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Sunday, May 31, 2009

ETERNAL LIFE (Part 4)









My final yellow flower photos. I noticed this yellow hibuscus plant on my garden roof. This is the state flower of Hawaii.

Oh, before continuing with Chapter 2 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity on Eternal Life, why not another look at Susan Boyle who last night came in at #2. Click on:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2xiAQCTy2E


The Middle Years

One can logically conclude that planning your life in a cohesive and purposeful manner should optimize success. My life, conversely, mostly appears to resemble Brownian Movement adventures of a misguided soul. However, whether it was pure luck or genius, just by focusing on the search for the ultimate technology, a few good things happened.

In the 1970’s I virtually stumbled unto hydrogen at that first Miami gathering of the Hydrogen Romantics, jumped to NASA’s Project Orion (which will lead to Chapter 4 on SETI) associating me to Carl Sagan, skipped over to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to work for Edward Teller, and then on to Washington, D.C. to become U.S. Senator Spark Matsunaga’s Special Assistant on Energy. All this occurred in less than a decade. In the early ‘80’s, Paul Yuen and I invented the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research, which was described in the Blue Revolution chapter of Book 1, paving the way for what to me had the potential to be the greatest research program brought to the University of Hawaii, the National Science Foundation Marine Bioproducts Engineering Center (MarBEC), for the sum of money I set aside in the middle to late ‘80’s to develop biological techniques to produce the ultimate form of energy from the sea, drew to Hawaii the individuals who became the prime supporters of the Center.

In this period from the 80’s into the 90’s, our attempts to secure an NSF Engineering Center failed every time. We were very close in the early 90’s, for we gained a site visit. All of this was written about in Book 1.

A year later, in 1993, I visited NSF and they said, why don’t you focus on one area of ocean technology. That’s it! No one at NSF suggested that we hire Oskar Zaborsky, for this input came from Neil Rossmeissl, the hydrogen program manager from the U.S. Department of Energy.

But selecting marine biotechnology was not a slam dunk certainty that we could prevail at the national level. The University of Hawaii had a chemistry department which was recognized as a pioneer in natural marine products, but the College of Engineering, which had to spearhead the effort, did not have even one person who researched this area.

Credibility comes from performance, not necessarily producing anything all that useful, but garnering the dollars to do the work. Mind you, a Nobel Prize and pathfinding results are worth more, but very little of what most university researchers produce is recognized in current time as all that important. It is the compounding of effort, over years of toil that someday brings worth. In the meantime, you teach, educate students, publish and get more grants. Thus, by the mid ‘90’s all the ingredients were in place for something I began to refer to as the M Curse.


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Seventy nine countries have now visited this blog site.
1997-95-79
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Friday, May 29, 2009

ETERNAL LIFE (Part 3)












Before continuing Chapter 2 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity, I was driving to my office on the Manoa Campus today and saw several more yellow trees, as shown above.




My Early Years in Biotechnology

In 1968, I found myself in the chemical engineering department at Louisiana State University with a need to come up with a PhD topic. I can still remember my wife, Pearl, reading LIFE magazine, and casually mentioning, why not use a laser? The invention of the laser, which stands for light amplification by the stimulated emission of radiation, goes back to 1958, when I was a freshman at Stanford University. Arthur Schawlow (who was at Bell Labs then, but later came to Stanford when I was a junior) and Charles Townes (who was then at Columbia University, but later, ended up at the University of California at Berkeley) wrote the seminal paper that year, “Infrared and Optical Masers (the M standing for microwave)” in Physical Review. Townes shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1964 and Schawlow obtained the same honor in 1981. Townes returns in Chapter 4 on Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.

Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman, founder of Raman spectroscopy, actually published the first paper on the possibility of lasers. Later in his life, he was asked, “isn’t it a shame that you are not given credit for inventing the laser?” “No, no, no,” he said. “Many of us come up with many ideas. It is he who takes it to that identifiable level that deserves all the recognition.” I can identify with that attitude, and for that, I will no doubt get credited for nothing. But, like Sir Raman, I can live with that.

By 1969, I was able to help convince Milk Proteins, Incorporated to provide $10,000 towards building a tunable laser to sterilize milk. Professor David Greenberg was my major professor, who was instrumental in securing the grant. Why tunable? Because if all the laser energy can be focused at one coherent frequency unto a contaminating cell, where life-determining bonds can be split, that would be an elegant and efficient way to sterilize milk. There were several problems. One, a tunable laser was not sold, so I had to build it from scratch. Then I had to sterilize some bacterium. In those days, the late 60’s, only visible frequencies were possible. Visible laser light is very inefficient for sterilization. It was one of my most depressing periods of my life when I couldn’t get the laser to work and a chemistry professor laughed that I could use a blow torch to sterilize Escherichia coli in a heat resistant test tube. Why bother? He was joking, but it still hurt.

In a real tragedy, two of my young nephews drowned, so I flew from Baton Rouge to Southern California to attend the funeral. On the way back, while dozing on the plane, it suddenly occurred to me that I could use a diffraction grating to produce monochromatic laser frequencies in a manner that could be focused unto a micro drop of E. coli in solution. Let’s see, was this a miracle, a vision or the product of a dream? Maybe they’re all the same thing. A laser monochromatically producing all the colors of the rainbow just by adjusting the grating angle. Wow, color, and potentially so vivid (and coherent), too. Was this the genesis of Rainbow Visions? For sure, this was the principle that linked me to Professor Townes in Chapter 4.

As the power was relatively low, what about using exogenous photosensitizers, more colors, that is, a dye that could transfer the laser light indirectly to vulnerable links in the gene? This combination worked, providing discretely tunable frequencies from 440-460 nanometers using 7-diethylamino 4-methylcoumarin and 570-600 nm using rhodamine B and 6G, allowing sufficient energy to be transferred to jiggle the DNA and RNA bonds in the vicinity of 265 nm. When toluidine blue at specific wavelengths in the blue spectrum was used as the sensitizer, growth catalysis was experienced in the bacteria sample, and when acridine orange dye and red laser light were combined, sterilization occurred. I was planning to frequency double to directly get to the ideal ultraviolet frequencies, but had run out of money and time, and had done enough for my dissertation, anyway. I never did take that next step, but it should be interesting, and useful, to do this today, more than a third of a century later. Excimer lasers, actually, can now accomplish this task. Anyone reading this and wanting to carry on the research can contact me for details.

Thusly armed with a PhD in biochemical engineering, in 1971 I began teaching at the University of Hawaii. This story continues in the chapter on education.

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The Dow Jones Industrial jumped 97 to 8500, with gains occurring in the final hour of trading. World markets mostly went up. This has been the best 3-month run since 2007. Gold went up $18/toz to $978 and GM will announce their bankruptcy on Monday.


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Oil, too, is surging, up $1.23 to $66.31/barrel. The price is nearly double what it was in February. There is a new table to the right on oil consumption. If you multiply $66/bbl by 10.8 billion barrels used so far this year, the sum exceeds $700 billion. However, in an article dated today, Saudi Arabia is predicting $150/bbl oil in three years. By then the world will surely be using 80 million mbd, or in 2012, that apocalyptic year, will spend $4.4 trillion for oil. At an average gasoline price then of only $5/gallon (remember, Norway and Germany were past $10/gallon last summer), the world will be spending more than $7 trillion/year just for gasoline.


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The hurricane season begins next week, but, already, Tropical Depression One has formed east of the Atlantic seaboard, but is diminishing. Remember, the first real storms will be named Ana in the Atlantic and Andres in the Pacific.


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Thursday, May 28, 2009

ETERNAL LIFE (Part 2)


The following is from Chapter 2 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity on Eternal Life.


The Fountain of Youth

The whole concept of immortality started, murkily enough, in the 4th century BC, involving Alexander the Great and the Water of Life (see painting above). In the 5th century BC, Greek historian Herodotus, speculated on a fountain in Ethiopia for the people there then appeared to live longer.

Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon was on Columbus' second journey, and became Puerto Rico's first governor. While he is generally reported to have searched for the fountain of youth in Florida, and is credited with "finding" that appendage, a closer truth is probably that he explored Bimini to find something to cure his sexual impotency. Anyway, in St. Augustine, Florida is the Fountain of Youth National Archeological Park, where de Leon was supposed to have landed. Tourists come to drink the waters, even though no one believes it has any powers of longevity.

But there is a secret society in this city claiming to be protectors of THE fountain. Las Vegas illusionist David Copperfield, it is reported, has a fountain of youth on his island of Musha Cay, and has promised to have biologists test it. It would be pathetic if some scientist actually takes this on with some seriousness.

You can improve your odds to live longer through the luck of good genes and by: having a strong social network (your family), more education (which is correlated to a better health plan), dedicated flossing (gum disease affects the heart), good bowel movements (to reduce colon cancer), not smoking (although an unexpected number of really old people smoke a lot), getting married but not having children, living in a healthier environment, eating smart and less, maintaining an elevated level of high density lipoprotein in your blood, minimizing inflammation, exercising, sleeping more or less (both seem to work) and minimizing stress.

Wikipedia has an entry for immortality, but much of the 23 pages dallies on spiritualism and fictional works. But, in this chapter, I plan to take it to the limit: real, scientific, eternal life. One can go back to the Egyptians and wander through religion (which will be covered in Chapter 5), but the only focus of this chapter will thus be to explore the scientific validity for immortality. How did I first get interested in this field? (Next, my life in bioengineering.)

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The Dow Jones Industrial surged 104 to 8404. Gold also jumped, $16/toz to $961. Crude oil went past $65/barrel, but settled just below.

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The GM bondholders blinked, as earlier predicted, and did so because of a reasonably good deal: 10% instead of 1% of shares, plus rights to buy up to 15% later at a low cost. There are now no hurdles to solvency, but it is appearing that the Feds actually want a bankrupt GM to make the transition to success cleaner and easier. This scenario eliminates current stockholder investments. The new GM might repay $10 billion of the total $50 billion bailout money (total to be provided when the dust clears). Further, we will own up to 72.5% of the company. The only return will come if the new GM is fabulously successful.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Well, today, I start excerpting Chapter 2 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity. The subject matter is topical because of issues like the swine flue and stem cells. Is eternal life a fantasy? It is said that diamonds are forever, at least according to the ads.

CHAPTER 2: DIAMONDS—ETERNAL LIFE

Diamonds

“A Diamond is Forever,” is what the Diamond Trading Company advertises. Diamonds are Forever was a 1971 James Bond flick with Sean Connery. Wikipedia spends 19 pages on the subject, and reports that $9 billion worth is annually mined, mostly in Africa, is the hardest known naturally occurring material and is a transparent crystal consisting of tetrahedrally bonded carbon atoms. When carbon forms a rhombohedral crystal, it is graphite, which is soft, opaque and dark gray.

One carat of diamond weighs .07 ounces and costs around $7000, but the cost/carat increases with size, as a 5 carat piece now wholesales for $115,000, or $23,000/carat. The largest one was the Cullinan Diamond, owned by Queen Elizabeth II at 3,107 karats (it was made into other cuts), the largest of 530 karats now the centerpiece of the sceptre for King Edward VII. However, in 2007, a 7,000 carat greenish diamond, about the size of a coconut, was purportedly found in South Africa.
The largest ruby (an aluminum oxide) is 2,475 carats (about a pound) and largest emerald (silicon oxide) 1,686 carats.
These two gems have no carbon.

(In the constellation Centaurus is the largest diamond suspected at the core of a dead star weighing in at 5 million trillion trillion pounds at a distance of 50 light years. The largest pearl is the 14 pound Pearl Lao Tzu or Allah.)

Scientists have mimicked nature, and artificial diamonds will someday not be readily distinguishable from the real ones by the human eye. Anyway, rubies and emeralds are rarer than diamonds, but both can also be artificially produced.

Alas, diamonds are not forever, as they can burn at 800 °C (might make a nice counterpoint title to Fahrenheit 451, the temperature at which paper combusts, and also the title of a novel by Ray Bradbury) and over a long period of time (maybe even the age of the Universe) decay into graphite. But the carbon nature of diamonds links to human life, which is also carbon-based. There is, of course, the notion that life could just as well have been silicon (atomic number 14, element found in the popular photovoltaic cells, glass and breast implants) based, and sand (another compound of silicon), too, lasts a long time. In any case, diamonds are symbolically appropriate for eternal life, for it refracts with brilliance and is full of color.
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The Dow Jones Industrials dropped back 173 to 8300, but world markets almost all went up, no doubt a reaction to what happened yesterday on Wall Street. Gold remained at $950/toz and crude oil went up to $63/barrel.
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By the way, Bloomberg now has a Wind Index of wind energy stocks, which can be found by clicking on above or below:

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/quote?ticker=bwind:ind
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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

THE COLOR YELLOW





















My two books on Planet Earth and Humanity delve into the full range of colors, but leave out yellow. As I was putting together a DVD of my recent trip, I noticed several yellow flowers (pictured above), plus we have had a second bloom (first flowering of another species reported in blogs of February 25 and 26) of yellow flower trees over the past two weeks. There will be a third of yellow shower trees and, perhaps a fourth of some other variety. Hawaii has the greatest assortment and highest density of these various yellow flowering trees in the world. So let me today talk about the color yellow.

Light with a wavelength between 570 and 580 nanometers is yellow. This is a rather narrow band when you consider we can see from 380 to 750 nm. The human eye is most sensitive at around 555 nm, so this is why school buses, cabs and caution flags are this color. It is difficult to build a yellow laser. I tried.

The color itself has taken on a negative reputation, as in cowardice. There is yellow journalism referring to sensational practice; yellow peril once about Japanese, and now, Chinese; and yellow movies are pornographic in China. Yet, yellow is used on national flags as a symbol of the Sun or agriculture, yellow-tail and yellow-fin are two prized fish varieties in sushi bars, and yellow is a royal color in Thailand and associated with the Libertarian Party in the U.S.

In the second grade I was wearing a yellow Aloha shirt and was stung by a honeybee. I gained a phobia against this color until fairly recently, when I noticed a very comfortable canary yellow t-shirt at Ross's in Honolulu for all of $5. So I bought it. Then, some weeks later, I saw it on sale for $3 so I bought two more. On a trip to Las Vegas I happen to see the same shirt for $15, so when I returned it was now on sale for $2 so I got three more. Finally, some months later, it had dropped to $1, so, an additional couple. I now have eight, all extra large, and of the same yellow color and material. It's my most comfortable sleeping top, which functions for dressy wear when necessary.
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The Dow Jones Industrials zoomed up 196 to 8473, world markets were mixed, gold dropped $7/toz to $950. Crude oil hit a six month high, increasing to $62.73/barrel.
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When the bondholders voted to reject the latest offer today, all signs pointed to a GM bankruptcy next week. The controlling agent is the Federal government, and my gut sense is that everything possible will be done to avoid this fate. For one, there has been too much bailout money provided. Second is that everyone else has largely capitulated, except for these Wall Street bondholders. Between now and June 1, the Feds final offer will provide a larger share of stock to the bondholders, or some consideration for greater revenue sharing in the future, to avoid this embarrassment. Why? The answer might be China, which will pass Japan as the #1 autodealer in the world this year. There is a real fear that China will pick up the pieces if GM goes under. Forget the economics, there is just too much face to lose, for GM was once the largest corporation ever in the U.S. in terms of revenues as a percent of the GDP. Considering the value of money, GM stock was about a hundred times higher at peak less than a decade ago. There is considerable upside potential for GM shorn of union, medical and retirement burdens.
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The death toll from Cyclone Aila in the Kolkata region now numbers in the range of 100, with double that for Bangladesh. Millions are being inconvenience.
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Monday, May 25, 2009

MEMORIAL DAY AND WARS

I just completed serializing my Chapter 1 on Crimes and Wars from SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity. Memorial Day remembers those who have given their lives for freedom. To quote Roxana Saberi, recently released by Iran:


"…it may sound corny, but I'm so happy to be home in the land of the free."


There are 43 wars/conflicts today, the top five according to length (with deaths) and significance being:



  1. Arab-Israeli (100,000)

  2. Somali Civil War (300,000)

  3. Afghanistan (31,000)

  4. Darfur (450,000)

  5. Iraq (100,000)

As many as 75% of those killed these days are not combatants but civilians. A good example is the Second Congo War, which started in 1998, ending in 2003, killing 5.4 million, mostly through disease and starvation. World War II had a death toll of 72 million. The Mongol Conquests could have done away with 60 million from 1207 to 1472, while a rebellion in China way back from 756 to 763 resulted in 30 million deaths.


Memorial Day began as Decoration Day just following the American Civil War to honor Union soldiers. Today, observances are held at cemeteries and a national moment of remembrance is asked at 3PM (any local time). Some memories include John McCrae’s poem, “In Flanders Fields,” which evoked the sale of artificial red poppies by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).


Memorial Day was once on May 30, but was adjusted in 1971 to the last Monday of May by Congress as part of their 3-day weekend package. The VFW has fought this change and Senator Daniel Inouye repeatedly has introduced measures to return this day to the 30th.


As the unofficial first day of summer, there are family barbecues, plus the sporting event said to have the most spectators with up to half a million, the Indianapolis 500 race, which was held yesterday, when New Hampshire also unleashed their rubber ducks. Soon we’ll have the Disneyland Gumball Rally and then the Maine lobster roll. David Holzel remarks on the ten facts of this day.


Hawaii is the final state to honor Memorial Day, occurring just now within the Punchbowl National Cemetery of the Pacific, shown in a photo below taken as I sit by my computer completing this blog.



It all ends with a lantern floating ceremony. (A video from last year.)  The World comes to this growing event.  I don't want to be a killjoy, but the sponsors are required to make an attempt to recover the floats.  That act detracts from the expectation, as unreal at it might be.


Well, you can CLICK on Taps, from the Civil War, or end on a happier note, with Susan Boyle (when you get there, go to the right box and CLICK on #8 Susan Boyle), her second performance, which occurred on Saturday, solidifying her chances of winning next week.

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Cyclone Aila, packing 100 MPH winds, struck Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta) today, killing more than 20.

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

SWINE FLU VERSUS THE WWW

There is a 1995 science fiction film starring Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt called 12 MONKEYS. Five billion people die in 1997 from a virus and the Army of the 12 Monkeys throughout most of the film is identified as the suspected terror group. This was a red herring (diverted attention).

It occurred to me that the swine flu might well be the modern day equivalent. What am I saying? First, let us investigate this red herring flu. RJ Eskow provided in HuffPo an excellent summary, entitled, The Meaning of Swine Flu, the Universe, and Everything. If you read through the comments and trace some of the references, you can take a comedic pathway leading you to Jeff Horwich’s Don’t Cough on Me Alejandro (sung to Don’t Cry for me Argentina), a satire found in Face Book. Also, too, you just can’t skip another HuffPo posting, this one in the Comedy section, by Juliet Jeske, on Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s Guide to the Swine Flu. You will then be trapped into yet another Comedy HuffPo, this one by Will Menaker, on CongressBorat Bachmann, from Minnesota, always in the top ten among states in educational achievement and well being (health). Yet, they produce a Governor Jesse Ventura and can’t extricate themselves from the continuing farce with Al Franken, known as their senatorial race. But I digress.

You might think that I am making a joke of the swine flu, for my April 24 posting was entitled, “Benefits of the Swine Flu Scare,” followed on May 5 with “Cinco de Mayo and the Swine Flu.” But no, let me make it crystal clear that the way this situation has unveiled, it was necessary for government to take certain appropriate steps. Further, if you happen to be so unlucky as to contract this ailment, your potential for death is ten times greater than if you only got the “common” flu. So the seeds of hysteria are well-based. Yet, you have to wonder how we got ourselves into this dilemmic mode: on the one hand, we have something that will almost never happen (a serious swine flu epidemic), while on the other, there is death, worried mothers and panic.

Let’s first look at the reality. You can go to my Chapter 2 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity or my daily blog, where hard numbers are provided. But, to summarize:

1. The regular flu kills one in a thousand, while the swine flu seems closer to one in a hundred. That previous avian flu of a decade ago has a 60% mortality rate, but it is not all that contagious. The fear is that the swine flu will morph into a more dangerous form. The potential of this happening is very low, and, in any case, it is appearing that all 50 or so variations might turn out to be treatable with one vaccine. So, certainly, spend my tax dollars to develop a common vaccine, but don’t close down countries and schools.

2. The numbers are embarrassingly obvious. By the time this article is published, there should be 15,000 swine flu cases worldwide with a hundred or more deaths. This means an incidence of 500 new cases and 3 deaths a day since a month ago when the nano-pandemic was announced. Something like a million people daily contract some form of flu and at least a thousand die, every day, usually from complications (heart, pneumonia, etc.). This terrifying swine flu is thus hardly detectable noise. I might further add that traffic fatalities number 3000/day, but we drive on.

Why, then, has the world, epitomized by the World Health Organization, gone bonkers over the swine flu? I would like to speculate on the reason. I think it has to do with our political way of life influenced by the world wide web (WWW), as sensitized by the terroristic act of September 11, 2001. There is also the palpable need to cover your rear.

First came airport security. From all reports, the vast funds allocated and our time wasted have not made us any safer. Yet, the great majority of the public likes it.

The masses today are supersensitized to any threat. So when you mix in the World Wide Media (WWM) and WWW, the reaction can be instantaneous and overwhelming. I saw the power of this medium, so thought that the Huffington Post would be an ideal vehicle to share my thoughts, for the instant feedback feature of these virtual portals, in my mind, would provide power to the people, replacing protest marches. Clearly, I have not learned how to galvanize action because my 52 HuffPostings have influenced few, if any. Part of this failure I ascribe to the fact that I tend to focus on Peak Oil, Global Warming and related topics. No one immediately dies in my articles.

Swine flu, though, conjures dark images of mortality. CNN saturates their air time on such issues because they know people will watch. Newspapers and the WWW pick it up and decision-makers are thusly influenced. The cascading circle of information gains a life of its own. The truth is that the truly dangerous virus is not the swine flu, but the medium itself. The pandemic is this resultant overreaction. What is the simple solution? I don’t know.

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This site has now been visited by 78 countries. I would love a short note from at least one person from each nation. Incidentally, I'm not sure how many languages can be translated, but at the top of the box on the right, if you click on your flag, my English will be converted to yours.

1902-124-78

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Friday, May 22, 2009

COUNTRY #8: ARMENIA


There appears to be no one explanation of the flag, but, in general, the red symbolizes the blood spilt for freedom or the sun, blue for the sky, and orange for some combination of agriculture and wheat.

Armenia emerged around 800 BC and became organized as an entity just after 200 BC. In 301 AD, Armenia became the first country to adopt Christianity. The nation was swept by Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Persian, Mongol and Ottoman conquests, and during World War I, Ottoman Turkish policies resulted in an estimated 1 million Armenian deaths. That was western Armenia. The eastern area involved Azerbaijan, Turkey, the Soviet Union and constant warfare, or, at best, bickering. Internally, the government, while proclaiming an aim to become a Western parliamentary democracy, has been mostly metastable, complete with assassinations, protest marches, international sanctions and general unrest. Serzh Sargsian took office as President in April 2008. There is now relative calm and the economy is improving.

The Republic of Armenia is landlocked, located north of Iran, about the size of Maryland and with about 3 million people as the second most densely populated of the former Soviet republics. The GDP/capita is just under $3,000, and literacy is 99%. The country is almost totally dependent on Russia and Georgia for energy, although a natural gas pipeline from Iran has just been added. It has been determined that a new nuclear power facility must be their next priority. The U.S. is providing up to a quarter billion dollars over a five year period to strengthen democracy as part of the Millennium Challenge Compact

The Department of State encourages all U.S. citizens traveling or residing abroad to register via the State Department's travel registration website or at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Registration will make your presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary to contact you in an emergency and will enable you to receive up-to-date information on security conditions.

The Armenian Internationial Network and the Armenian News Network can be consulted for the latest news, and Eurasianet.org provides regular briefings of the country. About.com provides a good overall background of the country. A nice bit of trivia when you are on some TV quiz show is, what is the capitol of Armenia? Yerevan.
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The Dow Jones Industrials could not stay positive and ended minus 15 at 8277. GM bankruptcy rumors provided considerable uncertainty, with their stock dropping 25% to 1.43 today. If you're a gambler, hoping that the bond holders cave in by next Tuesday, this might be a good buy, for all you can lose is $1.43/share if the worst happens. I wouldn't buy a million shares. If you're collecting useless stock certificates (I have Enron's and United Air's), this could be it. Gold continued to climb, and crude oil edged up to $61.60/barrel.
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Storms seems to be brewing in the Bay of Bengal and South China Sea.
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Thursday, May 21, 2009

COUNTRY #7: ARGENTINA


The Argentinian flag is light blue and white, with the Sun of May, representing the Inca sun god Inti. Their revolution occurred in May of 1810. There are 16 straight and 16 waved arms, something having to do with their first coin valued at eight Argentinian escudos to the Spanish dollar. The flag of Uruguay uses a similar sun. The white stands for peace and honor, while the light blue for vigilance, truth, loyalty, perseverance and justice. Another meaning has the blue for the Rio de la Plata (River of Silver), the widest river in the world.

Early settlers can be traced back to 11,000 BC in Patagonia. The Spanish came in 1516, and independence was attained in 1816. Argentina is the second largest country in South American (next to Brazil), about 30% that of the USA, and has 41 million people. It has the second highest Human Development Index (#46 to #40 Chile) on the continent.

Life expectancy is 76.6, Spanish is the official language, and the GDP/capita is $14,200. The chief of state is President Cristina Kirchner. A severe depression discombobulated the economy and politics from 2001.

Argentina is an oil exporter and the Argentine peso is relatively stable in the range of 3 / U.S. Dollar. I don’t know why I keep reporting number of airports, but this country has 1,150 of them.

There was that 1982 Falkland War with the UK, but , otherwise, there is now relative peace. Of course Argentina is famous for tango, beef and Malbec wine. Check into growing some yourself.
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The Dow Jones Industrials dropped 130 to 8292 and all world markets declined. Gold is surging: up $15/toz to $953. Oil dropped a buck to $61/barrel.
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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

MY DAY AT NELHA

Recently, I've been actively communicating on the Ultimate Ocean Ranch and the Blue Revolution. It is thus timely that, on this day when the local newspapers reported on Bill Spencer's Hawaii Oceanic Technologies Big Eye Tuna project off the West Coast of the Big Island, with elements of NEXT GENERATION FISHERIES, I happened to visit the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA).




NELHA is located at Keahole Point just south of Spencer's announced enterprise. I was secretary of the Board a quarter of a century ago. The last time I was here, I flew into Kona Airport on Aloha. Below, Guy Toyama and Neil Sims at Kona Blue.

I guess the primary reason why I came was to participate in a special luncheon sponsored by Neil, President/co-founder of Kona Blue, and he featured his Kona Kampachi. Also known as Kahala, Amberjack, Yellow Tail (not yellow-fin, which is a tuna), Hamachi and Buri (a larger hamachi). Two great reasons to tout this product: Neil has eliminated Ciguateria found in natural varieties and the flesh is high in Omega-3 fish oils. Most importantly, it tasted great. The chef was Kelly Coleman, his VP of Marketing, who prepared this delicacy sashimi and fried (broiled?), with a major salad, rice and refreshment provided by Guy (later about him). Neil shared an anecdote about my recruiting him to Hawaii 20 years ago over a bottle of Wolf Blass Black Cabernet/Shiraz in Sydney. True, although it couldn't have been that long ago. Best to Kate, Neil.


In attendance were three chef/fish dealers/marketers, Guy, Kelly and Tetsuzan Benny Ron, who is the new aquaculture program coordinator for the University of Hawaii. Benny will make a difference.  Uday Huja of MGM Grand also seems to have considerable clout.  I did not realize they controlled 40,000 rooms in Las Vegas.


Guy Toyama, is director of the Friends of NELHA, owner of H2 Technologies and producer of Kona Pure (Hawaiian salt), I think with MERA. He also is involved with the next possible deep ocean water operations.


Okay, I was surprised, maybe even shocked, about three things today:


1. At TroutLodge, I learned that butterfish is the Black Cod, also known as the Sable Fish:


I kind of thought that it was more a process. Well, actually, I was not absolutely totally wrong, as in Japan a butterfish is a wart perch and in American it is a skipjack (and a bunch of other fish), only RELATED to the BLACK COD. Click on definition. Benny, Jackie Zimmerman and Guy at the TroutLodge facility, which is growing moi and black cod.



2. The Sea Urchin we eat on sushi is not the body. We only consume the gonads. Both males and females have them. Benny explained to me how to differentiate which sex, but you don't need to know. Reminds me of my fugu testicles experience, but you can read about that in Chapter 4 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth.


3. Many fish are hermaphrodites, that is, can take on either sex. Thus, if you have two male flameangels (see below), one of them becomes female during the mating season. Syd Kraul of Pacific Planktonics is focusing on this fish and the yellow tang. Makes sense, because a Kona Kampachi can sell for $10/pound or more, but these ornamental fish can be many hundreds (in fact, thousands) of dollars per pound. Guy, Benny and Syd, fashionably dressed for our visit, pose.
The flameangel and yellow tang:



















We also visited Big Island Abalone (above). Their Kona abalone is now the Japan Ezu awabi, for the market is sushi bars in that country. As with this company, and some others here, there seems to be a lot of international takeovers and rumors about new marine products, including blue fin tuna.

The recent legislative action about NELHA now reporting to the Department of Accounting and General Services instead of the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism also adds an element of uncertainty, but might actually be a reason for optimism. The Board of NELHA when I served had a majority of Big Island representation, but, now, the companies run the management. No signs, apparently, about using any of the deep ocean cold water for an OTEC facility.

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The Dow Jones slipped 53 to 8422 and world markets were mostly down. Gold jumped $12/toz to $937 and crude oil continued to rise, now up way past $60/barrel (see right).
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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

COUNTRY #6: ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA

The flag of Antigua and Barbuda is symbolic of their victory (the red V), where red represents energy of the people, blue provides hope plus the sea, black for their African ancestry, yellow for the Sun, and white for their sand.  Located east-southeast of Puerto Rico as two major islands in the Caribbean, there were settlements as early as 2900 BC.  Columbus landed here on his second journey in 1493.  Antigua/Barbuda became an English colony in 1667, and was established as an independent state of the British Commonwealth in 1981, making Queen Elizabeth II the chief of state.

 

The current population is 86,000 and, like many locations covered so far, the two islands are about 2.5 times the size of Washington, D.C.  That island regularly tormented by volcanic eruptions, Montserrat, is located just south.

 

Life expectancy is 74.8, 91% are black, literacy is well over 90% and, of course, English is the official language.  GDP/capita is $19,000, and the exchange rate is fixed at 2.7 East Caribbean Dollars to the U.S. Dollar.  It is a significant offshore financial center, and a minor transshipment point for narcotics to the U.S. and Europe.

 

Yes, Antigua and Barbuda are in the midst of an economic crisis, but so is the rest of the world. They had to cancel their June Romantic Rhythms Music Festival.  One of their ships was hijacked by Somalian pirates earlier this month.  


Should you choose to travel there, you will find 365 highlights.  Yes, they have casinos and are into online gambling and sport book sites.  In many of the countries featured thus far, you wouldn't even think of going there.  A/B is relatively safe, save for the usual petty stuff found everywhere, peaking during the 10-day Carnival celebration (July 23 to August 4 this year):  steel bands, costumes, parades and more.  The hurricane season extends from June to November.

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The Dow Jones Industrials slipped 29 to 8474.  We were the only stock market that dropped today.  Gold increased $7/toz to $926 and oil loitered just above and below $60/barrel.  Another prediction: oil will rise to $70/bbl next year.  This one seems like a pretty safe bet.  President Obama today announced his auto efficiency plan.  The average mileage of cars, today at 27.5 miles per gallon, will need to improve to 39 MPG by 2016, and light trucks from 23.1 to 30 MPG.  Clearly, electric cars got a plug, for they will balance the higher profit SUV sales.  I am thus compelled to again refer you to my HuffPo on what should be the future of the American auto industry.  


I am disappointed.  Mind you, an upgraded fuel efficiency standard itself is great.  But it appears that this Administration has swiftly been hoodwinked by the electric power industry, and further reinforced by wind power proponents such as T. Boone Pickens.  Their victory is that the commercial arena will be steered in the direction of the plug-in electric car.  There is no greater supporter of wind power than me.  However, this option currently only provides 1% of the electricity we generate, and enormous amounts of coal will continue to be burned for many decades, and somewhere in that upcoming period, the direct methanol fuel cell will supersede the electric car, and we will again miss out on the patents because the U.S. Department of Energy still prohibits providing funds to conduct research on this pathway.  A second HuffPo on this subject can also be consulted.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

UPDATE ON THE SWINE FLU


This is my fourth (April 24 and 27, May 5) posting on the swine flu, which seems like it has been threatening humanity for some time, but, almost surprisingly, only became an issue about a month ago. You can give the 9/11 terrorists some credit, for the world has certainly responded, and I feel a tad guilty about, perhaps, being somewhat supercilious and mildly sarcastic about this potential pandemic. But, let's face it, I have been mostly right about the overreaction and thankful about the fact that, so far, it has been mostly hype.

Here are my conclusions:

1. Are we overreacting to the swine flu, as we did to the avian flu a few years ago? YES!!! That previous dreaded H5N1 bird flu has killed 261 since 2003. In that period, more than a thousand succumbed to falling coconuts. Okay, that might have been said in some jest, although there are some unverified estimates about coconut deaths. Consider also that 3,000 people die each DAY in vehicular accidents.

2. Since a month ago, nearly 9000 have contracted the H1N1 swine flu and up to 80 have died. In that same period, probably 30 million caught some form of flu and more than 40,000 died. Nuff said.

3. While Mexico has been mostly blamed for the current nano-pandemic, I suspect some versions of H1N1 are endemic in any population (for this is essentially the same variety that killed 50-100 million in the 1918-19 period). It was probably here in Hawaii last year, and every year before that, and no bothered to confirm. We are mostly resistant to the current form, but the fear (which is largely unfounded, as it was for that avian flu) is for the appearance of a mutant form later this year. However, all things considered, if you are nailed by a flu virus, hope that it is not the swine type, for the mortality rate could well be ten times higher compared to the "common" influenza.

4. It's good for government to be prepared, for education and concern should be stressed. However, closing down countries and schools are hardly necessary.

Here are the statistics:

1. Every year, worldwide, there are tens of millions of flu cases. No one knows, for most do not consult a doctor. If only one percent of the population per year contracts the flu, that is at least 60 million cases, and I know for certain (just observation, of course) that more than one percent of my friends catch the flu each year. I'd go so far as to say that at least 10% do. In fact, more. Very few actually bother with a physician. Say this 10% figure is extended to the world, then we are talking 600 million flu cases/year. That is in the range of nearly 2 million new flu cases each DAY.

2. The number 36,000 flu related deaths/year is tossed around in the USA, from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. For the world, it is said that there are up to 500,000 flu deaths/year in a normal year. Mortality is an amorphous figure, for rarely does anyone just die from the flu. Complications, whether it is pneumonia or heart disease, complicate the picture.

3. My best guess is that a million people catch the flu (or have flu-like symptoms) each day, worldwide. Of this group, a bit more than one tenth of one percent, or 1500, will die/day, or slightly more than 500,000 flu deaths/year.

4. The 1918 Spanish Flu was an avian H1N1, with swine taints. The current swine flu is also H1N1. Influenza A is also bandied about, but that is just more specification. The avian flu we were really worried about a few years ago was of the H5N1 variety.

5. The current swine flue has about a 1% mortality rate. But, remember, that H5N1 avian flu is said to have a kill rate of 60%. Thankfully, it is not easy to be infected and infect others with this strain. However, about a third of the world population caught the 1918 Spanish flu (avian H1N1), and almost 100 million died (2% rate, if true...maybe 50 million deaths might have also have been closer to the true count, which would bring the rate down to the present 1% seen in this swine flu). Today, with air travel and nearly 4 times more people, 200 million cases would not be unexpected for a similar contagion. However, I wouldn't be too worried about this swine flu, nor the H5N1 avian flu
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The Dow Jones Industrials surged almost 3%, up 235 to 8504. However, there is concern about the viability of Fannie and Freddie, plus GM, quoting CEO Fritz Henderson today as probable, regarding bankruptcy. World markets almost all increased, but Japan's Nikkei dropped 2.44%. Gold sunk $13/toz to $919 and crude almost reached $60/barrel (see right). So much for the prediction last week by yet another speculator that oil would soon drop to $50/barrel. The trends are performing nicely: bottoming out of the recession should result in higher stock prices, lower gold futures and increasing energy costs.
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Sunday, May 17, 2009

CRIMES AND WARS (Part 40)

My serialization of Chapter 1 from SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity started on October 20.  It took 40 parts.  So today is the final segment, summarizing those simple solutions for crimes and wars.

The Simple Solutions to Crimes and Wars

The two key leaders to bring an end to crime and wars are the United Nations and the United States. The following scenario can be projected:

 

o      In January of 2009 a Democratic is inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States. A Republican is too beholden to the military-industry complex to take the world leadership against wars.

 

o      By the end of 2011 Peak Oil and Global Warming show all the signs of total disaster that the G8 Nations in 2012 agree to totally disarm over the next decade and provide the United Nations a mandate to eliminate crime and war. Yes, why not add crime to the goals, including three strikes and you’re dead.

 

o      The glorious vision of 2020 is then of Planet Earth again being secure and Humanity at Peace.

 

If not 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2020, then, some sequence within the following decade. The only requisite is for that monumental cataclysm, whatever form it might take.

 

A Democrat, however, will not be able to even mention “Three Strikes and You’re Dead.” A Republican would be more inclined to do so, but only if there is a groundswell of national fervor for this draconian solution. This could take a long time to build, and most probably will never gain any major foothold. It is incredible that our society, as flawed as it is to make necessary decisions, is better conformed to end wars forever, but because of ethics and morality, might forever be afflicted with crime. Maybe there will be no simple solution for crime.

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Next:  Diamonds:  Eternal Life (Chapter 2 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity).

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Seventy-five countries have now visited this blog site.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

CRIME AND WARS (Part 39)




The following is excerpted from Chapter 1 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity. The two pictured (from Wikimedia Commons) individuals were very influential. Without either one, there would have been no Chapter 1. I worked for U.S. Senator Spark Matsunaga (left), who was the driving force behind the U.S. Peace Institute. R. J. Rudy Rummel (right), is a retired political science professor from the University of Hawaii, who first wrote on the solution to be provided.




A Simple Solution to Wars

Is total peace just a simple matter of controlling nuclear power and neutralizing China? It is said that the waging of peace will take many turns and be accomplished in small steps. George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn, a bipartisan team of super decision-makers, wrote an op ed (opinion of the editor, and also opposite the editorial) article for The Wall Street Journal in 2007, calling for a world free of nuclear weapons.118 They remarked that the Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1967 established the foundation for their plea, but the vision of Iran and emergence of global terrorists have changed the rules of the game. Certainly, the control of the atom will be a necessary early step to pave the way to peace.

Second, what about China? The Ford Foundation and Rockefeller Brothers Fund sponsored a study on “Scenarios for the Future of United States – China Relations,” looking ahead to 2010.98 The policy choices recommended were that:

o The U.S. and China needed to go beyond economic engagement and identify common security interests, such as seeking a common ground on Taiwan and sharing capabilities in environmental protection and sustainable energy.

o The U.S. policy should get off their current incoherent mixture of containment and engagement, and instead work mutually towards China as a global power, after all, it has been predicted that the Gross Domestic Products of the two countries will be equal by 2025.

o The U.S. should carefully support human rights reform in China.

o The relationship should not be one of friends, but of family.

But these are lower order requirements to maintain order and progress. Is there a more definitive, and simpler, means of insuring for future peace? I started writing this chapter without a solution.

Early in 2006 I was thumbing through the latest issue of Honolulu, and amazingly enough, there was the simple solution to ending wars forever. Emeritus Professor Rudolf Rummel of the University of Hawaii Political Science Department wrote an article entitled, “Iraq: was Bush right?” He says yes, but more so, pointed out that of all international wars with at least 1,000 casualties from 1816 to 2005, almost two centuries, there have been no wars between two democracies.268 There were 166 between democracies and non democracies and 205 between non democracies and non democracies. Let me repeat: NO MAJOR WARS BETWEEN TWO OR MORE DEMOCRACIES OVER THE PAST TWO CENTURIES.

Is that a clue to end all wars or what? Maybe President George W. Bush, too, knows this. Maybe that is why he and his aides jumped headlong into the Middle East. Certainly, their proposing the establishment of the UN Democracy Fund is philosophically consistent. To boot, their Iraq surge in 2007, as faulty as it was because more troops could have been sent if the politics allowed, actually worked, and there is hope now that not winning has become not losing, all for the long-term establishment of a workable democracy.

I subsequently went to GOOGLE, and there was a Wikipedia section just on Rudolph Joseph Rummel. Then I remembered that his wife, Grace, was a high school classmate of mine, but that I had not seen her in half a century. Emeritus Professor Rummel has published 24 scholarly books and over 100 professional articles. He also coined the term democide, or murder by government, claiming that six times as many people died of this act in the 20th century than all wars. His book, Power Kills, published in 1997, was largely available on the internet, so I read it and began communicating with him. He said his hearing was going, so it was best for us to converse by e-mail.

The CATO Institute published their Ninth Annual Ranking of Economic Freedom in 2005, stipulating that economic freedom is almost 50 times more effective than democracy in restraining nations from going to war. Professor Rummel reacted with sadness, pointing out in blogger Democratic Peace, that not only was this wrong, but incompetent. The basic argument: if the study uses data showing zero wars between democracies over almost two centuries, how can economic freedom be 50 times better? The point, of course, is not to refute Professor Rummel’s contention, but, only so, to underscore that our present government’s policy to promote peace in the Middle East and other regions through democratization is of questionable worth. It should be remembered, of course, why these organizations push a cause. The CATO Institute happens to be a libertarian public policy research foundation. Libertarians want to limit the role of government and they love free markets. Rummel, a libertarian on domestic issues, still felt compelled to respond.

So I now had a solution to end wars, courtesy of Professor Rummel. Clearly, the U.S. is only a necessary participant in the process, and is not in any position to coordinate the larger peace.

Searching my soul, the only final stage solution I could formulate was for the United Nations to be provided enhanced powers to insure for the phase-out of wars by:

o Creating a World Peace Institute (WPI) to train peacekeepers. While every major country has academies to train warriors, the time has come to produce the leaders who have the mentality, attitude and capability to engender peace. (This is straight from Spark Matsunaga.)

o Set up a peace equity fund by assessing companies/governments exporting war equipment of any type. It is reported that the U.S. alone sold abroad more than $142 billion dollars worth of weaponry in 1992. This amount has dropped since then, but, world-wide, remains in the range of $50 billion/year. This fund will be used to establish and operate the WPI. The rate can be determined by need. This so-called investment (also known as a tax) for peace should serve an enhanced role by reducing the market demand, sort of like how significantly increasing gasoline taxes would lower consumption.

Well, Reagan’s Star Wars strategy bankrupted the Soviet Union, so we conveniently were able to win the Cold War for the cause of freedom. About China, well, let’s see what we can do to steer them towards a democracy. Step one has been successful, which was to introduce free enterprise into their economy. Of course, Taiwan, a splinter we support, is a representative democracy. Where is Chiang Kai-shek or the next one, to unify the entire country? Or, more sensibly, future leaders of China might someday succeed in courting Taiwan into accepting some form of governmental partnership, which could well provide the Trojan Horse to long-term democracy. Macau and Hong Kong are already partly serving this function, as is Shanghai.

Or, there is the theory that China will go the way of the Soviet Union and split into a bunch of smaller nations. Whatever, the SIMPLE SOLUTION strategy is clear: to end all wars for a long time, steer China into democracy.

Thus, the simple solution to ending wars forever is simply to:

1. Establish the World Peace Institute under UN auspices.

2. Broaden the UN Democracy Fund to convert all countries to democracies.

3. Financially support the above by placing a peace incentive surcharge on exported armaments. The rate will be determined by the amount required to progressively carry out tasks #1 and #2. This fund will over time drop to zero because of the following monumental breakthrough.

4. Whether they be world conditions or inspired leadership by the major countries, it is conceivable that the G8 Nations can someday simply agree to total disarmament over, say, a 10 year period. This time, all nuclear weapons should be immediately and terminally dismantled. If at the height of the Cold War the U.S. and USSR found it possible to agree on philosophical disarmament, it should be easier and almost predictable for the G8 to take this grand step for the future of humanity. Can you imagine the benefits if the entire budget of all countries can subsequently be focused on benefiting people and our planet? This is partly why Japan and Costa Rica can be so economically competitive already, for the former has minimal defense expenditures and the latter has no military. If crime and drugs can also become obsolete, allocations for police, the judiciary, prisons and the like can also be shifted to the 7 R’s of education, the environment and a sustainable world.

How long will this all take? Maybe never if you’re a pessimistic, or realist. But only three generations would be about a century, an infinitesimally minuscule period considering that we have 5 billion years left before the Sun expands and engulfs Planet Earth.

Yet, to be truly simple-minded, it is not impossible for all this to occur in a decade. How? Say Peak Oil and Global Warming (details are provided in Book 1) begin to show cataclysmic reality. The only solution possible to minimize global economic and political collapse would be for the G8 Nations to provide emergency powers to the United Nations to solve the problem.:

o In the 2009 G8 Summit, President Clinton or Obama (remember, this book was published in March of 2009--see Huffington Post article entitled, "Well Barack, We have a Problem") calls for immediate and total world disarmament, starting with the U.S. halving (in that article, I adjusted to only reducing by 10% as more reasonable) our defense budget, and other nations, likewise. A Republican will philosophically not be able to take this colossal step. We can afford to be so magnanimous because we are so dominant that this first step should not cripple our ability to defend our nation, if other countries also comply. The defense budgets would then be applied to fix the energy/environment problem, plus engineer the peace. The military units themselves would be re-assigned to the task at hand, then phased out over time. They are already trained to do so in natural disasters. The military-industrial complex would merely shift their thrust to renewable energy and environmental remediation.

o Pick 2020 as the year in which hydrogen would be made free. GoCo’s (government-company partnerships) would be formed to insure that the technologies and infrastructure would be available to provide for free renewable hydrogen by that date. Of course, the tax structure will likely need to be adjusted to actually pay for this FREE energy. (See Chapter 3 in Book 1, Simple Solutions for Planet Earth. (Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Energy just decimated the hydrogen budget.)

o As it might be difficult to develop an all-hydrogen system in a few short years, it would be wise to provide for a parallel pathway: biomethanol. Methanol is the only bioliquid that can be directly processed through a fuel cell, so a comprehensive effort should also be focused on the direct methanol fuel cell, gasification and catalysis of biomass into this fuel and retrofitting of supply lines. (See Chapter 2 of Book 1.) As windpower has more recently become competive, a major effort should be focused on offshore windpower, where bladders in the ocean can be fed electrolyzed hydrogen for export. As utility companies today do not trust the winds supplying more than 20% of their demand, this bulk storage also can be tapped to provide electricity when winds are low, thus eliminating this handicap from wind power. Details can be found in Chapter 2 of Book 1.

Can all this be accomplished in a dozen years? Well, the Hoover Dam was built in five years (early 30’s), the Atomic Bomb took five years (early 40’s), Man on the Moon was pronounced by JFK in 1961 (with Neil Armstrong monumental step occurring in 1969), and the largest aquarium in the world was built in Georgia in four years (2001 to 2005). Mankind, or individuals, when challenged, can meet difficult goals. Ironically enough, the fortuitous double hammer of Peak Oil and Global Warming could well be that “Attack of the Aliens” requirement for humanity to set aside conflicts to arrive at a simple solution to end all wars.
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The Dow Jones Industries slipped 63 to 8268, falling nearly 200 for the week. World markets mostly went up today. Want to know where President Obama invests? Click here. Gold went up $5/toz to 931. Crude oil dropped a couple of bucks/barrel (see right).
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Thursday, May 14, 2009

CRIME AND WARS (Part 38)

The following is from Chapter 1 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity:
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Is Democracy Working?

Without getting into the debate of whether the U.S. is a democracy or republic (the Constitution says it is the latter), let us simplify the government form called democracy (or republic) as a sovereignty of the people where the majority rules with minorities protected. The system provides for basic human rights, fair elections, equality before the law, constitutional limits on government and general pluralism. Both Democrats and Republicans function in our democracy, so any government form of the above that is not authoritarian or a monarchy qualifies in this book as a democracy. Democracy is the institutionalization of freedom.

Democracy might have been invented in India before the 6th century BC. India today is the world’s largest democracy. However, the history books tend to write that this form of government was started around the same time in Athens, Greece, where it was practiced.
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North Korea’s constitution describes the country as a democratic state, but it does not operate on those principles. Thus, it is not a matter of what a country is called or what its governing document says—the reality is in the performance. There are gray areas, such as social or anarchistic democracy. We will stick with the popular form of liberal democracy as utilized in the United States, which began to gain worldwide dominance only after World War II.

During the past century, about one/third of society has lived in democratic nations. Democracies come and go, with the U.S., U.K. Sweden, Switzerland and Canada perhaps noteworthy as being able to continuously maintain this form of government for more than a few years.
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Fascism was a problem, but was eliminated. Democracies tend to be immune to communism. Military and assorted coups have overthrown democracies more than 30 times over the past century. Thailand regularly does this.

According to Freedom House (an American organization), at the end of 2005, there were 122 electoral democracies, representing 64% of all nations, compared to 40% in the mid-80s.167 The 2006 ranking for best democracies show Sweden at the top and the U.S. at #17. Why so low? Civil rights have recently been compromised and there is a sense that the government is not functioning. They could be right. The U.K. is at #23, India at #35, Thailand #90, Russia #102, Iraq #112 and North Korea #167.

There is even a new journal on the subject, called Democracy: A Journal of Ideas. One interesting point made is that open-source technology, such as Wikipedia, is making government decision-making more democratic.225

Is there hope for democracy in Islamic countries? Interestingly enough, two Muslim countries, Lebanon and Turkey, are similar to U.S. views on favoring democracy over a leader with a strong hand: U.S. at 63%, Lebanon 63% and Turkey 57%. U.S. at 63%?? The other 27% must want something else than a democracy. Anyway, on the question of whether democracy can work in their country, the Pew Research Center reported that:

o Kuwait 83%
o Nigeria 75%
o Lebanon 68%
o Pakistan 58%
o Turkey 50%
o Indonesia 41%

The study further indicated that 70% of respondents from Turkey, Senegal and Mali agreed that religion should be kept separate from government policy. The U.S. result was 55%. That is, 45% of people in this country think that religion should not be separated from government.14 If you’re wondering about the insanity of some of this, wait till you get to Chapter 5 on the Golden Evolution.

In mid 2007 a poll of Iranians by Terror Free Tomorrow found that 79% supported a democratic system in which leaders are elected through free elections. 78% favored nuclear energy, but only 33% were for nuclear weapons.

Thus, the bottom line is that people of the Middle East feel that democracy can work in their country. They don’t like the U.S. telling them what to do, so there needs to be a different approach. A 2005 Gallup International Poll found 78% from the Middle East agreeing that “Democracy may have problems but it is the best form of government.” Further, on the prospects of the United Nations becoming significantly more powerful in world affairs, 77% of Indonesians and 70% of Iranians were positive.179
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The Dow Jones Industrials rose 46 to 8331, while world markets were mixed. Gold went up almost a buck to $926/toz. Oil inched up, but there is yet another prediction, suggesting that crude will drop back to $50/barrel. What did I tell you about oil price predictions?
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Tomorrow, a simple solution to wars.
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