Elaine and I had a wonderful weekend up in Oklahoma – long conversations comparing market and futuring outlooks, plus a good amount of time was spent on the subject of prepping. On the way back (somewhere over the Red River, I think it was), I made a note to discuss prepping as an important change in people’s outlooks compared to past Depressions.
There wasn’t any prepper movement in the 1928-1930 period, at least in a large enough sense to have been lumped as a “movement” and carved into the history book.
This time around, prepping is huge.
The numbers are pretty impressive. Two years ago, the number of preppers in the US was placed in the vicinity of 3.7-million people. That covered those who would admit to being preppers – and I doubt that half of us would admit it. And since 2013, I expect the number has likely increased again, such that the number of people who are prepping is likely in the 10-million range.
A number of points come to mind.
1. The US Government is broke. Sad to say, but the gap between GDP and Public Debt to the Penny has been consistently growing – although in fairness the gap’s rate of increase has slowed a bit. GDP can be thought of as in the $17.7 trillion range while US Debt is over $18-trillion.
2. Government figures shield some HUGE lies.
Here’s one example: The current US Consumer Price Index agues that the unadjusted Cost of Living change for the past 12-months has been a great big goose egg. Zero percent.
However, if you like to eat, the cost of Food is up 3%. Also, while healthcare is up a modest 1.8%, the things you buy for healthcare (medical commodities – a buzzword for prescriptions and such) is up 3.9%.
What saved the day was energy prices coming down dramatically – but you only felt that if you drive or use lots of energy.
Remember, now: This is the February 2015 data.
Because we like to see the Big Play, let’s go on and look at food and medical items in the 2014 period. Here, food was up 1.4%, medical commodities up 1.7% and healthcare was up 2.4%.
Where the public’s faith gets broken, in all this, is when things like this year’s “new estimation system” come into effect:
Effective with the release of the January 2015 CPI on February 26, 2015, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will utilize a new estimation system for the Consumer Price Index. The new estimation system, the first major improvement to the existing system in over 25 years, is a redesigned, state-of-the-art system with improved flexibility and review capabilities. For more information on this new system, please see ttp://www.bls.gov/cpi/cpinewest.htm.
So yes, if you eat there really is more inflation than reported.
Oh, and even better, under the new estimating system, if something is out of stock? It’s just going to be “made up.” In fairness, it’s called imputed pricing:
Imputation of sampled items unavailable for pricing. When a sampled consumer item is temporarily unavailable, its price change is imputed by the price change of other items within a geographic area. In the current estimation system, these missing prices are imputed by all the price changes within a CPI item stratum. CPI item strata, though, are composed of one or more elementary level items, or ELIs. In the new estimation system, the price change will be imputed by price changes within its own ELI, instead of by all price changes within the potentially broader item stratum.
This – and other statistical whitewash (like bimonthly averaging) is particularly good because it means that the consumer prices for a baseline year, say 1994 (because government is presumably too embarrassed to put older data on the table) is not really an apples to apples comparison.
The previous changes were largely hedonic; which means if steak gets too expensive, people will eat hamburger, but we’ll just call either one a meat price and report no changes. In other words, changes in consumer choice get written the hell out, and the public can’t figure out why our standard of living is cratering.
Imputation and bimonthly averaging have another – darker – side: They are tools which could be used to whitewash things like widespread food shortages.
Why would this be a reason to prep?
The picture at the top of this morning’s column is a freeze-frame of Google’s excellent and continuously updated news scans that aggregate content from feeds all over the place. Every morning I do a large number of keyword searches which – when coupled with the overnight www.nostracodeus.com data runs – gives us a pretty fair sense of what’s going on.
All of which gets me to the first reason that people are prepping: They don’t 100% trust the supply chain, the quality of goods in it, the accounting methods used to report on it, and the cost of it all. Toss in California’s drought not lifting and at least the food side of prepping becomes understandable.
If you want to get a whole different view of two year food inflation on a real apples to apples basis, go look at the retail beef pricing over here: You’ll find that compared with a year ago, 93% ground beef has gone from $3.27 a pound last year to $3.60 a pound this year. That’s better than 10% price inflation.
If you drink milk, then you’re enjoying lowered prices in many parts of the country, but the downside is that falling prices are likely to drive a stake through the heart of California’s dairy industry – already hard-hit by drought – and that will mean soaring prices in the future as farmers give up and herd sizes come down.
Still, nothing that can’t be easily hidden with a phone call to change the recommended dietary intake levels, right? You just know too much animal protein is bad, right? Here, don’t worry about wheat belly, let’s load up on those poor folks foods….yum, starch and fried foods…yum….healthy…. (I trust you’re awake enough to recognize sarcasm when I write it?)
Headline Provide Additional Clues
Another area which reveals why people are prepping are stories like this one from Russia Today that go into some depth around a military operation called Jade Helm.
The preppers I’ve talked with about this are all over the board: A good number point out that story, in particular was from RUSSIA today, which they point out, does have some skin in the game of keeping America riled up.
But then comes the Florida Sun-Sentinel coverage of mock round-ups of civilians in Broward County. Explain that away…
Unfortunately, the real problem is that your government removed the prohibitions of posse comitatus that previously prohibited use of the military on US homeland soil. The Wikipedia background is a “must know:”
The Posse Comitatus Act is a United States federal law (18 U.S.C. § 1385, original at 20 Stat. 152) signed on June 18, 1878 by President Rutherford B. Hayes. The purpose of the act – in concert with the Insurrection Act of 1807 – is to limit the powers of the federal government in using its military personnel to act as domestic law enforcement personnel. It was passed as an amendment to an army appropriation bill following the end of Reconstruction, and was subsequently updated in 1956 and 1981.
The Act only specifically applies to the Army and, as amended in 1956, the Air Force. While the Act does not explicitly mention the naval services, specifically the Navy and the Marine Corps, the Department of the Navy has prescribed regulations that are generally construed to give the Act force with respect to those services as well. The Act does not apply to the National Guard under state authority from acting in a law enforcement capacity within its home state or in an adjacent state if invited by that state’s governor. The United States Coast Guard, which operates under the Department of Homeland Security, is not covered by the Posse Comitatus Act either, primarily because although the Coast Guard is an armed service, it also has both a maritime law enforcement mission and a federal regulatory agency mission.
The Republicans actually got the ball rolling on ending Posse Comitatus:
In 2006, Congress modified the Insurrection Act as part of the 2007 Defense Authorization Bill (repealed as of 2008). On September 26, 2006, President George W. Bush urged Congress to consider revising federal laws so that U.S. armed forces could restore public order and enforce laws in the aftermath of a natural disaster, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition. These changes were included in the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007 (H.R. 5122), which was signed into law on October 17, 2006.
Section 1076 is titled “Use of the Armed Forces in major public emergencies.” It provided that:
The President may employ the armed forces… to… restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition… the President determines that… domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of maintaining public order… or [to] suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy if such… a condition… so hinders the execution of the laws… that any part or class of its people is deprived of a right, privilege, immunity, or protection named in the Constitution and secured by law… or opposes or obstructs the execution of the laws of the United States or impedes the course of justice under those laws.
In 2008, these changes in the Insurrection Act of 1807 were repealed in their entirety, reverting to the previous wording of the Insurrection Act. It was originally written to limit Presidential power as much as possible in the event of insurrection, rebellion, or lawlessness.
In 2011, President Barack Obama signed National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 into law. Section 1021(b)(2) extended the definition of a “covered person”, i.e., someone possibly subject to detention under this law, to include:
A person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.
Section 1021(e) purports to limit the scope of said authority with the text, “Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.”
The problem is?
Well, give soldiers guns and “presidential authority” and I can envision years of sorting out who is a lawful citizen and not an enemy combatant.
If you don’t trust the government on economic data, a second reason to “wear your skepticals” is that they have a nasty was of delegating excessive power to themselves. All of which drives a wedge between We the People and those who are engaged in protecting and defending. Yet, at the same time, if the military didn’t operate on Homeland soil, how would NEST Teams go looking for stolen/smuggled nuclear materials?
These are all vexing questions, but the simplistic “Trust us” that my lib friends come up with doesn’t cut it. Especially when you live in a land where the power to create money has been handed to the banksters and they have NO MANDATE to ensure sound money. Only scrip that problems full employment and other political ends such as promote “right” inflation levels.
This matters why? Because it effectively ended the old American value of thrift – a penny saved is a penny earned – and that, you see, sets up the decline of multiple other related value systems.
And One More Reason to Prep? Earth Changes
Back in January of this year, I recounted a very curious dream I had about earthquakes in the coming month:
What’s absolutely fascinating is the we have some evidence this morning that we have entered a ramp-up phase to Pacific Quakes. Two big ones already, overnight:
Region: NEW BRITAIN REGION, PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Geographic coordinates: 4.746S, 152.560E
Depth: 65 km
Universal Time (UTC): 29 Mar 2015 23:48:34
Time near the Epicenter: 30 Mar 2015 09:48:34
Local standard time in your area: 29 Mar 2015 23:48:34
The lesser one?
Region: SAMOA ISLANDS REGION
Geographic coordinates: 15.388S, 172.904W
Magnitude: 6.4 (initially reported as a 6.8)
Depth: 11 km
Universal Time (UTC): 30 Mar 2015 08:18:00
Time near the Epicenter: 29 Mar 2015 20:18:01
Local standard time in your area: 30 Mar 2015 08:18:00
Individually, these don’t amount to a hill of beans – unless you live in the shaky areas. But it stirs mass consciousness’ concerns about the reliability of Earth as a platform for humans.
Maybe my dream about the 9+ in April will be dead wrong (I hope to be wrong, by the way). But when one considers the drought, food supply, quality of government reporting, military operations in the homeland, and all the rest of it, there’s more reason than ever to prep.
Especially when we are in a 1928-1929 Roaring Twenties-style blow-off top in the market which shapes up as a violent rally over coming weeks, based on how the futures are pointing as this four-day trading week seems to foretell.
Weather Notes: Which Forecast?
A flying story with a point:
One of the more useful ways to spend some head time I’ve found is a study of the weather. Seems like many of the pursuits in life are heavily influenced by it – whether you like it or not. the point was driven home this weekend up in Oklahoma as Robin Landry pointed out where a tornado had touched down a while back.
Usually, by this time of year, I’ve mentioned that every home needs to have a NOAA weather radio – the same way folks need to change out smoke detector batteries religiously, too.
A good one seems to be the MIDLAND WR300 Weather Radio although ours in one model earlier. They are very much worth owning and leaving on – you’ll get used to the weekly test broadcasts eventually.
Figuring the weather (once you have a weather radio) can be as expensive or as cheap as you want it to be.
On the high end, for almost $250, you could by a copy of An Introduction to Numerical Weather Prediction Techniques. But at a practical level, you might find a quicker read (and no math to speak of) in $9 worth of The Weather Wizard’s Cloud Book: A Unique Way to Predict the Weather Accurately and Easily by Reading the Clouds. If you don’t have an Amazon account, fine, use a library card. No shipping and no annual fee.
Back in my sailing days, the best way to ensure a smooth sail was to be aware of Buys Ballot’s Law: You can find it in Wikipedia and it’s about the best summary of weather there is:
In meteorology, Buys Ballot’s law (Dutch pronunciation: [?bœy?s b??l?t]) may be expressed as follows: In the Northern Hemisphere, if a person stands with his back to the wind, the atmospheric pressure is low to the left, high to the right.
This is because wind travels counterclockwise around low pressure zones in the Northern Hemisphere. It is approximately true in the higher latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, and is reversed in the Southern Hemisphere, but the angle between the pressure gradient force and wind is not a right angle in low latitudes.
Back to the wind, the low pressure (storm area) is to your left. Easy-peasy.
Sometimes, though, all the best data out there is going to do little but increase your uncertainty.
Sunday morning coming out of Shawnee, for example: Great conflict between forecast models and what they meant and what a flight briefer was reporting.
I’d been eyeing our return flight with some concerns about wind. It was showing in the long-lead forecasts as being from the south and about 20 knots on the nose. That meant instead of an hour and 58 minutes of flight time, we were up to somewhere about 2:40. But that was when I put the data into the flight planner at www.fltplan.com.
When I talked to a flight briefer, it sounded much more worrisome than it turned out.
“We have an advisory for moderate turbulence, at and below 12-thousand for winds to 40 knots along your proposed route…and conditions continuing throughout the forecast period.”
So much for sleeping in Sunday.
Winds generally die down a bit overnight (with an armload of asterisks) and when the sun is out, the best time to fly is from daybreak until about noon, or so. The reason is the thermals build as the day heats up. Thermals cause a bumpy ride.
This turned into an interesting case of personal weather judgment. Advisory for moderate turbulence – which I’ve flown plenty of, thank you. But the www.fltplan.com report was that we’d make it with only about 20 knots on the nose for the whole trip. Hmmm…what to do?
Only one way to find out: Take off and see how the turbulence is aloft.
It was normal “bouncy” with the surface winds 11 gusting 17 at takeoff, and yes, it was a bit squirrelly up to 3,500 feet and blowing about 32 knots (ground speed 67 MPH), but up at 5,500 the wind dropped to about 20 (ground speed up to 108 then 112), or so, and it was a good ride except for the bumps you almost always get over the Red River and the big lakes up north. That was OK – it’s the kind of thing that keeps the pilot awake.
The back-up (options) plan included a) return to KSNL immediately, b) land at Ada, OK, c) land at Durant, OK> If we made it that far then d) Greenville/Majors (TX), and if not there Athens, TX. Nothing wrong with taking tightly defined risks, provided you have your “outs” all lined up – which I’d done – including printing out approaches for all these airports and having them on the kneeboard.
What if the briefer had been more correct? Well, that wouldn’t have been difficult since my personal best/most turbulent was years ago in Seattle, landing in 35 knots gusting 48 in driving rain at Boeing Field. People think landing in wind is tough: It’s not. Airplanes fly in what? Wind..
If anything, flying in wind is easier since landing distances shorten considerably. You just plan for the slower flight and higher fuel bill.
The landing roll of the Beechcrate is about 550 –feet when I’m operating in super short-field mode, no wind, way below gross weight. Wind on the nose makes it even shorter. Our record short landing was on the order of 250-feet at Palm Springs, CA back in 2011. There was 30 knots on the nose, no gusts and it was clear (or what passes for clear out there). Ground speed 35 miles an hour at touchdown.
Sunday’s return was long, the winds were gusty down low, so we didn’t even try for a super short landing. With wind 11 gusting 17, you add have the difference to approach speed. So instead of 80, the book called for 83 and I flew 85, just because. Yes, it was lumpy. No, it was not dangerously so.
The point of the tale is simple: Weather is like playing the markets or any other decision of major importance in life. You get the best possible data, make an informed decision based on your personal capabilities. Then you go for it.
But not without first planning for every possible contingency. Whether it’s investing, flying, sailing, marriage, or anything else you care to name, you have what pilots call “personal minimums.” Levels beyond which you might be able to pull through, but why chance it?
Confidence – of the deep personal sort – comes from being able to coolly assess all the data, make the right choices, and manage all risks.
Which gets me to the point.
I’m back into hard dieting again this week after stabilizing down more 20 from March 1st. Weight is a lot like the weather – another one of those risks in life to be managed. And it’s the challenge of not bullshitting ourselves about any of the risks – and MASTERING THEM – that makes getting up on Monday and going for it such fun.
Write when you break-even…