Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Destruction of a Commons

From Australian Government Biodiversity study

This graph shows the amount of Southern Bluefin Tuna (mass in thousands of tons) per year caught from about 1952 until 2004 or so. If other trends for other oceans are similar, the results mean that we've fished out all of the oceans of their major species. The oceans which are vast could recover if we had a 4-5 year moratorium on most types of fishing, but governments are loath to adopt policies that would allow sustainable fishing. We are seeing the depletion of a commons before our very eyes. If we do not stop this over-harvesting, sooner or later, most likely quite soon, Nature will stop us. Nature's solution to overpopulation is famine followed by disease. There is a law which states that one starves when there is nothing to eat. It's a very simple law and one that can not be violated. Starvation causes humans to do strange things to drive the hunger pangs away. If you wish to satisfy your curiosity, look up the Donner Party, the starving time of the Jamestown Settlement, or Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 for what people have to do to survive.


Ending Hate

Never in this world does hatred
Cease by hatred;
Hatred ceases by love,
And this according to a law
Which has existed forever.



Monday, March 29, 2010

Mine may Have Sunk South Korean Corvette

Image from english.ruvr.ru article

This Al Jazeera article states the official South Korean story thus far that the sinking of the Cheonan was due to a mine. A mine deployed possibly from the Korean War. Wouldn't a mine tend to strike closer to the bow? Whether it was a mine or torpedo, it tore off the ship's stern and she sank very quickly. Well, the stern did. The bow capsized and floated from trapped air for some unknown time. I wish Pete Coates was still blogging at GentleSeas, but he's got school to worry about. Life is about priorities. He'll be back online within two months or so. However, the gentle Asian seas were a little hostile last week and his public commentary and analysis would have proven illuminating.

ruvr.ru story


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Fresh Water from Sea Water via MIT

The Register has an article on desalinization of seawater using microfluidic wafer technology. The power needed to make fresh drinking water for one person is something like 60 Watt. If they can scale this process and make it practical, desalinization might become economical for coastal cities. We can quit diverting rivers to quench the thirst of Los Angeles and other coastal desert cities. This would be a good thing provided we did not dump the salt back into the ocean in one spot. I wonder if the same technology can be used to concentrate gold and other precious metal ions from seawater. You could pay for your fresh water by selling the gold you extracted. One of my elementary science teachers told us Fifth Graders that if there was an economical way to extract gold from seawater, one could become very wealthy.

Alternatively, if people could be genetically engineered so that they could drink seawater without ill effects, that would be an even cheaper solution than MIT's gadget. Once the alleles exist in the population, they would confer an advantage to coastal residents, and the genes would be passed to their children the natural way for free.


Monday, March 22, 2010


"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away."

Philip K. Dick


The Big Leap

This is an inspiring post about our biggest leap ever.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Conventional Bank Robbery is a Dying Breed

Two bank robbers were shot to death by police today trying to evade pursuit in Tennessee. They were the dumb ones. The smart ones live overseas in countries with no extradition treaties and/or lax computer-related criminal laws. Their weapons are their computers and their knowledge of programming languages. They don't shoot any one. They use your personal Windows computer to steal your money from your bank account. If they do make a mistake and get caught by the authorities, they may still possibly avoid imprisonment. American bank robbers will either have to move overseas or start hacking Russian and Chinese bank accounts. Alternatively, they can just become bankers and rob American banks by managing them into the ground while walking away with bogus bonuses they "earned" during the boom years. Perhaps the white-collar criminal is the only way an American can be a criminal bank robber these days without having to be a programmer. Too bad most of the agents in the FBI's White Collar Criminal Unit were all reassigned counterterrorism duties. While they were looking for terrorists, mortgage fraud became an epidemic.


Sparrow Nestlings

This spring, if you find a baby sparrow on the ground and can't return it to its nest, keep it warm and dry and feed it canned moist dog food with a high protein content. Sparrow chicks are fed insects (high protein) up until they are almost adults when they switch to plant seeds. Feeding nestlings bread crumbs or seeds just hastens their deaths.


The Best Way to Steal

Where we are, and how we got there. Economists do not have the f-word called fraud in their vocabulary. According to Bill Black 80% of mortgage fraud is committed by lenders, 20% by borrowers. Which group is the FBI focusing its efforts? Is it the mortgage lenders? No, it's the borrowers. This financial crisis is very similar to the S&L Crisis of the 1980s, but on a much more massive scale. The thieves are the management. Everyone else gets robbed. The bad guys walk away without any fear of going to jail. The cops are either asleep or enabling the robbers because the cops believe that the robbers are good people trying to make a honest buck because the crooks wouldn't lie to them.

Markets are efficient and self-regulating. Markets do not tolerate fraud and abuse. This was what Greenspan believed. The chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, the head regulator, believed that nonsense. Bernanke. his successor, did nothing to stop the crisis. Geithner, the President of the FRBNY, did nothing to stop the crisis even though they had multiple and timely warnings that Lehman was failing. The SEC allowed excessive leverage because Hank Paulson petitioned them to relax the rule restricting leveraging limits. This crash could have been averted if one of the regulators had said stop or done their jobs. But the regulators whose job it was to protect the country from a financial, man-made calamity failed to do their jobs. Yet, all we hear is that regulations are a burden to free markets and consumer protection, and financial crises are like natural disasters that happen every 5-7 years. No, regulations are there to protect the people who also happen to be producers and consumers. My bank does not care about me. They care about my money and the FDIC guarantee attached to it because it is one of their insurance policies. What other business gets to have their money guaranteed against loss?


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Nuclear Energy - Future Directions (O'Reilly Webcast October 2009)

In 2009, the world used 12 teraWatts of power. By 2050, 28 teraWatts of power are projected to be needed at current usage levels.

It took France 15 years to go from 15% to 75% nuclear power production.

Fuel recycling is not currently planned to be used for new generation facilities because uranium is a relatively cheap commodity and recycling spent uranium fuel is costly.


Monday, March 15, 2010

How To Commit Corporate Fraud by Professor William K. Black

This is a William K. Black lecture on how the elites commit corporate fraud and get away with it.


Wild Tigers Are Nearing Extinction, but Humans Don't Care

One big fail. After tigers are extinct in the wild, how long before they go extinct in the zoos? In the developing countries, the zoo animals don't stand a chance. Thieves will come in and kill them and run off with the body. It'd be like shooting fish in a barrel.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Blooming Trees

Trees Blooming

Today was a beautiful day. The Bermuda grass is still dormant, but the trees are blooming. Pretty soon my car will be dusted a shade of green from all of the tree pollens. The animals and plants will all be procreating. Spring is the time of renewal from the dormancy and hardship of Winter.


Revelations of the Prophet Bill Hicks

Today, a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration — that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There is no such thing as death; life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves... Here's Tom with the weather!


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ubertrout or Look Ma No Steroids

Scientists at the University of Rhode Island have created transgenic trout containing the myostatin mutation that causes increased muscle growth in cattle and mice. Their fish are heavily muscled, eat the same amount of food as normal trout, and behave like normal trout. In other words, more meat produced for the same costs. Now, they have to get their fish approved. Since scientists know it works, others will probably be trying to create transgenic cod, salmon, and tuna.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Smile Goes a Long Way

According to this ScienceDaily article acts of kindness spread rapidly and quickly. In other words, a smile goes a long way or kindness is contagious. it only takes a few people to start the chain reaction. What's interesting is that the effect of generosity spreads to include people you'll never meet. Now, if we could only get kindness to spread via radio and TV to offset the senseless violence and drama the bubbleheads propagate. I'm not advocating cheerleading or propagandizing like CNBC either.


Sunday, March 07, 2010

Blammed by the Chinese

My blog got spammed, or is that blammed, last night at 10:01 P.M by donna (aka blogger profile 08751726570823892215). This has been happening for at least 4 weeks and maybe longer. At least a Google search shows 4 week old code.

Same code found via Google.

Looking at the code, it is unicode. Since Windows handles unicode differently than Linux does, I was a bit concerned that it could be some sort of unicode shellcode for exploiting a Windows system through the browser. I need not have worried. Clicking on the link via the Windows version of Firefox led me to a Chinese porn site.

Blogspotplay.com web page displaying Chinese porn.

I confirmed this on my Linux system as well. I'm rather disappointed in more ways than one since there wasn't any decent porn displayed as a reward for curiosity. (I guess I should be grateful that it wasn't gay porn or something worse.) I was hoping for something a bit more cutting edge as far as browser exploits go rather than a Chinese HTML porn link. (If the site was malicious then my Windows XP Pro virtual machine just got compromised.) What made it annoying was that I had to delete all of the spam/blam comments from my blog. I certainly feel like I've been blammed electronically.


Thursday, March 04, 2010

Food Security and Crop Diseases

Science devoted the part of the February 12, 2010 issue to food security. They have a two page spread on plant diseases and other biological threats to crops. Here are the worse threats:

1. Rice blast (Magnaporthe grisea) fungus - Primarily affects rice, but infects 50 species of grasses and sedges. Can quickly kill whole paddies. Multiple strains of the fungus ensure that no cultivar stays resistant for more than 2-3 years. Estimated losses: $66 billion/yr. (enough to feed 60 million people).

2. Wheat Stem Rust (Puccinia graminis Ug99). fungus - New strain emerged in Uganda in 1998. It's now in Yemen and Iran. If it reaches Pakistan and India, famines will ensue because farmers are too poor to buy the fungicides which would slow the infections. Potential losses: 40% crop loss due to heavy infestations. Potential loss in Punjab, $3 billion/yr. If it reaches the U.S., $10 billion/yr.

3. Potato Blight (Phytophthora infestans) fungus - Affects potatoes and tomatoes. Cause of the Irish Potato famine of 1845-1851. Under the right conditions, the fungus can destroy an entire field in a week. Known losses: $2.75 billion/yr in developing nations.

4. Black Sigatoka (Mycospaerella fijiensis) fungus - Affects bananas and plantains. Discovered in Fiji in 1964, now in 100 countries globally. Potential losses: Can be up to 50% reduction in yield. No dollar amount given, but all commercial bananas are one sterile asexually propagated (cloned) cultivar named Cavendish which replaced the Gros Michel "Big Mike" banana cultivar which was susceptible to Panama disease. The Cavendish is now being phased out for a more disease resistant cultivar.

5. Witchweed (Striga hermonthica) weed - African parasitic plant that attaches to roots. Affected crops: corn, sorghum, sugarcane, millet, native grasses. Losses: 20-100% yield reduction. Monetary loss: Approximately $1 billion/yr.

6. Asian Soybean Rust (Phakopsora pachyrhizi) fungus - Primarily affects soybeans, but infects 31 other legume species. Losses: reduces yields 10-80%. No resistant cultivars exist yet. Fungicide use is advised.

7. Cassava Brown Steak Virus - Affects cassava. Losses: Up to 100% yield reduction. Economic losses were more than $100 million in 2003 in Africa.

While these diseases are on the rise, agricultural research funding has fallen in the last ten years. So, most rising crop commodity prices are due to lower yields due to disease and a rising population. This slow motion train wreck did not need to happen, but the Bush Administration cut back agricultural research funds starting in 2001. (The U.S. is a major donor for almost all of the major international crop research centers through USAID and USDA.) To be fair though, funding cutbacks started in 1986 and many developing nations were urged to buy their grain from primary producers instead of producing their own. But, the Bush cutbacks hurt the Centers of the Green Revolution where the plants are developed. Current projections suggest that food production will need to increase 70-100% by 2050 to feed the world's population (WDR 2008). At some point, beef will become too expensive to produce in terms of water and grain used for feed, then many meat lovers will be eating chicken. Also, organic farming cuts yields by 50% (no artificial fertilizers are used). Does this mean that poor farmers who can't afford modern fertilizers and pesticides are natural organic farmers? While eutrophication of fresh and salt water ecosystems is caused by fertilizer runoff due to farming, farmers are being taught how to mitigate the problem. No farmer wants to spray a crop and watch that money literally flow down a drain if they can avoid it.


Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Google Apology

Google addresses privacy concerns and offers an apology. *

*from The Onion


Monday, March 01, 2010

Marcus Ranum and Gunnar Peterson on Cloud Computing

A video illustrating Cloud Computing Security as practiced by the Third Reich.


Jesse's Warning

Pictures of a Market Crash: Beware the Ides of March and What Follows After. Damn, that's a great post! (Thanks, Yves Smith!)


Storm Clouds Looming

Robert Reich comments that the House and Senate Democrats are losing their base for monetary reasons (campaign funds and future private sector employment) and Presidential political lobbying/armtwisting ineptitude.

The Congressional Democrats don't see the storm clouds approaching (here and here) because of lack of sympathy for their voters. Why should they care? They are taken care of. Both Congressmen and Senators of either party get pensions after serving one term of office and they have jobs waiting for them on K Street or Wall Street after public service. Meanwhile, the country dissolves in anger and craziness as the Middle Class is destroyed by an uncaring political establishment and a greedy global corporate conglomerate. The government-private sector revolving door corrupted the Executive Branch first, but now the rot has spread to the Legislative Branch. The Judicial Branch in the form of the Supreme Court is already lost. Between allowing Eminent Domain to be extended in support of corporate land grabs and affirming the position that campaign contributions are a form of Free Speech, the Supreme Court of the United States only accelerates the decay. The U.S. Government formed under the Second Constitution of the United States will become a front or shell for a Corporatocracy. The irony is that the Angry Right Wing Grassroots and folks of similar mindsets could destroy the one entity that could stand against the corporations and actually bring about a fascist state just like the Weimar Republic was replaced by the Third Reich. (See footnote.)

One has to hope that all of this Right Wing fury and bombast will signify nothing. Unfortunately, there is a lot of righteous anger due to the way the Great Financial Crisis was handled in the United States, and the crazies on the Right are tapping into it. It's one thing to demonstrate for political and economic reform of the government. It's another thing entirely to demonstrate for the destruction of the government without hint of reform. The latter is just destructive mob mentality masquerading as social rebellion.

Neofeudalism only describes what the corporations are doing to their workers and is an inaccurate politically correct term for what is happening to American society. Neofeudalism more accurately describes American slavery and sharecropping prior to the American Civil War. German corporations during the Third Reich used disposable slave labor for projects. Oskar Schindler used Jewish labor for his factory because it was the cheapest labor available. He came to his senses after he saw the SS murder some of his workers.


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