Asteroid Awareness Day slated for June 30, 2015

A central focus of the event was the release of a 100x Declaration, calling for the hundredfold increase in the detection and monitoring of asteroids. Lord Rees read the declaration, which resolves to “solve humanity’s greatest challenges to safeguard our families and quality of life on Earth in the future.” – Astronomy.com

A rumor is emerging from the online doom & gloom community. Apparently, as the story goes, a large asteroid is scheduled to impact the Atlantic Ocean somewhere northeast of Brazil, at about the same time as Asteroid Awareness Day.

Before you go out and build yourself a bunker, remember this story comes to you from the same folks that brought you news of the 2012 doomsday. So until any real evidence is presented there is no need to panic.

But this is not a call to go back to sleep.

What to do?

Change is a constant, and things have been pretty stable for America for the last 50 years. Many people also seem to think that exponential growth is normal. If you’re bad at math, you might even believe that exponential growth can be maintained exponentially.

At some point, some catalyst for change is bound to knock that exponential curve back down and we’ll need to rethink how we live and adjust. The problem is that when you’re atop an exponential curve (think cliff), its a long way back down to normal (think bottom of cliff).

The pressure to seek equilibrium is also so great at the top that the chances of things changing in a snap are greatly increases. So no matter the change event: asteroid impact, economic downturn, energy crisis, war, etc… the chance of change on the horizon is higher the higher we go.

Those of us that are prepared to downsize, live more sustainably and self-sufficiently, will find it easier to traverse the distance between the top of the cliff and the bottom.

 

Rumors that Ferguson Residents are Arming-Up

Law enforcement in the Ferguson area are preparing for potential protests and riots following the grand jury’s decision in the Michael Brown investigation, which is expected sometime this month.Talking to “St. Louis Coptalk” forum, a supposed police officer in the Ferguson area issued a warning to others in the community to “protect” their families with firearms.Many posting in the forum expressed fears that demonstrators will take to the streets regardless of the decision made in the Aug. 9 shooting death of the 18-year-old by officer Darren Wilson.” – CBS St. Louis

I’m pro self-defense and Second Amendment – but this is very concerning. The first round of protests in Ferguson, Missouri were relatively peaceful. But now we keep hearing little news blips that Ferguson residents may be arming-up.

The problem with this is that without training a population suddenly armed is not necessarily safer. Firearms are great personal defense tools, but tools require training and practice – especially ones that can deliver deadly force.

This news also hints that this round of protests may turn violent. We can also be certain that the National Guard and law enforcement are aware of the rising threat of firearms and will come to the streets prepared for that contingency.

This whole Ferguson thing seems to be really spiraling out of control. Hopefully it turns out to be nothing more than a media circus.

What to do?

If I lived in a place about to explode I think I’d do a few things:

  1. Enhance the passive defenses of my home. This might even be to shore up a single room to use as a safe room. Walls are not bullet or fire proof but with a little effort they can be retrofitted. I’d expect more firebomb & handgun use in a riot so the bullet proofing would not need to be extreme since handgun rounds have less penetration ability than rifles. Exterior fireproofing and window protections should be the top priority since that threat can be much more dangerous than stray bullets.
  2. Prepare a better first aid kit in case someone gets shot.
  3. Store extra food and water just like one might for an earthquake or storm.
  4. Have a way to keep warm without the grid since the weather has turned so cold.
  5. Have an exit plan to evacuate if things turn really bad. A full tank of gas and a place to go via side roads might be a good start.

 

Day 26 Ebola in the USA: Positive Spin Continues Powered by Lots of Good News

Many of the headlines support the President’s remarks on Ebola this week, but he did seem to skip over some of the other news that might indicate a larger risk:

My guess is that the President would say, “mistakes will be made,” in response to these details, and brush them off. I get the purpose of the whole calming tone & rosy message, but blowing sweet smelling smoke up the public’s butt doesn’t really help anyone work to prepare and build their own self-reliance – which would strengthen America from the bottom-up.

Instead his message is geared toward reassuring folk that the government has this handled – no need to panic, precautions, or preparation… the government will take care of everyone. That’s what’s wrong with the whole centralist mindset, you can’t just lead from the center, you have to empower to building of diverse robustness from the bottom-up. When everyone is empowered to take care of themselves the entire decentralized system is stronger – albeit at the cost of some loss in productivity and profit at the center.

Data Point: Congressman Claims ISIS Militants Caught Trying to Cross Border into Texas

[Duncan] Hunter, a California Republican [Congressman] and former Marine Major, told Fox News Channel’s Greta Van Susteren on Tuesday that Border Patrol agents have captured Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militants trying to get into Texas from Mexico.” – NY Daily News

Political publicity stunt? National security info leak? Who knows if this is true, no evidence was provided by the Congressman in this FOX TV interview.

But we don’t need build plans to hedge the risk of the possibility of terrorism on U.S. soil do we? We know that terrorism happens, and we are at war with a terror group in the Middle East. It seems only logical that they may be coming to America to destabilize their enemy.

What to do?

The best hedge against destabilization is to build self-reliance. While in truly hard times it’s the community that must become resilient, the number one thing you have direct control over is your own life.

  1. Downsize your own areas of responsibility; this can be your whole house or how you live in it. Possessions can be a prison, logistically speaking, so learn to live with as little as possible. Learn to think like an ultralight backpacker, that carriers just the minimal for survival.
  2. Build a buffer for daily consumables. If supply chains are disrupted these items are the first things to go missing. These can be things like electricity, gasoline, medicines, food, and water. You don’t need to build a cache of this stuff, just reduce your need for it – that’s building a hedge – because when any of these items go missing they can have their own destabilizing affect. A buffer, even a plan on living without them, keeps you on firm ground longer.
  3. Reduce your reliance on external systems and services like utilities, police, medical, and fire. This could simply mean building a small solar recharging station, improving the locks on your home, learning a bit of first aid, and reducing your homes exposure to fire.
  4. Monitor for destabilization. Most folks will only recognize a destabilizing event after it has happened. While nobody can predict the future, everyone can see trends and build hedges against risk.

Preparing for uncertainty is not something best done out of fear. Nothing but running from an immediate threat, like a bear, is best done out of fear. Building resilience is like buying insurance but better; unlike insurance you never give your money away. Everything you do to reduce your exposure to risk and build your own self-reliance stays in your pocket – available to use (and replace) when times are good or rely-on when times are bad.

Corporations build business continuity plans for dealing with uncertainties. The best time to build these plans is when everything is running smoothly. These plans are not designed to address every threat, but focus on backup plans for key business units and functions in order to continue doing business during any destabilizing event.

So all I’m suggesting is that you consider building a Life Continuity Plan with the focus on your own personal safety and well-being. Look at the key areas of your life that need to stay operational no matter the external disruption, and build hedges for them.

 

The Federal Government Hopes You Get The Message

The FBI is asking for the public’s help identifying individuals who have traveled—or are planning to travel—overseas to engage in combat alongside terrorist organizations.” – FBI

It’s amazing that the Feds – using their vast domestic surveillance network – don’t already know this guy’s identity.

It’s even more amazing that they are asking the American people to listen to this ISIS propaganda video. It’s almost like leveraging the enemy’s propaganda for your own.

No matter the case, the American people have now heard the message, these Islamic State militants hate Americans and want to kill all infidels – yeah that’s you and me.

Side note: What most may miss is that this unidentified North American islamic terrorist says these men digging their own graves are Bashar al-Assad‘s men – you know the same president of Syria that the U.S. Government wants dead, or at least swapped out as president of Syria for a more western friendly politician. Ironic huh? ISIS is fighting Assad, America wants Assad gone and is openly funding the moderate opposition. So on one hand we are fighting the same people as ISIS while threatening a 30-year war with ISIS.

Looking past the basic fear mongering of using ISIS propaganda for our own and to help build the justification for multi-decade war – read closer between the lines. There is the very real possibility that these empty threats are not so empty. Maybe these psychopaths are headed here to take some heads too. It would be a savvy military strategy to destabilize the enemy – one that’s been very effective for American interests since World War II.

All I’m saying is… take these media stories with a big fat grain of salt, then look for the actionable hedge against the risk that might be on the table.

The trends I keep hearing, and boiling out of the sludge is that destabilization of America is on the horizon. It could come from Ebola, ISIS, an extended war in the Middle East, or even a confrontation with China or Russia. Who knows what combinations of things could come down the pike – but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter because the net effect is the same… destabilization.

What to do?

The real question we should be asking ourselves is… are we each prepared mentally, physically, and logistically for destabilization?

I think the cumulative answer to that question is a big fat NO, which sadly makes destabilization more likely.

So if you’re thinking what I’m thinking now is the time to get our heads strait, then build backup plans for riding through a storm.

CNC Machine Lets You Finish an AR-15 Lower Receiver at Home

Like any computer-numerically-controlled (or CNC) mill, the one-foot-cubed black box uses a drill bit mounted on a head that moves in three dimensions to automatically carve digitally-modeled shapes into polymer, wood or aluminum. But this CNC mill, sold by Wilson’s organization known as Defense Distributed for $1,200, is designed to create one object in particular: the component of an AR-15 rifle known as its lower receiver.” – WIRED

You can preorder this specialized CNC machine today, but maybe you’re wondering… how is this legal?

The Gun Control Act of 1968, the same law that kicked-off gun control in America, has a provision that allows an individual to manufacture their guns for personal use.

For your information, per provisions of the Gun Control Act (GCA) of 1968, 18 U.S.C. Chapter 44, an unlicensed individual may make a “firearm” as defined in the GCA for his own personal use, but not for sale or distribution.” – ATF.gov

The AR-15 is one of the most popular guns in America and one of the easiest guns to build. After the Sandy Hook School Shooting gun control law threats from our government shot through the roof – and so did gun sales in response. Out of that buying frenzy emerged a growing gun hobby segment – the homemade gun market.

Today if you search for “80% receiver” you will find many small companies selling the key ingredient – an unfinished lower receiver for an AR-15. If you were to buy a complete AR-15 at a gun store, this would be the single part on the weapon that has a serial number. All the other parts are just pieces of metal as far as gun laws are concerned. If you finish the lower receiver yourself you are not required to put a serial number on it. But you may never sell the gun. To manufacture guns for sale you must be licensed by the government.

So the Gun Control Act of 1968 is what allows Defense Distributed to sell the Ghost Gunner CNC printer legally. But the truth is that anyone with a block of aluminum and a common CNC machine can make the same part. The Ghost Gunner CNC machine just makes it easy to finish this AR-15 part at home without any other skills or tools.

Ghost Gunner

How to Make an AR-15

Normally if you wanted to finish an 80% receiver without a CNC machine all you’d need is a drill, router, and jig – which would be much less expensive than a CNC machine. The advantage of this new CNC machine is that it makes it easier because it automatically makes all the cuts for you.

80 percent recier and jig

Freaking out yet? It gets worse… Once you’ve finished this single part (above) you need the rest of the parts to build your gun, kits can be purchased online for as little as $500.

 

AR-Stoner AR-15 Carbine Kit

So if you went the DIY route and bought a jig and unfinished receiver you could in a few hours have yourself a semi-automatic AR-15 for about $700 (not including tools).

You could argue that these parts and tools empower bad guys… and that’s partially true. But remember, if this is news to you you’re way behind the curve. Bad guys already know this. Bad guys have been able get the tools they need to do bad things FOR EVER. Bad guys ignore gun laws and do whatever they want.  The Second Amendment protects your right to defend yourself from bad guys.

What to do?

Guns are not going away any time soon. Neither is the wheel or fire. We’ve eaten from apple of the forbidden tree. The cat is out of the bag and has long since left the building. We can either chose to ignore the reality of our situation or face it head-on and mature.

Someday I think humanity will mature to a point where we can handle the huge responsibility of technology. Technology can be used for good and bad. Until we learn to prioritize balance over acquisition, greed will drive some people to use technology for violence. Until then peaceful people will need to use technology to defend themselves.

 

Alternative Future

The thing I don’t understand is why we don’t take an alternative strategy and move toward a sustainable future powered by renewables and governed by decentralized power. Seriously – that would be a game changer.

You see the rise of the East appears to be building on the same paradigm the West used to build what we have today. But it’s paradigm based on the centralization of power, debt, and fossil fuels – which we’ve shown to not be sustainable.

A paradigm based on innovation, invention, decentralization, and renewable energy will be the next paradigm if the current one fails – albeit like a Phoenix from ashes. It would represent a real step forward, so why don’t we choose this path instead of letting it choose us.

Why don’t our leaders, (I hate calling them that), take us toward this paradigm shift instead of defending the failing paradigm with our last drop of blood?

My guess is that it’s the decentralization part. You see in the current paradigm, power is centralized in giant corporations and governments. I suspect the ultra rich (masters of the acquisition paradigm) think they would loose everything if power decentralized into a more sustainable model.

But I think that’s near-sighted. I think everyone, even the rich, could have their cake and eat it too if everyone were empowered and power were decentralized. After all don’t the rich make money when everyone else is making money? Who cares how or who controls what when everything is right-sized to a human scale as long as the net effect is productivity?

  • Imagine smaller regional governments appropriately sized and configured to suit their local needs. A central framework for peace & balance could discourage regional wars – where regional coalitions of nations apply pressure against those taking things too far militarily.
  • Imagine the productivity if micro manufacturing, local energy production, small farms, and publishing took off. While small scale business is not as efficient it does create work and spread wealth.
  • Imagine the growth potential when all people feel self-empowered.
  • Imagine the stability the diversity would create.

Innovation and entrepreneurialism would flourish if people were shown how to make money by leveraging their ideas and skills instead of convincing them that selling their time and borrowing money was the only way to go.

Maybe the billionaires can’t see that because they are so muddled in their centralist mindset. Maybe they think that kind of talk is idealistic and foolhardy. Maybe it is… but it sounds like a direction that has a hell of a better chance of surviving, and far less dangerous than a global war.

I know that’s wishful thinking, but someone’s got it do it.

Image credit

 

The Irony of the Climate Change March in New York City

Protesters gathered on Sunday for the start of the People’s Climate March on Central Park West in New York City. Credit Damon Winter/The New York Times” – NYTimes.com – Photo by Damon Winter for The New York Times

There are more than two sids to the climate debate. The third group thinks the climate change deniers and the global warmers are both ignoring the biggest impact on Earth’s climate… the sun.

The Irony

So as thousands of people march in NYC against carbon & pollution – good things to protest against – most are probably unaware of the real culprit of climate change… the sun.

When Al Gore said, “the science is settled”, he forgot to include the impact of the sun in his scientific modeling. Maybe he should take another look at the potential factors like… the sun.

Pollution is all bad. Carbon in the atmosphere is all bad. Fracking for gas pollutes water. Pipelines and oil trains are all bad. We should shift to a decentralized grid, encourage self-sufficiency, and lower consumption but we should also take a moment to pause and look up at… the sun.

Look at The Sun

No not directly into the sun silly… take note of it’s lack of activity and the weakening effect that has on our atmosphere. If that’s news to you follow the folks at the Mobile Observatory Project, a.k.a. the Suspicious0bservers. These people track the sun’s activity and how it impacts the weather.

Using public data they show a different side of the story, which you should now be guessing has something to do with the sun’s affect on climate change.

Now why the government and main stream media push the whole pollution equals climate change argument should be left to conspiracy theorists. I choose to look at the real numbers and research coming out of NASA & NOAA, which are telling a different story.

Climate Change is not our fault… pollution & the burning of fossil fuels must stop… but it’s not causing climate change. A natural cycle the sun is experiencing is more likely causing climate change and it’s done it many times before.

Think of our solar system as being a little part of a much larger clock – our Milky Way Galaxy. There are many relationships between the planets & stars, solar systems with other solar systems, and solar systems within our spinning galaxy. Everything works like one big system but the clock spins so slowly we don’t notice the movement expect for the spinning of our planet and our orbit around the sun. Beyond that the larger cycles are not easily seen.

But if you look at the geological record you see patterns of ice ages, cooling & warming trends, and even the occasional random catastrophic event. But for the most part you see patterns. I think we’re entering one of these cycles and we are experiencing it by changes in the weather.

Climate change is very real but the cause should be in question. Science is never settled when new evidence is presented.

 

Visualizing Exponential Growth

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has made some recent statements about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Here are some highlights:

  • Exponentially growing epidemic  – “The number of cases is doubling every three weeks.”
  • Systems overloaded – “The disease is destroying health systems. More people are now dying in Liberia from treatable ailments and common medical conditions than from Ebola.”
  • Supply chains failing – “Inflation and food prices are rising. Transport and social services are being disrupted.”
  • Local government systems failing – “The leaders of the affected countries have asked the United Nations to coordinate the global response.”

The chart above shows what the number of cases doubling every three weeks looks like. This is not a prediction, just simple math. The CDC is predicting 500,000 cases by the end of January – now you can see how that math works if something doesn’t stop this epidemic.

Today we’ve got just over 5000 cases of Ebola on record. If the Secretary-General’s math is right, then by mid-April 2015 we could see over 5,000,000 cases unless something happens that shuts down the exponential growth rate.

More Important Than The Math

It’s also important to point out that Ebola is not causing the destabilizing of West Africa. It’s the fear of Ebola that’s causing all the other impacts to supply chains and rule of law.

But hope can being order too. Maybe the UN can bring some hope with their efforts too and help avert exponential increases in fear.

Those of us living in unaffected areas might want to take note of this factor too. Hope can be more powerful than fear and give us the strength to ride through any storm. So take the opportunity now and build some hope by educating yourself and preparing for the possibility of destabilization.

Propaganda in the Time of Social Media

[Update: YouTube removed the video I had linked to. Probably a good thing, since it helps decapitate (pun intended) the ability of IS/ISIS/ISIL to spread propaganda.]

Fascinating turn of events. The Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIS or ISIL) is trying to turn the propaganda war in their favor. Now that they have America’s attention – gained via what many think are fake beheading videos – they are preparing to tell their side of the story. This is the first video of a series to be released.

Like the telling of all stories, we should take these with a grain of salt – but not miss this truly unique moment in time. A relatively small organization – the Islamic State – can now send its message to a world wide audience via social media. What will be most interesting is how effectively they are able to control the narrative and the response from western governments.

My gut tells me this propaganda effort will be successful in further destabilizing the west and may contribute to the catalyst for war.

But the tone of this video hints at another motive – one that contradicts the beheading videos. The reasonable tone set forth in the video seems directed at appealing to logic and deep desire to know the truth. In other words, it looks like it’s a campaign intended to gain the support for withdrawing western militaries from the Middle East.

Up until now I’ve suspected that they want the U.S. to bomb them because it will only intensify their local recruiting efforts. But if the American public’s support for war could be undermined, the Islamic State many benefit from a two-sided propaganda campaign.

  1. More anti-war sentiment in the West would make it harder for western powers to destroy the Islamic State militarily.
  2. More anti-American sentiment in the Middle East would make it easier to recruit people to join their Caliphate.

In other words – a delicate propaganda balance delivered via social media. An amazing feat if they can pull it off. But no propaganda yields positive results.

If the Islamic State chooses to hold-off on any attacks on American soil it would help them maintain their balance and achieve their goal of establishing a Caliphate. This would be a short-term win-win for Americans – because they don’t have to experience the bloodshed first hand. But in the long-term the reality still stands that the people of the Islamic State hate Americans for the imperialistic nature of our government and foreign policy. So the creation of a Caliphate in the east might be a far greater threat to the people of the west in the long run.

What to do?

  • Watch, listen, digest, keep your head strait. We’re about to witness some of the most amazing propaganda humanity has ever seen, delivered at the speed of light to your mobile phone.
  • Prepare for destabilization – it’s more on-the-table than ever before. We are at war.