Supply Chain Breakdowns In The News & Last Minute Christmas

by David Morris on December 15, 2011

Welcome to this week’s Urban Survival Newsletter.

With the threat of yet another Government shut down over spending playing out like a Kabuki dance in Washington, I thought you’d find this ‘serious spoof’ informative… As you watch it, know that it’s not real, but it could be all too soon:

This week’s issue is going to be a quick but important one. The last week has given us a few major examples of why it’s so vital for every family in America to take practical steps to prepare themselves for breakdowns in supply chains.

-On Monday, Verizon sent emergency text messages to customers, telling them to “take shelter now” in Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean counties in New Jersey. The message said it was from the US Government. (Actually, U.S. Govern) It was an accident. It was supposed to be a test, but evidently somebody forgot to include that minor detail.  Call me cyincal, but it seems like this system could easily be hacked and manipulated…kind of like the nationwide coordinated Emergency Broadcast System.

-Also on Monday, Occupy protestors shut down operations at ports in Oakland, California, Portland, Oregon, and Longview, Washington. I’m sure this hurt some big evil corporation in some way, but the biggest things that it did was take money out of dock workers paychecks at Christmas time and highlighted this weakness in our infrastructure. I hope they’re proud of themselves.

Similar to what Todd Gitlin, a sociologist at Columbia University has said, it appears as if we’re on a course where Occupy protests will become more targeted, more militant, and more disruptive.

-On Tuesday, a rumor was spread that Iran had closed the Strait of Hormuz, causing oil to spike as much as 3.6% before the rumor was dispelled. Roughly 1/3 of the world’s oil supply goes through the Strait of Hormuz and alternate routes are considerably more expensive.

One of the interesting things about this is that the rumor started because Parviz Sarvari, a member of Iran’s Parliament who is on Iran’s National Security Committee said, “Soon we will hold a military maneuver on how to close the Strait of Hormuz. If the world wants to make the region insecure, we will make the world insecure.”

So, the good news is that the Strait wasn’t actually closed, but the bad news is that Iran wants to practice how to close it and isn’t opposed to instability in the region.

-And, a couple of weeks ago, one of the big news stories in Texas was that new government regulations are causing so much power generation capacity to be taken offline that Texans should EXPECT rolling blackouts starting in 2012 and going through at least 2017.  With the current mass business/manufacturing/job migration to Texas, it’s looking like there’s no cheap and easy way out of this mess.

-Add to that the National Defense Authorization Act that allows for the indefinite detention of US Citizens (even in the US) based on whatever set of criteria the current administration hands down, and we really are living in bizarre times.  On one hand, we’re telling other countries that they need to immediately cease indefinite detentions without evidence or trial and we’re passing legislation that allows it here.

What’s all this mean?

One of the big lessons in these seemingly disparate stories is how vulnerable our way of life is from almost every direction.

Bureaucratic inefficiency, socialists bent on overthrow, extremists half way around the globe, and power hungry politicians are all factors that could completely disrupt our (relatively) cheap supply of food, water, fuel, & ability to heat our homes overnight.

These aren’t crazy conspiracies cooked up by people with too much time on their hands—they’re events that are unfolding in real time as we speak that are being covered by the entire political spectrum in every form of media.

Oftentimes, it seems like we’ve got so many threats that are so huge in nature that there’s nothing that we can do. Truth be told, there’s not much that an individual person can do about what Iran does, what businesses Occupy disrupts, what regulations create energy shortages, or about most major threats.

What you can do is continually make forward process at protecting you and your family from disruptions in the systems that you depend on on a daily basis.

This takes several forms…from psychological and spiritual preparedness to physical preparedness and learning new skills.  In some cases, it means stocking up, in other cases it means finding alternative ways of doing things—maybe ways that aren’t as dependent on technology.

John Giduck shares an anecdote in his book, “Terror At Beslan” that is very applicable to people concerned about preparedness.  This isn’t the exact story that he shares, but the theme is the same and I think enough of John and his book to mention him along with it.

During the space race between the USSR and the United States, people involved in the space program realized that writing pens don’t work in zero gravity. The US, being a technologically minded country, spent millions of dollars on research and development creating the “space pen” that would write in zero gravity, upside down, and I believe, under water. It became a model of US ingenuity and resourcefulness and it IS a really neat pen.

The Soviets decided to use a pencil. It also wrote in zero gravity and upside down. And the R&D and production costs were much less expensive.

The exact story, unfortunately, is an urban legend.  Both US and USSR space programs initially used pencils and both eventually used the Fisher space pen,but the core message is accurate.  The Soviet Union has had a history of finding simple solutions to problems out of necessity and the US has a history of developing mind numbingly complicated solutions to simple problems.

Since the end of WWII, we as a society have become increasingly dependent on Fisher space pen solutions and have forgotten about having pencils as an option.

As we’re approaching Christmas and the new year, I want to encourage you to thoroughly enjoy all of the Fisher space pens in your life—fully automatic furnaces, cars that always (or at least usually) start, faucets and switches that always work, gas pumps that always pump gas, store shelves that are never empty, high quality coffee shops on every corner, wide varieties of semi-fresh food in grocery stores, and more. Enjoy these things. Take advantage of them. These things have never been available the way they are right now in all of recorded time, are only available to a relatively limited number of people in the world, and may not always be available the way they are now.

At the same time, don’t forget to practice using pencils. Know how to build a fire, regardless of whether you’ve got a blowtorch, flares, a lighter, matches, wiz-bang fire making tools, or 2 sticks. Know multiple methods of purifying water. Know how to defend yourself, whether you’re fully armed and ready or in the shower with shampoo in your hair. Know how to identify threats and spot danger. Know the fundamentals of first aid, CPR, and trauma care. Practice bartering, dickering, and negotiating. Almost everyone else in the world thinks these are acceptable practices, and these skills have only fallen widely out of favor in the US since WWII.

The combination of enjoying “Fisher Space Pens” and knowing how to use “pencils” will, in a sense, give you the best of both worlds while times are good. For some, it will lead to a complete change in lifestyle, but for most it will simply lead to more stability…both now and in a survival situation.

Last minute Christmas thoughts

The other day, after making a purchase, the lady who was helping me said, “Happy Holidays!” I was in a particularly obnoxious mood and replied, “Thank you! I don’t celebrate ‘Holidays,’ but I wish you a Merry Christmas!” The lady who was helping me and the lady next to her broke out into two of the biggest grins that I’ve seen in quite awhile and said “MERRY CHRISTMAS!”

If you’re still looking for last minute Christmas gifts, one that you should consider is a deck of Urban Survival Playing Cards from (scroll down for bulk pricing) They were featured on Glenn Beck’s 2010 My Favorite Things Christmas special as a must-have gift to buy for the people you love.  While we can’t guarantee the performance of the US Postal Service, it looks like orders placed by the end of the business day on the 16th should get to CONUS addresses before Christmas.

In addition to being a deck of playing cards that you can use for entertainment, they also include 52 survival tips, tricks, and tactics that people are likely to forget in high stress survival situations. I released these 2 Christmases ago and they’ve been a hit since then.

Until next week, God bless and stay safe! If you’re traveling next Friday, have a Merry Christmas as well.  If you don’t celebrate Christmas, have a happy Hanukkah, a fabulous Festivus, spectacular solstice, or whatever you celebrate this time of year.


David Morris

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Vote -1 Vote +1tim
December 16, 2011 at 8:59 am

I think it is “Fisher” **correction made from Fischer to Fisher** space pen you are describing and the development costs for the actual space qualified pens were borne by the Fisher Company and not by NASA or the government.

But it is still a good point about remembering that there is often a simple solution every bit as effective as something high-tech.

A couple of 3″ by 5″ notecards in a rubber band (and a Fisher Space Pen) make an effective PDA, fit in the same pocket as an IPhone, and don’t need to be recharged.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1David Morris
December 16, 2011 at 9:30 am

You’re absolutely right…as I said, the story is an urban legend. I mentioned a couple of components of it and the fact that Fisher paid for the R&D is another part of it.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1melanie videc
December 16, 2011 at 9:40 am

I would like to thank you for all of the information you have sent to me. Please don’t stop what your doing because your helping so many people wake up and become more self suficient. Something the american people should have realized and begun to do along time ago. I am a single parent of a thirteen year old son and i’m teaching him how to be self sufsufitient and how to be a prepper in any situation. He will also learn the basic first aid actions as well. So what i’m saying is that, without the information that i recieve from you and others on how to prepare, i probably would still be sleeping like the other 90 percent of americans who aren’t doing anything about these issues. the more people who knows what to do the better off they’ll be when the times do become much worse. THANK YOU.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1pete
December 16, 2011 at 10:04 am

To Dave Morris: Thank You for all the info that you put out this year. May GOD bless you & your family, and may you all have a very Merry Christmas.
Your friend &fellow patriot


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Larry
December 16, 2011 at 10:07 am

And a very MERRY CHRIST-MAS to you and all the readers that you serve. May the Lord protect and defend all of us from the encroaching evil.


Vote -1 Vote +1Mike Kuykendall
December 16, 2011 at 10:20 am

Thanks for some good, recent, concrete examples about the delicate supply chain we rely on.

This Iranian threat is huge, even if it never materializes. The uncertainty and the effect that it has on oil prices may be greater if they never do anything than if they try and fail to close the Strait of Hormuz. I was shocked to recently find out that they have 14 submarines…

One thing you might want to double check is the amount of oil going through the Strait – I believe it is a third of all “oil tankers” but ‘only’ 17% of all oil.

Thanks for a great blog!


Vote -1 Vote +1not on the internet
December 16, 2011 at 10:39 am

The HOLIDAYS are not about any particular religion, they are orchestrated by corporations to promote consumerism and nothing more. Put the christ back in christmas? People could start by putting christ back in themselves first.

“I love your Christ, but I dislike your Christianity.” The embarrassing fact is that India judges us by our own professed standard. In reply to a question of Dr. Jones as to how it would be possible to bring India to Christ, Gandhi replied: First, I would suggest that all of you Christians live more like Jesus Christ. Second, I would suggest that you practice your Christianity without adulterating it. The anomalous situation is that most of us would be equally shocked to see Christianity doubted or put into practice. Third, I would suggest that you put more emphasis on love, for love is the soul and center of Christianity. Fourth, I would suggest that you study the non-Christian religions more sympathetically in order to find the good that is in them, so that you might have a more sympathetic approach to the people.”

If christ was about love and tolerance, what happened to the christians following him? They spout hate and bigotry in modern times, under the guise of righteousness.

Sorry for the rant, I do find the newsletters otherwise informative and have picked up valuable tips and insight.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1MissArleen
December 20, 2011 at 12:45 am

Dear “not on the internet”,

There is much truth in what you say, but consider this- in order to be like Christ a person has to allow Him to knit His life into their life. It is simply impossible to put Christ into yourself by yourself. Its a divine process that is submitted to.

Secondly, there are many people attending church who neither understand nor know the God they have chosen to serve. They have mentally assented to certain ideas but have never had a personal encounter with Christ. That in itself will change anybody’s life.

The Lord always has a faithful remnant of true servants. They are not perfect, but they do bring a taste of heaven to earth and inspire others to reach higher in their endeavor to know and walk with Christ. The fact that the Lord is with them is evident.

Many people have had unpleasant encounters with those who call themselves Christians but don’t have the lifestyle to back it up. Those who profess to love Christ have a responsibility to “love” and pray for those who are like that. The “love” the Bible refers to is not a squishy emotional thing, it is an action. It is behaving kindly toward others in spite of the fact that they may not deserve to be treated kindly. That kind of love can change a life.

The Holidays? I suppose people can attach any meaning to them they wish. However, I prefer the route of celebrating the gift of Christ to mankind and basking in loads of family tradition. So, Merry Christmas!


+7 Vote -1 Vote +1Frank D Harrisson
December 16, 2011 at 10:56 am

The lost generation of the 1930’s. Everything David Morris stated above is a recap and repeat of my years after the Great Depression and during the war years WW II and Korea. We had a Civil Defence with Block Wardens with air raid drills and blackouts from 1939 until 1945. We had food and fuel shortages and were limited to what we could purchase with US Government Coupons based on family size on food such as 5 pounds of sugar per month and on can goods and eggs and on government need for your service on gasolene and tires, coupons with white letter “A” on black in a book with a similar sticker in the rear window of the car was something like ten gallons per month, then the letter “B” on red, then the letter “C” on green. Most home owners dug up their back yards and planted Victory Gardens for fresh vegetables and fruits and berries. Some folks raised chickens and the would barter with their neighbors to exchange eggs and chicken for fruits and vegetables. We did a lot of canning in those days. When I was in Ninth Grade I was a member of the Junior NRA and I carried my rifle to school wherein we parctice firing our weapons with ammunition supplied by the US Army, no one batted an eye in those days, boys carrying firearms in those days was as common as bicycle riding. Indeed as boys we respected all Elders no matter who they were, neihgbors, teachers, police officers, etc. Get in trouble with anyone and my parents found out well I got it again when I got home. Well folks, we are going down the slippery slope to oblivion just like old Isreal had in the past. You see we live in a very different America today than the one I knew. I would say the best years were the 1950’s and right afer the Korean War. We stopped being America then. So get prepared as best you can to feed, shelter, and defend your family. Remember, those that did not prepare will come looking for those who did and it will be survival of the fittest.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1JAMES ALLEN WYATT
December 16, 2011 at 9:21 pm

Having also lived and grew up in that time as did Mr. Harrisson, I fully agree. We were blessed in so many ways; even being poor was a blessing, believe it or not! There is no substitute from having been down in the briar thickets of life; the scars in fact badges that are evidence of crisis and trouble experienced and survived. Those who fought in WWII were a superior breed for having grown up during the Depression; tough mentally as as well a physically. By comparison, the next generations were ‘milk-toast’, growing up in a relatively easy ‘time’ and the results was and is progressive softening of the fabric of the individual and thus that of our Nation. It is difficult to imagine that this day and time citizens rising up as they did in the BATTLE OF ATHENS, TN, this involving WWII veterans and fellow Patriots ‘taking up arms’ and ousting out of office the then Sheriff and his cronies thus allowing them to be replace by the caliber of persons that should always be elected to public office; folks that are comfortable with the concept of serving those voters who have put them in office as opposed to those who are greedy power hungry self seeking parasites.
Voters can always be ‘conned’ is they chose to be ‘blissfully ignorant’ or simply indifferent and mentally lazy but the responsible few can rise up and put right the mistakes in judgement that fostered the bureaucrats and political parasites, that by simply standing firm and being resolute in taking back their government; Need is ‘grit’ and an attitude that our founding fathers had . . . and if it is finally required, make the hard choices as they did, having pledged their lives and fortunes to the righteous effort. Looking inside ones self one wonders if there resides in each of us the courage to make that commitment and truly profess as did Patrick Henry to the a firm resolve to adopt his declaration, ‘GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH’.
So it boils down to determining just how determined and courageous we are, that being the basic requirement; the bedrock necessity required regain our Nation and returning it to the state of being again the “HOME OF THE FREE AND THE BRAVE’.
Candidly I don’t think we have that collective ability as the damage done is so great that only Divine Intervention can rectify the condition we find ourselves in and as someone so aptly stated, Sodom and Gomorrah might well seek an apology for their destruction considering the prevailing condition of our once great nation certainly is currently in that abdominal state.
But as a 74 year old disabled Mississippian counting down to LIFT OFF COURTESY OF JEHOVAH GOD, CHRIST JESUS AND THE HOLY SPIRIT, what do I know???.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1kaytee
December 22, 2011 at 10:26 am

Mr Harrison– back when you were a boy, most people HAD backyards to dig in, and you didn’t get suspended from school because you had a pair of scissors in your pencil box. And you COULD “bike to school”. And probably, only one of two parents worked full time– the other was at home, or grandparents and other relatives lived with you or close by.

Today– the majority of the population is in cities, and most city dwellers in apts or condos; kinda difficult to raise enough food to make a difference on your balcony. Forget having chickens, too; unless you live in an unincorporated area or have enough yard space that the regulations-approved chicken coop can be situated at least 50′ from any dwelling (almost impossible to do on city lots). And, it’s against the law to carry firearms around without a permit– which, as far as I know, requires official training, a “good reason” to need one, and legal majority… plus the $$ to get that training, background checks, etc. Kids are often bussed to school across town, but even for ones who live “close enough” to bike, it may not be safe to do so, since schools start about the time “rush hour” is in full swing; a late, distracted commuter is rarely watching out for kids (or anybody else) on a bike even in a bike lane.

I grew up in L.A. during the 50s & 60s– in the “barrio” for most of it. We played outside until the streetlights came on, and did have chickens. The working class neighborhood was “safe”, the boys had bb guns, kids came home from school to empty houses, and the gangs didn’t really bother anybody except rival gang members. Not today, though. Not even in the “good” neighborhoods here in San Diego would I consider it “safe” to let kids run around unsupervised (or home alone)– and if the kid is a pre-teen or younger, neither does CPS. Oh, yeah– grandparents now have “lives” of their own– my mother lives 2 hrs away by freeway if there’s no traffic, and at 76 is still working part time so no, she couldn’t watch my kids when they were growing up. My father was in central Calif– 8 hr drive there. My aunt was in Coronado (~ 20 min drive)– but no way could my kids walk there, even if she wasn’t at work.

A lot of social/political infrastructure needs to be changed to have a chance of living like you did in the “good old days”.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Rette
December 23, 2011 at 8:15 am

I remember a lot of what you have described. I had a garden, canned, made jams, etc until the late 80’s when I moved to a condo. Wish I had stayed put, but the property taxes had gotten so high, that even with the house paid for, I couldn’t keep up. Thanks for reminding me what it used to be. Sad, isn’t it. Now, I have a tiny garden on my balcony, I bundle up instead of turning the heat on, have candles, etc. Glad I wasn’t brought up in a time of waste.


+6 Vote -1 Vote +1Joe Lewis
December 16, 2011 at 11:00 am

Hey guys, if Fisher or Fischer or Fisherman “bore” the R&D Costs you can bet your last dollar, or silver eagle that they recovered all those costs plus a nice Return on Investment when they sold their first supply to NASA. It’s the unfortunate nature of the “private” military industrial complex. So it doesn’t really matter what entity starts out with the costs, ultimately the American Taxpayer (us) ends up with the bill, whether in higher taxes or as a financial system on the verge of collapse (what we have right now).


Vote -1 Vote +1juan o aguirre jr
December 16, 2011 at 12:04 pm

the iranian threat is just as big if not bigger and they have special forces training the narco groups in mexico and they are ready to jump to the united states side of the border and this came out on fox news this past week but came out on the spanish channel telomondo and this is as scarry as it gets and they cann defitley put a kink in the supply chain and if you are the nine percent just keep stocking up and if you are part of the ninty one percent you for all words in deep shit parden my language and thats the only way people with take note if you get rought with them the united states needs a little tought love to survive and i willing to dish out tought love to keep us citzens from being killed by fanatics


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Sarah
December 16, 2011 at 7:18 pm

Thank you for all the life saving information you have given us. Your information will save so many lives if/when disaster hits.
Merry Christmas and God bless you and your family.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Karen Jaworski
December 16, 2011 at 9:17 pm

Thanks again for another great eye opener. I, too am prepping….Besides having a small farm and teaching my children the basics of survival, I am planning for the financial devastation that’s just around the corner. Check out my web site, it tells all.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Mary Findley
December 23, 2011 at 8:13 am

Thank you Karen for your post. I totally agree you must be prepared for financial devastation as well. It’s coming and may not be far off. What is your website?


Vote -1 Vote +1Anonymous Coward
December 16, 2011 at 11:19 pm

Your story about the Fisher space pen contains several errors.
Some remedial reading:


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1David Morris
December 19, 2011 at 10:51 am

Actually, Anonymous Coward, in the very next paragraph after I describe the Fisher Space Pen, you will find that I wrote the following: “The exact story, unfortunately, is an urban legend. Both US and USSR space programs initially used pencils and both eventually used the Fisher space pen, but the core message is accurate.”


+2 Vote -1 Vote +1Rocky
December 17, 2011 at 6:45 am

Learning multiple skills.

It has been almost two years since I began trying to learn multiple skills. The more I learn, the more I realize how little I knew. I have made some of the new skills a fun hobby that I never thought that I would enjoy so much.

Growing up on a farm many of the things I learned as a child has been a tremendous help in furthering my knowledge base. It is ironic that all the chores my grandparents made me do that I did not enjoy at that time has proven so useful over the years.

Sometimes I do take a break and just enjoy life. It keeps me from going into the burn out stage. Balance has been very important for myself and family.

Many thanks to David and all my new friends.


+2 Vote -1 Vote +1David Morris
December 19, 2011 at 10:47 am

Thanks, Rocky 🙂 We’re in the same boat…as I get older, some of my fondest memories are of tinkering with stuff with my dad on our farm on cold winter Sunday afternoons listening to “American Top 40” on the radio and the smell of WD-40, LPS, and our Kerosene space heater in the shop.

As to feeling like you know less and less as you learn more and more…that is one of the ironies of life and one of the pleasures of being a renaissance man.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Chuck and Heather
December 18, 2011 at 10:41 pm

Thank you David for another fine newsletter! and MERRY CHRISTMAS to you and yours, and a happy,blessed and safe New Year to all, may it be less interesting then 2011!!!

Chuck and Heather.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Ron G
December 22, 2011 at 10:06 pm

David, thank you for your great newsletter and the various items you send that help us survive if everything goes wrong. I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a
wonderful 2012.
Ron G


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Mary Findley
December 23, 2011 at 8:31 am

Thank you David for all your helpful information. Since my health will not permit traveling, I’m preparing to remain at home. For others who likewise are preparing to remain at home often they forget about cleaning supplies until they have run out. If you are like the majority of people and clean with ready to use cleaners, they will run out quickly. Then you are left with nothing to keep the house clean. Keeping the home clean is vital to avoiding germs to stay healthy. Besides, ready to use cleaners are expensive not only to the user but to our earth. Stock up on concentrated cleaners. Use your all purpose cleaner as a toilet bowl cleaner and stain removever. You not only save further money but also eliminate plastic bottles, which are made from precious oil. My website has further tips for green cleaning that will help during disasters. God Bless you David. Merry Christmas.


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