Archive for December 13th, 2012
Sorry for getting this review of episode 5 (season 2) of National Geographic Channel’s Doomsday Preppers TV series out a little later than usual, but I’ve been tied up with other things. “Taking From the Haves,” which aired Tuesday night, December 4, featured four preppers- John Adrain, Jeff Bushaw, and neighbors Allen and Franco.
During the first part of the show viewers were introduced to John Adrain, an inventor living in the Pacific Northwest with his two dogs. According to John:
I am preparing for the unexpected.
From the show:
John’s not sure which “doomsday” scenario will play out first- a supervirus, biological terrorist attacks, natural disaster. But he’s certain something’s coming. And since travel is often restricted in states of emergency, “bugging out” is the absolute last resort in John’s survival plan.
As such, the episode focused on John and his large fortified home in which he plans to “bug in.” From the show:
His primary goal is to turn his home into a technological fortress, in which he can keep rampaging survivors at bay.
John told viewers:
It doesn’t matter how many preps you have if you can’t protect them from others. Because the “have nots” are going to be taking from the “haves.”
John is shown trying out a .50 caliber long-range rifle called the Beowulf, upgrading the internal/external security of his home, showing off some home security gadgets he invented such as the Burglar Blaster and BedBunker, and practicing some home invasion drills during the remainder of the segment.
In the second part of the show, viewers were introduced to Jeff Bushaw, a full-time prepper living in Vancouver, Washington. According to Jeff:
I’m preparing for the Yellowstone supervolcano that may end the world as we know it.
From the show:
Yellowstone National Park’s majestic vistas, diverse wildlife, and impressive geysers draw more than 3 million visitors each year. But underneath the seeming tranquility of the park lurks an active supervolcano, one so large that that should it ever blow, the force of the super eruption could be as if 1,000 Hiroshima-size atomic bombs were going off every second … The force of the blast is likely to annihilate everything in the immediate vicinity. Even though Jeff lives more than 800 miles away from Yellowstone, he still doesn’t feel safe. That’s because the supervolcano could spew enough smoldering ash into the atmosphere to bury half of the United States at least several inches deep.
Besides the immediate loss of life and property from such an eruption, the episode noted:
Scientists believe it could take a decade for vegetation in parts of the Midwest to recover from the damage done by the massive ash clouds. Jeff fears the volcano will devastate crops, leading to food shortages throughout the U.S.
Fearing the effects of a “volcanic winter,” Jeff, along with son Hayden, are shown preparing for such an event, socking away food, participating in storage unit auctions in the hope they’ll find valuable preps, practicing bug-out drills, and taking flying lessons to give them the option of bugging out via plane should it come to that.
Allen and Franco
In the last part of the episode, two “neighbors” in Southwest Missouri were introduced. First up, Allen is an electrical engineer and veteran prepper with more than thirty years of experience. Allen said:
I’m preparing for an economic decline of the U.S. economy.
From the show:
Allen worries that the economy is failing, and that as the dollar’s value declines, food prices will skyrocket out of control.
Next, there’s Franco, a master electrician and newer prepper. Franco told viewers:
I’m preparing for the rise of food costs, food shortages, and the corruption of the food supply through big business.
Both Allen and Franco plan on “bugging in” when the food shortages come, but not after they’ve taken charge of their own food production via aquaponics. From the show:
In aquaponic systems, fish and plants are grown together in a closed environment, where the fish waste is converted into food for the plants. The fish excrete waste and ammonia into the water. That water is pumped into the grow beds, where bacteria convert the waste into nitrogen, which the plants use as fertilizer. As the plants use the nitrates, they filter the water, which is then sent back to the fish tanks, completing the circle.
While a challenge to maintain, the results are impressive.
“Doomsday Preppers: Prepper Profile: Franco and Allen”
Nat Geo Channel Video
My thoughts about Doomsday Preppers “Taking From the Haves”:
• While John Adrain’s “technological fortress” is amazing, I wonder how effective it would be in a long-term, grid-down event. His security system is comprised of an electronically-controlled entry gate, a computerized command center, 12 high-definition surveillance cameras, and a front door with sophisticated recognition software, among other things. Does Adrain have enough back-up power to operate this technology should the utilities go down for an extended period of time? And what if a device malfunctions or breaks?
• “But if the attackers come in multiple vehicles and penetrate the gate, John wants to be able to engage them at a distance before they cover the 1,000 feet from the gate to his front door.” Enter the Beowulf, a .50 caliber rifle that Adrain’s weapons guy Bill Alexander brought to the party. Three words. I LIKE IT!
• Another security feature of John Adrain’s fortified home is that its windows are coated with something he called “embassy tint,” a strong film that holds glass together in case it shatters. I’ve done a little bit of research on window security film, and from what I’ve seen via the Internet, the technology is pretty impressive. So much so I’d consider using it on my future residence.
• Adrain busted out some of his inventions in the episode. The Burglar Blaster is a self-contained electronic OC (oleoresin capsicum) spray anti-burglar system. When the infrared detector is tripped, the Burglar Blaster releases OC pepper spray in the immediate area, chasing away the intruder. The BedBunker is a concealed safe that replaces a bed boxspring. Another of Adrain’s inventions shown but not really discussed was the ConsoleBunker, an all-aluminum vehicle center console for storing firearms. The ConsoleBunker is tied in with the vehicle’s factory door locks and has a timing mechanism that prevents unauthorized access. Really neat and useful stuff.
Now I see how John can afford the big house and nice toys.
• In the segment with Jeff Bushaw, the Vancouver, Washington-based prepper was shown taking flying lessons in the event he and his family needed to bug out from the effects of a Yellowstone National Park supervolcano eruption. However, from what I recall, the show never mentioned Bushaw owning a plane. If he doesn’t, and an eruption did take place with an ash cloud headed his way, it might be difficult- if not impossible- to rent a plane in that type of situation. From looking at a map of Vancouver, I can’t help but wonder if he shouldn’t plan on bugging out of the area via ean-going boat.
• Speaking of maps, here’s a link to a 2007 FOX News web article with one showing (right arrow to slide 2) where ash fell from previous Yellowstone National Park supervolcano eruptions.
• In the segment with neighbors Allen and Franco, both preppers were shown riding scooters. While attending the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign in the early nineties, these were cherished forms of transportation for many broke-ass college students such as myself (I didn’t own one, but could be seen riding on the back of one from time to time. That must have been a scary sight.) . I wouldn’t be surprised if some preppers/survivalists are including scooters/mopeds in their preps, especially if they anticipate an energy crunch and sky-high gasoline prices down the road.
• Like the preceding Doomsday Preppers episode, this one had its gross-out moment when Franco ingested one his red wigglers. Classic line by his young daughter though:
I’d rather drink pee.
• I found the following particular interesting in the “Assessment” portion of the final segment:
PRACTICAL PREPPERS LLC: You currently lack weapons, and have no tactical training. Without them, you will be unable to protect your home in a crisis.
FRANCO: Yeah, you’re right about the weapons. I do not possess them nor do I plan on possessing them. It’s not what I believe in.
To each their own. But considering what a juicy target he, his family, and his food could be in a real SHTF situation, I just hope Franco’s got something else up his sleeve to deal with those with weapons wanting what he has.
New episodes of Doomsday Preppers air on the National Geographic Channel on Tuesday nights at 9 PM Eastern Time.
Things sure are “golden” here today on Survival And Prosperity. Recently, I was made aware that Santa Monica, California-based instructor of precious metals investing/bullion dealer and another of this blog’s advertising partners- GoldSilver.com- has a new product line of investment-grade bullion jewelry under the designation GoldWithoutBorders. From their website:
Gold Bullion Jewelry
Our bullion jewelry products include beautiful necklaces and bracelets that can be:
• Great gift for a loved one.
• Unobtrusive means of transporting wealth.
• Maintains a low profile when you are ready to sell.
I find those last two points about this bullion jewelry particularly interesting, especially in light of that last post about gold confiscation.
There’s a terrific informational video about this new product line on GoldSilver.com under “Buy Gold & Silver” along the top menu bar, then under “Buy Jewlery” in the corresponding drop-down list.
One can never have too many options when it comes to preserving wealth.
One thing that’s probably entered the mind of anyone who owns physical gold is the threat of government confiscation. I’ve read quite a few articles over the last several years about that danger, and what Adrian Ash published on the website of the world’s largest online investment gold service and Survival And Prosperity advertising partner- BullionVault- was one of the more informative pieces I’ve read in quite some time. Ash, who runs the research desk over at the London-based company, wrote on December 7:
When Governments Steal Gold – 7 December 2012
Three nasty examples of how people lost the gold they owned…
CHATTER in the trading rooms says some gold owners fear a punitive US tax hike in New Year 2013, writes Adrian Ash at BullionVault, with the Obama government targeting precious-metal investors.
Hence this month’s sell-off (or so the tittle-tattle says) – akin to the move by Japanese households to sell gold in late 2011 ahead of new reporting rules for precious-metals dealers.
In truth, such a US move looks very unlikely. Ahead of needing cross-party support to fix both the fiscal cliff and debt ceiling disaster, it would be clearly partisan. (Not all US gold investors are Republicans, but very few are Democrats in our experience.) And besides, gold already attracts the higher 28% rate of capital-gains tax in the US, since it is deemed a “collectible”. Easier to raise CGT rates across the board, and whack anyone trying to grow their savings in fair measure. It would raise far more revenue, too.
Still, this chit-chat does highlight a key point about gold – the fact that, within living memory, it got special ill-treatment from government everywhere. Western households were blocked from owning gold bullion for 30 years and more after the end of WWII. Over the 20 years previous, their gold had been variously nationalized, compulsorily purchased and stolen.
Not just investment-grade bullion. And not just gold belonging to private citizens either.
1935: Mussolini nabs 35 tonnes of gold wedding rings
The United States “confiscation” of 1933 is well-known (in fact a compulsory purchase, made at the then-price of $20.67 per ounce before the price was raised to $35.) But with gold still central to the monetary system, many governments were looking to acquire more. With a smile, of course.
December 1935 saw popular Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini appeal to the patriotism of Italy’s wives, urging them to swap their gold wedding bands for steel rings instead. Yes, really. On Wednesday the 18th, La Stampa gave over its entire front page to this financing drive:
• “The most noble rite of ‘faith’ joins all women in Italy in one heroic will” (‘fede’ meaning both ‘wedding ring’ and ‘faith’ – clever, eh?)
• “The Queen lays down her wedding ring upon the Altar of the Homeland”
• “The proud and moving offer of the women in Turin”
Italian women were so “encouraged” by this popular show of patriotism that, fifty years later, they were still ashamed at being forced to part with their wedding rings. Mussolini got 35 tonnes all told. He ended upside down, hung on a meat hook from the roof of a petrol station.
1939: Nazi Germany steals Czech gold in London
You didn’t need to be a private individual, nor keep your gold at home, to lose precious metals in the 1930s. Little-recalled today, the Nazis’ theft of Czechoslovakian gold reserves caused such fuss in the British press in mid-1939 that the public was fully prepared for war by the time Germany invaded Poland in September.
The Bank for International Settlement had been established in 1930 to try and manage the fast-collapsing international Gold Standard. Based in neutral Switzerland, it was supposed to be above politics, and although its senior staff were all senior central bankers in their home countries, they played by a “gentlemanly” code of mutual support and respect. Unelected both then and now, central bankers held themselves to be noble and independent from the dirty business of democracy or dictatorship.
So when, on 20 March 1939, just after the Nazis marched into Prague, a message was sent to the BIS apparently by the Czech National Bank, the BIS duly passed the message on. It asked the Bank of England (then, as now, the world’s premier clearing point for physical gold) to move the metal held in BIS account No.2 to a new BIS account, No.17.
Never mind that the Czechs had already sent word that any instructions would come “under duress” and must be ignored. Never mind that the British parliament had put a freeze on all Czech assets, to defend them against Nazi theft. And never mind that the Bank of England knew BIS No.2 contained Czech gold, and that No.17 was held for the German Reichsbank. Because the Bank of England’s governor, Montagu Norman, was also a director of the non-political BIS. And he’d do anything to protect the noble independence of central bankers, applying their “gentlemanly” rules and so appeasing the Nazis one last time, by feigning ignorance of whose gold sat in those two anonymous BIS accounts.
The transfer was done before anyone outside the central banks knew, and the gold was then sold in just 10 days. By the time the story broke in May, the £6 million in proceeds was long gone. (We can find no reference to the transfer, nor to the national scandal starting in May, in Norman’s spidery-writing in his personal diary.)
1966: Britain starts prosecuting gold-coin investors
Two decades after the war ended, and 35 years after Britain quit the Gold Standard, its politicians were busy meddling with gold investment. Because the Pound was falling on the currency markets. So people were buying gold, sending money overseas to buy it and so hurting the UK’s already terrible balance of trade. Thereby hurting the Pound yet again.
To try and stem the slide, the Labour government put a block on imports of gold coin, and banned private citizens from owning more than four gold coins. Anyone with a bigger collection had to tell the Bank of England, whose officers would then judge whether the owner was a true collector, or a speculator.
Speaking in the (very heated) parliamentary debate of 13 June, the Conservative MP for Worthing, Terence Higgins, asked why the Government was attacking gold. “People are holding gold because they have no faith in the Government’s policy on the stabilization of the cost of living and on curtailing the rate of inflation…Will it take action against other specific assets which are a hedge against inflation?” (Indian households might ask the same today.)
But too bad – the “rule of four” went through (as it became known by retail dealers). By June 1967 some 4,847 people had submitted themselves to the Bank of England’s scrutiny, and prosecutions had begun. Exchange controls on gold were finally lifted by the first Thatcher administration’s first budget, in 1979.
The moral of these tales? Because gold is no longer central to the world’s monetary system, so-called “confiscation” looks a very 20th century phenomenon today. But that may well change. Exchange controls such as Britain had in the 1970s (and which Italy didn’t lose until 1999) are more likely. Because people, like governments, want to own gold when they fear inflation, financial strife or political crisis. Holding it at home could expose them to theft or coercion. If they hold it safely at arm’s length overseas, even a secure democratic jurisdiction requires clear ownership if you are retain control.
Be sure to get it if you’re thinking about Buying Gold any time soon.
Adrian Ash, 07 Dec ’12
(Editor’s note: Permission to republish the above material granted by BullionVault)
Yesterday, I took some time off from blogging to watch CNBC’s coverage of the Federal Open Market Committee meeting. Okay, truth is I really felt sick after eating like a third-grader at lunchtime and needed to lie down on my couch. But the FOMC meeting happened to be on TV, and I was curious to hear what Fed Chair Ben Bernanke would say about the highly-anticipated meeting.
Basically, QE4 has just set sail.
Funny thing was, based on the back-and-forth movements in the stock indexes, the CNBC talking heads covering the meeting suggested traders were looking to their pocket protector-armed colleagues to decipher just exactly what it was the Fed Chair said. Yes- Bernanke was laying on the Fedspeak thick and heavy Wednesday. So much so a number of mainstream media outlets today don’t seem to have figured out just what is was the Federal Reserve announced they were going to do. However, I did come across a very good explanation of what went down at the Fed meeting on the website of Chicago-based investment research company Zacks. Neena Mishra, Director of ETF Research there, reported on their Real Time Insight blog yesterday:
QE 4 is Here: Fed Announces Fresh Stimulus
As widely expected by the market, the Federal Reserve announced at the conclusion of their FOMC meeting that they will purchase longer-term treasury securities to replace “Operation Twist”. Initially the purchases will be about $45 billion per month.
Operation Twist—which involves buying longer-term bonds and selling a like amount of shorter-term treasuries—is expiring at the end of this month.
Additionally, Fed buys 40 billion of agency mortgage-backed securities each month, under QE3. In all, Fed will continue to buy about $85 billion of longer-term bonds each month under the two programs.
Per their statement “these actions should maintain downward pressure on longer-term interest rates, support mortgage markets, and help to make broader financial conditions more accommodative”.
“These actions should maintain downward pressure on longer-term interest rates, support mortgage markets, and help to make broader financial conditions more accommodative”.
Remember what I blogged about recently regarding suspicions the Fed is trying to inflate another housing bubble?
And to quote Monty Python, “And now for something completely different.” Mishra added:
Another important announcement in the release was the adoption of “economic targets” for unemployment and inflation. They decided to keep the target range for the fed funds rate between 0% and 0.25%– as long as the unemployment rate remains above 6.5% and medium-term inflation does not exceed 2.5%
Yep. That was pretty much what I heard Bernanke say.
QE4. Yet another dose of reality for the Pollyannas that argue a U.S. economic recovery is strong and sustainable and that rising interest rates are right around the corner because the economy is humming right along.
Mishra, Neenah. “QE 4 is Here: Fed Announces Fresh Stimulus.” Real Time Insight. 12 Dec. 2012. (http://www.zacks.com/stock/news/88466/qe-4-is-here-fed-announces-fresh-stimulus). 12 Dec. 2012.
“Real estate is going UP!” That’s what one of my family members recently roared at me when I suggested that the Chicago-area housing market was still a mess.
Did I happen to mention this individual also serves as one of my “reverse indicators?”
Anyway, not only are Chicagoland home prices down year-over-year (which I talked about here), but foreclosures too- more so around the state than around the Windy City. From the November 2012 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report from real estate information company and Survival And Prosperity advertising partner RealtyTrac Tuesday:
Florida posted the nation’s highest state foreclosure rate for the third month in a row, with one in every 304 housing units with a foreclosure filing in November, followed by Nevada, Illinois, California and South Carolina…
One in every 392 Illinois housing units had a foreclosure filing in November, the nation’s third highest state foreclosure rate. A total of 13,520 Illinois properties had a foreclosure filing during the month, down 9 percent from the previous month to a seven-month low, but still up 9 percent from November 2011 — the 11th straight month where Illinois foreclosure activity has increased on a year-over-year basis.
(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)
As for the Chicago metropolitan area, the Irvine, California-based company said on its website:
Florida and California metro areas accounted for 16 of the top 20 highest metro foreclosure rates. Other cities with foreclosure rates in the top 20 were Rockford, Ill., at No. 11 (one in 290 housing units with a foreclosure filing); Chicago at No. 13 (one in 306 housing units); Las Vegas at No. 16 (one in 336 housing units); and Dayton, Ohio, at No. 18 (one in 338 housing units).
(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)
Chicago Tribune real estate reporter Mart Ellen Podmolik chimed in this morning on the Chicago newspaper’s website:
In the Chicago-area counties of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake and Will, almost 11,000 homes received a foreclosure notice in November, a decrease of 10.5 percent from October’s level of activity but up 1.6 percent from November 2011.
Most of that activity was in Cook County, where about 2,299 homes received initial notices of default, another 2,651 homes were scheduled for court-ordered sales and 2,086 homes were repossessed by lenders.
(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)
I’ll have to see if I can’t find data on the local housing supply. Lots of for sale signs up on front lawns around the area…
You can read the Realty Trac report on their website here.
Podmolik, Mary Ellen. “Illinois foreclosures rise for 11th month.” Chicago Tribune. 13 Dec. 2012. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/breaking/chi-illinois-foreclosures-rise-for-11th-month-20121213,0,6683119.story). 13 Dec. 2012.
The following isn’t much of a surprise after the defeat of Illinois Governor Pat Quinn’s attempted gun ban via amendatory veto on December 4 (and which I blogged about here). Hal Dardick and Monique Garcia reported on the Chicago Tribune website this morning:
Gov. Pat Quinn on Wednesday indicated he would like to see assault weapons banned in Illinois as lawmakers this spring revise state law to allow some form of concealed carry to comply with a court ruling that tossed aside a long-standing ban on allowing people to carry weapons…
Quinn also pressed for an assault weapons ban, saying Illinois residents “overwhelmingly support that.”
“I want to say today, and I’ll say every day, we need to ban assault weapons in our state of Illinois. We aren’t going to have people marching along Michigan Avenue, or any other avenue in the state of Illinois, with military-style assault weapons, weapons that are designed to kill people.”
An assault weapons ban has been elusive in Springfield because of geographical differences of opinion. Opponents point to the fact that Chicago had a gun ban for decades, even as criminals obtained guns and shot people.
I think that last part should read, “Opponents point to the fact that even though Chicago had a gun ban for decades, criminals obtained guns and shot people.” That’s a little bit more clear.
Dardick, Hal and Garcia, Monique. “Quinn, Emanuel assail court’s concealed carry decision.” Chicago Tribune. 13 Dec. 2012. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-emanuel-quinn-gun-ruling-20121213,0,5976534.story). 13 Dec. 2012.
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