March 2, 2009


The Great Pacific Trash Vortex
For centuries man has yearned to foul his oceans and destroy his planet. Alas, the job is nearly complete.

Most people are shocked to discover that a good portion of our garbage gets dumped in the oceans, but there it is, floating in the Pacific. The problem came to the public's attention in the 1980s after NOAA reports chronicled the practice (which, by the way, is perfectly legal and nautical maps even show where boats are to dump the trash). That was when it became popular to snip the plastic six-pack holders, so that fish wouldn't get caught in them. It didn't occur to most people that maybe we really don't need those plastic six-pack holders in the first place. And certainly not the plastics industry.

Oh, and guess what the majority of The Great Pacific Trash Vortex is filled with? Plastic. Plastic grocery bags, plastic garbage bags, plastic shampoo caps, plastic straws, plastic packaging for worthless plastic products.

To quote "The Graduate", I've got just one word for you: Plastics.

Recycling is nice and it makes me feel good about myself and it allows me to 'tsk, tsk' my neighbors who don't recycle. But it won't solve the problem. Only consumers boycotting plastic will solve this.

February 22, 2009

Zen & the Art of Bicycle Maintenance

It's still February, but at least today it's only raining in New York and not snowing. The way I see it, two straight days of 50 degree weather means the start of biking season. Maybe just another week away!

My wife finally broke me down and convinced me to get a helmet. She's right. Plus I look at it from a frugal, economic standpoint. I'm investing a good amount of money by going to school, I should keep that brain of mine intact.

My problem with helmets (besides the obvious looking-like-a-dork thing) is that they're made out of harmful poly-plastics and Styrofoam. I'm on a crusade against plastic, but I just don't have a choice in this one. I briefly considered making my own helmet out of a watermelon, but that's even dorkier than the store-bought option.

Speaking maintenance, when oiling up your chain avoid using your household 3-in-1 oil. That attracts dirt and will just make things harder on you. For nearly the same price, find some Rock'N'Roll lube at your bike shop. It's made with a Teflon type lubricant and one 5oz. bottle should get you through at least 2000 miles.

They should probably pay me for that.

February 20, 2009

Them there's GOLD in them hills!

As the global economies continue their daily march away from the paper currency system and towards an all-out barter system, gold prices have have risen exponentially. Today the the price of gold broke the the psychological $1000/ounce mark.

No wonder M.C. Hammer is willing to send you cash if you stuff all of your tacky jewelery in an envelope and mail it to him.

How did this happen? Is it like the Ayn Rand book 'Atlas Shrugged'? Is this what that other nut, Ron Paul, was blabbering on and on about during the 2008 Republican primaries? Well, sort of.

The U.S. Treasury system was on what was known as the Gold Standard until 1971 when President Richard Nixon did away with it.

The Gold Standard was a system that directly connected a nation's currency system to the value of gold. The main advantage of this system is that a currency's value is relatively stable. The disadvantage (for borrow & spend governments) is that there is only so much gold in the world.

At the time, the total amount of mined gold was appx. 14,000 tons.
14,000 tons x 2,000 pounds (per ton) x 16 ounces (per pound) = 448 million ounces

448M ounces x $1000/per ounce (today's price ) = $4.9 Trillion total.

As you can see, this just isn't enough wealth, so the bogus Federal Reserve Standard had to be implemented. It's interesting to note the man who sold President Nixon the idea of dumping the Gold Standard was his Undersecretary of Treasury Paul Volker.

The same Paul Volker that President Obama just chose as the head of his Economic Recovery Advisory Board? The very same.

CHANGE? Doesn't appear that way.

Even before Nixon got America off the Gold Standard, the Federal Reserve was moving that way. If you've ever seen old U.S. paper money, there was a:



Until 1934, the bearer of a Gold Certificate One-Dollar bill could bring it to the Treasury and trade it for one dollar's worth of gold, typically as a gold bullion. But then there wasn't enough gold in the treasury to back up all the paper currency that was printed, so the Treasury switched to a Silver Certificate.

Then until 1968 the bearer of a Silver Certificate One-Dollar bill could bring it to the Treasury and trade it for one dollar's worth of silver, typically as a silver liberty dollar. But then there wasn't enough silver in the treasury to back up all the paper currency that was printed, so the Treasury switched to a Federal Reserve Note.

The only thing that backs up today's Federal Reserve Note is the bearer's faith in the U.S. Treasury Department. Scary.

Maybe Ron Paul wasn't such a nutjob after all.

February 19, 2009


Today marks the end of an era. Famed Swiss banking outfit, UBS, has agreed to hand over a list of names to the IRS.

Gone are the days of the secret Swiss bank account. It's back to burying cash in the backyard.

The IRS will need to make the list public, so as to make an example of the tax-evaders. I wonder which politicians are gonna be on the list? This should be more exciting than the baseball steroid list.

February 18, 2009

$787,000,000,000 later...

So HR-1 was signed into law by President Obama and everyone (including those who wrote the law) are still trying to figure out exactly what we're getting for the $787 Billion. Here's what I would have done with a blank U.S. Treasury check:

In the spirit of the New Deal and "a chicken in every pot", I would have installed a geothermal heating/cooling system for every home in America.

First, some U.S. census data. In 2001 there were 107 million households in the U.S.

It is estimated that there are now 114 million households in the U.S. broken down as follows:

78.5 million (1 family dwellings)

10.1 million (2-4 family dwellings)

18.1 million (5+ family dwellings)

7.2 million (mobile homes)

For the first phase of the project we'll need to discount the mobile homes for now (as geothermal systems are buried into the ground and the vast majority of mobile homes rely on electric heating).

This leaves us with 106.8 million dwellings to provide a geothermal system with.

What is a geotheremal heating/cooling system?

Here it is in layman's terms. The temperature of the earth just 6 feet below the surface is a consistent 55F year round. That means that it's warmer than the air temperature in the winter and cooler than the air temperature in the summer.

A geothermal HVAC unit is a nearly perfect system. It uses the earth's soil year-round to heat your home in the winter and cool your home in the winter. You reduce carbon output by burning less fossil fuels and you increase your budget by purchasing less energy from your corrupt utility company.

Pipes connecting the water heater are drilled into the ground and are the returned to the heater.

In the winter, cold water is heated by the earth's 55F soil and is used to help heat the home.

In the summer, the system naturally works in reverse, using the Earth's 55F soil to cool the house.

The expected energy savings are 70% for heating and 50% for cooling. This proposal combats at least four major issues facing us today:

1. Puts Millions to work in
A.) High-skilled jobs designing the systems
B.) Medium-skilled jobs installing the systems
C.) Low-skilled jobs manufacturing the systems.

2. Puts Billions in the pockets of Americans who would now have lower utility costs.

3. Helps the planet's ecology by offsetting America's daily carbon output.

4. Re-instates the U.S. as a the world's leader in matters that are righteous and just.

What's all this gonna cost?
The average geothermal system today (including installation) costs roughly $20,000. The majority of the cost is the actual drilling. But as with all major infrastructure projects, there will be deep average discounts due to "economies of scale".

For example, an excavation company may ordinarily charge $9500 for the excavation on a geothermal installation for one house. But if that company were asked to submit bid on an entire block of say 35 houses, the average cost for each excavation may be only $6000 for each excavation. That's called 'economies of scale'. Likewise, the per dwelling cost will be lower for a 50-unit apartment building than it would be for a rural one-family home.

So, for argument's sake lets say that the average (per dwelling) cost on a project of the magnitude will be $12,500.

Take the $787 Billion (that may not stimulate anything but talk of 'what might have been') and DOUBLE it. Yes double it.

Proposed Geothermal Stimulus package: $1.574 Trillion
$12,500 (cost per system) x 106.8 Million dwellings = $1.335 Trillion
Surplus: $239 Billion

Remember those 7.2 Million mobile homes we neglected before? Well each of them gets photovoltaic solar system.

Proposed Mobile Home Solar Stimulus package: $239 Billion
$239 Billion / 7.2 Million mobile homes: $33,194 each

This would pay for a 3,000 kW photovoltaic solar system installed. While I'm not crazy about the current solar products (huge batteries must be disposed of after 15 years) it is far better than the dirty utility company electricity.

If Washington were serious about Reinvesting in America, this is how to do it.

February 12, 2009

Government vs. Politics

It looks like HR-1 will be sent to President Obama's desk. The so-called stimulus package has a price tag of $789 Billion, of which only $150 Billion is slated for infrastructure (that's less than 20% funding).

This is a case of Government (of and for the People) versus Politics (of and for Politicians). This nation's crumbling infrastructure is in need of drastic repair regardless of the current economic situation. Just so happens that major infrastructure work gives taxpayers the greatest bang for the buck, in terms of jobs created and long term improvements in our everyday lives, which in turn, helps create a large tax revenue stream in the future.

Remember, our elected officials allotted $2.5 TRILLION to the crooked Wall Street bankers who got us into the mess to begin with.

$150 Billion will barely pay for the MTA's 2nd Avenue Subway when all is said and done. We needed our elected officials to think big. We needed a New Deal for the 21st Century. What we got were small tax cuts, so that consumers could fill our landfills with more useless garbage.

February 10, 2009

Basic Theory

We'll be hitting on this again and again, but I just wanted to go over some fundamentals before the White House gets into the details of the stimulus package.

1. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. It can only be transferred.
(This is just physics 101 here, the principle of the Conservation of Energy)

2. Wealth can neither be created nor destroyed. It can only be transferred.
(The roots of Ecology & Economics are interwoven, this will be a constant theme)

Be skeptical of anyone who tells you that they're going to created new Energy or new Wealth. It can't be created, only transferred.