I travel a lot for my day job, which means I spend a lot of time on airplanes and in airports. I got my pilot's license when I was 18 and my instrument rating ten years later, so I don't think of myself as a fearful flyer.
Overall, I've had decent luck while flying. I have had my fair share of hiccups, but I don't remember most of them - it's just something that goes with the territory.
Yesterday's flight to Salt Lake City was an exception.
Like many of you, I've read some articles lately about the rise of air rage as of late. And while I've seen an increase in tempers recently, it's never really impacted me until yesterday morning. Sitting in my assigned seat, a man in his mid twenties stowed his bags in the overhead bin and violently slammed it shut above my head. Without saying a word, he tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to his seat.
Red flag number one.
I stood up (I always pick the aisle seat) to give him easier access into his seat, and I noticed he wreaked of alcohol.
Red flag number two.
At this point, I was not worried. I am quite used to tuning people out sitting next to me, thanks in part to the Bose headphones I take whenever I fly. (Bose headphones are one of the greatest investments a business traveler can make.)
Despite the fact there are three seats on this row and it's clear that there are only two of us sitting on this row, he elects to sit next to me in the middle seat, leaving the window seat empty.
Red flag number three.
A flight attendant came by to ask him a question about his ticket. He slurred his words in response in a completely incoherent fashion. Trying to be nice, I made some comment about how I hoped the airline got their seating arrangement squared away soon.
His response? "I hope your <expletive> shirt doesn't piss me off."
Red flag number four.
I'm mentally turning on all of the switches now: Full situational awareness on. Conflict resolution optimizer on. Verbal judo mode engaged. Aisle arm rest now in the up position in case he starts punching me and I need to get up quickly.
Gear check: my Fenix flashlight (with strobe capability) in my pocket. The heavy carabiner I keep clipped to my briefcase is now off and in my pocket as well.
Seat belt check: belt buckle opens to the right, in case I need to quickly stand up.
He continued to talk incoherently, encouraging me to engage in sexual relations with myself. Occasionally he asked me a question. I couldn't understand him, of course, because he was hammered. I told him I'm hard of hearing (which isn't true) in an effort to use verbal judo to throw him out of his OODA loop; I asked him if he could repeat the question. In reality, I'm baiting him: I was hoping he raised his voice to overcome my alleged hearing deficiencies so that other passengers can be made aware of the situation. He didn't take the bait, however.
We took off, and five minutes later I decided to get more people in the boat with me. I ignored the "fasten your seatbelt" sign and walked back to the rear galley to advise a flight attendant, "The gentleman in 23 B is drunk and wants to fight me."
The flight attendant reports they are aware of his intoxication - "we've already had one issue with him, and he shouldn't have been allowed on the plane. We won't be serving him alcohol. Would you like to move to another seat?"
I declined, because I was somewhat concerned that me moving my things may make the situation worse. I'd already made a mental note that there was a young boy sitting directly in front of him. Had things deteriorated, that kid would be in the danger zone. I told the flight attendant let's see how the next few minutes go before we take any further action.
At some point, The Gentleman In 23 B realized I was not going to be belligerent with him. As we teach in the Texas License to Carry class, Ego State Theory suggests people remain in the adult ego state in this scenario - try to de-escalate the situation - and not respond in kind to his verbal aggression. It seemed to be working, and he attempted to apologize for his behavior in a sloppy drunken fashion.
A few moments later, the flight attendants began taking drink orders, and of course, he ordered more alcohol. The flight attendant was professional but firm - they refused to serve him. And while he was drunk, he was not stupid - he lobbied me to buy a drink to give to him. I just kept smiling and saying "No, I am good, man - thanks anyway" - which is a nonsensical answer to his request, but he was having a hard time processing it. (Knocking drunks out of their OODA loop is pretty easy to do.)
He even reached forward to tap the boy sitting in front of him on the shoulder - presumably to ask him to buy him a drink - until he realized the kid was way too underage to be of help.
The remainder of the flight was fine, although he was annoying. Despite the fact I was wearing Bose headphones, he kept tapping me on the arm to ask me what I am reading, whether I was a Mormon, and how he learned to fly a plane before he could drive a car. He continued to talk even though I had the headphones on.
The flight attendants appreciated my patience, asking me for my ticket so they could give me some frequent flyer miles for my trouble.
Throughout the ordeal, I made the following notes:
Many of you will find this final point odd. But last night during my evening prayer, I thought of that young man and prayed for him. I will continue to do so. Anyone that drunk at 8 AM who thinks it's a good idea to threaten and berate someone he's sitting next to has a lot of problems. I don't know what's going on in his life. I prayed for peace and healing. I prayed he would find his way and become a responsible citizen.
At the end of flight, this was a "no harm, no foul" event. But it could have turned out differently.
This is not a political statement. Please don't try to read anything political into this. If you're looking for political commentary on the current immigration situation on the southern border, this blog will disappoint you.
I'd like for us to look at the current immigration situation as an allegory for the state of preparedness in the United States.
In short, it looks something like this:
I would argue you could use these same seven events for essentially any disaster that affects America. Hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, flooding - the pattern is quite predictable.
What is missing from both the immigration emergency and every other disaster we face is a noticeable lack of interest in fixing the root of the problem.
How can you say that, Paul? Congress could fix this if the <insert political party here you don't like> would come to the table and pass a bill to fix it!
No. That's not the fix.
In preparedness, in immigration, in gun violence, in poverty, in virtually every problem that befalls us, we conflate the band aid with the cure.
This is best demonstrated by surveying your own social media feed. Count the number of stories that depict what's going on at the border, that talk about our immigration laws, that complain about the government's policy, that complain about the current or previous president. That's your denominator.
Now count the number of stories that provide any meaningful explanation of how to fix the problems causing these people to leave their home countries. That's your numerator.
Numerator divided by denominator = The Fix Ratio
I did this myself. One day earlier this week, I counted 50 stories in my Facebook feed complaining about our immigration laws, President Trump, and President Obama. How people who support President Trump are horrible people, and how people who support President Obama are horrible people.
In that same space of Facebook feed, the number of stories that addressed how to fix the problems in the home countries motivating people to try to immigrate to the United States? Zero.
That gives us a Fix Ratio of 0/50 = 0.00 percent.
Disasters are no different.
After Hurricane Harvey, how many posts did you see on social media about the storm itself? How many did you see of the damage and suffering? About how much government aid will be necessary to rebuild?
And then compare that with the number of posts you saw on discussing how much of that damage and suffering could have been avoided if people had taken preparedness seriously?
The Fix Ratio for Harvey? Still pretty low.
In America, we aren't interested in the fix.
Because the fix is hard.
The fix requires us to do something beyond changing our Facebook status to make sure we register the correct outrage congruent with our political team.
The fix requires money.
The fix requires a changed mindset.
The fix requires different priorities.
The fix requires effort, training, and sacrifice.
The fix requires that we stop dividing ourselves into tribes along economic, religious, political, racial and gender lines.
The fix requires us to look at things in a non-emotional manner, where political scores aren't kept.
In preparedness, the conversations we really need to be having are:
UPDATED 3:25 PM CDT 6/24/2018
At the risk of being accused of making this political, I urge you to watch this short interview of former DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson from today. I just saw this right after I posted this. Listen to the last sentence he makes in this clip: "You can deal with this on the border, you can try different things....but unless we deal with the underlying causes that are motivating people to come here in the first place, we are going to continue to bang our heads against the wall on this issue."
He's absolutely right. And this is the kind of thinking we need to be applying to our preparedness challenges as well.
See for yourself:
OBSERVATIONS IN TRENDS AMONG LTC STUDENTS
I am but one instructor, who teaches maybe six LTC courses a year. But here are the trends I am noticing as the last year or so:
MONTHLY PREPAREDNESS TRAINING IN AUSTIN WITH ADRN STARTS OCTOBER 11
This is big news – The Austin Disaster Relief Network (ADRN) is hosting some great preparedness training opportunities.
First, make sure to register for the I AM Ready Preparedness Conference on September 27-29. Emergency medicine, food production, civil unrest, emotional readiness, and other topics will be discussed. I plan to attend. I hope to see you there!
Next, ADRN is in the process of creating monthly training opportunities to help people get better prepared. These will be held on the second Thursday of the month, starting October 11, at Riverbend Church on 360. More information will be forthcoming. I want to make sure those of you who are interested get this on your calendar….especially the fact it will be every second Thursday.
I will be helping out with the monthly preparedness training. For those of you who have been asking for a monthly preparedness get together to hear presentations and learn new skills, this is what you are looking for.
MORE TEXAS SCHOOL DISTRICTS ARE ALLOWING STAFF TO CARRY FIREARMS
As of last month, 217 school districts in Texas allowed staff to carry firearms. There were only 172 in February. That’s a 26 percent increase in two to three months.
Note that the Texas Association of School Boards anticipates more schools will move to the armed staff model in response to the Santa Fe High School shooting.
In case you are wondering, there are 1,023 ISDs in Texas. Now, 21 percent of them allow for armed staff.
NEXT THREE MONTHS: WARMER AND DRIER THAN NORMAL
Here are the latest forecasts from the National Climate Prediction Center. This was issued yesterday.
The rains we’ve had of late are helping reduce our wildfire risk, but please note the official forecast for the rest of summer calls for hotter and drier weather. Please be mindful of the heat risks while outdoors as well as the wildfire risks.
The correct analysis is that both deflation and inflation are possible. Anyone who warns just of inflation or deflation is missing half the puzzle - James Rickards
A few years ago, I spoke at my annual preparedness conference on the risk of another financial downturn. I think I may have stunned, if not outright upset, some of the attendees when I said:
Guys, here's the good news about the next financial crisis. We now know what one looks and feels like. We know it's survivable. And best of all, we know now what to do to protect our finances.
Perhaps they were taken aback by my use of the term "good news" when discussing the next financial crisis. While there's no doubt the crisis we endured ten years ago altered countless lives and our nation's history, we also learned a lot about ourselves, our economy and our government during that era.
Fast forward ten years. I've done several YouTube videos over the past year on the need to have a financial plan for when the market has its next big downturn. Today, I'd like for us to discuss what that means and how someone could go about doing it.
I'm not talking about the garden variety market corrections we see from time to time, which are necessary to a healthy marketplace. I'm talking about the need for a plan in the event we see something like we saw in the 2008 financial crisis.
I won't spend a lot of time making the case that such a financial crisis could occur again. As I talk to people about the prospects of another crisis, I find people either believe that it can happen again...or they don't. My job isn't to convince you it can happen. My goal is to provide ideas to those who believe that it can.
Inflation or Deflation?
One of the first questions we have to ask ourselves is whether we expect an inflationary event or a deflationary event. Simply put, will the next crisis be one where prices rise rapidly - faster than our wages? Or will it be another 2008, where prices for not only stocks but also cars, homes, and consumables falls dramatically?
Those who are concerned about the risk of another crisis often debate this enthusiastically. I don't think it's really necessary to debate the issue; I'd rather be prepared for either scenario and not worry about guessing which crisis may befall us.
For guidance on what to do in an inflationary crisis, Forbes contributor Clem Chambers outlines five investments which historically done well during such events. They include:
Meanwhile, contrarian financial expert James Rickards suggests we should be prepared for both deflationary and inflationary crises. In the aptly entitled article "Why You Should Be Prepared for Both Inflation and Deflation," Rickards outlines how you should invest in either scenario.
For the deflationary crisis, Rickards recommends cash, bonds and raw land. In an inflationary crisis, he recommends commodities such as gold and oil, stocks in blue chip companies with significant ownership in hard assets, along with collectibles such as fine art.
To help you identify what stocks you might choose in a market downturn, Kiplinger's has a list of blue chip stocks you should consider during a deflationary scenario.
Rickards recommends we "prepare for both [scenarios], watch carefully, and stay nimble."
If You Expect Another 2008 Style Crisis, Why Not Just Invest In Those Things That Did Well Back Then?
You certainly could, and fortunately we have some good clues on how to do that. U.S. News came up with seven stocks that performed well during the last financial crisis. As you scroll through these stock ideas, you'll see many names you recognize. You'll also quickly identify a trend with these stocks: companies that sell lower cost items and entertainment options did well during 2008-2009.
Can you make money while the stock market falls?
Consider investing in an inverse ETF which goes up in value as the stock market falls. Investing in one of these funds is very easy - you buy it just like your buying a stock if you're using an online trading account. For those who feel really adventurous, the inverse ETF with ticker symbol SDS is a leveraged inverse ETF. In rather simplistic terms, for every one percent drop in the S&P 500, SDS goes up by two percent. The catch, of course, is that for every one percent increase in the S&P 500, SDS does down by two percent.
It's not a trade for the faint of heart, but it can really provide meaningful gains in a deflationary event where the stock market is falling.
What can you do with your 401(k)?
The 401(k) issue is tough, because most people have very limited investment options. Your best bet is to study each of your investment options within your 401(k) and see how they fared during 2008-2009. That will give you a sense of what your best options are during a deflationary event. In that scenario, you may find it's better to just put your 401(k) in cash and ride out the downturn, knowing that the the dollars in your account are increasing in value (dollars increase in value compared to other currencies and investments during deflationary events.)
For inflationary events, the advice listed above is solid - find a mutual fund option that invests in hard assets, such as commodities and real estate.
Again, this will require a little research on your part, but it's not hard to do.
How to create your plan
I'm not a financial adviser. But I will tell you what I am doing now, and what my plan is, in an effort to give you some ideas.
First, I am currently fully invested in the stock market. I believe, as many experts do, we should expect the stock market to go higher for some time to come. That's not to say some event couldn't cause a major sell off or inflationary spike. But for now, my plan is to sit tight and remain invested in equities.
Once I decide it's time to change my investment strategy, I'll take two steps:
This is not as hard as you think. It does require you to do a little research. Spending time with a financial adviser you trust would also be a good use of your time.
***SUGGESTED ACTION ITEMS***
Preparedness isn't about buying a bunch of guns and military rations, waiting for "the big one." Much of what you will do to get better prepared will be tedious and boring.
And that's the good news - if you find your preparations tedious and boring, it probably means you're doing it right.
Currently called "Disease X," a new strain of bird flu in China is racking up significant fatalities - roughly 38 percent of those people infected are killed by the disease.
Newsweek ran this article on June 15. Other publications, such as The Atlantic, published articles as recent as three days ago decrying our lack of readiness for the next pandemic, such as Ebola. Even if you take away the unnecessary political bias in The Atlantic piece, it's clear the threat of pandemic is starting to bubble to the surface again in the minds of the disaster cognoscenti.
Pandemics rank high on the fear factor, in large part due to movies about pandemics over the last few years. The recent Ebola outbreak which saw two nurses in Dallas contract the deadly disease further alarmed Americans who were paying attention to such things. Slate provided an extensive timeline on how these two nurses contracted the disease and unwittingly exposed others to it.
CNN ran a piece last year entitled "Seven reasons we're more at risk than ever of a global pandemic." As with any mainstream media piece, all the bases are covered: increased global travel (widely understood and appreciated), climate change (the predictable boogeyman for various things that ail us), and calls for communities to become more resilient (a great idea, and one I advocate).
But one item stood out as a bit unexpected but intriguing nonetheless: "Faster communication raises the risk of pandemic." According to the CNN infographic, the worst case is "fearful rumors may trigger panic, which might hinder key institutions like stock markets and emergency responders."
A few weeks ago on my YouTube channel, I spent a fair amount of time discussing this article from B.J. Campbell entitled "The Suprisingly Solid Mathematical Case of the Tin Foil Hat Gun Prepper." I mentioned in my video that the article is perhaps one of the best articles on preparedness I had ever read, and I encourage you to spend time reading it as well.
In Campbell's effort to explain that those who are into preparedness are justified based upon a statistical approach using historical data, he writes:
The zombie apocalypse is obviously pure fiction, but it has an allure to a few tongue-in-cheek preppers because of its functional completeness. If you are prepared for zombies, you are literally prepared for anything. The key fixture of zombie preparedness is a fundamental understanding of what happens when our systems of economics, governance, and civil infrastructure fail. There’s a great one going on right now in Venezuela, with people eating rats and dogs, incapable of trading in the local currency, and a general humanitarian disaster associated with descent into anarchy. No class of person is more capable of riding out a situation like that than a well-provisioned zombie prepper. Various fixtures of zombie prepping include:
While no one I know truly believes there is such a thing as a zombie apocalypse, the closest thing to one would be a global pandemic like the ones referenced above. Watch the movie World War Z sometime to get a feel for the parallels between a zombie outbreak and a pandemic.
The pandemic scenario - or zombie apocalpyse if you prefer - is a useful tool to those in the preparedness and disaster planning community for the reasons Campbell mentions. It provides us a scenario requiring full spectrum readiness: food, water, power, sanitation, security and medicine.
Feel free to dismiss the concerns over another pandemic (although experts will tell you it's not a good bet to make - check out these reports from CNN and NPR). But for all of us who advocate for better readiness at all levels, fewer perils give us a better assortment of "things that would go wrong" than a pandemic.
***SUGGESTED ACTION ITEMS***
Here's where I tell you what I think about things I think about.