Patrice Lewis of Rural Revolution talks about lessons learned and general preparedness over the course of the past year in A Year of Testing
…If the last year has done nothing else, it has tested a whole lot of people. That testing is still going on today, everything from the hundreds of thousands of small business either closed or struggling, to the current catastrophic situation in Texas (and to a lesser extent, Oregon).
As a result of the myriad issues America has faced in the last year, being prepared is more important than ever. I think we can all agree on that. What’s questionable is whether it’s possible, since so many people are struggling financially. (For those in compromised financial straits, Daisy Luther at The Organic Prepper and its sister site The Frugalite writes a lot about this issue. Her material is well worth reviewing.)
So when I saw an article this morning on Natural News entitled “Fifteen HARD lessons I learned from the ‘Texageddon’ blackouts and collapse of critical infrastructure,” I read it with interest.
I often get impatient with Natural News because it tends toward the “We’re all gonna die!” mindset, but this one was fairly good. The bulk of the advice is in the form of a podcast I didn’t bother listening to, but here are the 15 points synopsized down. My comments are italicized and (in parentheses).
- Survival is very physical. Expect to exert a lot of physical effort. (Agreed. We had a massive windstorm and subsequent power outage back in 2015, and it was very hard work indeed to maintain livestock, water, etc.)
• Culture matters. Don’t end up in a community without morals or ethics when it all hits the fan. (Easy to say, not necessarily easy to do. Not everyone can afford to move.)
• Convergence of two “black swan” disasters can wipe out your best plans, even if you have successfully prepped for any one (standalone) disaster. (Agreed. I’ve always maintained preparedness doesn’t make you immune to disaster; it just gives you a fighting chance.)
• Some of your preps will FAIL. It’s difficult to consider all possible scenarios, so count on failures striking without warning. (Agreed.Three is two, two is one, etc.)
• You need LAYERS of preparedness and “fall back” systems that are very low-tech and require nothing more than the laws of physics (gravity, chemistry, etc.). (That’s why I’ve always preferred low-tech options for preparedness.)
• No one is coming to help you. In many situations, no one can get to you even if they wanted to.
• Containers (buckets, barrels) are extremely important. Have lots of pre-stored water and fuel at all times.
• Bitcoin and crypto were all completely valueless and useless during the collapse, since they all rely on electricity. Gold, silver and cash worked fine, on the other hand. (Yay, at last someone gets it! I’ve always thought tangible assets were the way to go. Personally I prefer the “stock” market such as cattle and chickens.)
• You will likely experience injuries or mishaps due to new, unusual demands on your work activities. Practice safety and be prepared to deal with injuries yourself.
• Having lots of spare parts for plumbing. Standardize your pipe sizes and accessories. I have standardized on 1″ PEX pipe and all its fittings because PEX is very easy to cut, shape and rework. Plus it’s far more resistant to bursting, compared to PVC. (I take exception to this. We should all have “lots of spare parts” for plumbing? Really? Why not just have an extra house you can keep in your back pocket for any spare parts you need? What happened in Texas was unprecedented, and the whole plumbing issue is vastly more complicated than just what’s under your sink. In other words, while spare plumbing parts are great, this is a “hindsight is 2020” recommendation that seems a little too pat and smacks of blaming the victim.)
• Investment in food is always a good investment, as prices will continue to climb. No one ever said during an emergency, “Gee, I wish I had less food here.”
• You can’t count on any government or institution or infrastructure to solve anything. Usually they just get in the way.
• You MUST have good lights and many backup batteries, or you will be sitting in the dark. You’ll need a good headlamp (I use the PETZL Nao+) and some good 18650-battery flashlights such as Nitecore. (I’m also a big proponent of kerosene lamps.)
• Guns and bullets are not needed in some survival scenarios, so balance your prepping. Don’t put all your money into ammo and fail to cover other important areas like emergency first aid. (Totally agree! There are too many “Rambo” preppers out there who think that because they have a bristling arsenal, that’s all they need to be prepared. What are they going to do – shoot their way into a closed convenience store to steal what they need whenever the power goes out?)
• Think about what are stores of energy: Wood, diesel, gasoline, propane, water elevation, etc. Survival is a lot about energy management. (Agreed. To a minor extent, we’re facing that now in our new home. We’re still without the backups we need to stay comfortable during a grid-down situation.)
Anyway, that’s about all the rambling musings I have at the moment. Sorry to sound so incoherent…
Bill White at Survivopedia talks about Sudden Freezes: The Cascading Problems they Cause while discussing the recent Texas storm/freeze.
The arctic blast that blanketed the United States has hit Texas particularly hard. Being a warm state, Texas doesn’t see much cold weather.
Yet this particular cold front has broken all records, with below-freezing weather for five days in a row. That sudden cold spell has caused cascading problems, starting with power outages. Being a citizen of Texas, I had a front-row seat.
Power outages during extreme weather events are not uncommon. Our aging electrical grid is hit the hardest by any severe weather, from ice to wind. Power companies nationwide are well-versed in emergency repairs, trying to get the power back on for people. Even so, the incidence of major power outages has been on the increase for over a decade, with weather events being the leading cause of those outages.
In this particular freeze, roughly 5.4 million people lost power, with some 4.3 million of those people being in Texas, mostly in the major population centers. But why was the Lone Star state hit so hard? People are hard at work, finger-pointing, but there’s nothing to point fingers at in reality.
When systems are designed, and plans are made, risk factors are taken into account. Those risk factors drive a wide range of design decisions, such as what temperatures equipment has to be designed to work in. That is a necessary cost containment method. Building any particular capacity for resilience into a system or structure adds cost, whether it can withstand wind, earthquake, or cold. So, extremes that are unlikely to happen are ignored, making it so that the farther any particular event falls outside the design envelope, the greater the possibility that it will cause problems.
In this case, the weather that the polar vortex brought to Texas was a once-in-a-century event. The electrical infrastructure wasn’t designed for it, leading to a large number of cascading failures. Interestingly, the failures did cascade, showing us what might happen in an even bigger grid-related disaster. Let’s follow this through.
Rough Order of Events
To start with, Texas is leading the nation in wind power, with roughly 20% of all Texas electricity coming from wind. The decision was made to decommission some older, less environmentally friendly power plants to meet federal regulations.
At the same time this trend towards wind power was going on, the board of ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) decided to reduce the amount of energy reserve capacity in the state, as part of the effort to increase the percentage of renewable energy. The reasoning was that the state could always buy energy from the surrounding states, should there be a need for extra.
In addition to moving more towards wind energy, the other significant change in the Texas grid was a vast increase of natural gas power plants. Now, roughly 48% of the state’s power comes from those plants, which are preferred because they are extremely clean burning.
Before the cold front hit, many power generating plants were pulled offline for maintenance. This is a regular occurrence, but the timing was unfortunate this time, as the lowering temperatures caused people to use more energy to heat their homes. The margin between capacity and consumption became razor-thin.
Then the cold hit, bringing freezing rain. One of the first casualties of the cold was wind turbines. The freezing rain built up on the wind turbines’ blades in West Texas, throwing those units out of balance. To avoid the destruction of the turbines, they switched off automatically. This happened to roughly half the total wind turbines, reducing the state’s total power production by 10%.
Wind turbines in colder climates are manufactured with built-in de-icing capability, much like airliners are. But this measure is not included in those installed in Texas because of the low likelihood of freezing on the turbines’ blades.
While this was going on, natural gas consumption increased as people tried to keep their homes warm. HVAC systems in Texas have a smaller heating capacity than those installed in homes farther north, as heating of any sort is rarely needed. So the furnaces in most homes were running 24/7 for at least the first four days. It was four days before mine turned off for the first time, which was only for about an hour.
This massive increase in natural gas use was coupled with freezing in the lines (yes, natural gas lines can freeze, both from water in the lines and from hydrates). This didn’t entirely block the lines, but it did restrict flow. That led to some natural gas power plants having a reduced output and others shutting down. This may have been exacerbated by instrumentation in power plants freezing up. Again, the instrumentation is not protected against extreme cold due to the rarity of that cold.
Early on in the crisis, ERCOT reacted to the entire Texas power grid’s potential loss in the usually accepted way of instituting rolling blackouts. This did not help some state areas where blackouts were already occurring, but it did prevent the entire grid from going down. If they had waited a few minutes more to initiate those rolling blackouts, the damage would have taken months to repair.
Somehow, the location of gas pumping stations and power plants was overlooked in instituting the rolling blackouts. So in some cases, the natural gas flow stopped due to the lack of electrical power. That, in turn, caused more natural gas power plants to shut down, increasing the problem. Those power plants take time to bring back online once they’ve shut down.
So, why didn’t ERCOT buy electricity from the surrounding states, as the plan called for? I haven’t seen anything definitive yet, but I would guess that since freezing cold was affecting the entire country, nobody had the excess capacity to buy from. Electric utilities were probably all producing at max, just trying to keep up with the increased need.
Up to this point, the cascading had only been in the electrical grid; but it didn’t stay there.
The next victim of all this was municipal water throughout the state. As with the power plants, water purification plants were not built to withstand several days of sub-freezing temperatures, not even in the northern part of the state.
Municipal water authorities were faced with two problems simultaneously: low to no electricity and freezing temperatures. By regulation, they must have backup power and redundant backup power to ensure that they can provide water when and if the power goes out.
But that didn’t help in the city I live in. When the water purification plant didn’t receive the power it needed, the generators kicked on automatically. But all four generators quickly shut down. They’re diesel generators, and I’m guessing the diesel fuel wasn’t adequately treated for the cold. Diesel is temperature-sensitive, and at about freezing temperatures, the paraffin in the diesel starts to solidify, making it cloudy. I wouldn’t be surprised if, when they pull the injectors, they find that they’re clogged with paraffin.
Water lines in Texas aren’t buried anywhere near as deep as they are in the northern states. It’s not unusual to find local building codes requiring water lines to be installed six feet below ground level in the far north, but they are generally two feet below the surface in Texas. So the extreme cold brought the frost line down to below the water lines, causing pipes to break across the state. Many homes, businesses, and commercial facilities had their water lines break and city distribution lines.
The city where I live had a 30,000 gallon per minute break, which took over four days to find. A building belonging to our neighborhood hospital had its main water inlet break, spilling hundreds of gallons of water on the ground before I found it (I just happened to be the first one to see it). The pipes in a home I’m trying to buy froze and broke, even though the faucets were left on at a trickle.
Water across the state was running at a trickle or less. The entire state instituted a water boil order because the water pressure was low enough. They couldn’t be sure that nothing was leaking into the lines. Grocery stores and other outlets sold out of water on the second day.
Buying water probably brought on the next phase of the cascade, as grocery stores emptied, just like they did in the early days of the COVID Pandemic. Some stores had lines going around the block, with people waiting in the cold to get in as social distancing rules limited the number of shoppers allowed in the stores. Gas stations hung out signs saying they were out of gas.
The entire state went from normal to no power, no water, and no food in days. If this had been a long-term event, such as would have happened had ERCOT not instituted rolling blackouts, then the results would have been catastrophic.
Time for the Blame Game
As typically happens in situations like this, it took a lot less time for the blame game to start than it did for those working on the problem, even to begin implementing solutions. Some were pointing fingers for political reasons, while others were doing so because they wanted someone to blame for their problems. In either case, the people who were doing the blaming would have been better served using all that hot air to heat their homes.
In reality, the only one to point fingers at is the weather. We haven’t had a freeze like this in Texas in the last 100 years. So it’s not surprising that our infrastructure isn’t designed to withstand it. Spending the money to build that into our systems would be about as useful as buying snowplows, something else we don’t have in Texas.
The people who are complaining to our government and ERCOT forget that it’s expensive to design and build systems hardened against any possible disaster. The engineers designing these systems and the companies that own them have to take financial practicalities into account. It’s a tricky balancing act between avoiding the cost of lost service and spending too much money on building capacities that may never be used. Invariably, it’s a no-win game.
We Americans have gotten spoiled. We are so accustomed to everything being there that our first reaction is to complain when things don’t work the way we think they should. But the truth of the matter is, they never will, not entirely. There will always be things that happen because we can’t effectively plan for every possible contingency.
Prepare for Cascading Events
As a case study, this has been incredibly useful. One thing it has shown exceptionally clearly is how events cascade, turning one problem into several. The same thing happened in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, although those were mainly supply-related. Still, just knowing how they can and will cascade in a crisis helps us with our planning and preparation.
But this isn’t just limited to major events. Natural disasters can cause cascading failures as well. Hurricanes tend to bring power outages and water shortages as well. At the same time, price gouging exists because there’s generally a shortage of supplies. Just look at Puerto Rico and what happened there after the double-whammy of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
It seems eminently clear at this point that any major event is going to come complete with these cascading effects. Therefore, we must plan for them to happen, not allowing ourselves to isolate any disaster as only one-dimensional.
Those who are using a TEOTWAWKI event, such as an EMP, as the basic outline for their preps are doing it right. While we may never see that EMP, we can expect to see multiple things go wrong simultaneously. Building our prepping plans and stockpiles to take multiple outages at the same time only makes sense.
Long Term Security and Defense of your Retreat Location comes from Max Velocity, a well-known provider of tactical instruction and author on the same topic.
In this article I will discuss long term security and defense of your retreat location. We cannot predict now exactly what conditions will look like after a collapse and as such I urge you not to make too many assumptions based on your particular idea of what such a post-SHTF situation will look like. The purpose will be to give you the general principles and techniques of defending a location, which you can tailor and apply as necessary and appropriate. It is best to adopt a mindset of flexibility and gather mental and physical knowledge and ‘tools’ in order to be able to develop your response and put some of these measures in place as you find them necessary and appropriate. For the article I will assume a broad post-SHTF situation of societal collapse with a general absence of law and order.
What is the threat? As a prepper hunkered down at your home, with food stores, the most likely threat will be from looters and marauders. These could take many forms from a simple beggar, through starving neighbors, mobs, tricks and deceptions, to a tactically organized group with weapons and equipment. The worst case is some sort of organized paramilitary style force with heavy equipment bent on forced redistribution. Therefore, remain flexible and have an emergency rally point and extraction route should you be overmatched. Know when you have no alternative but to bug out. You can make this decision if you have the information before the threat arrives and conduct the bug out in good order. Alternatively, you may be forced to make the decision as the attack progresses and have to ‘break contact’ and withdraw under enemy fire; this is one of the most difficult tactical maneuvers. Work on your leadership, decision making and decision points so that your response under the pressure of both time and enemy is optimal. Tied in with this is the need for clear rules of engagement and for the use of force appropriate to the threat.
This short article is mainly concerned with defense of a single location and as such will not go into techniques such as mobile and area defense, which could be useful for a larger community. Remember, the best form of defense is to avoid the fight. But that may not be possible and you have to always plan and prepare for that fight. You can better avoid the fight by adopting a lower profile at your location, attempting to conceal your supplies and capabilities. The opposite of this is to have a high profile and try to use threat of force as a deterrent. But remember that a good rifleman could sit out at long range and simply shoot your defenders in their sentry positions. In my opinion, the best approach for a small survivor group is to adopt a lower profile while maintaining the capability to defeat threats as they are encountered. The following are some principles of defense that you should consider and apply to your location and plan:
- All Round Defense, in order to anticipate a threat from any direction.
- Depth, in order to prevent penetration of your defended position.
- Mutually Supporting Sectors of Fire, in order to increase the strength and flexibility of a defense.
- Concealment and Deception, in order to deny the adversary the advantages of understanding.
- Maintenance of a Reserve.
- Offensive Action (where appropriate), in order to seize or regain the initiative.
- Administration, to include:
- Appropriate numbers of trained personnel.
- Appropriate weapons, ammunition and equipment.
- A watch system for early warning.
Most modern family homes do not lend themselves to defense. The structure is vulnerable to high velocity rounds which will pass through multiple frame, wood and plasterboard walls, and also simple mechanical breaches are possible with tools and even vehicles used as rams. They are also very vulnerable to fire. If you try and defend your house from the windows, then you will not be protected by the walls framing those windows and the room can be filled full of high velocity rounds by an attacking group. There is a real danger of being suppressed by superior firepower. If you stay back from the windows as you should, then you limit your fields of fire and unless there are enough of you defending then the enemy will be able to take advantage of blind spots to close with and then breach the house. You need a basement or other ballistic protected safe room for your noncombatant personnel (kids etc.) to shelter in; otherwise they will not be protected from the violence and from the high velocity rounds ripping through the walls.
One of the key things for a prepper defense of a location is to have an appropriate number of trained personnel with appropriate firearms, ammunition and equipment. You will also have to take measures to harden the building to slow down attempts to breach. You need to consider whether or not you want your property to look derelict; this could be good or bad in the circumstances. It would be worthwhile to consider boarding up or shuttering at least the ground floor windows and think about putting up door bars or even board up some of the doors. This will also help with light discipline. External boards can make the place look derelict, but looking derelict could also encourage approach by potential squatters. You could put up the boards internally, or something similar, in order to maintain a low profile and slow any breaches. There a lots of pros and cons each way. When boarding up doors, ensure that you have at least two independent exits that can be used both for routine tasks but also for egress if you have to escape. Boarding up your windows and doors does not make them ballistically hardened. You could have sandbags ready to go, and you will need to consider a big pile of dirt to fill them from. Consider the benefits of simple mass of soil in protecting you from high velocity rounds, and for the construction of fighting positions. Sandbags need to be at least two deep to protect against high velocity rounds. If you try stacking enough of these on a modern upper floor, or even a ground level floor with a basement beneath, then the weight of a constructed fighting position may cause a collapse. You could stack sandbags externally around designated window fighting positions on the ground floor, but you will need a lot of them. Other alternatives would include filling a chest of drawers with soil to create firing positions, or maybe even material such as steel plate that will weigh less but will provide ballistic protection.
From the principles of defense it is clear that we need to establish a plan which provides early warning, all round defense and mutually supporting sectors of fire. We also need to create depth, which is best utilized outside the building rather than with fall back positions inside the house. We can create depth using external fighting positions to keep attackers away from the house, which will also aid mutual support. A key thing that will really help defense of a house is to have a second or more positions outside of the main building that can provide fire support, thus these positions support each other by keeping enemy away from the house and each other. This position(s) could also be another house or cooperating neighbor if it works out that way. This creates a ‘cross-fire’ so you must enforce fire discipline and allocate sectors of fire to ensure you do not cause ‘friendly fire’.
A very important concept is that of ‘stand-off’. This can be created with a combination of fighting positions in depth and cleared fields of fire with obstacles. If you have an obstacle, such as wire, it must be covered by fire to be effective. Utilize stand-off distances to keep enemy away from the property, combined with obstacles to slow vehicle and dismounted approach. Examples like wire are good for dismounted personnel and also vehicles if it is correctly laid concertina wire. Obstacles such as steel cabling, concrete bollards or planter boxes and felled trees will work well against vehicles. This will also have the effect of reducing the risk of attackers getting close to set the place on fire, which they are likely to try if they can’t get in to get your stuff (use of window film will help with thrown incendiary objects, at least preventing them from getting inside). If we expand this concept we can see how a mutually supporting neighborhood with checkpoints/roadblocks and observation/fighting positions will provide a great advantage. Stand-off is also important in terms of engaging the enemy with accurate effective fire at the longest range that is physically and legally possible. If you are competent and have the equipment for long range effective suppressive fire, this can have the effect of keeping the enemy at arm’s length and reducing the accuracy and hence effectiveness of their fire, which will prevent them successfully suppressing you and subsequently maneuvering onto your position to breach or burn the property. In addition, consider the presence, placement and potential hard protection of any flammable sources on your property and close to your buildings, such as propane tanks and fuel supplies. Ensure they cannot be repeatedly fired upon by the enemy to cause a fire or explosion. The ability to generate accurate effective long range defensive fire depends on skill, equipment, positioning of fighting positions, your policy for the use of force and also the way the terrain affects weapons killing areas and ranges. To engage at long range you have to reasonably fear that the enemy presents a threat of lethal force against your defended location. However, if you are in a closer urban or wooded environment you may find some of your fields of fire are limited and you will have to plan and position accordingly.
Administration is a key factor. While you are maintaining your defense you need to look after the welfare of the team, equipment and the site itself. Administration is what preppers usually concentrate on. This is your “beans, bullets and band-aids”. This is an area where those that are non-combatants can really pull their weight and make a difference. You must maintain a watch system which will be tied in to ‘stand to’ positions and maybe some form of ‘Quick Reaction Force’ or reserve, depending on the resources and numbers available to you. Your watch system can be augmented by other early warning sensors such as dogs and mechanical or electronic systems. Day to day you will need to keep the machine running and this will be the biggest challenge as time goes on. Complacency Kills! Depending on the extent of your preparations, stores and the resources within your property, this will have a knock-on effect to your ability to remain covert and the requirement to send out foraging patrols. People will also start to get cabin fever, particularly kids, and you will need to consider how to entertain them. Consider that while mundane tasks are being completed, there is always someone on watch. People that are not on watch need to have weapons and ammunition carrying equipment close or on their person while doing other things. Consider carrying long rifles slung as well as handguns everywhere you go on the property, with at least a light bit of web gear with some additional magazines in pouches. Rifles should never be out of your arms reach if there is any kind of threat of attack. You should put rifle racks or hooks/nails on walls in key rooms, out of reach of kids, so that rifles can be grabbed quickly if the alarm is sounded.
Regarding your noncombatants or protected personnel; what you do with them depends on who they are. The younger kids will need to be protected in the safest location you have. Others will be useful to do tasks such as re-load magazines, distribute water and act as firefighting crews. Note that you need to have fire-extinguishers and buckets of water and /or sand available at hand during a defense to put out any fires. The more tasks you give people during a crisis, the more the activity will take their minds off the stress of the situation and the team will be strengthened. Ammunition replenishment, water distribution, casualty collection point, first aid, watching the rear and looking after the younger kids are all examples of tasks that can be allocated to make people a useful part of the team when personnel resources are tight.
For this kind of defensive situation you will be well served by the ability to detect, observe and accurately engage enemy at the longest range possible by day and night. This is easily said, but would take throwing money at it to get all the equipment you need to best do it. In terms of firearms, I would recommend tactical-type high capacity magazine rifles (i.e. AR 15) for the main work, backed up by handguns. Long range hunting type rifles are good for observation (scope) and longer distance engagement. You would be best served with good optics for your weapons and also observation devices such as binoculars. Think about night vision and even thermal imaging if you can afford it. You will also have to consider that even if you can afford a night vision device, it will only work for whoever has it so how will the rest engage? What type and configuration of these night vision devices, on weapons as sights or not? Without night sights you can fire at muzzle flash or use whatever illumination is available, white light or whatever. A good option is to have parachute illumination flares. Loose barking dogs on your property are perhaps the best low budget early warning system; however consider that they may give away your position if you are trying to be totally covert. Decide on your priorities and strategy and tie that in with what money you have to spend on equipment. You can get expensive systems such as ground sensors, lights and alarms, but these cost money and you have to consider their use in a long term grid down situation. I would prefer to spend money on optics and night observation devices which will last without grid power (but will require batteries) and can also be taken with you if you have to move locations. Here are some basic suggestions for equipment to augment such a defense:
- Appropriate tactical firearms & ammunition.
- Web gear and magazines.
- Ear and eye protection.
- Body armor and helmets, NIJ level III Special Threat or Level IV.
- Barbed wire, coiled (concertina) and for low wire entanglements.
- Sandbags or other ballistic protection options.
- Night vision devices.
- Binoculars plus optical rifle sights.
- Black out curtain and pre-cut plywood for windows.
- Parachute illumination flares.
- Trauma medical kit incl. CAT tourniquets.
- Range cards.
- Two way radios and/or field telephones.
If you have put a group together for such a defense, they need to be trained on not only tactical shooting and basic small unit tactics and movement, but also briefed and rehearsed on the defensive plan including fighting positions and sectors of fire. Consider that depending on your circumstances and the terrain, you may be benefited by running periodic clearance patrols around the property to mitigate against surprise attack, and to do this your team need to be able to patrol and move tactically, as well as respond to any enemy contact. You will preferably have a medic with a trauma bag. You do not want to ever run out of ammunition, so make sure you have as much as you can reasonably purchase. Like tactics, ammunition quantities are a subjective argument with many solutions. I recommend a personal load of six to eight thirty round magazines on the person, with at least as many full magazines for resupply. And once you have used that, you need another resupply! In a real life contact you will likely use less ammunition than you may during training and you must concentrate on effective accurate fire rather than simple quantity. Train your team to engage positively identified enemy, or suppress known enemy positions. A rapid rate of fire is 30 rounds per minute; a deliberate rate is 10 rounds per minute.
Practice and rehearse the command and fire control procedures at your location, including the communication of enemy locations and actions. Use range cards to tie in sectors for mutual support and to prevent ‘friendly fire’. Run ‘stand to’ drills like a fire drill by day and by night and be able to call out which direction the enemy threat comes from. Be aware of diversions and demonstrations intended to distract you from the main direction of attack. Always cover all sectors, even with just one observer looking to the flanks and rear in a manpower crisis. Keep unnecessary noise and shouting down, allowing orders and target indications to be passed around the position. Every team member is a sensor and a ‘link man’ to pass on information.
Having said all that, you are not going to open fire on just anyone coming to your location. Any actions that you take should be justifiable as self-defense. Do be mindful of tricks and the potential for snipers. However, don’t give up on morality and charity and don’t illegally open fire on anyone that comes near your defended location. You need to agree on rules of engagement for your sentries and you should apply escalation of force protocols to meet a threat with the proportionate and appropriate force necessary to stop that threat. Have the ability to warn anyone approaching, whether you have permanent warning signs or something like a bullhorn that you use as part of your escalation procedures through warning to non-lethal then lethal force as you begin to identify them as posing a threat. Remember that escalation of force is a continuum and you can bypass the early stages and go directly to lethal force if taken by surprise and faced with a lethal threat that must be stopped.
Now, such an article will not be complete without a look at reality, and that is the composition of your team. I will touch on it here, but its probably a larger topic for a separate post: your team must be trainable, without impeding ego, exhibiting humility and unselfishness. And there lies the rub: people in general are selfish and full of ego. Finding a team of good folks who are trainable, is usually a preppers hardest job. One can only hope that as things start to get worse, people will wake up to the need for this, but at the same time, they will be untrained and most likely a liability. That is the hardest challenge in todays society – finding good enough people to create that defending force from.
We will always tell you at class that Small Unit Tactics ISN’T ABOUT YOU – its about the other guys in your team. You must be sufficiently unselfish to work for their survival, and they will work for yours.
In Supreme Court Doesn’t Need Fixing, Everything Else Does the Cato Institute gives their opinion on current issues.
The Supreme Court has been in a political crosshairs recently, and various reforms have been proposed to “fix” the court. But the court, especially in recent months, has proven it does not need to be fixed. What should be fixed is our continued focus on addressing our problems in Washington, D.C., rather than locally.
True federalism is one of the only ways we can begin to heal our fractured nation, and the Supreme Court can help with that provided we don’t pass reforms that break what isn’t broken.
President Joe Biden has proposed a commission that will look at various reforms to the court. While many significant reforms would require a constitutional amendment to pass — something that seems unlikely given our closely divided country — there are other reforms that could receive attention. Court packing, which can be done via simple legislation, has received the most attention, with Democrats threatening to increase the number of justices on the court to counteract the conservative majority.
Court packing is an unquestionably horrible idea that would permanently damage the court in a way that might be unfixable. Our independent judiciary is essential to our democracy, and the Constitution has ably protected our judges from political control by establishing lifetime tenure for good behavior and preventing judges’ pay from being altered. Once confirmed, a judge has no reason to supplicate himself or herself to the president that appointed them or to any other political actor.
But court packing would irrevocably politicize the court and force justices to think not just about the law but also about the political reaction to their decisions. And, of course, court packing now may benefit Democrats, but it in no way is guaranteed to always do so. Republicans would pack the court in response when given the chance, leading to an arms race with the only outcome being the destruction of the court as an effective institution.
Our independent judiciary has proven to be one of the most effective parts of our Constitution, and that was put on display over the last two months. A Supreme Court with three Trump appointees denied the administration’s attempt to have the court intervene in the election. On the 3rd Circuit, Judge Stephanos Bibas, another Trump appointee, wrote the opinion in another case denying an election challenge.
Others have called for judicial term limits, the most popular proposal being 18‐year terms staggered so a nomination comes up every two years. This would require amending the Constitution, and while it’s not nearly as bad as court packing, it’s unlikely to do much to better the image of the court. Eighteen years is a long time, and justices will still be perceived by many as applying the partisan biases of the president who appointed them. The stakes would remain high for any nominee, whether the vacancy is the product of term limits or not. And if a Republican Senate wishes to block the nominee of a Democratic president and leave the seat open, there’s really nothing to stop them.
True, term limits could make each open seat seem a little less important given that the post‐1970 average tenure for a justice is 25 years, but it is hard to imagine term limits returning the court to an “era of good feelings.” It’s better to ask how we got to the era of bad feelings in the first place.
In a country of 50 diverse states and 330 million people, Americans have increasingly looked to Washington to solve their problems rather than state and local governments. While there are some things the federal government should have control over, questions concerning health care, education and other basic values should be given to local and state control as much as possible. California can choose its path and Alabama can do likewise.
If Congress isn’t passing massive laws of dubious constitutionality, such as the Affordable Care Act, it’s mostly doing nothing. Over the past decade, Presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama increasingly tried to use executive power to get around Congress’s recalcitrance. That trend will continue.
The Supreme Court is too often called in to answer questions like whether the entire ACA is unconstitutional and whether a president’s massive executive order is tantamount to them passing laws by themselves. Putting the court in those situations inevitably politicizes its decisions beyond the framers’ intentions. Rather than reforming the Supreme Court, we should look to how to reform the other branches.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Ashley Adamant at Practical Self Reliance has another well written and highly useful article with How to Make an Herbal Tincture. As usual, more pictures and instruction through link.
Herbal tinctures are extracts made from medicinal plants, mushrooms, or lichen. Whether made with alcohol or glycerite, homemade tinctures are a shelf-stable way to preserve the medicinal benefits of herbs for year-round use. They’re an easy way to always have natural medicine on hand at a moment’s notice.
Making your own herbal tinctures is a deeply satisfying feeling, and once made, it’s incredibly comforting to know that you have shelf-stable herbal medicine ready whenever it’s needed.
Essentially, you’re distilling all of the therapeutic properties of any given plant material into a super-concentrated, super-powerful elixir that can be taken for any number of health concerns. Depending on the tincture in question, the benefits range from preventative to immune-boosting to sleep-inducing — all in a dropperful of herbal extract!
What you might not realize about tinctures is how easy they are to make. All you need to get started is your desired plant material, a solvent, and a solid 6 to 8 weeks for the extraction process to complete itself.
What is a Tincture?
A tincture is a concentrated herbal extract prepared with alcohol, a solvent that extracts the active medicinal compounds from alcohol-soluble plant matter. Tinctures are a means to ingest super-condensed herbal extracts for their medicinal properties.
The use of tinctures isn’t a new activity, people from all over the world have been making tinctures for thousands of years.
Today, the tincture market is rich with options. You could purchase a tincture for every ailment you can think of, but the prices are often high — especially when you’re buying multiple tinctures at once. Usually, tinctures are around $12 to 15 an ounce, but the same medicine can be made for pennies on the dollar.
When you make your own tinctures at home you can choose the best quality ingredients to make a potent tincture, all at a fraction of the price of a store-bought version.
Homemade tinctures are made with minimal equipment, using the leaves, flowers, roots, bark, and flowers of fresh or dried herbs and mushrooms as plant material.
Tincture vs. Herbal Extract
You might notice the term “herbal extract” is sometimes used interchangeably with the word “tincture” when you’re reading up on the topic, but there is a difference between the two classifications.
A tincture is prepared using alcohol as a solvent to extract the desired compounds from plant material. Glycerite tinctures use vegetable glycerin as a solvent, and are generally considered part of the tincture family.
An herbal extract is an umbrella term that refers to plant material extracts made with various types of solvents including, but not limited to, alcohol, oil, honey, and vinegar.
How are Tinctures Used?
Depending on the particular extract you’re using, tinctures are taken orally or applied externally. Tinctures are dosed by the dropperful, and are often dropped directly under the tongue, where they’re absorbed into the bloodstream more quickly.
Different types of tinctures have different recommended dosages and means of ingestion. Bitter tinctures, which are taken to stimulate the appetite and relieve signs of digestive distress, are typically ingested 15 minutes before eating.
Some tinctures, like those made from lemon balm and motherwort, tend to be fast-acting, and are of the soothing variety.
Tinctures mades from adaptogenic and immune-boosting herbs and mushrooms, such as ginseng root or reishi mushrooms, must be taken continuously over a period of several weeks before their therapeutic benefits are apparent.
Not all tinctures are meant to be taken orally. Tinctures prepared with black walnut and yarrow are, among others, applied directly to the skin or mixed in with a carrier oil or basic lotion.
Topically-applied tinctures are used to treat everything from parasitic infection to eczema, and certain types can even be mixed in with misting sprays or face cream to add powerful herbal benefits (and at a fraction of the cost of commercially-made, herb extract-enriched beauty products).
Types of Tinctures
By definition, alcohol-based tinctures are the only “true” tincture, although some resources are laxer about this than others. Glycerine based or Alcohol-free “tinctures” aren’t technically tinctures, but they’re often referred to by this name since they’re pretty much equivalent in terms of how they’re used. (Technically, they’re glycerites.)
Some plant materials, such as dried mushrooms, contain high amounts of both alcohol-soluble and water-soluble compounds. When this is the case, the double extraction method is the way to go. It’s an additional step, but an easy one, and you’ll find that the result is definitely worth the (very minimal) extra time it takes.
If you prefer an alcohol-free extract, you can also make a potent glycerite tincture using vegetable glycerin — the method is almost exactly the same as a tincture with alcohol, which I’ll walk you through below.
Are Tinctures Shelf Stable?
Because tinctures are prepared with ethyl alcohol they have a naturally long shelf life. Alcohol drastically slows down natural decomposition and the growth of bacteria, so if properly stored a tincture can last for a couple of years (even longer if the alcohol is 100-proof or higher).
Never use isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol), it’s toxic to ingest and therefore not suitable for making tinctures — although it can be used to make herbal liniments for external use.
All of my tinctures are made using vodka. I like to use Smirnoff because it’s relatively inexpensive, but not so cheap that it’s completely unpalatable.
Some people prefer to make their tinctures with brandy or rum — pretty much any high-test alcohol can be used. Make sure you choose alcohol that’s at least 80-proof (40 percent) for making tinctures or, if you can find it, 100-proof (50 percent) or higher to ensure safe preservation.
Once the tincture is ready to be decanted, I carefully transfer the extract to a dark amber glass bottle with a dropper and store it in a darkened location away from any light or heat sources — no need for refrigeration.
If stored with care, tinctures will maintain their potency for 2 to 3 years (with some higher alcohol preparations lasting up to 5 years). The Herbal Academy has an excellent guide to the shelf life of herbal preparations, which has much more specific and detailed estimates, depending on how the tincture is prepared.
How to Make a Tincture
The first step when preparing a homemade tincture is to select your plant material.
One question I see regularly is in regards to using fresh or dried herbs, and if one is better than the other. The answer I would give is: there are advantages to choosing either medium!
Depending on where you live, fresh herbs can be found growing wild or in your garden, which makes them readily available. Fresh herbs have a high water content, which means they’re susceptible to spoilage if they aren’t used immediately after being picked. If you’re fortunate enough to have a surplus of fresh herbs, I would recommend drying them for later projects using this guide to preserving herbs.
If you’re making a tincture from dried herbs, you can use herbs you’ve dried yourself or you can buy the best-quality dried herbs. Dried herbs have a maximum shelf life of 2 years, if you aren’t drying the herbs yourself it’s important to find a source with rapid product turnover.
The main mechanism behind tincture-making is the same: put plant material in a jar, cover with alcohol, and let steep for several weeks. However, a little bit of finesse with herb to alcohol ratios will result in the most potent of tinctures.
For a tincture made with fresh leaves and flowers, finely chop or grind clean plant material (the goal is to expose as much surface area as possible). Fill a jar about 3/4 of the way with chopped leaves and flowers — don’t pack the jar too tightly.
Cover the contents of the jar completely with alcohol and seal with a lid.
If you’re preparing a tincture using dried leaves and flowers, you’ll want to fill a jar about 1/2 of the way full with dried plant material. Dried herbs are more concentrated, and they absorb liquid and expand during the extraction process. If you fill the jar completely full, your yield will be pitifully small (but intensely concentrated).
Cover the contents of the jar completely with alcohol and seal with a lid.
To make a tincture with either fresh or dried bark, berries, and/or roots, finely chop or grind the plant material to expose optimal surface area or to release the juice of berries. Roots and bark are especially hard to extract, so increasing surface area is important.
Fill the jar 1/3 to 1/2 full with chopped bark, berries, and roots. These materials tend to be even more concentrated and expand further than dried flowers or leaves.
Cover the contents of the jar completely with alcohol and seal with a lid.
I always use a standard canning jar, but I use a plastic mason jar lid when making tinctures. There are certain tinctures that will, over time, eat through plastic.
Most tinctures need to sit for a period of 6 to 8 weeks before they can be used, during this time the alcohol extracts beneficial alcohol-soluble compounds found in the plant material.
Store developing tinctures in a cool, dry place away from light. Give them a good shake every couple of days, keeping an eye on alcohol levels. If at any point it appears the alcohol level is getting lower, add more to the jar to completely cover the plant material to prevent unwanted mold growth.
When you’re ready to bottle your tincture, it will need to be strained first. The easiest way to do this is to line a funnel with a cheesecloth, placing the tip of the funnel directly into a dark amber glass bottle.
I often skip the cheesecloth and just use a fine mesh strainer, which is usually fine enough for most tinctures. If you’re making a tincture with particularly fine material, like pine pollen tincture, definitely go with cheesecloth.
How to Make A Tincture without Alcohol
If you’re abstaining from alcohol for any reason you can still make a tincture using a different menstruum. A menstruum is a term that refers to the solvent chosen for making extracts.
Food Grade Vegetable Glycerine has been used as a solvent to make tinctures called glycerites for close to 200 years. It has a syrupy texture and sweet flavor, making it an excellent choice for tinctures that will be ingested by children.
Most recipes for glycerite tinctures are made with 75 percent vegetable glycerin and 25 percent water, resulting in an herbal extract with a shelf life of 14 to 24 months.
You can also use vinegar as a menstruum when preparing an herbal extract — I like to use apple cider vinegar as a solvent because it has the best taste, but almost any kind of vinegar will work. As long as the tincture is made with no less than 5 percent vinegar, it’s generally shelf-stable for a minimum of 6 months (usually longer).Like alcohol-based solutions, tinctures made with glycerine or vinegar are made by soaking herbs or mushrooms in the menstruum for several weeks to extract therapeutic and medicinal properties.
Common Herbal Tinctures
Tinctures can be made from most types of medicinal plants or mushrooms, but the specific benefits of each herbal extract will depend on the specific herbs used. Here are a few of the most common types of homemade herbal tinctures, along with their benefits:
Black Walnut Tincture
If you have black walnuts to harvest, a homemade black walnut tincture is a great way to use those otherwise inedible walnut husks that would normally be discarded. Black walnut tinctures are applied topically and are prized for their anti-fungal and anti-parasitic properties thanks to a natural abundance of tannins.
Tinctures made from black walnut husks are a rare source of land-based iodine, making them a good tincture to have on hand for disinfecting wounds and irritated skin.
My post about the benefits of black walnut tincture provides all the instructions you need to make your own potent tincture…
This article continues with additional specific herbal tinctures.
The Epoch Times reports on the Supreme Court’s decision not to review election results in Justice Clarence Thomas Dissents From Supreme Court on Election Case: ‘We Need to Make It Clear’
The court on Monday announced it won’t take up lawsuits challenging a Pennsylvania state court decision that relaxed ballot-integrity measures, including a move to extend the ballot-receipt deadline during the November election by three days due to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus. Former President Donald Trump and Pennsylvania’s GOP urged the court to take up a review of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling.
“This is not a prescription for confidence,” Thomas wrote on Monday, adding that “changing the rules in the middle of the game is bad enough.” Thomas, considered by many to be the most conservative justice, said the court should have granted a review.
“That decision to rewrite the rules seems to have affected too few ballots to change the outcome of any federal election. But that may not be the case in the future,” Thomas wrote (pdf). “These cases provide us with an ideal opportunity to address just what authority nonlegislative officials have to set election rules, and to do so well before the next election cycle. The refusal to do so is inexplicable.”
Other than Thomas, Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch also dissented.
“If state officials have the authority they have claimed, we need to make it clear. If not, we need to put an end to this practice now before the consequences become catastrophic,” Thomas, an appointee of former President George H.W. Bush, also wrote.
Thomas also appeared to make a reference to allegations of fraud and irregularities during the Nov. 3 election.
“We are fortunate that many of the cases we have seen alleged only improper rule changes, not fraud,” Thomas wrote. “But that observation provides only small comfort. An election free from strong evidence of systemic fraud is not alone sufficient for election confidence. Also important is the assurance that fraud will not go undetected.”
The Supreme Court on Monday also declined to review a bid by Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) and others who asked the court to strike down a policy that expanded mail-in ballots.
A lawyer for Kelly, Greg Teufel, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last week that “it’s important the court should take an interest in whether Pennsylvania’s election laws are administered constitutionally or not, and in accordance with the Pennsylvania constitution and with the federal constitution.” Teufel noted that before the court’s decision on Monday, there was a slim chance of the justices taking it up.
Trump still has a request on the Supreme Court docket regarding his challenge to changes that the Wisconsin Election Commission ordered last year.
Christian Prepper Gal wonders What Have We Learned? From the 2020 Pandemic to the 2021 Polar Vortex.
Have we learned anything yet? With the 2020 pandemic a lot of people realized that preppers were not really all that crazy. They learned that it was pretty smart to have enough food and household essentials on hand to last, at a minimum, a month or so. Even our government(s) started pushing preparedness. Then, just one year later, the Polar Vortex of 2021 hit. Both incidents causing shortages of food and essentials on the shelves. Have we truly learned anything yet?
Okay, so maybe I was a little bit motivated to write this article by the fact that when I placed my grocery order for Walmart Pickup just a couple of days ago, there was no Diet Pepsi (in bottles) available. Can you imagine that?!? No Diet Pepsi? At Walmart?!? I was crushed! (I don’t know if they had cans of Diet Pepsi, as I don’t drink from cans.) Then my daughter came to my rescue and found some bottles of Diet Pepsi for me at another store in our small town. What a hero she was!! She literally saved my day!!
But, the fact that this Diet Pepsi shortage affected me so much made me realize something. Even though I’ve known it for years…I am addicted to Diet Pepsi. Oh, I’ve tried breaking the addiction a few times over the past couple of decades, but to no avail. Then in acknowledging this addiction, I also realized that I am not truly prepared. But, I’m a prepper! Some might say I’m a “die hard” prepper! How can I not be prepared?!? Well, it kind of hit me right in the gut. The realization of it was pretty heavy. I mean, I’ve known it for quite a while now, but it was always in the back of my head…way in the back. You know, something you know, but you just want to ignore and so you do.
You might ask, how does my addiction to Diet Pepsi affect my prepping? Well, it doesn’t really. Not in the literal sense anyway. But yet, it does. How can it not affect it and affect it at the same time? I’ll try and explain. You see, I do not stockpile Diet Pepsi. Therefore, it must not be important to me as a prepper. Yet, when my grocer was out of Diet Pepsi (in the bottles) I pretty much panicked. Ugh. I guess what I’ve deduced from this small and yet very large inconvenience in my life is that I need to stock up on Diet Pepsi. Pronto! No! No! That’s not what I’ve deduced. It’s what I wish I could have deduced. But, it’s not what I deduced.
You see, there would be no way in the world I would have enough room to stock up on enough Diet Pepsi to get me through a long term SHTF situation. And, that’s what I personally prep for…long term SHTF. I would need a warehouse to be able to do that. A very large warehouse. So, what I need to do is wean myself off of this Diet Pepsi addiction. It just seems there’s always something more we need to do in order to be prepared to face and endure whatever this world throws at us.
Wow, that was a very long bunny trail I took! Okay, now to get back on subject. When the coronavirus turned into a world wide pandemic, some very important essentials became unavailable to us. For example, toilet paper. And, food. And, cleaning products. And, garden seeds. And, canning jars and lids. Things that we need in our every day lives to stay alive and well. That’s when the world realized that preppers weren’t so crazy! Well, at first we were accused of hoarding food, and that we were keeping others from being able to buy food. But, then “they” soon realized that we weren’t the ones out grabbing food and essentials off the shelves!! Not us real and bonified preppers. We already had everything we needed right and home. And, we stayed home (or at least we didn’t have to go out and scramble for food) so that those who did not have could have. It was those who had panicked that were hitting the shelves and taking everything they could get their hands on! Without a thought or concern for others. Now, I’m not saying that’s wrong, because it is human instinct. However, I am thankful that many who did that learned that it was better to have extra food on hand at home to ensure that if anything like that ever happened again, they would be prepared. Thus, they became preppers! Yay!!
Then, more recently, we have the 2021 Polar Vortex that hit our country (the U.S.A.). We are still in the middle of that and it’s repercussions as I sit here writing this. This was the reason that I had that Diet Pepsi crisis. I’m pretty sure it was the result of trucks not being able to travel and deliver food on time to many stores. Even UPS and the USPS had to stop deliveries. Once again, food is sparse on the grocery shelves along with necessary essentials. In fact, there were people, down in Texas, standing in lines outside in the cold (that they are not accustomed to) in order to purchase propane because they had no power. Millions of people all across the southern and lower mid western states have been without power for up to 3 days now. In temperatures they are not accustomed to nor were they prepared for. In other words, they did not have the necessary clothing for cold climates, they were not prepared to cook or heat their homes without power, and most were not prepared to dig themselves out of the snow. I’m not blaming them. They do not live in climates where these things are normal. In fact, I’m praying fervently for all who were affected by this polar vortex. They knew it was coming, but they did not know how to prepare for it. That’s why it’s important NOT to wait until the last minute to be prepared.
I am sure that many who have lived through this 2021 Polar Vortex have learned from it. At least, I hope they have. Even if we do not live in a certain type of climate, we need to be prepared for any type of climate. This world has gone crazy, and not just the people! I don’t mean being prepared by just having enough food. Even if those who live in the South did have enough food on their shelves, there are so many other things they need to survive this polar vortex. In fact, there are so many different things that could happen to cause us to be without electricity, water, sewer, and gas for extended amounts of time; not just the weather. You see, prepping is more than just storing up food. (See one of my first articles, There’s More to Prepping Than Food.) It’s about being ready for whatever circumstance may come our way. Whether it be weather related (heat waves or polar vortexes), natural catastrophic events such as fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, flooding; or job loss, unexpected illness, unexpected accidents (such as car accidents), pandemics, EMPs, etc. As a result of the 2021 Polar Vortex, many utility companies, across our great nation, in areas that have not experienced power outages, are having to affect manual blackouts or brown outs in order to prevent complete power outages (which could take several months to repair). The electrical grid cannot handle the stress of these states that are not normally cold climate states. They are using more power than normal to heat the homes. I can’t stress this enough…prepping is more than just food! (See an article I wrote a couple of years ago, A World Without Electronics and Electricity.)
First we had the pandemic, which taught us (or at least should have taught us) the necessity of having shelf stable foods stored up. Then, the polar vortex which is teaching us to be ready to live without electricity, water, sewer, and gas utilities. I can’t help but to wonder what’s next? Maybe it won’t take an EMP to shut down our power grid. Maybe our power grid is already weak and crumbling. Maybe it’s just a matter of time. And, maybe, just maybe, that time isn’t far off.
If we have learned anything from these two occurrences, it should be that we need to be preppers – in every sense of the word.
Here is the dictionary’s definition of a prepper:
a person who believes a catastrophic disaster or emergency is likely to occur in the future and makes active preparations for it, typically by stockpiling food, ammunition, and other supplies.
“there’s no agreement among preppers about what disaster is most imminent”
We all most likely know what it means to stockpile food and ammunition. What might those “other supplies” consist of? Well, that is a topic for another discussion (article). So, stay tuned for that upcoming article. In the meantime, if you are interested in learning and growing as a prepper take the time to browse through my other articles. There’s a lot of information to be gleaned from them.
Thank you for spending a few minutes of your time with me! If you have any questions on this article or prepping in general, please feel free to comment below, or send me an email message by going to the About/Contact page and filling in the contact form there. It is my prayer that you will heed the warnings that God has been sending us with these two incidents, and if you are not already doing so, that you will do all that you can to be prepared; and if you are prepping that you will push forward and keep on keeping on.
Until next time…happy prepping, and God bless!
1 Peter 5, 8-9, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.” (KJV)
Once Upon a Presidency is written by Joshua Hochschild, Professor of Philosophy at Mount St. Mary’s University, for The American Mind.
From populist to dissident
Let’s say you’ve long been disaffected with political parties. You don’t trust them. You care about politics, but you don’t see much promise in the standard candidates.
Let’s even say you have suspicions the two parties are more interested in their own power than in helping the country.
Occasionally you see promising people come forward, challenging the conventions. Maybe your interest is piqued by an Andrew Yang or Tulsi Gabbard, a Marianne Williamson or Bernie Sanders. Or perhaps by a Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Ron Paul, or Herman Cain.
Whoever they are, interesting people with interesting ideas show up, and somehow they speak to you. They seem to share some of your interests. But they never get a foothold in the game of national politics.
Maybe you don’t understand politics, and these candidates always lose fairly on the merits. But you suspect the deck is stacked against them. They criticize Wall Street, the military-industrial complex, corruption in politics. You’ve heard them called “populists,” but they always end up getting labeled something like “fascist” or “socialist,” and cast aside.
Or maybe you do understand politics. You long for an outsider, populist candidate, not because you are naïve, but because you are well-read. You’ve studied history and political theory. You don’t care much for pundits or journalists; you read thoughtful, literate writers who provide historical and philosophical perspective—thinkers most pundits and journalists have never heard of and wouldn’t understand.
Or maybe you are a sincerely religious person and you know your beliefs are not, will never be, embodied in a political party. You know all politics is compromise. But you also feel an obligation to help improve the world through politics, and this only makes you all the more frustrated at the narrow range of options presented by the two parties.
For whatever reason—naïve disaffection, intellectual aloofness, religious detachment—you don’t feel at home in mainstream partisan politics, and you suspect that the system, the two parties themselves, are stacked against you.
There are economic and political explanations of why they might be stacked against you. Whether you are aware of these explanations or not, the evidence is clear: candidates who challenge them, candidates who are too “populist,” are always marginalized, ridiculed, suppressed.
Then along comes Trump.
Is his candidacy a joke? Is he worth paying attention to? Is this a publicity stunt?
He says things that seem to make sense to you, and moreover he says them effectively. He inspires followers. He beats opponents. He doesn’t put up with establishment bullshit. You don’t like him—almost everybody says this—but he shows an attractive charisma, a fighting spirit. Even his imperfections—“incivility,” strange mannerisms, shamelessness, a less than respectable past—seem to be part of his energy, his dynamism.
And his actual policies? The things he says he wants to do? Well, maybe you don’t agree with every single one, but there is actually a coherence to them, a sense of priority and pragmatism. Energy independence. Non-interventionism. Revitalizing manufacturing. In substance, as well as style, he seems, well, populist.
Sure he’s rich (maybe) and a celebrity (certainly), and so not what you expect as a populist. But unlike a lot of rich people, he’s not owned. He doesn’t seem to defer to anybody or anything. He doesn’t owe anything to anyone, least of all to the party whose nomination he seeks or the powerful interests that seem to pull the strings in Washington.
So you find yourself one of tens of millions willing to give him a chance. What’s the worst that can happen?
You notice he’s usually attacked not for his policies, but for his style. They say he is “dark.” They say he is “scary.” They say he’s a racist and misogynist. They even say he doesn’t have a sense of humor, or that he’s psychologically ill. You don’t see any of this—but you do see who is saying these things: his enemies in the two parties who would be threatened by his success. You don’t think the charges are fair—but even if they are, it’s what he’d do in office, not his style or his tweets, that matters.
Maybe you see a rally on TV, or maybe you attend one yourself. It doesn’t seem “dark.” The tone is cheerful, patriotic. He’s funny, and also substantive. And the crowd—it’s diverse and friendly. Normal people. Truckers and plumbers and builders. Lawyers and dentists and accountants. Teachers and engineers, restaurant owners and waitresses, moms and grandmothers, people who haven’t been inspired by politics before, all sorts.
And then: Trump wins.
Everybody is surprised. Some people even seem genuinely scared. You wonder if the media emphasis on how “scary” he is might be harming people’s mental health.
The opponents obviously overplay their hands. They are hearing “dog whistles” that aren’t there (and they would only signal “dogs” if they were there, anyway). Maybe some of your friends call you a racist for supporting Trump, but you know you aren’t a racist, and you don’t think he is either.
The racism charge is so common and people are so scared that a few smart liberals who opposed Trump beg for people not to lose perspective, to give him a chance, and to stop “crying wolf” about his racism.
You wonder, “Why aren’t people more interested in understanding why Trump won?” They assume that since Trump is “dark,” his widespread support must be “dark.” Trump is a racist, they say, so his supporters must be racist. Or his supporters are brainwashed, the victims of manipulation. Or maybe there was foreign interference. Maybe the election was rigged.
If you haven’t given up on the biggest media outlets by now, perhaps you find some traditional journalists that avoid this cheap, simplistic narrative—journalists doing serious work to explain the political landscape. Perhaps you find one of the honest, anti-Trump journalists, like Tim Carney or John Miller or Chris Arnade, covering Trump’s actual populist appeal, seeking to understand the kinds of people who voted for him, the real civic and economic conditions that Trump appealed to.
But these hardworking, gumshoe journalists seem the exception, not the rule. And their stories, the ones that have a ring of truth to you, are subtle, complicated, and under-the-radar. They don’t play well on social media. They don’t make good memes. It’s outrage that sells. People who are afraid don’t want to be told not to be afraid. They want to be told they have good reasons for their fear.
So cooler heads do not prevail. Trump is never given a chance. Though he evidently wants to work with Democrats—on major issues, like immigration, health care, and tax reform—the Democrats refuse to work with him.
Then, at one point, there is supposedly proof that Trump is a racist. In the wake of tragedy in Charlottesville, he said that white nationalists, white supremacists, Neo-Nazis were “fine people.” Shocking. Smoking gun.
But it’s not. You see it’s a lie, a lie started and propagated by journalists. Clever editing, willful misreadings, bad faith, outright dishonesty. You read the transcript, you watch the video, and it’s obvious: Trump said there were “fine people” on both sides of the debate about statues, but he clearly, unequivocally, and multiple times condemned white supremacists and neo-Nazis. The “smoking gun”…isn’t.
Half the country never heard about this though. They fell for a hoax. They believed they really had “evidence” that Trump was an unashamed racist. Crazy, huh? Why? Why would this hoax be perpetuated? Political gain? Outrage clicks? Have the journalists convinced themselves? Who knows the motive: in any case, it proved a useful myth for politicians, an easy talking point. Joe Biden believed the “fine people” lie (or claimed to). Eventually, he identifies it as the basis of his campaign against Trump.
Meanwhile, Trump’s very legitimacy as president has been challenged from the beginning. His opponents accused him of stealing the election. Foreign interference. “Russian collusion.”
These charges are leveled for years. No evidence. Just allegation. Conspiracy mongering. No proof. For years, they say the election was rigged, illegitimate. But no evidence.
Eventually the evidence that does come out is that the whole thing was made up. It’s not just a false allegation, but a contrived hoax, a political con-job. People high up in the FBI lied about it, fabricated evidence, entrapped people on false charges, testified falsely in Congress, hid evidence, and coordinated with the press to leak false information. It was an egregious abuse of surveillance powers. Maybe you see a popular documentary about it, or maybe you were able to put enough pieces together after seeing it argued about and dissected all over social media.
You’ve long known that the media manipulates and lies, and you’ve seen it exacerbated on social media. The media has become masterful at manipulating narrative, framing things, hiding things. Maybe you also watched a documentary about that too (one of the top documentaries of the year, even after being suppressed by Amazon).
You know your disaffection with “the establishment” isn’t partisan: Democrats and Republicans seem corrupt, liberals and conservatives are fed up with “the system.” The media seems systematically dishonest. These are basic civic and human rights you care about: the right to the rule of law, the right to a free press, the right to free and fair elections, the right not to be manipulated.
Big journalism itself seems to be part of the problem, coordinating with the established interests in the two parties to push their narrative. Did they help dispel the “Fine People” hoax? No, they magnified it. Did they properly cover the collusion allegation? No. Did any evidence ever emerge that Trump stole the election? No. But it made for clickable headlines for four years.
“Trump stole the election”: it was literally a conspiracy theory, but it had traction because, of course, we all know about corruption and fraud in politics. We expect it. Heck, Kennedy’s theft of the election from Nixon was a plot-point in Mad Men.
Perhaps you’ve also done a little digging and you know that there are questions about voting machines and how trustworthy they are. This was even a major Democratic complaint following the 2004 election. You’ve always wondered how those machines worked, how they could be secure. Potential for fraud has been widely recognized. Maybe you saw one of numerous stories, or even caught the HBO documentary, about how these machines are not only vulnerable, but suspiciously, intentionally vulnerable.
You’ve also noticed that social media plays a role in manipulating people—not only bad actors on social media, but the social media companies themselves: they tweak their algorithms to manipulate your behavior. That’s not a bug, it’s a feature—it’s the business model…(continues)
ZeroHedge reports that Michael Burry Warns Weimar Hyperinflation Is Coming. Michael Burry is an investor, well-known for being one of the first to foresee the subprime mortgage crises of ~2007-2010.
One week ago, Bank of America hinted at the unthinkable: the tsunami of monetary and fiscal stimulus, coupled with the upcoming surge in monetary velocity as the world’s economy emerges from lockdowns, would lead to unprecedented economic overheating… or rather precedented as BofA’s CIO Michael Hartnett reflected back on the post-WW1 Germany which he said was the “most epic, extreme analog of surging velocity and inflation following end of war psychology, pent-up savings, lost confidence in currency & authorities” and specifically the Reichsbank’s monetization of debt, and extrapolated that this is similar to what is going on now.
There is, of course, another name for that period: Weimar Germany, and because we all know what happened then, it is understandable why BofA does not want to mention that particular name.
Of course, others have been less shy – in 1974, Jens Parsson wrote a fascinating, in-depth historical analysis of the hyperinflationary collapse of Weimar Germany under the original money printer, Rudy von Havenstein, “Dying of Money: Lessons of the Great German and American Inflations” one which we periodically remind readers is absolutely critical reading in preparation for what comes next.
Is Ben Bernanke The Second Coming Of Rudy von Havenstein, The Central Banker Responsible For Germany’s Hyperinflation? http://bit.ly/bKVeU3
— zerohedge (@zerohedge) February 26, 2010
Then overnight none other than the Big Short, Michael Burry, who has been rather busy making waves within the financial community with his hot takes (most recently, his slam of Robinhood and his bullish view on Uranium), picked up on the theme of Weimar Germany and specifically its hyperinflation, as the blueprint for what comes next in a lengthy tweetstorm cribbing generously from Parsson’s seminal work. And while the details are familiar to most monetary historians, the fact is that now none other than the man who was made famous in the Big Short is calling for Weimar-style hyperinflation in the US. Below is an easily digestible repost of Burry’s lengthy Saturday tweetstorm, which shows just how similar our world is to that prevalent in the years just before Weimar Germany saw the most explosive hyperinflation in history.
The US government is inviting inflation with its MMT-tinged policies. Brisk Debt/GDP, M2 increases while retail sales, PMI stage V recovery. Trillions more stimulus & re-opening to boost demand as employee and supply chain costs skyrocket. #ParadigmShift
The US government is inviting inflation with its MMT-tinged policies. Brisk Debt/GDP, M2 increases while retail sales, PMI stage V recovery. Trillions more stimulus & re-opening to boost demand as employee and supply chain costs skyrocket. #ParadigmShift https://t.co/kNT4memOVt pic.twitter.com/Bdw1CDn3Yf
— Cassandra (@michaeljburry) February 20, 2021
“The life of the inflation in its ripening stage was a paradox which had its own unmistakable characteristics. One was the great wealth, at least of those favored by the boom..Many great fortunes sprang up overnight…The cities, had an aimless and wanton youth”
“Prices in Germany were steady, and both business and the stock market were booming. The exchange rate of the mark against the dollar and other currencies actually rose for a time, and the mark was momentarily the strongest currency in the world” on inflation’s eve.
“Side by side with the wealth were the pockets of poverty. Greater numbers of people remained on the outside of the easy money, looking in but not able to enter. The crime rate soared.”
“Accounts of the time tell of a progressive demoralization which crept over the common people, compounded of their weariness with the breakneck pace, to no visible purpose, and their fears from watching their own precarious positions slip while others grew so conspicuously rich.”
“Almost any kind of business could make money. Business failures and bankruptcies became few. The boom suspended the normal processes of natural selection by which the nonessential and ineffective otherwise would have been culled out.”
“Speculation alone, while adding nothing to Germany’s wealth, became one of its largest activities. The fever to join in turning a quick mark infected nearly all classes..Everyone from the elevator operator up was playing the market.”
“The volumes of turnover in securities on the Berlin Bourse became so high that the financial industry could not keep up with the paperwork…and the Bourse was obliged to close several days a week to work off the backlog” #robinhooddown
“all the marks that existed in the world in the summer of 1922 were not worth enough, by November of 1923, to buy a single newspaper or a tram ticket. That was the spectacular part of the collapse, but most of the real loss in money wealth had been suffered much earlier.”
“Throughout these years the structure was quietly building itself up for the blow. Germany’s #inflationcycle ran not for a year but for nine years, representing eight years of gestation and only one year of #collapse.”
His punchline: the above was “written in 1974 re: 1914-1923” and then makes the ominous extrapolation that “2010-2021: Gestation” adding that “when dollars might as well be falling from the sky…management teams get creative and ultimately take more risk.. paying out debt-financed dividends to investors or investing in risky growth opportunities has beaten a frugal mentality hands down.”
We are there now. The only question is when do we enter the exponential currency collapse phase.
Update (1815 ET): one day after the Weimar tweetstorm below, and shortly after our article came out, Burry tweeted the following:
People say I didn’t warn last time. I did, but no one listened. So I warn this time. And still, no one listens. But I will have proof I warned.
Indeed he will.
Constitutional law attorney John Whitehead at the Rutherford Institute writes Techno-Censorship: The Slippery Slope from Censoring ‘Disinformation’ to Silencing Truth.
“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”― George Orwell
This is the slippery slope that leads to the end of free speech as we once knew it.
In a world increasingly automated and filtered through the lens of artificial intelligence, we are finding ourselves at the mercy of inflexible algorithms that dictate the boundaries of our liberties.
Once artificial intelligence becomes a fully integrated part of the government bureaucracy, there will be little recourse: we will be subject to the intransigent judgments of techno-rulers.
This is how it starts.
Martin Niemöller’s warning about the widening net that ensnares us all still applies.
“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
In our case, however, it started with the censors who went after extremists spouting so-called “hate speech,” and few spoke out—because they were not extremists and didn’t want to be shamed for being perceived as politically incorrect.
Then the internet censors got involved and went after extremists spouting “disinformation” about stolen elections, the Holocaust, and Hunter Biden, and few spoke out—because they were not extremists and didn’t want to be shunned for appearing to disagree with the majority.
By the time the techno-censors went after extremists spouting “misinformation” about the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines, the censors had developed a system and strategy for silencing the nonconformists. Still, few spoke out.
Eventually, “we the people” will be the ones in the crosshairs.
At some point or another, depending on how the government and its corporate allies define what constitutes “extremism, “we the people” might all be considered guilty of some thought crime or other.
When that time comes, there may be no one left to speak out or speak up in our defense.
Whatever we tolerate now—whatever we turn a blind eye to—whatever we rationalize when it is inflicted on others, whether in the name of securing racial justice or defending democracy or combatting fascism, will eventually come back to imprison us, one and all.
Watch and learn.
We should all be alarmed when prominent social media voices such as Donald Trump, Alex Jones, David Icke and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. are censored, silenced and made to disappear from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram for voicing ideas that are deemed politically incorrect, hateful, dangerous or conspiratorial.
The question is not whether the content of their speech was legitimate.
The concern is what happens after such prominent targets are muzzled. What happens once the corporate techno-censors turn their sights on the rest of us?
It’s a slippery slope from censoring so-called illegitimate ideas to silencing truth. Eventually, as George Orwell predicted, telling the truth will become a revolutionary act.
We are on a fast-moving trajectory.
Already, there are calls for the Biden administration to appoint a “reality czar” in order to tackle disinformation, domestic extremism and the nation’s so-called “reality crisis.”
Knowing what we know about the government’s tendency to define its own reality and attach its own labels to behavior and speech that challenges its authority, this should be cause for alarm across the entire political spectrum.
Here’s the point: you don’t have to like Trump or any of the others who are being muzzled, nor do you have to agree or even sympathize with their views, but to ignore the long-term ramifications of such censorship would be dangerously naïve.
As Matt Welch, writing for Reason, rightly points out, “Proposed changes to government policy should always be visualized with the opposing team in charge of implementation.”
In other words, whatever powers you allow the government and its corporate operatives to claim now, for the sake of the greater good or because you like or trust those in charge, will eventually be abused and used against you by tyrants of your own making.
As Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:
The glaring fallacy that always lies at the heart of pro-censorship sentiments is the gullible, delusional belief that censorship powers will be deployed only to suppress views one dislikes, but never one’s own views… Facebook is not some benevolent, kind, compassionate parent or a subversive, radical actor who is going to police our discourse in order to protect the weak and marginalized or serve as a noble check on mischief by the powerful. They are almost always going to do exactly the opposite: protect the powerful from those who seek to undermine elite institutions and reject their orthodoxies. Tech giants, like all corporations, are required by law to have one overriding objective: maximizing shareholder value. They are always going to use their power to appease those they perceive wield the greatest political and economic power.
Welcome to the age of technofascism.
Clothed in tyrannical self-righteousness, technofascism is powered by technological behemoths (both corporate and governmental) working in tandem to achieve a common goal.
Thus far, the tech giants have been able to sidestep the First Amendment by virtue of their non-governmental status, but it’s a dubious distinction at best. Certainly, Facebook and Twitter have become the modern-day equivalents of public squares, traditional free speech forums, with the internet itself serving as a public utility.
But what does that mean for free speech online: should it be protected or regulated?
When given a choice, the government always goes for the option that expands its powers at the expense of the citizenry’s. Moreover, when it comes to free speech activities, regulation is just another word for censorship.
Right now, it’s trendy and politically expedient to denounce, silence, shout down and shame anyone whose views challenge the prevailing norms, so the tech giants are lining up to appease their shareholders.
This is the tyranny of the majority against the minority—exactly the menace to free speech that James Madison sought to prevent when he drafted the First Amendment to the Constitution—marching in lockstep with technofascism.
With intolerance as the new scarlet letter of our day, we now find ourselves ruled by the mob.
Those who dare to voice an opinion or use a taboo word or image that runs counter to the accepted norms are first in line to be shamed, shouted down, silenced, censored, fired, cast out and generally relegated to the dust heap of ignorant, mean-spirited bullies who are guilty of various “word crimes” and banished from society.
For example, a professor at Duquesne University was fired for using the N-word in an academic context. To get his job back, Gary Shank will have to go through diversity training and restructure his lesson plans.
This is what passes for academic freedom in America today.
If Americans don’t vociferously defend the right of a minority of one to subscribe to, let alone voice, ideas and opinions that may be offensive, hateful, intolerant or merely different, then we’re going to soon find that we have no rights whatsoever (to speak, assemble, agree, disagree, protest, opt in, opt out, or forge our own paths as individuals).
No matter what our numbers might be, no matter what our views might be, no matter what party we might belong to, it will not be long before “we the people” constitute a powerless minority in the eyes of a power-fueled fascist state driven to maintain its power at all costs.
We are almost at that point now.
The steady, pervasive censorship creep that is being inflicted on us by corporate tech giants with the blessing of the powers-that-be threatens to bring about a restructuring of reality straight out of Orwell’s 1984, where the Ministry of Truth polices speech and ensures that facts conform to whatever version of reality the government propagandists embrace.
Orwell intended 1984 as a warning. Instead, it is being used as a dystopian instruction manual for socially engineering a populace that is compliant, conformist and obedient to Big Brother.
Nothing good can come from techno-censorship.
Again, to quote Greenwald:
Censorship power, like the tech giants who now wield it, is an instrument of status quo preservation. The promise of the internet from the start was that it would be a tool of liberation, of egalitarianism, by permitting those without money and power to compete on fair terms in the information war with the most powerful governments and corporations. But just as is true of allowing the internet to be converted into a tool of coercion and mass surveillance, nothing guts that promise, that potential, like empowering corporate overlords and unaccountable monopolists to regulate and suppress what can be heard.
As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, these internet censors are not acting in our best interests to protect us from dangerous, disinformation campaigns. They’re laying the groundwork to preempt any “dangerous” ideas that might challenge the power elite’s stranglehold over our lives.
Therefore, it is important to recognize the thought prison that is being built around us for what it is: a prison with only one route of escape—free thinking and free speaking in the face of tyranny.
In this article, The Christian Post reports on the Open Doors report, saying that there has been a 60% rise in Christians killed worldwide in 2020
2020 continued a trend of rising persecution around the world, with governments often using COVID-19 restrictions as tools of repression, Christian persecution watchdog Open Doors USA announced in its annual report.
Open Doors’ 2021 report revealed two important persecution trends in 2020. The number of Christians killed has increased by 60% this year, mostly because of Islamic violence against Nigerian Christians. Secondly, anti-Christian governments around the world use COVID-19 restrictions to persecute Christians.
“This past year 2020 has been a year of uncertainty and fear. We’ve been all fighting a virus that we cannot see with the naked eye. Less known but equally as viral has been the discrimination, isolation and violence against Christians by using COVID-19 as a leverage and as justification,” Open Doors President and CEO David Curry told the conference.
In Nigeria, over 2,200 Christians were murdered by radical Islamists. This number makes up slightly less than half of the 4,761 Christians killed for their faith worldwide, according to Open Doors statistics. Most of the Christians killed in 2020 gave up their lives to extremist groups, not governments, Curry said.
“Extremists […] are emboldened by government weakened by COVID-19 restrictions, knowing that they can steal food and medical supplies from already embattled Christian communities around the world,” he said.
Violence by Islamists in Nigeria amounts to genocide, Curry said. Attacks have spilled over into neighboring countries. Across Africa, even countries with sizeable Christian majorities like Mozambique and Burkina Faso have suffered from Islamic persecution. It only takes a few extremists to commit violence against Christians.
Other persecution hotspots around the globe include China and India, Open Doors announced. In China, the Communist Party has cracked down on Christians by using surveillance technology. In the last year, it has integrated its social credit and video security system, enabling it to track its people and punish them for attending church.
In India, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has encouraged persecution of Christians by sanctioning Hindu extremism, Open Doors research found. The party has told its nation that only Hindus are truly Indian, Curry told The Christian Post. Political leaders have discouraged police from responding to attacks on Christians.
“I put the responsibility at the feet of the ruling party, the BJP, which is very nationalistic.
Their message to the population has been, ‘we want India to be a Hindu nation,’” said Curry. “I have a strong belief that if most Indian citizens knew what was happening in these Christian communities they would vote for different people.”
COVID-19 restrictions have covered up persecution in many places, Curry said. In many countries, Christians lose their jobs because of COVID-19. Then, governments refuse to provide aid to believers and employers don’t hire them back. It looks like more suffering caused by COVID-19, but it’s a quiet persecution.
“In the northeast of Nigeria, Christians have been reporting only 15% of the emergency rations that others have gotten. COVID has clearly affected all of us around the world, yet for some their faith has made them more vulnerable,” he said.
Similar events have happened in India, he said.
For the first time, every country in Open Doors’ list of the top 50 persecutors has very high or extreme levels of persecution, the report said. This trend will likely continue, Curry added.
“The embedded forces that are driving these scores up, religious extremists, Hindu extremism in Nepal, Hindu extremism in India, the Islamic extremist groups which we most recognize as ISIS or al Qaeda, that’s an ideology that does not need a territory. When ISIS was conquered, that cancer has metastasized around the world. That trend is growing in strength. You also have governments now who have the ability to use surveillance to watch private behavior,” said Curry.
Christians face the most persecution worldwide because they are the largest minority faith in many countries, he said.
“The sheer number of [Christians persecuted] is significant,” he said. “You do have other faiths and we want to speak up that everybody should have the right to choose their own faith. This is about freedom of conscience.”
LAPD Requested Ring Footage of Black Lives Matter Protests comes from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world. Ring is Amazon’s home security company most known for its doorbell camera.
Along with other civil liberties organizations and activists, EFF has long warned that Amazon Ring and other networked home surveillance devices could be used to monitor political activity and protests. Now we have documented proof that our fears were founded.
According to emails obtained by EFF, the LAPD sent requests to Amazon Ring users specifically targeting footage of Black-led protests against police violence that occurred in cities across the country last summer. While it is clear that police departments and federal law enforcement across the country used many different technologies to spy on protests, including aerial surveillance and semi-private camera networks, this is the first documented evidence that a police department specifically requested footage from networked home surveillance devices related to last summer’s political activity.
In May 2019, LAPD became the 240th public safety agency to sign a formal partnership with Ring and it’s associated app, Neighbors. That number has now skyrocketed to more than 2,000 government agencies. The partnerships allow police to use a law-enforcement portal to canvass local residents for footage.
Requests from police to Ring users typically contain the name of the investigating detective and an explanation of what incident they are investigating. Police requesting footage also specify a time period, usually a range spanning several hours, because it’s often hard to identify exactly what time certain crimes occurred, such as an overnight car break-in.
In its response to EFF’s public records requests, the LAPD produced several messages it sent to Ring users, but redacted details such as the circumstances being investigated and the dates and times of footage requested. However, one email request on behalf of the LAPD “Safe L.A. Task Force” specifically asked for footage related to “the recent protests.” Troublingly, the LAPD also redacted the dates and times sought for the requested footage. This practice is concerning, because if police request hours of footage on either side of a specific incident, they may receive hours of people engaging in First Amendment protected activities with a vague hope that a camera may have captured illegal activity at some point. Redacting the hours of footage the LAPD requested is a cover up of the amount of protest footage the police department sought to acquire.
EFF asked the LAPD for clarification of the specific context under which the department sent requests concerning the protests. The LAPD would not cite a specific crime they were investigating, like a theft from a specific storefront or an act of vandalism. Instead, the LAPD told EFF, “SAFE LA Task Force used several methods in an attempt to identify those involved in criminal behavior.”
Their full response reads:
The SAFE LA Task Force used several methods in an attempt to identify those involved in criminal behavior. One of the methods was surveillance footage. It is not uncommon for investigators to ask businesses or residents if they will voluntarily share their footage with them. Often, surveillance footage is the most valuable piece in an investigators case.
Police have used similar tactics before. EFF investigated the San Francisco Police Department’s use of a Business Improvement District’s network of over 400 cameras to spy on protests in early June 2020, under the guise of public safety and situational awareness. We learned that police gained over a week of live access to the camera network, as well as a 12-hour “data dump” of footage from all cameras in the network. In October 2020, EFF and ACLU of Northern California filed a lawsuit against the City and County of San Francisco on behalf of three protesters. We seek a court order requiring the city to comply with the city’s Surveillance Technology Ordinance by prohibiting the SFPD from acquiring, borrowing, or using non-city networks of surveillance cameras absent prior approval from the city’s Board of Supervisors.
The LAPD announced the creation of the Safe L.A. Task Force on June 2, 2020, in order to receive tips and investigate protests against police violence that started just four days earlier. The LAPD misleadingly labeled these protests as an “Unusual Occurrence (UO).” The FBI announced they would join the task force “in order to investigate significant crimes that occurred at or near locations where legitimate protests and demonstrations took place in Los Angeles beginning on May 29, 2020.” The Los Angeles Police Department, Beverly Hills Police Department, Santa Monica Police Department, Torrance Police Department, Los Angeles City Fire Department, Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, and United States Attorney’s Office for Los Angeles also joined the task force.
Protests began in Los Angeles County following the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. LAPD sent a number of requests for Ring footage from users starting at the end of May, but because of the extensive redactions of circumstances, dates, and times, we’re unable to verify if all of those requests are related to the protests. However, some of the detectives associated with the Safe L.A. Task Force are the same people that began requesting Ring footage at the end of May and early June.
The LAPD’s response shows that on June 1, 2020, the morning after one of the largest protests of last summer in Los Angeles, Det. Gerry Chamberlain sent Ring users a request for footage. Within two hours, Chamberlain received footage from at least one user. The nature of the request was redacted; however, the next day, his unit was formally assigned to the protest task force.
The LAPD’s handling of last summer’s protest are under investigation after widespread complaints about unchecked suppression and use of disproportionate tactics. At least 10 LAPD officers have been taken off the street pending internal investigations of their use of force during the protests.
Technologies like Ring have the potential to provide the police with video footage covering nearly every inch of an entire neighborhood. This poses an incredible risk to First Amendment rights. People are less likely to exercise their right to political speech, protest, and assembly if they know that police can acquire and retain footage of them. This creates risks of retribution or reprisal, especially at protests against police violence. Ring cameras, ubiquitous in many neighborhoods, create the possibility that if enough people share footage with police, authorities are able to follow protestors’ movements, block by block. Indeed, Gizmodo found that on a walk of less than a mile between a school and its gymnasium in Washington D.C., students had to walk by no less than 13 Ring cameras, whose owners regularly posted footage to social media. Activists may need to walk past many more such cameras during a protest.
We Need New Legal Limits on Police Access
This incident once again shows that modern surveillance technologies are wildly underregulated in the United States. A number of U.S. Senators and other elected officials have commented on—and sent inquiries to Amazon—to uncover how few legal restrictions govern this rapidly growing surveillance empire. The United States is ripe for a legislative overhaul to protect bystanders, as well as consumers, from both corporations and government. A great place to start would be stronger limits on government access to data collected by private companies.
One of EFF’s chief concerns is the ease with which Ring-police partnerships allow police to make bulk requests to Ring users for their footage, although a new feature does allow users to opt out of requests. Ring has introduced end-to-end encryption, preventing police from getting footage directly from Amazon, but this doesn’t limit their ability to send these blanket requests to users. Such “consent searches” pose the greatest problems in high-coercion settings, like police “asking” to search your phone during a traffic stop, but they are also highly problematic in less-coercive settings, like bulk email requests for Ring footage from many residents.
Thus, an important way to prevent police from using privately-owned home security devices as political surveillance machines would be to impose strict regulations governing “Internet of Things” consent search requests.
EFF has previously argued that in less-coercive settings, consent searches should be limited by four rules. First, police must have reasonable suspicion that crime is afoot before sending a request to a specific user. Such requests must be specific, targeting a particular time and place where there is reasonable suspicion that crime has happened, rather than general requests that, for example, blanket an entire neighborhood for an entire day in order to investigate one broken window. Second, police must collect and publish statistics about their consent searches of electronic devices, to deter and detect racial profiling. Third, police and reviewing courts must narrowly construe the scope of a person’s consent to search their device. Fourth, before an officer attempts to acquire footage from a person’s Ring camera, the officer must notify the person of their legal right to refuse.
Ring has made some positive steps concerning its user’s privacy—but the privacy of everyone else in the neighborhood is still in jeopardy. The growing ubiquity of Ring means that if the footage exists, police will continue to access more and more of it. The LAPD’s use of Ring cameras to gather footage of protesters should be a big red flag for politicians.
You can view the emails between Ring and the LAPD below:
In this post at Off Grid Ham, Chris Warren talks about some power failures in Texas related to wind power. Whatever your power source, it’s good to have backups. As we’ve posted recently, the WA state legislature is entertaining the notion to ban fossil fuel heating, water heating, and possibly other appliances in all new home construction. But once you’ve put all your heating into the electricity basket, what happens when you have power outages like the ones going on in Texas currently, or California’s rolling blackouts, or any other extended winter blackout? You get cold, really cold, perhaps dangerously cold, maybe dead cold. Where I live currently, our heat is primarily electric. That said, we can also heat with a propane fireplace insert. We can cook on our propane stove. Both of those can be and have been used when there is no power.
When our family lived in Seattle, we once endured eleven days without power during a severe ice storm. Because our apartment building was on a relatively isolated spur of the electric system, we were low on the priority list for power restoration. We had a regular/wood fireplace, though, and a propane grill on the balcony, so we were able to keep warm and eat hot food. The balcony also served as refrigerator/freezer. So, having backups is not just for apocalypse preppers. Think about what you would do in an extended, wide-area power outage, in the worst conditions, and make some preparations ahead of time, so you’re not thinking “I wish I had just…” as you freeze to death or suffer heat stroke, depending on your environment.
Now, Texas has failures on multiple levels. Many homes aren’t insulated for the type of cold they are getting. Some natural gas pipelines broke, and the homes were only setup for heating with gas. Some have generators, but can’t get gas to refuel their generators. But that’s all the more reason to think about what you have and how you can supplement it.
It’s not a comedy if you’re living through it.
Bad news out of Texas gives us an opportunity to look at what can happen when energy policy and weather conspire to pull the grid down. If you live in the upper Midwest USA like me, or New England, or for that matter anywhere north of St. Louis, you might think the winter weather hitting the Southern USA, particularly Texas, is somewhat amusing. Look at them losing their minds over three inches of snow! Where I’m from, we barely notice anything less than five inches.
But there’s nothing amusing about millions of people being left with no power, no heat, no water, business closings, accidents, property damage, injuries and lost lives due to unusual weather (for them) that the region is not prepared to deal with. Yes, I’ve seen the internet jokes and memes, including the one with the helicopter de-icing a wind turbine (which, by the way, is confirmed fake news). Beyond the shallow humor, there is real damage being done.
The stage was set for a mess.
The disaster started when the the weather in Texas turned uncharacteristically cold and snowy. The increased demand for electrical power and stress on the grid from the storm created perfect conditions for grid failure. This failure cascaded to water and gas infrastructure when those facilities lost power. Some politically-biased news sources and personalities are laying the blame on frozen wind turbines, but it’s not that straightforward.
Wind turbines account for 25 million megawatts of power output in Texas. About 12 million megawatts went dark. Everything considered, wind turbine failure accounted for 13% of the lost energy. This is not insignificant, but by itself should not have caused millions of people to lose their juice. The other 87% of the outage was from conventionally-powered plants, mostly gas, going offline. It does not take an energy expert to figure this out. When a large part of the traditional grid is disabled, and then roughly half the wind capacity goes too, there is a huge problem.
The self appointed “experts” are squawking about the failure of wind turbines as if they were the only reason the Texas grid went down. It’s not even a half truth; more like a 13% truth. That’s why I have a problem with their hypothesis. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the state agency responsible for making sure this kind of stuff does not happen, has a lot of explaining to do. Right now Texas has only about half of the power capacity it usually needs, and it can’t all be blamed on the wind.
You are the star. And the supporting role.
What happened in Texas is a cautionary tale for every reader of this blog. The best and most expensive systems can fail. If you use solar, the same concept applies. After all, the sun is not reliable all the time. In my locale, we’ve had maybe three or four days of full sun in the last month and I’ve had to plan accordingly.
What are you doing to prevent your own personal version of Texas from happening? Don’t feel embarrassed if you’re not comfortable with the answer to this question. Many if not most off grid amateurs have enough alternative power to run their radio gear and not much else. No one can realistically prepare for every foreseeable disaster, but we can probably do better than we’re doing now. Off grid ham radio is just a small part of being ready. The good news is that you’re probably more prepared, and certainly more aware, than the average person.
If you’re warm and comfortable and the lights are on, take some time to evaluate your situation and identify areas to improve. Off grid radio for survival/preparedness reasons cannot be done in a vacuum. After all, what good is it to have the most awesome & capable off grid radio station ever when the pantry is bare and the house is cold? There is a tendency for people to go all in on one aspect of preparedness, be it radio, guns, stockpiling food, etc., and blow off all the other things one must do to be truly ready. If this sounds like you, break the curse of tunnel vision.
You cannot stop a Texas-style SHTF situation from happening to you. And you cannot change bad energy policy or poor infrastructure. So focus on what you can control and write your own ending, to the extent that you can. Those who are apathetic are auditioning to play the tragic character in a very non-fictional drama.
Claremont Institute executive director Arthur Milikh, writing at Real Clear Policy, has some words on what conservatism has lately been and what it needs to be going forward in A New Conservatism Must Emerge
America is currently engaged in a regime-level struggle that will preserve or destroy the purpose that has defined it. On one side stands the American way of life, characterized by republican self-government and the habits of mind and character necessary to sustain it. On the other side stands identity politics, which demands the perpetual punishment and humiliation of so-called oppressor groups combined with the unquestioned rule of the so-called marginalized. These two regimes are in conflict and cannot coexist.
The regime of identity politics has already conquered nearly all of America’s major institutions and dominates the moral high ground. The universities and schools, Fortune 500 companies, much of the media and image-making industries, Big Tech, and the administrative state are put to use waging war on the American way of life. Many of these institutions attack, ban, and slander everything for which America stands, alleging that the rule of law is racist; that freedom of speech is white supremacist; that the family is misogynist and homophobic; and that anything short of open borders is xenophobic. The nation cannot survive this trajectory.
But the conquest of these institutions does not prove that the arc of history bends left. Rather, it has occurred largely because of the weakness of the opposition. Mainstream conservatism today cannot reverse these potentially fatal trends and cannot conserve the American way of life because it lacks clear understanding of its own purpose. In its purposelessness over the last generation, it too often outsourced its thinking to economists, while allowing the Left to define its conscience — and its culture. This mistake will prove disastrous if not corrected.
With some notable exceptions, much of the conservative establishment came to view the pinnacle of human life as private consumption and personal license, defining national health by GDP growth. It did not understand that this perspective led not only to spiritual enervation, the weakening of patriotic sentiment, and the demotion of political liberty but also to the creation of a new oligarchic elite openly hostile to the nation.
The will to fight cannot exist without real purpose, which is why many establishment conservatives simply fear the Left while also secretly craving its prestige and praying to its gods. Many have been shamed into becoming radically feminist, making them incapable of adequately defending the differences between men and women, let alone conjuring the manliness necessary to defend borders. Still others may soon support identity politics, no longer willing to defend either genuine standards of merit or equality under the law, the central principle of our country.
Intellectual and moral confusion on the Right helped accelerate the Left’s fanaticism. Once the party of the working class, the Left now stands for identity politics, which demands the perpetual punishment of, and open hatred and discrimination against, so-called oppressor groups while anointing so-called marginalized groups as pure, blameless, and deserving of unquestioned rule. This ideology requires the destruction of America’s foundations, including freedom of speech and the equal rule of laws. The Left, using its institutional powers, forces Americans to make a choice: Comply and submit to this ideology, or become a hated, persecuted enemy, denied employment and civil rights, deemed worthy of harassment and even violent assault. These doctrines and tactics, unworthy of a great and just nation, cannot but produce hatred and conflict, and will bring economic and scientific decline. They will either lead to tyranny or they will provoke genuine resistance.
In the struggle between these two regimes, institutional power and political momentum currently favor the Left. The Right, at present, is not up to the fight. A new Right is needed, one that understands itself as rooted in the noble cause of the American Revolution — unabashed and zealous in its determination to restore political liberty and politics itself.
A restored Right must take two broad approaches. First, its immediate energies must focus on disrupting and weakening the Left’s institutional centers of power. Only parity of power can moderate the Left’s fanaticism. A new Right needs a tougher, more sober approach to the Left’s assets: the adversarial press and media, Big Tech oligopolies, and corrupt universities. This approach requires new legal strategies on issues that the professionalized Right is too scared to touch; bold new actions in the states to liberate them from the Left’s consolidation of powers; and large-scale activism. New strategies are needed for a new world.
Second, and most important, the Right needs to reclaim its mental and moral toughness, and that can come only from reviving its purpose — the preservation of the American way of life. The Right must be morally unflinching in refuting the Left’s ideologies. It must speak clearly and confidently about the effects of radical feminism, “antiracism,” and globalism. It must be prepared to protect its children, its property, and its standards from encroachments. And it must ground its efforts firmly in America’s central principle: equal protection under the law, without exception. This is the basis for forming a common good that the majority of Americans still desire. But achieving it will require that the Right reinvent its political party. Unless it does so, there will be no future political victories — and no country left to defend. Ultimately, this is much more than the cause of conservatism. It is the cause of America itself.