Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Episode 8: The Rigged Global Economic Game

Welcome to the Be Prepared Channel. For some reason has managed to lose my episode 8 and it is nowhere to be found. So I am reposting it here now. Hopefully they get their technical issues sorted out and don't keep losing my blog posts....
Episode 8 - Be Prepared Channel - The Game is rigged:
Sorry for the delays in posting a new episode. As I reported in previous blog posts I have been between locations and things have been crazy busy. So now is a good time to catch up and talk about what is going on.

The Markets Rigged and Cooked Books....
Well folks the recent revelations that have come out over the last month about bullion banks being leveraged 100 to 1 and not actually having precious metals was a bombshell. Then we find out that the government in Greece has been lying through their teeth about how bad the debt problem is and now it looks like it is really out of control. Finally we hear that JP Morgan is being investigated for silver market manipulation after an insider/trader spills the beans a few weeks ago to federal regulators.

Sadly if you analyze the debt to GDP figures for these countries in Europe they are screaming about and they aren't as bad off financially as the US! This really is just a clear example of a financial hit that is taking place. If they can keep everyone focused on the small events someplace else other than the US government debt it appears that they are hoping some miracle will happen and this problem will not follow the bread crumbs home. You cannot fix a debt and spending problem by borrowing more money and still spending it on stuff you cannot afford. Greece will default... The handwriting is all over the wall and it will spread. If you look at the state of CA their debt crisis is worse than all of these countries in the headlines put together and the CA economy is bigger than all of them put together... Yet we don't see CA's budget crisis in the headlines. The rioting on the streets in Greece will spread as people wake up to the fraud perpetrated by their governments and banks and as people will finally say enough is enough. Everyone is so hot to blame the banks, but really it takes two to tango and there had to be willing counter parties to take out these loans, borrow money and invest it in CDO's and the alphabet soup of creative financial instruments. Many times voters didn't get a say, didn't get to vote, didn't have any idea what our local, state, and federal government is doing and how many ways they have leveraged all of our futures. People have a right to be mad, but at the same time lets be honest that we have take charge now that we know the level of corruption and debt that we live with and own up to the fact that we arrived at this place in time because of what we did or didn't do. The events last Thursday showed us even more examples of fraud and these days they are brazen and out in the open about it.

The Greek people are being told they have to give up half of their retirement accounts, and massive increases in taxes. This is a commonly repeated theme. It was done in Argentina as well. And once the politicians get the first half of the retirement fund/pensions they will be back for the rest shortly. This is coming to the US as well. It is only a matter of time at this point.

Levels of fraud:
1. Nasdaq announces that they are cancelling trades that took place between 2:40 and 3:00pm.
2. Mainstream media immediately went into overdrive blaming trading desk error, and computer software glitches(of course no evidence was found that either was the case).
3. No mention of the hedged funds in Europe selling and possibly setting off the price decline that pushed through levels of resistance that fired stops that set the plunge in motion.
4. Plunge protection team to the rescue... Any time the stock market isn't behaving itself the Treasury in conjunction with the Fed have setup a plunge protection team, so any time the market starts to fall out of bed the PTT jumps into action pouring billion and in some caes trillions of our dollars into the markets to push the markets back up. May 6th was a perfect example. The market was down almost 1000 points on the DOW and looked like it was going lower... and like someone flipped a switch the market reversed almost 700 points in a very very short time frame.
5. Who is doing the buying? Trimtabs who follows cash flows says the retail investor, you and I who make up the majority of the market is on the sidelines and not investing. Then who were/are the buyers in this market that have the power to muscle the major averages around like this?
6. Bullion vaults are leveraged 100 to 1 in public testimony, if your buying ETF's or bullion and allowing others to hold your metals you might be shocked when you attempt to retrieve or you need your investment to find that the banks/ETF's don't have and never did have your metals. Your buying paper, instead demand delivery and keep positive control of your investments.
7. Much of the so called recovery news is pure spin and propoganda... and what little growth and recovery there appears to be is fueled by trillions of dollars of stimulus money that the Fed and Treasury have been dumping into the banks and economy. It is a false recovery, so don't be fooled.

The game is rigged at every level at this point. Our local communities, counties, utilities, states have been played the fools and have used creative finance to offset declining revenue, shrinking population, and the massive waves of people retiring. Sadly most of us have been blissfully ignorant of these activities, but now the rooster has come home to roost. Many of these creative financed deals are falling apart. Income that was promised from these CDO's that our communities were talking into investing in have turned into trash so we are left with the bills, debts, but not the income.

Taxes are being raised across the board as all levels of government come to grips with the extravagant and foolish spending. In many cases they are still in denial and somehow think a tweak of the numbers here, and nip and a tuck there and she will be good as new. People don't know the level of greed/fraud/corruption/mismanagement/incompetence we are talking about because for the most part is is pretty difficult to imagine. Yet the debate still rages on over the stupid and mundane spending... over parks, street lights, funding for community centers, and programs. When we finally get past this level of understanding to the bare bones spending needed to keep government functioning we will know we finally are getting serious about how difficult the choice we have to make are. Until that time we are no where near the the bottom of this economic cycle.

Why are we preppers/survivalists, and why do we plan and prepare?
This last week really drove home the reasons why I prepare and plan for the events, environment, and circumstances in which we live. I was out trying to go grocery shopping in Nebraska as our home there is not setup in any way shape or form. I don't think we really anticipated being there this long so we have put off setting up preps and supplies and having a game plan. I have been mostly stuck in CO so NE has been on the back burner. So I head out to go get food and supplies. I get to the cash register and guess what? My debit card is not working! So here I am at the checkout with a debit card that isn't working. I contact the bank and I am informed that Mastercard flagged some sort of activity on the account that lead them to believe my account has been compromised. Specifically they saw a zero dollar charge coming in from a bank in the Netherlands. So they put the hammer down on it as soon as they saw it. Now I didn't lose a penny or even have to refute any charges which is the good side. The downsides are many especially when your on the road and your bank is a local bank in CO. So what is a lost guy in NE who is looking for a homestead and needing groceries to do? I am glad you asked!

Plan for the unexpected:
1. Have emergency cash with you
- In this crazy world of banks leveraged to the eyeballs, global economic crisis, and just plain old emergencies you don't know if your debit/credit/checks will be accepted
- What if FDIC suddenly decides to close your bank and funds will not be accessible for some period of time? Do you have the cash on hand to handle such an event?
- Think about the what if's, and what you would do in a situation where you suddenly cannot get to your bank accounts, or other savings
- Educate and prepare others around you also so that they too can be prepared and will have the cash on hand to help themselves and others if needed

So when I planned this trip to NE I decided I better have emergency cash on hand in case the truck broke down, or an emergency arises that only cash can save the day. I am glad I did. Now sadly I didn't have my emergency cash with me at the store at the time I discovered the debit card crisis so I was not able to complete my purchases and I had to explain my predicament to the cashier and left them with a basket full of stuff. It was embarrassing and reminded me that I should have thought about something like this being a possibility. So I wasn't out of cash and stranded because I had planned. My bank offered to Western Union cash to me if I needed it at no charge to me. I declined because I knew I was OK. Secondly I had already been preaching Be Prepared to my wife and she also had emergency cash on hand so that I could tap into those funds to get me back to CO until my replacement debit card arrives.

How does is all end?
Well the bank just sent me the card yesterday(May 5th) and the pin to activate it still had not arrived. My pin finally arrived in the mail today(May 10th) and I was able to get things back on track. But this could have very well been a long and difficult event had I not had a game plan and the cash on hand to address such a problem. This is where it starts to feel rewarding to be focused on being prepared, taking action, putting things in motion, and having that plan actually get used to address the problem.

Game plan:
1. Get your 72 hour kit together if you haven't done it yet... What are you waiting for? An emergency?
2. Break out(itemize) your bills and debts and figure out exactly what you owe and what your spending.
3. Pay off your debts as fast as possible, pick the smallest debt you have and take every extra penny you have and put it on that debt until it is paid
- Take the money freed up by paying off the smallest of your debts and apply that monthly amount to the next largest debt and repeat this process until your debt free.
4. Get your emergency cash fund together as fast as you can. You should have 90 days of operating expenses set aside to deal with whatever issues may arise. Set a goal and a timeline to get there... What if some of this 2012 horror story stuff is real and something does happen? Set a goal to have your basic emergency cash by 2012 just so you have a target to work toward
5. Do not keep your emergency cash in the banks! This is a rigged and corrupt system, these banks are under capitalized, leveraged to the eyeballs, and and part of a corrupt infrastructure of banks that are rotten to the core. Keep your cash on hand and available.

Homestead Search update:
The homestead search continues. We hoped to take advantage of the buyer tax credit, but sadly others had the same idea and anything that was worth making an offer on turned into a bidding war! Believe it or not the kind of land and homestead we are looking for is in demand. We didn't see the same kind of rush to buy other properties that we saw for land with acreage and a workable house. So we begged off when we found out the property we were interested in had turned into a bidding situation. It was just nuts. The land was great, the outbuildings were good. There was a need for fencing(existing fence was toast, and most of the property didn't appear to have any fence around the perimeter. The house however was a wreck. I needed to be gutted and just start from scratch it was so bad, but it had the bedrooms, baths, and workable space we wanted. However knowing the amount of work and money that was going to be needed in the house we felt it wasn't worth the asking price. I guess others were caught up in the tax credit mania and lost their minds... Only in an auction or bidding situation will seemingly sane people pay more for something than they would if they were to walk into a store and buy it new. In this case the price went up over $30k over what it should have sold for all in the name of trying to save $8k for first time buyers or $6500 for others who have owned property. So these people were willing to pay up in a fit of frenzy buying to get that credit. Well sadly we were watching a couple of different properties and they all sold this last day of the tax credit. Do we have any regrets? Yes and no. We regret not getting this place due to the great land and the way it was setup. It is very hard to find good land that is usable. The price was still affordable for us, but it was the principal of the thing that people were willing to throw away 30k that will be needed to make this place livable. That is the hard part, but the positive is that we know given enough time we will find what we are looking for and it just gives us more time to continue saving. Where there is one property like this there will be more. The other part that sticks in our minds is that property prices will now come under even more pressure as the buyers will have moved their purchases forward to take advantage of the credit. So we feel there is the real possibility that as prices continue to decline this will help us further. Now the challenge will be to find the right land for us.

My wife has brought up an idea that I hope might pan out and that is the option of buying a small affordable home in a small rural community that we could afford to pay for with cash. This way we avoid the debt is cancer discussion in the house and can make the repairs, upgrades, and preparations out of pocket while saving more cash for the land that we are looking for. So we are currently exploring this option and will be giving this some serious thought as the current state the economy really does not bode well for the future. Having your home paid for as meager and modest as it might be could be a better option for us in the long run. We will keep you posted.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Episode 9 - Flashlight Technology Compared - Old hotness, new hotness

Welcome to another episode of the Be Prepared Channel. Well today's episode is going to be something that I had planned to do a little later after I have had some time to play with my new toy flashlight, but I am so impressed already that I felt I should go ahead and do a quick mini comparison of the new breed of flashlights and how they compare to lights of the days gone by.

I am not really a flashlight junkie per se and I have been pretty much a traditionalist(you buy something that produces light, and stick it in a drawer, glove box, or in your pocket. In the past I bought and liked the old Maglight Flashlights. A co-worker brought in a newer Surefire flashlight to work and was showing it off and that was pretty impressive that used the small CR123 batteries. The size, weight, and light output were impressive. However at that point I was not willing to cough up the money for the Surefire and was satisfied with my mini Mag I was carrying. I did go ahead and buy a newer AA battery LED Mini Maglight that I carry with my Leatherman as a everyday carry(EDC). It works pretty well(or so I thought). When you don't have something to compare it to it is hard to know how much better it can be and just how big an impact/difference there is by upgrading to a better quality light.

So today I will share with you a simple comparison of the past and the present as we demonstrate in a very simple comparison the old and newer technology in flashlights. I have to admit I wasn't expecting a huge difference. I was simply looking for a tactical light for a weapons mount. I went searching for leads and info on a possible light for that purpose and wanted one of the newer technology LED lights out there that would be able to stand up to the rigours use and abuse when mounted on a weapon. What I actually found was that the new technology appears to be a game changer in flashlights. So I will try to get some good pictures to post with this podcast so that you can see what I will be talking about in the podcast and here in the blog.

The purpose of this podcast is not to recommend a specific product, but to demonstrate the difference between the incandescent, early generation LED, and current generation LED technology. The brand of light that I purchased for the latest technology is far from the only game in town and there are many competing products in the market. The new generation light I purchased was based on good reviews on the Candle Power Forums(link posted below), but there are many good products out there.

Have I become a flashlight junkie because of this purchase? Possibly! I may have to upgrade my mini Mag I carrry with my Leatherman after seeing the new flashlight technology in action so I will post an update some time in the future when I finally get the funds to replace my EDC light.

Episode 9 Flashlight Technology Compared - Old Hotness, New Hotness:
Technology Compared:
Incandescent bulb Maglight (3 D cell) full sized billy club and tire thumper flashlight
Off the shelf LED Maglight (2 D cell) full sized flashlight
Off the shelf LED Mini Maglight (2 AA cell) flashlight
New comer in my stable of lights: Eagletac T20C2 Mark II

Here is the lineup shots of the flashlights:
Left to right:
3D Cell Maglight - Incandescent flashlight
2D Cell Maglight - 3 watt LED Flashlight(commonly found in Walmart)
2AA Cell Mini-Maglight - 3 watt LED Flashlight(commonly found in Walmart - part of my EDC)
2 CR123 or 1 18650 battery Eagletac - T20C2 Mark II

Newest LED technology:
R2 Cree XP-G (Pretty much the current leader and commonly shipping technology)
R5 Cree XP-G (This is the newer technology that is shipping now in the Cree lineup and brighter than the R2)
SST-50 (This is one of the new technologies that are starting to ship now, and appears from the reviews to be very bright)
SST-90 (This is the latest to hit the scene and it is just breaking into the reviews forums being posted online now)

Differences in lumens and run times:
Various brands of lights drive the LED's harder than others. This results in higher lumens(light output) from the flashlight where the same light technology is used, but the only real difference between the two lights might be how hard the LED is driven. There are pros and cons to this methodology and it results in a compromise. The harder the LED is pushed to produce more light the shorter the run time from your batteries. So ultimately you have to decide what is the best mix for you as you have to decide what the tradeoffs are in run times vs light output. Speaking for me I can honestly say it should probably be weighed on the role of the light and it's frequency of planned use as to how much compromise I am willing to make in the tradeoffs.

The differences between competing technology appears to be substantial in the light output. I think the real challenge next is to figure out how to balance the output with battery run times. With each of these newer technology we see the light output increasing dramatically, however we are also seeing the battery run times decreasing just as dramatically. So the fine line will be in juggling the tradeoff's, and watching to see if we begin to see a shift in focus into efficiency as well as the light output. Today it appears that there is a high emphasis placed on lumens, but considering how good these lights already are it wouldn't surprise me to see the competition begin to shift emphasis from output to longer run times. Considering the break neck pace this is moving I don't imagine it will be long as these all appear to be pretty amazing breakthroughs in LED lights.

Types of Light output:
You will see right away that the light output from the incandescent is not nearly as bright as the others and has a yellow color to it. The LED's appear bright, white to maybe slightly blueish color. The newer LED's can output a natural looking light vs the very bright white/blueish color and this is done with a different LED light technology. So far from what I have read the natural light LED's tend to not output the same brightness and same lumens level. I don't have a natural light LED in my possession at this time to compare it to, but I do recommend that you check out the flashlight experts forums at Candle Power Forums. They test and show off the latest and greatest in lighting technology so you can get a better idea how the light technology compares, and they do the full range of tests with light output, run times, and overlays so you can see how the different flashlights compare in various reviews I have seen posted.

What about poor Maglight?
Well even Maglight is not sleeping at the wheel. The Maglight versions I show you here are the older technology that is available. Maglight has released a newer generation that is now getting good reviews for the price and performance and the pictures shown of the light output compared to my trusty 2AA LED Mini Maglight on Candlepower Forums show the newer XL100 from Maglight is a big step up and performs better than the previous generation of the Mini Mag. So even Maglight is upgrading to newer technology to offer better products at a good bang for the buck price ratio.

So let's get into the comparison of the different lights and see just how all this rambling on and mumbo jumbo stacks up.

Maglight light output compared:
Left to right:
3D Cell Maglight - Incandescent flashlight
2D Cell Maglight - 3 watt LED Flashlight(commonly found in Walmart)
2AA Cell Mini-Maglight - 3 watt LED Flashlight(commonly found in Walmart - part of my EDC)

The big dog in this lineup is the 2D Cell Maglight. Clearly showing that the upgrade from an incandescent flashlight to the off the shelf LED models is a big step up. Even my little AA Mini Mag gives the old incandescent flashlight a run for it's money. Now let's compare the best of the Maglight to the newer technology available.

Maglight LED vs Eagletac:
Eagletac in Turbo Mode(it's brightest setting):

Eagletac in it's General Mode(the standard setting):

Some things to know:
The Maglight has the ability to focus the light into a nice tight pattern(by turning the head of the light) which is great for throwing the light out at good distances and the light pattern can be widened into a little wider more flood like pattern. This is a nice feature that the Eagletac does not have. The Eagletac has an advantage in that it has multiple modes for low power consumption, a strobe function, a SOS function, beacon function, general output, and turbo output modes. So there are a variety of modes to provide additional flexibility in the light output.

The Eagletac is a small palm sized flashlight that bests a regular size 2D cell flashlight even with a much smaller power supply, and reflector. The fact that such a small light outperforms the larger one by such a wide margin really makes you wonder what an apples to apples comparison of these lights would look like with the new LED's compared to the older in the same size/format light. I think it is fair to say that it will probably warp what we think and know about flashlights going forward!

The Technology Race:

It looks like this LED flashlight space is very rapidly changing and the competition is fierce. From what I can see so far the products are already pretty amazing and I don't really see any reason for someone to hold off making a purchase at this point since the products are just that good. We only have even better stuff to look forward to as the race is on between these companies.

As you can see from some of the pictures of the light output these new LED lights are absolutely amazing and take lighting to an all new level. The pictures hardly do these lights justice and is hard to capture just how big a difference there is between them. I hope it is clear from the shots just how bright the LED's are vs the incandescent and just how bright the newest generations of the LED's are and how they have already dwarfed the commonly available LED's on your store shelves right now. If your still working with that old incandescent flashlight it is time to try something new. These LED bulbs last longer, potentially can use less power depending on the power settings and type. These have the potential to be far more reliable over the long term life of the flashlight. There is no substitute for a good flashlight when you need light.

So don't hesitate. If your lugging around one of the old incandescent bulb flashlights then come on in the waters fine in the LED light camp, and from the looks of things it is only getting much better as time goes on.

LED Cons:
- More costly than the conventional lights, and the newest technology is even more costly still. So weigh the tradeoffs in cost vs the light output.
- Can be more difficult to find replacement LED's if for some reason you should need to replace one

LED Pros:
- You can have a very small flashlight put out as much or more than a much bigger tire thumper size flashlight so size and weight advantage goes to the LED's
- Power consumption can be lower with LED's depending on the flashlight and settings
- More durable than the incandescents(I have been using the LED's for years and have not had an issue)
- The light output is very good, and newer lights are amazing

The purpose of this comparison is to highlight the technology differences and the advantages of going with the LED vs conventional, and to show the even bigger jumps in the more recent LED products now entering the market. If you would like a more detailed review of the Eagletac T20C2 I can do a follow-up review showing the light in more depth and how I plan to use it, but the purpose of this comparison was to give you an idea how these technologies stack up and give you an idea weather these new lights are worth your hard earned money. So far from what I can see they are very good, but can be spendy depending on what you buy.

Some of the more common brands that seem to be very hot right now and shipping with some of the latest technology are:
Four Sevens

Plus many many more... Take some time to check out the reviews section of the Candle Power Forums:

Check out NutnFancy's YouTube Channel for some great reviews on various items that a prepper might find useful:
NutnFancy's Channel

I hope you found this informative and helpful. So with that I will wrap this up, be thankful, be safe, have fun, and we will catch ya next time....