The Big Game….How to bring a small planet to its knees

Change is as they say is constant, that’s why it is called change, nothing never ever will stay the same, and now we are in a major flux, a big change, a defining moment, where in the history of the human race’s timeline we will now have a pointer to mark out a significant shift in the way we live and run this planet, the upside is we survive, the downside is the Earth will reclaim its control of its environment again because we will dwindle and disappear, it will take a couple of centuries to do so, but we will go, with a whimper and not a bang, cities will decay and the cement will turn to dust and the soil will again cover our achievements and our mistakes will be our undoing.

Everyone at this moment is having their say on our doomsday scenarios, so I will put mine in, but don’t dismiss this, it is real, very real, more real than you can ever imagine, and I am not going to go on a preach about Global Warming and Polar Icecaps disappearing because the reality is very different, and its caused by a few people with a laptop and an internet connection, and their all consuming daily activities are to just make money….for no other reason than to make more and more of something they already have in abundance, maybe its power they crave, but I think it is not that, it’s nothing more than a game, a gamble, a fun thing to do, but mostly a game, a huge poker game…..and its living and breathing in its own little world of greed and power……..

…the years 2007 and 2008 are the warning years, we’ve just had one, if another warning will come as I write this I do not know, but the big question is have we read the signs and are we willing to change, first some hard facts. In 1907 there was  approx 1,700,000,000 people on this planet, this year there is 6,720,125,767 give and take a few deaths and babies, that is 5 billion more people living on this finite world in only a hundred years, now no doubt this will curtail a little and not increase by the year 2050, even if the Catholic Church and sciencetific boffins want us to.

So to support such numbers we have had to have revolutions in agriculture and technology and we now live in more and more confined conditions, we have as a species been extremely clever in handling this overwhelming growth and even created a systems where a large majority of the population does live in extremely comfortable conditions with huge choices of food, clothing and everyday necessities provided by services and governments, we have created amazing transport networks of Road, Rail and intercontinental sea and air travel, and information services that truly makes the world a very small place, and there is a point, it is a very small place, and we all survive here every day, living mostly on top of each other in different languages and cultures, but survive we do.

A major component of the expansion has been created on one resource, Oil, it creates plastics, that created this computer I write on, it stores the food I eat, it is manufactured in a zillion different ways to meet our everyday needs, but more importantly it runs totally our transport networks, completely, absolutely, if the Oil stops we stop, completely, no oil, no food, that simple, if the Oil ran out today  we will run out of food in three days, true, I’m not scare mongering, unless you have access to any sort of grown food or a farm, even a farm will slow as the oil will not be there to run the equipment, so you will starve to death in a week’s time, maybe two, in a month or two  70% of the modern infrastructured world will be dead, the rest will fight for survival on what food they can get, the third world countries will strangely enough fair better as their infrastructures is not so oil based, but they will be soon over-run by billions of starving people, wanting even more the little they have now, and there will be no aid coming, what there is, is what there is, and we will fight for anything to keep us alive.

On top of this, is the fact that some countries, use twenty to thirty times more oil, per head of their population than other countries, why?, because it is so very cheap they can simply waste it, but also disposing anything they have used even if it is still a usable functioning product, but also running machines and industries that are simply so inefficient that they can consume this finite resource to the point of arrogance, and we haven’t even got to the money situation of the commodity as a market product yet, they say they won’t change because it will believe it or not, cost them money to do so,  a simple fact is if the population dies, they won’t have a market anyway, or a car to drive to work in, so do they have to change, the answer is yes, but I am now getting ahead of myself.

Although investing has been around since the 11th Century, it was in only 1602, the Dutch East India Company issued the first shares on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, this allowed people to invest in a going concern, buying a share, it gave companies capital to build their businesses, and the shareholders to receive a profit on their investment, all fine and fair weather, if you wanted to trade shares, Stock Markets then rose to allow you to do so, creating portfolios of investments across  a diverse range of businesses that can soften any general ups and downs of general trading conditions, markets and weather, with this the worlds stock markets became powerhouses of capital, allowing  for the shear growth and building of the western world, in only one decade, and mostly in the last fifty years through huge financial stock markets, we have totally transformed our world around us, there have been a few blips, 1929, 1973-74, 1989, and euphoria of the Dot com. boom in 2000, there is now approx 51 Trillion US dollars invested in this market at this date, and the markets can be a bear which is going down or a bull which is going up, and except for those few blips, the market has always gone up, and so does everything else, real estate, prices, and commodities, but here we have built this machine to always make a profit, every year it goes to newer and newer heights. Mostly at the turn of the 20th century most investments was in usually within your own countries borders, but since the 1950’s it has become a global market and the advent of computer networks now anyone can pretty well invest in most world markets, but it is the shear mass of shares that now dominate, from banking giants to the housewife who wants to invest on the side, can work and share in this huge market, and it works and it works very well, however in the last ten years a creeping problem has been slowly developing within this system, a dangerous one, and even a fatal one, and a few are enjoying it as a game, a big stakes game…but still a game.

You can if you wish with your laptop connected to the internet sit on a beach in Thailand and work your share portfolio, the idea is to make a profit, in the start of share trading it took many years of the investment to create a profit from a business or company, so for most people it was a nice little top up for their retirement and when they cashed in their shares and bought a new car and a house by the beach, but through the trading houses it became quickly a few years of an up and coming company to give you a good dividend, but computers and digital communications changed all that again and quickly, years could be brought down to months and now days, sit up at night, make your deals, collect the profit the next night, a small one, maybe $100 to $200 dollars, or lose, but losing is rare, even if you lose tonight, you can usually get it back in a month or so as the market or seasons change, if you play your cards right, many were out there every night playing their cards, and if you were good, very good, you could make a million dollars a year, now there is nothing better than greed to blank out commonsense, with the internet startups you could turn a simple $2000 share into millions in months, so now everyone got in on the bandwagon, and it crashed, badly, but it didn’t stop the real hard core players to get around that, their instinct and cannyness they knew where to put the deal in and deliver, so a very good investor by now could make $50 million a year, that is not one but maybe 50 or hundred of them, soon this elite group could control $2 to $3 Trillion of the market, which is fine, but the problem is they work in a herd mentality, they watch each other like hawks, and when one moves they move, wanting the same return on their investment, not in a month but in a week or sometimes a day, this is all they do, and all they look at is the numbers, not factories, people, cities, or even property, just numbers, they even don’t know how much money or numbers they have, and the idea is to make those numbers go up, outwhit another investor, take his share, make a killing of maybe $10 million dollars a day, that is the game and the win, they are isolated from reality, they live and sleep the numbers, they are worth more money than they can ever spend in their lives, but they want more………it’s a drug.

You are a good company business man, your company has traded for over sixty years and your brand is strong, you have had a good year, profits are up way up, and you share them with your long-term investors, the hard core investor notices that there is a profit to be made, a good one, and in he comes, and your shares go from $2.65, to $18.00 overnight, then other people notice that spectacular jump and in they come, soon its pushing $28.00 per share, all wanting a profit, your rich, very very rich, but only for a brief moment, because then the hard core takes his investment cut, sells out at $28.00 a share and takes more than his huge investment back, the larger market wonders why it is falling badly and its over within a day your now worth only .68 cents a share, your business goes from a well oiled machine to an empty shed in months, your staff are redundant, and your worthless, your just numbers, nothing else, numbers a game….and he will savour his multi-million dollar win for about an hour then go straight back to numbers to find another quick victim.

Property is very good for hiding money, until well something goes wrong, really wrong.. and for the first time these speculators got hurt, really hurt, they saw years of building and saving and squirreling away their bounty disappear, they were suddenly the victims now, and it hurt really hurt…..and they wanted it back right now and straight away.

They had got also completely reckless, so much money has been made, it was became easy to make a million before lunch, remember they work on a global scale, deals are made with very large companies and mergers, shareholders just want more, if a company didn’t deliver it was smashed, destroyed, just by picking up the tab and moving on, so they have to deliver, there is no other option, vast amounts of easy money being made was now filtering down to areas that would have never had been touched in the past, credit was available and mortgages to people who never dreamed of the sort of huge sums now available to them, nothing could ever go wrong, The US Treasury and Alan Greenspan dropped early in the decade the interest rate to a low of only 0.01 percent, so it became an even larger tidal wave of paper and cheap mortgages, it couldn’t last, because of one basic rule, don’t lend money to someone that can’t pay you back, but with the insane rising of property prices, higher and higher every year everyone didn’t even think it would even slow, or even stop..ever….but it did.

And so the Sub-prime crisis of god olde USofA started, and the rest of the world followed, yes the people started to lose their homes, at first the investors didn’t care it was just a few numbers on a screen, but then reality crept in, and then more naively banks and the investors thought that they could just simply auction the off the repossessed houses and businesses and get their money back, problem was nobody bought them, and they went empty, first one a street, then a whole street then a whole suburb, then the cards really began to fall, and then banks began to fall, this was going to hurt and really badly.
For our friend in Thailand looking at his laptop screen it was a nightmare, his money was disappearing, or going down and out fast, first he was angry then he cried, then he wanted it all back, and what makes more money than anything else on this small rock…..oil.

So with his a last billion he turns to the commodities market, and so does his friends, that herd mentality kicks in and oil is suddenly the flavour of the day and the price goes up, and up and up……and up., he breath’s awhile then it goes up more, remember, he has no comprehension of time or life, just the numbers everyday on his laptop, and he is totally unaware that all around him the world just stops, just grinds slowly to a halt, people can’t move anymore, trucks go on strike, shops start to go empty, airlines first put up their fuel subsides then just go broke, first it’s the LCC (low cost carriers) then the larger ones, politicians start blaming everyone, people start blaming politicians then the Oil Companies for profits, both the politicians and the Oil men can’t believe their luck with so much brilliant easy money going in their respective banks, the Arabs are dumbstruck, the Middle-Eastern  cartels that thought they ran the Oil business realise they have no control over it at all, it’s the guy on a beach in Thailand and his greedy cronies that are now running the world.

His surprise, is the fact that when he goes shopping everything is becoming very expensive, it doesn’t worry him of course as he is worth a few billon dollars, but he also doesn’t realise that he   is the cause, unlike other investments, Oil can create a ripple effect, like a wave after wave running up on to a beach, if the price goes up, its carried along to other items, say the transport delivering the goods puts his price up because it costs more oil to do so, then the supermarket will put his prices up also to cover the cost, but here a funny thing happens too, real people those who work everyday in a job with a set income start to run out of money, so they will cut back on items including oil, to cover their basic needs, and this is what happens in an oil price crunch, everything slows down, the more oil goes up the more the world stops, and unlike a property or company investment the changes are in days and not in months or weeks so the effects of his investments are immediate, and dangerous, he has created a vacuum,  money has come in yes for him, but the money on the street has suddenly dried up.

And now he has moved on….he this time collected his bounty, so the oil price has dropped away again and world starts to breathe again, he thinks that his only problem now is to get that damn property market moving upwards again as he still has a lot on his books or he might be buying at the bottom of the market price, he needs to move it, up,  and quickly so he can get his profit from the upturn of the real estate market, but here is a fundamental problem?….
There is no free lunch, if you go to say a meeting and free food is on offer, there is the fundamental situation that although you are eating the free food, someone somewhere has had to pay for that free food, for our greedy crony, for every billion he makes someone somewhere has to give him his billions, and its usually the person at the bottom of the food chain, not the companies, not other investors, not governments, not banks, but the everyday Joe that has 3 kids and a mortgage, and the only way Joe could pay before was because his house or property investment rose, above the market, above its realistic price of worth, maybe its called a correction, but prices are put back into their correct place, and it should then level out…But it didn’t……because he stopped the world, only just for a second with his Oil investment, and it was enough, the point of pushing something to far, past the point of commonsense or rational thought, Greed, total greed is the reason…then

Its not a game anymore, those numbers are becoming real, and disappearing and very quickly, Wall Street is suddenly in turmoil, and you are part of the problem, a big part of the problem, then the investment banks are crashing, falling over ..gone, First it was Bear Sterns, Then Northern Rock in the United Kingdom, showing the major warning signs early in the year, but hey who cares, we have had worse, without that Oil spike could they have been the only ones.. then amazingly Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley, are all gone, and life is in freefall, this is the worst of the worst, Then hope as the US Treasury creates the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, a saviour, an act of god, he could even make a small profit out of that, but congress then voted on the bill, 228 members voted against and 205 for passing it, so it failed to pass, and the market has gone into total freefall again…..this was today, what will be tomorrow…..

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What now…a new world order

As Barack Obama is elevated to the cause of the Democratic Party’s endorsement for President, It makes you wonder how it came to this situation of how a country could get so much wrong, and can anything be salvaged from such stupidity, yes a new term with a new administration can create a feeling of change and a blanket to cover the mess, but how much does America need in self-analysis now, the one thing it seems very good at, in looking back and wondering why or how or debating its roles in its own self reflection, just as it did in the eighties after Vietnam, Its just that which is the biggest delusion, how can such a large population get itself so blindly misguided, and make such a blunder in history that it may never recover from, I’m not here to be Anti-American, but try to understand in this modern age, with such modern communications and awareness of news and instant information get so behind in letting things go so far out of context.
The first thing that is hard to understand, is that after such decades of global situations, and with so much known of why did we do that or undertake certain actions of political or global policies, that the Bush Administration made such a catastrophic decision to invade Iraq, Vietnam was a major mistake and America payed a permanent cost in lives, reputation & monetary costs that it just does the exactly same thing again, why did it do that, why blindly follow an so called neo-con administration to hell and then think , “Oh that was so dumb”, why change tactics of finishing off a war in Afghanistan, instead of moving essential forces that could have finished the situation of finding radical terrorists that have created an unstable worldly situation in less than a year, to having a double front of conflict, that has decimated one of the largest armies in the world, to bring down a tyrant that had nowhere to run, no money, and was on his last years of his political life and beyond belief is the fact that they re-elected a President knowing that it was a major mistake, If fact he wasn’t supposed to be elected in the first place, just a stupid election system that allows only the people who will vote…can, and others who want to, that can not, its not democracy, its manipulation

Public opinion has forced out United Kingdom’s Tony Blair and Australia’s “Mr I’m living in the 50’s and all the way with LBJ”, John Howard, not that the British or Australian public wanted to go to war in the first place, yes they wanted the religious radicals to be taken into account for September 11, but not a religious crusade, both countries marched to show their disapproval on the issue, but their governments overruled their protests, believed that if they kept in with the Bush administration they would still get favourable trade deals of trading and paying American companies to take money out of their own economies, meanwhile America did nothing and went to the movies.
Americans are intelligent people, so why did this stupidity happen, why was it allowed to happen, and why has the rest of the world been made to pay the price of such stupidity, And now for the next ten years the same self analysis will start all over again, the very people who should have stood up and said “This is dumb”, will bring out books and movies, write articles on where it all went wrong, thinking it will be all alright again, and next year Mr Obama, will try to put the mess out of the public’s immediate eye and say, “we will prevail, America is a great country, we are great”, yes they are great, but only in allowing such colossal mistakes to happen when they should not, and unfortunately America will not find it easy this time to just shrug its shoulders and carry on if it owes the world a favor, just live in its own rhetoric because the world has moved on and America has not, and the source of such stupidity is found here, Americans live in their own fantasy world, cosseted in power and that their way is the only way to righteousness, too much self belief in patriotism and religious favor, has led them to be manipulated, but a bigger problem is the country is way behind the rest of the world, it tries to make you fit to their antiquated systems, a country of gallons, fahrenheit, and miles even after the country that invented such terms have gone decimal, calls items after products or companies, like Xerox for a photocopier machine, cell for a mobile phone, and will punish you for calling it the incorrect name, The brilliant iPhone, Apple Computer’s wonder gadget, couldn’t be released to the rest of the world for over a later year because the American phone system is so outdated, it just wouldn’t work on the fast 3G networks standard in most other countries, and here is America’s major problem, will they ever accept that other ways of doing things could be better than theirs, accept the not invented here mentality of using a better product or fight it to death at their own ignorance and arrogance, Concorde was destroyed with such mentality, now it is being used against Airbus and their A380 Super Jumbo Aircraft, derailing at every opportunity to ruin the manufacturers chance to give the traveling public a better product, and denying their own population a chance to move forward and decrease the overwhelming chaos that occurs at major airport hubs because of overcrowding, Asia is not so stupid, 80% of these giant machines will fly on Asian routes, growing moving forward, something America was very good at….once.

Other countries now realise that to centralise their financial bases in America is a bad dangerous thing to do, so money will slowly flow out to Dubai, Delhi, Shanghai and other new emerging financial growth centres and not have to hand over huge profits to American dealers for nothing in return, America still has huge financial muscle, but self absorption, over confidence in their own superiority, and to find out slowly that most of the rest of the world having moved on, on finding that these foreign interests just don’t care or need their brands or unfavorable deals they demand anymore.
This will Barack’s biggest challenge, to change America’s attitude to be a partner in the world and not think they run it, Asia, the Middle East and Europe know they don’t need America’s attitude and most of all its forceful way in doing what it wants them to do, the hawk mentality has done this country serious damage, even strategic countries that always aligned themselves with American business and political policies are wary of again following blindly into conflicts or business deals aligned to American interests, why would you when you can deal directly and get a better deal, Middle Eastern and Indian business interests are taking control of huge markets, that are wary of American interests just coming in and absorbing exciting emerging markets that are extremely valuable to them globally, and will defend their markets ever more strongly than they have done in the past, in fact, it is becoming the situation, where it is America that is on the back foot, Their self absorption is that they are slowly realising they are totally out of step with the rest of the global trends, China’s reconstruction has been at a such a ferocious rate, not just there but most of Asia and the Middle East are doing things that has America bewildered on its progress, while they are stuck in a meaningless war, and constantly barricade themselves more and more inside their own borders.
They forget that 9/11 happened because they took no notice of the worlds problems, that Bin-Laden and his friends decided to bring them into the reality of the real world’s problems from which Americans have still not learn’t nothing, but to simply overreact and fire missiles and bullets anyone who could be guilty, but still more of their brand of self absorption, self pity, and what have we done to you sort of ignorance, when pushing policies demanding their right of way, damage to other economies, and do as we say and not do as we do sort of attitude.

Barack Obama, may get the American Dream, but the same rhetoric that can get him elected to office will not be enough to convince other parts of the world that we want the American way again, we won’t buy it, we don’t need to, we are doing very well thank you very much, he is better using his power to change attitudes and help his people in his own country, making them more efficient, healthy and reducing the shear waste of an overconsumption society and to join the rest of the world that have been trying to do so for decades, because America has still so much to offer, and in doing so will reduce the tension generated in the world, people will fight hawkish overbearing behaviour, but will welcome friends, everyone has a right to respect another culture, it my not totally agree with there ideology, but every country has a right to feed and house its people and believe in a faith, their traditions, their history, without an other country saying its wrong or right, America can not hold nuclear weapons at the ready to strike anyone they want to and expect Iran, China or Russia to just sit there and say, “If you can then why can’t we”, its a double standard, and these issues are America’s future, the past is the past, the warnings have been taken, this is a pivotal point in history.

If Barack Obama can over come such attitudes he will go down as one of the greatest leaders in history, a world leader of great importance, can certainly take his place among the peoples of the world and just as importantly give America the great credibility that other races of people will again respect Americans for their true and independent spirit and one administrations tragic mistakes will be consigned to history, But as history’s recent past has shown American attitudes are hard to change, they are not willing to learn from their mistakes, if fact they feel they have done no wrong and feel wronged and misunderstood, but this time the world will move on with or without them, changed or not, its time open their eyes to reality, yes “Its time for change” say the election posters, and everyone, The people, government, industry, companies are now in a new world order, like it or not, they have been slowly dragged kicking and screaming into the new world, its how they handle it will dictate how the world accepts them, or rejects them, its their choice and history is not on their side.
God Bless America……

The Dream is Over……….

I was born only a few months before the Geophysical year the space age was born, I have grown up and aged with its rise, its spectacular successes and its fatalities, watched the dream unfold before my very eyes, As children born today are of the computer age, I was part of a generation of the space age.
What a glorious race it was, exciting, fast, boundaries falling not by the year but by the month, first artificial satellite (Sputnik 1), First living being (Dog, Laika), First Man (Yuri Gagarin), First Group (2- Vostok 3&4), First Woman (V Tereshkova), Three people (Voskhod 1), Spacewalk (Leonov), Rendezvous ( Gemini 7&6A), Lunar Orbit (Apollo 8), Lunar Landing (Apollo 11), First reuseable Vehicle (STS Columbia), Space Station (Salyut 1), All this in under 25 Years, breathtaking, huge jumps in technology, distance, dimensions, human physical boundaries, awareness, totally different perspective of our home world and the Planets around us, It has been the ultimate ride and the greatest dream of humankind.

In fantasy it thrived as well, Mr S. Kubricks portrayal of the future in 2001: A Space Odyssey, showed us the immediate future as well, it swarmed around you, the real (Apollo 8 going around the moon) and the prediction of the next 20 years in the swirling revolving space station dancing to The Blue Danube, here was the future, and only a short period of time away, this was the evolution of the next step, the last frontier.

Only here now in 2008 its not, or maybe half of it….yes there is a massive space station circling around above us, almost complete, just like in the movie, a Space Shuttle flying up there every other month to service it and build more of it, its real and its exciting, the space truck worked, well maybe, If you asked the average American about the Space Shuttle they will say things like “Oh that”, or “Its costs a fortune”, “waste of money” or mostly “Its a failure”….so like Concorde another step forward it goes into mothballs in 2010, and humankind takes a step backwards, or in this case stops altogether, only problem is there is still a bloody big space station up there, and hundreds of satellites working or not, and a telescope, and god knows what else.

So what went wrong?, first lets get something clear, The Space Shuttle and its concept was not a failure, in fact it was a giant success, a giant leap forward, It delivered, pronto, only problem was it wasn’t developed, refined and was constantly restrained by funding, both Shuttle accidents was caused by the shortage of funds and NASA’s inability of quality control, and flying a vehicle way past its used by date, as to machine itself its a miracle of engineering, The Shuttle failed because of administration and vision, the two things that made NASA brilliant in the first place, it lost its way, and now it is paying the ultimate price, shutdown…..

The only way for Nasa to keep its doors open now is to use 1950’s aged technology to send cheap boosters filled with cannon fodder to get stuff hopefully up into space, after using for years a reuseable (If expensive) versatle vehicle, they are going back to throwaway capsules (Aries), and disposable boosters, and this is the cheaper option, only unlike the late sixties, Its a one small backward step for man, A giant leap backwards for about everybody on the planet..

The first debate is why the Shuttle is so expensive to fly, First it was built as a compromise, NASA wanted one thing and the US airforce wanted something to scare the Russians, So it had to be large enough to carry heavy spy satellites and laser guns to orbit over Moscow, Silly now the Cold War is over, but that is not a bad thing, the Shuttle’s capacity to lift full sized modules and telescopes into orbit, is amazing, plus unlike boosters, people can go along too, and that’s the difference, and its achilles heel, when people get killed (Challenger, Columbia), the country and the program goes into freefall, here is the point, everytime something goes wrong the money goes down….look people it will still go wrong, space is dangerous and will still kill people, no matter what you do, every person who steps aboard a Shuttle knows the risk, its their choice, the rewards are out of this world, but the disadvantages if it goes wrong is its over, your life, that is the risk, to date there has been 120 missions, think about that 120, 830 people have flown on the Shuttle with 14 fatalities, 5 to 7 people at a time that in itself is a amazing record, The Shuttle can bring down eleven souls if something goes wrong on the ISS, the new Aries capsule (yes a capsule) can carry three, and needs a ship to recover it, plus the amount of work the shuttle has done in space is phenomenal, launching and servicing sateliltes, launching and servicing a space telescope (1990, Hubble), space laboratories, and building a complete space station ISS, its service to the planet in research is uncountable, plus the old plain adventure of learning about ourselves, and furthering our knowledge of a place so extreme it is a human milestone in our evolution.

The second debate is why it went wrong, first and foremost is cost, its incredibly expensive to fly, but you shouldn’t blame the shuttle for that, first its the Thermal Protection System (TPS) that has given it the most headaches, little solid foam bricks (Tiles), stuck on the outside of the Orbiter creates a thermal blanket to protect the vehicle on re-entry to the atmosphere, problem is they are problematic, from Columbia’s first flight (STS 1) they broke or just plain fell off, after every mission hours are spent putting them back on or replacing these thousands of tiles, its time consuming and expensive, they work but are not very reliable, The SSME (Space Shuttle Main Engines) are a masterpiece of design, but require to much maintenance between flights, in fact the whole vehicle requires to much downtime, and to make things worse, poor standards of quality have broken its back, The Challenger accident was caused by poor O rings on the boosters sited on either side of the external tank to give the vehicle its first shove into orbit, a cold night plus poor workmanship & cheap materials, caused a disaster, an avoidable accident, Columbia was lost due to a chunk of ice hitting the wing,  avoidable, maybe not, but a better design of the fuel tank could avoid the ice forming in the first place or form in a non impact area, The shuttle was and still is the first design of a new era, so ideas and engineering are going into new boundaries and areas never encountered before, its computers were last replaced in 1990, 18 years ago, think of the computer you used 18 years ago, so problems and design are going to come to the surface, and here is the basic failure of the Shuttle program, they never made a Mark II, its still the first, its old, its not refined, it was not made better, no new Thermal Protection System, no new better cheaper, more efficient engines, no better external tanks or boosters, they just patched it up and made it fly again, and are still doing so today, every new area of or mode of transport has had it’s refinements, cars, ships, aircraft, made better, cheaper, finding the faults, better design, more efficient, more cheaper to run, so the Shuttle cost more and more to fly, and they called it a dud, people should be shot for allowing that, because that sort of thinking can kill people and it did, in Challenger and Columbia, point is it would have been cheaper and safer to replace it years ago, they didn’t so the dream is over in 2010, and to make it worse there is nothing absolutely nothing to replace it, and the cost to do so is simply enormous, NASA has backed itself into a corner, and the only option is find a cheaper option not a better one, just cheaper, and are fooling themselves because soon or later they are going to have to fix the basic problem,  you can’t have a Space Station Program or a Moon program or the dream Mars program if you can’t simply get stuff up there, cheaply and reliably, everyday any time you want to and 60’s style throwaway boosters is not the solution, nothing should be thrown away, nothing…… and nothing is going to go right for NASA until they fix this basic problem……

Once they had it right, with The Right Stuff, brave pilots once reached the boundaries of space and came down again, using and wasting nothing more than their fuel, The X15 program was canceled to allow the rockets to have their day, it worked, it got men to the moon, but it also set NASA on a course self destruction, Pilots of their day couldn’t believe that cutting back at the point of success of easy access to space was happening, the Shuttle was a fusion of both programs, Rocketry & Winged flight, but the failure is it still needs a whole lot of fuel to get a pound of weight off the earth, not to mention a few tons, and its here it still fails and with it a heavy cost.

So can it be done cheaply, yes, nothing is cheap about going into space, but technology has come a long way since 1970 when the shuttle was conceived, first to start the vehicle has to be smaller and many of them say twelve, two they have to reliable engines as reliable as commercial jet engines are today, impossible, no, because the most load on a spacecraft is at its launch, big thrust means big engines and lots of fuel, so the first point is to get the thing off the ground cheaper, a launcher body aircraft is needed to get the orbiter to higher faster point so it uses less fuel (and Weight) getting there, Commercial aircraft have engines today that can lift 300 tons or more and push to speeds of 8oo mph,  the carrier aircraft can come home anytime to launch another orbiter, no waste, the orbiter uses an expandable fuel tank, not expendable, but expandable, to carry fuel to push it to an higher velocity then fold up when empty into a minimum space inside the vehicle or as part of the vehicle, can’t be done, nothing is impossible, then, it will require a better Thermal Protection System, new safer and above all cheaper, and very simple but reliable engines, every orbiter must be turned around on the ground as simply as a commercial aircraft, load in, slot into Carrier aircraft and fly, boost up to speed to obtain orbital velocity, dock with ISS or replace or repair satellites, and come straight back down the same day, Yes-the same day!,  ready to again fly the next, a dream, no a commercial reality, and if NASA doesn’t do it soon then a private operator will, the commercial advantages are to much to ignore, but the cheap little Virgin Galactic joy ride will get better and bigger, with bigger and better vehicles, until NASA finds itself out of a job, they are not waiting around, there is money to made in thar hills (or space) in this instance, and the evolution of a sensible ground to orbit vehicle must be designed, if NASA’s head in the sand attitude doesn’t then someone else will, because we can’t function or go forward without it, we need a cheap reliable daily space truck into space, nothing less will do, the old “can do”attitude and not the “can not because its to expensive or to hard”, its not too expensive if you work smarter and be clever, but then that comes from the evolution of design, and on that one NASA failed….and the dream could die too, going back to the Moon, Mars, plus with an empty Space Station orbiting around us overhead, we need the basics fixed first, and we need that reliable everyday space truck….right now!

Living in the Future..now

As life unfolds day to day, week by week the changes are impossibly small, so small you don’t realise the change at all, but lately I have been aware that I am now living in the future, no I don’t wear a off white one piece jump suit (a.la) Star Trek or 2001 (A Space Odyssey), but things have changed, my early years were spent in the 60’s & 70’s, with still a connection to the war years, my parents experienced their change, TV from Radio, First to Fly, so on…but for us, it has been more dramatic, a wholesale maddening rush to the SiFi visions of even futurists have failed to grasp.
But one day I realised I did live in a different world, most comparisons here will be with the very early seventies, A time of change in their own right, The 60’s were more social and political than lifestyle, in fact a lot of people don’t really remember that period at all, But the real change started to occur through the 70’s, expanded through the 80’s, and with the economic boom of the 90’s it really got going, America was the driving course, sheer numbers allowed them to expand and take advantage of the cooling of the Cold War, but since the turn of the century there has been other factors, that of the rising of the power of Asia, and the re-emergence of an united Europe finally throwing off the debt of the War years.
But without doubt the real change has been created by the digital revolution, as huge a change as in the Victorian Industrial revolution, it has created a vastly different world, in a vastly shorter time, It has been an exciting period to live through, The so called Global Village is now a reality, and the Internet has changed totally our preconception of distance, Flying also, its not that we could travel quickly in the 60’s its the cost, you can travel half way round the world for a thousand dollars and with low cost International air travel now available it will cost even less, our cost of living has gone up but so has our wages so we now have more for less.
So you stand now in a world of instant communication, from a handset you can call and see someone from another part of the planet, instant information, maps, addresses, any thought you want answered is just a few clicks away, we have seen products rise and die, VHS Video, Television, Compact Cassette, Compact Disk, great ideas already dead, our vehicles are so reliable they are thrown away when slightly broken, as is our Washing machines and almost all modern appliances, cheaper to junk than repair, we buy for the sake of buying not need, our buildings are erected and furnished almost by themselves, we have thousands (If not millions) of choices of holidays, material goods, food, clothes, activities, so much that its totally overwhelming, so is our futuristic world a better place to live?

Its a real hard question to answer, but I would say no, but its things that can be changed so there is always hope it will get better, of course it could get worse, and it will if we are not aware of the problems, and that’s the thing that really worries me the most, we are not learning from our faults and mistakes, if any modern problem is rampant it is that, we say we do but our actions say differently, we are not heading the warnings, and we have to before it is to late, and the biggest change to change has to come from ourselves……so what are the problems, I can’t list all of them but I will trying to be generalistic, and if it has some comparisons to the past then that is not saying it was nirvana and better back then because it wasn’t, its just to outline what could be better and different.

Advertising has failed, yes it will sell you a new car or show the specials down at the local supermarket, but at everything else it has failed, more young people smoke today than your parents did!, more young people die in accidents than any other time in our history (except wars), and yet the graphic evidence is for all to see, every night on television, Internet so on, why is this, education is mean’t to save lives not expand them, but for all our statistics, campaigns and advertising and shear money the statistics still go up, road deaths, pool drownings, sea drownings, people still even when hit over the head with commonsense, Still do very stupid and inconceivable acts to themselves and to other people, are they dumb, no, are they blind to the consequences, no, but they not only do it they brag about how stupid they are, show how stupid they are, even by killing or maiming others in the process, yes people get into difficulties that are not their fault, but we award bad behavior, even show it off as a badge of honour, for this as a human race we have failed the first basic law, accepting responsibility for our own actions, people have become a danger to themselves as to others, it allows insecurities to rise above commonsense, societies have a I don’t care attitude, because basically if you don’t care about yourself then neither do i, me first, me, and to hell with the rest of you.
You could say that with so many of us on the planet now we have to be that way, to survive, its us against them, whoever they are….I don’t agree, it just makes us more angry, more “i’ll put my fist through your face” attitude, and mostly that this attitude allows the perpetrators to get away with their bad behavior, thats the anger, they are getting away with it, so if they can, we can also, you can run that red light, again and again because you know ultimately that they won’t take you off the road, because the Government wants your road and fuel taxes and of course the fines you keep encoring, if they finally do lock you away it will cost them money to do so, so its better all round to let you kill and maim and do what ever you want to do than take you off the road, this is modern day reasoning, so mayhem and madness is allowed to run around unchecked, and the people who are trying to do the right thing just say, “why bother”, it not that throwing people in jail is the answer, but this is the sort of basic attitudes that have got out of hand, people don’t want to be over policed, however, you have to have rules and reasoning to allow society to function,  I felt safer in the past, less angry, yes there were problems, but road rage and god knows what else rage only happened to drunks or other misguided fools not to everyone or everybody, for all our achievements, we are failing at the most basic.

Of course we are overuled as well, to many rules, no commonsense from our own appointed guardians, take parking for a example, in the 70’s you could park there or not, that simple, today in a known parking area there is a disabled parking zone, a drop off zone, a delivery zone, postbox pickup zone, and on top of that there were used to be ten parking spaces there is now four or less, result…all the parking spaces empty and you have to double park, result chaos, waste, and angry people wanting to do the right thing holding parking tickets, to many signs, to many restrictions have created innercity nightmares, bad signage, poor planning, and the way for them to fix it is to charge you for it, The thing is that we have the education and so called advisers to make better conditions and planning, even projects started from scratch, are built with the old problems still in place, we are not going forward any more…. or learning from our mistakes.

In the 70’s you had that sense,  of going forward, things will be better, better planning, better products, and it was, you did get a better car than the last model, any change was for the better, but today everything is made to price not quality, yes it is cheaper but only lasts a third of the time an old product does, breaks easily, and looks well cheaper, inside cars they are all the same, all cheap silver plastic, and no new materials coming along too better the design, a Mercedes has less quality as a Volkswagon Golf at a sixth of the price, yes it is full of amazing do da’s, but if the gearstick comes off in your hand at 100mph it makes the Golf a better buy, Mercedes have lifted their quality control, but not to that great a stretch that it is worth six times more, And this is related to most consumer goods, even top brands have lost their luster by selling cheap, cash first, image last, now they are fighting to rebuild a reputation lost if ever to retain, they can blame cheap imitations for their demise, but the deal with the devil was never in doubt, many giant brands fought hard and passed on for generation to generation for this brand awareness, to die quickly or be dissolved into nothing, people don’t even notice there passing anymore.

This sort of constant backwardness means we are constantly repeating mistakes learnt, small and large in every part of our society, shortsighted decisions mean the problems quickly come around again, but everytime they come come back it is at a cost, I’m not saying that we can fix everything, we can’t, but things have to improve and quickly.

It has been proved that multicultural societies have failed, people emigrating to other countries just form the same communities only smaller and tighter just as the same as they had back in there own homeland, old belief’s, traditions and grievances are still inbred, they are not going away to soon, so to protect their own they circle their wagons and fight, other communities feel threatened by the growing new influence in their own traditional home, then they feel threatened, so on it goes, we can never live as one, because we are all to different, we need to accept that and start respecting our differences not our similarity, some countries are proud they can have different cultures living together in one land, under one law, and some cultures have had to run away from genocide or war, but they are transplanted into another culture far removed from their own beliefs and ways, isolated and lonely, they turn against their own helpers, who say they are not grateful, and then start calling each other racists, the dream of one happy world is just that a dream, and if we want such a world then we should start by using the United Nations as what it was originally conceived to be, a forum for a nation(s) to sort out their differences, it needs to set out clear boundaries, including country borders and respect for each other, force militant or poor governments to sort out their problems and look after their populations, respect their responsibilities, can’t be done, impossible, no not today,  but if you have the whole world on your back, or can help you do something constructive, you might just do something, not just something the US wants done, The United States is one country in a multitude of other nations, yes it is a world power, but every country deserves respect, just because they don’t agree with the US view does not mean they could be wrong, are they just looking at the problem from a different view, however if every country has the right to agree or disagree, we can make things move forward, not dissolve into petty war.
A world leader,  sounds very new millenium, but may be necessary, the current arrangement is to wishy washy, no teeth to the get things done, yes he maybe a good diplomat but we need a stronger arrangement to stand up to the thugs and big powers wanting things their way, not a figurehead or even a statesman, a leader, seeing the problems and finding answers.
The dream of a united world after World War Two, is now more than ever to be realised, we are more fractioned and divided than we ever were, and the sad thing is we are already repeating the mistakes again that we thought we could have surmounted by our intellect and knowledge, for all our advancements we have totally failed in the basics, its a more fearful world today, its certainly not a safer one than the world I knew in the 70’s, yes there were hijackers and bad regimes, but now everyone is fearful, their fractional fight is now ours, and if we are supposed to be intelligent and reasonable with each other we could finally start to make this a better world for everyone, not just a few, and maybe for the first time not make the same mistakes as before, notice the signs before they arrive, not just do things to keep a few people happy, make a difference for everyone.
The biggest view we can keep alive is the one the Apollo Moonwalkers have repeated, for the last thirty years….
“Its so fragile, I could put the whole beautiful earth behind my thumb”, James Lovell (Apollo 8 & 13)

Oil…..Why it won’t change, and how it can be better

The fixation on the Global warming, rising seas and other forthcoming doom, has become a worldly topic, Mostly through the Documentary “An Inconvenient Truth”, created by Al Gore a former Vice President in the Clinton administration, It is a credible account of the way we abuse our home, but most of the information has been lying around for decades in one form or another, Mr Gore just collected the facts and put a spin on the situation to create a proposition that the world is changing and not to the good.

Humankind are very selfish in the way we abuse our god given right of using the found resources for our own uses, It was fine in a world of maybe 300 million people, But now our species is reaching the four billion mark, the resources are now very quickly being stretched and consumed in ever quicker increasing volumes and if Mr Gore or debate can make us stop and realise that, then that is not a bad thing, we do though as soon as the minor inconvenice goes away go back to our bad habits, quickly out goes the “green way” of doing things and why not trade up to that 4wheel drive monster that will be the envy of the neighbours, “Hey we can afford to pay” the 10mpg it shovels down, why suffer a vehicle that can go 6 times as far on the same amount of fuel and distance, It goes on until the next fuel price hike or environmental scare, Our mostly until the media has returned full circle and articles and programs of doom can sell papers or put ratings up, this is the reaction to Mr Gore’s latest crusade, and it is a worthy one, but for only a media self interest, and when even this hypebole has been consumed everything will return to the same, Mr Gore will be out of public favour , and as mad as hell, as nothing will change…again.

…And I will tell you why?

The major problem is money, not oil, and governments are hooked on the stuff, Tax everything that moves is a mantra they live by, but Oil, boy oh boy is the biggest and the best way to fund anything you want to do, a new hospital, Oil can pay for it!,.. a new town plan, yes please,.. subsides for farmers, no problem, want to fund an army to fight for your rights, a navy, anything you want, oil will fund any politician’s dream, we demand better services, to deliver they have a way to fund it, problem is they are caught in the money trap.

Oil is so heavily taxed and everyone top down relies on its income so much nothing will change, ever!
when the price at the pump goes up the man from the treasury comes on the news and wags his fingers at the petroleum companies, complains to the service centre operators that “How could they do such a thing to consumers”, they rant and rave and say “there will be an inquiry into such poor practices”, Then they go back to their desks, pull out their calculators and work out the windfall coming to help the surplus at the next budget, you can almost feel their glee….money, Money for nothing…..wheee, 4Wheel drive, Why not, 10mpg, wonderful, let the good times roll, nothing and I mean nothing beats Oil for funding, It solves everything……..do they want to listen to Mr Gore, Climate change, rising seas, hell it’ll never happen, such forecasters and scientists have jumped up and waved their little graphs for years, nothing’s happened, nothing…..why change? this is wonderful, lets keep the good times rolling, why tipple the barrow, lets keep everyone happy…

We are just as bad, we demand good hospital care, good roads, a modern lifestyle, if our politician’s don’t deliver we kick them out and put in someone who will pay for it, yes we do pay for it by the pump, road tax, new car tax, and loads of other tittle tattle taxes put on the personal transport we need and require, would we go backwards and just ride bikes or walk to save the planet, hell no…so it continues, we need, they take, nothing changes, and how far would a government also go not to change the status quo?

Electric car, kill that, hydrogen no way….we need more money, invade a country that has Oil?,…or protect a country that has reserves for us, its funny that money becomes available to do everything, except save oil or use less of it.

So who do we blame?,  we are to blame, but governments more so, in building infrastructure so geared up around taxation of oil they have literally put themselves and us over the barrel (sorry about that), and to create a taxation mentality so focused on hoarding so much capital they are ruining us, and the planet, putting us on a road to major issues and sudden collapse of major infrastucture, If Mr Gore wants to change the climate he has to think in this direction and not just in environmental issues.

It will be very brave politician that would look at changes in his government on reducing his country’s dependence on Oil taxation, however, if someone does not stand up and face this growing crisis then the human race will have a problem it will never be able to resolve, I am not into scare mongering, but just stating the facts as I see them

Is there answers, I hope so and will put a few ideas on the table in the next article