For every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction.  Newton’s Third Law may also apply in the political realm with respect to the Syrian Civil War.  While I hope this does not happen, a US attack against the government of Syria could lead to increased violence.  This could come in the form of increased terrorist attacks in the US, Europe, and Israel along with the risk of a wider war with Iran.

Add chemical weapons to the mix and you have a recipe for disaster.

Serious question, what is the status of your preparations as of today?  Who knows, tomorrow may bring unexpected events without warning.  Pro tip:  be ready for a rough ride if and when the US and/or European countries get involved in the Syrian Civil War.

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, the coming winter could be a cold one.

Credit: Farmer’s Almanac

If the predictions are correct, most of the US will experience a cold and snow-filled winter this year.  As you can see on the map, some areas are projected to receive less snow than others but the overall prediction stands.

Now whether the weather predictions come true or not is secondary to a key preparation principal.  One must be prepared for all weather conditions, especially as winter draws near.  Having extra firewood, fuel, blankets, food, and other supplies is a matter of survival for most of the country.  Its always better to have more supplies on-hand and not need them than not have enough.  Winters can be cruel, especially for those who aren’t prepared.

Keep another thing in mind too.  Even if you live in the Southwest or West Coast, you can still be impacted by severe cold.  During extreme cold, energy demand can spike as heating demand increases.  This will impact the price of fuel and other goods in areas not affected by winter weather.  Also, manufacturing and agricultural production could be affected by interruptions in the supply chain when bad weather hits.  As I’m fond of saying, plan accordingly.

Regardless of what this winter’s weather will be, take steps now to prepare for it.

For about three hours on Thursday, there was a NASDAQ trading interruption that affected the entire exchange.

Credit: The Wall Street Experience

As you can imagine, this caused quite a stir.

In time, the exchange will know what caused the problem and will take steps to prevent it again.  However, if a robust and secure system like the NASDAQ can go down, what does that mean for other mission-critical systems?  Other financial markets have been hacked in recent years so a deliberate attack would not be unprecedented.

Think for a moment about the electrical grids, oil and gas pipelines, banking, air traffic control, water treatment and distribution, hospital systems, and other systems that millions rely on to keep our society functioning…

If today’s events demonstrate anything, its evident that systems can fail at any time.  Whenever possible, take precautions and make preparations for these events.  Some may call them “unforeseen” or “unexpected” but an astute observer knows that interruptions will happen.

For the last several months, I haven’t done much reading other than reading various websites and occasional magazine articles.  However, I did have a chance to purchase and read The Prepper’s Pocket Guide recently and decided to share my thoughts on it.  After all, there are many sources of information out there and sometimes it can be a real challenge determining which ones are worth your time.

This one is worth your time, especially if you are new to preparation.

The book has a lot of good information and is very easy to read.  Bernie Carr is a technical writer and she does a good job of clearly explaining how to prepare for many different scenarios.  I was able to get through it in three days so it won’t take up too much of your time.

However, because it is so light and easy to read, the book sometimes only touches on some topics.  This leaves the reader wanting to learn more and get more specific information on what to do.  Generally, the content is light fare and doesn’t deal with many of the harsher realities (ex. armed and unarmed confrontations) that accompany many disasters.  Given the range of topics though (101), this is understandable given the limited number of pages and small book format.

So get this book, read it, and start applying the knowledge you gain from it.  The Prepper’s Pocket Guide represents a starting point in your journey towards greater preparation, don’t consider it to be the definitive or ultimate guide in that regard.  For less than $15, its a great investment that will help you now and in the future.

Overall Rating:  6/10

Click here to purchase The Prepper’s Pocket Guide

If you have Kwikset Smartkey locks installed, you may want to read this article from Wired about how easy they are to pick.  The Smartkey has a slightly different internal mechanism than most other locks which makes it invulnerable to lock bumping, however it can be picked with relative ease.  As one of the lock hackers wrote:

It’s very clever because the consumer can instantly reprogram the key, but it’s also insecure,” Tobias says. “There’s a lot of positives for Kwikset, but the problem is they can be opened in 15 seconds with a screwdriver and a paper clip. It’s not a pin-tumbler lock so that it doesn’t have the inherent physical strength to block the plug from turning when you do certain things.

This is one of the risks posed by common door locks and hardware that are available from major home improvement retailers.  The deadbolts may be inexpensive and ostensibly secure but as the article showed, there is a weakness in the design of the lock.  My suggestion is to immediately replace this hardware if you have it installed.  Contact your local locksmith and see what high-security alternatives they can provide.  The hardware may cost a bit more, but the benefit of more robust home security is worth far more than the incremental cost of higher quality components.

Imagine this city without power or fiber optic data connectivity…

San Francisco, CA

I was reading Bob Owens’ blog when I read this story about a power substation attack back in April and a widespread outage that took place a couple of days ago.  These events may be totally random, isolated incidents.  Another possibility is that somebody is deliberately targeting vulnerable electrical and data nodes in the Bay Area.

…and these are the events that are publicly known.

Now ask yourself what you would do if you suddenly lost power and/or data connectivity.  Do you have flashlights, candles, or other light sources?  How about food that can be prepared without an electric stove?  Have any battery-operated radios that you can use to get information on an outage?  How about your smartphone, do you follow your utility on Twitter?  Think about these and other steps you can take now to prepare for a power outage.  It could happen without warning and really cause a major disruption in your life.  Get started now!

While the media has focused much of its attention on Anthony Weiner and his sexting problem, I think the case of Eliot Spitzer is a more interesting one.

Credit: NY Daily News

Until he got caught in a prostitution scandal while serving as Governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer was considered a rising star in the Democrat Party.  Now that he is running for City Controller (NYC), the spotlight is shining on him once again.  Apparently, Mr. Spitzer’s ambition and drive remains, albeit on a smaller stage than before. What’s ironic is that his former Madame is running for the same office.

Is it any wonder people don’t trust politicians?

You see, Eliot Spitzer got caught and was forced out of office for his transgressions.  There are many more corrupt, deceitful, dishonest politicians in office all over the country who are responsible for their states, counties, cities, or districts.  These men and women are the ones placed in charge of emergency planning along with other important governmental duties.  Given the lack of discretion and honesty displayed by men like Eliot Spitzer, is it reasonable to doubt their abilities as leaders?

Putting one’s trust in dishonest politicians is misplaced, the better option is to practice self-reliance and make preparations that are either independent or complimentary of governmental efforts.  Leaders will fail their constituents through incompetence, corruption, laziness, or a host of other human frailties.  Depend upon yourself to be ready and be ready to be pleasantly surprised if elected officials effectively carry out their duties.

A while back I read about this horrifying story from New Jersey about a woman who was assaulted in her home, while her young daughter watched.  It could have turned out worse than it did but this situation illustrates why its important to secure your home.

Kevin over at Misfires and Light Strikes discusses why its important to be armed in your own home, take a look at that post when you have a chance.  The takeaway is that when seconds count, the police are minutes away.  This woman and her daughter were fortunate they escaped without permanent injuries.  Arming yourself will equip you to deal with the worst should this happen to your family.

There is another aspect to this situation though.  Most homes are not secured against a determined criminal.  The locks, doors, door jambs, windows, and other entry ways most homes have are not designed to withstand forceful entry.  I’ve done some research on this subject and applied it to my own home.  I will post these findings in a series addressing how to “Harden Your Home” against intruders.  So stay tuned, a lot of good information is on its way.

One last thing, how much is your sense of personal safety worth?  We’ll discuss the costs and benefits of better home security in the coming weeks so do some calculations on your own and have those written down.  The benefits of hardening your home will become evident quickly once you know what security is worth.

Some blogs are worth reading because they offer informed but not “official” information regarding the nexus of politics and economics.  Greg Patterson’s Espresso Pundit is one such site.

His experience as a state representative, accountant, and attorney give him a breadth of experience that is worthy of attention.  While most of his focus is on local (Arizona) events, he posts some really good articles on economics that are very helpful in understanding the current situation.  One article from April stands out, which you can read here.  In it he writes:

So where are we now?  I’d like to think that the recession is long over, the recovery—although tepid—is real and that we will eventually grow out of our debt problems.  However,  I think it’s more likely that when the history of our era is written, it will start with the housing crisis then it will move up to a discussion of Fannie and Freddie…and then the banks.  The bad debt sinks the banks and they get bailed out by their governments.  But the banks eventually overwhelm the countries that bailed them out.   The sovereign debt of the less stable countries—Greece, Italy, Spain et al—hang on for a while as they are bailed out by the larger Euro Zone.  Then Europe’s united banking system fractures, followed by the collapse of Euro Zone itself.  Chinese growth slows; European growth stops and investors soon lose confidence in the US and Japan’s ability to repay future loans.  The Fed’s trillion dollar annual purchase of our own debt causes investors to lose faith in the dollar.   Investors begin to demand bond premiums similar to what they demanded of Greece in the early days of the crisis.   The US and Japan see their ability to borrow sharply reduced while stalled growth leads to a sharp reduction in revenue.  At that point the entire economic system collapses.

It could be that we aren’t even at the end of the beginning.

…to seek Chapter Nine Bankruptcy protection?

Will Chicago lead the way?

Credit: Skyscraper Page

Or will it be Trenton, NJ?

In time the answers will come out but Moody’s is analyzing which major cities are in danger of going bankrupt.  The order and names on the list are less important than the underlying truth.  That is major cities are either having serious financial problems now or will experience them in the near future.  As I am fond of saying, plan accordingly.