Archive for January, 2010

One of the tragic consequences of this nation’s shift towards a socialist government is the fact that while upfront costs seem to diminish, the real costs are actually higher, last longer, and get you less bang for your buck. Health care is no different than any other government provided service. It doesn’t work well in any other country, why would we be stupid enough to think nationalized health care would work here in America? Because we are easily led by false leaders, that’s why.

The issue over health care reform currently being debated in Washington doesn’t so much relate to the cost of health care so much as it relates to the insurance industry. Or, I should say, control of the insurance industry. In the over four thousand pages of new regulations, I’m guessing that less than 1% of that text is directed towards the cost of health care. I haven’t of course read the Senate version, but going by the House version I’d say the PRO(Pelosi, Reid, Obama) movement is just trying to squeeze us into the bottle of misery called bigger government. Thousands of pages of new legislation that nobody, not even lawyers, can understand.

What this means for the long haul is that if enacted into law, we will begin to see the quality, as well as quantity, of health care gradually fade. We can say this will happen because that is the state of affairs in the medical industries of other nations that have socialized, or nationalized health care. Where I live we have a huge population of Canadians who come into this country every year so they can receive better health care than they get in Canada. And yet supporters of this bill claim they want coverage similar to what Canada and these other nations provide. Doctors get paid less. Nurses get paid less. Less money is invested in infrastructure. Hospitals sit in varying states of decay and disrepair. New and up to date medical equipment is scarce because no hospital can afford to improve their facilities.

Further, I hear stories of care being made unavailable because of the lack of doctors trained to give certain types of treatment in these countries. So how is all of this legislation going to control the cost of health care? I’ll answer that in a moment, but first, why is there even a need for legislation to control healthcare costs? Actually, there isn’t a need for this legislation. The need is more towards seeing that American citizens get the medical care we deserve. The problem with obtaining this health care is the cost, so naturally, those who don’t want to take responsibility to obtain an insurance policy that guarantees payment for that care whine and cry because they cannot have what those who do take the responsibility to pay for a good policy receive.

The real problem with health care costs is not the insurance companies. The real problems with the cost of health care is the cost of health care. In my experience, insurance companies I have had policies with have been quite generous with their benefits, provided I was willing to pay for them. And I paid for them, not the taxpayers. In observing the way the health care industry works, it is easy to see why the costs are so high. There is a lot of waste, redundancy and unneeded expenditure by these nonprofit hospitals that are theoretically providing health care because they care about the well being of the people that they serve. Absolutely not true, in my book.

These people are out to make all of the money they can with their inflated salaries, and to do that they purposely overcharge the patients, and since the insurance companies generally have no direct input into what goes on between the hospital and patient, they pay the bill without question. sure, they require prior approval for procedures and all that, but how often does the procedure occur before the approval is even given, especially in cases where the procedure isn’t always in the best interest of the patient?

All this legislation called the Health Care Reform Act does in guarantee the medical care providers with more money, and a guarantee they will get paid. That’s all it does. Unfortunately, in order to pay these doctors and hospitals, the government needs to make sure they get the cash from you and I to give to these crooks. Hence the need to require certain levels of insurance controls are in place. and to make certain that the payout doesn’t exceed the income, the government will of course have to impose limits on what kind of care, and how much care you will be able to receive. Of course, you’ll be able to get additional care beyond the government mandate, provided you’re willing to pay for it out of pocket. Naturally, the answer to the question as to how is all of this legislation going to pay for health care is that it will not pay for all of this health care. It will pay for just the minimum required to keep you alive long enough to pay taxes.

So where’s the survival angle of this story? The survival angle is that we need to prepare for a potential scarcity of quality health care services. You can do this by learning how to provide your own medical treatment. Learn first aid. Get medicals supplies and stock up on medications before they become unavailable. Develop relationships with people that can provide assistance off the cuff when the time gets rough. Learn how to diagnose and treat common ailments through natural remedies. If this legislation passes it will cement the end of this nation as we know it in the concrete of socialism. It will be a sad parting, but it almost seems inevitable. In just 16 more years this nation will be celebrating its 250th birthday, if it survives the PRO Movement. Will we allow this nation to be destroyed so that a huge special interest group can increase their income on the backs of the American taxpayer? I certainly hope not. Please do all you can to persuade your legislators to kill this legislation, not only for your sake, but for your children’s sake as well.

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Food is of course an all important part of survival, but what do you eat when the crap hits the fan and the grocer is no more? Simply put, we follow a standard routine of food usage called RFCS. That means refrigerator, freezer, canned, storage. When the power goes out and you know it’s not coming back, you’ll want to first use up your cold food in the kitchens fridge. Then attack the freezer. After that use up your canned goods, which should be considered short term storage food, and ending with your long term storage foods. And if you’ve really got the survival mindset, you probably won’t need to touch much, if any of your long term storage food for a while.

We know that fresh food, such as bread, milk, cheeses etc have expiration dates and are easy to determine when they should be eaten or tossed. Even most convenience foods have the date plainly marked as to when they should be used by. Or at least sold by. Frequently, dated food is good for at least a while past the sell by date. But where most people agonize is when it comes to canned foods. There’s no easy way to tell when canned goods should be discarded, or at least tested before eating.

When buying canned or packaged foods from a grocer or supermarket you should always write the purchase date on the package with an indelible marker. Normally, canned foods are best used within two years after processing. This doesn’t mean the food goes bad after that date, it just means that for best quality and nutritional value it should be used by then. Dates are a tricky subject, and there is a lot of confusion over the range of ways food is labeled. Here is what the Food Marketing Institute has to say about dating:

    Dates are printed on many food products. After the date expires, must you discard that food? In most cases, no. A calendar date may be stamped on a product’s package to help the store determine how long to display the product for sale. It is not a safety date.

Product dating is not required by Federal regulations although dating of some foods is required by 15 states. Calendar dates are found primarily on perishable foods such as dairy products, eggs, meat and poultry. Coded dates might appear on shelf-stable products such as cans and boxes of food.

There are several types of dates:

  • Sell-by” date – tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before the date expires.
  • Best if Used By (or Before)” – recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
  • Use-By” – the last date recommended for the use of product while at peak quality. The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product.
  • Closed or Coded Dates” – packing numbers for use by the manufacturer in tracking their products. This enables manufacturers to rotate their stock as well as locate their products in the event of a recall.

So, we can see where people could be confused. Just remember the two year guideline for canned food and you’ll be fine. An interesting page on reading can codes can be found at mealtime.org here. This page gives you some clues on how to read the codes. Now, the two year guide is just that, a guide. Don’t automatically toss your canned goods just because they reach that date. That would be like throwing your hard earned paycheck away. Another interesting page on canned goods at Y2K Kitchens lists a range of products and their expected lifespan in a proper storage environment. According to the list, Dinty Moore stew and Hormel’s Spam both have a shelf life of 96 months. Good thing too, because I like em both and have plenty on hand.

So here’s the thing about canned food and shelf life. The condition your storage area is in determines your products viability. Generally, you’ll want a cool dark space for your storage area, kept at no more than 75 degrees, with fresh air circulating at all times. I prefer 60 degrees myself. At temperatures over 75 degrees you’ll quickly degrade your food and shorten the time span for safety. The best option would be to use a root cellar type of storage area, but a pantry will do if you can keep the temps down in it.

You’ll also want to make sure the room is rodent and insect free as well. Long term storage foods are great products, but should be held in reserve for the long haul. In my opinion, a smart plan would be to have regular canned food for immediate use, and while you are using it, grow a vegetable garden. As the vegetable mature, reduce your canned food usage by replacing it with the fresh vegetables. And then, as the regular canned foods dwindle, start to use your long term storage food if you need to.

How safe are canned foods, actually? Normally, very safe. The commercial processing actually sterilized the contents, and in addition neutralizes some of the potential problems such as pesticide residue. Canned food can be considered pretty much safer than fresh foods. There are some things to watch out for, however. For one, if a can hisses loudly or spurts when opened, it may be an indication that the food is spoiled. Most canned foods are vacuum packed and will quite often hiss a bit when opened, but they should never spurt, or spray the liquid inside.

Rust or dents do not affect the contents of the can as long as the can does not leak, but if the can is leaking, or if the ends are bulged, the food should not be used. Crushed and dented cans are sold all the time by off price retailers, or in discounted bins at your local grocer, and they are usually fine. I would stay away from sharply creased cans though as this could be an indication of potential future leakage. Also, if you notice a foul or different odor than normal, don’t trust it. Sometimes canned food gone bad will be seriously discolored, but remember that as the food ages there will be some breakdown in quality, so discoloration should not be used as your only clue, unless the discoloration is really off.

Once you’ve opened your canned goods, transfer them to another storage container, especially with the high acid products such as tomato sauces and pastes. The acids will interact with the metal cans once oxygen enters the picture and cause some problems you really don’t want to deal with. Use the product as quickly as possible after opening by cooking it right off, and consuming it after cooking. Remember that if there is a major meltdown, there will be no power to keep things cool.

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As I study the aspects of survival in the coming times I am struck by the picture that the earthquake in Haiti has presented to the world. A natural disaster of the worst type, striking without any prior warning, bringing devastation to a struggling nation and turning it into bedlam and chaos. While not the strongest of earthquakes to be recorded in recent times, the result typifies what human reaction will be in any given disaster. (The recent California earthquake was listed as a 7.1 on the Richter scale, while the Haiti earthquake was listed at 7.0.) After the initial shock, realization of the situation sets in and then the real tragedy begins. Unprepared for such an event the nation was hurled into chaotic uselessness even as aid and relief began to pour in from outside its borders.

There are uncountable sites, articles, videos and still pictures describing the situation in Haiti, so I won’t go into that aspect here, but what we need to ask ourselves what lessons we can learn from Haiti and the resulting situation they are currently undergoing. What survival lessons can be gleaned from this tragedy? I had written a while back, in Zombie Looters part one and part two about some of the things we can expect to see here in the US after a major meltdown, which is what Haiti has gone through. I had received a couple of comments that this sort of thing would never happen here in the US, as we are too civilized a country, and this would not occur here. If only that were true.

We need to remember that humans are humans, no matter the nation or belief. The headlines from the last couple of days scream LOOTERS! Picture after picture show people rummaging through devastated businesses and stealing whatever they can, no matter the value of the item. We saw the same thing after Katrina hit New Orleans, so the nation makes no difference. The difference is in the way that nation reacts to that level of humanity. There are several troubling aspects that come to mind as I look over the headlines and various media covering the disaster, and one thing in particular stands out. That is that while the UN was already in Haiti providing aid, their buildings and personnel suffered major losses, and because they were ill prepared for the disaster were unable to cope with the situation.

I’ve never been a big fan of the UN, and in my opinion they should be dissolved, and this situation just adds support to my position. All too often well meaning people support the UN believing that the UN will help those people with the aid funding they give to the UN. More often , the cash goes towards enlarging the UNs own infrastructure an bureaucracy, leaving them without the resources needed to respond to these disasters. Fortunately, the US stepped in, as we always do and took control of the situation, and order is slowly emerging from this chaos.

It also comes to mind that in nearly all globally significant events that require aid from other nations where the UN is involved, those nations are mired in a welfare mindset, and not a survival mindset. Instead of encouraging these countries to expand their own ability to grow their infrastructure and bureaucracy, they are instead encouraged to rely upon handouts and gifts from the UN and other countries. They are countries where the government controls everything from food to medical care, highways to electrical distribution, water and sewer to the airports. This, I believe, is why the response to the earthquake in Haiti has been somewhat botched by that nation. Instead of taking control and driving their own relief and infrastructure to tend to the recovery, the government of Haiti seemed to sit on its hands and let others take control.

And this is one of the fears that I have regarding the ability of the United States to respond to its own calamities in the future. We are running away from a free market economy that encourages us to tend to our own needs. We are running away from a position that exemplifies personal responsibility and preparedness. We are instead racing towards a welfare society where those who have little, will lose what they have. And so won’t everyone else. Rich or poor, the time will come whereby we will be unable to take charge of our own disasters, and instead be forced to rely upon outside forces to tell us what to do, and they will provide for our needs. There are many lessons we can learn from this tragedy in Haiti.

In much the same way as the parable of the talents, we can develop a model of what this nation really should be about. We should be investing what we have to not only make profit, but to prepare for the future needs of this country. We need to be stockpiling supplies to provide for infrastructure breakdown. We need to be developing alternative transportation routes to move these supplies to where they may be needed most. We need to develop extra medical relief in the way of both supplies and personnel to cover for expanded needs. We need to do much to prepare for the coming times.

On Tuesday, January 19th, at 8:30 AM I will be discussing these issues and more on Maine Talk Radio. You can click onto this player and join in, or call the show at (646) 716-5423. Hope to see you there, and if you’d like to add to the discussion, make sure you press the number 1 on your keypad so I’ll know you wish to speak.

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Usually when one thinks of a blanket coat, the Northwood’s Capote, made from a quality Hudson’s Bay blanket comes to mind. These are great coats, and some of them can be pretty fancy looking, with all kinds of gee-gaws and such adorning your work. These can, of course be store bought, and I have seen them priced at well over a couple of hundred dollars. Granted, those blankets are probably one of the best quality wool blankets in the world, and they make a colorful article of clothing, but what about when you are stuck and have ruined your fancy store bought parka? What then, bucko? Well, you get out your needles and thread and make yourself a nice warm coat for the winter, that’s what.

I came across a set of instructions at The Inquiry Net! which is a Scouting site that had instructions for making a true capote, otherwise known as an Indian blanket coat. It’s pretty involved and takes several hours to sew together, but there are simpler ways to get what you want. Christopher Nyerges offers a simpler, and in my mind better set of instructions at The hooded blanket coat of the plains Indians. All you need is a good sharp pair of shears, some needles and thread and a decent quality blanket. Don’t waste your time on some of those new fangled microfiber fleece blankets. If it really is cold enough to need a good warm coat, those things will let you down. Flannel blankets are better, although the best type is a good thick wool, or wool blend blanket.

They’re kind of pricey, so if you really don’t need a blanket coat, think the idea through first. You can also hunt around at yard sales and flea markets for used blankets as well, but I doubt that if you are in a bind you’ll have that option, so make do with what you have. That’s what survival is all about anyways, isn’t it?

Well, here goes, as best as I can remember from one I made a great many moons ago. Figure out what size blanket you need, first of all. Most adults will need at least a full size blanket. A full/queen is a bit larger for those folks who need it, and a queen size is the biggest. Leave the king size alone for Sasquatch to use. You’ll need to fold the blanket in half the short way on the floor, first of all. Remember, this isn’t a fancy coat, but one that you will make in an emergency situation. Visualize a T shape with the top cross bar of your T as being the arm portion of the coat. Measure down from the top of the fold enough to make room for your arms to fit through, or about 16″.

Cut through both layers of the blanket from the edge to about one third of the way in, from each side. Then, lift the top layer and cut a square out of each side, leaving the middle third intact. Remove these pieces, but don’t throw them away. You’ll need them for a hood, back piece, pockets and so forth. Cut all the way along the length of the top layer of the blanket, or leg of the T. This will be your front opening. Next, flip that whole top layer back and place one of the squares you cut out on the bottom layer. Pin it in place for now with safety pins, or sewing pins if you have them. This will be an extra layer for warmth on your back side.

Next, fold over the two flaps so the meet in the center, and then fold your top layer T over so the edges meet together along the leg of the T. Pin these together, and then pin along the outer edges of the Ts leg, and also along the edges of the arm part of the T. Pull it on and see how it fits. Make any adjustments that you need now, before you start sewing. Pull everything inside out, and sew the seams of the arms first. You can cut off a couple of strips from the extra piece and use them for cuffs on the ends of the sleeves to make them wear longer and keep them from fraying at this point.

Next, sew in the back piece if you’d like. This isn’t a necessary part of the coat, but it does add an extra layer of cloth over your vulnerable back. Just remember to try to avoid any stitches that may leave holes exposed for air to get in. if you aren’t that good of a seamstress, leave this part out. I did as I couldn’t make the stitches right at the time.

Next, cut down along the top of the arm portion of where your head opening would be. Cut a square out of the remaining extra piece and fold it in half. Size it for your own head as this will be the hood piece. Stitch one side together, and then stitch the other side to the body of the coats head opening. Roll the edges of the hood back a half inch or so and stitch around the roll. This will keep the edges from fraying. If you’d like, you can add a string inside the roll, just like on a hooded sweatshirt to close the opening against the weather.

Then roll an inch of the top layer of the front under the bottom layer and stitch them together. Roll the outer edge of the top layer back and stitch that as well. Next you’ll want to sew down along the outer edge to secure it to the bottom layer. Leave an opening on each side about a foot from the bottom as a pocket opening if you’d like. Your final step will be to roll the bottom edge over an inch and hem that as well. You can use the extra material to sew on pockets or to make a belt for holding the coat closed against the weather. Or, if you’d like, round up some old buttons and sew them onto the coat. Or maybe a zipper. It’s your coat, fix it up any way you want to.

There are a lot of ways you can dress up a coat like this so use your imagination and make it what you want it to be. But above all, make it warm as that is what a good coat is supposed to do. Never ceases to amaze me when these rich people spend over two hundred dollars on a fancy coat, and then they stand around freezing because it won’t keep them warm. Oh well, that’s how it works, I guess.

Just as a hint here, I would suggest you visualize this project with a piece of paper before cutting into your blankets. You can cut the paper and tape it together, and as you do you’ll see what I mean at each of the different steps. I’m thinking of getting an old blanket and making another one of these coats, just so I can take pictures of the project and place them here, so maybe you should check back again later and see how things are going. But anyways, that’s your survival blanket coat. I bet those folks down in sunny Florida were thinking they knew how to make these this past week or so.

Remember, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

There’s a lot of talk on the waves by many so called analysts regarding the end times, and the so called apocalyptic terror we will be forced to live through. I hate to be the one to burst bubbles, but a lot of the hype certain TV networks like to portray as the end times is just hype. Granted, it ain’t gonna be no picnic, but they really go overboard with some of the graphics. But in spite of it all, there will be some unpleasant changes that we will have to survive, and there will be no choice in the matter.

One of these changes will be the conversion to a cashless society, as some like to call it. Some folks say that there will always be money, and that’s true, there always will be. The Scriptures tell us there will be, so there will. The aspect, or type of currency, is the part of money that is changing. Revelation 6:6 says And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine(KJV). This tells me that there will be financial trade in the final days, and for financial trade to take place there must be money to exchange hands. Otherwise, the verse would have suggested a barter type of transaction, wouldn’t it?

But for those of you who are not convinced that there will indeed be a cashless society, you’ll need to follow along on my podcasts, which can be found here on Maine Talk Radio. A few of the recent news clips I have shared is the fact that the UK has passed a law eliminating the paper check by 2018. Many countries, including the U.S. are investigating, and some are instituting a national ID card containing RFID chips containing much personal information. Some are even including biometrics within these cards.

As an added incentive, many cards also function as a debit card as well for non cash currency transactions. Makes it easier to take public transportation and so forth. A recent NY Times article describes a restaurant in New York that now refuses to accept cash. Many stores do not accept checks as payment as well. Online commerce relies solely on credit cards for payment. Even fast food joints such as McDonalds have contactless payment terminals for your touch and go debit cards. These cards, in case you did not realize it, contain RFID chips with your account information.

So, it is clear that we are in fact headed for a cashless society, but there will still be currency to be traded. The big problem with this idea is that this currency will not be actual paper or coins, it will be credit placed in your bank account, and that credit will be based upon the value the nation’s currency has on the market. The value of the dollar, or whatever denomination of currency you use where you live, will be based upon the strength of that nation’s wealth in the world market. You will have little to no control over your own finances. If you do not have one of these cards in the future, you will not be able to do business in the conventional sense.

Even government provided welfare such as unemployment and foodstamps are provided for via a debit card today. There will be no paper checking, or draft style financial transfers in the future. There will be next to none, or none at all, hard cash available to be distributed. All transactions will be electronic.

So what kind of survival plan can we develop to live through this part of the coming times? Actually, none, in real terms. We can either do as the government says, or we can become an outcast with no way to pay for a roof over our heads, buy groceries, or obtain health care. And don’t even think of gassing up the family sedan. But that’s not such a bad alternative if enough people of a like mind can band together and form their own communities. And this plan, in and of itself will cause grave problems for the survivalists who choose this course.

The governments of the world will rely upon your tax dollars right up till the Second Coming. Have you noticed how large this government has become, and that it is growing larger and more powerful every week that goes by? You will be required to pay what they consider your fair share. Unless of course you are poverty bound and then they’ll pay all your bills. But there is a way around the problem, at least partially. For one thing, you will be required to work. No problem there, just make enough to get your income and property and sales taxes paid for.

I’ve talked before about bartering, and this is one way of getting by when things get tough. But for a barter system to really work there must be enough people involved to cover all possible needs required by a community. You’ll need to consider medical care, housing, transportation, clothing and food. And then you’ll need to give consideration as to how you intend to achieve all of these things. You can plant seeds for food, but where will the seed come from? How about fuel for the tractor? Where will the power come from to light your home? How about the books to educate the little ones?

And then there’s always the time when somebody breaks their leg or an appendix bursts. These are all things to consider, along with much more. There are two degrees of survival mindset. One degree addresses the immediate emergency, such as a hurricane or civil breakdown. And then there is the long term degree that pushes you to live apart from conventional society, either alone or in a community of like minded believers. I would suggest the latter, for obvious reasons.

The cashless future is steamrolling towards us, and in some ways is already here. There are many cases where you cannot do business without a credit card already. It will only be a matter of time before everyone becomes indoctrinated into the wisdom of possessing an RFID card because of the security it supposedly provides, and because of the convenience they provide at the checkout counter.

You’ll have to eventually decide whether or not to buy into that wisdom. When that time comes, you need to be ready to play or pay. Prepare for that time now, and you’ll be able to pay and play your own way then.