Technology

Rich Americans Keep On Prepping

Regular readers of Survival And Prosperity know that I’ve been observing and blogging about “prepping” for several years now. Case in point, this 2011 post recapping a new TV show called Doomsday Preppers (ever heard of it?).

Early on I noticed wealthy Americans were getting into preparedness. They recognized and took steps to deal with potential TEOTWAWKI scenarios- just like their lower-net worth compatriots.

And such activity continues to this day, spurred on not just by concerns over major emergencies and man-made/natural disasters, but fears of a financial crash, civil unrest/war, and impoversihed and angry masses turning against the rich.

Earlier this evening I finally got the chance to read an article from the January 30, 2017 issue of The New Yorker entitled “Doomsday Prep For The Super-Rich.” Evan Osnos penned:

Survivalism, the practice of preparing for a crackup of civilization, tends to evoke a certain picture: the woodsman in the tinfoil hat, the hysteric with the hoard of beans, the religious doomsayer. But in recent years survivalism has expanded to more affluent quarters, taking root in Silicon Valley and New York City, among technology executives, hedge-fund managers, and others in their economic cohort…

The lengthy-yet-interesting piece took a closer look at the prepping mindset and priorities of the wealthy these days. One notable passage was:

I asked [prominent investor and co-founder of LinkedIn Reid] Hoffman to estimate what share of fellow Silicon Valley billionaires have acquired some level of “apocalypse insurance,” in the form of a hideaway in the U.S. or abroad. “I would guess fifty-plus per cent,” he said…

There was also this from Osnos:

In building Reddit, a community of thousands of discussion threads, into one of the most frequently visited sites in the world, [co-founder and CEO Steve] Huffman has grown aware of the way that technology alters our relations with one another, for better and for worse. He has witnessed how social media can magnify public fear. “It’s easier for people to panic when they’re together,” he said, pointing out that “the Internet has made it easier for people to be together,” yet it also alerts people to emerging risks. Long before the financial crisis became front-page news, early signs appeared in user comments on Reddit. “People were starting to whisper about mortgages. They were worried about student debt. They were worried about debt in general. There was a lot of, ‘This is too good to be true. This doesn’t smell right.’” He added, “There’s probably some false positives in there as well, but, in general, I think we’re a pretty good gauge of public sentiment. When we’re talking about a faith-based collapse, you’re going to start to see the chips in the foundation on social media first.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

I’ve noticed a growing amount of anger directed against President Trump and the Republicans on my Facebook “home page” these days.

“Early signs” of significant civil unrest coming?

If you’ve got some time to spare, head on over to The New Yorker website and check out the Osnos piece here.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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DHS, FBI Launches Nationwide Program Warning Electric Companies About Cyber Attacks

While most of Main Street might not have a clue about the threat to the nation’s power grid from cyber attacks, it sounds like the Feds may be starting to take it seriously. Bill Gertz reported over on The Washington Free Beacon website last Friday:

Three months after a Department of Homeland Security intelligence report downplayed the threat of a cyber attack against the U.S. electrical grid, DHS and the FBI began a nationwide program warning of the dangers faced by U.S. utilities from damaging cyber attacks like the recent hacking against Ukraine’s power grid.

The nationwide campaign by DHS and the FBI began March 31 and includes 12 briefings and online webinars for electrical power infrastructure companies and others involved in security, with sessions in eight U.S. cities, including a session next week in Washington.

The unclassified briefings are titled “Ukraine Cyber Attack: Implications for U.S. Stakeholders,” and are based on work with the Ukrainian government in the aftermath of the Dec. 23 cyber attack against the Ukrainian power infrastructure…

The briefings will outline the details of the attacks, the techniques used by the hackers, and strategies to be used to limit risks and improve cyber security for grid organizations…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Those who have been sounding the alarm over the cyber attack threat for some time now have found a high-profile ally in American broadcast journalist Ted Koppel. Graham Vyse reported on the website of InsideSources, a non-partisan news organization, back on March 19:

On Monday, ABC News legend Ted Koppel sat down at a conference table at the National Press Foundation in Washington, accepted the mug of coffee he was offered and proceeded to describe a national security threat greater than 9/11.

The longtime “Nightline” anchor told reporters about the danger of a cyber attack on the United States power grid — an unprecedented event that could mean months of blackouts affecting tens of millions.

Koppel sees this scenario as a likelihood, not just a possibility, for which the country is woefully unprepared. He worries it would reduce America to a kind of Hobbesian state of nature, with conflicts over food, water and other dwindling necessities. It’s all the subject of his latest book, “Lights Out.”

“What happened on 9/11 is nothing compared to what a cyber attack on the power grid would do,” Koppel said…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Vyse added:

Koppel doesn’t think America can actually prevent a cyber attack, so he argues the focus should be on minimizing damage. The trouble is, he’s doubtful Congress would respond well to a request for $100 billion to buy enough freeze-dried meals to avoid food riots

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“The trouble is, he’s doubtful Congress would respond well to a request for $100 billion to buy enough freeze-dried meals to avoid food riots”

Yikes.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Gertz, Bill. “FBI Warns of Cyber Threat to Electric Grid.” The Washington Free Beacon. 8 Apr. 2016. (http://freebeacon.com/issues/fbi-warns-cyber-threat-electric-grid/). 12 Apr. 2016.

Vyse, Graham. “Ted Koppel: Homeland Security Chief ‘Ignorant’ on Threat to Grid.” InsideSources. 19 Mar. 2016. (http://www.insidesources.com/koppel-homeland/). 12 Apr. 2016.

Ted Koppel’s power grid cyber attack book…

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Quote For The Week

“The question we now have to ask is if technologically it is possible to make an impenetrable device or system where the encryption is so strong that there is no key. There is no door at all. Then how do we apprehend the child pornographer? How do we solve or disrupt a terrorist plot? What mechanisms do we have available to even do simple things like tax enforcement? Because, if in fact you can’t crack that at all- government can’t get in- then everybody is walking around with a Swiss bank account in their pocket…”

-U.S. President Barack Obama, speaking at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival on March 11, 2016

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Jim Rogers Interviewed By The Sovereign Society

Earlier this week I finally got the chance to listen to a three-part interview of investor, author, and financial commentator Jim Rogers by The Sovereign Society’s editorial director JL Yastine. Released on The Sovereign Investor Daily website over three days beginning February 9, 2016, their exchange provided significant information about Rogers’ investing views, activity, and strategy going forward. From the Singapore-based investor each day:

February 9

• Revealed he shorted “top” tech stocks
• Discussed outlook for U.S economy
• Implicated Federal Reserve and Washington, D.C., as “culprit” for financial woes, saying:

If you have to have a single culprit- and it’s rare that you can have a single culprit in something like this- it would be the Federal Reserve and Washington, D.C. The Federal Reserve has printed staggering amounts of money. This had interest rates at historic lows. They have never been this low. At the same time, Congress, of course, has spent billions of dollars we don’t have. So with the Fed and Congress running up staggering debts and printing lots of money, we’ve had an artificial situation for eight years now, and we’re going to pay the price. And we’re starting to pay the price now.

• Going forward, the former trading partner of George Soros predicted:

Somewhere along the line, the market will be down 13 percent, 23 percent, you pick the number, the Fed will get a huge number of phone calls saying you’ve got to save the world. These are academics and bureaucrats as you know working for the Federal Reserve- they don’t know what they’re doing. And so they will panic, and they will do something to save us all, whether it’s lower interest rates again, or print more money, or buy more- who knows what they’ll do? They’re going to do something to try to save the markets when the problems come. The markets will rally, the markets will have a nice rally, but that rally will not last, because we’re getting past to the point of no return. There’s not much we can do now given the massive amounts of money that’s been printed.

February 10

• Talked about the U.S. dollar, noting:

I own the dollar. I expect it to go higher. It could well turn into a bubble before it’s over, depending how bad the financial turmoil is.

• Talked about crude oil, revealing:

I don’t see enough panic yet in oil for me to step in. It does seem to be making a complicated bottom.

• Discussed China, saying:

I stopped buying stocks anywhere in the world last August… I see horrible problems in the world’s financial markets for a couple of years, so I’ not buying anywhere, including China…

I do own renminbi… and if it goes down a lot, I hope I’m smart enough to buy more.

• Shared thoughts on gold, insisting:

I’m not a mystic about gold. In my view gold is nothing more than another asset that can be bought and sold. I do own it. I hedged some of my gold about the time I spoke to you. But if it goes down more, I hope I’m smart enough to buy more.

February 11

• Shared an “endgame” forecast:

It’s not going to end very nicely at all… It’s going to end very badly, for all of us. We had our financial problem in 2008 because of debt. Well, the debt now is much, much, much higher than then. The Federal Reserve alone balance sheet is up 600 percent in eight years. So the debt is skyrocketing everywhere. It’s going to end badly. The next financial crisis we have, or semi-crisis, is going to be worse than 2008 in most parts of the world.

• Shared expectations of how the markets will play out, saying:

What I expect to happen is, the U.S. dollar is going to go higher. Gold will go lower. Markets will go lower. At some point, like I said, the dollar will get overpriced, maybe even a bubble. At which point I hope I’m smart enough to sell my U.S. dollars. Gold often goes down when the dollar goes up. So the dollar will be up, gold will be down, and I will say “A-ha! I’m going to sell my dollars now and buy gold.” But it might be something else. It might be renminbi. If the renmibi’s down, and the renminbi’s convertible by then, then maybe I will buy renminbi when I get out of my dollars. Gold, in my view, will probably wind up in a bubble before this is over. But in the meantime I’m waiting to buy it lower, because the bubble is maybe a few years away.

• Gave advice for protecting wealth in “the coming hard times”

On that last bullet point, since I don’t want to steal The Sovereign Society’s thunder, head on over to the corresponding links to watch the entire interview. Great stuff.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s notes: Info added to “Crash Prophets” page; a qualified professional should be consulted prior to making a financial decision based on material found in this weblog. If this recommended course of action is not pursued, then it must be understood that the decision is the reader’s and the reader’s alone. The creator/Editor of this blog is not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information contained herein.)

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Ted Koppel Warns Of All-Out Cyberattack On U.S. Power Grid

“Yes, it’s frightening. It is frightening enough that my wife and I decided we were going to buy enough freeze-dried food for all of our kids and their kids…

Do I believe I got it wrong? No. I spent a year-and-a-half trying to get it right and unfortunately I think I did.”

-Veteran U.S. journalist Ted Koppel, referring to the possibility of a nation-wide power outage resulting from a massive cyberattack by America’s enemies against the electrical grid

“In the dark over power grid security”
CBS News Video

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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SP Intel Report- October 26, 2015

Welcome to the inaugural post of the “SP Intel Report.” On October 15 I blogged big changes were coming to Survival And Prosperity starting October 19. I wrote:

Each day will begin with an “SP Intel Report” (if it’s warranted), where I’ll be focusing on current events locally (Chicagoland area), nationwide, and overseas which I think readers should be aware of…

As luck would have it, my computer crashed October 19, delaying the implementation of these changes.

One week later, I’ve managed to repair my laptop, and I’m back in the saddle again.

So off we go then…

Chicago

“If City Hall ‘loses’ downtown to the bad guys… you lose the tourists, their money, revenue… you get the point.”

Survival And Prosperity, May 4, 2011

The Chicago news media is reporting that two tourists from Minneapolis were robbed at knifepoint by three men near Oak Street Beach late Saturday evening. The male victim was stabbed during the holdup while trying to protect his girlfriend. Two of Chicago’s more upstanding residents have been charged with the crime (police are still looking for a third individual).

The last time I blogged about a tourist getting knifed downtown was back during the 2012 holiday season. Even though it’s been a while, I fear we’ll be hearing of similar incidents with increased regularity as the city’s financial health deteriorates and the Chicago Police Department keeps receiving lip service but not bodies (meaning manpower).

There will probably be plenty of the other based on recent trends.

Note to self. Study up on defense against knives.

Illinois

Speaking of deteriorating financial health, the State of Illinois was hammered by two of the major credit rating agencies in the past week. On October 19, Fitch Ratings announced in a press release:

Fitch Ratings has downgraded the rating on $26.8 billion in outstanding Illinois general obligation (GO) bonds to ‘BBB+’ from ‘A-‘.

In addition, the ratings on bonds related to the state based on its appropriation have been downgraded to ‘BBB’ from ‘BBB+’…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Three days later, Moody’s Investors Service stated in a release:

Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded the State of Illinois’ $26.8 billion of general obligation bonds to Baa1 from A3, while also lowering ratings on the state’s sales-tax (Build Illinois) bonds to Baa1 from A3, and on the state’s subject to appropriation bonds (issued by the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority and for the state’s Civic Center program) to Baa2 from Baa1. The outlook for all of these obligations remains negative…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Keep in mind the following observations by Karen Pierog over on the Reuters website on October 22:

Both general obligation bond ratings are now just three steps above the “junk” level… The downgrade by Moody’s marked the 17th by major credit rating agencies for Illinois since 2003… Even before this week’s downgrades, Illinois had the lowest credit ratings among the 50 U.S. states. Ratings histories from the three major credit rating agencies indicate few states have ever had their GO ratings fall below the A level…

Faced with a $105 billion unfunded public pension liability and a bill backlog of around $7 billion, I suspect Illinoisans will be on the hook for some sort of tax hike(s) in the near future.

International

Any Survival And Prosperity readers skeptical about the future existence of the Internet? Personally, I won’t be surprised if it goes kaput one day. Don’t get me wrong, I’m somewhat of a techie (driven by needs, not wants) and love the Internet. But I’m not sold on its staying power due to frailties with its infrastructure. A couple of years ago I remember reading about an elderly Georgian woman accidently cutting off neighboring Armenia’s access to the World Wide Web for up to five hours- using only a spade. And now there’s this from The New York Times website this past Sunday. David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt reported:

Russian submarines and spy ships are aggressively operating near the vital undersea cables that carry almost all global Internet communications, raising concerns among some American military and intelligence officials that the Russians might be planning to attack those lines in times of tension or conflict.

The issue goes beyond old worries during the Cold War that the Russians would tap into the cables — a task American intelligence agencies also mastered decades ago. The alarm today is deeper: The ultimate Russian hack on the United States could involve severing the fiber-optic cables at some of their hardest-to-access locations to halt the instant communications on which the West’s governments, economies and citizens have grown dependent

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

So the Russians could switch off the Internet. Or a rogue Uncle Sam could do it and blame the Russkies.

I told my girlfriend her brilliant nephew should get into the BBS game. Wave of the future?


“Apple II on a BBS in 2014!”
YouTube Video

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Sobol, Rosemary Regina. “$500K, $950K bails set for 2 accused of robbery, stabbing near Oak Street Beach.” Chicago Tribune. 26 Oct. 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-police-2-held-following-armed-robbery-stabbing-near-oak-street-beach-20151026-story.html). 26 Oct. 2015.

Pierog, Karen. “UPDATE 2-Illinois bond rating cut again over budget impasse.” Reuters. 22 Oct. 2015. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/10/22/illinois-downgrade-moodys-idUSL1N12M2L120151022). 26 Oct. 2015.

Sanger, David E. and Schmitt, Eric. “Russian Ships Near Data Cables Are Too Close for U.S. Comfort.” The New York Times. 25 Oct. 2015. (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/26/world/europe/russian-presence-near-undersea-cables-concerns-us.html?_r=1). 26 Oct. 2015.

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2015 Illinois Solar Tour Tomorrow, October 3

Just found out this morning (I was at my family’s place in Wisconsin yesterday) about a free solar energy public educational event taking place tomorrow around Illinois. From IllinoisSolarTour.org (a website belonging to the Illinois Solar Energy Association):

You’re Invited…

The Illinois Solar Tour, on Saturday, October 3rd, 2015 is a FREE PUBLIC OPEN HOUSE.

Home and business owners with renewable energy installations will open their homes to the public to share their passion, knowledge and experience of owning and living with renewable energy.

Visit any site at any time between 10 am and 2 pm. Homeowners will be available at each site to provide information, share experiences and answer questions.

Attend the Illinois Solar Tour to:

• Learn how home and business owners are utilizing solar and other clean energies to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels and to become energy independent

• Meet people who have renewable energy installations, learn why they did it, the process, what they love about it and lessons learned

• Learn about the different technologies and see how they are installed

• Hear how different renewable energy technologies work together

• Find out all of the ways you can use clean energy to power your life

Regrettably, I’ll be tied up with other things Saturday. However, this sounds like one event I would very much like to attend in the future (2016?).

For more detailed information, visit the 2015 Illinois Solar Tour website here, particularly “The Tour” section accessible via the main menu bar.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Survival And Prosperity
Est. 2010, Chicagoland, USA
Christopher E. Hill, Editor

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