latter will illuminate specific objects or smaller areas much better, and will have greater (longer) "throw," but will also tend to draw your line of sight inward, so that you focus more on what's illuminated in the spot beam than on what may be around it. Tight, bright beams are also more detrimental to night vision than wider, dimmer spill beams. A few lights seek a compromise between the two, claiming to offer both a bright center beam as well as decent spill. Some are more successful at accomplishing this than others. Personally, I prefer lights that do one thing or the other over those that take a "Swiss Army Knife" approach to illumination, though you may feel otherwise.

If you happen to choose to also carry a more powerful "tactical" light, just in case it's needed, you'll probably prefer that it have a bright, fairly narrow beam. But for a general purpose survival light, you want a wider, more diffuse beam, allowing you take in more visual information at one time.
12. Lanyard hole
The lanyard hole is just that--a hole [or loop] in the light [body or tail cap] through which you can attach a lanyard (cord) or a split ring, to which the lanyard can be attached (I prefer this setup). The lanyard can then be tied around your wrist, for example, or through a belt loop to prevent the loss of your light. Instead of a hole, some lights employ other means for lanyard attachment, and some have no dedicated lanyard attachment at all--except, perhaps, a (removable or screwed-into-place) pocket clip under which you could thread a cord. Unless you choose to forgo the lanyard and attach your light to a key ring along with other needed items (which I advise against, though that might be a viable option for a small back-up light), Always use a lanyard and secure it to your person, your clothing, or your gear, even when not in use. Your survival light is an essential, life-saving, possibly irreplaceable tool, but it will do you no good if you lose it. To be honest, I don't think I'd buy a light for serious survival that did not feature a dedicated, foolproof lanyard attachment, preferably a hole through some portion of the body.
13. Pocket clip
Most smaller lights these days come with pocket clips. They are usually detachable (slide-on, slide-off), and are useful for securing the light to the inside of a pocket, or for clipping it to your clothes, gear, or hat brim while performing tasks that require both hands. (I would always use a lanyard in addition to the clip). Pocket clips are nice to have. If your light doesn't come with one, it would be worthwhile to find a clip from some other source (such as another light of the same diameter) that fits snugly around your survival flashlight.
14. Can stand on its tail
This is not an essential criterion, and I certainly wouldn't reject a light simply because it isn't designed to stand upright on its tail end (and FWIW, my current primary survival light doesn't), but lights that can do so add an additional level of functionality. They are especially useful when you desire ambient (rather than direct) light, such as when reading or dressing in your tent. Of course, you can always prop your light up or clip it to something to get the same effect, but it's not quite as handy.
15. Caring for your light
Other than lubing the bezel and/or tail cap threads with an appropriate wet or dry lubricant, and avoiding cross-threading when attaching the bezel and/or tail cap, flashlight maintenance is pretty simple. Don't put the battery(ies) in backwards, keep it dry, don't drop it, etc. I'd suggest keeping your survival light empty of batteries until needed. Otherwise, keep lithiums in there. Alkalines can leak and ruin your light.
Q: What about headlamps? Can these be used as survival lights?
A: Very handy items to have. The light shines right where you look. Including smack dab into the face of the person you're looking at. Maybe it's just me, but I don't much care for light in my eyes when I'm trying to preserve my night vision. They might also make a handy head-shot target for hostiles. Let's put it this way. While most small flashlights can usually be rigged to serve as makeshift headlamps (with the aid of a pocket clip or headband, for example), most headlamps cannot readily be used in the same manner as one might use a flashlight. Headlamps could possibly serve as back-up survival lights (if they use only one or two batteries), but I would not recommend them as primary survival lights. A flashlight will, in most instances, prove more versatile.
1. The best flashlight resource on the Web is Candle Power Forums
. Lots of traffic and more info about flashlights than most people would ever need to know. Also a good source for obtaining custom lights.
2. One of the better flashlight review sites is It's no longer updated regularly, but many of the lights still being sold are reviewed at the site.

JWR Adds: I agree with W's recommendation to get white LED flashlights. Here at Rawles Ranch, we mainly use the older late 1990s-vintage C. Crane Company blue-white LED lights that are compatible with NiMH rechargeable AA batteries. I realize that many SurvivalBlog readers have a lot invested in incandescent bulb flashlights. Rather than selling them at a loss, keep in mind that LED replacement heads now available for most or the major brands including MagLite and SureFire. OBTW, if you decide to transition to LEDs, save those original incandescent light bulb components. You never know when someday you may need a lot of light--for example for impromptu surgery out in the field. The other exception is truly SHTF tactical use. While I do not advocate using a visible light flashlight or rail-mounted weapon light where you are up against and armed opponent. (Since they provide your opponent with a convenient point of aim.) They are fine for shooting marauding bears, but almost suicidal when confronting two-legged predators. However, I do advocate using the same lights with an infrared (IR) filter installed, in situations where you have night vision goggles (or a Starlight scope) and you have a high level of confidence that your opponent does not. This will give you a tremendous tactical advantage in low-light fighting. In these circumstances, for short periods of time you will want all the light that you can get! For this purpose, I keep the original incandescent light heads for my Surefire lights handy. I also keep a 50 piece box of the standard Panasonic brand CR-123 lithium batteries in my refrigerator, as a "tactical reserve." These have a 10+ year shelf life. Our current box, (which, BTW, was generously donated by a reader in lieu of a 10 Cent Challenge subscription payment), won't expire until 2018.

Regarding lanyards, I recommend using a long, stout lanyard that is a full loop, preferably with a ball-shaped spring button slider. I mainly use olive drab paracord. The longer the better, for the sake of versatility. If the lanyard is too short, then there is not enough slack to loop the flashlight through (in a Girth Hitch--a.k.a. Lanyard Knot) to be able to hang a light from a branch, belt loop, tent d-ring, or other object.

Dear Jim:
I have read time and again about .308 rifles on SurvivalBlog, and how you often steer people towards the HK and FN brands. What do you think about the Armalite AR-10 I have two, and like them very much, and have extensive spare parts and magazines. BTW, you won't hurt my feelings if you do not like them, I just wonder why you [don't often] mention them.
Sincerely, Mark in Albuquerque, New Mexico

JWR Replies: I have a personal preference for L1A1s, FALs, and HK91s, but I hardly rule out functionally equivalent rifles such as M1As and AR-10s. I only de-emphasize the latter because of the relatively high cost of extra magazines and spare parts. I particularly recommend AR-10s for readers that are prior US or Canadian military service--those that already have a lot of muscle memory invested in the AR platform--namely the US M16 series and the Canadian C7 series. (The sights and controls will seem familiar and "right" to them.) I also appreciate the light weight of AR-10s. (They weigh more than a pound less than most other .308 semi-auto battle rifles.) The only major drawback is that the AR-10 has the same dirty gas tube action as an AR-15. Just be sure to clean your rifles frequently and scrupulously.

OBTW, I strongly prefer the varieties of AR-10s that can use standard FN-FAL magazines. Specifically, I recommend the Bushmaster AR-10 (now out of production) and the RRA (Rock River Arms) LAR-8 . Standard metric FAL magazines can be found for as little as $7 each, versus up to $60 each for some of the proprietary AR-10 magazines. That may not be much of an issue to casual shooters, but it is is a big issue for well-prepared folks that want to salt away 25 or more spare magazines for a "lifetime supply." At $40 each, a supply of 25 spare magazines would cost nearly as much as the rifle itself! If properly cared for, rifles using noncorrosive ammunition may last for three generations of regular use. But magazines are the most fragile part, and cannot be expected to put up with the vigors of regular field use. They are after all, very vulnerable when one drops to a prone position. Another factor to consider is the prospect of another Federal magazine ban. Based on the experience of the ill-conceived 1994-to-2004 ban, I anticipate that a new ban will probably bump the prices of FAL magazines to $20+ each, and AR-10 magazines to $120 each, or more. If the anticipated new law is permanent (with no sunset clause) then magazine prices might reach absurd heights.

Patrick sent us a link to a promising new steam engine design. (I mentioned it once before in the blog, but their web site has recently been expanded, so it is worth another look.)

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Steve sent this: Citi Falls on Worries About Cash Levels. Steve's comment: "The largest banks are in trouble and main stream media is reporting it." Meanwhile, we read: Wall Street to Citigroup: Come clean

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Two more links from Eric, with more cheery news from abroad: International experts foresee collapse of U.S. economy and, Already we have riots, hoarding, panic: the sign of things to come?

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Scientists Make First Map of Emerging Disease Hotspots. Out of curiosity, I'd like to see a version of that map "normed" to a population density map. I would guess that it would still show some relatively hot spots in east Asia. But undoubtedly, latitude and population density play key roles.

"We have staked the whole of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God." - James Madison

Friday, March 7, 2008

You may have noticed some all-time highs were just reached in the commodities markets. Spot gold briefly reached $991 per ounce yesterday morning (intraday). It settled substantially by the closing bell, but the bull market in commodities is far from over. Meanwhile, crude oil futures spiked to nearly $106 per barrel. And the futures market for wheat was recently bid up to an unprecedented $25 per bushel. When I last checked, the US Dollar Index had sagged down to an alarming 72.66! Spot silver, while not at an all-time high (because of the extraordinary highs set during the Hunt Brothers-inspired silver boom of the late 1970s), touched $21.10 per ounce yesterday morning. I have been urging my readers to buy silver since February of 2001, when spot silver was $4.55 per ounce. Pardon me for saying this, but I told you so.

Good Morning Jim,
As I read today's blog, I thought again about the safety of credit unions. As far as I have been able to discover, they have not jumped in to the derivatives like banks and mortgage companies did, and seem much safer than banks. Credit unions are mostly local and (though the requirements are often much less restrictive than they used to be) usually only have local residents as customers. Does anyone know any more on credit unions? I've long recommended credit unions to my friends and family in place of banks, since they usually offer lower loan, and higher savings rates than banks, with better service. Do you or any of my fellow SurvivalBlog readers have any input, or insight here? Thanks! God Bless, - R. in NH <><

JWR Replies:
In the event that panicked runs develop, most credit unions in general will be safer, on average, than banks. But rather than just assuming safety, you should investigate the reserve level and portfolio of your particular credit union. If any institution has a large exposure to derivatives trading or subprime real estate lending, then it should be avoided. And even if your credit union's customers are for the most part credit worthy, you need to examine: A.) Is the credit union tied to one industry that will do poorly in an economic downturn? And, B.) If the credit union issues mortgages, then is the real estate in that community grossly over-inflated? If you live in an area where real estate prices have tripled or quadrupled recently, then beware!

Regardless of the risk level of your particular bank or credit union, don't put all your eggs in one basket. Your money on deposit should be spread evenly between several institutions. Also, consciously differentiate between your short term cash requirements and longer term investments. In today's volatile credit and currency environment, I advise keeping the majority of your long term investing assets in tangibles.


I found the following recipe for Hunza Bread at the You Q&A web site, in Canada. Because this is a very filling "no hunger" recipe, I have found it very useful in losing weight. (Obviously in a survival situation, my goal would be to maintain my body weight, so I would eat a lot more of it.) It is very easy to make.

Hunza Bread Recipe.
4 cups of water
3.5 (three & one half) to 4 pounds of natural buckwheat or millet flour
1.5 (one & one half) cups of olive oil
1.5 (one & one half) cups of natural unrefined sugar
16 ounces of honey
16 ounces of molasses
4 ounces of powdered soya milk (half cup)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking powder (non aluminum)
You may also add apricots, raisins, chopped walnuts, almonds, sliced dates to the above ingredients. Mix ingredients. Grease and lightly flour cooking pan(s). Ideally use baking trays with about 1 inch high sides. Pour batter in pan(s) half an inch thick over the base. Bake at about 300 degrees Fahrenheit (150 C.) for 1 hour. After cooking, dry the bread in the oven for two (2) hours at a very low heat - 90 degrees Fahrenheit (50 C). After it is cooled tip out and cut into approximately 2 inch x 2 inch squares. Store it [refrigerated], wrapped in cloth in a container. You may need to repeat the baking depending on the size of your baking pan, and oven, until all the mixture has been used.

I hope that my fellow readers find this useful. - Bob G.

Good Morning,
I am a fairly new SurvivalBlog reader but like your range and depth of coverage in all things "survival". I Hope you can help me with a metal question...
I have collected gold and silver coins for over 10 years now and have always assumed I could sell them when the time was right, but I recently had a conversation with a local coin dealer who indicated they were cutting back their hours and that there were several other shops that were closing down their retail operations because a lot of people were only wanting to sell precious metals not purchase them. Thus, the shop inventories were swelling and they could see no reason to buy more from their customers until their [coinage] stocks diminished. Did I understand this line of reasoning correctly? If the banks crash and people need cash will that not cause metal prices to plummet since there are so few places that will purchase gold and silver? Would this be a temporary condition as foreign buyers like India would swing into action? Your thoughts on this would be much appreciated. - Keith D. in Colorado

JWR Replies: You are correct. that the precious metals market is global. It is, however, a notably very "thin" market, compared to other investments like land, stock and bonds. Thin markets tend to be volatile. But every free market eventually finds equilibrium. In the short term, just the rumor of a Central Bank gold sale could push down the price of gold by as much as 30%. But that won't change market fundamentals, and the metals will prices will eventually bounce back. The impact of a major bank run in the US is an imponderable. It could push metals down, briefly. But in the aftermath, when people see the continuing declining value of the US dollar (USD) in foreign exchange, the metals prices will resume their bull charge, fueled by foreign purchases.

I cannot predict a top, but my gut tells me that it is somewhere substantially above $1,500 per ounce gold. That equates to 1000 Euros per ounce, which might be seen as a magic number. (A "panic" number for the bankers.) Beyond that, there is a substantial risk of "intervention" that could run the gamut from government gold sales, to government gold leasing, to targeted "exceptional profit" taxes, to export and import controls, to even possibly another FDR-style gold ban. (Keep in mind that when I was describing natural equilibrium, I was talking about free markets. When market freedom is destroyed by legislation or executive orders, all bets are off. Free market fundamentals only apply to truly free markets.

When governments and their banking cartels feel the heat and recognize the risk of their magic money machine being revealed for what it is--essentially a fraud--then there is no limit to what they will do to protect their interests. Wit that said, I strongly recommend that once gold passes the $1,000 USD mark that you very gradually unwind your metals positions. You should divest perhaps 70% by the time gold passes $1,600 per ounce. Don't try to time the peak. Experience has shown that this is almost impossible. My further advice for divestment is as follows: Sell off your foreign-minted bullion first, followed by your US commercially-minted gold, followed by your US Mint Eagles, and finally your pre-1933 numismatic gold. (The latter is the least likely to be confiscated.) I recommend that you maintain a core holding of pre-1965 sliver coins for barter, regardless of what price level the metals markets reach.

As you divest your gold in the bull market, put the proceeds immediately into other tangibles investments--as I've described at length in SurvivalBlog. Just don't make the mistake of parlaying your precious metals profits into any dollar denominated investments. That would be foolish.

Don't miss watching this brief video clip: John Williams of ShadowStats Warns: Economic Depression Ahead. (A hat tip to William D. for spotting that video link.)

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Jason B. sent us this: Gulf investors may not save Citigroup, Dubai executive says. Jason's comment: "JWR's prediction of bank runs may come sooner rather than later." Meanwhile, we read: Banks' Losses Could Put $900 Billion Squeeze on Consumers.

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In a recent issue of The Daily Reckoning, Bill Bonner commented: "Among the Fed’s efforts to relieve the bankers’ pain has been a new line of credit – the Term Auction Facility. What a handy tool! It allows the banks to borrow against the same infected collateral that caused them problems in the first place. Private lenders wouldn’t touch it; but the chump of last resort, with the taxpayers’ credit card in hand ...accepts it as if it were lost Rembrandts and uncirculated gold coins."

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Ben. L. found this: Apple Farmer Finds Pigs Work Better Than Pesticides in Apple Orchard

"As long as one doesn't get into a gunfight, a 9 millimeter is just fine." - Mark Moritz

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The folks at Ready Made Resources have kindly added two books to the current SurvivalBlog Benefit Auction. They are: "Healing Oils of the Bible" by David Stewart, Phd., and "When Technology Fails", by Matthew Stein. These will be added to the existing lot of auction items: a 120 VAC/12 VDC BedFan Personal Cooling System (a $99 retail value), kindly donated by the manufacturer, a Thieves Oil Start Living Kit (a $161 retail value) donated by Ready Made Resources, and a copy of the latest edition of "The Encyclopedia of Country Living" by the late Carla Emery (a $32 retail value). The auction ends on March 15th. The high bid in the current SurvivalBlog Benefit Auction lot is now at $80. Please e-mail us your bids, in $10 increments.

Today we present another article for Round 15 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The writer of the best non-fiction article will win a valuable four day "gray" transferable Front Sight course certificate. (Worth up to $2,000!) Second prize is a copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, generously donated by Jake Stafford of Arbogast Publishing. Round 15 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entries. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival will have an advantage in the judging.

“I’m right there in the room and no one acknowledges me.”

"We must face the prospect of changing our basic way of living. This change will either be made on our own initiative in a planned way, or forced on us with chaos and suffering by the inexorable laws of nature." - President Jimmy Carter (1976)

Before we discuss this Elephant in the Room we must first briefly consider the notion of ‘sustainability’. Too often people debate sustainability issues from an understanding that is vague, incomplete or frankly flawed.

"Just exactly what is meant when the word 'sustainable' or ‘sustainability’ are used?" They are popularly used to describe a wide variety of activities which are generally ecologically laudable but which may not be sustainable.

First, we must accept the idea that "sustainable" has to mean “for an unspecified long period of time.”

Secondly we have a spectrum for the use of the term "sustainable." At one end of the spectrum, the term is used with precision by people who are introducing new concepts as a consequence of thinking profoundly about the long-term future of the human race. In the middle of the spectrum, the term is simply added as a modifier to the names and titles of very beneficial studies in efficiency, etc. that have been in progress for years. In some cases the term may be used mindlessly (or possibly with the intent to deceive) in order to try to shed a favourable light on continuing activities that may or may not be capable of continuing for long periods of time.

The Government of the United Kingdom defines a ‘sustainable community’ in its 2003 Sustainable Communities Plan: ‘Sustainable communities are places where people want to live and work, now and in the future. They meet the diverse needs of existing and future residents, are sensitive to their environment, and contribute to a high quality of life. They are safe and inclusive, well planned, built and run, and offer equality of opportunity and good services for all.’

So there briefly we have “sustainable”?

If we follow on from the above we can see that a ‘sustainable population’ would be one that can survive over the long term, I am talking of thousands to tens of thousands of years, without running out of resources or damaging the environment in the process. This means that most of the resources we use have to be both renewable through natural processes and entirely recycled if they are not renewable. Our numbers and level of activity must not generate more waste than natural processes can return to the biosphere. A sustainable population must not grow past the point where those natural limits are breached.

If the population does exceed the carrying capacity, the death rate will increase until the population numbers are stable. Using these criteria it is obvious that the current human population is not sustainable.

In the entire environmental-related discussion taking place, population is a word we seldom dare to speak and it is conspicuous by its absence: Population is the elephant in the room.

It is obvious that something has massively increased the world's carrying capacity in the last 150 years. During the first 1800 years of the Common Era, like the tens of thousands of years before, the population rose very gradually as humanity spread across the globe. Around 1800 this began to change, and by 1900 the human population was rising dramatically:

That something is oil.

Peak Oil

As we all know, but are sometimes reluctant to contemplate, oil is a finite, non-renewable resource. This automatically means that its use is not sustainable. Oil and Natural Gas are finite! There may be arguments over how much oil/gas there was/is but, regardless of what that number is they are finite, absolute.

If the use of oil is not sustainable, then of course the added carrying capacity the oil has provided is likewise unsustainable. Carrying capacity has been added to the world in direct proportion to the use of oil, and the disturbing implication is that if our oil supply declines, the carrying capacity of the world will automatically fall with it.

These two observations (that oil has expanded the world's carrying capacity and oil use is unsustainable) combine to yield a further implication. While humanity has apparently not yet reached the carrying capacity of a world with oil, we are already in drastic overshoot when you consider a world without oil. In fact our population today is at least five times what it was before oil came on the scene. If this sustaining resource were to be exhausted, our population would have no option but to decline to the level supportable by the worlds lowered carrying capacity.

What are the chances that we will experience a decline in our global oil supply? Of course given that oil is a finite, non-renewable resource, such an occurrence is inevitable. The field of study known as Peak Oil has generated a vast amount of analysis that indicates this decline will happen soon, and may even be upon us right now. The decline in oil supply will reduce the planet's carrying capacity, thus forcing humanity into overshoot with the inevitable consequence of a population decline.

The rapidity of the decline following the peak will determine whether our descent will be a leisurely stroll down to the canyon floor or a headlong tumble carrying a little sign reading, "Help!"

Each of the global problems we face today is the result of too many people using too much of our planet's finite, non-renewable resources and filling its waste repositories of land, water and air to overflowing. The true danger posed by our exploding population is not our absolute numbers but the inability of our environment to cope with so many of us doing what we do.

But are there other factors besides these that may contribute to overshoot with the inevitable consequence of a population decline.

The United Kingdom

UK population growth is environmentally unsustainable, and if it is environmentally unsustainable it is also economically unsustainable, for without ecologically healthy land our economy will not be able to support its own people without causing damage to the environment.

Today, the UK population is about 62 million and is one of the most crowded areas in the world. In 1750, when the Industrial Revolution was beginning, it was about 6 million. It had never exceeded this figure, although during the Dark Ages and after the Black Death it fell to one or two million.

Most people lived and died in poverty. Pre-industrial farmers were pushed to the limit to feed so many. The population increased slightly in years with good harvests, but starvation and malnutrition cut it back to the 6 million norm when harvests were bad.

We are in fantasy land if we think that we can continue to support the number of people that we do now without the full input of oil and its related products.

We have become so dependent on those fuels, that there is no way we can sustain ourselves at this population density and level of technology without them. Even something as basic as food will become impossible to produce, process and transport for our present numbers without fuel.

Just as redistributing greenhouse gas emissions is no solution to climate change, population redistribution provides no long-term solution to environmental sustainability - total population numbers need to decrease both in the UK and worldwide, alongside efforts to reduce people's individual environmental impacts.

By adding over two million more people (extra producers of greenhouse gas emissions through household, transport and business use) to the population of the UK since 1997, and by allowing the number of climate changers to rise by more than 300,000 people a year, the government's population policy has undermined most of its environmental goals.

Climate Change

The climate change scenario for the UK is one of initial warming. Longer drier summers and stormy wetter winters are predicted, based on a temperature rise of 2/3.5° Celsius for the UK by the 2080s [UK Climate Impacts Programme, 2002]. [1]

But a 5.8° Celsius rise is possible, with some climate scientists suggesting even faster warming. In the UK, 2006 was the warmest year since records began in 1659.

The Benfield Hazard Research Centre at University College, London, has produced maps of Britain showing the additional impact of sea-level rise under three scenarios. [2]

There is also increasing evidence of another worrying scenario - the possible failure of the Gulf Stream that keeps Britain's climate warm. Without it, the UK would be plunged rapidly into freezing temperatures that would prevail for many generations, and be unable to support its current population of nearly 60 million.

Extremes of temperature and climate, combined with weather-related disruptions, would severely reduce the size of the country's population carrying capacity.


The UK does not need to be wholly self-sufficient in food, but with population continuing to grow, urbanisation eating up farmland, and more of our remaining agricultural land likely to be used for energy crops, food production will be further squeezed.

The introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into the biosphere poses a danger similar to that of disease. When a plant GMO is created, its pollen spreads around the world. It is quite conceivable that much of mankind’s food supply could be eliminated, simply by a terrible error in which the introduction of one or more GMOs resulted in the global loss of harvests of a staple food, such as a cereal grain. [3]

The systems that produce the world's food supply are heavily dependent on fossil fuels. Vast amounts of oil and gas are used as raw materials and energy in the manufacture of fertilisers and pesticides, and at all stages of food production: from planting, irrigation, feeding and harvesting, through to processing, distribution and packaging.

In addition, fossil fuels are essential in the construction and the repair of equipment and infrastructure needed to facilitate this industry, including farm machinery, processing facilities, storage, ships, trucks and roads. The industrial food supply system is one of the biggest consumers of fossil fuels and one of the greatest producers of greenhouse gases.

Almost every current human endeavour from transportation, to manufacturing, to electricity to plastics, and especially food production is inextricably intertwined with oil and natural gas supplies. We are now at a point where the demand for food/oil continues to rise, while our ability to produce it in an affordable fashion is about to drop.


Changing consumption patterns reflecting higher material living standards are causes which can be mitigated by changing habits and better recycling, but the 2000-06 rate of increase in municipal waste exactly matches that of population growth. As each individual recycles more of his or her own waste, success is undermined by the constantly increasing numbers of people who create waste.


Among the alternative power proposals is wind power. Wind power is clean and carbon-free, and if the UK's offshore air currents remain as prevalent as they are today, it will remain the most promising proven source of renewable energy until and if technological innovations improve prospects for solar, wave and tidal power.

But how much land would be needed to provide all our electricity? It depends how much wind power can be constructed offshore. If half the 25,200 MW target for 2020 (estimated to provide a fifth of UK electricity) were built onshore, 3,100 square kilometres of land would be needed - an area larger than the whole county of Dorset (2,653 sq km). For wind power to supply all-electric homes at today's rates of consumption, for today's 60 million people, several counties would need to be covered with wind turbines.

Turbines are being built to rated capacities above 1MW, but whatever the capacity of a turbine, and whatever the improvement in energy yield per hectare, these calculations apply only to household electricity demand - if wind power were to be used to produce hydrogen fuel cells as a substitute for petrol for motor transport, land requirements for turbines would rise further.


The total amount of water used in UK (on a per person basis, but including domestic, industrial and agricultural withdrawals) is modest – about 550 litres per day - compared to the majority of countries in the world, because agriculture can be carried on mostly without irrigation.

The UK Government attaches importance to the goal of lowering water use per household because of increasing water constraints: rivers reduced to a trickle for several months, reservoir levels dropping, water tables (for groundwater supplies) continuing to drop. The large increases in the UK population experienced during the last five years makes it even more important to try to push per person consumption downwards.

Against this background, it is astonishing that the UK government has given the go-ahead – indeed has promoted – a massive expansion of housing. Half a million new homes are planned in the South East alone.

The CFRE (Campaign For Rural England) has said: ‘The Environment Agency’s own figures show that for this number of houses to be sustainable would require all the new houses to be 25% more water-efficient and all existing houses to be 8% more water-efficient. Yet 200,000 new houses have already been built in the region without any water conservation measures. Unless we can make the politicians and planners listen and re-think, we are heading for disaster here in Eastern England.’

In a letter to The Guardian, on August 9 2006, Campaign to Protect Rural England chief executive said:

‘Any attempt to define an optimum level for immigration… needs to look beyond issues of the economy and social stability, important as these are, to take into account the environment…. The UK is one of the most densely populated and built up countries in the EU and some English regions are already close to reaching the limits of their capacity to take further development without serious damage to the environment or quality of life.’

Our total usage of water just puts us inside the WWF category of mild stress, and we should regard this as a wake-up call. Along with every measure for reducing per person use of water, through metering, efficient appliances, rainwater harvesting, and reduction of pipe leakages, we should address the problem of population.

UK Summary

The UK has until recently been one of the most resilient economies in the world. Over the last 100 years, it has survived two world wars, staged spectacular economic recoveries, been blessed with energy resources, and evolved from manufacturer to the world into a service economy. But the position in which it now finds itself looks bleaker.

The UK is no longer a net exporter of oil and gas, and though rising prices will in the short term mitigate the impact of this reversal, its trade deficit in goods and services continues to widen. Domestic energy substitutes are unlikely to be able to support current levels of economic activity, and the insecurity of energy imports and import prices is already evident.

Of all the problems that we have to face right now the convergence of Peak Oil, Climate Change and economic instability are probably the most crucial issues we face.

All these problems are merely symptoms of a single, deeper underlying problem. They are symptoms of a species and a way of life that have grown beyond the ability of this planet to supply enough resources or to cope with our inevitable waste products. This growth is seen in the human population, currently surging through 6.6 billion people worldwide. It is also seen in our economic and industrial growth, with its emphasis on perpetually rising living standards and increasing wealth.

The consequences are already clear - our planet is under mounting stress from human activities, with its climate changing and its ecosystems failing. But recognition that we must act urgently to preserve our natural habitat has been undermined by persistent failure to admit the multiplier effect of human numbers. Without policies to reduce world population, efforts to save our environment cannot succeed.

The only thing that has enabled our numbers to shoot so far over the long-term carrying capacity is the planet's one-time gift of fossil fuels. This has also enabled our underlying destruction of the biosphere.

The global human population before the discovery of oil was about 1-billion. Today it is about 6.6 billion and rising. Without oil, the earth will only support about 2-3 billion, and only if we stop desecrating our environment right now. We cannot continue to feed an expanding global population indefinitely.

The uncomfortable truth is that the impact on Earth's biosphere of a projected 9 billion people living at a desired higher standard of living in 2050 would be fatal for the planet in terms of greenhouse gas emissions alone.


Given the fact that our world's carrying capacity is supported by oil, and that the oil is about to start going away, it seems that a population decline is inevitable. The form it will take, the factors that will precipitate it and the widely differing regional effects are all imponderables.

Populations in serious overshoot always decline, though actually, it's a bit worse than that. The population may actually fall to a lower level than was sustainable before the overshoot.

The reason is that unsustainable consumption while in overshoot allowed the species to use more non-renewable resources and to further poison their environment with excessive wastes.

However it is important to recognize that humanity is not, overall, in a position of overshoot at the moment. Our numbers are still growing (though the rate of growth is declining).

However, we are getting obvious signals from our environment that all is not well. If the carrying capacity were to be reduced as our numbers continued to grow we could find ourselves in overshoot rather suddenly. The consequences of that would be quite grave.

So here we have a huge, complex, brittle system built on the foundation of a depleting, non-renewable resource and depending on a damaged environment with diminished carrying capacity. If this system receives a series of shocks (such as repeated local interruptions of its energy supply) the resulting failure cascades can disrupt the organization of the system to such an extent that the cohesion provided by its interconnections fails. Ironically those connections themselves become the pathways that spread the failure to other parts of the system.

What has all this theorizing to do with population?

Because we are now a global species with a global civilization, continuing growth of our numbers depends on the continuing growth of our civilization. Humanity does not grow through demographics alone; there must be a sufficient level of food, shelter, energy and medical care available. All these factors will be put at risk globally within the next two decades due to the loss of oil and our ability to keep people alive will decline.Food production and distribution will be hampered or in some cases made impossible, and due to the damage of soil and water local agriculture will prove very difficult in some places. If medical care erodes, so will infant mortality and longevity. The erosion of urban sanitation systems will have an identical but greater effect. Across the world the effects will be highly variable, with some places like the United States and the United Kingdom suffering from the catastrophic decline in net global oil exports that is now underway. Other countries like those at the bottom of the list of developing nations will simply be too poor to compete against the developed world for the resources needed for survival. Populations will fall as a result.

This leads inevitably to the objection that such a position caps the aspirations of less developed countries and is thus morally unacceptable. Be that as it may, the facts remain: there aren't enough resources to bring the whole world up to the industrial level of the developed world and the developed world is unlikely to consent to their own voluntary impoverishment in favour of industrializing the less developed world, and attempting such an approach would increase rather than reduce global ecological devastation. There appears to be no possibility of reducing global fertility through industrialization.

What is amazing is that today’s human society views the present planetary catastrophe (to the limited extent that it considers it at all) only in terms of its impact on itself – on the current generation of human beings. From the viewpoint of future generations, Nero is fiddling as Rome burns.

According to the 2003 State of the World report by the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute, the human race has only one or perhaps two generations to rescue itself. "The longer that no remedial action is taken, the greater the degree of misery and biological impoverishment that humankind must be prepared to accept," the Institute says in its 20th annual report. Various other reports, like that of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change foresee world-catastrophic conditions already for the second decade of this greatly celebrated millennium.

The authors of The Limits to Growth suggested that it may be possible to avoid the collapse, and transit peacefully to a long-term-sustainable equilibrium, that was over thirty years ago.

I fear this ‘predicament’, not ‘crisis’, because these conditions are not of recent origin and will not soon abate, may no longer be solvable by ourselves and that the change will now be forced upon us with chaos and suffering by the inexorable laws of nature.

Faith in technology as the ultimate solution to all problems can divert our attention from the most fundamental problem--the problem of growth in a finite system--and prevent us from taking effective action to solve it.

We must learn to live within carrying capacity without trying to enlarge it. We must rely on renewable resources consumed no faster than at sustained yield rates.

"If the present growth trends in world population, industrialization, pollution, food production, and resource depletion continue unchanged, the limits to growth on this planet will be reached sometime within the next one hundred years. The most probable result will be a rather sudden and uncontrollable decline in both population and industrial capacity." [4]

"As for man, there is little reason to think that he can, in the long run, escape the fate of other creatures…….. During ten thousand years his numbers have been on the upgrade in spite of wars, pestilence, and famines. This increase in population has become more and more rapid. Biologically, man has for too long a time been rolling an uninterrupted run of sevens." - George R Stewart, Earth Abides (1949)


[1] UK Climate Impacts Programme, 2002.

[2] The Benfield Hazard Research Centre

[3] Human Genome Project Information

[4] The Limits to Growth (1972)

2003 State of the World report by the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute

My special thanks to Paul Chefurka for his Peak Oil, Climate Chaos; the World Problematique; to OPT; and to Rosamund McDougall for their assistance.

Compiled by Norman. J. Church

I stopped by COSTCO tonight to pick up some items and they had signs limiting people to two containers of soybean oil and two bags of flour. They were completely out of flour. And they had no 50lb sacks of rice either. So its starting to hit home. This was the case in the West Springfield, Massachusetts store anyway. - John E.

Jim -
Great blog! I wanted to point out an important calculation everyone missed - internal combustion engines produce less power at higher elevation. Generators are (of course) rated at sea level. It's important to de-rate generator capacity by 3.5% per 1,000 feet of elevation or your generator will be undersized. (A 5,000 "label watt" generator is [effectively] only a 4,000 watt generator where I live at 6,000 feet.) Density altitude on a warm summer day can easily be 2,000 feet higher than that. My rule of thumb: after sizing for load, size generously for elevation or you'll be buying twice. Hope this helps everyone...
Other food for thought: You don't need to run all your big loads simultaneously. If the grid stays down, it'll be a blessing just to have refrigeration - it doesn't need to be like today where we run everything at once while blow-drying the dog! There's no reason you can't shut off the freezer if you need the well pump. The simplest transfer switch allows you to control power to various loads, and this allows you to use a smaller generator to accomplish everything. My genset is home built using a Listeroid (Lister clone) diesel engine and generator head purchased separately. This generator (significantly oversized to run a MIG welder, lathe, mill or compressor/plasma cutter combo) cost me less than $3,000 including truck freight and welding up a stout steel frame (probably $4,500 now, given the weak dollar, steel prices and current shipping rates). Based on decades of British Empire experience with these beasts in third world countries, I expect it will give 30,000-to-50,000 hours of service with minimal maintenance. It gingerly sips fuel and is easily operated on biodiesel or waste vegetable oil without modification.
Regards, - Fred H.

Fraud compounds woes of housing crisis. (Thanks to Heghduq for the link.)

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A reader in South Florida wrote to ask me why I had "an unrealistic view of the [investment] potential for farmland" and why I "such a strong emphasis on buying farm ground" when coastal and resort properties "have appreciated so well for more than 30 years." I have a news flash for her: For the next 5 to 10 years, coastal and resort property will probably go substantially go down in price, but good productive farm ground is going to go up in price. The grain market will drive this boom. Land that has long laid fallow in the CRP will be going back into production--mostly planted in corn for ethanol. And every acre that is presently planted in another crop that is switched to making "corn gas" will have to be replaced with acreage elsewhere. Thus, even land in the depopulating Dakotas might even do well. Do you want a recession-proof job? Learn to be a tractor and combine mechanic!

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RBS spotted this: The Federal Reserve Releases Crisis Preparedness Video. Methinks that the banks might have some crises of their own, quite soon.

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Reader Bill N. suggested a web site that discusses some of the common mistakes people make with food storage.

"A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have." - Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Here is a link to "The Street"--a web site that offers ratings of banks throughout the USA. I checked out the banks in my state (California) and found that I currently bank with a "B" rated bank. However, there are a number of A rated banks that are in my town. It might make sense for each of us to know and check up on our financial institutions on a regular basis. This along with choosing the highest rated bank in your area could provide additional layers of insulation from the bank runs that I believe with be inevitable. Keep up the great work. - JSR

JWR Replies: Thanks for making that suggestion. One similar resource that I've recommended to my consulting clients for many years is The Weiss Bank Blacklist, published by veteran financial analyst Marty Weiss. It provides greater detail on individual banks and S&Ls.

While we are discussing bank safety, I should mention this: A SurvivalBlog reader on the West Coast mentioned an odd new development in an e-mail. He said, "I recently was told by my international bank (with whom I've done business with for several years) that they wanted me to indemnify them for depositing a US [chartered bank's] cashier's check. The only reason I can think of for this is that international banks are worried that US banks will collapse and they don't want to be held responsible for any money that is in transit when this happens. I found this very disconcerting."

Meanwhile, the headlines are trumpeting: New recession worry: Bank failures. The bottom line is that the risk of bank runs in the US has been substantially elevated in recent months. So be ready, folks! Here are my specific recommendations for readers in the US:

1.) Keep plenty of greenback cash on hand. Keep the equivalent of two month's pay, if possible. (Expect online banking and ATMs to be shut down, en masse.) Find a well-hidden place for the cash at home. (Odds are that you won't have access to you safe deposit box, unless it is at a private bank vault company.)

2.) Keep close track of any automatic debits from your bank accounts--("automatic bill paying")--so that you can revert to paying via checks or money orders.

3.) Do your banking with at least two separate institutions. BTW, make sure one isn't the subsidiary of another! (Not only might they both be closed, but conceivably this might cap your FDIC insurance coverage--as if it was just one bank.)

4.) Absolutely do not exceed the $100,000 FDIC insurance limit. ($200,000 for married couples.)

5.) Research your banks' safety rating. Then make changes, as needed.

6.) If possible, stop direct deposit of your paychecks or annuity payments.

7.) Remind your local coin dealer that bank runs are looking more likely, and recommend that they increase the amount of greenback cash that they keep on hand, including low grade numismatic paper money (such old series $2 bills and the now defunct US silver certificates.) That way you might have a better chance of liquidating some of your precious metals following major bank runs and/or a Federally-decreed "bank holiday."

If and when bank runs do begin, preserve your cash on hand by making as many purchases/payments as possible with debit cards, checks, and credit cards. (Although odds are that debit cards will be entirely useless, and many stores will refuse checks and credit cards.) Because the paper trail on checks might get muddied in a protracted banking crisis, you'll need to be able to prove that you made some crucial payments. Keep scrupulous records of your payments, especially for your mortgage, property tax, and insurance. Keep every money order carbon copy, and make photocopies of your checks before mailing in payments. (Or at least order a box of blank check pads that make carbon copies.)

In the event of a "bank holiday", if you sell any items, insist on payment in cash, precious metals, Liberty Bell ("Forever") stamps, or Postal Service money orders. Anything else might be hard to negotiate.

If there is a major banking crisis, there will be some unprepared friends, neighbors and relatives that are hurting badly. (Most families have less than one week worth of food on hand at home. Meanwhile, debit cards have become so ubiquitous that few families keep more than $150 in cash at home, on average.) Be charitable.


I have been hooked to your blog for weeks now and have a topic suggestion for you.
The only news I can trust comes from independent blogs with communities of users working together to bring critical information to light. Web sites like The Housing Bubble Blog have saved me tens of thousands of dollars by being months ahead of the mainstream media (MSM) and by reporting honestly. With the internet we have the means to organize grassroots efforts to support candidates like Ron Paul. We can be kept up to date with the latest injustices and know when our fellow citizens are taking a stand against a corrupt government. Most importantly we have time to react.
We cannot be dependent upon the Internet in a SHTF scenario, yet we will all be in desperate need of quality and timely information regarding future government/societal moves. It would seem to me that we need to establish a pre-internet means of communication or at least a self-sufficient internet community networking through their own dedicated satellite!
What steps are you and your readers taking to provide "foreign intelligence" on operations outside their retreat location? - Daniel L.

JWR Replies: Although the Internet is designed to be high resilient (a carryover from its original design as a US military network), it cannot expect to survive a grid-down situation. The best that we could hope for in those circumstances is a combination voice and data packet network, via High Frequency (HF) shortwave. (Perhaps the Army Aviator or one of our other readers that are senior ham operator would care to chime in on how a quasi-Internet could be piecemealed together using packet modems and HF ham gear.

At the very minimum, to gather local, regional, and international intelligence, weather data, accurate time of day, and to maintain overall situational awareness you should own at least two radios, neither of which need be very expensive:

1.) A general coverage AM/FM/shortwave receiver. Most of these cover all the way from 500 KHz all the way up to 30 MHz. This includes the AM and FM broadcast bands, many of the amateur bands, the international HF broadcast bands (for stations like BBC, Radio Netherlands, HCJB, WWV, and so forth), and the Citizen's Band (CB) channels. The inexpensive Kaito KA1102 radios are ideal for anyone that is on a budget. These are available from Affordable Shortwaves--a SurvivalBlog advertiser. If you have a bigger budget, I would suggest (in sequence of price) the following

The Sony ICF-SW-7600G (around $195 to $210, new.)

The Sony ICF-2010 (Discontinued, but used ones are available for around $175 to $275 on eBay.) This model was replaced by the ICF SW-77, but a lot of listeners prefer the controls on the ICF-2010.

And if you have a "The sky is the limit" budget, get a Drake R8A (around $1,100 new, or $750, used.)

BTW, even if you eventually buy a more "spendy" receiver, I recommend that you keep a couple of the little Kaito KA1102 radios as spares, preferably stored in metal ammo cans to protect them from EMP.

2.) A VHF police/marine/aircraft/weather band scanner. Try to get one of the more recent models that can demodulate trunked traffic. One relatively inexpensive "trunked" model is the Bearcat BC898T. They sell for around $240. If you have a big budget, get a digital model, but expect to pay at least $500. OBTW, nearly all scanners cover the NOAA weather bands.


I bring this news story to your attention: Ricin Found in Las Vegas Hotel Room; Man in Hospital

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) protocols don't give one much hope if ricin is inhaled or ingested. Unclothing and washing procedures for external contact are not reassuring. Other sources indicate that skin contact is usually not fatal unless accompanied by other agents that enhance absorption. [JWR Adds: DMSO is a well-known transdermal carrier.]

Other sources also indicate that ricin is 30 times more potent than VX nerve gas. Full MOPP suit and gas mask seem to be indicated to avoid aerosol exposure. Since the lapsed time between exposure and onset of fatal symptoms can be hours and with no existing antidote, this seems to be a particularly nasty agent to avoid.

It seems to me that for various reasons, one would be more likely to encounter ricin in a terrorist event rather than the other CBR agents that are usually mentioned. In any event, one might have to rely on the rain gear and N95 particulate mask that should be in every BOB along with the standard decontamination procedures that all should be thoroughly familiar with.

Are there field detection resources and other related items that you might recommend for an ai travel BOB which will be different from the vehicle BOB left in the airport parking lot?

I think this has been covered before but it might be timely to reiterate it again. Best Regards, - William D.

Mainstream market commentator Robert Kioysaki recommends buying silver coins in this piece: The Profit of Doom A SurvivalBlog reader mentioned that Kiyosaki was one of the few mainstream market mavens to recognize silver as a bargain fairly early on. Meanwhile, a lot of his colleagues with stock and bond tunnel vision are still in denial.

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Lex found this from The Wall Street Journal: Will Thornburg Join Failed Lenders?

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Thanks to Sapa for flagging this: Zimbabwe bans 'unlawful hoarding'. The illegal "hoarding" threshold is absurd--the equivalent of just $21 USD!

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Paul D. mentioned a bicycle engine web site. Paul's comment: "A friend of mine just got one of these engines for his Mountain Bike. He told me that he rode the dirt roads for two hours on just one quart of gasoline. Wow! Talk about a fuel efficient internal combustion engine. I will be ordering mine soon."

In the absence of the gold standard, there is no way to protect savings from confiscation through inflation . There is no safe store of value. If there were, the government would have to make its holding illegal, as was done in the case of gold. If everyone decided, for example, to convert all his bank deposits to silver or copper or any other good, and thereafter declined to accept checks as payment for goods, bank deposits would lose their purchasing power and government-created bank credit would be worthless as a claim on goods. The financial policy of the welfare state requires that there be no way for the owners of wealth to protect themselves.
This is the shabby secret of the welfare statists' tirades against gold. Deficit spending is simply a scheme for the confiscation of wealth. Gold stands in the way of this insidious process. It stands as a protector of property rights. If one grasps this, one has no difficulty in understanding the statists' antagonism toward the gold standard. - Alan Greenspan, 1967

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

If there is an article in SurvivalBlog that would interest any of your friends or relatives, just click on "Permalink" beneath the blog entry. You can copy and paste that URL into an e-mail. Thanks for spreading the word about SurvivalBlog!

There is a very old legal maxim: "The value of a thing, is what that thing will bring." It was developed by the courts to establish the value of a loss, in civil claims. The maxim has been perhaps over-used in central Europe, where if you recklessly drive your car and run down a farmer's laying hen, you can be held liable for for not only the replacement cost of the chicken, but also the value of its future offspring for the next year--or perhaps even two years if the judge is in a bad mood.

That ancient maxim is important to keep in mind when we consider the slips of paper that we presently carry around in our wallets and call "money." Most citizens are ignorant about money. The history of money is not taught in public schools, and legal tender laws are taken for granted. Not one citizen in a hundred realizes that we have a currency that is based on debt. (Most mistakenly believe our currency has some connection to the gold stored at Fort Knox. From a practical standpoint, there is no connection whatsoever)

There is no substantive backing behind the US dollar and the world's other fiat currencies. But it wasn't always this way: Up until 1933, our currency was "bi-metallic" and was 100% redeemable in gold and silver. Gold and silver certificates were issued, that read "Pay the bearer, on demand..." Then, in the midst of the Great Depression, the FDR Administration craftily banned private possession of gold coins and bullion. Any non-numismatic gold coins in circulation were called in, by executive decree. The government "paid" for these at face value, with paper money--$20 in Federal Reserve Notes in exchange for each $20 gold piece. Any gold bullion not already in government hands was "purchased" at the officially pegged price of of $20.67 per ounce. The only exceptions to the law were for a limit of $100 face value of gold coins for each private citizen, gold nuggets, gold dust, and dental gold. (FDR's bully boys didn't go quite so far as to pry gold teeth out of pensioner's mouths.) Then, shortly after the owners of this small mountain of gold had been duly "compensated", the government raised the official price of gold to $35 per ounce, realizing a tidy profit. This was nothing short of legalized grand larceny. After 1933, US citizens could no longer redeem their paper money for gold, or possess gold bullion. (Private ownership of gold bullion was banned in the US from 1933 to 1974.) The redeemability privilege was reserved to foreign banks and governments, who could still demand gold. This redeemability "window"was kept open so that the US Dollar did not suffer in foreign exchange. Redemptions in gold started to increase dramatically in the 1960s, once the open market value of gold rose above $35 per ounce. When given the choice of paper money and gold, many trading partners quite logically chose gold. (Economist John Maynard Keynes might have decried gold as a "barbarous relic", but realists opt for genuine value whenever they can.)

While the American citizenry was getting fleeced, similar abandonment of the gold was going on elsewhere. For example, Australia stopped minting gold sovereigns in 1931. The same happened in England in 1935. France went off the gold standard in 1936, much to the detriment of the Franc. By 1959, the French Franc had just 1/40th of the purchasing power that it had in 1936. Nation after nation went off the gold standard: Argentina, Brazil, and Canada in 1929; Australia, New Zealand, and Venezuela in 1930; Austria, Denmark, England, Germany, India, Mexico, Norway, and Sweden in 1931; Greece, Romania and Yugoslavia in 1932; Honduras, South Africa, and teh U.S. in 1933; Italy in 1934; Belgium and China in 1935; and France and Switzerland in 1936. On and on, they eventually all succumbed and gave up both minting gold coins and providing convertibility.

Even though gold had been banned, for the next three decades Americans could still redeem their paper dollars for silver. Silver coinage circulated freely, trading 1-for-1 with paper dollars. But in 1965, the US Treasury stopped minting 90% silver content dimes, quarters and half dollars. The dimes and quarters were replaced with cupronickel tokens that were merely sandwiched with a thin layer of silver, so that that they would still look pretty. (The copper visible on their rims betrays the perfidy that lies beneath the silver veneer.) The new coin issue, although blatantly unconstitutional, went largely uncontested. Once the"clad" coins entered circulation, people quite logically started to hoard every 90% silver coin that they could find. (This was Gresham's Law in action: "Bad money drives good money out of circulation.") To not appear entirely sans cullottes, the Treasury still produced half dollars with a reduced 40% silver content, for another five and a half years (from 1965 to 1970.)

Once clad coinage entered circulation, the value of the hoarded pre-1965 silver coins naturally started to rise. Now accumulated in rolls and in $500 or $1,000 face value bags, these coins sell as a commodity. (As bullion, rather than as numismatic coins.) Their value is calculated by their silver content at a multiplier to Federal Reserve Notes (FRNs). Currently, that multiplier is around 14.2 times their face value. Hence, a $1,000 face value bag of pre-'65 quarters at present wholesales for around $14,200.

Similar debasement of silver coinage took place worldwide in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. Country after after country phased out minting silver coins, as part of "demonetization". England started the trend when they stopped minting circulating silver coins in 1946. As I recall, some of the last countries to mint circulating silver coins with 50% or more silver content were: Canada and Switzerland (until 1967), Lebanon (until around 1969, IIRC), and France (until 1974).

All over the world, if one of the old silver coins now accidentally slip into circulation, it is quickly snapped up and hoarded. Gresham's law is in full force, globally. In the present day, just copper, nickel, cupronickel, zinc, and aluminum tokens are in circulation. Granted, many mints still produce gold and silver coins, but those are intended for the collector and investor market. They are not intended for circulation, and few of them are still considered legal tender.

On June 24, 1968--a sad day--the US Treasury ended redemption of silver certificates for bullion or pre-1965 coinage.

In 1970, the last circulating US silver coins--the 40% silver half dollars were phased out, putting the last nail in the coffin for the dollar as a genuine currency. All that we have now in circulation are unredeemable FRN "notes" and tokens that--other than nickels--now have a metal value that is far below their face value. (See the Coinflation web site for details on metal content and the real value of circulating US coins.)

On January 1, 1975, it once again became legal to own gold bullion in the United States. A personal aside: When I was 16 years old, I rode my bicycle to Bob's Coin Corner and bought my first Krugerrand. That was in 1976. I bought that coin with money that I had saved from mowing lawns and working at the local library (the latter, for $2.05 per hour). As I recall, that 1975-dated one ounce Kruger cost me $155. I spent a lot of time fingering it, feeling its heft in my hand, and admiring the design--especially the Springbok on the reverse side. Holding it in my hand, I knew that it was real money. I sold that coin in early 1980 for $715. Soon after, I invested the profit in my first M1A and my first Colt M1911 .45 Automatic. I've bought and sold a lot of gold and silver coins since then, but that first shiny Kruger--and its hiding place under the corner of my bedroom carpet--hold a special place in my memory.

By 1981, the US Dollar had become so debased that the copper metal value of the lowly penny exceeded its face value. So Congress authorized the US Treasury to replace them with zinc tokens that are merely flashed with copper. (Recently, the penny has become an embarrassment, since in these days of inflated dollars, the worthlessness of the penny has become blatant. (Even "penny candy" sells for 5 cents or more.) There have been calls to do away with penny coins entirely.)

In 1971, facing a massive hemorrhaging of gold, president Nixon closed the "gold window" for redemption by foreign banks and governments. Many foreign governments, most notably France, raised howls of protest. John Connally, who was the Treasury Secretary at the time, had the nerve to comment "It may be our currency, but it's your problem." He was able to be snide about it because he knew that the US was the dominant nation in global commerce, and that the US Dollar would continue--based on sheer inertia if nothing else--to carry on as the world's reserve currency. It has indeed carried on, despite its unredeemability. But ever since 1971, the dollar has suffered markedly in foreign exchange. Today, the US dollar seems about ready to lose its reserve currency status.

Let's get back to the legal maxim that I mentioned at the beginning of this post: What is the real value of a "dollar"? The current Federal Reserve Notes (FRNs) are only redeemable for other Federal Reserve Notes. You can of course use them to purchase goods and services, but with FRNs you are at the mercy of inflation. In contrast, "junk" silver coins are essentially inflation proof. Times may change, but today you can still walk into your local coin shop and salvage some value from the paper notes that now pass for "money." As I mentioned before, the real money to funny money trading ratio is presently around 14.2-to-1 to buy pre-1965 dimes, quarters, and half dollars. Given the inherent value of the FRN (which is essentially an "IOU Nothing"), I am surprised that the ratio is not already 100-to-1 or higher. I suspect that within a year or two, that ratio will come and go.

I am big believer in tangibles investing. I am suspicious of any investment--aside, perhaps, for some mining shares--that are denominated in dollars. When the currency unit itself is in flux, all dollar denominated investments are risky. I recommend that SurvivalBlog readers first get their essential "beans, bullets and band-aids" squared away, to ensure your physical survival. After that, you might consider investing in other tangibles such as productive farm land, common caliber ammunition, magazines (the kind that hold rifle and pistol cartridges--not the kind that you read!), tools, and other nonperishable barter items. Following that, you might put any excess cash into silver.

'The US Dollar is not unique. There are now no national currencies that are officially redeemable in circulating gold or silver coins. (Although there are rumors that redeemable gold Dinars and silver Dirhams may soon be widely circulated in parts of the Islamic world.) To various degrees, all of the world's governments are fleecing their citizens, through legal tender laws, lack of redeemability, restrictions on offshore banking, excessive taxation, currency controls, and inflation. They are all engaged in larceny. It is just the rate and scale of the theft that varies. (In Zimbabwe, inflation is running at the incredible rate of more than 100,000%, annually!)

Currency inflation is insidious and inexorable. Inflation is little more than robbery, in slow motion. It gradually robs us of our buying power, and is essentially a hidden form of taxation. Given the track record of the 20th Century, we can certainly expect inflation to continue. My advice is to protect yourself, by taking some of your greenbacks and converting them into silver. Don't expect to profit from that silver. (Although there may be some profits in the near future.) Instead, consider these silver coins your fire insurance for the dollar. When the dollar collapses, your silver coins will at least hold their store of value.

Taking the long view, we can look at the current "bull market in commodities" as nothing more than a bear market in un-backed paper currencies. Markets cannot be fooled, at least not for very long. They always find equilibrium. Prices shift. Currencies adjust. Inflation marches on, and the paper money-holding sheeple suffer. But those of us that diversified into precious metals can take solace in the time-proven resiliency of gold and silver.

For any of our readers in Europe that are feeling smug, knowing that they are holding Euros, consider this: All of the world's fiat currencies are in a race to the bottom. Some of them are just presently farther ahead than others. Eventually, all fiat currencies are all doomed to collapse. The US Dollar will probably be the next to exit the stage. (This is nicely illustrated in a short documentary by a Dutch filmmaker.)

In addition to buying pre-1965 silver coins and barter goods, I have written before in SurvivalBlog about another strategy to combat inflation: Gathering nickels (US 5 cent pieces), before their long-standing 75% copper and 25% nickel alloy is superceded, most likely by just zinc tokens. (This is very likely to happen in 2008 or 2009.) At present, the base metal value of a nickel is about seven cents. (See the Coinflation web site for details on the metallic content and value of a nickel.) In my opinion, getting five cent pieces that have seven cents in base metal value for just their face value is a bargain. Think about it: If you asked a bank teller or a store clerk "Can I have a $1.40 in change for this dollar?", they would think that you were crazy. But when you get nickels in exchange for a paper dollar, that is effectively what you are getting: $1.40 worth! Although the potential gain for nickel is smaller than with silver, the situation today is not unlike that back in 1963 and 1964. My advice: buy up as many rolls of nickels as you can, at banks and casinos. I predict that in just a few years, nickel rolls will sell at a substantial premium, much like pre-1965 silver coins do now. If silver is the working man's gold, then nickels are the poor man's silver. BTW, I should mention that pre-1982 copper pennies are now worth about 2.5 cents each. But since the old and the new issue coins now circulate co-mingled, it is hardly worth your time to sort out (by date) the real copper pennies from the more common post-1981 copper-flashed zinc tokens. But at least for now, you can squirrel away some rolls of nickels. Do so before the debased non-nickel "nickels" get into circulation!

One closing thought: All un-backed paper currencies share the same fate. Eventually, and inevitably they all reach a value of near ZERO, where they are only suitable for use as kindling or perhaps as novelty wallpaper. Someday, the value of the US dollar is bound to collapse. This will most likely be in an orgy of Zimbabwean-scale hyperinflation. After this happens there will doubtless be immediate calls for the issuance of a new "safe" currency. I just pray that our elected representatives have the wisdom to not repeat their old mistakes. Hopefully they will feel convicted to obey the constitutional stricture: "No State shall... ...coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts..." Granted, this section was directed at the states rather than congress, but it clearly shows the intent of the Constitution's framers. Clearly, they wanted our nation to have coinage with genuine tangible value, and sound, specie-backed, currency. The recent dramatic failure of the un-backed Continental Currency undoubtedly weighed heavily on their minds when they drafted the Constitution.

Mr. Rawles:
My parents and grandparents gave about $60 face value in junk silver coins, including a few Morgan and "Peace:" dollars. The quarters and dimes are all 1964 and earlier, but some are the 50 cent pieces were made in the late 1960s. (Those are 40% [silver content], right?) With silver now rocketing up past $20 an ounce, how do I determine the current market value of these coins? Thanks, - G.E.T.

JWR Replies: To calculate the silver metal value of 90% silver pre-1965 mint date US dimes, quarters, and half dollars: A $1,000 face value bag contains approximately 715 ounces of silver. Hence, at a spot silver price of $19.80 per ounce, a $1,000 face value bag has a wholesale value of $14,157. That means that "just one thin dime" (with a mint date of 1964 or earlier) is now worth $1.41 in present day funny money.

To calculate the silver metal value of 40% silver US half dollars (minted between 1965 and 1970): A $1,000 face value bag contains approximately 296 ounces of silver Hence, at $19.80 per ounce, a $1,000 bag has a wholesale value of $5,680. So just one of these 40% half dollars is worth $2.84, wholesale. (A few of these, BTW, can still occasionally be found in circulation. Buying rolls of half dollars at small town banks is still a fun sport, with about one coin in 70 found to be 40% silver. Rarely, you might even chance to find a 1964-dated (90%) 50 cent piece. (These are presently worth around $7.10 each.) Oh happy day!

Pre-1929 Silver dollars are a special case, because even dollars that are in very worn condition have numismatic value in addition to their bullion value. Hence, these dollar coins now sell for $17 and up. But for calculating just their bullion value, a $1,000 face value bag contains approximately 765 ounces of silver. Hence, at $19.80 per ounce, a $1,000 face value bag has a wholesale value of $15,147.

Dear Memsahib and Jim,
I am a daily SurvivalBlog reader and contributor, along with my husband. I am very interested in learning more how Memsahib and other retreat women manage to do all that they do. How does a day or week in your life go? How do you can, bake, cook, shear, spin, weave, knit, sew, teach, et cetera and get it all done?
We are moving to our retreat soon. I have baked, cooked, knit, learned to spin and weave, and have canned in the past, but not all at once. I forgot to mention clean, wash, take care of a garden, etc. etc.
We need a blog [post] about how to accomplish everything and remain sane. Not to mention home school and run a family, continue church life, etc.
For those of us who have been working and raising a family in a large town and are moving to a retreat life, we need some how to's!!!
The order of things is of the most importance or we will never accomplish all our tasks!!!

Memsahib, does your work every stop? Do you feel like you have no personal time?

I also work as a registered nurse and will try to continue with my specialty in teaching young mothers how to breast feed and care for their newborns.
Thank you for your input from all of us women who will try to "do it all" on our retreat sites. Thanks again, - Kathie

The Memsahib Replies: Thank you so much for your huge vote of confidence. How nice to think there is a woman out there who thinks that I do it all! :-) First let me say first, no I don't do it all. And secondly I don't worry about doing it all either.

I'm writing this reply specifically to married women with children. The most important thing is to keep your priorities right: I believe the correct order is: God, your husband, your children, and then everything else after that. Also remember it is not up to you to insure the survival of your family. God is in control of everything. And after God is your husband. I hope this will lift some if the burden that you are feeling. Don't shoulder the burden of the family's survival yourself. That is not your role. I think that is usurping your husband's role of provider and protector of the family.Your job is to be a helpmeet to your husband.

Okay, that said, I have acquired a lot of skills that could be put to use in TEOTWAWKI, but I do not try to do them all now. I think to attempt that would put me in an early grave like my pioneer great grandmothers! I think this is time for learning preparation skills, but if you tried to actually do them all there is no way you would have time to learn any new skills. For example I have a lot of food preservation skills. But at this present time most of our larder is full of mostly purchased foodstuffs. For the satisfaction of it, I have fed my family entire meals from food I personally raised including the milk that came fresh from our cow. It feels great to know I can do it. But I don't try to do it on a day to day basis.

There are some things that we do that allow for extra time in my schedule. We don't own a television. I think I get a lot more done for the lack of watching television. Also, I do not have a full time job outside the home. Not having to commute saves a lot of time. Another thing I attribute to getting more done is the fact that we are out in the middle of nowhere, so I don't shop. There is no place to shop. Every two months or so we stock up to top off our supplies. I also know the capacity of our larder well. I'm very strict with my family about sticking to the list! This saves time and money when we are out shopping. Also we only shop for clothes twice a year when we visit family in the big city. My sister knows all the great thrift stores. And, she knows which department stores have the best sale prices on shoes socks and underwear. If we didn't have growing children we probably could go several years without buying clothes! By the way. I do know how to sew clothes. And I know how to knit sweaters, hats, socks, mittens, and such. But I don't make my family's clothes because I don't particularly enjoy sewing. (For now, I go to the thrift store. I often can buy down jackets, Merino wool sweaters and nearly new blue jeans for $3 each, and shirts, slacks, blouses, skirts, dresses for less than than that.)

Another thing is that our family does which frees up quite a bit of time for me is cleaning up after themselves. Our children for example clear their places after meals, take their dishes to the sink and putt the scraps in the chicken bucket, and rinse their plates and glasses, and put them in the dishwasher. When there are clothes to be folded at our house all the children fold and put away their own clothes. Our children also have an individual chore based on their age, such as setting and clearing the table, unloading the dishwasher, keeping the wood box filled, and feeding their pets. And you may have realized by now I make use of all the modern appliances which make household chores quicker. In the past, we've lived without running water and without electricity. I know I can survive without them, and I may have to in the future. But I sure enjoy the luxury of having them now!

The "survival skills' that I do practice daily are the ones that I personally really enjoy. I practice them as recreation and relaxation. For me personally that is raising small livestock. I really enjoy going out to the barn and feeding my critters. I especially enjoy my sheep because I also enjoy the fiber arts. I also really enjoy gardening. So my hobbies dovetail nicely with my husbands desire to be well prepared. So what hobbies and interests do you have? Which ones could you cultivate as prepping? Just because I don't care for sewing doesn't mean that it wouldn't be a great dovetail for you.

You might say another one of my hobbies is acquiring "life skills". Some people have a personality that is suited for focusing on one skill and developing that skill to a master level. My personality is more suited to trying everything. I try to make the most of each situation in which we've lived to learn what I can. My motto is: when God gives you zucchini take the opportunity to experiment baking, drying, frying zucchinis! The older women of the communities we've lived in have been wonderful teachers. They have taught me how to can pickles, make grape juice, milk goats, make soap, knit socks as well as sharing the abundance of their gardens and orchards. But I in no way feel compelled to now makes all the food we eat from scratch, knit all our clothes, make all our soap, and neither should you!
I would be remiss if I did not say that I think it is very important to use this time of liberty of ideas and travel to attend Bible studies. Yes, you can and should read and study the Bible at home. But, I find that the commitment to do a study with other believers disciplines me to stay in the Word even when life gets hectic. And our pastor has many valuable insights into the Scriptures. If you have the ability to attend a good Bible study, then do it! You may not always have that opportunity because of poor health, high gas prices, lack of transportation, or lack of religious freedom. Reading the stories of prisoners of war, I am struck by how their knowledge of God's word helped them endure. As the Bible says, "make the most of time, because the days are evil".

My old friend Jeff moved to England to get his final sheep skin--a doctorate degree. He tells me that the price of gasoline ("petrol") now averages £1.09 GBP per liter in the Thames Valley, and that he has seen it advertised for as much as £1.50 GBP/liter out on the highways. At current exchange rates, £1.50 GBP equals $2.97 USD. Now, multiplying liters to US gallons (x 3.785) that equates to a heart-stopping $11.24 USD per gallon. Ouch! (For comparison, I most recently paid $2.98 per gallon, locally, but I've seen it as high as $3.05) OBTW, Jeff mentioned that SurvivalBlog readers in England might want to get an account at It is a price aggregator for all of the UK.You can find local prices by entering your postal code.

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Ranger Man posted a great article on cast iron cookware over at the SHTF Blog: Cast Iron is the Ultimate Survival Cookware

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From The New York Times: The Buck Has Stopped. (A hat tip to Manky for sending us that link.)

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Hardly a news flash for SurvivalBlog readers: Gold Beats Financial Assets as Investors Seek Haven

“There is not any one news item that I can point to. We know that there is paper out there that we can’t trust. We don’t know exactly who owns it and how much. And we don’t know how they are valuing it.” - Douglas Peta, Chief Investment Strategist at J. W. Seligman & Company in New York, as quoted in the New York Times, March 1, 2008

Monday, March 3, 2008

If you value what you read in SurvivalBlog, then please become a 10 Cent Challenge subscriber. I am confident that SurvivalBlog has kept you from making some costly mistakes in your preparations. I am also confident that SurvivalBlog has pointed you toward some investments that have been profitable for you. (When I started the blog in September of 2005, silver was $6.90 per ounce, gold was $445 per ounce, wheat was $3.30 per bushel, and military surplus .308 ball ammo was just $220 per thousand cartridges!)

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Today we present another article for Round 15 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The writer of the best non-fiction article will win a valuable four day "gray" transferable Front Sight course certificate. (Worth up to $2,000!) Second prize is a copy of my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, generously donated by Jake Stafford of Arbogast Publishing. Round 15 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entries. Remember that articles that relate practical "how to" skills for survival will have an advantage in the judging.

I read with interest the inquiry about, what I term a "Bug out Boat". I made this recommendation several years ago, in numerous survival forums. Most readers seemed unable to process the potential for this kind of plan or it seemed to be impractical to them compared to hunkering down or egress by vehicle. I would advocate that the more eclectic methods of egress from chaos may hold greater potential for success than some mainstream ones. Traditional modes of travel in the modern age are easily controlled by the powers that be, accidents, infrastructure break down, computer problems, electricity (can you say "grid down"?), etc. How many have actually considered (much less planned?) on using the following practical means of getting from Point A to B (whether a short or long distance).

1. Walking- hard work but very quiet and stealthy. Drawback- slow.
2. Bicycle. As long as you can keep your tires inflated, you can travel [at least] three times as fast than as on foot. Drawback- awkward to carry equipment unless you buy a trailer or stroller for the back.
3. Boat/canoe- Who is going to blockading the river or watching it? The river does the work for you if your are going down steam. The preferred method of
choice for hundreds of years by Native Americans, trappers, traders, frontiersmen, market hunters, settlers and soldiers.
4. Snowmobile- Don’t worry about the roads being open. Just try to follow me in/on anything else. Drawback-seasonal.
5. Skis- No trail, no problem. Drawback-seasonal.
6. Motorcycle- Easy to get around that road block isn’t it? Just try to follow me through the woods in your squad car.
7. Ice skates- many frontiersmen/trappers traveled this way up river systems. Drawback-Seasonal.
8. Roller blades-the modernized society equivalent of ice skates. Drawback-Seasonal and depends upon roads and sidewalks being in place.
9. Horse/Horse and wagon/Horse and sleigh - has both advantages/disadvantages, accessibility issues, and disadvantages, but you won't need electricity to keep them going. Drawback-you have to pay to feed/house them.
10. Dog sled- For those in the far North. Drawback-Seasonal.
11. Para-planes –fuel efficient, no license needed, can land in small areas.
12. Light aircraft- expensive but they are what they are.
13. Freight trains/barges/cargo ships- It seems no matter how much chaos a country descends into, occasionally a train, barge, cargo ship goes somewhere. Drawback-Can be Seasonal depending on low water levels, ice, snow.An undependable mode of transport to plan on using.

The reason you haven’t considered these methods is because we as Americans are too d--n lazy and we carry around too much stuff. If your supplies are pre-positioned, you will need very little physically on you.

We as Americans are pre-conditioned to think first and foremost of the family vehicle almost exclusively. Unless you have a full tank of gas when the grid goes down or an EMP-resistant vehicle, you're screwed for any number of reasons. Your going to be thrust down a channelized highway of horrors (just ask anyone who has fled a hurricane inland). This highway can easily be barricaded by law enforcement, the military, gangs, or a group of local idiots. Accidents, traffic jams and lack of fuel will prevent you from getting out of the area at the speed which you anticipated.

Not only may you be stripped of your dignity, you may be stripped of all your supplies, valuables, clothes and chastity. If you are counting on the herd to protect you from harm, I have news for you, they will readily look on while you are assaulted (and hope it doesn’t happen to them) and/or they will participate in plundering your belongings (see Katrina stories). If psychologically less than 5% of the population is prepared to act as a warrior or protectors of the flock, which leaves potentially 95% of the population as someone who will not come to your aid or will prey upon you given the situation. I prefer to believe that there is a percentage of 20% of Christians, rural or generally good people, that may not physically risk their life for you, but are none the less, good people who might assist you in other ways. Your car may be a false hope that ends up getting you into a more dire situation or delaying critical choices that need to be made before you start out.

For our purposes I am going to concentrate on canoes and Jon boats. Those heavy ski boats, yachts and sailboats will only work for limited distances or in limited places. If you live near the ocean or the Great Lakes , they will work just fine. If your only using you ski boat to go across the lake or 20 miles down the river, it may work out for you. Do not, however, plan on using them to navigate the Missouri , Mississippi , Ohio River 's drainage basins. Those rivers have locks and dams aplenty that you may not be able to portage or pass through in a worst case scenario. Many of the rivers in the Northwest and Southwest are in a similar state except the dams are bigger and often not designed to accommodate navigation (Think of the Bonneville Dam at the Columbia River Gorge, Grand Coulee Dam and over 225 others in the Columbia River Basin . Hoover/Boulder Dam. Upper Mississippi has 38. The Ohio River has around 30, but the Lower Mississippi has none. Missouri River has none from St. Louis to Sioux City Iowa, but the headwaters have numerous Dams and Reservoirs). If the locks have no electricity or they have been told by the military or police not to let anyone through, you’re a sitting duck and it may be game over.

In many parts of the country the boat may be a preferred method because it is stealthy, uses little fuel, can be suitable entirely without fuel, will never be subject to the same amount of usage demands as the highways, will be noticed less by the public/looters/law enforcement/military. The majority of motors out there should be 2 cycle. These are more EMP-resistant and easy to work on.. Most boats will still remain functional even while leaking or having holes shot in them. You would have to be taking on a lot of water from holes below the waterline to make it untenable to remain afloat.Many boats will contain buoyant materials designed to keep the boat afloat. A Marina may be more likely to have fuel available than any gas station. (Note: Kevlar was sometimes used as a hull material for some larger and more expensive ski boats, since it stronger than fiberglass.)

Most of the major river systems are about a half mile across. If you stick to the middle of the channel, anyone trying to shoot at you will have make a shot of an average of a quarter mile. Call me optimistic, but most of the people shooting at you from that distance are more likely to hit you by accident than on purpose. An old USGI Kevlar vest will provide some ballistic protection for your motor or fuel supply. Most bridges will not be suitable for either looters/military/police to set up on, and fire directly down upon you, unless the entire bridge is shut down to traffic. In most cases, anyone trying to get at you will not have any guarantee of actually boarding your vessel. Even if they managed to kill you, your supplies would continue to float down stream and out of their reach. This may discourage any but the most criminally motivated elements of society. I happen to believe that I have a better chance to survive in the water as on any interstate or major highway. If you should happen to run into a motivated criminal element in speed boats, either flee, beach your craft and run, or turn and fight with everything you have. Chances are they won’t want to mess with heavily armed elements on a flat surface with virtually no cover. A bow-mounted belt-fed Browning [Model 1919A4 machinegun or semi-auto equivalent, mounted on a larger boat] would chop any attackers watercraft into matchsticks in no time at all. (I am not endorsing it. I’m just saying it’s a nice idea to consider.)

In the first two weeks of a catastrophe, a miniscule number of people are going to be watching the rivers or lakes. They will be down looting televisions and liquor. The cops will be at roadblocks and chasing looters and arsonists. Your main antagonists are likely to be; federal employees manning the locks/dams, Conservation Officers (since they already have lots of boats, the military (probably a naval reserve unit) or in certain instances, the US Coast Guard. None of this group is usually looking for trouble on the water and Conservation Officers are notoriously cautious when working alone. It's too easy for them to just "disappear".

The larger the body of water (in square miles or distance from shore), the more distance or greater buffer you can put between you and anyone who may wish you harm. Night travel by water with no running lights and your motor off, will make you nearly invisible to 99% of the population. Watch out for logs, snags and sand bars and keep a watch out for other boats or you might well be sunk. Night vision might be handy if traveling at night. Many duck and goose hunters have metal supports for blind materials that could come in handy for camouflaging your boat if you choose to lay up during the day at some creek or island.

Your average inner city gang member doesn’t know how to operate a boat and cant swim anyway, but don’t count on it. Even criminals near a resort/sailing/boating area are sometimes familiar with boats. Ever heard of pirates and drug runners?

You could potentially carry much more equipment or personnel with you by means of a boat. Several Jon boats/canoes can be lashed together or roped in parallel (with the front boat pulling all the others in line). In this way you save fuel and have spares engines at hand in case a motor conks out. A boat can theoretically carry quite a load (much more than a car or small truck). However, remember anything you put into a boat may have to be portaged across any barrier. If you don’t like the idea of lugging it in and out of the boat many times, then don’t take it along. If you read a book about fur traders or Lewis and Clark, they often spent an entire day (or days) at a portage site.

Say you come to an inoperable lock/dam, you find an area to unload, carry the boat across land to a suitable location, carry the supplies to the boat, and resume your journey. This will be fraught with peril and hard work. You will need a crew. A minimum of one individual is needed to watch both locations (point A to B) and you will need the individuals necessary to carry everything between those points. The only way to avoid that is to do it so fast nobody notices or take a canoe and only what's in your pack. If you try to navigate smaller rivers, you will find yourself having to portage across every log jam. It's no fun, it's frustrating and it's slow. You might be better off walking at that point unless you will break through to a larger body of water that will make the endeavor worthwhile.

In a freshwater area, you will have a supply of drinkable water (albeit full of herbicide, fertilizer, and pesticide or toxic waste depending on the area). This is why you have a water filter, right? Food can be supplemented by fishing or trolling (dragging a line behind the boat as you go). A small island might be a good place to stop and cook lunch or dinner. Waste can be dumped over the side or [better yet] buried p[when you go ashore.]

Mr. Rawles:
I saw that you recently posted my question to the blog, so I thought I'd update you. I ran the tests again and got what I believe to be a more accurate assessments.

My second test showed the refrigerator consuming right at 2.7 KWH (2,700 watts) over a 24 hour period for an average of 112.5 watts-per-hour. Now mind you, that includes all the hours we were asleep and so no one was opening the door, using up ice, etc.. During hours of heavy usage it was using about 150 watts-per-hour.

Test #2 for the chest freezer yielded the following results: KWH usage for the full 24 hours came to 1.02 KWH or 1,020 watts. This is an average of 42.5 watts-per-hour. Mind you, this freezer basically only gets opened once per day when we take out whatever we're defrosting for dinner. All in all, I'm pretty happy with those results.

The next step is to test our other refrigerator and our upright freezer and to calculate the Amp Hours required (how many deep cycle batteries I'll need) to build my homemade UPS system.

FYI, I found a really good deal the other day on a 4 KW emergency gasoline genset, and went ahead and bought it. My next big purchase will be a tri-fuel conversion kit from US Carburetion, so I can run her on propane. I know you guys usually endorse diesel as a primary genset/retreat fuel, but I really like the stability and shelf-life of propane - in my area, I can rent a 300-gallon tank (I own two 100-gallon cylinder tanks) from the propane provider for around $50 per year and fill it a little at a time as opposed to making an expensive all-at-once fuel purchase. My logic there being that I can dump a little in each month, so that it'll be full when I actually need it to be. - JSC in West Virginia - A "10 Cent Challenge" Subscriber


Dear JWR:
I was catching up on SurvivalBlog this weekend and noted the article on generator set sizing. The main issue here is that there is a significant difference in the average electrical energy consumption of an appliance and its peak usage. This issue is compounded by electrical devices such as motors which are not purely resistive (i.e. inductive load) and thus have up to 3 times the energy demand to start as opposed to running. This is commonly referred to as “starting current” verses “running current”. When sizing an electrical generator, one needs not only to calculate the total energy consumption of all electrical appliances one anticipates to be running simultaneously, but also to cover the starting current for the item with the heaviest draw. Most electrical motors are labeled with their electrical current needs, commonly listed as starting or peak current and continuous current. In regard to an appliance which doesn’t list this information (such as a refrigerator), the owner needs to use his Kill-A-Watt [meter] to determine the current used while running (typically 3-5 amps) and multiply this by 3 to get a good estimate of the starting current demands.

The process should be to add up the total draw for all the appliances, and then double the highest one and add that also to the total. This will give a rough estimate of the peak current draw, in Amps. To convert Amps to Watts, one simply needs to multiply by the operating voltage (typically 120 or 240 Volts). This assumes that no more than one heavy draw appliance starts at the same time, but to cover all the starting currents would require a much larger generator.

Several years back, during an ice storm, we were living off of an emergency generator rated at 5,000 Watts (6,200 peak Watts ). One should disregard the “peak” rating of typical portable emergency generators since they are uniformly overrated (I have noticed that recently, peak rating is what is listed, look for the “continuous rating”). Our water heater (a purely resistive load, hence no “starting current”) consumed 4,500 Watts. In order to take a hot shower, we needed to turn off all other circuits and allow the water to heat up. After an hour, the water heater was disconnected to allow the well pump to be operated to provide water through the water heater to the shower. This constant switching of loads was a real nightmare.

As a caveat, typical consumer portable electrical generators are not up the rigors of continuous use. Their fuel economy is atrocious; our 5 KW unit uses about 5 gallons of gas in an 8 hour period. They are also typically powered by the equivalent of an air-cooled lawnmower engine. Consider taking your lawnmower into heavy wet grass and mowing continuously for 200 hours. After a week of trying to keep this loud and hungry beast fed, thankfully the power came back on-line. We went with a diesel powered 15KW unit which would even cover the arc welding unit and it uses about 1/4 gallon of fuel per hour during typical household test uses. The gas generator seemed to use virtually the same amount of fuel regardless of the load, but the diesel unit just sips fuel when it is just loafing along, with consumption roughly linear with the load.

When choosing a generator for long term use, I would make several recommendations:
First, if you pump water or want to run a welder or air conditioning unit, you will need at least 10 KW and 120/240VAC capability.
Second, get a unit with double windings so it can run at 1,800 rpm instead of 3,600 rpm (to make up 60 Hz AC power). This vastly improves fuel economy and noise level as well as longevity.
Third, the unit needs to be water cooled. While some air cooled units are built for longevity, they are the exception.
Fourth, think of fuel storage requiring long-term stability. This effectively rules out gasoline, and leaves us with NG/LPG or diesel.

While electrical generators are very useful and highly recommended, their Achilles’ Heel is fuel availability. We store adequate diesel fuel to run the generator full time for approximately two months use, which would extend to one year or more with limited part-time use, but it is still a finite resource. They can be useful as a bridge for short duration (till the power comes back on or we learn to live without). Except in the hottest climates, running a refrigerator or freezer a couple of hours twice a day is adequate with limited door opening. Once the foodstuffs in the freezer and refrigerator are used up, you will still need a manual pump for your water well in TEOTWAWKI. Hope this helps, - NC BlueDog


The Kill-A-Watt meter is a great tool but [KSC] really didn’t give it a chance to work. If you want to find out how much power your refrigerator uses over the course of the day leave it plugged into the meter for a few days at the minimum.

Most watt meters have the option to see how much power is currently being used by whatever is plugged into it. You’ll want to look at that while the appliance is cycled on. The refrigerators and freezers that I’ve dealt with generally don’t use more than about 150 – 200 watts while running, figure they use about three times that during startup.

In your situation, figure 600 watts startup power, times four appliances would be around 2,400 watts. I’m guessing that there will be other things that you will want to run also (lights, grain mill, battery charger etc.) so you may want to go with a 3,500 watt generator but as long as you aren’t looking to power your whole house from top to bottom with it you don’t really need a huge generator. - MercCom


Here's a helpful site for figuring power requirements.

By the way, we all have useful generators sitting in our garages--in our car and/or truck. An inverter will let you tap that power. COSTCO has a 1,000 watt inverter for $65. If you use good sense in using power, and keep your vehicle tank(s) full, you can ride through a temporary power failure. Not bad for $65. But you also will have to buy or make up a pair of cables that will clip to your battery. The provided cables have useless terminals (closed end type) for the battery end of the cables. - Bob B.

Cleveland:ghost town created by America’s loan scandal. Here is a snippet from the article with some downright post-apocalyptic imagery: "...street after empty street of boarded-up houses, their roofs caving in, collapsed balconies hanging from the fronts of buildings. Some people seem to have just upped and left, leaving their belongings behind for the rats and vandals. Owners have put up signs offering their burnt-out homes for a $500 (£250) down payment. Bins and rubbish litter the street. Signs warn trespassers the structures are unsafe. People have spray-painted “No copper” or “No metal” on their doors to deter crooks who have stripped anything of value from these decaying shells. Even brick steps have been ripped off, leaving houses that look as if they are floating on a dark sea of garbage."

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Credit crisis throws AIG into "uncharted waters". One quote that was buried in the article that should have had its own headline: "UBS on Friday estimated that the global credit crisis is likely to result in losses of more than $600 billion.

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Green Mountain Gear (one of our advertisers) has an announced a new discount program: The OSG—Optics Savings Group There are three optics purchase choices each month at various pricing levels. These are some "screaming good" deals. You will need to click on "Too Low To Show" GMG Pricing!" and then enter your e-mail address to get the special pricing. Make sure your spam filters are able to let GMG e-mails through.

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RBS sent us an article that is a not-so-subtle warning flag: FDIC Brings Out Retirees to Ready for Bank Failures

"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest prop of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge in the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle... Observe good faith and justice toward all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be that good policy does not equally enjoin it?"
- George Washington, Farewell Address to his cabinet, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; September 17, 1796

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Today we present a guest article, by loyal SurvivalBlog reader William Buppert. It was originally posted at, and it is re-posted with the author's permission. Thanks, Bill!

President Bush has embarked on the final phase of Pax Americana and is ushering in an advanced imperial stage that will endanger every living American. The coming election will assure us that every American will have his Second Amendment rights infringed or predated upon in some fashion no matter which party succeeds (is there a difference except the spelling?). Perennial readers of this site are better versed than most in the predatory nature of the state and its ability to target and vilify those it wishes to eliminate eventually whether through political neutralization such as Trent Lott or lethal means such as Waco or Ruby Ridge. I'd like to focus this essay on the practical application of what Boston T. Party refers to as "liberty's teeth" or small arms. There are plenty of organizations like Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership (JPFO) and Gun Owners of America (GOA) which will provide you with all the intellectual ammunition you need to know why you should be armed; I want to tell you how. I want to offer a bare-bones primer on how to get started in amassing your personal armory (contrary to what the government says, an arsenal is where weapons are manufactured) and using the weapons you obtain. I have a military background that spans two decades, shoot competitively and currently instruct tactical firearms so I have left the armchair a few times.

There are plenty of sites from which you can obtain this information but I wanted to provide a fairly painless gateway to get started if you are beginning from ground zero. The black helicopter crowds are chockfull of hunker-down survivalist information which for the most part suffers from their barely hidden desire for the apocalypse to occur coupled with their propensity to be armchair enthusiasts unfettered by real world application of firepower. On the other end of the spectrum, you have the nation's largest gun prohibition organization, the National Rifle Association, selling plenty of safety-oriented gun practices (while winking lustfully at the Beltway media and other hoplophobes) and ignoring any martial aspects of weapons or gun handling the Founders wrote the Second Amendment for in the first place.

1. Establish a mindset much like the Flinters in F. Paul Wilson's novels. Fully embrace the initiated non-aggression principle. This is not a call for armed revolt or insurrection. This is summed up as leave me alone or else. Whether you own weapons now or not, you should be fully decided that when, not if, the government comes around to seize them you will relinquish them one round at a time. Or you have had the foresight to properly cache spares and you can hand over that Lee Harvey Oswald Carcano to the nice young men in black ninja suits who are from the government and just want to help you. If you have any doubt about that, stop reading this and take any weapons you now own and donate them to a paleo-conservative or libertarian who cares. You may continue reading if liberty means more than lip service. The right to self-defense should be beyond question to this audience.

2. If you bought one book on the subject, buy Boston T. Party's book, "Boston's Gun Bible" (revised April 2002). Hey, we're on LRC, you always want a book on the subject. As a matter of fact, this logical and sound compendium of gun stuff is worth a whole shelf of gun tomes. Read it two or three times and always have a highlighter in hand. He's done all the work for you. You just have to read and heed. It has had a perennial place on my nightstand since I bought it. While those new to the gun community will be amazed at the pedantic disagreements that enliven every corner of the gun culture from ballistics to weapons choice, enquiring minds will really be energized by the level of intellectual ferment once you get the gun habit. If one only read the New York Times or the Los Angeles Times, you'd think all gun owners were backward hillbillies who only Jim Goad could love. Like so many American subcultures, there is a niche for every need or desire. For instance, I disagree with his number-one choice for a battle rifle (M1A versus FN-FAL) but that is the nature of the enterprise.

3. Write this on your whiteboard one hundred times: I will never, ever buy a weapon from a Federal Firearms Dealer (FFL). I will only make private party purchases through gun shows, the classifieds or through friends and neighbors. The Feral (no misspelling) government has developed a devilishly clever system using the BATF as their stalking horse to enable a de facto and de jure gun registration system established at the central government level every time a weapon is purchased at a brick and mortar gun shop. Check your risk tolerance and local and state laws to determine the regulations regarding private sales but the litmus test is easy. If you see guns for sale in your local newspaper classifieds, it is under the government radar (for now). Recent events such as the spate of college campus shootings and the attempts by local and state governments to regulate and suppress every manner of arms employment and provisioning should convince you that time is short. The same applies to ammunition; buy it at a gun show for cash as there is no requirement for a permit (yet) in most states. I hope you are fortunate enough to live in a state unlike Illinois or some of the Borg states in the northeastern part of these united States. When buying these weapons through private sales, always be prepared to walk away if it smells funny. Never buy any weapon that even appears to be fully automatic or is hinted to be. The Class 3 licensing system in the US regulates these firearms in a very draconian fashion under the auspices of the 1934 National Firearms Act. The government has a history of entrapment and provocation. Ask Randy Weaver if a half-inch on a ruler is hazardous to your health or that of your family.

4. I could write a book on what to buy but that is beyond the scope of this essay. Armed conflict is a discipline of distance. Different firearms have envelopes of lethality as distance is increased which is also a factor in accuracy. To paraphrase Boston, a pistol is what you fight your way to your rifle with. Spare no expense since your life depends on these tools. At minimum you need a rifle and pistol for every member of your family. The Glock pistol is the hands-down winner for accuracy and reliability. As to rifles, if you are poorer than dirt, scrape up $100 and buy a Lee-Enfield .303 rifle. These bolt actions are highly serviceable for social work. If you have more money, invest the hundreds and thousands it will take to get a proper battle rifle such as an FN-FAL, M1A or HK91 and all the equipment and ammunition to accompany each rifle for its care and feeding. Be sure to have a minimum of 25 magazines per rifle and ten per pistol. From this point, once you have started to empty your wallet, more equipment will start to appeal to you such as load-bearing gear, body armor and all manner of shooting accouterment. The sky is the limit (and your income).

5. Pay for the very best firearms training you can afford; a single digit percentage of the gun culture pays for professional training and this is the greatest shortcoming you can have. No matter how American the concept of having the most elaborate toys, if you can't employ them, then their value is moot. Go to Google or Metacrawler, type in firearms training in your state and see who offers it locally or go to the nationally renowned training centers like Gunsite, Thunder Ranch or Firearms Academy of Seattle (my personal favorite for value and quality). Take your spouse, too. She is your primary team-member.

6. Teach your children well. The gun culture has roots as far back as the first settlers in North America. This continuity is a result of parents passing on their knowledge and weapons to their progeny to continue down the line. Exposure to guns early enough can make liberty contagious.

Remember, guns don’t kill people, governments and the criminals they create do. - William Buppert, February 18, 2008

Hi Jim,
Your excellent post about the possibility of simultaneous inflation and deflation got my head to spinning about ways to protect ourselves from a seemingly near-certain banking crisis. Such a scenario would certainly be a major headache for everyone, no matter how large their bank accounts, but it would be a huge problem for those of us who are in business for ourselves and need a constant cash flow through the banking system to pay payroll, expenses, taxes, etc. Therefore, I wondered if you and/or any of your readers had any suggestions for preparing for banking problems ahead of time, just like we do (and have done) with other areas of life. I find that one of the greatest benefits of your blog is that almost every post stirs me mentally and spiritually, to evaluate and re-evaluate my attitudes and actions when in comes to preparedness, and to pray over them for guidance. Perhaps others have been thinking likewise, especially when it comes to the banking crisis. I'll start out with my own situation and suggestions, and hopefully others will build on them - or refute them if needed.

My situation is that our seasonal family business usually generates enough in the first 6-9 months of the year to support us for the remainder of the year. In the past, we have kept these funds liquid in our corporate bank account and used them for payroll and regular operating expenses each month as the year progresses. Now, however, I am concerned about a possible banking crises (bank runs, failures, limits on withdrawals, etc.) that is getting more press - even in the mainstream media. How can I best protect my assets, not lose what we've worked hard in the early part of the year and still have the money/cash/etc. available for use? I can vividly imagine a full-blown banking crisis like you mentioned in your article - and I shudder to realize that available funds we depend on could be "frozen" for a time (at best) or gone completely (at worst) in such a scenario.

I've thought of several options:
1. Spread the risk among several banks by opening other accounts, with each account holding a small amount of our total funds, so that if one bank fails, all our "eggs" would not break in one basket. This would be a bit cumbersome, but could work unless/until things got really bad across the board in the whole banking system.
2. Pull out more cash now and use petty cash to pay for things instead of checks and credit cards. This would be a paperwork nightmare to keep a lot of receipts and could be a security problem, but would certainly be liquid. However, would this also open us up to look like drug dealers or doing something shady?
3. Immediately purchase in bulk any items we would need for the future, prepay any bills for the year, and keep only enough money in the bank to pay large expenses. I like this idea since it would also beat inflation on basic goods we already need and use. We already have a one-year surplus of food and emergency supplies, etc., but perhaps we need more. However, this wouldn't help meet payroll, taxes, etc., unless we had to start paying our employees in toilet paper and food stuffs!
4. Buy gold and/or silver now with the funds we have. Sell the same later in the year, as the funds are needed, and when the metals (hopefully) have risen compared to the dollar. I'm not sure how feasible this idea is. Would there be any advantage at all, or would my profit get eaten up in transaction/sales fees, etc.? Also, if there were a large scale banking crisis, how do we possibly exchange our gold and silver for FRNs (or whatever the currency may be)?
I can certainly see the wisdom in having supplies positioned in advance and thus be able to "hunker down" in place or at our retreat for a time. There are so many possibilities and variables! Perhaps a combination of all of these - and more - would be best. Well, that's a start. Thanks for any light you may be able to shed on this. - Greg in North Carolina

JWR Replies: My advice is to use a combination of all of the options that you described, with the exception of option #2. In the coming years, as inflation kicks in, greenback cash will start to seem uncomfortably perishable. OBTW, I suspect that the "$10,000 in cash or equivalents" Federal tax reporting threshold will be frozen indefinitely, despite the unceasing march of inflation. Hence, more and more innocent people will come under undue scrutiny from the IRS.

I need to get some concealed holsters for myself and my wife for our Glocks. What do you guys recommend? Thanks, - SF in Hawaii

JWR Replies: For concealment, I generally prefer Milt Sparks brand holsters. However, in your high-humidity climate, anything made of leather is probably a mistake, especially for everyday wear. High humidity means a constant battle against rusty guns and moldy leather. (In Hawaii, nothing ever seems to get really "dry.") So in your circumstances, I recommend Kydex.

We have been very happy with the Blade-Tech brand Kydex holsters and magazine pouches. We use them extensively here at the Rawles Ranch for our M1911s. We started using them about two years ago, soon after we saw how prevalent they were, when The Memsahib and I went to take a four day defensive handgun course at Front Sight.

See this SurvivalBlog post from March of 2007 for more about holsters in general, and Blade-Tech in particular. Their Inside the Waistband (IWB) model is probably best for concealment. Although their standard holster with a paddle conversion might work too. I have found that people either immediately love or hate paddles, but most folks like IWBs. Remember to get a thick, stiff, and fairly wide belt, regardless of your choice of holster. The belt that you use is crucial for keeping a holstered pistol stable and secure. you don't want to have it flopping around. When I shop for clothes, one of the first things that I now look for is large belt loops to accommodate a thick, wide belt.

And, FWIW, I'm a big believer in getting stainless steel pistols for everyday carry, especially in humid climates.

Our friend Mike mentioned a web page that shows the contents of various vehicular kits for G.O.O.D., camping, first aid, and so forth.

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Reader Amy Q. pointed us to a post on another site that has some good ideas for building up a second income. As I've mentioned before, every family should have a second income that they can fall back on, in the event of a layoff. A home-based business might also grow into something that will be your ticket to living at your retreat year-round.

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Eric spotted this: Bernanke predicts banks will go under. This seems to bit of deliberate posturing, so Bernanke can later say "I told you so." Speaking of "Helicopter Ben", Karen found this for us: Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke Hints at More Interest Rate Cuts

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Also courtesy of Eric: Quantum's Jim Rogers says US 'out of control'

"Do no accustom yourself to consider debt as only an inconvenience. You will find it a calamity." - Samuel Johnson, 1758

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Today we welcome our newest advertiser, Uncle Howard's. They are a builder that specializes in barns, shops, combination house/shops and combination house/RV garages. Their designs maximize storage space, which is important for those that are preparedness-minded and have a lot of logistics to store. Their construction costs are very low. Be sure to visit their web site.

Special thanks to reader "RK" who very kindly sent his 10 Cent Challenge subscription payment in the form of a 1/10th-ounce American Eagle gold coin. That was very kind of you! Speaking of gold, I noticed that the spot price of gold briefly touched $975 per ounce before settling to $973.60 on Friday. Concurrently, the US Dollar Index sagged below 73.70. (When I last checked, it took $1.51 to buy one Euro!) Also on Friday, the DJIA lost 315 points (2.51%). The "Leap Day" Dow sell-off was in reaction to AIG's huge 6.56% one day loss, blamed on, of course, subprime mortgages. CitiGroup lost 5.19% the same day. Be ready for more turbulence and downward pressure in these markets. If the Dow drops below 11,508 (its low point, in the past year), or if the USD Index drops below 72, there could be what my friend The Chartist Gnome calls "seemingly instantaneous negative implications." Minimize your dollar exposure, folks!

I'm presently catching up on my backlog of correspondence. The following are some recent letters and e-mails:

Please pass on a reminder to people to prepare themselves with a plan and supplies to deal with for the inevitable event [of an Avian Influenza outbreak]. Begin by practicing impeccable agricultural hygiene and discouraging any visitation of persons near their barn yards, hen houses and migratory wildlife flocks of geese or ducks on or near their ponds, open water sources or feed sources. This is best done with a couple of good herding type dogs who don’t mind getting their feet wet in the ponds or on the property watering holes. Our chickens are free range, yet they are blocked from the access of the open water sources, and their supple mental food and calcium sources are kept away from access of migrating and indigenous species of birds. The dogs also help with poultry predatory losses from fox, coons and hawks. - KBF

I recently attended a presentation by the National Weather Service (NWS) which was intended to educate volunteer weather spotters. The training is put on by NWS meteorologists, and is focused on the weather typical for your area. Throughout the night I felt like this information would be especially useful in light of a SHTF scenario, where regular weather alerts may not be available.
Worst case? It's free, only takes a couple of hours, and it could put you in touch with other volunteers who might be more receptive to a preparedness mindset. To find out more about schedules and content, your visitors can go to the NWS web site and find their local NOAA branch. Each regional office sets its own calendar for training events, and they're always looking for more volunteers. Midnight

I don't know if this has been posted here or not. I have finished watching a series on the Science Channel called "Invention Nation". The show primarily feature inventors who are inventing ways to "go green". Many of these inventions and ideas fit in perfectly with being self-sufficient. Some of the topics are; used cooking oil for diesel engines, solar power technology, passive solar for heating homes and water, bicycle generators, etc... The series will rerun starting in March and may be worth a look for the preparedness minded. See the Invention Nation web site. Thanks to you and your family for all you do. - Randy G.

It looks like the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Indicators web site now will continue to operate and they are going to enhance the site to boot. Here is the recently updated notice from their web site:

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) has decided to continue the web site. Featuring the economic releases from ESA’s Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), the site was started by this Administration in 2002 to give greater awareness to these economic statistics. ESA initially planned to discontinue the service due to cost concerns but given the feedback ESA received, the decision has been made to continue the site and improve its functionality.

Just though you might like to know. - John W.

Mr. Rawles:
In attempting to size an emergency generator for my home, I have run across some interesting questions that I hope you and/or your other readers will be able to help me with. I lived through the blizzards of the 1990s here in the southern West Virginia coal camps, and I will never forget us and all of our neighbors being without power and unable to get out of our own driveways for 23+ days in 1993.

It marked the very beginnings of my awakening to the necessity of being properly prepared. With that in mind, I am attempting to set my home up with the ability to keep a bare minimum level of electrical appliances running in the case of a long-term outage; namely 2 refrigerators w/ freezers, a chest freezer, and an upright freezer (all just a few years old, so fairly energy efficient).

I am gauging the power being used by these appliances using a Kill-A-Watt. And, honestly, I'm afraid that I am doing something wrong. My number seem awfully low.

The first test I ran was on my chest freezer; after two hours of measurement, the freezer had consumed just 0.05 KWH or 50 watts of power at 25 watts per hour. I was surprised, but not terribly because the lid was not opened during the span of the test.

Next, I tested the refrigerator in my kitchen. It is a an Energy Star compliant Whirlpool brand 25.55 cu. ft. model with water and ice in the door. As a result of the chest freezer coming in lower than I expected, I purposely skewed the refrigerator experiment with the hopes of over-estimating the true usage. To that end, I was sure to be a bad boy and do things such as holding the door open and staring in like a goober for five minutes. I also refilled the dog's water bowl from the door (forcing the pump into action) and virtually emptied the ice bin as crushed ice through the door (a big cup of ice water is yum!) to force the ice maker to have to run and make more. But, even with all that, my two hour test yielded a cumulative KWH usage of just 0.13. A measly 130 watts at 65 watts per hour.

Researching this online, I'm finding sites that estimate the typical household fridge uses between 150-250 watts per hour with peaks upward of 700+ watts. Am I doing really well on efficiency or am I missing something? I'll wait to hear back before I run the remaining tests. Thanks! - JSC

I was chatting with a friend of mine who lives in Sao Paulo, Brazil and we got to talking about their economy. What really caught my attention was what life was like about the time they went their economic collapse, I think he said around 1998.

Brazil had several years of increasing inflation and finally reached 50% per month! At that rate people were paid weekly instead of monthly and everyone would convert paychecks to hard goods and consumables. I told him there would be riots in the streets and marches on the White House if we ever had 50% per month inflation. He replied the Brazilians would complain but pretty much accept whatever came along.

Finally when inflation was so bad the president called in a cousin of his who was an economics professor and she recommended a drastic measure to save the government. One day it was announced that all banks accounts would be limited to $50 and all other funds would be “loaned” to the government. Can you imagine having this happen in the US ?! Fortunately his father was a small business owner and sensed something bad coming down, so days before the bank confiscations he had incrementally withdrawn his life savings of $60,000. The mother was frantic because they could lose 50% - 60% every month the cash was not earning interest in the bank. A few days later and most people lost all their cash while this father was sitting pretty, comparatively. My friend and his family survived fairly well. A friend of theirs had just sold his business and left all the proceeds, about $150,000 in the bank! He was wiped out and several days later committed suicide.

Sao Paulo is a densely populated city of about 15 million so it is amazing there was not widespread rioting, looting and social deconstruction. Supposedly the saving grace was that jobs were not slashed so everyone just picked up the pieces after the confiscation and moved ahead with their next paycheck.

Lessons to consider:
* Governments can act swiftly and unpredictably, and usually to the detriment of the individual
* Don’t keep the majority of your savings in any form of bank account. Stock funds are a bit safer but would have been next in line.
* Cash on hand, even evaporating with inflation, is a must. Keep a good amount of cash on hand to get through the initial shocks.
* Material goods are the king of survival. In Brazil wage earners immediately converted paychecks to material goods. They are the only thing that holds value. Gold was not in widespread use in the city except for the shadier parts of town. You did not want to be walking around Sao Paulo with any amount of cash or gold.
* Like in the stories of Argentina, urban life can continue in a SHTF situation, but you should still be prepared. I don’t doubt that Brazilians outside the city were much less impacted and already much more reliant on natural resources and tools than the average city dweller. - JB in Oregon

Reader Daniel K. recommended an essay about dependence on grid power, posted over at the Jeff Rense site: Worst Drug On Earth Stops In 8 Milliseconds

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Freddie Mac posts $2.5 Billion Loss in Fourth Quarter of 2007

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I just heard that "The Armchair Survivalist" weekly Internet radio show is expanding to shortwave, on WWCR, starting tonight. Kurt covers some interesting topics and he has some great guests. He also still operates Survival Enterprises (that you may remember as a former SurvivalBlog advertiser). They sell a variety of storage foods and gear at competitive prices. Check out Kurt's web pages, and listen in.

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Automated killer robots 'threat to humanity'

“I practice charity regularly. I believe in sharing. But when government takes our money by force and gives it to others, that's not sharing.” - John Stossel

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