Archive for September, 2008

On the Radio this Week

Sharon September 23rd, 2008

Hi All - I realize that for the first I’m not giving you much notice, but just in case you live in one of the relevant areas, I thought I’d let you all know that I’ll be on the radio a lot this week talking about the book and current events.

 This morning, from 9:10-9:20 I’ll be on the Alvin Jones show in the Ralegh/Oxford NC area, on WCBQ-WHNC AM.

 Also this morning, in Madison and Central WI at, I think 10 - 10:20 am (it will be 11 - 11:20 my time, but I suck at time zones) I’ll be on WBEV with Jim Stowell.

 If you are in the Santa Fe area, at, I think 5:15-5:40 your time (7:15-7:40 my time) I’ll be on Santa Fe Public Radio KSFR with Diego Mulligan.

Listen in if you have a chance!

Sharon

Remember the Patriot Act….?

Sharon September 22nd, 2008

Ok, anyone remember the Patriot Act, you know that thing that Congress signed because we’d just had a great big disaster and everyone was scared and accomodating because they didn’t know what else to do?  Remember how nobody really even read it, and it didn’t do jackshit to reduce the problem of terrorism, but it did do a whole lot to reduce democracy in the US? That is, it worked out to ensure that we and our grandchildren will be suffering from the undermining of every principle we valued, but did nothing useful. Sound vaguely familiar?  Guess what - we’ve got a new Patriot Act.

It is called the Federal Bail Out.  And guess what - it hands to Hank Paulson and a few other unelected people huge powers, destructive powers, that, of course, we know that they will use for good.  Now where does it get those powers?  Through the abrogation of the constitution and the ripping them out of your hands. 

And we’re getting the same message that went with the patriot act - pass it now, or disaster will befall us, we’re all doomed if we actually read it, and don’t just sign it into law.  It comes with an appropriate “scaring the shit out of fairly dumb political figures” bit (remember Hillary saying that if we knew what she knew about WMDs, we’d be for the war too?)  Christopher Dodd and my own Senator Schumer were practically drooling with fear after their private viewing of the Wall Street situation.  They won’t, of course, tell us what they were told, but it was so horrible that we should definitely allocate untold billions more to bailing out the rich.

Now here’s the thing - bailing them out won’t fix the problem.  The markets lost 3 trillion + last week - 700 billion isn’t going to fix the problem. Neither is the next 700 billion.  It won’t cover the losses in the housing market that is still declining, it won’t make your house worth what it was, it won’t do much except send foreign investors running for the exits.  In short, it won’t save us from a Great Depression.  Whatever Chuck Schumer is waking up in a cold sweat about, it is too late to avoid it becoming reality. 

But what we’ve got here is more Shock Doctrine economics, more destruction, more rapine stealing of democracy at the moment that things are falling apart.  And we can go into this crisis in one of two ways - either with all the power that we can hold in our hands, the memory of what is good about America, and a vision to put those pieces back together and with what remains of our country’s assets used to build something new, something that could potentially last us for generations.  Or we can go in to our homemade disaster with less power, fewer resources, more thrown down the drain, less of America left.  Our choice.  Actually, odds are there is no choice - this will pass, and it will be too late, and besides making do with what we’ve got less in a massive Depression, in an energy poor society, we’ll also have to try to reclaim what we’ve got.  But the thing is, it isn’t passed yet, and we honestly have no choice about trying to resist - because it will only be worse later.

 Read about it now here  (please read the posts for the last 3 days) www.theautomaticearth.blogspot.com, and here: http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/9/20/153952/268/395/603713 and this http://market-ticker.denninger.net/archives/587-The-Mother-Of-All-Frauds.html and do what you can to stop it. You know who to yell at.

And since it does look like the damned thing will probably pass, you could also get in on Verde’s 21 day preparation challenge - http://www.justicedesserts.blogspot.com/.  It might not be such a bad idea to imagine that your world will change dramatically in a very short time - after all, it already has. 

Sharon

The Dog Ate My Homework or Why the PA Novel Discussion Will be Delayed

Sharon September 21st, 2008

Due to technical difficulties (ie, my copy of “After the Crash” was unreadable and has to be replaced), the PA discussion will have to proceed without me until I can a. get my copy of the book and b. read it.  So y’all go ahead - I’ll post a proper discussion ASAP.

 Sharon

More for the Holy Crap Files

Sharon September 19th, 2008

Ok, folks, I’m not here.  I know I said I wasn’t going to be online on Fridays anymore, and I’m really not, but I did need to follow the new SEC short selling info, and you need to also!  Because the sudden change of economic rules really could crash the economy harder than before - it may well be that the 10 day ban, and perhaps a subsequent extension on short selling will keep things going until the election - but I’m not holding my breath, and I’m definitely with those who think that this will make the financial situation much more dire. 

Discussion here at the Oil Drum; #node/4549#more

And here at the automatic earth: #2008/09/mayday-martians-have-landed.html

I know most people have no idea what this means, but it is worth taking the time to sort through the articles and their comments, and get a grasp on why this matters.  Because your economic future is being played out here. 

Ok, if you are wondering what you can do about it - not a whole lot.  So you might as well go back to doing the same other stuff - getting your preparations in order, making yourself as secure as you can, helping out your neighbors, getting to know them better.  And if you are still in a planting season, I’d recommend this article by the incomparable novelist/herbalist Susan Wittig Albert, who also writes deliciously fun mysteries about China Bayles and Beatrix Potter (as Robin Paige, with her husband) and might be a good escape from all this crap: http://henandharvest.com/?p=137

Sharon

Friday Food Storage Quickie

Sharon September 19th, 2008

Ok, last week concentrated on two common starches - pasta and popcorn.  This week, we’re going to try and diversify your holdings a little bit by adding some orange vegetables and dried fruit.

Why these two?  Well they are important for a couple of reasons.  Vitamins A and C tend to be deficient in most food storage diets.  Both most orange veggies and dried fruit are sweet, and many lend themselves to lots of familiar recipes.  Also, if you have to transition rapidly to a diet primarily of grains and beans, you may find that this leads to tummy trouble - a little dried fruit to keep things moving along is not a bad idea.

 What kind of orange vegetables?  What kind of fruit?  Well, it depends on you and your family - on what you like to eat, and on what you have the ability to store.  If you live in a place where your home is routinely in the 50s or low 60s during the winter - or if you can shut off a room and keep it quite cool, you have the optimal conditions for storing winter squash, pumpkins or sweet potatoes in their natural state.  Now these take up a considerable bit of space, so storing large quantities of these can be difficult - but if you can allot the space, the tastiest, freshest and most nutritious option would be to have grown or if it is too late for that, to buy in bulk from a farmer large quantities of sweet potatoes, squash or cooking pumpkins (jack o lantern pumpkins make good animal feed, but not good pies particularly).  Many small pie pumpkins may be available at a minimal price the day or two after Halloween, if you talk to local pumpkin dealers. 

If you don’t have moderate temperature storage, but do have a root cellar or cold storage space, another option would be to buy carrots in bulk and store them in the basement (or other suitable place) in buckets of damp playground sand.  Carrots have the advantage of being delicious raw, either straight or grated into salads.  Carrots are generally quite inexpensive as well.

But what if you live in an apartment and can’t store large quantities of orange vegetables.  Well, you can either purchase or can yourself canned pumpkin, squash and sweet potatoes - these are especially cheap around Halloween and Thanksgiving in most localities, and it isn’t a bad time to buy a large quantity.  These vegetables can be served more or less as is, baked or pureed with cinnamon, they can be added to biscuits and breads, make a delicious soup (I particularly like pumpkin-tomato) are good mixed into bean purees like hummus, used to flavor rice pilafs, and of course, pies.  A small amount of orange vegetable will ensure that you and your family have adequate natural sources of vitamin A.

What about the dried fruit?  Well, what kind of dried fruit does your family like?  Raisins?  Dried Cranberries?  Dried apple schnitzen?  Prunes?  And perhaps more importantly, since dried fruit isn’t cheap, is there any fruit you have abundantly that could be dried?  Right now, in my area, apples are abundant and often sold inexpensively by the bushel - and most northeastern households can dry them simply by peeling and coring and cutting the apples into rings, which are hung up and dried on strings in the house. 

Buying dried fruit in bulk is definitely cheaper than buying it in most packaged bags - and Sams Club type places sometimes have good deals.  If you can’t afford to buy local, or can’t find a local source, remember, you don’t need as much dried fruit as you do, say, dried beans - even a little helps flavor your oatmeal, provides a tasty, calorie dense snack for a child and helps with that little internal issue. 

There is one kind of fruit that I think is well worth making some effort to stock up on - dried elderberries. In some regions of the country, wild or cultivated elderberries are still on the plant and can be harvested for free.  In other places, these will have to be ordered.  But it is truly worth having some, so that you can make vitamin C rich elderberry sauces, syrups or other supplements.  As mentioned above, Vitamin C is the other nutrient that food storage is often short of.  Even dried, elderberries are incredibly dense in vitamin C.  Homemade elderberry syrup is not difficult to make (boil dried berries with a sweetener and a bit of water) and is a good treatment for various winter illnesses - but even more important, elderberries are a good regular source of C.  If not elderberries, dried rose hips are also excellent for this purpose.

Dried fruits make great pies (elderberries too!), great pancake sauces, good additions to rice pudding, oatmeal and other porridges, flavorings for cake and breads, and terrific snacks by themselves.  They open up wide the range of foods available to you if you have to rely primarily on your storage.  If you have kids, or adults with kid-like tastes for the sweet, dried fruits can be helpful in getting people adapted to their new diet.

Ok, what about non-food items?  This week, let’s check out our flashlight situation.  If you are like a lot of people, they live in a kitchen drawer with a lot of other junk in it.  Can you find them in the dark?  Do you have a flashlight at your bed?  Do the kids or other household residents have a light that can prevent an accident and make them feel secure?   

What’s the battery situation, for flashlights without cranks?  Do you have rechargeable batteries and a solar/crank battery charger?  When was the last time you checked the batteries on your flashlight?

Now is the time to go over your flashlight situation.  Generally speaking, I think most households need a few of these - a big one with a big light for dealing with a crisis in pitch dark - you don’t want to manage a broken bone or help a lamb birth, try and fix the water pump or check for a burglar with a teeny little light.  Plus, as one of my other readers pointed out, big maglight flashlights make excellent blunt objects just in case.

Then there are smaller LED flashlights that last a long time - try and have at least one headlamp, if you can - having your hands free to do other things makes a huge difference if you  have to do chores in the dark.

I also like the hand crank flashlights, especially for children.  They have the advantage of working even if you do let the batteries lapse.  Even though they aren’t environmentally sound, for the youngest kids, who may be scared of the dark, I find lightsticks to be a good alternative, and store a few.  That way toddlers and preschoolers, or children without the ability to manage a flashlight without breaking it can still have a sense of power and security and some light.  They don’t last all that long, and are a disposable item, so this isn’t a long term solution, but it does offer a short term way of handling a crisis.  Battery powered LED nightlights aren’t a terrible idea either.

Whatever you choose, have the lights, have the batteries and a way to replace/recharge them (honestly, recharge makes so much more sense that I can’t understand why anyone would choose the other alternative), and make sure you can find them easily and in the dark.  Because when you need them, you really need them.  Inexpensive flashlights are often available at Sams Club type warehouse stores and oddlots stores, and a quick trip through ebay suggests lots are available there.

If you’ve got the lights and batteries and things, now is a good time to make sure they are charged up, that everything is clean (ie, removing rust, etc…) and that things are accessible and that everyone in the household who might need to know can find them if they need to.

 Sharon

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