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Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Tomorrow I continue my quest to search for Kenjiro's grandmothers. The following excerpt is from SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth:
In 1963, after a short stint in the Army Reserves, while on a trainee assignment to the Kilauea Sugar Company on Kauai, a newsletter noted my arrival. A very old man came up to me one day and said he had known my grandfather. My initial reaction was mild astonishment, as while I knew that my father had been born on Kauai, I don’t recall him talking much about his parents. That individual said my grandfather was involved with the Wainiha Powerhouse and was extraordinary, in that he was very well educated and served as a supervisor. Unfortunately, he died only a few years after arriving and was buried up on the hill above the town. My family knew I was on this island. Why had no one said that I should visit my grandfather’s burial spot, for the culture of even Hawaii Japanese, was to honor the dead. Then again, maybe someone did and I did not pay any attention.

Well, returning to 1963, weeks later, this gentleman came back and said he had found the gravestone, which was outside the cemetery fence, and that he and his friends went on to restore the area. He led me there and took a photo of me with his daughter, two neighbor children and Pearl. I am today, 44 years later, now kicking myself, for I never really expressed my thanks to him. Only as I write this sentence do I appreciate the enormity of what he did, for I recently used this finding as the starting point for my roots search. Also too, I never bothered to ask him for details about my grandfather. I did, though, mail a copy of that photo to my older brother, Stan.

I pretty much forgot about all this until 2005, when I got a sudden urge to search for my roots. At this point, all I had were a few rumors. Yes, there was that encounter on Kauai 42 years previously and my first visit to the grave of my father’s father. Deep in my brain cells were wild thoughts of this grandfather being educated at Columbia University, his grandmother being a female samurai Robin Hood on Hokkaido…but no proof. And I still did not even know what his first name was. So the process of searching for my roots started at a one day workshop held at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii. This is where I created the family mon as a composite of two classic versions. I colorized this official form into the rainbow version shown above, which then became the cover for SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth. The mon represents a high bridge (Takahashi means high bridge in Japanese) to connect countries and people taking the high road to cooperation. This book hopes to serve this function.

In September of 2005, Pearl and I visited Misa Tamura, the son-in-law of that older gentleman, to find the gravestone on Kauai. Misa, himself, was well into his 80’s by then, and he asked if we also wanted to see my grandfather’s powerhouse, for somehow, the community even then, a century later, referred to the site as Takahashi’s powerhouse. The Wainiha Powerhouse was commissioned in 1906, and today produces 4 MW with essentially the same incoming pipes and generation equipment. Around this time, my brother, Stan, found the earlier photo and sent me a note that the name on the gravestone was Kenjiro Takahashi. Thus, I learned for the first time that I was named after this grandfather, for my middle name is Kenji.

There were still huge doubts on what was real until I had the good fortune to sit next to Elsie and David Ikegami at a 50th year Wedding Anniversary party of a mutual friend. David was born in Utah, was a Mormon, but lived most of his life in Hawaii. At the age of 80, he ran one of those Mormon family centers famous for conducting these root searches. I visited his office and passed on all the information I had, which was not much. Within two weeks his staff found a nine page document signed by the Secretary of the Territory of Hawaii showing that Kenjiro came to Kauai from America, was originally from Hokkaido, Japan, and served as a luna, or supervisor, at the Kilauea Plantation. He fell at the hydro site in 1906 and died in the same year that the powerhouse commenced operations. Well, with most of what I thought was largely made up now turning out to be true, the search was intensified with a trip to Utashinai, his home village, and will continue for Kenjiro’s grandmothers in Akita on Honshu and Otaru, just outside of Sapporo. Even if I find nothing else, there is enough already to write a book, tracing this possible female samurai Robin Hood to me. At this time, this one looms as a novel.
So tomorrow I'm off to search for Kenjiro's grandmothers in Otaru and Akita. As Japanese kosekis only go back 80 years, and these great-great grandmothers were all born around circa 1825, perhaps church records or folk tales will provide the only clues. As neither Pearl nor I read or communicate in Japanese, Hiromi Hotta, wife of Nihon University Ocean Engineering professor, Kenji Hotta, will be with us. She, too, has roots in Otaru, so she has been looking forward to this combined expedition.
The Dow Jones Industrials rose 87 to 7609. Except for Australia and Sweden, world markets went up. Gold increased a dollar to $918. The price of oil is now provided on the right.

Monday, March 30, 2009


The following is largely excerpted from Chapter 1 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity:

How to Build a Hydrogen Bomb…Not

If it’s very expensive and, further, not all that easy, to build an A-Bomb, the notion of a terroristic H-Bomb is nonsense. However, the Father of this ultimate of weapons, Edward Teller, weaves through my Books 1 and 2, and his involvement in the Einstein to FDR letters to build the A-Bomb inspired the Hydrogen Romantics to affect the G8 Nation gathering in Germany in 2007, and we are proceeding to make a bigger dent for the coming Italian summit. This is yet another example of how relationships influence events, linking elements of my life, in this case my two stints at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory on laser fusion. Teller also presented a paper in 1997 on some geoengineering options for remediating global climate change. So on to how to build the ultimate bomb on a relative shoestring budget.

The initial step is to first build an atomic bomb. Hint: you might need four of these. Then have this simultaneous blast ignite the hydrogen bomb. Very simple. The first test in 1952 of a 10.4 MT—700 times more destructive than Little Boy—bomb was all of two-stories tall and destroyed the Pacific island of Elugelab. Then there were a few more, capped by the USSR 57 MT, the Tsar Bomba, in 1961.

If the Al Qaeda terrorists on 9/11/01 were so successful in carrying out their mission, as difficult as it is to build a hydrogen bomb, it remains possible, remotely, of course, that a well-financed team might be able to detonate such a device to again capture the imagination of the world. Maybe they’re waiting for such a spectacle. That said, as an ultimate disclaimer, I have decided not to provide any details on exactly what to do with the atomic bombs, except that you need to attain about 100 million degrees Celsius and have access (can easily be purchased from any chemical supply house) to lithium deuteride, or, if this has any potential of setting off warning alarms, just a hundred pounds of lithium hydride. Theoretically, this H-Bomb could be a thousand times more powerful than Little Boy over Hiroshima.

What about the morality and ethics of all this? Well, our Federal Government and military-industrial complex do it all the time and even sell it to former enemies, or friends who could in a few short years become a foe. Certainly, there must be a better way, as I will soon suggest.
The Dow Jones Industrials sunk 254 to 7522. At one point the DJI was minus 335. President Obama gave General Motors two months and Chrysler one month to get their business game plan right. The possibility of bankruptcy is now a real option. No doubt, these prospects spooked the market. World markets were all down.
As reported on Friday, Barclays Capital predicted $48.50/barrel oil this week. The day ended at $48.62, down $3.76. In reversal of the Bush White House, President Obama today signed into law the protection of 2 million acres of wilderness area. Gold fell $7/toz to $917.
I will in the future only comment on oil and gold prices if something significant occurs or is expected. However, to the right is the running price of oil.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


The following is Part 33, excerpted from Chapter 1 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity:

How to Make an Atomic Bomb

It’s true, you can go to the internet and find out how to make an atomic bomb, at least, all disclaimers aside, with the principles to guide you. The wild card is the billion dollar price tag, which is conservative.

The literature says that all you need to do is to shape 110 pounds of Uranium 235 into a sphere with a small piece missing, and use a conventional explosive bullet detonator to shove the absent portion of the material into the ball to attain critical mass. Other guides suggest that 10 pounds of U235 might be sufficient. The explosion itself occurs in one millionth of a second. Little Boy on Hiroshima was of this type. If you need to start with the uranium ore, you also must separate the good stuff, U235 (about 0.6%), from the waste, U238, which is over 99% the batch. Thus, begin with 18 million pounds of crude uranium ore to obtain the required amount of U235 through a simple three step process of gaseous diffusion, magnetic separation and gaseous centrifugation. Harold Urey, who had in 1931 won a Nobel Prize for demonstrating the existence of heavy water, was instrumental in devising the gaseous diffuser to separate U235 from U238, and later again gained fame when his graduate student, Stanley Miller, formed amino acids in a flask with water, methane, ammonia, hydrogen and lab lightning.

Clearly, then, terrorists will not be setting up a mining operation. All they need to do is steal or purchase enriched uranium or plutonium. While the 1974 days of Karen Silkwood at the Kerr-McGee plant in Oklahoma are over, where 40 pounds of plutonium were supposedly lost, either Israel, the CIA or terrorists did steal some plutonium from the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation in Pennsylvania. Nonweapons grade U-235 can be purified with centrifuges, certainly within the capability of a lab in the desert. Weapons grade U-235, reportedly, can be purchased on the black market. The accessible spots are the former Soviet nations, but North Korea, apparently, is now out of the business. Syria? Well, Israel kiboshed that attempt, but Iran? Someday, maybe.

Only 22 pounds of Plutonium 239 can also be used, but that’s another process requiring a nuclear reactor, implosion and a U238 casing. Detonation occurs in one ten-millionths of a second. The process is difficult and uncertain. The first version of this bomb was The Gadget at Trinity on July 16, 1945 in New Mexico and second was Fat Man three weeks later on Nagasaki. An audition was necessary because scientists did not know for sure if this concept was going to work. Little Boy was a sure thing because of the type of technology.

With tongue firmly in cheek, an unacknowledged how to do it guide also pondered the psychological state of a possible American terrorist:

o Subscribes to one or more of the following: Soldier of Fortune, Hustler, Popular Mechanics, Self.

o I am my own best friend.

o I have seen the movie, Deer Hunter, more than once.

o I have read evidence that solar energy is a Communist conspiracy.

There were several more, but you get the point, of course. Don’t you?

The best brains on Earth in the Forties spent the 2007 equivalent of $23 billion ($2 billion then) to hit the nuclear jackpot three straight times. Can a terrorist group today repeat this act?
785: 140

Friday, March 27, 2009


The following is yet another forum exchange on Peak Oil and Global Heating:
I agree with you. If we had forever, or, even a century, (U.S. Secretary of Energy ) Chu's strategy might work. Peak Oil, however, is either here or around the corner. Under those circumstances, we can't wait for the genome table to solve our hydrolysis and fermentation problems for biofuels. We need to do something now.
A secretary of energy, however, is shackled by politics, which are getting in the way of progress. My HuffPo article of nine months ago addressed this issue. By the way, (Hawaii) Governor Lingle and the U.S. Department of Energy also think that plug-in electric vehicles are a complementary answer. Not really, as another HuffPo posting indicates. Did you know that the savior of Detroit, the Volt, will use batteries from South Korea? The car will also sell for $40,000. The direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) is that solution.
Why don't we, then, build it? The U.S. Department of Energy has forbidden funding for methanol, courtesy of the Farm Lobby. As far as I know, this attitude prevails today.
What a nation! If the 3D monsters movie opening today becomes #1 over the weekend, this will then be three weeks in a row an extraterrestrial movie is #1. Why do we have this fascination for ETs? My Chapter 4 from SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity treats the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, so I am, too, taking advantage of our beliefs. Can you believe you live in a country where the majority is looking forward to an afterlife, don't believe in evolution and don't think we are responsible for global warming? Oh yes, that is yet another HuffPo article.
Am I frustrated? Actually, life is great and I've done well in the stock market since my investments two weeks ago. Retirement brings incredible peace of mind, and after nearly a decade of refining this lifestyle, let's see, I need to golf tomorrow, and then, I'm on to my roots search for Kenjiro's grandmothers on Hokkaido. (In a few days I'll be sending postings from the road, hopefully not as memorable as some of my travels from Chapter 6 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity.)
The Dow Jones Industrials ended a good week down, 148 to 7776. World markets were also all mostly negative. Crude oil dropped $1.76/barrel to $52.38. Looks like the prognostication reported on yesterday for oil sinking below $50/bbl next week is looking good. By the way, natural gas is undergoing a meltdown, and $3/million Btu has been speculated by Barclays Capital. NG has fallen a third since December. I guess, maybe, global heating resulted in a warmer winter. Gold fell $10/toz to $924.
Tropical Cyclone Izilda, at 40 MPH, is soaking the southwestern coast of Madagascar, but is weakening.
By advocating the Blue Revolution, I appreciate the efforts of those involved in related fields. The Seasteading (think homesteading at sea) Institute's leader, Patri Friedman, speaks in D.C. next week at the Cato Institute. So if you live in the area, here are the essentials:
Patri Friedman is speaking at the Cato Institute in Washington DC, Tuesday, April 7th about the seasteading movement. If you’ll be in Washington, you’re more than welcome to join us, and if you’d like an interview with Patri, I’d be happy to set it up for you.

If you can’t make it, would you mind posting a link to help get the word out?

Here’s the
main link for the event, and the Facebook invite as well. It will be simulcast live online, so feel free to tune in.


Chris Moody
Manager of New Media
The Cato Institute
(202) 789-5215
I should add that the Cato Institute has been around for nearly a third of a century, and is a non-partisan libertarian think tank.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Today is Prince Kuhio Day, a State of Hawaii holiday. In the entirety of the 50 states, there are only two holidays in honor of royalty, both Hawaiian. King Kamehameha I, or Kamehameha the Great, was the first king of Hawaii. June 11 is that second holiday.
David Kawananakea Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole Piiloi was born on March 26, 1871, and died in 1922 at the age of 50 from heart disease. Why is he so important? Well, Kuhio lived quite a life.
In 1891, King David Kalakaua passed away, and his sister, Lydia Liliʻu Loloku Walania Wewehi Kamakaʻeha, became Queen Lili’uoakalani. She composed the words to “Aloha Oe.” The melody came from George Frederick Root’s 1854 song "There's Music in the Air.” Many favored early songs borrowed the music from elsewhere, as, for example, “Son’s of Hawaii,” the Kamehameha High School alma mater, came from a Yale Glee Club repertoire, where the original can be further traced to…? Our “Star-Spangled Banner” used music from a British drinking song. But I digress.
The Queen was deposed in 1893 when Prince Kuhio was in line to become the next king. In 1895 he participated in an uprising to overthrow Sanford Dole’s (no, his cousin James founded Dole Foods) Republic of Hawaii to reinstate Queen Lili’uoakalani, but the effort failed, and Kuhio was convicted and imprisoned for a year. In self-imposed exhile, he joined the British Army to fight in the South African Boer War, finally returning to Hawaii in 1902. He joined the Republican Party and was elected delegate to Congress, serving until 1921.
He is credited with the dredging of Pearl Harbor, establishment of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1921 that set aside land to be settled by Hawaiians. The Federal Building in Honolulu is named after him. Yes, he deserves the holiday called Prince Kuhio Day.
The Dow Jones Industrials jumped 175 to 7925, and world markets were also generally up. Crude oil increased $1.30/barrel to $54.14. However, one projection sees a correction below $50/bbl next week. Gold remained at $934/toz.
Tropical Cyclone Izilda, at 65 MPH, is moving south and slowing, but bringing considerable rainfall to South Madagascar.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


For the past many months now I have reported on a virtual discussion group on Planet Earth and Humanity. There are perhaps 25 of us, and they range the full spectrum from doomsdayish to hopeful. Everyone is concerned about the current economic collapse as a prelude to something worse.

China has been mentioned as problem, for, it is said, if they collect on what they have loaned to the U.S., we will truly be in trouble. Well, the current national debt is approximately $10.5 trillion dollars. China owns approximately $653 Billion, or only 6%.  The link on the right shows that this debt has now soared past $11 trillion, but the Chinese percentage has not changed much.

Further, last year, our stock market dropped about 38%, but both China and Russia crashed 70%. The reason why China invests in America is that this is the best place to place their money. CHINA WILL CONTINUE TO BUY U.S. TREASURIES. Have you noticed how much worse the rest of the world is doing?
The Dow Jones Industrials today went up 90 to 7750. That's more than a thousand from a couple of weeks ago.  At least there seems to be a sense that this Great Recession will not become depressive. World markets mostly increased. Crude dropped 70 cents/barrel to $52.84, while gold settled $4/toz to $934.
Tropical Cyclone Izilda is approaching cyclonic speeds in the South Indian Ocean west of Madagascar and could get close to the southern part of that country, while Tropical Cyclone Jasper east of Australia is losing strength.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


The following is largely excerpted from Chapter 1 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity:

Jon Ronson of The Guardian was commissioned in July 2002 to purchase materials to make a nuclear weapon, but was admonished to be careful with the expenses. He couldn’t have gone to “How to Build a Nuclear Bomb and Other Weapons,” because Frank Barnaby did not publish that book until 2004.
Ronson very quickly found that The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists indicating it could take billions of dollars was probably true. So Ronson set out just to make a dirty bomb—typical terrorist weapon laced with radioactive material. No, he couldn’t have accessed the Al Qaeda website on the subject, containing 80 pages of detail, because that manual was not made available until 2005. Russia seemed to be the best place to secure a supply, but some simple intelligence showed this was just too scary, so he ended up calling the Nuclear Security Administration in Las Vegas, where Darwin Morgan told him that U.S. businesses have misplaced some 1,500 pieces of radioactive equipment, especially density gauges, because they are commonly used by road building crews. But securing one would be a problem.

At this point he had come to the conclusion that actually killing a victim through radiation was not necessary, for the mere detection of any sort of radiation would discombobulate the citizenry. So, perhaps the internet? Ronson asks Jeeves, which sends him to eBay, which had an ongoing uranium auction: 22 grams of U-238 now going for $18.41, but useless as an A-bomb material. His expert contact said that was not frightening enough, so on to Cobalt-60 from food processing plants, which are mostly poorly guarded. Al Qaeda, incidentally, recommends radium. At this point, his expert stops giving him information, so he came to the conclusion that a terrorist posing as a Guardian reporter might someday be able do better than he. Ronson’s article is worth a read.

There is a second type of dirty bomb, a biological one. Al Qaeda actually has a website on how to build such a bomb. Posted on October 6, 2005, the forum, titled Al Firdaws, or Paradise, provides lessons, and more.

To be operationally feasible, the biological weapon of mass destruction (WOMD) will probably not be a bomb. Other than actually gaining access to anthrax, botulinum toxin, ricin, smallpox, tularemia, plague and viral hemorrhagic fevers (these are the Category A BWOMD, while B's include Q fever and C's hantavirus) a second important step will be the delivery system. The U.S. Post Office has been used with devastating results, but, some means of aerosolization and dissemination in the field to maximize breathing the biological agent is also known as germ warfare.

So making a dirty bomb is not a particularly difficult challenge. Why such a device has not been exploded in America defies all logic.
As would be expected, the Dow Jones Industrials saw some correction, as there was a drop of 116 to 7660. World markets were mixed, but mostly up. Crude oil dropped 35 cents to $53.54/barrel. Gold sunk $23/toz to $930.
President Barack Obama, who appears daily now at some function for a talk of some kind, gave a full press conference tonight to sell his $3.6 trillion budget proposal. Republicans provided their usual histrionics in response, but even key Democratic senators seem to now be recoiling from the resultant projected budget deficit.
As if Madagascar is not having enough troubles, Tropical Cyclone Izilda at 40 MPH popped up in the West, but seems to be moving towards Africa. Tropical Cyclone Jasper at 50 MPH has appeared far East of Australia and is moving further east.

Monday, March 23, 2009


The Dow Jones Industrials shot up 497 to 7776, the highest since November 21, and largest daily increase since October 2002, mostly on Tim Geithner's announcement that the Treasury will buy up to $1 trillion in bad debts, called the Toxic Assets Plan (TAP). Housing starts also experienced a surprising jump in February. Crude oil went up $1.70/barrel to $53.89. Gold fell $4/toz to $953.

President Barack Obama also today linked his
budget to energy and the environment, announcing billions for research designed to reduce climate change. Said Obama:

"We've seen enough. We can remain the world's leading importer of foreign oil, or we can become the world's leading exporter of renewable energy."

First, the $787 billion stimulus packages includes $39 billion for the Department of Energy and $20 billion in tax incentives for clean energy. His $3.6 trillion budget will make the tax credit for R&D permanent, include billions in research designed to reduce climate change and guarantee loans for companies that develop clean energy technologies. He was addressing a group of energy entrepreneurs.  

By the way, if you're curious as to all the bailout and related funds, you can click on this scorecard.  Yes, more than (note the N.A.s) $12.9 trillion allocated and $2.7 trillion spent.  I repeat, the entire Federal budget for next year will be $3.6 trillion.
A cold fusion rebirth? Early reports from Salt Lake City.  Max Planck was quoted by a speaker to say:

Science advances one funeral at a time."

Thus, the field is trying to come in from the cold, but one sign is that a possible detour could be a nuclear reaction, but not fusion.  More is yet to come.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


A long time colleague John Bockris yesterday sent me a copy of a 55-page paper describing his early adventures in cold fusion. My Chapter 2 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth touches on the frenzy over this monumental announcement almost exactly twenty years ago (March 23, 1989) by Martin Fleishman and Stanley Pons in Salt Lake City, Utah. Bockris and Fleishman were both at Imperial College in John’s student days, so he was able to get a jump on other researchers through this personal friendship, then went through hell in the years that followed, before being somewhat vindicated when he left Texas A&M. Recent developments could well serve to yet make him a hero.

About the general field of fusion, there is, of course, thermonuclear fusion, the hot kind: 15,700,000 degrees Kelvin at the core of the Sun, but only 5780 K at the surface, whereas an exploded Hydrogen Bomb goes up to 45 million K, or three times hotter than the Sun. I actually worked under Edward Teller at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory on the inertial confinement version of fusion in the '70's. The ITER Project in France is the latest incarnation of an effort to control this energy using magnetic confinement (torus or donut). No one will be surprised if the eventual cost approaches $20 billion a decade from now when a 500 MW burst of net-positive power will hopefully be produced.  Commercialization, though, will remain long in the future.
An old, but recently reactivated hot concept, heavy ion fusion, is being massaged by two colleagues, Robert Burke and Chuck Helsley, and their partners. They hope to attain net-positive in a decade, if not sooner.  Now, if they only can get some real funding.

But let's go back to 1989, for in comparison to all that expense and complexity hot fusion brings, when room temperature fusion was announced--in a beaker, no less--this became the equivalent of exploding an H-Bomb within the scientific community. Interestingly, chemists originally seemed supportive, physicists were almost unanimously aghast at the notion and a few engineers tried to test the concept to improve upon it. Well, the skeptics won, and by the end of 1989 the field was given up for dead. Time magazine in their millennium poll ranked this as among the worst ideas of the century.

But a few did not give up. Michael McKubre of SRI continues the quest with Peter Hagelstein of MIT. Scott Chub of the Naval Research Laboratory and Irving Dardik of Energetics Technology (Israel) have persevered. Japan formed a national project (something the USA never has done) from 1992 to 1997 with $20 million, but also gave up, although Tadahiko Mizuno of Hokkaido National University toiled on, and wrote a book on his sufferings: Transmutation: The Reality of Cold Fusion. Perhaps he is the John Bockris of Japan.

Then, a small chink in 2001, as the U.S. Patent Office approved an actual patent. Fleishman and Pons never gained this recognition.
In 2004, the U.S. Department of Energy relented and undertook another review (their Energy Research Advisory Board in 1989 in virtual secrecy was largely responsible for serving as the executor, some say, as advised by fossil fuel companies, the Electric Power Research Institute, hot fusion scientists and the like). The USDOE still did not think anything was convincing at this gathering, but, wow, a concession: “funding agencies should entertain individual, well-designed proposals for experiments that address specific scientific issues relevant to the question of whether or not there is anomalous energy production in Pd/D systems, or whether or not D-D fusion reactions occur at energies on the order of a few eV.” In a backhanded way, the potential for funding was approved.

Well, on May 22, 2008, Yoshiaki Arata of Osaka National University and Yue-Chang Zhang of China presented their experiment to 60 onlookers, including all the media, and demonstrated the concept.  All follow-up indicators appeared to show that reproducibility would not be a problem. Amazingly enough, Professor Arata is a physicist.  Remember?  Physicists historically have tended to only believe in hot fusion.  The worrisome factor is that nearly a year later, very little confirming evidence has surfaced.  Maybe tomorrow?  Literally.

I chose to report on this hope today, for tomorrow at the American Chemical Society gathering in Salt Lake City, many of the cold fusion notables (then click on Division of Environmental Chemistry, then on New Energy Technologies, etc.) indicated above will be giving talks at the Salt Palace Convention Center.  Yes, even Rusi Taleyarkhan of bubble fusion fame.  You want to know the reality about where cold fusion is today? Find your way to Salt Lake City, where 20 years ago, Fleishman and Pons made their historic announcement.

Friday, March 20, 2009


The photo of Spring flowers above was taken by Anita Martinz of Austria.  Thank you Creative Commons.
Today, March 20, 2009, is the first day of Spring (in the Northern Hemisphere), a term which generally came from plants SPRINGing forth, for much of early cultural development was initiated north of the equator. There is also something called the Vernal Equinox (March 20 in the NH and September 22 in the Southern H), which lasts until the Summer Solstice (usually June 21 in the NH and December 21 in the SH). To be politically (geographically) correct, terms such as March Equinox and September Equinox are now preferred. I tried to click on this posting at 11:44AM, which is the exact time of the ME, but this blog site appears to have me somewhere between Hawaii and the International Date Line.

Now for a few confusing points. An equinox day theoretically should have 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night. However, due to sunlight refraction and the shape of the Sun, there is a bit more daylight today, so you need to wait for the equilux (and this varies with the latitude) to get a 50-50 split. Now here is where it gets really bewildering: meteorologists define the beginning of Spring as March 21 in the NH and September 21 in the SH. However, this should not perplex you: today is the first day of Fall in the SH.

In the NH, if you’re from a cold clime, then Spring ends Winter and much warmer weather will come. If you’re in Hawaii, those shivering mid-60 lows will rise ten degrees and more into the summer.
The Dow Jones Industrials dropped 122 today to 7278, but this was the second straight week of gains. World markets mostly went up. For the past four years, our budget deficit was under $500 billion. All those stimulus packages will result in a deficit of from $1680 billion to $1850 billion this year, or something beginning to approach $2 trillion. Crude oil went up 58 cents/barrel to $52.19. Gold dropped $4/toz to $957.
Tropical Cyclone Ilsa in the South Indian Ocean is approaching 100 MPH, but continues to move west away from Australia.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

THE PRICE OF OIL today said low oil prices are behind us. Oil finally went above $50/barrel, raising $1.99 to $51.61/bbl. On February 12 my Huffington Post article speculated on whether crude could stay low (meaning $55/barrel or less) for another two years. The answer was yes and no.

To recap, oil cost $16/bbl (in current dollars) in 1998, the lowest it has ever gone. Let me repeat, the absolute minimum oil has ever been in current dollars was only eleven years ago. Yes, in 1972 before the first energy crisis oil sold for $2.85/bbl, but that would be worth $23/bbl today. Then oil went up to $147.27/barrel on 11July08, but dropped to $32.40/bbl on 19December08, a four year low.

No one of authority predicted either price. First, Goldman Sachs earlier in the year speculated oil jumping to $200/barrel, and the $147/bbl made them look like prescient. Then, as oil prices plummeted, they recalculated to a price of $100/bbl for December 2008. Well, they were off by a factor of three when oil dropped closer to $30/bbl.

The latest guesses are from the U.S. Department of Energy and Morgan Stanley, their combined average being $40/bbl for 2009 and $55/bbl for 2010. Go to that February 12 HuffPo for details. Then just yesterday (see my daily blog), NewEdge saw $55/bbl fairly soon. Why bother even reading experts, for my assessment is that they are sometimes right, but almost always wrong.

A commanding point, I think, is the break-even price (BEP) of oil, the cost from which a company or country begins to make money. While the Bank of Kuwait reports the BEP for Saudi Arabia to be $30/bbl, the International Monetary Fund says it really is $54/barrel. Further, the IMF indicates that the BEP for Iraq is $94/bbl and $90/for Iran. Oil from Canadian sands is also at around $54/barrel. All this is without any cap and trade or carbon tax.

The Kyoto Protocol mildly discussed (but did not agree on) a carbon tax of $348/ton carbon (4.74 cents/pound carbon dioxide), which would have added $43.50 for each barrel of oil. While a carbon tax is currently not being considered, if global climate heating is real and serious, and a 5 cents/pound carbon dioxide tax is ever enacted, then Saudi Arabia and Canada would only begin to make a profit if oil sells for more than $100/barrel. Iraq and Iran would need prices closer to $150/barrel.

This is why I say yes or no to $55/bbl oil in 2010. If you base on the best available government and private assessments, then, feel free sticking with that figure. If you are more attuned to the politics of oil, then something on the order of $100/bbl begins to look more probable, especially if any kind of global climate change surcharge begins to show traction.
The Dow Jones Industrials dropped 86 to 7401 and oil went up $14/toz to $957.
In the southern hemisphere, Tropical Cyclone Ken is far east of New Zealand and moving away, while what has quickly become a potential major storm, Tropical Cyclone Ilsa, is far west of Australia and moving away. Information is sketchy at this time, as wind speeds from 69 MPH to 115 MPH are being tossed around.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


The following is largely excerpted from Chapter 1 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity:

Weapons of Mass Destruction

The term, weapons of mass destruction (WMD), was first used either in 1937 in reference to an aerial bombardment of Spain or in 1945 from the Hiroshima/Nagasaki A-bombs. J. Robert Oppenheimer (who led the Manahattan Project) was quoted to mouth those words in a 1947 speech. President George W. Bush again made WMD popular in the 2003 Iraq invasion.

Although WMD can be chemical, radiological, biological and nuclear, the latter three today are of concern, biological because of unseen dangers from genetic engineering, and nuclear, because the Soviets had at one time built a 100 megaton (MT) H-bomb and exploded a 57 MT monster in 1961. The Oklahoma City fertilizer (chemical) bomb was said to be 0.000002 MT, and the largest A-bomb possible (Little Boy as much as 0.000015 MT and Fat Boy 0.000022MT) is far less than 1 MT.
The greater menace, though, now, are the potential dirty radioactive bombs of terrorists. For the sake of peace, at least nuclear WMD devices have shrunk from 100 MT to 0.00000001, plus or minus a couple of decimal points.  So, ironically, the least feared of the three, radiological, seems now to be the most dangerous.  Future postings on this subject will deal with why, how to build a dirty bomb, and even an Atomic Bomb. Terrorists need not wait, for you can go straight to Google and get all the information you need.
The Dow Jones Industrials dawdled in the negative until the final two hours, reaching a high of +175, then settling to plus 91 at 7487. No, the bashing of AIG bonuses had nothing to do with the upbeat movement. It had more to do with the Federal Reserve indicating that it would buy $300 billion in long-term Treasurys. This will bring down interest rates. I wonder where they're getting all this money, but the FR also announced that they would be purchasing an additional $750 billion in mortgage-backed securities. Remember that the total cost of the Manhattan Project, Marshall Plan and Apollo Project, brought up to 2009 dollars, was less than $250 billion. The FR also held the interest rate at 0%. Oh, the FR sat in on all those meetings with AIG to give those ridiculous bonuses, and apparently, never bothered to tell the White House, Treasury or Congress. This info will no doubt be adjusted later today, but that was what seemed to come out of the congressional hearings today.
Crude oil is inching up there, increasing $1.84/barrel to $49.62. NewEdge speculated that oil soon will hit $55/barrel. Remember, also, that the U.S. Department of Energy and Morgan Stanley were recently pedicting that the average price of oil would remain in the $40/barrel range, and average $55/barrel next year. Well, it's going to happen this year. I repeat my mantra: those who predict oil prices are sometimes right, but are usually wrong. Gold jumped $26/toz to $943.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


If a day noted for the high rate of imbibition is named after me, certainly, I must comment. The religious leader depicted to the left was a Roman born in Scotland in Year 387, kidnapped as a teenager in Wales and taken to Ireland, but fled back home to became a minister, returned to the Emerald Island and was almost executed for his missionary work.  He went on to become the Patron Saint of Ireland.

There is a lot of mystery associated with his life, and you will note those reptiles at his feet. Well, there have never been snakes on Ireland, so the story is that the equivalent in those days (from the Christian point of view) were pagans and Druids.
He did drive these heathens out of Ireland (actually, he mostly converted them), and, for that, and a few other miracles, became a saint. He is associated with preaching the ministry through the shamrock, the three leaved clover standing for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and is known to have started more than 300 churches.

St. Patrick’s Day is always on March 17 and is a national holiday in Ireland. In addition to the snake myth, another one is the association with the color green. There is a St. Patrick blue, which is found in the Irish Flag and in the plume of the Irish Guards.

The early Irish settled in Boston and held the first parade as early as 1737, followed by the New York version, in 1762, which is now the world’s largest. These immigrants came in larger numbers when the potato famine of the mid-1880’s killed more than 5 million and forced widespread emigration. They had a tough beginning as the Ku Klux Klan then sided more with the blacks than the Irish.

So how did this European inspire annual drunken bouts in every one of our 50 states (even Utah has a parade and two Irish pubs)? Well, St. Patrick is not unlike St. Nicholas and St. Valentine, in that the marketplace has taken over. In the USA it is more a celebration of enjoying being Irish for a few hours, and the person is just a convenient excuse.

Since 1962 the Chicago River has been colored green on this day. It began as 100 pounds of fluorescent dye, but the Environmental Protection Agency forced the city to convert to 40 pounds of a safer concoction (the color is orange, but turns a vivid emerald in water) which is kept secret. The White House fountain today also sprays green, President Obama’s means of honoring his second city.

The Dow Jones Industrials jumped again today, 179 to 7396. A stronger than anticipated housing report helped stimulate the surge. Oil edged up another $1.43/barrel to $48.78 and gold further fell $7/toz to $917.
Tropical Cyclone Ken formed far northeast of New Zealand, and is moving away.

Monday, March 16, 2009


The Race to Witch Mountain is #1 at the box office this week. Thirty-two years ago--can you believe it was that long--Steven Speilberg wrote and directed Close Encounters of the Third Kind. These films have entertainment value, for CETK made more than $300 million, but what is the reality of extraterrestrial intelligence (ET) or flying saucers?
First how do Americans feel? Remember, 90% of us believe there is a God and the majority does not think it is responsible for global warming. There is a plethora of polls, but, in general, 60% feel there is ET life somewhere in the universe.
Are there UFOs? Absolutely, for any flying object that cannot be identified is by definition a UFO. However, what about flying saucers piloted by some extraterrestrial? Anywhere from one third to one half of Americans think they are real. In comparison, one half to three fourths believe in angels, yes, the kind with feathered wings. Religion is important in the USA.
Most scientists don’t want to even be associated with UFOs because the odds are far too low to warrant their attention, not to mention the potential of sullying their credibility. Consider this: light, which in one second can travel around our globe 7.5 times, takes 100,000 years just to get from one end of our little ole Milky Way galaxy to the other. Us, Homo sapiens, only appeared 100,000 years ago. Then, if you want to get to Andromeda, our closest galaxy (the latest guess is there are 500 billion galaxies up there), a spaceship traveling at the speed of light would take 2.2 million years. Plus, what form of energy will enable a craft to travel such distances? Sure, you read about wormholes and stuff like that, but, for now, it is best to be rational and consider becoming a nonbeliever of flying saucers.
In Chapter 4 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity, I relate my experiences in this field, starting with Project Cyclops, and also Orion, a short stint I had at NASA’s Ames Research Center. The question then was, are we the only planet in the universe? I interacted then with Barney Oliver, Jack Billingham and Carl Sagan, and actually proposed a project to detect earth-sized planets. The concept rested on the principle that for life to occur, there needs to be an atmosphere, and starlight (sunlight) causes population inversion (a condition which induces lasing), meaning that spikes of monochromatic light can be detected, both proving that a planet exists and providing the gas composition. I took cues from Charles Townes, who had just moved from MIT to Cal-Berkeley, and wrote on this subject in SCIENCE. NASA tossed my proposal aside and remarked that the Hubble Telescope would soon fly and will then accomplish this task. Well, earth-sized extrasolar planets are beyond the capability of Hubble.
So, a little more than two years ago, the European Union launched CoRoT to find extrasolar planets similar in size to ours. The principle had to do with these planets transiting (moving across the star) and measuring any diminution of light. On March 6, NASA placed into space Kepler, at a cost of nearly $600 million, to do almost exactly the same thing.
The key question I ask is, why do we need both? Secondly, as the atmospheric composition will not be determined through this copycat photometric technique, so the potential of life as we know it cannot be determined, for so much money, couldn’t we have somehow adjusted the mission to provide more useful answers?
Okay, anyway, now we know that there are more than 300 planets out there somewhere. Currently, most "seen" (we have not actually seen them, we have mostly measured wobbles in stars, surmising that the movement must have been caused by a planet or more) have been Jupiter-sized or larger, but just the fact that there are other solar systems answers the original question: yes, there are a lot of planets around other stars.

Now that we have proven beyond doubt that there probably are billions of planets out there, with odds that, perhaps, some of them might have intelligent life billions of years more advanced (the Universe is just under 14 billion years old and our solar system is less than 5 billion years), let us get on to detect possible signals, as Jodie Foster did in CONTACT. Yes, I know that was a movie, but I am being expansive with flicks today.
Oh, by the way, did you know that NASA was historically prohibited from doing research on SETI? Yes, there is a privately funded SETI Institute (the Paul Allen Telescope Array is one of their projects), but Congress did not allow the federal government to directly spend money on the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. That is, until 2003, when congressional attitudes somewhat shifted, and NASA actually began to provide a few official bucks to this activity, but only a very few.
In this time of economic turmoil, can funds be justified for SETI? If we can spend $600 million for Kepler when Europe already was doing that, will expend $8 billion for our next nuclear aircraft carrier (which is by any current war standards already obsolete), and provided $150 billion of bailout money to AIG, sure, a justifiable amount would be worth the investment, for, perhaps, streaming in from space could be the answer to world peace, cure for cancer, solution for global warming and resolution to our global financial crisis.
Our civilization will survive recession, Peak Oil and Global Warming, as we did the Cold War. Can our next few billion years, though, be more progressive and successful than our past 100,000 years? I suggest that it would be well justified to seek the wisdom of far more advanced societies from our common universe. The worst case result would be no signal, but a lot of useful science, at a cost far less than the AIG bailout.
Well, no pentapeat, as the Dow Jones Industrials slipped 7 to 7217. At one point it was 173 points higher. World markets all went up today. Crude oil increased $1.10 from last Friday, ending at $47.35/barrel. Gold went down $5/toz to $924.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


The following continues the second part on China from Chapter 1 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity:

The following table compares China with the U.S.:
.................................................China....................United States

Age......................................A million years??........ About 200 years

Size...................................9.598 million sq km......9.826 million sq km

Population.............................1,322 million...................302 million

GDP......................................$8,182 billion...............$13,000 billion


Military Expenditures................$81 billion......................$528 billion

Military Expenditures
as %GDP...................................4.3%*............................4.1%

China and the U.S., thus, are about the same in land area, with China having one billion more people than the U.S. (* The 4.3% for Chinese Military Expenditures as % of GDP comes straight from the CIA report, but a simple calculation of the above results in a figure of less than 1%, and my analysis shown below, using higher amounts than officially reported, also ends up around 1%.)

........................................................China..............United States

Energy Consumption Ratio...................1..............................9

Tobacco Use.....................................36%.........................24%

Meat Consumption/Capita/Year.......104 pounds...........269 pounds

Paper Consumption/Capita/Year.......73 pounds............730 pounds

Water Use/Capita/Year................116,000 gallons....484,500 gallons


The U.S. uses a lot more energy than China, but, because of the population disparity and the type of energy, Guardian Unlimited reported on June 19, 2007 that China had overtaken the U.S. as the world’s biggest carbon dioxide emitter. Also because of the population difference, China eats more meat (67 million tons versus 38 million tons), consumes more grain (380 million tons to 260 million tons) and uses more steel (258 million tons versus 104 million tons) than the U.S. The Chinese internet population grew by 53% from 2007 to 2008 to 210 million, and will surge past the U.S. this year. As the economy further improves and censorship is relaxed, the growth should be even more spectacular. Oh yes, China already has more cell phones (461 million to 219 million), television sets and refrigerators. With only 12 million cars, versus 140 million for the U.S., China has 90,000 traffic deaths each year, while we kill less than 50,000 on our roads. I’ve been there. I believe it. Ah, my day in Hangzhou could just as well have been my last on Planet Earth. See Chapter 6.

Where China is truly trouncing the U.S. is in trade. First, a possible surprise…Germany is the #1 exporter. By mid-2006, China had supplanted the U.S. for #2, with exports surging by 27% from the previous year. Germany should be overtaken by 2009. The trade deficit between China and the U.S. in 2006 was $232 billion. China did increase overall imports by 20% in 2006 to $792 billion. So what did the U.S. do? We went to the World Trade Organization and complained. Okay, there are some valid copyright and patent issues worthy of resolution, but, the overall attitude should be to take stock of our deficiencies and rectify them.

To no one’s shock, here is the reason why China is so successful: low cost. But, higher quality is also a key. China exported $14 billion worth of furniture in 2006, surpassing Italy for #1. A beautiful executive chair from Italy wholesales for $348 in America. The Chinese price is $56, for essentially the same chair. A 23 year old farmer, Zhu Kanglin of Anjin, in 1993, begged, borrowed and persevered a sum of $3000 to start a chair factory. Today, he has 1000 different office chair models…not chairs, models. His workers toil up to 10 hours per day through six days a week to make $185/month. The equivalent Italian worker makes $1000/month.

Three particularly amazing examples of growth can be mentioned:

o Shenzhen, on the China side, was a fishing village of 25,000 in 1979, a short metro train to Hong Kong. As an experiment in capitalism, but using Chinese socialism, this location that year was designated as an industrial and business center, growing by 2008 to 9 million people living in town, with an additional 9 million in the immediate urban area.

o In 2002, China decided to convert the seedy gambling town (the only site with Hong Kong horse racing where gambling is allowed in China, although various mainland cites are now beginning to be approved) of Macau to compete with Las Vegas. In 2006, revenues of close to $7 billion surpassed Las Vegas, shot passed $10 billion in 2007, and surged beyond the State of Nevada in 2008, with Wynn Macau, MGM Mirage, the second Sands (the Venetian, with the world’s biggest casino), second Mirage and two Shangri-La/Traders leading the way. The 1400 gambling tables of 2006 will increase to 4,000 by 2009. The ten year plan is such that by 2012, the gambling revenues of Macau could well double that of Las Vegas. Sheldon Adelson of the Sands is the new Stanley Ho, although his daughter, Pansy Ho Chiu-king, is in partnership with Mirage. Adelson, though, is now in the midst of bankrupty. All of which galvanized Las Vegas to commit $40 billion by 2012 to build more magnificent palaces for their losers to spend more, as Macau only attracted 27 million victims last year, while Sin City drew 39 million. The Chinese lose more elaborately and quickly in craps, roulette and baccarat, while Americans contribute more slowly with slot machines, poker and black jack.

o In 1985, the U.S. and China both conferred 70,000 bachelor degrees in engineering. In 2000, the U.S. number dropped to 53,000 and China’s increased to 220,000. Worse yet, if you toss in Japan and South Korea, the bachelors degrees in engineering go up to 380,000. Then in 2008 this difference increased. Not that engineering is necessarily crucial to the future of a nation, but this growing discrepancy most definitely is a warning signal.

The economy should be the fear, but the singular apprehension about China seems to be as a dangerous military threat. So let’s look at defense expenditures. The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation showed that the 2005 military budget for the United States was $419 billion, with Russia second at $65 billion and China third at $56 billion. The U.S. accounts for almost half the world military outlays, and alone exceeds the combined total of the next 42 highest spending countries. So the U.S. pays out seven and a half times more for the military than China, according to those figures, or 33 times more per capita.

It is said, though, that much of the China armed forces budget is hidden. In 2003, the published amount was $25 billion. The CIA said it could have been $65 billion, and, considering relative purchasing strength, perhaps as much as $114 billion. The U.S. Department of Defense, when reporting on their $419 billion budget for 2005, speculated that the Chinese actual amount was $90 billion. Even at that escalated level, the U.S. commits 4.6 times more than China on military expenditures. Thus, the U.S. spends 4.1% of our GDP on the military, while China’s percentage is 1.1%. Further, on a per capita basis, the U.S. sets aside $1638/person for defense, while China provides only $68/person. This is not the 33:1 ratio indicated in the previous paragraph, for the 24:1 figure uses data from a more suspicious source.

Worse yet, that U.S. budget above does not account for wars, nuclear weapons research and sundry other military-related items. For FY2008, President Bush has asked for $861 billion to cover the DOD, plus veterans’ affairs, homeland security and war costs. China announced its military budget for 2007 at $45 billion. Thus, on this basis, using official statistics, the U.S. spends nearly twenty times more than China for warfare. There must be a more effective way to wage peace than to ridiculously outspend your rivals.

So U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ questioning of Chinese officials on November 5, 2007, about why they are spending so much money on arms build-up could have had monumental impact if he had instead said, look, friends, the U.S. will reduce defense expenditures by $100 billion next year. You think you can cut yours by $10 billion? Now, that would be a Gorbachev-like one-upmanship that could have set the table for total disarmament in a decade. (My first Huffington Post article on May 29, 2008 treats this subject.)

China and the U.S. are both Republics. So is Iran. However, there are republics and there are republics. At least China appears to be on the road from dictatorship towards democracy.

Friday, March 13, 2009


In a word: TERRIBLE! I was amused when I recently read that French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced that France will return to full membership of the North Atlantic Trade Organization (NATO). What, they have not been a full member? It turns out that in 1966, President Charles de Gaulle withdrew his country from the alliance’s command structure. So I wondered, what about the good ole U.S. of A?  Are there any similar surprises?

In my SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity, I argued that the United States is the best country, ever. I still believe so, but I have to wonder why we have been such a BRat (Bully Rat) in a variety of universal world agreements. I can tell you at the outset: CONSERVATIVES have generally been the reason why. But let me be specific, although I have sometimes tended to side with them.

First, the Kyoto Protocol. 183 countries have ratified, and the U.S. remains the ONLY major nation in opposition. Enough said.

Of course, we many times do not sign on for “good reason.” Take global warming, for example, as it makes little sense to do so when China and India are pardoned. However, International Women’s Day was March 8, and I found it astounding that the global women’s rights treaty was completed 30 years ago, 170 countries have endorsed, but not the USA. Why? There is some fear of promoting prostitution and abortion. Would you guess that, as in global warming, hard core conservatives might be blamed? We are in abysmal company, for Sudan, Somalia, Qatar, and Iran have also refused to sign.

Senator Barbara Boxer (California-D), though, has taken on the challenge of gaining ratification. She has also added the United Nations measure to expand the rights of children, also on where we have been dragging our feet in fear of condoning youth soldiers, your child smoking marijuana, and the like. In case you missed the point, there is a sector of our society that believes parents should have the right to rear their own children, which, granted, makes some sense. This has been floating around for two decades, and was actually signed by President Bill Clinton, but not approved by the U.S. Senate. New UN Ambassador, Susan Rice, recently said this is a noble cause that is backed by the Obama Administration.

In case you were wondering, the President signs treaties, but requires Senate approval. The House does not get involved. Oh, by the way, Clinton also signed the Kyoto Protocol, but was not able to gain Senate support.

The Law of the Sea (LOST) Treaty is one where I have actually been a part of since my stint in the U.S. Senate three decades ago. While these LOST summits have been close to being the most boring of any possible human assemblages (although, maybe those UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission biennial gatherings exceed that mind-numbing quotient), you would think that something passed in 1982 to cooperate on ocean matters would be a slam dunk certainty. A combination of companies not wanting to share information to something to do with sovereign rights over the open ocean has served to scuttle our participation. Interestingly enough, President George Bush, the 43rd, actually backed this longstanding treaty. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, UN Ambassador Rice and Vice President Biden are in support, so surely it will be ratified this time, right? Well, stay tuned, for the military industrial complex suite of war partners remain adamant against this giveaway.

Okay, who can possibly be for land mines? Well, the USA. We have refused to join 150 nations that have ratified this treaty. This one is only a decade old, but the Pentagon is against it for signing it would compromise South Korea? Huh? There is also a cluster bomb ban that the U.S. and Russia stand opposed. Odds are that the Obama Administration will move on these, for they do have humanitarian and practical benefits.

The International Criminal Court was established in 2002 to investigate and prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. President Clinton signed, but did not even bother to submit it to the Senate for ratification. George Bush the Younger, then “unsigned” it in 2002 because it could bring politically-motivated prosecutions against U.S. citizens. It is possible that the U.S. Constitution would need to be amended to ratify, and there are more important measures to pass at this time, I guess.

There are a few more, but let me stop with the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty. Certainly we must be the good guys here. Nope. One hundred eighty one nations have signed on, but the U.S., China, India, Pakistan, Israel, Iran and North Korea have not approved the treaty. Russia is one of the 148 that signed and ratified.

Let me finally end this discussion with the UN Security Council and veto power. Without going into the details, the Soviet Union vetoed more than 100 resolutions. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 there were 23 vetoes, the U.S. with 15 and Russian with 6.

This is getting monotonous, so let me conclude with the simple statement that now you probably should have a better inkling as to why we have not been really popular around the world. Mind you, popularity is tertiary to being right and humane, but consider the above and let your wishes be known to our current leaders.

To end the week, we have a fourpeat, as the Dow Jones Industrials went up 54 to 7224, hitting a low of 7106 at midday, but moving up 118 for the rest of the day. World markets mostly went up, with the Japan Nikkei jumping 5% to 7569. Crude oil edged down 52 cents to $46.25/barrel. OPEC meets this weekend. Gold increased $4 to $929/toz.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

CHAPTER 1, BOOK 2 (Part 30A)

The following is excerpted from SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity. China will be covered in Parts 30A and 30B:
Peace with the People’s Republic of China?

Dated stone tools indicate that China was inhabited by Homo erectus 1.36 million years ago. The use of fire might have been discovered here 1.27 million years ago. The story of Peking Man is an adventure that started in 1921 when Swedish archeologist Johann Gunnar Andersson and Austrian paleontologist Otto Zdansky found two teeth of an early man. American geologist William Grabau gave the teeth a name, Peking Man, although the scientific term was Homo erectus pekinensis, certainly not Homo sapiens. Later, in 1927, with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation, a systematic excavation was initiated at Zhoukoudian (now a World Heritage Site), located about 50 km southwest of Peking, now Beijing. In 1929 an almost complete skull was found. French paleontologist Father Teilhard de Chardin participated in the analysis.

This unearthing went on into 1966 when Peking Man consisted of portions of at least 6 different skulls, and assorted other parts, although there is some intrigue dealing with the Japanese invasion of China and the possibility of the fossils being smuggled to the U.S. The early fossils remain missing today. Peking Man (more accurately, men and women) lived from about 500,000 years to 240,000 years ago. Thus, they lived in the same cave for more than a quarter million years, an incredible stability, for our species just appeared 100,000 years ago.

The history of China has been recorded over five millennia:

o It was only a couple of centuries before Jesus, though, that the country became unified, when Qin Shi Huang formed the first dynasty. While this reign only lasted for 12 years, the most famous of the Great Walls of China gained more prominence (actually, the building, in fits, began in the 5th century BC).

o The following Han Dynasty governed for 400 years, from two centuries before to two centuries after Jesus. The Silk Road to the West was established.

o Four centuries of disorder followed when in 589 the Sui Dynasty united the country, but was superseded by the Tang Dynasty in 618, ruling for almost three centuries until chaos took over for half a century.

o Then, the Song Dynasty, maintained control for three centuries, a time when science flourished and gunpowder was invented, about 1040.

o The Mongol Empire began to form around Genghis Khan from 1206, and his grandson, Kublai Khan established the Yuan Dynasty later in that century. The capital moved from Xian to Beijing, but in this interval the Chinese population dropped from 100 million to 60 million.

o These barbarians were then replaced by the Ming Dynasty in 1368 under Zhu Yuanzhang, a peasant. China during this period ruled the oceans with Zhang He, Forbidden City reached its grandeur and the Great Wall of China, a project that took 1000 years, was completed.

o Finally, after nearly three centuries of control, the Manchus invaded from the North, and the Quin Dynasty endured from 1644 to 1912 various internal wars and external influences. The Last Emperor, Henry Puyi was born in 1906, was not quite 3 when he was named emperor by Dowager Empress Cixi, but just at the age of 6 abdicated, officially ending the rule of the Dynasties. Puyi was restored as Emperor in 1917, but was almost instantly deposed, finally becoming Emperor of Manchukuo as a Japanese puppet, then at the end, a Chinese pawn of Chairman Mao.

There, in less than a page, is the entire history of China.
The Dow Jones Industrials experienced a rare recent threepeat, jumping 340 to 7170. World markets also all increased. Crude oil shot up $4.16/barrel to $46.77, while gold rose $16/toz to $925. The DOW start point for tomorrow is currently down, but the futures for S&P and NASDAQ are up, if you're wondering what is to come on Friday. At mid-day on Friday, March 12 in the Orient, the Nikkei is experiencing a huge day, and at this point is up what the DOW was for all of Thursday. The interesting thing about this Japanese market is that it has generally mimicked the Dow Jones Industrials, with very similar values, now just above 7500. Could the DJI tomorrow.... Well, the similarity is generally Japan following the USA.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Well, it is a lean meat, relatively inexpensive, and if well-cooked, there is no problem with trichinosis, which still inflicts perhaps ten per year in the USA. But if you’re in Thailand around their new year (April 13-15), watch out for “larb,” for it is a local delicacy that uses undercooked pork and annually infects 500 during this period.

But the pork I’m talking about has to do with congressional earmarks. Interesting that Wikipedia has entries for Earmark (Politics), which presents the concept as almost acceptable and historic, but another one on Pork Barrel, as derogatory. It is the same thing. There is even one on Porkbusters, focusing on conservatives and libertarians (also mostly known as Republicans) who hate it as much as increased taxes. Of course, most congress people are not dumb enough to totally ignore this largesse and time-honored tradition to improve your odds for getting re-elected. There are noisy stalwarts such as House Minority Leader John Boehner, Senator John McCain and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who while claiming that the Obama administration is:

"recommending that we continue the spending binge,"

himself added 36 earmarks to the bill totaling about $51.2 million. It seems that only 40% of pork funds go to Republicans, but that is because this party represents about 40% of members in the House and Senate.

Pork barrel politics have been with us since the beginning of our nation and are also common around the world, known as patronage in some countries, and goulash, guess where (Czech Republic). Citizens Against Waste classifies pork as unauthorized, non-competitive, secretly processed and beyond the official request of the President. They publish a yearly Pig Book. Congress generally argues it is not a mere rubber stamp, and also has a responsibility to focus on priority spending opportunities.

Every year there are calls against earmarks, and this effort will necessarily be annual because Congress will never give up this task. President Obama has called for reform, and he TODAY announced what this might be: while he never said pork is good, he indicated that these add-ons should be clear as to sponsor, must undergo hearings and should focus on national priorities.

Senator Robert Byrd (West Virginia-D) was the king of pork, until he was this year replaced by Senator Daniel Inouye (Hawaii-D) as chairman of the Appropriations Committee. There are many in Hawaii hoping that he becomes the new king. Former senator Ted Stevens (Alaska-R) was famous for his appropriations. You remember the bridge to nowhere? Defense, where most of the money is located, was his specialty. He is now a private citizen, unless convicted and sent to jail. Wait, a minute, he was convicted on all seven counts, but, somehow, remains a free man.

About this $410 billion budget bill that President Obama is set to sign, government spending is increased by 8%, but EARMARKS, so ballyhooed as a national disgrace, only represent 2% the total. Thus, as Hawaii is one half of one percent the national population, our fair share should have been $410 million. We appear to only be getting $372 million, so, I guess, Senator Inouye is being circumspect.
The Dow Jones Industrials went up today, but only 4 points to 6930. World markets were mixed. Crude oil sunk $3.21/barrel to $42.61. Gold increased $13/toz to $909.
Tropical Storm Joni at 65 MPH is loitering northeast of New Zealand and moving south, but not threatening any populated locale.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


The following is excerpted from Chapter 1 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity:
What About Russia?

Founded in the 12th century, it was conquered by the Mongols in the 13th century and did not really emerge until after the 15th century. By the 17th century, the Romanov Dynasty expanded the country to Siberia and the Pacific, then, under Peter I, to the Baltic Sea, for the first time naming the country the Russian Empire.

The communists led by Vladimir Lenin gained control in 1917, calling it the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic. Under a quarter century of rule by Josef Stalin until 1953, the USSR became a serious challenger to the United States.
Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary from 1985 to 1991, introduced glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) to modernize the country, leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall and ending the Cold War, breaking apart the union into 15 countries. On his 75th birthday, Gorbachev was quoted to say that “despite the great opportunity that the end of the cold war presented to the U.S. to build a safer and more stable world, it only strengthened America’s arrogance and unilateralism.” Current Russian President Vladimir Putin also blames the U.S. for militarism and global instability, while he clamps down on internal dissent and takes over fossil fuel operations. Putin wants his country to become the next Saudi Arabia, at least for natural gas.

A comparative U.S.-Russian tally shows the following:
........................................................Russia..........................United States

Age.............................................Almost 1000 years.....About 200 years

Size.............................................17 million sq km.........10 million sq km

Population......................................141 million..................302 million

GDP.............................................$1,746 billion.............$13,000 billion


Military Expenditures......................Not Available..............$528 billion

Military Expenditures
as %GDP......................................Not Available.................4.1%

Thus, Russia has less than half the population of the U.S., but is almost twice as large in area. Our Gross Domestic Product is seven and a half times larger than that of Russia.

The clue to world peace forever could well have been influenced by one crucial series of understandings between the Soviet Union and the U.S. When Gorbachev and Reagan agreed to disarmament, humanity overcame our greatest threshold of madness: mutually assured destruction.

Russia today plays the field, and, you might say, is enterprising. An Israeli satellite launched by Russia in 2006 now allows the gathering of data, with 27.5 inch resolution, on Iran’s military assemblage. Russia happens to be building Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant at a cost of $800 million. Also, too, Russia is more and more keeping bad company, Iran and North Korea being prime examples. With China, the growling Bear has more and more again tended to confront the U.S. on international politics.

Perhaps most worrisome, Putin’s recent moves have reasserted dominance of the Kremlin, while limiting media and judiciary independence. In September of 2007, Putin flew close to NATO airspace his antique Tu-95 strategic bombers, which where escorted back by British and Norwegian fighter planes. He also announced a $200 billion rearmament plan to modernize his military. The U.K. has called to task Russia’s violations of human and democratic rights. Yet, it’s gratifying to note that on being awarded the 2014 Winter Olympics, Dmitry Chernyshenko called the victory a “key moment in Russian history…The games will help Russia’s transition as a young democracy.”

The next war for resources could well be Russia versus Canada and Denmark, with the U.S. serving as an associate to the new enemy coalition. On August 3, 2007, a Russian scientific crew planted a flag (actually, dropped a titanium capsule containing the flag) on the ocean floor under the North Pole, leading President Putin to claim the rights to the half million square mile seabed for oil and gas. Canada, in an earlier response ordered several billion dollars worth of military equipment and facilities to assert their claim on the same territory, and Denmark, teaming with Canada, contends that the North Pole is merely an extension of Greenland, which they own. The United Nations, actually, in 2001, had already rejected Moscow’s claim to that seabed. For the record, the U.S., Canada and Norway already have claims on that space, too.

Why the ruckus? There is speculation that the bottom of the ocean over the North Pole has as much untapped oil and gas as Saudi Arabia. For the record, too, Vladimir Gruzdev and Artur Chilingarov saw yellowish gravel, but no creatures of the deep, at the bottom. The Antarctic is a continent. The Arctic just floats over water.
The U.S. Senate passed the $410 billion spending bill, Madoff plead guilty to 11 counts and the Dow Jones Industrials shot up 379 to 6926. What a day! World markets also all jumped, with many countries up about the same as the U.S. (+5.8%). Crude oil stayed relatively steady at $45.80/barrel. Gold dropped $24/toz to below $900, ending at $897. You might recall that it was only last week when prices beyond $1000/toz were being predicted in the near future. Is it conceivable that March 10 will be considered to be the day that ended the Great Recession?
All Indian Ocean cyclones have largely dissipated.

Monday, March 9, 2009


All things concerned, most wouldn't mind paying a little bit more for electricity or automotive fuels from renewable energy. In fact, if Congress were to enact the Markey-Platts bill (H.R. 890) for a national renewable energy standard, consumers would save as much as $94 billion on their electricity and natural gas bills by 2030, so sacrifice might not even be necessary.
However, there is a problem. The Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) syndrome, in combination with oil remaining below $50/barrel and financing uncertainties posed by the economic collapse, is effectively dampening enthusiasm for sustainable resource development.

Historically, I've been in the midst of community backlash regarding renewable energy on practically everything we tried. In the 1970's, a combination of people who moved into the Puna Region (who wanted to preserve their "new" natural lifestyle), environmentalists decrying damage to the nearby rainforests, native Hawaiians concerned about geothermal power interfering with their worship of Pele (goddess of volcanoes) and marijuana growers, convinced Federal Judge David Ezra to effectively limit geothermal development. A third of a century later, Ezra is still judge, and the Big Island now only produces about 5% of the 500 MW that was envisioned. A $25 million deepsea cable project produced by Pirelli of Italy to bring this electricity to Oahu was gathering dust for a quarter century, but, who knows, might now serve as a starting point for the Lanai/Molokai wind farms.
A similar difficulty was experienced in 1987 when Hawaiian Electric and Boeing attempted to experiment on a massive 3.2 megawatt wind energy conversion system (tip-to-tip, the propeller was longer than a football field--this is now the size of choice for recent wind energy farms) in the Kahuku Hills above Turtle Bay. There was an outcry from the resort developer (worried that such a device would give the impression that this was a windy area--which it was at higher elevation), the Audobon Society (bird kills) and some homeowners (aesthetic blight, they called it). Somehow, the wind mill did get built, but it was a technological disaster, for any early generation energy system is almost destined to fail. The swooshing noise was intimidating and the gearing/materials partially failed.
Turned out that almost all the solar energy projects we had at the university were unsuccessful, but this is why government invests in these efforts, for we are not smart enough to make the first, or the second, one work at this size and complexity. Your iPod or portable computer operates well because it went through a thousand generations in the company laboratory. Hawaii was the international laboratory for renewable energy, and we served the necessary white rat role. Our then experience with ignominy helped the field develop. Today, decades later, wind power is the ONLY renewable energy technology competitive with coal and nuclear for electricity.

The Advertiser yesterday provided a largely negative front page article on a 1100 MW offshore wind/wave power project that has been proposed by Grays Harbor Ocean Energy Company. Already, the Molokaians, fishermen, whale people, HECO (yes, they will say they will not be able to handle so much power) and their like will effectively shoo away the wind developer. Guaranteed! But, then, maybe this company just added Hawaii as an afterthought for a couple of vacation trips, for they haven't bothered to meet with anyone of importance. Doug Carlson provides a reasonable response in his daily blog.
As naive and/or dumb GHOEC might be, I still wonder why the leadership of Hawaii doesn't lay protocol aside and embrace these types of opportunity with a "let's see how this can work attitude." Sure, in this instance energy storage will be needed, and this is expensive, but what about, maybe, hydrogen production and retention in sea bladders for application as fuel for Rinaldo's Hawaiian Hydrogen Clipper, or to double the production of methanol from the gasification/catalysis of biomass? We should be matching monumental efforts to produce a network of inter-dependent endeavors to attain critical mass progress.
Otherwise, is there a solution to NIMBY? Yes, when oil goes shooting past $150/barrel everyone will suddenly become advocates. But isn't that too late?
The other option is PIMBY, Put In My Back Yard, offered by Leighton Chong in his blog. Click on that link to read about his proposal.
The Dow Jones Industrials settled minus 80 to 6547. Thank heavens, no Black Monday. World markets were mixed. Oil is now at $45.80/bbl. T. Boone Pickens reported that in February, we imported 62 percent of our oil - about 339 million barrels, costing us $13 billion or more than $328,000 per minute! At the current price of oil, we will spend $170 billion to import oil this year. If the average price of crude were $147/barrel, it would be $652 billion. But, as in December we imported 66.5 percent of our oil, is this progress? Not really, for in January it was 67.4 percent, and who knows what it will be by mid-year. Taking a cue from my Do It Now tirade, the intrepid Democrats in Congress, with the cheerleading efforts of the Obama White House, might be attempting a renewable energy and climate change coup in one magnificent step, as much as I don't like "cap and trade," and would rather they merely add a $1/gallon investment surcharge, plus a mere one cent/pound carbon dioxide tax when oil is $30/barrel (which would be 5 cents/pound carbon dioxide for $150/barrel crude). If they don't do this now, it will never happen.
The South Indian Sea is heating up. Cyclone Hamish is now a Category 3 storm in the vicinity of Brisbane, but will weaken and head away from land. Tropical Cyclone 19 has popped up and is nowhere (86 degrees East/18 degrees South) heading northwest at this time.