By Ross Bishop
When the Earth is ravaged and the animals are dying, a new tribe of people shall come onto the Earth of many colors, creeds and classes, and by their actions and deeds shall make the Earth green again. They shall be known as the warriors of the rainbow.  ~ Hopi
I don’t know what the future portends, I can hope, I can dream, but whatever comes to pass, we’re going to have to make some changes. To that end, I have a growing concern about the stability and quality of our food supply. The quality issue is with us now. Processed foods, GMO’s and the poor nutrition of our fruits and vegetables should be enough to motivate anyone to grow their own. But now, the imposition of supply disruptions adds an additional concern.

First, let’s consider food quality. Modern agriculture has simply destroyed the nutritional value of our fruits and vegetables. A 1999 study from the University of Wisconsin found that three decades of the overuse of nitrogen in farming has destroyed the soil’s fertility, causing it to age the equivalent of 5,000 years in 30. In addition, growers choose varieties that pack and ship well, regardless of nutritional value. The upshot is that in order to get the same amount of nutrients today, including vitamins and minerals, that you could have consumed in the first half of this century, you would have to consume inordinate, impractical and even impossible amounts of food.

For the amount of manganese you used to get in 10 green beans you would have to eat 300. You have to eat 11 bowls of spinach to receive the same amount of copper that you used to get in one bowl. To receive the same amount of iron in one tomato prior to 1945, you would have to eat 1,938 tomatoes today. Carrots used to have 10,000 IU of beta-carotene, now they have less that 70. Wheat used to be 40% protein, whereas now it is less that 10%. It goes on. . .

In an analysis of USDA nutrient data from 1975 to 1997, the Kushi Institute found that the average calcium levels in 12 fresh vegetables declined 27 percent, iron levels dropped 37 percent, vitamin A levels 21 percent and vitamin C levels 30 percent. A similar analysis of British nutrient data from 1930 to 1980 published in “The British Food Journal,” found that in 20 vegetables the average calcium content had declined 19 percent, iron 22 percent and potassium 14 percent. ( (

Add to this the increasing quantity of pesticides, herbicides and other toxins sprayed on produce PLUS the curse of GMO crops, and you have plenty of reason to start growing your own. And by the way, having your own garden significantly reduces your carbon footprint.

“But I already eat organic!” you say. That’s great. That brings us to the second point. What will you do when organic carrots are $10 a bunch or fish is rationed? Because you must also consider the supply situation. It’s not an issue today, but it’s going to be, and it takes several years to develop a good garden.

Jim Yong Kim, President of the The World Bank, not known for its excitable rhetoric, said in a recent statement, “Urgent action is needed to not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also to help countries prepare for a world of dramatic climate change and weather extremes.” The thing is, the way industry dominates the political process and the global political situation in general, meaningful change isn’t going to happen. You’re on your own on this one.

The glaciers are melting. That means a threat to global drinking water and rising sea levels, by some projections as much as 20 feet by 2100. The effects will be devastating. Record high temperatures and severe rainstorms and droughts are becoming increasingly common. Extreme heat waves are happening two to four times more often now, steadily rising over the last 50 to 100 years, and are projected to be 100 times more likely over the next 40 years [source: Global Development and Environment Institute, Tufts University].

Today, India, Pakistan and sub-Saharan Africa already experience droughts, and experts predict precipitation could continue to dwindle in the coming decades. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests that by 2020, 75 to 250 million Africans may experience water shortages and the continent’s agricultural output will decrease by 50 percent [source: BBC]. OK, so we’ve got disruptions to drinking water and disturbances to the food supply, now globalize that. Then consider that in the last 50 years, 50% of the earth’s rainforest’s have been destroyed. Roughly 224,000 square miles have been lost since 1980. At the present rate of destruction, an area the size of 2,000 football fields is lost every 90 minutes.

MISSING THE FOREST FOR THE TREES: NASA reveals 37 years of Amazon deforestation by juxtaposing satellite photos of western Brazil taken in 1975 and 2012.

MISSING THE FOREST FOR THE TREES: NASA reveals 37 years of Amazon deforestation by juxtaposing satellite photos of western Brazil taken in 1975 and 2012.

Major animal species are disappearing, either from loss of habitat or poaching. The loss of native plant species is simply incalculable. Global fisheries have been depleted to the point that some species will simply never recover. Farmed fish are proving to be a headache. I could go on. . . The point is that the future reliability of your food supply could be seriously in doubt and there is nothing, absolutely nothing on the horizon to change that. There may be supply, but at what price? We Americans like to believe that somehow, someone will save us. . . Well yes, Monsanto does have an answer. . .

So start taking care of yourself today. Plant a garden. If you absolutely can’t do your own, start a neighborhood or community one. Do it now. And while you’re at it, plant some fruit trees. You need to stop feeding your family the poisons and chemicals put out by the food industry and you need a stable/reliable food source for the future.

There are a few other things you might consider:

Start scratch cooking. No, it’s not as convenient, but it is healthier. Those little plastic trays of prepared meals you feed your family are loaded with chemicals – even the frozen vegetables. Eighty five percent of those food products are banned by other countries. Think about that a minute. Banned elsewhere. What do they know that we don’t? ( Scratch cooking is really not so bad once you start making it a part of your daily routine. Make them some pancakes or oatmeal. Isn’t that better than pop-tarts and Cap’n Crunch?

The same thing is true for scratch baking. Especially with the no-knead bread making technique, its not the arduous task it used to be. It does take more time, but it is soooo much healthier for your family than that shrink wrapped stuff you presently buy!

A related thing you can do is to learn food preservation. Dehydration is a wonderful technique because it is easy and food storage is simple. Freezing is great if you have the freezer space. Canning is labor intensive. But whatever method you choose, put the abundance from your garden in the bank. And let your kids help. It’s a great chance to spend some quality time together!

Think more carefully about your choices eating out – most chain restaurant food is loaded with preservatives and flavor enhancing chemicals, and we spend 45% or our food budget these days eating out. Even many independent restaurants today use sauces and prepared dishes they get right off the truck.

As a general rule, recycle, reuse – get away from the chemically laden, throw-away mentality. I know, it’s convenient, but what are you going to do when gas hits $15 a gallon, lettuce is $8 a head and there is no meat or chicken? What if you only get so many gallons of fresh water a week? Greater self-reliance would seem to be the order of the day. There are many more things you can do for yourself. (See the accompanying article about making your own laundry detergent and other household supplies.) For years greenies have been encouraging us to do this, now we may have no choice!

OK, I know this next one is a big step, but think about raising chickens. Fresh eggs are great, chickens eat kitchen scraps and bugs and are a good source of protein.

These may be further on the horizon, but consider:

Capturing rainwater and recycling your grey water. Use it for your garden and trees. Be able to filter rainwater as a back-up source for drinking water.

Rabbit meat is the highest form of animal protein there is. Rabbits are easy to raise and reproduce like – well, rabbits!

Solar is not far from being competitive with other forms of energy. Be thinking about it.

We have always relied on “the system” to save us. Well, “the system” may be the problem now, and “salvation” may only come by disengaging from it.

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Earth Friendly Cleaning Agents

There are so many things we can do to move from a chemical intensive to a more earth friendly lifestyle. Here are a few suggestions:

Supermarket laundry detergent is expensive, about $.21 per load, and filled with chemicals (especially phosphates) that are harmful to the environment. Homemade laundry detergent costs .03 cents per load, cleans very well, is biodegradable, and is easy to make! This is a low suds detergent. The new generation of HE (High Efficiency) front-load washers require “special soap” for one reason . . .low suds.

2 bars Fels-Naptha bar soap
2 cup Borax powder
2 cup Washing Soda

Grate the 2 bars of Fels-Naptha either with a serrated knife or a box grater over a paper towel. Place the soap in food processor and blend into fine powder. Add 2 cups Borax and 2 cups washing soda (not baking soda!) to the food processor. Cover the processor with a damp towel and blend.

If you have really hard water or well water you may have to adjust the recipe. I like to combine this mixture with an equal quantity of Seventh Generation laundry powder because that provides a bit more oomph!

Fabric Softener: Add 1 cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle. It works great, and it removes residue and odors. (Also helps to keep the washing machine clean too.) For an extra dirty load, add a shot of Dr. Browner’s liquid Castile soap. If your clothes are starting to look dingy, get some Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing. It’s pricey at $7 a bottle, but you only need a few drops per load! If you want to add some scent, take 1/2 cup of the powder and put 20 drops of essential oil (lavender, orange, etc.) in it. Mix well and break up clumps. Then add to the powdered mixture.

cup of borax
cup of washing soda or baking soda
half cup of salt

Mix all the ingredients together in a container. Use 1/2 tsp per load – be careful – it can make the dishes really slippery! Washing soda really works in hard water and the salt will make glasses clean and sparkling.

The editors of Cooks Illustrated tried different methods to clean pears and apples including: a vinegar and water solution (3:1, water:vinegar), antibacterial liquid soap, scrubbing with a stiff brush. Not only did the vinegar mixture work the best, it was far, far better when measured for bacteria – it removed 98% of bacteria, compared to just under 85% for scrubbing. And remember, organic produce still has surface bacteria.

1 Tablespoon baking soda
1 cup vinegar
1 cup water
20 drops grapefruit seed extract, (available at health food stores)

Keep a bottle of vinegar with a spray-top – just spray on the fruit or vegetables, let sit a minute and then rinse. If you’ve got longer to spare, leave fruit or vegetables soaking for 10-20 minutes in a vinegar/water solution, then rinse.

Dawn Dish Detergent
Scrubby Pads
Absorbent Cloths

Place a few drops of Dawn in a container with a couple inches of water. Dip the scrubby pad into the water and squeeze out. Scrub the glass. The Dawn along with the scrubby gets the dirt off and does not leave a residue. Squeegee the window, starting at the top and working down, wiping off the “blade“ each time with a cloth. Wipe around the edges of the window to absorb any leftover water and dirt.

1/4 cup Baking Soda
1 TBS. Dish Soap

Mix 1/4 cup baking soda, 1 TBS dish soap, and enough vinegar to moisten to a paste. Scrub surfaces with a damp sponge and a blob of your scrubbing cream cleanser.

Citrus peels

Fill a one quart mason jar with citrus peels. Cover peels with white vinegar, place lid on jar, shake and allow to sit for 2-3 weeks. Strain the citrus peels out of the vinegar. Mix the vinegar solution with water 1:1 or up to 1:3 in a spray bottle depending on how strong you want your solution.

2 TBS. lemon juice (use a real lemon)
1/2 cup Olive Oil
Lemon essential oil (optional)

Prepare a fresh batch each time you polish. Mix 2 TBS lemon juice into 1/2 cup olive oil (add 10 drops lemon essential oil (optional). Dab a cloth (microfiber cloths are great!) into the mixture, and polish furniture. Allow to sit for just a little while and then buff.


Vegetable oil
Baking Soda

Mix two parts vegetable oil with one part baking soda. Apply it to glass jars with sticker goo on them, and rub off the sticker goo with ease.

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Surviving A Natural Disaster At Home

by Ross Bishop

Disasters are rare, but the effects are devastating! Even lesser events can still cause considerable hardship.

We’ve all been without electricity for a few days. It’s not such a big deal, but with storms getting worse and more frequent, what if you’re stranded for a week? What if a flood, earthquake or tornado hits your town, even if it misses your house?

If you are lucky enough to have your home, you will have two of the essential survival requirements: shelter and food.  However, you might want to take steps beforehand to consider your other survival needs: heat, water and energy.

In the aftermath of hurricane Sandy, there were many people in NY and NJ whose homes and apartment buildings were intact, but they had no utilities—no heat, no water, no electricity. These people could have left and gone into shelters, but many of them refused to leave from the fear of looters and that set them up for real difficulty.

Water availability was a problem from day one, and after their food ran out, they were in a real bind. And since most of the building basements had flooded, heating plants and elevators were inoperable. These people ended up in miserable living conditions for quite a while! The lesson is, when the infrastructure goes, the one constant is that life can be extremely difficult. And even a little preparation can make a great deal of difference.
Electricity is usually the first thing to go, and our lives today are very electric dependent. No electricity means no furnace, no lights, and no computer. It also means that the refrigerator won’t run and that you won’t be able to recharge your cell phone.

Natural gas is more reliable, so you may have the stove for cooking (even if you have to light it by hand), and you may have hot water. The furnace however, needs electricity.

A flood, hurricane or earthquake will put your water supply at risk. Even though you may have water, it may not be safe to drink. Depending on where you live, this may not happen very often, but the consequences are dire. You can go without food for a month if pushed, but without water, you’ll die in a matter of days.

You are going to want to know what is happening. A good, sturdy radio with a hand crank is a must. One with solar panels is even better. Some even have cell phone chargers built in. Receiving short wave frequencies can be a real bonus. The Kaito Voyager ($50), Eto’n Solarlink ($80), and the FreePlay GSW  ($100) are excellent choices. The Eto’n FR160 ($30) is one of the best little crank AM/FM radios available. It is sold at Home Depot, Amazon and also under L.L. Bean and Red Cross labels.

There is probably no time you’ll need your cell phone more. Cell towers are remarkably resilient, although circuits do get jammed.

You might want to consider a battery powered cell phone charger. Your can get a rechargeable battery pack that will give you a couple of cell phone charges ($30). A step up from that is to add a solar re-charger to that. Some solar chargers have to be angled precisely at the sun and have a totally clear sunny day to operate properly. Some solar units can even recharge laptops and iPads. I am very partial to the Solar JOOS Orange ($149) It works great for all my portable devices and batteries and is practically indestructible. It isn’t as fussy about solar alignment as most units. If you live in the Southwest, a crystalline solar cell unit (less expensive) will work fine. In cloudy areas you’ll want CIGS panels (more expensive) that work better in indirect light.

Another option is to recharge your portable devices using your car battery. If you don’t already have car adapters for your mobile devices, get them. You don’t have to start the car’s engine, just turn the key on. Your cell phone won’t drain the car’s battery that much.

A big consideration is whether you want to invest in a generator. Having one can be a real blessing. But, generators are expensive and require fuel. A small generator will produce 2,000 KW of electricity, not a lot of power, but enough to get you by; larger units generate about 4,000 KW and up. The larger the unit, the more fuel consumption.

If you get a generator, keep a couple of filled 5-gallon cans of gasoline in the garage. Rotate the gasoline regularly, as gas does not store well after a few months. Don’t plan on being able to get gasoline if there is a storm. There may be no gas available if the power goes out (gas pumps run on electricity) or you might not be able to get to the gas station at all!

Never run a portable generator indoors! And in the winter, have a plan to run an extension cord indoors without having to leave a door or window open. You can also have an electrician install a power transfer switch that will connect your generator to the house’s electric panel.

Keep plenty of batteries on hand. Store regular alkaline batteries in a cool, dry space, but don’t bother refrigerating them. Refrigeration adds very little to the battery’s normal four-year shelf life. Do not store batteries in their devices and never throw them in a fire. Rechargeable batteries are a different story. Store them in the freezer in airtight bags or containers to keep them dry. Allow them to return to room temperature before you use them.

A camping electric lantern is a good investment. Recharge it periodically. Kerosene lanterns are quaint, but they are smelly, messy, a hassle and a fire hazard. Plus you must have fuel. Then there are candles.

I recommend buying a set of “olive oil lamp parts” from Lehman’s  ($20). From these you can make 5 lamps out of jars (put some rocks or marbles in the bottom) that will burn almost any vegetable or olive oil. They last for many hours and can add a very soothing element to a stressful situation. I keep an extra bottle of cheap olive oil in my pantry, just in case.

You probably have some flashlights. Do they work? If you need new ones, buy LED units. They give much better light and run a great deal longer on a set of batteries. They are somewhat more expensive to buy. By the way, children feel much more safe and secure if they have their own flashlight.

In the winter, staying warm can be difficult if you don’t have a fireplace or wood stove. First off, have everyone sleep in one room and close off the rest of the house. You can run your furnace from your generator, but that heats the entire house. You can also buy electric or oil room heaters that run off the generator, but I think a propane heater is a much better way to go. In survival situations, systems that have to depend on each other always present a risk.

I like the BIG Buddy propane heater ($150). It is small, lightweight, portable and puts out enough heat for a good-sized room. You can run it off a bottle of propane like the ones used on gas grills. It also has a built-in oxygen sensor that shuts off automatically if things become unsafe (carbon monoxide). This is very important because heaters like these are not vented to the outdoors like your furnace or oven are.

If the city water goes out, sanitation will be a problem. Be sure to save your grey water in a bucket. Even if you don’t have water to your toilet, you can manually flush it by rapidly pouring a half-gallon of any liquid into the bowl. Don’t be too proud to pee outdoors.

You can live for a long time from what’s in your pantry, but a little advance planning will keep you from having to eat pancakes with ketchup.

Fresh food is the tricky part, especially if you are without electricity. Eat from the refrigerator first, then the freezer. Don’t open to door to either more than is necessary.

As part of your planning, add to your food pantry canned or powdered substitutes for your regular fresh food – things like powdered milk, powdered eggs, canned butter, powdered or canned fruit juice, canned cheese and canned or preserved meats. Most of these things have very long shelf lives. Some of the special items you’ll have to get from survival food suppliers. But these things will go a long way towards filling in for fresh food, once the fridge is empty. Incidentally, get yourself a really good, hand operated can opener.

If you eat meat, canned meats are usually loaded with undesirable chemicals, but there are several suppliers of canned organic meat. It’s expensive, but . . . I shy away from most canned vegetables because they are just so lousy. You can buy freeze dried fruits and vegetables, but they can be quite expensive.

Because I camp quite a bit, I have taken to dehydrating my own fruits and vegetables. That also gives me a great food supply for emergencies. I buy fruit in season from local growers who don’t use chemicals and I get vegetables from our local organic community garden. I make my own jerky (beef, chicken and fish) and fruit leather too. It’s not hard to do. After dehydrating it, I then vacuum seal everything for storage. If you are considering buying a dehydrator, get an Excalibur. They make a great line of products and are well worth the money!

Freeze dried backpack meals are convenient, but they are expensive, have nominal nutritional value and are loaded with preservatives. I do not recommend them or military style MRE’s (which are truly awful!).

If you can use your stove, that’s a blessing. If not, you will want to have a camp stove (I do not like backpack stoves. I find them to be too small and too flimsy!). You can cook on your gas grill or get a single burner propane camping stove ($25).

If you want a good stove that you can also use for camping, one design I particularly like is the “Vitalgrill” ($70). It is very sturdy and compact. It produces a good deal of heat from a small amount of fuel. The Vitalgrill has a small battery powered fan attached that really boosts its output and is very useful if you have to use damp wood. (

Another solution that I think is absolutely brilliant is called a “rocket stove” assembled at home from bricks. Rocket Stoves can be made from almost anything and they generate a good deal of heat from a small amount of fuel. You assemble this stove on your patio from 16 bricks. Here’s a good “how to” video: Get 16 bricks, learn how to put the stove together and then stack them in a corner of your yard or garage until you need them.

Trapped in a house for 4-5 days, nothing raises a family’s morale like baked bread and biscuits. Biscuits are easy to make and the “no-knead” bread making technique ( has turned the once onerous task of bread making on its head. Also, using the oven will help heat the house in the winter. Stash some yeast with your pantry supplies.

If you have water, even if it’s bad, you can probably treat it and live. If you don’t have any, you will be working against the clock. Storing water can be a hassle, and no one really wants to do it, but the risk is just too great to be without it. Stash as much as you can deal with. One piece of advice: you will need a good deal more water than you realize. Plan on at least one full gallon of drinking water per person per day, plus more for each pet. That’s a lot of drinking water! For a family of four plus a dog, for three days, that’s about 13 gallons just for drinking!

You may not want to trust the water quality, especially in a flood. There is a good chance that contaminants (like sewage or agricultural waste and run-off) could have been drawn into a compromised municipal water system. At the first hint of trouble, if the tap is still running, fill your bathtubs and any other containers you may have. Use buckets, pots – anything! In a crisis, you can even put garbage bags (untreated) in cardboard boxes and fill them. Survivalist shops sell bathtub sized plastic bags that you can fill for an emergency stash.

Store-bought drinking water has been sterilized and will store for a year. Date the bottles with a marker. If you want to store tap water, sterilize (sanitize) your containers and then either UV or chemically treat it (see below). Keep your water stored in a cool, dry and dark place and rotate your stock every 4-5 months. Gallon containers like milk jugs are fairly easy to handle and can be refilled. Watch for pinholes!

My disaster planning involves the possibility that I may have to evacuate, so gear like camping water filters suits my needs. They’re convenient, well designed, and expensive! But, if you plan to stay in your home, you can easily create your own water filter system and save some money. There are a lot of YouTube videos with ideas.

Be sure and wash your hands thoroughly before treating water. You will want to sanitize anything that comes in contact with water: Mix 1 tablespoon of regular bleach with one gallon of water. Wash and rinse everything first, then let the items soak in the sanitizing solution for at least 2 minutes. Drain and air dry.

I recommend treating water in two sages. The first stage kills organisms, the second removes chemical contaminants. If your water looks cloudy, let it settle out for an hour and then run the upper ¾ths of it through a funnel lined with coffee filters. That’s to get the big particles out.

The first stage of treatment has three options: UV, boiling or chemical treatment. The purpose is to kill pathogens, especially viruses, that are so small they slip through most filters. But this won’t get chemical contaminants. That’s what the second stage is for.

Boiling is probably the simplest and most reliable first stage treatment method. Boiling kills most (not all) microbes. Simply bring the water to a rolling boil and then take it off the fire to cool. Covering the pot will shorten the boiling time and conserve fuel. Do not drink hot water. It will cause you to vomit. That is why we sip tea. Boiled water will taste better if you put oxygen back into it by shaking it up in sterilized soda bottles. This will improve the taste of your stored water too!

UV treatment is relatively new. You insert a small light device into a liter of water and swirl it around for 45 seconds. UV is fast, but only works in small batches. A big advantage is that there is no chemical taste and you don’t have to wait for the water to cool down. UV can consume a lot of battery power if you are treating for a family, although some units do have solar rechargers. One big concern is that UV does not work in cloudy water, so run your raw water through some sort of pre-filter first. I have had excellent results with Steri-Pen UV water treatment units (

Chemical treatment works fine, but has drawbacks. Bleach is the most common chemical. It is cheap but it leaves a taste to the water. Use only regular bleach, no flavors or additives. Pour your water to be treated into a sanitized container and add regular bleach as follows: 2 drops per quart of water, 8-10 drops per gallon of water or 1/2 teaspoon per five gallons of water. (If the water is cloudy, double the dosage.) Don’t pour water to be purified into contaminated containers. Sanitize all containers first.

Mix well. Wait 30 min. The water should have a slight bleachy odor. If not, repeat the treatment. Wait 15 min. Sniff again. If it still does not smell slightly of chlorine, discard it and find another source. I have had excellent results using chlorine dioxide tablets (it’s like bleach only better and not nearly so toxic) but it is a good deal more expensive.

The second stage of water treatment is to filter your water through activated charcoal to eliminate chemical contamination. A good filter will have a ceramic first stage and an activated charcoal second stage. The ceramic filter gets germs and larger microbes; the activated charcoal removes many (not all) toxic chemicals, pesticides and herbicides.

There are a number of good, easy to use, systems available today. Berkey, Katadin and MSR make excellent filters, or as I said, you can create your own system. If you purchase a water filter system, get one with enough capacity to handle your family needs. EPA approval is important, too. Some systems use gravity, others pump through the filter. Pay attention to flow rates or the effort required to pump. At some point, you’ll need to either replace the filter or clean it. Replacement filters can be expensive. Cleaning filters carries a risk because after all, they are filled with contaminants, so be extremely careful!

Read filter claims carefully. Many water filters claim to be effective against both organisms and chemicals. The critical thing is to be able to filter out tiny viruses. Bacteria are large and easy to snag. Not so with virus’. But that means you would only need one process. It’s a great concept, but I find that virus filters have such teeny-tiny holes that they tend to clog very quickly. I also like to have backups for my survival essentials and nothing is more important than water, so I stick with the two-stage approach.

Copyright 2013 Blue Lotus Press

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“Killing Our Way To Peace”

Massacre in Syria Massacre in Syria

by Ross Bishop

People in America seemed shocked by the recent bombings in Boston. (God forbid they didn’t happen in New York!) Wether from U.S. drone strikes or Al Queda truck bombs, hundreds of people are blown to pieces every day in the Middle East. What we greet with shock is an everyday occurrence there.  In an article, “Living in Terror Under a Drone-Filled Sky in Yemen” Vivian Salama wrote in “The Atlantic”:

A small house, once made of large cement blocks, is reduced to rubble in a sea of untouched homes and shops in Jaar, a town in South Yemen’s Abyaan governorate. There are no signs of life where that house once stood — no photos, furniture, and certainly no people left behind. In May 2011, the house was struck by a drone — American, the locals say. Some believe the sole occupant, a man named Anwar Al-Arshani, may have been linked to Al Qaeda, although he kept to himself, so no one knows for sure. As Al-Arshani’s house smoldered from the powerful blow, townspeople frantically rushed to inspect the damage and look for survivors. And then, just as the crowd swelled, a second missile fired. Locals say 24 people were killed that day, all of them allegedly innocent civilians.

David Sirota authored an excellent article about terrorism, “A Cronkite Moment for the Blowback Era” on his web site, In the article he reminds us of the fuss from President Obama’s 2008 Presidential campaign regarding Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Do you remember what it was that got Reverend Wright in trouble? The Republican response was mostly political theater, but the good Reverend had broken one of the unspoken rules of American politics, “Don’t discuss terrorist blowback from our military invasions in the Iraq and Afghanistan, our support of Israel and drone strike ‘mis-kills’. If you do, you run the risk of being labelled a ‘traitor.”

As Sirota points out, five years later this unspoken rule is finally being challenged by those who are not as easily smeared as Reverend Wright. Tom Brokaw, a venerated voice, and one not prone to radical statements, recently said on “Meet the Press”:

“We have got to look at the roots of all of this because it exists across the whole (Asian) subcontinent and the Islamic world around the world. I think we also have to examine (America’s) use of drones (because) there are a lot of civilians who are innocently killed in a drone attack in Pakistan, in Afghanistan and in Iraq. And I can tell you having spent a lot of time over there, young people will come up to me on the streets and say, ‘We love America, but if you harm one hair on the head of my sister, I will fight you forever.’ And there is this enormous rage against what they see in that part of the world as a presumptuousness of the United States.”

Sirota went on to say, “Of course, Brokaw was merely stating the obvious: With America having killed thousands of civilians in its wars, we should be appalled by acts of terrorism — but we shouldn’t be surprised by them.”

kids - droneMuslim children killed by an American drone strike.

Farea Al-Muslimi is from Wessab, a remote mountain village in Yemen. He was fortunate to receive a State Department scholarship to study in the U.S., a country he came to deeply respect. However, he says about the situation in Yemen:

“Instead of first experiencing America through a school or a hospital, most people in Wessab first experienced America through the terror of a drone strike. What radicals had previously failed to achieve in my village, one drone strike accomplished in an instant: there is now an intense anger and growing hatred of America. . .

. . . Days after Abyan (a town) was freed from AQAP (Al-Queda affiliate) control in June 2012, I met a fisherman named Ali Al-Amodi in a hospital in Aden. The day before, his house in Shaqra, on the sea side of Abyan, was targeted by a US air strike. Al-Amodi told me that he stood helplessly as his 4 year old son and 6 year old daughter died in his arms on the way to the hospital. Al-Amodi had no links with AQAP (Al Queda). He and other locals said that his house was targeted by mistake. In that same strike, four other children and one woman were killed. Witnesses said none were militants. . .

I have to say that the drone strikes and the targeted killing program have made my passion and mission in support of America almost impossible in Yemen. In some areas of Yemen, the anger against America that results from the strikes makes it dangerous for me to even acknowledge having visited America, much less testify how much my life changed thanks to the State Department scholarships. It’s sometimes too dangerous to even admit that I have American friends. .”

In a review, Alexander Reed Kelly writes about Jeremy Scahill’s book, Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield, regarding the role played by our military and the CIA in creating the environment of terrorism that was bound to “blowback” into the U.S. Kelly writes, “In 2010, Scahill testified at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the United States’ shadow wars across the Middle East and the Arab world. ‘The current U.S. strategy, ‘he told the assembled legislators, can be summed up as follows: We are trying to kill our way to peace. And the killing fields are growing in number.”

A substantial portion of the American public has bought the demonstrably absurd line that their government can kill its way to a resolution of its problems with the rest of the world. As (Tom) Engelhardt (another reviewer) reminds us, this wasn’t true in Vietnam and it certainly isn’t true today. “This misunderstanding on the part of the public is a result of official and media efforts to conceal the fact that the government has played a leading role in creating the current landscape of hostility.”

There is no question that the Republican driven/Bush/Cheney military invasions, drone strikes, illegal rendition and prisoner tortures have generated vast hatred and bitterness in the Muslim community that will manifest as terrorist blowback for many years. Terrorist groups all through the world are having no trouble recruiting members to fight “The Great Satan.” There will be a good deal more blood on America’s streets before this is all over – if it ever ends. This is the legacy of the American, conservative-driven, militaristic mentality.

copyright  20123  Blue Lotus Press

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Gun Violence

by Ross Bishop

Glycerne is pretty harmless stuff. But, combined with nitric and sulfuric acids it becomes an incredibly dangerous explosive – nitroglycerine. The same thing is true for the set of issues that lead to gun violence. By themselves each is tolerable, but when combined, the mixture can be  absolutely devastating. Unfortunately  the whole issue is being obscured by the smoke of an incredibly politicized debate, as each sub-part seeks to either escape blame or shift blame to the other parts. Anger and violence in our society are vitally important issues that desperately need to be addressed, but adding guns to the mix, as with nitroglycerine, makes the whole issue (pardon the pun) explosive.  Underlying the discussion are two significant and fundamental considerations:

First and foremost, a gun is an instrument of violence. It serves no other purpose. You can use a knife to prepare your dinner, skin a goat or open a bag of Cheetos, but a gun is made for one thing – to kill.

Secondly, putting that much power into the hands of an individual is like giving them lightning in a bottle. A gun, unlike any other weapon, requires no particular skill to use, making it an incredible equalizer, and this is especially true for people who feel disenfranchised and powerless. It can make a dwarf feel like a giant.

In regard to specific considerations:

Third, guns are a guy thing. The number of women who use guns are small.

Fourth, homicides – about 6,000 a year – are tightly concentrated in poor urban minority neighborhoods. Most homicides occur between people who know each other, are doing business together (often drugs) or live together. They’re not stranger-on-stranger shootings and they are not generally home intrusions.

Homicide victims are mostly minority young men. Blacks are six times more likely than whites to be victims of a homicide. Blacks are seven times more likely to commit a homicide. The homicide rate among black victims in the United States is 18 per 100,000. For whites, the national homicide rate is 3 per 100,000.

The Baton Rouge Advocate newspaper published an analysis of 2012 murders in their city. Last year, 83 people died by homicide in Baton Rouge. Of that number, 87% were black and 87% were male. Two-thirds had been in trouble with the law before, and one-third had been in trouble with the law for drugs. The median age of the victims was 26.

The median age of the perpetrators was 22. Ninety six percent of them were black, and 90% were male. Almost two-thirds had previous arrests. One out of four had a drug record. Most of the murders took place in the poorest parts of the city.

These are populations who have been raised by violence and who turn to it for problem solving as gangs feud over territory and dominance in the illegal drug trade. An assault weapon is their tool of choice. The rates of domestic violence are also extremely high in this group. Their plight receives little attention from either politicians or the media.

Fifth, more than 38,000 Americans die by suicide every year, and more than half of them use firearms. This is six times the homicide rate. When a white man wants to commit suicide, he shoots himself. Eighty percent of those who commit suicide with guns are white males. It is likely that a gun is simply the most convenient method, but the gun’s ready availability makes it an all too easy choice. It seems that no one wants to discuss the issue of depression and the social shame associated with it for white males. Statistically,  the risk of suicide goes up five-fold if there is a gun in the home.

Sixth, as a group, gun owners may have issues, they may be chauvinistic and cling to unrealistically old fashioned ideals, but the great majority of them are law abiding citizens. As a group, they feel powerless, and being amongst the most paranoid in society, are overly concerned for their personal safety. This also leads them to have issues about governmental intrusion. But, in any case, their guns will remain safely at home.

However, research has clearly shown that not only does having a firearm not protect the family,  it significantly increases the risk (by 300 percent!) that someone in the family will die from a firearm homicide. A study by Boston Children’s Hospital found that tougher laws on guns does have an effect on homicide and suicide rates. States with stiffer gun laws have fewer gun-related deaths.

Many gun owners are fascinated by the development of weapons technology, and whether we like it or not, over the course of history, guns have represented humankind’s most sophisticated technological advancements. This is largely what motivates collectors.

There is a fringe element of paranoid nut cases in the gun world, but their numbers are small. However as we have seen, a powerful assault weapon with extended magazines in the hands of a single troubled individual can wreak absolute havoc, and we cannot ignore that reality.

The NRA reflects the views of the most radical gun owners. It is a knee-jerk radical conservative organization, run by the gun manufacturing industry that profits immensely from social anarchy. The organization has an investment in fostering paranoia. Its function is not to solve problems but to obstruct them and sell guns.

Seven, the typical criminal rationalized away the ideals of fairness and social justice when he was a child. The criminal doesn’t give a damn about rules or laws and sometimes even punishment. He’s angry to the point of violence and little else matters except building his reputation in the criminal community or the “hood.” He was raised in an alien culture with rules and values very different from the one you grew up in. In the world he lives in, violence not only insures survival, it is also a talisman of manhood. He was abused as a child and is willing to abuse without conscience when he is angry or to get what he wants.

Eight, although violence is typical of a few mental illnesses, violence per. se. is not. According to The American Psychiatric Association, “The vast majority of violence in our society is not perpetuated by persons with serious mental illness.” There is a small percentage of mentally ill people, and to repeat, we are not talking about large numbers here – specifically those with severe and untreated symptoms of schizophrenia with psychosis, major depression or bi-polar disorder, who are about twice as likely as the general population to be violent. People who combine schizophrenia and substance-use issues have a nine times higher risk of becoming violent. But these are small numbers even compared to the population of the mentally ill.

The real tragedy, and it’s not just about guns, is our criminal neglect of those amongst us who are troubled – mentally ill or sane but violently angry. Given proper care, many of these people could be helped and a number of mass tragedies could be avoided, but the real conundrum of this whole discussion is that it only takes one person to create terrible mayhem. About 60% of mass murders are committed by violent, mentally ill people, but we are talking about fewer than 30 people (I am setting aside homicides).

The resource commitment to identify and help these people would be substantial. We can afford to do it, but at the present time, trillion dollar B1 bombers and nuclear submarines are more important. Over the past three years, conservatives in Congress have cut $4.3 billion from the already stripped federal mental health budget and state legislatures have cut even more. Considering that violent anger is behavior that is learned and culturally passed on, it would seem sensible to do what we could to intervene in order to at least limit it’s contagious spread. Mental illness is another matter, but we could at a minimum, try to help those who are troubled.

Ninth, and possibly most important and most overlooked in the discussion to date, is the roll played in gun violence by violently angry, but otherwise sane men in homicides, mass murders and domestic violence.

The psychological profession does not consider violent behavior a mental illness. Otherwise what would we do with the military, bank robbers, drug dealers and the police? Violence is neither a diagnosis nor is it a disease, and ours remains a violent society. If you read the news, people kill each other every day by the hundreds – in Iraq, Afghanistan, New York and Chicago, and few of these people are mentally ill. A military officer who kills masses of people with a Predator drone may be many things, but he is not mentally ill. A drug dealer seeking to avenge a bad deal is little different from the sane mass shooter who seeks revenge for the abuses he feels have been done to him.

Violence driven by anger falls into two general categories, crimes of passion (largely homicides) and acts of calculated violence (revenge). The propensity for violent behavior is both detectable and treatable, but it is also so widespread through the culture, and addressing it represents a significant intrusion into civil rights, that at least today, no one with a major public platform has been willing to address it.

Forty percent of mass murders are committed by young men who are violently angry, who are calculating and delusional, but sane. If you met one, you’d think they were odd, but their behavior would not alert you to what they were planning. They can be episodic, so people who spend time with them such as parents, friends and teachers will know that something is wrong, but that can be said for many people, and trying to pick out a potential mass shooter from the millions of troubled, frustrated and disenfranchised people in society would be a daunting task, to say the least.

Unable to effectively sort out potential terrorists, the TSA searches every bag, every pair of shoes. The society would not tolerate similar gun searches at every public building, school, supermarket or movie theater. But, if we could begin to identify at least the most troubled amongst us, we could prevent some tragedies. Violently angry mass killers have been profiled by Paul Mullen, an esteemed Australian forensic psychologist:

They’re almost all male, there is one exception. They’re young. They tend to be in their 20s. They are typically social isolates. They very rarely have close friends or confidants. They almost never have an intimate relationship, although they sometimes have had brief relationships, which have usually failed.

Interestingly, they’re not like many offenders, they don’t tend to have problems with alcohol and drugs. They’re certainly not impulsive, quite the reverse. These are rather rigid, obsessional individuals who plan everything extremely carefully. And most of these massacres have been planned for days, weeks, sometimes months ahead.

The other thing about them is that they are angry and resentful at the world, they blame the world for not having recognised their qualities, for having mistreated them and misused them. Resentment is central to their personalities.

They spend their time ruminating on all those past slights and offences. And they begin to develop a hatred for the whole world.

Perhaps most important of all, these people are on a project to suicide. They go out there to die, and they go out to die literally in what they see as a blaze of glory. They are seeking a sort of personal vindication through fame or, more precisely, infamy.

So the challenge is what should we do? Because of the multi-faceted nature of the problem, there will not be one solution, but taking a number of interlocking steps can greatly help. However, there are massive political roadblocks to every reasonable solution, and we must therefore conclude that we are going to be burying many more school children and drive-by shooting victims.

The most obvious step would be to get rid of assault weapons and large capacity magazines. These things have no place in civil society and getting rid of them would greatly reduce the potential damage done by drug gangs and mass murderers.

One measure that might bear meaningful results would be to test all 14 year-old young men to profile them for potentially violent behavior or violent mental illness. Limiting their access to weapons will only be effective if there is a registry of not only potentially dangerous mentally ill people but potentially violent individuals as well. However, once we have that information, unless we are willing to provide help, denying these people legal access to weapons might slow them down, but ultimately would accomplish little. With so many weapons available, it is unrealistic to assume that procedural rules would offer more than a temporary roadblock to those who seek to do harm, whether criminals, the violently angry or those who are violently mentally ill.

It might be possible to declare weapons free zones in urban areas of high homicide and domestic violence, but enforcement and civil rights issues would present daunting challenges. But, those considerations should not preclude at least trying it.

There are several popular gun myths that need to be discounted. Chief amongst them is the idea that a gun in the home offers protection for the family. Research clearly shows that this is not the case and that having a weapon actually puts the family at a far greater risk for both fatal accidents and suicide.

Another “myth” that needs to be dispelled is that the Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees citizens the right to own firearms. It does not, and at some point, the Supreme Court or the Congress is going to need to clarify this. The opposition to this will be historic. But, having said that, it still might be worth doing as it does send a message and does offer a certain amount of deterrence.

Related to the above, at some point in the future, America needs to mature from its dysfunctional cowboy mentality and join the rest of the civilized world and solve many of these issues by simply banning guns. The rest of the civilized world seems to get along quite nicely without its citizens killing each other by the thousands. But, in addition to enormous resistance from gun owners, America is the world’s armaments maker. We supply an inordinate portion of the world’s weaponry, and there are many jobs and literally trillions of dollars in taxes and political “contributions” seeking to prevent any limitation on the country’s weapons industry.

 Copyright 2013, Blue Lotus Press

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There Will Be More School Shootings

by Ross Bishop

The Intersection of Social Failure

Sandy hook

Airplanes they say, crash because of multiple systems failures. Columbine, Sandy Hook, Aurora and Virginia Tech all represent significant multiple failures in the ways we regulate weapons and in our approaches to troubled people. The sad thing is that these tragedies are only the tip of a rather large iceberg. These problems have been screaming for resolution for a long time, and as is so often the case in America, it takes a catastrophe to bring them to our attention.

Limiting the availability of assault weapons and high capacity magazines is an essential part of the solution, but it is not the total answer. There are actually five important areas that intersect to create mass shooting tragedies, and each adds an element that ultimately together leads to disaster. These areas are: the way we view and treat troubled people, the sad failure of our mental health system, restrictions in the law, the availability of assault weapons and the nature of the dysfunction that drives mass killers.

There are answers to each of these aspects. Some will be expensive and others will require changes in our way of thinking. But since most of the changes will have to come through the political process, we can expect the special interests to be busy protecting their private agendas. However, one thing is absolutely assured – unless we do something substantial and soon, we’ll be having funerals for more a lot more innocent schoolchildren.

This is a complicated matter that touches on personal privacy issues, the right to own firearms, the power of the state vs individual freedom – especially as it relates to the confinement of angry, but not mentally ill people, the limits of police power, unlawful search and seizure and of course, the right of children to go to school or the mall without the threat of being killed.

The underlying fabric to this dilemma is the way we view and treat troubled people. We shun them, we fear them. They are the pariahs of society and we treat them like they used to treat the lepers in the Old Testament. Even with our enlightened modern perspective, we still try to sweep troubled people under the rug – or into alleys and freeway underpasses. A big part of our resolving this issue will have to do with us finding compassion in our hearts for these suffering people.

When it comes to the allocation of social resources, the emotionally troubled are always at the bottom of the barrel and the first to have funding cut when money gets tight. Over the past three years, conservatives in Congress have cut $4.3 billion from the federal mental health budget.

Our present mental health system has failed for two primary reasons – a lack of funding for facilities and resources and the inability of psychology to meaningfully help troubled people.

There was a time when we had large state mental hospitals. They were truly awful places, expensive warehouses for the mentally ill that offered little prospect for patients to ever get better. It was found that smaller, community-based mental health facilities could produce some results, so Congress shut off funding for big state hospitals – and then never bothered to provide money for community based health care. Also, people didn’t want mental health clinics in their neighborhoods, so faced with tight budgets and local opposition, the politicians folded.

Troubled people were simply turned out into the street to fend for themselves. In the public brouhaha after the horrible Virginia Tech shootings, gaping holes were exposed in the state of Virginia’s mental health system. The conservative Virginia legislature, traditionally opposed to any public funding for health care, allocated $43 million toward the state’s mental health system. A year later, when the media had gone away, the same legislature cut the state’s mental health budget by $50 million.

Troubled people don’t have a political lobby. There is no one to protest when mental health budgets are slashed and resources are eliminated. Plus, as I said, mental health care is always one of the first targets of budget cutting conservatives who are concerned about the expansion of socialized medicine. Political conservatives seem to possess antipathy towards the treatment of troubled people. Psychologists are typically viewed as fuzzy thinking liberals who want to help troubled people by providing socialized medicine.

When you read expert opinions and media accounts of shooters, keep a few things in mind: Mental illness has fairly specific diagnoses. And taken as a group, mentally ill people are no more violent than you are. There are a lot of people walking around who you might call “nuts” in street vernacular, who do not fit into the defined categories of mental illness.

There is a small percentage of mentally ill people, and we are not talking about large numbers here – specifically those with severe and untreated symptoms of schizophrenia with psychosis, major depression or bi-polar disorder, who are about twice as likely to be violent. Psychiatrists have created a category of illness called Antisocial Personality Disorder, which is sort of a catch-all for antisocial behavior.

People who have schizophrenia and substance-use issues do pose an even greater risk. They have a nine times higher risk of being violent. The association is especially marked in regards to homicide. People with schizophrenia are nearly 20 times as likely to kill as people unaffected by the disease. But, these are largely individual killings. Mass shooters are rarely substance abusers. And we should carefully distinguish between typical murderers, (remembering that any murder is a horrible thing!) and the special category of mass killers, because there are important differences.

We make a serious error when we categorically label mass killers as mentally ill. Mental illness is certainly an important consideration, but the mentally ill account for less than half of all multiple victim shootings. Of the 60 most recent mass shooters, acute paranoia, delusions, and depression were rampant among them, but only 38 of them displayed signs of mental health problems (not necessarily mental illness), prior to the killings.

Actually, there are even far fewer mentally ill involved if we only consider the “big” events. The large group of shooters, and we are only talking about 60 men out of a population of 35,000,000 young men, consists of troubled people who are not technically mentally ill, but who pose a serious threat because of their towering rage. Of the three major and many smaller gun tragedies in the nation in 2012, only one of the perpetrators seems to have been mentally ill. The others were just angry, feeling that they were right and everybody else was wrong. They see other people as responsible for their problems. They externalize blame, scapegoating groups or individuals – family, co-workers, neighbors — for whatever is wrong in their lives.

Violence is neither a diagnosis nor is it a disease, and ours remains a violent society. If you read the news, people kill each other every day, by the hundreds – in Afghanistan, New York and East LA, and very few of these people are mentally ill. A military officer who kills masses of people with a Predator drone may be many things, but he is not mentally ill. A drug dealer seeking to avenge a bad drug deal is little different from the mass shooter who seeks revenge for the abuses he feels have been done to him. These killers have been profiled by Paul Mullen, an esteemed Australian forensic psychologist:

They’re almost all male, there is one exception. They’re young. They tend to be in their 20s. They are typically social isolates. They very rarely have close friends or confidants. They almost never have an intimate relationship, although they sometimes have had brief relationships, which have usually failed.(1)

Interestingly, they’re not like many offenders, they don’t tend to have problems with alcohol and drugs. They’re certainly not impulsive, quite the reverse. These are rather rigid, obsessional individuals who plan everything extremely carefully. And most of these massacres have been planned for days, weeks, sometimes months ahead.

The other thing about them is that they are angry and resentful at the world, they blame the world for not having recognised their qualities, for having mistreated them and misused them. Resentment is central to their personalities.

They spend their time ruminating on all those past slights and offences. And they begin to develop a hatred for the whole world.

Perhaps most important of all, these people are on a project to suicide. They go out there to die, and they go out to die literally in what they see as a blaze of glory. They are seeking a sort of personal vindication through fame or, more precisely, infamy.

To summarize: although direct research is somewhat limited because shooters usually commit suicide, they do operate from an almost stereotypical pattern. The shooter kills in public during the daytime, plans his offense well in advance and comes prepared with a powerful arsenal of weapons. He has no escape plan and expects to be killed during the incident. The killer is driven by strong feelings of anger and resentment, flowing from beliefs of being persecuted or grossly mistreated. He is driven by fantasies of revenge.

These killers are calculating and delusional, but most often not mentally ill. If you met one, you’d think they were odd, but their behavior would not alert you to what they were planning. They can be episodic, so people who spend time with them such as parents, friends and teachers will know that something is wrong, but that can be said for many people, and trying to pick out a potential shooter from the millions troubled, frustrated and disenfranchised people is a daunting task to say the least.

But what is a teacher or parent to do? Several of the recent crop of mass killers could easily have been helped by a residential facility, but even though their problems had been identified, there was simply no program or facility to help them, and no mechanism in place to allow them to be legally referred out for help. So the concerns of teachers, family members and even therapists fell into an abyss in the system with as we now know, tragic consequences!

Most often a teacher or parent’s only resource is to call the police, but the police can only respond to a direct, immanent, violent threat. This puts the subject, if he looses his rigid composure (which is uncommon), into a criminal justice system that is neither equipped or prepared to deal with him.

There are almost no resources to help troubled people – no housing, no supervision, no guidance, counseling or vocational training. A callous political calculation has been made that killings such as Columbine, Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook are a cheaper alternative than to create community based mental health clinics and the billions of dollars and large infrastructure that would require.

Shooters do not see themselves as troubled but rather as victims, so these angry young men vehemently resist taking medications, being confined or receiving treatment. Many of the drugs they are prescribed have truly awful side effects (including violent behavior), further complicating an already difficult situation. These men are smart but their dysfunction is likely to have already brought them up against teachers, the police and psychiatrists, and they will have learned how to play the system to avoid being confined.

The lack of community support makes the well-meaning teacher or parent who seeks help for a subject, a target for the subject’s smoldering rage. And as we have sadly seen, these men can lash out with incredibly destructive rage or in a most interesting modern twist, lawsuits! Most parents are also unwilling to see their sons as troubled because that reflects back on them as parenting failures.

A critical element in the discussion of mass shooters obviously involves guns and their accessibility. There is a group of people in our society who fear that the government might try and take away their freedoms. These are usually men who feel personally powerless. And for people who feel powerless, like a victimized shooter or an NRA member, an assault rifle can be the great equalizer.

The need of these men to defend themselves against a fantasied governmental incursion has led them to create an open market for assault style weapons that regrettably, can easily get into the wrong hands (either legally or illegally). The fear of these “Defenders of Freedom” puts the rest of us at grave risk. Eighty percent of the perpetrators of the 62 most recent mass shootings obtained their weapons legally.


Besides, home security can easily be accomplished by less aggressive weapons. And as far as protection from a governmental incursion is concerned, if you consider the premise of armed civilians going up against the might of the Army with its tanks, trained troops and helicopter gunships, the whole concept becomes pretty ridiculous. But, in one sense the NRA is right, guns are only the instruments of mayhem. But, the pivotal factor that the NRA conveniently chooses to ignore is that a rage filled person with a Bushmaster assault rifle is massively more deadly and dangerous than one without. Mass killers don’t use knives or baseball bats. Assault weapons have been perfected as instruments of death and they are incredibly effective at doing it! And that is why we must get them and high capacity magazines off the street!

The NRA, controlled and funded by gun manufacturers, purposefully and unconscionably, fuels their member’s fears, as it attempts to gain support for its private agenda, which is a society where everyone carries guns – essentially a throwback to the violent Wild West of the 1880′s.

The other aspect of the weapons discussion has to do with their sheer availability. There are over 350,000,000 guns in America and anyone who wants a gun can easily get one. You can go to any city in America and in 48 hours purchase enough guns and ammunition (including heavy weapons), to equip a small army.

gun  show

America is violent country. Our homicide rates are SEVEN TIMES higher than rates in the other high-income countries. More than half of all murders are committed with guns. Our firearm homicide rates are TWENTY TIMES higher. For youths fifteen to twenty-four years old, firearm homicide rates in America are FORTY THREE TIMES higher than in other countries.(1)

Another issue in this discussion, and what has until now been a sacred cow, is the failure of psychotherapy to heal people. The simple truth is that psychotherapy and drugs just don’t work very well. But, since they have been the only game in town and they come from the esteemed medical profession, politicians give them approval because of the way the legal system esteems psychiatry, (which even amongst practicing psychotherapists is a standing joke!) The alternative is to warehouse troubled people like we do criminals – who we also don’t seem to know how to help.

Shamanism (and you must accept my bias here) has a remarkable record of helping emotionally troubled people to heal, but it is a foreign concept from “backward” tribal cultures, difficult to teach in university classrooms and is spiritually and not medically or “scientifically” based. Besides, there are relatively few really qualified shaman around. So, even though the psychotherapy car already has several flat tires, we continue to try and drive it down the road.

The law doesn’t help much in dealing with troubled people either. The courts are understandably, exceedingly touchy about confining someone against their will without a certification of mental illness. And as I said, most mass killers do not meet the the mental illness requirement. Acts of mass murder are so heinous that it is difficult to attribute them to normal people, but shooters are merely the extreme fringe of a culture that engages in deadly violence every day. In America hundreds of people are killed every single day. I don’t personally agree with the psychiatric categorizations of mental illness, but these are the rules that the law and the courts have chosen to adopt.

When a troubled person attracts attention, the police are usually called. But the only resource a police officer has is jail, and that’s only going to be for a short time. Sometimes they can pawn the troubled person off to a shelter. If a seriously troubled person comes for therapy, unless he or she represents an imminent and immediate threat to themselves or to others, the system effectively forbids the therapist from doing anything beyond counseling. Even if the subject is a ticking time bomb, unless he or she expresses an active desire to cause harm, therapists, the police, teachers, the clergy and even the courts are denied any real resource for intervention.

And when a person does present an active threat, they can only be hospitalized for 72 hours before being committed as mentally ill, if they actually happen to be so, and if there is a bed available, which these days is rare. A colleague of mine in Virginia had a potentially violent client, checked with the state and found 70 other violent people already waiting in line. By the end of the day, this violent and potentially explosive man was back on the street. The only consolation for mental health professionals is the miracle that more killings aren’t happening every day!

I would like to end by making a few suggestions. These are not complete answers, but they would go a very long way toward mitigating the current situation:

Since an assault weapon cannot be used for hunting, and personal defense can be easily accomplished by other means, it is time that society took a stand and joined the rest of the civilized world to establish bans on assault weapons and large capacity magazines. Further, the purposefully designed loopholes in the present reporting system for weapons sales such as unregulated private and gun show sales must be closed. Unfortunately, having the government maintain a list of gun owners feeds right into the paranoia that makes NRA members want assault weapons in the first place!

In a many cases, troubled people can be identified before things go bad. I have mentioned having a referral system based on observations from therapists, law enforcement officers, clergy, teachers and even family members. It would be simple to backstop these referrals with a qualified professional so that errors would be minimized.

There are tests that could help identify people who are likely to need help in the future. It would be possible to test all sixteen to twenty year olds for a host of issues. This could cull out most, but unfortunately not all, of the people likely to be future shooters.

But, there is no sense identifying these people if we are not going to provide the resources to help them. The names of people meeting critical criteria could be denied access to firearms. Civil libertarians will not like it, but under the circumstances, it would seem to be a reasonable limitation of personal freedom. Access to this list could be selectively given to parents, teachers, the clergy, therapists, the courts and law enforcement officers.

There is a desperate need for community based, residential facilities for troubled people. These facilities must be sufficiently funded and staffed so that the needs of patients could be addressed and the reasonable concerns of neighbors mitigated. This would provide a badly needed resource for parents, therapists, law enforcement officers, the clergy, the courts and educators who, with some changes in the law, could refer out troubled people with protection from retribution and lawsuits. This represents a very large expenditure, probably the equivalent cost of an aircraft carrier or a few nuclear missiles.

Psychotherapy has emphasized cognitive behavioral health for years. Cognitions and behaviors are measurable, observable. And to some extent, altering thoughts and behaviors does help MANAGE emotional issues. But in only rare cases does it HEAL them. This leaves open room for relapse when the person is subjected to challenging circumstances.

There are other healing methods like shamanism that have an established history of providing exactly the healing that troubled shooters require. These approaches can reach the cause of the underlying problems and address them. It is time to begin looking into some of these alternate approaches.

Confining someone against their will who is not mentally ill and who already feels victimized by the world is going to pose a nightmare for the courts and legislators. Where do you draw the line? What about errors in diagnosis? And there will be some. This matter is subjective and emotionally loaded, presenting land mines for the legal system.
As I said, this is a complex issue with many moving parts.

Solutions will require changes in the concerns some politicians have about socialized medicine and our present legal prohibitions around personal privacy. Creating community based mental health clinics will be expensive. But most importantly, what needs to change are the views, fear and ostracism we hold towards troubled people.We need to find our compassion for them. Societies do not die in a cataclysm, that is only the final event in a series of unresolved social issues that cause the social fabric to decay. To delay, to not provide care for the many troubled people who live amongst us, is to only invite more school shootings, and the painful thing about that is what it says about a society that is unwilling to respond to the cries of its neediest people. Perhaps the Mayans were right after all.


(1) To clarify Mullen’s point: Interviews tell us that mass shooters are not exactly loners. They do not seek isolation, and have “friends,” but their social experience is marked by a history of struggling to connect. They experience rejection by their peers or they draw back from potential friendships, assuming they’ll be rejected if they try. They believe they are perceived as unimportant and insignificant. Many mass shooters, rather than wanting to be alone, end up that way because they cannot maintain a connection.

(2) (

 Copyright 2013 Ross Bishop

Water Security & Safety

by Ross Bishop

After the initial shock of a disaster, your biggest need will be for drinking water. We tend to take the water supply for granted, which is a big mistake. After an emergency, do not assume that your tap water, even if you have it, will be drinkable. You’ll want to treat it. You can go without food for a month, but without water, you’ll be dead in a short time. One piece of advice: you will need more water than you realize. If things start to look bad, fill the bathtub and any available containers with water. (You can use dirty water to flush the toilet.)

Plan on one full gallon of drinking water per person per day, plus one half gallon per day for each pet. For a family of four plus a dog, for three days drinking water alone, that’s 13-1/2 gallons! And you will need a good deal more water for other uses. A dehydrated person or animal will have a profound and almost uncontrollable urge to drink, even contaminated water or urine.

If you do nothing else to prepare for an emergency, buy a small bottle of regular bleach and tape an eyedropper and these directions to it. Then stash at least 10 gallons of either bottled water or treated tap water in a secure, dark place.

Because it has been sterilized, bottled water will store for a year. Tap water can also be stored, but you’ll want to change it out every couple of months or treat it yourself. You will want to have gallon jugs, camping water storage containers, plastic drums or buckets with lids (make sure they seal tightly). Remember that water is heavy and that large containers can be difficult to lift. Label stored water containers with a permanent maker “Drinking Water” or “DW” and the date. Keep your water stored in a cool, dry and dark place, and rotate the stock as necessary (that’s the reason for the date).

Gallon jugs are easy to handle and refill and can be easily stored in “milk crates.” (Watch for pinholes in the opaque milk containers.) The 2-1/2 gallon bottled water containers sold in stores are convenient, but they can be messy and almost impossible to refill. You can use empty 2 liter soda bottles as canteens.

Some people advocate adding a few drops of bleach to containers of stored tap water to prevent the growth of bacteria and algae. This works well and is reasonably safe, but does introduce an off-taste to the water. I prefer to simply switch out the water, sanitizing the containers before I reuse them. I water my garden with the old water.

Should you run out of stored water before you are rescued, you will need to treat whatever water might still be available. Treatment is not difficult, but does require some planning.

A few words about vocabulary: Filtration means to remove bacteria and similarly sized impurities. But that leaves out viruses which are teeny, teeny, tiny and are hell to filter out. Filters that remove viruses (and there are some) often have clogging problems because of the incredibly tiny holes needed in the filter. “Purification” is the term used to address water processes that clean out or kill everything alive, including viruses and will also remove some chemicals.

I strongly recommend a two-stage approach to water treatment. The first stage, either UV, boiling or chemical treatment is to kill pathogens. The second stage is to filter the water through activated charcoal in order to remove dissolved contaminants and as a backup to remove microbes. As I said, filters are not great at removing viruses, but do get many dissolved contaminants, while UV, chemical treatment or boiling kills viruses and bacteria but does not remove toxic chemicals. Used together, they cover most everything you need to be concerned about. Whatever treatment method you choose, practice it so you are familiar with it before you need to use it.

Always wash your hands before treating water. Whichever first stage you use, if the water is cloudy, before treating it, let any suspended particles settle to the bottom for an hour and then strain through coffee filters or layers of clean cloth held in a funnel. Then use only the top ¾ of the water. This is largely to not overburden and clog your filter.

The goal of first stage treatment is to kill pathogens like bacteria and viruses.

UV treatment is relatively new. The UV process works by damaging the DNA of microbes and viruses in the water. Without complete DNA, the germs and pathogens cannot reproduce. The sterile microbe does remain alive, but cannot reproduce, and therefore does not present a threat. You become ill when bugs get into your system and reproduce by the millions. That’s why it takes a while for you to get sick after being exposed.

Camping UV systems only handle small batches (1 liter) of water at a time. But they are fast (90 seconds). To operate, you insert a small light device ($50 – $100) into a liter of water and swirl it around for 90 seconds. One big advantage to UV treatment is that there is no chemical taste to the water and you don’t have to wait for it to cool down or for the chemicals to work. There are larger family-sized units. I have had excellent results with Steripen products, and use one when I go camping.

However, UV can consume a good bit of battery power if you are treating water for a family. Depending on the unit, you can treat between 50-100 liters of water per set of AA lithium batteries (alkaline batteries won’t hold up). That’s between 13.5 and 27 gallons of water for each set of batteries. Obviously rechargeables are a good choice here – if you have a way to recharge them! Some UV units do have solar rechargers (2-3 days to recharge) and there are also hand cranked models that don’t use batteries at all. But, as someone said, “When you crank, you really learn how long 90 seconds is!

One concern is that UV does not work well in cloudy water, so you would have to at least (coarsely) filter your water first (coffee filters work well). There are also concerns about bulb breakage, but manufacturers report few problems. The UV units themselves are safe to use.

Boiling is probably the simplest and most reliable first stage water treatment, especially for larger quantities of water. Boiling kills most (not all) microbes etc., but it does not remove chemicals from the water. Assuming you have access to fire, bring the water to a rolling boil in a covered pot. Conventional wisdom has you boil it for several minutes, but new research has established that if you get the water to a rolling boil, the microbes will die in the time the water cools down. That can save precious camping fuel. The cooling time is important and besides, drinking hot water will make you vomit. That’s why we sip tea. Boiled water will taste better if you introduce oxygen into it by shaking it up in a sanitized jug. This will also improve the taste of the stored water in your stash.

The alternative to UV or boiling is chemical treatment, typically involving bleach. Use only regular bleach, no flavors or additives. I have also had excellent results using chlorine dioxide tablets (it’s like bleach only better). Treat some water and see how you like the taste and smell. Some people really dislike it!

(If you plan to bleach, store a copy of these directions with your emergency bottle of bleach, to which you have attached an eyedropper and measuring spoons with a rubber band. Purifying water requires just a little bleach, and you don’t want to overdose and raise hell with your digestive system at a critical time like this!)

Pour the water into a sanitized container and add bleach as follows: 2 drops per quart of water, 8-10 drops per gallon or 1/2 teaspoon per five gallons of water. (If the water is cloudy, double the dosage.) Mix well, and wait 30 min (that’s important!). The water should have a slight bleachy odor to it. If not, repeat the treatment. Wait 15 minutes and sniff again. If it still does not smell slightly of chlorine, discard it and find another water source. Don’t pour purified water into contaminated containers. Sanitize all containers first.

I don’t care to bleach, but I do keep a small jug (with eye dropper!) as a backup. I use bleach to sanitize my water jugs and other containers.

The idea of filtration is to provide a backup to first stage treatment and what is more important, remove toxic chemicals. After a disaster, raw water or a compromised city water system can contain some rather nasty chemicals from things like agricultural run-off and sewage. Gasoline and oil are also common contaminants, and if you live in an industrial area, heaven only knows what else can leak into the water supply! Filtration should also remove the chlorine taste from bleach treatment.

Buy a good family water filter ($120 and up). This is not a place to cut cost. Get the best filter you can afford. Many people like the Big Berkey. Some friends of mine swear by a $50 gravity filter made by Provident ( Look for a filter with a .01 or .02 micron “absolute” pore size (this is important!). Single individuals can use camping filters, but they will not have the capacity to handle the needs of a family.

A good filter will usually have both ceramic and activated charcoal elements. The ceramic element removes germs and microbes, the activated charcoal removes most, but not all, toxic chemicals. Some filters use hand pumps, others work by gravity. Be sure you get a system with enough capacity for your needs. Some of the pumps are hard to use and gravity systems can be clumsy and take a long time to work. Be sure to check out your system ahead of time.

Some filtration systems claim to be effective against viruses, which means you would only need to filter and not treat chemically or boil, but filters like this also clog easily. You don’t want to get stuck in a difficult environment with a kaput water filter! Besides, I like to have backups for my survival essentials, and nothing is more important for survival than water. So even if you plan to only filter, be prepared to boil or have a little bleach on hand (don’t forget the eyedropper!), as a backup.

Filters handle a certain number of batches and then need to be replaced or cleaned. You are not likely to exceed your filter’s capacity on one outing, but it is something to consider when you evaluate which system to purchase. Replacement filters typically run about ½ to 2/3rds of the original unit’s cost. Non-replacable filters must usually be cleaned by hand. You may want a system that is field cleanable. Be familiar with how to clean your system and/or filter so that it does not become a source of contamination itself. Always wear protective gloves when you do this because you are dealing with a concentrated source of contaminants.

If you are careful about how you gather it, rainwater can be a good source of water. That is where sheet plastic comes in handy. I would still filter captured rainwater. In a real spot, distillation does remove chemicals and pathogens, but it is incredibly slow. Instructions for creating a simple solar still can be found on the internet.

In an emergency, there is a good bit of drinkable water in your water heater. You will need to follow a procedure to get it though, ( (It would be a good idea to drain your water heater now if you have not done so in a while.) Outdoors, avoid any pool of water without green vegetation around it. Don’t draw water from an area where there have been large animals. Alkali pools are common in the Southwest and should also be avoided.

Treat every water container before you reuse it. Wash and rinse items first, then let each item soak in sanitizing solution for 2 minutes. Drain and air dry. Sanitizing solution: 1 tablespoon bleach mixed in one gallon of water.

Besides drinking water, you will need water for washing and sanitation. You can reduce dishwashing by using paper plates, cups, and utensils. After a disaster, if the tap water is still running, fill all your bathtubs and any other containers you may have around. However, do not trust the water quality. There is a good chance that contaminants (like sewage) could have been drawn into a compromised municipal water system. Some people fill a clean garbage can that has a tight-fitting lid with wash water. Occasional treatment with a little bleach is a good idea. If the lid locks in place, so much the better.Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon

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Survival Food

by Ross Bishop

When it comes to disaster preparedness you need to think about food differently. Normally, most of your caloric intake comes from perishables: fresh or frozen – meat, bread, eggs, fresh fruit and vegetables. In an emergency, these will probably not be available. If you lose electricity or if stores cannot be resupplied, you are going to want to have a stash on hand that will adequately substitute.

Survival food is more about calories than nutrition. Caloric deficiency is a big problem in survival situations. Under stress, people burn a lot more energy, making the loss of regular food even more of a problem. So, assume that your backup diet will be calorie short. You can compensate for nutritional deficiencies with supplements.

I am going to propose a two-pronged disaster food strategy. The first leg, Pantry Food, assumes you have your house and can rely on food stored in your cupboard, even if you have to cook it outdoors or in the gas grill. The second leg, Survival Food, assumes that the house is gone or you had to evacuate. In this situation, portability is an overriding consideration. If you must evacuate, but have time to transfer some of your pantry to the car, then you have a compromise situation.

We tend to think of disasters as instantaneous events like tornadoes, but sometimes they come slowly like the severe drought we are presently experiencing. At the moment, food prices (meat, milk) in the U.S. are jumping because of horrible corn and soybean harvests. As the drought, (the worst since 1500!) continues, food shortages and cost will only escalate. And although the impacts of a drought are more measured, slow strangulation is still strangulation.

If you lose electricity and don’t have a generator, eat the food from your refrigerator first and then go through the freezer. If you lose both electricity and gas, you won’t be able to use the microwave or stove to cook, but you will have your camp stove (be careful about using it indoors!). Also your gas grill can serve as an emergency oven or stove.

If you can get ice or snow, use a cooler or the refrigerator as a cooler to store perishables. Open the refrigerator door or cooler as little as possible. I have read about a makeshift refrigerator using two nested large clay pots separated by wet sand. I’ll try it out and let you know what I find.

Regarding your pantry, you’ll want a stash of canned or preserved food sufficient to last whatever duration you anticipate. Where possible, your survival pantry should be an extension of your regular diet. Regularly eat from this stash so that you will be continually rotating your stock. The only difference is that you’ll have more of certain foods on hand than you would normally. You will also need to make adjustments to substitute for the fresh food that a disaster is likely to deny you.

Get in the habit of dating cans and packages with a permanent marker to help in rotating your stock.  Store-bought cans are good for a year (some things longer) but after that, the nutritional content declines. (Watch the sodium content of canned goods, by the way!) Where possible, choose mylar packs or foil box packages. These are light, pack and store well, and keep food better than traditional packaging.

You will not get the calories from most canned food that you will need in a crisis. Most cans contain about 200 calories, since much of their weight and bulk is water. Supplement aggressively with canned or dried meat, energy bars, nuts, trail mix, chocolate, etc. Peanut butter is great in this situation! One of my survival standbys is to spread peanut butter (non-hydrogenated) over chocolate bars and then dribble a little honey and nuts on top. . . Snack bars have about a year shelf-life, but if you vacuum seal them and rotate your stock regularly, they are good portable energy sources. Don’t forget nutritional drinks like Ensure or Equate.

Pick up a couple of “Milk Crate” sized storage containers and keep them near your pantry. If you have to evacuate, you may not have much time, but you can grab a lot of packaged food in a couple of minutes to take in the car or even in a wheelbarrow. Don’t get big crates, packaged food weighs a lot! Pre-pack an extra set of recipes!

Home canning can save money and eliminate preservatives and chemicals from processed food. Canning does take time and effort and the quality sometimes isn’t as good as freeze dried, plus not everything cans well. An important consideration is that if you have to move, the liquid filled glass jars are both heavy and fragile. Having a freezer is great as long as you have electricity. There is an ever-growing list of freeze dried foods that are both transportable and less susceptible to contamination. But, by comparison they can be very expensive! Always be wary of preservatives and other chemicals in store-bought or prepared foods.

I think that one of the godsends to survival preparedness is food dehydration combined with vacuum sealing. Dehydrated food is light, portable, nutritious, inexpensive and you can do it yourself! I dehydrate the extras from my garden (no chemicals and preservatives), buy fruit and vegetables (Farmer’s Market!) when they are in season and meat in bulk when it goes on sale.  I dehydrate all of it and then have a regular supply on hand in the winter when fruits and vegetables can get rather expensive. It also gives me an excellent disaster stash if I need it.

Think about changing your cooking and baking habits. It may be old fashioned and time consuming, but learn to be more of a scratch cook. Besides it’s a lot more nutritious  for your family! Learn some of the techniques that were used before we had microwavable meals. Develop or find recipes based on what you are likely to have in your pantry in an emergency. Learn to work with powdered eggs and powdered milk. Make your own pasta, pasta sauce and pancakes from scratch. Cook meals and make biscuits or bread in a Dutch oven over an open fire or coals. (The no-knead bread making technique has been a godsend for home bread baking, by the way.) I regularly make fresh pizza dough and bake pizzas on my gas grill.

Simple raw materials for baking like flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, oil, powdered buttermilk, dry yeast and shortening, all store well and can be valuable assets in an emergency, if you know how to use them. With these staples, you can make everything from pancakes or rolls to breading for fish. Nothing raises depressed spirits like a pie or cake or a loaf of homemade bread! Then too, there are mixes for muffins or cornbread that store well and substitute fresh ingredients like eggs that you may not have available. These ready-made or pre-mixed dry packages can be a real blessing, but once again, be aware of preservatives and added chemicals.

Regarding other foods, honey will keep for years. Coconut oil is good for you and stores for a very long time, while olive oil should only be kept for a few months. Pasta, rice, and dried legumes have long shelf lives. Pressure cookers are great for preparing these with minimal fuel use. Milk is available in foil boxes which will keep up to 6 months. Rice milk, powdered and evaporated canned milk are good backups with long shelf lives as well. One product you should not be without is a good base for soups, stews and gravy. I swear by Frontier Co-op’s organic, dehydrated chicken and beef stock (

Canned meat and seafood brings up anotehr important issue. Long shelf life often means nasty preservatives and other unsavory chemicals (remember Spam?). You can buy a loaf of bread today that will sit on the shelf indefinitely without showing any signs of age. Processed meats are often loaded with chemicals and preservatives. There are a few alternatives. One is KeyStone Meats ( that has a line of natural canned meat products that are worth the extra cost. I am sure there are others. Processed cheese foods like grated Parmesan are shelf-stable and can fill in for cheese flavor, but I’d rather spend the extra money for canned cheese and butter.

In  the general survival article I mentioned the unique challenges presented by a mega-drought. One of the best things you can do to insure a good food supply is to plant a garden! From spring through summer and into late fall, you will have fresh, nutritious vegetables to eat. And you can then dehydrate, can or freeze whatever you don’t eat. Besides, if you saw how poor the nutritional value of the fruits and vegetables modern farming methods produce,  you’d plant a garden anyway! If you have to dig up part of your lawn to make space for a garden, even if you live in the city, do it!

My grandparents had a root cellar in which they would store all sorts of food through the winter. I don’t remember a lot about it, but I am told that a small pit of damp sand can be a godsend for storing root vegetables. If you are stuck for an extended time there are other things you’ll want to consider – like doing laundry, making soap, making bread, healing herbs, etc. I will address some of these topics in a separate article.

Something else you should seriously consider are chickens. Even if a disaster never happens, fresh eggs are soooo much better for you nutritionally and much better tasting than store-bought eggs. And if something bad does happen, you’ll have both fresh eggs and a supply of fresh meat, plus a source of fertilizer for your garden!

The second major leg of your disaster food supply is the portable part. This is a stash of food you can readily take with you if you have to evacuate. The dominant qualities here are weight and storability. Ideally, you want everything in your Survival Stash to be dehydrated or freeze dried and sealed in plastic. What that means is eliminating the weight of water -food is mostly water -that weighs over eight pounds per gallon. You’ll also want to eliminate heavy glass containers. The theory is to carry light, waterless food with you and then rehydrate it with water that you treat at your new location. If you have to make exceptions, make them very special – cans of sardines or tuna for example.

Every time I go to the store, I find more and more freeze dried, mylar packaged foods. Soup mixes, mashed potatoes, dried fruit, dehydrated this, freeze dried that. I am also seeing more and more foil packs of liquids like broth, fruit juice, milk, soup, gravy, etc.

I find that a vacuum sealer can be very useful for food storage. Survivalists use mylar bags for vacuum storage because they store much longer. They place “oxygen reducing” packets with the food and then seal the bags with a regular iron. There are quite a few YouTube videos with vacuum sealing food storage ideas. Dry staples like rice, flour, powdered milk and powdered eggs can be easily vacuum or mylar bag sealed and stored for a long time. You can do the same with nuts, coffee, tea, pasta, sugar, chocolate, hard candy, dried fruit, etc.

Seal in smaller quantities, and plan to transfer the contents to Ziplocks or other sealable containers once opened, because once you open the vacuum bag and break the seal, you won’t be able to reseal it without electricity. Liquids can get sucked up into the vacuum machine, so freeze them in a bag and then seal it. You can split the cost of a vacuum sealer with a friend. Again, date the bags and regularly rotate your stock. A good web site for food storage information is:

A dehydrator is a godsend for survival food! You can dehydrate just about everything – fruits, vegetables, nuts, herbs and even meat, at a fraction of the price of packaged food. Plus, without preservatives! Dehydration allows you to buy in quantity at sale prices and preserve fruits and vegetables at the peak of their flavor. A great food preservation combination is a dehydrator and vacuum sealer. I have yet to be dissatisfied with the taste of anything I have dehydrated.

You can dehydrate jerky from lean meat and chicken or fish. It is an inexpensive way to buy meat on sale or in family-packs. Dried meat is good traveling food and can be easily added to soups or stews. Store bought jerky costs about $50 a pound. There are many YouTube videos about how to do make your own jerky: (, for example. Find marinade recipes you like and learn to do this. It’s simple and provides a vital food source for your family.

The one drawback to hydration is the time it takes to re-hydrate food. If you are at home, it doesn’t matter much, but if you are on foot, the two hour soaking that dehydrated vegetables require can be a drawback. When I backpack, before I leave camp, I pour boiling water over the dehydrated food for my next meal into a thermos-like jar that I then stash in my backpack. If you snack on dehydrated fruit, etc., remember to drink extra water because the food can actually dehydrate your body.

It is hard to argue with freeze dried foods. They are light, nutritious, store practically forever and most importantly, reconstitute quickly. You can buy individual freeze dried foods like fruits or vegetables sealed in nitrogen in mylar bags that can be stored for an incredibly long time – like 25 years! The downside is that they are expensive as the dickens! If you purchase freeze dried backpack meals at retail, they will cost you about $7 a meal.

You might want to consider some freeze dried food or a few backpack meals for your survival stash. With most backpack meals, you open the mylar pouch, pour in a couple cups of boiling water, reseal the bag, wait a couple of minutes and voila, your food is ready to eat! You can even eat right out of the pouch and reseal any leftovers for later. That’s pretty darned convenient!

In addition to the expense, there are some other drawbacks to backpack meals. Survival food manufacturers use a lot of hydrolyzed vegetable protein and you cannot make that without producing MSG as a byproduct. And because of the expense, packagers skimp on the contents – seriously limiting the calories in each meal. If you read the labels on backpacking meals, they provide barely enough calories to meet survival needs. There is also a lot of added salt. There are only a few organic choices, mostly fruit. I do the best I can to avoid preservative chemicals, but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet. If you can live with the hydrolyzed vegetable protein, the taste isn’t bad, with a few notable exceptions. Freeze dried broccoli and mandarin oranges are awful!

Most of the vendors offer sample packs or single serving pouches so you can try before you buy. Another approach is to buy freeze dried baby food to get a taste of the products before you tie up a lot of money. You can buy military style MRE’s with incredibly long shelf lives, but I would caution against that. MRE’s are not very good, are heavy to carry and are notorious for seriously plugging up your system. On top of that, they are quite expensive.

Most survival food manufacturers offer complete “kits” with everything you need to eat for weeks or even months. Mountain House, a highly respected supplier, offers a 72 hour food supply for one person, for $52; a 7 day kit for $124; and a one-year supply of freeze dried food, 3 meals a day with vegetables and desserts, for $2,500. That works out to be about $7.00 a day, cheaper than eating at McDonalds. But for many people, the outlay of a significant amount money for a quantity of food they are not going to eat in the foreseeable future, can be tough on the budget. Buying survival equipment is expensive enough! Although I wouldn’t delay a long while, you can build up your emergency food stash over time. When I first built my stash, I’d add a few items each time I went to the store. That eased the financial hit.

If you buy a kit of food, don’t count on the manufacturer’s “number of days “ calculations. These are rarely correct. And while the kits are very convenient, remember that your tastes may not coincide with those of the manufacturer and you are going to be consuming a boatload of hydrolyzed protein. In the kits, you pay quite a lot for things like oatmeal, granola, rice or pasta that you can easily vacuum pack yourself. My preference is to pick and choose and buy the single items or meals that I like and are difficult for me to prepare. It’s a mixed bag, but I get what I like. As I said earlier, I buy canned butter and cheese because I cannot make those.

But whatever you do, try it first! Buy backpack meals, and try them. It is important to do this. I tried some dry food from a vegetarian survival outfit called “Wise Food” that turned my GI tract into a pumping station. That’s why you want to sample these foods before you purchase a quantity of them.

This is not a check list, but rather a list of foods you could consider:

Pantry Staples – Canned foods
coconut oil*

small containers of mayonnaise
salad dressing
canned broth**
evaporated milk
canned soup**
oil – olive or vegetable
pie filling**
canned fruit
mustard and ketchup
canned brown bread
canned vegetables
Rice milk**
nutritional drinks – Ensure, etc.

* The foil packs of these were disappointing.
** Where possible, buy in foil boxes.

Pantry or Survival Food – Freeze Dried, Dehydrated or Powdered Food*

soup mix
backpack meals
vegetables – peas, corn, mushrooms, onions, etc.
Mashed potatoes
powdered milk
powdered eggs
dried meat and jerky
dried fish
Frontier chicken & beef stock powder
sauce mixes
pesto mix
instant pudding
dried fruit
coffee creamer

* if not already vacuum packed

cereals (cold and hot*)
coffee and tea*
instant coffee*
jams and jellies
hard candy*
snack and energy bars*
non-carbonated soft drinks
peanut butter (non-hydrogenated)
infant formula or baby food if necessary
graham crackers*
trail mix*
cracker bread
salt & pepper
baking powder, baking soda*

*vacuum seal these

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Why We Have Wars


If you are looking for a reason for all of this, it is really quite simple. War is fabulous for business! Once you shoot a bullet or drop a bomb, it’s gone! And then you have to buy another one! Bombs cost from thirty five to seventy thousand dollars each and missiles can run up to a quarter of a million dollars apiece! We have lost three hundred seventy helicopters in Iraq and Afghanistan, seventy of those to hostile fire. An Apache helicopter costs twenty five million dollars.

If you build a school or buy a washing machine, its value stays for years. Drop a bomb and it’s gone. There is dis-utility to bombs because in all likelihood, you have just blown something else of value to smithereens! Think about it this way, somewhere out in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan your military is spending a great deal of your tax money to drop bombs and fire rockets at sand and rock. The sand and rock remain largely unaffected.

We could have given every Taliban and Haqqani fighter somewhere between fifteen and twenty million dollars as an incentive to quit fighting, and we would still have been money ahead!

For military contractors, wars are mana from heaven. It’s like a guy buying a car every day and then pushing it off a cliff, so that the next day he has to buy another one. The manufacturer and the car dealer will love this guy! What a boon! If you kept all those cars on the road you’d clog the marketplace! But buy them and then dump them in a ditch and its “bonus time!”

Although the military fogs the truth with flags, parades, uniforms, marching bands and “freedom” slogans, the simple truth is that the military is in the business of killing people. Outspoken former Navy Admiral, Gen LaRocque was one of the few truly honest military leaders on this issue. He commented,

“I hate it when they say, ‘He gave his life for his country.’ Nobody gives their life for anything. We steal the lives of these kids. We take it away from them. They don’t die for the honor and glory of their country. We kill them.”

The military/industrial complex has always been a massive government/corporate welfare scheme. The companies get a free ride from the government to the tune of hundreds of billions of throw-away dollars while little of this frighteningly expensive military hardware will ever benefit the civilian economy. Military hardware ends up in scrap yards because little of it can be used in civilian applications. American Airlines can’t use B-52′s and Carnival Cruise Lines doesn’t want aircraft carriers or nuclear missiles. Al Queda, however, would love a few.

Defense companies get billions and billions of dollars in soft profit that contribute absolutely nothing of sustainable worth to the culture, except defense industry jobs. And even if the government were accept Secretary Gates’ premise, which is almost unthinkable; trying to restructure any massive governmental bureaucracy is virtually impossible, especially a behemoth like the military/industrial complex. Military contractors have purposefully spread plants throughout the country in every Congressional District. Remember the intractable hassles that occurred when the military wanted to simply close unneeded military bases? Any significant restructuring of the military would lead to an incredible political maelstrom.

One other consideration: after a war is over, someone will have to hire other contractors to repair all the destroyed bridges, roads, schools and hospitals!

Consider that under the right circumstances, an Iraqi society that could have welcomed American intervention and worked with us to suppress terrorism, came to detest America for the conditions forced upon it because of the invasion and occupation and the failure to plan or provide for post-invasion problems. Although Afghanistan presents a different set of problems, we see clearly demonstrated there again, the limitations of military intervention.

If there is a natural defense against terrorism, it is found in a healthy, informed and well fed populace. Al Queda and the extremist Mullahs succeed through the manipulation of an ignorant and oppressed people. If we could put just a tiny fraction of our annual military budget into food, medical clinics, schools, electricity, clean water and orphanages so that people, especially the vulnerable young people, were informed, fed and cared for, Al Queda or the Taliban would have a much more difficult time recruiting converts and maintaining the kind of local support they have today.

Using Iraq as an example, what was needed in addition to traditional military force, was a flexible and mobile organization that could integrate itself into the community once the environment had been secured from a military threat. What the U.S. could have provided were post-conflict resources that any devastated community requires, whether from man-made or natural disaster. Whether a post-conflict environment, the aftermath of a hurricane or to assist a fledgling government struggling to get on its feet, what is needed are the same basic necessities that you and I take for granted – food, water, shelter, sewage, safe streets, electricity and health care. In today’s world we might also want to include telephones and schools.

The organization I am suggesting would see to the provision of food, water and other essentials, medical care, police and other necessary social services. It would have the capacity to repair damaged electric, sewer, telephone, road, bridge and water systems. It could rebuild essential buildings like hospitals or police stations. As this work was being done, local workers could be trained on the job, to take over these functions

This organization would be extremely flexible so that resources could be dialed up or down as needed. In an unstable military situation such as Afghanistan, the military component would be seriously dialed up, where in a different situation, such as after hurricane Katrina, a different mix would be employed. The organization would have to be adaptable to work in varied cultural settings – from situations in Western countries to tribal environments such as in Afghanistan or Angola.

How would this be organized? I would call it something like The National Service Corps and require that every young person between the ages of 17 and 24 be required to serve. People would serve for either 2 or 4 years. College graduates would be required to give 2 years of service. People who dropped out of the educational system before completing college would serve 4 years, either as conventional military or to be trained to fulfill the various roles the program requires. Educational credit would be given for this training and credit toward college loans could also be given.

Training centers would be maintained throughout the U.S. in community colleges or other training schools that would be encouraged to teach basic skills in areas such as plumbing, telephone repair, construction, nursing, information systems, electrical repair, road and bridge repair, carpentry, small scale renewable farming, law enforcement, forestry, etc. (Many of these already exist). Foreign languages and cultures would also be taught.

Trainees from these programs would be drawn as needed overseas. And if not needed overseas, people could be assigned to domestic projects. They could work in the schools and hospitals, national parks, be involved in inner city rehabilitation, forest fire prevention, pollution site cleanup, elder and disabled care, veterans assistance, the rehab of abandoned homes, road and bridge maintenance, public building maintenance – the list of domestic needs itself is almost endless.

Obviously this is merely the germ of an idea, but is a step that in whatever form, we must take if we are to meaningfully address the challenges that the world has set before us.

About The Blue Lotus

The lotus has been held as sacred by many of the world’s religions, especially in Egypt and in India, where it is a symbol of the Universe itself. Not a monument in the valley of the Nile, not a single papyrus scroll is without this plant in an honored place. On the capitals of the Egyptian pillars, on the thrones and even the head-dresses of the Divine Kings, the lotus appears everywhere. The eight-petaled lotus used in Buddhist mandalas speaks to cosmic harmony. The thousand-petaled lotus represents spiritual illumination.

Rooted in the mud, the lotus rises to blossom clean and bright, symbolizing purity and resurrection. The leaves and flowers are borne high above the water, unlike those of the water lily, which float on the surface. The lotus is often analogized to the enlightened being who emerges undefiled from the chaos and confusion of the world. In Christian mythology, Archangel Gabriel holds lilies when he appears before Mary to announce Jesus’ coming.

The blue lotus of the Nile (actually a lily) was the most sacred of plants, prized above all others. The plant was associated with the sun god Ra as the bringer of light, and was found scattered over Tutankhamen’s body when his tomb was opened in 1922. The Egyptians valued the blue lotus not only for its rich perfume but when the flower was infused with wine, its narcotic ability became an ancient Egyptian shamanistic aid to produce heightened awareness and tranquility. Its powers as an aphrodisiac are legendary.

The Hindus of India hold the lotus seed to be especially sacred because the seed contains perfectly formed leaves, providing a complete template for the adult plant. To the Hindu, this is divine form passing from the abstract into tangible reality.