Sunday, September 30, 2018

Prepper-Specific Financial Advice

Most of the advice and I've given in previous articles of the Prepper Financial Series has been general in nature, in that it is good advice for everyone, prepper or not. In today's article, I want to give some prepper-specific financial advice:

Let me start by reiterating this foundational advice: Financial preparedness is important for preppers and survivalists, even those preparing for "the end of the world." Financial preparedness includes spending less than you make, getting out of debt and setting aside money into an emergency fund, among other aspects.

My advice: Think of prepping for TEOTWAWKI not as an escape from your debts and lack of financial security, but rather as an opportunity to successfully address those areas in your life. 

Having said that, let's move on to the prepper-specific advice:

1- Avoid "buy everything now" syndrome. Food, guns, ammo, bug-out bags, knives, multi-tools, gear, a mountain retreat and a bug-out vehicle to get there, a homestead... It seems the list of stuff we need to buy is endless, yet we have to buy it all before the SHTF event happens, which will probably be next week. Its a perfect set-up for the "buy everything now" syndrome. Folks new to prepping are especially vulnerable to this syndrome, but it can strike even experience preppers at times. Unchecked, this syndrome can have devastating consequences - everything from money wasted on stuff you really didn't need to mountains of credit card debt.

2- Lists are your friends. In battling the "buy everything now" syndrome, making lists is probably your best defense. Make a list of everything you think you need.  Think about it.  Discuss it with your spouse/family/group members. Then prioritize that list. What are the most important essentials (maybe label them A)? What are the "nice to have but can wait" items (label them B)?  What can you make do without (label them C)? You can have one massive Everything List.  Or you might find it more useful to break it down into multiple lists by categories (Food & Water, Guns & Ammo, First Aid & Hygiene, Cleaning & Sanitation, etc.). Whatever works for you.

3- Avoid impulse purchases. This is where those lists come in handy. Don't buy anything that's not on the list. And try to stick to buying those things you labeled with an A (the truly essential items), before you move on to the Bs (nice to haves, but not essentials). Don't buy any Cs if you still have As on your list. See something you really want (and think you need), but it isn't on the list? Write it down and prioritize it, but wait 48 hours before buying it. After 48 hours, review it and see if you still think you really need it. Chances are the impulse will have ebbed.

4- Quality, not quantity. You are not going to be saved by the sheer quantity of supplies you have. First and foremost, you will be saved by your physical health, your mental attitude, and your skills. Next in importance will be the quality of your gear and supplies, not the quantity. Choose quality over quantity.  Remember this when working with your lists.

5- Tactical is just a word.  A great word for marketing, to be sure. But it is just a word, and one with no official meaning. It is so over-used in marketing stuff to preppers and survivalists that it seems anything available in black is called "tactical" and the price is often jacked-up accordingly. Don't fall for this tactic (pun intended). Evaluate possible purchases based on their usefulness, quality, and price, not on the marketing terms applied to them.

6- Avoid celebrity names. There are a number of survivalists who have become celebrities of sorts due to their TV exposure. Several of them have sold their name to companies making knives, kits, and other gear. I tried a number of these "named" products, and without fail I have found them to be over-priced and often of inferior quality. You will pay a 25%-50% premium just for the celebrity name for a product that will typically be of lesser quality than the cheaper no-name version. 

7- Avoid gimmicks. There are a lot of gimmicky products out there. I've bought a few of them myself, much to my later disappointment. Often these products are interesting ideas poorly executed. Sometimes they shoot for the prepper equivalent of "cuteness" or "wow" factor to entice buyers. And they invariably over-promise and under-deliver. Avoid gimmicks by sticking to your lists, searching out reviews (youtube is great for this), and actually holding or even using a item before you buy it.

8- Avoid super-high priced items.  A bigger price tag doesn't guarantee a better product. You can get a solid, good-quality survival knife for under $50 (here's one on Amazon that I own, use and like), or you can buy a super-high priced top-of-the-line survival knife for $500 or more. The $500 knife may, or may not, be better quality than the $50 knife, but I'm willing to bet it isn't 10X higher quality.

9- Don't get too caught up in the freeze-dried, long-term storage hype. Yes, many of these foods can store (under the right conditions) for 10 years or more. However, on a per serving basis they are ridiculously expensive, in my opinion. I firmly believe you can put together a 3 to 5 year supply of food using regular canned foods and dry foods for much cheaper, and with more variety and personal choice in what you're getting.

EXCEPTION: It does make sense to buy some perishable foods, like milk, butter, cheese, and eggs, in freeze-dried or powdered forms for long-term storage. I do, and my favorite company for these foods is Augason Farms, because I know their quality is good and prices are reasonable relative to other companies. By the way, I am NOT affiliated with Augason Farms, just a happy customer. (I am affiliated with Amazon.)

10- Look for cheap and even free ways to get your gear and supplies. Some examples: Discount stores, thrift stores, salvage stores, flea markets, yard sales, classified ads, Freecycle.... Also, comparison shop, shop sales, use coupons...
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This article is part of an ongoing Prepper Financial Series. Here are the other articles in that series:

*** Foundational Advice: Eliminate Debt and Build Savings 
*** Quick Financial Tips for Preppers (and Everyone Else)
*** How To Raise Money For Your Prepping Activities
*** Precious Metals and the Prepper  
 
*** Taming the Family Budget  
*** 18 Easy Ways to Save Money 
*** 10 Ways to Save Really BIG Money 

*** Prepper's Guide to Junk Silver (article from 2014)  

Future articles in the Prepper Financial Series will come out on an almost weekly basis, typically on Mondays.
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Saturday, September 29, 2018

We have plans, but do we have experience?


A mistake some of us in the prepper/survivalist community make is confusing knowledge and even skills with actual experience. But there is a huge difference between book-learning (or blog-learning, or video-learning) and real-life practical experience. Books give us knowledge (useful). Skills give us abilities (more useful).  Experience teaches us wisdom - how to put all that knowledge and all those abilities to the best use (wisdom). We cannot get experience and wisdom from a book, article, or video. We can only get it from doing.

There's nothing wrong with reading books, watching videos, or even taking classes. Those are good things to do, and we can learn a lot. But those things are no substitute for actually doing things in real life. Real life is different from books. Life has a different feel. It's messier for one thing. And there is more stress and pressure involved. We rarely get to put book learning to use under ideal conditions.  Books tend to teach us the "rules" but usually gloss over all the exceptions to those rules. And they never teach us when to ignore the rules (and sometimes we should). We cannot develop a "feel" for things or gain intuition by reading a book or taking a class. We need the real-life experience of actually doing.

Here is some good news: Getting experience is easy. We just have to start doing. 

We can get the experience (wisdom) we need for difficult times by actually doing things now - gardening, hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, collecting wild edibles, canning and preserving food, sewing by hand, and doing our own home & auto  repairs, just to name a few of the many things we can do.

Now, during these normal and relatively good times, is the perfect time to start doing because there is no pressure. If we mess up, so what? If our garden is a bust, we can still buy food at the grocery store. If our car still won't start after we've spent all day trying to fix it ourselves, we can just hire a mechanic. No pressure. Once SHTF happens, it will be a very different story.

Here's a great idea: get a lot of practical experience by volunteering to help build a house with Habitat For Humanity.  Also, check out local gardening clubs for both training and volunteer opportunities. We will learn lots of useful skills while actually helping people in need. 

The Bottom Line: With this article, I hope to encourage myself and other folks to put all that theoretical knowledge we've been collecting to use now, and develop the actual skills, and especially the experience, we will need later on.  
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Friday, September 28, 2018

Cancer - Warning Signs & Risk Factors

I know from personal experience that ignoring health problems is bad, and self-diagnose is even worse. If you have any of the signs, symptoms, or risk factors mentioned in this article, I urge you to visit your family doctor or other medical professional. If you haven't been to the doctor for years, I strongly urge you to get a medical exam sooner, rather than later.  

There are many different types of cancer, many with specific risk factors and early warning signs. Generally speaking, possible warning signs and risk factors may include: 

Risk Factors for Cancer
  • A family history of cancer
  • Smoking or tobacco use (about 22% of all cancers are related to the use of tobacco)
  • Age (the older you are, the more likely to develop cancer)
  • Unhealthy diet, including high consumption of sugar
  • Obesity and physical inactivity (the greater the couch-potato, the greater the cancer risk)
  • Poor sleep habits (consistently failing to get adequate amounts of sleep)
  • Exposure to radiation, chemical toxins and other environmental factors
Warning Signs of Cancer
  • Changes in urination or bowel movements 
  • Unusual bleeding or discharge
  • Lumps or thickened areas in the breast, testicles, or elsewhere
  • Indigestion or difficulty swallowing
  • Change in the size, color, shape, or thickness of a wart, mole, or mouth sore
  • Cough or hoarseness that doesn't go away
  • Persistent headaches
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unexplained loss of appetite
  • Persistent fatigue, nausea, or vomiting
  • Persistent low-grade fever, either constant or intermittent
  • Sores that don't heal
  • Repeated infections
NOTE: Having any one, or several, of these warning signs does not necessarily mean you have cancer. It is also possible to have have cancer without being aware any of these warning signs. Routine physical exams are a good idea for everyone.

Only a medical professional can accurately diagnose cancer. If you do have any of the risk factors or warning signs, please consult your doctor or other medical professional.
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This article is part of an ongoing Health Warning Signs and Risk Factors series. The previous articles in this series are:

Sources
Information presented in these articles is collected from the following websites:

  1. American Diabetes Association 
  2. American Cancer Society 
  3. American Heart Association 
  4. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute 
  5. National Institutes for Health 
  6. Mayo Clinic 
  7. WebMD
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Thursday, September 27, 2018

Good News! Three Things You're Doing Right as a Prepper


There are lots of articles in the prepper community that purport to tell us all the mistakes we are making as preppers.  We are doing this or that wrong. We haven't thought of X. We've overlooked planning for Y. We haven't stockpiled Z. We're not really prepping if we haven't developed this skill or bought that piece of gear. We're doomed if we don't live somewhere other than where we are living now. Whatever we do, there seems to be no end to people willing, even eager, to tell us we're doing it wrong.

While there is a useful purpose for "don't make this mistake" articles (and I have written a few of them myself), the negativity can be overwhelming at times. So, in this article I want to give you some good news - There are at least three big, important things that you are doing right as a prepper:

1 - You are bravely facing reality. The fact is the world is dangerous place. In reality, our modern civilization is fragile, and there are many possible events and tipping points that could cause the S to Hit The Fan.  As a prepper, you're not strolling through life blinded by normalcy bias and a complete faith in government to keep us safe and civilization humming along. You've accepted reality, and are seeking to protect yourself and your family, rather than just hoping that "everything will work out."

2 - You're doing something.  Even if it is not a lot, you are at least doing something - thinking though scenarios, making plans, acquiring supplies, learning skills,...  Congratulations! You and your family really are better off than 90% of people. After all, most folks simply aren't ready for anything bad to happen in their own lives,  much less for a major event that may threaten the whole of society.

3- You are developing the right mental attitude - one of self-reliance.  This attitude is KEY. I've said this before, but it bears repeating often: The single most important thing you can do to survive any future chaos is to start taking responsibility for your own life now. The good news is that by being a prepper, you are doing just that. Even if you are not there perfectly, you are developing this attitude - and the skills and experience to back it up. Again, this puts you well-ahead of most folks, who live lives of dependency on government, on their employers, and on a fragile world system that encourages further dependency in an ever-vicious cycle. 

Despite the fact that we all will make mistakes along the way, we can hold our heads high with the knowledge that we are doing
at least three big and important things right. So, do not be discouraged. Do not give in to the negativity. And, to quote Winston Churchill, "Never, never, never give up."

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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

What Are Your Back-Up Plans?

One of the bigger mistakes many preppers and survivalists make is not having multiple back-up plans. 

Why do we need multiple back-up plans? Because the future is unpredictable. And in the chaos that will occur during and after any SHTF scenario, anything can happen. 

You've decided that your going to ride out the future being self-sufficient on your homestead. What if for some reason you can't stay there? Sure, it seems like a great location now, but what happens when the government decides to set up a FEMA camp right next door? Or a bunch of Muslim "refugees" are resettled in your county, complete with a new mosque being built just up the road from your place? Or maybe fallout from a nuclear disaster, missile attack, or dirty bomb is drifting your way? Or, in the wake of a political collapse, a local warlord rises up with more and better armed troops than you can deal with?  

You've decided that when the SHTF you are going to bug out to Grandpa's old hunting cabin in the mountains. Solid plan, especially if you have stocked up and otherwise prepared this retreat.  But, what happens if you can't get there? Maybe an earthquake has destroyed the roads and bridges you need to travel to get there. Or military troops (foreign invasion? martial law?) have closed the roads and highways? 

What happens if your bug-out vehicle gets a flat tire or breaks down half-way to your retreat? Do you a Plan B? Perhaps fixing it yourself? If so, make sure you have the skills, tools, and supplies to do so. Do you have a Plan C if you can't get your vehicle working? Perhaps hiking the rest of the way? If so, are you ready to do so with good hiking shoes/boots, backpacks, and weather-appropriate clothing?

You've decided you are going to raise your own food, but your crops fail due to drought or disease. Do you have a store of food as a back-up? Do you know how to hunt or fish? Are you familiar with wild edibles? Will you be able to barter with local farmers?

Always have a Plan B. Plan C is nice to have, too. And a Plan D probably isn't overkill.  


My primary plan is to ride out whatever comes where I am at now. That is where I am putting most of my efforts and resources. But I also have a back-up plan (three actually) in case things become too dangerous to stay where I'm at now for whatever reasons. I've even pre-positioned some supplies at two of the three locations. And I have figured out, and actually driven, at least two alternative routes to each of those locations, in case one of the routes was blocked for some reason

Other Back-up Plans

Don't just have back-up plans for your location. Have them for accomplishing various tasks, too. For example, your plans for water may include 1) your current primary source, 2) stored water, 3) a nearby creek or pond, plus having the ability to filter and purify it, and 4) collecting rainwater, plus having the ability to filter and purify it.    

Do the same for other tasks, such as cooking (regular stove, propane grill, charcoal grill, wood stove, etc.), and staying warm (possibilities: natural gas, electric heaters, propane heaters, fireplace, wood stove, plenty of insulation & warm clothes, etc.)    

The Bottom Line: Have multiple  back-up plans if you want to maximize your chances of surviving future disasters and chaos.  In addition to the areas already covered in this article - location, transportation, food, water, cooking, and warmth - you should  ave multiple back-ups for every task you will need to accomplish.  
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Monday, September 24, 2018

Heart & Cardiovascular Disease - Warning Signs & Risk Factors


Due to my own health problems in recent years (Type II Diabetes and Retinopathy), I have become a big believer in preventive medicine, with includes early detection of possible health problems. The earlier you detect a potential health problem, the sooner you will be able to do something about it. At the very least, early detection can help lessen the severity of health problems, and perhaps even prevent them in the first place.

There are many different types of heart and cardiovascular disease, but they may share many similar warning signs and risk factors:
 
Risk Factors for Heart & Cardiovascular Disease
  •  A family history of heart disease (a blood relative with heart disease) 
  • A sedentary lifestyle (little exercise or physical activity, a "couch potato")
  • Prolonged periods of chronic stress
  • Being overweight, and especially being obese
  • An unhealthy diet (lots of fast food, junk food, etc.)
  •  Smoking or tobacco use
  • Having high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, or diabetes 
  • Age (as a rule of thumb, the older you get, the more likely you are to develop heart or cardiovascular disease)

Warning Signs Heart & Cardiovascular Disease
  • Angina - chest pain, discomfort, tightness, or pressure
  • Fluttering or pounding in the chest
  • A racing or irregular heartbeat, feeling of "skipped" heartbeats
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting
  • Sudden fatigue or weakness
  • Severe headaches or unexplained bouts of confusion
  • Unexplained nausea or sweating  
  • Unexplained shortness of breath
  • Cough that produces white sputum 
  • Swollen legs, feet, ankles, or hands
Having any one, or several, of these warning signs does not necessarily mean you have heart or cardiovascular disease. It is also possible to have have heart or cardiovascular disease without being aware any symptoms. 

Only a medical professional can accurately diagnose heart or cardiovascular disease. If you do have any of the risk factors or warning signs, please consult a doctor as soon as possible. 
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This article is part of an ongoing Health Warning Signs and Risk Factors series. The previous article in this series is Type II Diabetes - Warning Signs & Risk Factors.

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Sunday, September 23, 2018

10 Ways to Save Really BIG Money


  Part of the Prepper Financial Series (see index at bottom)...

Not nickels and dimes, the following ideas may each save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year. 

1- Stop smoking. In my home state of NC, a pack-a-day habit will cost you more than $2000 a year. In many other states the cost is much higher (due mainly to taxes). Think how much food storage or ammo you could buy this year just by not smoking. Or how much debt you could pay off.

2- Conquer your other addictions. It is not just smoking which is costly, but all addictions - alcohol, gambling, drugs, etc. Not only are they bad for your health (physical and emotional), but they wreck havoc on your financial life, too.

3- Brown bag your lunch. Many of us eat out for lurch during the week, but this can be costly, even if you stick to the fast food value meals. If you spend just $5 a lunch eating out (and you probably average more unless you truly do stick to the dollar menu at McDonald's), it will cost you over $1200 a year.

4- Skip the next version of your iPhone, iPad, and other electronic toys. It will cost you hundreds of dollars to impress people by having the absolute latest toy. Do you really care that much about impressing others? If so, why? Besides, in all honesty there is rarely hundreds of dollars worth of improvements from one version to the next. Make do with what you already have.

5- Drastically reduce your entertainment expenses. Watch a DVD at home instead of going to the movies. Get a library card (lots of free knowledge and entertainment). Have a family game night at home. Cut back on your cable/satellite TV package (going from the EVERYTHING INCLUDED package to a more basic package could save you more than $100/month, $1200 a year).

6- Skip the expensive vacation. "Staycations" are the hot new trend anyway. Stay home, relax, play in the backyard, go on a picnic, visit local historical sites, art galleries, zoos,  parks, and museums. Go fishing at a local lake. The savings will range anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on your family size and what your normal vacation is.

7- Shop around for a better deal on your bank accounts. Fees vary widely between financial institutions. Be especially aware of over draft fees. Switching from a high cost mega-bank to a low cost credit union potentially could save you hundreds of dollars a year. Same goes for your car insurance, home owners insurance, and other financial products. If you haven't shopped around lately, you could be missing out on hundreds of dollars worth of savings.

8- Don't ever take a pay-day loan. These loans are stunningly overpriced, and borrowers often get trapped into constantly taking out these loans each payday. If you really need short-term cash, talk to your bank or credit union. Many have started programs similar to pay-day loans, but with a much less expensive interest rates. If you really are desperate for a one-time short-term loan, take the uncomfortable step of asking a friend, family member, or even your church for help.

9- Avoid impulse purchases. Impulse purchases can really add up over the course of a year. Shop with a list, and stick to it. Pay with cash, not credit cards (this will make you immediately feel the impact of the purchase). Don't go shopping for entertainment. Don't shop with friends (friends tend to talk each other into things, not out of them). Avoid watching the home shopping channels. Throw away junk mail unopened. Don't browse catalogs unless looking for something specific that you actually need.

10- Drop the gym bill. Unless you are a professional bodybuilder, there are cheaper ways to get the exercise you need. Walk, ride a bike, go hiking on the weekends, get an exercise DVD or two, do your own yard work (use a push mower), garden, buy a set of barbells or free weights (and use them), get a jump rope, do yoga at home (get a friend to join you)... Depending on what your gym charges, the potential savings is hundreds of dollars a year or more.

Bonus Tip: Here is a way to make some extra money, and declutter your life in the process - have a yard sale. Chances are, there is a lot of unused junk in your home that you could get rid of and make a few bucks in the process.
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This article is part of an ongoing Prepper Financial Series. Here are the other articles in that series:

*** Foundational Advice: Eliminate Debt and Build Savings 
*** Quick Financial Tips for Preppers (and Everyone Else)
*** How To Raise Money For Your Prepping Activities
*** Precious Metals and the Prepper
 
*** Taming the Family Budget
*** 18 Easy Ways to Save Money 
*** Prepper's Guide to Junk Silver (article from 2014)


Future articles in the Prepper Financial Series will come out on an almost weekly basis, typically on Mondays.
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Thursday, September 20, 2018

Lessons from the History of Famines


During famines more people die from violence and disease than from actual starvation. This surprising fact has been noted by Economic Historian Cormac Ó Gráda and others who have studied the history of famines. 

Without getting into the causes and outcomes of famines (Ó Gráda and others have written many scholarly papers and books on the subject), I want to examine what this means for preppers and survivalists:

Disease prevention and medical readiness, along with security and self-defense, are equal to food and water as areas of concern.  

The need to address food and water is ubiquitous within the prepper and survivalist community. It is usually the first bit of advice offered to newbies, and it is probably the most discussed area of preparedness. Many articles and books have been written on the subject, covering everything from food storage, to raising and preserving food, to providing food through hunting, fishing, and gathering wild edibles. 

Taking care of this area to ensure you and your family won't die from lack of food isn't enough. During a famine, you will still be vulnerable to the violence and sickness of those in your area who aren't prepared food-wise. 

Threats from violence during a feminine are obvious.  Folks desperate from a lack of food will turn to stealing, looting, and rioting. But it is more than just the desperate masses you need to fear. Famines are often accompanied by wars and/or political collapse. Local warlords and strongmen often rise up attempting to take advantage of the situation.  These folks typically come from the ranks of the police, military, or criminal gangs, meaning they are surprising well-armed and well-trained, disciplined, with an already established chain-of-command and operating procedures. In other words, they will be much more dangerous than your average group of looters. 

Thus security and self-defense needs to be a major area of concern and preparation on your part. This includes not only hardening your home, as well as guns and ammo, but also training and developing standard operating procedures. Situational awareness is also a crucial skill to learn. First aid is a skill everyone in your family or group should have, including the ability to apply a tourniquet and dress a major wound (such as from a knife or gunshot).

I recommend the book Retreat Security and Small Unit Tactics by David Kobler (Southern Prepper 1) and Mark Goodwin for more information on security planning, training, and tactics.

Medical preparations for a famine include developing good health beforehand, practicing good hygiene and sanitation during the crisis (which includes stockpiling hygiene, sanitation, and cleaning supplies), learning and taking preventative measures, and learning how to deal with common medical conditions that may occur. This last suggestion includes stockpiling what medical supplies and medicine you may need, and knowing possible alternatives such as wild medicinals and foods, herbs, & spices with anti-bacterial or other curative properties. Having a medical professional or two in your group would be a tremendous blessing, of course, but even if you don't, someone needs to be made the group "doctor." This person should be given the primary responsibility to learn both advanced first aid and as much medical knowledge as they can before the crisis ensues.

A great medical resource all preppers and survivalists should have, in my opinion, is The Survival Medicine Handbook by Joe Alton, MD, and Amy Alton, ARNP.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Spread Constitutional Literacy!

https://amzn.to/2OgaatY
Spread Constitutional Literacy by giving away pocket copies of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.  It's an idea that I've been promoting during the Fall for the past several years. 

Autumn is an especially good time of year for this project because of all the extra opportunities that it presents to give-away small tokens to people: Halloween, fall festivals, campaign events and political rallies, among many other opportunities.

Pocket Constitutions are available from Amazon (currently for $1 each with free shipping for both prime members or when ordering 25 or more).  You may also be able to order them from political and educational organizations that occasional offer them for sale.  I am an Amazon Affiliate, so ordering them through my links to Amazon help to support this site in a small way. 

Pocket Constitutions  make great giveaways for:
  • Back-to-School 
  • History and Social Studies Classes
  • Halloween
  • Fall Festivals
  • Campaign Events and Political Rallies
  • Scout Troops
  • Churches and Sunday School Classes
  • Bible Study and Prayer Groups
  • Clubs and Civic Organizations
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Monday, September 17, 2018

18 Easy Ways to Save Money

Money Mondays continues (see index at bottom)...

Looking to save money to pay off debt, build savings, or buy prepper supplies?  Here are 18 Easy Ways to Save Money:

1- Avoid impulse purchases by shopping with checklists, and sticking to the lists.

(Many folks don't pay attention to impulse purchases because they tend to be quite small - only a few bucks -  but those small individual purchase add up to big money fast. Averaging just three dollars a day will add up to over $1,000 in just a year.)

2- See something you want that isn't on your list? Don't buy it. Write it down and add it to your list for next time. Chances are good that after you have had a day or two to think about it, the impulse to buy it will go away.

3- Avoid impulse purchases by paying with cash, not credit or debit cards. This way you will immediately see & feel the pain of the purchase.

(I'm harping on impulse purchases because I'm convinced most people greatly underestimate how much they really spend on these typically small purchases. This is an easy category to save money on IF you are willing to take an honest look at your spending habits.)

4- Avoid shopping for fun or entertainment. Don't go to the mall or shopping center just to have something to do.

5- Avoid social shopping with friends. People tend to talk each other into things, not out of them.

6- Do not watch infomercials or home shopping channels.

7- Do not catalog shop unless you are looking for something specific.

8- Shop for quality not quantity. Something that costs more because it is of better quality and therefore will last longer, will be cheaper in the long run than something that initially costs less, but will wear out or break much quicker. 

(I've bought cheap clothes at Walmart that literally started to unravel and even get holes in them after the very first washing. They may cheaper than better clothes, but that are NOT less expensive in the long run.)

9- Stick with classic styles and colors, rather than styles that are "in" at the moment. Avoid fads.

10- Consider renting something instead of buying it if you will only use it once or very occasionally.

(Examples may include things like carpet cleaners and pressure washers.) 

11- Cancel newspapers and magazines that you don't read thoroughly or truly need professionally. Most will even refund the unused portion of your subscription.

12- Make use of your local library for newspapers, magazines, books, DVDs and CDs. Only buy those that you cannot get for free at the library or that you will use repeatedly.

13- Use coupons whenever possible, but only for items you would buy anyway.

(I've found that generic and store brands are often cheaper than the name brand even when using a coupon. Example: on a recent trip to Walmart, I had a coupon for 50¢ off two cans of Barbasol Saving cream. The regular price of the Equate brand of saving cream was still cheaper.)
 
14- Use sales fliers and the Internet to comparison shop. Prices can vary widely from store to store on the same item.

15- Warehouse stores (Sam's Club, Costco, etc.)  are good ways to save money, but don't assume they are always the cheapest option.  Often times a generic or store brand elsewhere will be just as good and less expensive than a name brand at the warehouse store.

16- Avoid the use of credit cards, charge accounts, rent-to-own, and other forms of debt. You will not only save on interest and other fees, you will most likely buy less in the first place.

17- If you have credit card debt, be extra diligent to make payments on time. The late fees and higher interest rates due to missed or late payments add up fast.

18- Hang out your clothes to dry. Dryers are among the most expensive appliances to run in terms of energy cost.
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This article is part of an ongoing Prepper Financial Series. Here are the other articles in that series:

*** Foundational Advice: Eliminate Debt and Build Savings 
*** Quick Financial Tips for Preppers (and Everyone Else)
*** How To Raise Money For Your Prepping Activities
*** Precious Metals and the Prepper

*** Taming the Family Budget
*** Prepper's Guide to Junk Silver (article from 2014)


Future articles in the Prepper Financial Series will come out on an almost weekly basis, typically on Mondays.
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Saturday, September 15, 2018

Planning Your Escape: Considerations for Bugging Out



Most people's Plan A should be to "bug in" or "hunker down" during an emergency. But, things may become dangerous in your area (wild fires, power plant accidents, rioters & looters, government actions, etc.), so plan now for your possible escape, should it become necessary. When will you bug-out? Where you will go? How will you get there? What happens if your primary path is blocked? Do you know alternative routes? What should you take with you?  

Here are some considerations for planning your escape:

1- Know when to Bug-Out. This is probably the hardest part of your planning.  The best advice for most people in most situations is to stay put as long as possible. Hunker down where you are, unless and until it becomes too dangerous to do so. You don't want to face the open road during a highly chaotic and dangerous time unless you absolutely have to leave for your own safety.

To put it in simple terms:  Bug-out when doing so is less dangerous than staying where you are.  But, how to know when that is? How do you strike the balance between leaving too early and leaving too late? 

The key is applying situational awareness and the OODA loop (link to my January article) to the developing situation. Pay attention to what's happening, not just on the national level, but especially what's happening on the local level. Local news & talk radio will be more useful to monitor during a crisis than national broadcast and cable news channels. Having the ability to monitor local police and emergency dispatch will also be very useful. Check out Broadcastify for a way to monitor local dispatch via the Internet. Other apps and websites are available. You can also get a hand-held or desktop radio scanners for when the Internet is out.

Use commonsense and rational thinking (don't be overly emotional) to analyze what is going on in your area. The goal is to bug-out when things are obviously going south, but haven't yet spiraled completely out-of-control.

"But what if my Plan A is to bug-out?"  Okay. I get it. Many people feel they have to (or want to) live in a big city or other unsuitable location for riding out TEOTWAWKI.  If your Plan A is bugging-out, then do so as early as possible to avoid the traffic jams, limited fuel supplies, and chaos of the last minute escape.  In your case, it is etter to bug-out too early, then to bug-out too late. You can always return home after you realize it wasn't SHTF after all.

2- Plan a Bug-Out location. Obviously, the best bug-out location is one which you already own and have developed for your needs. But for most of us, that is difficult to do. The next best choice is probably a friend or relative's place. 

Maybe your Uncle George has a fishing cabin in the mountains. Or Great Aunt Ida lives alone in that huge old house on the outskirts of a  small town in the Ozarks. Or Cousin Eddie has a small farm in Kentucky. Talk to them about using their place as a bug-out location. You could even stockpile some food, clothes, and other supplies there ahead of time. You don't even have to move into the house with them. Perhaps you could park a camper or RV in their driveway or backyard.  

Other potential bug-out locations include national or state parks, church retreats, and for-profit campgrounds. 

3- Know how to get to your bug-out location. This means knowing how to get there using at least two different routes (in case one is blocked for some reason) without using GPS or google maps. Practice driving all routes before you need to bug-out for real. Keep directions, maps and a road atlas in your vehicle.

You should also learn the potential "hot spots" in your local area, and along the routes to your bug-out locations. By hot spots, I mean areas that are more likely than others to be dangerous. Examples include heavily urban areas and college campuses which will likely see looting and/or rioting early on. Bad neighborhoods, already dangerous high crime areas, will only be worse during SHTF. Areas with a heavy Muslim population, or near mosques, will be dangerous for non-Muslims (forgive my political incorrectness).  Busy intersections and areas where traffic already snarls during normal rush hours, will likely be impassable during SHTF. Road construction is another potential hot spot, as one or more lanes may be blocked by equipment and materials. 


4- Make sure your vehicle is in good shape, and fueled up.  You're bug-out plans will fail if your vehicle breaks down, or if you run out of gas. Keep your oil changed on a regular basis, and quickly make any necessary repair. Make sure your tires, including spares, are in good shape. Check out my article Preppers' Auto Maintenance Schedule for more on this topic.

5- Put together a small emergency kit for your vehicle. Include things to keep your vehicle running (extra oil, transmission fluid, jumper cables, fix-a-flat, etc.). Include a good flashlight with extra batteries. If you can do basic auto repairs (a great skill to learn), keep some useful tools and spare parts in vehicle. Also include things you might need in an emergency (a first aid kit, a warm blanket, bottles of water, power bars or other food, etc.)

6- Have a Bug Out or Evacuation Bag already packed for each member of your family. Include a change of clothes, some food, water, personal hygiene supplies, individual first aid kit, a compact New Testament or prayer book, flashlight and extra batteries, emergency poncho, and whistle in each bag. Adults and teens should have additional items such as a knife, multi-tool, matches or lighters, duct tape, outdoor survival gear, sewing kits, etc. In the bags of children, be sure to include written information such as name & age of the child, family contact info, and lists of any allergies, medications & health conditions, should the child become separated from the rest of the family. Also include a favorite toy, coloring books, crayons, and/or a few other distractions for the kids. In your bag, be sure to include copies of insurance policies, deeds, birth certificates, vaccination records, medical records, bank numbers, passports, and other personal records (ideally in a small notebook or envelope, and possibly on a USB stick or other digital storage). 

7- Decide what to pack. You may only have time to grab your bug-out bags and go. But, should you have more time to pack your vehicle, decide beforehand what you want to take with you. Possibilities include extra food, water, and clothes, cleaning and hygiene supplies, tools (hand and/or gardening), reference books, camping gear, and even sentimental items such as family photos and heirlooms. Thinking about where you will bug-out to will help you determine what extra items you should take if there is time.
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Saturday, September 8, 2018

Taming the Family Budget

Having trouble making your budget fit your paycheck? Here are a few ideas that you may find helpful.

Small Purchase = Big Money

Money spent on little things - sodas, snacks, and impulse items of all sorts - can add up really quickly. A great example is a guy I used to work with who constantly complained about not having any money. Every afternoon he would head down to the break room and buy a Pepsi and a Snickers bar from the vending machine. It was only a $1.75, but he spent that money five days a week. Over the course of a year, that adds up to almost $450. 

We tend to dismiss small purchases as being insignificant - its only a couple of bucks - but when we make a lot of small purchases, those couple of bucks add up to hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars over time.

Entertainment and Eating Out

 
We all have busy schedules, and eating out is quicker and more convenient than making a meal at home. But it can be expensive, and it really adds up over time. Eating out is a huge piece of most people's budget. A piece that can be easily reduced.

Taking a bag lunch of leftovers to work with you instead of buying lunch at the local fast food eatery will save you big bucks over the course of a year. How much? If you spend five dollars a day for lunch, that is over $1,200 a year. If you are a two-income family with both of you eating out at lunch, this doubles to over $2,400 a year. And we haven't even talked about family dinners out, yet.

Entertainment is a purely optional budget expense. Eliminate it. You can be entertained without spending much, or even any, money. Learn (or re-learn) how to have a good time for free or nearly free. Take a walk with your spouse or with a friend. Start a family game night. Play with your kids in the backyard. Invite friends over for a weekend cook-out, or a movie night (with the DVD checked out from your local library for free). Next week they can invite you over.

Read a book (checked out from the library for free, of course) instead of going to a movie. Libraries are a wonderful source of free entertainment. In addition to books and magazines, many libraries today also offer audio books, movies on DVD, music CDs, and even board games that you can check out. Many have story times for young children and lecture series for adults you can attend for free.


Telecommunications is THE Modern Budget-Buster

When I was a child (the 1970s) the only telecommunications expense my family, most families, had was the telephone, and that was a land line, of course. TV programs were free over-the-air, and there was no Internet. Today, many families pay for a land line, multiple cell phones, texting privileges, special ringtones, cable or satellite TV subscriptions, extra movie channels, Internet connections, gaming and movie subscriptions (Netflix, Hulu, etc.), special apps for their $500 (or more) smart phones, even satellite radio subscriptions. For most families major savings can be found in this budget category.

Do you really need a smart phone? Do you really need the absolute latest (and most expensive) version of your smart phone? I have a regular cell phone myself, but it is the basic model that only cost me $19.99 (and I didn't have to commit to a plan). I can text and make phone calls on my cheap phone as easily as you can on your smart phone. A cell phone may be a necessity for many today, but all the expensive bells and whistles are luxuries you probably can do without.

We have allowed them to make us addicted to our smart phones and other electronic devices. Maybe its time to overcome our addictions and spend our money on getting ready for the future instead of funding those million-dollar bonuses of telecom executives.  

The same thing goes for cable or satellite TV. Do you really need to have all the movie channels? Do you really need all the HD channels? Do you really need the expanded package with all the sports channels and all the music channels? Or can you get by just fine with the much less expensive basic package?

Or better yet, do away with TV altogether. Radical idea, but somehow humanity survived for thousands of years before TV, so technically it is possible.

Drop the Vacation

Vacations can cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. Staycations are a hot new trend. Instead of heading for the beach, or Disneyland, or wherever, stay home. Spend a week visiting local museums, zoos, botanical gardens, historical sites, parks, or wildlife refuges. Go on a picnic or nature hike. Go fishing at a local lake. Play frisbee with your kids in the backyard. Or just relax at home, thinking of all the money you are saving.
--------------

This article is part of an ongoing Prepper Financial Series. Here are the other articles in that series:


*** Foundational Advice: Eliminate Debt and Build Savings 
*** Quick Financial Tips for Preppers (and Everyone Else)
*** How To Raise Money For Your Prepping Activities
*** Precious Metals and the Prepper

Future articles in the Prepper Financial Series will come out on an almost weekly basis.

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Please subscribe to this website using the Follow By Email field at the bottom of the right hand column.

Follow me on GAB at  https://gab.ai/TimGamble

Follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/TimGamble 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

How Not To Get Sick This Cold and Flu Season

Schools are back in session. The days are starting to get shorter and cooler.  Winter will be here before we know it. And we know what that means: Cold and Flu season is fast approaching.

Its actually not the cold weather that makes us sick, but the fact that we're all suddenly spending a lot more time indoors, in close contact with lots of other people, allowing diseases to spread like wildfire. Schools, in particular, are extremely efficient incubators of all sorts of diseases.

No one like to get sick, so the question is: What can we do to avoid getting sick? Quite a lot, actually!


The Common Sense Basics

>>> Wash your hands thoroughly and often. Hopefully, everyone realizes the importance of hand-washing, so I won't waste time trying to sell you on the idea. Instead, let's define "thoroughly" and "often." Thoroughly: wash your hands with soap and warm water, vigorously rubbing them together for at least twenty seconds. Then dry your hands completely. How often: *VERY* - when you wake up, before each meal and snack, after going to the restroom, after coughing or sneezing on your hands, after handling money, after being around sick people, after shaking hands with someone, after handling phones (extremely germy), keyboards, & door handles, and before going to bed. Hand sanitizers are okay in a pinch, but are less effective than soap & water; use them until you can get to the nearest wash-basin.

>>> Get plenty of sleep. Unfortunately, modern civilization is a 24/7 event these days, and many folks now brag about (as if it were a contest) how little sleep they need and still be able to get by. You might be able to "get by" with less, but research proves that adults, and their immune systems, actually need 8 - 9  hours of sleep to perform at optimal levels. For example, a 2009 Carnegie Mellon study found that adults who get less than seven hours of sleep are three times more likely to get sick, than adults who get at least 8 hours.

>>> Drink plenty of water. When you are dehydrated, it dries out and reduces the effectiveness of the watery, protective surfaces lining your mouth, throat, eyes, lungs, stomach, and intestines. Stay hydrated!

>>> Eat a healthy diet, including lots of fresh vegetables, fruits, fish, and other nutritious foods. Avoid overdoing sugar and alcohol. Both are known to negatively impact the immune system in excessive amounts. Modern, processed foods are typically loaded with lots of sugar of various types, so you may likely be consuming too much sugar even if you avoid sweets - pay attention to labels. Many condiments, such as catsups and salad dressings, are often loaded with sugar AND people typically use more than one "official" serving, thus multiplying the amount of sugar they're getting without realizing it. If you drink alcohol, stick to one glass of red wine a day.

>>> Get plenty of exercise. Exercise pumps up the immune system by boosting the production of disease-fighting white blood cells. It also floods the body with stress-reducing hormones, and less stress means a more efficient immune system.


Additional Steps To Take

>>> Learn to relax. Stress, particularly long-term stress, leads to an overproduction of a class of hormones called glucocorticoids, which suppress the immune system. Exercise, yoga, meditation, listening to calming music, prayer, participating in a hobby, or just quietly reading can all be wonderful ways to relax.

>>> Sanitize the surfaces in your life - keyboards, door handles, phones, etc. - at home and at work. I personally use Lysol Disinfecting Wipes almost daily to wipe down my desk, keyboard, mouse, and phone.

>>> Don't bite your nails. Think about it: the small gaps under your nails make great breeding grounds for germs, and are easy to not clean well when washing your hands.

>>> Make sure your getting enough vitamins and minerals. This is best done by eating a healthy diet with a wide range of fruits & veggies, but a daily vitamin & mineral supplement may add some additional insurance. An article by the Harvard Medical School recently mentioned that deficiencies of zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C, and E can negatively impact the immune system. 

The Difficult-to-Do

>>> Avoid sick people. This one is a lot easier said than done, as we have little control over people who choose to go to work, school, or shopping while sick. But, to the extent you can, avoid being around with people who are sick. This means trying to avoid large crowds whenever possible. When you do have to be around someone who is sick, take proper precautions like washing your hands frequently.

https://amzn.to/2M5oCTZ>>> Wear a face mask in public. Taking the bus, train, or subway, or otherwise hanging around a large crowd of people in tight quarters? Take a clue from the Japanese and wear a surgical mask. This will help you not spread your own germs and help you avoid the germs of other people. (They are also great pollen blockers for those suffering from hay fever.)  This isn't common in the west as it is in Asia, so you'll likely get a lot of strange looks. But, is it really effective? Actually, yes. According to a study published in The International Journal of Infectious Diseases (December 2008 issue, page e328), masks have a protective efficacy of over 80% against respiratory illnesses like colds and influenza.


The Controversial

>>> Get a flu shot, or don't. I'm not going to tell you what to do on this one - its up to you. People on both sides of the debate have strong feelings when it comes to vaccines. Pro-vaccine people point to the success of vaccinations with wiping out diseases like polio and smallpox, and fervently believe that modern vaccines are safe. Anti-vaccine people point to a lot of anecdotal evidence that vaccines can cause various problems such as autism and infertility, and they don't trust corporations or the government to tell the truth about the safety of vaccinations. And a third set of folks believe that vaccines are generally safe, but that we are way over-medicating ourselves, which could create unintended consequences. Therefore, they are reluctant to take every recommended vaccine that comes on the market. Decide for yourself. Need more information to decide? Check out: 


Vaccinations: A Thoughtful Parent's Guide: How to Make Safe, Sensible Decisions about the Risks, Benefits, and Alternatives, discusses the pros and cons of vaccinations in a fairly even-handed way.

The blurb: "Midwife, herbalist, and mother of four, Aviva Jill Romm sifts through the spate of current research on vaccine safety and efficacy and offers a sensible, balanced discussion of the pros and cons of each routine childhood vaccination. She presents the full spectrum of options available to parents: full vaccination on a standardized or individualized schedule, selective vaccination, or no vaccinations at all. Negotiating daycare and school requirements, dealing with other parents, and traveling with an unvaccinated child are covered in detail. The book also suggests ways to strengthen children's immune systems and maintain optimal health and offers herbal and homeopathic remedies for childhood ailments. Emphasizing that no single approach is appropriate for every child, the author guides parents as they make the choices that are right for their child." Available on Amazon
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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Type II Diabetes - Warning Signs & Risk Factors


I am a Type II diabetic, diagnosed with an a1c of 10.1 (extremely high) in July of 2015. I also developed diabetic retinopathy (a disease of the eyes) around the same time. Happily, I have been able to reduce my a1c to 5.9 (almost normal), and am maintaining it without any insulin or other medication (my doctor took me off Metformin several months ago). 

Early detection of diabetes is crucial in managing the disease and in avoiding the many complications that can result form diabetes. Had I been diagnosed earlier, I probably could have avoided developing retinopathy, and would not have needed the 20+ injections in each eye that I have received over the last three years. Please take a few minutes to look over the following list of warning signs and risk factors  for Type II Diabetes. Having any one, or even all, of these warning signs does not mean you have type II diabetes. But, please don't ignore them. Check with your doctor, especially if you have multiple warning signs.

Warning Signs & Risk Factors of Type II Diabetes*
  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent headaches
  • Increased thirst
  • Feeling that your mouth is dry all the time
  • Increased hunger, even after eating
  • Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
  • Frequent urination
  • Frequent urine infections
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue (feeling tired all the time)
  • Tingling/numbness in ands or feet
  • A family history of diabetes (a blood relative with diabetes)
  • Being overweight (not necessarily obese)
  • A sedentary lifestyle (little exercise or physical activity, a "couch potato")
  • An unhealthy diet (lots of fast food, junk food, sweets, etc.)
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http://amzn.to/20Ss5eE
Of all the books on diabetes I've read, the best and most useful is 60 Ways to Lower Your Blood Sugar by Dennis Pollock. Pollock's book is an aggressive plan to control your blood sugar by bringing together the best of traditional and alternative medicine. What I appreciate about Pollock's approach is that it is based on solid science, even the "alternative" aspects, and is not some hippy-dippy book that rejects science (avoid those). Also, I found his ideas easy to follow.


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Monday, September 3, 2018

Book Review: Who Wants to Be Free?

https://amzn.to/2oCtBT2
I recently bought an autographed copy of Amanda Hughes' book Who Wants to Be Free? in an online auction for Constituting America. For those not familiar with it, Constituting America is an excellent organization that strives to educate Americans about the Constitution and the rights it guarantees for all of us. The organization particularly strives to reach young people through popular culture. You can check out their website at constitutingamerica.org for more on their mission, programs, educational resources, and contests.  

Modern society is often hostile towards open expressions of traditional Christianity, especially within the political sphere. The Christian beliefs of our founders, and the role those beliefs played in the creation of our country, has been mostly expunged from our nation's textbooks.  The Biblical principles underlying America's founding documents - the true source of American Exceptionalism - are denied. The Freedom of Religion guaranteed to us in the First Amendment has been twisted into a kind of "freedom from religion" in an attempt to remove any religious discussions or considerations from the public square. 

Many Christians have been left wondering what, if any, role their religious beliefs should play in their political lives. Can a Christian participate in politics? Should we let our religious beliefs inform our political beliefs? Is it okay to vote based on our Christian ideals and values? Does Christianity have any legitimate place in political leadership or policy making? How do you, as a Christian, participate in the American political system? If you have any questions like these, Amanda Hughes has written an excellent book for you.

Who Wants to Be Free? is a short book (99 pages) that is absolutely packed with information presented in a way that is easy to understand.  Filled with quotes and examples from the Bible and historical figures, Hughes answers provides answers for those questions and more. In the introduction, she writes:

In Who Wants to Be Free, you will learn
  • What defines freedom and why understanding it matters to you
  • What is at stake by ignoring your heritage as a Christian in America.
  • Biblical principles about freedom that will help you cast a wise ballot.  
  • Questions to ask yourself and candidates before you vote.
  • How to keep up with the issues and stay involved in politics without getting overwhelmed.
If those are Hughes' goals for this book, she certainly achieves them. She provides important Biblical and historical context for understanding government and leadership, vividly illustrates the difference between leadership with God's direction and leadership without God's direction, explains the Founders' profound understanding of human nature and how it was incorporated into their design for our government, and how all of this should impact our responsibilities as Christian citizens and patriots. In the last couple of chapters, Hughes gives a lot of practical tips and information on the how to aspect of "Getting Freedom Done" (the title of chapter 10). 

An excellent resource, I highly recommend this book for any Christian wondering about the intersection between religion and politics, between being a Christian and a patriot. 

Who Wants to Be Free? is currently available on Amazon for only $11.95 (price subject to change).

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Folks interested in this topic may also be interested in my articles:

Freedom of Worship vs. Freedom of Religion  

The Patriot Citizen and Politics
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