13 in 2013 Update 3/28

The other day I made cheese for the first time.  Mozzarella, which is supposed to be among the easiest.   No problems there.   I haven’t had much of it yet, but it tastes just fine.   I’m planning on making a pizza with it shortly.    I’ll make ricotta sometime soon (that’s one of the easier ones too) and then move on to some others.

I picked up the parts for my bee hives the other day.  I got two starter hives plus six additional boxes.   There’s a little bit of assembly required – I have to put some waterproof glue on the edges and nail everything together.  It’s something I should be able to do in a couple of hours in front of the TV or whatever.    My bees will be ready in May to pick up

Winter gardening went well, I just removed my cold frame and aquarium.   I think it’s warm enough for spinach, lettuce and other greens to be fine without protection.   I’m going to either take down my greenhouse this week when I get some time or move it to a different bed to get something like beans or summer squash started.    At this point, I think I can just unstake it, lift it up and sit it down on a different bed without too much fuss.      The other day I forgot to vent my cold frame and when I opened it in the afternoon a ton of steam came out of it.  The plants are fine, but I can see that some of the leaf tips got blanched due to high temps inside.   That thing works pretty well.

I still haven’t seen the video from my precious metals/bartering presentation I did last month.   I think it went well, but maybe there were technical difficulties with the recording.   The local preparedness group has been growing and we started bartering tables after the meetings, which is pretty cool and hopefully it takes off.   We now have a group discount at Mother Earth Products too, which is nice.


The Nine Nations of North America by Joel Garreau



I post a lot about topics like regionalism, devolution, localism and secession and I think this is a very important book that inadvertently covers these topics.   At the very least it’s a good book to help understand the United States and how un-monolithic it really is.

This book was written in 1981 (which was the same year I was born) and is amazingly relevant, despite how much has happened since then.   It covers topics like the uncertainty of the sun belt’s future, the decline of the rust belt, ethanol subsidies in the Midwest, the growth of cottage industries in New England, some American cities being important Latin American cities and many other little things that have come to pass or are coming to pass now.    Being a geography aficionado and having known of this book for a while, I can’t believe I hadn’t read it up until now.

When we look at the world around us, we tend to look at it in terms of political units like states and countries.   Even regions are usually thought of as a grouping of states.  Garreau’s book completely ignores political boundaries and looks at culture, economic activity and the environment to define regions.     These are the things that really make where we live what they are.

Take Illinois for example… Sure it’s one political unit, but there are more or less three different regions within the state.  Chicago is in “the foundry”, which is an area defined by heavy manufacturing, being urban and high concentration of non-WASPs.    The central part of the state is part of the “breadbasket”, defined by agriculture being the dominant business, mild-mannered culture and being mostly rural.  The southern part of the state (along with Southern Indiana) is considered part of Dixie, where people tend to be culturally, economically and politically intertwined with the South.   I remember a guy I went to boot camp with from somewhere way down south in Illinois who had a very thick southern accent and we all thought it was funny he was from the same state as Chicago.  If you look at a map, the southern tip of Illinois really isn’t far from Mississippi as the crow flies.

The book kept my attention, but some parts of it seemed unnecessary and almost like an uninspiring travel write-up.   I’ll admit I skimmed through some of these parts to get to the meat and potatoes.     I understood some of the anecdotal stories as being representative of the regions, but some really did seem disconnected from the book

Another interesting aspect of the book is that he doesn’t stop at international borders.   Canada is just as disjointed as we are and the author points out that someone in say, Hamilton, Ontario probably has more in common with someone in Erie, PA than they do with a fellow Canadian in Ville de Quebec, St. John’s, Vancouver or Saskatoon.   I know that occasionally Canadians like to pretend that they come from a completely different planet as the United States, but there are a lot of close regional connections between our two countries.   I know I’ve met people from Ontario while in Europe there’s kind of an unspecified acknowledgement that we both come from the same kind of place.

In a way the book was actually kind of optimistic in the way it recognized the regions’ strengths.   New England may be poor, but it’s completely bought and paid for and well-suited for an energy crisis.   The Islands and MexAmerica are very important economic hubs for all of Latin America.  The Breadbasket feeds the world.  Ecotopia is well-suited for trade with the Pacific Rim and ahead of the game on environmental/urban planning issues.   I forgot what he said was promising about Dixie or the Foundry, but I guess I can come up with a few things from my own thinking.

At any rate, this book (or at least just looking at the idea of the book) is a good one for seeing the world a little differently than most people do.   When you understand the idea that political borders are often arbitrary, some things become a little more clear in the world.


City of Chicago Launching Urban Farming Initiative

Chicago Mayor Launches New Initiative To Transform Empty Lots to Thriving Urban Farms

Hey look, Rahm Emmanuel is behind something that isn’t completely despicable!

I think it’s a good thing that the municipal government of Chicago is getting behind turning abandoned lots in the inner city over to food production.   That’s definitely better than leaving blighted properties standing and bringing the rest of the neighborhood down, hoping that some day a Starbucks will sprout there.

Reading between the lines in this article, I have a feeling that the project is off to a bad start.    They say there are about 15,000 lots abandoned lots in the city of Chicago and it could cost up to $250,000 to get a single lot ready for production.   Bullshit.   It only costs that much when “the machine” is involved.   I guarantee that someone who wants to get a lot prepared for urban farming can get that done for a tiny fraction of that figure.     I also wonder about doling the lots out to people with agricultural training/experience.   Do they think they’re going to find a lot of idle trained farmers sitting around inner city Chicago?  If they’re going the route of offering some kind of classes or instruction to people willing to learn and maybe offering something like a county extension office, that’s probably a good idea.

Hopefully my skepticism is unwarranted and the people in these neighborhoods are able to end the “food desert”, make their neighborhood a little more vibrant and spur a little economic growth.

Mother Earth Products – New Affiliate

Mother Earth Products

Many bloggers or people who run websites throw affiliate marketing links on their page in order to make a few easy bucks if visitors click the links and buy whatever is for sale.

Honestly, I have a couple on my site that I’m not really all that interested in and I have two companies that I really like and actually do business with –  Honeyville Grains and Chelsea Green Publishing.    Honeyville Grains is a great place to get bulk beans, grains and long-term storage food shipped to you at a reasonable cost  and Chelsea Green comes out with some great books.    I have an Amazon one because it allows me to get very specific with the product (i.e. a link to a book that I review) and most people are more comfortable ordering with Amazon than they are stand-alone sites.

I was recently contacted by Theodore from Mother Earth Products and I’m really into this new company and looking forward to being an affiliate for a few reasons:

–  They have a great selection of freeze dried and dehydrated foods at great prices and nice options for quantity (i.e. you can get as small as a two cup pouch or as large as a 35lbs bag with several options between).

– Everything is non-GMO

– Reasonable shipping prices

– The 1 gallon size mylar bags are comparable to #10 cans quantity-wise but take up a lot less space.

–  Perhaps the biggest kicker to me is that this business is ran by a family right here in Central Iowa that really lives the preparedness lifestyle.   I like the idea of keeping it in the community.

Today I received a large box of samples from MEP and it’s going to take a while for us to get through them.    We started off tonight by whipping up the sloppy joe and veggie burger TVP mixes as well as baking some homemade buns.   I was impressed with both and will definitely order some of the sloppy joe TVP.   The flavors of both tasted like actual spices instead of the chemically flavor that usually comes with flavored foods.  I think a lot of people are turned off by TVP because it’s not meat, but in a lot of cases I think it’s the best meat substitute and very agreeable for things that normally take ground meat.  It can also be used to stretch meat dishes, i.e. adding a little bit of it to something like chili, meat sauces, etc to save money.   As far as long-term storage foods go, I would be more excited to hear that we’re going to have TVP sloppy joes for dinner than rice and beans and the price is a lot lower than some of the long term storable meals.

Looks like we have TVP pepperoni pizza and tacos in our immediate future, as well as TVP bacon, sausage, ham, chicken and beef to work with.    I also have some of their soup mixes and dehydrated vegetables to try out.   I’ll post my reviews and what we do with these things as they come.

I also really like the idea of dehydrated vegetables.   They’re very convenient if you do a lot of cooking.    We make a lot of soups and stews and sometimes it’s easier to grab a handful of this-or-that and throw it in than chop stuff.   It’s also a sure bet that you have it around – sometimes I’ve been left hanging with no fresh garlic, onions or celery but was able to get into the dehydrated stuff.   They have a very long shelf life and take up very little space, all things considered.    These things really are a good idea for day-to-day eating, not just when you’re camping or TEOTWAWKI.

So I just wanted to post about this new affiliate because it’s a company that I really want to see succeed and so far it’s looking like they’re going to be a great resource going forward.



Big Trouble in Little Cyprus


Everything You Need To Know About the Cyprus Bank Disaster


People who watch the economic situation in Europe are familiar with the “PIIGS” (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain) or the “peripheral countries” getting all of the fanfare for all of the EU’s problems, but EU member Cyprus has managed to slip through the cracks (for the most part) of the mainstream media’s attention.   I guess that’s understandable, considering it’s on the peripheral of the periphery, out there just south of Turkey in the Aegean.   It’s also statistically insignificant in the grand scheme of the EU’s GDP, but psychologically some kind of meltdown there can do some damage to the overall economy of the EU.

The economy of the island is based upon tourism, British ex-pats and offshore banking.   There’s a ton of money from Russia there, sitting outside the reach of the Russian government’s greedy little paws.    There also might be some offshore oil deposits, which might add an interesting twist to the story.    Banks in Cyprus have taken a beating over investing some of that capital into the Greek economy (Cyprus is mostly Greek).

The EU and Cyprus have recently agreed to a bailout plan that will cost the German taxpayers a ton of money and a levy on all bank accounts in Cyprus of 6.75% on accounts less than 100,000 Euros and 9.9% on accounts of more than 100,000 Euros.   The accounts with less than 100,000 are insured in a similar arrangement as our FDIC.      The banks closed on this news in order to avoid bank runs, as everyone naturally wants to get their money out of Cyprus.    The British government says it will reimburse British citizens and government employees (there’s a large UK military base on the island) with Cypriot accounts courtesy of the already-strained British taxpayer.

A lot of wealthy/powerful Russians stand to lose a lot of money via backdoor nationalization in this situation and they aren’t happy.   This is an interesting geopolitical wildcard here because who knows how Russia will respond to this.   On one hand, the government will be happy about all of that money potentially coming back home to Mother Russia.  On the other hand, Putin might have a lot of very powerful people insisting that they “do something”.    If things are looking like they’re going into crisis mode in the EU now, imagine what it would look like if Russia decided to shut off the gas to Europe – that would really throw them over the cliff.   I hope they tread lightly over there…

The other geopolitical factor here is Turkey, but this one might be a bit of a long shot.  The northern part of the Island is de facto Turkish with a strong Turkish military presence and Turkey is on the rise as a regional economic, political and military power.   We seem to be heading towards a multi-polar world I can see Turkey having more influence in the world in the coming years – not quite one of the big boys like the US, China, Russia or the EU, but maybe on the next tier or so down.

5-10 years ago Turkey was trying to jump through the hoops to get into the EU (under some admittedly degrading terms), but now it’s looking like both sides have lost interest in this idea and Turkey would probably be better off without being a member state.   Turkey’s role in NATO made sense during the Cold War, but no so much anymore.   Plus both Turkey and the rest of NATO have shown that they’re not 100% committed to each others’ national defense policies.   Turkey has been a thorn in the side of the US in Iraq and very reluctant militarily in Afghanistan (but good with humanitarian aid) and we haven’t been very helpful to our ally with their problems in Kurdish Iraq and we didn’t dare say a cross word to Israel when they attacked the Turkish flotilla to Palestine – I bet if Syrians attacked the Turkish ship instead of Israel, we would’ve been chomping at the bit to do something.

Oh yeah, there’s also a deep, pathological hatred between the Greeks (represented here by Cyprus who are Greeks in every sense but passports) and the Turks.  Things have gotten better between the two nations over the past few decades, but it’s still there.    Two years ago I visited the military museum in Istanbul and they had a room dedicated to the 1970 skirmish between Greece and Turkey in Cyprus.   A couple things that stood out to me was a satchel with a placard stating that it came from a “Martyred Turkish soldier in the Cyprus Peace Operation”.   There was also a display of an unassuming American army uniform but the name tag was a Greek surname.  It was just something that someone may have stumbled upon in a suburban Chicago surplus store and had absolutely no connection to anything with Cyprus.   To me this spoke volumes.    Oh, and right now the nationalist Golden Dawn party in Greece has been bringing up the Turkish boogeyman in their dialogue.   There was even a story that surfaced in the Western media earlier in the year about how the Golden Dawn put retaking Constantinople into their party platform although I think that had more to do with the media completely sensationalizing something from those guys than reality.    I’m sure many Greeks hold the romantic notion of the Ecumenical Patriarch rolling up to the Hagia Sofia in a tank to deliver the divine liturgy, but I really doubt anyone is putting that on the agenda in Greece.

I’ve gotten a little deeper with Turkey than I intended to when I started typing but long story short, I think there’s a real possibility of them doing something to assert themselves which will basically be their way of giving the EU and/or Greece the middle finger.

Back to Cyprus, this is a unique situation and I’ll be watching it to see what unfolds.   For all practical purposes there are all kinds of backdoor ways that governments can suck wealth out of the people, but this is notable because it’s so direct.   The thought of bank levies has never even crossed my mind.   Instead of dancing around the reality of the situation, it’s like they’re saying that everyone is going to take a bite of the proverbial shit sandwich.   Thinking optimistically, I guess it’s a good thing that they’re being honest.

Last time things really heated up in Europe there was a big rush into the dollar for security, so I’m wondering if gold and silver prices will go down tomorrow as presumably more European money will come our way.

I think this situation makes a good case for keeping some portion of your wealth outside the system into hard assets like land, precious metals and means of production.    It also makes a good case for keeping some physical cash on hand.   If I were in Cyprus, I’d rather grab some Euros from underneath the mattress right now than worry about standing in lines or trying to track down an ATM with cash still in it.


See also  The Case for Keeping A Little Extra Cash Around




Ron Finley: A Guerilla Gardener in South Central

This video is awesome.   It’s about Ron Finley, a guy from South Central LA who began starting gardens all over his impoverished neighborhood.   He mentions some of his head-butting with the municipal government of LA and some of the reasons why he does what he does.

As a middle class white guy with tentacles reaching out to both the high brow and the low brow world, I get to hear armchair quarterbacking from all sides on issues of poverty.   Usually one segment has something to say along the lines of “fuck ’em, make them get jobs, no one ever gave me shit” and the other segment usually offers something along the lines of throwing more money at the problem and vague calls for more “education”, without really specifying what that even means.     On this specific issue of “food deserts” (places where nutritious food is scarce and junk food is abundant) and everything around it, usually the discourse ranges between anecdotes about people using food stamps to buy cheetos and grape soda or lofty ideas about how they should just put a Whole Foods on Crenshaw Boulevard or if they would just throw a bunch of organic vegetables on kids’ trays at school to solve the problem.      Ron Finley isn’t waiting for the “them” to solve the problem or spending a lot of time talking about it, he’s going nuts planting things all over South Central LA and sharing it with his community.

I like the idea of taking those used shipping containers to make farmer’s market kiosks or cafes serving healthy locally grown food.   There’s probably a ton of them nearby due to the LA/Long Beach ports and well, there’s a little bit of an imbalance between the amount of things we’re importing from the Orient and what we’re actually exporting, but that’s another story.   It kind of reminds me of the impromptu farmer’s markets that sprouted up in The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil and I suppose the situations really aren’t that different from each other:  poor people that need food and grew it themselves.   I’m sure the jobs that would created by the sale of produce are ones that people would really take pride in – it’s one thing to collect a check to work at the cell phone kiosk, but manning a local farmer’s market stand is probably something that someone really feels good about doing.   Plus it would most likely keep everything within their own community.

Now here’s a little bit of my middle class armchair quarterbacking:   No one is really taught how to do things anymore.   As a society we imply to kids that building things, growing things, fixing things, etc. is below them and anything other than four years of college and an office job means you missed the target.   We get too wrapped up patting kids on the head and telling them they can be astronauts, cure cancer or be the president that we often forget to teach them how to do things that will be valuable to them in their adult life.   For example, if kids were taught how to grow food like this guy is doing, that’s a great life-long skill and like Finley says “it’s like printing money”.   I think this lack of emphasis on true life skills hurts the poor the worst.

I like the finale of this video.    “Grab a shovel and plant some shit”   They should make bumper stickers that say that.

Suburbs “Secede” from Atlanta

 Suburbs Secede From Atlanta

I heard about this story the other day and figured I’d post it because it’s a microcosm of where I see things going and in a way it’s kind of hopeful because it shows that you don’t always have to sink the ship/leave with the girl you came to the dance with, etc.

The TL;DR version:   The city of Atlanta has a lot of problems ranging from the omnipresent municipal debt problems, corruption and the real possibility of the public school system losing accreditation.   I’ve never heard of that happening before to a public school system, so that has to be bad.   Bucking the trend against larger cities incorporating smaller ones, many communities within the Atlanta area have begun to incorporate themselves as new cities in order to get away from Atlanta’s problems and have apparently been successful so far.   Oh, and there’s been a handful of accusations of racism for good measure.

An anonymous “key leader” in the black community (side note: who knows what this actually means.  Could be a city councilman with a bit of pull or it could be some random self-aggrandizing asshole with no pull)  who wants to file a lawsuit against the new cities made the following statement:

“So when you allow powerful groups of citizens to opt out of a social contract, and form their own, it may benefit the group opting out, but it hurts the larger collective,”

It’s also mentioned that the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus was upset over this and tried to bring the cities back into Atlanta’s orbit via a lawsuit in 2011 because the “super-white” cities diluted the voting power of black voters in Atlanta.   To me it seems like it would be just the opposite but what do I know, I’ve never been voted into office.
So the municipal government and some “city leaders” are pissed off because some of the city’s more affluent former residents aren’t happy with being forced to pay for mismanagement that they (largely) didn’t ask for as well as being politically subordinate to a voting bloc that as the GLBC suggests doesn’t vote in their interests.      Now there’s a lot of crying and yelling “they can’t do that!” even though they just did.
I really hope to see more of this throughout the country.   This allows people who feel they’re being mistreated to take greater control over their affairs and it forces the people doing the mistreating to cope without the people they’re mistreating.   We’ve had “bigger is better” engrained into us over the past few generations and maybe that’s not the case when it comes to these things.   Being a handful of different cities doesn’t mean that the people in the suburbs can’t work, shop or entertain themselves in Atlanta and vise-versa.   All it means is that everyone gets a little more responsive local government.
Sure it sucks for the people of Atlanta, but you have to draw the line somewhere.


The Incredible Malleability of Gold


Two weeks ago I gave a speech to a local preparedness group about gold and silver.   I mentioned some of the properties of these metals that set them apart from other metals and make them more than just shiny pieces of metal.   Someone recorded the speech, I’ll probably post it when it surfaces.  It’s about an hour and a half, so it’s a long one.

Among one of gold’s properties is the fact that it’s so malleable, meaning it can be hammered out in to very thin sheets.  One ounce can be hammered out by a skilled goldsmith to about one square meter.    The dome of the Iowa State Capitol is covered in gold leaf and I was surprised to find out that there’s only about 100 troy ounces of gold up there (a little less than 7 pounds).   Sure, that’s a lot of gold but that’s also a lot of surface to cover.   A brick of gold small enough to hold in your hand can cover that.    Pretty amazing.

The Day After (1983)


I remember watching this one when I was a kid probably a year or two after the Soviet Union fell, so it’s been about 20 years.    Several scenes from this film really stuck with me over the years and it’s one that every now and then I would think about and make a point to dig up (and then forget).    Thanks to YouTube, there’s all kinds of gems like this right at our fingertips that might have been lost to history.

The Day After came out in the early 80’s, which was a fairly tense period of the Cold War.  The US and the Soviet Union reached a period of relaxed relations known as detente during the 70’s, which was shattered by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.   It would be a few more years before the periods of perestroika and glasnot that ultimately saw the communist regime collapse.   In Wolverines: Reflections on Red DawnI describe the social and geopolitical situation of that period, as Red Dawn came out shortly after The Day After.

The plot follows the stories of a few different characters in and around the Kansas City area.   There’s the Dahlbergs, a farm family that lives near nuclear missile silos, Robert Oakes, a doctor from Kansas City and Airman First Class Billy McCoy, an enlisted man in the Air Force that works with nuclear missiles as well as a few other minor characters.   The first half of the film establishes the characters while allowing the situation between NATO and the USSR to develop, the middle of the film has the actual nuclear attack and the last part of the film covers the aftermath.      The premise for the war is basically the same as the Berlin blockade of 1948, but in this case it ends up in a brief ground war with tactical nuclear missile strikes in Europe followed by full scale nuclear war between the US and the Soviet Union.     The film gives a fairly realistic portrayal of how nuclear war would affect the survivors.

There are some good themes in the film.   I think the most prominent one is “normalcy bias”.   Many people refused to believe that something bad could happen.   In one scene the mother of the Dahlberg family continued to bake to prepare for her daughter’s wedding which was supposed to take place the next day and make the beds, despite the imminent warnings that the missiles were coming and her husband demanding that she get into the basement.   In another scene Robert Oakes and his wife scoff at the neighbors for deciding that now was a good time to take a vacation in Guadalajara (aka “bugging out) due to the crisis in Europe.   Sounds like the neighbors made the right choice.    During the montage of the US launching her missiles, there’s one surreal clip of the missiles going off in the background as a football game takes place at Arrowhead Stadium.    In another scene, Airman McCoy is called on to duty and forced to cancel his leave despite travel arrangements he made with his wife.   She doesn’t understand the severity of the situation and takes it out on him, making it all the more difficult for McCoy.

There’s one line in the movie where a doctor with a foreign accent (presumably portraying a WWII refugee) talks with Dr. Oakes and mentions that people were leaving Kansas City.  He says “where does one go from Kansas City?”, implying that if you’re not safe in the more-or-less geographical center of the United States, where are you safe?   This was one uncomfortable reality of the Cold War.   As a nation, we were fortunate to have avoided the widespread death and destruction that happened in Europe and Asia during the 20th Century.   Had World War III panned out like it did in The Day After, we would not have been as fortunate and everybody would be affected.

Another theme in the film is the idea that an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure in the case of nuclear war.    The director conveys his sentiments that we’re better off trying to reduce the possibility of nuclear war rather than preparing to deal with the consequences.   The director doesn’t seem too optimistic about the ability to effectively get things back to normal in the aftermath of a nuclear war and based on what I know, I’d have to agree.    There’s one great scene where a group of survivors are huddled around a radio listening to the President address the nation.   In the speech the president assures the American people that rebuilding is underway and praises the American people for their resolve, noting that the Soviet Union suffered similar damage and that the US didn’t surrender.  The people are extremely apathetic and cynical towards the President’s words, given the futile situation they’re in.

There’s another great scene where a group of farmers meet with a local official who explains the government’s new agricultural program with advice on how to deal with contaminated soil.   The farmers are advised to scrape off the top 6 inches of soil and start anew.  One farmer in the group calls bullshit on the government’s info and asks how they’re supposed to pull that off when they have 200 acres of cropland.  I think this is not just an example of an inept government, but one that really can’t come to the rescue in some situations but at the same time can’t say “in the event of nuclear war, you’re fucked.  Sorry.”      In another scene someone says something to the extent of “when they come to help us…” to which another character asks “when who comes from where?”, bringing up the true gravity of the situation.

One thing I liked about the movie is that it didn’t have some magical twist where someone saves the day and everything is right with the world.   I think a lot of thought and research went into the production of the film and the adage that “the people that died were the lucky ones” is probably true in the event of nuclear war.     Naturally the film had a strong disarmament slant to it and wanted to convey to the American public an image of what nuclear war would actually look like to us.    I just read the Wiki article and I didn’t realize how controversial the movie actually was (but then again, I was 2 when it came out).   Apparently it caused a lot of psychological distress to a lot of people and even Mr. Rodgers had to do a few shows on the subject to help children cope with it.   It forced the American public to really think about these issues and talk about them.   Many people viewed it as defeatist and anti-American as well, completely missing the point.

Unfortunately I think this movie has been largely written off and/or forgotten as a relic of the Cold War, despite the fact it’s a great doomsday/apocalyptic/dystopian/SHTF/TEOTWAWKI film.   I think the first reaction is to say it’s irrelevant now that the Cold War is over, but I think that could be debated.   China has a nuclear arsenal capable of launching a full-scale attack on the US and all the end of the Cold War did with Russia is put them in a slightly weaker position, although they still have a nuclear arsenal and aren’t too friendly with us.   Then there’s the “rogue states” and more importantly, non-state actors (i.e. terrorists) who are capable of pulling off some small-scale attacks.    I think there was really something to the idea that mutually assured destruction helped keep the peace, whereas there’s not the same dynamic with a terrorist group.   Either way, some kind of nuclear incident isn’t completely out of the question.     We’ve pissed a lot of people off in the world and honestly, some of the people we’ve pissed off are the kind of assholes who would do something like that.    I would say that the kind of full-scale attack as seen in this film is a lot less likely today than it was then.

I’d also like to give the movie some credit for not being over dramatic or having many failed attempts at some deep, profound lines (which is a flaw of Red Dawn).   The acting is pretty agreeable.    At any rate, I think this Cold War gem deserves revisiting from people who are into this genre.


Detroit: Too Big To NOT Fail

Detroit: Skid Row

I doubt anyone is surprised to hear that Detroit is in deep shit right now.    That’s been common knowledge for quite some time now, despite the perennial “Detroit is experiencing a renaissance” articles in the media.   To be fair, occasionally I do hear about some good things happening in Detroit at the neighborhood level from time to time, especially in the way of urban farming and restoring abandoned buildings.

So basically what’s happening now is that they’re finally acknowledging that the situation in Detroit is out of hand.   The city has about $14 billion in unfunded liabilities (pensions, health care benefits, etc) and about $2.3 – $2.6 billion in annual revenues, which doesn’t cover their current expenses, let alone the debts and liabilities.    It looks like the state is going to step in and suspend the powers of the Detroit City Council and the Mayor in order to try to get things straightened out.    Detroit as we know it today is a failed city.   It’s a tough pill to swallow that these kinds of places exist in the omnipotent United States of America, but that’s reality.

State of Michigan Debt Clock

The rest of Michigan isn’t doing so hot, but I assume that a lot of the state is doing better than Detroit and Flint.   The state is about 125 million in debt, representing a little over $12,000 per resident.    This article from The Economist points out that this move is going to make a lot of people angry – there’s a big cultural and political divide between Detroit and the rest of Michigan and I’m sure the anger is going to go in all different directions over this.    People from Detroit (who tend to be black and democrat) aren’t going to like the state government (currently republican) calling the shots ethe rest of the state (which is mostly white and a little more conservative-leaning) isn’t going to be thrilled with bailing Detroit out while things are tight for them as well.

In The 2012 Election and the Elephant Outside The Room I mentioned that in a short period of time I think there will be some real talk of states wanting to split up one way or another.    Detroit and Michigan might be the most likely candidate at this point, although Northern California has been whispering about parting ways with Southern California for years.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Detroit in the next few years as there probably won’t be able to pull off any magic tricks and fix Detroit’s problems.   There are some different dynamics at play, but when the subject of municipal and state debts come up, it’s often pointed out that many of the states that are in trouble right now have economies the size of European countries.    Michigan’s economy is bigger than that of Greece.   If a major city goes down and brings the state down with them, what happens then?   We don’t know, but I’m sure we’ll see in the next few years.

I’ve never even been to Detroit, so I feel kind of silly saying what’s best for Detroit, but it really sounds like Detroit’s future isn’t in “Detroit”, but rather in a series of smaller communities.   By all reports a good portion of the city is already vacant.   If you go to yahoo or google maps and look at Detroit, there’s a lot of open spaces in the residential areas of Detroit’s inner city.       When/if the city government fails, it makes sense for communities within Detroit to pick up the pieces and go at it without them.   Honestly, it would be difficult to run a municipality any worse than Detroit’s leadership already has.   That’s probably the best way to get out from underneath the unsustainable debt of that city.

Whenever I come across articles about Detroit, I always read them.   It kind of fascinates me.   It sounds like everything is already in place to start devolving into a series of smaller communities already.   Occasionally you read about “urban pioneers” from the suburbs revitalizing one little pocket of the city, an ethnic group establishing a viable section of the city or a small inner-city area getting together and cleaning house.   Everyone might be better off starting from scratch instead of trying to keep the whole shit-show going.   Nothing lasts forever, especially municipalities.

It is cool to see examples of dilapidated buildings getting restored or communities within Detroit find some reason to wake up in the morning.   As I understand it, in the 50’s Detroit was basically America’s model city with a very prosperous middle class, a ton of cultural amenities, great architecture and so forth.   Returning to those days probably isn’t in the cards, but it is possible to create vibrant communities within that patch of land.

People that like history usually have a few events or periods that they’re really into.   One of mine is the fall of Constantinople.   Reading about Constantinople before the Turkish siege sounds a lot like Detroit – most of the prosperity was gone one way or another, they were deeply in debt, crime and depravity ran wild and large tracts of the once-great city reverted into farm plots, vineyards, orchards and open space.   The city had the feeling of a series of small villages instead of one grand city.   When the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II finally made it past Constantinople’s gates he was a little let down with what he actually saw in the city as it was a far cry from it’s glorious legacy.

At any rate, I’ll continue to watch the news from Detroit.   The city’s plight is nothing new, but at some point they’re going to hit a breaking point (or magically solve their problems) and there could be greater implications for the rest of the country when/if that happens.


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