Archive for December, 2013

Doomsday Preppers: Kevin Poole

The episode’s second profile is of Kevin Poole, whose family lives outside Washington DC, and is using this appearance to pimp his business, Triton Shelter Technologies Bunkers.

© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment

Hypothetical disaster of choice: EMP.
Preparations: walk-in faraday room; private gun range to protect family (???); “manufacturing facility to produce anything [he] wants or needs”. Well, at least until the EMP goes down, at which point all those fancy machining mills and computerized cutting torches will count for nothing.
Building project: ‘Baby Bunker’.
Because all three of his daughters are—or have recently been—pregnant at the same time:
© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment

Well, at least two-thirds of the daughters are at least hypothetically on-board with dad’s prepping, and make some dehydrated baby food. Hey, thumbs-up for dehydration; it’s the best.

Anyway, we spend the next 20 minutes watching yet another steel box (closely resembling a trash compactor) being welded together. Ugh. Once again, I completely fail to understand the thinking behind the prevalent idea of bunker-as-survival.
Are these people seriously thinking of living long-term in underground tin cans? Where’s your water going to come from? If you’re going to be relying on electricity for lights/heat/cooking— because nobody concerned about life without Juice ever actually considers living without Juice—how are you going to generate it? Where’s your waste going to go?
On this last point, Kevin at least spends a minute considering it, before adding a ten-foot pipe off the side of the bunker. I’m still not clear if the trash tube is just for household waste (like, food wrappers and papers?) or sewage? Either way, Kevin seems to think it’d be a good place to put a dead body—because suicide rates are really high in bunkers! Wow, can’t say I’m surprised. Huh, in that case, maybe buttoning up underground isn’t such a great idea?

Whatever, I have a feeling the bunker we’re seeing get built is maybe a show model for Kevin’s business. In which case, this segment is really a 20-minute advertisement.

During his closing remarks, Kevin proclaims how, “in America we have a lot of creature comforts that other countries don’t have. If you’re willing to work hard, you can gain anything, do anything you like. Live in any kind of home, drive any type of car, have a swimming pool, whatever you like!”
UGH. People, WAKE UP. That ‘American dream’ lifestyle of creature comforts, convenience, and consumption (and bunker-survival, too, for that matter) can only be possible because of abundant and cheap petroleum. Without the Black Stuff, it’s a dead-fucking-end.
And besides, if people like this continue to affirm that the single best thing about Amerika is the vast array of consumer goods one can purchase (after being coerced into willful slavery—exchanging one’s time for the idea of money—of course), we deserve collapse.

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Doomsday Preppers: Kenny

Season three barrels ahead with episode “No one will ever know’, beginning with Kenny (no last name) of the fittingly-named Gun Barrel City, Texas.
© NatGeo/Sharp EntertainmentThere’s very, very, very little worth mentioning in this episode, so I’m going to try and keep this short.
Kenny—who uses antlers in all of his decorating!—is preparing for a hypothetical second American Civil War, of citizens against the guvvmint. His strategy for preparation takes a form identical to the western-style civilization that bore the American system: namely, massive weaponization. Or in other words, if you’re worried about your future ability to survive unforeseen contingencies, the best way to prepare is ‘firepower through purchasing power’. Kenny has $135,000 worth of firepower (65 guns?), a ‘scuba room’, and 40,000 rounds of (as Kenny says) amma-nition, plus a damned-impressive bullet-reloading setup. However, I don’t think he has ‘everything’ to produce his own bullets—all the empty brass, powder, and bullet molds in the world aren’t worth much without primers.

There’s a moment of squeamishness when Kenny lets his daughter draw blood for his private blood bank—to complement his collection of medical supplies, y’know, to patch up all the anti-guvvmint freedom fighters he expects to get shot up in his civil war scenario.

Rest of profile: build “ultimate rooftop command center” onto his existing house. This amounts to a 13,000-pound plywood box with walls full of sand.
Required stunt 1: testing bulletproof window material (friend stands behind glass while he shoots. Friend survives).
Required stunt 2: shooting at armed friends ‘invasion drill’ + exploding ‘mines’.

Because all that^ is stretched out and constantly recapped, there’s really not much to talk about. Like I’ve said before, this kind of southern-fried, heavily-armed Type 1 survivalism really has zero appeal to me.
Anyway, dude, assuming even half of your 65 guns were bought from federally-licensed firearms dealers, the guvvmint has about 30 or so 4473 forms with your name on them.
Ergo, the guvvmint knows you have a lot of guns. Thanks to your appearance on this show, they know you’re all puffed-up about being ready to violently defend your rights. Should your little civil war scenario be preceded by a nationwide gun-grab (and/or ‘neutralization’ of potential troublemakers), your little plywood rooftop box isn’t going to protect you from a UAV strike or a helicopter rocket or pretty much anything more powerful than a single infantry rifle squad.

And in the interest of food for thought, here’s a good enough place to raise the issue that self-identified Preppers seem to be by-and-large middle-aged White Men—who historically have been, for the last 6,000 years or so, the sole group at the top of the pyramid. So what are all these guys so afraid of that they feel the need to buy scores of weapons and stock up on supplies?

At the end, Kenny says something about “working together to take back the country”, or something; but to my eyes, he seem more interested in being in a position to shoot trespassers than in working together.
Meh.

Doomsday Preppers: Bret and Shane Maggio

The other half of this episode is spent with Bret and Shane Maggio of Fruitland, Utah:
© NatGeo/Sharp EntertainmentThey’re supposedly preparing for a “collapse of the US economy that will lead to a lawless society”, at which point one of the guys points a pistol at the camera, with his finger on the trigger.
Bad form, sir. Remember, folks:
the four rules of gun safety(Also, this is exactly the kind of macho, guns-as-macho-posturing-accessory bullshit I was talking about last week.)

Since pretty much their entire profile is spent in pointless-diversion-land, I’m gonna focus more on what they say than on what they do, and try to unpack their comments.

To begin: people around the world get by just fine (likely better than Us, in fact) living in what folks of Our Culture would consider ‘lawless society’. Just because there are no Hammurabi-style stone tablets (‘laws’) telling citizens ‘Thou Shalt Not __ for Fear of Retribution From the State-sanctioned Brutes Allowed to Use Violence to Strip You of Your Rights/Property/Life (‘police’)’, doesn’t mean that these societies were/are bloodbaths, with people running about willy-nilly raping and killing each other on a whim. Unlike civilized/statutory law, groups with functioning tribal laws are aware that people are going to misbehave. Instead of having a group of top-of-the-pyramid, above-the-law elites telling citizens the things they aren’t allowed to do (knowing full well that they will do them anyway) and then punishing them, tribal laws focus more on group decisions to decide consequences for actions on an individual basis.

Sidebar: take a minute to notice how violence in pyramid societies always flows downwards—you never hear about about police hassling Congressman, but they sure do love to bust heads when it comes to the ‘homeless’—but when violence is directed upwards, they call it revolt and rebellion. Hey kids: think about defying gravity.

“When the dollar loses its value, the government isn’t getting paid; systems collapse! Imagine turning on the faucet, but there’s no water; going to the grocery store but there’s no food on the shelves. These systems could collapse at any time, leaving people no choice but to fight for survival!”
Yeah, guys, these systems could collapse at any time (because we continue to increase their complexity and therefore their inherent fragility), but if people took proper steps before said collapse (organize, localize, communitize), they wouldn’t have to fight for survival.
Also, the system that allows for city water in the desert and Just-In-Time resupplied grocery stores is a fundamentally unsustainable one powered by ancient sunlight, a blip on the long timeline. The only smart thing to do would be to consider ways of living outside that matrix of control, or better yet, make it obsolete!

Next comment: in their collapse scenario, “Nobody’s going to be able to be governed.”
WAIT, WHAT? I’m pretty sure this means ‘The government won’t be able to govern its citizens!’, or, more accurately, ‘The top-of-the-pyramid elites will have lost their grasp on the systems used to exert control over the rest of the pyramid’.
C’mon, what would be so bad about that? You’d think such a scenario would be fully embraced by an open-minded citizenry of ‘freedom enthusiasts’, because I don’t think any sane person really wants to be governed—but then again, we live in a culture that’s been drilling into our heads the meme that we should want to be governed for the last 5,000 years, so sane people are a rare commodity.

They conclude their talk-to-the-camera portion by admonishing “If you don’t have a plan to get out of civilization and get to a bug-out location, you’ll be caught up in the mess!” Hey, for once, we are in agreement!: getting out of civilization is the only way to ensure one’s survival.
endangered-species
So why are these guys not taking their own advice (we’re told they live in the ’burbs and have corporate jobs, which would suggest they’re entrenched in the very System that makes their collapse all but inevitable)? I guess when they said ‘get out of civilization’ they just meant ‘get out of the city’, not ‘get out of the entire life-destroying Matrix’. Ugh. Hey, don’t expect things to change if you can’t see the bars of your cage.

We’re told that their family has ‘been preppers’ for 40 years, going all the way back to their grandma. They say that their “family has a preparedness mindset”…yeah, guys, because you’re Mormons; it’s a tenet to have years and years of stuff stored up, so that the members of your made-up cult will outlive the other made-up cults.
‘Show-off preps’ time: food stored, water and filter, and 5,000 gallons fuel, “so that when doomsday comes, we’ll have all the comforts of home for several years.”
Hey guys, you do realize that all those comforts of home are part and parcel of that civilization you said to get out of, right? If the aim of your post-disaster living is just to prolong and perpetuate the unsustainable pre-disaster lifestyle of comfort and convenience…well, you’re just setting yourself to fail. Again.

Anyway, the guys think that all their preps “will make them a target”. Well, yeah, now, because they’ve broadcast the details to the world. If they actually downscaled and lived quietly off the grid, who would know? Of course, that would make for ‘boring’ (read: possibly educational) TV, so they decide to build themselves a ridgetop ‘sniper tower’ (with zipline)!

Man, one thing’s for sure, watching this show has really strengthened my ability to read between the lines. I would guess what we’re really seeing here are a couple of city slickers building a zipline tower for the kids to play on when the family gets together at grandma’s house, calling it a ‘sniper tower’ to get it on TV and/or have NatGeo pay for it, and bringing in a prior serviceman to complete the illusion.

So Bret and Shane get their vet sniper to come in, take some long-distance shots, and give the project his seal of approval. We then waste some time watching kids work harder-not-smarter dragging materials up the hill. There’s a discouraging moment when one of the guys’ younger cousins observes, “Prepping seems like a lot of hard work: you have to buy a lot of stuff and build a lot of stuff!” Well, yeah, if you’re going off what we’re shown on DP, or if your goal is to continue living within the System and become a capital-P, self-identified Prepper.
On the other hand, rewilding/unlearning/unbranding, enlightening oneself on big-picture issues (learn to recognize root causes!), building community, and increasing one’s self-reliance are often extremely cheap, if not gratis (and pay off way more!).

Once they get the ‘tower’ built, they string a cable down to a tree at the bottom of the hill—allegedly a quick-escape zipline. As a ‘professional zipliner’ (I am literally paid to fly through the trees), this is an area in which I have extensive experience.
Now, on my outfit’s 440-feet-long, 30-feet-of-drop zipline, most folks hit speeds in the mid-twenties (mph). And yet, simple trigonometry tells me that our line has a downward angle of only 3.9 degrees. Compare this to the Maggio’s homemade cable, which we’re told is 250 horizontal feet, with a vertical drop of 70 feet; this works out to a downward angle of around sixteen degrees! And yet, when they send a couple of sand-filled tires (to approximate someone’s weight) down the line, the guys act totally surprised that they come in like a meteor and plow into a tree! Well, duh! Those tires were probably pushing 60!
Also, for the record, I’d really recommend using a proper harness (bonus tactical points!) and a double trolley (Petzl makes good ones).

Once their platform built is finally built, they bust out the black guns and execute some watermelons to prove they can…but only at like, 150 yards. What gives? I thought the point of the tower was to be able to hit trespassers at their property line 400 yards away?
And then they explain how if they can’t eliminate an intruder from the tower, then they’ll go down on the zipline and fight at ground level? Dudes, just stick with the high ground.

At the end, the experts say their tower is ‘not effective from a military standpoint’, probably because a ridgetop is a terrible place for ‘sniping’ (silhouettes against the sky and all that). Whew, good thing we’re talking a family fun tower, and not actual military!

Doomsday Preppers: John Tucker

Man, the longer this show goes on, the least interesting it gets: I’d chalk it up to familiarity breeding contempt, and I’ve been writing these up for way too long to not notice the patterns everywhere.
© NatGeo/Sharp EntertainmentSegment Breakdown:
John Tucker, family of six (yay, excessive procreation!), oil field technician (yay, fossil fuels!).
Supposed motivation: Category 5 hurricane (not unreasonable; it’s Texas, and weather’s only going to get worse).
Strategy: “I keep bees.”
Prior disaster experience: 49 days without electricity from Hurricane Ike!
The above ^ covered in the first six minutes. Rest of segment:

*Some drawn-out drama-stuff where John and his assistant get swarmed while trying to remove a hive of what we’re told are Africanized (‘killer’) bees from a house, without smoking them first, for some reason. Well, what did they expect was going to happen?

*John plans on bugging-out 350 miles, and wants to bring bees with him. But not all of them – just one hive (plus a dummy hive full of supplies)? As you should know by this point in the season, we’re going to spend the next fifteen minutes in a montage of sweaty folks welding (don’t forget the generic heavy metal music!), then adding weapons, followed by a testing stunt.

And why exactly—ignoring the fact that we’re talking reality tv here (nothing can be educational or even realistic!) and everything is sensational and for ratings—does John find it necessary to add a one-time-only, deployable car-caltrop and scythe wheels to his killer beehive trailer honey wagon?
Because he thinks people will see his beehive on the trailer (while they’re traveling down the road, apparently), recognize the many, many uses of honey/wax, and want it for themselves, therefore making him a target!
Y’know, when they first said they were worried about people taking their bees during a bug-out, I figured they meant people pulling combs out of the hives when they had parked somewhere. It’s pretty much only in the movies that somebody would try to steal something from your vehicle while you’re driving.
Ugh. At the end of the segment, John declares, “I’m not crazy, I’m a prepper!” Ha. Whoever said preppers weren’t paranoid…obviously doesn’t watch this show.

You know what I would do if I had bees to transport covertly? For starters, I’d make sure the trailer was big enough and sturdy enough to hold all of my hives—if you were to bug-out with a surplus of commodity with actual value (in this case, honey and wax), hey, you would have something to barter!
Plus, what with colony collapse all the rage these days, I’d want to make sure I had as many hives with me as possible! I thought preppers were all about redundancy—why does John only load up one hive??

Next, I’d make sure the trailer (which would probably need to be a double-axle for stability, not the dinky one John makes up) had low walls, for partial concealment, obviously. Finally, I’d just throw a blue plastic tarp over the top of everything, and nobody would be the wiser.
Of course, John and his crew realize this too, but it’s only after they’ve weaponized the trailer and given it a tacticool name, when they decide they could “put a net over the whole trailer, so they won’t even know what’s going down the road”. Right guys, except now you’re towing a redneck scythe chariot, which is probably gonna tip people off that you’ve got something worth taking.
And what they wind up throwing over the top isn’t something innocuous and commonplace like a blue tarp, as I’ve suggested (who doesn’t have one kicking around?), but some military camo netting, which definitely makes it look like they’re trying to hide something.

Oh, and of course they have to test it out! (Gotta have a stunt to get those ratings!) John tows the weaponized trailer while his cousin or whatever plays the role of honey-coveting marauder. They wind up pulling the front bumper off the car and flattening a tire or two. Whoo.

John closes by letting us know that he always makes sure he has extra stuff on hand so his family can eat. Dude, we’ve seen your vast array of sponsored foodbuckets, why not keep a little extra on hand to help your neighbors, maybe help build a more resilient, local community? Teach them about beekeeping, then you wouldn’t have to worry about people hypothetically taking yours? I dunno, I’ve just about had it up to *here* with redstate Takers preoccupied with keeping their Stuff from others and perpetuating the status quo, instead of engaging in actual solutions.

Doomsday Preppers: Greg

© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment
Our other prepper in this episode is Greg (no last name, though this is his website, and youtube channel)
Greg lives in the ‘burbs south of Nashville with a wife, daughter, and son. His prevailing worry is for an “economic collapse and the chaos that will follow”.
He goes on to recite the usual mantra about how after a collapse, money will be worthless and one’s savings account will just be numbers on paper. However, what he (or anybody else, for that matter) doesn’t seem to realize is that said money is already inherently worthless—everyone just treats it as valuable because everybody else still goes along with it. ‘Money’ is weird that way.

He shows off his preps in the ’burbs home—rain barrels, eight months of food, a garden, and rabbits. Not bad! Plus, we see that most of that stored food is home-canned, which is even better.
In addition to the house in the ’burbs, he also has a 30-acre property at an undisclosed rural location.

On this property Greg wants to build an innovative shelter for his family—instead of bugging out when things look rough, he wants to bug up. Apparently, Greg has had this idea for an ‘invisible treehouse’ for a while, and the producers thought it was so crazy they helped him make it happen. And so the majority of the segment is spent building this mirrored-box-on-stilts in the woods. Basically, it’s based around the idea of ‘adaptive camouflage’ so that it will always reflect its surroundings, which is handy for changing seasons. Of course, if you go out at night with a flashlight it’d be seen a mile away.
Semantically, I’m not even sure they should be calling it a ‘treehouse’—which in my mind, should involve being built in/on/around an actual tree. This thing is more of a ‘high hide among trees’. Whatever.
© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment
In the larger scheme of things, however, this ‘treehouse’ really just takes the place of other preppers’ underground backyard bunkers, in that they speak of escaping to them without a real plan in mind. Sure, you might stash some foodbuckets in your shelter, but to what end? How long do you expect to be staying there? How are you going to occupy your time while you’re there? These things deserve serious consideration.
Anyway, since Greg’s hypothetical scenario involves his family holing up in the ‘treehouse’, while—like the previous subject—he remains their sole protector (get them involved), he digs a little ‘spider hole’ nearby to help him get the drop on any intruders. Hey, at least his little periscope is pretty neat.

Oh, and in the interest of drama, Greg’s wife is scared of heights and so is unwilling to climb the rope ladder into the treehouse? His solution is to screw a board behind it so that the climber doesn’t swing while climbing; however this addition kind of negates the whole camouflaged point of the structure. Meh; whatever.

Doomsday Preppers: Robert

After a break for Thanksgivukkah, I’m back with season three’s next collection of elaborate survival-related construction projects, episode Survival is an Ugly Beast.
© NatGeo/Sharp EntertainmentFirst up is Robert (no last name) of somewhere outside Dallas, TX; the episode guide says he operates a ‘survival store’ in the area?

He’s a former serviceman (Airforce) and it shows. It’s kind of disarming, because his face really reminds me of Cody Lundin, except that Rob ’Roids is bald, sweaty, sausage-necked, and on the complete opposite side of the spectrum from the AboDude.

Anyway, Rob is “preparing for martial law”, *summarily execute mannequin*; so…that’s pretty telling.
As before, a minimal amount of time is spent ‘showing off preps’. Their around-the-house stuff isn’t horrible: in addition to two years’ worth of stacked foodbuckets, he has two pretty big pv-solar panels and a battery bank he claims can power the house for a week. Not sure if that’s a week of normal Amerikan usage (all the lights on, bigscreen TV, A/C, dishwasher, &c.), but if they were to preemptively adopt a low-power lifestyle, that stored juice might last them two weeks or more, post-disaster! Also, I’m not sure if the batteries are ‘saved’ for emergency use only or if they just use that juice day-to-day? I’m hoping the latter, though I suspect the former.

And while the narrator announces that “Rob makes his own bullets”, it’d be more accurate to say he’s a reloader. Which of course brings us to his ‘stockpile of weapons’, because “firearms are important at any time, but especially after martial law is declared!” Alright, if you say so.
Rob shows off his arsenal of overpowered, high-capacity boom-sticks, up to and including a .50-caliber rifle (“If you can’t stop them with this, you probably need a tank!”—which is apparently what he expects to go up against).
Ugh. Seriously, this kind of puffed-up, ‘guns equal masculinity’, fetishizing, overcompensation nonsense is possibly the most significant—yet overlooked-by-most—root causes behind the rash of school- and other mass shootings in recent decades. Of course, you’ll never hear that perspective on the network news, which instead focus on mental health and gun control, which are easy to ‘fix’ in our system’s traditional manner—all together now: make a Program and throw money at it, while avoiding introspection and discussion (which might lead to making actual cultural changes). Blerg.

Anyway, Rob links up with his ‘Nam-vet friend Gary, and decides the best way to protect his “family, supplies, and freedoms” is to surround his property with booby-traps. Honestly, I have a feeling we’re just seeing two grown men cutting loose and getting to act like boys for an afternoon. Because grown men making (and seriously considering using) booby-traps is all kinds of silly/disturbing, but goofing off with powertools and guns and building ridiculous, impractical ‘traps’ for shits and giggles sounds a whole lot like what I did with my buddies on the weekends in high school.

So, first up is an auditory alarm (tripwire + rat trap + shotshell), which doesn’t work. They bump it up a notch and move to tripwire + red phosphorus flares, which actually works, but will also probably burn down whatever tree you attach it to. Also, every single deer, coyote, or wild hog in the neighborhood would be setting off traps left and right. These are the kinds of things one must consider if you don’t want to do things half-assed.

Next up is essentially a punji-stick pit trap. Hey, don’t forget to smear ‘em with poop!
They ‘test’ it with a pig’s head. Whoo. I guess either Rob is only considering two-legged intruders, or he’s really hurting for wild game, because widespread use of spikey fall traps would result in a whole lotta dead-or-maimed critters.
Last up—because it’s not an episode of Doomsday Preppers without a tannerite explosion!—they put some boom-powder in some livestock tubs, surround with mannequins, and explode. Whoo.

Oh, and because context is for the weak, there’s a bit in which Rob tests out some one-way bulletproof glass. He shoots at it from one side, and then crawls into an empty oil drum and shoots up another mannequin. No idea what the point of that was, but for what it’s worth, enclosed metal spaces aren’t the best for shooting in without ear/eye protection.

And in the midst of all this, there’s a big chunk of drama spent worrying about a thunderstorm when Rob’s wife Wendy runs to pick up their daughter at school; she’s a little late getting back and Rob turns into a nervous wreck, because as he says, pretty much his only reason for existing is to protect them. Yet again—why not get the wife and daughter involved?: take a family survival course, get some skills and know-how, make sure every vehicle has a roadside survival kit, and hope for the best? I’m totally sick of all of these gung-ho, ex-mil Patriarchs thinking that the responsibility for family safety falls entirely on their shoulders—it shouldn’t.

The experts’ scoreless assessment pats Rob on the back for doing some TV-friendly stunts and suggests he think about storing seeds for food resupply. Rob responds with some corporate/military buzzword-y nonsense.