Covered Topics

Please see the list of the topics I've covered. It's located near the bottom of the page. Thanks for stopping in!!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Book review: Patriots

Patriots is an action-packed novel by James Wesley Rawles. It poses the all-too-likely scenario of a complete collapse of the American economy. Starting with a stock market crash, followed by crippling hyperinflation, commerce and supply chains topple like proverbial dominoes. Soon thereafter, gas/electric/water/telephone utilities and all other infrastructure fails. Nationwide, rioting breaks out, causing looters and refugees to leave the cities in search of food and other resources. The story follows several foward-thinking people, who met years before in college, as they flee to a retreat they prepared in advance in Northern Idaho.

Before the story is over, the group must defend themselves against multiple attacks by hostile outsiders and negotiate with other groups for mutual security and needed resources.

Rawles also gives a chilling foretaste as to what we can expect from the United Nations and other unelected people as they jockey to fill the power vaccuum left after our current government fails.

Some online commenters have called Patriots "a survival manual in disguise". Indeed, there are TONS of practical "how-tos" packed into this story. Subjects covered include weapons (of course), communications, selecting/equipping a retreat location, OPSEC (operations security), field medicine, and much more. In the battle scenes, Rawles explains how resistance cells are organized and how military operations are properly conducted. In reading this story, the reader will gain a basic education in nearly all topics relating to surviving a social/economic collapse of these United States, and what to realistically expect during the aftermath. Rawles writes with authority on all of this, drawing from his background as a former Army Intelligence officer.

What I did NOT like about the book: Certain aspects of the story were almost formulaic. ALL of the college buddies who came together and formed the retreat had, or obtained upon graduation, great jobs that paid beaucoup bucks, allowing them to afford many of the goodies one might expect to see on the "Doomsday Preppers" TV series. They ALL ended up with ravingly hot-looking wives who did NOT argue or fight them on the money spent on survival preps or the amount of time their husbands spent at the shooting range, learning other skill sets they would need, etc. Now come on, HOW LIKELY is that, REALLY???

Personally, I would like to have seen more "normal" type folks as the protagonists in the story. People who, other than being awake to world conditions, have normal "nose at the waterline" salaries that don't allow for ANYTHING beyond the rent/mortgage, food, car, insurance, etc; normal wives who would likely balk at some of the time and money going into preps; and normal "asleep" colleagues in college and at work who would NOT be of ANY use - and who in fact could well prove to be a hinderance - in a collapse situation; etc. Also good would have been "normal", yet intelligent folks with a "normal" array of skills. People like electronic technicians, auto mechanics, accountants, nurses, store clerks, college faculty, etc. - though granted, one of the wives in the story WAS a nurse.

Despite the above-mentioned aspects I did not care for, I still found this to be an excellent read overall. The book was fast-paced and never lagged. As an amateur (ham) radio operator, I especially enjoyed the parts dealing with communications and COMSEC (communications security). And for any shortwave listeners who, like me, have ever heard those mysterious "numbers stations", the part about codes the survivors used on the radio will prove nothing short of fascinating. Certainly the story gave an insight into basic military operations I have not found in most other books. For readers unfamiliar with the true reasons for the current economic mess, or with prepping in general, this book provides a gentle and entertaining introduction to the political and economic basis for the current economy, as well as to nearly every aspect of prepping.

Not only was I entertained while reading this book, I was further educated in certain areas which may prove useful at some point. DEFINITELY a recommended book!

Here is where I got my copy:

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Book review: Strategic Relocation: North American Guide to Safe Places, 3rd edition

Have you been thinking about moving? Are you contemplating a new job in another state? Want to know what you may be getting into as far as taxes, regulatory hassles, local culture/politics, crime etc.? Are you for ANY reason fearful for your safety in your current location? Are you curious as to how your city or town stacks up against others in terms of safety?

If your answer to ANY of the above questions is yes, then you owe it to yourself to get a copy of Joel M. Skousen's book "Strategic Relocation : North American Guide to Safe Places", 3rd Edition. Unlike the local Chamber of Commerce or Visitor's Bureau, Mr. Skousen gives a no-holds barred review of all 50 united states and various towns within them. He will tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly about a place. For those folks who may need/want to leave America, he even devotes a chapter or so to foreign countries and regions.

"Strategic Relocation", though geared primarily to 'preppers' and survivalists, is a must-have guide for anyone wanting to take a rational, well-informed approach to relocation. This book covers all sort of situational and logistical parameters of all the major cities and all 50 states in the USA. Mr. Skousen tells you which cities would be likely primary strike targets in a nuclear conflict, as well as those that may come under terrorist attack. He delves into which areas are in greatest danger of floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, ... He tells you the routes to take as well as the routes to avoid when evacuating a given area. "Strategic relocation" has many pages of color maps showing fault lines, earthquake and volcanic activity, areas to avoid due to their being an "attractive nuisance" to terrorists or enemy missiles.

"Strategic Relocation" will give you the low-down on taxes, the chief industries in a place, and whether the medium or long term economic prospects for a given area are good or bad. Maps of the united states give a quick "at a glance" comparison of the regulatory environment state by state, as well as relative levels of "economic freedom". In my travels, most folks I have asked who pay state income taxes don't even know what rate they're being taxed at; Joel Skousen's book tells you the tax rates at state, and in some cases even local, levels.

As one who has experienced first hand how one's neighbors, community, and work colleagues can either "make or break" one's living experience in an area, I cannot stress enough how important it is to locate among those with whom you share similar values. Various factions within our society can trumpet the "joys of diversity" 'till the cows come home, but at the end of the day one needs a tight-knit community of people with whom one shares values, beliefs, and attitudes in common. One in which you can be yourself without worry about how what you say or do is interpreted, and if you have inadvertently offended someone. "Strategic Relocation" does touch upon these issues somewhat. Skousen comments about the level of "religiosity" of a given area - citing that strong church presence tends to cement a community closer together and provide social/emotional/spiritual and even economic support systems independent of government bureaucracies.

Strategic Relocation : North American Guide to Safe Places is well worth the hefty $35 price tag. Arguably the time. money, and effort one will otherwise have to expend to compile the data contained within would EASILY cost 100 OR MORE times the price of this book. And while there will likely be aspects of an area you will want to investigate further on your own, according to your particular needs, Mr Skousen has done 80% of the hard work for you in his book. In many cases, depending on your own needs and parameters, you can rule out an area based on the data found in this book. When buying this book - MAKE SURE to get the 3rd edition. That is the latest one as of this blog posting, and was published in 2010.

What I would hope to see in a 4th edition is even more information regarding local/county/state corruption and local cultural/social issues. As "generic" as much of America is, there is STILL considerable regional and local variation in terms of beliefs, attitudes, and culture. For example, while LA tends to have a "work hard, play hard" work culture, the Midwest generally has a definite "do the minimum you can to get by, but LOOK BUSY" attitude. This one aspect will have a strong bearing on one's experience in the workplace, or the day-to-day process of obtaining needed goods and services.

A quick word about Joel Skousen:

I have had several personal conversations with Mr. Skousen. His demeanor in my estimation was one of a caring person who genuinely wants to empower people to do what they can - morally and ethically - to take care of themselves and lead safer, more productive lives.


I sorely wish I had this book 20 years ago! The information contained therein might well have saved me considerable financial and personal set-backs created in large part by the environments I have lived in. All I had to go on until maybe the last 5 years was "Places Rated Guide" and "Best Places to Retire" type books, whatever propaganda the Chamber of Commerce or the Visitor's Bureau in a place were dispensing, or anecdotal comments of family or friends - which were often based on old information. NONE of these sources even began to give the real story. My brother-in-law, who I relied on for "insider's" information about the area in which I now live, gave me information that was probably true as of 1985, but NOT as of 2005.

In terms of regulatory environment, there are places such as Oregon which may assess fines or even arrest/JAIL you for collecting rainwater on your OWN property to water a garden! Some municipalities may literally require a building permit to put up a dog house. These are just a couple reasons for CAREFULLY checking into the regulatory environment as it may impact your particular activities.

In addition to Mr Skousen's book, I cautiously recommend websites such as ANYTHING you read there - or online in general - needs to be taken with a shaker full of salt, but I have been able to glean useful information from its discussion forums.

If you belong to a church or other organization with ties to an area you are considering, talking to a few local members there could well prove enlightening, as well as turn up vital business or social contacts.

Here is where to get it:

Hope this helps someone.