Sunday, July 30, 2006

Sadly, Iran Holds the Key to a Pending Global Conflict

At the moment, our world is poised at a crossroads. Straight ahead lies a steep, paved incline into a dark valley of global warfare. Alternatively, we can yet turn aside to navigate the dangerous paths following the contours of the valley's rim.

We seem to have come upon this momentous time rather suddenly, though of course, the signposts warning of the approaching peril have been numerous and plainly apparent to those not asleep.

Those of us in the West who would prefer to continue to talk things out have been skillfully nudged and negotiated into the precarious position we now find ourselves. And we no longer have the proper balance or leverage to be able to make the choices that must now be made. Our biggest decisions will be made for us.

Across the global playing field, diverse alliances and political and cultural interests have come together to a point where, if there is one who now stands at the fulcrum and who has the power in hand to push the world forward into the shadowy terrors, it is Iran, and presumably its president, Dr. Mahmoud Ahmadi Nejad. His apocalyptic views and intentions are well-known, so it does not bode well for what comes next.

Do not doubt that Iran now holds the key. Rock-solid intelligence has Hezbollah and Syria beholden to Iran. Russia and China continue to provide aid and support to Iran. North Korea, Venezuela, and Cuba are firmly allied with them. Indonesia, Pakistan, and Turkey as well as most of the Middle Eastern countries have cultural as well as economic and religious ties that bind. And of course, Iran has strong influence on global oil markets and firm control over the world's most powerful and capable terrorist organizations, in addition to Hezbollah, with members in place across the globe.

There is no Western consensus over what must now happen in the Middle East. And even if there was, the situation in Lebanon would not be resolved without the buy-in of Iran. It is clear the Iranian nuclear standoff with the West will not be settled via negotiation. Most telling, there are many indications that Ahmadi Nejad, over the last two months, has been in the process of privately and personally rallying his allies to a point and purpose that could go a long way toward defining the near-term future for everyone around the globe.

Revolutionary Jihad

The bottom line for Iran is nonnegotiable. Iran is a Muslim theocracy, ruled and controlled by people who live for one purpose--to dethrone the "Great Satan." The first aim is to bring about the destruction of Israel. And second, to wage a bloodthirsty campaign against all nonbelievers in order to establish a global caliphate. "Choice" is not an option--either for individuals or for Iran and its underlings

Not all of Iran's allies subscribe to the religious goals driving the Islamist movement, but they do embrace the power made manifest in this current phenomenon. They surely share the ambition of dethroning America as a superpower and as the yet predominant influence on global culture.

Clearly, the enemy feels the power of the present alignment of circumstance, and they are not likely to abandon the opportunity.

What to Do

History shows that most wars take time to grow and fully involve those who will be pulled in. There is still time, and perhaps plenty of time yet to prepare your household, physically and spiritually for the battles ahead. Do what you know needs to be done now. To hesitate any longer is to very possibly choose severe hardships for you and your loved ones in the not too distant future.

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil. For Thou art with me ..." Psalm 23, v4

Get Ready, Seriously ... www.safecastle.net

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Plan A: Bug-Out or Dig-In?

There are generally three plans of action one can lay out in preparation for possible local disaster. Most folks actually seriously consider only two of the three for reasons that are obvious.

1. Rare, but Effective: There are some who decide to change their life in total and move to a location that they deem is safe and secure from almost all threats. To do this often requires a full-household life-transformation, from career and home moves to lifestyle choices and standard of living alterations. This kind of plan is quite simply not realistic for most people today. But for those who do this, preparedness obviously becomes a prime driver in life, for better or worse.

2. Be Careful and Think Through This One: Some folks, for reasons reasonable or occasionally unreasonable, plan to deal with most or all disasters by "bugging out." If there is an attainable destination within a short drive, this may be OK. But much thought must be devoted to whether there is actually a necessity to leave your home and to make yourself vulnerable on the road--whether there may be gridlock along the route of your escape, or whether there may be elevated danger in a potentially chaotic evacuation scenario. Weigh the risks against the benefits. Is your planned bugout location truly that much safer and better equipped to sustain you in a time of crisis? Will you enjoy the familiarity and community support system in place in that other location that you would naturally have in place back at home? Are you willing to spend the time and money to prepare that location adequately (perhaps doubling your preparedness expenditures if you are also prepping your normal homestead for staying put through a period of difficulty)? The list of considerations is long if one really wants to seriously assess ramifications.

3. If Possible, Dig-in: For most people and for most disasters, the best "Plan A" is to stay put ... hopefully where you live, perhaps where you work. For planning purposes, minimizing your vulnerability to social chaos in an evacuation scenario and capitalizing on your home-neighborhood and community support system makes staying-put your best option. Of course, you must look at the exact situation and decide if that actually makes sense. For instance, exceptions to the rule might include a major hurricane bearing down on you, threatening to flood you out, or an industrial accident upwind that threatens air quality in your locale if you stay where you are.

Best to Be Ready Either Way

For everyone, the ideal approach to preparedness is to try to cover as many bases as possible. Be ready to stay home and fortify your position in the place you know best ... but also be prepared to pick up and get out of Dodge in an instant if you absolutely need to.

For many years my own plan was to be able to adequately anticipate whatever major danger might require "Plan A" to be put into action. That very optimistically meant being ahead of the curve, hitting the road before everyone else would be out on the highway, for a drive with my family and vehicles loaded to the roof with whatever necessities we could fit in. The destination was two-and-a-half hours away in ideal conditions ... our secluded cabin off the grid in the middle of the woods, far from even the closest rural neighbors. The place was fully stocked and squared away for a nice little rendevous with TEOTWAWKI.

But after years of spending the money and time to keep it at full readiness, it dawned on me that we could be more realistically applying my available resources to a solution with better odds.

It was, in itself, a big move for us after becoming so much a part of that piece of remote and beautiful property and the idea that we could play northwoods-pioneer-survivor whenever we needed to ... IF we could actually get there when the time came.

But the logic was undeniable and we did ultimately arrive at the decision to reformulate Plan A.

In a few words, that meant that we sold that property. We applied the money to building onto our outer-suburban home in the form of an addition. AND most significantly, the project included the installation of an indestructible steel fallout shelter under the addition. In short order, we greatly enhanced our chances of surviving most anything, and made our refuge more immediate, convenient, and certainly more robust. It proved less costly in the long run as well, since we no longer need to try to maintain and prepare two different locations for whatever may come.

So do we still have a Plan B? Of course. We know where we'll go if we need to bug-out. It's three-and-a-half hours away in ideal conditions and there is a nice community support system in place for us (family ties, etc.) But that Plan B is really Plan Z for us, as that is what we will do only when all else fails.

Staying put, putting money and work into fortifying one's homebase, developing community ties ... it all makes sense in more ways than just preparing for doomsday. It's almost a straightforward business decision--after looking at the risks, assessing the actual payback opportunities for various options, ascertaining core holdings and committing to the plan that holds the most promise based on available resources ... you almost always dig in and stick to what you know best, defending your current marketshare.

For us, it took years of working through other ideas and plans and alternative realities. But in the end, common sense prevailed--there's no place like home if you want to maximize your chances of survival across the spectrum of potential risks.

Get Ready, Seriously ... www.safecastle.com

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Time to Dial-Up the Adrenaline Feed a Notch

Calm, moderated awareness is always preferable to worry or panic. But when there is obvious potential danger over the horizon, it is time to let your natural defensive instincts kick in.

International tensions are reaching new heights and there is a reasonable chance that any manner of outcomes could seriously impact your way of life in the near to medium term.

What that should mean to anyone with a mind toward being prepared for crises is, do what you know needs to be done. Don't put it off any longer. Hopefully, we are just talking about topping off your supplies--food, storage gasoline, maybe picking up that needed piece of gear that you've been putting off.

Already, you will note that gas stations are doing a brisk business. Plenty of folks recognize that at the very least, gas prices could sky-rocket at any time, so they are filling up. Present $3 per gallon prices might soon seem to be a bargain.

If the flames do proceed to engulf more nations, including the U.S., drawing open hostile actions from all directions ... well, of course all bets are off, and we could quickly find even local food supplies being impacted here at home as well as experience a serious economic downturn.

Beat the rush and finalize your preps now. But again, there is no need to panic. Just do your thing as this is what logic dictates at the moment.

Get Ready, Seriously ... www.safecastle.net

Monday, July 10, 2006

Probabilistic Risk Assessment - What are YOUR Chances for Coming Out on Top?

Probabilistic Risk Assessment (PRA) is a field that is increasingly relevant in organizations that must mitigate their chances of catastrophic losses. PRA experts, including mathemeticians, engineers, and insurance technicians, use very sophisticated conceptual and computing resources to assess the risk of "low probability, high-consequence" events.

Companies and government agencies use such calculations to decide whether they are prepared to accept involved risk in a venture.

Examples: Vice President Dick Cheney was reported to have said, in reference to the war on terror, that as long as there was a 1 percent chance of the unimaginable coming due, we should act as if it is a certainty. In other words, in at least Cheney's mind, a 1 percent risk factor in terms of attack probabilities is a reasonable threshold for taking defensive measures to protect the population.

Another well-known example: Several years ago, NASA determined the risk of a catastrophic space shuttle failure was 1 in 145, or about .7 percent. NASA accepted that risk of failure as being reasonable, given the importance of their overall mission.

Couple the Risk with the Objective to Arrive at a Decision

Simply stated, risk is a measure of probability and magnitude of an adverse effect. (Note that probability is a function of time.)

Here are a few other examples of risk as assessed by William Allman in "Staying Alive in the Twentieth Century" (1985).



Activities Estimated to Increase Your Chances of Dying in any Given Year by
1 in 1 Million
Activity - Resulting Death Risk
Smoking 1.4 cigarettes - Cancer, heart disease
Drinking 0.5 liter of wine - Cirrhosis of the liver
Spending 1 hour in a coal mine - Black lung disease
Living 2 days in New York or Boston - Air pollution
Traveling 6 minutes by canoe - Accident
Traveling 10 miles by bicycle - Accident
Traveling 150 miles by car- Accident
Flying 1000 miles by jet- Accident
Flying 6000 miles by jet- Cancer caused by cosmic radiation
Living 2 months in Denver - Cancer caused by cosmic radiation
Living 2 months in a stone or brick building - Cancer caused by natural radioactivity
One chest X ray - Cancer caused by radiation
Living 2 months with a cigarette smoker - Cancer, heart disease
Eating 40 tablespoons of peanut butter- Cancer from aflatoxin
Living 5 years at the site boundary of a typical nuclear power plant - Cancer caused by radiation from routine leaks
Living 50 years 5 miles from a nuclear power plant - Cancer caused by accidental radiation release
Eating 100 charcoal-broiled steaks - Cancer from benzopyrene

It's very important to note that ALL behavior contains some inherent level of risk. Even behavior required to sustain life, such as eating, is inherently risky to some degree.

Traditionally, and still in the vast majority of households, risk perception is quite simply an emotional judgment. But there are a number of non-scientific factors that enter into one's risk perception ... and indeed to some degree, these factors must often be considered even within groups that rely upon the latest mathematical tools.

How we perceive a given risk involves such things as how much we enjoy an activity, how much experience we have with an activity, and whether we are able to discern that news media accounts of risk are often exaggerated. The bottom line is that emotion is a far more persuasive element in a risk/reward decision than statistics.

Virtually every decision we make can be boiled down to a risk/reward quotient. If we cared to go that far, we could easily become bogged down in the numbers for everything from which side of the bed to get out of, to what to have for breakfast, to where to invest that $4.52 in change you'll receive at the convenience store after paying for your milk, bologna, and latest issue of Monster Trucks Illustrated.

What's the Point?

Someday soon, I expect some of those proprietary actuarial formulas that are today helping the big guys make the big bucks for their big decisions will be available on the internet to the average Joe. In other words, we'll all be able to instantly calculate our personal exposure to risk--at least for the greatest risks out there--given our personal circumstances and habits. Of course, for many risks, location is the number one factor to feed into the grinder.

But until that time, most of us need to simply realize that mitigating household risk has to be about common sense and keeping an anchored and well-balanced perspective on reality and probabilities.

Personal Preparedness Should Not Be Emotional

Crisis preparedness is all about being ready for the likeliest worst-case scenarios that can impact you and your household. Some scenarios are within your control to mitigate. Others are well beyond any mortal man's control. All are capable of causing fear and over-reaction before they ever actually occur.

Although most of us are not about to attempt to work out the personalized risk-reward ratios for preparations for hurricanes or tornadoes or a local terror attack, it's worth keeping in mind that the risks are always going to be minutely fractional. So although it makes all the sense in the world to be prepared, just in case, no risk is worth losing sight of your greater objectives in this life--whatever they may be.

Get Ready, Seriously ... www.safecastle.com

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Don't Worry ... Be Ready

At the foundation of every preparedness outpost is some deeply held perspective on what the future may hold. With that in mind, I see this linked and excerpted opinion piece to be a worthwhile and entertaining test of the shaky dynamic on which some presumptions rest ...

http://www.slate.com/id/2144775/

The Future of Futurism
Down with the techno-utopians! Up with the techno-realists!
By Reihan Salam
Posted Thursday, June 29, 2006, at 12:12 PM ET

It's easy to make futurists look silly. For every prediction that comes true (or that sort of comes true—Nostradamus predicted that someone named "Hister" would do something terrible one day), about 20,000 more do not. Just take a look at some of these forecasts from the 1970s: an economically vibrant Soviet Union will put America to shame, a new Ice Age will cause mass starvation, and a single eight-track cassette will hold all human knowledge.

Even so, it's not fair to say that all futurism is misguided. Just most of it. In his 1976 Time essay "Is There Any Future in Futurism?" Stefan Kanfer wrote that you could divide futurists into neo-Malthusians and Cornucopians. Neo-Malthusians are convinced that the world is going to hell. Some, like The Population Bomb's Paul Ehrlich, blamed population growth; others, like the Club of Rome, blamed economic growth. Either way, the prescription remained the same: You've got to change your evil ways, Earthlings.

The Cornucopians, in contrast, promise vast riches. Growth is the solution, not the problem. According to the 1976 Hudson Institute report The Next 200 Years, the coming decades would see declining population growth (true), a rising standard of living (also true), superintelligent robots in every home (do you own an Xbox?), and vast undersea cities (glub glub). Over the last few decades, it's safe to say that the Cornucopians generally got things right and that the neo-Malthusians generally got things wrong.

...

The best futurists take present-day trends in technology and extrapolate from them based on a few fundamentals: that large-scale institutions will keep being slow-witted, that small groups of people are good at learning and adapting to new circumstances, and that death and taxes will always be with us. Reynolds partisans can sit back and wait for "the comfy chair revolution" to come. Meanwhile, I'll be stockpiling enough ammunition, Cipro, and NewsRadio DVDs to last me through the coming robot wars.

Get Ready, Seriously ... www.safecastle.net