Karl S. writes: You have been writing about these smart meters for some time. Now a lot of people know about them. This article [“Fee for Refusing ‘Smart Meter’ Sought,” Springfield News-Sun (September 5, 2014)] was in our newspaper. Sending it to you.
Lee responds: Thanks for sending me the article from your local paper. I often find that onthe-ground local reporting elucidates what’s really going on in the country. At least more so than top-down storylines manufactured from New York City and Washington, D.C
The article states that Duke Energy and other utility companies are seeking to impose fines on individuals who refuse smart meters. Talk about petty and punitive…Duke Energy plans to charge $1,073 just to uninstall a smart meter from a home. On top of that, it wants to exact an ongoing monthly fee of $40.63 on any household that rejects a smart meter.
These devices transmit data about your electricity usage wirelessly using cellular and radio signals. Utility companies insist it saves the hassle and expense of manual meter reading. But smart metering gives them (and government regulators) access to a much broader spectrum of data about you – instantaneously, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
As smart meters become the norm, opting out of them will become increasingly difficult. If you want to fully and permanently rid yourself of these data collection/transmission devices and the “signal” pollution they emit, then you may have to go off the grid. It is possible to power a house using solar panels, propane, wood, and backup generators.
Electricity delivered by the power company typically costs between 10 and 20 cents per kilowatt-hour. New-generation solar panels can deliver power to homes in that cost range in many parts of the country – after factoring in the 30% federal renewable energy tax credit that most homeowners will be eligible for.
There are greater up-front costs to becoming energy self-sufficient. But if you are able to do so in your current home (or are willing to move to a location where it’s feasible), the advantages pile up. Greater privacy. More resilience to rolling blackouts or systemic failures in the power grid. Potential savings over time vs. perpetually rising power company bills.
More About Bitcoins
Lester R. writes: Is the government manipulating the value of Bitcoins? If so, what’s the end game?
Lee responds: The market value of a Bitcoin has dropped 70% over the past year. About the time CNBC started reporting heavily on it last fall was probably the time to get out of it. We’ve cautioned in these pages against owning Bitcoin as anything other than a purely speculative instrument.
I don’t see evidence of direct government manipulation of the Bitcoin price-setting mechanisms on the exchanges. That doesn’t mean it’s not happening or that the government won’t one day regulate or shut down some of these Bitcoin exchanges. It almost certainly is tracking all Bitcoin transactions (which are automatically entered into a blockchain database). Of course, some have theorized that the CIA helped promote Bitcoin early on to get the masses excited about digital currency.
That’s the real end game – to bring the cash economy and the underground economy into the digital (traceable) realm. U.S. authorities want a cashless economy for obvious reasons pertaining to law enforcement and tax collection. Physical cash and tangible barter instruments such as gold and silver coins remain the least traceable ways of paying for things.
Hillary Clinton and ISIS
Charles H. writes: Do you think that Hillary Clinton is the mother of ISIS? She kept them off the terrorist list until they were able to take charge in killing Christians, non Muslims, and Jews.
Lee responds: In my lead story this month, I talk about how the Clinton Administration’s technology giveaway to the Chinese in exchange for campaign cash now threatens U.S. Navy ships operating near Japan.
But sure, Hillary Clinton bears some responsibility for the rise of ISIS. It’s not just that these bloodthirsty savages weren’t treated as terrorists. It’s much worse. Under Mrs. Clinton’s watch as Secretary of State, we (as taxpayers) funded Islamist fighters in Egypt, Syria, and elsewhere. The administration called them “moderates.” Now they’re known as ISIS.
Team Hillary is trying to put distance between her performance as Secretary of State and Barack Obama’s foreign policy failures. And also trying to distract from her own on-the-job failures (including her role in the Benghazi scandal). Long-time Clintonite and former Obama Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has come out with a critique of Mr. Obama’s leadership.
Funding Islamic rebels carries huge risks. In the 1980s, the U.S. aided Islamic militants in Afghanistan in their fight against the Soviet Union. These unsavory characters went on to become al Qaeda and the Taliban.
The objective of stopping Soviet expansionism was a legitimate concern for U.S. foreign policy. Today, spreading democracy in the Islamic world has become a core objective of the military. This has nothing to do with our national interests. These globalist democracy spreaders somehow never bothered to consider the consequences of promoting democracy in places where the majority favors Shariah Law (which entails the subjugation of women, stonings and beheadings, destruction of churches, synagogues, Buddha statues, etc.).
Some parts of the world just don’t seem ready for liberal democracy. It would almost take a dictator to prevent groups like ISIS from spreading. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not for propping up dictators. Defeating the ability of ISIS to harm our country is a must. And also to realize that the Islamic State is partly a problem of our own government’s creation.
Gold, Silver and Your Personal Time-Line
Kyle S. writes: I’ve seen losses on some of my gold and silver holdings recently. I have a 10-year holding period in mind, so I’m not selling anything. I would actually like to add to my positions at these levels. Which of the precious metals would you favor for a 10-year investment? Gold, silver, platinum, or palladium?
Lee responds: It’s good that you have a long-term time horizon. I would personally want to own all four precious metals (as part of a well-diversified portfolio that includes dividendpaying stocks and other assets).
If I had to pick just one, I suppose it would be silver – not because I’m emotionally wedded to it, but because lately it’s gotten cheap relative to gold. The per-ounce spot price of silver recently got down to 1/70th the price of gold. I think that over time it can move closer to 1/20th or 1/10th the gold price.
There is historic precedent for these ratios and good fundamental reason to think they might be revisited. For one thing, silver is only about 10 times more plentiful than gold in the ground.
Silver is an extraordinarily volatile metal. So if at some point – whether in 10 years or 2 years – the silver market gets overheated, I would be inclined to favor gold. It’s more stable.
About Your Family’s Food Security
Linda A. writes: You recently extolled the benefits of stocking up on frozen foods. What about the diminished nutritional value of frozen foods compared to fresh?
Lee responds: Frozen foods generally retain more nutritional value, and come with fewer chemical additives, than canned foods. That’s why I suggest buying an extra freezer for longer-term storage of some emergency foods. I’m not talking about frozen snack products like Eggo waffles that have little nutritional value to begin with. I’m talking about things like frozen fruits and vegetables.
Surprisingly, some frozen fruits and vegetables may retain more nutrients than the “fresh” produce at your grocery store. Fruits and vegetables can lose nutrients and acquire chemical contaminants in the process of being handled and transported in different temperature environments before finally being displayed inside a grocery store. Produce can then pick up germs and other contaminants in the air while on display.
Fruits and veggies that are frozen and sealed get their nutrients locked in. They have greater protection from the handling/display environment. Yes, over time, freezer burn can erode the quality of frozen foods. But double sealing them in foil wrap and freezer bags or vacuum sealing them in airtight containers can enable most frozen foods to keep for months.
If you grow some of your own fruits and vegetables or obtain them from a local farmer’s market, great. The less distance they have to travel to get to you, generally the fresher they’ll be.
You should still have some canned and freeze-dried foods in your pantry as emergency reserves. If you lose power and/or the ability to drive to a well-stocked grocery store for an extended period, you’ll be able to fall back on what’s in your pantry.