Article – Getting ready: Pentagon to protect electric grid from massive attack

Amid warnings that North Korea and Iran have plans to take out parts of the U.S. electric grid through a cyber attack or atmospheric nuclear blast, the Pentagon is taking steps to both protect the nation’s communications and power lifeline.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has charged BAE Systems to map a system that can detect a cyber attack and gin up an alternative communications network for military and civilian use if the grid is fried, according to Defense Systems, the online newsletter.

Interesting article. A lot of people forget that the internet was originally envisioned for exactly this sort of scenario – a resilient communications system that could operate even with chunks of it destroyed. It’s decentralized nature increased survivability and resiliency.

I find it interesting that the focus is on the East Coast which has gotta be a lot tougher for the NorKs than getting a warhead to the West Coast. But, here in Montana we’d be relatively insulated from either coast getting whomped on.

War on the horizon? Nope. I’m putting it right up there with the return of Xenu or Planet X. But, remember, there doesn’t have to be a war to screw up your plans…all that has to happen is for enough people to believe that there’s one on the way and it becomes virtually self-fulfilling. Don’t be surprised if gas prices go up and the metals market does some weird shimmying.

I liked the emphasis on EMP in the article. It’s something that has still never really been done, as far as I know, on any researchable large scale….kinda hard to set off a high altitude nuke these days without someone getting their panties in a twist. I think EMP is a tad overrated in terms of potential damage. Fiction would have us believe that planes will fall from the sky and even your Casio G-Shock will stop working. I suspect that smaller, simpler, electrical systems will probably work just fine. The planes? Mmmmm…(waggles hand).

It’ll be interesting to see where this goes, but I think this is such a non-event that I’m not really doing anything special…but then again, life is always a “DOUBLE TAKE” around here anyway.

Article – Selling Survival

Broker Theresa Mondale and her client stand in a clearing on the patch of mountain forest he wants to sell, making small talk about whether society is going to collapse. The topic, weighty in any context, might be anathema to other agents, whose business trades on the promise of better days. In real estate, amenities always mingle with aspiration: The house has space to grow into, the yard is big enough for a dog or the patio will entice neighbors to come by for barbecue.

But Mondale’s big, cheerful voice doesn’t waver. This is her bread and butter. She has been following the latest buzz online predicting a “global reset” in September and wants to know if the client is worried.

“If something like that were coming I would feel it, because I’m a pretty intuitive person,” says Seth Pogue, a bald man with weathered skin, strong arms and an intense manner that seems to contradict his tie-dye shirt.

The local lefty fishwrapper has an article about a local real estate seler who is quietly specializing in properties that would appeal to those of us who share our rarefied interest. I’d heard some of the commercials, and seen some of the print ads, that were put out for this gal and I recall thinking that she might be on the same page as me.

The article, which isn’t too terrible for a lefty publication, goes on to mention Friend Of The Blog ,Rawles  and his coining of the ‘redoubt’ moniker as an appelation for the region.

In my years here I’ve seen more than a few properties that had odd little quirks and features that could not be explained away as anything other than ‘survivalist’-themed. But out here, those features are not necessarily considered to be odd or strange.

If I had the money, I’d be getting myself a nice acreage out in the middle of nowhere to build my quiet little concrete home and ride out what’s left of my life in quiet and security.

Anyway…interesting article and worth the read. I’d be curious to know if her business takes off or suffers because of the spotlight being shined on her particular niche.

Article – A Marine explains which state would win if the US declared war on itself

These are the accounts of the Second American Civil War, also known as the Wars of Reunification and the American Warring States Period.

After the breakup many wondered which states would come out in control of the power void created by the dissolution of the United States. There were many with little chance against several of the larger more powerful states.

The last time a buncha folks tried to leave the Union we wound up with the War Of Northern Aggression War Of Southern Overconfidence. But the notion of the US fracturing and balkanizing is something of a staple in much of the apocalyptic fiction out there (Johnstone’s ‘Ashes’ series springs to mind, as well as season 2 of ‘Jericho’, and several other works.)
It’s an interesting read and would certainly make excellent fodder for some more ‘realistic’ post-apocalyptic fiction. Although I highly doubt that, as presented in the article, Mexicans would flood the border to head back to Mexico. Even fractured and at war this country is still probably a better place to be than Mexico.
De facto, the US is already a balkanized state. Don’t think so? Compare New England with, say, the South….they may as well be different countries given the politics, demographics, economy, and political structures. California is a country all by itself. This region I’m in may as well be a separate country as well. And, man, don’t think that sometimes I don’t think it would be nice to have a wall around it to keep everyone else out. But..walls also keep people in and I could never be okay with that.

Article – Greek banks reopen but cash limits remain; taxes soar

An article about how things in Greece are nowadays since they signed up for another austerity plan. Here’s an interesting paragraph:

Ready cash is something Greeks will need as new taxes also came into effect on a wide array of goods and services Monday.

Sales taxes have risen from 13 percent to 23 percent on many basic goods — including some meats, cooking oils, coffee, tea, cocoa, vinegar, salt, flowers, firewood, fertilizer, insecticides, sanitary towels and condoms.

Most European countries already have a VAT on things, but a haircut of 23 percent on something as essential as meat….well, thats a tough pill to swallow. How do you adjust your budget to suddenly accommodate this sudden redirection of your spending power?

Well, if you’re smart, you either have connections or networks to allow you to buy things without paying the tax. (Which, really, has been part of Greece’s problem all along…tax-evasion and avoidance is something of a national pastime there.) This is why cash is awesome….so you restrict cash and limit people to the use of debit cards or other instruments that leave a trail of paper. That trail of paper means that you can’t really evade those pesky taxes. So the winners here will be the folks that have lotsa cash (or cash-like instruments such as gold or silver), folks with heavy stockpiles of goods, and folks who can get those two groups together for a little piece of the action.

Look at that list of things that these new taxes affect….mostly things that are pretty easy to store for the long term. interesting, that.

Article – Texas is creating a gold depository to rival Fort Knox and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Texas does a lot of things that I think are just for posturing and maintaining their image, but I rather like this:

On Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation that will create a state-run gold depository in the Lone Star State – one that will attempt to rival those operated by the U.S. government inside Fort Knox and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s vault in lower Manhattan.

“The Texas Bullion Depository,” Abbott said in a statement, “will become the first state-level facility of its kind in the nation, increasing the security and stability of our gold reserves and keeping taxpayer funds from leaving Texas to pay for fees to store gold in facilities outside our state.”

There’s the story that when a couple nations approached the US about repatriating their gold from the US depository there was some…concern…that the gold was ‘unavailable’. I’d be very interested to know if Texas gets to take their gold back or if some excuse will pop up about how they have to get it back over a lengthy period of time (if at all).

This is why I don’t believe in any of this we-hold-your-metals-for-you scams, or any paper representations of precious metals. If you have a certificate that says you own 100 oz. of gold in a repository in California, you don’t own anything except a piece of paper. If you’re going to go down the road of owning precious metals, then own precious metals…not a piece of paper saying you own gold or silver. Promissory notes with questionable redeemability is the whole reason we buy gold and silver to begin with.

I (usually) get my PM’s from the Metals Pimp. You may have your own ‘guy’, but if you don’t you might wanna give the Pimp a holler.

H/T to Ryan at TSLRF (which apparently is just TS these days).

Powerwall

So you guys saw this? Tesla Motors, as a development in their car-battery technology I am assuming, says they are going to be offering a ‘plug-n-play’ battery that will be suitable for home use. Now, you and I both know that ‘home use’ means a few lights, some entertainment devices, and other small-draw items, because you ain’t running your refrigerator, freezer, well-pump, furnace blower, and hot water heater off a battery small enough to hang on your wall. Oh, you could run a household like that off of batteries but it would be a battery (or battery-pack) the size of a cargo container.

Really, this is a brilliant move for Tesla if they pull it off. The car side of their business is obviously heavily invested in battery technology, so if they develop an uber-battery it would only make sense to put out out into other, non-auto markets as well. The market for $200K  $100k electric cars is probably pretty small compared to the market for $3500 batteries that, ideally, work better than any existing backup battery or off-grid-cabin battery.

My own efforts as of late are still in the DIY/beginning-hobbyist stage. I’m planning out a small battery system to maintain a charge off of household current when the power is on, and to be used for DC applications (lights, radio, battery charging, security system) when the power goes out. But thats a much longer post (or, really, couple of posts).

In a happy little world, I’d have something like one of these batteries up at my very-attractive, yet heavily-reinforced concrete off-grid Beta Site. The world would convulse into spasms of chaos, I’d pack up and head to my little quiet bastion of security, and patiently wait for things to calm down…all the while enjoying LED lighting, radio communications, laptop, and security surveillance. Ah, the great American (survivalist’s) dream.

Go read some Heinlein sometime, or just Wiki it, and look up “Shipstone”. In the books, the shipstone was a revolutionary technology that greatly improved batteries. Or, as the book says, “To call a Shipstone an improved storage battery would be to call an atom bomb an improved firecracker.” In the book, shipstones didnt create power, they simply acted as containers for it. And you could stuff a lot of power into one. Every so often someone comes up with some ideas in battery technology that looks similar to Heinlein’s fictional supercapacitor. About eight years ago the big thing was ‘nanowire‘ technology that would, allegedly, increase a lithium-ion batteries output by 10x. Haven’t read much about it since then.

Anyway, if Tesla has made any strides in the battery arena, I think it would be a classic example of a business having a small branch or division that was ancillary to their main business become more profitable than the main business. Serendipity.

Article – School serves 6-year-old meat to TN students

ROGERSVILLE, Tenn. – Meat dating to the year of President Obama’s first inauguration was served to students in some Hawkins County, Tennessee schools last week.

Hawkins County Commissioner Michael Herrell was alerted after a cafeteria worker sent him a photo of the pork roast they used for school meals was from 2009.

The 6-year-old meat had been frozen and then was thawed for meal preparation, according to WCYB.

Herrell said the photo was taken at Joseph Rogers Primary School where the staff decided not to serve the meat. However, it was served at other schools.

Eating 6-year-old meat is not a big deal if it was stored properly. We routinely eat meat thats been sitting in the deep freeze for a year or two, and the oldest I’ve pulled out and consumed has been around five years old. As long as you packaged it well and kept it frozen, it’s usually just fine. There may be some spots of freezer burn if you didn’t get all the air out of the package, but those don’t affect the nutritional value or the safety of the food.

As an aside, if you’re really upset about the quality of the slop slapped onto your kids lunch tray, either pack ’em a lunch or give ’em five bucks to go get a slice of pizza and a Coke. It’s not .gov’s responsibility to feed your kid. Public government schools already do a crappy job of educating your kid, why would you think they’d do any better job of feeding them?

Article – What happens when the Internet goes out? This Arizona town found out

Computers, cellphones and landlines in Arizona were knocked out of service for hours, ATMs stopped working, 911 systems were disrupted and businesses were unable to process credit card transactions — all because a vandal apparently sliced through a fiber-optic Internet cable buried under the desert.

The Internet outage did more than underscore just how dependent modern society has become on high technology. It raised questions about the vulnerability of the nation’s Internet infrastructure.

As a great Scottish engineer once opined, “”The more they overthink the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain.” Preparedness is largely about compensating for failures of a particular system…infrastructure, mechanical, biological, etc….in short, it’s about being able to operate safely (if not normally) when something goes wrong with the usual system.

he internet, Crom love it, is the most awesome thing humanity has access to on a day-by-day basis. So, of course, we wind up being dependent on it. Two guys with a shovel, hacksaw, and probably some old cartome.org info, managed to pull the plug on a region’s ecommerce, phone communications, and other services. Without internet access, ATM’s dont pass out money and your local retailer won’t take your debit card…so you need cash, which the ATM just denied you.

This is why its a good idea to keep a bit of cash tucked away, have alternatives for communication, and other ways to entertain yourself.

What’s really interesting about this is that it seems similar to that episode a few years back where someone attacked an electric substation in the desert and wound up inflicting a similar amount of out-of-proportion mischief. All it takes to really screw things up is a small(!) amount of dedicated individuals. Two brothers shut down all of Boston a few years ago, costing millions of dollars and throwing a monkeywrench into a lot of peoples lives. Imagine a coordinated effort by a dozen people in six different states. You won’t overthrow a country like that, but you will sure make life miserable for it. So, as always, be prepared for alternatives when someone crashes the internet..or the local utilities…or the pipeline that brings natural gas to your county….etc, etc.

Article – Why Are The Feds Obsessed With Seizing These People’s Old Trucks?

Jennifer Brinkley had a typical summer morning planned on July 15: get up, get dressed, and take her son to tennis practice. That changed when six body armor-clad Department of Homeland Security agents and local police officers showed up at her North Carolina home and blocked her driveway. They were there because of an arbitrary law promulgated 26 years ago to guard the prerogatives — and profits —of automakers and car dealers. Specifically, they were there to take Brinkley’s truck.

TL;DR version: the fedgoons nicked a bunch of peoples Land Rover Defenders because, according to the .gov, they were younger than the arbitrary 25-year-old threshold to import certain vehicles. (I know someone who, when he came to this country, was warmly welcomed at the customs port by having to surrender his motorcycle because it didnt meet US standards. Its a motorcycle…it’s inherently unsafe to begin with!)

I used to see a Defender around town here in Missoula. It was a light pink hue, so it was either a very faded red or an old military desert model. Haven’t seen it in a few years so perhaps it got taken too.

The two vehicles I’m most interested in are the Hilux, which isn’t imported to the US as that [although the US version was pretty close], and an old FJ with the impossible-to-find diesel engine. (Although somehow Adam Savage managed to get his hands on one.) However, it’s still rather annoying to think that theres a .gov agency somewhere wasting it’s time on this sort of nonsense. (As a sidebar, and interesting and equally nonsensical fiat is how diesel engines are rated… overseas the emissions standard for the diesel is how many miles you get out of a fixed amount of exhaust particulate, here its how much exhaust particulate you expel per gallon. In other words, if you have a diesel that spits out twice as much exhaust but gets fifty times the MPG it would be considered environmentally unsound, even though it is obviously tremendously more efficient and fuel efficient.)

I never much gave any thought to buying a Land Rover…I’ve heard too many bad things about British cars (and British food and guns), but if your tastes run in that direction and you find a nice Defender to tweak out into your BOV, you might wanna exercise some caution.