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Reading list: 2009

Books I read in 2009:

The Literature of C.S. Lewis by Timothy B. Shutt
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
Water: For Health, for Healing, for Life by F. Batmanghelidj
The Enlightenment: Reason, Tolerance, and Humanity by James Schmidt
Bias by Bernard Goldberg
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
Meltdown by Thomas E. Woods Jr.
The Age of Turbulence by Alan Greenspan
Civil War Two by Thomas W. Chittum
No Debt, No Sweat! by Steve Diggs
Wild at Heart by John Eldredge
Domestic Enemies by Matthew Bracken
Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said by Philip K. Dick
Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
Emergency by Neil Strauss
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
Currency Trading for Dummies by Mark Galant & Brian Dolan
The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson
Economics, 3rd Edition by Timothy Taylor
The Colorado Kid by Stephen King
How Few Remain by Harry Turtledove
Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
The Great War: American Front by Harry Turtledove
The Roald Dahl Omnibus by Roald Dahl
Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War by T.J. Stiles
A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
The Great War: Walk in Hell by Harry Turtledove
A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin

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karldenningerIf you are into free market economics and haven’t discovered Karl Denninger, you should immediately drop what you are doing and look him up. I try to catch Denninger’s blog every day. A lot of his stuff goes right over my head, but I always find his wisdom to be a very valuable resource for keeping track of the economic shenanigans going on in Washington. While all of the Obamaites are spouting nonsense about an economic recovery, those in the know see us drifting in the opposite direction. Last week Denninger posted an eye-catching piece called “Ten Things You Must Do”. I thought his list was very timely and interesting, so I will repost it here:

1. Stop listening to those who claim that “The Market is telling you the recession is ending/over.” Baloney. What was the market telling you in October of 2007 when the SPX hit 1576? That everything was great and “subprime was contained”, right? Any more questions on that piece of nonsense?

2. Get out of debt – NOW. Revolving debt in particular is murderous. If your credit line hasn’t been cut back or your interest rate jacked, you’re one of the few. It will happen. Going bankrupt due to increasing debt service requirements (with or without job loss) sucks.

3. Stop spending more than you make – in fact, do the opposite – start saving. NOW. You need to be saving 10% of your gross income. Not net or “excess” – gross. These funds serve two purposes: an emergency fund (which you’re likely to need) and if you have one already it will also serve as a fund to buy up assets that will be puked up when things get really bad. You don’t get wealthy by selling to some other sucker – you get wealthy by buying when nobody has any money to buy – that is, by driving the hardest bargain you can imagine!

4. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: have the ability to make it even if you lose your job. Most people say three months of reserves are necessary. I’ve said six months to two years, and I’ll reiterate it. And reserves means cash, not credit. Parked in a credit union is ok – but be prepared to make that actual cash in a big honking hurry if you need to. How do you know if you need to? If and when the first Treasury auction fails, the market crashes below the 666 March low and/or a big bank fails, you need to.

5. Pull ALL of your business from ANY bank that has received federal assistance. The community banks and credit unions have been screwed by the crony government interests in two ways – first, by regulators allowing bankrupt banks to pay overly-large CD rates when they’re insolvent (that’s fraud on its face) and second by proposing to tax them through FDIC assessments to pay for the sins of the imprudent. Withdraw your consent and assistance – move your funds to a credit union or local community bank, but before doing so ask to see their financials and look specifically for over-leverage in commercial real estate and other development “assets”. HIT THE BAD GUYS IN THE WALLET – THE ONLY PLACE THEY UNDERSTAND!

6. If you have assets in the stock market, and have thus enjoyed the rally off SPX 666, either sell or hedge that exposure RIGHT NOW. The upside risk is what – 10%? What’s the downside risk? 50% or more. You can hedge effectively with PUTs which have gotten much cheaper as the VIX has fallen, or simply sell out and go to cash. In my opinion you’re insane to play for another 10% gain when you may suffer a 50% loss, but that’s my view. Just don’t say you weren’t warned if you do nothing and the collapse occurs!

7. Figure out what you’re going to do if we suffer a “sudden stop” and be prepared to execute that plan. Consider what a collapse in trucking, for example, does to the food supply into major cities. This is a low-probability risk right now (perhaps 10-20%) but if it happens major cities will become free-fire zones within hours. A gun won’t do you a damn bit of good when there’s a potential rifle barrel sticking out of every window and the person behind it is interested in the bag of groceries you’re carrying. You are not Rambo (and by the way, have you noticed that Rambo always goes after bad guys in some small, flat hellhole? Ever wonder why? With a sniper rifle poking out of every second window even John Rambo doesn’t stand a chance.) Those who live on the coasts have hurricane plans. Everyone needs a “sudden stop” plan, and it must not rely on access to credit of any sort, because if “it” happens that access will disappear instantly. For people in rural America, this might not be that big of a deal. For those who live in big cities it is – and its something you probably haven’t thought through to the degree you need to.

8. Don’t count on metals. I know, I know, we’re going to hyperinflate and gold is going to the moon. I have one question: Can you eat it, drink it, run your car on it, sleep under it, or screw it? No? That’s a problem. A “sudden stop” is not a hyperinflationary event – it has good odds of being quite the opposite. God help you if you put your eggs in that basket and are wrong.

9. Acquire lawful means of self-defense. Your odds of being victimized are roughly 1 in 100 annually under normal conditions. What happens when its 1 in 5? Think it won’t be? Ok, if doesn’t really get bad then you spent money on something you don’t need, but you still have it and can sell it (even if you take somewhat of a loss.) If you wait, and then decide you need it, what are the odds of being able to find a firearm? And by the way, weapons you don’t know how to use in a competent and cool fashion if you need to are worthless or worse. This means range time and/or professional instruction, and both take time, effort and money. Again, this is called “hedging” – your life and property, this time (instead of your investment portfolio)

10. Figure out who your friends are – and aren’t. This isn’t about who you like. Its about who you can trust with your back – no questions asked. If things get bad the second-to-the-last thing you want to be is alone – right before being around anyone who is less than 100% trustworthy. Think about this point long and hard – this doesn’t mean dumping acquaintances now, but it does mean knowing who you group with if you need to – and who you avoid.

Good advice, I think.

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beach7Tomorrow I am going on vacation. Tonight I am preparing. The following ramblings are some advice for the travelling patriot to consider when planning and executing a journey.

Recon— Know where you are going. If you have been there before, great. If not, swallow your pride and get directions. A map is good. Mapquest is better. A GPS in the car is best. All three is super best. Consult someone who has been to your destination ahead of you for advice. Let some folks a home know where you are headed and when you plan to return so that if you don’t come back, they can send out the search party.

Intel–[By personal choice, I have elected to exist and operate my person within the system. Some folks have elected to operate outside the system and I think that they are well within their rights to do so. If you are one of these, the advice in this section will not apply to you. For others who are interested in the advantages, disadvantages, and various and sundry ins and outs of living outside the system, see Arthur Menard’s excellent lecture series Think Free: Bursting the Bubbles of Government Deception.]
Gather your necessary papers and documents for travel: driver’s license, vehicle registration, proof of insurance, medical insurance and contact information, roadside assistance information, etc. If you are travelling armed (which I personally think is a good idea) be sure you have your carry permit with you. Check the laws of all the states you will be travelling through to make sure they honor your carry permit. This is easy to do at USACarry.com. If you are travelling through or to a state that does not honor your carry permit, or if you don’t have a carry permit, you are still legally permitted to carry a firearm with you in your vehicle by following the Interstate Journey Law. In order to be in compliance with this law, you must have the firearm unloaded and inaccessible from the passenger compartment of the vehicle (locked in a case, the trunk, etc.) Of course, if you are a felon or for some other reason are not legally allowed to possess a firearm, this does not apply to you.

Gear–There is a minimum amount of emergency gear you should pack for any journey by motor vehicle. In my opinion, the minimum for your car kit should include the following:

-Food and water for 24 hours for each person in the vehicle
-Blankets and/or coats for each person (in cool or cold weather)
-Tools for minor repairs including spare tire, tire change equipment, jumper cables, extra motor oil/transmission fluid/brake fluid, screwdriver, wrenches, etc.
-Signaling device such as road flare, light/glow sticks, or cones
-Flashlight
-First aid kit
-CB, Ham radio, or cell phone for communication
-Games or toys for entertaining the kids

Hostile contact–Whenever you go on a journey, there is a chance you may have a run-in with law enforcement. If you are following the law, these encounters should be few and uneventful. However, depending on where you are travelling, the cops don’t always follow the rules. It is wise to have a basic knowledge of the laws of the states you will be traveling in/to, and a complete and thorough knowledge of your own rights as an American citizen and motorist. Immediately before leaving on your trip, review the excellent film Busted: The Citizen’s Guide to Surviving Police Encounters. This will give you an clear idea of what to say and how to conduct yourself when dealing with the police.

Above all, in case of an accident, be sure to be wearing clean underwear.

Some of you out there may have additional advice for vacation preparation. If so, please feel free to post a comment. Until next time, I wish you all safe journeys and Godspeed.

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Cutting the hype

thetruthisoutthereI have had several of my readers ask me where I get my information, how I know the information I have is accurate, and just generally how I go about finding things out. I have a little system that I try to stick to, even though it is often difficult. Below I have listed some of the methods and rules I use to gather information. This list is by no means exhaustive; it is simply the general process I go through and the standards I have set for myself. Please feel free to comment with rebuttals or advice of your own.

1. Never trust anybody. This is my #1 rule. I [nearly] always make it a rule to find two different sources for a story. Three sources are even better. If you just find one lonely blogger out there reporting something and you can’t find anyone to back him up, chances are either the information is brand new (in which case you should wait for it to be substantiated before you take it to heart) or that guy is full of it. Also make sure your sources are independent from each other; a lot of the information online is simply cut and pasted from an original source. This rule applies for the lone blog you see, the crazy UFO website you like to sneak a look at, and even the mainstream media giant website. There are also several fact-checking sites available. Some of the ones I use are FactCheck.org, PolitiFact.com, the Washington Post Fact Checker, and Snopes.com. Be sure to check out the background and possible biases of any fact-checking site you use.

2. Never trust the mainstream media. Lots of people I know seem to take sides within the mainstream media. They seem to think that Fox News is for those on the right and CNN is for those on the left. The truth is that all of the networks and cable news channels that we call the “mainstream media” are owned and controlled by a few large mega-corporations. These companies and individuals dictate absolutely what can and can’t be reported by their news organizations. They report the news that sells their sponsors’ products, their channels, their websites, their magazines, and their newspapers. And as we all know, the truth does not always sell. For a handy tool to find out who owns what, go here.

3. Discover the alternative media. The internet has given birth to a new breed of news known as the alternative media. These are news services that are not in cahoots with the mega-corporations mentioned above and therefore have no one controlling what they can and can’t report. Since we have all become so used to the mainstream media, the alternative media can come across as a little “out there” sometimes, even to the point of being tabloidish. As with any source, be sure and refer to rule #1 when evaluating a story from the alternative media. Also because of the absence of centralized control, alternative media sources can swing drastically around the political/social spectrum. Be aware of this tendency, but don’t let it scare you. The alternative media is a goldmine of information that you won’t find reported by Brokaw, Jennings, or Rather. A few of my go-to AM sources are the American Free Press, Infowars, and Prison Planet. There are no unbiased sources out there, and these sites lean toward the Freedom Movement, but you can easily find AM sources for any political bent. Again, be sure to find multiple sources and don’t trust anyone.

4. Read blogs. Bloggers are great reporters. They honestly care about getting news out there. The more news they accurately report, the more folks will frequent their sites. Blogs are great for enjoyment as well as digging into current events. Two websites that offer multiple blogs in a “changing channel” format are condron.us and AlphaInventions.com. You can submit your own blog to these sites to get into their rotations and increase your readership as well. Again, when evaluating information from any blog, refer to rule #1.

5. Discover amateur reporting on YouTube. There are hundreds of amateur news reporters and video bloggers who submit their reports to YouTube for your viewing enjoyment. They are often extremely colorful, but do a great job reporting and gathering information. Be careful though. Any YouTube reporter worth his salt will thoroughly document his sources so that you can check out the accuracy of what he is saying. Some of my favorite YouTube folks are Mike at Don’t Panic!, J. Douglas Fisher, and DebTruth. Just as with the alternative media, there are folks for every taste. Don’t forget rule #1.

6. Don’t listen to or watch political speeches. I don’t ever watch a politician speak. It is too easy to be swayed by their silky smooth delivery (Obama), their comic ineptitude (Bush), or their jerky and furious body language (McCain). A far more effective way to evaluate what politicians say is to read transcripts of their speeches. That way you can get the information they are presenting in your own mental voice, and weigh the speech more carefully. You can also go back and re-read points that you missed, mark passages for further investigation, and have ready reference to their often inaccurate figures for fact-checking. It is easy to find speech transcripts on Google or some other search engine. Just enter the politician’s name, the date of the speech, and the words “speech transcript”. For example, here is the transcript of the press conference President Obama gave earlier this evening. Give this a try. It will give you a whole new appreciation of the kind of shenanigans our political leaders try to pull on us with their speeches.

These are the main methods and rules I use to dig up accurate news on the internet and elsewhere. I hope they are helpful in your own search for the truth.

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shhhEver wonder where our legislators get their information? The Congressional Research Service is the official think tank for the Congress; they prepare reports on just about anything any senator or congressman wants to know. Here is their mission statement:

CRS is committed to supporting an informed national legislature — by developing creative approaches to policy analysis, anticipating legislative needs and responding to specific requests from legislators in a timely manner. With a rigorous adherence to our key values, CRS provides analysis that is authoritative, confidential, objective and nonpartisan.

Technically these reports are part of the public domain, but until now they have been mainly available only in written form, and only by special constituent request to one’s representative or senator (and then often “only if politically helpful to said politician”). That means that if you knew there might be a report on a certain subject you could write your congressman and request that he or she send you a written copy. Then they were under no obligation to do so unless it would benefit them politically. Needless to say, these specialized reports were pretty difficult to get. In fact, the CRS reports are listed as #1 in the Center for Democracy and Technology’s 10 Most Wanted Government Documents list.

Multiple attempts have been made to pass legislation that would force the CRS reports to be made public, but each time our Congressmen vote to keep them a secret. The Congressional Research service itself has even lobbied to keep the reports unavailable to ordinary Americans.

Enter Wikileaks, and anonymous web-based service dedicated to freedom of information through the public release of classified material. On February 8, Wikileaks obtained an extensive archive of Congressional Research Service reports dating back to 1990. This massive group of documents (6,780 reports consisting of over 127,000 pages) contains detailed analysis of some of the most explosive concerns of our day, most previously unavailable to the public. In fact, of these 6,780 reports, only 506 of them were previously available online.

“So what?” you say. Well, so far there have been no smoking guns, but here are a few of the reports I found very interesting nonetheless:

On terrorism and civil liberties-

Response to Terrorism: Legal Aspects of the Use of Military Force, September 13, 2001
Terrorism at Home: A Quick Look at Applicable Federal and State Criminal Laws, October 3, 2001
Terrorism Legislation: Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT) Act of 2001, October 26, 2001
The USA PATRIOT Act: A Legal Analysis, April 15, 2002
Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board: New Independent Agency Status, November 26, 2008
Privacy: An Overview of Federal Statutes Governing Wiretapping and Electronic Eavesdropping, September 2, 2008
National Identification Cards: Legal Issues, January 7, 2003

On economic issues-

Soft Money, Allegations of Political Corruption, and Enron, February 12, 2002
Gold: Uses of U.S. Official Holdings, April 22, 2002
Proposals to Allow Federal Reserve Banks to Pay Interest on Reserve Balances: The Issues Behind the Legislation, March 5, 2002

On health issues-

Environmental Exposure to Endocrine Disruptors: What Are the Human Health Risks?, February 4, 2002
Dietary Supplements: Legislative and Regulatory Status, July 11, 2002

On gun control-

The United Nations and “Gun Control”, April 7, 2005
Long-Range Fifty Caliber Rifles: Should They Be More Strictly Regulated?, July 25, 2005
Gun Control: Statutory Disclosure Limitations on ATF Firearms Trace Data and Multiple Handgun Sales Reports, February 1, 2008

On the current financial crisis-

Federal Loans to the Auto Industry Under the Energy Independence and Security Act, November 13, 2008
Containing Financial Crisis, November 24, 2008
China and the Global Financial Crisis: Implications for the United States, November 24, 2008
Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s Financial Problems: Frequently Asked Questions, September 12, 2008

And that’s just from a 5 minute scan. There is a year’s worth of reading here.

Ever since September 11, 2001, our government has made it it’s business to know what we are up to. Well I say it’s time we learned what it is up to. There is no better way to predict what our legislators will do than to know what information they are being fed. Information is power. Happy reading.

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Reading list: 2008

Books I read in 2008:

Farnham’s Freehold by Robert A. Heinlein
Love & Respect by Emerson Eggerichs
Tappan on Survival by Mel Tappan
Season of Life by Jeffrey Marx
The Gathering Storm by Winston S. Churchill
Unintended Consequences by John Ross
Molon Labe! by Boston T. Party
Crisis Preparedness Handbook by Jack A. Spigarelli
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
Character Driven College Preparation by John William Turner, Jr.
His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis
A Foreign Policy of Freedom by Ron Paul
Armed America by Clayton E. Cramer
Libertarianism: A Primer by David Boaz
Anthem by Ayn Rand
The Revolution: A Manifesto by Ron Paul
Enemies Foreign and Domestic by Matthew Bracken
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
A Commonwealth of Thieves by Thomas Keneally
From Here to Infinity: An Exploration of Science Fiction Literature by Michael D.C. Drout
The Historian’s Toolbox by Robert C. Williams
Discovering the Philosopher in You: The Big Questions in Philosophy by Colin McGinn
The Law by Frederic Bastiat
Rethinking Our Past: Recognizing Facts, Fictions, and Lies in American History by James W. Loewen
Hell’s Guest by Col. Glenn D. Frazier
Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt
Common Sense, Revisited by Anonymous
Brotherhood of the Revolution: How America’s Founders Forged a New Nation by Joseph J. Ellis
Hologram of Liberty by Kenneth W. Royce
A History of Ancient Greece by Eric H. Cline
No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority by Lysander Spooner

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Magazine the thirteenth:

republiclogo

Republic Magazine is probably the most “out there” libertarian magazine I get. Some of it is a little too wacky for me, but most of it is pretty good. It’s also a new magazine (only on it’s 10th issue).

Magazine the fourteenth:

archlogo

Archaeology is the official journal of the Archaeological Institute of America. It is much wider in scope than BAR, and in my opinion, a little more enjoyable to read. It seems to not take itself so seriously.

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